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´╗┐Title: Diana
Author: Warner, Susan, 1819-1885
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Diana" ***

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



DIANA



BY

SUSAN WARNER,

AUTHOR OF

"THE WIDE, WIDE WORLD," "QUEECHY," ETC. ETC.



LONDON

JAMES NISBET & CO., 21 BERNERS STREET.

MDCCCLXXVII.



   "Know well, my soul, God's hand controls
   Whate'er thou fearest;
   Round Him in calmest music rolls
   Whate'er thou hearest.



   "What to thee is shadow, to Him is day,
   And the end He knoweth;
   And not on a blinded, aimless way
   The spirit goeth."



WHITTIER.



CONTENTS.



CHAPTER I. THE SEWING SOCIETY

CHAPTER II. THE NEW MINISTER

CHAPTER III. HARNESSING PRINCE

CHAPTER IV. MOTHER BARTLETT

CHAPTER V. MAKING HAY

CHAPTER VI. MR. KNOWLTON'S FISH

CHAPTER VII. BELLES AND BLACKBERRIES

CHAPTER VIII. THE NEW RICHES OF THE OLD WORLD

CHAPTER IX. MRS STARLING'S OPINIONS

CHAPTER X. IN SUGAR

CHAPTER XI. A STORM IN SEPTEMBER

CHAPTER XII. THE ASHES OF THE FIRE

CHAPTER XIII. FROM THE POST OFFICE

CHAPTER XIV.  MEETING AT ELMFIELD

CHAPTER XV. CATECHIZING

CHAPTER XVI. IS IT WELL WITH THEE?

CHAPTER XVII. THE USE OF LIVING

CHAPTER XVIII. A SNOWSTORM

CHAPTER XIX. OUT OF HUMDRUM

CHAPTER XX. SETTLED

CHAPTER XXI. UNSETTLED

CHAPTER XXII. NEW LIFE

CHAPTER XXIII. SUPPER AT HOME

CHAPTER XXIV. THE MINISTER'S WIFE

CHAPTER XXV. MISS COLLINS' WORK

CHAPTER XXVI. THINGS UNDONE

CHAPTER XXVII. BONDS

CHAPTER XXVIII. EVAN'S SISTER

CHAPTER XXIX. HUSBAND AND WIFE

CHAPTER XXX. SUNSHINE

CHAPTER XXXI. A JUNE DAY

CHAPTER XXXII. WIND AND TIDE

CHAPTER XXXIII. BUDS AND BLOSSOMS

CHAPTER XXXIV. DAIRY AND PARISH WORK

CHAPTER XXXV. BABYLON

CHAPTER XXXVI. THE PARTY

CHAPTER XXXVII. AT ONE



DIANA.



CHAPTER I.



THE SEWING SOCIETY.



I am thinking of a little brown house, somewhere in the wilds of New
England. I wish I could make my readers see it as it was, one June
afternoon some years ago. Not for anything very remarkable about it;
there are thousands of such houses scattered among our hills and
valleys; nevertheless one understands any life story the better for
knowing amid what sort of scenes it was unfolded. Moreover, such a
place is one of the pleasant things in the world to look at, as I
judge. This was a small house, with its gable end to the road, and a
lean-to at the back, over which the long roof sloped down
picturesquely. It was weather-painted; that was all; of a soft dark
grey now, that harmonized well enough with the gayer colours of meadows
and trees. And two superb elms, of New England's own, stood beside it
and hung over it, enfolding and sheltering the little old house, as it
were, with their arms of strength and beauty. Those trees would have
dignified anything. One of them, of the more rare weeping variety,
drooped over the door of the lean-to, shading it protectingly, and
hiding with its long pendant branches the hard and stiff lines of the
building. So the green draped the grey; until, in the soft mingling of
hues, the light play of sunshine and shadow, it seemed as if the
smartness of paint upon the old weather-boarding would have been an
intrusion, and not an advantage. In front of the house was a little
space given to flowers; at least there were some irregular patches and
borders, where balsams and hollyhocks and pinks and marigolds made a
spot of light colouring; with one or two luxuriantly-growing blush
roses, untrained and wandering, bearing a wealth of sweetness on their
long, swaying branches. There was that spot of colour; all around and
beyond lay meadows, orchards and cultivated fields; till at no great
distance the ground became broken, and rose into a wilderness of hills,
mounting higher and higher. In spots these also showed cultivation; for
the most part they were covered with green woods in the depth of June
foliage. The soft, varied hilly outline filled the whole circuit of the
horizon; within the nearer circuit of the hills the little grey house
sat alone, with only one single exception. At the edge of the meadow
land, half hid behind the spur of a hill, stood another grey
farm-house; it might have been half a mile off. People accustomed to a
more densely populated country would call the situation lonesome;
solitary it was. But Nature had shaken down her hand full of treasures
over the place. Art had never so much as looked that way. However, we
can do without art on a June afternoon.

The door of the lean-to looked towards the road, and so made a kind of
front door to the kitchen which was within. The door-sill was raised a
single step above the rough old grey stone which did duty before it;
and sitting on the doorstep, in the shadow and sunlight which came
through the elm branches and fell over her, this June afternoon, was
the person whose life story I am going to try to tell. She sat there as
one at home, and in the leisure of one who had done her work; with arms
crossed upon her bosom, and an air of almost languid quiet upon her
face. The afternoon was quiet-inspiring. Genial warm sunshine filled
the fields and grew hazy in the depth of the hills; the long hanging
elm branches were still; sunlight and shadow beneath slept in each
other's arms; soft breaths of air, too faint to move the elms, came
nevertheless with reminders and suggestions of all sorts of sweetness;
from the leaf-buds of the woods, from the fresh turf of the meadows,
from a thousand hidden flowers and ferns at work in their secret
laboratories, distilling a thousand perfumes, mingled and untraceable.
Now and then the breath of the roses was quite distinguishable; and
from fields further off the delicious scent of new hay. It was just the
time of day when the birds do not sing; and the watcher at the door
seemed to be in their condition.

She was a young woman, full grown, but young. Her dress was the common
print working dress of a farmer's daughter, with a spot or two of wet
upon her apron showing that she had been busy, as her dress suggested.
Her sleeves were still rolled up above her elbows, leaving the crossed
arms full in view. And if there is character in faces, so there is in
arms; and everybody knows there is in hands. These arms were after the
model of the typical woman's arm; not chubby and round and fat, but
moulded with beautiful contour, showing muscular form and power, with
the blue veins here and there marking the clear delicate skin. Only
look at the arm, without even seeing the face, and you would feel there
was nervous energy and power of will; no weak, flabby, undecided action
would ever come of it. The wrist was tapering enough, and the hand
perfectly shaped, like the arm; not quite so white. The face,--you
could not read it at once; possibly not till it had seen a few more
years. It was very reposeful this afternoon. Yet the brow and the head
bore tokens of the power you would expect; they were very fine; and the
eyes under the straight brow were full and beautiful, a deep blue-grey,
changing and darkening at times. But the mouth and lower part of the
face was as sweet and mobile as three years old; playing as innocently
and readily upon every occasion; nothing had fixed those lovely lines.
The combination made it a singular face, and of course very handsome.
But it looked very unconscious of that fact.

Within the kitchen another woman was stepping about actively, and now
and then cast an unsatisfied look at the doorway. Finally came to a
stop in the middle of the floor to speak.

"What are you sittin' there for, Diana?"

"Nothing, that I know of."

"If I was sittin' there for nothin', seems to me I'd get up and go
somewheres else."

"Where?" said the beauty languidly.

"Anywhere. Goodness! it makes me feel as if nothin' would ever get
done, to see you sittin' there so."

"It's all done, mother."

"What?"

"Everything."

"Have you got out the pink china?"

"Yes."

"Is your cake made?"

"Yes, mother; you saw me do it."

"I didn't see you bakin' it, though."

"Well, it is done."

"Did it raise light and puffy?"

"Beautiful."

"And didn't get burned?"

"Only the least bit, in the corner. No harm."

"Have you cut the cheese and shivered the beef?"

"All done."

"Then I think you had better go and dress yourself."

"There's plenty of time. Nobody can be here for two hours yet."

"I wouldn't sit and do nothin', if I was you."

"Why not, mother? when there is really nothing to do."

"I don't believe in no such minutes, for my part. They never come to
me. Look at what I've done to-day, now. There was first the lighting
the fire and getting breakfast. Then I washed up, and righted the
kitchen and set on the dinner. Then I churned and brought the butter
and worked _that_. Then there was the dairy things. Then I've been in
the garden and picked four quarts of ifs-and-ons for pickles; got 'em
all down in brine, too. Then I made out my bread, and made biscuits for
tea, and got dinner, and eat it, and cleared it away, and boiled a ham."

"Not since dinner, mother?"

"Took it out, and that; and got all my pots and kettles put away; and
picked over all that lot o' berries, I think I'd make preserves of 'em,
Diana; when folks come to sewing meeting for the missionaries they
needn't have all creation to eat, seems to me. They don't sew no better
for it. _I_ believe in fasting, once in a while."

"What for?"

"What for? Why, to keep down people's stomach; take off a slice of
their pride."

"Mother! do you think eating and people's pride have anything to do
with each other?"

"I guess I do! I tell you, fasting is as good as whipping to take down
a child's stomach; let 'em get real thin and empty, and they'll come
down and be as meek as Moses. Folks ain't different from children."

"You never tried that with me, mother," said Diana, half laughing.

"Your father always let you have your own way. I could ha' managed
_you_, I guess; but your father and you was too much at once. Come,
Diana do--get up and go off and get dressed, or something."

But she sat still, letting the soft June air woo her, and the scents of
flower and field hold some subtle communion with her. There was a
certain hidden harmony between her and them; and yet they stirred her
somehow uneasily.

"I wonder," she said after a few minutes' silence, "what a nobleman's
park is like?"

The mother stood still again in the middle of the kitchen.

"A park!"

"Yes. It must be something beautiful; and yet I cannot think how it
could be prettier than this."

"Than what?" said her mother impatiently.

"Just all this. All this country; and the hayfields, and the
cornfields, and the hills."

"A park!" her mother repeated. "I saw a 'park' once, when I was down to
New York; you wouldn't want to see it twice. A homely little mite of a
green yard, with a big white house in the middle of it; and homely
enough _that_ was too. It might do very well for the city folks; but
the land knows I'd be sorry enough to live there. What's putting parks
in your head?"

But the daughter did not answer, and the mother stood still and looked
at her, with perhaps an inscrutable bit of pride and delight behind her
hard features. It never came out.

"Diana, do you calculate to be ready for the sewin' meetin'?"

"Yes, mother."

"Since they must come, we may as well make 'em welcome; and they won't
think it, if you meet 'em in your kitchen dress. Is the new minister
comin', do you s'pose?"

"I don't know if anybody has told him."

"Somebody had ought to. It won't be much of a meetin' without the
minister; and it 'ud give him a good chance to get acquainted. Mr.
Hardenburgh used to like to come."

"The new man doesn't look much like Mr. Hardenburgh."

"It'll be a savin' in biscuits, if he ain't."

"I used to like to see Mr. Hardenburgh eat, mother."

"I hain't no objection--when I don't have the biscuits to make. Diana,
you baked a pan o' them biscuits too brown. Now you must look out, when
you put 'em to warm up, or they'll be more'n crisp."

"Everybody else has them cold, mother."

"They won't at my house. It's just to save trouble; and there ain't a
lazy hair in me, you ought to know by this time."

"But I thought you were for taking down people's pride, and keeping the
sewing society low; and here are hot biscuits and all sorts of thing,"
said Diana, getting up from her seat at last.

"'The cream'll be in the little red pitcher--so mind you don't go and
take the green one. And do be off, child, and fix yourself; for it'll
be a while yet before I'm ready, and there'll be nobody to see folks
when they come."

Diana went off slowly up-stairs to her own room. There were but two,
one on each side of the little landing-place at the head of the stair;
and she and her mother divided the floor between them. Diana's room was
not what one would have expected from the promise of all the rest of
the house. That was simple enough, as the dwelling of a small farmer
would be, and much like the other farm-houses of the region. But
Diana's room, a little one it was, had one side filled with
bookshelves; and on the bookshelves was a dark array of solid and
ponderous volumes. A table under the front window held one or two that
were apparently in present use; the rest of the room displayed the more
usual fittings and surroundings of a maiden's life. Only in their
essentials, however; no luxury was there. The little chest of drawers,
covered with a white cloth, held a brush and comb, and supported a tiny
looking-glass; small paraphernalia of vanity. No essences or perfumes
or powders; no curling sticks or crimping pins; no rats or cats,
cushions or frames, or skeletons of any sort, were there for the help
of the rustic beauty; and neither did she need them. So you would have
said if you had seen her when her toilette was done. The soft outlines
of her figure were neither helped nor hidden by any artificial
contrivances. Her abundant dark hair was in smooth bands and a
luxuriant coil at the back of her head--woman's natural crown; and she
looked nature-crowned when she had finished her work. Just because
nature had done so much for her and she had let nature alone; and
because, furthermore, Diana did not know or at least did not think
about her beauty. When she was in order, and it did not take long, she
placed herself at the table under the window before noticed, and
opening a book that lay ready, forgot I dare say all about the sewing
meeting; till the slow grating of wheels at the gate brought her back
to present realities, and she went down-stairs.

There was a little old green waggon before the house, with an old horse
and two women, one of whom had got down and was tying the horse's head
to the fence.

"Are you afraid he will run away?" said the voice of Diana gaily from
the garden.

"Massy! no; but he might hitch round somewheres, you know, and get
himself into trouble. Thank ye--I am allays thankful and glad when I
get safe out o' this waggin."

So spoke the elder lady, descending with Diana's help and a great deal
of circumlocution from her perch in the vehicle. And then they went
into the bright parlour, where windows and doors stood open, and chairs
had been brought in, ready to accommodate all who might come.

"It's kind o' sultry," said the same lady, wiping her face. "I declare
these ellums o' yourn do cast an elegant shadder. It allays sort o'
hampers me to drive, and I don't feel free till I can let the reins
fall; that's how I come to be so heated. Dear me, you do excel in
notions!" she exclaimed, as Diana presented some glasses of cool water
with raspberry vinegar. "Ain't that wonderful coolin'!"

"Will the minister come to the meeting, Diana?" asked the other woman.

"He'd come, if he knowed he could get anything like this," said the
other, smacking her lips and sipping her glass slowly. And then came in
her hostess.

If Mrs. Starling was hard-favoured, it cannot be denied that she had a
certain style about her. Some ugly people do. Country style, no doubt;
but these things are relative; and in a smart black silk, with sheer
muslin neckerchief and a close-fitting little cap, her natural
self-possession and self-assertion were very well set off. Very
different from Diana's calm grace and simplicity; the mother and
daughter were alike in nothing beyond the fact that each had character.
Perhaps that is a common fact in such a region and neighbourhood; for
many of the ladies who now came thronging in to the meeting looked as
if they might justly lay claim to so much praise. The room filled up;
thimbles and housewives came out of pockets; work was produced from
baskets and bags; and tongues went like mill-clappers. They put the
June afternoon out of countenance. Mrs. Barry, the good lady who had
arrived first, took out her knitting, and in a corner went over to her
neighbour all the incidents of her drive, the weather, the getting out
of the waggon, the elm-tree shadow, and the raspberry vinegar. Mrs.
Carpenter, a well-to-do farmer's wife, gave the details of her dairy
misfortunes and success to _her_ companion on the next seat. Mrs.
Flandin discussed missions. Mrs. Bell told how the family of Mr.
Hardenburgh had got away on their journey to their new place of abode.

"I always liked Mr. Hardenburgh," said Mrs. Carpenter.

"He had a real good wife," remarked Miss Gunn, the storekeeper's
sister, "and that goes a great way. Mrs. Hardenburgh was a right-down
good woman."

"But you was speakin' o' _Mr._ Hardenburgh, the dominie," said Mrs.
Salter. "He was a man as there warn't much harm in, I've allays said.
'Tain't a man's fault if he can't make his sermons interestin', I
s'pose."

"Mr. Hardenburgh preached real good sermons, now, always seemed to me,"
rejoined Mrs. Carpenter. "He meant right; that's what he did."

"That's _so!_" chimed in Mrs. Mansfield, a rich farmer in her own
person.

"There was an owl up in one of our elm-trees one night," began Mrs.
Starling.

"Du tell! so nigh's that!" said Mrs. Barry from her corner.

"--And I took up Josiah's gun and _meant_ to shoot him; but I didn't."

"He was awful tiresome--there!" exclaimed Mrs. Boddington. "What's the
use of pretendin' he warn't? Nobody couldn't mind what his sermons was
about; I don't believe as he knew himself. Now, a minister had ought to
know what he means, whether any one else does or not, and I like a
minister that makes _me_ know what he means."

"Why, Mrs. Boddington," said Mrs. Flandin, "I didn't know as you cared
anything about religion, one way or another."

"I've got to go to church, Mrs. Flandin; and I'd a little rayther be
kep' awake while I'm there without pinching my fingers. I'd prefer it."

"Why, has anybody _got_ to go to church that doesn't want to go?"
inquired Diana. But that was like a shell let off in the midst of the
sewing circle.

"Hear that, now!" said Mrs. Boddington. "Ain't that a rouser!" Mrs.
Boddington was a sort of a cousin, and liked the fun; she lived in the
one farm-house in sight of Mrs. Starling's.

"She don't mean it," said Mrs. Mansfield.

"Trust Di Starling for meaning whatever she says," returned the other.
"You and I mayn't understand it, but that's all one, you know."

"But what _do_ she mean?" said Mrs. Salter.

"Yes, what's the use o' havin' a church, ef folks ain't goin' to it?"
said Mrs. Carpenter.

"No," said Diana, laughing; "I only asked why any one _must_ go, if he
don't want to? Where's the _must?_"

"When we had good Mr. Hardenburgh, for example," chimed in Mrs.
Boddington, "who was as loggy as he could be; good old soul! and put us
all to sleep, or to wishin' we could. My! hain't I eaten quarts o' dill
in the course o' the summer, trying to keep myself respectably awake
and considerin' o' what was goin' on! Di says, why _must_ any one eat
all that dill that don't want to?"

"Cloves is better," suggested Miss Gunn.

Some laughed at this; others looked portentously grave.

"It's just one o' Di's nonsense speeches," said her mother; "what they
mean I'm sure I don't know. She reads too many books to be just like
other folks."

"But the books were written by other folks, mother."

"La! some sort, child. Not our sort, I guess."

"Hain't Di never learned her catechism?" inquired Mrs. Flandin.

"Is there anything about going to church in it?" asked the girl.

"There's most all sorts o' good things in it," answered vaguely Mrs.
Flandin, who was afraid of committing herself. "I thought Di might ha'
learned there something about such a thing as we call _duty_."

"That's so," said Mrs. Mansfield.

"Just what I am asking about," said Di. "That's the thing. Why _is_ it
duty, to go to church when one don't want to go?"

"Well, I'm sure it was time we had a new minister," said Mrs Salter;
"and I'm glad he's come. If he's no better than old Mr. Hardenburgh,
it'll take us a spell to find it out; and that'll be so much gained. He
don't _look_ like him any way."

"He _is_ different, ain't he?" assented Mrs. Boddington. "If we wanted
a change, we've got it. How did you all like his sermon last Sabbath?"

"He was very quiet--" said Mrs. Flandin.

"I like that," said Diana. "When a man roars at me, I never can tell
what he is saying."

"He seemed to kind o' know his own mind," said Mrs. Salter.

"I thought he'd got an astonishin' knowledge o' things in the town, for
the time he's had," said Mrs. Mansfield.

"I wisht he had a family," remarked Miss Gunn; "that's all I've got
agin him. I think a minister had allays ought to have a family."

"He will,--let him alone a while," said Mrs. Boddington. "Time enough.
Who have we got in town that would do for him?"

The fruitful topic of debate and discussion here started, lasted the
ladies for some time. Talk and business got full under weigh. Scissors
and speeches, clipping and chattering, knitting and the interminable
yarn of small talk. The affairs, sickness and health, of every family
in the neighbourhood, with a large discussion of character and
prospects by the way; going back to former history and antecedents, and
forward to future probable consequences and results. Nuts of society;
sweet confections of conversation; of various and changing flavour;
suiting all palates, and warranted never to cloy. Then there were farm
prospects and doings also, with household matters; very interesting to
the good ladies, who all had life interest in them; and the hours moved
on prosperously. Here a rocking-chair tipped gently back and forward,
in harmony with the quiet business enjoyment of its occupant; and there
a pair of heels, stretched out to the farthest limit of their
corresponding members, with toes squarely elevated in the air,
testified to the restful condition of another individual of the party.
See a pair of toes in the air and the heels as nearly as possible
straight under them, one tucked up on the other, and you may be sure
the person they belong to feels comfortable--physically. And Mrs.
Starling in a corner, in her quiet state and black-silk gown, was as
contented as an old hen that sees all her chickens prosperously
scratching for themselves. And the June afternoon breathed in at the
window and upon all those busy talkers; and nobody knew that it was
June. So things went, until Diana left them to put the finishing
touches of readiness to the tea-table. Her going was noticed by some of
the assembly, and taken as a preparatory note of the coming
entertainment; always sure to be worth having and coming for in Mrs.
Starling's house. Needles and tongues took a fresh stir.

"Mis' Starling, are we goin' to hev' the minister?" somebody asked.

"I don't know as anybody has told him, Mis' Mansfield."

"Won't seem like a meetin', ef we don't hev' him."

"He's gone down to Elmfield," said Miss Gunn. "He went down along in
the forenoon some time. Gone to see his cousin, I s'pose."

"They've got their young soldier home to Elmfield," said Miss Barry. "I
s'pect they're dreadful sot up about it."

"They don't want _that_," said Mrs. Boddington. "The Knowltons always
did carry their heads pretty well up, in the best o' times; and now
Evan's got home, I s'pose there'll be no holding 'em in. There ain't, I
guess, by the looks."

"What'll he do now? stay to hum and help his gran'ther?"

"La! no. He's home just for a visit. He's got through his education at
the Military Academy, and now he's an officer; out in the world; but
he'll have to go somewhere and do his work."

"I wonder what work they do hev' to do?" said Mrs. Salter; "there ain't
nobody to fight now, is there?"

"Fight the Injuns," said Mrs. Boddington; "or the Mexicans; or the
English may be; anything that comes handy."

"But we hain't no quarrel with the English, nor nobody, hev' we? I
thought we was done fightin' for the present," said Miss Barry in a
disturbed tone of voice.

"Well, suppos'n we be," said Mrs. Boddington; "somebody might give us a
slap, you know, when we don't expect it, and it's best to be ready; and
so, Evan Knowlton'll be one o' them that has to stand somewhere with
his musket to his shoulder, and look after a lot o' powder behind him
all the while."

"Du tell! if it takes four years to learn 'em to du that," said Miss
Babbage, the doctor's sister.

"The Knowltons is a very fine family," remarked Miss Gunn.

"If the outside made it," said Mrs. Boddington. "Don't they cut a shine
when they come into meetin', though! They _think_ they do."

"It takes all the boys' attention off everything," said Mrs. Flandin,
who was an elderly lady herself.

"And the girls"--added Mrs. Starling. But what more might have been
said was cut short by Miss Barry's crying out that here was the
minister coming.



CHAPTER II.



THE NEW MINISTER.



The little stir and buzz which went round the assembly at this news was
delightful. Not one but moved excitedly on her seat, and then settled
herself for an unwonted good time. For the new minister was
undiscovered ground; an unexamined possession; unexplored treasure. One
Sunday and two sermons had done no more than whet the appetite of the
curious. Nobody had made up his mind, or her mind, on the subject, in
regard to any of its points. So there were eyes enough that from Mrs.
Starling's windows watched the minister as he dismounted and tied his
horse to the fence, and then opened the little gate and came up to the
house. Diana had returned to the room to bid the company out to supper;
but finding all heads turned one way, and necks craned over, and eyes
on the stretch, she paused and waited for a more auspicious moment. And
then came a step in the passage and the door opened.

Mr. Hardenburgh, each lady remembered, used to make the circuit of the
company, giving every one a several clasp of the hand and an individual
word of civility. Here was a change! The new minister came into the
midst of them and stood still, with a bright look and a cheery "Good
afternoon!" It was full of good cheer and genial greeting; but what
lady could respond to it? The greeting was not given to _her_. The
silence was absolute; though eyes said they had heard, and were
listening.

"I have been down at Elmfield," the new-comer went on, not at all
disturbed by his reception; "and some one informed me I should find a
large circle of friends if I came here; so I came. And I find I was
told truly."

"I guess we'd most given you up," said the mistress of the house,
coming out of her corner now.

"I don't know what reason you had to expect me! Nobody asked me to
come."

"We're real glad to see you. Take a chair," said Mrs. Starling, setting
one for his acceptance as she spoke.

"Mr. Hardenburgh allays used to come to our little meetin's," said Mrs.
Mansfield.

"Thank you!--And you expect me to do all that Mr. Hardenburgh did?"

There was such a quaint air of good-fellowship and simplicity in the
new minister's manner, that the little assembly began to stir anew with
gratification and amusement. But nobody was forward to answer. In fact,
they were a trifle shy of him. The late Mr. Hardenburgh had been heavy
and slow; kind, of course, but stiff; you knew just what he would do
and how he would speak beforehand. There was a delightful freshness and
uncertainty about this man. Nothing imposing, either; a rather small,
slight figure; with a face that might or might not be called handsome,
according to the fancy of the speaker, but that all would agree was
wonderfully attractive and winning. A fine broad brow; an eye very
sweet; with a build of the jaw and lines of the mouth speaking both
strength and the absolutest calm of the mental nature.

"I was afraid I should be late," he went on, looking at his
watch,--"but the roads are good. How far do you call it from Elmfield?"

"All of five miles," said Mrs. Starling.

"Yes; and one hill to cross. Well! I came pretty well. The long June
afternoon favoured me."

"Mr. Hardenburgh used to drive a buggy," remarked Miss Barry.

"Yes. Is that one of the things you would like me to do as he did?"

"Well, none of our ministers ever went such a venturesome way before,"
said the timid little old lady.

"As I do? But if _I_ had been in a buggy, Miss Barry, this afternoon, I
am afraid you would have got through supper and been near breaking up
before I could have joined your society."

"How long was you comin', then?" she asked, looking startled.

"And there's another thing, Mr. Masters," said Mrs. Mansfield; "why
_do_ the days be so much longer in summer than in winter? I asked Mr.
Hardenburgh once, but I couldn't make out nothin' from what he told me?"

Sly looks and suppressed laughter went round the room, for some of Mrs.
Mansfield's neighbours were better informed than she in all that lay
above the level of practical farming; but Mr. Masters quite gravely
assured her he would make it all clear the first time he had a quiet
chance at her house.

"And will you walk out to supper, friends?" said Mrs. Starling. "Here's
Di been standin' waitin' to call us this half hour."

The supper was laid on a long table in the lean-to, which was used as a
kitchen; but now the fire was out, and the tea-kettle had been boiled
and was kept boiling in some unknown region. Doors and windows stood
open, letting the sweet air pass through; and if the floor was bare and
the chairs were wooden, both one and the other were bright with
cleanliness; and the long board was bright in another way. Yet the word
is not misapplied. Such piles of snowy bread and golden cake, such
delicate cheeses and puffy biscuits, and such transparencies of
rich-coloured preserves, were an undoubted adornment to Mrs. Starling's
deal table, and might have been to any table in the world. The deal was
covered, however, with white cloths. At the upper end the hostess took
her place behind a regiment of cups and saucers, officered by great tin
pots which held the tea and coffee. Diana waited.

Everybody had come expecting a good supper and primed for enjoyment;
and now the enjoyment began. Mrs. Starling might smile grimly to
herself as she saw her crab-apples and jellies disappear, and the piles
of biscuits go down and get heaped up again by Diana's care. Nobody was
at leisure enough to mark her.

"Eat when you can, Mr. Masters," said Mrs. Boddington; "you won't get
hot biscuits anywhere in Pleasant Valley but here."

"Why not?" said Mr. Masters.

"It ain't the fashion--that's all."

"I s'pose you've seen the fashions to-day down at Elmfield, Mr.
Masters," said Mrs. Salter. "They don't think as we hev' no fashions,
up here in the mountains."

"Their fashions is ridiculous!" said Mrs. Flandin. "Do you think it's
becomin', Mr. Masters, for Christian women to go and make sights of
themselves?"

"In what way, Mrs. Flandin?"

"Why, goodness! you've seen 'em. Describin's impossible. Euphemie
Knowlton, she came into church last Sabbath three yards in extent, ef
she was a foot. It beat me, how she was goin' to get in. Why, there
warn't room for but three of 'em in the slip, and it took 'em somethin'
like half an hour to get fixed in their places. I declare I was
ashamed, and I had to look, for all."

"So had I," assented Miss Carpenter. "I couldn't fairly keep my eyes
off of 'em."

"And I'm certain she couldn't go agin the wind, with her bonnet; it
stuck just right up from her face, and ended in a pint, and she had a
hull garden in the brim of it, _I_ think ministers had ought to preach
about such doin's."

"And you don't know what ministers are good for if they don't?" said
Mr. Masters.

"Did _you_ ever see a minister that could get the better of 'em?" said
Mrs. Boddington. "'Cos, if you did, I would like to go and sit under
his preachin' a spell, and see what he could do for me."

"Does that express the mind of Pleasant Valley generally?" asked the
minister, and gravely this time.

"La! we ain't worse than other folks," said Mrs. Salter. "There's no
harm in dressin' one's self smart now and then, is there? And we want
to know how, to be sure."

"I hope you don't think Euphemie Knowlton knows how? 'Tain't a quarter
as becomin' as the way we dress in Pleasant Valley. There ain't the
least bit of prettiness or gracefulness in a woman's bein' three yards
round; anyhow we don't think so when it's nature." So Mrs. Salter.

"What do you think o' lettin' your hair down over the shoulders, as if
you were goin' to comb it?" said Mrs. Boddington; "and goin' to church
so?"

"But how ever _did_ she make it stand out as it did," asked Miss
Carpenter. "It was just like spun glass, nothin' smooth or quiet about
it. Such a yellow mop I never did see. And it warn't a child neither.
Who is she anyhow?"

"Not she. It is a grown woman," said Mrs. Flandin; "and she looked like
a wild savage. Don't the minister agree with me, that it ain't becomin'
for Christian women to do such things?"

It was with a smile and a sigh that the minister answered. "Where are
you going to draw the line, Mrs. Flandin?"

"Well! with what's decent and comfortable."

"And pretty?"

"La! yes," said Mrs. Salter. "Do let us be as nice as we kin."

"I think people had ought to make themselves as nice-lookin' as they
can," echoed one of the younger ladies of the party; and there was a
general chorus of agreeing voices.

"Well!" said the minister; "then comes the question, what is
nice-looking? I dare say the young lady with the flowing tresses
thought she was about right."

"She thought she was the only one," said Mrs. Boddington.

A subject was started now which was fruitful enough to keep all tongues
busy; and whether biscuits or opinions had the most lively circulation
for some time thereafter it would be hard to say. Old and young, upon
this matter of town and country fashions, and fashion in general, "gave
tongue" in concert; proving that Pleasant Valley knew what was what as
well as any place in the land; that it was doubtful what right Boston
or New York had to dictate to it; at the same time the means of getting
at the earliest the mind of Boston or New York was eagerly discussed,
and the pretensions of Elmfield to any advantage in that matter as
earnestly denied. The minister sat silent, with an imperturbable face
that did him credit. At last there was a rush of demands upon him for
his judgment. He declared that so much had been said upon the subject,
he must have time to think it over; and he promised to give them some
at least of his thoughts before long in a sermon.

With this promise, highly satisfied, the assembly broke up. Mrs.
Starling declared afterwards to her daughter, that if there had been
any more fashions to talk about they would never have got done supper.
But now bonnets were put on, and work put up, and one after another
family party went off in its particular farm waggon or buggy. It was
but just sundown; the golden glory of the sky was giving a mellow
illumination to all the land, as one after another the horses were
unhitched, the travellers mounted into their vehicles, and the wheels
went softly rolling off over the smooth road. The minister stood by the
gate, helping the ladies to untie and mount, giving pleasant words
along with pleasant help, and receiving many expressions of pleasure in
return.


"Dear me, Mr. Masters!" said Miss Barry, the last one, "ain't you
afraid you'll catch cold, standing there with no hat on?"

"Cold always attacks the weakest part, Miss Barry. My head is safe."

"Well, I declare!" said Miss Barry. "I never heerd that afore."

And as she drove off in her little green waggon, the minister and
Diana, who had come down to the gate to see the last one off, indulged
in a harmless laugh. Then they both stood still by the fence a moment,
resting; the hush was so sweet. The golden glory was fading; the last
creak of Miss Barry's wheels was getting out of hearing; the air was
perfumed with the scents which the dew called forth.

"Isn't it delicious?" said the minister, leaning on the little gate,
and pushing his hair back from his forehead.

"The stillness is pleasant," said Diana.

"Yet you must have enough of that?"

"Yes--sometimes," said the girl. She was a little shy of speaking her
thoughts to the minister; indeed, she was not accustomed to speak them
to anybody, not knowing where they could meet entertainment. She
wondered Mr. Masters did not go like the rest; however, it was pleasant
enough to stand there talking to him.

"What do you do for books here?" he went on.

"O, I have all my father's books," said Diana. "My father was a
minister, Mr. Masters; and when he died his books came to me."

"A theological library!" said Mr. Masters.

"Yes. I suppose you would call it so."

"Have you it _here?_"

"Yes. I have it in my room up-stairs. All one end of the room full."

"Do you read these books?"

"Yes. They are all I have to read. I have not read the whole of them."

"No, I suppose not. Do you not find this reading rather heavy?"

"I don't know. Some of the books are rather heavy; I do not read those
much."

"You must let me look at your library some day, Miss Diana. It would be
certain to have charms for me; and I'll exchange with you. Perhaps I
have books that you would not find heavy."

Diana's full grey eyes turned on the minister with a gleam of gratitude
and pleasure. Her words were not needed to say that she would like that
kind of barter.

"So your father was a clergyman?" Mr. Masters went on.

"Yes. Not here, though. That was when I was quite little. We lived a
good way from here; and I remember very well a great many things about
all that time, till father died, and then mother came back here."

"Came _back_,--then your mother is at home in Pleasant Valley?"

"O, we're both at home here--I was so little when we came; but mother's
father lived where Nick Boddington does, and owned all this valley--I
don't mean Pleasant Valley, but all this hollow; a good large farm it
was; and when he died he left mother a nice piece of it, with this old
house."

"Mr. Boddington,--is he then a relation of yours?"

"No, not exactly; he's the son of grandpa's second wife; we're really
no relations, but we call each other cousin. Grandpa left the most of
his land to his wife; but mother's got enough to manage, and nice land."

"It's a beautiful place!" said the minister. "There is a waggon coming;
I wonder if any of our friends have forgotten something? That is--yes,
that _is_ farmer Babbage's team; isn't it? What is the matter?"

For something unusual in the arrangements of the vehicle, or the
occupants of it, was dimly yet surely to be discerned through the
distance and the light, which was now turning brown rather than grey.
Nothing could be seen clearly, and yet it came as no waggon load had
gone from that door that evening. The minister took his hand from the
gate, and Diana stepped forward, as the horses stopped in front of the
lean-to; and a voice called out:

"Who's there to help? Hollo! Lend a hand."

The minister sprang down the road, followed by Diana. "What do you want
help for?" he asked.

"There's been an accident--Jim Delamater's waggon--we found it
overturned in the road; and here's Eliza, she hasn't spoke since. Have
you got no more help?"

"Where's Jim?" asked Mrs. Starling, coming herself from the lean-to.

"Staid with his team; about all he was up to. Now then,--can we get her
in? Where's Josiah?"

But no more masculine help could be mustered than what was already on
hand. Brains, however, can do much to supplement muscular force. The
minister had a settee out from the house in two minutes and by the side
of the waggon; with management and care, though with much difficulty,
the unconscious girl was lifted down and laid on the settee; and by the
aid of the women carried straight into the lean-to, the door of which
was the nearest. There, by the same energetic ordering, well seconded
by Diana, a mattress was brought and laid on the long table, which Mrs.
Starling's diligence had already cleared since supper; and there they
placed the girl, who was perfectly helpless and motionless in their
hands.

"There is life yet," said the minister, after an examination during
which every one stood breathless around. "Loose everything she has on,
Miss Diana; and let us have some hartshorn, Mrs. Starling, if you have
got any. Well, brandy, then, and cold water; and I'll go for the
doctor."

But Mr. Babbage represented that he must himself 'go on hum,' and would
pass by the doctor's door; so if the minister would stay and help the
women folks, it would be more advisable. Accordingly the farmer's
waggon wheels were soon heard departing, and the little group in the
lean-to kitchen were left alone. Too busy at first to think of it, they
were trying eagerly every restorative and stimulant they could think of
and command; but with little effect. A little, they thought; but
consciousness had not returned to the injured girl, when they had done
all they knew how to do, and tried everything within their reach. Hope
began to fade towards despair; still they kept on with the use of their
remedies. Mrs. Starling went and came between the room where they were
and the stove, which stood in some outside shed, fetching bottles of
hot water; I think, between whiles, she was washing up her cups and
saucers; the other two, in the silence of her absences, could feel the
strange, solemn contrasts which one must feel, and does, even in the
midst of keener anxieties than those which beset the watchers there.
The girl, a fair, rather pretty person, pleasant-tempered and generally
liked, lay still and senseless on the table round which she and others
a little while ago had been seated at supper. Very still the room was
now, that had been full of voices; the smell of camphor and brandy was
about; the table was wet in one great spot with the cold water which
had been applied to the girl's face. And through the open door and
windows came the stir of the sweet night air, and the sound of insects,
and the gurgle of a brook that ran a few yards off; peaceful, free,
glad, as if all were as it had been last night, or nature took no
cognizance of human affairs. The minister had been very active and
helpful; bringing wood and drawing water and making up the fire, as
well as anybody, Mrs. Starling said afterwards; he had taken his part
in the actual nursing, and better than anybody, Diana thought. Now the
two stood silent and grave by the long table, while they still kept up
the application of brandy to the face and heat to the extremities, and
rubbing the hands and wrists of the patient.

"Did you know Miss Delamater well?" asked the minister.

"Yes--as I know nearly all the girls," Diana answered.

"Do you think she is ready for the change--if she must make it?"

Diana hesitated. "I never heard her speak on the subject," she said.
"She wasn't a member of the church."

Silence followed, and they were two grave faces still that bent over
the table; but there was the difference between the shadow on a
mountain lake where there is not a ripple, and the dark stir of
troubled waters. Diana's eye every now and then glanced for an instant
at the face of her companion; it was very grave, but the broad brow was
as quiet as if all its questions were answered, and the mouth was sweet
and at rest in its stillness. She wished he would speak again; there
was something in him that provoked her curiosity. He did speak
presently.

"This shows us what the meaning of life is," he said.

"No," said Diana, "it doesn't--to me. It is just a puzzle, and as much
a puzzle here as ever. I _don't_ see what the use of life is, or what
we all live for; I don't see what it amounts to."

"What do you mean?" asked her companion, but not as if he were
startled, and Diana went on.

"I shouldn't say so if people were always having a good time, and if
they were just right and did just right. But they are not, Mr. Masters;
you know they are not; even the best of them, that I see; and things
like _this_ are always happening, one way or another. If it isn't here,
it is somewhere else; and if it isn't one time, it is another; and it
is all confusion. I don't see what it all comes to."

"That is the thought of a moment of pain," said the minister.

"No, it is not," said Diana. "I think it often. I think it all the
while. Now this very afternoon I was sitting at the door here,--you
know what sort of a day it has been, Mr. Masters?"

"I know. Perfect. Just June."

"Well, I was looking at it, and feeling how lovely it was; everything
perfect; and somehow all that perfection took a kind of sharp edge and
hurt me. I was thinking why nothing in the world was like it, or agreed
with it; nothing in human life, I mean. This afternoon, when the
company was here and all the talk going on--_that_ was like nothing out
of doors all the while; and _this_ is not like it."

There was a sigh, deep drawn, that came through the minister's lips;
then he spoke cheerfully--"Ay, God's works have parted company somehow."

"Parted--?" said Diana curiously.

"Yes. You remember surely that when he had made all things at first, he
beheld them very good."

"Well, they are not very good now; not all of them."

"Whose fault is that?"

"I know," said Diana, "but that does not help me with my puzzle. Why
does the world go on so? what is the use of my living, or anybody's?
What does it amount to?"

"That's your lesson," the minister answered, with a quick glance from
his calm eyes. Not a bit of sentiment or of speculative rhapsody there;
but downright, cool common sense, with just a little bit of authority.
Diana did not know exactly how to meet it; and before she had arranged
her words, they heard wheels again, and then the doctor came in.

The doctor approved of what had been done, and aided in renewed
application of the same remedies. After a time, these seemed at last
successful; the girl revived; and the doctor, after administering a
little tea and weak brandy and water, ordered that she should be kept
quiet where she was, the room be darkened when daylight came on, the
windows kept open, and handkerchiefs wet with cold water be laid on her
head. And then he took his departure; and Diana went to communicate to
her mother the orders he had left.

"Keep her there!" echoed Mrs. Starling. "In the lean-to! She'd be a
deal better in her bed."

"We must make her bed there, mother."

"There! On the table do you mean? Diana Starling, you are a baby!"

"She mustn't be stirred, mother, he says."

"That's the very thing!" exclaimed Mrs. Starling. "She had ought to ha'
been carried into one of the bed-chambers at the first; and I said so;
and the new minister, he would have it all his own way."

"But she must have all the air she could, mother, you know."

"Air!" said Mrs. Starling. "Do you s'pose she would smother in one of
the chambers, where many a one before her has laid, sick and well, and
got along too? Air, indeed! The house ain't like a corked bottle, I
guess."

"Not much," said Diana; "but Mr. Masters said, and the doctor says,
that she cannot have too much air."

"O well! Eggs can't be beat too much, neither; but it don't follow
you're to stand beating 'em for ever. I've no patience. Where am I
going to do my ironing? I should like the minister for to tell me;--or
get meals, or anything else? I don't see what possessed Josiah to go
and see his folks to-night of all nights."

"We have not wanted him, mother, after all, that I see."

"I have wanted him," said Mrs. Starling. "If he had been home I needn't
to have had queer help, and missed knowing who was head of the house.
Well, go along and fix it,--you and the minister."

"But, mother, I want to get Eliza's things off, and to make her bed
comfortably; and I can't do it without you."

"Well, get rid of the minister then, and I'll come. Him and me is too
many in one house."

The minister would not leave the two women alone and go home, as Diana
proposed to him; but he went to make his horse comfortable while they
did the same for the sick girl. And then he took up his post just
outside the door, in the moonlight which came fitfully through the elm
branches; and he and Diana talked no more that night. He was watchful
and helpful; for he kept up the fire in the stove, and once more
brought wood when it was needed. Moonlight melted away at last into the
dawn; cool clear outlines began to take place of the soft mystery of
night shadows; then the warm glow from the east, behind the house, and
the glint of the sunbeams on the tops of the hills and on the racks of
cloud lying along the horizon. Diana still kept her place by the
improvised bed, and the minister kept his just outside the door. Mrs.
Starling began to prepare for breakfast; and finally Josiah, the
man-of-all-work on the little farm, came from his excursion and from
the barn, bringing the pails of milk. Then the minister fetched his
horse, and came in to shake hands with Diana. He would not stay for
breakfast. She watched him down to the gate, where he threw himself on
his grey steed and went off at a smooth gallop, swift and steady,
sitting as if he were more at home on a horse's back than anywhere
else. Diana looked after him.

"Certainly," she thought, "that is unlike all the other ministers that
ever came to Pleasant Valley."

"He's off, is he?" said Mrs. Starling as her daughter came in. "Now
Diana, take notice; don't you go and take a fancy to this new man;
because I won't favour it, nor have anything of the kind going on. I
tell you beforehand."

"There is very little danger of his taking a fancy to me, mother."

"I don't know about that. He might do worse. But you couldn't; for I'll
never have anything to say to you if you do."

"Why, mother?" inquired Diana in much surprise. "I should think you'd
like him. I should think everybody would. Why don't you like him?"

"He's too masterful for me. Mind what I tell you, Diana."

"It's absurd, mother! Such a one as Mr. Masters never would think of
such a one as I am. He's a very cultivated man, mother; and has been
accustomed to very different society from what he'll find here. I don't
seem to him what I seem to you."

"I hope not!" said Mrs. Starling, "for you seem to me a goose.
Cultivated! Who is cultivated, if you are not? Weren't you a whole year
at school in Boston? I guess my gentleman hasn't been to a better
place. And warn't you for ever reading those musty old books, that make
you out of kilter for all _my_ world. If you don't fit his neither, I'm
sorry. Society indeed! There's no better society than the folks of
Pleasant Valley. Don't you go and set yourself up; nor him neither."

Diana knew better than to carry on the discussion.

Meanwhile the grey horse that bore the minister home kept up that long
smooth gallop for a half mile or so, then slackened it to walk up a
hill.

"That's a very remarkable girl," the minister was saying to himself;
"with much more in her than she knows."

The gallop began again in a few minutes, and was unbroken till he got
home. It was but a piece of a home. Mr. Masters had rooms in the house
of Mrs. Persimmon, a poor widow living among the hills. The rooms were
neat; that was all that could be said for them; little and dark and
low, with bits of windows, and with the simplest of furnishing. The
sitting-room was cheerful with books, however--as cheerful as books can
make a room; and the minister did not look uncheerful, but very grave.
If his brow was neither wrinkled nor lined, the quiet eyes beneath it
were deep with thought. Mr. Masters' morning was spent on this wise.

First of all, for a good half hour, his knees were bent, and his
thoughts, whatever they were, gave him work to do. That work done, the
minister threw himself on his bed and slept, as quietly as he did
everything else, for an hour or two more. Then he rose, shaved and
dressed, took such breakfast as Mrs. Persimmon could give him; mounted
his grey again, and was off to a house at some distance where there was
a sick child, and another house where there dwelt an infirm old man.
Between these two the hours were spent till he rode home to dinner.



CHAPTER III.



HARNESSING PRINCE.



The improvement of the sick girl was better than had been hoped; it was
but a day or two before Mrs. Starling's heart's desire could be
effected and her kitchen cleared. Eliza was moved to another room, and
at the week's end was taken home.

It was the next day after this had been done; and Diana was sitting
again in the elm shadow at the door of the lean-to. Not idly this time;
for a pan of peas was in her lap, and her fingers were busy with
shelling them. Still her eyes were very much more busy with the lovely
light and shade on meadow and hill; her glances went up and down, from
her pan to the sunny landscape. Mrs. Starling, bustling about as usual
within the house and never looking out, presently hearing the gate
latch, called out--"Who's that?"

"Joe Bartlett, mother," Diana answered without moving.

It was not the gate that led to the flower patch and the front door.
That was some distance off. Another little brown gate under the
elm-tree opened directly in front of the lean-to door; and the patch
between was all in fleckered sunlight and shadow, like the doorway
where Diana sat.

The little gate opening now admitted a visitor who was in appearance
the very typical Yankee of the story books. Long in the limbs, loose in
the joints, angular, ungainly, he came up the walk with a movement that
would tempt one to think he had not got accustomed to his inches and
did not yet know quite what to do with them all. He had a long face,
red in colour; in expression a mixture of honest frankness,
carelessness, and good humour.

"Mornin'!" said he as he came near. "How's your folks, this forenoon?"

"Quite well--all there are of us, Joe," said Diana, shelling her peas
as she looked up at him. "How's your mother?"

"Well, she's pretty smart. Mother seems to be allays just about so. I
never see the beat of her for keepin' along. You've had quite a spell
o' nursin' folks, hain't you, down this way? Must ha' upset you quite
considerable."

"We didn't have the worst of the upsetting."

"That's a fact. Well, she's gone, ain't she?"

"Who, Eliza Delamater? Yes; gone yesterday."

"And you hain't nobody else on hand, have ye?"

"No. Why?"

"Mother's took a lonesome fit. She says it's quite a spell that you
hain't ben down our way; and I guess that's so, ain't it?"

"I couldn't help it, Joe. I have had other things to do."

"Well, don't you think to-day's a good sort for a visit?"

"To-day?" said Diana, shelling her peas very fast.

"You see, it's pretty silent down to our place. That is, when I ain't
to hum; and I can't be there much o' the time, 'cept when I'm asleep in
my bed. I'm off as soon as I've done the chores in the mornin'; and I
can't get hum nohow sooner than to do up the chores in the evenin'; and
the old lady has it pretty much her own way as to conversation the rest
o' the time. She can talk to what she likes; but there ain't nothin' as
can make a remark back to her."

"It's too bad, Joe!"

"Fact!" said Joe seriously; all the rest had been said with a smile;
"but you know mother. Come! put on your bonnit and run down and set
with her a spell. She's took a notion to have ye; and I know she'll be
watchin' till you come."

"Then I must go. I guess I can arrange it, Joe."

"Well, I'll get along, then, where I had ought to be. Mis' Starling
cuttin' her hay?"

"Yes, this week and more."

"It's turnin' out a handsome swath; but it had ought to be all down
now. Well, good day! Hurry up, now, for down yonder."

Diana brought in her pan of peas.

"Mother, where's Josiah Davis?"

"Where should he be? He's up in the hill lot, cuttin' hay. That grass
is all in flower; it had ought to been cut a week ago; but Josiah
always has one of his hands behind him."

"And he won't be in till noon. I must harness the waggon myself."

"If you can catch the horse," said her mother. "He's turned out in the
lot. It's a poor job, at this time o' day."

"I'll try and make a good job of it," said Diana. So she took her
sun-bonnet and went out to the barn. The old horse was not far off, for
the "lot" in this case meant simply the small field in which the barn
and the barnyard were enclosed; but being a wary old animal, with a
good deal of experience of life, he had come to know that a halter and
a pan of corn generally meant hard work near at hand, and was won't to
be shy of such allurements. Diana could sometimes do better than
anybody else with old Prince; they were on good terms; and Prince had
sense enough to take notice that she never followed the plough, and was
therefore a safer venture than his other flatterers. With the corn and
the halter Diana now sought the corner where Prince was standing
whisking his tail in the shade of a tree. But it was a warm morning;
and seeing her approach, Prince quietly walked off into the sun on the
other side of the tree, and went on to another shady resting-place some
distance away. Diana followed, speaking to him; but Prince repeated his
ungallant manoeuvre; and from tree to tree across the sunny field Diana
trudged after him, until she was hot and tired. Perhaps Prince's
philosophy came in play at last, warning him that this game could not
go on for ever, and would certainly end in his discomfiture some time;
for, with no apparent reason for his change of tactics, he stood still
at length under the tree farthest from the barn, and suffered himself
to be made captive. Diana got the halter on, and, flushed and excited
with the chase, led him back over the lot and out to the road, where
Josiah had very culpably left the little waggon standing in the shade
of the elm, close by the lean-to gate. Just as she got there, Diana saw
a stranger who had his hand on the gate, but who left it now and came
forward to speak to her.

Diana stood by the thills of the waggon, horse in hand, but, to tell
the truth, forgetting both. The stranger was unlike anything often seen
in Pleasant Valley. He wore the dark-blue uniform of an army officer;
there was a stripe of gold down the seam of his pantaloons and a gold
bar across his shoulders, and his cap was a soldier's cap. But it was
not on his head just now; it had come off since he quitted the gate;
and the step with which he drew near was the very contrast to Joe
Bartlett's lounging pace; this was measured, clean, compact, and firm,
withal as light and even as that of an antelope. His hair showed the
regulation cut; and Diana saw with the same glance a pair of light,
brilliant, hazel eyes and a finely trimmed mustache. _She_ stood
flushed and still, halter in hand, with her sun-bonnet pushed a little
back for air. The stranger smiled just a little.

"May I ask how far I am from a place called Elmfield?"

"It is"--Diana's thoughts wandered,--"It is five miles."

"I ought not to need to ask--but I have been so long away.--Do you know
how or where I can get a horse, or any conveyance, to bring me there? I
have ridden beyond this, and met with an accident."

Diana hesitated. "Is it Lieut. Knowlton?" she said.

"Ah, you know me?" said he. "I forgot that Pleasant Valley knows me
better than I know Pleasant Valley. I did not count on finding a friend
here." His eye glanced at the little brown house.

"Everybody knows Elmfield," said Diana; "and I guessed--"

"From my dress?" said Mr. Knowlton, following the direction of her
look. "This was accident too. But which of my friends ought I to know
here, that I don't know? Pardon me,--but is this horse to be put to the
waggon or taken away from it?"

"O, I was going to put him in."

"Allow me"--said the young man, taking the halter from Diana's willing
hands; "but where is the harnessing gear?"

"O, that is in the barn!" exclaimed Diana. "I will go and fetch it."

"Pray no! Let me get it," said her companion; and giving the end of the
halter a turn round one of the thills, he had overtaken her before she
had well taken half a dozen steps. They went together through the
barnyard. Diana found the harness, and the young officer threw it over
his shoulder with a smile at her which answered her deprecating words;
a smile extremely pleasant and gentlemanly, if withal a little arch.
Diana shrank back somewhat before the glance, which to her fancy showed
the power of keen observation along with the habit of giving orders.
They went back to the elm, and Mr. Knowlton harnessed the horse, Diana
explaining in a word or two the necessity under which she had been
acting.

"And what about my dilemma?" said he presently, as his task was
finished.

"There is no horse or waggon you could get anywhere, that I know of,"
said Diana. "The teams are apt to be in use just now. But I am going
down to within a mile of Elmfield; and I was going to say, if you like,
I can take you so far."

"And who will do me such kindness?"

"Who? O--Diana Starling."

"Is that a name I ought to know?" inquired Mr. Knowlton. "I shall know
it from this day; but how about before to-day? I have been gone from
Pleasant Valley, at school and at the Military Academy, four,
five,--ten years."

"Mother came back here to live just ten years ago."

"My conscience is clear!" he said, smiling. "I was beginning to whip
myself. Now are we ready?"

Not quite, for Diana went into the house for her gloves and a straw
hat; she made no other change in her dress, having taken off her apron
before she set out after Prince. She found her new friend standing with
the reins in his hand, as if he were to drive and not she; and Diana
was helped into her own waggon with a deferential courtesy which up to
that time she had only read of in books; nor known much even so. It
silenced her at first. She sat down as mute as a child; and Mr.
Knowlton handled Prince and the waggon and all in the style of one that
knew how and had the right.

That drive, however, was not to be silent or stiff in any degree. Mr.
Knowlton, for his part, had no shyness or hesitation belonging to him.
He had seen the world and learnt its freedom. Diana was only a simple
country girl, and had never seen the world; yet she was as little
troubled with embarrassment of any sort. Partly this was, no doubt,
because of her sound, healthy New England nature; the solid
self-respect which does not need--nor use--to put itself in the balance
with anything else to be assured of its own quality. But part belonged
to Diana's own personalty; in a simple, large nature, too simple and
too large to feel small motives or to know petty issues. If her cheeks
and brow were flushed at first, it was because the sun had been hot in
the lot and Prince tiresome. She was as composedly herself as ever the
young officer could be. But I think each of them was a little excited
by the companionship of the other.

"Do you drive this old fellow yourself?" asked Mr. Knowlton, after a
little. "But I need not ask! Of course you do. There's no difficulty.
And not much danger," he added, with a tone so dry and comical that
they both burst into a laugh.

"I assure you I am very glad to have Prince," said Diana. "He is so old
now that they generally let him off from the farm work. He takes mother
and me to church, and stands ready for anything I want most of the
time."

"Lucky for me, too," said Mr. Knowlton. "I am afraid you will find the
sun very hot!"

"I? O no, I don't mind it at all," said Diana. "There's a nice air now.
Where is your horse, Mr. Knowlton? you said you had an accident."

"Yes. That was a quarter of a mile or so beyond your house."

"And is your horse there?"

"Must be, I think. I shall send some people to remove him."

"Why, is he _dead?_"

"I should not have left him else, Miss Starling."

Diana did not choose to go on with a string of questions; and her
companion hesitated.

"It's my own fault," he said with a sort of displeased half laugh; "a
piece of boyish thoughtlessness that I've paid for. There was a nice
red cow lying in the middle of the road"--

"Where?" said Diana, wondering.

"Just ahead of me; a few rods. She was lying quite quietly, taking her
morning siesta in the sun; plunged in ruminative thoughts, I supposed,
and the temptation was irresistible to go over without disturbing her."

"_Over_ her?" said Diana in a maze.

"Yes. I counted on what one should never count on--what I didn't know."

"What was that?"

"Whether it would occur to her to get upon her legs, just at that
moment."

"And she did?" inquired Diana.

"She did."

"What did that do, Mr. Knowlton?"

"Threw my poor steed off _his_ legs forever!" And here, in despite of
his vexation, which was real and apparent, the young man burst into a
laugh. Diana had not got at his meaning.

"And where were you, Mr. Knowlton?"

"On his back. I shall never forgive myself for being such a boy. Don't
you understand? The creature rose up just in time to be in the way of
my leap, and we were thrown over--my horse and I."

"Thrown! You were not hurt, Mr. Knowlton?"

"I deserved it, didn't? But I was nothing the worse--except for losing
my horse, and my self-complacency."

"Was the horse killed?"

"No; not by the fall. But he was injured; so that I saw the best thing
to do would be to put him out of life at once; so I did it. I had my
pistols; I often ride with them, to be ready for any sport that may
offer. I am very much ashamed, to have to tell you this story of
myself!"

There was so much of earnestness in the expression of the last
sentence, it was said with such a deferential contrition, if I may so
speak, that Diana's thoughts experienced a diversion from the subject
that had occasioned them. The contrition came more home than the fault.
By common consent they went off to other matters of talk. Diana
explained and commented on the history and features of Pleasant Valley,
so far at least as her companion's questions called for such
explanation, and that was a good deal. Mr. Knowlton gave her details of
his own life and experience, which were much more interesting, she
thought. The conversation ran freely; and again and again eyes met eyes
full in sympathy over some grave or laughing point of intelligence.

And what is there in the meeting of eyes? What if the one pair were
sparkling and quick, and the brow over them bore the fair lines of
command? What though the other pair were deep and thoughtful and sweet,
and the brow one that promised passion and power? A thousand other eyes
might have looked on either one of them, and forgotten; these two
looked--and remembered. You cannot tell why; it is the old story; the
hidden, unreadable affinity making itself known to its counterpart; the
sign and countersign of nature. But it was only nature that gave and
took; not Diana and Mr. Knowlton.

Meanwhile Prince had an easy time; and the little waggon went very
gently over the smooth roads past one farm after another.

"Prince _can_ go faster than this," Diana confided at last to her
companion.

"He doesn't want to, does he?"

Diana laughed, and knew in her heart she was of Prince's mind.

However, even five miles will come to an end in time if you keep going
even slowly; and in time the little brown house of Mrs. Bartlett
appeared in the distance, and Prince drew the waggon up before the
door. Diana alighted, and Mr. Knowlton drove on, promising to send the
waggon back from Elmfield.

It was coming down, in more ways than one, to get out of the waggon and
go in to make her visit. Diana did not feel just ready for it. She
loosened the strings of her hat, walked slowly up the path between the
hollyhocks that led to the door, and there stopped and turned to take a
last look at Mr. Knowlton in the distance. Such a ride as she had had!
Such an entertainment! People in Pleasant Valley did not talk like
that; nor look like that. How much difference it makes, to have
education and to see the world! And a military education especially has
a more liberalizing and adorning effect than the course of life in the
colleges; the manner of a soldier has in it a charm which is wanting in
the manner of a minister. As for farmers, they have no manners at all.
And the very faces, thought Diana.

Well, she could not stand there on the door-step. She must go in. She
turned and lifted the latch of the door.

The little room within was empty. It was a tiny house; the ground floor
boasted only two rooms, and each of those was small. The broad hearth
of flagstones took up a third of the floor of this one. A fire burned
in the chimney, though the day was so warm; and a straight-backed
arm-chair, with a faded cushion in it, stood by the chimney corner with
a bunch of knitting lying on the cushion. Diana tapped at an inner door
at her right, and then getting no answer, went across the kitchen and
opened another opposite the one that had admitted her.



CHAPTER IV.



MOTHER BARTLETT.



The little house, unpainted like many others, had no fenced enclosure
on this side. A wide field stretched away from the back door, lying
partly upon a hill-side; and several cattle were pasturing in it. Farm
fields and meadows were all around, except where this one hill rose up
behind the house. It was wooded at the top; below, the ranks of a
cornfield sloped aspiringly up its base. A narrow footpath, which only
the tread of feet kept free from weeds and grass, went off obliquely to
a little enclosed garden, which lay beyond the corner of the house in
some arbitrary and independent way, not adjoining it at all. It was a
sweet bit of country, soft and mellow under the summer sun; still as
grasshoppers and the tinkle of a cowbell could make it; and very far
from most of the improvements of the nineteenth century. But the smell
of the pasture and the fragrance that came from the fresh shades of the
wood, and the freedom of the broad fields of pure ether, made it rich
with some of nature's homely wealth; which is not by any means the
worst there is. Diana knew the place very well; her eyes were looking
now for the mistress of it. And not long. In the out-of-the-way lying
garden she discerned her white cap; and at the gate met her bringing a
head of lettuce in her hands.

"I knew you liked it, dear," she said, "and I had forgot all about it;
and then it flashed on me, and I thought, Diana will like to have it
for her dinner; and I guess it'll have time to cool. Just put it in a
tin pail, dear, and hang it down in the well; and it'll be fresh."

This was done, and Diana came in and took a seat by her old friend.

"You needn't do that for me, Mother Bartlett. I don't care what I have
to eat."

"Most folks like what is good," said the old lady; "suppos'n they know
it."

"Yes, and so do I, but"--

"I made a pot-pie for ye," the old lady went on contentedly.

"And I suppose you have left nothing at all for me to do, as usual. It
is too bad, Mother Bartlett."

"You shall do all the rest," said her friend; "and now you may talk to
me."

She was a trim little old woman, not near so tall as her visitor; very
wrinkled, but fresh-skinned, and with a quick grey eye. Her dress was a
common working dress of some dark stuff; coarse, but tidy and
nice-looking; her cap white and plain; she sat in her arm-chair,
setting her little feet to the fire, and her fingers merrily clicking
her needles together; a very comfortable vision. The kitchen and its
furniture were as neat as a pin.

"I don't see how you manage, Mother Bartlett," Diana went on, glancing
around. "You ought to have some one to live with you and help you. It
looks as if you had half a dozen."

"Not much," said the old lady, laughing. "A half dozen would soon make
a muss, of one sort or another. There's nothin' like having nobody."

"But you might be sick."

"I might be;--but I ain't," said Mrs. Bartlett, running one end of a
knitting-needle under her cap and looking placidly at Diana.

"But you might want somebody."

"When I do I send for 'em. I sent for you to-day, child; and here you
are."

"But you are quite well to-day?" said Diana a little anxiously.

"I am always well. Never better."

"How old are you, Mother Bartlett?"

"Seventy-three years, child."

"Well, I do think you oughtn't to be here alone. It don't seem right,
and I don't think it is right."

"What's to do, child? There ain't nary one to come and live with me.
They're all gone but Joe. My Lord knows I'm an old woman seventy-three
years of age."

"What then, Mother Bartlett?" Diana asked curiously.

"He'll take care of me, my dear."

"But then, we ought to take care of ourselves," said Diana. "Now if Joe
would marry somebody"--

"Joe ain't lucky in that line," said the old lady laughing again. "And
may be what he might like, I mightn't. Before you go to wishin' for
changes, you'd better know what they'll be. I'm content child. There
ain't a thing on earth I want that I haven't got. Now what's the news?"

Diana began and told her the whole story of the sewing meeting and the
accident and the nursing of the injured girl. Mrs. Bartlett had an
intense interest in every particular; and what Diana failed to
remember, her questions brought out.

"And how do you like the new minister?"

"Haven't you seen him yet?"

"Nay. He hain't been down my way yet. In good time he will. He's had
sick folks to see arter, Joe told me; old Jemmy Claflin, and Joe
Simmons' boy; and Mis' Atwood, and Eliza."

"I think you'll like him," said Diana slowly. "He's not like any
minister ever _I_ saw."

"What's the odds?"

"It isn't so easy to tell. He don't look like a minister, for one
thing; nor he don't talk like one; not a bit."

"Have we got a gay parson, then?" said the old lady, slightly raising
her eyebrows.

"Gay? O no! not in the way you mean. In one way he _is_ gay; he is very
pleasant; not stiff or grum, like Mr. Hardenburgh; and he is amusing
too, in a quiet way, but he _is_ amusing; he is so cool and so quick. O
no, he's not gay in the way you mean. I guess he's good."

"Do you like him?" Mrs. Bartlett asked.

"Yes," said Diana, thinking of the night of Eliza Delamater's accident.
"He is very queer."

"I don't seem to make him out by your telling, child. I'll have to
wait, I guess. I've got no sort of an idea of him, so far. Now, dear,
if you'll set the table--dinner's ready; and then we'll have some
reading."

Diana drew out a small deal table to the middle of the floor, and set
on it the delf plates and cups and saucers, the little saltcellar of
the same ware, and the knives and forks that were never near Sheffield;
in fact, were never steel. But the lettuce came out of the well crisp
and fresh and cool; and Mrs. Bartlett's pot-pie crust came out of the
pot as spongy and light as possible; and the loaf of "seconds" bread
was sweet as it is hard for bread to be that is not made near the mill;
and if you and I had been there, I promise you we would not have minded
the knives and forks, or the cups either. Mrs. Bartlett's tea was not
of corresponding quality, for it came from a country store. However,
the cream went far to mend even that. The back door was open for the
heat; and the hill-side could be seen through the doorway and part of
the soft green meadow slope; and the grasshopper's song and the bell
tinkle were not bad music.

"And who was that came with you, dear?" Mrs. Bartlett asked as they sat
at table.

"With me? Did you see me come?"

"Surely. I was in the garden. What should hinder me? Who was it druv
you, dear?"

"It was an accident. Young Mr. Knowlton had got into some trouble with
his horse, riding out our way, and came to ask how he could get home.
So I brought him."

"That's Evan Knowlton! him they are making a soldier of?"

"He's made. He's done with his education. He is at home now."

"Ain't goin' to be a soldier after all?"

"O yes; he _is_ a soldier; but he has got a leave, to be home for
awhile."

"Well, what sort is he? I don't see what they wanted to make a soldier
of him for; his grand'ther would ha' been the better o' his help on the
farm, seems to me; and now he'll be off to the ends o' the earth, and
doin' nobody knows what. It's the wisdom o' this world. But how has he
turned out, Die?"

"I don't know; well, I should think."

"And his sisters at home would ha' been the better of him. By-and-by
Mr. Bowdoin will die; and then who'll look after the farm, or the
girls?"

"Still, mother, it's something more and something better to be
educated, as he is, and to know the world and all sorts of things, as
he does, than just to live on the farm here in the mountains, and raise
corn and eat it, and nothing else. Isn't it?"

"Why should it be better, child?"

"It is nice to be educated," said Diana softly. And she thought much
more than she said.

"A man can get as much edication as he can hold, and live on a farm
too. I've seen sich. Some folks can't do no better than hoe--corn like
my Joe. But there ain't no necessity for that. But arter all, what does
folks live for, Diana?"

"I never could make out, Mother Bartlett."

The old lady looked at her thoughtfully and wistfully, but said no
more. Diana cleared the table and washed the few dishes; and when all
was straight again, took out a newspaper she had brought from home, and
she and the old lady settled themselves for an afternoon of enjoyment.
For it was that to both parties. At home Diana cared little about the
paper; here it was quite another thing. Mrs. Bartlett wanted to hear
all there was in it; public doings, foreign doings, city news, editor's
gossip; and even the advertisements came in for their share of
pleasure-giving. New inventions had an interest; tokens of the world's
movements, or the world's wants, in other notices, were found
suggestive of thought or provocative of wonder. Sitting with her feet
put towards the fire, her knitting in her hands, the quick grey eyes
studied Diana's face as she read, never needing to give their
supervision to the fingers; and the coarse blue yarn stocking, which
was doubtless destined for Joe, grew visibly in length while the eyes
and thoughts of the knitter were busy elsewhere. The newspaper filled
a good part of the afternoon; for the reading was often interrupted
for talk which grew out of it. When at last it was done, and Mrs.
Bartlett's eyes returned to the fire, there were a few minutes of
stillness; then she said gently,

"Now, our other reading, dear?"

"You like this the best, Mother Bartlett, don't you?" said Diana, as
she rose and brought from the inner room a large volume; _the_ Book, as
any one might know at a glance; carefully covered with a sewn cover of
coarse cloth. "Where shall I read now?"


The place indicated was the beginning of the Revelation, a favourite
book with the old lady. And as she listened, the knitting grew slower;
though, true to the instinctive habit of doing something, the fingers
never ceased absolutely their work. But they moved slowly; and the old
lady's eyes, no longer on the fire, went out of the open window, and
gazed with a far-away gaze that went surely beyond the visible heaven;
so wrapt and steady it was. Diana, sitting on a low seat at her feet,
glanced up sometimes; but seeing that gaze, looked down and went on
again with her reading and would not break the spell. At last, having
read several chapters without a word of interruption, she stopped. The
old lady's eyes came back to her knitting, which began to go a little
faster.

"Do you like all this so much?" Diana asked. "I know you do; but I
can't see why you do. You can't understand it."

"I guess I do," said the old lady. "I seem to, anyhow. It's queer if I
don't."

"But you can't make anything of all those horses?"

"Why, it's just what you've been readin' about all the afternoon."

"In the newspaper!" cried Diana.

"It's many a year that I've been lookin' at it," said the old lady;
"ever sen I heard it all explained by a good minister. I've been
lookin' at it ever sen." She spoke dreamily.

"It's all words and words to me," said Diana.

"There's a blessin' belongs to studyin' them words, though. Those
horses are the works and judgments of the Lord that are goin' on in all
the earth, to prepare the way of his comin'."

"Whose coming?"

"The Lord's comin'," said the old lady solemnly. "The white horse,
that's victory; that's goin' on conquering and to conquer; that's the
truth and power of the Lord bringin' his kingdom. The red horse, that's
war; ah, how that red horse has tramped round the world! he's left the
marks of his hoofs on our own ground not long sen; and now you've been
readin' to me about his goin's on elsewhere. The black horse, that's
famine; and not downright starvation, the minister said, but just want;
grindin' and pressin' people down. Ain't there enough o' that in the
world? not just so bad in Pleasant Valley, but all over. And the pale
horse--what is it the book calls him?--that's death; and he comes to
Pleasant Valley as he comes everywhere. They've been goin', those four,
ever sen the world was a world o' fallen men."

"But what do they do to prepare the way for the Lord's coming?" said
Diana.

"What do I know? _That_'ll be known when the book shall come to be
read, I s'pose. I'm waitin'. I'll know by and by"--

"Only I can seem to see so much as this," the old lady went on after a
pause. "The Lord won't have folk to settle down accordin' to their will
into a contented forgetfulness o' him; so he won't let there be peace
till the King o' Peace comes. O, I'd be glad if he'd come!"

"But that will be the end of the world," said Diana.

"Well," said Mrs. Bartlett, "it might be the end of the world for all I
care; if it would bring Him. What do I live for?"

"You know I don't understand you, Mother Bartlett," said Diana gently.

"Well, what do you live for, child?"

"I don't know," said Diana slowly. "Nothing. I help mother make butter
and cheese; and I make my clothes, and do the housework. And next year
it'll be the same thing; and the next year after that. It don't amount
to anything."

"And do you think the Lord made you--you pretty creatur!"--said the old
lady, softly passing her hand down the side of Diana's face,--"for
nothin' better than to make cheese and butter?"

Diana smiled and blushed brightly at her old friend, a lovely child's
smile.

"I may come to be married, you know, one of these days! But after all,
_that_ don't make any difference. It's the same thing, married or not
married. People all do the same things, day after day, till they die."

"If that was all"--said the old lady meditatively, looking into the
fire and knitting slowly.

"It _is_ all; except that here and there there is somebody who knows
more and can do something better; I suppose life is something more to
them. But they are mostly men."

"Edication's a fine thing," Mrs. Bartlett went on in the same manner;
"but there's two sorts. There's two sorts, Diana. I hain't got
much,--o' one kind; I never had no chance to get it, so I've done
without it. And now my life's so near done, it don't seem much matter.
But there's the other sort, that ain't learned at no 'cademy. The Lord
put me into _his_ school forty-four years ago--where he puts all his
children; and if they learn their lessons, he takes 'em up and
up,--some o' the lessons is hard to learn,--but he takes 'em up and up;
till life ain't a puzzle no longer, and they begin to know the language
o' heaven, where his courts be. And that's edication that's worth
havin',--when one's just goin' there, as I be."

"How do you get into that school, Mother Bartlett?" Diana asked
thoughtfully, and yet with her mind not all upon what she was saying,

"You are in it, my dear. The good Lord sends his lessons and his
teachers to every one; but it's no use to most folks; they won't take
no notice."

"What 'teachers'?" said Diana, smiling.

"There's a host of them," said Mrs. Bartlett; "and of all sorts. Why, I
seem to be in the midst of 'em, Diana. The sun is a teacher to me every
day; and the clouds, and the air, and the colours. The hill and the
pasture ahint the house,--I've learned a heap of lessons from 'em. And
I'm learnin' 'em all the time, till I seem to be rich with what they're
tellin' me. So rich, some days I 'most wonder at myself. No doubt, to
hear all them voices, one must hear the voice o' the Word. And then
there's many other voices; but they don't come just so to all. I could
tell you some o' mine; but the ones that'll come to you'll be sure to
be different; so you couldn't learn from _them_, child. And folks
thinks I'm a lonesome old woman!"

"Well, how can they help it?" said Diana.

"It's nat'ral," said Mrs. Bartlett.

"I can't help your seeming so to me."

"That _ain't_ nat'ral, for you had ought to know better. They think,
folks does,--I know,--I'm a poor lone old woman, just going to die."

"But isn't that nearly true?" said Diana gently.

There was a slight glad smile on the withered lips as Mrs. Bartlett
turned towards her.

"You have the book there on your lap, dear. Just find the eleventh
chapter of the Gospel of John, and read the twenty-fifth and
twenty-sixth verses. And when you feel inclined to think that o' me
agin, just wait till you know what they mean."

Diana found and read:--

"'Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection and the life: he that
believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. And whoesoever
liveth and believeth in me, shall never die.'"



CHAPTER V.



MAKING HAY.



June had changed for July; but no heats ever withered the green of the
Pleasant Valley hills, nor browned its pastures; and no droughts ever
stopped the tinkling of its rills and brooks, which rolled down, every
one of them, over gravelly pebbly beds to lose themselves in lake or
river. Sun enough to cure the hay and ripen the grain, they had; and
July was sweet with the perfume of hayfield, and lovely with brown
hayricks, and musical with the whetting of scythes. Mrs. Starling's
little farm had a good deal of grass land; and the haying was
proportionally a busy season. For haymakers, according to the general
tradition of the country, in common with reapers, are expected to eat
more than ordinary men, or men in ordinary employments; and to furnish
the meals for the day kept both Mrs. Starling and her daughter busy.

