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Title: A Speckled Bird
Author: Wilson, Augusta J. Evans
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 "A Speckled Bird" ***

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A SPECKLED BIRD

by

AUGUSTA EVANS WILSON

Author of "St. Elmo," "Vashti," "Infelice," "At the Mercy of Tiberius,"
etc.


    "As a speckled bird, the birds round about are against her."



G. W. Dillingham Company
Publishers New York

Copyright, 1902, by
G. W. Dillingham Company

A Speckled Bird.
Issued August, 1902.



                        To
                  MY KIND READERS
    KNOWN AND UNKNOWN, WHO HAVE DESIRED AND ASKED
      ME TO WRITE AGAIN, THESE PAGES ARE OFFERED
          IN GRATEFUL RECOGNITION OF VERY
              LOYAL FRIENDSHIP DURING
                    MANY YEARS



A SPECKLED BIRD



CHAPTER I


"Grandma, who named me Eglah?"

"My cousin, Bishop Vivian, when he baptized you."

"Do you think he had any right to put such a label on me?"

"Certainly, because your father selected your name, and the bishop had
no choice."

"It is so ugly, I never can like it, and a little baby that can't speak
her mind ought not to be tied to something she must drag all her life
and hate for ever and ever."

"Eat your breakfast, and try to be a good, quiet child, then your name
will not trouble you so much."

"I never shall like it, any more than you do, and you know, grandma,
when you call me your mouth twists like you had toothache."

"I was not consulted about your name. It belonged to your New England
Grandmother Kent, and as it appears you belong only to your father, you
were called after his mother. I heard him tell you it was the name of a
queen--one of David's wives."

"Yes, but I found out she was not the head queen--just a sort of
step-wife queen. Now if I could only be the pet queen, Sheba, I should
not fret at all."

"The Queen of Sheba was not David's wife."

"You are all wrong about your Bible, grandma, because you are only a
Methodist. David's Sheba was nicknamed Bath Sheba, for the reason that
he saw her going to her bath-house, and she looked so pretty. I saw her
picture in father's 'Piscopal Bible."

"There, there! Be quiet. Drink your milk."

Mrs. Maurice leaned back in her chair and sighed as she looked down at
the fragile child beside her. The tall, silver coffee urn showed in
repoussé on one side the flight of Europa, on the other Dirce dragged to
death. Eglah could never understand how the strands of the victim's hair
supported the weight of her form, and wondered why they did not give way
and set the prisoner free. To-day she eyed it askance, then surveyed her
own fair image reflected in the polished, smooth surface below the band
of figures.

"Grandma, don't you think horses are much nicer for ladies to ride than
oxen?"

"Yes, my dear."

"Then why did you buy ox riders?" one small finger pointed to the
heirloom fetich.

"I did not buy the urn. It has belonged to your Grandfather Maurice's
family for one hundred and fifty years, and was brought from Old
England. Eliza, take her away. If she cannot be silent, she must go back
and have her meals with you. It seems impossible to teach her that in
the presence of grown people children are expected to listen."

Mrs. Mitchell came forward from a side table, lifted the little girl
from her chair, and untied the ruffled bib that protected her white
dimity dress.

"Now tell grandmother you are sorry you annoyed her, and if she will let
you sit at her table you will be as quiet as she wishes."

"Ma-Lila, don't make me tell stories; she doesn't believe them, and I am
so tired saying things I don't mean. I want to go back to the side
table, where you are not always scolding me. Grandma, it will be
peacefuller if I stay with Ma-Lila----"

"Hush! Come here."

Mrs. Maurice lifted the little one's dimpled chin and studied the fair
face that had bloomed seven years in her lonely home: a winsome face cut
like a gem, velvety-brown eyes, long-lashed, and the pure, pale oval set
in a shining bronze frame of curling hair, all chestnut in shade,
braided with gold when sunshine hid among the ripples.

"Kent! Kent--even her ears small as any other rogue's. She is her
father's child."

"Is that a sin, grandma?"

Mrs. Maurice swiftly laid her hand over the uplifted, upbraiding eyes,
to veil something in their depths that often disquieted her, and sought
refuge in her habitual command:

"Take her away, Eliza."

Ringing the small bell close to the breakfast tray, the mistress took a
spray of starry jasmine from the vase in the centre of the table, and as
she turned away said to the grey-haired butler:

"Aaron, you will put a plate and chair for Miss Eglah at the side table
until further orders. Tell Oliver I shall not want the carriage until
four o'clock."

Unusually tall and very handsome was this stately widow of a Confederate
general who had been slain during one of the fierce conflicts around
beleaguered Richmond. No white hairs marred the glossy blackness of the
thick coil half hidden under a snowy crêpe cap, and the brilliant blue
eyes were undimmed by tearful years of widowhood--a widowhood involving
for her the full, sad significance of the sacred and melancholy term, an
inability to forget, a despair of any earthly consolation, and a jealous
reticence that denied all discussion of her sorrow, as she would have
defended her dead from an alien's rude touch. To her, time had brought
neither oblivion nor alleviation, only a sharpened sense of irreparable
bereavement; and as one standing in an unending and hopeless eclipse,
she accepted the gloom with a stern and silent rejection of all other
lights when the sun of her life went down.

Anniversaries are electric batteries that thrill the domain of emotions,
and one day out of every three hundred and sixty-five the strings of
memory are keyed to their utmost tension, vibrating with an intolerable
intensity that reddens the lips of old wounds and quickens dull aches to
stinging torture.

This memorial morning Mrs. Maurice crossed the wide, vaulted hall, and
passing through the long, pillared drawing-room, opened a locked door
and shut herself in a darkened chamber to keep tryst with the sacred
souvenirs that represented all she held dear. Raising the window, she
turned the blinds to allow sunlight entrance into this silent reliquary
filled with mementoes jealously guarded "in solemn salvatory": a heavy,
square bedstead with twisted columns that upheld a red-lined tester
whence embroidered draperies fell; a gilded swinging wicker crib, with
baby blankets, rose bordered; a velvet easy chair, where a gentleman's
quilted silk dressing-gown hung over the carved back, and his slippers
lay beneath; a table heaped with a child's toys, books, and
daguerreotypes of various sizes. On a leathern couch lay a folded
Confederate uniform, and a man's straw hat, cane, spurs, and riding whip
had been placed beside the faded grey coat. Over the old-fashioned, high
marble mantel hung a portrait of General Egbert Maurice, clad in
uniform, wearing three stars and a wreath on his collar, and holding his
plumed hat in his right hand. At one corner of the mantel a furled
Confederate flag leaned until it touched the frame of the picture, and
from the marble shelf, where lay the general's sash and sword, hung the
stained and torn guidon of his favorite regiment. On the wall opposite
the fireplace the portrait of a lovely girl with an apron full of roses
seemed to fill the room with radiance and color.

With a slow, caressing movement, Mrs. Maurice's slim white hand passed
over the front of the smoking-gown, and fastened in a button hole the
spray of fragrant, satin-starred jasmine; then, lifting the faded grey
coat, she held it to her heart in a tight, straining clasp, as she
seated herself on the couch, and her fingers lingered on tarnished gilt
buttons and braid. Inside the uniform was pinned a parcel wrapped in
tissue paper, from which she shook out a mass of yellowed lace, and as
the filmy folds of an infant's christening robe swept across her lap, a
subtle perfume of withered flowers like the breath of a rose jar stole
over the room.

With dry eyes she looked long at one portrait, then at the other: the
husband of her youth and the only child that had come as crowning
blessing to a happy married life where no dissensions muttered, no
discordant clash jarred the perfect harmony. As the dead years babbled,
she listened now to echoes of manly tones, and now to a baby's prattling
lisp, still dividing as of yore her heart's homage. When war robbed her
of the husband who had never ceased to be tender lover, her only hold on
life centred in their beautiful daughter Marcia, and the struggle to
guard her and defend from confiscation and ruin the fine landed estate
and large fortune left by General Maurice had served, in some degree, to
lessen the tendency to morbid brooding.

To the truly typical Southern woman who survived the loss of family
idols and of her country's freedom, for which she had surrendered them,
"reconstruction," political and social, was no more possible than the
physical resurrection and return of slain thousands lying in Confederate
graves all over the trampled and ruined South.

No mourning Southern matron indulged more intensely an inexorable,
passionate hatred of Northern invaders than did Mrs. Maurice, who
refused to accept the inevitable, and shut her doors against agents of
"union and reconstruction" as promptly as she would have barred out
leprosy or smallpox.

Proud of the social prestige with which her Brahmin birth and stainless
family record had dowered her, she wielded her influence in
uncompromising hostility to all who advocated a tacit acceptance of the
new conditions called "peace." The loss of negroes that abandoned
several plantations would have materially impaired the Maurice fortune,
had not the prevision of the general's commission merchant in a distant
seaport induced the precautionary course of sending a portion of his
crop of cotton to Liverpool early in the first year of the war, thus
securing a large amount of treasure under the British flag, where (as
the cotton factor wrote Mrs. Maurice a few years later) "'Union' thieves
could not steal, nor 'reconstruction' moths and rust feed upon it." Out
of the wreckage that succeeded the final catastrophe at Appomattox the
family fortune of General Maurice emerged triumphant in proportions, and
the minority of Marcia was a bulwark that defied successfully the
numerous assaults of "loyal confiscators."

Sooner or later the _diabolus ex machina_ confronts us all, and pierces
at the one spot least guarded because deemed invulnerable. Mrs.
Maurice's maternal pride was built on the shifting sands of girlish
impulse and flattered vanity, and the crash showed her that somewhere at
the cross roads she had failed to offer a black lamb in propitiating
evil divinities--had left no morsel of meat for the sleuth-hounds of
baleful destiny that suddenly bayed destruction to the last earthly hope
life held for her. Reared in the semi-cloistral seclusion of a Southern
girl's education in ante-bellum days, trained at home by governesses,
and barred from society until she should have made the European tour for
which her mother had fixed an early date, predestined Marcia went to her
doom when at the house of a friend she met accidentally the recently
appointed Federal judge, Allison Kent--handsome, courtly, debonair, and
wily.

Clandestine courtships rarely lag; hence this lover of forty years,
dreading discovery and the prompt removal of an infatuated girl only
seventeen on her last birthday, kept the mother in complete ignorance of
impending calamity until the night before her departure for Europe, when
Marcia fled with him to an adjoining State, where a justice of the peace
made them man and wife.

In accordance with life-long custom, Mrs. Maurice went to her child's
bedroom to kiss her good night, and on the pillow found a farewell note,
praying for forgiveness, and promising to meet her at a town on the line
of her journey. How the mother bore this shock only God knew; no eye but
His watched during that long night, when her soul went down into a
Gehenna of torture--when, alone in her crucifixion, she accepted defeat,
and girded herself for grim endurance. As day dawned she unlocked her
door, and summoning her servants, said:

"Miss Marcia has left me to marry a man who cannot enter my house. Take
this note to Mr. Whitfield's residence at once; not to his office, to
his house. Minerva, you will finish packing Miss Marcia's trunk, which
must be sent to her. I shall make no change in my plans, except to take
the noon train instead of the one at midnight. Ask me no questions. Send
Mitchell and Eliza to me."

When her attorney, Mr. Whitfield, appalled by the stony white face that
showed no hint of tears, no more trace of grief than the marble figure
that supported the mantel at her side, essayed a few words of sympathy,
she put out her hands with an imperious gesture.

"There is no comfort possible, and I need your help only in writing a
new will. I start to New York at noon, so you have little time."

A few hours later, having seen only her pastor and her lawyer, she left
her rifled home by a route that enabled her to avoid the town designated
as a place of meeting. Across the girl's farewell letter, which was
returned to "Marcia Maurice," she had written: "My only hope is that God
will take me out of this world before I see again the face of the child
who has disgraced the memory of her father and the name of her mother."

Eighteen months had been spent in Europe, whence she was most
reluctantly recalled by the death of Robert Mitchell, the overseer and
business manager of one of her plantations, who was killed by the
explosion of a mill engine. His young widow, Eliza, had been sheltered
and guarded in Mrs. Maurice's home when orphaned by the death of her
father, a Methodist chaplain attached to General Maurice's command, and
the intimacy of years was marked by unfailing kindness and confidence on
the part of the benefactress, by profound affection and ardent gratitude
on that of the destitute girl. The peculiarly harrowing circumstances
attending her husband's loss had so severely shocked Eliza that Mrs.
Maurice promptly removed her from the "overseer's cottage" to her own
house, where she was nursed tenderly and skilfully in the room that
before her marriage she had so long called her home. Loving Marcia very
warmly, she had attempted to intercede with the indignant mother, and
one of her letters had enclosed an appeal from the erring daughter. It
was returned unopened, and accompanied by a very positive assurance that
any future repetition would not be forgiven. Old friends gathered to
greet the returned traveller, yet all intuitively avoided allusion to
the domestic cancer that, despite her proud, silent composure, was
eating the heart barred against sympathy. She learned from the
newspapers that under the new Federal régime Judge Kent was temporarily
Senator, and that after a season in Washington he and Marcia were living
at a hotel in her own neighboring city; but as the latter had followed
her husband into the Episcopal Church, no meeting occurred between
parent and child. So complete was the estrangement, and so
unapproachable the stern, silent attitude of the mother, that when Dr.
Eggleston, the family physician, and Bishop Vivian, the favorite cousin,
called early one morning on an urgent errand, both realized that they
championed a forlorn and desperate cause in battling with this old
lioness robbed of her young.

Instinctively she divined their mission as her eyes fell upon a letter
lying on the bishop's knee, and her lips narrowed and tightened.
Standing on the hearth with her arms folded, she listened quietly to her
cousin's impassioned pleading for forgiveness and to the doctor's
distressing presentation of Marcia's alarming condition, which he felt
constrained to pronounce hopeless.

"Madam, if you deny her dying prayer, remorse will drive you to
despair."

"She has been dead to me since the hour she deliberately deceived and
forsook me. Kent's wife ceased to be my child when she insulted,
disgraced, her father's name."

"Oh, Patricia, how can you hope or claim God's mercy for yourself if you
refuse pardon to your repentant and unhappy daughter?"

A spark leaped into the cold clear eyes.

"For mercy I think I shall never need to plead, and when my God grants
me justice I will try to be satisfied."

"Will you not at least read the few lines the poor child wrote while we
held her hand and guided the pen? Oh, cousin, if you could see her now!"
The bishop held out the letter.

"Because you are the bearer I cannot refuse you that courtesy."

She walked to the window and, holding the curtain aside, read the brief
petition:

     "My Own Mother:

     "Let me come home to die. It will not be so hard if I can look
     into your face once more, and know that your dear hand will
     close my eyes as I go down into my grave. I shall see father
     soon, and if he could come now to my help, you know he would
     take me in his arms and lay me in my mother's lap. Be merciful
     to your poor, dying

     "MARCIA."

Leaning eagerly forward, the two grey-haired men watched and listened
for some relenting token; but after a few moments she turned toward a
desk, and with no change in the frozen calm of her handsome face, she
merely traced a word at the bottom of the page, handed it to the bishop,
and left the room. "Come."

That night a cold waxen image of a boy whose soul refused to enter its
clay tabernacle was laid for a moment in Eliza Mitchell's arms, to be
kissed as only young mothers can kiss their dead first-born. The
following day the hospital ambulance brought back on a stretcher the wan
form of the erring daughter, who fainted from exhaustion as the bearers
carried her into the home of her fathers. Three days later she died in
her mother's arms, whispering with icy lips: "If my baby lives, keep her
for my sake--for my sake."

So little Eglah Kent was given, when three hours old, to the care of the
young foster-mother Eliza, and slept upon the heart that mourned for the
lost baby boy. Since then seven years had passed, and to-day, as Mrs.
Maurice caressed Marcia's lace christening robe, she put aside all that
pertained to the girl's disobedience and elopement, and memory dwelt
only upon the sunny time when her husband and daughter made home a
heaven. Into the quiet room crept the whine of a dog scratching at the
door. As she opened it, a feeble brown creature crossed the floor,
crouched before the hearth, and, raising soft, tender eyes to the
portrait of the general, barked once and beat the carpet with his tail,
as if in salute; her husband's favorite pointer Hector, failing fast,
but loyal and true as the heart of his widow.



CHAPTER II


Sharing in some degree that infallible instinct whereby lower animals
interpret the character of their owners, young children are often as
wise and wary as dogs and cats, and before Eglah could walk without
clinging to Eliza's finger, she knew intuitively that her silent,
watchful grandmother eyed her suspiciously, and that warm caresses could
be expected only from her father and her young foster-mother. Profound
and regretful compassion rather than tenderness filled Mrs. Maurice's
heart, and she faithfully ministered to the infant's needs, as she would
have pityingly warmed and fed some bleating lamb bereft of its dam by
March snows. Since the little girl showed, except in form, no faintest
trace of Maurice blood, her grandmother regarded her most
sorrowfully--not as Marcia's baby, but as the living monument of a cruel
and unpardonable injury inflicted by Judge Kent. Even in the cradle
Eglah defied an authority supreme in the household.

"You must not say Lila, but Mama-Eliza."

"I won't! It hurths my tongue to say Elitha. I will say Ma-Lila."

The child's inherent antagonism made her a vexing embodiment of protest,
an obstinate interrogation point punctuating the commands of this
old-fashioned lady whose domestic canons belonged to an era when boys
and girls were not considered "servile" because trained to answer their
elders "No, sir," or "Yes, ma'am," and when after a meal in the sunset
glow young human broods followed feathered folk to an early rest before
stars spangled the sky. If among General Maurice's choice collection of
thoroughbred game fowls, with yellow legs and bronze breasts, had
appeared an uncouth mongrel pullet, dust-colored and blue of skin, his
exacting widow would not have rejected it more summarily than did her
proud soul repudiate the Kent scion whom she housed luxuriously because
of Marcia's last prayer, but felt no more desire to caress than to
fondle the bullet that slew her husband.

Judge Kent's official duties called him often from the city, and during
his visits to his child Mrs. Maurice, if compelled to see him,
maintained the reticent, frigid courtesy with which she had received him
when he first crossed her threshold bearing his unconscious wife. He had
never touched the slender white fingers that pointed to the staircase
that day, and while she allowed herself no verbal expression of
animosity, he was humiliated by the consciousness of her intense
detestation. As Southern hostess in a typical Southern home, she fully
realized _noblesse oblige_, and her punctilious observance of the
etiquette of hospitality accentuated the position she assigned him--that
of stranger within her gates. He had hoped the baby might bridge the
chasm, but when he ventured to dwell upon his unwillingness to deprive
Mrs. Maurice of this "sweet source of solace," she promptly dispelled
his illusion.

"Make no mistake, Judge Kent. You leave the poor child here, and I
retain her simply because her mother so requested."

Desiring to minimize sources of future contention, she had directed Mr.
Whitfield to acquaint him with her will, whereby the entire estate would
pass at her death into the hands of certain trustees, who, after
providing a liberal annuity for Eglah and Eliza, should control
absolutely all interests until Eglah was twenty-one years old, when a
legacy of five thousand dollars would be paid to Eliza. Should the
little girl be removed from the care of her foster-mother, the annuity
of the former ceased, and half of the value of the estate should be
deducted from her inheritance; and if Eglah died before marriage, the
homestead was bequeathed to childless Confederate widows of that State,
as an Egbert Maurice memorial. Since General Maurice's last testament
had left his fortune unconditionally to his wife, there was no appeal
from her decision, and Judge Kent bore the keen disappointment with such
semblance of acquiescence as he could summon, striving to veil his
hatred of the woman whose contempt lay beneath her studied courtesy like
an iron wall under a sheet of ice. An adroit and tireless schemer, he
usually steered safely in the troubled political sea, and only once, in
an unguarded moment, dared the current of Mrs. Maurice's convictions.

"If the people of the South could only reason from the analogy of
history----"

He was silenced by the hand thrown up, palm outward.

"We have only the privilege of suffering and remembering. The grim
analogy of Sicily under Verres suggests a rather painful parallel. For
us there remains solely the grace of silence; and it were well if you,
sir, could set me an example, when numbered among guests under my roof."

The voice was low, clear, steady, but the narrow lip arched, and the
light in her blue eyes reminded him of the violet flame one sees flash
up over a bed of hot anthracite.

Eglah was five years old when her father was called to Washington, and
thence sent to Europe on a government mission, which he so successfully
accomplished that on his return the governor of his native State
appointed him senator to fill an unexpired term. Having proved a useful
servant of the Administration, official influence secured his election
and return to the United States' Senate two years later, and Mrs.
Maurice welcomed any change that removed him from her neighborhood. His
rare visits were festivals to his little daughter, and she revelled in
the wealth of caresses, the endearing words, the prodigality of gifts
that always characterized his brief sojourns. Thus were laid the
foundations of an intense and absorbing devotion to her father that
gradually became the dominant factor in her life.

"Nutwood"--the three-storied red brick house crowning an eminence shaded
by walnut and chestnut trees--had been built in 1825 by General
Maurice's father, and its pillared piazza running along three sides
overlooked the city of Y----, two miles distant, where spires and
factory chimneys lifted their lines against mellow western skies. On the
first and second floors of the old mansion wide halls crossed at right
angles, admitting breezes from every point of the compass, and so
unusually thick were the walls that the nearly square windows framed in
cedar furnished comfortable lounging seats. For many years this place
had been famous throughout the State for its race-horses, game chickens,
pointers, fox-hounds, and fine library, and the hospitality dispensed
was peculiar to an era characterized by conditions that the Civil War
annihilated. No invading army had reached the city of Y----, but raiding
cavalry squads once completely sacked the Maurice plantations many miles
distant in the river valley, and burned not only the empty gin house,
but the commodious family residence often occupied in autumn. Prior to
her departure for Europe Mrs. Maurice had rebuilt gin and warehouses,
and erected a pretty four-room cottage comfortably furnished, which,
with fifty acres of adjoining land, she gave as dower to Eliza when she
married the faithful overseer and manager of the "Bend Plantations."

One sultry spring morning in Eglah's ninth year, she sat with Eliza in
the "out-door schoolroom" where lessons were studied in warm weather. It
was a cool retreat--a circular, latticed summer-house--overrun by yellow
woodbine, honeysuckle, and a pink multiflora rose, all in full bloom,
busy distilling perfume their satin lips offered in libation to the
lazily wandering wind that caressed them. The pointed roof was rain
proof, the floor tiled, and between the arched openings seats were
fastened to the lattice wall. From the round table in the centre lovely
views of shrubbery, lily-starred lawn, far-off grain fields, green
pasture lands where cattle browsed, seemed set in frames of leafage and
tendril that ran riot around the archways. A walk bordered with lilacs
and azaleas led to the door of the conservatory, which flanked the long
drawing-room; stretching beyond, one could see the wide front of the
house, where no balustrade broke the line of white columns rising to the
crenellated flat roof. Eglah sat with a geography lying open before her
on the table, and her head supported by arms resting on the map, but
once she turned a leaf, and the wind fluttered a letter many weeks old
from her father.

"Are you ready to answer the map questions?"

"No, Ma-Lila. Why must I always answer other people's questions, when
nobody answers mine? I will say my lesson when you tell me what
'scallawag' and 'carpet-bagger' mean."

"They are ugly slang words, and if I were you I should try to forget I
ever heard them. Little girls have nothing to do with politics, and you
have not told me of whom the Graham children were speaking at the
party."

"Never mind about names. I looked in the dictionary, but could not find
'scallawag.' I know it means something horrid and vulgar and hateful,
and I never will go to another party."

Eliza's reply was drowned by the scream of "King Herod"--a lordly
peacock that had earned the title from his slaughter of young turkeys
and chickens in the poultry yard. Now he trailed his feathers across the
walk, came up to the summer-house, and uttered his piercing cry in quick
succession.

"Something is going to happen. Uncle Aaron says it is a bad sign when
Herod squalls at a door."

"Something happened a while ago, when a man rode up the avenue and tied
his horse. Now he is leaving the steps, and Herod knows he is a
stranger. You must not listen to superstitious foolishness from
negroes," said Eliza, with a fine scorn of all but her own peculiar pet
superstition, kept closely guarded in her heart.

Eglah shut the geography, propped her chin on her palms as her elbows
rested on the table, and watched the beautiful bird preen his feathers.

"Ma-Lila, how old must I be before you will be ready to tell me why
grandmother hates my father so?"

"Dearie, she does not 'hate' him, and you ought to try not to----"

"Don't tell stories, Ma-Lila, because I want always to believe
everything you say--and--there! Listen to grandma's bell. Three rings;
that is for you."

Eliza laid in her work basket the embroidered cambric ruffle she was
hemming and, throwing her white apron over her head, went swiftly to the
house.

Mrs. Maurice sat in the drawing-room, with two newspapers unfolded on
her lap, but whether their contents annoyed or gratified her, the cold,
quiet face gave no indication.

"Is Eglah ready to come and recite her lessons?"

"Not yet, madam."

"Put away her books; she will be excused from lessons to-day. Judge Kent
has married again in Washington, and these papers furnish detailed
accounts of the brilliant wedding reception. He has swallowed the gold
bait of a widow he met in Europe. She is reputed rich, of course--a Mrs.
Nina Herriott--and the bridal pair will go to England for the summer."

"Our poor baby! This news will break her heart," replied the
foster-mother, whose eyes had filled with tears at thought of the
child's suffering.

"Yes, she will grieve sorely, but better now than later in life. I have
been pondering the best way to break the news to her."

"Let me tell her. I think I understand her disposition more thoroughly
than anyone else."

"You fancy I do not comprehend my own granddaughter?"

"I beg your pardon, dear Mrs. Maurice. I mean only that I have watched
all her little ways, and she feels less restraint with me than with you;
but of course you must choose your own way in this matter."

"For us, this marriage is fortunate, and I rejoice at every circumstance
that heightens the barrier between Judge Kent and me. He will never dare
to disturb the child while I live, and brides are not importunate for
the custody of step-children. Eliza, I never felt until to-day that
Eglah is really Marcia's baby. She is a thousand times dearer to me now
than ever before."

"Dear madam, I thank God for anything that will make you open your heart
and take the precious child in. In many ways she needs tenderness from
you, and especially since the children's parties she has attended
recently, where rude things were said about her father. She has not told
me all, but you know the damaging rumors about some of his decisions
while Federal Judge in our State, and the Graham children, whose
interests suffered through him, speak very bitterly of his career. Eglah
has asked me many questions lately, which I always evaded, but she
broods over this matter and is resentful."

"Poor little thing! Her father has lived on sour grapes so long, her
teeth must inevitably be on edge. Henceforth she belongs to me."

"She is absolutely devoted to him, and it is distressing to know how her
very heartstrings are tied around him. It amounts to idolatry."

"Yes, I realize that, and it will be a sad day for her when the glamour
fades and she sees the ugly, deformed clay feet of her idol."

"It would break her heart."

"No. We both know sorrow does not destroy, and death is deaf to calls
from crushed hearts. She will simply find herself chained to a galling
sense of shame. These papers were brought this morning by a young man
who impressed me as a thoroughbred gentleman--Mr. Noel Herriott, son of
Mrs. Kent's first husband. He spoke kindly of his stepmother, and
explained that, as he was passing through Y---- on his way west, Judge
Kent had given him a card of introduction to me, and requested him to
see Eglah, for whom he brought the package yonder on the window sill. I
knew the poor child would be distressed at the news, and thought it best
she should have time to recover from the shock before seeing him. He
continues his journey by the midnight train, and I have invited him to
return and take tea here, when Eglah can be introduced to him. Eliza,
perhaps you are right; certainly you are more nearly her mother than any
living being, and you will tenderly break the news to her. Carry the
papers and the parcel and make her understand. After a while I wish to
come out and join you."

In shaking and furling his rainbow train King Herod had shed a long
feather. Eglah picked it up, and finding a knife in the work basket
proceeded to sharpen the end into a pen, with which she purposed writing
to her father. As Eliza entered and placed the papers on the table, the
little girl looked up.

"Oh, Ma-Lila, you are crying! What is it? Not bad news from father?"

"My baby, your father is well and has sent you a present. Come to me,
darling; I want to talk to you." She drew her to her lap and held her
close.

"We know, of course, your father dearly loves his daughter, but he is
often very lonely, and as he cannot have you with him, what would you
think if you heard he had married a lady who would be kind and good to
him? Don't you----"

"I know that would be a lie--a wicked lie! Why do you say such horrible
things and hurt me so?" She threw off the clasping arm and sprang to the
floor, stamping the tiles with her right foot.

"My precious baby, I would not hurt you for a million of dollars! You
know your Lila loves you better than everything else in the world. I
would rather hold my hand in the fire than tell you a painful thing if
it could be helped. But somebody must speak the truth to you."

She knelt down by the indignant child and kissed her hot cheek twice.

"My darling, it is true--positively true--that your father was married
some days ago. Now, you must not struggle to get away from me. Listen,
and let me explain it all."

"Don't! I won't listen. I can't--wait--wait--" She went to the seat
along the wall and threw herself face downward, crossing her arms over
her head. She lay so still that a quarter of an hour later Eliza sat
down beside her, and while her hand softly stroked the brown curls, she
read slowly the description of church wedding and subsequent reception.

"My darling, you love your father so well you want him to be happy,
and----"

"No, not with another wife, and away from me. I would rather he was
dead--for then nobody else could claim him. Two wives! It is like having
two Gods."

Taking the papers, she read the marked paragraphs, and though neither
sob nor tear betrayed the intensity of her sorrow, one little hand
caught at her throat, where a stricture seemed to stifle her.

"You must try to bear this trouble patiently."

"I can't. I would not bear it at all, if I could help myself. Now I am
an orphan! An orphan!"

"Not while I live to love you. Look at this parcel, your father's
present."

Eliza unwrapped the paper and took out an oblong gilded box, to which
was fastened a card: "For our dear little daughter Eglah, with love of
her father and mother." The child glanced at the handwriting and her
eyes seemed almost to take fire. She snatched the box and threw it to
the floor.

"It is not mine; I have no father and no mother. I have only Ma-Lila
left!"

She buried her face in Eliza's lap, and hoping a burst of tears would
relieve the strain, the nurse silently caressed her, waiting for the
storm to break; but save the trembling of the figure no sign was given.
After a while, Eliza whispered,

"Grandmother is coming down the walk."

Eglah started up as if electrified, and lifted the box from the floor,
holding it against her breast. Leaning on her cane, Mrs. Maurice came to
the table, sat down, and opened her arms.

"My dear child, come here."

Not an inch stirred Eglah, and Eliza gently forced her forward within
reach of the extended arms. Mrs. Maurice leaned down to kiss her, but
she turned her head away.

"My poor little girl, don't you know I love you?"

"Oh, no, grandma; you never did love me, and you never will."

"But I do, dear child. Kiss me."

"I don't want to kiss you any more than you want to kiss me. I
understand exactly how you feel. You are sorry for me because you think
father has treated me badly in getting married. But, grandmother, you
need not pity me now, for I must make you understand that _my father
always is right_. No matter what he may do, he has good reasons, and if
I am satisfied nobody else can complain. I shall always know father is
right."

The dry, white face was lifted proudly, and the challenging eyes met her
grandmother's steadily, but the childish lips trembled and the hand
clutched spasmodically at her throat.

A gush of genuine tenderness warmed the old lady's heart as she took the
quivering fingers, spread them on her own palm, and touched the girl's
forehead with her lips.

"'Loyal and true'--that is the Maurice motto. 'Though He slay me, yet
will I trust Him!' To-day we will have no lessons, and this evening
Eliza shall dress you especially to meet the gentleman, Mr. Herriott,
whom your father wishes you to know. Eliza, see that she has a warm
bath, and put some orange flower water in her glass of lemonade."

In after years Noel Herriott often recalled that afternoon spent at
Nutwood. The inimitable courtesy of the handsome stately hostess, the
sweet countenance of the widowed foster-mother--whose anxious, tender
gaze rarely left the white-clad child--the grave negro butler, wearing
linen apron that matched his grey head, and the spacious old
cedar-wainscotted dining-room where, on bare, polished mahogany table,
the light of wax candles was reflected in silver dishes and candelabra,
and glittered from heavy, antique-shaped, cut-glass bowls, while golden
honeycomb and ripe strawberries mixed their fragrance with the breath of
crimson carnations heaped in a Sèvres china centrepiece that once graced
banquets at Trianon. Most vivid of all impressions, he retained the
imperishable image of a beautiful girl, with singularly white cheeks and
lustrous, shy eyes, glowing unnaturally from her fierce struggle for
composure--a proud, sensitive face whose exquisite lines suggested rare
old cameos behind cabinet glass.

Though the guest was a very young man, his quiet manner and perfect ease
indicated thorough acquaintance with the most refined society, and
despite her sectional prejudice Mrs. Maurice yielded to the charm of an
unusually handsome personality and a conversation marred by no trace of
egotism. The crocus light of after-glow still tinged the west, where the
sickle of a new moon swung, when the visitor rose to depart.

"Miss Eglah, when I come back from New Mexico and Arizona, shall I bring
you a Zuñi pickaninny or a Moqui pony?"

She shook her head.

"Since your father has stolen my stepmother, do you not think you might
persuade yourself to accept me as a sort of half cousin or
hemi-demi-semi-stepbrother, or any kind of a relative you may choose? I
am quite alone in the world, and you are just the sister I should like
to claim as my hermanita. May I?"

"Thank you, sir, I would rather not. I want only my father."

He bowed, and lifting her dainty little hand brushed it with his
mustache.

"Mrs. Maurice, in saying good-bye, I must thank you cordially for the
privilege of spending several hours in your lovely home, which
illustrates all I have read of charming Southern life, and realizes
completely my ideal picture of what your sunny land must have been in
former years."

"Good-bye, Mr. Herriott. I wish you a pleasant journey. Nutwood is a
mere shadow of old and happier days. Ichabod is printed all over the
ruined South, and we live only to guard our graves."



CHAPTER III


The quiet, systematic routine of life at Nutwood was by no means
cloistral in its seclusion, and though the term "house-party" had not
yet taken root south of the Potomac, guests from various parts of the
State frequently spent a week with Mrs. Maurice, and were entertained at
dinners, luncheons, and teas with the lavish hospitality traditional in
the family. Accustomed early to meeting strangers, Eglah was neither
bashful nor awkward, but she understood fully that her father was
unpopular in the social world around her, and she deeply resented an
antipathy which, though never discussed in her presence, she felt it
impossible to forgive or remove. The explanatory assistance of Minerva,
daughter of the cook, had enabled her to comprehend all the unpleasant
significance of "scallawag" and "carpet-bagger," and with the fervor of
indignant loyalty she promptly espoused whatever cause her father was
reputed to represent. Alert and _en garde_, she expected attacks, felt
eager to retaliate, and consequently was often stung by the young people
of her circle with whom she was no favorite. For many months after Judge
Kent's second marriage, Mrs. Maurice yielded to a new and yearning
tenderness toward her grandchild, whom she heartily pitied, but the
overtures came too late; the plastic season had passed, the angles had
stiffened, the childish heart had hardened hopelessly, and caresses that
formerly might have won her love were received in cold, irresponsive
passiveness.

Once she had gone under Eliza's care to spend Christmas in Washington,
and though the pretty, gay, good-natured stepmother laid siege to the
girl's heart and fondled and pampered her, Mrs. Kent knew from the
defiant gleam in her watchful, jealous eyes that the daughter would
never tolerate a usurper who sat on her own mother's throne and divided
her father's affections.

During the following year, Mrs. Maurice was prostrated by an attack of
pneumonia that resulted in heart weakness, from which she never fully
rallied. The reins of household government slipped easily into Eliza's
hands, and that reticent, faithful young woman proved worthy of the
confidence so long reposed in her by her benefactress.

The last link in the chain of daily duties to which the invalid clung
was her habit of listening to Eglah's recitations from text-books, but
the hour came when she reluctantly laid down the self-imposed task.

"My dear, in future say your lessons to Eliza. I find I am not strong
enough to be patient, and without perfect patience no one should attempt
to teach. Go now and practise your piano exercises; it will not disturb
me in the least."

She took into her own cold, beautifully shaped hand Eglah's slender,
warm fingers, looked at them critically, and smiled as she drew them
tenderly across her cheek.

"Kiss me, little one. Try always to obey Eliza, for she will never fail
you when you need comfort, and in all this world nobody loves you as she
does. Send her to me."

When the nurse came in and seated herself, darning gourd in hand, Mrs.
Maurice was glancing over a blank book used for memoranda.


"Eliza, here are some instructions you must follow faithfully when I am
gone. I have written them carefully, so that you cannot misunderstand. I
leave nothing to your discretion, not because your judgment is
defective, but simply for the reason that I desire my wishes executed
exactly. It is an absolute condition of my will that you should have the
personal care of Eglah until she marries. If she should be sent to a
new-fangled college (one of her father's Yankee fads), you will board in
sight of her; when she travels, you go with her. Nothing but her death,
or marriage, shall separate you, and with this provision I can safely
leave her. Egbert and Marcia will understand I have done what was
possible for the poor baby. Proud little thing! she will be tortured
indeed if ever the time comes when she feels ashamed of her father--and
wily though he is, her eyes are keen. She is all Kent in appearance,
except her hands and feet; they are dainty, beautiful, patrician,
genuinely Maurice like my Marcia's."

She laid the book on Eliza's lap, motioned her away, and, turning her
head aside, closed her eyes.

With the ebbing of summer tide her pulse waned slowly but steadily, like
a star going down to the gates of the west. Leaning heavily on her
husband's cane, followed by the aged pointer, the tall, wasted figure
went to and fro through the old house, as one having packed and waiting
for departure looks to see if aught has been forgotten; and over the
pallid face with its cloud of black hair an exultant smile sometimes
shone, as she realized how soon she should reclaim her treasures in the
beckoning Beyond. It was an August night when the pilot's signal came,
and swiftly and gladly she "crossed the bar." Eliza was aroused from a
sound sleep by Eglah, who shook her.

"Ma-Lila, I am so frightened! I heard grandma call out 'Egbert!'
'Marcia!' Something had already waked me suddenly."

"Oh, dearie, you were only dreaming."

She sprang up and lighted a candle, but the girl clung to her.

"No, it was not a dream. I heard it clear and loud like a quick cry. I
was so scared I waited a while, and then I went to her room--but she is
not there! I could see the bed was empty, because Dinah had left the
night lamp burning in the passage. What can it mean?"

"Grandmother is often restless, and goes out on the colonnade, where the
fresh air relieves her oppressed breathing. No doubt she is there now.
Baby, do not tremble so."

Clutching Eliza's nightgown, Eglah followed her to the sick room, which
was unoccupied, and waking Dinah, who slept on a cot in the hall, they
searched the entire length of the piazza, the foster-mother shielding
the light with her hand. Turning to re-enter the house, they were
startled by the howl of a dog, answered instantly by a scream from
Herod, roosting on one of the arched chimney tops. Eglah was so
terrified she threw her arms around Eliza, thereby dashing the candle
from her trembling hand.

"She must be in the general's room, and old Hector is there also."

Swiftly they crossed the halls, and found a light shining through the
partly open door of the memorial chamber. A candle burned low under the
portrait over the mantel, and Hector, with his head thrown back against
his mistress's knee, howled feebly. She sat in her husband's easy chair,
her head pillowed on his dressing gown, where a fresh Cape jasmine
gleamed, and over her lap flowed the yellowed lace of Marcia's
christening robe, half hiding the baby shoes of white kid. She had laid
one hand on the Confederate uniform folded on the couch beside her
chair, and about the long, white fingers of the other were wrapped
strands of vivid red seed-coral--the necklace and bracelets of her only
child. Stern lines and shadows of sorrow had faded forever from the
frozen face, where eternal peace set its blessed seal, and in the wide
eyes fixed on her husband's portrait was the rapt expression that comes
only with the lifting of the veil as the soul drifts through its windows
of flesh. The icy shiver that runs across the world when day dawns grew
into a windy gust from the west, extinguishing the fluttering candle
flame and blowing the lace curtains out eastward like white sails
bearing away the happy spirit to crystal seas. At the edge of the sky,
where the morning star burned, a thread of orange glowed in the soft
pearl grey of the new day, and only the crowing of the game cocks from
their cedar thicket broke the silence that death consecrates.



CHAPTER IV


Were it possible to probe the recesses of cerebration by some
psychological process as searching as the Roentgen ray, many strange
beliefs would be dragged from secret chambers sedulously guarded, where
mental fetiches are worshipped. Those who knew Eliza Mitchell well
considered her a very pretty, dignified, reticent young widow, who won
respect by her adherence to mourning garments--never laid aside after
her husband's death; but her rigid observance of the strictest phase of
Methodist discipline presented a certain austerity of character that
appeared to rebuke quietly even the members of her own denomination who
indulged in "the putting on of gold and costly apparel, and taking such
diversions" as aforetime were considered appanages of the "flesh and the
devil."

Keenly observant and silently contemplative, she had grown shrewd as a
judge of character, and laid the tribute of her confidence at the feet
of few; yet this little woman, eminently practical and rigidly orthodox
in the faith of her father, had surrendered to one belief that dominated
heart, soul, and mind--that ruled her absolutely, and that she jealously
guarded from all but her God. Her most intense and precious conviction
was that the soul created and intended for her baby boy, who never
breathed, had been assigned to the body of Marcia's infant girl born a
little later. She was assured that her child had never known life on
earth, and had been in his coffin but a few hours when Eglah first
opened her eyes. Souls never die. What of the soulless still-born? Would
God deny any Christian mother reunion with her innocent baby in the
world of spirits? From the hour that Marcia's wailing child was laid on
Eliza's bosom she accepted it as an incarnation of the soul of little
Elliot, adrift in space but housed at last in the form committed to her
fostering care. Whether this phantasmal belief sprang from feverish
conditions under which she first felt the baby's warm lips at her
breast, Eliza never questioned; and as the years passed the conviction
strengthened, until she easily explained all Eglah's waywardness by the
hypothesis that a boy's soul fretted under the limitations of a girl's
body. Ignorant of the complex elements that fed her devotion to the
child, even Mrs. Maurice could not fully understand her idolatrous
fondness, her perfect and marvellous patience that condoned all errors,
and only Eglah could have told how often she was fondled as "my Elliot"
when cradle songs were crooned in the sanctuary of the nursery.
Notwithstanding Mrs. Mitchell was zealous in missionary work, and when
she read her reports as treasurer of the "Hindustan" fund, she dwelt
feelingly on the benighted superstition that worshipped idols and
believed in transmigration of soul.

After Mrs. Maurice's death, Mr. Whitfield as administrator closed
Nutwood, leaving Aaron and his daughter Celia custodians, and Eglah and
Eliza went to Washington, where two small rooms were selected for their
occupancy in the fashionable "apartments" leased by Senator Kent. His
daughter now enjoyed every educational advantage that a governess for
modern languages and a tutor for Greek and mathematics could supply,
while teachers in the entire range of feminine accomplishments were
eager to encourage cultivation of any special talent. In dancing and
riding she was found surprisingly proficient, and as Senator Kent was
desirous she should enter as early as possible a "woman's college" in
his native State where one of his sisters was professor, the child was
industriously coached to achieve this purpose.

Standing as it were on the rim of a new world, strewn with the flotsam
and jetsam of shattered political, ethical, and domestic systems, where
all nations and social conditions found representation, Eglah and Eliza
confronted novel customs, strange beliefs, and cosmopolitan diction that
clashed sharply on the conservative standards of old Southern usage.
Tethered to the pivot of her Methodist discipline, Mrs. Mitchell swung
around the narrow circle of conscientious orthodoxy; but Eglah made
alarming excursions into ecclesiastical provinces, and their first
serious altercation arose from the announcement that the girl had
decided to join the class for confirmation in the Episcopal church where
Judge Kent worshipped.

"Confirmation? Oh, no; you are too young to take such an important
step."

"Now, Ma-Lila, would you say that if I asked to join the Methodist
Church?"

"That would be different, because you know more about the Church in
which you have been raised."

"I know the Episcopal catechism from cover to cover, and I like the
service, and the choristers, and the candles used in some Episcopal
churches, and----"

"Dearie, you merely want to follow your father, and, moreover----"

"Did not you follow your father? You are what you are just because your
father was a Methodist preacher, and a chaplain who was killed bringing
my grandfather off the battle-field. What are fathers for, if not to set
us examples?"

"Do you forget your dear grandmother, and her love for the church you
were christened in, and could you who owe her so much defy her wishes?"

"Grandmother is so glad to get away and be in heaven that she never will
worry over me any more; and if I am only good enough to go where she is
when I die, what difference will it make to her how I got there? Seems
to me, Ma-Lila, all this strife over different faiths is as foolish as
denying people their choice of routes when they go travelling in summer.
If we have perfect right to trust our bodies to our favorite railroad,
we ought to feel as free to take tickets for our souls on any line that
leads to God."

Eliza took the girl's hands and pressed the soft palms to her own
cheeks, as she said, in a voice that faltered despite her will:

"My darling, let us wait. Promise me one thing; do nothing for another
year at least. For my sake, baby, I beg of you."

Eglah saw unshed tears in the black eyes that had always shone tenderly
on her, and rising she stole one arm around the nurse's neck and kissed
her unsteady lips.

"Please don't fret about it. You shall have your wish. Of course I will
wait a year if you think it best; but you must help me, because somehow
it is harder for me to be good here than it was down at home."

"It is a sacred promise you make me now."

"I told you I would wait. Did I ever deceive you? You ought to know me
better than Mrs. Kent, and even she told father yesterday she had been
trying to find out whether I had most talent for the piano or the
mandolin, and she concluded I really had no talent for anything--showed
only genius for telling the truth."

Thenceforth Mrs. Mitchell redoubled her efforts to control the spiritual
aspirations of the girl to whom she had devoted her life, and the
bargain she made with her conscience was that Judge Kent had the right
to train and develop and decorate the body of his daughter, even along
lines she deemed Philistine, but the immortal spark--the soul intended
for her little Elliot--was immutably hers, to be saved eternally in the
faith to which her own hopes were anchored. That night, when she had
brushed and braided Eglah's golden-brown hair that no one else ever
arranged, she suddenly caught the slim form in a straining embrace.

"God bless my Elliot--my own precious baby!"

"It has been a long time since you called me Elliot, and it sounds queer
to give me the name of your boy. Why should you?"

"You are my boy, and my Eglah also; two in one, and my only joy in all
the world. Don't argue, dearie; go to sleep."

She lifted her into bed and tucked the silk quilt carefully about her,
as though crib days had not ended.

"Ma-Lila, if we should all meet in heaven--and I do hope that somehow I
shall get there--I am afraid I shall feel puzzled to know who really is
my mother, because it seems to me I belong more to you than to anybody
else except father; but then grandmother will certainly be there, and
she will carry me straight to that special spot--the heavenly
'west-end'--where all the Maurices dwell, and hand me over to her
Marcia: the beautiful one I never saw, my own mother, who would not wait
in this world long enough to look at me."

"Hush, my lamb! Good night."

In the adjoining room she sat down at a table where books were piled,
and opening one read a marked passage:

"The story was told by the owner of a shop where was sold the
amber-tinted syrup of malt given to young children when milk could not
be obtained. A pale woman in white came very late for many nights to buy
a cup of this syrup--_midzu ame_--but never spoke.

"One night, when she beckoned him to follow, he went with her to the
cemetery, where she suddenly vanished in a tomb, and he heard a young
child crying under ground. On opening the tomb there was found the
corpse of the woman, and by her side a young infant smiling, who had
been fed from a cup of _midzu ame_ in the hand of the corpse. The woman
had by mistake been prematurely buried. The child was born in the grave,
and love--stronger than death--compelled the ghost to provide
nourishment for her baby."

Eliza closed the volume and tossed it across the table.

"As if we needed old heathen Japan to teach us the length and breadth
and depth and deathlessness of maternal devotion, when we know from the
Bible that though God in heaven forsook His Son, the earthly mother
clung to Jesus!"

       *       *       *       *       *

It was an intensely cold, windless, brilliant moonlight night in
January, two years after she came to live in Washington, and when the
clock struck eleven she heard a quick but cautious step in the corridor
and a slight tap at her door. Mr. Herriott stood at the threshold and
beckoned her to the head of the steps.

"Is Eglah asleep?"

"I think she is."

"Come downstairs quietly."

In the lower hall, where the lights burned brightly, she saw that he
looked pale and troubled.

"Mrs. Mitchell, a terrible blow has fallen upon us. Mrs. Kent went
sleighing with some friends, and the horses became uncontrollable. The
sleigh was overturned, and poor Nina, thrown against a stone wall, was
killed instantly. Will you do what is best when she is brought home?
Don't rouse little Eglah. I am going to find Senator Kent, who is in
committee meeting, and break the news as gently as possible. Poor, dear
Nina! So merry, so kind hearted! Laughing and chaffing me for my
awkwardness when I tucked the lap robe about her feet."

Once more death levelled a wall that in some degree barred Eglah from
her father, and from that wintry night she dated the beginning of her
happy reign over his undivided affection--a monopoly she had long
coveted as the supreme privilege and crown of life.



CHAPTER V


"Has the success of the experiment justified the labor and enthusiasm
you spent upon it?"

"Yes, Noel, the result far surpasses my hopes, and I am impatient for
you to visit us, not only to understand fully the complete success of
the work, but to receive the grateful acknowledgments of every member of
the Order."

"Then you bar your doors against me, because any expression of thanks is
annoying, and the great pleasure I gave myself in deeding the property
to you would be marred. Remember, Vernon, I am not a well-rounded
character, measured by your ecclesiastical tape-line, and one of my ugly
angles is aversion to thanks. If you have drained the marshland and
reclaimed the house from mildew and mice you have made your neighbors
debtors."

"The same Noel Herriott of college days!"

"Only more so, if you please. Nothing human is immutable, and if a man
does not improve he grows worse. By the way, is your reverence still
'Brother' Temple, or have you climbed the ladder of spiritual
promotion?"

"I am always Vernon to you, but the world knows me as 'Father' Temple.
When will you come to us at 'Calvary House' and inspect the rich harvest
from the seed you sowed? I long for the one thing you have
withheld--your deep, hearty sympathy in my grand and holy work."

"Meaning that nothing less than the three vows will assure you of my
safety?"

"That is beyond all that I ever dared to hope, but your cordial
approbation would cheer me more than the indorsement of any other man.
Generous though you are in financial assistance, your mental attitude
toward our Order is that of the smiling tolerance with which one watches
a child building a house of cards."

"However tentative my opinion relative to the scope and permanence of
your religious movement, you cannot doubt that I earnestly desire the
success to which the sanctity of your motive entitles you. Partial as I
am to gymnastic methods, I allow no athletic feats in my mental
processes; I neither run nor leap to conclusions, and you must give me
time. You and I always approach vital questions by different paths: you
lean generally to collectiveness; I usually prefer the slower leverage
of individualism. You are burning the candle of life at both ends, and
trying to realize your noble ideals; I plod far behind, with only a
feeble taper and indulge no higher hope than to idealize my realities."


"When will you come to the lovely home you have given us? There is one
room we have called 'Founder's,' and set apart for you; and, Noel, no
sun sets that has not brought us to our knees in prayer for you who made
it possible for us to own a chapel. When shall we welcome you?"

"Not now. I must go home, where matters need attention. Strange, is it
not, that the magic of a name should outlive all it represents? That
lonely old stone house staring at its shadow on the lake has no vital
element of home except my horses and dogs, and one Maltese cat that
sleeps in my arm-chair. When Nina married Senator Kent the last thread
that tied me to anything like domesticity snapped, and I followed my
bent and prowled from land to land."

"Why do you not marry some sweet, gentle woman and settle yourself?"

"Scarcely the advice one might expect from the priestly Father of an
Anglican celibate order. Has your creed narrowed to such alternatives?
Either a cell at Calvary or the snare and disillusions of marriage?
Unfortunately for me, women have exerted only a traditional influence on
my life. My own young mother died before I could remember her, and I was
consigned to tutors when I should have been trundling hoops. I went
early to college, and after father's second marriage was rarely at home;
hence my acquaintance with women in the home circle is nebulous and
legendary. As a boy I disdained sweethearts; as a man they disdain me.
The only woman I ever really cared for would no more marry me than a
stone slab in a cemetery; so, with many thanks, I cannot utilize your
counsel, and it only remains for you to keep a cell for me at Calvary.
Some day at eventide I may creep in, and you will kindly shrive and
bless me."

Mr. Herriott had been leaning back in his chair, with his hands clasped
behind his head, and when he rose he towered six feet two inches,
smiling gravely at the upturned face of Father Temple, whose sombre
clerical habit contrasted vividly with the white yachting flannels worn
by his friend.

"Ah, Noel, what a Viking you look! Save prize fighting, is there
anything in the realm of athletics you have not accomplished?"

"I fear you would not compliment me with even that civilized exception
if you had seen a skirmish, minus weapons, that I had with a hairy,
tattooed Dyak in a Borneo jungle where I hunted orchids. Vernon, if you
trained your muscles more, and let up a little on your soul, allowed it
a breathing spell, you would not look so flaccid and anæmic. Don't
prefer monkish Latin to Juvenal: _mens sana in corpore sano_! You
observe, respect for your Reverence prevents my offering you the
Rabelais parody. Come, dine with me to-night."

"No, thank you. I am to give a brief 'retreat.' Tell me about my cousin
Eglah; you crossed the ocean in the same steamer."

"You have not seen her?"

"For a few moments only. She is a beautiful girl."

"What remains to be said--since you accord her the mantle of beauty,
whose folds, broader even than charity's, hide all defects? Where shall
I begin? Being her cousin, you must know what I have merely heard: that
she swept through college like a southern tornado--or should I have said
like a meteor?--carrying off the honors, and was the youngest graduate
who had ever turned the heads of the spectacled lecturers. Yet it
appears she values her trophy merely because her laurels pleased her
father, at whose feet she sits in adoration. In her physique, gymnastic
training leaves nothing to be improved; she won badges, and can hold her
own at basket-ball, tennis, rowing, and swimming. Is not the catalogue
complete? So much for mental attainments and physical perfection, but in
the domain of womanly emotions she is simply an unknown quantity--a
latter-day sphinx, fresh and fair before drifting desert sands deface
her. If a lover should ever win her heart he will certainly be entitled
to it, by the supreme right of discovery. Her affection for Judge Kent
absolutely rules her, and in one respect she is unique, she is as
utterly incapable of flirtations as an unfledged owl."

"On account of the family connection you have been thrown so intimately
into her society that I hoped you could tell me something of her
religious tendencies."

"I am such a confirmed tramp that my visits to the family have been
brief and interrupted by long absences. Eglah always appealed peculiarly
to my sympathy because of the pathetic antagonism of her environment.
Your cousin, Judge Kent, was very much disliked at the South, where
sectional political rancor was, is, and will be rife, and his child
suffered keenly on that account. When she came north to live, her social
surroundings were even worse, because she furiously resented every
reflection upon the people of the South, where the Maurices were
conspicuous in war records. Her efforts at loyalty all around the circle
have not made smooth sailing for her, and her motives were doubtless
complex. You are curious about her 'religious tendencies'? If you are
wise you will not stir any Calvary leaven into the pure sweet flour of
her soul, unless you covet war _á outrance_ with that nondescript
personage Mrs. Mitchell--an anomalous blend, alert as a lynx, wary as a
fox, stealthy as a cougar--who serves Eglah in divers and sundry
capacities: an amalgamated foster-mother, housekeeper, maid, companion,
chaperon, and confidante. She is a Simon-pure puritan, prim as
Priscilla, and her processes of reasoning are quite as broad as the edge
of a razor. That she viciously opposes all forms of 'ritualism' I happen
to know from listening to a discussion between her and Eglah, in which
the whole bundle of dogmas was thrashed out, from 'historic episcopate'
and 'confession' to incense, candles, and 'reservation of the
sacrament.' What a pile of chaff they built! Eglah's appreciation of
sensuous beauty and classical music inclines her to gorgeous vestments,
jewelled windows, and the rhythmic chanting of choristers that lift
their chins like Raphael's cherubs, but Mrs. Mitchell finds in the
severe simplicity of her own tabernacle an added sanctity, and your
Calvary House will be to her that of Rimmon. In Rome Judge Kent had a
touch of fever which frightened Eglah into telegraphing for me at Basle,
where I was attending a scientific congress, so we came home together."

"If Eglah's enthusiasm could be aroused in our mission work, she would
wield an incalculable power for good."

"Vernon--pardon the lapse into argot--'don't!' Let the child pick her
own way to peace. She is not addicted to enthusiasms: one attack long
ago destroyed her susceptibility to subsequent seizures; she can be
enthusiastic over only one teraph--her father. Must you go? Wait a
moment. Friendship is frank, and I am sorry to see you losing the vigor
that in college days distinguished you. Fast less, and sleep more. Come
home with me and hunt and fish and row, and let other people's souls
enjoy a vacation."

As they shook hands Father Temple asked:

"And what have scientific congresses done for your soul, Noel?"

"Drawn me closer, I hope, to the Creator whose subtle and inexorable
laws are best revealed to the faithful student that fearlessly analyzes
His universal work. The sole aim of scientists is 'to admit nothing
false, and to omit nothing true.' Vernon, have faith in me as of old,
and keep a cell whitewashed for me at Calvary House. Truly--

    "So many paths lead up to God,
    'Twere strange if any soul should miss them all."

With his hand on the stair rail the minister paused and looked back.

"One thing I wish to ask is whether Eglah had any special admirers
abroad? American heiresses are attractive."

"She had as many beaux as she chose to permit. Two attachés of American
legations were particularly attentive, and a handsome English naval
officer whose father is a duke will doubtless cross the ocean to renew
his acquaintance. Possess your soul in patience. Her heart is as sound
asleep as when she dreamed in her crib, and the man who wakes and wins
it will travel no macadamized road. Before Lent she will be in New York
for a week, and when Congress adjourns the family will come to me on the
Lake for a visit."

Given a man of thirty-three, unusually good-looking, possessing by
inheritance a large fortune, dowered with infinite leisure upon which no
professional duties laid intrusive claim, handicapped by no church
obligations, and the world assumes that he has inevitably run the gamut
of those iniquities set by Satan as snares for the idle rich. Intensely
virile as was Noel Herriott, his polished placidity of manner and
courteous conservatism masked in some degree the strength and tenacious
obstinacy of a character that presented enigmatical phases to those who
knew him best. Heredity and education had combined in kneading him
physically, mentally, and morally along rather peculiar curves during
the plastic period of boyhood, and the finishing touches that determined
the mould came from his parting interview with his Presbyterian father,
when Fergus Herriott sent him away to college.

"My son, God gave you a remarkably fine body. Neither neglect nor abuse
it, but be sure you master it from the start, else you will be the slave
of your own flesh. Bad habits are the leeches that would suck a Hercules
to effeminacy. Steer as clear of the sins labelled "Thou shalt not" as
you would of that leper island down in the Pacific. The ten commandments
are equal links in the moral chain, and it is no man's privilege to pick
and choose which he will break or which he will keep; because if he
violates one, it is merely a question of temptation, necessity, and
opportunity when he will transgress all. If he bears false witness and
lies, he will steal money as he filched character; if he covets his
neighbor's wife, the time comes when he murders her husband. _Falsus in
uno, falsus in omnibus._ You are going where you will hear much fine
talk about 'lofty, broadening, philosophic ideals' and 'progressive,
altruistic standards of humanitarianism and honor.' Now mark you, God's
laws are not 'progressive,' they are absolutely fixed, and when you are
as old as I am you will have learned that 'man's honor,' unless based on
them, is merely a sliding scale set up on a quicksand. My boy, try to
lead such a clean life that when the mirror of records is held up to you
in the final judgment you will not squirm and want to look the other
way; and now, my last word is, you had the great misfortune to lose your
dear, sweet mother in this world--be sure you deserve to find her in the
next."

During the journey to college he found in his well-filled pocket-book a
folded sheet containing additional memoranda in his father's cramped,
old-fashioned writing.

"Be honest first, then generous--never wasteful. Pose on no pedestals
and you will escape falls. Avoid priggishness, which is detestable
mental dry-rot; and flee from cant, the convenient domino of hypocrisy.
Cultivate genuine sympathy for all suffering humanity, and remember that
a man's safest companion is his own conscientious, incorruptible
self-respect."

Doubtless in the years that followed Noel realized that indeed

    "Souls were dangerous things to carry straight
      Through all the spilt saltpetre of the world;"

but that he succeeded fairly well might have been inferred from a
certain scar on his throat, received while chastising two of his
classmates who had caricatured him in doggerel under the title of "Sir
Dandy Galahad." Misled by the quiet reserve of his manner, and an inborn
courtesy that made him as good a listener as talker, strangers never
suspected the existence of a temper fierce and, when fully aroused,
well-nigh implacable. In his third collegiate year the death of his
father left him untrammelled in the selection of a profession, and soon
after he entered into possession of a fortune so large that its golden
key would have opened the door of almost any career he might have
chosen. His mental trend was toward scientific studies, and his dominant
scheme of investigation embraced the elusive problems of anthropology.
His individual and favorite hypothesis involved the genesis of
aboriginal American man, and to secure all prehistoric and especially
pre-glacial data he had attended post-collegiate lectures at several
European universities, supplemented by sojourns in Central America,
Pacific Islands, and British North America.

Since the death of his stepmother, Mr. Herriott had established
temporary headquarters in New York in "apartments" not far from the old
Herriott house, which by provision of his wife's will was now the
property of Judge Kent. While the family of the senator usually remained
in Washington, Eglah and Mrs. Mitchell frequently spent a week in New
York, and on such occasions, if Noel chanced to be in the city, they
relied upon him to serve as escort when needed. That he had successfully
run the gauntlet of Eliza's years of cautious, suspicious observation,
and finally commanded her admiring confidence, contributed in some
degree to the easy _camaraderie_ maintained between Eglah and himself:
on her part a genuinely trusting friendship, pure and simple; on his
that cool, watchful quietude that holds in leash the one deep passionate
love of a strong nature and a lonely life. From the day he first saw the
little quivering white-clad girl standing in the sunset glow that
flooded the fragrant, flower-filled dining-room at Nutwood, he had
opened the empty temple of his heart, and where no image dwelt--save the
memory of his father--he lifted this child to a pure altar, and offered
silent homage.



CHAPTER VI


"Of course, Mr. Herriott, you are vastly amused by my ambitious
pretension."

"Why Mr. Herriott? And why assume amusement which I certainly have not
expressed?"

"Not verbally; but I quite understand that look in your eyes, when by
sheer force of will you hold your lips from smiling. Only courtesy keeps
in check your contempt for our 'higher education.'"

"Eglah, be a little more just in your generalizations. If the education
be really 'higher' and thorough, no reasonable man could afford to
disparage it. You have spent the morning over volumes of tedious
statistics, extracting figures on _ad valorem_ and 'specific' schedules
that only a custom-house clerk or a tariff expert could utilize by
eliminating nonessentials and compiling valuable tables. Why waste this
perfect day over metric puzzles--dekameter, hectoliter, myriagram?"

"Father wished the exact figures, and to work for him is my greatest
pleasure."

"Do not confound motive and accomplishment. Your father's secretary
would have collected the statistics in half the time and in a more
satisfactory form, simply because he has been trained for such search,
as dogs are taught to hunt truffles."

"Mr. Metcalf was needed in Washington, and as father has tried me
sufficiently to trust the accuracy of my work, he asked me to make this
investigation while I was in New York. Mr. Noel, to help him even in
trifles is my very life; he is my world, my all."

Mr. Herriott lifted his hat and bowed.

"Your devotion is beautiful and sacred, and Judge Kent should feel proud
of the list of rivals he so successfully defies. Perhaps it has not yet
occurred to him that in chaining yourself to his library desk you are
restricted to sawdust diet."

"Varied now and then, you must admit, by banquets of opera, germans,
receptions, teas, theatre parties, and the embassies. When I was working
so hard at college I looked forward eagerly to 'coming out,' as to a
magical door that would swing suddenly open into a wonderful world,
where, because of new conditions, I should become a different person,
and shed my girlish ideas as serpents slip their skins; but since the
'open sesame,' and I have 'arrived,' I seem to have lost nothing of the
past, and my old, tiresome self is tyrannous as ever."

"Is social life in Washington disappointing?"

"That is scarcely the right term. Life is certainly very brilliant, and
gay and panoramic, and I enjoy music and dancing, and some dinner
parties; above all, I find keen pleasure in following a spirited debate
in the House, or listening to speeches in the Senate, but sometimes I
catch myself wondering if this is indeed all--the veritable kernel of
society, politics, diplomacy, or merely the shell partly cracked. Life
here and in Washington does not seem so absolutely real as it was at
home, at Nutwood."

They were driving in Central Park, and Eglah shared the front seat of
the trap where Mr. Herriott held the reins of his spirited horses, and
brought them down to a steady, rapid trot. It was a cold but sunny day
in February, and as he laced his way in and out of the stream of
vehicles, he and his companion were the theme of much comment from the
passing throng. Fastidious in the matter of clothes, he was always
remarkably well dressed--a fact accentuated by his unusual height and
erect carriage--and at the two fashionable clubs to which he belonged he
was generally regarded "as all around, the best looking member." The
dark steel-blue grey eyes--with no hint of yellow--which his Scotch
father gave him, lost something of their penetrating brilliance under
the long jet lashes that, with black brows and thick clustering hair,
his mother had contributed, and his naturally clear olive skin had been
weather-tanned in various climates to a browner tint. In profile his
face resembled a bronze medallion, and when he smiled his well-cut lips,
that in repose seemed ominously thin, showed curves of rare beauty
around a faultless set of teeth. The sun of prosperity had ripened and
mellowed his manhood, and, as yet, no acid of cynicism had invaded his
nature.

Gowned in a fur-trimmed cloth of hunter's green, Eglah wore a velvet
toque of same hue, that failed to conceal the mass of golden-brown hair
burnished by sunshine into the similitude of a white-oak leaf dyed in
autumn. Under delicate, level brows, her large dark eyes--_chataigne_ in
some lights, almost black at times--were set rather far apart in an oval
face whose exquisitely clear, pure pallor was stained only by the
healthy rich red of slender lips, that had a treacherous trick of
quivering when any strong emotion stirred the deeps of her heart. By the
accepted canons of art and cultured taste her form and features had been
adjudged "beautiful," and some great-grandmother of the far South had
dowered her with a peculiar grace of movement--not languid, nor sinuous,
nor Delsartian--a natural idiosyncrasy that made the manner of her
steps, the lifting of head and motion of hands, unlike other women's.
Only one gift--most potent of all--had been withheld from her
birthright: she was absolutely devoid of personal magnetism, and her
habitual cold indifference approached haughtiness, that the world
resented. A certain aloofness of manner hedged her around even in the
midst of the social whirl, and though in conversation the lovely eyes
appeared to meet frankly those confronting hers, people were vaguely
conscious that some veil was rarely lifted from their soft, shining
depths.

Sudden congestion in the line of equipages, stretching far ahead, had
caused a temporary halt, and when the knot dissolved, and the impatient
horses sprang forward once more, Eglah said:

"I thought you loved good music too well to lose last night's opera
treat, and until the final act I expected you."

"Shall I flatter myself that even in the midst of the select party
occupying my box you really missed me?"

"Certainly I missed you--all the more because some of them chattered,
and you would have hushed the tattle."

"Am I so successful in the rôle of ogre as to over-awe my guests in an
opera box?"

"Your quiet way of setting an example of good breeding is sometimes
contagious among thoughtless people."

"My lucky star is surely ascending: you have paid me two compliments,
and I am puzzled to know whether I shall be expected to balance my
account at _ad valorem_ rates on the basis of your assessment or mine?"

"Oh, you and I established free trade long ago, and I can always tell
you the truth without pausing to weigh words as do legation attachés,
and as father does when wily lobbyists intercept him on his way from
committee rooms. Mr. Noel, had you any special reason for absenting
yourself? The lovely lilac orchids were, of course, far more ornamental
in your empty chair, and you must not think me lacking in appreciation
because I am so tardy in thanking you for them."

"An unexpected change in the date of a lecture given by one of my
friends kept me away, when I had hoped to join you. As I had promised to
attend, there was no alternative when a belated note informed me that
last night had been selected for its delivery."

"Tell me about it."

"If I should so afflict you, most certainly you would vote me a bore, or
fall asleep in self-defence."

"When you say that, you know curiosity always covets the forbidden."

"At your peril then! It was a monograph on the autochthonic origin of
American races, and by way of ornamentation bristled with such graceful
trifles as cephalic index, _brachycephalic_, and _dolichocephalic_, and
was sprinkled with the curry of _Votanic_ legends, and choice tid-bits
from the Quiché _Popol Vuh_ and from _Codex Chimalpopoco_! Sounds spicy,
doesn't it? Piques your appetite for a larger slice?"

