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Title: Anne
Author: Woolson, Constance Fenimore, 1840-1894
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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

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[Illustration: "I PUT MY ARMS AROUND HER." _See Page 470._]



ANNE

A Novel

BY
CONSTANCE FENIMORE WOOLSON

_ILLUSTRATED BY C. S. REINHART_

NEW YORK
HARPER & BROTHERS, FRANKLIN SQUARE

Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1882, by
HARPER & BROTHERS,
In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.

_All rights reserved._



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.


"I PUT MY ARMS ROUND HER"                 _Frontispiece._

"THE GIRL PAUSED AND REFLECTED A MOMENT"  _To face Page_ 18

"AS SHE BENT OVER THE OLD VOLUME"            "           42

LOIS HINSDALE                                "           62

"AND IT ENDED IN THEIR RACING DOWN TOGETHER" "           84

"ALARMED, HE BENT OVER HER"                  "          104

"SHE SAT THERE HIGH IN THE AIR WHILE THE STEAMER
BACKED OUT FROM THE PIERS"                   "          120

"YOU KNOW I TOO MUST GO FAR AWAY"            "          132

TITA LISTENING                               "          136

"DEAR ME! WHAT CAN BE DONE WITH SUCH
A YOUNG SAVAGE?"                             "          152

IN THE WOODS                                 "          186

"HE TOOK HIS BEST COAT FROM HIS LEAN VALISE" "          208

"HE WAS MERELY NOTING THE EFFECT"            "          226

"SHE BATHED HER FLUSHED CHEEKS"              "          234

"SHE STARTED SLIGHTLY"                       "          254

"SHE BURIED HER FACE TREMBLINGLY IN HER
HANDS"                                       "          262

"ANNE DREW A CHAIR TO THE BEDSIDE, AND SAT
DOWN WITH HER BACK TO THE MOONLIGHT"         "          284

"WHILE HER MAID WAS COILING HER FAIR HAIR"   "          308

"IT IS, OR SHOULD BE, OVER THERE"            "          328

"MISS LOIS SIGHED DEEPLY"                    "          350

"JULY WALKED IN FRONT, WITH HIS GUN OVER
HIS SHOULDER"                                "          374

"SHE TRIED TO RISE, BUT HE HELD HER ARM WITH
BOTH HANDS"                                  "          386

"WEAK, HOLDING ON BY THE TREES"              "          392

"SAW HER SLOWLY ASCEND THE HOUSE STEPS"      "          408

"ANNE, STILL AS A STATUE"                    "          432

"HE ROSE, AND TOOK HER COLD HANDS IN HIS"    "          460

"HE OBEYED WITHOUT COMMENT"                  "          498

"THE SECOND BOAT, WHICH WAS FARTHER UP THE
LAKE, CONTAINED A MAN"                       "          514

"HE REACHED THE WINDOWS, AND PEEPED THROUGH
A CRACK IN THE OLD BLIND"                    "          530



ANNE.



CHAPTER I.

    "Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
     Shades of the prison-house begin to close
          Upon the growing boy;
     But he beholds the light, and whence it flows,
          He sees it in his joy.
     The youth who daily farther from the East
     Must travel, still is Nature's priest,
          And by the vision splendid
          Is on his way attended;
     At length the man perceives it die away,
     And fade into the light of common day."

     --WORDSWORTH.

     "It is but little we can do for each other. We accompany the youth
     with sympathy and manifold old sayings of the wise to the gate of
     the arena, but it is certain that not by strength of ours, or by
     the old sayings, but only on strength of his own, unknown to us or
     to any, he must stand or fall."--EMERSON.


"Does it look well, father?"

"What, child?"

"Does this look well?"

William Douglas stopped playing for a moment, and turned his head toward
the speaker, who, standing on a ladder, bent herself to one side, in
order that he might see the wreath of evergreen, studded with cones,
which she had hung on the wall over one of the small arched windows.

"It is too compact, Anne, too heavy. There should be sprays falling from
it here and there, like a real vine. The greenery, dear, should be
either growing naturally upward or twining; large branches standing in
the corners like trees, or climbing vines. Stars, stiff circles, and set
shapes should be avoided. That wreath looks as though it had been planed
by a carpenter."

"Miss Lois made it."

"Ah," said William Douglas, something which made you think of a smile,
although no smile was there, passing over his face, "it looks like her
work; it will last a long time. And there will be no need to remove it
for Ash-Wednesday, Anne; there is nothing joyous about it."

"I did not notice that it was ugly," said the girl, trying in her bent
posture to look at the wreath, and bringing one eye and a portion of
anxious forehead to bear upon it.

"That is because Miss Lois made it," replied William Douglas, returning
to his music.

Anne, standing straight again, surveyed the garland in silence. Then she
changed its position once or twice, studying the effect. Her figure,
poised on the round of the ladder, high in the air, was, although
unsupported, firm. With her arms raised above her head in a position
which few women could have endured for more than a moment, she appeared
as unconcerned, and strong, and sure of her footing, as though she had
been standing on the floor. There was vigor about her and elasticity,
combined unexpectedly with the soft curves and dimples of a child.
Viewed from the floor, this was a young Diana, or a Greek maiden, as we
imagine Greek maidens to have been. The rounded arms, visible through
the close sleeves of the dark woollen dress, the finely moulded wrists
below the heavy wreath, the lithe, natural waist, all belonged to a
young goddess. But when Anne Douglas came down from her height, and
turned toward you, the idea vanished. Here was no goddess, no Greek;
only an American girl, with a skin like a peach. Anne Douglas's eyes
were violet-blue, wide open, and frank. She had not yet learned that
there was any reason why she should not look at everything with the calm
directness of childhood. Equally like a child was the unconsciousness of
her mouth, but the full lips were exquisitely curved. Her brown hair was
braided in a heavy knot at the back of her head; but little rings and
roughened curly ends stood up round her forehead and on her temples, as
though defying restraint. This unwritten face, with its direct gaze, so
far neutralized the effect of the Diana-like form that the girl missed
beauty on both sides. The usual ideal of pretty, slender, unformed
maidenhood was not realized, and yet Anne Douglas's face was more like
what is called a baby face than that of any other girl on the island.
The adjective generally applied to her was "big." This big, soft-cheeked
girl now stood irresolutely looking at the condemned wreath.

The sun was setting, and poured a flood of clear yellow light through
the little west windows; the man at the organ was playing a sober,
steadfast German choral, without exultation, yet full of a resolute
purpose which defied even death and the grave. Out through the eastern
windows stretched the frozen straits, the snow-covered islands, and
below rang out the bugle. "It will be dark in a few moments," said Anne
to herself; "I will do it."

She moved the ladder across to the chancel, mounted to its top again,
and placed the wreath directly over the altar, connecting it deftly with
the numerous long lines of delicate wreathing woven in thread-like green
lace-work which hung there, waiting for their key-stone--a place of
honor which the condemned wreath was to fill. It now crowned the whole.
The little house of God was but an upper chamber, roughly finished and
barren; its only treasure was a small organ, a gift from a father whose
daughter, a stranger from the South, had died upon the island,
requesting that her memorial might be music rather than a cold stone.
William Douglas had superintended the unpacking and placing of this
gift, and loved it almost as though it had been his own child. Indeed,
it was a child, a musical child--one who comprehended his varying moods
when no one else did, not even Anne.

"It makes no difference now," said Anne, aloud, carrying the ladder
toward the door; "it is done and ended. Here is the ladder, Jones, and
please keep up the fires all night, unless you wish to see us frozen
stiff to-morrow."

A man in common soldier's uniform touched his cap and took the ladder.
Anne went back. "Now for one final look, father," she said, "and then
we must go home; the children will be waiting."

William Douglas played a few more soft strains, and turned round. "Well,
child," he said, stroking his thin gray beard with an irresolute motion
habitual with him, and looking at the small perspective of the chapel
with critical gaze, "so you have put Miss Lois's wreath up there?"

"Yes; it is the only thing she had time to make, and she took so much
pains with it I could not bear to have her disappointed. It will not be
much noticed."

"Yes, it will."

"I am sorry, then; but it can not be moved. And to tell the truth,
father, although I suppose you will laugh at me, _I_ think it looks
well."

"It looks better than anything else in the room, and crowns the whole,"
said Douglas, rising and standing by his daughter's side. "It was a
stroke of genius to place it there, Anne."

"Was it?" said the girl, her face flushing with pleasure. "But I was
thinking only of Miss Lois."

"I am afraid you were," said Douglas, with his shadowy smile.

The rough walls and beams of the chapel were decorated with fine
spray-like lines of evergreen, all pointing toward the chancel; there
was not a solid spot upon which the eye could rest, no upright branches
in the corners, no massed bunches over the windows, no stars of
Bethlehem, anchors, or nondescript Greek letters; the whole chapel was
simply outlined in light feathery lines of green, which reached the
chancel, entered it, played about its walls, and finally came together
under the one massive wreath whose even circle and thick foliage held
them all firmly in place, and ended their wanderings in a restful quiet
strength. While the two stood gazing, the lemon-colored light faded, and
almost immediately it was night; the red glow shining out under the
doors of the large stoves alone illuminated the room, which grew into a
shadowy place, the aromatic fragrance of the evergreens filling the warm
air pungently, more perceptible, as fragrance always is, in the
darkness. William Douglas turned to the organ again, and began playing
the music of an old vigil.

"The bugle sounded long ago, father," said Anne. "It is quite dark now,
and very cold; I know by the crackling noise the men's feet make across
the parade-ground."

But the father played on. "Come here, daughter," he said; "listen to
this waiting, watching, praying music. Do you not see the old monks in
the cloisters telling the hours through the long night, waiting for the
dawn, the dawn of Christmas? Look round you; see this dim chapel, the
air filled with fragrance like incense. These far-off chords, now; might
they not be the angels, singing over the parapet of heaven?"

Anne stood by her father's side, and listened. "Yes," she said, "I can
imagine it. And yet I could imagine it a great deal better if I did not
know where every bench was, and every darn in the chancel carpet, and
every mended pane in the windows. I am sorry I am so dull, father."

"Not dull, but unawakened."

"And when shall I waken?" pursued the girl, accustomed to carrying on
long conversations with this dreaming father, whom she loved devotedly.

"God knows! May He be with you at your wakening!"

"I would rather have you, father; that is, if it is not wicked to say
so. But I am very often wicked, I think," she added, remorsefully.

William Douglas smiled, closed the organ, and, throwing his arm round
his tall young daughter, walked with her down the aisle toward the door.

"But you have forgotten your cloak," said Anne, running back to get it.
She clasped it carefully round his throat, drew the peaked hood over his
head, and fastened it with straps of deer's hide. Her own fur cloak and
cap were already on, and thus enveloped, the two descended the dark
stairs, crossed the inner parade-ground, passed under the iron arch, and
made their way down the long sloping path, cut in the cliff-side, which
led from the little fort on the height to the village below. The
thermometer outside the commandant's door showed a temperature several
degrees below zero; the dry old snow that covered the ground was
hardened into ice on the top, so that boys walked on its crust above the
fences. Overhead the stars glittered keenly, like the sharp edges of
Damascus blades, and the white expanse of the ice-fields below gave out
a strange pallid light which was neither like that of sun nor of moon,
of dawn nor of twilight. The little village showed but few signs of life
as they turned into its main street; the piers were sheets of ice.

Nothing wintered there; the summer fleets were laid up in the rivers
farther south, where the large towns stood on the lower lakes. The
shutters of the few shops had been tightly closed at sunset, when all
the inhabited houses were tightly closed also; inside there were
curtains, sometimes a double set, woollen cloth, blankets, or skins,
according to the wealth of the occupants. Thus housed, with great fires
burning in their dark stoves, and one small lamp, the store-keepers
waited for custom until nine o'clock, after which time hardly any one
stirred abroad, unless it was some warm-blooded youth, who defied the
elements with the only power which can make us forget them.

At times, early in the evening, the door of one of these shops opened,
and a figure entered through a narrow crack; for no islander opened a
door widely--it was giving too much advantage to the foe of his life,
the weather. This figure, enveloped in furs or a blanket, came toward
the stove and warmed its hands with deliberation, the merchant meanwhile
remaining calmly seated; then, after some moments, it threw back its
hood, and disclosed the face of perhaps an Indian, perhaps a French
fisherman, perhaps an Irish soldier from the barracks. The customer now
mentioned his errand, and the merchant, rising in his turn, stretched
himself like a shaggy dog loath to leave the fire, took his little lamp,
and prepared to go in quest of the article desired, which lay, perhaps,
beyond the circle of heat, somewhere in the outer darkness of the dim
interior. It was an understood rule that no one should ask for nails or
any kind of ironware in the evening: it was labor enough for the
merchant to find and handle his lighter goods when the cold was so
intense. There was not much bargaining in the winter; people kept their
breath in their mouths. The merchants could have made money if they had
had more customers or more energy; as it was, however, the small
population and the cold kept them lethargically honest.

Anne and her father turned northward. The southern half of the little
village had two streets, one behind the other, and both were clogged and
overshadowed by the irregular old buildings of the once-powerful fur
company. These ancient frames, empty and desolate, rose above the low
cottages of the islanders, sometimes three and four stories in height,
with the old pulleys and hoisting apparatus still in place under their
peaked roofs, like gallows ready for the old traders to hang themselves
upon, if they came back and saw the degeneracy of the furless times. No
one used these warehouses now, no one propped them up, no one pulled
them down; there they stood, closed and empty, their owners being but so
many discouraged bones under the sod; for the Company had dissolved to
the four winds of heaven, leaving only far-off doubtful and quarrelling
heirs. The little island could not have the buildings; neither could it
pull them down. They were dogs in the manger, therefore, if the people
had looked upon them with progressive American eyes; but they did not.
They were not progressive; they were hardly American. If they had any
glory, it was of that very past, the days when those buildings were full
of life. There was scarcely a family on the island that did not cherish
its tradition of the merry fur-trading times, when "grandfather" was a
factor, a superintendent, a clerk, a hunter; even a voyageur had his
importance, now that there were no more voyageurs. Those were gay days,
they said; they should never look upon their like again: unless, indeed,
the past should come back--a possibility which did not seem so unlikely
on the island as it does elsewhere, since the people were plainly
retrograding, and who knows but that they might some time even catch up
with the past?

North of the piers there was only one street, which ran along the
water's edge. On the land side first came the fort garden, where
successive companies of soldiers had vainly fought the climate in an
agricultural way, redcoats of England and blue-coats of the United
States, with much the same results of partially ripened vegetables,
nipped fruits, and pallid flowers; for the island summer was beautiful,
but too short for lusciousness. Hardy plants grew well, but there was
always a persistent preference for those that were not hardy--like
delicate beauties who are loved and cherished tenderly, while the strong
brown maids go by unnoticed. The officers' wives made catsup of the
green tomatoes, and loved their weakling flowers for far-away home's
sake; and as the Indians brought in canoe-loads of fine full-jacketed
potatoes from their little farms on the mainland, the officers could
afford to let the soldiers do fancy-work in the government fields if it
pleased the exiled ladies. Beyond the army garden was the old Agency
house. The Agency itself had long been removed farther westward,
following the retreating, dwindling tribes of the red men farther toward
the Rocky Mountains; but the old house remained. On its door a brass
plate was still fixed, bearing the words, "United States Agency." But it
was now the home of a plain, unimportant citizen, William Douglas.

Anne ran up the path toward the front door, thinking of the children and
the supper. She climbed the uneven snow-covered steps, turned the latch,
and entered the dark hall. There was a line of light under the left-hand
door, and taking off her fur-lined overshoes, she went in. The room was
large; its three windows were protected by shutters, and thick curtains
of red hue, faded but cheery; a great fire of logs was burning on the
hearth, lighting up every corner with its flame and glow, and making the
poor furniture splendid. In its radiance the curtains were damask, the
old carpet a Persian-hued luxury, and the preparations for cooking an
_Arabian Nights'_ display. Three little boys ran forward to meet their
sister; a girl who was basking in the glow of the flame looked up
languidly. They were odd children, with black eyes, coal-black hair,
dark skins, and bold eagle outlines. The eldest, the girl, was small--a
strange little creature, with braids of black hair hanging down behind
almost to her ankles, half-closed black eyes, little hands and feet, a
low soft voice, and the grace of a young panther. The boys were larger,
handsome little fellows of wild aspect. In fact, all four were of mixed
blood, their mother having been a beautiful French quarter-breed, and
their father--William Douglas.

"Annet, Annet, can't we have fried potatoes for supper, and bacon?"

"Annet, Annet, can't we have coffee?"

"It is a biting night, isn't it?" said Tita, coming to her sister's side
and stroking her cold hands gently. "I really think, Annet, that you
ought to have something substantielle. You see, _I_ think of you;
whereas those howling piggish bears think only of themselves."

All this she delivered in a soft, even voice, while Anne removed the
remainder of her wrappings.

"I have thought of something better still," said William Douglas's
eldest daughter, kissing her little sister fondly, and then stepping out
of the last covering, and lifting the heap from the floor--"batter
cakes!"

The boys gave a shout of delight, and danced up and down on the hearth;
Tita went back to her corner and sat down, clasping her little brown
hands round her ankles, like the embalmed monkeys of the Nile. Her
corner was made by an old secretary and the side of the great chimney;
this space she had lined and carpeted with furs, and here she sat curled
up with her book or her bead-work all through the long winter, refusing
to leave the house unless absolutely ordered out by Anne, who filled the
place of mother to these motherless little ones. Tita was well satisfied
with the prospect of batter cakes; she would probably eat two if Anne
browned them well, and they were light and tender. But as for those
boys, those wolf-dogs, those beasts, they would probably swallow dozens.
"If you come any nearer, Louis, I shall lay open the side of your
head," she announced, gently, as the boys danced too near her hermitage;
they, accustomed alike to her decisions and her words, danced farther
away without any discussion of the subject. Tita was an excellent
playmate sometimes; her little moccasined feet, and long braids
streaming behind, formed the most exciting feature of their summer
races; her blue cloth skirt up in the tops of the tallest trees, the
provocative element in their summer climbing. She was a pallid little
creature, while they were brown; small, while they were large; but she
domineered over them like a king, and wreaked a whole vocabulary of
roughest fisherman's terms upon them when they displeased her. One awful
vengeance she reserved as a last resort: when they had been unbearably
troublesome she stole into their room at night in her little white
night-gown, with all her long thick black hair loose, combed over her
face, and hanging down round her nearly to her feet. This was a ghostly
visitation which the boys could not endure, for she left a lamp in the
hall outside, so that they could dimly see her, and then she stood and
swayed toward them slowly, backward and forward, without a sound, all
the time coming nearer and nearer, until they shrieked aloud in terror,
and Anne, hurrying to the rescue, found only three frightened little
fellows cowering together in their broad bed, and the hairy ghost gone.

"How can you do such things, Tita?" she said.

"It is the only way by which I can keep the little devils in order,"
replied Tita.

"Do not use such words, dear."

"Mother did," said the younger sister, in her soft calm voice.

This was true, and Tita knew that Anne never impugned the memory of that
mother.

"Who volunteers to help?" said Anne, lighting a candle in an iron
candlestick, and opening a door.

"I," said Louis.

"I," said Gabriel.

"Me too," said little André.

They followed her, hopping along together, with arms interlinked, while
her candle shed a light on the bare walls and floors of the rooms
through which they passed, a series of little apartments, empty and
desolate, at the end of which was the kitchen, inhabited in the daytime
by an Irishwoman, a soldier's wife, who came in the morning before
breakfast, and went home at dusk, the only servant William Douglas's
fast-thinning purse could afford. Anne might have had her kitchen nearer
what Miss Lois called the "keeping-room"; any one of the five in the
series would have answered the purpose as well as the one she had
chosen. But she had a dream of furnishing them all some day according to
a plan of her own, and it would have troubled her greatly to have used
her proposed china closet, pantry, store-room, preserve closet, or
fruit-room for culinary purposes. How often had she gone over the whole
in her mind, settling the position of every shelf, and deliberating over
the pattern of the cups! The Irishwoman had left some gleams of fire on
the hearth, and the boys immediately set themselves to work burying
potatoes in the ashes, with the hot hearth-stone beneath. "For of course
you are going to cook in the sitting-room, Annet," they said. "We made
all ready for you there; and, besides, this fire is out."

"You could easily have kept it up," said the sister, smiling. "However,
as it is Christmas-eve, I will let you have your way."

The boys alertly loaded themselves with the articles she gave them, and
went hopping back into the sitting-room. They scorned to walk on
Christmas-eve; the thing was to hop, and yet carry every dish steadily.
They arranged the table, still in a sort of dancing step, and sang
together in their shrill childish voices a tune of their own, without
any words but "Ho! ho! ho!" Tita, in her corner, kept watch over the
proceedings, and inhaled the aroma of the coffee with indolent
anticipation. The tin pot stood on the hearth near her, surrounded by
coals; it was a battered old coffee-pot, grimy as a camp-kettle, but
dear to all the household, and their principal comforter when the
weather was bitter, provisions scarce, or the boys especially
troublesome. For the boys said they did not enjoy being especially
troublesome; they could not help it any more than they could help having
the measles or the whooping-cough. They needed coffee, therefore, for
the conflict, when they felt it coming on, as much as any of the
household.

Poor Anne's cooking utensils were few and old; it was hard to make
batter cakes over an open fire without the proper hanging griddle. But
she attempted it, nevertheless, and at length, with scarlet cheeks,
placed a plateful of them, brown, light, and smoking, upon the table.
"Now, Louis, run out for the potatoes; and, Tita, call father."

This one thing Tita would do; she aspired to be her father's favorite.
She went out with her noiseless step, and presently returned leading in
the tall, bent, gray-haired father, her small brown hand holding his
tightly, her dark eyes fixed upon him with a persistent steadiness, as
if determined to isolate all his attention upon herself. William Douglas
was never thoroughly at ease with his youngest daughter; she had this
habit of watching him silently, which made him uncomfortable. The boys
he understood, and made allowances for their wildness; but this girl,
with her soft still ways, perplexed and troubled him. She seemed to
embody, as it were, his own mistakes, and he never looked at her little
pale face and diminutive figure without a vague feeling that she was a
spirit dwelling on earth in elfish form, with a half-developed
contradictory nature, to remind him of his past weakness. Standing at
the head of the table, tall and straight, with her nobly poised head and
clear Saxon eyes, his other daughter awaited him, and met his gaze with
a bright smile; he always came back to her with a sense of comfort. But
Tita jealously brought his attention to herself again by pulling his
hand, and leading him to his chair, taking her own place close beside
him. He was a tall man, and her head did not reach his elbow, but she
ruled him. The father now asked a blessing; he always hesitated on his
way through it, once or twice, as though he had forgotten what to say,
but took up the thread again after an instant's pause, and went on.
When he came to the end, and said "Amen," he always sat down with a
relieved air. If you had asked him what he had said, he could not have
told you unless you started him at the beginning, when the old formula
would have rolled off his lips in the same vague, mechanical way. The
meal proceeded in comparative quiet; the boys no longer hummed and
shuffled their feet; they were engaged with the cakes. Tita refrained
from remarks save once, when Gabriel having dropped buttered crumbs upon
her dress, she succinctly threatened him with dismemberment. Douglas
gazed at her helplessly, and sighed.

"She will be a woman soon," he said to his elder daughter, when, an hour
or two later, she joined him in his own apartment, and drew from its
hiding-place her large sewing-basket, filled with Christmas presents.

"Oh no, father, she is but a child," answered Anne, cheerfully. "As she
grows older these little faults will vanish."

"How old is she?" said Douglas.

"Just thirteen."

The father played a bar of Mendelssohn noiselessly on the arm of his
chair with his long thin fingers; he was thinking that he had married
Tita's mother when she was hardly three years older. Anne was absorbed
in her presents.

"See, father, will not this be nice for André? And this for Gabriel? And
I have made such a pretty doll for Tita."

"Will she care for it, dear?"

"Of course she will. Did I not play with my own dear doll until I was
fourteen years old--yes, almost fifteen?" said the girl, with a little
laugh and blush.

"And you are now--"

"I am over sixteen."

"A great age," said Douglas, smoothing her thick brown hair fondly, as
she sat near him, bending over her sewing.

