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´╗┐Title: The Bondwoman
Author: Ryan, Marah Ellis, 1866-1934
Language: English
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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 "The Bondwoman" ***

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[Illustration: "I give you back the wedding ring."--_Page 400._]



THE BONDWOMAN

BY

MARAH ELLIS RYAN,

AUTHOR OF

"Told in the Hills," "A Pagan of the Alleghanies," etc.

CHICAGO AND NEW YORK:

RAND, McNALLY & COMPANY, PUBLISHERS.

MDCCCXCIX.



Copyright, 1899, by Rand, McNally & Co.

All rights reserved.

Entered at Stationers' Hall, London.



THE BONDWOMAN



CHAPTER I.


Near Moret, in France, where the Seine is formed and flows northward,
there lives an old lady named Madame Blanc, who can tell much of the
history written here--though it be a history belonging more to
American lives than French. She was of the Caron establishment when
Judithe first came into the family, and has charge of a home for aged
ladies of education and refinement whose means will not allow of them
providing for themselves. It is a memorial founded by her adopted
daughter and is known as the Levigne Pension. The property on which it
is established is the little Levigne estate--the one forming the only
dowery of Judithe Levigne when she married Philip Alain--Marquis de
Caron.

There is also a bright-eyed, still handsome woman of mature years,
who lives in our South and has charge of another memorial--or had
until recently--a private industrial school for girls of her own
selection. She calls herself a creole of San Domingo, and she also
calls herself Madame Trouvelot--she has been married twice since
she was first known by that name, for she was never the woman to live
alone--not she; but while the men in themselves suited her, their
names were uncompromisingly plain--did not attract her at all. She
married them, proved a very good wife, but while one was named
Johnson, and another Tuttle, the good wife persisted in being
called Madame Trouvelot, either through sentiment or a bit of irony
towards the owner of that name. But, despite her vanities, her
coquetries, and certain erratic phases of her life, she was
absolutely faithful to the trust reposed in her by the Marquise; and
who so capable as herself of finding the poor girls who stood most
in need of training and the shelter of charity? She, also, could
add to this history of the woman belonging both to the old world
and the new. There are also official records in evidence of much
that is told here--deeds of land, bills of sale, with dates of
marriages and deaths interwoven, changed as to names and places but--

There are social friends--gay, pleasure-loving people on both sides of
the water--who could speak, and some men who will never forget her.

One of them, Kenneth McVeigh, he was only Lieutenant McVeigh
then!--saw her first in Paris--heard of her first at a musicale in the
salon of Madame Choudey. Madame Choudey was the dear friend of the
Countess Helene Biron, who still lives and delights in recitals of
gossip belonging to the days of the Second Empire. The Countess Helene
and Mrs. McVeigh had been school friends in Paris. Mrs. McVeigh had
been Claire Villanenne, of New Orleans, in those days. At seventeen
she had married a Col. McVeigh, of Carolina. At forty she had been a
widow ten years. Was the mother of a daughter aged twelve, and a
six-foot son of twenty-two, who looked twenty-five, and had just
graduated from West Point.

As he became of special interest to more than one person in this
story, it will be in place to give an idea of him as he appeared in
those early days;--an impetuous boy held in check, somewhat, by
military discipline and his height--he measured six feet at
twenty--and also by the fact that his mother had persisted in looking
on him as the head of the family at an age when most boys are
care-free of such responsibilities.

But the responsibilities had a very good effect in many ways--giving
stability and seriousness to a nature prone, most of all, to
pleasure-loving if left untrammelled. His blue eyes had a slumberous
warmth in them; when he smiled they half closed and looked down on you
caressingly, and their expression proved no bar to favor with the
opposite sex. The fact that he had a little mother who leaned on him
and whom he petted extravagantly, just as he did his sister, gave him
a manner towards women in general that was both protecting and
deferential--a combination productive of very decided results. He was
intelligent without being intellectual, had a very clear appreciation
of the advantages of being born a McVeigh, proud and jealous where
family honor was concerned, a bit of an autocrat through being master
over extensive tracts of land and slaves by the dozen, many of them
the descendents of Africans bought into the family from New England
traders four generations before.

Such was the personality of the young American as he appeared that day
at Madame Choudey's; and he looked like one of the pictured Norse sea
kings as he towered, sallow and bronzed, back of the vivacious
Frenchmen and their neighbors of the Latin races.

_The_ solo of the musicale had just ended. People were thronged about
the artiste, and others were congratulating Madame Choudey on her
absolute success in assembling talent.

"All celebrities, my lad," remarked Fitzgerald Delaven as he looked
around. The Delavens and the McVeighs had in time long past some
far-out relationship, and on the strength of it the two young men,
meeting thus in a foreign country, became at once friends and
brothers;--"all celebrities and no one so insignificant as ourselves
in sight. Well, now!--when one has to do the gallant to an ugly woman
it is a compensation to know she is wondrous wise."

"That depends on the man who is doing the gallant," returned the young
officer, "I have not yet got beyond the point where I expect them all
to be pretty."

"Faith, Lieutenant, that is because your American girls are all so
pretty they spoil you!--and by the same token your mother is the
handsomest woman in the room."

The tall young fellow glanced across the chattering groups to where
the handsomest woman was amusing herself.

She certainly was handsome--a blonde with chestnut hair and grey
eyes--a very youthful looking mother for the young officer to claim.
She met his glance and smiled as he noticed her very courtier-like
attendant of the moment, and raised his brows quizzically.

"Yes, I feel that I am only a hanger-on to mother since we reached
France," he confessed. "My French is of the sort to be exploited only
among my intimates, and luckily all my intimates know English."

"Anglo-Saxon," corrected Delaven, and Lieutenant McVeigh dropped his
hand on his friend's shoulder and laughed.

"You wild Irishman!--why not emphasize your prejudices by unearthing
the Celtic and expressing yourself in that?"

"Sure, if I did I should not call it the Irish language," retorted the
man from Dublin.

They both used the contested tongue, and were evidently the only ones
in the room who did. All about them were the softened syllables of
France--so provocative, according to Lord Lytton, of the tender
sentiments, if not of the tender passion.

"There is Dumaresque, now," remarked Delaven. "We are to see his new
picture, you know, at the Marquise de Caron's;--excuse me a moment,"
and he crossed over to the artist, who had just entered.

Kenneth McVeigh stood alone surveying the strange faces about. He had
not been in France long enough to be impervious to the atmosphere of
novelty in everything seen and heard.

Back of him the soft voice of Madame Choudey, the hostess, could be
heard. She was frankly gossiping and laughing a little. The name of
the Marquise de Caron was mentioned. Delaven had told him of her--an
aristocrat and an eccentric--a philanthropist who was now aged. For
years herself and her son had been the patrons--the good angels of
struggling genius, of art in every form. But the infamous 2d of
December had ended all that. He was one of the "provisionally exiled;"
he had died in Rome. Madame La Marquise, the dowager Marquise now, was
receiving again, said the gossips back of him. The fact was commented
on with wonder by Madame Choudey;--with wonder, frank queries, and
wild surmises, by the little group around her; for the aged Marquise
and her son Alain--dead a year since--had been picturesque figures in
their own circle where politics and art, literature and religion, met
and crossed swords, or played piquet! And now she was coming back, not
only to Paris, but to society; had in fact, arrived, and the card
Madame Choudey held in her white dimpled hand announced the first
reception at the Caron establishment.

"After years of the country and Rome!" and Sidonie Merson raised her
infantile brows and smiled.

"Oh, yes, it is quite true--though so strange; we fancied her settled
for life in her old vine-covered villa; no one expected to see the
Paris house opened after Alain's death."

"It is always the unexpected in which the old Marquise delights," said
big Lavergne, the sculptor, who had joined Sidonie in the window.

"Then how she must have reveled in Alain's marriage--a death-bed
marriage!"

"Yes; and to an Italian girl without a dot."

"Oh--it is quite possible. The marriage was in Rome. Both the English
and Americans go to Rome."

"Italian! I heard it was an English or American!"

"Surely, not so bad as that!"

"But only those who have money;--or, if they have not the money, our
sons and our brothers do not marry them."

"Good!" and Lavergne nodded with mock sagacity. "We reach conclusions;
the newly made Marquise de Caron is either not Anglo-Saxon or was not
without wealth."

"I heard from Dumaresque that she had attended English schools; that
no doubt gives her the English suggestion."

"Oh, I know more than that;" said another, eager to add to the
knowledge of the group. "Between Fontainbleau and Moret is the Levigne
chateau. Two years ago the dowager was there with a young beauty,
Judithe Levigne, and that is the girl Alain married; the dowager was
also a Levigne, and the girl an adopted daughter."

"What is she like now? Has no one seen her?"

"No one more worldly than her confessor--if she possess one, or the
nuns of the convent to which she returned to study after her marriage
and widowhood."

"Heavens! We must compose our features when we enter the presence!"

"But we will go, for all that! The dowager is too delightful to
miss."

"A religieuse and a blue stocking!" and the smile of Lavergne was
accompanied by a doubtful shrug. "I might devote myself to either, if
apart, but never to both in one. Is she then ugly that she dare be so
superior?"

"Greek and Latin did not lessen the charm of Heloise for Abelard,
Monsieur."

Sidonie glanced consciously out of the window. Even the dust of six
centuries refuses to cover the passion of Heloise, and despite the
ecclesiastical flavor of the romance--demoiselles were not supposed to
be aware--still--!

Lavergne beckoned to a fair slight man near the piano.

"We will ask Loris--Loris Dumaresque. He is god-son of the dowager. He
was in Rome also. He will know."

"Certainly;" and Madame Choudey glanced in the mirror opposite and
leaned her cheek on her jeweled hand, the lace fell from her pretty
wrist and the effect was rather pleasing. "Loris; ah, pardon me, since
your last canvas is the talk of Paris we must perhaps say Monsieur
Dumaresque, or else--Master."

"The queen calls no man master," replied the newcomer as he bent over
the pretty coquette's hand. "The humblest of your subjects salutes
you."

"My faith! You have not lost in Rome a single charm of the boulevardes.
We feared you would come back a devotee, and addicted to rosaries."

"I only needed them when departing from Paris--and you." His eyes
alone expressed the final words, but they spoke so eloquently that the
woman of the world smiled; attempted to blush, and dropping her own
eyes, failed to see the amusement in his.

"Your gallantry argues no lack of practice, Monsieur Loris," she
returned; glancing at him over her fan. "Who was she, during those
months of absence? Come; confess; was she some worldly soul like the
Kora of your latest picture, or was it the religieuse--the new
marquise about whom every one is curious?"

"The Marquise? What particular Marquise?"

"One more particular than you were wont to cultivate our first season
in Rome," remarked Lavergne.

"Oh! oh! Monsieur Dumaresque!" and the fan became a shield from which
Madame peered at him. Sidonie almost smiled, but recovered herself,
and gave attention to the primroses.

"You see!--Madame Choudey is shocked that you have turned to
saintliness."

"Madame knows me too well to suppose I have ever turned away from
it," retorted Dumaresque. "Do not credit the gossip of Lavergne. He
has worked so long among clays and marbles that he has grown a
cold-blooded cynic. He distrusts all warmth and color in life."

"Then why not introduce him to the Marquise? He might find his ideal
there--the atmosphere of the sanctuary! I mean the new Marquise de
Caron."

"Oh!" Dumaresque looked from one to the other blankly and then
laughed. "It is Madame Alain--the Marquise de Caron you call the
devotee? My faith--that is droll!"

"What, then, is so droll?"

"Why should you laugh, Monsieur Loris? What else were we to think of a
bride who chooses a convent in preference to society?"

"It was decided she must be very ugly or very devout to make that
choice."

"A natural conclusion from your point of view," agreed Dumaresque.
"Will you be shocked when I tell you she is no less a radical than
Alain himself?--that her favorite prophet is Voltaire, and that her
books of devotion are not known in the church?"

"Horror!--an infidel!--and only a girl of twenty!" gasped the demure
Sidonie.

"Chut!--she may be a veteran of double that. Alain always had a fancy
for the grenadiers--the originals. But of course," he added moodily,
"we must go."

"Take cheer," laughed Dumaresque, "for I shall be there; and I promise
you safe conduct through the gates when the grenadier feminine grows
too oppressive."

"Do you observe," queried Madame, slyly, "that while Monsieur Loris
does speak of her religion, he avoids enlightening us as to her
personality?"

"What then do you expect?" returned Dumaresque. "She is the widow of
my friend; the child, now, of my dear old god-mother. Should I find
faults in her you would say I am jealous. Should I proclaim her
virtues you would decide I am prejudiced by friendship, and so"--with
a smile that was conciliating and a gesture comprehensive he dismissed
the subject.

"Clever Dumaresque!" laughed Lavergne--"well, we shall see! Is it true
that your picture of the Kora is to be seen at the dowager's
tomorrow?"

"Quite true. It is sold, you know; but since the dowager is not equal
to art galleries I have given it a rest in her rooms before boxing it
for the new owner."

"I envy him," murmured Madame; "the picture is the pretty octoroon
glorified. So, Madame, your god-mother has two novelties to present
tomorrow. Usually it is so difficult to find even one."

When Delaven returned he found Lieutenant McVeigh still in the same
nook by the mantel and still alone.

"Well, you are making a lonesome time of it in the middle of the
crowd," he remarked. "How have you been amused?"

"By listening to comments on two pictures, one of a colored beauty,
and one of an atheistical grand dame."

"And of the two?"

"Of the two I should fancy the last not the least offensive. And, look
here, Delaven, just get me out of that engagement to look at
Dumaresque's new picture, won't you? It really is not worth while for
an American to come abroad for the study of pictured octoroons--we
have too many of the originals at home."



CHAPTER II.


Whatever the dowager's eccentricities or heresies, she was not afraid
of the sunlight, figuratively or literally. From floor to ceiling
three great windows let in softened rays on the paneled walls, on the
fluted columns of white and gold, and on the famous frescoes of the
First Empire. She had no feeling for petite apartments such as appeal
to many women; there must, for her, be height and space and long
vistas.

"I like perspective to every picture," she said. "I enjoy the
groupings of my friends in my own rooms more than elsewhere. From my
couch I have the best point of view, and the raised dais flatters me
with its suggestion of a throne of state."

She looked so tiny for a chair of state; and with her usual quaint
humor she recognized the fact.

"But my temperament brings me an affinity with things that are great
for all that," she would affirm. "One does not need to be a physical
Colossus in order to see the stars."

The morning after her first reception she was smiling rather
sardonically at a picture at the far end of the great salon--that of a
very handsome young woman who laughed frankly at the man who leaned
towards her and spoke. The man was Dumaresque.

"No use in that, Loris," commented his god-mother, out of his
hearing. "It will do an artist no harm, but it will end nowhere."

Their attitude and their youth did make them appear sentimental; but
they were not really so. He was only telling her what a shock she had
been to those Parisians the day before.

"I understand, now, the regard of Madame Choudey and her pretty, prim
niece, Sidonie. They will never forgive me."

"You, Madame!"

"Me, Monsieur. Their fondness will preclude resentment towards you,
but against myself they will feel a grievance that I am not as they
pictured me. Come; you must tell Maman."

The dowager nodded as one who understood it all.

"They will not forget you, that is sure," she said, smiling; but the
girl--for she was only a girl, despite the Madame--shrugged her
shoulders.

"Myself, I care little for their remembrance," she replied,
indifferently; "they were only curious, not interested, I could see."

"You put my picture in the shadow at all events," protested
Dumaresque, pointing to a large canvas hung opposite; "my picture over
which art lovers raved until you appeared as a rival."

"How extravagant you are, Monsieur Dumaresque, a true Gascon! To think
of rivaling that!"

As she faced the canvas the dowager watched her critically, and nodded
her approval to Dumaresque, who smiled and acquiesced. Evidently they
were both well satisfied with the living picture of the salon.

The new Marquise de Caron had lived, probably, twenty years. She was
of medium height, with straight, dark brows, and dark, long-lashed
eyes. The eyes had none of the shyness that was deemed a necessity to
beauty in that era of balloon skirts and scuttle bonnets under which
beauty of the conventional order hid.

But that she was not conventional was shown by the turban of grey
resting on her waved, dark hair, while the veil falling from it and
mingling with the folds of her dress, suggested the very artistic
draperies of the nuns.

Not a particle of color was in her apparel, and but little in her
face; only the lips had that thread of scarlet sung of by Solomon, and
the corners of them curved upwards a trifle as she surveyed the
canvas.

The turban was loosened and held in her hands as she stood there
looking. The picture evidently attracted her, though it did not
please. At last she turned to the artist.

"Why do you paint pictures like that?"

"Like that? Pouf! You mean beautiful?"

"No, it is not beautiful," she said, thoughtfully, as she seated
herself on the dais by the dowager's couch. "To be truly beautiful a
thing must impress one with a sense of fitness to our highest
perceptive faculties. A soulless thing is never beautiful."

"What then, of dogs, horses, lions, the many art works in metal or on
canvas?"

"You must not raise that wall against her words, Loris, unless you
wish to quarrel," said the dowager in friendly warning. "Judithe is
pantheist enough to fancy that animals have souls."

"But the true artist does not seek to portray the lowest expression of
that soul," persisted Dumaresque's critic. "Across the Atlantic there
are thousands who contend that a woman such as this Kora whom you
paint, has no soul because of the black blood in her veins. They think
of the dark people as we think of apes. It is all a question of
longitude, Monsieur Dumaresque. The crudeness of America is the jest
of France. The wisdom of France is the lightest folly of the Brahims;
and so it goes ever around the world. The soul of that girl will weigh
as heavily as ours in the judgment that is final; but, in the
meantime, why teach it and others to admire all that allurement of
evil showing in her eyes as she looks at you?"

"Judithe!" protested the dowager.

"Oh!--I do not doubt in the least, Maman, that the woman Kora looked
just so when she sat for the picture," conceded the girl; "but why not
endeavor to awaken a higher, stronger expression, and paint _that_,
showing the better possibilities within her than mere seductiveness?"

"What fervor and what folly, Marquise!" cried Dumaresque. "It is a
speech of folly only because it is I whom you ask to be the
missionary, and because it is the pretty Kora you would ask me to
convert--and to what? Am I so perfect in all ways that I dare preach,
even with paint and brush? Heavens! I should have all Paris laughing
at me."

"But Judithe would not have you that sort of extremist," said the
dowager, laughing at the dismay in his face. "She knows you do well;
only she fears you do not exert yourself enough to perceive how you
might do better."

"She forgets; I did once; only a few weeks ago," he said briefly; and
the girl dropped her hands wearily and leaned her head against the
dowager's couch.

"Maman, our good friend is going to talk matrimony again," she said
plaintively; "and if he does, I warn you, though it is only mid-day, I
shall go asleep;" and her eyes closed tightly as though to make the
threat more effective.

"You see," said the old lady, raising one chiding finger, "it is
really lamentable, Loris, that your sentimental tendencies have grown
into a steady habit."

"I agree," he assented; "but consider. She assails me--she, a saintly
little judge in grey! She lectures, preaches at me! Tells me I lack
virtue! But more is the pity for me; she will not remember that one
virtue was most attractive to me, and she bade me abandon it."

"Tell him," said the girl with her eyes still closed, "to not miscall
things; no one is all virtue."

"Pardon; that is what you seemed to me, and I never before fancied
that the admirable virtues would find me so responsive, when, pouf!
with one word you demolished all my castle of delight and now condemn
me that I am an outlaw from those elevating fancies."

He spoke with such a comical air of self-pity that the old lady
laughed and the young Marquise opened her eyes.

"A truce, Monsieur Loris; you are amusing, but you like to pose as one
of the rejected and disconsolate when you have women to listen. It is
all because you are just a little theatrical, is it not? How effective
it must be with your Parisiennes!"

"My faith!" he exclaimed, turning to the dowager in dismay; "and only
three months since she emerged from the convent! What then do they not
teach in those sanctuaries!"

The girl arose, made him a mocking obeisance, and swinging the turban
in her hand passed into the alcoved music room; a little later an
Italian air, soft, dreamy, drifted to them from the keys of the
piano.

"She will make a sensation," prophesied Dumaresque, sagely.

"You mean socially? No; if left to herself she would ignore society;
it is not necessary to her; only her affection for me brings her from
her studies now. Should I die tomorrow she would go back to them next
week."

"But why, why, why? If she were unattractive one could understand; but
being what she is--"

"Being what she is, she has a fever to know all the facts of earth and
all the guesses at heaven."

"And bars out marriage!"

"Not for other people," retorted the dowager.

"But to what use then all these accomplishments, all this pursuit of
knowledge? Does she mean to hide it all in some convent at last?"

"I would look for her rather among some savage tribes, doing
missionary work."

"Yes, making them acquainted with Voltaire," he said, laughingly. "But
you are to be envied, god-mother, in having her all to yourself; she
adores you!"

The dark old face flushed slightly, and the keen eyes softened with
pleasure.

"It was Alain's choice, and it was a good one," she said, briefly.
"What of the English people you asked to bring today?"

"They are not English; one is American and one is Irish."

"True; but their Anglo-Saxon makes them all English to me. I hear
there are so many of them in Paris now; Comtesse Biron brings one
today; there is her message, what is the name?"

Dumaresque unfolded the pink sheet, glanced at it and smiled.

"My faith; it is the mother of the young lieutenant whom I asked to
bring, Madame McVeigh. So, she was a school friend of the Comtesse
Helene, eh? That seems strange; still, this Madame McVeigh may be a
French woman transplanted."

"I do not know; but it will be a comfort if she speaks French. The
foreigners of only one language are trying."

                  *       *       *       *       *

Mrs. McVeigh offered no linguistic difficulties to the dowager who was
charmed with her friend's friend.

"But you are surely not the English-Americans of whom we see so much
these days? I cannot think it."

"No, Madame. I am of the French-Americans--the creoles--hence the
speech you are pleased to approve. My people were the Villanennes of
Louisiana."

"Ah! a creole? The creoles come here from the West Indies also--beautiful
women. My daughter has had some as school friends; only this morning she
was explaining to an English caller the difference between a creole and
that personality;" and the dowager waived her hand towards the much
discussed picture of Kora.

The fine face of the American woman took on a trace of haughtiness,
and she glanced at the speaker as though alert to some covert insult.
The unconsciousness in the old face reassured her, though she could
not quite banish coldness from her tones as she replied:

"I should not think such an explanation necessary in enlightened
circles; the creole is so well known as the American born of the Latin
races, while that," with a gesture towards the oriental face on the
canvas, "is the offspring of the African race--our slaves."

"With occasionally a Caucasian father," suggested the dowager
wickedly. "I have never seen this new idol of the ballet--Kora; but
her prettiness is the talk of the studios, though she does not deny
she came from your side of the sea, and has the shadows of Africa in
her hair."

"A quadroon or octoroon, no doubt. It appears strange to find the
outcasts of the States elected to that sort of notice over here--as
though the old world, tired of civilization and culture, turned for
distraction to the barbarians."

"Barbarians, indeed!" laughed the Countess Biron--the Countess Helene,
as she was called by her friends. She laughed a great deal, knew a
great deal, and never forgot a morsel of Parisian gossip. "This
barbarian has only to show herself on the boulevards and all good
citizens crane their necks for a glimpse of her. The empress herself
attracts less attention."

The dowager clicked the lid of her snuff box and shrugged her
shoulders.

"That Spanish woman--tah! As _Mademoiselle d'Industrie_ I do not see
why she should claim precedence. The blonde Spaniard is no more
beautiful than the brown American."

"For all that, Louis Napoleon has placed her among the elect,"
remarked the Countess Helene, with a mischievous glance towards the
Marquise, each understanding that the mention of the Second Empire was
like a call to war, in that salon.

"Louis!" and the dowager shrugged her shoulder, and made a gesture of
contempt. "That accident! What is he that any one should be exalted by
his favor? Mademoiselle de Montijo was--for the matter of that--his
superior! Her family had place and power; her paternity was
undisputed; but this Louis--tah! There was but one Bonaparte; that
subaltern from Corsica; that meteor. He was, with all his faults, a
worker, a thinker, an original. He would have swept into the sea the
envious islanders across the channel to whom this Bonaparte
truckled--this man called Bonaparte, who was no Bonaparte at all--a
vulture instead of an eagle!"

So exclaimed the dowager, who carried in her memory the picture of the
streets of Paris when neither women nor children were spared by the
bullets and sabres of his slaughterers--the hyena to whom the clergy
so bowed down that not a mass for the dead patriots could be secured
in Paris, from either priest or archbishop, and the Republicans piled
in the streets by hundreds!

Mrs. McVeigh turned in some dismay to the Countess Helene. The people
of the Western world, the women in particular, knew little of the
bitter spirit permeating the politics of France. The United States had
very knotty problems of her own to discuss in 1859.

"Tah!" continued the dowager, "I startle you! Well, well--it profits
nothing to recite these ills. Many a man, and woman, too, has been put
to death for saying less;--and the exile of my son to remember--yes;
all that! He was Republican--I a Legitimist; I of the old, he of the
new. Republics are good in theory; France might have given it a longer
trial but for this trickster politician, who is called Emperor--by the
grace of God!"

"Do they add 'Defender of the Faith' as our cautious English neighbors
persist in doing?" asked the girlish Marquise with a smile. "Your
country, Madame McVeigh, has no such cant in its constitution. You
have reason to be proud of the great men, the wise, far-seeing men,
who framed those laws."

Mrs. McVeigh smiled and sighed in self-pity.

"How frivolous American women will appear to you, Madame! Few of us
ever read the constitution of our country. I confess I only know the
first line:--'When in the course of human events it becomes
necessary,' but what they thought necessary to do is very vague in my
mind."

Then, catching the glance of the Marquise bright with laughter, she
laughed also without knowing well at what.

"Well; what is it?"

"Only that you are quoting from the Declaration of Independence, and
fancy it the constitution."

"That is characteristic of American women, too," laughed Mrs. McVeigh;
"declarations of independence is one of our creeds. But I shall
certainly be afraid of you, Marquise. At your age the learning and
comparing of musty laws would have been dull work for me. It is the
age for dancing and gay carelessness."

The Marquise smiled assent with her curious, dark eyes, in which amber
lights shown. She had a certain appealing meekness at times--a sweet
deference that was a marked contrast to the aggressiveness with which
she had met Dumaresque in the morning. The Countess Helene, observing
the deprecating manner with which she received the implied praise for
erudition, found herself watching with a keener interest the girl who
had seemed to her a mere pretty book-worm.

"She is more than that," thought the astute worldling. "Alain's widow
has a face for tragedy, the address of an ingenue, and the _tout en
semble_ of a coquette."

The dowager smiled at Mrs. McVeigh's remarks.

"She cares too little for dancing, the natural expression of healthy
young animalism; but what can I do?--nothing less frivolous than a
salon a-la-Madame D'Agoult is among her ambitions."

"Let us persuade her to visit America," suggested Mrs. McVeigh.
"I can, at least, prescribe a change promising more of joyous
festivity--life on a Carolina plantation."

"What delight for her! she loves travel and new scenes. Indeed, Alain,
my son, has purchased a property in your land, and some day she may go
over. But for the brief remnant of my life I shall be selfish and want
her always on my side of the ocean. What, child? you pale at the
mention of death--tah! it is not so bad. The old die by installments,
and the last one is not the worst."

"May it be many years in the future, Maman," murmured the young
Marquise, whose voice betrayed a certain effort as she continued: "I
thank you for the suggestion, Madame McVeigh; the property Maman
refers to is in New Orleans, and I surely hope to see your country
some day; my sympathies are there."

"We have many French people in the South; our own part of the land was
settled originally by the cavaliers of France. You would not feel like
a stranger there."

"Not in your gracious neighborhood, Madame;"--her face had regained
its color, and her eyes their brilliant expression.

"And there you would see living pictures like this," suggested the
Countess Helene; "what material for an artist!"

"Oh, no; in the rice fields of South Carolina they do not look like
that. We have none of those Oriental effects in dress, you know. Our
colored women look very sober in comparison; still they have their
attractions, and might be an interesting study for you if you have
never known colored folks."

"Oh, but I have," remarked the Marquise, smiling; "an entire year of
my life was passed in a school with two from Brazil, and one from your
country had run away the same season."

"Judithe; child!"

The dowager fairly gasped the words, and the Marquise moved quickly to
her side and sank on the cushion at her feet, looking up with an
assuring smile, as she caressed the aged hand.

"Yes, it is quite true," she continued; "but see, I am alive to tell
the tale, and really they say the American was a most harmless little
thing; the poor, imprisoned soul."

"How strange!" exclaimed Mrs. McVeigh; "do you mean as fellow
pupils?--colored girls! It seems awful."

"Really, I never thought of it so; you see, so many planters'
daughters come from the West Indies to Paris schools. Many in feature
and color suggest the dark continent, but are accepted, nevertheless.
However, the girl I mention was not dark. Her mother had seven white
ancestors to one of black. Yet she confided her story to a friend of
mine, and she was an American slave."

The dowager was plainly distressed at the direction of the conversation,
for the shock to Mrs. McVeigh was so very apparent, and as her hostess
remembered that slavery was threatening to become an institution of
uncompromising discord across the water, all reference to it was likely
to be unwelcome. She pressed the fingers of the Marquise warningly,
and the Marquise smiled up at her, but evidently did not understand.

"Can such a thing be possible?" asked Mrs. McVeigh, incredulously; "in
that case I shall think twice before I send _my_ daughter here to
school, as I had half intended--and you remained in such an
establishment?"

"I had no choice; my guardians decided those questions."

"And the faculty--they allowed it?"

"They did not know it. She was represented as being the daughter of an
American planter; which was true. I have reason to believe that my
friend was her only confidant."

"And for what purpose was she educated in such an establishment?"

"That she might gain accomplishments enhancing her value as companion
to the man who was to own her."

"Madame!"

"Marquise!"

The two exclamations betrayed how intent her listeners were, and how
full of horror the suggestion. There was even incredulity in the
tones, an initiative protest against such possibilities. But the
Marquise looked from one to the other with unruffled earnestness.

"So it was told to me," she continued; "these accomplishments meant
extra thousands to the man who sold her, and the man was her father's
brother."

"No, no, no!" and Mrs. McVeigh shook her head decidedly to emphasize
her conviction. "I cannot believe that at the present day in our
country such an arrangement could exist. No one, knowing our men,
could credit such a story. In the past century such abuses might have
existed, but surely not now--in all my life I have heard of nothing
like that."

"Probably the girl was romancing," agreed the Marquise, with a shrug,
"for you would no doubt be aware if such a state of affairs had
existence."

"Certainly."

"Then your men are not so clever as ours," laughed the Countess; "for
they manage many little affairs their own women never suspect."

Mrs. McVeigh looked displeased. To her it was not a matter of
cleverness, but of principle and morality; and in her mind there was
absolutely no comparison possible without jarring decidedly on the
prejudices of her Gallic friends, so she let the remark pass without
comment.

"Yes," said the Marquise, rising, "when I heard the story of the girl
Rhoda I fancied it one the white mistresses of America seldom heard."

"Rhoda?"

"Yes, that was the name the girl was known by in the school--Rhoda
Larue--the Larue was a fiction; slaves, I am told, having no legal
right to names."

"Heavens! What horrors you fancy! Pray give us some music child, and
drive away the gloomy pictures you have suggested."

"An easy penance;" and the Marquise moved smilingly towards the
alcove.

"What!" cried the Countess Helene, in protest, "and the story
unfinished! Why, it might develop into a romance. I dote on romances
in real life or fiction, but I like them all spelled out for me to the
very end."

"Instead of a romance, I should fancy the girl's life very prosaic
wherever it is lived," returned the Marquise. "But before her year at
the convent had quite expired she made her escape--took no one into
her confidence; and when her guardian, or his agent, came to claim
her, there were storms, apologies, but no ward."

"And you do not call that a romance?" said the Countess. "I do; it
offers all sorts of possibilities."

"Yes, the possibility of this;" and Mrs. McVeigh pointed to the
picture before them. The Marquise halted, looked curiously at the
speaker, then regarded the oriental face on the canvas thoughtfully,
and passed her hand over her brow with a certain abstraction.

"I never thought of that," she said slowly. "You poor creature!" and
she took a step nearer the picture. "I--never--thought of that! Maman,
Madame McVeigh has just taught me something--to be careful, careful
how we judge the unfortunate. They say this Kora is a light woman in
morals; but suppose--suppose somewhere the life that girl told of in
the convent really does exist, and suppose this pretty Kora had been
one of the victims chosen! Should we dare then to judge her by our
standards, Maman? I think not."

Without awaiting an opinion she walked slowly into the alcove, and
left the three ladies gazing at each other with a trifle of constraint
mingled with their surprise.

"Another sacred cause to fight for," sighed the dowager, with a quaint
grimace. "Last week it was the Jews, who seem to me quite able to take
care of themselves! Next week it may be Hindoo widows; but just now it
is Kora!"

"She should have been born a boy in the age when it was thought a
virtue to don armor and do battle for the weak or incapable; that
would have suited Judithe."

"Not if it was the fashion," laughed the Countess Helene; "she would
insist on being original."

"The Marquise has a lovely name," remarked Mrs. McVeigh; "one could
not imagine a weak or unattractive person called Judithe."

"No; they could not," agreed her friend, "it makes one think of the
tragedy of Holofernes. It suggests the strange, the fascinating, the
unusual, and--it suits Madame la Marquise."

"Your approval is an unconscious compliment to me," remarked the
dowager, indulging herself in a tiny pinch of snuff and tapping the
jeweled lid of the box; "I named her."

"Indeed!" and Mrs. McVeigh smiled at the complacent old lady, while
the Countess Helene almost stared. Evidently she, also, had heard the
opinions concerning the young widow's foreign extraction. Possibly the
dowager guessed what was passing in her mind, for she nodded and
smiled.

"Truly, the eyes did it. Though she was not so fully developed as now,
those slumbrous, oriental eyes of hers suggested someway that beauty
of Bethulia; the choice was left to me and so she was christened
Judithe."

"She voices such startlingly paganish ideas at times that I can
scarcely imagine her at the christening font," remarked the Countess.

"In truth her questions are hard to answer sometimes. But the heart is
all right."

"And the lady herself magnetic enough without the added suggestion of
the name," remarked Mrs. McVeigh; then she held up her finger as the
Countess was about to speak, for from the music room came the
appealing legato notes of "Suwanee River," played with great
tenderness.

"What is it?" asked the dowager.

"One of our American folk songs," and the grey eyes of the speaker
were bright with tears; "in all my life I have never heard it played
so exquisitely."

"For a confirmed blue stocking, the Marquise understands remarkably
well how to make her little compliments," said the Countess Helene.

Mrs. McVeigh arose, and with a slight bow to the dowager, passed into
the alcove. At the last bar of the song a shadow fell across the keys,
and the musician saw their American visitor beside her.

"I should love to have you see the country whose music you interpret
so well," she said impulsively; "I should like to be with you when you
do see it."

"You are kind, and I trust you may be," replied the Marquise, with a
pretty nod that was a bow in miniature. She was rising from the piano,
when Mrs. McVeigh stopped her.

"Pray don't! It is a treat to hear you. I only wanted to ask you to
take my invitation seriously and come some time to our South Carolina
home; I should like to be one of your friends."

"It would give me genuine pleasure," was the frank reply. "You know I
confessed that my sympathies were there ahead of me." The smile
accompanying the words was so adorable that Mrs. McVeigh bent to kiss
her.

The Marquise offered her cheek with a graciousness that was a caress
in itself, and thus their friendship commenced.

After the dowager and her daughter-in-law were again alone, and with
an assurance that even the privileged Dumaresque would not break in on
their evening, the elder lady asked, abruptly, a question over which
she had been puzzling.

"Child, what possessed you to tell to a Southern woman of the
States that story reflecting on the most vital of their economic
institutions? Had you forgotten their prejudices? I was in dread
that you might offend her, and I am sure Helene Biron was quite as
nervous."

"I did not offend her, Maman," replied the Marquise, looking up from
her embroidery with a smile, "and I had not forgotten their
prejudices. I only wanted to judge if she herself had ever heard the
story."

"Madame McVeigh!--and why?"

"Because Rhoda Larue was also a native of that particular part of
Carolina to which she has invited me, and because of a fact which I
have never forgotten, the young planter for whom she was educated--the
slave owner who bought her from her father's brother was named
McVeigh. My new friend is delightful in herself but--she has a son."

"My child!" gasped the dowager, staring at her. "Such a man the son of
that charming, sincere woman! Yes, I had forgotten their name, and bid
you forget the story; never speak of it again, child!"

"I should be sorry to learn it is the same family," admitted the
Marquise; "still, I shall make a point of avoiding the son until we
learn something about him. It is infamous that such men should be
received into society."

The dowager relapsed into silence, digesting the troublesome question
proposed.

Occasionally she glanced towards the Marquise as though in expectation
of a continuation of the subject. But the Marquise was engrossed by
her embroideries, and when she did speak again it was of some entirely
different matter.



CHAPTER III.


Two mornings later M. Dumaresque stood in the Caron reception room
staring with some dissatisfaction across the breadth of green lawn
where the dryad and faun statues held vases of vining and blooming
things.

He had just been told the dowager was not yet to be seen. That was
only what he had expected; but he had also been told that the
Marquise, accompanied, as usual, by Madame Blanc, had been out for two
hours--and that he had not expected.

"Did she divine I would be in evidence this morning?" Then he glanced
in a pier glass and grimaced. "Gone out with that plain Madame Blanc,
when she might have had a treat--an hour with me!"

While he stood there both the Marquise and her companion appeared,
walking briskly. Madame Blanc, a stout woman of thirty-five, was
rather breathless.

"My dear Marquise, you do not walk, you fly," she gasped, halting on
the steps.

"You poor dear!" said the Marquise, patting her kindly on the
shoulder. "I know you are faint for want of your coffee," and at the
same time her strong young arms helped the panting attendant mount the
steps more quickly.

Once within the hall Madame Blanc dropped into the chair nearest the
door, while the Marquise swept into the reception room and hastily to
a window fronting on the street.

"How foolish of me," she breathed aloud. "How my heart beats!"

"Allow me to prescribe," said Dumaresque, stepping from behind the
screen of the curtain, and smiling at her.

She retreated, her hands clasped over her breast, her eyes startled;
then meeting his eyes she began to laugh a little nervously.

"How you frightened me!"

"And it was evidently not the first, this morning."

She sank into a seat, indicated another to him, away from the window,
removed her hat and leaned back looking at him.

"No, you are not," she said at last. "But account for yourself,
Monsieur Loris! The sun is not yet half way on its course, yet you are
actually awake, and visible to humanity--it looks serious."

"It is," he agreed, smiling at her, yet a trifle nervous in his
regard. "I have taken advantage of the only hour out of the twenty
when there would be a chance of seeing you alone. So I made an
errand--and I am here."

"And--?"

"And I have determined that, after the fashion of the Americans or the
English, I shall no longer ask the intervention of a third person. I
decided on it last night before I left here. I have no title to offer
you--you coldest and most charming of women, but I shall have fame;
you will have no reason to be ashamed of the name of Dumaresque. Put
me on probation, if you like, a year, two years!--only--"

"No; no!" she said pleadingly, putting out her hands with a slight
repellant gesture. "It is not to be thought of, Monsieur Loris, Maman
has told you! Twice has the same reply been given. I really cannot
allow you to continue this suppliance. I like you too well to be
angry with you, but--"

"I shall be content with the liking--"

"But I should not!" she declared, smilingly. "I have my ideals, if you
please, Monsieur. Marriage should mean love. It is only matrimony for
which liking is the foundation. I do not approve of matrimony."

"Pardon; that is the expression of the romance lover--the school girl.
But that I know you have lived the life of a nun I should fear some
one had been before me, some one who realized those ideals of yours,
and that instead of studying the philosophies of life, you have been a
student of the philosophy of love."

He spoke lightly--half laughingly, but the flush of pink suffusing her
throat and brow checked his smile. He could only stare.

She arose hastily and walked the length of the room. When she turned
the color was all gone, but her eyes were softly shining.

"All philosophy falls dead when the heart speaks," she said, as she
resumed her chair; "and now, Monsieur Loris, I mean to make you my
father confessor, for I know no better way of ending these periodical
proposals of yours, and at the same time confession might--well--it
might not be without a certain benefit to myself." He perceived that
while she had assumed an air of raillery, there was some substance
back of the mocking shadow.

"I shall feel honored by your confidence, Marquise," he was earnest
enough in that.

"And when you realize that there is--some one else--will you then
resume your former role of friend?"

"I shall try. Who is the man?"

She met his earnest gaze with a demure smile, "I do not know,
Monsieur."

"What, then?--you are only jesting with me?"

"Truly, I do not know his name."

"Yet you are in love with him?"

"I am not quite certain even of that," and she smiled mockingly;
"sometimes I have a fancy it may be witchcraft. I only know I am
haunted--have been haunted four long weeks by a face, a voice, and two
blue eyes."

"Blue?" Dumaresque glanced in the mirror--his own eyes were blue.

"Yes, Monsieur Loris--blue with a dash of grey--the grey of the sea
when clouds are heavy, and the blue of the farthest waves before the
storm breaks--don't you see the color?"

"Only the color of your fancy. He is the owner of blue eyes, a
haunting voice, and--what else is my rival?"

"A foreigner, and--Monsieur Incognito."

"You have met?"

"Three times;" and she held up as many white fingers. The reply
evidently astounded Dumaresque.

"You have met three times a man whose name you do not know?"

"We are even on that score," she said, "for he has spoken to me three
times and does not know what I am called."

"But to address you--"

"He called me Mademoiselle Unknown."

"Bravo! This grows piquant; an adventure with all the flavor of the
eighteenth instead of the nineteenth century. A real adventure, and
you its heroine! Oh, Marquise, Marquise!"

"Ah! since you appreciate the humor of the affair you will no longer
be oppressed by sentimental fancies concerning me;" and she nodded her
head as though well pleased with the experiment of her confession.
"You perceive how wildly improper I have been; still, I deny the
eighteenth century flavor, Monsieur. Then, with three meetings the
cavalier would have developed into a lover, and having gained entrance
to a lady's heart, he would have claimed also the key to her castle."

"Astute pupil of the nuns!--and Monsieur Incognito?"

"He certainly does not fancy me possessed of either castle or keys. I
was to him only an unpretentious English companion in attendance on
Madame Blanc in the woods of Fontainbleau."

"English! Since when are you fond enough of them to claim kindred?"

"He was English; he supposed me so when I replied to him in that
tongue. He had taken the wrong path and--"

"And you walked together on another, also the wrong path."

"No, Monsieur; that first day we only bowed and parted, but the ghost
of his voice remained," and she sighed in comical self-pity.

"I see! You have first given me the overture and now the curtain is to
rise. Who opens the next scene?"

"Madame Blanc."

"My faith! This grows tragical. Blanc, the circumspect, the dowager's
most trusted companion. Has your stranger bewitched her also?"

"She was too near sighted to tell him from the others. I was making a
sketch of beeches and to pass the time she fed the carp. A fan by
which she set store, fell into the water. She lamented until Monsieur
Incognito secured it. Of course I had to be the one to thank him, as
she speaks no English."

"Certainly!--and then?"

"Then I found a seat in the shade for Madame Blanc and her crochet,
and selected a sunny spot myself, where I could dry the fan."

"Alone?"

"At first, I was alone."

"Delicious! You were never more charming, Marquise; go on."

"When he saw Madame Blanc placidly knitting under the trees, while I
spread her fan to dry, he fancied I was in her service; the fancy was
given color by the fact that my companion, as usual, was dressed with
extreme elegance, whilst I was insignificant in an old school habit."

"Insignificant--um! There was conversation I presume?"

"Not much," she confessed, and again the delicious wave of color swept
over her face, "but he had suggested spreading the fan on his
handkerchief, and of course then he had to remain until it was dry."

"Clever Englishman; and as he supposed you to be a paid companion, was
he, also, some gentleman's gentleman?"

She flashed one mutinous glance at him.

"The jest seemed to me amusing; his presence was an exhilaration; and
I did not correct his little mistake as to mistress and maid. When he
attempted to tell me who or what he was I stopped him; that would have
spoiled the adventure. I know he had just come from England; that he
was fascinating without being strictly handsome; that he could say
through silence the most eloquent things to one! It was an hour in
Arcady--just one hour without past or future. They are the only
absolutely joyous ones, are they not?"

"Item: it was the happiest hour in the life of Madame La Marquise,"
commented Dumaresque, with an attempt at drollery, and an accompaniment
of a sigh. "Well--the finale?"

"The hour ended! I said 'good day, Monsieur Incognito.' He said, 'good
night, Mademoiselle Unknown.'"

"Good night! Heavens--it was not then an hour, but a day!"

"It was an hour, Monsieur! That was only one way of conveying his
belief that all the day was in that hour."

"Blessed be the teachings of the convent! And you would have me
believe that an Englishman could make such speeches? However, I am
eager for the finale--the next day?"

"The next day I surprised Monsieur and Madame Blanc by declaring the
sketch I was doing of the woods there, was hopelessly bad--I would
never complete it."

"Ah!" and Dumaresque's exclamation had a note of hope; "he had been a
bore after all?"

"The farthest thing possible from it! When I woke in the morning it
was an hour earlier than usual. I found myself with my eyes scarcely
open, standing before the clock to reckon every instant of time until
I should see him again. Well, from that moment my adventure ceased to
be merely amusing. I told myself how many kinds of an idiot I was, and
I thrust my head among the pillows again. I realized then, Monsieur,
what a girl's first romance means to her. I laughed at myself, of
course, as I had laughed at others often. But I could not laugh down
the certainty that the skies were bluer, the birds' songs sweeter, and
all life more lovely than it had ever been before."

"And by what professions, or what mystic rhymes or runes, did he bring
about this enchantment?"

"Not by a single sentence of protestation? An avowal would have sent
me from him without a regret. If we had not met at all after that
first look, that first day, I am convinced I should have been haunted
by him just the same! There were long minutes when we did not speak or
look at each other; but those minutes were swept with harmonies. Now,
Monsieur Loris, would you call that love, or is it a sort of
summer-time madness?"

"Probably both, Marquise; but there was a third meeting?"

"After three days, Monsieur; days when I forced myself to remain
indoors; and the struggle it was, when I could close my eyes and see
him waiting there under the trees!"

"Ah! There had been an appointment?"

"Pardon, Monsieur; you are perhaps confounding this with some
remembered adventure of your own. There was no appointment. But I felt
confident that blue-eyed ogre was walking every morning along the path
where I met him first, and that he would compel me to open the door
and walk straight to our own clump of bushes so long as I did not send
him away."

"And you finally went?"

She nodded. "He was there. His smile was like sunshine. He approached
me, but I--I did not wait. I went straight to him. He said, 'At last,
Mademoiselle Unknown!'"

"Pardon; but it is your words I have most interest in," reminded her
confessor.

"But I said so few. I remember I had some violets, and he asked me
what they were called in French. I told him I was going away; I had
fed the carp for the last time. He was also leaving. He had gathered
some wild forget-me-nots. He was coming into Paris."

"And you parted unknown to each other?"

"How could I do else? When he said, 'I bid you good-bye, Mademoiselle
Unknown, but we shall meet again.' Then--then I did correct him a
little; I said _Madame_ Unknown, Monsieur."

"Ah! And to that--?"

"He said not a word, only looked at me; _how_ he looked at me! I felt
guilty as a criminal. When I looked up he turned away--turned very
politely, with lifted hat and a bow even you could not improve upon,
Monsieur Loris, I watched him out of sight in the forest. He never
halted; and he never turned his head."

"You might at least have let him go without the thought that you were
a flirtatious matron with a husband somewhere in the back-ground."

"Yes; I almost regret that. Still, since I had to send him away, what
matter how? It would have been so common-place had I said: 'We receive
on Thursdays; find Loris Dumaresque when you reach Paris; he will
present you.' No!"--and she shook her head laughingly, "the three days
were quite enough. He is an unknown world; a romance only suggested,
and the suggestion is delicious. I would not for the world have him
nearer prosaic reality."

"You will forget him in another three weeks," prophesied Dumaresque;
"he has been only a shadow of a man; a romantic dream. I shall refuse
to accept any but realities as rivals."

"I assure you, no reality has been so appealing as that dream," she
persisted. "I am telling you all this with the hope that once I have
laughed with you over this witchcraft it will be robbed of its
potency. I have destroyed the sacred wall of sentiment surrounding
this ghost of mine because I rebel at being mastered by it."

"Mastered?--you?"

"Oh, you laugh! You think me, then, too cold or too philosophic, in
spite of what I have just told you?"

"Not cold, my dear Marquise. But if you will pardon the liberty of
analysis I will venture the opinion that when you are mastered it will
be by yourself. Your very well-shaped head will forever defend you
from the mastery of others."

"Mastered by myself? I do not think I quite understand you," she said,
slowly. "But I must tell you the extreme limit of my folly, the folly
of the imagination. Each morning I go for a walk, as I did this
morning. Each time I leave the door I have with me the fancy that
somewhere I shall meet him. Of course my reason tells me how
improbable it is, but I put the reason aside and enjoy my walk all the
more because of that fancied tryst. Now, Monsieur Loris, you have been
the victim of my romance long enough. Come; we will join Madame Blanc
and have some coffee."

"And this is all you have to tell me, Marquise?"

"All but one little thing, Monsieur," and she laughed, though the
laugh was a trifle nervous; "this morning for an instant I thought
the impossible had happened. Only one street from here my ogre
materialized again, or some one wondrously like him. How startled
I was! How I hurried poor Madame Blanc! But we were evidently not
discovered. I realized, however, at that moment, how imprudent I had
been. How shocked Maman would be if she knew. Yet it was really the
most innocent jest, to begin with."

"They often begin that way," remarked Dumaresque, consolingly.

"Well, I have arrived at one conclusion. It is only because I have met
so few men, that _one_ dare make such an overwhelming impression on
me. I rebel; and shall amaze Maman by becoming a social butterfly for
a season. So, in future bring all your most charming friends to see
me; but no tall, athletic, blue-eyed Englishmen."

"So," said Dumaresque, as he followed her to the breakfast room, "I
lay awake all night that I may make love to you early in the morning,
and you check-mate me by thrusting forward a brawny Englishman."

"Pardon; he is not brawny;" she laughed; "I never said so;
nevertheless, Monsieur Loris, I can teach you one thing: When love has
to be _made_ it is best not to waste time with it. The real love makes
itself and will neither be helped or hindered; and the love that can
be conquered is not worth having."

He shrugged his shoulders and rolled his eyes towards the ceiling.

"In a year and a day I shall return to the discussion. I give you so
long to change your mind and banish your phantasy; and in the meantime
I remain your most devoted visitor."

Madame Blanc was already in evidence with the coffee, and Dumaresque
watched the glowing face of the Marquise, surprised and puzzled at
this new influence she confessed to and asked analysis for. This
book-worm; this reader of law and philosophy; how charming had been
her blushes even while she spoke in half mockery of the face haunting
her. If only such color would sweep over her cheek at the thought of
him--Dumaresque!

But he had his lesson for the present. He would not play the
sighing Strephon, realizing that this particular Amaryllis was not
to be won so. As he received the coffee from her hand he remarked,
mischievously, "Marquise, you did not quite complete the story. What
became of the forget-me-nots he gathered?"

But the Marquise only laughed.

"We are no longer in the confessional, Monsieur," she said.



CHAPTER IV.


Mrs. McVeigh found herself thinking of the young Marquise very often.
She was not pleased at the story with which she had been entertained
there; yet was she conscious of the fact that she would have been very
much more displeased had the story been told by any other than the
fascinating girl-widow.

"Do you observe," she remarked to the Countess Helene, "that young
though she is she seems to have associated only with elderly
people, or with books where various questions were discussed? It
is a pity. She has been robbed of childhood and girlhood by the
friends who are so proud of her, and who would make of her only a
lovely thinking-machine."

"You do not then approve of the strong-minded woman, the female
philosopher."

"Oh, yes;" replied Mrs. McVeigh, dubiously; "but this delightful
creature does not belong to that order yet. She is bubbling over with
enthusiasm for the masses because she has not yet been touched by
enthusiasm for an individual. I wish she would fall in love with some
fine fellow who would marry her and make her life so happy she would
forget all the bad laws of nations and the bad morals of the world."

"Hum! I fancy suitors have not been lacking. Her income is no
trifle."

"In our country a girl like that would need no income to insure her
desirable suitors. She is the most fascinating creature, and so
unconscious of her charms."

Her son, who had been at a writing desk in the corner, laid down his
pen and turned around.

"My imperfect following of your rapid French makes me understand at
least that this is a serious case," he said, teasingly. "Are you sure,
mother, that she has not treated you to enchantment? I heard the same
lady described a few days ago, and the picture drawn was that of an
atheistical revolutionist, an unlovely and unlovable type."

"Ah!" said the Countess Helene. "You also are opposed to beautiful
machines that think."

"I have never been accustomed to those whose thoughts follow such
unpleasant lines, Madame," he replied. "I have been taught to revere
the woman whose foundation of life is the religion scorned by the lady
you are discussing. A woman without that religion would be like a
scentless blossom to me."

The Countess smiled and raised her brows slightly. This severe young
officer, her friend's son, took himself and his tastes very
seriously.

Looking at him she fancied she could detect both the hawk and the dove
meeting in those clear, level eyes of his. Though youthful, she could
see in him the steadiness of the only son--the head of the house--the
protector and the adored of his mother and sister, who were good
little women, flattering their men folks by their dependence. And from
that picture the lady who was studying him passed on to the picture of
the possible bride to whom he would some day fling his favors. She,
also, must be adoring and domestic and devout. Her articles of faith
must be as orthodox as his affection. He would love her, of course,
but must do the thinking for the family.

Because the Lieutenant lacked the buoyant, adaptable French
temperament of his mother, the Countess was inclined to be rather
severe in her judgment of him. He was so young; so serious. She did
not fancy young men except in the pages of romances; even when they
had brains they appeared to her always over-weighted with the
responsibility of them.

It is only after a man has left his boyhood in the distance that he
can amuse a woman with airy nothings and make her feel that his words
are only the froth on the edge of a current that is deep--deep!

Mrs. McVeigh, unconscious of the silent criticism being passed on
her son, again poised a lance in defence of the stranger under
discussion.

"It is absurd to call her atheistical," she insisted; "would I be
influenced by such a person? She is an enthusiast, student of many
religions, possibly; but people should know her before they judge, and
you, Kenneth, should see her before you credit their gossip. She is a
beautiful, sympathetic child, oppressed too early with the seriousness
of life."

"At any rate, I see I shall never take you home heart whole," he
decided, and laughed as he gathered up letters he had been addressing
and left the room.

"One could fancy your son making a tour of the world and coming back
without a sentimental scratch," said the Countess, after he had gone.
"I have noticed him with women; perfectly gallant, interested and
willing to please, but not a flutter of an eyelid out of form; not a
tone of the voice that would flatter one. I am not sure but that the
women are all the more anxious to claim such a man, the victory seems
greater, yet it is more natural to find them reciprocal. Perhaps there
is a betrothed somewhere to whom he has sworn allegiance in its most
rigid form; is that the reason?"

Mrs. McVeigh smiled. She rather liked to think her son not so
susceptible as Frenchmen pretended to be.

"I do not think there are any vows of allegiance," she confessed; "but
there is someone at home to whom we have assigned him since they were
children."

"Truly? But I fancied the parents did not arrange the affairs
matrimonial in your country."

"We do not; that is, not in a definite official way. Still, we are
allowed our little preferences, and sometimes we can help or hinder in
our own way. But this affair"--and she made a gesture towards the door
of her son's room, "this affair is in embryo yet."

"Good settlements?"

"Oh, yes; the girl is quite an heiress and is the niece of his
guardian--his guardian that was. Their estates join, and they have
always been fond of each other; so you see we have reason for our
hopes."

"Excellent!" agreed her friend, "and to conclude, I am to suppose of
course she is such a beauty that she blinds his eyes to all the charms
arrayed before him here."

"Well, we never thought of Gertrude as a beauty exactly; but she is
remarkably good looking; all the Lorings are. I would have had her
with me for this visit but that her uncle, with whom she lives, has
been very ill for months. They, also, are of colonial French descent
with, of course, the usual infusions of Anglo-Saxon and European blood
supposed to constitute the new American."

"The new--"

"Yes, you understand, we have yet the original American in our
land--the Indian."

"Ah!" with a gesture of repulsion; "the savages; and then, the
Africans! How brave you are, Claire. I should die of fear."

Mrs. McVeigh only smiled. She was searching through a portfolio, and
finally extracted a photograph from other pictures and papers.

"That is Miss Loring," she said, and handed it to the Countess, who
examined it with critical interest.

"Very pretty," she decided, "an English type. If she were a Parisian,
a modiste and hairdresser would do wonders towards developing her into
a beauty of the very rare, very fair order. She suggests a slender
white lily."

"Yes, Gertrude is a little like that," assented Mrs. McVeigh, and
placed the photograph on the mantel beside that of the very charming,
piquant face of a girl resembling Mrs. McVeigh. It was a picture of
her daughter.

"Only six weeks since I left her; yet, it seems like a year," she
sighed; and Fitzgerald Delaven, who had entered from the Lieutenant's
room, sighed ponderously at her elbow.

"Well, Dr. Delaven, why are you blowing like a bellows?" she asked,
with a smile of good nature.

"Out of sympathy, my lady," replied the young Irishman.

"Now, how can you possibly sympathize understandingly with a mother's
feelings, you Irish pretender?" she asked with a note of fondness in
her tones. "I sigh because I have not seen my little Evilena for six
weeks."

"And I because I am never likely to see that lovely duplicate of
yourself at all, at all! Ah, you laugh! But have you not noticed that
each time I am allowed to enter this room I pay my devotions to that
particular corner of the mantel?"

"A very modern shrine," observed the Countess; "and why should you not
see the original of the picture some day. It is not so far to
America."

"True enough, but I'll be delving for two years here in the medical
college," he replied with lamentation in his tone. "And after that
I'll be delving for a practice in some modest corner of the world, and
all the time that little lady will be counting her lovers on every one
of her white fingers, and, finally, will name the wedding day for a
better boy than myself, och hone! och hone!"

Both the ladies laughed over his comical despair, and when Lieutenant
McVeigh entered and heard the cause of it he set things right by
promising to speak a good word for Delaven to the little girl across
the water.

"You are a trump, Lieutenant; sorry am I that I have no sister with
which to return the compliment."

"She might be in the way," suggested the Countess, and made a gesture
towards the other picture. "You perceive; our friend need not come
abroad for charming faces; those at home are worth courting."

"True for you, Madame;" he gave a look askance at the Lieutenant, and
again turned his eyes to the photograph; "there's an excuse for
turning your back on the prettiest we have to offer you!" and then in
an undertone, he added: "Even for putting aside the chance of knowing
our so adorable Marquise."

The American did not appear to hear or to appreciate the spirit of the
jest regarding the pictures, for he made no reply. The Countess, who
was interested in everybody's affairs, wondered if it was because the
heiress was a person of indifference to him, or a person who was
sacred; it was without doubt one or the other for which the man made
of himself a blank wall, and discouraged discussion.

Her carriage was just then announced; an engagement with Mrs. McVeigh
was arranged for the following morning, and then the Countess
descended the staircase accompanied by the Lieutenant and Delaven. She
liked to make progress through all public places with at least two men
in attendance; even a youthful lieutenant and an untitled medical
student were not to be disdained, though she would, of course, have
preferred the Lieutenant in a uniform, six feet of broad shouldered,
good-looking manhood would not weigh in her estimation with the
glitter of buttons and golden cord.

The two friends were yet standing on the lower step of the hotel
entrance, gazing idly after her carriage as it turned the corner, when
another carriage containing two ladies rolled softly towards their
side of the street, as if to stop at a jeweler's two doors below.

Delaven uttered a slight exclamation of pleasure, and stepped forward
as if to speak, or open the door of their carriage. But the occupants
evidently did not see him, and, moreover, changed their minds about
stopping, for the wheels were just ceasing to revolve when the younger
of the ladies leaned forward, spoke a brief word, and the driver sent
the horses onward at a rapid trot past the hotel, and Delaven stepped
back with a woeful grimace.

"Faith! no chance to even play the lackey for her," he grumbled.
"There's an old saying that 'God is good to the Irish;' but I don't
think I'm getting my share of it this day; unless its by way of being
kept out of temptation, and sure, its never a Delaven would pray for
that when the temptation is a lovely woman. Now wasn't she worth a
day's journey afoot just to look at?"

He turned to his companion, whose gaze was still on the receding
carriage, and who seemed, at last, to be aroused to interest in
something Parisian; for his eyes were alight, his expression, a
mingling of delight and disappointment. At Delaven's question,
however, he attempted nonchalance, not very successfully, and
remarked, as they re-entered the house, "There were two of them to
look at, which do you mean?"

"Faith, now, did you suppose for a minute it was the dowager I meant?
Not a bit of it! Madame Alain, as I heard some of them call her, is
the 'gem of purest ray serene.' What star of the heavens dare twinkle
beside her?"

"Don't attempt the poetical," suggested the other, unfeelingly. "I am
to suppose, then, that you know her--this Madame Alain?"

"Do I know her? Haven't I been raving about her for days? Haven't you
vowed she belonged to the type abhorrent to you? Haven't I had to
endure your reflections on my sanity because of the adjectives I've
employed to describe her attractions? Haven't you been laughing at
your own mother and myself for our infatuation?--and now--"

He stopped, because the Lieutenant's grip on his shoulder was
uncomfortably tight, as he said:

"Shut up! Who the devil are you talking about?"

"By the same power, how can I shut up and tell you at the same time?"
and Delaven moved his arm, and felt of his shoulder, with exaggerated
self-pity. "Man! but you've got a grip in that fist of yours."

"Who is the lady you call Madame Alain?"

"Faith, if you had gone to her home when you were invited you'd have
no need to ask me the question this day. Her nearest friends call her
Madame Alain, because that was the given name of her husband, the
saints be good to him! and it helps distinguish her from the dowager.
But for all that she is the lady you disdained to know--Madame la
Marquise de Caron."

McVeigh stared at him moodily, even doubtfully.

"You are not trying to play a practical joke, I reckon?" he said at
last; and then without waiting for a reply, walked over to the office
window, where he stood staring out, his hands in his pockets, his back
to Delaven, who was eyeing him calmly. Directly, he came back
smiling; his moody fit all gone.

"And I was idiot enough to disdain that invitation?" he asked; "well,
Fitz, I have repented. I am willing to do penance in any agreeable way
we can conjure up, and to commence by calling tomorrow, if you can
find a way."

Delaven found a way. Finding the way out of, or into difficulties was
one of his strong points and one he especially delighted in, if it had
a flavor of intrigue, and was to serve a friend. Since his mother's
death in Paris, several years before, he had made his home in or about
the city. He was without near relatives, but had quite a number of
connections whose social standing was such that there were few doors
he could not find keys to, or a password that was the equivalent. His
own frank, ingenuous nature made him quite as many friends as his
social and diplomatic connections; so that despite the fact of a not
enormous income, and that he meant to belong to the professions some
day, and that he was by no means a youth on matrimony bent--with all
these drawbacks he was welcomed in a social way to most delightful
circles, and when he remarked to the dowager that he would like to
bring his friend, the Lieutenant, at an early day, she assured him
they would be welcome.

She endeavored to make them so in her own characteristic way, when
they called, twenty-four hours later, and they spent a delightful
twenty minutes with her. She could not converse very freely with the
American, because of the difficulties of his French and her English,
but their laughter over mistakes really tended to better their
acquaintance. He was conscious that her eyes were on him, even while
she talked with Delaven, whose mother she had known. He would have
been uncomfortable under such surveillance but for the feeling that
it was not entirely an unkindly regard, and he had hopes that the
impression made was in his favor.

Loris Dumaresque arrived as they were about to take their departure,
and Lieutenant McVeigh gathered from their greeting that he was a
daily visitor--that as god-son he was acting as far as possible in the
stead of a real son, and that the dowager depended on him in many ways
since his return to Paris.

The American realized also that the artist would be called a very
handsome man by some people, and that his gaiety and his self
confidence would make him especially attractive to women. He felt an
impatience with women who liked that sort of impudence. Delaven did
not get a civil word from him all the way home.

Madame la Marquise--Madame Alain--had not appeared upon the scene at
all.



CHAPTER V.


"But he is not at all bad, this American officer," insisted the
dowager; "such a great, manly fellow, with the deference instinctive,
and eyes that regard you well and kindly. Your imagination has most
certainly led you astray; it could not be that with such a face, and
such a mother, he could be the--horrible! of that story."

"All the better for him," remarked her daughter-in-law. "But I should
not feel at ease with him. He must be some relation, and I should
shrink from all of the name."

"But, Madame McVeigh--so charming!"

"Oh, well; she only has the name by accident, that is, by marriage."

The dowager regarded her with a smile of amusement.

"Shall you always regard marriage as merely an accident?" she
asked. "Some day it will be presented to you in such a practical,
advantageous way that you will cease to think it all chance."

"Advantageous?" and the Marquise raised her brows; "could we be more
happy than we are?" The old face softened at the words and tone.

"But I shall not be always with you," she replied; "and then--"

"Alain knew," said the girl, softly. "He said as a widow I could have
liberty. I would need no guardian; I could look after all my affairs
as young girls could not do. Each year I shall grow older--more
competent."

"But there is one thing Alain did not foresee: that your many suitors
would rob you of peace until you made choice of some particular one.
These late days I have felt I should like the choice to be made while
I am here to see."

"Maman! you are not ill?" and in a moment she was beside the couch.

"No; I think not; no, no, nothing to alarm you. I have only been
thinking that together--both of us to plan and arrange--yet I need
Loris daily. And if there should be only one of us, that remaining one
would need some man's help all the more, and if it were you, who then
would the man be? You perceive! It is wise to make plans for all
possibilities."

"There are women who live alone."

"Not happy women," said the dowager in a tone, admitting of no
contradiction; "the women who live alone from choice are cold and
selfish; or have hurts to hide and are heart-sick of a world in which
their illusions have been destroyed; or else they have never known
companionship, and so never feel the lack of it. My child, I will not
have you like any of these; you were made to enjoy life, and life to
the young should mean--well, I am a sentimentalist. I married the one
man who had all my affection. I approve of such marriages. If the man
comes for whom you would care like that, I should welcome him."

"He will never come, Maman," and the smile of the Marquise someway
drifted into a sigh. "I shall live and die the widow of Alain."

The dowager embraced her. "But for all that I do not approve," she
protested. "Your reasons for not marrying do not convince me, and I
promise my support to the most worthy who presents himself. Have you
an ideal to which nothing human may reach?"

"For three years your son has seemed ideal to me," said the Marquise,
after a moment's hesitation. The dowager regarded her attentively.

"He was?" she asked; "your regard for him does you credit; but, amber
eyes, it is not for a man who has been dead a year that a woman
blushes as you blush now."

"Oh!" began the Marquise, as if in protest; and then feeling that the
color was becoming even more pronounced, she was silent.

The dowager smiled, well pleased at her cleverness.

"There was sure to be some one, some day," she said, nodding
sagaciously; "when you want to talk of it I will listen, my Judithe. I
could tell it in the tone of your voice as you sang or laughed; yes,
there is nothing so wonderful in that," she explained, as the girl
looked up, startled. "You have always been a creature of aims,
serious, almost ponderous. Suddenly you emerge like sunshine from the
shadows; you are all gaiety and sudden smiles; unconsciously you
sing low songs of happiness; you suggest brightness and hope; you
have suddenly come into your long-delayed girlhood. You give me
affectionate glimpses of the woman God meant you to be some day. It
can only be a man who works such a miracle in an ascetic of nineteen
years. When the lucky fellow gathers courage to speak, I shall be
glad to pass judgment on him."

The Marquise was silent. The light, humorous tone of the dowager had
disarmed her; yet she had of her own accord, and influenced by some
wild mood, told Dumaresque all that was only guesswork to the friend
beside her. How could she have confessed it to him? She had wondered
at herself that she had dared, and after all it had been so entirely
useless; it had not driven away the memory of the man at Fontainbleau,
even for one little instant.

Madame Blanc entered with some message for the dowager, and the
question of marriage, also the more serious one of love, were put
aside for the time.

But Judithe was conscious that she was under a kindly surveillance,
and suspected that Dumaresque, also, was given extra attention. Her
confession of that unusual fascination had made them better comrades,
and the dowager was taking note that their tone was more frank, and
their attitude suggested some understanding. It was like a comedy for
her to watch them, feeling so sure that their sentiments were very
clear and that she could see the way it would all end. Judithe would
coquette with him awhile, and then it would be all very well; and it
would not be like a stranger coming into the family.

The people who came close enough to see her often, realized that the
journey back to Paris had not been beneficial to the dowager. It had
only been an experiment through which she had been led to open her
house, receive her friends, introduce her daughter; but the little
excitement of that had vanished, and now that the routine of life was
to be followed, it oppressed her. The ghosts of other days came so
close--the days when Alain had been beside her. At times she regretted
Rome, but the physician forbade her return there until autumn. She had
fancied that a season in the old house at Fontainbleau would serve as
a restorative to health--the house where Alain was born; but it was a
failure. Her days there were days of tears, and sad, far-away
memories. So to Paris she went with the assertion that there alone,
life was to be found. She meant to live to the last minute of her
life, and where so well as in the one city inexhaustible?

"Maman is trying to frighten me into marriage," thought the Marquise
after their conversation; "she wants some spectacular ceremony to
enliven the house for a season, and cure her ennui; Paris has been a
disappointment, and Loris is making himself necessary to her."

She was thinking of the matter, and of the impossibility that she
should ever marry Loris, when a box of flowers was brought--one left
by a messenger, who said nothing of whence they came, and no name or
card attached suggested the sender.

"For Maman," decided the Marquise promptly.

But Madame Blanc thought not.

"You, Madame, are the Marquise."

"Oh, true! but the people who would send me flowers would not be so
certain their own names would not be forgotten. I have no old, tried,
and silent friends to remember me so."

While she spoke she was lifting out the creamy and blush-tinted roses;
Maman should see them arranged in the prettiest vase, they must go up
with the chocolate--she would take it herself!