"No, thank you. Yet you preferred that tiresome jargon to listening to a
superb tenor solo?"

"In a way--yes. We all ride hobby-horses from the nursery to the
cemetery, and it is merely a question of individual taste what blood
strain or pedigree we choose. My racing stable is not so generously
supplied as yours, which embraces colts of various breeds: reports of
fisheries commissions, bounties, American tonnage from 18-- to 18--, and
a vast----"

"Sarcasm does not fit you becomingly, Mr. Noel; it hangs askew, like a
clown's cap on a cowl. What have you registered your own special toy,
that you canter so vigorously around the world? Is it called ethnology,
or totemism, or anthropology?"

"When I have finished trying all its gaits, and find the sum total
satisfactory, I shall label it, and fit a comfortable side saddle and
introduce you formally. Now, Miss Kent, come to confession. Did you see
the list of passengers who arrived on yesterday's steamer from
Liverpool?"

"I did not."

"Can you recollect a certain prophecy I made at Cowes, anent a handsome
naval officer who entertained us at luncheon on his father's yacht?"

"Cassandra was a woman, and men should not trespass on the one feminine
right of 'I told you so,' that has descended to us intact from Hecuba's
daughter. But, Mr. Noel, if you mean----"

She turned and looked up into his eyes.

"Yes, I met him this morning at the club, where Ogden introduced him,
and I saved him a useless journey to Washington by telling him you were
here for a few days."

"I can only say I am sorry to hear it."

"While he is in New York I must, in part, return the hospitality shown
us, and your father will pay the remainder of the debt in Washington. I
have arranged a dinner for this evening, and later we shall see
'Hamlet,' then a supper afterward at Delmonico's. Will you join us at
the theatre, if I call for you, bringing Mrs. St. Clair as chaperon?"

"Thank you, I much prefer not to be one of the party; besides, I have a
previous engagement. I am going with my cousin, Vernon Temple, to a
meeting of shop girls, a sort of night school established by some of his
lady friends."

"What class does he teach?"

"I believe he 'talks' now and then on 'feminine arts,' and to-night
there will be a lecture on lace making and tapestry guilds, illustrated
of course by a sketch of the inevitable Matilda and the indestructible
'Bayeux.' I am trying to classify this new cousin, who seems to me a
queer blend of mediæval monk, pre-Raphaelite reformer, and socialist. He
is altogether unlike any one I ever knew, but his beautiful, sad face
reminds me of a picture I saw in Munich--a young priest administering
the viaticum to his dying sweetheart, whom he forsook for holy orders."

Lowering his eyelids, Mr. Herriott glanced keenly at her.

"You find Temple wonderfully magnetic at times?"

"Scarcely that. 'Magnetic' implies so much and really explains so
little. When I see his ceaseless struggle to keep the heel of his spirit
on the neck of his flesh, it suggests a fanatical rebellion against that
equipoise God saw fit to establish. Like Joubert, 'he seems to be a soul
that by accident met with a body, and tries to make the best of it.' My
cousin Temple is fond of you."

"Despite much difference of opinion on many questions, our friendship
has survived the 'storm and stress' period, and I honor a man whose
battle cry for humanity is:

    "'Make trade a Christian possibility,
    And individual right no general wrong.'

Have you noticed the expression of Mrs. Mitchell's face when they happen
to meet?"

"Haven't I! It is too funny to see her narrow her eyes and look at him
as if he were some unclassified beast whose method of pouncing on his
prey had not yet been warningly advertised. She is convinced he is an
ecclesiastical infernal machine trying to wreck our family orthodoxy. I
asked him----"

She stopped suddenly at sight of two gentlemen approaching on horseback,
and Mr. Herriott smiled, as he whispered:

"Lo! the second son of a duke!"



CHAPTER VII


In a quiet and unfrequented cross street--equally remote from the
thronged thoroughfares of trade and from fashionable avenues lined with
palaces--stood the low and unpretentious Chapel of St. Hyacinth, marked
by neither spire nor belfry. The old stone front receded sufficiently
from the pavement to permit a short flight of shallow steps that led to
an arched door in a pillared portico with a cross on its pointed roof,
which hung over the entrance like a sullen, frowning brow. A northeast
wind came fitfully in hissing blasts, dashed with fine sleet; but when
Eglah passed through the swinging inner door a warm atmosphere spiced
with resinous incense infolded her as in a fragrant mist, through which
glimmered brass lattice screens, rows of tall candles, the gilded
carving of the white altar, laden with lilies, and the marble statue of
the Virgin, at whose snowy feet a red light burned in a silver lamp. On
each side of the wall below the brass lattice that barred the chancel
was a "confessional" of dark wood surmounted by a cross, and the
clustered lights in the centre of the concave ceiling formed a crown.

On the right and left of the altar the white surpliced choristers filled
several seats, and the quivering thunder of the organ ceased suddenly,
as if to listen to the marvellous voice of the boy soloist, that swelled
and rose as if the singer felt himself "hard by the gates of heaven." A
slender child of ten years, grasping his music with waxen hands almost
infantile in size, while his head, covered thickly with shining ripples
of golden hair, was thrown back, and his blue eyes almost purplish, like
a periwinkle, were raised in contemplation of the crown glowing above
him. The colorless face was delicate and beautiful as if wrought out of
ivory, and a certain pathetic sadness of expression inherent in fragile
childhood was for the moment dominated by the radiant exultation of his
wonderful eyes, that seemed made to dwell between the wings of a seraph.

Father Temple left the altar before which he had knelt in prayer, and
advancing to the steps of the chancel, stood with one hand on the brass
railing and briefly explained his unexpected presence. A telegram had
summoned the rector of St. Hyacinth's to the deathbed of his father, and
the request to officiate in his absence had been received too late to
permit the preparation of a regular sermon; hence the patient indulgence
of the congregation was invoked for some desultory remarks which might
not prove entirely fruitless. After a few exordial sentences, he
repeated slowly the opening ten verses from St. John xv., and waited a
moment.

"For text let us consider: 'I am the true vine,' said our Lord, 'and
ye, my brethren, are the branches.'"

Then followed a recitative of various selected passages from the "Sermon
in the Hospital," in tones so musical and liquid, and with a repose of
manner so profound, yet full of subtle magnetism, that his audience
gazed in sympathetic wonder at the slight figure clad in the sombre
habit of his order--at the thin, pallid spiritual face where large,
deep-set black eyes burned with the preternatural light of consecrated
but consuming zeal. The folded arms attempted no gestures--what need,
while that rhythmic wave of sound flowed on?--until the end, when the
clasped hands were lifted in final appeal:

                "... the Cross of Christ
    Is more to us than all His miracles.

           *       *       *       *       *

    Thou wilt not see the face nor feel the hand,
    Only the cruel crushing of the feet
    When through the bitter night the Lord comes down
    To tread the winepress. Not by sight, but faith,
    Endure, endure--be faithful to the end."

Unconscious of his movement, and irresistibly drawn, the young soloist
sitting in the front row of choristers had risen, and leaning far
forward, looked up into the face of the priest, like one mesmerized, his
parted lips trembling in a passion of ecstasy. Then the organ boomed,
and the boy fell from paradise and joined the choristers chanting as
they marched away behind the uplifted cross.

A lady stepped into the aisle and touched Eglah's arm.

"So glad to see you here, Miss Kent. Shall always welcome you to my pew.
What a delightful elocutionary _tour de force_ Father Temple gave us! He
would make a fortune on the stage of secular drama."

"Yes. Fra Ugo himself could scarcely have been more impressive when he
talked to the sick and dying on hospital cots. To my cousin Vernon this
world is only a hospital of sick souls. Mrs. St. Clair, I should like to
meet that little boy who sang so beautifully. Can you help me?"

"Very easily. Come back with me now to the vestry and we may find him.
Did you notice how that lovely boy seemed almost hypnotized?"

Only two of the larger choristers lingered, chatting with the
choirmaster, and as they turned toward the rear stairway leading to the
street, Mrs. St. Clair exclaimed:

"Mr. De Graffenried, stop the boys. We want to see the soloist. Call him
back."

"Madam, I think he is still in the chancel."

Lifting the velvet curtain that concealed the altar from their view, she
beckoned Eglah to her side.

Father Temple had been detained by one of the church-wardens, and as he
turned to hasten away the boy, standing near, caught the black skirt of
the priest.

"Please, sir, may I speak to you?"

"Certainly. I am glad to be able to thank you for the music to-day. Your
solo gave me great pleasure."

"I could have done better, but my throat is sore; it bled just now. I
told nobody, because I am the only one who can reach that high C, and so
I tried not to fail. I want to ask you how I can learn all the words you
spoke? Oh, if I could, I would set them to a chant; they would lift my
heart out of me if I could sing them."

"You shall have them. What is your name?"

"Leighton Dane."

Father Temple took his tablets from an inside pocket and made an entry.

"Where do you live?"

"Oh, a long way off. Far down in East ---- Street; but, please sir, if
you would leave the poetry here, I could get it at next rehearsal."

"My little man, how do you know it is poetry? The words do not rhyme."

"Rhyme? I do not understand that word--but I feel poetry. I always know
it by the way my blood beats, and the little shiver that runs down my
back, and the joy that makes me cry sometimes."

"I will send you a printed copy, in care of the rector. Dear child, God
has given you a wonderfully sweet voice, and I am glad you use it in His
service."

He laid his thin hand on the boy's golden head, and smiled down into the
wistful blue eyes, where tears glistened.

The childish fingers, holding two snowy spikes of Roman hyacinth, were
lifted and placed on the priest's hand, pressing it timidly against his
curls.

"Thank you, sir. Please take these. They smell like the heavenly
gardens, and I have nothing else to give."

"Were they not on the altar?"

"Yes, I slipped out two from the cluster there."

"Then they belong to God. By what right do you touch sacred gifts
brought to Him?"

"They were mine. I bought them last night and laid them yonder when I
came to-day--and God can spare just two, when I have nothing else to pay
you with. Did you--oh! did you think I--stole--them?" A sob shook him,
and tears followed.

Father Temple stooped and drew the little white-robed form to him,
pressing the head against his breast.

"Forgive me, I did not quite understand; and I am sure the dear Father
knows what is in your grateful heart. God bless you and keep you. I
shall put the hyacinths between the leaves of my Bible."

Eglah stretched an arm across Mrs. St. Clair's shoulder and dropped the
curtain.

"Come away. Some other time I may talk to him, not now."

The following day Eglah returned to Washington, and two hours before the
departure of the train she drove to Twenty-third Street, where she and
Mrs. Mitchell usually made their purchases of damask, ribbon, and lace.
While the latter bent over boxes of wools and crochet cottons, Eglah
seated herself at the handkerchief counter. When she had selected the
desired number, the saleswoman filled out her index sheet and rapped
sharply with her pencil.

"Cash! Here, cash!"

Several minutes elapsed.

"These cash boys are so tiresome. Cash, cash! I had to report one last
week. Cash--here he comes at last. Now, do hurry up; you are a regular
snail."

In the boy who hastened away Eglah recognized the soloist of St.
Hyacinth's, and noticed a bandage around his throat. When he came back
with the parcel and counted the change into the palm of the saleswoman,
Eglah touched his arm.

"I heard you sing yesterday, and want to tell you how much I liked your
voice."

"Thank you, ma'am, I----"

A spell of coughing interrupted, and she noticed how wan and weary he
looked, and how heavy were the greyish shadows under his lovely eyes.

"I am afraid you are not well to-day. Are you an orphan?"

"Oh, no. Mother is living, and she says a mother is worth forty
fathers."

"Will you tell me her name, and where she lives?"

"Mrs. Nona Dane, and she has the glove counter at ----, Fourteenth
Street."

At this instant the floor-walker strode forward, and a frightened
expression crossed the boy's white face as he turned quickly, but Eglah
laid a detaining hand on his head as, rising, she confronted the
floor-walker.

"If he loitered it is not his fault; I kept him. If he missed a call I
am to blame. Good-bye, Leighton; shake hands. When I come back to New
York I hope to hear you sing again at St. Hyacinth's; and if I miss you
here, I shall buy elsewhere."

His hot fingers quivered in her clasp, and, pressing a folded bill into
his hand, she joined her foster-mother and left the store.

"What a frail, beautiful boy, and what genuine golden hair! Looks as if
it had been dipped in a pot of gilt. Dearie, don't you think it a shame
these young children are chained up in stores when they ought to be
romping and playing ball?"

As their carriage turned from Twenty-third Street toward Broadway, that
always crowded angle was even more than usually thronged, and during the
brief pause Mr. Herriott came out of Maillard's with a box of bon-bons.

"I am just going to the ferry to wait for you. Are you not too early, or
has my watch gone astray?"

"Come with us, Mr. Noel, we have ample room. Yes, it is early; but of
course at the last minute I must needs shop on the way."


As he seated himself in the carriage he handed a package to Eglah.

"The latest Paris 'Revue,' and your favorite _marron glacé_ and
chocolate."

"Thank you heartily, for both. I wonder if I ever shall cease to be a
spoiled child--in your eyes?"

"Whatever you may be in my eyes, you certainly will always remain."

"How discouraging, that you should feel quite hopeless of any
improvement in me. Driver, I wish to stop in West Fourteenth Street,
at ----. Gloves, Mr. Noel, always gloves."

"Will you bet a pair of best driving gauntlets that I cannot tell you
exactly why you go there to-day?"

"Certainly; silk-lined, fur-tipped gauntlets. I told you my errand was
gloves; pray what other reason?"

"You are going to get a glimpse of 'Juno.'"

"Juno? Nearly everything comes to New York sooner or later, but really I
never imagined she could step out from the books of mythology. I hunt no
goddess. When you pay your wager, be sure to select delicate fawn color,
that will match my spring jacket."

"The debt is yours. Confess, Eglah--honor bright--you are curious about
the woman who sells gloves in Fourteenth Street."

"I will present to you a witch's skirt, cap, and broomstick. But why
'Juno'?"

"The matter was thrashed out at the club last week, where Vandiver told
us some artist had compared her to a print of the Ludovisi Juno hanging
in Goupil's window. Hence her elevation to Olympus."

"Then you know all about her?"

"On the contrary, I never saw her; but she seems to be the magnet
drawing people to----just now."

The carriage stopped, and Eglah walked into the department store.

"Come in, Mr. Noel, and pick out your gauntlets."

"Not to-day. Juno indulged in tricks that made even Jupiter keep one eye
on her wiles, and I shall merely admire at a safe distance."

In front of the glove counter half a dozen women clustered, and on the
outside of the group three men lounged--one evidently a foreigner, with
bushy beard, coarse, hairy hands, and furtive eyes, small even behind
very large spectacles. Among several busy saleswomen it was easy to
discover the centre of attraction--a finely developed form, tall and
graceful in every movement, and a face of surpassing beauty, lighted by
dark violet eyes, flushed with the glow of perfect health, and crowned
by a braided mass of glittering yellow hair heaped high on a shapely
head, that held it as an empress wears her tiara. In its vivid coloring
the face suggested a tropical flower, but, looking closer, one thought
of a frozen tulip under a sheet of ice, so hard was the cold gleam of
the defiant eyes and the proud compression of red lips that had
forgotten how to smile, that seemed never to have known curves of
tenderness. While Eglah waited, the foreigner leaned across the counter.

"Some black silk gloves. Number eight and a half."

"In the next room. Men's department."

"You got the papers for the league?"

"Yes, that is all arranged. Meeting will be at ten o'clock to-night. You
can't talk here."

He touched the rim of his hat and walked away, and she looked toward
Eglah.

"Grey kid gloves, stitched with white silk."

"What size?"

"Five and a quarter."

The voice had a sharp metallic ring, with an impatient inflection, and
as she turned, lifting her arms to a box on an upper shelf, all the
lovely outlines of her figure were shown most advantageously, and Eglah
glanced over her shoulder at Mr. Herriott. He was watching the woman
behind the counter with an intensely curious expression, as though
disagreeably perplexed. She found the desired number.

"Shall I stretch them?"

"No, it is not necessary."

"Do you wish them fitted on your hands?"

"I will not give you that trouble. What is the price?"

"It is part of my business to fit them. Two dollars and a quarter. Here,
cash!"

Eglah's desire to mention the chorister of St. Hyacinth's was quickly
extinguished by the pronouncedly repellent bearing that plainly
proclaimed all intercourse must be restricted to the business of the
counter, and as she returned to the carriage, Mr. Herriott said:

"Well, you college girls are nothing if not severely classical, so I
presume you will offer a ewe lamb, all garlanded with willow and
dittany, and prinked out in pomegranate blossoms, on the Junonian
altar."

"I am glad Jove tied her hands and hung her up above the earth and below
the heavens, with anvils on her ankles, where she could do no more
mischief. That goddess of yours has the most cruelly cold, hard face I
ever looked at, and yet--in a way--so beautiful. Evidently she has not
even the shadow of a soul--must have given it all to that angelic boy?
What is her history? Of course she has one."

"It has been said happy women have none, and in this case adversity must
have curdled very early the stream of her youthful joys. Vandiver
investigated her--from a distance he says, as she froze him when he
attempted acquaintanceship. He has a protégé in the constabulary who
learned through police channels all that she will allow to be known of
her life. Some years ago she drifted here from the far West--part of the
human flotsam annually stranded in this city, and she found work in a
cloak manufactory. Later she incited a strike among the cloak cutters,
which resulted disastrously for the workers, and when all the strikers
submitted, she alone was refused re-employment, and doors were closed
against her. She secured a position in a large bric-à-brac
establishment, but when a valuable antique vase disappeared, she was
suspected and arrested. While in prison a day and night awaiting trial,
the vase was found in a pawnbroker's shop, and the colored porter of the
bric-à-brac dealer acknowledged the theft. The firm very honorably made
ample public retraction of the unjust charge, and endeavored to
compensate and appease the injured woman, but she shook the dust of the
house from her feet and betook herself to Brooklyn. Recently she
accepted her present place."

"Do you mean to imply that she is--is--Bohemian?"

"That depends upon your interpretation of a very flexible term. I am
told she conducts herself with strict propriety, reports Mr. Dane dead,
and receives attentions from no one; but she is avowedly a socialist of
the extreme type: belongs to labor organizations, attends their
meetings, makes impassioned addresses, and, in fine, is a female Ishmael
whose hands are much too pretty for such savage work. Did you notice an
odd-looking, shambling man with preposterous spectacles who spoke to
her? He is an agent of a band of Russian Nihilists seeking aid from
sympathizers here. She is reported as possessing some education,
advocates 'single-tax' and all the communistic vagaries that appeal
to the great mass of toiling poor, the discontented and morose, as
colored balloons captivate the fancy of children at a circus door.
She frequents a hall down on the East Side, where at night the clans
of the disgruntled assemble, and long-haired men and short-haired
women--who absolutely believe that the only real 'devil is private
property'--denounce wealth and preach their gospel of covetousness. Here
we are at the ferry, and just in time to meet the boat."



CHAPTER VIII


Distinctly a _poseur_, Senator Kent had studied his physical good points
with sufficient attention to establish the habit of exhibiting them
advantageously, and to-night, as he leaned back in his easy chair,
persons who knew him well understood that the fine leonine head was
always turned adroitly to the right because a defect in one drooping
eyelid found semiconcealment in the shadow of nose and brow. Political
and financial prosperity had prevented or erased the lines that usually
mark countenances of men of his age, and his smooth, handsome smiling
face seemed to defy and rebut the testimony offered by grey hair and
white mustache.

Suave and conciliatory, tactful yet tenacious of purpose, a carefully
cultivated air of frankness ambushed subtle craftiness that rarely
failed to accomplish schemes which the unwary never suspected.
Unhampered by scruples, he had scaled the heights of success, climbing
the ladder of cautious expediency, and claiming allegiance only to
principles and policies that beckoned from the rung just above his head.
Proverbial good nature, voiced by a musical, hearty laugh, won him
social popularity, and even in congressional debate he never laid aside
the polished armor of imperturbable courtesy. Despite the keen scrutiny
of Eliza Mitchell during many years of intimate association, his
character had remained a baffling enigma, and her suspicious distrust
was allayed, in some degree, by his genial equanimity and amiable
abdication of control in domestic details. That he wore a mask she had
always believed, yet it fitted so perfectly she could not penetrate the
steel mesh, and in no unguarded moment had its springs loosened.

The luxuriously furnished library was bright and warm with fire glow and
gas light, and sweet with the breath of white azaleas heaped in a
pale-pink bowl on the low mantel shelf. Only the click of the typewriter
disturbed the stillness until Eglah rose from the instrument, covered
it, and numbered the written pages, arranging them in a sheaf.

"All ready now, father, and Mr. Metcalf can incorporate these tables in
the report you will need to-morrow. Do you wish to verify the figures?"

"Not necessary, my dear. You are usually accurate."

"Thanks for the sugar plum. You know exactly how sweet is your praise."

Coming forward, she sat down on the carpeted foot-board attached to his
reclining chair, leaned her head against his knee, and stretched her
fingers toward the fire. He laid one large dimpled hand on her shoulder,
and she turned her cheek to touch it. After the lapse of some minutes
the clock struck, and Eglah sprang up.

"Barely time to dress for the Secretary's dinner! Has the carriage been
ordered?"

"Yes. I can doze a while longer, as I have to change only my coat, vest,
and tie."

"Eglah, do you need my help in dressing, or will Octavia suit you best?"
asked Mrs. Mitchell, who sat at a small table near the hearth, matching
silk squares for an afghan.

"You can revise me finally, and punctuate me with additional pins when I
come down. Don't let father oversleep himself."

Senator Kent straightened the folds of his padded dressing-gown, and
through half-closed eyes watched the small hands hovering over silken
scraps, and wondered, as he had often done before, what manner of man
could have been the "overseer" husband for whom this grave, pretty,
reticent, demure widow still mourned in black garments, relieved only by
narrow white ruches at her throat and wrists.

The clock ticked softly, and the senator seemed asleep, when the ringing
of the door bell roused him. Some moments passed before the library door
opened and a servant entered.

"A note, sir. It was laid on top of the bell knob, and the messenger did
not wait, for I looked up and down the street."

"Evidently of no importance, else the delivery would not have been so
careless."

He lazily took an envelope from the silver salver and held it up.

    "Senator Allison Kent,
        Washington, D. C.

    "_Strictly Personal._"

Both the address and contents were type-written.

Intent on her patchwork, Eliza was bending over a mass of scarlet satin
ribbon, when a strange sound startled her: not a cry, nor yet a
groan--an anomalous smothered utterance of pain, as from a strong animal
sorely stricken.

He had struggled to his feet, and the large, heavy body swayed twice,
then righted itself, and he stood staring blankly at the red lily dado
on the opposite wall, as though their crimson petals spelled some such
message as foreshadowed doom to Babylon. One hand crushed the letter
into an inside pocket of the dressing-gown, the other clutched his
mustache, twisting it into knots.

The swift, inexplicable change of countenance could be compared only
with the startled alertness of a drowsing fox when his dim, snug covert
echoes the first far-off blast of the coming hunter's horn. In every
life some alluring vision of Arden beckons and beguiles, and to this
successful man, basking in the golden glamor of a satisfying attainment
of his aim, came suddenly an ominous baying of the bloodhounds of
retributive destiny.

"You have bad news, Judge Kent?"

He made no answer, and she seized his arm.

"What is the dreadful news that distresses you?"

As he turned his eyes upon her, all their light and color seemed faded
to a dull glassiness, and his voice shook like a hysterical woman's.

"News--did you say? No--I have received no news. None whatever."

"Then what ails you? I shall call Eglah."

She turned, but he clutched her skirt.

"For God's sake, don't ever tell her! Why grieve the child? The truth
is--" He caught his breath, and a sickly smile showed how his mouth
trembled, as he swept his hand across his brow.

"You are sick?"

"Oh, yes--sick; that is it exactly. Sick--sick indeed. Some oysters I
ate, and cheese; later I very foolishly drank ale."

"Then, sir, you must go to bed, and Eglah will send an explanation of
your unavoidable absence from the dinner."

Upstairs a door was opened, and a sweet, girlish voice trilled two bars
of a Venetian barcarolle.

Judge Kent threw out his arms appealingly.

"I must go to-night. For God's sake, don't let her know anything! Say
nothing. I shall tell her I was a little faint from indigestion. Vile
compound--oysters, ale, Roquefort! Promise me to hold your tongue; not
for my sake, but hers. I am obliged to attend this dinner, and it would
spoil her evening if she knew how deadly sick--I--really was a moment
ago. Promise me."

"Very well. I suppose you know best what concerns you most. I promise."

"You are the only woman I ever knew upon whom I could rely to hold her
tongue. Now, quick as you can, bring the decanter of brandy to my room.
Amuse the child with her frills and finery while I dress. I must have a
little time."

When she carried the brandy to his door, the hand that grasped it was
icy, and the other tugged ineffectually at his white tie.

Humming her boat-song, Eglah trailed silken draperies down the winding
stairs and into the library, where she courtesied low to Eliza and swept
her train--like a peacock's plumes--up to the grate, putting one
slippered foot on the brass fender.

She was gowned in green crêpe of an uncommon tint, that held
multitudinous silvery lights in its crinkled texture, and when she moved
they glistened and played hide and seek in the clinging folds. Around
her fair, full throat a rope of emeralds coiled twice.

"Am I all right--ready for publication and criticism? The damp weather
makes my hair so curly I can scarcely keep it in line. Ma-Lila, the
clasp of my necklace feels a little rickety, so I must ask you to move
it around in front, and cover it securely with this."

She held out a diamond butterfly, and Eliza fastened it in the gold-wire
links of the emerald chain. As she settled the jewels in place, she
stooped and kissed one lovely white shoulder.

"Solemn little mother! I know exactly what you are thinking. That I am
as frivolous a creature as grandmother's heirloom butterfly? You should
not lose sight of the psychic symbolism of this much slandered and
despised insect. Little white butterflies whose wings are all powdered
with shining star-dust are the souls of babies----"

"Pagan nonsense that I won't listen to. Moreover, you ought to be
ashamed to jest about your immortal soul as if it were yours
exclusively--to play with as you would a ball."

"You darling Puritan! If you do not unlace yours it surely will smother.
Really, I thought it was orthodox to believe that in the very last
analysis and final adjustment of personal property one's own soul was
one's solitary chattel that defied and survived the confiscation of
death. Motherkin, don't scold! Kiss me good night, and help me with my
cloak, so that I shall not muss all this lace jabot. Is not father
ready?"

Eliza laid her long, white velvet cloak around her and tied the ribbons
under her chin.

"What keeps father so long? I heard the front door bell ring; is there a
visitor?"

"No visitor. Only some document left for the Judge. He is dressing."

Eglah went to the door of an adjoining room and rapped.

"Father, we shall be late. Unpardonable, you know, at a formal dinner."

"Almost ready. Old men need more time for repairs than young beauties."

When he came in, walking briskly, with his overcoat on his arm, Eliza
saw that he had rallied surprisingly. Brandy reinforced his nerves, and
the cautious, defensive tactics of a lifetime availed now to readjust
and restore his equipoise of manner. A flush showed on the full cheeks,
and his eyes shone like those of a cat in some dim corner.

"Inexcusably late, father! What can we say?"

"Come, my dear; leave that to me. I shall simply apologize by telling
the truth--a spell of indigestion delayed me, but I felt sure one of the
Secretary's famous cocktails would rejuvenate me."

Women, secure in their heritage of personal charms, resent as the most
unpardonable of affronts to their mental acumen explanations that do not
explain, and Mrs. Mitchell was thoroughly exasperated by the flimsiness
of the deception which she was expected to accept with unquestioning
credulity. Silence under strenuous conditions she could have condoned,
because it left her the resource of conjecture; an honest confession of
vitally grave business complications she would have regarded as
confidential, and loyally held inviolate, but "oysters, ale, and
Roquefort" was a stinging challenge to her feminine intuitions. Judge
Kent's arrested assertion: "The truth is--" recalled Mrs. Maurice's
estimate of his veracity when she had applied to him the sarcasm: "He
holds truth too precious to be wasted on everybody." That he cowered
under some unexpected blow she was quite sure, but her solicitude
included him only as his interests involved Eglah's welfare, and any
intimation of coming disaster fluttered this foster-mother, as the
faint, grey shadow of a hawk high in the heavens startles a hen into
signalling her brood. Ignorant of the quarter whence trouble might
approach, how could she shield Eglah, whose safety had been committed to
her guardianship? Had she the right to discover the contents of a note
that "contained no news"? Did his falsehood entitle her to pry into his
correspondence? All the smothered distrust of years was acutely
intensified, and she rose and walked to his room. A bright light shone
through the transom, but when she turned the bolt she found the door
locked. During her residence in the house this precaution had never
before been taken, hence she knew the note had not been destroyed.
Returning to the library, she rang the bell, and the butler responded
promptly.

"Have you locked up the silver? Bring me the key. Close the house for
the night. Judge Kent will be out late. Tell Octavia to have good fires
upstairs, and then she need not wait for Miss Eglah, as I shall sit up
till she comes; and, Watson, you can go home. Should the front door bell
ring, I shall be here."

More than once she had suspected that the senator was interested in
financial speculations, and, though Eglah's fortune had been carefully
tied up beyond his reach, she began to fear he might by some devious
process jeopard it. "Hypothecating securities" was a bristling phrase
she had never quite comprehended, but it symbolized an ogre she must
outwit.

In one corner of the library stood a tall, brass-mounted chiffonier
filled with papers, and above it hung an engraving. Behind, and entirely
concealed, was a door opening into a small bathroom that formed an
alcove in the senator's apartment. After an hour had passed, Mrs.
Mitchell placed her shoulder against the chiffonier, that rolled easily
on its castors, and she slipped behind it. There was no key in the lock,
but a slender steel bolt slid horizontally under her hand, and the door
opened a few inches only, barred by a table, which she succeeded in
pushing aside. Lifting the portière inside, she entered the
sleeping-room, and found the _robe de chambre_ hanging over the back of
a chair. The pockets were empty, the drawers of the bureau locked, but
under the pillow on the bed she thrust one hand and drew out the object
of her search. It contained neither date nor signature, and was
type-written in purple ink on thin paper bearing no water-mark.

     "A friend to you and to yours believes it a genuine kindness to
     inform you that the identity of 'Ely Twiggs' has been
     discovered, and hopes an early knowledge of this fact may be
     useful to you."

She replaced the note beneath the pillow, returned to the library, and
rolled back the chiffonier. After all, she had ended her quest in a
cul-de-sac. Turning the gas jets low, she sat watching the blue flicker
that danced like witch-lights in the grate, and once she smiled at her
own discomfiture, realizing that her attempt was futile as would be the
trial of a Yale key to open a "combination" vault lock, the arrangement
of which was unknown. Keenly alert, she heard the rattle of the
night-latch, the closing of the front door, and, after a moment, Judge
Kent came slowly into the room. At first he did not notice her presence,
and in this brief unguarded interval she saw the countenance without its
habitual mask--a face gloomy, perturbed, unnaturally flushed, with
restless eyes gleaming like those of a jaded, hunted forest animal.

"Ah--Mrs. Mitchell! Sitting up for Eglah? Didn't she tell you she was
going from the dinner to the cotillon? Herriott will see her home. It is
a shame to have kept you up, but girls are so thoughtless."

"Eglah is never that, and I knew she would be late at the cotillon. I
waited downstairs solely to see you."

"Very kind, I am sure; but I feel much better, thank you. Indeed, I may
say I have fully recovered from that sudden, intolerable spell of
nausea. You are very good to worry over that little attack, but pray
think no more about it. I shall abjure Welsh rarebit and oysters in
future. At my time of life, pneumogastric nerves get their innings."

Brightening the light in the gas globe over the mantel, she approached
and confronted him.

"Judge Kent, I am not 'worrying' over the condition of your digestive
organs, but I do feel deeply interested in the nature of the trouble
that has come upon you so unexpectedly, and I cannot sleep until I tell
you what I have done to-night. Whatever injures you wounds Eglah, and
solely on her account I felt justified in taking a step that no weaker
motive could have sanctioned. I sat up to tell you that when I found you
would not trust me with the truth, I hunted it by reading the note that
fell this evening like a bombshell. I have no hesitation in confessing
the fact. I am here for that purpose."

She set her small, white teeth grimly and clasped her hands behind her.

He looked down at her, as a mastiff at a barking pug, and, throwing back
his head, laughed heartily, clapping his hands softly.

"Bravo, Methodist burglar! You seem an expert, and find locked doors no
barrier. What would Eglah think of your breaking into my room, and into
my correspondence?"

"Shall we ask her? Only my promise not to mention this matter to her
prevents me from telling her as quickly and frankly as I have told you.
May I speak to her?"

"Madam, you possess an arsenal of mental reservations, and I doubt
whether you can keep a promise."

"I can be silent against my will, and even in defiance of my judgment.
Try me."

"Then consider yourself on probation. Where is my hoax of a note?"

"Under your pillow, where you left it."

His eyes twinkled, and his voice shook as with suppressed laughter.

"A woman's curiosity cost us Eden. My dear little lady, what did you
discover in my anonymous letter?"

"That 'Ely Twiggs' is a terrible menace to your peace of mind."

"Would you like a translation of that ugly occult phrase? It is merely a
telegraphic cipher. You have conjured up a malignant chimera; rest
assured it is only a dingy red-paper balloon, with a flickering taper
inside. Good night. Pray allow no compunctious qualms to disturb the
peace of your Methodist conscience."

"No church is responsible for errors of its members, and I wish I could
believe it possible that your Episcopal conscience will allow you a
night of refreshing sleep. For my dear child's sake, I hoped you would
confide in me, and I regret that you withhold the truth. Good night,
sir."

"Little foster-mother, remember your promise."

He held out his hand, but she declined the overture and walked away.

"My Methodist promise will bear any weight laid on it."

       *       *       *       *       *

Without premonition, a sudden storm had swept over the city that night,
and at two o'clock, when Eglah and Mr. Herriott went down the steps to
enter their carriage, the stone pavement held tiny pools and rills of
water.

"Wait, Eglah, your slippers will be soaked."

"I can run across on tiptoe."

"You shall not! Permit me."

He stooped, lifted her from the lower step, and placed her on the
cushioned seat.

"How strong you are!" she said, laughing, as he entered the carriage and
sat down opposite, not beside her.

"Physically--yes. If my force of will equalled my nerves and muscles, I
should be a much happier man."

"Infirmity of will? You,--the most obstinate man I ever met! How little
you know yourself!"

"You are so sure you read me aright, perhaps you understand why all the
strength of my manhood has not saved me from staking my earthly hopes on
a venture that may be fatal. Can you explain?"

"Is it some scientific scheme? Some theory that may prove a delusion?"

"It is simply the possibility that the woman I love will not give me her
heart. Eglah, I have been patient. I wished you to see and know other
men--to form your own ideal, to compare me with some more brilliant and
attractive--before I asked for your love. Since the day I first saw
you--a grieved child--at Nutwood, my heart has been entirely yours, and
all my future is gilded with the hope of a home in which you will reign
as my wife. I bring you the one unshared love of my life. May I have the
blessed assurance that you will accept it?"

For some seconds Eglah neither moved nor spoke; then she slipped down on
her knees and laid her head on his hands, that were folded together.

"Mr. Noel--dear Mr. Noel--I will never marry. Only one man in all the
world is necessary to my happiness, and he is my father. What you tell
me now is a surprise--a painful surprise to me--because I never thought
of you as of some who flattered and even some who have asked my hand.
You were always my best friend, my wise, sympathetic companion, and I
never could think of you as desiring or needing any woman's affection.
You have seemed unlike other men I meet in society, and I believed you
cared most for books and scientific experiments, though I thought you
always felt a very kind, friendly, brotherly interest in me. Oh, I am so
sorry you have uttered such words to-night! You must know I am not like
other women in our circle, and I have no intention of marrying. If I
should select any man to love it might be you, because I respect and
trust you so profoundly; but that could never happen to me. What have I
inadvertently done to make you misjudge my feelings? You must forgive
me. I never suspected."

As she pressed her face against his hands he felt her lips trembling,
and his struggle for self-control was short and fierce. After a moment,
he raised and replaced her on the seat and sat beside her.

"I can reproach only myself for a delusion that costs me more than you
will ever know. In my loneliness the dream was so beautiful. I could not
resist its fascination. Dear little girl, you are the only one I ever
wished or asked to be my wife, and because you are so precious to me I
will not surrender my hope, unless you force me. Remember the long years
I have waited for you. In time, perhaps, you might learn to care for me.
May I entreat you to try?"

"Mr. Noel, I trust you, I admire you--in a way I feel attached to
you--but I must tell you the truth. I shall marry no one, not even you."

"Then I shall never repeat my folly. Be sure I will vex you no more; but
there is something you can do to lessen my pain. If trouble or disaster
or sorrow overtake you, will you promise to confide in me, to allow me
to share it, as if I were indeed that elder brother you have tried to
believe me?"

"Yes, Mr. Noel. After father I will always turn next to you, and you
must not condemn me because, unintentionally, I have been so unfortunate
as to hurt you."

"For several reasons I wish your father to know at once all that has
been said to-night. He is aware of my intentions, and kind enough to
approve them. One final request I trust you will not refuse me. The
visit to my house on the Lake has been definitely arranged, and I
particularly desire that no change of plan should be made. Henceforth no
word of mine will ever recall this interview, and during your stay under
my roof I assure you no allusion to my dead hopes shall annoy you. Trust
me, and come."

       *       *       *       *       *

The carriage stopped at Senator Kent's door. As Mr. Herriott led her up
the steps, she noticed he barely touched her arm, and when he rang the
bell she caught his hand between both of hers.

"Dear Mr. Noel--you do forgive me?"

A neighboring lamp shone full on his handsome face, pale and set, and a
sudden consciousness of the unusual charm of his noble personality
thrilled her. Withdrawing his hand, he held it behind him, and, as he
looked down at her, his lips twitched.

"You have done me no wrong by simply following the true, womanly
dictates of your pure heart. Marriage without genuine love is a
degradation to which you could never stoop. I will love you always,
always; but I find it hard to forgive myself for making utter shipwreck
of a man's dearest aim in life. Good night."

As Mrs. Mitchell opened the door, he turned away and went swiftly into
the street.

"Eglah! What is the matter? You are crying."

"How can I help it when I have hurt the noblest man in all the
world--except father? My one true friend, who never failed to be good to
me!"

"You have refused to marry Mr. Herriott? My baby, you will never find
his equal. Your father can scarcely forgive this defeat of his pet
scheme, dating from the time you were ten years old."



CHAPTER IX


"Herriott, I owe you an apology for coming so late, but feel quite sure
you will pardon a delay that was unavoidable. I have kept your dinner
waiting half an hour."

"No matter, provided you bring an appetite that can defy overdone fish.
I am glad it is only delay, and not total failure. Vernon, you look so
spent, may I venture to offer your reverence a tonic--club-labelled
'cocktail'? It is the best antidote I dare suggest for the slow method
of suicide you have adopted."

"Thank you--no."

"Then come in to dinner."

"I wasted the whole afternoon trying to find a boy down on the East
Side, but when at last I reached the house I was told he had moved from
that neighborhood. He is a soloist at St. Hyacinth's, and I had promised
him a booklet."

"Leighton Dane?"

"Yes. What do you know of him?"

"That he will sing no more at St. Hyacinth's. Henceforth his solos
belong to choirs beyond the stars. The boy is slowly dying of
consumption."

"When did you see him?"

"A few days ago. He is at No. 980 ---- Street, Brooklyn. Your cousin
Eglah asked me to keep an eye on him. Poor little lad! His battle with
pain and loneliness is pathetic, and I rather think the end is not far
off."

"Loneliness? Who takes care of him?"

"His mother is away all day at her work, but an old German and his wife
living on the same floor of the tenement look after him as best they
can."

"Could you deliver the book to him?"

"If you wish it; but why not make another effort to see him?"

"My hands are so full. In two days I must run down to Washington, and
then back home, where I am needed. How luxurious your quarters are! Less
like a bachelor's den than one would expect."

"Next week I give up these rooms, and when I chance to be in the city
shall live at the club."

"Is not this decision rather sudden?"

"No. For some time I have contemplated another expedition to Arizona and
Montana, in quest of prehistoric records needed for an anthropological
paper that Professor De Wette asked me to contribute to the next volume
of Reports."

"What date have you fixed?"

"About the middle of July, immediately after the visit to 'Greyledge,'
which Senator Kent and Eglah have promised as soon as Congress adjourns.
I am sorry you could not arrange to join the small 'house party,' and
rest yourself by fishing in the Lake, instead of the turbid pools of
humanity."

"What about Calvary House? We expect you there."

"That pleasure must be deferred; but I have thought a good deal about
your need of more ground there, and believe I have found just what you
want. Come into the library, it is cooler, and I have some papers for
you. You know the Ravenal lands--some twenty acres--lie across "Tangled
Brook," west of your lines. The property was sold recently by the
trustees and my agent bought it. Now you can easily bridge the stream,
using the foundation of the old paper-mill dam, and by extending your
fences cover the whole. I know the old farmhouse was burned years ago,
but those pasture lands are fine, and that hill sloping south will make
a good vineyard. Here are all the papers, and my deed to the
Brotherhood. Stop! No thanks, not a word, or I cancel the transfer. Some
day, when I visit you, I may not be welcome, because I promise you now,
if your stewardship does not suit me and things seem mismanaged, I will
most certainly turn you all out."

Father Temple laid the bundle of papers on the table and grasped Mr.
Herriott's hand, pressing it warmly, but something in the bright, steady
grey eyes warned him to attempt no verbal expression of gratitude.

His host lighted a cigar, and drew from a stand near his elbow a
portfolio tied with purple tape.

"Does your reverence ever waste time now in sketches and water-color?"

"Life is far too strenuous for such trifling."

"How do you know that some day you will not be required to dig up that
buried talent and answer the charge of neglecting to bring in the
expected interest? Nature intended you for one of her artistic
interpreters, and if you had been loyal to her commission you might rank
to-day as R.A. Last summer I was searching an old trunk for a college
text-book, when I happened to find some of your drawings, that were
packed by mistake with my luggage in the bustle of leaving the
university."

From the pile of loose sheets he held up one, and, after a moment's
survey, in which he turned it at various angles, he handed it to his
guest.

Father Temple was leaning back in a cushioned arm-chair, and against the
violet velvet background his pale, placid, scholarly face was sharply
silhouetted. Listlessly raising the sketch sidewise, so that a gas jet
on his left shone upon it, he looked at it. The profound repose that
habitually rested on his countenance broke up swiftly, as a sleeping
pool shivers when a stone is hurled into its motionless depths. His lips
whitened, and he laid the paper as a screen over his eyes. Mr. Herriott
crossed the floor to the door of the dining-room, and, loitering
deliberately, ordered coffee. When he came back, followed by a servant
bearing coffee and liqueurs, the priest was standing at an open window,
and in the clenched fingers of the hands clasped behind him the sketch
quivered as though shaken by the wind.

"Close the door, Hawkins, and when I want you I will ring. Come, Vernon;
I remember your fondness for coffee, and this is good and piping hot."

The thin figure in the girded cassock shook his head and leaned out of
the window, staring up at the golden stars throbbing above the roar and
din of the crowded street.

After some minutes, during which the host rattled cups and glasses,
Father Temple walked up and down the room, then came back to the table.
The despairing sorrow in his deep, soft eyes made Mr. Herriott rise
instantly.

"Vernon, have I wounded you by my reminiscent babble of college days?"

Without a word, the arms of the priest were lifted to the man towering
over him, and he laid his head on the shoulder of one who had never
failed him.

"Temple, forgive me, dear old fellow, if I have broken rudely into some
sacred, sealed chamber."

"You have done me a priceless kindness in restoring my picture, but with
it comes the hour of humiliation I always knew must sooner or later
overtake me. Noel, your good opinion is so precious to me I shrink from
losing it. I have dreaded your condemnation next to that of my God. You
always trusted and respected me, even in what you deemed foolish monkish
extremes, and yet--and yet----"

"Sit down, and pull yourself together. You have fasted and prayed your
starved nerves into a fit of womanish hysteria. I am no father confessor
for you, and if you are not the true, loyal man I have believed you all
these years, then, while you are under my roof, I prefer not to find out
that you are a hypocrite."

He pushed his friend back into the easy chair, and handed him a glass of
chartreuse, but it was put aside.

"Noel, you must hear me. After the first bitterness I shall feel
relieved that you know literally all I can tell, and then you will
understand many things in my life. To-day I am what I am, simply and
solely in the hope of expiating the sin of my youth. Noel, the sin of my
youth found me out early, and this life I lead is an attempted
atonement. Do you begin to understand?"

Mr. Herriott held up the sketch, and, as he struck it sharply with his
fingers, his face darkened.

"Whose portrait is this?"

"The woman--the young girl--whose life I blighted."

"Good God! Blighted? Is your villainy so black?"

"I am Father Temple, vowed to celibacy, and somewhere in the wide, cruel
world a wife and child of mine may have gone down to perdition because I
was a coward--a vile coward, too base for a brave man to recognize. I
knew you would despise me, and I kept silent as long as I could. Do you
wonder?"

Mr. Herriott stood over him like an avenging Viking.

"You betrayed a woman? Wife, or victim of----"

"Both. I married and I deserted her."

"The marriage was legal--no swindling sham?"

"Legal in form, though I was a minor and she a mere child."

"And you ensnared her deliberately, intending to----"

The priest sprang to his feet and his eyes flashed.

"I loved her, and married her secretly, and intended no wrong; but
before I could publicly claim her--before I was of age and dared to face
my father with the fact of my marriage--I lost her. She disappeared as
completely as if the ocean rolled over her."

"Is this the unvarnished truth? There is nothing worse, nothing more
heinous than what you have told me?" Mr. Herriott breathed quickly, as
his keen, cold eyes searched severely the wan face before him.

"I have told you the whole, bitter truth."

"Then I have not entirely lost my friend. Now sit down; begin at the
beginning of this black business, and let me try to share your load of
trouble. Don't hurry--be explicit. Keep back nothing. If you intended no
wrong, there must and shall be found some way to right it."

"Too late! If you take a white flower and inhale its perfume, and then
carelessly drop it where hurrying crowds are sure to trample it into the
dust, what hope that, search as you may, you will ever find it, or,
finding it, be able to restore the torn, soiled, ruined petals? Wherever
she is, no matter what she has become, what sin and shame stain and
defile her, she is my wife. I swore before God I would take her for my
wife, 'for better, for worse,' and though it is my fault--and mine
only--that I did not publish the marriage, I have kept my vows, and am
dedicated to life-long celibacy. My boyish cowardice--what awful
shipwreck it has made of two lives! You want the details? It is a
shameful story, but not long. In the early summer of my nineteenth year
I spent vacation in the far Northwest, at an advanced army station,
Post ----, where father was in command of his regiment. Hunting was fine
but dangerous, as Indians on the frontier were ugly just then, and
several tribes were painting for the war path. One hot afternoon,
tramping back to camp with my rifle on my shoulder, I went down a steep,
wooded hill to drink at a spring, and as I parted the thick growth I saw
a cow chewing her cud, while a bare-footed girl stooped and milked into
a cedar pail. She sprang up, much alarmed, and stood against a glowing
background of scarlet rhododendrons. Her calico bonnet had fallen off,
her sleeves rolled up showed her white, dimpled arms, and all over her
head and shoulders the gold-colored hair was twisted into little curls
and waves and tendrils that glittered like gilt wire. As she stared at
me with large purplish-blue eyes, her bright red lips trembled, and--"
He paused, and involuntarily wrung his thin white hands.

"I had seen handsome women, and many lovely girls, but never so
exquisite a creature as this, and from that moment I lost reason,
prudence, everything but conscience, and my heritage of honorable
instincts. Nona Moorland was the daughter of a teamster attached to
father's command; a brutal, rough man, whose second wife--a selfish,
jealous virago--made the step-daughter's life a cruel burden. They
occupied a log cabin just outside the Post parade grounds, and the girl
was never allowed in sight of drill lines except when under convoy of
the stepmother she assisted in carrying to headquarters the freshly
laundered clothes of the officers. Having been forbidden, under threat
of corporeal punishment, to speak to or be seen with any soldier, save
in her father's cabin, she was terrified at the danger of a discovery of
our acquaintance; hence our interviews were secret, and adroitly
arranged to elude suspicion. Her extraordinary personal beauty and
gentleness of deportment more than compensated for illiteracy and humble
origin, and after a few days I planned a clandestine marriage, to which
she readily assented. The Post chaplain had made a pet of me, because I
aided him in some botanical and geological tramps close to the frontier,
and finally he consented to help us, provided his agency was never
betrayed. We both swore we would not divulge his name or knowledge of
our scheme, and so one starry night he and Hill, a private soldier who
went as witness, stole out, and met Nona and me in a dense grove of
trees near Moorland's cabin. There we were married according to the
ritual of the Episcopal Church. I was not quite nineteen, she a slender
girl just past her fifteenth birthday. Under the quiet stars that shone
as our altar lights, we took solemn, life-long vows as husband and wife,
and there, when a written certificate had been given to Nona, we all
joined hands and pledged ourselves in the sight of God to keep the
secret until I was of age, or thought it prudent to publish the
marriage. To her I meant no more wrong than to myself, and kept to the
form of law, knowing we were minors, and that no license legalized the
ceremony which I believed and argued the Church sanctified. You knew my
father sufficiently well to remember how terribly stern he was, how
morose he often seemed, and I dared not defy him. For three weeks life
was a brief vision of heaven to Nona and me. She was so lovely, so
tender, so humbly conscious of her social inferiority and lack of
education, so fired with an ambitious zeal for culture and improvement
to fit herself for the circle where Colonel Temple's son was born to
move. Then the bolt fell. A courier from the nearest telegraph station
brought news that father had been promoted, was ordered to Washington,
and would soon go abroad on some military commission. I begged to spend
the remaining days of my vacation at Post ----, but was sharply refused,
and all things were ordered in readiness for our departure next day at
sunrise."

Some overwhelming memory arrested the narrative, and Father Temple held
the portrait sketch toward the light. Then he crossed his arms on the
table and bowed his face upon them. The room was very still, and there
seemed suddenly a startling insistence in the harsh sound of an organ
that began to grind out "O promise me," on the pavement below. Mr.
Herriott threw down a coin, closed the window, and resumed his seat.

"Noel, you must think me weak and unmanly. You are so strong yourself,
you can scarcely----"

"Strong? I think if I had to carry your burden I should go out and hang
myself."

"That last interview is a perpetual nightmare no noon sunshine ever
dispels. Nona was frantic at the unexpectedly sudden separation, and she
clung to me like a drowning child; but by degrees she accepted the
inevitable, and her trust in me was supreme. She would be patient, and
study books the chaplain would provide, and rely on him to forward her
letters, and receive and find means to deliver mine. A full moon showed
me her tearful face when we stood up to say good-bye. Oh, beautiful,
tender, devoted, and pure as any lily God ever set to bloom in a wicked
world! As I took her in my arms, she kissed me repeatedly, and I felt
her lips tremble on mine as she sobbed:

"'No matter what happens, you must trust me as perfectly as I trust you.
If we keep true to each other, all the world can't part us long.'

"That farewell vision abides with me--sleeping, it walks as a living
presence through my dreams; waking, it thrusts itself between me and my
God; and when I kneel before the marble image of the Mother of my Lord,
her holy face is hidden by that of my fair, sweet young wife. It has
become an obsession from which I cannot escape. After I went east, two
letters reached me; then, in the late autumn when father had sailed, I
was stricken with typhoid fever, that kept me prisoner for three months,
and the inflammatory rheumatism that followed it so completely wrecked
me, I was carried to the country home of an aunt in Massachusetts, in
whose care father left me when he went to Europe. In my convalescence I
wrote repeatedly under cover to the chaplain, signing only my middle
name, Pembroke, but heard nothing until the next June. While still on
crutches, I went for a day's visit to college to collect and pack my
belongings, and there I found one dusty, mislaid letter from Nona, full
of sad forebodings. The chaplain had wandered too far away to a mountain
range, accompanied only by an orderly, who reported on his return that
his companion had been scalped by Indians while he was examining some
rock ledges, and that he had barely escaped by desperate riding. A
cavalry troop, sent out to recover the body and avenge the death, was
ambushed in a wooded defile and four troopers were killed, among the
number Hill. The letter had been written in January--five months before.
Both witnesses of our marriage in the grave! Anxiety and distress
brought on renewal of rheumatic fever, and I was crippled in hands and
feet for six terrible weeks. One day, as I was trying my ability to walk
about the room, a delayed letter was forwarded from college--the last I
ever received from Nona. Her father had died very suddenly from
congestion of the lungs, and his wife returned immediately to her family
in Arkansas; but because of my poor Nona's condition, which had
subjected her to severe abuse and horrible accusations, the stepmother
had cast her off, refused her recognition, and abandoned her. Because
she refused to divulge the name of her husband, her declaration that she
was a wife only increased the torrent of insults that swept her beyond
the pale of respectability. She wrote that one friend--the only person
who believed her assertion that she had been lawfully married--was just
then leaving the Post for his old home, his time of service having
expired, and he had kindly carried her in a covered wagon to a small
village some days' travel east of the Post, where he found shelter for
her until after the birth of her child. She begged I would send money to
pay her board and also to enable her to travel east and live near me,
because she was so terror-stricken among strangers. The same day my
father summoned me to Europe, having decided I should attend lectures
in Germany and at Oxford. By express, I forwarded the money to
Nona, in accordance with her directions--"Care of Delia Brown,
Thompsonville, ---- Territory"--and I wrote her, explaining all the
circumstances, assuring her I would join her as soon as I could travel,
and that henceforth we should never be separated. A few hours later I
was laid up with a severe relapse, and when, finally, I started west in
September, I was still so lame any movement was torture. At last the
stage coach put me down at the cluster of log houses called
Thompsonville, and by the aid of crutches I found my way to a low, dark
cabin of two rooms, where Delia Brown made a scanty living by washing
and ironing for men attached to a party of prospecting miners. She was
a gaunt, sinister looking woman from Maine, with small, deep-set, faded
yellow eyes that bored like a gimlet, and as she took a pipe from her
ugly bluish lips and greeted me my heart sank. Where was Nona? Gone--with
the man who brought her there, and who 'paid well for her keep.' When?
Several weeks ago. Did she receive my letter, and had the money reached
her? Yes, the money had been delivered to her--Delia Brown--and she had
given it to the woman Nona, in the presence of one Josh' Smith. My
letter had seemed to terrify the woman, and as soon as she knew I was
coming she went away suddenly, saying she was going to New Orleans, and
she and the man could take care of the baby. What was the man's name? He
called himself Lay' Walker, but she doubted 'if he was not somebody else,
and folks had their suspicions about the whole affair.' The baby boy was
four months old when the man and woman took it away, but it was 'such a
poor, puny, ailing child it had little chance to live.' What I suffered
then only God will ever know, but faith in Nona sustained me while I
went from cabin to cabin, receiving on all sides confirmation of Delia
Brown's statements from women who had met her, and also from the mail
and express agent--Josh' Smith--who assured me he had delivered the
letter and package of money addressed to Nona Moorland, care of Delia
Brown, to the latter, and exhibited her receipt. Lay' Walker was
described as a very 'handsome Spanish-looking young fellow,' and he and
the woman seemed fond of each other. He spent his money freely on her,
and talked about Florida and banana growing, and said they wanted to get
to New Orleans, where his friends had a schooner running in the West
India fruit trade. After an exhaustive search, I made my way to New
Orleans and engaged police assistance, but no clue could be found. Then I
arranged advertisements to run six months, and went on to Pensacola and
to Tampa. I advertised in two Florida newspapers, asking Nona Moorland
to write to me, care of my father's lawyer in Boston. No response, no
word, no hint ever reached me. When December arrived and I had no
tidings, I deposited money in a Boston bank to the credit of Nona
Moorland, and leaving instructions that all mail matter should be
forwarded promptly to me, I sailed for Europe, shattered in body, almost
hopeless, and the tortured prey of remorseful regret at the awful
consequence of my midsummer madness."

A nervous shiver seized him, and he lifted the chartreuse to his
colorless lips.

Mr. Herriott's sinewy brown hand closed over the cold white fingers half
hidden in the folds of the black cassock.

"And the woman, Delia Brown? What became of her?"

"How should I know?"

"There lies the crux of this dreadful entanglement. She duped you."

"Possibly. When I left Thompsonville she was preparing to remove to
Maine, where she had relatives. I doubted her as long as I could; but
nearly eleven years of cruel silence have slowly destroyed every vestige
of hope, or of faith in Nona's loyalty. Understand, I do not accuse
her--I dare not--I accept the blame. The fault was mine; she was an
innocent, ignorant child, and what she considered my heartless, wicked
desertion has thrown her into the jaws of destruction. If her soul is
lost, God will require me to answer for the ruin--and that is the
bitterness of my intolerable life. The immortal soul of my wife, of the
mother of my child--a homeless, nameless, fatherless waif! I hold
marriage indissoluble by human enactment, and while Nona lives I regard
her as my wife, no matter what she has become, no matter into what
shameful career she may have been driven by my cowardly course of
action. When she believed I had abandoned her, the poor girl doubtless
grew desperate. What I have told you is known only to my confessor, to
the Superior of our Order in England, where I took my vows, and to my
father, to whom I promptly confided everything when I joined him in
Germany just before his death. That he refused to forgive me you will
readily believe. This sketch you have restored to me was enlarged from
one I made at Post ----, and its loss greatly grieved me. Oh, Noel,
stinging memory is more merciless than sharp-set hair shirts that fret
the flesh. When I see happy mothers and children, their laughter smites
my heart like an iron hand; and while I minister to the suffering
outcast little ones in pauper homes, my bruised soul seems to hear the
accusing, piteous cry of my own forsaken, lost lamb--thrown out to
hungry wolves."



CHAPTER X


Sabbath quietude had laid a finger on thousands of metal lips that
screamed the song of labor on other days, and the great city seemed
almost asleep as Mr. Herriott entered his carriage at ten o'clock and
gave the order, "Brooklyn--Fulton Ferry." After a restless night, spent
in searching an old diary for dates and notes, he had gradually untied
some knotted memories--vague and conflicting--and straightened a slender
thread that might possibly guide to the identification of an elusive
personality. On the seat in front of him a basket of purple grapes added
their fruity fragrance to the perfume of a bunch of white carnations,
and during the long drive the expression of perplexity which had knitted
his brows relaxed into the alert placidity that characterized his strong
face.

Summer heat, blown in by a humid south wind, touched the sky with an
intense blue, against which one long, thin curl of cloud shone like a
silver feather, and Brooklyn parks and lawns shook their green banners
of grass blades and young, silken foliage. In the middle of a block of
old brick tenement houses, Mr. Herriott entered an open door, where two
children fought over a wailing black kitten, and went up the inner
stairway to a narrow hall, on which opened several doors bearing cards
inscribed with the name of occupants of the rooms. At one, labelled
"Mrs. Dane," he rapped. It was opened partly, and held ajar.

"Well, who knocked?"

"One of Leighton's friends. Can I see him?"

"Not to-day. He is not well enough for visitors."

"May I come in and see you?"

"Why should you? What do you want?"

Before he could reply, a weak voice pleaded:

"Please, mother! It is Mr. Herriott: let him in. He has been so good to
me--please--please!"

"If I do, you are not to talk and bring back that spell of coughing."

The door was swung fully open, and Mr. Herriott confronted "Juno."

"You are Mr. Herriott, as I supposed. Walk in, and excuse the confusion
of the rooms. I was up all night, and have not put things in order."

She wore a dark skirt and white muslin sacque, loose at the throat,
ungirded, and the sleeves were rolled up, exposing the symmetry of her
dimpled white arms. A rich, lovely red stained her lips and
cheeks--perhaps from embarrassment, probably from the heat of the
oil-stove, on which, evidently, breakfast had been recently prepared.
She pointed to an adjoining room, where Leighton lay on a cot close to
the open window.

"Oh, sir, are they really for me?" as Mr. Herriott laid the basket and
flowers beside him.

"Look, mother! Grapes, grapes! And the smell of the carnations! Was
there ever anything so sweet? I don't know how to thank you, sir. I wish
I could say something, but when my heart is full I just can't tell it."

His little hot hand caught Mr. Herriott's, and the thin fingers twined
caressingly about it.

"You are not to thank me, and you must not talk. Remember, that was the
condition upon which I was allowed to see you. Eat your grapes while
your mother tells me about you."

"You will spoil him. I can't give him such luxuries as hothouse fruit
and flowers, though now and then he has his bunch of violets."

"When was the doctor here?"


"Friday. He changed the medicine, but I can see no benefit as yet."

"If you think it would not tire him too much, I should like to take him
out for a drive."

"Thank you, but I could not consent to that."

"Why not? The fresh air is balmy to-day, and would do him good. I have a
carriage at the door, and if you are unwilling to trust the boy with me,
I should be glad to take you also. May I?"

Her blue eyes glittered and her lips straightened their curves.

"Most certainly not."

"Pardon me, madam; my interest in your child----"

"Does not justify a man of your position in taking a 'department store
saleswoman' to drive on Sunday through public places."

"Perhaps you are right. Then I shall efface myself promptly, and you and
Leighton can keep the carriage as long as you like."

"Such favors I accept from no man."

"Not even to help your sick boy?"

She put her hand on the child's shining curls, and a world of tenderness
glorified her velvet eyes.

"Not even for my very own baby could I incur such an obligation."

"Smell them, mother--like spice! Don't they make you think of the
carnation garden in San Francisco, where Uncle Dane used to carry us?"

"How long ago was that, Leighton?" asked Mr. Herriott, watching the
woman's face.

"Oh, it was when I was a little chap and wore frocks."

"Were you born in San Francisco?"

"No. He was born in ---- Territory."

"Mrs. Dane, can you tell me what became of the artist Belmont?"

"Why do you ask me that question?"

"In order to get an answer. He painted your face for his 'Aurora,' and
the picture was photographed."

"Yes; I needed money, and Mr. Dane permitted him to come to our house
for the sittings. That was my first and last experience as a model."

"I have met you before."

She straightened herself, and answered defiantly:

"Probably I have sold you gloves, or socks, or handkerchiefs--certainly
not the right to meddle with my personal affairs."

"I went with a San Francisco friend to see a night school for women,
which his mother had established. You were there."

"Yes, I was there two winters. Now, sir, have you a police badge hidden
inside your coat? Are you playing reporter--disguised as a benevolent
gentleman--hunting up the details of last night's meeting and riot at
Newark? You know, of course, that I made a speech there?"

"Indeed? I had imagined you sat up all night with your sick boy."

"There is a strike on down there, and I spoke against arbitrating labor
grievances, and against the ghastly sham of getting the rights of the
poor from a picked judge and a packed jury. Bombs and boycott make the
best mill for grinding out justice to starving, over-worked men and
women."

"How long have you been an 'anarchist,' or perhaps you prefer the term
'socialist'?"

"From the day I was sixteen years old, and learned how rich men trample
and betray and despise and insult the ignorant, helpless poor."

"It must have been a terribly cruel grievance that transformed into a
fury one who was intended for a loving, gentle woman."

She laughed, and her beautiful teeth took hold of the glowing under lip.

"Grievance? We all have one--we are simply born to suffer, as to
breathe--but the unendurable the unpardonable comes from the grasping,
murderous, fiendish selfishness of rich men. You have been so kind to my
boy, I have tried hard to believe genuine benevolence--what you are
pleased to call 'Christian philanthropy'--inspired your visits to him
during my absence, but you are all alike--you gilded society
sultans--and you come here with some cowardly design carefully smothered
under flowers, fruit, and candy. So, Leighton, make the most of to-day,
for we will see no more of your Mr. Herriott."

"Madam, I shall be as frank as you have shown yourself. There is one
woman in this world whose wishes rule me absolutely, and because she
requested me to see your child now and then, I have come several times,
until my sympathetic interest equals hers. With your career in New York
I am acquainted. For your radical views and utterances I have neither
respect nor toleration, yet, if you will permit me to explain, there are
reasons that lead me to believe I can do you a very great service."

"I am not in need of service from any man. Your formula has not even the
ring of originality; I have heard such sickening reiterations of it from
false, bearded lips."

"That you have been a cruelly wronged woman I feel assured, but I am
equally certain that your worst enemy was no man--was one of your own
sex. For your own sake, will you answer two questions?"

"For my own sake, I distinctly refuse to be catechised by impertinent
strangers."

"Oh, mother; please mother! He has been so good to me, how could he mean
harm to you? Don't worry her, Mr. Herriott. She can't abide men; they
fret her, and she hates them--unless they are starved and ragged. Please
let her alone, and look at my doves. They come for the crumbs on the
window sill. See! Here is a new one, pure white. Mother, scatter some
bread on the sheet and they will come in."

She sprinkled some scraps of cake close to his pillow, and, after a
little coy skirmishing, the pigeons fluttered in to the feast; but just
then a spell of coughing shook the fragile form on the cot, and with a
flash and whirr the flock vanished. Mrs. Dane lifted the boy and fanned
him, wiping away the moisture that beaded his clustering curls, and Mr.
Herriott piled the pillows and cushions behind his shaking shoulders.
When the paroxysm ended, and Leighton lay wan and spent, the visitor
leaned over him.

"I should like to do several things for you, but your mother will not
permit me. Miss Kent wishes you to know she remembers you with interest,
and hopes to hear you sing again. The stranger who preached at St.
Hyacinth's has not forgotten the poem he promised you, and will bring it
soon. I saw him last night. Now, I must say good-bye for to-day. Don't
try to speak, I understand everything."

Silently Mrs. Dane followed him to the door. Across the threshold, he
turned and lowered his voice.

"A sea voyage is the only thing that will prolong his life. With your
consent, it can be arranged at once."

She shook her head.

"Madam, I find I must revise my ideals of maternal devotion. You punish
your innocent child for the sins of those who blighted your youth? You
harangue a rabble in favor of 'justice' and deny it to a dying boy."

She caught her breath, leaned against the wall, and covered her face
with her hands. When he saw it again the color had ebbed, the lovely
eyes were darkened by unshed tears, and the lips were beyond her
control.

"My baby--my fatherless little one! Ever since he was born I have
struggled so hard to keep his mother's name clean--his mother's name,
all he had--clean and beyond reproach! Do you suppose that now, at the
last, I would put myself under obligation to a rich man? We may die
paupers, he and I, but when we go to the Potter's Field--the only
undisputed land labor can claim--we go free, honest, and unblemished,
and if there was a God, I could hold up my baby and demand why He had
cursed us both in our innocence."

"I am sorry that the circumstances coloring your life have destroyed
every vestige of confidence in man's honor, yet I have no alternative
but to accept your decision, and I wish you good morning."

He lifted his hat, and had gone half way down the stairs, when she
followed and touched his sleeve.

"I did not thank you for much goodness to my child, but I do want to say
I am not ungrateful; only I have had so little to be thankful for, I
don't quite know how to phrase gratitude. The world has been so hard to
me I am suspicious of every rich man in your social circle. You see, my
face has handicapped me always----"

She set her teeth and struck one palm resentfully against her cheek, and
the passionate, pent-up cry of years of suffering broke through the next
words.

"Yes, my face has been my curse, and it was the steel trap that snapped
chains on me when I was only a child. Kindness to my Leighton is the one
thing that touches what is left of my heart; and how do you suppose I
can bear now to listen to his sobbing yonder, because he thinks I have
rudely driven you away? Oh, my pretty baby! My own beautiful little one!
Cast out, with only his girl-mother to fight for him against this cruel
world! And now if I lose him, if my all is taken away from me----"

She wrung her hands, and the blanched face was upturned as if
challenging her God.

"Madam, I understand fully, and I intend to help your boy; but be sure I
shall visit him when you are absent. Tell him I shall come, with your
consent, while he is alone; and some day I think you will trust me, even
despite the fact that I happen to have money. Good-bye."

He held out his hand, but she seemed not to see it, and as she turned
and walked wearily up the steps he went down to his carriage.



CHAPTER XI


"Miss Kent, it is quite evident that you do not approve of us."

"Will you be so kind as to explain to whom 'us' refers?"

"Our great social world, including government, congressional and
diplomatic circles, club life, and all that 'progress' stands for.
Instead of moving abreast with the 'advance' current, you have drifted
aside into an eddy as contracted, as pitiably narrow as--pardon me, we
emancipated new women dare now to speak the brazen truth--as narrow as
the hands and feet you Southerners boast as sign of aristocratic blood."