The younger children were asleep up stairs in two old bedrooms with
rattling dormer windows, and the father and elder daughter were in a
small room opposite the sitting-room, called the study, although nothing
was ever studied there, save the dreams of his own life, by the vague,
irresolute, imaginative soul that dwelt therein, in a thin body of its
own, much the worse for wear. William Douglas was a New England man of
the brooding type, sent by force of circumstances into the ranks of
United States army surgeons. He had married Anne's mother, who had
passionately loved him, against the wishes of her family, and had
brought the disinherited young bride out to this far Western island,
where she had died, happy to the last--one of those rare natures to whom
love is all in all, and the whole world well lost for its dear and holy
sake. Grief over her death brought out all at once the latent doubts,
hesitations, and strange perplexities of William Douglas's peculiar
mind--perplexities which might have lain dormant in a happier life. He
resigned his position as army surgeon, and refused even practice in the
village. Medical science was not exact, he said; there was much pretense
and presumption in it; he would no longer countenance deception, or play
a part. He was then made postmaster, and dealt out letters through some
seasons, until at last his mistakes roused the attention of the new
officers at the fort; for the villagers, good, easy-tempered people,
would never have complained of such trifles as a forgotten mail-bag or
two under the counter. Superseded, he then attended nominally to the
highways; but as the military authorities had for years done all that
was to be done on the smooth roads, three in number, including the steep
fort hill, the position was a sinecure, and the superintendent took long
walks across the island, studying the flora of the Northern woods,
watching the birds, noticing the clouds and the winds, staying out late
to experiment with the flash of the two light-houses from their
different distances, and then coming home to his lonely house, where the
baby Anne was tenderly cared for by Miss Lois Hinsdale, who
superintended the nurse all day, watched her charge to bed, and then
came over early in the morning before she woke. Miss Lois adored the
baby; and she watched the lonely father from a distance, imagining all
his sadness. It was the poetry of her life. Who, therefore, can picture
her feelings when, at the end of three years, it was suddenly brought to
her knowledge that Douglas was soon to marry again, and that his choice
was Angélique Lafontaine, a French quarter-breed girl!

Angélique was amiable, and good in her way; she was also very beautiful.
But Miss Lois could have borne it better if she had been homely. The New
England woman wept bitter, bitter tears that night. A god had come down
and showed himself flesh; an ideal was shattered. How long had she dwelt
upon the beautiful love of Dr. Douglas and his young wife, taking it as
a perfect example of rare, sweet happiness which she herself had missed,
of which she herself was not worthy! How many times had she gone up to
the little burial-ground on the height, and laid flowers from her garden
on the mound, whose stone bore only the inscription, "Alida, wife of
William Douglas, aged twenty-two years." Miss Lois had wished to have a
text engraved under this brief line, and a date, but Dr. Douglas gently
refused a text, and regarding a date he said: "Time is nothing. Those
who love her will remember the date, and strangers need not know. But I
should like the chance visitor to note that she was only twenty-two,
and, as he stands there, think of her with kindly regret, as we all
think of the early dead, though why, Miss Lois, why, I can not tell,
since in going hence early surely the dead lose nothing, for God would
not allow any injustice, I think--yes, I have about decided in my own
mind that He does not allow it."

Miss Lois, startled, looked at him questioningly. He was then a man of
thirty-four, tall, slight, still noticeable for the peculiar refined
delicacy of face and manner which had first won the interest of sweet,
impulsive Alida Clanssen.

"I trust, doctor, that you accept the doctrines of Holy Scripture on all
such subjects," said Miss Lois. Then she felt immediately that she
should have said "of the Church"; for she was a comparatively new
Episcopalian, having been trained a New England Presbyterian of the
severest hue.

Dr. Douglas came back to practical life again in the troubled gaze of
the New England woman's eyes. "Miss Lois," he said, turning the subject,
"Alida loved and trusted you; will you sometimes think of her little
daughter?"

And then Miss Lois, the quick tears coming, forgot all about orthodoxy,
gladly promised to watch over the baby, and kept her word. But now her
life was shaken, and all her romantic beliefs disturbed and shattered,
by this overwhelming intelligence. She was wildly, furiously jealous,
wildly, furiously angry--jealous for Alida's sake, for the baby's, for
her own. It is easy to be humble when a greater is preferred; but when
an inferior is lifted high above our heads, how can we bear it? And Miss
Lois was most jealous of all for Douglas himself--that such a man should
so stoop. She hardly knew herself that night as she harshly pulled down
the curtains, pushed a stool half across the room, slammed the door, and
purposely knocked over the fire-irons. Lois Hinsdale had never since her
birth given way to rage before (nor known the solace of it), and she was
now forty-one years old. All her life afterward she remembered that
night as something akin to a witch's revel on the Brocken, a horrible
wild reign of passion which she trembled to recall, and for which she
did penance many times in tears. "It shows the devil there is in us
all," she said to herself, and she never passed the fire-irons for a
long time afterward without an unpleasant consciousness.

The limited circle of island society suggested that Miss Lois had been
hunting the loon with a hand-net--a Northern way of phrasing the wearing
of the willow; but if the New England woman loved William Douglas, she
was not conscious of it, but merged the feeling in her love for his
child, and for the memory of Alida. True, she was seven years older than
he was: women of forty-one can answer whether that makes any difference.

On a brilliant, sparkling, clear June morning William Douglas went down
to the little Roman Catholic church and married the French girl. As he
had resigned his position in the army some time before, and as there was
a new set of officers at the fort, his marriage made little impression
there save on the mind of the chaplain, who had loved him well when he
was surgeon of the post, and had played many a game of chess with him.
The whole French population of the island, however, came to the
marriage. That was expected. But what was not expected was the presence
there of Miss Lois Hinsdale, sitting severely rigid in the first pew,
accompanied by the doctor's child--a healthy, blue-eyed little girl, who
kissed her new mamma obediently, and thought her very sweet and
pretty--a belief which remained with her always, the careless, indolent,
easy-tempered, beautiful young second wife having died when her
step-daughter was eleven years old, leaving four little ones, who,
according to a common freak of nature, were more Indian than their
mother. The Douglas family grew poorer every year; but as every one was
poor there, poverty was respectable; and as all poverty is comparative,
they always esteemed themselves comfortable. For they had the old Agency
for a home, and it was in some respects the most dignified residence on
the island; and they had the remains of the furniture which the young
surgeon had brought with him from the East when his Alida was a bride,
and that was better than most of the furniture in use in the village.
The little stone fort on the height was, of course, the castle of the
town, and its commandant by courtesy the leader of society; but the
infantry officers who succeeded each other at this distant Northern post
brought little with them, camping out, as it were, in their
low-ceilinged quarters, knowing that another season might see them far
away. The Agency, therefore, preserved an air of dignity still, although
its roof leaked, its shutters rattled, although its plastering was gone
here and there, and its floors were uneven and decayed. Two of its
massive outside chimneys, clamped to the sides of the house, were half
down, looking like broken columns, monuments of the past; but there were
a number left. The Agency originally had bristled with chimneys, which
gave, on a small scale, a castellated air to its rambling outline.

Dr. Douglas's study was old, crowded, and comfortable; that is,
comfortable to those who have consciousness in their finger-ends, and no
uncertainty as to their feet; the great army of blunderers and
stumblers, the handle-everything, knock-over-everything people, who cut
a broad swath through the smaller furniture of a room whenever they
move, would have been troubled and troublesome there. The boys were
never admitted; but Tita, who stepped like a little cat, and Anne, who
had a deft direct aim in all her motions, were often present. The
comfort of the place was due to Anne; she shook out and arranged the
curtains, darned the old carpet, re-covered the lounge, polished the
andirons, and did all without disturbing the birds' wings, the shells,
the arrow-heads, the skins, dried plants, wampum, nets, bits of rock,
half-finished drawings, maps, books, and papers, which were scattered
about, or suspended from the walls. William Douglas, knowing something
of everything, was exact in nothing: now he stuffed birds, now he read
Greek, now he botanized, now he played on the flute, now he went about
in all weathers chipping the rocks with ardent zeal, now he smoked in
his room all day without a word or a look for anybody. He sketched well,
but seldom finished a picture; he went out hunting when the larder was
empty, and forgot what he went for; he had a delicate mechanical skill,
and made some curious bits of intricate work, but he never mended the
hinges of the shutters, or repaired a single article which was in daily
use in his household.

[Illustration: "THE GIRL PAUSED AND REFLECTED A MOMENT."]

By the careful attention of Anne he was present in the fort chapel every
Sunday morning, and, once there, he played the organ with delight, and
brought exquisite harmonies from its little pipes; but Anne stood there
beside him all the time, found the places, and kept him down to the
work, borrowing his watch beforehand in order to touch him when the
voluntary was too long, or the chords between the hymn verses too
beautiful and intricate. Those were the days when the old buckram-backed
rhymed versions of the psalms were steadfastly given out at every
service, and Anne's rich voice sang, with earnest fervor, words like
these:

    "His liberal favors he extends,
     To some he gives, to others lends;
     Yet when his charity impairs,
     He saves by prudence in affairs,"

while her father followed them with harmony fit for angels. Douglas
taught his daughter music in the best sense of the phrase; she read
notes accurately, and knew nothing of inferior composers, the only
change from the higher courts of melody being some of the old French
chansons of the voyageurs, which still lingered on the island, echoes of
the past. She could not touch the ivory keys with any skill, her hands
were too much busied with other work; but she practiced her singing
lessons as she went about the house--music which would have seemed to
the world of New York as old-fashioned as Chaucer.

The fire of logs blazed on the hearth, the father sat looking at his
daughter, who was sewing swiftly, her thoughts fixed upon her work. The
clock struck eleven.

"It is late, Anne."

"Yes, father, but I must finish. I have so little time during the day."

"My good child," said Douglas, slowly and fondly.

Anne looked up; his eyes were dim with tears.

"I have done nothing for you, dear," he said, as she dropped her work
and knelt by his side. "I have kept you selfishly with me here, and made
you a slave to those children."

"My own brothers and my own little sister, father."

"Do you feel so, Anne? Then may God bless you for it! But I should not
have kept you here."

"This is our home, papa."

"A poor one."

"Is it? It never seemed so to me."

"That is because you have known nothing better."

"But I like it, papa, just as it is. I have always been happy here."

"Really happy, Anne?"

The girl paused, and reflected a moment. "Yes," she said, looking into
the depths of the fire, with a smile, "I am happy all the time. I am
never anything but happy."

William Douglas looked at her. The fire-light shone on her face; she
turned her clear eyes toward him.

"Then you do not mind the children? They are not a burdensome weight
upon you?"

"Never, papa; how can you suppose it? I love them dearly, next to you."

"And will you stand by them, Anne? Note my words: I do not urge it, I
simply ask."

"Of course I will stand by them, papa. I give a promise of my own
accord. I will never forsake them as long as I can do anything for them,
as long as I live. But why do you speak of it? Have I ever neglected
them or been unkind to them?" said the girl, troubled, and very near
tears.

"No, dear; you love them better than they or I deserve. I was thinking
of the future, and of a time when,"--he had intended to say, "when I am
no longer with you," but the depth of love and trust in her eyes made
him hesitate, and finish his sentence differently--"a time when they may
give you trouble," he said.

"They are good boys--that is, they mean no harm, papa. When they are
older they will study more."

"Will they?"

"Certainly," said Anne, with confidence. "I did. And as for Tita, you
yourself must see, papa, what a remarkable child she is."

Douglas shaded his face with his hand. The uneasy sense of trouble which
always stirred within him when he thought of his second daughter was
rising to the surface now like a veiled, formless shape. "The sins of
the fathers," he thought, and sighed heavily.

Anne threw her arms round his neck, and begged him to look at her.
"Papa, speak to me, please. What is it that troubles you so?"

"Stand by little Tita, child, no matter what she does. Do not expect too
much of her, but remember always her--her Indian blood," said the
troubled father, in a low voice.

A flush crossed Anne's face. The cross of mixed blood in the younger
children was never alluded to in the family circle or among their
outside friends. In truth, there had been many such mixtures on the
island in the old times, although comparatively few in the modern days
to which William Douglas's second marriage belonged.

"Tita is French," said Anne, speaking rapidly, almost angrily.

"She is more French than Indian. Still--one never knows." Then, after a
pause: "I have been a slothful father, Anne, and feel myself cowardly
also in thus shifting upon your shoulders my own responsibilities.
Still, what can I do? I can not re-live my life; and even if I could,
perhaps I might do the same again. I do not know--I do not know. We are
as we are, and tendencies dating generations back come out in us, and
confuse our actions."

He spoke dreamily. His eyes were assuming that vague look with which his
children were familiar, and which betokened that his mind was far away.

"You could not do anything which was not right, father," said Anne.

She was standing by his side now, and in her young strength might have
been his champion against the whole world. The fire-light shining out
showed a prematurely old man, whose thin form, bent drooping shoulders,
and purposeless face were but Time's emphasis upon the slender, refined,
dreamy youth, who, entering the domain of doubt with honest negations
and a definite desire, still wandered there, lost to the world, having
forgotten his first object, and loving the soft haze now for itself
alone.

Anne received no answer: her father's mind had passed away from her.
After waiting a few moments in silence she saw that he was lost in one
of his reveries, and sitting down again she took up her work and went on
sewing with rapid stitches. Poor Anne and her poor presents! How coarse
the little white shirts for Louis and André! how rough the jacket for
Gabriel! How forlorn the doll! How awkwardly fashioned the small cloth
slippers for Tita! The elder sister was obliged to make her Christmas
gifts with her own hands; she had no money to spend for such
superfluities. The poor doll had a cloth face, with features painted on
a flat surface, and a painful want of profile. A little before twelve
the last stitch was taken with happy content.

"Papa, it is nearly midnight; do not sit up very late," said the
daughter, bending to kiss the father's bent, brooding brow. William
Douglas's mind came back for an instant, and looked out through his
clouded eyes upon his favorite child. He kissed her, gave her his usual
blessing, "May God help the soul He has created!" and then, almost
before she had closed the door, he was far away again on one of those
long journeyings which he took silently, only his following guardian
angel knew whither. Anne went across the hall and entered the
sitting-room; the fire was low, but she stirred the embers, and by their
light filled the four stockings hanging near the chimney-piece. First
she put in little round cakes wrapped in papers; then home-made candies,
not thoroughly successful in outline, but well-flavored and sweet; next
gingerbread elephants and camels, and an attempt at a fairy; lastly the
contents of her work-basket, which gave her much satisfaction as she
inspected them for the last time. Throwing a great knot, which would
burn slowly all night, upon the bed of dying coals, she lighted a candle
and went up to her own room.

As soon as she had disappeared, a door opened softly above, and a small
figure stole out into the dark hall. After listening a moment, this
little figure went silently down the stairs, paused at the line of light
underneath the closed study door, listened again, and then, convinced
that all was safe, went into the sitting-room, took down the stockings
one by one, and deliberately inspected all their contents, sitting on a
low stool before the fire. First came the stockings of the boys; each
parcel was unrolled, down to the last gingerbread camel, and as deftly
enwrapped again by the skillful little fingers. During this examination
there was not so much an expression of interest as of jealous scrutiny.
But when the turn of her own stocking came, the small face showed the
most profound, almost weazened, solicitude. Package after package was
swiftly opened, and its contents spread upon the mat beside her. The
doll was cast aside with contempt, the slippers examined and tried on
with critical care, and then when the candy and cake appeared and
nothing else, the eyes snapped with anger.

The little brown hand felt down to the toe of the stocking: no, there
was nothing more. "It is my opinion," said Tita, in her French island
_patois_, half aloud, "that Annet is one stupid beast."

She then replaced everything, hung the stockings on their nails, and
stole back to her own room; here, by the light of a secreted candle-end,
she manufactured the following epistle, with heavy labor of brains and
hand: "Cher papa,--I hav dreemed that Sant Klos has hare-ribbans in his
pak. Will you ask him for sum for your little Tita?" This not seeming
sufficiently expressive, she inserted "trez affecsionay" before "Tita,"
and then, folding the epistle, she went softly down the stairs again,
and stealing round in the darkness through several unused rooms, she
entered her father's bedroom, which communicated with the study, and by
sense of feeling pinned the paper carefully round his large pipe, which
lay in its usual place on the table. For William Douglas always began
smoking as soon as he rose, in this way nullifying, as it were, the
fresh, vivifying effect of the morning, which smote painfully upon his
eyes and mind alike; in the afternoon and evening he did not smoke so
steadily, the falling shadows supplying of themselves the atmosphere he
loved. Having accomplished her little manœuvre, Tita went back up stairs
to her own room like a small white ghost, and fell asleep with the
satisfaction of a successful diplomatist.

In the mean time Anne was brushing her brown hair, and thoughtfully
going over in her own mind the morrow's dinner. Her room was a bare and
comfortless place; there was but a small fire on the hearth, and no
curtains over the windows; it took so much care and wood to keep the
children's rooms warm that she neglected her own, and as for the
furniture, she had removed it piece by piece, exchanging it for
broken-backed worn-out articles from all parts of the house. One leg of
the bedstead was gone, and its place supplied by a box which the
old-fashioned valance only half concealed; the looking-glass was
cracked, and distorted her image; the chairs were in hospital and out of
service, the young mistress respecting their injuries, and using as her
own seat an old wooden stool which stood near the hearth. Upon this she
was now seated, the rippling waves of her thick hair flowing over her
shoulders. Having at last faithfully rehearsed the Christmas dinner in
all its points, she drew a long breath of relief, rose, extinguished her
light, and going over to the window, stood there for a moment looking
out. The moonlight came gleaming in and touched her with silver, her
pure youthful face and girlish form draped in white. "May God bless my
dear father," she prayed, silently, looking up to the thick studded
stars; "and my dear mother too, wherever she is to-night, in one of
those far bright worlds, perhaps." It will be seen from this prayer that
the boundaries of Anne Douglas's faith were wide enough to include even
the unknown.



CHAPTER II.

    "Heap on more wood! the wind is chill;
     But let it whistle as it will,
     We'll keep our Christmas merry still.
     The damsel donned her kirtle sheen;
     The hall was dressed with holly green;
     Forth to the wood did merry-men go,
     To gather in the mistletoe."--WALTER SCOTT.


"Can you make out what the child means?" said Douglas, as his elder
daughter entered the study early on Christmas morning to renew the fire
and set the apartment in order for the day. As he spoke he held Tita's
epistle hopelessly before him, and scanned the zig-zag lines.

"She wants some ribbons for her hair," said Anne, making out the words
over his shoulder. "Poor little thing! she is so proud of her hair, and
all the other girls have bright ribbons. But I can not make ribbons,"
she added, regretfully, as though she found herself wanting in a needful
accomplishment. "Think of her faith in Santa Klaus, old as she is, and
her writing to ask him! But there is ribbon in the house, after all,"
she added, suddenly, her face brightening. "Miss Lois gave me some last
month; I had forgotten it. That will be the very thing for Tita; she has
not even seen it."

(But has she not, thou unsuspicious elder sister?)

"Do not rob yourself, child," said the father, wearily casting his eyes
over the slip of paper again. "What spelling! The English is bad, but
the French worse."

"That is because she has no French teacher, papa; and you know I do not
allow her to speak the island _patois_, lest it should corrupt the
little she knows."

"But she does speak it; she always talks _patois_ when she is alone with
me."

"Does she?" said Anne, in astonishment. "I had no idea of that. But
_you_ might correct her, papa."

"I can never correct her in any way," replied Douglas, gloomily; and
then Anne, seeing that he was on the threshold of one of his dark moods,
lighted his pipe, stirred the fire into a cheery blaze, and went out to
get a cup of coffee for him. For the Irish soldier's wife was already at
work in the kitchen, having been to mass in the cold gray dawn, down on
her two knees on the hard floor, repentant for all her sins, and
refulgently content in the absolution which wiped out the old score (and
left place for a new one). After taking in the coffee, Anne ran up to
her own room, brought down the ribbon, and placed it in Tita's stocking;
she then made up the fire with light-wood, and set about decorating the
walls with wreaths of evergreen as the patter of the little boys' feet
was heard on the old stairway. The breakfast table was noisy that
morning. Tita had inspected her ribbons demurely, and wondered how Santa
Klaus knew her favorite colors so well. Anne glanced toward her father,
and smiled; but the father's face showed doubt, and did not respond.
While they were still at the table the door opened, and a tall figure
entered, muffled in furs. "Miss Lois!" cried the boys. "Hurrah! See our
presents, Miss Lois." They danced round her while she removed her
wrappings, and kept up such a noise that no one could speak. Miss Lois,
viewed without her cloak and hood, was a tall, angular woman, past
middle age, with sharp features, thin brown hair tinged with gray, and
pale blue eyes shielded by spectacles. She kissed Anne first with
evident affection, and afterward the children with business-like
promptitude; then she shook hands with William Douglas. "I wish you a
happy Christmas, doctor," she said.

"Thank you, Lois," said Douglas, holding her hand in his an instant or
two longer than usual.

A faint color rose in Miss Lois's cheeks. When she was young she had one
of those exquisitely delicate complexions which seem to belong to some
parts of New England; even now color would rise unexpectedly in her
cheeks, much to her annoyance: she wondered why wrinkles did not keep it
down. But New England knows her own. The creamy skins of the South, with
their brown shadows under the eyes, the rich colors of the West, even
the calm white complexions that are bred and long retained in cities,
all fade before this faint healthy bloom on old New England's cheeks,
like winter-apples.

Miss Lois inspected the boys' presents with exact attention, and added
some gifts of her own, which filled the room with a more jubilant uproar
than before. Tita, in the mean while, remained quietly seated at the
table, eating her breakfast; she took very small mouthfuls, and never
hurried herself. She said she liked to taste things, and that only
snapping dogs, like the boys, for instance, gulped their food in a mass.

"I gave her the ribbons; do not say anything," whispered Anne, in Miss
Lois's ear, as she saw the spectacled eyes turning toward Tita's corner.
Miss Lois frowned, and put back into her pocket a small parcel she was
taking out. She had forgiven Dr. Douglas the existence of the boys, but
she never could forgive the existence of Tita.

Once Anne had asked about Angélique. "I was but a child when she died,
Miss Lois," said she, "so my recollection of her may not be accurate;
but I know that I thought her very beautiful. Does Tita look like her?"

"Angélique Lafontaine was beautiful--in her way," replied Miss Lois. "I
do not say that I admire that way, mind you."

"And Tita?"

"Tita is hideous."

"Oh, Miss Lois!"

"She is, child. She is dwarfish, black, and sly."

"I do not think she is sly," replied Anne, with heat. "And although she
is dark and small, still, sometimes--"

"That, for your beauty of 'sometimes!'" said Miss Lois, snapping her
fingers. "Give me a girl who is pretty in the morning as well as by
candle-light, one who has a nice, white, well-born, down-East face, and
none of your Western-border mongrelosities!"

But this last phrase she uttered under her breath. She was ever mindful
of Anne's tender love for her father, and the severity with which she
herself, as a contemporary, had judged him was never revealed to the
child.

At half past ten the Douglas family were all in their places in the
little fort chapel. It was a bright but bitterly cold day, and the
members of the small congregation came enveloped in shaggy furs like
bears, shedding their skins at the door, where they lay in a pile near
the stove, ready for the return homeward. The military trappings of the
officers brightened the upper benches, the uniforms of the common
soldiers filled the space behind; on the side benches sat the few
Protestants of the village, denominational prejudices unknown or
forgotten in this far-away spot in the wilderness. The chaplain, the
Reverend James Gaston--a man who lived in peace with all the world, with
Père Michaux, the Catholic priest, and William Douglas, the deist--gazed
round upon his flock with a benignant air, which brightened into
affection as Anne's voice took up the song of the angels, singing, amid
the ice and snow of a new world, the strain the shepherds heard on the
plains of Palestine.

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good-will toward men,"
sang Anne, with all her young heart. And Miss Lois, sitting with folded
hands, and head held stiffly erect, saw her wreath in the place of honor
over the altar, and was touched first with pride and then with a slight
feeling of awe. She did not believe that one part of the church was more
sacred than another--she could not; but being a High-Church Episcopalian
now, she said to herself that she ought to; she even had appalling
visions of herself, sometimes, going as far as Rome. But the old spirit
of Calvinism was still on the ground, ready for many a wrestling match
yet; and stronger than all else were the old associations connected with
the square white meeting-house of her youth, which held their place
undisturbed down below all these upper currents of a new faith. William
Douglas was also a New-Englander, brought up strictly in the creed of
his fathers; but as Miss Lois's change of creed was owing to a change of
position, as some Northern birds turn their snow-color to a darker hue
when taken away from arctic regions, so his was one purely of mind,
owing to nothing but the processes of thought within him. He had drifted
away from all creeds, save in one article: he believed in a Creator. To
this great Creator's praise, and in worship of Him, he now poured forth
his harmonies, the purest homage he could offer, "unless," he thought,
"Anne is a living homage as she stands here beside me. But no, she is a
soul by herself; she has her own life to live, her own worship to offer;
I must not call her mine. That she is my daughter is naught to me save a
great blessing. I can love her with a human father's love, and thank God
for her affection. But that is all."