It was mid-afternoon, sunny, perfumed, still; the afternoon luncheon
had gone out to the men, who were cutting then in the meadow which
surrounded the house. Diana found her hands free; and had gone up to
her room, not to rest, for she was not tired, but to get out of the
atmosphere of the kitchen and breathe a few minutes without thinking of
cheese and gingerbread. She had begun to change her dress; but leisure
wooed her, and she took up a book and presently forgot even that care
in the delight of getting into a region of _thought_. For Diana's book
was not a novel; few such found their way to Pleasant Valley, and
seldom one to Mrs. Starling's house. Her father's library was quite
unexhausted still, its volumes took so long to read and needed so much
thinking over; and now she was deep in a treatise more solid and less
attractive than most young women are willing to read. It carried her
out of the round of daily duties and took her away from Pleasant Valley
altogether, and so was a great refreshment. Besides, Diana liked
thinking.

Once or twice a creak of a farm waggon was heard along the road; it was
too well known a sound to awake her attention; then came a sound far
less common--the sharp trot of a horse moving without wheels behind
him. Diana started instantly and went to a window that commanded the
road. The sound ceased, but she saw why; the rider had reined in his
steed and was walking slowly past; the same rider she had expected to
see, with the dark uniform and the soldier's cap. He looked hard at
the place; could he be stopping? The next moment Diana had flown back
to her own room, had dropped the dress which was half off, and was
arraying herself in a fresh print; and she was down-stairs almost as
soon as the visitor knocked. Diana opened the door. She knew Mrs.
Starling was deep in supper preparations, mingled with provisions for
the next day's lunches.

Uniforms have a great effect, to eyes unaccustomed to them. How Lieut.
Knowlton came to be wearing his uniform in the country, so far away
from any post, I don't know; perhaps he did. He _said_, that he had
nothing else he liked for riding in. But a blue frock, with gold bars
across the shoulders and military buttons, is more graceful than a
frieze coat. And it was a gracious, graceful head that was bared at the
sight of the door-opener.

"You see," he said with a smile, "I couldn't go by! The other day I was
your pensioner, in kindness. Now I want to come in my own character, if
you'll let me."

"Is it different from the character I saw the other day?" said Diana,
as she led the way into the parlour.

"You did not see my character the other day, did you?"

"I saw what you showed me!"

He laughed, and then laughed again; looking a little surprised, a good
deal amused.

"I would give a great deal to know what you thought of me."

"Why would you?" Diana said, quite quietly.

"That I might correct your mistakes, of course."

"Suppose I made any mistakes," said Diana, "you could only tell me that
you thought differently. I don't see that I should be much wiser."

"I find I made a mistake about you!" he said, laughing again, but
shaking his head. "But every person is like a new language to those
that see him for the first time; don't you think so? One has to learn
the signs of the language by degrees, before one can read it off like a
book."

"I never thought about that," said Diana. "No; I think that is true of
_some_ people; not everybody. All the Pleasant Valley people seem to me
to belong to one language. All except one, perhaps."

"Who is the exception?" Mr. Knowlton asked quickly.

"I don't know whether you know him."

"O, I know everybody here--or I used to."

"I was thinking of somebody who didn't use to be here. He has only just
come. I mean Mr. Masters."

"The parson?"

"Yes."

"I don't know him much. I suppose he belongs to the _parson_ language,
to carry on our figure. They all do."

"He don't," said Diana. "That is what struck me in him. What are the
signs of the 'parson' language?"

"A black coat and a white neckcloth, to begin with."

"He dresses in grey," said Diana laughing, "or in white; and wears any
sort of a cravat."

"To go on,--Generally a grave face and a manner of great propriety;
with a square way of arranging words."

"Mr. Masters has no manner at all; and he is one of the most
entertaining people I ever knew."

"Jolly sort, eh?"

"No, I think not," said Diana; "I don't know exactly what you mean by
jolly; he is never silly, and he does not laugh much particularly; but
he can make other people laugh."

"Well, another sign is, they put a religious varnish over common
things. Do you recognise that?"

"I recognise that, for I have seen it; but it isn't true of Mr.
Masters."

"I give him up," said young Knowlton. "I am sure I shouldn't like him."

"Why, do you _like_ these common signs of the 'parson language,' as you
call it, that you have been reckoning?"

The answer was a decided negative accompanied with a laugh again; and
then Diana's visitor turned the conversation to the country, and the
place, and the elm trees; looked out of the window and observed that
the haymakers were at work near the house, and finally said he must go
out to look at them nearer--he had not made hay since he was a boy.

He went out, and Diana went back to her mother in the lean-to.

"Mother, young Mr. Knowlton is here."

"Well, keep him out o' _my_ way; that's all I ask."

"Haven't you got through yet?"

"Through! There was but one single pan of ginger-bread left this noon;
and there ain't more'n three loaves o' bread in the pantry. What's that
among a tribe o' such grampuses? I've got to make biscuits for tea, Di;
and I may as well get the pie-crust off my hands at the same time;
it'll be so much done for to-morrow. I wish you'd pick over the
berries. And then I'll find you something else to do. If I had six
hands and two heads, I guess I could about get along."

"But, mother, it won't do for nobody to be in the parlour."

"I thought he was gone?"

"Only gone out into the field to see the haymakers."

"Queer company!" said Mrs. Starling, leaving her bowl of dough, with
flowery hands, to peer out of a window. "You may make your mind easy,
Di; he won't come in again. I declare! he's got his coat off and he's
gone at it himself; ain't that him?"

Diana looked and allowed that it was. Mr. Knowlton had got a rake in
hand, his coat hung on the fence, and he was raking hay as busily as
the best of them. Diana gave a little sigh, and turned to her pan of
berries. This young officer was a new language to her, and she would
have liked, she thought, to spell out a little more of its graceful
peculiarities. The berries took a good while. Meantime Mrs. Starling's
biscuit went into the oven, and a sweet smell began to come thereout.
Mrs. Starling bustled about setting the table; with cold pork and
pickles, and cheese and berry pie, and piles of bread brown and white.
Clearly the haymakers were expected to supper.

"Mother," said Diana doubtfully, when she had washed her hands from the
berry stains, "will you bring Mr. Knowlton out _here_ to tea, if he
should possibly stay?"

"He's gone, child, this age."

"No, he isn't."

"He ain't out yonder any more."

"But his horse stands by the fence under the elm."

"I wish he was farther, then! Yes, of course he'll come here, if he
takes supper with _me_ to-night. I don't think he will. I don't know
him, and I don't know as I want to."

But this vaguely expressed hope was disappointed. The young officer
came in, a little while before supper; laughingly asked Diana for some
water to wash his hands; and followed her out to the lean-to. There he
was introduced to Mrs. Starling, and informed her he had been doing her
work, begging to know if that did not entitle him to some supper. I
think Mrs. Starling was a little sorry then that she had not made
preparations to receive him more elegantly; but it was too late now;
she only rushed a little nervously to fetch him a finer white towel
than those which usually did kitchen duty for herself and Diana; and
then the biscuits were baked, and the farm hands came streaming in.

There were several of them, now in haying time, headed by Josiah Davis,
Mrs. Starling's ordinary stand-by. Heavy and clumsy, warm from the
hay-field, a little awkward at sight of the company, they filed in and
dropped into their several seats round one end of the table; and Mrs.
Starling could only play all her hospitable arts around her guest, to
make him forget if possible his unwonted companions. She served him
assiduously with the best she had on the table; she would not bring on
any dainties extra; and the young officer took kindly even to the pork
and pickles, and declared the brown bread was worth working for; and
when Mrs. Starling let fall a word of regretful apology, assured her
that in the times when he was a cadet he would have risked getting a
good many marks for the sake of such a meal.

"What are the marks for?" inquired Mrs. Starling curiously.

"Bad boys," he told her; and then went off to a discussion of her hay
crop, and a dissertation on the delights of making hay and the pleasure
he had had from it that afternoon; "something he did not very often
enjoy."

"Can't you make hay anywheres?" Mrs. Starling asked a little dryly.

He gravely assured her it would not be considered military.

"I don't know what military means," said Mrs. Starling. "_You_ are
military, ain't you?"

"Mean to be," he answered seriously.

"Well, you are. Then, I should think, whatever you do would be
military."

But at this giving of judgment, after a minute of, perhaps, endeavour
for self-control, Mr. Knowlton broke down and laughed furiously. Mrs.
Starling looked stern. Diana was in a state of indecision, whether to
laugh with her friend or frown with her mother; but the infection of
fun was too much for her--the pretty lips gave way. Maybe that was
encouragement for the offender; for he did not show any embarrassment
or express any contrition.

"You do me too much honour," he said as soon as he could make his voice
steady; "you do me too much honour, Mrs. Starling. I assure you, I have
been most unmilitary this afternoon; but really I am no better than a
boy when the temptation takes me; and the temptation of your meadow and
those long windrows was too much for me. I enjoyed it hugely. I am
coming again, may I?"

"You'll have to be quick about it, then," said Mrs Starling, not much
mollified; "there ain't much more haying to do on the home lot, I
guess. Ain't you 'most done, Josiah?"

"How?" said that worthy from the other end of the table. Mrs. Starling
had raised her voice, but Josiah's wits always wanted a knock at the
door before they would come forth to action.

"Hain't you 'most got through haying?"

"Not nigh."

"Why, what's to do?" inquired the mistress, with a new interest.

"There's all this here lot to finish, and all of Savin hill."

"Savin hill ain't but half in grass."

"Jes' so. There ain't a lock of it cut, though."

"If I was a man," said Mrs. Starling, "I believe I could get the better
o' twenty acres o' hay in less time than you take for it. However, I
ain't. Mr. Knowlton, do take one o' those cucumbers. I think there
ain't a green pickle equal to a cucumber--when it's tender and sharp,
as it had ought to be."

"I am sure everything under your hands is as it ought to be," said the
young officer, taking the cucumber. "I know these are. Your haymakers
have a good time," he added as the men rose, and there was a heavy
clangour of boots and grating chairs at the lower end of the table.

"They calculate to have it," said Mrs. Starling. "And all through
Pleasant Valley they do have it. There are no poor folks in the place;
and there ain't many that calls themselves rich; they all expect to be
comfortable; and I guess most of 'em be."

"Just the state of society in which-- There's a sweet little stream
running through your meadow, Miss Diana," said the young officer with a
sudden change of subject. "Where does it go to?"

"It makes a great many turns, through different farms, and then joins
your river--the Yellow River--that runs round Elmfield."

"That's a river; this brook is just what I like. I got tired with my
labours this afternoon, and then I threw myself down by the side of the
water to look at it. I lay there till I had almost forgotten what I was
about."

"Not in your shirt sleeves, just as you was?" inquired Mrs. Starling.
The inquiry drew another laugh from her guest; and he then asked Diana
where the brook came from. If it was pretty, followed up?

"Very pretty!" Diana said. "As soon as you get among the hills and in
the woods with it, it is as pretty as it can be; not a bit like what it
is here; full of rocks and pools and waterfalls; lovely!"

"Any fish?"

"Beautiful trout."

"Miss Diana, can you fish?"

"No. I never tried."

"Well, trout fishing is not exactly a thing that comes by nature. I
must go up that brook. I wish you would go and show me the way. When I
see anything pretty, I always want some one to point it out to, or I
can't half enjoy it."

"I think it would be the other way," said Diana. "I should be the one
to show the brook to you."

"You see if I don't make you find more pretty things than you ever knew
were there. Come! is it a bargain? I'll take my line and bring Mrs.
Starling some trout."

"When?" said Diana.

"Seems to me," said Mrs. Starling, "I could keep along a brook if I
could once get hold of it."

"Ah," said Mr. Knowlton, laughing, "you are a great deal cleverer than
I am. You have no idea how fast I can lose myself. Miss Diana, the
sooner the better, while this lovely weather lasts. Shall we say
to-morrow?"

"I'll be ready," said Diana.

"This weather ain't goin' to change in a hurry," remarked Mrs. Starling.

But the remark did not seem to be to the purpose. The appointment was
made for the following day at three o'clock; and Mr. Knowlton's visit
having come to an end, he mounted and galloped away.

"Three o'clock!" said Mrs. Starling. "Just the heat o' the day. And
trout, indeed! Don't you be a silly fish yourself, Diana."

"Mother!" said Diana. "I couldn't help going, when he asked me."

"You could ha' helped it if you'd wanted to, I s'pose."

Which was no doubt true, and Diana made no response; for she wanted to
go. She watched the golden promise of dawn the next morning; she
watched the cloudless vault of the sky, and secretly rejoiced within
herself that she would be ready.



CHAPTER VI.



MR. KNOWLTON'S FISH.



Doubtless they were ready, those two, for the brook and the afternoon.
The young officer came at half-past three; not in regimentals this
time, but in an easy grey undress and straw hat. He came in a waggon,
and he brought his fishing-rod and carried a basket. Diana had been
ready ever since three. They lost no time; they went out into the
meadow and struck the brook.

Now the brook, during its passage through the valley field, was
remarkable for nothing but a rare infirmity of purpose, which would
never let it keep one course for many rods together. It twisted and
curled about, making many little meadow promontories on one side and
the other; hurrying along with a soft, sweet gurgle that sounded fresh,
even under the heat of the summer sun. It was a hot afternoon, as Mrs.
Starling had said; and the two excursionists were fain to take it
gently and to make as straight a course across the fields as keeping on
one side of the brook left possible. They could not cross it. The
stream was not large, yet quite too broad for a jump; and not deep, yet
deep enough to cover its stony bed and leave no crossing stones. So
sometimes along the border of the brook, where a fringe of long grass
had been left by the mowers' scythes, rank and tangled; sometimes
striking across from bend to bend over the meadow, where no kindly
trees stood to shade them, the two went--on a hunt, as Mr. Knowlton
said, after pretty things.

After a mile or more of this walking, the scenery changed. Mown fields,
hot and fragrant, were left behind; almost suddenly they entered the
hills, where the brook issued from them; and then they began a slower
tracking of its course back among the rocks and woods of a dell which
soon grew close and wild. The sides of the dell became higher; the bed
of the stream more steep and rough; the canopy of trees closed in
overhead, and showed the blue through only in broken patches. The
clothing of the hill-sides was elegant and exquisite; oaks, and firs,
and hemlocks, with slender birches and maples, lining the ravine; and
under them a free growth of ferns, and fresh beds of moss, and lovely
lichens covered the rocks and dressed the ground. The stream rattled
along at the bottom; foaming over the stones and leaping down the
rocks; making the still, deep pools where the fish love to lie; and in
its way executing a succession of cascades and tiny waterfalls that
wanted no picturesque element except magnitude. And a good imagination
can supply that.

And how went the afternoon? How goes it with those who have just
received a new sense, or found a sudden doubling of that which they had
before? Nay, it was a new sense, a new power of perception, able to
discern what had eluded all their previous lives. The brook in the
meadow had been to Diana's vision until now merely running water;
whence had come those delicious amber hues where it rolled over the
stones, and the deep olive shadows where the water was deeper? She had
never seen them before. Now they were pointed out and seen to be rich
and clear, a sort of dilution of sunlight, with a suggestion of
sunlight's other riches of possibility. The rank unmown grass that
fringed the stream, Diana had never seen it but as what the scythe had
missed; now she was made to notice what an elegant fringe it was, and
how the same sunlight glanced upon its curving stems and blades, and
set off the deep brown stream. Diana's own eyes began to be quickened,
and her tongue loosed. The lovely outline of the hills that encircled
the valley had never looked just so rare and lovely as this afternoon
when she pointed them out to her companion, and he scanned them and
nodded in full assent. But when they got into the ravine, it was
Diana's turn. Mosses, and old trees, and sharp turns of the gorge, and
fords, where it was necessary to cross the brook and recross on
stepping stones just lifting them above the water, here black
enough,--Diana knew all these things, and with secret delight unfolded
the knowledge of them to her companion as they went along. And still
the bits of blue sky overhead had never seemed so unearthly blue; the
drapery of oak and hemlock boughs had never been so graceful and
bright; there was a presence in the old gorge that afternoon, which
went with them and cleared their eyes from vapour and their minds from
everything, it seemed, but a susceptibility to beauty and delight in
its influence. Perhaps the young officer would have said that this
presence was embodied in the unconscious eyes and fair calm brow which
went beside him; I think he saw them more distinctly than anything
else. Diana did not know it. Somehow she very rarely looked her
companion in the face; and yet she knew very well how his face looked,
too; so well, perhaps, that she did not need to refresh her memory. So
they wandered on; and the fords were pleasant places, where she had to
be helped over the stones. Not that Diana needed such help; her foot
was fearless and true; she never had had help there before: was that
what made it so pleasant? Certainly it did seem to her that it was a
prettier way of going up the brook than alone and unaided.

"I am not getting much fish at this rate," said young Knowlton at
length with a light laugh.

"No," said Diana. "Why don't you stop and try here? Here looks like a
good place. Right in that still, deep spot, I dare say there are trout.

"What will you do in the meantime, if I stop and fish? It will be very
stupid for you."

"For me? O no. I shall sit here and look on. It will not be stupid. I
will keep still, never fear."

"I don't want you to keep still; that would be very stupid for me."

"You can't talk while you are fishing; it would scare the trout, you
know."

"I don't believe it."

"I have always heard so."

"I don't believe it will pay," said Knowlton as he fitted his rod--"if
I am to purchase trout at the expense of all that."

All what? Diana wondered.

"Suppose we talk very softly--in whispers," he went on, laughing. "Do
you suppose the trout are so observant as to mind it? If you sit
here,--on this mossy stone, close by me, can't I enjoy two things at
once?"

Diana made no objection to this arrangement. She took the place
indicated, full of a breathless kind of pleasure which she did not stop
to analyze; and watched in silence the progress of the fishing. In
silence, for after Mr. Knowlton's arrangement had been carried into
effect, he too subsided into stillness; whether engrossed with the
business of his line, or satisfied, or with thoughts otherwise engaged,
did not appear. But as presently and again a large trout, speckled and
beautiful, was swung up out of the pool below, the two faces were
turned towards each other, and the two pairs of eyes met with a smile
of so much sympathy, that I rather think the temporary absence of words
lost nothing to the growth of the understanding between them.

The place where they sat was lovely. Just there the bank was high,
overhanging the brook. A projecting rock, brown and green and grey,
with lichen and mosses of various kinds, held besides a delicate young
silver birch, the roots of which found their way to nourishment somehow
through fissures in the rock. Here sat Knowlton, with Diana beside him
on a stone, just a little behind; while he sat on the brink to cast, or
rather drop, his line into the little pool below where the trout were
lurking. The opposite side of the stream was but a few yards off, thick
with a lovely growth of young wood, with one great hemlock not far
above towering up towards the sky. The view in that direction went up a
vista of the ravine, so wood-fringed on both sides, with the stream
leaping and tumbling down a steep rocky bed. Overhead the narrow line
of blue sky.

"Four!" whispered Diana, as another spotted trout came up from the pool.

"I wonder how many there are down there?" said Knowlton as he unhooked
the fish. "It makes me hungry."

"Catching the trout?" said Diana softly.

He nodded. "Here comes another. I wish we could make a fire somewhere
hereabouts and cook them."

"Is that a good way?"

"The best in the world," he said, adjusting his fly, and then looking
with a smile at her. "There is no way that fish taste so good. I used
to do that, you see, in the hills round about the Academy; and I know
all about it."

"We could make a fire," said Diana; "but we have no gridiron here."

"I had no gridiron there. Couldn't have carried a gridiron in my pocket
if I had had one. Here's another"--

"You had not a gridiron, of course."

"Nor a pocket either."

"But did you eat the trout all alone? without bread, I mean, or
anything?"

"No; we took bread and salt, and pepper and butter, and a few such
things. There were generally a lot of us; or if only two or three we
could manage that. The butter was the worst thing to accomplish--Here's
another!"

"Such beauties!" said Diana. "Well, Mr. Knowlton, if you get _too_
hungry, we'll cook you one at home, you know."

"Will you?" said he. "I wish we had salt and bread here! I should like
to show you how wood cookery goes, though. But I'll tell you! we'll get
Mrs. Starling to let us have it out in the meadow--that won't be bad."

Diana thought of her mother's utter astonishment and disapprobation at
such a proposal; and there was silence again for a few minutes, while
the line hung motionless over the pool, and Diana's eyes watched it
movelessly, and the liquid sweetness of the water's talk with the
stones was heard,--as one hears things when the senses are strung to
double keenness. Diana heard it, at least, and listened to something in
it she had never perceived before; something not only sweet and liquid
and musical, but in some odd sense admonitory. What did it say? Diana
hardly questioned, but yet she heard,--"My peace never changes. My song
never dies. Listen, or not listen, it is all the same. You may be in
twenty moods in a year. In my depth of content I flow on for ever."


A slight rustling of leaves, a slight crackling of stems or branches,
brought the eyes of both watchers in another direction; and before they
could hear a footfall, they saw, above them on the course of the brook,
a figure of a man coming towards them, and Diana knew it was the
minister. Swiftly and lightly he came swinging himself along, bounding
over obstacles, with a sure foot and a strong hand; till presently he
stood beside them. Just then Mr. Knowlton's line was swung up with
another trout. Diana introduced the gentlemen to each other.

"Fishing?" said the minister.

"We have got all there are in this place, I'm thinking," said Knowlton,
shutting up his rod.

"You _had_ not, two minutes ago," said the other. "What do you judge
from? It doesn't do to be so easily discouraged as that."

"Discouraged?" said Knowlton. "Not exactly. Let us see. Four, five,
six--seven--eight. Eight, out of this little one pool, Mr. Masters. Do
you think there are any more?"

"I always get all I can out of a thing," said the minister. And his
very cheery tone, as well as his very quiet manner, seemed to say he
was in the habit of getting a good deal out of everything.

"I don't know about that," answered the young officer in another tone.
"Doesn't always pay. To stay too long at one pool of a brook, for
instance. The brook has other pools, I suppose."

"I suppose it has," said the minister, with a manner which would have
puzzled any but one that knew him, to tell whether he were in jest or
earnest. "I suppose it has. But you may not find them. Or by the time
you do, you may have lost your bait. Or you may be tired of fishing. Or
it may be time to go home."

"I am never tired," said Knowlton, springing up; "and I have got a
guide that will not let me miss my way."

"You are fortunate," said the other. "And I will not occupy your time.
Good afternoon! I shall hope to see more of you."

With a warm grasp of the young officer's hand, and lifting his hat to
Diana, the minister went on his way. Diana looked after him, wondering
why he had not shaken hands with her too. It was something she was a
little sorry to miss.

"Who is that?" Knowlton asked.

"Mr. Masters? He's our minister."

"What sort of a chap is he? Not like all the rest of them?"

"How are all the rest of them?" Diana asked.

"I declare, I don't know!" said Knowlton. "If I was to tell the truth,
I should say they puzzle all my wits. See 'em in one place--and hear
'em--and you would say they thought all the business of this world was
of no account, nor the pleasure of it either. See 'em anywhere else,
and they are just as much of this world as you are--or as I am, I mean.
They change as fast as a chameleon. In the light that comes through a
church window, now, they'll be blue enough, and make you think blue's
the only wear--or black; but once outside, and they like the colour
that comes through a glass of wine or anything also that's jolly. One
thing or the other they don't mean--that's plain."

"Which do you think they don't mean?" said Diana.

"Well, they're two or three hours in church, and the rest of the week
outside. I believe what they say the rest of the time."

"I don't think Mr. Masters is like that."

"What _is_ he like, then?"

"I think he means exactly what he says."

"Exactly," said the young officer, laughing; "but which part of the
time, you know?"

"All times. I think he means just the same thing always."

"Must see more of him," said Knowlton. "You like him, then, Miss
Starling?"

Diana did like him, and it was quite her way to say what she thought;
yet she did not say it. She had an undefined, shadowy impression that
the hearing would not be grateful to her companion. Her reply was a
very inconclusive remark, that she had not seen much of Mr. Masters;
and an inquiry where Mr. Knowlton meant to fish next.

So the brook had them without interruption the rest of the time. They
crept up the ravine, under the hemlock branches and oak boughs; picking
their way along the rocky banks; catching one or two more trout, and
finding an unending supply of things to talk about; while the air grew
more delicious as the day dipped towards evening, and the light flashed
from the upper tree-tops more clear and sparkling as the rays came more
slant; and the brook's running commentary on what was going on, like so
many other commentaries, was heard and not heeded; until the shadows
deepening in the dell warned them it was time to seek the lower grounds
and open fields again. Which they did, much more swiftly than the
ascent of the brook had been made; in great spirits on both sides,
though with a thought on Diana's part how her mother would receive the
fish and the young officer's proposition. Mrs. Starling was standing at
the back door of the kitchen as they came up to it.

"I should think, Diana, you knew enough to remember that we don't take
visitors in at this end of the house," was her opening remark.

"How about fish?" inquired Mr. Knowlton, bringing forward his basket.

"What are you going to do with 'em?" asked Mrs. Starling, standing in
the door as if she meant he should not come in.

"We are going to eat them--with your leave ma'am, and by your
help;--and first we are going to cook them."

"Who?"

"Miss Starling and myself. I have promised to show her a thing. May I
ask for the loan of a match?"

"A match!" echoed Mrs. Starling.

"Or two," added Mr. Knowlton, with an indescribable twinkle in his eye;
indescribable because there was nothing contrary to good breeding in
it. All the more, Diana felt the sense of fun it expressed, and
hastened to change the scene and put an end to the colloquy. She threw
down her bonnet and went for a handful of sticks. Mr. Knowlton had got
his match by this time. Mrs. Starling stood astonished and scornful.

"Will this be wood enough?" Diana asked.

Mr. Knowlton replied by taking the sticks out of her hand, and led the
way into the meadow. Diana followed, very quiet and flushed. He had not
said a word; yet the manner of that little action had a whole small
volume in it. "Nobody else ever cared whether I had sticks in my hands
or not," thought Diana; and she flushed more and more. She turned her
face away from the bright west, which threw too much illumination on
it; and looked down into the brook. The brook's song sounded now
unheard.

It was on the border of the brook that Lieut. Knowlton made his fire.
He was in a very jubilant sort of mood. The fire was made, and the fish
were washed; and Diana stood by the column of smoke in the meadow and
looked on, as still as a mouse. And Mrs. Starling stood in the door of
the lean-to and looked on too, from a distance; and if she was still,
it was because she had no one near just then to whom it was safe to
open her mind. The beauty of the picture was all lost upon her: the
shorn meadow, the soft column of ascending smoke coloured in dainty
hues from the glowing western sky, the two figures moving about it.

"Now, Miss Diana," said the young officer. "If we had a little salt,
and a dish--I am afraid to go and ask Mrs. Starling for them!"

Perhaps so was she; but Diana went, and got them without asking. She
smiled at the dishing of the trout, it was so cleverly done; then she
was requested to sprinkle salt on them herself; and then with a
satisfied air, which somehow called up a flush in Diana's cheeks again,
Mr. Knowlton marched off to the house with the dish in his hands. Mrs.
Starling had given her farm labourers their supper, and was clearing
away relics from the board. She made no move of welcome or hospitable
invitation; but Diana hastened to remove the traces of disorder, and
set clean plates and cups, and bring fresh butter, and bread, and make
fresh tea. How very pleasant, and how extremely unpleasant, it was
altogether!

"Mother," she said, when all was ready, "won't you come and taste Mr.
Knowlton's fish?"

"I guess I know how fish taste. I haven't eaten the trout of that brook
all my life, without."

"But you don't know my cookery," said Mr. Knowlton; "_that's_ something
new."

"I don't see the sense of doing things in an outlandish way, when you
have no need to. Nor I don't see why men should cook, as long as
there's women about."

"What _is_ outlandish?" inquired Mr. Knowlton.

"What you've been doing, I should say."

"Come and try my cookery, Mrs. Starling; you will never say anything
against men in that capacity again."

"I never say anything against men anyhow; only against men cooking; and
that ain't natural."

"It comes quite natural to me," said the young officer. "Only taste my
trout, Mrs. Starling, and you will be quite reconciled to me again."

"I ain't quarrelling with nobody--fur's I know," said Mrs. Starling;
"but I've had my supper."

"Well, we haven't had ours," said the young man; and he set himself not
only to supply that deficiency in his own case, but to secure that
Diana should enjoy and eat hers in spite of all hindrances. He saw that
she was wofully annoyed by her mother's manner; it brought out his own
more in contrast than perhaps otherwise would have been. He helped her,
he coaxed her, he praised the trout, and the tea, and the bread, and
the butter; he peppered and salted anew, when he thought it necessary,
on her own plate; and he talked and told stories, and laughed and made
her laugh, till even Mrs. Starling, moving about in the pantry, moved
softly and set down the dishes carefully, that she too might hear.
Diana sometimes knew that she did so; at other times was fain to forget
everything but the glamour of the moment. Trout were disposed of at
last, however, and the remainder was cold; bread and butter had done
its duty; and Mr. Knowlton rose from table. His adieux were gay--quite
unaffected by Mrs. Starling's determined holding aloof; and
involuntarily Diana stood by the table where she could look out of the
window, till she had seen him mount into his waggon and go off.

"Have you got through?" said Mrs. Starling.

"Supper?" said Diana, starting. "Yes, mother."

"Then perhaps I can have a chance now. Do you think there is anything
in the world to do? or is it all done up, in the world you have got
into?"

Diana began clearing away the relics of the trout supper, in silence
and with all haste.

"That ain't all," said Mrs. Starling. "The house don't stand still for
nobody, nor the world, nor things generally. The sponge has got to be
set for the bread; and there's the beans, Diana; to-morrow's the day
for the beans; and they ain't looked over yet, nor put in soak. And
you'd better get out some codfish and put that on the stove. I don't
know what to have for breakfast if I don't have that. You'd best go and
get off your dress, first thing; that's my counsel to ye; and save
washing _that_ to-morrow."

Diana went into no reasoning, on that subject or any other; but she
managed to do all that was demanded of her without changing her dress,
and yet without damaging its fresh neatness. In silence, and in an
uncomfortable mute antagonism which each one felt in every movement of
the other. Odd it is, that when words for any reason are restrained,
the feeling supposed to be kept back manifests itself in the turn of
the shoulders and the set of the head, in the putting down of the foot
or the raising of the hand, nay, in the harmless movements of pans and
kettles. The work was done, however, punctually, as always in that
house; though Diana's feeling of mingled resentment and shame grew as
the evening wore on. She was glad when the last pan was lifted for the
last time, the key turned in the lock of the door of the lean-to, and
she and her mother moved into the other part of the house, preparatory
to seeking their several rooms. But Mrs. Starling had not done her work
yet.

"When's that young man comin' again?" she asked abruptly at the foot of
the stairs, stopping to trim the wick of her candle, and looking into
the light without winking.

"I don't know--" Diana faltered. "I don't know that he is ever coming
again."

"Don't expect him either, don't you?"

"I think it would be odd if he didn't," said Diana bravely, after a
moment's hesitation.

"Odd! why?"

Diana hesitated longer this time, and the words did not come for her
waiting.

"Why odd?" repeated Mrs. Starling sharply.

"When people seem to like a place--they are apt to come again," said
Diana, flushing a little.

"_Seem to_," said Mrs. Starling. "Now, Diana, I have just this one
thing to say. Don't you go and give that young fellow no encouragement."

"Encouragement, mother!" repeated Diana.

"Yes, encouragement. Don't you give him any. Mind my words. 'Cause, if
you do, I won't!"

"But, mother!" said Diana, "what is there to encourage? I could not
help going to show the brook to him to-day."

"You couldn't?" said Mrs. Starling, beginning to mount the stairs.
"Well, it is good to practise. Suppose'n he asked you to let him show
you the Mississippi--or the Pacific Ocean; couldn't you help that?"

"Mother, I am ashamed!" said poor Diana. "Just think. He is educated,
and has every advantage, and is an officer in the United States army
now; and what am I?"

"Worth three dozen of him," said Mrs. Starling decidedly.

"He wouldn't think so, mother, nor anybody else but you."

"Well, _I_ think so, mind, and that's enough. I ain't a goin' to give
you to him, not if he was fifty officers in the United States army. So
keep my words, Diana, and mind what I say. I never will give you to
him, nor to any other man that calls himself a soldier and looks down
upon folks that are better than he is. I won't let you marry him; so
don't you go and tell him you will."

"He won't ask me, mother. You make me ashamed!" said Diana, with her
cheeks burning; "but I am sure he does not look down upon me."

"Nobody shall marry you that sets himself up above me," said Mrs.
Starling as she closed her door. "Mind!"

And Diana went into her own room, and shut her door, and sat down to
breathe. "Suppose he should ask you to let him show you the
Mississippi, or the Pacific?" And the hot flush rushed over her and she
hid her face, as if even from herself. "He will not. But what if he
should?" Mrs. Starling had raised the question. Diana, in very maidenly
shame, tried to beat it down and stamp the life out of it. But that was
more than she could do.



CHAPTER VII.



BELLES AND BLACKBERRIES.



In the first flush of Diana's distress that night, it had seemed to her
that the sight of Lieut. Knowlton in all time to come could but give
her additional distress. How could she look at him? But the clear
morning light found her nerves quiet again, and her cheeks cool; and a
certain sweet self-respect, in which she held herself always, forbade
any such flutter of vanity or stir even of fancy as could in any wise
ruffle the simple dignity of this country girl's manner. She had no
careful mother's training, or father's watch and safeguard; the
artificial rules of propriety were still less known to her; but innate
purity and modesty, and, as I said, the poise of a true New England
self-respect, stood her in better stead. When Diana saw Mr. Knowlton
the next time, she was conscious of no discomposure; and _he_ was
struck with the placid elegance of manner, formed in no school, which
was the very outgrowth of the truth within her. His own manner grew
unconsciously deferential. It is the most flattering homage a man can
render a woman.

Mrs. Starling had delivered her mind, and thereafter she was content to
be very civil to him. Further than that a true record cannot go. The
young officer tried to negotiate himself into her good graces; he was
attentive and respectful, and made himself entertaining. And Mrs.
Starling was entertained, and entertained him also on her part; and
Diana watched for a word of favourable comment or better judgment of
him when he was gone. None ever came; and Diana sometimes sighed when
she and her mother had shut the doors, as that night, upon each other.
For to _her_ mind the favourable comments rose unasked for.

He came very often, on one pretext or another. He began to be very much
at home. His eye used to meet her's, as something he had been looking
for and had just found; and the lingering clasp of his hand said the
touch was pleasant. Generally their interviews were in the parlour of
Diana's home; sometimes he contrived an occasion to get her to drive
with him, or to walk; and Diana never found that she could refuse
herself the pleasure, or need refuse it to him. The country was so
thinly settled, and their excursions had as yet been in such lonely
places, that no village eyes or tongues had been aroused.

So the depth of August came. The two were standing one moonlight night
at the little front gate, lingering in the moonlight. Mr. Knowlton was
going, and could not go.

"Have you heard anything about the Bear Hill party?" he asked suddenly.

"O yes; Miss Delamater came here a week ago to speak about it."

"Are you going?"

"Mother said she would. So I suppose I shall."

"Where is it? and what is it?"

"The place? Bear Hill is a very wild, stony, bare hill--at least one
side of it is bare; the other side is covered with trees. And the bare
side is covered with blackberry bushes, the largest you ever saw; and
the berries are the largest. We always go there every summer, a number
of us out of Pleasant Valley, to get blackberries."

"How far is it?"

"Fifteen miles."

"That's a good way to go a-blackberrying," said the young man, smiling.
"People hereabouts must be very fond of that fruit."

"We want them for a great many uses, you know; it isn't just to eat
them. Mother makes jam and wine for the whole year, besides what we eat
at once. And we go for the fun too, as well as for the berries."

"So it is fun, is it?"

"I think so. We make a day of it; and everybody carries provisions; and
we build a fire, and it is very pleasant."

"I'll go," said Mr. Knowlton. "I have heard something about it at home.
They wanted me to drive them, but I wanted to know what I was engaging
myself to. Well, I'll be there, and I'll take care our waggon carries
its stock of supplies too. Thursday, is it?"

"I believe so."

"What time shall you go?"

"About eight o'clock--or half-past."

"_Eight!_" said the young officer. "I shall have to revive Academy
habits. I am grown lazy."

"The days are so warm, you know," Diana explained; "and we have to come
home early. We always have dinner between twelve and one."

"I see!" said the young man. "I see the necessity, and feel the
difficulty. Well, I'll be there."

He grasped her hand again; they had shaken hands before he left the
house, Diana remembered; and this time he held her fingers in a light
clasp for some seconds after it was time to let them go. Then he turned
and sprang upon his horse and went off at a gallop. Diana stood still
at the gate where he had left her, looking down the road and listening
to the diminishing sound of his horse's hoofs. The moonlight streamed
tenderly down upon her and the elm trees; it filled the empty space
where Knowlton's figure had been; it flickered where the elm branches
stirred lightly and cast broken shadows upon the ground; it poured its
floods of effulgence over the meadows and distant hills, in still,
moveless peace and power of everlasting calm. It was one of the minutes
of Diana's life that she never forgot afterwards; a point where her
life had stood still--still as the moonlight, and almost as sweet in
its broad restfulness. She lingered at the gate, and came slowly back
again into the house.

"What are you going to take to Bear Hill, mother?" inquired Diana the
next day.

"I don't know! I declare, I'm 'most tired of picnics; they cost more
than they come to. If we could tackle up, now, and go off by ourselves,
early some morning, and get what we want--there'd be some fun in that."

"It's a very lonely place, mother."

"That's what I say. I'm tired o' livin' for ever in a crowd."

"But you said you'd go?"

"Well, I'm goin'!"

"Then we must take something."

"Well; I'm goin' to. I calculated to take something."

"What?"

"Somethin' 'nother nobody else'll take--if I could contrive what that'd
be."

"Well, mother, I can tell you. Somebody'll be sure to carry cake, and
pies, and cold ham and cheese, and bread and butter, and cold chicken.
All that's sure."

"Exactly. I could have told you as much myself, Diana. What I want to
know is, somethin' nobody'll take."

"Green corn to boil, mother?"

"Well!" said Mrs. Starling, musing, "that _is_ an idea. How'd you boil
it?"

"Must take a pot--or borrow one."

"Borrow! Not I, from any o' the Bear Hill folks. I couldn't eat corn
out o' _their_ kettles. It's a sight o' trouble anyhow, Diana."

"Then, mother, suppose I make a chicken pie?"

"Do what you've a mind to, child. And there must be a lot o' coffee
roasted. I declare, if I wasn't clean out o' blackberry wine, I'd cut
the whole concern. There'll be churning just ready Thursday; and Josiah
had ought to be sent off to mill, we're 'most out o' flour, and he
can't go to-morrow, for he's got to see to the fence round the fresh
pasture lot. And I want to clean the kitchen this week. There's no
sittin' still in this world, I do declare! I haven't set a stitch in
those gowns o' mine since last Friday, neither; and Society comes here
next week. And if I don't catch Josiah before he goes out to work in
the morning and get the stove cleaned out--the flues are all choked
up--it'll drive me out o' the house or out o' my mind, with the smoke;
and Bear Hill won't come off then."

Bear Hill did "come off," however. Early on the morning of Thursday,
Josiah might be seen loading up the little green waggon with tin
kettles and baskets, both empty and full. Ears of corn went in too, for
the "idee" had struck Mrs. Starling favourably, and an iron pot found
its way into one corner. Breakfast was despatched in haste; the house
locked up and the key put under the door-stone for Josiah to find at
noon; and the two ladies mounted and drove away while the morning light
was yet fresh and cool, and the shadows of the trees lay long in the
meadow. August mornings and evenings were seldom hotter than was
agreeable in Pleasant Valley.

For some miles the road lay through the region so denominated. Then it
entered the hills, and soon the way led over them, up and down steep
ascents and pitches, with a green woodland on each side, and often a
look-out over some little meadow valley of level fields and cultivation
bordered and encircled by more hills. The drive was a silent one; Mrs.
Starling held the reins, and perhaps they gave her thoughts employment
enough; Diana was musing about another waggonful, and wondering
whereabouts it was. Till at a turn of the road she discerned behind
them, at some distance, a vehicle coming along, and knew, with a jump
of her heart, the colour of the horse and the figure of the driver.
Even so far off she was sure of them, and turned her sun-bonnet to look
straight forward again, hoping that her mother might not by any chance
give a look back. She did not herself again; but Diana's ears were
watching all the while after that for the sound of hoofs or wheels
coming near; and her eyes served her to see nothing but what was out of
her field of vision. The scenery grew by degrees rough and wild;
cultivation and civilisation seemed as they went on to fall into the
rear. A village, or hamlet, of miserable, dirty, uncomely houses and
people, was passed by; and at last, just as the morning was wakening up
into fervour, Mrs. Starling drew rein in a desolate rough spot at the
edge of a woodland. The regular road had been left some time before,
since when only an uncertain wheel track had marked the way. Two or
three farm waggons already stood at the place of meeting; nobody was in
them; the last comer was just hitching his horse to a tree.

"Here's Mis' Starling," he called out. "Good day! good-day to 'ye. Hold
on, Mis' Starling--I'll fetch him up. Goin' to conquer all Bear Hill,
ain't ye, with all them pails and kettles? Wall--blackberries ain't
ripe but once in the year. I've left all _my_ business to attend upon
the women folks. What's blackberries good for, now, when you've got
'em?"

"Don't you like a blackberry pie, Mr. Selden?"

"Bless you!" said the farmer, "I kin live without it; but my folks
can't live 'thout comin' once a year to Bear Hill. It is a wonder to me
why things warn't so ordered as that folks could get along 'thout
eatin'. It'd save a sight o' trouble. Why, Mis' Starlin', we're workin'
all the time to fill our stomachs; come to think of it, that's pretty
much what life is fur. Now I'll warrant you, they'll have a spread by
and by, that'll be worth all they'll get here to-day."

"Who's come, Mr. Selden?"

"Wall, they ain't all here yet, I guess; my folks is up in the lot,
hard to work, I s'pose. Mis' Seelye's gals is here; and Bill Howe and
his wife; and the Delamaters; that's all, I guess. He's safe now, Mis'
Starlin'."

This last remark had reference to the horse, which farmer Selden had
been taking out of the shafts and tethering, after helping the ladies
down. Mrs. Starling got out her pails and baskets destined for the
berry-picking, and gave some of them to her daughter.

"They'll be all flocking together, up in the thickest part of the lot,"
she whispered. "Now, Diana, if you'll sheer off a little, kind o', and
keep out o' sight, you'll have a ventur'; and we can stand a chance to
get home early after dinner. I'll go along ahead and keep 'em from
comin' where you are--if I can."

Diana heard with tingling ears, for she heard at the same time the
sound of the approaching waggon behind her. She did not look; she
caught up her pail and basket and plunged into the wood path after her
mother and Mr. Selden; but she had not gone three yards when she heard
her name called.

"You are not going to desert us?" cried young Knowlton, coming up with
her. "We don't know a step of the way, nor where to find blackberries
or anything. I have been piloting myself all the way by your waggon.
Come back and let me make you friends with my sister."

Blushing and hesitating, Diana had yet no choice. She followed Mr.
Knowlton back to the clearing, and looked on, feeling partly pleased
and partly uncomfortable, while he helped from their waggon the ladies
he had driven to the picnic. The first one dismounted was a beautiful
vision to Diana's eyes. A trim little figure, robed in a dress almost
white, with small crimson clusters sprinkled over it, coral buckle and
earrings, a wide Leghorn hat with red ribbons, and curly, luxuriant,
long, floating waves of hair. She was so pretty, and her attire was so
graceful, and had so jaunty a style about it, that Diana was struck
somehow with a fresh though very undefined feeling of uneasiness. She
turned to the other lady. Very pretty she was too; smaller even than
the first one, with delicate, piquant features and a ready smile.
Daintily she also was dressed in some stuff of deep green colour, which
set her off as its encompassing foliage does a bunch of cherries. Her
face looked out almost like one, it was so blooming, from the shadow of
a green silk sun-bonnet; and her hands were cased in green kid gloves.
Her eyes sought Diana.

"My sister, Mrs. Reverdy," said young Knowlton eagerly, leading her
forward. "Miss Starling, Genevieve; you know who Miss Starling is."

The little lady's answer was most gracious; she smiled winningly and
grasped Diana's hand, and was delighted to know her. "And we are so
glad to meet you; for we are strangers here, you know. I never was at
Bear Hill in my life, but they told us of wonderful blackberries here,
and such multitudes of them; and we persuaded Evan to drive us--you
know we don't often have him to do anything for us; so we came, but I
don't know what we should have done if we had not met you. Gertrude and
I thought we would come and see what a picnic on Bear Hill meant." And
she laughed again; smiles came very easily to her pretty little face.
And then she introduced Miss Masters. Knowlton stood by, looking on at
them all.

"These elegant women!" thought Diana; "what must I seem to him?" And
truly her print gown was of homely quality and country wear; she did
not take into the account a fine figure, which health and exercise had
made free and supple in all its movements, and which the quiet poise of
her character made graceful, whether in motion or rest. For grace is no
gift of a dancing-master or result of the schools. It is the growth of
the mind, more than of the body; the natural and almost necessary
symbolization in outward lines of what is noble, simple, and free from
self; and not almost but quite necessary, if the further conditions of
a well-made and well-jointed figure and a free and unconstrained habit
of life are not wanting. The conditions all met in Diana; the harmony
of development was, as it always is, lovely to see.

But a shadow fell on her heart as she turned to lead the way through
the wood to the blackberry field. For in the artistic elegance of the
ladies beside her, she thought she recognised somewhat that belonged to
Mr. Knowlton's sphere and not to her own--something that removed her
from him and drew them near; she thought he could not fail to find it
so. What then? She did not ask herself what then. Indeed, she had no
leisure for difficult analysis of her thoughts.

"Dear me, how rough!" Mrs. Reverdy exclaimed. "Really, Evan, I did not
know what you were bringing us to. Is it much farther we have to go?"

"It is all rough," said Diana. "You ought to have thick shoes."

"O, I have! I put on horridly thick ones,--look! Isn't that thick
enough? But I never felt anything like these stones. Is the blackberry
field full of them too? Really, Evan, I think I cannot get along if you
don't give me your arm."

"You have two arms, Mr. Knowlton--can't I have the other one?" cried
Miss Masters dolefully.

"I have got trees on my other arm, Gatty--I don't see where I should
put you. Can't you help Miss Starling along, till we get out of the
woods?"

"Isn't it very impertinent of him to call me Gatty?" said the little
beauty, tossing her long locks and speaking in a half aside to Diana.
"Now he would like that I should return the compliment and call him
Evan; but I won't. What do _you_ do, when men call you by your
Christian name?"

She was trying to read Diana as she spoke, eyeing her with sidelong
glances, and as they went, laying her daintily gloved hand on Diana's
arm to help herself along. Diana was astounded both at her confidence
and at her request for counsel; but as to meet the request would be to
return the confidence, she was silent. She was thinking, too, of the
elegant little boot Mrs. Reverdy had displayed, and contrasting it with
her own coarse shoes. And how very familiar these two were, that he
should speak to her by her first name so!

"Miss Starling!" cried the other lady behind her,--"do you know we have
been following your lead all the way we were coming this morning?"

"Mr. Knowlton said so," Diana replied, half turning.

"Aren't you very much flattered?"

This time Diana turned quite, and faced the two.

"My mother was driving, Mrs. Reverdy."

"Ah?" said the other with a very amused laugh. "But you could have done
it just as well, I suppose."

What does she mean? thought Diana.

"Can you do anything?" inquired the gay lady on her arm. "I am a
useless creature; I can only fire a pistol, and leap a fence on
horseback, and dance a polka. What can you do? I dare say you are worth
a great deal more than me. Can you make butter and bread and pudding
and pies and sweetmeats and pickles, and all that sort of thing? I dare
say you can."

"I can do that."

"And all I am good for is to eat them! I can do that. Do you make
cheeses too?"

"I can. My mother generally makes the cheese."

"O, but I mean you. What do people do on a farm? women, I mean. I know
what the men do. You know all about it. Do you have to milk the cows
and feed everything?--chickens and pigs, you know, and all that?"

"The men milk," said Diana.

"And you have to do those other things? Isn't it horrid?"

"It is not horrid to feed the chickens. I never had anything to do with
the pigs."

"O, but Evan says you know how to harness horses."

Does he? thought Diana.

"And you can cut wood?"

"Cut wood!" Diana repeated. "Did anybody say I could do that?"

"I don't know--Yes, I think so. I forget. But you can, can't you?"

"I never tried, Miss Masters."

"Do you know my cousin, Mr. Masters?--the minister, you know?"

"Yes, I know him a little."

"Do you like him?"

"I like him,--yes, I don't know anything against him," said Diana in
great bewilderment.

"O, but I do. Don't you know he says it is wicked to do a great many
things that we do? he thinks everybody is wicked who don't do just as
he does. Now I don't think everybody is bound to be a minister. He
thinks it is wicked to dance; and I don't care to live if I can't
dance."

"That is being very fond of it," said Diana.

"Do you dance her, in the country?"

"Sometimes; not very often."

"Isn't it very dull here in the winter, when you can't go after
blackberries?"

Diana smiled. "I never found it dull," she said. Nevertheless, the
contrast smote her more and more, between what Mr. Knowlton was
accustomed to in his world, and the very plain, humdrum, uneventful,
unadorned life she led in hers. And this elegant creature, whose very
dress was a sort of revelation to Diana in its perfection of beauty,
she seemed to the poor country girl to put at an immense distance from
Mr. Knowlton those who could not be charming and refined and exquisite
in the like manner. Her gloves,--one hand rested on Diana's arm, and
pulled a little too;--what gloves they were, for colour and fit and
make! Her foot was a study. Her hat might have been a fairy queen's
hat. And the face under it, pretty and gay and wilful and sweet, how
could any man help being fascinated by it? Diana made up her mind that
it was impossible.

The rambling path through the woods brought the party out at last upon
a wild barren hill-side, where stones and a rank growth of blackberry
bushes were all that was to be seen. Only far off might be had the
glimpse of other hills and of patches of cultivation on them; the near
landscape was all barrenness and blackberries.

"But where are the rest of the people?" said Mrs. Reverdy with her
faint laugh. "Are we alone? I don't see anybody."

"They are gone on--they are picking," Diana explained.

"Hid in this scrubby forest of bushes," said her brother.

"Have we got to go into that forest too?"

"If you want to pick berries."

"I think we'll sit here and let the rest do the picking," said Mrs.
Reverdy, looking with charming merriment at Gertrude. But Gertrude was
not so minded.

"No, I'm going after berries," she said. "Only, I don't see where they
are. I see bushes, and that is all."

"Just here they have been picked," said Diana. "Farther on there are
plenty."

"Well, you lead and we'll follow," said Mr. Knowlton. "You lead, Miss
Starling, and we will keep close to you."

Diana plunged into the blackberry bushes, and striking off from the
route she guessed the other pickers had taken, sought a part of the
wilderness lower down on the hill. There was no lack of blackberries
very soon. Every bush hung black with them; great, fat, juicy beauties,
just ready to fall with ripeness. Blackberry stains spotted the whole
party after they had gone a few yards, merely by the unavoidable
crushing up against the bushes. Diana went to work upon this rich
harvest, and occupied herself entirely with it; but berry-picking never
was so dreary to her. The very sound of the berries falling into her
tin pail smote her with a sense of pain; she thought of the day's work
before her with revulsion. However, it was before her, and her fingers
flew among the bushes, from berry to berry, gathering them with a deft
skilfulness her companions could not emulate. Diana knew how they were
getting on, without using her eyes to find out; for all their
experience was proclaimed aloud. How the ground was rough and the
bushes thorny, how the berries blacked their lips and the prickles
lacerated their fingers, and the stains of blackberry juice were
spoiling gloves and dresses and all they had on.

"I never imagined," said Mrs. Reverdy with a gay laugh, "that picking
blackberries was such a serious business. O dear! and it's only just
eleven o'clock now. And I am so hungry!"

"Eat blackberries," said Gertrude, who was doing it diligently.

"But I want to carry some home."

"You can buy 'em. We came for fun," was the cool answer.

"Fun?" said Mrs. Reverdy with another echoing, softly echoing, laugh;
"it's the fun of being torn and stained and scratched, and having one's
hat pulled off one's hair, and the hair off one's head."

Diana heard it all, they were not far from her; and she heard, too, Mr.
Knowlton's little remarks, half gallant, half mocking, but very
familiar, she thought. No doubt, to his sister; but how to Miss Masters
too? Yet they were; and also, she noticed, he kept in close attendance
upon the latter young lady; picking into her basket, getting her out of
her numerous entanglements with the blackberry branches, flattering and
laughing at her; Gertrude was having what she would call a good time;
why not? "And why should I?" thought Diana to herself as she filled her
pail. "It is not in my line. What a goose I was, to fancy that this
young man could take pleasure in being with me. He _did;_ but then he
was just amusing himself; it was not I; it was the country and the
fishing, and so on. What a goose I have been!"

As fast as the blackberries dropped into the pail, so fell these
reflections into Diana's heart; and when the one was full, so was the
other. And as she set down her pail and began upon a fresh empty one,
so she did with her thoughts; they began all over again too.

"Miss Starling, it is twelve o'clock," cried Mrs. Reverdy; "where are
all the rest of the people? Do you work all day without dinner? I
expected to see a great picnic out under the trees here."

"This is not the picnic place," said Diana. "We will go to it."

She went back first to the waggons; put her berries in safe keeping,
and got out some of the lunch supplies. Mr. Knowlton loaded himself
with a basket out of his waggon; and the procession formed again in
Indian file, everybody carrying something, and the two ladies grumbling
and laughing in concert. Diana headed the line, feeling very much
alone, and wishing sadly it were all over and she at home. How was she
to play her part in the preparations at hand, where she had always been
so welcome and so efficient? All spring and life seemed to be taken out
of her, for everything but the dull mechanical picking of berries.
However, strength comes with necessity, she found.



CHAPTER VIII.



THE NEW RICHES OF THE OLD WORLD.



There was quite a collection of people on Bear Hill to-day, as could be
seen when they were all gathered together. The lunching place was high
on the mountain, where there was a good outlook over the surrounding
country; and here in the edge of the woods the blackberry pickers were
scattered about, lying and sitting on the ground in groups and pairs,
chatting and watching the preparations going on before their eyes.
Pretty and wild the preparations were. Under a big tree just at the
border of the clearing a fire was kindled; a stout spike driven into
the trunk of the tree held a tea-kettle just over the blaze. Wreaths of
blue and grey smoke curling up above the tea-kettle made their way
through the tree branches into the upper air, taking hues and colours
and irradiations from the sunlight in their way. The forest behind, the
wilderness of blackberry bushes in front; the wide view over the hills
and vales, without one spot of cultivation anywhere, or a trace of
man's habitation; the scene was wild enough. The soft curling smoke,
grey and embrowned, gave a curious touch of homeliness to it. From two
fires it went, curling up as comfortably as if it had been there
always. The second fire was lit for the purpose of boiling green corn,
which two or three people were busy getting ready, stripping the green
husks off. Other hands were unloading baskets and distributing bread
and butter and cups, and unpacking ham and chickens. Meanwhile, till
the fires should have done their work, most of the party were
comfortably awaiting the moment of enjoyment, and taking some other
moments, as it seemed, by the way. Mrs. Carpenter in one place was
surrounded by her large family of children; all come to pick
blackberries, all heated with work and fun, and eager for the dinner.
Miss Barry, quite tired out, was fanning herself with her sun-bonnet,
and having a nice bit of chat with Miss Babbage, the schoolmaster's
sister. Mrs. Mansfield and farmer Carpenter were happily discussing
systems of agriculture. Mrs. Boddington was making a circle merry with
her sharp speeches. Younger folks here and there were carrying on their
own particular lines of skirmishing operations; but there were not many
of these; the company had come for business quite as much as for play.
Indeed, Miss Gunn's array of baskets and tin pails suggested that she
was doing business on her brother's account as much as on her own; and
that preserves and blackberry wine would be for sale by and by on the
shelves of the store at the "Corner."

The little party that came up with Diana melted away as it met the
rest. Mrs. Reverdy glided into the group gathered about Mrs.
Boddington, and slid as easily into the desultory gossip that was going
on. Diana had instantly joined herself to the little band of workers at
the camp fire. Only one or two had cared to take the trouble and
responsibility of the feast; it was just what Diana craved. As if
cooking had been the great business of life, she went into it; making
coffee, watching the corn, boiling the potatoes; looking at nothing
else and trying to see nobody, and as far as possible contriving that
nobody should see her. She hid behind the column of smoke, or sheltered
herself at the further side of the great trunk of a tree; from the
fire, she said to herself. But her face took on a preternatural gravity
at those times, whenever she knew it was safe. She thought she did not
look at anybody; yet she knew that Miss Masters had joined none of the
groups under the trees, and seemed instead to prefer a solitary post in
front of them all, where her pretty figure and dainty appointments were
displayed in full view. Was she looking at the landscape? Diana did not
in the least believe it. But she tried to work without thinking; that
vainest of all cheateries, where the conclusions of thought,
independent of the processes, force themselves upon the mind and lay
their full weight upon it. Only one does not stop anywhere to think
about them, and the weight is distributed. It is like driving fast over
thin ice; stay a minute in any one place, and you would break through.
But that consciousness makes unpleasant driving.

The corn gave forth its sweet smell, and Diana dished it up. What was
the use of taking so much trouble, she thought, as ear after ear, white
and fair, came out of the pot? Yet Diana had enjoyed the notion of
making this variety in the lunch. The coffee steamed forth its
fragrance upon the air; and Diana poured it into prepared cups of cream
and sugar which others brought and carried away; she was glad to stand
by the fire if only she might. How the people drank coffee! Before the
cups were once filled the first time, they began to come back for the
second; and the second, Diana knew, would not satisfy some of the
farmers and farmers' wives there. So pot after pot of the rich beverage
had to be made. It wearied her; but she would rather do that than
anything else. And she had expected this picnic to be such a pleasant
time! And it had turned out such a failure. Standing by her camp fire,
where the ascending column of grey smoke veiled her from observation,
Diana could look off and see the wide landscape of hill and valley
spread out below and around. Not a house; not another wreath of smoke;
not a cornfield; hollows of beauty with nothing but their own green
growth and the sunshine in them; hill-tops fair and lovely, but without
a fence that told of human ownership or a road that spoke of human
sympathy. Was life like that, Diana wondered? Yet surely that landscape
had never looked dreary to her before.

"Mrs. Starling will have another cup of coffee, Miss Diana."

Diana started. What should bring Mr. Knowlton to wait upon her mother's
cups of coffee? She sugared and creamed, and poured out in silence.

"May I come presently and have some?"

"Haven't you had any?"

"Just enough to make me want more. I never saw such good coffee in my
life."

"You are accustomed to West Point fare."

"It's not that, though. I know a good thing when I see it."

"When you taste it, I suppose," said Diana; preparing his cup, however,
she knew, with extra care.

"I assure you," said Mr. Knowlton expressively, as he stirred it, "I
_have_ appreciation for better things than coffee. I always want the
best, in every kind; and I know the thing when I see it."

"I make no doubt you can have it," said Diana coolly, turning away.

"Hullo, Diany!" said Mr. Carpenter on the other side,--"you're coming
it strong to-day. Got no one to help ye? Sha'n't I fetch 'Lizy? she's
big enough to do som'thin'. I vow I want another cup. You see, it's
hard work, is picking blackberries. I ain't master here; and my wife,
she keeps me hard at it. Can't dewolve the duty on no one, neither; she
sees if I ain't got my pail filled by the time she's got her'n, and I
tell you! I catch it. It makes me sweat, this kind of work; and that
makes me kind o' dry. I'll be obleeged to you for another cup. You
needn't to put no milk into it!"

"It's strong, Mr. Carpenter."

"Want it, I tell you! working under orders this way makes a man feel
kind o' feeble."

"How do you think we women get along, Mr. Carpenter?" said Mrs
Boddington, coming up with her cup.

"How, Mis' Boddington?"

"Yes, I'm asking that. A little more, Diana; it's first-rate, and so's
the corn. It takes you and your mother!--How do you think we women
feel, under orders all the time?"

"Under orders!" said Mr. Carpenter.

"Yes, all the time. How d'you think we feel about it?"

"Must be uncommon powers of reaction," said the farmer. "My wife a'n't
anywheres near killed yet."

"Think any one'll ever get that piece of mantua-making under orders?"
said Mrs. Boddington, looking towards the place where the frills and
rufflings of Miss Masters' drapery stirred in the breeze, with the long
light tresses of her unbound hair. The breeze was partly of her own
making, as she stirred and turned and tossed her head in talking with
Mr. Knowlton; the only one of the company whom she would talk with,
indeed. The farmer took a good look at her.

"Wall," said he,--"_I_ should say it was best to do with that kind of
article what you would do with the steam from your tea kettle; let it
go. 'Tain't no use to try to utilize everything, Mis' Boddington."

"Evan Knowlton acts as if he thought differently."

"Looks is enough, with some folks," said the farmer; "and she's a
pretty enough creatur', take the outside of her. Had ought to be; for I
guess that sort o' riggin' costs somethin'--don't it, Mis' Boddington?"

"Cost?" said the lady. "Evan Knowlton is a fool if he lets himself be
caught by such butterfly's wings. But men _are_ fools when women are
pretty; there's no use reasoning against nature."

"Wall, Diany," exclaimed Joe Bartlett, now drawing near with _his_
coffee cup,--"how comes you have all the work and other folks all the
fun?"

"Want some coffee, Joe?"

"Fact, I do; that is, supposin' you have got any."

"Plenty, Joe. That's what I am here for. Hold your cup. Who are you
picking for to-day?"

"Wall, _I_ ain't here for fun," said Joe; "there's no mistake about
that. I b'lieve in fun too; I do sartain; but I _don't_ b'lieve in
scratchin' it into you with blackberry brambles, nor no other. Thank'e,
Diany; maybe this'll help me get along with the afternoon."

"I never thought you would mind blackberry thorns, Joe."

"No more I don't, come in the way o' business," said Joe, sipping his
coffee. "Guess I kin stand a few knocks, let alone scratches, when I
calculate to have 'em. But I don' know! my notion of pleasure's
sun'thin' soft and easy like; ain't your'n? I expect to take
scratches--bless you! but I don't call 'em fun. That's all I object to."

"Then how come you here, Joe?"

"Wall,--" said Joe slowly,--"I've got an old mother hum."

"And she wanted some berries?"

"She wanted a lot. What the women does with 'em all, beats me. Anyhow,
the old lady'll have enough this time for all her wants."

"How is she, Joe, to-day?"

"Days don't make no difference to my mother, Diany. You know that,
don't ye? There don't nothin' come wrong to her. I vow, I b'lieve she
kind o' likes it when things is contrairy. I never see her riled by no
sort o' thing; and it's not uncommon for _me_ to be as full's I kin
hold; but she's just like a May mornin', whatever the weather is. There
ain't no scarin' her, either; she'd jest as lieves die as live, I
b'lieve, any day."

"I daresay she would," said Diana, feeling at the moment that it was
not so very wonderful. Life in this world might be so dull as to be not
worth living for.

"It's a puzzle to me," Joe went on, "which is right, her or the rest on
us. Ef she is, we ain't. And her and the rest o' the world ain't agreed
on nothin'. But it is hard to say she ain't right, for she's the
happiest woman that ever I see."

Diana assented absently.

"Wall," said Joe, "I'm a little happier for that 'ere cup o' coffee.
I'll go at it agin now. Who's that 'ere little bundle o' muslin
ruffles, Diany? she's a kind o' pretty creatur', too. She hain't sot
down this hull noonspell. Who is it?"

"Miss Masters."

"She ain't none o' the family o' our parson?"

"A cousin, I believe."

"Cousin, eh," said Joe. "She hain't set down once. I guess she's afeard
o' gettin' the starch out somewhere. The captain's sweet on her, ain't
he? I see he tuk a deal o' care o' her eatin'."

"Mr. Knowlton is not a captain yet, Joe; he is only a lieutenant."

"Want to know," said Joe. "Wall, I kin tell ye, she likes him."

And Joe strolled off, evidently bent on doing his best with the
blackberry bushes. So must Diana; at least she must seem to do it.
There was a lull with the coffee cups; lunch was getting done; here and
there parties were handling their baskets and throwing their
sun-bonnets on. The column of smoke had thinned now to a filmy veil of
grey vapour, slowly ascending, through which Diana could look over to
the round hill-tops, with their green leaves glittering in the sun; and
farther still, to the blue, clear vault of ether, where there was
neither shine nor shadow, but the changeless rest of heaven. Earth with
its wildness of untrodden ways, its glitter and flutter; heaven,--how
did that seem? Far off and inscrutable, though with an infinite depth
of repose, an infinite power of purity. The human heart shrank before
both.

"And I had thought to-day would be a day of pleasure," Diana said to
herself. "If I could get into the waggon and go home--alone--and get
the fire started and the afternoon work done ready for supper before
mother comes!--They will not need me to pilot them home at any rate."

But things have to be faced, not run away from, in life; and trials
take their time and cannot be lopped into easier length. Diana did what
she could. She caught up her basket very quietly, carrying it and her
sun-bonnet in one hand, and slipped away down the hill under cover of
the trees till she was out of sight of everybody; then plunged into the
forest of high bushes and lost herself. She began to pick vigorously;
if she was found, anybody should see what she was there for. It was a
thicket of thorns and fruit; the berries, large, purple, dewy with
bloom, hung in quantities, almost in masses, around her. It was only
needful sometimes to hold her basket underneath and give a touch to the
fruit; and it dropped, fast and thick, into her hands. But she felt as
if the cool soft berries hurt her fingers. She wondered whereabouts was
pretty Miss Masters now, making believe pick, and with fingers at hand
to supplement her, and looks and words to make labour sweet, even if it
were labour. "But _she_ will never do any work," said Diana to herself;
"and he will be quite willing that she should not." And then she
noticed her own fingers; a little coarsened with honest usefulness they
were--a little; and a little embrowned with careless exposure. Not
white and pearly and delicate like those of that other hand. And Diana
remembered that Mr. Knowlton's own were delicate and white; and she
could understand, she thought, that a man would like in a woman he
loved, all daintinesses and delicacies, even although they pertained to
the ornamental rather than to the useful. It was the first time Diana
had ever wished for white hands; she did wish for them now, or rather
regret the want of them, with a sharp, sore point of regret. Even
though it would have made no difference.

Picking and thinking and fancying herself safe, Diana made a plunge to
get through an uncommonly tangled thicket of interlacing branches, and
found herself no longer alone. Miss Gunn was three feet off, squatting
on the ground to pick the more restfully; and on the other side of her
was Diana's cousin, Nick Boddington.

"Hullo, Di!" was his salutation, "where have you left my wife and the
rest of the folks?"

"I don't know, Nick; I haven't left them at all."

"What did you come here for, then?"

"What did you?"

"I declare! I came to have the better chance, me and Miss Gunn; I
thought where nobody was, I'd have it all to myself. I'll engage you
are disappointed to find us--now, ain't you?"

"The field is big enough, cousin Nick."

"Don't know about that. What is become of your fine people?"

"I haven't any fine people."

"What's become o' them you _had_, then? You brought 'em here; have you
deserted 'em?"

"I came to do work, Nick; and I'm doing it."

"What did they come for? have you any guess? 'Tain't likely they come
to pick blackberries."

"I told Mis' Reverdy," said Miss Gunn smotheredly from the depths of a
blackberry bush and her sun-bonnet, "that we'd have plenty for
ourselves and Elmfield too to-morrow. I will, I guess."

"They'll want 'em, Miss Gunn," said Mr. Boddington. "They'll not carry
home a pint, you may depend. Di, did they come after you, or you come
after them, this morning?"

Diana answered something, she hardly knew what, and made a plunge
through the bushes in another direction. Anything to get out of _this_
neighbourhood. She went on eagerly, through thicket after thicket, till
she supposed she was safe. And as she stopped, Mr. Knowlton came round
from the other side of the bush. The thrill of pain and pleasure that
went through the girl gave no outward sign.

"Met again," said the gentleman. "What has become of you? I have lost
sight of you since dinner."

"One can't see far through these bushes," said Diana.

"No. What a thicket it is! But at the same time, people can hear; and
you never know who may be a few feet off. Does anybody ever come here,
I wonder, when we are gone? or is this wild fruitful hill bearing its
harvest for us alone?"

"Other parties come, I daresay," said Diana.

She was picking diligently, and Mr. Knowlton set himself to help her.
The berries were very big and ripe here; for a few minutes the two
hands were silently busy gathering and dropping them into Diana's pail;
then Mr. Knowlton took the burden of that into his own hand. Diana was
not very willing, but he would have it.

"One would think blackberries were an important concern of life," he
said presently, "by the way you work."

"I am sure, you are working too," said Diana.

"Ah, but I supposed you knew what it is all for. Now I have not the
faintest idea. I know what _I_ am after, of course; but what you are
after is a puzzle to me."

"Things are very often a puzzle to me," said Diana vaguely; and having
for some reason or other a good deal of difficulty in commanding
herself.

"Aren't you tired?"

"No--I don't know," said Diana. "It does not signify."

"I don't believe you care, any more than a soldier, what you find in
your way. Do you know, you said something, up yonder at the camp fire,
which has been running in my head ever since? I wish you would explain
it."

"I?" said Diana. "I said something? What?"

"I told you what I wanted,--and you said you had no doubt I could get
it."

"I have no recollection of one thing or the other, Mr. Knowlton. I
think you must have been speaking to somebody else at the time--not me.
If you please, I will try the bushes that way; I think somebody has
been in this place."

"Don't you remember my telling you I always want the best of
everything?" he said as he followed her; and Diana went too fast for
him to hold the briary branches out of her way.

"There are so many other people who are of that mind, Mr. Knowlton!"--

"Not yourself?"

"I want the best berries," said Diana, stopping before a cluster of
bushes heavily laden.

"How about other things?"

Diana felt a pang at her heart, an odd desire to make some wild answer.
But nothing could be cooler than what she said.

"I take them as I find them, Mr. Knowlton."

He was helping her now again.

"What did you suppose I was thinking of, when I told you I wanted the
best I could have?"

"I had no right to suppose anything. No doubt it is true of all sorts
of things."

"But I was thinking of _one_--did you guess what?"

Diana hesitated. "I don't know, Mr. Knowlton,--I might guess wrong."

"Then what made you say, 'no doubt' I could have it?"

"I don't know, Mr. Knowlton," said Diana, feeling irritated and worried
almost past her power to bear. "Don't you always have what you want?"

"Do you think I can?" he said eagerly.

"I fancy you do."

"What _did_ you think I meant by the 'best' thing, then? Tell me--do
tell me?"

"I thought you meant Miss Gertrude Masters," Diana said, fairly brought
to bay.

"You did! And what did you think I thought of Miss Diana Starling?"

He had stopped picking blackberries now, and was putting his questions
short and keenly. Diana's power of answering had come to an end.

"Hey!" said he, drawing her hand from the bush and stopping her work;
"what did you think I thought of _her?_--I have walked with her, and
driven with her, and talked with her, in the house and out of the
house, now all summer long; I have seen what she is like at home and
abroad; what do you think I think of _her?_"

Baskets and berries had, figuratively, fallen to the ground; literally
too, in Mr. Knowlton's case, for certainly both his hands were free,
and had been employed while these words were spoken in gently and
slowly gathering Diana into close bondage. There she stood now, hardly
daring to look up; yet the tone of his questions had found its way to
her inmost heart. She could not refuse one look, which they asked for.
It gave her what she never forgot to her latest day.

"Does she know now?" he went on in a tone of mixed tenderness and
triumph, like the expression of his face. "My lily!--my Camellia
flower!--my sweet Magnolia!--whatever there is most rare, and good, and
perfect. My best of all things. Can I have the best, Di?"

Miss Gertrude Masters would have been equal to the situation, and
doubtless would have met it with great equanimity; Diana was unused to
most of the world's ways, and very new to this. She stood in quiet
dignity, indeed; but the stains of crimson on cheek and brow flushed
and paled like the lights of a sunset. All at the bottom of her deep
sun-bonnet; was Mr. Knowlton to blame if he gently pushed it back and
insinuated it off, till he had a full view?

"You know what is my 'best' now," he said. "Can I have it, Diana?"

She tried to break away from him, and on her lip there broke that
beautiful smile of hers; withal a little tremulous just then. It is
rare on a grown woman's lip, a smile so very guileless and free; mostly
it belongs to children. Yet not this smile, either.

"I should think you must know by this time," she whispered.

I suppose he did; for he put no more questions for a minute or two.

"There's one more thing," he said. "Now you know what I think of you;
what do you think of me, Diana?"

"I think you are very imprudent," she said, freeing herself resolutely,
and picking up her sun-bonnet. "Anybody might come, Mr. Knowlton."

"Anybody might! But if ever you call me 'Mr. Knowlton' again--I'll do
something extraordinary."

Diana thought he would have a great many things to teach her, beside
that. She went at her fruit-picking with bewildered haste. She did not
know what she was doing, but mechanically her fingers flew and the
berries fell. Mr. Knowlton picked rather more intelligently; but
between them, I must say, they worked very well. Ah, the blackberry
field had become a wonderful place; and while the mellow purple fruit
fell fast from the branches, it seemed also as if years had reached
their fruition and the perfected harvest of life had come. Could riper
or richer be, than had fallen into Diana's hands now? than filled them
now? So it was, she thought. And yet this was not life's harvest, only
the bloom of the flower; the fruit comes not to its maturity with one
sunny day, and it needs more than sunshine. But let the fruit grow; it
will come in time, even if it ripens in secret; and meanwhile smell the
flower. It was the fragrance of the grape blossom that filled the
blackberry field; most sweet, most evanishing, most significant. Oddly,
many people do not know it. But it must be that their life has never
brought them within reach of its charm.

Two people in the field never knew how the shadows grew long that day.
No, not even though their colloquy was soon interrupted, and by
Gertrude Masters herself. She thenceforth claimed, and received, Mr.
Knowlton's whole services; while Diana in her turn was assisted by Will
Flandin, a young farmer of Pleasant Valley, who gave his hands and his
arms to her help. It did not make much difference to Diana; it might
have been an ogre, and she would not have cared; so she hardly noticed
that Will, who had a glib enough tongue in ordinary, was now very
silent. Diana herself said nothing. She was listening to hidden music.

"There's a wonderful lot o' blackberries on Bear Hill," Will remarked
at last.

"Yes," said Diana.

"Well, I guess we've cleaned 'em out pretty well for this time,"
pursued he.

"Have we?" said Diana.

"Why, all these folks ha' been pickin' all day; I should _think_ they'd
ha' made a hole in 'em."

Silence fell again.

"How's the roads down your way?" began Mr. Flandin again.

"The roads? pretty well, I believe."

"They're awful, up this way, to Bear Hill. I say, Miss Starling, how do
you s'pose those people lives, in that village?"

"How do they? I don't know."

"Beats me! they don't raise nothin', and they don't kill
nothin',--'thout it's other folks's; and what they live on I would jest
like to know. Mother, she thinks a minister had ought to go and settle
down among 'em; but I tell her I'd like to see what a sheriff 'd do
fust. They don't live in no reg'lar good way, that's a fact."

"Poor people!" said Diana. "They don't even know enough to pick
blackberries."

"They hadn't no need to be so poor ef they would work," said the young
man. "But I s'pose you've got a kind word for every one, ha'n't you,
Miss Starling?"

"Diany," said the voice of Joe Bartlett, who was pushing his way
towards her through the bushes,--"Diany! Here you be! Here's your
mother lookin' for ye. Got all you want? It's gettin' time to make
tracks for hum. The sun's consid'able low."

"I'm ready, Joe."