Eglah lifted her grey-gloved hand, examined its outlines critically, and
placed it within a few inches of the broad, thick palm which Ethelberta
Higginbottom had laid on her own lap as she sat in the gallery of the
Senate chamber.

"Thank you very much, Miss Higginbottom. It is traditional in my family
to admire slender fingers, but we are not so intolerant as to deny
others the privilege of occupying as much space as their digits can
cover, and we never brand people as absolutely disreputable because they
wear number six shoes and number seven-and-a-half gloves. If degrees of
latitude determine the height of insteps, what manifest injustice has
been meted out to longitudinal lines that you Westerners so proudly
claim? Probably you have forgotten that my father is from New England,
and he owns a silver caddy--two hundred years old--that was empty at one
time because 'fish drank tea in Boston harbor.'"

"Oh, but your mother was Southern and you represent not heredity, but
sheredity, a sociological factor of immense potency, which must be
reckoned with, let me tell you, in the near future, when women fully
emancipated come to enjoyment of all the rights so long withheld from
them. Then mothers, and not fathers will wield the destiny of this great
country; and already female colleges are fast spreading the blessed
gospel of free and equal rights. Last week some one asserted that you
were a graduate of ---- College, but I contradicted it flatly, as
impossible and absurd."

"I am sorry I do my dear _Alma Mater_ such lamentable discredit; but,
unfortunately, we were not taught to wear our diplomas on our hats as
advertisements of scholarship."

"You certainly amaze me!"

"Perhaps you will excuse my frankness in assuring you that sensation at
least is mutual."

"With your educational advantages, to lock up your mind in a stockade of
provincialism! Desectionalize yourself!"

"May I ask whether you spell your last verb with an x or a ct? I should
prefer first to ascertain which process is demanded of me."

"Your Southern bigotry is a mill-stone around your neck. The very word
'emancipation' is a red rag to old slaveholders and their progeny. You
never can forgive us for breaking the shackles of groaning millions held
in bondage."

Eglah laughed.

"Pardon me, but it certainly is ludicrous that one possessing your
'broad culture and desectionalized' horizon of thought should really
believe in that old worn-out 'raw-head and bloody-bones' figure of
speech which has done duty so long. It surely is entitled to decent
interment where all dilapidated scarecrows cease from troubling. We
Southern people no more want our negroes back as slaves than you desire
the return of hordes of Indians whom you so completely dispossessed of
their native lands in your 'wild and rapacious West,' and whom a 'white,
fatherly' government is rapidly reducing to extinction by its beneficent
agencies. The white South is 'emancipated' from the moral responsibility
of elevating the black race now so happy in 'national' tutelage, where
their guardians taught them the system of bookkeeping and all the subtle
processes of the 'Freedmen's Bureau.'"

"How lonely you must feel in Washington. You have no more regard for the
rights of your own sex than for--" She stammered and coughed.

"Indeed, I have the most affectionate and jealous regard for every right
that inheres in my dower of American womanhood. I claim and enjoy the
right to be as cultured, as learned, as useful, and--if you please--as
ornamental in society and at home as my individual limitations will
permit. I have no wrongs, no grievances, no crying need to usurp lines
of work that will break down the barriers God set between men and women.
I am not in rebellion against legal statutes, nor the canons of
well-established decency and refinement in feminine usage, and, finally,
I am so inordinately proud of being a well-born Southern woman, with a
full complement of honorable great-grandfathers and blue-blooded,
stainless great-grand-mothers, that I have neither pretext nor
inclination to revolt against mankind."

"Miss Kent, you have rather pretty eyes, but you are so steeped in
Southern--what do you call it--_dolce far niente_, or _laissez faire_,
or semi-stagnation of soul that you are too lazy to open them wide
enough to see the thrilling vista of woman's triumph that illumines----"

"Thank you; my much flattered eyes are sufficiently open at this moment
to perceive the behavior of that nondescript creature in feminine
garments who is flirting so undisguisedly with Senator Smallweed yonder,
on your right; one of the early emancipated--an advanced lobbyist."

"You mean that piquant, charming little Mrs. Morrison? Dear soul! She is
a pathetically tragic object lesson. Had to get a divorce from a brutal
husband and become a bread-winner. Why should not women lobby? They are
so nimble witted, nature fitted them admirably for such work."

"And gave them the adroitly nimble fingers to fit the pockets they
pick."

"That is some cowardly man's cruel slander. My creed is always to defend
my own sex; it is only Christian charity and genuine feminine justice."

"Provided it be not merely lax morality. Sometimes the distinction is
not clear to very 'advanced,' zealous people."

"At least your father does not share your narrow harshness. He and Mrs.
Morrison are quite 'chummy,' and I happen to know he sees her often."

"How could he avoid it? Shoals of sharks swim in Washington, and since
your friend belongs to the 'emancipated' variety, doubtless she indulges
an 'elective affinity' for the largest senatorial prey in sight, and
hungrily shadows him. Yesterday that 'Bison Head' bill she is working
for came to grief in committee, and will be buried to-day. Even sharks
occasionally miss a meal."

"Oh, you are not up to date! Before the decision was announced one of
the committee weakened, asked for reconsideration; another hurried
meeting was held last night, and the bill will not be reported this
session. Not killed you understand, just tenderly pigeon-holed, securely
wrapped up in parliamentary camphor to scare away opposition moths, and
allowed to sleep while its pretty guardian angel has another session in
which to smooth the way for its final passage."

At this moment a messenger boy brought a note to Miss Higginbottom, and
Eglah rose.

"You do not suspect who the _weakening_ member was?"

"If I cared to ask, I dare say your fair _divorcée_ friend would be able
to enlighten me, but the petty political schemes engineered by lobbyists
do not interest me."

"One moment, Miss Kent. You did not come to my _musicale_. I have only
one olive twig left. We entertain a few friends to-morrow night in honor
of a famous Western woman, who will lecture next season on 'Civic
Problems,' for the purpose of raising money to build a vast, up-to-date
club temple, where women can proclaim their views on female right to
suffrage and expansion. May I have the pleasure of presenting you?"

"You are very kind, Miss Higginbottom, but as we leave Washington at the
end of the week, I regret that I shall not have time for any new
engagements. Pray accept my thanks for several courtesies."

"I used to wonder why you are so unpopular, but it soon ceased to be a
mystery, and it will be no sacrifice to you to give up Washington, in
retiring from public life. When Senator Kent formally resigns--as is the
burden of a little bird's song that utters no false notes--he will,
doubtless, consign you to a more congenial circle of friends."

"In saying good-bye, I shall find some solace in the assurance that at
least you will not mourn inconsolably because of my final departure.
Please present my best wishes to Mrs. Higginbottom, who has shown me
much kindness, and whom I may not be able to see again. Good-bye."

She stood a few seconds, smiling mischievously into the florid face of
the large-featured woman of most certain age, whose light-yellow eyes
flashed back unmistakable malice, then, amid the roar of applause that
greeted the peroration of a white-haired senator in the chamber below,
she quietly stole out of the Capitol, and sought a favorite corner of
the Smithsonian grounds.

Walking slowly, she asked in a spirit of self-chastisement why she had
allowed waspish stings to provoke a retaliatory tone, at variance with
that cool repose of well-bred urbanity and imperturbable courtesy on
which she prided herself; and was not the condescension of retort an
unladylike and mortifying weakness?

Now and then come radiant days when a noon sun shines hot, and no
faintest film flecks the stainless blue, yet one grows vaguely conscious
of waning brightness, and gradually the horizon blanches to a deadly
grey, while leaden clouds creep into view like spectral fingers of some
vast hand groping across the sky to smother the sun. Shadows projected
by the invisible unnerve natures that fearlessly face tangible,
well-defined danger, as 'the sallow, weird light preceding an eclipse is
more menacing than its total darkness, where friendly stars still
shine.' For Eglah, the clock of fate had begun to chime that _mauvais
quart d'heure_ which Mrs. Maurice had known would inevitably overtake
her, and the preliminary whirring of the hidden cogs had found her
unprepared. Blind faith in her father's sagacity, political
steadfastness, and incorruptibility, had built a pedestal from which he
smiled down benignantly upon her, making life a festival; but when the
needle of doubt pricked the fine veil love spun across her vision, and
she dared allow herself to question, a shivering and nameless dread
shook her happy young heart, as unexpectedly blighting as a shower of
sleet on an August passion-flower. When Jove nods his worship wanes.

Since the night of the cotillon, several inexplicable circumstances,
comparatively slight yet cumulative, had perplexed this fond and loyal
daughter, who began to find the maze of Senator Kent's political methods
too tortuous for her exploration.

Startled by his abrupt reversal of judgment on more than one important
question involving party allegiance, she had sought an explanation,
which he laughingly evaded, and, when she pressed the matter, his
avoidance was marked by an irritability of speech and gesture hitherto
unknown in the domestic circle. The undisguised graciousness of his
demeanor toward Mrs. Morrison had surprised and annoyed her, and she was
painfully astonished by his efforts to conciliate Senator Higginbottom,
who belonged to the opposite party, and was a loud, aggressive, and
hirsute apostle of the silver gospel so dear to his constituency, and so
conducive to his individual interest as a mine owner. Mrs. Higginbottom,
a plain, kind-hearted, motherly old woman, who knew much more of
sheep-shearing and beehives than of fashionable etiquette and diplomatic
technicalities, Eglah had found it possible to receive cordially, but
the daughter, Ethelberta, was an intolerable offence to all her feminine
instincts, and when Judge Kent insisted, with some asperity, that the
"Higginbottoms must be cultivated," the ordeal of playing hostess to
this "advanced and emancipated new woman" proved peculiarly unpleasant.
A certain watchful restlessness in her father's manner did not escape
her notice, nor the recent accession of sphinx-like non-committalism in
Mr. Metcalf, and she pondered uneasily a question of Mrs. Mitchell's:

"Dearie, did it ever occur to you that in some way Judge Kent seems
rather afraid of Mr. Herriott, or perhaps I should say is always so
guarded in his presence?"

"Never! Impossible and absurd. He has supreme confidence in him, and
once, not long ago, he scolded me sharply because I could not consider
him head and shoulders above all other men."

The session of Congress was within two days of its close, and that
morning, as Senator Kent rose from an untasted breakfast, he astounded
Eglah and Eliza by the ejaculation, "God knows, I shall be glad to get
out of this grind!"

Fearing sickness had robbed him of his appetite, Eglah followed him to
the library, but he waved her back.

"Metcalf is waiting to show me a paper, and I must not be interrupted.
My dear, my time is not my own--even for you."

Hitherto she had never been an interruption, and it seemed as if some
iron door was shut suddenly between her life and his. "The Bison Head"
purchase bill, for which Mrs. Morrison flitted to and fro, had been
fought by Senator Kent in committee room, where the contest was close,
but Senator Higginbottom was chairman, and when Miss Ethelberta
announced that a member had "weakened" and the bill might be saved by
postponement, Eglah knew who had changed front, and she began to realize
how ancient pilgrims felt when, at Delphi, the oracle said no to-day and
yes to-morrow. Idolatrous habit was strong; the pedestal trembled, but
it was a far cry to its overthrow, and she wrestled stubbornly to defend
inconsistencies that humiliated and staggered her. Time, the master
magician, would perhaps show her the Senator's reasons woven into a
crown of laurel--as unexpected as the garland of glowing roses that
spring out of a naked sword blade, at the gesture of a juggler. To-day
she recalled her grandmother's softened face with eyes of tender
compassion on that morning when the news of the second marriage had been
brought to Nutwood. After all, was there just cause for the old lady's
contempt and aversion, and were the rumors rife in Y---- shadows of grim
and disgraceful facts that must cling to her father's name, fateful as
the philter of Nessus? The thought stifled her, and she put her hand to
her throat with the old childish habit that always betrayed intolerable
pain. She could not go home--must not meet Eliza's eyes until she
strangled this crouching horror. Through the Smithsonian she wandered,
apparently examining its treasures, but now she saw only the pitying
countenance of her grandmother, and now the malicious triumph in Miss
Higginbottom's eyes, as she exulted in some impending misfortune.
"Formal resignation"--adumbrated by more than one innuendo--portended
the summary collapse of a political career that she had believed would
culminate in elevation to a Cabinet seat during the next administration.
For her, obstinate confidence was to-day the sole refuge, and she set
her teeth as she verified Mrs. Maurice's prediction: "'Though he slay
me, yet will I trust him.' My own father cannot betray the faith of his
loyal child."

Dreading Eliza's scrutiny, it was with a feeling of temporary relief
that she recollected an engagement to attend a "lawn party" held that
afternoon at a residence whose owner was laboring to raise an endowment
fund for a local charity. When she reached home, a change of costume
gave time to marshal all her defensive forces; and, as she came
downstairs to join her waiting chaperon, Mrs. Mitchell forbore to
comment on the unusual color that burned in her cheeks.

"Little mother, don't sit up for me. I promised Mrs. Ellerbee to assist
at the flower table, and may be kept late. Be sure you get your beauty
sleep."

Dinner was delayed an hour beyond the usual time, but Senator Kent did
not appear, and as such deviations from domestic rule had recently
occurred often, and were explained by congestion of business at the
Capitol, incident to approaching adjournment, Mrs. Mitchell took her
meal alone. It was prayer-meeting evening at the Methodist Church in her
neighborhood, and, after the exercises ended, she walked home, took up a
magazine, and tried unsuccessfully to read. The political atmosphere was
so charged with electricity that she felt a crisis was imminent, and
only the extent of the storm was conjectural. How much Eglah suspected
the foster-mother merely surmised, because some inexplicable barrier
seemed, within the past fortnight, built up to limit their free
interchange of thought. It was a sultry, sombre night; city walls and
pavements sent up their garnered heat in quivering waves, and the stars
were blurred and faint as they retreated behind a dim haze that was not
mist. At eleven o'clock the street corner light showed her Senator Kent
walking rapidly. She went into the dining-room to arrange the salad and
cold tea he always enjoyed after missing his dinner, and while he
lingered in the hall Eglah returned. She was bare-headed, very pale, and
her lips fluttered, but a brave, tender smile lighted her eyes, and she
put her arms about his neck and kissed him twice.

"How tired you poor national Solons must be! But I know one whose day's
work is not yet ended, and who must pick a whole flock of crows with me,
right now. Why did you change your vote on the 'Bison Head' purchase?"

"Who says I did?"

His face was deeply flushed, but he laughed and pinched her white cheek.

"The chairman has a daughter."

"A leaky gossip. Congressmen ought to be bachelors or childless
widowers; but then, my dear, how could I possibly exist without you?"

"Father, what induced you to favor a measure you have condemned so
emphatically?"

"Several good reasons I am much too tired to discuss. Don't forget your
Emerson, who says 'a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little
minds, adored by little statesmen,' and remember, also, 'a wise man
sometimes changes his mind, a fool never.' The bill will not be reported
till next session, and conditions alter, so _après moi le déluge_!"

She walked toward the dining-room, and on the threshold Eliza saw her
put both hands to her throat. Drawing her breath quickly, she turned
back and threw her arms around him.

"Oh, father! Was it kind, was it merciful to let me learn by chance from
strangers that you have determined to resign your senatorship, to end a
glorious career in which you know my dearest hopes and pride centre?"

For a moment he made no reply, only clasped her closely, pillowed her
head on his breast, and kissed her cold cheek repeatedly.

Then he spoke in a husky tone, as a nervous surgeon might, uncertain of
his own diagnosis.

"My darling girl, I confess it was a cowardly dread of the pain I knew
my decision would cause you, and I very weakly put off the evil day as
long as possible. Immediately after adjournment I intended to tell you
all the plans that seem best for our future, and did not anticipate this
premature disclosure, which is presumptuous impertinence in its author.
In quitting public life even temporarily, my brightest compensation is
the prospect of spending my time in the sweet companionship of my
precious, incomparable daughter. Forgive your old father the arrant
cowardice of keeping silent for a few days."

She clung to him like a frightened child, and he felt her trembling as
one in an ague.

"Why must you resign? Why step down when you have a right to expect the
new administration will offer you a place in the Cabinet? Why? Don't
keep back anything from me now."

"My love, I don't wish to distress you; I shrink from exciting any
alarm, but you certainly have a right to the truth. My health does not
permit the amount of canvassing work that I believe will be required for
my re-election, because our State legislature will be much divided this
presidential campaign over vital issues, both local and national. As my
term expires soon, I think it best to resign now, and avoid grave
complications that threaten our party organization in the State
legislature. Recently I have had premonitions that drove me to consult
Dr. McLemore, and he advises me to withdraw from active political life,
at least for a season. He believes complete rest and freedom from public
responsibility are all that my health demands. I did not wish you to
know this, but you are such an inquisitive monkey, such an arbitrary
minx, that nothing less than the whole truth will satisfy your exacting
reason. Now kiss me, my pretty chestnut burr, and let us pick no more
crows."

"You have been ill, and we--I--never suspected it?"

She caught her breath spasmodically, stifling a sob. Her father glanced
significantly at Eliza, who stood beside the table, lifting a pitcher of
iced tea that clinked against its sides in her nervous grasp.

"I see Mrs. Mitchell--always admirably reliable--has kept her promise to
me. Now she can tell you I had a very severe attack the night we were so
late at Secretary P----'s dinner, and you could not understand my delay
in dressing."

"Ma-Lila! You kept me in ignorance of father's danger, when you should
have warned me?"

"Your father positively forbade any mention of the matter to you, and as
I never saw or heard of a recurrence of what he assured me was merely
the result of imprudent indulgence in oysters, cheese, and beer, I had
no excuse for disobeying his command to keep silence."

The little woman's eyes sparkled, and an involuntary curl of her lip did
not escape Eglah's questioning sorrowful gaze.

"Come, my dear, do not quite strangle what is left of a very tired old
man. Now that explanations are completely over, I feel as happy as a boy
just returned from the dentist's where he left an aching tooth; and
since you know absolutely all that can be told, I should like some tea
dashed with cognac, for I have had a hard, tedious day."

He unwound her arms, patted her head, and took his seat at the table.

Eglah squeezed a lemon into a goblet of tea, Eliza stirred the
mayonnaise, and Judge Kent helped himself to an anchovy sandwich, while
he asked whether they had heard the sad news of the sudden death of a
popular attaché of one of the legations, who had been killed an hour
before by the accidental discharge of his own pistol. Heroic efforts
were made by all to avoid the disturbing theme upon which the Senator
had peremptorily rung down the curtain, and to relieve the tension the
trio separated as soon as possible.

How much of the perfunctory explanation either woman credited neither
could determine, but each refrained from probing the other, and both
endeavored to bridge the crater by that golden silence that knows no
pangs of regretted speech. Lying wide awake, Mrs. Mitchell noted the
slow passage of the heavy hours, and day was just below the eastern sky
line when the sudden shrill trilling of a canary in the adjoining room
told that some restless movement of Eglah's had aroused it. Eliza longed
to go and comfort the suffering girl, but every heart has a sanctuary
which not even the tenderest affection should dare to violate, and the
subtle sympathy of the overseer's wife taught her love's duty was to
guard, not force the entrance. After a few moments, Eglah opened the
door and came on tiptoe to her bed.

"What is it, dearie? Nobody can sleep on such a suffocating night."

She sat up and put one arm around the white figure, which, instead of
yielding to her clasp, held back straight and stiff as steel.

"I thought I heard you stir, else I should not have ventured to disturb
you. Ma-Lila, the thought of father's ill health weighs terribly on my
heart. Will you please tell me the nature of that attack which you both
kept from me? What were the symptoms?"

"He had been dozing in his chair, and quite suddenly sprang up, pale,
and evidently much agitated. I wished to call you, and urged him to
abandon the idea of leaving the house, but he insisted I should not give
you even a hint, and asked for the decanter of brandy, which he was sure
would relieve a severe fit of indigestion caused by imprudence at
luncheon. He went to his room, and when he came out you saw no sign of
serious indisposition."

"He had been annoyed by no visitors?"

"He had seen no one but Watson and myself."

"Do you think there was heart trouble that night? Tell me frankly."

"Yes, most certainly there was; but, my baby, heart trouble comes from
various causes, and I really do not think your father's physical
condition justifies any serious uneasiness. He is evidently alarmed, but
nervous strain and mental worry are sufficient to produce all his
symptoms, and you will find that retirement from congressional
complications expedites recovery in such cases."

The girlish form relaxed, and a hot cheek was pressed against the
foster-mother's face.

"Don't comfort me with false hopes, unless you are sure I am unduly
frightened."

"Listen to me. I am absolutely certain that Judge Kent's health need
cause you no alarm in future. Now, shake off that nightmare, and go to
sleep like a good child, or I will certainly dose you with bromide."

She kissed her softly, and with an arm about her waist led her back to
her bed.

"Ma-Lila, I want to forget the last three weeks. Won't you help me?"



CHAPTER XII


"What is the urgent necessity? I have just held my afternoon mission
service, and I am very tired. Noel, why are you so insistent?"

"Perhaps it has been borne in upon my 'subliminal consciousness' that if
you wait too long you may possibly regret it. Once or twice I have found
profit in following a rule my old nurse taught me when I wore kilts:
'Never put off till to-morrow what you can do to-day.' No 'dæmon' squats
at my ear, and I claim no mantic illumination, still I should be glad to
know you will make that visit at once."

"You fear the poor boy is dying?"

"Not immediately, but he appears hopelessly ill, and needs all the kind
words you may find yourself better able to utter than any one else.
Moreover, it would be well that you should see his mother, who is away
at work during the week, and as you expect to leave the city so soon,
this will be the most suitable opportunity for you to meet her at home.
Poor, fierce, bitter soul! She has no milk of human kindness left; it
soured and has become acrid--intensely mordacious."

"She belongs then to the unhappy class of frail women who go swiftly to
utter wreck in all large cities, where sin is arrayed in rose color and
gilt. Strange that the boy of such a creature should remind one of the
infant St. John or a seraph of Angelico's."

"Some fragments of her history lead me to believe that she is as
trustworthy and pure as any woman to whom you preach. Her morality is
beyond cavil, but theoretically she seems to have gone wild among the
hedges and ditches of socialism."

"You consider her a conscientious, good woman?"

"As far as I can ascertain she lives irreproachably, bar associating
with anarchists. I surmise some man has treated her cruelly, or she
thinks so, and now she----"

Mr. Herriott rose, looked at his watch, and laughed.

"Temple, do you recollect one summer night under the elms, when
rehearsing for the Greek play, Prescott Winthrop declaimed the
herdsman's message from the 'Bacchæ,' and emphasized the portrait of
Agave in the frenzy of the _Thiasus_ strangling a calf and fondling a
wolf's whelp? To-day Leighton's mother recalled that scene, but she is
not dancing to meet Bromius--only hunting revenge on all mankind. Ah,
you are going? I suggest a cautious approach. Leave the carriage out of
sight, and boldly flourish the promised book as an open sesame. You of
the cassock clan enjoy privileges denied to us, the ungirdled sons of
Belial. After all, you may prove the _deus ex machina_, and through the
poor little lad may be able to lay a healing touch on the mother's sick
soul. Come to my rooms after your visit, and we will say good-bye until
I get back from my long jaunt."

An hour later Father Temple made his way into the tenement house,
through a noisy mob of children romping on the pavement, and when he
entered the narrow hall outside din was conquered by the deep, swelling
music of "Quis est Homo," wailing from a violoncello held between the
knees of a man sitting half way up the stairs, a thin, stooping old
figure with shaggy grey hair, and bearded as a Welsh harper. The priest
ascended, and the musician edged closer to the wall to allow him passage
way, but he merely nodded his bowed head, and the solemn strains rose
and fell like the sobbing moan of waves settling to calm after lashing
blasts. Father Temple lifted his finger.

"Mrs. Dane lives on the next floor?"

"Go ub. She vill see no briests, but her door is oben for de child to
hear de music he loves. Dear leedle boy is sick, and my cello sounds
more better here dan closer."

He shut his eyes and continued playing. Opposite the undraped west
window of the room above, an alley stretched, making clear pathway for
the sinking sun that poured a parting flood of radiance into the
apartment, and upon the cot where, propped up with pillows, the boy
clasped his arms around his knees, and listened, quiet and happy.
Between cot and window his mother sat, facing the back of her chair, on
top of which she rested one arm, leaning her brow upon it, while the
other hand, lying on the cot, slowly stroked Leighton's bare feet.
Having washed her hair earlier in the day, it was now brushed out over
her shoulders to dry in the sunshine, and the bright mass of waving
tendrils seemed to clothe her with light. On the floor were scattered
several newspaper sheets--"The Chain Breaker"--and across her knee lay
an open copy of "Battle-cry of Labor." Only the mellow voice of the
cello sounded, and the room was sweet with the breath of Mr. Herriott's
white carnations nodding in a blue bowl on the table. Standing a moment
at the threshold, Father Temple's eyes fastened on the veil of golden
locks falling to the floor, and his heart leaped, then seemed to cease
beating as he recalled a vision of the far West, where just such
glittering strands had been twined around his fingers.

"Oh, my St. Hyacinth's preacher!"

At Leighton's glad cry his mother raised her head, started up, and,
moving forward a few steps, swept back her hair, holding it with both
hands. Before her stood the tall, thin figure in the long, black habit
of his Order, cord-girded at the waist; with a soft wool hat and book in
one hand; a clean-shaven face, pale, sensitive, scholarly, and
suggestive of "lauds and prime," of asceticism without peace, and of
brooding regret.

He recognized every line in her lovely features, from the large pansy
eyes and delicate, over-arching brows to the perfect oval molding of
cheek and chin, and the full, downward curve of scarlet lips. Love is so
keen of vision it pierces the changes wrought by ripening years, and he
knew the dear face. She did not suspect, love had been dead so long, and
she had buried all tender memories in its neglected grave.

"I am surprised a Romish priest wastes his time coming here, and I have
no welcome to offer you, because I wish no visitors."

With a swift movement he closed the door, dropped hat and book, and came
close to her. The sudden glow on his cheek, the light of exultation in
his sad eyes transformed him.

"Look at me. Don't you know me? Look--look!"

Eye to eye they watched each other, and at the sound of his deep,
tender, quivering voice recollection smote hard upon her heart, and a
vague, shivering pain drove the blood from her face, but she fought the
suggestion.

"You are unknown to me."

"I am Vernon Pembroke Temple, and you are Nona, my wife! My Nona--my own
wife----"

Words failed him, and he held out his arms. She recoiled, throwing up
her hands with a gesture of loathing, and stood as if turned to stone,
so strangely hard was a face where eyes kindled and burned with the pent
hatred and scorn of long years of sore trial.

"You had not sins enough to sink your soul without adding hypocrisy? A
preacher! A priest! Cowardice, perjury, moral leprosy, skulking under a
long cloak as black as what is left of your vile heart!"

Each word fell like a red-hot flail, but he did not wince, and neither
father nor mother heard the low wail from the cot where childish arms
covered a face white with horror.

"You think, you believe I intentionally and pre-meditatedly deserted
you, and in your ignorance of facts you certainly had cause to despise
me, but----"

"Think--believe! As if it were possible to doubt the villainy planned!
The crime you so carefully committed against a mere child, knowing she
was a helpless victim, believing she could never redress her awful
wrongs. As if you had set a trap and caught an innocent, happy bird, and
then broken its wings and tossed it to screaming hawks! Coward--coward
as you always were--how dare you face me?"

"Nona, dear Nona--" He put out his hand appealingly, but she struck it
aside with stinging force, and stepped backward.

"Out of my sight, or I call the police."

She pointed to the door. He turned, locked it, put the key in his
pocket, and his eyes steadily met the challenge in hers. The banked,
smouldering fires that flashed up must burn lower before he could plead.
So they stood: he flushed, smiling, happy; she shaken by a tempest of
rage that blanched her to a livid pallor and set all the glittering
rings of hair quivering, as if innumerable golden serpents coiled and
uncoiled around her trembling form.

In the pause he lifted the hanging ends of the knotted cord.

"Do you understand what this habit means?"

"Don't I? A holy cloak to hide every sin that makes this world a hotter
hell than even God could fashion--if God were possible. You drape it
over the ten commandments, blotting them out, while you sing psalms, and
rob the toiling poor, and ruin young lives, and murder innocent souls.
Oh, yes, to my sorrow, I understand all it means!"

"It means my consecration to celibacy when you fled from me, and I had
exhausted all efforts to find you."

"Celibacy! Celibacy! I needed no nunnery to help me keep clean and pure,
but you ran behind monastery walls to protect yourself from retribution
at a wronged woman's hands. Coward from first to last! When I fled from
you? You must indeed be possessed of the devil to dare such language to
me."

"Nona, there has been some awful mistake----"

"Yes, a mistake that I was not scalped, or that a merciful bolt of
lightning did not strike me dead that day--that cursed day--when first I
set my eyes on your false, treacherous face! If you could only know how
I hate, despise, utterly despise the bare thought, much more the
horrible sight of you!"

"No wonder, since circumstances were apparently all against me at----"

"Circumstances are no shelter for honest, honorable men, if there be any
left; and the hard, bitter, murderous facts of your shameful life would
find you out if you dodged under the very throne of the God you
blaspheme by professing!"

"Will you listen to the truth?"

"You could not speak it if you tried. I listened to you once too often,
and you wrecked me, and I am no longer a fool."

"Why did you leave Thompsonville after you received my letters, and the
money I sent you, and when you knew I was coming there to take you away
with me?"

For an instant she looked at him with startled curiosity, then laughed
hysterically.

"I left Thompsonville because you wrote no letters, sent no money, and
took no notice of my frantic appeals for help in my hour of horrible
trial. A sick woman with a frail, feeble baby, facing starvation,
abandoned, slandered, and trampled in the mud, I could only snatch at
the hand held out to me by the one man I have found honest, honorable,
loyal, and true, as he was pitying and kind."

"But when I reached Thompsonville Delia Brown told me----"

Her scornful laugh drowned his words.

"'When you reached Thompsonville' in your dreams--after a night's
carousal at college! Even a congenital idiot would sicken at that."

No shadow of impatience crossed his happy countenance; the intensity of
her scoffing bitterness was part of his punishment--the harvest that
sprang from his own sowing--and he must not complain until she
understood fully.

"I can prove that I went to Thompsonville, and I have the sworn
testimony of Delia Brown that she delivered into your hands my letters
and the package of money I sent to her care through the express agent.
On a scrap of paper I have also a receipt in pencil from you to Delia
Brown."

She shook her head and smote her palms together.

"Forgeries one and all. I would not believe you on your oath, unless the
grave yawned, and Leighton Dane--dead six years--came back as witness in
your favor."

"'He was the handsome Spanish-looking man' Delia Brown told me stole my
wife and child and disappeared suddenly--going to Florida or Cuba to
grow bananas--when you heard I was coming to Thompsonville?"

"He was a good old man, my father's best friend, who took his place as
teamster--and when I was literally driven out of the cabin one rainy
night by my stepmother, he was the only human being who believed I was
not vile. He pitied me and carried me in one of the Government wagons to
Thompsonville, and paid my board until I was able to earn my bread by
helping Delia Brown wash and iron. His term was expiring soon, and when
he started back to his home in California, he came by to see if I needed
anything.

"Finding I was ill in body, distracted in mind, desperate, because I
knew then I was utterly deserted, and had no hope of help, he offered to
carry me West and protect me on account of his friendship for my father.
Oh, bless him--for ever and ever! He made an humble little home for us,
and shielded and respected me, and pitied and believed in me with all
the strength of his great, true heart, and was a second and a much
better father to me in my shameful desolation and helplessness. He
adopted me and my baby, and when he died he left his small savings to
us; and so I named my outcast little one Leighton Dane for the one loyal
friend who helped me to feed and clothe him when his own father rejected
and abandoned him. I had no proof except the certificate you made me
swear I would conceal for two years, and your ally, the devil, worked
well for you when the mice nesting in my trunk cut it into shreds while
I was ill. The chaplain and Ransom Hill were dead; I had none to speak
for me; but Mr. Dane believed my words, and he put his big hand on my
head and comforted me.

"'Poor little girl, don't worry; just be easy in your mind, for I know
you are telling the truth. I know you are good as your own baby, and if
every mouth in America swore against you I would trust you as I always
trusted my own mother.'"

A mist clouded her eyes, as dew softens the tint of a violet, but she
clenched her hands, and bit her lip hard to still its tremor, adding
with sullen emphasis:

"In all these black years the one star of comfort I can ever see shines
in the assurance that the only truly good man I have found, who knew me
well, respected and trusted me as he did his dead mother."

"You never saw or heard of the advertisements I published in various
papers, asking you to inform me where I could find you?"

The contempt in her ringing answer stung him like a whip-lash.

"People who are neither 'lost, strayed, nor stolen' spend no time
hunting for imaginary advertisements that never go to press."

"You shall read them in the papers with their printed dates. Copies have
been filed and preserved with reports of unsuccessful search from chiefs
of police in Louisiana and Florida, whom I paid to hunt for some trace
of you. They are deposited in a Boston bank, with a sum of money placed
to your credit--all to be delivered to the order of Nona Moorland
Temple. Write to Noah Giles, cashier of Orchard Street Bank. I will
telegraph, vouching for your right to the tin box bearing your name, and
in two days you shall possess absolute proof that I am not the hardened
scoundrel you think me. Weak, rash, cowardly I certainly was, but as God
hears me, never forgetful, never unfaithful, never intending the wrong
for which you have suffered so frightfully."

The gaze of each fastened on the other, neither had noticed the cot or
its occupant.

Leighton slipped slowly down till his feet touched the floor, and he
clung to the mattress for some seconds, measuring the distance to the
pair standing in the middle of the room. Weak from emotion that almost
overwhelmed him, he felt his limbs would not support him, and, gathering
his cotton nightgown about him, he sank on his knees and crawled
noiselessly forward. Between father and mother he crouched, then laid
his head against the feet of the priest and feebly raised his arms.

"My father----"

The sight, and all it implied as judgment of evidence in defence, drove
her to jealous frenzy, and she sprang forward as a panther leaps to
succor her young.

"Don't touch him! Don't you dare to lay your finger on him! You have no
more right to him than to an archangel! He has no father, has only his
downtrodden girl-mother. Don't you dare to put your sacrilegious hand on
his holy head. He is not yours!"

With his right arm he held her back, as she stooped to snatch the boy
away, and, kneeling, he passed his left hand under the prostrate form,
gathered him close to his breast, and looked up smiling into her eyes.

"Not mine! If I am not his father--who is?"

"He is mine, solely mine; body and soul, he belongs only to me! Before
he was born you turned us adrift in the world to perish, and now that
for ten years I have worked day and night, fought for bread and shelter,
carried him on my bosom, slept with him in my arms, you--who robbed me
of everything, even my good name--you dare--dare claim my outcast baby!
I would rather shroud my darling than hear him call you father."

Leighton's arms stole round the priest's neck, and his tangled yellow
curls touched the dark head bent over him. Father Temple kissed the
little quivering face, strained him to his heart, and the long-sealed
fountain broke in tears that streamed upon the clinging child.

"My baby, my son, my own lost lamb, for whom I have searched and
prayed--God knows how faithfully, how sorrowfully--all these long,
dreadful years!"

As she stood above them, barred by that tense right arm, noting the
tight clasp of the thin hands locked behind the father's head, an
impotent rage made her long to scream out the agony that found no vent
save in a rapid beating of one foot on the bare floor--much like the
lashing tail of some furious furred creature, crouching to spring, yet
warily hesitant.

Father Temple's outstretched hand caught a fold of her skirt, and with
it a strand of floating hair.

"Nona, my wife--my own wife----"

She twitched her dress from his grasp and shook it.

"I am not your wife! Thank God, I am no man's wife! I am free as I was
before you came--an ever-lasting blot between me and the sunshine. I
kept my promise to you. I set my teeth and was silent under a fiery
storm of slander and foul accusations that blistered my girlish cheek
with shame, but I waited till the years you named had passed, and you
had reached your majority, and plucked up courage to face your father,
and had a legal right to ratify what the Church sanctioned through the
chaplain. Then I told my only friend all the facts. I ceased to hope,
because I had lost faith, but Mr. Dane pleaded for you: 'Wait one year
more, give him the last chance to do right.' He wrote to a friend in the
old regiment and inquired about all the officers, and his answer told us
that your father was in Europe, and that the major thought you were with
him. Then I laid my case before one of the human vultures that batten on
the wreckage of broken vows--a lawyer, expert in snapping matrimonial
chains. He sent you all the necessary notices--sent them to your college
address, the only one I could give him. Very soon the decree of absolute
divorce was rendered, and I dropped all right to a name I had never
publicly claimed--cast it off as gladly as I would some foul garment
worn by a leper. Free--free to live my life as I pleased; Mrs. Dane and
her boy Leighton--free to go wherever I wished, after death took the
only real protector I ever had. And I chose, for my baby's sake as well
as my own, to lead the hard life of a working woman, but clean, and
honorable, and innocent as that of any abbess safely stored away from
temptation behind brick walls and iron gates, and though my own little
one may well be ashamed of his father, he will never need to blush for
his mother when the peace of death hides her from an unjust and a cruel
world."

Sunshine had vanished, the room was darkening, and the last glow from a
topaz band low in the west flickered over the woman's head, as she
swayed in the wave of passionate protest that rocked her from all
trammels of control. There was a brief silence, broken by a strangling
sob and cough, and over the breast of the priest's cassock a warm red
stream trickled. He rose quickly with the boy in his arms and carried
him to the window.

"Nona, a hemorrhage!"

"Lay him down. If you have killed him, it is the fit ending of all my
wrongs at your hands. Now stand back! Back! Do you hear--you curse of my
life!"

She sponged the child's face, laid a wet compress on his throat, and
kept one finger on his pulse, not daring to give medicine while the
narrowing red stream oozed more slowly. She lighted a lamp, flew into a
recess near the stove, and came back with a hypodermic syringe.

"Now, mother's man, don't flinch."

Pushing up the sleeve, she injected a colorless fluid into his arm, held
it some seconds, and laid her lips near the puncture. Then with one hand
she held his head raised slightly, and with the other sponged the lips
until the flow ceased and the gasping breath grew easy.

"Swallow your medicine slowly, don't strangle. You must lie perfectly
still. Mother's own little man needs to go to sleep now and forget all
he has heard to-day."

Father Temple had fallen on his knees at the opposite side of the cot,
clinging to one of the boy's hands, and suddenly the child turned his
head and looked imploringly, first at father, then at mother. Both
understood the mute prayer in the beautiful, tender eyes. A quavering
sound--part sob, part cough--made their hearts leap.

"I never will be fatherless any more. So glad! Don't leave me, father."

"Leighton, you shall always be fatherless. This man can be nothing to
us. Because of his deceitful promises I suffered the disgrace of
smarting from a horse-whip laid on my shoulders when one night I was
driven out of my father's cabin by his wife, and to shelter myself from
sleet and rain crawled into a covered wagon and slept on hay and corn,
until Uncle Dane found me there, and had mercy on me. I owe to this
priest every sorrow and trouble that have darkened my life and yours.
All these years we have had only each other, and you must understand
your mother is the one who has the sole right to your love. My darling,
you and mother can be happy together, and we need only each other."

She struggled for composure, but there was an ominous pant in her veiled
voice.

"I want my father! Oh, I want him--I--want him!" Tears glided over his
cheeks.

She leaned down, snatched Leighton's hand from the priest's clasp,
clutching it between both of hers, and turned her blazing eyes upon the
kneeling man.

"Will you go now? Have you not done harm enough to satisfy even you?
These are my rooms, and I will tolerate your intrusion no longer.
Remember, my decree of divorce is absolute, and it secures to me the
custody of my child."

"I recognize no validity in divorces, and the law cannot annul a
ceremony performed outside of its restrictions and requirements. Because
we were minors we invoked the aid of the Church, and our vows before God
can never be cancelled by any civil statute. Except as a solemn, sacred
rite, there was nothing in our marriage to legitimize our child. This is
my son, not by license of law, but because we swore fidelity to each
other 'until death do us part,' and called God to witness; and no human
decree can rob me of my child--since you dare not name any other man his
father. I defy you to lay your hand on his innocent head and question
his legitimacy, which inheres only in a ceremony no civil law
sanctioned. Months of tedious and well-nigh fatal illness delayed my
return to you, and during my delirium your letters were mislaid. When at
last I accidentally recovered two letters, and went on crutches to bring
you back with me, you had disappeared. All the proofs of my search shall
be laid before you, and though I do not wonder you grew desperate and
cast me out of your heart as unscrupulous and treacherous, the facts
when investigated must convince you I have kept my vows as faithfully as
you kept yours. I felt that somewhere in the world my wife and child
were adrift, through my folly, my cowardly fear of my father, and,
broken-hearted and conscience-smitten, I confessed to the Superior of my
Order in England at that time, that I desired to live a celibate in
expiation of a rash act in my boyhood, which separated me from the wife
I still loved. I took my vows of poverty, obedience, and chastity with
the explicit understanding that they did not absolve me from my marriage
vows, should God mercifully permit me to find my family. I hold supreme
the oath I took under the stars at the Post, and second in sanctity my
vows before the altar in our chapel. For the awful consequences of my
boyish weakness I accuse only myself, and if it be part of my punishment
that I have lost irrevocably the affection and confidence of the mother
of my child, then, at least, there remains for me the comfort of finding
my boy, from whom I will never again be separated; and to him I must
atone for years of unintentional neglect."

He saw that his appeal was futile as the leap of a wave that breaks and
sinks in froth at the foot of basaltic cliffs, and the joyful light died
in his eyes when he began to realize that wishing to believe the worst
she would never accept proofs offered in exculpation.

"Nona, try to forgive me, for the sake of our son, our own beautiful,
innocent boy."

There was no answer but the steady, quick tapping of her foot on the
floor, and her defiant face showed no more softening than an iron mask.

Leaning forward, he kissed Leighton's tearful cheek, and despite his
effort to control his voice it trembled.

"My precious child, I thank God I have found you! Between your mother
and me you must not attempt to judge now. She has suffered terribly on
account of mistakes I made, and she certainly has the best right to you
and to your love. It is painful for her to see me, and I cannot blame
her, but some arrangement must and shall be made by which I can come
often and be with you without intruding upon her. She will select and
name the hours when my visits will give her least annoyance. Good night,
my son. To-day I am happier than I have been since I kissed your dear
mother good-bye."

He tore a blank page from Ugo Bassi's "Sermon," wrote a few lines, laid
the paper near his wife's hand, and went out, closing the door very
gently.

"The hemorrhage was not all blood. I think an abscess has broken, and it
may save his life. He must have a change as soon as it is safe to move
him; but at present it might be fatal. Your money and his in the Boston
bank will make him comfortable, and unless you use it I shall be obliged
to interfere. Let the doctor decide where and when the child should go.
To-morrow at two o'clock I wish to come here, but you can easily avoid
seeing me if you so desire. May God soften your heart towards your
unfortunate but faithful husband."

When Father Temple entered the Herriott library, Noel rose from a desk
where he was sealing letters and put out both hands.

"Herriott, most blessed of friends! How can I ever thank you?"

"You have found your wife and child? Thank God! I could scarcely wait
for the good news I was sure you would bring me."

His eyes were misty, and the grip of his hands was harder than he knew
as he drew the priest to a chair.

"Dear old fellow, it has been rather too much for you. Brace yourself
with this mixture. I had an idea your Reverence might need a tonic,
since 'after the manner of men, you have fought with beasts at Ephesus.'
Drink it! Your spiritual superior would advise it if he could see your
face."

"Tell me, Noel, how you discovered Nona."

"I saw her at the glove counter where she is employed, and was puzzled
by her resemblance to a face I had admired in San Francisco. I heard out
there that some mystery hung about her, but no hint of any impropriety
on her part. Such delicacy of features and perfect coloring are rare,
and faces so beautiful etch deep on one's memory. Belmont painted her as
'Aurora' in his group, and gave me a photograph of her head; but he
spoke of her with respect, and commented on her proud prudishness in
refusing to sit in his studio. You recollect Sidney Forsyth? He carried
me to a 'night school' for working girls, established by his mother, and
there I first saw 'Aurora,' hard at work in the bookkeeping class. He
admired her extravagantly, and told me that despite her girlish
appearance she was a widow with a child, and lived like a nun in the
very small cottage of an old uncle. Last summer, in hunting through a
discarded trunk hastily packed at Oxford while you were on the
Continent, I found among several sheets from your portfolio that
water-color sketch, and it revived my old suspicion that some early
tragedy had driven you into cloisters. Sooner or later one finds on
almost every man's road through life the sign-post, _dux femina facti_,
and I stumbled against yours when I had ceased to conjecture your motive
for a course that astounded your friends. Last night, after you left me,
I verified a few dates in my diary, and to-day's visit to Brooklyn made
it absolutely certain my identification was correct. I congratulate you,
and am heartily glad that I helped to flush your family covey."

"Congratulations sound grim after all I passed through to-day. Did you
ever dream you were dying from thirst, and just as you stooped to drink
the spring vanished? I have realized that tantalizing vision. Nona will
never forgive me, never accept my explanation, never believe my
statements, never tolerate the sight of me. She hates me with an
intensity that is sickening, and because the child is mine she would
rather see him in his coffin than in my arms. She hugs to her heart the
conviction that I am utterly vile, because she wants to believe the
worst, and furiously rejects any attempt to prove that I am not a doubly
dyed hypocrite and villain. You have been so loyal a friend, I should
like to tell you all that occurred."

When he finished a detailed recital of his interview, he leaned back,
sighed heavily, and closed his eyes.

"I knew you were going into a fiery furnace, for, from what I have heard
and seen of your wife, I fear she is one of the few inexorable women,
impervious to reason, to passionate pleading, to the most adroit
cajolery. The hotter the lava, the harder when it cools. Will you permit
me to offer a suggestion?"

The priest raised his haggard face and laid his hand on Mr. Herriott's
knee.

"I shall be grateful for advice which I sorely need just now."

"You have found the missing, but if you are not wide awake and cautious
you will lose them again, and permanently."

"What do you mean?"

"You told her you would go back to-morrow at two o'clock? I rather think
you will not find her; she will have vanished forever."

"Impossible! The child is too ill to be moved, and she would not risk
the danger to him."

"In her present mood nothing is impossible, and she would dare death if
it were necessary, in order to thwart you. She belongs to more than one
society of communists, and the freemasonry in operation is marvellous.
There are places in this city, in Chicago, and in several New Jersey
towns where she could disappear as successfully as in a Siberian mine;
and you must keep in touch with your beautiful boy, who is much too fine
a porcelain vase to be filled with the vitriol of socialism. Before you
sleep to-night ask the police department to set a special watchman in
sight of that house, with instructions to report to you any indications
of intended removal."

"Then I must go, although I do not share your apprehension that Nona
would rashly risk the boy's safety. Noel, I owe you so much--and for
such various benefits--I am simply bankrupt in expressions of gratitude;
but at least I can pray God to grant you your dearest desire in life, be
that what it may."

He rose, and Mr. Herriott walked with him to the front door.

"Temple, write me fully all that you know I shall wish to hear. Let me
help you in any way possible to secure a change of climate for your
little St. John of the gilded locks. Early to-morrow I go home, and in a
few days your cousins from Washington will be my guests. Are you quite
willing Eglah should know the complications surrounding you at present?"

"Tell her everything, and do not spare me or suffer her to blame the
innocent victims of my rashness. Some day Eglah may help me to soften my
Nona's heart. When and where may I hope to see you again?"

"Very soon I start to Arizona for a short stay, thence to the most
northern of the Aleutian Islands, where I expect to find Eskimo
cliff-dwellers, and later to the region northwest of Hudson Bay. Be sure
to write me, and Vernon--pardon my perhaps unjustifiable
insistence--don't fail to secure police surveillance before you sleep."

When the door closed, Mr. Herriott wrote a telegram to the physician who
attended Leighton, walked to the nearest telegraph office, and heard his
message click over the wires.

A few days later he was not surprised to learn that only the sternly
positive interdict of the doctor had frustrated an attempt to remove
Leighton from Brooklyn at ten o'clock on Monday morning.



CHAPTER XIII


The first view of "Greyledge" suggested a stone crazy-quilt, so
multitudinous were its angles, so incongruous its medley of styles; but
examination showed architectural strata superimposed in such trend that
the paradoxical dip had uplifted the oldest to the crest. Three stories,
_échelon_, looked as if they had frozen in dancing a minuet, each
receding yet rising, and when, as a bride, Nina Herriott stepped out of
her carriage, she gayly made three very low bows to the dwelling that
appeared courtesying to welcome her. The long first story was a piazza
or loggia, with wide, round arches upheld by double shafts, closed in
winter by glass doors and storm shutters, in summer noons sheltered from
the glare of sun-smitten water by white and blue awnings. No railing
divided it from the broad stone terrace just below, overhanging the lake
that mirrored its carved and fluted balustrade where vine-fringed vases
glowed with flowers for three months of each year. At the north end of
the arcade, a round tower, rising one hundred and fifty feet, held a
lamp with brilliant reflector that shone far out over the apparently
shoreless lake on moonless and stormy nights, and at the south corner
one of several flights of steps led to an arched and domed pavilion
where boats were moored.

The second floor flowered into bay windows, mullioned and diamond paned;
and the third might have slipped from some Swiss hillside, so full it
seemed of small balconies, sharp gables, dormers, and deep recesses, and
the steep roof that crowned the whole overhung like an Alpine hat the
frivolous impertinence of trefoil and stained glass. Rains had bleached
and snow storms pumiced the stone walls to a smooth, cool grey, silvered
in spots by films of lichen, while on two turreted chimneys ivy had
braved ascent to weave a cloak of glossy green across the sombre smoke
stains garnered during many generations. The most elevated portion of
the composite structure had been built on the side of a rocky hill, at
some distance from the lake edge, and gradually the declivity had been
graded for the later additions that finally advanced until they could
see their own irregular façade reflected in the water spraying their
foundations; consequently the floors were on different levels, and one
went up and down short flights of steps to reach apartments in the same
story.

Herriott tradition claimed that early French pioneers had here destroyed
an Indian fort, and that their rude hunting lodge was succeeded by a
missionary station, where a semi-circular excavation in the rock had
served as oratory; in proof whereof an old wooden cross, partly gilded
with tarnished, tattered gold leaf, still hung in the small stone cave
that once echoed the antiphony of Latin chants, and held forever in its
mossy crannies subtle, spicy survivals of sanctifying incense. Sheltered
on the north by hills, clothed with vineyards along their southern face,
the courtyard and shrubbery nestled close to the rocks, but eastward
stretched wide fields and level meadows bounded by dense woods rising on
steep uplands, blue in the distance; and south lay a garden of olden
time, with primly boxed beds, walks hedged with lilacs, snow-balls,
glistening rhododendrons, and masses of roses that ran riot to the foot
of a high enclosing stone wall, where a shining mantle of ivy climbed to
match its verdure with the velvet of hills that here circled like a
clasping arm, reaching from far-away forests to the lake margin. The
courtyard was so nearly on a level with the rear of the house that only
three shallow steps were needed for entrance, and at this spot the range
of color had been exhausted by masses of lilies, irises, peonies, and
foliage plants--so brilliant that in the summer sunshine benignant
nature seemed to have paved the place with a flawless prism.

On the morning after the arrival of Mr. Herriott's guests, breakfast had
been served on the long, arcaded piazza, where stood three circular
tables, each bright and fragrant from central piles of flowers and
fruit. At the middle one Mr. Herriott sat with Eglah and Judge Kent,
around that on his left were Miss Katrina Manning--an aunt of Noel's
mother--Professor Cleveden, and Eliza Mitchell, and grouped at his right
were Beatrix Roberts, a cousin of Miss Manning's, Dana Stapleton of New
York, and Roger Hull, the young congressman from a northwestern State,
whose devotion to Eglah had long been undisguised.

It was a cloudless summer day, and the crisp wind from the west drove
the crystal water of the great inland sea into ruffles of foamy lace
against the stone face of the terrace. If she had floated down from a
Fragonard panel, or stepped out of a Watteau _clavecin_, Miss Manning
could not have represented more picturesquely a dainty type of the long
by-gone. Low in stature, slight and graceful, this airy old lady, with
silver hair piled high on her head, where jewelled side combs held her
curls close--habitually wore grey silk or velvet, and her bright,
restless round eyes increased her likeness to a bird, hence Noel's pet
name was "Auntie Dove." Her gowns were many years behind the reigning
mode, and she shook her voluminous skirts in indignant scorn of
close-clinging garments then coming rapidly into vogue. When her
favorite young cousin Beatrix plucked up courage to denounce
"antediluvian fashions," the grey old dame seized her by the shoulders
and shook her till her teeth chattered.

"Trix, you are an impertinent minx! My gowns are decent and fit my
morals, and I would as soon change the cover on the Manning family
Bible. You young people have no longer any sense of proportion; your
skirts are so skin-tight you might all be 'artist's models,' and your
manners and your disgraceful slang are about as unlaced as the
bohemians. If your refined grandmother Manning could move in her
portrait frame, she would most certainly turn her back to you and her
shocked countenance to the wall."

To-day she lifted her tortoise-shell lorgnette to examine the rather
unusual pattern of Professor Cleveden's black onyx sleeve buttons, which
represented tarantulas with prominent diamond eyes.

"Noel, are we all permanently arranged in trios? Because, if so, you
have been cruelly unkind in condemning the professor to sit next to an
orthodox old woman who knows no more science than a blind kitten, who is
no bugologist, no apostle to moths, and who bitterly disapproves of
crucifying butterflies on pins."

"Aunt Trina, you will not be allowed to monopolize each other, no matter
how earnestly you both may desire to do so. Shall we change groups once
a day, or at each meal, in order that the collective wit and wisdom may
be impartially distributed?"

"I suggest that all names be deposited in a box and that we draw for
places," said Mr. Stapleton, fearful of losing his neighbor, Miss
Roberts.

"Dana, what a rash challenge to chance! She can be spiteful, that
classic, grinning old jade, and might roll up three women to one table,
leaving a solitary charming belle--presumably myself--to the tender
mercies of five furious men. Fancy the impotent wrath of the beauless
trio robbed of their legitimate prey! Noel, do not risk any such dire
disaster, but try the democratic plan of rotation in office, whereby I
shall afflict each of you for only a few hours of my term. What
delicious apricots! Surely old Amos Lea did not grow them?"

Miss Manning held up a twig on which twin, luscious apricots glowed.

"They were ripened by the hot suns and spiced by Pacific breezes in
lower California, where I have a friend who now and then sends a hamper
from his fruit farm. Beauties, are they not? My old gardener Amos,
jealous of the fame of his own orchard, snorted contemptuously and
assured me they tasted like stale sawdust."

"Does he still employ David, St. Paul, and the prophets as proxies to
curse his enemies?" asked Professor Cleveden, helping himself liberally
to cherries.

Catching sight of Eliza Mitchell's rebuking eyes, Mr. Herriott laughed.

"Yes, he sternly restricts his imprecations to Biblical quotations. When
I was a boy I ruined some very rare tulips by setting mole traps in the
border, and in his rage he called on 'fat bulls of Bashan' to gore me.
Years later I imported a stock of pigeons, and when they literally
devoured his early crop of sweet peas, he seized me by the coat collar,
showed me the havoc, and shouted, 'May the Angel of the Lord chase you
and your devilish English thieves.' He has tyrannized over us all so
long, that his wrath knew no bounds when my amiable young stepmother,
who desired some alterations in the hothouse, defied his arguments and
wishes, and insisted on an annex for orchids that necessitated the
removal of his pet carnations. Whereupon, raising his hand, he shook it
furiously and hissed: 'Madam, you have done me much evil. May the Lord
requite you according to your works!' With tears in her eyes Nina fled
to my father."

"A grumpy curmudgeon is old Amos Lea, but his religious convictions are
so earnest that I would sooner house a swarm of wasps inside my vest
than tread on his Baptist toes. He objects strenuously to my association
with Herriott, having overheard some of our heretical geologic
discussions as we strolled through the gardens, and he eyes me as if I
were the foul fiend at Herriott's heels, prodding him downward with a
pitchfork. I wish that somewhere in the great outside world I had such a
loyal, godly friend to pray for my soul."

"Dear me! I thought you scientists disdained such a superstition, and
that you had reduced souls and minds to mere 'reflex sensory' action,
and 'cerebral sinuosities,' and 'psychoplasm,' and 'inherited
instincts,' and deposits of phosphorus?" interjected Miss Roberts, as
she dipped her jewelled hand into her finger bowl to bruise the lemon
blossoms.

"My dear young lady, pray do not join the multitude in stoning the
prophets. If there be ghosts--blessed are the grammarians who invented a
subjunctive mood--those of martyred students of science will one day
haunt you, more terrible than 'an army with banners.' Herriott is a much
more attractive target than I--younger and handsomer--why not call him
into the witness box and swear him on the case of souls?"

"Trix, there is no need to pester yourself about Noel's soul. Old Amos
Lea made sure of his safety when he baptized him the second time. Noel,
tell her about it. How your poor father laughed that day!"

"Being a rigid Baptist and an elder, Amos scouted my Presbyterian
christening as totally inadequate to neutralize what he considered my
unusually large share of original sin, and as his wife, Susan, was my
nurse, they began to grieve over my reprobateness as soon as I was old
enough to lay claim to moral responsibility. When I was about sixteen I
was out yonder on the lake fishing. Two friends were with me, and we all
swam well, or thought we did. A sudden squall capsized the boat, and I
was caught and held under it in such a way that I could not extricate
myself. The boys hovered around, trying unsuccessfully to help me, but
just then Amos kicked off his boots, plunged in, and swam to the rescue.
He was strong as a whale, raised the end of the boat with his shoulder
and dragged me out. I was slightly stunned, and he swam with me into
shallow water, where he could stand up. Then he lifted me horizontally,
as if I had been a baby in long clothes, and repeating with triumphant
fervor the baptismal formula of his Church, he immersed me so thoroughly
that I regained consciousness, and he turned me over to Susan and hot
blankets, as a 'brand snatched from the burning,' and properly
baptized."

Removing the ice from the yellow heart of his melon, Judge Kent glanced
around the table.

"Owning such a paradise as this home, do you not all share my amazement
that Herriott can prefer to shut it up and wander contentedly over the
continent, searching its rough crannies--Labná, Mitla, Casa Grande, and
where not--for what he pedantically calls the 'primeval anthropological
nidus'?"

"Oh, bless you, Senator Kent, it is just in his blood, and he can no
more keep still than a flea can stop hopping. His father was a
surveyor--civil engineer--always roving, and Noel is exactly like him;
which none of you will doubt when I assure you his mother really was an
absolutely beautiful woman. He is a hopeless tramp. He gravitates to the
wildest places of creation, as you and Mr. Hull to the cultivation of
votes, and Dana to Wall Street kites, and this insecticide professor to
picking the lock of God's workshop when He has closed the door and gone
to His seventh day rest."

"Aunt Trina refuses to believe that my ambition to become acquainted
with our prehistoric family relatives is a laudable method of climbing
the genealogical tree. She is not enthusiastic on ancestry."

"That depends, my dear boy, on the 'strain' you are hunting. If the
first hatching of brown skins in that 'primeval nidus' of your dreams
had only been as wise and prudent as modern cattle and horse raisers,
and fixed rules of pure-blooded pedigree, we might not fear to grope
backward lest we find only 'grades' in our family group. Now, climbing a
genuine, decent, civilized ancestral tree is much better sport than
twisting up slippery totem poles with a coyote, or a coon, or a vulture
perched on top, as head of the family."

"And, pray, what of the sacred menagerie of heraldry? The quadrupeds,
birds, flowers of armorial blazonry--all that makes heraldic pomp
picturesque--are but survivals of primeval totem symbols throughout the
world. Auntie Dove, your book-plate and your family seal bear a leopard
couchant, very dear to your orthodox, patrician heart, and some day your
hereditary pet beast may have glared down upon a Tlinkit teepee."

"Marriage is the only cure for Herriott, and it would effectually tether
him," said Mr. Hull, keeping his eyes on Eglah.

"It appears that you have carefully avoided taking your own
prescription," answered his host.

"It is by no means my fault. Though futile, my efforts have been
heroic."

Professor Cleveden leaned forward.

"You good people do not understand how deeply Herriott is imbued with
the conviction that contemporary 'differentiation' is not a synonym for
desirable advancement. The complex, hybridized, neurotic creature he
meets in society does not always impress him as vastly superior to the
primeval female type, and you may all expect that whenever matrimonial
shackles restrict his pasturage, which will not be _in Wyandot lines_,
he will be hobbled by 'some savage woman' whose accomplishments are
limited to the slim schedule set down by that jilted cynic of 'Locksley
Hall.' The 'new woman' incites us to pray fervently for swift reversion
to type. Now, Miss Manning, I am sure you are preparing to tell me
that----"

"That of course in such matters tastes differ, and not one of us feels
disposed to deprive Professor Cleveden of his coveted female simian
companion; but, as Noel never has had a flirtatious 'Cousin Amy' to rub
him the wrong way, he has no provocation to present to me a squaw as my
great niece."

"It is very evident the professor viciously remembers his own 'Amy,'"
said Miss Roberts, who was watching keenly for some manifestation of
consciousness in Noel and Eglah.

"Miss Beatrix, no scapegoat 'Amy' bears away my sins of temper, because,
as a naturalist, I am unalterably opposed to the marriage of cousins. I
never owned but one sweetheart. She took my unfeathered young affections
into her tender hands when she was only ten years old, and so carefully
has she preserved them that after twenty years of married life she
remains my charming sweetheart--my pearl of womanhood--the supreme joy
of my existence. She is the one priceless fossil in my collection,
guarded with jealous watchfulness, because she no more resembles the new
feminine type than a snowy dove a blind, broken-winged, snapping hawk."

"When I marry, my ambition will soar beyond being bottled in alcohol or
boxed in sawdust or cotton wool, like a centipede or a cracked egg of
the great auk. I should imagine that men who spend their work days among
musty, stuffy fossils would rather enjoy the variety of an up-to-date,
cultivated wife who kept in touch with social tides and currents. Now,
Mr. Herriott, you who prowl about laboratories and museums until you
understand their dreary jargon as fully as you do leading a german or
playing polo, ought to be a wiser umpire than this one-sided shut-in
scientist, who prefers dry bones to living pink flesh."

"In the first place, Miss Beatrix, I must, in the absence of Mrs.
Cleveden, protest against her husband's classification of her as a
fossil. She is alive to her finger tips with enthusiasm for his work, in
which she is his ablest assistant, and knowing something of his charming
home life, I consider him the most enviable man of my acquaintance. We
who are not so fortunate in the matter of sweethearts, must content
ourselves with the best available substitute; and you know, 'if one
cannot have what one loves, one must love what one has.'"

"A defence of fickleness quite unworthy of you; and moreover, Noel,
utterly untrue, for of all people in the world you are the very last to
surrender anything you really want."

"Aunt Katrina, would you have me spend my life wailing for the moon?"

"Pooh! You are not so fatuous as to want to drag a surveyor's chain
across its cold chasms and jagged heights; and after a brief study of
your frozen charmer you would turn your telescope on something
accessible and more valuable. Miss Kent, do you consider Noel a fickle
person?"

Eglah looked up, and, meeting the eyes of her host, they both laughed.

"Certainly not. His life-long devotion to you ought to shield him from
all suspicion of inconstancy."

"Aunt Trina, she is not an impartial umpire. The first time I saw her, a
little girl wearing a snowy muslin with blue ribbon bows on her
shoulders, we entered into a compact, adopted each other as half-brother
and stepsister, and now in supreme trust we form a sort of mutual aid,
mutual defence--on my part, admiration--association. If she saw fifty
fatal flaws in me she would loyally conceal them from you, who are such
a terribly severe censor."

"Herriott ought to go into politics; don't you think so, Miss Manning?"
asked Mr. Hull.

"By no means. I prefer he should keep his hands clean."

"Senator Kent can tell you, madam, that we do not all dabble in mud or
pitch."

Mr. Herriott leaned forward, and spoke more quickly than usual.

"She is afraid I might not swell the class of distinguished exceptions
which you and Senator Kent represent. Aunt Trina, may I trouble you for
a second cup of coffee and an extra lump of sugar?"

Beatrix had completed her inventory of Eglah's points of attraction, and
now, as her eyes rested on the graceful figure daintily gowned in lilac
muslin, the result annoyed her.

"Miss Kent, has your college training fitted you to believe all the
marvellous tales these two wise scholars tell us; as, for instance, that
this lovely spot--this suburb of paradise where we are sitting--was once
buried for ages under ten thousand feet of glacial ice?"

"I am sorry to confess my course of study carried me only far enough to
see the border land of a kingdom I never expect to explore. Unless one
specializes, four years at college make no experts. You might as well
ask a butterfly to classify all the blossoms it hovered over, or measure
the depths of glaciers."

The professor pushed aside his cup, and looked at her.

"And why not? It can teach us infinitely more than its human, club-crazy
sisters. My dear Miss Kent, we who are in bonds to science exact great
accuracy even in the selection of metaphors, and you will pardon me if I
rise to defend the usefulness of butterflies. On top of Mount Washington
survives a colony of butterflies found nowhere else south of Arctic
snows and ice; descendants of a family which retreated with the great
glacier that once overflowed New Hampshire and left only the pinnacle of
Mount Washington uncovered. When the _OEneis_ household moved back to
Labrador and Greenland, these silk-winged stragglers, flirting in
corners, were abandoned by their chaperons, and for thousands of years
their progeny have flitted around that stone crest to show us the depth
of the glacier."

Professor Cleveden adjusted his eye-glasses and moved his chair so as to
look straight at Miss Manning, who at once put up her lorgnette to probe
his gold spectacles.

"Are you an enthusiastic club-woman?"

"Why don't you ask me if I approve of perjury, arson, and poisoning?"

"My dear madam, did I not hear you last evening quoting the sonorous
periods of Mrs. Helen Phædra Swan Hall, whose mission seems to be the
emancipation of her sex from bondage to God as well as to man?"

"Oh, no, Mr. Cleveden! It was I who asked Mr. Hull to explain the bill
she is trying to have introduced in Congress. Cousin Katrina thinks all
such advanced women should be locked up as lunatics, but she is too
extreme and hopelessly narrow for this generation, while I like to keep
up with the procession. Do tell us about this prophetess."

"Her husband was a mild man, reputed a faithful husband and a devoted
father, but the female comet he was yoked with indignantly spurned such
slavish rôle as wifehood and maternity involved, and she ranted around
clubdom and through the press, striving to enlighten the world, until,
finally, she determined to break her domestic chains and shake off all
impedimenta of marriage obligations. Having deliberately selected as
successor a friend whose opinions proved quite as lax as her own, she
promoted an intimacy that resulted in accordance with her scheme. Then
she suggested divorce to Hall, who very naturally assented with
alacrity. When he promptly married the woman chosen, Mrs. Helen Phædra
Swan gladly abandoned all care of her own children to the new wife,
washed her hands of maternal responsibility, and proclaimed herself free
to work for the rights of woman and the enlightenment of the world.
Soaring eagles scorn to perch at one man's hearthstone, and behold the
comical climax of her flight above the laws of decency and good taste.
She has swooped down on a new husband, and, for a season at least will
call herself Mrs. Helen Phædra Swan Butler. Such, Miss Roberts, is your
'prophetess.' Having heard that the pet theme of her present
lucubrations is the 'ideal education of children,' I suggested to my own
connubial serf, my 'true love,' that the study of the views of this
experienced seeress might assist us in the training of our one ewe lamb,
our old-fashioned little maid, and the reception of my proposition was
of a nature conjugal loyalty forbids me to describe. Mrs. Helen Phædra
Swan Butler is merely a degenerate imitation of the Amazons, who changed
their husbands annually and deserted their children. A survival of
polyandry, if you please. Formerly women looked sternly and sorrowfully
from their lofty pure plateau upon polygamy and bigamy as the horrible
heinous luxury of wicked, despotic men; now they are stepping down into
the mire, claiming equal rights in sin, and the emancipated new female
clamors for easy divorce and the freedom of polyandry. In other days,
before 'higher education, club-culture, and female rights' had abolished
home life, domestic sanctity, and fireside _lararium_, all good women
held Clytemnestra the infamous archetype of feminine depravity, but the
doctrine of 'equality' lowers the old high standard, and the new code
reads: 'She had as good a right to Ægisthus as Agamemnon to Chryseis.'
As if the gods failed to overtake both in their sins."

Miss Manning rang a silver bell, and, rising, tapped the professor's arm
with her lorgnette.