So he played his sweetest music, and Miss Lois fervently prayed, and
made no mistake in the order of her prayers. She liked to have a vocal
part in the service. It was a pleasure to herself to hear her own voice
lifted up, even as a miserable sinner; for at home in the old white
meeting-house all expression had been denied to her, the small outlet
of the Psalms being of little avail to a person who could not sing. This
dumbness stifled her, and she had often said to herself that the men
would never have endured it either if they had not had the
prayer-meetings as a safety-valve. The three boys were penned in at Miss
Lois's side, within reach of her tapping finger. They had decided to
attend service on account of the evergreens and Anne's singing, although
they, as well as Tita, belonged in reality to the flock of Father
Michaux. Anne never interfered with this division of the family; she
considered it the one tie which bound the children to the memory of
their mother; but Miss Lois shook her head over it, and sighed
ominously. The boys were, in fact, three little heathen; but Tita was a
devout Roman Catholic, and observed all the feast and fast days of the
Church, to the not infrequent disturbance of the young mistress of the
household, to whom a feast-day was oftentimes an occasion bristling with
difficulty. But to-day, in honor of Christmas, the usual frugal dinner
had been made a banquet indeed, by the united efforts of Anne and Miss
Lois; and when they took their seats at the table which stood in the
sitting-room, all felt that it held an abundance fit even for the old
fur-trading days, Miss Lois herself having finally succumbed to that
island standard of comparison. After the dinner was over, while they
were sitting round the fire sipping coffee--the ambrosia of the Northern
gods, who find some difficulty in keeping themselves warm--a tap at the
door was heard, and a tall youth entered, a youth who was a vivid
personification of early manhood in its brightest form. The warm air was
stirred by the little rush of cold that came in with him, and the dreamy
and drowsy eyes round the fire awoke as they rested upon him.

"The world _is_ alive, then, outside, after all," said Miss Lois,
briskly straightening herself in her chair, and taking out her knitting.
"How do you do, Erastus?"

But her greeting was drowned by the noise of the boys, who had been
asleep together on the rug in a tangled knot, like three young bears,
but now, broadly awake again, were jumping round the new-comer,
displaying their gifts and demanding admiration. Disentangling himself
from them with a skill which showed a long experience in their modes of
twisting, the young man made his way up to Anne, and, with a smile and
bow to Dr. Douglas and Miss Lois, sat down by her side.

"You were not at church this morning," said the girl, looking at him
rather gravely, but giving him her hand.

"No, I was not; but a merry Christmas all the same, Annet," answered the
youth, throwing back his golden head with careless grace. At this moment
Tita came forward from her furry corner, where she had been lying with
her head on her arm, half asleep, and seated herself in the red light of
the fire, gazing into the blaze with soft indifference. Her dark woollen
dress was brightened by the ribbons which circled her little waist and
knotted themselves at the ends of the long braids of her hair. She had a
string of yellow beads round her neck, and on her feet the little
slippers which Anne had fashioned for her with so much care. Her brown
hands lay crossed on her lap, and her small but bold-featured profile
looked more delicate than usual, outlined in relief like a little cameo
against the flame. The visitor's eyes rested upon her for a moment, and
then turned back to Anne. "There is to be a dance to-night down in one
of the old warehouses," he said, "and I want you to go."

"A dance!" cried the boys; "then _we_ are going too. It is Christmas
night, and we know how to dance. See here." And they sprang out into the
centre of the room, and began a figure, not without a certain wild grace
of its own, keeping time to the shrill whistling of Gabriel, who was the
fifer and leader of the band.

Miss Lois put down her knitting, and disapproved, for the old training
was still strong in her; then she remembered that these were things of
the past, shook her head at herself, sighed, and resumed it again.

"Of course you will go," said the visitor.

"I do not know that I _can_ go, Rast," replied Anne, turning toward her
father, as if to see what he thought.

"Yes, go," said Douglas--"go, Annet." He hardly ever used this name,
which the children had given to their elder sister--a name that was not
the French "Annette," but, like the rest of the island _patois_, a
mispronunciation--"An´net," with the accent on the first syllable. "It
is Christmas night," said Douglas, with a faint interest on his faded
face; "I should like it to be a pleasant recollection for you, Annet."

The young girl went to him; he kissed her, and then rose to go to his
study; but Tita's eyes held him, and he paused.

"Will _you_ go, Miss Lois?" said Anne.

"Oh no, child," replied the old maid, primly, adjusting her spectacles.

"But you must go, Miss Lois, and dance with me," said Rast, springing up
and seizing her hands.

"Fie, Erastus! for shame! Let me go," said Miss Lois, as he tried to
draw her to her feet. He still bent over her, but she tapped his cheek
with her knitting-needles, and told him to sit down and behave himself.

"I won't, unless you promise to go with us," he said.

"Why should you not go, Lois?" said Douglas, still standing at the door.
"The boys want to go, and some one must be with them to keep them in
order."

"Why, doctor, imagine me at a dancing party!" said Miss Lois, the
peach-like color rising in her thin cheeks again.

"It is different here, Lois; everybody goes."

"Yes; even old Mrs. Kendig," said Tita, softly.

Miss Lois looked sharply at her; old Mrs. Kendig was fat, toothless, and
seventy, and the active, spare New England woman felt a sudden wrath at
the implied comparison. Griselda was not tried upon the subject of her
age, or we might have had a different legend. But Tita looked as idly
calm as a summer morning, and Miss Lois turned away, as she had turned a
hundred times before, uncertain between intention and simple chance.

"Very well, then, I will go," she said. "How you bother me, Erastus!"

"No, I don't," said the youth, releasing her. "You know you like me,
Miss Lois; you know you do."

"Brazen-face!" said Miss Lois, pushing him away. But any one could see
that she did like him.

"Of course I may go, father?" said Tita, without stirring, but looking
at him steadily.

"I suppose so," he answered, slowly; "that is, if Erastus will take care
of you."

"Will you take care of me, Erastus?" asked the soft voice.

"Don't be absurd, Tita; of course he will," said Miss Lois, shortly. "He
will see to you as well as to the other children."

And then Douglas turned and left the room.

Erastus, or Rast, as he was called, went back to his place beside Anne.
He was a remarkably handsome youth of seventeen, with bright blue eyes,
golden hair, a fine spirited outline, laughing mouth, and impetuous,
quick movements; tall as a young sapling, his figure was almost too
slender for its height, but so light and elastic that one forgave the
fault, and forgot it in one look at the mobile face, still boyish in
spite of the maturity given by the hard cold life of the North.

"Why have we not heard of this dance before, Erastus?" asked Miss Lois,
ever mindful and tenacious of a dignity of position which no one
disputed, but which was none the less to her a subject of constant and
belligerent watchfulness--one by which she gauged the bow of the
shop-keeper, the nod of the passing islander, the salute of the little
half-breed boys who had fish to sell, and even the guttural ejaculations
of the Chippewas who came to her door offering potatoes and Indian
sugar.

"Because it was suggested only a few hours ago, up at the fort. I was
dining with Dr. Gaston, and Walters came across from the commandant's
cottage and told me. Since then I have been hard at work with them,
decorating and lighting the ball-room."

"Which one of the old shells have you taken?" asked Miss Lois. "I hope
the roof will not come down on our heads."

"We have Larrabee's; that has the best floor. And as to coming down on
our heads, those old warehouses are stronger than you imagine, Miss
Lois. Have you never noticed their great beams?"

"I have noticed their toppling fronts and their slanting sides, their
bulgings out and their leanings in," replied Miss Lois, nodding her head
emphatically.

"The leaning tower of Pisa, you know, is pronounced stronger than other
towers that stand erect," said Rast. "That old brown shell of Larrabee's
is jointed together so strongly that I venture to predict it will
outlive us all. We might be glad of such joints ourselves, Miss Lois."

"If it will only not come down on our heads to-night, that is all I ask
of its joints," replied Miss Lois.

Soon after seven o'clock the ball opened: darkness had already lain over
the island for nearly three hours, and the evening seemed well advanced.

"Oh, Tita!" said Anne, as the child stepped out of her long cloak and
stood revealed, clad in a fantastic short skirt of black cloth barred
with scarlet, and a little scarlet bodice, "that dress is too thin, and
besides--"

"She looks like a circus-rider," said Miss Lois, in dismay. "Why did you
allow it, Anne?"

"I knew nothing of it," replied the elder sister, with a distressed
expression on her face, but, as usual, not reproving Tita. "It is the
little fancy dress the fort ladies made for her last summer when they
had tableaux. It is too late to go back now; she must wear it, I
suppose; perhaps in the crowd it will not be noticed."

Tita, unmoved, had walked meanwhile over to the hearth, and sitting down
on the floor before the fire, was taking off her snow-boots and donning
her new slippers, apparently unconscious of remark.

The scene was a striking one, or would have been such to a stranger. The
lower floor of the warehouse had been swept and hastily garnished with
evergreens and all the flags the little fort could muster; at each end
on a broad hearth a great fire of logs roared up the old chimney, and
helped to light the room, a soldier standing guard beside it, and
keeping up the flame by throwing on wood every now and then from the
heap in the corner near by. Candles were ranged along the walls, and
lanterns hung from the beams above; all that the island could do in the
way of illumination had been done. The result was a picturesque mingling
of light and shade as the dancers came into the ruddy gleam of the fires
and passed out again, now seen for a moment in the paler ray of a candle
farther down the hall, now lost in the shadows which everywhere swept
across the great brown room from side to side, like broad-winged ghosts
resting in mid-air and looking down upon the revels. The music came from
six French fiddlers, four young, gayly dressed fellows, and two
grizzled, withered old men, and they played the tunes of the century
before, and played them with all their might and main. The little fort,
a one-company post, was not entitled to a band; but there were, as
usual, one or two German musicians among the enlisted men, and these now
stood near the French fiddlers and watched them with slow curiosity,
fingering now and then in imagination the great brass instruments which
were to them the keys of melody, and dreaming over again the happy days
when they, too, played "with the band." But the six French fiddlers
cared nothing for the Germans; they held themselves far above the common
soldiers of the fort, and despised alike their cropped hair, their
ideas, their uniforms, and the strict rules they were obliged to obey.
They fiddled away with their eyes cast up to the dark beams above, and
their tunes rang out in that shrill, sustained, clinging treble which no
instrument save a violin can give. The entire upper circle of society
was present, and a sprinkling of the second; for the young officers
cared more for dancing than for etiquette, and a pretty young French
girl was in their minds of more consequence than even the five Misses
Macdougall with all their blood, which must have been, however, of a
thin, although, of course, precious, quality, since between the whole
five there seemed scarcely enough for one. The five were there, however,
in green plaided delaines with broad lace collars and large flat
shell-cameo breastpins with scroll-work settings: they presented an
imposing appearance to the eyes of all. The father of these ladies, long
at rest from his ledgers, was in his day a prominent resident official
of the Fur Company; his five maiden daughters lived on in the old house,
and occupied themselves principally in remembering him. Miss Lois seated
herself beside these acknowledged heads of society, and felt that she
was in her proper sphere. The dance-music troubled her ears, but she
endured it manfully.

"A gay scene," she observed, gazing through her spectacles.

The five Misses Macdougall bowed acquiescence, and said that it was
fairly gay; indeed, rather too gay, owing to more of a mingling than
they approved; but nothing, ah! nothing, to the magnificent
entertainments of times past, which had often been described to them by
their respected parent. (They never seemed to have had but one.)

"Of course you will dance, Anne?" said Rast Pronando.

She smiled an assent, and they were soon among the dancers. Tita, left
alone, followed them with her eyes as they passed out of the fire-light
and were lost in the crowd and the sweeping shadows. Then she made her
way, close to the wall, down to the other end of the long room, where
the commandant's wife and the fort ladies sat in state, keeping up the
dignity of what might be called the military end of the apartment. Here
she sought the brightest light she could find, and placed herself in it
carelessly, and as though by chance, to watch the dancers.

"Look at that child," said the captain's wife. "What an odd little thing
it is!"

"It is Tita Douglas, Anne's little sister," said Mrs. Bryden, the wife
of the commandant. "I am surprised they allowed her to come in that
tableau dress. Her mother was a French girl, I believe. Dr. Douglas, you
know, came to the island originally as surgeon of the post."

"There is Anne now, and dancing with young Pronando, of course," said
the wife of one of the lieutenants.

"Dr. Gaston thinks there is no one like Anne Douglas," observed Mrs.
Bryden. "He has educated her almost entirely; taught her Latin and
Greek, and all sorts of things. Her father is a musical genius, you
know, and in one way the girl knows all about music; in another, nothing
at all. Do you think she is pretty, Mrs. Cromer?"

Mrs. Cromer thought "Not at all; too large, and--unformed in every way."

"I sometimes wonder, though, why she is not pretty," said Mrs. Bryden,
in a musing tone. "She ought to be."

"I never knew but one girl of that size and style who was pretty, and
she had had every possible advantage of culture, society, and foreign
travel; wore always the most elaborately plain costumes--works of art,
in a Greek sort of way; said little; but sat or stood about in
statuesque attitudes that made you feel thin and insignificant, and glad
you had all your clothes on," said Mrs. Cromer.

"And was this girl pretty?"

"She was simply superb," said the captain's wife. "But do look at young
Pronando. How handsome he is to-night!"

"An Apollo Belvedere," said the wife of the lieutenant, who, having
rashly allowed herself to spend a summer at West Point, was now living
in the consequences.

But although the military element presided like a court circle at one
end of the room, and the five Misses Macdougall and Miss Lois like an
element of first families at the other, the intervening space was well
filled with a motley assemblage--lithe young girls with sparkling black
eyes and French vivacity, matrons with a shade more of brown in their
complexions, and withered old grandams who sat on benches along the
walls, and looked on with a calm dignity of silence which never came
from Saxon blood. Intermingled were youths of rougher aspect but of fine
mercurial temperaments, who danced with all their hearts as well as
bodies, and kept exact time with the music, throwing in fancy steps from
pure love of it as they whirled lightly down the hall with their
laughing partners. There were a few young men of Scotch descent present
also, clerks in the shops, and superintendents of the fisheries which
now formed the only business of the once thriving frontier village.
These were considered by island parents of the better class desirable
suitors for their daughters--far preferable to the young officers who
succeeded each other rapidly at the little fort, with attachments
delightful, but as transitory as themselves. It was noticeable, however,
that the daughters thought otherwise. Near the doorway in the shadow a
crowd of Indians had gathered, while almost all of the common soldiers
from the fort, on one pretext or another, were in the hall, attending to
the fires and lights, or acting as self-appointed police. Even Chaplain
Gaston looked in for a moment, and staid an hour; and later in the
evening the tall form of Père Michaux appeared, clad in a furred mantle,
a black silk cap crowning his silver hair. Tita immediately left her
place and went to meet him, bending her head with an air of deep
reverence.

"See the child--how theatrical!" said Mrs. Cromer.

"Yes. Still, the Romanists do believe in all kinds of amusements, and
even ask a blessing on it," said the lieutenant's wife.

"It was not that--it was the little air and attitude of devoutness that
I meant. See the puss now!"

But the puss was triumphant at last. One of the younger officers had
noted her solemn little salutation in front of the priest, and now
approached to ask her to dance, curious to see what manner of child this
small creature could be. In another moment she was whirling down the
hall with him, her dark face flushed, her eyes radiant, her dancing
exquisitely light and exact. She passed Anne and Rast with a sparkling
glance, her small breast throbbing with a swell of satisfied vanity that
almost stopped her breath.

"There is Tita," said the elder sister, rather anxiously. "I hope Mr.
Walters will not spoil her with his flattery."

"There is no danger; she is not pretty enough," answered Rast.

A flush rose in Anne's face. "You do not like my little sister," she
said.

"Oh, I do not dislike her," said Rast. "I could not dislike anything
that belonged to _you_," he added, in a lower tone.

She smiled as he bent his handsome head toward her to say this. She was
fond of Rast; he had been her daily companion through all her life; she
scarcely remembered anything in which he was not concerned, from her
first baby walk in the woods back of the fort, her first ride in a
dog-sledge on the ice, to yesterday's consultation over the chapel
evergreens.

The six French fiddlers played on; they knew not fatigue. In imagination
they had danced every dance. Tita was taken out on the floor several
times by the officers, who were amused by her little airs and her small
elfish face: she glowed with triumph. Anne had but few invitations, save
from Rast; but as his were continuous, she danced all the evening. At
midnight Miss Lois and the Misses Macdougall formally rose, and the fort
ladies sent for their wrappings: the ball, as far as the first circle
was concerned, was ended. But long afterward the sound of the fiddles
was still heard, and it was surmised that the second circle was having
its turn, possibly not without a sprinkling of the third also.



CHAPTER III.

     "Wassamequin, Nashoonon, and Massaconomet did voluntarily submit
     themselves to the English, and promise to be willing from time to
     time to be instructed in the knowledge of God. Being asked not to
     do any unnecessary work on the Sabbath day, they answered, 'It is
     easy to them; they have not much to do on any day, and can well
     take rest on that day as any other.' So then we, causing them to
     understand the articles, and all the ten commandments of God, and
     they freely assenting to all, they were solemnly received; and the
     Court gave each of them a coat of two yards of cloth, and their
     dinner; and to them and their men, every one of them, a cup of sack
     at their departure. So they took leave, and went
     away."--_Massachusetts Colonial Records._


Dr. Gaston sat in his library, studying a chess problem. His clerical
coat was old and spotted, his table was of rough wood, the floor
uncarpeted; by right, Poverty should have made herself prominent there.
But she did not. Perhaps she liked the old chaplain, who showed a fine,
amply built person under her reign, with florid complexion, bright blue
eyes, and a curly brown wig--very different in aspect from her usual
lean and dismal retinue; perhaps, also, she stopped here herself to warm
her cold heart now and then in the hot, bright, crowded little room,
which was hers by right, although she did not claim it, enjoying it,
however, as a miserly money-lender enjoys the fine house over which he
holds a mortgage, rubbing his hands exultingly, as, clad in his thin old
coat, he walks by. Certainly the plastering had dropped from the walls
here and there; there was no furniture save the tables and shelves made
by the island carpenter, and one old leathern arm-chair, the parson's
own, a miracle of comfort, age, and hanging leather tatters. But on the
shelves and on the tables, on the floor and on the broad window-sills,
were books; they reached the ceiling on the shelves; they wainscoted the
walls to the height of several feet all round the room; small volumes
were piled on the narrow mantel as far up as they could go without
toppling over, and the tables were loaded also. Aisles were kept open
leading to the door, to the windows, and to the hearth, where the ragged
arm-chair stood, and where there was a small parade-ground of open
floor; but everywhere else the printed thoughts held sway. The old
fire-place was large and deep, and here burned night and day, throughout
the winter, a fire which made the whole room bright; add to this the
sunshine streaming through the broad, low, uncurtained windows, and you
have the secret of the cheerfulness in the very face of a barren lack of
everything we are accustomed to call comfort.

The Reverend James Gaston was an Englishman by birth. On coming to
America he had accepted a chaplaincy in the army, with the intention of
resigning it as soon as he had become sufficiently familiar with the
ways of the Church in this country to feel at ease in a parish. But
years had passed, and he was a chaplain still; for evidently the country
parishes were not regulated according to his home ideas, the rector's
authority--yes, even the tenure of his rectorship--being dependent upon
the chance wills and fancies of his people. Here was no dignity, no time
for pleasant classical studies, and no approval of them; on the
contrary, a continuous going out to tea, and a fear of offending, it
might be, a warden's wife, who very likely had been brought up a
Dissenter. The Reverend James Gaston therefore preferred the government
for a master.

Dr. Gaston held the office of post chaplain, having been, on
application, selected by the council of administration. He had no
military rank, but as there happened to be quarters to spare, a cottage
was assigned to him, and as he had had the good fortune to be liked and
respected by all the officers who had succeeded each other on the little
island, his position, unlike that of some of his brethren, was
endurable, and even comfortable. He had been a widower for many years;
he had never cared to marry again, but had long ago recovered his
cheerfulness, and had brought up, intellectually at least, two children
whom he loved as if they had been his own--the boy Erastus Pronando, and
Anne Douglas. The children returned his affection heartily, and made a
great happiness in his lonely life. The girl was his good scholar, the
boy his bad one; yet the teacher was severe with Anne, and indulgent to
the boy. If any one had asked the reason, perhaps he would have said
that girls were docile by nature, whereas boys, having more temptations,
required more lenity; or perhaps that girls who, owing to the
constitution of society, never advanced far in their studies, should
have all the incitement of severity while those studies lasted, whereas
boys, who are to go abroad in the world and learn from life, need no
such severity. But the real truth lay deeper than this, and the chaplain
himself was partly conscious of it; he felt that the foundations must be
laid accurately and deeply in a nature like that possessed by this young
girl.

"Good-morning, uncle," said Anne, entering and putting down her Latin
books (as children they had adopted the fashion of calling their teacher
"uncle"). "Was your coffee good this morning?"

"Ah, well, so-so, child, so-so," replied the chaplain, hardly aroused
yet from his problem.

"Then I must go out and speak to--to--what is this one's name, uncle?"

"Her name is--here, I have it written down--Mrs. Evelina Crangall," said
the chaplain, reading aloud from his note-book, in a slow, sober voice.
Evidently it was a matter of moment to him to keep that name well in his
mind.

Public opinion required that Dr. Gaston should employ a Protestant
servant; no one else was obliged to conform, but the congregation felt
that a stand must be made somewhere, and they made it, like a chalk
line, at the parson's threshold. Now it was very well known that there
were no Protestants belonging to the class of servants on the island who
could cook at all, that talent being confined to the French
quarter-breeds and to occasional Irish soldiers' wives, none of them
Protestants. The poor parson's cooking was passed from one incompetent
hand to another--lake-sailors' wives, wandering emigrants, moneyless
forlorn females left by steamers, belonging to that strange floating
population that goes forever travelling up and down the land, without
apparent motive save a vague El-Dorado hope whose very conception would
be impossible in any other country save this. Mrs. Evelina Crangall was
a hollow-chested woman with faded blue eyes, one prominent front tooth,
scanty light hair, and for a form a lattice-work of bones. She
preserved, however, a somewhat warlike aspect in her limp calico, and
maintained that she thoroughly understood the making of coffee, but that
she was accustomed to the use of a French coffee-pot. Anne, answering
serenely that no French coffee-pot could be obtained in that kitchen,
went to work and explained the whole process from the beginning, the
woman meanwhile surveying her with suspicion, which gradually gave way
before the firm but pleasant manner. With a long list of kindred
Evelinas, Anne had had dealings before. Sometimes her teachings effected
a change for the better, sometimes they did not, but in any case the
Evelinas seldom remained long. They were wanderers by nature, and had
sudden desires to visit San Francisco, or to "go down the river to
Newerleens." This morning, while making her explanation, Anne made
coffee too. It was a delicious cupful which she carried back with her
into the library, and the chaplain, far away in the chess country, came
down to earth immediately in order to drink it. Then they opened the
Latin books, and Anne translated her page of Livy, her page of Cicero,
and recited her rules correctly. She liked Latin; its exactness suited
her. Mrs. Bryden was wrong when she said that the girl studied Greek.
Dr. Gaston had longed to teach her that golden tongue, but here William
Douglas had interfered. "Teach her Latin if you like, but not Greek," he
said. "It would injure the child--make what is called a blue-stocking of
her, I suppose--and it is my duty to stand between her and injury."

"Ah! ah! you want to make a belle of her, do you?" said the cheery
chaplain.

[Illustration: "AS SHE BENT OVER THE OLD VOLUME."]

"I said it was my duty; I did not say it was my wish," replied the
moody father. "If I could have my wish, Anne should never know what a
lover is all her life long."

"What! you do not wish to have her marry, then? There are happy
marriages. Come, Douglas, don't be morbid."

"I know what men are. And you and I are no better."

"But she may love."

"Ah! there it is; she may. And that is what I meant when I said that it
was my duty to keep her from making herself positively unattractive."

"Greek need not do that," said Dr. Gaston, shortly.

"It need not, but it does. Let me ask you one question: did you ever
fall in love, or come anywhere near falling in love, with a girl who
understood Greek?"

"That is because only the homely ones take to it," replied the chaplain,
fencing a little.