So she chattered while Madame Blanc arranged the tray. But suddenly
the chatter ceased. The Marquise had lifted out the last of the roses,
and under the fragrant screen lay the cause of the sudden silence.

It was a few sprays of dew-wet forget-me-nots! Her heart seemed to
stop beating.

Forget-me-not! there was but one person who had any association in her
mind with that flower. Did this have a meaning relating to him? or was
it only chance?

She said nothing to Madame Blanc about the silent message in the
bottom of the box.

All that day she moved as in a dream. At times she was oppressed by
the terror of discovery, and again it was with a rebellious, delicious
feeling of certainty that he had not forgotten! He had searched for
her--found her! She meant to ignore him if they should meet; certainly
she must do that! His assurance in daring to--yet--yes, she rather
liked the daring--still----!

She remembered some one saying that impertinence gained more favors
from women than respect, and he--yes, certainly he was impertinent;
she must never recognize him, of course--never! Her cheek burned as
she fancied what he must think of her--a girl who made friends with
strangers in the park! Yet she was glad that since he had not let her
forget, he also had been forced to remember.

She told herself all this, and much more; the task occupied so much of
her time that she forgot to go asleep that night, and she saw the
morning star shine out of the blue haze beyond the city, and it
belonged to a dawn with a meaning entirely its own. Never before or
after was a daybreak so beautiful. The sun wheeled royally into view
through the atmosphere of her first veritable love romance.



CHAPTER VI.


Even the card of Lieutenant McVeigh could not annoy her that morning.
He came with some message to the dowager from his mother. At any other
time the sound of his name would have made a discord for her. The
prejudices of Judithe were so decided, and so independent of all
accepted social rules, that the dowager hoped when she did choose a
husband he would prove a diplomat--they would need one in the family.

"Madame Blanc, will you receive the gentleman?" she asked. "Maman has
not yet left her room, and I am engaged."

And for the second time the American made his exit from the Caron
establishment without having seen the woman his friends raved about.
Descending the steps he remembered the old saw that a third attempt
carried a charm with it. He smiled, and the smile suggested that there
would be a third attempt.

The Marquise looked at the card he left, and her smile had not so much
that was pleasant in it.

"Maman, my conjecture was right," she remarked as she entered the room
of the dowager; "your fine, manly American was really the youth of my
Carolina story."

"Carolina story?" and the dowager looked bewildered for a moment; when
one has reached the age of eighty years the memory fails for the
things of today; only the affairs of long ago retain distinctness.

"Exactly; the man for whom Rhoda Larue was educated, and of whom you
forbade me to speak--the man who bought her from Matthew Loring, of
Loringwood, Carolina."

"You are certain?"

"Here is the name, Kenneth McVeigh. It is not likely there are two
Kenneth McVeighs in the same region. How small the world is after all!
I used to fancy the width of the ocean was as a barrier between two
worlds, yet it has not prevented these people from crossing, and
coming to our door!"

She sank into a seat, the card still in her hand.

"Judithe," said the dowager, after watching her moody face thoughtfully,
"my child, I should be happier if you banished, so far as possible,
that story from your memory. It will have a tendency to narrow your
views. You will always have a prejudice against a class for the wrong
done by an individual. Put it aside! It is a question outside of your
life, outside of it always unless your sympathies persist in dragging
you into such far-away abuses. We have the Paris poor, if you must
think and do battle for the unfortunate. And as to the American,
consider. He must have been very young, perhaps was influenced by
older heads. He may not have realized--"

The Marquise smiled, but shook her head. "You are eloquent, Maman, but
you do not convince me. He must be very handsome to have won you so
completely in one interview. For me, I do not believe in his ignorance
of the evil nor in his youthful innocence. I think of the women who
for generations have been the victims of such innocence, and I should
like to see your handsome young cadet suffer for his share of it!"

"Tah!" and the dowager put out her hand with a gesture of protest and
a tone of doubt in her voice. "You say so Judithe, but you could not
see any one suffer, not even the criminal. You would come to his
defense with some philosophical reason for the sin--some theory of
pre-natal influence to account for his depravity. Collectively you
condemn them; individually you would pardon every one rather than see
them suffer--I mean, than stand by and actually see the suffering."

"I could not pardon that man," insisted the Marquise; "Ugh! I feel as
if for him I could have the hand of Judithe as well as the name."

"And treat him a-la-Holofernes? My child, sometimes I dislike that
name of Judithe for you; I do not want you to have a shadow of the
character it suggests. I shall regret the name if it carries such dark
influences with it. As for the man--forget him!"

"With all my heart, if he keeps out of my way," agreed the Marquise;
"but if the old Jewish god of battles ever delivers him into my
hands--!" She paused and drew a deep breath.

"Well?"

"Well--I should show him mercy such as the vaunted law-giver, the
chosen of the Lord, the man of meekness, showed to the conquered
Midianites--no more!" and her laugh had less of music in it than
usual. "I instinctively hate the man, Kenneth McVeigh--Kenneth
McVeigh!--even the name is abhorrent since the day I heard of that
awful barter and sale. It seems strange, Maman, does it not, when I
never saw him in my life--never expected to hear his name again--that
it is to our house he has found his way in Paris; to our house, where
an unknown woman abhors him. Ah!" and she flung the card from her.
"You are right, Maman; I am too often conquered by my own moods and
feelings. The American need be nothing to us."

The dowager was pleased when the subject was dropped. She had seen so
many battles fought, in theory, by humanitarians who are alive to the
injustice of the world. But her day was over for race questions and
creeds. Judithe was inspiring in her sympathies, but the questions
that breathe living flame for us at twenty years, have burned into
dead ashes at eighty.

"Tah! I would rather she would marry and let me see her children," she
grumbled to Madame Blanc; "if she does not, I trust her to your care
when I am gone. She is different since we reached Paris--different,
gayer, and less of the student."

"But no more in touch with society," remarked the attentive companion;
"she accepts no invitations, and goes only to the galleries and
theatres."

"Um!--pictured people, and artificial people! Both have a tendency to
make her an idealist instead of a realist."

To Dumaresque she made the same remark, and suggested he should help
find attractions for her in real life.

"She is too imaginative, and I do not want her to be of the romantic
women; the craze for romance in life is what fills the columns of the
journals with new scandals each month."

"Madame Judithe is safe from that sort of romance," declared her
god-son. "Yet with her face and those glorious eyes one should allow
her some flights in the land of the ideal. She suggests all old Italy
at times, but she has never mentioned her family to me."

"Because it was a topic which both Alain and I forbade her, when she
was younger, to discuss. Naturally, she has not a joyous temperament
and memories of her childhood can only have an unhappy effect, which
accounts for our decision of the matter. Her father died before she
could remember him, and the mother, who was of Greek blood, not long
after. A relative who arranged affairs left the daughter penniless. At
the little chateau Levigne she was of great service to me when she was
but sixteen. Madam Blanc, who tried to reach me in time, declares the
child saved my life. It was a dog--a mad one. I was on the lawn when
he broke through the hedge, snapped Alain's mastiff, Ponto, and came
straight for me. I was paralyzed with terror; then, just as he leaped
at me, the child swung a heavy chair over her head. Tah! She looked
like a young tigress. The dog was struck helpless, his back broken.
The gardener came and killed him, and Ponto, too, was killed, when he
showed that the bite had given him the poison. Ah, it was terrible,
that day. Then I wrote Alain and we decided she should never leave us.
I made over to her the income of the little Lavigne estate, thus her
education was carried on, and when we went to Rome--well, Alain was
not satisfied until he could do even more for her."

The old lady helped herself to snuff and sighed. Her listener wondered
if, after all, that death-bed marriage had been entirely acceptable to
the mother. Some suggestion of his thought must have come to her, for
she continued:

"Not that I disapproved, you must understand. No daughter could be
more devoted. I could not be without her now. But I had a hope--a
mother's foolish hope--that perhaps it might be a love affair; that
the marriage would renew his interest in life and thus accomplish what
the physicians could not do--save him."

"Good old Alain," said Dumaresque, with real feeling in his tones. "He
deserved to live and win her. I can imagine no better fortune for a
man."

"But it was an empty hope, and a sad wedding," continued the dowager,
with a sigh. "That was, to her, a day of gloom, which to others is
the one day to look forward to through girlhood and backward to from
old age. Oh, yes; it is not so much to be wondered at that she is a
creature of moods and ideals outlined on a background of shadow."

The voice of the Marquise sounded through the hall and up the stairs.
She was singing, joying as a bird. The eyes of the two met, and
Dumaresque laughed.

"Oh! and what is that but a mood, too?" demanded the dowager; "a mood
that is pleasant, I grant you, and it has lasted longer than
usual--ever since we came to Paris. I enjoy it, but I like to know the
reason of things. I guess at it in this case; yet it eludes me."

Dumaresque raised his brows and smiled as one who invites further
confidences. But he received instead a keen glance from the old eyes,
and a question:

"Loris, who is the man?"

"What! You ask me?"

"There is no other to ask; you know all the men she has met; you are
not a fool, and an artist's eye is trained to observe."

"It has not served me in this case, my god-mother."

"Which means you will not tell. I shall suspect it is yourself if you
conspire to keep it from me."

"Pouf! When it is myself I shall be so eager to let it be known that
no one will have time to ask a question."

"That is good," she said approvingly. "I must rest now. I have talked
so long; but a word, Loris; she likes you, she trusts you, and
that--well, that goes far."

And all the morning her assurance made for him hours of brightness.
The stranger of Fontainbleau had drifted into the background, and
should never have real place in their lives. She liked and trusted
_him_; and that would go far.

He was happy in imagining the happiness that might be, forgetful of
another lover, one among the poets, who avowed that the happiness of
the future was the only real happiness of the world.

He was pleased that his god-mother had confided to him these little
facts of family history. He remembered how intensely eager the dowager
had been for Alain's marriage, years before, that there might be an
heir; and he remembered, in part, the cause--her detestation of a
female relative whose son would inherit the Marquisate should a son be
born to her, and Alain die without children. He could see how eagerly
the dowager would have consented to a marriage with even the poorest
of poor relations if both the Marquisate and Alain might be saved by
it.

Poor Alain! He remembered the story of why he had remained single; a
story of love forbidden, and of a woman who entered a convent because,
in the world, she could not live with her lover, and would not live
with the man whose name she bore. It was an old story; she had died
long ago, but Alain had remained faithful. It had been the one great
passion he had known of, outside of a romance, and the finale of it
was that the slight girlish protegee was mistress of his name and
fortune, though her heart had never beat the faster for his glance.

And the Greek blood doubtless accounted for her readiness of speech in
different tongues; they were so naturally linguists--the Greeks. He
had met her first in Rome, and fancied her an Italian. Delaven had
asked if she were not English; and now in the heart of France she
appeared to him entirely Parisian.

A chameleon-like wife might have her disadvantages, he thought, as he
walked away after the talk with his god-mother; yet she would not be
so apt as others to bore one with sameness. At nineteen she was
charming; at twenty-five she would be magnificent.

The streets were alive that morning with patriotic groups discussing
the victory of the French troops at Magenta. The first telegrams were
posted and crowds were gathered about them.

Dumaresque passed through them with an unusually preoccupied air. Then
a tall man, leaning against a pillar and viewing the crowd, bowed to
him in such a way as to arrest his attention. It was the American, of
the smiling, half sleepy eyes, and the firm mouth. The combination
appealed to Dumaresque as an artist; also the shape of the head, it
was exceedingly good, strong; even his lounging attitude had the grace
suggestive of strength. He remembered seeing somewhere the head of a
young lion painted with just those half closed, shadowy eyes.
Lieutenant McVeigh was regarding him with something akin to their
watchfulness, the same slow gaze travelling from the feet to the head
as they approached each other; it was deliberate as the measuring of
an adversary, and its finale was a smile.

"Glad to see a man," he remarked. "I have been listening to the
jabbering and screeches of the crowd until they seem only manikins."

Dumaresque laughed. "You come by way of England, I believe; do you
prefer the various dialects of that land of fog?"

"No, I do not; have a cigar?" Dumaresque accepted the offer. McVeigh
himself lighted one and continued:

"Their stuffiness lacks the picturesque qualities possessed by even
the poorest of France, and then they bore one with their wranglings
for six-pences, from Parliament down to peasant. They are always at it
in Brittania the gem of the ocean, wrangling over six-pences, and
half-pennies and candle ends."

"You are finding flaws in the people who call you cousin," remarked
the artist.

"Yes, I know they do," said the other, between puffs. "But I can't
imagine a real American helping them in their claims for relationship.
Our history gives us no cause for such kindly remembrances."

"Unless on the principle that one has a kindly regard for a man after
fighting with him and not coming out second best," remarked
Dumaresque. "I have an errand in the next street; will you come?"

McVeigh assented. They stalked along, chattering and enjoying their
cigars until they reached a florists, where Dumaresque produced a
memorandum and read off a list of blossoms and greenery to be
delivered by a certain date.

"An affair for the hospitals to be held in the home of Madame Dulac,
wife of General Dulac," he explained; "it is to be all very novel, a
bazaar and a ball. Madame is an old friend of my god-mother, the
dowager Marquise de Caron, whom you have met."

McVeigh assented and showed interest.

"We have almost persuaded Madame Alain, her daughter, to preside over
one of the booths. Ah! It will be a place to empty one's pockets; you
must come."

"Not sure about invitations," confessed McVeigh, frankly. "It is a
very exclusive affair, I believe, and a foreigner will be such a
distinctive outsider at such gatherings."

"We will undertake to prevent that," promised Dumaresque, "and in the
interests of charity you will find both dames and demoiselles
wonderfully gracious to even a lonely, unattached man. If you dance
you can win your own place."

"Oh, yes; we all dance in our country; some of us poorly, perhaps;
still, we dance."

"Good! You must come. I am assisting, after a fashion, in planning the
decorations, and I promise to find you some one who is charming, and
who speaks your language delightfully."

There was some further chat. McVeigh promised he would attend unless
his mother had made conflicting engagements. Dumaresque informed him
it was to be a fancy dress affair; uniforms would be just the thing;
and he parted with the American much more pleased with him than in the
salons where they had met heretofore.

Kenneth McVeigh sauntered along the avenue, tall, careless, reposeful.
His expression was one of content, and he smiled as he silently
blessed Loris Dumaresque, who had done him excellent service without
knowing it--had found a method by which he would try the charm of the
third attempt to see the handsome girl who had passed them that day in
the carriage.

He entered the hotel late that night. Paris, in an unofficial way, was
celebrating the victory of Magenta by shouting around bon-fires,
laughing under banners, forming delegations no one remembered, and
making addresses no one listened to.

Late though it was, Mrs. McVeigh had not retired. From a window she
was looking out on the city, where sleep seemed forgotten, and her
beautiful eyes had a seriousness contrasting strangely with the joyous
celebrations of victory she had been witnessing.

"What is it, mother?" he asked, in the soft, mellow tones of the
South, irresistible in their caressing qualities. The mother put out
her hand and clasped his without speaking.

"Homesick?" he ventured, trying to see her face as he drew a chair
closer; "longing for that twelve-year-old baby of yours? Evilena
certainly would enjoy the hubbub."

"No, Kenneth," she said at last: "it is not that. But I have been
watching the enthusiasm of these people over a victory they have
helped win for Italy's freedom--not their own. We have questions just
as vital in our country; some day they must be settled in the same
way; there seems no doubt of it--and then--"

"Then we will go out, have our little pass at each other, and come
back and go on hoeing our corn, just as father did in the Mexican
campaign," he said with an attempt at lightness; but she shook her
head.

"Many a soldier left the corn fields who never came back to them."

"Why, mother, what is it, dear? You've been crying, crying here all
alone over one war that is nothing to us, and another that may never
happen; come! come!" He put his arm about her as if she were a child
to be petted. Her head sank on his shoulder, though she still looked
away from him, out into the brilliantly lighted street.

"It was not the--the political justice or injustice of the wars," she
confessed after a little; "it was not of that I was thinking. But a
woman screamed out there on the street. They--the people--had just
told her the returns of the battle, and her son was among the
killed--poor woman! Her only son, Kenneth, and--"

"Yes, dear, I understand." He drew her closer and lifting her head
from her lap, placed it on his shoulder. She uttered a tremulous
little sigh of content. And then, with his arms about her, the mother
and son looked out on Paris after a victory, each thinking of their
own home, their own capital cities, and their own vague dread of
battles to be in the future.



CHAPTER VII.


As morning after morning passed without the arrival of other
mysterious boxes of flowers or of significant messages, the Marquise
began to watch Loris Dumaresque more than was usual with her. He was
the only one who knew; had he, educated by some spirit of jest, been
the sender of the blossoms?

And inconsistent as it may appear when one remembers her avowed fear
of discovery, yet from the moment that suspicion entered her mind the
charm was gone from the blossoms and the days to follow, and she felt
for the first time a resentment towards Monsieur Incognito.

Her reason told her this was an inevitable consequence, through
resentment forgetfulness would come.

But her heart told her--?

Her presence at the charitable fete held by Madame la General at the
Hotel Dulac was her first response, in a social way to the invitations
of her Parisian acquaintances. A charity one might support without in
any way committing oneself to further social plunges. She expected to
feel shy and strange; she expected to be bored. But since Maman wished
it so much--!

There is nothing so likely to banish shyness as success. The young
Marquise could not but be conscious that she attracted attention,
and that the most popular women of the court who had been pleased to
show their patronage by attendance, did not in the least eclipse
her own less pretentious self. People besieged Madame Dulac for
introductions, and to her own surprise the debutante found herself
enjoying all the gay nothings, the jests, the bright sentences
tossed about her and forming a foundation for compliments delicately
veiled, and the flattering by word or glance that was as the breath
of life to those people of the world.

She was dressed in white of medieval cut. Heavy white silk cord was
knotted about the slender waist and touched the embroidered hem. The
square neck had also the simple finish of cord and above it was the
one bit of color; a flat necklace of etruscan gold fitted closely
about the white throat, holding alternate rubies and pearls in their
curiously wrought settings. On one arm was a bracelet of the same
design; and the linked fillet above her dark hair gleamed, also, with
the red of rubies.

It was the age of tarletan and tinsel, of delicate zephyrs and
extremes in butterfly effects. Hoop-skirts were persisted in, despite
the protests of art and reason; so, the serenity of this dress,
fitting close as a habit, and falling in soft straight folds with a
sculpturesque effect, and with the brown-eyed Italian face above it,
created a sensation.

Dumaresque watched her graciously accepting homage as a matter of
course, and smiled, thinking of his prophecy that she would be
magnificent at twenty-five;--she was so already.

Some women near him commented on the simplicity of her attire.

"Oh, that is without doubt the taste of the dowager; failing to
influence the politics of the country she consoled herself with an
attempt to make a revolution in the fashions of the age."

"And is this sensation to illustrate her ideas?" asked another. "She
has rather a good manner--the girl--but the dress is a trifle
theatrical, suggestive of the pages of tragedies and martyred
virgins."

"Suggestive of the girl Cleopatra before she realized her power,"
thought the artist as he passed on. He knew that just those little
remarks stamped her success a certainty, and was pleased accordingly.
The dowager had expressed her opinion that Judithe would bury herself
in studies if left to herself, perhaps even go back to the convent. He
fancied a few such hours of adulation as this would change the ideas
of any girl of nineteen as to the desirability of convents.

He noticed that the floral bower over which she presided had little
left now but the ferns and green things; she had been adding money to
the hospital fund. Once he noticed the blossoms left in charge of her
aides while she entered the hall room on the arm of the most
distinguished official present, and later, on that of one of the
dowager's oldest friends. She talked with, and sold roses to the
younger courtiers at exorbitant prices, but it was only the men of
years and honors whom she walked beside.

Madame Dulac and Dumaresque exchanged glances of approval; as a
possible general in the social field of the future, she had commenced
with the tactics of absolute genius. Dumaresque wondered if she
realized her own cleverness, or if it was because she honestly liked
best to talk or listen to the men of years, experience, and undoubted
honors.

Mrs. McVeigh was there, radiant as Aurore and with eyes so bright one
would not fancy them bathed in tears so lately, or the smooth brow as
containing a single anxious motherly thought. But the Marquise having
heard that story of the son, wondered as she looked at her if the
handsome mother had not many an anxious thought the world never
suspected.

She was laughing frankly to the Marquise over the future just read in
her palm by a picturesque Egyptian, who was one of the novelties added
to Madame Dulac's list for the night.

Nothing less than an adoring husband had been promised her, and with
the exception of a few shadowed years, not a cloud larger than the
hand of a man was to cross the sky of her destiny.

"I am wishing Kenneth had come--my son, you know. Something has
detained him. I certainly would have liked him to hear that promise of
a step-father. Our Southern men are not devoid of jealousy--even of
their mothers."

Then she passed on, a glory of azure and silver, and the Marquise felt
a sense of satisfaction that the son had not come; the prejudice she
felt against that unabashed American would make his presence the one
black cloud across the evening.

While she was thinking of him the party about her separated, and she
took advantage of a moment alone to slip the alcove back of the
evergreens. It seemed the one nook unappropriated by the glittering
masses of people whose voices, near and far, suggested the murmur of
bees to her as she viewed it from her shadowy retreat, while covered
from sight herself.

The moonlight was shining through the window of the little alcove
screened by the tall palms. The music of a tender waltz movement
drifted softly across to her and made perfect her little retreat. She
was conscious that it had all been wonderfully and unexpectedly
perfect; the success, the adulation, had given her a new definite
faith in herself. How Maman would have enjoyed it. Maman, who would
want every little detail of the pleasant things said and done. She
wondered if it was yet too early to depart, she might reach home
before the dowager slept, and tell her all the glories of it.

So thinking, she turned to enter again the glare of light to find
Madame Dulac, or Madame Blanc, who had accompanied her, to tell them.

But another hand pushed aside the curtain of silk and the drooping
fronds of gigantic fern. Looking up she saw a tall, young man, wearing
a dark blue uniform, who bowed with grace, and stood aside that she
might pass if she chose. He showed no recognition, and there was the
pause of an instant. She could feel the color leave her face. Then,
with an effort, she raised her eyes, and tried to speak carelessly,
but the voice was little more than a whisper, in which she said:

"You!"

His face brightened and grew warm. The tone itself told more than she
knew; a man would be stupid who could not read it, and this one,
though youthful, did not look stupid.

"Madame Unknown," he murmured, in the voice she had not been able to
forget, "I am not so lost here as at Fontainbleau. May I ask some one
to present me to your notice?"

At that she smiled, and the smile was contagious.

"You may not," she replied frankly, recovering herself, and assuming a
tone of lightness to conquer the fluttering in her throat. "The list
of names I have had to remember this evening is most formidable,
another one would make the last feather here," and she tapped her
forehead significantly. "I was just about to flee from it all when--"

She hesitated and looked about her in an uncertain way. He at once
placed a chair for her. She allowed her hand to rest on the back of it
as if undecided.

"You will not be so unkind?" he said; and his words held a plea. She
answered it by seating herself.

"Well?"

At the interrogation he smiled.

"Will you not allow me, Madame, to introduce myself?"

"But, Monsieur Incognito, consider; I have remembered you best because
you have not done so; it was a novelty. But all those people whose
names were spoken to me this evening--pouf!" and she blew a feathery
spray of fern from her palms, "they have all drifted into oblivion
like that. Do you wish, then, to be presented and--to follow them?"

"I refuse to follow them there--from you."

His tones were so low, so even, so ardent, that she looked startled
and drew her breath quickly.

"You are bold, Monsieur," and though she strove to speak haughtily she
was too much of a girl to be severe when her eyes met his.

"Why not?" he asked, growing bolder as she grew more timid. "You grant
me one moment out of your life; then you mean to close the gates
against me--if you can. In that brief time I must condense all that
another man should take months to say to you. I have been speaking to
you daily, however, for six weeks and--"

"Monsieur! Six weeks?"

"Every day," he assented, smiling down at her. "Of course you did not
hear me. I was very confidential about it. I even tried to stop it
entirely when I was allowed to believe that Mademoiselle was Madame."

"But it is quite true--she is Madame."

"Certainly; yet you let me think--well, I forgive you for it now,
since I have found you again."

"Monsieur!"--she half arose.

"Will Mademoiselle have her fortune told?" asked a voice beside them,
and the beringed Egyptian pushed aside the palms, "or Monsieur,
perhaps?"

"Both of us," he assented with eagerness; "that is, if Mademoiselle
chooses." He dropped two pieces of gold in the beaded purse held out.
"Come," he half whispered to the Marquise, "let me see if oblivion is
really the doom fate reads against me."

She half put out her hand, thinking that after all it was only a part
of the games of the night--the little amusements with which purses
were filled for charity; then some sudden after thought made her draw
it back.

"You fear the decision?" he asked.

She did not fear the decision he meant, but she did fear--

"No, Monsieur, I am not afraid. Oh, yes; she may read my palm, it is
all a jest, of course."

The Egyptian held the man's hand at which she had not yet glanced. She
took the hand of the Marquise.

"Pardon, Madame, it is no jest, it is a science," she said briefly,
and holding their hands, glanced from one to the other.

"Firm hands, strong hands, both," she said, and then bent over that of
the Marquise; as she did so the expression of casual interest faded
from her face; she slowly lifted her head and met the gaze of the
owner.

"Well, well? Am I to commit murders?" she asked; but her smile was an
uneasy one; the gaze of the Egyptian made her shrink.

"Not with your own hand," said the woman, slowly studying the
well-marked palm; "but you will live for awhile surrounded by death
and danger. You will hate, and suffer for the hate you feel. You will
love, and die for the love you will not take--you--"

But the Marquise drew her hand away petulantly.

"Oh! I am to die of love, then?--I!" and her light laugh was
disdainful. "That is quite enough of the fates for one evening;" she
regarded the pink palm doubtfully. "See, Monsieur, it does not look so
terrible; yet it contains all those horrors."

"Naturally it would not contain them," said the Egyptian. "You will
force yourself to meet what you call the horrors. You will sacrifice
yourself. You will meet the worst as the women of '93 ascended the
guillotine--laughing."

"Ah, what pictures! Monsieur, I wish you a better fortune."

"Than to die of love?" he asked, and met her eyes; "that were easier
than to live without it."

"Chut!--you speak like the cavalier of a romance."

"I feel like one," he confessed, "and it rests on your mercy whether
the romance has a happy ending."

She flashed one admonishing glance at him and towards the woman who
bent over his hand.

"Oh, she does not comprehend the English," he assured her; "and if she
does she will only hear the echo of what she reads in my hand."

"Proceed," said the Marquise to the Egyptian, "we wait to hear the
list of Monsieur's romances."

"You will live by the sword, but not die by the sword," said the
woman. "You will have one great passion in your life. Twice the woman
will come in your path. The first time you will cross the seas to her,
the second time she comes to you--and--ah!--"

She reached again for the hand of the Marquise and compared them. The
two young people looked, not at her, but at each other.

In the eyes of the Marquise was a certain petulant rebellion, and in
his the appealing, the assuring, the ardent gaze that met and answered
her.

"It is peculiar--this," continued the woman. "I have never seen
anything like it before; the same mark, the same, Mademoiselle,
Monsieur; you will each know tragedies in your experience, and the
lives are linked together."

"No!"--and again the Marquise drew her hand away. "It is no longer
amusing," she remarked in English, "when those people think it their
duty to pair couples off like animals in the ark."

Her face had flushed, though she tried to look indifferent. The
Egyptian had stepped back and was regarding her curiously.

"Do not cross the seas, Mademoiselle; all of content will be left
behind you."

"Wait," and the Monsieur Incognito put out his hand. "You call the
lady 'Mademoiselle,' but your guess has not been good;" and he pointed
to a plain ring on the hand of the Marquise.

"I call her Mademoiselle because she never has been a wife, and--she
never will be a wife. There are marriages without wedding rings, and
there are wedding rings without marriages; pardon!--" and passing
between the ferns and palms she was gone.

"That is true!" half whispered the Marquise, looking up at him; "her
words almost frighten me."

"They need not," and the caress in his eyes made her drop her own;
"all your world of Paris knows the romance of your marriage. You are
more of a celebrity than you may imagine; my knowledge of that made
me fear to approach you here."

"The fear did not last long," and she laughed, the coquetry of the sex
again uppermost. "For how many seconds did you tremble on the
threshold?"

"Long enough to avoid any friends who had planned to present me."

"And why?"

"Lest it might offend to have the person thrust on you whom you would
not know among less ceremonious surroundings."

"Yet you came alone?"

"I could not help that, I _had_ to see you, even though you refused to
recognize me; I had to see you. Did I not prophecy there in the wood
that we should meet again? Even the flowers you gave me I--"

"Monsieur, no more!" and she rose from the chair with a certain
decision. "It was a thoughtless, childish farce played there at
Fontainbleau. But--it is over. I--I have felt humiliated by that
episode, Monsieur. Young ladies in France do not converse with
strangers. Pray go back to England and forget that you found one so
indiscreet--oh! I know what you would say, Monsieur," as he was about
to speak. "I know many of these ladies of the court would only laugh
over such an episode--it would be but a part of their amusements for
the day; but I, I do not belong to the court or their fashions. I am
only ashamed, and ask that you forget it. I would not want any one to
think--I mean that I--"

She had commenced so bravely with her wise, firm little speech, but at
the finale she wavered and broke down miserably.

"Don't!"--he broke in as a tear fell on the fan she held; "you make
me feel like a brute who has persecuted you; don't cry. Come here to
the window; listen to me. I--I loved you that first day; you just
looked at me, spoke to me and it was all over with me. I can't undo
it. I can go away, and I _will_, rather than make you unhappy; but I
can't forget you. I have never forgotten you for an hour. That was
why. Oh, I know it is the wildest, maddest, most unpardonable thing I
am saying to you. Your friends would want to call me out and shoot me
for it, and I shall be happy to give them the chance," he added,
grimly. "But don't, for Heaven's sake, think that my memory of you
would be less than respectful. Why, I--I adore you. I am telling it to
you like a fool, but I only ask you to not laugh until I am out of
hearing. I--will go now--and do not even ask your forgiveness,
because--well I can't honestly say I am sorry."

Sorry! She thought of those days when she had wakened to a new world
because his eyes and his voice haunted her; she heard him acknowledge
the same power, and he spoke of forgiveness as though convicted of a
fault. Well, she had not been able to prevent the same fault, so, how
dared she blame him? He need not know, of course, how well she had
remembered; yet she might surely be a little kind for all that.

"Monsieur Incognito!"

Her voice had an imperious tone; she remembered she must not be too
kind. He was already among the palms, in the full light of the salon,
and he was boy enough for all the color to leave his face as he heard
the low command. She had heard him declare his devotion, yet she had
recalled him.

"Madame," he said, and stood stubbornly the width of the alcove from
her, though he was conscious of all tender words rushing to his lips.
She was so adorable; a woman in mentality, but the veriest girl as to
the emotions his words had awakened.

"Monsieur," she said, without looking at him, "I do not truly believe
you meant to offend me; therefore I have nothing to forgive."

"You angel!" he half whispered, but she heard him.

"No, I am not that," and she flashed a quick glance at him, "only I
think I comprehend you, and to comprehend is to forgive, is it not?
I--I cannot listen to the--affection you speak of. Love and marriage
are not for me. Did not the Egyptian say it? Yes; that was quite true.
But I can shake hands in good-bye, Monsieur Incognito. Your English
people always do that, eh? Well, so will I."

She held out her hand; he took it in both his own and his lips touched
it.

"No! no!" she said softly, and shook her head; "that is not an English
custom." He lifted his head and looked at her.

"Why do you call me English?" he asked, and she smiled, glad to break
that tenseness of feeling by some commonplace.

"It was very simple, Monsieur; first it was the make of your hat,
I read the name of the maker in the crown that day in the park;
then you spoke English; you said you had just arrived from England;
and the English are so certain to get lost unless they go in
groups--therefore!"

She had enumerated all those reasons on her white fingers. She glanced
at him, with an adorable smile as a finale, so confident she had
proven her case.

"And you French have no fondness for the English people," he said
slowly, looking at her. "I wear an American uniform tonight; suppose I
am an American? I am tempted to disobey and tell you who I am, in
hopes you will not send me into exile quite so soon."

"No, no, _no_!" she breathed hurriedly. "You must go; and you must
remain Monsieur Incognito; thus it will be only a comedy, a morsel of
romance. But if I knew you well--ah! I do not know what it would be
then. I am afraid to think. Yes, I confess it, Monsieur, you make me
afraid. I tell myself you are a foreign ogre, yet when you speak to
me--ah!"

She put out her hands as he came close. But he knelt at her feet,
kissing her hands, her wrists, the folds of her dress, then lifted his
face glowing, ardent, to her own.

"I shall make you love me some day," he whispered; "not now, perhaps,
but some day."

She stared at him without a word. She had received proposals of
marriage, dignified, ceremonious affairs submitted to her by the
dowager, but from this stranger came the first avowal of love she had
ever listened to. A stranger; yet he held her hand; she felt herself
drawn towards him by a force she could not combat. Her other arm was
over the back of a chair, slowly she lifted it, then he felt her hand
touch his hair and the touch was a caress.

"My queen!"

"Co--now," she said so lowly. It was almost a whisper. He arose,
pressed her hand to his lips and turned away, when a woman's voice
spoke among the palms:

"Did you say in this corner, Madame? I have not found him; Kenneth!"

"It is my mother," he said softly, and was about to draw back the
alcove draperies when the Marquise took a step towards him, staring
strangely into his face.

"_Your Mother!_" and her tones expressed only doubt and dread. "No,
no! Why, I--I know the voice; it is Madame McVeigh; she called
Kenneth, her son--"

He smiled an affirmative.

"Yes; you will forgive me for having my name spoken to you after all?
But there seems to be no help for it. So you see I am not English
despite the hat, and my name is Kenneth McVeigh."

His smile changed to quick concern as he noticed the strange look on
her face, and the swaying movement towards the chair. He put out his
hand, but she threw herself back from him with a shuddering movement
of repulsion.

And a moment later the palms parted beside Mrs. McVeigh, and she was
startled at sight of her son's face.

"Kenneth! Why, what is wrong?"

"A lady has fainted there in the alcove," he said, in a voice which
sounded strange to her; "will you go to her?"

"Fainted? Why, Kenneth!--"

"Yes; I think it is the Marquise de Caron."



CHAPTER VIII.


The dowager was delighted to find that the one evening of complete
social success had changed her daughter-in-law into a woman of
society. It had modified her prejudices. She accepted invitations
without her former protests, and was only careful that the people whom
she visited should be of the most distinguished.

Dumaresque watched her with interest. There seemed much of deliberation
back of every move she made. The men of mark were the only ones to
whom she gave encouragement, and she found several so responsive
that there was no doubt, now, as to whether she was awake to her own
power--more, she had a mind to use it. She was spoken of as one of the
beauties of the day.

The McVeighs had gone to Italy, the mother to visit a relative, the
son to view the late battle fields on the other side of the Pyrenees
and acquaint himself with military matters wherever he found them.

He had called on the Marquise the day following the fete at the Hotel
Dulac. She had quite recovered her slight indisposition of the
preceding evening, and there had been no hesitation about receiving
him. She was alone, and she met him with the fine, cool, gracious
manner reserved for the people who were of no importance in her life.

Looking at her, listening to her, he could scarcely believe this could
be the girl who had provoked him into a declaration of love less than
a day ago, and in whose eyes he had surprised a fervor responding to
his own. She called him Lieutenant McVeigh, with an utter disregard of
the fact that she had ever called him anything else.

When in sheer desperation he referred to their first meeting, she
listened with a chill little smile.

"Yes," she agreed; "Fontainbleau was beautiful in the spring time.
Maman was especially fond of it. She, herself, had been telling a
friend lately of the very unconventional meeting under the bushes of
the Mademoiselle and Monsieur Incognito, and he--the friend--had
thought it delightfully amusing, good enough for the thread of a
comedy."

Then she sent some kindly message to Mrs. McVeigh, but refused to see
the wonder--the actual pain--in the eyes where before she had
remembered those half slumberous smiles, or that brief space of
passionate pleading. He interrupted some cool remark by rising.

"It is scarcely worth while--all this," he said, abruptly. "Had you
closed your doors against me after last night I should have
understood--I should have gone away adoring you just the same. But to
open them, to receive me, and then--"

His voice trembled in spite of himself. All at once he appeared so
much more boyish than ever before--so helpless in a sort of misery he
could not account for, she turned away her head.

"With the ocean between us my love could not have hurt you. You might
have let me keep that." He had recovered control of his voice and his
eyes swept over her from head to foot like blue lightning. "I bid you
good-day, Madame."

She made an inclination of the head, but did not speak. She had
reached the limit of her self control. His words, "_You might have let
me keep that_," were an accusation she dared not discuss.

When the door closed behind him she could see nothing, for the blur of
tears in her eyes. Madame La Marquise received no other callers that
day.

In the days following she compared him with the courtiers, the
diplomats, the very clever men whom she met, and told herself he was
only a boy--a cadet of twenty-two. Why should she remember his words,
or forget for one instant that infamy with which his name was
connected?

"He goes on his knees to me only because he has grown weary of the
slave-women of the plantations," she told herself in deepest disgust.
Sometimes she would look curiously at the hands once covered by his
kisses. And once she threw a withered bunch of forget-me-nots from her
window, at night, and crept down at daybreak next morning and found
it, and took it back to her room.

It looked as though the boy was holding his own despite the
diplomats.

When she saw him again it was at an auction of articles donated for a
charity under the patronage of the Empress, and open to the public.
Cotton stuffs justled my lady's satins, and the half-world stared at
short range into the faces whose owners claimed coronets.

Many leading artists had donated sketches of their more pretentious
work. It was to that department the Marquise made her way, and
entering the gallery by a side door, found that the crowd had
separated her from the Countess Biron and the rest of their party.

Knowing that sooner or later they would find her there, she halted,
examining some choice bits of color near the door. A daintily dressed
woman, who looked strangely familiar, was standing near with
apparently the same intent. But she stood so still; and the poise of
her head betrayed that she was listening to something. The something
was a group of men back of them, where the black and white sketches
were on exhibition. The corridor was not wide, and their conversation
was in English and not difficult to understand if one gave attention.
The Marquise noted that Dumaresque was among them, and they stood
before his donation of sketches, of which the principal one was a
little study of the octoroon dancer, Kora.

Then in a flash she understood who the person was who listened. She
was the original of the picture, drawn there no doubt by a sort of
vanity to hear the artistic praise, or personal comment. But a swift
glance showed her it had been a mistake; the dark brows were frowning,
the full lip was bitten nervously, and the small ungloved hand was
clenched.

The men were laughing carelessly over some argument, not noticing
that they had a listener; the people moving along the corridor, single
and in groups, hid the two who remained stationary, and whose backs
were towards them. It was most embarrassing, and the Marquise was
about to move away when she heard a voice there was no mistaking--the
voice she had not been able to forget.

"No, I don't agree with you;" he was saying, "and you would not find
half so much to admire in the work if the subject were some old
plantation mammy equally well painted. Come over and see them where
they grow. After that you will not be making celebrities of them."

"If they grow many like that I am most willing, Monsieur."

"I, too. When do we start? I can fancy no land so well worth a visit
but that of Mohammed."

The first speaker uttered an exclamation of annoyance, but the others
laughed.

"Oh, we have seen other men of your land here," remarked Dumaresque.
"They are not all so discreet as yourself. We have learned that they
do not usually build high walls between themselves and pretty
slaves."

"You are right," agreed the American. "Sorry I can't contradict you.
But these gorgeous Koras and Phrynes remind me of a wild blossom in
our country; it is exquisite in form, beautiful to the eye, but poison
if touched to the lips. It is called the yellow jasmine."

"No doubt you are right," remarked one of the men as Kora dropped her
veil over her face. "You are at all events poetical."

"And the reason of their depravity?"

"The fact that they are the outgrowth of the worst passions of both
races--at least so I have heard it said by men who make more of a
study of such questions than I."

A party of people moved between the two women and the speakers. The
Marquise heard Kora draw a sobbing breath. She hesitated an instant,
her own eyes flashing, her cheeks burning. _He_ to sit in judgment on
others--he!

Then she laid her hand on the wrist of Kora.

"Come with me," she said, softly, in English, and the girl with one
glance of tear-wet eyes, obeyed.

The Marquise opened the door beside her, a few steps further and
another door led into an ante-room belonging to a portion of the
building closed for repairs.

"Why do you weep?" she asked briefly, but the kindly clasp of her
wrist told that the questioner was not without sympathy, and the girl
strove to compose herself while staring at the other in amazement.

"You--I have seen you--I remember you," she said, wonderingly, "the
Marquise de Caron!"

"Yes;" the face of the Marquise flushed, "and you are the dancer--Kora.
Why did you weep at their words?"

"Since you know who I am, Madame, I need not hesitate to tell you more,"
she said, though she did hesitate, and looked up, deprecatingly, to
the Marquise, who stood a few paces away leaning against the window.

There was only one chair in the room. Kora perceived for the first
time that it had been given to her while the Marquise stood. She arose
to her feet, and with a deference that lent a subtile grace to her
expression, offered it to her questioner.

"No; resume your seat;" the command was a trifle imperious, but it was
softened the next instant by the smile with which she said: "A dear
old lady taught me that to the burdened horse we should always give
the right of way. We must make easier the way of those who bear
sorrows. You have the sorrow today--what is it?"

"I am not sure that you will understand, Madame," and the girl's
velvety black eyes lifted and then sought the floor again. "But you,
perhaps, heard what they said out there, and the man I--I--well, he
was there."

The lips of the Marquise grew a trifle rigid, but Kora was too much
engaged with her own emotion to perceive it.

"I suppose I shouldn't speak of him to a--a lady who can't understand
people who live in a different sort of world. But you mean to be kind,
and I suppose have some reason for asking?" and she glanced at the
lady in the window. "So--"

The Marquise looked at her carefully; yes, the girl was undeniably
handsome; a medium sized, well-turned figure, small hands and feet,
graceful in movement, velvety oriental eyes, and the deep cream
complexion over which the artists had raved. She had the manner of one
well trained, but was strangely diffident before this lady of the
other world. The Marquise drew a deep breath as she realized how
attractive she could be to a man who cared.

"You are a fool," she said, harshly, "to care for a man who speaks so
of your people."

"Oh, Madame!" and the graceful form drooped helplessly. "I knew you
could never understand. But if folks only loved where it was wise to
love, all the trouble of the world would be ended."

The hand of the Marquise went to her throat for an instant.

"And then it is true, all they said there," continued Kora; "that is
why--why I had let you see me cry; what he said is true--and I--I
belong in his country where the yellow jasmine grows. There are times
when I never stop to think--weeks when I am satisfied that I have
money and a fine apartment. Then, all at once, in a minute like this,
I see that it does not weigh down the one drop of black blood in my
hand there. Sometimes I would sell my soul to wipe it out, and I
can't! I can't!"

Her emotions were again overwhelming her. The Marquise watched her
clench the shapely hands with their tapering fingers and many rings,
the pretty graceful bit of human furniture in an establishment for
such as _he_!

"An oriental prince was entertained by the Empress last week," she
remarked, abruptly. "His mother was a black woman, yours was not."

"I know; I try to understand it--all the difference that is made. I
can't do it; I have not the brain. I can only"--and she smiled
bitterly--"only learn to dance a little, and you don't need brain for
that. My God! How can they expect us to have brain when our mothers
and grandmothers had to live under laws forbidding a slave to dispute
any command of a white man? Madame, ladies like you--ladies of
France--could not understand. I could not tell you. Sometimes I think
money is all that can help you in this world. But even money can't
kill the poison he spoke of. We might be free for generations but the
curse would stay on us, because away back in the past our people had
been slaves."

"So have the ancestors of those men you listened to," said the
Marquise, and the girl looked at her wonderingly.

"_They!_ Why, Madame!"

"It is quite true. Everyone of them is the descendant of slaves of the
past. Every ancient race was at some time the slaves of some stronger
nation. Many of the masters of today are the descendants of people who
were bought and sold with the land for hundreds of years. Think of
that when they taunt you with slavery!"

"Oh! Madame!"

"And remember that every king and queen of Egypt for centuries, every
one told of in their bibles and histories, would look black beside the
woman who was your mother! Chut! do not look so startled! The
Caucassian of today is now believed by men of science to be only a
bleached negro. To be sure, it has taken thousands of years, and the
ice-fields and cave dwellings of the North to do the bleaching. But
man came originally from the Orient, the very womb of the earth from
which only creatures of color come forth."

"You!--a white lady! a noble! say this to comfort me; why?" asked the
girl. She had risen again and stood back of the chair. She looked half
frightened.

"I say it because, if you study such questions earnestly, you will
perceive how the opinion of those self-crowned judges will dwindle;
they will no longer loom above you because of your race. My child, you
are as royal as they by nature. It is the cultivation, the training,
the intellect built up through generations, by which they are your
superiors today. If your own life is commendable you need not be
ashamed because of your race."

Kora turned her head away, fingering the rings on her pretty hands.

"You--it is no use trying to make a lady like you understand," she
muttered, "but you know who I am, and it is too late now!"

She attempted to speak with the nonchalance customary to her, but the
entire interview, added to the conversation in the corridor, had
touched depths seldom stirred, and never before appealed to by a
woman. What other woman would have dared question her like that? And
it was not that she had been awed by the rank and majesty in which
this Marquise moved; she, Kora--who had laughed in the face of a
Princess whose betrothed was seen in Kora's carriage! No; it was not
the rank, it was the gentle, yet slightly imperious womanliness, back
of which could be felt a fund of sympathy new and strange to her; it
appealed to her as the reasoning of a man would appeal; and man was
the only compelling force hitherto acknowledged by Kora.

The Marquise looked at her thoughtfully, but did not speak. She was
too much of a girl herself to understand entirely the nature before
her or its temptations. They looked, really, about the same age, yet
for all the mentality of the Marquise, she knew Kora was right--the
world of emotions that was an open book to the bewitching octoroon was
an unknown world to her.

"The things I do not understand I will not presume to judge," she
said, at last, very gently; "but is there no one anywhere in this
world whose affection for you would be strong enough to help you live
away from these people who speak of you as those men spoke, yet who
are themselves accountable for the faults over which they laugh
together."

"Oh, what you have said has turned me against that Trouvelot--that
dandy!" she said, with a certain vehemence. "He is only a Count of
yesterday, after all; I'll remember that! Still; it is all the habit
of life, Madame, and I never knew any other. Look here; when I was
twelve I was told by an old woman to be careful of my hands, of my
good looks every way, for if I was handsome as my mother, I would
never need to do housework; that was the beginning! Well!" and she
smiled bitterly, "I have not had to do it, but it was through no
planning of theirs."

"And your mother?"

"Dead; and my father, too. He was her master."

"It is that spendthrift--Trouvelot, you care for?"

"Not this minute," confessed the girl; "but," and she shrugged her
shoulders, "I probably shall tomorrow! I know myself well enough for
that; and I won't lie--to you! You saw how he could make me cry? It is
only the man we care for who can hurt us."

The Marquise did not reply; she was staring out of the window. Kora,
watching her, did not know if she heard. She had heard and was angry
with herself that her heart grew lighter when she heard the name of
Kora's lover.

"I--I will not intrude longer, Madame," said the girl at last. "What
you've said will make me think more. I never heard of what you've told
me today. I wish there were women in America like you; oh, I wish
there were! There are good white ladies there, of course, but they
don't teach the slaves to think; they only tell them to have faith!
They teach them from their bible; and all I could ever remember of it
was: 'Servants, obey your masters;' and I hated it. So you see,
Madame, it is too late for me; I don't know any other life; I--"

"I will help you to a different life whenever you are willing to leave
Paris," said the Marquise.

"You would do that, Madame?"

Kora dropped into the chair again, covering her face with her hands.
After a little she looked up, and the cunning of her class was in her
eyes.

"Is it to separate me from _him_?" she asked, bluntly. "I know they
want him to marry; are you a friend of his family?"

The Marquise smiled at that.

"I really do not know if he has a family," she replied. "I am
interested because it seems so pitiful that a girl should never have
had a chance to live commendably. It is not too late. In your own
country a person of your intelligence and education should be able to
do much good among the children of the free colored people. You would
be esteemed. You--"

"Esteemed!" Kora smiled skeptically, thinking no doubt of the
half-world circle over which she was a power in her adopted city; she,
who had only to show herself in the spectacle to make more money than
a year's earnings in American school teaching. She knew she could not
really dance, but she did pose in a manner rather good; and then, her
beauty!

"I was a fool when I came here--to Paris," she said woefully. "I
thought everybody would know I was colored, so I told. But they would
not know," and she held out her hand, looking at the white wrist, "I
could have said I was a West Indian, a Brazilian, or a Spanish
Creole--as many others do. But it is all too late. America was never
kind to my people, or me. You mean to be kind, Madame; but you don't
know colored folks. They would be the first to resent my educational
advantages; not that I know much; books were hard work for me, and
Paris was the only one I could learn to read easy. As for America, I
own up, I'm afraid of America."

The Marquise thought she knew why, but only said:

"If you change your mind you can let me know. I have a property in New
Orleans. Some day I may go there. I could protect you if you would
help protect yourself." She looked at the lovely octoroon with
meaning, and the black velvety eyes fell under that regard.

"You can always learn where I am in Paris, and if you should change
your mind--" At the door she paused and said kindly: "My poor girl, if
you remain here he will break your heart."

"They usually do when a woman loves them, Madame," replied Kora, with
a sad little smile; she had learned so much in the book of Paris.

The friends of the Marquise were searching for her when she emerged
from the ante-room. The Countess Biron confessed herself in despair.

"In such a mixed assembly! and all alone! How was one to know what
people you might meet, or what adventures."

"Oh, I am not adventurous, Countess," was the smiling reply; "and let
me whisper: I have been talking all of the time with one person, one
very pretty person, and it has been an instructive half hour."

"Pretty? Well, that is assurance as to sex," remarked Madame Choudey,
with a glance towards one of the others of the party.

"And if you will watch that door you will be enlightened as to the
individual," said the Marquise.

Three pair of eyes turned with alertness to the door. At that moment
it opened, and Kora appeared. The lace veil no longer hid her
beautiful eyes--all the more lovely for that swift bath of tears. She
saw the Marquise and her friends, but passed as if she had never seen
one of them before; Kora had her own code.

"Are you serious, Judithe de Caron?" gasped the Countess Helene. "Were
you actually--conversing--with that--demi-mondaine?"

"My dear Marquise!" purred Madame Choudey, "when she does not even
_pretend_ to be respectable!"

"It is because she does not pretend that I spoke with her. Honesty
should receive some notice."

"Honesty! Good heavens!" cried Madame Ampere, who had not yet spoken,
but who expressed horror by her eyes, "where then do you find your
standards for such judgment?"

"Now, listen!" and the Marquise turned to the three with a quizzical
smile, "if Kora lived exactly the same life morally, but was a ruler
of the fashionable world, instead of the other one; if she wore a
crown of state instead of the tinsel of the varieties, you would not
exclaim if she addressed me."

"Oh, I must protest, Marquise," began Madame Ampere in shocked
remonstrance, but the Marquise smiled and stopped her.

"Yesterday," she said slowly, "I saw you in conversation with a man
who has the panels of his carriage emblazoned with the Hydrangea--also
called the Hortensia."

The shocked lady looked uncomfortable.

"What then? since it was the Emperor's brother."

"Exactly; the brother of the Emperor, and both of them the sons of a
mother beside whom beautiful Kora is a thing of chastity."

"The children could not help the fact that they were all half-brothers,"
laughed the Countess Helene.

"But this so-called Duke could help parading the doubtful honor of his
descent; yet who fails to return his bow? And I have yet to learn that
his mother was ignored by the ladies of her day. Those Hortensias on
his carriage are horrible to me; they are an attempt to exalt in a
queen the immorality condemned in a subject."

"Ah! You make my head swim with your theories," confessed the
Countess. "How do you find time to study them all?"

"They require no study; one meets them daily in the street or court.
The difficulty is to cease thinking of them--to enjoy a careless life
when justice is always calling somewhere for help."

"I refuse to be annoyed by the calls, yet am comfortable," said Madame
Choudey. "The people who imagine they hear justice calling have had,
too often, to follow the calls into exile."

"That is true," agreed her friend; "take care Marquise! Your theories
are very interesting, but, truly, you are a revolutionist."

Their little battle of words did not prevent them parting with smiles
and all pleasantry. But the Countess Biron, to whose house the
Marquise was going, grimaced and looked at her with a smile of doubt
when they were alone.

"Do you realize how daring you are Judithe?--to succeed socially you
should not appeal to the brains of people, but to their vanities."

"Farewell, my social ambitions!" laughed the Marquise. "Dear Countess,
pray do not scold! I could not help it. Why must the very respectable
world see only the sins of the unfortunate, and save all their charity
for the heads with coronets? Maman is not like that; she is always
gentle with the people who have never been taught goodness; though she
is severe on those who disgrace good training. I like her way best;
and Alain? Well, he only told me to do my own thinking, to be sure I
was right before I spoke, and to let no other consideration weigh at
all."

"Yes! and he died in exile because he let no worldly consideration
weigh," said the Countess Helene grimly.



CHAPTER IX.


At the entrance to the gallery the Marquise saw Dumaresque on the
step, and with him Kenneth McVeigh. She entered the carriage, hoping
the Countess would not perceive them; but the hope was in vain, she
did, and she motioned them both to her to learn if Mrs. McVeigh had
also unexpectedly returned.

She had not. Italy was yet attractive to her, and the Lieutenant had
come alone. He was to await her arrival, whenever she chose, and then
their holiday would be over. When they left Paris again it would be
for America.

He smiled in the same lazy, yet deferential way, as the Countess
chatted and questioned him. He confessed he did not remember why he
had returned; at least he could not tell in a crowd, or with cynical
Dumaresque listening to him.

"Invite him home, and he will vow it was to see you," said the
artist.

"I mean to," she retorted; "but do not judge all men by yourself,
Monsieur Loris, for I suspect Lieutenant McVeigh has a conscience."

"I have," he acknowledged, "too much of one to take advantage of your
invitation. Some day, when you are not tired from the crowds, I shall
come, if you will allow me."

"No, no; come now!" insisted the Countess, impulsively; "you will rest
me; I assure you it is true! We have been with women--women all
morning! So take pity on us. We want to hear all about the battle
grounds and fortresses you were to inspect. The Marquise, especially,
is a lover of wars."

"And of warriors?" queried Dumaresque; but the Countess paid no
attention to him.

"Yes, she is really a revolutionist, Monsieur; so come and enlighten
us as to the latest methods of those amiable patriots."

The Marquise had given him a gracious little bow, and had politely
shown interest in their remarks to such an extent that the Countess
did not notice her silence. But during the brief glance she noticed
that the blue eyes had dark circles under them, but they were steady
for all that. He looked tired, but he also looked more the master of
himself than when they last met; she need fear no further pleading.

The Countess prevailed, and he entered the carriage. Dumaresque was
also invited, but was on some committee of arrangements and could not
leave.

As they were about to drive away the Marquise called him.

"Oh, Monsieur Loris, one moment! I want the black and white sketch of
your Kora. Pray have it bid in for me."

It was the first time she had ever called him Loris, except in her own
home, and as a partial echo of the dowager. His eyes thanked her, and
Kenneth McVeigh received the benefit both of her words and the look.

"But, my dear Marquise, it will give me pleasure to make you something
finer of the same subject."

"No, no; only the sketch. I will value it as a souvenir of--well--do
not let any one else have it."

Then she bowed, flashed a rare smile at him, and they wheeled away
with McVeigh facing her and noting with his careless smile every
expression of her coquetry. He had gone away a boy--so she had called
him; but he had come back man enough to hide the hurts she gave him,
and willing to let her know it.

Someway he appeared more as he had when she met him first under the
beeches; then he had seemed so big, so strong, so masterful, that she
had never thought of his years. But she knew now he was younger than
he looked.

She had plenty of time to think of this, and of many other things,
during the drive.

The Countess monopolized the young officer with her questions. He
endeavored to make the replies she invited, and neither of them
appeared to note that the share of the Marquise was limited to an
interested expression, and an occasional smile.

She studied his well-formed, strong hands, and thought of the night
they had held her own--thought of all the impetuous, passionate words;
try as she would to drive them away they came back with a rush as his
cool, widely different tones fell on her ear. What a dissembler the
fellow was! All that evil nature which she knew about was hidden under
an exterior so engaging! "_If one only loved where it was wise to
love, all the sorrows of the world would be ended,_" those words of
the pretty figureante haunted her, with all their meaning beating
through her brain. What a farce seemed the careless, empty chatter
beside her! It grew unbearable, to feel his careless glance sweep
across her face, to hear him laugh carelessly, to be conscious of the
fact that after all he was the stronger; he could face her easily,
graciously, and she did not dare even meet his eyes lest he should,
after all, see; the thought of her weakness frightened her; suppose he
should compel her to the truth. Suppose--

She felt half hysterical; the drive had never before been so long. She
feared she must scream--do something to break through this horrible
chain of circumstances, linking them for even so short a space within
touch of each other. And he was the man she had promised herself to
hate, to make suffer, to--

Some one did scream; but it was the Countess. Out of a side street
came a runaway team, a shouting man heralding their approach. At that
point street repairs had left only a narrow carriage-way, and a wall
of loose stone; there was no time to get out of the way; no room to
turn. There was a collision, a crash! The horses of the Countess
leaped aside, the right front wheel struck the heap of stone, flinging
the driver from his seat. He fell, and did not move again.

At that sight the Countess uttered a gasp and sank to the bottom of
the carriage. The Marquise stooped over her only for an instant, while
the carriage righted itself and all four wheels were on a level once
more; the horses alone had been struck, and were maddened with fear,
and in that madness lay their only danger now.

She lifted her head, and the man opposite, in her instant of
shrinking, had leaped over the back of the seat to secure the lines of
the now thoroughly wild animals.

One line was dragging between them on the ground. Someway he
maintained his footing on the carriage pole long enough to secure the
dragging line, and when he gained the driver's seat the Marquise was
beside him.

She knew what lay before them, and he did not--a dangerous curve, a
steep embankment--and they had passed the last street where they could
have turned into a less dangerous thoroughfare.

People ran out and threw up their hands and shouted. She heard him
fling an oath at them for adding fury to the maddened animals.

"It is no use," she said, and laid her hand on his. He turned and met
her eyes. No veil of indifference was between them now, no coquetry;
all pretense was swept aside and the look they exchanged was as a
kiss.

"You love me--now?" he demanded, half fiercely.

"Now, and always, from the first hour you looked at me!" she said,
with her hand on his wrist. His grip tightened on the lines, and the
blood leaped into his face.

"My love, my love!" he whispered; and she slipped on her knees beside
him that she might not see the danger to be faced.

"It is no use, Kenneth, Kenneth! There is the bank ahead--they cannot
stop--it will kill us! It is just ahead!"

She was muttering disjointed sentences, her face averted, her arms
clasping him.

"Kill us? Don't you believe it!" And he laughed a trifle nervously.
"Look up, sweetheart; the danger is over. I knew it when you first
spoke. See! They are going steady now."

They were. He had gained control of them in time to make the dangerous
curve in safety. They were a quarter of the way along the embankment.
Workmen there stared at the lady and gentleman on the coachman's seat,
and at the rather rapid gait; but the real danger was over.

They halted at a little cafe, which was thrown into consternation at
sight of a lady insensible in the bottom of the carriage; but a little
wine and the administrations of the Marquise aided her recovery, and
in a short time enabled her to hear the account of the wild race.

The driver had a broken arm, and one of the horses was slightly
injured. Lieutenant McVeigh had sent back about the man, and secured
another team for the drive home. He was now walking up and down the
pavement in front of the cafe, in very good spirits, and awaiting the
pleasure of the Countess.

They drove home at once; the Countess voluably grateful to Kenneth,
and apparently elated over such a tremendous adventure. The young
officer shared her high spirits, and the Marquise was the only silent
member of the party. After the danger was passed she scarcely spoke.
When he helped her into the carriage the pressure of his hand and one
whispered word sent the color sweeping over her face, leaving it paler
than before. She scarcely lifted her eyes for the rest of the drive,
and after retiring for a few moments' rest, apparently, broke down
entirely; the nervous strain had proven rather trying, and she was
utterly unable--to her own regret--to join them at lunch.

Lieutenant McVeigh begged to withdraw, but the Countess Biron, who
declared she had never been the heroine of a thrilling adventure,
before, insisted that she at least was quite herself again, and would
feel cheated if their heroic deliverer did not remain for a lunch,
even though it be a tete-a-tete affair; and she, of course, wanted to
hear all the details of the horror; that child, Judithe, had not
seemed to remember much; she supposed she must have been terribly
frightened. "Yet, one never knew how the Marquise would be effected by
_any_ thing! She was always surprising people; usually in delightful
ways, of course."

"Of course," assented her guest, with a reminiscent gleam and a wealth
of absolute happiness in the blue eyes. "Yes, she is rather surprising
at times; she surprised me!"

                  *       *       *       *       *

"Judithe, my child, it was an ideal adventure," insisted the Countess,
an hour after the Lieutenant had left her, and she had repaired to
the room where the Marquise was supposed to be resting. Her
nervousness had evidently not yet abated, for she was walking up and
down the floor.

"An absolutely ideal adventure, and a heroic foreigner to the rescue!
What a god-send that I invited him! And I really believe he enjoyed
it. I never before saw him so gay, so charming! There are men, you
know, to whom danger is a tonic, and my friend's son is like that,
surely. Did he not seem at all afraid?"

"Not that I observed."

"Did he not say anything?"

"Y--yes; he swore at the people who shouted and tried to stop the
horses."

"You should not have let yourself hear that," said the Countess,
reproachfully. "I thought he was so perfect, and was making my little
romance about him--or could, if you would only show a little more
interest. Ah! at your age I should have been madly in love with the
fine fellow, just for what he did today; but _you_! Still, it would be
no use, I suppose. He is fiancee, you know. Yes; the mother told me; a
fine settlement; I saw her picture--very pretty."

"American--I suppose?"

"Oh, yes; their lands join, and she is a great heiress. The name--the
name is Loring--Genevieve? No--Gertrude, Mademoiselle Gertrude Loring.
Ah! so strong he was, so heroic. If she loves him she should have seen
him today."

"Yes," agreed the Marquise, with a curious little smile, "she
should."

                  *       *       *       *       *

Two hours later she was on her knees beside the dowager's couch, her
face hidden and all her energy given to one plea:

"Maman--Maman! Do not question me; only give me your trust--let us go
away!"

"But the man--tah! It is only a fancy; why should you leave for that?
Whoever it is, the infatuation grew quickly and will die out the same
way--so--"

"No! If I remain I cannot answer for myself. I am ashamed to confess
it, but--listen, Maman--but put your arms around me first; he is not
worthy, I know it; yet I love him! He vows love to me, yet he is
betrothed; I know that, _also_; but I have no reason left, and my
folly will make me go to him if you do not help me. Listen, Maman!
I--I will do all you say. I will marry in a year--two years--when this
is all over. I will obey you in everything, if you will only take me
away. I cannot leave you; yet I am afraid to stay where he is."

"Afraid! But, Judithe, my child, no one shall intrude upon you. Your
friends will protect you from such a man. You have only to refuse to
see him, and in a little while--"

"Refuse! Maman, what can I say to make you understand that I could
never refuse him again? Yet, oh, the humiliation! Maman, he is the man
I despised--the man I said was not fit to be spoken to; it was all
true, but when I hear his voice it makes me forget his unworthiness.
Listen, Maman! I--I confessed to him today that I loved him; yet I
know he is the man who by the laws of America is the owner of Rhoda
Larue, and he is now the betrothed of her half-sister; I heard the
name of his fiancee today, and it told me the whole story. He is the
man! _Now_, will you take me away?"

The next morning the dowager, Marquise de Caron, left her Paris home
for the summer season. Her destination was indefinitely mentioned as
Switzerland. Her daughter-in-law accompanied her.

And to Kenneth McVeigh, waiting impatiently the hour when he might go
to her, a note was given:

  "Monsieur:

  "My words of yesterday had no meaning. I was frightened and
  irresponsible. When you read this I will have left Paris. By not
  meeting again we will avoid further mistakes of the same nature.

  "This is my last word to you.

                                                    "JUDITHE CARON."

For two weeks he tried in vain to find her. Then he was recalled to
Paris to meet his mother, who was ready for home. She was shocked at
his appearance, and refused to believe that he had not been ill during
her absence, and had some motherly fears regarding Parisian
dissipations, from which she decided to remove him, if possible. He
acknowledged he would be glad to go--he was sick of Europe any way.

The last day he took a train for Fontainbleau, remained two hours
under the beeches, alone, and got back to Paris in time to make the
train for Havre.

After they had got comfortably established on a homeward-bound vessel,
and he was watching the land line grow fainter over the waters, Mrs.
McVeigh came to him with a bit of news read from the last journal
brought aboard.

The dowager, Marquise de Caron, had established herself at Geneva for
the season, accompanied by her daughter, the present Marquise, whose
engagement to Monsieur Loris Dumaresque had just been announced.



CHAPTER X.


Long before the first gun had been fired at Fort Sumter, Madame la
Marquise was able to laugh over that summer-time madness of hers, and
ridicule herself for the wasted force of that infatuation.

She was no longer a recluse unacquainted with men. The prophecy of
Madame, the dowager, that if left alone she would return to the
convent, had not been verified. The death of the dowager occurred
their first winter in Paris, after Geneva, and the Marquise had not
yet shown a predilection for nunneries.

She had seen the world, and it pleased her well enough; indeed, the
portion of the world she came in contact with did its best to please
her, and with a certain feverish eagerness she went half way to meet
it.

People called her a coquette--the most dangerous of coquettes, because
she was not a cold one. She was responsive and keenly interested up to
the point where admirers declared themselves, and proposals of
marriage followed; after _that_, every man was just like every other
one! Yet she was possessed of an idea that somewhere there existed a
hitherto undiscovered specimen who could discuss the emotions and the
philosophies in delightful sympathy, and restrain the expression of
his own personal emotions to tones and glances, those indefinite
suggestions that thrill yet call for no open reproof--no reversal of
friendship.

So, that was the man she was seeking in the multitudes--and on the
way there were surely amusements to be found!

Dumaresque remonstrated. She defended herself with the avowal that she
was only avenging weaker womanhood, smiled at, won, and forgotten, as
his sex were fond of forgetting.

"But we expect better things of women," he declared warmly; "not a
deliberate intention of playing with hearts to see how many can be
hurt in a season. Judithe, you are no longer the same woman. Where is
the justice you used to gauge every one by? Where the mercy to others
weaker than yourself?"

"Gone!" she laughed lightly; "driven away in self-defense! I have had
to put mercy aside lest it prove my master. The only safeguard against
being too warm to all may be to be cool to all. You perceive that
would never--never do. So--!"

"End all this unsatisfied, feverish life by marrying me," he pleaded.
"I will take you from Paris. With all your social success you have
never been happy here; we will travel. You promised, Judithe, and--"

"Chut! Loris; you are growing ungallant. You should never remember a
woman's promise after she has forgotten it. We were betrothed--yes.
But did I not assure you I might never marry? Maman was made happy for
a little while by the fancy; but now?--well, matrimony is no more
appealing to me than it ever was, and you would not want an
indifferent wife. I like you, you best of all those men you champion,
but I love none of you! Not that I am lacking in affection, but
rather, incapable of concentrating it on one object."

"Once, it was not so; I have not forgotten the episode of Fontainbleu."

"That? Pouf! I have learned things since then, Loris. I have learned
that once, at least, in every life love seems to have been born on
earth for the first time; happy those whom it does not visit too late!
Well! I, also, had to have my little experience; it had to be _some_
one; so it was that stranger. But I have outgrown all that; we always
outgrow those things, do we not? I compare him now with the men I have
known since, and he shrinks, he dwindles! I care only for intellectual
men, and the artistic temperament. He had neither. Yes, it is true;
the girlish fancies appear ridiculous in so short a time."

Dumaresque agreed that it was true of any fancy, to one of fickle
nature.

"No, it is not fickleness," she insisted. "Have you no boyish loves of
the past hidden away, each in their separate nook of memory? Confess!
Are you and the world any the worse for them? Certainly not. They each
contributed a certain amount towards the education of the emotions.
Well; is my education to be neglected because you fear I shall injure
the daintily-bound books in the human library? I shall not, Loris. I
only flutter the leaves a little and glance at the pictures they
offer, but I never covet one of them for my own, and never read one to
the finale, hence--"

Dumaresque left soon after for an extended artistic pilgrimage into
northern Africa, and people began to understand that there would be no
wedding. The engagement had only been made to comfort the dowager.

Judithe de Caron regretted his departure more than she had regretted
anything since the death of the woman who had been a mother to her.
There was no one else with whom she could be so candid--no man who
inspired her with the same confidence. She compared him with the
American, and told herself how vastly her friend was the superior.

Had McVeigh been one of the scholarly soldiers of Europe, such as she
had since known--men of breadth and learning, she could have
understood her own infatuation. But he was certainly provincial, and
not at all learned. She had met many cadets since, and had studied
them. They knew their military tactics--the lessons of their schools.
They flirted with the grissettes, and took on airs; they drank and had
pride in emptying more glasses and walking straighter afterwards than
their comrades. They were very good fellows, but heavens! how shallow
they were! So _he_ must have been. She tried to remember a single
sentence uttered by him containing wisdom of any sort whatever--there
had not been one. His silences had been links to bind her to him. His
glances had been revelations, and his words had been only: "I adore
you."

So many men had said the same thing since. It seemed always the sort
of thing men said when conversation flagged. But in those earlier days
she had not known that, hence the fact that she--well, she knew now!

Twice she had met that one-time bondwoman, Kora, and the meeting left
her thoughtful, and not entirely satisfied with herself.

How wise she could be in advice to that pretty butterfly! How plainly
she could work out a useful life to be followed by--some one else!

Her more thoughtful moods demanded: Why not herself? Her charities
of the street, her subscriptions to worthy funds, her patronage
of admirable institutions, all these meant nothing. Dozens of
fashionables and would-be fashionables did the same. It was
expected of them. Those charities opened a door through which
many entered the inner circles.