"Give me one o' them pails, then, and we'll try ef we kin git through
these pesky bushes. I vow! I wouldn't like to take Bear Hill for a
farm, not on a long lease."

They pushed and fought their way in the thicket for a long distance,
till, as Joe remarked, they had surveyed the hill pretty well; Diana
conscious all the time that Mr. Knowlton and Gertrude were following in
their wake. That was near enough. She liked it so. She liked it even
that in the crowd and the bustle of packing and hitching horses, and
getting seated, there was no chance for more than a far-off nod and
wave of the hand from the Elmfield parly. They drove off first this
time. And Diana followed at a little distance, driving Prince; Mrs.
Starling declaring herself "tuckered out."

There was no sense of weariness on Diana. Never less in her life. She
was glad the drive was so long; not because she was weary and wanted to
rest, but because every nerve and sense seemed strung to a fine
tension, so that everything that touched them sent waves of melody over
her being. Truly the light was sweet that evening, for any eyes; to
Diana's vision the sunbeams were solid gold, though refined out of all
sordidness, and earth was heaped up and brimming over with riches. The
leaves of the trees on the hill-sides sparkled in the new wealth of
nature; the air scintillated with it; the water was full of it.
Prince's hoofs trod in measure, and the wheels of the waggon moved
rhythmically, and the evening breeze might have been the very spirit of
harmony. The way was long, and before home was reached the light had
faded and the sparkling was gone; but even that was welcome to Diana.
She was glad to have a veil fall, for a while, over the brightness, and
hide even from herself the new world into which she had entered. She
knew it was there, under the veil; the knowledge was enough for the
present.



CHAPTER IX.



MRS. STARLING'S OPINIONS.



It was well dusk when Prince stopped under the elm tree. The sun had
gone down behind the low distant hills, leaving a white glory in all
that region of the heavens; and shadows were settling upon the valleys.
All household wants and proprieties were disarranged; the thing to do
was to bring up arrears as speedily as possible. To this Mrs. Starling
and her daughter addressed themselves. The blackberries were put
carefully away; the table set, supper cooked, for the men must have a
warm supper; and after supper and clearing up there came a lull.

"If it warn't so late," said Mrs. Starling,--"but it _is_ too
late,--I'd go at those berries."

"Mother! Not to-night."

"Well, no; it's 'most too late, as I said; and I _am_ tired. I want to
know if this is what folks call work or play? 'cause if it's play, I'd
rather work, for my part. I believe I'd sooner stand at the wash-tub."

"Than pick blackberries, mother?"

"Well, yes," said Mrs. Starling; "'cause _then_ I'd know when my work
was done. If the sun hadn't gone down, we'd all be pickin' yet."

"I am sure, you could stop when you were tired, mother; couldn't you?"

"I never am tired, child, while I see my work before me; don't you know
that? And it's a sin to let the ripe fruit go unpicked. I wonder what
it grows in such a place for! Who were you with all day?"

"Different people."

"Did Will Flandin find you?"

"Yes."

"He was in a takin' to know where you were. So I just gave him a bit of
a notion."

"I don't see how _you_ could know, mother; I had been going so
roundabout among the bushes. I don't know where I was, myself."

"When ever you don't know that, Diana, stop and find out."

Mrs. Starling was sitting before the stove in a resting attitude, with
her feet stretched out towards it. Diana was busy with some odds and
ends, but her mother's tone--or was it her own consciousness?--made her
suddenly stop and look towards her. Mrs. Starling did not see this,
Diana being behind her.

"Did it ever strike you that Will was sweet on you?" she went on.

"Will Flandin, mother?"

An inarticulate note of assent.

Diana did not answer, and instead went on with what she had been doing.

"Hey?" said Mrs. Starling.

"I hope he'll get cured of it, mother, if he is."

"Why?"

"I don't know why," said Diana, half laughing, "except that he had
better be sweet on some one else."

"He's a nice fellow."

"Yes, I think he is; as they go."

"And he'll be very well off, Diana."

"He's no match for me, then, mother; for I am well off now."

"No, you ain't, child," said Mrs. Starling. "We have enough to live on,
but that's all."

"What more does anybody want?"

"You don't mean what you say, Diana!" cried her mother, turning upon
her. "Don't you want to have pretty things, and a nice house, and
furniture to suit you, and maybe servants to do your work? I wonder
who's particular, if you ain't! Wouldn't you like a nice carriage?"

"I like all these things well enough, mother; but they are not the
first thing."

"What is the first thing?" said Mrs. Starling shortly.

"I should say,--how I get them."

"Oh!--I thought you were going to say the man was the first thing.
That's the usual lingo."

Diana was silent again.

"Now you can have Will," her mother went on; "and he would be my very
choice for you, Diana."

Diana made no response.

"He is smart; and he is good-lookin'; and he'll have a beautiful farm
and a good deal of money ready laid up to begin with; and he's the sort
to make it more and not make it less. And his mother is a first-rate
woman. It's one of the best families in all Pleasant Valley."

"I would rather not marry either of 'em," said Diana, with a little
half laugh again. "You know, mother, there are a great many nice people
in the world. I can't have all of 'em."

"Who were you with all the forenoon?" Mrs. Starling asked suddenly.

"You went off and left me with the people from Elmfield. I was taking
care of them."

"I saw you come out of the field with them. What a popinjay that
Masters girl is, to be sure! and Mrs.--what's her name?--the other, is
not much better. Soft as oil, and as slippery. How on earth did _they_
come to Bear Hill?"

"I suppose they thought it would be fun," Diana said with constrained
voice.

"Don't let anybody get sweet on you there, Diana Starling; not if you
know what is good for you."

"Where, mother?"

"_There_. At Elmfield. Among the Knowlton folks."

"What's the matter with them?" Diana asked; but not without a touch of
amusement in her voice, which perhaps turned the edge of her mother's
suspicion. She went on, however, energetically.

"Poor and proud!" she said. "Poor and proud. And that's about the
meanest kind of a mixture there is. I don't mind if folks has something
to go on--why, airs come nat'ral to human nature; I can forgive 'em
anyhow, for I'm as proud as they be. But when they _hain't_
anything--and when they pile up their pretensions so high they can't
carry 'em steady--for my part I'd rather keep out o' their way. They're
no pleasure to me; and if they think they're an honour, it's an opinion
I don't share. Gertrude Masters ain't no better than a balloon; full of
gas; she hain't weight enough to keep her on her feet; and Mrs.--what's
her name?--Genevy--she's as smooth as an eel. And Evan is a monkey."

"Mother! what makes you say so?"

"Why don't he shave himself then, like other folks?"

"Why, mother, it is just the fashion in the army to wear a moustache."

"What business has he to be in the army? He ought to be here helping
his grandfather. I have no sort o' patience with him."

"Mother, you know they sent him to the Military Academy; of course he
could not help being in the army. It is no fault of his."

"He could quit it, I suppose, if he wanted to. But he ain't that sort.
He just likes to wear gold on his shoulders, and a stripe down his leg,
and fancy buttons, and go with his coat flying all open to show his
white shirt. I think, when folks have a pair of such broad shoulders,
they're meant to do some work; but he'll never do none. He'll please
himself, and hold himself up high over them that _does_ work. And he'll
live to die poor. I. won't have you take after such a fellow, Diana;
mind, I won't. I won't have _you_ settin' yourself up above your mother
and despisin' the ways you was brought up to. And I want you to be
mistress o' Will Flandin's house and lands and money; and you can, if
you're a mind to."

Diana was a little uncertain between laughing and crying, and thought
best not to trust her voice. So they went up to their rooms and
separated for the night. But all inclination to tears was shut out with
the shutting of her door. Was not the moonlight streaming full and
broad over all the fields, filling the whole world with quiet radiance?
So came down the clear, quiet illumination of her happiness upon all
Diana's soul. There was no disturbance; there was no shadow; there was
no wavering of that full flood of still ecstasy. All things not in
harmony with it were hidden by it. That's the way with moonlight.

And the daylight was sweeter. Early, Diana always saw it; in those
prime hours of day when strength, and freshness, and promise, and
bright hope are the speech and the eye-glance of nature. How much help
the people lose who lose all that! When the sun's first look at the
mountains breaks into a smile; when morning softly draws off the veil
from the work there is to do; when the stir of the breeze speaks
courage or breathes kisses of sympathy; and the clear blue sky seems
waiting for the rounded and perfected day to finish its hours, now just
beginning. Diana often saw it so; she did not often stop so long at her
window to look and listen as she did this morning. It was a clear,
calm, crisp morning, without a touch of frost, promising one of those
mellow, golden, delicious days of September that are the very ripeness
of the year; just yet six o'clock held only the promise of it. Like her
life! But the daylight brought all the vigour of reality; and last
night was moonshine. Diana sat at her window a few minutes drinking it
all in, and then went to her dairy.

Alas! one's head may be in rare ether, and one's feet find bad walking
spots at the same time. It was Diana's experience at breakfast.

"How are those pigs getting along, Josiah?" Mrs. Starling demanded.

"Wall, I don' know," was the somewhat unsatisfactory response. "Guess
likely the little one's gettin' ahead lately."

"He hadn't ought to!" said Mrs. Starling. "What's the reason the others
ain't gettin' ahead as fast as him?"

"He's a different critter--that's all," said Josiah stolidly. "He'll be
the biggest."

"They're all fed alike?"

"Fur's my part goes," said Josiah; "but when it comes to the
eatin'--tell you! that little feller'll put away consid'able more'n his
share. That's how he's growd so."

"They are not any of 'em the size they ought to be, Josiah."

"We ain't feedin' 'em corn yet."

"But they are not as big as they were last year this time."

"Don't see how you'll help it," said Josiah. "I ain't done nothin' to
'em."

With which conclusion Mrs. Starling's 'help' finished his breakfast and
went off.

"There ain't the hay there had ought to be in the mows, neither," Mrs.
Starling went on to her daughter. "I know there ain't; not by tons. And
there's no sort o' a crop o' rye. I wish to mercy, Diana, you'd do
somethin'."

"Do what, mother?" Diana said gaily. "You mean, you wish Josiah would
do something."

"I know what I mean," said Mrs. Starling, "and I commonly say it. That
is, when I say anything. I _don't_ wish anything about Josiah. I've
given up wishin'. He's an unaccountable boy. There's no dependin' on
him. And the thing is, he don't care. All he thinks on is his own
victuals; and so long's he has 'em, he don't care whether the rest of
the world turns round or no."

"I suppose it's the way with most people, mother; to care most for
their own."

"But if I had hired myself to take care of other folks' things, I'd
_do_ it," said Mrs. Starling. "That ain't my way. Just see what I
haven't done this morning already! and he's made out to eat his
breakfast and fodder his cattle. I've been out to the barn and had a
good look at the hay mow and calculated the grain in the bins; and seen
to the pigs; and that was after I'd made my fire and ground my coffee
and set the potatoes on to boil and got the table ready and the rooms
swept out. Is that cream going to get churned to-day, Diana?"

"No, mother."

"It's old enough."

"It is not ready, though."

"It ought to be. I tell you what, Diana, you must set your cream pot in
here o' nights; the dairy's too cold."

"Warm enough yet, mother. Makes better butter."

"You don't get nigh so much, though. That last buttermilk was all thick
with floatin' bits of butter; and that's what I call wasteful."

"I call it good, though."

"There's where you make a mistake, Diana Starling; and if you ever want
to be anything but a poor woman, you've got to mend. It's just those
little holes in your pocket that let out the money; a penny at a time,
to be sure; but by and by when you come to look for the dollars, you
won't find 'em; and you'll not know where they're gone. And you'll want
'em."

"Mother," said Diana, laughing, "I can't feel afraid. We have never
wanted 'em yet."

"You've been young, child. You will want 'em as you grow older. Marry
Will Flandin, and you'll have 'em; and you may churn your cream how you
like. I tell you what, Diana; when your arm ain't as strong as it used
to be, and your back gets to aching, and you feel as if you'd like to
sit down and be quiet instead of delvin' and delvin', _then_ you'll
feel as if 't would be handy to put your hand in your pocket and find
cash somewhere. My! I wish I had all the money your father spent for
books. Books just makes some folks crazy. Do you know it's the
afternoon for Society meeting, Diana?"

"I had forgotten it. I shall not go."

"One of us must," said Mrs. Starling. "I don't see how in the world I
can; but I suppose I'll have to. You'll have to make the bread then,
Diana. Yesterday's put me all out. And what are you going to do with
all those blackberries? They're too ripe to keep."

"I'll do them up this afternoon, mother. I'll take care of them."

The morning went in this way, with little intermission. Mrs. Starling
was perhaps uneasy from an undefined fear that something was going not
right with Diana's affairs. She could lay hold on no clue, but perhaps
the secret fear or doubt was the reason why she brought up, as if by
sheer force of affinity, every small and great source of annoyance that
she knew of. All the morning Diana had to hear and answer a string of
suggestions and complainings like the foregoing. She was not
unaccustomed to this sort of thing, perhaps; and doubtless she had her
own hidden antidote to annoyance: yet it belonged still more to the
large sweet nature of the girl, that though annoyed she was never
irritated. Wrinkles never lined themselves on the fair smooth brow;
proper token of the depth and calm of the character within.



CHAPTER X.



IN SUGAR.



Dinner was over, and talk ceased, for Mrs. Starling went to dress
herself for the sewing society, and presently drove off with Prince.
Diana's motions then became as swift as they were noiseless. Her
kitchen was in a state of perfected order and propriety. She went to
dress herself then; a modest dressing, for business, and kitchen
business, too, must claim her all the afternoon; but it is possible to
combine two effects in one's toilet; and if you had seen Diana that
day, you would have comprehended the proposition. A common print gown,
clean and summery-looking, showed her soft outlines at least as well as
a more modish affair would; and the sleeves rolled up to the elbows
revealed Diana's beautiful arms. I am bound to confess she had chosen a
white apron in defiance of possible fruit stains; and the dark hair
tucked away behind her ears gave the whole fair cheek and temple to
view; fair and delicate in contour, and coloured with the very hues of
a perfect physical condition. I think no man but would like to see his
future wife present such a picture of womanly beauty and housewifely
efficiency as Diana was that day. And the best was, she did not know it.

She went about her work. Doubtless she had a sense that interruptions
might come that afternoon; however, that changed nothing. She had
moulded her bread and put it in the pans and got it out of the way; and
now the berries were brought out of the pantry, and the preserving
kettle went on the fire, and Diana's fingers were soon red with the
ripe wine of the fruit. All the time she had her ears open for the
sound of a horse's hoofs upon the road; it had not come, so that a
quick step outside startled her, and then the figure of Mr. Knowlton in
the doorway took her by surprise. Certainly she had been expecting him
all the afternoon; but now, whether it were the surprise or somewhat
else, Diana's face flushed to the most lovely rose. Yet she went to
meet him with simple frankness.

"I've not a hand to give you!" she said.

"Not a hand!" he echoed. "What a mercy it is that I am independent of
hands. Yesterday I should have been in despair;--to-day"--

"You must not abuse your privileges," said Diana, trying to free
herself. "And O, Mr. Knowlton, I have a great deal of work to do."

"So have I," said he, holding her fast; and indeed she was too pretty a
possession to be easily let go. "Whole loads of talking, and no end of
arrangements.--Di, I never saw you with such a charming colour. My
beauty! Do you know what a beauty you are?"

"I am glad you think so!" she said.

"Think so? Wait till you are my wife, and I can dress you to please
myself. I think you will be a very princess of loveliness."

"In the meantime, Mr. Knowlton, what do you think of letting me finish
my berries?"

"Berries?" he said, laughing. "Tell me first, Di, what do you think of
me?"

"Inconvenient," said Diana. "And I think, presuming. I must finish my
berries, Mr. Knowlton."

"_Evan_," he said.

"Well; but let me do my work."

"Do your work?--My darling! How am I going to talk to you, if you are
going into your work? However, in consideration of yesterday--you may."

"What made you come to this door?" Diana asked.

"I knew you were here."

"You would have been much more likely to find mother, most days."

"Ah, but I met Prince, as I came along, with Mrs. Starling behind him;
and then I thought"--

"What?"

"I remembered," said Knowlton, laughing, "that the same person cannot
be in two places at once!"

The comfort of this fact being upon them, the two took advantage of it.
Mr. Knowlton drew his chair close to the table over which Diana's
fingers were so busy; and a talk began, which in the range and variety
and arbitrary introduction of its topics, it would be in vain to try to
follow. Through it all Diana's work went on, except now and then when
her fingers made an involuntary pause. The berries were picked over,
and weighed, and put over the fire, and watched and tended there; while
the tall form of the young officer stood beside Diana as she handled
her skimmer, and went back and forth as she went, helping her to carry
her jars of sweetmeat.

"Have you told your mother?" Mr. Knowlton asked.

"No."

"Why not?" he asked quickly.

"I did not think it was a good time, last night or this morning."

"Does she not like me?"

"I think she wants to put some one else in your place, Evan."

"Who?" he asked instantly.

"Nobody you need fear," said Diana, laughing. "Nobody I like."

"Is there anybody you do like?"

"Plenty of people--that I like a little."

"How much do you like me, Diana?"

She lifted her eyes and looked at him; calm, large, grey eyes, into
which there had come a new depth since yesterday and an added light.
She looked at him a moment, and dropped them in silence.

"Well?" said he eagerly. "Why don't you speak?"

"I cannot," said Diana.

"Why? I can speak to you."

"I suppose people are different," said Diana. "And I am a woman."

"Well, what then?"

She turned away, with the shyest, sweetest grace of reserve; turned
away to her fruit, quite naturally; there was no shadow of affectation,
nor even of consciousness. But her eyes did not look up again; and Mr.
Knowlton's eyes had no interruption.

"Di, where do you think we shall go when we are married?"

"I don't know," she said simply; and the tone of her voice said that
she did not care. It was as quiet as the harebells when no wind is
blowing.

"And _I_ don't know!" Knowlton echoed with a half-sigh. "I don't know
where I am going myself. But I shall know in a day or two. Can you be
ready in a week, do you think, Diana?"

"Shall you have to go so soon as that?" she asked with a startled look
up.

"Pretty near. What of that? You are going with me. It may be to some
rough out-of-the-way place; we never can tell; you know we are a sort
of football for Uncle Sam to toss about as he pleases; but you are not
afraid of being a soldier's wife, Di?"

She looked at him without speaking; a look clear and quiet and glad,
like her voice when she spoke. So full of the thought of the reality he
suggested, evidently, that she never perceived the occasion for a
blush. Her eyes went through him, to the rough country or the frontier
post where she could share--and annul--all his harsh experiences.

"What sort of places are those where you might go, Evan?"

"Nearly all sorts on the face of the earth, my beauty. I might be sent
to the neighbourhood of one of the great cities; we should have a good
time then, Di! I would wait for nothing; I could come and fetch you
just as soon as I could get a furlough of a day or two. But they are
apt to send us, the young officers, to the hardest places; posts beyond
civilisation, out west to the frontier, or south to Texas, or across to
the Pacific coast."

"California!" Diana cried.

"California; or Oregon; or Arizona. Yes; why?"

"California is very far off."

"Rather," said Knowlton, with a half sigh again. "It don't make any
difference, if we were once there, Diana."

Diana looked thoughtful. It had never occurred to her, before this
time, to wish that the country were not so extended; and certainly not
to fancy that California and she had any interest in common. Lo, now it
might be. "How soon _must_ you go, Evan?" she asked, as thoughts of
longitude and latitude began to deepen the cloud shadow which had just
touched her.

"A few days--a week or two more."

"Is that all?"

"Can you go with me?" he whispered, bending forward to pick up a few of
her berries, for the taste of which he certainly did not care at that
moment.

And she whispered, "No."

"Can't you?"

"You know it's impossible, Evan."

"Then I must go by myself," he said, in the same half breath, stooping
his head still so near that a half breath could be heard; and his hair,
quite emancipated from the regulation cut, touched Diana's cheek. "I
don't know how I can! But, Di--if I can get a furlough at Christmas and
come for you--will you be ready then?"

She whispered, "Yes."

"That is, supposing I am in any place that I can take you to," he went
on, after a hearty endorsement of the contract just made. "It is quite
possible I may not be! But I won't borrow trouble. This is the first
trouble I ever had in my life, Di, leaving you."

"They say prosperity makes people proud," she said, with an arch glance
at him.

"'Proud?" echoed Knowlton. "Yes, I _am_ proud. I have a right to be
proud. I do not think, Diana, there is such a pearl in all the waters
of Arabia as I shall wear on my hand. I do not believe there is a rose
to equal you in all the gardens of the world. Look up, my beauty, and
let me see you. I sha'n't have the chance pretty soon."

And yielding to the light touch of his fingers under her chin,
caressing and persuading, Diana's face was lifted to view. It was like
a pearl, for the childlike purity of all its lines; it was like enough
a rose, too; like an opening rose, for the matter of that. Her thoughts
went back to the elegance of Mrs. Reverdy and Gertrude Masters, and she
wondered in herself at Mr. Knowlton's judgment of her; but there was
too much of Diana ever to depreciate herself unworthily. She said
nothing.

"I wonder what will become you best?" said Evan in a very satisfied
tone.

"Become me?" said Diana lifting her eyes.

"Yes. What's your colour?"

"I am sure I don't know," said Diana, laughing. "No one in particular,
I guess."

"Wear everything, can you? I shouldn't wonder! But I think I should
like you in white. That's cold for winter--in some regions. I think I
should like you in--let me see--show me your eyes again, Diana. If you
wear so much rose in your cheeks, my darling," said he, kissing first
one and then the other, "I should be safe to get you green. You will be
lovely in blue. But of all, _except_ white, I think I should like you,
Diana, in royal red."

"I thought purple was the colour of kings and queens," Diana remarked,
trying to get back to her berries.

"Purple is poetical. I am certain a dark, rich red would be magnificent
on you; for it is you who will beautify the colour, not the colour you.
I shall get you the first stuff of that colour I see that is of the
right hue."

"Pray don't, Evan. Wait," said Diana, flushing more and more.

"Wait? I'll not wait a minute longer than till I see it. My beauty!
what a delight to get things for you--and with you! Officers' quarters
are sorry places sometimes, Diana; but won't it be fun for you and me
to work transformations, and make our own world; that is our own home?
What does Mrs. Starling think of me?"

"I have told her nothing, Evan, yet. She was so busy this morning, I
had not a good chance."

"I'll confront her when she comes home this evening."

"O no, Evan; leave it to me; I want to take a _good_ time. She will not
like it much anyhow."

"I don't see really how she should. I have sympathy--no, I haven't! I
haven't a bit. I am so full of my own side of the question, it is sheer
hypocrisy to pretend I have any feeling for anybody else. When will you
come down to Elmfield?"

"To Elmfield?" said Diana.

"To begin to learn to know them all. I want them to know you."

"You have not spoken to them about me?"

"No," said he, laughing; "but I mean to."

"Evan, don't say anything to anybody till mother has been told. Promise
me! That would not do."

"All's safe yet, Di. But make haste with your revelations; for I shall
be here to-morrow night and every night now, and astonish her; and it
isn't healthy for some people to be astonished. Besides, Di, my orders
will be here in a week or two; and then I must go."

"Do you like being under orders?" said Diana innocently.

Knowlton's grave face changed again; and laughing, he asked if _she_
did not like it? and how she would do when she would be a soldier's
wife, and so under _double_ orders? And he got into such a game of
merriment, at her and with her, that Diana did not know what to do with
herself or her berries either. How the berries got attended to is a
mystery; but it shows that the action of the mind can grow mechanical
where it has been very much exercised. It can scarce be said that Diana
thought of the blackberries; and yet, the jam was made and the wine
prepared for in a most regular and faultless manner; the jars were
filled duly, and nothing was burned, and all was done and cleared away
before Mrs. Starling came home. Literally; for Mr. Knowlton had been
sent away, and Diana had gone up to the sanctuary of her own room. She
did not wish to encounter her mother that night. While the dew was not
yet off her flowers, she would smell their sweetness alone.



CHAPTER XI.



A STORM IN SEPTEMBER.



Diana was not put to the trial next day of venturing her precious
things to harsh handling. A very uncommon thing happened. Mrs. Starling
was not well, and kept her bed.

She had caught cold, she confessed, by some imprudence the day before;
and symptoms of pleurisy made it impossible that she should fight
sickness as she liked to fight it, on foot. The doctor was not to be
thought of; Mrs. Starling gave her best and only confidence to her own
skill; but even that bade her lie by and "give up."

Diana had the whole house on her hands, as well as the nursing. Truth
to tell, this last was not much. Mrs. Starling would have very little
of her daughter's presence; still less of her ministrations. To be "let
alone" was her principal demand, and that Diana should "keep things
straight below." Diana did that. The house went on as well as ever; and
even the farm affairs received the needful supervision. Josiah Davis
was duly ordered, fed, and dismissed; and when evening came, Diana was
dressed in order, bright, and ready for company. Company it pleased her
to receive in the lean-to kitchen; the sound of voices and laughter
beneath her would have roused Mrs. Starling to a degree of excitement
from which it would have been impossible to keep back anything; and
probably to a degree of consequent indignation which would have been
capable of very informal measures of ejectment regarding the intruder.
No; Diana could not risk that. She must wait till her mother's nerves
and temper were at least in their ordinary state of wholesome calm,
before she would shock them by the disclosures she had to make. And
almost by their preciousness to herself, Diana gauged their
unwelcomeness to her mother. It was always so. The two natures were so
unlike, that not even the long habit of years could draw them into
sympathy. They thought alike about nothing except the housewifely
matters of practical life. So these evenings when Mrs. Starling was
ill, Diana had her lamp and her fire in the lean-to kitchen; and there
were held the long talks with Mr. Knowlton which made all the days of
September so golden,--days when Diana's hands were too busy to let her
see him, and he was told he must not come except at night; but through
all the business streamed the radiant glow of the last night's talk,
like the September sunlight through the misty air.

So the days went by; and Mrs. Starling was kept a prisoner; pain and
weakness warning her she must not dare try anything else. And in their
engrossment the two young people hardly noticed how the time flew.
People in Pleasant Valley were not in the habit of paying visits to one
another in the evenings, unless specially invited; so nobody discovered
that Evan came nightly to Mrs. Starling's house; and if his own people
wondered at his absence from home, they could do no more. Suspicion had
no ground to go upon in any particular direction.

The month had been glorious with golden leaves and golden sunshine,
until the middle was more than past. Then came a September storm; an
equinoctial, the people said; as furious as the preceding days had been
gentle. Whirlwinds of tempest, and floods of rain; legions of clouds,
rank after rank, bringing the winds in their folds; or did the winds
bring them? All one day and night and all the next day, the storm
continued; and night darkened early upon Pleasant Valley with no
prospect of a change. Diana had watched for it a little eagerly; Evan's
visit was lost the night before, of course; it was much to lose, when
September days were growing few; and now another night he could not
come. Diana stood at the lean-to door after supper, looking and making
her conclusions sorrowfully. It was darkening fast; very dark it would
be, for there was no moon. The rain came down in streams, thick and
grey. The branches of the elm trees swung and swayed pitilessly in the
wind, beating against each other; while the wind whistled and shouted
its intention of keeping on so all night. "He can't come," sighed Diana
for the fifth or sixth time to herself; and she shut the door. It could
be borne, however, to lose two evenings, when they had enjoyed so many
together, and had so many more to look forward to; and with that
mixture in her heart of content and longing, which everybody knows,
Diana trimmed her lamp and sat down to sew. How the wind roared! She
must trim her fire too, or the room would be full of smoke. She made
the fire up; and then the snare of its leaping flames and glowing coal
bed drew her from her work; she sat looking and thinking, in a fulness
of happiness to which all the roar of the storm only served for a foil.
She heard the drip, drip of the rain; the fast-running stream from the
overcharged eaves trough; then the thunder of the wind sweeping over
the house in a great gust; and the whistle of the elm branches as they
swung through the air like tremendous lithe switches, beating and
writhing and straining in the fury of the blast. Looking into the
clear, glowing flames, Diana heard it all, with a certain sense of
enjoyment; when in the midst of it she heard another sound, a little
thing, but distinguishable from all the rest; the sound of a foot upon
the little stone before the door. Only one foot it could be in the
world; Diana started up, and was standing with lips apart, facing the
door, when it opened, and a man came in enveloped in a huge cloak,
dripping at every point.

"Evan!" Diana's exclamation was, with an utterance between joy and
dread.

"Yes," said he as he came forward into the room,--"I've got orders."

Without another word she helped relieve him of his cloak and went with
it to the outer kitchen, where she hung it carefully to dry. As she
came back, Evan was standing in front of the fire, looking gravely into
it. The light danced and gleamed upon the gold buttons on his breast,
and touched the gold bands on his shoulders; it was a very stately and
graceful figure to Diana's eyes. He turned a little, took her into his
arms, and then they both stood silent and still.

"I've got my orders," Knowlton repeated in a low tone.

"To go soon, Evan?"

"Immediately."

"I knew it, when I heard your foot at the door."

They were both still again, while the storm swept over the house in a
fresh burst, the wind rushing by as if it was glad he was going and
meant he should. Perhaps the two did not hear it; but I think Diana
did. The rain poured down in a kind of fury.

"How could you get here, Evan?" she asked, looking up at him.

"I must, I had only to-night."

"You are not _wet?_"

"No, darling! Rain is nothing to me. How are you? and how is your
mother?"

"She is better. She is getting well."

"And you? You are most like a magnolia tree, full of its white
magnificent blossoms; sweet in a kind of wealth of sweetness and
bountiful beauty. One blossom would do for a comparison for ordinary
women; but you are like the whole tree."

"Suppose I were to find comparisons for you?"

"Ay, suppose you did. What would you liken me to?" said he with a
sparkle of the eyes, which quite indisposed Diana from giving any more
fuel to the fire that supplied it.

"What, Di? You might as well give me all the comfort you can to take
away with me. I shall need it. And it will be long before I can come
back for more. What am I like?"

"Would you feel any better for thinking yourself like a pine tree? or a
green hemlock? one of those up in our ravine of the brook?"

"Ah, our ravine of the brook! Those days are all gone. I wish I were a
green hemlock anywhere, with you a magnolia beside me; or better, a
climbing rose hanging upon me! If I could take you, Di!"

The pang of the wish was very keen in her; the leap of the will towards
impossibilities; but she said nothing and stood quite motionless.

"I cannot come back for you at Christmas, Di."

"Where are you going, Evan."

"Where I would not take you, anyhow. I am under orders to report myself
at a post away off on the Indian frontier, a long journey from here;
and a rough, wild place never fit for such as you. Of course we young
officers are the ones to be sent to such places; unless we happen to
have influence at headquarters, which I haven't. But I shall not stay
there for ever."

"Must you go just where they send you?"

"Yes," he said with a laugh. "A soldier cannot choose."

"Must you stay as long as they keep you there?"

"Yes, of course. But there is no use in looking at it gloomily, Di. The
months will pass, give them time; and years are made of months. The
good time will come at last. I'm not the first who has had to bear this
sort of thing."

"Will you have to stay _years_ there?"

"Can't tell. I may. It depends on what is doing, and how much I am
wanted. Probably I may have to stay two years at least; perhaps three."

"But you can get a furlough and come for a little while, Evan?" said
Diana; her voice sounded frightened.

"That's the worst of it!" said Knowlton. "I don't know whether I can or
not."

"Why, Evan? don't they always?"

"Generally it can be done if the distance is not too great, and you are
not too useful. You see, there are seldom too _many_ officers on hand,
at those out-of-the-way posts."

"Is there so much to do?" said Diana, half mechanically. Her thoughts
were going farther; for grant the facts, what did the reasons matter?

"There's a good deal to do sometimes," Evan answered in the same way,
thinking of more than he chose to speak. They stood silent again
awhile. Diana was clasped in Knowlton's arms; her cheek rested on his
shoulder; they both looked to the fire for consolation. Snapping,
sparkling, glowing, as it has done in the face of so many of our
sorrows, small and great, is there no consolation or suggestion to be
got out of it? Perhaps from it came the suggestion at last that they
should sit down. Evan brought a chair for Diana and placed one for
himself close beside it, and they sat down, holding fast each other's
hands.

Was it also the counsel of the fire that they should sit there all
night? For it was what they did. The fire burned gloriously; the lamp
went out; the red lights leaped and flickered all over floor and
ceiling; and in front of the blaze sat the two, and talked; enough to
last two years, you and I might say; but alas! to them it was but a
whetting of the appetite that was to undergo such famine.

"If I could only take you with me, my darling!" Evan said for the
twentieth time. And Diana was silent at first; then she said,

"It would be pleasant to go through hardships together."

"No, it wouldn't!" said Evan. "Not hardships for you, my beauty! They
are all very well for me; in a soldier's line; but not for you!"

"A soldier's wife ought not to be altogether unworthy of him," Diana
answered.

"Nor he of her. So I wouldn't take you if I could where I am going. A
soldier's wife will have hardships enough, first and last, no fear; but
some places are not fit for women anyhow. I wish I could have seen Mrs.
Starling, though, and had it out with her."

"Had it out!" repeated Diana.

"Yes. I should have a little bit of a fight, shouldn't I? She _don't_
like me much. I wonder why?"

"Evan," said Diana after a minute's thought, "if you are to be so long
away, there is no need to speak to anybody about our affair just now.
It is our affair; let it stay so. It is our secret. I should like it
much better to keep it a secret. I don't want to hear people's talk.
Will you?"

"But our letters, my dear; they will tell your mother."

"Mother will not see mine. And she is not likely to see yours; I shall
go to the post office myself. If she did, and found it out, I could
keep _her_ quiet easily enough. She would not want to speak, any more
than I."

Evan combated this resolution for some time. He wished to have Diana
friends with his sisters and at home at Elmfield. But Diana had her own
views, and desired so strongly to keep her secret to herself, during
the first part at least of what threatened to be a long engagement,
that at last he yielded. It did not matter much to him, he said, away
off in the wilds.

So that subject was dismissed; and before the fantasia of the flames
they sat and composed a fantasia of life for themselves; as bright, as
various, as bewitching, as evanishing; the visions of which were
mingled with the leaping and changing purple and flame tints, the
sparkle and the flash of the fire. Diana could never stand before a
fire of hickory logs and fail to see her life-story reappear as she had
seen it that night.

The hours went by.

"It's too bad to keep you up so, my darling!" Evan remarked. "I am
selfish."

"No indeed! But you must want something, Evan! I had forgotten all
about it."

He said he wanted nothing, but her; however, Diana's energies were
roused. She ran into the back kitchen, and came from thence with the
tea-kettle in her hands, filled. She was not allowed to set it down, to
be sure, but under her directions it was bestowed in front of the
glowing coals. Then, with noiseless, rapid movements, she brought a
little table to the hearth and fetched cups and plates. And then she
spread the board. There was a cold ham on the big table; and round
white slices of bread, such as cities never see; and cake, light and
fruity; and yellow butter; and a cream pie, another dainty that
confectioners are innocent of; and presently the fragrance of coffee
filled the old lean-to to the very roof. Evan laughed at her, but
confessed himself hungry, and Diana had it all her own way. For once,
this rare once, she would have the pleasure, she and Evan alone; many a
day would come and go before she might have it again. So she thought as
she poured coffee upon the cream in his cup. And whether the pleasure
or the pain were the keenest even then, I cannot tell; but it was one
of those minutes when one chooses the pleasure, and will have it and
will taste it, whatever lies at the bottom of the draught. The small
hours of night, the fire-lit kitchen, the daintily-spread table, she
and Evan at opposite sides of it; the pleasure of ministering, such as
every woman knows; the beauty of her bread, the magnificence of her
coffee, the perfection of her cookery, the exultation of seeing him
enjoy it; while her heart was storing up its treasure of sorrow for the
unfolding by and by, and knew it, and covered it up, and went on
enjoying the minute. The criticism is sometimes made upon a writer here
and there, that he talks too much about _eating;_ and in a
high-finished and artificial state of society it is indeed true that
eating is eating, and nothing more. Servants prepare the viands, and
servants bring them; and the result is more or less agreeable and
satisfactory, but can hardly be said to have much of poetry or
sentiment about it. The case is not so with humbler livers on the
earth's surface. Sympathy and affection and tender ministry are wrought
into the very pie-crust, and glow in the brown loaves as they come out
of the oven; and are specially seen in the shortcake for tea, and the
favourite dish at dinner, and the unexpected dumpling. Among the
working classes, too,--it is true only of them?--the meals are the
breathing spaces of humanity, the resting spots, where the members of
the household come together to see each other's faces for a moment at
leisure, and to confer over matters of common interest that have no
chance in the rush and the whirl of the hours of toil. At any rate, I
know there was much more than the mere taste of the coffee in the cups
that Diana filled and Knowlton emptied; much more than the supply of
bodily want in the bread they eat.

The repast was prolonged and varied with very much talk; but it was
done at last. The kettle was set on one side, the table pushed back,
and Evan looked at his watch. Still talk went on quietly for a good
while longer.

"At what hour does your chief of staff open his barn doors?" said Evan,
looking at his watch again.

"Early," said Diana, not showing the heart-thrust the question had
given her. "Not till it is light, though."

"It will be desirable that I should get off before light, then. It is
not best to astonish him on this occasion."

"It is not near light yet, Evan?"

He laughed, and looked at her. "Do you know, I don't know when that
moment comes? I have not seen it once since I have been at Elmfield. It
shows how little truth there is in the theories of education."

Diana did not ask what he meant. She went to the door and looked out.
It was profoundly dark yet. It was also still. The rain was not
falling; the wind had ceased; hush and darkness were abroad. She came
back to the fire and asked what o'clock it was. Evan looked. They had
an hour yet; but it was an hour they could make little use of. The
night was gone. They stood side by side on the hearth, Evan's arm round
her; now and then repeating something which had been already spoken of;
really endeavouring to make the most of the mere fact of being
together. But the minutes went too fast. Again and again Diana went to
the window; the second time saw, with that nameless pang at her heart,
that the eastern horizon was taking the grey, grave light of coming
dawn. Mr. Knowlton went out then presently, saddled his horse, and
brought him out to the fence, all ready. For a few minutes they waited
yet, and watched the grey light creeping up; then, before anything was
clearly discernible through the dusky gloom, the last farewell was
taken; Evan mounted and walked his horse softly away from the door.



CHAPTER XII.



THE ASHES OF THE FIRE.



Diana sat down with her face in her hands, and was still. She felt like
a person stunned. It was very still all around her. The fire gently
breathed and snapped; the living presence that had been there was gone.
A great feeling of loneliness smote her. But there was leisure for few
tears just then; and too high-wrought a state of the nerves to seek
much indulgence in them. A little while, and Josiah would be there with
his pails of milk; there was something to be done first.

And quick, as another look from the window assured her. Things were
becoming visible out of doors. Diana roused herself, though every
movement had to be with pain, and went about her work. It was hard to
move the chair in which Evan had been sitting; it was hard to move the
table around which they had been so happy; even that little trace of
last night could not be kept. Evan's cup, Evan's plate, the bit of
bread he had left on it, Diana's fingers were dilatory and unwilling in
dealing with them. But then she roused herself and dallied no longer.
Table and cups and eatables were safely removed; the kitchen brushed
up, and the table set for breakfast: the fire made in the outer stove,
and the kettle put on; though the touch of the kettle hurt her fingers,
remembering when she had touched it last. Every tell-tale circumstance
was put out of the way, and the night of watching locked up among the
most precious stores of Diana's memory. She opened the lean-to door
then.

The morning was rising fair. Clouds and wind had wearied themselves
out, as it might be; and nature was in a great hush. Racks of vapour
were scattered overhead, slowly moving away in some current of air that
carried them; but below there was not a breath stirring. A little drip,
drip from the leaves only told how heavily they had been surcharged;
the long pendent branches of the elm hung moveless, as if they were
resting after last night's thrashing about. And as Diana looked, the
touches of gold began to come upon the hills and then on the tree-tops.
It was lovely and fair as ever; but to Diana it was a changed world.
She was not the same, and nothing would ever be just the same as
yesterday it had been. She felt that, as she looked. She had lost and
she had gained. Just now the loss came keenest. The world seemed
singularly empty. The noise of entering feet behind her brought her
back to common life. It was Josiah and the milk pails.

"Hain't set up all night, hev' ye?" was Josiah's startling remark. "I
vow! you get the start of the old lady herself. I b'ain't ready for
breakfast yet, if you be."

"It will be ready soon, Josiah."

"Mornin's is gettin' short," Josiah went on. "One o' them pesky barn
doors got loose in the night, and it's beat itself 'most off the
hinges, I guess. I must see and get it fixed afore Mis' Starlin's
round, or she'll be hoppin'. The wind was enough to take the ruff off,
but how it could lift that 'ere heavy latch, I don't see."

Diana went to the dairy without any discussion of the subject. Coming
back to the kitchen, she was equally startled and dismayed to see her
mother entering by the inner door. If there was one thing Diana longed
for this morning, it was, to be alone. Josiah and the farm boys were
hardly a hindrance. She had thought her mother could not be.

"Are you fit to be down-stairs, mother?" she exclaimed.

"Might as well be down as up," said Mrs. Starling. "Can't get well
lying in bed. I'm tired to death with it all these days; and last night
I couldn't sleep half the night; seemed to me I heard all sorts of
noises. If I'd had a light I'd ha' got up then. I thought the house was
coming down about my ears; and if it was, I'd rather be up to see."

"The wind blew so."

"You heard it too, did you? When did you come down, Diana? I hain't
heard the first sound of your door. 'Twarn't light, was it?"

"I have been up a good while. But you are not fit to do the least
thing, mother. I was going to bring you your breakfast."

"If there's a thing I hate, it's to have my meals in bed. I don't want
anything, to begin with; and I can take it better here. What have you
got, Diana? You may make me a cup of tea. I don't feel as though I
could touch coffee. What's the use o' _your_ gettin' up so early?"

"I've all to do, you know, mother."

"No use in burning wood and lights half the night, though. The day's
long enough. When did you bake?"

Diana answered this and several other similar household questions, and
got her mother a cup of tea. But though it was accompanied with a nice
bit of toast, Mrs. Starling looked with a dissatisfied air at the more
substantial breakfast her daughter was setting on the table.

"I never could eat slops. Diana, you may give me some o' that pork. And
a potato."

"Mother, I do not believe it is good for you."

"Good for me? And I have eat it all my life."

"But when you were well."

"I'm well enough. Put some of the gravy on, Diana. I'll never get my
strength back on toasted chips."

The men came in, and Mrs. Starling held an animated dialogue with her
factotum about farm affairs; while Diana sat behind her big
coffee-pot--not the one she had used last night, and wondered if that
was all a dream; more sadly, if she should ever dream again. And why
her mother could not have staid in her room one day more. One day
more!--

"He hain't begun to get his ploughing ahead," said Mrs. Starling, as
the door closed on the delinquent.

"What, mother?" Diana asked, starting.

"Ploughing. You haven't kept things a-going, as I see," returned her
mother. "Josiah's all behind, as usual. If I could be a man half the
time, I could get on. He ought to have had the whole west field
ploughed, while I've been sick."

"I don't know so much about it as you do, mother."

"I know you don't. You have too much readin' to do. There's a pane of
glass broken in that window, Diana."

"Yes, mother. I know it."

"How did it come?"

"I don't know."

"You'll never get along, Diana, till you know everything that happens
in your house. You aren't fit anyhow to be a poor woman. If you're
rich, why you can get a new pane of glass, and there's the end of it.
I'm not so rich as all that comes to."

"Getting a pane of glass, mother?"

"Without knowing what for."

"But how does it help the matter to know what for? The glass must be
got anyway."

"If you know what for, it won't be to do another time. You'll find a
way to stop it. I'll warrant, now, Diana, you haven't had the ashes
cleared out of that stove for a week."

"Why, mother?"

"It smokes. It always does smoke when it gets full of ashes; and it
never smokes when it ain't."

"There is no smoke _here_, surely."

"I smell it. I can smell anything there is about. I don't know whatever
there was in the house last night that smelled like coffee; but I
a'most thought there was somebody makin' it down-stairs. I smelled it
as plain as could be. If I could ha' got into my shoes, I believe I
would ha' come down to see, just to get rid of the notion, it worried
me so. It beats me now, what it could ha' been."

Diana turned away with the cups she had been wiping, that she might not
show her face.

"Don't you never have your ashes took up, Diana?" cried Mrs. Starling,
who, when much exercised on household matters, sometimes forgot her
grammar.

"Yes, mother."

"When did you have 'em took up in this chimney?"

"I do not remember--yesterday, I guess," said Diana vaguely.

"You never burnt all the ashes there is there since yesterday morning.
You'd have had to sit up all night to do it; and burn a good lot o'
wood on your fire, too."

"Mother," exclaimed Diana in desperation, "I don't suppose everything
is just as it would be if you'd been round all these days."

"I guess it ain't," said Mrs. Starling. "There's where you are wanting,
Diana. Your hands are good enough, but I wouldn't give much for your
eyes. There's where you'd grow poor, if you weren't poor a'ready. Now
you didn't know when that pane o' glass was broke. You'd go round and
round, and a pane o' glass'd knock out here, and a quart of oil 'ud
leak out there, and you'd lose a pound of flour between the sieve and
the barrel, and you'd never know how or where."

"Mother," said Diana, "you know I _never_ spill flour or anything else;
no more than you do."

"No, but it would go, I mean, and you never the wiser. It ain't the way
to get along, unless you mean to marry a rich man. Now look at that
heap o' ashes! I declare, it beats me to know what you _have_ been
doing to burn so much wood here; and mild weather, too. Who has been
here to see you, since I've been laid up?"

"Several people came to ask about you."

"Who did? and who didn't? that came at all."

"Joe Bartlett--and Mr. Masters--and Mrs. Delamater,--I can't tell you
all, mother; there's been a good many."

"Tell me the men that have been here.

"Well, those I said; and Will Flandin, and Nick, and Mr. Knowlton."

"Was _he_ here more than once?"

"Yes."

"How much more?"

"Mother, how do I know? I didn't keep count."

"Didn't keep count, eh?" Mrs. Starling repeated. "Must have been
frequent company, I judge. Diana, you mind what I told you?"

Diana made no answer.

"You shall have nothing to do with him," Mrs. Starling went on. "You
never shall. You sha'n't take up with any one that holds himself above
me. I'll be glad when his time's up; and I hope it'll be long before
he'll have another. Once he gets away, he'll think no more of _you_,
that's one comfort."

Diana knew that was not true; but it hurt her to have it said. She
could stand no more of her mother's talk; she left her and went off to
the dairy, till Mrs. Starling crept up-stairs again. Then Diana came
and opened the lean-to door and looked out for a breath of refreshment.
The morning was going on its way in beauty. Little clouds drifted over
the deep blue sky; the mellow September light lay on fields and hills;
the long branches of the elm swayed gently to and fro in the gentle air
that drove the clouds. But oh for the wind and the storm of last night,
and the figure that stood beside her before the chimney fire! The
gladsome light seemed to mock her, and the soft breeze gave her touches
of pain. She shut the door and went back to her work.



CHAPTER XIII.



FROM THE POST OFFICE.



Mrs. Starling's room was like her; for use, and not for show, with some
points of pride, and a general air of humble thrift. A patchwork quilt
on the bed; curtains and valance of chintz; a rag carpet covering only
part of the floor, the rest scrubbed clean; rush-bottomed chairs; and
with those a secretary bureau of old mahogany, a dressing-glass in a
dark carved frame, and a large oaken press. There were corner
cupboards; a table holding work and work-basket; a spinning-wheel in a
corner; a little iron stove, but no fire. Mrs. Starling lay down on her
bed, simply because she was not able to sit up any longer; but she was
scarcely less busy, in truth, than she had been down-stairs. Her eyes
roamed restlessly from the door to the window, though with never a
thought of the sweet September sunlight on the brilliant blue sky.

"Diana's queer this morning," she mused. "Yes, she was queer. What made
her so mum? She was not like herself. Sailing round with her head in
the clouds. And a little bit _blue_, too; what Diana never is; but she
was to-day. What's up? I've been lying here long enough for plenty of
things to happen; and she's had the house to herself. Knowlton has been
here--she owned that; well, either he has been here too often, or not
often enough. I'll find out which. She's thinkin' about him. Then that
coffee--_was_ it coffee, last night? I could have sworn to it; just the
smell of fresh, steaming coffee. I didn't dream it. She wasn't
surprised, either; she had nothing to say about it. She would have
laughed at it once. And the ashes in the chimney! There's been a sight
o' wood burned there, and just burned, too; they lay light, and hadn't
been swep' up. There's mischief! but Diana never shall go off with that
young feller; never; never! Maybe she won't have Will Flandin; but she
sha'n't have him."

Mrs. Starling lay thinking and staring out of her window, till she felt
she could go down-stairs again. And then she watched. But Diana had put
every possible tell-tale circumstance out of the way. The very ashes
were no longer where her mother could speculate upon them; pies and
cakes showed no more suspiciously-cut halves or quarters; she had even
been out to the barn, and found that Josiah, for reasons of his own,
was making the door-latch and hinges firm and fast. It was no time now,
to tell her mother her secret. Her heart was too sore to brave the
rasping speech she would be certain to provoke. And with a widely
different feeling, it was too rich in its prize to drag the treasure
forth before scornful eyes. For this was part of Diana's experience,
she found; and the feeling grew, the feeling of being rich in her
secret possession; rich as she never had been before; perhaps the
richer for the secresy. It was all hers, this beautiful, wonderful love
that had come to her; this share in another person's heart and life;
her own wholly; no one might intermeddle with her joy; she treasured it
and gloated over it in the depths of her glad consciousness.

And so, as the days went by, there was no change that her mother could
see in the sweet lines of her daughter's face. Nothing less sweet than
usual; nothing less bright and free; if the eyes had a deeper depth at
times, it was not for Mrs. Starling to penetrate; and if the childlike
play of the mouth had a curve of beauty that had never until then
belonged to it, the archetype of such a sign did not lie in Mrs.
Starling's nature. Yet once or twice a jealous movement of suspicion
did rise in her, only because Diana seemed so happy. She reasoned with
herself immediately that Evan's absence could never have such an
effect, if her fears were true; and that the happiness must therefore
be referred to some purely innocent cause. Nevertheless, Mrs. Starling
watched. For she was pretty sure that the young soldier had pushed his
advances while he had been in Pleasant Valley; and he might push them
still, though there no longer. She would guard what could be guarded.
She watched both Diana and other people, and kept an especial eye upon
all that came from the post office.

Evan had gone to a distant frontier post; the journey would take some
time; and it would be several days more still, in the natural course of
things, before Diana could have a letter. Diana reasoned out all that,
and was not anxious. For the present, the pleasure of expecting was
enough. A letter from _him;_ it was a fairylandish, weird, wonderful
pleasure, to come to her. She took to studying the newspaper, and,
covertly, the map. From the map she gained a little knowledge; but the
columns of the paper were barren of all allusion to the matter which
was her world, and Evan's. Newspapers are very partial sometimes. She
was afraid to let her mother see how eagerly she scanned them. The map
and Diana had secret and more satisfactory consultations. Measuring the
probable route of Evan's journey by the scale of miles; calculating the
rate of progress by different modes of travel; counting the nights, and
places where he might spend them; she reckoned up over and over again
the days that were probably necessary to enable him to reach his post.
Then she allowed margins for what she did not know, and accounted for
the blanks she could not fill up; and reasoned with herself about the
engrossments which might on his first arrival hinder Evan from
writing--for a few hours, or a night. So at last she had constructed a
scheme by which she proved to herself the earliest day at which it
would do to look for a letter, and the latest to which a letter might
reasonably be delayed. Women do such things. How many men are worthy of
it?

That farthest limit was reached, and no letter yet.

About that time, one morning the family at Elmfield were gathered at
breakfast. It was not exactly like any other breakfast table in
Pleasant Valley, for a certain drift from the great waves of the world
had reached it; whereas the others were clean from any such contact.
The first and the third generation were represented at the table; the
second was wanting; the old gentleman, the head of the family, was
surrounded by only his grand-daughters. Now old Mr. Bowdoin was as
simple and plain-hearted a man as all his country neighbours, if
somewhat richer than most of them; he had wrought at the same labour,
and grown up with the same associations. He was not more respectable
than respected; generous, honest, and kindly. But the young ladies, his
grandchildren, Evan's sisters, were different. They came to spend the
summer with him, and they brought fancies and notions from their
far-away city life, which made a somewhat incongruous mixture with the
elemental simplicity of their grandfather's house. All this appeared
now. The old farmer's plain strong features, his homespun dress and his
bowl of milk, were at one end of the table, where he presided heartily
over the fried ham and eggs. Look where you would beside, and you saw
ruffled chintzes and little fly-away breakfast-caps, and fingers with
jewels on them. Miss Euphemia had her tresses of long hair unbound and
unbraided, hanging down her back in a style that to her grandfather
savoured of barbarism; he could not be made to understand that it was a
token of the highest elegance. For these ladies there was some attempt
at elaborate and dainty cookery, signified by sweetbreads and a puffed
omelette; and Mrs. Reverdy presided over a coffee-pot that was the
wonder of the Elmfield household, and even a little matter of pride to
the old squire himself; though he covered it with laughing at her mimic
fires and doubtful steam engines. Gertrude Masters was still at
Elmfield, the only one left of a tribe of visitors who had made the old
place gay through the summer.

"I have had an invitation," said Mrs. Reverdy as she sent her
grandfather his cup of coffee. And she laughed. I wish I could give the
impression of this little laugh of hers, which, in company, was the
attendant of most of her speeches. A little gracious laugh, with a
funny air as if she were condescending, either to her subject or
herself, and amused at it.

"What is it, Vevay? what invitation?" inquired her sister; while
Gertrude tossed her mass of tresses from her neck, and looked as if
nothing at Pleasant Valley concerned _her_.

"An invitation to the sewing society!" said Mrs. Reverdy. "We are all
asked." And the laugh grew very amused indeed.

"What do they do?" inquired Gertrude absently.

"O, they bring their knitting at two or three o'clock,--and have a good
time to tell all the news till five or six; and then they have supper,
and then they put up their knitting and go home."

"What news can they have to tell at Pleasant Valley?"

"Whose hay is in first, and whose orchard will yield the most cider,"
said Euphemia.

"Yes; and how all their children are, and how many eggs go in a
pudding."

"I don't believe they make puddings with eggs very often," said the
other sister again. "Their puddings are more like hasty puddings, I
fancy."

"Some of 'em make pretty good things," said old Mr. Bowdoin. "Things
you can't beat, Phemie. There's Mrs. Mansfield--she's a capital
housekeeper; and Mrs. Starling. _She_ can cook."

"What do they expect you to do at the sewing meeting, Vevay?"

"Show myself, I suppose," said Mrs. Reverdy.

"Well, I guess I'd go," said her grandfather, looking at her. "It would
be as good a thing as you could do."

"Go, grandpa? O, how ridiculous!" exclaimed Mrs. Reverdy, with her
pretty face all wrinkled up with amusement.

"Go? yes. Why not?"

"I don't know how to knit; and I shouldn't know how to talk orchards
and puddings."

"I think you had better go. It is not a knitting society, as I
understand it; and I am sure you can be useful."

"Useful!" echoed Mrs. Reverdy. "It's the last thing I know how to be.
And I don't belong to the society, grandpa."

"I shouldn't like them to think that," said the old gentleman. "You
belong to me; and I belong to them, my dear."

"Isn't it dreadful!" said Mrs. Reverdy in a low aside. "Now he's got
this in his head--whatever am I going to do?--Suppose I invite them all
to Elmfield; how would you like that, sir?" she added aloud.

"Yes, my dear, yes," said the old gentleman, pushing back his chair;
for the cup of coffee was the last part of his breakfast; "it would be
well done, and I should be glad of it. Ask 'em all."

"You are in for it now, Vevay," said Gertrude, when the ladies were
left. "How will you manage?"

"O, I'll give them a grand entertainment and send them away delighted,"
said Mrs. Reverdy. "You see, grandpa wishes it; and I think it'll be
fun."

"Do you suppose Evan really paid attentions to that pretty girl we saw
at the blackberrying?"

"I don't know," Mrs. Reverdy answered. "He told me nothing about it. I
should think Evan was crazy to do it; but men do crazy things. However,
I don't believe it of him, Gerty. What nonsense!"

"I can find out, if she comes," said Miss Masters. "You'll ask her,
Genevieve?"

So it fell out that an invitation to hold the next meeting of the
sewing society at Elmfield was sent to the ladies accustomed to be at
such meetings; and a great stir of expectation in consequence went
through all Pleasant Valley. For Elmfield, whether they acknowledged it
or not, was at the top of their social tree. The invitation came in due
course to Mrs. Starling's house.

It came not alone. Josiah brought it one evening on his return from the
Corners, where the store and the post office were, and Mrs. Reverdy's
messenger had fallen in with him and intrusted to him the note for Mrs.
Starling. He handed it out now, and with it a letter of more bulk and
pretensions, having a double stamp and an unknown postmark. Mrs.
Starling received both and Josiah's explanations in silence, for her
mind was very busy. Curious as she was to know upon what subject Mrs.
Reverdy could possibly have written to her, she lingered yet with her
eyes upon this other letter. It was directed to "Miss D. Starling."

"That's a man's hand," said Mrs. Starling to herself. "He's had the
assurance to go and write to her, I do believe!"

She stood looking at it, doubtful, suspicious, uneasy; then turned into
the dairy for fear Diana might surprise her, while she opened Mrs.
Reverdy's note. She had a vague idea that both epistles might relate to
the same subject. But this one was innocent enough, at least. Hiding
the large letter in her bosom, she came back and gave the invitation to
Diana, whose foot she had heard.

"At Elmfield! What an odd thing! Will you go, mother?"

"I always go, don't I? What's the reason I shouldn't go now?"

"I didn't know whether you would like to go there."

"What if I don't? No, I don't care particularly about goin' to
Elmfield; they're a kind o' stuck up folks; but I'll go to let them see
that I ain't."

There was silence for a little; then Mrs. Starling broke it by
inquiring if Diana had finished her chintz gown. Diana had.

"I'd wear it, if I was you."

"Why, mother?"

"Let 'em see that other folks can dress as well as them."

"O, mother, my dresses are nothing alongside of theirs."

"What's the reason they ain't?" inquired Mrs. Starling, looking
incredulous.

"Their things are beautiful, mother; more costly a great deal; and
fashionable. We can't make things so in Pleasant Valley. We don't know
how."

"I don't see any sense in that," rejoined Mrs. Starling. "One fashion's
as good as another. Anyhow, there's better-lookin' folks in Pleasant
Valley than ever called themselves Bowdoin, or Knowlton either. So be
as smart as you can, Diana. I guess you needn't be ashamed of yourself."

Diana thought of nothing less. Indeed she thought little about her
appearance. While she was putting on her bright chintz dress, there was
perhaps a movement of desire that she might seem pleasant in the eyes
of Evan's people--something that _he_ need not be ashamed of; but her
heart was too full of richer thoughts to have much room for such as
these. For Evan had chosen her; Evan loved her; the secret bond between
them nothing on earth could undo; and any day now that first letter of
his might arrive, which her eyes were bright only to think of looking
upon. Poor Diana! that letter was jammed up within the bones of Mrs.
Starling's stays.



CHAPTER XIV.



A MEETING AT ELMFIELD.



It was one of the royal days of a New England autumn; the air clear and
bracing and spicy; the light golden and glowing, and yet softened to
the dreamiest, richest, most bounteous aureole of hope, by a slight
impalpable haze; too slight to veil anything, but giving its tender
flattery to the landscape nevertheless. And through that to the mind.
Who can help but receive it? Suggestions of waveless peace, of endless
delight, of a world-full glory that must fill one's life with riches,
come through such a light and under such a sky. Diana's life was full
already; but she took the promise for all the years that stretched out
in the future. The soft autumn sky where the clouds were at rest,
having done their work, bore no symbol of the storms that might come
beneath the firmament; the purple and gold and crimson of nature's gala
dress seemed to fling their soft luxury around the beholder, enfolding
him, as it were, from all the dust and the dimness and the dullness of
this world's working days for evermore. So it was to Diana; and all the
miles of that long drive, joggingly pulled along by Prince, she rode in
a chariot of the imagination, traversing fields of thought and of
space, now to Evan and now with him; and in her engrossment spoke never
a word from the time she mounted into the waggon till they came in
sight of Elmfield. And Mrs. Starling had her own subjects for thought,
and was as silent on her part. She was thinking all the way what she
should do with that letter. Suppose things had gone too far to be
stopped? But Diana had told her nothing; she was not bound to know by
guess-work. And if this were the _beginning_ of serious proposals, then
it were better known to but herself only. She resolved finally to watch
Diana and the Elmfield people this afternoon; she could find out, she
thought, whether there were any matter of common interest between them.
With all this, Mrs. Starling's temper was not sweetened.

Elmfield was a rare place. Not by the work of art or the craft of the
gardener at all; for a cunning workman had never touched its turf or
its plantations. Indeed it had no plantations, other than such as were
intended for pure use and profit; great fields of Indian corn, and
acres of wheat and rye, and a plot of garden cabbages. Mrs. Reverdy's
power of reform had reached only the household affairs. But the corn
and the rye and the cabbages were out of sight from the immediate home
field; and there the grace of nature had been so great that one almost
forgot to wish that anything had been added to it. A little river
swept, curving in sweet leisure, through a large level tract of
greenest meadows. In front of one of these large curves the house
stood, but well back, so that the meadow served instead of a lawn. It
had no foreign beauties of tree growth to adorn it, nor needed them;
for along the bank of the river, from space to space, irregularly, rose
a huge New England elm, giving the shelter of its canopy of branches to
a wide spot of turf. The house added nothing to the scene, beyond the
human interest; it was just a large old farmhouse, nothing more;
draped, however, and half covered up by other elms and a few fir trees.
But in front of it lay this wide, sunny, level meadow, with the wilful
little stream meandering through, with the stately old trees spotting
it and breaking its monotony; and in the distance a soft outline of
hills, not too far away, and varied enough to be picturesque, rounded
in the whole picture. A picture one would stand long to look at;
thoroughly New England and characteristic; gentle, homelike, lovely,
with just a touch of wildness, intimating that you were beyond the
rules of conventionality. Being New England folk themselves, Mrs.
Starling and Diana of course would not read some of these features.
They only thought it was a "fine place."

Long before they got there this afternoon, before anybody got there,
the ladies of the family gathered upon the wide old piazza.

"It's as a good as a play," said Gertrude Masters. "I never saw such
society in my life, and I am curious to know what they will be like."

"You have seen them in church," said Euphemia.

"Yes, but they all feel poky there. I can't tell anything by that.
Besides, I don't hear them talk. There's somebody now!"

"Too fast for any of our good sewing friends," said Mrs. Reverdy; "and
there is no waggon. It's Mr. Masters, Gerty! How he does ride; and yet
he sits as if he was upon a rocking-horse."

"I don't think he'd sit very quiet upon a rocking-horse," said Gerty.
And then she lifted up her voice and shouted musically a salutation to
the approaching rider.

He alighted presently at the foot of the steps, and throwing the bridle
over his horse's head, joined the party.

"So delighted!" said Mrs. Reverdy graciously. "You are come just in
time to help us take care of the people."

"Are you going to entertain the nation?" asked Mr Masters.

"Only Pleasant Valley," Mrs. Reverdy answered with her little laugh;
which might mean amusement at herself or condescension to Pleasant
Valley. "Do you think they will be hard to entertain?"

"I can answer for one," said the minister. "And looking at what there
is to see from here, I could almost answer for them all." He was
considering the wide sunlit meadow, where the green and the gold, yea,
and the very elm shadows, as well as the distant hills, were
spiritualized by the slight soft haze.

"Why, what is there to see, Basil?" inquired his cousin Gertrude.

"The sky."

"You don't think that is entertaining, I hope? If you were a polite
man, you would have said something else."

She was something to see herself, in one sense, and the something was
pretty, too; but very self-conscious. From her flow of curly tresses
down to the rosettes on her slippers, every inch of her showed it. Now
the best dressing surely avoids this effect; while there is some, and
not bad dressing either, which proclaims it in every detail. The
crinkles of Gertrude's hair were crisp with it; her French print dress,
beautiful in itself, was made with French daintiness and worn with at
least equal coquettishness; her wrists bore two or three bracelets both
valuable and delicate; and Gertrude's eyes, pretty eyes too, were
audacious with the knowledge of all this. Audacious in a sweet, secret
way, understand; they were not bold eyes, openly. Her cousin looked her
over, with a glance quite recognisant of all I have described, yet
destitute of a shade of compliment or even of admiration; very clear
and very cool.

"Basil, you don't say all you think!" exclaimed the young lady.

"Not always," said her cousin. "We have it on Solomon's authority, that
a 'fool uttereth all his mind. A wise man keepeth it till afterwards.'"

"What are you keeping?"

But the answer was interrupted by Mrs. Reverdy.

"Where shall we put them, do you think, Mr. Masters? I'm quite anxious.
Here, on the verandah, do you think?--or on the green, where we mean to
have supper? or would it be better to go into the house?"

"As a general principle, Mrs. Reverdy, I object to houses. When you
can, keep out of them. So I say. And there comes one of your guests. I
will take my horse out of the road."

Mrs. Reverdy objected and protested and ran to summon a servant, but
the minister had his way and led his horse off to the stable. While he
was gone, the little old green waggon which brought Miss Barry came at
a soft jog up the drive and stopped before the door. Mrs. Reverdy came
flying out and then down the steps to help her alight.

"It's a long ways to your place, Mis' Reverdy; I declare, I'm kind o'
stiff," said the old lady as she mounted to the piazza. There she stood
still and surveyed the prospect. And her conclusion burst forth in an
unequivocal, "Ain't it elegant!"

"I am delighted you like it," said Mrs. Reverdy with her running laugh.
"Won't you sit down?"

"I hain't got straightened out yet, after drivin' the horse so long. It
does put me in a kind o' cramp, somehow, to drive,--'most allays."

"Is the horse so hard-mouthed?"

"La! bless you, I never felt of his mouth. He don't do nothin'; I don't
expect he would do nothin'; but I allays think he's a horse, and
there's no tellin'."

"That's very true," said Mrs. Reverdy, the laugh of condescending
acquiescence mingled with a little sense of fun now. "But do sit down;
you'll be tired standing."

"There's Mrs. Flandin's waggin, I guess, comin'; she was 'most ready
when I come by. Is this your sister?"--looking at Gertrude.

"No, the other is my sister. This is Miss Masters; a cousin of your
minister."

"I thought she was, maybe,--your sister, I mean,--because she had her
hair the same way. Ain't it very uncomfortable?" This to Gertrude.

"It is very comfortable," said the young lady; "except in hot weather."

"Don't say it is!" quoth Miss Barry, looking at the astonishing hair
while she got out her needles. "Seems to me I should feel as if my hair
never was combed."

"Not if it _was_ combed, would you?" said Gertrude gravely.

"Well, yes; seems to me I should. I allays liked to have my hair
sleeked up as tight as I could get it; and then I knowed there warn't
none of it flyin'. But la! it's a long time since I was young, and
there's new fashions. Is the minister your cousin?"

"Yes. How do you like him?"

"I hain't got accustomed to him yet," said the little old lady,
clicking her needles with a considerate air. "He ain't like Mr.
Hardenburgh, you see; and Mr. Hardenburgh was the minister afore him."

"What was the difference?"

"Well--Mr. Hardenburgh, you could tell he was a minister as fur as you
could see him; he had that look. Now Mr. Masters hain't; he's just like
other folks; only he's more pleasant than most."

"Oh, he is more pleasant, is he?"

"Well, seems to me he is," said the little old lady. "It allays makes
me feel kind o' good when he comes alongside. He's cheerful. Mr.
Hardenburgh _was_ a good man, but he made me afeard of him; he was sort
o' fierce, in the pulpit and out o' the pulpit. Mr. Masters ain't nary
one."

"Do you think he's a good preacher, then?" said Gertrude demurely,
bending over to look at Miss Barry's knitting.

"Well, I do!" said the old lady. "There! I ain't no judge; but I love
to sit and hear him. 'Tain't a bit like a minister, nother, though it's
in church; he just speaks like as I am speakin' to you; but he makes
the Bible kind o' interestin'."

It was very well for Gertrude that Mrs. Carpenter now came to take her
seat on the piazza, and the conversation changed. She had got about as
much as she could bear. And after Mrs. Carpenter came a crowd; Mrs.
Flandin, and Mrs. Mansfield, and Miss Gunn, and all the rest, with
short interval, driving up and unloading and joining the circle on the
piazza; which grew a very wide circle indeed, and at last broke up into
divisions. Gertrude was obliged to suspend operations for a while, and
use her eyes instead of her tongue. Most of the rest were inclined to
do the same; and curious glances went about in every direction, not
missing Miss Masters herself. Some people were absolutely tongue-tied;
others used their opportunity.

"Don't the wind come drefful cold over them flats in winter?" asked one
good lady who had never been at Elmfield before. Mrs. Reverdy's running
little laugh was ready with her answer.

"I believe it does; but we are never here in winter. It's too cold."

"Your gran'ther's here, ain't he?" queried Mrs. Salter.

"Yes, O yes; grandpa is here, of course. I don't suppose anything would
draw him away from the old place."

"How big is the farm?" went on the first speaker.

Mrs. Reverdy did not know; three or four hundred acres, she believed.
Or it might be five. She did not know the difference!

"I guess your father misses you when you all go away," remarked Mrs.
Flandin, who had hardly spoken, at least aloud.

The reply was prevented, for Mrs. Starling's waggon drew up at the foot
of the steps, and Mrs. Reverdy hastened down to give her assistance to
the ladies in alighting. Gertrude also suspended what she was saying,
and gave her undivided attention to the view of Diana.

She was only a country girl, Miss Masters said to herself. Yet what a
lovely figure, as she stood there before the waggon; perfectly
proportioned, light and firm in action or attitude, with the grace of
absolute health and strength and faultless make. More; there always is
more to it; and Gertrude felt that without in the least having power to
reason about it; felt in the quiet pose and soft motion those spirit
indications of calm and strength and gracious dignity, which belonged
to the fair proportions and wholesome soundness of the inward
character. The face said the same thing when it was turned, and Diana
came up the steps; though it was seen under a white sun-bonnet only;
the straight brows, the large quiet eyes, the soft creamy colour of the
skin, all testified to the fine physical and mental conditions of this
creature. And Gertrude felt as she looked that it would not have been
very surprising if Evan Knowlton or any other young officer had lost
his heart to her. But she isn't dressed, thought Gertrude; and the next
moment a shadow crossed her heart as Diana's sun-bonnet came off, and a
wealth of dark hair was revealed, knotted into a crown of nature's
devising, which art could never outdo. "I'll find out about Evan," said
Miss Masters to herself.


She had to wait. The company was large now, and the buzz of tongues
considerable; though nothing like what had been in Mrs. Starling's
parlour. So soon as the two new-comers were fairly seated and at work,
Mrs. Flandin took up the broken thread of her discourse.

"Ain't your father kind o' lonesome here in the winters, all by
himself?"

"My grandfather, you mean?" said Mrs. Reverdy,

"I mean your grandfather. I forget you ain't his own; but it makes no
difference. Don't he want you to hum all the year round?"

"I daresay he would like it."

"He's gettin' on in years now. How old is Squire Bowdoin?"

"I don't know," said Mrs. Reverdy. "He's between seventy and eighty,
somewhere."

"You won't have him long with you."

"O, I hope so!" said Mrs. Reverdy lightly, and with the unfailing laugh
which went with everything; "I think grandpa is stronger than I am. I
shouldn't wonder if he'd outlive _me_."

"Still, don't you think it is your duty to stay with him?"

Mrs. Reverdy laughed again. "I suppose we don't always do our duty,"
she said. "It's too cold here in the winter--after October or
September--for me."

"Then it is not your duty to be here," said her sister Euphemia,
somewhat distinctly. But Mrs. Flandin was bound to "free her mind" of
what was upon it.

"I should think the Squire'd want Evan to hum," she went on.

"It would be very nice if Evan could be in two places at once," Mrs.
Reverdy owned conciliatingly.

"Where _is_ Captain Knowlton now?" asked Mrs. Boddington.

"O, he is not a captain yet," said Mrs. Reverdy. "He is only a
lieutenant. I don't know when he'll get any higher than that. He's a
great way off--on the frontier--watching the Indians."

"I should think it was pleasanter work to watch sheep," said Mrs.
Flandin "Don't it make you feel bad to have him away so fur?"

"O, we're accustomed to having him away, you know; Evan has never been
at home; we really don't know him as well as strangers do. We have just
got a letter from him at his new post."

They had got a letter from him! Two bounds Diana's heart made: the
first with a pang of pain that they should have the earliest word; the
next with a pang of joy, at the certainty that hers must be lying in
the post office for her. The blood flowed and ebbed in her veins with
the violent action of extreme excitement. Yet nature did for this girl
what only the practice and training of society do for others; she gave
no outward sign. Her head was not lifted from her work; the colour of
her cheek did not change; and when a moment after she found Miss
Masters at her side, and heard her speaking, Diana looked and answered
with the utmost seeming composure.

"I've been trying ever since you came to get round to you," Gertrude
whispered. "I'm so glad to see you again."

But here Mrs. Flandin broke in. She was seated near.

"Ain't your hair a great trouble to you?"

Gertrude gave it a little toss and looked up.

"How do you get it all flying like that?"

"Everybody's hair is a trouble," said Gertrude. "This is as little as
any."

"Do you sleep with it all round your shoulders? I should think you'd be
in a net by morning."

"I suppose you would," said Gertrude.

"Is that the fashion now?"

"It is one fashion," Miss Masters responded.

"If it warn't, I reckon you'd do it up pretty quick. Dear me! what a
thing it is to be in the fashion, I do suppose."

"Don't you like it yourself, ma'am?" queried Gertrude.

"Never try. _I've_ something else to do in life."

"Well, but there's no _harm_ in being in the fashion, Mis' Flandin,"
said Miss Gunn. "The minister said he thought there warn't."

"The minister had better take care of himself," Mrs. Flandin retorted.

Whereupon they all opened upon her. And it could be seen that for the
few months during which he had been among them, the minister had made
swift progress in the regards of the people. Scarce a tongue now but
spoke in his praise or his justification, or called Mrs. Flandin to
account for her hasty remark.

"When you're all done, I'll speak," said that lady coolly. "I'm not a
man-worshipper--never was; and nobody's fit to be worshipped. _I_
should like to see the dominie put down that grey horse of his."

"Are grey horses fashionable?" inquired Mrs. Reverdy, with her little
laugh.

"What would he do without his horse?" said Mrs. Boddington. "How could
he fly round Pleasant Valley as he does?"

"He ain't bound to fly," said Mrs. Flandin.

"How's he to get round to folks, then?" said Mrs. Salter. "The houses
are pretty scattering in these parts; he'd be a spry man if he could
walk it."

"Seems to me, that 'ere grey hoss is real handy," said quiet Miss
Barry, who never contradicted anybody. "When Meliny was sick, Mr.
Masters'd be there, to our house, early in the mornin' and late at
night; and he allays had comfort with him. There! I got to set as much
by the sight o' that grey hoss, you wouldn't think; just to hear him
come gallopin' down the road did me good."

"Yes; and so it was to our house, when Liz was overturned," said Mary
Delamater. "He'd be there every day, just as punctual as could be; and
he could never have walked over. It's a cruel piece of road between our
house and his'n."

"I don't want him to walk," said Mrs. Flandin; "there's more ways than
one o' doin' most things; but I _do_ say, all the ministers ever I see
druv a team; and it looks more religious. To see the minister flyin'
over the hills like a racer is altogether too gay for my likin's."