But Anne was not taught Greek. After Cicero she took up algebra, then
astronomy. After that she read aloud from a ponderous Shakspeare, and
the old man corrected her accentuation, and questioned her on the
meanings. A number of the grand old plays the girl knew almost entirely
by heart; they had been her reading-books from childhood. The
down-pouring light of the vivid morning sunshine and the up-coming white
glare of the ice below met and shone full upon her face and figure as
she bent over the old volume laid open on the table before her, one hand
supporting her brow, the other resting on the yellow page. Her hands
were firm, white, and beautifully shaped--strong hands, generous hands,
faithful hands; not the little, idle, characterless, faithless palms so
common in America, small, dainty, delicate, and shapeless, coming from a
composite origin. Her thick hair, brown as a mellowed chestnut, with a
gleam of dark red where the light touched it, like the red of November
oak leaves, was, as usual, in her way, the heavy braids breaking from
the coil at the back of her head, one by one, as she read on through
_Hamlet_. At last impatiently she drew out the comb, and they all fell
down over her shoulders, and left her in momentary peace.

The lesson was nearly over when Rast Pronando appeared; he was to enter
college--a Western college on one of the lower lakes--early in the
spring, and that prospect made the chaplain's lessons seem dull to him.
"Very likely they will not teach at all as he does; I shall do much
better if I go over the text-books by myself," he said, confidentially,
to Anne. "I do not want to appear old-fashioned, you know."

"Is it unpleasant to be old-fashioned? I should think the old fashions
would be sure to be the good ones," said the girl. "But I do not want
you to go so far beyond me, Rast; we have always been even until now.
Will you think _me_ old-fashioned too when you come back?"

"Oh no; you will always be Anne. I can predict you exactly at twenty,
and even thirty: there is no doubt about _you_."

"But shall I be old-fashioned?"

"Well, perhaps; but we don't mind it in women. All the goddesses were
old-fashioned, especially Diana. _You_ are Diana."

"Diana, a huntress. She loved Endymion, who was always asleep," said
Anne, quoting from her school-girl mythology.

This morning Rast had dropped in to read a little Greek with his old
master, and to walk home with Anne. The girl hurried through her
_Hamlet_, and then yielded the place to him. It was a three-legged
stool, the only companion the arm-chair had, and it was the seat for the
reciting scholar; the one who was studying sat in a niche on the
window-seat at a little distance. Anne, retreating to this niche, began
to rebraid her hair.

"But she, within--within--singing with enchanting tone, enchanting
voice, wove with a--with a golden shuttle the sparkling web," read Rast,
looking up and dreamily watching the brown strands taking their place in
the long braid. Anne saw his look, and hurried her weaving. The girl had
thought all her life that her hair was ugly because it was so heavy, and
neither black nor gold in hue; and Rast, following her opinion, had
thought so too: she had told him it was, many a time. It was
characteristic of her nature that while as a child she had admired her
companion's spirited, handsome face and curling golden locks, she had
never feared lest he might not return her affection because she happened
to be ugly; she drew no comparisons. But she had often discussed the
subject of beauty with him. "I should like to be beautiful," she said;
"like that girl at the fort last summer."

"Pooh! it doesn't make much difference," answered Rast, magnanimously.
"I shall always like you."

"That is because you are so generous, dear."

"Perhaps it is," answered the boy.

This was two years before, when they were fourteen and fifteen years
old; at sixteen and seventeen they had advanced but little in their
ideas of life and of each other. Still, there was a slight change, for
Anne now hurried the braiding; it hurt her a little that Rast should
gaze so steadily at the rough, ugly hair.

When the Greek was finished they said good-by to the chaplain, and left
the cottage together. As they crossed the inner parade-ground, taking
the snow path which led toward the entrance grating, and which was kept
shovelled out by the soldiers, the snow walls on each side rising to
their chins, Rast suddenly exclaimed: "Oh, Annet, I have thought of
something! I am going to take you down the fort hill on a sled. Now you
need not object, because I shall do it in any case, although we _are_
grown up, and I _am_ going to college. Probably it will be the last
time. I shall borrow Bert Bryden's sled. Come along."

All the boy in him was awake; he seized Anne's wrist, and dragged her
through first one cross-path, then another, until at last they reached
the commandant's door. From the windows their heads had been visible,
turning and crossing above the heaped-up snow. "Rast, and Anne Douglas,"
said Mrs. Bryden, recognizing the girl's fur cap and the youth's golden
hair. She tapped on the window, and signed to them to enter without
ceremony. "What is it, Rast? Good-morning, Anne; what a color you have,
child!"

"Rast has been making me run," said Anne, smiling, and coming toward
the hearth, where the fort ladies were sitting together sewing, and
rather lugubriously recalling Christmas times in their old Eastern
homes.

"Throw off your cloak," said Mrs. Cromer, "else you will take cold when
you go out again."

"We shall only stay a moment," answered Anne.

The cloak was of strong dark blue woollen cloth, closely fitted to the
figure, with a small cape; it reached from her throat to her ankles, and
was met and completed by fur boots, fur gloves, and a little fur cap.
The rough plain costume was becoming to the vigorous girl. "It tones her
down," thought the lieutenant's wife; "she really looks quite well."

In the mean while Rast had gone across to the dining-room to find Bert
Bryden, the commandant's son, and borrow his sled.

"And you're really going to take Miss Douglas down the hill!" said the
boy. "Hurrah! I'll look out of the side window and see. What fun! Such a
big girl to go sliding!"

Anne was a big girl to go; but Rast was not to be withstood. She would
not get on the sled at the door, as he wished, but followed him out
through the sally-port, and round to the top of the long steep fort
hill, whose snowy slippery road-track was hardly used at all during the
winter, save by coasters, and those few in number, for the village boys,
French and half-breeds, did not view the snow as an amusement, or
toiling up hill as a recreation. The two little boys at the fort, and
what Scotch and New England blood there was in the town, held a monopoly
of the coasting.

"There they go!" cried Bert, from his perch on the deep window-seat
overlooking the frozen Straits and the village below. "Mamma, you must
let me take you down now; you are not so big as Miss Douglas."

Mrs. Bryden, a slender little woman, laughed. "Fancy the colonel's
horror," she said, "if he should see me sliding down that hill! And yet
it looks as if it might be rather stirring," she added, watching the
flying sled and its load. The sled, of island manufacture, was large
and sledge-like; it carried two comfortably. Anne held on by Rast's
shoulders, sitting behind him, while he guided the flying craft. Down
they glided, darted, faster and faster, losing all sense of everything
after a while save speed. Reaching the village street at last, they flew
across it, and out on the icy pier beyond, where Rast by a skillful
manœuvre stopped the sled on the very verge. The fort ladies were all at
the windows now, watching.

"How dangerous!" said Mrs. Bryden, forgetting her admiration of a moment
before with a mother's irrelevant rapidity. "Albert, let me never see or
hear of your sliding on that pier; another inch, and they would have
gone over, down on the broken ice below!"

"I couldn't do it, mamma, even if I tried," replied Master Albert,
regretfully; "I always tumble off the sled at the street, or else run
into one of the warehouses. Only Rast Pronando can steer across
slanting, and out on that pier."

"I am very glad to hear it," replied Mrs. Bryden; "but your father must
also give you his positive commands on the subject. I had no idea that
the pier was ever attempted."

"And it is not, mamma, except by Rast," said the boy. "Can't I try it
when I am as old as he is?"

"Hear the child!" said Mrs. Cromer, going back to her seat by the fire;
"one would suppose he expected to stay here all his life. Do you not
know, Bert, that we are only here for a little while--a year or two?
Before you are eighteen months older very likely you will find yourself
out on the plains. What a life it is!"

The fort ladies all sighed. It was a habit they had. They drew the
dreariest pictures of their surroundings and privations in their letters
homeward, and really believed them, theoretically. In truth, there were
some privations; but would any one of them have exchanged army life for
civilian? To the last, thorough army ladies retain their ways; you
recognize them even when retired to private and perhaps more prosperous
life. Cosmopolitans, they do not sink into the ruts of small-town life;
they are never provincial. They take the world easily, having a
pleasant, generous taste for its pleasures, and making light of the
burdens that fall to their share. All little local rules and ways are
nothing to them: neither here nor anywhere are they to remain long. With
this habit and manner they keep up a vast amount of general
cheeriness--vast indeed, when one considers how small the incomes
sometimes are. But if small, they are also sure.

"Rast Pronando is too old for such frolics, I think," said Mrs. Rankin,
the lieutenant's wife, beginning another seam in the new dress for her
baby.

"He goes to college in the spring; that will quiet him," said Mrs.
Bryden.

"What will he do afterward? Is he to live here? At this end of the
world--this jumping-off place?"

"I suppose so; he has always lived here. But he belongs, you know, to
the old Philadelphia family of the same name, the Peter Pronandos."

"Does he? How strange! How did he come here?"

"He was born here: Dr. Gaston told me his history. It seems that the
boy's father was a wild younger son of the second Peter, grandson, of
course, of the original Peter, from whom the family derive all their
greatness--_and_ money. This Peter the third, only his name was not
Peter, but John (the eldest sons were the Peters), wandered away from
home, and came up here, where his father's name was well known among the
directors of the Fur Company. John Pronando, who must have been of very
different fibre from the rest of the family, liked the wild life of the
border, and even went off on one or two long expeditions to the Red
River of the North and the Upper Missouri after furs with the hunters of
the Company. His father then offered him a position here which would
carry with it authority, but he curtly refused, saying that he had no
taste for a desk and pen like Peter. Peter was his brother, who had
begun dutifully at an early age his life-long task of taking care of the
large accumulation of land which makes the family so rich. Peter was the
good boy always. Father Peter was naturally angry with John, and
inclined even then to cross his name off the family list of heirs; this,
however, was not really done until the prodigal crowned his long course
of misdeeds by marrying the pretty daughter of a Scotchman, who held one
of the smaller clerkships in the Company's warehouses here--only a grade
above the hunters themselves. This was the end. Almost anything else
might have been forgiven save a marriage of that kind. If John Pronando
had selected the daughter of a flat-boat man on the Ohio River, or of a
Pennsylvania mountain wagoner, they might have accepted her--at a
distance--and made the best of her. But a person from the rank and file
of their own Fur Company--it was as though a colonel should marry the
daughter of a common soldier in his own regiment: yes, worse, for
nothing can equal the Pronando pride. From that day John Pronando was
simply forgotten--so they said. His mother was dead, so it may have been
true. A small sum was settled upon him, and a will was carefully drawn
up forever excluding him and the heirs he might have from any share in
the estate. John did not appear to mind this, but lived on merrily
enough for some years afterward, until his sweet little wife died; then
he seemed to lose his strength suddenly, and soon followed her, leaving
this one boy, Erastus, named after the maternal grandfather, with his
usual careless disregard of what would be for his advantage. The boy has
been brought up by our good chaplain, although he lives with a family
down in the village; the doctor has husbanded what money there was
carefully, and there is enough to send him through college, and to start
him in life in some way. A good education he considered the best
investment of all."

"In a fresh-water college?" said Mrs. Cromer, raising her eyebrows.

"Why not, for a fresh-water boy? He will always live in the West."

"He is so handsome," said Mrs. Rankin, "that he might go Eastward,
captivate his relatives, and win his way back into the family again."

"He does not know anything about his family," said the colonel's wife.

"Then some one ought to tell him."

"Why? Simply for the money? No: let him lead his own life out here, and
make his own way," said Mrs. Bryden, warmly.

"What a radical you are, Jane!"

"No, not a radical; but I have seen two or three of the younger
Pronandos, of the fourth generation, I mean, and whenever I think of
their dead eyes, and lifeless, weary manner, I feel like doing what I
can to keep Rast away from them."

"But the boy must live his life, Jane. These very Pronandos whom you
describe will probably be sober and staid at fifty: the Pronandos always
are. And Rast, after all, is one of them."

"But not like them. _He_ would go to ruin, he has so much more
imagination than they have."

"And less stability?"

"Well, no; less epicureanism, perhaps. It is the solid good things of
life that bring the Pronandos back, after they have indulged in youthful
wildness: they have no taste for husks."

Then the colonel came in, and, soon after, the sewing circle broke up,
Mrs. Cromer and Mrs. Rankin returning to their quarters in the other
cottages through the walled snow-paths. The little fort was perched on
the brow of the cliff, overlooking the village and harbor; the windows
of the stone cottages which formed the officers' quarters commanded an
uninterrupted view of blue water in summer, and white ice fields in
winter, as far as the eye could reach. It could hardly have withstood a
bombardment; its walls and block-houses, erected as a defense against
the Indians, required constant propping and new foundation-work to keep
them within the requirements of safety, not to speak of military
dignity. But the soldiers had nothing else to do, and, on the whole, the
fort looked well, especially from the water, crowning the green height
with buttressed majesty. During eight months of the year the officers
played chess and checkers, and the men played fox-and-geese. The
remaining four months, which comprised all there was of spring, summer,
and autumn, were filled full of out-door work and enjoyment; summer
visitors came, and the United States uniform took its conquering place,
as usual, among the dancers, at the picnics, and on the fast-sailing
fishing-boats which did duty as yachts, skimming over the clear water in
whose depths fish could be seen swimming forty feet below. These same
fish were caught and eaten--the large lake trout, and the delicate
white-fish, aristocrat of the freshwater seas; three-quarters of the
population were fishermen, and the whole town drew its food from the
deep. The business had broadened, too, as the Prairie States became more
thickly settled, namely, the salting and packing for sale of these
fresh-water fish. Barrels stood on the piers, and brisk agents, with
pencils behind their ears, stirred the slow-moving villagers into
activity, as the man with a pole stirs up the bears. Fur-bearing animals
had had their day; it was now the turn of the creatures of the deep.

"Let us stop at the church-house a moment and see Miss Lois," said Rast,
as, dragging the empty sled behind him, he walked by Anne's side through
the village street toward the Agency.

"I am afraid I have not time, Rast."

"Make it, then. Come, Annet, don't be ill-natured. And, besides, you
ought to see that I go there, for I have not called upon Miss Lois this
year."

"As this year only began last week, you are not so very far behind,"
said the girl, smiling. "Why can you not go and see Miss Lois alone?"

"I should be welcome, at any rate; _she_ adores me."

"Does she, indeed!"

"Yes, Miss Douglas, she does. She pretends otherwise, but that is always
the way with women. Oh! I know the world."

"You are only one year older than I am."

"In actual time, perhaps; but twenty years older in knowledge."

"What will you be, then, when you come back from college? An old man?"

"By no means; for _I_ shall stay where I am. But in the mean time you
will catch up with me."

Handsome Rast had passed through his novitiate, so he thought. His
knowledge of the world was derived partly from Lieutenant Walters, who,
although fresh from West Point, was still several years older than young
Pronando, and patronized him accordingly, and partly from a slender,
low-voiced Miss Carew, who was thirty, but appeared twenty, after the
manner of slender yellow-white blondes who have never possessed any
rose-tints, having always been willowy and amber-colored. Miss Carew
sailed, for a summer's amusement through the Great Lakes of the West;
and then returned Eastward with the opinion that they were but so many
raw, blank, inland oceans, without sensations or local coloring enough
to rouse her. The week on the island, which was an epoch in Rast's life,
had held for her but languid interest; yet even the languid work of a
master-hand has finish and power, and Rast was melancholy and silent for
fifteen days after the enchantress had departed. Then he wrote to her
one or two wild letters, and received no answer; then he grew bitter.
Then Walters came, with his cadet's deep experience in life, and the
youth learned from him, and re-appeared on the surface again with a
tinge of cynicism which filled Anne with wonder. For he had never told
her the story of the summer; it was almost the only event in his life
which she had not shared. But it was not that he feared to tell her,
they were as frank with each other as two children; it was because he
thought she would not understand it.

"I do not like Mr. Walters," she said, one day.

"He was very much liked at the Point, I assure you," said Rast, with
significant emphasis. "By the ladies, I mean, who come there in the
summer."

"How could they like him, with that important, egotistical air?"

"But it is to conquer him they like," said Tita, looking up from her
corner.

"Hear the child!" said Rast, laughing. "Are _you_ going to conquer,
Tita?"

"Yes," said Tita, stroking the cat which shared the corner with her--a
soft coated yellow pussy that was generally sleepy and quiet, but which
had, nevertheless, at times, extraordinary fits of galloping round in a
circle, and tearing the bark from the trees as though she was
possessed--an eccentricity of character which the boys attributed to the
direct influence of Satan.

Miss Lois lived in the church-house. It was an ugly house; but then, as
is often said of a plain woman, "so good!" It did not leak or rattle, or
fall down or smoke, or lean or sag, as did most of the other houses in
the village, in regard to their shingles, their shutters, their
chimneys, their side walls, and their roof-trees. It stood straightly
and squarely on its stone foundation, and every board, nail and latch
was in its proper position. Years before, missionaries had been sent
from New England to work among the Indians of this neighborhood, who had
obtained their ideas of Christianity, up to that time, solely from the
Roman Catholic priests, who had succeeded each other in an unbroken line
from that adventurous Jesuit, the first explorer of these inland seas,
Father Marquette. The Presbyterians came, established their mission,
built a meeting-house, a school-house, and a house for their pastor, the
buildings being as solid as their belief. Money was collected for this
enterprise from all over New England, that old-time, devout,
self-sacrificing community whose sternness and faith were equal; tall
spare men came westward to teach the Indians, earnest women with bright
steadfast eyes and lath-like forms were their aiders, wives, and
companions. Among these came Miss Lois--then young Lois
Hinsdale--carried Westward by an aunt whose missionary zeal was burning
splendidly up an empty chimney which might have been filled with family
loves and cares, but was not: shall we say better filled? The
missionaries worked faithfully; but, as the Indians soon moved further
westward, the results of their efforts can not be statistically
estimated now, or the accounts balanced.

"The only good Indian is a dead Indian," is a remark that crystallizes
the floating opinion of the border. But a border population has not a
missionary spirit. New England, having long ago chased out, shot down,
and exterminated all her own Indians, had become peaceful and pious, and
did not agree with these Western carriers of shot-guns. Still, when
there were no more Indians to come to this island school, it was of
necessity closed, no matter which side was right. There were still
numbers of Chippewas living on the other islands and on the mainland;
but they belonged to the Roman Catholic faith, and were under the
control of Père Michaux.

The Protestant church--a square New England meeting-house, with steeple
and bell--was kept open during another year; but the congregation grew
so small that at last knowledge of the true state of affairs reached the
New England purses, and it was decided that the minister in charge
should close this mission, and go southward to a more promising field
among the prairie settlers of Illinois. All the teachers connected with
the Indian school had departed before this--all save Miss Lois and her
aunt; for Priscilla Hinsdale, stricken down by her own intense energy,
which had consumed her as an inward fire, was now confined to her bed,
partially paralyzed. The New England woman had sold her farm, and put
almost all her little store of money into island property. "I shall live
and die here," she had said; "I have found my life-work." But her work
went away from her; her class of promising squaws departed with their
pappooses and their braves, and left her scholarless.

"With all the blessed religious privileges they have here, besides other
advantages, I can not at all understand it--I can not understand it,"
she repeated many times, especially to Sandy Forbes, an old Scotchman
and fervent singer of psalms.

"Aweel, aweel, Miss Priscilla, I donnot suppose ye can," replied Sandy,
with a momentary twinkle in his old eyes.

While still hesitating over her future course, illness struck down the
old maid, and her life-work was at last decided for her: it was merely
to lie in bed, motionless, winter and summer, with folded hands and
whatever resignation she was able to muster. Niece Lois, hitherto a
satellite, now assumed the leadership. This would seem a simple enough
charge, the household of two women, poor in purse, in a remote village
on a Northern frontier. But exotics of any kind require nursing and
vigilance, and the Hinsdale household was an exotic. Miss Priscilla
required that every collar should be starched in the New England
fashion, that every curtain should fall in New England folds, that every
dish on the table should be of New England origin, and that every clock
should tick with New England accuracy. Lois had known no other training;
and remembering as she did also the ways of the old home among the New
Hampshire hills with a child's fidelity and affection, she went even
beyond her aunt in faithfulness to her ideal; and although the elder
woman had long been dead, the niece never varied the habits or altered
the rules of the house which was now hers alone.

"A little New England homestead strangely set up here on this far
Western island," William Douglas had said.

The church house, as the villagers named it, was built by the
Presbyterian missionaries, many of them laboring with their own hands at
the good work, seeing, no doubt, files of Indian converts rising up in
another world to call them blessed. When it came into the hands of Miss
Priscilla, it came, therefore, ready-made as to New England ideas of
rooms and closets, and only required a new application of white and
green paint to become for her an appropriate and rectangular bower. It
stood near the closed meeting-house, whose steeple threw a slow-moving
shadow across its garden, like a great sun-dial, all day. Miss Lois had
charge of the key of the meeting-house, and often she unlocked its door,
went in, and walked up and down the aisle, as if to revive the memories
of the past. She remembered the faith and sure hope that used to fill
the empty spaces, and shook her head and sighed. Then she upbraided
herself for sighing, and sang in her thin husky voice softly a verse or
two of one of their old psalms by way of reparation. She sent an annual
report of the condition of the building to the Presbyterian Board of
Missions, but in it said nothing of the small repairs for which her own
purse paid. Was it a silent way of making amends to the old walls for
having deserted their tenets?

"Cod-fish balls for breakfast on Sunday morning, of course," said Miss
Lois, "and fried hasty-pudding. On Wednesdays a boiled dinner. Pies on
Tuesdays and Saturdays."

The pins stood in straight rows on her pincushion; three times each week
every room in the house was swept, and the floors as well as the
furniture dusted. Beans were baked in an earthen pot on Saturday night,
and sweet-cake was made on Thursday. Rast Pronando often dropped in to
tea on Thursday. Winter or summer, through scarcity or plenty, Miss Lois
never varied her established routine, thereby setting an example, she
said, to the idle and shiftless. And certainly she was a faithful
guide-post, continually pointing out an industrious and systematic way,
which, however, to the end of time, no French-blooded, French-hearted
person will ever travel, unless dragged by force. The villagers
preferred their lake trout to Miss Lois's salt cod-fish, their savory
stews and soups to her corned beef, their tartines to her corn-meal
puddings, and their eau-de-vie to her green tea; they loved their
disorder and their comfort; her bar soap and scrubbing-brush were a
horror to their eyes. They washed the household clothes two or three
times a year: was not that enough? Of what use the endless labor of this
sharp-nosed woman with glasses over her eyes at the church-house? Were
not, perhaps, the glasses the consequences of such toil? And her figure
of a long leanness also?

The element of real heroism, however, came into Miss Lois's life in her
persistent effort to employ Indian servants. The old mission had been
established for their conversion and education; any descendant of that
mission, therefore, should continue to the utmost of her ability the
beneficent work. The meeting-house was closed, the school-house
abandoned, she could reach the native race by no other influence save
personal; that personal influence, then, she would use. Through long
years had she persisted, through long years would she continue to
persist. A succession of Chippewa squaws broke, stole, and skirmished
their way through her kitchen with various degrees of success, generally
in the end departing suddenly at night with whatever booty they could
lay their hands on. It is but justice to add, however, that this was not
much, a rigid system of keys and excellent locks prevailing in the
well-watched household. Miss Lois's conscience would not allow her to
employ half-breeds, who were sometimes endurable servants; duty
required, she said, that she should have full-blooded natives. And she
had them. She always began to teach them the alphabet within three days
after their arrival, and the spectacle of a tearful, freshly caught
Indian girl, very wretched in her calico dress and white apron, worn out
with the ways of the kettles and brasses, dejected over the fish-balls,
and appalled by the pudding, standing confronted by a large alphabet on
the well-scoured table, and Miss Lois by her side with a pointer, was
frequent and even regular in its occurrence, the only change being in
the personality of the learners. No one of them had ever gone through
the letters; but Miss Lois was not discouraged. Patiently she began over
again--she was always beginning over again. And in the mean time she was
often obliged not only to do almost all the household work with her own
hands, but to do it twice over in order to instruct the new-comer. By
the unwritten law of public opinion, Dr. Gaston was obliged to employ
only Protestant servants; by the unwritten law of her own conscience,
Miss Lois was obliged to employ only Indians. But in truth she did not
employ them so much as they employed her.

Miss Lois received her young friends in the sitting-room. There was a
parlor with Brussels carpet and hair-cloth sofa across the hall, but its
blinds were closed, and its shades drawn down. The parlor of
middle-class households in the cold climate of the Northern States
generally is a consecrated apartment, with the chill atmosphere and much
of the solemnity of a tomb. It may be called the high altar of the
careful housewife; but even here her sense of cleanliness and dustless
perfection is such that she keeps it cold. No sacred fire burns, no
cheerful ministry is allowed; everything is silent and veiled. The
apartment is of no earthly use--nor heavenly, save perhaps for ghosts.
But take it away, and the housewife is miserable; leave it, and she
lives on contentedly in her sitting-room all the year round, knowing it
is _there_.