"Yet you have the audacity to ask me if I condone creatures whose real
aim is to reverse God's decree of the sexes? Trix thinks I should like
them locked up in insane asylums? By no means. I should prefer to see
all such 'removed' by the methods you men employ when brutes become
afflicted with rabies and glanders. I am an old woman, Mr. Cleveden, but
I do object to the way in which you 'scientists' dispense with
conventional verbal draperies in discussing some questions. After all is
said, I presume that 'truth' you are worshipping must wear clothes, and
there is no need to confiscate her garments. Moreover, you are not to
believe for one instant that Miss Roberts means half of the idiotic
rubbish she talks. Girls nowadays think it _chic_ to affect fads, but
Trix is no more a 'new woman' than I am a winged saint. Noel, what is
the order of the morning?"

"The senator and the professor wish to fish; Stapleton and I are bound
to the stable and kennel, and later to the billiard table to settle an
old debt; Mr. Hull, Eglah, and Miss Beatrix will go out on the launch,
and the phaeton and your ponies will take you and Mrs. Mitchell to see
the finest views of the lake and hills."

"I much prefer to see your dogs and watch your billiard game, if I may,"
said Miss Roberts, picking from the table vase some scarlet poppies that
she fastened in her belt.

"Miss Manning, do come with us on the lake; the day is so lovely." Eglah
laid an appealing hand on the grey silk sleeve, and Miss Katrina's keen
eyes softened.

"You are very good to want a crusty old woman as ballast, but I am not
fond of the water. The wind is no respecter of grey hairs, takes such
impertinent liberties with my maidenly curls, and, beside, if an
accident should occur I can swim only as far as a cannon ball might, and
of course in an emergency Mr. Hull would devote himself exclusively to
saving me, hence you would probably drown. Thank you, Miss Kent, but
Mrs. Mitchell and I shall do our best to strangle time till luncheon."

During that long drive Eliza was kept constantly on guard, parrying
questions that betrayed an earnest curiosity relative to Mr. Herriott's
standing in the senator's family; and she readily divined that Eglah was
considered a formidable obstacle to a marriage long desired between
their host and Beatrix Roberts, the youngest of several unmarried
daughters whose father was Miss Manning's second cousin.

"And why do you think Noel will never marry?"

"Of course, madam, I can only conjecture; but from what I have seen of
Mr. Herriott, I think he is very happy as he is, and if he desired or
intended to wed any one, he would scarcely be so eager to renew his
travels in distant lands."

"And Miss Kent? Lovely, refined-looking woman, but cold as a frozen mill
pond. We hear she has had some fine offers. The world wonders for whom
she is waiting."

"As far as I know, she is absolutely indifferent. For her father she has
a peculiarly strong and tender affection, and I shall be very much
surprised if she ever marries."

When she returned to her own room, she felt that she had stepped down
from the witness stand after an adroit cross-examination, in which she
had maintained her non-committal rôle. As the pleasant days passed, she
and Judge Kent watched their host, hoping for some manifestation of
tenderness, or pique, or consciousness of past suitor-claims that might
portend possibility of renewal. No faintest evidence of other than calm,
friendly, hospitable interest rewarded their scrutiny. If it were indeed
complete surrender of hopes once cherished, would there not have been
traces of disappointment, some bitterness, some cloud on face and
manner?

Although she was unusually free from coquetry, Eglah was too familiar
with the moods of rejected lovers not to observe the exceptional
demeanor of the master of Greyledge, and his cool _insouciance_ would
have perplexed her had she not recollected his assurance that no word of
his should ever recall the painful interview in the carriage. She
noticed that he never touched her arm or hand if it could be avoided,
and, if he really cared for her society, why did he invite Roger Hull to
his house and afford him every opportunity to monopolize her? The
weather continued favorable; the guests could not fail to regret the
approaching end of their visit, and Mr. Herriott seemed unusually happy,
yet he had abstained from being alone with Eglah.

On the last day, at the close of dinner, the host proposed that coffee
and cigars should be served on the terrace overhanging the water. The
afternoon had been hot and sultry, and the full moon rose out of a tawny
haze that smouldered at the horizon but silvered and glistened as the
light swam through. Eliza stole away to pack the trunks, and Senator
Kent, the professor, and Mr. Hull strolled up and down smoking, while
Miss Roberts and Mr. Stapleton followed Mr. Herriott to the pavilion,
where he unlocked a boat and fitted the oars. Miss Manning's favorite
anisette had accomplished its mission, and her white head was bowed on
the billowy lace fichu that covered her neck. Noiselessly Eglah slipped
into the loggia, down the steps leading to the garden beyond the
courtyard, and ran along a walk, dark under dense overhanging boughs.
For a little while she must be alone to ponder the first really stern
words her father had ever spoken to her. They were writing letters in
the library that morning, when Senator Kent turned to her.

"My daughter, I must tell you that I am watching very impatiently for
the announcement of your acceptance of Herriott."

"Father, you will never hear it."

"I distinctly refuse to believe you will persist in defying my wishes.
Hitherto you have very sweetly yielded to my guidance in all matters of
importance, but if you obstinately and foolishly thwart a cherished plan
that concerns me more deeply than you know, you will forfeit my
forgiveness."

"I will never marry a man I do not love----"

"No silly rodomontade, if you please, my dear. You quite understand my
wishes."

"Father, even if my own feelings had changed sufficiently to induce me
to give him a different answer, I am absolutely sure Mr. Noel will never
renew his offer; and this fact is most welcome, because it removes all
possibility of my obeying you. You must see that he is now simply my
friend."

"Then you have only a short time in which to recall him. Women whistle
lovers back as easily as traps catch mice. It depends solely on you, and
I warn you now of bitter consequences unless you comply with----"

Miss Roberts and Mr. Stapleton entered the library, and Eglah retreated
to her own room. During dinner Eliza and Mr. Herriott noticed the
unusual flush on her cheeks, the strained, restless expression of her
eyes; but neither had opportunity for questioning, and, shielded by
general conversation, she escaped comment. Sitting opposite at table,
her father had once looked steadily at her.

"Eglah, you chance to have the fruit I covet close to your hand. Will
you peel me a peach?"

The garden walk she had followed divided, and into a narrow path she
plunged, finding a resting place on a miniature rockery covered with
fern and periwinkle. The night was so still she could hear the dip of
oars as the boat left shore, and far away the throbbing of a steamer
whose lights flashed across the foam as it sped onward. With her face in
her hands, Eglah recalled Eliza's exasperating question: "Why was
Senator Kent afraid of Mr. Herriott?" Was he? What could be the nature
of the trouble concealed? If Noel were cognizant of impending misfortune
she felt absolutely sure he would never consent to precipitate it.
Because she could share her perplexity with no one, her habitual repose
of manner forsook her. In the unexpected rift between her father and
herself she dispassionately canvassed the possibility of an available
bridge, and, feeling confident no second proposal would be made by Mr.
Herriott, she rejoiced in the belief that his silence would effectually
bar compliance with a command she entertained no thought of obeying. She
saw that he had deliberately surrendered her, and, unlike most women,
she was profoundly glad. Now and then, when he looked unusually handsome
in his yachting suit, and again in full evening dress, presiding with
ease and dignity at his table, Eglah compared her host with his guests,
with some brilliant men she had met in Washington and New York, and
always he seemed aloof and superior as an ivory image among terra-cotta
figurines. Conscious that his serene self-poise sprang in no degree from
personal vanity or pride of wealth, she admired his physical perfection,
and wondered why all his excellences had no more power to stir her heart
than a stained-glass saint in a cathedral window, or a flawless head of
Hylas. At such moments she decided God had designed her to be only a
daughter, and wifehood had no alluring charms, no rosy glamour.

Out of the dense shadow behind the mound of periwinkle came a sudden
rushing sound, a sharp bark, and the large collie Pilot sprang over a
stone wall and bounded up to the rockery. A moment later Mr. Herriott
whistled, vaulted over the same wall, and stood peering into the clumps
of shrubbery. Eglah patted the dog, hushed him in a whisper, and shrank
closer to the ground.

"Eglah! Where are you? Eglah!"

The dog barked, and his master came forward.

"How could you suspect I was here?"

"I have a Turk's nose for perfume. I am partial to prussic acid odors,
and no heliotrope blooms on this side of the garden. Who dared send you
to Coventry? For what are you doing penance, here in the dark?"

"Simply enjoying the delicious, perfect peace that surrounds this
special nook like a velvet mantle. Were you hunting for me?"

"No. I supposed you were in the loggia. I went for a few minutes to the
small house beyond the wall, where Amos and Susan live. She has been
sick several days, and nothing appeases her wrath if I neglect to say
good night to her. One of her childish whims is that I shall crack her
almonds and filberts, and yesterday when I demurred and turned the
nut-crackers over to Amos she shed tears, declaring his hands were not
always above suspicion, and that as she had performed this service for
me before I was promoted to trousers and vests, I owed it to her now
since she has lost her teeth. By jumping the fence, this is the short
cut from her house to the courtyard."

"Susan was your nurse?"

"Yes, since I was a year old, and she has been very faithful to my
family."

"I should like to see her."

"Then you shall make her a little visit to-morrow morning, but she can
never see you; she is entirely blind. Eglah, come out of this damp
corner. The moonlight is brilliant, and there is a beach-walk I wish to
show you."

As she rose and shook her draperies, he walked in advance, saying over
his shoulder:

"You would not accept my arm, for I am sure you need both hands to guard
your lace and silk frills from thorns and twigs. Here is the garden
boundary. Take care not to trip crossing this stile; come on, only three
steps. Now look at that sickle of the beach, with its long row of silver
poplars outlining a frieze around the land side of the curve. Once in a
furious gale that drove a steamer ashore--just beyond the point--I
watched those distracted trees toss their whitening leaves, as though
hands in prayer, and they lean always inward, shivering with prevision
of wrecks."

Over the burnished lake a full moon shone, and here and there a sinuous
ripple flashed like a fiery serpent as it glided to land, then slipped
back, while across the waste of water floated the tinkling of Beatrix's
mandolin and the tenor voice of her escort. Mr. Herriott took off his
hat, and when he turned suddenly to his companion she noticed a
brilliant smile on his face.

"Dana is very happy to-night, and I am glad to carry away the pleasant
consciousness that I have done everything possible in smoothing the path
to his heart's goal."

"You believe he will win her?"

"I certainly hope success for him. Her heart is already his, and, if he
can only be patient, she must ultimately yield."

"You think that in such matters persistency is invincible?"

"On the contrary, many Jacobs never win their Rachels; and my prediction
fits only the lovers out yonder. Aunt Trina will wail and invoke all the
Manning family ghosts, but the pretty hand of Miss Beatrix will follow
her heart."

Looking up at him, she admitted that in personal charm he surpassed all
men she had ever met, but into this verdict entered no emotional element
sufficiently strong to shiver the crystal calm of her heart, and she
found it difficult to identify this handsome, placid, smiling
countenance with a white, drawn, twitching face whose keen pain had
recently wrung tears from her in Washington.

The unusual flush had faded, leaving her cheeks cool and stainless as
the petals of a white rose, and the restless spark in her eyes had been
extinguished by drops that were never allowed to fall. Mr. Herriott had
studied her face too many years not to detect the new strained
expression, the compression of lips that would quiver, and all his
jealous surmises focussed on one dread--Father Temple.

"Shall we walk on slowly? Not far off is a seat. I have been wishing for
a quiet, uninterrupted talk before we say good-bye for an indefinite
period, and this is my last opportunity. Eglah, when did you hear from
Vernon Temple?"

"I cannot recall the exact date, but it was several weeks ago. We do not
really correspond, and his occasional notes are so impersonal that in
replying I sometimes feel as if I were addressing an abstraction. At
first he interested me extremely, but one cannot easily maintain his
mystical elevation of spirit."

"I thought you were really fond of him."

"Knowing as you do that I have absolutely no faculty for growing fond of
people, I am surprised you should have made the mistake. He enlisted my
interest in some of his benevolent schemes, especially a 'sisterhood'
for care of infirm indigents; but father has no sympathy with Vernon or
his vocation, and, therefore, I have been less impressed."

"At one time you were extravagant in praise of his 'saintly, magnetic
face.'"

"So I possibly am, or have been, about several fine pictures of
handsome, bleeding flagellants and tormented martyrs, but I should
prefer not to hang them permanently in my dining-room."

"Do you know anything of your cousin's early life, or of the reasons
that induced him to join his 'Order'?"

"Nothing whatever, except that while at college he was ill, and one of
father's sisters had him removed to her farmhouse, where he remained for
months before he could discard crutches."

Mr. Herriott stopped and turned towards her. Holding his hat behind him,
he leaned forward and scanned her closely.

"Vernon is a married man, and his wife is living."

"Is it possible! If any one else had told me, I should doubt it. I am
sure father knows nothing of the wife. Where is she? _Cherchez la femme_
is rarely a satire."

In the flood of moonlight her fair face--expressive only of
surprise--showed no vestige of emotion that could disquiet him, and so
intense was his relief that for a moment he dared not trust his voice;
then he put on his hat and whistled to his dog. As they walked slowly
along the margin of the lake, he told her briefly the history of Father
Temple and the recent discovery of his wife and child.

"Thank you for telling me such pleasant news. I am very glad poor Vernon
will have that angelic boy to comfort him--but 'Juno'? So beautiful, so
hard, so bitter! How can any meek priest ever hope to manage her?"

They had reached the point of the sickle, and looking back the swelling
curves of wooded hills, masses of glossy shrubbery, the irregular
profile of the house, outlined by its twinkling lights, and the vast
shimmering mirror of the great lake, all lay bathed in liquid gold.
Somewhere in a neighboring copse a bird, disturbed by the dog or misled
by the splendor of the night, twittered, and then, to reassure his
brooding mate near by, broke into a rapture of song. Clasping her hands
behind her head, Eglah lifted her face to listen, and Mr. Herriott
watched the moisture glisten on her lashes.

"Sweet as any aubade of the olden time, under olive and ilex, is it
not?"

For a moment she did not reply, then, with a sweep of her arm toward the
house on the rocks, she said:

"So beautiful, so full of peace--of such profound repose--how can
you--why will you leave it?"

"Because I do not forget '_le repos est une bonne chose, mais l'ennui
est son frère_.' I love and enjoy my home, but I prefer not to stagnate.
Garnering the bright and charming memories of the past few days, it can
never again seem quite as lonely as I have sometimes found it. I am glad
you have met Professor Cleveden, who is one of my best friends. His
domestic relations are so happy, and so perfect in their adjustments,
that no forlorn bachelor, once admitted to his home, could escape pangs
of envy. His wife is literally partner in his joys, sorrows, studies,
and diversions, and their only child--the 'little maid' Violet--is
spelling in the alphabet of science. Cleveden swears she shall be locked
up in his laboratory, safe from the social microbes that he fancies
infest the atmosphere of female clubs and 'emancipated women.' Some day
I hope you will meet Mrs. Cleveden. She is very beautiful and gracious,
though he assures me he has one grievance against his 'sweetheart,' and
Patmore expressed it:

    "'Her manners, when they call me lord,
    Remind me 'tis by courtesy;
    Not with her least consent of will.'"

"Father distrusts the professor, and cautioned me not to discuss any
religious questions, because he considers him a brilliant casuist."

"Cleveden has one apostle whom he follows at all hazards--simple, stern,
scientifically established truth--and to him the natural laws are as
sacred as those Moses brought directly from the same God who framed them
all. For mere dogma in science or religion he has no tolerance, and I
shall never forget the profound emotion with which, in a lecture, he
quoted: 'These sciences are the real steps in the great world's
altar-stairs that slope through darkness up to God.' Revealed religion
lets down a ladder from heaven; natural sciences are the solid rungs by
which men like Cleveden build and climb. Side by side these ladders
rise, never crossing at sharp angles, both ending, resting at the feet
of God. Up one spiritual faith runs easily; along the other some souls
of different mould toilsomely ascend, each and all seeking and finding
the same goal--the eternal Ruler of the universe. Cleveden scoffs at
nothing but shallow shams, and we have heard him repeat passages from
Job and David, then declaim from the Iliad, and declare that as between
the thunder roll of Hebrew and Greek, the latter was as the rustle of
rushes in a summer wind to the pounding of Atlantic surf on rock-walled
shores."

"Nevertheless, father regrets that you cling to such an unsafe guide."

"He is worthy of my trust. Conscientiously hunting only for truth, he
admonishes his students:

    "'Hath man no second life?
    Pitch this one high!'

"To a young man groping in the mist of agnosticism, he repeated the
declaration of one of the most subtle scientific thinkers of this
century: 'That he had scrutinized every agnostic hypothesis he knew of,
and found that they one and all needed a God to make them workable.'

"I wish I could respect myself as I respect and honor my friend. Eglah,
knowing your reticent nature, I am perhaps presumptuous in taking a rash
step. There is some trouble that annoys you. Before I go away for such a
long, uncertain absence, will you trust me? I may not be able to remove
the burden, but I should be glad to share it. Can you tell me what
distresses you?"

She looked at him steadily, then away at the brooding water, where
voices of the night had begun to croon.

"Mr. Noel, let us go back; the boat is at the terrace."

When they reached the stone stile, she said:

"Do you know why father resigned the senatorship?"

"He has not confided his reasons to me."

"Having known him so long, should you think that his state of health
demanded such a step?"

"His appearance at present does not indicate any cause for alarm, and
you ought not to conjure a spectre with which to frighten yourself."

"His physician did the conjuring."

She sat down on the stile, and in her strained, sad gaze he measured the
depth of her disquietude.

"Mr. Noel, if you know any outside circumstances that appear to
necessitate or warrant this sudden abandonment of a brilliant senatorial
career, I beg you will be once more your old, kind, candid self and tell
me. If I understood I could bear it better."

"You think your father is perfectly well?"

"I cannot see the change he insists has overtaken him of late; can you?"

"Yes. Within the year his nervousness and want of equipoise have been
apparent, and when the newspapers stated that his 'medical adviser' had
recommended rest and Aix-les-Bains I was rejoiced. The atmosphere of
Washington is the worst possible for him. When do you sail?"

"On the twenty-fifth."

"Mrs. Mitchell accompanies you?"

"Of course. You scarcely understand what all this means to me. I have no
life outside of father's. His political future is my sole horizon. To
help, follow close, watch his ascent, was my world. This sudden,
inexplicable surrender, this stepping down and back into obscurity and
inaction leave me no foothold on coming years, and I feel adrift. Mr.
Noel, would it be unreasonable for me to hope that when father returns
in vigorous health a Cabinet seat or a foreign mission might be offered
him by the Republican party he has served so long, so faithfully?"

The wistful pathos of uplifted eyes that searched his stirred all the
tenderness of his nature, but he allowed himself no manifestation.

"If you anticipate such reward for your father, and then lose it,
disappointment would intensify the annoyance. By dismissing the
expectation, the charm of surprise will be added to the value of
promotion. You have passed the age of soap bubbles, and ought to know
that upon political preferment no man can depend with certainty,
especially in a republican country."

"I shall not, will not, accept defeat. I must be patient until next
year, and then, somehow--in some way--we shall recover our kingdom. I am
so proud of father--ah, so proud!"

She rose, and he put out his hand to assist her, but she crossed the
stile without touching his fingers, and they silently approached the
courtyard.

At a late hour, when the party dispersed, Judge Kent was the first
person who reached his own room. Soon after, Eglah tapped at his door.
As he opened it, a flood of light streamed over her cold, proud face,
and his keen gaze seemed to probe her soul.

"Well?"

She shook her head and stretched her arms towards him.

"Father----"

He laid a finger heavily on her trembling lips, then turned her around,
pushed her gently but firmly back from the threshold, and locked the
door on the inside.

The remaining hours of the night Mr. Herriott spent pacing slowly the
beach-walk, realizing anew the hopelessness of any change in conditions
that barred him from his heart's desire, and the wisdom of his
determination to travel as far as possible. The moon, magnified by mist
into a vast sphere of silver, swam in the west, tipping each wavelet
with a glittering fringe, and now and then crooning whispers of the
great expanse of water seemed to swell and fill the echoing hollows of
the brooding night.

The intense bitterness of Mr. Herriott's reflections crept into his
voice.

"Loyal soul! Nobody can help her now. Rude winds have blown wide the
guarded gate of her temple, and she will spend her life on her knees,
trying to regild the clay feet of her one image."



CHAPTER XIV


"My son, Leighton Dane Temple, I baptize thee in the name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen."

Other than baptismal drops fell on the boy's head, as with unsteady lips
and brimming eyes Father Temple bent over him; and the hand that
administered the rite clung tenderly to the damp curls. The room was
very dim and still, the atmosphere heavy with the breath of tuberoses
clustered on the pillow, and the figure sitting at the foot of the cot
with her arms folded, manifested by sound or motion no more interest
than a stone image. On the mantel shelf was the tin box bearing her
name, and many days before letters, newspapers, and money had testified
to the truth of her husband's statements, but to its contents she made
no allusion, allowed none. Their estrangement was too complete to be
bridged even by words when avoidance was possible. Occasionally, as he
entered or left the room, she acknowledged his salutation by a slight
inclination of her head; but usually sullen silence and apparent
unconsciousness of his presence showed how bitterly she resented a
presentation of facts that pleaded his exculpation. She hugged her
wrongs, and any attempt to minimize his guilt infuriated her. Her ruined
life was an acrid dead sea, into which no sweetness could fall, and she
clung to its most loathsome aspects with a grim stubbornness unnatural
and incomprehensible in women of a different type. The boy's death had
seemed imminent more than once, and though he rallied again and again,
the sands were surely near the end, running low.

Two weeks after his baptism, Father Temple secured for him and his
mother rooms at an old farmhouse on Long Island, not very far from a
railroad village.

To the weary child, sick of city heat, city din, and all the complex
elements that make tenement life an affliction to sensitive natures,
there seemed a foretaste of that heaven to which he was hastening, in
the cool, vine-laced porch where wrens nested, the elm-shaded yard, blue
with larkspurs, and the green-carpeted orchard of low-spreading apple
and towering cherry trees, that formed a quivering loom of boughs
casting gilt network of braided sunbeams on purple heads of clover.
Outside the picket fence that enclosed the fruit trees a meadow rolled
seaward, and in one of its deep dimples a small clear pond shone like a
mirror whereon an enormous willow trailed its branches and watched
itself grow old. Across this meadow ox-eye daisies ran riot, so densely
massed, so tall, they seemed great stretches of snow, and only when the
wind swept them into billows were green stems discernible.

Father Temple had found convenient quarters in the neighboring village,
and each day he walked to the little farm, where the feverishly bright
eyes of the boy glowed with more intense brilliance at his approach.
Leighton's sensitive nature responded to every spiritual appeal his
father attempted, as though some subtle, dormant chord of sympathy once
set in vibration would never cease to thrill. Sometimes, watching the
happy, rapt expression on her child's face as the priest read or talked
or prayed with him, a jealous rage seized the mother, shaking her into
fierce revolt, and she shut her eyes, set her teeth, put her hands to
her ears, and mutely fought down her fury. On such occasions, conscious
of her suffering, he shortened his visit, carrying away an accession of
heartache over the utter hopelessness of any form of reconciliation.

On the morning of the anniversary of his marriage, as he walked along
the lane leading to the farmhouse, a flood of reminiscences drowned all
the intervening years, and once more he stood under the stars at the
Post, holding Nona in his arms. Could she forget the date? Would the
sweet, warm wind of tender memory fresh from the happy day their love
had sanctified, breathe no melting magic on her frozen nature? Until
recently he had shared the current belief--"_tout comprendre c'est tout
pardonner_"--because of the limitless, patient, condoning affection
inhering in true wifehood, but the teamster's daughter was a law unto
herself, and taught him that some women, who love most intensely and
faithfully, forgive not at all.

As he entered the sick room he detected in Leighton's usually gentle
voice a note of fretfulness. His mother stood beside the bed, holding a
cluster of daisies, which he had rejected.

"My darling, I gathered them where they grew finest, and these are as
pretty indoors as out on the meadow."

She laid them beside him, but he turned his face away.

"There's father! He will understand."

She moved away to the window and stood with face averted. Father Temple
took the child's outstretched hand.

"Father, why can't I be carried out yonder, where the daisies are spread
like sheets? I want to lie down a little while, and feel them cover me,
and listen to the bees--and out there I can breathe easier. Mother will
not let me, says I might catch cold; as if the sunshine could make me
worse. Why can't I go?"

"My son, I fear you had a bad night, and your mother is a better judge
than I, because she never leaves you. If she approved, I would gladly
take you to the daisies."

"She refused to move me down here, but you brought me."

"It was the doctor, not I, who induced her to consent."

"Oh, I want to go where the daisies are calling me! Don't you see how
they turn and beckon and----" His feeble voice broke in a sob.

"Mother's man must have his milk punch," said Nona, going into the next
room to prepare it.

Instantly the boy whispered:

"Father, pick me up, and carry me; quick!"

After a moment Father Temple went into the adjoining apartment. His wife
stood shaking the milk into froth, and her glance slipped from his face
with no more evidence of recognition than if she had looked at the wall.

"Nona, there has been a dreadful change since yesterday. The time will
soon come when you can find comfort only in remembering you denied him
nothing. Well wrapped up, a few moments in the sunshine will not harm
him."

She passed him without reply, and when the milk punch had been given,
she stooped suddenly and kissed her child twice. His wasted arms crept
feebly to her neck.

"Please, mother--the daisies."

"If I let you go a little while, you must not ask to stay."

She buttoned his flannel dressing-gown about his throat, wrapped him in
her shawl, and put on his little grey cloth cap.

Taking a light blanket from the bed, Father Temple lifted the emaciated
form, cradled him tenderly in his arms, and bore him across the orchard.
The mother preceded them, opened and closed the gate, and, when they
reached the meadow, she withdrew to the brink of the pond, sat down
under the ancient willow, and locked her hands in her lap. Close by, on
a knoll, the blanket had been spread; Leighton was laid upon it, and
feebly stretching his arms drew the daisies over him until they veiled
the shrunken figure, and only the wan face and golden curls were
visible. In a pale-blue sky the sun shone hot; white butterflies swam
lazily to and fro, like drifting blossoms from interstellar gardens; a
sheep bell tinkled now and then, and from the south, a freshening wind
bore echoes of the ceaseless chant of the heaving sea.

Out of the flowery coverlet Leighton's hand stole, feeling for his
father's fingers, and a happy light shone in the boy's violet eyes, but
his breathing had grown quick and painfully labored. Suddenly he
struggled up, leaning against his father's shoulder.

"What ails the sun? Mother! Where's mother?"

One of those swift, ghostly fogs that spring without warning from the
ocean was sweeping inland, and as sunlight smote the advancing pillars
of mist it seemed transmuted into battlements and towers of some city of
silver. Strained maternal ears had caught the boy's faint cry, and Nona
knelt, clasping him close, resting his head on her bosom. His wide and
wondering eyes were fixed on the strange, shining wall drawing swiftly
nearer.

"The gates of heaven! Mother, mother----"

A moment later the chill waves of mist flowed over them, blotting out
the sun.

Under that grey pall, daisy-dotted, the blue eyes closed; the pure,
lovely face, still smiling, lay white against his mother's cheek.

       *       *       *       *       *

Not always comes imperial death as pacificator; now and then the flame
of vengeance leaps through the shroud of shadows, and sometimes open
graves typify wider, deeper chasms that know no closing. There are
natures who prefer total surrender rather than any sharing of that which
they hold dearest; and of such was the pallid, dry-eyed mother, lying
hour after hour on the bed where her fragile boy slept his last sleep.

His head rested on her right arm, and with her left hand she had drawn
his icy fingers inside her dress, trying to warm them on the breast
where in infancy they toyed. Since the moment she had snatched him from
the meadow couch of daisies and borne him unaided to the farmhouse, no
one was allowed to touch him, and the angel who called and guided the
young soul to God was more welcome than the human father daring to claim
him. During the long night of her last vigil, the priest, pacing an
adjoining room, wondered at the stern repression of her grief; and only
once, through the half-open door, came a frantic cry, ending in a low,
quivering wail.

"Mother's man! Mother's own pretty--pretty--darling baby! Oh----"

An hour later, when he ventured to re-enter the room, he knew the one
passionate outbreak signalled her final surrender. She had lifted the
little wasted form from the bed and laid him in a coffin resting on a
low table; covering all but the delicate, chiselled face and shining
hair with a thick shroud of daisies.

Now, with hands locked in her lap, she sat leaning her head against the
coffin. Tears he could not repress fell as the father bent down to the
casket, but she put her arm across it, barring him.

"Don't! You must not touch my baby."

Sinking to his knees he put his hand on the fingers lying in her lap.

"Oh, Nona! Eleven years ago to-night!"

She pushed his hand aside, and when he bowed his head on her knee, she
moved her chair back to avoid the touch.

"My wife----"

"No. I am no man's wife. I can't forget, and I don't wish to forgive,
even if I could. I want you to understand that I would rather see my
darling where he is than have him live for you to come between us. The
Nona you knew died ten years ago, when insulted, and slandered, and
despised I washed and ironed for money to clothe and feed my little
fatherless one--my own beautiful little baby."

She laid her hand on the cold head and fondled the golden rings of hair,
but no moisture dimmed the large, mournful eyes that defied her
husband's pleading.

A moment later she added, in a stinging tone:

"After to-morrow you will have no excuse to intrude upon me; with a
childless, hopeless, desperate woman you can meddle no more, and I shall
contrive to save myself the intolerable sight of your face. In your tin
box you will find the money I have not touched, but the papers I burned
to-night; because in the grave--my baby's grave--certificates of
legitimacy are not required. I wish no record retained of any
association or tie with you, and henceforth I want to hear neither from
nor of you. For ten years what heart I had left beat only for my baby,
and his precious little hands will always hold it tight in his coffin.
After to-morrow my work waits for me, and your path and mine will cross
no more."

Up and down the room Father Temple walked, striving to master his
emotion. Pausing in front of her, he asked very tenderly:

"May I know where and what is the work my son's mother has selected?"

"It is everywhere; the struggle of the poor to loosen the strangling
clutch of the rich on their throats; the cruel war which will end only
with the downfall of aristocrats, when millionaires will be hunted like
other criminals, when cowardly sons of rich army officers can dare to
marry publicly the daughters of their regimental teamsters, and when a
pure woman, because she is pure, will be as much respected as a crowned
head. You preach 'he that giveth to the poor lendeth to the Lord.' We
have a different doctrine, a broader gospel. When justice reigns there
will be no poor, no hoarded surplus of dishonest riches, no 'benevolent
fund' doled out by 'philanthropic' pharisees to the workers whose labor
created it. In that day, no poor girls in reeking tenements will be
goaded by the sight of fashionable society women, who drink, and smoke,
and gamble, and loll half clad in opera boxes, and hug their lap dogs
and their lovers instead of their children. In that day society lines
will vanish, and only two classes exist--workers and drones, governed by
beehive laws. To aid in this is all I care for now--all that remains for
me--and my work will be well done."

She had spoken in a cold, defiant tone, keeping her eyes on the coffin
and her fingers on the child's curls, but after a moment a spasm of
anguish shook her mercilessly, and, rising, she pointed to the door,
saying, between strangling sobs:

"Leave me, and shut the door. I have all I can bear now. Leave me alone
with my little one."



CHAPTER XV


Aix-les-Bains proved a successful prescription, and Judge Kent declared
himself cured; but two silent women knew he could obtain only a modicum
of sleep, and noted the fact that when the daily mail--nervously
expected and handled--had been scanned he grew gay and chatty. After
sixteen months on the continent, he settled for a while at Taormina, and
here his companions were surprised to learn that his business agent had
sold every foot of real estate he owned in America, including the
Herriott house in New York, and the old homestead built in an elm grove
among the bleak, stony hills of New England.

"Father, when was the house in Thirty-eighth Street sold?"

"Soon after we reached Aix."

"And you never told me?"

"Why should I? Herriott might cherish some sentiment about it, but the
matter touched you in no way."

"At least I should like to know who bought it."

"Herriott. While at Greyledge I told him it would be on the market, and
he instructed his agent to make the purchase."

"Had I known in time, Mr. Whitfield might have invested some idle money.
I like those cool, big, old-fashioned rooms."

"I entertain no doubt that sooner or later they will be yours. Mrs.
Mitchell, may I trouble you for the 'Figaro' at your elbow?"

"Who owns the old homestead that has belonged to some Kent for two
hundred years?"

"The town has grown until it needs a juvenile 'reformatory,' and one is
now in course of erection where my old barn stood so long. A better site
could not have been found, or one more vigilantly patrolled by orthodox
puritan ghosts."

"Have you no regrets when you think of strangers possessing the little
family burying ground where some of your ancestors long ago crumbled to
dust?"

Eglah lifted her hand to brush away an orange petal that drifted down to
the velvet collar of his coat, and Eliza knew that the perpendicular
line between her brows indexed profound dissatisfaction.

"Regrets are unprofitable, and what remains of my life must pay
dividends. My dear, will you kindly hand me my match box?"

"Then you are homeless?"

Smiling blandly, he bowed to her.

"I trust not, while my daughter owns thousands of acres of the finest
land in the South."

"Do you forget how often you have declared you would never again live
south of Washington?"

"I forget nothing, but circumstances are not as fixed as parallels of
latitude, and changed conditions demand readjustment of plans.
Irrevocability travelled into limbo with ancient Medes and Persians, and
after the first of May I hope I may count upon the traditional
hospitality of Nutwood. You are of age, and have the right to occupy
it."

Slowly but steadily the barrier between father and child had risen and
strengthened since the visit to Greyledge--a wall as of crystal, which
she could neither level nor penetrate. Close to him, having him
apparently within touch, yet conscious always that a transparent
obstacle divided them. To the cause of estrangement he never referred,
even indirectly, and he was neither irritable nor stern, but mercilessly
cold and punctiliously courteous. Why he had selected Taormina in
preference to Palermo was known only to himself, but one morning Eliza
and Eglah saw a letter postmarked Catania, and both recognized Mr.
Herriott's peculiarly bold handwriting. Judge Kent read it, returned it
to the envelope, which he put in his pocket, and unfolded a New York
newspaper. Mrs. Mitchell moved away to a distant window, carrying her
embroidery frame and silks, and Eglah opened the piano and played softly
two of Chopin's _nocturnes_. In the mirror opposite she saw that her
father was listening, beating time with the index finger of his right
hand. When she ended and approached him, he shut his eyes and hummed the
final bars.

"Father, why did you come here for so long a stay?"

"It is convenient to Catania and on the road to Messina."

"You knew that Mr. Herriott expected to be there?"

"I know that he has a scientific friend there who is an expert in all
that pertains to seismology, and that he wishes Herriott to see his
seismographs."

"That fact should in no degree influence our movements."

"Speak solely for yourself, my dear. I particularly desire to see
Herriott before he starts from Tromsö on his trip to the midnight sun."

Leaning forward, his fine dark eyes fixed on hers, he lowered his voice.

"A separation of eighteen months must have brought you to a realization
of your blind folly, and it is necessary that you should have an
opportunity to retrieve your error. Herriott comes to-day."

"A lifetime--a thousand years would make no difference with me. I am
glad to know that he will never ask me a second time to marry him, and
if he should, I could not, and I would not. Oh, father! Put that idea
out of your mind, and give me back my own place in your heart."

She came close and tried to embrace him, but he held her back at arm's
length.

"I love only those who obey me; and defiance I never forgive. Until you
come to an appreciation of your duty as regards my unalterable wishes, I
must request you not to touch me, not to expect any notice from me,
except such social courtesies as one cannot avoid."

"I am the price of something Mr. Herriott alone can sell you? What is it
you wish to buy?"

"Your future happiness, and my peace of mind."

"Distinctly, I decline to be sold."

He smiled, put her aside, drew his chair out upon a balcony, and resumed
reading his newspaper.

The conversation had been inaudible to Eliza, but, putting out her hand,
she rose quickly at sight of a white face where the large eyes glowed as
on the memorable day in the pavilion at Nutwood.

Looking steadily before her, Eglah passed into an adjoining room and
locked the door. Some hours later she laid a note on Mrs. Mitchell's
lap.

"I am going to sit a while in the old Greco-Roman theatre. I shall come
back when I am tired. Please ask no questions."

Through one of the arches, built twenty-three centuries ago, she looked
out, wondering if any change could enhance the charm that lay like a
magic mantle over the visible world. The purple sea broke in a tangled
fringe of silver on the curving beach, Ætna, snow hooded, rose a vast
altar far away, with thin, tapering feather of smoke floating as incense
from its Plutonian cavern; and gaunt, gnarled olive orchards made a
luminous grey background for pink plumes of almond trees, scarlet
pomegranates, rose oleanders, and orange and lemon groves white with
bloom that fell like a fragrant shower on crimson tulips and waxen
cyclamen. In the witchery of her surroundings, thronged with beckoning
spectres of Greek, Roman, Saracen, and Norman legends, Eglah had
hitherto been able to forget on this spot all but the entrancing beauty
of the wonderful old cliffs; yet this afternoon sombre shadows seemed to
shroud a smiling sea and land, menacing as the smoking mountain that
cast its perpetual challenge to a sapphire sky.

The vague anxiety, the tenderly regretful pain long gnawing at her
heart, had given place now to angry indignation, and a humiliating
consciousness of her father's persistent and increasing desire to barter
her, body and soul, for something that Mr. Herriott possessed. Not his
great wealth, her own fortune was sufficiently ample; not his social
influence, since political aspirations had come to an untimely end;
there was no animosity to be conciliated, no strained personal relations
existed, only a mild friendship manifested by occasional correspondence.
Her conjectures ran around a baffling circle marked only by the starting
post, "what?" "why?" Nemesis is not always so intent on pursuit of the
culprit that she can forego the parenthetic pastime of striking at the
innocent who may chance to stand between, and Eglah had begun to
entertain a bitter resentment against Mr. Herriott--the only visible
factor in her father's alienation--despite her firm conviction that he
would never, by a renewed proposal, smooth the way to a consummation of
the desired sale.

The strong sense of dispassionate justice on which she prided herself
upbraided her sharply, but the intolerable disappointments of the last
eighteen months shook her from the calm, cool heights of impersonal
reasoning. As she leaned her bare head against the pillar of an arch
through which presageful Greek chorus chants--ages ago--had drifted away
to sea, her upturned face was shown in clear relief, like ivory features
on a dull-red background. Gowned in grey cloth, she had clustered lemon
blossoms around the cameo fastening her belt, and across her lap lay a
branch of acanthus, its pale, delicate lilac flowers springing among the
curved, glossy leaves.

From a neighboring angle in the portico, to which Mr. Herriott had
noiselessly ascended, his eager, hungry eyes watched her, studied her,
and through a mist of unconquerable tenderness he noted the changes time
had printed on the frank, fair face--so much older, so pale, so hard, so
sullen rather than sorrowful. The light of youthful hope in her lovely
eyes had been driven away by some ugly fact always confronting her, and
the sensitive lips were set tight, stern, pitiless. Who or what was the
Gorgon that had frozen the exquisite face he loved so passionately? More
than grief was written there, and he who had so long interpreted its
phases read the dominant emotion, indignant protest against some wrong.
Over the crest of Ætna the sinking sun hovered, and in the wonderful
radiance, that seemed woven of vast rainbows into some celestial garment
for sea and land, Mr. Herriott came out of his niche and stood before
her.

"I am very glad to see you here, Eglah. It seems so long since we parted
at Greyledge."

He held out both hands, and, without rising, she put up one of hers, but
he saw the swift frown, the undisguised annoyance his presence caused.
There had been no opportunity for fastening a mask, or forcing
perfunctory smiles, and upon her frank truthfulness and scorn of
dissimulation he relied implicitly. Very tenderly he covered her cold
fingers with his warm palms, and, as she withdrew them, he seated
himself on a stone at her side.

"Who has put me in your black books? Not a word of welcome for a
travel-weary vagrant starving for friendly recognition?"

She looked coldly at him, but something in his fine, magnetic eyes, his
caressing tone, touched her into self-reproach.

"If ever you should get into my black book, you will have put yourself
there. Mr. Herriott, I am very glad to see you looking so remarkably
well."

"Have I so many grey locks, to warrant my promotion to Mr. Herriott?"

She glanced at the silky black head bent toward her.

"Not a white hair visible. Your promotion comes by brevet, in honor of
perfect behavior as well as additional years. Of course you have seen
father?"

"No, I met only Mrs. Mitchell, who told me you had gone to watch the
sunset, and I knew this must be your coign of vantage."

"This is not your first visit?"

"No. The island attracts me more than any other part of Italy, and
justifies what has been said: 'Sicily is the smile of God.'"

"Then surely His frown must be Ætna--'the pillar of heaven, the nurse of
sharp, eternal snows.' A few moments ago it was dazzling, now how grim
and sombre it looms, and that wavering jet of smoke crawls against the
purple sky as a dying candle flame flickers over the head of a corpse. I
sometimes wonder if God----"

She had lifted the acanthus spray and touched it with her cheek, and her
eyes followed the ascending smoke which suddenly glowed from crater
lights beneath as sunset splendors faded; but the sentence was not
finished, and her lips paled. Turning toward her companion, she smiled.

"You have been feeling the old earth's pulse while she was in an ague?"

"Yes. On the surface our ancient mother appears so absolutely in repose,
and yet, when we get down nearer her mighty heart, we find the earth is
never still; it trembles and thrills ceaselessly. This was my first view
of the seismic pendulum records, in a subterranean vault that suggested
the workshop of Hephæstus."

"I should think you would tire of wandering about, and prefer to go
home."

"If I had one, doubtless I should; but roof, walls, and fields and
gardens do not exactly constitute the home that would content me."

"Mr. Noel, you are wedded to science, and nothing else will ever satisfy
you."

"Yes, I am very faithful to my vast spouse, and I find her loyal. She
never flirts, never is inconsistent or petulant; when I work hard she
smiles divinely, and, like that other sorceress of the Nile, 'age cannot
wither her nor custom stale her infinite variety.' Domesticity is not
one of her charms, hence hand in hand we roam the world, making a
perpetual bridal tour. No connubial quarrels disturb our sweet repose,
even when I write to you, her only rival; but if I grow indolent, or
over wise or conceited, she simply lays her great finger on her lips of
stone and turns her huge planetary back upon me. Now, Eglah, you are due
in the confessional. Why did you fail to answer my letter from Fort
Churchill, Hudson Bay?"

"Because it contained no address, and to reach you seemed as uncertain
as mailing a letter to that wild new comet pious people are praying will
not make a carrom with earth and moon and sundry stars. Have you heard
that Beatrix and Mr. Stapleton were married in November?"

"Yes, I received a long wail from Aunt Trina, in which she came as near
boxing my ears as intervening distance permitted. Dana and Trix will be
as happy as a pair of Java finches in a gilt cage."

"I imagined that Miss Manning's objection arose solely from the fact
that the cage was not gilded."

"Wall Street is a wonderful matchmaker, and smiled on the lovers.
Sometimes Hymen corners stocks, and Dana's kite was lucky."

Having learned from Judge Kent that Mr. Herriott had assisted Mr.
Stapleton in financial matters, Eglah smiled, and the old look of kindly
trust came back to her eyes as they steadily met his.

"What a treat it would be to read Miss Manning's letter!"

"Because you think my ears deserve boxing, and you enjoy seeing justice
meted out? How unkind to your faithful old friend! Nevertheless, I would
lay the letter before you, but it is in my trunk at Brindisi, where I am
due to meet Chalcott for the next steamer to Cyprus. Chalcott has
questioned the accuracy of statements relative to the recent excavations
there, and wants local data, and as he is also at odds with Schliemann
over the Troad, we go there to debate the claim of Hissarlik _versus_
Bunárbashi."

"I did not know you were so deeply interested in classical archæology."

"I am not, and it does not attract me; but it is a special line of study
with Chalcott, who wishes me to accompany him, not as co-worker, but
merely as a friend."

"You prefer Hopi and Haida legends, and 'Walam-Olum,' and 'glacial
moraines,' and 'kettle holes'? You see, as an old friend, I thought it
really my duty to read those two reports you sent to father."

"I dare say you found them very tiresome; but pre-glacial conditions and
anthropological problems appeal powerfully to me. In tossing up balloons
we do not all select the same color."

"After burrowing in the Troad, where next?"

"Tromsö, Hammerfest and the midnight sun. We shall have a pleasant
party: two Americans, a German professor, an English scientist, and a
Russian astronomer. I must go on to Brindisi to-morrow, but I could not
resist the temptation to see you and spend a few hours."

"It will be a long time before you reach home?"

"So long that I have fixed no date for return."

The unmistakable expression of relief that crossed her face was not lost
upon him, and involuntarily he clenched his right hand resting on his
knee.

"Eglah, your countenance is honest as your heart, and you are not glad
to see your old friend. May I ask why?"

Without hesitation she looked at him frankly.

"To-day something annoyed me very sorely, and I came here to fight it
out alone. I fear I have at times the temper of a Tartar, and the evil
one possessed me at the very moment you appeared and spoke to me. Just
then nothing would have given me pleasure, but your patient courtesy
makes me ashamed; and now, Mr. Noel, you must believe me when I assure
you I am heartily glad to be with you, and hear of your various
expeditions."

Smiling cordially, she held out her hand, but he took no notice of it,
and for a moment his eyes rested on the sea, where a freshening wind
crimped the long swells of water dyed by the after-glow into the gold of
a daffodil. Turning, he bent over her.

"May I ask you a question?"

"Certainly, if I may be allowed discretionary powers as regards
answering. I do not think Mr. Noel could make an unkind inquiry, or that
he would distress me in any way."

"Am I responsible for the annoyance you referred to?"

Keen as was his gaze, she did not waver.

"Personally it was impossible that you could have been responsible. When
it occurred you were in Catania."

She saw that he was not satisfied, and, rising, put on her hat.

"We must go back; father will have so much to talk over with you. Please
carry my acanthus; I shall make a sketch of this spray, it is so laden
with blossoms."

In silence they walked some distance, and rather suddenly she exclaimed:

"I must have been rude indeed, when you, so generous and kind, will not
forgive me. Mr. Noel, I am not quite my old self, and to-day have felt
at odds with the world. Father's incomprehensible retirement from public
life grieves and perplexes me, because his health is perfect, and I
cannot patiently accept the forfeiture of all my hopes for his political
future. Without his knowledge, I wrote early in the new Administration
to two prominent officials, close personal friends of the President, and
asked their influence in securing a foreign ministerial position for my
father. With elaborate circumlocution they expressed regrets, and
'tendered kindest remembrance and best wishes.' I presume it is wise to
wage no war with the inevitable, but I simply cannot reconcile myself to
the most bitter disappointment of my life. You see, I trust you so
entirely I am opening my heart to you, that you may quite understand I
did not intend to show any lack of cordiality to you."

He laughed, and tapped her shoulder twice with the acanthus spray.

"With all my heart I absolve you. Rude you could not be, and I trust the
time will never come when I deserve to be treated less cordially than in
the past. When do you go back to America?"

"In May or June. Ma-Lila will stay away no longer; she is so anxious to
look after her little fifty-acre farm."

"In the South, of course?"

"Yes; it is a corner of one of the 'bend plantations,' and with a new,
pretty cottage, well furnished, grandmother gave it to her as a bridal
present. None of us can ever forget that her father was killed while
bringing my dying grandfather off the battle-field."

"Has Judge Kent decided where he will live?"

"He has sold the old homestead in New England, and we expect to settle
down in the only remaining home, Nutwood, which, in accordance with
grandmother's will, we now have the right to occupy. Until this year the
trustees controlled and closed it."

"Do not forget that whenever you and your father wish to visit New York
the house in Thirty-eighth Street will be entirely at your disposal--at
least for a couple of years. A telegram to my old butler Hawkins will
always insure a comfortable reception. Here comes the Judge. How
remarkably well he looks."

Very late that night, when adieux had been spoken and only father and
daughter remained in the small salon, Eglah rose, and they looked
steadily at each other. In her dark brown eyes two defiant stars glowed,
but the clear, sweet voice was low and tender.

"Father, after what was said this morning, I of course can only wish you
good-night. Your conditions make it impossible for me to attempt to kiss
you, and until you choose to remove the embargo, I certainly shall
observe it, in accordance with your orders. Good-night, dear father."

He bowed as if to a duchess.

"Good-night, Eglah."

When Mr. Herriott went down the steps leading from the Kent apartments
to the street, Mrs. Mitchell beckoned him into a niche between two stone
pillars, and said, almost in a whisper:

"Excuse me, sir, but will you tell me what is behind this trouble
between Eglah and her father?"

"She says it is the result of his refusal to re-enter politics."

"Exactly; but what is behind his refusal? She is fretting herself ill,
because she cannot find out. Ever since our last day at Greyledge they
have been estranged. This morning, when your letter arrived, something
very unpleasant occurred; and you see Eglah is not like herself."

"My letter was a most innocent paper bomb--the mere announcement that I
intended to stop here a few hours on my way to Messina. It contained
absolutely nothing more, and you must have mistaken the cause of her
annoyance. Perhaps you wish to intimate that you think my presence
enhances the trouble, whatever it may be? I shall be glad to have you
speak frankly."

For a moment she was silent, but she patted his coat sleeve approvingly.

"Mr. Herriott, she is all I have in this world, and I can't see the
child breaking her heart over Judge Kent's selfish secretiveness. There
is something about him I do not understand, and I thought you might be
able to explain it to me."

"As you have known him so much longer and more intimately than I, it
seems probable that you can estimate him accurately without my
assistance. Mrs. Mitchell, it will be a long time before I see any of
you again, and going so far away, I shall remember with great pleasure
that our dear Eglah will have you always at her side, in dark and stormy
as well as sunny hours. Good-bye; my very best wishes for you all."

He understood most thoroughly. Eglah's struggle to receive cordially an
evidently unwelcome visitor had pained him inexpressibly, wounding his
pride even more than his heart, and since his absence contributed to her
peace, he resolved that henceforth she should know no disquietude. If,
despite his efforts to surrender, he had cherished a faint,
unacknowledged hope, he strangled it effectually now, and in after years
he thought of Ætna only as a monument whose shadow lay ever across the
acanthus-covered grave of his last beautiful illusion.

Longer than usual Eglah knelt beside her bed that night, and when she
rose, Mrs. Mitchell, waiting to brush out and braid her hair, noted in
the pale young face traces of mental wrestling.

"Little mother, does God answer your prayers?"

"Not always in the way I may have wished, but when they are denied I
seem to receive instead an increased assurance that He knows best; and
as to a child crying for sharp-edged tools, His refusal springs from
omniscient mercy."

"Do you think Mr. Noel is really a Christian? Father believes him a mere
rationalist."

"His is such a fine character, only Christianity could have moulded
him."

"I wish I knew whether he prays every night."

"Why?"

"If he does, his prayers and mine must clash like crossed swords before
the Lord, and Mr. Noel is better than I, and deserves to receive that
which he wants most; but he will not--he shall not!"

"Eglah, dearie! The Lord alone will decide."

"No. If we are free agents, human will can not be coerced by Him who
gave it. Even our great, dear, good God cannot give him what I pray he
will be denied. Never--never!"

"For what is he praying?"

"A razor--that would cut his fingers--so he must not have it. Now, lest
you should 'imagine vain things,' I wish you to know that Mr. Noel has
not renewed his proposal of marriage, and I hope never will. It is only
just to him that you should fully understand he is now no suitor. He is
simply my loyal, noble friend, in whom I trust implicitly. Good-night,
_Madrecita_."



CHAPTER XVI


It had been a cold, cloudy January day in one of the great northern
cities, and with night came flurries of snow that powdered telegraph
wires and danced like thistledown around the corners. Two and a half
years had elapsed since the angel of death stooped to swing his sickle
in the daisy meadow on Long Island, and in a low, wide basement room,
fronting the street, Mrs. Dane sat at her sewing machine, hemming a
child's check aprons piled on a chair. The apartment was plainly but
comfortably furnished, and filled now with the pungent odor of ginger,
cloves, and cinnamon from a pan of small cakes on the top of an oil
stove. The gas jet above her heightened the metallic lustre of her
abundant hair, and deepened fringy shadows cast by her thick, dusky
lashes. Upon the beautiful face time had softly pressed its velvet palm,
smoothing the angles of bitterness and wrath that had been intensified
by the struggle with her husband, whom she now believed she had eluded
forever by removing to another city. On the broad windowsill at her
right stood an oval, brass filigree frame holding a photograph of
Leighton in his chorister vestments, and in front of the picture a dozen
violets filled a wine-glass. As she finished and folded an apron,
leaning forward to place it on the chair, her glance fell on the
photograph, rested there, and the ocean of the past moaned, surged,
broke over her. Despite her persistent scoffing moods, she had found it
impossible to forget the few lines Father Temple had repeated with a
faltering voice after the grave closed over the sweet young singer of
St. Hyacinth's. They haunted some chamber of her defiant soul, and when
she gazed at the holy face of her boy they stole out and whispered:

    "Another lamb, O Lamb of God, behold
    Within this quiet fold,
    Among Thy Father's sheep
    I lay to sleep!
    A heart that never for a night did rest
    Beyond its mother's breast.
    Lord, keep it close to Thee,
    Lest waking it should bleat and pine for me."

A rap on her door recalled her, and she swept one hand across her misty
eyes.

"Come in."

A man of middle age, low in stature, and muffled to the chin in a
handsome overcoat, stood, hat in hand, at the door.

"Mr. Coolidge, I am surprised to see you, and you have made a mistake in
coming to my lodgings. I will not ask you to be seated, because I do not
wish to receive you."

"But, madam, no other way of communicating with you seems possible, as
correspondence has certainly proved disastrous. That note of Mr.
Cathcart's, which you saw fit to send to his wife, ploughed up more
trouble than a ton of dynamite, and his few remaining grey hairs will
disappear before the end of this fracas. Talk about savage wild beasts,
and claws, and paws, and fangs, but you women can trump them every time
when the game is cruelty, and you want to get even with some man. Poor
Mr. Cathcart! I don't hold him a saint, but I must say you misread his
note and misjudged him."

"Did you see the note?"

"After his wife received it? No, but he told me exactly what it
contained, and why he was obliged to have the meeting secret."

"Written by a millionaire to his poor typewriter, it was an insult, and
as such you would have hotly resented it if your sister stood in my
dependent position."

"You have not an idea what he wanted to say to you when he asked you to
return to the office after every one had gone. He has found out that you
have great influence with Max Harlberg, and that you belong to several
'Unions,' and he wished to pay you handsomely if you would persuade Max
to agree to arbitration and not call a strike. Since he learned you are
a power among these men who are causing us so much trouble, he is
anxious to conciliate you, and fears your resignation will increase the
difficulty of a settlement."

"He sent you here to offer this explanation?"

"Yes, Mrs. Dane, and I can vouch for its truth."

"Mr. Coolidge, you have always treated me with respect and courtesy, and
I have no desire to be rude to you, but I am sorry you came to offer so
shameful a bargain. I believe in 'unions'; they became necessary when
vast consolidations of capital began to strangle small corporations, and
laborers learned that only by a united front could they expect living
wages. You magnates of 'trusts' are responsible for 'unions'; you set us
the example: when capital bands, labor is forced to organize in
self-defence. You of the caste of Dives sowed dragon's teeth, and now
the abundance of your crop appalls you? We of the Lazarus caste see hope
ahead; the day is coming when we shall have an honest and fair and
permanent adjustment on the Karl Marx basis of 'plus value,' and then
every mechanic in your shops will own an interest in the car he builds
in the ratio of the hours he worked on it. Heart and soul I am with your
motormen and conductors, your carpenters and machinists. Their cause is
just, and, if I can help them, all the bonds and all the gold your
company hoards in its vaults cannot buy me."

"At least you might persuade Harlberg to consent to arbitrate the
differences. The men would have an equal chance with the company."

"Arbitration wolves have left no lambs silly enough to bleat their
grievances. Two years ago the strike was settled on a basis almost fair
to your employees, and in six months the provisions were nullified by
changes made possible when non-union motormen were brought here. Max cut
his eye teeth then, and now he has a winning hand."

"You think a strike inevitable?"

"I know it, and rejoice that the company will smart for its grinding,
inhuman treatment of men who have endured it for the sake of wives and
children looking to them for bread. Because you and Mr. Cathcart and Mr.
Hazleton and your board of directors have ample fortunes, you see no
enormity in requiring men with large families to work twelve hours,
exposed to rain, sleet, sun, and if, overcome with fatigue, they fail to
awake in time to report for duty at the exact minute your schedule
demands, they are 'laid off for three days' as punishment. No day of
rest to spend at home; nothing to anticipate but the ceaseless grind,
grind--worse than that of driving wheels and pistons in machinery, which
are allowed to stop and cool on Sunday."

"If you return to your desk to-morrow Mr. Cathcart says he will double
your salary."

"Tell him to divide the extra pay among the needy grey-beards limping
around the cars and shops. I will never work in his office again."

"You are very unwise, Mrs. Dane, and since you sympathize with the men,
you ought not to lose the opportunity to prove yourself their friend at
court. Moreover, in rejecting a larger salary you are laying up a store
of regrets."

"Make no mistake, Mr. Coolidge. You rich often force us poor to suffer
severely, but we seldom 'regret,' because that implies error on our
part. We are bitter under the pain, but we do not regret the course of
duty to ourselves that brought down the lash."

"Is it true that if the railroad men's strike is declared the
telegraphers' and typewriters' unions will order a sympathetic strike?
You seem to have begun in advance."

"I think not. Two nights ago, at our meeting, I urged the members to
abandon the idea, though Harlberg was present to insist upon it. A
'sympathetic strike' is only sentiment running riot, and special class
suffering alone justifies revolt. Altruistic theories of reform and
abstract justice ought not to tie up public systems and precipitate
armed conflicts. I have learned that for us 'strikes' are fearful
catastrophes--social earthquakes so far-reaching in consequences that
you opulent dwellers on a serene plateau, immune from disaster, can form
no adequate estimate of the ghastly wreck wrought in substrata of the
laboring class. Especially ruinous is the strain on our women. The men
are excited, goaded, kept on the _qui vive_, held to the front by
magnetic leaders--but the waiting women and children! Cold, hungry,
terrified, huddled in helpless idleness, expecting any moment to see
husband and father brought in on a shutter--buried in the 'potter's
field' if he dies, sent to prison as a 'riotous lawbreaker' if he
lives--these are the saddest features of bloody struggles that the
outside world never sees. Instead of 'sympathetic strikes,' far more
useful sympathy should be shown by other unions working full time
steadily and sharing their wages with those fighting for violated rights
against the encroachments of combined capital. That is what I intend to
do."

"Have you accepted another position as typewriter?"

"Not yet; but many ways of earning my bread lie open before me. I never
resign from my sewing machine, and I learned embroidery at a convent
where royal orders have been filled."

"Making check aprons will not pay room rent."

Gathering the little garments in her arms, she rose, her tall, graceful
figure clearly outlined by her mourning dress, and her eyes sparkled.

"Do you remember old Silas Bowen?"

"I do not."

"Your corporation memories, like your consciences, are sieves. One day,
while arranging a trolleywire, a tall post behind him, decayed at its
base, fell, and crippled him. He lost a leg, and all the fingers of one
hand. Your company paid the surgeon's bill, and Bowen was sent adrift
without a cent. He sued for damages, and the jury gave him what he asked
for. You appealed the case, and a Hungarian pedler, who hated him
vindictively, swore that Bowen was so drunk he could not understand
warning shouts that the pole was shaking, and that he was falling when
the post toppled and struck him. You won, and he lost by perjury. He is
able to do little, and has nine children. His wife and oldest daughter
launder laces and fine muslins, and these aprons are for the
youngest--twins, one of whom has spinal disease and will never walk. Mr.
Coolidge, I have rather liked you, because I found you always a
gentleman, but my patience is exhausted, and, as I shall never work
again for your company, there is no reason why you should prolong your
visit."

"Nothing can change your mind in our favor?"

"Nothing."

"I wish the whole confounded, sickening business could be ended. Of
course the company will win. New men will be at the barns and
power-houses early to-morrow, prepared to run the cars, and the court
will enjoin strikers from active interference. At the first shot the
militia will be called out to take a hand, and then the poor devils
running around like blind adders will be slaughtered. You women ought to
stop it. Some of you firebrands will land in jail."

"Jail sounds dreadful, but after all it is not so bad; has its
perquisites that wealth furnishes. I tried it once. The rich, old Jew
who arrested me for stealing a Satsuma vase was so terrified when it was
found where a negro porter had pawned it, that he sent his superb
carriage and horses and liveried coachman to carry me from jail to my
lodgings. It was my first and last ride on satin cushions. Good-night,
Mr. Coolidge."

When the door closed behind him, she counted the spice cakes into a
paper bag, placed it in the bundle of aprons, and wrapped the whole in a
square of oil cloth. Pushing her hair back from her brow, she drew a
black veil closely around her face, tied the ends under her chin, and
put on her long waterproof cloak, lifting the cape over her head, where
she fastened it with a safety pin. Under the grey overhanging folds of
the cape the fair, cold face looked serene as a nun's. Extinguishing the
flame of the oil stove, her eyes rested a moment on the picture of
Leighton, then she lowered the gas jet at the machine, picked up the
bundle, locked the door, and dropped the key in her pocket as she went
out to the street.

The snow fall was light and intermittent, but now and then the crystal
facets glittered in the vivid bluish glare of quivering electric globes.

Three hours later Father Temple, passing through the city on his way
south, stood, valise in hand, on a street corner, waiting for a downtown
car, and fearful he might miss the train where his sleeping berth had
been engaged. No car came from any quarter, and he walked on, hoping to
be overtaken. Soon a steady, rapid tread of many feet sounded from the
rear, and a squad of police dashed past him.

"What is the matter with the cars?" he shouted to the hurrying column.

One man looked over his shoulder.

"The strike is on. Street car track torn up."

In a marvellously short time the crowded pavement became a dense mass of
men and women struggling slowly forward; then a dull, deep, sullen roar,
that shook windows and doors, rolled up to the starless sky where snow
feathers fluttered. A woman screamed:

"The brutes are firing cannon into the poor strikers!"

"Not much! Some devilish striker throwing a bomb," answered her husband.

Father Temple, finding progress impeded, stepped down into the street
and hurried on. At the end of the next square the hospital ambulance
clattered by at emergency speed, and behind it another detachment of
police at double-quick step. The street was bare as mid-desert of
vehicles, save those from hospitals, and down the double railway track
flowed a human stream, panting to reach the fray, eager to witness the
struggle as old Romans who fought for places under the _velarium_, and
shrieked "_Habet!_" Two officers on horseback galloped by, and then came
reports of shots, followed by the wild, thousand-throated whoop and hoot
of maddened men drunk with hate and fury. At the intersection of three
streets, where a small park lay, the strikers had massed the cars from
every direction, shut off the current, cut the wires, and taken their
stand. Expecting trouble next day, the company had prepared guards and
provided extra police protection for their barns and power-houses, where
a few non-union men had been secured, but the strikers frustrated these
plans by refusing to run as directed to the defended terminus. Where the
line of clustered cars ended on both tracks, iron rails had been torn up
and piled across the road bed, and here, in front and rear, motormen,
conductors, carpenters, machinists, and linemen were massed, stubbornly
defying all attempts to repair the tracks or move the cars.

A half hour before Father Temple reached the outskirts of the crowd at
the square, a woman had elbowed her way to the front car and sprung upon
the platform. Just below her Max Harlberg was distributing pistols to a
group of men, all gesticulating angrily.

Clapping her hands to arrest attention, Mrs. Dane called:

"Silas Bowen, if you are here, answer. Silas Bowen!"

"Aye, aye! Silas Bowen is here to hurry up Judgment day for the hounds
that have dodged it too long."

"You must go to your wife; she needs you. The tenement where you live
burned down to-night."

"Let it burn! I hope the old rat hole isn't insured."

"But your wife is frantic, and wants you at once; and one of your
children is hurt. Silas, do go to them, I beg of you. I have the
helpless boy and the burned girl at my room, and your wife is there."

"I have waited too long for this picnic to turn my back just as the
music begins. I am in for my share of the fun to-night, and kindling
wood will be cheap to-morrow. When the devil's pay day comes for the
boss, I mean to see the count."

Leaning over the dashboard of the car, Mrs. Dane watched for an
opportunity, and snatched from Harlberg's hand the pistol reserved for
his own use. Holding it above her head, she cried:

"Friends, fellow-workers, listen a moment! You are striking for the
right to live like human beings, not beasts of burden; but be careful,
be sure you do not put yourselves in the wrong by rash violence. If
strife comes, let your oppressors start it. Personal attack is not your
privilege, but defence is your right. Stand here quietly, shoulder to
shoulder, cool, steady, and keep non-union traitors at arm's length. We
who are working will see that the pot boils for your families; but, men,
I beg of you, attempt no violence; because, if the first shot comes from
us, the end will be we shall all drop from the frying pan into the fire.
The police are bloodhounds wearing the collar of rich corporations, and
the courts are butcher pens, where 'fighting strikers' are slaughtered.
When rifles are fired into your ranks and bayonets thrust into your
bodies, then--only then--must you remember 'blood washes blood.' Oh,
men, be patient! Max Harlberg, don't forget that you are responsible for
what may happen now. These men have obeyed you--have followed you like
sheep to the edge of a precipice. Don't drive them with the butt of a
pistol to leap to ruin. Counsel no bloodshed, no rashness, no wreckage."

A feeble cheer rose, smothered by a grumbling growl.

The wind had blown the cape back to her shoulders, and the folds of
black veil banding her head slipped down, restraining no longer the
ripples of hair curling above her temples. Leaning over the dashboard,
one hand clutching the collar of Harlberg's overcoat as she talked
rapidly to him, she resembled some gilt-headed figure carved at the prow
of a vessel, always first to front tempests.

Just then a solid column of policemen charged the strikers, forcing them
back almost upon the pile of rails near the foremost car, and following
the line of lifted and revolving clubs, Mr. Cathcart and his
superintendent, Hazleton appeared. Hisses, jeers, oaths, and a prolonged
howl greeted them, amid which paving stones smote the heavy clubs that
swung right and left like flails, and Harlberg sprang to the iron
controller, leaped thence to the roof of the car, and shouted his orders
to the strikers on the ground. Wounded, bleeding men were trampled by
the swaying mass as it surged forward, staggered back, panting, cursing,
hooting; then, in quick succession, three shots rang out.

A moment later Mrs. Dane laid Harlberg's pistol on top of the controller
stand, and, as she stepped down from the platform to make her way home,
something hurtled through the air and struck between the spot where Mr.
Cathcart stood and the iron dashboard of the car. In the blinding glare
of the explosion two strikers and a policeman were seen to fall, and
when the roar and sharp shivering of crashed windows ended, a sudden
hush fell upon the multitude.

Father Temple had slowly forced his way along the outer edge of the
quivering throng and reached the centre of the square, where in summer a
fountain babbled. Some one behind grasped his cassock.

"You are a priest? For the love of God, come to a dying man! Come back."

Death had sounded a temporary truce, and for some moments only whispers
passed trembling lips, but the strikers still guarded the rails. Mr.
Cathcart wiped off the dust thrown into his face by the explosion, bared
his grey head, and lifted his hand:

"Men, don't you think you have worked mischief enough for one night?
Eight dead, and only God knows how many wounded! That is an ugly bill
the law will surely make you pay. You heard those three shots fired into
the air? It was a signal for the armory; the troops are now coming. Who
will feed your babies when you are bayonetted?"

A mounted policeman spurred his horse close to the president.

"The soldiers are hurrying down."

The leaders recognized the futility of continued resistance, and, as
they slowly fell back from the track the police were in undisputed
control of the cars when the hurrying line of soldiers reached the
square.

Father Temple and his unknown guide paused beside a stretcher. Two men
wearing the Red Cross badge bent over it.

"Stand back; here is a priest."

Both rose, and pointed to the sheet covering a motionless figure.

"Too late. He is dead."

Then one added, as he touched Father Temple's sleeve:

"You might be of use over yonder, where a woman is badly hurt. They are
waiting for an ambulance to move her."

When Max Harlberg ordered the retreat of the strikers and jumped from
the roof of the car to the pavement, he caught sight of a huddled mass
on the step near the motor controller, and simultaneously he and Mr.
Cathcart approached the spot.

Mrs. Dane had sunk down in a sitting posture on the step, and her head
rested against the shattered edge of the dashboard, her face tilted
skyward, where two stars blinked feebly through thinning snow flakes.
Blood dripped from the right shoulder, and behind one ear a red stream
dyed her golden braids, but the blue eyes were open, and her limp hands
lay in the crimson pool deepening in her lap, where the waterproof cloak
held it.