"But he ain't gay," said Miss Gunn, looking appalled.

"He's mighty spry, for anybody that gets up into a pulpit on the
Sabbath and tells his fellow-creaturs what they ought to be doin'."

"But he does do that, Mrs. Flandin," said Diana. "He speaks plain
enough, too."

"I _do_ love to hear him!" said Miss Barry. "There, his words seem to
go all through me, and clear up my want of understandin'; for I never
was smart, you know; but seems to me I see things as well agin when
he's been talkin' to me. I say, it was a good day when he come to
Pleasant Valley."

"He ain't what you call an eloquent man," said Miss Babbage, the
schoolmaster's sister.

"What is an 'eloquent man,' Lottie Babbage?" Mrs. Boddington asked.
"It's a word, I know; but what is the thing the word means? Come, you
ought to be good at definitions."

"Mr. Masters don't pretend to be an eloquent man!" cried Mrs. Carpenter.

"Well, tell; come! what do you mean by it? I'd like to know," said Mrs.
Boddington. "I admire to get my idees straight. What is it he don't
pretend to be?"

"I don't think he pretends to be anything," said Diana.

"Only to have his own way wherever he goes," added Diana's mother.

"I'd be content to let him have his own way," said Mrs. Carpenter.
"It's pretty sure to be a good way; that's what _I_ think. I wisht he
had it, for my part."

"And yet he isn't eloquent?" said Mrs. Boddington.

"Well," said Miss Babbage with some difficulty, "he just says what he
has got to say, and takes the handiest words he can find; but I've
heard men that eloquent that they'd keep you wonderin' at 'em from the
beginning of their sermon to the end; and you'd got to be smart to know
what they were sayin'. A child can tell what Mr. Masters means."

"So kin I," said Miss Barry. "I'm thankful I kin. And I don't want a
man more eloquent than he is, for my preachin'."

"It ain't movin' preachin'," said Mrs. Flandin.

"It moves the folks," said Mrs. Carpenter. "I don't know what you'd
hev', Mis' Flandin; there's Liz Delamater, and Florry Mason, jined the
church lately; and old Lupton; and my Jim," she added with softened
voice; "and there's several more serious."

No more could be said, for the minister himself came upon the scene at
this instant. There was not an eye that did not brighten at the sight
of him, with the exception of Mrs. Starling and Diana; there was not a
lady there who was not manifestly glad to have him come near and speak
to her; even Mrs. Flandin herself, beside whom the minister presently
sat down and entered into conversation respecting some new movement in
parish matters, for which he wished to enlist her help. General
conversation returned to its usual channels.

"I can't stand this," whispered Gertrude to Diana; "I am tired to
death. Do come down and walk over to the river with me. Do! you can
work another day."

Diana hesitated; glanced around her. It was manifest that this was an
exceptional meeting of the society, and not for the purposes of work
chiefly. Here and there needles were suspended in lingering fingers,
while their owners made subdued comments to each other or used their
eyes for purposes of information getting. One or two had even left
work, and were going to the back of the house, through the hall, to see
the garden. Diana not very unwillingly dropped her sewing, and followed
her conductor down the steps and over the meadow.



CHAPTER XV.



CATECHIZING.



"The sun isn't hot, through all this cloud," said Gertrude, "so I don't
mind it. We'll get into the shade under the elm yonder."

"There is no cloud," said Diana.

"No cloud? What is it then? _Something_ has come over the sun."

"No, it's haze."

"What is haze?"

"I don't know. We have it in Indian summer, and sometimes in October,
like this."

"Isn't it hot?" said Gertrude; "and last week we were having big fires.
It's such queer weather. Now this shade is nice."

Under one or two of the elm canopies along the verge of the little
river some rustic seats had been fixed. Gertrude sat down. Diana stood,
looking about her. The dreamy beauty through which she had ridden that
afternoon was all round her still; and the meadow and the scattered
elms, with the distant softly-rounded hills, were one of New England's
combinations, in which the gentlest beauty and the most characteristic
strength meet and mingle. But what was more yet to Diana, she was among
Evan's haunts. Here _he_ was at home. There seemed to her fancy to be a
consciousness of him in the silent trees and river; as if they would
say if they could,--as if they were saying mutely,--"We know him--we
know him; and we are old friends of his. We could tell you a great deal
about him."

"Elmfield is a pretty place," said Gertrude. She had been eyeing her
companion while Diana was receiving the confidences of the trees.

"Lovely!"

"If it didn't grow so cold in winter," said the young lady, shrugging
her airy shoulders.

"I like the cold."

"I should like to have it always hot enough to wear muslin dresses.
Come, sit down. Evan put these seats here."

But Diana continued standing.

"Did you hear that woman scolding because he don't stay here and give
up his army life?"

"She takes her own view of it," said Diana.

"Do _you_ think he ought to give up everything to take care of his
grandfather?"

"I daresay his grandfather likes to have him do as he is doing."

"But it must be awfully hard, mustn't it, for them to have him so far
away, and fighting the Indians?"

"Is he fighting the Indians?" Diana asked quietly; though she made the
words quiet, she knew, by sheer force of necessity. But quiet they
were; slow, and showing no eagerness; while her pulse had made one mad
jump, and then seemed to stand still.

"O, the Indians are always making trouble, you know, on the frontier;
that's what our men are there for, to watch them. I didn't mean that
Evan was fighting just at this minute; but he might be, any minute.
Shouldn't you feel bad if he was your brother?"

"Mrs. Reverdy doesn't seem to be uneasy."

"She? no," said Gertrude with a laugh; "nothing makes _her_ uneasy.
Except thinking that Evan has fallen in love with somebody."

"She must expect that sooner or later," said Diana, with a calmness
which told her companion nothing.

"Ah, but she would rather have it later. She don't want to lose Evan.
She is very proud of him."

"Would she lose him in such a case?" Diana asked, smiling, though she
wished the talk ended.

"Why, you know brothers are good for nothing to sisters after they are
married--worse! they are tantalizing. You are obliged to see what you
used to have in somebody else's possession--and much more than ever you
used to have; and it's tiresome. I'm glad I've no brothers. Basil is a
good deal like a brother, and I am jealous of _him_."

"It must be very uncomfortable to be jealous," said Diana,

"Horrid! You saw a good deal of Evan, didn't you?"

A question that might have embarrassed Diana if she had not had an
instant perception of the intent of it. She answered thereupon with
absolute self-possession,

"I don't know what you would call a 'good deal.' I saw what _I_ call a
good deal of him that day in the blackberry field."

"Don't you think he is charming?"

Diana laughed, and was vexed to feel her cheeks grow warm.

"That's a word that belongs to women."

"Not to many of 'em!" said Gertrude, with a slight turning up of her
pretty nose. Then, struck with the fine, pure face and very lovely
figure before her, she suddenly added, "Didn't he think you charming?"

"Are you laughing at me?" said Diana.

"No, indeed I am not. Didn't he?" said Gertrude caressingly.

Amusement almost carried off the temptation to be provoked. Diana
laughed merrily as she answered, "Do you think a person of so good
taste would?"

"Yes, I do," said Gertrude, half sulkily, for she was baffled, and
besides, her words spoke the truth. "I am sure he did. Isn't life very
stupid up here in the mountains, when visitors are all gone away?"

"I don't think so. We never depend upon visitors."

"It has been awfully slow at Elmfield since Mr. Knowlton went away. We
sha'n't stay much longer. I can't live where I can't dance."

"What is that?" said a voice close at hand--a peculiarly clear, silvery
voice.

"Cousin Basil!" cried Gertrude, starting. "What did you come here for?
I brought Miss Starling here to have a good talk with her."

"Have you had it?"

"I haven't had time. I was just beginning."

"What! about dancing?"

"I was not speaking for you to hear. I was relieving myself by the
confession that I can't live--happily, I mean--without it."

"Choice of partners immaterial?"

"I couldn't bear a dull life!"

"Nor I."

He looked as if he certainly did not know what dulness was, Diana
thought. She listened, much amused.

"But you think it is wrong to dance, don't you?" Gertrude went on.

"'Better not' is wrong to a Christian," he replied.

"It must be dreadful to be a Christian!"

"Because--?" he said, with a quiet and good-humoured glance and tone of
inquiry.

"O, because it is slavery. So many things you cannot do, and dresses
you cannot wear."

"By what rule?" Mr. Masters asked.

"O, people think you are dreadful if you do those things; the Church,
and all that. So I think it is a great deal better to keep out of it,
and make no pretensions."

"Better to keep out of what? let me understand," said the minister.
"You are getting my ideas in a very involved state."

"No, I am not! I say, it is better to make no profession."

"Better than what? What is the alternative?"

"O, you know. Now you are catechizing me. It is better to make no
profession, than to make it and not live up to it."

"I understand. That is to say, it is wicked to pay your debts with
counterfeit notes, so it is better not to pay them at all."

"Nonsense, Basil! I am not talking of paying debts."

"But I am."

"What have debts got to do with it?"

"I beg your pardon. I understood you to declare your disapprobation of
false money, and your preference for another sort of dishonesty."

"Dishonest, Basil! there is no dishonesty."

"By what name do you call it?"

He was speaking gravely, though with a surface pleasantry; both gravity
and pleasantry were of a very winning kind. Diana looked on and
listened, much interested, as well as amused; Gertrude puzzled and
impatient, though unable to resist the attraction. She hesitated, and
surveyed him.

"There can't be dishonesty unless where one owes something."

"Precisely"--he said, glancing at her. His hands were busy at the time
with a supple twig he had cut from one of the trees, which he was
trimming of its leaves and buds.

"What do I owe?" said the beauty, throwing her tresses of hair off from
her shoulders.

He waited a bit, the one lady looking defiant, the other curious; and
then he said, with a sort of gentle simplicity that was at the same
time uncompromising,

"'The Lord hath made all things for himself.'"

Gertrude's foot patted the turf; after a minute she answered,

"Of course you say that because you are a clergyman."

"No, I don't. I am stating a fact, which I thought it likely you had
forgotten."

Gertrude stood up, as if she had got enough of the conversation. Diana
wished for another word.

"It is a fact," she said; "but what have we to do with it?"

"Only to let the Lord have his own," said the minister with a full look
at her.

"How do you mean, Mr. Masters? I don't understand."

Gertrude was marching over the grass, leading to the house. The other
two followed.

"When you have contrived and made a thing, you reckon it is your own,
don't you? and when you have bought something, you think it is at your
disposal?"

"Certainly; but"--

"'_You_ were bought with a price.'"

"Of course, God has a right to dispose of us," Diana assented in an "of
course" way.

"_Does_ he?" said the minister. Then, seeing her puzzled expression, he
went on--"He cannot dispose of you as he wishes, without your consent."

Diana stopped short, midway in the meadow. "I do not in the least
understand, Mr. Masters," she said. "How does He wish to dispose of me?"

"When you are his own, he will let you know," said the minister,
beginning to stroll onward again; and no more words passed till they
were nearing the house, when he said suddenly, "Whom do you think you
belong to now?"

Diana's thought made an instant leap at the words, a leap over hundreds
of miles of intervening space, and alighted beside a fine officer-like
figure in a dark blue military coat with straps on the shoulders. That
was where she "belonged," she thought; and a soft rose colour mantled
on her cheek, and deepened, half with happiness, halt with pride. The
question that had provoked it was forgotten; and the neighbourhood of
the house was now too near to allow of the inquiry being pressed or
repeated. The minister, indeed, was aware that for some time he and his
companion had been facing a battery; but Diana was in happy
unconsciousness; it was the thought of nothing present or near which
made her eyes droop and her cheeks take on such a bloom of loveliness.


Among the eyes that beheld, Mrs. Starling's had not been the least
keen, though she watched without seeming to watch. She saw how the
minister and her daughter came slowly over the meadow, engaged with
each other's conversation, while Miss Masters tripped on before them.
She noticed the pause in their walk, Diana's slow, thoughtful step; and
then, as they came near, her flush and her downcast eye.

"The minister's talk's very interestin'," whispered Mrs. Carpenter in
her ear.

"Not to me," said Mrs. Starling, wilfully misunderstanding. "Some folks
thinks so, I know. I can't somehow never get along with him."

"And Diana sha'n't," was her inward resolve; "but she can't be thinkin'
of the other feller."

As if to try the question, at the moment, Mrs. Reverdy appeared at the
top of the steps, just as the minister and Diana got to the foot of
them. She was in high glee, for her party was going off nicely, and the
tables were just preparing for supper.

"We want nothing now but Evan," she said with her unfailing laugh.
"Miss Starling, don't you think he might have come for this afternoon,
just to see so many friends?"

Diana never knew where she got the coolness to answer, "How long a
journey is it, Mrs. Reverdy?"

"O, I don't know! How far is it, Mr. Masters?--a thousand miles?--or
two thousand? I declare I have no idea. But love laughs at distances,
they say."

"Is Cupid a contractor on this road?" inquired the minister gravely.

"A contractor!" exclaimed Mrs. Reverdy, laughing, "oh, dear, what a
funny idea! I never thought of putting it so. But I didn't know but
Miss Starling could tell us."

"Do you know anything about it, Miss Diana?" asked the minister.

"About what?"

"Why Lieutenant Knowlton is not here this afternoon?"

Diana knew that several pairs of eyes were upon her. It was a dangerous
minute. But she had failed to discern in Mrs. Reverdy or in Gertrude
any symptom of more than curiosity; and curiosity she felt she could
meet and baffle. It was impertinent, and it was unkind. So, though her
mind was at a point which made it close steering, she managed to sheer
off from embarrassment and look amused. She laughed in the eyes that
were watching her, and answered carelessly enough to Mr. Masters'
question that she "dared say Mr. Knowlton would have come if he could."
Mrs. Starling put up her work with a sigh of relief; and the rest of
the persons concerned felt free to dismiss the subject from their minds
and pay attention to the supper.

It was a great success, Mrs. Reverdy's sewing party. The excellent
entertainment provided was heartily enjoyed, all the more for the
little stimulus of curiosity which hung about every article and each
detail of the tea-table. Old Mr. Bowdoin delighted himself in
hospitable attentions to his old neighbours, and was full of genial and
gratified talk with them. The stiffness of the afternoon departed
before the tea and coffee; and when at last the assembly broke up, and
a little file of country waggons drove away, one after another, from
the door, it was with highly gratified loads of people.

Diana may be quoted as a single exception. In the tremor of her spirits
which followed the bit of social navigation noticed above, she had
hardly known how anything tasted at the supper; and the talk she had
heard without hearing. There was nothing but relief in getting away.

The drive home was as silent between her and her mother as the drive
out had been. Mrs. Starling was full of her own cogitations. Diana's
thoughts were not like that,--hard-twisted and hard-knotted lines of
argument, growing harder and more twisted towards their end; but wide
flowing and soft changing visions, flowing sweet and free as the clouds
borne on the air-currents of heaven; catching such colours, and
drifting as insensibly from one form into another. The evening kept up
the dreamy character of the afternoon, the haze growing duskier as the
light waned; till the tender gleam of a full moon began to supply here
and there the glory of the lost sunlight. It was a colder gleam,
though; and so far, more practical than that flush of living promise
which a little while ago had filled the sky and the world. Diana's
thoughts centred on Evan's letter. Where was it? When should she get
it? Josiah, she knew, had been to the post office that morning, and
brought home nothing! She wished she could go to the post office
herself; she sometimes had done so; but she would not like to take
Evan's letter, either, from the knowing hands of the postmaster. She
might not be able to command her looks perfectly.

"They don't know how to make soda biscuit down yonder," Mrs. Starling
broke out abruptly, just as their drive was near ended.

"Don't they?" said Diana absently.

"All yellow!" said Mrs. Starling disdainfully. "Nobody would ever know
there was any salaratus in _my_ biscuit--or in yours either."

"Except from the lightness, mother."

"The lightness wouldn't tell what made 'em light," said Mrs. Starling
logically. "They had salaratus in their pickles too."

"How could you tell?"

"Tell? As if I couldn't tell! Tell by the colour."

"Ours are green too."

"Not green like that. I would despise to make my pickles green that
way. I'd as soon paint 'em."

"It was very handsome, mother, the supper altogether."

"Hm! It was a little too handsome," said Mrs. Starling, "and that was
what they liked about it. I'd like to know what is the use o' having
great clumsy forks of make-believe silver"--

"O, they were real, mother."

"Well, the more fools if they were. I'd like to know what is the use of
having great clumsy forks of silver, real or make-believe, when you can
have nice, sharp, handy steel ones, and for half or a quarter the
price?"

Diana liked the silver forks, and was silent.

"I could hardly eat my pickles with 'em. I couldn't, if they had been
_mine;_ but Genevieve's cucumbers were spongy."

To Diana's relief, their own door was gained at this moment. She did
not know what her mother's discourse might end in, and was glad to have
it stopped. Yet the drive had been pretty!

The men had had their supper, which had been left ready for them; and
Josiah's care had kept up a blazing fire in the lean-to kitchen. Diana
went up-stairs to change her dress, for she had the dishes now to wash
up; and Mrs. Starling stood in front of the fire-place, pondering. She
had been pondering all the time of the drive home, as well as much of
the time spent at Elmfield; she believed she had come to a conclusion;
and yet she delayed her purpose. It was clear, she said to herself,
that Diana did not care for Lieut. Knowlton; at least not much; her
fancy might have been stirred. But what is a girl's fancy? Nothing
worth considering. Letters, if allowed, might nourish the fancy up into
something else. She would destroy this first one. She had determined on
that. Yet she lingered. Conscience spoke uneasily. What if she were
misled by appearances, and Diana had more than a fancy for this young
fellow? Then she would crush it! Nobody would be the wiser, and nobody
would die of grief; those things were done in stories only. Mrs.
Starling hesitated nevertheless, with her hand on the letter, till the
sound of Diana's step in the house decided her action. She was afraid
to wait; some accident might overthrow all her arrangements; and with a
hasty movement she drew the packet from her bosom and tucked it under
the fofestick, where a bed of glowing nutwood coals lay ready. Quick
the fire caught the light tindery edges, made a little jet of
excitement about the large wax seal, fought its way through the thick
folds of paper, and in a moment had left only a mock sheet of cinder,
with mock marks of writing still traceable vividly upon it. A letter
still, manifestly, sharp-edged and square; it glowed at Mrs. Starling
from its bed of coals, with the curious impassiveness of material
things; as if the happiness of two lives had not shrivelled within it.
Mrs. Starling stood looking. What had been written upon that fiery
scroll? It was vain to ask now; and hearing Diana coming down-stairs,
she took the tongs and punched the square cinder that kept its form too
well. Little bits of paper, grey cinder with red edges, fluttered in
the draught, and flew up in the smoke.

"What are you burning there, mother?" said Diana.

And Mrs. Starling answered a guilty "Nothing," and walked away. Diana
looked at the little fluttering cinders, and an uneasy sensation came
over her, that yet took no form of suspicion; and passed, for the thing
was impossible. So near she came to it.


Why had Mrs. Starling not at least read the letter before destroying
it? The answer lies in some of the strange, hidden involutions of
feeling and consciousness, which are hard to trace out even by the
person who knows them best. After the thing was done, she wished she
had read it. It may be she feared to find what would stay her hand, or
make her action difficult. It may be that certain stirrings of
conscience warned her that delay might defeat her whole purpose. She
was an obstinate woman, by nature; obstinate to the point of wilful
blindness when necessary; and to do her justice, she was perfectly
incapable of estimating the gain or the loss of such an affection as
Diana's, or of sympathizing with the suffering such a nature may know.
It was not in her; she had no key to it; grant the utmost mischief that
she supposed it even possible she might be doing, and it was as a
summer gale to the cyclone of the Indian seas.

So her conscience troubled her little, and that little was soon
silenced. Perhaps not quite forgotten; for it had the effect, not to
make her more than usual tender of her daughter and indulgent towards
her, as one would expect, but stern, carping and exacting beyond all
her wont. She drove household matters with a tighter rein than ever,
and gave Diana as little time for private thought or musing as the
constant and engrossing occupation of her hands could leave free. But,
however, thoughts are not chained to fingers. Alas! what troubled
calculations Diana worked into her butter, those weeks; and how many
heavy possibilities she shook down from her fingers along with the
drops of water she scattered upon the clothes for the ironing. Her very
nights at last became filled with the anxious cogitations that never
ceased all the day; and Diana awoke morning after morning unrefreshed
and weary from her burdened sleep, and from dreams that reproduced in
fantastic combinations the perplexities of her waking life. Her face
began to grow shadowed and anxious, and her tongue was still. Mrs.
Starling had generally done most of the talking; she did it all now.

Days passed on, and weeks. Mrs. Starling did not find out that anything
was the matter with Diana; partly because she was determined that
nothing should be the matter; and partly because young Flandin came
about the house a good deal, and Mrs. Starling thought Diana to be
vexed, or perhaps in a state of vexed indecision about him. And in
addition, she was a little anxious herself, lest another letter should
come and somehow reach the hands it was meant for. Having gone so far
already, Mrs. Starling did not mean to spoil or lose her work for want
of a few finishing touches. She watched the post office as never in her
life, for any cause, she had watched it before.



CHAPTER XVI.



IS IT WELL WITH THEE?



Diana would have written to Mr. Knowlton to get her mystery solved; she
was far too simple and true to stand upon needless punctilio; but she
did not know how to address to him a letter. Evan himself had not known
when he parted from her; the information came in that epistle that
never reached her hands, that first letter. Names and directions had
all perished in the flames, and for want of them Diana could do
nothing. Meanwhile, what would Evan think? He would expect an answer,
and a quick answer, to his letter; he was looking for it now, no doubt;
wondering why it did not come, and disappointed, and fearing something
wrong. That trouble, of fearing something wrong, Diana was spared; for
she knew the family at Elmfield had heard, and all was well; but
sometimes her other troublesome thoughts made her powerless hands come
together with a clasp of wild pain. How long must she wait now? how
long would Evan wait, before in desperation he wrote again? And where
was her letter? for it had been written and sent; that she knew;--was
it lost? was it stolen? Had somebody's curiosity prevailed so far, and
was her precious secret town property by this time? Every day became
harder to bear; every week made the suspense more intolerable. Mrs.
Starling was far out in one of her suppositions. Will Flandin came a
good deal about the house, it is true; but Diana hardly knew he was
there. If she thought about it at all, she was half glad, because his
presence might serve to mask her silence and abstraction. She was
conscious of both, and the effort to cover the one and hide the other
was very painful sometimes.

October glories were passed away, and November days grew shorter and
shorter, colder and more dreary. It seemed now and then to Diana that
summer had gone to a distance from which it would never revisit her.
And after those days of constant communication with Evan, the blank
cessation of it, the ignorance of all that had befallen or was
befalling him, the want of a word of remembrance or affection, grew
almost to a blank of despair.

It was late in the month.

"What waggon's that stopping?" exclaimed Mrs. Starling one afternoon.
Mother and daughter were in the lean-to. Diana looked out, and saw with
a pang of various feelings what waggon it was.

"Ain't that the Elmfield folks?"

"I think so."

"I know so. I thought Mrs. Reverdy and the rest had run away from the
cold."

"Didn't you know Miss Masters had been sick?"

"How should I know it?"

"I heard so. I didn't know but you had heard it."

"I can't hear things without somebody tells me. Go along up-stairs,
Diana, and put on something."

Diana obeyed, but she was very quick about it; she was nervously afraid
lest while she was absent some word should be said that she would not
have lost for the whole world. What had they come for, these people?
Was the secret out, perhaps, and had they come to bring her a letter?
Or to say why Evan had not written? Could he have been sick? A feverish
whirlwind of thoughts rushed through Diana's head while she was
fastening her dress; and she went down and came into the parlour with
two beautiful spots of rose colour upon her cheeks. They were
fever-spots. Diana had been pale of late; but she looked gloriously
handsome as she entered the room. Bad for her. A common-looking woman
might have heard news from Evan; the instant resolve in the hearts of
the two ladies who had come to visit her was, that this girl should
hear none.

They were, however, exceedingly gracious and agreeable. Mrs. Reverdy
entered with flattering interest into all the matters of household and
farm detail respecting which Mrs. Starling chose to be communicative;
responded with details of her own. How it was impossible to get good
butter made, unless you made it yourself. How servants were
unsatisfactory, even in Pleasant Valley; and how delightful it was to
be able to do without them, as Mrs. Starling did and Diana.

"I should like it of all things," said Mrs. Reverdy with her unfailing
laugh; a little, well-bred, low murmur of a laugh. "It must be so
delightful to have your biscuits always light and never tasting of
soda; and your butter always as if it was made of cowslips; and your
eggs always fresh. We never have fresh eggs," continued Mrs. Reverdy,
shaking her head solemnly;--"never. I never dare to have them boiled."

"What becomes of them?" said a new voice; and Mr. Masters entered the
field--in other words, the room. Diana's heart contracted with a pang;
was this another hindrance in the way of her hearing what she wanted?
But the rest of the ladies welcomed him.

"Charming!" said Mrs. Reverdy; "now you will go home with us."

"I don't see just on what you found your conclusion."

"O, you will have made your visit to Mrs. Starling, you know; and then
you will have nothing else to do."

"There spoke a woman of business!" said the minister.

"Yes, why not?" said the lady. "I was just telling Mrs. Starling how I
should delight to do as she does, without servants, and how pleasant I
should find it; only, you know, I shouldn't know how to do anything if
I tried." Mrs. Reverdy seemed to find the idea very entertaining.

"You wouldn't like to get up in the morning to make your biscuits,"
said Gertrude.

"O yes, I would! I needn't have breakfast very early, you know."

"The good butter wouldn't be on the table if you didn't," said Mrs.
Starling.

"Wouldn't it? Why? Does it matter when butter is made, if it is only
made right?"

"No; but the trouble is, it cannot be made right after the sun is an
hour or two high."

"An hour or two!" Mrs. Reverdy uttered a little scream.

"Not at this time of year, mother," interposed Diana.

"Do you get up at these fearful times?" inquired Miss Masters
languidly, turning her eyes full upon the latter speaker.

Diana scarce answered. Would all the minutes of their visit pass in
these platitudes? could nothing else be talked of? The next instant she
blessed Mr. Masters.

"Have you heard from the soldier lately?" he asked.

"O yes! we hear frequently," Mrs. Reverdy said.

"He likes his post?"

"I really don't know," said her sister, laughing; "a soldier can't
choose, you know; I fancy they have some rough times out there; but
they manage to get a good deal of fun too. Evan's last letter told of
buffalo hunting, and said they had some very good society too. You
wouldn't expect it, on the outskirts of everything; but the officers'
families are very pleasant. There are young ladies, sometimes; and
every one is made a great deal of."

"Where is Mr. Knowlton?" Diana asked. She had been working up her
courage to dare the question; it was hazardous; she was afraid to trust
her voice; but the daring of desperation was on her, and the words came
out with sufficiently cool utterance. A keen observer might note a
change in Mrs. Reverdy's look and tone.

"O, he's in one of those dreadful posts out on the frontier; too near
the Indians; but I suppose if there weren't Indians there wouldn't be
forts, and they wouldn't want officers or soldiers to be in them," she
added, looking at Mr. Masters, as if she had found a happy final cause
for the existence of the aborigines of the country.

"What is the name of the place?" Diana asked.

"I declare I've forgotten. Fort----,I can't think of any name but
Vancouver, and it isn't that. Gertrude, what _is_ the name of that
place? Do you know, I can't tell whether it is in Arizona or
Wisconsin!" And Mrs. Reverdy laughed at her geographical innocence.

Gertrude "didn't remember."

"He is not so far off as Vancouver, I think," said Mr. Masters.

"No,--O no, not so far as that; but he might just as well. When you get
to a certain distance, it don't signify whether it is more or less; you
can't get at people, and they can't get at you. _You_ have seemed to be
at that distance lately, Basil. What a dreadful name! How came you to
be called such a name?"

"Be thankful it is no worse," said the minister gravely. "I might have
been called Lactantius."

"Lactantius! Impossible. Was there ever a man named Lactantius?"

"Certainly."

"'Tain't any worse than Ichabod," remarked Mrs. Starling.

"Nothing can be worse than Ichabod," said Mr. Masters in the same dry
way. "It means, 'The glory is departed.'"

"The Ichabods I knew, never had any glory to begin with," said Mrs.
Starling.

But the minister laughed at this, and so gaily that it was infectious.
Mrs. Starling joined in, without well knowing why; the lady visitors
seemed to be very much amused. Diana tried to laugh, with lips that
felt rigid as steel. The minister's eye came to hers too, she knew, to
see how the fun went with her. And then the ladies rose, took a very
flattering leave, and departed, carrying Mr. Masters off with them.

"I am coming to look at those books of yours soon," he said, as he
shook hands with Diana. "May I?"

Diana made her answer as civil as she could, with those stiff lips; how
she bade good-bye to the others she never knew. As her mother attended
them to the garden gate, she went up the stairs to her room, feeling
now it was the first time that the pain _could not be borne_. Seeing
these people had brought Evan so near, and hearing them talk had put
him at such an impossible distance. Diana pressed both hands on her
heart, and stood looking out of her window at the departing carriage.
What could she do? Nothing that she could think of, and to do nothing
was the intolerable part of it. Any, the most tedious and lingering
action, yes, even the least hopeful, anything that would have been
action, would have made the pain supportable; she could have drawn
breath then, enough for life's purposes; now she was stifling. There
was some mystery; there was something wrong; some mistake, or
misapprehension, or malpractice; _something_, which if she could put
her hand on, all would be right. And it was hidden from her; dark; it
might be near or far, she could not touch it, for she could not find
it. There was even no place for suspicion to take hold, unless the
curiosity of the post office, or of some prying neighbour; she did not
suspect Evan; and yet there was a great throb at her heart with the
thought that in Evan's place _she_ would never have let things rest.
Nothing should have kept the silence so long unbroken; if the first
letter got no answer, she would have written another. So would Diana
have done now, without being in Evan's place, if only she had had his
address. And that cruel woman to-day! did she know, or did she guess,
anything? or was it another of the untoward circumstances attending the
whole matter?

It came to her now, a thought of regret that she had not ventured the
disagreeableness and told her mother long ago of her interest in Evan.
Mrs. Starling could take measures that her daughter could not take. If
she pleased, that is; and the doubt also recurred, whether she would
please. It was by no means certain; and at any rate now, in her
mortification and pain, Diana could not invite her mother into her
counsels. She felt that as from her window she watched the receding
waggon, and saw Mrs. Starling turn from the gate and walk in.
Uncompromising, unsympathizing, even her gait and the set of her head
and shoulders proclaimed her to be. Diana was alone with her trouble.

An hour afterwards she came down as usual, strained the milk, skimmed
her cream, went through the whole little routine of the household
evening; her hands were steady, her eye was true, her memory lost
nothing. But she did not speak one word, unless, which was seldom, a
word was spoken to her. So went on the next day, and the next.
November's days were trailing along, December's would follow; there was
no change from one to another; no variety. Less than ever before; for,
with morbid sensitiveness, Diana shrank from visitors and visiting.
Every contact gave her pain.

Meanwhile, where was Evan's second letter? On its way, and in the post
office.

It was late in November; Diana was sitting at the door of the lean-to,
where she had been sitting on that June day when our story began. She
was alone this time, and her look and attitude were sadly at variance
with that former time. The November day was not without a charm of its
own which might even challenge comparison with the June glory; for it
was Indian summer time, and the wonder of soft spiritual beauty which
had settled down upon the landscape, brown and bare though that was,
left no room to regret the full verdure and radiant sunlight of high
summer. The indescribable loveliness of the haze and hush, the winning
tender colouring that was through the air and wrapped round everything,
softening, mellowing, harmonizing somehow even the most unsightly;
hiding where it could not beautify, and beautifying where it could not
hide, like Christian charity; gave a most exquisite lesson to the
world, of how much more mighty is spirit than matter. Diana did not see
it, as she had seen the June day; her arms were folded, lying one upon
another in idle fashion; her face was grave and fixed, the eyes aimless
and visionless, looking at nothing and seeing nothing; cheeks pale, and
the mouth parted with pain and questioning, its delicious childlike
curves just now all gone. So sitting, and so abstracted in her own
thoughts, she never knew that anybody was near till the little gate
opened, and then with a start she saw Mr. Masters coming up the walk.
Diana rose and stood in the doorway; all traces of country-girl
manners, if she had ever had any, had disappeared before the dignity of
a great and engrossing trouble.

"Good evening!" she said quietly, as they shook hands. "Mother's gone
out."

"Gone out, is she?" said Mr. Masters, but not with a tone of particular
disappointment.

"Yes. I believe she has gone to the Corner--to the post office."

"The Corner is a good way off. And how do you do?"

Diana thought he looked at her a little meaningly. She answered in the
customary form, that she was well.

"That says a great deal--or nothing at all," the minister remarked.

"What?" said Diana, not comprehending him.

"That form of words,--'I am well'."

"It is very apt to mean nothing at all," said Diana, "for people say it
without thinking."

"As you did just now?"

"Perhaps--but I _am_ well."

"Altogether?" said the minister. "Soul and mind and body?"

The word read dry enough; his manner, his tone, half gentle, half bold,
with a curious inoffensive kind of boldness, took from them their
dryness and gave them a certain sweet acceptableness that most persons
knew who knew Mr. Masters. Diana never dreamed that he was intrusive,
even though she recognised the fact that he was about his work.
Nevertheless she waived the question.

"Can anybody say that he is well _so?_" she asked.

"I hope he can. Do you know the old lady who is called Mother Bartlett?"

"O yes."

"Do you think she would hesitate about answering that question? or be
mistaken in the answer?"

"But what do you mean by it exactly?" said Diana.

"Don't you know?"

"I suppose I do. I know what it means to be well in body. I have been
well all my life."

"How would you characterize that happy condition?"

"Why," said Diana, unused to definitions of abstractions, but following
Mr. Masters' lead as people always did, gentle or simple,--"I mean, or
it means, sound, and comfortable, and fit for what one has to do."

"Excellent," said the minister. "I see you understand the subject.
Cannot those things be true of soul and mind, as well as of body?"

"What is the difference between soul and mind?" said Diana.

"A clear departure!" said the minister, laughing; then gravely, "Do you
read philosophy?"

"I don't know"--said Diana. "I read, or I used to read, a good many
sorts of books. I haven't read much lately."

The minister gave her another keen look while she was attending to
something else, and when he spoke again it was with a change of tone.

"I had a promise once that I should see those books."

"Any time," said Diana eagerly; "any time!" For it would be an easy way
of entertaining him, or of getting rid of him. Either would do.

"I think I proposed a plan of exchange, which might be to the advantage
of us both."

"To mine, I am sure," said Diana. "I don't know whether there can be
anything you would care for among the books up-stairs; but if there
should be-- Would you like to go up and look at them?"

"I should,--if it would not give you too much trouble."

It would be no trouble just to run up-stairs and show him where they
were; and this Diana did, leaving him to overhaul the stock at his
leisure. She came down and went on with her work.

Diana's heart was too sound and her head too clear to allow her to be
more than to a certain degree distressed at not hearing from Evan. She
did not doubt him more than she doubted herself; and not doubting him,
things must come out all right by and by. She was restive under the
present pain; at times wild with the desire to find and remove the
something, whatever it was, which had come between Evan and her; for
this girl's was no calm, easy-going nature, but one with depths of
passionate reserve and terrible possibilities of suffering or enjoying.
She had been calm all her life until now, because these powers and
susceptibilities had been in an absolute poise; an equilibrium that
nothing had shaken. Now the depths were stirred, and at times she was
in a storm of impatient pain; but there came revulsions of hope and
quiet lulls, when the sun almost shone again under the clearance made
by faith and hope. One of these revulsions came now, after she had set
the minister to work upon her books. Perhaps it was simple reaction;
perhaps it was something caught from the quiet sunshiny manner and
spirit of her visitor; but at her work in the kitchen Diana grew quite
calm-hearted. She fancied she had discerned somewhat of more than usual
earnestness in the minister's observation of her, and she began to
question whether her looks or behaviour had furnished occasion. Perhaps
she had not been ready enough to talk; poor Diana knew it was often the
case now; she resolved she would try to mend that when he came down.
And there was, besides, a certain lurking impatience of the bearing of
his words; they had probed a little too deep, and after the manner of
some morbid conditions, the probing irritated her. So by and by, when
Mr. Masters came down with a brown volume in his hand, and offered to
borrow it if she would let him lend her another of different colour,
Diana met him and answered quite like herself, and went on--

"Mr. Masters, how can people be always well in body, mind, and spirit,
as you say? I am sure people's bodies get sick without any fault of
their own; and there are accidents; and just so there are troubles.
People can't help troubles, and they can't be 'well' in mind, I
suppose, when they are in pain?"

"Are you sure of that?" the minister answered quietly, while he turned
to the window to look at something in the volume he had brought down
with him.

"Why, yes; and so are you, Mr. Masters; are you not?"

"You need to know a great deal to be sure of anything," he answered in
the same tone.

"But you are certain of this, Mr. Masters?"

"I shouldn't like to expose myself to your criticism. Let us look at
facts. It seems to me that David was 'well' when he could say, 'Thou
hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet
from falling.' Also the man described in another place--'He that
dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the
shadow of the Almighty.'"

There came a slight quiver across Diana's face, but her words were
moved by another feeling.

"Those were people of the old times; I don't know anything about them.
I mean people of to-day."

"I think Paul was 'well' when he could say, 'I have learned, in
whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.'"

"O, but that is nonsense, Mr. Masters!"

"It was Paul's experience."

"Yes, but it cannot be the experience of other people. Paul was
inspired."

"To write what was true,--not what was false," said the minister,
looking at her. "You don't think peace and content come by inspiration,
do you?"

"I did not think about it," said Diana. "But I am sure it is impossible
to be as he said."

"I never heard Paul's truth questioned before," said the minister, with
a dry sort of comicality.

"No, but, Mr. Masters," said Diana, half by way of apology, "I spoke
from my own experience."

"And he spoke from his."

"But, sir,--Mr. Masters,--seriously, do you think it is possible to be
contented when one is in trouble?"

"Miss Diana, One greater than David or Paul said this, 'If a man love
me, he will keep my words; and my Father will love him; and we will
come unto him, and make our abode with him.' Where there is that
indwelling, believe me, there is no trouble that can overthrow content."

"Content and pain together?" said Diana.

"Sometimes pain and very great joy."

"You are speaking of what I do not understand in the least," said
Diana. And her face looked half incredulous, half sad.

"I wish you did know it," he said. No more; only those few words had a
simplicity, a truth, an accent of sympathy and affection, that reached
the very depth of the heart he was speaking to; as the same things from
his lips had often reached other hearts. He promised to take care of
the book in his hand, and presently went away, with one of the warm,
frank, lingering grasps of the hand, that were also a characteristic of
Basil Masters. Diana stood at the door watching him ride away. It
cannot be said she was soothed by his words, and perhaps he did not
mean she should be. She stood with a weary feeling of want in her
heart; but she thought only of the want of Evan.



CHAPTER XVII.



THE USE OF LIVING.



It was quite according to Diana's nature, that as the winter went on,
though still without news of Evan, her tumult and agony of mind quieted
down into a calm and steadfast waiting. Her spirit was too healthy for
suspicion, too true for doubt; and put away doubt and suspicion, what
was left but the assurance that there had been some accident or
mistake; from the consequences of which she was suffering, no doubt,
but which would all be made right, and come out clear so soon as there
could be an opportunity for explanation. For that there was nothing to
do but to wait a little; with the returning mild weather, Evan would be
able to procure a furlough, he would be at her side, and then--nothing
then but union and joy. She could wait; and even in the waiting, her
healthy spirit as it were sloughed off care, and came back again to its
usual placid, strong, bright condition.

So the winter went; a winter which was ever after a blank in Diana's
remembrance; and the cold weather broke up into the frosts and thaws
that sugar-makers love; and in such a March day it was, the word came
to Mrs. Starling's house that old Squire Bowdoin was dead. The like
weather never failed in after years to bring back to Diana that one day
and its tidings and the strange shock they gave her.

"'Twas kind o' sudden," said the news-bringer, who was Joe Bartlett;
"he was took all to once and jes' dropped--like a ripe chestnut."

"Why, like a ripe chestnut?" said Mrs. Starling sharply.

"Wall, I had to say suthin', and that come first. The Scripter doos
speak of a shock o' corn in his season, don't it, Mis' Starling?"

"What's the likeness between a shock o' corn and a chestnut, Joe? I
can't abide to hear folks talk nonsense. Who's at Elmfield?"

"Ain't nary one there that had ought to be there; nary one but the
help."

"But they're comin'?" said Mrs. Starling, lifting up her head for the
answer.

"Wall, I can't say. Evan, he's too fur; and I guess men in his place
hain't their ch'ice. And his folks is flourishy kind o' bodies; I don't
set no count on 'em, for my part."

"Well, everybody else'll be there, and shame 'em if they ain't," said
Mrs. Starling. "How's your mother, Joe?"

"Wall, I guess _she's_ ripe," said Joe with a slow intonation, loving
and reverent; "but she's goin' to hold on to this state o' things yet
awhile. Good day t'ye!"

Diana went to the old man's funeral with her mother; in a sort of
tremble of spirits, looking forward to what she might possibly see or
hear. But no one was there; no one in whom she had any interest; none
of Mr. Bowdoin's grandchildren could make it convenient to come to his
funeral. The large gathering of friends and neighbours and distant
relations were but an unmeaning crowd to Diana's perceptions.

What difference would this change at Elmfield make in her own
prospects? Would Mrs. Reverdy and her set come to Elmfield as usual,
and so draw Evan as a matter of course? They might not, perhaps. But
what difference could it be to Diana? Evan would come, at all events,
and under any circumstances; even if his coming let the secret out; he
would come, and nothing would keep him from it; the necessity of seeing
her would be above all other except military necessities. Diana thought
she wished the old gentlemen had not died. But it could make no
difference. As soon as he could, Evan would be there.

She returned to her quiet waiting. But now nature began to be noisy
about her. It seemed that everything had a voice. Spring winds said,
"He is coming;" the perfume of opening buds was sweet with his far-off
presence; the very gales that chased the clouds, to her fancy chased
the minutes as well; the waking up of the household and farm
activities, said that now Diana's inner life would come back to its
wonted course and arrangements.

The spring winds blew themselves out; spring buds opened into full
leafage; spring activities gradually merged into the steady routine of
summer; and still Diana saw nothing, and still she heard nothing of
Evan.

She was patient now by force of will; doggedly trusting. She _would_
not doubt. None of the family came to Elmfield; so there was no news by
the way that could reach her. Mrs. Starling watched the success of her
experiment, and was satisfied. Will began to come about the house more
and more.

It was near the end of summer, more than a year since her first
introduction to Evan, that Diana found herself again one day at Mother
Bartlett's cottage. She always made visits there from time to time;
to-day she had come for no special reason, but a restlessness which
possessed her at home. The old lady was in her usual chimney corner,
knitting, as a year ago; and Diana, having prepared the mid-day repast
and cleared away after it, was sitting on the doorstep at the open
door; whence her eye went out to the hillside pasture and followed the
two cows which were slowly moving about there. It was as quiet a bit of
nature as could be found anywhere; and Diana was very quiet looking at
it. But Mrs. Bartlett's eye was upon her much more than upon her work;
which, indeed, could go on quite well without such supervision. She
broke silence at last, speaking with an imperceptible little sigh.

"And so, dear, the minister preached his sermon about the fashions last
Sabbath?"

"About fashion," said Diana. "He had promised it long ago."

"And what did he say, dear?"

"He said, 'The fashion of this world passeth away.'"

"But he said something more, I suppose? _I_ could have said that."

"He said a great deal more," replied Diana. "It was a very curious
sermon."

"As I hain't heard it, and you hev', perhaps you'll oblige me with some
more of it."

"It was a very curious sermon," Diana repeated. "Not in the least like
what you would have expected. There wasn't much about fashion in it;
and yet, somehow it seemed to be _all_ that."

"What was his text?"

"I can't tell; something about 'the grace of the fashion of it.' I
don't remember how the words went."

"I know, I guess," said the old lady. "'Twas in James, warn't it?
Something like this--'The sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat.'"

"Yes, yes, that was it."

"'--but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the
grace of the fashion of it perisheth.'"

"That was it," assented Diana.

"So he preached about the shortness of life?"

"No, not at all. He began with those words, and just a sentence or
two--and it was beautiful, too, mother--explaining them; and then he
said the Bible hadn't much in it directly speaking of our fashions; he
would give us what there was, and let us make what we could of it; so
he did."

"You can make a good deal of it if you try," said Mrs. Bartlett. "And
then, dear?"

"Then he went off, you'd never think where--to the last chapter of
Proverbs; and he described the woman described there; and he made her
out so beautiful and good and clever and wise, that somehow, without
saying a word about fashion, he made us feel how _she_ would never have
had any concern about it; how she was above it, and five times more
beautiful without, than she would have been with, the foolish ways of
people now-a-days. But he didn't say that; you only felt it. I don't
much believe there are any such women, mother."

"I hope and believe you'll make just such a one, Diana."

"I?" said the girl, with a curious intonation; then subsiding again
immediately, she sat as she had sat at her own door a year ago, with
arms folded, gazing out upon the summery hill pasture where the cows
were leisurely feeding. But now her eyes had a steady, hard look, not
busy with the sunshiny turf or the deep blue sky against which the line
of the hill cut so soft and clear. _Then_ the vision had been all
outward.

"And that was his sermon?" said the old lady with a dash of
disappointment.

"No! O no," said Diana, rousing herself. "He went on then--how shall I
tell you? Do you remember a verse in the Revelation about the Church
coming down as a bride adorned for her husband?"

"Ay!" said the old lady with a gratified change of voice. "Well?"

"He went on to describe that adornment. I can't tell you how he did it;
I can't repeat what he said; but it was inner adornment, you know; 'all
glorious within,' I remember he said; and without a word more about
what he started with, he made one feel that there is no real adornment
but that kind, nor any other worth a thought. I heard Kate Boddington
telling mother, as we came out of church, that she felt as cheap as
dirt, with all her silk dress and new bonnet; and Mrs. Carpenter, who
was close by, said she felt there wasn't a bit of her that would bear
looking at."

"What did your mother say?"

"Nothing. She didn't understand it, she said."

"And, Di, how did you feel?"

"I don't think I felt anything, mother."

"How come that about?"

"I don't know. I believe it seems to me as if the fashion of this world
never passed away; it's the same thing, year in and year out."

"What ails you, Diana?" her old friend asked after a pause.

"Nothing. I'm sort o' tired. I don't see how folks stand it, to live a
long life."

"But life has not been very hard to you, honey."

"It needn't be _hard_ for that," Diana answered, with a kind of choke
in her voice. "Perhaps the hardest of all would be to go on an
unvarying jog-trot, and to know it would always be so all one's life."

"What makes life all of a sudden so tiresome to you, Di?"

"Something I haven't got, I suppose," said the girl drearily. "I have
enough to eat and drink."

"You ain't as bright as you used to be a year ago."

"I have grown older, and have got more experience."

"If life is good for nothin' else, Di, it's good to make ready for what
comes after."

"I don't believe that doctrine, mother," said Diana energetically.
"Life is meant to be life, and not getting ready to live. _'Tisn't_
meant to be all brown and sawdusty here, that people may have it more
fresh and pleasant by and by."

"No; but to drive them out o' this pasture, maybe. If the cows found
always the grass long in the meadow, when do you think they'd go up the
hill?"

A quick, restless change of position was the only answer to this; an
answer most unlike the natural calm grace of Diana's movements. The old
lady looked at her wistfully, doubtfully, two or three times up and
down from her knitting, before speaking again. And then speaking was
prevented, for the other door opened and the minister came in.

Basil was always welcome, whatever house or company he entered; he
could fall in with any mood, take up any subject, sympathize in
anybody's concerns. That was part of his secret of power, but that was
not all. There was about him an _aura_ of happiness, so to speak; a
steadfastness of the inner nature, which gave a sense of calm to others
almost by the force of sympathy; and the strength of a quiet will,
which was, however, inflexible. All that was restless, uncertain, and
unsatisfied in men's hearts and lives, found something in him to which
they clung as if it had been an anchor of hope; and so his popularity
had a very wide, and at first sight very perplexing range.

The two women in Mrs. Bartlett's cottage were glad to see him; and they
had reason. Perhaps, for he was very quick, he discerned that the
social atmosphere had been somewhat hazy when he came in; for through
all his stay his talk was so bright and strong that it met the needs of
both hearers. Even Diana laughed with him and listened to him; and when
he rose to take leave, she asked if he came on horseback to-day?

"No, I am ease-loving. I borrowed Mr. Chalmers' buggy."

"Which way are you going now, sir, if you please?"

He hesitated an instant, looked at her, and answered quite demurely, "I
think, your way."

"Would you be so kind as to take me so far as home with you, then?"

"I don't see any objection to that," said Basil in the same cool
manner. And Diana hastily took her bonnet and kissed her old friend,
and in another minute or two she was in the buggy, and they were
driving off.

If the minister suspected somewhat, he would spoil nothing by being in
a hurry. He drove leisurely, saying that it was too hot weather to ask
much exertion even from a horse; and making little slight remarks, in a
manner so gentle and quiet as to be very reassuring. But if that was
what Diana wanted, she wanted a great deal of it; for she sat looking
straight between the edges of her sun-bonnet, absolutely silent, hardly
even making the replies her companion's words called for. At last he
was silent too. The good grey horse went very soberly on, not urged at
all; but yet even a slow rate of motion will take you to the end of
anything, given the time; and every minute saw the rods of Diana's road
getting behind her. I suppose she felt that, and spoke at last in the
desperate sense of it. When a person is under that urgency, he does not
always choose his words.

"Mr. Masters, is there any way of making life anything but a miserable
failure?"

The lowered cadences of Diana's voice, a thread of bitterness in her
utterance, quite turned the minister's thought from anything like a
light or a gay answer. He said very gravely,

"Nobody's life need be that."

"How are you to get rid of it?"

"Of that result, you mean?"

"Yes."

"Will you state the difficulty, as it appears to you?"

"Why, look at it," said Diana, more hesitatingly; "what do most
people's lives amount to?--what does mine? To dress oneself, and eat
and drink, and go through a round of things, which only mean that you
will dress yourself and eat and drink again and do the same things
to-morrow, and the next day;--what does it all amount to in the end?"

"Is life no more than that to you?"

Diana hesitated, but then, with a tone still lowered, said, "No."

The minister was silent now, and presently Diana went on again.

"The whole world seems to me just so. People live, and die; and they
might just as well not have lived, for all that their being in the
world has done. And yet they have lived--and suffered."

More than she knew was told in the utterance of that last word. The
minister was still not in a hurry to speak. When he did, his question
came as a surprise.

"You believe the first chapter of Genesis, Miss Diana?"

"Certainly," she said, feeling with downcast heart, "O, now a sermon!"

"You believe that God made the earth, and made man to occupy it?"

"Yes--certainly."

"What do you think he made him for?"

"I know what the catechism says," Diana began slowly.

"No, no; my question has nothing to do with the catechism. Do you
believe that the Creator's intention was that men should live
purposeless lives, like what you describe?"

"I can't believe it."

"Then what purpose are we here for? Why am I, and why are you, on the
earth?"

"I don't know," said Diana faintly. The talk was not turning out well
for her wish, she thought.

"To find that out,--and to get in harmony with the answer,--is the
great secret of life."

"Will you help me, Mr. Masters?" said Diana humbly. "It is all dark and
wild to me,--I see no comfort in anything. If there were nothing better
than this, one would rather _not_ be on the earth."

Mr. Masters might have pondered with a little surprise on the strength
of the currents that flow sometimes where the water looks calm; but he
had no time, and in truth was in no mood for moralizing just then. His
answer was somewhat abrupt, though gentle as possible.

"What do you want, Miss Diana?"

But the answer to that was a choked sob, and then, breaking all bounds
of her habit and intention, a passionate storm of tears. Diana was
frightened at herself; but, nevertheless, the sudden probe of the
question, with the sympathetic gentleness of it, and the too great
contrast between the speaker's happy, calm, strong content and her own
disordered, distracted life, suddenly broke her down. Neither, if you
open the sluice-gates to such a current, can you immediately get them
shut again. This she found, though greatly afraid of the conclusions
her companion might draw. For a few minutes her passion was utterly
uncontrolled.

If Basil drew conclusions, he was not in a hurry to make them known. He
did not at that time follow the conversation any further; only
remarking cheerfully, and sympathetically too, "We must have some more
talk about this, Miss Diana; but we'll take another opportunity," and
so presently left her at her own door, with the warm, strong grasp of
the hand that many a one in trouble had learned to know. There is
strange intelligence, somehow, in our fingers. They can say what lips
fail to say. Diana went into the house feeling that her minister was a
tower of strength and a treasury of kindness.

She found company. Mrs. Flandin and her mother were sitting together.

"Hev' you come home to stay, Diana?" was her mother's sarcastic
salutation.

"How come you and the Dominie to be a ridin' together?" was the other
lady's blunter question.

"I had the chance," said Diana, "and I asked him to bring me. It's too
hot for walking."

"And how come he to be in a buggy, so convenient? He always goes
tearin' round on the back of that 'ere grey horse, I thought. I never
see a minister ride so afore; and I don't _think_, Mis' Starling, it's
suitable. What if he was to break his neck, on the way to visit some
sick man?"

"Jim Treadwell broke _his_ neck out of a waggon," responded Mrs.
Starling.

"Ah, well! there ain't no security, no place; but don't it strike you,
now, Mis' Starling, that a minister had ought to set an example of
steady goin', and not turn the heads of the young men, and young women,
with his capers?"

"He is a young man himself, Mrs. Flandin," Diana was bold to say.

"Wall--I know he is," said the lady in a disapproving way. "I know he
is; and he can't help it; but if I had my way, I'd allays have a
minister as much as fifty year old. It looks better," said Mrs. Flandin
complacently; "and it _is_ better."

"What is he to do all the first fifty years of his life then?"

"Wall, my dear, I hain't got the arrangement of things; I don't know. I
know Will would hitch up and carry you anywheres you want to go--if
it's a waggon you want any time."

After that, Will made good his mother's promise, so far as intentions
went. He was generally on hand when anything was to be done in which
himself and his smart buggy could be useful. Indeed, he was very often
on hand at other times; dropping in after supper, and appearing with
baskets, which were found to contain some of the Flandin pears or the
fine red apples that grew in a corner of the lot, and were famous. Some
of his own bees' honey Will brought another time, and a bushel of
uncommonly fine nuts. Of course this was in the fall, to which the
weary weeks of Diana's summer had at length dragged themselves out. But
if Will hoped that honey would sweeten Diana's reception of him and his
attentions, as yet it did not seem to have the desired effect. In
truth, though Will could never suspect it, her brain was so heavy with
other thoughts that she was only in a vague and general way conscious
of his presence; and of his officious gallantries scarcely aware. So
little aware, indeed, of their bearing, that on two or three occasions
she suffered herself to be conveyed in Will's buggy to or from some
gathering of the neighbours; Mrs. Starling or Mrs. Flandin had arranged
it, and Diana had quite blindly fallen into the trap. And then the
young man, not unreasonably elated and inspirited, began to make his
visits to Mrs. Starling's house more frequent than ever. It was little
he did to recommend himself when he was there; he generally sat
watching Diana, carrying on a spasmodic and interrupted conversation
with Mrs. Starling about farm affairs, and seizing the opportunity of a
dropped spool or an unwound skein of yarn to draw near Diana and
venture some word to her. Poor Diana felt in those days so much like a
person whose earthly ties are all broken, that it did not come into her
head in what a different light she stood to other eyes.



CHAPTER XVIII.



A SNOWSTORM.



As the weeks of September rolled away, they brought by the necessary
force of associations a sharp waking up to Diana's torpor. These, last
year, had been the weeks of her happiness; happiness had come to her
dressed in these robes of autumn light and colour; and now every breath
of the soft atmosphere, every gleam from the changing foliage, the
light's peculiar tone, and the soft indolence of the hazy days, stole
into the recesses of Diana's heart, and smote on the nerves that
answered every touch with vibrations of pain. The AEolian harp that had
sounded such soft harmonies a year ago, when the notes rose and fell in
breathings of joy, clanged now with sharp and keen discords that Diana
could scarcely bear. The time of blackberries passed without her
joining the yearly party which went as usual; she escaped that; but
there was no escaping September. And when in due course the time for
the equinoctial storms came, and the storms did not fail, though coming
this year somewhat later than the last, Diana felt like a person
wakened up to life to die the second time. Her mood all changed. From a
dull, miserable apathy, which yet had somewhat of the numbness of death
in it, she woke up to the intense life of pain, and to a corresponding,
but in her most unwonted, irritability of feeling. All of a sudden, as
it were, she grew sensitive to whatever in her life and surroundings
was untoward or trying. She read through Will Flandin's devotion; she
saw what her mother was "driving at," as she would have expressed it.
And the whole reality of her relations to Evan and his relations to her
stood in colours as distinct as those of the red and green maple
leaves, and unsoftened by the least haze of self-delusion. In the dash
of the rain and the roar of the wind, in the familiar swirl of the elm
branches, she read as it were her sentence of death. Before this she
had not been dead, only stunned; now she was wakened up to die. Nature
herself, which had been so kind a year ago, brought her now the
irrevocable message. A whole year had gone by, a year of silence; it
was merely impossible that Evan could be true to her. If he had been
true, he would have overleaped all barriers, rather than let this
silence last; but indeed he had no barriers to overleap; he had only to
write; and he had plenty of time for it. _She_ might have overleaped
barriers, earlier in the year, if she could have known the case was so
desperate; and yet, Diana reflected, she could not and would not, even
so. It was well she had not tried. For if Evan needed to be held, she
would not put out a finger to hold him.

Of this change in Diana's mood it is safe to say that nothing was
visible. Feeling as if every nerve and sense were become an avenue of
living pain, dying mentally a slow death, she showed nothing of it to
others. Mind and body were so sound and strong, and the poise of her
nature was matched with such a sweet dignity, that she was able to go
through her usual round of duties in quite her usual way; "die and make
no sign." Nothing was neglected in any wise, nothing was slurred or
hurried over; thoroughly, diligently, punctually, she did the work from
which all heart was gone out, and even Mrs. Starling, keen enough to
see anything if only she had a clue to it, watched and saw nothing. For
Diana's cheek had been pale for a good while now, and she had never
been a talkative person, lately less than ever; so the fact that in
these days she never talked at all did not strike her mother. But such
power of self-containing is a dangerous gift for a woman.

No doubt the extreme bustle and variety of the autumn and early winter
work helped Mrs. Starling to shut her eyes to what she did not want to
see; helped Diana too. Fall ploughing and sowing were to be attended
to; laying down the winter's butter, storing the vegetables, disposing
of the grain, fatting cattle, wood cutting and hauling, and repairing
of fences, which Mrs. Starling always had done punctually in the fall
as soon as the ploughs were put up. For nothing under Mrs. Starling's
care was ever left at loose ends; there was not a better farmer in
Pleasant Valley than she. Then the winter closed in, early in those
rather high latitudes; and pork-killing time came, when for some time
nothing was even thought of in the house but pork in its various
forms,--lard, sausage, bacon, and hams, with extras of souse and
headcheese. Snow had fallen already; and winter was setting in betimes,
the knowing ones said.

So came one Sunday a little before Christmas. It brought a lull in the
midst of the pork business. Hands were washed finally for the whole
day, and the kitchen "redd up." The weariness of Diana's nerves
welcomed the respite; for business, which oftimes is a help to bearing
pain, in some moods aggravates it at every touch; and Diana was glad to
think that she might go into her own room and lock the door and be
alone with her misery. The day was cloudy and threatening, and Mrs.
Starling had avowed her purpose not to go to church. She was "tuckered
out," she said. "And I am sure the Sabbath was given us for rest."
Diana made no answer; she was washing up the breakfast things.

"I guess we ain't early, neither," Mrs. Starling went on. "Well--one
day in seven, folks must sleep; and I didn't get that headcheese out of
my hands till 'most eleven o'clock. I guess it's first-rate, Diana;
we'll try a bit this noon. Who's that stoppin'?--Will Flandin, if I see
straight; that's thoughtful of him; now he'll take you to church, Di."

Will he? thought Diana. Flandin came in. Dressed in his Sunday best he
always seemed to Diana specially lumbering and awkward; and to-day his
hair was massed into smoothness by means of I know not what bountiful
lubrication, which looked very greasy and smelt very strong of cloves.
His necktie was blue with yellow spots; about the right thing, Will
thought; it was strange what a disgust it gave Diana. What's in a
necktie?

"Goin' to snow, Will?" asked Mrs. Starling.

"Wall--guess likely. Not jes' yet, though."

"Your mother got through with her pork?"

"Wall--I guess not. Seems to me, ef she was through, there wouldn't be
so many pickle tubs round."

"Good weight?"

"Wall--fair."

"Our'n's better than that. Tell you what, Will, your pigs don't get the
sunshine enough."

"Don't reckon they know the difference," said Will, smiling and
glancing over towards Diana; but Diana was gone. "Were you calculatin'
to go to meetin' to-day, Mis' Starling?"

"Guess not to-day, Will. I'm gettin' too old to work seven days in a
week--in pork-killin' time, anyhow. I'm calculatin' to stay home.
Diana's always for goin', though; she's gone to get ready, I guess. She
ain't tired."

Silence. Diana's room was too far off for them to hear her moving
about, and Mrs. Starling sat down and stretched out her feet towards
the fire. Both parties meditating.

"You and she hain't come to any understanding yet?" the lady began.
Will shifted his position uneasily and spoke not.

"I wouldn't wait _too_ long, if I was you. She might take a notion to
somebody else, you know, and then you and me'd be nowhere."

"Has she, Mis' Starling?" Will asked, terrified.

"She hain't told _me_ nothing of it, if she has; and I hain't seen her
look sweet on anybody; but she might, you know, Will, if anybody came
along that she fancied. I always like to get the halter over my horse's
head, and then I know I've got him."

The image suggested nothing but difficulty to Will's imagination. A
halter over Diana's stately neck!

"I allays catch a horse by cornerin' him," he said sheepishly, and
again moving restlessly in his chair.

"That won't answer in this chase," said Mrs. Starling. "Diana'll walk
up to you of her own accord, if she comes at all; but you must hold out
your hand, Will."

"Ain't I a-doin' that all the while, Mis' Starling?" said Will, whom
every one of his friend's utterances seemed to put farther and farther
away from his goal.

"I reckon she'll come, all right," said Mrs. Starling reassuringly;
"but, you know, girls ain't obliged to see anybody's hand till they
have to. You all like 'em better for bein' skittish. I don't. She ain't
skittish with me, neither; and she won't be with you, when you've
caught her once. Take your time, only I wouldn't be _too_ long about
it, as I said."

Poor Will! The sweat stood upon his brow with the prospect of what was
before him, perhaps that very day; for what time could be better for
"holding out his hand" to Diana than a solitary sleigh ride? Then, if
he held out his hand and she wouldn't see it!


Meanwhile.--Diana had, as stated, left the kitchen, and mounted the
stairs with a peculiarly quick, light tread which meant business; for
the fact was that she did discern the holding out of Will's hand, and
was taking a sudden sheer. Nothing but the sheer was quite distinct to
her mind as she set her foot upon the stair; but before she reached the
top landing-place, she knew what she would do. Her mother was not going
to church; Will Flandin was; and the plan, she saw, was fixed, that he
should drive herself. Her mother would oblige her to go; or else, if
she made a determined stand, Will on the other hand would not go; and
she would have to endure him, platitudes, blue necktie, cloves, and
all, for the remainder of the morning. Only one escape was left her.
With the swiftness and accuracy of movement which is possible in a
moment of excitement to senses and faculties habitually deft and true,
Diana changed her dress, put on the grey, thick, coarse wrappings which
were very necessary for any one going sleigh-riding in Pleasant Valley,
took her hood in her hand, and slipped down the stairs as noiselessly
as she had gone up. It was not needful that she should go through the
kitchen, where her mother and her visitor were; there was a side door,
happily; and without being seen or heard, Diana reached the barn.

The rest was easy. Prince was fast by his halter, instead of wandering
at will over the sunny meadow; and without any delay or difficulty,
Diana got his harness on and hitched him to the small cutter which was
wont to convey herself and her mother to church and wherever else they
wanted to go in winter time. Only Diana carefully took the precaution
to remove the sleigh bells from the rest of Prince's harness; then she
led him out of the barn where she had harnessed him, closed the barn
doors securely, remembering how they had been left on another occasion,
mounted, and drove slowly away. It had been a dreamy piece of work to
her; for it had so fallen out that she had never once harnessed Prince
again since that June day, when she, indeed, did not harness him, but
had been about it, when somebody else had taken the work out of her
hand. It was very bitter to Diana to handle the bridle and the traces
that _he_ had handled that day; she did it with fingers that seemed to
sting with pain at every touch; her brain got into a whirl; and when
she finally drove off, it was rather instinctively that she went slowly
and made no sound, for Will and his hopes and his wooing and his
presence had faded out of her imagination. She went slowly, until she,
also instinctively, knew that she was safe, and then still she went
slowly. Prince chose his own gait. Diana, with the reins slack in her
hand, sat still and thought. There was no need for hurry; it was not
near church time, not yet even church-going time; Will would be quiet
for a while yet, before it would be necessary to make any hue-and-cry
after the runaway; and she and Prince would be far beyond ken by that
time. And meanwhile there was something soothing in the mere being
alone under the wide grey sky. Nobody to watch her, nothing to exert
herself about; for a few moments in her life, Diana could be still and
drift.

Whither? She was beginning to feel that the chafing of home, her
mother's driving and Will's courting, were becoming intolerable. Heart
and brain were strained and sore; if she could be still till she died,
Diana felt it to be the utmost limit of desirableness. She knew she was
not likely to die soon; brain and nerve might be strained, but they
were sound and whole; the full capacity for suffering, the unimpaired
energy for doing, were hers yet. And stillness was not likely to be
granted her. It was inexpressibly suitable to Diana's mood to sit quiet
in the sleigh and let Prince walk, and feel alone, and know that no one
could disturb her. A few small flakes of snow were beginning to flit
aimlessly about; their soft, wavering motion suggested nothing ruder
than that same purposeless drift towards which Diana's whole soul was
going out in yearning. If she had been in a German fairy tale, the
snow-flakes would have seemed to her spirits of peace. She welcomed
them. She put out her hand and caught two or three, and then brought
them close to look at them. The little fair crystals lay still on her
glove; it was too cold for them to melt. O to be like that!--thought
Diana,--cold and alone! But she was in no wise like that, but a living
human creature, warm at heart and quick in brain; in the midst of
humanity, obliged to fight out or watch through the life-battle, and
take blows and wounds as they came. Ah, she would not have minded the
blows or the wounds; she would have girded herself joyfully for the
struggle, were it twice as long or hard; but now,--there was nothing
left to fight for. The fight looked dreary. She longed to creep into a
corner, under some cover, and get rid of it all. No cover was in sight.
Diana knew, with the subtle instinct of power, that she was one of
those who must stand in the front ranks and take the responsibility of
her own and probably of others' destinies. She could not creep into a
corner and be still; there was work to do. And Diana never shirked
work. Vaguely, even now, as Prince walked along and she was revelling,
so to speak, in the loveliness and the peace of momentary immunity, she
began to look at the question, how and where her stand must be and her
work be done. Not as Will Flandin's wife, she thought! No, she could
never be that. But her mother would urge and press it; how much worry
of that sort could she stand, when she was longing for rest? Would her
mother's persistence conquer in the end, just because her own spirit
was gone for contending? No; never! Not Will Flandin, if she died for
it. Anything else.

The truth was, the girl's life-hope was so dead within her, that for
the time she looked upon all things in the universe through a veil of
unreality. What did it matter, one thing or the other? what did it
signify any longer which way she took through the wilderness of this
world? Diana's senses were benumbed; she no longer recognised the forms
of things, nor their possible hard edges, nor the perspectives of time.
Life seemed unending, long, it is true, to look forward to; but she saw
it, not in perspective, but as if in a nightmare it were all in mass
pressing upon her and taking away her breath. So what did points here
and there amount to? What did it matter? any more than this snow which
was beginning to come down so fast.

Fast and thick; the aimless scattering crystals, which had come
fluttering about as if uncertain about reaching earth at all, had given
place to a dense, swift, driving storm. Without much wind perceptible
yet, the snowfall came with a steady straight drift which spoke of an
impelling force somewhere, might it be only the weight of the cloud
reservoirs from which it came. It came in a way that could no longer be
ignored. The crystals struck Diana's face and hands with the force of
small missiles. But just now she had been going through a grey and
brown lonely landscape; it was covered up, and nothing to see but this
white downfall. Even the nearest outlines were hidden; she could barely
distinguish the fences on either hand of her road; nothing further;
trees and hills were all swallowed up, and the road itself was not
discernible at a very few paces' distance. Indeed, it was not too easy
to keep her eyes open to see anything, so beat the crystals, sharp and
fast, into her face. Diana smiled to herself, to think that she was
safe now from even distant pursuit; no fear that Flandin would by and
by come up with her, or even make his appearance at the church at all
that day; the storm was violent enough to keep any one from venturing
out of doors, or to make any one turn back to his house who had already
left it. Diana had no thought of turning back; the more impossible the
storm made other people's travelling, the better it was for hers.
Prince knew the way well enough, and could go to church like a
Christian; she left the way to him, and enjoyed the strange joy of
being alone, beyond vision or pursuit, set aside as it were from her
life and life surroundings for a time. What did she care how hard the
storm beat? To the rough treatment of life this was as the touch of a
soft feather. Diana welcomed it; loved the storm; bent her head to
shield her from the blast of it, and went on. The wind began to make
itself known as one of the forces abroad, but she did not mind that
either. Gusts came by turns, sweeping the snow in what seemed a solid
mass upon her shoulder and side face; and then, in a little time more,
there was no question of gusts, but a steady wild fury which knew no
intermission. The storm grew tremendous, and everybody in Pleasant
Valley was well aware that such storms in those regions did not go as
soon as they came. Diana herself began to feel glad that she must be
near her stopping-place. No landmarks whatever were visible, but she
thought she had been travelling long enough, even at Prince's slow
rate, to put most of the three miles behind her; and she grew a little
afraid lest in the white darkness she might miss the little church;
once past it, though never so little, and looking back would be in
vain. It was a question if she would not pass it even with her best
endeavour. In her preoccupation it had never once occurred to Diana to
speculate on what she would find at the church, if she reached it; and
now she had but one thought, not to miss reaching it. She had some
anxious minutes of watching, for her rate of travelling had been slower
than she knew, and there was a good piece of a mile still between her
and the place when she began to look for it. Now she eyed with greatest
care the road and the fences, when she could see the latter, and indeed
it is poetical to speak of her seeing the road, for the tracks were all
covered up. But at last Diana recognised a break in the fence at her
left; checked Prince, turned his head carefully in that direction,
found he seemed to think it all right, and presently saw just before
her the long low shed in which the country people were wont to tie
their horses for the time of divine service. Prince went straight to
his accustomed place.

Diana got out. There was no need to tie Prince to-day. The usual equine
sense of expediency would be quite sufficient to keep any horse under
cover. She left the sleigh, and groped her way--truly it was not easy
to keep on her feet, the wind blew so--till she saw the little white
church just before her. There was not a foot-track on the snow which
covered the steps leading to the door. But the wind and the snow would
cover up or blow away any such tracks in very short time, she
reflected;--yet,--what if the door were locked and nobody there! One
moment her heart stood still. No; things were better than that; the
door yielded to her hand. Diana went in, welcomed by the warm
atmosphere, which contrasted so pleasantly with the wind and the
snow-flakes, shut the door, shook herself, and opened one of the inner
doors which led into the audience room of the building.



CHAPTER XIX.



OUT OF HUMDRUM.



Warm, how good and warm! but empty. Perfectly empty. Perfectly still.
Empty pews, and empty pulpit; nobody, not a head visible anywhere. Not
a breath to be heard. The place was awful; it was like the ghost of a
church; all the life out of it. But how, then, came it to be warm?
Somebody must have made the fires; where was somebody gone? And had
none of all the congregation come to church that day? was it too bad
for everybody? Diana began to wake up to facts, as she heard the blast
drive against the windows, and listened to the swirl of it round the
house. And how was she going to get home, if it was so bad as that? At
any rate, here was still solitude and quiet and freedom; she could get
warm and enjoy it for awhile, and let Prince rest; she would not be in
a hurry. She turned to go to one of the corners of the room, where the
stoves were screened off by high screens in the interest of the
neighbouring pews; and then, just at the corner of the screen, from
where he had been watching her, she saw Mr. Masters. Diana did not know
whether to be sorry or glad. On the whole, she rather thought she was
glad; the church was eerie all alone.

"Mr. Masters!--I thought nobody was here."

"I thought nobody was going to be here. Good morning! Who else is
coming?"

"Who else? Nobody, I guess."

"How am I to understand that?"

"Just so,"--said Diana, coming up to the stove and putting her fingers
out towards the warmth.

"Where is the other half of your family?"

"I left mother at home."

"You came alone?"

"Yes, I came alone." Diana began to wonder a little at the situation in
which she found herself, and to revolve in her mind how she could make
use of it.

"Miss Diana, you have dared what no one else has dared."

"It was not daring," said the girl. "I did not think much of the storm,
till I was so far on the way that it was as easy to come on as to go
back."

A light rejoinder, which would have been given to anybody else, was
checked on Mr. Masters' lips by the abstracted, apart air with which
these words were spoken. He gave one or two inquisitive glances at the
speaker, and was silent. Diana roused herself.

"Has nobody at all come to church?"

"Nobody but Mr. St. Clair"--(he was the old sexton.) "And he has such a
bad cold that I took pity on him and sent him home. I promised him I
would shut up the church for him--when it was necessary to leave it.
_He_ was in no condition to be preached to."


He half expected Diana would propose the shutting up of the church at
once, and the ensuing return home of the two people there; but instead
of that, she drew up a stool and sat down.

"You will not be able to preach to-day," she remarked.

"Not to much of a congregation," said the minister. "I will do my best
with what I have."

"Are you going to preach to me?" said Diana, with a ghost of a smile.

"If you demand it! You have an undoubted right."

Diana sat silent. The warmth of the room was very pleasant. Also the
security. Not from the storm, which howled and dashed upon the windows
and raged round the building and the world generally; but from that
other storm and whirl of life. Diana did not want just yet to be at
home. Furthermore, she had a dim notion of using her opportunity. She
thought how she could do it; and the minister, standing by, watched
her, with some secret anxiety but an extremely calm exterior.

"You must give me the text, Miss Diana," he ventured presently.

Diana sat still, musing. "Mr. Masters," she said at last, very slowly,
in order that the composure of it might be perfect,--"will you tell me
what is the good of life?"

"To yourself, you mean?"

"Yes. For me--or for anybody."

"I should say briefly, that God makes all His creatures to be happy."

"Happy!" echoed Diana, with more sharpness of accent than she knew.

"Yes."

"But, Mr. Masters, suppose--suppose that is impossible?"

"It never is impossible."

"That sounds--like--mockery," said Diana. "Only you never do say
mocking things."

"I do not about this."

"But, Mr. Masters!--surely there are a great many people in the world
that are not happy?"

"A sorrowful truth. How comes Diana Starling to be one of them?"