She had fitful desires to do the things people did not expect. She
detested the shams of life around her in that inner circle. She felt
at times she would like to get them all under her feet--trample them
down and make room for something better; but for what? She did not
know. She was twenty-one, wealthy, her own mistress, and was tired of
it all. When she drove past laughing Kora on the avenue she was more
tired of it than ever.

"How am I better than she but by accident?" she asked herself. "She
amuses herself--poor little bondslave, who has only changed masters! I
amuse myself (without a master, it is true, and more elegantly,
perhaps), but with as little usefulness to the world."

She felt ashamed when she thought of Alain and his mother, who seemed
to have lived only to help others. They had given over the power to
her, and how poorly she had acquitted herself!

Once--when she first came with the dowager to Paris--the days had been
all too short for her plans and dreams of usefulness; how long ago
that seemed.

Now, she knew that the owner of wealth is the victim of multitudinous
schemes of the mendicant, whether of the street corner or the
fashionable missions. She had lost faith in the efficacy of alms. No
cause came to her with force enough to re-awaken her enthusiasms.
Everything was so tame--so old!

One day she read in a journal that the usefulness of Kora as a dancer
was over. There had been an accident at the theatre, her foot was
smashed; not badly enough to call for amputation, but too much for her
ever to dance again.

The Marquise wondered if the fair-weather friends would desert her
now. She had heard of Trouvelot, an exquisite who followed the
fashions in everything, and Kora had succeeded in being the fashion
for two seasons. She was just as pretty, no doubt--just as adorable,
but--

As the weeks of that winter went by rumors from the Western world were
thick with threats of strife. State after State had seceded. The South
was marshalling her forces, training her men, urging the necessity of
defending State rights and maintaining their power to govern a portion
as ably as they had the whole of the United States during the eighty
years of its governmental life. The North, with its factories, its
foreign commerce, and its manifold requirements, had bred the
politicians of the country. But the South, with its vast agricultural
States, its wealth, and its traditions of landed ancestry, had
produced the orators--the statesman--the men who had shone most
brilliantly in the pages of their national history.

From the shores of France one could watch some pretty moves in the
games evolving about that promise of civil war; the creeping forward
of England to help widen the breach between the divided sections, and
the swift swinging of Russian war vessels into the harbors of the
Atlantic--the silent bear of the Russias facing her hereditary English
foe and forbidding interference, until the lion gave way with low
growlings, not daring to even roar his chagrin, but contenting himself
with night-prowlings during the four years that followed.

All those wheels within wheels were discussed around the Marquise de
Caron in those days. Her acquaintance with the representatives of
different nations and the diplomats of her own, made her aware of many
unpublished moves for advantage in the game they surveyed. The
discussion of them, and guesses as to the finale, helped to awake her
from the lethargy she had deplored. Remembering that the McVeighs
belonged to a seceding state, she asked many questions and forgot none
of the replies.

"Madame La Marquise, I was right," said a white moustached general one
night at a great ball, where she appeared. "Was it not a rose you
wagered me? I have won. War is declared in America. In South Carolina,
today, the Confederates won the first point, and secured a Federal
fort."

"General! they have not dared!"

"Madame, those Southerons are daring above everything. I have met
them. Their men are fighters, and they will be well officered."

Well officered! She thought of Kenneth McVeigh, he would be one of
them; yes, she supposed that was one thing he could do--fight; a thing
requiring brute strength, brute courage!

"So!" said the Countess Biron, who seldom was acquainted with the
causes of any wars outside those of court circles, "this means that if
the Northern States should retaliate and conquer, all the slaves would
be free?"

"Not at all, Countess. The North does not interfere with slavery where
it exists, only protests against its extension to greater territory."

"Oh! Well; I understood it had something to do with the Africans. That
clever young Delaven devoted an entire hour to my enlightenment
yesterday. And my poor friend, Madame McVeigh, you remember her,
Judithe? She is in the Carolinas. I tremble to think of her position
now; an army of slaves surrounding them, and, of course, only awaiting
the opportunity for insurrection."

"And Louisiana seceded two months ago," said the Marquise, and then
smiled. "You will think me a mercenary creature," she declared, "but I
have property in New Orleans which I have never seen, and I am
wondering whether its value will rise or fall because of the proposed
change of government."

"You have never seen it?"

"No; it was a purchase made by my husband from some home-sick
relative, who had thought to remain there, but could not live away
from France. I have promised myself to visit it some day. It would be
exceedingly difficult to do so now, I suppose, but how much more
spirited a journey it would be; for each side will have vessels on
guard all along the coast, will they not?"

"There will at least be enough to deter most ladies from taking
adventurous pilgrimages in that direction. I shall not advise you to
go unless under military escort, Marquise."

"I shall notify you, General, when my preparations are made; in the
meantime here is your rose; and would not my new yacht do for the
journey?"

So, jesting and questioning, she accepted his arm and made the circle
of the rooms. Everywhere they heard fragments of the same topic.
Americans were there from both sections. She saw a pretty woman from
Alabama nod and smile, but put her hands behind her when a hitherto
friendly New Yorker gave her greeting.

"We women can't do much to help," she declared, in those soft tones of
the South, "but we can encourage our boys by being pronounced in our
sympathies. I certainly shall not shake hands with a Northerner who
may march with the enemy against our men; how can I?"

"Suppose we talk it over and try to find a way," he suggested. Then
they both smiled and passed on together. Judithe de Caron found
herself watching them with a little ache in her heart. She could see
they were almost, if not quite, lovers; yet all their hopes were
centered on opposite victories. How many--many such cases there must
be!

                  *       *       *       *       *

Before spring had merged into summer, a lady, veiled, and giving no
name, was announced to the Marquise. Rather surprised at the
mysterious call, she entered the reception room, and was again
surprised when the lifted veil disclosed the handsome face of the
octoroon, Kora.

She had lost some of her brilliant color, and her expression was more
settled, it had less of the butterfly brightness.

"You see, Madame, I have at last taken you at your word."

The Marquise, who was carefully noting the alteration in her, bowed,
but made no remark. The face of the octoroon showed uncertainty.

"Perhaps--perhaps I have waited too long," she said, and half rose.

"No, no; you did right to come. I expected you--yes, really! Now be
seated and tell me what it is."

"First, that you were a prophetess, Madame," and the full lips smiled
without merriment. "I am left alone, now that I have neither money nor
the attraction for the others. He only followed the crowd--to me, and
away from me!"

"Well?"

"Well, it is not about _that_ I come! But, Madame, I am going to
America; not to teach, as you advised, but I see now a way in which I
can really help."

"Help whom?"

Her visitor regarded her with astonishment; was it possible that she,
the woman whose words had aroused the first pride of race in her, the
first thought of her people unlinked with shame! That she had so soon
forgotten? Had she remembered the pupil, but failed to recall the
lesson taught?

"You have probably forgotten the one brief conversation with which you
honored me, Madame. But I mean the people we discussed then--my
people."

"You mean the colored people."

"Certainly, Madame."

"But you are more white than colored."

"Oh, yes; that is true, but the white blood would not count in America
if it were known there was one drop of black blood in my mother. But
no one need know it; I go from France, I will speak only French, and
if you would only help me a little."

She grew prettier in her eagerness, and her eyes brightened. The
Marquise smiled at the change enthusiasm made.

"You must tell me the object for which you go."

"It is the war, Madame; in time this war must free the colored folks;
it is talked of already; it is said the North will put colored
soldiers in the field; that will be the little, thin edge of the
wedge, and if I could only get there, if you would help me to some
position, or a recommendation to people in New Orleans; any way so
that people would not ask questions or be curious about me--if you
would only do that madame!"

"But what will you do when there?"

The girl glanced about the room and spoke more softly.

"I am trusting you, Madame, without asking who you side with in our
war, but even if you are against us I--I trust you! They tell me the
South is the strongest. They have been getting ready for this a long
time. The North will need agents in the South. I have learned some
things here--people talk so much. I am going to Washington. From
there I will go south. No one will know me in New Orleans. I will
change my name, and I promise not to bring discredit on any
recommendation you may give me."

"It is a plan filled with difficulties and dangers. What has moved you
to contemplate such sacrifices?"

"You, Madame!" The Marquise flushed slightly. "From the time you
talked to me I wanted to do something, be something better. But, you
know, it seemed no use; there was no need of me anywhere but in Paris.
That is all over. I can go now, and I have some information worth
taking to the Federal government. The South has commissioners here
now. I have learned all they have accomplished, and the people they
have interested, so if I had a little help--"

"You shall have it!" declared the Marquise. "I have been dying of
ennui. Your plan is a cure for me--better than a room full of
courtiers! But if I give you letters it must be to my lawyers in New
Orleans--clever, shrewd men--and I should have to trust you entirely,
remember."

"I shall not forget, Madame."

"Very good; come tomorrow. What can you do about an establishment such
as mine? Ladies maid? Housekeeper? Governess?"

"Any of those; but only governess to very small children."

"Come tomorrow. I shall have planned something by then. I have an
engagement in a few minutes, and have no more time today. By the way,
have you ever been in Georgia or South Carolina?"

Kora hesitated, and then said: "Yes, Madame."

"Have you any objection to going back there?"

The octoroon looked at her in a startled, suspicious way.

"I hesitate to reply to that, Madame, for reasons! I don't mind
telling you, though, that there is one place in America where I might
be claimed, if they knew me. I am not anxious to visit that place."

"Naturally! Tomorrow at eleven I will see you, and you can tell me all
about it. If I am to act as your protectress I must know all you can
tell me--_all_! It is the only way. I like the mystery and intrigue of
the whole affair. It promises new sensations. I will help you show
that government that you are willing to help your people. Come
tomorrow."

A few days later the Marquise set her new amusement on foot by bidding
adieu to a demure, dark eyed, handsome girl, who was garbed most
sedately, and whose letters of introduction pronounced her--oh,
sentiment or irony of women--Madame Louise Trouvelot, an attache of
the Caron establishment, commissioned by the Marquise to inspect the
dwellings on the Caron estate in New Orleans, and report as to whether
any one of them would be suitable for a residence should the owner
desire to visit the city. If none should prove so, Louise Trouvelot,
who comprehended entirely the needs of the Marquise, was further
commissioned to look up such a residence with a view to purchase, and
communicate with the Marquise and with her American lawyers, who were
to give assistance to Louise Trouvelot in several business matters,
especially relating to her quest.



CHAPTER XI.

ON THE SALKAHATCHIE.


Scarce a leaf quivered on the branches of the magnolias, or a tress of
gray-green moss on the cypress boughs. All the world of the
Salkahatchie was wrapped in siesta. The white clouds drifting on
palest turquoise were the only moving things except the water flowing
beneath, and its soft swish against the gunnels of the floating wharf
made the only sound.

The plantation home of Loringwood, facing the river, and reached
through the avenue of enormous live oaks, looked an enchanted palace
touched with the wand of silence.

From the wide stone steps to the wide galleries, with their fluted
pillars, not a murmur but the winged insects droning in the tangled
grasses, for the wild luxuriance of rose tree and japonica, of lawn
and crape myrtle, betrayed a lack of pruning knives in the immediate
season past; and to the south, where the rice fields had reached acre
beyond acre towards the swamps, there were now scattered patches of
feathering young pine, creeping everywhere not forbidden to it by the
hand of man.

Spring time and summer time, for almost a century, had been lived
through under its sloping, square, dormer-windowed roof. But all the
blue sky and brilliant sunshine above could not save it from a
suggestion of autumn, and the shadows lengthening along the river were
in perfect keeping with the entire picture--a picture of perpetual
afternoon.

"Row-lock," "Row-lock," sounded the dip and click of paddles, as a
boat swept close to the western bank, where the shadows fell. Two
Afro-Americans bent in rhythmic motion--bronze human machines, whose
bared arms showed nothing of effort as they sent the boat cutting
through the still water.

A middle-aged woman in a voluminous lavender lawn and carrying a
parasol of plaid silk-green, with faded pink bars, sat in the after
part of the boat, while a slight brown-haired girl just in front
amused herself by catching at branches of willows as they passed.

"Evilena, honey, you certainly are like to do yourself a hurt reaching
out like that, and if you _should_ go over!"

"But I shan't, Aunt Sajane. Do you reckon I'd risk appearing before
Gertrude Loring in a draggled gown just when she has returned from the
very heart of the civilized world? Goodness knows, we'll all look
dowdy enough to her."

Aunt Sajane (Mistress Sarah Jane Nesbitt) glanced down at her own
immaculate lawn, a little faded but daintily laundered, and at her own
trim congress-gaitered feet.

"Oh, I didn't mean you," added the girl, laughing softly. "Aunt
Sajane, I truly do believe that if you had nothing but gunny sacks for
dresses you'd contrive to look as if you'd just come out of a
bandbox."

"I'd wear gunny sacks fast enough if it was to help the cause," agreed
Aunt Sajane, with a kindly smile. "So would you, honey."

"Honey" trailed her fingers in the waters, amber-tinted from the roots
of the cypress trees.

"If a letter from mama comes today we will just miss it."

"Only by a day. Brother Gideon will send it."

"But suppose he's away somewhere on business, or up there at Columbia
on state councils or conventions, or whatever they are, as he is just
now?"

"Then Pluto will fetch it right over," and she glanced at one of the
black men, who showed his teeth for an instant and bent his head in
assent.

"Don't see why Judge Clarkson was _ever_ named Gideon," protested the
girl. "It's a hard, harsh sort of name, and he's as--as--"

"Soft?" queried the judge's sister, with an accompaniment of easy
laughter. The youngest of the two oarsmen grinned. Pluto maintained a
well-bred indifference.

"No!" and the girl flung a handful of willow leaves over the lavender
lawn. "He is--well--just about right, the judge is; so gentle, so
considerate, so altogether magnificent in his language. I've adored
him as far back as when he fought the duel with the Northern man who
reflected some way on our customs; that was starting a war for his
state all alone, before anyone else thought of it, I reckon. I must
have been very little then, for I just recollect how he used to let me
look in his pockets for candy, and I was awfully afraid of the pistols
I thought he must carry there to shoot people with," and she smiled at
the childish fancy. "I tell you, Aunt Sajane, if my papa had lived
there's just one man I'd like him to favor, and that's our judge. But
he didn't, did he?"

"No, he didn't," said Aunt Sajane. "The McVeigh men were all dark,
down to Kenneth, and he gets his fairness from your ma." Then she
added, kindly, "the judge will be very proud of your admiration."

"Hope he'll care enough about it to hurry right along after us. He
does put in a powerful lot of his time in Charleston and Columbia
lately," and the tone was one of childish complaint.

"Why, honey, how you suppose our soldier boys would be provided for
unless some of the representative men devote their time to the work?
It's a consolation to me that Gideon is needed for civil service just
now, for if he wasn't he wouldn't be so near home as he is; he'd be
somewhere North with a regiment, and I reckon that wouldn't suit you
any better."

"No, it wouldn't," agreed the girl, "though I do like a man who will
fight, of course. _Any_ girl does."

"Oh, Honey!"

"Yes they do, too. But just now I don't want him either fighting or in
legislature. I want him right along with us at Loringwood. If he isn't
there to talk to Mr. Loring it won't be possible to have a word alone
with Gertrude all the time we stay. How he _does_ depend on her, and
what an awful time she must have had all alone with him in Paris while
he was at that hospital, or whatever it was."

"Not many girls so faithful as Gertrude Loring," agreed Aunt Sajane.
"Not that he has ever shown much affection for her, either,
considering she is his own brother's child. But she certainly has
shown a Christian sense of duty towards him. Well, you see, they are
the only ones left of the family. It's natural, I suppose."

"_I_ would think it natural to run away and leave him, like Aleck and
Scip did."

Aunt Sajane cast a warning glance towards the two oarsmen.

"Well, I would," insisted the girl. "I wonder no more of them ran away
when they thought he was coming home. How he must have raved! _I_
shouldn't wonder if it prostrated him again. You know old Doctor
Allison said it was just a fit of temper caused--"

"Yes, yes, honey; but you know we are to sleep under his roof
tonight."

"I'll sleep under Gertrude's half of it," laughed the girl. "It's no
use reminding me of my bad manners, Aunt Sajane. But as long as I can
remember anyone, I've had two men in my mind. One always grunted at me
and told me to take my doll somewhere else or be quiet. That was
Kenneth's guardian, Matthew Loring. The other man always had sugar
kisses in his pocket for me and gave me my first dog and my only pony.
That was Judge Clarkson. You see if my judge had not been so lovely
the other would not have seemed so forbidding. It was the contrast did
it. I wonder--I wonder if he ever had a sweetheart?"

"Gideon Clarkson? Lots of them," said his sister, promptly.

"I meant Mr. Loring."

"Nonsense, honey, nonsense."

"And nonsense means no," decided the girl. "I thought it would be
curious if he had," then an interval of silence, broken only by the
dip of the oars. "Gertrude's note said a Paris doctor is with them, a
friend of Kenneth and mama. Well, I only hope _he_ isn't a crusty old
sweetheartless man. But of course he is if Mr. Loring chose him. I'm
wild to know how they got through the blockade. Oh, dear, how I wish
it was Ken!"

"I don't suppose you wish it any more than the boy himself," said Aunt
Sajane, with a sigh. "There's a good many boys scattered from home,
these days, who would be glad to be home again."

"But not unless they gain what they went for," declared the girl in
patriotic protest.

The older woman sighed, and said nothing. Her enthusiasms of a year
ago had been shrouded by the crape of a mourning land; the glory of
conquest would be compensation, perhaps, and would be gained, no
doubt. But the price to be paid chilled her and left her without words
when Evilena revelled in the glories of the future.

"Loringwood line," said Pluto, motioning towards a great ditch leading
straight back from the river.

Evilena shrugged her shoulders with a little pretense of chill, and
laughed.

"That is only a reminder of what I used to feel when Gertrude's uncle
came to our house. I wonder if this long dress will prevent him from
grunting at me or ordering me out of the room if I talk too much."

"Remember, Evilena, he has been an invalid for four years, and is
excusable for almost any eccentricity."

"How did you all excuse his eccentricities before he got sick, Aunt
Sajane?"

Receiving no reply, the girl comforted herself with the appreciative
smile of the oarsmen, who were evidently of her mind as to the planter
under discussion, and a mile further they ran the boat through the
reeds and lily pads to the little dock at Loringwood.

Mrs. Nesbitt shook out the folds of her crisp lawn, adjusted her
bonnet and puffs and sighed, as they walked up the long avenue.

"I can remember when the lily pads never could get a chance to grow
there on account of the lot of company always coming in boats," she
said, regretfully, "and I've heard that the old Lorings lived like
kings here long ago; wild, reckless, magnificent men; not at all like
the Lorings now; and oh, my, how the place has been neglected of late.
Not a sign of life about the house. Now, in _Tom_ Loring's time--"

They had reached the foot of the steps when the great double doors
swung back and a woman appeared on the threshold and inclined her head
in greeting.

"Well, Margeret, I am glad to see some one alive," declared Mrs.
Nesbitt; "the place is so still."

"Yes; just look at Pluto and Bob," said Evilena, motioning towards the
boatmen. "One would think a ghost had met them at the landing, they
are so subdued."

The brown eyed, grey haired woman in the door glanced at the two
colored men who were following slowly along a path towards the back of
the house.

"Yes, Miss Lena, it is quiet," she agreed. "Please step in Mistress
Nesbitt. I'll have Raquel show you right up to your rooms, for Miss
Loring didn't think you could get here for an hour yet, and she felt
obliged to ride over to the north corner, but won't be gone long."

"And Mr. Loring--how is he?"

"Mr. Loring is very much worn out. He's gone asleep now. Doctor says
he's not to be seen just yet."

"Oh, yes; the doctor. I'll see him directly after I've rested a
little. He speaks English, I hope. Are you coming up, honey?"

"Not yet. I'll keep a lookout for Gertrude."

Margeret had touched a bell and in response a little black girl had
appeared, who smiled and ducked her head respectfully.

"Howdy, Miss Sajane? Howdy, Miss Lena?" she exclaimed, her black eyes
dancing. "I dunno how come it come, I nevah heerd you all, for I done
got--"

"Raquel, you show Mistress Nesbitt to the west room," said the quiet
tones of Margeret, and Raquel's animation subsided into wordless grins
as she gathered up the sunshade, reticule and other belongings, and
preceded Mistress Nesbitt up the stairs.

"If there's anything I can do for you just send Raquel for me."

"Thank you, Margeret. I'll remember."

Margeret crossed the hall to the parlor door and opened it.

"If you'd rather rest in here, Miss Lena--"

"No, no; I'll go look for Gertrude. Don't mind me. I remember all the
rooms well enough to make myself at home till she comes."

Margeret inclined her head slightly and moved along the hall to the
door of the dining room, which she entered.

Evilena looked after her with a dubious smile in the blue-gray eyes.

"I wonder if I could move as quietly as that even with my feet
_bare_," and she tried walking softly on the polished oak floor, but
the heels of her shoes would persist in giving out little clicking
sounds as Margeret's had not.

"It's no use. No living person with shoes on could walk silently as
that woman. She's just a ghost who--_a-gh-gh_!"

Her attempt at silent locomotion had brought her to the door of the
library, directly opposite the dining room. As she turned to retrace
her steps that door suddenly opened and a hand grasped her shoulder.

"Oh, ho! This time I've caught you, have I? you--oh, murder!"

Her half uttered scream had been checked by the sound of a voice which
memory told her was not that of her bugbear, the invalid master of the
house. It was, instead, a strange gentleman, who was young, and even
attractive; whose head was a mass of reddish curls, and whose austere
gaze changed quickly to an embarrassed stare as her hat slipped back
and he saw her face. The girl was the first to recover herself.

"Yes, you certainly did catch me this time," she gasped.

"My dear young lady, I'm a blundering idiot. I beg your pardon most
humbly. I thought it was that Raquel, and I--"

"Oh, Raquel?" and she backed to the opposite wall, regarding him with
doubt and question in her eyes.

"Exactly. Allow me to explain. Raquel, in company with some other imps
of all shades, have developed an abnormal interest in the unpacking of
various boxes today, and especially a galvanic battery in here,
which--"

"Battery? In _there_?" and Evilena raised on her tip-toes to survey
the room over his shoulder. "I know some boys of Battery B, but I
never saw them without uniforms."

"Uniform, is it? Well, now, you see, I've only been a matter of hours
in the country, and small chance to look up a tailor. Are--are they a
necessity to the preservation of life here?"

He spoke with a doubtful pretense of timidity, and looked at her
quizzically. She smiled, but made a little grimace, a curve of the
lips and nod of the head conveying decision.

"You will learn it is the only dress for a man that makes life worth
living, for him, around here," she replied. "Every man who is not
superannuated or attached to the state government in some way has to
wear a uniform unless he wants his loyalty questioned."

The un-uniformed man smiled at her delightful patriotic frankness.

"Faith, now, I've no objection to the questions if you are appointed
questioner. But let me get you a chair. Even when on picket duty and
challenging each new comer, you are allowed a more restful attitude
than your present one, I hope. You startled me into forgetting--"

"_I_ startled _you_? Well!"

"Oh, yes. I was the one to do the bouncing out and nabbing you, wasn't
I? Well, now, I can't believe you were the more frightened of the two,
for all that. Have this chair, please; it is the most comfortable. You
see, I fancied Raquel had changed under my touch from dusky brown to
angelic white. The hat hid your face, you know, until you turned
around, and then--"

"Well?" At the first tone of compliment she had forgotten all the
strangeness of their meeting, and remembered only the coquetry so
naturally her own. With or without the uniform of her country, he was
at least a man, and there had been a dearth of men about their
plantation, "The Terrace," of late.

"Well," he repeated after her, "when you tipped the hat back I thought
in a wink of all the fairy stories of transformation I used to hear
told by the old folks in Ireland."

"Do you really mean that you believe fairy stories?" Her tone was
severe and her expression chiding.

"On my faith I believed them all that minute."

Her eyes dropped to the toe of her slipper. It was all very
delightful, this tete-a-tete with the complimentary unknown, and to be
thought a fairy! She wished she had gone up with Aunt Sajane and
brushed her hair. Still--

"I was sure it was Mr. Loring who had hold of me until I looked
around," she confessed, "and that frightened me just as much as the
wickedest fairy or goblin could ever do."

"Indeed, now, would it?"

She glanced around to see if her indiscreet speech had been overheard
and then nodded assent.

"Oh, you needn't smile," she protested; and his face at once became
comically grave. "_You_ didn't have him for a bug-a-boo when you were
little, as I did. That doctor of his gave orders that no one was to
see him just now, and I am glad Gertrude will be back before we are
admitted. With Gertrude to back me up I could be brave as--as--"

"A sheep," suggested the stranger.

"I was going to say a lion, but lions are big, and I'm not very."

"No, you are not," he agreed. "Sad, isn't it?"

Then they both laughed. She was elated, bubbling over with delight, at
meeting some one in Loringwood who actually laughed.

"Gertrude's note last night never told us she had company, and I had
gloomy forebodings of Uncle Matthew and Uncle Matthew's doctor, to
whom I would not dare speak a word, and the relief of finding real
people here is a treat, so please don't mind if I'm silly."

"I shan't--when you are," he agreed, magnanimously. "But pray
enlighten me as to why you will be unable to exchange words with the
medical stranger? He's no worse a fellow than myself."

"Of _course_ not," she said, with so much fervor that her listener's
smile was clearly a compromise with laughter. "But a doctor from
Paris! Our old Doctor Allison is pompous and domineering enough, and
he never was out of the state, but this one from Europe, he is sure to
oppress me with his wonderful knowledge. Indeed, I don't know who he
will find to talk to here, now, except Judge Clarkson. The judge
_will_ be scholarly enough for him."

"And does he, also, oppress you with his professional knowledge?"

Evilena's laugh rang out clear as a bird's note.

"The Judge? Never! Why I just love him. He is the dearest, best--"

"I see. He's an angel entirely, and no mere mortal from Paris is to be
mentioned in the same breath."

"Well, he is everything charming," she insisted. "You would be sure to
like him."

"I wish I could be as sure you might change your mind and like the
new-comer from Paris."

"Do you? Oh, well, then, I'll certainly try. What is he like, nice?"

"I really can't remember ever having heard any one say so," confessed
the stranger, smiling at her.

"Well," and Evilena regarded him with wide, astonished eyes, "no one
else likes him, yet you hoped I would. Why, I don't see how--"

The soft quick beat of horse hoofs on the white shelled road
interrupted her, or gave opportunity for interrupting herself.

"I hope it's Gertrude. Oh, it _is_! You dear old darling."

She flounced down the steps, followed by the man, who was becoming a
puzzle. He gave his hand to Miss Loring, who accepted that assistance
from the horse block, and then he stepped aside that the embrace
feminine might have no obstacle in its path.

"My dear little girl," and the mistress of Loringwood kissed her guest
with decided fondness. "How good of you to come at once--and Mrs.
Nesbitt, too? I'm sorry you had to wait even a little while for a
welcome, but I just had to ride over to the quarters, and then to the
far fields. Thank you, doctor, for playing host."

"_Doctor_?" gasped Evilena, gripping Miss Loring's arm. There was a
moment of hesitation on the part of all three, when she said,
reproachfully, looking at the smiling stranger, "Then it was you all
the time?"

"Was there no one here to introduce you?" asked Miss Loring, looking
from one to the other. "This is Dr. Delavan, dear, and this, doctor,
is Kenneth's sister."

"Thanks. I recognized her at once, and I trust you will forgive me for
not introducing myself sooner, mademoiselle, but--well, we had so many
other more interesting things to speak of."

Evilena glanced at him out of the corner of her eye, and with her arm
about Gertrude walked in silence up the steps. She wanted time to
think over what awful things she had said to him, not an easy thing to
do, for Evilena said too many things to remember them all.

Margeret was in the hall. Evilena wondered by what occult messages she
learned when any one ascended those front steps. She took Miss
Loring's riding hat and gloves.

"Mistress Nesbitt is just resting," she said, in those soft even
tones. "She left word to call her soon as you got back--she'd come
down."

"I'll go up and see her," decided Miss Loring. "Will you excuse us,
doctor? And Margeret, have Chloe get us a bit of lunch. We are all a
little tired, and it is a long time till supper."

"I have some all ready, Miss Gertrude. Was only waiting till you got
back."

"Oh, very well. In five minutes we will be down."

Then, with her arm about Evilena, Miss Loring ascended the wide
stairway, where several portraits of vanished Lorings hung, none of
them resembling her own face particularly.

She was what the Countess Biron had likened her to when the photograph
was shown--a white lily, slender, blonde, with the peculiar and
attractive combination of hazel eyes and hair of childish flaxen
color. Her features were well formed and a trifle small for her
height. She had the manner of a woman perfectly sure of herself, her
position and her own importance.

Her voice was very sweet. Sometimes there were high, clear tones in
it. Delaven had admired those bell-like intonations until now, when he
heard her exchange words with Margeret. All at once the mellow,
contralto tones of the serving woman made the voice of the lovely
mistress sound metallic--precious metal, to be sure, nothing less than
silver. But in contrast was the melody, entirely human, soft,
harmonious, alluring as a poet's dream of the tropics.



CHAPTER XII.


"How that child is petted on, Gideon," and Mrs. Nesbitt looked up from
her work, the knitting of socks, to be worn by unknown boys in gray.
Even the material for them was growing scarce, and she prided herself
on always managing, someway, to keep her knitting needles busy. At
present she was using a coarse linen or tow thread, over which she
lamented because of its harshness.

Miss Loring, who appeared very domestic, with a stack of household
linen beside her, glanced up, with a smile.

"Rather fortunate, isn't it, considering--" an arch of the brows and a
significant expression were allowed to finish her meaning. Mrs.
Nesbitt pursed up her lips and shook her head.

"I really and truly wonder sometimes, Gertrude, if it's going on like
this always. Ten years if it's a day since he commenced paying court
there, and what she allows to do, at least is more than I can guess."

"Marry him, no doubt," suggested Gertrude, inspecting a sheet
carefully, and then proceeding to tear it in widths designated by Dr.
Delaven for hospital bandages. "She certainly esteems him very
highly."

"Oh, esteem!" and Mrs. Nesbitt's tone was dubious.

"Well, people don't think much of getting married these days, where
there is fighting and mourning everywhere."

The older lady gave her a quick glance over the tow yarn rack, but the
fair face was very serene, and without a trace of personal feeling on
the subject.

"Yes, that's so," she admitted, "but I used to think they were only
waiting till Kenneth came of age, or until he graduated. But my! I
didn't see it make a spec of difference. They danced together at the
party given for him, and smiled, careless as you please, and now the
dancing is ended, they keep on friendly and smiling, and I'm downright
puzzled to know what they do mean."

"Maybe no more than those two, who are only amusing themselves," said
Gertrude, with a glance towards the lawn where Evilena and Delaven
were fencing with long stalks of a wild lily they had brought from the
swamps, and when Evilena was vanquished by the foe her comforter was a
white-haired gentleman, inclined to portliness, and with much more
than an inclination to courtliness, whom Evilena called "My Judge."

It was two weeks after the descent of Aunt Sajane and Evilena upon
Loringwood. The former, after a long consultation with Dr. Delaven,
had returned to her own home, near the McVeigh plantation, and putting
her household in order for a more prolonged visit than at first
intended, she had come back to be near Gertrude in case--

None of them had put into words to each other their thought as to
Matthew Loring's condition, but all understood the seriousness of it,
and Gertrude, of course, must not be left alone.

Dr. Delaven had meant only to accompany the invalid home, consult with
their local physician, and take his departure after a visit to Mrs.
McVeigh, and possibly a sight of their new battlefield beside Kenneth,
if his command was not too far away.

Kenneth McVeigh was Col. McVeigh now, to the great delight of the
sister, who loved men who could fight. On his return from Paris he
had, at his own request, and to the dismay of his family, been sent to
the frontier. At the secession of his state he was possessed of a
captaincy, which he resigned, returned home, and in six weeks tendered
a regiment, fully equipped at his own expense, to the Confederate
government. His offer had been accepted and himself made a colonel.
His regiment had already seen one year of hard service, were veterans,
with a colonel of twenty-five--a colonel who had been carried home
wounded unto death, the surgeons said, from the defeat of Fort
Donaldson. He had belied their prophecies of death, however, and while
not yet equal to the rigors of camp life, he had accepted a commission
abroad of decided importance to his government, and became one of the
committee to deal with certain English sympathizers who were fitting
out vessels for the Confederate navy.

Mrs. McVeigh had been called to Mobile by the serious illness of an
aged relative and had been detained by something much less dreary, the
marriage of her brother, who had command of a garrison at that point.

Thus barred from seeing either of his former Parisian friends, Delaven
would have gone back to Charleston, or else gone North or West to view
a new land in battle array.

But Mr. Loring's health, or Miss Loring's entreaties had interfered
with both those plans. He could not desert a young lady on an
isolated plantation with only the slaves about her, and a partial
paralytic to care for, especially when all the most capable
physicians were at military posts, and no one absolutely reliable
nearer than Charleston.

So he had promised to stay, and had advised Miss Loring to induce Mrs.
Nesbitt to remain until a few weeks' rest and the atmosphere of home
would, he hoped, have a beneficial influence on the invalid.

All his suggestions had been carried out. Aunt Sajane (who had not a
niece or nephew in the world, yet was "aunt" to all the young folks)
was to remain, also Evilena, until the return of Mr. McVeigh, after
which they all hoped Mr. Loring could be persuaded to move up the
river to a smaller estate belonging to Gertrude, adjoining The
Terrace, as the nearness of friends would be a great advantage under
the circumstances. The isolation of Loringwood had of late become
oppressive to its mistress, who strongly advocated its sale. They had
enough land without, and she realized it was too large a tract to be
managed properly or to profit so long as her uncle was unable to see
to affairs personally. But above all else, the loneliness of it was
irksome since her return.

"Though we never did use to think Loringwood isolated, did we,
Gideon?" asked Mrs. Nesbitt, who remembered the house when full of
guests, and the fiddles and banjos of the colored musicians always
ready for dance music.

"Relentless circumstances over (he called it ovah, and Delaven
delighted in the charming dialect of the South, as illustrated by the
Judge) which we have no control have altered conditions through this
entire (entiah) commonwealth. But, no. I should not call Loringwood
exactly isolated, with the highway of the Salkahatchie at its door."

"But when no one travels the highway?" said Delaven, whose comments
had aroused the discussion. "No one but black hunters in log canoes
have I seen come along it for a week, barring yourselves. Faith, I
should think their presence alone would be enough to give a young lady
nervous chills, the daily and nightly fear of insurrection."

The Judge smiled, indulgently, willing to humor the fancies of
foreigners, who were not supposed to understand American institutions.

"Your ideas would be perfectly sound, my dear sir, if you were dealing
with any other country, where the colored man is the recognized
servant of the land and of the land owners. But we of the South, sir,
understand their needs and just the proper amount of control necessary
to be enforced for mutual protection. They have grown up under that
training until it is a part of themselves. There are refractory
blacks, of course, just as there are worthless demoralized whites, but
I assure you, sir, I voice the sentiments of our people when I state
that the families of Southern planters feel much more secure when
guarded by their colored folk than they would if surrounded by a troop
of Northern soldiery. There have been no cases where white women and
children have had reason to regret having trusted to the black man's
guardianship, sir. In that respect I believe we Southrons hold a
unique place in history. The evils of slavery, perfectly true in many
lands, are not true here. The proofs of it are many. Their dependence
on each other is mutual. Each understands and respects that fact, sir,
and the highest evidence of it is shown when the master marches to
meet their common enemy, and leaves his wife and children to the care
of the oldest or most intelligent of his bondsmen.

"I tell you, sir, the people of Europe cannot comprehend the ties
between those two races, because the world has seen nothing like it.
The Northern people have no understanding of it, because, sir, their
natures are not such as to call forth such loyalty. They are a cold,
unresponsive people, and the only systematic cruelty ever practiced
against the colored folks by Americans has been by the New England
slavers, sir. The slave trade has always been monopolized by the
Northern folks in this country--by the puritanical New Englanders who
used to sell the pickaninnies at so much a pound, as cattle or sheep
are sold.

"They are no longer able to derive a profit from it, hence their
desire to abolish the revenue of the South. I assure you, sir, if the
colored man could endure the climate of their bleak land there would
be no shouting for abolition."

It was only natural that Delaven should receive a good deal of
information those days from the Southern side of the question. Much of
it was an added education to him--the perfect honesty of the speakers,
the way in which they entered heart and soul into the discussion of
their state's rights, the extreme sacrifices offered up, the lives of
their sons, the wealth, the luxury in which they had lived, all given
up without protest for the cause. Women who had lived and ruled like
queens over the wide plantations, were now cutting their living
expenses lower and lower, that the extra portion saved might be
devoted to their boys at the front. The muslins and linens for
household purposes were used as Gertrude Loring was using them now;
everything possible was converted into bandages for hospital use.

"I simply don't dare let the house servants do it," she explained, in
reply to the Judge's query. "They could do the work, of course, but
they never have had to practice economy, and I can't undertake to
teach it to them as well as myself, and to both at the same time. Oh,
yes, Margeret is capable, of course, but she has her hands full to
watch those in the cook house."

Her smile was very bright and contented. It hinted nothing of the
straightened circumstances gradually surrounding them, making a close
watch in all directions absolutely necessary. Affairs were reaching a
stage where money, except in extravagant quantities, was almost
useless. The blockade had raised even the most simple articles to the
price of luxuries. All possessions, apart from their home productions,
must be husbanded to the utmost.

"You are a brave little woman, Miss Gertrude," said the Judge, bowing
before her with a certain reverence. "All the battles of this war are
not fought to the sound of regimental music, and our boys at the front
shoot straighter when they have at home women like you to guard. Our
women of the South are an inspiration--an inspiration!"

No courtier of storied Castile could have rivaled the grace of manner
with which the praise was spoken, so thought Delaven, for all his
mental pictures of Castillian courtesies revealed them as a bit
theatrical, while the Judge was sincerity itself.

As he spoke, the soft sound of wheels was heard in the hall, and
Matthew Loring, in his invalid chair, was rolled slowly out on the
veranda by his man, Ben. Margeret followed with a light robe over her
arm, and a fan.

"Not there, Ben," she said, in the low tone of one giving an order
entirely personal and not intended to be heard by the others, "the
draught does seem to coax itself round that corner, and--"

"Not a bit of it," broke in the master of Loringwood, abruptly. "No
more draught there than anywhere else. It's all right, Ben, wheel me
to that railing."

Margeret silently spread the robe over his knees, laid the fan in his
lap, adjusted the cushion back of his head, and re-entered the house
with a slight gesture to Ben, who followed her.

"She's a puzzle entirely," remarked Delaven, who was watching them
from the rustic seat nearest the steps. Evilena was seated there, and
he stood beside her.

"Margeret? Why?" she asked, in the same low tone.

"I'll tell you. Not thirty minutes ago I told her he could be brought
out and have his chair placed so that the sun would be on his limbs,
but not on his head. Now, what does she do but pilot him out and
discourage him from going to just the corner that was best."

"And you see the result," whispered the girl, who was laughing.
"Margeret knows a lot. Just see how satisfied he is, now, the
satisfaction of having had to fight some one. If he knew it was
anybody's orders, even yours, he would not enjoy that corner half so
much. That is the sweet disposition of our Uncle Matthew."

Overhanging eyebrows of iron-gray were the first thing to arrest
attention in Matthew Loring's face. They shadowed dark expressive eyes
in a swarthy setting. His hair and mustache were of the same grey, and
very bushy. He had the broad head and square jaw of the aggressive
type. Not a large man, even in his prime, he looked almost frail as he
settled back in his chair. He was probably sixty, but looked older.

"Still knitting socks, Mistress Nesbitt?" he inquired, with a caustic
smile. "Charming occupation. Do you select that quality and color for
any beauties to be found in them? I can remember seeing your mother
using knitting needles on this very veranda thirty--yes, forty years
ago. But I must say I never saw her make anything heavier than lace.
And what's all this, Gertrude? Do you entertain your visitors these
days by dragging out the old linen for their inspection? Why are you
dallying with the servants' tasks?"

"No; it is my own task, uncle," returned his niece, with unruffled
serenity. "Not a very beautiful one, but consoling because of its
usefulness."

"Usefulness--huh! In your mother's day ladies were not expected to be
useful."

"Alas for us that the day is past," said the girl, tearing off another
strip of muslin.

"Now, do you wonder that I adore my Judge?" whispered Evilena to
Delaven.



CHAPTER XIII.


Despite his natural irritability, to which no one appeared to pay much
attention, Mr. Loring grew almost cordial under the geniality and
hopefulness emanating from Judge Clarkson, whom he was really very
glad to see, and of whom he had numberless queries to ask regarding
the hostilities of the past few months.

The enforced absence abroad had kept him in a highly nervous
condition, doing much to counteract the utmost care given him by the
most learned specialists of Europe. Half his fortune had been lost by
those opening guns at Sumter. His warehouses, piled with great cotton
bales for shipment to England, had been fired--burned to the ground.
The capture of Beaufort, near which was another plantation of his, had
made further wreck for him, financially, and whatever the foreign
doctors might to with his body, his mind was back in Carolina, eager,
questioning, combative. He was burning himself up with a fever of
anxiety.

"It is all of no use, Mademoiselle," said the most distinguished
specialist whom she had consulted, "Monsieur, your uncle will live for
many years if but the mind is composed--no shocks, no heavy loads to
carry. But the mind, you perceive--it is impossible for him to allow
himself to be composed away from his country. We have done all that
can be done here. To return to his own land under the care of a
competent physician, of course, would be now the best arrangement I
could suggest. He may live there for many years; here, he will most
certainly die."

At Loring's request Dr. Delaven was the physician who had been
approached with the proposal to accompany him to Carolina. Why, it
would be hard to guess, for they were totally unlike in every way--had
not, apparently, a single taste in common. But the physician in charge
of the hospital approved his judgment.

"It is a most wise one, Monsieur Loring. Dr. Delaven has shown as his
specialty cases similar to your own, and has proven most successful.
Withal, he is adventurous. He will enjoy the new country, and he is of
your own language. All I could do for you he can do, perhaps more; for
I am old, while he is young and alive with enthusiasms with which to
supplement his technical knowledge."

Gertrude only delayed their departure long enough to write Col.
McVeigh, who was in London. He secured for them transportation to
Nassau under the guardianship of an official who would take most
extreme care that the party be conveyed from there by some blockade
runner to be depended upon. And that the Federal blockade often failed
of its purpose was evidenced by the fact that they were quietly landed
one night in a little inlet south of Charleston, which they reached by
carriage, and rested there a few days before attempting the journey
overland.

The doctors were correct as to the beneficial results of the home
coming of Loring. It acted like a tonic and the thought of outwitting
the Yankees of that blockade pleased him immensely. He never gave a
thought to the girl who watched with pale face and sleepless eyes
through that dash for the shore. Delaven mentally called him a selfish
brute.

The visit of Judge Clarkson was partially an affair of business, but
after a private interview with Delaven he decided to dismiss all idea
of business settlements until later. Nothing of an annoying or
irritating nature must be broached to the convalescent just yet.

The Judge confessed that it was an affair over which Mr. Loring had
been deeply chagrined--a clear loss of a large sum of money, and
perhaps it would be safer, under the circumstances, to await Col.
McVeigh's return. Col. McVeigh was equally interested, and neither he
nor the Judge would consent to risk an attack similar to that
experienced by Mr. Loring during the bombardment of Port Royal
entrance. He was at that time on his Beaufort plantation, where the
blue coats overran his place after they landed, and it was known to
have been nothing else than a fit of rage at their victory, and rage
at the planters who fled on all sides of him, which finally ended in
the prostration for which the local physicians could find no remedy.
Then it was that Gertrude took him abroad, with the result described.
It was understood the prostration had taught him one useful lesson--he
no longer cultivated the rages for which he had been locally famous.
As he was unable to stamp and roar, he compromised on sneers and
caustic retorts, from which he appeared to derive an amount of
satisfaction tonical in its effects.

The Judge was giving Delaven the details of the Beaufort affair when
Ben wheeled his master into the room. There was an awkward pause, a
slight embarrassment, but he had caught the words "Port Royal
entrance," and comprehended.

"Huh! Talking over that disaster, Judge?" he remarked. "I tell you
what it is, you can't convey to a foreigner anything of the feeling of
the South over those misfortunes; to have Sherman's tramps go
rough-shod over your lawns and rest themselves with braggadocio at
your tables--the most infernal riff-raff--"

"One moment," interposed the Judge, blandly, with a view to check the
unpleasant reminiscences. "Did I not hear you actually praise one of
those Yankees?--in fact, assert that he was a very fine fellow?"

"Yes, yes; I had forgotten him. A Yankee captain; ordered the
blue-coats to the right-about when he found there was only a sick man
and a girl there; and more than that, so long as those scavengers were
ashore and parading around Beaufort he kept men stationed at my gates
for safeguard duty. A fine fellow, for a Yankee. I can only account
for it by the fact that he was a West Point graduate, and was thus
thrown, to a certain extent, into the society and under the influences
of our own men. Kenneth, Col. McVeigh, had known Monroe there--his
name was Monroe--Captain John Monroe--at Beaufort his own men called
him Captain Jack."

               "Just as she was stepping on ship board:
               'Your name I'd like to know?'
               And with a smile she answered him,
               'My name is Jack Monroe!'"

sang a fresh voice outside the window, and then the curtain was pushed
aside and Evilena's brown head appeared.

"I really could not help that, Mr. Loring," she said, laughingly. "The
temptation was too great. Did you never whistle 'Jack Monroe' when you
were a boy?"

"No, I can't say I ever did," he replied, testily.

"It's intensely interesting," she continued, seating herself on the
window sill and regarding him with smiling interest, made bold by the
presence of her champion, the Judge. "Aunt Sajane taught it to me, an
old, old sailor song. It's all about her sweetheart, Jack, not Aunt
Sajane's sweetheart, but the girl's. Her wealthy relatives separate
them by banishing him to the wars somewhere, and she dressed up in
boy's clothes to follow him.

                     "'She went unto a tailor
                     And dressed in men's array,
                     And thence unto a sailor
                     And paid her fare away.'"

recited Evilena, with uplifted finger punctuating the sentences.
"Wasn't she brave? Well, she found him, and they were married. There
are seven verses of it."

"I--I should think that quite enough," he remarked, dropping his head
forward and looking at her from under the overhanging brows. "Do you
mean to sing them all to me?"

"Perhaps, some day," she promised, showing all her teeth and dropping
the curtain.

                   "So now this couple's married,
                   Despite their bitter foe,
                   And she's back again in England
                   With her darling, Jack Monroe."

The two visitors laughed outright as this information was wafted to
them from the veranda, the old song growing more faint as the singer
circled the house in search of Gertrude.

"A true daughter of the South, Dr. Delaven," said the Judge, with a
tender cadence betraying how close to his heart was his pride in all
Southern excellence--"child and woman in one, sir--a charming
combination."

"Right you are, Judge, in that; may their numbers never be less."

Evilena had found Gertrude and at once confessed her daring.

"Don't know how I ever did have courage to pop my head in there. Aunt
Sajane--but he talked of Jack Monroe just as I passed the window, and
I pretended I thought he meant the old song (I do wonder if he
ever--ever sang or whistled?) Then I told him what it was all about,
and promised to sing it to him some day, and I know by the sort of
smile he had that he wanted to order me out of the room as he used to
when I was little."

"Lena, Lena!" and Gertrude shook her head admonishingly at the girl,
though she smiled at the recital.

"Oh, you are an angel, Gertrude; so you never have temptations to do
things for pure mischief. But I wish you'd tell me who this Jack
Monroe is."

"A Federal officer who was of service to us when Beaufort was taken."

"A _Yankee_!"--and her horror was absolute. "Well, I should not think
you'd accept service from such a person."

"Honey!" said Aunt Sajane, in mild chiding.

"We had no choice," said Gertrude, quietly; "afterwards we learned he
and Kenneth had been friends at West Point; so he was really a
gentleman."

"And in the _Yankee Army_?" queried the irrepressible. "Good-bye, Jack
Monroe, I shan't sing you again."

"You might be faithful to one verse for Gertrude's sake," ventured
Aunt Sajane.

"Gertrude's sake?"

"Why, yes; he protected them from the intrusion of the Yankees."

"Oh--h! Aunt Sajane, I really thought you were going to ferret out a
romance--a Romeo and Juliet affair--their families at war, and
themselves--"

"Evilena!"

"When Gertrude says 'Evilena' in _that_ tone I know it is time to
stop," said the girl, letting go the kitten she was patting, and
putting her arm around Gertrude. "You dear, sensible Gertrude, don't
mind one word I say; of course I did not mean it. Just as if we did
not have enough Romeos in our own army to go around."

The significant glance accompanying her words made Gertrude look
slightly conscious.

"You are a wildly romantic child," she said, smoothing the chestnut
tinted waves of the girl's hair, "and pray, tell us how many of our
military Romeos are singing 'Sweet Evilena,' and wearing your
colors?"

Dr. Delaven passed along the hall in time to hear this bantering
query, and came opposite the door when this true daughter of the South
was counting all the fingers of one pretty hand.

"Just make it a half dozen," he suggested, "for I'm wearing yet the
sunflower you gave me," and he pointed to the large daisy in his
buttonhole.

"No, I'm always honest with Gertrude, and she must have the true
number. We are talking of military men, and all others are barred
out."

"So you informed me the first day of our acquaintance," he assented,
arranging the daisy more to his liking.

"And I've never forgiven you for that first day," she retorted,
nodding her head in a way suggestive of some dire punishment waiting
for him in the future. "It was dreadful, the way he led me on to say
things, Aunt Sajane, for how was I to guess he was the doctor? I was
expecting a man like--well, like Dr. Allison, only more so; very
learned, very severe, with eye glasses through which he would examine
us as though we were new specimens discovered in the wilds of America.
I certainly did not expect to find a frivolous person who wore
daisies, and--oh!" as she caught a glimpse of some one coming up the
path from the landing--"there comes Nelse. Gertrude, _can't_ I have
him in here?"

"May I ask if Nelse is one of the five distinguished by your colors?"
asked Delaven.

"Nelse is distinguished by his own colors, which is a fine mahogany,
and he is the most interesting old reprobate in Carolina--a wizard, if
you please--a sure enough voodoo doctor, and the black historian of
the Salkahatchie. May I call him?"

"I really do not think uncle likes to have him around," said Gertrude,
dubiously; "still--oh, yes, call him if you like. Don't let him tire
you with his stories; and keep him out of uncle's way. He would be
sure to tell him about those late runaways."

"I promise to stand guard in that case myself, Miss Loring; for I have
a prejudice against allowing witch-doctors access to my patients."

Mrs. Nesbitt arose as if to follow Gertrude from the room, hesitated,
and resumed her chair.

"When I was a girl we young folks were all half afraid of Nelse--not
that he ever harmed any one," she confessed. "The colored folks said
he was a wizard, but I never did give credit to that."

"Aunt Chloe, she says he is!"

"Oh, yes; and Aunt Chloe sees ghosts, and talks with goblins, to hear
her tell the story; but that old humbug is just as much afraid of a
mouse as--as I am."

"Nelse is a free nigger," explained Evilena, turning from the window
after having motioned him to enter. "He was made free by his old
master, Marmaduke Loring, and the old rascal--I mean Nelse, bought
himself a wife, paid for her out of his jockey earnings, and when she
proved a disappointment what do you think he did?"

Delaven could not get beyond a guess, as the subject of her discourse
had just then appeared in the door.

He was a small, black man, quite old, but with a curious attempt at
jauntiness, as he made his three bows with his one hand on his breast,
the other holding his cane and a jockey cap of ancient fashion. It
contrasted oddly with the swallow-tailed coat he wore, which had
evidently been made for a much larger man; the sleeves came to his
finger tips, and the tails touched his heels. The cloth of which it
was made was very fine dark blue, with buttons of brass. His waistcoat
of maroon brocade came half way to his knees. Warm as the day was he
wore a broad tie of plaid silk arranged in a bow, above which a white
muslin collar rose to his ears. He was evidently an ancient beau of
the plantations in court dress.

"Yo' servant, Miss Sajane, Miss Lena; yo' servant, Mahstah," he said
with a bow to each. "I done come pay my respects to the family what
got back. I'm powerful glad to heah they got safe ovah that ocean."

"Oh, yes; you're very thankful when you wait two whole weeks before
you come around to say 'howdy.' Have you moved so far into the swamp
you can't even hear when the family comes home? Sit down, you're
tired likely. Tell us all the news from your alligator pasture."

"My king! Miss Lena, you jest the same tant'lizin' little lady. Yo'
growen' up don't make you outgrow nothen' but yo' clothes. My 'gatah
pasture? I show yo' my little patch some o' these days--show yo' what
kind 'gatahs pasture theah; why, why, I got 'nigh as many hogs as Mahs
Matt has niggahs these days."

"Yes, and he hasn't so many as he did have," remarked Mrs. Nesbitt,
significantly. "You know anything about where Scip and Aleck are
gone?"

"Who--me? Miss Sajane? You think I keep time on all the runaway boys
these days? They too many for me. It sutenly do beat all how they
scatter. Yo' all hear tell how one o' Cynthy's boys done run away,
too? Suah as I tell you--that second boy, Steve! Ole Mahs Masterson
got him dogs out fo' him--tain't no use; nevah touched the track once.
He'll nevah stop runnen' till he reach the Nawth an' freeze to death.
I alles tole Cynthy that Steve boy a bawn fool."

"Do you mean your son Steve, or your grandson?" queried Mrs. Nesbitt.

"No'm, 'taint little Steve; his mammy got too much sense to let him
go; but that gal, Cynthy--humph!" and his disdain of her perceptive
powers was very apparent.

"But, Uncle Nelse, just remember Aunt Cynthy must be upwards of
seventy. Steve is fifty if he is a day. How do you suppose she could
control him, even if she knew of his intention, which is doubtful."

"She nevah would trounce that rascal, even in his youngest days,"
asserted Nelse, earnestly; "and as the 'bush is bent the tree's
declined.' I use to kote that scripper to her many's the day, but how
much good it do to plant cotton seed on stony groun' or sow rice on
the high lan'? Jes' that much good scripper words done Cynthy, an' no
more."

His tone betrayed a sorrowful but impersonal regret over the
refractory Cynthia, and their joint offspring. Evilena laughed.

"Where did you get so well acquainted with the scripture, Nelse?" she
asked. "I know you never did learn it from your beloved old Mahs Duke
Loring. I want you to tell this gentleman all about the old racing
days. This is Dr. Delaven (Nelse made a profound bow). He has seen
great races abroad and hunted foxes in Ireland. I want you to tell him
of the bear hunts, and the horses you used to ride, and how you rode
for freedom. The race was so important, Dr. Delaven, that Marmaduke
Loring promised Nelse his freedom if he won it, and he had been
offered three thousand, five hundred dollars for Nelse, more than
once."

"Nevah was worth as much to myself as I was to Mahs Duke," said Nelse,
shaking his head. "I tell yo' true, freedom was a sure enough hoodoo,
far as I was concerned; nevah seemed to get so much out o' the horses
after I was my own man; nevah seemed to see so much money as I owned
befo', an' every plum thing I 'vested in was a failure from the start;
there was that gal o' Mahs Masterson's--that there Cynthy--"

The old man's garrulity was checked by the noiseless entrance of
Margeret. He gave a distinct start as he saw her.

"I--I s'lute yo', Miss Retta," he said, sweeping his cap along the
floor and bowing from where he sat. She glanced at him, bent her head
slightly in acknowledgment, but did not address him.

"Miss Loring asks to see you in the dining room, Mistress Nesbitt,"
she said softly; then drawing a blind where the sun was too glaring,
and opening another that the breeze might be more apparent, she passed
silently out.

The old man never spoke until she disappeared.

"My king!--she get mo' ghost-like every yeah, that Retta," he said,
while Evilena gathered up the ball of stocking yard and wound it for
Mrs. Nesbitt; "only the eyes o' that woman would tell a body who she
is, these days; seems like the very shape o' her face been changed
sence she--"

"Nelse," said Mrs. Nesbitt, a trifle sharply, "whatever you do you are
not to let Mr. Loring know about those runaways; maybe you better keep
out of his sight altogether this visit, for he's sure to ask questions
about everything, and the doctor's orders are that he is not to see
folks or have any business talks--you understand? and nothing ever
does excite him so much as a runaway."

"Oh, yes, Miss Sajane, I un'stan'; I'll keep out. Hearen' how things
was I jes' come down to see if Miss Gertrude needs any mo' help
looken' after them field niggahs. They nevah run away from _me_."

"Well"--and she halted doubtfully at the door--"I'll tell her. And if
you want Dr. Delaven to hear about the old racing days, honey, hadn't
you better take him into the library where the portraits are? I'm a
trifle uneasy lest Mr. Loring should take a notion to come in here.
Since he's commenced to walk a little he is likely to appear anywhere
but in the library. He never does seem to like the library corner."

Delaven glanced at the library walls as the three advanced thereto--walls
paneled in natural cedar, and hung with large gilt frames here and
there between the cases of books. "I should think any man would like a
room like this," he remarked, "especially when it holds one's own family
portraits. There is a picture most attractive--a fine make of a man."

"That Mahs Tom Loring, Miss Gertrude's father," explained Nelse. "Jest
as fine as he looks theah, Mahs Tom was, and ride!--king in heaven!
but he could ride. 'Taint but a little while back since he was killed,
twenty yeahs maybe--no, eighteen yeahs come Christmas. He was
followen' the houn's, close on, when his horse went down an' Mahs Tom
picked up dead, his naik broke. His wife, Miss Leo Masterson, she was,
she died some yeahs befo', when Miss Gertrude jest a little missy. So
they carried him home from Larue plantation--that wheah he get
killed--an' bury him back yonder beside her," and he pointed to a
group of pines across the field to the north; "so, after that--"

"Oh, Nelse, tell about live things--not dead ones," suggested Evilena,
"tell about the races and your Mahs Duke, how he used to go horseback
all the way to Virginia, to the races, and even to Philadelphia, and
how all the planters gathered for hundreds of miles, some of the old
ones wearing small clothes and buckled shoes, and how--"

"Seems like you done mind them things so well 'taint no use tryen' to
rake up the buried reck'lections o' the pas' times," said the old man,
rebukingly, and with a certain pomposity. "I reckon now you 'member
all the high quality gentlemen. The New Market Jockey Club, an' how
they use to meet reg'lar as clock-work the second Tuesday in May and
October; an' how my Mahs Duke, with all the fine ruffles down his
shirt front, an' his proud walk, an' his voice soft as music, an' his
grip hard as steel, was the kingpin o' all the sports--the grandest
gentleman out o' Calliny, an' carried his head high as a king ovah all
Jerusalem--I reckon you done mind all that theah, Miss Lena."

"I will, next time," laughed the girl, "go on, Nelse, we would rather
hear what you remember."

"I don't reckon the names o' the ole time sportin' gentlemen, an'
old time jockeys, an' old time stock, would count much with a
gentleman from foreign lan's," said the old man, with a deprecating
bow to Delaven. "But my Mahs Duke Loring nevah had less than six
horses in trainen' at once. I was stable-boy, an' jes' trained up
with the colts till Mahs Duke saw I could ride. I sartainly had
luck with racin' stock, seein' which he gave me clean charge o' the
whole racin' stable; 'sides which, keepen' my weight down to eighty
pounds let me in for the jockey work--them was days. I was sent ovah
into Kaintucky, an' up Nawth far as Long Island, to ride races fo'
otha gentlemen--friends o' Mahs Duke's, an' every big race I run put
nigh onto a hundred dollar plump into my own pocket. Money?--my
king! I couldn't see cleah how I evah could spend all the money I got
them days, cause I didn't have to spend a cent fo' clothes or feed,
an' I had mo' presents give to me by the quality folks what I
trained horses fer than I could count or reck'lect.

"The ride Miss Lena done tole yo' of--that happen the yeah Mahs Duke
imported Lawd Chester, half brother to Bonnie Bell, that won the
sweepstakes at Petersburg, an' sire o' Glenalven out o' Lady Clare,
who was owned by Mahs Hampton ovah in Kaintucky. Well, sah, the yeah
he imported Chester was the yeah he an' Mr. Enos Jackson had the
set-to 'bout their two-yeah-olds--leastwise the colts _seemed_ to be
the cause; but I don't mind tellen', now, that I nevah did take stock
in that notion, my own self. Women folks get mixed up even in race
fights an' I mind one o' the han'some high steppers o' Philadelphia
way down theah that time, an' Mistah Jackson he got a notion his
chances mighty good, till long come Mahs Duke an' glance out corner
of his eye, make some fine speeches, an'--farwell, Mistah Jackson!
Mistah Jackson wa'nt jes' what you'd call the highest quality, though
he did own powerful stretches o' lan'--three plantations in Nawth
Calliny, 'sides lots o' other property. He had a colt called Darker he
'lowed nothen' could keep in sight of, an' he _was_ good stuff--that
colt. Mistah Jackson would a had easy riden' fo' the stakes if me an'
Mahs Duke hadn't fetch Betty Pride up to show 'em what we could do.
Well, the upshot of it was that part on account o' that Nawthen
flirtatious young pusson what liked Mahs Duke the best, an' part on
account o' Betty Pride, Mistah Jackson act mighty mischievous-like,
an' twenty minutes afo' time was called I 'scovered that boy, Jim
Peters, what was to ride Betty Pride, had been drugged--jest a trifle,
not enough to leave him stupid--but too much to leave him ride, bright
as he need be that day. He said Mistah Jackson's stable boss had give
him a swallow o' apple jack, an' king heaven!--but Mahs Duke turn
white mad when I tole him. He say to Jim's brother Mose--Mose was his
body servant--'Moses, fetch me my pistols,' jest quiet like that;
'Moses, fetch me my pistols.' Whew!--but I was scared, an' I says,
'No, sah,' I says, 'Mahs Duke, fo' heaven's sake, don't stop the race,
an' I'll win it fo' you yet. Mistah Jackson betten nigh bout all he
own on Darker; get yo' frien's to take all bets fo' you, an' egg him
on. Betty Pride ain't been tampered with!--take my word fo' it, she'll
win even with my extra weight--now, Mahs Duke, fo' God's sake,' says
I, 'go out theah an' fool them rascals; don't let on you know 'bout
their trick; take all theah bets, an' trust me. I trained that colt,
an' we'll _win_, Mahs Duke--if we don't--well, sah, you can jest use
them pistols on _me_.' I mos' got down on my knees a' beggen' him,
an' his blue eyes, like steel, measuren' me an' weighen' my words,
then he said: 'I'll risk it, Nelse, but--heaven help yo' if yo' fail
me!'

"I knew good enough I'd need _some_ powerful help if I come in second,
fo' he had a monstrous temper, but kindest man you evah met when
things went his way. Well, jest as I was jumpen' into my clothes, an'
Mahs Duke had started to the ring, I called out, half joken: 'Oh, Mahs
Duke, I'm a dead niggah if I come in second, but what yo' gwine to
give me if I come in first?'

"He turned at that an' said, sharp an' quick an' decided--'Yo'
freedom, Nelse.' My king!--that made me shaky, I could scarce get into
my clothes. I knew he been offered big money fo' me, many's the time,
an' now I was gwine to get it all my own self.

"Mahs Duke done jes' like I begged him--kep' steady an' cool an' take
up all Mistah Jackson's bets, and _he_ was jest betten wild till he
saw who was on Betty Pride, an' I heah tell he come a nigh fainten'
when he got sight o' me; but Mahs Duke's look at 'im must a jes'
propped him up an' sort o' fo'ced him to brave it out till we come
aroun'. It was a sweepstakes an' repeat, an' Betty Pride come in
eighteen inches ahead, an' that Nawthen lady what conjure Mistah
Jackson so, she fastened roses in Betty Pride's bridle, an' gave me a
whole bouquet--with one eye on Mahs Duke all the time, of course, but
Lordy!--he wan't thinken' much about ladies jes' that minute. He won
ovah thousand dollars in money, 'sides two plantations off Mistah
Jackson, who nevah dared enter the jockey club aftah that day. An'
Mahs Duke was good as his word 'bout the freedom--he give it to me
right theah; that's my Mahs Duke."

"And a fine sort of a man he was, then," commented Delaven, looking
more closely at the strong, fine pictured face, and the bushy,
leonine shock of tawny hair and the eyes that smiled down with a
twinkle of humor in their blue depths. There was a slight likeness to
Matthew Loring in the heavy brows and square chin, but the smile of
the father was genial--that of the son, sardonic.

"Yes, sah," agreed Nelse, when comment was made upon the likeness,
"Mahs Matt favor him a mite, but none to speak of. Mahs Tom more like
him in natur'. Mahs Matt he done take mo' likeness to his gran'ma's
folks, who was French, from L'weesiana. A mighty sharp eye she got,
an' all my Mahs Duke's niggahs walk straight, I tell yo', when she
come a visiten' to we all. I heard tell how _her_ mother was some sort
o' great lady from French court, packed off to L'weesiana 'cause o'
some politics like they have ovah theah; an' in her own country she
was a princess or some high mightiness, an' most o' her family was
killed in some rebeloution--woman, too! All saved her was getten to
Orleans, an' _her_ daughter, she married ole Matthew Loring, the daddy
o' them all, so far back as I know."

The old man had warmed to his task, as floods of reminiscences came
sweeping through his memory. He grew more important, and let fall the
borrowed cloak of servility; his head was perched a little higher and
a trifle askew as he surveyed them. The reflected grandeur of past
days was on him, and in comparison modernity seemed common-place. All
these brilliant, dashing, elegant men and women of his youth were
gone. He was the only human echo left of their greatness, and his
diminutive person grew more erect as he realized his importance as a
landmark of the past.

"There!" said Evilena, triumphantly, "isn't that as interesting as
your Irish romances? Where would you find a landlord of England or
Ireland who would make a free gift of three thousand dollars to a
servant? They simply could not conceive of such generosity unless it
were the gift of a king or a prince, and then it would be put down in
their histories for all men to remember."

"True for you," assented Delaven, with the brogue he was fond of using
at times when with those elected to comradeship; "true for you, my
lady, but you folks who are kings and queens in your own right should
be a bit easy on the unfortunates who can be only subjects."

"They don't need to be subjects," she insisted; "they could assert
their independence just as we did."

"Oh, sometimes it isn't so bad--this being a subject. I've found life
rather pleasant down here in the South, where you are all in training
for the monarchy you mean to establish. I don't mind being a subject
at all, at all, if it's to the right queen."

"But we didn't come in here to talk politics," she said, hastily.
"Uncle Nelse, do tell Dr. Delaven about your freedom days, and all. He
is a stranger here and wants to learn all about the country and
customs. You've traveled, Nelse, so you can tell him a lot."

"Yes, reckon I could. Yes, sah, I done travelled considerable; the
onliest advantage I could conjure up in freedom was goen' wherever the
fit took me to go--jes' runnen' roun' loose. My king! I got good an'
tiahed runnen, I tell yo'. Went cleah out to the Mississippi river, I
did--spent all my money, an' started back barefoot, deed I did, an' me
worth three thousan' five hundred dollars! Nevah did know how little
sense I got till I was free to get myself in trouble if I liked, an'
didn't have no Mahs Duke to get me out again. More'n that, seem like I
done lost my luck some way--lost races I had no right to lose, till
seem like owners they got scary 'bout me, an' when I git far away from
my own stamping groun', seem like I wasn't no sort o' use at all. Bye
and bye I fell in with Judge Warner, who was a great friend o' Mahs
Dukes, and I jes' up an' tells him I done been conjured along o' that
freedom Mahs Duke done give me. My king!--how he did laugh. He offered
me a good berth down on his place, but I say, 'no, sah; all I want is
Mahs Duke an' old Calliny'; so he helps me to some races an' seems
like the very notion o' goen' home done fetch me good luck right off,
'cause I made good winnen' on his bay filly, Creole, an' soon as I got
some money I bid far'well to wanderen' an' made fo' home.

"I alles spishuned Mahs Duke know mo' 'bout my travels than he let on,
fo' he jes' laughed when he see me an' say: 'All right, Nelse, I been
looken' fo' you some time. Now if yo' done got yo' fill o' seen' the
world, 'spose yo' go down an' look at the new colt I got, an' take yo'
ole place in the stable. Yo' jes' got back in time to spruce up the
carriage team fo' my wedden'.

"Well, sah, yo' could a' knocked me down with a feathah. Mahs Duke was
thirty-five, an' ovah, an' had kep' his own bachelor place fo' ten
yeah, loose an' free. Then all at once a new family come down heah
from Marylan'. They was the Mastersons, an' a Miss Bar'bra Vaughn come
to visit them, an' it was all ovah with Mahs Duke. She jest won in a
walk--that little lady.

"An' he done took her all the way to Orleans fo' wedden' trip. I
didn't go 'long. I was done tired out with travel an' 'sides that, I'd
been riden' ovah an' back to the Masterson plantation fo' Mahs Duke
till I took up with a likely brown gal they fetched with them from up
Nawth, an' of all niggahs, Nawthen niggahs is the off-scourins o' the
yeath--copy aftah theh masters, I reckon, fo' all the real,
double-distilled quality folks I met up with in all my travels were
gentlemen o' the South, sah. Yes, sah, they may breed good quality
somewheahs up theah, but all o' them sent down heah as samples ain't
nowhars with the home-bred article, sah.

"But I didn't know all that them days, an' that Cynthy o' Mistah
Masterson's look mighty peart an' talk mighty knowen', an' seem like
as we both hed travelled considerable we both hed a heap of talk
'bout; an' the upshot of it was I felt boun' an' sot to buy that gal,
if so be they'd give me a fair chance an' plenty o' time. Well, sah, I
talk it ovah with Mahs Duke, an' he fix it so I can have Cynthy fo'
three hundred dollars.

"Seem like it's a mighty small price to ask fo' a likely young gal
like her, but I so conjured with the notion o' buyen' her I nevah
stopped to study into the reasons why o' things, special as I had part
o' the money right by me to pay; a pocket full o' money gets a man
into mo' trouble mostly than an empty one.

"Well, sah, I hadn't owned her no time, till I was mo' sot in my mind
than evah as how freedom was a hoodoo. If I hadn't been free I'd nevah
took the notion to have a free wife o' my own, an' I'd a been saved a
lot o' torment, _I_ tell yo'.