"My God, it is my typewriter! Hazleton, Hazleton! Telephone for an
ambulance. Hurry! I knew she was mixed up in this deviltry, but didn't
think she would actually come to the front and take a hand."

"She did not. She came here hunting Bowen, whose family was burned out
to-night, and she had taken some of them to her room. His wife has
spasms when she is worried, and was screaming for him, so Mrs. Dane was
begging him to go back with her. She wanted a peaceable strike--urged us
not to begin any fight--and she snatched a pistol out of my hand. Can't
you speak to me, Mrs. Dane? Where are you hurt worst?"

Harlberg stooped to lift her, but Cathcart held him back.

"Stop! You must wait for the doctor. She might bleed to death if you
moved her. A pretty night's work in a civilized city! Lord, how I wish
all you anarchists had one neck! So Silas Bowen has paid her liberally
for helping his family! He threw that bomb--aimed it at Hazleton and me,
and when it exploded she was struck by something. Leather-headed,
black-hearted scoundrel! The police have just marched him off, and the
infernal fool ought to be hung from the first lamp-post."

An ambulance came up at a gallop, and while the surgeon sprang out and
hurried toward the group, Father Temple stepped forward. As the electric
light shone full on the upturned face and the wide, fixed eyes, a cry
broke from the lips of the priest, who tried to thrust all aside.

"My Nona! My own pansy eyes!"

The surgeon pushed him back.

"I must have room to examine her. Help me lay her across the platform.
Here, you! Are you her brother? Take her firmly by the shoulders, so;
steady, lower her head."

"She is my wife."

What was done, and exactly why, none but the surgeon ever understood;
those who looked on knew only that jagged cuts were sprayed and closed
and bandaged; that the lovely hair was shorn away from a wound at the
back of the head, and hypodermics inserted in the arm.

No word was spoken until the stretcher was ordered close to the car
platform, and the patient was lifted tenderly and laid upon it. Then the
thin, shaking hand of the priest clutched the doctor's sleeve.

"I have the right to know exactly what you think."

"Then I must be frank. She has received probably fatal injuries to spine
and brain, and paralysis has resulted. Whether the paralysis will be
permanent I cannot say now, because the extent of the shock has yet to
be determined."

"She is not entirely unconscious."

"I am sure she is. On what do you base your opinion?"

"I know too well the expression of her eyes, and it changed when I spoke
to her."

"Her tongue is certainly paralyzed, and she can move neither hand nor
foot."

"I do not wish her carried to the charity hospital, though doubtless the
treatment is the same. Please take her to the Mercy Infirmary, and will
you be so kind as to let me sit close to her in the ambulance?"

Keenly the doctor scanned the convulsed face, where overmastering
emotion defied control.

"Your wife, you said? My friend, don't you think it time you laid aside
your disguise? Priests are not--in this country--given to acknowledging
their wives so publicly. It may be all right, but your marital claims
and your clothes don't seem to fit."

"I am not a Romanist. I belong to an Episcopal celibate Order, and my
superior understands and directs my movements. If you knew everything
you would pity me----"

The surgeon took off his hat, bowed, and waved him to a seat in the
ambulance.

In after years, when Father Temple's dark hair had whitened, and vital
fires were burning low, to the verge of ashes, he looked back always
with supreme tenderness and immeasurable joy to the days that followed
the strike, as after some tempest lulls one watches the unexpected
lustre of an after-glow where it glints over the wreckage wrought, and
waves its banners of gilded rose between vanishing storm clouds and
oncoming night.

In that small room at the Infirmary reigned profound quiet, broken only
by the low voices of two wise-eyed, tender-handed, know-all,
tell-nothing nurses, whose ideals of absolute obedience to staff orders
were as starched as their caps and collars. They shared the doctor's
opinion that the patient was conscious of nothing, because she neither
flinched nor moaned when her wounds were dressed, but the watcher who
spent part of each morning beside the bed knew better. Waiting one day
until the nurses left the room, he drew from his pocket a photograph of
Leighton, leaned down, and held it close to her. The half-closed eyes
widened, brightened, and, after a moment, tears gathered.

He laid the picture against her lips and left it on her breast.

With that fine instinct which inheres only in supremely unselfish love,
he fought down the longing to fondle her, allowed himself no approach to
a caress, remembering that his touch was loathsome to her, and in her
present helplessness would prove a cruel insult. He accepted as part of
his punishment the fierce trial of bending so close to the precious face
her hatred denied him; and only once, when the nurse laid the patient's
hand in his, while she tightened a bandage and gave a hypodermic, he
bowed his face upon it and kissed the palm.

Sometimes for hours she kept her eyes shut; again, for as long a period,
she would not close them, and though her gaze, never vacant, wandered
from face to face, it held no inquiry, no sadness, no meaning save of
profound introspection, of some subtle mental readjustment; but only a
deep, slowly drawn sigh of utter weariness ever crossed her pale lips,
from which the blood had been drained. Father Temple felt assured that
as she lay motionless, fronting eternity, her self-communion was
profound and calmly searching; and ceaselessly he prayed that God's
mercy might comfort the brave, lonely, helpless soul.

One morning the nurse reported that during the night Mrs. Dane had moved
her right hand and arm, but the improvement did not continue, and while
at times fully conscious, her vitality was evidently ebbing, and the
pulse began to fail. She had never spoken, and the doctor said she never
would. Standing outside the door, Father Temple waited one noon to hear
the physician's report. As he came out he put his hand on the priest's
shoulder, and answered the mute appeal in eyes that were wells of
hopeless grief.

"Don't leave her. I have asked the matron to let you stay now. We have
done all we could, and she does not suffer. She may slip away at any
moment."

The room was very still, and sweet with violets which Father Temple
brought daily. The muslin curtain had been looped back to admit light
that fell full on the pillow where lay the beautiful head, shorn of a
portion of its golden crown. Her features were sharpened, and the eyes
seemed preternaturally large above dark, deep shadows worn by suffering.

The compassionate nurse withdrew, closing the door noiselessly. With
locked hands the priest stood, looking down into the whitening face
which the fine chisel of pain had reduced to a marvel of delicate
perfection, and when her long, brown lashes slowly drooped, he fell upon
his knees and prayed, his head bowed on the bed close to her pillow. In
the agony of his petition one passionate, broken cry rolled through the
solemn silence.

"Lord, visit upon me the punishment of her unbelief! Let me suffer
all--everything--because through me she lost her faith. Spare her pure,
precious soul and save her! Oh, God, mercifully receive and comfort her
dear soul, for Christ's sake!"

Some moments passed, and while he knelt, his crucifix pressed against
his breast, he felt a cold hand laid on his bowed head and a faint
effort to pat it. In the wonderful blue eyes a new light had dawned.

"My darling Nona, will you forgive me? You cannot speak, but, oh,
try--try to press my hand! Have pity on me!"

He had risen, and her hand was clasped in his, as he stooped over her.
Feebly the icy fingers contracted in his palm.


"Vernon, I have forgiven everything. I could have spoken after the
second day, but I was not ready. I wanted to be sure this was the end.
So much to count over. Vernon, I was too--too--hard--on you--but----"

Breath failed her, and she gasped painfully.

"My wife, my darling wife! Tell me you are not afraid now."

She looked steadily into his eyes, and after a little while there came,
brokenly, an echo as of a voice drifting away into immeasurable wastes.

"I go to my long sleep--no bad dreams. Too tired--to be afraid----"

A moment passed, while she struggled for breath, and over her face stole
a smile.

"If it--is--something--else--better, my baby will
be--there--my--baby----"

He felt a tremor in her fingers, as with a long, low sigh the frozen
lips closed, but the calm, brave gaze did not waver.

At last, after long years, it was his privilege to hold her to his heart
and kiss down the stiffening lids that veiled forever the smiling pansy
eyes.



CHAPTER XVII


For political rancor time is not an emollient panacea. Sectional hatred
bites hard on memory, as acid into copper, and the perspective of years
of absence failed to alter in any degree the rough angles, ugly scars,
and deep shadows that characterized the people's portrait of Judge Kent.
Impotence to correct intensifies public sense of wrong, and compulsory
submission to injury borne silently garners bitterness which in actual
strife would effervesce. Only those who lived in the Southern seaboard
and Gulf States during the long, stinging years that followed the
surrender at Appomattox can understand why the names of Grant and
Sherman stirred little enmity, when compared with the unfathomable
execration and contempt aroused by the civil Federal vultures that
settled like a cloud over State, county, and municipal treasuries. The
battening of this horde soon reduced Southern finances and credit to a
grewsome skeleton. In that stifling Ragnarok, family estates feudal in
extent were seized as "abandoned lands" and parcelled out to freedman,
who had been enticed to abandon them in order to succeed their masters
in ownership. "Patriots are paupers now," was the grim proverb current
among Confederates, and the very few who showed conditions bordering on
comfort were, in public estimation, required to "stand and deliver" an
explanation of the fortuitous circumstances that saved them from the
general ruin.

Judge Kent's judicial career had been disastrous to the interests of
many throughout the State, and among the legions who improved their
fortunes by coming south to "reconstruct and to dispense justice," he
was especially detested by the citizens of Y----. To Eglah, his
insistence upon returning to Nutwood was explicable solely on the
hypothesis that speculative reverses had demanded the sale of his own
property and swallowed the result; hence his resources were exhausted.

Recollection of slights, insinuations, invectives, and jeers that had
imbittered her childhood did not lend beckoning glamour to the
home-coming; and without the powerful protection of Mrs. Maurice's
presence she suspected she was making a social plunge with no net spread
to succor. Deliberately and systematically she planned the gradual
renovation and, to a limited degree, the refurnishing of the beautiful
old house where it now seemed her future must be spent. A new close
carriage and stylish trap were shipped in advance, and Mrs. Mitchell
went down to superintend preparations for occupancy of Nutwood, leaving
Judge Kent and his daughter to follow a week later.

Old Aaron was stooping badly and stiff with rheumatism, but refused to
relax his grasp on the butler's reins; Celie maintained her iron sway in
the kitchen; her two daughters were eager to discharge the duties of
housemaids, and Oliver, hopelessly bed-ridden, claimed that his son had
the best right to succeed him as coachman.

When, on the morning after her arrival, Eglah entered the cedar-panelled
dining-room, and seated herself at the head of the table, where
glittered the tall, silver coffee urn with Dirce and her beast in bold
relief, she almost expected to see her grandmother's face reflected
there as in days gone by, and involuntarily looked over her shoulder
with a telepathic impression that behind her chair stood the stately,
old, crêpe-coifed dame disputing usurpation. Judge Kent drained his
second cup of creamless tea, held up the thin, fluted china to examine
the twisted signature of the manufacturer, listened to its protest as he
carefully thumped it, and pushed it aside.

"Eglah, I do not like the room where I slept last night, and I wish a
change made to-day."

"Why, father? I selected the handsomest room in the house for you. That
has always been considered the best--set apart as the guest-chamber."

"Well, as I am not a guest, I have no desire to appropriate the
perquisites. I prefer the room opening into the library."

"Not my grandfather's room--not where grandmother hoarded sacred--" She
paused, and the silver fruit knife, with which she peeled a peach,
clanged sharply as it fell.

"Exactly. I mean the museum of rebel relics. I wish them removed at
once, and my own things unpacked and arranged there."

"Father, it was grandmother's expressed wish to keep that----"

"It is rather late to evoke sentiment in her behalf. She left nothing
undone to hamper, annoy, and inconvenience us, and----"

"Father! _De mortuis--!_ Although I am her grandchild under protest on
her part, she gave me her estate, and the one room she loved ought to be
reserved just as she wished."

As she leaned to the right of the urn, to look squarely at her father,
her face was close to Mrs. Mitchell, who noted its pallor and an ominous
curve in the thin lips. Judge Kent beat a muffled tattoo with the prongs
of his fork on the handle of a spoon lying near. He smiled, eyed her
fixedly, and inclined his head in dismissal.

"It is not a question for discussion, but a simply imperative matter of
obedience to instructions. I must have the change made at once, and if
extra help is needed Aaron will see immediately that it is secured."

From the bowl of flowers in the middle of the table he selected a sprig
of ruby stock-gilly, inhaled its fragrance, fastened it in his coat, and
strolled out on the front colonnade.

Over the girl's white face flowed a deep, dull red, and for a moment her
slender hands covered it. Then she touched the bell at her left, and
smiled bravely at the butler who answered it.

"Uncle Aaron, put a pitcher of tea on the ice, so that whenever father
needs it I can have it cold. Tell Ma'm Celie I have not had such a good
breakfast since I wore short skirts and my hair down my back. Her coffee
was perfect, the waffles and beaten biscuit the very best I ever tasted,
and the brain croquettes could not be improved."

"Yes, Missie, she thought she would please you. She don't forget how you
loved waffles and honey when you used to wear bibs and set in your high
chair."

Having invested all in a teraph of fine gold, its votary sees with vague
uneasiness a gradual dimness blur the sheen, and when, under friction,
the gilt surface melts away and only corroding brass remains, the shock
is severe. However slow the transformation, the final disillusion is not
softened.

Standing in the memorial room, with her arms resting on the mantel
shelf, Eglah looked up at the frank, noble patrician face of General
Maurice, until an unsuspected undercurrent of pride and tenderness
suddenly surged at the thought that his blood ran in her veins. Whatever
ills might overtake her, no bar sinister could ever mar, no breath of
blame could cloud the lustre of this side of her family shield. Studying
the portrait above her, and that of her lovely young mother on the
opposite wall, she began for the first time to take possession of her
Maurice birthright, conscious that here her pride could never drag
anchor. The room that from her nursery days had always been Marcia's
remained unoccupied after her death, and to this apartment Eglah and
Eliza removed every cherished object Mrs. Maurice had stored in her
husband's old study, arranging pictures, books, furniture as she had
left them. No word of comment passed the locked lips of either woman,
but, when all had been adjusted, Eglah fastened the door and handed the
key to Mrs. Mitchell.

"You know she preferred 'Grand Dukes' and Cape jasmines, so we will keep
some in front of the portrait, and once a week we must see that no dust
collects here."

In the future, stretching before the young mistress of Nutwood gleamed
two goals--friendly, social recognition of her father, and the
compilation and publication of a volume containing a sketch of his
career, written by herself, selected speeches delivered in Congress, and
certain judicial decisions relative to Confederate property, individual
and corporation, which had tarred him heavily throughout the State,
where they were promulgated. To the attainment of these aims she
purposed to devote her energies, believing that the accomplishment of
the biographical scheme would inevitably remove the barrier of
estrangement that had shut her from her father's confidence.

After a week spent in looking over Nutwood, visiting Mrs. Mitchell's
home and inspecting the condition of gin houses, mills, fences, and
cabins on the plantations, the appointed day arrived when Mr. Whitfield
came with books and a large tin box to give a detailed account of his
stewardship.

Eglah noticed that while he held and pressed her fingers cordially, he
merely bowed, and seemed not to see Judge Kent's proffered hand. After
the interview she understood, when Eliza told her that during the period
_habeas corpus_ was suspended by Federal authority the husband of Mr.
Whitfield's only sister had been imprisoned for "treasonable language"
by the desire and co-operation of Judge Kent, and that distress of mind
and anxiety on her husband's account had precipitated the death of the
wife before his release from jail.

Thin, wiry, grizzled, keenly alert, the lawyer's light-blue eyes dwelt
chiefly on the girl's face, save when her father asked a question or a
fuller explanation of some statement. Now and then Judge Kent, watchful
but studiedly debonair and suave, glanced over a paper, and once he
challenged the accuracy of a computation of interest, which on revision
proved correct. They were grouped around an oval table in the library,
an open tin box in the centre, flanked by two ledgers and piles of
papers, and Eglah sat close to Mr. Whitfield's right, while her father
took his place immediately opposite her.

She leaned a little forward, her arms crossed on the mahogany, and
looked up steadily at the lawyer, but when he offered a paper for
examination she smiled and shook her head.


"You must perceive the farcical futility of talking business to such an
inexperienced girl," said Judge Kent, stretching out his hand to take a
bundle of stock certificates his daughter had motioned away.

"Really you surprise me, because, from all we have heard of her college
training, I was prepared to find Marcia's child an expert."

"Father knows I can calculate interest, and that I understand
bookkeeping, but he would be ashamed of me if I suspected or hunted for
errors in the accounts of a friend who for so many years has kindly
guarded my financial interests."

The lawyer patted her hand and smiled.

"That sounds like your dear mother, and I am glad you have her low,
clear voice, like the melody of a silver harp string; but your father is
quite right in urging careful inspection of matters that have been so
long intrusted solely to me. Now, I believe we have gone over the
important points, except that railroad muddle, which is still undecided.
I brought suit over a year ago, and as the new branch and spurs run
through the middle of one of your best cotton fields on Willow Creek
plantation, I hope the next term of court will give us a satisfactory
settlement. Boynton is a good overseer--not a graduate of a college of
technology nor an agricultural chemist, who knows from looking at the
soil the exact day when the Noachian flood left your lands dry, nor is
he a new-fangled 'manager,' but he is just an overseer of auld lang
syne; a trifle lax, but our old-fashioned plantation rules are dead as
Pharaoh, and he winks at lapses he cannot prevent. However, he keeps the
repair machinery busy on fences and stables, the negroes like him, and
you will find your leases and contracts all signed properly. Of course
you are aware your grandmother left instructions that when you married,
or as soon as you were twenty-one, $5,000 should be paid to Mrs.
Mitchell. I consulted the bishop, and we thought it best to defer this
matter until her return to America, but it should not be delayed longer,
and here is the check, which you can hand to her. With the payment of
this legacy her annual allowance ends."

Eglah opened the table drawer, drew out an envelope, and laid it before
him.

"Enclose, address, and seal it. Before you leave the house, please
deliver it to her."

"Have you any questions to ask? Do not hesitate, if there is anything
else you do not understand, anything you wish to know."

"Absolutely nothing, except an adequate way of thanking you for all your
patient goodness. If you can explain how I shall accomplish this, you
will increase my huge debt."

Judge Kent rose and smiled benignly.

"Eglah, I wonder it has not occurred to you that a proper recognition of
the value of Mr. Whitfield's services ought to involve a willingness and
effort on your part to relieve him entirely of the burden of
responsibility he has borne so long, and which, under my guidance, you
are quite capable of assuming. You are of age, and the trusteeship
should end at once."

For fully a moment she pondered the suggestion, then laid her hand on
the lawyer's arm.

"Tell me frankly whether you prefer to surrender the management of our
business affairs? Irrespective of my individual feeling, your wishes
alone must decide the matter, and you can best determine if the tax upon
your time is too onerous."

Mr. Whitfield drew the tin box before her, and pointed to a large
envelope marked "Last Will and Testament of Patricia Maurice."

"I imagine you scarcely comprehend some of the conditions that place me
in a peculiarly embarrassing position. Here is the will of your
grandmother; I preserved for you the original draft in her handwriting.
The last page bears upon the question under discussion. Read it now, and
then, whatever your wishes, I individually shall obey them."

Judge Kent seated himself, lifted the decanter in front of him, and
filled a glass.

"Meantime, will you join me in a glass of sherry?"

"No, thank you; my doctor restricts me to claret."

Very slowly Eglah read the broad sheet, and her countenance changed,
clouded, as she betrayed her annoyance by taking her under lip between
her teeth.

"We beg your pardon, Mr. Whitfield; we had entirely forgotten that
clause. Unless I marry, your trusteeship continues until I am thirty
years old, should I live so long."

"Not necessarily mine. I can resign, or death may release me, but some
other person would be required."

"A most unjust and absurd provision," said the judge, draining his
second glass, and striving to conceal his remembrance of the fact that
Mrs. Maurice had expressly forbidden his connection with the
trusteeship.

Mr. Whitfield smiled.

"We lawyers all know testators use only their individual standards of
justice, wisdom, and fitness."


Eglah had folded the paper, replaced it in the envelope, and turned to
the lawyer.

"It appears that if for any reason you should relinquish this
responsibility, your successor is already appointed, and in that event I
should become practically the ward of the Chancery Court, which never
resigns, never dies."

She looked straight into her father's watching eyes, and continued
slowly, distinctly:

"I shall not marry. Your stewardship, dear Mr. Whitfield, involves some
additional years of trouble for you, but I am so deeply grateful to you,
I shall certainly try to cause as little annoyance as possible."

A shutter swung open, the sun flashed in, and she crossed the room to
exclude the glare.

Returning, she paused behind her father's chair, put her arms around his
neck, and interlaced her fingers. Without an instant's hesitation he
elevated and shook his shoulders so decidedly her hands fell to her
side.

"Sit down, my dear."

He built a pyramid with his plump, white, carefully manicured fingers,
and the brilliant eyes he fixed on the man beside him held a challenge.

"If the sanctity of wills were not debatable, our profession would be
barred from browsing in rich pastures of litigation; and 'undue
influence,' fostering injustice, has bred strife since its innings as
far back as the wrongs of Esau. As sole heir to the Maurice fortune, my
daughter can follow her individual wishes and judgment concerning the
management of what is indisputably her own, since there could be no
family contestants."

He bowed to Mr. Whitfield.

"Judge Kent, if Eglah so decided, there would be, on my part, no
contest."

"You are both mistaken. There would inevitably result a destroying
contest, with my conscience and my self-respect."

Mr. Whitfield caught his breath as he noted the transformation of the
girl's face into a blanched, stony mask. Carefully replacing every
package of papers in the box, she looked under the table to be sure none
had fluttered to the floor, turned the key in the brass padlock, and
pushed the box toward the lawyer.

"Mr. Whitfield, I have several times regretted that this inheritance was
left to me; to-day I deplore it. While I gratefully appreciate your wise
and faithful guardianship, I confess I very naturally feel sorry my own
dear father cannot manage my affairs; but I believe that all wills of
sane persons should be held sacred--absolutely inviolable. If the
Maurice estate is mine, it is on specified conditions that I would no
more break than the ten commandments. I shall not marry; therefore the
trusteeship must continue until I am thirty, and of all men in the
world, except my father, I certainly prefer you should retain it. Only
in strict conformity to the provisions by which I inherit will I remain
at Nutwood or spend its income; but my father's opinions and wishes are
very dear to me, and since he objects strenuously to some of the
conditions which naturally wound him, I intend to leave to him the
decision of the rejection or acceptance of the inheritance. Grandmother
declared that if the terms of trusteeship were violated, it was her wish
that I should receive merely the annuity allowed me since her death, and
that her entire estate--including Nutwood and the plantations--should be
given in perpetuity to childless widows of Confederate soldiers in this
State; women whose husbands and sons had been lost in defence of the
South. That you as trustee might not contest a flagrant violation of the
will is merely an expression of your personal reluctance to chide me
publicly; but it is a dubious compliment to any sense of right and
justice. Now, father, shall we relinquish the estate to the widows and
find a home elsewhere? Sometimes I think it would be best for us in many
ways, but you shall decide. Shall we go or stay?"

Steadily she faced him, cool and firm as a granite gargoyle, but his
nostrils flared, his teeth gleamed under his grey mustache, and, tilting
back his chair, he laughed unpleasantly.

"My dear, histrionism is not becoming to you--especially without chiton,
diploïdion, and fillets. Either your Alma Mater is weak along lines of
elocutionary training or you do it so little credit you never earned
your diploma. Your pretty little prologue is as preposterous as the
senseless limitations you are embracing so dramatically; but you are now
fully of age--except in Mrs. Maurice's opinion--and since the
inheritance is yours, not mine, you must accept the consequences of your
own tragic avowal and tie up your hands for some years to come. At least
I can congratulate you that all responsibility devolves upon so astute
and experienced a trustee as Mr. Whitfield, who will watch over your
interests till silver threads adorn your locks and you wear spectacles.
Since this matter is settled, be so good as to spare me any--Come in,
Aaron. What is it?"

The butler had knocked twice, and now beckoned to some one behind him.

"A boy with a despatch."

The messenger held up the yellow telegram.

"Senator Allison Kent."

Very deliberately he wrote his name in the receipt book, pausing to trim
the pencil tied to it; then, bowing to Mr. Whitfield, "With your
permission," he opened the envelope. Eglah saw his face flush, and he
coughed twice in a peculiar way she knew indicated deep annoyance.

"Any answer, sir?" asked the boy.

"Yes, but you must wait for it."

He took up a pen, drummed with fingers of his left hand on the table,
and rose.

"As I find it necessary to consult a record before replying to this
telegram, I must beg you, sir, to excuse me. I hope you will have time
to enjoy some of our fine fruit to-day."

At the door he called to the butler, standing in a side hall.

"Aaron, order dinner at three o'clock, and the trap at four. I must take
the 'cannon-ball train.'"

He and the messenger disappeared, and after a moment Eglah withdrew her
eyes from the vacant chair opposite, and turned to her guest.

"I think you brought some papers you wish me to sign. May I do so now?"

"When you have examined them, they must be signed in the presence of a
notary public, whom you can find at my office, or, if you prefer, he
shall come here."

He laid a roll of type-written documents on the table and rose.

"Shall I leave the box with you for to-day?"

Impatiently she pushed it aside.

"Take it away--keep it. I hope I may never set my eyes on it again."

The brooding shadow on her pale, rigid face made the lawyer's blue eyes
cloudy.

"Dear child, I have always been the intimate friend of the Maurice
family. I loved your sweet, young mother, and I hope you know I am
willing to help you in every way possible, and that you will not
hesitate to call upon me."

"Thank you. I am so sure of your sincerity, I shall begin at once to ask
your counsel. There are social complications that make a pleasant
residence here problematical, and consideration of the course most
expedient for me to pursue leaves me in doubt and perplexity. I have
thought of opening the house and grounds two weeks hence, in order to
celebrate my father's birthday by a _fête champêtre_, to which every
family inscribed on grandmother's visiting list should be invited. I
prefer to throw rather than pick up the gauntlet. You thoroughly
comprehend the situation, and I should like your advice."

"Wait a while. Go slowly; social wounds do not heal by first intention.
Be chary of invitations, and do not hunt for challenges. Hold your own
firmly, but courteously, and in time I think you will win. For your
father's sake, try to conciliate the members of his church; they are an
influential social factor here. Mrs. Maurice's old friends will rally
around 'Marcia's baby,' and you must be patient. Later, when sure of
your ground, you can give all the festivals you like without receiving
an avalanche of 'regrets' that would easily paper your hall. My wife and
the girls will call at once, and I hope you will come to us just as
often as possible; but whenever you wish to see me, drive down to the
office, or write me, as, for some reasons, it is advisable I should be
here very rarely. Dear child, while your features are like your handsome
father's, you resemble your mother in many ways, and I am glad to find
you have the crystal conscience and flawless instinct of honor that all
men reverenced in General Maurice. Good-bye. I have overstayed my time.
Tell Boynton to bring up the two horses I had broken and trained for
your saddle. One of them, the bay, took blue ribbon at the State fair
last fall, and there is no better stock south of Kentucky."

She walked with him half way down the hall, and they shook hands.

"Good-bye, Mr. Whitfield; thank you for many things. You will find
Ma-Lila in the dining-room, and whatever you think she ought to know of
to-day's interview, I prefer you should tell her. She is indeed my
second mother."

After a while she went slowly to her father's room. The door was half
open, but she paused and knocked.

He stood looking over an old account book, and, without glancing up,
said fretfully:

"Well, what is it?"

"Father, I came to pack your valise."

"It is already packed."

"May I come in? I want to tell you----"

"No. You will say nothing that I should wish to hear."

"Will you allow me to see the telegram which I fear annoys you?"

"The ashes only are at your service--all that remains of it."

"Tell me, at least, why you are going, and where?"

"First to Washington. Elsewhere as circumstances may direct."

"Please let me go with you----"

"Most certainly you stay where you are."

"Father--my father!" She advanced toward him, but recalling the shudder
with which he had shaken her arms from his shoulders, she stepped back
to the threshold.

"Oh, father, you are cruel! You know you are breaking my heart!"

The sob, the passion of pain in her voice, smote and hurt him sorely,
but he did not falter an instant.

"In breaking your will, your heart may be healed."

He had not looked at her, and all the while the index finger of his
right hand moved up and down columns of figures, searching for some
item, which was finally found and marked. Leaning against the door, she
watched him until Aaron rang the dinner bell.

"Father, may I drive you to the station?"

"No."

"Then I prefer to say good-bye here, as I am going to my own room."

"As you please. Good-bye, Eglah."

"I wish I could share this trouble, whatever it may be that calls you
away; but since you elect to condemn me to the torture of suspense, I
have no alternative but to endure it as best I can. Good-bye, my dear
father."

She held out both hands, but, instead of approaching her, he opened a
glass door leading to the colonnade and disappeared.

The velvet, paternal touch caressing her tenderly from the days of her
babyhood had, during the last two years, stiffened, hardened into a
steel gauntlet, strangling her.

The betrayal of his selfish and unscrupulous desire to violate the
provisions of the will had painfully startled and keenly mortified her;
but the barb that sank deepest in her sore, aching heart was the
realization of her father's deliberate plan to humiliate and punish her.
Was his persistent effort to force a marriage with Mr. Herriott based on
the determination to hasten her unlimited control of her grandmother's
estate? Until now, this explanation had not occurred to her, because the
clause binding her to the trusteeship--which rankled ceaselessly in his
mind--had made no impression on her memory. Maturely she deliberated,
weighing the past in the light of the new supposition, but this solution
was rejected as inadequate. In view of Mr. Herriott's indefinite absence
and studied silence, her father's obstinate adherence to his matrimonial
ultimatum remained inexplicable. That day ended her overtures for
reconciliation; and she laid the ax to the root of her olive tree.

The next morning was Sunday--the first after their return--and she
ordered the carriage.

"Little mother, I am going with you to eleven o'clock service, and I am
sure you understand it is a tribute of respect to grandmother, that
after many years of absence I attend first the church she helped to
build."

Curious eyes watched for Miss Kent in another church, where her father
had worshipped, and carried her mother, and when, daintily robed in
white, Eglah walked with the overseer's wife along the Methodist aisle
and sat down in the Maurice pew, a sudden mist blurred the vision of
many in the congregation, and old Dr. Eggleston wiped his spectacles and
whispered to his wife:

"Poor Marcia's baby! I can never forget her pitiful little wail for an
hour after she was born. Ah, her face is like a lily just lifted,
hunting for its God."

Henceforth social lines were indicated by an apparently trivial
distinction; the small circle that in former years received Judge Kent,
and the strangers and new residents of Y---- spoke of the mistress of
Nutwood as Miss Kent; but to the mass of old families she was always
"Marcia's child," or "Mrs. Maurice's granddaughter."

Very few typical Southern homes, representing wealth, liberal education,
and cultured artistic taste when 1861 dawned, have survived the jagged
wounds of war, the still more destructive bayonet-loaded harrow of
"reconstruction," and the merciless mildew of poverty that tarnished
ante-bellum splendor.

Nutwood escaped comparatively intact, because, while the owner lived,
her revenue--drawn in part from European investments made early in the
war by friends in London--enabled her to maintain and repair the
property until her plantations could be readjusted under the new régime;
and, after her death, the managers of the estate had jealously guarded
it from the inroads of decay.

Outside conditions, social and domestic, had changed utterly; new canons
prevailed, new manners of strange laxity rolled over former dikes of
purity, refinement, and decorum; but the turbid tide of up-to-date
flippancy broke and ebbed from the tall iron gates of the old house on
the hill. Here decadence was excluded, and one coming into the
long-closed mansion inhaled a vague haunting aroma, as if old furniture,
glass, china, books, paintings, and silver had been sprinkled with
powdered sandalwood, lavender, and rose leaves that blended with the
subtle pervading atmosphere of hereditary racial pride.

It resembled other homes in Y---- as little as some gallery of
brilliant, glaring impressionist pictures suggests a cabinet of
exquisite miniatures, rich mosaics, and carved ivory, where the witching
glamour of mellowing centuries hovers.

Eglah found only two scars of time. The conservatory was empty and
closed, and in the rear of the house several rows of low brick walls
showed where formerly stood what Mrs. Maurice called her "grapery," a
sunny spot enclosed with glass, alluring to her grandchild, who had
climbed a step-ladder to reach shouldered clusters, as large as her
head, of translucent, golden _Chasselas_.

No strange new element invaded dwelling or grounds; the same brown hand
that gave her "hot-water tea" when she sat in her high chair now placed
her chocolate before her, and she missed only old Hector, who had
followed his master to happier hunting grounds, and King Herod, gone,
doubtless, to share the punishment of his namesake. The thoroughbred
horses and silver-grey Jerseys were fine as she remembered them, and
though they now seemed smaller, the white game fowls were as beautiful
as of yore, when she toddled after her grandmother to feed them in the
enclosure to which they were restricted.

Years had made no alteration, save that a fond, trusting child came back
a sadly anxious woman, fronting the world with calm defiance, but
shivering silently under a numbing shadow of brooding dread that time
might deepen, but could not dispel.



CHAPTER XVIII


After prolonged residence in the cosmopolitan atmosphere of Washington,
New York, and continental Europe, it was inevitable that returning
absentees should find the restricted environment of Y---- stiflingly
provincial; and, despite the rapid growth of the town, consequent upon
construction of new railways and erection of furnaces and cotton mills,
its limitations were apparent. There was no lack of individual brains or
culture, but Eglah missed keenly the effectively massed mental activity
that shrewdly focussed all lights on national questions, political
policies, and diplomatic legerdemain in Washington; and especially the
stimulating intellectual ozone, the sharpening friction of perpetual
debate in congressional circles. An exalted official career at the
Capitol lured her like a baleful witch, and transition from brilliant
public life to comparatively secluded domesticity in a Southern country
home strained her patience.

Gentlemen who composed the most fashionable club in Y---- gave an
elaborate german to welcome the chatelaine of Nutwood. The small Kent
coterie invited the judge and his daughter to several dinners, that were
promptly repaid, while, now and then, Eglah was requested to appear at
ladies' luncheons, and to assist at five o'clock teas; but more and more
she realized and resented keenly that among the proud old families she
was tolerated simply because of the powerful hereditary Maurice
prestige. Noting the social discrimination against her father, and in
some quarters the far from fervent, though courteous acceptance of
herself, her few invitations to Nutwood dinners were confined to those
who had welcomed him to their board and fireside. By degrees an element
of haughtiness, at variance with her youthful grace and beauty, invaded
her manner, and her frigid politeness hastened the diminution of the
circle revolving about her, and reduced social hospitalities to merely
formal visiting. Complete abandonment of the contemplated _fête
champêtre_ resulted from the arrival of the mail one morning, three
weeks after Judge Kent's return from Washington--a journey to which no
one ever alluded.

Leaning back in her low wicker rocking-chair, in a shaded angle of the
colonnade, Eglah listlessly watched Eliza's white Angora cat, stretched
on the floor and following with avid green eyes the coquettish
manoeuvres of two brilliant red birds that flashed from a tangle of
Belgian honeysuckle vines--brocaded with pale-pink satin clusters--to
the quivering covert of a neighboring acacia, swinging its long, flowery
fringes of vivid yellow.

Of the town, nearly two miles distant, church spires and factory
chimneys were visible; but beyond the roaring river and far away, rose
against blue sky a battlement of hills, tapestried with that tender,
purple mist woven only in the loom of distance. With less than usual
interest, Eglah began to examine the papers and letters lying in her
lap. One heavy envelope contained samples of sprigged muslin for
curtains; in another, that was so light it seemed empty, she found a
newspaper clipping carefully folded in a blank sheet of thin notepaper.

     "Special Correspondence.

     "Washington:

     "From a source always well informed and usually accurate, it
     has been whispered that the sudden change of policy in a
     certain senator--whose resignation surprised his congressional
     colleagues--finds explanation in the menaced divulgement of
     some damaging facts connecting the ex-senator's votes with
     crooked syndicate dealings in the West. How this record was
     unearthed is not yet known, but it is rumored a blondined Circe
     of the lobby Ææa used her knowledge of it quite successfully in
     furtherance of the Bison Head bill that hung so long in
     committee room, and also to secure the senator's resignation in
     favor of a rival candidate for whom she shows deep sympathy.
     Her threat to place her information at the service of the
     approaching Legislature of the incumbent's native State
     hastened his resignation some months prior to the expiration of
     his term, and he promptly 'left his country for his country's
     good,' to recuperate in foreign lands. Truly, 'God's fruit of
     justice ripens slow,'--but fate takes care to shake the tree.
     Now and then we have proof in public life that '_Dieu paie,
     mais il ne paie pas tous les Samedis._'"

The name of the paper did not appear in the clipping and date and
signature had been erased. The envelope bore postmark of a Colorado
town, and the address was type-written. It was not from the State
represented in the Senate by the Hon. Rufus Higginbottom, but Eglah's
intuitions assured her the extract had been sent by the hand of Miss
Ethelberta. Doubtless it had appeared while they were in Europe, but
whether the press circulated it freely she was now barred from
investigating.

A moan she could not repress escaped her usually well guarded lips, and
she shivered as if a freezing wind swung her to and fro.

A stealthy hand creeping around the dial had reached that predestined
hour she so vaguely dreaded, and its strokes sounded the knell of her
life's dearest hope.

Was it merely a party libel--one of the scandalous personalities used in
retaliation for some stinging blow her father had dealt Democracy--a
foul partisan aspersion such as political opponents hurl with shameful
recklessness?

Two years ago she would have hurried to her father for denial, and
published proofs that his hands were clean; but to-day, for some moments
after the shock, doubt seemed the only land of promise where she could
dwell with any semblance of peace. Looking back over all that made their
last two months in Washington so painful to her, recalling the
inexplicable nervousness that was invariably exhibited when American
letters and papers reached them at Aix les Bains, she connected
incidents that formerly had no visible relation, and filial faith began
to rock and drift from its life-long moorings. Yet with obstinate
tenacity she swung back to the only comforting supposition--that
political hatred and the unscrupulous ambition of a rival candidate had
combined to fabricate this atrocious calumny. Were it possible for Judge
Kent to vindicate himself, why had he failed to do so promptly in print?
Again and again she read the clipping, carefully committing to memory
the entire article, and when quite sure it was literally indelible, she
tore the paper into innumerable fragments and tossed them to the wind
singing through the venerable tree tops.

A different nature might, perhaps, have utilized the printed statement
as a bridge over the chasm gaping between her father and herself, but
intense pride and yearning love prompted her to shield him from the
great shame of knowing she had read the blistering libel. That the
burned telegram related to this publication, was an explanation of his
reluctance to acquaint her with the contents, that appealed now to her
tenderness, and her eyes softened in a passionate longing to throw
herself into his arms, as in happier days.

Doubtless the press in Y---- had copied this assault upon his political
integrity, his many enemies were gloating over it, and henceforth she
would make no attempt to level the bristling hedge of social distrust.
As one who snatches from the grave some beloved dead, and battles in
frantic hope of resuscitation, she grappled closer, to warm at her heart
the wan, fading remains of loyal filial confidence. It was an hour of
exceeding bitterness, of intolerable humiliation, but undaunted by the
severity of a blow smiting her where most vulnerable, she girded herself
to struggle in defence, faintly cheered by a vague yet obstinate hope
that in coming years her Biography might avail to rehabilitate the
character so unjustly assailed.

Before her lay isolation, hidden heartache, the silent surrender of her
dearest ambition, and the acceptance of life robbed of all rosy plans.

Remembering how firmly Mrs. Maurice's slim hands had held the reins of
government, Eglah followed precedent in all details of domestic
management that did not conflict with her father's wishes. While he had
amused himself with viticulture and the erection of new glass houses,
she was interested in extending and refitting the conservatory, but Mrs.
Mitchell's frequent and increasing sojourns at her small farm, many
miles distant, disquieted her foster-child, who finally rebelled.

"No, Ma-Lila, it is out of the question. I can not let you go and spend
a week. What do you suppose would become of me? You may as well stop
packing your trunk."

"O, dearie, you are perfectly well, and your father is always here. It
is March and I must go."

"Yes, I am fortunate in having father, but I want to keep you where I
can touch you whenever I wish. Ever since I could crawl you have slain
my bugaboos, and as I have not outgrown the cowardice of covering my
face with the sheet, I find the sight of that prim black head of yours
is necessary to my peace of mind. I am jealous of that little den down
by the old mill, and if you will sell out and give it up I should be
glad to pay double its value. Then you could buy bonds and cut your
coupons, and keep your hands white and soft as they ought to be, instead
of delving with butter, eggs, honey, and pickles."

"Sell Dairy-Dingle! I would almost as soon sell my husband's grave.
Dairy-Dingle, where I had my two years of heaven on earth? When I go
there I want to kiss the doorstep where my Robert and I used to sit when
his day's work was ended, and in the starlight we listened to the
mocking-bird singing in the locust thicket all overrun with red and
yellow woodbine. Just now I am obliged to be there to see about the
lambs, and to be sure of the settings of eggs for the Plymouth Rocks,
and Black Spanish."

"How did the lambs contrive to live all those years when you were away,
keeping me in order?"

"Poorly enough, I have not a doubt, judging from the looks of the flock.
Ever since I received that letter from Robert's youngest sister, Judith,
asking me to help her educate as a civil engineer the boy she named for
her brother, I have felt the necessity of increasing the income from my
place in order to furnish the required funds. My Robert's namesake shall
have the college training he wants. Drought cut off my corn last year,
and later rain floods stained my cotton."

"Then let Mr. Boynton manage your place, as he does ours, and you stay
here, while I hand you a check for what the boy Robert le Diable may
need."

"Thank you, precious baby, but that would be outside charity, and he and
Judith are proud. Besides, in working and denying myself there is such a
sweetness, such a comfort in helping, as if it were serving my dear dead
to aid those he loved. Mere money is not worth half as much as the
affection that goes with it, and the labor that earned it; but, my
darling, you can't quite feel as I do."

"No, I do not understand. Sometimes I wonder if I am not like a doll
stinted in her quota of sawdust; and I am sure my heart is too small, or
too cold, or too wicked, to hold more than two persons. I love only
father and you, and where you are concerned I shall never be of age.
Women who outgrow the need of their mothers repel me, like museum
'freaks.' You must not go away so often, because I miss you, and this is
an opportune time to tell you that at the back of my head lurks an ugly
mental scare-crow that if at some crisis of my life you happened to be
absent, I might go daft and scuttle the ship. Remember, you promised
grandmother you would not leave me."

Prescient shadows darkened her appealing eyes, as she bent to press her
cool cheek against the rosy one of her companion, and drew her out upon
the wide, latticed piazza at the rear of the house.

"She asked that I should stay with you until you married, or were
twenty-one years old; but, my baby, I need you far more than you need
me. You are my heart, and you know it; and I shall be away from you as
little as possible; nevertheless I must not neglect my own patches and
pastures. By the by, that Jersey heifer you gave me ought to be
registered. What would be a pretty name, easy to call? One that matches
her in beauty will be hard to find."

"Her profile entitles her to a classical name, but the appropriateness
of its significance must be observed. As 'Hecuba' she would feel in duty
bound to add nineteen to your herd."

"No, indeed. That is a mouthful of stuttering ugliness."

"'Persephone' rolls softly, like the long swell of a foamless wave
settling to rest--but then you could expect no pearly horned progeny,
and she might spend her days lowing for her mother. The prettiest short
names are already in the herd books. 'Antiope?' She would not take good
care of her calves. You don't like mythology because it is pagan, and
when I pleaded with you that your cat should be 'Hebe' you turned up
your little nose and labelled her 'Delilah.' Such a consistent saint!
You prefer Old Testament wickedness to heathen purity. Suppose you
compromise on 'Doucette,' and then you can feel sure she will neither
kick nor gore."

"If that is the best you can suggest, I shall just suit myself and call
her Patricia of Nutwood."

"_Madrecita_, you can not. It is pre-empted. The mother of our herd was
imported from St. Helier by my grandfather, when she was only eight
months old, and he registered her in his own herd book, 'Patricia of
Nutwood.' Mr. Boynton showed me an old leather-bound copy last winter,
when I signed several transfers."

"Then the next best for my brown satin beauty is 'Noela,' in honor of
Mr. Herriott."

"I am racked by jealousy that you should overlook the liquid brevity of
'Eglahtina' or 'Eglahkentana.' Let us sit here on the steps, where we
can enjoy our leafy canopy. Could anything be more beautiful?"

She threw back her head and looked up. In front of the steps two lines
of very old elm trees marked the limits of a walk leading through the
"back yard" to the vegetable garden. On each row, planted opposite,
white wistaria had been trained so carefully that as the lower lateral
elm branches were cut away to keep the arch intact, the vines climbed
higher until now, the top boughs of the trees having met, all along the
walls and across the pale-green dome of elm leaves swung long, drooping
spikes of snowy bloom, amid the olive-tinted wistaria foliage.

"I never saw anything so lovely in Italy," said Eliza, stroking Delilah,
and straightening the blue bow on the cat's neck.

"We came too late last spring for the bloom, and we have not seen this
living ceiling for so many years. When I was at college I used to shut
my eyes and recall it just as we left it. My little 'sundown supper'
table on the square of matting yonder, you sitting on the bottom step
crocheting mats, grandmother, so tall and thin, walking up and down the
side flower garden over there, gathering rose leaves for the big blue
china rose jar in the drawing-room, old Hector following her like a lean
shadow, and King Herod spreading his tail till I threw him bread crumbs.
How often I longed for one of my 'sundown' suppers--my bowl of hominy
and cream, my cup of milk, the tea cakes and ginger pone, and blackberry
jam. The smell of cloves and cinnamon, and the taste thereof!"

Watching her face, relaxed in dreamy retrospection, Mrs. Mitchell asked:

"Where is Mr. Herriott?"

Without removing her eyes from the long wistaria plumes waving overhead,
she answered in a colder tone:

"When father heard last, he was in Norway, but since then I read an
account of a dinner given to the party of which he was a member, by a
geographical society in London."

"You have received no letter?"

"None recently, and I do not expect any."

"Because you do not deserve any. I am so disappointed in him."

"In what respect? I imagined that in your eyes, as in father's, he was
simply perfect."

"He is capable of something far better than lounging through life with
his hands in his pockets, and loafing around the world. If he could only
have the good luck to lose his money, he might accomplish what God makes
such men for."

"He is not an idle tramp. He is kept busy dancing attendance on his
exacting bride."

"Bride!" exclaimed Mrs. Mitchell, with such startling shrillness that
Delilah sprang out of her lap and surveyed her with astonishment.

"Not a bride of pink flesh, on whom he can bestow collars of diamonds,
but an old dame of hoary locks, whose harsh jargon he considers musical,
and who, having taken his purse and tied him to her apron strings, drags
him from the bowels of the earth to the mountains of the moon, amusing
him with photographs of microbes and eclipses, and with prehistoric
skeletons that her relentless horny claws have stolen from their lawful
graves. Long ago he was wedded to 'Science,' and of course he keeps his
bridal vows."

"I am sure you do not fully understand him, and I wonder he did not
marry Miss Stanley; she is so lovely, and he certainly admired her."

"She is indeed a luscious beauty, and attracted him, but if he really
had any serious intentions, I think she lost him that night when the
alarm of fire emptied the theatre. Ours was a proscenium box in the
second tier. Eleanor Stanley had dined with Captain Sefton's sister, he
was her escort, and I went with Mr. Herriott. Of course you know all
about the horrible tragedy, but I never told any one what preceded it.
Toward the end, and while the curtain was down, Captain Sefton so far
forgot himself as to repeat an unpardonably _risque_ story of a smart
set leader, at which Eleanor laughed heartily. I stared at my bouquet of
orchids, and lifted them to shield my face where I felt the blood.
Without moving an eyelash Mr. Noel sat like a sphinx, looking steadily
at Eleanor, then took my opera glass and watched a party of pretty girls
in the dress circle. His face was as absolutely impassive as one of the
masks frescoed on the ceiling. In the middle of the next and closing
act, a scream from the rear of the stage startled us, and almost
simultaneously two of the ballet girls rushed from behind the wings,
with fire blazing in their short, gauzy skirts. One ran to the corner of
the stage just under our box, and the actors fled from her. Mr. Herriott
put his hand heavily on my shoulder.

"Do not move an inch till I come."

He snatched his overcoat and my velvet opera cloak, stepped on the
railing of the box, measured the distance with his eye and leaped down.
He struck on his feet, and staggered, but the next instant he reached
the girl, who ran shrieking up and down, caught her, threw my cloak over
her head, pressed her to the floor, covered her with his overcoat, and
rolled her over and over as if she were a ball. Of course she was
horribly burned, but she lived. The other poor creature kept her hands
before her face as a screen from the flames, missed her footing,
stumbled over the footlights and fell among the orchestra chairs. The
musicians smothered the flames, but she died after two hours of torture.
Mr. Herriott's gloves saved his hands, but one wrist was badly
blistered, and his mustache singed. When we were going home I told him
how enthusiastically Eleanor admired and praised his bravery, and that
she declared she would strive to win his affection were he not so
'goody-goody'; she feared he would expect her to be equally pious. A
queer expression I could not understand crossed his face, and when he
spoke his voice was stern:

"'I am not pious; more is the pity! At least I am too honest to accept
praise I do not deserve. Please be so kind as not to refer again to this
evening, several surprising incidents of which I shall be glad to
forget.' A few days later he sent to replace my scorched velvet, that
gorgeous ivory satin opera cloak brocaded with lilies in silver, which
father and you wished me to accept, and I based my refusal on his
request, as the mere sight of it would inevitably remind him of a night
neither of us wished to recall. Look yonder."

"Yes; there must be a picket off that white game yard fence, for I am
positive I fastened the gate this morning. Run on ahead and open the
gate wide, for when they are driven back they never can find the crack
where they came out. That white rooster is all ruffled up for a fight
with the red one. Scare the hens back and stand on one side."

When the fugitives had been shut in, the two women stood admiring the
flock.

"Dearie, do you know how old these chickens are? Forty years before
railroads were built in this state, your grandfather brought them in a
champagne basket on the top of a stage-coach from somewhere in Maryland,
and the person who gave them to him had imported them from England forty
years before. Think of it!"

"I do, with astonishment difficult to express. More than eighty years
old, and no sign of decrepitude in crowing, fighting and laying eggs!
Little mother, what are _tarrididdles_?"

Laughing, she put her hands on Eliza's shoulder and shook her gently.
The little woman pinched her ear.

"Don't talk slang to me. You know I did not mean these very identical
fowls are those that came in the champagne basket, but the original
trio, two hens and a cock, were kept in a separate yard, and so the
stock has remained pure game for more than forty years. They are such
beauties, and to the last day of her life your grandmother was so proud
and fond of them. One morning when we were feeding them she told me how
General Maurice had laughed over the cunning of one of the negroes whose
duty it was to attend to the fowl yards. The general had promised a
setting of eggs to a friend in a neighboring county, and ordered the man
to bring him one dozen perfectly fresh. The negro protested against a
violation of the rule that no one else should own the white games, so
that if stolen they could be traced. His master insisted, and when the
eggs were handed to him he packed them very carefully in cotton, to
prevent jostling, and sent them to his friend. Some time afterward, a
letter reached your grandfather, informing him none of the eggs had
hatched, and he called the man and read the letter to him.

"'Narry aigg hatched? Well, I made sure they couldn't, for I am
'sponsible for keeping dem chickens safe at home and I 'tends to my
bizness. You see, marster, I knowed you was in a mighty tight fix,
'cause natchelly you hated to say no when Dr. Glenn axed for 'em, and
most natchelly you didn't want our yaller-breasted, brass-winged white
games crowing in other folks' yards, and so I just pintedly shuck 'em
and shuck 'em like thunder, till they was foamy enough for Celie's omlet
skillet.'"



CHAPTER XIX


If owners of old manorial houses kept frank and faithful log-books,
strange domestic records might now and then be read, rivalling in tragic
incidents those of passing ships. Conspicuously infelicitous was the
stream of events beating against Calvary House and reducing an ancient,
broad estate and handsome three-storied brick residence to a few
impoverished acres, and a rambling structure partly destroyed by fire,
and wholly abandoned to vacancy and isolation in consequence of grewsome
gossip. During eighty years the proprietorship had been vested in only
two families, totally unrelated; in the first, the reckless extravagance
and unbridled careers of four beautiful women depleted the domestic
coffer, necessitated the sacrifice and sale of the property, and drove a
weakly indulgent father to suicide. In the second the vices of sons
plunged the widowed mother into melancholia and an insane asylum.

From time to time portions of land were sold to enable the boys to
continue their wild carousals. Fratricidal strife ensued, and one
brother spent the dismal residue of his days in the penitentiary,
expiating the murder of the other. The vicious round of horse-racing,
cock-fighting, fox-hunting, gambling and drinking once madly run had
ended in the final wreck, and what remained of the estate fell into the
hands of Mr. Herriott's father, whose agent held the mortgage.
Sufficiently grim was the foundation of facts; yet still more appalling
the superstructure of neighborhood traditions, and the ghoulish tales of
superstitious servants. Venerable trees, whose sheltering arms might
have veiled the ruin, had been over-grown by mistletoe, until very few
survived to stand guard, and when a hunter crept with his pointer
through broom-sedge waist high all over the lawn, his cigar spark set
the whole aflame, and only two fine old oaks close to the house were
left as sentinels. Later, a lightning bolt destroyed one; two years
after, an equinoctial gale blew the other half across the mossy roof.
Stark, weather beaten, its broken windows like eyeless sockets in a
skull, the old house, dumb in desolation, stood in dire need of the
mercies of bell, candle, censer, and aspergill to exorcise its garrison
of unholy spectres. Five years after the place had been given by Noel
Herriott to the "Brothers of the Order of Calvary," lime, paint,
wallpaper, patient toil and a wise appreciation of the adaptability of
angles, corridors, dormer windows and verandas, in architectural
alterations, had transformed it into a quaintly irregular but
picturesque structure. Outside mouldy walls were curtained with
ampelopsis lace, while from a circular belfry between the original
square rock chimneys, a deep-toned bell swung below a tall gilt cross,
and uttered its holy message of peace to a troubled and tragic past. The
basement had been converted into a refectory, kitchen and store room,
the large apartments were partitioned into individual cells, and an
infirmary; and the long drawing-room became a chapel, with a small
oratory adjoining. Here a pipe organ sounded through the arch leading
into the chapel, and over this opening a purple curtain fell when
service ended. Beyond and in line with the oratory, a one-story wing
with a wide cloistered piazza looked toward the rear of the house, and
held a sacristy; then three small chambers fronting the vine-draped
cloister behind whose arches paced, book in hand, fathers, brothers and
lay brothers.

In the early stages of the era of renovation the place had resembled an
industrial farm rather than a religious retreat; but gradually, as
orchard and vineyard were replanted, gardens outlined and cultivated, a
solemn, peaceful silence enveloped Calvary House, broken by no ruder
sounds than Angelus, chants from the chapel, low-swelling organ tones,
and that peculiarly sweet, thrilling threnody of hedge sparrows moaning
in a ragged thicket of very old lilacs. Along the front of the sloping
lawn a fence divided it from the turnpike leading into the city, and
over the wide wooden gate sprang an arch bearing in black letters,
Calvary House, and surmounted by a cross. From the gate latch swung the
porter's bell.

Since the day when, standing at an open grave close to Leighton's mound
in Evergreen, Father Temple had read the committal service as his wife's
coffin was lowered, and pronounced the farewell benediction, the springs
of his busy life seemed to have broken. Max Harlberg and the few who had
followed the hearse, stole away, leaving the priest on his knees. Later,
as stars came out to guard the hosts of sleepers, a watchman found him
prone on the damp mound, and in a heavy stupor. An ambulance carried him
to the nearest hospital, where he rallied slowly from an attack of
pneumonia that left his lungs too weak to permit the possibility of
preaching, and the doctors warned him a year's rest was imperative.
Engagements for "missions" and "retreats" were cancelled, and his
superior summoned him home, but after a few days advised him to go South
and visit his relatives in Y---- until the winds of March had blown out
their fury. On his return, still thin and wan, he resumed his duties,
and from Prime to Compline missed no service. After Vespers, the tolling
of the _De Profundis_ bell called all to their knees in silent prayer
for the dead, and his bowed head was always the last lifted. How much
penance was self-imposed none knew, but a change had come into the
habitually sad face; keen mental strife, devouring anxiety, were at an
end, and the large dark eyes told of an inward patience that was not yet
peace, of an acceptance of the verdict that his life spelled hopeless
failure. So marked was the alteration in figure and features, that one
sunny day at Calvary House, as Mr. Herriott grasped his hand, he was
painfully startled.

"Vernon! You are little more than a holy shadow! If starving is the
regimen prescribed here, I do not feel tempted to tarry even for a day."

"Noel--God bless you, dear old fellow! At last you have remembered us,
and how well you look! The bare sight of your superb strength is tonic.
Come into the chapel. Terce bell is sounding. After a little the
Brotherhood will greet you."

Under the guidance of Father Superior Elverton, a gaunt man of unusual
height, with the ascetic jaw of a Trappist, and dreamy eyes mystical as
Hugo of St. Victor, Mr. Herriott was shown fields, garden and buildings,
and after dinner in the refectory, where, in honor of his presence,
conversation was allowed, he asked the privilege of being left alone
with Father Temple. It was a warm day, and drawing chairs to a shaded
recess of the cloister, Mr. Herriott said:

"I am so glad the weather favored me to-day for this visit. It will rain
soon."

"No; look at that deep blue, clear sky. I see no prophecy of rain, but
you have tried so many climates, doubtless you are weather wise."

"If a man who has slept often in tents, open boats and on the bare
ground learns nothing of nature's atmospheric signal code, he is far
below savages in intelligence, and more ignorant than brutes. You of the
shut-in clan are not skilled meteorologists, but time is too precious to
be wasted in idle weather chat. Vernon, there is much I should like to
know, yet I shrink from questioning you. Many letters have been lost,
and my home news came in snatches, sometimes with no connection, no
coherence. I have thought of you constantly, and now what you are
willing to tell me of all that has happened since we parted in New York
that Sunday night, I shall be glad to hear."

Leaning his elbow on the brick base of an arch and bowing his head in
his palm, Father Temple narrated the circumstances that attended the
death of his wife and son, withholding nothing. His muffled voice was
steady and passionless, as if reading from the breviary, and when the
face lifted it showed only the quiet hopelessness in eyes of one going
back over a battle-field where all that was cherished went down.

"Thank you, Temple. It might have been worse, and at least you must be
comforted in knowing that at the last she relented and did you justice."

"The last has become first. All that preceded it I have cast away, and
that final hour of forgiveness, that touch on my head--that feeble
clinging of her fingers--is what remains of my past life--what sustains
me for the future."

"Try to avoid morbid retrospection. Your expiation has been so complete
you have no grounds for self-reproach; you are still a young man, and
your life work is ahead of you."

The priest threw out one hand, and his trained tone broke suddenly.

"Expiation will never end while I have breath to pray--not until the
same grave that holds my victims covers me. You can not understand,
because you know no more about love than the rubric! If you had ever
felt your wife's lips on yours, or the clasp of your child's arms, and
heard his glad, tender cry of 'father!'--you would realize that no
expiation could be sufficient, if your hand had smitten them to ruin."

"Perhaps I do understand the torture more thoroughly than you imagine,
and you must allow me to say that were I as sadly circumstanced as
yourself, I should set my back to the past, and resolutely hunt for
sunshine in coming years. Deliberate, intentional villainy was never
your sin, and for a foolish boy's rash haste you did everything possible
to atone. I shall be sorry to see you so unmanly as to sink down in the
mildew of an abject melancholy. Your surroundings invite morbid
memories, and just here, Vernon, let me say I do not like your
refectory. It is dark, damp, mouldy, and you must make a change.
I should enjoy breakfasting in the catacombs quite as much. Ask your
superior to estimate the cost of building a refectory on this floor, say
to the left yonder, and perhaps the matter may be arranged
satisfactorily. Another bell! What office comes next?"

"That is to notify us 'free time' is over for the day. We have an hour
in which to employ ourselves without direction. Below the vegetable
garden Brother Theodore comes from his pet strawberry bed, and over
yonder, what looks like a huge black bird with flapping white wings is
Brother Aristide dusting the leaves of his grapevines with some
insecticide powder. He came from Burgundy, and believes that ledge
behind the line of cherry trees lying south-southeast will give him
Chambertin equal to the best in Côte d'Or. You see even here each
trundles his recreation hoop once a day."

An east wind had spun fine silver cloud lines curving across the blue,
clustering, widening into two vast, fleecy pinions that were floating
slowly to the gates of the west. Despite sunshine, chilliness edged the
air, and Father Temple coughed hoarsely.

"Your reverence should not stay here next winter. It is too humid. As
the crow flies and the wind sweeps, the Atlantic can not be more than
twenty miles away, and when northeast gales howl from Barnegat to
Hatteras, this is no sanatorium for you. If you have no special
preference for tuberculosis, and have not vowed slow suicide on that
altar, I should be glad if you would select some other mode of exit when
you finally say good-bye. Consumption robbed me of my father--I hope I
shall not lose my friend also thereby."

The priest smiled, and laid his thin hand on his companion's knee.

"In many characteristics we differ so widely, I have often wondered that
you care at all for me."

"You were so honest and fearless and manly when we met at college. You
showed such genuine pluck in that hazing scandal, so much quiet, heroic
magnanimity when the official investigation followed. Vernon, for God's
sake, wake up! You have talent; don't doze like a toad under a stone
wall. Come out of shadows that paralyze you, and try to make your mark
in the world of letters. I do not wish to change my----"

He paused and frowned. A flush tinged Father Temple's sallow cheek.

"You do not wish to consider me unmanly now?"

"That is exactly it, and if you force me to do so I swear I never will
forgive you. Don't brood and mope. Go back to Plato and Horace--they are
the best brooms for cloistral cobwebs--and promise me you will not stay
here next winter."

"My cousin Allison Kent and Eglah insist I shall spend December and
January with them, in Y----, and since I am forbidden to preach at
present, I may accept the invitation. I was there on a brief visit
several months ago."

"Tell me about them. It has been long since I heard directly."

"The judge has grown extremely stout, and says he enjoys the lazy
leisure of Southern life among the opulent, but he seemed restless and
abstracted, and was often absent on fishing excursions. Eglah perplexes
me. She is graver, more reticent, and far more beautiful, but reminds me
of a person walking in troubled sleep, determined, yet vaguely
apprehensive. At times it occurred to me that her relations with her
father were not as tenderly cordial as I remembered in the Washington
life; he never caressed her, and she seemed in a certain degree aloof,
but her careful deference in manner and speech was exquisite. She told
me his retirement from a senatorial position was the supreme
disappointment of her life, and her chief solace now is the preparation
of a volume of his speeches, prefaced by a biographical sketch she
intends to write. I think her father is very unpopular with the majority
of old families in Y----, who will never forgive his course while
Federal judge, and as they represent the best social element, conditions
beyond her control have embarrassed Eglah, but she gives no hint and
fronts the situation with admirable cool calmness."

Leaning back in his chair, his hands clasped behind his head, Mr.
Herriott seemed to watch the narrowing circles of a hawk beneath which
three frantic pigeons dashed aimlessly round and round, and in the final
swift swoop one white bird disappeared in a vanishing brown shadow.

"You have lost a pigeon."

"We have none. The lay brothers complain of their depredations in the
garden, and sometimes trap those that belong in the city, but they are
always carried off and set free."

"Vernon, why does not your cousin Eglah marry Roger Hull? He is as
nearly worthy of her as any man she will ever meet; he is eminently good
looking, bright, a spirited debater, and as it is said he carries the
votes of his district in his vest pocket, he has an assured political
position where she could gratify her ambition. If he lives he will sit
in the Senate. He was very devoted in his attentions. Is he still
loyal?"

"No. I hear he is reported engaged to a pretty girl in Washington, whose
father is a naval officer. Certainly Eglah does not lack beaux. She has
very fine horses, rides daily, and one of her most frequent escorts was
a Dr. Burbridge, very handsome and a specialist in neurology. I don't
know Hull, but he has been twice to Nutwood since Eglah came back from
Europe, and Cousin Allison said that she froze him so completely on his
last visit that he gave up the chase, and consoled himself with a more
responsive charmer. If political life allures her, Hull certainly
offered an attractive opportunity, but I am sure her father did not
favor that suit, and as her ambition was more for his preferment than
from any personal fondness for a congressional career, she will soon
cease to regret, and find contentment in her lovely surroundings."

"I am afraid not. Pardon the simile--but take a thoroughbred filly
raised and trained on the race track, and when she is champing her bit,
trembling for the signal to start, lead her aside, shut her in a
pasture, fasten her to a plough trace, or harness her with a mule on the
other side of a wagon-tongue, and do you wonder the load comes to grief,
or the furrows are crooked when she sees the racers flash by, and hears
the rush of hoofs, the roar of cheering thousands? Eglah knows what she
wants, and disdains compromise. The present environment suits her as
little as a stagnant millpond would a yacht cup challenger."

"I wish she could marry happily, but the day I came away we stood at the
front steps and I told her I hoped I might have the privilege of
performing the ceremony, if during my life she consented to make some
man happy. The judge laughed and tapped me on the shoulder. 'I will see
you get that wedding fee. When you are needed I shall telegraph you.'
She stepped a little closer to him, put her hands behind her, and looked
at him with strange intentness; then turning to me she said, with
singular emphasis: 'I shall never marry. As I have been baptized, only
one more ceremony can be performed for me, and if Ma-Lila does not
insist upon a Methodist minister, I promise that you shall pronounce
'ashes to ashes, dust to dust'--when mother earth takes me back to her
heart.'

"Just then Mrs. Mitchell dropped her basket, and the clatter of keys and
scissors broke the strain, which I could not understand. But Eglah's
eyes recalled something I have not thought of for years. Do you
recollect a picture of the Norns we saw that summer we walked through
Wales?"

"Three figures, one veiled? We could not find out who painted it, but I
never shall forget the wonderful eyes of Urd."

"They looked at me again that day in Nutwood. The expression was as
inscrutable as the smile of Mona Lisa--not defiance, nor yet
renunciation, neither scorn nor bitterness, but deathless pride and a
pain so hopeless no sound could voice it."

There was a brief silence, broken by the muffled chanting in the chapel,
and Mr. Herriott's hands were gripped so tight behind his head the nails
were purple, but his face showed no emotion, and when he spoke his tone
betrayed only quiet sympathy.

"For many years I have associated her with a passage in Jeremiah: '_As a
speckled bird, the birds round about are against her.'_' Poor little
speckled bird, beating out her life. Battling alone against a host of
hawks is dreary work."

"I suppose you are going to Y----?"

"No, I must get back home. I have been away too long. My poor faithful
Susan is dead."

"I hope you are tired of globe-trotting, and ready to anchor yourself at
your own fireside."

"As yet I have made no definite plans; have been considering two recent
offers. One is the presidency of a great railroad system--a position I
might possibly fit myself to occupy if I went into the machine shops and
roundhouses and worked hard for the next five years. It happens that the
shares and bonds of one short but very important line which my father
practically owned when the middle West was comparatively undeveloped,
have appreciated enormously, and now that road is the link absolutely
necessary to the contemplated consolidation of a new route that will
touch the Pacific. I cabled my refusal to sell out, and the next bait
was the presidency. Mr. Stadmeyer and I have controlling interests and
our views accord. Two days ago we had a meeting, at which I declined
office, and we leased our road for thirty years. That relieved me from
one horn of the dilemma; the other still threatens. A Polar expedition
will be ready next year, and I have been asked to take a place aboard
ship."

"Noel, I beg of you, dismiss that thought. Of all scientific follies,
that Pole-hunting mania is the wildest, the most indefensible. To add
your bleaching bones to the cairns heaped on the eternal ice altar of
Polar night is no ambition worthy of you. Don't think me childish, but
the sight of you is such a comfort I could not bear to have you risk
your life searching for mares' nests so far away."

Mr. Herriott laughed--a genial, hearty, deep-chested sound rarely heard
in cloisters.

"Get rid of that cough, and I will take you along as chaplain to
christen the Pole--presumably it is pagan at present. I wish you would
go down to New Mexico or Arizona and make a sensible effort to build up
your constitution, which seems suing you for damages. Leave medicine and
the breviary in your cell, and lie under the stars and inhale that
wonderful, healing air. When you wish to pray go down into the Grand
Cañon, you will find you can succeed without needing a book to help you.
In that sky verily 'the heavens declare the glory of God; and the
firmament sheweth His handiwork.' Mission work, and to spare, would
interest you at a Moqui Pueblo, and I can recommend one whose primeval,
idyllic repose dwells in my memory like an eclogue of Virgil's. It is
spread over the crown and sides of a precipice where terraces tilt their
outer edges upward to prevent water from draining the little gardens.
Masonry-lined cisterns gleam under moonlight like molten silver, sheep
and goats bleat in their stone enclosures, a frieze of kids runs below
the cornice of brown cupids drowsing on the wall, and all about the mesa
a pink cloud of blooming peach trees and a yellow mist of acacias. Weigh
this cure scheme, discuss it in Sanhedrim, and if you think favorably of
it let me hear from you before October, as I have several friends among
ranchmen, and some of the Moquis have not forgotten me."