And saying this, the minister himself drew up a chair and sat down. The
question was daring, but the whole way and manner of the man were so
quiet and gentle, so sympathizing and firm at once, that it would have
lured a bird off its nest; much more the brooding reserve from a heart
it is not nursing but killing. Diana looked at him, met the wise, kind,
grave eye she had learned long ago to trust,--and broke down. All of a
sudden; she had not dreamed she was in any danger; she was as much
surprised as he was; but that helped nothing. Diana buried her face in
her hands and burst into tears.

He looked very much concerned. Wisely, however, he kept perfectly quiet
and let the storm pass; the little inner storm which caused the outer
violence of winds and clouds to be for the time forgotten. Diana sobbed
bitterly. When after a few minutes she checked herself, the minister
went off and brought her a glass of water. Diana lifted her flushed
face and drank it, making no word of excuse or apology. As he took the
glass back, Mr. Masters spoke in the tone of mixed sympathy and
authority--it was a winning kind of authority--which was peculiar to
him.

"Now, Miss Diana, what is it?"

But there was a long pause. Diana was regaining self-command and
searching for words. The minister was patient, and waited.

"There seems to be nothing left in life," she said at last.

"Except duty, you mean?"

"There is enough of that; common sort of duties. But duty is very cold
and bare if it is all alone, Mr. Masters."

"Undoubtedly true. But who has told you that your life must be filled
with only common sorts of duties?"

"It has nothing else," said Diana despondently. "And I look forward and
see nothing else. And when I think of living on and on so--my brain
almost turns, and I wonder why I was made."

"Not to live so. Our Maker meant none of us to live a humdrum life;
don't you know, we were intended for 'glory, honour, and immortality'?"

"How can one get out of humdrum?" Diana asked disconsolately.

"By living to God."

"I don't understand you."

"You understand how a woman can live to a beloved human creature, doing
everything in the thought and the joy of her affection."

Was he probing her secret? Diana's breath came short; she sat with eyes
cast down and a feeling of oppression; growing pale with her pain. But
she said, "Well?"

"Let it be God, instead of a fellow-creature. Your life will have no
humdrum then."

"But--one can only love what one knows," said Diana, speaking carefully.

"Precisely. And the Bible cry to men is, that they would 'know the
Lord.' For want of that knowledge, all goes wild."

"Do you mean that that will take the place of everything else?" said
Diana, lifting her weary eyes to him. They were strong, beautiful eyes
too, but the light of hope was gone, and all sparkle of pleasure, out
of them. The look struck to the minister's heart. He answered, however,
with no change of tone.

"I mean, that it more than takes the place of everything else."

"Not replace what is lost," said Diana sadly.

"More than replace it, even when one has lost all."

"That can't be!--that must be impossible, sometimes," said Diana. "I
don't believe you know."

"Yes, I do," said the minister gravely.

"People would not be human."

"Very human--tenderly human. Do you really think, Miss Diana, that he
who made our hearts, made them larger than he himself can fill?"

Diana sat silent a while, and the minister stood considering her; his
heart strained with sympathy and longing to give her help, and at the
same time doubting how far he might or dared venture. Diana on her part
fearing to show too much, but remembering also that this chance might
never repeat itself. The fear of losing it began to overtop all other
fear. So she began again.

"But, Mr Masters--this, that you speak of--I haven't got it; and I
don't understand it. What shall I do?"

"Get it."

"How?"

"Seek it in the appointed way."

"What is that?"

"Jesus said, 'He that hath my commandments and keepeth them, he it is
that loveth me; and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father; and
I will love him, and _will manifest myself to him_.'"

"But I do not love him."

"Then pray as Moses prayed,--'I beseech thee, show me thy glory.'"

Diana's head sank a little. "I have no heart to give to anything!" she
confessed.

"What has become of it?" asked the minister daringly.

"Don't people sometimes lose heart without any particular reason?"

"No; never."

"I have reason, though," said Diana.

"I see that."

"You do not know--?" said Diana, facing him with a startled movement.

"No. I know nothing, Miss Diana. I guess."

She sat with her face turned from him for a while; then, perhaps
reminded by the blast of wind and snow which at the moment came round
the house furiously and beat on the windows, she went on hastily:

"You wonder to see me here; but I ran away from home; and I can't bear
to go back."

"Why?"

"Mr. Masters, mother wants me to"--Diana hesitated--"marry a rich man."

The minister was silent.

"He is there all the while--I mean, very often; he has not spoken out
yet, but mother has; and she favours him all she can."

"You do not?"

"I wish I could never see him again!" sighed Diana.

"You can send him away, I should think."

"I can't, till he asks my leave to stay. And I am so tired. He came to
take me to church this morning; and I ran away before it was time to
go."

"You cannot be disposed of against your will, Miss Diana."

"I seem to have so little will now. Sometimes I am almost ready to be
afraid mother and he together will tire me out. Nothing seems to matter
any more."

"That would be a great mistake."

"Yes!"--said Diana, getting up from her chair and looking out towards
the storm with a despairing face;--"people make mistakes sometimes. Mr.
Masters, you must think me very strange--but I trust you--and I wanted
help so much"--

"And I have not given you any."

"You would if you could."

"And I will if I can. I have thought of more than I have spoken. When
can I see you again, to consult further? It must be alone."

"I don't know. This is my chance. Tell me now. What have you thought
of?"

"I never speak about business on Sunday," said the minister, meeting
Diana's frank eyes with a slight smile which was very far from
merriment.

"Is this business?"

"Partly of that character."

"I don't know, then," said Diana. "We must take our chance. Thank you,
Mr. Masters."

"May I ask what for?"

"For your kindness."

"I should like to be kind to you," said he. "Now the present practical
question, which cannot be put off, Miss Diana, is--how are you going to
get home?"

"And you?"

"That is a secondary matter and easily disposed of. I live
comparatively near by. It is out of the question that you should drive
three miles in this storm."

Both stood and listened to the blast for a few minutes. There was no
denying the truth of his words. In fact, it would be a doubtful thing
for a strong man to venture himself and his beast out in the fury of
the whirling wind and snow; for a woman, it was not to be thought of.
Mr. Masters considered. For him to take Diana, supposing the storm
would let him, to the house of some near neighbour, would be awkward
enough, and give rise to endless and boundless town talk. To carry her
home, three miles, was, as he had said, out of the question. To wait,
both of them, in the church, for the storm's abating, was again not a
desirable measure, and would furnish even richer food for the tongues
of the parish than the other alternatives would. To leave her, or for
her to leave him, were alike impossible. Mr. Masters was not a man who
usually hesitated long about any course of action, but he was puzzled
to-day. He walked up and down in one of the aisles, thinking; while
Diana resumed her seat by the stove. Her simplicity and independence of
character did not allow her to greatly care about the matter; though
she, too, knew very well what disagreeable things would be said, at
home and elsewhere, and what a handle would be made of the affair, both
against her and against the minister. For his sake, she was sorry; for
herself, what did anything much matter? This storm was an exceptional
one; such as comes once in a year perhaps, or perhaps not in several
years. The wind had risen to a tempest; the snow drove thick before it,
whirling in the eddies of the gust, so as to come in every possible
direction, and seemingly caught up again before it could reach a
resting-place. The fury of its assault upon the church windows made one
thing at least certain; it would be a mad proceeding now to venture out
into it, for a woman or a man either. And it was very cold; though
happily the stoves had been so effectually fired up, that the little
meeting-house was still quite comfortable. Yet the minister walked and
walked. Diana almost forgot him; she sat lost in her own thoughts. The
lull was soothing. The solitude was comforting. The storm which put a
barrier between her and all the rest of the world, was a temporary
friend. Diana could find it in her heart to wish it were more than
temporary. To be out of the old grooves of pain is something, until the
new ones are worn. To forsake scenes and surroundings which know all
our secrets is sometimes to escape beneficially their persistent
reminders of everything one would like to forget. Diana felt like a
child that has run away from school, and so for the present got rid of
its lessons; and sat in a quiet sort of dull content, listening now and
then to the roar of the blast, and hugging herself that she had run
away in time. Half an hour more, and it would have been too late, and
Will and her mother would have been her companions for all day. How
about to-morrow? Diana shuddered. And how about all the to-morrows that
stretched along in dreary perspective before her? Would they also, all
of them, hold nothing but those same two persons? Nothing but an
endless vista of butter-making and pork-killing on one hand, and
hair-oil scented with cloves on the other? It would be better far to
die, if she could die; but Diana knew she could not.

"Well!" said the voice of the minister suddenly beside her, "what do
you think of the prospect?"

Diana's eyes, as they were lifted to his face, were full of so blank a
life-prospect, that his own face changed, and a cloud came over its
brightness.

"We can't get away," he said. "Not at present, unless we were gulls;
and gulls never fly in these regions. Do you mind waiting?"

"I do not mind it at all," said Diana; "except for you. I am sorry for
you to have to stay here with me."

"There isn't anybody I would rather stay with," said the minister, half
humourously. "Now, can you return the compliment?"

"Yes indeed!" said Diana earnestly. "There isn't anybody else I would
half as lieve stay with."

"Apparently you have some confidence in me," he said in the same tone.

"I have confidence in nobody else," said Diana sadly. "I know you would
help me if you could."

They were silent a few minutes after that, and when Mr. Masters began
to speak again, it was in a different tone; a gentle, grave tone of
business.

"I have been doing some hard thinking," he said, "while I have been
walking yonder; and I have come to the conclusion that the present is
an exceptional case and an exceptional time. Ordinarily I do not let
business--private business--come into Sunday. But we are brought here
together, and detained here, and I have come to the conclusion that
this is the business I ought to do. I have only one parishioner on my
hands to-day," he went on with a slight smile, "and I may as well
attend to her. I am going to tell you my plan. I shall not startle you?
Just now you allowed that you had confidence in me?"

"Yes. I will try to do whatever you say I ought to do."

"That I cannot tell," said he gravely, "but I will unfold to you my
plan. You have trust in me. So have I in you, Diana; but I have more.
So much more, that it would make me happy to go through my life with
you. I know,"--he said as he met her startled look up to him,--"I know
you do not love me, I know that; but you trust me; and I have love
enough for two. That has been true a great while. Suppose you come to
me and let me take care of you. Can you trust me to that extent?"

Diana's lips had grown white with fear and astonishment. "You do not
know!"--she gasped. But his answer was steady and sweet.

"I think I do."

"All?"

"All I need to know."

"It would be very, very wrong to you, Mr. Masters!" said Diana, hiding
her face.

"No," he answered in the same gentle way. "To give me what I long for?"

"But--but--I have nothing to give in return," she said, answering not
the form of his words, but the reality under them.

"I will take my risk of that. I told you, I have enough for both. And I
might add, to last out our lives. I only want to have the privilege of
taking care of you."

"My heart is dead!"--cried Diana piteously.

"Mine isn't. And yours is not. It is only sick, but not unto death; and
I want to shelter and nurse it to health again. May I?"

"You cannot," said Diana. "I am not worth anybody's looking at any
more. There is no life left in me. I am not good enough for you, Mr.
Masters. You ought to have a whole heart--and a large one--in return
for your own."

"I do not want any return," said he. "Not at present, beyond that trust
which you so kindly have given me. And if I never have any more, I will
be content, Diana, to be allowed to do all the giving myself. You must
spend your life somewhere. Can you spend it anywhere better than at my
side?"

"No,"--Diana breathed rather than spoke.

"'Then it's a bargain?" said he, taking her hand. Diana did not
withdraw it, and stooping down he touched his lips gently to hers. This
was so unlike one of Evan's kisses, that it did not even remind Diana
of them. She sat dazed and stunned, hardly knowing how she felt, only
bewildered; yet dimly conscious that she was offered a shelter, and a
lot which, if she had never known Evan, she would have esteemed the
highest possible. An empty lot now, as any one must be; an unequal
exchange for Mr. Masters; an unfair transaction; at the same time, for
her, a hiding-place from the world's buffetings. She would escape so
from her mother's exactions and rule; from young Flandin's following
and pretensions; from the pointed finger of gossip. True, that finger
had never been levelled at her, not yet; but every one who has a secret
sore spot knows the dread of its being discovered and touched. And
Diana had never been wont to mind her mother's exactions, or to rebel
against her rule; but lately, for a year past, without knowing or
guessing the wrong of which her mother had been guilty, Diana had been
conscious of an underlying want of harmony somewhere. She did not know
where it was; it was in the air; for nature's subtle sympathies find
their way and know their ground far beyond the sphere of sense or
reason. Something adverse and something sinister she had vaguely felt
in her mother's manner, without having the least clue to any possible
cause or motive. Suspicion was the last thing to occur to Diana's
nature; so she suspected nothing; nevertheless felt the grating and now
and then the jar of their two spirits one against the other. It was
dimly connected with Evan, too, in her mind, without knowing why; she
thought, blaming herself for the thought, that Mrs. Starling would not
have been so determinately eager to get her married to Will Flandin if
Evan Knowlton had never been thought to fancy her. This was a perfectly
unreasoning conclusion in Diana's mind; she could give no account of
it; but as little could she get rid of it; and it made her mother's
ways lately hard to bear. The minister, she knew instinctively, would
not let a rough wind blow on her face; at his side neither criticism
nor any sort of human annoyance could reach her; she would have only
her own deep heart-sorrow to bear on to the end. But what sort of
justice was this towards him? Diana lifted her head, which had been
sunk in musing, and looked round. She had heard nothing for a while;
now the swirl and rush of the storm were the first thing that struck
her senses; and the first thought, that no getting away was possible
yet; then she glanced at Mr. Masters. He was there near her, just as
usual, looking at her quietly.

"Mr. Masters," she burst forth, "you are very good!"

"That is right," he said, with a sort of dry comicality which belonged
to him, "I hope you will never change your opinion."

"But," said Diana, withdrawing her eyes in some confusion, "I think I
am not. I think I am doing wrong."

"In what?"

"In letting you say what you said a little while ago. You have a heart,
and a big one. I have not any heart at all. I can't give you what you
would give me; I haven't got it to give. I never shall have anything to
give."

"The case being so as you put it," said the minister quite quietly,
"what then? You cannot change the facts. I cannot take back what I have
given; it was given long ago, Diana, and remains yours. The least you
can do, is to let me have what is left of you and take care of it.
While I live I will do that, and ask no reward."

"You will get tired of it," said Diana, with her lip trembling.

"Will I?" said he, taking her hand. And he added no more, but through
the gentle, almost careless intonation, Diana felt and knew the very
truth, that he never would. She left her hand in his clasp; that too
was gentle and firm, like the man; he seemed a tower of strength to
Diana. If only she could have loved him! Yet she thought she was glad
that he loved her. He was something to lean upon; some one who would be
able to give help. They sat so, hand in hand, for a while, the storm
roaring against the windows and howling round the building.

"Don't you think," the minister began again with a tender, light
accent, "it will be part of my permanent duty to preach to you?"

"I dare say; I am sure I want it enough," said Diana.

"Is not this a good opportunity?"

"I suppose it is. We cannot get away."

"Never mind; the wind will go down by and by. It has been blowing on
purpose to keep us here. Diana, do you think a good God made any of his
creatures to be unhappy?"

"I don't know, Mr. Masters. He lets them be unhappy."

"It is not his will."

"But he takes away what would make them happy?"

"What do you think would do that?"

"I suppose it is one thing with one person, and another with another."

"True; but take an instance."

"It is mother's happiness to have her farm and her dairy and her house
go just right."

"Is she happy if it does?"

"She is very uncomfortable if it don't."

"That is not my question," said the minister, smiling. "Happiness is
not a thing that comes and goes with the weather, or the crops, or the
state of the market;--nor even with the life and death and affection of
those we love."

"I thought it did"--said Diana rather faintly.

"In that case it would be a changeable, insecure thing; and being that,
it would cease to be happiness."

"Yes. I thought human happiness was changeable and uncertain."

"Do you not feel that such conditions would spoil it? No; God loves us
better than that."

"But, Mr. Masters," said Diana in some surprise, "nobody in this world
can be sure of keeping what he likes?"

"Except one thing."

"What can that be?"

"Did you never see anybody who was happy independent of circumstances?"

Diana reflected. "I think Mother Bartlett is."

"I think so too."

"But she is the only person of whom that is true in all Pleasant
Valley."

"How comes she to be an exception?"

Diana reflected again, but this time without finding an answer.

"Isn't it, that she has set her heart on what cannot fail her nor be
insufficient for her?"

"Religion, you mean."

"I do not mean religion."

"What then?" Diana asked in new surprise.

"I mean--Christ."

"But--isn't that the same thing?"

"Not exactly. Christ is a person."

"Yes--but"--

"And _he_ it is that can make happy those who know him. Do you remember
he said, 'He that cometh to me shall never hunger, and he that
believeth on me shall never thirst'?"

Looking up at the speaker and following his words, they somehow struck
Diana rather hard. Her lip suddenly trembled, and she looked down.

"You do not understand it," said the minister, "but you must believe
it. Poor hungry lamb, seeking pasture where there is none,--where it is
withered,--come to Christ!"

"Do you mean," said Diana, struggling for voice and self-command, but
unable to look up, for the minister's hand was on her shoulder and his
words had been very tenderly spoken,--"do you mean, that when
everything _is_ withered, he can make it green again?"

The minister answered in the words of David, which were the words of
the Lord: "'He shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun
riseth, even a morning without clouds; as the tender grass springeth
out of the earth by clear shining after rain.'"

Diana bent her head lower. Could such refreshment and renewal of her
own wasted nature ever come to pass? She did not believe it; yet
perhaps there was life yet at the roots of the grass which scented the
rain. The words swept over as the breath of the south wind.

"'The light of a morning without clouds'"--she repeated when she could
speak.

"Christ is all that, to those who know him," the minister said.

"Then I do not know him," said Diana.

"Did you think you did?"

"But how _can_ one know him, Mr. Masters?"

"There is only one way. It is said, 'God, who created the light out of
darkness, hath _shined in our hearts_, to give the light of the glory
of the knowledge of Christ.'"

"How?"

"I cannot tell. As the sun rises over the hills, and suddenly the gold
of it is upon everything, and the warmth of it."

"When?"

"I don't know that either," said Mr. Masters, gently touching Diana's
brow, as one touches a child's, with caressing fingers. "_He_ says: 'Ye
shall find me when ye shall search for me with all your heart.'--'If
thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for
understanding; if thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as
for hid treasures; then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and
_find the knowledge of God_.'"

Diana sat still awhile and neither of them spoke; then she said,
speaking more lightly:

"I think you have preached a beautiful sermon, Mr. Masters."

"It's a beautiful sermon," assented the minister; "but how much effect
will it have?"

"I don't know," said Diana. "I don't seem to have energy enough to take
hold of anything." Then after a little she added--"But if anybody can
help me I am sure it is you."

"We will stand by one another, then," said he, "and do the best we can."

Diana did not make any denial of this conclusion; and they sat still
without more words, for some time, each busied with his own separate
train of musings. Then Diana felt a little shiver of cold beginning to
creep over her; and Mr. Masters roused himself.

"This is getting serious!" said he, looking at his watch. "What o'clock
do you think it is? One, and after. Am I to make up the fires again? We
cannot stir at present."

Neither, it was found, could he make up the fires. For the coal bin was
in the cellar or underground vault, to which the entrance was from the
outside; and looking from the window, Mr. Masters saw that the snow had
drifted on that side to the height of a man, covering the low door
entirely. Hours of labour would be required to clear away the snow
enough to give access to the coal; and the minister had not even a
shovel. At the same time, the fires were going down, and the room was
beginning to get chilly under the power of the searching wind, which
found its way in by many entrances. The only resource was to walk. Mr.
Masters gave Diana his arm, and she accepted it, and together they
paced up and down the aisle. It was a strange walk to Diana; her
companion was rather silent, speaking only a few words now and then;
and it occurred to her to wonder whether this, her first walk with him,
was to be a likeness of the whole; a progress through chilly and empty
space. Diana was not what may be called an imaginative person, but a
thought of this kind came over her. It did not make her change her mind
at all respecting the agreement she had entered into; if it were to be
so, better she should find herself at his side, she thought, than
anywhere else. She was even glad, in a dull sort of way, that Mr.
Masters should be pleased; pleasure for her was gone out of the world.
Honour him she could, and did, from the bottom of her heart; but that
was all. It was well, perhaps, for her composure that whatever pleasure
her companion might feel in their new relations, he did not make the
feeling obtrusively prominent. He was just his usual self, with a
slight confidence in his manner to her which had not appeared before.

So they walked.

"Diana," said Mr. Masters suddenly, "have you brought no lunch with
you?"

"I forgot it. At least,--I was in such a hurry to get out of the house
without being seen, I didn't care about anything else. If I had gone to
the pantry, they would have found out what I was doing."

"And I brought nothing to-day, of all days. I am sorry, for your sake."

"I don't mind it," said Diana. "I don't feel it."

"Nor I,--but that proves nothing. This won't do. It is two o'clock. We
_must_ get away. It will be growing dark in a little while more. The
days are just at the shortest."

"I think the storm isn't quite so bad as it was," said Diana.

They stood still and listened. It beat and blew, and the snow came
thick; still the exceeding fury of the blast seemed to be lessened.

"We'll give it a quarter of an hour more," said the minister.
"Diana--we have had preaching, but we have had no praying."

She assented submissively, to his look as well as his words, and they
knelt down together in the chancel. Mr. Masters prayed, not very long,
but a prayer full of the sweetness and the confidence and the strength,
of a child of God who is at home in his Father's presence; full of
tenderness and sympathy for her. Diana's mind went through a series of
experiences in the course of that short prayer. The sweetness and the
confidence of it touched her first with the sense of contrast, and
wrung tears from her that were bitter; then the speaker got beyond her
depth, into regions of feeling where she could not follow him nor quite
understand, but that, she knew, was only because he was at home where
she was so much a stranger; and her thoughts made a leap to the
admiration of _him_, and then to the useless consideration, how happy
she might have been with this man had not Evan come between. Why had he
come, just to win her and prove himself unworthy of her? But it was
done, and not to be undone. Evan had her heart, worthy or unworthy; she
could not take it back; there was nothing left for her but to be a cold
shadow walking beside this good man who was so full of all gentle and
noble affections. Well, she was glad, since he wanted her, that she
might lead her colourless existence by his side. That was the last
feeling with which she rose from her knees.



CHAPTER XX.



SETTLED.



It was a very wild storm yet through which Mr. Masters drove Diana
home. Still the wind blew hard, and the snow came driving and beating
down upon their shoulders and faces in thick white masses; and the
drifts had piled up in some places very high. More than once the
sleigh, Prince and all, was near being lodged in a snow-bank, from
which the getting free would have been a work of time; Mr. Masters had
to get out and do some rather complicated engineering; and withal,
through the thick and heavy snowfall it was difficult to see what they
were coming to. Patience and coolness and good driving got the better
of dangers however, and slowly the way was put behind them. They met
nobody.

"Mr. Masters," said Diana suddenly, "you will have to stay at our house
to-night. You can never get back."

"I don't believe Mrs. Starling will let me go," said the minister.

Diana did not know exactly how to understand this. It struck a sort of
chill to her, that he was intending at once to proclaim their new
relations to each other; yet she could find nothing to object, and
indeed she did not wish to object.

"Mother will not be pleased," she ventured after a pause.

"No, I do not expect it. We have got to face that. But she is a wise
woman, and will know how to accommodate herself to things when she
knows she can't help it. I will put Prince up and give him some supper,
and then we will see."

Diana accordingly went in alone. But, as it happened, Mrs. Starling was
busied with some affairs in the outer kitchen; and Diana passed through
and got up to her own room without any encounter. She was glad.
Encounters were not in her line. She was somewhat leisurely, therefore,
in taking off her wrappings and changing her dress. And as the minister
was on the other hand as soon done with his ministrations to Prince as
circumstances and the snow permitted, it fell out that they re-entered
the kitchen almost at the same moment, though by different doors. It
was the lean-to kitchen, the only place where fire was kept on Sunday:
and indeed that was the usual winter dwelling-room, a little outer
kitchen serving for all the dirty work. It was in what I should call
dreary Sunday order; which means, order without life. The very chairs
and tables seemed to say forlornly that they had nothing to do. Not so
much as an open book proclaimed that the mistress of the place was any
better off. However, she had other resources; for even as the minister
came in from the snow, and Diana from up-stairs, Mrs. Starling herself
made her appearance from the outer kitchen with a pan of potatoes in
her hand.

Mrs. Starling liked neither to be surprised, nor to seem so. Moreover,
from the outer kitchen door she had seen Prince and the sleigh going to
the barn, and seen, too, who was driving him. With the cunning of an
Indian, she had made a sudden tremendous leap to conclusions; how
arrived at, I cannot say; there is a faculty in some natures that is
very like a power of intuition. So she came in now with a manner that
was undeclarative of anything but grimness; gave no sign of either
surprise or curiosity; vouchsafed the minister only a scant little nod
of welcome, and to Diana scarce a look; and set her pan of potatoes on
the table, while she went into the pantry for a knife.

"Do you want those peeled, mother?" Diana asked.

"Must have something for supper, I suppose."

"Shall I do it?"

"No. I guess you've done enough for one day."

"_I_ have," said Mr. Masters. "And if you had driven these three miles
in the snow, you would know it. May I have some supper, Mrs. Starling?"

"There'll be enough, I guess," said the mistress of the house, with her
knife flying round the potato in hand in a way that showed both
practice and energy. Then presently, with a scarce perceptible glance
up at her daughter, she added,

"Where have you been?"

"To church, mother."

"To church!"--scornfully. "What did you do there?"

"She heard preaching," said the minister, in that very quiet and
composed way of his, which it was difficult to fight against. Few
people ever tried; if any one could, it was Mrs. Starling.

"I guess there warn't many that had the privilege?" she said
inquiringly.

"Not many," said the minister. "I never had a smaller audience--in
church--to preach to."

"Folks had better be at home such a day, and preach to themselves."

"I quite agree with you. So I brought Diana back as soon as I could.
But we have been two hours on the way."

Mrs. Starling's knife flew round the potatoes; her tongue was silent.
Diana began to set the table. Sitting by the corner of the fire to dry
the wet spots on his clothes, the minister watched her. And Mrs.
Starling, without looking, watched them both; and at last, having
finished her potatoes, seized the dish and went off with it; no doubt
to cook the supper, for savoury fumes soon came stealing in. Diana made
coffee, not without a strange back look to a certain stormy September
night when she had made it for some one else. It was December now--a
December which no spring would follow; so what mattered anything,
coffee or the rest? If there were any blessing left for her in the
world, she believed it would be under Mr. Masters' protection and in
his goodness. She felt dull and in a dream, but she believed that.

The three had supper alone. Conversation, as far as Mrs. Starling was
concerned, went on the pattern that has been given. Mr. Masters was at
the whole expense of the entertainment, mentally; and he talked with
the ease and pleasantness that seemed natural to him, of things that
could not help interesting the others; even Diana in her deadness of
heart, even Mrs. Starling in her perversity, pricked up their ears and
listened. I don't believe, either, he even found it a difficult effort;
nothing ever seemed difficult to Mr. Masters that he had to do; it was
always done so graciously, and as if he were enjoying it himself. So no
doubt he was. Certainly this evening; though Mrs. Starling did not
speak many words, and Diana spoke none. So supper was finished, and the
mistress and her guest moved their chairs to the fire, while Diana
busied herself in putting up the things, going in and out from the
pantry.

"You'll have to keep me to-night, Mrs. Starling," said the minister.

"I knew that when I saw you come in," responded the lady, not over
graciously.

"I am not going to receive hospitality under false pretences, though,"
said the minister. "If I rob, I won't steal. Mrs. Starling, Diana and I
have come to an agreement."

"I knew that too," returned the lady defiantly.

"According to which agreement," pursued the other, without change of a
hair, "I am coming again, some other time, to take her away, out of
your care into mine."

"There go two words to that bargain," said Mrs. Starling after a
half-minute's pause.

"Two words have been spoken; mine and hers. Now we want yours."

"Diana's got to take care of me."

"Does that mean that she is never to marry?"

"It don't mean anything ridiculous," said Mrs. Starling; "so it don't
mean that."

"I should not like to say anything ridiculous. Then, if she may marry,
it only remains that she and you should be suited. Do you object to me
as a son-in-law?"

It is impossible to convey the impression of the manner, winning, half
humourous, half dry, supremely careless and confident, in which all
this was said on the minister's part. It was something almost
impossible at the moment to withstand, and it fidgetted Mrs. Starling
to be under the power of it. Her grudge against the minister was even
increased by it, and yet she could not give vent to the feeling.

"I'm not called upon to make objections against you in any way," she
answered rather vaguely.

"That means, of course, that you have no objections to make?"

"I don't make any," said Mrs. Starling shortly.

"I must be content with that," said Mr. Masters, smiling. "Diana, your
mother makes no objections." And rising, he went and gravely kissed her.

I do not know what tied Mrs. Starling's tongue. She sat before the fire
with her hands in her lap, in an inward fury of dull displeasure; she
had untold objections to this arrangement; and yet, though she knew she
must speak now or never, she could not speak. Whether it were the spell
of the minister's manner, which, as I said, worked its charm upon her
as it did upon others; whether it were the prick of conscience, warning
her that she had interfered once too often already in her daughter's
life affairs; or whether, finally, she had an instinctive sense that
things were gone too far for her hindering hand, she fumed in secret,
and did nothing. She was a woman of sense; she knew that if a man like
Mr. Masters loved her daughter, and had got her daughter's good-will,
it would be an ill waste of strength on her part to try to break the
arrangement. It might be done; but it would not be worth the scandal
and the confusion. And she was not sure that it could be done.

So she sat chewing the cud of her mortification and ire, giving little
heed to what words passed between the others. It had come to this! She
had schemed, she had put a violent hand upon Diana's fate, to turn it
her own way, and now _this_ was the way it had gone! All her wrong
deeds for nothing! She had purposed, as she said, that Diana should
take care of her; therefore Diana should not marry any poor and proud
young officer, nor any officer at all, to carry her away beyond reach
and into a sphere beyond and above the sphere of her mother. No, Diana
must marry a rich young farmer; Will Flandin would just do; a man who
would not dislike or be anywise averse to receive such a mother-in-law
into his house, but reckon it an added advantage. Then her home would
be secure, and her continued rule; and ruling was as necessary to Mrs.
Starling as eating. She would have a larger house and business to
manage, and withal need not do herself more than she chose; having
Diana, she would be sure of everything else she wanted. Now she had
lost Diana. And only to a poor parson when all was done! Would it have
been better to let her marry the officer? For Mrs. Starling had a
shrewd guess that such would have been the issue of things if she had
let them alone. Diana could not so have been more out of her power or
out of her sphere; for Mrs. Starling had a certain assured
consciousness that she would not "fit" in the minister's family, and
that, gentle as he was, he would rule his house and his wife himself.
She sat brooding, hardly hearing what was said by either of the others:
and indeed, the discourse was not very lively; till Mr. Masters rose
and bade them good night. And then Mrs. Starling still went on musing.
Why had she not interfered at the right moment, to put a stop to this
affair? She had let the moment go, and the thought vexed her; and her
mood was not at all sweetened by the lurking doubt whether she could
have stopped it if she had tried. Mrs. Starling could not abide to meet
with her match, and sorely hated her match when she found it. What if
she were to tell Diana of those letters of Evan? But then Diana would
be off to the ends of the earth with _him_. Better keep her in the
village, perhaps. Mrs. Starling grew more and more impatient.

"Diana, you are a big fool!" she burst out.

Diana at that moment thought _not_. She did not answer. Both were
sitting before the wide fireplace, and Diana had not moved since Mr.
Masters left them.

"What sort of a life do you expect you are going to have?"

"I don't know, mother."

"You, who might marry the richest man in town!--And live in plenty, and
have just your own way, and everything you want! You _are_ a fool I Do
you know what it means to be a poor minister's wife?"

"I shall know, I suppose. That is, if Mr. Masters is poor. I don't know
whether he is or not."

"He is of course! They all are."

"Well, mother. You have taught me how to keep house on a little."

"Yes, you and me; that's one thing. It's another thing when you have a
shiftless man hanging round, and a dozen children or so, and expected
to be civil to all the world. They always have a house full of
children, and they are all shiftless."

"Who, mother?"

"Poor ministers."

"Father hadn't--and wasn't."

"He was as shiftless a man as ever wore shoe-leather; he wasn't a bit
of help to a woman. All he cared for was to lose his time in his books;
and that's the way this man'll do, and leave you to take the brunt of
everything. _Your_ time'll go in cookin' and mendin' and washin' up;
and you'll have to be at everybody's beck and call at the end o' that.
If there's anything _I_ hate, it's to be in the kitchen and parlour
both at the same time."

Diana was silent.

"You might have lived like a queen."

"I don't want to live like a queen."

"You might have had your own way, Diana."

"I don't care about having my own way."

"I wish you would care, then, or had a speck of spirit. What's life
good for?"

"I wish I knew"--said Diana wearily, as she rose and set back her chair.

"You never will know, in that man's house. I do think, ministers are
the meanest lot o' folks there is; and that you should go and take one
of them!"--

"It is the other way, mother; he has taken me," said Diana, half
laughing at what seemed to her the disproportion between her mother's
passion and the occasion for it.

"You were a fool to let him."

"I don't think so."

"You'll be sorry yet."

"Why?"

"They're a shiftless lot," said Mrs. Starling rather evasively, "the
whole of 'em. And this one has a way of holding his own in other folks'
houses, that is intolerable to me! I never liked him, not from the very
first."

"I always liked him," said Diana simply; and she went off to her room.
She had not expected that her mother would favour the arrangement; on
the contrary; and it had all been settled much more easily than she had
looked for.



CHAPTER XXI.



UNSETTLED.



So things were settled, and Mrs. Starling made no attempt to unsettle
them; on the other hand, she fell into a condition of permanent unrest
which I do not know how to characterize. It was not ill-humour exactly;
it was not displeasure; or if, it was displeasure at herself, but it
was contrary to all Mrs. Starling's principles to admit that, and she
never admitted it. Her farm servant, Josh, described her as being
always now in an "aggravated" state; and Diana found her society very
uncomfortable. There was never a word spoken pleasantly, by any chance,
about anything; good was not commended, and ill was not deplored; but
both, good and ill, were taken up in the same sharp, acrid, cynical
tone, or treated with the like restless mockery. Mrs. Starling found no
fault with Diana, other than by this bitter manner of handling every
subject that came up; at the same time she made the little house where
they lived together a place of thunderous atmosphere, where it was
impossible to draw breath freely and peacefully. They were very much
shut up to one another, too. That Sunday storm in December had been
followed by successive falls of snow, so deep that the ways were
encumbered, and travelling more difficult than usual in Pleasant Valley
even in winter. There was very little getting about between the
neighbours' houses; and the people let their social qualities wait for
spring and summer to develope themselves. Diana and her mother scarcely
saw anybody. Nick Boddington at rare intervals looked in. Joe Bartlett
once or twice came with a message from his mother; once Diana had gone
down to see her. Even Mr. Masters made his appearance at the little
brown farm-house less frequently than might have been supposed; for, in
truth, Mrs. Starling's presence made his visits rather unsatisfactory;
and besides the two kitchen fires, there was none other in the house to
which Diana and he could withdraw and see each other alone. So he came
only now and then, and generally did not stay very long.

To Diana, all this while, the coming or the going, the solitude or the
company, even the good or ill humours of her mother, seemed to be of
little importance. She lived her own shut-up, deadened, secret life
through it all, and had no nerves of sensation near enough to the
surface to be affected much by what went on outside of her. What though
her mother was all the while in a rasped sort of state? it could not
rasp Diana; she seemed to wear a coat of mail. Neighbours? no
neighbours were anything to her one way or another; if she could be
said to like anything, it was to be quite alone and see and hear
nobody. Her marriage she looked at in the same dull way; with a
thought, so far as she gave it a thought, that in the minister's house
her life would be more quiet, and peace and good-will would replace the
eager disquiet around her which, without minding it, Diana yet
perceived. More quiet and better, she hoped her life would be; her life
and herself; she thought the minister was getting a bad bargain of it,
but since it was his pleasure, she thought it was a good thing for her;
every time she met the gentle kind eyes and felt the warm clasp of his
hand, Diana repeated the assurance to herself. The girl had sunk again
into mental torpor; she did not see nor hear nor feel; she lived along
a mechanical sort of life, having relapsed into her former stunned
condition. Not crushed--there was too much of Diana's nature for one
blow or perhaps many blows to effect that; not beaten down, like some
other characters; she went on her way upright, alert, and strong, doing
and expecting to do the work of life to its utmost measure; all the
same, walking as a ghost might walk through the scenes of his former
existence; with no longer any natural conditions to put her at one with
them, and only conscious of her dead heart. This state of things had
given way in the fall to a few months of incessant and very live pain;
with her betrothal to the minister Diana had sunk again into the
dulness of apathy. But with a constitution mental and physical like
hers, so full of sound life-blood, so true and strong, in the nature of
things this state of apathetic sleep could not last for ever. And the
time of final waking came.

The winter had dragged its length away. Spring had come, with its
renewal of all the farm and household activities. Diana stood up to her
work and did it, day by day, with faultless accuracy, with blameless
diligence. She was too useful a helper not to be missed unwillingly
from any household that had once known her; and Mrs. Starling's temper
did not improve. It had been arranged that Diana's marriage should take
place about the first of June. Spring work over, and summer going on
its orderly way, she could be easiest spared then, she thought; and
Mrs. Starling, seeing it must be, made no particular objection. Beyond
the time, nothing had been talked of yet concerning the occasion. So it
was a hitherto untouched question, when Mrs. Starling asked her
daughter one day,--"What sort of a wedding are you calculatin' to have?"

"What sort of a wedding? I don't know," said Diana. "What do you mean
by a wedding?"

"The thing is, what _you_ mean by it. Don't be a baby, Diana Starling!
Do you mean to ask your friends to see you married?"

"I don't want anybody, I am sure," said Diana. "And I am sure Mr.
Masters does not care."

"Are you going to be married in a black gown?"

"Black! No; but I do not care what kind of a gown it is, further than
that."

"I don't think you care much about the whole thing," said Mrs.
Starling, looking at her. "If I was you, I wouldn't be married just to
please somebody else, without it pleased myself too. That's what _I_
think."

Poor Diana thought of Mr. Masters' face as she had seen it the last
time; and it seemed to her good to give somebody else pleasure, even if
pleasure were gone and out of the question for her. This view of the
question, naturally, she did not make public.

"What _are_ you going to marry this man for?" said Mrs. Starling,
standing straight up (she had been bending over some work) and looking
hard at her daughter.

"I hope he'll make a good woman of me," Diana said soberly.

"If you had a little more spunk, you might make a good man of him; but
you aren't the woman to do it. He wants his pride taken down a bit."

"But what about the day, mother?" said Diana, who preferred not to
discuss this subject.

"Well, if you haven't thought of it, I have; and I'm going to ask all
the folks there are; and we've got to make a spread for 'em, Diana
Starling, so we may as well be about it."

"Already!" said Diana. "It's weeks yet."

"They'll run away, you'll find; and the cake'll be better for keepin'.
You may go about stonin' the fruit as soon as you're a mind to."

Diana said no more, but stoned her raisins and picked over her currants
and sliced her citron, with the same apathetic want of realization
which lately she had brought to everything. It might have been cake for
anybody else's wedding that she was getting ready, so little did her
fingers recognise the relation of the things with herself. The cake was
made and baked and iced and ornamented. And then Mrs. Starling's
activities went on to other items of preparation. Seeing Diana would be
married, she meant it should be done in a way the country-side would
not forget; neither should Mrs. Flandin make mental comparisons,
pityingly, of the wedding that was, with the wedding that would have
been with her son for the bridegroom. Baking and boiling and roasting
and jellying went on in quantity, for Mrs. Starling was a great cook,
and could do things in style when she chose. The house was put in
order; fresh curtains hung up, and the handsomest linen laid out, and
greens and flowers employed to cover and deck the severely plain walls
and furniture. One thing more Mrs. Starling wished for which she was
not likely to have, the presence of one of the Elmfield family on the
occasion. She would have liked some one of them to be there, in order
that sure news of the whole might go to Evan and beyond possibility of
doubt; for a lurking fear of his sudden appearing some time had long
hidden in Mrs. Starling's mind. I do not know what she feared in such a
case. Of the two, Evan was hardly more distasteful to her as a
son-in-law than the minister was; though it is true that her action in
the matter of burning the letters had made her hate the man she had
injured. This feeling was counterbalanced, I confess, by another
feeling of the delight it would be to see Mr. Masters nonplussed; but
on the whole, she preferred that Evan should keep at a distance.

All the work and confusion of these last few weeks claimed Diana's full
time and strength, as well as her mother's; she had scarcely a minute
to think; and that was one reason, no doubt, why she went through them
with such unchanged composure. They were all behind her at last.
Everything was in order and readiness, down to the smallest particular;
and it was with a dull sense of this that Diana went up to her room the
last night before her wedding day. It was all done, and the time was
all gone.

She went in slowly, went to the window, opened it and sat down before
it. June had come again; one day of June was passed, and to-morrow
would be the second. Through the bustle of May, Diana had hardly given
a look to the weather or a thought to the time of year; it greeted her
now at her window like a dear old friend that she had been forgetting.
The moon, about an hour high, gave a gentle illumination through the
dewy air, revealing plainly enough the level meadows, and the hills
which made their distant bordering. The scent of roses and honeysuckles
was abroad; just under Diana's window there was a honeysuckle vine in
full blossom, and the rich, peculiar fragrance came in heavily-laden
puffs of air; the softest of breezes brought them, stirring the little
leaves lazily, and just touched Diana's face, sweet and tender,
reminding, caressing. Reminding of what? For it began to stir vaguely
and uneasily in Diana's heart. Things not thought of before put in a
claim to be looked at. This her home and sanctuary for so many years,
it was to be hers no longer. This was the last night at her window, by
her honeysuckle vine. She would not have another evening the enjoyment
of her wonted favourite view over the fields and hills; she had done
with all that. Other scenes, another home, would claim her; and then
slowly rose the thought that her freedom was gone; this was the last
time she would belong to herself. Oddly enough, nothing of all this had
come under consideration before. Diana had been stunned; she had
believed for a long time that she was dead, mentally; she had been, as
it were, in a slumber, partly of hopelessness, partly of preoccupation;
now the time of waking had come; and the hidden life in her stirred and
rose and shivered with the consciousness that it _was_ alive and in its
full strength, and what it meant for it to be alive now. As I said,
Diana's nature was too sound and well-balanced and strong for anything
to crush it, or even any part of it; and now she knew that the nerves
of feeling she thought Evan had killed for ever, were all astir and
quivering, and would never be fooled into slumbering again. I cannot
tell how all this dawned and broke to her consciousness. She had sat
down at her window a calm, weary-hearted girl, placid, and with even a
dull sort of content upon her; so she had sat and dreamed awhile; and
then June and moonlight, and her honeysuckle, and the roses, and the
memory of her free childish days, and the image of her lost lover, and
the thought of where she was standing, by degrees--how gently they did
it, too--roused her and pricked her up to the consciousness of what she
going to do. What was she going to do? Marry a man who had no real
place in her heart. She had thought it did not matter; she had thought
she was dead; now all at once she knew that she was alive in every
fibre, and that it mattered fearfully. The idea of Mr. Masters stung
her, not as novel-writers say "almost to madness,"--for there was no
such irregularity in Diana's round, sound, healthy nature,--but to pain
that seemed unbearable. No confusion in her brain, and no dulness now;
on the contrary, an intense consciousness of all that her position
involved. She had made a mistake, like many another; unlike many, she
had found it out early. She was going to marry a man to whom she had no
love to give; and she knew now that the life she must thenceforth lead
would be daily torture. Almost the worse because she had for Mr.
Masters so deep a respect and so true an appreciation. And he loved
her; of that there was no question; the whole affection of the best man
she had ever known was bestowed upon her, and in his hopes he saw
doubtless a future when she would have learnt to return his love. "And
I never shall," thought Diana. "Never, as long as I live. I wonder if I
shall get to hate him because I am obliged to live with him? All the
heart I have is Evan's, and will be Evan's; it don't make any
difference that he was not worthy of me, as I suppose he wasn't; I have
given, and I cannot take back. And now I must live with this other
man!"--Diana shuddered already.

She shed no tears. Happy are they whose grief can flow; part of the
oppression, at least, flows off with tears, if not part of the pain.
Eyes wide open, staring out into the moonlight; a rigid face, from
which the colour gradually ebbed and ebbed away, more and more; so
Diana kept the watch of her bridal eve. As the moon got higher, and the
world lay clearer revealed under its light, shadows grew more defined,
and objects more recognisable, it seemed as if in due proportion the
life before Diana's mental vision opened and displayed itself, plainer
and clearer; as she saw one, she saw the other. If Diana had been a
woman of the world, her strength of character would have availed to do
what many a woman of the world has not the force for; she would have
drawn back at the last minute and declined to fulfil her engagement.
But in the sphere of Diana's experience, such a thing was unheard of.
All the proprieties, all the conditions of the social life that was
known to her, forbade even the thought; and the thought never came to
her. She felt just as much bound, that is, as irrecoverably, as she
would be twenty-four hours later. But she was like a caged wild animal.
The view of the sweet moonlit country became unbearable at last, and
she walked up and down her floor; she had a vague idea of tiring
herself so that she could sleep. She did get tired of walking, but no
sleep came; and at last she sat down again before her window to watch
another change that was coming over the landscape. The moon was down,
and a cool grey light, very unlike her soft glamour, was stealing into
the sky and upon the world. Yes, the day was coming; the clear light of
a matter-of-fact, work-a-day creation. It was coming, and she must meet
it, and march on in the procession of life, which would leave no one
out. If she could go alone! But she must walk by another's side now.
And to that other, the light of this grey dawn, if he saw it, brought
only thoughts of joy. Could she help his being disappointed? Would she
be able to help his finding out what a dreadful mistake he had made,
and she? "I _must_," thought Diana, and set her teeth mentally; "he
must not know how I feel; he does not deserve that. He deserves nothing
but good, of me or of anybody. I will give him all I can, and he shall
not know how I do it."

With a recoil in every fibre of her nature, Diana turned to take up her
life burden. She felt as if she had had none till now.



CHAPTER XXII.



NEW LIFE.



The first week of Diana's marriage was always a blank in her memory.
The one continual, intense strain of effort to hide from her husband
what she was thinking and feeling swallowed up everything else. Mr.
Masters had procured a comfortable little light rockaway, and avoiding
all public thoroughfares and conveyances, had driven off with Diana
among the leafy wildernesses of the White Mountains; going where they
liked and stopping where they liked. It was more endurable to Diana
than any other way of spending those days could have been; the constant
change and activity, and the variety of new things always claiming
attention and admiration, gave her all the help circumstances could
give. They offered abundance of subjects for Mr. Masters to talk about;
and Diana could listen, and with a word or two now and then get along
quite passably. But of all the beauty they went through, of all the
glory of those June days, of all the hours of conversation that went
on, Diana kept in her memory but the one fact of continual striving to
hinder Mr. Masters from seeing her heart. She supposed she succeeded;
she never could tell. For one other thing forced itself upon her
consciousness as the days went on--a growing appreciation of this man
whom she did not love. His gentleness of manner, his tender care and
consideration for her, the even sweetness of temper which nothing
disturbed and which would let nothing disturb her, playing with
inconveniences which he could not remove; and then, beneath all that, a
strength of character and steady force of will which commanded her
utmost respect and drew forth her fullest confidence. It hurt Diana's
conscience terribly that she had given this man a wife who, as she said
to herself, was utterly unworthy of him; to make this loss good, so far
as any possible service or life-work could, she would have done
anything or submitted to anything. It was the one wish left her.

"What do you think of going home?" Mr. Masters asked suddenly one
evening. They had come back from a glorious ramble over the nearest
mountain, and were sitting after supper in front of the small
farm-house where they had found lodging, looking out upon the view.
Twilight was settling down upon the green hills. Diana started and
repeated his word.

"Home?"

"Yes. I mean Pleasant Valley," said the minister, smiling. "Not the
house where I first saw you. There are one or two sick people, from
whom I do not feel that I can be long away."

"You always think of other people first!" said Diana, almost with a
sigh.

"So do you."

"No, I do not. I do not think I do. It seems to me I have always
thought most of myself."

"You can begin now, then, to do better."

"In thinking of you first, you mean? O yes, I do. I will. But you think
of people you do not care for."

"No, I don't. Never. You cannot think of people you do not care for, in
the way you mean. They will not come into your head."

"How can one do then, Basil? How do _you_ do?"

"Obviously, the only way is to care for them."

"Who is sick in Pleasant Valley?"

"Nobody you know. One is an old man who lives back on the mountain; the
other is a woman near Blackberry hill."

"Blackberry hill? do you go _there?_"

"Now and then."

"But those are dreadful people there."

"Well," said the minister, "they want help so much the more."

"Help to live, do you mean? They do stealing enough for that."

"Nobody _lives_ by stealing," said the minister. "It is one of the ways
of death; and help to live is just what they want. But 'how shall they
believe on him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear
without a preacher'?"

"And do you _preach_ to them in that place?"

"I try."

"But there is no church there?"

"When you have got anything to do," said the minister, with a dry sort
of humourousness which belonged to him, "it is best not be stopped by
trifles."

"Where do you preach, then, Basil?"

"Wherever I can find a man or a woman to listen to me."

"In the houses?" exclaimed Diana.

"Why not?"

"Well, we never had a minister in Pleasant Valley like you before."

"Didn't you?"

"I don't believe anybody ever went to those people to preach to them,
until you went."

"They had a good deal of that appearance," Mr. Masters assented.

"But," Diana began again after a short pause, "to go back; Basil, you
do not _care_ for those people?"

"I think I do," said the minister very quietly.

"I suppose you do!" said Diana, in a sort of admiration. "But how can
you?"

"Easy to tell," was the answer. "God made them, and God loves them; I
love all that my Father loves. And Christ died for them; and I seek the
lost whom my Master came to save. And there is not one of them but has
in him the possibility of glory; and I see that possibility, and when I
see it, Diana, it seems to me a small thing to give my life, if need
be, that it may be realized."

"I am not good enough to be your wife!" said Diana, sinking her head.
And her secret self-abasement was very deep.

"Does that mean, that you object to the cutting short of our holiday?"
the minister asked, in his former tone of dry humourous suggestion.

"I?" said Diana, looking up and meeting his eyes. "No, certainly. I am
ready for whatever you wish, and whenever you wish."

"I don't wish it at all," said the minister, giving a somewhat longing
look at the green wilderness before them, of which the lovely hilly
outlines were all that the gathering twilight left distinct. "But the
thing is, Di, I cannot play when I ought to be working."

It made little difference to Diana. Indeed, she had a hope that in her
new home she would find, as she always had found in her old home,
engrossing duties that would make her part easier to get through, and
in some measure put a check to the rush of thought and feeling. So with
her full consent the very next day they set out upon their journey
home. It was not a great journey, indeed; a long day's drive would do
it; their horse was fresh, and they had time for a comfortable rest and
dinner at mid-day. The afternoon was very fair, and as they began to
get among the hills overlooking Pleasant Valley, something in air or
light reminded Diana of the time, two years ago, when she had gone up
the brook with Evan. She began to talk to get rid of her thoughts.

"What a nice, comfortable little carriage this is, Basil! Where did it
come from?"

"From Boston."

"From Boston! I thought there was nothing like it in Pleasant Valley,
that ever I saw. But how did you get it from Boston?"

"Where's the difficulty?" said the minister, sitting at ease sideways
on the front seat and looking in at her. He had put Diana on the back
seat, that she might take a more resting position than there was room
for beside him.

"Why, it's so far."

"Railway comes to Manchester. I received it there, and that is only ten
miles. I rode Saladin over a few days ago, and drove him back. I had
ordered the set of harness sent with the rockaway. Ecco!"

"Echo?" said Diana. "Where?"

"A very sweet echo," said the minister, smiling. "Didn't you hear it?"

"No. But Basil, do you mean that this carriage is yours?"

"No; it is yours."

"Mine! then you have bought it! Didn't it cost a great deal?"

"I thought not. If you like it, certainly not."

"O, Basil, you are very good!" said Diana humbly. "But indeed I do not
want you to go to any expense, ever, for me."

"I am not a poor man, Diana."

"Aren't you? I thought you were."

"What right had you to think anything about it?"

"I thought ministers were always poor."

"I am an exception, then."

"And--Basil--you never acted like a rich man."

"I am not going to, Di. Do you want to act like a rich woman?"

Spite of her desperate downheartedness, Diana could not help laughing a
little at his manner.

"I do not wish anything different from you," she answered.

"It is best for every reason, if you would use money to advantage in a
place like this, not to make a show of it. And in other places, if you
would use it to advantage, you _cannot_ make a show of it. So it comes
to the same thing. But short of that, Di, we can do what we like."

"I know what you like,"--she said.

"I shall find out what you like. In the first place, where do you think
you are going?"

"Where? I never thought about it. I suppose to Mrs. Persimmon's."

"I don't think you would like that. The place was not exactly pleasant;
and the house accommodations did very well for me, but would not have
been comfortable for you. So I have set up housekeeping in another
locality. Do you know where a woman named Cophetua lives?"

"I never heard of her."

"Out of your beat. She lives a little off the road to the Blackberry
Hill. I have taken her house, and put a woman in it to do whatever you
want done."

"I? But we never kept help, since I can remember, Basil; not house
help."

"Well? That proves nothing."

"But I don't need anybody--I can do all that we want."

"You will find enough to do."

Mr. Masters quickened the pace of his horse, and Diana sat back in the
carriage, half dismayed. She longed to lose herself in work, and she
wished for nothing less than eyes to watch her.

It was almost evening when they got home. The place was, as Mr. Masters
had said, out of what had been Diana's way hitherto; in a part of
Pleasant Valley which was at one side of the high road. The situation
was very pretty, overlooking a wide sweep of the valley bottom, with
its rich cultivation and its encircling border of green wooded hills.
As to the house, it was not distinguished in any way beyond its
compeers. It was rather low; it was as brown as Mrs. Starling's house;
it had no giant elms to hang over it and veil its uncomelinesses. But
just behind it rose a green hill; the house, indeed, stood on the lower
slope of the hill, which fell off more gently towards the bottom;
behind the house it lifted up a very steep, rocky wall, yet not so
steep but that it was grown with beautiful forest trees. Set off
against its background of wood and hill, the house looked rather cosy.
It had been put in nice order, and even the little plot of ground in
front had been cleared of thistles and hollyhocks, which had held a
divided reign, and trimmed into neatness, though there had not been
time yet for grass or flowers to grow.

Within the house about this time, at one of the two lower front
windows, a little woman stood looking out and speculating on the
extreme solitariness of the situation. She had nobody to communicate
her sentiments to, or she could have been eloquent on the subject. The
golden glow and shimmer of the setting sun all over the wide landscape,
it may be said with truth, she did not see; to her it was nothing but
"sunshine," a natural and necessary accessory of the sun's presence,
when clouds did not happen to come over the sky. I think she really saw
nothing but the extreme emptiness of the picture before her; just that
one fact, that there was nothing to see. Therefore it was on various
accounts an event when the rockaway hove in sight, and the grey horse
stopped before the gate. It did not occur to Miss Collins then to go
out to the carriage to receive bundles or baskets or render help
generally; she had got something to look at, and she looked. Only when
the minister, having tied Saladin's head, came leading the way through
the little courtyard to the front door, did it occur to his "help" to
open the same. There she stood, smiling the blankest of smiles, which
made Diana want to get rid of her on the instant.

"Well, of all things!" was her salutation uttered in a high key. "If it
ain't you! I never was so beat. Why, I didn't look for ye this long
spell yet."

"Won't you let us come in, Miss Collins, seeing we are here?"

"La! I'm glad to see ye, fust-rate," was the answer as she stepped
back; and stepping further back as Mr. Masters advanced, at last she
pushed open the door of her kitchen, which was the front room on that
side, and backed in, followed by the minister and, at a little
interval, by his wife. Miss Collins went on talking. "How do, Mis'
Masters? I speck I can't be under no mistake as to the personality,
though I hain't had the pleasure o' a introduction. But I thought
honeymoon folks allays make it last as long as they could?" she went
on, turning her eyes from Diana to the minister again; "and you hain't
been no time at all."

"What have you got in the house, Miss Collins? anything for supper? I
am hungry," said the latter.

"Wall--happiness makes some folks hungry,--and some, they say, it feeds
'em," Miss Collins returned. "Folks is so unlike! But if you're hungry,
Mr. Masters, you'll have to have sun'thin."

Leaving her to prepare it, with a laughing twinkle in his eye the
minister led Diana out of that room and along a short passage to
another door. The passage was very narrow, the ceiling was low, the
walls whitewashed, the wainscotting blue; and yet the room which they
entered, though sharing in all the items of this description, was
homely and comfortable. It was furnished in a way that made it seem
elegant to Diana. A warm-coloured dark carpet on the floor, two or
three easy-chairs, a wide lounge covered with chintz, and chintz
curtains at the windows. On the walls here and there single shelves of
dark wood put up for books, and filled with them; a pretty lamp on the
little leaf table, and a wide fireplace with bright brass andirons. The
windows looked out upon the wooded mountain-side. Diana uttered an
exclamation of surprise and admiration.

"This is your room, Di," said the minister. "The kitchen has the view:
I did think of changing about and making the kitchen here: but the
other room has so long been used in that way, I was afraid it would be
a bad exchange. However, we will do it yet, if you like."

"Change? why, this room is beautiful!" cried Diana.

"Looks out into the hill."

"O, I like that."

"Don't make it a principle to like everything I do," said he, smiling.

"But I _do_ like it, Basil; I like it better than the other side," said
Diana. "I just love the trees and the rocks. And you can hear the birds
sing. And the room is most beautiful."

Mr. Masters had opened the windows, and there came in a spicy breath
from the woods, together with the wild warble of a wood-thrush. It was
so wild and sweet, they both were still to listen. The notes almost
broke Diana's heart, but she would not show that.

"What do you think that bird is saying?" she asked.

"I don't know what it may be to _his_ mind; I know what it to mine.
Pray, what does it say to yours?"

"It is too plaintive for the bird to know what it means," said Diana.

"Probably. I have no doubt the ancients were right when they felt
certain animals to be types of good and others of evil. I think it is
true, in detail and variety. I have the same feeling. And in like
manner, carrying out the principle, I hear one bird say one thing and
another another, in their countless varieties of song."

"Did the ancients think that?"

"Don't you remember the distinction between clean beasts and unclean?"

"I thought that was ordered."

"It was ordered to be observed. The distinction was felt before."

They were again silent a moment, while the thrush's song filled the air
with liquid rejoicing.

"That bird," said Diana slowly, "sings as if he had got somewhere above
all the sins and troubles and fights of life; I mean, as if he were a
human being who had got there."

"That will do," said the minister.

"But that's impossible; so why should he sing it?"

"Take it the other way," said the minister, smiling.

"You mean"--said Diana, looking up, for she had sat down before the
open window, and he stood by her side;--"you mean, he would not sing a
false note?"

"Nor God make a promise he would not fulfil. Come up-stairs."

"But, Basil!--how could the bird's song be a promise from God?"

"Think;--he gave the song, Diana. As has been said of visible things in
nature, so it may be said of audible things,--every one of them is _the
expression of a thought of God_."

He did not wait for an answer, and Diana's mind was too full to give
one. Up-stairs they went. The room over Diana's was arranged to be Mr.
Masters' study; the other, above the kitchen, looked out upon a
glorious view of the rich valley and its encompassing hills; both were
exceedingly neat and pretty in their furniture and arrangements, in all
of which Diana's comfort had been sedulously cared for. Her husband
showed her the closet for her boxes, and opened the huge press prepared
for her clothes; and taking off her bonnet, welcomed her tenderly home.
But it seemed to Diana as if everything stifled her, and she would have
liked to flee to the hills, like the wild creatures that had their home
there. Her outward demeanour, for all that, was dignified and sweet.
Whatever she felt, she would not give pain.

"You are too good to me," she murmured. "I will be as good as I can,
Basil, to you."

"I know it," said he.

"And I think I had better begin," she presently added more lightly, "by
going down and seeing how Miss Collins and supper are getting on."

"I daresay they will get on to some sort of consummation."

"It will be a better consummation, if you let me go."

Perhaps he divined something of her feeling, for he made no objection,
and Diana escaped; with a sense that her only refuge was in action. To
do something, no matter what, and stop thinking. Yet, when she went
down-stairs, she went first to the back room and to the open window, to
see if she could catch the note of the thrush once more. It came to her
like a voice from the other world. He was still singing; somewhere up
amid the cool shades of the hemlocks and oaks on the hill, from out the
dusky twilight of their tops; sending his tremulous trills of triumph
down the hillside, he was undoubtedly having a good time. Diana
listened a minute, and then went to the kitchen. Miss Collins was
standing in front of the fire contemplating it, or the kettle she had
hung over it.

"Where is Mr. Masters' supper?" Diana began.

"Don't you take none?" was the rejoinder.

"I mean, what can we have?"

"You can have all there is. And there ain't nothin' in the house but
what's no 'count. If I'd ha' knowed--honeymoon folks wants sun'thin'
tip-top, been livin' on the fat o' the land, I expect; and now ye're
come home to pork; and that's the hull on't."

"Pork will do," said Diana, "if it is good. Have you no ham?"

"Lots. That's pork, ain't it?"

"Eggs?"

"Yes, there's eggs."

"Potatoes?"

"La, I didn't expect ye'd want potatoes at this time o' day."

Diana informed herself of the places of things, and set herself and
Miss Collins vigorously to work. The handmaid looked on somewhat
ungraciously at the quiet, competent energy of her superior, the smile
on her broad mouth gradually fading.

"Reckon you don't know me," she remarked presently.

"Yes, I do," said Diana; "you are Jemima Collins, that used to live at
the post office. How came you here?"

"Wall, there's nothin' but changes in the world, I expect; that's _my_
life. Mis' Reems, to the post office, had her mother come home to live
with her; owin' to her father gettin' his arm took off in some
'chinery, which was the death o' him; so the mother come home to her
daughter, and then they made it out as they two was equal to all there
was to do; and I don't say they warn't; but that was reason enough why
they didn't want me no longer. And then I stayed with Miss Gunn a
spell, helpin' her get her house cleaned; and then the minister made
out as he wanted a real 'sponsible person for to take care o' _his_
house, and Miss Gunn she told him what she knowed about me; and so I
moved in. La, it's a change from the post office! It was sort o' lively
there; allays comin' and goin', and lots o' news."

Diana made no answer. The very mention of the post office gave her a
sort of pang; about that spot her hopes had hovered for so long, and
with such bitter disillusionising. She sent Miss Collins to set the
table in the other room, and presently, having finished her cookery,
followed with it herself.



CHAPTER XXIII.



SUPPER AT HOME.



The windows were open still, and the dusky air without was full of cool
freshness. In the wide fireplace the minister had kindled a fire; and
in a little blue teapot he was just making the tea; the kettle stood on
the hearth. It was as pretty and cheerful a home view as any bride need
wish to see for the first evening in her new house. Diana knew it, and
took the effect, which possibly was only heightened by the
consciousness that she wished herself five hundred miles away. What the
picture was to her husband she had no idea, nor that the crowning
feature of it was her own beautiful, sweet presence. Miss Collins
brought in the prepared dishes, and left the two alone.

"I see I have fallen into new hands," the minister remarked presently.
"Mrs. Persimmon never cooked these eggs."

"You must have been tired of living in that way, I should think."

"No,--I never get tired of anything."

"Not of bad things?"

"No. I get rid of them."

"But how can you?"

"Different ways."

"Can you do everything you want to, Basil?" his wife asked, with an
incredulous sort of admiration.

"I'll do everything you want me to do."

"You have already,--and more," she said with a sigh.

"How will your helpmeet in the other room answer the purpose?"

"I have never been used to have anybody, you know, Basil; and I do not
need any one. I can do all easily myself."

"I know you can. I do not wish you should."

"Then what will you give me to do?"

"Plenty."

"I don't care what--if I can only be busy. I cannot bear to be idle.
What shall I do, Basil?"

"Is there nothing you would like to study, that you have never had a
chance to learn?"

"Learn?" said Diana, a whole vista of possible new activities opening
all at once before her mind's eye;--"O yes! I would like to learn--to
study. What, Basil?"

"What would you like to take hold of?"

"I would like--Latin."

"Latin!" cried the minister. "That's an excellent choice. Greek too?"

"I would like to learn Greek, very much. But I suppose I must begin
with one at once."

"How about modern languages?"

"You know," said Diana shyly,--"I can have no teacher but you."

"And you stand in doubt as to my qualifications? Prudent!"

"I will learn anything you like to teach me," said Diana; and her look
was both very sweet and very humble; withal had something of an anxious
strain in it.

"Then there's another thing; don't you want to help me?"

"How?"

"In my work."

"How can I?"

"I don't believe you know what my work is," said the minister dryly.
"Do you, now?"

"I thought I did," said Diana.

"Preaching sermons, to wit!" said the minister. "But that is only one
item. My business is to work in my Master's vineyard."

"Yes, and I thought that was how you did it."

"But a man may preach many sermons, and do never a bit of work,--of the
sort I mentioned."

"What is the sort, then, Basil?"

"I'll show you when we get away from the table. It is time you knew."

So, when the supper tray and Miss Collins were gone, the minister took
his Bible and made Diana sit down beside him where they could both look
over it.

"Your notion of a minister is, that he is a sort of machine to make
sermons?"

"I never thought you were a _machine_, of any sort," said Diana gently.

"No, of course not; but you thought that was my special business,
didn't you? Now look here.--'Son of man, I have made thee a watchman
unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth and give
them warning from me.'"

"A watchman"--Diana repeated.

"It is a responsible post, too, for see over here,--'If the watchman
see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not
warned; if the sword come, and take any person from among them, he is
taken away in his iniquity; _but his blood will I require at the
watchman's hand_.'"

"Do you mean, Basil"--

"Yes, I mean all that. You can understand now what was in Paul's mind,
and what a great word it was, when he said to the Ephesian elders, 'I
take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men.'
He had done his whole duty in that place!"


"I never felt that old Mr. Hardenburgh warned us against anything,"
Diana remarked.

"Did I?"

"You began to make me uncomfortable almost as soon as you came."

"That's good," said the minister quietly. "Now see these words,
Diana,--'Go ye into all the world, and tell the good news to
everybody.'"

"'Preach the gospel'"--said Diana.

"That is simply, telling the good news."

"Is it?"

"Certainly."

"But, Basil, it never seemed so."

"There was a reason for that. 'As cold waters to a thirsty soul, so is
good news from a far country.' You were not thirsty, that is all."

"Basil," said Diana, almost tremulously, "I think I am now."

"Well," said her husband tenderly, "you know who could say, and did
say, 'If any man thirst, let him come unto ME and drink.' 'I am the
bread of life; he that cometh to me shall never hunger, and he that
believeth on me shall never thirst.'"

That bringing together of need and supply, while yet Need does not see
how it is to stretch out its hand to take the supply--how sharp and how
pitiful it makes the sense of longing! Diana drooped her head till it
touched Basil's arm; it seemed to her that her heart would fairly break.

"But that doesn't mean"--she said, bringing out her words with
hesitation and difficulty,--"that does not mean hunger of every sort?"

"Yes."

"Of earthly sorts, Basil? how can it? people's desires for so many
things?"

"Is there any limit or qualification to the promise?"

"N-o; not there."

"Is there anywhere else?"

Diana was silent.

"There is none anywhere, except the limit put by the faith of the
applicant. I have known a person starving to death, relieved for the
time even from the pangs of bodily hunger by the food which Christ gave
her. There is no condition of human extremity for which he is not
sufficient."

"But," said Diana, still speaking with difficulty, "that is for some
people."

"For some people--and for everybody else."

"But--he would not like to have anybody go to him just for such a
reason."

"He will never ask _why_ you came, if you come. He was in this world to
relieve misery, and to save from it. 'Him that cometh to me I will in
no wise cast out,' is his own word. He will help you if you will let
him, Diana."

Diana's head pressed more heavily against Basil's arm; the temptation
was to break out into wild weeping at this contact of sympathy, but she
would not. Did her husband guess how much she was in want of help? That
thought half frightened her. Presently she raised her head and sat up.

"Here is another verse," said her husband, "which tells of a part of my
work. 'Go ye into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, _bid to
the marriage_.'"

"I don't understand"--

"'The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king which made a
marriage for his son,'--it means rather a wedding entertainment."

"How, Basil?"

"The Bridegroom is Christ. The bride is the whole company of his
redeemed. The time is by and by, when they shall be all gathered
together, all washed from defilement, all dressed in the white robes of
the king's court which are given them, and delivered from the last
shadow of mortal sorrow and infirmity. Then in glory begins their
perfected, everlasting union with Christ; then the wedding is
celebrated; and the supper signifies the fulness and communion of his
joy in them and their joy in him."

Basil's voice was a little subdued as he spoke the last words, and he
paused a few minutes.

"It is my business to bid people to that supper," he said then; "and I
bid you, Di."

"I will go, Basil."

But the words were low and the tears burst forth, and Diana hurried
away.



CHAPTER XXIV.



THE MINISTER'S WIFE.



Diana plunged herself now into business. She was quite in earnest in
the promise she had made at the end of the conversation last recorded;
but to set about a work is one thing and to carry it through is
another; and Diana did not immediately see light. In the meanwhile, the
pressure of the bonds of her new existence was only to be borne by
forgetting it in intense occupation. Her husband wanted her to study
many things; for her own sake and for his own sake he wished it,
knowing that her education had been exceedingly one-sided and
imperfect; he wanted all sources of growth and pleasure to be open to
her, and he wanted full communion with his wife in his own life and
life-work. So he took her hands from the frying-pan and the preserving
kettle, and put dictionaries and philosophies into them. On her part,
besides the negative incitement of losing herself and her troubles in
books, Diana's mental nature was too sound and rich not to take kindly
the new seeds dropped into the soil. She had gone just far enough in
her own private reading and thinking to be all ready to spring forward
in the wider sphere to which she was invited, and in which a hand took
hers to help her along. The consciousness of awakening power, too, and
of enlarging the bounds of her world, drew her on. Sometimes in Basil's
study, where he had arranged a place for her, sometimes down-stairs in
her own little parlour, Diana pored over books and turned the leaves of
dictionaries; and felt her way along the mazes of Latin stateliness, or
wondered and thrilled at the beauty of the Greek words of the New
Testament as her husband explained them to her. Or she wrought out
problems; or she wrote abstracts; or she dived into depths of
philosophical speculation. Then Diana began to learn French, and very
soon was delighting herself in one or other of a fine collection of
French classics which filled certain shelves in the library. There was,
besides all the motives above mentioned which quickened and stimulated
her zeal for learning, another very subtle underlying cause which had
not a little to do with her unflagging energy in pursuit of her
objects. Nay, there were two. Diana did earnestly wish to please her
husband, and for his sake to become, so far as cultivation would do it,
a fit companion for him. That she knew. But she scarcely knew, how
beneath all that, and mightier than all that, was the impulse to make
herself worthy of the other man whose companion now she would never be.
Subtle, as so many of our springs of action are, unrecognised, it drove
her with an incessant impulse. To be such a woman as Evan would have
been proud of; such a one as he would have liked to stand by his side
anywhere; one that he need not have feared to present in any society.
Diana strove for it, and that although Evan would never know it, and it
did not in the least concern him. And as she felt from time to time
that she was attaining her end and coming nearer and nearer to what she
wished to be, Diana was glad with a secret joy, which was not the love
of knowledge, nor the pride of personal ambition, nor the duty of an
affectionate wife. As I said, she did not recognise it; if she had, I
think she would have tried to banish it.

One afternoon she was sitting by her table at the study window, where
she had been very busy, but was not busy now. The window was open; the
warm summer air came in, and over the hills and the lowland the
brilliance and glow of the evening sunlight was just at its brightest.
Diana sat gazing out, while her thoughts went wandering. Suddenly she
pulled them up; and her question was rather a departure, though
standing in a certain negative connection with them.

"Basil, I can't make out just what _faith_ is."

"Cannot you?"

"No. Can you help me? The Bible says, '_believe_,' '_believe_.' I
believe. I believe everything it tells me, and you tell me; but I have
not faith."

"How do you know that?"

"If I had, I should be a Christian."

"And you think you are not?"

"I am sure I am not."

"Are you willing?"

"I think--I am willing," Diana answered slowly, looking out into the
sunlight.

"If you are right, then faith must be something more than mere belief."

"What more is it?" she said eagerly, turning her face towards him now.

"I think the heart has its part in it as well as the head, and it is
with the heart that the difficulty lies. In true Bible faith, the heart
gives its confidence where the intellect has given its assent. '_With
the heart_ man believeth unto righteousness.' That is what the Lord
wants;--our personal trust in him; unreserved and limitless trust."

"Trust?" said Diana. "Then why cannot I give it? why don't I?"

"That is the question to be answered. But, Di, the heart cannot yield
that confident trust, so long as there is any point in dispute between
it and God; so long as there is any consciousness of holding back
something from him or refusing something to him. Disobedience and trust
cannot go together. It is not the child who is standing out in
rebellion who can stretch out his hand for his father's gifts, and know
that they will be given."

"Do you think I am rebelling, Basil?"

"I cannot see into your heart, Di."

"What could I be 'holding back' from God?"

"Unconditional surrender."

"Surrender of what?"

"Yourself--your will. When you have made that surrender, there will be
no difficulty about trusting. There never is."

Diana turned to the window again, and leaning her head on her hand, sat
motionless for a long time. Sunlight left the bottom lands and crept up
the hills and faded out of the sky. Dusk and dews of twilight fell all
around, and the dusk deepened till the stars began to shine out here
and there. Sweet summer scents came in on the dew-freshened air; sweet
chirrup of insects made their gentle running commentary on the silence;
Miss Collins had long ago caused the little bell with which she was
wont to notify her employers that their meals were ready, to sound its
tinkling call to supper; but Diana had not heard it, and the minister
would not disturb her. It was after a very long time of this silence
that she rose, came to the table where he was sitting, and knelt down
beside it.

"I believe," she said. "And I _trust_, Basil."

He took her hand, but said nothing otherwise. He could not see her
face, for she had laid it down upon some books, and besides the room
was very dusky now. But when he expected some further words which
should tell of relief or joy, to his surprise he felt that Diana was
weeping, and then that her tears had grown into a storm. Most strange
for her, who very rarely let him or anyone see the outbursts of such
feeling; indeed, even by herself she was very slow to come to the
indulgence of tears. It was not her way. Now, before she was aware,
they were flowing; and as it is with some natures, if you open the
sluice-gates at all, a flood pours forth which makes it impossible to
shut them again for a while. And this time I think she forgot that
anybody was by. He was puzzled. Was it joy or sorrow? Hard for herself
to tell, there was so much of both in it. For, with the very first
finding of a sufficient refuge and help for her trouble, Diana had
brought her burden to his feet, and there was weeping convulsively;
partly from the sense of the burden, partly with the sense of laying it
down, and with the might of that infinite sympathy the apprehension of
which was beginning to dawn upon her now for the first time. What is it
like? O, what is it like! It is the "Dayspring from on high." Basil
could not read all she was feeling and spell it out. But I think he had
a sort of instinct of it, and felt that his wife was very far from him,
in this her agony of joy and sorrow; for he kept motionless, and his
broad brow, which never was wrinkled, was very grave. One hand he laid
lightly upon Diana's shoulder, as if so to remind her of his presence
and close participation in all that concerned her; otherwise he did not
interrupt her nor make any claim upon her attention.

Gradually Diana's sobs ceased; and then she grew utterly still; and the
two sat so together, for neither of them knew how long. At last Diana
raised her head.