Miss Lois's sitting-room was cheery; it had a rag-carpet, a bright fire,
and double-glass panes instead of the heavy woollen curtains which the
villagers hung over their windows in the winter--curtains that kept out
the cold, but also the light. Miss Lois's curtains were of white dimity
with knotted fringe, and her walls were freshly whitewashed. Her framed
sampler, and a memorial picture done with pen and ink, representing two
weeping-willows overshadowing a tombstone, ornamented the high
mantel-piece, and there were also two gayly colored china jars filled
with dried rose-leaves. They were only wild-brier roses; the real roses,
as she called them, grew but reluctantly in this Northern air. Miss Lois
never loved the wild ones as she had loved the old-fashioned
cinnamon-scented pink and damask roses of her youth, but she gathered
and dried these leaves of the brier from habit. There was also hanging
on the wall a looking-glass tilted forward at such an angle that the
looker-in could see only his feet, with a steep ascent of carpet going
up hill behind him. This looking-glass possessed a brightly hued picture
at the top, divided into two compartments, on one side a lovely lady
with a large bonnet modestly concealing her face, very bare shoulders,
leg-of-mutton sleeves, and a bag hanging on her arm; on the other old
Father Time, scythe in hand, as if he was intended as a warning to the
lovely lady that minutes were rapid and his stroke sure.

"Why do you keep your glass tilted forward so far that we can not look
in it, Miss Lois?" Rast had once asked.

Miss Lois did it from habit. But she answered: "To keep silly girls from
looking at themselves while they are pretending to talk to me. They say
something, and then raise their eyes quickly to see how they looked
when they said it. I have known them keep a smile or a particular
expression half a minute while they studied the effect--ridiculous
calves!"

"Calves have lovely eyes sometimes," said Rast.

"Did I say the girls were ugly, Master Pert? But the homely girls look
too."

"Perhaps to see how they can improve themselves."

"Perhaps," said the old maid, dryly. "Pity they never learn!"

In the sitting-room was a high chest of drawers, an old clock, a
chintz-covered settle, and two deep narrow old rocking-chairs, intended
evidently for scant skirts; on an especial table was the family Bible,
containing the record of the Hinsdale family from the date of the
arrival of the _Mayflower_. Miss Lois's prayer-book was not there; it
was up stairs in a bureau drawer. It did not seem to belong to the
old-time furniture of the rooms below, nor to the Hinsdale Bible.

The story of Miss Lois's change from the Puritan to the Episcopal ritual
might to-day fill a volume if written by one of those brooding,
self-searching woman-minds of New England--those unconscious, earnest
egotists who bring forth poetry beautiful sometimes to inspiration, but
always purely subjective. And if in such a volume the feelings, the
arguments, and the change were all represented as sincere,
conscientious, and prayerful, they would be represented with entire
truth. Nevertheless, so complex are the influences which move our lives,
and so deep the under-powers which we ourselves may not always
recognize, that it could be safely added by a man of the world as a
comment that Lois Hinsdale would never have felt these changes, these
doubts, these conflicts, if William Douglas had not been of another
creed. For in those days Douglas had a creed--the creed of his young
bride.

"Miss Hinsdale, we have come to offer you our New-Year's good wishes,"
said Rast, taking off his cap and making a ceremonious bow. "Our
equipage will wait outside. How charming is your apartment, madam! And
yourself--how Minerva-like the gleam of the eye, the motion of the hand,
which--"

"Which made the pies now cooling in the pantry, Rast Pronando, to whose
fragrance, I presume, I owe the honor of this visit."

"Not for myself, dear madam, but for Anne. She has already confided to
me that she feels a certain sinking sensation that absolutely requires
the strengthening influence of pie."

Anne laughed. "Are you going to stay long?" she asked, still standing at
the doorway.

"Certainly," replied Rast, seating himself in one of the narrow
rocking-chairs; "I have a number of subjects to discuss with our dear
Miss Lois."

"Then I will leave you here, for Tita is waiting for me. I have promised
to take them all over to Père Michaux's house this afternoon."

Miss Lois groaned--two short abrupt groans on different keys.

"Have you? Then I'm going too," said Rast, rising.

"Oh no, Rast; please do not," said the girl, earnestly. "When you go, it
is quite a different thing--a frolic always."

"And why not?" said Rast.

"Because the children go for religious instruction, as you well know; it
is their faith, and I feel that I ought to give them such opportunities
as I can to learn what it means."

"It means mummery!" said Miss Lois, loudly and sternly.

Anne glanced toward her old friend, but stood her ground firmly. "I must
take them," she said; "I promised I would do so as long as they were
children, and under my care. When they are older they can choose for
themselves."

"To whom did you make that promise, Anne Douglas?"

"To Père Michaux."

"And you call yourself a Protestant!"

"Yes; but I hope to keep a promise too, dear Miss Lois."

"Why was it ever made?"

"Père Michaux required it, and--father allowed it."

Miss Lois rubbed her forehead, settled her spectacles with her first and
third fingers, shook her head briskly once or twice to see if they were
firmly in place, and then went on with her knitting. What William
Douglas allowed, how could she disallow?

Rast, standing by Anne's side putting on his fur gloves, showed no
disposition to yield.

"Please do not come, Rast," said the girl again, laying her hand on his
arm.

"I shall go to take care of you."

"It is not necessary; we have old Antoine and his dogs, and the boys are
to have a sled of their own. We shall be at home before dark, I think,
and if not, the moon to-night is full."

"But I shall go," said Rast.

"Nonsense!" said Miss Lois. "Of course you will not go; Anne is right.
You romp and make mischief with those children always. Behave now, and
you shall come back this evening, and Anne shall come too, and we will
have apples and nuts and gingerbread, and Anne shall recite."

"Will you, Annet? I will yield if you promise."

"If I must, I must," said Anne, reluctantly.

"Go, then, proud maid; speed upon your errand. And in the mean time,
Miss Lois, something fragrant and spicy in the way of a reward _now_
would not come amiss, and then some music."

Among the possessions which Miss Lois had inherited from her aunt was a
small piano. The elder Miss Hinsdale, sent into the world with an almost
Italian love of music, found herself unable to repress it even in cold
New England; turning it, therefore, into the channel of the few stunted
psalms and hymns and spiritual songs of the day, she indulged it in a
cramped fashion, like a full-flowing stream shut off and made to turn a
mill. When the missionary spirit seized her in its fiery whirlwind, she
bargained with it mentally that her piano should be included; she
represented to the doubting elder that it would be an instrument of
great power among the savages, and that even David himself accompanied
the psalms with a well-stringed harp. The elder still doubted; he liked
a tuning-fork; and besides, the money which Miss Priscilla would pay for
the transportation of "the instrument" was greatly needed for boots for
the young men. But as Miss Priscilla was a free agent, and quite
determined, he finally decided, like many another leader, to allow what
he could not prevent, and the piano came. It was a small, old-fashioned
instrument, which had been kept in tune by Dr. Douglas, and through long
years the inner life of Miss Lois, her hopes, aspirations, and
disappointments, had found expression through its keys. It was a curious
sight to see the old maid sitting at her piano alone on a stormy
evening, the doors all closed, the shutters locked, no one stirring in
the church-house save herself. Her playing was old-fashioned, her hands
stiff; she could not improvise, and the range of the music she knew was
small and narrow, yet unconsciously it served to her all the purposes of
emotional expression. When she was sad, she played "China"; when she was
hopeful, "Coronation." She made the bass heavy in dejection, and played
the air in octaves when cheerful. She played only when she was entirely
alone. The old piano was the only confidant of the hidden remains of
youthful feeling buried in her heart.

[Illustration: LOIS HINSDALE.]

Rast played on the piano and the violin in an untrained fashion of his
own, and Anne sang; they often had small concerts in Miss Lois's parlor.
But a greater entertainment lay in Anne's recitations. These were all
from Shakspeare. Not in vain had the chaplain kept her tied to its pages
year after year; she had learned, almost unconsciously, as it were,
large portions of the immortal text by heart, and had formed her own
ideals of the characters, who were to her real persons, although as
different from flesh-and-blood people as are the phantoms of a dream.
They were like spirits who came at her call, and lent her their
personality; she could identify herself with them for the time being so
completely, throw herself into the bodies and minds she had
constructed for them so entirely, that the effect was startling, and all
the more so because her conceptions of the characters were girlish and
utterly different from those that have ruled the dramatic stage for
generations. Her ideas of Juliet, of Ophelia, of Rosalind, and Cleopatra
were her own, and she never varied them; the very earnestness of her
personations made the effect all the more extraordinary. Dr. Gaston had
never heard these recitations of his pupil; William Douglas had never
heard them; either of these men could have corrected her errors and
explained to her her mistakes. She herself thought them too trifling for
their notice; it was only a way she had of amusing herself. Even Rast,
her playmate, found it out by chance, coming upon her among the cedars
one day when she was Ophelia, and overhearing her speak several lines
before she saw him; he immediately constituted himself an audience of
one, with, however, the peremptory manners of a throng, and demanded to
hear all she knew. Poor Anne! the great plays of the world had been her
fairy tales; she knew no others. She went through her personations
timidly, the wild forest her background, the open air and blue Straits
her scenery. The audience found fault, but, on the whole, enjoyed the
performance, and demanded frequent repetitions. After a while Miss Lois
was admitted into the secret, and disapproved, and was curious, and
listened, and shook her head, but ended by liking the portraitures,
which were in truth as fantastic as phantasmagoria. Miss Lois had never
seen a play or read a novel in her life. For some time the forest
continued Anne's theatre, and more than once Miss Lois had taken
afternoon walks, for which her conscience troubled her: she could not
decide whether it was right or wrong. But winter came, and gradually it
grew into a habit that Anne should recite at the church-house now and
then, the Indian servant who happened to be at that time the occupant of
the kitchen being sent carefully away for the evening, in order that her
eye should not be guiltily glued to the key-hole during the exciting
visits of Ophelia and Juliet. Anne was always reluctant to give these
recitations now that she had an audience. "Out in the woods," she said,
"I had only the trees and the silence. I never thought of myself at
all."

"But Miss Lois and I are as handsome as trees; and as to silence, we
never say a word," replied Rast. "Come, Annet, you know you like it."

"Yes; in--in one way I do."

"Then let us take that way," said Rast.



CHAPTER IV.

     --"Sounding names as any on the page of history--Lake Winnipeg,
     Hudson Bay, Ottaway, and portages innumerable; Chipeways, Gens de
     Terre, Les Pilleurs, the Weepers, and the like. An immense, shaggy,
     but sincere country, adorned with chains of lakes and rivers,
     covered with snows, with hemlocks and fir-trees. There is a
     naturalness in this traveller, and an unpretendingness, as in a
     Canadian winter, where life is preserved through low temperature
     and frontier dangers by furs, and within a stout heart. He has
     truth and moderation worthy of the father of history, which belong
     only to an intimate experience; and he does not defer much to
     literature."--THOREAU.


Immediately after the early dinner the little cavalcade set out for the
hermitage of Père Michaux, which was on an island of its own at some
distance from the village island; to reach it they journeyed over the
ice. The boys' sled went first, André riding, the other two drawing:
they were to take turns. Then came old Antoine and his dogs,
wise-looking, sedate creatures with wide-spread, awkward legs, big paws,
and toes turned in. René and Lebeau were the leaders; they were dogs of
age and character, and as they guided the sledge they also kept an eye
to the younger dogs behind. The team was a local one; it was not
employed in carrying the mails, but was used by the villagers when they
crossed to the various islands, the fishing grounds, or the Indian
villages on the mainland. Old Antoine walked behind with Anne by his
side: she preferred to walk. Snugly ensconced in the sledge in a warm
nest of furs was Tita, nothing visible of her small self save her dark
eyes, which were, however, most of the time closed: here there was
nothing to watch. The bells on the dogs sounded out merrily in the
clear air: the boys had also adorned themselves with bells, and pranced
along like colts. The sunshine was intensely bright, the blue heavens
seemed full of its shafts, the ice below glittered in shining lines; on
the north and south the dark evergreens of the mainland rose above the
white, but toward the east and west the fields of ice extended unbroken
over the edge of the horizon. Here they were smooth, covered with snow;
there they were heaped in hummocks and ridges, huge blocks piled against
each other, and frozen solid in that position where the wind and the
current had met and fought. The atmosphere was cold, but so pure and
still that breathing was easier than in many localities farther toward
the south. There was no dampness, no strong raw wind; only the even
cold. A feather thrown from a house-top would have dropped softly to the
ground in a straight line, as drop one by one the broad leaves of the
sycamore on still Indian summer days. The snow itself was dry; it had
fallen at intervals during the winter, and made thicker and thicker the
soft mantle that covered the water and land. When the flakes came down,
the villagers always knew that it was warmer, for when the clouds were
steel-bound, the snow could not fall.

"I think we shall have snow again to-morrow," said old Antoine in his
voyageur dialect. "Step forward, then, genteelly, René. Hast thou no
conscience, Lebeau?"

The two dogs, whose attention had been a little distracted by the
backward vision of André conveying something to his mouth, returned to
their duty with a jerk, and the other dogs behind all rang their little
bells suddenly as they felt the swerve of the leaders back into the
track. For there was a track over the ice toward Père Michaux's island,
and another stretching off due eastward--the path of the carrier who
brought the mails from below; besides these there were no other
ice-roads; the Indians and hunters came and went as the bird flies. Père
Michaux's island was not in sight from the village; it was, as the boys
said, round the corner. When they had turned this point, and no longer
saw the mission church, the little fort, and the ice-covered piers, when
there was nothing on the shore side save wild cliffs crowned with
evergreens, then before them rose a low island with its bare summer
trees, its one weather-beaten house, a straight line of smoke coming
from its chimney. It was still a mile distant, but the boys ran along
with new vigor. No one wished to ride; André, leaving his place, took
hold with the others, and the empty sled went on toward the hermitage at
a fine pace.

"You could repose yourself there, mademoiselle," said Antoine, who never
thoroughly approved the walking upon her own two feet kept up--nay, even
enjoyed--by this vigorous girl at his side. Tita's ideas were more to
his mind.

"But I like it," said Anne, smiling. "It makes me feel warm and strong,
all awake and joyous, as though I had just heard some delightful news."

"But the delightful news in reality, mademoiselle--one hears not much of
it up here, as I say to Jacqueline."

"Look at the sky, the ice-fields; that is news every day, newly
beautiful, if we will only look at it."

"Does mademoiselle think, then, that the ice is beautiful?"

"Very beautiful," replied the girl.

The cold air had brought the blood to her cheeks, a gleaming light to
her strong, fearless eyes that looked the sun in the face without
quailing. Old Antoine caught the idea for the first time that she might,
perhaps, be beautiful some day, and that night, before his fire, he
repeated the idea to his wife.

"Bah!" said old Jacqueline; "that is one great error of yours, my
friend. Have you turned blind?"

"I did not mean beautiful in my eyes, of course; but one kind of beauty
pleases me, thank the saints, and that is, without doubt, your own,"
replied the Frenchman, bowing toward his withered, bright-eyed old
spouse with courtly gravity. "But men of another race, now, like those
who come here in the summer, might they not think her passable?"

But old Jacqueline, although mollified, would not admit even this. A
good young lady, and kind, it was to be hoped she would be content with
the graces of piety, since she had not those of the other sort. Religion
was all-merciful.

The low island met the lake without any broken ice at its edge; it rose
slightly from the beach in a gentle slope, the snow-path leading
directly up to the house door. The sound of the bells brought Père
Michaux himself to the entrance. "Enter, then, my children," he said;
"and you, Antoine, take the dogs round to the kitchen. Pierre is there."

Pierre was a French cook. Neither conscience nor congregation requiring
that Père Michaux should nourish his inner man with half-baked or
cindered dishes, he enjoyed to the full the skill and affection of this
small-sized old Frenchman, who, while learning in his youth the rules,
exceptions, and sauces of his profession, became the victim of black
melancholy on account of a certain Denise, fair but cold-hearted, who,
being employed in a conservatory, should have been warmer. Perhaps
Denise had her inner fires, but they emitted no gleam toward poor
Pierre; and at last, after spoiling two breakfasts and a dinner, and
drawing down upon himself the epithet of "imbécile," the sallow little
apprentice abandoned Paris, and in a fit of despair took passage for
America, very much as he might have taken passage for Hades _viâ_ the
charcoal route. Having arrived in New York, instead of seeking a place
where his knowledge, small as it was, would have been prized by exiled
Frenchmen in a sauceless land, the despairing, obstinate little cook
allowed himself to drift into all sorts of incongruous situations, and
at last enlisted in the United States army, where, as he could play the
flute, he was speedily placed in special service as member of the band.
Poor Pierre! his flute sang to him only "Denise! Denise!" But the
band-master thought it could sing other tunes as well, and set him to
work with the score before him. It was while miserably performing his
part in company with six placid Germans that Père Michaux first saw poor
Pierre, and recognizing a compatriot, spoke to him. Struck by the
pathetic misery of his face, he asked a few questions of the little
flute-player, listened to his story, and gave him the comfort and help
of sympathy and shillings, together with the sound of the old home
accents, sweetest of all to the dulled ears. When the time of enlistment
expired, Pierre came westward after his priest: Père Michaux had written
to him once or twice, and the ex-cook had preserved the letters as a
guide-book. He showed the heading and the postmark whenever he was at a
loss, and travelled blindly on, handed from one railway conductor to
another like a piece of animated luggage, until at last he was put on
board of a steamer, and, with some difficulty, carried westward; for the
sight of the water had convinced him that he was to be taken on some
unknown and terrible voyage.

The good priest was surprised and touched to see the tears of the little
man, stained, weazened, and worn with travel and grief; he took him over
to the hermitage in his sharp-pointed boat, which skimmed the crests of
the waves, the two sails wing-and-wing, and Pierre sat in the bottom,
and held on with a death-grasp. As soon as his foot touched the shore,
he declared, with regained fluency, that he would never again enter a
boat, large or small, as long as he lived. He never did. In vain Père
Michaux represented to him that he could earn more money in a city, in
vain he offered to send him Eastward and place him with kind persons
speaking his own tongue, who would procure a good situation for him;
Pierre was obstinate. He listened, assented to all, but when the time
came refused to go.

"Are you or are you not going to send us that cook of yours?" wrote
Father George at the end of two years. "This is the fifth time I have
made ready for him."

"He will not go," replied Père Michaux at last; "it seems that I must
resign myself."

"If your Père Michaux is handsomer than I am," said Dr. Gaston one day
to Anne, "it is because he has had something palatable to eat all this
time. In a long course of years saleratus tells."

Père Michaux was indeed a man of noble bearing; his face, although
benign, wore an expression of authority, which came from the submissive
obedience of his flock, who loved him as a father and revered him as a
pope. His parish, a diocese in size, extended over the long point of the
southern mainland; over the many islands of the Straits, large and
small, some of them unnoted on the map, yet inhabited perhaps by a few
half-breeds, others dotted with Indian farms; over the village itself,
where stood the small weather-beaten old Church of St. Jean; and over
the dim blue line of northern coast, as far as eye could reach or priest
could go. His roadways were over the water, his carriage a boat; in the
winter, a sledge. He was priest, bishop, governor, judge, and physician;
his word was absolute. His party-colored flock referred all their
disputes to him, and abided by his decisions--questions of fishing-nets
as well as questions of conscience, cases of jealousy together with
cases of fever. He stood alone. He was not propped. He had the rare
leader's mind. Thrown away on that wild Northern border? Not any more
than Bishop Chase in Ohio, Captain John Smith in Virginia, or other
versatile and autocratic pioneers. Many a man can lead in cities and in
camps, among precedents and rules, but only a born leader can lead in a
wilderness where he must make his own rules and be his own precedent
every hour.

The dogs trotted cheerfully, with all their bells ringing, round to the
back door. Old Pierre detested dogs, yet always fed them with a strange
sort of conscientiousness, partly from compassion, partly from fear. He
could never accustom himself to the trains. To draw, he said, was an
undoglike thing. To see the creatures rush by the island on a moonlight
night over the white ice, like dogs of a dream, was enough to make the
hair elevate itself.

"Whose hair?" Rast had demanded. "Yours, or the dogs'?" For young
Pronando was a frequent visitor at the hermitage, not as pupil or member
of the flock, but as a candid young friend, admiring impartially both
the priest and his cook.

"Hast thou brought me again all those wide-mouthed dogs, brigands of
unheard-of and never-to-be-satisfied emptiness, robbers of all things?"
demanded Pierre, appearing at the kitchen door, ladle in hand. Antoine's
leathery cheeks wrinkled themselves into a grin as he unharnessed his
team, all the dogs pawing and howling, and striving to be first at the
entrance of this domain of plenty.

"Hold thyself quiet, René. Wilt thou take the very sledge in, Lebeau?"
he said, apostrophizing the leaders. But no sooner was the last strap
loosened than all the dogs by common consent rushed at and over the
little cook and into the kitchen in a manner which would have insured
them severe chastisement in any other kitchen in the diocese. Pierre
darted about among their gaunt yellow bodies, railing at them for
knocking down his pans, and calling upon all the saints to witness their
rapacity; but in the mean time he was gathering together quickly
fragments of whose choice and savory qualities René and Lebeau had
distinct remembrance, and the other dogs anticipation. They leaped and
danced round him on their awkward legs and shambling feet, bit and
barked at each other, and rolled on the floor in a heap. Anywhere else
the long whip would have curled round their lank ribs, but in old
Pierre's kitchen they knew they were safe. With a fiercely delivered and
eloquent selection from the strong expressions current in the Paris of
his youth, the little cook made his way through the snarling throng of
yellow backs and legs, and emptied his pan of fragments on the snow
outside. Forth rushed the dogs, and cast themselves in a solid mass upon
the little heap.

"Hounds of Satan?" said Pierre.

"They are, indeed," replied Antoine. "But leave them now, my friend, and
close the door, since warmth is a blessed gift."

But Pierre still stood on the threshold, every now and then darting out
to administer a rap to the gluttons, or to pull forward the younger and
weaker ones. He presided with exactest justice over the whole repast,
and ended by bringing into the kitchen a forlorn and drearily ugly
young animal that had not obtained his share on account of the
preternaturally quick side snatchings of Lebeau. To this dog he now
presented an especial banquet in an earthen dish behind the door.

"If there is anything I abhor, it is the animal called dog," he said,
seating himself at last, and wiping his forehead.

"That is plainly evident," replied old Antoine, gravely.

In the mean time, Anne, Tita, and the boys had thrown off their fur
cloaks, and entered the sitting-room. Père Michaux took his seat in his
large arm-chair near the hearth, Tita curled herself on a cushion at his
feet, and the boys sat together on a wooden bench, fidgeting uneasily,
and trying to recall a faint outline of their last lesson, while Anne
talked to the priest, warming first one of her shapely feet, then the
other, as she leaned against the mantel, inquiring after the health of
the birds, the squirrels, the fox, and the tame eagle, Père Michaux's
companions in his hermitage. The appearance of the room was peculiar,
yet picturesque and full of comfort. It was a long, low apartment, the
walls made warm in the winter with skins instead of tapestry, and the
floor carpeted with blankets; other skins lay before the table and fire
as mats. The furniture was rude, but cushioned and decorated, as were
likewise the curtains, in a fashion unique, by the hands of half-breed
women, who had vied with each other in the work; their primitive
embroidery, whose long stitches sprang to the centre of the curtain or
cushion, like the rays of a rising sun, and then back again, was as
unlike modern needle-work as the vase-pictured Egyptians, with eyes in
the sides of their heads, are like a modern photograph; their patterns,
too, had come down from the remote ages of the world called the New,
which is, however, as old as the continent across the seas. Guns and
fishing-tackle hung over the mantel, a lamp swung from the centre of the
ceiling, little singing-birds flew into and out of their open cages near
the windows, and the tame eagle sat solemnly on his perch at the far end
of the long room. The squirrels and the fox were visible in their
quarters, peeping out at the new-comers; but their front doors were
barred, for they had broken parole, and were at present in disgrace. The
ceiling was planked with wood, which had turned to a dark cinnamon hue;
the broad windows let in the sunshine on three sides during the day, and
at night were covered with heavy curtains, all save one, which had but a
single thickness of red cloth over the glass, with a candle behind which
burned all night, so that the red gleam shone far across the ice, like a
winter light-house for the frozen Straits. More than one despairing man,
lost in the cold and darkness, had caught its ray, and sought refuge,
with a thankful heart. The broad deep fire-place of this room was its
glory: the hearts of giant logs glowed there: it was a fire to dream of
on winter nights, a fire to paint on canvas for Christmas pictures to
hang on the walls of barren furnace-heated houses, a fire to remember
before that noisome thing, a close stove. Round this fire-place were set
like tiles rude bits of pottery found in the vicinity, remains of an
earlier race, which the half-breeds brought to Père Michaux whenever
their ploughs upturned them--arrow-heads, shells from the wilder
beaches, little green pebbles from Isle Royale, agates, and fragments of
fossils, the whole forming a rough mosaic, strong in its story of the
region. From two high shelves the fathers of the Church and the classics
of the world looked down upon this scene. But Père Michaux was no
bookworm; his books were men. The needs and faults of his flock absorbed
all his days, and, when the moon was bright, his evenings also. "There
goes Père Michaux," said the half-breeds, as the broad sail of his boat
went gleaming by in the summer night, or the sound of his sledge bells
came through their closed doors; "he has been to see the dying wife of
Jean," or "to carry medicine to François." On the wild nights and the
dark nights, when no one could stir abroad, the old priest lighted his
lamp, and fed his mind with its old-time nourishment. But he had nothing
modern; no newspapers. The nation was to him naught. He was one of a
small but distinctly marked class in America that have a distaste for
and disbelief in the present, its ideals, thoughts, and actions, and
turn for relief to the past; they represent a reaction. This class is
made up of foreigners like the priest, of native-born citizens with
artistic tastes who have lived much abroad, modern Tories who regret the
Revolution, High-Church Episcopalians who would like archbishops and an
Establishment, restless politicians who seek an empire--in all, a very
small number compared with the mass of the nation at large, and not
important enough to be counted at all numerically, yet not without its
influence. And not without its use too, its members serving their
country, unconsciously perhaps, but powerfully, by acting as a balance
to the self-asserting blatant conceit of the young nation--a drag on the
wheels of its too-rapidly speeding car. They are a sort of Mordecai at
the gate, and are no more disturbed than he was by being in a minority.
In any great crisis this element is fused with the rest at once, and
disappears; but in times of peace and prosperity up it comes again, and
lifts its scornful voice.