"Do you intend to settle down now at your lake-shore house?"

"Yes, for the present. I have been invited to write for two scientific
magazines, and one of the subjects suggested rather appeals to me--a
comparison of the fiords of Norway with those of Alaska and British
Columbia, but I have not fully decided. However, I am committed to help
Chalcott verify numerous citations from Strabo's tenth book, relative to
Crete, and I must brush up my classics. Chalcott is sanguine of 'great
finds' around the site of ancient Knossos in the near future. He has
been stung by the Pelasgian bee, and I have promised to hunt and copy
some passages from Strabo."

He took his hat from the floor and rose.

"Now I must say good-bye to father superior and the brethren."

"We hoped you would spend at least one night with us, in the room we
have named and set apart for you."

"I must get back to Philadelphia in time for a meeting to-morrow of
stockholders and directors of our railroad. Mr. Stadmeyer requested me
to attend, though he is really our watchdog. Don't delay the refectory
improvements, and since you are all so good as to give me a special
penitential apartment, I wish you would brighten it up with a cheerful
paper, and allow me the privilege of sending some human derelict to
anchor here in peace. God knows, there are fleets of souls adrift, and I
should be glad if, for my sake, you can tow some into the snug harbor of
my cell, until the day comes when my sins culminate and force me here
for penance."

When the two walked down to the outer gate, the contrast between the
virile athlete and the shadowy black form of the priest was pathetically
vivid.

The busy shuttles of the east wind had spread their cirrus laces even
along the western horizon where the sun had vanished, and the sky was
one huge arching shell enamelled with mother-of-pearl, as the cloudlets
burned in the after-glow.

"Vernon, don't look back. You have balanced your books with the past.
Dear old fellow, I wish to think of you as fulfilling the rich promise
of our college days."

"Assure me you will give up that Arctic whim. The thought of it
distresses me."

"Do not worry about me. The expedition could not be ready to start for
at least a year, and by that time I may not need to go. Sir John
Franklin's ghost may chat with mine and tell me all the secrets of the
Pole, which doubtless he discovered when Arctic ice claimed his body."

He laughed, they shook hands, and parted.

At a bend in the road he turned, looked back and waved his hat to the
watching figure standing under the gilt cross, and silhouetted in sharp
lines against the opal dome of the west.



CHAPTER XX


"Little mother, the weather is so lovely I really ought to drive with
you to Dairy Dingle, instead of letting you go in that dusty, stuffy
car; but you will not wait, and you know I have promised to go to the
club german to-morrow night."

"I shall get back in time to help you; the train is due at 7:10. Your
dress is already pressed, and ribbons and lace sewed on, but as you have
not worn it, I want to be sure about the hang of that skirt. Your
sash----"

"Your train is ready to start. Good-bye, Ma-Lila."

"Good-bye, dearie. I wish the club house and Dr. Burbridge were in
Jericho! Then you could go with me."

Mrs. Mitchell kissed her companion's cheek and hurried to the car
platform, where she paused a moment, looking back at the girl seated in
her trap, balancing her lace parasol.

"Are you going directly home?"

"No. I shall call to inquire how Mrs. Whitfield is to-day, and as the
bishop has come home from Florida I must congratulate him on his
restoration to health. Bring me some titi blossoms."

The bell clanged, the engine puffed, and the train disappeared around a
curve. An hour afterward, in front of the post-office, the mail for
Nutwood was brought to the trap. Eglah took two letters addressed to
herself, and placed the remainder with papers under the cushion of the
trap seat.


"Oliver, stop at Holmein's garden. Then go on home and give the mail to
father. If he has not returned from fishing, be careful to lay letters
and papers on the library table in front of his chair. I shall walk from
Holmein's."

The grounds of the florist were nearly a mile from the gates of Nutwood,
and on a new street-car line extending to a park that overlooked the
river. From Holmein's the broad, sandy road ran straight through thick
woods to the avenue of the old house on the hill. Having secured a bunch
of double white violets, Judge Kent's favorite flower, his daughter
walked homeward. Ivory thuribles of magnolia and bay swung their
fragrance up and down the nave of ancient pines, and the profound
repose, the silence as of primeval wilds was broken only now and then by
the antiphonal plaints of doves lamenting on the lofty green pine
cornices, or a low preluding chord, as fingers of the wind touched the
leafy pipes of the forest organ.

Many months had passed, and the procession of the seasons brought no
comforting element to brighten the monotonous life that so severely
taxed Eglah's patience. A card and dinner party on Judge Kent's birthday
had pleased him for the moment, but while he praised the menu and
decorations, no relaxation of chill politeness rewarded her. Only one
_al fresco_ festival was held. When nuts were ripe in autumn the young
mistress had invited the children belonging to Sunday-schools and the
orphan asylum in Y---- to come one afternoon to Nutwood and gather
chestnuts and walnuts. In the grove long tables held refreshments, that
were served by Eglah and Eliza to the hungry throng, and for the first
time since the war hundreds of happy little ones raced and shouted under
the ancestral trees. Several plank seats remained as souvenirs of the
occasion, and to-day Eglah turned away from the avenue, and sat down
between two young chestnuts. At her feet was a miniature doll house of
walnut shells built to amuse a flaxen-haired tot who shrank tearfully
from the sharp pricks of chestnut burrs, and begged for a "truly fairy
tale."

Now Eglah was reminded of the wide, curious eyes raised to hers when she
had repeated:

    "I fancy the fairies make merry,
      With thorns for their knives and forks;
    They have currants for bottles of sherry,
      And the little brown heads are the corks.
    A leaf makes the tent they sit under,
      Their ballroom's a white lily-cup;
    Shall I know all about them, I wonder,
      For certain, when I am grown up?"

Laying her flowers beside her, she broke the seal of a letter from Mrs.
St. Clair, postmarked New York, and after a moment the sheet fell into
her lap. Raising it, she read a second time:

"We are so shocked and grieved to find that Mr. Herriott is actually
going on that North Pole expedition we thought he had abandoned. He has
been much fêted since his return last year, and all of our set are
heartily sorry to give him up. Some of us believe you could put a stop
to this nonsense, if you would only come to your senses, and use your
influence. The idea of such a man going into the grewsome business of
eating blubber and seal, and possibly Eskimo dog steak! Hunting a
graveyard among hummocks! I suggested to him that a better plan would be
to go down into a cold-storage vault, throw away the key and slam the
spring-lock door. Then we should be allowed the consolation of covering
him with flowers."

She replaced the letter in the envelope, and fell into a profound
revery. If Mr. Herriott sailed away and never returned, her father could
no longer cling to his sole condition of reconciliation. Years ago her
own responsibility had ended, and even had she desired to reconsider the
proposal of marriage, no opportunity to do so had been given her. She
had not seen Mr. Herriott since that afternoon in the old Greco-Roman
theatre. Two kind, brief, merely friendly letters had reached her,
followed by a box containing for herself some fine Oriental
embroideries, and an exquisitely carved ivory triptych; for Mrs.
Mitchell a copy of a quaint circular picture in the old Byzantine style,
representing a group of young lambs asleep around the standing figure of
the child Jesus, whose body rayed light, as in the "_Notte_," one little
hand extended over them, while he looked up to an angelic guard only
dimly outlined by the gleaming tips of hovering pinions.

If Mr. Herriott never returned? Her eyes filled with unshed tears. For
so many years he had been her devoted and loyal friend, and she honored
and trusted him supremely. Never to see him again would grieve her
deeply, but she felt assured he no longer loved her as formerly--that
sincere friendship was the only sentiment he now entertained. Were his
heart still hers, could he have maintained the total repression that
marked recent years? He had given his word not to refer to a matter that
distressed her, but when men really loved, such compacts were forgotten,
and it must have been easy for Mr. Herriott to keep his promise of
absolute silence.

Gathering up her flowers, letters and parasol, she walked slowly across
the lawn and reached the house by a side door, without meeting any of
the servants.

On the library table lay Judge Kent's unopened mail; hence she knew he
had not yet returned from the fishing trip on which he started at
daylight. Over the door opening into his adjoining bedroom a heavy
portière of crimson plush usually hung, but a few days previous winter
draperies had been replaced by Madras curtains that resembled stained
glass. Lifting this summer portière, Eglah went into the bedroom, filled
a vase with water and arranged the drooping violets on her father's
bureau. Only during his absence did she ever come into this apartment,
so long her grandmother's reliquary, where the girl seemed always to see
old Hector crouching against his dead mistress, and that white face,
whose fixed blue eyes pierced beyond the orange dawn and fronted God.

The memory of her childish terror on the night of Mrs. Maurice's death
haunted the room, despite her effort to dispel it, yet to-day she sat
down on a lounge and re-read Mrs. St. Clair's letter. If her father knew
of the contemplated Arctic journey, he had given no hint. Perhaps the
vessel had already sailed. Then at last she could find peace and
reconciliation. Possibly Mr. Herriott might change his plans. If ever he
renewed his offer would she--could she yield to her father's wishes? She
set her teeth.

"Sell myself--even for father's love? Never!"

It seemed cruel that some misfortune to her best and dearest friend
should offer her sole channel of escape, and after a while she made
deliberate choice.

"Come what may, I pray no harm will overtake Mr. Noel. I would rather
continue to fight and suffer than know he was lost; and surely God will
watch over him."

Some moments passed while, forgetting to remove her hat, she sat tapping
her knee with the letter. Then heavy footsteps rang on the bare,
"dry-rubbed" floor, and Judge Kent's voice sounded through the library.

"Take that arm chair, Herriott. Eglah is in town, but she will be at
home soon."

"I am glad to have an opportunity to talk to you in her absence. I have
not come here voluntarily; necessity drove me. My mission now is so
distressingly painful that could it have been avoided I should certainly
not be here. To shield Eglah from annoyance I would undertake anything
but neglect of duty. Of course you know the deplorable matter to which I
allude?"

Every word came distinctly through the lace-hung doorway, and Eglah
rose, reluctant to overhear that which it was evident the speaker wished
withheld from her; but an overmastering desire to understand once for
all conditions that had so long perplexed her, coerced her to remain.
There was grave trouble, and she must suffer later--why not now? A full
comprehension was the first step toward defence.

"I am surprised that you should intentionally embarrass me, but I
suppose you refer to the United States and railroad bonds that were
hypothecated. I knew you had redeemed them, delivered them to the
college, and I hoped when I parted with the house in Thirty-eighth
Street that I could turn it over to you in part payment of that bond
business; but an unfortunate venture reduced me to such urgent need, I
was obliged to take the money you offered through Trainem. Don't
interrupt me--now you have forced me to speak, I want no renewal of this
matter. Except the trustees and their attorneys, no one remembers the
unjust clause in your father's will that Nina should have the New York
house and certain stocks outright, but only the interest on those bonds
which at her death should belong to the Presbyterian College. Munificent
provision for the widow of a reputed multimillionaire! Since you have so
kindly and generously recovered the bonds and delivered them to the
trustees, I see no necessity for this revival of so disagreeable a
subject, and certainly no propriety in dragging before Eglah what does
not concern her. The trusteeship under which her own estate is held at
present, prevents my using any part of it to repay you, as I would do
most gladly, were it possible."

"Had you not forbidden an interruption, you might have spared yourself
an unpleasant retrospection, as I earnestly desired to assure you at the
outset that you are entirely mistaken in my purpose. I had no
thought--no intention, of alluding to the subject of the bonds, which is
even more disagreeable to me than to you, but since you have brought it
up, while I decline to discuss my father's will, you must permit me to
say that the course I pursued was prompted solely by my affection for
Nina, and a desire to protect her innocent name. Hence as regards the
bonds you owe me nothing."

"Do you doubt they were hypothecated with her consent and desire?"

"Judge Kent, you must pardon me if I ask you to dismiss issues long
past. I am here for a far graver and more imperatively pressing matter.
It seems hard indeed that I, who have accepted and enjoyed your
hospitality--I, who for many years have known that my heart dwelt upon
your roof--should be the unfortunate agent forced to bring grief and
trouble to your hearth. I suppose you suspect to what I refer?"

"No. I have so many enemies, and such an infernal succession of bad
luck, I never know where a bomb may burst. I haven't an idea what you
are driving at."

Mr. Herriott walked twice across the floor.

"Do you recollect Edward Hunt?"

"Yes. A cross between a fox and a blood-hound. He was a cousin of yours.
I gave hearty thanks when I heard he was dead."

"Allow me to correct you; he married a cousin of my mother's. Of course
you recall his connection with the syndicate that secured congressional
grant of lands in the West, which subsequently proved so valuable. You
were a member of the Senate committee that reported favorably, and
doubtless you recollect all that passed between you and Hunt at that
time."

"Good God! When the grave closed over him, I thought that syndicate
business was screwed down in his coffin."

"Judge Kent, I would give my right arm if it could be shut in there. Do
you recall a time in Washington, the night of Secretary D----'s dinner,
from which I carried Eglah to a cotillon? Early in the evening you
received an anonymous warning that the personality of 'Ely Twiggs' had
been discovered. Accidentally the truth came into my possession. I sent
it, that you might prepare any defence you deemed advisable--and I was
unwilling you should suspect I knew the facts. The cashier of that
western Pentland Bank was Duncan Keith, whom I knew when I was a boy,
and when the bank failed, he and the bookkeeper disappeared, after
destroying the books; at least the president and teller so stated at the
examination held by directors and stockholders. Edward Hunt was a
director, and defended Keith. He always contended that the president and
teller had conspired to throw the guilt on an innocent man. Leaving his
son with the boy's grandmother in Ohio, Keith fled, and was reported
somewhere in South America. One night in Geneva, where I went to attend
a scientific congress, a blurred sheet was brought to me at the hotel.

"'Your old friend Duncan Keith is dying. I am an innocent victim. Come
and take my message to my boy in Ohio.'

"The shoemaker who brought the note piloted me to his shop, where in an
attic room I found poor Keith. He was sinking fast, but begged me to do
him the only favor this world held. He insisted I should watch over his
son, whose grandmother had recently died, and the boy had now no
relations but an aunt, a sister of Keith's wife. With his last sobbing
breath he swore to me he was innocent. He declared the charge of
embezzlement was untrue; that his individual account was short only
eight hundred dollars, overdrawn with the knowledge and consent of
president and teller, who denied their sanction when the crash came, and
charged him with theft and forgeries he had never committed. As security
for the money borrowed, he had given a mortgage on a small piece of
land, but to avoid mortgage tax it had not been recorded, and could not
be found. Fear of prosecution and inability to establish his innocence
against the united persecution of bank officials had driven him from the
country. Part of the records he preserved and carried away, but he
needed an important link, the stubs of a certain check book, and some
bank drafts returned from London. His health failed fast, and confined
to his room, he had abandoned all hope, when one day he received a
package addressed in Edward Hunt's handwriting. It contained not only
the stubs, but checks and two receipts establishing beyond doubt the
guilt of the president, teller, and two other persons. Poor Keith! On
his narrow bed he had a tin box under his elbow, and he laid the key on
my knee.

"'Noel, I am honest as you are, and I want you to help my boy clear my
name. All the proof is in this box. Will you keep it safe until Duncan
is twenty-one, and then give it to him, and explain my enclosed letter
of instructions? I tried to write my wishes to you, and that letter also
is in the box. If I had not heard you were here, I should have asked our
consul to send the box to you. Noel, will you help my son? I don't ask
you to prosecute, or take any part; I only beg you to guard these proofs
till he is of age. Will you promise me now, in God's sight, to keep
these papers safe, and put them into no hand but Duncan's?'

"I took the box and put my hand on his, already cold and damp in death.

"'_So help me God, I will guard the papers, and give them only into
Duncan's own hand._'

"I sat with him until the end. Five hours later, at two o'clock, he
died. Only God knows how bitterly and ceaselessly I have rued that rash
promise now goading me to a step I would almost rather die than take.
When I accepted the trust, I knew absolutely nothing of your connection
with that bank, or of the transactions by which you came into possession
of stock and shares in the land company and bank, all standing in the
name of 'Ely Twiggs,' the dividends of which were always sent direct to
London, and receipted for by 'Ely Twiggs's' agent, who reported him
travelling in Egypt. 'Ely Twiggs,' as far as my information went, was
associated solely with the syndicate's work in Congress. I made no
examination of the proofs until very recently, because the appointed
time had not arrived, and since I looked into that box I have not had
one moment's peace. The array of evidence, strengthened by two of your
own letters, rests the culpability on the president, the teller, Marsden
and yourself. You must know how it pains me to lay this matter before
you, but it is necessary you should understand the facts."

His voice wavered, and again he walked the length of the room.

A deep, quivering groan came from the depths of Judge Kent's chair, and
leaning across the library table he poured out and swallowed a glass of
brandy.

"The imminence of this misfortune is what appalls me. Duncan Keith will
be twenty-one years old in less than a month, and as I sail so soon with
the expedition, I am now on my way to place the box in his hands and
explain his father's wishes. I may never come back, and I must execute
my trust now, especially as the poor fellow is not in good health."

"My God! You can't mean to tell me you intend to arm him and my enemies
with documents that will disgrace me?"

"Not if it were possible to avoid it without breaking my oath. I have
pondered, I have passed sleepless nights trying to devise some method of
shielding you; but unless I lie to a dead man who trusted me, I am
compelled to deliver the box."

"Noel, for God's sake be reasonable! Don't sacrifice me to maudlin
sentimentality. You pretend to love my innocent child, and yet pursue a
course you know will break her heart, as well as mine?"

"Judge Kent, for her sake I would do anything--save dishonor myself."

"Then you have ceased to love her!"

"No; I love her, and I always shall, until she is some other man's wife.
I gave her my whole heart when she was a mere child, and she is still
the one woman in all the world who holds it in her dear little hands. To
shield her from this terrible sorrow, I have thought you might go abroad
at once, and keep American papers out of her reach for a while. Duncan
will probably move promptly in exonerating his father's name; there will
be, of course, a nine days' sensation, then matters will settle; a later
stratum of news will press it out of sight, and Eglah need never know."

"Could not the boy be influenced to sell the papers and drop it?"

"Certainly not by me. Do you think it possible I could insult the dead
by helping to undo what I swore to aid his son in accomplishing?"

"But you swore in ignorance of facts learned since."

"No, only in ignorance of the personality of some who contributed to
Keith's ruin. I am the most unhappy poor devil on earth, but no
honorable alternative is allowed me, and to-night I go on to Duncan and
deliver the box. I must meet the vessel which touches at Sydney, Cape
Breton, on the 15th, and I have no time to spare. I shall come back this
afternoon to see Eglah and say good-bye, and I can only hope that after
calm consideration of all the circumstances embarrassing me, you will
not censure me for a deplorable course of action which my sense of honor
makes absolutely imperative."

Judge Kent sat facing the Madras drapery towards which Mr. Herriott's
back was turned, and at this moment a glass door leading to the
colonnade opened; the draught of air blew the curtain into the library,
and the Judge saw his daughter slip quickly from his bedroom. With a
vague hope of gaining time, he said unsteadily:

"I am so stunned, I am not myself. That you should sweep me and mine to
destruction seems incredible; but, nevertheless, will you stay and
dine?"

"No, thank you, Judge Kent. It would be painful for both of us. Later, I
must see Eglah once more."

In crucial hours, when some crisis wrecks plans, landmarks, life-long
aims, the brain works with preternatural clearness and celerity. Through
the torturing ordeal of that half hour Eglah had listened, numb with
shame and horror. The world seemed to have dissolved in a night that
could know no dawn; yet, groping in this chaos, two desperate resolves
nerved her.

She would secure that box of papers, no matter at what cost. Her father
should be saved from disgrace, and he should never suspect she knew his
guilt. She must see Mr. Herriott before she saw her father. Swiftly she
matured her resolution; then an unusual glitter came into her lovely
soft eyes, and she sat down between the chestnut trees and waited.

At a quick stride, Mr. Herriott descended the avenue until nearly
opposite the seat, and she rose and walked toward him.

Their hands met in a tight, clinging clasp, but for an instant neither
spoke. He noted that the blood had ebbed from her lips, and that she was
frightfully pale, but the eyes lifted to his glowed unnaturally.

"I intended coming back later, to spend an hour with you and say
good-bye, as----"

"Never to say good-bye again! You shall not leave me."

She drew him down to the seat beside her, and he smiled at the imperious
tone, so suggestive of her childish days.

"You do not understand conditions, unless--When did you see your
father?"

"Not since last night. He went fishing at daylight."

"Then you do not know that I came to bid you farewell before sailing for
the Arctic circle?"

"Yes. I have not seen father to-day, but this letter from Mrs. St. Clair
arrived by the morning mail. Mr. Herriott, I am the most miserable woman
God ever made, and I want to turn to you now, but I scarcely know just
how to do so. Once--that night in Washington--you said you would never
change, that you would always love me; but I have no right to expect
after years of absence--" She paused and the frozen face crimsoned.

He caught his breath and leaned toward her.

"I love you now as I loved you then. My heart has always belonged to
you. If you doubt it, you wrong me."

"Then, Mr. Noel, do not leave me. If you go away now you will break my
heart."

He rose and looked down at her, wondering at the desperate appeal in her
eyes.

"I do not understand, because I long ago ceased to hope I could ever be
essential to your happiness. I am obliged to leave here to-night; but if
there is any service I can render before I sail from Sydney, on the
15th, I am sure you know how very gladly I should help you. If, as you
say, you wish to turn to me, I beg that you will do so at once. Why are
you miserable?"

She covered her face with her hands.

"If you love me, will you abandon this expedition for my sake?"

"I cannot now, it is too late. My word is pledged by cable, and the
vessel is on the Atlantic. Eglah, I dare not hope that you have learned
to care; I will not delude myself. Don't torture me by vague suggestions
that half madden me."

He sat down beside her, painfully perplexed.

Her hands fell into her lap, clutched each other, and when she spoke it
was in a shuddering, broken whisper.

"Then, if you must go, take me with you till you sail. We can be married
to-night."

For fully a moment his eyes, amazed, incredulous, searched hers; then he
surrendered himself to a measureless exultation.

"My darling--my own proud darling!"

He drew her close, and she felt him tremble as she hid her face against
his shoulder--felt his lips on her neck, on her bare, quivering hand
that he held pressed to his cheek.

"I know it is selfish to permit you to bind yourself to me on the eve of
a perilous journey from which I may not return, but after so many long,
hopeless years the temptation is more than I can resist. I can have you,
my darling, for only a few short days, but the happiness of a lifetime
shall glorify them. To-night I must go to Ohio, to close up some
business with my ward, Duncan Keith; then on to Greyledge for two days
before starting for Cape Breton. Why did you not give me this precious
intimation earlier? You have always known what you are to me. Was it the
news in Mrs. St. Clair's letter regarding my departure that pleaded for
me in your proud, stubborn heart?"

"I never realized until to-day how much I need you. Mr. Noel, this has
come upon me so suddenly I am stunned. Give me a little time--till my
mind clears. Let us see father at once; there are so many things to be
arranged if--if----"

He bent to kiss her, but with one shaking hand she softly turned his
face aside.

"Not yet, please--while I am Eglah Kent."

Her arms stole up around his neck and her strained voice broke.

"I am so unhappy; I seem to be in a horrible, strangling dream. Be
patient with me. You are the only one in all the world who can comfort
me, and I am looking to you now as--I once looked to God."

Holding her in a close clasp, he felt her quivering from head to foot.

"Sweetheart, don't tremble so. Trust me, darling, and love me, and no
home in the wide universe will be so happy and blessed as ours. Ours!
The word holds heaven. Are you cold, that you shiver so constantly? Come
into the sunshine."

Pacing up and down the colonnade, Judge Kent watched them approaching.
He looked worn, hunted, and a sickly pallor marked his usually florid
face. Before Mr. Herriott could speak, he was startled by a strange
hysterical sound from Eglah; not a cry, not a sob. As she looked at her
father, her face lighted with a marvellous, yearning tenderness, and she
sprang into his extended arms.

"Father, you will love me now! Kiss me, kiss me. Hold me tight--take me
back to my place in your heart."

Only he could hear the low ripple of broken words, and his tears dripped
on her face as he pressed his lips to hers.

"Herriott, what does it all mean?"

"That I am the happiest, proudest man on earth. Coming here to say
good-bye to my sweetheart, I shall carry my wife away with me."

"But she cannot go to the North Pole, and--you may not survive the
dangers."

"When I know she is waiting at home for me, do you suppose all the ice
in Greenland could shut me away from her?"

"God bless my daughter! How shall I live without her?"

"We are never to be separated. Mr. Herriott could not wish anything so
cruel."

She rose on tiptoe, put a hand on each wet cheek, and kissed her father
twice.

Mr. Herriott looked at his watch.

"Eglah has consented to be married to-night, and my train leaves at
eleven. There are several important matters to be arranged, and I should
be glad to know her wishes."

She rang the bell, then stepped to his side and slipped her hand in his.

"Father's rector is absent, and I wish Bishop Vivian to perform the
ceremony; he loved my grandmother, and she loved him."

Aaron appeared at the door.

"Tell Oliver to bring the trap around as soon as he can. Father, you
must go in with Mr. Herriott. Mrs. Whitfield is sick, but I want Mr.
Whitfield and Lucy and Dr. Eggleston and his wife to be here. If you
wish any others, invite them. Mr. Noel, what hour?"

"I suggest not later than nine."

"My dear Ma-Lila will never forgive me. She is away."

"Where? Could not a telegram reach her?"

"No, she is in the country, two miles from a station. She left me only
this morning, and will be so grieved."

"How far away?"

"Fifteen miles by carriage road, twenty by rail. There is the trap.
Father, I am going upstairs now; and, if you please, I want to be alone
till--till--till--" One hand clutched her throat, and she looked
appealingly into Mr. Herriott's eyes.

He smiled, stooped, and pressed to his lips the slender fingers he held.

"Set your mind at rest about Mrs. Mitchell. She shall be here, if I have
to send a special for her."

When explanation and instructions had been given to Aaron and Minerva,
Eglah went upstairs and locked herself in the room to which had been
removed the furniture and portraits Mrs. Maurice held sacred. Up and
down she walked, feeling that an iron band was throttling her. She and
her father were drifting out to a black gulf of humiliation--of hopeless
disgrace--and only that box of papers could rescue, anchor them in
safety. Mr. Herriott loved her so devotedly, she believed that when she
was his wife he would yield the papers in answer to her prayers. If he
refused? She recalled the ring of indignation in his voice when her
father suggested bribing Duncan Keith. Marriage would give her immediate
control of her estate, and surely her fortune could purchase the papers
from the boy, when in her presence Mr. Herriott delivered them to him.
If all efforts failed, she would go down to ruin knowing she had left
nothing undone to save her father, and now, at last, she had regained
her place in his heart.

The price? Her face burned, and she wrung her hands. After to-night's
ceremony, could she ever again respect herself? When Mr. Herriott knew,
would he despise her? Family portraits on the wall caught her glance.
Did the stainless Maurices, and her own young mother, watching from the
Celestial City, see all the burden of shame settling down on her
shoulders? Would her grandmother's cold, proud blue eyes look "I told
you so," or soften in tender pity for "poor Marcia's baby"? Public
disgrace over which so many would gloat, to escape such infamy was any
price too dear? The price--herself?

Three hours later she saw her trunk carried downstairs. When the clock
struck eight, she was dressed for her wedding. The gown ordered for the
club german was a trailing, ivory _crêpe de Chine_, and where lace
ruffles met on the corsage she fastened a spray of white lilac from the
bouquet Mr. Herriott had sent. No gleam of jewels marred the white
perfection of face and figure, but her dilated eyes burned like brown
agates when the light smites them. On the dressing-table lay a note for
Mrs. Mitchell.

     "My dear, sweet little mother: The crucial hour came, and you
     were away. I may have scuttled ship, but I did what seemed
     best. Some things you cannot understand now, but I know you
     love me too well to distress me with questions--when I ask you
     to trust me. Pray for your

     "BABY."

As the clock struck half-past eight, Eliza ran up the steps and into the
room, holding against her shoulder a branch of titi pearled with bloom.
At sight of the extraordinary loveliness of the figure standing as if
frozen, she burst into tears.

"My beautiful--my baby! What does all this mean? Your father has forced
you to----"

"Hush, hush. My father was as much astonished as you are. I feared you
could not come in time, and here is a note, in which I said all that I
can tell you. Don't scold me, and don't cry; wait till I am gone."

She gave her the note and kissed her cheek, where tears were streaming.

"Oh, my baby, give me the positive assurance that this step is
voluntary--that you love Mr. Herriott."

"Entirely voluntary. My supreme wish is to go with Mr. Herriott. He is
the noblest man in all the world."

"Yes, but you have not just found that out; you have always known it.
Now, do you love him? I am afraid you do not; and, my baby, marriage
without loving a husband is----"

Eglah laid a hand over Eliza's lips.

"Father is coming for me. I want to wear some titi, because you brought
it to me. Pin two clusters under the folds of lace here, just over your
baby's heart. Now, kiss Eglah Kent good-bye, and leave me with father
while you take off your hat and dry your eyes."

"My dear, are you ready?"

"Wait a few minutes for Ma-Lila. Father, if I can not persuade Mr. Noel
to abandon his journey, you must be sure to meet me when he telegraphs
you and leaves me. I am inexpressibly unhappy, but if you will forget
the last three years, and love me as in the dear old days, it will
comfort and gladden me."

The clock chimed nine. Near the foot of the stairway Mr. Herriott
waited, and when he came forward the almost unearthly beauty of Eglah's
face made his heart throb with vague apprehension. It wore a rapt
expression of supreme exaltation, as if a somnambulist walked with eyes
fixed on some goal beyond a yawning black chasm.

Drawing her arm from her father's, she stepped to Mr. Herriott's side
and laid her hand in his.



CHAPTER XXI


The fast vestibuled train, forty minutes late, swung northward at a
speed that kept the car in a quiver. There were few passengers, asleep
in their berths, and Mr. Herriott had secured the drawing-room. It was
new, luxurious in appointments, and to the end of the brass rod
supporting the lamp in the centre he had fastened a great sheaf of white
carnations, sent by Mrs. Whitfield. Closing the sliding door that opened
into the sleeper, he sat down beside the figure clad in a dark-blue
cloth suit.

"I am so insanely happy I dare not pinch or shake myself, lest I should
wake and find it only a heavenly dream."

He took one of her remarkably beautiful hands, which he had always
admired, and where he had placed a broad, heavy band of gold four hours
before. Spreading the cold fingers on his warm palm, he lifted them
against his cheek, brushed them with his mustache.

"Lovely little snowflakes; how long I have coveted their touch! And now
they are absolutely my very own. Mine forever."

She had been leaning back, but straightened, braced herself, and her
breathing was deep and rapid.

"Mr. Noel, do you really love me above everything else?"

He laughed so heartily that she saw the glitter of his fine teeth.

"Do I love you above everything else? You elusive witch! If you will
withdraw the embargo of your request--'not yet, please'--I can soon
convince you."

His handsome face, radiantly happy, bent close to hers, but she shrank
away from him.

"I am your wife now, but----"

She paused, with a strained look in her eyes.

"Yes; my own precious wife at last, thank God!"

"There is one, only one proof that will convince me I am really first in
your heart. Give me at once the box of papers that incriminate my
father."

He dropped her hand and rose.

"It is hard, indeed, when a man must refuse the first request of his
bride; but, my darling, I cannot dishonor myself. Such baseness would
not prove my love; and it would inevitably arouse your contempt."

She had risen, and as they faced each other under the lamp the swaying
carnations almost touched his glossy black head.

Lifting her tightly locked hands in entreaty, her voice vibrated like a
lute string rudely swept.

"Don't, oh, don't break my heart! Help me to shield my father from
shame, and I will bless you as long as I live. I am so wretched--the
world is going to pieces--and I am clinging to you as the one rock of
safety, the sole refuge that will not fail me. If you ever really loved
me, oh, Mr. Noel, have mercy on me now!"

His face hardened, and, unwilling to trust his voice, he shook his head.
She staggered as if from a blow, but after a moment her cheeks flamed,
and banked fires glowed in her dilated eyes.

"Eglah, when did your father have the cruelty to tell you about the
papers in my possession?"

"He never told me. He does not suspect I know, and he must not find out
I am aware of their existence; because I could not bear that such an
additional sorrow should overtake him. My father! It is your will and
purpose to ruin him in his old age?"

"Only Judge Kent and I were cognizant of the existence of that box. May
I ask how you obtained your information?"

"I was in his bedroom next to the library when you and father came in.
The door was open, and through the thin curtain I heard every
word--every cruel, horrible word, that cut my heart like a dagger. At
first, when you spoke of not wishing me to know, I felt I had no right
to listen, but some things had long perplexed me, things that father
would not explain, and I determined to make an end of mysteries."

All tenderness had vanished from his set face, and his blue-grey eyes
watched her much as a judge might a witness on the stand.

The train had entered a deep, rocky cut, and the clattering roar sounded
a verbal truce. When it rushed through a meadow, Mr. Herriott put his
hands behind him.

"I must have all the truth now. If you had not overheard that
conversation, you would not have waited for and intercepted me in the
grove?"

"Certainly not. I wished to see you at once, and before I met father."

"Your terrible distress and agitation were solely on his account, and
not because of my approaching journey?"

"Yes, for father's safety. I was grieved to hear you were going so far
away, but, Mr. Noel, father is my all. When I learned of the exposure
threatening him I think I must have gone mad, or I should not have made
the ghastly mistake of believing you loved me well enough to help me
save him, and----"

She paused, silenced by the flash in his eyes, the white fury of his
face.

"You proposed our marriage solely to find an opportunity for getting
possession of the papers?"

"Yes, that was my object. I thought you would not deny the prayer of
your wife."

"You have come to my arms with no more love in your heart than when you
refused me years ago?"

"Yes. In a way I have always been attached to you; I honor, and admire,
and trust you fully, and of all men I hold you first--but love! God help
me! Perhaps in time I may learn."

"You considered yourself the price of the papers, and felt assured I
could not refuse to sell? Any man who held them could own you body and
soul! Any clodhopper, lout, any libertine, any moral leper could own you
for life, in exchange for the papers! You, my white-souled, proud,
sensitive, ideal woman, for sale! For sale!"

The red spots in her cheeks deepened, and a defiant ring steadied her
trembling voice.

"As you are the only person who could yield me what I sought, you are
the one possible purchaser. But there was an additional reason for my
becoming your wife. My grandmother's will requires the estate she gave
me kept in the hands of a trustee until I am thirty, unless I marry. In
that event I come into immediate unrestricted possession, and I thought
if you denied my prayer I would be financially able to buy the papers
when you delivered them in my presence. That is the one hope that stands
now between me and despair--a hope made possible by and based on my
marriage. There was no other door of escape from ruin, and so I sold
myself to the one man whom I have always honored and trusted--who I
believed would be patient with me. Yes, I sold myself. That you would be
deeply aggrieved I knew, because I intended you should learn all the
truth to-night. The horror, the hot shame of the last few hours you will
never, never understand."

"There was, however, solace for you in the possibility that Polar perils
might speedily cancel your matrimonial bonds? At least that is one hope
I can share with you."

Swinging around a sharp curve, the car lurched violently, and she
staggered. He caught her arm and led her to the seat, where she leaned
her head against the panel and shut her eyes. Singularly beautiful was
the proud face wearing the pathetic seal of mental suffering, but, as he
looked down at her, no pity softened the gleam in his eyes, and his
hands clinched in his struggle for self-control.

"To-night I have learned how a man feels when an angel he worshipped
from afar stooped from her heights, led him up, up to the open gate of
heaven, and, just as he was entering, the same angelic hand dropped him
into hell. When I had abandoned all hope of winning you, the suddenness
of your surrender made my head reel. I was amazed; but the possibility
that you deliberately planned to deceive me no more occurred to me than
would an insult to my dead mother. For me you have embodied all that I
hold pure, lofty, refined, admirable in womanhood. I was fastidious, but
you filled my ideal, and I trusted you almost as I trust my God. You
have wronged me doubly--in the loss of yourself, but far worse in the
destruction of my belief in the incorruptibility of some women; sooner
or later all are for sale.

"If I had sailed away before seeing you at Y---- I should have carried an
unsullied, a perfect, sacred memory of you to light the long Arctic
night. God knows I would sooner have died there than realize you
cruelly, deliberately deceived me. You thought you were buying the
papers; but, as they will not be delivered, the trade is off. You cannot
get possession of what you purchased, and the price paid I here return
to you. You have no papers, and I have no wife. Without value received
on your part, I have no right to you, and we stand now just as we did
before that marriage ceremony, which has proved a mere commercial
mockery. I abhor shams--above all things sham marriage. All or none.
Only very strong, deep, tender love justifies a woman in giving herself
away. Otherwise the relation degrades her; she is little better than an
odalisque; and such I decline to see you. For me you have no love--never
will have--and as regards my own wishes, your duplicity has effectually
slain what once warmed my heart. After a few days, relief for both of us
will come in separation. If I never return you will escape much
annoyance. When two years elapse, the divorce court cannot refuse to
give you freedom from nominal bonds, and then you will soon forget that
you were ever--even in name--my wife."

She had grown ghastly pale, and her lips fluttered. In the brief silence
a sick child's fretful cry rolled through the adjoining sleeper, then
the train thundered into a tunnel.

"Mr. Herriott, I am so utterly miserable cruel words, even from you, no
longer have power to wound me. I--" She laughed nervously, and sat
upright.

"My worse than useless appeal to your mercy reminds me of a picture of
the Deluge I once saw, when I was a happy child. A drowning woman clung
to the edge of an open window in the ark, begging succor, and Noah
leaned out and pried off her grasping hands, smiting her back into
hungry waves. I shall obey your wishes, Mr. Herriott, in all but one
step you have suggested. I do not believe in the validity of divorces.
Vows made to God can never be cancelled by civil processes. A
consecrated minister is not a mere notary public to attest signatures to
a deed. My marriage is forever sacred as my baptism; my covenant in His
sight, in His holy name, stands always--'till death us do part.' You
shall be as free as you wish. You need never see me again, but so long
as I live I intend to hold myself your wife."

"Will you do me the kindness to hand me your ring?"

She drew it from her finger and held it toward him. He turned it slowly,
smiling bitterly.

"You have not seen the inscription. 'Till death us do part.' The sight
of it must be an unpleasant reminder, and I hope and ask that you will
never wear it. As a worthless symbol of what no longer exists, allow me
to throw it away."

"Just as you please; only remember you have no right to do so, it is
mine. If it were cast into the ocean, I should never cease to feel its
sacred clasp on my finger."

He laid it on the seat beside her, and she replaced it on her hand. He
looked at his watch.

"It will soon be daylight. I am going into the smoking car. Perhaps you
can rest. Shall I send the porter?"

"No. I could not sleep."

He went out, closing the door carefully.

With a smothered groan she sank back, and beat her palms against each
other. Humiliated, sorely wounded, yet indignant--almost hopeless, but
defiant--she stubbornly refused to despair until she had exhausted every
means at her command.

After a while she knelt down and prayed God's help in her mission to
save her father. She never knew that the door had glided noiselessly
half way in its groove and that Mr. Herriott stood there to ask if she
needed anything. He saw the figure bowed in prayer, and stole away as
softly as he came. The strain was telling upon her quivering nerves.
Hysterical aching in her throat, parched and dry, was almost
intolerable, and the swaying carnations so burdened the air that when
she rose her head swam.

After an hour she struggled to her feet. If she had some water it might
cool her throat. From her satchel she took a cup, opened the door, and,
supporting herself by one hand on the wall of the car, she walked down
the narrow passage, where she knew the water-tank stood near the
porter's seat. Before she reached it she saw Mr. Herriott leaning
sideways against the glass door opening on the platform. Just then the
brakeman raised his lantern, and the flash showed a hopelessly sad face
sternly set under the close-fitting travelling cap. As she turned back,
he saw her and advanced.

"What do you wish?"

She held out the cup.

"Some water, please."

She reeled, clutched at the wall, and for an instant everything spun
round. He placed her in the porter's folding chair, and when he held the
cup to her mouth saw that her teeth chattered. She drank spasmodically,
and a long, shuddering sigh drifted across her white lips.

"You must lie down and rest. The porter will arrange your berth."

She shook her head and rose.

"You cannot walk alone; lean on me."

"Yes, I can help myself now. I was thirsty and dizzy."

She drew back, but he put his arm around her, holding her firmly against
him, and placed her on the seat in the drawing-room. She pointed to the
carnations.

"The perfume is overpowering. I can't reach them. Please take them out."

Lifting an arm he snapped the string.

"Like every other souvenir and symbol of to-night, they are simply
sickening."

Raising the window he threw the flowers into a river across which the
locomotive was cautiously feeling its way. He opened his own satchel,
leaning against hers on the opposite seat, took out a silver flask, and
poured some ruby, aromatic liquid into the cup.

"You are sadly spent; take this."

"No, I do not need anything more."

"You must. It is merely a mild cocktail."

"No, Mr. Herriott, I prefer not."

"A few hours ago did you swear to obey me? Drink it."

She hid her face in her hands and shivered.

"Eglah, try to control yourself."

"Please don't take any trouble on my account; just leave me alone with
my torturing forebodings. No one but God can help me now. The sight of
me is painful to you, and I shrink from annoying you. Mr. Herriott,
please leave me to myself."

He sat down beside her, the cup in his hand.

"To-night you have made me suffer more than you will ever
understand--you have hurt me beyond all possibility of healing--and,
perhaps, in the terribly sudden overthrow of beautiful hopes you had
called into existence, I may have seemed harsh. If so, you must pardon
any desperate words my torture wrung from me. Poor child, you have
sorrows enough without any additions from my hand. I cannot trust myself
to talk to you; my temper is sometimes beyond control, and you have
bruised my heart so sorely I am not sure of self-command. Poor little
girl! Do me the favor to drink this, because I ask it."

He held the cup to her lips and she drank. He took a pillow from the
opposite seat and put it behind her head.

"If you need anything you have only to open the door and I shall come."

"Mr. Herriott, there is but one thing I shall ever ask you to do for me.
The ring you placed on my finger I took off at your request. Here it is.
With your own hand put it back where it belongs, and it will be there
when I die."

She held out her hand with the ring in her palm. He looked at her
intently, and his lips tightened.

"Repeat a mockery? A shameful farce!"

He lifted the glittering circle, tossed it up twice, struggling with the
impulse to hurl it through the window, then suddenly slipped it on her
finger, dropped her hand, and, picking up his satchel, left her.

Would the night never end? If Duncan Keith refused to sell? She thought
of quiet, lovely olive-clad plains in Sicily, with pergolas cool in
green shadows of vines, where they might retreat from disgraceful
publicity. Mr. Herriott scorned, repudiated her, and henceforth she
could devote herself entirely to tender care of her father. Ambition and
hope were dead, but was there any anæsthetic to still the burning stings
of memory? She went to the opposite seat and rested her head against the
open window. A thin, sallow, fading old moon hung like a spectre in the
sky where the morning star lighted the way for the coming new day, and
the dew-sprinkled air swept in, spiced with waves of aroma from a
blooming vineyard.

Hamlets, meadows, fields, bridges, the looming shadow of a wooded
mountain fled past as the train rocked, hummed, and flew on. Looking up
at the quiet heavens, Eglah lifted her hands and heart in passionate
appeal.

"Dear God, have mercy upon us! If I did wrong, forgive my sin. Help me
now to save my poor unfortunate father, and I will strive to be a better
Christian all the remainder of my days."

At eight o'clock a waiter brought her breakfast. Later, when Mr.
Herriott came in, it was evident he had mastered himself; the fury of
white heat had chilled to cold steel. He was very pale, and an unusual
rigidity locked his features.

"You must be very tired of this close place, and I am glad we shall
change cars. It is a fine day, and the scenery along the route will
interest you. Here is our train. Give me your wrap and satchel."

The change was into a parlor car with fresh, linen-covered revolving
chairs, and wide windows framing lovely spring pastorals--sheep on a
green hillside, cattle knee deep in rock-bedded crystal streams, and
everywhere the busy bird world nest building.

Eglah drew a deep breath of relief, and, as Mr. Herriott pushed a
hassock under her feet, she looked up at him.

"Thank you. Will you be so kind as to tell me when we shall reach the
place where your ward lives?"

"I think the train has about made up lost time, and we are due at
Woodbury at half-past six. It is not on the trunk line, and we take a
narrow gauge just beyond Carville."

Both wound their watches, and then, liberally supplied with magazines
and papers, settled comfortably in adjoining seats. She was the only
woman in the car, and a dozen men were scattered about, a few playing
cards, some dozing, others absorbed in newspapers.

Mr. Herriott sat in front of his companion, his chair turned half around
and toward the window. After a time he took from his satchel a folded
chart and note-book. Spreading the former across his knees, he appeared
oblivious of all but the lines and figures, yet the angles in his bronze
face did not soften. Eglah had taken off her hat, hoping to ease the
teasing pain in her temples. She rested her head against the back of the
chair, and held up an open magazine, but no page was turned, and as she
laid it in her lap she shut her eyes.

Her thoughts drifted to a small villa near Messina which Judge Kent had
expressed a wish to occupy because he chanced to see it in a rosy mantle
of almond blossoms. Mr. Whitfield would attend to estate matters, and
Boynton could be trusted to manage the plantations, though they were
miles apart. She could do as she pleased now with her money, and if she
failed in her mission to Woodbury she would ask her father to take her
abroad at once, until Mr. Herriott returned. During that time public
discussion of "Ely Twiggs" would end, and probably she need never come
back to America. Mr. Herriott evidently wished her out of his life,
forever out of his sight, and certainly he should be gratified. Her
father could not suspect her reason for going to Europe; he knew how to
keep newspapers from her, and as he did not dream she knew the dreadful
truth, they might resume the dear old life. So profound was her revery
that she had unconsciously opened her eyes, and they looked out, seeing,
not the farms and forests gliding by the window, but the sapphire sky,
the purple sea, the snow of lemon groves, the red glow of
oleander-walled gardens, and the silvery grey-green olive orchards where
she might hide her father from shame, herself from the withering scorn
of Mr. Herriott's cruel eyes.

Glancing at her over the top of the lifted chart, his attention was
arrested by the intense abstraction in which she was plunged. Her
extreme pallor was relieved only by vivid color in her delicately curved
lips, and under the eyes bluish circles told something of her suffering.
He thought of the haunting, wonderful eyes of Urd, and bit his lips as
he watched her; so pathetically hopeless, yet unwaveringly proud was the
pure face he had loved long and passionately.

The door behind them opened, and a naval officer entered, carrying in
his arms a crying child about six months old. The bundle of muslin and
lace squirmed and struggled as the man strove to pacify it by beating a
tattoo on the window, dangling his watch close to the baby's eyes, and
bouncing it up and down. He walked about, sat down, laid the infant face
downward across his knees, trotted it, patted it, but with no quieting
success, and, when the engine blew long and loud for a bridge crossing,
the frightened child screamed distressingly.

The officer rose.

"I am sorry to annoy the passengers, but the nurse has been taken so ill
she cannot hold her head up, and as the boy cries to go to her I was
obliged to bring him in here. He never saw me until last night. I was on
a cruise when his poor mother died."

Once more he essayed to whistle, and swayed to and fro with a rocking
motion, but finally desperate, he turned to a young man in a neighboring
chair, who was smiling over a cartoon in "Puck."

"Sir, would you do me the great kindness to hold him just a moment,
while I get something from his nurse?"

"All right, I will try; but I happen to be a bachelor, and I never held
a baby in my life. Come on, little man. Some day you surely will make a
star screamer in opera. Now for it, sonny."

He held out his arms, but, as the father attempted to transfer the boy,
the sight of another strange face increased his terror; the little hands
grasped the officer's beard, and the baby shrieked in protest.

Eglah rose and crossed the car.

"He is accustomed to women; perhaps I can quiet him. Will you allow me
to try?"

"O, thank you, madam!"

She took one little hand, caressed it, toyed with the fingers, and cooed
as only women can. After a moment the child ceased crying, and when very
gently she took it and laid it up against her shoulder the little
creature nestled close to her. His suspicion, however, was not entirely
allayed. Suddenly he lifted his head, stared curiously into her face,
and when she laid her cheek on his, wet with tears, he seemed reassured
and clung to her, his lips touching her throat.

The young man leaned over and whispered to a friend in the chair before
him.

"He shows good taste in picking his nurse. Is not she a beauty? I have
been watching that handsome couple, and things are not serene in their
camp. I was near him in the smoker, and his face looked like a
brownstone statue with live wild-cat eyes."

Eglah walked slowly up and down the aisle, humming low and very softly
Kücken's "Schlummerlied." Now and then the child sobbed faintly.

The officer came back with a bottle of milk, but, as he hurried forward,
Eglah shook her head. After a little while the exhausted baby slept
soundly.

"Madam, I cannot thank you sufficiently for your goodness. I will
relieve you now, and I trust the passengers will excuse the annoyance."

"Let me keep him a while; he still sobs now and then, and if moved might
wake. A good nap will quiet his nerves."

"It is too great a tax on you, madam."

"When I am tired, I shall bring him to you."

"In a half hour we get home, and since you are so very kind, I will help
the nurse arrange luggage for our station."

Eglah went back to her own chair, and holding the little creature with
her right arm softly patted him with her left hand. At every motion the
wedding ring flashed like a dancing demon in Mr. Herriott's watching
eyes.

"Poor little chap. Did you mesmerize him?"

"I think there is telepathy in great trouble. He feels intuitively that
some one else is suffering torture, and 'a fellow feeling' drew him to
me."

She avoided looking at him, and her eyes followed the evolutions of a
flock of white geese holding regatta in a pond close to the railway
track.

After some moments, she cautiously and tenderly laid her muslin-clad
burden in her lap, and smoothed out the long lace-ruffled robe. With a
start one little hand was thrown up, but she caught and held it. He was
a handsome boy, and when she untied the lace cap, too tight at his
throat, his fluffy yellow locks enhanced his beauty.

The sight of the baby fingers clinging to the hand where the gold band
shone renewed the struggle Mr. Herriott was trying to crush.

Leaning toward her, he said:

"Last night, at your request, I stifled my repugnance, and did what I
deeply regret. To-day I must ask you for the only favor you can ever
grant me. Give me back my ring."

There was an angry pant in his voice that made the words a demand rather
than request.

"Mr. Herriott, I am sorry to refuse any wish of yours; but I cannot."

"I want it."

She looked steadily at him.

"So do I. When I die it will be where you placed it; but in the coffin
human covenants end, and I will order it sent to you by those who lay me
in the grave. My ring is the badge of my loyalty--not yours. You are as
free as you wish to be, but when I meet my God He will know I kept my
marriage vows--always."

"And the supreme vow was to love me!"

From the fury in his eyes she did not flinch.

"Yes, I intended to keep all. I thought I might learn to love you; and
that you would be patient with me. I wanted to love you, and, as God
hears me, I meant to spend my life trying to love you."

Unable to restrain words he was unwilling to utter, he sprang up and
took refuge on the front platform.

A prolonged whistle of the engine announced the next stop, and the baby
awoke with a startled cry, just as his father entered, followed by the
nurse, a middle-aged woman who looked too ill to stand. Eglah rose and
laid the child in her arms.

"Madam, I am deeply grateful for your courtesy and goodness. I intended
handing my card to your husband. Permit me to lay it on his chair."

"I was glad to have your pretty boy. It was a welcome incident in a very
dreary day. Good morning, sir."

Mr. Herriott did not return until the second call for luncheon sounded
through the train. He took her hat from the brass hook and held it
toward her.

"I dare say you are sufficiently weary to welcome luncheon."

"Thank you, but I want absolutely nothing. I hope you will go without
me."

He went out, but not to the dining car.

An hour later, when he came back, she had crossed the aisle to a vacant
chair, raised the window, and, with an arm on the broad sill, rested her
head there. She did not notice his entrance, and resuming his seat he
opened a magazine.

Above the line of brass lattice that held packages, hats, and umbrellas
ran a panel of mirrors, and in the section over his head was reflected
the face and figure directly opposite. For the next hour he held the
magazine open, but his eyes never left the mirror. Twice she looked at
her watch without raising her head, and from the tense, strained
fixedness of her features he knew she was nerving herself for the ordeal
at Woodbury; the final effort in her father's behalf, which he felt
assured would prove futile. Conflicting emotions shook him, but nothing
availed to abate the rage of his disappointment.

The train slowed at the entrance to a large town, and as the station
platform filled with curious faces peering into the car windows, Eglah
went back to her own seat.

A moment later the door was thrown open, and a boy wearing the uniform
of the telegraph company shouted:

"Is Mr. Noel Herriott aboard? Message for Mr. Noel Herriott!"

"I am Mr. Herriott."

He went forward, signed his name in the receipt-book, and opened the
envelope. He stood with his back to Eglah, and remained so motionless
that she was seized by an apprehension some evil had overtaken her
father. Just as she rose he turned and approached her.

"Has anything happened to father?

"This is not from the South. It does not refer to him. We may have to
stop here. Keep your seat till I ascertain positively."

Very soon he returned, followed by a porter, who promptly collected
satchels and magazines.

"I find I must wait here until two o'clock in the morning."

"Why delay reaching Woodbury? I beg of you let us hasten on."

"There are reasons necessitating it that will be explained later."

She had drawn back, but he took her arm.

"The train will move in a moment, and unless you wish to go on alone, we
must be quick."

He assisted her into an omnibus, where several passengers waited, and
they were driven to a hotel. Mr. Herriott ordered two rooms, and at the
door of one said:

"I must see that the trunks are brought at once. I need mine."

Throwing aside her hat, Eglah began to pace the floor. His countenance
had undergone a marked change--subtle, inexplicable--and an indefinable
dread caught her heart as in a vise. It seemed to her that an hour
passed before he tapped at the door, and she could scarcely articulate,

"Come in."

With a square package sealed in brown paper under one arm, Mr. Herriott
entered, closed the door, and deposited the bundle on a small table.
From his vest pocket he drew the folded telegram and gave it to her.

     "Woodbury, 3 P.M.

     "Duncan Keith died two days ago. Wired you at New York Club.
     Everything attended to here. Will meet you at Carville at 8
     P.M.

     "HERMAN MARTIN."

Her wide, terrified eyes gazed into his.

"What does it mean for me--now?"

"It means that probably some guilty bank officials will go 'unwhipped of
justice.' Duncan's father had no relatives in America. He was a poor
stowaway lad from England, and since the grandmother's death his son,
Duncan, had only his mother's sister, Mrs. Martin. I could not hear from
Duncan, to whom I wrote twice last week, and this telegram is an answer
to one I sent Martin, telling him I could make only a very brief stop at
Woodbury to-night. I have done my duty. I have kept my word. The
prosecution of the guilty does not devolve on me, and Martin will never
consent to undertake a suit for libel. It would involve money which he
does not possess, and responsibility he will not dare to assume. Your
father's letters, and the vouchers for large sums of money sent to 'Ely
Twiggs,' are in a separate envelope. I shall burn them now, before I
deliver the box to Martin."

She sprang forward, her hands on his shoulders, her lips quivering like
rose-leaves in a gale.

"Do you mean it? Will you save my father?"

He took her wrists and held her away from him.

"Death saves him; certainly not I."

"No more sorrow can ever come to him?"

"Not from this box; and none through me."

The revulsion overwhelmed her. She sank back, and when he caught her and
put his ear to her mouth he could not hear her breathe. He lifted and
laid her upon a sofa, and stood looking down at her. So pure and white,
so helpless, so beautiful! Legally his wife, but never to be his.

Dipping a towel in water he bathed her face, sprinkled it. The icy hands
he chafed in his broad, warm palms, and as his fingers touched the
wedding ring he ground his teeth. When her breathing grew stronger, he
rose, relinquished her hands, and after a moment she opened her eyes.

"I thought you college-bred girls too well trained to faint."

She sat up, half dazed, and the water dripped from her hair.

"I never fainted before; something smothered me, and everything turned
black. Mr. Herriott!"

He had gone to the table, but turned, and looked at her over his
shoulder.

"Mr. Herriott, did not you say father was safe from shame and sorrow?"

"In a few moments he will be."

He opened the tin box, selected a small bundle of papers in an envelope
marked "Ely Twiggs," and drew some matches from his case. In the grate
he burned them one by one, then relocked and tied up the box.

"Eglah, what a pity Iphigenia did not know favorable winds were already
blowing at Aulis before she yielded herself to her father's sacrificing
hands! Poor Duncan had been dead twenty-four hours when the bishop
performed that nuptial farce. If Martin's telegram had been forwarded,
you would now be happy at home. I find it necessary to change my plans
somewhat. I can spend but a single day at home, and, instead of going
directly thence to Boston, shall make a few hours' stay in New York to
see my lawyers."

"To alter your will? You need not. I have more than I require, and if I
were a pauper I should never accept a cent from you. There is only one
thing you can ever give me, and that I must want as long as I live."

He was walking slowly up and down the floor, his hands behind him, and
paused beside the sofa.

"What is it?"

She pushed back the damp rings of hair, and lifted to his, pleading eyes
pathetically sad.

"Your confidence--your old faith in me."

"Confidence! It lies with love in a grave so deep there can be no
resurrection. The world is full of women--lovely, luscious women. Of
fair flesh there is for most men no lack; but I wanted, I hungered, I
longed for only one pair of dimpled arms folded about my neck, one
woman's divinely tender eyes answering all the love in mine, one pair of
proud, pure, sensitive, beautiful lips seeking and clinging to mine.
Voluntarily you gave yourself to me--your precious self--and when
bewildered with happiness I caught you to my heart, you stabbed me. I
was mole blind, but sharp clipping has rid me of my cataracts. Let us
make an end of this dismal farce. All my life I have fought my infernal
temper, and now it has me by the throat. It will take an Arctic winter
to cool the hot fury that possesses me; and because I must not speak
harshly to you, I wish to ask if you will allow me to leave you here? I
can telegraph your father to come at once."

For a moment wounded pride stifled her; she shrank as from a blow, and
red signals swung back into her pale cheeks.

"As you please, Mr. Herriott. It is more painfully embarrassing for me
to force my presence upon you than for you to endure the sight of me for
a few hours longer. If you prefer to leave me here instead of at the
place selected and designated before I left home, of course I shall
submit. We have not many friends, and father's enemies will gossip over
the fact that I was sent home before you sailed from Boston. This,
however, is a minor matter in comparison with the fear that the change
you suggest might lead father to suspect I had learned the object of
your visit to Y----. Life will be unendurable to me if he finds out that
I know the contents of that box. I would rather die than have him
believe all the horrible facts are in my possession. For his sake I----"

"For his sake you would go down into Hades!"

"Where else am I now? What ordeal more fiery than last night and to-day?
I know now that I did wrong, but the awful ruin seemed so imminent I
fled through the only door of escape that appeared possible. I am
punished, and I deserve all I suffer. Leave me here, or anywhere else,
as you find most convenient and most comfortable for yourself."

"Pardon me. Of course your wishes determine the matter. I suggested the
change, thinking that as your sole object in making this journey was to
secure the papers, you would find it a relief to return as soon as you
were sure of their destruction."

He wrote a few lines in his note-book and held it before her.

"Would this be entirely agreeable to you? 'Judge Allison Kent: Duncan
died two days ago. I burned the "Ely Twiggs" papers to-night. Never
mention them to Eglah. She wishes you to meet her in Philadelphia
Saturday.'"

"Thank you; that is what I prefer. When you come back----"

"I hope never to come back. I will not lead a sham life, and I will not
live under the same roof with one who, to please her father, tried to
love me and found she could not."

"When you come back I shall try to be in Europe, and you may rest
assured of no intrusion. My marriage gives me control of my own estate,
and now I wish to know the amount it cost you to recover the bonds you
delivered to the college."

"You must excuse me if I decline to answer. That matter concerns only
Nina and myself. What I did was solely for her and my father."

"I shall find out, and send a check to your lawyers."

"My lawyers know absolutely nothing about it, and as your father must
not suspect you heard the conversation, you will scarcely ask him. I
have some letters to write, memoranda to arrange for Martin, and several
telegrams to send immediately. Our train starts at two A.M., and you can
get a sound sleep, which you sadly need. I ordered your dinner sent
here. Do you wish your trunk?"

She shook her head.

"Try to get a good rest. You will be called in time for the train. I
have papers to prepare that will keep me busy until then. Eglah--poor
little girl--"

She looked up at him defiantly, but the peculiar expression in his
brilliant eyes she could not understand.

He caught his mustache between his teeth, picked up the tin box, and
left her.



CHAPTER XXII


The weather had changed. After rain a keen north wind curled the waters
of the great lake into wreaths of foam, breaking against the terrace,
and the old Scotch clock in the lower hall struck midnight as Mr.
Herriott's carriage drew up before the open door of his house. When he
stepped to the ground a wild uproar of rejoicing dogs greeted him, and
it was some seconds before he could rid himself of caressing paws. He
assisted Eglah out, and turning toward the light met Amos Lea.

"Why, old man! It was kind of you to sit up for us. You should be asleep
in your bed. Here is Mrs. Herriott. You saw her one summer."

The gardener held out his rough, hard hand, and she laid hers in it.

"Welcome home, madam. I hope you will be good to the lad; he will always
do right by you."

Mr. Herriott laughed as he led her up the stone steps.

"Amos, you can not lecture her as you do me."

The housekeeper and one of the maids came forward for wraps and
satchels.

"Mrs. Orr, Mrs. Herriott is very tired. Did you receive my telegram from
Carville?"

"Yes, sir; the blue room is in order; bath, fire, supper, everything all
ready."

Drawing Eglah's arm through his, he ascended the wide oak staircase,
saying:

"I had it papered and arranged especially for you that summer you came
for a few days, and since then no one has been allowed to occupy it."

At the landing he called over the railing:

"Mrs. Orr, as it will be late when the trunks come, do not send up Mrs.
Herriott's until morning. She needs rest, and I do not wish her
disturbed before she rings her bell."

On a table drawn near the fire in the "blue room" a decanter and glasses
glittered in the glow from an open hearth. Mr. Herriott poured out some
Tokay.


"I am sorry I could not make your home-coming less dismal; but for you
the worst is over, and, if you please, we will not refer to it again.
To-morrow I shall be engaged with two committees, one relating to a
scientific scholarship I wish to establish, and my time is so limited I
can be with you very little. The necessity for going via New York, where
I must stop, shortens my stay here; and I am compelled to allow some
margin for delay _en route_ from Boston to Sydney, where the vessel is
due on the fifteenth. This is not exactly a 'loving-cup,' but you must
join me."

He touched her glass with his, and a deep undercurrent of suppressed
emotion surged through the quietly spoken words.

"Complete oblivion of all that has distressed you during the last
forty-eight hours. Put me entirely out of your thoughts, and remember
that now you can be happy with your father."

He emptied his glass and replaced it on the salver.

"No. I would not forget it if I could. I pray God that you may escape
every danger; that you will come back in safety to your home; and while
I may never see you again, I hope to hear you are far happier than I
could ever have made you."

She sipped the wine, put it aside, and continued:

"You can not understand the utter ruin of hopes, ambitions, beliefs,
that heretofore made my life worth living. In the awful wreck one thing
survives--my faith in you, who walk always in the light of 'the high
white star of Truth.' I honor and I trust you now as I never did before
the ordeal of the last few hours. The fault was mine, not yours; and as
I deserve, I wish I could bear all the pain, all the consequences, of my
desperate rashness. You do not understand what I suffer."

She stood with her hands folded on her breast, so close to him that he
noted how wan and drawn the young face had grown, how measureless the
misery in eyes peering hopelessly into futurity.

"At least I fully and sorrowfully understand one thing--you know no more
about love than that baby you nursed on the train."

In avoidance of his cold scrutiny, her strained gaze had wandered to the
frieze of silver lilies on the wall, but now she looked at him.

"Mr. Herriott, you may be sure that when you go away and leave me
forever, I shall never learn."

There was a sudden glint in his eyes, like a blue blade flash, but after
a moment he listened to the clock, and turned away.

"Good-night. Get all the sleep you can. You will need it for your
journey South to-morrow."

He closed the door, and she heard his quick step ring down the long
stairway; then the joyful bark of the dogs told he had left the house.

She was an unusually healthy woman, and, impatient of the teasing pain
in her temples, shook out her heavy coil of hair. She walked from door
to fireplace, from bed to bathroom, up and down, around and around, too
restless to lie down, dominated by a strange feeling she made no attempt
to analyze. As the clock struck four, she still walked to and fro, never
suspecting that Mr. Herriott stood in the hall, close to her door,
listening to the slow sound of her feet on the polished oak floor,
fighting down his longing to enter and take her in his arms.

The "blue room" looked out on the sickle-shaped beach and upon the lake,
and when the sun rose above cliffs at the rear of the house, the racing
waves leaped, crooned, flashed in golden light.

Looping back the lace draperies at the window, Eglah stood watching the
flight of a loon, the quivering, silver flicker of ducks' wings against
the pale pink sky-line, the gliding of a sloop with sails bending like a
huge white butterfly balancing over some vast blue flower.

Walking slowly up the beach, Mr. Herriott was approaching the stile, and
with him the collie Pilot, the Polish wolfhound Tzar, one on each side,
and the wiry black-and-white Skye terrier Snap wriggling in front. At
the stile Amos Lea sat waiting, and master and gardener talked for some
minutes.

After a little the latter rose, put one hand on Mr. Herriott's shoulder,
raised the other, and turned his rugged face toward heaven.

Eglah knew he was praying for the man now hurrying away to multitudinous
dangers, and her eyes grew strangely humid. When the mist cleared, she
saw they were shaking hands, and Amos disappeared behind the garden
wall. As the master neared the terrace steps he glanced up at her
window, took off his cap, and saluted her. He had never looked so
commanding, so nobly built, so superior to all other men. Something
stirred, quivered, woke up in her heart, and a swift spasm of pain
seized her.

A half hour later Mr. Herriott knocked at her door. She opened it, and
one quick glance at the ivory bed and its lace hangings told him she had
not lain down.

"Good morning. Will you come down and give me my coffee, or shall I send
breakfast to you here?"

"I prefer to come down."

He held up a bouquet of heliotrope, daintily arranged.

"Amos Lea's 'compliments to the madam,' and he hopes she will wear these
flowers, as he always cut heliotrope for her when she visited here."

Afraid to trust her voice, she took the bouquet, inhaled its fragrance,
and slipped the stems into the girdle of her silk morning gown.

At the head of the stairs he put his palm under her elbow to steady her
steps, but at the door of the dining-room, where butler and housekeeper
waited, he took her fingers in his, led her to the head of the table,
and seated her. During breakfast he talked of the garden, of his horses,
of some pheasants he knew she would admire, of a tazza on the library
mantel she must be sure to examine, and she wondered at the complete
control and composure he had attained. Was it merely the _noblesse
oblige_ of a courteous host?

After a second cup of coffee, he looked at the clock.

"Hawkins, tell Rivers to bring the dog-cart around. Eglah, come and see
Amos Lea's gloxinias."

He put on his hat and light overcoat, and walked beside her to the
hothouse.

"I shall be busy in town nearly all day, there are so many last things
to be attended to. I had abandoned all idea of joining this expedition,
when I received a letter telling me an important member of the party had
lost his father, and family interests compelled him to stay at home. The
request was urgent that I should cable my acceptance of the invitation,
which I did; hence I have had little time for necessary preparation, and
some things I am obliged to do this morning. Here comes the cart. We
must be at the station by five o'clock this afternoon. Your train
southbound starts just ten minutes before mine leaves for New York.
Trunks will be sent in at three o'clock. While I am away in town I
should be glad to have you look all over the house. Some of the rooms
you have never seen--my laboratory and den. In my bedroom hangs a
portrait of my lovely mother, that I particularly desire you to see.
Good-bye."

He raised his hat, sprang into the cart, and was soon out of sight.

Five moments later the keen, solemn eyes of Amos peered at her from
behind a cluster of tall palms.

"Why didn't you marry him sooner, and keep him at home?"

"I did not know he was going until the day we were married. I hoped and
believed I could induce him to stay, but he had given his word."