"You have had no supper all this while!" she said.

"I have had something much better," said he, gently kissing her cheek.

"To see me cry?" said Diana. "I don't know why I cried."

"I think I do. Don't you feel better for it?"

"Yes. Or else, for that which made me do so. Come down, Basil."

At tea she was perfectly herself and quite as usual, except for the
different expression in her face. It was hardly less grave than before,
but something dark had gone out and something light had come in.

"I can face the Sewing Society now," she remarked towards the end of
the meal.

"The Sewing Society!" her husband echoed. "Is that much to face?"

"I have not been once since I was married. And they make so much fuss
about it, I must go now. They meet to-morrow at mother's."

"What do they sew?"

"They pretend to be making up a box for some missionary out west."

"I guess there is no pretence about it."

"Yes, there is. They have been eight months at work upon a box to go to
Iowa somewhere, to a family very much in want of everything; and the
children and mother are almost, or quite, I guess, in rags, and the
ladies here are comfortably doing a little once a week, and don't even
expect to have the box made up till Christmas time. Think of the people
in Iowa waiting and waiting, with hardly anything to put on, while we
meet once a week and sew a little, and talk, and have supper."

"How would you manage it?"

"I would send off the box next week, Basil."

"So would I. Suppose now we do?"

"Send off a box?"

"Yes. I will give you the money;--you can go--I will drive you--down to
Gunn's, and you can get there whatever you think would be suitable, and
we will have the fun to ourselves."

The colour flushed into Diana's face; it was the first flush of
pleasure that had come there in a long while.

"You are very good, Basil!" she said. "Don't you think I could drive
Saladin?"

"Where?"

"Anywhere. I mean, that I could go to places then without troubling you
to drive me."

"I can stand so much trouble. It is not good for a man to live too
easy."

"But it might be convenient for you sometimes."

"So it might, and pleasant for you. No, I should not like to trust you
to Saladin. I wonder if your mother would let me have Prince, if I
offer her a better horse in exchange. Perhaps I can do better than
that. We will see."

"O, Basil, you must not get another horse for me!"

"I will get anything I like for you."

"But do you mean, and keep Saladin too?"

"I mean that. Saladin is necessary to me."

"Then don't, Basil. I can tell you, people will say you are extravagant
if you have two horses."

"I cannot help people talking scandal."

"No; but it will hurt your influence."

"Well, we will feel the pulse of the public to-morrow. But I think they
would stand it."

They drove down to Mrs. Starling's the next day. Mr. Masters had other
business, and must go farther. Diana went in alone. She was early, for
she had come to help her mother make the preparations; and at first
these engrossed them both.

"Well," said Mrs. Starling, when some time had passed,--"how do you get
along with your husband?"

Diana's eyes opened slightly. "It would be a very strange person that
could not get on with Mr. Masters," she answered.

"Easy, is he? I hate easy men! The best of 'em are helpless enough; but
when you get one of the easy soft, they are consented if every door
hangs on one hinge."

Diana made no answer.

"How does your girl get along?"

"Very well. Pretty well."

"What you want with a girl, I don't see."

"I didn't either. But Mr. Masters wants me to do other things."

"Set you up to be a lady! Well, the world's full o' fools."

"I am as busy, mother, as ever I was in my life."

"Depends on what you call business. Making yourself unfit for business,
I should say. Call it what you like. I suppose he is your humble
servant, and just gives you your own way."

"He is not that sort of man at all, mother. He is as kind as he can be;
but he is nobody's humble servant."

"Then I suppose you are his. There is somebody now, Diana; it's Kate
Boddington. Do go in and take care of her,--you can do so much,--and
keep her from coming out here where I am."

"Well, Di!" exclaimed her relative as Diana met her. "Ain't it a sight
to see _you_ at the sewin' meetin'! Why haven't you been before? Seems
to me, you make an uncommon long honeymoon of it."

Diana's natural sweetness and dignity, and furthermore, the great
ballast of old pain and new gladness which lay deep down in her heart,
kept her quite steady and unruffled under all such breezes. She had
many of the like to meet that day; and the sweet calm and poise of her
manner through them all would have done honour to the most practised
woman of the world. Most of her friends and neighbours here collected
had scarce seen her since her marriage, unless in church; and they were
curious to know how she would carry herself, and curious in general
about many things. It was a sort of battery that Diana had to face, and
sometimes a masked battery; but it was impossible to tell whether a
shot hit.

"What I want to know," said Mrs. Boddington, "is, where the minister
and you made it up, Di. You were awful sly about it!"

"Ain't that so?" chimed in Mrs. Carpenter. "I never had no notion o'
what was goin' on--not the smallest idee; and I was jest a sayin' one
day to Miss Gunn, or somebody--I declare I don't know now who 'twas, I
was so dumbfounded when the news come, it took all my memory away;--but
I was jes' a sayin' to somebody, and I remember it because I'd jes'
been after dandelion greens and couldn't find none; they was jest about
past by then, and bitter; and we was a settin' with our empty baskets;
and I was jes' tellin' somebody, I don't know who 'twas, who I thought
would make a good wife for the minister; when up comes Mrs. Starling's
Josiah and reaches me the invitation. 'There!' says I; 'if he ain't a
goin' to have Diana Starling!' I was beat."

"I daresay you could have fitted him just as well," remarked Mrs.
Starling.

"Wall, I don't know. I was thinkin',--but I guess it's as well not to
say now what I was thinkin'."

"That's so!" assented Miss Barry. "I don't believe he thinks nobody
could ha' chosen for him no better than he has chosen for himself."

"Men never do know what is good for them," Mrs. Salter remarked, but
not ill-naturedly; on the contrary, there was a gleam of fun in her
face.

"I'm thankful, anyway, he hain't done worse," said another lady. "I
used to be afraid he would go and get himself hitched to a fly-away."

"Euphemie Knowlton?" said Mrs. Salter. "Yes, I used to wonder if we
shouldn't get our minister's wife from Elmfield. It looked likely at
one time."

"Those two wouldn't ha' pulled well together, ne--ver," said another.

"I should like to know how he and Di's goin' to pull together?" said
Mrs. Flandin acidly. "He goin' one way, and she another."

"Do you think so, Mrs. Flandin?" asked the lady thus in a very
uncomplimentary manner referred to.

"Wall--ain't it true?" said Mrs. Flandin judicially.

"I do not think it is true."

"Wall, I'm glad to hear it, I'm sure," said the other; "but there's a
word in the Scriptur' about two walking together when they ain't
agreed."

"Mr. Masters and I are agreed," said Diana, while her lips parted in a
very slight smile, and a lovely tinge of rose-colour came over her
cheeks.

"But not in everything, I reckon?"

"In everything I know," said Diana steadily, while a considerable
breeze of laughter went round the room. Mrs. Flandin was getting the
worst of it.

"Then it'll be the worse for him!" she remarked with a jerk at her
sewing. Diana was silent now, but Mrs. Boddington took it up.

"Do you mean to say, Mis' Flandin, you approve of quarrels between man
and wife? and quarrels in high places, too?"

"High places!" echoed Mrs. Flandin. "When it says that a minister is to
be the servant of all!"

"And ain't he?" said Mrs. Carpenter. "Is there a place or a thing our
minister don't go to if he's wanted? and does he mind whether it's
night or day, or rough or smooth? and does he care how fur it is, or
how long he goes without his victuals? I will say, I never did see a no
more self-forgetful man than is Mr. Masters; and I've a good right to
know, and I say it with feelin's of gratitude."

"That's jes' so," said Miss Barry, her eyes glistening over her
knitting, which they did not need to watch. And there was a hum of
assent through the room.

"I'm not sayin' nothin' agin _him_," said Mrs. Flandin in an injured
manner; "but what I was hintin', I warn't  _sayin'_ nothin', is that
he's married a"--

"A beauty"--said Mrs. Boddington.

"I don't set no count on beauty," said the other. "I allays think, ef a
minister is a servant of the Lord, and I hope Mr. Masters is, it's a
pity his wife shouldn't be too. That's all."

"But I am, Mrs. Flandin," said Diana quietly.

"What?"

"A servant of the Lord."

"Since when?" demanded the other incredulously.

"Does it matter, since when?" said Diana, with a calm gentleness which
spoke for her. "I was not always so, but I am now."

"Hev' _you_ met with a change?" the other asked, again judicially, and
critically.

"Yes."

"Ain't that good news, now!" said Miss Barry, dropping her knitting and
fairly wiping her eyes.

"I hope your evidence is clear," said the other lady.

"Do you want to hear what they are?" said Diana. "I have come to know
the Lord Jesus--I have come to believe in him--I have given myself to
be his servant. As truly his servant, though not so good a one, as my
husband is. But what he bids me, I'll do."

The little assembly was silent, silent all round. Both the news and the
manner of the teller of it were imposing. Decided, clear, calm, sweet,
Diana's grey eyes as well as her lips gave her testimony; they did not
shrink from other eyes, nor droop in hesitation or difficulty; as
little was there a line of daring or self-assertion about them. The
dignity of the woman struck and hushed her companions.

"Our minister'll be a happy man, I'm thinkin'," said good Mrs.
Carpenter, speaking out what was the secret thought of many present.

"You haven't joined the church, Diana," said Mrs. Starling harshly.

"I will do that the first opportunity, mother."

"That's your husband's doing. I allays knew he'd wile a bird off a
bush!"

"I am very thankful to him," said Diana calmly.

That calm of hers was unapproachable. It would neither take offence nor
give it; although, it is true, it did irritate some of her neighbours
and companions by the very distance it put between them and her. Diana
was different from them, and growing more different; yet it was hard to
find fault. She was so handsome, too; that helped the effect of
superiority. And her dress; what was there about her dress? It was a
pale lilac muslin, no way remarkable in itself; but it fell around
lines so soft and noble, and about so queenly a carriage, it waved with
so quiet and graceful motions, there was a temptation to think Diana
must have called in dressmaking aid that was not lawful--for the
minister's wife. As the like often happens, Diana was set apart by a
life-long sorrow from all their world of experience,--and they thought
she was proud.

"What did you pay for that muslin, Diana?" Mrs. Flandin asked.

"Fifteenpence."

"Du tell! well I should ha' thought it was more," remarked Miss Gunn.
"It's made so elegant."

"I made it myself," said Diana, smiling.

"Du tell!" said Miss Gunn again, reviewing the gown. For, as I hinted,
its draperies were graceful, their lovely lines being unbroken by
furbelows and flummery; and the sleeves were open and half long, with a
full ruffle which fell away from Diana's beautiful arms.

"How Phemie Knowlton used to dress!" Miss Gunn went on, moved by some
hidden association of ideas.

"I wonder is nobody ever comin' back to Elmfield?" said Mrs.
Boddington. "They don't do nothin' with the place, and it's just waste."

The talk wandered on; but Diana's thoughts remained fixed. They had
flown back over the two years since Evan and she had their explanation
in the blackberry field, and for a little while she sat in a dream,
feeling the stings of pain, that seemed, she thought, to grow more
lively now instead of less. The coming in of Mr. Masters roused her,
and with a sort of start she put away the thought of Evan, and of days
and joys past for ever, and forcibly swung herself back to present
things. People were very well-behaved after her husband came, and she
did her part, she knew, satisfactorily; for she saw his eye now and
then resting on her or meeting hers with the hidden smile in it she had
learned to know. And besides, nothing was ever dull or commonplace
where he was; so even in Mrs. Starling's house and Mrs. Flandin's
presence, the rest of the evening went brightly off. And then, driving
home, through the light of a young moon and over the quiet country,
Diana watched the wonderful calm line where the hill-tops met the sky;
and thought, surely, with the talisman she had just found of heavenly
love and sympathy and strength, she could walk the rest of her way
through life and bear it till the end. Then, by and by, beyond that
dividing line of eternity, there would be bright heaven, instead of the
dusky earth. If only she could prevent Basil from knowing how she felt,
and so losing all peace in life himself. But his peace was so fixed in
heaven, she wondered if anything on earth could destroy it? She would
not try that question.



CHAPTER XXV.



MISS COLLINS' WORK.



It was well for Diana that she had got a talisman of better power than
the world can manufacture. It was well for her, too, that she followed
up earnestly the clue to life which had been given her. If you have a
treasure-house of supplies, and are going to have to get to it in the
dark by and by, it is good to learn the way very well while the light
is there. For weeks Diana gave herself before all other things to the
study of her Bible, and to better understanding of faith's duties and
privileges. In all this, Basil was a great help; and daily his wife
learned more and more to admire and revere the mind and temper of the
man she had married. Reverence would have led surely to love, in such a
nature as Diana's; but Diana's heart was preoccupied. What love could
not do, however, conscience and gratitude did as far as possible.
Nothing that concerned Basil's comfort or honour was uncared for by his
wife. So, among other things, she never intrusted the care of his meals
entirely to Miss Collins; and quite to that lady's discomfiture, would
often come into the kitchen and prepare some nice dish herself, or
superintend the preparation of it. Miss Collins resented this. She
shared the opinion of some of the ladies of the Sewing Society, that
Mrs. Masters was quite proud and needed to be "taken down" a bit; and
if she got a good chance, she had it in her mind to do a little of the
"taking down" herself.

It was one evening late in September. Frosts had hardly set in yet, and
every change in the light and colour carried Diana's mind back to Evan
and two years ago, and mornings and evenings of that time which were so
filled with nameless joys and hopes. Diana did not give herself to
these thoughts nor encourage them; they came with the suddenness and
the start of lightning. Merely the colour of a hill at sunset was
enough to flash back her thoughts to an hour when she was looking for
Evan; or a certain sort of starlight night would recall a particular
walk along the meadow fence; or a gust and whiff of the wind would
bring with it the thrill that belonged to one certain stormy September
night that never faded in her remembrance. Or the smell of coffee
sometimes, when it was just at a certain stage of preparation, would
turn her heart-sick. These associations and remembrances were countless
and incessant always under the reminders of the September light and
atmosphere; and Diana could not escape from them, though as soon as
they came she put them resolutely away.

This evening Mr. Masters was out. Diana knew he had gone a long ride
and would be tired,--that is, if he ever could be tired,--and would be
certainly ready for his supper when he came in. So she went out to make
ready a certain dish of eggs which she knew he liked. Such service as
this she could do, and she did. There was no thoughtful care, no
smallest observance, which could have been rendered by the most devoted
affection, which Diana did not give to her husband. Except,--she never
offered a kiss, or laid her hand in his or upon his shoulder. Happily
for her, Basil was not a particularly demonstrative man; for every
caress from him was "as vinegar upon nitre;" she did not show
repulsion, that was all.

"I guess I kin do that, Mis' Masters," said her handmaid, who always
preferred to keep the kitchen for her own domain. Diana made no answer.
She was slowly and delicately peeling her eggs, and probably did not
notice the remark. Miss Collins, however, resented the neglect.

"Mr. Masters is gone a great deal. It's sort o' lonesome up here on the
hill. Dreadfully quiet, don't you think it is?"

"I like quiet," Diana answered absently.

"Du, hey? Wall, I allays liked life. I never could git too much o'
that. I should like a soldier's life uncommon,--if I was a man."

Diana had finished peeling her eggs, and now began to wash a bunch of
green parsley which she had fetched from the garden, daintily dipping
it up and down in a bowl of spring-water.

"It was kind o' lively down to the post office," Miss Collins remarked
again, eyeing the beautiful half-bared arm and the whole figure, which
in its calm elegance was both imposing and irritating to her. Miss
Collins, indeed, had a very undefined sense of the beautiful; yet she
vaguely knew that nobody else in Pleasant Valley looked so or carried
herself so; no other woman's dress adorned her so, or was so set off by
the wearer; although Diana's present attire was a very simply-made
print gown, not even the stylish ladies of Elmfield produced an equal
effect with their French dresses. And was not Diana "Mis' Starling's
daughter?" And Diana seemed not to hear or care what she had to say!

"Everybody comes to the post office," she went on grimly; "you hev'
only to watch, and you see all the folks; and you know all that is
goin' on. An' that suits me 'xactly."

"But you had nothing to do with the post office," said Diana. "How
could you see everybody?"

"You keep your eyes open, and you'll see things, most places," said
Miss Collins. "La! I used to be in and out; why shouldn't I? And now
and then I'd say to Miss Gunn--'You're jest fagged out with standin'
upon your feet; you jes' go in there and sit down by the fire, and
don't let the pot bile over and put it out; and I'll see to the letters
and the folks.' And so she did, and so I did. It was as good as a play."

"How?" said Diana, feeling a vague pain at the thought of the post
office; that place where her hopes had died. Somehow there was a vague
dread in her heart also, without any reason.

"Wall--you git at folks' secrets--if they have any," Miss Collins
answered, suddenly checking her flow of words. Diana did not ask again;
the subject was disagreeable. She began to cut up her parsley deftly
with a sharp knife; and her handmaid stood and looked at her.

"Some folks thought, you know, at one time, that Mr. Masters was
courtin' Phemie Knowlton. I didn't let on, but la! I knowed it warn't
so. Why, there warn't never a letter come from her to him, nor went
from him to her."

"She was here herself," said Diana; "why should they write? You could
tell nothing by that."

"She warn't here after she had gone away," said Miss Collins; "and that
was jes' the time when I knowed all about it. I knowed about other
people too."

That was also the time after Evan had quitted Pleasant Valley. Yet
Diana did not know why she could not keep herself from trembling. If
Evan _had_ written, then, this Jemima Collins and her employer, Miss
Gunn, would have known it and drawn their conclusions. Well, they had
no data to go upon now.

"Bring me a little saucepan, Jemima, will you?"

Jemima brought it. Now her mistress (but she never called her so) would
be away and off in a minute or two more, and leave her to watch the
saucepan, she knew, and her opportunity would be over. Still she waited
to choose her words.

"You ain't so fond o' life as I be," she observed.

"Perhaps not," said Diana. "I do not think I should like a situation in
the post office."

"But I should ha' thought you'd ha' liked to go all over the world and
see everything. Now Pleasant Valley seems to me something like a
corner. Why didn't you?"

"Why didn't I what?" said Diana, standing up. She had been stooping
down over her saucepan, which now sat upon a little bed of coals.

"La! you needn't look at me like that," said Miss Collins, chuckling.
"It's no harm. You had your ch'ice, and you chose it; only _I_ would
have took the other."

"The other what? _What_ would you have taken?"

"Wall, I don' know," said Miss Collins; "to be sure, one never doos
know till one is tried, they say; but if I had, I think I should ha'
took 'tother one."

"I do not understand you," said Diana, walking off to the table, where
she began to gather up the wrecks of the parsley stems. She felt an odd
sensation of cold about the region of her heart, physically very
disagreeable.

"You are hard to make understand, then," said Miss Collins. "I suppose
you know you had two sweethearts, don't you? And sure enough you had
the pick of the lot. 'Tain't likely you've forgotten."

"How dare you speak so?" asked Diana, not passionately, but with a sort
of cold despair, eying her handmaiden.

"Dare?" said the latter. "Dare what? I ain't saying nothin'. 'Tain't no
harm to have two beaux; you chose your ch'ice, and _he_ hain't no cause
to be uncontented, anyhow. About the 'tother one I don't say nothin'. I
should think he _was_, but that's nat'ral. I s'pose he's got over it by
now. You needn't stand and look. He's fur enough off, too. Your husband
won't be jealous. You knowed you had two men after you."

"I cannot imagine why you say that," Diana repeated, standing as it
were at bay.

"How I come to know? That's easy. Didn't I tell you I was in the post
office? La, I know, I see the letters."

"Letters!" cried Diana, in a tone which forthwith made Miss Collins
open all the eyes she had. It was not a scream; it was not even very
loud; yet Miss Collins went into a swift calculation to find out what
was in it. Beyond her ken, happily; it was a heart's death-cry.

"Yes," she said stolidly; "I said letters. Ain't much else goin' at the
post office, 'cept letters and papers; and I ain't one o' them as sets
no count by the papers. La, what do I care for the news at Washington?
I don't know the folks; they may all die or get married for what I
care; but in Pleasant Valley I know where I be, and I know who the
folks be. And that's what made me allays like to get a chance to sort
the letters, or hand 'em out."

"You never saw many letters of mine," said Diana, turning away to hide
her lips, which she felt were growing strange. But she must speak; she
must know more.

"N--o," said Miss Collins; "not letters o' your writin,'--ef you mean
that."

"Letters of mine of any sort. I don't get many letters."

"Some of 'em's big ones, when they come, My! didn't I use to wonder
what was in 'em! Two stamps, and _three_ stamps. I s'pose feelin's
makes heavy weight." Miss Collins laughed a little.

"Two stamps and three stamps?" said Diana fiercely;--"how many were
there?"

"I guess I knowed of three. Two I handed out o' the box myself; and
Miss Gunn, she said there was another. There was no mistakin' them big
letters. They was on soft paper, and lots o' stamps, as I said."

"You gave them out? Who to?"

"To Mis' Starlin' herself. I mind partic'lerly. She come for 'em
herself, and she got 'em. You don't mean she lost 'em on her way hum?
They was postmarked some queer name, but they come from Californy; I
know that. You hain't never forgotten 'em? I've heerd it's good to be
off with the old love before you are on with the new; but I never heerd
o' folks forgettin' their love-letters. La, 'tain't no harm to have
love-letters. Nobody can cast that up to ye. You have chosen your
ch'ice, and it's all right. I reckon most folks would be proud to have
somebody else thrown over for them."

Diana heard nothing of this. She was standing, deaf and blind, seeming
to look out of the window; then slowly, moved by some instinct, not
reason, she went out of the kitchen and crept up-stairs to her own room
and laid herself upon her bed. Deaf and blind; she could neither think
nor feel; she only thought she knew that she was dead. The
consciousness of the truth pressed upon her to benumbing; but she was
utterly unable to separate points or look at the connection of them.
She had lived and suffered before; now she was crushed and dead; that
was all she knew. She could not even measure the full weight of her
misery; she lay too prostrate beneath it.

So things were, when very shortly after the minister came in. He had
put up his horse, and came in with his day's work behind him. Diana's
little parlour was bright, for a smart fire was blazing; the evenings
and mornings were cool now in Pleasant Valley; and the small table
stood ready for supper, as Diana had left it. She was up-stairs,
probably; and up-stairs he went, to wash his hands and get ready for
the evening; for the minister was the neatest man living. There he
found Diana laid upon her bed, where nobody ever saw her in the
day-time; and furthermore, lying with that nameless something in all
the lines of her figure which is the expression not of pain but of
despair; and those who have never seen it before, read it at first
sight. How it should be despair, of course, the minister had no clue to
guess; so, although it struck him with a sort of strange chill, he
supposed she must be suffering from some bodily ailment, in spite of
the fact that nobody had ever known Diana to have so much as a headache
in her life until now. Her face was hid. Basil went up softly and laid
his hand on her shoulder, and felt so the slight convulsive shiver that
ran over her. But his inquiries could get nothing but monosyllables in
return; hardly that; rather inarticulate utterances of assent or
dissent to his questions or proposals. Was she suffering?

Yes. What was the cause? No intelligible answer. Would she not come
down to tea? No. Would she have anything? No. Could he do anything for
her? No.

"Diana," said her husband tenderly, "is it bad news?"

There was a pause, and he waited.

"Just go down," she managed with great difficulty to say. "There is
nothing the matter with me. I'll come by and by. I'll just lie still a
little."

She had not shown her face, and the minister quietly withdrew, feeling
that here was more than appeared on the surface. There was enough
appearing on the surface to make him uneasy; and he paid no attention
to Miss Collins, who brought in the supper and bustled about rather
more than was necessary.

"Don't ring the bell, Jemima," Mr. Masters said. "Mrs. Masters is not
coming down."

Miss Collins went on to make the tea. That was always Diana's business.

"What ails her?" she asked abruptly.

"You ought to know," said the minister. "What did she complain of."

"Complain!" echoed the handmaiden. "She was as well as you be, not five
minutes afore you come in."

"How do you know?"

"Guess I had ought to! Why, she was in the kitchen talkin' and
fiddle-faddlin' with them eggs; she thinks I ain't up to 'em. There
warn't nothin' on earth the matter with her then. She had sot the table
in here and fixed up the fire, and then she come in to the kitchen and
went to work at the supper. There ain't never nothin' the matter with
her."

The minister made no sort of remark, nor put any further inquiry, nor
looked even curious, Miss Collins, however, _did_. Her brain got into a
sudden confusion of possibilities. Pouring out the tea, she stood by
the table reflecting what she should say next.

"I guess she's mad at me," she began slowly. "Or maybe she's afeard
you'll be mad with her. La! 'tain't nothin'. I told her, you'd never be
jealous. 'Tain't no harm for a girl to have two beaus, is it?"

The minister gave her a quick look from under his brows, and replied
calmly that he "supposed not."

"Wall, I told her so; and now she's put out 'cause I knowed o' them
letters. La, folks that has the post office can't help but know more o'
what concerns their fellow-creatures than other folks doos. I handled
them myself, you see, and handed them out; leastways two o' them; that
warn't no fault o' mine nor of anybody's. La, she needn't to mind!"

"How much tea did you put in, Jemima?"

"I don't know, Mr. Masters. I put in a pinch. Mrs. Masters had ought to
ha' been here to make it herself. She knows how you like it."

"I like more than such a pinch as this was. If you will empty the
tea-pot, I will make a cup for myself. That will do, thank you."

Left alone, Mr. Masters sat for a little while with his head on his
hand, neglecting the supper. Then he roused himself and went on to make
some fresh tea. And very carefully and nicely he made it, poured out a
cup and prepared it, put it on a little tray then, and carried it
steaming and fragrant up to his wife's room. Diana was lying just as he
had left her. Mr. Masters shut the door, and came to the bedside.

"Di," said he gently, "I have brought you a cup of tea."

There was neither answer nor movement. He repeated his words. She
murmured an unintelligible rejection of the proposal, keeping her face
carefully covered.

"No," said he, "I think you had better take it. Lift up your head, Di,
and try. It is good."

The tone was tender and quiet, nevertheless Diana had known Mr. Masters
long enough to be assured that when he had made up his mind to a thing,
there was no bringing him off it. She would have to take the tea; and
as he put his hand under her head to lift her up, she suffered him to
do it. Then he saw her face. Only by the light of a candle, it is true;
but that revealed more than enough. So wan, so deathly pale, so dark in
the lines round the eyes, and those indescribable shadows which mental
pain brings into a face, that her husband's heart sank down. No small
matter, easy to blow away, had brought his strong beautiful Diana to
look like that. But his face showed nothing, though indeed she never
looked at it; and his voice was clear and gentle just as usual in the
few words he said. He held the cup to her lips, and after she had drank
the tea and lay down again, he passed his hand once or twice with a
tender touch over her brow and the disordered hair. Then, with no more
questions or remarks, he took away the candle and the empty cup, and
Diana saw him no more that night.



CHAPTER XXVI.



THINGS UNDONE.



The mischief-maker slept peacefully till morning. Nobody else. Diana
did not keep awake, it is true; she was at that dull stage of misery
when something like stupor comes over the brain; she slumbered heavily
from time to time. Nature does claim such a privilege sometimes. It was
Basil who watched the night through; watched and prayed. There was no
stupor in his thoughts; he had a very full, though vague, realization
of great evil that had come upon them both. He was very near the truth,
too, after an hour or two of pondering. Putting Miss Collins' hints,
Diana's own former confessions, and her present condition together, he
saw, clearer than it was good to see, the probable state of affairs.
And yet he was glad to see it; if any help or bettering was ever to
come, it was desirable that his vision should be true, and his wisdom
have at least firm data to act upon. But what action could touch the
case?--the most difficult that a man can have to deal with. Through the
night Basil alternately walked the floor and knelt down, sometimes at
his study table, sometimes before the open window, where it seemed
almost as if he could read signs of that invisible sympathy he was
seeking. The air was a little frosty, but very still; he kept up a fire
in his chimney, and Basil was not one of those ministers who live in
perpetual terror about draughts; it was a comfort to him to-night to
look off and away from earth, even though he could not see into heaven.
The stars were witnesses to him and for him, in their eternal calmness.
"He calleth them all by their names; for that he is strong in power,
not one faileth. Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, My
way is hid from the Lord, and my judgment is passed over from my
God?"--And in answer to the unspoken cry of appeal that burst forth as
he knelt there by the window--"O Lord, my strength, my fortress, and my
refuge in the day of affliction!"--came the unspoken promise: "The
mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall
not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be
removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee." The minister had
something such a night of it as Jacob had before his meeting with Esau;
with the difference that there was no lameness left the next morning.
Before the dawn came up, when the stars were fading, Basil threw
himself on the lounge in his study, and went into a sleep as deep and
peaceful as his sleeps were wont to be. And when he rose up, after some
hours, he was entirely himself again; refreshed and restored and ready
for duty. Neither could anybody, that day or afterwards, see the
slightest change in him from what he had been before.

He went out and attended to his horse; the minister always did that
himself. Then came in and changed his dress, and went through his
morning toilet with the usual dainty care. Then he went in to see Diana.

She had awaked at last out of her slumberous stupor, sorry to see the
light and know that it was day again. Another day! Why should there be
another day for her? what use? why could she not die and be out of her
trouble? Another day! and now would come, had come, the duties of it;
how was she to meet them? how could she do them? life energy was gone.
She was dead; how was she to play the part of the living, and among the
living? What mockery! And Basil, what would become of him? As for Evan,
Diana dared not so much in her thoughts as even to glance his way. She
had risen half up in bed--she had not undressed at all--and was sitting
with her arms slung round her knees, gazing at the daylight and
wondering vaguely about all these things, when the door between the
rooms swung lightly open. If she had dared, Diana would have crouched
down and hid her face again; she was afraid to do that; she sat
stolidly still, gazing out at the window. Look at Basil she could not.
His approach filled her with so great a feeling of repulsion that she
would have liked to spring from the bed and flee,--anywhere, away and
away, where she would see him no more. No such flight was possible. She
sat motionless and stared at the window, keeping down the internal
shiver which ran over her.

Basil came with his light quick step and stood beside her; took her
hand and felt her pulse.

"You are not feeling very well, Di," he said gravely.

"Well enough,"--said Diana. "I will get up and be down presently."

"Will you?" said he. "Now I think you had better not. The best thing
you can do will be to lie still here and keep quiet all day. May I
prescribe for you?"

"Yes. I will do what you please," said Diana. She never looked at him,
and he knew it.

"Then this is what I think you had better do. Get up and take a bath;
then put on your dressing-gown and lie down again. You shall have your
breakfast up here--and I will let nobody come up to disturb you."

"I'm not hungry. I don't want anything."

"You are a little feverish--but you will be better for taking
something. Now you get your bath--and I'll attend to the breakfast."

He kissed her brow gravely, guessing that she would rather he did not,
but knowing nevertheless that he might and must; for he was her
husband, and however gladly she, and unselfishly he, would have broken
the relation between them, it subsisted and could not be broken. And
then he went down-stairs.

"Where's Mis' Masters?" demanded Jemima when she brought in the
breakfast-tray, standing attention.

"Not coming down."

"Ain't anything ails her, is there?"

"Yes. But I don't know how serious. Give me the kettle, Jemima; I told
her to lie still, and that I would bring her a cup of tea."

"I'll take it up, Mr. Masters; and you can eat your breakfast."

"Thank you. I always like to keep my promises. Fetch in the kettle,
Jemima."

Jemima dared not but obey. So when Diana, between dead and alive, had
done as she was bid, taken her bath, and wrapped in her dressing-gown
was laid upon her bed again, her husband made his appearance with a
little tray and the tea. There had been a certain bodily refreshment
about the bath and the change of dress, but with that little touch of
the everyday work of life there had come such a rebellion against life
in general and all that it held, that Diana was nearly desperate. In
place of dull despair, had come a wild repulsion against everything
that was left her in the world; and yet the girl knew that she would
neither die nor go mad, but must just live and bear. She looked at
Basil and his tray with a sort of impatient horror.

"I don't want anything!" she said. "I don't want anything!"

"Try the tea. It is out of the green chest."

Diana had learned, as I said, to know her husband pretty well; and she
knew that though the tone in which he spoke was very quiet, and for all
a certain sweet insistence in it could scarcely be said to be urging,
nevertheless there was under it something to which she must yield. His
will never had clashed with hers once; nevertheless Diana had seen and
known that whatever Basil wanted to do with anybody, he did. Everybody
granted it to him, somehow. So did she now. She raised herself up and
tasted the tea.


"Eat a biscuit--."

"I don't want it. I don't want anything, Basil."

"You must eat something, though," said he. "It is bad enough for me to
have to carry along with me all day the thought of you lying here; I
cannot bear in addition the thought of you starving."

"O no, I am not starving," Diana answered; and unable to endure to look
at him or talk to him, she covered her face with her hands, leaning it
down upon her knees. Basil did not say anything, nor did he go away; he
stood beside her, with an outflow of compassion in his heart, but
waiting patiently. At last touched her smooth hair with his hand.

"Di," said he gently, "look up and take something."

She hastily removed her hands, raised her head, swallowed the tea, and
managed to swallow the biscuit with it. He leaned forward and kissed
her brow as he had done last night.

"Now lie down and rest," said he. "I must ride over to Blackberry Hill
again--and I do not know how long I may be kept there. I will tell
Jemima to let no visitors come up to bother you. Lie still and rest. I
will give you a pillow for your thoughts, Di.--'Under the shadow of thy
wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be overpast.'"

He went away; and Diana covered her face again. She could not bear the
light. Her whole nature was in uproar. The bath and dressing, the tea,
her husband's presence and words, his last words especially, had roused
her from her stupor, and given her as it were a scale with which to
measure the full burden of her misery. There was no item wanting, Diana
thought, to make it utterly immeasurable and unbearable. If she had
married a less good man, it would have been less hard to spoil all his
hopes of happiness; if he had been a weaker man, she would not have
cared about him at all. If any hand but her own mother's had dashed her
cup of happiness out of her hand, she would have had there a refuge to
go to. Most girls have their mothers. If Evan had not been sent to so
distant a post--but when her thoughts dared turn to Evan, Diana writhed
upon her bed in tearless agony. Evan, writing in all the freshness and
strength of his love and his trust in her, those letters;--waiting and
looking for her answer;--writing again and again; disappointed all the
while; and at last obliged to conclude that there was no faith in her,
and that her love had been a sham or a fancy. What had he not suffered
on her account! even as she had suffered for him. But that he should
think so of her was not to be borne; she would write. Might she write?
From hiding her head on her pillow, Diana sat bolt upright now and
stared at the light as if it could tell her. Might she write to Evan,
just once, this once, to tell him how it had been? Would that be any
wrong against her husband? Would Basil have any right to forbid her?
The uneasy sense of doubt here was met by a furious rebellion against
any authority that would interfere with her doing herself--as she
said--so much justice, and giving herself and Evan so much miserable
comfort. Could there be a right to hinder her? Suppose she were to ask
Basil?--But what disclosures that would involve! Would he bear them, or
could she? Better write without his knowledge. Then, on the other hand,
Basil was so upright himself, so true and faithful, and trusted her so
completely. No, she never could deceive his trust, not if she died. O
that she could die! But Diana knew that she was not going to die.
Suppose she charged her mother with what she had done, and get _her_ to
write and confess it? A likely thing, that Mrs. Starling would be
wrought upon to make such a humiliation of herself! She was forced to
give up that thought. And indeed she was not clear about the essential
distinction between communicating directly herself with Evan, and
getting another to do it for her. And what had been Mrs. Starling's
motive in keeping back the letters? But Diana knew her mother, and that
problem did not detain her long.

For hours and hours Diana's mind was like a stormy sea, where the
thunder and the lightning were not wanting any more than the wind. Once
in a while, like the faint blink of a sun-ray through the clouds, came
an echo of the words Basil had quoted--"In the shadow of thy wings will
I make my refuge"--but they hurt her so that she fled from them. The
contrast of their peace with her turmoil, of their intense sweetness
with the bitter passion which was wasting her heart; the hint of that
harbour for the storm-tossed vessel, which could only be entered, she
knew, by striking sail; all that was unbearable. I suppose there was a
whisper of conscience, too, which said, "Strike sail, and go
in!"--while passion would not take down an inch of canvas. _Could_ not,
she said to herself. Could she submit to have things be as they were?
submit, and be quiet, and accept them, and go her way accepting them,
and put the thought of Evan away, and live the rest of her life as
though he had no existence? That was the counsel Basil would give, she
had an unrecognised consciousness; and for the present, pain was easier
to bear than that. And now memory flew back over the years, and took up
again the thread of her relations with Evan, and traced them to their
beginning; and went over all the ground, going back and forward,
recalling every meeting, and reviewing every one of those too scanty
hours. For a long while she had not been able to do this, because Evan,
she thought, had been faithless, and in that case she really never had
had what she thought she had in him. Now she knew he was not faithless,
and she had got the time and him back again, and she in a sort revelled
in the consciousness. And with that came then the thought, "Too
late!"--She had got him again only to see an impassable barrier set
between which must keep them apart for ever. And that barrier was her
husband. What the thought of Basil, or rather what his image was to
Diana that day, it is difficult to tell; she shunned it whenever it
appeared, with an intolerable mingling of contradictory feelings. Her
fate,--and yet more like a good angel to her than anybody that had ever
crossed the line of her path; the destroyer of her hope and joy for
ever,--and yet one to whom she was bound, and to whom she owed all
possible duty and affection; she wished it were possible never to see
him again in the world, and at the same time there was not another in
the world of whom she believed all the good she believed of him. His
image was dreadful to her. Basil was the very centre-point of her
agonized struggles that day. To be parted from Evan she could have
borne, if she might have devoted herself to the memory of him and lived
in quiet sorrow; but to put this man in his place!--to belong to him,
to be his wife--

In proportion to the strength and health of Diana's nature was the
power of her realization and the force of her will. But also the
possibility of endurance. The internal fight would have broken down a
less pure and sound bodily organization. It was characteristic of this
natural soundness and sweetness, which was mental as well as physical,
that her mother's part in the events which had destroyed her happiness
had very little of her attention that day. She thought of it with a
kind of sore wonder and astonishment, in which resentment had almost no
share. "O, mother, mother!"--she said in her heart; but she said no
more.

Miss Collins came up once or twice to see her, but Diana lay quiet, and
was able to baffle curiosity.

"Are ye goin' to git up and come down to supper?" the handmaid asked in
the second visit, which occurred late in the afternoon.

"I don't know. I shall do what Mr. Masters says."

"You don't look as ef there was much ailin' you;--and yet you look kind
o' queer, too. I shouldn't wonder a bit ef you was a gettin' a fever.
There's a red spot on one of your cheeks that's like fire. T'other
one's pale enough. You must be in a fever, I guess, or you couldn't lie
here with the window open."

"Leave it open--and just let me be quiet."

Miss Collins went down, marvelling to herself. But when Basil came home
he found the flush spread to both cheeks, and a look in Diana's eyes
that he did not like.

"How has the day been?" he asked, passing his hand over the flushed
cheek and the disordered hair. Diana shrank and shivered and did not
answer. He felt her pulse.

"Diana," said he, "what is the matter with you?"

She stared at him, in the utter difficulty of answering. "Basil"--she
began, and stopped, not finding another word to add. For prevarication
was an accomplishment Diana knew nothing of. She closed her eyes, that
they might not see the figure standing there.

"Would you like me to fetch your mother to you?"

"No," she said, starting. "O no! Don't bring her, Basil."

"I will not," said he kindly. "Why should she not come?"

"Mother? never. Never, never! Not mother. I can't bear her"--said Diana
strangely.

Mr. Masters went down-stairs looking very grave. He took his supper,
for he needed it; and then he carried up a cup of tea, fresh made, to
Diana. She drank it this time eagerly; but there was no lightening of
his grave brow when he carried the cup down again. Something was very
much the matter, he knew now, as he had feared it last night. He
debated with himself whether he had better try to find out just what it
was. Miss Collins, by a judicious system of suggestion and inquiry,
might be led perhaps to reveal something without knowing that she
revealed anything; but the minister disliked that way of getting
information when it could be dispensed with. He had enough knowledge to
act upon; for the rest he was patient, and could wait.

That night he knew Diana did not sleep. He himself passed the night
again in his study, though not in the struggles of the night before. He
was very calm, stedfast, diligent; that is, his usual self entirely.
And, watching her without her knowing he watched, he knew by her
breathing and her changes of position that it was a night of no rest on
her part. Once he saw she was sitting up in the bed; once he saw that
she had left it and was sitting by the window.

The next day the minister did not leave home. He had no more urgent
business anywhere, he thought, than there. And he found Diana did not
make up by day what she had lost by night; she was always staring wide
awake whenever he went into the room; and he went whenever there was a
cup of tea or a cup of broth to be taken to her, for he prepared it and
carried it to her himself.

It happened in the course of the afternoon that Prince and the old
little green waggon came jogging along and landed Mrs. Starling at the
minister's door. This was a very rare event; Mrs. Starling came at long
intervals to see her daughter, and made then a call which nobody
enjoyed. To-day Miss Collins hailed the sight of her. Indeed, if the
distance had not been too much, Miss Collins would have walked down to
carry the tidings of Diana's indisposition; for, like a true gossip,
she scented mischief where she could see none. The minister would let
her have nothing to do with his wife; and if he were out of the house
and she got a chance, she could make nothing of Diana. Nothing certain;
but nothing either that lulled her suspicions. Now, with Mrs. Starling,
there was no telling what she might get at. The lady dismounted and
came into the kitchen, looking about her, as always, with sharp eyes.

"How d'ye do," said she. "Where is Diana?"

"I'm glad to see ye, Mis' Starling, and that's a fact," said the
handmaid. "I was 'most a mind to walk down to your place to-day."

"What's the matter? Where's Diana?"

"Wall, she's up-stairs. She hain't been down now for two days."

"What's the reason?"

"Wall--sun'thin' ain't right; and I don't think the minister's clear
what it is; and _I_ ain't. She was took as sudden--you never see
nothin' suddener--she come in here to fix a dish o' eggs for supper
that she's mighty particler about, and don't think no one can cook eggs
but herself; and I was talkin' and tellin' her about my old experiences
in the post office--and she went up-stairs and took to her bed; and she
hain't left it sen. Now ain't that queer? 'Cause she didn't say nothin'
ailed her; not a word; only she went up and took to her bed; and she
doos look queer at you, that I will say. Mebbe it's fever a comin' on."

There was a minute or two's silence. Mrs. Starling did not immediately
find her tongue.

"What have the post office and your stories got to do with it?" she
asked harshly. "I should like to know."

"Yes,--" said Miss Collins, drawing out the word with affable
intonation,--"that's what beats me. What should they? But la! the post
office is queer; that's what I always said. Everybody gits into it; and
ef you're there, o' course you can't help knowin' things."

"You weren't in the post office!" said Mrs. Starling. "It was none of
_your_ business."

"Warn't I?" said Miss Collins. "Don't you mind better'n that, Mis'
Starling? I mind you comin', and I mind givin' you your letters too; I
mind some 'ticlar big ones, that had stamps enough on to set up a shop.
La, 'tain't no harm. Miss Gunn, she used to feel a sort o' sameness
about allays takin' in and givin' out, and then she'd come into the
kitchen and make cake mebbe, and send me to 'tend the letters and the
folks. And then it was as good as a play to me. Don't you never git
tired o' trottin' a mile in a bushel, Mis' Starlin'? So I was jest a
tellin' Diany"--

"Where's the minister?"

"Most likely he's where she is--up-stairs. He won't let nobody else do
a hand's turn for her. He takes up every cup of tea, and he spreads
every bit of bread and butter; and he tastes the broths; you'd think he
was anythin' in the world but a minister; he tastes the broth, and he
calls for the salt and pepper, and he stirs and he tastes; and
then--you never see a man make such a fuss, leastways _I_ never
did--he'll have a white napkin and spread over a tray, and the cup on
it, and saucer too, for he won't have the cup 'thout the saucer, and
then carry it off.--Was your husband like that, Mis' Starling? He was a
minister, I've heerd tell."

Mrs. Starling turned short about without answering and went up-stairs.

She found the minister there, as Miss Collins had opined she would; but
she paid little attention to him. He was just drawing the curtains over
a window where the sunlight came in too glaringly. As he had done this,
and turned, he was a spectator of the meeting between mother and child.
It was peculiar. Mrs. Starling advanced to the foot of the bed, came no
nearer, but stood there looking down at her daughter. And Diana's eyes
fastened on hers with a look of calm, cold intelligence. It was intense
enough, yet there was no passion in it; I suppose there was too much
despair; however, it was, as I said, keen and intent, and it held Mrs.
Starling's eye, like a vice. Those Mr. Masters could not see; the
lady's back was towards him; but he saw how Diana's eyes pinioned her,
and how strangely still Mrs. Starling stood.

"What's the matter with you?" she said harshly at last.

"You ought to know,"--said Diana, not moving her eyes.

"I ain't a conjuror," Mrs. Starling returned with a sort of snort.
"What makes you look at me like that?"

Diana gave a short, sharp laugh. "How can you look at me?" she said. "I
know all about it, mother."

Mrs. Starling with a sudden determination went round to the head of the
bed and put out her hand to feel Diana's pulse. Diana shrank away from
her.

"Keep off!" she cried. "Basil, Basil, don't let her touch me."

"She is out of her head," said Mrs. Starling, turning to her
son-in-law, and speaking half loud. "I had better stay and sit up with
her."

"No," cried Diana. "I don't want you. Basil, don't let her stay. Basil,
Basil!"--

The cry was urgent and pitiful. Her husband came near, arranged the
pillows, for she had started half up; and putting her gently back upon
them, said in his calm tones,--"Be quiet, Di; you command here. Mrs.
Starling, shall we go down-stairs?"

Mrs. Starling this time complied without making any objection; but as
she reached the bottom she gave vent to her opinion.

"You are spoiling her!"

"Really--I should like to have the chance."

"What do you mean by that?"

"Just the words. I should like to spoil Di. She has never had much of
that sort of bad influence."

"That sounds very weak, to me," said Mrs. Starling.

"To whom should a man show himself weak, if not toward his wife?" said
Basil carelessly.

"Your wife will not thank you for it."

"I will endeavour to retain her respect," said Basil in the same way;
which aggravated Mrs. Starling, beyond bounds. Something about him
always did try her temper, she said to herself.

"Diana is going to have a fever," she spoke abruptly.

"I am afraid of it."

"What's brought it on?"

"I came home two evenings ago and found her on the bed."

"You don't want me, you say. Who do you expect is going to sit up with
her and take care of her?"

"I will try what I can do, for the present."

"You can't manage that and your out-door work too."

"I will manage _that_"--said Basil significantly.

"And let your parish work go? Well, I always thought a minister was
bound to attend to his people."

"Yes. Isn't my wife more one of my people than anybody else? Will you
stay and take a cup of tea, Mrs. Starling?"

"No; if you don't want me, I am going. What will you do if Diana gets
delirious? I think she's out of her head now."

"I'll attend to her," said Basil composedly.

Half suspecting a double meaning in his words, Mrs. Starling took short
leave, and drove off. Not quite easy in her mind, if the truth be told,
and glad to be out of all patience with the minister. Yes, if she had
known how things would turn--if she had known--perhaps, she would not
have thrown that first letter into the fire; which had drawn her on to
throw the second in, and the third. Could any son-in-law, could Evan
Knowlton, at least, have been more untoward for her wishes than the one
she had got? More unmanageable he could not have been; nor more likely
to be spooney about Diana. And now what if Diana really should have a
fever? People talk out in delirium. Well--the minister would keep his
own counsel; she did not care, she said. But all the same, she did
care; and she would fain have been the only one to receive Diana's
revelations, if she could have managed it. And by what devil's
conjuration had the truth come to be revealed, when only the fire and
she knew anything about it. Mrs. Starling chewed the cud of no sweet
fancy on her road home.



CHAPTER XXVII.



BONDS



Diana did become ill. A few days of such brain work as she had endured
that first twenty-four hours were too much even for her perfect
organization. She fell into a low fever, which at times threatened to
become violent, yet never did. She was delirious often; and Basil heard
quite enough of her unconscious revelations to put him in full
possession of the situation. In different portions, Diana went over the
whole ground. He knew sometimes that she was walking with Evan, taking
leave of him; perhaps taking counsel with him, and forming plans for
life; then wondering at his silence, speculating about ways and
distances, tracing his letters out of the post office into the wrong
hand. And when she was upon that strain, Diana would break out into a
cry of "O, mother, mother, mother!"--repeating the word with an accent
of such plaintive despair that it tore the heart of the one who heard
it.

There was only one. As long as this state of things lasted, Basil gave
himself up to the single task of watching and nursing his wife. And
amid the many varieties of heart-suffering which people know in this
world, that which he tasted these weeks was one of refined bitterness.
He came to know just how things were, and just how they had been all
along. He knew what Diana's patient or reticent calm covered. He heard
sometimes her fond moanings over another name; sometimes her passionate
outcries the owner of that name to come and deliver her; sometimes--she
revealed that too--even the repulsion with which she regarded himself.
"O, not this man!" she said one night, when he had been sitting by her
and hoping that she was more quiet. "O, not this man! It was a mistake.
It was all a mistake. People ought to take better care at the post
office. Tell Evan I didn't know; but I'll come to him now just as soon
as I can."

Another time she burst out more violently. "Don't kiss me!" she
exclaimed. "Don't touch me. I won't bear it. Never again. I belong to
somebody else, don't you know? You have no business to be here." Basil
was not near her, indeed she would not have recognised him if he had
been; he was sitting by the fire at a distance; but he knew whom she
was addressing in her mournful ravings, and his heart and courage
almost gave way. It was very bitter; and many an hour of those nights
the minister spent on his knees at the bed's foot, seeking for strength
and wisdom, seeking to keep his heart from being quite broken, striving
to know what to do. Should he do as she said, and never kiss her again?
Should he behave to her in the future as a mere stranger? What was best
for him and for her? Basil would have done that unflinchingly, though
it had led him to the stake, if he could know what the best was. But he
did not quite give up all hope, desperate as the case looked; his own
strong cheerful nature and his faith in God kept him up. And he
resolutely concluded that it would not be the best way nor the
hopefulest, for him and Diana, bound to each other as they were, to try
to live as strangers. The bond could not be broken; it had better be
acknowledged by them both. But if Basil could have broken it and set
her free, he would have done it at any cost to himself. So, week after
week, he kept his post as nurse at Diana's side. He was a capital
nurse. Untireable as a man, and tender as a woman; quick as a woman,
too, to read signs and answer unspoken wishes; thoughtful as many women
are not; patient with an unending patience. Diana was herself at times,
and recognised all this. And by degrees, as the slow days wore away,
her disorder wore away too, or wore itself out, and she came back to
her normal condition in all except strength. That was very failing,
even after the fever was gone. And still Basil kept his post. He began
now, it is true, to attend to some pressing outside duties, for which
in the weeks just past he had provided a substitute; but morning, noon,
and night he was at Diana's side. No hand but his own might ever carry
to her the meals which his own hand had no inconsiderable share in
preparing. He knew how to serve an invalid's breakfast with a
refinement of care which Diana herself before that would not have known
how to give another, though she appreciated it and took her lesson.
Then nobody could so nicely and deftly prop up pillows and cushions so
as to make her rest comfortably for the taking of the meal; no one had
such skilful strength to enable a weak person to change his position.
For all other things, Diana saw no difference in him; nothing told her
that she had betrayed herself, and she betrayed herself no more. Dull
and listless she might be; that was natural enough in her weak state of
convalescence; and Diana had never been demonstrative towards her
husband; it was no new thing that she was not demonstrative now.
Neither did he betray that he knew all she was trying, poor child, to
hide from him. He was just as usual. Only, in Diana's present helpless
condition, he had opportunity to show tenderness and care in a thousand
services which in her well days she would have dispensed with. And he
did it, as I said, with the strength of a man and the delicacy of a
woman. He let nobody else do anything for her.

Did he guess how gladly she would have escaped from all his
ministrations? did he knew what they were to Diana? Probably not; for
with all his fineness of perception he was yet a man; and I suppose,
reverse the conditions, there never was a man yet who would object to
have one woman wait upon him because he loved another. Yet Basil did
know partly and partly guess; and he went patiently on in the way he
had marked out for himself, upheld by principle and by a great tenacity
of purpose which was part of his character. Nevertheless, those were
days of pain, great and terrible even for him; what they were to Diana
he could but partially divine. As health slowly came back, and she
looked at herself and her life again with eyes unveiled by disease,
with the pitiless clearness of sound reason, Diana wished she could
die. She knew she could not; she could come no nearer to it than a
passing thought; her pulses were retaking their sweet regularity; her
nerves were strung again, fine and true; only muscular strength seemed
to tarry. Lying there on her bed and looking out over the snow-covered
fields, for it was mid-winter by this time, Diana sometimes felt a
terrible impulse to fly to Evan; as if she could wait only till she had
the power to move The feeling was wild, impetuous; it came like a
hurricane wind, sweeping everything before it. And then Diana would
feel her chains, and writhe, knowing that she could not and would not
break them. But how ever was life to be endured? life with this other
man? And how dreadful it was that he was so good, and so good to her!
Yes, it would be easier if he did not care for her so well, far easier;
easier even if he were not himself so good. The power of his goodness
fettered Diana; it was a spell upon her. Yes, and she wanted to be good
too; she would not forfeit heaven because she had lost earth; no, and
not to gain earth back again. But how was she to live? And what if she
should be unable always to hide her feeling, and Basil should come to
know it? how would _he_ live? What if she had said strange things in
her days and nights of illness? They were all like a confused misty
landscape to her; nothing taking shape; she could not tell how it might
have been. Restless and weary, she was going over all these and a
thousand other things one day, as she did every day, when Basil came
in. He brought a tray in his hand. He set it down, and came to the
bedside.

"Is it supper-time already?" she asked.

"Are you hungry?"

"I ought not to be hungry. I don't think I am."

"Why ought you not to be hungry?"

"I am doing nothing, lying here."

"I find that is what the people say who are doing too much. Extremes
meet,--as usual."

He lifted Diana up, and piled pillows and cushions at her back till she
was well supported. Nobody could do this so well as Basil. Then he
brought the tray and arranged it before her. There was a bit of cold
partridge, and toast; and Basil filled Diana's cup from a little teapot
he had set by the fire. The last degree of nicety was observable in all
these preparations. Diana ate her supper. She must live, and she must
eat, and she could not help being hungry; though she wondered at
herself that she could be so unnatural.

"Where could you get this bird?" she asked at length, to break the
silence which grew painful.

"I caught it."

"Caught it? _You!_ Shot it, do you mean?"

"No. I had not time to go after it with a gun. But I set snares."

"I never knew partridges were so good," said Diana, though something in
her tone said, unconsciously to her, that she cared not what was good
or bad.

"You did not use your advantages. That often happens."

"I had not the advantage of being able to get partridges," said Diana
languidly.

"The woods are full of them."

"Don't you think it is a pity to catch them?"

"For you?" said Basil. He was removing her empty plate, and putting
before her another with an orange upon it, so accurately prepared that
it stirred her admiration.

"Oranges!" cried Diana. "How did you learn to do everything, Basil?"

"Don't be too curious," said he. As he spoke, he softly put back off
her ear a stray lock of the beautiful brown hair, which fell behind her
like a cloud of wavy brightness. Even from that touch she inwardly
shrank; outwardly she was impassive enough.


"Basil," said Diana suddenly, "didn't I talk foolishly sometimes?--when
I was sick, I mean."

"Don't you ever do it when you are well?"

"Do I?"

"What do you think?" said he, laughing, albeit his heart was not merry
at the moment; but Diana's question was naive.

"I did not think I was in the habit of talking foolishly."

"Your thoughts are true and just, as usual. It is so far from being in
your habit, that it is hardly in your power," he said tenderly.

Diana ate her orange, for she was very fond of the fruit, and it gave
occupation to hands and eyes while Basil was standing by. She did not
like his evasion of her question, and pondered how she could bring it
up again, between wish and fear. Before she was ready to speak the
chance was gone. As Basil took away her plate, he remarked that he had
to go down to see old Mrs. Barstow; and arranging her pillows anew, he
stooped down and kissed her.

Left alone, Diana sat still propped up in bed and stared into the fire,
which grew brighter as the light without waned. How she rebelled
against that kiss! "No, he has no right to me!" she cried in her
passionate thoughts; "he has no right to me! I am Evan's; every bit of
me is Evan's, and nobody's else. O, how came I to marry this man? and
what shall I do? I wonder if I shall go mad?--for I am not going to
die. But how is it possible that I can live _so?_"

She was slow in regaining strength. Yet little by little it came back,
like a monarch entering a country that has rebelled against him. By and
by she was able to sit up. Her husband had a luxurious easy-chair sent
from Boston for her and placed in her room; and one evening, it was in
February now, Diana got up and put herself in it. She had never known
such a luxurious piece of furniture in her life; she was dressed in a
warm wrapper also provided by her husband, and which seemed to her of
extravagant daintiness; and she sank into the depths of the one and the
folds of the other with a helpless feeling of Basil's power over her,
symbolized and emphasized by these things. Presently came Basil
himself, again bringing her supper. He placed a small table by her side
and set the tray there; put the teapot down by the fire; and taking a
view of his wife, gave a slight smile at the picture. He might well,
having so good a conscience as this man had. Diana was one of those
magnificent women who look well always and anywhere; with a kitchen
apron on and hands in flour, or in the dishabille of careless undress;
but as her husband saw her then, she was lovely in an exquisite degree.
She was wrapped in a quilted dressing-gown of soft grey stuff, with a
warm shawl about her shoulders; her beautiful abundant hair, which she
had been too weak of hand, and of heart too, to dress elaborately, lay
piled about her head in loose, bright, wavy masses, much more
picturesque than Diana would have known how to make them by design. I
think there is apt, too, to be about such women a natural grace of
motion or of repose; it was her case. To think of herself or the
appearance she might at any time be making, was foreign to Diana; the
noble grace of unconsciousness, united to her perfectness of build,
made her always faultless in action or attitude. If she moved or if she
sat, it might have been a duchess, for the beautiful unconscious ease
with which she did it. Nature's high breeding; there is such a thing,
and there is such an effect of it when the constitution of mind and
body are alike noble.

Basil poured out her cup of tea, and divided her quail, and then sat
down. It was hard for her to bear.

"You are too good to me," said Diana humbly.

"I should like to see you prove that."

"I am not sure but you are too good to everybody."

"Why? how can one be too good?"

"You won't get paid for it."

"I think I shall," said Basil, in a quiet confident way he had, which
was provoking if you were arguing with him. But Diana was not arguing
with him.

"Basil, _I_ can never pay you," she said, with a voice that faltered a
little.

"You are sure of that in your own mind?"

"Very sure!"

"I am a man of a hopeful turn of nature. Shall I divide that joint for
you?"

"My hands cannot manage a quail!" said Diana, yielding her knife and
fork to him. "What can make me so weak?"

"You have had fever."

"But I have no fever now, and I do not seem to get my strength back."

"After the unnatural tension, Nature takes her revenge."

"It is very hard on you!"

"What?"

Diana did not answer. She had spoken that last word with almost a break
in her voice; she gave her attention now diligently to picking the
quail bones. But when her supper was done, and the tray delivered over
to Miss Collins, Basil did not, as sometimes he did, go away and leave
her, but sat down again and trimmed the fire. Diana lay back in her
chair, looking at him.

"Basil," she said at last after a long silence,--"do you think
mistakes, I mean life-mistakes, can ever be mended in this world?"

"You must define what you mean by mistakes," he said without looking at
her. "There are no _mistakes_, love, but those which we make by our own
fault."

"O but yes there are, Basil!"

"Not what _I_ mean by mistakes."

"Then what do you call them? When people's lives are all spoiled by
something they have had nothing to do with--by death, or sickness, or
accident, or misfortune."

"I call it," said Basil slowly, and still without looking at her,--"I
call it, when it touches me or you, or other of the Lord's
children,--God's good hand."

"O no, Basil! people's wickedness cannot be his hand."

"People's wickedness is their own. And other evil I believe is wrought
by the prince of this world. But God will use people's wickedness, and
even Satan's mischief, to his children's best good; and so it becomes,
in so far, his blessed hand. Don't you know he has promised, 'There
shall no evil happen to the just'? And that 'all things shall work
together for good to them that love God?' His promise does not fail, my
child."

"But, Basil,--loads of things do happen to them which _cannot_ work for
their good."

"Then what becomes of the Lord's promise?"

"He cannot have made it, I think."

"He has made it, and you and I believe it."

"But, Basil, it is impossible. I do not see how some things can ever
turn to people's good."

"If any of the Lord's children were in doubt upon that point, I should
recommend him to ask the Lord to enlighten him. For the heavens may
fall, Diana, but 'the word of our God shall stand for ever.'"

Diana felt her lips quivering, and drew back into the shadow to hide
them.

"But there can be no kindness in some of these things that I am
thinking about," she said as soon as she could control her voice; and
it sounded harsh even then.

"There is nothing but kindness. When I would not give you strong coffee
a while ago, in your fever, do you think I was influenced by cruel
motives?"

"I could never believe anything but good of you, Basil."

"Thank you. Do you mean, that of Christ you _could?_"

"No--" said Diana, hesitating; "but I thought, perhaps, he might not
care."

"He had need to be long-suffering!" said Basil; "for we do try his
patience, the best of us. 'He has borne our griefs and carried our
sorrows,' Diana; down into humiliation and death; that he might so earn
the right to lift them off our shoulders and hearts; and one of his
children doubts if he cares!"

"But he does not lift them off, Basil," said Diana; and her voice
trembled with the unshed tears.

"He will"--said her husband.

"When?"

"As soon as we let him."

"What must I do to let him?"

"Trust him wholly. And follow him like a child."

The tears came, Diana could not hinder them; she laid her face against
the side of her chair where Basil could not see it.



CHAPTER XXVIII.



EVAN'S SISTER.



Slowly from this time Diana regained strength, and by degrees took
again her former place in the household. To Miss Collins' vision she
was "the same as ever." Basil felt she was not.

Yet Diana did every duty of her station with all the care and diligence
she had ever given to it. She neglected nothing. Basil's wardrobe was
kept in perfect order; his linen was exquisitely got up; his meals were
looked after, and served with all the nice attention that was possible.
Diana did not in the least lose her head, or sit brooding when there
was something to do. She did not sit brooding at any time, unless at
rare intervals. Yet her husband's heart was very heavy with the weight
which rested on hers, and truly with his own share as well. There was a
line in the corners of Diana's sweet mouth which told him, nobody else,
that she was turning to stone; and the light of her eye was, as it
were, turned inward upon itself. Without stopping to brood over things,
which she did not, her mind was constantly abiding in a different
sphere away from him, dwelling afar off, or apart in a region by
itself; he had her physical presence, but not her spiritual; and who
cares for a body without a soul? All this time there was no confidence
between them. Basil knew, indeed, the whole facts of the case, but
Diana did not know he knew. He wished she would speak, but believed now
she never would; and he could not ask her. Truly he had his own part to
bear; and withal his sorrow and yearning tenderness for her. Sometimes
his heart was nigh to break. But Diana's heart was broken.

Was it comfort, or was it not comfort, when near the end of spring a
little daughter was born to them? Diana in any circumstances was too
true a woman not to enter upon a mother's riches and responsibilities
with a full heart, not to enter thoroughly into a mother's joy and
dignity; it was a beautiful something that had come into her life, so
far as itself was concerned; and no young mother's hands ever touched
more tenderly the little pink bundle committed to them, nor ever any
mother's eyes hung more intently over her wonderful new possession. But
lift the burden from Diana's heart her baby did not. There was
something awful about it, too, for it was another bond that bound her
to a man she did not love. When Diana was strong enough, she sometimes
shed floods of tears over the little unconscious face, the only human
confident she dared trust with her secret. Before this time her tears
had been few; something in the baby took the hardness from her, or else
gave one of those inexplicable touches to the spring of tears which we
can neither resist nor account for. But the baby's father was as fond
of her as her mother, and had a right to be, Diana knew; and that tried
her. She grudged Basil the right. On the whole, I think, however, the
baby did Diana good As for Basil, it did him good. He thanked God, and
took courage.

The summer had begun when Diana was able to come down-stairs again. One
afternoon she was there, in her little parlour, come down for a change.
The windows were open, and she sat thinking of many things. Her
easy-chair had been moved down to this room; and Diana, in white, as
Basil liked to see her, was lying back in it, close beside the window.
June was on the hills and in the air, and in the garden; for a bunch of
red roses stood in a glass on the table, and one was fastened at
Diana's belt and another stuck in her beautiful hair. Not by her own
hands, truly; Basil had brought in the roses a little while ago and
held them to her nose, and then put one in her hair and one in her
belt. Diana suffered it, all careless and unknowing of the exquisite
effect, which her husband smiled at, and then went off; for his work
called him. She had heard his horse's hoof-beats, going away at a
gallop; and the sound carried her thoughts back, away, as a little
thing will, to a time when Mr. Masters used to come to her old home to
visit her mother and her, and then ride off so. Yes, and in those clays
another came too; and June days were sweet then as now; and roses
bloomed; and the robins were whistling then also, she remembered; did
_their_ fates and life courses never change? was it all June to them,
every year? How the robins whistled their answer!--"all June to them,
every year!" And the smell of roses did not change, nor the colour of
the light; and the fresh green of the young foliage was deep and bright
and glittering to-day as ever it was. Just the same! and a human life
could have all sweet scents and bright tints and glad sounds fall out
of it, and not to come back! There is nothing but duty left, thought
Diana; and duty with all the sap gone out of it. Duty was left a dry
tree; and more, a tree so full of thorns that she could not touch it
without being stung and pierced. Yet even so; to this stake of duty she
was bound.

Diana sat cheerlessly gazing out into the June sunlight, which laughed
at her with no power to gain a smile in return; when a step came along
the narrow entry, and the doorway was filled with Mrs. Starling's
presence. Mother and daughter looked at each other in a peculiar way
they had now; Diana's face cold, Mrs. Starling's face hard.

"Well!" said the latter,--"how are you getting along?"

"You see, I am down-stairs."

"I see you're doing nothing."

"Mr. Masters wont let me."

"Humph! When _I_ had a baby four weeks old, I had my own way. And so
would you, if you wanted to have it."

"My husband will not let me have it."

"That's fool's nonsense, Diana. If you are the girl I take you for, you
can do whatever you like with your husband. No man that ever lived
would make _me_ sit with my hands before me. Who's got the baby?"

"Jemima."

"How's Jemima to do her work and your work too? She can't do it."

"No, but Mr. Masters is going to get another person to help take care
of baby."

"A nurse!" cried Mrs. Starling aghast.

"No, not exactly; but somebody to help me."

"Are you turned weak and sickly, Diana?"

"No, mother."

"Then you don't want another girl, any more than a frog wants an
umbrella. Put your baby in the crib and teach her to lie there, when
you are busy. That's the way you were brought up."

"You must talk to Mr. Masters, mother."

"I don't want to talk to Mr. Masters--I've got something else to do.
But you can talk to him, Diana, and he'll do what you say."

"It's the other way, mother. I must do what he says." Diana's tone was
peculiar.

"Then you're turned soft."

"I think I am turned hard."

"Your husband is easy to manage--for you."

"Is he?" said Diana. "I am glad it isn't true. I despise men that are
easy to manage. I am glad I can respect him, at any rate."

Mrs. Starling looked at her daughter with an odd expression. It was
curious and uncertain; but she asked no question. She seemed to change
the subject; though perhaps the connection was close.

"Did you hear the family are coming to Elmfield again this summer?"

Diana's lips formed the word "no;" the breath of it hardly got out.

"Yes, they're coming, sure enough. Phemie will be here next week; and
her sister, what's her name?--Mrs. Reverdy--is here now."

Silence.

"I suppose they'll fill the house with company, as they did last time,
and cut up their shines as usual. Well! they don't come in my way. But
you'll have to see 'em, I guess."

"Why?"

"You know they make a great to do about your husband in that family.
And Genevieve Reverdy seems uncommonly fond of you. She asked me no end
of questions about you on Sabbath."

There flushed a hot colour into Diana's cheeks, which faded away and
left them very pale.

"She hasn't grown old a bit," Mrs. Starling went on, talking rather
uneasily; "nor she hain't grown wise, neither. She can't ask you how
you do without a giggle. And she had dressed herself to come to church
as if the church was a fair and she was something for sale. Flowers,
and feathers, and laces, and ribbons, a little there and a little here;
bows on her gloves, and bows on her shoes, and bows on her gown. I
believed she would have tucked some into the corners of her mouth, if
they would have stayed."

Diana made no reply. She was looking out into the sunlit hillside in
view from her window, and had grown visibly whiter since her mother
came in. Mrs. Starling reviewed her for that instant with a keen,
anxious, searching gaze, which changed before Diana turned her head.

"I can't make out, for my part, what such folks are in the world for,"
she went on. "They don't do no good, to themselves nor to nobody else.
And fools mostly contrive to do harm. Well--she's coming to see
you;--she'll be along one of these days."

"To see me!" Diana echoed.

"So she says. Maybe it's all flummery. I daresay it is; but she talked
a lot of it. You'd ha' thought there warn't any one else in the world
she cared about seeing."

Mrs. Starling went up-stairs at this point to see the baby, and Diana
sat looking out of the window with her thoughts in a wild confusion of
pain. Pain and fright, I might say. And yet her senses took the most
delicate notice of all there was in the world outside to attract them.
Could it be June, once so fair and laughing, that smote her now with
such blows of memory's hammer? or was it Memory using June? She saw the
bright glisten of the leaves upon the hillside, the rich growth of the
grass, the fair beams of the summer sun; she noticed minutely the stage
of development which the chestnut blossoms had reached; one or two
dandelion heads; a robin redbreast that was making himself exceedingly
at home on the little spread of greensward behind the house. I don't
know if Diana's senses were trying to cheat her heart; but from one
item to another her eye went and her mind followed, in a maze of pain
that was not cheated at all, till she heard her mother's steps forsake
the house. Then Diana's head sank. And then, even at the moment, as if
the robin's whistle had brought them, the words came to her--"Call upon
me in the day of trouble; I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify
me." An absolute promise of the Lord to his people. Could it be true,
when trouble was beyond deliverance? And then came Basil's faith to her
help; she knew how he believed every word, no matter how difficult or
impossible; and Diana fell on her knees and hid her face, and fled to
the one only last refuge of earth's despairing children. How even God
could deliver her, Diana did not see, for the ground seemed giving away
beneath her feet; but it is the man who cannot swim who clutches the
rope for life and death; and it is when we are hopeless of our own
strength that we throw ourselves utterly upon the one hand that is
strong. Diana was conscious of little else but of doing that; to form a
connected prayer was beyond her; she rather held up the promise, as it
were with both hands, and pleaded it mutely and with the intensity of
one hovering between life and death. The house was still, she feared no
disturbance; and she remained motionless, without change of posture
either of mind or body, for some length of time. Gradually the "I will
deliver thee"--"I will deliver thee"--began to emphasize itself to her
consciousness, like a whisper in the storm, and Diana burst into a
terrible flood of tears. That touch of divine sympathy broke her heart.
She sobbed for minutes, only keeping her sobs too noiseless to reach
and alarm Miss Collins' ears; till her agony was softened and changed
at last into something more like a child's exhausted and humble tears,
while her breast rose and fell so, pitifully. With that came also a
vague floating thought or two. "My duty--I'll do my duty--I'll do my
duty."

It was over, and she had risen and was resting in her chair, feeling
weaker and yet much stronger than before; waiting till she could dare
show her face to Miss Collins; when a little low tap was heard at the
front door. Company? But Diana had noticed no step and heard no wheels.
However, there was no escape for her if it were company. She waited,
and the tap was repeated. I don't know what about it this second time
sent a thrill all down Diana's nerves. The doors were open, and seeing
that Miss Collins did not stir, Diana uttered a soft "Come!" She was
hardly surprised at what followed; she seemed to know by instinct what
it would be.

"Where shall I come?" asked a voice, and a pair of brisk high-heeled
shoes tripped into the house, and a little trilling laugh, equally
light and meaningless, followed the words. "Where shall I come? It's an
enchanted castle--I see nobody."

But the next instant she could not say that, for Diana showed herself
at the door of her room, and Mrs. Reverdy hastened forward. Diana was
calm now, with a possession of herself which she marvelled at even
then. Bringing her visitor into the little parlour, she placed herself
again in her chair, with her face turned from the light.

"And here I find you! O you beautiful creature!" Mrs. Reverdy burst
out. "I declare, I don't wonder at--anything!" and she laughed. The
laugh grated terribly on Diana. "I wonder if you know what a beauty you
are?" she went on;--"I declare!--I didn't know you were half so
handsome. Have you changed, since three years ago?"

"I think I must," Diana said quietly.

"But where have you been? Living here in Pleasant Valley?" was the next
not very polite question.

"People do live in Pleasant Valley. Did you think not?" Diana answered.

"O yes. No. Not what we call life, you know. And you were always
handsome; but three years ago you were just Diana Starling, and
now--you might be anybody!"

"I am Mr. Masters' wife," said Diana, setting her teeth as it were upon
the words.

"Yes, I heard. How happened it? Do you know, I am afraid you have done
a great deal of mischief? O, you handsome women!--you have a great deal
to account for. Did you never think you had another admirer?--in those
days long ago, you know?"

"What if I had?" Diana said almost fiercely.

"O, of course," said Mrs. Reverdy with her laugh again,--"of course it
is nothing to you now; girls are hard-hearted towards their old lovers,
I know that. But weren't you a little tender towards him once? He
hasn't forgotten his part, I can tell you. You mustn't be _too_
hard-hearted, Diana."

If the woman could have spoken without laughing! That little
meaningless trill at the end of everything made Diana nearly wild. She
could find no answer to the last speech, and so remained silent.

"Now I have seen you again, I declare I don't wonder at anything. I was
inclined to quarrel with him, you know, thinking it was just a boyish
foolish fancy that he ought to get over; I was a little out of patience
with him; but now I see you, I take it all back. I declare, you're a
woman the men might rave about. You mustn't mind if they do."

"There is another question, whether my husband will mind." She said the
words with a hard, relentless force upon herself.

"Is he jealous?" laughing.

"He has no reason."

"Reason! O, people are jealous without reason; they don't wait for
that. Better without than with. How is Mr. Masters? is he one of that
kind? And how came he to marry you?"

"You ought not to wonder at it, with the opinion you have expressed of
me."

"O no, I don't wonder at all! But somebody else wanted to marry you
too; and somebody else thought he had the best right. I am afraid you
flirted with him. Or was it with Mr. Masters you flirted? I didn't
think you were a girl to flirt; but I see! You would keep just quietly
still, and they would flutter round you, like moths round a candle, and
it would be their own fault if they both got burned. Has Mr. Masters
got burned? My poor moth has singed his wings badly, I can tell you. I
am very sorry for him."


"So am I," Diana said gravely.

"Are you? Are you really? Are you sorry for him? May I tell him you are
sorry?"

"You have not said whom you are talking about," Diana answered, with a
coldness which she wondered at when she said it.

"O, but you know! There is only one person I could be talking about.
There is only one I could care enough about to be talking for him. You
cannot help but know. May I tell him you say you are sorry for him? It
would be a sort of comfort, and he wants it."

"You must ask Mr. Masters."

"What?"

"That."

"Whether I may tell Evan you are sorry for him?"

"Whether you may tell that to anybody."

"I don't want to tell it to but one," said Mrs. Reverdy, laughing.
"What has Mr. Masters to do with it?"