"She jest no good no how--that Cynthy. How they got work out o' her
ovah on the Masterson plantation I don't know, fo' _I_ couldn't. Think
she'd even cook vittels fo' her own self if she could help it? No,
sah! She too plum lazy. She jes' had a notion that bein' free meant
doen' nothen' 'tall fo' no body. It needed a whole meeten' house full
o' religion to get along with that gal, 'thout cussen' at her, an' as
I'd done trained in the race course an' not in a pulpit, seem like I
noways fit for the 'casion. But I devilled along with her for three
yeahs, and she had two boys by that time--didn't make no sort o'
difference. She got worse 'stead o' better o' her worthlessness, but
I tried to put up with it till she jest put the cap sheaf on the hull
business by getten' religion up thah in the gum tree settlement, an' I
drew the line at that, _I_ tell yo.' Thah she was, howlen' happy every
night in the week 'long-side o' Brother Peter Mosely. Brother Mosely's
wife didn't seem to favah their religion no more'n I did; so, seen' as
I couldn't follow roun' aftah her with a hickory switch, an' couldn't
keep her home or at work no othah way, I just got myself a divorce,
an' settled down alone on a patch o' lan' I bought o' Mahs Duke, an' I
kep' on looken' aftah his stables long as he kept any. He died just
afore young Mahs Tom married Miss Leo Masterson."

"But what of the divorce? Did it improve her religion or cure her
laziness?" asked Delaven, who found more of novelty in the black man's
affairs than the master's.

"Who--Cinthy? I just sold her right back to Mistah John Masterson fo'
twenty-five dollar less than I paid, an' the youngsters they went into
the bargain; fo' I tell yo', sah, them Nawthen niggahs is bad stock to
manage--if they's big or little; see what happened that Steve o' hern;
done run off, he has, an' him ole enough to know bettah. Oh, yes, sah,
I up an' I sold the whole batch; that how come I get my money back fo'
her, an' stock my little patch o' groun'. Yes, sah, she got scared an'
settle down when I done sold her back again. Mahs Masterson he got mo'
work out o' her than I could; he knew mo' 'bout managen' them Nawthen
niggahs."

"Wouldn't he be a find for those abolitionists?" asked Evilena,
laughing. "Nelse, you've been very entertaining, and if your Miss
Gertrude needs you to stay about the place we'll steal hours to hear
about old times."

"Thanky, Miss Lena; yo' servant, sah; it sartainly does do me good to
get in heah an' see all these heah faces again--mighty fine they are.
I mind when some o' them was painted. Mahs Duke's was done in Orleans;
so was Miss Bar'bra, it's in the parlah. But Mahs Tom--he had an
artis' painter come down from Wash'nton to do Miss Gertrude's, once
when she just got ovah sick spell--he scared lest she die an' nevah
have no likeness; her ma, she died sudden that-a-way. We all use to
think it bad luck to get likenesses; I nevah had none; Mahs Matt nevah
had none; an' we're a liven' yet. All the rest had 'em took an' wheah
are they?"

"Now, Uncle Nelse, you don't mean to say it shortens people's lives to
have their picture taken?"

"Don't like to say, Miss Lena, but curious things do happen in this
world. That artist man, his name, Mistah Madden, he made Mahs Tom's
likeness, an' Mahs Tom got killed! An' all time Mahs Tom's likeness
was bein' done, an' all time Miss Gertrude's was a doin', that Mistah
Madden he just go 'stracted to paint one o' Retta to take 'way with
him. All the niggahs jest begged her not to let him, but she only
laughed--she laughed most o' the time them days; an' Mahs Tom he sided
with Mistah Madden, so she give consent, an' he painted two--one
monstrous big one to take 'way with him, an' then a teeny one fo' a
breastpin; he give it to Retta 'cause she set still an' let him make
the big one. An' now what happened? Within a yeah Mahs Tom, he was
killed, an' Retta Caris, she about died o' some crazy brain fever, an'
it was yeahs afore she knew her own name again; yes, went 'wildered
like--she did; an' that's what two likenesses done to my sutain
knowledge."

"Then I've hoodooed Dr. Delaven, for I made a pencil picture of him
only this morning."

"And if I should fall down stairs, or into the Salkahatchie, you will
know the primal reason for it."

Old Nelse shook his head at such frivolity.

"Jes' 'cause you all ain't afraid don't take yo' no further off
danger," he said, soberly. Then he followed Evilena to the kitchen,
where his entrance was greeted with considerable respect. When Nelse
appeared at Loringwood in his finest it was a sort of state affair in
the cook house. He was an honored guest with the grown folks, because
the grandeurs he had witnessed and could tell of, and he was a cause
of dread to the pickaninnies who were often threatened with banishment
to the Unc. Nelse glade, and they firmly believed he immediately sold
all the little darkies who put foot in his domain.

"Isn't he delightfully quaint?" asked the girl, rejoining Delaven.
"Gertrude never does seem to find him interesting; but I do. She has
been used to him always, of course, and I haven't, and she thinks it
was awful for him to sell Cynthia, just because she got religion and
would not behave. Now, I think it's funny; don't you?"

"Your historian has given me so many side-lights on slavery that I'm
dazzled with the brilliancy of them; whether serious or amusing, it is
astonishing."

"Only to strangers," said the girl; "to us they are never puzzling;
they are only grown-up children--even the wisest--and need to be
managed like children. Those crazy abolitionists should hear Nelse on
the 'hoodoo' of freedom; I fancy he would astonish them."

"Not the slightest doubt of it," agreed Delaven, who usually did agree
with Evilena--except when argument would prolong a tete-a-tete.



CHAPTER XIV.


Gertrude promptly assured old Nelse that the plantation needed no
extra caretakers just then, the work was progressing very well since
their return. Nelse swept the jockey cap over his feet in a profound
bow, and sauntered around the house. The mistress of Loringwood asked
Evilena to see if he had gone to his canoe. She did so, and reported
that he had gone direct to the stables, where he had looked carefully
over all the horses, and found one threatened with some dangerous
ailment requiring his personal ministrations. He had announced his
intention of staying right there until that horse was "up an' doin'
again." At that minute he was seated on a half bushel measure as on a
throne from which he was giving his orders, and all the young niggers
were fairly flying to execute them.

"It is no use, Gertrude," said Mrs. Nesbitt, with a sigh; "as soon as
I saw that vest and your grandfather's coat with the brass buttons, I
knew Nelse had come to stay a spell, and stay he will in spite of
us."

Which statement gave the man from Dublin another sidelight on the race
question!

One of the servants announced a canoe in sight, coming from up the
river, and anticipating a probable addition to their visitors, Delaven
escaped by a side door, until the greetings were over, and walking
aimlessly along a little path back from the river, found it ended at a
group of pines surrounded by an iron railing, enclosing, also, the
high, square granite and marble abodes of the dead. It was here Nelse
had pointed when telling of Tom Loring's sudden death and burial.

He opened the gate, and as he did so noticed a woman at the other side
of the enclosure. Remembering how intensely superstitious the colored
folks were said to be, he wondered at one of them coming alone into
the grove so nearly darkened by the dense covering of pine, and with
only the ghostly white of the tombs surrounding her.

He halted and stood silent beside a tree until she arose and turned
towards the gate, then he could see plainly the clear, delicate
profile of the silent Margeret. Of all the people he had met in this
new country, this quiet, pale woman puzzled him most. She seemed to
compel an atmosphere of silence, for no one spoke of her. She moved
about like a shadow in the house, but she moved to some purpose, for
she was a most efficient housekeeper, even the pickaninnies from the
quarters--saucy and mischievous enough with any one else--were subdued
when Margeret spoke.

After she had passed out of the gate he went over where he had seen
her first. Two tombs were side by side, and of the same pattern; a
freshly plucked flower lay on one. He read the name beneath the
flower; it was, _Thomas Loring, in the thirtieth year of his age_; the
other tomb was that of his wife, who had died seven years earlier.

But it was on Tom Loring's tomb the blossom had been laid.

Was it merely an accident that it was the marble on which the fragrant
bit of red had been let fall? or--

He walked slowly back to the house, feeling that he had touched on
some story more strange than any Evilena had asked him to listen to of
the old days, and this one was vital, human, fascinating.

He wondered who she was, yet felt a reluctance to ask. To him she
appeared a white woman. Yet an intangible something in Miss Loring's
manner to her made him doubt. He remembered hearing Matthew Loring on
the voyage complain many times that Margeret would have arranged
things for his comfort with more foresight than was shown by his
attendants, but when he had reached Loringwood, and Margeret gave
silent, conscientious care to his wants, there was never a word of
praise given her. He--Delaven--felt as if he was the only one there
who appreciated her ministrations; the others took them as a matter of
course.

He saw old Nelse hitching along, with his queer little walk, coming
from the direction of the stables. He motioned to him, and seated
himself on a circular bench, backed by a great, live oak, and facing
the river. Nelse proved that his sight was good despite his years, for
he hastened his irregular shuffle and drew near, cap in hand.

"Did the canoe from up the river bring visitors?" asked Delaven,
producing one cigar which he lighted, and another which he presented
to the old man, who received it with every evidence of delight.

"I can't even so much as recollect when I done put my hands on one o'
these real Cubas; I thank yo' kindly, sah. We all raise our own
patches o' tobacco, and smoke it in pipes dry, so! an' in course by
that-a-way we 'bleeged to 'spence with the julictious flavor o' the
Cubas. No, sah; ain't no visitors; just Mrs. McVeigh's man, Pluto,
done fetched some letters and Chloe--Chloe's cook, heah--she tell me
she reckon Miss Gertrude try get Mahstah Matt to go up there fo' good
'fore long, fo' Mrs. McVeigh, she comen' home from Mobile right away,
now; done sent word. An' Miss Lena, she jest in a jubilee ovah the
letter, fo' her ma gwine fotch home some great quality folks a
visiten'. Judge Clarkson, he plan to start in the mawnen' for
Savannah, he gwine meet 'em there."

"And in the meantime we can enjoy our tobacco; sit down. I've been so
much interested in your stories of long ago that I want to ask you
about one of the present time."

The smile of Nelse broadened. He felt he was appreciated by Miss
Gertrude's guests, even though Miss Gertrude herself was not
particularly cordial. He squatted on the grass and waited while
Delaven took two or three puffs at his cigar before speaking again.

"Now, in the first place, if there is any objection to answering my
question, I expect you to tell me so; you understand?" Nelse nodded
solemnly, and Delaven continued:

"I have one of the best nurses here that it has ever been my luck to
meet. You spoke of her today as in someway deprived of her senses for
a long time. I can't quite understand that, for she appears very
intelligent. I should like to know what you meant."

"I reckon o' course the pussen to who you pintedly make reference is
Retta," said the old man, after a pause.

"You are the only one I've heard call her that--the rest call her
Margeret."

"Humph--yes, sah; that Mahstah Matt's doens, I reckon! not but what
Marg'ret alles was her real sure-'nough name, but way back, when
Mahstah Tom was a liven', no one evah heard tell o' her been' called
any name but Retta; an' seem like it suit her them days, but don't
quite suit her now so well."

Delaven made no reply, and after another thoughtful pause, the old man
continued:

"No, sah; I've been thinken' it ovah middlen' careful, an' I can't
see--considerin' as yo's a doctah, an' a 'special friend o' the
family--why I ain't free to tell you Retta's story clean through; an'
seen' as yo' have to put a lot o' 'pendance on her 'bout carryen' out
you ordahs fo' Mahstah Matt, seems to me like a bounden' duty fo'
_some_ one to tell yo', fo' theah was five yeahs--yes--six of 'em,
when Retta wasn't a 'nigh this plantation at all. She was stark,
raven, crazy--dangerous crazy--an' had to be took away to some 'sylum
place; we all nevah knew where; but when she did come back she was
jest what you see--jest the ghost of a woman, sensible 'nough, seem
like, but I mind the time when she try to kill herself an' her chile,
an' how we to know that fit nevah find her again?"

"She--killed her child?"

"Oh, no, sah; we all took the baby; she wan't but five yeah ole, from
her, an' got the knife out o' her hands; no, no one got hurt. But I
reckon I better go 'way back an' tell yo' the reason."

"Very well; I was wondering if she was really a colored person,"
remarked Delaven.

"Retta's an octoroon, mahstah," said the old man, with a certain
solemnity of tone. "I done heard old Mahstah Jean Larue swear that if
folks are reckoned as horses are, Retta'd be counted a thoroughbred,
'cause far back as they can count theah wan't no scrub stock in her
pedigree.

"Long 'bout hundred yeahs ago folks come in colony fashion from some
islands 'way on other side the sea. They got plantations in Florida,
an' Mahs Duke he knew some o' them well. I only rec'lect hearen' one
o' the names they was called--an' mighty hard some o' them was to
say!--but the one I mind was Andros, or Ambrose Lacaris, an' he was a
Greek gentleman; an'--so it was said--Retta was his chile; his nat'ral
daughter, as Mahs Larue call it, an' she was raised in his home jest
like as ef she gwine to be mistress some day."

Delaven's cigar was forgotten, and its light gone out. The pedigree
was more interesting than he had expected. A Greek! All the beauty of
the ancient world had come from those islands across the sea. The
romances, the poems, the tragedies! and here was one living through a
tragedy of today; that flower on the tomb under the pines--it
suggested so much, now that he heard what she was.

"Mahs Lacaris, from what I could heah, was much the turn o' my Mahs
Duke, but 'thout Mahs Duke's money to back him; an' one day all his
business 'rangements, they go smash! an' sheriff come take all his
lan' and niggahs fo' some 'surance he'd gone fo' some one. Well, sah,
they say he most went 'stracted on head o' that smash up; an' 'special
when he found they took stock o' Retta, just like any o' the field
hands. But theah wan't no help fo' it, 'cause Retta's mammy was a
quadroon gal; jest made a pet o' the chile, an' was so easy goen' he
nevah took a thought that anything would ever change his way o'
liven'.

"Mahs Tom, he jes' got married to Miss Leo Masterson an' took her down
Florida fo' wedden' trip; that how he come to be theah when all Mahs
Lacaris' belongings was put up fo' sale. Seem like Mahs Lacaris had
hope he could get mo' money back in his own country, an' he was all
planned to start, an' he beg Mahs Tom to buy his little Retta an' keep
her safe till he come back.

"_Now_, Mahs Tom was powerful good-hearted--jest like his daddy. So he
totes the chile home, an' I know Hester (Miss Leo's maid) was ragen'
mad about it, 'cause she had to wait on her the whole enduren' trip
home, fo' seem like that chile nevah had been taught to wait on
herself.

"Well, sah, Massa Lacaris, he nevah did come back; that ship he went
in nevah was heard tell of again from that day to this, an' theah
wan't nothin' fo' Mahs Tom to do but jest keep her. He did talk about
sendin' her 'way to some school, fo' she mighty peart with books, an'
then given' her a chance to buy herself if so be she wanted to. But
Miss Leo object to that, flat foot down; she hadn't no sort o' use fo'
'ristocrat book-learned niggahs.

"Hester, she heard Miss Leo say them words, an' was mighty glad to
tattle 'em! Hester--she was Maryland stock, same as Cynthy. Well, sah,
they worried along fo' 'bout a yeah not deciden' jest what to do with
that young stray, then Miss Gertrude she come to town an' it did'n
take no time to fine out what to do with her, _then_!

"Miss Gertrude wan't no 'special stout chile, an' took a heap o' care
an' pamperin' an' when none o' the othahs could do a trick with her,
Retta would jest walk in, take her in her arms, an' the wah was ended
fo' that time! Fust time Mahs Tom see that performance he laugh
hearty, an' then he say, 'Retta, we jest find out what we do need you
fo'; yo' gwine to be installed as governess at Lorinwood from this
time on.' An' Retta she was powerful pleased an' so happy, she alles a
laughen' an' her eyes a shinen'.

"Long 'bout a yeah after that, it was, when Miss Leo die. Mahs Tom, he
went way then fo' a long spell, cause the place too lonesome, an' when
he come back, Retta, she ovah seventeen, an' she jest manage the whole
house fine as she manage that baby, an' all the quality folks what
come an' go praise her mightily an' talk 'bout how peart she was.

"Then Mahs Matt, he come up from Orleans, whah he been cutten' a wide
swath, if all folks told true, an' fust thing his eyes caught was that
gal Retta, an' he up an' tole Mahs Tom what a fool he was not to sell
her down in Orleans whah she'd fetch mo' money than would buy six nuss
gals or housekeepers.

"Mahs Tom cussed at him powerful wicked when he say that! I heard that
my own self--it was down at the stable an' I was jest putten' a saddle
on fo' Mahs Tom, an' then right in the middle o' his cussin' an'
callen' names he stopped short off an' says--says he: 'Don't you evah
open youah mouth to me 'bout that again so long as yo' live. If Retta
takes care o' my Gertrude till she ten yeahs old, I made up my mine to
give her freedom if she want it, that gal wan't bought for no slave
an' she ain't gwine to be one heah--yo' un'stan'? You un'stan' if you
got any notion o' stayen' at Lorinwood!' An' then with some more
mighty uncivil sayen's he got in the saddle an' rode like Jehu, an' I
don' reckon Mahs Matt evah did make mention of it again, fo' they got
'long all good 'nough so long as he stayed.

"Well, sah, haven' to take her part a-way made him think mo' 'bout the
gal I reckon; anyway he say plain to more'n one that he sure gwine
give Retta her freedom.

"He gwine do it jest aftah her chile was bawn, then theah was some law
fusses raised 'bout that time consarnnen' Mahstahs freen' slaves, an'
Mahs Matt was theah then, an' he not say a word again _freen'_ her,
only he say, 'wait a spell, Tom.'

"Retta, she wan't caren' then; she was young an' happy all day long
while her chile that was jest as white as Miss Gertrude dar be.

"Things went on that-a-way five yeahs, her chile was five yeahs ole
when he start fo' a business visit down to Charleston, an' he say fo'
he start that Retta gwine have her freedom papers fo' Christmas gift.
Well, sah, he done been gone two weeks in Charleston when he start
home, an' then Mahs Larue persuade him to stay ovah night at his
plantation fo' a fox hunt in the mawnen'. Mahs Matt was theah, an'
some othah friends, so he staid ovah an' next we heard Mahs Matt sent
word Mahs Tom killed, an' we all was to be ready to see aftah the
relations an' othah quality folks who boun' to come to the funeral.

"An' now, sah, you un'stan' what sort o' shock it was made Retta lose
her mind that time. She fainted dead away when she heard it, but then
she kind o' pulled herself togethah, as a horse will for a spurt, an'
she looked aftah the company an' took Mahs Matt's orders 'bout
'rangements, but we all most scared at the way she look--jest a
watching Mahs Matt constant, beggen' him with her eyes to tell her
'bout them freedom papers, but seems like he didn't un'stan', an' when
she ask him right out, right 'long side o' dead Mahs Tom, he inform
her he nevah heah tell 'bout them freedom papers, Mahs Tom not tole
him 'bout them, so she b'long to the 'state o' Loring jest same as she
did afore, only now Miss Gertrude owned her 'stead o' Mahs Tom.

"That when she tried to kill herself, an' try to kill the chile;
didn't know anybody, she didn't, I tell yo' it make a terrible
'miration 'mongst the quality folks, an' I b'lieve in my soul Mahs
Matt would a killed her if he dared, fo' it made all the folks
un'stan' jest what he would 'a tried to keep them from.

"An' that, sah, is the whole 'count o' the reason leaden' up to the
sickness whah she lost her mine. We all sutten sure Mahs Matt sell her
quick if evah her senses done come back, but she really an' truly
b'long to Miss Gertrude, an' Miss Gertrude, she couldn't see no good
reason to let go the best housekeeper on the plantation, an' that how
come she come to stay when she fetched back cured by them doctors. She
ain't nevah made a mite o' trouble--jest alles same as yo' see her,
but o' course yo' the best judge o' how far to trust her 'bout special
medicine an' sech."

"Yes," agreed Delaven, thoughtfully. He arose and walked back and
forth several times. Until now he had only come in contact with the
pleasant pastoral side of life, given added interest because, just
now, all its peace was encircled by war; but it _was_ peace for all
that--peace in an eminently Christian land, a land of homes and
churchly environment, and made picturesque by the grotesque features
and humor of the dark exiles. He had only laughed with them until now
and marveled at the gaiety of the troops singing in the rice fields,
and suddenly another window had been opened and through it one caught
glimpses of tragedies.

"And the poor woman's child?" he asked, after a little.

"Mahs Matt done send her down to Mahs Larue's Georgy plantation, an'
we all nevah seen her no mo'. Mahs Larue done sold that Georgy
plantation 'bout five yeahs back an' move up fo' good on one his wife
own up heah. An' little while back I hear tell they gwine sell it,
too, an' flit way cross to Mexico somewhah. This heah war jest broke
them up a'ready."

"And the child was sold?--do you mean that?"

"Deed we all nevah got a sure story o' what come o' that baby; only
when Retta come back Mahs Matt tell her little Rhoda dead long time
ago--dead down in Georgy, an' no one evah heah her ask a word from
that day to this. But one Larue's niggahs _tole me_"--and the voice
and manner of Nelse took on a grotesquely impressive air--"they done
raise a mighty handsome chile 'bout that time what was called Rhoda,
an' she went to ferren parts with Mahs Larue an' his family an' didn't
nevah come back, no mo', an' Mahs Matt raise some sort o' big row with
Mahs Jean Larue ovah that gal, an' they nevah was friends no mo'. To
be suah maybe that niggah lied--_I_ don't know. But he let on as how
Mars Larue say that gal gwine to fetch a fancy price some day, an' I
thought right off how Mahs Matt said Retta boun' to fetch a fancy
price in Orleans; an' taken' it all roun' I reckoned it jest as well
Retta keep on thinken' that chile died."

Delaven agreed. From the house he could hear the ladies talking, and
Evilena's laugh sang out clear as a bird's song. He wondered if they
also knew the story of the silent deft-handed bondwoman?--but
concluded it was scarcely likely. Mrs. Nesbitt might know something of
it, but who could tell Tom Loring's daughter?--and Evilena, of course,
was too much of a child.

"I should like to see the picture you spoke of," he said at last, "the
small one the painter left."

"I reckon that picture done sent away with little Rhoda's things. I
ain't nevah heard tell of it since that time. But it don't look a mite
like her now. All the red gone out o' her cheeks an' lips, all the
shine out o' her eyes, an' her long brown hair has mo' white than
brown in it these days. This woman Marg'ret ain't Retta; they jest as
yo' might say two different women;" then, after a pause, "any othah
thing you want ask me, sah? I see Jedge Clarkson comen' this way."

"No, that is all; thank you, old fellow."

He left Nelse ducking his head and fingering a new coin, while he
sauntered to meet the Judge.

"How much he give you, Uncle Nelse?" asked a guarded voice back of the
old man, and he nearly fell over backwards in his fright. A large,
middle-aged colored man arose from the tall grass, where he has been
hidden under the bank.

"Wha--what you mean--yo' Pluto? What fo' you hide theah an' listen?"

"I wan't hiden'," replied the man, good naturedly. "I jest lay to go
sleep in the shade. Yo' come 'long an' talk--talk so I couldn't help
hear it all," and he smiled shrewdly. "I alles was curious to know the
true way 'bout that Marg'ret--I reckon there was a heap that wan't
told to neighbors. An' reason why I ask you how much he give you fo'
the story is 'cause I got that picture you tole 'bout. I married Mahs
Larue's Rosa what come from Georgy with them. She been daid ovah a
yeah now, but it's some whar 'mongst her b'longings. Reckon that
strange gentleman give me dollar for it?--the frame is mighty
pretty--what you think?"



CHAPTER XV.


"Do tell me every blessed thing about her--a real Marquise--I love
titles;" and Evilena clasped her hands rapturously.

"Do you, now? Faith, then I'm glad I secured mine before I came over,"
and the laughing Irish eyes met hers quizzically.

"Oh, I never meant titles people earn themselves, Mr. Doctor, for--"

"Then that puts the Judge and Col. Kenneth and myself on the outside
of your fence, does it? Arrah now! I'll be looking up my pedigree in
hopes of unearthing a king--every true Irishman has a traditional
chance of being the descendant of rulers who ran barefoot, and carried
a club to teach the court etiquette."

She made a mutinous little grimace and refused to discuss his probable
ancestors.

"Does not the presence of a French Marquise show how Europe sides with
us?" she demanded, triumphantly. "Quantities of noblemen have been the
guests of the South lately, and isn't General Wolseley, the most
brilliant officer of the British Army, with our General Lee now? I
reckon all _that_ shows how we are estimated. And now the ladies of
title are coming over. Oh, tell me all about her; is she very grand,
very pretty?"

"Grand enough for a queen over your new monarchy," replied Delaven,
who derived considerable enjoyment from teasing the girl about affairs
political--"and pretty? No, she's not that; she's just Beauty's self,
entirely."

"And you knew her well in Paris?" asked Evilena, with a hesitating
suspicion as to why he had not announced such a wonderful acquaintance
before--this woman who was Beauty's self, and a widow. She wondered if
she had appeared crude compared with those grand dames he had known
and forgotten to mention.

"Oh, yes, I knew her while the old Marquise was living, that was when
your mother and Col. Kenneth met her, but afterwards she took to
travel for a change, and has evidently taken your South on her way. It
will be happiness to see her again."

"And brother Ken knew her, too?" asked the girl, with wide-open eyes;
"and _he_ never mentioned her, either--well!"

"The rascal!--to deprive you of an account of all the lovely ladies he
met! But you were at school when they returned, were you not?--and Ken
started off hot foot for the West and Indian fighting, so you see
there were excuses."

"And Kenneth does not know you are here still, and will not know the
beautiful Marquise is here. Won't he be surprised to see you all?"

"I doubt if I cause him such a shock," decided Delaven; "when he gets
sight of Judithe, Marquise de Caron, he will naturally forget at once
whether I am in America or Ireland."

"Indeed, then, I never knew Kenneth to slight a friend," said the
girl, indignantly.

"But maybe you never saw him face to face with such a temptation to
make a man forget the universe."

"Sh--h!" she whispered, softly. Gertrude had come out on the veranda
looking for the Judge. Seeing him down at the landing she walked
leisurely in that direction.

"You do say such wild, extravagant things," continued Evilena, "that I
just had to stop you until Gertrude was out of hearing. I suppose you
know she and Kenneth are paired off for matrimony."

"Are they, now? Well, he's a lucky fellow; when are we to dance at the
wedding?"

"Oh, they never tell me anything about serious things like that,"
complained Evilena. "There's Aunt Sajane; she can tell us, if any one
can; everybody confides love affairs to her."

"Do they, now? Might I ask how you know?"

"Yes, sir; you may _ask_!" Then she dropped that subject and returned
to the first one. "Aunt Sajane, when do you reckon we can dance at
Kenneth's wedding--his and Gertrude's? Doctor Delaven and I want to
dance."

"Evilena--honey!" murmured Aunt Sajane, chidingly, the more so as
Matthew Loring had just crept slowly out with the help of his cane,
and a negro boy. His alert expression betrayed that he had overheard
the question.

"You know," she continued, "folks have lots to think of these days
without wedding dances, and it isn't fair to Gertrude to discuss it,
for _I_ don't know that there really has been any settled engagement;
only it would seem like a perfect match and both families seem to
favor it." She glanced inquiringly at Loring, who nodded his head
decidedly.

"Of course, of course, a very sensible arrangement. They've always
been friends and it's been as good as settled ever since they were
children."

"Settled by the families?" asked Delaven.

"Exactly--a good old custom that is ignored too often these days,"
said Mr. Loring, promptly. "Who is so fit to decide such things for
children as their parents and guardians? That boy's father and me
talked over this affair before the children ever knew each other. Of
course he laughed over the question at the time, but when he died and
suggested me as the boy's guardian, I knew he thought well of it and
depended on me, and it will come off right as soon as this war is
over--all right."

"A very good method for this country of the old French cavaliers,"
remarked Delaven, in a low tone, to the girl, "but the lads and
lassies of Ireland have to my mind found a better."

Evilena looked up inquiringly.

"Well, don't you mean to tell me what it is?" she asked, as he
appeared to have dropped the subject. He laughed at the aggrieved tone
she assumed.

"Whist! There are mystical rites due to the telling, and it goes for
nothing when told in a crowd."

"You have got clear away from Kenneth," she reminded him, hastily.
"Did you mean that he was--well, in love with this magnificent
Marquise?"

Low as she tried to speak, the words reached Loring, who listened, and
Delaven, glancing across, perceived that he listened.

"In love with the Marquise? Bless your heart, we were all of course."

"But my brother?" insisted Evilena.

"Well, now he might have been the one exception--in fact he always did
get out of the merely social affairs when he could, over there."

"Showed his good sense," decided Loring, emphatically. "I don't
approve of young people running about Europe, learning their
pernicious habits and customs; I've had my fill of foreign places and
foreign people."

Mrs. Nesbitt opened her lips with a shocked expression of protest, and
as promptly closed them, realizing the uselessness of it. Evilena
laughed outright and directed an eloquent glance towards the only
foreigner.

"Me, is it?" he asked, doubtingly. "Oh, don't you believe it. I've
been here so long I'm near a Southerner myself."

"How near?" she asked, teasingly.

"Well, I must acknowledge you hold me at arms length in spite of my
allegiance," he returned, and in the laugh of the others, Mr. Loring's
tirade against foreigners was passed over.

It was only a few hours since Pluto arrived with the letter from
Mobile telling of the early arrival of Mrs. McVeigh and her guest.
Noting that the letter had been delayed and that the ladies might even
now be in Savannah, Judge Clarkson proposed starting at once to meet
them, but was persuaded to wait until morning.

Pluto was also told to wait over--an invitation gladly accepted, as
visits to Loringwood were just now especially prized by the
neighboring darkies, for the two runaways were yet subjects of gossip
and speculation, and Uncle Nelse scattered opinions in the quarters on
the absolute foolishness in taking such risks for freedom, and dire
prophesies of the repentance to follow.

That his own personal feeling did not carry conviction to his
listeners was evidenced by the sullen silence of many who did not
think it wise to contradict him. Pluto was the only person to argue
with him. But this proved to be the one subject on which Pluto could
not be his natural good-natured self. His big black eyes held
threatening gleams, rebellious blood throbbed through every vein of
his dark body. He championed the cause of the runaways; he knew of
none who had left a good master; old man Masterson was unreasonable as
Matthew Loring; he did not blame them for leaving such men.

"I got good a mistress--good a master as is in all Carolina," he
stated, bluntly, "but you think I stay here to work for any of them if
it wan't for my boy?--my Rose's baby? No, I wouldn't! I'd go North,
too! I'd never stop till I reached the men who fight against slave
states. You all know what keeps me here. I'd never see my boy again. I
done paid eighteen dollars towards Rose's freedom when she died. Then
I ask Mr. Jean Larue if he wouldn't let that go on the baby. He said
yes, right off, an' told me I could get him for hundred fifty dollars;
_that_ why I work 'long like I do, an' let the other men fight fo'
freedom But I ain't contented so long as any man can sell me an' my
child."

None of the other blacks made any verbal comment on his feelings or
opinions, but old Nelse easily saw that Pluto's ideas outweighed his
own with them.

"I un'stan' you to say Mahs Jean Larue promise he keep yo' boy till
such time as the money is raised?" he asked, cautiously.

"That's the way it was," assented Pluto. "I ain't been to see
him--little Zekal--for nigh on two months now. I'm goen', sure, soon
as Mrs. McVeigh come home an' get settled. It's quite a jaunt from our
place to Mahs Larue's--thirty good mile."

Aunt Chloe poured him out some more rye and corn-meal coffee and
insisted on him having more sweet potato pie. She swept an admonishing
glance towards the others as she did so. "I did heah some time ago one
o' the Larue's gwine way down to the Mexico country," she remarked,
carelessly. "I don't reckon though it is this special Larue. I mind
they did have such a monstrous flock o' them Larue boys long time
back; some got killed in this heah war what's maken' trouble all
roun'. How much you got paid on yo' little boy, Pluto?"

"Most thirty dollars by time I make next trip over. Takes mighty long
time to save money these days, quarters scarcer than dollars use to
be."

His entertainers agreed with him; then the little maid Raquel entered
to say Pluto was wanted by Miss Sajane soon as his lunch was over.

And as he walked across the grounds Evilena pointed him out to
Delaven.

"That is our Pluto," she said, with a certain note of pride in her
tone; "three generations of his family belonged to us. Mama can always
go away feeling the whole plantation is safe so long as Pluto is in
charge. We never do have trouble with the folks at the quarters as Mr.
Loring does. He is so hard on them I wonder they don't all run away;
it would be hard on Gertrude, though--lose her a lot of money. Did you
know Loringwood is actually offered for sale? Isn't it a shame? The
only silver lining to the cloud is that then Gertrude will have to
move to The Pines--I don't mean to the woods"--as he turned a
questioning glance on her. "I mean to Gertrude's plantation joining
ours. It is a lovely place; used to belong to the Masterson tracts,
and was part of the wedding dowery of that Miss Leo Masterson Uncle
Nelse told of--Gertrude's mother, you know. It is not grand or
imposing like Loringwood, but I heard the Judge say that place alone
was enough to make Gertrude a wealthy woman, and the loveliest thing
about it is that it joins our plantation--lovely for Gertrude and
Kenneth, I mean. Look here, Doctor Delaven, you roused my curiosity
wonderfully with that little remark you made about the beautiful
Marquise; tell me true--were they--did Ken, even for a little while,
fall in love with her?"

She looked so roguishly coaxing, so sure she had stumbled on some
fragment of an adventure, and so alluringly confident that Delaven
must tell her the rest, that there is no telling how much he might
have enlightened her if Miss Loring had not entered the room at that
moment through a door nearest the window where they stood.

Her face was serene and self possessed as ever. She smiled and
addressed some careless remark to them as she passed through, but
Delaven had an uncomfortable feeling that she had overheard that
question, and Evilena was too frightened to repeat it.



CHAPTER XVI.


The warm summer moon wheeled up that evening through the dusk, odorous
with the wild luxuriance of wood and swamp growths. A carriage rolled
along the highway between stretches of rice lands and avenues of
pines.

In the west red and yellow showed where the path of the sun had been
and against it was outlined the gables of an imposing structure, dark
against the sky.

"We are again close to the Salkahatchie," said Mrs. McVeigh, pointing
where the trees marked its course, "and across there--see that roof,
Marquise?--that is Loringwood. If the folks had got across from
Charleston we would stop there long enough to rest and have a bit of
supper. But the road winds so that the distance is longer than it
looks, and we are too near home to stop on such an uncertainty.
Gertrude's note from Charleston telling of their safe arrival could
say nothing definite of their home coming."

"That, no doubt, depends on the invalid relative," suggested her
guest; "the place looks very beautiful in this dim light; the cedars
along the road there are magnificent."

"I have heard they are nearly two hundred years old. Years ago it was
the great show place of the country, but two generations of very
extravagant sportsmen did much to diminish its wealth--generous,
reckless and charming men--but they planted mortgages side by side
with their rice fields. Those encumbrances have, I fancy, prevented
Gertrude from being as fond of the place as most girls would be of so
fine an ancestral home."

"Possibly she lacks the gamester blood of her forefathers and can have
no patience with their lack of the commercial instinct."

"I really do believe that is just it," said Mrs. McVeigh. "I never had
thought of it in that way myself, but Gertrude certainly is not at all
like the Lorings; she is entirely of her mother's people, and they are
credited with possessing a great deal of the commercial instinct. I
can't fancy a Masterson gambling away a penny. They are much more
sensible; they invest."

The cedar avenues had been left a mile behind, and they had entered
again the pine woods where even the moon's full radiance could only
scatter slender lances of light. The Marquise leaned back with
half-shut slumberous eyes, and confessed she was pleased that it would
be later, instead of this evening, that she would have the pleasure of
meeting the master and mistress of Loringwood--the drive through the
great stretches of pine had acted as a soporific; no society for the
night so welcome as King Morpheus.

The third woman in the carriage silently adjusted a cushion back of
Madame's head. "Thank you, Louise," she said, yawning a little. "You
see how effectually I have been mastered by the much remarked languor
of the South. It is delightfully restful. I cannot imagine any one
ever being in a hurry in this land."

Mrs. McVeigh smiled and pointed across the field, where some men were
just then running after a couple of dogs who barked vociferously in
short, quick yelps, bespeaking a hot trail before them.

"There is a living contradiction of your idea," she said; "the
Southerners are intensity personified when the game is worth it; the
game may be a fox chase or a flirtation, a love affair or a duel, and
our men require no urging for any of those pursuits."

They were quite close to the men now, and the Marquise declared they
were a perfect addition to the scene of moonlit savannas backed by the
masses of wood now near, now far, across the levels. Two of them had
reached the road when the carriage wheels attracted attention from the
dogs, and they halted, curious, questioning.

"Why, it's our Pluto!" exclaimed Mrs. McVeigh; "stop the carriage.
Pluto, what in the world are you doing here?"

Pluto came forward smiling, pleased.

"Welcome home, Mrs. McVeigh. I'se jest over Loringwood on errend with
yo' all letters to Miss Lena an' Miss Sajane. Letters was stopped long
time on the road someway; yo' all get here soon most as they did.
Judge Clarkson--he aimen' to go meet yo' at Savannah--start in the
mawning at daybreak. He reckoned yo' all jest wait there till some one
go fo' escort."

"Evilena is at Loringwood, you say? Then Miss Loring and her uncle
have got over from Charleston?"

"Yes, indeedy!--long time back, more'n a week now since they come.
Why, how come you not hear?--they done sent yo' word; I _know_ Miss
Lena wrote you, 'cause she said so. Yes'm, the folks is back, an' Miss
Sajane an' Judge over there this minute; reckon they'll feel mighty
sorry yo' all passed the gate."

"Oh, but the letter never reached me. I had no idea they were home,
and it is too far to go back I suppose? How far are we from the house
now?"

"Only 'bout a mile straight 'cross fields like we come after that
'possum, but it's a good three miles by the road."

"Well, you present my compliments and explain the situation to Miss
Loring and the Judge. We will drive on to the Terrace. Say I hope to
see them all soon as they can come. Evilena can come with you in the
morning. Tell Miss Gertrude I shall drive over soon as I am rested a
little--and Mr. Loring, is he better?"

"Heap better--so Miss Gertrude and the doctor say. He walks roun'
some. Miss Gertrude she mightily taken with Dr. Delaven's cure--she
says he jest saved Mahs Loring's life over there in France."

"Dr. Delaven!" uttered the voice of the Marquise, in soft surprise--"_our_
Dr. Delaven?" and as she spoke her hand stole out and touched that of
the handsome serving woman she called Louise; "is he also a traveller
seeking adventure in your South?"

"Did I not tell you?" asked Mrs. McVeigh. "I meant to. Gertrude's note
mentioned that her uncle was under the care of our friend, the young
medical student, so you will hear the very latest of your beloved
Paris."

"Charming! It is to be hoped he will visit us soon. This little
woman"--and she nodded towards Louise--"must be treated for
homesickness; you observe her depression since we left the cities? Dr.
Delaven will be an admirable cure for that."

"Your Louise will perhaps cure herself when she sees a home again,"
remarked Mrs. McVeigh; "it is life in a carriage she has perhaps grown
tired of."

"Madame is pleased to tease me as people tease children for being
afraid in the dark," explained Louise. "I am not afraid, but the
silence does give one a chill. I shall be glad to reach the door of
your house."

"And we must hasten. Remember all the messages, Pluto; bring your Miss
Lena tomorrow and any of the others who will come."

"I remember, sure. Glad I was first to see yo' all back--good night."

The other colored men in the background had lost all interest in the
'possum hunt, and were intent listeners to the conversation. Old
Nelse, who had kept up to the rest with much difficulty, now pushed
himself forward for a nearer look into the carriage. Mrs. McVeigh did
not notice him. But he startled the Marquise as he thrust his white
bushy head and aged face over the wheel just as they were starting,
and the woman Louise drew back with a gasp of actual fear.

"What a stare he gave us!" she said, as they rolled away from the
group by the roadside. "That old man had eyes like augers, and he
seemed to look through me--may I ask if he, also, is of your
plantation, Madame?"

"Indeed, he is not," was Mrs. McVeigh's reassuring answer. "But he did
not really mean to be impertinent; just some childish old 'uncle' who
is allowed special privileges, I suppose. No; you won't see any one
like that at the Terrace. I can't think who it could be unless it is
Nelse, an old free man of Loring's; and Nelse used to have better
manners than that, but he is very old--nearly ninety, they say. I
don't imagine he knows his own age exactly--few of the older ones
do."

Pluto caught the old man by the shoulder and fairly lifted him out of
the road as the carriage started.

"What the matter with yo', anyway, a pitchen' yo'self 'gainst the
wheel that-a-way?" he demanded. "Yo' ain't boun' and sot to get run
over, are yo'?"

Some of the other men laughed, but Nelse gripped Pluto's hand as
though in need of the support.

"Fo' God!--thought I seen a ghost, that minute," he gasped, as the
other men started after the dogs again; "the ghost of a woman what
ain't dead yet--the ghost o' Retta."

"Yo' plum crazy, ole man," said Pluto, disdainfully. "How the ghost o'
that Marg'ret get in my mistress carriage, I like to know?--'special
as the woman's as live as any of us. Yo' gone 'stracted with all the
talken' 'bout that Marg'ret's story. Now, _I_ ain't seen a mite of
likeness to her in that carriage at all, I ain't."

"That 'cause yo' ain't nevah see Retta as she used to be. I tell yo'
if her chile Rhoda alive at all I go bail she the very likeness o'
that woman. My king! but she done scairt me."

"Don't yo' go talk such notions to any other person," suggested Pluto.
"Yo' get yo'self in trouble when yo' go tellen' how Mrs. McVeigh's
company look like a nigger, yo' mind! Why, that lady the highest kind
o' quality--most a queen where she comes from. How yo' reckon Mrs.
McVeigh like to hear such talk?"

"Might'nt a' been the highest quality one I meant," protested Nelse,
strong in the impression he had received; "it wa' the othah one,
then--the one in a black dress."

All three occupants of the carriage had worn dark clothes, in the
night all had looked black. Nelse had only observed one closely; but
Pluto saw a chance of frightening the old man out of a subject of
gossip so derogatory to the dignity of the Terrace folks, and he did
not hesitate to use it.

"What other one yo' talken' 'bout?" he demanded, stopping short, "my
Mistress McVeigh?"

"Naw!--think me a bawn fool--you? I mean the _otha_ one--the number
three lady."

"This here moonlight sure 'nough make you see double, ole man," said
Pluto, with a chuckle. "Yo' better paddle yo'self back to your own
cabin again 'stead o' hunten' ghost women 'round Lorin'wood, 'cause
there wan't only two ladies in that carriage--two _live_ ladies," he
added, meaningly, "an' one o' them was my mistress."

"Fo' Gawd's sake!"

The old man appeared absolutely paralyzed by the statement. His eyes
fairly bulged from their sockets. He opened his lips again, but no
sound came; a grin of horror was the only describable expression on
his face. All the superstition in his blood responded to Pluto's
suggestion, and when he finally spoke it was in a ghostly whisper.

"I--I done been a looken' for it," he gasped, "take me home--yo'! It's
a sure 'nough sign! Last night ole whippo'will flopped ovah my head.
Three nights runnen' a hoot owl hooted 'fore my cabin. An' now the
ghost of a woman what ain't dead yet, sot there an' stare at me! I
ain't entered fo' no mo' races in this heah worl', boy; I done covah
the track fo' las' time; I gwine pass undah the line at the jedge
stan', I tell yo'. I got my las' warnen'--I gwine home!"



CHAPTER XVII.


Pluto half carried the old man back to Loringwood, while the other
darkies continued their 'possum hunt. Nelse said very little after his
avowal of the "sign" and its relation to his lease of life. He had a
nervous chill by the time they reached the house and Pluto almost
repented of his fiction. Finally he compromised with his conscience by
promising himself to own the truth if the frightened old fellow became
worse.

But nothing more alarming resulted than his decision to return at once
to his own cabin, and the further statement that he desired some one
be despatched at once for "that gal Cynthy," which was done according
to his orders.

The women folk--old Chloe at their head--decided Uncle Nelse must be
in some dangerous condition when he sent the command for Cynthia, whom
he had divorced fifty years before. The rumors reached Dr. Delaven,
who made a visit to Nelse in the cabin where he was installed
temporarily, waiting for the boatmen who were delegated to row him
home, he himself declining to assist in navigation or any other thing
requiring physical exertion.

He was convinced his days were numbered, his earthly labors over, and
he showed abject terror when Margeret entered with a glass of bitters
Mrs. Nesbitt had prepared with the idea that the old man had caught a
chill in his endeavor to follow the dogs on the oppossum hunt.

"I told you all how it would be when I heard of him going," she
asserted, with all a prophet's satisfaction in a prophecy verified.
"Pluto had to just about tote him home--following the dogs at his age,
the idea!"

But for all her disgust at his frivolity she sent the bitters, and
Delaven could not comprehend his shrinking from the cup-bearer.

"Come--come, now! You're not at all sick, my man; what in the wide
world are you shamming for? Is it for the dram? Sure, you could have
that without all this commotion."

"I done had a vision, Mahs Doctor," he said, with impressive
solemnity. "My time gwine come, I tell you." He said no more until
Margeret left the room, when he pointed after her with nervous
intensity. "It's that there woman I seen--the ghost o' that woman what
ain't dead--the ghost o' her when she was young an' han'some--that's
what I seen in the McVeigh carriage this night, plain as I see yo'
face this minute. But no such _live_ woman wa' in that carriage, sah.
Pluto, he couldn't see but two, an' _I_ saw three plain as I could see
one. Sure as yo' bawn it's a death sign, Mahs Doctor; my time done
come."

"Tut, tut!--such palaver. That would be the queerest way, entirely, to
read the sign. Now, I should say it was Margeret the warning was for;
why should the likeness of her come to hint of your death?"

Nelse did not reply at once. He was deep in thought--a nervous,
fidgety season of thought--from which he finally emerged with a theory
evidently not of comfort to himself.

"I done been talken' too much," he whispered. "I talk on an' on
today; I clar fo'got yo' a plum stranger to we all. I tell all
sorts o' family things what maybe Mahs Duke not want tole. I
talked 'bout that gal Retta most, so he done sent a ghost what
look like Retta fo' a sign. Till day I die I gwine keep my mouth
shut 'bout Mahs Duke's folks, I tell yo', an' I gwine straight home
out o' way o' temptations."

So oppressed was he with the idea of Mahs Duke's displeasure that he
determined to do penance if need be, and commenced by refusing a coin
Delaven offered him.

"No, sah; I don' dar take it," he said, solemnly, "an' I glad to give
yo' back that othar dollar to please Mahs Duke, only I done turned it
into a houn' dog what Ben sold me, and Chloe--she Ben's mammy--she got
it from him, a'ready, an' paid it out fo' a pair candlesticks she been
grudgen' ole M'ria a long time back, so I don' see how I evah gwine
get it. But I ain't taken' no mo' chances, an' I ain't a risken' no
mo' ghost signs. Jest as much obliged to yo' all," and he sighed
regretfully, as Delaven repocketed the coin; "but I know when I got
enough o' ghosts."

Pluto had grace enough to be a trifle uneasy at the intense
despondency caused by his fiction in what he considered a good cause.
The garrulity of old Nelse was verging on childishness. Pluto was
convinced that despite the old man's wonderful memory of details in
the past, he was entirely irresponsible as to his accounts of the
present, and he did not intend that the McVeigh family or any of their
visitors should be the subject of his unreliable gossip. Pride of
family was by no means restricted to the whites. Revolutionary as
Pluto's sentiments were regarding slavery, his self esteem was
enhanced by the fact that since he was a bondman it was, at any rate,
to a first-class family--regular quality folks, whose honor he would
defend under any circumstances, whether bond or free.

His clumsily veiled queries about the probable result of Uncle Nelse's
attack aroused the suspicions of Delaven that the party of hunters had
found themselves hampered by the presence of their aged visitor, who
was desirous of testing the ability of his new purchase, the hound
dog, and that they had resorted to some ghost trick to get rid of
him.

He could not surmise how the shade of Margeret had been made do duty
for the occasion, her subdued, serious manner giving the denial to any
practical joke escapades.

But the news Pluto brought of Mrs. McVeigh's homecoming dwarfed all
such episodes as a scared nigger who refused to go into details as to
the scare, and in his own words was "boun' an' sot" to keep his mouth
shut in future about anything in the past which he ever had known and
seen, or anything in his brief earthly future which he might know or
see. He even begged Delaven to forget immediately the numerous bits of
history he, Nelse, had repeated of the Loring family, and Delaven
comforted him by declaring that all he could remember that minute was
the horse race and he would put that out of his mind at once if
necessary.

Nelse was not sure it was necessary to forget _that_, because it
didn't in any way reflect discredit on the family, and he didn't in
reason see why his Mahs Duke should object to that story unless it was
on account of the high-flier lady from Philadelphia what Mahs Duke won
away from Mr. Jackson without any sort of trouble at all, and if Mahs
Duke was hovering around in the library when Miss Evilena and Mahs
Doctor listened to that story, Mahs Duke ought to know in his heart,
if he had any sort of memory at all, that he, Nelse, had not told half
what he might have told about that Northern filly and Mahs Duke. And
taking it all in all Nelse didn't see any reason why Delaven need put
that out of his remembrance--especially as it was mighty good running
for two-year-olds.

Evilena had peeped in for a moment to say good-bye to their dusky
Homer. But the call was very brief. All her thoughts were filled with
the folks at the Terrace, and dawn in the morning had been decided on
for the ten-mile row home, so anxious was she to greet her mother, and
so lively was her interest in the wonderful foreigner whom Dr. Delaven
had described as "Beauty's self."

That lady had in the meantime arrived at the Terrace, partaken of a
substantial supper, and retired to her own apartments, leaving
behind her an impression on the colored folks of the household that
the foreign guest was no one less than some latter day queen of
Sheba. Never before had their eyes beheld a mistress who owned white
servants, and the maid servant herself, so fine she wore silk
stockings and a delaine dress, had her meals in her own room and was
so grand she wouldn't even talk like folks, but only spoke in
French, except when she wanted something special, at which time she
would condescend to talk "United States" to the extent of a word or
two. All this superiority in the maid--whom they were instructed to
call "Miss"--reflected added glory on the mistress, who, at the supper
table, had been heard say she preferred laying aside a title while
in America, and to be known simply as Madame Caron; and laughingly
confessed to Mrs. McVeigh that the American Republic was in a fair
way to win her from the French Empire, all of which was told at once
in the kitchen, where they were more convinced than ever that
royalty had descended upon them. This fact did not tend to increase
their usefulness in any capacity; they were so overcome by the
grandeur and the importance of each duty assigned to them that the
wheels of domestic machinery at the Terrace that evening were fairly
clogged by the eagerness and the trepidation of the workers. They
figuratively--and sometimes literally--fell over each other to
anticipate any call which might assure them entrance to the
wonderful presence, and were almost frightened dumb when they got
there.

Mrs. McVeigh apologized for them and amused her guest with the
reason:

"They have actually never seen a white servant in their lives, and are
eaten up with curiosity over the very superior maid of yours, her
intelligence places her so high above their ideas of servitors."

"Yes, she is intelligent," agreed the Marquise, "and much more than
her intelligence, I value her adaptability. As my housekeeper she was
simply perfect, but when my maid grew ill and I was about to travel,
behold! the dignity of the housekeeper was laid aside, and with a
bewitching maid's cap and apron, and smile, she applied for the vacant
position and got it, of course."

"It was stupid of me not to offer you a maid," said Mrs. McVeigh,
regretfully; "I did not understand. But I could not, of course, have
given you any one so perfect as your Louise; she is a treasure."

"I shall probably have to get along with some one less perfect in the
future," said the other, ruefully. "She was to have had my yacht
refurnished and some repairs made while I was here, and now that I am
safely located, may send her back to attend to it. She is worth any
two men I could employ for such supervision, in fact, I trust many
such things to her."

"Pray let her remain long enough to gain a pleasant impression of
plantation life," suggested Mrs. McVeigh, as they rose from the table.
"I fancied she was depressed by the monotony of the swamp lands, or
else made nervous by the group of black men around the carriage there
at Loringwood; they did look formidable, perhaps, to a stranger at
night, but are really the most kindly creatures."

Judithe de Caron had walked to the windows opening on the veranda and
was looking out across the lawn, light almost as day under the high
moon, a really lovely view, though both houses and grounds were on a
more modest scale than those of Loringwood. They lacked the grandeur
suggested by the century-old cedars she had observed along the Loring
drive. The Terrace was much more modern and, possibly, so much more
comfortable. It had in a superlative degree the delightful atmosphere
of home, and although the stranger had been within its gates so short
a time, she was conscious of the wonder if in all her varied
experience she had ever been in so real a home before.

"How still it all is," remarked Mrs. McVeigh, joining her. "Tomorrow,
when my little girl gets back, it will be less so; come out on the
veranda and I can show you a glimpse of the river; you see, our place
is built on a natural terrace sloping to the Salkahatchie. It gives us
a very good view."

"Charming! I can see that even in the night time."

"Three miles down the river is the Clarkson place; they are most
pleasant friends, and Miss Loring's place, The Pines, joins the
Terrace grounds, so we are not so isolated as might appear at first;
and fortunately for us our plantation is a favorite gathering place
for all of them."

"I can quite believe that. I have been here two--three hours, perhaps,
and I know already why your friends would be only too happy to come.
You make them a home from the moment they enter your door."

"You could not say anything more pleasing to my vanity, Marquise,"
said her hostess, laughingly, and then checked herself at sight of an
upraised finger. "Oh, I forgot--I do persist in the Marquise."

"Come, let us compromise," suggested her guest, "if Madame Caron
sounds too new and strange in your ears, I have another name, Judithe;
it may be more easily remembered."

"In Europe and England," she continued, "where there are so many royal
paupers, titles do not always mean what they are supposed to. I have
seen a Russian prince who was a hostler, an English lord who was an
attendant in a gambling house, and an Italian count porter on a
railway. Over here, where titles are rare, they make one conspicuous;
I perceived that in New Orleans. I have no desire to be especially
conspicuous. I only want to enjoy myself."

"You can't help people noticing you a great deal, with or without a
title," and Mrs. McVeigh smiled at her understandingly. "You cannot
hope to escape being distinguished, but you shall be whatever you like
at the Terrace."

They walked arm in arm the length of the veranda, chatting lightly of
Parisian days and people until ten o'clock sounded from the tall clock
in the library. Mrs. McVeigh counted the strokes and exclaimed at the
lateness.

"I certainly am a poor enough hostess to weary you the first evening
with chatter instead of sending you to rest, after such a drive," she
said, in self accusation. "But you are such a temptation--Judithe."

They both laughed at her slight hesitation over the first attempt at
the name.

"Never mind; you will get used to it in time," promised the Marquise,
"I am glad you call me 'Judithe.'"

Then they said good night; she acknowledged she did feel sleepy--a
little--though she had forgotten it until the clock struck.

Mrs. McVeigh left her at the door and went on down the hall to her own
apartment--a little regretful lest Judithe should be over wearied by
the journey and the evening's gossip.

But she really looked a very alert, wide-awake young lady as she
divested herself of the dark green travelling dress and slipped into
the luxurious lounging robe Mademoiselle Louise held ready.

Her brows were bent in a frown of perplexity very different from the
gay smile with which she had parted from her hostess. She glanced at
her attendant and read there anxiety, even distress.

"Courage, Louise," she said, cheerily; "all is not lost that's in
danger. Horrors! What a long face! Look at yourself in the mirror. I
have not seen such a mournful countenance since the taking of New
Orleans."

"And it was not your mirror showed a mournful countenance that day,
Marquise," returned the other. "I am glad some one can laugh; but for
me, I feel more like crying, and that's the truth. Heavens! How long
that time seemed until you came."

"I know," and the glance of her mistress was very kind. "I could feel
that you were walking the floor and waiting, but it was not possible
to get away sooner. Get the other brush, child; there are wrinkles in
my head as well as my hair this evening; you must help me to smooth
them."

But the maid was not to be comforted by even that suggestion, though
she brushed the wavy, dusky mane with loving hands--one could not but
read tenderness in every touch she gave the shining tresses. But her
sighs were frequent for all that.

"Me of help?" she said, hopelessly. "I tell you true, Marquise, I am
no use to anybody, I'm that nervous. I was afraid of this journey all
the time. I told you so before you left Mobile; you only laughed at my
superstitious fears, and now, even before we reach the place, you see
what happened."

"I see," asserted the Marquise, smiling at her, teasingly, "but then
the reasons you gave were ridiculous, Louise; you had dreams, and a
coffin in a teacup. Come, come; it is not so bad as you fear, despite
the prophetic tea grounds; there is always a way out if you look for
paths; so we will look."

"It is all well for you, Marquise, to scoff at the omens; you are too
learned to believe in them; but it is in our blood, perhaps, and it's
no use us fighting against presentiments, for they're stronger than we
are. I had no heart to get ready for the journey--not a bit. We are
cut off from the world, and even suppose you could accomplish anything
here, it will be more difficult than in the cities, and the danger so
much greater."

"Then the excitement will provide an attraction, child, and the late
weeks have really been very dull."

The hair dressing ceased because the maid could not manipulate the
brush and express sufficient surprise at the same time.

"Heavens, Madame! What then would you call lively if this has been
dull? I'm patriotic enough--or revengeful enough, perhaps--for any
human sort of work; but you fairly frighten me sometimes the way you
dash into things, and laughing at it all the time as if it was only a
joke to you, just as you are doing this minute. You are harder than
iron in some things and yet you look so delicately lovely--so like a
beautiful flower--that every one loves you, and--"

"Every one? Oh, Louise, child, do you fancy, then, that you are the
whole world?"

The maid lifted the hand of the mistress and touched it to her cheek.

"I don't only love you, I worship you," she murmured. "You took me
when I was nothing, you trusted me, you taught me, you made a new
woman of me. I wouldn't ever mind slavery if I was your slave."

"There, there, Louise;" and she laid her hand gently on the head of
the girl who had sunk on the floor beside her. "We are all slaves,
more or less, to something in this world. Our hearts arrange that
without appeal to the law-makers."

"All but yours," said the maid, looking up at her fondly and half
questioningly, "I don't believe your heart is allowed to arrange
anything for you. Your head does it all; that is why I say you are
hard as iron in some things. I don't honestly believe your heart is
even in this cause you take such risks for. You think it over, decide
it is wrong, and deliberately outstrip every one else in your endeavor
to right it. That is all because you are very learned and very
superior to the emotions of most people;" and she touched the hand of
the Marquise caressingly. "That is how I have thought it all out; for
I see that the motives others are moved by never touch you; the
others--even the high officials--do not understand you, or only one
did."

Her listener had drifted from attention to the soft caressing tones of
the one time Parisian figurante, whose devotion was so apparent and
whose nature required a certain amount of demonstration. The Marquise
had, from the first, comprehended her wonderfully well, and knew that
back of those feminine, almost childish cravings for expression, there
lived an affectionate nature too long debarred from worthy objects,
and now absolutely adoring the one she deemed her benefactress; all
the more adoring because of the courage and daring, that to her had a
fascinating touch of masculinity about it; no woman less masterful,
nor less beautiful, could have held the pretty Kora so completely. The
dramatic side of her nature was appealed to by the luxurious
surroundings of the Marquise, and the delightful uncertainty, as each
day's curtain of dawn was lifted, whether she was to see comedy or
tragedy enacted before the night fell. She had been audience to both,
many times, since the Marquise had been her mistress.

Just now the mistress was in some perplexed quandary of her own, and
gave little heed to the flattering opinions of the maid, and only
aroused to the last remark at which she turned with questioning eyes,
not entirely approving:

"Whom do you mean?" she asked, with a trifle of constraint, and the
maid sighed as she selected a ribbon to bind the braid she had
finished.

"No one you would remember, Marquise," she said, shaking her head;
"the trouble is you remember none of them, though you make it
impossible that they should forget you. Many of those fine gallants of
Orleans I was jealous of and glad to see go; but this one, truly now,
he seemed to me well worth keeping."

"Had he a name?" asked the Marquise, removing some rings, and yawning
slightly.

"He had," said the girl, who was unfolding a night robe and shaking
the wrinkles from the very Parisian confection of lawn and lace and
tiny pink ribbons accenting neck and wrist. When she walked one
perceived a slight halt in her step--a reminder of the injury through
which her career in Paris had been brought to an end. "He had, my
Marquise. I mean the Federal officer, Monroe--Captain Jack, the men
called him. Of all the Orleans gentlemen he was the only one I thought
fit for a mate for you--the only one I was sorry to see you send
away."

"Send? What an imaginative romancer you are! He went where his duty
called him, no doubt. I do not remember that I was responsible. And
your choice of him shows you are at least not worldly in your
selections, for he was a reckless sort of ranger, I believe, with his
sword and his assurance as chief belongings."

"You forget, Marquise, his courage."

"Oh, that!" and Judithe made a little gesture of dismissal; "it is
nothing in a man, all men should have courage. But, to change the
subject, which of the two men have most interest for us tonight,
Captain Jack or Dr. Delaven? The latter, I fancy. While you have been
chattering I have been making plans."

The maid ceased her movements about the room in the preparations for
the night, and, drawing a low stool closer, listened with all
attention.

"Since you are afraid here and too much oppressed by your presentiments
to be useful"--she accompanied this derogatory statement with an amused
smile--"I conclude it best for you to return to the sea-board at
once--before Dr. Delaven and the rest pay their duty visit here.

"I had hoped the change in your appearance would place you beyond
danger of recognition, and so it would with any one who had not known
you personally. Madame McVeigh has been vaguely impressed with your
resemblance to Monsieur Dumaresque's picture. But the impression of
Dr. Delaven would probably be less vague--his remembrance of you not
having been entirely the memory of a canvas."

"That is quite true," agreed the other, with a regretful sigh. "I have
spoken with him many times. He came with--with his friend Trouvelot to
see me when I was injured. It was he who told me the physicians were
propping me up with falsehoods, and taking my money for curing a
lameness they knew was incurable. Yes, he was my good friend in that.
He would surely remember me," and she looked troubled.

"So I supposed; and with rumors abroad of an unknown in the heart of
the South, who is a secret agent for the Federals, it is as well not
to meet any one who could suggest that the name you use is an assumed
one, it might interfere with your usefulness even more than your
dismal presentiments," and she arched her brows quizzically at the
maid, who sighed forlornly over the complications suggested. "So, you
must leave at once."

"Leave, alone--without you?" and the girl's agitation was very
apparent. "Madame, I beg you to find some reason for going with me, or
for following at once. I could send a dispatch from Savannah, you
could make some excuse! You, oh, Marquise! if I leave you here alone I
would be in despair; I would fear I should never, never see you
again!"

"Nonsense, child! There is absolutely no ground for your fears. If you
should meet trouble in any way you have only to send me word and I
will be with you. But your imaginary terrors you must yourself subdue.
Come, now, be reasonable. You must go back--it is decided. Take note
of all landmarks as we did in coming; if messengers are needed it is
much better that you inform yourself of all approaches here. Wait for
the yacht at Savannah. Buy anything needed for its refurnishing, and
see that a certain amount of repairing is done there while you wait
further orders. I shall probably have it brought to Beaufort, later,
which would be most convenient if I should desire to give my good
friends here a little salt water excursion. So, you perceive, it is
all very natural, and it is all decided."

"Heavens, Marquise, how fast you move! I had only got so far I was
afraid to remain, and afraid to excite wonder by leaving; and while I
lament, you arrange a campaign."

"Exactly; so you see how easily it is all to be done, and how little
use your fears."

"I am so much more contented that I will see everything as you
wish," promised the girl, brightly. "Savannah, after all, is not
very far, and Beaufort is nearer still. But after all, you must own,
my presentiments were not all wrong, Marquise. It really was
unlucky--this journey."

"We have heretofore had only good fortune; why should we complain
because of a few obstacles now?" asked her mistress. "To become a
diplomat one needs to be first a philosopher, and prepared at all
times for the worst."

"I could be more of a philosopher myself over these complications,"
agreed the girl, smiling, "if I were a foreigner of rank seeking
amusement and adventure. But the troubles of all this country have
come so close home to the people of my race that we fear even to think
what the worst might be."

The Marquise held up an admonishing finger and glanced towards the
door.

"Of course no one hears, but it is best never to allow yourself the
habit of referring to family or personal affairs. Even though we speak
a language not generally understood in this country, do not--even to
me--speak of your race. I know all, understand it all, without words;
and, for the people we have met, they do not doubt you are a San
Domingo Creole. You must be careful lest they think differently."

"You are right; what a fool I am! My tongue ever runs ahead of my wit.
Marquise, sometimes I laugh when I remember how capable I thought
myself on leaving Paris, what great things I was to do--I!" and she
shrugged her plump shoulders in self derision. "Why, I should have
been discovered a dozen times had I depended on my own wit. I am a
good enough orderly, but only under a capable general," and she made a
smiling courtesy to the Marquise.

"Chatterbox! If I am the general of your distinguished selection, I
shall issue an order at once for your immediate retirement."

"Oh, Marquise!"

"To bed," concluded her mistress, gayly, "go; I shall not need you. I
have work to do."

The girl first unlaced the dark boots and substituted a pair of soft
pink slippers, and touched her cheek to the slender foot.

"I shall envy the maid who does even that for you when I am gone," she
said, softly. "Now, good rest to you, my general, and pleasant
dreams."

"Thanks; but my dreams are never formidable nor important," was the
teasing reply as the maid vanished. The careless smile gave way to a
quick sigh of relief as the door closed. She arose and walked back and
forth across the room with nervous, rapid steps, her hands clasped
back of her head and the wide sleeves of the robe slipped back,
showing the perfect arms. She seemed a trifle taller than when in
Paris that first springtime, and the open robe revealed a figure
statuesque, perfect as a sculptor's ideal, yet without the statue's
coldness; for the uncovered throat and bosom held delicious dimples
where the robe fell apart and was swept aside by her restless
movements.

But her own appearance was evidently far from her thoughts at that
moment. Several of Mrs. McVeigh's very affectionate words and glances
had recurred to her and brought her a momentary restlessness. It was
utterly absurd that it should be so, especially when she had
encouraged the fondness, and meant to continue doing so. But she had
not counted on being susceptible to the same feeling for Kenneth
McVeigh's mother--yet she had come very near it, and felt it necessary
to lay down the limits as to just how far she would allow such a
fondness to lead her.

And the fact that she was in the home of her one-time lover gave rise
to other complex fancies. How would they meet if chance should send
him there during her stay? He had had time for many more such boyish
fancies since those days, and back of them all was the home sweetheart
she heard spoken of so often--Gertrude Loring.

How very, very long ago it seemed since the meetings at Fontainbleau;
what an impulsive fool she had been, and how childish it all seemed
now!

But Judithe de Caron told herself she was not the sort of person to
allow memories of bygone sentiment to interfere for long with
practical affairs. She drew up a chair to the little stand by the
window and plunged into the work she had spoken of, and for an hour
her pen moved rapidly over the paper until page after page was laid
aside.

But after the last bit of memoranda was completed she leaned back,
looking out into the blue mists of the night--across his lands
luxuriant in all the beauty of summer time and moonlight, the fields
over which he had ridden, the trees under which he had walked, with,
perhaps, an occasional angry thought of her--never dreaming that she,
also, would walk there some day.

"But to think that I _am_ actually here--here above all!" she murmured
softly. "Maman, once I said I would be Judithe indeed to that man if
he was ever delivered into my hands. Yet, when he came I ran away from
him--ran away because I was afraid of him! But now--"

Her beautiful eyes half closed in a smile not mirthful, and the
sentence was left unfinished.



CHAPTER XVIII.


What embraces, ejaculations and caresses, when Evilena, accompanied by
Pluto and the delighted Raquel, arrived at the Terrace next morning!
Judithe, who saw from the veranda the rapturous meeting of mother and
daughter, sighed, a quick, impatient catching of the breath, and
turned to enter the library through the open French windows.
Reconsidering her intention, she halted, and waited at the head of the
broad steps where Kenneth's sister saw her for the first time and came
to her with a pleased, half shy greeting, and where Kenneth's mother
slipped one arm around each as they entered the house, and between the
two she felt welcomed into the very heart of the McVeigh family
feminine.

"Oh, and mama!"--thus exclaimed Evilena as she was comfortably
ensconced in the same chair with that lady--"there is so much news to
tell you I don't know where to begin. But Gertrude sends love--please
don't go, Madame Caron--I am only going to talk about the neighbors.
And they are all coming over very soon, and the best of all is,
Gertrude has at last coaxed Uncle Matthew (a roguish grimace at the
title) to give up Loringwood entirely and come to the Pines. And Dr.
Delaven--he's delightful, mama, when he isn't teasing folks--he
strongly advises them to make the change soon; and, oh, won't you ask
them all over for a few weeks until the Pines is ready? And did you
hear about two of their field hands running off? Well, they did. Scip
and Aleck; isn't it too bad? and Mr. Loring doesn't know it yet, no
one dares tell him; and Masterson's Cynthia had a boy run off, too,
and went to the Yankees, they suppose. And old Nelse he got scared
sick at a ghost last night while they were 'possum hunting. And, oh,
mama, have you heard from Ken?--not a word has come here, and he never
even saw Gertrude over there. He must be powerful busy if he could not
stop long enough to hunt friends up and say 'howdy.'"

"Lena, Lena, child!" and the mother sank back in her chair, laughing.
"Have they enforced some silent system of existence on you since I
have been down at Mobile? I declare, you fairly make my head swim with
your torrent of news and questions. Judithe, does not this young lady
fulfill the foreign idea of the American girl--a combination of the
exclamation and interrogation point?"

Evilena stopped further criticism by kisses.

"I will be good as goodness rather than have Madame Caron make up her
mind I am silly the very first day," she promised, "but, oh, mama, it
_is_ so good to have you to talk to, and so delightful of Madame to
come with you"--this with a swift, admiring side glance at their
visitor--"and, altogether, I'm just in love with the world today."