Père Michaux occupied himself first with the boys. The religious
education of Louis, Gabriel, and André was not complex--a few plain
rules that three colts could have learned almost as well, provided they
had had speech. But the priest had the rare gift of holding the
attention of children while he talked with them, and thus the three boys
learned from him gradually and almost unconsciously the tenets of the
faith in which their young mother had lived and died. The rare gift of
holding the attention of boys--O poor Sunday-school teachers all over
the land, ye know how rare that gift is!--ye who must keep restless
little heads and hands quiet while some well-meaning but slow,
long-winded, four-syllabled man "addresses the children." It is
sometimes the superintendent, but more frequently a visitor, who beams
through his spectacles benevolently upon the little flock before him,
but has no more power over them than a penguin would have over a colony
of sparrows.

But if the religion of the boys was simple, that of Tita was of a very
different nature; it was as complex, tortuous, unresting, as personal
and minute in detail, as some of those religious journals we have all
read, diaries of every thought, pen-photographs of every mood, wonderful
to read, but not always comfortable when translated into actual life,
where something less purely self-engrossed, if even less saintly, is apt
to make the household wheels run more smoothly. Tita's religious ideas
perplexed Anne, angered Miss Lois, and sometimes wearied even the priest
himself. The little creature aspired to be absolutely perfect, and she
was perfect in rule and form. Whatever was said to her in the way of
correction she turned and adjusted to suit herself; her mental ingenuity
was extraordinary. Anne listened to the child with wonder; but Père
Michaux understood and treated with kindly carelessness the strong
selfism, which he often encountered among older and deeply devout women,
but not often in a girl so young. Once the elder sister asked with some
anxiety if he thought Tita was tending toward conventual life.

"Oh no," replied the old man, smiling; "anything but that."

"But is she not remarkably devout?"

"As Parisiennes in Lent."

"But it is Lent with her all the year round."

"That is because she has not seen Paris yet."

"But we can not take her to Paris," said Anne, in perplexity.

"What should I do if I had to reply to you always, mademoiselle?" said
the priest, smiling, and patting her head.

"You mean that I am dull?" said Anne, a slight flush rising in her
cheeks. "I have often noticed that people thought me so."

"I mean nothing of the kind. But by the side of your honesty we all
appear like tapers when the sun breaks in," said Père Michaux,
gallantly. Still, Anne could not help thinking that he did think her
dull.

To-day she sat by the window, looking out over the ice. The boys,
dismissed from their bench, had, with the sagacity of the dogs, gone
immediately to the kitchen. The soft voice of Tita was repeating
something which sounded like a litany to the Virgin, full of mystic
phrases, a selection made by the child herself, the priest requiring no
such recitation, but listening, as usual, patiently, with his eyes half
closed, as the old-time school-teacher listened to Wirt's description of
Blennerhasset's Island. Père Michaux had no mystical tendencies. His
life was too busy; in the winter it was too cold, and in the summer the
sunshine was too brilliant, on his Northern island, for mystical
thoughts. At present, through Tita's recitation, his mind was occupied
with a poor fisherman's family over on the mainland, to whom on the
morrow he was going to send assistance. The three boys came round on the
outside, and peered through the windows to see whether the lesson was
finished. Anne ordered them back by gesture, for they were bareheaded,
and their little faces red with the cold. But they pressed their noses
against the panes, glared at Tita, and shook their fists. "It's all
ready," they said, in sepulchral tones, putting their mouths to the
crack under the sash, "and it's a pudding. Tell her to hurry up, Annet."

But Tita's murmuring voice went steadily on, and the Protestant sister
would not interrupt the little Catholic's recitation; she shook her head
at the boys, and motioned to them to go back to the kitchen. But they
danced up and down to warm themselves, rubbed their little red ears with
their hands, and then returned to the crack, and roared in chorus, "Tell
her to hurry up; we shall not have time to eat it."

"True," said Père Michaux, overhearing this triple remonstrance. "That
will do for to-day, Tita."

"But I have not finished, my father."

"Another time, child."

"I shall recite it, then, at the next lesson, and learn besides as much
more; and the interruption was not of my making, but a crime of those
sacrilegious boys," said Tita, gathering her books together. The boys,
seeing Père Michaux rise from his chair, ran back round the house to
announce the tidings to Pierre; the priest came forward to the window.

"That is the mail-train, is it not?" said Anne, looking at a black spot
coming up the Strait from the east.

"It is due," said Père Michaux; "but the weather has been so cold that I
hardly expected it to-day." He took down a spy-glass, and looked at the
moving speck. "Yes, it is the train. I can see the dogs, and Denis
himself. I will go over to the village with you, I think. I expect
letters."

Père Michaux's correspondence was large. From many a college and mission
station came letters to this hermit of the North, on subjects as various
as the writers: the flora of the region, its mineralogy, the Indians and
their history, the lost grave of Father Marquette (in these later days
said to have been found), the legends of the fur-trading times, the
existing commerce of the lakes, the fisheries, and kindred subjects were
mixed with discussions kept up with fellow Latin and Greek scholars
exiled at far-off Southern stations, with games of chess played by
letter, with recipes for sauces, and with humorous skirmishing with New
York priests on topics of the day, in which the Northern hermit often
had the best of it.

A hurrah in the kitchen, an opening of doors, a clattering in the hall,
and the boys appeared, followed by old Pierre, bearing aloft a pudding
enveloped in steam, exhaling fragrance, and beautiful with raisins,
currants, and citron--rarities regarded by Louis, Gabriel, and André
with eager eyes.

"But it was for your dinner," said Anne.

"It is still for my dinner. But it would have lasted three days, and now
it will end its existence more honorably in one," replied the priest,
beginning to cut generous slices.

Tita was the last to come forward. She felt herself obliged to set down
all the marks of her various recitations in a small note-book after each
lesson; she kept a careful record, and punished or rewarded herself
accordingly, the punishments being long readings from some religious
book in her corner, murmured generally half aloud, to the exasperation
of Miss Lois when she happened to be present, Miss Lois having a
vehement dislike for "sing-song." Indeed, the little, soft, persistent
murmur sometimes made even Anne think that the whole family bore their
part in Tita's religious penances. But what could be said to the child?
Was she not engaged in saving her soul?

The marks being at last all set down, she took her share of pudding to
the fire, and ate it daintily and dreamily, enjoying it far more than
the boys, who swallowed too hastily; far more than Anne, who liked the
simplest food. The priest was the only one present who appreciated
Pierre's skill as Tita appreciated it. "It is délicieux," she said,
softly, replacing the spoon in the saucer, and leaning back against the
cushions with half-closed eyes.

"Will you have some more, then?" said Anne.

Tita shook her head, and waved away her sister impatiently.

"She is as thorough an epicure as I am," said the priest, smiling; "it
takes away from the poetry of a dish to be asked to eat more."

It was now time to start homeward, and Père Michaux's sledge made its
appearance, coming from a little islet near by. Old Pierre would not
have dogs upon his shores; yet he went over to the other island himself
every morning, at the expense of much time and trouble, to see that the
half-breed in charge had not neglected them. The result was that Père
Michaux's dogs were known as far as they could be seen by their fat
sides, the only rotundities in dog-flesh within a circle of five hundred
miles. Père Michaux wished to take Tita with him in his sledge, in order
that Anne might ride also; but the young girl declined with a smile,
saying that she liked the walk.

"Do not wait for us, sir," she said; "your dogs can go much faster than
ours."

But the priest preferred to make the journey in company with them; and
they all started together from the house door, where Pierre stood in his
red skull-cap, bowing farewell. The sledges glided down the little slope
to the beach, and shot out on the white ice, the two drivers keeping by
the side of their teams, the boys racing along in advance, and Anne
walking with her quick elastic step by the side of Père Michaux's
conveyance, talking to him with the animation which always came to her
in the open air. The color mounted in her cheeks; with her head held
erect she seemed to breathe with delight, and to rejoice in the clear
sky, the cold, the crisp sound of her own footsteps, while her eyes
followed the cliffs of the shore-line crowned with evergreens--savage
cliffs which the short summer could hardly soften. The sun sank toward
the west, the air grew colder; Tita drew the furs over her head, and
vanished from sight, riding along in her nest half asleep, listening to
the bells. The boys still ran and pranced, but more, perhaps, from a
sense of honor than from natural hilarity. They were more exact in
taking their turns in the sledge now, and more slow in coming out from
the furs upon call; still, they kept on. As the track turned little by
little, following the line of the shore, they came nearer to the
mail-train advancing rapidly from the east in a straight line.

"Denis is determined to have a good supper and sleep to-night," said
Père Michaux; "no camp to make in the snow _this_ evening." Some minutes
later the mail-train passed, the gaunt old dogs which drew the sledge
never even turning their heads to gaze at the party, but keeping
straight on, having come in a direct line, without a break, from the
point, ten miles distant. The young dogs in Antoine's team pricked up
their ears, and betrayed a disposition to rush after the mail-train;
then René and Lebeau, after looking round once or twice, after turning
in their great paws more than usual as they walked, and holding back
resolutely, at length sat deliberately down on their haunches, and
stopped the sledge.

"And thou art entirely right, René, and thou too, Lebeau," said old
Antoine. "To waste breath following a mail-train at a gallop is worthy
only of young-dog silliness."

So saying he administered to the recreant members of the team enough
chastisement to make them forget the very existence of mail-trains,
while René and Lebeau waited composedly to see justice done; they then
rose in a dignified manner and started on, the younger dogs following
now with abject humility. As they came nearer the village the western
pass opened out before them, a long narrow vista of ice, with the dark
shore-line on each side, and the glow of the red sunset shining
strangely through, as though it came from a tropical country beyond. A
sledge was crossing down in the west--a moving speck; the scene was as
wild and arctic as if they had been travelling on Baffin's Bay. The busy
priest gave little attention to the scene, and the others in all the
winters of their lives had seen nothing else: to the Bedouins the great
desert is nothing. Anne noted every feature and hue of the picture, but
unconsciously. She saw it all, but without a comment. Still, she saw it.
She was to see it again many times in after-years--see it in cities, in
lighted drawing-rooms, in gladness and in sorrow, and more than once
through a mist of tears.

Later in the evening, when the moon was shining brightly, and she was on
her way home from the church-house with Rast, she saw a sledge moving
toward the northern point. "There is Père Michaux, on his way home," she
said. Then, after a moment, "Do you know, Rast, he thinks me dull."

"He would not if he had seen you this evening," replied her companion.

A deep flush, visible even in the moonlight, came into the girl's face.
"Do not ask me to recite again," she pleaded; "I can not. You _must_ let
me do what I feel is right."

"What is there wrong in reciting Shakspeare?"

"I do not know. But something comes over me at times, and I am almost
swept away. I can not bear to think of the feeling."

"Then don't," said Rast.

"You do not understand me."

"I don't believe you understand yourself; girls seldom do."

"Why?"

"Let me beg you not to fall into the power of that uncomfortable word,
Annet. Walters says women of the world never use it. They never ask a
single question."

"But how can they learn, then?"

"By observation," replied young Pronando, oracularly.



CHAPTER V.

    "It was Peboan, the winter!
         From his eyes the tears were flowing
         As from melting lakes the streamlets,
         And his body shrunk and dwindled
         As the shouting sun ascended;
         And the young man saw before him,
         On the hearth-stone of the wigwam,
         Where the fire had smoked and smouldered,
         Saw the earliest flower of spring-time,
         Saw the miskodeed in blossom.
     Thus it was that in that Northland
     Came the spring with all its splendor,
     All its birds and all its blossoms,
     All its flowers and leaves and grasses."

    --LONGFELLOW. _The Song of Hiawatha._


On this Northern border Spring came late--came late, but in splendor.
She sent forward no couriers, no hints in the forest, no premonitions on
the winds. All at once she was there herself. Not a shy maid, timid,
pallid, hesitating, and turning back, but a full-blooming goddess and
woman. One might almost say that she was not Spring at all, but Summer.
The weeks called spring farther southward showed here but the shrinking
and fading of winter. First the snow crumbled to fine dry grayish
powder; then the ice grew porous and became honeycombed, and it was no
longer safe to cross the Straits; then the first birds came; then the
far-off smoke of a steamer could be seen above the point, and the
village wakened. In the same day the winter went and the summer came.

On the highest point of the island were the remains of an old
earth-work, crowned by a little surveyor's station, like an arbor on
stilts, which was reached by the aid of a ladder. Anne liked to go up
there on the first spring day, climb the ice-coated rounds, and,
standing on the dry old snow that covered the floor, gaze off toward the
south and east, where people and cities were, and the spring; then
toward the north, where there was still only fast-bound ice and snow
stretching away over thousands of miles of almost unknown country, the
great wild northland called British America, traversed by the hunters
and trappers of the Hudson Bay Company--vast empire ruled by private
hands, a government within a government, its line of forts and posts
extending from James Bay to the Little Slave, from the Saskatchewan
northward to the Polar Sea. In the early afternoon she stood there now,
having made her way up to the height with some difficulty, for the
ice-crust was broken, and she was obliged to wade knee-deep through some
of the drifts, and go round others that were over her head, leaving a
trail behind her as crooked as a child's through a clover field.
Reaching the plateau on the summit at last, and avoiding the hidden pits
of the old earth-work, she climbed the icy ladder, and stood on the
white floor again with delight, brushing from her woollen skirt and
leggings the dry snow which still clung to them. The sun was so bright
and the air so exhilarating that she pushed back her little fur cap, and
drew a long breath of enjoyment. Everything below was still
white-covered--the island and village, the Straits and the mainland; but
coming round the eastern point four propellers could be seen floundering
in the loosened ice, heaving the porous cakes aside, butting with their
sharp high bows, and then backing briskly to get headway to start
forward again, thus breaking slowly a passageway for themselves, and
churning the black water behind until it boiled white as soap-suds as
the floating ice closed over it. Now one boat, finding by chance a
weakened spot, floundered through it without pause, and came out
triumphantly some distance in advance of the rest; then another, wakened
to new exertions by this sight, put on all steam, and went pounding
along with a crashing sound until her bows were on a line with the
first. The two boats left behind now started together with much
splashing and sputtering, and veering toward the shore, with the hope
of finding a new weak place in the floe, ran against hard ice with a
thud, and stopped short; then there was much backing out and floundering
round, the engines panting and the little bells ringing wildly, until
the old channel was reached, where they rested awhile, and then made
another beginning. These manœuvres were repeated over and over again,
the passengers and crew of each boat laughing and chaffing each other as
they passed and repassed in the slow pounding race. It had happened more
than once that these first steamers had been frozen in after reaching
the Straits, and had been obliged to spend several days in company fast
bound in the ice. Then the passengers and crews visited each other,
climbing down the sides of the steamers and walking across. At that
early season the passengers were seldom pleasure-travellers, and
therefore they endured the delay philosophically. It is only the real
pleasure-traveller who has not one hour to spare.

The steamers Anne now watched were the first from below. The lower lakes
were clear; it was only this northern Strait that still held the ice
together, and kept the fleets at bay on the east and on the west.
White-winged vessels, pioneers of the summer squadron, waited without
while the propellers turned their knife-bladed bows into the ice, and
cut a pathway through. Then word went down that the Straits were open,
all the freshwater fleet set sail, the lights were lit again in the
light-houses, and the fishing stations and lonely little wood docks came
to life.

"How delightful it is!" said Anne, aloud.

There are times when a person, although alone, does utter a sentence or
two, that is, thinks aloud; but such times are rare. And such sentences,
also, are short--exclamations. The long soliloquies of the stage, so
convenient in the elucidation of plot, do not occur in real life, where
we are left to guess at our neighbor's motives, untaught by so much as a
syllable. How fortunate for Dora's chances of happiness could she but
overhear that Alonzo thinks her a sweet, bigoted little fool, but wants
that very influence to keep him straight, nothing less than the intense
convictions of a limited intelligence and small experience in life being
of any use in sweeping him over with a rush by means of his feelings
alone, which is what he is hoping for. Having worn out all the pleasure
there is to be had in this world, he has now a mind to try for the next.

What an escape for young Conrad to learn from Honoria's own passionate
soliloquy that she is marrying him from bitterest rage against Manuel,
and that those tones and looks that have made him happy are second-hand
wares, which she flings from her voice and eyes with desperate scorn!
Still, we must believe that Nature knows what she is about; and she has
not as yet taught us to think aloud.

But sometimes, when the air is peculiarly exhilarating, when a distant
mountain grows purple and gold tipped as the sun goes down behind it,
sometimes when we see the wide ocean suddenly, or come upon a bed of
violets, we utter an exclamation as the bird sings: we hardly know we
have spoken.

"Yes, it _is_ delightful," said some one below, replying to the girl's
sentence.

It was Rast, who had come across the plateau unseen, and was now
standing on the old bastion of the fort beneath her. Anne smiled, then
turned as if to descend.

"Wait; I am coming up," said Rast.

"But it is time to go home."

"Apparently it was not time until I came," said the youth, swinging
himself up without the aid of the ladder, and standing by her side.
"What are you looking at? Those steamers?"

"Yes, and the spring, and the air."

"You can not see the air."

"But I can feel it; it is delicious. I wonder, if we should go far away,
Rast, and see tropical skies, slow rivers, great white lilies, and
palms, whether they would seem more beautiful than this?"

"Of course they would; and we are going some day. We are not intending
to stay here on this island all our lives, I hope."

"But it is our home, and I love it. I love this water and these woods, I
love the flash of the light-houses, and the rushing sound the vessels
make sweeping by at night under full sail, close in shore."

"The island is well enough in its way, but there are other places; and
I, for one, mean to see the world," said young Pronando, taking off his
cap, throwing it up, and catching it like a ball.

"Yes, you will see the world," answered Anne; "but I shall stay here.
You must write and tell me all about it."

"Of course," said Rast, sending the cap up twice as high, and catching
it with unerring hand. Then he stopped his play, and said, suddenly,
"Will you care very much when I am gone away?"

"Yes," said Anne; "I shall be very lonely."

"But shall you care?" said the youth, insistently. "You have so little
feeling, Annet; you are always cold."

"I shall be colder still if we stay here any longer," said the girl,
turning to descend. Rast followed her, and they crossed the plateau
together.

"How much shall you care?" he repeated. "You never say things out,
Annet. You are like a stone."

[Illustration: "AND IT ENDED IN THEIR RACING DOWN TOGETHER."]

"Then throw me away," answered the girl, lightly. But there was a
moisture in her eyes and a slight tremor in her voice which Rast
understood, or, rather, thought he understood. He took her hand and
pressed it warmly; the two fur gloves made the action awkward, but he
would not loosen his hold. His spirits rose, and he began to laugh, and
to drag his companion along at a rapid pace. They reached the edge of
the hill, and the steep descent opened before them; the girl's
remonstrances were in vain, and it ended in their racing down together
at a break-neck pace, reaching the bottom, laughing and breathless, like
two school-children. They were now on the second plateau, the level
proper of the island above the cliffs, which, high and precipitous on
three sides, sank down gradually to the southwestern shore, so that
one might land there, and drag a cannon up to the old earth work on the
summit--a feat once performed by British soldiers in the days when the
powers of the Old World were still fighting with each other for the New.
How quaint they now seem, those ancient proclamations and documents with
which a Spanish king grandly meted out this country from Maine to
Florida, an English queen divided the same with sweeping patents from
East to West, and a French monarch, following after, regranted the whole
virgin soil on which the banners of France were to be planted with
solemn Christian ceremony! They all took possession; they all planted
banners. Some of the brass plates they buried are turned up occasionally
at the present day by the farmer's plough, and, wiping his forehead, he
stops to spell out their high-sounding words, while his sunburned boys
look curiously over his shoulder. A place in the county museum is all
they are worth now.

Anne Douglas and Rast went through the fort grounds and down the hill
path, instead of going round by the road. The fort ladies, sitting by
their low windows, saw them, and commented.

"That girl does not appreciate young Pronando," said Mrs. Cromer. "I
doubt if she even sees his beauty."

"Perhaps it is just as well that she does not," replied Mrs. Rankin,
"for he must go away and live his life, of course; have his adventures."

"Why not she also?" said Mrs. Bryden, smiling.

"In the first place, she has no choice; she is tied down here. In the
second, she is a good sort of girl, without imagination or enthusiasm.
Her idea of life is to marry, have meat three times a week, fish three
times, lights out at ten o'clock, and, by way of literature, Miss
Edgeworth's novels and Macaulay's _History of England_."

"And a very good idea," said Mrs. Bryden.

"Certainly, only one can not call that adventures."

"But even such girls come upon adventures sometimes," said Mrs. Cromer.

"Yes, when they have beauty. Their beauty seems often to have an
extraordinary power over the most poetical and imaginative men, too,
strange as it may appear. But Anne Douglas has none of it."

"How you all misunderstand her!" said a voice from the little
dining-room opening into the parlor, its doorway screened by a curtain.

"Ah, doctor, are you there?" said Mrs. Bryden. "We should not have said
a word if we had known it."

"Yes, madam, I am here--with the colonel; but it is only this moment
that I have lifted my head to listen to your conversation, and I remain
filled with astonishment, as usual, at the obtuseness manifested by your
sex regarding each other."

"Hear! hear!" said the colonel.

"Anne Douglas," continued the chaplain, clearing his throat, and
beginning in a high chanting voice, which they all knew well, having
heard it declaiming on various subjects during long snow-bound winter
evenings, "is a most unusual girl."

"Oh, come in here, doctor, and take a seat; it will be hard work to say
it all through that doorway," called Mrs. Bryden.

"No, madam, I will not sit down," said the chaplain, appearing under the
curtain, his brown wig awry, his finger impressively pointed. "I will
simply say this, namely, that as to Anne Douglas, you are all mistaken."

"And who is to be the judge between us?"

"The future, madam."

"Very well; we will leave it to the future, then," said Mrs. Bryden,
skillfully evading the expected oration.

"We may safely do that, madam--safely indeed; the only difficulty is
that we may not live to see it."

"Oh, a woman's future is always near at hand, doctor. Besides, we are
not so very old ourselves."

"True, madam--happily true for all the eyes that rest upon you.
Nevertheless, the other side, I opine, is likewise true, namely, that
Anne Douglas is very young."

"She is sixteen; and I myself am only twenty," said Mrs. Rankin.

"With due respect, ladies, I must mention that not one of you was ever
in her life so young as Anne Douglas at the present moment."

"What in the world do you mean, doctor?"

"What I say. I can see you all as children in my mind's eye," continued
the chaplain, unflinchingly; "pretty, bright, precocious little
creatures, finely finished, finely dressed, quick-witted, graceful, and
bewitching. But at that age Anne Douglas was a--"

"Well, what?"

"A mollusk," said the chaplain, bringing out the word emphatically.

"And what is she now, doctor?"

"A promise."

"To be magnificently fulfilled in the future?"

"That depends upon fate, madam; or rather circumstances."