"He is my husband." And calmly as Diana said it, she felt as if she
would like to shriek out the words to the birds on the hillside--to the
angels, if there were angels in the air. Yet she said it calmly.

"But do you ask your husband about everything you do or say?"

"If I think he would not like it."

"But that is giving him a great deal of power,--too much. Husband's are
fallible, as well as wives," said Mrs. Reverdy, laughing.

"Mr. Masters is not fallible. At least, I never saw him fail in
anything. If he ever made a mistake, it was when he married me."

"And you?" said Mrs. Reverdy. "Didn't you make a mistake too?"

"In marrying somebody so much too good for me--yes," Diana answered.

The little woman was a good deal baffled.

"Then have you really no kind word for Evan? must I tell him so?"

Diana felt as if her brain would have reeled in another minute. Before
she could answer, came the sound of a little wailing cry from the room
up-stairs, and she started up. That movement was sudden, but the next
were collected and slow. "You will excuse me," she said,--"I hear
baby,"--and she passed from the room like a princess. If her manner had
been less discouraging, I think Mrs. Reverdy would have still pursued
her point, and asked leave to follow her and see the baby; but Diana's
slow, languid dignity and gracious composure imposed upon the little
woman, and she gave up the game; at least for the present. When Miss
Collins, set free, hurried down, Mrs. Reverdy was gone.



CHAPTER XXIX.



HUSBAND AND WIFE.



Had she no kind word for Evan? Diana felt as if her heart would snap
some one of its cords, and give over its weary beating at once and for
ever. No kind word for Evan? her beloved, her betrayed, her
life-treasure once, towards whom still all the wealth of her heart
longed to pour itself out; and she might not send him one kind word?
And he did not know that she had been true to him; and yet he had
remained true to her. Might he not know so much as that, and that her
heart was breaking as well as his? Only it would not break. All the
pain of death without its cessation of consciousness. Why not let him
have one word to know that she loved him still, and would always love
him? Truth--truth and duty--loyal faith to her husband, the man whom in
her mistake she had married. O, why could not such mistakes be undone!
But they never could, never. It was a living death that she was
condemned to die.

I cannot say that Diana really wavered at all in her truth; but this
was an hour of storm never to be remembered without shuddering. She had
her baby in her arms, but the mother's instincts were for the time
swallowed up in the stormier passions of the woman. She cared for it
and ministered to it, tenderly as ever, yet in a mechanical, automatic
sort of way, taking no comfort and finding no relief in her sweet duty.
It was the roar of the storm and the howling of temptation which
overwhelmed every other voice in her heart. Then there were practical
questions to be met. Mrs. Reverdy and her family at Elmfield, who could
guarantee that Evan would not get a furlough and come there too? Mrs.
Reverdy's words seemed to have some ultimate design, which they had not
indeed declared; they had the air of somewhat different from mere
aimless rattle or mischievous gossip. Suppose Evan were to come? What
then?

The baby went off to sleep, and was laid away in its crib, and the
mother stood alone at the window wrestling with her pain. She felt
helpless in the grasp of it as almost never before. Danger was looming
up and threatening dark in the distance; there might be a whirlwind
coming out of that storm quarter, and how was she going to stand in the
whirlwind? Beyond the wordless cry which meant "Lord help me!"--Diana
could hardly pray at all at this moment; and the feeling grew that she
must have human help. "Tell Basil"--a whisper said in her heart. She
had shunned that thought always; she had judged it no use; now she was
driven to it. He must know the whole. Perhaps then he could tell her
what to do.

As soon as Diana's mind through all its tossings and turnings had fixed
upon this point, she went immediately from thought to action. It was
twilight now, or almost. Basil would not come home in time for a talk
before supper; supper must be ready, so as to have no needless delay.
She could wait, now she knew what she would do; though there was a fire
burning at heart and brain. She went down-stairs and ordered something
to be got ready for supper; finished the arrangement of the tea-table,
which her husband liked to have very dainty; picked a rose for his
plate, though it seemed dreadful mockery; and as soon as she heard his
step at the door she made the tea. What an atmosphere of sweet, calm
brightness he brought in with him, and always brought. It struck Diana
now with the kind of a shiver which a person in a fever feels at the
touch of fresh air. Yet she recognised the beauty of it, and it
fortified her in her resolve. She would be true to this man, though she
died for it! There was nothing but truth in him.

She got through the meal-time as she could; swallowed tea, and even ate
bread, without knowing how it tasted, and heard Basil talk without
knowing what he said. As soon as she could she went up-stairs to the
baby, and waited till her husband should come too. But when he came, he
came to her, and did not go to his study.

"Basil I want to speak to you--will you come into the other room?" she
said huskily.

"Won't this room do to talk in?"

"No. It is over the kitchen."

"Jemima knows I never quarrel"--said Basil lightly; however, he led the
way into the study. He set a chair for Diana and took another himself,
but she remained standing.

"Basil--is God good?" she said.

"Yes. Inexpressibly good."

"Then why does he let such things happen?"

"Sit down, Di. You are not strong enough to talk standing. Such things?
What things?"

"Why does he let people be tempted above what they can bear?"

"He never does--his children--if that is what you mean. He always
provides a way of escape."

"Where?"

"At Christ's feet."

"Basil, how can I get there?" she said with a sob.

"You _are_ there, my darling," he said, putting her gently into the
easy-chair she had disregarded. "Those who trust in him, his hand never
lets go. They may seem to themselves to lose their standing--they may
not feel the ground under their feet--but he knows; and he will not let
them fall. If they hold fast to him, Diana."

"Basil, you don't know the whole."

"Do you want to tell me?"

Her voice was abrupt and hoarse; his was calm and cool as the fall of
the dew.

"I want to tell you if I can. But I shall hurt you."

"I am very willing, if it eases you. Go on."

"It wont ease me. But you must know it. You ought to know. O, Basil, I
made such a mistake when I married you!"--

She did not mean to say anything so bitter as that; she was where she
could not measure her words. Perhaps his face paled a little; in the
faint light she could not see the change of colour. His voice did not
change.

"What new has brought that up?"

"Nothing new. Something old. O Basil--his sister has been here to-day
to see me."

"Has she?" His voice did change a little then. "What did she come for?"

"I don't know. And _he_ will be here, perhaps, by and by. O Basil, do
you know who it is? And what shall I do?"

Diana had sprung up from her chair and dropped down on the floor by her
husband's side, and hid her face in her hands on his knee. His hand
passed tenderly, sorrowfully, over the beautiful hair, which lay in
disordered, bright, soft masses over head and neck. For a moment he did
not speak.

"Basil--do you know who it is?"

"I know."

"What shall I do?"

"What do you want to do, Diana?"

"Right"--she said, gasping, without looking up.

"I am sure of it!" he said tenderly. "Well, then--the only way is, to
go on and do right, Diana."

"But how can I? how shall I? Suppose he comes? O Basil, it was all a
mistake; he wrote, and mother kept back the letters, and I never got
them; he sent them, and I never got them; and I thought he was not true
and it did not matter what I did, and I honoured you above everything,
Basil--and so--and so--I did what I did"--

"What cannot be undone."

"No--" she said, shivering.

He passed his hands again over her soft hair, and bent down and kissed
it.

"You honour yourself, too, Diana, as well as me."

"Yes--" she said, under breath.

"And you honour our God, who has let all this come upon us both?"

"But, O Basil! how could he? how could he?"

"I don't know."

"And yet you say he is good?"

"And so you say too. The only good; the utterly, perfectly good; who
loves his people, and keeps his promises, and who has said that all
things shall work together for the good of those that love him."

"How can such a thing as this?" she said faintly.

"Suppose you and I cannot see how? Then faith comes in and believes it
without seeing. We shall see by and by."

"But Basil--suppose--Evan--comes?"

"Well?"

"Suppose--he came--here?"

"Well, Diana?"

She was silent then, but she shook and trembled and writhed. Her head
was still where she had laid it; her face hidden.

"You are going through as great a trial, my poor wife, as almost ever
falls to the lot of a mortal. But you will go through it, and come out
from it; and then it will be found to have been 'unto praise and honour
and glory'--by and by."

"O how can you tell?"

"I trust in God. And I trust you."

"But I think he will come--here to Pleasant Valley, I mean. And if he
comes--here, to this house, I mean"--

"What then?"

"What do you want me to do?"

"About seeing him?"

"Yes."

"What you like best to do, Diana."

"Basil--he does not know."

"What does he not know?"

"About the letters or anything. He has never heard--never a word from
me."

"There was an understanding between you before he went away?"

"Oh yes!"

Both were silent again for a time; silent and still. Then Diana spoke
timidly:

"Do you think it would be wrong for him to know?"

Her husband delayed his answer a little; truly, if Diana had something
to suffer, so had he; and I suppose there was somewhat of a struggle in
his own mind to be won through; however, the answer when it came was a
quiet negative.

"May I write and tell him?"

He bent down and kissed her fingers as he replied--"I will."

"O Basil," said the woman at his feet, "I have wished I could die a
thousand times!--and I am well and strong, and I cannot die."

"No," he said gravely; "we must not run away from our work."

"Work!" said Diana, sitting back now and looking up at him;--"what
work?"

"The work our Master has given us to do to glorify him. To fight with
evil and overcome it; to endure temptation, and baffle it; to carry our
banner of salvation through the thick of the smoke and the fire, and
never let it fall."

"I am so weak, I cannot fight."

"The fight of faith you can. The only sort of fighting that can
prevail. Faith lays hold of Christ's strength, and so comes off more
than conqueror. All you can do, is to hold fast to him."

"O Basil! why does he let such things happen? why does he let such
things happen? Here is my life broken--and yours; both broken and
ruined."

"No," the minister answered quietly,--"not mine, nor yours. Broken, if
you will, but not ruined. Neither yours nor mine, Diana. With the love
of Christ in our hearts, that can never be. He will not let it be."

"It is all ruined," said Diana; "it is all ruined. I am full of evil
thoughts, and no good left. I have wished to die, and I have wanted to
run away--I felt as if I must"--

"But instead of dying or running away, you have stood nobly and bravely
to your post of suffering. Wait and trust. The Lord means good to us
yet."

"What possible good?"

"Perhaps, that being stripped of all else, we may come to know him."

"Is it necessary that people should be stripped of all before they can
do that?"

"Sometimes."

Diana stood still, and again there was silence in the room. The soft
June air, heavy with the breath of roses, floated in at the open
window, bringing one of those sharp contrasts which make the heart sick
with memory and longing; albeit the balsam of promise be there too.
People miss that. "Now men see not the bright light that is in the
clouds;" and how should they? when the darkness of night seems to have
fallen; how can they even remember that behind that screen of darkness
there is a flood of glory? There came in sounds at the window too, from
the garden and the wood on the hillside; chirruping sounds of insects,
mingled with the slight rustle of leaves and the trickle of water from
a little brook which made all the noise it could over the stones in its
way down the hill. The voices were of tender peace; the roses and the
small life of nature all really told of love and care which can as
little fail for the Lord's children as for the furniture of their
dwelling-place. Yet that very unchangeableness of nature hurts, which
should comfort. Diana stood still, desolate, to her own sense seeming a
ruin already; and her husband sat in his place, also still, but he was
calm. They were quiet long enough to think of many things.

"You are very good, Basil!" Diana said at last.

It was one of those words which hurt unreasonably. Not because they are
not true words and heartily meant, but because they are the poor
substitute for those we would like to hear, and give us an ugly scale
to measure distances and differences by. Basil made no sort of answer.
Diana stood still. In her confusion of thoughts she did not miss the
answer. Then she began again.

"Evan--I mean, Basil!"--and she started;--"I wish we could get away."

"From Pleasant Valley?"

"Yes."

"My work is here."

Is mine here too? thought Diana, as she slowly went away into the other
room. What is mine? To die by this fire that burns in me; or to freeze
stiff in the cold that sometimes almost stops my heart's beating? She
came up to the side of her baby's crib and stood there looking, dimly
conscious of an inner voice that said her work was not death.



CHAPTER XXX.



SUNSHINE.



A few days later, the minister came home one evening with a message for
his wife.

"Good old Mother Bartlett is going home, Diana, and she wants to see
you."

"Home? Is she dying, do you mean?"

"_She_ does not mean it. To her, it is entering into life."

"But what's the matter?"

"You know she had that bad cold. I think the treatment was worse than
the disease; and under the effects of both, her strength seems to have
given way. She is sinking quietly."

"I will go down there in the morning."

So the next day, early, Basil drove his wife down and left her at the
cottage. It was somehow to Diana's feeling just such another day as had
been that other wonderful one when she had seen Evan first, and he
harnessed Prince, and they came together over this very road. Perhaps
soon Evan would be riding there again, without her, as she was going
now without him. Never together again, never together again! and what
was life to either of them apart? Diana went into the cottage walking
as one in a dream.

The cottage was in nice order, as usual, though no woman's hand had
been about. Joe, rough as he was, could be what his friends called
"real handy;" and he had put everything in trim and taken all care for
his mother's comfort before he went out. The minister had told him
Diana would be there; so after he had done this he went to his work.
Mrs. Bartlett was lying on her bed in the inner room. Diana kissed her,
with a heart too full at the moment to speak.

"Did the minister bring you?" the old lady asked.

"Yes. Are you all alone?"

"The Lord never leaves his children alone, dear. They leave him
sometimes. Won't you open the winders, Diana. Joe forgot that, and I
want to see the sun."

Diana rolled up the thick paper shades which hung over the windows, and
put up the sashes. Summer air poured in, so full of warmth and
brightness and sounds of nature's activity, that it seemed to roll up a
tide of life to the very feet of the dying woman. She looked, and drew
a deep breath or two.

"That's good!" she said. "The Lord made the sunshine. Now sit down,
dear; I want to see you. Sit down there, where I _can_ see you."

"Does Joe leave you here by yourself?"

"He knew you was comin'. Joe's a good boy. But I don't want him nor
nobody hangin' round all the time, Diana. There ain't nothin' to do;
only he forgot the winders, and I want to look out and see all my
riches."

"Your riches, Mother Bartlett?"--And she was not going to live but a
few days more. Diana wondered if her senses were wandering. But the old
lady smiled; the wise, sweet smile that Diana knew of old.

"Whose be they, then?" she asked.

"You mean, all this pretty summer day?"

"Ain't it pretty? And ain't the sunshine clear gold? And ain't the sky
a kind of an elegant canopy? And it's all mine, and all it covers, and
he that made it too; and seein' what he makes, puts me in mind of how
rich he is and what more he kin do. How's the baby?"

For some little time the baby was talked of, in both present and future
relations.

"And you're very happy, Diana?" the old woman asked. "I hain't seen you
now for quite a spell--'most all winter."

"I ought to be"--Diana answered, hesitating.

"Some things folks does because they had ought to," remarked the old
lady, "but bein' happy ain't one of 'em. The whole world had ought to
be happy, if you put it so. The Lord wants 'em to be."

"Not happy"--said Diana hastily.

"Yes. 'Tain't his fault if they ain't."

"How can he want everybody to be happy, when he makes them so unhappy?"

"He?--the Lord? He don't make nobody unhappy, child. How did that git
in your head?"

"Well, it comes to the same thing, Mother Bartlett. He lets things
happen."

"He hain't chained up Satan yet, if that's what you mean. But Satan
can't do no harm to the Lord's children. He's tried, often enough, but
the Lord won't let him."

"But, Mother Bartlett, that's only a way of talking. I don't know if it
is Satan does it, but every sort of terrible thing comes to them. How
can you say it's not evil?"

"'Cause the good Lord turns it to blessing, dear. Or if he don't, it's
'cause they won't let him. O' course it is Satan does it--Satan and his
ministers. 'Every good gift and every perfect gift cometh down from the
Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of
turning.' How should he be kind to-day and unkind to-morrow?"

Diana could not trust her voice and was silent. The old woman looked at
her, and said in a changed tone presently,

"What's come to you, Diana Masters? You had ought to be the happiest
woman there is livin'."

Diana could not answer.

"_Ain't_ you, dear?" Mrs. Bartlett added tenderly.

"I didn't mean to speak of myself," Diana said, making a tremendous
effort to bring out her words unconcernedly; "but I get utterly puzzled
sometimes, Mother Bartlett, when I see such things happen--such things
as do happen, and to good people too."

"You ain't the fust one that's been puzzled that way," returned the old
woman. "Job was all out in his reckoning once; and David was as stupid
as a beast, he says. But when chillen gets into the dark, they're apt
to run agin sun'thin' and hurt theirselves. Stay in the light, dear."

"How can one, always?"

"O, child, jes' believe the Lord's word. That'll keep you near him; and
there is no darkness where he is."

"What _is_ his word, that I must believe?--about this, I mean."

"That he loves us, dear; loves us tender and true; like you love your
little baby, only a deal more; and truer, and tenderer. For a woman
_may_ forget her sucking child, but he never will forget. And all
things he will make to 'work together for good to them that love him.'"

Diana shook and trembled with the effort to command herself and not
burst into a storm of weeping, which would have betrayed what she did
not choose to betray. She sat by the bedpost, clasping it, and with the
same clasp as it were holding herself. For a moment _she_ had
"forgotten her sucking child,"--the words came home; and it was only by
that convulsive hold of herself that she could keep from crying out.
With her face turned away from the sick woman, she waited till the
convulsion had passed; and then said in measured, deliberate accents,

"It is hard to see how some things can turn out for good--some things I
have known."

"Well, you ain't infinite, be you?" said Mrs. Bartlett. "You can't see
into the futur'; and what's more, you can't see into the present. You
don't know what's goin' on in your own heart--not as _he_ knows it. No
more you ain't almighty to change things. If I was you, I would jest
trust him that is all-wise, and knows everything, and almighty and kin
do what he likes."

"Then why don't he make people good?"

"I said, he kin do what he likes. He don't like to do people's own work
for 'em. He _doos_ make 'em good, as soon as they're willin' and ask
him. But the man sick with the palsy had to rise and take up his bed
and walk; and what's more, he had to believe fust he could do it. I
know the Lord gave the power, but the man had his part, you see."

"Mother Bartlett," said Diana, rousing herself, "you must not talk so
much."

"Don't do me no harm, Diana."

"But you have talked enough. Now let me give you your broth."

"Then you must talk. I hain't so many opportunities o' social converse
that I kin afford to let one of 'em slip. You must talk while I'm
eatin'."

But Diana seemed to have nothing to say. She watched the spoonfuls of
broth in attentive silence.

"What's new, Diana? there allays is sun'thin'."

"Nothing new. Only"--said Diana, correcting herself, "the Knowltons are
coming back to Elmfield. Mrs. Reverdy _is_ come."

"Be the hull o' them comin'?"

"I believe so."

"What for?"

"I don't know. To enjoy the summer, I suppose."

"That's their sort," said the old woman slowly. "Jest to get pleasure.
I used for to see 'em flyin' past here in all the colours o' the
rainbow--last time they was in Pleasant Valley."

"But God made the colours of the rainbow," said Diana.

"So he did," the old lady answered, laughing a little. "So he did; and
the colours of the flowers, which is the same colours, to be sure; but
what then, Diana?"

"I was thinking, Mother Bartlett--it cannot displease him that we
should like them too."

"No, child, it don't; nor it don't displease him to have us wear 'em,
nother,--if we could only wear 'em as innercently as the flowers doos.
If you kin, Diana, you may be as scarlet as a tulip or as bright as a
marigold, for all I care."

"But people are not any better for putting on dark colours," said Diana.

"They're some modester, though."

"Why?"

"They ain't expectin' that folks'll be lookin' at 'em."

"Mr. Masters likes me to wear bright dresses."

"Then do it, child. It's considerable of a pleasure to have his eyes
pleased. Do you know what a husband you've got, Diana?"

"Yes."

"He's 'most like one o' them flowers himself. He's so full o' the
sweetness the Lord has put into him, and he's jest as unconscious that
he's spreadin' it wherever he goes."

Diana was silent. She would have liked again to burst into tears; she
controlled herself as before.

"That ain't the way with those Knowlton girls; nor it ain't the way
they wear their fine colours, neither. Can't you get a little sense
into their heads, Diana?"

"I? They think nothing of me, Mother Bartlett."

"Maybe not, two years ago, but they will now. You're the minister's
wife, Diana. They allays sot a great deal by him."

Diana was chewing the cud of this, when Mrs. Bartlett asked again,

"Who's sick in the place?"

"Quite a number. There's Mrs. Wilson at the tavern; she's sinking at
last; my husband sees her every day. Then old Josh Lightfoot--he's down
with I don't know what; very sick. Mrs. Saddler has a child that has
been hurt; he was pitched off a load of hay and fell upon a fork; his
mother is distracted about him, and it is all Mr. Masters can do to
quiet her. And Lizzie Satterthwaite is going slowly, you know, in
consumption, and _she_ expects to see him every day. And that isn't
all; for over in the village of Bromble there is sickness--I suppose
there always is in that miserable place."

"And the minister goes there too, I'll be bound?"

"O yes. He goes everywhere, if people want him. It takes twenty miles
of riding a day, he told me, just to visit all these people that he
must see."

"Ay, ay," said the old woman contentedly; "enjoyment ain't the end of
life, but to do the will of God; and he's doin' it. And enjoyment comes
that way, too; ay, ay! 'an hundred-fold now, in this world, and in the
world to come eternal life.' I hain't ever been able to do much, Diana;
but it has been sweet--his service--all along the way; and now I'm
goin' where it'll be nothin' but sweetness for ever."

A little tired, perhaps, with talking, for she had talked with a good
deal of energy, the old lady dozed off into a nap; and Diana sat alone
with the summer stillness, and thought over and over some of the words
that had been said. It was the hush of the summer stillness, and also
the full pulse of the summer life that she felt as she sat there; not
soothing to inaction, but stirring up the loving doing. A warm breath
of vital energy, an odorous witness-bearing of life fruitfulness, a hum
and a murmur of harmonious forces in action, a depth of colour in the
light and in the shadow, which told of the richness and fullness of the
natural world. Nothing idle, nothing unfruitful, nothing out of
harmony, nothing in vain. How about Diana Masters, and her work and her
part in the great plan? Again the gentle summer air which stole in,
laden with such scents and sweets, rich and bountiful out of the
infinite treasury, spoke of love at the heart of creation. But there
were cold winds, too, sometimes; icy storms; desolations of tempests;
they had been here not long ago. True, but yet it was not those, but
_this_ which carried on the life of the world; this was the "Yes," and
those others the "No," of creation; and an affirmative is stronger than
a negative any day, by universal acknowledgment. Moreover, that "No"
was in order to this "Yes;" gave way before it, yielded to it; and life
reigned in spite of death. Vaguely Diana's mind felt and carried on the
analogy, and the reasoning from analogy, and drew a chill, far-off hope
from it. For it was the time of storm and desolation with her now, and
the summer sun had not come yet. She sat musing while the old lady
slumbered.

"Hullo, Diany! here you be!" exclaimed the voice of Joe Bartlett,
suddenly breaking in. "Here's your good man outside, waitin' for you, I
guess; his horse is a leetle skittish. What ails your mother?"

"My mother?"

"Yes. Josh says--you see, I've bin down to mill to git some rye ground,
and he was there; and what's more, he had the start of me, and I had to
wait for him, or I wouldn't ha' stood there chatterin' while the sun
was shinin' like it is to-day; that ain't my way. But Josh says she's
goin' round groanin' at sun'thin'--and that ain't _her_ way, nother.
Mind you, it ain't when anybody's by; I warrant you, she don't give no
sign _then_ that anythin's botherin' her; Josh says it's when she's
alone. I didn't ask him how he come to know so much, and so little; but
I wisht I had," Joe finished his speech laughing.

Diana took her hat, kissed the old woman, and went out to her husband,
who was waiting for her. And some miles of the drive were made in
silence. Then as the old brown house came in sight, with the weeping
elms over the gate, Diana asked her husband to stop for a minute or
two. He reined up under the elm trees and helped Diana out, letting
her, however, go in alone.

Diana was not often here, naturally; between her and her mother, who
never in the best of times had stood near together or shared each
other's deeper sympathies, a gulf had opened. Besides, the place was
painful to Diana on other accounts. It was full of memories and
associations; she always seemed to herself when there as a dead person
might on revisiting the place where once he had lived; she felt dead to
all but pain, and the impression came back with sharp torture that once
she used to be alive. So as the shadow of the elm branches fell over
her now, it hurt her inexpressibly. She was alive when she had dwelt
under them; yes, she and Evan too. She hurried her steps and went in at
the lean-to door.

It was now long past mid-day. The noon meal was over, apparently, and
every sign of it cleared away. The kitchen was in spotless order; but
beside the table sat Mrs. Starling, doing nothing; an unheard-of state
of affairs. Diana came farther in.

"Mother"--

"Well, Diana,"--said Mrs. Starling, looking up. "What's brought you
now?"

"I've been down to see Mrs. Bartlett--she sent for me--and I thought I
would stop in as I went by. Mr. Masters is outside."

"Well, I've no objection," said Mrs. Starling ambiguously.

"How do you do?"

"Middling."

"Is all getting on well with the farm and the dairy?"

"I don't let it be no other way."

Diana saw that something was wrong, but knew also that if she were to
find it out it would be by indirect ways.

"May I go into the pantry and get some milk? I've been a good while
from home, and I'm hungry."

"Go along," said her mother ungraciously. "I should think likely, if
_you_ are hungry, your baby is too. That's a new way of doing things.
'Twarn't ever my way. A woman that's got a baby ought to attend to it.
An' if she don't, her husband ought to make her."

"I've not been gone so long as all that comes to," said Diana; and she
went into the pantry, her old domain. The pans of milk looked friendly
at her; the sweet clean smell of cream carried her back--it seemed
ages--to a time when she was as sweet and clean. "Yet it is not my
fault,"--she said to herself,--"it is _her's_--all her's." She snatched
a piece of bread and a glass of milk, and swallowed it hastily. Then,
as she came out, she saw that one of her mother's hands lay bandaged up
in her lap under the table.

"Mother, what's the matter with your hand?"

"O, not much."

"But what? It's all tied up. Have you burned it?"

"No."

"What then? Cut yourself?"

"I should like to know how I should go to work to cut my right hand!
Don't make a fuss about nothing, Diana. It's only scalded."

"Scalded! How?"

"I shall never be able to tell that, to the end of my days," said Mrs.
Starling. "If pots and kettles and that could be possessed, I should
know what to think. I was makin' strawberry preserve--and the kettle
was a'most full, and it was first rate preserve, and boiling, and
almost done, and I had just set it down on the hearth; and then, I
don't know how to this day, I stumbled--I don't know over what--and my
arm soused right in."

"Boiling sweetmeat!" cried Diana. "Mother, let me see. It must be
dreadfully burned."

"It's all done up," said Mrs. Starling coldly. "I was real put out
about my preserves."

"Have you had dinner?"

"I never found I could live 'thout eating."

"Who got dinner for you, and cleared away?"

"Nobody. I did it myself."

"For the men and all!"

"Well, _they_ don't count to live without eatin', no mor'n I do," said
Mrs. Starling with a short laugh.

"And you did it with one hand!"

"Did you ever know me to stop in anything I had to do, for want of a
hand?" said Mrs. Starling scornfully.

No, thought Diana to herself; nor for want of anything else, even
though it were right or conscience. Aloud she only said,

"I must go home to baby"--

"You had better, I should think," her mother broke in.

"Can I do anything for you first?"

"You can see for yourself, there is nothing to do."

"Shall I come back and stay with you to-night?"

"You had better ask the Dominie."

"Mother, he _never_ wants me to do anything but just what is right,"
Diana said seriously. Mrs. Starling lifted up her head and gave a
curious searching look into her daughter's face. What was she trying to
find?

"That's one turtle dove," she said. "And are you another, and always
bob your head when he bobs his'n?"

Diana wondered at this speech; it seemed to her, her mother was losing
ground even in the matter of language. No thought of irritation crossed
her; she was beyond trifles now. She made no answer; she merely bade
her mother good-bye, and hurried out. And for a long while the drive
was again in silence. Then, when the grey horse was walking up a hill,
Diana spoke in a meditative sort of way.

"Basil--you said enjoyment was not the end of life"--

"Did I?" he answered gravely.

"If you didn't, it was Mother Bartlett. You _do_ say so, I suppose?"

"Yes. It is not the end of life."

"What is, then?"

"To do the will of God. And by and by, if not sooner, enjoyment comes
that way too, Diana. And when it comes that way, it stays, and lasts."

"How long?"

"For ever and ever!"

Diana waited a few minutes and then spoke again.

"Basil--I want to consult you."

"Well, do it."

"Ought I to leave my mother to live alone, as she is? She is not young
now."

"What would you do?"

"If I knew, Basil, I would like it to do what I _ought_ to do."

"Would you take her to live with you?"

"If you would?--and she would."

Basil put his arm round his wife and bent down and kissed her. He would
not have done it if he could have guessed how she shrank.

"If you will take life on those terms," he said, "then it will be true
for you, that 'sorrow may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the
morning.'"

It will be the morning of the resurrection, then, thought Diana; but
she only replied,

"What 'terms,' Basil, do you mean?"

"Doing the Lord's will. His will is always good, Diana, and brings
sweet fruit; only you must wait till the fruit is ripe, my child."

"Then what about mother?"

"I do not believe she would come to us."

"Nor I. Suppose she would let us come to her?"

"Then I would go,--if you wished it."

"I don't wish it, Basil. I was thinking, if I could bear it? But the
thought will not out of my head, that she ought not to be alone."

"Then do what is in thine heart," the minister said cheerfully.



CHAPTER XXXI.



A JUNE DAY.



Mrs. Starling hesitated, when Diana proposed her plan; she would think
of it, she said. But when she began to think of it, the attractions
were found irresistible. To have her grandchild in the house beside
her, perhaps with a vague thought of making up to her daughter in some
unexplained way for the wrong she had done; at any rate, to have voices
and life in the house again, instead of the bare silence; voices of
people that belonged to her own blood; Mrs. Starling found that she
could not give up the idea, once it got into her head. Then she
objected that the house was too small.

The minister said he would put up an addition of a couple of rooms for
himself and Diana, and Diana's old room could serve as a nursery.

Who wants a nursery? Mrs. Starling demanded. Her idea of a nursery was
the whole house and all out of doors. The minister laughed and said
that was not _his_ idea; and Mrs. Starling was fain to let it pass. She
was human, though she was not a good woman; and Diana's proposal to
come back to her had, though she would never allow it even to herself,
touched both her heart and her conscience. Somewhere very deep down and
out of sight, nevertheless it was true; and it was true that she had
been very lonely; and she let the minister have his own way,
undisputed, about the building.

The carpenters were set to work at once, and at home Diana quietly made
preparations for a removal in the course of a few months. She buried
herself in business as much as ever she could, to still thought and
keep her nerves quiet; for constantly, daily and nightly now, the image
of Evan was before her, and the possibility that he might any day
present himself in very flesh and blood. No precautions were of any
avail; if he chose to seek her out, Diana could not escape him unless
by leaving Pleasant Valley; and that was not possible. Would he come?
She looked at that question from every possible point of the compass,
and from every one the view that presented itself was that he would
come. Nay, he ought not; it would be worse than of no use for them to
see each other; and yet, something in Diana's recollections of him, or,
it might be, something in the consciousness of her own nature, made her
say to herself that he would come. How should she bear it? She almost
wished that Basil would forbid it, and take measures to make it
impossible; but the minister went his way unmoved and quiet as usual;
there was neither fear nor doubt on his broad fair brow. Diana
respected him immensely; and at times felt a great pang of grief that
his face should wear such a shade of gravity as was habitual to it now.
Knowing him so well as she did by this time, she could guess that
though the gravity never degenerated into gloom, the reason was to be
found solely and alone in the fact that Basil's inner life was fed by
springs which were beyond the reach of earthly impoverishing or
disturbing. How much better she thought him than herself!--as she
looked at the calm, stedfast beauty of his countenance, which matched
his daily life and walk. No private sorrow touched that. Never thinking
of himself nor seeking his own, he was busy from morning till night
with the needs of others; going from house to house, carrying help,
showing light, bringing comfort, guiding into the way, pointing out the
wrong; and at home,--Diana knew with what glad resort he went to his
Bible and prayer for his own help and wisdom, and wrought out the
lessons that were to be given openly in the little hillside church.
Diana knew, too, what flowers of blessings were springing up along his
path; what fruits of good. "The angel of the church" in Pleasant Valley
he was, in a sense most true and lovely, although that be not the
original bearing of the phrase in the Revelation, where Alford thinks,
and I think, no human angels are intended. Nevertheless, that was Basil
here; and his wife, who did not love him, honoured him to the bottom of
her heart.

And in her self-reproach and her humility, Diana wrote bitterer things
against herself than there was any need. For she, too, was doing her
daily work with a lovely truth of aim and simpleness of purpose. With
all the joys of life crushed out, she was walking the way which had
become so weary with a steady foot, and with hands ready and diligent
to do all they found to do. In another sort from her husband, the fair,
calm, grave woman was the angel of her household. I can never tell you
how beautiful Diana was now. If the careless light glance of the girl
was gone, there was now, instead, the deeper beauty of a nature that
has loved and suffered; that ripening process of humanity, without
which it never comes to its full bloom and fruitage; though that be a
very material image for the matter in hand. And there was besides in
Diana the dignity of bearing of one who is lifted above all small
considerations of every kind; that is, not above small duties, but
above petty interests. Therefore, in this woman, who had never seen and
scarcely imagined courts, even in the minister's house in Pleasant
Valley, there was the calm poise and grace which we associate in our
speech and thoughts with the highest advantages of social relations. So
extremes sometimes meet. In Diana it was due to her inborn nobility of
nature and the sharp discipline of sorrow; in aid of which practically
came also her perfection of physical health and form. It must be
remembered, too, that she had been now for a good while in the close
companionship of a man of great refinement and culture, and that both
study and conversation had lifted her by this time far out of the
intellectual sphere in which the beginning of our story found her.

The carpenters were going on vigorously with their work on the new
rooms adding to Mrs. Starling's house; and Diana was making, as she
could from time to time, her little preparations for the removal,
which, however, could not take place yet for some time. It was in the
beginning of July. Diana was up-stairs one day, looking over the
contents of a trunk, and cutting up pieces for patchwork. Windows were
open, of course, and the scent of new hay came in with the warm air.
Haymaking was going on all over Pleasant Valley. By and by Miss Collins
put her head in.

"Be you fixed to see folks?"

"Who wants me?"

"Well, there's somebody comin'; and I reckon it's one or other o' them
fly-aways from Elmfield."

"Here?" said Diana, starting up and trembling.

"Wall, there's one of 'em comin', I guess--I see the carriage--and I
thought maybe you warn't ready to see no one. When one gets into a
trunk it's hard to get out again. So I thought I'd jes' come and tell
ye. There she is comin' up the walk. Hurry, now."


Down went Miss Collins to let the visitor in, and Diana did hurry and
changed her dress. What can she be come for? she questioned with
herself meanwhile; for it was Mrs. Reverdy, she had seen. No good! no
good! But nobody would have guessed that Diana had ever been in a
hurry, that saw her entrance the next minute upon her visitor. That
little lady felt a sort of imposing effect, and did not quite know how
to do what she had come for.

"I always think there has come some witchery over my eyes," she said
with her invariable little laugh of ingratiation, "when I see you. I
always feel a kind of new surprise. Is it the minister that has changed
you so? What's he done?"

"Changed me?" Diana repeated.

"Why, yes; you are changed. You are not like what you were two years
ago--three years ago--how long is it."

"It is three years ago," said Diana, trying to smile. "I am three years
older."

"O, it isn't that. _I'm_ three years older. I suppose I didn't see
enough of you then to find you out. It was my fault. But if you had
married somebody belonging to me, I can tell you, I should have been
very proud of my sister-in-law."

She laughed at the compliment she was making, laughed lightly; while
Diana inwardly shook, like a person who has received a sudden sharp
blow, and staggers in danger of losing his footing. Did she waver
visibly before her adversary's eyes, she wondered? She was sure her
colour did not change. She found nothing to say, in any case; and after
a moment her vision cleared and she had possession of herself again.

"I am saucy," said Mrs. Reverdy, smiling, "but nobody thinks of minding
anything I say. That's the good of being little and insignificant, as I
am."

Diana was inclined to wish her visitor would not presume upon her
harmlessness.

"I should as soon think of being rude to a duchess," Mrs. Reverdy went
on; "or to a princess. I don't see how Evan ever made up his mind to go
away and leave you."

"Is it worse to be rude to a duchess than to other people?" Diana
asked, seizing the first part of this speech as a means to get over the
last.

"I never tried," said Mrs. Reverdy; "I never had the opportunity, you
know. I might have danced with the Prince of Wales, perhaps, when he
was here. I know a lady who did, and she said she wasn't afraid of
_him_. If you had been there, I am sure she would not have got the
chance."

"You forget, I am not a dancer."

"O, not now, of course--but then you wouldn't have been a minister's
wife."

"Why should not a minister's wife dance as well as other people?"

"O, I don't know!" said Mrs. Reverdy lightly; "but they never do, you
know. They are obliged to set an example."

"Of what?"

"Of everything that is proper, I suppose. Don't you feel that
everybody's eyes are upon you, always, watching everything you do?"

A good reminder! But Diana answered simply that she never thought about
it.

"Don't you! Isn't the minister always reminding you of what people will
think?"

"No. It isn't his way."

"Doesn't he? Why, without being a minister, that is what my husband
used always to be doing to me. I was a little giddy, you know," said
Mrs. Reverdy, laughing; "I was very young; and I used to have plenty of
admonitions."

"I believe Mr. Masters thinks we should only care about God's eyes,"
Diana said quietly.

Mrs. Reverdy startled a little at that, and for a moment looked grave.
From Diana she had not expected this turn.

"I never think about anything!" she said then with a laugh, that looked
as if it were meant to be one of childlike, ingenuousness. "Don't think
me very bad. Everybody can't be good and discreet like you and Mr.
Masters."

"Very few people are like Mr. Masters," Diana assented.

"We all know that. And in the daily beholding of his superiority, have
you quite forgotten everything else?--your old lover and all?"

"Whom do you mean?" Diana asked, with a calm coldness at which she
wondered herself.

"I mean Evan, to be sure. You know he was your old lover. He wants to
see you. He has not forgotten you, at any rate. Have you entirely
forgotten him? Poor fellow! he has had a hard time of it."

"I have not forgotten Mr. Knowlton at all," Diana said with difficulty,
for it seemed to her that her throat was suddenly paralyzed.

"You have not forgotten him? I may tell him that? Do you know, he raves
about you?--I wish you could hear him once. He is Captain Knowlton now,
you must understand; he has got his advancement early; but one or two
people died, and somebody else was removed out of his way; and so he
stepped into his captaincy. Lucky fellow! he always has been lucky;
except just in one thing; and he thinks that spoils all. May he come
and see you, Diana? He has given me no peace until I would come and ask
you, and he will never have any peace, that I can see, if you refuse
him. Poor fellow! there he is out there all this time, champing the bit
worse than the horses."

And the woman said it all with her little civil smile and laugh, as if
she were talking about sugar plums!

"Is he here?" cried Diana.

"With the horses--waiting to know the success of my mission; and I have
been afraid to ask you, for fear you should say no; and I _cannot_
carry back such an answer to him. May I tell him to come in?"

"Why should not he come to see me, as well as any other friend?" said
Diana. But the quiver in her voice gave the answer to her own question.

"Of course!" said Mrs. Reverdy, rising with a satisfied face. "There is
no reason in the world why he should not, if you have kindness enough
left for him to let him come. Then I'll go out and tell him to come in;
for the poor fellow is sitting on sword's points all this while." And
laughing at her supposed happy professional allusion, the lady withdrew.

Diana flew up the stairs to her own room. She did not debate much the
question whether she ought to see Evan; it came to her rather as a
thing that she _must_ do; there was no question in the case. However,
perhaps the question only lay very deep down in her consciousness, for
the justification presented itself, that to refuse to see him, would be
to confess both to his sister and himself that there was danger in it.
Diana never could confess that, whatever the fact. So, answering dumbly
the doubt that was as wordless, without stopping a moment she caught up
her sleeping baby out of its cradle, and drawing the cradle after her
went into her husband's study. Basil was there, she knew, at work. He
looked up as she came in. Diana drew the cradle near to him, and
carefully laid the still sleeping, fair and fat little bundle from her
arms down in it again; this was done gently and deliberately enough;
no hurry and no perturbation. Then she stood upright.

"Basil, will you take care of her? He is come."

The minister looked up into his wife's face; he knew what she meant.
And he felt as he looked at her, how far she was from him. There was no
smile on Diana's lips, indeed; on the contrary, an intensity of
feelings that were not pleasurable; and yet, and yet, he who has looked
for the light of love in an eye and missed it long, knows it when he
sees it, even though it be not for him. The four eyes met each other
steadily.

"Shall I see him?" Diana asked.

Basil stretched out his hand to her. "I can trust you, Diana."

She put her cold hand in his for a minute and hurried away. Then, as
she reached the other room, she heard in the hall below a step, the
step she had not heard for years; and her heart made one spring back
over the interval. In the urgency of action, Diana's colour had hardly
changed until now; now she turned deadly white, and for one instant
sank on her knees by her bedside with her heart full of a mute,
unformed prayer for help. It was fearful to go on, but she must go on
now; she must see Evan; he was there; questions were done; and as she
went down-stairs, while her face was white, and pain almost confused
her senses, there was a stir of keen joy at her heart--fierce, like
that of a wild beast which has been robbed of its prey but has got it
again. She tried for self-command, and as one mean towards it forced
herself to go deliberately. No hasty steps should be heard on the
stairs or in the floor. Even so, the way was short; a moment, and she
had entered the room, and she and Evan were face to face once more.

Face to face, and yet, neither dared look at the other. He was
standing, waiting for her; she came a few paces into the room and stood
still opposite him; they did not touch each other's hands; they made no
show of greeting. How should they? in each other's presence indeed they
were, with but a small space of transparent air between, to the sense;
and yet, a barrier mountains high, of impassible ice, to the mind's
apprehension. You could have heard a pin drop in the room; the two
stood there, a few yards apart, not even looking at each other, yet
intensely conscious each all the while of the familiar outlines and
traits so long unseen, so well known by heart. Breathing the air of the
same room again, and nevertheless miles and miles apart; that was what
they were feeling. The miles could not be bridged over; what use to try
to bridge over the yards? Diana was growing whiter, if whiter could be;
Evan's head sank lower. At last the man succumbed; sat down; buried his
head in his hands, and groaned aloud. Diana stood like a statue, but
looking at him now.

What is it in little things which has such power over us? As Diana
stood there looking, it was little things which stabbed her as if each
were a sharp sword. The set of Evan's shoulders, the waves of his hair,
the very gold shoulder-straps on the well-remembered blue uniform
undress; his cap which lay on her table, with its service symbols. Is
it that the sameness of these material trifles seems to assert that
nothing is changed, and so makes the change more incredible and
dreadful? I cannot describe the woful pain which the sight of these
things gave Diana. With them came the fresh remembrance of all the
manly beauty and grace of Evan in which she had once sunned herself,
and the contrast of her husband. Not that Basil's personal appearance
was ever to be despised, any more than himself; his figure was good,
and his face had a beauty of its own, possibly a higher kind of beauty;
but it was not the type of a hero of romance; and Evan's, to Diana's
fancy, _was;_ and it had been her romance. She stood still, motionless,
breathless. If anybody spoke, it must be he. But at last she trembled
too much to stand, and she sat down too.

"How has it happened, Diana?" Evan asked without looking up.

"I don't know,"--she said just above her breath.

"How could you do so?"

Well, it suited him well to reproach her! What matter? Things could not
be more bitter than they were. She did not try to answer.

"You have ruined both our lives. _Mine_ is ruined; I am ruined. I shall
never be worth anything now. I don't care what becomes of me."

As she still did not answer, he looked up, and their eyes met. Once
meeting, they could not quit each other. Diana's gaze was sad enough,
but eager with the eagerness of long hunger. His was sharp with pain at
first, keen with unreasonable anger; one of the mind's resorts from
unbearable torment. Then as he looked it changed and grew soft; and
finally, springing up, he went over to where she sat, dropped on his
knees before her, and seizing her hands kissed them one after the other
till tears began to mingle with the kisses. She was passive; she could
not drive him off; she felt that she and he must have this one moment
to bury their past in; it was only when her hands were growing wet with
his tears that she roused herself to an effort.

"Evan--Evan--listen to me! You mustn't--remember, I am a man's wife."

"How could you?"

"I did not know what I was doing."

"Have you given up loving me?"

"What is the use of talking of it, Evan? I am another man's wife."

"But there are such things as divorces."

"Hush! Do not speak of such a thing."

"I must speak of it. Whom do you love? tell me that first."

"No one has a right to ask me such a question."

"_I_ have a right," cried the young man; "for I have been deceived,
cheated, robbed of my own; and I have a right to get back my own.
Diana, speak! do you love me less than you used to do? Tell me that."

"I do not change, Evan."

"Then you have no business to be anybody's wife but mine. Nothing can
hinder _that_, Diana."

"Stop! You are not to speak so. I will not hear it."

"You are mine, Diana."

"I _was_ yours, Evan!" she said tenderly, bending her head over him
till her lips touched his hair. "We have been parted, and it is
over--over for this world. You must go your way, and I must go mine.
And you must not say, I am ruined."

"Do not you say it?"

"I must not."

"It is the truth for me, if I do not have you with me."

"It is not the truth," she said with infinite tenderness in her manner.
"Not ruined, Evan. We can go our way and do our work, even if we are
not happy. _That_ is another thing."

"Then you are not happy?" he said eagerly.

Diana did not reply.

"Why should we not be happy?" he went on passionately, looking up now
into her face. "You are mine, Diana--you belonged to me first, you have
been mine all along; only I have been robbed of you;--pure robbery;
nothing else. And has not a man a right to his own, wherever and
whenever he finds it? You had given yourself first to me. That is
irrevocable."

"No"--she said with the same gentleness, in every tone of which lurked
an unutterable sorrow; it would have broken her husband's heart to hear
her; and yet she was quiet, so quiet that she awed the young officer a
little. "No--I had promised to give myself to you; that is all."

"You gave me your heart, Di?"

She was silent, for at the moment she could not speak

"Di!"--he insisted.

"Yes."

"That is enough. That is all."

"It is not all. Since then I have"--

"How could you do it, Diana? how could you do it, after your heart was
mine? _while_ your heart was mine!"

"I was dead," she said in the same low, slow, impressive way. "I
thought I was dead,--and that it did not matter any more what I did,
one way or another. I thought I was dead; and when I found out that
there was life in me yet, it was too late." A slight shudder ran over
her shoulders, which Evan, however, did not see.

"And you doubted me!" said he.

"I heard nothing"--

"Of course!--and that was enough to make you think I was nothing but a
featherhead!"--

"I thought I was not good enough for you," she said softly.

"Not good enough!" cried Evan. "When you are just a pearl of
perfection--a diamond of loveliness--more than all I knew you would
be--like a queen rather than like a common mortal. And I could have
given you a place fit for you; and here you are"--

"Hush!" she said softly, but it stopped him.

"_Why_ did you never hear from me? I wrote, and wrote, and O, Diana,
how I looked for something from you! I walked miles on the way to meet
the waggon that brought our mails; I could hardly do my duty, or eat,
or sleep, at last. I would ride then to meet the post-carrier, though
it did not help me, for I could not open the bags till they were
brought into the post; and then I used to go and gallop thirty miles to
ride away from myself. _Why_ did you never write one word?"

"I did not know your address," she said faintly.

"I gave it you, over and over."

"You forget,--I never got the letters."

"What became of them?"

"I don't know."

"What was her motive?"

"I suppose--I don't know."

"What do you suppose?"

"What is the use of talking about it, Evan?"

"My poor darling!" said he, looking up in her face again "it has been
hard on you too. Oh Di, my Di! I cannot lose you!"--

He was still kneeling before her, and she put her two hands on his
head, smoothing or rather pushing back the short locks from his temples
on either side, looking as one looks one's last on what one loves. Her
eyes were dry, and large with pain which did not allow the eyelids
their usual droop; her mouth was in the saddest lines a woman's lips
can take, but they did not tremble.

"Hush," she said again softly. "I am lost to you. That is over. Now go
and do a man's work in the world, and if I hear of you, let me hear
good."

"Haven't you got one kiss for me?"

She bent lower down, and kissed his brow. She kissed it twice; but the
manner of the woman was of such high and pure dignity that the young
officer, who would else have had no scruple, did not dare presume upon
it. He took no more than she gave; bent his head again when she took
her hands away, and covered his face, as at first. They were both still
awhile.

"Evan--you must go," she whispered.

"When may I come again?"

She did not answer.

"I am coming very soon again, Di. I must see you often--I must see you
very often, while I am here. I cannot live if I do not see you. I do
not see how I can live any way!"

"Don't speak so."

"How do _you_ expect to bear it?" he asked jealously.

"I don't know. We shall find as the days come."

"Life looks so long!"--

"Yes. But we have got something to do in it."

"I have not. Not now."

"Every one has. And a brave man, or a brave woman, will do what he has
to do, Evan."

"I am not brave, except in the way every man is brave. When may I come,
Diana? To-morrow?"

"O no!"

"Why not? Then when?"

"Not this week."

"But this is Tuesday."

"Yes. And Mrs. Reverdy is waiting for you all this while."

"I have been waiting all these years. She don't know what waiting
means. Mayn't I come again before Monday?"

"Certainly not. You must wait till then, and longer."

"I am not going to wait longer. Then Monday, Diana?"

He stretched out his hand to her, and she laid hers within it. The
first time that day; the first time since so many days. Hands lingered,
were slow to unclasp, loath to leave the touch which was such exquisite
pain and pleasure at once. Then, without looking again, slowly,
deliberately, as all her movements had been made, Diana withdrew from
the room; not bearing, perhaps, to stay and have him leave her, or
doubting of her power to make him go, or unable to endure anything more
for this time. She left him standing there, and slowly went up the
stairs. But the moment she got to her room she stopped, and stood with
her hands pressed upon her heart, listening; every particle of colour
vanishing from her face, and her eyes taking a strained look of
despair; listening to the footsteps that, also slowly, now went through
the hall. When they went out and had quitted the house, she flew to the
window. She watched to see the stately figure go along the little walk
and out at the gate; she had hardly dared to look at him down-stairs.
Now her eye sought out every well-known line and trait with an
eagerness like the madness of thirst. Yes, he had grown broader in the
shoulders; his frame was developed; he had become more manly, and so
even finer in appearance than ever. Without meaning it, Diana drew
comparisons. How well he walked! what a firm, sure, graceful gait! How
beloved of old time was the officer's undress coat, and the little cap
which reminded Diana so inevitably of the time when it was at home on
her table or lying on a chair near! Only for a minute or two she tasted
the bitter-sweet pang of associations; and then cap and wearer were
passed from her sight.



CHAPTER XXXII.



WIND AND TIDE.



How that night went by it would be useless to try to tell. Some things
cannot be described. A loosing of all the bands of law and order in the
material world we call chaos; and once in a while the mental nature of
some poor mortal falls for a time into a like condition. No hold of
anything, not even of herself; no clear sense of anything, except of
the disorder and pain; no hope at the moment that could fasten on
either world, the present or the future; no will to lay hold of the
unruly forces within her and reduce them to obedience. An awful night
for Diana, such as she never had spent, nor in its full measure would
ever spend again. Nevertheless, through all the confusion, under all
the tumult, there was one fixed point; indeed, it was the point round
which all the confusion worked, and which Diana was dimly conscious of
all the while; one point of action. At the time she could not steady
herself to look at it; but when the dawn came up in the sky, with its
ineffable promise of victory by and by,--and when the rays of the sun
broke over the hills with their golden performance of conquest begun,
strength seemed to come into her heart. Certainly light has no
fellowship with darkness; and the spiritual and the material are more
closely allied, perhaps, than we wot of. Diana washed herself and
dressed, and felt that she had done with yesterday.

It was a worn and haggard face that was opposite Basil at the breakfast
table; but she sat there, and poured out his tea with not less care
than usual. Except for cups of tea, the meal was not much more than a
pretence. After it was done, Diana followed her husband to his study.

"Basil," she said, "I must go away."

Mr. Masters started, and asked what she meant.

"I mean just that," said Diana. "I must go away Basil, help me!"

"Help you, my child?" said he; "I will help you all I can. But sit
down, Diana; you are not able to stand. Why do you want to go away?"

"I must."

"Where do you wish to go?"

"I do not know. I do not care. Anywhere."

"You have no plan?"

"No; only to get away."

"Why, Diana?" he said very tenderly. "Is it necessary?"

"Yes, Basil. I must go."

"Do you know that it would be extremely difficult for me to leave home
just at present? There are so many people wanting me."

"I know that. I have thought of all that. You cannot go. Let me go, and
baby."

"Where, my dear?

"I don't know," she said with almost a sob. "You must know. You must
help me, Basil."

Basil looked at her, and took several turns up and down the room, in
sorrow and perplexity.

"What is your reason, Di?" he asked gently. "If I understood your
thought better, I should know better how to meet it."

"I must be away," said Diana vaguely. "I must not be here. I musn't be
where I can see--anybody. Nobody must know where I am, Basil--do you
understand? You must send me away, and you must not tell _anybody_."

The minister walked up and down, thinking. He let go entirely the
thought of arguing with Diana. She had the look at moments of a
creature driven to bay; and when not so, the haggard, eager, appealing
face filled his inmost heart with grief and pity. Nobody better than
Basil could manage the unreasonable and bring the disorderly to
obedience; he had a magical way with him; but now he only meditated how
Diana's wish was to be met. It was not just easy, for he had few family
connections in the world, and she had none.

"I can think of nobody to whom I should like to send you," he said.
"Unless"--

He waited, and Diana waited; then he finished his sentence.

"I was going to say, unless a certain old grandaunt of mine. Perhaps
she would do."

"I do not care where or who it is," said Diana.

"I care, though."

"Where does she live?"

"On Staten Island."

"Staten Island?" repeated Diana.

"Yes. It is near New York; about an hour from the city, down the bay."

"The bay of New York?"

"Yes."

"May I go there?" said Diana. "That would do."

"How soon do you wish to go?"

"To-day, if I could!" she said with a half-caught breath. "Can I,
Basil? To-day is best."

Mr. Masters considered again.

"Will you be ready to go by the seven o'clock train this evening?"

"Yes. O yes!"

"Very well. We will take that."

"_We?_" Diana repeated. "Must I take you, Basil, away from your work?
Cannot I go alone?"

He looked up at her with a very sweet grave smile as he answered, "Not
possibly."

"I am a great deal of trouble"--she said with a woful expression.

"Go and make your preparations," he said cheerfully; "and I will tell
you about Aunt Sutphen when we are off."

There was no bustle in the house that day, there was no undue stir of
making arrangements; but at the time appointed Diana was ready. She had
managed to keep Miss Collins in the dark down to the very last minute,
and answered her questions then with, "I can't tell you. You must ask
Mr. Masters." And Diana knew anybody might as well get the Great
Pyramid to disclose its secrets.

That night's train took them to Boston. The next morning they went on
their way towards New York; and so far Mr. Masters had found no good
time for his proposed explanations. Diana was busied with the baby, and
contrived to keep herself away from him or from communication with him.
He saw that she was engrossed, preoccupied, suffering, and that she
shunned him; and he fell back and waited. In New York, he established
Diana in a hotel and left her, to go himself alone to the Island and
have an interview with his aunt.

Diana alone in a Broadway hotel, felt a little like a person
shipwrecked in mid-ocean. What was all this bustling, restless, driving
multitude around her like, but the waves of the sea, to which Scripture
likens them? and the roar of their tumult almost bewildered her senses.
Proverbially there is no situation more lonely to the feeling than the
midst of a strange crowd; and Diana, sitting at her window and looking
down into the busy street, felt alone and cast adrift as she never had
felt in her life before. _Her_ life seemed done, finished, as far as
regarded hope or joy; nothing left but weary and dragging existence;
and the eager hurrying hither and thither of the city crowd struck on
her view as aimless and fruitless, and so very drear to look at? What
was it all for?--seeing life was such a thing as she had found it. The
wrench of coming away from Pleasant Valley had left her with a reaction
of dull, stunned, and strained nerves; she was glad she had come away,
glad she was no longer there; and that was the only thing she was glad
of in the wide, wide world.

Some degree of rest came with the quiet of those hours alone in the
hotel. Basil was gone until the evening, and Diana had time to recover
a little from the fatigue of the journey, and in the perfect solitude
also from the overstrain of the nerves. She began to remember Basil's
part in all this, and to be sensible how true and faithful and kind he
was; how very unselfish, how patient with her and with pain. Diana
could have wept her heart out over it, if that would have done any
good; and indeed supposing that she could have shed tears at all, which
she could not just then. She only felt sore and sorry for her husband;
and then she took some pains with her toilet, and refreshed herself so
as to look pleasant to his eyes when he came home.

He came home only to a late supper. He looked somewhat weary, but his
eye brightened when he saw Diana, and he came up and kissed her.

"Diana--God is good," he said to her.

"Yes," she answered, looking up drearily, "I believe it."

"But you do not feel it yet. Well, remember, it is true, and you will
feel it some day. It is all right with Aunt Sutphen."

"She will let me come?"

"She is glad to have you come. The old lady is very much alone. And she
does me the honour to say that she expects my wife will know how to
behave herself."

"What does she mean by that?" said Diana, a little startled.

"I don't know! Aunt Sutphen has her own notions respecting behaviour. I
did not inquire, Diana; knowing that, whatever her meaning might be, it
was the same thing so far as you are concerned."

"Basil--you are very good!" Diana said after a pause and with a
trembling lip.

"I can take compliments from Aunt Sutphen," he said with a bit of his
old dry humorous manner, "but from you I don't know what to do with
them. Come to supper, Di; we must take the first boat for Clifton
to-morrow morning, if we can, to let me get back on my way to Pleasant
Valley."

The first boat was very early. The city, however, had long begun its
accustomed roar, so that the change was noticeable and pleasant as soon
as the breadth of a few furlongs was put between the boat and the
wharf. Stillness fell, only excepting the noise made by the dash of the
paddle-wheels and the breathing and groaning of the engine; and that
seemed quietness to Diana, in contrast with the restless hum and roar
of the living multitude. The bay and its shores sparkled in the early
sunlight; the sultry, heated atmosphere of the city was most
refreshingly replaced by the cool air from the salt sea. Diana breathed
it in, filling her lungs with it.

"How good this is!" she said. "Basil, I should think it was dreadful to
live in such a place as that."

"Makes less difference than you would think, when you once get
accustomed to it."

"O, do you think so! It seems to me there is nothing pleasant there to
see or to hear."

"Ay, you are a true wood-thrush," said her husband. "But there is
plenty to do in a city, Diana; and that is the main thing."

"So there is in the country."

"I sometimes think I might do more,--reach more people, I mean,--if I
were somewhere else. But yes, Di, I grant you, apart from that one
consideration, there is no comparison. Green hills are a great deal
better company than hot brick walls."

"And how wonderful, how beautiful, this water is!"

"The water is a new feature to you. Well, you will have plenty of it.
Aunt Sutphen lives just on the edge of the shore. I am very sorry I
cannot stay to see you domesticated. Do you mind it much, beginning
here alone?"

"O no."

Diana did not mind that or anything else, in her content at having
reached a safe harbour, a place where she would be both secure and
free. Lesser things were of no account; and alas! the presence of her
husband just now with her was no pleasure. Diana felt at this time,
that if she were to live and keep her reason she must have breathing
space. Above all things, she desired to be quite alone; to have leisure
to think and pray, and review her ground and set up her defences. Basil
could not help her; he was better out of sight. So, when he had put her
into the little carriage that was in waiting at the landing, and with a
last gesture of greeting turned back to the boat, while Diana's eyes
filled with tears, she was, nevertheless, nothing but glad at heart.
She gathered her baby closer in her arms, and sat back in the carriage
and waited.

It was only a short drive, and along the edge of the bay the whole
distance. The smell of the salt water was strange and delicious. The
morning was still cool. Now that she had left the boat behind her, or
rather the boat had left her, the stillness began to be like that of
Pleasant Valley; for the light wheels rolled softly over a smooth road.
Then they stopped before a low, plain-looking cottage.

It was low and plain, yet it was light and pleasant. Windows opening
like doors upon the piazza, and the piazza running all round the house,
and the pillars of the piazza wreathed thick with honeysuckles, some of
them, and some with climbing roses. The breath of the salt air was
smothered in perfumes. Through one of the open window-doors Diana went
into a matted room, where everything gave her the instant impression of
neatness and coolness and quiet, and a certain sweet summer freshness,
which suited her exactly. There was no attempt at richness of
furnishing. Yet the old lady who stood there waiting to receive her was
a stately lady enough, in a spotless morning dress of white, dainty and
ruffled, and a little close embroidered cap above her clustering grey
curls. The two looked at each other.

"So you're his wife!" said the elder lady. "I declare, you're handsomer
than he is. Come in here, my dear; if you are as good as he is, you are
welcome." She opened an inner door and led the way into a bedchamber
adjoining, opening like the other room by window-doors upon the piazza,
matted and cool and furnished in white. All this Diana took in with the
first step into the room. But she answered Mrs. Sutphen's peculiar
welcome.

"Did you ever know anybody so good as he is, ma'am?"

"Breakfast will be on table as soon as you are ready," Mrs. Sutphen
went on without heeding her words. "It is half-past seven, and I always
have it at seven. I waited for you, and now I want my cup of tea. How
soon will you be ready?"

"Immediately."

"What will you do with the baby?"

"I will lay her down. She is asleep."

"You'll have to have somebody to look after her. Well, come then, my
dear."

Diana followed the old lady, who was half imperative and half
impatient. She never forgot that hour in all her life, everything was
so new and strange. The windows open towards the water, the fresh salt
air coming in, the India matting under her feet, made her feel as if
she had got into a new world. The dishes were also in part strange to
her, and her only companion fully strange. The good cup of tea she
received was almost the only familiar thing, for the very bread was
like no bread she had ever seen before. Diana sipped her tea
gratefully; all this novelty was the most welcome thing in the world to
her overstrained nerves. She sipped her tea as in a dream; the old lady
studied her with eyes wide awake and practical.

"Where did Basil pick you up, my dear?"

Diana started a little, looked up, and flushed.

"Where did you come from?"

"From the place where Mr. Masters has been settled these three or four
years."

"In the mountains! What sort of people have you got there? More of your
sort?"

"They are all of my sort," said Diana somewhat wonderingly.

"Do you know what your sort is, my dear?"

"I do not understand"--

"I thought you did not. I'll change my question. What sort of work is
Basil doing there?"

"You know his profession?"--Diana said, not knowing much better either
how to take this question.

"Yes, yes. I know his profession; I ought to, for I wanted him to be a
lawyer. But don't you know, my dear, there are all sorts of clergymen?
There are some make sermons as other men make bricks; and some more
like the way children blow soap-bubbles; all they care for is, how big
they are, and how high they will fly, and how long they will last. And
I have heard people preach," the old lady went on, "who seemed most
like as if they were laying out a Chinese puzzle, and you had to look
sharp to see where the pieces fitted. And some, again, preach sermons
as if they were a magistrate reading the Riot Act, only they don't want
the people to disperse by any means. What is Basil's way?"

"He has more ways than all these," said Diana, who could not help
smiling.

"These among 'em?"

"I think not."

"Go on, then, and tell me. What's he like in the pulpit?"

Diana considered how she should humour the old lady's wish.

"Sometimes he is like a shepherd leading his flock to pasture," she
began. "Sometimes he is like a lifeboat going out to pick up drowning
people. Sometimes it is rather a surgeon in a hospital, going round to
find out what is the matter with people and make them well. Sometimes
he is just the messenger of the Lord Jesus Christ, and all his business
is to deliver his message and get people to hear it."

Mrs. Sutphen looked at Diana over the table, and evidently pricked up
her ears; but Diana spoke quite simply, rather slowly; she was thinking
how Basil had often seemed to her in his ministry, in and out of the
pulpit.

"My dear," said the old lady, "if your husband is like that, do you
know you are married to quite a remarkable man?"

"I thought as much a great while ago."

"And what sort of a pastor's wife do you make? You are a very handsome
woman to be a minister's wife."

"Am I? Why should not a handsome woman be the wife of a minister?"

"Why, she should, if she can make up her mind to it. Well, my dear, if
you will have no more breakfast, perhaps you will like to go and rest.
Do you enjoy bathing?"

Diana did not take the bearing of the question.

"I go into the water every morning," the old lady explained. "You had
better do the same. It will strengthen you."

"Into the water! You mean the salt water?"

"Of course I mean the salt water. There isn't any fresh water to go
into, and no good if there was."

"I never tried salt water. I never saw salt water before."

"Do you good," said the old lady. "Well, go and sleep, my dear. Basil
says you want rest."

But that way of taking it was not Diana's need, or purpose. She
withdrew into her cool green-shaded room, and as the baby still slept,
set open the blind doors which made that pleasant green shade, and sat
down on the threshold to be quiet, and enjoy the view. The water was
within a few rods of her window; nothing but a narrow strip of grass
and a little picket fence intervening between the house and the sandy
bit of beach. The waves were rolling in from the Narrows, which here
were but a short distance to the eastward; and across the broad belt of
waters she could see the low shore of Long Island on the other side.
Diana put her head out of the door, and there, seven miles away to the
west and north, she could see where a low, hovering, light smoke cloud
told of the big city to which it owed its origin. Over the bay sails
were flitting, not swiftly, for the air was only very gently stirring;
but they were many, near and far, of different sizes and forms; and the
mighty tide was rushing in with wonderful life and energy in its green
waves. Diana's senses were like those of a person enchanted. She drew
in the salt, lively air; she looked at the cool lights and shadows of
the rushing water, over which here and there still hung bands of
morning mist; she heard the lap of the waves upon the shore as they
went by; and it was to her as if she had escaped from danger and
perplexity into another world, where sorrow might be, indeed, but from
which confusion and fear were banished.

The baby slept on, as if she had been broken off her rest by the
novelties and inconveniences of travelling, and were making up for lost
time; and Diana sat on the threshold of her door and thought. The lull
was inexpressibly sweet, after the storm that had tossed her hither. It
gave her repose just to remember that Evan could not find her out--and
that Basil would leave her alone. Yes, both thoughts came in for a
share in the deep-drawn breaths of relief which from time to time wrung
themselves from Diana's breast. She knew it; she could not help it; and
she soon forgot her husband in thinking of her lover. It seemed to her
she might allow herself that indulgence now; now when she had put a
gulf between them which he could not bridge over, and she would not;
now when she had brought a separation between them which must forever
be final. For she would never see him again. Surely now she might think
of him, and let fancy taste the sweet bitter drops that memory would
distil for her. Diana went back to the old time and lived in it for
hours, till the baby awoke and claimed her; and even then she went on
with her dream. She dreamed all day.

Next morning early, before she was awake, there came a little
imperative tap at her door. Diana sprang up and opened it.

"I am going to take my bath," said her hostess. "Here's a bathing
dress--put it on and come along."

"Now?" said Diana doubtfully.

"Why, of course now! Now's the time. Nobody'll see you, child; and if
they do, it won't matter. Hundreds would see you if you were at Long
Branch or Newport. Come along; you want bracing."

I wonder if I do, thought Diana, as she clothed herself in the loose
gown of brown mohair; then slipped out after her hostess. If she did,
she immediately confessed to herself, this was the thing to give it.
The sun was not yet up; the morning air crisp and fresh and delicious;
the water rolling gently in from the Narrows again, in a mighty tide,
but with no wind, so sending up only little waves to the beach;
however, they looked somewhat formidable to Diana.

"How far do you go in?" she asked.

"As far as I can. I can't swim, child, so I keep to shore. Come after
me, here!"--

And she seized Diana's hand and marched in ahead of her, and marched
on, till Diana would have stopped, but the old lady's hand pulled her
along.

It was never to be forgotten, that first taste of salt water. When they
were in the flood up to their necks, her companion made her duck her
head under; it filled Diana's mouth and eyes at the first gasp with
salt water, but what a new freshness of life seemed at the same time to
come into her! How her brain cleared, and her very heart seemed to grow
strong, and her eyesight true in that lavatory! She came out of the
water for the moment almost gay, and made her toilette with a vigour
and energy she had not brought to it in many a day. Breakfast was
better to her, and the old lady was contented with what she said about
it.

Yet Diana sat and dreamed again all day after that, watching the
rolling tide of waters, and letting her thoughts run on in as
uninterrupted a flow. She dreamed only about Evan; she went over old
times and new, old impressions and new; she recalled words and looks
and tones and gestures, of long ago and lately; at Pleasant Valley she
had not dared; here she thought it was safe, and she might take the
indulgence. She recalled all Evan's looks. How he had improved! More
stately, more manly, more confident (could that be?), more graceful;
with the air of command replacing a comparative repression of manner
(only comparative), even as the full, thick, curly moustache replaced a
velvety dark line which Diana well remembered. As he had been then, she
had fancied him perfect; as he was now, he was to the eye far finer
yet. Basil could not compare with him. Ah, why did fancy torture her by
ever bringing forward the comparison! Basil never pretended to wear a
moustache, and the features of his face were not so regular, and his
eye was not so brilliant, and the indescribable air of authority was
not there, nor the regulated grace of movement. True, Basil could sit a
horse, and ride him, she knew, as well as anybody; and true, Basil's
face had a high grave sweetness which was utterly unknown to the
countenance of that other; and it was also true, that if Mr. Masters
wore no air of command, he knew what the thing meant, especially
command over himself. And there the comparison failed for Evan. In the
contrast, Diana, down deep in the bottom of her heart, was not
satisfied with him, not pleased, not contented. He might know how to
give orders to his company, he had not left off himself being under
orders; he might be strong to enforce discipline among his men, but
alas! alas! he had left the reins loose upon the neck of his passions.
Basil never did that, never. Basil never would in the like
circumstances have sought a weak gratification at her expense. That was
the word; _weak_. Evan had been selfishly weak. Basil was always, so
far as she had known him, unselfishly strong. And yet, and yet!--she
loved the weak one; although it pained her that he should have been
weak.

Days went by. Diana lived in dreams.

"What is the matter with you?" her old friend asked her abruptly one
evening.

"Nothing, I think," said Diana, looking up from her sewing and
answering in some surprise.

"Nothing the matter! Then what did you come here for?"

"I thought"--Diana hesitated in confusion for the moment--"my husband
agreed with me in thinking, that it would be good for me to be away
from home for awhile."

"Wanted change, eh?" Mrs. Sutphen said dryly.

Diana did not know what to add to her words.

"Change and salt air"--the old lady went on.

"Not salt air particularly," Diana answered, feeling that she must
answer. "I did not think of salt air. Though no change could have been
so good for me."

"_Has_ it been good for you?"

"I have enjoyed it more than I can tell," Diana said, looking up again.

"Yes, yes; but that isn't the thing. I know you enjoy it. But do you
think it is making you fat?"

"I don't need that," said Diana, smiling. "I am fat enough."

"You won't be, if you go on losing as you have done since you came. Now
I agree with you that I don't think that is Clifton air. What is it?"

Diana could not reply. She was startled and troubled. She knew the fact
was true.

"Basil won't like it if I let this go on; and I don't mean it shall. Is
anything the matter between you and him?"

"What do you mean?" Diana asked, to gain time.

"You know what I mean. I spoke plain. Have you and he had any sort of a
quarrel or disagreement?"

"Certainly not!"

"Certainly _not?_--then why aren't you happy?"

"Why do you ask me?" said Diana. "Why should you question my being
happy?"

"I've got eyes, child; inconvenient things, for they see. You look and
act like a marble woman; only that you are not cold, and that you move
about. Now, that isn't your nature. What spell has come over you?"

"You know, Mrs. Sutphen," Diana answered with calmness, "there are many
things that come up in the world to try one and trouble one; things one
cannot help, and that one must bear."

"I know that, as well as you do. But a woman with the husband you have
got, ought never to be petrified by anything that comes to her. In the
first place, she has no cause; and in the second place, she has no
right."

There was such an instant assent of Diana's inner nature to at least
the latter of these assertions, that after a minute or two's pause she
said very simply--

"Thank you, That is true."

"He's rather fond of you, isn't he?" the old lady asked with a
well-pleased look at her beautiful neighbour.

"Yes. Too much," said Diana, sighing.

"Can't be too much, as I see, if only you are equally fond of him; it
is bad to have inequality in that matter. But, my dear, whatever you
do, don't turn into marble. There's fire at the heart of the earth,
folks say, but it don't do us much good in winter."

With this oracular statement Mrs. Sutphen closed her lecture. She had
said enough. Diana spent half that night and all the next day in a
quite new set of meditations.

And more days than one. She waked up to see what she had been doing.
What business had she to be thinking of Evan, when she was Basil's
wife?--what right to, be even only in imagination, spending her life
with him? She knew, now that she was called to look at it, that Mrs.
Sutphen had spoken true, and that a process had been going on in
herself which might well be likened to the process of petrifying.
Everything had been losing taste and colour lately; even her baby was
not the delight she had been formerly. Her mind had been warped from
its healthy condition, and was growing morbid. Conscience roused up now
fully, and bade Diana stop short where she was and take another course.
But there she was met by a difficulty; one that many a woman has had to
meet, and that few have ever overcome. To take another course, meant
that she should cease thinking of Evan,--cease thinking of him even at
all; for it was one of those things which you cannot do _a little_. She
tried it; and she found it to be impossible. Everything and anything
would set her upon the track of thinking of him; everything led to him;
everything was bound up with him, either by sympathy or contrast. She
found that she must think of Evan, because she loved him. She said that
to herself, and pleaded it. Then do not love him! was the instant sharp
answer of conscience. And Diana saw a battle set in array.

That day, the day when she got to this point, was one of those which
even in summer one may know on the sea-shore. It was grey and cool, and
a violent easterly wind was driving the waters in from the Narrows. The
moment Diana got a sight of those battle forces opposed to each other
in her spiritual nature, she threw on bonnet and shawl and went out.
Baby was sleeping, and she left her safely in charge of a good-tempered
servant who asked no better.

She went along the shore in the face of the wind, meeting, breasting,
overcoming it, though with the exertion of determined strength and
energy. The gale was rather fierce. It was a sight to see, the rush of
that tide of waters, mighty, sweeping, rolling and tumbling in from the
great sea, restless, endless. Diana did not stop to draw comparisons,
yet I think she felt them even then; the wild accord of the unchained
forces without and the unchained forces within. Who could stay them,
the one or the other? "That is Nature," said Diana to herself; "and
this is Nature; 'the troubled sea that cannot rest.' But that is spoken
of the wicked; am I wicked because I cannot help what I _cannot_ help?
As well put out my tiny hand and sweep back that stormy flood of water
to the ocean where it comes from!--as hopefully, as practicably. What
am I, _I_--but a chip or a shingle tossed and chased along on the power
of the waves? The wicked are like the troubled sea when it cannot rest;
that is it, it _cannot_ rest. Look at it, and think of bidding it rest!"

She had walked a long way in the teeth of the storm, and yet, unwilling
even to turn her face homewards with her mind still at war, she had
crouched down to rest under the lee of an old shed which stood near the
edge of the water. Diana drew her shawl closer round her and watched
the wild play of the waves, which grew wilder every moment; taking a
sort of gloomy comfort in the thought that they were not more
irresistible or unopposable than the tempest in her own heart. Then
came in the thought--it stole in--"There was One who could bid it be
still--and the sea heard him and was quiet. If he could do that, could
he not still this other storm? A worse storm, yes; but could not the
hand that did one thing do the other?" Diana knew on the instant that
it could; but with that came another consciousness--that she wished it
could not. She did not want the storm laid. Better the raging forces
than the calm that would follow the death of her love for Evan
Knowlton. "But it could never die!" was the impatient objection of her
heart; and then came the whisper of conscience, "It ought; you know it
ought; and the Lord never bade you do a thing he would not help you to
do, or do for you if you are willing." And she remembered: "If ye shall
say to this mountain, Be thou removed."--Could she be willing? that was
all. Would she say it?