Later she informed them that Judge Clarkson would probably drive over
that evening, as he was going to Columbia or Savannah--she had
forgotten which--and had to go home first. He would have come with her
but for a business talk he wanted to have, if Mr. Loring was able,
this morning.

"Gertrude coaxed him to stop over and settle something about selling
Loringwood. She's just grieving over the wreck and ruin there, and Mr.
Loring never will be able to manage it again. They've been offered a
lot of money for it by some Orleans people, and Gertrude wants it
settled. Aunt Sajane is going to stay until they all come to the
Pines."

"If Judge Clarkson should be going to Savannah you could send your
maid in his charge, since she is determined to leave us," suggested
Mrs. McVeigh.

"She would, no doubt, be delighted to go under such escort," said
Judithe, "but her arrangements are made to start early in the morning;
it is not likely your friend would be leaving so soon. Then,
mademoiselle has said she is not sure but that it is to some other
place he goes."

"Columbia?--yes; and more than likely it _is_ Columbia," assented Mrs.
McVeigh. "He is there a great deal during these troublous times."

A slight sigh accompanied the words, and Judithe noticed, as she had
done often before, the lack of complaint or bewailings of the
disasters so appalling to the South, for even the victories were so
dearly bought. There was an intense eagerness for news from the front,
and when it was read, the tears were silent ones. The women smiled
bravely and were sure of victory in the end. Their faith in their men
was adorable.

Evilena undertook to show the Marquise around the Terrace, eagerly
anxious to become better acquainted with the stranger whose beauty had
won her quite as quickly as it had won her brother. Looking at her,
and listening to the soft tones with the delicious accent of France,
she wondered if Ken had ever really dared to fall in love with this
star from a foreign sky, or if Dr. Delaven had only been teasing her.
Of course one could not help the loving; but brave as she believed Ken
to be, she wondered if he had ever dared even whisper of it to
Judithe, Marquise de Caron; for she refused to think of her as simply
Madame Caron even though she did have to say it. The courtesy shown to
her own democratic country by the disclaiming of titles was
altogether thrown away on Evilena, and she comforted herself by
whispering softly the given name _Zhu-dette--Zhudette_, delighted to
find that the French could make of the stately name a musical one as
well.

Raquel came breathlessly to them on the lawn with the information that
"Mistress McVeigh ast them to please come in de house right off case
that maid lady, Miss Weesa, she done slip on stairs an' hurt her foot
powerful."

"Thanks, yes; I will come at once," said Miss Weesa's mistress in so
clear and even a tone that Evilena, who was startled at the news, was
oppressed by a sudden fear that all the warmth in the nature of her
fascinating Marquise was centered in the luminous golden brown eyes.

As Judithe followed the servant into the house there came a swift
remembrance of those lamentable presentiments. Was there, after all,
something in the blood akin to the prescience through which birds and
wild things scent the coming storms?--some atavism outgrown by the
people of intellectual advancement, but yet a power to the children of
the near sun?

Miss Louisa's foot certainly was hurt; it had been twisted by a fall
on the stairs, and the ankle refused to bear the weight; the attempt
to step on it caused her such agony that she had called for help, and
the entire household had responded.

It was Pluto who reached her first, lifting her in his arms and
carrying her to a bed. She had almost fainted from pain or fright, and
when she opened her eyes again it was to meet those of her mistress in
one wild appeal. Pluto had not moved after placing her on the bed,
though the other darkies had retired into the hall, and Judithe's
first impression of the scene was the huge black eyes fairly
devouring the girl's face with his curious gaze. He stepped back as
Mrs. McVeigh entered with camphor and bandages, but he saw that
pleading, frightened glance.

"Never mind, Louise, it will all be well," said her mistress,
soothingly; "this has happened before," she added, turning to Mrs.
McVeigh. "It needs stout bandages and perfect rest; in a week it will
be forgotten."

"A week!"--moaned the girl with pale lips, "but tomorrow--I _must_ go
tomorrow!"

"Patience, patience! You shall so soon as you are able, Louise, and
the less you fret the sooner that may be."

Judithe herself knelt by the bed and removed tenderly the coquettish
shoe of soft kid, and, to the horror of the assembled maids at the
door, deliberately cut off the silk stocking, over which their wonder
had been aroused when the short skirts of Louise had made visible
those superfine articles. The pieces of stocking, needless to say,
were captured as souvenirs and for many a day shown to the scoffers of
neighboring plantations, who doubted the wild tales of luxury ascribed
to the foreign magnate whose servants were even dressed like sure
enough ladies.

"We must bandage it to keep down the swelling," said Judithe, working
deftly as she spoke; "it happened once in New Orleans--this, and
though painful, is not really serious, but she is so eager to commence
the refurnishing of the yacht that she laments even a day's delay."

Louise did not speak again--only showed by a look her comprehension of
the statement, and bore patiently the binding of the ankle.

It was three days before she could move about the room with help of a
cane, and during those days of feverish anxiety her mistress had an
opportunity to observe the very pointed and musical interest Pluto
showed in the invalid whose language he could not speak. He was
seldom out of hearing or her call and was plainly disturbed when word
came from Loringwood that the folks would all be over in a few days.
He even ventured to ask Evilena if Mr. Loring's eyesight hadn't failed
some since his long sickness, and was well satisfied, apparently, by
an affirmative reply. He even went so far as to give Louise a slight
warning, which she repeated to her mistress one day after the Judge
and Delaven had called, and Louise had promptly gone to bed and to
sleep, professing herself too well now for a doctor's attention.

"Pluto is either trying to lay a trap for me to see if I do know
English, or else he is better informed than we guess--which it is, I
cannot say, Marquise," she confided, nervously. "When he heard his
mistress say I was to start Thursday, he watched his chance and
whispered: 'Go Wednesday--don't wait till visitors come, go
Wednesday.'"

"Visitors?--then he means the Lorings, they are to be here Thursday,"
and Judithe closed the book she had been reading, and looked
thoughtfully out of the window. Louise was moving about the room with
the aid of a cane, glancing at her mistress now and then and waiting
to hear her opinion.

"I believe I would take his advice, Louise," she said at last. "I have
not noticed the man much beyond the fact that he has been wonderfully
attentive to your wants. What do you think of him--or of his
motives?"

"I believe they are good," said the girl, promptly. "He is dissatisfied; I
can see that--one of the insurrection sort who are always restless. He's
entirely bound up in the issue of the war, as regards his own people. He
suspects me and because he suspects me tries to warn me--to be my
friend. When I am gone you may need some one here, and of all I see he
is the one to be most trusted, though, perhaps, Dr. Delaven--"

"Is out of the question," and Judithe's decision was emphatic. "These
people are his friends."

"They are yours, too, Marquise," said the girl, smiling a little; but
no smile answered her, a slight shade of annoyance--a tiny frown--bent
the dark brows.

"Yes, I remember that sometimes, but I possess an antidote," she
replied, lightly. "You know--or perhaps you do not know--that it is
counted a virtue in a Gypsy to deceive a Georgio--well, I am fancying
myself a Gypsy. In the Mohammedan it is a virtue to deceive the
Christian, and I am a Mohammedan for the moment. In the Christian it
was counted for centuries a mark of special grace if he despoil the
Jew, until generations of oppression showed the wanderer the real God
held sacred by his foes--money, my child, which he proceeded to garner
that he might purchase the privileges of other races. So, with my
Jewish name as a foundation, I have created an imaginary Jewish
ancestor whose wrongs I take up against the people of a Christian
land; I add all this debt to the debt Africa owes this enlightened
nation, and I shall help to pay it."

The eyes of Louise widened at this fantastical reason. She was often
puzzled to determine whether the Marquise was entirely serious, or
only amusing herself with wild fancies when she touched on pondrous
questions with gay mockery.

Just now she laughed as she read dismay in the maid's face.

"Oh, it is quite true, Louise, it _is_ a Christian land--and more, it
is the most Christian portion of a Christian land, because the South
is entirely orthodox; only in the North will you find a majority of
skeptics, atheists, and agnostics. Though they may be scarcely
conscious of it themselves, it is because of their independent
heterodox tendencies that they are marching today by thousands to war
against a slavery not their own--the most righteous motive for a war
in the world's history; but it cannot be denied that they are making
war against an eminently Christian institution." And she smiled across
at Louise, whose philosophy did not extend to the intricacies of such
questions.

"I don't understand even half the reasons back of the war," she
confessed, "but the thing I do understand is that the black man is
likely to have a chance for freedom if the North wins, and that's the
one question to me. Miss Evilena said yesterday it was all a turmoil
got up by Yankee politicians who will fill their pockets by it."

"Oh, that was after Judge Clarkson's call; she only quoted him in
that, and he is right in a way," she added; "there is a great deal of
political jugglery there without a vestige of patriotism in it, but
they do not in the least represent the great heart of the people of
the North; _they_ are essentially humanitarians. So you see I weigh
all this, with my head, not my heart," she added, quizzically, "and
having done so--having chosen my part--I can't turn back in the face
of the enemy, even when met by smiles, though I confess they are hard
weapons to face. It is a battle where the end to be gained justifies
the methods used."

"_Ma belle_, Marquise," murmured the girl, in the untranslatable
caress of voice and eyes. "Sometimes I grow afraid, and you scatter
the fear by your own fearlessness. Sometimes I grow weak, and you
strengthen me with reasons, reasons, reasons!"

"That is because the heart is not allowed to hamper the head."

"Oh, you tease me. You speak to me like a guardian angel of my people;
your voice is like a trumpet, it stirs echoes in my heart, and the
next minute you laugh as though it were all a play, and I were a child
to be amused."

"'And each man in his time plays many parts,'" quoted Judithe,
thoughtfully, then with a mocking glance she added: "But not so many
as women do."

"There--that is what I mean. One moment you are all seriousness and
the next--"

"But, my child, it is criminal to be serious all the time; it kills
the real life and leads to melancholia. You would grow morbid through
your fears if I did not laugh at them sometimes, and it would
never--never do for me to approve them."

She touched the girl's hand softly with her own and looked at her with
a certain affectionate chiding.

"You are going away from me, Louise, and you must not go in dread or
despondency. It may not be for long, perhaps, but even if it should
be, you must remember that I love you--I trust you. I pity you for the
childhood and youth whose fate was no choice of yours. Never forget my
trust in you; when we are apart it may comfort you to remember it."

The girl looked at her with wide black eyes, into which the tears
crept.

"Marquise," she whispered, "you talk as if you might be sending me
away for always. Oh, Marquise--"

Judithe raised her hand warningly.

"Be a soldier, child," she said, softly, "each time we separate for
even a day--you and I--we do not know that we will ever meet again.
These are war times, you know."

"I know--but I never dreaded a separation so much; I wish you were not
to remain. Perhaps that Pluto's words made me more nervous--it is so
hard to tell how much he guesses, and those people--the Lorings--"

"I think I shall be able to manage the Lorings," said her mistress,
with a reassuring smile, "even the redoubtable Matthew--the tyrannical
terror of the county; so cheer up, Louise. Even the longest parting
need only be a lifetime, and I should find you at the end of it."

"And find me still your slave," said the girl, looking at her
affectionately. "That's a sort of comfort to think, Marquise; I'm glad
you said it. I'll think of it until me meet again."

She repeated it Wednesday morning when she entered the boat for the
first stage of her journey to Savannah, and the Marquise nodded her
comprehension, murmured kindly words of adieu, and watched the little
vessel until a bend in the river hid it from view, when she walked
slowly back to the house. Since her arrival in America this was the
first time she had been separated from the devoted girl for more than
a day, and she realized the great loss it would be to her, though she
knew it to be an absolutely necessary one.

As for Louise, she watched to the last the slight elevation of the
Terrace grounds rising like an island of green from the level lands by
the river. When it finally disappeared--barred out by the nearer green
of drooping branches, she wept silently, and with a heavy heart went
downward to Pocotaligo, oppressed by the seemingly groundless fear
that some unknown evil threatened herself or the Marquise--the dread
lest they never meet again.



CHAPTER XIX.


             "Hurrah! Hurrah! for Southern rights Hurrah!
             Hurrah! for the bonney blue flag,
               That bears the single star!"

Evilena was singing this stirring ditty at the top of her voice, a
very sweet voice when not overtaxed, but Dilsey, the cook, put both
hands to her ears and vowed cooking school would close at once if that
"yapping" was not stopped; she could not for the life of her see why
Miss Lena would sing that special song so powerful loud.

"Why, Dilsey, it is my shout of defiance," explained the girl,
stirring vigorously at a mass in a wooden bowl which she fondly hoped
would develop into cookies for that evening's tea, when the party from
Loringwood were expected. "It does not reach very far, but I comfort
myself by saying it good and loud, anyway. That Yankee general who has
marched his followers into Orleans fines everybody--even if its a
lady--who sings that song. I can't make him hear me that far off, but
I do my best."

"Good Lawd knows you does," agreed Dilsey. "But when you want to sing
in this heah cookhouse I be 'bleeged if yo' fine some song what ain't
got no battles in it. Praise the Lawd, we fur 'nough away so that
Yankee can't trouble we all."

"Madam Caron saw him once," said the amateur cook, tasting a bit of
the sweetened dough with apparent pleasure, "but she left Orleans
quick, after the Yankees came. Of course it wouldn't be a place for a
lady, then. She shut her house up and went straight to Mobile, and I
just love her for it."

"Seems to me like she jest 'bout witched yo' all," remarked Dilsey;
"every blessed nigger in the house go fallen' ovah theyselves when her
bell rings, fo' feah they won't git thah fust; an' Pluto, he like to
be no use to any one till aftah her maid, Miss Louise, get away, he
jest waited on her, han' an' foot."

Dilsey had heretofore been the very head and front of importance in
the servants' quarters on that plantation, and it was apparent that
she resented the comparative grandeur of the Marquise's maid, and
especially resented it because her fellow servants bowed down and paid
enthusiastic tribute to the new divinity.

"Well, Dilsey, I'm sure she needed waiting on hand and foot while she
was so crippled. I know mama was mighty well pleased he was so
attentive; reckon maybe that's why she let him go riding with Madame
Caron this morning."

"Pluto, he think plenty o' hisself 'thout so much pamperen," grumbled
Dilsey. "Seem like he counted the whole 'pendence o' the family since
Mahs Ken gone."

Evilena prudently refrained from expressing an opinion on the subject,
though she clearly perceived that Dilsey was possessed of a fit of
jealousy; so she proceeded to flatter the old soul into a more sunny
humor lest dinner should go awry in some way, more particularly as
regarded the special dishes to which her own little hands had added
interest.

She was yet in the cookhouse when the guests arrived, and doffing the
huge apron in which she was enveloped, skurried into the house,
carrying with her the fragrance of cinnamon and sweet spices, while a
dust of flower on curls and chin gave her a novel appearance, and the
confession that she had been cooking was not received with the
acclamation she had expected, though there was considerable laughter
about it. No one appeared to take the statement seriously except
Matthew Loring, who took it seriously enough to warn Margeret he would
expect her to supervise all dishes _he_ was to partake of. His meals
were affairs not to be trifled with.

Margeret and Ben had accompanied the party. Others of the more
reliable house servants of Loringwood, were to commence at once work
at the Pines, and Gertrude was almost enthusiastic over the change.

"You folks really _live_ over here," she declared to Mrs. McVeigh,
"while at Loringwood--well, they tell me life used to be very gay
there--but I can't remember the time. It seems to me that since the
day they carried papa in from his last hunting field the place has
been under a cloud. Nothing prospers there, nobody laughs or sings; I
can't be fond of it, and I am so glad to get away from it again."

"Still, it is a magnificent estate," said Mrs. McVeigh, thoughtfully;
"the associations of the past--the history of your family--is so
intimately connected with it, I should think you would be sorry to
part with it."

"I should not!" said Gertrude, promptly, "the money just now would do
me a great deal more good than family records of extravagance which
all the Lorings but Uncle Matthew seem to have been addicted to; and
he is the exact opposite, you know."

Mrs. McVeigh did know. She remembered hearing of him as a one-time
gamester long ago in New Orleans, a man without the conviviality of
his father or his brother Tom; a man who spent money in dissipations
purely selfish, carrying the spirit of a speculator even into his
pursuit of social enjoyment. Then, all at once, he came back to
Loringwood, settled down and became a model in deportment and
plantation management, so close a calculator of dimes as well as
dollars that it was difficult to believe he ever had squandered a
penny, and a great many people refused to credit those ancient Orleans
stories at all. Kenneth's father was one of them.

"I don't believe I am very much of a Loring, anyway," continued
Gertrude with a little sigh. "They were a wild, reckless lot so far
back as I can learn, and I--well, you couldn't call me wild and
reckless, could you?"

Mrs. McVeigh smiled at the query and shook her head. "Not the least
little bit, and we are glad of it." She walked over to the window
looking across the far fields where the road showed a glimpse of
itself as it wound by the river. "I thought I saw some one on
horseback over there, and every horseman coming our way is of special
interest just now. I look for word from Kenneth daily--if not from the
boy himself; he has had time to be home now. His stay has already been
longer than he expected."

Gertrude joined her and gave her attention to the head of the road.

"It may be your visitor from France, Evilena said she had gone riding.
Of course you know we are all eager to meet her. Dr. Delaven sings her
praises to us until it has become tantalizing."

"We should have driven over to see you but for that accident to her
maid--the poor thing, except a few words, could only speak her own
language, and we could not leave her entirely to the servants. Madame
Caron seemed quite impressed with the brief glance she got of
Loringwood, and when she heard it was likely to be sold she asked a
great many interested questions concerning it. She is wealthy enough
to humor her fancies, and her latest one is a Carolina plantation near
enough to water for her yacht, which Mobile folks say is the most
beautiful thing--and the Combahee would always be navigable for so
small a craft, and the Salkahatchie for most of the year."

"She certainly must be able to humor any sort of fancy if she keeps a
yacht of her own; that will be a new departure for a woman in
Carolina. It sounds very magnificent."

"It is; and it suits her. That is one reason why I thought she might
be the very best possible purchaser for Loringwood. She would
resurrect all its former glories, and establish new ones."

Matthew Loring entered the sitting room, moving somewhat haltingly
with the help of a cane. Gertrude arranged a chair near the window, in
which he seated himself slowly.

"Do you feel tired after the ride, Uncle?"

"No," he said, fidgetting with the cushion back of his head, and
failing to adjust it to suit him, either let it fall or threw it on
the floor. Gertrude replaced it without a word, and Mrs. McVeigh
smiled quietly, and pretended not to see.

"I think I can promise you a pleasant visitor, Mr. Loring," she
remarked, turning from the window. "A gentleman just turned in at our
gate, and he does look like Judge Clarkson."

Gertrude left the room to join the others who were talking and
laughing in the arbor, a few steps across the lawn. Mrs. McVeigh
busied herself cutting some yellowing leaves from the plants on the
stand by the window. Loring watched her with a peculiar peering gaze.
His failing sight caused him to pucker his brows in a frown when he
desired to inspect anything intently, and it was that regard he was
now directing toward Mrs. McVeigh, who certainly was worth looking at
by any man.

The dainty lace cap she wore had tiny bows of violet showing among the
lace, and it someway had the effect of making her appear more youthful
instead of adding matronliness. The lawn she wore had violet lines
through it, and the flowing sleeves had undersleeves of sheer white
gathered at the wrist. The wide lace collar circled a throat scarcely
less white, and altogether made a picture worth study, though Matthew
Loring's view of it was rather blurred because of the failure of
vision which he denied whenever opportunity offered; next to paralysis
there was nothing he dreaded so much as blindness, and even to Delaven
he denied--uselessly--any tendency in that direction.

"Hum!" he grunted, at last, with a cynical smile; "if Gid Clarkson
keeps up his habit of visiting you regularly, as he has done for the
past ten years, you ought to know him a mile away by this time."

"Oh!"--Mrs. McVeigh was refastening her brooch before the mirror, "not
ten years, quite."

"Well, long enough to be refused three times to my certain knowledge;
why, he doesn't deny it--proud to let the country know his devotion to
the most charming of her sex," and he gave an ironical little nod for
which she exchanged one of her sweetest smiles.

"Glad you looked at me when you said that," she remarked, lightly;
"and we do depend on Judge Clarkson so much these days I don't know
what I ever would do if his devotion dwindled in the least. But I
fancy his visit this morning is on your account instead of mine."

At that moment the white hat of Clarkson could be seen above the
veranda railing, and Mrs. McVeigh threw open the glass doors as he
appeared at the top of the steps with an immense boquet held with
especial care--the Judge's one hobby in the realm of earth-grown
things was flowers.

He bowed when he caught sight of the mistress of the Terrace, who
bestowed on him a quaint courtesy such as the good nuns of Orleans
taught their pupils thirty years before, she also extended her
hand, which he kissed--an addition to fine manners the nuns had
omitted--probably they knew how superfluous such training would be,
all Southern girls being possessed of that knowledge by right of
birth.

"Good morning, Judge."

"Mistress McVeigh!" Loring uttered an inarticulate exclamation
which was first cousin to a grunt, as the Judge's tone reached his
ear, and the profound bow was robbed of its full value by the
Judge straightening, and glancing sideways.

"My delight, Madame, at being invited over this morning is only to be
expressed in the silent language of the blossoms I bring. You will
honor me by accepting them?"

"With very great pleasure, Judge; here is Mr. Loring."

"Heartily pleased to see you have arrived," and the Judge moved over
and shook hands. "I came within bowing distance of Miss Gertrude as I
entered, so I presume she has induced you to come over to the Pines
for good. Your position, Mr. Loring, is one to be envied in that
respect. Your hours are never lonely for lack of womanly grace and
beauty in your household;" he glanced at Mrs. McVeigh, who was
arranging the flowers in a vase, "I envy you, sir, I envy you."

"Oh, Gertrude is well enough, though we don't unite to spoil each
other with flattering demonstrations," and he smiled cynically at the
other two, and peered quizzically at Mrs. McVeigh, who presented him
with a crimson beauty of a rose, for which he returned a very
gracious, "Thank you," and continued: "Yes, Gertrude's a very good
girl, though it's a pity it wasn't a boy, instead, who came into the
Loring family that day to keep up the old name. And what about that
boy of yours, Mistress McVeigh? When do you expect him home?"

"Very soon, now. His last message said they hoped to reach Charleston
by the twentieth--so you see the time is short. I am naturally
intensely anxious--the dread of that blockade oppresses me."

"No need, no need," and Loring's tone was decided and reassuring. "We
got out through it, and back through it, and never a Yankee in sight;
and those men on a special commission will be given double care, you
may be sure."

"Certainly; the run from Nassau has kept the mail service open almost
without a break," assented Clarkson, "and we have little reason for
anxiety now that the more doubtful part of the undertaking has been
successfully arranged."

"Most successfully; he writes that the English treat our people with
extreme consideration, and heartily approve our seceding."

"Of course they do, and why shouldn't they?" demanded Loring. "I tell
you, they would do much more than give silent sympathy to our cause if
it were not that Russia has chosen to send her warships into Yankee
harbors just now on guard against the interference of any of our
friends, especially against Great Britain's interference, which would
be most certain and most valuable."

"Quite true, quite true," assented the Judge, with a soothing tone,
calculated to allay any combative or excited mood concerning that or
any other subject; "but even their moral support has been a wonderful
help, my dear sir, and the securing of an important addition to our
navy from them just now means a very great deal I assure you; once let
us gain a foothold in the North--get into Washington--and she will be
the first to acknowledge us as a power--a sovereign power, sir!"

"I don't understand the political reasons of things," confessed their
hostess, "but I fear Kenneth has imbibed the skepticism of the age
since these years of military associations; he suggests that England's
motive is really not for our advantage so much as her own. I dislike
to have my illusions dispelled in that respect; yet I wonder if it is
all commercialism on their part."

"Most assuredly," said the Judge. "England's policy has always been
one of selfishness where our country was concerned. We must not forget
she was the bitterest foe of our fathers. She has been sent home from
our shores badly whipped too often to feel much of the brotherly love
she effects just now for her own purposes. We must not expect anything
else. She is of help to us now for purposes of revenue, only, and we
will have to pay heavy interest for all favors. The only thought of
comfort to us in the matter is that our cause is worth paying that
interest for."

Loring acknowledged the truth of the statements, and Mrs. McVeigh
sighed to think of the duplicity of the nation she had fancied
single-hearted. And to a woman of her trustful nature it was a shock
to learn that the British policy contained really none of the sweetly
domestic and fraternal spirit so persistently advertised.

To change the conversation the Judge produced a letter just
received--a proposal for Loringwood at Mr. Loring's own price.

"Already?" asked Mrs. McVeigh; and Loring, who realized that his own
price was a remarkably high one, showed surprise at the ready
acceptance of it.

"The offer is made by a law firm in New Orleans, Hart & Logan,"
continued Clarkson. "But the real purchaser is evidently some client
of theirs."

"Well, I certainly hope the client will prove a pleasant personage if
he is to locate at Loringwood," remarked Mrs. McVeigh. "Some one in
New Orleans? Possibly we know them."

"I am led to believe that the property is desired for some educational
institution," said Clarkson, handing the letter to Loring, who could
not decipher two lines of the fine script, but refrained from
acknowledging it.

"I must say the offer pleases me greatly." He nodded his head and
uttered a sigh of satisfaction; "a school or seminary, no doubt, I
like that; so will Gertrude. Speak to her, and then write or telegraph
the acceptance, as they prefer. This is remarkably quick work; I
feared it would be a long while before a purchaser could be found.
This is most fortunate."

"Then I congratulate you, Mr. Loring," said Mrs. McVeigh, who was
grateful to the Judge for bringing news likely to make the entertainment
of the invalid an easier affair. "But your fortunate offer from New
Orleans dispels a hope I had that my friend, Madame Caron, might buy
it. She seemed quite impressed with it. I was just saying so to
Gertrude."

"Yes, we've all been hearing considerable about this charming
foreigner of yours, who is daring enough to cross to a war-ridden
country to pay visits."

"She owns a fine property in New Orleans, but left there in disgust
when the Yankees took possession. I was delighted to find her in
Mobile, and persuaded her to come along and see plantation life in our
country. We met her first in Paris--Kenneth and I. He will be
delightfully surprised to find her here."

"No doubt, no doubt," but Loring's assent was not very hearty; he
remembered those first comments on her at Loringwood. "Dr. Delaven,
also, was among her Parisian acquaintances, so you will have quite a
foreign colony at the Terrace."

"I was much pleased with that fine young fellow, Dr. Delaven,"
remarked the Judge, "and really consider you most fortunate to secure
his services--a very superior young man, and possessed, I should say,
of very remarkable talent, and of too gay a heart to be weighed down
with the importance of such special knowledge, as is too often the
case in young professional men--yes, sir; a very bright young man."

Mrs. McVeigh, hearing laughter, had stepped out on the veranda, and
smiled in sympathy with the couple who appeared on the step. The very
talented young man just mentioned was wreathed in blossoms and wild
vines; he carried Aunt Sajane's parasol, and was guided by reins
formed of slender vines held in Miss Evilena's hands; the hat he wore
was literally heaped with flowers, and he certainly did not appear to
be weighed by the importance of any special knowledge at that moment.
At sight of the Judge, Evilena dropped her improvised lines and ran to
him.

"Oh, Judge, it is right kind of you to come over early today. Aunt
Sajane is coming, she was down to the river with us; she laughed too
much to walk fast. We were getting wild flowers for decorating--and
here is Dr. Delaven."

"Yes, I'm one of the things she's been decorating," and he entered
from the veranda, shook hands with Clarkson, and stood for inspection.
"Don't I look like a lamb decked for the sacrifice? But faith it was
the heart of a lion I needed to go into the moccasin dens where she
sent me this day. The blossoms desired by your daughter were sure to
grow in the wildest swamps."

"I didn't suppose a bog-trotter would object to that," remarked the
girl, to Loring's decided amusement.

"Lena!" and at the look of horror on her mother's face she fled to the
veranda.

"Ah--Mrs. McVeigh, I'm not hurt at all, but if she had murthered me
entirely your smile would give me new life again; it's a guardian
angel you are to me."

"You do need assistance," she replied, endeavoring to untwine the
vines twisted about his shoulders, "now turn around."

He did, spinning in top fashion, with extended arms, while Evilena
smiled at the Judge from the window. His answering smile grew somewhat
constrained as his hostess deliberately put her pretty arm half way
around the young man's shoulder in her efforts to untangle him.

"I say, Judge, isn't it in fine luck I am?--the undoing of Delaven!"

But the Judge did not respond. He grew a trifle more ceremonious as he
turned from the window.

"Mistress McVeigh, I shall step out on the lawn to meet my sister and
Miss Loring, and when you have concluded your present task, would you
permit me to see the autumn roses you were cultivating? As a lover of
flowers I certainly have an interest in their progress."

"Autumn roses--humph!" and Loring smiled in a grim way only
discernible to Delaven, who had grown so accustomed to his sardonic
comments on things in general that they no longer caused surprise.

"Of course, Judge; I'll show them to you myself," and Mrs. McVeigh let
fall the last of the vines and joined him at the window--"so charming
of you to remember them at all."

"Don't you want to go along and study the progress of autumn roses?"
asked Evilena, peering around the window at Delaven, who laughed at
the pretended demureness and timidity with which she invested the
question.

"Not at this moment, my lady. Autumn roses, indeed!--while there's a
wild flower in sight--not for the O'Delavens!"

And the O'Delaven's bright Irish eyes had so quizzical a smile in them
the girl blushed and was covered with confusion as with a mantle, and
gathering the blossoms in her arms seated herself ostentatiously close
to Mr. Loring's chair while she arranged them, and Delaven might
content himself with a view of one pink ear and a delicious dimple in
one cheek, which he contemplated from the lounging chair back of her,
and added to his occupation by humming, very softly, a bit of the old
song:

           "Ten years have gone by and I have not a dollar;
           Evilena still lives in that green grassy hollow;
           And though I am fated to marry her never,
           I'm sure that I'll love her for ever and ever!"

"For ever and ever! I say, Miss Evilena, how do you suppose the fellow
in the song could be so dead sure of himself, for ever and ever?"

"Probably he wasn't an Irishman," suggested the girl, bending lower
over the blossoms that he might not see her smiling.

"Arrah, now, I had conjured up a finer reason than that entirely; it
had something to do with the charms of your namesake, but I'll not be
telling you of it while you carry a nettle on your tongue to sting
poor harmless wanderers with."

His pondrous sigh was broken in on by her laughter, and the beat of
hoofs on the drive. While they looked at each other questioningly the
voice of Judithe was heard speaking to Pluto, and then humming the
refrain of Evilena's favorite, "Bonnie Blue Flag," she ran up to the
veranda where Mrs. McVeigh met her.

"Oh, what a glorious gallop I had. Good morning, Judge Clarkson. How
glad I am that you came right over soon as you got home. You are to us
a recruit from the world whom we depend on to tell us all about doings
there, and it is so good of you."

"It argues no virtue in a man, Madame, that he comes where beauty
greets him," and the Judge's bow was a compliment in itself.

"Charming--is it not, Madame McVeigh? Truly your Southern men are the
most delightful in the world."

"Ah, Madame," and Delaven arose from his chair with a lugubrious
countenance, "for how am I to forgive you for adopting the fancy that
Ireland is out of the world entirely?"

Judithe laughed frankly and put out her hand; she was exceedingly gay
and gracious that morning; there was a delightful exhilaration in her
manner, and it was contagious. Matthew Loring half turned in his chair
and peered out at the speaker as she turned to Delaven.

"Not out of the world of our hearts, Dr. Delaven, and for yourself,
you really should not have been born up where the snow falls. You
really belong to the South--we need you here."

"Faith, it was only a little encouragement I was needing, Marquise.
I'll ask the Judge to prepare my naturalization papers in the
morning."

"Other friends have arrived during your ride, Judithe," and her
hostess led her into the sitting room. "Allow me to present our
neighbor, Mr. Loring, of the Loringwood you admired so greatly."

"And with such good reason," said Judithe, with gracious bend of her
head, and a charming smile. "I have looked forward to meeting you for
some time, Mr. Loring, and your estate really appealed to me--it is
magnificent. After riding past it I was conscious of coveting my
neighbor's goods."

"It is our loss, Madame, that you did ride past," and Loring really
made an effort to be cordial and succeeded better than might have been
expected. He was peering at her from under the heavy brows very
intently, but she was outlined against the flood of light from the
window, and it blurred his vision, leaving distinct only the graceful,
erect form in its dark riding habit. "Had you entered the gates my
niece would have been delighted to entertain you."

"What a generous return for my envy," exclaimed Judithe. "The spirit
of hospitality seems ever abroad in your land, Mr. Loring."

He smiled, well pleased, for his pride in his own country, his own
state, was very decided. He lifted the forgotten rose from the arm of
his chair.

"I will have to depend on our friend, the Judge, to present you fine
phrases in return for that pretty speech, Madame; I can only offer a
substitute," and to Evilena's wide-eyed astonishment he actually
presented the rose to the Marquise.

"She simply has bewitched him," protested the girl to Delaven, later.
"I never knew him to do so gallant a thing before. I could not have
been more surprised if he had proposed marriage to her before us
all."

Delaven confessed he, too, was unprepared for so much amiability, but
then he admitted he had known men to do more astonishing things than
that, on short notice, for a smile from Madame Judithe.

She accepted the rose with a slight exclamation of pleasure.

"You good people will smother me with sweets and perfumes," she
protested, touching her cheek with the beautiful flower; then, as she
was about to smell it, they were astonished to see it flung from her
with a faint cry, followed by a little laugh at the consternation of
the party.

"How unpardonable that I discover a worm at the heart of your first
friendly offering to me, Mr. Loring;" and her tones were almost
caressing as she smiled at him; "the poor, pretty blossom, so lovely,
and so helpless in the grasp of its enemy, the worm."

Pluto had entered with a pitcher of water which he placed on the
stand. He had witnessed the episode of the rose, and picked it up from
where it had been tossed.

"Margeret told me to see if you wanted anything, Mr. Loring," he said,
gently, and Mr. Loring's answer was decided, brusque and natural.

"Yes, I do; I want to go to my room; get my stick. Mistress McVeigh,
if you have no objection to me breaking up your party, I would like to
have Judge Clarkson go along; we must settle these business matters
while I am able."

"At your service, sir, with your permission, Madame," and the Judge
glanced at Mrs. McVeigh, who telegraphed a most willing consent as she
passed out on the veranda after Evilena and Delaven. Judithe stood by
the little side table, slowly pulling off her gauntlets, when she was
aware that the colored man Pluto was regarding her curiously, and she
perceived the reason. He had looked into the heart of the rose, and on
the floor where it had fallen, and had found no living thing to cause
her dread of the blossom.

He dropped his eyes when she looked at him, and just then a bit of
conversation came to him as the Judge offered his arm to Loring and
assisted him to rise.

"I certainly am pleased that you feel like looking into the business
matters," Clarkson was saying, "and the Rhoda Larue settlement cannot
be postponed any longer; Colonel McVeigh may be back any time now, and
we must be ready to settle with him."

Loring made some grumbling remark in which "five thousand dollars" was
the only distinguishable thing, and then they passed out, and Pluto
followed, leaving the Marquise alone, staring out of the window with a
curious smile; she drew a deep breath of relief as the door closed.



CHAPTER XX.


Mrs. McVeigh entered the sitting room some time after and was
astonished to find her still there and alone.

"Why, Judithe, I fancied you had gone to change your habit ages ago,
and here you are, plunged in a brown study."

"No--a blue and green one," was the smiling response. "Have you ever
observed what a paintable view there is from this point? It would be a
gem on canvas; oh, for the talent of our Dumaresque!"

"Your Dumaresque," corrected Mrs. McVeigh. "I never can forgive you,
quite, for sending him away; oh, Helene wrote me all about it--and he
_was_ such a fine fellow."

"Yes, he was," and Judithe gave a little sigh ending in a smile; "but
one can't keep forever all the fine fellows one meets, and when they
are so admirable in every way as Dumaresque, it seems selfish for one
woman to capture them."

Mrs. McVeigh shook her head hopelessly over such an argument, but
broke a tiny spray of blossom from a plant and fastened it in the
lapel of Judithe's habit.

"It is not so gorgeous as the rose, but it is at least free from the
pests."

Judithe looked down at the blossom admiringly. "I trust Mr. Loring
will forgive my panic--I fear it annoyed him."

"Oh, no--not really. He is a trifle eccentric, but his invalidism
gains him many excuses. There is no doubt but that you made a decided
impression on him."

"I hope so," said Judithe.

Margeret entered the room just then, and with her hand on the door
paused and stared at the stranger who was facing her. Judithe,
glancing up, saw a pair of strange dark eyes regarding her. She
noticed how wraith-like the woman appeared, and how the brown dress
she wore made the sallow face yet more sallow. A narrow collar and
cuffs of white, and the apron, were the only sharp tones in the
picture; all the rest was brown--brown hair tinged with grey rippling
back from the broad forehead, brown eyes with a world of patience and
sadness in them and slender, sallow-looking hands against the white
apron.

She looked like none of the house servants at the Terrace--in fact
Judithe was a trifle puzzled as to whether she was a servant at all.
She had not a feature suggesting colored blood, was much more
Caucasian in appearance than Louise.

It was but a few seconds they stood looking at each other, when
Margeret made a slight little inclination of her head and a movement
of the lips that might have been an apology, but in that moment the
strange woman's face fairly photographed itself on Judithe's mind--the
melancholy expression of it haunted her afterwards.

Mrs. McVeigh, noticing her guest's absorbed gaze, turned and saw
Margeret as she was about to leave the room.

"What is it, Margeret?" she asked, kindly, "looking for Miss
Gertrude?"

"Yes, Mistress McVeigh; Mr. Loring wants her."

"I think she must have gone to her room, she and Mistress Nesbitt went
upstairs some time ago."

Margeret gently inclined her head, and passed out with the noiseless
tread Evilena had striven to emulate in vain that day at Loringwood.

"One of Miss Loring's retainers?" asked Judithe; "I fancied they only
kept colored servants."

"Margeret _is_ colored," explained Mrs. McVeigh, "that is," as the
other showed surprise, "although her skin does not really show color,
yet she is an octoroon--one-eighth of colored ancestry. She has never
been to the Terrace before, and she had a lost sort of appearance as
she wandered in here, did she not? She belongs to Miss Loring's
portion of the estate, and is very capable in her strange, quiet way.
There have been times, however, when she was not quite right
mentally--before we moved up here, and the darkies rather stand in awe
of her ever since, but she is entirely harmless."

"That explains her peculiar, wistful expression," suggested Judithe.
"I am glad you told me of it, for her melancholy had an almost
mesmeric effect on me--and her eyes!"

All the time she was changing her dress for lunch those haunting eyes,
and even the tones of her voice, remained with her.

"Those poor octoroons!" and she sighed as she thought of them, "the
intellect of their white fathers, and the bar of their mothers' blood
against the development of it--poor soul, poor soul--she actually
looks like a soul in prison. Oh!"--and she flung out her hands in
sudden passion of impotence. "What can one woman do against such a
multitude? One look into that woman's hopeless face has taken all the
courage from me. Ah, the resignation of it!"

But when she appeared among the others a little later, gowned in sheer
white, with touches of apple green here and there, and the gay,
gracious manner of one pleased with the world, and having all reason
to believe the world pleased with her, no one could suspect that she
had any more serious problem to solve than that of arranging her own
amusements.

Just now the things most interesting to her were the affairs of the
Confederacy. Judge Clarkson answered all her questions with much good
humor, mingled with amusement, for the Marquise, despite her American
sympathies, would get affairs hopelessly mixed when trying to
comprehend political and military intricacies; and then the gallant
Judge would explain it all over again. Whether from Columbia or
Charleston, he was always in touch with the latest returns, hopes,
plans of the leaders, and possibilities of the Southern Confederacy,
together with all surreptitious assistance from foreign sources, in
which Great Britain came first and Spain close behind, each having
special reasons of their own for widening the breach in the union of
states.

From Mobile there came, also, through letters to Mrs. McVeigh, many of
the plans and possibilities of the Southern posts--her brother being
stationed at a fort there and transmitting many interesting views and
facts of the situation to his sister on her more Northern plantation.

Thus, although they were out of the whirl of border and coast strife,
they were by no means isolated as regards tidings, and the fact was so
well understood that their less fortunate neighbors gathered often at
the Terrace to hear and discuss new endeavors, hopes and fears.

"I like it," confessed Judithe to Delaven, "they are like one great
family; in no country in the world could you see such unanimous
enthusiasm over one central question. They all appear to know so many
of the representative people; in no other agricultural land could it
be so. And there is one thing especially striking to me in comparison
with France--in all this turmoil there is never a scandal, no
intrigues in high places such as we are accustomed to in a court where
Madame, the general's wife, is often quite as much of a factor in the
political scene as the general himself; it is all very refreshing to a
foreigner."

"Our women of the South," said the Judge, who listened, "are more of
an inspiration because they are never associated in our minds with any
life but that of the home circle and its refining influences. When our
women enter the arena, it is only in the heart and memory of some man
whose ideals, Madame, are higher, whose ambitions are nobler, because
she exists untouched by the notoriety attaching itself to the court
intrigues you mention, the notoriety too often miscalled fame."

"Right you are, Judge," said Delaven, heartily. "After all, human
nature is very much alike whether in kingdom or republic, and men love
best the same sort of women the world over."

Matthew Loring entered the room just then, leaning on the arm of
Gertrude, whose fair hair made harmony with the corn-colored lawn in
which she looked daintily pretty, and as the two ladies faced each
other the contrasted types made a most effective picture.

"You have not met the Marquise de Caron?" he asked of Gertrude; and
then with a certain pride in this last of the Lorings, he continued:
"Madame la Marquise, allow me to present my niece, Miss Loring."

The blue eyes of the Carolina girl and the mesmeric amber eyes of the
Parisian met, with the slight conventional smile ladies favor each
other with, sometimes. There was decided interest shown by each in the
other--an interest alert and questioning. Judithe turned brightly to
Loring:

"In your democratic land, my dear sir, I have dispensed with 'La
Marquise.' While here I am Madame Caron, very much at your service,"
and she made him a miniature bow.

"We shall not forget your preference, Madame Caron," said Gertrude,
"it is a pretty compliment to our institutions." Then she glanced at
Delaven, "did we interrupt a dissertation on your favorite topic,
Doctor?"

"Never a bit; it's yourself is an inspiration to continue the same
topic indefinitely," and he explained the difference Madame Caron had
noticed in political matter with and without the feminine element.

"For all that, there _are_ women in the political machines here,
also," said Loring, testily--"too many of them, secret agents, spies,
and the like. Gertrude, what was it Captain Masterson reported about
some very dangerous person of that sort in New Orleans?--a woman
whose assistance to the Yankees was remarkable, and whose circle of
acquaintances was without doubt the very highest--did he learn her
name?"

"Why, no, Uncle Matthew; don't you remember he was finding fault with
_our_ secret agents because they had not established her identity--in
fact, had only circumstantial evidence that it was a woman, though
very positive evidence that the person belonged to the higher social
circle there."

"Faith, I should think the higher circle would be in a sorry whirl
just then--not knowing which of your neighbors at dinner had a cup or
dagger for you."

"The daggers were only figurative," said the Judge, "but they were
none the less dangerous, and the shame of it! each innocent loyal
Southerner convinced that a traitor had been made as one of
themselves--trusted as is the nature of Southerners when dealing with
friends, just as if, in this Eden-like abode, Mistress McVeigh should
be entertaining in any one of us, supposed to be loyal Southerners, a
traitor to his country."

"How dreadful to imagine!" said Judithe, with a little gesture of
horror, "and what do they do with them--those dangerous serpents of
Eden?"

"It isn't nice at all to hear about, Madame Caron," spoke Aunt Sajane,
who was, as usual, occupied with the unlovely knitting. "It gave me
chills to hear Phil Masterson say how that spy would be treated when
found--not even given time for prayers!"

"Captain Masterson is most loyal and zealous, but given to slight
extravagancies in such matters," amended the Judge. "No woman has ever
suffered the extreme penalty of military law for spy work, in this
country, and especially would it be impossible in the South.
Imprisonment indefinitely and the probable confiscation of all
property would no doubt be the sentence if, as in this suspected case,
the traitoress were a Southern woman of means. But that seems scarcely
credible. I have heard of the affair mentioned, but I refuse to
believe any daughter of the South would so employ herself."

"Thank you, Judge," said Gertrude, very prettily; "any daughter of the
South would die of shame from the very suspicion against her."

"Who is to die?" asked Mrs. McVeigh, coming in; "all of you, and of
hunger, perhaps, if I delay tea any longer. Come right on into the
dining room, please, and let me hear this discussion of Southern
daughters, for I chance to be a daughter of the South myself."

Captain Philip Masterson, from an adjoining plantation, arrived after
they were seated at the table, and was taken at once into the dining
room, where Judithe regarded with interest this extremist who would
not allow a secret agent of the North time for prayers. He did not
look very ferocious, though his manner had a bluntness not usual in
the Southern men she had met--a soldier above and beyond everything
else, intelligent, but not broad, good looking with the good looks of
dark, curly hair, a high color, heavy mustache, which he had a
weakness for caressing as he talked, and full, bold eyes roaming about
promiscuously and taking entire advantage of the freedom granted him
at the Terrace, where he had been received as neighbor since boyhood.
He was a cousin of Gertrude's, and it was not difficult to see that
she was the first lady in the county to him, and the county was the
center of Philip Masterson's universe.

He was stationed at Charleston and was absent only for some necessary
business at Columbia, and hearing Judge Clarkson was at the Terrace he
had halted long enough to greet the folks and consult the Judge on
some legal technicality involved in his journey.

Pluto, who had seen that the Captain's horse had also been given
refreshment, came thoughtfully up the steps, puzzling his head over
the perfect rose cast aside on a pretense. It puzzled him quite as
much as the problem of Louise; and the only key he could find to it
was that this very grand lady knew all about the identity of Louise,
and knew why she had hurried away so when old Nelse recognized her.

He wished he had that picture of Margeret, brought by Rosa from
Georgia. But it was still with a lot of Rosa's things over at the
Larue plantation, with the child. He counted on going over to see the
boy in a week at the furthest.

As he reached the top of the steps he could see Margeret through the
open window of the sitting room. Her back was towards him, and she was
so absorbed in regarding the party in the dining room that he
approached unnoticed, and she turned with a gasp as of fear when he
spoke:

"You're like to see more gay folks like that over here than you have
at Loringwood," he remarked. "I reckon you glad to move."

"No," she said, and went slowly towards the veranda; then she turned
and looked at him questionably, and with an interest seldom shown for
anyone.

"You--you heard news from Larue plantation?" she asked, hesitatingly.

"Who, me? No, I aint had no news. I aint"--then he stopped and stared
at her, slowly comprehending what news _might_ come from there. "Fo'
God's sake, tell me! My Zekal; my--"

She lifted her finger for silence and caught his arm.

"They hear you--they will," she said, warningly, "come in here."

She opened the door into the library and he followed; she could feel
his hand tremble, and his eyes were pleading and full of terror. The
light chatter and laughter in the dining room followed them.

"Sick?" and his eyes searched her face for reply, but she slowly shook
her head and he caught his breath in a sob, as he whispered: "Daid! My
baby, oh--"

"Sh-h! He's alive--your boy. It's worse than that, maybe--and they
never let you know! Mr. Larue had gone down to Mexico, and the
overseer has published all his slaves to be sold--all sold, and your
child--your little boy--"

"God A'mighty!"

He was silent after that half-whispered ejaculation. His face was
covered with his hands, while the woman stood regarding him, a world
of pity in her eyes.

"They can't sell Zekal," he said, at last, looking up. "Mahs Larue
tole me plain he give me chance. I got some o' the money, that
eighteen dollah I paid on Rosa's freedom--that gwine be counted
in--then I got most nine dollah 'sides that yet, an' I gwine Mahs Jean
Larue an' go down my knees fo' that boy, I will! He only pickaninny,
my Zekal, an' I promise Rosa 'fore she died our boy gwine be free; so
I gwine Mahs Larue, I--"

Margeret shook her head.

"He's gone, I tell you--gone to Mexico, more miles away than you could
count; sold to the sugar plantation and left the colored folks for
lawyer and overseer to sell. They all to be sold--a sale bill came to
Loringwood yesterday. Men like overseers and lawyers never take
account of one little pickaninny among a hundred. One same as another
to them--one same as another!"

Her voice broke and she covered her face with her hands, rocking from
side to side, overcome by memories of what had been. Pluto looked at
her and realized from his own misery what hers had been. Again the
laughter and tinkle of tea things drifted in to them; some one was
telling a story, and then the laughter came more clearly. Pluto
listened, and his face grew hard, brutish in its sullen hate.

"And they can laugh," he muttered, sullenly, "while my baby--my Rosa's
baby--is sold to the traders, sold away where I nevah can find him
again; sold while the white folks laugh an' make merry," and he raised
his hand above his head in a fury of suppressed rage. "A curse on
every one of them! a curse--"

Margeret caught his arm with a command to silence.

"Hush! You got a kind master--a kind mistress. The people who laugh at
that table are not to blame on account of Rosa's master, who holds
your child."

"You stand up fo' the race that took yo' chile from yo?" he demanded,
fiercely. "That held yo' a slave when yo' was promised freedom? That
drove yo' wild fo' years with misery? The man is in that room who did
all that, an' yo' stan' up fo' him along of the rest?"

He paused, glowering down at her as if she, too, were white enough to
hate. When she spoke it was very quietly, almost reprovingly.

"My child died. What good was freedom to me without her? Where in all
this wide world would I go with my freedom if I had it? Free and
alone? No," and she shook her head sadly, "I would be like a child
lost from home--helpless. The young folks laughing there never hurt
me--never hurt you."

The people were leaving the dining room. Captain Masterson, who had
time for but a brief call, was walking along the veranda in low
converse with the Judge. Judithe had separated herself from the rest
and walked through the sitting room into the library, when she halted,
surprised at those two facing each other with the air of arrested
combat or argument. She recovered her usual manner enough to glance at
the clock, and as her eyes crossed Margeret's face she saw traces of
tears there.

"It is time, almost, for the mail up from Pocotaligo today, is it not,
Pluto?" she said, moving towards a book-case. Receiving no reply, she
stopped and looked at him, at which he recovered himself enough to
mutter, "Yes, mist'ess," and turned towards the door, his trembling
tones and the half-groping movement as he put his hand out before him
showed he was laboring under some emotion too intense for concealment,
and involuntarily she made a gesture of command.

"Wait! You have grief--some sad misfortune?" and she glanced from his
face to that of Margeret, questioningly. "Poor fellow--is it a
death?"

"No death, and nothing to trouble a white lady with," he said, without
turning, and with hopeless bitterness in his voice; "not fit to be
told 'long side o' white folks merry-maken', only--only Rosa, my boy's
mother, died yeah ago ovah on Larue plantation, an' now the chile
hisself--my Rosa's baby--gwine to be sold away--gwine to be sold to
the traders!"

His voice broke in a sob; all the bitterness was drowned in the wave
of grief under which his shoulders heaved, and his broken breaths made
the only sound in the room, as Judithe turned questioningly to
Margeret, who bent her head in confirmation of his statement.

"But," and the questioner looked a trifle bewildered, "a little child,
that would not mean a great expense, surely if your mistress, or your
master, knew, they would help you."

Margeret shook her head, and Pluto spoke more calmly.

"Not likely; this war done crippled all the folks in money; that why
Mahs Jean Larue sell out an' go ovah in Mexico; that why Loren'wood up
fo' sale to strangers; that why Judge Clarkson done sell out his share
in cotton plantation up the river; ain't _nobody_ got hundreds these
days, an' lawyers won't take promises. I done paid eighteen dollars on
Rosa when she died, but I ain't got no writin'," he went on,
miserably, "that was to go on Zekal, an' I have 'nigh onto nine
dollars 'sides that. I gwine take it ovah to Mahs Larue nex' week,
sure, an' now--an'--now--"

His words were smothered in a sigh; what use were words, any
way? Judithe felt that Margeret's eyes were on her face as she
listened--wistful, questioning eyes! Would the words be of no use?

"The Jean Larue estate," she said, meditatively, seating herself at
the table and picking up a pen, "and your wife was named Rosa?"

"Yes'm." He was staring at her as a man drowning might stare at a spar
drifting his way on a chance wave; there was but the shadow of a hope
in his face as he watched with parted lips the hand with the pen--and
back of the shadow what substance!

"And she is dead--how long?"

"A yeah gone now."

"And Mr. Larue asks how much for her child?"

"Hundred 'n' fifty dollar--this what he _said_, but, God knows,
lawyers got hold o' things now, maybe even more 'n that now, an'
anyway--"

His words sounded vague and confused in his own ears, for she was
writing, and did not appear to hear.

"Where is this Larue place?" she asked, glancing up. "I heard of a
Jean Larue plantation across in Georgia--is this it?"

"No'm," and he turned an eager look of hope towards Margeret at this
pointed questioning, but her expression was unchanged; she only looked
at the strange lady who questioned and showed sympathy.

"No, mist'ess, this Mahs Jean Larue did stay on they Georgy plantation
till five yeah back, then they move ovah to Callina again; that how I
come to meet up with Rosa. Larue place down river towards Beaufort--a
whole day's walken'."

"What did you say this child was named?" she asked, without ceasing
the movement of the pen over the white paper.

"His name Ezekal, but we ain't nevah call him anything but Zekal--he's
so little yet."

"And when is this sale to be?"

Pluto looked helplessly towards Margeret.

"Tomorrow week, Madame Caron," she said, speaking for the first time,
though her steady gaze had almost made Judithe nervous. It had a
peculiar, appealing quality, which Judithe, with a little grimace,
assured herself was so appealing it was compelling; it left her no
choice but to do what she was doing and for which she could take no
credit whatever to herself--the wistful eyes of the pale-faced
bondwoman did it all.

"In a week there is plenty of time to arrange it," she said, turning
kindly to Pluto. "You can rest in peace about your Rosa's boy. I will
attend to it at once, and the traders shall never have him."

Margeret drew a sharp, inward breath of relief.

"Yo' mean _you'll_ buy him in?" and Pluto's voice was scarcely more
than a whisper. "Yo' mean I'll have a chance, maybe, to buy him back
some day?"

"Not 'some day,' my good fellow," and Judithe folded the paper she had
been writing; "from the day he is bought from the Larue estate he will
have his freedom. He will never be bought or sold again."

The man stared at her, helplessly. No hope of his had ever reached so
high as _that_! He tried to speak--failed--and his face was covered by
his sleeve, as he went slowly out of the room.

"Don't--don't you think Pluto ain't thankful, Madame Caron," said the
soft tones of Margeret, and they were not quite steady tones, either.
Judithe did not look up for fear she should see tears in the
melancholy, dark eyes; "that black boy just so thankful he can't
speak. He'll worship you for what you've done for him, and well he
may."

There was a soft rustle beside her--the presence of lips on her hand,
and then Judithe was alone in the room, and stronger than when she had
entered it so short a while since, braced by the certainty that here,
at least, she had been of use--practical use her own eyes could see,
and all the evening a bird sang in her heart, and the grateful touch
of the bondwoman's lips gave her more pleasure than she could remember
through the same tribute of any courtier.



CHAPTER XXI.


When Pluto brought her mail, an hour later, he tried to express more
clearly in words the utter happiness showing through every feature of
his dark face, but she stopped him with a little gesture.

"I see you are glad--no need to tell it," she remarked, briefly; "if
you want to thank me do it by helping any of your people whom you find
in trouble. There are many of them, no doubt."

And when Mrs. McVeigh thanked her for doing what she could not have
done on such short notice, Judithe put the question aside quite as
lightly.

"The man is a very good groom," she remarked. "I enjoyed my ride the
more today for having him along to answer all my curious questions of
the country. I meant to give him 'backsheesh,' as the Orientals call
it, so why not select what the fellow most wants--even though it be a
pickaninny?"

"Well, he certainly is singing your praises down in the cook-house. I
even heard several 'hallelujas' from Aunt Dilsey's particular corner.
Judge Clarkson has endorsed the check and will send a white man
horseback with it to Larues in the morning. Pluto starts tonight on
foot across country--says he can't sleep, any way--he's so happy. The
women are arguing already as to which shall have the special care of
Zekal. Altogether, you have created a sensation in the household, and
we all love you for it."

"What further recompense to be desired? It really is not worth so much
of praise."

"Kenneth will not think so when he comes home," and Kenneth's mother
slipped her arm around the girl's shoulder affectionately, not
noticing how her careless expression changed at mention of the name.

"Oh! Will he, then, be interested in such small things as pickaninnies?"
and her light words belied the look in her eyes.

"Will he? Well, I should think so! You have done just what he would
want done--what he would do if it were possible. For two generations
the McVeighs have neither bought nor sold slaves"--Judithe's eyes shot
one disdainful flash--"just kept those inherited; but I'm sure that
boy of mine would have broken the rule for his generation in this
case, and he'll be so grateful to you for it. Pluto was his playmate
and respected monitor as a child, and Pluto's Zekal certainly will
have a place in his affections."

Judithe picked up one of several letters, over which she had glanced,
and remarked that she would expect a visitor within a week--possibly
in a day or two, the master of her yacht, which from a letter
received, she learned had reached Savannah before Louise. A storm had
been encountered somewhere along the southern coast, and he would
submit the list of damages--not heavy, yet needing a certain amount of
refitting.

"Fortunate Louise did go down," she said, with a certain satisfaction,
as she laid down the communication. "She will be perfectly happy, even
hobbling around with a cane, if she is only buying things; she
delights in spending money;" then, after a pause, "I presume Col.
McVeigh's return is still uncertain?"

"Yes, rather; yet I fancy each morning he will come before night, and
each night that he may waken me in the morning. I have been living in
that delightful hopefulness for a week."

Lena called them and they went out to the rustic seat circling the
great live oak at the foot of the steps. The others were there, and
the Judge was preparing to drive the three miles home with his sister.
Now that the invalid was better, and the wanderer returned from
Mobile, Aunt Sajane bethought herself of the possible sixes and sevens
of her own establishment, and drove away with promises of frequent
visits on both sides.

Long after the others had retired for the night Judithe's light
burned, and there was little of the careless butterfly of fashion
in her manner as she examined one after another of the letters brought
her by the last mail, and wrote replies to some she meant to take to
the office herself during her early morning ride; it was so
delightful to have an errand, and Pluto had shown her the road.
After all the others were done she picked up again the communication
she had shown to Mrs. McVeigh--the report from the yacht master, and
from the same envelope extracted a soft silken slip of paper with
marks peculiar--apparently mere senseless scratches of a thoughtless
pen, but it was over that paper and the reply most of the evening
was spent. It was the most ancient method of secret writing known
to history, yet, apparently, so meaningless that it might pass
unnoticed even by the alert, or be turned aside as the ambitious
scrawlings of a little child.

Each word as deciphered she had pencilled on a slip of paper, and when
complete it read:

"Courant brings word McV. is likely to be of special interest. If he
travels with guard we can't interfere on road from coast, and you
will be only hope. A guard of Federals will be landed north of
Beaufort and await your orders. Messenger will communicate soon as
movements are known. You may expect Pierson. We await your orders or
any suggestions."

There was no signature. Her orders or suggestions were written in the
same cipher, and required much more time and thought than had been
given to the buying and freeing of Pluto's pickaninny, after which she
destroyed all unnecessary writings, and retired with the satisfied
feeling of good work done and better in prospect, and in a short time
was sleeping the calm, sweet sleep of a conscienceless child.

She rode even further next morning than she had the preceding day,
when Pluto was her guide, and she rode as straight east as she could
go towards the coast. When she met colored folk along the road she
halted, and spoke with them, to their great delight. She asked of the
older ones where the road led to, and were the pine woods everywhere
along it, and what about swamps and streams to ford, etc., etc.
Altogether, she had gained considerable knowledge of that especial
territory by the time she rode back to the Terrace and joined the rest
at the late breakfast. She had been in the saddle since dawn, and
recounted with vivacity all the little episodes of her solitary
constitutional; the novelty of it was exhilarating. That it appeared a
trifle eccentric to a Southerner did not suggest itself to her; all
her eccentricities were charming to the McVeigh household, and Delaven
lamented he had not been invited as proxy for Pluto, and amused the
breakfast party by anecdotes of hunting days in Ireland, and the
energy and daring of the ladies who rode at dawn there.

Several times during the day Judithe attempted to have a tete-a-tete
with Mrs. McVeigh, and learn more about Miss Loring's silent maid,
who was the first person she saw on her return from the ride that
morning. The absolute self-effacement of an individual whose repose
suggested self-reliance, and whose well shaped head was poised so
admirably as to suggest pride, made the sad-faced servant a
fascinating personality to any one interested in questions concerning
her race. No other had so won her attention since she made compact
with Kora in Paris.

But Mistress McVeigh was a very busy woman that day. Pluto's
absence left a vacancy in the establishment no other could fill so
intelligently. Miss Loring had promptly attached herself as general
assistant to the mistress of the house. Delaven noticed how naturally
she fell into the position of an elder daughter there, and,
remembering Evilena's disclosures at Loringwood, and Matthew Loring's
own statement, he concluded that the wedding bells might sound at any
time after Kenneth's return, and he fancied they had been delayed,
already, three years longer than suited the pleasure of her uncle.

Delaven, as well as Judithe, was attracted by the personality of
Margeret. In the light, or the shadow, of the sad story he had
listened to, she took on a new interest, an atmosphere of romance
surrounded her. He pictured what her life must have been as a child,
amid the sunshine of Florida, the favorite of her easy-living,
easy-loving Greek father, the sole relic of some pretty slave! As she
walked silently along the halls of the Terrace, he tried to realize
Nelse's description of her gayety, once, in the halls of Loringwood.
And when he observed the adoring eyes with which she regarded the
Marquise after the pickaninny episode, he understood it was another
child she was thinking of--a child who should have been freed, and was
not, and the feelings of Pluto were as her own.

Two entire days passed without Pluto's return. There was some delay,
owing to the absence of the overseer from the Larue estate; then,
Zekal was ailing, and that delayed him until sundown of the second
day, when he took the child in his arms--his own child now--and with
its scanty wardrobe, and a few sundry articles of Rose's, all saved
religiously by an old "aunty," who had nursed her--he started homeward
on his long night tramp, so happy he scarce felt the weight of the boy
in his arms, or that of the bundle fastened with a rope across his
shoulders. He had his boy, and the boy was free! and when he thought
of the stranger who had wrought this miracle his heart swelled with
gratitude and the tears blinded him as he tramped homeward through the
darkness.

The first faint color of dawn was showing in the east when he walked
into Dilsey's cook-house and showed the child asleep in his arms.

What a commotion! as the other house servants mustered in, sleepily,
and straightway were startled very wide awake indeed, and each
insisted on feeling the weight of the newcomer, just, Dilsey said, as
if there never was a child seen on that plantation before. And all had
cures for the "brashy" spell the little chap had been afflicted by,
and which seemed frightened away entirely, as he looked about him with
eyes like black beads. All the new faces, and the petting, were a
revelation to Zekal.

Dilsey put up with it till everything else seemed at a standstill in
the morning's work, when she scattered the young folks right and left
to their several duties, got Pluto an excellent breakfast, and gave
the child in charge of one of the mothers in the quarters till
"mist'ess" settled about him.

"Yo' better take his little duds, too, Lucy," suggested Pluto, as the
boy was toddling away with her, contentedly, rich in the possession
of two little fists full of sweet things; "they're tied up in that
bandana--not the blue one! That blue one got some o' his mammy's
things I gwine look over; maybe might be something make him shirts or
aprons, an' if there is a clean dress in that poke I--I like to have
it put on 'im 'fore she sees him--Madame Caron, an', an' Mist'ess, o'
course! I like her to see he's worth while."

Then he asked questions about what all had been done in his absence,
and learned there had been company coming and going so much Mahs
Loring had his meals in his own room, "'cause o' the clatter they
made." Margeret had been over at the Pines with Miss Loring to see
about the work already commenced there, and Madame Caron and Miss Lena
and Dr. Delaven just amused themselves.

He learned that the mail had been detained and no one had gone for it,
and, tired though he was, started at once. He had noticed Madame
Caron's mail was of daily importance, and it should not be neglected
by him even if company did make the others forgetful.

He was especially pleased that he had gone, when the postmaster handed
over to him, besides several other letters and papers, a large,
important-looking envelope for the Marquise de Caron--a title
difficult for Pluto to spell; though he recognized it at sight.

The lady herself was on the veranda, in riding garb, when he presented
himself, and she smiled as she caught sight of that special envelope
among the rest.

"Margeret tells me you brought back the boy," she said, glancing up,
after peering in the envelope and ascertaining its contents, "and,
Pluto, you paid me for Zekal when you brought this letter to me--so
the balance is even."

Pluto made no comment--only shook his head and smiled. He could not
comprehend how any letter, even a big one, could balance Zekal.

She retired to her room to examine the other letters, while Pluto
placed the mail for the rest at their several places on the breakfast
table.

Judithe unfolded the large enclosure and gave a sigh of utter content
as her eyes rested on the words there. They conveyed to the Marquise
de Caron, of France, an estate in South Carolina outlined and
described and known as Loringwood. The house was sold furnished as it
stood, and there followed an inventory of contents, excepting only
family china and portraits.

"Not such an unlucky journey, after all, despite the coffins in the
tea cups," and she smiled at the fearful fancies of Louise, as she
laid the paper aside; for the time it had made her forget there were
other things equally important.

There was another letter, without signature. It said: "McVeigh is in
Charleston, detained by official matters. Pierson leaves with
particulars. Mail too irregular to be reliable. Your latest word from
Columbia most valuable; we transmitted it as you suggested. Your
location fortunate. The Powers at W. delighted with your success, but
doubtful of your safety--unhealthy climate except for the natives!
Report emancipation will be proclaimed, but nothing definite heard
yet."

She removed her habit and joined the rest at the breakfast table, clad
in the daintiest of pink morning gowns, and listened with pleased
surprise to Mrs. McVeigh's information that her son, the Colonel,
might be expected at any time. They had passed the blockade
successfully, reached Charleston two nights before; were detained by
official matters, and hoped, surely, to reach home within twenty-four
hours after the letter. His stay, however, would have to be brief, as
he must move north at once with his regiment.

And in the midst of the delight, Judithe created a sensation by
remarking:

"Well, my good people, I am not going to allow the Colonel all the
surprise. I have had one of my own this morning, and I can scarcely
wait to share it with you. It is the most astonishing thing!" and she
glanced around at the expectant faces.

"If it's of interest to you, it will be the wide world's worth to us,"
affirmed Delaven, with exaggerated show of devotion, at which she
laughed happily, and turned to her hostess.

"You remember I informed you in Mobile I meant to sell my Orleans
property, as I would not occupy it under existing rule;" to which
explanation Matthew Loring actually beamed commendation, "well, I left
it in the hands of my business man with orders to invest the money
from the sale in some interior plantations not under Federal control.
I wanted a house furnished, colonial by choice--some historical
mansion preferred. The particular reason for this is, I have no
relatives, no children to provide for, and the fancy has come to me
for endowing some educational institution in your land, and for such
purpose a mansion such as I suggested would, in all ways be
preferable. Well, they forwarded me a list of properties. I sent them
back unread lest I should covet them all, for they all would cost so
little! I repeated to them the description Madame McVeigh had given me
of your ancestral home, my dear sir, and told them to secure me a
property possessing just such advantages as yours does--near enough to
the coast for yachting, and far enough from cities to be out of social
chains, except the golden one of friendship," she added, letting her
eyes rest graciously on her listeners. "Well, can you surmise the
result of that order?"

Each looked at the other in wonder; her smile told half the truth.

"I am afraid to put my surmise in words," confessed Mrs. McVeigh, "for
fear of disappointment."

"I'm not!" and Evilena flourished her napkin to emphasize her delight,
"its Loringwood! Oh, oh, Madame Caron, you've bought Loringwood!"

Margeret was entering the room with a small tray containing something
for Mr. Loring, whose meals she prepared personally. Delaven, who was
facing her, saw her grow ashen, and her eyes closed as though struck a
physical blow; a glass from the tray shivered on the floor, as he
sprang up and saved her from falling.

"What ails you, Margeret?" asked Gertrude, with the ring of the silver
sounding through her tones. "There--she is all right again, Dr.
Delaven. Don't come into the dining room in future unless you feel
quite well. Uncle can't endure crashes, or nervous people, about
him."

"I know; I beg pardon, Miss Gertrude, Mistress McVeigh," and
Margeret's manner was above reproach in its respectful humility,
though Delaven observed that the firm lips were white; "the kitchen
was very warm. I--I was faint for a minute."

"Never mind about the glass, Caroline will pick it up," said Mrs.
McVeigh, kindly; "you go lay down awhile, it is very warm in the
kitchen. Dilsey always will have a tremendous fire, even to fry an egg
on; go along now--go rest where it's cool."

Margeret bent her head in mute acknowledgment of the kindness, and
passed out of the room. Mr. Loring had pushed his plate away with an
impatient frown, signifying that breakfast was over for him, any way.

Delaven, noticing his silence and the grim expression on his face,
wondered if he, too, was doubtful of that excuse uttered by the woman.
The kitchen, no doubt, was warm, but he had seen her face as she heard
Evilena's delighted exclamation; it was the certainty that Loringwood
was actually sold--Loringwood, and that grave under the pines?
Possibly she had fostered hope that it might not be yet--not for a
long time, and the suddenness of it had been like a physical shock to
the frail, devoted woman. He had reasoned it out like that, and his
warm, Irish heart ached for her as she left the room, and, glancing
about the table, he concluded that only Matthew Loring and himself
suspected the truth, or knew the real reason of her emotion, though
the eyes of the Marquise did show a certain frank questioning as they
met his own.

"Margeret's fit just frightened the plantation away for a minute,"
resumed Evilena, "but do own up, Madame Caron, is it Loringwood?"

"Yes," assented Judithe, "the letter from my lawyer, this morning,
informs me it is really Loringwood."

"I am very much pleased to hear it, Madame," and Matthew Loring's tone
was unusually hearty. "Since we part with it at all, I am pleased that
no scrub stock gets possession. The place is perfectly adapted to the
use you have planned, and instead of falling into neglect, the old
home will become a monument to progress."