"For my part, I would rather be fulfilled, although not perhaps
magnificently, than remain even the most glorious promise," said Mrs.
Rankin, laughing.

The fort ladies liked the old chaplain, and endured his long monologues
by adding to them running accompaniments of their own. To bright society
women there is nothing so unendurable as long arguments or dissertations
on one subject. Whether from want of mental training, or from impatience
of delay, they are unwilling to follow any one line of thought for more
than a minute or two; they love to skim at random, to light and fly away
again, to hover, to poise, and then dart upward into space like so many
humming-birds. Listen to a circle of them sitting chatting over their
embroidery round the fire or on a piazza; no man with a thoroughly
masculine mind can follow them in their mental dartings hither and
thither. He has just brought his thoughts to bear upon a subject, and is
collecting what he is going to say, when, behold! they are miles away,
and he would be considered stupid to attempt to bring them back. His
mental processes are slow and lumbering compared with theirs. And when,
once in a while, a woman appears who likes to search out a subject, she
finds herself out of place and bewildered too, often a target for the
quick tongues and light ridicule of her companions. If she likes to
generalize, she is lost. Her companions never wish to generalize; they
want to know not the general view of a subject, but what Mrs. Blank or
Mr. Star thinks of it. Parents, if you have a daughter of this kind, see
that she spends in her youth a good portion of every day with the most
volatile swift-tongued maidens you can find; otherwise you leave her
without the current coin of the realm in which she must live and die,
and no matter if she be fairly a gold mine herself, her wealth is
unavailable.

Spring burst upon the island with sudden glory; the maples showed all at
once a thousand perfect little leaflets, the rings of the juniper
brightened, the wild larches beckoned with their long green fingers from
the height. The ice was gone, the snow was gone, no one knew whither;
the Straits were dotted with white sails. Bluebells appeared, swinging
on their hair-like stems where late the icicles hung, and every little
Indian farm set to work with vigor, knowing that the time was short. The
soldiers from the fort dug in the military garden under the cliff,
turning up the mould in long ridges, and pausing to hang up their coats
on the old stockade with a finely important air of heat: it was so long
since they had been too warm! The little village was broad awake now;
there was shipping at the piers again, and a demand for white-fish; all
the fishing-boats were out, and their half-breed crews hard at work. The
violins hung unused on the walls of the little cabins that faced the
west, for the winter was ended, and the husbands and lovers were off on
the water: the summer was their time for toil.

And now came the parting. Rast was to leave the island, and enter the
Western college which Dr. Gaston had selected for him. The chaplain
would have sent the boy over to England at once to his own _alma mater_
had it been possible; but it was not possible, and the good man knew
little or nothing of the degree of excellence possessed by American
colleges, East or West. Harvard and Yale and old Columbia would not have
believed this; yet it was true.

Rast was in high spirits; the brilliant world seemed opening before him.
Everything in his life was as he wished it to be; and he was not
disturbed by any realization that this was a rare condition of affairs
which might never occur again. He was young, buoyant, and beautiful;
everybody liked him, and he liked everybody. He was going to set sail
into his far bright future, and he would find, probably, an island of
silver and diamonds, with peacocks walking slowly about spreading their
gorgeous feathers, and pleasure-boats at hand with silken sails and
golden oars. It was not identically this that he dreamed, but things
equally shining and unattainable--that is, to such a nature as his. The
silver and diamond islands are there, but by a law of equalization only
hard-featured prosaic men attain them and take possession, forming
thereafterward a lasting contrast to their own surroundings, which then
goes into the other scale, and amuses forever the poverty-stricken poets
who, in their poor old boats, with ragged canvas and some small ballast
of guitars and lutes, sail by, eating their crusts and laughing at them.

"I shall not go one step, even now, unless you promise to write
regularly, Annet," said Rast, the evening before his departure, as they
stood together on the old piazza of the Agency watching for the lights
of the steamer which was to carry him away.

"Of course I shall write, Rast; once a week always."

"No; I wish no set times fixed. You are simply to promise that you will
immediately answer every letter _I_ write."

"I will answer; but as to the time--I may not always be able--"

"You may if you choose; and I will not go unless you promise," said
Rast, with irritation. "Do you want to spoil everything, my education
and all my future? I would not be so selfish, Annet, if I were you. What
is it I ask? A trifle. I have no father, no mother, no sister; only you.
I am going away for the first time in my life, and you grudge me a
letter!"

"Not a letter, Rast, but a promise; lest I might not be able to fulfill
it. I only meant that something might happen in the house which would
keep me from answering within the hour, and then my promise would be
broken. I will always answer as soon as I can."

"You will not fail me, then?"

The girl held out her hand and clasped his with a warm, honest pressure;
he turned and looked at her in the starlight. "God bless you for your
dear sincere eyes!" he said. "The devil himself would believe you."

"I hope he would," said Anne, smiling.

What with Miss Lois's Calvinism, and the terrific picture of his Satanic
Majesty at the death-bed of the wicked in the old Catholic church, the
two, as children, had often talked about the devil and his
characteristics, Rast being sure that some day he should see him. Miss
Lois, overhearing this, agreed with the lad dryly, much to Anne's
dismay.

"What is the use of the devil?" she had once demanded.

"To punish the wicked," answered Miss Lois.

"Does he enjoy it?"

"I suppose he does."

"Then he must be very wicked himself?"

"He is."

"Who created him?"

"You know as well as I do, Anne. God created him, of course."

"Well," said the child, after a silence, going as usual to the root of
the matter, "I don't think _I_ should have made him at all if I couldn't
have made him better."

The next morning the sun rose as usual, but Rast was gone. Anne felt a
loneliness she had never felt before in all her life. For Rast had been
her companion; hardly a day had passed without his step on the piazza,
his voice in the hall, a walk with him or a sail; and always, whether at
home or abroad, the constant accompaniment of his suggestions, his
fault-findings, his teachings, his teasings, his grumblings, his
laughter and merry nonsense, the whole made bearable--nay, even
pleasant--by the affection that lay underneath. Anne Douglas's nature
was faithful to an extraordinary degree, faithful to its promises, its
duties, its love; but it was an intuitive faithfulness, which never
thought about itself at all. Those persons who are in the habit of
explaining voluminously to themselves and everybody else the lines of
argument, the struggles, and triumphant conclusions reached by their
various virtues, would have considered this girl's mind but a poor dull
thing, for Anne never analyzed herself at all. She had never lived for
herself or in herself, and it was that which gave the tinge of coldness
that was noticed in her. For warm-heartedness generally begins at home,
and those who are warm to others are warmer to themselves; it is but the
overflow.

Meantime young Pronando, sailing southward, felt his spirits rise with
every shining mile. Loneliness is crowded out of the mind of the one who
goes by the myriad images of travel; it is the one who stays who
suffers. But there was much to be done at the Agency. The boys grew out
of their clothes, the old furniture fell to pieces, and the father
seemed more lost to the present with every day and hour. He gave less
and less attention to the wants of the household, and at last Anne and
Miss Lois together managed everything without troubling him even by a
question. For strange patience have loving women ever had with dreamers
like William Douglas--men who, viewed by the eyes of the world, are
useless and incompetent; tears are shed over their graves oftentimes
long after the successful are forgotten. For personally there is a
sweetness and gentleness in their natures which make them very dear to
the women who love them. The successful man, perhaps, would not care for
such love, which is half devotion, half protection; the successful man
wishes to domineer. But as he grows old he notices that Jane is always
quiet when the peach-trees are in bloom, and that gray-haired sister
Catherine always bends down her head and weeps silently whenever the
choir sings "Rockingham"; and then he remembers who it was that died
when the peach-trees showed their blossoms, and who it was who went
about humming "Rockingham," and understands. Yet always with a slow
surprise, and a wonder at women's ways, since both the men were, to his
idea, failures in the world and their generation.

Any other woman of Miss Lois's age and strict prudence, having general
charge of the Douglas household, would have required from Anne long ago
that she should ask her father plainly what were his resources and his
income. To a cent were all the affairs of the church-house regulated and
balanced; Miss Lois would have been unhappy at the end of the week if a
penny remained unaccounted for. Yet she said nothing to the daughter,
nothing to the father, although noticing all the time that the small
provision was no larger, while the boys grew like reeds, and the time
was at hand when more must be done for them. William Douglas's way was
to give Anne at the beginning of each week a certain sum. This he had
done as far back as his daughter could remember, and she had spent it
under the direction of Miss Lois. Now, being older, she laid it out
without much advice from her mentor, but began to feel troubled because
it did not go as far. "It goes as far," said Miss Lois, "but the boys
have gone farther."

"Poor little fellows! they must eat."

"And they must work."

"But what can they do at their age, Miss Lois?"

"Form habits," replied the New England woman, sternly. "In my opinion
the crying evil of the country to-day is that the boys are not trained;
educated, I grant you, but not trained--trained as they were when times
were simpler, and the rod in use. Parents are too ambitious; the
mechanic wishes to make his sons merchants, the merchant wishes to make
his gentlemen; but, while educating them and pushing them forward, the
parents forget the homely habits of patient labor, strict veracity in
thought and action, and stern self-denials which have given _them_ their
measure of success, and so between the two stools the poor boys fall to
the ground. It is my opinion," added Miss Lois, decisively, "that,
whether you want to build the Capitol at Washington or a red barn, you
must first have a firm foundation."

"Yes, I know," replied Anne. "And I _do_ try to control them."

"Oh, General Putnam! _you_ try!" said Miss Lois. "Why, you spoil them
like babies."

Anne always gave up the point when Miss Lois reverted to Putnam. This
Revolutionary hero, now principally known, like Romulus, by a wolf
story, was the old maid's glory and remote ancestor, and helped her over
occasional necessities for strong expressions with ancestral kindness.
She felt like reverting to him more than once that summer, because, Rast
having gone, there was less of a whirlwind of out-door life, of pleasure
in the woods and on the water, and the plain bare state of things stood
clearly revealed. Anne fell behind every month with the household
expenses in spite of all her efforts, and every month Miss Lois herself
made up the deficiency. The boys were larger, and careless. The old
house yawned itself apart. Of necessity the gap between the income and
the expenditure must grow wider and wider. Anne did not realize this,
but Miss Lois did. The young girl thought each month that she must have
been unusually extravagant; she counted in some item as an extra expense
which would not occur again, gave up something for herself, and began
anew with fresh hope. On almost all subjects Miss Lois had the smallest
amount of patience for what she called blindness, but on this she was
silent. Now and then her eyes would follow Anne's father with a troubled
gaze; but if he looked toward her or spoke, she at once assumed her
usual brisk manner, and was even more cheerful than usual. Thus, the
mentor being silent, the family drifted on.

The short Northern summer, with its intense sunshine and its cool
nights, was now upon them. Fire crackled upon the hearth of the Agency
sitting-room in the early morning, but it died out about ten o'clock,
and from that time until five in the afternoon the heat and the
brightness were peculiarly brilliant and intense. It seemed as though
the white cliffs must take fire and smoulder in places where they were
without trees to cover them; to climb up and sit there was to feel the
earth burning under you, and to be penetrated with a sun-bath of rays
beating straight down through the clear air like white shafts. And yet
there was nothing resembling the lowland heats in this atmosphere, for
all the time a breeze blew, ruffling the Straits, and bearing the
vessels swiftly on to the east and the west on long tacks, making the
leaves in the woods flutter on their branchlets, and keeping the
wild-brier bushes, growing on angles and points of the cliff, stretched
out like long whip-cords wreathed in pink and green. There was nothing,
too, of the stillness of the lowlands, for always one could hear the
rustling and laughing of the forest, and the wash of the water on the
pebbly beach. There were seldom any clouds in the summer sky, and those
that were there were never of that soft, high-piled white downiness that
belongs to summer clouds farther south. They came up in the west at
evening in time for the sunset, or they lay along the east in the early
morning, but they did not drift over the zenith in white laziness at
noontide, or come together violently in sudden thunder-storms. They were
sober clouds of quiet hue, and they seemed to know that they were not to
have a prominent place in the summer procession of night, noon, and
morning in that Northern sky, as though there was a law that the sun
should have uninterrupted sway during the short season allotted to him.
Anne walked in the woods as usual, but not far. Rast was gone. Rast
always hurried everybody; left alone, she wandered slowly through the
aisles of the arbor vitæ on the southern heights. The close ranks of
these trees hardly made what is called a grove, for the flat green plats
of foliage rose straight into the air, and did not arch or mingle with
each other; a person walking there could always see the open sky above.
But so dense was the thickness on each side that though the little paths
with which the wood was intersected often ran close to each other,
sometimes side by side, persons following them had no suspicion of each
other's presence unless their voices betrayed them. In the hot sun the
trees exhaled a strong aromatic fragrance, and as the currents of air
did not penetrate their low green-walled aisles, it rested there,
although up above everything was dancing along--butterflies, petals of
the brier, waifs and strays from the forest, borne lakeward on the
strong breeze. The atmosphere in these paths was so hot, still, and
aromatic that now and then Anne loved to go there and steep herself in
it. She used to tell Miss Lois that it made her feel as though she was
an Egyptian princess who had been swathed in precious gums and spices
for a thousand years.

Over on the other side of the island grew the great pines. These had two
deeply worn Indian trails leading through them from north to south, not
aimless, wandering little paths like those through the arbor vitæ, but
one straight track from the village to the western shore, and another
leading down to the spring on the beach. The cliffs on whose summit
these pines grew were high and precipitous, overlooking deep water; a
vessel could have sailed by so near the shore that a pebble thrown from
above would have dropped upon her deck. With one arm round an old trunk,
Anne often sat on the edge of these cliffs, looking down through the
western pass. She had never felt any desire to leave the island, save
that sometimes she had vague dreams of the tropics--visions of
palm-trees and white lilies, the Pyramids and minarets, as fantastic as
her dreams of Shakspeare. But she loved the island and the island trees;
she loved the wild larches, the tall spires of the spruces bossed with
lighter green, the gray pines, and the rings of the juniper. She had a
peculiar feeling about trees. When she was a little girl she used to
whisper to them how much she loved them, and even now she felt that they
noticed her. Several times since these recent beginnings of care she had
turned back and gone over part of the path a second time, because she
felt that she had not been as observant as usual of her old friends, and
that they would be grieved by the inattention. But this she never told.

There was, however, less and less time for walking in the woods; there
was much to do at home, and she was faithful in doing it: every spring
of the little household machinery felt her hand upon it, keeping it in
order. The clothes she made for Tita and the boys, the dinners she
provided from scanty materials, the locks and latches she improvised,
the paint she mixed and applied, the cheerfulness and spirit with which
she labored on day after day, were evidences of a great courage and
unselfishness; and if the garments were not always successful as regards
shape, nor the dinners always good, she was not disheartened, but bore
the fault-findings cheerfully, promising to do better another time. For
they all found fault with her, the boys loudly, Tita quietly, but with a
calm pertinacity that always gained its little point. Even Miss Lois
thought sometimes that Anne was careless, and told her so. For Miss Lois
never concealed her light under a bushel. The New England woman believed
that household labor held the first place among a woman's duties and
privileges; and if the housekeeper spent fourteen hours out of the
twenty-four in her task, she was but fulfilling her destiny as her
Creator had intended. Anne was careless in the matter of piece-bags,
having only two, whereas four, for linen and cotton, colors and black
materials, were, as every one knew, absolutely necessary. There was also
the systematic halving of sheets and resewing them at the first signs of
wear somewhat neglected, and also a particularity as to the saving of
string. Even the vaguely lost, thought-wandering father, too, finding
that his comforts diminished, spoke of it, not with complaint so much as
surprise; and then the daughter restored what he had missed at any
sacrifice. All this was done without the recognition by anybody that it
was much to do. Anne did not think of it in that way, and no one thought
for her. For they were all so accustomed to her strong, cheerful spirit
that they took what she did as a matter of course. Dr. Gaston understood
something of the life led at the Agency; but he too had fallen into a
way of resting upon the girl. She took a rapid survey of his small
housekeeping whenever she came up to his cottage for a lesson, which was
not as often now as formerly, owing to her manifold home duties. But
Père Michaux shook his head. He believed that all should live their
lives, and that one should not be a slave to others; that the young
should be young, and that some natural simple pleasure should be put
into each twenty-four hours. To all his flock he preached this doctrine.
They might be poor, but children should be made happy; they might be
poor, but youth should not be overwhelmed with the elders' cares; they
might be poor, but they could have family love round the poorest
hearthstone; and there was always time for a little pleasure, if they
would seek it simply and moderately. The fine robust old man lived in an
atmosphere above the subtleties of his leaner brethren in cities farther
southward, and he was left untrammelled in his water diocese. Privileges
are allowed to scouts preceding the army in an Indian country, because
it is not every man who can be a scout. Not but that the old priest
understood the mysteries, the introverted gaze, and indwelling thoughts
that belong to one side of his religion; they were a part of his
experience, and he knew their beauty and their dangers. They were good
for some minds, he said; but it was a strange fact, which he had proved
more than once during the long course of his ministry, that the minds
which needed them the least loved them the most dearly, revelled in
them, and clung to them with pertinacity, in spite of his efforts to
turn them into more practical channels.

In all his broad parish he had no penitent so long-winded, exhaustive,
and self-centred as little Tita. He took excellent care of the child,
was very patient with her small ceremonies and solemnities, tried gently
to lead her aright, and, with rare wisdom, in her own way, not his. But
through it all, in his frequent visits to the Agency, and in the visits
of the Douglas family to the hermitage, his real interest was centred in
the Protestant sister, the tall unconscious young girl who had not yet,
as he said to himself, begun to live. He shook his head often as he
thought of her. "In France, even in England, she would be guarded," he
said to himself; "but here! It is an excellent country, this America of
theirs, for the pioneer, the New-Englander, the adventurer, and the
farmer; but for a girl like Anne? No." And then, if Anne was present,
and happened to meet his eye, she smiled back so frankly that he forgot
his fears. "After all, I suppose there are hundreds of such girls in
this country of theirs," he admitted, in a grumbling way, to his French
mind, "coming up like flowers everywhere, without any guardianship at
all. But it is all wrong, all wrong."

The priest generally placed America as a nation in the hands of
possessive pronouns of the third person plural; it was a safe way of
avoiding responsibility, and of being as scornful, without offending any
one, as he pleased. One must have some outlet.

The summer wore on. Rast wrote frequently, and Anne, writing the first
letters of her life in reply, found that she liked to write. She saved
in her memory all kinds of things to tell him: about their favorite
trees, about the birds that had nests in the garden that season, about
the fishermen and their luck, about the unusual quantity of raspberries
on the mainland, about the boys, about Tita. Something, too, about Bacon
and Sir Thomas Browne, selections from whose volumes she was now reading
under the direction of the chaplain. But she never put down any of her
own thoughts, opinions, or feelings: her letters were curious examples
of purely impersonal objective writing. Egotism, the under-current of
most long letters as of most long conversations also, the telling of how
this or that was due to us, affected us, was regarded by us, was
prophesied, was commended, was objected to, was feared, was thoroughly
understood, was held in restraint, was despised or scorned by us, and
all our opinions on the subject, which, however important in itself, we
present always surrounded by a large indefinite aureola of our own
personality--this was entirely wanting in Anne Douglas's letters and
conversation. Perhaps if she had had a girl friend of her own age she
might have exchanged with her those little confidences, speculations,
and fancies which are the first steps toward independent thought, those
mazy whispered discussions in which girls delight, the beginnings of
poetry and romance, the beginnings, in fact, of their own personal
individual consciousness and life. But she had only Rast, and that was
not the same thing. Rast always took the lead; and he had so many
opinions of his own that there was no time to discuss, or even inquire
about, hers.

In the mean time young Pronando was growing into manhood at the rate of
a year in a month. His handsome face, fine bearing, generous ways, and
incessant activity both of limb and brain gave him a leader's place
among the Western students, who studied well, were careless in dress and
manner, spent their money, according to the Western fashion, like
princes, and had a peculiar dry humor of their own, delivered with
lantern-jawed solemnity.

Young Pronando's preparation for college had been far better than that
of most of his companions, owing to Dr. Gaston's care. The boy
apprehended with great rapidity--apprehended perhaps more than he
comprehended: he did not take the time to comprehend. He floated lightly
down the stream of college life. His comrades liked him; the young
Western professors, quick, unceremonious, practical men, were constantly
running against little rocks which showed a better training than their
own, and were therefore shy about finding fault with him; and the old
president, an Eastern man, listened furtively to his Oxford
pronunciation of Greek, and sighed in spite of himself and his large
salary, hating the new bare white-painted flourishing institution over
which he presided with a fresher hatred--the hatred of an exile. For
there was not a tree on the college grounds: Young America always cuts
down all his trees as a first step toward civilization; then, after an
interregnum, when all the kings of the forest have been laid low, he
sets out small saplings in whitewashed tree-boxes, and watches and tends
them with fervor.

Rast learned rapidly--more things than one. The school for girls, which,
singularly enough, in American towns, is always found flourishing close
under the walls of a college, on the excellent and heroic principle,
perhaps, of resisting temptation rather than fleeing from it, was
situated here at convenient distance for a variety of strict rules on
both sides, which gave interest and excitement to the day. Every
morning Miss Corinna Haws and her sister girded themselves for the
contest with fresh-rubbed spectacles and vigilance, and every morning
the girls eluded them; that is, some of the girls, namely, Louise Ray
and Kate and Fanny Meadows, cousins, rivals, and beauties of the Western
river-country type, where the full life and languor of the South have
fused somewhat the old inherited New England delicacy and fragile
contours. These three young girls were all interested in handsome Rast
in their fanciful, innocent, sentimental way. They glanced at him
furtively in church on Sunday; they took walks of miles to catch a
distant glimpse of him; but they would have run away like frightened
fawns if he had approached nearer. They wrote notes which they never
sent, but carried in their pockets for days; they had deep secrets to
tell each other about how they had heard that somebody had told somebody
else that the Juniors were going to play ball that afternoon in Payne's
meadow, and that if they could only persuade Miss Miriam to go round by
the hill, they could see them, and not so very far off either, only two
wheat fields and the river between. Miss Miriam was the second Miss
Haws, good-tempered and--near-sighted.

That the three girls were interested in one and the same person was part
of the pleasure of the affair; each would have considered it a very
dreary amusement to be interested all alone. The event of the summer,
the comet of that season's sky, was an invitation to a small party in
the town, where it was understood that young Pronando, with five or six
of his companions, would be present. Miss Haws accepted occasional
invitations for her pupils, marshalling them in a bevy, herself robed in
pea-green silk, like an ancient mermaid: she said that it gave them
dignity. It did. The stern dignity and silence almost solemn displayed
by Rast's three worshippers when they found themselves actually in the
same room with him were something preternatural. They moved stiffly, as
if their elbows and ankles were out of joint; they spoke to each other
cautiously in the lowest whispers, with their under jaws rigid, and a
difficulty with their labials; they moved their eyes carefully
everywhere save toward the point where he was standing, yet knew exactly
where he was every moment of the time. When he approached the quadrille
which was formed in one corner by Miss Haws's young ladies, dancing
virginally by themselves, they squeezed each others' hands convulsively
when they passed in "ladies' chain," in token of the great fact that he
was looking on. When, after the dance, they walked up and down in the
hall, arm in arm, they trod upon each other's slippers as sympathetic
perception of the intensity of his presence on the stairs. What an
evening! How crowded full of emotions! Yet the outward appearance was
simply that of three shy, awkward girls in white muslin, keeping close
together, and as far as possible from a handsome, gay-hearted,
fast-talking youth who never once noticed them. O the imaginative,
happy, shy fancies of foolish school-girls! It is a question whether the
real love which comes later ever yields that wild, fairy-like romance
which these early attachments exhale; the very element of reality
weights it down, and makes it less heavenly fair.

At the end of the summer Rast had acquired a deep experience in life (so
he thought), a downy little golden mustache, and a better opinion of
himself than ever. The world is very kind to a handsome boy of frank and
spirited bearing, one who looks as though he intended to mount and ride
to victory. The proud vigor of such a youth is pleasant to tired eyes;
he is so sure he will succeed! And most persons older, although knowing
the world better and not so sure, give him as he passes a smile and
friendly word, and wish him godspeed. It is not quite fair, perhaps, to
other youths of equal merit but another bearing, yet Nature orders it
so. The handsome, strong, confident boy who looks her in the face with
daring courage wins from her always a fine starting-place in the race of
life, which seems to advance him far beyond his companions. Seems; but
the end is far away.