The Lord said, there are some sorts of devils that are only cast out by
prayer and fasting; and I suppose that means, by very great and
determinate laying hold of the offered strength and fullest surrender
to all its dispositions.

This was a battle before which Waterloo sinks to a play of
fire-crackers and Gravelotte to a great wrestling match. There was
struggle on those fields, and bitter determination, and death faced and
death met; and yet the combatants there never went to the front with
the agony which Diana's fight cost her. And if anybody thinks I am
extravagant, I will remind him on what authority we have it, that "he
that ruleth his spirit is greater than he that taketh a city." Let no
one suppose the battle in Diana's instance was soon fought and over. It
was death to give up Evan; not the death of the body, which lived on
and was strong though she grew visibly thin, but the death of the will;
and that is a death harder by far than the other. Diana was in the
struggle of that fight for many a day, and, as I said, growing thin
under it. She was not willing; if she could be delivered from this
passion which was like her life, she was not willing to be delivered.
Yet duty was plain; conscience was inexorable. Diana struggled and
fought till she could fight no longer, and then she dragged herself as
it were to the feet of the Stiller of the waves, with the cry of the
Syro-Phenician woman on her lips and in her heart: "Lord, help me!" But
the help, Diana knew by this time, meant that he should do all the work
himself, not come in aid of her efforts, which were like ropes of straw
in a flame. Let no one think, either, that the first struggle to have
faith was faith itself, or that the first endeavour to submit was
surrender. There is a wide difference, and often a wide distance. But
there came a time--it was slow in coming, but it came--when like a
wearied child Diana ceased from her own efforts, and like a helpless
child threw herself upon strength that she knew. And then the work was
done.

Let no one say, either, that what I have described is an impossibility.
"If ye have faith,"--the Master said,--"nothing shall be impossible to
you." And nothing is. "He is a Rock; his work is perfect." And he who
overcame all our enemies for us can overcome them in us. They are
conquered foes. Only, the Lord will not do the work for those who are
trusting in themselves.



CHAPTER XXXIII.



BUDS AND BLOSSOMS.



It was the end of September. Nearing a time of storms again in the air
and on the sea; but an absolute calm had settled down upon Diana. Not
at all the calm of death; for after death, in this warfare, comes not
only victory, but new life. It was very strange, even to herself. She
had ceased to think of Captain Knowlton; if she thought of him, it was
with the recognition that his power over her was gone. She felt like a
person delivered from helpless bondage. There was some lameness, there
were some bruises yet from the fight gone by; but Diana was every day
recovering from these, and elasticity and warmth were coming back to
the members that had been but lately rigid and cold. The sun shone
again for her, and the sky was blue, and the arch of it grew every day
loftier and brighter to her sense. At first coming to Clifton, Diana
had perceived the beauties and novelties of her new surroundings; now
she began to enjoy them. The salt air was delicious; the light morning
mist over the bay, as she saw it when she went to take her morning
bath, held a whole day of sunlit promise within its mysterious folds;
the soft low hum of the distant city, which she could hear when the
waves were still, made the solitude and the freshness and the purity of
the island seem doubly rare and sweet. And her baby began to be now to
Diana the most wonderful of delights; more than ever it had been at any
previous time.

All this while she had had letters from Basil; not very long letters,
such as a man can write to a woman whose whole sympathy he knows he
has; but good letters, such as a man can write to a woman to whom his
own heart and soul have given all they have. Not that he ever spoke of
that fact, or alluded to it. Basil was no maudlin, and no fool to ask
for a gift which cannot be yielded by an effort of will; and besides,
he had never entirely lost hope; so that, though things were dark
enough for him certainly, he could write manly, strong, sensible
letters, which, in their very lack of all allusion to his own feelings,
spoke whole volumes to the woman who knew him and could interpret them.
The thought of him grieved her; it was getting to be now the only grief
she had. Her own letters to him were brief and rare. Diana had a
nervous fear of letting the Clifton postmark be seen on a letter of
hers at home, knowing what sort of play sometimes went on in the
Pleasant Valley post office; so she never sent a letter except when she
had a chance to despatch it from New York. These epistles were very
abstract; they spoke of the baby, told of Mrs. Sutphen, gave details of
things seen and experienced; but of Diana's inner life, the fight and
the victory, not a whit. She could not write about them to Basil; for,
glad as he would be of what she could tell him, she could not say
enough. In getting deliverance from a love it was wrong to indulge, in
becoming able to forget Evan, she had not thereby come nearer to her
husband, or in the least fonder of thinking of him; and so Diana shrank
from the whole subject when she found herself with pen in hand and
paper before her.

When September was gone and October had begun its course, a letter came
from Basil in which he desired to know about Diana's plans. There were
no hindrances any longer in the way of her coming home, he told her.
Diana had known that such a notification would come, must come, and yet
it gave her an unwelcome start. Mrs. Sutphen had handed it to her as
they came in from their morning dip in the salt water; the coachman had
brought it late last evening from the post office, she said. Diana had
dressed before reading it; and when she had read it, she sat down upon
the threshold of her glass door to think and examine herself.

It was October, yet still and mild as June. Haze lay lingering about
the horizon, softened the shore of Long Island, hid with a thick
curtain the place of the busy city, the roar of which Diana could
plainly enough hear in the stillness, a strange, indistinct,
mysterious, significant murmur of distant unrest. All before and around
her was rest; the flowing waters were too quiet to-day to suggest
anything disquieting; only life, without which rest is nought. The air
was inexpressibly sweet and fresh; the young light of the day dancing
as it were upon every cloud edge and sail edge, in jocund triumph
beginning the work which the day would see done. Diana sat down and
looked out into it all, and tried to hold communion with herself. She
was sorry to leave this place. Yes, why not? She was sorry to exchange
her present life for the old one. Quiet and solitary it had been, this
life at Clifton, for Mrs. Sutphen scarcely made her feel less alone
with her than without her; and she had held herself back from society.
Quiet and solitary, and lately healing; and Pleasant Valley was full of
painful memories and associations, her mother, and--her husband. Diana
felt as if she could have welcomed everything else, if only Basil had
not been there. The sight of the lovely bay with its misty shores and
its springing light hurt her at last, because she must leave it; she
sank her face in her hands and began to call herself to account. Duty
was waiting before her; was she not willing to take it up? She had
surrendered her will utterly to God in the matter of her love to Evan,
and she had been delivered from the torture and the bondage of it;
quite delivered; she could bear to live without Evan now, she could
bear to live without thinking of him; he would always be in a certain
sense dear, but the spell of passion was broken for ever. That did not
make her love her husband. No; but would not the same strength that had
freed her from temptation on the one hand, help her to go forward and
do her duty on the other? And in love and gratitude for the deliverance
vouchsafed her, should she not do it? "I will do it, if I die!" was her
inward conclusion. "And I shall not die, but by the Lord's help I shall
do it."

So she wrote to her husband that she was ready, and he came to fetch
her.

The Pleasant Valley maples were flaunting in orange and crimson when
the home journey was made. The fairest month of the year was in the
prime of its beauty; the air had that wonderful clearness and calm
which bids the spirit of the beholder be still and be glad, saying that
there is peace and victory somewhere, and rest, when the harvest of
life is gathered. Diana felt the speech, but thought nevertheless that
for _her_, peace and victory were a good way off. She believed they
would come, when life was done; the present thing was to live, and
carry the burden and do the work. The great elms hung still green and
sheltering over the lean-to door. The house was enlarged and improved;
and greatly beautified with a coat of paint. Diana saw it all; and she
saw the marvellous beauty of the meadows and their bordering hills; she
felt as if she were coming to her prison and place of hard labour.

"How do you like the looks of things?" her husband asked.

"Nice as can be."

"You like it?"

"Very much. I am glad you did not make the house white."

"I remembered you said it ought to be brown."

"But would you have liked it white?"

"I would have liked it no way but your way," he said with a slight
smile and look at her, which Diana could not answer, and which cut her
sharply. She had noticed, she thought, that Basil was more sober than
he used to be. She thought she knew why; and she wanted to tell him
part of what had gone on in her mind of late, and how free she was of
the feelings he supposed were troubling her; but a great shyness of the
subject had seized Diana. She was afraid to broach it at all, lest
going on from one thing to another, Basil might ask a question she
could not answer. She was very sorry for him, so much that she almost
forgot to be sorry for herself, as she went into the house.

Mrs. Flandin was sitting with Mrs. Starling in the lean-to kitchen.

"So you made up your mind to come home," was her mother's greeting. "I
almost wonder you did."

"If you knew how good the salt water was to me, you might wonder,"
Diana answered cheerfully.

"Well, I never could see what there was in salt water!" said Mrs.
Flandin, "that folks should be so crazy to go into it! If I was
drownin', 'seems to me I'd rather have my mouth full o' sun'thin'
sweet."

"But I was not drowning," said Diana.

"Well, I want to know what you've got by stayin' away from your place
all summer"--her mother went on.

"Her place was there," said the minister, who followed Diana in.

"Now, dominie," said Mrs. Flandin, "you say that jes' 'cause she's your
wife. Hain't her place been empty all these months? Where is a wife's
place? I should like to hear you say."

"Don't you think it is where her husband wants her to be?"

"And you wanted her to be away from you down there? Do you mean that?"

"If he had not, I should not have gone, Mrs. Flandin," Diana said, and
with a smile.

"Well now, du tell! what good did salt water do ye? The minister said
you was gone to salt water somewheres."

"It did me more good than I could ever make you understand."

"I don't believe it!" said Mrs. Starling harshly. "You mean, it was a
clever thing to play lady and sit with your hands before you all
summer. It was good there was somebody at home to do the work."

"Not your work, Di," said her husband good humouredly; "nor my work.
_I_ did that. Come along and see what I have done."

He drew her off, into the little front hall or entry; from there,
through a side door into the new part of the building. There was a
roomy, cool, bright room, lined with the minister's books; curtained
and furnished, not expensively, indeed, yet with a thorough air of
comfort. Taking the baby from her arms, Basil led the way from this
room, up a short stairway, to chambers above which were charmingly
neat, light, and cheerful, all in order; everything was done,
everything was there that ought to be there. He laid the sleeping child
down in its crib, and turned to his wife with a serious face.

"How will you stand it, Diana?"

"Basil, I was just thinking, how will you?"

"We can do what ought to be done," said he, looking into her face.

"I know you can. I think I can too--in this. And I think it is right to
take care of mother. I am sure it is."

"Diana, by the Lord's help we can do right in everything."

"Yes, Basil; I know it!" she said, meeting his eyes with a steady look.

He turned away, very grave, but with a deep ejaculation of
thankfulness. Diana's eyes filled; but she, too, turned away. She could
add no more. It was not words, but living, that must speak for her now.

And it did--even that same evening. Mrs. Flandin would not go away; it
was too good an opportunity of gathering information about various
points on which the "town" had been curious and divided. She kept her
place till after supper. But all she could see was a fair, quiet
demeanour; an unruffled, beautiful face; and an unconscious dignity of
carriage which was somewhat provokingly imposing. She saw that Diana
was at home, and likely to be mistress in her own sphere; held in too
much honour by her husband, and holding him in too much honour, for
that a pin's point of malicious curiosity might find an entering place
between them. She reported afterwards that the minister was a fool and
his wife another, and so they fitted. Mrs. Starling was inclined to be
of the same opinion.

The two most nearly concerned knew better. _Fit_ they did not, though
they were the only ones of all the world that knew it. While Diana had
been away at Clifton, the minister had managed to make one of the
company at Elmfield rather often, moved by various reasons. One effect,
however, of this plan of action had been unfavourable to his own peace
of mind. He saw Evan and came to know him; he _would_ know him, though
the young man would much rather have kept aloof from contact with
Diana's husband. Basil's simplicity of manner and straightforwardness
were too much for him. And while an unwilling and enormous respect for
the minister grew up in Captain Knowlton's mind, the minister on his
part saw and felt, and perhaps exaggerated, the attractiveness of the
young army officer. Basil was not at all given to self-depreciation; in
fact, he did not think of himself enough for such a mischievous mental
transaction; however, he perceived the grace of figure and bearing, the
air of command and the beauty of feature, which he thought might well
take a woman's eye. "My poor Diana!" he said to himself; "her fancy has
caught the stamp of all this--and will hold it. Naturally. She is not a
woman to like and unlike. What chance for me!"

Which meditations, unwholesome as they were, did not prevent Basil's
attaching himself to Captain Knowlton's society, and making a friend of
him, in spite of both their selves, as it were. The captain's mental
nature, he suspected and found, was by no means in order to correspond
with his physical; and if a friend could help him, he would be that
friend. And Basil did not see that the young officer's evident respect
for himself, and succumbing to his friendly advances, were a very
significant tribute to his own personal and other qualities. It was a
little matter to him, indeed, such tribute, if he could not have it
from his wife.

He had everything else in her that a man's heart could desire! He saw
that, soon after her return from Clifton. Diana's demeanour had been
gracious and sweet before, always, although with a shadow upon it. Now
the shadow was gone, or changed; he could not tell which. She was not
gay-spirited, as he had once known her; but she went about her house
with a gentle grace which never failed. Mrs. Starling was at times
exceedingly trying and irritating. Diana met and received it all as
blandly as she would give her face to the west wind; at the same time,
no rough wind could move her from the way of her duty. Mrs. Starling
was able neither to provoke her nor prevail with her. She was the
sweetest of ruling spirits within her house; without it, she was the
most indefatigable and tender of fellow-workers to her husband. Tender,
not to him, that is, but to all those for whom he and she ministered. A
nurse to the sick, a provider to the very poor, a counsellor to the
vexed,--for such would come to her, especially among the younger
women,--a comforter to those in trouble. Such a comforter! "Lips of
healing," her husband said of her once; "wise, rare; sweet as honey,
but with the savour of the wind blowing over wild thyme." If a little
of that sweetness could have come to him! But while her life was full
of observance for him, gentle and submissive as a child to every
expressed wish of his, and watchful to meet his unexpressed wish, it
was the grief of Diana's life that she did not love this man. In the
reserve of her New England nature, I think what she felt for him was
hidden even from herself.

That is, I mean, as days and months went on. At Diana's first coming
home from Clifton, no doubt her opinion of her own feelings, and
Basil's opinion of them, was correct. If a change came, it came so
imperceptibly that nobody knew it.

Diana's beauty at this time had taken a new phasis. It had lost the
marble rigidity and calm impassiveness which had characterized it
during all the time of her married life hitherto; and it had not
regained the careless lightness of the days before she knew Evan. It
was something lovelier than either; so lovely that Basil wondered, and
Mrs. Starling sometimes stared, and every lip "in town" came to have
nothing but utterances of respect, more often utterances of devotion,
for the minister's wife,--I am afraid I cannot give you a just
impression of it. For Diana's face had come curiously near the
expression on the face of her own little child. Innocent, tender,
pure,--something like that. Grave, but with no clouds at all; strong
and purposeful, yet with an utter absence of self-will or
self-consciousness. It had always been, to a certain degree, innocent
and pure, but that was negative; and this was positive,--the refined
gold that had been through the fire. And no baby's face is sweeter than
Diana's was now, all blossoming as it were with love and humility. If
her husband had loved her before, the feeling of longing and despair
that came over him when he looked at this rarefied beauty would be hard
to tell. He had ruined her life, he reproached himself; and she was
lost to him for ever. Yet, as I said, though Diana's face was grave, it
was a gravity wholly without clouds; the gravity of the summer dawn,
when the stars are shining and the light in the East tells of the
coming day.

But mental changes work slowly and insensibly ofttimes; and day after
day and week after week went by, each with its fulness of business and
cares; and no one in the little family knew exactly what forces were
silently busy. So a year rolled round, and another year began its
course, and ran it; and June came for the second time since Diana had
returned from the seaside. Elmfield in all this time had not been
revisited by its owners.

June had come again. Windows were open, and the breath of roses filled
the minister's study; for Diana had developed lately a passion for
flowers and for gardening, and her husband had given her with full
hands all she wanted, and much more. Mrs. Starling had grumbled and
been very sarcastic about it. However, Basil had ordered in plants and
seeds and tools and books of instruction; he had become instructor
himself; and the result was, the parsonage, as people began to call it,
was encompassed with a little wilderness of floral beauty which was
growing to be the wonder of Pleasant Valley. "It will do them good!"
the minister said, when Diana called his attention to the fact that the
country farmers passing by were falling into the habit of reining in
their horses and stopping for a good long look. For instead of the
patch of marigolds and hollyhocks in front of the house, all the wing
inhabited by the minister and his family was surrounded with flowers.
Roses bloomed in the beds and out of the grass, and climbed up on the
walls of the house; white Annunciation lilies shone like stars here and
there; whole beds of heliotrope were preparing their perfume; geraniums
held up their elegant heads of every colour; verbenas and mignonette
and honeysuckle and red lilies and yellow lilies and hardy gladiolus
were either just beginning or in full beauty; with many more, too many
to tell; and the old-fashioned guelder rose had shaken out its white
balls of snow, and one or two laburnums were hung thick with their
clusters of "dropping gold." The garden was growing large, and, as I
said, become a wilderness of beauty. Nevertheless the roses kept their
own, and this afternoon the breath of them, rising above all the other
sweet breaths that were abroad, came in and filled the minister's
study. Diana was there alone sitting by one of the open windows, busy
with some work; not so busy but that she smelt the roses, and felt the
glory of light and colour that was outside, and heard the hum of bees
and the twitter of birds and the soft indistinguishable chirrup of
insects, which filled the air. Diana sewed on, till another slight
sound mingled with those--the tread of a foot on the gravel walk down
below; then she lifted her head suddenly, and with that her hands and
her work fell into her lap. It was long past mid-afternoon, and the
lovely slant light striking over the roses and coming through the crown
of a young elm, fell upon Basil, who was slowly sauntering along the
garden walk with his little girl in his arms. Very slowly, and often
standing still to exchange love passages and indulge mutual admiration
with her. They were partly talking of the flowers, Diana could see; but
her own eyes had no vision but for those two, the baby and the baby's
father. One little fair fat arm was round Basil's neck, the other tiny
hand was sometimes stretched out towards the lilies or the laburnums in
critical or delighted notice-taking, the word accompaniment to which
Diana could not hear but could well guess; at other times it was
brought round ecstatically to join its companion round her father's
neck, or lifted to his face with fingers of caressing, or thrust in
among the locks of his hair, which last seemed to be a favourite
pleasure. Basil would stand still at such times and talk to her, or
wait, Diana knew with just what a smile in his eyes, to take the soft
touches and return them. Diana's work was forgotten, and her eyes were
riveted; why did the scene in the garden give her such pain? She would
have said, if she had been asked, that it was self-reproach and sorrow
for the inevitable. How came it that she held not as near a place to
Basil as her child did? She ought, but it was not so. She thought, she
wished she loved him! She ought to be as free to put her hand on the
soft curls of Basil's hair as her baby was, but they stood too far
apart from each other, and she would as soon have dared anything. And
Basil never looked at _her_ so now-a-days; he had found out how she
felt, and knew she did not care for his looks; and kind, and gentle,
and unselfish as he was, yes, and strong in self-command and self
renunciation, he had resigned his life-hope and left her to her
life-sorrow. Yet Diana knew, with every smile and kiss to the little
one, what a cry of Basil's heart went out towards the child's mother.
Only, he would never give that cry utterance again. "What can I do?"
thought Diana. "I cannot bear it. And he thinks I am a great deal more
unhappy than I am. Unhappy?--I am not unhappy--if only _he_ were not
unhappy."

She could not explain her feelings to herself, she had no notion that
she was jealous of her own child; but the pain bit her, and she could
not endure to sit up there at the window and look on. Rising hastily,
she dropped her work out of her hand, and was about to go down into the
garden to join them, when another glance showed her that Basil had
turned and was coming back into the house. Diana listened to them as
they mounted the stairs, Basil's feet and the baby's voice sounding
together, with a curious unrest at her heart, and her eyes met the pair
eagerly as they entered the room. From what impulse she could not have
told, she advanced to meet them, and stretched out her hands to take
the child, which, however, with a little confident cry of delight,
turned from her and clasped both little arms again round her father's
neck. Basil smiled; Diana tried to follow suit.

"She would rather be with you than with me," she remarked, however.

"I wonder at her bad taste!" said Basil. But he turned his face to the
baby, and laid it gently against her soft cheek.

"It is because you are stronger," Diana went in.

"Is it?"

"That is one thing. You may notice children always like strong arms."

"Her mother's arms are not weak."

"No--but I am not so strong as you, Basil, bodily or mentally. And I
think that is more yet--mental strength, I mean. Children recognise
that, and love to rest on it."

"You do not think such discrimination is confined to children?" said
Basil, with a dry, quiet humourousness at which Diana could not help
smiling, though she felt quite as much like a very different
demonstration. She watched the two, as Basil walked on to his
study-table and sat down, with the child on his knee; she saw the
upturned eye of love with which the little one regarded him as he did
this, and then how, with a long breath of satisfaction, she settled
herself in her place, smoothed down her frock, and laid the little
hands contentedly together in her lap. Basil drew his portfolio towards
him and began to write a letter. Diana went to her work again in the
window, feeling restless. She felt she must say something more, and in
a different key, and as she worked she watched the two at the table.
This was not the way things ought to be. Her husband must be told at
least something of the change that had taken place in her; he ought to
know that she was no longer miserable; he would be glad to know that.
Diana thought he might have seen it without her telling; but if he did
not, then she must speak. He had a right to so much comfort as she
could give him, and he ought to be told that she was not now wishing to
be in another presence and society than his. If she could tell him
without his thinking too much--she watched till the letter was written
and he was folding it up. And then Diana's tongue hesitated
unaccountably.

"Basil," she began, obliging herself to speak,--"I can smell the roses
again."

He looked up instantly with keen eyes.

"You know--there was a long while--a long while--in which I could not
feel that anything was sweet."

"And now?"--

"Now I can. I knew you ought to know. You would be glad. I am like a
person who has been in a brain fever--or dead--and awaked to life and
soundness again. You cannot think what it is to me to see the sky."
Diana's eyes filled.

"What did you use to see?"

"The vault of my prison. What signified whether it were blue or brazen?
But now"--

"Well?--Now, Diana?"

"I can see through."

Perhaps this was not very intelligible, for manifestly it was not easy
for Diana to explain herself; but Basil this time did not speak, and
she presently began again.

"I mean,--there is no prison vault, nor any prison any more; the walls
that seemed to shut me in are dissolved, and I am free again."

"And you can see through?"--Basil repeated.

"Yes. Where my eyes were met by something harder than fate,--it is all
broken up, and light, and clear, and I can see through."

"I never used to think you were a fanciful woman," said the minister,
eyeing her intently, "but this time I do not quite follow you, Di. I am
afraid to take your words for all they may mean."

"But you may."

"What may I?"

"They mean all I say."

"I am sure of that," said he, smiling, though he looked anxious; "but,
you see, there is the very point of my difficulty."

"I mean, Basil, that I am out of my bondage,--which I thought never
could be broken in this world."

"Out of what bondage, my love?"

Diana paused.

"When I went down to Clifton, to Mrs. Sutphen's, do you know, I could
think of nothing but--Evan Knowlton?"

Diana's colour stirred, but she looked her husband steadily in the face.

"I suspected it."

"For a long time I could not, Basil. Night and day I could think of
nothing else. Wasn't that bondage?"

"Depends on how you take it," said the minister.

"But it was _wrong_, Basil."

"I found excuses for you, Diana."

"Did you?" she said humbly. "I daresay you did. It is like you. But it
was wrong, and I knew it was wrong, and I could not help it. Is not
that bondage of the worst sort? O, you don't know, Basil! _you_ never
knew such a fight between wrong and right; between your wish and your
will. But for a long time I did not see that it was wrong; I thought it
was of necessity."

"How came your view to change?"

"I don't know. All of a sudden. Something Mrs. Sutphen said one morning
started my thoughts, and I saw at once that I was doing very wrong.
Still it seemed as if I could not help it."

"How did you help it?"

"_I_ didn't, Basil. I fought and fought--O, what a fight! It seemed
like death, and worse, to give up Evan; and to stop thinking of him
meant, to give him up. I could not gain the victory. But don't you
remember telling me often that Christ would do everything for me if I
would trust him?"

"Yes."

"Basil, he did. It wasn't I. At last I got utterly desperate, and I
threw myself at his feet and claimed the promise. I was as helpless as
I could be. And then Basil, presently,--I cannot tell how,--the work
was done. The battle was fought and the victory was won, and I was
free. And ever since I have been singing songs in my heart."

Basil did not flush with pleasure. Diana thought he grew pale, rather;
but he bowed his head upon the head of the little one on his lap with a
deep low utterance of thanksgiving. She thought he would have shown his
pleasure differently. She did not know how to go on.

"It was not I, Basil"--she said after a pause.

"It never is I or you," answered the minister without looking up. "It
is always Christ if anything is done."

"Since then, you see, I have felt like a freedwoman."

"Which you are."

"And then you cannot think what it was to me, and what it is, to smell
the roses again. There were not many roses about Clifton at that time
in September; but it was the bay, and the shores, and the vessels, and
the sky. I seemed to have got new eyes, and everything was so
beautiful."

Basil repeated his ejaculation of thanksgiving, but he said nothing
more, and Diana felt somehow disappointed. Did he not understand that
she was free? He bowed his head close down upon the head of his little
daughter, and was silent.

"I knew you ought to know"--Diana repeated.

"Thank you," he said.

"And yet I couldn't tell you--though I knew you would be so glad for me
and with me."

"I am unutterably glad for you."

And not with me? she said to herself. Why not? Isn't it enough, if I
don't love anybody else? if I give him all I have to give? even though
that be not what he gives to me. I wish Basil would be reasonable.

It was certainly the first time it had ever occurred to her to make him
the subject of such a wish. But Diana did not speak out her thought,
and of course her husband did not answer it.



CHAPTER XXXIV.



DAIRY AND PARISH WORK.



According to her custom, Diana was up early the next morning, and down
in her dairy while yet the sun was only just getting above the horizon.
The dairy window stood open night and day; and the cool dewy freshness
which was upon the roses and lilies outside was in there too among the
pans of cream; the fragrance of those mingled with the different but
very pure sweetness of these. Diana was skimming pan after pan; the
thick yellow cream wrinkled up in rich folds under her skimmer; the
skimming-shelf was just before the window, and outside of the window
were the roses and honeysuckles. Diana's sleeves were rolled up above
her elbows; her hands were disposing of their business with quick
skill; yet now and then, even with a pan under her hand, she paused,
leaned on the window sill, and looked out into the garden. She felt
glad about something, and yet an unsatisfied query was in her heart;
she was glad that she had at last told her husband how the spell was
broken that had bound her to Evan and kept her apart from himself. "But
he did not seem so glad as I expected!" Then she recalled the deep tone
of his thanksgiving for her, and Diana's eyes took a yearning look
which certainly saw no roses. "It was all for me; it was not for his
own share; he did not think he had any share in it. He has a notion
that I hate him; and I do not; I never did." It occurred to her here
dimly that she had once felt a horror of him; and who would not rather
have hatred than horror? She went on skimming her cream. What should
she do? "I cannot speak about it again," she said to herself; "I cannot
say any more to him. I cannot say--I don't know what I ought to say!
but I wish he knew that I do not dislike him. He is keen enough; surely
he will find it out."

Pan after pan was set aside; the churn was filled; and Diana began to
churn. Presently in came Mrs. Starling.

"Hain't Josh brought the milk yet?"

"Not yet."

"It's time he did. That fellow's got a lazy streak in him somewhere."

"It's only just half-past five, mother."

"The butter ought to be come by now, I should think."--Mrs. Starling
was passing in and out, setting the table in the lean-to kitchen. She
would have no "help" in her dominions, so it was only in Diana's part
of the house that the little servant officiated, whom Basil insisted
upon keeping for his wife's ease and comfort and leisure. Diana herself
attended as of old to her particular sphere, the dairy. "How do you
know it's just half-past five?" her mother went on presently.

"I looked."

"Watches!" exclaimed Mrs. Starling with much disgust. "Your husband is
ridiculous about you."

But Diana could bear that.

"In your dairy is a queer place to wear a watch."

"Why, mother, it's for use, not for show."

"Make me believe that! There's a good deal of show about it, anyhow,
with such a chain hanging to it."

"My husband gave it to me, you know, chain and all; I must wear it,"
Diana said with a face as sweet as the roses.

"Oh yes! your husband!" Mrs. Starling answered insultingly. "That will
do to say to other people. Much you care what your husband does!"

Diana got up here, left her churn, came up to her mother, and put a
hand upon her arm. The action and air of the woman were so commanding,
that even Mrs. Starling stood still with a certain involuntary
deference. Diana's face and voice, however, were as clear and calm as
they were commanding.

"Mother,"--she said,--"you are mistaken. I care with all there is of
me; heart and soul and life."

Mrs. Starling's eye shrank away. "Since when?" she asked incredulously.

"It does not matter since when. Whatever I have ever felt for other
people, there is only one person in the world that I care for now; and
that is, my husband."

"You'd better tell him so," sneered Mrs. Starling. "When do you expect
your butter is going to come, if you stand there?"

"The butter is come," said Diana gently. She knew the sneer was meant
to cover uneasy feeling; and if it had not, still she would not have
resented it. She never resented anything now that was done to herself.
In came Josh with the foaming pails. Diana's hands were in the butter,
and her mother came to strain the milk.

"There had ought to be three quarts more, that ain't here," she
grumbled.

"They ain't nowheres else, then," answered her factotum.

"Josh, you don't strip the cows clean."

"Who doos, then?" said Josh, grinning. "If 'tain't me, I don' know who
'tis. That 'ere red heifer is losin' on her milk, though, Mis'
Starlin'. She had ought to be fed sun'thin'."

"Well, feed her, then," cried the mistress. "You know enough for that.
You must keep up the milk this month, Josh; the grass is first-rate."

Diana escaped away.

A while later the family was assembled at breakfast.

"Where's the child?" inquired Mrs. Starling.

"I believe she is out in the garden, mother."

"She oughtn't to be out before she has had her breakfast. 'Tain't good
for her."

"O, she has had her breakfast," said Diana. This was nothing new. Diana
as well as her husband was glad to keep the little one from Mrs.
Starling's table, where, unless they wanted her to be fed on pork and
pickles and the like, it was difficult to have a harmonious meal. It
was often difficult at any rate!

"Who's with her?" Mrs. Starling went on.

"Her father was with her. Now Prudence is looking after her."

"Prudence! You want to keep a girl about as much as I want to keep a
boat. You have no use for her."

"She is useful just now," put in the Dominie.

"Why can't Diana take care of her own child, and feed her when she
takes her own meals?--as I used to do, and as everybody else does."

"You think that is a convenient arrangement for all parties?" said the
minister.

"I hate to have danglers about!" said Mrs. Starling. "If there's
anything I abominate, it's shiftlessness. I always found my ten fingers
was servants enough for me; and what they couldn't do I could go
without. And I don't like to see a daughter o' mine sit with her hands
before her and livin' off other people's strength!"

Diana laughed, a low, sweet laugh, that was enough to smooth away the
wrinkles out of anybody's mood.

"She has to do as she's told," said the minister sententiously.

"That's because she's a fool."

"Do you think so?" Basil answered with unchanged good humour.

"_I_ never took my lessons from anybody."

"Perhaps it would have been better if you had."

"And you are spoiling her," Mrs. Starling added inconsistently.

"I wonder you haven't."

Mrs. Starling paused to consider what the minister meant. Before she
came to speech again, he rose from the table.

"Will you come to my study, Diana, after breakfast?"

"Who's goin' to make my cake, then?" cried the mistress of the house.
"Society's to meet here again this afternoon."

"I'll make it, mother--a mountain cake, if you like," said Diana, also
rising. "Basil won't want me all the morning." But she was eager to
hear what he had to say to her, and hurried after him. He had seemed to
her more than usually preoccupied.

"I do think," she remarked as she reached the study, "the Society eat
more cake than--their work is worth."

"Heresy," said Basil, smiling.

"They don't do much sewing, Basil."

"They do something else. Never mind; let them come and have a good
time. It won't hurt anybody much."

Diana looked at him and smiled, and then waited anxiously. She longed
for some words from Basil different from those he had spoken last
night. Could he not see, that if her passion for Evan was broken, there
was nothing left for him to look grave about? And ought he not to be
jubilant over the confession she had just made to her mother? Diana was
jubilant over it herself; she had set that matter clear at last. It is
true, Basil had not heard the confession, but ought he not to divine
it, when it was the truth? "If I do not just _love_ him," said Diana to
herself, "at least he is the only one I care for in all the world. That
would have made him glad once. And he don't look glad. Does he expect
me to speak out and tell him all that?"

Basil did not look as if he expected her to do any such thing. He was
rather graver than usual, and did not at once say anything. Through the
open window came the air, still damp with dew, laden with the scent of
honeysuckle and roses, jocund with the shouts of birds; and for one
instant Diana's thoughts swept back away to years ago, with a wondering
recognition of the change in herself since _those_ June days. Then her
husband began to speak.

"I have had a call, Diana."

"A call? You have a good many of them always, Basil. What was this?"

"Of a different sort. A call for me--not a call upon me."

"Well, there have always been calls _for_ you too, in plenty, ever
since I have known you. What do you mean?"

"This is a call to me to leave Pleasant Valley," said Basil, watching
her, yet without seeming to do so. Diana looked bewildered.

"To leave Pleasant Valley? Why? And where would you go, Basil?"

"I am called, because the people want somebody and have pitched upon
me. The place is a manufacturing town, not very far from Boston."

"Are you going?"

"That is the point upon which I desire to have your opinion."

"But, Basil, the people here want you too."

"Grant that."

"Then what does it signify, whether other people want you?"

"Insomuch as the 'other people' are more in numbers and far more needy
in condition."

"Want you more"--said Diana wistfully.

"That is the plain English of it."

"And will you go?"

"What do you counsel?"

"I do not know the people"--said Diana, breathless.

"Nor I, as yet. The church that calls me is itself a rich little
church, which has been accustomed, I am afraid, for some time, to a
dead level in religion."

"They must want you then, badly," said Diana. "That was how Pleasant
Valley was five years ago."

"But round the church lies on every hand the mill population, for whom
hardly any one cares. They need not one man, but many. Nothing is done
for them. They are almost heathen, in the midst of a land called
Christian."

"Then you will go?" said Diana, looking at Mr. Masters, and wishing
that he would speak to her with a different expression of face. It was
calm, sweet, and high, as always; but she knew he thought his wife was
lost to him for ever. "And yet, I told him, last night!" she said to
herself. Really, she was thinking more of that than of this other
subject Basil had unfolded to her.

"I do not know," he answered. "How would you like to run over there
with me and take a look at the place? I have a very friendly invitation
to come and bring you,--for the very purpose."

"Run over? Why, it must be more than one day's journey?"

"One runs by railway," said Basil simply. "What do you think? Will you
go?"

"O yes, indeed! if you will let me. And Rosy?"

"We will go nowhere without Rosy."

Diana made her cake like one in a dream.



CHAPTER XXXV.



BABYLON.



The journey to Mainbridge, the manufacturing town in question, took
place within a few days. With eager cordiality the minister and his
family were welcomed in the house of one of the chief men of the church
and of the place, and made very much at home. It was a phasis of social
life which Diana had hardly touched ever before. Wealth was abounding
and superabounding; the house was large, the luxury of furnishing and
fitting, of service and equipage, was on a scale she had never seen.
Basil was amused to observe that she did not seem to see it now; she
took it as a matter of course, and fitted in these new surroundings as
though her life had been lived in them. The dress of the minister's
wife was very plain, certainly; her muslins were not costly, and they
were simply made; yet nobody in the room looked so much dressed as she.
It was the dignity of her beauty that so attired her; it was beauty of
mind and body both; and both made the grace of her movements and the
grace of her quiet so exquisite as it was. Basil smiled--and sighed.

But there was no doubt Diana saw the mill people. The minister and his
wife were taken to see the mills, of course, divers and various--silk
mills, cotton mills, iron mills. The machinery, and the work done by
it, were fascinating to Diana and delightful; the mill people, men,
women, and children, were more fascinating by far, though in a far
different way. She watched them in the mills, she watched them when she
met them in the street, going to or from work.

"Do they go to church?" she asked once of Mr. Brandt, their
entertainer. He shook his head.

"They are tired with their week's work when Saturday night comes, and
want to rest. Sunday was given for rest," he said, looking into Diana's
face, which was a study to him.

"Don't you think," she said, "rest of body is a poor thing without rest
of mind?"

"_My_ mind cannot rest unless my body does," he answered, laughing.

"Take it the other way--don't you know what it is to have rest of mind
make you forget weariness of body?"

"No--nor you either," said he.

"Then I am sorry for you; and I wish I could get at the mill people."

"Why?"

"To tell them what I know about it."

"But you could not get at them, Mrs. Masters. They are in the mills
from seven till seven--or eight, and come out tired and dirty; and
Sunday, as I told you, they like to stay at home and rest and perhaps
clean up."

"If there is no help for that," said Diana, "there ought to be no
mills."

"And no manufacturers?"

"What are silk and iron, to the bodies and souls of men? Basil, does
that passage in the Revelation mean _that?_"

"What passage?" said Mr. Brandt. "Here is a Bible, Mrs. Masters;
perhaps you will be so good as to find the place. I am afraid from your
expression, it is not a flattering passage for us millowners. What are
the words you refer to?"

I think he wanted to draw out Diana much more than the meaning of
Scripture. She took the Bible a little doubtfully and glanced at Basil.
He was smiling at her in a reassuring way, but did not at all offer to
help. Diana's thoughts wandered somewhat, and she turned the leaves of
the Bible unsuccessfully. "Where is it, Basil?"

"You are thinking of the account of the destruction of Babylon. It is
in the eighteenth chapter."

"But Babylon!" said the host. "We have nothing to do with Babylon. That
means Rome, doesn't it?"

"Here's the chapter," said Diana. "No, it cannot mean Rome, Mr. Brandt;
though Dean Stanley seems to assume that it does, in spite of the fact
which he naively points out, that the description don't fit."

"What then?"

"Basil, won't you explain?"

"It is merely an assumption of old Testament imagery," said Basil. "At
a time when lineal Israel stood for the church of God upon earth,
Babylon represented the head and culmination of the world-power, the
church's deadly opponent and foe. Babylon in the Apocalypse but means
that of which Nebuchadnezzar's old Babylon was the type."

"And what is that?"

"The power of this world, of which Satan is said to be the prince."

"But what do you mean by the _world_, Mr. Masters? We cannot get out of
the world--it is a pretty good world, too, I think, take it for all in
all. People talk of being worldly and not worldly;--but they do not
know what they are talking about."

"Why not?" Diana asked.

"Well, now, ask my wife," Mr. Brandt answered, laughing. "She thinks it
is 'worldly' to have a cockade on your coachman's hat; it is not
worldly to have the coachman, or the carriage, and she don't object to
a coat with buttons. Then it is not worldly to give a party,--but it is
worldly to dance; it is very worldly to play cards. There's
hair-splitting somewhere, and my eyes are not sharp enough to see the
lines."

Diana sat with her book in her hand, looking up at the speaker; a look
so fair and clear and grave that Mr. Brandt was again moved by
curiosity, and tempted to try to make her speak.

"Can _you_ make it out?" he said, smiling.

"Why, yes!" said Diana; "but there is no hair-splitting. It is very
simple. There are just two kingdoms in the world, Mr. Brandt; and
whatever does not belong to the one, belongs to the other. Whatever is
not for God, is for the world."

"Then your definition of the 'world' is?"--

"All that is not God's."

"But I am not clear yet. I don't see how you draw the line. Take my
mills, for example; they belong to this profane, work-a-day world; yet
I must run them. Is that worldly?"

"Yes, if you do not run them for God."

Mr. Brandt stared a little.

"I confess I do not see how that is to be done," he owned.

"The business that you cannot do for God, you had better not do at
all," said Diana gently.

"But spinning cotton?"--

"Spinning cotton, or anything else that employs men and makes money."

"How?"

"You can do it for God, cannot you?" said Diana in the same way. "You
can employ the men and make the money for his sake, and in his service."

"But that is coming pretty close," said the millowner. "Suppose I want
a little of the money for myself and my family?"

"I am speaking too much!" said Diana, with a lovely flush on her cheek,
and looking up to her husband. "I wish you would take the word, Basil."

"I hope Mr. Masters is going to be a little more merciful to the
weaknesses of ordinary humanity," said Mr. Brandt, half lightly. "So
tremendous a preacher have I never heard yet."

Basil was silent, and Diana looked down at the volume in her hand.

"Won't you go on, Mrs. Masters?" said her host. "What do you find for
me there?"

"I was looking for my quotation," said Diana; "I had not got it quite
right."

"How is it?"

"Here is a list of the luxuries in which Babylon traded:--'The
merchandise of gold, and silver, and precious stones, and of pearls,
and fine linen, and purple, and silk, and scarlet, and all thyine wood,
and all manner vessels of ivory, and all manner vessels of most
precious wood, and of brass, and iron, and marble, and cinnamon, and
odours, and ointments, and frankincense, and wine, and oil, and fine
flour, and wheat, and beasts, and sheep, and horses, and chariots, _and
slaves_, _and souls of men_.'"

"Sounds for all the world like an inventory of the things in my house,"
said Mr. Brandt. "Pray what of all that? Don't you like all those
things?"

"'--For in one hour so great riches is come to nought.'"

"But what harm in these things, or most of them, Mrs. Masters?"

Diana glanced up at Basil and did not answer. He answered.

"No harm--so long as business and the fruits of business are kept
within the line we were speaking of; so long as all is for God and to
God. If it is not for him, it is for the 'world.'"

"O my dear Mrs. Masters!" cried Mrs. Brandt, running in,--"here you
are. I was looking for you.--I came to ask--shall I order the landau
for five o'clock, to drive to the lake?"

Diana was glad to have the conversation broken up. When the hour for
the drive came, and she sank into the luxurious, satiny depths of the
landau, her thoughts involuntarily recurred to it. The carriage was so
very comfortable! It rolled smoothly along, over good roads, drawn by
well-trotting horses; the motion was delightful. Diana's thoughts
rolled on too. Suddenly Mr. Brandt leaned over towards her.

"Is this carriage a 'worldly' indulgence, Mrs. Masters?"

Diana started. "I don't know," she said.

"Ah," said the other, laughing at her startled face,--"I am glad to see
that even you may have a doubt on that subject. You cannot blame less
etherealized persons, like my wife and me, if we go on contentedly,
with no doubts."

"But you mistake me,"--said Diana.

"You said, you did not know."

"Because I don't know you."

"What has that to do with it?"

"If I knew you well, Mr. Brandt, I should know whether this carriage is
the Lord's or not."

The expression of the gentleman's face upon this was hardly agreeable;
he sat back in his seat and looked at the prospect; and so Diana tried
to do, but for a time the landscape to her was indistinguishable. Her
thoughts went back to the mills and the mill people; pale, apathetic,
reserved, sometimes stern, they had struck her painfully as a set of
people who did not own kindred with other classes of their
fellow-creatures; apart, alone, without instruction, without sympathy;
not enjoying this life, nor on the way to enjoy the next. The marks of
poverty were on them too, abundantly. Diana's mind was too full of
these people to allow her leisure for the beauties of nature; or if she
felt these, to let her feel them without a great sense of contrast.
Then she did not know whether she had spoken wisely. Alone in her room
at night with Basil she began to talk about it. She wished that he
would begin; but he did not, so she must.

"Basil,--did I say too much to Mr. Brandt to-day?"

"I guess not."

Diana knew by the tone of these words that her husband was on this
subject contented.

"What do you think of the mill people?"

"I am very curious to find out what impression they make on you."

"Basil," said Diana, her voice trembling, "they break my heart!"

"What's to be done in that case?"

"I don't know. Nothing follows upon that. But how do you feel?"

"Very much as if I would like to prove the realizing of that old
prophecy--'To whom he was not spoken of, they shall see; and they that
have not heard shall understand.'"

"That is just how I feel, Basil. But they do not go to church, people
say; how could you get at them?"

"We could look them up at their own homes; we could arrange meetings
for them that they would like; we could work ourselves into their
affections, by degrees, and _then_ the door would be open for us to
bring Christ in. We could give them help too, where help is needed."

"_We_, Basil?"

"Don't you feel as I do? You said so," he answered with a grave smile.

"O, I do!" said Diana. "I cannot think of anything lovelier than to see
those faces change with the knowledge of Christ."

"Then you would be willing to leave our present field of work?"

"It does not seem to want us as this does--not by many fold."

"Would your mother leave Pleasant Valley?"

"No."

"How, then, Di, about you?

"The first question is duty, Basil."

"I think mine is to come here."

"Then it must be mine," said Diana, with a sort of disappointment upon
her that he should speak in that way.

"And would it be your pleasure too?"

"Why, certainly. Basil, I cannot _imagine_ pleasure to be apart from
duty."

"Thank you," he said gently. "And I thank God, who has brought you so
far in your lesson-learning as to know that."

Diana said no more. She was ready to cry, with the feeling that her
husband thought himself to have so little to do with her pleasure.
Tears, however, were not much in her way, and she did not shed any, but
she speculated. _Had_ he really to do with her pleasure? It was
different certainly once. She had craved to be at a distance from him;
she could remember the time well; but the time was past. Was it
reasonable to expect him to know that fact? He had thoroughly learned
the bitter truth that her heart was not his, and could never be his;
what should tell him that the conditions of things were changed. _Were_
they changed? Diana was in great confusion. She began to think she did
not know herself. She did not hate Mr. Masters any more; nay, she
declared to herself she never had hated him; she always had liked him;
only then she had loved Evan Knowlton, and now that was gone. She did
not love anybody. There was no reason in the world why Mr. Masters
should not be contented. "I think," said Diana to herself, "I give him
enough of my heart to content him. I wonder what would content him? I
do not care two straws for anybody else in all the world. He would say,
if I told him that, he would say it is a negative proposition. Suppose
I could go further"--and Diana's cheeks began to burn--"suppose I
could, I could not possibly stand up and tell him so. I cannot. He
ought to see it for himself. But he does not. He ought to be
contented--I think he might be contented--with what I give him, if it
isn't just"--

Diana broke off with her thoughts very much disturbed. She thought she
did not love her husband, but things were no longer clear; except that
Basil's persistent ignorance of the fact that they had changed, chafed
and distressed her.



CHAPTER XXXVI.



THE PARTY.



The morning of the next day was spent in still further visits to still
more mills. Mr. Brandt was much struck with the direction his guests'
attention seemed to take.

"You are very fond of machinery," he remarked to Diana.

"Yes--I don't know much about it," she answered.

"Surely that is not true after these two or three days' work?"

"I knew _nothing_ about it before. Yes, I do enjoy it, Mr. Brandt, with
you and Mr. Masters to explain things to me; but it is the people that
interest me most."

"The people!"--

"The mill hands?" Mrs. Brandt asked.

"Yes; the mill hands."

"What _can_ you find interesting in them? I am half afraid of them, for
my part."

"They look as if they wanted friends so much."

"Friends?" repeated Mrs. Brandt. "I suppose they have friends among
themselves. Why should not they? Well, it is time you had a change of
society, I think. My husband has taken you among the mill people for
two days; now to-night I will introduce you to a different set; some of
your church people. I want you to take rest this afternoon, my dear
Mrs. Masters--now won't you!--so as to be able to enjoy the evening. I
am sure Brandt has fatigued you to death. I never can stand going up
and down those stairs in the mills, and standing about; it kills me."

"I wonder how they bear standing at the looms or the other machines all
day?"

"They? O, they are accustomed to it, I suppose. An hour or two of it
breaks _me_ down. Now rest, will you? It's quite a great occasion
to-night. One of our greatest men among the millowners, and one of the
pillars of the church you and Mr. Masters are coming to take care of,
gives an entertainment to his daughter to-night; a bride--married
lately--just come home and just going away again. You'll see all our
best people. Now please go and rest."

Diana went to her room and rested, outwardly. In her mind thoughts were
very busy. And when it was time to dress, they were hardly diverted
from their subjects. It was with a sort of unconscious instinct that
Diana threw her beautiful hair into the wavy masses and coils which
were more graceful than she knew and crowned her so royally; and in the
like manner that she put on a dress of soft white muslin. It had no
adornment other than the lace which finished it at throat and wrists;
she looked most like a bride herself. So Basil thought, when he came to
fetch her; though he did not say his thought, fearing lest he might
graze something in her mind which would pain her. He often withheld
words for such a reason.

"Will it do?" said Diana, seeing him look at her.

"Too good for the occasion!" said Basil, shaking his head.

"Too much dressed?" said Diana. "I thought I must dress as much as I
could. Is it too much, Basil?"

"Nobody else will think so," said the minister with a queer smile.

"Do _you_ think so?"

"You are just as you ought to be. All the same, it is beyond the
company. Never mind. Come!"

Downstairs another sort of criticism.

"My dear Mrs. Masters! Not a bit of colour! You will be taken for the
bride yourself. All in white, except your beautiful hair! Wait, that
won't do; let me try if I can't improve things a little--do you
mind?--Just let me see how this will look." Diana submitted patiently,
and Mrs. Brandt officiously fastened a knot of blue ribband in her
bright hair. She was greatly pleased with the effect, which Diana could
not see. However, when they had reached the house they were going to,
and leaving the dressing-room Diana took her husband's arm to go down
to the company, he detained her to let Mr. and Mrs. Brandt pass on
before, and then with a quick and quiet touch of his fingers removed
the blue bow and put it in his pocket.

"Basil!" said Diana, smiling,--"she will miss it."

"So shall I. It commonized the whole thing."

There was nothing common left, as every one instantly recognised who
saw Diana that evening. A presence of such dignified grace, a face of
such lofty and yet innocent beauty, so sweet a movement and manner,
nobody there knew anything like it in Mainbridge. On the other hand, it
was Diana's first experience of a party beyond the style and degree of
Pleasant Valley parties. She found immediately that she was by much the
plainest dressed woman in the company; but she forgot to think of the
dresses, the people struck her with so much surprise.

Of course everybody was introduced to her; and everybody said the same
things.

They hoped she liked Mainbridge; they hoped she was coming to live
among them; Mr. Masters was coming to the church, wasn't he? and how
did he like the looks of the place?

"You see the best part of the church here to-night," remarked one stout
elderly lady in a black silk and with flowers in her cap; a very
well-to-do, puffy old lady;--"you see just the best of them, and _all_
the best!"

"What do you call the best part of a church?" Diana asked, looking
round the room.

"Well, you see them before you. There is Mr. Waters standing by the
piano--he's the wealthiest man in Mainbridge; a very wealthy man. The
one with his head a little bald, speaking just now to Mrs. Brandt, is
one of our elders; he's pretty comfortable too; a beautiful place he
has--have you seen it? No? You ought to have gone there to see his
flowers; the grounds are beautiful, laid out with so much taste. But if
you are fond of flowers, you should go to see Mr. Tillery's
greenhouses. That is Mr. Tillery in the corner, between the two young
ladies in white. Mr. Tillery's greenhouses extend half a mile, or
would, if they were set in a line, you know."

"Are there any poor people in the church?"

"Poor people?" The article called for seemed to be rare. "Poor people?
There are a few, I believe. Not many; the poor people go to the mission
chapel. O, we support a mission; that's down in the mill quarter, where
the hands live, I mean"--

"And O, Mrs. Masters," a young lady struck in here, "you are coming,
aren't you? I have fallen in love with you, and I want you to come. And
O, I want you to tell me one thing--is Mr. Masters very strict?"

"About what?" said Diana, smiling.

"About anything."

"Yes; he is very strict about telling the truth."

"O, of course; but I mean about other things; what one may do or mayn't
do. Is he strict?"

"Not any stricter than his Master."

"His master? who's that? But I mean,--does he make a fuss about
dancing?"

"I never saw Mr. Masters make a fuss about anything."

"O, delightful! then he don't mind? You know, Mrs. Masters, the Bible
says David danced."

"The Bible tells why he danced, too," said Diana, wholly unable to keep
her gravity.

"Does it? I don't recollect. And O, Mrs. Masters, I want to know
another thing; does Mr. Masters use the Episcopal form in marrying
people?"

"You are concerned in the question?"

"O yes. I might be, you know, one of these days; and I always think the
Episcopal form is so dignified and graceful; the ring and all that; the
Presbyterian form is so _tucky_ and ugly. O, Mrs. Masters, don't you
like a form for everything?"

Before Diana could return an answer to this somewhat comprehensive
question, a slight sound caused her to forget both question and speaker
and the place where she was, as utterly as if they all had been swept
from the sphere of the actual. It belonged to the sweet poise and calm
of her heart and life that she was able to keep still as she was and
make no movement and give no sign. The sound she had heard was a little
running laugh; she thought it came from the next room; yet she did not
turn her head to look that way, though it could have been uttered, she
knew, from no throat but one. The young lady friend reiterated the
question in which she was interested, and Diana answered; I do not know
how, nor did she; while she was at the same time collecting her forces
and reviewing them for the coming skirmish with circumstances. Evan
Knowlton was here at Mainbridge. How could it possibly be? And even as
the thought went through her, came that laugh again.

Diana's mind began to be in a great state of confusion, which presently
concentred itself upon the one point of keeping a calm and unmoved
exterior. And to her surprise, this became easy. The confusion
subsided, like the vibrations of harp-strings which have been brushed
by a harsh hand; only her heart beat a little, waiting for the coming
encounter.

"Shall I take you in to see the bride?" Mr. Brandt here presented
himself, offering his services. And Diana rose without hesitation and
put her arm in his. She was glad, however, that their progress through
the company was slow; she hoped Evan would see before he had to speak
to her. She herself felt ready for anything.

It was with a strange feeling, nevertheless, that she went through the
introduction to the pale lady of fashion who was Evan's second choice.
Beyond white silk and diamonds and a rather delicate appearance, Diana
could in that moment discern nothing. Her senses did not seem to serve
her well. The lady was very much in request besides, amid her old
friends and acquaintances, and there was no chance to talk to her. Then
followed the introduction to the bridegroom. He was going to content
himself with a bow, but Diana stretched out her hand and gave his a
warm grasp. "I have seen Captain Knowlton before,"--she said simply.
She was perfectly quiet now, but she saw that he was not; and that he
was willing to take refuge with other claimants upon his attention to
escape any particular words with her. She stepped back, and gradually
got behind people, where the sight of her could not distress him. It
had distressed him, she had seen that. Was it on her account? or on his
own? Gradually, watching her chances, she was able to work her way back
into the other room, which was comparatively empty; and there she sat
down at a table covered with photographs. She would go away, she
thought, as soon as it could gracefully be done. And yet, she would
have liked to speak a few words with Evan, this last time they might
ever be together. What made him embarrassed in meeting her? With his
bride just beside him, that ought not to be, she thought.

The company had almost all crowded into the other room about the bride,
and were fully occupied with her; and Diana was alone. She turned over
the photographs and reviewed the kings and queens of Europe, with no
sort of intelligence as to their families or nationalities,
mechanically, just to cover her abstraction, and to seem to be doing
something. Then suddenly she knew that Evan was beside her. He had come
round and entered by the door from the hall; and now they both stood
together for a moment, shielded by a corner of the partition wall
between the rooms. Diana had risen.

"This is a very painful meeting"--Captain Knowlton said, after a
silence which would have been longer if he had dared to let it be so.

"No"--said Diana, looking at him with as clear and fair a brow as if
she had been the moon goddess whose name she bore; and her voice was
very sweet. "Not painful, Evan; why should it be? I am glad to see you
again."

"I didn't know you were here"--he went on hurriedly, in evident great
perturbation.

"And we did not know you were here. I had no notion of it--till I heard
your voice in the next room. I knew it instantly."

"I would have spared you this, if I could have foreseen it."

"Spared me what?"

"All this,--this pain,--I know it must be pain to you.--I did not
anticipate it."

"Why should it be pain to me?" inquired Diana steadily.

"I know your feeling--I would not have brought Clara into your
presence"--

"I am very glad to have seen her," said Diana in the same quiet way,
looking at Evan fixedly. "I should have been glad to see more of her,
and learn to know her. I could scarcely speak to her for the crowd
around."

"Yes, she is a great favourite, and everybody is eager to see her
before she goes."

"You are going away soon?"

"O yes!--to my post."

"I hope she will make you happy, Evan," Diana said gently and cordially.

"You are very good, I am sure. I don't want you to think, Diana, that
I--that I, in fact, have forgotten anything"--

"You cannot forget too soon," she answered, smiling, "everything that
Clara would not wish you to remember."

"A fellow is so awfully lonely out there on the frontiers"--he said,
mumbling his words through his moustache in a peculiar way.

"You will not be lonely now, I hope."

"You see, Di, you were lost to me. If I could only think of you as
happy"--

"You may."

"Happy?" he repeated, looking at her. He had avoided her eyes until now.

"Yes."

"Then _you_ have forgotten?"

"One does not forget," said Diana, with again a grave smile. "But I
have ceased to look back sorrowfully."

"But--you are married"--

Then light flushed into Diana's face. She understood Evan's allusion.

"Yes," she said,--"to somebody who has my whole heart."

"But--you are married to Mr. Masters?"--he went on incredulously.

"Certainly. And I love my husband with all the strength there is in me
to love. I hope your wife will love you as well," she added with
another smile, a different one, which was exceedingly aggravating to
the young man. No other lips could wreathe so with such a mingling of
softness and strength, love, and--yes, happiness. Captain Knowlton had
seen smiles like that upon those lips once, long ago; never a brighter
or more confident one. He felt unaccountably injured.

"You did not speak so when I saw you last," he remarked.

"No. I was a fool," said Diana, with somewhat unreasonable
perverseness. "Or, if I was not a fool, I was weak."

"I see you are strong now," said the young officer bitterly. "I was
never strong; and I am weak still. I have not forgotten, Diana."

"You ought to forget, Evan," she said gently.

"It's impossible!" said he, hastily turning over photographs on the
table.

Diana would have answered, but the opportunity was gone. Other people
came near; the two fell apart from each other, and no more words were
interchanged between them.

It grieved but did not astonish Basil to perceive, when he joined Diana
in their own room that night, that she had been weeping; and it only
grieved him to know that the weeping was renewed in the night. He gave
no sign that he knew it, and Diana thought he was asleep through it
all. Tears were by no means a favourite indulgence with her; this night
the spring of them seemed to be suddenly unsealed, and they flowed fast
and free, and were not to be checked. Neither did Diana quite clearly
know what moved them. She was very sorry for Evan; yes, but these tears
she was shedding were not painful tears. It came home to her, all the
sorrowful waiting months and years that Basil had endured on her
account; but sympathy was not a spring large enough to supply such a
flow. She was glad those months were ended; yet they were not ended,
for Basil did not know the facts she had stated with so much clearness
to his whilome rival; she had not told himself, and he did not guess
them. "He might," said Diana to herself,--"he ought,"--at the same time
she knew now there was something for her to do. How she should do it,
she did not know.



CHAPTER XXXVII.



AT ONE.



They returned to Pleasant Valley that day, and Basil was immediately
plunged in arrears of business. For the present Diana had to attend to
her mother, whose conversation was anything but agreeable after she
learned that her son-in-law had accepted the call to Mainbridge.

"Ministers are made of stuff very like common people," she declared.
"Every one goes where he can get the most."

"You know Mr. Masters has plenty already, mother; plenty of his own."

"Those that have most already are always the ones that want more. I've
seen that a thousand times. If a man's property lies in an onion, he'll
likely give you half of it if you want it; if he's got all Pleasant
Valley, the odds are he won't give you an onion."

Diana would have turned the conversation, but Mrs. Starling came back
to the subject.

"What do you suppose you are going to do with me?"

"Mother, that is for you to choose. You know, where ever we are,
there's a home for you if you will have it."

"It's a pleasure to your husband to have me, too, ain't it?"

"It is always a pleasure to him to do what is right."

"Complimentary! You have grown very fond of him, haven't you, all of a
sudden?"

But this subject Diana would not touch. Not to her mother Not to any
one, till the person most concerned knew the truth; and most certainly
after that not to any one else. Evan had been told; there had been a
reason; she was glad she had told him.

"What do you suppose I'd do in Mainbridge?" Mrs. Starling went on.

"There is plenty to do, mother. It is because there is so much to do,
that we are going."

"Dressing and giving parties. I always knew your husband held himself
above our folks. He'll be suited there."

This tried Diana, it was so very far from the truth. She fled the
field. It was often the safest way. But she was very sorry for her
mother. She went to Basil's study, where now no one was, and sat down
by the window that looked into the garden. There Rosy presently caught
sight of her; came to her, and climbed up into her lap; and for a good
while the two entertained one another; the child going on in wandering
sweet prattle, while the mother's thoughts, though she answered her,
kept a deeper current of their own all the while. She was pondering as
she sat there and smelled the roses in the garden and talked to the
small Rose in her lap,--she was pondering what she should do to let her
husband know what she now knew about herself. One would say, the
simplest way would be to tell him! But Diana, with all her simplicity
and sweetness, had a New England nature; and though she could speak
frankly enough when spoken to, on this or any other subject, she shrank
from volunteering revelations that were not expected of her;
revelations that were so intimate, and belonged to her very inner self;
and that concerned besides so vitally her relations with another
person, even though that person were her husband. At the mere thought
of doing it, the colour stirred uneasily in Diana's face. Why could not
Basil divine? Looking out into the garden, both mother and child, and
talking very busily one of them, thinking very busily the other,
neither of them heard Basil come in.

"Where's papa?" Rosy was at the moment asking, in a tone sufficiently
indicating that in her view of things he had been gone long enough.

"Not very far off"--was the answer, close behind them. Rosy started and
threw herself round towards her father, and Diana also started and
looked up; and in her face not less than in the little one there was a
flash and a flush of sudden pleasure. Basil stooped to put his lips to
Rosy's, and then, reading more than he knew in Diana's eyes, he carried
the kiss to her lips also. It was many a day since he had done the
like, and Diana's face flushed more and more. But Basil had taken up
Rosy into his arms, and was interchanging a whole harvest of caresses
with her. Diana turned her looks towards the garden, and felt ready to
burst into tears. Could it be that he was proud, and intended to
revenge upon her the long avoidance to which in days past she had
treated him? Not like what she knew of Mr. Masters, and Diana was aware
she was unreasonable; but it was sore and impatient at her heart, and
she wanted to be in Rosy's place. And Basil the while was thinking
whether by his unwonted caress he had grieved or distressed his wife.
He touched her shoulder gently, and said,

"Forgive me!"

"Forgive you what?" said Diana, looking round.

"My taking an indulgence that perhaps I should not have taken."

"You are very much mistaken, Basil," said Diana, rising; and her voice
trembled and her lips quivered. She thought he _was_ rather cruel now.

"But I have troubled you?" he said, looking earnestly at her.

Diana hesitated, and the quiver of her lips grew more uncontrollable.
"Not in the way you think," she answered.

"How then?" he asked gently. "But I _have_ troubled you. How, Di?"

The last two words were spoken with a very tender, gentle accentuation,
and they broke Diana down. She laid one hand on her husband's arm, and
the other, with her face in it, on his shoulder, and burst into tears.

I do not know what there is in the telegraphy of touch and look and
tone; but something in the grip of Diana's hand, and in her action
altogether, wrought a sudden change in Basil, and brought a great
revelation. He put his little girl down out of his arms and took his
wife in them. And for minutes there was no word spoken; and Rosy was
too much astonished at the strange motionless hush they maintained to
resent at first her own dispossession and the great slight which had
been done her.

There had come a honey-bee into the room by mistake, and not finding
there what he expected to find, he was flying about and about, trying
in vain to make his way to something more in his line than books; and
the soft buzz of the creature was the only sound to be heard, till Rosy
began to complain. She did not know what to make of the utter stillness
of the two figures beside her, who stood like statues; was furthermore
not a little jealous of seeing what she considered her own prerogative
usurped by another; and finally began an importunate petitioning to be
taken up again. But Rosy's voice, never neglected before, was not heard
to-day. Neither of them heard it. The consciousness that was nearest
was overpowering, and barred out every other.

"Diana"--said Basil at last in a whisper; and she looked up, all
flushed and trembling, and did not meet his eyes. Neither did she take
her hand from his shoulder; they had not changed their position.

"Diana,--what are you going to say to me?"

"Haven't I said it?" she answered with a moment's glance and smile; and
then between smiles and tears her head sank again.

"Why did you never tell me before?" he said with a breath that was
almost a sob, and at the same time had a somewhat imperative accent of
demand in it.

"I did not know myself."

"And now?"--

"Now?"--repeated Diana, half laughing.

"Yes, now; what have you got to tell me?"

"Do you want me to tell you what you know already?"

"You have told me nothing, and I do not feel that I know anything till
you have told me," he said in a lighter tone. "Hallo, Rosy!--what's the
matter?"

For Rosy, seeing herself entirely to all appearance supplanted, had now
broken out into open lamentations, too heartfelt to be longer
disregarded. Diana gently released herself, and stooped down and took
the child up, perhaps glad of a diversion; but Rosy instantly stretched
out her arms imploringly to go to her father.

"I was jealous of _her_, a little while ago," Diana remarked as the
exchange was made.

But at that word, Basil set the child, scarcely in his arms, out of
them again on the floor; and folding Diana in them anew, paid her some
of the long arrear of caresses so many a day withheld. Ay, it was the
first time he had known he might without distressing her; and no doubt
lips can do no more silently to reveal a passion of affection than
these did then. If Basil had had a revelation made to him, perhaps so
did Diana; but I hardly think Diana was surprised. She knew something
of the depths and the contained strength in her husband's character;
but it is safe to say, she would never be jealous of Rosy again! Not
anything like these demonstrations had ever fallen to Rosy's share.

Anything, meanwhile, prettier than Diana's face it would be difficult
to see. Flushing like a girl, her lips wreathing with smiles,
tear-drops hanging on the eyelashes still, but with flashes and
sparkles coming and going in the usually quiet grey eyes. Dispossessed
Rosy on the floor meanwhile looked on in astonishment so great that she
even forgot to protest. Basil looked down at her at last and laughed.

"Rosy has had a lesson," he said, picking her up. "She will know her
place henceforth. Come, Di, sit down and talk to me. How came this
about?"

"I don't know, Basil," said Diana meekly.

"Where did it begin?"

"I don't know that either. O, _begin?_ I think the beginning was very
long ago, when I learned to honour you so thoroughly."

"Honour is very cold work; don't talk to me about honour," said Basil.
"I have fed and supped on honour, and felt very empty!"

"Well, you have had it," said Diana contentedly.

"Go on. When did it change into something else?"

"It has not changed," said Diana mischievously.

"When did you begin to give me something better?"

"Do you know, Basil, I cannot tell? I was not conscious myself of what
was going on in me."

"When?"

"Perhaps--since soon after I came home from Clifton. It _had_ not begun
then; how soon it began after, I cannot tell. It was so gradual."

"When did you discover a change?"

"I _felt_ it--I hardly discovered it--a good while ago, I think. But I
did not in the least know what it was. I wished--Basil, it is very
odd!"--and the colour rose in Diana's cheeks,--"I _wished_ that I could
love you."

The minister smiled, and there was a suspicious drop in his eyes, which
I think to hide, he stooped and kissed Rosy.

"Go on. When did you come to a better understanding?"

"I don't think I recognised it until--I told mother, not a great while
ago, that I cared for nobody in the world but you; but that was
different; I meant something different; I do not think I recognised it
fully, until--you will think me very strange--until I saw--Evan
Knowlton."

"And then?" said Basil with a quick look at his wife. Diana's eyes were
dreamily going out of the window, and her lips wore the rare smile
which had vexed Evan, and which he himself had never seen on them
before that day.

"Then,--he ventured to remind me that--once--it was not true."

"What?" said Basil, laughing. "Your mother makes very confused
statements, Rosy?"

"He was mortified, I think, that I did not seem to feel more at seeing
him; and then he dared to remind me that I had married a man I did
not"--Diana left the word unspoken.

"And then?"

"Then I knew all of a sudden that he was mistaken; that if it had been
true once, it was true no longer. I told him so."

"Told him!" echoed her husband.

"I told him. He will make that mistake no more."

"Then, pray, why did you not tell the person most concerned?"

"I could not. I thought you must find it out of yourself."

"How did he take your communication?"

"Basil--human nature is a very strange thing! I think, do you know?--I
think he was sorry."

"Poor fellow!" said Basil.

"Can you understand it?"

"I am afraid I can."

"You may say 'poor fellow!'--but I was displeased with him. He had no
right to care; at least, to be anything but glad. It was wrong. He had
no _right_."

"No; but you have fought a fight, my child, which few fight and come
off with victory."

"It was not I, Basil," said Diana softly. "It was the power that bade
the sea be still. _I_ never could have conquered. Never."

"Let us thank Him!"

"And it was you that led me to trust in him, Basil. You told me, that
anything I trusted Christ to do for me, he would do it; and I saw how
you lived, and I believed first because you believed."

Basil was silent. His face was very grave and very sweet.

"I am rather disappointed in Evan," said Diana after a pause. "I shall
always feel an interest in him; but, do you know, Basil, he seems to me
_weak?_"

"I knew that a long while ago."

"I knew it two years ago--but I would not recognise it." Then leaving
her place she knelt down beside her husband and laid her head on his
breast. "O Basil,--if I can ever make up to you!"--

"Hush!" said he. "We will go and make things up to those millworkers in
Mainbridge."

There was a long pause, and then Diana spoke again; spoke slowly.

"Do you know, Basil, the millowners in Mainbridge seemed to me to want
something done for them, quite as much as the millworkers?"

"I make the charge of that over to you."

"Me!" said Diana.

"Why not?"

"What do you want me to do for them?"

"What do you think they need?"

"Basil, they do not seem to me to have the least idea--not an
_idea_--of what true religion is."

"They would be very much astonished to hear you say so."

"But is it not true?"

"You would find every wealthy community more or less like Mainbridge."

"Would I? That does not alter the case, Basil."

"No. Do you think things are different here in Pleasant Valley?"

Diana pondered. "I think they do not _seem_ the same," she said.
"People at least would not be shocked if you told them here what
Christian living is. And there are some who know it by experience."

"No doubt, so there are in the Mainbridge church, though it may be we
shall find them most among the poor people."

"But what is it you want me to do, Basil?"

"Show them what a life lived for Christ is. We will both show them; but
in my case people lay it off largely on the bond of my profession.
Then, when we have shown them for awhile what it is, we can speak of it
with some hope of being understood."



"Has anything special come to the Dominie?" Mrs. Starling asked that
evening, when after prayers the minister had gone to his study.

"Why, mother?"

"He seems to have a great deal of thanksgiving on his mind!"

"That's nothing very uncommon in him," said Diana, smiling.

"What's happened to _you?_" inquired her mother next, eyeing her
daughter with curious eyes.

"Why do you ask?"

"I don't do things commonly without a reason. When folks roll their
words out like butter, I like to know what's to pay."

"I cannot imagine what manner of speech that can be," said Diana,
amused.

"Well--it was your'n just now. And it was your husband's half an hour
ago."

"I suppose," said Diana, gravely now, "that when people feel happy, it
makes their speech flow smoothly."

"And you feel happy?" said Mrs. Starling with a look as sharp as an
arrow.

"Yes, mother. I do."

"What about?"

Diana hesitated, and then answered with a kind of sweet
solemnity,--"All earth, and all heaven."

Mrs. Starling was silenced for a minute.

"By 'all earth' I suppose you mean me to understand things in the
future?"

"And things in the past. Everything that ever happened to me, mother,
has turned out for good."

Mrs. Starling looked at her daughter, and saw that she meant it.

"The ways o' the world," she muttered scornfully, "are too queer for
anything!" But Diana let the imputation lie.



They went to Mainbridge. Not Mrs. Starling, but the others. And you may
think of them as happy, with both hands full of work. They live in a
house just a little bit out of the town, where there is plenty of
ground for gardens, and the air is not poisoned with smoke or vapour.
Roses and honeysuckles flourish as well here as in Pleasant Valley;
laburnums are here too, dropping fresh gold every year; and there are
banks of violets and beds of lilies, and in the spring-time crocuses
and primroses and hyacinths and snowdrops; and chrysanthemums and
asters, and all sorts of splendours and sweetnesses in the fall. For
even Diana's flowers are not for herself alone, nor even for her
children alone, whose special pleasure in connection with them is to
make nosegays for sick and poor people, and to cultivate garden plots
in order to have the more to give away. And not Diana's roses and
honeysuckles are sweeter than the fragrance of her life which goes
through all Mainbridge. Rich and poor look to that house as a point of
light and centre of strength; to the poor it is, besides, a treasury of
comfort. There is no telling the change that has been wrought already
in the place. It is as Basil meant it should be, and knew it would be.
It is as it always is; when the box is broken at Christ's feet, the
house is filled with the odour of the ointment.



THE END.



MURRAY AND GIBB, EDINBURGH,

PRINTERS TO HER MAJESTY'S STATIONERY OFFICE.



Typographical errors silently corrected:

Chapter 1: =take off slice= replaced by =take off a slice=

Chapter 1: =those biscuits too brown= replaced by =them biscuits too
brown=

Chapter 1: =Why has anybody= replaced by =Why, has anybody=

Chapter 1: =a rouser?= replaced by =a rouser!=

Chapter 1: =it 'ill take us= replaced by =it'll take us=

Chapter 1 =hev= replaced by =hev'=

Chapter 1: =I spect they're dreadful= replaced by =I s'pect they're
dreadful=

Chapter 2: =little meetins= replaced by =little meetin's=

Chapter 2: =and she looked like= replaced by ="and she looked like=

Chapter 2: ="Don't the minister= replaced by =Don't the minister=

Chapter 3: =strip of gold= replaced by =stripe of gold=

Chapter 7: =no sitting still= replaced by =no sittin' still=

Chapter 7: =Farmer Selden= replaced by =farmer Selden=

Chapter 11: =You see there are seldom= replaced by =You see, there are
seldom=

Chapter 14: =your place, Mrs. Reverdy= replaced by =your place, Mis'
Reverdy=

Chapter 14: =of fierce= replaced by =o' fierce=

Chapter 14: =of the pulpit= replaced by =o' the pulpit=

Chapter 14: =hev= replaced by =hev'=

Chapter 15: =grass leading= replaced by =grass, leading=

Chapter 15: =woman by nature= replaced by =woman, by nature=

Chapter 17: =why like a ripe= replaced by =why, like a ripe=

Chapter 17: =Scripter does= replaced by =Scripter doos=

Chapter 17: =hev= replaced by =hev'=

Chapter 18: =oursn's= replaced by =our'n's=

Chapter 20: =folk's houses= replaced by =folks' houses=

Chapter 22: =a preacher?'"= replaced by =a preacher'?"=

Chapter 24: =hev= replaced by =hev'=

Chapter 25: =could get too much= replaced by =could git too much=

Chapter 25: =hev= replaced by =hev'=

Chapter 25: =at folk's secrets= replaced by =at folks' secrets=

Chapter 25: =Wall, I don't know= replaced by =Wall, I don' know=

Chapter 34: =Who does, then= replaced by =Who doos, then=





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