"So I hope," replied Judithe, with a subtle light, as of stars, in the
depths of her eyes; "I am especially delighted to find that the old
furnishings remain; it would be difficult for me to collect articles
so in keeping with the entire scheme of arrangement, and it would
make a discord to introduce new things from the shops."

"You will find no discords of _that_ sort at Loringwood," said
Gertrude, speaking for the first time; "and, I hope, not many of any
kind. Many of the heavy, massive old things I disliked to part with,
but they would be out of place at the Pines, or, in fact, in any house
less spacious. Like uncle, I am pleased it goes into the keeping of
one who appreciates the artistic fitness of the old-fashioned
furnishings."

"Which she has never seen yet," supplemented Evilena, as Judithe
received this not very cordial compliment with a little bow and a
brilliant smile.

"We will remedy that just as soon as we can secure an invitation from
the present lady of the manor," she said, in mock confidence to
Evilena, across the table, at which the rest laughed, and Mr. Loring
declared that now she was the lady of the manor herself, and his one
regret was that he and his niece were not there to make her first
entrance a welcome one.

"That would certainly add to the pleasure of the visit," and her smile
was most gracious. "But even your wish to welcome me makes it all the
more delightful. I shall remember it when I first enter the door."

Gertrude made an effort to be cordial, but that it was an effort Mrs.
McVeigh easily discerned, and when they were alone, she turned to her
in wonder:

"What is it, dear? Are you displeased about the sale? I feel so
responsible for it; but I fancied it would be just what you would
want."

"So it is, too; but--oh, I had no idea it could all be settled so
quickly as this!"

"When people never hesitate to telegraph, even about trifles, and
Judithe never does, they can have business affairs moved very
quickly," explained Mrs. McVeigh; "but what possible reason have you
for objecting to the settlement?"

"I don't object, but--you will think me silly, perhaps--but, I am
sorry it is out of our hands before Kenneth returns. I should like to
have him go over the old place, just once, before strangers claim
it."

"Never mind, dear, the nearer you are to the Terrace the better that
Kenneth will like it, and the Pines is a great improvement in that
way."

"Yes; still it was at Loringwood I first saw him. Do you remember? You
folks had just moved here from Mobile; it was my tenth birthday, and I
had a party. Kenneth was the beau of the whole affair, because he was
a new-comer, and a 'town boy,' and, I remember, we compared ages and
found that he was three months older than I, and for a long time he
assumed superior airs in consequence," and she smiled at the
remembrance. "Well, Uncle Matthew is delighted, and I suppose I should
be. It ends all our money troubles for awhile, any way. Now, what are
you planning for Kenneth's home coming? All the people will want to
see him."

"And so they shall. We certainly can depend on him for tomorrow night,
and we will have a party. Pluto shall start with the invitations at
once."

And Pluto did, just as soon as he had brought Zekal around for an
inspection, which proved so entirely satisfactory that Evilena
threatened to adopt him right away. He should be her own especial boy
soon as he was big enough to run errands, which statement appeared to
make an impression on Zekal not anticipated, for he so delighted to
gaze on the pretty young white lady who petted him, that he objected
lustily to being removed from the light of her countenance; and
Delaven gave him a coin and informed him that he felt like himself,
often. This remark, made in the presence of Madame Caron, who laughed,
brought on a tilt at hostilities between himself and Miss Evilena, who
declared he was mocking her, and trying to render her ridiculous in
the eyes of the only foreigner she admired excessively! He endeavored
to persuade her to extend the last by warbling "Sweet Evilena," which
she declared she could not endure to hear for three distinct reasons.

"Let's hear them," he suggested, continuing the low humming:

                    "Ten years have gone by
                    And I have not one dollar;
                    Evilena still lives
                    In that green grassy hollow."

"There! what sort of man would he be, any way?" she demanded, "a man
who couldn't earn a dollar in ten years!"

"Arrah, now! and there's many a one of us travels longer and finds
less, and never gets a song made about him, either; so, that's your
first reason, is it?"

"And a very good one, too!" affirmed the practical damsel; "do you
want to hear the second?"

"An' it please your sovereign grace!"

"Well, it doesn't, for you can't sing it," and she emphasized the
statement by flaunting her garden hat at every word.

"Me, is it? Ah, now, listen to that! I can't sing it, can't I? Well,
then, I'll practice it all day and every day until you change your
mind about that, my lady!"

"I shan't; for I've heard it sung so much better--and by a boy _who
wore a uniform_--and that's the third reason."

After that remark she walked up the steps very deliberately, and was
very polite to him when they met an hour later, which politeness was
the foundation for a feud lasting forty-eight hours; she determined
that his punishment should be nothing _less_ than that; it would teach
him not to make her a laughing stock again. He should find he had not
an Irish girl to tease, and--and make love to--especially before other
folks!

And to shorten the season of her displeasure, he evolved a plan
promising to woo the dimples into her cheeks again, for, if nothing
but a uniformed singer was acceptable to her, a uniformed singer she
should have. For the sake of her bright eyes he was willing to humor
all her reasonable fancies--and most of her unreasonable ones. The
consequences of this particular one, however, were something he could
not foresee.



CHAPTER XXII.


The O'Delaven, as he called himself when he was in an especially Irish
mood, was Mistress McVeigh's most devoted servant and helper in the
preparations for the party. In fact, when Judge Clarkson rode over to
pay his respects, a puzzled little frown persistently crept between
his brows at the gallantry and assiduity displayed by this exile of
Erin in carrying out the charming lady's orders, to say nothing of the
gayety, the almost presumption, with which he managed affairs to suit
his own fancy when his hostess was not there to give personal
attention; and the child Evilena was very nearly, if not quite
ignored, or at any rate, was treated in a condescending manner almost
parental in its character, and which he perceived was as little
relished by the girl as by himself.

He was most delighted, of course, to learn who was the purchaser of
Loringwood--it was such an admirable transaction he felt everybody
concerned was to be congratulated; even war news was forgotten for a
space.

All the day passed and no Kenneth! His mother decided he would be
there the following morning, and, with flags draped over walls, and
all the preparations complete for his reception, she retired, weary
and happy from the day's labors.

Judithe eyed those flags with the same inscrutable smile sometimes
given to Matthew Loring's compliments. She pointed to them next
morning, when Delaven and herself stood in the hall waiting for their
horses. She had accepted him as cavalier for the time, and they were
going for a ride in the cool of the morning before the others were
stirring.

Margeret was in sight, however--Judithe wondered if she _ever_
slept--and she came to them with delicious coffee and crisp toast, and
watched them as they rode away.

It was while sipping the steaming coffee the flags were noticed, and
Judithe remarked: "Those emblems mean so much down here, yet I never
hear you discuss them, or what they stand for. Your nation is one
always in rebellion against its unsympathetic governess. I should
think you would naturally tend towards the seceders here."

"I do--towards several, individually," and he looked at her over the
rim of the cup with quizzical blue eyes. "But I find three factions
here instead of two, and my people have been too long under the
oppressor for me not to appreciate what freedom would mean to these
serfs in the South, and how wildly they long for it. No; I like the
Southerners better than the Northerners, because I know them better;
but in the matter of sympathy, faith! I forget both the warring
factions and only think of Sambo and Sambo's wife and children."

Judithe raised her finger, as Margeret entered with the toast and
quietly vanished.

"I was afraid she would hear you. I fancy they must feel sensitive
over the situation; speak French, please. What was it the Judge was
saying about emancipation last evening? I noticed the conversation was
changed as Mr. Loring grew--well, excited."

"Oh, the old story; rumors again that the Federal government mean to
proclaim freedom for the blacks. But when it was done in two states by
the local authorities, it was vetoed at Washington; so it is doubtful
after all if it is true, there are so many rumors afloat. But if it is
done there will be nothing vague about it. I fancy it will be said so
good and loud that there will be a panic from ocean to ocean."

"Insurrection?"

"No; the Judge is right; there is a peculiar condition of affairs here
precluding the possibility of that unless in isolated instances, a
certain personal sympathy between master and slave which a foreigner
finds difficult of comprehension."

"What about the runaways?" she asked, with a little air of check,
"several of them have escaped the sympathetic bonds in that way; in
fact, they tell me Mr. Loring, or his niece, has lately lost some very
valuable live stock through that tendency."

"Whisper now!--though I believe it is a very open secret in the
community, the gentleman in question, my dear Marquise, is one of the
isolated instances. If you are studying social institutions in this
country you must make a note of that, and underline it with red ink.
He is by no means the typical Southerner. He is, however, a proof of
the fact that it is a dangerous law which allows every one possessing
wealth an almost unlimited power over scores of human beings. To be
sure, he is mild as skim-milk these days of convalescence, but there
are stories told of the use he made of power when he dared, that would
warrant the whole pack taking to their heels if they had the courage.
They are not stories for ladies' ears, however, and I doubt if Miss
Loring herself is aware of them. But in studying the country here,
don't forget that my patient is one in a thousand--better luck to the
rest."

"So!" and she arose, drawing on her glove slowly, and regarding him
with a queer little smile; "you _have_ been giving thought to
something besides the love songs of this new country? Your ideas are
very interesting. I shall remember them, even without the red ink."

Then they mounted the impatient horses and rode out in the pink flush
of the morning--the only hours cool enough for the foreigners to
exercise at that season. They were going no place in particular, but
when the cross-country road was reached leading to Loringwood, she
suddenly turned to him and proposed that he conduct her to her new
purchase--introduce her to Loringwood.

"With all the pleasure in life," he assented gaily, somewhat curious
to see how she would like the "pig in a poke," as he designated her
business transaction.

When they reached the gate she dismounted and insisted on walking
through the long avenue she had admired. He was going to lead the
horses, but she said, "No, tie them to the posts there, they were both
well behaved, tractable animals;" she could speak for her mount at any
rate. Pluto had told her it was Col. McVeigh's favorite, trained by
himself.

She wore a thin silken veil of palest grey circling her hat, covering
her face, and the end fastened in fluffy loops on her bosom. Her habit
was of cadet grey, with a military dash of braid on epaulettes and
cuff; the entire costume was perfect in its harmonious lines, and
admirably adapted to the girlish yet stately figure. Delaven, looking
at her, thought that in all the glories of the Parisian days he had
never seen la belle Marquise more delightful to the eye than on that
oft-to-be-remembered September morning.

She was unusually silent as they walked along the avenue, but her eyes
were busy and apparently pleased at the prospect before her, and when
they reached the front of the house she halted, surveyed the whole
place critically, from the lazy wash of the river landing to the great
pillars of the veranda, and drew a little breath of content.

"Just what I expected," she remarked, in reply to his question. "I
hope the river is not too shallow. Can we go in? I should like to, but
not as the owner, please. They need not know of the sale until the
Lorings choose to tell them."

Little Raquel had opened the door, very much pleased at their arrival.
She informed them "Aunt Chloe laid up with some sort of misery, and
Betsey, who was in the cook-house, she see them comen' an' she have
some coffee for them right off," and she was proceeding with other
affairs of entertainment when Judithe interrupted:

"No coffee, nothing for me. Now, Doctor, if you want to show me the
library; you know we must not linger, this is to be a busy day at the
Terrace."

They had gone through the lower rooms, of which she had little to say.
He had shown her the dashing portrait of Marmeduke Loring and given
her a suggestion of the character as heard from Nelse. He had shown
her the pretty, seraphic portrait of Gertrude as a little child, and
the fair, handsome face of Tom Loring, as it looked down from the
canvas with a smile for all the world in his genial eyes.

They had made no further progress when Raquel appeared upon the scene
again with a request from Aunt Chloe, "Would Mahs Doctor come roun'
an' tell her jest what ailed her most, she got so many cu'eous
compercations."

He followed to see what the complications were, and thus it happened
that Judithe was left alone to look around her new possessions.

But she did not look far. After a brief glance about she returned to
the last portrait, studying the frank, handsome face critically.

"And thou wert the man," she murmured. "Why don't such men bear faces
to suit their deeds, that all people may avoid the evil of them? Fair,
strong, and appealing!" she continued, enumerating the points of the
picture, "and a frank, honest gaze, too; but the painter had probably
been false in that, and idealized the face. Yet I have seen eyes that
were as honest looking, cover a vile soul, so why not this one?"

The eyes that were as honest looking were the deep sea-blue eyes she
had described once to Dumaresque, confessing with light mockery their
witchcraft over her; she thanked God those days were over. She had now
something more to dream over than sentimental fancies.

She heard the quick beat of horse hoofs coming up the avenue and
stopping at the door; then, a man's voice:

"Good morning, Jeff--any of our folks over from the Terrace?"

"Yes, sah; good mawn, sah; leastwise I jest saw Miss Gertrude go in;
they all stayen' ovah at Terrace; I reckon she rode back for
something. I reckon you find her in library; window's open thah."

The man's voice replied from the hall, "All right," and he opened the
door.

"Good morning, little woman," he said, cheerily, boyishly. "When I saw
Hector at the gate with the side saddle I thought--"

What he thought was left unfinished. The slender figure in grey turned
from the window, and throwing back the veil with one hand extended the
other to him, with an amused smile at his mistake.

"_Judithe_!" He had crossed the room; he held her hand in both of his;
he could not otherwise believe in the reality of her presence. In
dreams he had seen her so often thus, with the smile and the light as
of golden stars deep in the brown eyes.

"Welcome to Loringwood, Col. McVeigh," she said, softly.

"Your welcome could make it the most delightful homecoming of my
life," he said, looking down at her, "if I dared be sure I was quite
welcome to your presence."

"I am your mother's guest," and she met his gaze with cordial
frankness; "would that be so if--oh, yes, you may be very sure I am
pleased to see you home again, and especially pleased to see you
here."

"You are? Judithe, I beg pardon," as she raised her brows in slight
question. "I am not accountable this morning, Marquise; with a little
time to recover myself in, I may grow more rational. To find you here
is as much a surprise as though I had met you alone at sea in an open
boat."

"Alone--at sea--in an open boat," she repeated, with a curious
inflection; "but you perceive, Col. McVeigh, the situation is not at
all like that. I am under my own roof tree, and a very substantial one
it is," with a comprehensive glance about the imposing apartment; "and
you are the first guest I have welcomed here--I am much pleased that
it happened so." When he stared at this bit of information she
continued: "I have just made purchase of the estate from your friends,
the Lorings--this is my first visit to it, and you are my first
caller. You perceive I am really your neighbor, Monsieur."

His eyes were bent on her with mute question; it all seemed so
incredible that she should come there at all--to his country, to his
home. He had left France cursing her coquetry; he had, because of her,
gone straight to the frontier on his return to America, and lived the
life of camps ever since; he had fancied no woman would ever again
hold the sway over him she had held for that one brief season. Yet the
graciousness of her tone, the frank smile in her eyes, and the touch
of her hand--the beautiful hand!--

Delaven came in, and there were more explanations; then, to the regret
of Raquel and Betsey, they left for the Terrace without partaking of
the specially prepared coffee. Col. McVeigh had ridden from the coast
with a party of the state guard, who were going to the river
fortifications. Seeing his own saddle horse at the gate he had let
them go on to the Terrace without him, while he stopped, thinking to
find his mother or sister there.

The new mistress of Loringwood listened with an interested expression
to this little explanation, and no one would have thought there was
any special motive in leaving the horse tied there on the only road he
would be likely to come, or that his statement that he traveled with a
party of military friends conveyed a distinct message to her of work
to be done.

She did not fail to notice that Col. McVeigh was a much handsomer man
than the lieutenant had been. He appeared taller, heavier--a stalwart
soldier, who had lost none of his impetuousness, and had even gained
in self confidence, but for all that the light of boyhood was in his
eyes as he looked at her, and she, well satisfied that it was so, rode
happily to the Terrace beside him, only smiling when he pointed out a
clump of beeches and said he never passed without thinking of the
trees at Fontainbleau.

"And," with a little mocking glance, "do the violets and forget-me-nots
also grow among the bushes here?"

"Yes;" and he returned her mocking look with one so deliberate that
her eyes dropped, "the forget-me-not is hardy in my land, you know; it
lives always if encouraged."

"Heavens!--will the man propose to me again before we reach the house
or have breakfast?" she thought, and concluded it more wise to drop
such dangerous topics. Until her expected messenger came she could not
quite decide what was to be done or what methods employed.

"Forget-me-nots, is it?" queried Delaven, in strict confidence with
himself; "oh, but you've been clever, the pair of you, to get so far
as forget-me-nots, and no one the wiser;" then aloud he said, "I've an
idea that the best beloved man on the plantation this day will be the
one who announces your coming, Colonel; so if you'll look after Madame
la Marquise--"

And then he dashed ahead congratulating himself on the way he was
helping the Colonel.

"It's well to have a friend at court," he decided, "and it's myself
may need all I can get--for pill boxes are a bad balance for
plantations, Fitz; faith, they'll be flung to the moon at first
tilt."

The two left alone had three miles to go and seemed likely to make the
journey in silence. She was a trifle dismayed at Delaven's desertion,
and could find no more light words. She attempted some questions
concerning the blockade, but his replies showed his thoughts were
elsewhere.

"It is no use," he said, abruptly. "I have only forty-eight hours to
remain; I may not see you again for a year, perhaps, never, for I go
at once to the front. There is only one thought in my mind, and you
know what it is."

"To conquer the Yankees?" she hazarded.

"No, to conquer some pride or whim of the girl who confessed once that
she loved me."

"Take my advice, Monsieur," she said with a cool little smile. "No
doubt you have been fortunate enough to hear those words many
times--I should think it quite probable," and she let her eyes rest
approvingly for a moment on his face; "but it is well to consider
the girls who make those avowals before you place full credence on
the statement--not that they _always_ mean to deceive," she amended,
"but those three words have a most peculiar fascination for
girlhood--they like to use them even when they do not comprehend
the meaning."

He shook his head as he looked at her.

"It is no use, Madame la Marquise," he said, and the ardent eyes met
her own and made her conscious of a sudden fear. "You reason it out
very well--philosophy is one of your hobbies, isn't it? I always
detested women with hobbies--the strong-minded woman who reasons
instead of feeling; and now you are revenging the whole army of them
by making me feel beyond reason. But you shan't evade me by such
tactics. Do you remember what your last spoken words to me were, three
years ago?"

Her face paled a little, she lifted the bridle to urge her horse
onward, but he laid his hand on her wrist.

"No, pardon me, but I must speak to you--day and night I have thought
of them, and now that you are here--oh, I know you sent me away--that
is, you hid from me; and why, Judithe? I believe on my soul it was
because you meant those words when you said: '_I love you now, and
from the first moment you ever looked at me!_' I told myself at first,
when I left France, that it was all falsehood, coquetry--but I could
not keep that belief, for the words rang too true--you thought you
were going over that bank to death, and all your heart was in your
voice and your eyes. That moment has come back to me a thousand times
since; has been with me in the thick of battle, singing through my
ears as the bullets whistled past. '_I love you now, and from the
first moment you ever looked at me._' It is no use to pretend you did
not mean those words then. I know in my heart you did. You were bound
in some way, no doubt, and fancied you had no right to say them. The
announcement of your engagement suggested that. But you are free now,
or you would not be here, and I must be heard."

"Be satisfied then," she replied, indifferently, though her hand
trembled on the bridle, "you perceive you have, thanks to your
stronger arm, an audience of one."

"You are angry at my presumption--angry at the advantage I have taken
of the situation?" he asked. "I grant you are right; but remember, it
is now or perhaps never with me; and it is the presumption of love--a
woman should forgive that."

"They usually do, Monsieur," she replied, with a little shrug and
glance of amusement. For one bewildered instant she had lost control
of herself, and had only the desire to flee; but it was all over now,
she remembered another point to be made in the game--something to
postpone the finale until she had seen Pierson.

"It is not just to me," he said, meeting her mocking glance with one
that was steadfast and determined. "However your sentiments have
changed, I know you cared for me that day, as I have cared for you
ever since, and now that you have come here--to my own country, to my
mother's house, I surely may ask this one question: Why did you accept
the love I offered, and then toss it away almost in the same breath?"

"I may reply by another question," she said, coolly. "What right had
you to make any offers of love to me at any time? What right have you
now?"

"What right?"

"Yes; does your betrothed approve? Is that another of the free
institutions in your land of liberties?"

"What do you mean?--my betrothed?"

"Your betrothed," she said, and nodded her head with that same cool
little smile. "I heard her name that evening of the drive you remember
so well; our friend, the Countess Helene, mentioned it to me--possibly
for fear my very susceptible heart might be won by your protection of
us," and she glanced at him again, mockingly. "You had forgotten to
mention it to me, but it really does not matter, I have learned since
then that gentlemen absolutely cannot go around reciting the lists of
former conquests--it is too apt to prevent the acquisition of new
ones. I did not realize it then--there were so many things I could not
realize; and I felt piqued at your silence; but," with an expressive
little gesture and a bright smile, "I am no longer so. I come to your
home; I clasp hands with you; I meet your bride-elect, Miss
Loring--she is remarkably pretty, Monsieur, and I am quite prepared
to dance at your wedding; therefore--"

"Marquise, on my honor as a man," he did not see the scornful light in
her eyes as he spoke of his honor; "there has never been a word of
love between Gertrude Loring and myself; it is nothing but family
gossip dating from the time we were children, and encouraged by her
uncle for reasons entirely financial. We have both ignored it. We are
all fond of her, and I believe my mother at one time did hope it would
be so arranged, but I hope she wins a better fellow than myself; she
cares no more for me than I for her."

They had turned into the Terrace grounds. Evilena was running out to
meet them. She was so close now she could hear what he said if it were
not for her own swiftness.

"Judithe! One word, a look; you believe me?"

She said nothing, but she did flash one meaning glance at him, and
then his sister was at the stirrup and he swung out of the saddle to
kiss her.



CHAPTER XXIII.


"Of course we are anxious to hear all you dare tell us about the
success of your mission over there," said his mother, an hour later,
when the riders had done justice to a delightful breakfast. "Are all
the arrangements made by our people entirely satisfactory?"

"Entirely, mother. This is the twenty-second of September, isn't it?
Well, it is an open secret now. The vessel secured goes into
commission today, and will be called the Alabama."

"Hurrah for the Alabama!" cried Evilena, who was leaning on the back
of her brother's chair. He put his arm around her and turned to
Judithe.

"Have you become acquainted with the patriotic ardor of my little
sister?" he asked. "I assure you we have to fight these days if we
want to keep the affections of our Southern girls."

Gertrude smiled across the table at him.

"I can't fancy you having to fight very hard battles along that line,
Monsieur," replied Judithe, in the cool, half mocking tone she had
adopted for all questions of sentiment with him; and Gertrude, who saw
the look exchanged between them, arose from the table.

"Uncle Matthew asked to see you when you have time, Kenneth."

"Thanks, yes; I'll go directly. Mother, why not ask the boys of the
guard to stop over for your party? They are of Phil Masterson's
company--all Carolina men."

"Of course, I shall invite them personally," and she left the room to
speak to the men who were just finishing breakfast under an arbor, and
congratulating themselves on the good luck of being travelling
companions of Colonel McVeigh.

Evilena waltzed around the table in her delight at the entire
arrangement; boys in uniform; the longed-for additions to the
festivities, and they would have to be a formidable lot if she could
not find one of their number worth dancing with; she would show Dr.
Delaven that other men did not think her only a baby to be teased!

"Now, Madame Caron, we can show you a regular plantation jubilee, for
the darkies shall have a dance at the quarters. You'll like that,
won't you?"

"Anything that expresses the feminine homage to returning heroes,"
replied Judithe, with a little bow of affected humility, at which
Colonel McVeigh laughed as he returned it. She passed out of the door
with his sister and he stood looking after her, puzzled, yet with hope
in his eyes. His impetuousness in plunging into the very heart of the
question at once had, at any rate, not angered her, which was a great
point gained. He muttered an oath when he realized that but for the
Countess Biron's gossip they might never have been separated, for she
did love him then--he knew it. Even today, when she would have run
away from him again, she did not deny _that_! Forty-eight hours in
which to win her--and his smile as he watched her disappear had a
certain grim determination in it. He meant to do it. She had grown
white when he quoted to her her own never forgotten words. Well, she
should say them to him again! The hope of it sent the blood leaping to
his heart, and he turned away with a quick sigh.

Gertrude, who had only stepped out on the veranda when she left the
table, and stood still by the open glass door, saw the lingering,
intense gaze with which he followed the woman she instinctively
disliked--the woman who was now mistress of Loringwood, and had made
the purchase as carelessly as though it were a new ring to wear on her
white hand--a new toy to amuse herself with in a new country; the
woman who threw money away on whims, had the manner of a princess, and
who had aroused in Gertrude Loring the first envy or jealousy she had
ever been conscious of in her pleasant, well-ordered life. From the
announcement that Loringwood had passed into the stranger's possession
her heart had felt like lead in her bosom. She could not have
explained why--it was more a presentiment of evil than aught else, and
she thought she knew the reason of it when she saw that look in
Kenneth McVeigh's eyes--a look she had never seen there before.

And the woman who had caused it all was walking the floor of her own
apartment in a fever of impatience. If the man she expected would only
come--then she would have work to do--definite plans to follow; now
all was so vague, and those soldiers staying over, was it only a
chance invitation, or was there a hidden purpose in that retained
guard? Her messenger should have arrived within an hour of Colonel
McVeigh, and the hour was gone.

As she passed the mirror she caught sight of her anxious face in it,
and halted, staring at the reflection critically.

"You are turning coward!" she said, between her closed teeth. "You
are afraid to be left to yourself an hour longer--afraid because of
this man's voice and the touch of his hand. Aren't you proud of
yourself--you! He is the beast whose name you hated for years--the man
for whom that poor runaway was taught the graces and accomplishments
of white women--in this house you heard Matthew Loring mention the
price of her and the portion to be forfeited to Kenneth McVeigh
because the girl was not to be found. Do you forget that? Do you think
I shall let you forget it? I shan't. You are to do the work you came
here to do. You are to have no other interest in the people of this
house."

She continued her nervous walk back and forth across the room. She put
aside the grey habit and donned a soft, pretty house-gown of the same
color. Her hands were trembling. She clasped and unclasped them with a
despairing gesture.

"It is not love," she whispered, as though in wild argument against
the fear of it. "Not love--some curse in the blood--that is what it
is. And to think that after three years--three years!--it all comes
back like this. Oh, you fool, you fool! Love," she continued, in more
clear, reasoning tones, speaking aloud slowly as though to impress it
on her mind, as a child will repeat a lesson to be learned; "love must
be based on respect--what respect can you have for this buyer of young
girls?--this ardent-eyed animal who has the good fortune, to be
classed as a gentleman. Love in a woman's heart should be her
religion; what religion could be centered on so vile a creature? To
look up to such a man, how low a woman would have to sink."

Evilena knocked at the door to show some little gift brought by her
brother from across the ocean, and Judithe turned to her feverishly,
glad of some companionship to drive away her dread and suspense until
the expected messenger arrived--the minutes were as long as hours,
now!

Colonel McVeigh had scarcely more than greeted Loring when Pluto
announced Captain Masterson and some other gentleman. Evilena saw them
coming from the window and reported there were two soldiers besides
Captain Masterson, and a man in blue clothes, who aroused her
curiosity mightily. They were out of range before Judithe reached the
window, but her heart almost stopped beating for an instant; the man
she expected wore a blue yachting suit, and this sudden gathering of
soldiery at the Terrace?

Colonel McVeigh greeted Masterson cordially and turned to the others.
Two were men in Confederate uniform, just outside the door, and the
third was a tall man in the uniform of a Federal Captain. His left
wrist was bandaged. He was smiling slightly as McVeigh's glance became
one of doubt for an instant, and then brightened into unmistakable
recognition.

"By Jove, this is a surprise!" and he shook hands cordially with the
stranger. "Captain Monroe, I am delighted to see you in our home."

"Thank you; I'm glad to get here," replied Monroe, with a peculiar
look towards Masterson, who regarded the cordial greeting with evident
astonishment, "I had not expected to call on you this morning,
but--Captain Masterson insisted."

He smiled as he spoke--a smile of amusement, coolly careless of the
amazement of Masterson, and the inquiry in the glance of McVeigh.

"Colonel McVeigh, he is a prisoner," said Masterson, in reply to that
glance, and then, as the prisoner himself maintained an indifferent
silence, he explained further, "We caught sight of him galloping ahead
of us through the pines, a few miles back. Realizing that we were near
enough to the coast for the Federals to send in men for special
service, we challenged him, got no explanation except that he rode for
his own pleasure; so I put him under arrest."

"Well, well! Since luck has sent you into our lines I'm glad it has
done us a good turn and sent you to our home," said McVeigh, though he
still looked mystified at the situation. "I've no doubt satisfactory
explanations can be made, and a parole arranged."

"That's good of you, Colonel," said the prisoner, appreciatively; "you
are a good sort of friend to meet when in trouble--brother Fred used
to think so up at the Point; but in this case it really isn't
necessary--as I have one parole."

He drew a paper from an inner pocket and passed it to McVeigh, who
looked relieved.

"Yes, certainly, this is all right," and he looked inquiringly at
Masterson, "I don't understand--"

Neither did that officer, who turned in some chagrin to the prisoner,
who glanced from one to the other in evident indifference.

"May I ask," said Masterson, with cold courtesy, "why you did not
state when taken prisoner that you were paroled?"

"Certainly," and the easy nonchalance of the other was almost
insolent; evidently Masterson had not picked up an affinity. "I was
coming your way; had been riding alone for several hours, and feared I
should be deprived of the pleasure of your society if I allowed you to
know how harmless I was."

He paused for a moment--smiled in a quizzical way at McVeigh, and
continued: "Then I heard your orderly mention Colonel McVeigh, whose
place you were bound for, and I did not object in the least to being
brought to him for judgment. But since you see I am paroled, as well
as crippled," and he motioned to the arm which he moved carefully,
"incapable in any way of doing harm to your cause, I trust that a flag
of truce will be recognized by you," and he extended his hand in
smiling unconcern.

But to Captain Masterson there was something irritating in the smile,
and he only bowed coldly, ignoring the flag of truce, upon which
Captain Monroe seemed quietly amused as he turned to McVeigh and
explained that he was wounded and taken prisoner a month before over
in Tennessee by Morgan's cavalry, who had gathered in Johnson's
brigade so effectively that General Johnson, his staff, and somewhere
between two and three hundred others had been taken prisoners. He,
Monroe, had found a Carolina relative badly wounded among Morgan's
boys, had secured a parole, and brought the young fellow home to die,
and when his own wound was in a fair way to take care of itself he had
left the place--a plantation south of Allendale, and headed for the
coast to connect with the blockading fleet instead of making the
journey north through Richmond.

It was a very clear statement, but Masterson listened to it
suspiciously, without appearing to listen at all. McVeigh, who had
known both Monroe and his family in the North, and was also acquainted
with the Carolina family mentioned, accepted the Federal's story
without question, and invited him to remain at the Terrace so long as
it suited him to be their guest.

"I have only two days at home until I leave for my regiment," he
explained; "but my mother has enough pleasant people here to make your
visit interesting, I hope. She will be delighted to welcome you, and
some Beaufort acquaintances of yours are here--the Lorings."

Captain Monroe showed interest in this information, and declared it
would give him pleasure to stop over until McVeigh left for the
front.

"Good! and you, Captain Masterson?"

Masterson glanced coldly towards Monroe, evidently desirous of a
private interview with McVeigh. But seeing little chance of it without
a pointed request, he took two packets from a case carefully fastened
in his pocket, and presented them.

"I am detailed to convey to you some important papers, and I
congratulate you on your promotion to Brigadier-General," he said,
with a bow.

"Brigadier? Well, well; they are giving me a pleasant reception," and
his face showed his pleasure as he looked at the papers. "Thank you,
Captain Masterson. By the way, how much time have you?"

"Until tomorrow night; I meant to ride over to the plantation after
delivering this."

"The ladies won't hear to that when they get sight of you. They are
giving a party tonight and need all the uniforms we can muster; a
squad of your men on their way to the forts below have stopped over
for breakfast, and they've even captured them, and you'll be welcome
as the flowers of May."

Masterson glanced at Monroe and hesitated. "Those men are needed at
one of the fortifications," he said guardedly; "they had better take
some other time for a party. With your permission I'll send them on,
and remain in their place with one orderly, if convenient."

"Certainly; glad to have you; give your own orders about the men. I do
not know that they have accepted the invitation to linger, I only know
that the ladies wanted them to."

He rang for Pluto, who was given orders concerning rooms for Captain
Monroe, and for Captain Masterson, who left to speak with the men
waiting orders without. He made a gesture towards the packet in
McVeigh's hand and remarked: "I have reason apart from the commission
to think the contents are important. Our regiment is to be merged in
your brigade, and all pressed to the front. Towards what point I could
not learn at Columbia, but your information will doubtless cover all
that, General."

"Colonel will answer until I find my brigade," said McVeigh, with a
smile. "You stay over until I learn, since we are to go together, and
I will look them over soon as possible."

He himself showed Monroe the room he was to occupy, to the chagrin of
Pluto, who was hanging about in a fever of curiosity and dread at
sight of a Northern soldier--the first he had ever seen, and the rumor
that he was brought there a prisoner suggested calamities to the army
through which, alone, his own race dared hope for freedom; and to
hear the two men chat and laugh over West Point memories was an
aggravation to him, listening, as he was, for the news of today, and
the serious questions involved. Only once had there been allusion to
the horrors of war--when McVeigh inquired concerning his former
classmate, Monroe's brother, Fred, and was told he had been numbered
with the dead at Shiloh. The door was open and Pluto could hear all
that was said--could see the bronzed face of the Northerner, a face he
liked instinctively though it was not exactly handsome--an older face
than McVeigh's. He was leaving West Point as the young Southerner
entered--a man of thirty years, possibly--five of them, the hard years
of the frontier range. A smile lit up his face, changing it
wonderfully. His manner was neither diffident nor overconfident--there
was a certain admirable poise to it. His cool, irritating attitude
towards the zealous Masterson had been drawn out by the innate
antagonism of the two natures, but with McVeigh only the cordial side
was appealed to, and he responded with frank good will.

Pluto watched them leave the room and enter the apartments of Mr.
Loring, where Mrs. McVeigh, Miss Gertrude and Delaven were at that
time, and the latter was entertained by seeing one of the Northern
wolves welcomed most cordially by the Southern household. Fred Monroe
had been Kenneth's alter-ego during the West Point days. Mrs. McVeigh
had photographs of them together, which she brought out for
inspection, and Kenneth had pleasant memories of the Monroe home where
he had been a guest for a brief season after graduation; altogether it
was an interesting incident of the war to Delaven, who was the one
outsider. He was sorry the Marquise was not there to observe.

The Marquise was, however, making observations on her own account,
but not particularly to her satisfaction. She walked from one window
to another watching the road, and the only comforting view she
obtained was the departure of the squad of soldiers who had
breakfasted in the arbor. They turned south along the river, and when
they passed through the Terrace gates she drew a breath of relief at
the sight. They would not meet Pierson, who was to come over the road
to the east, and they would leave on the place only the orderlies of
Colonel McVeigh and Captain Masterson, and the colored men whose
quarters were almost a half mile in the rear of the Terrace. She was
glad they were at that distance, though she scarcely knew why.
Pierson's delay made her fear all sorts of bungling and extreme
measures--men were such fools!

Evilena had flitted away again to look up a dress for the party, and
did not return, so she was left alone. She heard considerable walking
about and talking in the rooms below and on the veranda. No one came
along her corridor, however, so she could ask no questions as to the
latest arrivals. For reasons of her own she had dispensed with a
personal attendant after the departure of Louise; there was no maid to
make inquiries of.

An hour passed in this feverish suspense, when she went to the mirror
with an air of decision, arranged her hair becomingly, added a coral
brooch to the lace at her throat, slipped some glimmering rings on her
white fingers, and added those little exquisite touches to the toilet
which certain women would naturally linger over though it be the last
hour on earth.

Then she opened the door and descended the stairs, a picture of beauty
and serenity--a trifle of extra color in the cheeks, perhaps, but it
would be a captious critic who would object to the added lustre.

Captain Monroe certainly did not, as he halted in the library at sight
of her, and waited to see if she passed out on the veranda, or--

She looked out on the veranda; no one was there; with an impatient
sigh she turned, pushed the partly opened door of the library back,
and was inside the room before she perceived him. Involuntarily she
shut the door back of her.

"Oh--h!" and she held out her hand with a quick, pretty gesture of
surprise and pleasure--"well met, Captain Jack!"

He took the hand she offered and looked at her with a certain
questioning directness.

"I hope so, Madame Caron," and the gaze was so steady, his grasp so
firm, that she drew her hand away with a little laugh that was a
trifle nervous.

"Your voice and face reassure me! I dare breathe again!" she said,
with a mock sigh of relief; "my first glimpse of your uniform made me
fear a descent of the enemy."

"Have you need to fear any special enemy here?" he asked, bluntly. She
put her hand out with a little gesture of protest as she sank back
into the chair he offered.

"Why should you be so curious on a first meeting?" she asked, with a
quizzical smile. "But I will tell you, Monsieur, for all that; I am,
of course, very much afraid of the Northern armies. I left Orleans
rather than live under the Federal government, if you please! I have
bought a very handsome estate a few miles from here which, of course,
binds my interests more closely to the South," and she flashed a
meaning, mocking glance up at him. "Do not look so serious, my friend,
it is all very beautifully arranged; I had my will made as soon as the
deed was signed, of course; no matter what accidents should happen to
me, all my Southern properties will be held intact to carry on the
plans for which they were purchased. I am already building my
monuments," and she unfurled a silken fan the color of her corals and
smiled across it at him.

Their backs were towards the window. She was seated in the deep chair,
while he stood near her, leaning on the back of another one and
looking down in her face. Pluto, who was still hovering around with
the hope of getting speech with a "sure enough Lincum man," had come
noiselessly to the open window and only halted an instant when he saw
the stranger so pleasantly occupied, and heard the musical voice of
Madame Caron say "My friend." It was to him the sweetest voice in the
world now, and he would gladly have lingered while she spoke, but the
rest of the words were very soft and low, and Miss Loring was moving
towards him coming slowly up the steps, looking at him as though the
veranda was no place for a nigger to lounge when unemployed--a fact he
was well enough aware of to walk briskly away around the corner of the
house, when he found her eye on him.

She had reached the top of the steps and was thinking the colored
folks at the Terrace were allowed a great many privileges, when she
heard the low tones of a man's voice. Supposing it was Kenneth and
possibly his mother, she stepped softly towards the window. Before she
reached it she perceived her mistake--the man wore a blue uniform, and
though she could not see Madame Caron, she could see the soft folds of
her dress, and the white hand moving the coral fan.

Disappointed, and not being desirous of joining the woman whose charm
evidently enthralled every one but herself, she stepped quietly back
out of range, and passed on along the veranda to the sitting room,
where Evilena was deeply engaged over the problem of a dress to be
draped and trimmed for the party. And the two talked on within the
closed doors of the library, the man's voice troubled, earnest; the
woman's, careless and amused.

"I shall tell you what I wish, Captain Jack," she said, tapping the
fan slowly on the palm of her hand and looking up at him, "I am most
pleased to see you, but for all that I wish you had not come to this
particular house, and I wish you would go away."

"Which means," he said, after a pause, "that you are in some danger?"

"Oh, no! if it were that," and her glance was almost coquettish, "I
should ask you to remain as my champion."

"Pardon, Madame," and he shook his head, doubtfully, "but I remember
days in New Orleans, and I know you better than that."

She only raised her brows and smiled. He watched her for a moment and
then said: "Colonel McVeigh is a friend; I should not like to think
that your presence means danger to him."

"What an idea!" and she laughed heartily; "am I grown such a thing of
terror that I dare not enter a door lest danger follow? Who could be
oppressed with political schemes in this delightful life of the
plantation? It is really Eden-like; that is why I have purchased one
of the places for my own; it is worth seeing. If you remain I shall
invite you over; shall you?"

"For some reason you wish I would not; if I only knew what the reason
is!"

"A few months ago you did not question my motives," she said,
reprovingly; then in a lower tone, "Your commander has never
questioned, why should you? Your President has sent me messages of
commendation for my independent work. One, received before I left
Mobile, I should like you to see," and she rose from the chair. He
put out his hand to stop her.

"Not if it has connection with any plot or plan of work against the
people on this side of the line; remember, I am on parole."

"Oh, I shall respect your scruples," she said, lightly. "But you need
have no dread of that sort. I would not keep by me anything dangerous;
it is not compromising to the Marquise de Caron in any way." She
halted at the door and added, "Will you wait?"

"Yes, I will wait," he said; "but I can't approve, and I don't need
the evidence of any one else in order to appreciate your value," he
added, grimly; "but be careful, remember where you are."

"I could not forget it if I tried, Captain Jack," she declared, with a
peculiar smile, of which the meaning escaped him until long after.

That ride from Loringwood in the morning, and the nervous expectancy
after, had evidently tended to undermine her own self-confidence and
usual power of resource, for when she returned to the room a few
minutes later, and found Gertrude and her uncle there, she halted in
absolute confusion--could not collect her thoughts quickly enough for
the emergency, and glanced inquiringly towards Monroe, as one looks at
a stranger, while he, after one look as she entered, continued some
remark to Mr. Loring.

For an instant Gertrude's eyes grew narrow as she glanced from one to
the other; then she recovered her usual sweet manner, as she turned to
Judithe:

"Pardon me, I fancied you two had met. Madame Caron, permit me to
present Captain Monroe, one of our recent acquisitions."

Both bowed; neither spoke. Colonel McVeigh entered at that moment. He
had changed the grey travelling suit in which he arrived, for the grey
uniform of his regiment, and Judithe, however critical she tried to
be, could not but acknowledge that he was magnificent; mentally she
added, "Magnificent animal; but what of the soul, the soul?"

There was no lack of soul in his eyes as he looked at her and crossed
the room, as though drawn by an invisible chain, and noted, as a lover
ever notes, that the dress she wore had in its soft, silvery folds, a
suggestion of sentiment for the cause he championed.

But when he murmured something of his appreciation, she dropped her
eyes to the fan she held, and when she glanced slowly up it was in a
manner outlawing the tete-a-tete.

"I realize now, Colonel McVeigh, that you are really a part of the
army," she remarked in the tone of one who makes the conversation
general. "You were a very civilian-looking person this morning. I
have, like your Southern ladies, acquired a taste for warlike
trappings; the uniform is very handsome."

"Thanks; I hope you will find my next one more becoming, since it is
to be that of Brigadier-General."

Although Matthew Loring's sight was impaired, his locomotion slow, and
his left hand and arm yet helpless, his sense of hearing was acute
enough to hear the words even across Monroe's conversation, for his
sunken eyes lit up as he twisted his head towards the speaker:

"What's that, Kenneth? You to command a brigade?"

"So they tell me," assented McVeigh. "The commission just reached
me."

"Good enough! Do you hear that, Gertrude? A Brigadier-General at
twenty-five. Well, I don't see what more a man could want."

"I do," he said, softly, to Judithe, so softly that she felt rather
than heard the words, to which his eyes bore witness. Then he turned
to reply to Mr. Loring's questions of military movements.

"No, I can't give you much special information today," and he smiled
across at Monroe, when Loring found fault with the government
officials who veiled their plans and prospects from the taxpayers--the
capitalists of the South who made the war possible. "But the
instructions received lead me to believe a general movement of much
importance is about to be made in our department, and my opportunities
will be all a soldier could wish."

"So you have become a Brigadier-General instead of the Lieutenant we
knew only three years ago," and Judithe's eyes rested on him
graciously for an instant, as Monroe and Gertrude helped Loring out to
the wheeled chair on the lawn. "You travel fast--you Americans! I
congratulate you."

She had arisen and crossed the room to the little writing desk in the
corner. He followed with his eyes her graceful walk and the pretty
fluttering movements of her hands as she drew out note paper and
busied herself rather ostentatiously. He smiled as he noticed it; she
was afraid of a tete-a-tete; she was trying to run away, if only to
the farther side of the room.

"I shall consider myself a more fit subject for congratulation if you
prove more kind to the General than you were to the Lieutenant."

"People usually are," she returned lightly. "I do not fancy you will
have much of unkindness to combat, except from the enemy."

Evilena entered the room humming an air, and her brother remarked
carelessly that the first of the enemy to invade their domain was not
very formidable at present, though Captain Jack Monroe had made a
fighting record for himself in the western campaign. Judithe did not
appear particularly interested in the record of the Northern campaign,
but Evilena, who had been too much absorbed in the question of
wardrobe to keep informed of the late arrivals, fairly gasped at the
name.

"Really and truly, is that Yankee here?" she demanded, "right here in
the house? Caroline said it wasn't a Yankee--just some friend of
yours."

"So he is."

"And--a--_Yankee_?"

He nodded his head and smiled at her. Judithe had picked up a pen and
was writing. Evilena glanced towards her for assistance in this
astonishing state of affairs, but no one appeared to be shocked but
herself.

"Well!" she said, at last, resignedly, "since we are to have any
Yankee here, I'm glad it's the one Gertrude met at Beaufort. I've been
conjuring up romances about them ever since, and I am curious to see
if he looks like the Jack Monroe in the song."

"Not likely," said her brother, discouragingly, "he is the least
romantic hero for a song you can imagine; but if you put on your
prettiest dress and promise not to fight all the battles of the war
over with him, I'll manage that you sit beside him at dinner and make
romances about him at closer range, if you can find the material."

"To think of _me_ dressing my prettiest for a Yankee! and oh, Ken, I
can't dress so astonishingly pretty, either. I'm really," and she
sighed dejectedly, "down to my last party dress."

"Well, that's better than none."

"None!" she endeavored to freeze him with a look, but his smile
forbade it, and she left the room, singing

                 "Just as she stepped on ship board,
                 'Your name I'd like to know?'
                 And with a smile she answered,
                 'My name is Jack Monroe.'"

"Thanks; glad to find so charming a namesake," said a deep voice, and
she looked up to see a tall man gazing down at her with a smile so
kindly she should never have guessed he was a Yankee but for the blue
uniform.

"Oh!" she blushed deliciously, and then laughed. There really was no
use trying to be dignified with a stranger after such a meeting as
that.

"I never did mean to steal your name, Captain Monroe," she explained,
"for you are Captain Monroe?"

"Yes, except when I am Jack," and then they both smiled.

"Oh, I've known Jack was your name, too, for this long time," she
said, with a little air of impressing him with her knowledge; "but I
couldn't call you that, except in the song."

"May I express the hope that you sing the song often?" he asked, with
an attempt at gravity not entirely successful.

"But you don't know who I am, do you?" and when he shook his head
sadly she added, "but of course you've heard of me; I'm Evilena."

"Evilena?"

"Evilena McVeigh," she said, with a trifle of emphasis.

"Oh, Kenneth's sister?" and he held out his hand. "I'm delighted to
know you."

"Thank you." She let her hand rest in his an instant, and then drew it
away, with a little gasp.

"There! I've done it after all."

"Anything serious?" he inquired.

She nodded her head; "I've broken a promise."

"Not past repair, I hope."

"Oh, it's only a joke to you, but it really is serious to me. When the
boys I know all started North with the army I promised I'd never shake
hands with a Yankee."

"Promised them all?" he asked, and without waiting for a reply, he
continued: "Now, that's a really extraordinary coincidence; I
entertained the same idea about Johnnie Rebs."

"Really?" and she looked quite relieved at finding a companion in
iniquity; "but you did shake hands?"

"Yes."

"Are you sorry?"

"No; are you?"

"N--no."

And when Delaven went to look for Evilena to tell her they were to
have lunch on the lawn (Mrs. McVeigh had installed him as master of
ceremonies for the day), he found her in the coziest, shadiest nook on
the veranda, entertaining a sample copy of the enemy, and assuring him
that the grey uniforms would be so much more becoming than the blue.



CHAPTER XXIV.


Noon. Colonel McVeigh had been at the Terrace already a half day, and
no sign had come from Pierson--no message of any sort. Judithe called
Pluto and asked if the mail did not leave soon for down the river, and
suggested that when he took it to the office he would ask the man in
charge to look carefully lest any letters should have been forgotten
from the night before.

"Yes'm, mail go 'bout two hours now," and he looked up at the clock.
"I go right down ask 'bout any letters done been fo'got. But I don'
reckon any mail to go today; folks all too busy to write lettahs."

"No; I--I--I will have a letter to go," and she turned toward the
desk. "How soon will you start?"

"Hour from now," said Pluto, "that will catch mail all right;" and
with that she must be content. At any other time she would have sent
him at once without the excuse of a letter to be mailed. Those
easy-going folk who handled the mail might easily have overlooked some
message--a delay of twenty-four hours would mean nothing in their
sleepy lives. But today she was unmistakably nervous--all the more
reason for exceeding care.

She had begun the letter when Colonel McVeigh came for her to go to
lunch; she endeavored to make an excuse--she was not at all hungry,
really, it appeared but an hour since the breakfast; but perceiving
that if she remained he would remain also, she arose, saying she would
join their little festival on the lawn long enough for a cup of tea,
she had a letter to get ready for the mail within an hour.

She managed to seat herself where she could view the road to the
south, but not a horseman or footman turned in at the Terrace gate.
She felt the eyes of Monroe on her; also the eyes of Gertrude Loring.
How much did they know or suspect? She was feverishly gay, though
penetrated by the feeling that the suspended sword hung above her.
Pierson's non-appearance might mean many things appalling--and
Louise!

All these chaotic thoughts surging through her, and ever beside her
the voice of Kenneth McVeigh, not the voice alone, but the eyes, at
times appealing, at times dominant, as he met her gaze, and forbade
that she be indifferent.

"Why should you starve yourself as well as me?" he asked, softly, when
she declined the dishes brought to her, and made pretense of drinking
the cup of tea he offered.

"You--starving?" and the slight arching of the dark brows added to the
note of question.

"Yes, for a word of hope."

"Really? and what word do you covet?"

"The one telling me if the Countess Biron's gossip was the only reason
you sent me away."

Mrs. McVeigh looked over at the two, well satisfied that Kenneth was
giving attention to her most distinguished guest. Gertrude Loring
looked across to the couple on the rustic seat and felt, without
hearing, what the tenor of the conversation was. Kenneth McVeigh was
wooing a woman who looked at him with slumbrous magnetic eyes and
laughed at him. Gertrude envied her the wooing, but hated her for the
laughter. All her life Kenneth McVeigh had been her ideal, but to this
finished coquette of France he was only the man of the moment, who
contributed to her love of power, her amusement. For the girl, who was
his friend, read clearly the critical, half contemptuous gleams,
alternating at times the graciousness of Madame Caron's dark eyes. She
glanced at Monroe, and guessed that he was no more pleased than
herself at the tete-a-tete there, and that he was quite as watchful.

And the cause of it all met Colonel McVeigh's question with a glance,
half alluring, half forbidding, as she sipped the tea and put aside
the cup.

"How persistent you are," she murmured. "If you adopt the same methods
in warfare I do not wonder at your rapid promotions. But I shan't
encourage it a moment longer; you have other guests, and I have a
letter to write."

She crossed to Mrs. McVeigh, murmured a few words of excuse, exchanged
a smile with Evilena, who declared her a deserter from their ranks,
and then moved up the steps to the veranda and passed through the open
window into the library, pausing for a little backward glance ere she
entered; and the people on the lawn who raised their glasses to her,
did not guess that she looked over their heads, scanning the road for
the expected messenger.

Looking at the clock she seated herself, picked up the pen, and then
halted, holding her hand out and noting the trembling of it.

"Oh, you fool! You _woman_!" she said, through her closed teeth.

She commenced one letter, blotted it in her nervous impatience, turned
it aside and commenced another, when Captain Monroe appeared at the
window with a glass of wine in his hand.

"Why this desertion from the ranks?" he asked, jestingly, yet with
purpose back of the jest. She recognized, but ignored it.

"That you might be detailed for special duty, perhaps, Captain Jack,"
she replied, without looking around.

"I have to look up stragglers," and he crossed to the desk where she
sat. "I even brought you a forgotten portion of your lunch."

She looked up at that, saw the glass, and shook her head; "No, no wine
for me."

"But it would be almost treasonable to refuse this," he insisted. "In
the first place it is native Carolina wine we are asked to take; and
in the second, it is a toast our bear of the swamps--Mr. Loring--has
proposed, 'our President.' I evaded my share by being cup-bearer to
you." He offered the glass and looked at her, meaningly, "Will you
drink?"

"Only when you drink with me," she said, and smiled at the grim look
touching his face for an instant.

"To the President of the Southern Confederacy?" he asked.

"No!--to _our_ President!"

She took the glass, touched the wine to her lips, and offered the
remainder to him, just as Colonel McVeigh entered from the lawn. He
heard Captain Monroe say, "With all my heart!" as he emptied the
glass. The scene had such a sentimental tinge that he felt a swift
flash of jealousy, and realized that Monroe was a decidedly attractive
fellow in his own cool, masterful way.

"Ah! a tryst at mid-day?" he remarked, with assumed lightness.

"No; only a parley with the enemy," she said, and he passed out into
the hall, picking up his hat from the table, where he had tossed it
when he entered in the morning.

Monroe walked up to the window and back again. She heard him stop
beside her, but did not look up.

"I have almost decided to take your advice, and remain only one night
instead of two," he said, at last. "I can't approve what you are doing
here. I can't help you, and I can't stay by and be witness to the
enchantment which, for some reason, you are weaving around McVeigh."

"Enchantment?"

"Well, I can't find a better word just now. I can't warn him; so I
will leave in the morning."

"I really think it would be better," she said, looking up at him
frankly. "Of all the American men I have met I value your friendship
most; yes, it is quite true!" as he uttered a slight exclamation.
"But there are times when even our good angels hamper us, and just now
I am better, much better, alone."

"If I could help you--"

"You could not," she said hastily. "Even without the barrier of the
parole, you could not. But I cannot talk. I am nervous, not myself
today. You saw how clumsy I was when I brought the letter to
show?--and after all did not get to show it. Well, I have been like
that all day. I have grown fearful of everything--distrustful of every
glance. Did you observe the watchfulness of Miss Loring on the lawn?
Still, what does it matter?"

She leaned her head on her hands for a few moments. He stood and
looked at her somberly, not speaking. When she turned towards him
again it was to ask in a very different tone if he would touch the
bell--it was time for Pluto to start with the mail. When he entered
she found that a necessary address book had been left in her own
apartments.

"You get the mail bag while I go for it, Pluto," she said after
tossing the papers about in a vain search; "and Captain Monroe, will
you look over this bit of figures for me? It is an expense list for my
yacht, I may need it today and have a wretched head for business
details of that sort. I am helpless in them."

Then she was gone, and Monroe, with a pencil, noted the amount,
corrected a trifling mistake, and suddenly became conscious that the
grave, most attentive, black man, was regarding him in a manner
inviting question.

"Well, my man, what is it?" he asked, folding up the paper, and
speaking with so kindly a smile that Pluto stumbled eagerly into the
heart of questions long deferred.

"Jes' a word, Mahs Captain. Is it true you been took prisoner? Is it
true the Linkum men are whipped?"

"Well, if they are they don't know it; they are still fighting, any
way."

"If--if they win," and Pluto looked around nervously as he asked the
question, "will it free us, Mahs Captain? We niggahs can't fine out
much down heah. Yo' see, sah, fust off they all tell how the Nawth
free us sure if the Nawth won the battles. Then--then word done come
how Mahsa Linkum nevah say so. Tell me true, Mahs Captain, will we be
free?"

His eagerness was so intense, Monroe hesitated to tell him the facts.
He understood, now, why the dark face had been watching him so
hungrily ever since his arrival.

"The men who make the laws must decide those questions, my man,"
he said, at last. 'In time freedom certainly will be arranged
for--but--"

"But Mahsa Linkum ain't done said it yet--that it, Mahsa?"

"Yes, that's it."

"Thank yo', sah," and Monroe heard him take a deep breath, sad as
tears, when he turned into the hall for the mail bag.

A stranger was just coming up the steps, a squarely built,
intelligent-eyed man, with a full dark beard; his horse, held by one
of the boys under a shade tree, showed signs of hard riding, and the
fact that he was held instead of stabled, showed that the call was to
be brief.

The servants were clearing away the lunch things. Mrs. McVeigh had
entered the house. Delaven and Gertrude were walking beside Loring's
chair, wheeled by Ben, along the shady places. Evilena was coming
towards them from across the lawn, pouting because of an ineffectual
attempt to catch up with Ken, whom she fancied she saw striding along
the back drive to the quarters, but he had walked too fast, and the
hedge had hidden him. She came back disappointed to be asked by
Delaven what sort of uniform she was pursuing this time, to which he
very properly received no reply except such as was vouchsafed by
silent, scornful lips and indignant eyes.

Masterson, who was walking thoughtfully alone, noted this distribution
of the people as the stranger dismounted, inquired of Caroline for
Madame Caron, and was received by Pluto at the door. The man wore a
dark blue suit, plain but for a thin cord of gold on collar and
sleeve. He did not recognize it as a uniform, yet instinctively
associated it with that other blue uniform whose wearer had caused him
an annoyance he would not soon forget. He was there alone now with
Madame Caron for whom this stranger was asking. He wondered if Colonel
McVeigh was there also, but concluded not, as he had seen him on the
western veranda with his hat on. All these thoughts touched him and
passed on as he stood there looking critically at the dusty horse.

At the same moment he heard the thud, thud of another horse turning in
at the Terrace gates; the rider was leaning forward as though urging
the animal to its utmost. At sight of Masterson he threw up his hand
to attract attention, and the others on the lawn stared at this second
tumultuous arrival and the haste Captain Masterson made to hear what
he had to say--evidently news of importance from the coast or the
North.

Loring hoped it meant annihilation of some Yankee stronghold, and
Evilena hoped it did not mean that Kenneth must leave before the
party.

                  *       *       *       *       *

The man whom Pluto showed into the library with the information that
Madame Caron would be down at once, glanced about him quickly, and
with annoyance, when he found there was another man in the room. But
the instant Monroe's face was seen by him, he uttered an exclamation
of pleasure.

"By Jove! Captain Jack?" and he turned to him eagerly, after noting
that Pluto had left the door.

"I don't think I know you, sir, though you evidently know one of my
names," and his tone was not particularly cordial as he eyed the
stranger.

"Don't you remember the night run you made on the yacht _Marquise_,
last March?" and the man's tone was low and hurried. "I had no beard
then, which makes a difference. This trip is not quite so important,
but has been more annoying. I've been followed, have doubled like a
hare for hours, and don't believe I've thrown them off the track after
all. I have a message to deliver; if I can't see Madame alone at once
you get it to her."

"Can't do it; don't want to see it!" and Monroe's tone was quick and
decided as the man's own. "I am on parole."

"Parole!" and the stranger looked at him skeptically. "Look here, you
are evidently working with Madame, and afraid to trust me, but it's
all right. I swear it is! I destroyed the message when I saw I was
followed, but I know the contents, and if you will take it--"

"You mistake. I have absolutely no knowledge of Madame's affairs at
present."

"Then you won't take it?" and the man's tones held smothered rage.
"So, when put to the test, Captain Jack Monroe is afraid to risk what
thousands are risking for the cause, at the front and in secret--a
life!"

"It is just as well not to say 'afraid,' my good fellow," and
Monroe's words were a trifle colder, a shade more deliberate. "Do you
know what a parole means? I excuse your words because of your present
position, which may be desperate. If you are her friend I will do what
I can to save you; but the contents of the dispatch I refuse to
hear."

Judithe entered the door as he spoke, and came forward smilingly.

"Certainly; it was not intended that you should. This is the captain
of my yacht, and his messages only interest me."

"Madame Caron!" and Monroe's tones were imploring, "Consider where you
are. Think of the risks you run!"

"Risks?" and she made a little gesture of disdain. She felt so much
stronger now that the suspense was over--now that the message was
really here. "Risks are fashionable just now, Monsieur, and I always
follow the fashions."

He shook his head hopelessly; words were of no use. He turned away,
and remembering that he still held the slip with her account on, he
halted and handed it to the stranger, who was nearest him.

"I presume these figures were meant for the master of your yacht," he
remarked, without looking at her, and passed out on the veranda, where
he halted at sight of Masterson running up the steps, and the dusty
rider close behind.

Judithe had seated herself at the desk and picked up the pen. But as
Monroe stepped out on the veranda she turned impatiently:

"The despatch?" and she held out her hand.

"I was followed--I read and destroyed it."

"Its contents?"

"Too late, Madame," he remarked, in a less confidential tone, as he
laid the slip Monroe had given him on the desk. He had seen Masterson
at the door and with him the other rider!

Judithe did not raise her head. She was apparently absorbed in her
task of addressing an envelope.

"I will speak with you directly," she said, carelessly sealing the
letter. He bowed and stood waiting, respectfully. Glancing up, she saw
Captain Masterson, who had entered from the veranda, and bestowed on
him a careless, yet gracious smile. Pluto brought the mail bag in from
the hall, and she dropped the letter in, also a couple of papers she
took from the top of the desk.

"There, that is all. Make haste, please, Pluto," and she glanced at
the clock. "I should not like that letter to miss the mail; it is
important."

"Yes'm, I gwine right away now," and he turned to the door, when
Masterson stepped before him, and to his astonishment, took the bag
from his hand.

"You can't take this with you," he said, in a tone of authority. "Go
tell Colonel McVeigh he is needed here on business most important."

Pluto stared at him in stupid wonder, and Judithe arose from her
chair.

"Go, by all means, Pluto," she said, quietly, "Captain Masterson's
errand is, no doubt, more important than a lady's could be," and she
moved towards the door.

"I apologize, Madame Caron, for countermanding your orders," said
Masterson, quickly, "but circumstances make it necessary that no
person and no paper leave this room until this man's identity is
determined," and he pointed to the messenger. "Do you know him?"

"Certainly I know him; he is in my employ, the sailing master of my
yacht."

Pluto came in again and announced, "Mahs Kenneth not in the house;
he gone somewhere out to the quarters." Masterson received the news
with evident annoyance. There was a moment of indecision as he glanced
from the stranger to Monroe, who had sauntered through the open
window, and across to Judithe, who gave him one glance which he
interpreted to mean she wished he was somewhere else. But he only
smiled and--remained.

"There is only one thing left for me to do in Colonel McVeigh's
absence," said Masterson, addressing the group in general, "and that
is to investigate this affair myself, as every minute's delay may mean
danger. Madame Caron, we are forced to believe this man is a spy."
Judithe smiled incredulously, and he watched her keenly as he
continued: "More, he is associated with a clever French creole called
Louise Trouvelot, who says she is your maid and who is at present
under surveillance in Savannah, and they both are suspected of being
only agents for a very accomplished spy, who has been doing dangerous
work in the South for many months. I explain so you will comprehend
that investigation is necessary. This man," and he pointed to the
other stranger, who now stepped inside, "has followed him from the
coast under special orders."

"What a dangerous character you have become!" said Judithe, turning to
her messenger with an amused smile. "I feared that beard would make
you look like a pirate, but I never suspected _this_ of you--and you
say," she added, turning to Masterson, "that my poor maid is also
under suspicion? It is ridiculous, abominable! I must see to it at
once. The girl will be frightened horribly among such evidences of
your Southern chivalry," and she shrugged her shoulders with a little
gesture of disdain. "And what, pray, do you intend doing with my
sailor here?"

The man had been staring at Masterson as though astounded at the
accusations. But he did not speak, and the Confederate agent never
took his eyes off him.

"Ask him his name," he suggested, softly, to Masterson, who took paper
and pencil from the desk and handed it to the suspect. "Write your
name there," he said, and when it was quickly, good naturedly done,
the self-appointed judge read it and turned to Judithe.

"Madame Caron, will you please tell me this man's name?" and the
messenger himself stared when she replied, haughtily:

"No, Captain Masterson, I will not!"

"Ah, you absolutely refuse, Madame?"

"I do; you have accused my employe of being a spy, but your attitude
suggests that it is not he, but myself, whom you suspect."

"Madame, you cannot comprehend the seriousness of the situation," and
Masterson had difficulty in keeping his patience. "Every one he speaks
with, everything concerning him is of interest. These are war times,
Madame Caron, and the case will not admit of either delays or special
courtesies. I shall have to ask you for the paper he placed in your
hands as I entered the room."

Judithe picked up the paper without a word and reached it to him, with
the languid air of one bored by the entire affair.

He glanced at it and handed it back. As he did so he perceived an
unfinished letter on the desk. In a moment his suspicions were
aroused; that important letter in the mail bag!

"You did not complete the letter you were writing?"

"No," and she lifted it from the desk and held it towards him. "You
perceive! I was so careless as to blot the paper; do you wish to
examine that?"

His face flushed at the mockery of her tone and glance. He felt it
more keenly, that the eyes of Monroe were on him. The task before him
was difficult enough without that additional annoyance.

"No, Madame," he replied, stiffly, "but the situation is such that I
feel justified in asking the contents of the envelope you sealed and
gave to the servant."

"But that is a private letter," she protested, as he took it from the
mail bag; "it can be of no use to any government or its agents."

"That can best be determined by reading it, Madame. It certainly
cannot go out in this mail unless it is examined."

"By you?--oh!" And Judithe put out her hand in protest.

"Captain Masterson!"

"Sir!" and Masterson turned on Monroe, who had spoken for the first
time. As he did so Judithe deliberately leaned forward and snatched
the letter from his hand.

"You shall not read it!" she said, decidedly, and just then Evilena
and her brother came along the veranda, and with them Delaven. Judithe
moved swiftly to the window before any one else could speak.

"Colonel McVeigh, I appeal to you," and involuntarily she reached out her
hand, which he took in his as he entered the room. "This--gentleman--on
some political pretense, insists that I submit to such examinations as
spies are subject to. I have been accused in the presence of these
people, and in their presence I demand an apology for this attempt to
examine my private, personal letters."

"Captain Masterson!" and the blue steel of McVeigh's eyes flashed in
anger and rebuke. But Masterson, strong in his assurance of right,
held up his hand.

"You don't understand the situation, Colonel. That man is suspected of
being the assistant to a most dangerous, unknown spy within our lines.
He has been followed from Beaufort by a Confederate secret service
agent, whom he tried to escape by doubling on the road, taking
by-ways, riding fully twenty miles out of his course, to reach this
point unobserved."

For the first time the suspected man spoke, and it was to Judithe.

"That is quite true, Madame. I mean that I rode out of my way. But the
reason of it is that I came over the road for the first time; there
were no sign-boards up, and my directions had not been explicit enough
to prevent me losing my way. That is my only excuse for not being here
earlier. I am not landsman enough to make my way through the country
roads and timber."

"You perceive, Colonel McVeigh, the man is in my employ, and has come
here by my orders," said Judithe, with a certain impatience at the
density of the accuser.

"That should be credential enough," and McVeigh's tone held a distinct
reprimand as he frowned at Masterson's senseless accusation, but that
officer made a gesture of protest. He was being beaten, but he did not
mean to give up without a hard fight.

"Colonel, there were special reasons for doubt in the matter. Madame
Caron, apparently, does not know even the man's name. I asked him to
write it--here it is," and he handed McVeigh the paper. "I asked her
to name him--she refused!"

"Yes; I resented the manner and reason for the question," assented
Judithe; "but the man has been the master of my yacht for over a year,
and his name is Pierson--John T. Pierson."

"Correct," and McVeigh glanced at the paper on which the name was
written. "Will you also write the name of Madame Caron's yacht, Mr.
Pierson?" and he handed him a book and pencil. "Pardon me," and he
smiled reassuringly at Judithe, "this is not the request of suspicion,
but faith." He took the book from Pierson and glanced at the open page
and then at her--"the name of your yacht is?--"

"_The Marquise_," she replied, with a little note of surprise in her
voice, as she smiled at Evilena, who had slipped to her side, and
understood the smile. Evilena and she had made plans for a season of
holidays on that same yacht, as soon as the repairs were made. Colonel
McVeigh tossed the book indignantly on the table.

"Thank you, Madame! Captain Masterson, this is the most outrageous
thing I ever knew an officer to be guilty of! You have presumed to
suspect a lady in my house--the guest of your superior officer, and
you shall answer to me for it! Mr. Pierson, you are no longer under
suspicion here, sir. And you," he added, turning to the Confederate
secret agent, "can report at once to your chief that spies are not
needed on the McVeigh plantation."

"Colonel McVeigh, if you had seen what I saw--"

"Madame Caron's word would have been sufficient," interrupted McVeigh,
without looking at him. And Judithe held out the letter.

"I am quite willing you should see what he saw," she said, with a
curious smile. "He saw me, after the arrival of Mr. Pierson, seal an
envelope leaving him in ignorance of its contents. The seal is yet
unbroken--will you read it?"

"You do not suppose I require proof of your innocence?" he asked,
refusing the letter, and looking at her fondly as he dare in the
presence of the others.

"But I owe it to myself to offer the proof now," she insisted, "and
at the same time I shall ask Mr. Pierson to offer himself for personal
search if Captain Masterson yet retains suspicion of his honesty;" she
glanced towards Pierson, who smiled slightly, and bowed without
speaking. Then she turned to Delaven, who had been a surprised
onlooker of the scene.

"Dr. Delaven, in the cause of justice, may I ask you to examine the
contents of this letter?" and she tore open the envelope and offered
it.

"Anything in the wide world to serve you, Madame la Marquise," he
answered, with a shade more than usual of deference in his manner, as
he took it. "Are the contents to be considered professionally, that
is, confidentially?"

She had taken Evilena by the hand, bowed slightly to the group, and
had moved to the door, when he spoke. Monroe, who had watched every
movement as he stood there in a fever of suspense for her sake, drew a
breath of relief as she replied:

"Oh, no! Be kind enough to read it aloud, or Captain Masterson may
include you in the dangerous intrigues here," and, smiling still, she
passed out with Evilena to the lawn.

But a few seconds elapsed, when a perfect shout of laughter came from
the library. The special detective did not share in it, for he thrust
his hands into his pockets with a curse, and Masterson turned to him
with a frowning, baffled stare--an absolutely crestfallen manner, as
he listened to the following, read in Delaven's best style:

  "To Madame Smith,         "Mobile, Ala.:

  "The pink morning gown is perfect, but I am in despair over the
  night robes! I meant you to use the lace, not the embroidery, on
  them; pray change them at once, and send at the same time the
  flounced lawn petticoats if completed. I await reply.