"And that word of his he never breaks. Head, heart, purse, maybe will
give way, but not the pledged word of old Fergus Herriott's boy. This
self-murder that goes on in the name of 'science' is a sin in the
nostrils of the Lord, and if only the blear-eyed, spectacled old fools
that set up to know more about creation than Moses did, after he went to
school to God for forty days, could swamp themselves under the ice, it
would be silly enough, and no matter, but for my lad! Susan and I
nursed, rocked him, prayed over his cradle since he was barely one year
old, and now for him to be cast out like Jonah for fish bait. If God had
wanted the North Pole handled and strung with flags it would never have
been shut up in nights six months long, behind ice high as Ararat and
wide as the flood. There will be lonesome days till the lad gets
home--and if he never comes back! Where will his dear bones be in the
resurrection?"

His bearded chin trembled, and his heavy, shaggy white eyebrows met over
his nose.

"Mr. Lea, we must not cease to pray. God needs such noble men as Mr.
Herriott, and He can protect him from every danger."

"Madam, don't 'mister' me. I am just Amos Lea--Noel's Amos. Study your
Bible and you will find out the Lord needs no man; the best of us are
but worthless cumberers of the ground."

He drew his sleeve across his eyes and left her.

Up and down the hothouses, through the shrubbery, over the stile, along
the curving beach and back to the terrace she wandered, striving in vain
to divert her thoughts from one fact that overshadowed everything
else--the master was going away that afternoon, and she might never see
him again. From public disgrace her father was safe, the crisis of acute
terror on his account had passed; but now, as the smoke of the battle
drifted away, she became dimly conscious that she carried a wound she
had not suspected and could not explain. The ache in her heart was
unlike any former pain; there was nothing with which to compare it, and
she dared not analyze it at present. Through the house she walked
aimlessly until she reached the suite of rooms set apart for the master.
In the laboratory she did not linger, but the adjoining apartment she
knew must be the "den," from the strong, pervading odor of cigar smoke.
The wainscoting of carved walnut, five feet high, was surmounted by a
shelf holding a miscellaneous collection of whips, pipes, geological
specimens, flints from Indian mounds, a hematite hatchet, a copper maul,
a jade adze. In one corner of the room stood a totem pole with a
brooding owl; in another a "kahili" of white feathers, with richly
inlaid handle; and upon the wall above the shelf, suspended by heavy
silk cords, a gold-colored "ahulla." Two trunks strapped and ready for
removal had been drawn to the middle of the apartment. On one lay a
heavy overcoat fur lined, and a fine field glass in a leather shield; on
the other a gun case and box of instruments.

She sat down in a deep morocco cushioned chair, from the brass knob of
which hung a somewhat faded silk smoking jacket lined with quilted
orange satin, and looked up at the steel engravings, the etchings, the
water colors on the wall; at some marble and bronze busts on the mantel
shelf, and on the top of a teak cabinet filled with curios from Crete,
Uxmal, Labná, and the Mancos Cañon.

Over the writing desk and a neighboring table were strewn scientific
journals, and on a sheet of paper that had fluttered to the floor on its
way to the over-laden waste basket, bold headlines had been written by
Mr. Herriott:

"First--Were the cliff-dwellers of Asiatic origin?

"Second--Are the Eskimos survivors of pre-glacial man who dwelt within
the Arctic circle when its fauna and flora, under similar climatic
conditions, corresponded with those now existing in Virginia and
Maryland?

"Third--Are kames and drumlins infallible index fingers?"

Whether the page contained notes from some book that he wished to
controvert, or his own views jotted down for future elaboration, she
could not determine; but as she stooped to pick up and preserve it, a
growl startled her, and around the corner of the desk she saw the red
eyes of Tzar. She spoke to him, but he rose, showed his fangs, and
stalked out of the room, the bristles stiff on his dun-colored back. How
long she sat, plunged in painful, perplexed revery, she never knew; but
finally she went to the open door of the bedroom, and leaned against the
facing, unwilling to enter. Over the low, carved chimney-piece hung the
portrait of Mrs. Herriott, a very beautiful young woman in black velvet
and pearls, and the perfect features, the poise of head, the silky black
hair, and especially the fine moulding of brow she gave to her son,
though unlike his her soft, tender eyes matched her hair in color.

Below the portrait a silver frame held a photograph of Eglah in evening
dress, taken in Washington; beside it another, wearing her college cap
and gown. On the dressing table a glittering circle arrested her
attention. Swiftly she entered, crossed the room, and leaned over it. An
exquisitely painted miniature of herself, set with diamonds, and resting
on a carved ivory easel, looked up at her. Two discarded photographs of
Mr. Herriott lay with some torn letters under a neighboring chair. She
snatched one and hurried away, fearing to trust herself; but passing the
smoking jacket she caught it up, folded it under her arm, and escaped to
her room.

Exchanging her trailing morning gown of cream silk for the travelling
suit, she packed her trunk, hiding jacket and photograph beneath the
tray, locked it, and sat down to wait. In the wreck of her overturned
altar and shattered filial ideals, beyond and above the desolation of
her cruel disenchantment, rose one image inflexible, incorruptible,
absolutely invulnerable to temptation, that involved sacrifice of duty.
As the mist cleared, strange new valuations loomed, and she thought of
lines that limned his portrait:

    "Loyalty is still the same,
      Whether it win or lose the game."

For years he had been entirely hers. Now she lost him hopelessly. His
contempt could spare no room for pity; her presence infuriated him.

He had lifted her to a sacred niche where love and reverence jealously
guarded her, and she had hurled herself down into the mire of the market
place.

"For sale! Any man could have bought you, body and soul."

The words branded her. They seemed burned in by the scorn flaming in his
eyes, and she thought of the red letter on Hester Prynne's breast. The
world should never know, but she would carry that scar to her grave.

Soon the clock struck three, and simultaneously the outcry of the dogs
announced their master's return. Hat and gloves in hand, Eglah went down
to the drawing-room, and caught a glimpse of Mr. Herriott hurrying
toward the gardener's cottage. Later he went to his own rooms, and when
dinner was announced apologized for unavoidable delay.

He had reined himself in with a grip so tight that the only evidence of
suppressed excitement was the feverish, steady gleam in his eyes. He
talked of Mrs. St. Clair, of Father Temple, of Trix Stapleton, whom he
should see for a moment in New York.

During a brief lull in the conversation, Eglah said:

"I found your mother's portrait, which you asked me to look at. In an
extraordinary degree you resemble her."

"Thank you. That is a compliment I value. It is indeed a pity she could
not have endowed me with the patience and amiability that so endeared
her to all who knew her."

Very soon the moment came for parting words, and she went down to the
carriage step, leaving him with the servants clustered in the hall, but
Amos Lea was not visible. Mr. Herriott handed Eglah to the back seat,
and for a moment stooped to speak to and pat the head of each dog. As he
entered the carriage and seated himself opposite his companion, slamming
the door as signal to the coachman, the housemaid threw up her hands and
ran down the steps.

"Please, sir, Mr. Herriott, may I speak to you?"

He put out his head.

"What is the matter?"

"The silk jacket, sir. You told me to carry it to Mr. Lea, but, sir, I
can't find it. You must have put it in your trunk."

"No, I wore it this morning after the trunks were locked and strapped."

"Indeed, sir, I have searched your rooms most faithful, and that jacket
is not there."

"You will find it somewhere in the den. Good-bye, Della. Drive on,
Rivers."

The house fronted the lake, and the carriage road at the rear wound
through thick shrubbery, groups of deodars, and a lane of lilacs in full
bloom. The iron gates were open, and against one marble pillar Amos Lea
leaned. As the horses dashed through, he motioned to the driver. At
sight of him Mr. Herriott's face changed, softened; he sprang out and
walked back a few yards.

Through a glass in the curtain Eglah saw the old man's brawny hands laid
on Mr. Herriott's shoulders, and the harsh voice shook.

"Oh, lad! May the Lord bless you and keep you in the hollow of His hand,
and bring your body safely back, and save your dear soul from the snares
of the ungodly that go down to the icy sea in ships. Wherever you wander
Susan's eyes will follow you until you reach that rest where there is no
more night."

"It hurts me sorely to say good-bye to you, Amos. For my sake take extra
care of yourself. Let up on moles and slugs and shotbugs in damp
weather. Look after my dogs for me, and be good to Aunt Trina when she
comes for her visit. One thing more, be sure the tower lamp is lighted
every night. When I am groping and stumbling in Arctic darkness, it will
cheer me to know that light is shining over a black, stormy lake. Now I
must go. I hope God will keep you strong and well. Good-bye."

Then the voice sank so low a few additional words were inaudible to
those beyond the gate. He took the gardener's hands, shook them warmly,
and re-entered the carriage. As he did so Eglah pointed to the seat
beside her, which he accepted, and she saw his eyes were misty.

For some moments neither spoke.

"Aunt Trina is fond of the old place, and I have asked her to spend July
here, with any friends she may wish to bring. She and Amos spar like
prize fighters over immersion and close communion, and he brands her
extreme ritualism 'idolatry rank as the groves of Baal.'"

He looked at his watch, and called to the coachman:

"Rivers, we have very little time to spare."

His closed right hand rested on his knee, and Eglah laid hers upon it.

"Since I was a little girl you have been my faithful, sympathizing,
patient friend, and now I can not bear that you should leave me without
uttering one kind word of forgiveness for the great wrong I realize at
last that I have done you."

"Eglah, for God's sake don't open that door, which shuts out--what I can
not discuss again with you, because I must not wound you."

She noticed the suppressed pant in his voice, and as he did not respond
to the touch of her hand, her slender fingers crept between and twined
around his.

"Mr. Herriott, when you come home----"


"I shall try not to come home."

"If I promise you shall never see me there, perhaps that assurance may
tempt you back. You are casting me out of your life, and I have no right
to complain, but I wish to say that I hope you will have no fear for the
name you gave irrevocably into my keeping."

"You bear my name, my father's name, but I am very sure your little
white hands will hold it clean, pure, and sacred. Should you invoke
legal aid to free you from merely nominal matrimonial bonds, I prefer
you should then resume your father's name. If you choose to make no
change, and I do not return, the name will die with you, and I believe
you will guard it as you would the Grail."

Unconsciously his hand tightened on hers, until the edge of the ring cut
into her finger.

"Mr. Herriott, you will write to me?"

He shook his head.

Looking intently at her, he noticed the deep blue shadows under her
eyes, and the first tears he had ever seen her shed rolled slowly over
her worn face.

"Unless my letters were hollow shams, they would only distress you, and
all future annoyance I wish to avoid. Silence is the only possible
peace."

At this moment the carriage stopped, and he looked out.

"Why do you lag, Rivers?"

"A train, sir. Switch engine and gravel cars."

"Drive around it."

"I can't, sir. Red signal just ahead of the horse's nose."

Mr. Herriott stepped out, and walked for some minutes up and down the
embankment. Then the train pulled out, and when he re-entered his
carriage he took the front seat.

"I sent a telegram to your father, which ought to reach him in
Washington, telling him the number of your train, and your hotel in
Philadelphia; and I hope your return journey will prove more agreeable
than your trip with me. If any necessity should arise that would require
you to communicate with me, you will find this card in the outside
pocket of your satchel, but the address means only that letters will be
forwarded to Upernavik. When we leave there no mail will reach us."

The carriage drew up to the platform, and Mr. Herriott assisted Eglah
into the train. With her wraps and satchel he preceded her to the
drawing-room.

"This is more comfortable than the one you occupied two days ago, and I
trust you can rest well. Here are your tickets and check. This train is
almost ready to start, and mine moves in ten minutes. In parting I make
only one request. I ask you now to put me out of your life. I want you
to forget me, and be happy with your father. Good-bye."


His face was white, and the expression of his eyes she never forgot.

He had extended his hand, but the horrible possibilities of the future
swept all proud scruples aside, and she put her arms around his neck,
clinging desperately to him.

"Mr. Noel, you shall never, never, be out of my life! I will always
belong to my--own--Mr. Noel."

The check rein snapped.

He clasped--strained her against his breast, and she felt the furious
beating of his heart. It was barely a moment. Gently he unwound her
arms, put her quickly aside, and left her.



CHAPTER XXIII


The resumption of cordially affectionate relations between Judge Kent
and his daughter was marked on her part by increased tenderness and
deference, on his by demonstrative caresses particularly conspicuous
after years of alienation. His exactions upon her time became despotic;
he was dissatisfied when she was out of his sight, and if within reach
his hand usually rested on her arm or shoulder. The paramount aim of her
life was attained. She was assured that she reigned supreme in her
coveted kingdom--his heart. Freed from dread of public exposure, his
spirits rebounded, and his jovial, self-indulgent nature enjoyed basking
once more before the fire of financial prosperity, exulted in the
consciousness that at last the long desired Maurice fortune was at his
command. Eglah wondered that from the hour he met her in Philadelphia he
asked no questions concerning her bridal journey--no explanation of her
unexpectedly hurried return.

He sedulously avoided all mention of Mr. Herriott, except to rail at the
imbecility of Arctic explorers, and suspecting that he smarted from the
humiliating knowledge that his son-in-law had possessed proofs of his
guilt, she welcomed silence as balm for her sore heart. From the day of
her return to Nutwood she severed every social tie linking her with
Y----. Of visiting she made an end, all invitations were declined, and
she was seen only at church, beside her father. They rode, drove, walked
together. On his fishing jaunts she read while he wandered from pool to
pool, and made tea for him when, tired and thirsty, he came back to a
shaded spot where she waited. Now and then a few of his friends spent an
evening in the billiard room, or played cards in the library, and
discussed Republican policies. At night Eliza Mitchell usually brought
her sewing to the table, Judge Kent smoked in his easy chair, and Eglah
arranged the chessboard at his elbow, or read aloud from some volume he
had selected. It rarely happened that she received his good-night kiss
until she had played a _nocturne_ or an _étude_ for which he asked. He
had an ardent, sensuous love of beauty in color, form, sound;
impassioned poetry, deep, rich melody, and subtle harmonies entranced
him, dimmed his fine, eloquent eyes. His musical taste had been
cultivated in accordance with classical standards, and while his
daughter's proficiency was not extraordinary, she played skilfully and
with a tenderly magnetic touch that justified his compliment: "My
daughter has tears in her pretty fingers."

When a proud, reticent, beautiful woman suddenly takes an unusual and
totally unexpected step, abrogating fashionable conventions--when,
keeping her own counsel, she disdains explanation and shuts herself away
from curious questioners--the hounds of gossip are unleashed, and
beagles and fox-terriers follow in full cry. Outraged Y---- hummed like
a swarming hive.

"Married without a sign of a trousseau, on a few hours' notice, with
barely time to get a license, a ring and a minister, and to pack her
trunk! Disgraceful!"

Rumors of Mr. Herriott's wealth swelled to fabulous proportions. A
sister of Dr. Burbridge, whose young cousin was employed in the office
of the telegraph company, plied him with questions, until indiscreetly
and reluctantly he confided to her that two telegrams sent by the groom
showed that he had not come to Y---- intending marriage; whereupon she
set afloat information which merely increased the complexity of the
problem. Judge Kent had been so long the community scapegoat that in the
final public solution and adjustment of disreputable responsibility, an
additional load of selfish, wily iniquity was laid on his sin-stained
shoulders. By cunning chicanery he had forced his daughter's sudden
marriage, hoping that Arctic dangers, often fatal, would soon make her a
widow dowered with millions.

Even the few who witnessed the ceremony, and recalled Eglah's
inscrutable white face, understood as little as the resentful uninvited,
yet when questioned they loyally maintained reserve.

Bishop Vivian, Mr. Whitfield, and the Egglestons warmly defended the
girl, whom secretly they pitied, but society pilloried her.

"She was shamelessly mercenary, absolutely devoid of womanly delicacy,
and a shocking disgrace to her poor mother's family."

Henceforth the anti-Kent social element in Y---- resolved itself into a
vigilance committee to watch her behavior as a married woman.

Into the whirlpool of tittle-tattle Mrs. Mitchell wisely abstained from
plunging. Her own information was too meagre, her uneasiness concerning
Eglah's stubborn silence and inexplicable manner too profound to admit
of discussion, even in defence. She staid at home, bided her time, and
held her peace. Moreover, she was wrestling with conscientious scruples
regarding her duty in withholding from Eglah some disquieting facts
known only to herself.

The second night after his daughter's departure, Judge Kent had indulged
in stimulants to an unprecedented and alarming extent. With a decanter
of brandy at his elbow, he dozed in his arm-chair until roused by Aaron,
who delivered a telegram. Eliza was going upstairs to her own room, when
the boy rang the bell and handed in the message.

"Lock up the house, Aaron. I think the judge is sleepy and will soon go
to bed."

An hour later she sat reading her Bible, and heard a sound as of some
heavy object falling. Snatching her lamp, she went swiftly to the
library. The overturned decanter was slowly emptying itself on the
table, and Judge Kent lay on the floor, his head resting against the
cushioned seat of his chair. Evidently he had risen, slipped on the
polished floor, dropped the decanter, and lost consciousness.

His face was purple, his breathing stertorous. Holding his head, she
pushed the chair back and laid him flat on the floor.

Was it apoplectic seizure or intoxication? Her inexperience justified no
independent action, yet if drunkenness explained existing conditions,
she shrank from publishing the disgrace that would mortally wound Eglah.

Bathing his head and face, she administered such restoratives as she
possessed, and loosened his vest and collar. Finally it seemed necessary
to summon Aaron and send Oliver for the doctor, but as she rose to ring
the bell Judge Kent opened his eyes. A dark, turbid red still stained
his face, but his respiration was less labored.

"Don't move. After a little I can get Oliver to help you into bed."

"I had a fall?"

His utterance was thick, his articulation indistinct, and he hiccoughed.

"Yes, sir. You are better, I think, and if you will only lie still a
while you can soon be made comfortable in your own room."

She went into the adjoining apartment, saw that the bed had been
prepared, and a lamp lighted. When she returned he had struggled into a
sitting posture, his arms clasped around his knees. She sat down and
waited. On the table lay the brandy-stained telegram sent by Mr.
Herriott after he had burned the papers at Carville. She picked it up,
read it twice, and laid it down.

"Mrs. Mitchell, if you will help me I can get into a chair."

She took his extended hands, and he rose slowly, staggered against her,
and sank into his chair. Five minutes later he slept, but gradually his
face resumed its usual color. Eliza brought a basin of water from the
bedroom, washed away the brandy streaks from the floor and table, and
with a silk handkerchief dried and polished the fine old mahogany,
already whitening from its alcoholic bath. She went to an open window
and waited. The night was balmy, and loitering, thievish puffs of air
came laden with rifled sweetness from multitudinous lips of forest and
garden bloom. Far away the muffled monody of the river falls rose
towards the stars, whose light wove a golden braid across the water's
quivering crystal plunge over granite crags. In the dense shadow of the
walnut grove a squirrel barked, and from their red cedar covert the game
cocks shrilled midnight.

After two hours Judge Kent awoke and groaned. Mrs. Mitchell handed him a
goblet of iced water, which he drained.

"Shall I go and rouse Oliver, or would you prefer Aaron to assist you?"

"I don't want either. If you will help me over this infernally slippery
floor to my bedroom sofa, I can manage."

"You do not wish the doctor sent for?"

"No."

She took his arm, guided his unsteady steps to the sofa, arranged a
pillow, and unlaced his shoes. Very soon his deep, regular breathing
assured her the worst had passed. Was it the brandy, or the telegram or
both? What were the "Ely Twiggs" papers, of which Eglah must know
nothing, and why was she coming home immediately, instead of going to
Sydney, or at least as far as Boston? Could Mr. Herriott have been a
party to some scheme whereby she was entrapped into that sudden
marriage?

At three o'clock she looked from the library door at the sleeping form
on the sofa, and with anxiety allayed, went upstairs to her room.
Awaiting a cue, she made no inquiries when he appeared at late
breakfast, and with characteristic aplomb his only reference to the
previous evening was an apology for troubling her to give him a third
cup of tea.

"My head is a trifle shaky from the jar of that fall. Men of my age and
weight can not afford to sit down so heavily on bare boards, and I shall
insist on matting when the carpets are taken up."

The receipt of the telegram requesting him to meet his daughter in
Philadelphia was followed by hurried preparations for departure, and
Mrs. Mitchell ventured to expostulate.

"Judge Kent, if you realized how serious was your attack in the library,
you would not risk the imprudence of a railway journey. You ought to see
your doctor. Let me go and meet Eglah in Philadelphia."

His bloodshot eyes twinkled as they met hers.

"Doctor? Absurd! Attack? You mean that unlucky slip? It amounts to
nothing except a stubborn stiffness on the side where I struck those
diabolical sand-scoured boards. I particularly desire the matter should
not be mentioned to my daughter, who would reproach herself severely for
that 'dry-rubbed' floor she knows I detest as a cat does swimming."

During his absence a cabinet maker was summoned and removed the ugly
grey stains on Eglah's favorite piece of old claw-footed mahogany. For a
time the incident seemed forgotten by all save the quiet, silent woman
keeping watch for the consequences.

A few days after Eglah's return she sat at a window in her bedroom,
noting the deepening glory of the west, where the sun was just sinking
behind purple hills. It was the date on which the "Ahvungah" would leave
Sydney and begin her voyage to the world of eternal ice.

The day had seemed one of doom, as if set for a funeral, and the going
down of the sun brought other shadows--darker than the mists that would
soon swim under the stars. If Mr. Herriott had forgiven her she might
have gone to Cape Breton, could have been with him till the last moment.
Now he was upon the ocean, and only God knew the future that looked so
black, so spectral, so full of desolation.

Mrs. Mitchell opened the door and handed her a package.

"Dearie, the express messenger brought this, and I signed for you."

She went back to her own room and resumed her darning.

The parcel was addressed in Mr. Herriott's handwriting: "Mrs. Noel
Herriott. Care Hon. Allison Kent." A wave of color flowed over Eglah's
pale face as she looked at her new name, and felt assured his eyes had
gleamed with scorn as he penned it. A pass-book and check-book of a New
York bank, with note from the cashier, were the first objects that met
her eye, and were instantly thrown aside; then a square box, elaborately
sealed. When she removed the wrapping paper a red morocco case appeared,
and around it was tied a note without a personal address.

     "Just before my father died he gave me two rings; one the
     little gold band that hangs on my watch chain--my mother's
     wedding ring. The other a stone he had given her on the day of
     their betrothal. When he laid them in my hand, he said: 'Wear
     one always. If you should ever marry, give the other, with my
     blessing, to the woman who bears our name.' Because it was his
     wish, I simply obey his injunction, and trust the ring sacred
     from my mother's touch will grace the hand it was once my
     fondest hope, my most ardent wish to claim. This should reach
     you the day we leave Sydney. The sham is ended. Your freedom is
     now complete. Do not hesitate to use it in any way that will
     restore the happiness you so unwisely, so rashly imperilled. If
     possible, your path in future shall be spared my shadow.
     Good-bye.

     "HERRIOTT."

The words stung like a scourge, and involuntarily she covered her face
with her hands. Time merely increased his bitterness; there was nothing
more for her to hope or expect. He intended perpetual separation.

Mechanically she lifted the ring from its velvet bed. It was a superb
diamond, marked on the inside of the gold band, "Fergus to Una." The
circle fitted only one finger, that wearing the wedding ring, and was
too broad to share it. She replaced the jewel in its case and closed it.
A little later, when Mrs. Mitchell came in, the stony, despairing face
of the girl startled her. She ran forward and took her in her arms.

"What is the matter? You have shut me out long enough; now I will know.
You have heard from Mr. Herriott?"

"Yes. He sent me a check-book for money on deposit and a ring that had
been his mother's."

"What are you breaking your heart over? O my baby, don't keep your
trouble from me! The dreadful night you went away you asked me not to
question you, but I must; I can't bear the sight of your dear face.
Nobody loves you as I do, and you know you can trust me."

Eglah was silent a moment, and Eliza felt her shiver.

"Yes, I am sure your love is the truest I shall ever possess, and I
trust you; but some things are like red coals, and you shrink from
handling them. Suppose you had wounded your Robert so deeply, so sorely
he never forgave you, would you wish to drag the horror up and talk of
the details? Put yourself in my place."

"I cannot understand, because Mr. Herriott loves you so devotedly he
would forgive anything you might have done."

"You do not know him; neither did I before I left home. I made the
mistake of presuming too far on his love. I wronged him, and he will
never forgive me."

"I refuse to believe you wronged him."

"Yes, I did him a great wrong. I did not intend to wound him, and when I
realized all that followed, it was too late for remedy. I don't wish to
say anything more, even to you. The thought of the red coals scorches my
heart. If the time should ever come when I feel I can talk freely, you
will not need to question. Until then, love me and be patient, and leave
me to myself. To-day Mr. Herriott is at sea--gone on his long voyage. O
Ma-Lila! Ma-Lila, pray to God that he may never come home! Or that if he
lives, I may die soon."

"You foolish, wicked girl! Are you crazy?"

"I have been, but my late tenants have gone into the swine. A week ago
they possessed me, and wild work followed. Since their departure I find
it impossible to regain my old self. I have, after frightful nightmare,
awakened a very repentant, an exceedingly miserable woman, but the fault
was all mine. Mr. Herriott was not to blame. He is even nobler than you
know, nobler than I dreamed; but I wounded, injured him past pardon; and
now I purpose to bear in silence, and as best I may, a sorrow that I
alone have brought upon myself. No one can help me. I only ask to be
spared all questions, all reference to my marriage. Father is calling
me. Will you give him his tea? Ask him to excuse me. Good-night. I wish
to be alone until breakfast."

When Eliza went downstairs next morning, Eglah was coming from the side
garden with both hands full of dewy roses for the table vase, and,
having listened until two o'clock to the restless footsteps in the room
next to her own, the foster-mother glanced anxiously at her.

The cold, passionless repose that comes only after a fierce and vital
struggle had settled upon her white, worn face, and the woman who knew
her best could not determine whether it meant conquest or surrender.

As summer advanced, Eglah noticed the frequency with which her father
fell asleep in the midst of conversation, and when he dozed one day with
a bowl of sherbet in his hand, she became alarmed and sent for Dr.
Plympton, an old friend of Judge Kent's, who had moved South and settled
in Y---- during the dismal days of carpet bag rule.

He gave him tonics, diet regimen on which he laid much stress, and
ordered the family away to certain springs in a distant State. Having
secured a cottage, Eglah avoided the hotel and maintained complete
seclusion. Her father keenly enjoyed the change, and gradually the
tendency to drowse was less apparent, but the prohibition of alcoholic
drinks fretted him, and that which was tabooed at the cottage was
alluringly accessible at the hotel.

When the season closed, he and Eglah decided to stop _en route_ for a
day, to pay their long promised visit to Calvary House.

As Mrs. Mitchell could not be persuaded to enter "an Episcopal monkish
institution" of which she disapproved so vigorously, she went back alone
to Nutwood and busied herself with household preparations for winter.

When the judge and his daughter reached home, Dr. Plympton expressed
himself much pleased with improved conditions which Mrs. Mitchell could
not discover, and Eglah's apprehensions were allayed. Her father's
increasing dependence upon her touched and cheered her inexpressibly,
and for his sake she diligently assisted him in work that forced her
thoughts into a new channel. An important appropriation bill, in which
Judge Kent's native State was much interested, would be presented to
Congress about the middle of December, or soon after the holiday recess,
and he had been requested by old friends and constituents to address the
Senate committee, advocating a favorable report. The collection and
arrangement of necessary statistics kept her busy at his side, and when
the last type-written page was added to the pile at his elbow, he patted
her hand fondly and complimented her useful accuracy.

Rejoicing in the accomplishment of their tedious task, the trap was
ordered, and father and daughter drove until the dinner hour.

She noticed he dozed twice while she talked, although when they reached
home he seemed as well as usual, humming a gay little Sicilian song as
he divested himself of overcoat and muffler. It had been a perfect
autumn day, crisp, crystalline. The deep, vivid yellow of the great
undulating mass of walnut foliage hung against the western sky like
cloth of gold curtains around a porphyry shrine, above which Venus
burned as ministering taper. With her cheek pressed to the window pane
in the library, Eglah watched the fading after-glow, and her hands
clutched each other. This was the day when from the iron-bound,
ice-sheathed fiords of Smith's Sound the sun disappeared. The long Polar
night had set in. Would Mr. Herriott ever see the sun again?

She had procured all books written in English that related to Arctic
travel, and in the sanctuary of her own room prepared, from an almanac
and from explorer's diaries, a calendar, noting the length of each day,
the coming of the moon, the date of shortest twilight, the falling of
total darkness. Mr. Herriott's voyage began in May; no tidings had
reached her. She expected none, but her lips moved: "Oh, God, keep him
in safety through the awful night!"

The dreary vision of her imagination contrasted sharply with the
luxurious aspect of the library, where a fire of oak logs glowed beyond
the marble hearth. A crimson velvet carpet covered the floor, and warm
winter draperies enhanced the atmosphere of comfort. On the table an
oval cut-glass basket held great clusters of orange chrysanthemums; not
the huge, solitary, odorless globes now so popular in cities, but
thickly studded, fragrant branches that bloom nowhere with such lavish
sweetness as in old Southern gardens.

Mrs. Mitchell brightened the lamp and began to match the squares of a
calico "rising sun" quilt she was making as her Christmas present to the
Methodist parsonage. Judge Kent leaned back in his arm-chair, his
silver-powdered head on the red cushion, good looking, debonair,
thoroughly content; and in one hand he held a richly gilded liqueur
glass, brimming with an emerald cordial. Eglah came to his side and put
her hand on his wrist.

"Father, Dr. Plympton forbids liqueurs. Please do not drink that."

"Only a thimbleful of _crème de menthe_! Babies take mint tea. Even Mrs.
Mitchell drinks this."

His fine eyes sparkled mischievously, and he bowed to her.

"No, sir. I make my mint cordial from my own garden, and I know what is
in it; but you can't be sure about foreign-fangled mixtures."

"I wish to make sure that delicious gumbo-filé will not give me
nightmare."

"Father, I begged you not to touch it, and you had your favorite clam
bouillon the doctor commends so highly."

"Bouillon--gumbo-filé? 'As moonlight unto sunlight, and as water unto
wine.' My duchess, don't scold. Your pretty mouth was made for sweeter
uses. Kiss me."

He brushed his white mustache aside, and leaning down she pressed her
lips to his.

"Father, are you quite well to-night?"

"Quite well, and absolutely happy. Now, give me some music to round out
and seal this glorious, perfect day."

She opened the upright piano, and while she played one of his favorite
fugues--Handel's in E minor--he kept time, swinging the tiny, gilded
glass. Flickering flames in the wide chimney were reflected on the
polished rosewood panels of the piano, and as they wavered up and down
before her, Eglah thought of spectral auroral fringes flashing in
moonless Polar night, staining with prismatic hues the world of snow,
kindling red beacons on pinnacles of immemorial ice.

The fugue ended, and as her fingers left the keys a tinkling crash
caused her to turn her head.

The liqueur glass was shattered on the floor and Judge Kent lay
insensible in his chair.

Paralysis appeared so complete that for some days Doctors Plympton and
Eggleston entertained no hope; but the sufferer rallied surprisingly,
and while his utterance was not fully intelligible, and he never
regained the use of his lower limbs, he was often conscious.

Mrs. Mitchell and the physicians would have welcomed a passionate
outbreak of the silent grief that seemed to have frozen Eglah, as, calm
and dry-eyed, she ministered in the sick-room she rarely left. Two
faithful men assisted in nursing--one by day, one by night, because she
could not lift her father--and she slept on a cot beside him, or across
the foot of his bed. She administered all his medicine, fed him with her
own hands, caressed, and cheered him.

After a few weeks, though entirely helpless, he was able to be dressed
and lifted into a reclining rolling-chair, and when the weather
permitted she wheeled him around the sunny side of the long colonnade,
where he usually fell asleep. The speech arranged so carefully for the
Senate committee she read again critically, made a few corrections, and
forwarded it with a brief announcement of his illness to the friends who
had employed Judge Kent to prepare and deliver it in committee room.

Her stern self-repression discouraged conversation relative to the
sufferer, and she buoyed herself with no false hopes.

A ripple of compassion stirred Y----, and some who had criticized her
most severely for her haughty aloofness--some whose sole grievance was
her absolute devotion to an "unprincipled father"--left cards, words of
sympathy, and flowers for Mrs. Herriott. Except the doctors, she saw no
one but Mrs. Eggleston and Mr. Whitfield, who had lost his wife a few
months previous. Bishop Vivian had died during the summer, but her
father's rector came often. At times the sick man's clouded mind seemed
incapable of retaining any impression, but he never failed to respond to
music, and when his chair was rolled close to the piano and Eglah played
selections he loved best, it comforted her to watch the pleased,
contented expression of the placid, handsome old face so dear to her.
Noticing how wan and drawn the girl's lips were, the physicians urged
Mrs. Mitchell to persuade her to drive or walk.

"No. I will not lose sight of him for a moment. He is my all, and what
becomes of me makes no difference. I have but one wish now--to go with
him."

One bright, warm day, late in December, Judge Kent appeared surprisingly
better, though his articulation continued very indistinct, and his
daughter understood him best because she closely watched his lips. The
doctors had made their morning visit, and, wrapped in his dressing-gown,
the sick man asked to be rolled into sunshine.

Eglah tucked a lap robe carefully about the reclining form, and he
feebly lifted the one hand he could move, and pointed to the glass door.

"That way; not through library."

She unlocked and opened it, wheeling the chair out on the colonnade, and
some change in his countenance arrested her attention. Bending down, she
found tears on his cheeks.

"You opened this door the day Herriott came. Because you heard him tell
me about Keith, you married him. You burned the papers--you saved me."

"No, father; no!"

She fell on her knees and hid her face in his gown.

"You tried to keep me from knowing you heard Herriott, but I saw you.
You married him for my sake. My blessed child! When I am gone, I want
you to remember no other man ever had such a daughter. My Eglah----"

After a moment he sighed, and with great difficulty added slowly:

"My dear, kiss me, and always--always you must know--how precious
you--are, precious----"

She kissed him twice, dried his cheeks, and, as he turned his head on
the pillow and closed his eyes, she rolled him up and down the
colonnade, hoping that during his nap he would forget. He often slept
soundly in this way, soothed by the motion like a child in a carriage.

Was he laboring under some delusion of an enfeebled brain--did he dream?
Or was it possible he had actually seen her leave his room on her errand
of rescue?

A half hour later a veil of cloud drifted across the sun, a blast of
wind leaped out of the northwest, and, fearing a change of temperature,
she turned the chair toward the door and wheeled it inside.

Leaning tenderly over the sleeper, his quiet, cold, set face told her he
had gone to that bar of final trial where, in his Maker's infinite
mercy, only He who fashions and reads human hearts and sees entirely
around the circle of circumstances, can justly judge.

A low, long-drawn, quivering cry, as of some creature mortally stricken,
summoned Mrs. Mitchell, who found the girl huddled over the still form,
his grey head lifted to her breast.

Holding her solitary vigil that night beside him, her cheek laid on his
shoulder, her hand clasping his icy, interlocked fingers, she found a
solace which surprised her in the assurance that he had known the
significance of her sacrifice--that he loved her better in consequence
of all she had ventured and suffered in his behalf. Her supreme dread
had been his discovery of the cause of her marriage, but now and then
the scowling menace from which we cower, breaks in smiling, tender
benediction. To love, that prompts and sustains in crucial hours of
self-immolation, is occasionally added a transforming exaltation that
sublimates the unworthy object for whom the sacrifice is borne; and the
most pityingly merciful of all angels--Death--extinguishes life with one
hand, while the other smooths scars of character, levels unlovely
angles, lifts shadows of sin, and gives to memory that magic mantle
whose halo never fades.

With singular and unnatural calmness, Eglah had arranged the details of
the funeral service next day in her father's church. She telegraphed
Father Temple to meet her in Washington _en route_ to the North, and
asked Mr. Whitfield to go with her until her cousin joined her on the
train.

To lay her father to rest among his enemies in Y---- was unendurable;
she would take him to the cemetery in his native State, where his
parents and sisters slept, and erect a monument there in sight of his
constituents who had honored and loved him.

It had grown very cold; there was no fire in the long drawing-room,
where portraits of Maurices and Vivians stared imperiously down at the
alien lying motionless under the great cut-glass chandelier. Silent and
tearless the girl kept watch. The undertaker had mentioned the date to
be inscribed on the casket plate, and she recalled her Arctic calendar.
This was the solstice, the sunless midnight, the core of Polar winter.
To-morrow the sun would begin to climb back to Mr. Herriott, but the sun
of her life had set forever. A shudder shook her, and she nestled
closer, laying her lips against her father's throat. Eliza laid heavier
wraps around the stooping shoulders, placed a hot blanket under her
feet, and now and then kissed the girl's bowed head, but no words, no
sob, profaned the sacred silence.

When the body was carried to the chancel of the crowded church, she
walked alone, followed closely by the few who best understood her
isolation. Shrouded in black, she sat still and silent as her dead; and
some persons present who had cause for bitterness against
"reconstruction judiciary" forgot their wrongs in genuine pity for the
proud and lonely mourner.

Under a fragrant pall, woven of smilax and his favorite double white
violets, that covered the casket and fell to its handles, she bore him
away to the stony hills of New England.



CHAPTER XXIV


Its alliterative jingle had probably commended Dairy Dingle to Marcia
Maurice when she selected a name for the new home of the overseer,
Robert Mitchell. Here he brought his bride from Nutwood, where she had
lived since her father's death on the battle-field. A Federal cavalry
raid, intended specially for the looting of Y---- and the destruction of
its factories, had loitered too long at Willow Bend plantation, and
finding Confederate squadrons in hot pursuit, the Union troopers were
forced to retreat, after burning every building in sight except the
cabins of the negroes. General Maurice loved the rambling, airy,
old-fashioned country house where he was born, and here he usually
brought his family to spend Christmas, and make genuine holiday for his
numerous slaves. After the raid only rock chimneys stood as
commemorative pillars, and not a vestige of gin-house, cotton sheds, or
stables was visible. At a hard gallop the fleeing troopers passed an
adjacent grist-mill which supplied several plantations with meal, and
paused long enough to kindle a blaze in a pile of corn sacks. The
miller, a lame negro, extinguished the flames, and preserved a structure
where several generations had brought their contributions to the hopper.
Near this old red mill Mrs. Maurice built a house for her overseer, and
after Eliza's marriage gave it and the adjoining fifty acres of cleared
land to the young wife. It was a small, square box of a house, with four
rooms, broad, low-pitched piazzas, and wide hall running through the
middle. Where the rear gallery ended, a covered way, brick paved, led to
the kitchen and servants' room. On the left, at a sudden dip of the
land, and several hundred yards distant, stood the spring house, or
stone dairy, a low structure built over a small stream running from the
bold spring that gushed out of the hillside a few feet away--and falling
into the creek just above the mill-dam.

A shallow canal dug through the centre of the dairy had been paved with
rock, and here, winter and summer, the milk bowls and butter jars stood
in water rippling against their sides.

While General Maurice lived, he kept only his Jersey herd at Nutwood,
but at Willow Bend his famous Short-horns, red, and red roan, roamed
over pasturage extending hundreds of acres. The "cow pen" and milking
shed were not visible, hidden on the edge of a plateau running far away
to a stretch of primeval, lonely pine woods crossed only by cattle
paths. In a green cup encircled by wimpling hills the overseer's home
nestled like a white bird hovering to drink. The sharply curving creek
that divided it from the plantation was bridged a half mile below the
mill, and a dense growth of trees and vines clothed the banks. In an
opposite direction, beyond the house, and mantling the upland slopes,
lay fields of grain, glistening as the wind crinkled the yellowing
folds.

Locust and china trees, overrun by English honeysuckle, coral, and buff
woodbine, shaded the cottage, and all about the spring house clustered
azaleas--white, pink, orange, scarlet--filling the quiet hollow with
waves of incomparable perfume. Hanging on the bluff above the bubbling
spring a thicket of titi swung exquisite opal plumes, over which bees
drowsed; and crowding to the front for dress parade clung a line of
mountain laurel or "ivy" faintly flushed with pale-rose clusters waiting
to burst into bloom and with their crimped shell-pink cups rival fluted
and tinted treasures from Sèvres and Murano.

       *       *       *       *       *

Into this green, shadowy dingle had come its long absent mistress, and,
closing Nutwood, Eglah shared her foster-mother's secluded home in the
heart of the pine woods.

For many months after her father's death she seemed a mute, breathing
statue rather than a suffering woman, so deep lay the pain no words
could fathom. Close and tender as were the ties linking the two, Eliza
dared not probe the wound, and when Eglah closed the door of her own
room, the loving little mother would have broken into a sealed tomb as
soon as violate her solitude.

Two miles beyond the plantation, across the creek, a new railway line
had established a station called Maurice, and about this nucleus a
village grew with surprising rapidity. The site selected on Eglah's land
by the railway company chanced to be that of the neighborhood
school-house, where, on the fourth Sunday of each month, a Methodist
minister of many mission chapels preached. Mrs. Mitchell had organized a
Sabbath school, and Eglah had given a cabinet organ, but the figure
shrouded in mourning was seen only when driving in her trap, or more
frequently alone on horseback. These long rides through rolling pine
forests and silent sunny glades, where she met none but her own
velvet-eyed, browsing red cattle, and shy, happy rabbits, were hours of
immeasurable relief; yet, at intervals, proved battle-ground on which
she fought the crowding spectres of a sombre, brooding future. Political
and social ambitions were shut forever in her father's grave; domestic
duties ended when the doors and gates of Nutwood had been locked; and
business affairs were in far wiser hands than hers. What should she do
with her empty life?

One afternoon, goaded by sad thoughts, she had ridden farther than
usual, and, returning, reined her horse in at the brink of a meadow to
tighten her coil of hair, shaken by a rapid gallop. Before her a group
of young, red, dappled calves lay in the thick grass, their soft eyes
wonderingly alert, and all Pan's orchestra seemed rehearsing. A
wood-lark in a crab-apple bush set the pitch, a red-bird followed; two
crows answered from the top of an ancient pine, and among beech boughs a
velvet-throated thrush trilled, while under sedge shadows frogs croaked
a hoarse bassoon. From the edge of a pool dimpling the turf white herons
rose, flitting slowly across an orange sky, where cloud fringes burned
in the similitude of scarlet tulips. If she could cease to be a woman
with an aching heart and an immortal soul, what a peaceful home was here
among the sinless forest children vast mother earth had called to sing
and play in her pine-roofed, grassy nursery. If the sylvan quietude of
this Theocritan retreat had power to witch her surging pulses to
unbroken calm, she might hide for ever in her own green aisles, secure
from stinging shafts of gossip and derision. She lifted the reins and
the horse sprang forward.

A year ago Mr. Herriott had sailed. No tidings reached her; no allusion
to the "Ahvungah" had appeared in any of the newspapers she searched
daily. She knew the vessel would not stop at an American port--would
return directly to Europe from the Arctic circle--but the American press
would chronicle the close of the expedition. If disaster had overtaken
it, how soon could she know?

Was Mr. Herriott frozen fast in the awful desolation of Whale Sound, or
sledging in a race with death across that vast, level, white ice desert
of compacted snow in central Greenland, eight thousand feet above the
sea, swept by Polar winds that never sleep? Wherever Arctic fetters held
him, the moon shone constantly two weeks for him, and after the long
night a returning sun was now gilding the minarets of icebergs and
unlocking the bars of floes.

If he never came back she could indulge the love that so unexpectedly
stirred her heart, that had grown swiftly since he left her; if he
survived and returned she must hide her affection and herself far from
the biting, branding scorn that would always glow in his eyes. How could
she bear the dreary coming years of a possibly long life? There were
hours in which she tried to hope he would not come back; but recalling
that one moment when he held her so tight to his breast, she seemed to
feel again the furious beating of his heart which had never belonged to
any woman but herself, and, as the memory thrilled her, into her wan
face crept a joyful flush. At last, too late, her heart was his, but he
no longer desired or valued it. He had cast her out of his life. Riding
slowly homeward in the star-powdered, silvery-grey gloaming, she locked
her torturing thoughts behind the mask of silence that was becoming
habitual, and near the mill met Mrs. Mitchell's tender eyes on watch for
her.

A few mornings later, Eglah stood in the dairy door, looking up beyond a
sentry line of tall pear trees uniformed in vivid green, to the
hillside, where lay the peach orchard a month before in full flower,
billowing gently like a wide coverlet of pink silk shaken in sunlight.
Followed by Delilah, who knew the haunts of water-rats in the velvet
moss low on the banks, she walked toward the creek. Over one corner of
the deserted red mill a dewberry vine feathered with blossoms rambled
almost to the sagging roof, and along the ruined line of the old race
ferns held up their lace fronds to shade the lilac spikes of
water-hyacinths. It was a cool, lonely place, sweet with the breath of
wild flowers, silent save the endless adagio in minors played by crystal
fingers of the stream stealing down the broken, crumbling stone dam. In
that quiet nook all outside noises seemed intrusive, and Eglah listened
to the beat of a horse's hoofs cantering across the bridge below the
mill. Very soon Mr. Boynton appeared and dismounted.

"Good morning, Miss Eglah. A telegram was forwarded from Y----, and as I
happened to be at Maurice when it came, I brought it at once."

"Thank you very much."

She took the message and walked away a few steps, struggling for
strength to face the worst.

     "Mrs. Noel Herriott:

     "Amos Lea has been ill for months. To-day I am called to
     Chicago to my sick son. Della will not stay here without me.
     Some woman ought to come.

     "AMANDA ORR."

"I hope it is good news about your husband?"

"Mr. Boynton, it might be worse. Sickness in Mr. Herriott's household
seems to require that I should go to his home for a few days. Please
wait here until I can go to the house and find out what must be done. I
may trouble you to attend to some matters for me."

Mrs. Mitchell sat on the steps at the rear of the cottage, stemming a
bowl of strawberries and warily watching the elusive feints of a white
turkey hen picking her way to a nest hidden in a tangle of blackberry
vines. Eglah held the open telegram before her eyes and waited.

"I suppose you want me to go?"

"I wish you to be there with me. I can not go alone."

"Dearie, you can't nurse the gardener. If Mr. Herriott were at home he
would not listen to any such nonsense."

"I like Amos Lea, and I intend to put him in the hands of a good trained
nurse until Mrs. Orr returns."

"That could be done easily by telegraph or letter. But, my baby, if it
would comfort you to be in the house----"

Eglah threw up her hand with a warning gesture.

"I wish to stay only a few days; just long enough to assure myself that
the old man is carefully attended to. I prefer not to start from Y----,
and the train despatcher at Maurice can stop the up train at 11.45. We
need no trunk, and I have the money to pay our way on. I shall write and
have more forwarded from the bank. Ma-Lila, I wish to start to-night.
Can you get ready?"

The little woman's level brows puckered, but the light in her eyes was a
caress.

"Can I refuse any of your foolish whims? I have spoiled you all your
life, and it is rather late in the day for me to undertake to oppose
you. I see Hiram Boynton waiting, and I must arrange with him to have
his boys sleep here and take care of everything in our absence. You know
my pet cow's calf is only three days old, and her udder needs watching."

They reached Greyledge at noon, accompanied by the middle-aged nurse
commended by the matron of a hospital in the neighboring city. At the
sound of carriage wheels on the stone driveway, the dogs greeted them
from the kennels in the stable yard, and several peals from the front
door bell rang through the closed house before the butler, pipe in hand,
opened the door. Speechless from astonishment, he staggered back.

"Good morning, Hawkins. How is Amos Lea?"

"About the same, ma'am, the doctor says. Mrs. Herriott, I hope you will
excuse the looks of things. If I had known you were coming I would have
lighted the furnace and warmed the house and been nearer ready. There is
not a female on the place. Della was that prudish she went with her
aunt."

"Did Mrs. Orr leave all the keys with you?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"Bring them to me and show me where they belong. Is Rivers here?"

"Oh, yes, ma'am; also his cousin Nelson, who helps with the horses and
dogs; and David Green, the under gardener."

"Hawkins, you know Mrs. Mitchell; she came with me on a visit before my
marriage; and this is Mrs. Adams, who will nurse Amos for the present.
Open the house and make fires in the 'blue room' and two other bedrooms.
I shall be here only a short while, and you must do the best you can for
us as regards meals. When the time comes for feeding the dogs I wish to
be notified. I am afraid they have forgotten me."

"If you please, ma'am, what is the news from Mr. Herriott? When I saw
you I felt sure he must be coming home shortly. We count the days till
we see him."

"I am sorry, Hawkins, but no news reaches me now. It has been a long,
dreary, dreadful time. I came because Mrs. Orr telegraphed me some one
was needed here to look after the sick. Ma-Lila, will you go upstairs
with Mrs. Adams while I see Amos?"

Near the gardener's cottage she met David Green, with a bowl of broth in
his hands and a scowl on his sunburned face.

"How are you, David? Hearing that Amos is sick, I have brought a good
nurse to stay with him till the housekeeper returns. What is the matter
with him?"

"Madam, it is mostly crankiness now, in my opinion. Last fall he had a
spell of fever that left him ailing, and in January he fell into
inflammatory rheumatism that made him as helpless as a baby and
fractious as a bull pup. But he got better of it, and able to hobble
around his room on crutches. Like the mule he is, he would creep down to
the green-houses, hunting something to scold me about, and his crutch
slipped on the ice and he hurt his hip joint. The doctor orders him to
keep still and not move that leg, but, madam, he shuffles around in his
bed for all the world like hyenas in a circus cage. We men take him up
as easy as can be and lay him on a cot and change his clothes; but
cranky! Cross! The angels couldn't please him. I guess he is sore, and
when we jar and hurt him, instead of cursing us with a wholesome, honest
oath we are used to, he throws up his arms, rolls back his eyes till
they are all white balls, and shouts to the Lord to set Jezreel's
hounds, and Og, and the rest of the Bible beasts, and the imps of Belial
upon us! He calls us 'godless goats,' and we don't set up to be
religious, but he passes for pious and stands high in his church, and it
makes us feel creepy, because we don't know when the Lord might happen
to listen to him. You know, madam, he has got a strong pull on the
master. Mr. Herriott humors his whims, and now he is away we are doing
our best for Amos. Every other night I leave my family, three miles
away, and sleep here in his room. Mrs. Herriott, I have come to the
conclusion that if the master does not get home soon the old man will
fret himself to death. Day and night he prays for him. Every morning we
bring him a paper, and his poor hands shake while he holds it and
searches for news of the vessel, as a pointer hunts partridges. My wife
is a first-class cook, and, thinking to please him, she made and sent
him this broth. Just now, when he tasted it, the corners of his mouth
went nearly to his ears, and he asked me please to pour it into Tzar's
pan as I passed the kennel. If I had my choice, I would rather nurse a
bucketful of hornets."

"I am glad you have all been so good to him; you especially, who have a
wife and children to claim you. I hope Mr. Herriott can soon be at home,
and he will thank you. Now your responsibility ceases, because I have
employed a good nurse, trained in a hospital, who will know what is best
for him and make him obey the doctor's directions. David, I am sure you
men will be considerate and respectful while she remains."

At the door of the gardener's house, Snap dashed out, barking viciously.
She called his name twice and held out her hand, but, eyeing her
suspiciously, he growled and retreated across the threshold. Propped
with pillows, Amos was on a cot near the hearth, and a newspaper lay
across his knees. The room was bright with sunshine, and when Eglah
entered, clad in black, her long crêpe veil thrown back and falling
nearly to the floor, the old man stared at her and almost shrieked:

"Has the Lord God taken my lad? You wear widow's black for him?"

"No, Amos. The Lord God took my father, and my mourning is for him."

He threw up his arms.

"God be praised!"

After a moment, he added apologetically:

"Madam, I mean I am thankful Noel is spared. You see, I think only of
the boy."

She drew a chair to the cot and took one of the gardener's wasted,
gnarled hands in hers.

"I did not hear of your sickness till three days ago, and I came at
once, to see if I could not make you more comfortable while Mrs. Orr is
away."

"It makes no difference about my worn-out old body--that is a crippled
hulk. My mind is in torment because of the lad's danger. Where is he
now? In the ice on land, or locked up in the ship of the ungodly name,
that can never break loose from the bergs leaning over her? Tell me, was
your news later than my letter?"

He dragged from his bosom two worn, soiled envelopes and held them
towards her. One was postmarked St. John, N. B., the other Dundee,
Scotland. As she opened them a bunch of yellow poppies and a little
square of moss fell into her lap. She glanced at the dates. The oldest
was from Upernavik, soon after the vessel reached Greenland; the most
recent was from off Cape Alexander, where the "Ahvungah" was frozen in.

"No, Amos, your news is the latest I have heard."

Her voice quivered, and replacing the flowers in an envelope, she laid
the unread letters on the cot.

"Was your last letter from him the same date as mine?"

"No; it was earlier."

The cold, light-grey eyes in their deep, sunken sockets probed hers like
steel.

"Madam, it was your fault he went away."

"No, his word was pledged before our marriage, and I am not responsible
for this journey. I did all that was possible to keep him."

Amos leaned forward and grasped her wrist.

"You know you are to blame. What was it you did to him? That night you
came--a bride--I saw when he took you from the carriage everything had
gone wrong with him. I knew what that grip of his mouth and that red
spark in his eyes meant. You did him some wrong."

She shook her head, and, even in his wrath, the hopeless sorrow in her
eyes touched him.

"You struck him a bitter, hard blow somewhere. You see, since he was a
year old and his mother died, I have watched him. His father was away
with his railroads and his mines out West, and Susan and I had the care
of him till he was put to his books and had a tutor to teach him Latin.
They set him at that stupid business too early. I made his kites, and
played marbles with him, and sailed his little boats, and--" His voice
broke, and he paused to steady it.

"He was always truthful, and honorable, and generous, but--may the Lord
have mercy on him--he was born with the temper of Beelzebub. Not from
his mother did he get it, but from his hard old father, Fergus Herriott,
who somehow managed to keep himself under check-rein and bit. He never
punished the lad but once, and that was when the devil possessed the
child. He was barely ten years old. He fell into a terrible rage with
Susan about the fit of a bathing suit she made for him, and kicked the
clothes into the lake. Then he turned on her like a son of Belial with
rough, ugly, sinful language till she cried. His father happened to be
in the boat house near by. He came out, took him by the shoulders and
shook him, ordering him to apologize instantly to his nurse. The boy set
his teeth and shook his head.

"'If you do not apologize properly to her, I shall thrash you.'

"The lad's eyes blazed.

"'As you are my father, you will do as you like, sir.'

"Then and there he thrashed him, Susan howling, but not a sound from
him. Mr. Herriott sent him to his room, and ordered Susan not to go near
him. There were several railroad officials to dinner that day, and they
staid late. Susan sat yonder by the window, crying fit to break her
heart, when the lad walked in and went close to her. She held out her
arms, and the tears ran down her cheeks.

"'Susan, I am sorry I was such a beast. I am ashamed of what I said, and
I beg your pardon. Dear Susan, forgive me.'

"My poor wife, how she hugged and petted him, only he never would let
any one kiss him on his lips. As he sat in her lap, with one arm around
her neck, his face was deadly white and his eyes looked like two red
stars; the devil had not loosed his grip. Then his father called at the
doorstep, 'Amos, is Noel here?' When the old man came in, the boy was
standing in the middle of the floor, with his hands behind him, and
Susan ran forward.

"'If you please, Mr. Herriott, I am sure he is not well. I thought so at
the lake side, and he is feverish. His head is hot.'

"'Yes, Susan. Truly his head is too hot. Come, my son.'

"He held out his hand, but Noel did not move. His father went to him,
put an arm around him, and forced him away. Next morning the doctor was
sent for, found him in a raging fever; said it was measles, but Susan
knew better. For a week Mr. Herriott never left that room, even for his
meals, and he chastised him no more. Each day he was prouder and fonder
of the boy. Madam, I am telling you all this that you may be sure I make
no mistakes about him. He was hard hit the day he went away. There is a
place far around the beach bend, a stone bench, where he has fought
battles with himself since he wore frilled shirts. It is his
stamping-ground when his blood is up, and the devil squats at his ears.
Now I want to know why he spent his last night at home down there
alone?"

His bony hand tightened its grip like the claw of an eagle on her wrist,
and beneath the shaggy white brows his keen, fiery eyes demanded answer.


"Madam, you drove him there."

"Mr. Herriott was very angry with me. Unintentionally I had wounded him,
and he did not forgive me; I fear he never will. He is not to blame. I
did what seemed right and necessary at the time, but afterward I found I
had made a terrible mistake. It is all my fault, not his. Amos, I am
very unhappy, far more so than Mr. Herriott; but some matters I discuss
with no one, and you must ask me no more questions."

"Of course he was not to blame; he never is. You did not read his
letters." He held them toward her.

"No, they were intended solely for you."

"But I am more than willing you should see what he says about the
God-forsaken den of bears and wolves where he is blundering around in
the dark."

"Thank you, Amos, but they would only distress me."

Watching her pale, beautiful face, the old man sighed.

"Madam, if you are not to blame for his going on this wild, godless
chase, I must not feel so bitter against his young wife as I have done.
Dear lad! The very last words he spoke to me that day at the gate were,
'If I never come back, do all you can for Mrs. Herriott, for my sake.
Amos, I have loved her since she was ten years old.'"

There was a tap at the door, and the doctor entered. Eglah rose and drew
her veil over her face, but Amos clutched her sleeve.

"Doctor, this is Mrs. Herriott, the lad's wife."

"I am glad to see you here, doctor. Knowing Mrs. Orr was called away, I
have a trained nurse, who will help you get Amos Lea out of bed. I shall
send her at once to you for instructions."

Without attempting to analyze her complex emotions, Eglah surrendered
herself to the strange new comfort of wandering hour after hour about
the house, where every nook and corner babbled of the owner. Despite her
efforts to placate and win the dogs, they sullenly rejected her
overtures, echoing the repudiation of their master, and watching her
with suspicious enmity. On the second afternoon the doctor and nurse
assured her the gardener would soon be relieved by electricity, massage,
and tonics, and when a letter from Mrs. Orr to Hawkins announced her
expected return two days later, there seemed no reason for prolonging
Eglah's visit. She wished to avoid an interview with the housekeeper,
and arranged to start south a few hours earlier than the time fixed for
her arrival. In the stone cottage she spent a portion of each day; had
gone carefully over Arctic maps and charts with Amos, outlining the
probable course of the exploring party. She explained some terms, and
gave him a duplicate of the calendar she had made for herself, whereby
he could tell when and how long the moon shone, what day the sun set,
and when, after months, it would rise again. As the old man watched
through his silver spectacles the sad, worn, pallid face, and realized
that she too suffered, his resentful antipathy diminished, and Mr.
Herriott's farewell charge began to invest her with an unexpected
sanctity.

The last day of her stay was unusually warm for the season, and after
reading to the sick man and leaving a bunch of jonquils near his cot,
Eglah went quite late in the afternoon for a farewell walk along the
beach. She coaxed the dogs unavailingly. Pilot, the collie, followed as
far as the stone stile, and then deserted her. Beyond the end of the
curve, where silver poplars came to the water's edge, she found a white
marble seat, shaped like a horseshoe, with broad arms and an arched back
elaborately carved. Winter rains had rippled and drifted the sand over
its feet, and across one corner a bramble strayed. It was here Mr.
Herriott had spent his last night at home. She brushed aside dead
leaves, sat down, and plucked away the encroaching vine. Deep in her
heart sang his final words to Amos: "I have loved her since she was ten
years old." Living or dead, he was hers; angry and estranged, but
hers--always hers.

She thought of what life might have been with him here, remembered the
warm, close clasp of his hand, the lover light in his fine eyes that was
a caress that first hour on the cars; and recalling the last moment,
when he strained her to his breast, her fair face flushed, her sad heart
thrilled. Now that beautiful "might have been" lay irrecoverable as the
"lost land of Lyonnesse," under its transparent shroud, and haunting
echoes of tender tones tolled faintly, like buried bells of Folge Fond.

The day had been sultry, but the wind rose with the full, red moon that
swung now above the cliffs, a globe of burnished copper, taking on the
glory of gold as it climbed higher, and from some distant belfry a
vesper benediction, low and sweet, slowly drifted over the great lake.
The water, glassy an hour before, thrilled and swelled in answer to the
fingers of the wind, as a viol to the touch of its bow, and wavelets
widened, shimmered as they ran. An eastbound schooner, all sails set,
midway from shore to horizon, followed the path of light like a gigantic
white moth fluttering upward to the moon. Where did her rays find Mr.
Herriott to-night? Sleeping his last sleep in the wind-carved marble
sepulchre of glittering sastrugi, with that white moon of the "Great
Ice" silvering the face now so dear to his abandoned wife? Or frozen and
embalmed under the lee of towering blue hummocks, in the grim shadow of
looming iron-bound shores? Or dying of starvation in a lampless, rent,
ruined, iglooyah, with only Innuit corpses encircling him?

She fell on her knees, bowed her head on the seat, and prayed as never
before for his safety.

The wind freshened from the south, and far away in some mountain lair
thunder growled. Eglah looked long at the beautiful curve of the land,
at the shivering poplars turning white in anticipation of storm, at the
irregular outline of the old stone pile projecting its spectral shadow
on the shining water lapping the terrace wall. Two hours later a gale
swept the lake, and under bluish glare of lightning the waves showed
their flashing teeth.

With fine feminine instinct that penetrates far below the surface, yet
gives no hint of the depths, Eliza divined that the unhappy woman
desired unbroken solitude, and the foster-mother went early to her own
bedroom.

Slowly Eglah mounted the spiral stairs that led to the billiard room and
thence to the tower. The former was dark, and as she placed her candle
on the table something fluttered and fell. It was a Chiriqui quetzal,
perched upon a small slab brought from Palenque and fastened as a
bracket above the fireplace. She picked it up, smoothed the brilliant,
drooping feathers, and set it securely on the table, but a legend she
had associated with it made her shiver as she opened the door and
stepped into the tower.

High above her, and just under the roof, the great lamp with its
reflector threw light far out over the tossing waste of water, kindling
crowns of fire where the wave crests broke. She sat down on a wooden
bench at one of the open arches, and watched the departing cloud fringe
of the storm rushing from the far, sweet, throbbing South, to the icy
silence of a more distant North; listened to the fitful moan of tired
waves, trying to sob themselves to rest. Would the fleet _föhn_ reach
Greenland, melt the blue cables strong as steel that held iceberg
ranges, domed with frosted silver--open the yellow eyes of poppies, and
waft the ivory gulls back to weary watchers? Often a blessing there, it
was sometimes a curse. Could that fierce, hot, southern breath battle
against the ceaseless wind, snow-laden even in sunshine, that sweeps
forever from palæocrystic seas across the white desolation of the great
ice cap? Persistent study of Northern travels had so completely filled
Eglah's mind with Arctic images, that by an inevitable magnetism every
change of atmospheric conditions pointed to the Pole.

As the night waned, the moon emerged from ragged clouds, and gradually
the lake quieted to its wonted crooning monologue, broken only by the
strophe and antistrophe of startled water-fowl scattered by the storm.
Eglah heard the clock strike two, and went down to the billiard room.
The candle was flickering, and in its spasmodic light the eyes of the
Quiché holy bird had a preternatural, sinister glitter. She hurried
downstairs and locked herself in the den, the master's favorite room.
Cabinets were sealed, busts shrouded in cambric hoods, pictures veiled.
Only Mr. Herriott's desk remained as she remembered it, and here, with
her arms crossed on the morocco cover and her face hidden upon them, she
watched the night depart, saw the dawn of the day that would take her
away forever from the home she had learned to love too late.



CHAPTER XXV


Heavy are the brakes with which suspense and anxious longing clog the
wheels of time, yet seasons end; the spokes spin and come again,
insistent reminders to waiting watchers of the endless, inexorable
procession of years.

An early frost had hastened autumnal effects usually due a month later,
and the atmosphere was crisp and sparkling. White oaks, maples, and
sweet gums rustled their amber leaves sprinkled with red, black gums
swung scarlet torches from every bough, wild grape vines festooned
supporting trees with fluttering lace-of-gold, and crimson and bronze
berry-brambles had colored warmly under the first frost kiss. Close to
the little wire gate of the Dingle a tulip tree shook its burnished,
brocaded banners, and in and around its branches coiled a muscadine,
hung with glossy, purplish-black clusters that filled the air with
delicious, challenging fragrance.

With an unopened roll of newspapers in her hand, Eglah leaned for some
moments on the gate, admiring the superb vestments of yellow and red
that nature hung out to bar the cold--a small cloud island of ruby near
the horizon against which an acacia etched its slender lines, and
listening to the song of a mocking-bird, that rose like a flute above
the whistle of a partridge astray in feathery broom sedge. On the
orchard slope Mrs. Mitchell, basket in hand, groped and peered amid
tufts of golden-rod, hunting a belated brood of young turkeys. Eglah
passed through the gate, went into the mill, and found a seat on one of
the circular grinding stones. The wall had partly fallen on the west
side, and the glow of a sinking sun lighted the dusty, cobwebbed rafters
that upheld what remained of the roof. The chant of a portion of the
stream rolling from mossy rocks to the ruined, sluggish race was low and
soothing as a lullaby.

It had been a sad day, marking two years since the evening in the
library when Judge Kent had been stricken; the beginning of a slow
death. Dwelling upon the indelible incidents, an acute pain was added to
the chronic ache from which his daughter's heart was never free. While
missing her father sorely in her sorrowful isolation, she realized that
death had come at the behest of mercy. As long as he lived his enemies
could assail him at any moment; now he was comparatively safe under the
snow of his native hills. If it were possible to recall him, she would
not; she preferred to suffer alone that he might rest in peace. Two days
before she had gone for a few hours to Y---- to see in his favorite
church the recently completed tall, arched window, ablaze with rose,
purple, crimson, and emerald glass, erected by her, "To the glory of God
and in memory of Allison Kent."

Depressed and heartsick, she often sought the solitude of the mill, but
in the grey gloom of the rafters above her head a pair of wrens had
dwelt for several seasons, and now resented her presence, twittering
their protest. Opening the New York and Boston papers, she glanced over
one and laid it aside. Unfolding another, her fingers clutched the
sheet, where headlines had been reprinted from an English journal:

     "RETURN OF THE 'AHVUNGAH.'"

     "After an absence of more than two years, the 'Ahvungah' has
     brought back the scientific explorers who, having investigated
     the phenomena of Arctic midnights, are glad to return to less
     rigorous temperatures. The second winter the vessel, while
     frozen in, was lifted upon ice hummocks in Whale Sound. Deeming
     the 'Ahvungah' fast until early summer, some of the party,
     availing themselves of a continuously shining, two weeks' moon,
     and in order to avoid sun glare later in the season, made a
     sledging trip inland over the 'Great Ice,'--the _Sermiksoak_,
     but the loss of their dogs cut short the journey. During their
     absence the floe holding the vessel had been broken from the
     shore-ice by some upheaval unusual at that season, and had
     drifted many miles. While travelling on the 'ice-foot' to
     overtake the 'Ahvungah,' the members of the sledging party
     suffered very severely. Only two deaths occurred during the
     long voyage; a sailor was drowned in attempting to jump across
     a lead that closed suddenly after he fell, and the
     meteorologist, Herr Sprotmund, succumbed to heart disease while
     climbing a glacier. The 'Ahvungah' touched here only long
     enough to land the surgeon, Dr. Klinehurst, and the mail for
     America, then went on to The Hague. It was learned from the
     surgeon that two gentlemen of the party preferred to remain in
     Polar regions at least another year--Professor Roy, the
     palæontologist, and Mr. Herriott, of New York, who is much
     interested in ethnography. Having studied the Eskimos of the
     Greenland coast, they crossed to the west shore of Smith's
     Sound, and will make their way slowly through Ellesmere Land,
     hunting traces of an Innuit tribe they believe to be the
     descendants of the Onkilon of Siberia. These gentlemen expect
     to meet whalers next year somewhere along the west coast, but
     should their plan fail, still another winter will imprison
     them."