                                                 "Judithe de Caron."



CHAPTER XXV.


"Certainly, I apologize," and Masterson looked utterly crushed by his
mistaken zeal; "apologize to every one concerned, collectively and
individually."

Even McVeigh felt sorry for his humiliation, knowing how thoroughly
honest he was, how devoted to the cause; and Mrs. McVeigh was
disconsolate over "loyal, blundering Phil Masterson," whom, she could
not hope, would remain for the party after what had occurred, and she
feared Judithe would keep to her room--who could blame her? Such a
scene was enough to prostrate any woman.

But it did not prostrate Judithe. She sent for Mrs. McVeigh, to tell
her there must on no account be further hostilities between Colonel
McVeigh and Captain Masterson.

"It was all a mistake," she insisted. "Captain Masterson no doubt only
did his duty when presented with the statements of the secret service
man; that the statements were incorrect was something Captain
Masterson could not, of course, know, and she appreciated the fact
that, being a foreigner, she was, in his opinion, possibly, more
likely to be imposed upon by servants who were not so loyal to the
South as she herself was known to be."

All this she said in kindly excuse, and Mrs. McVeigh thought her the
most magnanimous creature alive.

Her only anxiety over the entire affair appeared to be concerning her
maid Louise, who, also, was suffering the suspicion attaching to
foreigners who were non-residents; it was all very ridiculous, of
course, but would necessitate her going personally to Savannah. She
could not leave so faithful a creature in danger.

Mrs. McVeigh prevailed upon her to send word with Mr. Pierson to the
authorities, and remain herself for two days longer--until Kenneth and
his men left for the front, which Judithe consented to do.

Masterson, who for the first time in his life found the McVeighs
lacking in cordiality to him (Evilena, even, disposed to look on him
as dead and buried so far as she was concerned), felt his loyal heart
go out to Gertrude, who was the only one of them all who frankly
approved, and who was plainly distressed at the idea of him going at
once to join his company.

"Don't go, Phil," she said, earnestly; "something is wrong here--terribly
wrong; I can't accuse anyone in particular--I can't even guess what it
really means, but, Phil," and she glanced around her cautiously before
putting the question, "What possible reason could Madame Caron and
Captain Monroe have for pretending they met here as strangers, when it
was not a fact?"

Whereupon Gertrude told him of her discovery in that direction.

"I can't, of course, mention it to Kenneth or Mrs. McVeigh, now," she
whispered; "they are so infatuated with her, Kenneth in particular.
But I do hope you will put aside your personal feelings; make any and
every sort of apology necessary, but remain right here until you see
what it all means. You may prove in the end that you were not entirely
mistaken today. What do you think of it?"

Think! His thoughts were in a whirl. If Madame Caron and Captain
Monroe were secretly friends it altered the whole affair. Monroe,
whose conduct on arrest was unusual; who had a parole which might, or
might not, be genuine; who had come there as by accident just in time
to meet Pierson; who had been in the room alone with Pierson before
Madame Caron came down the stairs--he knew, for he had been in sight
when she crossed the hall.

He had been a fool--right in theory, but wrong as to the individual.
He would remain at the Terrace, and he would start on a new trail!

Mrs. McVeigh was very glad he would remain; she believed implicitly in
his profound regret, and had dreaded lest the question be recalled
between the two men after they had gone to the front; but, if Phil
remained their guest, she hoped the old social relations would be
completely restored, and she warned Evilena to be less outspoken in
regard to her own opinions.

So, Captain Masterson remained, and remained to such purpose that
during the brief hour of Mr. Pierson's stay he was watched very
closely, and the watcher was disappointed that no attempt was made at
a private interview with Captain Monroe, who very plainly (Masterson
thought, ostentatiously) showed himself in a rather unsocial mood,
walking thoughtfully alone on the lawn, and making no attempt to
speak, even with Madame Caron.

Pierson had a brief interview with her, rendered the more brief that
he was conscious of Masterson's orderly lounging outside the window,
but plainly within hearing, and the presence of Mrs. McVeigh, who was
all interest and sympathy concerning Louise.

When he said: "Don't be at all disturbed over the work to be done,
Madame; there is plenty of time in which to complete everything," the
others present supposed, of course, he referred to the repairs on the
yacht; and when he said, in reply to her admonitions, "No fear of me
losing the road again, I shall arrive tonight," they supposed, of
course, he referred to his arrival at the coast. Judithe knew better;
she knew it meant his return, and more hours of uncertainty for her.

Colonel McVeigh helped to keep those hours from dragging by following
up his love-making with a proposal of marriage, which she neither
accepted or declined, but which gave her additional food for thought.

All the day Pluto brooded over that scene in the library. He was
oppressed by the dread of harm to Madame Caron if some one did not at
once acquaint her with the fact that the real spy was Madame's maid,
who had fled for fear of recognition by the Lorings. He had been
curious as to what motive had been strong enough to bring her back to
the locality so dangerous to her freedom. He was puzzled no longer--he
knew.

But, how to tell Madame Caron? How could a nigger tell a white lady
that story of Rhoda and Rhoda's mother? And if part was told, all must
be told. He thought of telling Dr. Delaven, who already knew the
history of Margeret, but Dr. Delaven was a friend to the Lorings, and
how was a nigger to know what a white man's honor would exact that he
do in such a case? And Pluto was afraid to ask it.

Instinctively his trust turned to the blue uniformed "Linkum soldier."
No danger of him telling the story of the runaway slave to the wrong
person. And he was Madame Caron's friend. Pluto had noted how he
stepped beside her when Masterson brought his accusation against her,
or her agent, Pierson. Monroe had been a sort of divinity to him from
the moment the officer in blue had walked up the steps of the Terrace,
and Pluto's admiration culminated in the decision that he was the one
man to warn Madame Caron of her maid's identity without betraying it
to any other.

The lady who caused all this suppressed anxiety was, apparently,
care-free herself, or only disturbed slightly over the report
concerning Louise. She knew the girl was in no real danger, but she
knew, also, that at any hint of suspicion Louise would be in terror
until joined by her mistress.

She heard Matthew Loring had sent over for Judge Clarkson to arrange
some business affairs while Kenneth was home, and despite Mrs.
McVeigh's statement that they neither bought nor sold slaves, she
fancied she knew what one of the affairs must be.

Judge Clarkson, however, was not at home--had been called across the
country somewhere on business, but Aunt Sajane sent word that they
would certainly be over in the evening and would come early, if Gideon
returned in time.

But he did not. Several of the guests arrived before them; Colonel
McVeigh was employed as host, and the business talk had to be deferred
until the following morning.

Altogether, the sun went down on a day heavy with threats and
promises. But whatever the rest experienced in that atmosphere of
suppressed feeling, Kenneth McVeigh was only responsive to the
promises; all the world was colored by his hopes!

And Monroe, who saw clearly what the hopes were, and who thought he
saw clearly what the finale would be, had little heart for the
festivities afoot--wished himself anywhere else but on the hospitable
plantation of the McVeighs, and kept at a distance from the charming
stranger who had bewitched the master of it.

Twilight had fallen before Pluto found the coveted opportunity of
speaking with him alone. Monroe was striding along the rose arbor,
smoking an after-supper cigar, when he was suddenly confronted by the
negro who had questioned him about the Federal policy as to slavery.

He had been running along the hedge in a stooping position so as not
to be seen from the windows of the dining room, where the other
servants were working, and when he gained the shadows of an oleander
tree, straightened up and waited.

"Well," remarked Monroe, as he witnessed this maneuver, "what is it?"

Pluto looked at him steadily for an instant, and then asked,
cautiously:

"Mahs Captain, you a sure enough friend of Madame Caron?"

"'Sure enough' friend--what do you mean?"

"I mean Madame Caron gwine to have trouble if some sure enough friend
don't step in an' tell her true who the spy is they all talk 'bout
today."

"Indeed?" said Monroe, guardedly; his first thought was one of
suspicion, lest it be some trick planned by Masterson.

"Yes, sah; I find out who that woman spy is, but ain't no one else
knows! I can't tell a white lady all that story what ain't noways
fitten' fo' ladies to listen to, but--but somebody got to tell her,
somebody that knows jest how much needs tellen', an' how much to keep
quiet--somebody she trusts, an' somebody what ain't no special friend
o' the Lorings. Fo' God's sake, Mahsa Captain, won't yo' be that
man?"

Monroe eyed him narrowly for an instant, and then tossed away the
cigar.

"No fooling about this business, mind you," he said, briefly; "what
has Madame Caron to do with any spy? And what has Matthew Loring?"

"Madame not know she got _anything_ to do with her," insisted Pluto,
eagerly, "that gal come heah fo' maid to Madame Caron, an' then ole
Nelse (what Lorings use to own) he saw her, an' that scare her plum
off the place. An' the reason why Mahsa Loring is in it is 'cause that
fine French maid is a runaway slave o' his--or maybe she b'long to
Miss Gertrude, _I_ don' know rightly which it is. Any how, she's
Margeret's chile an' ought to a knowed more'n to come a 'nigh to
Loring even if she is growd up. That why I know fo' suah she come back
fo' some special spy work--what else that gal run herself in danger
fo' nothen'?"

"You'd better begin at the beginning of this story, if it has one,"
suggested Monroe, who could see the man was intensely in earnest, "and
I should like to know why you are mixing Madame Caron in the affair."

"She bought my baby fo' me--saved him from the trader, Mahsa Captain,"
and Pluto's voice trembled as he spoke. "Yo' reckon I evah fo'get that
ar? An' now seems like as how she's got mixed up with troubles, an' I
come to yo' fo' help 'cause yo' a Linkum man, an' 'cause yo' her
frien'."

It was twenty minutes later before Pluto completed his eager, hurried
story, and at its finish Monroe knew all old Nelse had told Delaven,
and more, too, for confidential servants learn many hidden things, and
Rosa--afterwards Pluto's wife--knew why Margeret's child was sent to
the Larue estate for training. Mistress Larue, whose conscience was of
the eminently conventional order, seldom permitting her to contest any
decision of her husband, yet did find courage to complain somewhat of
the child's charge and her ultimate destination--to complain, not on
moral, but on financial grounds--fully convinced that so wealthy a
man as Matthew Loring could afford to pay more for her keeping than
the sum her husband had agreed to, and that the youth, Kenneth
McVeigh, to whose estate the girl was partly sold, could certainly
afford more of recompense than his guardian had agreed to.

Pluto told that portion of the story implicating his master with
considerable reluctance, yet felt forced to tell it all, that Monroe
should be impressed with the necessity of absolute secrecy to every
one except Madame Caron, and she, of course, must not hear that part
of it.

"Name o' God, no!" burst out Pluto, in terror of what such a
revelation would mean. "What yo' reckon Madame Caron think o' we all
ef she done heah _that_? Don't reckon his own ma evah heard tell a
whisper o' that ar; all Mahs Matt Loring's doin's, that sale
was--_must_ a been! Mahs Ken wan't only a boy then--not more'n
fifteen, so yo' see--"

Monroe made no comment, though he also had a vision of what it would
mean if Madame Caron--she of all women!--should hear this evidently
true story just as Pluto related it.

He walked along the rose hedge and back again in silence, the colored
man regarding him anxiously; finally he said:

"All right, my man. I'll speak to Madame and be careful not to tell
her too much. You are all right, Pluto; you did right to come to me."

Some one called Pluto from the window. He was about to go when Monroe
asked:

"What about that picture you said your wife had of the girl? Madame
Caron may not be easy to convince. You'd better let me have it to show
her. Is it a good likeness?"

"'Fore God I don' know! I only reckon it is, 'cause Nelse took her,
on sight, fo' Margeret's ghost, which shows it must be the plain image
of her! I done been so upset since I got back home with Zekal I nevah
had a minute to look ovah Rosa's b'longens', but the likeness is in
that bundle somewhere; Rosa alles powerful careful o' that locket
thing, an' kep' it put away; don't mind as I evah seen it but once,
jest when we fust married. I'd a clean fo'got all 'bout it, only fo'
an accident--an' that's the woman now it was painted from."

He pointed to a window where Margeret stood outlined for an instant
against the bright background.

"Don't look more like her now, I reckon," he continued, "all her
trouble must a' changed her mightily, fo' the ole folks do say she was
counted a beauty once. Little Rhoda went a'most crazy when some one
stole the locket, so Rosa said; then by and by the gal what took it
got scared--thought it was a hoodoo--an' fetched it back, but Rhoda
gone away then. My Rosa took it an' kep' it faithful, waiten' fo' that
chile to come back, but she nevah come back while Rosa lived."

Monroe was staring still at the figure of Margeret, seen dimly, now,
through the window.

"Look here!" he said, sharply, "if the old man recognized the
likeness, how comes it that the mother herself did not see it?"

"Why, Margeret she not get here till nex' day after Madame Caron's
maid start down the river to take the cars fo' Savannah," explained
Pluto. "Then Miss Gertrude come a visiten' an' fetch Margeret along.
Yo' see, sah, that woman done been made think her chile dead a long
time ago, an' when Margeret went clean 'stracted the word went down to
Larues that she dead or dyen'--one! any way my Rosa nevah know'd no
different till Larues moved back from Georgy, so there wan't no one
heah to 'dentify her, an' there wan't no one heah to let that gal know
she _had_ a liven mammy."

Again Caroline called Pluto.

"Go on," said Monroe, "but get me the picture soon as you can. I leave
in the morning."

"I be right heah with it in hour's time," promised Pluto; "don' reckon
I can slip away any sooner, a sight o' quality folks a' comen'."



CHAPTER XXVI.


As Monroe entered the hall Judithe came down the stairs, a dainty
vision in palest rose. She wore armlets and girdle of silver filagree,
a silver comb in the dark tresses, and large filagree loops in her
ears gave the beautiful face a half-oriental character.

Admire her though he must, he felt an impatience with her, a wonder
that so beautiful a being, one so blest with all the material things
of life, should forsake harmony, home, and her own land, for the rude
contests where men fought, and plotted, and died--died ingloriously
sometimes, for the plots and intrigues through which she claimed to
find the only escape from ennui.

She saw him, hesitated an instant, and then came towards him, with a
suggestion of daring in her eyes.

"I might as well hear the worst, first as last," she said, taking his
arm. "Is not the veranda more cool than in here? Come, we shall see. I
prefer to be out of hearing of the people while you lecture me for
today's mishap."

She glanced up at him with a pretense of dread such as a child might
show; she was pleased to be alluringly gracious, but he could feel
that she was more nervous than she had ever shown herself before--the
strain was telling on her. Her beautiful eyes were not so slumbrous as
usual; they were brilliant as from some inward fever, and, though she
smiled and met his sombre gaze with a challenge, she smothered a sigh
under her light words.

"I shan't lecture you, Madame Caron; I have no right to interfere with
what you call your--amusements," and he glanced down at her, grimly;
"but I leave in the morning because by remaining longer I might gain
knowledge which, in honor, I should feel bound to report."

"To Colonel--or, shall we say, General--McVeigh?"

He bent his head, and answered: "I have given you warning. He is my
friend."

"And I?" she asked, glancing at him with a certain archness. He looked
down at her, but did not speak.

"And I?" she repeated.

"No," he said, after a pause. "You, Madame, would have to be something
more, or something less. The fates have decreed that it be less--so,"
he made a little gesture dismissing the subject. "Pardon me, but I did
not mean to attack you in that fashion. I came to look for you to ask
you a question relating to the very pretty, very clever, maid you had
in New Orleans, and whom, I hear, you brought with you on your visit
here."

"Oh! You are curious as to her--and you wish me to answer questions?"

"If you please, though it really does not matter to me. Are you aware
that the woman was a runaway slave, and liable to recapture in this
particular vicinity?"

"In this particular vicinity?" she repeated, questioningly.

"Yes, if Matthew Loring should once get suspicion of the fact that
your maid was really his girl Rosa--no, Rhoda--it would be an awkward
fact allied to the episode here today," and he made a gesture towards
the library window they were just passing.

"Come, we will go down the steps," she suggested. They did so, and
were promenading under the trees, lantern lit, on the lawn, when
Colonel McVeigh came out on the veranda and felt a momentary envy of
Monroe, who was free from a host's duties. They were clear of the
steps and of probable listeners before Judithe asked:

"Where did you get this information?"

"From a slave who wanted you warned that you without knowing it, are
probably harboring the spy whom Captain Masterson spoke of today."

"Ah, a slave?" she remarked, thoughtfully; and the curious, intense
gaze of Margeret was recalled to her, only to be followed by the
memory of Pluto's anxiety that Louise should leave before the arrival
of the Lorings; it was, then, without doubt, Pluto who gave the
warning; but she remembered Zekal, and felt she had little to be
anxious over.

"You probably are not aware," he continued, "what a very serious
affair it is considered here to assist in hiding a slave of that sort
under assumed names or occupations. But if it is discovered it would
prove ruinous to you just now."

"In three days I shall be out of the country," she answered, briefly.
"I go down to Savannah, secure Louise from this blunder--for there
is really nothing to be proven against her as a spy--and then,
farewell, or ill, to Carolina. I do not expect to enter it again. My
arrangements are all made. Nothing has been forgotten. As to my
good Louise, your informer has not been made acquainted with all the
facts. It is true she was a Georgian slave, but is so no longer.
For over a year she has been in possession of the papers establishing
her freedom. Her own money, and a clever lawyer, arranged all that
without any trouble whatever. What Monsieur Loring would do if he knew
I had a maid whose name was assumed, I neither know nor care. He
could not identify her as the girl Rhoda Larue, even if he saw her.
His sight has failed until he could not distinguish you from
Colonel McVeigh if across the room. I learned that fact through
Madame McVeigh before leaving Mobile, so, you perceive, I have not
risked so much in making the journey with my pretty maid; and I shall
risk no more when I make my adieus the day after tomorrow."

She laughed, and looked up in his face. He looked down in her's, but
he did not laugh.

"And the estate you have just purchased in order to enjoy this
Eden-like plantation life?"

"The purpose for which it was purchased will be carried out quite as
well without my presence," she said, quietly. "I never meant to live
there."

"Well, that beats me!" he said, halting, and looking squarely down at
her. "You spend thousands to establish yourself in the heart of a
seceding country, and gain the confidence of the natives, and then
toss it all aside as though it were only a trifle! You must have spent
fortunes from your own pocket to help the Federals!"

"So your President was good enough to say in the letter I tried to
show you--and did not," she replied, and then smiled, as she added,
"but you are mistaken, Captain Monroe; it was only one fortune spent,
and I will be recompensed."

"When?"

"When that long-talked-of emancipation is announced."

The bright music of a mazurka stole out of the open windows, and
across the level could be seen a blaze of fat pine torches tied
to poles and shedding lustre and black pitch over the negro
quarters--they also were celebrating "Mahs Ken's" return. Above
the dreamy system of the parlor dances they could hear at times
the exuberant calls and shouts of laughter where the dark people
made merry. Judge Clarkson, who was descending the steps, halted
to listen, and drew Monroe's attention to it.

"Happy as children they are, over there tonight," he remarked. "Most
contented people on earth, I do believe." He addressed some gallant
words to Judithe, and then turned to Monroe.

"Mr. Loring has been inquiring for you, Captain Monroe. You
understand, of course, that you are somewhat of a lion and one we
cannot afford to have hidden. He is waiting to introduce you to some
of our Carolina friends, who appreciate you, sir, for the protection
shown a daughter of the South, and from your magnanimous care of a
Carolina boy this past month--oh, your fame has preceded you, and I
assure you, sir, you have earned for yourself a hearty welcome."

Evilena joined them, followed by Delaven, who asked for a dance and
was flouted because he did not wear a uniform. She did present him
with a scarlet flower from her boquet, with the remark that if decked
with something bright he might be a little less suggestive of
funerals, and, attaching herself to Monroe, she left to look up
Matthew Loring.

Delaven looked ruefully at the scarlet flower.

"It's a poor substitute for herself," he decided, "but, tell me now,
Marquise, if you were fathoms deep in love, as I am this minute, and
had so much of encouragement as a flower flung at you, what would you
advise as the next move in Cupid's game?"

She assumed a droll air of serious contemplation for an instant, and
then replied, in one word:

"Propose."

"I'll do it," he decided; "ah, you are a jewel of a woman to give a
man courage! I'll lay siege to her before I'm an hour older. Judge,
isn't it you would lend a boy a hand in a love affair? I'm bewitched
by one of the fair daughters of the South you are so proud of; I find
I am madly jealous of every other lad who leads her onto the dancing
floor this night, but every one of them has dollars where I have
dimes," and he sighed like a furnace and glanced from one to the other
with a comical look of distress; "so is it any wonder I need all the
bracing up my friends can give me?"

"My dear sir," said the Judge, genially, "our girls are not mercenary.
You are a gentleman, so need fear comparison with none! You have an
active brain, a high degree of intelligence, a profession through
which you may win both wealth and honors for the lady in question--so
why procrastinate?"

"Judge, you are a trump! With you to back me up with that list of
advantages, I'll dare the fates."

"I am your obedient servant, sir. I like your enthusiasm--your
determination to put the question to the test. I approve of early
marriages, myself; procrastination and long engagements are a mistake,
sir--a mistake!"

"They are," agreed Delaven, with a decision suggestive of long
experience in such matters. "Faith, you two are life preservers to me.
I feel light as a cork with one of you on each side--though it was
doleful enough I was ten minutes ago! You see, Judge, the lady who is
to decide my fate has valued your friendship and advice so long that I
count on you--I really do, now, and if you'd just say a good word to
her--"

"A word! My dear sir, my entire vocabulary is at your service in an
affair of the heart." The Judge beamed on Delaven and bowed to Madame
Caron as though including her in the circle where Love's sceptre is
ever potent.

"Faith, when America becomes a monarchy, I'll vote for you to be
king," and Delaven grasped the hand of the Judge and shook it
heartily; "and if you can only convince Mrs. McVeigh that I am all
your fancy has pictured me, I'll be the happiest man in Carolina
tonight."

"What!" Judge Clarkson dropped his hand as though it had burned him,
and fairly glared at the self-confessed lover.

"I would that!--the happiest man in Carolina, barring none," said the
reckless Irishman, so alive with his own hopes that he failed to
perceive the consternation in the face of the Judge; but Judithe saw
it, and, divining the cause, laughed softly, while Delaven continued:
"You see, Judge, Mrs. McVeigh will listen to you and--"

"Young man!" began Clarkson, austerely, but at that moment the lady in
question appeared on the veranda and waved her fan to Delaven.

"Doctor, as a dancing man your presence in the house would be most
welcome," she said, coming slowly down the steps towards them.

"Madame, both my feet and my heart are at your disposal," he said,
hastening to meet her, and passing on to find some unpartnered damsels
she suggested.

"What a charming young man he is," remarked their hostess, "and
exceedingly skillful in his profession for so young a physician. Don't
you consider him very bright, Judge?"

"I, Madame--I?" and Judithe retired, convulsed at the situation; "on
my word, I wouldn't trust him to doctor a sick cat!" Mrs. McVeigh
looked astonished at the intensity of his words and was fairly puzzled
to see Judithe laughing on the seat under the tree.

"Why, Judge! I'm actually surprised! He is most highly esteemed
professionally, and in Paris--"

"Pardon me, but I presume his hair was the same color in Paris that it
is here," said the Judge, coldly, "and I have never in my life known a
red-headed man who had any sense, or--"

"Oh!" Mrs. McVeigh glanced slowly from the Judge to Judithe and then
smiled; "I remember one exception, Judge, for before your hair became
white it was--well, auburn, at least."

The Judge ran his fingers through the bushy curls referred to. The man
usually so eloquent and ready of speech, was checkmated. He could only
stammer something about exceptions to rules, and finally said:

"You will probably remember, however, that my hair was very dark--a
dark red, in fact, a--a--brown red."

Judithe, to hide her amusement, had moved around to the other side of
the tree circled by the rustic seat. Her hostess turned one appealing
glance towards her, unseen by the Judge, who had forgotten all but the
one woman before him.

"No matter if he had hair all colors of the rainbow he is not worthy
of you, Madame," he blurted out, and Mrs. McVeigh took a step away
from him in dismay; in all her knowledge of Judge Clarkson, she had
never seen him show quite so intense a dislike for any one.

"Why, Judge! What is the matter tonight?" she asked, in despair. "You
mean Dr. Delaven; not worthy of me?"

"He aspires to your hand," blurted out the Judge, angrily. "Such an
ambition is a worthy one; it is one I myself have cherished for years,
but you must confess I had the courage to ask your hand in person."

"Yes, Judge; but--"

"This fellow, on the contrary, has had the affrontery to come to
me--to me! with the request that I use my influence in negotiating a
matrimonial alliance with you!"

Mrs. McVeigh stared at him a moment, and then frankly laughed; she
suspected it was some joke planned by Evilena. But the indignation of
the Judge was no joke.

"Well, Judge, when I contemplate a matrimonial alliance, I can assure
you that no one's influence would have quite so much weight as your
own;" she had ascended the steps and was laughing; at the top she
leaned over and added, "no matter who you employ your eloquence for,
Judge;" and with that parting shot she disappeared into the hall,
leaving him in puzzled doubt as to her meaning. But the question did
not require much consideration. The remembrance of the smile helped
clear it up wonderfully. He clasped his hands under his coat tails,
threw back his shoulders, walked the length of the veranda and back
with head very erect. He was a very fine figure of a man.

"The Irishman's case is quashed," he said, nodding emphatically and
confidentially to the oleander bush; "the fact that a woman, and that
woman a widow, remembers the color of the plaintiff's hair for twenty
years, should convince the said plaintiff if he is a man possessed of
a legal mind, that his case is still on the calendar. I'll go and ask
for the next dance."

He had scarcely reached the steps when Judithe saw a flutter of white
where the shadows were heaviest under the dense green shrubbery.
She glanced about her; no one was in hearing. The veranda, for
the instant, was deserted, and past the windows the dancers were
moving. The music of stringed instruments and of laughter floated out
to her. She saw Masterson in the hallway; he was watching Monroe. She
saw Kenneth McVeigh speaking to his mother and glancing around
inquiringly; was he looking for her? She realized that her moments
alone now would be brief, and she moved swiftly under the trees to
where the signal had been made. A man had been lying there flat to the
ground. He arose as she approached, and she saw he was dressed in
Confederate uniform, and that he wore no beard--it was Pierson.

"Why did you leave the place without seeing me again?" she demanded.
"This suspense seems to me entirely unnecessary."

"It was the best I could do, Madame," he answered, hurriedly.
"Masterson, unknown to the McVeighs, had spies within hearing of every
word between us, and to write was too great a risk. His man followed
me beyond the second fortification."

"And you eluded him?"

"No; I left him," answered Pierson, grimly. "I wore his uniform
back--he did not need it."

Judithe drew a deep, shuddering breath, but made no comment. "Give me
the contents of the destroyed despatch," was all she said.

"McVeigh received official notification of promotion today. Important
instructions were included as to the movements of his brigade. These
instructions must be received by us tonight in order to learn their
plans for this wing of the army."

"And you depend on me?"

"No other way to secure them quickly, but some of our men have been
landed north of Beaufort. They are under cover in the swamp and cane
brakes awaiting your commands--so if it can't be done quietly there is
another way--a raid for any purpose you may suggest, and incidentally
these instructions would be among the souvenirs from this especial
plantation."

"Colonel McVeigh only remains over tomorrow night. Suppose I succeed,
how shall I communicate with you or with the detachment of Federals?"

"I will return tonight after the house is quiet. I shall be in sight
of the balcony. You could drop them from there; or, if you have any
better plan of your own I will act on it."

She could see Kenneth on the veranda, and knew he was looking for her.
The moments were precious now; she had to think quick.

"It may not be possible to secure them tonight; the time is so short;
and if not I can only suggest that the commander of the landed troops
send a detachment tomorrow, capture Colonel McVeigh and Captain
Masterson, and get the papers at the same time. There are also
official documents in McVeigh's possession relating to the English
commissions for additions to the Confederate Navy. I must go; they are
looking for me. You can trust a black man here called Pluto--but do
not forget that a detachment of Confederates came today to the
fortifications below here, don't let our men clash with them; good
bye; make no mistake."

She moved away as she spoke, and the man dropped back unseen into the
shadows as she went smilingly forward to meet the lover, whose
downfall she was debating with such cool judgment.

And the lover came to meet her with ardent blue eyes aglow.

"Have you fled to the shadows to avoid us all?" he demanded, and then
as he slipped her hand through his arm and looked down in her face, he
asked, more tenderly, "or may I think you only left the crowd to think
over my audacity."

She gave him one fleeting, upward glance, half inviting, half
reproving--it would help concentrate his attention until the man in
the shadows was beyond all danger of discovery.

"You make use of every pretext to avoid me," he continued, "but it
won't serve you; no matter what cool things you say now, I can only
hear through your words the meaning of those Fontainbleau days, and
that one day in Paris when you loved me and dared to say it. Judithe,
give me my answer. I thought I could wait until tomorrow, but I can't;
you must tell me tonight; you must!"

"Must?" She drew away from him and leaned against a tall garden vase
overrun with clustering vines. They were in the full blaze of light
from the windows; she felt safer there where they were likely to be
interrupted every minute; the man surely dared not be wildly
sentimental in full view of the crowd--which conclusion showed that
she was not yet fully aware of what Kenneth McVeigh would dare do
where a woman--or the woman was in question.

"An hour ago you said: 'Will you?' Now it is: 'You must!'" she said,
with a fine little smile. "How quick you are to assume the tone of
master, Monsieur."

"If you said slave, the picture would have been more complete," he
answered. "I will obey you in all things except when you tell me to
leave you;" he had possessed himself of her hand, under cover of the
vines; "it's no use, Judithe, you belong to me. I can't let you go
from me again; I won't!"

All of pleading was in his voice and eyes. Moved by some sudden
impulse not entirely guileless, she looked full at him and let her
hand remain in his.

"Well, since you really cannot," she murmured.

"Judithe! You mean it?" and in an instant both his hands were clasping
hers. "You are not coquetting with me this time? Judithe!"

She attempted to draw her hand away, but he bent his head, and kissed
the warm palm. Margeret who was lighting an extinguished lantern, saw
the caress and heard the low, deep tones. She turned and retraced her
steps instead of passing them.

"Do you realize that all who run may read the subject of your
discourse?" she asked, raising her brows and glancing after the
retreating woman.

"Let them, the sooner they hear it the better I shall be pleased;
come, let us tell my mother; I want to be sure of you this time, my
beautiful Judithe. What time more fitting than this for the
announcement--come!"

"What is it you would tell her?" she asked, looking straight ahead of
her into the shadows on the lawn. Her voice sounded less musical than
it had a moment before. Her eyes avoided his, and for one unguarded
instant the full sculpturesque lips were tense and rigid.

"What is it?" he repeated, "why, that I adore you! that you have been
the one woman in the world to me ever since I met you first; that I
want you for my wife, and that you--confess it again in words,
Judithe--that you love me."

She shook her head slowly, but accompanied that half denial with a
bewildering smile.

"Entirely too much to announce in one evening," she decided; "do you
forget they have had other plans for you? We must give your family
more time to grow accustomed to me and to--your wishes."

"_Our_ wishes," he said, correctively, and she dropped her eyes and
bent her head in assent. She was adorable in the final surrender. He
murmured endearing, caressing words to her, and the warm color merged
across her face, and receding, left her a trifle pale. All her
indifference had been a pretense--he knew it now, and it strengthened
his protests against delay. He drew her away from the steps as the
dance ended, and the people came chattering and laughing out from the
brilliantly lit rooms.

"You talk of haste, but forget that I have waited three years,
Judithe; remember that, won't you? Put that three years to my credit;
consider that I wooed you every day of every year, and I would if I
had been given the chance! You talk of time as if there were oceans of
it for us, and you forget that I have but one more day to be with
you--one day; and then separation, uncertainty. I can't leave you like
that, now that I know you care for me--I won't."

"Oh--h!" and she met his look with a little quizzical smile. "You mean
to resign your commission for the sake of my society? But I am not
sure I should admire you so much then. I am barbarian enough to like a
fighter."

"I should fight all the better for knowing it was a wife I was leaving
behind instead of a sweetheart, Judithe; marry me tomorrow!"

She made a little gesture of protest, but he clasped her hand in his
and held it close to prevent her from repeating it. "Why not?" he
continued. "No one need know unless you wish; it can be kept secret as
the engagement would be. Then, wherever the fortunes of war may send
me, I can carry with me the certainty of your love. Speak to me,
Judithe! Say yes. I have waited three years; I want my wife!"

"Your wife! _Your_--oh!"--and she flung out her hands as though
putting the thought away from her. A tear fell on his hand--she was
weeping.

"Judithe, sweetheart!" he murmured, remorsefully.

"Tomorrow--not tonight," she half whispered. "I must think, so much is
to be considered."

"No! Only one thing is to be considered;" he held her hands and looked
in her face, with eyes ardent, compelling; "Only one thing, Judithe,
and that is, do you love me--now?"

"Now, and from the first day we ever met," she answered, looking up at
him; her eyes were like stars glimmering through the mist of late
tears. There came to them both the remembrance of that other avowal,
behind those plunging horses in the Paris boulevard. They had
unconsciously repeated the words uttered then.

For an instant his arms were about her--such strong, masterful,
compelling arms. A wild temptation came to her to remain in that
shelter--to let all the world go by with its creeds, its plots, its
wars of right and wrong--to live for love, love only, love with him.

"My queen!" he whispered, as her head bent in half avoidance of his
caresses even while her hand clasped his closely, convulsively, "it
has all been of no use; those three years when you kept me away. It is
fate that we find each other again. I shall never let you go from
me--never! Do you hear me, Judithe? You are so silent; but words
matter little since you belong to me. Do you realize it?--that you
must belong to me always!"

The words over which he lingered, words holding all of hope and
happiness to him brought to her a swift revulsion of feeling. She
remembered those other human creatures who belonged to him--she
remembered--

A moment later and he stood alone in the sweet dusk of the night. She
had fairly run from him along the little arbor to the side door, where
she vanished unseen by the others. How she was for all her queenly
ways! What a creature of moods, and passions, and emotions! The hand
on which her tear had fallen he touched to his cheek. Why had she wept
at his confession of love for her? She had not wept when the same
words were spoken on that never-to-be-forgotten day in Paris!



CHAPTER XXVII.


The love affair of Colonel McVeigh was not the only one under
consideration that evening. Delaven was following up the advice of the
Judge and Madame Caron to the extent of announcing to Mistress
McVeigh during a pause in the dance that his heart was heavy, though
his feet were light, and that she held his fate in her hands, for he
was madly in love, which statement she had time to consider and
digest before the quadrille again allowed them to come close enough
for conversation, when she asked the meaning of his mystery.

"First, let me know, Mrs. McVeigh, which you would prefer if you had a
choice--to have me for your family physician, or a physician in your
family?"

She smiled at the excentric question, but as the dance whisked him off
just then she waited for the next installment of his confidence.

"You must tell me, first, what relationship you seek to establish,"
she demanded, as he came up for his answer.

He looked at her quizzically, and seeing a slight gleam of humor in
her fine eyes, he launched into the heart of the question.

"What relationship? Well, I should say that of husband and wife, if I
was not afraid of being premature;" he glanced at her and saw that she
was interested and not in the least forbidding. "To be sure, I am
poor, while you are wealthy, but I'm willing to overlook that; in
fact, I'm willing to overlook anything, and dare all things if you
would only consider me favorably--as a son-in-law."

"You are actually serious?"

"Serious, am I--on my faith, it's a life and death affair with me this
minute!"

"And my little Evilena the cause?"

"Yes, our Evilena, who does not feel so small as you may imagine. Look
at her now. Could a dozen seasons give her more confidence in her own
powers than she has this minute by reason of those uniformed
admirers?--to say nothing of my own case."

"_Our_ Evilena?" and Mrs. McVeigh raised her brows inquiringly--"then
you have proposed?"

"Indeed, no! I have not had the courage until tonight; but when I see
a lot of lads daft as myself over her, I just whispered in the ear of
Delaven that he'd better speak quick. But I would not propose without
asking your permission."

"And if I refused it?"

"You could not be so hard-hearted as that?"

"But suppose I could--and should?"

He caught the gleam of teasing light in her eyes, and smiled back at
her:

"I should propose just the same!"

"Well," said Evilena's mother, with a combination of amusement and
sympathy in her expression, "you may speak to her and let me know the
result."

"I'd get down on my knees to kiss the toe of your slipper, this
minute," he whispered, gratefully, "but the Judge would scalp me if I
dared; he is eyeing me with suspicion already. As to the result--well,
if you hear a serenade in the wee small hours of the night, don't let
it disturb you. I've got the guitar and the uniform all ready, and if
I fail it will not be because I have overlooked any romantic adjuncts
to successful wooing. I'll be under your daughter's window singing
'Sweet Evilena,' rigged out like a cavalier in a picture-book. I'm
wishing I could borrow a feather for the hat."

She laughed at the grotesque picture he suggested, but asked what he
meant by the uniform, and laughed still more when he told her he was
going to borrow one for the occasion from Kenneth, as Evilena had
announced her scorn for all ununiformed men, and he did not mean to
risk failure in a dress suit. Later he had an idea of applying for a
uniform of his own as surgeon in the army.

"If you could introduce _that_ into your serenade I have no fear my
little girl would refuse you," said Mrs. McVeigh, encouragingly, "at
least not more than two or three times."

On leaving Mrs. McVeigh he stumbled against Masterson, who was in the
shadow just outside the window within which Monroe was in interested
converse with Matthew Loring and some other residents of the county.
He had been deliberately, and, in his own opinion, justifiably, a
listener to every sentence advanced by the suspected Northerner, whom
he felt was imposing on the hospitality of the South only to betray
it.

Earnest as his convictions were he had not yet been able to discern
the slightest trace of double intent in any of Monroe's remarks, which
were, for the most part, of agricultural affairs, foreign affairs,
even the possible future of the Seminoles in the Florida swamp; of
everything, in fact, but the very vital question of the day
surrounding them, which only tended to confirm his idea that the man
was remarkably clever, and he despaired of securing sufficient
evidence against him in the brief time at his disposal.

He had just arrived at that conclusion when Delaven, high-hearted with
hope, saw only the stars over his head as he paced the veranda, and
turning the corner stumbled on Masterson.

There was an exclamation, some words of apology, and involuntarily
Masterson stepped backward into the stream of light from the open
window, and Monroe, looking around, read the whole situation at a
glance. Masterson still suspected him, and was listening! Monroe
frankly laughed and made a little sound, the mere whisper of a
whistle, as he met Masterson's baffled look with one of cool mockery;
it was nonchalant to the verge of insolence, and enraged the
Southerner, strong in his convictions of right, as a blow could not
have done. For a blow a man could strike back, but this mockery!

Delaven walked on, unconscious of the suppressed feeling between the
two. Masterson was handicapped by the fact that he dared not again
mention his suspicions to the McVeigh family, and he strode down the
steps to the lawn, furious at the restraint put upon him, and
conscious, now, that surveillance was useless, since the Northerner
had been put upon his guard.

His impatience filled him with rage. He was honest, and he was a
fighter, but of what use was that since he had blundered? He had dealt
clumsy strokes with both hands, but the other had parried each thrust
with a foil. He was worsted--the game was up, but he at least meant to
let the interloper know that however clever he might be, there were
some people, at least, whom he could not deceive.

That was the humor he was in when he saw Monroe excuse himself to
Loring, step through the window, and light a cigar, preparatory to a
stroll towards the tryst with Pluto.

Masterson watched him sauntering carelessly down the steps. He had
removed the cigar and was whistling very softly, unconsciously, as one
who is deep in some quandary, but to Masterson it seemed the acme of
studious carelessness to ignore his own presence; it seemed insolent
as the mocking glance through the window, and it decided him. His
shoulders unconsciously squared as he stepped forward.

"Captain Monroe, I want a word with you," and his tone was a challenge
in itself. Monroe turned his head, slowly, finished the bar he was
whistling in a slightly louder tone--loud enough to distinguish that
it was "Rally 'Round the Flag," whistled very badly. Monroe had
evidently little music in his soul, however much patriotism he had in
his heart.

"Only one, I hope," he said, carelessly, with an irritating smile.

"You may have to listen to several before you get away from here!"

"From--you?" and there was perceptible doubt in the tone; it added to
Masterson's conviction of his own impotence. He dared not fight the
man unless Monroe gave the challenge, though it was the one thing he
wanted to do with all his heart.

"From those in authority over this section," he said, sternly.

"Ah!--that is a different matter."

"You may find it a very serious matter, Captain Monroe."

"Oh, no; I shan't find it, I'm not looking for it," and Monroe softly
resumed, _"The Union Forever."_

"If you take my advice," began Masterson, angrily, "you'll"--but
Monroe shook his head.

"I shan't, so don't mention it," he said, blandly. Masterson's wordy
anger showed him that he was master of the situation, so he only
smiled as he added, "advice, you know, is something everybody gives
and nobody takes," and Monroe resumed his whistle.

"You think yourself cursedly clever," and it was an effort for
Masterson to keep from striking the cool, insolent face. "You thought
so today when Madame Caron was suspected instead of yourself."

"Madame Caron!" Monroe ceased the whistle and looked at him with a
momentary frown, which Masterson welcomed as a sign of anger.

"Ah, that touches you, does it?"

"Only with wonder that you dare speak of her after your failure to
make her the victim of your spies today," and Monroe's tone was again
only contemptuous. "First you arrest me, then accuse Madame Caron.
Evidently you are out of your sphere in detective work; it really
requires considerable cleverness, you know. Yet, if it amuses
you--well"--he made a little gesture of indifference and turned away,
but Masterson stepped before him.

"You will learn there is enough cleverness here to comprehend why you
came to this plantation a willing prisoner," he said, threateningly.
Monroe resumed his _"Rally Once Again,"_ and raised his brows
inquiringly, "and also why you ignored a former acquaintance with
Madame Caron and had to be introduced. Before you are through with
this business, Captain Monroe, you'll whistle a different tune."

"Oh, no, I shan't; I don't know any other," said Monroe, amiably, and
sauntered away as some of the guests, with gay good nights, came down
the steps. The evening, delightful as it had been, fraught with
emotion as it had been, was passing. The late hour reminded Monroe
that he must no longer delay seeing Pluto if he was to see him at all.
They had exchanged glances several times, but the black man's duties
had kept him occupied every minute, and they had found no opportunity
to speak unobserved.

Judithe stood beside Mrs. McVeigh on the veranda exchanging good
nights with some of the people, who expected to be her neighbors in
the near future, and who were delighted with the prospect. She had
been a decided success with the warm-hearted Southerners, and had
entered the rooms a short time after her interview with her host, so
gay, so bright, that he could scarcely believe those brilliant eyes
were the ones he had seen tear-wet in the dusk. She had not avoided
him, but she had made a tete-a-tete impossible; for all that he could
only remember the moment when she had leaned upon his breast and
confessed that the love was not all on his side; no after attempt at
indifference could erase an iota of that!

Monroe stopped to look at her, himself unseen, and as she stood there
smiling, gracious, the very star of the evening, he thought he had
never before seen her so absolutely sparkling. He had always known her
beautiful; tonight she was regal beyond comparison. Always in the
years to follow he thought of her as she stood there that night,
radiant, dominant, at the very pinnacle of success in all things. He
never again saw her like that.

As he passed on he relit the cigar, forgotten during his meeting with
Masterson, and Pluto, who had been on nettles of anxiety to get away
from his duties all the evening, seized the opportunity when no one
was looking, and followed closely the light of the cigar as it moved
along the hedge past the dining room windows.

He carried the treasured bag holding the dead Rosa's belongings.

"Couldn't get away a mite sooner, not to save me, Mahsa Captain," he
said, breathlessly; "had to run now to get 'way from them niggahs in
the kitchen, who wanted to know what I was toten. I had this here hid
in the pantry whah I had no chance to look through it, so if you'll
s'cuse me I jest gwine dump em out right heah; the picture case, it's
plum down in the bottom; I felt it."

Monroe smoked in silence while the darky was making the search. He no
longer needed the picture in order to convince Madame Caron of the
truth of Pluto's story, yet concluded it best that she have possession
of so compromising a portrait until her clever maid was out of the
country.

He could hear Colonel McVeigh asking for Pluto, and Caroline offering
information that "Pluto jest gone out through the pantry."

"You'd better hurry, my man," suggested Monroe, "they'll be looking
for you."

"They will that--folks all gwine home, an' need a sight o' waiten' on;
thah's the likeness, Mahs Captain;" he handed him a small oval frame,
commenced crowding the other articles hurriedly back into the bag;
"fo' God's sake, be careful o' that; I don' want it to fetch harm to
that gal, but I don' allow neither fo' Madame Caron to be made trouble
if I can help it."

"You're a faithful fellow; there's a coin in exchange for the picture;
you'd better go. I'll see you in the morning."

Pluto was profuse in his thanks, while Monroe hunted for a match with
which to view the picture.

He struck a light and opened the little closed frame as Pluto started
for the side door. An instant later he snapped it shut again, and as
the darky reached the steps Monroe's hand was on his shoulder:

"Wait a bit," he said, briefly. "You say that is the picture of
Rhoda's mother? Now tell me again what her name is."

"Who?--Margeret? Why, her name Margeret Loring, I reckon, but Nelse
did say her right name was 'Caris--Lacaris. Retta Lacaris what she
called when she jest a young gal an' Mahs Tom Loring fust bought
her."

Monroe repeated the name in order to impress it on his memory. He took
a pencil and note book out of his pocket.

Pluto half offered his hand for the little oval frame, for there was
enough light where they stood to see it by, but Monroe slipped it with
the note book into an inner pocket. "The Colonel will want you; you
had better go," he said, turning away, and walking directly from the
house he crossed the lawn out of sight and hearing of the departing
guests. All the gay chatter jarred on him, oppressed as he was with
the certainty of some unknown calamity overhanging those laughing
people on the veranda. What it was he did not know, but he would leave
in the morning.

He had been gone an hour. He was missed, but no one except Masterson
took any special notice of it, and he was wary about asking questions,
remembering Colonel McVeigh's attitude in the morning over the
disputed question. But as he was enjoying a final cigar with Judge
Clarkson on the lawn--the Judge was the very last to leave and was
waiting for his horse--all his suspicions were revived with added
strength as McVeigh strode hurriedly across the veranda towards them.

"Phil, I was looking for you," and his tone betrayed unusual
anxiety reflected in his face as he glanced around to see if there
were possible listeners. But the rooms on the first floor were
deserted--all dark but for a solitary light in the hall. In the
upper rooms little gleams stole out from the sleeping rooms where
the ladies had retired for the night.

"Anything wrong, Colonel?" asked Masterson, speaking in a suppressed
tone and meeting him at the foot of the steps.

"Who is that with you, the Judge?" asked McVeigh first. "Good! I'm
glad you are here. Something astounding has occurred, gentlemen. The
papers, the instructions you brought today, together with some other
documents of importance, have been stolen from my room tonight!"

"Ah-h!" Masterson's voice was scarcely above a whisper. All his
suspicions blazed again. Now he understood Monroe's presence there.

"But, my dear boy," gasped the Judge, thunderstruck at the news, "your
commission stolen? Why, how--"

"The commission is the least important part of it," answered McVeigh
hopelessly. He was pacing back and forth in decided agitation. "The
commission was forwarded me with instructions to take charge of the
entire division during the temporary absence of the Major General
commanding."

"And you have lost those instructions?" demanded Masterson, who
realized the serious consequences impending.

"Yes," and McVeigh halted in his nervous walk, "I have lost those
instructions. I have lost the entire plan of movement! It has been
stolen from my room--is perhaps now in the hands of the enemy, and I
ignorant of the contents! I had only glanced at them and meant to go
over them thoroughly tonight. They are gone, and it means failure,
court martial, disgrace!"

He had dropped hopelessly on the lower step, his face buried in his
hands; the contrast to the joy, the absolute happiness of an hour ago
was overwhelming. Masterson stood looking at him, thinking fast, and
wondering how much he dared express.

"When did you discover the loss, Colonel?"

"Just now," he answered, rising and commencing again the nervous
pacing. "I had gone to my room with Dr. Delaven to find an old uniform
of mine he had asked to borrow. Then I found the drawer of my desk
open and my papers gone. I said nothing to him of the loss. Any search
to be made must be conducted without publicity."

"Certainly, certainly," agreed Judge Clarkson, "but a search, Kenneth,
my boy? Where could we begin?"

McVeigh shook his head, but Masterson remembered that Delaven was also
an outsider--and Delaven had borrowed a Confederate uniform!

"Colonel," he asked, with a significance he tried ineffectually to
subdue, for all subterfuge was difficult to his straightforward
nature, "may I ask for what purpose that uniform was borrowed?"

The tone was unmistakable. McVeigh turned as if struck.

"Captain Masterson!"

"Colonel, this is no time to stand on ceremony. Some one who was your
guest tonight evidently stole those papers! Most of the guests were
old, tried friends, but there were exceptions. Two are foreigners, and
one belongs to the enemy. It is most natural that the exceptions be
considered first." Clarkson nodded assent to this very logical
deduction and Masterson felt assured of his support. "The borrowing of
the uniform in itself is significant, but at this time is especially
so."

"No, no, no!" and his superior officer waved aside the question
impatiently. "Dr. Delaven is above suspicion; he is about to offer his
services as surgeon to our cause--talked to me of it tonight. The
uniform was for some jest with my sister. It has nothing whatever to
do with this."

"What became of the man you suspected as a spy this morning?" asked
the Judge, and McVeigh also looked at Masterson for reply.

"No, it was not he," said the latter, decidedly. "He was watched every
minute of his stay here, and his stay was very brief. But Colonel
McVeigh--Kenneth; even at the risk of your displeasure I must remind
you that Dr. Delaven is not the only guest here who is either neutral
or pledged to the cause of our enemies--I mean Captain Jack Monroe."

"Impossible!" said McVeigh; but Masterson shook his head.

"If the name of every guest here tonight were mentioned you would feel
justified in saying the same thing--impossible, yet it has been
possible, since the papers are gone. Who but the Federals would want
them? Captain Monroe of the Federal army allowed himself to be taken
prisoner this morning and brought to your home, though he had a parole
in his pocket! The careless reason he gave for it did not satisfy me,
and now even you must agree that it looks suspicious."

McVeigh glanced from one to the other in perplexity. He felt that the
Judge agreed with Masterson; he was oppressed by the memory of the
accusation against the sailor that morning. Spies and traitors at
McVeigh Terrace! He had placed his orderly on guard in the room so
soon as he discovered the rifled drawer, and had at once come to
Masterson for consultation, but once there no solution of the problem
suggested itself. There seemed literally no starting point for
investigation. The crowd of people there had made the difficulty
greater, for servants of the guests had also been there--drivers and
boatmen. Yet who among them could have access to the rooms of the
family? He shook his head at Masterson's suggestion.

"Your suspicions against Captain Monroe are without foundation," he
said decidedly. "The papers had not yet reached me when he arrived. He
had no knowledge of their existence."

"How do we know that?" demanded Masterson. "Do you forget that he was
present when I gave you the papers?"

McVeigh stopped short and stared at him. By the thin edge of the wedge
of suspicion a door seemed forced back and a flood of revelations
forced in.

"By Jove!" he said, slowly, "and he heard me speak of the importance
of my instructions!"

"Where is he now?" asked the Judge. "I have not seen him for an hour;
but there seems only one thing to be done."

"Certainly," agreed Masterson, delighted that McVeigh at last began to
look with reason on his own convictions. "He should be arrested at
once."

"We must not be hasty in this matter, it is so important," said
McVeigh. "Phil, I will ask you to see that a couple of horses are
saddled. Have your men do it without arousing the servants'
suspicions. I am going to my room for a more thorough investigation.
Come with me, Judge, if you please. I am glad you remained. I don't
want any of the others to know what occurred. I can't believe it of
Monroe--yet."

"Kenneth, my boy, I don't like to crush any lingering faith you
have in your Northern friend," said Clarkson, laying his hand
affectionately on McVeigh's arm as they reached the steps, "but from
the evidence before us I--I'm afraid he's gone! He'll never come
back!"

At that moment a low, lazy sort of whistle sounded across the
lawn, so low and so slow that it was apparently an unconscious
accompaniment to reverie or speculation. It was quite dark except
where the light shone from the hall. All the gaudy paper lanterns
had been extinguished, and when the confidential notes of "Rally
'round the flag, boys," came closer, and the whistler emerged from
the deeper shadows, he could only distinguish two figures at the foot
of the steps, and they could only locate him by the glow of his
cigar in the darkness.

There was a moment's pause and then the whistler said, "Hello! Friends
or foes?"

"Captain Jack!" said McVeigh, with a note of relief in his voice, very
perceptible to the Judge, who felt a mingling of delight and surprise
at his failure as a prophet.

"Oh, it's you, is it, Colonel?" and Monroe came leisurely forward. "I
fancied every one but myself had gone to bed when I saw the lights
out. I walked away across your fields, smoking."

The others did not speak. They could not at once throw aside the
constraint imposed by the situation. He felt it as he neared the
steps, but remarked carelessly:

"Cloudy, isn't it? I am not much of a weather prophet, but feel as if
there is a storm in the air."

"Yes," agreed McVeigh, with an abstracted manner. He was not thinking
of the probable storm, but of what action he had best take in the
matter, whether to have the suspected man secretly watched, or to make
a plain statement of the case, and show that the circumstantial
evidence against him was too decided to be ignored.

"Well, Colonel, you've helped me to a delightful evening," continued
the unsuspecting suspect. "I shall carry away most pleasant memories
of your plantation hospitality, and have concluded to start with them
in the morning." There was a slight pause, then he added: "Sorry I
can't stay another day, but I've been thinking it over, and it seems
necessary for me to move on to the coast."

"Not going to run from the enemy?" asked Clarkson, with a doubtful
attempt at lightness.

"Not necessary, Judge; so I shall retreat in good order." He ascended
the steps, yawning slightly. "You two going to stay up all night?"

"No," said McVeigh, "I've just been persuading Judge Clarkson to
remain; we'll be in presently."

"Well, I'll see you in the morning, gentlemen. Good night."

They exchanged good nights, and he entered the house, still with that
soft whisper of a whistle as accompaniment. It grew softer as he
entered the house, and the two stood there until the last sound had
died away.

"Going in the morning, Kenneth," said the Judge, meaningly. "Now, what
do you think?"

"That Masterson is right," answered McVeigh. "He is the last man I
should have suspected, but there seems nothing to do except make the
arrest at once, or put him secretly under surveillance without his
knowledge. I incline to the latter, but will consult with Masterson.
Come in."

They entered the hall, where McVeigh shut the door and turned the
light low as they passed through. Pluto was nodding half asleep in the
back hall, and his master told him to go to bed, he would not be
needed. Though he had formed no definite plan of action he felt that
the servants had best be kept ignorant of all movements for the
present. Somebody's servants might have helped with that theft, why
not his own?

In the upper hall he passed Margeret, who was entering the room of
Miss Loring with a pitcher of water. The hall was dark as they passed
the corridor leading to the rooms of Madame Caron, Evilena, Miss
Loring and Captain Monroe. Light showed above the doors of Miss Loring
and Monroe. The other rooms were already dark.

The two men paused long enough to note those details, then McVeigh
walked to the end of the corridor and bolted the door to the balcony.
Monroe was still softly whistling at intervals. He would cease
occasionally and then, after a few moments, would commence again where
he had left off. He was evidently very busy or very much preoccupied.
To leave his room and descend the stairs he would have to pass
McVeigh's room, which was on the first landing. The orderly was on
guard there, within. McVeigh sent him with a message to Masterson, who
was in the rear of the building. The man passed out along the back
corridor and the other two entered the room, but left the door ajar.

In the meantime a man who had been watching Monroe's movements in the
park for some time now crept closer to the house. He watched him enter
the house and the other two follow. He could not hear what they said,
but the closing of the door told him the house was closed for the
night. The wind was rising and low clouds were scurrying past. Now and
then the stars were allowed to peep through, showing a faint light,
and any one close to him would have seen that he wore a Confederate
uniform and that his gaze was concentrated on the upper balcony. At
last he fancied he could distinguish a white figure against the glass
door opening from the corridor. Assuring himself of the fact he
stepped forward into the open and was about to cross the little space
before the house when he was conscious of another figure, also in gray
uniform, and the unmistakable cavalry hat, coming stealthily from the
other side of the house.

The second figure also glanced upwards at the balcony, but was too
close to perceive the slender form above moving against one of the
vine-covered pillars when the figure draped in white bent over as
though trying to decipher the features under the big hat, and just as
the second comer made a smothered attempt to clear his throat,
something white fell at his feet.

"Sweet Evilena!" he said, picking it up. "Faith, the mother has told
her and the darling was waiting for me. Delaven's private post
office!" He laid down the guitar and fumbled for a match, when the
watcher from the shadows leaped upon him from behind, throttling him
that no sound be made, and while he pinned him to the ground with his
knee, kept one hand on his throat and with the other tried to loosen
the grasp of Delaven's hand on the papers.

"Give me that paper!" he whispered fiercely. "Give it to me or I'll
kill you where you lay! Give it to me!"

In the struggle Delaven struck the guitar with the heel of his boot,
there was a crash of resonant wood, and a wail of the strings, and it
reached the ears of Masterson and the orderly, who were about to enter
the side door from the arbor.

Masterson halted to listen whence the crash came, but the orderly's
ears were more accurate and he dashed towards the corner.

"Captain," he called in a loud whisper, as he saw the struggling
figures, and at the call and the sound of quick steps Pierson leaped
to his feet and ran for the shrubbery.

"Halt!" called Masterson, and fired one shot from his revolver. The
fugitive leaped to one side as the order rang out and the bullet went
whistling past. He had cleared the open space and was in the
shrubbery. The orderly dashed after him as Masterson caught Delaven,
who was scrambling to his feet, feeling his throat and trying to take
a full breath.

"Who are you?" demanded Masterson, shaking him a trifle to hasten the
smothered speech. "Doctor Delaven! You! Who was that man?"

"It's little I can tell you," gasped the other, "except that he's some
murderous rival who wanted to make an angel of me. Man, but he has a
grip!"

Margeret suddenly appeared on the veranda with a lamp held high above
her head, as she peered downward in the darkness, and by its light
Masterson scanned the appearance of Delaven with a doubtful eye.

"Why did the man assault you?" he demanded, and Delaven showed the
long envelope.

"He was trying to rob me of a letter let fall from the balcony above,
bad luck to him!"

At that moment the orderly came running back to say that the man had
got away; a horse had been tied over in the pines, they could hear the
beat of its hoofs now on the big road.

"Get a horse and follow him," ordered Masterson briefly, as
McVeigh and Clarkson came down the stairs and past Margeret. "Arrest
him, shoot him, fetch him back some way!" Then he turned again to
the would-be cavalier of romance, who was surveying the guitar
disconsolately.

"Doctor Delaven, what are you doing in that uniform?"

"I was about to give a concert," returned that individual, who made a
grotesque figure in the borrowed suit, a world too large for him.

McVeigh laughed as he heard the reply and surveyed the speaker.
Masterson's persistent search for spies had evidently spoiled
Delaven's serenade.

Mrs. McVeigh opened a window and asked what the trouble was, and
Masterson assured her it was only an accident--his revolver had gone
off, but no one was hurt, on which assurance she said good night and
closed the window, while the group stood looking at each other
questioningly. Masterson's manner showed that it was something more
than an accident.

"What is the meaning of this?" asked McVeigh in a guarded tone; and
Masterson pointed to the package in Delaven's hand.

"I think we've found it, Colonel," he said, excitedly. "Doctor
Delaven, what is in that envelope?"

"Faith, I don't know, Captain. The fellow didn't give me time to read
it."

"Give it to me."

"No, I'll not," returned Delaven, moving towards the light.

"And why not?" demanded Masterson, suspiciously.

"Because it's from a lady, and it's private."

He held the envelope to the light, but there was no name or address on
it. He tore off the end and in extracting the contents two papers
slipped out and fell on the ground. Masterson picked them up and after
a glance waved them triumphantly, while Delaven looked puzzled over
the slip in his hands. It was only something about military
matters,--the furthest thing possible from a billet-doux.

"I thought myself it was the weightiest one ever launched by Cupid,"
he remarked as he shook his head over the mystery. But Masterson
thrust the papers into McVeigh's hands.

"Your commission and instructions, Colonel!" he said, jubilantly.
"What a run of luck. See if they are all right."

"Every one of them," and in a moment the Judge and Masterson were
shaking hands with him, while Delaven stood apart and stared. He was
glad they were having so much joy to themselves, but could not see why
he should be choked to obtain it for them.

"Understand one thing," said Masterson, when the congratulations were
over; "those papers were thrown from that balcony to Dr. Delaven by
mistake. The man they were meant for tried to strangle the doctor and
has escaped, but the man who escaped, Colonel, was evidently only a
messenger, and the real culprit, the traitor, is in your house now,
and reached the balcony through that corridor door!"

The wind blew Margeret's lamp out, leaving them, for an instant, in
darkness, but she entered the hall, turned up the light there so that
it shone across the veranda and down the steps; then she lit the lamp
in the library and went softly up the stairs and out of sight.

"Come into the library," suggested McVeigh. "You are right, Phil,
there is only one thing to be done in the face of such evidence By
Jove! It seems incredible. I would have fought for Jack Monroe, sworn
by him, and after all--"

A leisurely step sounded on the stairs and Monroe descended. He wore
no coat or vest and was evidently prepared for bed when disturbed.

"What's all the row about?" he asked, yawning. "Oh, are you in it,
Colonel?"

There was a slight pause before McVeigh said:

"Captain Monroe, the row is over for the present, since your
confederate has escaped."

"My--confederate?"

He glanced in inquiry from one to the other, but could see no
friendliness in their faces. Delaven looked as puzzled as himself, but
the other three regarded him coldly. He tossed his half finished
cigar out of the door, and seemed to grow taller, as he turned toward
them again.

"May I ask in what way I am linked with a confederacy."

"In using your parole to gain knowledge of our army for the use of the
Federal government," answered McVeigh, bluntly.

Monroe made a step forward, but halted, drew a long breath, and thrust
his uninjured hand into his pocket, as if to hamper its aggressive
tendencies.

"Is it considered a part of Southern hospitality that the host
reserves the right to insult his guests?" he asked slowly. Masterson's
face flushed with anger at the sweeping suggestion, but McVeigh
glanced at him warningly.

"This is not a time for useless words, Captain Monroe, and it seems
useless to discuss the rights of the hospitality you have outraged."

"That is not true, Colonel McVeigh," and his tones were very steady as
he made the denial. His very steadiness and cool selfcontrol angered
McVeigh, who had hoped to see him astonished, indignant, natural.

"Not true?" he demanded. "Is it not true that you were received here
as a friend, welcomed as a brother? That you listened this morning
when those military dispatches reached me? That you heard me say they
were very important? That as soon as they were stolen from my room
tonight you announced that you could not prolong your stay, your
object in coming having evidently been accomplished? Is it not true
that today you managed to divert suspicion from yourself to an
innocent lady? The authorities were evidently right who had that
sailor followed here; but unknown to her it was not his employer he
came here to meet, but _you_, his confederate! He was only the
messenger, while you were the real spy--the officer who has broken
his parole of honor."

Monroe had listened with set teeth to the accusation, a certain
doggedness in his expression as the list of his delinquencies were
reviewed, but at the final sentence the clenched hand shot forward and
he struck McVeigh a wicked blow, staggering him back against the
wall.

"You are a liar and a fool, Colonel McVeigh," he said in a choked
voice, his face white with anger.

The Judge and Masterson interposed as McVeigh lunged forward at him,
and then he controlled his voice enough to say, "Captain Monroe, you
are under arrest."

And the commotion and deep breathing of the men prevented them hearing
the soft rustle of a woman's dress in the hall as Judithe slipped away
into the darkness of the sitting room, and thence up the back stairs.

She had followed Monroe as he passed her door. She heard all their
words, and the final ones: "_Captain Monroe, you are under arrest!_"
rang in her ears all night as she tossed sleepless in the darkness.
That is what Kenneth McVeigh would say to her if he knew the truth.
Well, he should know it. Captain Monroe was sacrificing himself for
her. How she admired him! Did he fancy she would allow it? Yet that
shot alarmed her. She heard them say Pierson had escaped, but had he
retained the papers? If she was quite sure of _that_ she would
announce the truth at once and clear him. But the morning was so near.
She must wait a few hours longer, and then--then Kenneth McVeigh would
say to her, "_You are under arrest_," and after all her success would
come defeat.

She had never yet met defeat, and it was not pleasant to contemplate.
She remembered his words of love--the adoration in his eye; would that
love protect her when he learned she was the traitor to his home and
country? She smiled bitterly at the thought, and felt that she could
see clearly how _that_ would end. He would be patriot first and lover
after, unless it was some one of his own family--some one whose honor
meant his honor--some one--

Then in the darkness she laughed at a sudden remembrance, and rising
from the couch paced feverishly the length of the room many times, and
stood gazing out at the stars swept by fleecy clouds.

Out there on the lawn he had vowed his love for her, asked her to
marry him--marry him at once, before he left to join his brigade. She
had not the slightest idea of doing it then; but now, why not? It
could be entirely secret--so he had said. It would merely be a
betrothal with witnesses, _and_ it would make her so much a part of
the McVeigh family that he must let Captain Jack go on her word. And
before the dawn broke she had decided her plan of action. If he said,
"_You are under arrest_" to her, it should be to his own wife!

She plunged into the idea with the reckless daring of a gamester who
throws down his last card to win or lose. It had to be played any way,
so why not double the stakes? She had played on that principle in some
of the most fashionable gaming places of Europe in search of cure for
the ennui she complained of to Captain Jack; so why not in this more
vital game of living pawns?

She had wept in the dark of the garden when his lips had touched her;
she had said, wild, impulsive things; she had been a fool; but in the
light of the new day she set her teeth and determined the folly was
over--only one day remained. Military justice--or injustice--moved
swiftly, and there was a man's life to be saved.



CHAPTER XXVIII.


The sun was just peeping, fiery red and threatening, above the bank of
clouds to the east when Delaven was roused from sweet sleep by the
apparition of Colonel McVeigh, booted, spurred and ready for the
saddle.

"I want you to come riding with me, and to come quick," he said, with
a face singularly bright and happy, considering the episode of the
night before, and the fact that his former friend was now a prisoner
in a cottage back of the dwelling house, guarded by the orderlies.

He had dispatched a courier for a detachment of men from one of the
fortifications along the river. He would send Monroe in their charge
to Charleston with a full statement of the case before he left to join
his brigade--and ere that time:--

Close to his heart lay the little note Pluto had brought him less than
an hour before, the second written word he had ever received from
Judithe. The first had sent him away from her--but this!

So Delaven dressed himself quickly, ate the impromptu breakfast
arranged by the Colonel's order, and joined Judithe at the steps as
the horses were brought around.

She was gracious and gay as usual, and replied to his gallant remarks
with her usual self-possession, yet he fancied her a trifle nervous,
as was to be expected, and that she avoided his gaze, looking over
him, past him, every place but in his eyes, at which he did not
wonder especially. Of all the women he had known she was the last to
associate with a hurried clandestine marriage. Of course it was all
explained by the troublous war times, and the few brief hours, and
above all by the love he had always fancied those two felt for each
other.

They had a five mile ride to the country home of a disabled chaplain
who had belonged to McVeigh's regiment--had known him from boyhood,
and was home now nursing a shattered arm, and was too well used to
these hurried unions of war times to wonder much at the Colonel's
request, and only slightly puzzled at the added one of secrecy.

At the Terrace no one was surprised at the early ride of the three,
even though the morning was not a bright one. Madame Caron had made
them accustomed to those jaunts in the dawn, and Mrs. McVeigh was
relieved to learn that Kenneth had accompanied her. Shocked as she was
to hear of Monroe's arrest, and the cause of it, she was comforted
somewhat that Kenneth did not find the affair serious enough to
interfere with a trifle of attention to her guest.

In fact the Colonel had not, in the note hastily scribbled to his
mother, given her anything like a serious account of the case. Captain
Monroe had for certain military reasons been placed under guard until
an escort could arrive and accompany him to Charleston for some
special investigations. She was not to be disturbed or alarmed because
of it; only, no one was to be allowed to see or speak with him without
a special permit. He would explain more fully on his return, and only
left the note to explain why Captain Monroe would breakfast alone.

Matthew Loring also breakfasted alone. He was in a most excitable
state over the occurrence of the night before, which Judge Clarkson
was called on to relate, and concerning which he made all the
reservations possible, all of them entirely acceptable to his
listeners with the exception of Miss Loring, who heard, and then sent
for Phil Masterson.

She was talking with him on the lawn when the three riders returned,
and when Kenneth McVeigh bent above Judithe with some laughing words
as he led her up the steps, the heart of his girl-playmate grew sick
within her. She had feared and dreaded this foreign exquisite from the
first; now, she knew why.

Evilena was also watching for their return and gave Delaven a cool
little nod in contrast to the warm greeting given her brother and
Madame Caron. But instead of being chilled he only watched his
opportunity to whisper:

"I wore the uniform!"

She tossed her head and found something interesting in the view on the
opposite side of the lawn. He waited meekly, plucked some roses, which
he presented in silence and she regarded with scorn. But as she did
not move away more than two feet he took heart of grace and repeated:

"I wore the uniform!"

"Yes," she said, with fine scorn, "wore it in our garden, where you
were safe!"

"Arrah! Was I now?" he asked in his best brogue. "Well, it's myself
thought I was anything but safe for a few minutes. But I saved the
papers, and your brother was good enough to say I'd saved his honor."

"You!"

"Just me, and no other," he affirmed. "Didn't I hold on to those
instructions while that Yankee spy was trying to send me to--heaven?
And if that was not helping the cause and risking my life, well now,
what would you call it?"

"Oh!" gasped Evilena, delightedly, "I never thought of that. Why, you
were a real hero after all. I'm so glad, I--"

Then realizing that her exuberance was little short of caressing, and
that she actually had both hands on his arm, she drew back and added
demurely that she would always keep those roses, and she would like to
keep the guitar, too, just as it was, for her mama agreed that it was
a real romance of a serenade--the serenade that was not sung.