Until this spasm of pain seized her heart, Eglah had not realized or
acknowledged that she cherished any hope, save that God would preserve
the life of the man who so completely renounced her. If she had vaguely
trusted time might soften and remove his bitterness, she understood at
last the mockery of a delusion that she had unconsciously indulged.
Above the evensong of the rippling water at her feet, rang his
passionate words that last day in the carriage: "I shall try not to come
home." To escape the possibility of proximity to her he had plunged into
unknown wilds, where only the trails of foxes, wolves, bears, could
thread the silent desolation, and at all hazards he would keep the
promise of his farewell note: "Your path in future shall be spared my
shadow." Wandering into the jaws of death, rather than see her again;
for how elusive, how slender, the chances of meeting whalers. As in a
mirage she seemed to see him on the colonnade at Nutwood, as he stood
looking with eloquent, happy eyes at her, assuring her father: "When I
know she is waiting at home for me, do you suppose all the ice in
Greenland can shut me away from her?" And now the Arctic Circle would
hold his chosen grave, because she could never cross it. The mail for
America held no word for her; but doubtless kind messages had come to an
old man whose sunken eyes would shine with delight over tidings from
"the lad."

To all of us come times when, self-surrendered to depression, some
psychic imp drags from mental oblivion and shakes fiendishly before us
ghoulish images long forgotten; and now, as purplish-grey shadows
gathered in the mill, Eglah saw that vision of "Were-Wolves," the souls
of wretched men fleeing from light, hiding in Polar midnight.

    "Each panter in the darkness
    Is a demon-haunted soul,
    The shadowy, phantom were-wolves,
    Who circle round the Pole.
    Their tongues are crimson flaming,
    Their haunted blue eyes gleam,
    And they strain them to the utmost
    O'er frozen lake and stream;
    Their cry one note of agony
    That is neither yelp nor bark,
    These panters of the northern waste
    Who hound them to the dark."

The voice of Mrs. Mitchell calling her name aroused Eglah, and she
staggered to her feet, swaying slightly as from a stinging blow. That
silent, yearning tenderness, to which she had gladly yielded for so many
months, now appeared an insult to her womanly pride.

Rejected and despised, abandoned forever, made by her husband's
repudiation a target for gossip and harsh comment, why should she love
him? Why, when too hopelessly late, had her heart so unexpectedly
followed him, refusing to relax its quest?

Gathering the scattered papers, she left the mill and walked toward the
house. As the core of an opal the west showed bands of pearl, beryl,
sapphire, rose, and when twilight stole over hillside and dingle, Venus
glowed in a violet sea, so large, palpitating, brilliant, she seemed a
golden torch flaring in interstellar currents, to light the way of the
thin young moon swimming beneath her. Did both torture the were-wolves?

At the gate Eliza waited, and putting an arm around the girl drew her
into the hall of the cottage, where a lamp hung from the low ceiling.
Under its light Eglah's face showed white and rigid.

"Little mother, I must ask you to leave me to myself to-night. This has
been a sad day in many ways. I miss my father, and one trouble of which
I never speak, even to you--the only one who loves me--presses heavily
upon me just now. There are the papers. You will find an account of the
return of the 'Ahvungah,' but Mr. Herriott preferred to remain another
year. Kiss me good-night, and ask God to take me soon, soon--to father."

The following winter was long and cold, with flurries of snow, and
rattling of sleet, and it proved monotonously dull to the two women shut
in the small house. The rooms were cosey, with curtains falling to the
bright carpets; and roaring fires of oak and pine logs reddened the
walls of the little parlor, where Eglah's upright piano enabled her to
banish, at times, gloomy retrospection. Twice Mr. Whitfield came for a
day and night, and cheered them with news of the outside world.

When the weather permitted Eliza to attend her Sabbath-school at
Maurice, she occasionally persuaded Eglah to play the organ for the
children, but she was annoyed by no obtrusive attention on the part of
sympathetic country people, whose warm hearts respected the heavy
mourning in which she was wrapped, and recognized her right to complete
seclusion. At college one of her favorite studies had been Spanish, and
without giving an explanation she now applied herself to it with renewed
interest. When Eliza questioned her, she referred vaguely to the liquid
melody that charmed her in Spanish poetry, and expressed a desire to
translate a volume which pleased her.

No allusion to Mr. Herriott or his home now passed her lips. Mr.
Whitfield's anxiety to understand the perplexing conditions, and Eglah's
unwavering reticence, led him to interrogate Eliza.

"Mr. Whitfield, I can't tell you what I do not know. Mr. Herriott's name
is never uttered by her, never mentioned now by me. She is so silent she
would certainly forget how to talk if she were not a woman. She intends
to go to Europe, and, as you know, keeps some business matters in
readiness, but no date has been fixed. You will be advised in time to
draw up her will, of which she talked to me about a week ago. The months
come and go, and the dear child is always as you see her, calm,
uncomplaining, with lips locked as a statue's, but I must say I feel all
the time as if I am walking over a grave that may suddenly crumble and
cave in under my feet."

Returning spring was welcome, and early summer brought once more the
solace and diversion of long rides through solemn, lonely pine
stretches, where only birds, nature's feathered syrinx, sounded in the
silence, happy as human children prattling to their mother.

A mute acceptance of the inevitable, as far removed from resignation, as
from pleading protest, had sealed Eglah's face in passionless repose,
pathetic and inscrutable. Inflexibly she maintained her resolve,

                            "--to fly no signal
    That the soul founders in a sea of sorrow,"

and solitude was her refuge. A long delayed monument having been
completed at her father's grave, the desire to visit and inspect it
dominated her, and one hot day the two women went North. To the devoted
child bowed at the feet of a marble angel, the carved lips seemed to
whisper her father's farewell words of commendation and tender gratitude
for her self-sacrifice in his behalf. Did he know now all it had
cost--the branding humiliation, the fierce heart hunger she had found
only when she offered herself on an altar that crumbled beneath her?

When the slab was covered with white violets, and she had pressed her
lips to the name chiselled on the scroll, she put one hand on Mrs.
Mitchell's shoulder and pointed to a grassy plot at her feet.

"Little mother, I hope it will not be long before I can shut my tired
eyes forever, and when that happy day comes I want you to bring me here
and lay me close to father, at his left side. One other thing you must
not fail to do; after I am in my coffin be sure you take off my ring--my
wedding ring--and if Mr. Herriott be living give it into his hand. He
has wanted it back since the day he placed it on my finger, and only God
knows how glad I shall be to surrender it. 'So long as ye both shall
live' it is mine, but in the grave God gives us back our vows and sets
us free."

The cold, hopeless renunciation in face and voice was more than the
loving little woman could endure, and with a burst of tears she threw
her arm about the girl, pressing her to her heart.

"My baby, have you no mercy for me, that you talk so cruelly? I shall be
asleep by my Robert long before death calls one so young and strong and
beautiful as my own dearie. Please have some consideration for me, and
don't discuss such dreadful matters. I see from your eyes you want a
promise. Well, if I outlive you--preposterous--I will forget nothing,
provided you spare me all heart-sickening talk in future."

On the return journey Mrs. Mitchell wished to stop in New York, but
Eglah shrank from the possibility of meeting old friends, dreading
questions. As she intended to see her cousin Vernon Temple for a day,
she went on to the hotel in the city near Calvary House, where her
foster-mother joined her after a day's shopping tour in New York. At the
time of Eglah's visit of a few hours here with her father, and while her
cousin was at Nutwood, they had discussed plans for a new altar much
needed in the chapel, and during her residence at the Dingle she had
submitted a design duplicating in many respects a carved and pillared
shrine she and Judge Kent had seen near Avignon. The Father Superior and
her cousin gratefully accepted her offer, and before she started to New
England a letter announced the completion of the altar, and expressed
the hope that she would be able to see it. If Mr. Herriott never
returned, she locked deep in her heart an intention to make it a
memorial to him, the donor of house and estate to the Brotherhood. The
Provençal model was guarded by two seraphs; these she would add later,
if the White North kept the wanderer folded forever to her breast of
snow.

Of celibate organizations, Romish or Protestant, Mrs. Mitchell
distinctly disapproved, and she had listened with ill-concealed
annoyance and uneasiness when at Nutwood Vernon Temple expatiated upon
the noble work accomplished by Episcopal deaconesses in sisterhood
homes. She had always dreaded his influence over his cousin, especially
since her father's death. Calvary House was as the threshold of Rimmon,
and when the carriage approached it she exclaimed:

"I have no intention of going inside that monkish den. How a sensible,
level-headed man like Mr. Herriott could give away property for such
fanatical use passes my understanding. I may be an ecclesiastical
ignoramus; I certainly am a 'narrow Methodist'; but, my dear baby, I
can't broaden even to please you, and you must excuse me. I had a
catalogue from the great poultry farm that I hear is only a mile or two
farther out on this road, and while you see your cousin and examine the
things you gave the chapel, I will drive on and order some white
guineas. Here, don't forget your box of embroideries. I shall wait at
the gate for you."

The bell on the latch rang as Eglah passed under the gilt cross, and at
the front door the porter, a young lay brother, looked at her in
amazement.

"I wish to see Father Temple. I am his cousin, Eglah Kent."

"He is not here. He went to Philadelphia yesterday."

"Then tell the Father Superior--he knows me--that the lady who gave the
new altar wishes to speak to him about it."

"Father Superior is holding a mission in New York."

"Where is the sacristan?"

"'Free time' has just begun, and he has gone to look after his beehives.
I can call Father Phillips."

"No. I do not care to meet any of the Brotherhood who do not know me. I
was here once with my father, and Father Temple has visited my house in
the South. I came merely to look at the new altar, and bring some fresh
covers to the sacristan. Do not disturb any one; this is 'free time,'
and I must not keep you. Please say nothing about me now. I shall go
into the chapel--I know the way--and then return to my carriage."

He opened the nearest door of the chapel, bowed, and disappeared.

Before the carved panel in the centre of the altar she stood some
moments, rejoicing that the sculptor had succeeded so well in
reproducing the cherub heads running as a frieze between the columns.
From the box she shook out two pulpit-falls, one embroidered with iris,
one with passion flowers; then a chalice veil of shimmering white silk
marked with a Greek cross. Beneath these lay a long altar cover of snowy
linen cambric, "the fair linen cloth," studded with crosses along the
centre, and bordered with annunciation lilies.

She smoothed and arranged it on the polished surface of the shrine,
while a vision of an added seraph, standing _in memoriam_ at each end,
shone before her. She recalled Tennyson's inscription in Westminster
Abbey, where one wife, widowed by Polar perils, had set her tribute of
love. To her the sympathy of the world went out, and the nations,
sharing her long search, shared her sorrow.

Misunderstood and censured, Eglah bore her burden alone, and now,
sinking to her knees, with her forehead pressed against the marble, she
prayed that the wanderer in desolate lands might be guarded from every
ill and brought safely home. Prayer always deepened her impression that
he would return, and as she rose and loitered a moment in admiration of
the chiselled stone, her sad lips whispered to her lonely heart:

                  "He will come,--
    Ay, he will come! I can not make him dead."

Suddenly her heart leaped, then seemed to forget to beat. A voice rich,
mellow, unmistakable, came from the arched gallery beyond the little
oratory opening into the chapel:

"Roy, you are no baby, and my singing days are over."

A feeble, nervous tone answered:

"Herriott, you sang life into me that awful night after you carried me
in your arms behind a snow drift, rubbed my frozen hands, and tied our
last dog to my legs to keep me warm. 'It shall be light, it shall be
light!' How the song soared and echoed in the terrible silence of the
ice desert, as if spirits of the snow caught up the refrain! Do you
remember that ghastly red thread of a moon on the glacial line above us,
like a swooping bloody sickle? Even in my blindness that infernal moon
haunts me still. Just then, as the echo died, out of the blackness, as
if an answer to a prophet's prayer, the swift glory of the aurora swept
down and enveloped us. You saved my life, and before you leave me here I
should like to hear that song once more. I suppose I am childish yet,
but in my blindness you might humor me. Who wrote that song?"

"You are such a hopeless pagan you do not recognize the Bible? It is an
arrangement of two verses in the Old Testament: 'And it shall come to
pass in that day, that the light shall not be clear. But it shall come
to pass that at evening time it shall be light.' When I was attending
lectures in Germany, one of the professors set the words to the tune of
an old Latin hymn, and the students began to chant it. That night when I
was obliged to keep you awake, it occurred to me. Roy, I can't humor you
now, but I intend to take you and an old man at home down to Arizona to
thaw the Arctic poison out of you. When we are stretched on a sunny mesa
where the air quivers with heat, if you feel the need of more light, I
promise to chant your song. I am not willing to abandon the goal that we
were so near. If you had not broken down, we should have found those
stone ruins with the inscriptions, and I intend to see them. After a
while I shall fit out an expedition to suit myself, and if you can get
rid of your horror of that baby moon that in your delirium you swore was
a bloody scythe coming to cut your throat, I hope to number you among my
impedimenta."

The purple curtain, caught back only during service, hung over the arch;
but at one side a narrow aperture, close to the gilt organ pipe in the
oratory, admitted outside light.

Irresistibly drawn by the voice that set her pulses surging, Eglah had
gone to the arch, and grasping the velvet folds looked cautiously
through the cleft between organ and curtain, across the small oratory
and down the cloister. On a cot lay an emaciated man whose eyes were
bandaged. By his side and fronting the oratory stood Mr. Herriott, his
hands in his pockets.

He looked taller, rather gaunt, somewhat bleached in complexion, and the
absence of mustache showed the fine curves of his peculiarly firm, thin
lips. His eyes were lowered to the sick man's countenance, and the thick
black lashes veiled their grey-blue depths, but over the handsome face
had come a subtle change, etched by corroding memories. It was graver,
colder, less magnetic.

As Eglah watched him her breath fluttered; involuntarily she stretched
her arms an instant toward him, and her eyes lighted with a tender glow.
"My own Mr. Noel. My own!" was the unspoken claim of her heart,
momentarily happy at sight of him. Then Mr. Herriott put his fingers
over his friend's pulse.

"Vernon promised to get back to-morrow, and the oculist will look after
you until I can go home and see about my neglected household. In order
to avoid press publicity and inevitable interviewing, I am keeping my
return secret for a few days; and, clean-shaven and goggle-eyed, hope to
reach my house unrecognized, where I can smooth out the tangles that
years of absence tie. Later, business will force me to New York, and I
shall be glad of a glimpse of my old club life, but meanwhile you will
not be forgotten. Now, Roy, you must come in. One of the lay brothers
will help me lift your cot."

As he advanced toward the steps near the end of the cloister, Eglah
covered her face with her heavy veil, and went swiftly through a side
door of the chapel, down the gladiolus-bordered walk to the gate, where
the carriage waited. As she sank back in one corner, keeping her
features veiled, Mrs. Mitchell laid a hand on her knee.

"Well? Are you satisfied, and did the altar cloths fit? Did you find
what you expected?"

She did not answer immediately, and when she spoke her voice quivered
through the effort to strangle a dry sob.

"I found far more than I expected, and the altar is lovely. Everything I
could possibly do that would have pleased father I have done. My father,
my father, have I spared even myself! Memorial window, monument, the
altar here, all are finished, and now nothing remains for my empty
hands. My dear little mother, you are so good to me; you promised you
would go abroad when I felt it best to start. At last the time has come,
and I wish to leave America within the next week if possible."

After a moment a long, shuddering sigh made her voice unsteady.

"I have just seen Mr. Herriott--safe, strong, and well. He will never
know I was so near; he could not see me. Accidentally I heard his voice,
and looked through a curtain, and----"

Mrs. Mitchell had drawn her into her arms, but the black crêpe was held
over her face.

"The public will be kept in ignorance of his return for a few days, and
before his arrival is announced and people begin to question and
speculate, I must be on the ocean. I was so close to him--so close--and
yet----"

A wave of tenderness drowned words.

"Oh, my baby! Why did you not speak to your husband?"

After a struggle for composure she answered, with a cold, rising ring in
her tone:

"He does not consider himself my husband. More than three years ago he
willed we should be strangers. He built the wall of separation, of
absolute silence between us, and no word, no sign from me shall ever
cross it. He is within his rights. I dispute nothing. I claim only the
privilege of helping him in his effort to avoid me, and I must have the
ocean between us. He will breathe freely when he feels sure that by no
possible accident the sight of my face can ever again affront him."



CHAPTER XXVI


     "Willow Creek Plantation,

     "Wednesday.

     "Mr. Herriott.

     "Dear Sir: Permit me to say at the outset that these lines are
     intended solely for your eyes, and I beg you will regard them
     as strictly confidential. If I were not so sure you are an
     honorable gentleman, they would never be written. On the 18th
     my foster-child and I expect to leave my little home at Willow
     Bend, where we have lived since her father's death. By her
     desire we go to Europe, and, as we shall remain there
     indefinitely, I should like to talk with you of some matters
     that concern you--matters I am unwilling to mention unless we
     are face to face. The railway station Maurice is near me, but
     if you do me the favor to grant my request, it would be better
     for you to avoid Y---- and come directly to Sunflower, ten
     miles north of Maurice. If you can be at Sunflower on the 17th,
     I will meet you there when the one o'clock train arrives.
     Unless you come that day, it would be too late. You will see no
     one but me, and no one must ever be told I went to Sunflower,
     or saw you. My child is absent in Y----, and will not return
     until night of the 17th, when I meet her at Maurice. Do not
     write me. Do not telegraph me. I scarcely allow myself to hope
     that you will come, and if I do not see you I shall regret it
     for many reasons. If I fail in my conscientious effort to right
     a great wrong, it will not be my fault.

     "Very respectfully,

     "ELIZA MITCHELL."

Allowing two days' margin for accidental delays, Eliza indulged no doubt
that this letter would reach its destination in ample time to enable Mr.
Herriott to keep the appointment, should he consent to meet her, and,
after putting on a special delivery stamp, she mailed it at Maurice with
her own hand.

The probability of a change of residence had been so fully discussed
that preliminary arrangements had long been made; but the early date,
suddenly fixed, necessitated great activity to insure readiness for
departure.

Eglah's calm, listless indifference had given place to feverish
impatience in expediting all preparations incident to the journey, and
the perplexed and anxious little woman who watched her movements was
rejoiced when business of importance called her to Y----, where Mr.
Whitfield was confined by gout to his room. Since the day at Calvary
House, Eliza had observed a marked change in Eglah; the wistful,
hopeless expression had vanished, and proud defiance settled on her
face. While tortured by suspense, she had yielded to the tender yearning
of her heart; but the sight of Mr. Herriott, safe, well, and strong,
contentedly planning a future in which he assigned no niche to her,
stung her womanly pride, intensified her longing to evade forever the
possibility of meeting the man who had so completely ignored and
repudiated her.

Some delay in the preparation of papers Mr. Whitfield required her to
sign kept her in Y---- longer than she had intended. He very carefully
wrote her will, in which, following the trend of her grandmother's
sympathies, she bequeathed Nutwood and adjoining lands as a Maurice Home
"to childless widows of Confederate soldiers in the State." To Vivian
and Maurice relatives of her own mother, who refused association with
Marcia after her marriage, and whom Eglah had always avoided, she gave
one plantation--Canebrake. To Mrs. Mitchell Willow Creek Bend was left,
in grateful recognition of her loving care; and all personal property,
stocks, and bonds were devised to the vestry of her father's church, for
the erection and maintenance of a memorial Chapter House.

Business concluded, she telegraphed that on the 17th, at eight P.M., she
would reach Maurice, and wished Mrs. Mitchell to meet her with the trap.

At nine o'clock on the morning of the 17th, the overseer's wife,
desiring to avoid the passenger train, went in the caboose of a local
freight to Sunflower. It was an "excursion" day in honor of the opening
of a Masonic hall just completed, and many strangers strolled about the
village awaiting the hour fixed for the dedication ceremonies. At one
o'clock, when the fast southbound train paused long enough to deliver
the mail-bag, Eliza stood on the little platform, watching the line of
dusty cars. As a tall figure, valise in hand, stepped from the Pullman
sleeper, she did not promptly recognize the clean-shaven face, wearing
grey goggles. Handing his valise to a negro porter sitting on the
baggage truck, he glanced about him, and approached the little woman,
who was trembling with suspense.

"How are you, Mrs. Mitchell?"

He held out his hand.

"Oh, Mr. Herriott! I was not sure it was you. Thank God! I was so afraid
you would not come."

He took off the goggles and dropped them in his coat pocket.

"I dare say these glasses partly disguise, but snow-blindness left my
eyes rather sensitive, and I wore them as guard against railroad dust."

"Come with me, Mr. Herriott. This little place is full of strangers
to-day on account of a Masonic meeting, but there is a quiet spot in the
grove yonder, where a recent picnic party left some benches."

In silence they reached the grove of old red oaks, and Eliza sat down on
a rough, board seat; but he declined to share it, and stood before her,
his eyes an interrogation.

"Mr. Herriott, I asked you to come here because you are pursuing a
course I think you would abandon if you knew some facts that only I can
give you. But first, I want your promise that no matter what the future
holds, you will never let Eglah know or suspect that I wrote you, came
here, or saw you. If she found it out she would never forgive me; she
would desert me, and I am running a great risk. Give me your word of
honor to keep this meeting always strictly confidential. If you promise,
I shall feel easy."

"I promise. You may trust me."

"Thank you, sir. Before I say more, will you tell me if you still love
your wife?"

His face hardened and his eyes narrowed.

"Pardon me, madam. I did not come here to be catechised."

"If you have ceased to love her, then I should betray a holy trust by
lifting a very sacred veil. I can speak freely only to a man who loves
her as she deserves--and as I have always believed you did. If you no
longer love her, I have come on worse than a fool's errand."

There was a brief silence, and hot tears ran over the little woman's
cheeks.

"And if I love her still? Go on, go on."

"Then why are you breaking her dear heart?"

"Madam, her heart has never been in my keeping. You must know that for
years I made every effort to win it, and failing, I abandoned the hope.
Our merely nominal relation was dissolved by mutual consent, and I gave
her entire freedom before I started North. I have never been close
enough to her heart to wound it."

"Please, Mr. Herriott, listen to me patiently. I must go back so far.
She did not love you when she married you. Why she so suddenly took that
awful step I don't know. She refused to explain. I believed that her
father had persuaded her, but she assured me he had no knowledge of her
intention until after she had voluntarily made her decision, and she is
absolutely truthful. She is reticent and proud, but of false statements
she is incapable. She has never confided the motive of her rash marriage
to me, and what she is unwilling to have me know, nobody else can ever
tell me. Better than any one living I understand her, and when she came
back with her father from Greyledge I saw a great change in her; she was
not the indifferent girl whom you had taken away. The estrangement
between Judge Kent and herself had ended, and she rejoiced in the
cordial reconciliation, but some sad mystery in the background
overshadowed her and puzzled me. The day she received that express
package from you she suddenly seemed to go frantic, and her distress was
so overwhelming I was frightened. Never before or since has she shown
such passionate grief. She told me she had wronged, wounded you, and
that you would never forgive her. How she wronged you she would not
explain, and I don't know any more now than I did then. But she insisted
again and again that you were not to blame--that it was entirely her
fault, and she must bear the sorrow she had brought upon herself. She
wrung her hands and begged me to pray she might die before you came back
and rejected her. When I tried to comfort her, and asked why you should
do such a cruel, unjust thing, she wailed: 'You loved your husband; if
you had wounded him past pardon, could you bear to talk about it? Don't
question me. Think of your Robert, and try to realize how I feel.' All
that night she walked the floor of her room, and next morning she looked
years older--so white, so silent, as if gazing down into a grave. Since
then she has never been the same Eglah. Something in your last message,
which I did not see, slew her peace of mind for all time. She shut
herself away from society, lived exclusively with her father and with
me. When Judge Kent died I dreaded a total collapse in the child who had
worshipped him from her babyhood; but she bore the awful strain
silently, calmly, surprisingly. Mr. Whitfield put his arm around her
shoulder as she stood by the coffin, and, with tears in his eyes, the
old man praised her devotion and her bravery. She looked up at him with
a strange smile on her bloodless lips.

"'One can suffer only so much, then numbness comes. After the misery of
many months a last blow does not crush. The petrified are not always
where they belong--in the grave.'

"After the funeral she closed Nutwood, moved her books, piano, and
horses down to my little cottage in the heart of the pine woods, denied
herself to every one, and there we have lived in strict seclusion.
Day and night she pored over books of Arctic travel, and on the walls of
her room she had maps and charts, and what she called her 'comfort
calendar,' that she patched together from almanacs, to mark what time
day and night began near the Pole and when the new moons were due. It
made my heart ache to see her face each day as she searched the papers
for some news of you. At last she ceased to expect any, and your name
was not mentioned. Mr. Herriott, do you recollect your striped silk
smoking-jacket, with pink poppies embroidered on collar and cuffs and
down the front?"

"Yes. I had such a jacket."

"One sultry summer night, about one o'clock, I went on tiptoe into
Eglah's room to get a vial of medicine that was kept in a closet there,
and, as she slept poorly, I tried not to disturb her. Her window was
open, the curtains looped back, and a full moon shone in. She was
sitting up in bed, with her face buried in some bright wrapping, and a
sort of strangled moan came from her. I went to the bed and asked what
the trouble was. Had she neuralgia in her face, that she was muffling it
on such a hot night? Oh, Mr. Herriott, if you could have heard the
quiver in her voice!

"'No, no. Heartache--heartache only the grave can ease.'

"Next day, while she was away, I searched for that striped thing which I
had never seen before. She kept it in a long, satin-lined, sandalwood
case, among her perfumed laces, and when I examined it I found a
smoking-jacket, with a dog whistle in one pocket, and in the other a
handkerchief marked 'Herriott.' I----"

Mr. Herriott had walked away, and after several moments recalled the
search for the missing jacket on the day of his departure, and the pride
with which Amos only three nights ago, had shown him a warm, quilted
cashmere gown "the madam" had sent him because the jacket left for him
had never been found. When he came back to the seat, he stood with his
face turned from her, and she could see only his profile.

"Sir, if you don't hear me out, you can't understand why I came. Eglah
would sit for hours, a book before her, her hands folded in a way
peculiar to her--her wedding ring against her lips--so silent, so still,
she seemed a stone; but she roused to a manifestation of interest when
we heard your old gardener was ill and needed attention. While we were
at your house she seemed more like herself than at any time since that
express package reached her; but a deep undercurrent of sorrow she could
not hide. Over the house and grounds she wandered continually, and that
long lake beach was her favorite walk. Every evening she shut herself in
one of the rooms downstairs--I think it was your smoking-room--and the
last night we were there she spent locked in that room. She sent for a
photographer from the city and had copies taken of your mother's
portrait and of yours--that one hanging next to your father's in the
drawing-room. To-day on her dressing-table stand two pictures of you and
one she insists resembles you--the photograph of a French poet she saw
once in Arles. She thinks the brow and eyes and nose are yours, and,
though she does not like the lower portion of the face, she had the
photograph enlarged and framed. I could not keep my tears back when,
leaning from the carriage, she took her last look at your home. There
was such a world of suffering in her sad eyes, and her dear lips and
chin trembled like a little child's.

"'Being here is next best to seeing the master. I can never come again.
When he returns I must be in Europe, out of his way.'"

Mr. Herriott turned suddenly and looked down steadily at his companion.

"Pardon me, Mrs. Mitchell. You prefer to stay at home? You do not wish
to go abroad?"

His keen eyes searched hers, and their flash answered him.

"Whatever the child thinks is best for her peace I want above everything
else; and I am ready and willing to go with her to Europe, Africa, the
Fiji Islands--to the ends of the earth. I do love my little home, still
more my husband's grave, almost in sight of it; I love my cows and my
chickens; but first and last, and better than all, I love my baby, who
came to my arms when she was three hours old, and who now, in turning
her back upon an unjust world, clings only to me. I never took an oath
before God that I would 'for better, for worse, love and cherish her
till death,' but I rather think my love will abide, will stand all tests
and trials that have crumbled some other vows she once trusted."

After a moment she added:

"Perhaps I have already said too much, and you may not care to hear
more."

"Madam, I wish you to tell me everything you think it best I should
know. I am here for that purpose, at your request."

"Eglah was terribly hurt to find Amos had heard twice from you while,
consumed with suspense, she had received not even a line. After we went
home she grew more and more restless, but I noticed she carefully
avoided any allusion to you. One night I heard her moving about, and
then she left her room. It is a lonely little place where we live,
rather unprotected, and the servants--man and wife--do not wake easily.
Eglah had a way of walking about the gallery and yard when she could not
sleep that made me uneasy. I went out to expostulate, and found her
sitting on the steps in the moonlight with that jacket of yours in her
arms. I sat down and took her hand. In a horrible dream, she had seen
you lying dead between two blue slabs of ice, a white owl on your
breast, and she was hugging and stroking that striped silk as only those
who love can caress the garments of lost darlings. You know she very
rarely cries. In all her life I never saw tears on her face more than
three or four times. I tried to soothe her, and said that full moon
overhead was making the Pole itself bright. She turned suddenly to me,
the tears dripping, and, oh, if I could give you the heartbroken tone in
which she said:

    'The broad noonday was night to me,
    The full-moon night was dark to me,
    The stars whirled and the poles span
    The hour God took him far from me.'

"After that night she guarded herself more closely against any
expression of feeling, and carefully abstained from all reference to you
until the evening she learned from a Boston paper that your vessel had
returned to Europe, and you had preferred to stay in Arctic regions. My
poor baby! She looked so white, so stunned, as if some one had struck
her a heavy blow."

Eliza sobbed and her tears streamed.

"Mr. Herriott, she felt assured you would not come home because you
feared you might meet her, and then she asked me to keep my promise and
go with her to Europe as soon as some stone-cutting designs could be
filled. She waited only to see three memorials completed. From the day
she learned the 'Ahvungah' had returned, I saw a bitter, resentful
element beginning to invade what had been only regretful tenderness, and
her lips were locked. The window in the Episcopal Church at Y---- was
placed, and soon after we went North to see the monument ordered for her
father's grave. I dreaded she would break down there, but she was as
quiet as the marble angel of the Resurrection standing on the slab. She
showed me where she wished her body laid, close to her father's, and
then she asked me to be sure--after she was safe in her coffin--to take
off her wedding ring and send it to you, because you had wanted it back
from the day you gave it to her. She refused to stop in New York,
fearing some of her friends or yours might see and question her. Any
allusion to her marriage was as the touch of red-hot irons. On our way
home she went one afternoon to Calvary House to see her cousin
Temple--the priest--and look at an altar she had given him. I waited
outside in the carriage, and she joined me, holding her thick mourning
veil over her face. As she and her father designed this altar after one
they had seen somewhere abroad, I thought her silence and evident
distress resulted from its association with him. After a while she said,
in a strange, muffled way, that she had done everything she was sure her
father would like if he could speak to her, and now her hands were
empty, and she wished to sail for Europe at the earliest possible
date--probably within a week. As she leaned against me, and I held her
hand, I felt her shiver. Then she told me she had just seen you at
Calvary House, strong and well, and she must leave America at once."

"She saw me! When?"

Mr. Herriott had grown very pale.

"A week ago yesterday. She said you had brought some sick, blind man
there, and you were going home. I asked her why she did not speak to
you, and she answered that three years ago you had willed you and she
should be strangers; you had built a wall of silence, and no word, no
sign from her should ever break it. Unobserved by you, she had seen you
in the cloister, heard you talking of your plans for future travel, and,
fearing discovery, she had hurried from the chapel. Since then every
nerve has been strained to get away."

Mr. Herriott walked a few yards, put on his glasses, and stood for some
time with his hands behind him. A sad, perplexed face met Eliza's eager
eyes when he came back, and for the first time seated himself beside
her.

"To what portion of Europe are you going?"

"To Spain; to a quiet little place hidden away in the Pyrenees, where
she hopes she will meet no one who ever heard of her, and where, having
nothing to remind her of three horrible years, she can try to forget her
suffering. To avoid all acquaintances, she will not sail from New York,
but goes directly to Charleston, and thence to Havana, where she can
take a steamer to Spain. I think, sir, no one can understand her
terrible humiliation in being rejected. While you were away, surrounded
by dangers, and she was on the rack of suspense, tortured almost beyond
endurance, only deep and tender love filled her heart. Since she has
seen you safe and well--yet no word of remembrance has been sent to
her--wounded pride possesses her, and she seems indeed petrified. Even
now she maintains with strange composure: 'He is within his rights; he
is not to blame. It was all my fault. I made the mistake of presuming
too far on his love, which was less than I counted on, and I deserve my
punishment; but sometimes I think God, who saw my heart and knew I did
not intend any wrong, might have spared me some of the bitter dregs I
have had to drink.' With all her pride, she is acutely sensitive to
adverse gossip. From childhood she has borne so much on account of her
father's unpopularity in the State, and people do not understand her. In
Washington her loyalty to the South and to the Maurices subjected her to
sneers and much unpleasantness. Her sudden marriage and subsequent
events, especially her coming home before you sailed, have caused
annoying comment, and now she is hurrying through Y----, anxious to get
away before the fact of your return is known there. She does not suspect
the opposition manifested by some of the vestrymen to that memorial
window. Only the pleadings of the rector and the influence of Mr.
Whitfield, who is not an Episcopalian and who had no cause to like Judge
Kent, availed to smother the objections to its erection. This
mortification we have managed to save her. Now, sir, you will please
pardon me if I speak very frankly. What passed between you and Eglah
after your marriage I do not know, nor did Judge Kent. Her lips have
been sealed, but I have often thought the estrangement arose from your
discovery of the fact that she did not love you as she should have done
before she married you, and therefore I have come here to try to save
you both from making shipwreck of your lives. If that was the cause of
the trouble, it exists no longer. She loves you now as devotedly as even
you could wish."

He shook his head and swept his hand across his face.

"Madam, she pities me, she deplores my disappointment; perhaps she
censures herself unduly, but love! She knows no more of love than a baby
in its cradle. She never will. She is absolutely incapable of loving any
man. Too many have tried zealously to touch her heart, and failed as
signally as I certainly did."

Mrs. Mitchell's black eyes sparkled through her tears.

"Mr. Herriott, since she was three hours old she has been my child. I
know her as well as I know myself. I am a woman; I loved my husband
better than my life, and when I see genuine, loyal, tender love in a
wife I know it as surely as you know where the sun rises. My baby did
not love you when she took her marriage vows, but you were deep in her
heart when she came home; and her love has grown until it is now so
strong it is a slow torture, from which she would gladly escape if she
could. Do you suppose a woman proud, reserved, cold as Eglah is would
treasure and caress, and sleep with her cheek on a man's faded old
smoking-jacket if she did not tenderly love the wearer whose touch had
made it sacred? Oh, Mr. Herriott, if you could have seen her all these
years--her patient, hopeless face! If you could realize the life she
leads in the overseer's house and contrast it with that brilliant past
when you saw her admired and sought in New York--even in London--you
might perhaps understand how changed she is. I longed for you to know
that your wife's heart is wholly yours, because I have believed you
would always love her. If she ever suspects I have told you her secret
she will never forgive--she will disown me. You must not cause me to
lose my child. Just now she is sorely mortified and resentful, but----"

Eliza paused and looked at the man beside her, but she could not see his
eyes.

"Please do me the kindness to finish your sentence."

"But if you could meet her and----"

Again she hesitated, discouraged by the expression settling around his
mouth.

"In consequence of a voluntary pledge on my part, I could not now
intrude upon her."

"If you called and asked to see her, I am sure she would decline to
receive you; but if you really desire to see her before she sails, it
could be arranged without her knowledge or co-operation. We go from
Maurice to-morrow night at eight o'clock and pass through Y---- without
stopping. Eglah comes from Y---- at eight to-night. To-morrow she will
be at my house all day until four o'clock, when she goes over to the
Willow Bend plantation to say good-bye to the Boyntons and negro
tenants, and also the tenants and field hands from Canebrake plantation,
whom Mr. Boynton will have present. Eglah usually takes a book and
spends the morning under the trees in my front yard, or in the old mill,
where she often sits for hours. If you merely want to see your wife
again before she passes forever out of your life you can easily do so
from the shelter of my butter-bean arbor, which is near the trees, and
she will never know it. If you care to speak to her, you may be sure of
no interruption. Mr. Herriott, God took my husband, but I could not have
borne my loss if my Robert had voluntarily taken himself from me. My
heart aches for Eglah. She is indeed my all in this world, and I have
risked a great deal to put you in possession of the truth. She loves you
as earnestly and tenderly as you could wish, but it remains for you to
make her admit it--to compel her to confession. Her pride has been so
sorely wounded she would die sooner than move one inch toward
reconciliation."

She looked at her watch and rose.

"My train will soon be due."

As they walked toward the small station-house, Mr. Herriott held out his
hand.

"Whatever the future may hold, I shall always thank you inexpressibly
for the confidence, the sacred trust you have reposed in me, and I will
never betray it. I doubt the wisdom of seeing Eglah. I know only too
well the difference between true love and that regretful compassion her
kind heart indulges. There are reasons that make me unwilling to violate
my own pledge to her, but if I should decide to go to your house, will
you direct me how to find it?"

"You can drive to Maurice, ten miles south, or take the night train,
which will not stop here unless it is flagged. Once at Maurice, any one
will show you Willow Bend road. When you pass the plantation, which is
quite a settlement, cross the bridge, turn to the right, and you will
soon see an old red mill in front of my gate. Here comes my train."

"No, madam; not your train. That is only a freight-engine and gravel
cars."

"I came on it, and I go back the same way. For many reasons I prefer to
keep this trip as secret as possible, at least until after to-morrow,
when we leave home; so I avoided the passenger train that brought up
some Maurice Masons. The smaller the place, the wider the eyes, the
keener the ears, and the more nimble the tongues that dwell there. Rufus
Boling, the conductor yonder, expects to marry my favorite Sunday-school
pupil, Minna Gaines, to-morrow night, and I have done all I could for
the child's wedding. Consequently, though the railroad officials grumble
and forbid, he consented to let me ride in the caboose, provided I would
not sit at the window, and promised not to sue for damages if I lost a
limb or an eye on the trip. Are you ready, Rufus? Good-bye, Mr.
Herriott. I have done my best for my child and for you. God help you
both!"

He took her hand and pressed it cordially.

"In any event, you may rest assured I never shall cease to thank you for
your effort; and life will always be sweeter because of some facts you
have given me."

He assisted her into the close, smoky caboose, lifted his hat and, as
the engine pulled slowly out, he took off his glasses and walked back to
the red-oak grove.



CHAPTER XXVII


It was a cloudless, warm day when Mr. Herriott crossed the bridge, and
walked up the road bordering a creek hidden by its vivid fringe of
willows. At the ruined mill he paused; here the sandy road ended. Beyond
on an upland towered a pine forest, its organ pipes whispering as the
south wind touched the tremolo; in front nestled the small, white house,
partly veiled by rose and yellow jasmine vines, and all the little
hollow was brimmed with cool, green shadows cast by trees across
clustering flower beds. A blended perfume distilled by dew from Hersé's
crystal fingers hovered over the Dingle, the cold, unctuous odor of
tuberoses, the warm spice of carnations, and that clinging breath of wan
lilies that evokes white faces and folded fingers of the dead, but
stronger than all, the fragrance of wild grapes in creamy bloom. More
than cloistral quiet reigned; only the rippling monody of water feeling
its way over the crumbling dam to the far-off sea, and the tinkle of the
spring runnel sounding low, clear, elfish, as if some Malis or
"April-eyed Nycheia" smote her tambourine and set silver bells ringing.
Once from the green silken tent of willows a shy lark, hermit of dells,
thrilled the silence with his resonant, sylvan roulade, and a locust
under beech boughs answered, clashing his brazen sistrum.

The blinds and windows at the front of the cottage were open, and white
muslin curtains stirred now and then, as the breeze swayed them. Pots of
flowering geranium and heliotrope were grouped on the piazza, and among
them slept Delilah. As Mr. Herriott looked at the humble nest of a home,
and thought of stately Nutwood, of gilded ballrooms where Eglah had
reigned an acknowledged beauty, he began to realize the monotony, the
dreary loneliness of life here in the heart of almost primeval forests.
She had elected to shut herself far away from the brilliant circle of
former days, but he could not believe it was for his sake; grief for her
father had made her a recluse.

The dazzling possibility with which Mrs. Mitchell enticed him, he had
put aside as a delusion he could not indulge a second time, for behind
it was the biting mockery with which he had once grappled. His nominal
wife had led the life of a nun during his absence, but loyalty was far
removed from love, and the steps of an altar suited her nature better
than a husband's arms. For many hours he had fought the hope that would
smile out of the folds of his old jacket, but the intense longing to see
her again conquered reason, prudence, consistent adherence to the line
of action he had voluntarily prescribed for both. He would secrete
himself, and merely look once more at the face he had striven
ineffectually to forget, and she should never suspect his presence.

At a little distance was the gate of the low wire fence, but he stepped
across the wire, and passed through the open door of the dairy to a tall
tulip tree, around the body of which coiled the brown serpent of the
muscadine. Very near this tree, now all aglow with its orange-spotted
cups, stood--on the edge of a verbena bed--an ancient mimosa in full
bloom. Years before, an August gale had pollarded it, and lateral
branches drooped almost to the ground, except on one side, where they
were cut away to frame an arch, and this entrance showed a wooden bench
set against the trunk of the tree. To-day it resembled a huge Japanese
umbrella of olive-green lace thickly studded with pink silk aigrettes
that shook out waves of sweetness, mellow, fruity, languorous. Looking
around for the best coign of vantage, Mr. Herriott noticed the narrow
arbor covered by a thick growth of butter-bean vines, where he stood
secure from observation. On the ground, only five yards distant, lay a
woman's broad black straw hat tied basket-fashion with its ribbon
strings, and filled with spikes of tuberoses. By cautious pressure of
the bean vines he could see very distinctly the front of the house and
the mimosa seat.

With his head on his hand and a throbbing of his heart that defied
control, he waited, his eyes on the hat, he never knew how long, until a
sudden thrill shook him.

From an invisible corner of the garden, Eglah came slowly toward the
arbor. Her mourning gown of lustreless, thin black silk fitted perfectly
the curves of her finely moulded figure, and at her throat she had
fastened a spray of white star jasmine. High on her head the glossy,
gold-flecked chestnut hair was piled in soft loose coils and puffs that
caught the sunshine as she walked, holding in the clasp of one arm a
sheaf of long-stemmed lilies. Advancing until she reached the hat, she
leaned down, swung the knotted ribbons over her right wrist, and stood a
moment listening to the peaceful woodland message of the lark. Three
years had wrought a marvellous change. The rich promise of her youth had
expanded into an almost flawless loveliness. A certain girlish slimness
had given place to the fuller, rounded lines of graceful, perfect
womanhood, and over the pathetic, pale face had settled a passionless
repose that comes only when hope is dead, and silent pride sits on its
tombstone. As she held the lilies with her left arm, the hand gleamed
white against the folds of her black dress, and the wedding ring
flashed. Her cold, exquisite purity matched that of a Roman vestal on
her way to shrines, but her large brown eyes, looking far away, were so
darkened by shadows of mournful memory, of helpless yet uncomplaining
renunciation, that Mr. Herriott could not endure the sight. He threw his
hand across his face, and strangled the impulse to spring to her side,
to catch her in his arms. When he looked again, she had walked away
toward the house.

With a book in her hand, Mrs. Mitchell ran down the steps.

"I am waiting for the flowers, before I close the box for the little
bride. These lilies are just what she needs for the altar. Give them to
me."

Then a low, sweet, sad voice swept the heartstrings of the man who
watched and listened.

"Do not forget to send my present. I put my card inside the case. Dear
little Minna, I hope she may be happy. If her husband really loves her,
she enters her heaven; but if not, the poor little thing will soon wish
the burial instead of marriage service had been read over her to-night.
I trust the child may never find out that a tolling bell is sweeter than
a wedding peal. You found my Baedeker?"

"Yes, in the mill where you left it a week ago."

"I must look out one or two points in it, and the air is so deliciously
sweet I think I shall stay a while in the garden on this last Dingle
day, unless you need me to help you."

"There is nothing for you to do inside; everything is ready."

"Ma-Lila, you have been crying! What makes you so nervous? You are
trembling."

"Oh, I feel upset! Leaving Robert's lonely grave, and all."

The girl stooped, and kissed her cheek.

"It seems very selfish to ask you to leave a place so dear to you; but I
hope God will begin to pity me at last, and call me soon where I shall
trouble no one any more. Then----"

Mrs. Mitchell laid the lilies on her lips to close them.

"Hush, my baby--hush! I am screwed up now like a frazzled fiddle-string,
and if you give another twist I shall just go to pieces."

Taking the flower-laden hat, she placed it with the lilies on the step,
and turned toward the dairy.

Baedeker in hand, Eglah moved away, but as she neared the arbor she
looked back over her shoulder and called:

"Little mother, when Dorcas brings the clothes she kept to flute, please
call me. I ought to finish packing my trunk by one o'clock. Mr. Boynton
says the baggage should be at the station not later than five o'clock,
and you know we have to shake hands with all the plantation folks at
four. Where are you going?"

"Only to the spring house for the cream I promised Minna for
charlotte-russe. I set the jug there to cool."

"Let me bring it. You will wear yourself out."

"As if you knew morning's cream from that two days old! Go read your
book."

She sped toward the dairy like a running bird and though she did not
turn her head, the black eyes were busy. In the shelter of the spring
house she fell on her knees beside pans and bowls and with streaming
eyes prayed that after the battle perpetual peace might come.

Under the canopy of the mimosa Eglah passed, seated herself on the
bench, and opened the Baedeker. Through the lace meshes of the foliage
filtered sunshine, dappling her mourning gown with gold, quivering in
the waves of her hair, and after a while she pushed the book aside, laid
her head back against the trunk of the tree, and her long, silky lashes
touched her cheeks.

Mr. Herriott's glowing, hungry eyes watched every movement, noted the
outline of the full white throat, the listless drooping of the hands at
her side, the sad, proud curve of sensitive lips closed on ceaseless
pain that no complaint could adequately voice. He was unable to bear any
longer the look of patient hopelessness that each moment stabbed his
heart. At the thought that this was possibly his last sight of her, that
in obedience to his harsh dictates she was passing forever out of his
life, a wave of invincible protest surged over him, and before its
passionate fury pride, resolutions, his pledges of renunciation
vanished. The longing of many years seized, mastered him. In the sight
of God and man she was his. He would possess his own. With a quick,
noiseless stride he crossed the narrow space that separated them, and
entered the arch. His shadow was thrown forward, and she lifted her
eyes.

For an instant, a bewildered expression drifted over her countenance,
then her features settled into a marble mask. Her eyes shone suddenly
with a jewel gleam, as when a lamp flashes over the face of a gem; her
lids drooped, and she rose.

They stood only a few feet apart, a little belt of white verbena
fluttering flags of truce between them. His bronze face locked, his
eager grey eyes starred with the glint of battle probed hers for an
instant; she calmly defiant, colorless as the jasmine on her breast.

He held out his hand.

"Eglah!" His voice was a passionate appeal.

She interlaced and clasped her own fingers, her hands hanging in front
of her.

"Mr. Herriott, I am very glad you have reached home safely. I
congratulate you upon escaping the dangers of your Arctic journey."

"You are not surprised to see me in the United States?"

"Not at all. I happened to call at Calvary House recently, and
accidentally I saw and heard you talking in the cloister."

"You were so near, so near--yet gave me no intimation of your presence?"

"I have studied and learned thoroughly the lesson you selected and set
for me; you wished to avoid me. My schooling was effectual, and I was
glad to gratify you."

"When I landed I went first to Calvary House with a suffering human
wreck whom I promised----"

"Why trouble yourself to explain what concerns only you and your sick
friend? Your reasons I have neither the right to ask, nor any desire to
hear."

"At least you will permit me to thank you for all your gracious kindness
to Amos Lea. He tells me you saved his life, and thereby I am far more
your debtor than is the poor old man."

"Never my debtor. Amos and I understand each other, and I was glad to
help take care of him. You owe me absolutely nothing but the fulfilment
of your own unsolicited pledges."

"Why do you suppose I came here?"

"Why--indeed; when you pressed on my acceptance the promise that my
'future should be spared your shadow'? I presume you came from a
chivalric sense of imaginary duty, or possibly a courteous
semi-recognition of what you may have conjectured I might regard as my
legal claims. I have absolutely none of any kind, along any lines.
Having renounced and banished me, perhaps you wished to assure yourself
that the condemned is at least not needy in exile? By what right could
you expect me--disowned, rejected, scorned--to desire ever to see again
a man whom once I trusted, almost as I did my God? To whom I fled as
sole refuge from the infamy that threatened one supreme in my life, and
when like a frantic child I clung to him, believing he loved me, he
shook me off, as if a worm crawled on his hand. After the whirlwind
passed, after the black veil of death mercifully interposed and hid us
from ruin, I came to my senses--I realized the magnitude of my error. My
ideal world had crumbled, you alone survived the wreck; I honored you
for your loyalty to the innocent man in his grave, and God knows I have
rejoiced that you denied my prayer, that you refused to perjure
yourself, but--your cruel words sank deep. While I could not blame you,
my punishment has been as severe as I deserved, as keenly mortifying as
you intended and desired. In my helplessness and sorrow you have
humiliated me by every means at your command, made me a target for
derision and for slander. Three long, sad years, without a line. Yet you
found a way to write to your gardener."

"Yes, I knew Amos loved me. You did not."

"As you felt assured of that fact, I fail to understand why you have
come."

"Not from the chivalric motives you have done me the honor to impute to
me. I am no walking code of priggish courtesy; I am merely a man who
knows exactly what he wants most, and, missing that, deceives himself
with nothing less. I am here to-day solely to see, at least once more,
the face that has held my heart in bondage since you were a child. To
intrude upon you was not my purpose, and I did not intend to violate my
self-imposed limit of absolute silence, but I could not resist the
longing to look into your eyes, to hear your voice; and I thought I was
strong enough to watch you a little while, without your knowledge, and
go away forever, leaving you in peace. I might have known better. The
sight of you shivered my own compact. I have suffered far more than you,
and if my harshness wounded you beyond forgiveness, remember, oh,
remember, how long I have loved you!"

"I can remember only that your last spoken words were a vehement request
that I should forget you."

Her lower lip fluttered, and she caught it between her teeth.

"Yes, but if farewell utterances are inexorably binding, you must pardon
me if I remind you of yours. All through the gloom and bitterness of our
separation a sacred, sweet voice has sounded in my ears the precious
words of promise you whispered when your arms clasped my neck, and your
dear face lay on my heart: 'You will never be out of my life--my own Mr.
Noel.'"

A vivid rose stole into her cheeks, and she leaned farther back to
increase the space between them.

"I had not then received my text-book--had not learned the lesson
assigned. After that, you wrote your final mandate: 'My freedom was
complete,' and you urged me to use it in any way most 'conducive to the
happiness so unwisely imperilled' by my rash marriage. I shall endeavor
to follow your counsel, and if you had waited one day later, you would
have been spared this unpleasant duty-visit. I go away to-night, and
never again shall you be annoyed by even hearing of me. Mr. Herriott, in
spite of all your wrongs, at the last you trusted your name to my
keeping. I have indeed held it 'sacred as the Grail,' and now I return
it to you as stainless as when you gave it. I am leaving America to find
an obscure resting-place in a strange land where I shall be known only
by the name to which I was born; and, once across the ocean, I can
escape, perhaps, the social gibbet from which dangle, deservedly, 'women
with histories.' I have no need of your name, noble though it is, to
help me keep my oath to God. Divorce I hold a shameful blot on true
womanhood, a menace to domestic and national morality, an insult to the
Lord. Human law can no more annul my marriage than my baptismal vow;
neither was made to man; both stand on that divine record only death can
erase; they are locked among the sacraments of God, _'so long as ye both
shall live.'_ Your freedom is as unconditional as you may wish, and that
court of release which you commended to me, is equally open to you."

The pulse in her lovely throat throbbed violently, and watching her lift
one hand there with the old childish effort to loosen the stricture, his
lips tightened and he stepped closer.

"And if I decline to accept, to permit your renunciation of my name,
which is more sacred since you have worn it? To make a football of God's
statute is as little my purpose as is yours. Sometimes I have cheated
myself with the forlorn hope that absence might possibly help me to
accomplish that which long association failed to bring me. After years
of suffering, of sombre retrospection, I hope I have come back less a
Tartar than when we parted. Then I surrendered you entirely--absolutely.
I do so still. I claim no more rights or privileges than I possessed
before that marriage ceremony made you nominally mine; but if your great
pity for the lonely man who never loved any other woman can possibly
grow into a deeper feeling, will you try to forgive my harshness that
dreadful night? Knowing what you are to me, will you come to me?"

"Come to you who repudiated me! By what right dare you suppose,
expect----"

"I have no right even to hope, but my hungry heart dares, and will dare
desperate chances."

"You told me your confidence was dead as your love. The scar of that
brand can never heal."

"Yes, I said many bitter, cruel things in the hot rage of my
disappointment, that I should be glad to forget. In extenuation, you
must remember that you beckoned me unexpectedly to heaven, and when I
was thrust out the crash unhinged me. It was for your own sake I asked
you to put me out of your life; to save you from the horrible martyrdom
of unloving wifehood, from dragging through life the ball and chain of a
galling, intolerable tie. To put you out of mine I knew was as
impossible in future years as I had found it in the past. In my farewell
note I considered your peace of mind, not my own. If you could realize
all you are to me, perhaps you might understand better what that
voluntary surrender of your precious self cost me, when, by the law of
God and of man, you belonged to me."

She had avoided meeting his eyes; the strain set her lips to quivering,
increased the strangling grip on her throat, and unconsciously her
fingers clutched and wrung one another.

"After three years of dreary absence you have not even a friendly hand
to offer to the man who has carried you in his heart ever since you wore
muslin aprons--who holds you the one love of his life?"

"Mr. Herriott, you ceased to love me when you ceased to trust me, else
all these years----"

She paused, warned by the treacherous quiver in her voice. He stood
quite still, and after a moment opened his arms.

"My sweetheart, will you try me? Will you grant me the privilege of
convincing you?"

She shook her head. Something in his eyes dazzled her, and an alarming
pallor overspread her face, blanching her lips.

"If you have found happiness in forgetting and excluding me entirely
from your life and your future, I cannot complain that you followed my
counsel; but I will accept that positive assurance only from your own
truthful lips. Your peace of mind is more to me than my own. Have you
shut me out of your heart forever?"

She tried to move aside, to pass him, but he barred her escape with an
outstretched arm, and she shrank back.

"If you care no more for me now than when I left you, I have no
alternative but to live alone; and I will never again intrude, never
annoy you by the sight of my face. I will not accept compassion, or
friendly sympathy. All--or none. I want love--love that brings a pure
woman gladly to her husband's breast. Once you took some solemn vows for
me, invoking the presence of the Lord you worship. Now, trusting you
implicitly, knowing you will not deceive me, I must ask you to give me
one final pledge. If you cannot love me as I wish--if your heart, your
whole heart will never belong to me--then, calling God to witness the
truth of your words, look me straight in the eyes and tell me so."

She trembled, shut her eyes, and, as a rich red rushed into her white
cheeks, she covered her face with her hands.

A gust of wind shook the mimosa, and on her bowed head drifted the pink
silk filaments, powdering her brown coil and puffs.

Very gently Mr. Herriott took the trembling little hands, kissed the
palms, and, drawing her slowly, tenderly toward him, lifted her arms to
his neck, holding them there.

With a low, broken cry she surrendered.

"Mr. Noel, you have broken my heart."

He waited to steady his voice.

"My proud darling, there seemed no other way. When it heals, please God,
I shall have my throne inside."

With her face hidden on his shoulder, he held her close, his cheek
against her hair, and each knew how fiercely the heart of the other
throbbed. After some moments, he tightened the arm clasping her waist,
and his deep, passionately tender tone caressed like a velvet glove.

"I don't know how many years I have longed for the touch of your lips.
Even as a child you never allowed me to kiss you; and, except your
father, I am sure no man ever has. My sweetheart, if indeed you are
learning to love me, can you, will you give me now what I want--my own
wife's pure lips?"

She crimsoned to the tips of her small ears, and clung to him, not
daring to meet his eyes.

"One memorable night, when two of my dogs froze at my feet, I sat under
the lee of my sledge, waiting for a gale of sleet to howl itself to
rest. I fell asleep and had a heavenly dream, in which you came and
kissed me."

"Mr. Herriott, you cannot love me now as you did before that horrible
journey on the cars when your words seemed to scorch--brand me. I am
afraid--I am afraid----"

He felt her tremble.

"My darling, I love you infinitely more. You were never so sacred, so
dear as to-day. Of what can you feel afraid now? In my dream you were
more generous. I can take, but I prefer to receive the blessed seal I
hope you will give me, as holy assurance that you are entirely my own."

Shyly she turned her flushed face towards his, one hand, quivering like
a frightened bird, softly drew his brown cheek closer, and the proud,
beautiful, vestal lips nestled and clung to her husband's.

Sitting beside her on the bench, he said, as his brilliant, happy eyes
studied her face:

"Will you please tell me when you began really to care for me?"

"What can that matter now? Do not make me look back into shadows I wish
to forget. All our light shines ahead."

"I should like to fix the date of my coronation, that I may compute
accurately my despotic reign from the hour I entered into possession of
my kingdom. Tell me, sweetheart; why should you shrink?"

"Do you recall that last morning at home, when you came from the beach
followed by the dogs? Seeing me at the window, you took off your cap and
waved it. As I looked down at you then, something strange seemed
suddenly to stir and wake up and tremble in my heart. I did not
understand; it was a new feeling, and I was so wounded and tortured over
many things I could not analyze it; supposed it a part of my punishment.
I had seen you look better. Your boating suit and full evening dress
were certainly more becoming, but in some unaccountable, extraordinary
way that grey cap wave, and the peculiar expression I had never before
seen in your eyes, brought you closer to me than you had ever been. When
I sat alone in your smoking-room and saw the strapped trunks and your
fur overcoat--like a coffin and a pall--a terribly bitter wave rolled
over me at the thought of giving you up. I began to be jealous of Amos,
and I envied the dear old dogs the tender caress of your stroking hand.
At the last you coldly said good-bye; but when you caught, strained me
against you, I found out what it all meant. I knew then that woman's
heritage of sorrow was mine, and that my heart followed you into Polar
night. The ache that began that day at Greyledge grew and tortured me
until--I felt your arms around me once more."

He lifted her left hand and kissed it, pressing the ring against his
face.

"Why did not you tell me? I should have been spared so much brutal
bitterness of feeling."

"It was impossible after all the harsh, cruel things you had deemed it
your duty to say to me, and you would have scouted such a sudden change
of feeling as inconceivable, as absurd. The strangeness of the
revelation overwhelmed, frightened me; I was more astonished than you
would have been. Tell you? Mr. Noel, I would sooner have gone to the
stake."

"Your silence tied me to one. Men are perverse devils. I hated the sight
of this wedding ring; I longed to melt it in a crucible in my
laboratory. You will never understand the storm that raged within me
that day on the train when you hummed Kücken and laid the baby on your
breast. Every time you lifted your hand and patted the poor little
creature, that gold band danced and flashed in my eyes like a mocking
imp. But your ring had its innings. After a year my temper cooled. Day
and night I found myself drifting back more hopelessly to you; and
always before me your little white hand flashed that circle--signet of
my ownership--because you had clung to it and declared 'it was the badge
of your loyalty.' I saw it in the blue gulfs of icebergs, in the
wonderful orange radiance of auroral arches, in the glare of low, tired
suns that could not set, in the unearthly lustre of moons holding vigil
over a silent desert wrapped in its shroud of ice, and in the ghostly
phosphorescence of snow-mantled glaciers. Always, everywhere, that dear
ringed hand beckoned like a beacon. I knew you did not love me; I was
grimly sure you never would; but the assurance that no other man could
ever claim lips denied to me, that you would proudly hold and keep your
precious self sacred to one whose name you bore, comforted me."

He took her face in his palms, bending close his handsome head, and a
mist dimmed the sparkle in his magnetic eyes.

"My darling, the coldest night I ever spent, when lost on the 'Great
Ice,' where a snow-storm obliterated sledge tracks and death seemed
inevitable, the remembered touch of your dear arms clinging around my
neck, the pressure of your face on my breast, thrilled my heart, fired
my blood, and warmed my freezing body. I missed the Pole; I nearly lost
my life; but, ah, thank God, better than either, more precious than all,
I have found at last, and I own the pure heart of my wife."



POPULAR NOVELS


BY AUGUSTA EVANS WILSON.

    INEZ
    BEULAH
    MACARIA
    ST. ELMO
    VASHTI
    INFELICE
    AT THE MERCY OF TIBERIUS
    A SPECKLED BIRD


"Who has not read with rare delight the novels of Augusta Evans? Her
strange, wonderful and fascinating style; the profound depths to which
she sinks the probe into human nature, touching its most sacred chords
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ECCENTRICITIES OF GENIUS

By Major J. B. Pond.

READ WHAT IS SAID OF IT.

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It fairly reeks with personality.... No man living has had such
interesting association with so many interesting people."--_Home
Journal._

"Adorned by many pictures, never before published."--_Detroit Journal._

"Possesses unparalleled attractions."--_Boston Journal._

"Major Pond goes deep into his subject, furnishing pen-portraits that
are admirably clear and graphic."--_The Mail and Express._

"The whole book, stuffed as it is with anecdotes and extracts from
personal letters, is marvelously interesting."--_Boston Transcript._

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reading as is found in Major Pond's 600 pages of bright personal
description."--_N.Y. Times._

"Shining by reflected light, its pages literally teem with interesting
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"Originality stamps the volume, copiously illustrated with
portraits."--_The Boston Globe._

"It has a thousand charms, and a thousand points of interest. It is full
of striking gems of thought, rare descriptions of men and places;
biographical bits that delight one by their variety, and the distinction
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Disraeli's famous "Curiosities of Literature."--_Philadelphia Item._

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has not come to our notice. The get-up is worthy of the matter of the
book."--_Philadelphia Evening Telegraph._


THE VOYAGE OF ITHOBAL

BY SIR EDWIN ARNOLD


Ithobal was the first African explorer we know about. He was a sea
captain of Tyre, who rescued and married an African Princess, and then
induced the King of Egypt to put him in charge of a voyage of
exploration of the wonderful land of his wife's birth.

After a voyage of fifteen thousand miles around Africa, he returns after
numerous and exciting adventures, which bring out almost every feature
of African life and scenery. Ithobal relates the story of his enterprise
in a discourse of seven days before the throne of Pharaoh, who crowns
him with honors.

     SIR HENRY M. STANLEY, in a letter to the author, says of
     it:--"You have added greatly to the happiness of many of your
     race by the production of so unique a poem, so rich in the
     beauties of the sweet English language."

Other able critics who have read the blind poet's new epic poem unite in
calling it even better than the old favorite, "The Light of Asia."


EQUAL PARTNERS.

By Howard Fielding.

"This is a thoroughly enjoyable detective story, written in good, crisp
style, and with a decided surprise in the last pages. It is adroitly
contrived that almost every character in the book shall be suspected of
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The characters are excellently differentiated, and the story is vastly
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Tribune_.


DORIS KINGSLEY, Child and Colonist.

By EMMA RAYNER, author of "Free to Serve," "In Castle and Colony," etc.

This story of the South in the first half of the eighteenth century,
opens with one of the strangest episodes in the early history of South
Carolina--the pursuit and capture by the Governor of Carolina of a
pirate vessel, full, not of treasure, but of English men and women; and
the selling of those same unfortunate voyagers as bond servants in the
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the youngest of the party, and is the heroine of the story. Doris
Kingsley is a novel of absorbing interest, dramatic and historically
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OLD JED PROUTY (A Narrative of the Penobscot).

By RICHARD GOLDEN and MARY C. FRANCIS.

In "Old Jed Prouty" the reading public is presented with a New England
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high moral ethics of the story, and throws into strong relief the deep
human sentiments that dominate the tale. Standing out above all,
infusing into the fiber of every chapter the rugged sincerity, the
homely wit and the quaint philosophy of New England, is the central
character about which the pivot of the story turns, "Old Jed Prouty,"
real in name and real in goodness, who at the time of his life, some
thirty years since, was a landmark in the Valley of the Penobscot.


JOHN WINSLOW.

By HENRY D. NORTHROP.

"'John Winslow' is one of those inviting books of country life of which
the best part of 'Eben Holden' has come to be the accepted type. Plenty
of shrewd common sense in the chief character, a dash of love on the
side, an incidental and inevitable bit of human wickedness--but
everything in the picture and the framing attractive. This is a book for
a wide reach among readers."--_N. Y. World._

"Properly ranks with 'Eben Holden,' 'David Harum,' and 'Quincy Adams
Sawyer.' The four may be put in a class by themselves as distinctive
types of homespun Americans."--_The North American._

"Worthy to live with 'David Harum' and 'Eben Holden.'"--_Publishers'
Weekly_.


UNDER A LUCKY STAR, a New Book on Astrology.

By CHARLOTTE ABELL WALKER.

Tells what occupation to adopt, and what line of life to follow, what
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THE WAY OF A MAN WITH A MAID.

By FRANCES GORDON FANE.

A clever, well-written story, full of love and pathos, and thrilling
with dramatic crises. Each step of the domestic tragedy is skilfully
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"Its author has made it a powerful, telling story to read."--_N.Y.
World_.


THE CROSSROADS OF DESTINY, a Story of Chivalry in the Fifteenth Century.

By JOHN P. RITTER. Author of "The Man Who Dared."

This is a wonderfully interesting story, and will find a welcome with
all who love to read of deeds of chivalry.

"It is a clean, clear and clever story of chivalry at its best, and will
find a great many well-pleased readers."--_New York World_. Cloth bound,
illustrated.


A MASTER OF FORTUNE, being Further Adventures of "Captain Kettle."

By CUTCLIFFE HYNE.

"It has the dash and tinge of reality that makes you feel as if you were
in the midst of it all."--_Detroit Free Press._

"The many readers who followed with bated breath the wild adventures of
Captain Kettle in the book named for him, will welcome Cutcliffe Hyne's
new collection of tales dealing with that remarkable sea dog. The volume
is well called 'A Master of Fortune.'"--_Philadelphia Press._


"Nobody who has followed the gallant sailor--diminutive, but oh, my!--in
his previous adventures around the earth, is going to miss this red-hot
volume of marvelous exploits."--_N. Y. World._


THE ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN KETTLE.

By CUTCLIFFE HYNE.

The best sea story since the days of Marryat. Captain Kettle is a
devil-may-care sea dog, half pirate and half preacher. The author
carries him through many hairbreadth escapes and makes him a character
that will live long in the annals of fiction. The success of this book
is marvelous.


THE MULLIGANS. A Novel.

By EDWARD HARRIGAN.

The _New York World_ says: "Mr. Harrigan gave to his Mulligan dramas the
most distinctly typical character plays which have ever been seen on the
native stage. They were studied and displayed straight from the life of
New York and their popularity was unbounded. His book is one of the most
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_It is a marvelously entertaining novel, possessing a keenness of wit
and humor unsurpassed by any recent work. All the characters stand out,
as true to life, as natural and as vivid as if portrayed by Dickens._


NORMAN HOLT, a Story of the Army of the Cumberland.

By GENERAL (Capt.) CHARLES KING.

"No more charming historic war story has ever been written. It is
Captain King's best, and bearing, as it does, on the great battle of
Mission Ridge, although the story is woven in fiction, it adds an
invaluable record of that gigantic contest between the two great
armies."

"The characters are real, their emotions natural, and the romance that
is interwoven is delightful. It is wholesome and one of General King's
best, if not his best book."--_N. Y. Journal._

"From the first chapter to the last page the interest of the reader
never fags. General King has written no more brilliant or stirring novel
than 'Norman Holt.'"--_N. Y. Press._


JOHN HENRY, (25th Thousand.)

By HUGH MCHUGH.

"'John Henry' has just 'butted' its way in between the literary bars and
capered over the book counters to the tune of twelve thousand copies
before its publishers could recover their breath.

"Every page is as catchy as a bar from a popular song.

"The slang is as correct, original and smart as the newest handshake
from London.

"In the lottery of humorous books 'John Henry' seems to approximate the
capital prize."--_N. Y. Journal._

"All who have laughed over 'Billy Baxter' will heartily enjoy this
book."--_The Bookseller, Newsdealer and Stationer_.


THE KING OF HONEY ISLAND, (45th Thousand.)

By MAURICE THOMPSON, author of "Alice of Old Vincennes," etc.

"'The King of Honey Island' bears quite as many marks of the genius of
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perhaps of more buoyancy and beauty of thought and expression. In
'Alice' Mr. Thompson plumed himself as a master word painter. In 'The
King of Honey Island' he developed into a veritable American Ouida, for
his descriptive powers are marvelous. Like the true artist that he was,
he paints Nature as it looks, not as it is, so that the reader, in
glimpsing the battle of New Orleans, hears, almost, the cannon's
roar."--_The Topeka Capital._





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