After which, he assured her, the serenades under her window should not
always be silent ones, and they went in search of the broken guitar.

Judge Clarkson was pacing the veranda with well concealed impatience.
Colonel McVeigh's ride had interfered with the business talk he had
planned. Matthew Loring was decidedly irritable over it, and he,
Clarkson, was the one who, with Gertrude, had to hear the complaints.
But looking in Kenneth's happy face he could not begrudge him those
brief morning hours at Beauty's side, and only asked his consideration
for the papers at the earliest convenient moment, and at the same time
asked if the cottage was really a safe place for so important a
prisoner as Monroe.

"Perfectly safe," decided McVeigh, "so safe that there is no danger of
escape; and as I think over the whole affair I doubt if on trial
anything in this world can save him."

"Well, I should hate to take his chances in the next," declared the
Judge; "it seems so incredible that a man possessed of the courage,
the admirable attributes you have always ascribed to him, should prove
so unworthy--a broken parole. Why, sir, it is--is damnable, sir,
damnable!"

Colonel McVeigh agreed, and Clarkson left the room without perceiving
that Madame Caron had been a listener, but she came in, removing her
gloves and looking at the tiny band of gold on her third finger.

"The Judge referred to Captain Monroe, did he not?" she asked,
glancing up at him. "Kenneth"--and her manner was delightfully
appealing as she spoke his name in a shy little whisper, "Kenneth,
there may be some horrible mistake. Your friend--that was--may be
innocent."

"Scarcely a chance of it, sweetheart," and he removed her other glove
and kissed her fingers, glancing around first, to see that no one was
in sight.

She laughed at his little picture of nervousness, but returned to the
subject.

"But if it were so?" she persisted; "surely you will not counsel haste
in deciding so serious a matter?"

"At any rate, I mean to put aside so serious a subject of conversation
on our wedding morning," he answered, and she smiled back at him as
she said:

"On our wedding morning, sir, you should be mercifully disposed
towards all men."

"We never class traitors as men," and his fine face grew stern for an
instant, "they are vampires, birds of prey. A detail has been sent for
to take him to court-martial; there is little doubt what the result
will be, and--"

"Suppose," and she glanced up at him with a pretty appeal in her eyes,
"that your wife, sir, should ask as a first favor on her wedding day
that you be merciful, as the rules of war allow you to be, to this
poor fellow who danced with us last night? Even supposing he is most
horribly wicked, yet he really did dance with us--danced very well,
and was very amusing. So, why not grant him another day of grace? No?"
as he shook his head. "Well, Monsieur, I have a fancy ill luck must
come if you celebrate our wedding day by hastening a man to meet his
death. Let him remain here under guard until tomorrow?"

He shook his head, smilingly.

"No, Judithe."

"Not even for me?"

"Anything else, sweetheart, but not that. It is really out of my power
to delay, now, even if I wished. The guard will come for him some time
this evening. I, myself, shall leave at dawn tomorrow; so, you
see!--"

She glanced at him in playful reproach, a gay irresponsible specimen
of femininity, who would ignore a man's treason because he chanced to
be a charming partner in the dance.

"My very first request! So, Monsieur, this is how you mean to love,
honor and obey me?"

He laughed and caught the uplifted forefinger with which she
admonished him.

"I shall be madly jealous in another minute," he declared, with mock
ferocity; "you have been my wife two full hours and half of that
precious time you have wasted pleading the cause of a possible rival,
for he actually did look at you with more than a passing admiration,
Judithe, it was a case of witchery at first sight; but for all that I
refuse to allow him to be a skeleton at our feast this morning. There
comes Phil Masterson for me, I must go; but remember, this is not a
day for considerations of wars and retribution; it is a day for
love."

"I shall remember," she said, quietly, and walked to the window
looking out on the swaying limbs of the great trees; they were being
swept by gusts of wind, driving threatening clouds from which the trio
had ridden in haste lest a rain storm be back of their shadows. The
storm Monroe had prophesied the night before had delayed and grumbled
on the way, but it was coming for all that, and she welcomed the
coming. A storm would probably delay that guard for which McVeigh had
sent, and even the delay of a few hours might mean safety for Captain
Monroe; otherwise, she--

She had learned all about the adventures of the papers, and had made
her plans. Some time during that day or evening there would be a raid
made on the Terrace by Federals in Confederate uniform. They would
probably be thought by the inmates a party of daring foragers, and
would visit the smoke houses, and confiscate the contents of the
pantry. Incidentally they would carry Colonel McVeigh and Captain
Masterson back to the coast as prisoners, if the required papers were
not found, otherwise nothing of person or property would be molested
by them; and they would, of course, free Captain Monroe, but force
him, also, to go with them until within Federal lines and safety.

She had planned it all out, and knew it would not be difficult. The
coast was not far away, a group of men in Confederate uniform could
ride across the country to the Salkahatchie, at that point,
unobserved. The fortifications on the river had men coming and going,
though not thoroughly manned, and just now the upper one had no men
stationed there, which accounted for the fact that Colonel McVeigh had
to send farther for extra men. He could not spare his own orderlies,
and Masterson's had not yet returned from following Pierson. Unless
the raiders should meet with a detachment of bona-fide Confederates
there was not one chance in fifty of them being suspected if they came
by the back roads she had mapped out and suggested; and if they
reached the Terrace before the Confederate guard, Monroe would be
freed.

She had not known there was that hope when she wrote the note
consenting to the marriage. She heard they had sent down to the fort
for some men and supposed it was the first fort on the river--merely
an hour's ride away. It was not until they were in the saddle that she
learned it would be an all day's journey to the fort and back, and
that the colored carrier had just started.

She knew that if it were a possible thing some message would be sent
to her by the Federals as to the hour she might expect them, but if it
were not possible--well--

She chafed under the uncertainty, and watched the storm approaching
over the far level lands of the east. Blue black clouds rolled now
where the sun had shot brief red glances on rising. Somewhere there
under those heavy shadows the men she waited for were riding to her
through the pine woods and over the swamp lands; if she had been a
praying woman she would have prayed that they ride faster--no music so
longed for as the jingle of their accoutrements!

She avoided the rest and retired to her own room on the plea of
fatigue. Colonel McVeigh was engaged with his mother and Judge
Clarkson on some affairs of the plantation, so very much had to be
crowded into his few hours at home. Money had to be raised, property
had to be sold, and the salable properties were growing so few in
those days.

Masterson was waiting impatiently for the Colonel, whom he had only
seen for the most brief exchange of words that morning. It was now
noon. He had important news to communicate before that guard arrived
for Monroe; it might entail surprising disclosures, and the minutes
seemed like hours to him, while Judge Clarkson leisurely presented one
paper after another for Kenneth's perusal and signature, and Mrs.
McVeigh listened and asked advice.

Judithe descended the stairs, radiant in a gown of fluffy yellow
stuff, with girdle of old topaz and a fillet of the same in quaint
dull settings. The storm had grown terrific--the heavy clouds trailing
to the earth and the lightning flashes lit up dusky corners. Evilena
had proposed darkening the windows entirely, lighting the lamps to
dispel the gloom, and dressing in their prettiest to drive away
forgetfulness of the tragedy of the elements; it was Kenneth's last
day at home; they must be gay though the heavens fell.

Thus it was that the sitting room and dining room presented the
unusual mid-day spectacle of jewels glittering in the lamplight, for
Gertrude also humored Evilena's whim to the extent of a dainty dress
of softest sky blue silk, half covered with the finest work of
delicate lace; she wore a pretty brooch and bracelet of turquoise, and
was a charming picture of blonde beauty, a veritable white lily of a
woman. Dr. Delaven, noting the well-bred grace, the gentle, unassuming
air so truly refined and patrician, figuratively took off his hat to
the Colonel, who, between two such alluring examples of femininity,
two women of such widely different types as the Parisian and the
Carolinian, had even been able to make a choice. For he could see what
every one but Kenneth could see plainly, that while Miss Loring was
gracious and interested in her other men friends, he remained, as
ever, her one hero, apart from, and above all others, and if Judithe
de Caron had not appeared upon the scene--

Gertrude looked even lovelier than she had the night before at the
party. Her cheeks had a color unusual, and her eyes were bright with
hope, expectation, or some unspoken cause for happiness; it sounded in
the tones of her voice and shone in the happy curves of her lips as
she smiled.

"Look at yourself in the glass, Gertrude," said Evilena, dragging her
to the long mirror in the sitting room, "you are always lovely, dear,
but today you are entrancingly beautiful."

"Today I am entrancingly happy," returned Miss Loring, looking in the
mirror, but seeing in it not herself, but Judithe, who was crossing
the hall, and who looked like a Spanish picture in her gleam of yellow
tissues and topazes.

"Wasn't it clever of me to think of lighting the lamps?" asked Evilena
in frank self-laudation, "just listen how that rain beats; and did you
see the hail? Well, it fell, lots of it, while we were dressing;
that's what makes the air so cool. I hope it will storm all the rain
down at once and then give us a clear day tomorrow, when Kenneth has
to go away."

"It would be awful for any one to be out in a storm like this,"
remarked the other as the crash of thunder shook the house; "what
about Captain Monroe having to go through it?"

"Caroline said the guard has just got here, so I suppose he will have
to go no matter what the weather is. Well, I suppose he'd just as soon
be killed by the storm as to be shot for a spy. Only think of it--a
guest of ours to be taken away as a spy!"

"It is dreadful," assented Gertrude, and then looking at Judithe, she
added, "I hope you were not made nervous by the shot and excitement
last night; I assure you we do not usually have such finales to our
parties."

"I am not naturally timid, thank you," returned Judithe, with a
careless smile, all the more careless that she felt the blue eyes were
regarding her with unusual watchfulness; "one must expect all those
inconveniences in war times, especially when people are located on the
border land, and I hear it is really but a short ride to the coast,
where your enemies have their war vessels for blockade. Did I
understand you to say the military men have come for your friend, the
Federal Captain? What a pity! He danced so well!"

And with the careless smile still on her lips, she passed them and
crossed the hall to the library.

Evilena shook her head and sighed. "_I_ am just broken hearted over
his arrest," she acknowledged, "but it is because--well, it is _not_
merely because he was a good dancer! Gertrude, I--I did something
horrid this morning, I just _could_ not eat my breakfast without
showing my sympathy in some way. You know those last cookies I baked?
Well, I had some of those sent over with his breakfast."

"Poor fellow!" and Delaven shook his head sadly over the fate of
Monroe. Evilena eyed him suspiciously; but his face was all innocence
and sympathy.

"It is terrible," she assented; "poor mama just wept this morning when
we heard of it; of course, if he really proves to be a spy, we should
not care what happened to him; but mama thinks of his mother, and of
his dead brother, and--well, we both prayed for him this morning; it
was all we could do. Kenneth says no one must go near him, and of
course Kenneth knows what is best; but we are both hoping with all our
hearts that he had nothing to do with that spy; funny, isn't it, that
we are praying and crying on account of a man who, after all, is a
real Yankee?"

"Faith, I'd turn Yankee myself for the same sweet sympathy," declared
Delaven, and received only a reproachful glance for his frivolity.

Judithe crossed the hall to the library, the indifferent smile still
on her lips, her movements graceful and unhurried; under the curious
eyes of Gertrude Loring she would show no special interest in the man
under discussion, or the guard just arrived, but for all that the
arrival of the guard determined her course. All her courage was needed
to face the inevitable; the inevitable had arrived, and she was not a
coward.

She looked at the wedding ring on her finger; it had been the wedding
ring of the dowager long ago, and she had given it to Kenneth McVeigh
that morning for the ceremony.

"Maman would approve if she knew all," she assured herself, and now
she touched the ring to remind her of many things, and to blot out the
remembrance of others, for instance, the avowal of love under the
arbor in the dusk of the night before!

"But _that_ was last night," she thought, grimly; "the darkness made
me impressionable, the situation made of me a nervous fool, who said
the thing she felt and had no right to feel. It is no longer night,
and I am no longer a fool! Do not let me forget, little ring, why I
allowed you to be placed there. I am going to tell him now, and I
shall need you and--Maman."

So she passed into the library; there could be no further delay, since
the guard had arrived; Monroe should not be sacrificed.

She closed the door after her and looked around. A man was in the
large arm chair by the table, but it was not Colonel McVeigh. It was
Matthew Loring, whose man Ben was closing a refractory banging
shutter, and drawing curtains over the windows, while Pluto brought in
a lighted lamp for the table, and both of them listened stoically to
Loring's grumbling.

For a wonder he approved of the innovation of lamps and closed
shutters. He had, in fact, come from his own room because of the fury
of the storm. He growled that the noise of it annoyed him, but would
not have acknowledged the truth, that the force of it appalled him,
and that he shrank from being alone while the lightning threw threats
in every direction, and the crashes of thunder shook the house.

"No, Kenneth isn't here," he answered, grumpily. "They told me he was,
but the nigger lied."

"Mahsa Kenneth jest gone up to his own room, Madame Caron," said
Pluto, quietly. "Mist'ess, she went, too, an' Judge Clarkson."

"Humph! Clarkson has got him pinned down at last, has he?" and there
was a note of satisfaction in his tone. "I was beginning to think that
between this fracas with the spy, and his galloping around the
country, he would have no time left for business. I should not think
you'd consider it worth while to go pleasure-riding such a morning as
this."

"Oh, yes; it was quite worth while," she answered, serenely; "the
storm did not break until our return. You are waiting for Colonel
McVeigh? So am I, and in the meantime I am at your service, willing to
be entertained."

"I am too much upset to entertain any one today," he declared,
fretfully; "that trouble last night spoiled my rest. I knew the woman
Margeret lied when she came back and said it was only an accident. I'm
nervous as a cat today. The doctors forbid me every form of
excitement, yet they quarter a Yankee spy in the room over mine, and
commence shooting affairs in the middle of the night. It's--it's
outrageous!"

He fell back in the chair, exhausted by his indignation. Judithe took
the fan from Pluto's hand and waved it gently above the dark,
vindictive face. His eyes were closed and as she surveyed the cynical
countenance a sudden determination came to her. If she _should_ leave
for Savannah in the morning, why not let Matthew Loring hear, first,
of the plans for Loringwood's future? She knew how to hurt Kenneth
McVeigh; she meant to see if there was any way of hurting this
trafficker in humanity, this aristocratic panderer to horrid vices.

"You may go, Pluto," she said, kindly. "I will ring if you are
needed."

Both the colored men went out, closing the door after them, and she
brought a hassock and placed it beside his chair, and seated herself,
after taking a book from the shelf and opening it without glancing at
the title or pages.

"Since you refuse to be entertainer, Monsieur Loring, you must submit
to being entertained," she said, pleasantly; "shall I sing to you,
read to you, or tell you a story?"

Her direct and persistent graciousness made him straighten up in his
chair and regard her, inquiringly; there was a curious mocking tone in
her voice as she spoke, but the voice itself was forgotten as he
looked in her face.

The light from the lamp was shining full on her face, and the face was
closer to him than it had ever been before. If she designed to dazzle
him by thus arranging a living picture for his benefit she certainly
succeeded. He had never really seen her until now, and he caught his
breath sharply and was conscious that one of the most beautiful women
he had ever seen in his life was looking at him with a strange smile
touching her perfect mouth, and a strange haunting resemblance to some
one once known, shining in her dark eyes.

"What sort of stories do you prefer--love stories?" she continued, as
he did not speak--only stared at her; "or, since we have had a real
adventure in the house last night, possibly you would be interested in
the intrigue back of that--would you?"

"Do you mean," he asked, eagerly, "that you could give me some new
facts concerning the spy--Monroe?"

"Yes, I really think I could," she said, amiably, "as there happen to
be several things you have not been well informed upon."

"I know it!" he said, tapping the arm of the chair, impatiently, "they
never tell me half what is going on, now!--as if I was a child! and
when I ask the cursed niggers, they lie so. Well, well, go on; tell me
the latest news about this Yankee--Monroe."

"The very latest?" and she smiled again in that strange mocking way.
"Well, the latest is that he is entirely innocent; had nothing
whatever to do with the taking of the papers."

"Madame Caron!"

"Yes, I am quite serious. I was just about to tell Colonel McVeigh,
but we can chat about it until he comes;" and she pretended not to
notice the wonder in his face, and went serenely on, "in fact, it was
not a man who took the papers at all, but a woman; yes, a woman," she
said, nodding her head, as a frown of quick suspicion touched his
forehead and his eyes gleamed darkly on her, "in fact a confidential
agent, whom Captain Masterson designated yesterday as most dangerous
to the Confederate cause. I am about to inform Colonel McVeigh of her
identity. But I do not fancy that will interest you nearly so much as
another story I have for you personally."

She paused and drew back a little, to better observe every expression
of his countenance. He was glaring at her and his breath was coming in
broken gasps.

"There are really two of those secret Federal agents in this especial
territory," she continued, "two women who have worked faithfully for
the Union. I fancied you might be especially interested in the story
of one of them, as she belongs to the Loring family."

"To our family? That is some cursed Yankee lie!" he burst out
fiercely, "every Loring is loyal to the South! To _our_ family? Let
them try to prove that statement! It can't be done!"

"You are quite right, Monsieur Loring," she agreed, quietly, "it
_would_ be difficult to prove, even if you wished to do it." He fairly
glared at the possibility that he should want to prove it. "But it may
have an interest to you for all that, since the girl in question was
your brother's daughter."

"My brother's--!" He seemed choking, and he gazed at her with a
horrible expression. The door opened and Mrs. McVeigh entered rather
hastily, looking for something in the desk. Loring had sunk back in
the chair, and she did not see his face, but she could see Judithe's,
and it was uplifted and slightly smiling.

"Have you found something mutually interesting?" she asked, glancing
at the book open on Judithe's knee.

"Yes; a child's story," returned her guest, and then the door closed,
and the two were again alone.

"There is a woman to be loved and honored, if one could only forget
the sort of son she has trained," remarked Judithe, thoughtfully,
"with my heart I love her, but with my reason I condemn her. Can you
comprehend that, Monsieur Loring? I presume not, as you do not
interest yourself with hearts."

He was still staring at her like a man in a frightened dream; she
could see the perspiration standing on his forehead; his lips were
twitching horribly.

"You understand, of course," she said, continuing her former
discussion, "that the daughter in the story is not the lovely lady who
is your heiress, and who is called Miss Loring. It is a younger
daughter I refer to; she had no surname, because masters do not marry
slaves, and her mother was a half Greek octoroon from Florida; her
name was Retta Lacaris, and your brother promised her the freedom she
never received until death granted her what you could not keep from
her; do you remember that mother and child, Monsieur Loring?--the
mother who went mad and died, and the child whom you sold to Kenneth
McVeigh?--sold as a slave for his bachelor establishment; a slave who
would look like a white girl, whom you contracted should have the
accomplishments of a white girl, but without a white girl's
inconvenient independence, and the power of disposing of herself."

"You--you dare to tell me!--you--" He was choking with rage, but she
raised her hand for silence, and continued in the same quiet tone:

"I have discussed the same affair in the salons of Paris--why not to
you? It was in Paris your good friend, Monsieur Larue, placed the girl
for the education Kenneth McVeigh paid for. It was also your friend
who bribed her to industry by a suggestion that she might gain freedom
if her accomplishments warranted it. But you had forgotten, Matthew
Loring, that the child of your brother had generations of white
blood--of intellectual ancestry back of her. She had heard before
leaving your shores the sort of freedom she was intended for, and your
school was not a prison strong enough to hold her. She escaped, fled
into the country, hid like a criminal in the day, and walked alone at
night through an unknown county, a girl of seventeen! She found a
friend in an aged woman, to whom she told her story, every word of it,
Matthew Loring, and was received into the home as a daughter. That
home, all the wealth which made it magnificent, and the title which
had once belonged to her benefactress, became the property of your
brother's daughter before that daughter was twenty years old. Now, do
you comprehend why one woman has crossed the seas to help, if
possible, overthrow an institution championed by you? Now do you
comprehend my assurance that Captain Monroe is innocent? Now, dare you
contest my statement that one of the Loring family is a Federal
agent?"

"By God! I know you at last!" and he half arose from his chair as if
to strike her with both upraised shaking hands. "I--I'll have you tied
up and whipped until you shed blood for every word you've uttered
here! You wench! You black cattle! You--"

"Stop!" she said, stepping back and smiling at his impotent rage. "You
are in the house of Colonel McVeigh, and you are speaking to his
wife!"

He uttered a low cry of horror, and fell back in the chair, nerveless,
speechless.

"I thought you would be interested, if not pleased," she continued,
"and I wanted, moreover, to tell you that your sale of your brother's
child was one reason why your estate of Loringwood was selected in
preference to any other as a dowered home for free children--girl
children, of color! Your ancestral estate, Monsieur Loring, will be
used as an industrial home for such young girls. The story of your
human traffic shall be told, and the name of Matthew Loring execrated
in those walls long after the last of the Lorings shall be under the
sod. That is the monument I have designed for you, and the design will
be carried out whether I live or die."

He did not speak, only sat there with that horrible stare in his eyes,
and watched her.

"I shall probably not see you again," she continued, "as I leave for
Savannah in the morning, unless Colonel McVeigh holds his wife as a
spy, but I could not part without taking you into my confidence to a
certain extent, though I presume it is not necessary to tell you how
useless it would be for you to use this knowledge to my disadvantage
unless I myself should avow it. You know I have told you the truth,
but you could not prove it to any other, and--well, I think that is
all." She was replacing the book in the case when Gertrude entered
from the hall. Judithe only heard the rustle of a gown, and without
turning her head to see who it was, added, "Yes, that is all, except
to assure you our tete-a-tete has been exceedingly delightful to me; I
had actually forgotten that a storm was raging!"



CHAPTER XXIX.


Miss Loring glanced about in surprise when she found no one in the
room but her uncle and Madame Caron.

"Oh, I did not know you had left your room," she remarked, going
towards him; "do you think it quite wise? And the storm; isn't it
dreadful?"

"I have endeavored to make him forget it," remarked Judithe, "and
trust I have not been entirely a failure."

She was idly fingering the volumes in the book-case, and glanced over
her shoulder as she spoke. Her hands trembled, but her teeth were set
under the smiling lips--she was waiting for his accusation.

"I have no doubt my uncle appreciates your endeavors," returned
Gertrude, with civil uncordiality, as she halted back of his chair,
"but he is not equal to gayeties today; last night's excitement was
quite a shock to him, as it was to all of us."

"Yes," agreed Judithe; "we were just speaking of it."

"Phil Masterson tells me the men will be here some time today for
Captain Monroe," continued Gertrude, still speaking from the back of
his chair, over which she was leaning. "Phil's orderly just returned
from following the spy last night. Caroline made us think at first it
was the guard already from the fort, but that was a mistake; she could
not see clearly because of the storm. And, uncle, he came back without
ever getting in sight of the man, though he rode until morning before
he turned back; isn't it too bad for--"

Something in that strange silence of the man in the chair suddenly
checked the speech on her lips, and with a quick movement she was in
front of him, looking in his face, into the eyes which turned towards
her with a strange, horrible expression in them, and the lips vainly
trying to speak, to give her warning. But the blow of paralysis had
fallen again. He was speechless, helpless. Her piercing scream brought
the others from the sitting room; the stricken man was carried to his
own apartment by order of Dr. Delaven, who could give them little hope
of recovery; his speech might, of course, return as it had done a year
before, after the other paralytic stroke, but--

Mrs. McVeigh put her arm protectingly around the weeping girl,
comprehending that even though he might recover his speech, any
improvement must now be but a temporary respite.

At the door Gertrude halted and turned to the still figure at the book
case.

"Madame Caron, you--you were talking to him," she said, appealingly,
"you did not suspect, either?"

"I did not suspect," answered Judithe, quietly, and then they went
out, leaving her alone, staring after them and then at the chair,
where but a few minutes ago he had been seated, full of a life as
vindictive as her own, if not so strong; and now--had she murdered
him? She glanced at the mirror back of the writing desk, and saw that
she was white and strange looking; she rubbed her hands together
because they were so suddenly cold. She heard some one halt at the
door, and she turned again to the book-case lest whoever entered
should be shocked at her face.

It was Evilena who peered in wistfully in search of some one not
oppressed by woe.

"Kenneth's last day home," she lamented, "and such a celebration of
it; isn't it perfectly awful? Just as if Captain Monroe and the storm
had not brought us distress enough! Of course," she added, contritely,
"it's unfeeling of me to take that view of it, and I don't expect you
to sympathize with me." There was a pause in which she felt herself
condemned. "And the house all lit up as for a party; oh, dear; it will
all be solemn as a grave now in spite of the lights, and our pretty
dresses; well, I think I'll take a book into the sitting room. I could
not possibly read in here," and she cast a shrinking glance towards
the big chair. "Is that not Romeo and Juliet under your hand? That
will do, please."

Judithe took down the volume, turned the leaves rapidly, and smiled.

"You will find the balcony scene on the tenth page," she remarked.

And then they both laughed, and Evilena beat a retreat lest some of
the others should enter and catch her laughing when the rest of the
household were doleful, and she simply could not be doleful over
Matthew Loring; she was only sorry Kenneth's day was spoiled.

The little episode, slight as it was, broke in on the unpleasant
fancies of Judithe, and substituted a new element. She closed the
glass doors and turned towards the window, quite herself again.

She stepped between the curtains and looked out on the driving storm,
trying to peer through the grey sheets of falling rain. The guard,
then, according to Miss Loring, had not yet arrived, after all, and
the others, the Federals, had a chance of being first on the field;
oh, why--why did they not hurry?

The pelting of the rain on the window prevented her from hearing the
entrance of Colonel McVeigh and the Judge, while the curtain hid her
effectually; it was not until she turned to cross the room into the
hall that she was aware of the two men beside the table, each with
documents and papers of various sorts, which they were arranging. The
Judge held one over which he hesitated; looking at the younger man
thoughtfully, and finally he said:

"The rest are all right, Kenneth; it was not for those I wanted to see
you alone, but for this. I could not have it come under your mother's
notice, and the settlement has already been delayed too long, but your
absence, first abroad, then direct to the frontier, and then our own
war, and Mr. Loring's illness--"

He was rambling along inconsequently; McVeigh glanced at him,
questioningly; it was so rare a thing to see the Judge ill at ease
over any legal transaction, but he plainly was, now; and when his
client reached over and took the paper from his hand he surrendered it
and broke off abruptly his rambling explanation.

McVeigh unfolded the paper and glanced at it with an incredulous
frown.

"What is the meaning of this agreement to purchase a girl of color,
aged twelve, named Rhoda Larue? We have bought no colored people from
the Lorings, nor from any one else."

"The girl was contracted for without your knowledge, my boy, before
your majority, in fact; though she is mentioned there as a girl of
color she was to all appearances perfectly white, the daughter of an
octaroon, and also the daughter of Tom Loring."

The woman back of the curtain was listening now with every sense
alert, never for one instant had it occurred to her that Kenneth
McVeigh did not know! How she listened for his next words!

"And why should a white girl like that be bought for the McVeigh
plantation?"

There was a pause; then Clarkson laid down the other papers, and faced
him, frankly:

"Kenneth, my boy, she was never intended for the McVeigh plantation,
but was contracted for, educated, given certain accomplishments that
she might be a desirable personal property of yours when you were
twenty."

McVeigh was on his feet in an instant, his blue eyes flaming.

"And who arranged this affair?--not--my father?"

"No."

"Thank God for that! Go on, who was accountable?"

"Your guardian, Matthew Loring. He explains that he made the
arrangement, having in mind the social entanglement of boys within our
own knowledge, who have rushed into unequal marriages, or--or
associations equally deplorable with scheming women who are alert
where moneyed youth is concerned. Mr. Loring, as your guardian,
determined to forestall such complications in your case. From a
business point of view he did not think it a bad investment, since, if
you for any reason, objected to this arrangement, a girl so well
educated, even accomplished, could be disposed of at a profit."

McVeigh was walking up and down the room.

"So!" he said, bitterly, "that was Matthew Loring's amiable little
arrangement. That girl, then, belonged not to his estate, but to
Gertrude's. He was her guardian as well as mine; he would have given
me the elder sister as a wife, and the younger one as a slave. What a
curse the man is! It is for such hellish deeds that every Southerner
outside of his own lands is forced to defend slavery against heavy
odds. The outsiders never stop to consider that there is not one man
out of a thousand among us who would use his power as this man has
used it in this case; the many are condemned for the sins of the few!
Go on; what became of the girl?"

"She was, in accordance with this agreement, sent to a first-class
school, from which she disappeared--escaped, and never was found
again. The money advanced from your estate for her education is,
therefore, to be repaid you, with the interest to date; you, of
course, must not lose the money, since Loring has failed to keep his
part of the contract."

"Good God!" muttered McVeigh, continuing his restless walk; "it seems
incredible, damnable! Think of it!--a girl with the blood, the brain,
the education of a white woman, and bought in my name! I will have
nothing--nothing to do with such cursed traffic!"

Neither of them heard the smothered sobs of the woman kneeling there
back of that curtain; all the world had been changed for her by his
words.

She did not hear the finale of their conversation, only the confused
murmur of their voices came to her; then, after a little, there was
the closing of a door, and Colonel McVeigh was alone.

He was seated in the big chair where Matthew Loring had received the
stroke which meant death. The hammock was still beside it, and she
knelt there, touching his arm, timidly.

He had not heard her approach, but at her touch he turned from the
papers.

"Well, my sweetheart, what is it?" he said, and with averted face she
whispered:

"Only that--I love you!--no," as he bent towards her, "don't kiss me!
I never knew--I never guessed."

"Never guessed that you loved me?" he asked, regarding her with a
quizzical smile. "Now, I guessed it all the time, even though you did
run away from me."

"No, no, it is not that!" and she moved away, out of the reach of his
caressing hands. "But I was there, by the window; I heard all that
story. I had heard it long ago, and I thought you were to blame. I
judged you--condemned you! Now I see how wrong I was--wrong in every
way--in every way. I have wronged you--_you_! Oh, how I have wronged
you!" she whispered, under her breath, as she remembered the men she
looked for, had sent for--the men who were to take him away a
prisoner!

"Nonsense, dear!" and he clasped her hands and smiled at her
reassuringly. "You are over-wrought by all the excitement here since
yesterday; you are nervous and remorseful over a trifle; you could not
wrong me in any way; if you did, I forgive you."

"No," she said, shaking her head and gazing at him with eyes more sad
than he had ever seen them; "no, you would not forgive me if you knew;
you never will forgive me when you do know. And--I must tell you--tell
you everything--tell you now--"

"No, not now, Judithe," he said, as he heard Masterson's voice in the
hall. "We can't be alone now. Later you shall tell me all your sins
against me." He was walking with her to the door and looking down at
her with all his heart in his eyes; his tenderness made her sorrows
all the more terrible, and as he bent to kiss her she shrunk from
him.

"No, not until I tell you all," she said again, then as his hands
touched hers she suddenly pressed them to her lips, her eyes, her
cheek; "and whatever you think of me then, when you do hear all, I
want you to know that I love you, I love you, I _love_ you!"

Then the door closed behind her and he was standing there with a
puzzled frown between his eyes when Masterson entered. Her intense
agitation, the passion in her words and her eyes!--He felt inclined to
follow and end the mystery of it at once, but Masterson's voice
stopped him.

"I've been trying all morning to have a talk, Colonel," he said,
carefully closing the door and glancing about. "There have been some
new developments in Monroe's case, in fact there have been so many
that I have put in the time while waiting for you, by writing down
every particle of new testimony in the affair." He took from his
pocket some written pages and laid them on the table, and beside them
a small oval frame. "They are for your inspection, Colonel. I have no
opinion I care to express on the matter. I have only written down Miss
Loring's statements, and the picture speaks for itself."

McVeigh stared at him.

"What do you mean by Miss Loring's statement?--and what is this?"

He had lifted the little frame, and looked at Masterson, who had
resolutely closed his lips and shook his head. He meant that McVeigh
should see for himself.

The cover flew back as he touched the spring, and a girl's face, dark,
bright, looked out at him. It was delicately tinted and the work was
well done. He had a curious shock as the eye met his. There was
something so familiar in the poise of the head and the faint smile
lurking at the corner of the mouth.

There was no mistaking the likeness; it looked as Judithe might
possibly have looked at seventeen. He had never seen her with that
childish, care-free light of happiness in her eyes; she had always
been thoughtful beyond her years, but in this picture--

"Where did you get this?" he asked, and his face grew stern for an
instant, as Masterson replied:

"In Captain Monroe's pocket."

He opened his lips to speak, but Masterson pointed to the paper.

"It is all written there, Colonel; I really prefer you should read
that report first, and then question me if you care to. I have written
each thing as it occurred. You will see Miss Loring has also signed
her name to it, preferring you would accept that rather than be called
upon for a personal account. Your mother is, of course, ignorant of
all this--"

McVeigh seemed scarcely to hear his words. _Her_ voice was yet
sounding in his ears; her remorseful repetition, "You will never
forgive me when you do know!"--was this what she meant?

He laid down the picture and picked up the papers. Masterson seated
himself at the other side of the room with his back to him, and
waited.

There was the rustle of paper as McVeigh laid one page after another
on the table. After a little the rustle ceased. Masterson looked
around. The Colonel had finished with the report and was again
studying the picture.

"Well?" said Masterson.

"I cannot think this evidence at all conclusive." There was a pause
and then he added, "but the situation is such that every unusual thing
relating to this matter must, of course, be investigated. I should
like to see Margeret and Captain Monroe here; later I may question
Madame Caron."

His voice was very quiet and steady, but he scarcely lifted his eyes
from the picture; something about it puzzled him; the longer he looked
at it the less striking was the likeness--the character of Judithe's
face, now, was so different.

He was still holding it at arm's length on the table when Margeret
noiselessly entered the room. She came back of him and halted beside
the table; her eyes were also on the picture, and a smothered
exclamation made him aware of her presence. He closed the frame and
picked up the report Masterson had given him.

"Margeret," he said, looking at her, curiously, "have you seen Madame
Caron today?"

"Yes, Colonel McVeigh;" she showed no surprise at the question, only
looked straight ahead of her, with those solemn, dark eyes. He
remembered the story of her madness years ago, and supposed that was
accountable for the strange, colorless, passive manner.

"Did she speak to you?"

"No, sir."

Judithe opened the door and looked in; seeing that McVeigh was
apparently occupied, and not alone, she was about to retire when he
begged her to remain for a few minutes. He avoided her questioning
eyes, and offered her a chair, with that conventional courtesy
reserved for strangers. She noted the papers in his hand, and the odd
tones in which he spoke; she was, after all, debarred from confessing;
she was to be accused!

"A slight mystery is abroad here, and you appear to be the victim of
it, Madame," he said, without looking at her. "Margeret, last night
when Miss Loring sent you into the corridor just before the shot was
fired, did you see any of the ladies or servants of the house?"

"No, sir."

There was not the slightest hesitation in the reply, but Judithe
turned her eyes on the woman with unusual interest. Colonel McVeigh
consulted his notes.

"Miss Loring distinctively heard the rustle of a woman's dress as her
door opened; did you hear that?"

"No, sir."

"You saw no one and heard no one?"

"No one."

There was a pause, during which he regarded the woman very sharply.

Judithe arose.

"Only your sister or myself could have been in that corridor without
passing Miss Loring's door; is Miss Loring suspicious of us?--Miss
Loring!"--and her tone was beyond her control, indignant; of all
others, Miss Loring! "Margeret, whatever you saw, whatever you heard
in that corridor, you must tell Colonel McVeigh--tell him!"

Margeret turned a calm glance towards her for a moment, and quietly
said, "I have told him, Madame Caron; there was no one in the
corridor."

"Very well; that is all I wanted to know." His words were intended for
dismissal, but she only bent her head and walked back to the window,
as Masterson entered with Monroe. The latter bowed to Judithe with
more than usual ceremony, but did not speak. Then he turned a
nonchalant glance towards McVeigh, and waited. The Colonel looked
steadily at Judithe as he said:

"Captain Monroe, did you know Madame Caron before you met her in my
house? You do not answer! Madame Caron, may I ask you if you knew
Captain Monroe previous to yesterday?"

"Quite well," she replied, graciously; there was almost an air of
bravado in her glance. She had meant to tell him all; had begged him
to listen, but since he preferred to question her before these men,
and at the probable suggestion of Miss Loring--well!

Masterson drew a breath of relief as she spoke. His Colonel must now
exonerate him of any unfounded suspicions; but Monroe regarded her
with somber, disapproving eyes.

"Then," and his tone chilled her; it has in it such a suggestion of
what justice he would mete out to her when he knew all; "then I am,
under the circumstances, obliged to ask why you acknowledged the
introduction given by Miss Loring?"

"Oh, for the blunder of that I was accountable, Monsieur," and she
smiled at him, frankly, the combative spirit fully awake, now, since
he chose to question her--_her_!--before the others, "I should have
explained, perhaps--I believe I meant to, but there was conversation,
and I probably forgot."

"I see! You forgot to explain, and Captain Monroe forgot you were
acquainted when he was questioned, just now."

"Captain Monroe could not possibly forget the honor of such
acquaintance," retorted Monroe; "he only refused to answer."

The two men met each other's eyes for an instant--a glance like the
crossing of swords. Then McVeigh said:

"Where did you get the picture found on your person last night?"

"Stole it," said Monroe, calmly, and McVeigh flushed in quick anger
at the evident lie and the insolence of it; he was lying then to
shield this woman who stood between them--to shield her from her
husband.

"Madame Caron," and she had never before heard him speak in that tone;
"did you ever give Captain Monroe a picture of yourself?"

"Never!" she said, wonderingly. Margeret had taken a step forward and
stood irresolutely as though about to speak; she was very pale, and
Monroe knew in an instant who she was--not by the picture, but from
Pluto's story last night. The terror in her eyes touched him, and as
McVeigh lifted the picture from the table, he spoke.

"Colonel McVeigh, I will ask you to study that picture carefully
before you take for granted that it is the face of any one you know,"
he said, quietly; "that picture was made probably twenty years ago."

"And the woman?"

"The woman is dead--died long ago." Margeret's eyes closed for an
instant, but none of them noticed her. Judithe regarded Monroe,
questioningly, and then turned to McVeigh:

"May I not see this picture you speak of, since--"

But Monroe in two strides was beside the table where it lay.

"Colonel McVeigh, even a prisoner of war should be granted some
consideration, and all I ask of you is to show the article in question
to no one without first granting me a private interview."

Again the eyes of the men met and the sincerity, the appeal of Monroe
impressed McVeigh; something might be gained by conceding the
request--something lost by refusing it, and he slipped the case into
his pocket without even looking at Judithe, or noticing her question.

But Monroe looked at her, and noted the quick resentment at his
speech.

"Pardon, Madame," he said, gently; "my only excuse is that there is a
lady in the question."

"A lady who is no longer living?" she asked, mockingly. She was
puzzled over the affair of the picture, puzzled at the effect it had
on McVeigh. In some way he was jealous concerning it--jealous, how
absurd, when she adored him!

Monroe only looked at her, but did not reply to the sceptical query.
Gertrude Loring came to the door just then and spoke to McVeigh, who
went to meet her. She wanted him to go at once to her uncle. He was
trying so hard to speak; they thought he was endeavoring to say
"Ken--Ken!" It was the only tangible thing they could distinguish, and
he watched the door continually as though for someone's entrance.

McVeigh assured her he would go directly, but she begged him to
postpone all the other business--anything! and to come with her at
once; he might be dying, he looked like it, and there certainly was
_some_ one whom he wanted; therefore--

He turned with a semi-apologetic manner to the others in the room.

"I shall return presently, and will then continue the investigation,"
he said, addressing Masterson; "pending such action Captain Monroe can
remain here."

Then he closed the door and followed Gertrude.

Judithe arose at that calm ignoring of herself and moved to the
table. She guessed what it was the dying man was trying to tell
Kenneth--well, she would tell him first!

Pen and paper were there and she commenced to write, interrupting
herself to turn to Masterson, who was looking out at the storm.

"Is there any objection to Captain Monroe holding converse with
other--guests in the house?" she asked, with a little ironical smile.

Masterson hesitated, and then said: "I do not think a private
interview could be allowed, but--"

"A private interview is not necessary," she said, coolly. "You can
remain where you are. Margeret, also, can remain." She wrote a line or
two, and then spoke without looking up, "Will you be so kind, Captain
Monroe, as to come over to the table?"

"At your service, my lady."

He did so, and remained standing there, with his hands clasped behind
him, a curious light of expectancy in his eyes.

"You have endured everything but death for me since last night," she
said, looking up at him. She spoke so low Masterson could not hear it
above the beat of the rain on the window. But he could see the slight
bend of Monroe's head and the smile with which he said:

"Well--since it was for you!"

"Oh, do not jest now, and do not think I shall allow it to go on," she
said, appealingly. "I have been waiting for help, but I shall wait no
longer;" she pointed to the paper on the table, "Colonel McVeigh will
have a written statement of who did the work just as soon as I can
write it, and you shall be freed."

"Take care!" he said, warningly; "an avowal now might only incriminate
you--not free me. There are complications you can't be told--"

"But I must be told!" she interrupted. "What is there concerning me
which you both conspire to hide? He shall free you, no matter what the
result is to me; did you fancy I should let you go away under
suspicion? But, that picture! You must make that clear to me. Listen,
I will confess to you, too! I have wronged him--Colonel McVeigh--it
has been all a mistake. I can never atone, but"--and her voice sank
lower, "it was something about that picture made him angry just now,
the thought I had given you some picture. I--I can't have him think
that--not that you are my lover."

"Suppose it were so--would that add to the wrongs you speak of?" His
voice was almost tender in its gentleness, and his face had a strange
expression, as she said: "Yes, it would, Captain Jack."

"You mean, then--to marry him?"

Something in the tenseness of his tones, the strange look of anxiety
in his eyes, decided her answer.

"I mean that I have married him."

She spoke so softly it was almost a whisper, but if it had been
trumpet-like he could not have looked more astonished. His face grew
white, and he took a step backward from her. Masterson, who noticed
the movement, walked down to the desk, where he could hear. Margeret
was nearer to them than he. All he heard was Madame Caron asking if
Captain Monroe would not now agree that she should see the picture
since it was necessary to defend herself.

But Monroe had gone back to his chair, where he sat looking at her
thoughtfully, and looking at Margeret, also, who had remained near the
door, and gave no sign of having heard their words--had she?

"No, Madame Caron," he said, quietly, "if there is any evidence in my
favor you can communicate to Colonel McVeigh, I shall be your debtor,
but the picture is altogether a personal affair of my own. I will, if
I can, prevent it from being used in this case at all, out of
consideration for the lady whom I mentioned before."



CHAPTER XXX.


Kenneth McVeigh walked the floor of his own room, with the bitterest
thoughts of his life for company. Loyal gentleman that he was, he was
appalled at the turn affairs had taken. It had cost him a struggle to
give up faith in the man he had known and liked--but all that was as
nothing compared to the struggle in which his own love fought against
him.

In that room where death apparently stood on the threshold, and the
dying man had followed him about the room with most terrible,
appealing eyes, he had heard but few of the words spoken--all his
heart and brain were afire with the scene he had just left; that, and
the others preceding it! Every word or glance he had noticed between
Monroe and the woman he loved returned to him! Trifles light as air
before, now overwhelmed him with horrible suggestions; and her
pleading for him that morning--all the little artifices, the pretended
lightness with which she asked a first favor on her wedding
morning--their wedding morning! for whatever she was or was not, she
was, at least, his wife!

That fact must be taken into consideration, he could not set it aside;
her disgrace meant his disgrace--God! was that why she had consented
to the hurried marriage?--to shield herself under his name, and to
influence his favor for her lover?

The spirit of murder leaped in his heart as he thought of it! He
heard Gertrude send to the library for Margeret, and he sent word to
Masterson he was detained and would continue the investigation later.
When Pluto returned, after delivering the message, he inquired if
Madame Caron was yet in the library, and Pluto informed him Madame
Caron had gone to her room some time ago; no one was in the library
now, the gentleman had gone back to the cottage.

He meant to see her alone before speaking again with Monroe, to know
the worst, whatever it was, and then--

He used a magnifying glass to study the little picture; he took it
from the frame and examined the frame itself. The statement of Monroe
as to its age seemed verified. Certain things in the face were
strange, but certain other things were wonderfully like Judithe as a
happy, care-free girl--had she ever been such a girl?

The chance that, after all, the picture was not hers gave him a sudden
hope that the other things, purely circumstantial, might also diminish
on closer examination; the picture had, to him, been the strongest
evidence against her; a jealous fury had taken possession of him at
the sight of it; he was conscious that his personal feelings unfitted
him for the judicial position forced upon him, and that he must
somehow conquer them before continuing any examination.

An hour had passed; he had decided the picture was not that of his
wife, but if Monroe were not her lover, why did he treasure so a
likeness resembling her? And if she were not in love with him, why
ignore their former acquaintance, and why intercede for him so
persistently?

All those thoughts walked beside him as he strode up and down the
room, and beyond them all was the glory of her eyes and the
remembrance of her words: _"Whatever you think of me when you know
all, I want you to know that I love you--I love you!"_

They were the words he had waited for through long days and nights;
they had come to him at last, and after all--

A knock sounded on the door and Pluto entered with a large sealed
envelope on which his name was written.

"From Madame Caron, sah; she done tole me to put it in yo' own han',"
he said.

When alone again he opened the envelope. Several papers were in it.
The first he unfolded was addressed to his wife and the signature was
that of a statesman high in the confidence of the Northern people. It
was a letter of gratitude to her for confidential work accomplished
within the Confederate lines; it was most extreme in commendation, and
left no doubt as to the consideration shown her by the most
distinguished of the Federal leaders. It was dated six months before,
showing that her friendship for his enemies was not a matter of days,
but months.

There was one newly written page in her own writing. He put that aside
to look at last of all, then locked the door and resumed the reading
of the others.

And the woman to whom they were written moved restlessly from room to
room, watching the storm and replying now and then to the disconsolate
remarks of Evilena, who was doleful over the fact that everybody was
too much occupied for conversation. Kenneth had shut himself up
entirely, and all the others seemed to be in attendance on Mr. Loring.
Captain Masterson was in and out, busy about his own affairs, and not
minding the rain a particle, and she was full of questions concerning
Captain Monroe, and why he had paid the brief visit to the library.

Judithe replied at random, scarcely hearing her chatter, and
listening, listening each instant for his step or voice on the stair.

While she stood there, looking out at the low, dark clouds, a step
sounded in the hall and she turned quickly; it was only Pluto;
ordinarily she would not have noticed him especially, but his eyes
were directed to her in so peculiar a manner that she gave him a
second glance, and perceived that he carried a book she had left on a
table in her own room.

"Look like I can't noway find right shelf fo' this book," he said,
with some hesitation. "I boun' to ax yo' to show me whah it b'longs."

She was about to do so, but when the door of the bookcase opened, he
handed her the book instead of placing it where she directed.

"Maybe yo' put it in thah fo' me," he suggested.

She looked at him, remembering she had told Pierson he could be
trusted, and took the book without a word. Evilena was absorbed in
Juliet's woes, and did not look up.

Pluto muttered a "thank yo'," and disappeared along the hall.

She took the book into the alcove before opening it, and found there
what she had expected--a slip of paper with some pencilled marks. It
was a cipher, from which she read, _"All is right; we follow close on
this by another road. Be ready. Lincoln"_--she sank on her knees as
she read the rest--_"Lincoln has issued the proclamation of
emancipation!"_

It was Margeret who found her there a few minutes later. She was still
kneeling by the window, her face covered by her hands.

"You likely to catch cold down there, Madame," said the soft voice. "I
saw you come in here a good while ago, an' I thought I'd come see if I
could serve you some way."

Judithe accepted the proffered hand and rose to her feet. For an
instant Margeret's arms had half enfolded her, and the soft color
swept into the woman's face. Judithe looked at her kindly and said:

"You have already tried to serve me today, Margeret; I've been
thinking of it since, and I wonder why?"

"Any of the folks here would be proud to serve you, Madame Caron,"
said the woman, lapsing again into calm reticence.

Judithe looked at her and wondered what would become of her and the
many like her, now that freedom was declared for the slaves. She could
not understand why she had denied seeing her in the corridor, for they
had met there, almost touched! Perhaps she was some special friend of
Pluto's, and because of that purchase of the child--

"I leave tomorrow for Savannah," said Judithe, kindly. "Come to my
room this evening, and if there is anything I can do for you--"

Margeret's hands were clasped tightly at the question, and those
strange, haunting eyes of hers seemed to reach the girl's soul.

"There is one thing," she half whispered, "not now, maybe, not
right away! But you've bought Loringwood, and I--I lived there too
many years to be satisfied to live away from it. They--Miss
Gertrude--wouldn't ask much for me now, and--"

"I see," and Judithe wished she could tell her that there would never
be buying or selling of her again--that the law of the land had
declared her free! "I promise you, Loringwood shall be your home some
day, if you wish."

"God forever bless you!" whispered Margeret, and then she pushed aside
the curtains and went through the library and up the stairs, and
Judithe watched her, thoughtfully wondering why any slave should cling
to a home where Matthew Loring's will had been law. Was it true that
certain slavish natures in women--whether of Caucasian or African
blood--loved best the men who were tyrants? Was it a relic of
inherited tendencies when all women of whatever complexion were but
slaves to their masters--called husbands?

But something in the delicate, sad face of Margeret gave silent
negative to the question. Whatever the affection centered in
Loringwood, she could not believe it in any way low or unworthy.

As she passed along the upper hall Pluto was on the landing.

"Any visitors today through all this storm?" she asked, carelessly.

"No out an' out company," he said, glancing around. "A boy from the
Harris plantation did stop in out o' the rain, jest now. He got the
lend of a coat, an' left his wet one, that how--"

He looked anxiously at the slip of paper yet in her fingers. She
smiled and entered her own room, where everything was prepared for her
journey the following day. She glanced about grimly and wondered where
that journey would end--it depended so much on the temper of the man
who was now reading the evidence against her--the proof absolute that
she was the Federal agent sought for vainly by the Confederate
authorities. She had told him nothing of the motive prompting her to
the work--it had been merely a plain statement of work accomplished.

Her door was left ajar and she listened nervously for his step, his
voice. It seemed hours since she had sent him the message--the time
had really not been long except in her imagination. And the little
slip of paper just received held a threat directed towards him! In an
hour, at most, the men she had sent for would be there; she had laid
the plan for his ruin, and now was wild to think she could noways
save him! If she had dared to go to him, plead with him to leave at
once, persuade him through his love for her--but it seemed ages too
late for that! And she could only await his summons, which she
expected every moment; she could not even conjecture what he meant to
do.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Neither could Captain Masterson, who stood in McVeigh's room, staring
incredulously at his superior officer.

"Colonel, are you serious in this matter? You actually mean to let
Captain Monroe go free?"

"Absolutely free," said McVeigh, who was writing an order, and
continued writing without looking up. "I understand your surprise, but
we arrested an innocent man."

"I don't mean to question your judgment, Colonel, but the evidence--"

"The evidence was circumstantial. That evidence has been refuted by
facts not to be ignored." Masterson looked at him inquiringly, a look
comprehended by McVeigh, who touched the bell for Pluto.

"I must have time to consider before I decide what to do with those
facts," he continued. "I shall know tonight."

"And in the meantime what are we to do with the squad from down the
river?" asked Masterson, grimly. "They have just arrived to take him
for court martial; they are waiting your orders."

"I will have their instructions ready in an hour."

"They bring the report of some definite action on the slavery question
by the Federal authorities," remarked Masterson, with a smile of
derision. "Lincoln has proclaimed freedom for our slaves, the order is
to go into effect the first of the year, unless we promise to be good,
lay down our arms, and enter the Union."

"The first of the year is three months away, plenty of time to think
it over;" he locked his desk and arose. "Excuse me now, Phil," he
said, kindly, "I must go down and speak with Captain Monroe." He
paused at the door, and Masterson noticed that his face was very pale
and his lips had a strange, set expression. Whatever task he had
before him was not easy to face! "You might help me in this," he
added, "by telling my mother we must make what amends we can to
him--if any amends are possible for such indignities."

He went slowly down the stairs and entered the library. Monroe was
wiping the rain from his coat collar and holding a dripping hat at
arm's length.

"Since you insist on my afternoon calls, Colonel McVeigh, I wish you
would arrange them with some regard to the elements," he remarked. "I
was at least dry, and safe, where I was."

But there was no answering light in McVeigh's eyes. He had been
fighting a hard battle with himself, and the end was not yet.

"Captain Monroe, it is many hours too late for apologies to you," he
said, gravely, "but I do apologize, and--you are at liberty."

"Going to turn me out in a storm like this?" inquired his late
prisoner, but McVeigh held out his hand.

"Not so long as you will honor my house by remaining," and Monroe,
after one searching glance, took the offered hand in silence.

McVeigh tried to speak, but turned and walked across to the window.
After a moment he came back.

"I know, now, you could have cleared yourself by speaking," he said;
"yes, I know all," as Monroe looked at him questioningly. "I know you
have borne disgrace and risked death for a chivalrous instinct. May
I"--he hesitated as he realized he was now asking a favor of the man
he had insulted--"may I ask that you remain silent to all but me, and
that you pardon the injustice done you? I did not know--"

"Oh, the silence is understood," said Monroe, "and as for the rest--we
will forget it; the evidence was enough to hang a man these exciting
times."

"And you ran the risk? Captain, you may wonder that I ask your
silence, but you talked with her here; you probably know that to me
she is--"

Monroe raised his hand in protest.

"I don't know anything, Colonel. I heard you were a benedict, but it
may be only hearsay; I was not a witness; if I had been you would not
have found me a silent one! But it is too late now, and we had better
not talk about it," he said, anxious to get away from the strained,
unhappy eyes of the man he has always known as the most care-free of
cadets. "With your permission I will pay my respects to your sister,
whom I noticed across the hall, but in the meantime, I don't know a
thing!"

As he crossed the hall Gertrude Loring descended the stairs and
paused, looking after him wonderingly, and then turned into the
library. Colonel McVeigh was seated at the table again, his face
buried in his hands.

"Kenneth!"

He raised his head, and she hesitated, staring at him. "Kenneth, you
are ill; you--"

"No; it is really nothing," he said, as he rose, "I am a trifle tired,
I believe; absurd, isn't it? and--and very busy just now, so--"

"Oh, I shan't detain you a moment," she said, hastily, "but I saw
Captain Monroe in the hall, and I was so amazed when Phil told us you
had released him."

"I knew you would be, but he is an innocent man, and his arrest was
all a mistake. Pray, tell mother for me that I have apologized to
Captain Monroe, and he is to be our guest until tomorrow. I am sure
she will be pleased to hear it."

"Oh, yes, of course," agreed Gertrude, "but Kenneth, the guard has
arrived, and who will they take in his place for court-martial?"

She spoke lightly, but there was a subtle meaning back of her words.
He felt it, and met her gaze with a sombre smile.

"Perhaps myself," he answered, quietly.

"Oh, Kenneth!"

"There, there!" he said, reassuringly; "don't worry about the future,
what is, is enough for today, little girl."

He had opened the door for her as though anxious to be alone; she
understood, and was almost in the hall when the other door into the
library opened, and glancing over her shoulder she saw Judithe
standing there gazing after her, with a peculiar look.

She glanced up at Kenneth McVeigh, and saw his face suddenly grow
white, and stern; then the door closed on her, and those two were
left alone together. She stood outside the door for a full minute,
amazed at the strange look in his eyes, and in hers, as they faced
each other, and as she moved away she wondered at the silence
there--neither of them had spoken.

They looked at each other as the door closed, a world of appeal in her
eyes, but there was no response in his; a few hours ago she meant all
of life to him--and now!--

With a quick sigh she turned and crossed to the window; drawing back
the curtain she looked out, but all the heavens seemed weeping with
some endless woe. The light of the lamp was better, and she drew the
curtains close, and faced him again.

"You have read--all?"

He bent his head in assent.

"And Captain Monroe?"

"Captain Monroe is at liberty. I have accepted your confession, and
acted upon it."

"You accept that part of my letter, but not my other request," she
said, despairingly. "I begged that you make some excuse and leave for
your command at once--today--do you refuse to heed that?"

"I do," he said, coldly.

"Is it on my account?" she demanded; "if so, put me under arrest; send
me to one of the forts; do anything to assure yourself of my inability
to work against your cause, though I promise you I never shall again.
Oh, I know you do not trust me, and I shan't ask you to; I only ask
you to send me anywhere you like, if you will only start for your
command at once; for your own sake I beg you; for your own sake you
must go!"

All of pleading was in her eyes and voice; her hands were clasped in
the intensity of her anxiety. But he only shook his head as he looked
down in the beautiful, beseeching face.

"For your sake I shall remain," he said, coldly.

"Kenneth!"

"Your anxiety that I leave shows that the plots you confessed are not
the only ones you are aware of," he said, controlling his voice with
an effort, and speaking quietly. "You are my wife; for the plots of
the future I must take the responsibility, prevent them if I can;
shield you if I cannot."

"No, no!" and she clasped his arm, pleadingly; "believe me, Kenneth,
there will be no more plots, not after today--"

"Ah!" and he drew back from her touch; "not after today! then there
_is_ some further use you have for my house as a rendezvous? Do you
suppose I will go at once and leave my mother and sister to the danger
of your intrigues?"

"No! there shall be no danger for any one if you will only go," she
promised, wildly; "Kenneth, it is you I want to save; it is the last
thing I shall ever ask of you. Go, go! no more harm shall come to your
people, I promise you, I--"

"You promise!" and he turned on her with a fury from which she shrank.
"The promise of a woman who allowed a loyal friend to suffer disgrace
for her fault!--the promise of one who has abused the affection and
hospitality of the women you assure protection for! A spy! A traitor!
_You_, the woman I worshipped! God! What cursed fancy led you to risk
life, love, honor, everything worth having, for a fanatical fight
against one of two political factions?"

He dropped into a chair and buried his face in his hands. As he did so
a handkerchief in his pocket caught in the fastening of his cuff, as
he let his hand fall the 'kerchief was dragged from the pocket, and
with it the little oval frame over which he had been jealous for an
hour, and concerning which he had not yet had an explanation.

It rolled towards her, and with a sudden movement she caught it, and
the next instant the dark, girlish face lay uncovered in her hand.

She uttered a low cry, and then something of strength seemed to come
to her as she looked at it. Her eyes dilated, and she drew a long
breath, as she turned and faced him again with both hands clasped over
her bosom, and the open picture pressed there. All the tears and
pleading were gone from her face and voice, as she answered:

"Because to that political question there is a background, shadowed,
shameful, awful! Through the shadows of it one can hear the clang of
chains; can see the dumb misery of fettered women packed in the holds
of your slave ships, carried in chains to the land of your free! From
the day the first slave was burned at the stake on Manhattan Island by
your Christian forefathers, until now, when they are meeting your men
in battle, fighting you to the death, there is an unwritten record
that is full of horror, generations of dumb servitude! Did you think
they would keep silence forever?"

He arose from the chair, staring at her in amazement; those arguments
were so foreign to all he had known of the dainty woman, patrician,
apparently, to her finger tips. How had she ever been led to
sympathize with those rabid, mistaken theories of the North?

"You have been misled by extravagant lies!" he said, sternly; "abuses
such as you denounce no longer exist; if they ever did it was when the
temper of the times was rude--half savage if you will--when men were
rough and harsh with each other, therefore, with their belongings."

"Therefore, with their belongings!" she repeated, bitterly, "and in
your own age all that is changed?"

"Certainly."

"Certainly!" she agreed. "Slaves are no longer burned for
insubordination, because masters have grown too wise to burn money!
But they have some laws they use now instead of the torch and the whip
of those old crude days. From their book of laws they read the
commandment: _'Go you out then, and of the heathen about you, buy
bondmen and bondmaids that they be servants of your household;'_ and
again it is commanded: _'Servants be obedient unto your masters!'_ The
torch is no longer needed when those fettered souls are taught God
has decreed their servitude. God has cursed them before they were
born, and under that curse they must bend forever!"

"You doubt even the religion of my people?" he demanded.

"Yes!"

"You doubt the divinity of those laws?"

"Yes!"

"Judithe!"

"Yes!" she repeated, a certain dauntless courage in her voice and
bearing. She was no longer the girl he had loved and married; she was
a strange, wild, beautiful creature, whose tones he seemed to hear for
the first time. "A thousand times--yes! I doubt any law and every law
shackling liberty of thought and freedom of people! And the poison of
that accursed system has crept into your own blood until, even to me,
you pretend, and deny the infamy that exists today, and of which you
are aware!"

"Infamy! How dare you use that word?" and his eyes flamed with anger
at the accusation, but she raised her hand, and spoke more quietly.

"You remember the story you heard here today--the story of your guest
and guardian, who sold the white child of his own brother? and the day
when that was done is not so long past! It is so close that the child
is now only a girl of twenty-three, the girl who was educated by her
father's brother that she might prove a more desirable addition to
your bondslaves!"

"God in heaven!" he muttered, as he drew back and stared at her. "Your
knowledge of those things, of the girl's age, which _I_ did not know!
Where have you gained it all? When you heard so much you must know I
was not aware of the purchase of the girl, but that does not matter
now. Answer my questions! Your words, your manner; what do they mean?
What has inspired this fury in you? Answer--I command you!"

_"'Servants, be obedient unto your masters!'"_ she quoted, with a
strange smile. "My words oppress you, possibly, because so many women
are speaking through my lips, the women who for generations have
thought and suffered and been doomed to silence, to bear the children
of men they hated; to have the most sacred thing of life, mother-love,
desecrated, according to the temper of their masters; to dread
bringing into the world even the children of love, lest, whether white
or black, they prove cattle for the slave market!"

"Judithe!"

He caught her hand as though to force silence on her by the strength
of his own horror and protest. She closed her eyes for an instant as
he touched her, and then drew away to leave a greater space between
them, as she said:

"All those women are back of me! I have never lived one hour out of
the shadow of their presence. Their cause is my cause, and when I
forget them, may God forget me!"

"_Your_ cause!--my wife!" he half whispered, as he dropped her hand,
and the blue eyes swept her over with a glance of horror. "Who are you
that their cause should be yours?"

"Until this morning I was Madame La Marquise de Caron," she said,
making a half mocking inclination of her head; "in the bill of sale
you read today I was named Rhoda Larue, the slave girl who--"

"No!" He caught her fiercely by the shoulder, and his face had a
murderous look as he bent above her, "don't dare to say it! You are
mad with the desire to hurt me because I resent your sympathy with the
North! But, dear, your madness has made you something more terrible
than you realize! Judithe, for God's sake, never say that word
again!"

"For God's sake, that is, for truth's sake, I am telling you the thing
that is!"

He half staggered to the table, and stood there looking at her; her
gaze met his own, and all the tragedy of love and death was in that
regard.

"_You_!" he said, as though it was impossible to believe the thing he
heard. "You--of all women! God!--it is too horrible! What right have
you to tell me now? I was happy each moment I thought you loved me;
even my anger against you was all jealousy! I was willing to forgive
even the spy work, shield you, trust you, _love_ you--but--now--"

He paused with his hand over his eyes as though to shut out the sight
of her, she was so beautiful as she stood there--so appealing. The
dark eyes were wells of sadness as she looked at him. She stood as one
waiting judgment and hoping for no mercy.

"You have punished me for a thing that was not my fault," he
continued. "I destroyed it--the accursed paper, and--"

"And by destroying it you gave me back to the Loring estate," she
said, quietly. All the passion had burned itself out; she spoke
wearily and without emotion. "That is, I have become again, the
property of my half sister, my father's daughter! Are the brutal
possibilities of your social institution so very far in the past?"

He could only stare at her; the horror of it was all too sickening,
and that man who was dying in the other room had caused it all; he had
moved them as puppets in the game of life, a malignant Fate, who had
made all this possible.

"Now, will you go?" she asked, pleadingly. "You may trust me now; I
have told you all."

But he did not seem to hear her; only that one horrible thought of
what she was to him beat against his brain and dwarfed every other
consideration.

"And you--married me, knowing this?"

"I married you because I knew it," she said, despairingly. "I thought
you and Matthew Loring equally guilty--equally deserving of
punishment. I fought against my own feelings--my own love for you--"

"Love!"

"Love--love always! I loved you in Paris, when I thought hate was all
you deserved from me. I waited three years. I told myself it had been
only a girlish fancy--not love! I pledged myself to work for the union
of these states and against the cause championed by Kenneth McVeigh
and Matthew Loring; for days and nights, weeks and months, I have
worked for my mother's people and against the two men whose names were
always linked together in my remembrance. The thought became a
monomania with me. Well, you know how it is ended! Every plan against
you became hateful to me from the moment I heard your voice again. But
the plans had to go on though they were built on my heart. As for the
marriage, I meant to write you after I had left the country, and tell
you who you had given your name to. Then"--and all of despair was in
her voice--"then I learned the truth too late. I heard your words when
that paper was given to you here, and I loved you. I realized that I
had never ceased to love you; that I never should!"

"The woman who is my--wife!" he muttered. "Oh, God!--"

"No one need ever know that," she said earnestly. "I will go away,
unless you give me over to the authorities as the spy. For the wrong I
have done you I will make any atonement--any expiation--"

"There is no atonement you could make," he answered, steadily. "There
is no forgiveness possible."

"I know," she said, whisperingly, as if afraid to trust her voice
aloud, "I know you could never forgive me. I--I do not ask it; only,
Kenneth, a few hours ago we promised to love each other always," her
voice broke for an instant and then she went on, "I shall keep that
promise wherever I go, and--that is all--I think--"

She had paused beside the table, where he sat, with his head buried in
his hands.

"I give you back the wedding ring," she continued, slipping it
from her finger, but he did not speak or move. She kissed the little
gold circlet and laid it beside him. "I am going now," she said,
steadily as she could; "I ask for no remembrance, no forgiveness;
but--have you no word of good-bye for me?--not one? It is forever,
Kenneth--_Kenneth_!"

Her last word was almost a scream, for a shot had sounded just outside
the window, and there was the rush of feet on the veranda and the
crash of arms.

"Go! Go at once!" she said, grasping his arm. "They will take you
prisoner--they will--"

"So!" he said, rising and reaching for the sword on the rack near him;
"this is one of the plots you did _not_ reveal to me; some of your
Federal friends!"

"Oh, I warned you! I begged you to go," she said, pleadingly; again
she caught his arm as he strode towards the veranda, but he flung
himself loose with an angry exclamation:

"Let your friends look to themselves," he said, grimly. "My own guard
is here to receive them today."

As he tore aside the curtains and opened the glass door she flung
herself in front of him. On the steps and on the lawn men were
struggling, and shots were being fired. Men were remounting their
horses in hot haste and a few minutes later were clattering down the
road, leaving one dead stranger at the foot of the steps. But for his
presence it would all have seemed but a tumultuous vision of
grey-garbed combatants.

It was, perhaps, ten minutes later when Kenneth McVeigh re-entered the
library. All was vague and confused in his mind as to what had
occurred there in the curtained alcove. She had flung herself in front
of him with her arms about him as the door opened; there had been two
shots in quick succession, one of them had shattered the glass, and
the other--

He remembered tearing himself from her embrace as she clung to him,
and he remembered she had sunk with a moan to the floor; at the time
he thought her attitude and cry had meant only despair at her failure
to stop him, but, perhaps--

He found her in the same place; the oval portrait was open in her
hand, as though her last look had been given to the pretty mother,
whose memory she had cherished, and whose race she had fought for.

Margeret was crouched beside her, silent as ever, her dark eyes
strange, unutterable in expression, were fixed on the beautiful face,
but the stray bullet had done its work quickly--she had been quite
dead when Margeret reached her.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Monroe told McVeigh the true story of the portrait that night. The
two men sat talking until the dawn broke. Delaven was admitted to the
conference long enough to hear certain political reasons why the
marriage of that morning should continue to remain a secret, and when
the mistress of Loringwood was laid to rest under the century-old
cedars, it was as Judithe, Marquise de Caron.

In settling up the estate of Matthew Loring, who died a few days
later, speechless to the last, Judge Clarkson had the unpleasant task
of informing Gertrude that for nearly twenty years one of the slaves
supposed to belong to her had been legally free. Evidence was found
establishing the fact that Tom Loring had given freedom to Margeret
and her child a few days previous to that last, fatal ride of his.
Matthew Loring had evidently disapproved and suppressed the
knowledge.

Gertrude made slight comment on the affair, convinced as she was that
the woman was much better off in their household than dependent on
herself, and was frankly astonished that Margeret returned at once to
Loringwood, and never left it again for the three remaining years of
her life.

Gertrude was also surprised at the sudden interest of Kenneth in her
former bondwoman, and when the silent octoroon was found dead beside
the tomb of her master, it was Kenneth McVeigh who arranged that she
be placed near the beautiful stranger who had dwelt among them for
awhile.

A year after the war ended Gertrude, the last of the once dominant
Lorings, married an Alabama man, and left Carolina, to the great
regret of Mrs. Judge Clarkson and sweet Evilena Delaven. They felt a
grievance against Kenneth for his indifference in the matter, and were
disconsolate for years over his persistent bachelorhood.

When he finally did marry, his wife was a pretty little woman, who was
a relative of Jack Monroe, and totally different from either Gertrude
or Judithe Loring. Jack Monroe, who was Major Monroe at the close of
the war, makes yearly hunting trips to the land of the Salkahatchie,
and when twitted concerning his state of single blessedness, declares
he is only postponing matrimony until Delaven's youngest daughter
grows up, but the youngest has been superseded by a younger one
several times since he first made the announcement.

The monument planned by Judithe has existed for many years; but only a
few remember well the builder; she has become a misty memory--part of
a romance the older people tell. She was a noted beauty of France and
she died to save General McVeigh, who was young, handsome, and, it was
said, her lover. He never after her death was heard to speak her name
and did not marry until twenty years later--what more apt material for
a romance? None of them ever heard of her work for the union of the
states.

But when the local historians tell of the former grandeur of the
Lorings, the gay, reckless, daring spirits among them, and end the
list with handsome Tom, there are two veterans, one of the blue and
the other of the grey, who know that the list did not end there, and
that the most brilliant, most daring, most remarkable spirit of them
all, was the one of their blood, who was born a slave.

THE END.

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