East did not return to the island during the summer vacation; Dr. Gaston
wished him to continue his studies with a tutor, and as the little
college town was now radiant with a mild summer gayety, the young man
was willing to remain. He wrote to Anne frequently, giving abstracts of
his life, lists of little events like statistics in a report. He did
this regularly, and omitted nothing, for the letters were his
conscience. When they were once written and sent, however, off he went
to new pleasures. It must be added as well that he always sought the
post-office eagerly for Anne's replies, and placed them in his pocket
with satisfaction. They were sometimes unread, or half read, for days,
awaiting a convenient season, but they were there.

Anne's letters were long, they were pleasant, they were never
exciting--the very kind to keep; like friends who last a lifetime, but
who never give us one quickened pulse. Alone in his room, or stretched
on the grass under a tree, reading them, Rast felt himself strongly
carried back to his old life on the island, and he did not resist the
feeling. His plans for the future were as yet vague, but Anne was always
a part of his dream.

But this youth lived so vigorously and fully and happily in the present
that there was not much time for the future and for dreams. He seldom
thought. What other people thought, he felt.



CHAPTER VI.

          "Into the Silent Land!
          Ah! who shall lead us thither?
    Clouds in the evening sky more darkly gather,
    And shattered wrecks lie thicker on the strand.
          Who leads us with a gentle hand
          Thither, O thither,
          Into the Silent Land?

          "O Land, O Land,
          For all the broken-hearted,
    The mildest herald by our fate allotted
    Beckons, and with inverted torch doth stand
          To lead us with a gentle hand
          To the land of the great Departed--
          Into the Silent Land!"

    --LONGFELLOW. _From the German._


Early in September William Douglas failed suddenly. From taciturnity he
sank into silence, from quiet into lethargy. He rose in the morning, but
after that effort he became like a breathing statue, and sat all day in
his arm-chair without stirring or noticing anything. If they brought him
food he ate it, but he did not speak or answer their questions by motion
or gesture. The fort surgeon was puzzled; it was evidently not
paralysis. He was a new-comer on the island, and he asked many questions
as to the past. Anne sincerely, Miss Lois resolutely, denied that there
had ever been any trouble with the brain; Dr. Gaston drummed on the
table, and answered sharply that all men of intellect were more or less
mad. But the towns-people smiled, and tapped their foreheads
significantly; and the new surgeon had noticed in the course of his
experience that, with time for observation, the towns-people are
generally right. So he gave a few medicines, ordered a generous diet,
and looking about him for some friend of the family who could be
trusted, selected at last Père Michaux. For Miss Lois would not treat
him even civilly, bristling when he approached like a hedge-hog; and
with her frank eyes meeting his, he found it impossible to speak to
Anne. But he told Père Michaux the true state of his patient, and asked
him to break the tidings to the family.

"He can not live long," he said.

"Is it so?" said Père Michaux. "God's will be done. Poor Anne!"

"An odd lot of children he has in that ramshackle old house of his,"
continued the surgeon. "Two sets, I should say."

"Yes; the second wife was a French girl."

"With Indian blood?"

"Yes."

"I thought so. Who is to have charge of them? The boys will take to the
woods, I suppose, but that little Tita is an odd specimen. She would
make quite a sensation in New York a few years later."

"May she never reach there!" said the old priest, fervently.

"Well, perhaps you are right. But who is to have the child?"

"Her sister will take charge of her."

"Miss Anne? Yes, she will do her best, of course; she is a fine, frank
young Saxon. But I doubt if she understands that elfish little
creature."

"She understands her better than we do," said the priest, with some
heat.

"Ah? You know best, of course; I speak merely as an outsider," answered
the new surgeon, going off about his business.

[Illustration: "ALARMED, HE BENT OVER HER."]

Père Michaux decided that he would tell Anne herself. He went to the
house for the purpose, and called her out on the old piazza. But when
she stood before him, her violet eyes meeting his without a suspicion of
the tidings he brought, his heart failed him suddenly. He comprehended
for the first time what it would be to her, and, making some chance
inquiry, he asked to see Miss Lois, and turned away. Anne went in, and
Miss Lois came out. The contrast between the priest and the New England
woman was more marked than usual as they stood there facing each
other on the old piazza, he less composed than he ordinarily was on
account of what he had to tell. But it never occurred to him for a
moment that Miss Lois would falter. Why should she? He told her. She
sank down at his feet as though she had fallen there and died.

Alarmed, he bent over her, and in the twilight saw that she was not
dead; her features were working strangely; her hands were clinched over
her breast; her faded eyes stared at him behind the spectacles as though
he were miles away. He tried to raise her. She struck at him almost
fiercely. "Let me alone," she said, in a muffled voice. Then, still
lying where she fell, she threw up her arms and wailed once or twice,
not loudly, but with a struggling, inarticulate sound, as a person cries
out in sleep. Poor old Lois! it was the last wail of her love. But even
then she did not recognize it. Nor did the priest. Pale, with uncertain
steps and shaking hands, yet tearless, the stricken woman raised herself
by the aid of the bench, crossed the piazza, went down the path and into
the street, Père Michaux's eyes following her in bewilderment. She was
evidently going home, and her prim, angular shape looked strangely bare
and uncovered in the lack of bonnet and shawl, for through all the years
she had lived on the island she had never once been seen in the open air
without them. The precision of her bonnet strings was a matter of
conscience. The priest went away also. And thus it happened that Anne
was not told at all.

When, late in the evening, Miss Lois returned, grayly pale, but quiet,
as she entered the hall a cry met her ears and rang through the house.
It had come sooner than any one expected. The sword of sorrow, which
sooner or later must pierce all loving hearts, had entered Anne
Douglas's breast. Her father was dead.

He had died suddenly, peacefully and without pain, passing away in
sleep. Anne was with him, and Tita, jealously watchful to the last. No
one else was in the room at the moment. Père Michaux, coming in, had
been the first to perceive the change.

Tita drew away quickly to a distant corner, and kneeling down where she
could still see everything that went on, began repeating prayers; but
Anne, with a wild cry, threw herself down beside her dead, sobbing,
holding his hand, and calling his name again and again. She would not
believe that he was gone.

Ah, well, many of us know the sorrow. A daughter's love for a kind
father is a peculiarly dependent, clinging affection; it is mixed with
the careless happiness of childhood, which can never come again. Into
the father's grave the daughter, sometimes a gray-haired woman, lays
away forever the little pet names and memories which to all the rest of
the world are but foolishness. Even though happy in her woman's lot, she
weeps convulsively here for a while with a sorrow that nothing can
comfort; no other love so protecting and unselfish will ever be hers
again.

Anne was crushed by her grief; it seemed to those who watched her that
she revealed a new nature in her sorrow. Dr. Gaston and Père Michaux
spoke of it to each other, but could find little to say to the girl
herself; she had, as it were, drifted beyond their reach, far out on an
unknown sea. They prayed for her, and went silently away, only to come
back within the hour and meet again on the threshold, recognizing each
other's errand. They were troubled by the change in this young creature,
upon whom they had all, in a certain way, depended. Singularly enough,
Miss Lois did not seem to appreciate Anne's condition: she was suffering
too deeply herself. The whole of her repressed nature was in revolt. But
faithful to the unconscious secret of her life, she still thought the
wild pain of her heart was "sorrow for a friend."

She went about as usual, attending to household tasks for both homes.
She was unchanged, yet totally changed. There was a new tension about
her mouth, and an unwonted silence, but her hands were as busy as ever.
Days had passed after the funeral before she began to perceive, even
slightly, the broken condition of Anne. The girl herself was the first
to come back to the present, in the necessity for asking one of those
sad questions which often raise their heads as soon as the coffin is
borne away. "Miss Lois, there are bills to be paid, and I have no money.
Do you know anything of our real income?"

The old habits of the elder woman stirred a little; but she answered,
vaguely, "No."

"We must look through dear papa's papers," said Anne, her voice breaking
as she spoke the name. "He received few letters, none at all lately;
whatever he had, then, must be here."

Miss Lois assented, still silently, and the two began their task. Anne,
with a quivering lip, unlocked her father's desk. William Douglas had
not been a relic-loving man. He had lived, he had loved; but memory was
sufficient for him; he needed no tokens. So, amid a hundred mementos of
nature, they found nothing personal, not even a likeness of Anne's
mother, or lock of her curling brown hair. And amid a mass of
miscellaneous papers, writings on every philosophic and imaginative
subject, they found but one relating to money--some figures jotted down,
with a date affixed, the sum far from large, the date three years
before. Below, a later line was added, as if (for the whole was vague)
so much had gone, and this was the remainder; the date of this last line
was eight months back.

"Perhaps this is it," said Anne; "perhaps this is what he had."

"I'm sure I don't know," said Miss Lois, mechanically.

They went on with the search, and at last came to a package tied in
brown paper, which contained money; opening it, they counted the
contents.

"Three hundred and ten dollars and eighty-five cents," said Anne.

Miss Lois took a pen and made a calculation, still with the manner of a
machine. "That is about what would be left by this time, at the rate of
the sums you have had, supposing the memorandum is what you think it
is," she said, rubbing her forehead with a shadowy imitation of her old
habit.

"It is a large sum," said Anne.

Nothing more was found. It appeared, therefore, that the five children
of William Douglas were left alone in the world with exactly three
hundred and ten dollars and eighty-five cents.

Dr. Gaston and Père Michaux learned the result that day; the story
spread through the village and up to the fort. "I never heard anything
so extraordinary in my life," said Mrs. Cromer. "That a man like Dr.
Douglas should have gone on for the last four or five years deliberately
living on his capital, seeing it go dollar by dollar, without making one
effort to save it, or to earn an income--a father with children! I shall
always believe, after this, that the villagers were right, and that his
mind was affected."

The chaplain stopped these comments gruffly, and the fort ladies forgave
him on account of the tremor in his voice. He left them, and went across
to his little book-clogged cottage with the first indications of age
showing in his gait.

"It is a blow to him; he is very fond of Anne, and hoped everything for
her," said Mrs. Bryden. "I presume he would adopt her if he could; but
there are the other children."

"They might go to their mother's relatives, I should think," said Mrs.
Rankin.

"They could, but Anne will not allow it. You will see."

"I suppose our good chaplain has nothing to bequeath, even if he should
adopt Anne?"

"No, he has no property, and has saved nothing from his little salary;
it has all gone into books," answered the colonel's wife.

Another week passed. By that time Dr. Gaston and Père Michaux together
had brought the reality clearly before Anne's eyes; for the girl had
heretofore held such small sums of money in her hands at any one time
that the amount found in the desk had seemed to her large. Père Michaux
began the small list of resources by proposing that the four children
should go at once to their uncle, their mother's brother, who was
willing to receive them and give them a home, such as it was, among his
own brood of black-eyed little ones. Anne decidedly refused. Dr. Gaston
then asked her to come to him, and be his dear daughter as long as he
lived.

"I must not come with them, and I can not come without them," was Anne's
reply.

There remained Miss Lois. But she seemed entirely unconscious of any
pressing necessity for haste in regard to the affairs of the little
household, coming and going as usual, but without words; while people
round her, with that virtuous readiness as to the duties of their
neighbors which is so helpful in a wicked world, said loudly and
frequently that she was the nearest friend, and ought to do--Here
followed a variety of suggestions, which amounted in the aggregate to
everything. At last, as often happens, it was an outside voice that
brought the truth before her.

"And what are you thinking of doing, dear Miss Lois, for the five poor
orphans?" asked the second Miss Macdougall while paying a visit of
general condolence at the church-house.

"Why, what should I do?" said Miss Lois, with a faint remembrance of her
old vigilant pride. "They want nothing."

"They want nothing! And not one hundred dollars apiece for them in the
wide world!" exclaimed Miss Jean.

"Surely you're joking, my dear. Here's Dr. Gaston wishing to take Anne,
as is most kind and natural; but she will not leave those children.
Although why they should not go back to the stratum from which they came
is a mystery to me. She can never make anything of them: mark my words."

Miss Jean paused; but whether Miss Lois marked her words or not, she
made no response, but sat gazing straight at the wall. Miss Jean,
however, knew her duty, and did it like a heroine of old. "We thought,
perhaps, dear Miss Lois, that _you_ would like to take them for a time,"
she said, "seeing that Anne has proved herself so obstinate as to the
other arrangements proposed. The village has thought so generally, and
I am not the one to hide it from you, having been taught by my lamented
parent to honor and abide by veracity the most precise. We could all
help you a little in clothing them for the present, and we will
contribute to their support a fish now and then, a bag of meal, a barrel
of potatoes, which we would do gladly--right gladly, I do assure you.
For no one likes to think of Dr. Douglas's children being on the town."

The homely phrase roused Miss Lois at last. "What in the world are you
talking about, Jean Macdougall?" she exclaimed, in wrath. "On the town!
Are you clean daft? On the town, indeed! Clear out of my house this
moment, you lying, evil-speaking woman!"

The second Miss Macdougall rose in majesty, and drew her black silk
visite round her. "Of whom ye are speaking, Miss Hinsdale, I knaw not,"
she said, growing Scotch in her anger; "but I believe ye hae lost your
wits. I tak' my departure freely, and not as sent by one who has
strangely forgotten the demeanor of a leddy."

With hands folded, she swept toward the door, all the flowers on her
dignified bonnet swaying perceptibly. Pausing on the threshold, she
added, "As a gude Christian, and a keeper of my word, I still say, Miss
Hinsdale, in spite of insults, that in the matter of a fish or two, or a
barrel of potatoes now and then, ye can count upon the Macdougalls."

Left alone, Miss Lois put on her shawl and bonnet with feverish haste,
and went over to the Agency. Anne was in the sitting-room, and the
children were with her.

"Anne, of course you and the children are coming to live with me
whenever you think it best to leave this house," said Miss Lois,
appearing on the threshold like an excited ghost in spectacles. "You
never thought or planned anything else, I hope?"

"No," said Anne, frankly, "I did not--at least for the present. I knew
you would help us, Miss Lois, although you did not speak."

"Speak! was there any need of speaking?" said the elder woman, bursting
into a few dry, harsh sobs. "You are all I have in the world, Anne. How
could you mistrust me?"

"I did not," said Anne.

And then the two women kissed each other, and it was all understood
without further words. And thus, through the intervention of the second
Miss Macdougall (who found herself ill rewarded for her pains), Lois
Hinsdale came out from the watch-chamber of her dead to real life again,
took up her burden, and went on.

Anne now unfolded her plans, for she had been obliged to invent plans:
necessity forced her forward. "We must all come to you for a time, dear
Miss Lois; but I am young and strong, and I can work. I wish to educate
the boys as father would have wished them educated. Do you ask what I
can do? I think--that is, I hope--that I can teach." Then, in a lower
voice, she added, "I promised father that I would do all I could for the
children, and I shall keep my promise."

Miss Lois's eyes filled with tears. But the effect of the loving emotion
was only to redden the lids, and make the orbs beneath look smaller and
more unbeautiful than before.

For to be born into life with small, inexpressive eyes is like being
born dumb. One may have a heart full of feeling, but the world will not
believe it. Pass on, then, Martha, with your pale little orbs; leave the
feeling to Beatrice with her deep brown glance, to Agnes with her pure
blue gaze, to Isabel with hers of passionate splendor. The world does
not believe you have any especial feelings, poor Martha. Then do not
have them, if you can help it--and pass on.

"I have been thinking deeply," continued Anne, "and I have consulted Dr.
Gaston. He says that I have a good education, but probably an
old-fashioned one; at least the fort ladies told him that it would be so
considered. It seems that what I need is a 'polish of modern
accomplishments.' That is what he called it. Now, to obtain a teacher's
place, I must have this, and I can not obtain it here." She paused; and
then, like one who rides forward on a solitary charge, added, "I am
going to write to Miss Vanhorn."

"A dragon!" said Miss Lois, knitting fiercely. Then added, after a
moment, "A positive demon of pride." Then, after another silence, she
said, sternly, "She broke your mother's heart, Anne Douglas, and she
will break yours."

"I hope not," said the girl, her voice trembling a little; for her
sorrow was still very near the surface. "She is old now, and perhaps
more gentle. At any rate, she is my only living relative, and to her I
must appeal."

"How do you know she is alive? The world would be well rid of such a
wicked fiend," pursued Miss Lois, quoting unconsciously from Anne's
forest Juliet.

"She was living last year, for father spoke of her."

"I did not know he ever spoke of her."

"Only in answer to my questions; for I had found her address, written in
mother's handwriting, in an old note-book. She brought up my mother, you
know, and was once very fond of her."

"So fond of her that she killed her. If poor Alida had not had that
strain upon her, she might have been alive at this day," said Miss Lois.

Anne's self-control left her now, and she began to sob like a child. "Do
not make it harder for me than it is," she said, amid her tears. "I
_must_ ask her; and if she should consent to help me, it will be grief
enough to leave you all, without these cruel memories added. She is old:
who knows but that she may be longing to repair the harm she did?"

"Can the leopard change his spots?" said Miss Lois, sternly. "But what
do you mean by leaving us all? What do you intend to do?"

"I intend to ask her either to use her influence in obtaining a
teacher's place for me immediately, or if I am not, in her opinion,
qualified, to give me the proper masters for one year. I would study
very hard; she would not be burdened with me long."

"And the proper masters are not here, of course?"

"No; at the East."

Miss Lois stopped in the middle of a round, took off her spectacles,
rolled up her knitting-work slowly and tightly as though it was never to
be unrolled again, and pinned it together with decision; she was pinning
in also a vast resolution. Then she looked at Anne in silence for
several minutes, saw the tear-dimmed eyes and tired, anxious face, the
appealing glance of William Douglas's child.

"I have not one word to say against it," she remarked at last, breaking
the silence; and then she walked out of the house and went homeward.

It was a hard battle for her. She was to be left with the four
brown-skinned children, for whom she had always felt unconquerable
aversion, while the one child whom she loved--Anne--was to go far away.
It was a revival of the bitter old feeling against Angélique Lafontaine,
the artful minx who had entrapped William Douglas to his ruin. In truth,
however, there had been very little art about Angélique; nor was Douglas
by any means a rich prey. But women always attribute wonderful powers of
strategy to a successful rival, even although by the same ratio they
reduce the bridegroom to a condition approaching idiocy; for anything is
better than the supposition that he was a free agent, and sought his
fate from the love of it.

The thought of Anne's going was dreadful to Miss Lois; yet her
long-headed New England thrift and calculation saw chances in that
future which Anne did not see. "The old wretch has money, and no near
heirs," she said to herself, "why should she not take a fancy to this
grandniece? Anne has no such idea, but her friends should, therefore,
have it for her." Still, the tears would rise and dim her spectacles as
she thought of the parting. She took off the gold-rimmed glasses and
rubbed them vigorously. "One thing is certain," she added, to herself,
as a sort of comfort, "Tita will have to do her mummeries in the garden
after this."

Poor old Lois! in these petty annoyances and heavy cures her great grief
was to be pressed down into a subdued under-current, no longer to be
indulged or made much of even by herself.

Anne knew but little of her grandaunt. William Douglas would not speak
of what was the most bitter memory of his life. The address in the old
note-book, in her mother's unformed girlish handwriting, was her only
guide. She knew that Miss Vanhorn was obstinate and ill-tempered; she
knew that she had discarded her mother on account of her disobedient
marriage, and had remained harsh and unforgiving to the last. And this
was all she knew. But she had no choice. Hoping, praying for the best,
she wrote her letter, and sent it on its way. Then they all waited. For
Père Michaux had been taken into the conference also, and had given
hearty approval to Anne's idea--so hearty, indeed, that both the
chaplain and Miss Lois looked upon him with disfavor. What did he mean?
He did not say what he meant, but returned to his hermitage cheerfully.
Dr. Gaston, not so cheerfully, brought out his hardest chess problems,
and tried to pass away the time in mathematical combinations of the
deepest kind. Miss Lois, however, had combinations at hand of another
sort. No sooner was the letter gone than she advanced a series of
conjectures which did honor even to her New England origin.

The first was that Miss Vanhorn had gone abroad: those old New-Yorkers
were "capable of wishing to ride on camels, even"; she added, from
habit, "through the eye of a needle." The next day she decided that
paralysis would be the trouble: those old New-Yorkers were "often
stricken down in that way, owing to their high living and desperate
wine-bibbing." Anne need give no more thought to her letter; Miss
Vanhorn would not be able even to read it. The third day, Miss Vanhorn
would read the letter, but would immediately throw it on the floor and
stamp on it: those old New-Yorkers "had terrible tempers," and were
"known to swear like troopers even on the slightest provocation." The
fourth day, Miss Vanhorn was mad; the fifth day, she was married; the
sixth, she was dead: those old New-Yorkers having tendencies toward
insanity, matrimony, and death which, Miss Lois averred, were known to
all the world, and indisputable. That she herself had never been in New
York in her life made no difference in her certainties: women like Miss
Lois are always sure they know all about New York.

Anne, weary and anxious, and forced to hear all these probabilities,
began at last to picture her grandaunt as a sort of human kaleidoscope,
falling into new and more fantastic combinations at a moment's notice.

They had allowed two weeks for the letter to reach the island, always
supposing that Miss Vanhorn was not on a camel, paralyzed, obstinate,
mad, married, or dead. But on the tenth day the letter came. Anne took
it with a hand that trembled. Dr. Gaston was present, and Miss Lois, but
neither of them comprehended her feelings. She felt that she was now to
be confronted by an assent which would strain her heart-strings almost
to snapping, yet be ultimately for the best, or by a refusal which would
fill her poor heart with joy, although at the same time pressing down
upon her shoulders a heavy, almost hopeless, weight of care. The two
could not enter into her feelings, because in the depths of their hearts
they both resented her willingness to leave them. They never said this
to each other, they never said it to themselves; yet they both felt it
with the unconscious selfishness of those who are growing old,
especially when their world is narrowed down to one or two loving young
hearts. They did not realize that it was as hard for her to go as it was
for them to let her go; they did not realize what a supreme effort of
courage it required to make this young girl go out alone into the wide
world, and face its vastness and its strangeness; they did not realize
how she loved them, and how every tree, every rock of the island, also,
was dear to her strongly loving, concentrated heart.

After her father's death Anne had been for a time passive, swept away by
grief as a dead leaf on the wind. But cold necessity came and stood by
her bedside silently and stonily, and looked at her until, recalling her
promise, she rose, choked back her sorrow, and returned to common life
and duty with an aching but resolute heart. In the effort she made to
speak at all it was no wonder that she spoke quietly, almost coldly;
having, after sleepless nights of sorrow, nerved herself to bear the
great change in her lot, should it come to her, could she trust herself
to say that she was sorry to go? Sorry!--when her whole heart was one
pain!

The letter was as follows:

       *       *       *       *       *

"GRANDNIECE ANNE,--I did not know that you were in existence. I have
read your letter, and have now to say the following. Your mother
willfully disobeyed me, and died. I, meanwhile, an old woman, remain as
strong as ever.

"While I recognize no legal claim upon me (I having long since attended
to the future disposal of all my property according to my own wishes), I
am willing to help you to a certain extent, as I would help any
industrious young girl asking for assistance. If what you say of your
education is true, you need only what are called modern accomplishments
(of which I personally have small opinion, a grimacing in French and a
squalling in Italian being not to my taste) to make you a fairly well
qualified teacher in an average country boarding-school, which is all
you can expect. You may, therefore, come to New York at my expense, and
enter Madame Moreau's establishment, where, as I understand, the extreme
of everything called 'accomplishment' is taught, and much nonsense
learned in the latest style. You may remain one year; not longer. And I
advise you to improve the time, as nothing more will be done for you by
me. You will bring your own clothes, but I will pay for your books. I
send no money now, but will refund your travelling expenses (of which
you will keep strict account, without extras) upon your arrival in the
city, which must not be later than the last of October. Go directly to
Madame Moreau's (the address is inclosed), and remember that you are
simply Anne Douglas, and not a relative of your obedient servant,

KATHARINE VANHORN."

       *       *       *       *       *

Anne, who had read the letter aloud in a low voice, now laid it down,
and looked palely at her two old friends.

"A hard letter," said the chaplain, indignantly. "My child, remain with
us. We will think of some other plan for you. Let the proud,
cold-hearted old woman go."

"I told you how it would be," said Miss Lois, a bright spot of red on
each cheek-bone. "She was cruel to your mother before you, and she will
be cruel to you. You must give it up."

"No," said Anne, slowly, raising the letter and replacing it in its
envelope; "it is a matter in which I have no choice. She gives me the
year at school, as you see, and--there are the children. I promised
father, and I must keep the promise. Do not make me falter, dear
friends, for--I _must_ go." And unable longer to keep back the tears,
she hurriedly left the room.

Dr. Gaston, without a word, took his old felt hat and went home. Miss
Lois sat staring vaguely at the window-pane, until she became conscious
that some one was coming up the path, and that "some one" Père Michaux.
She too then went hurriedly homeward, by the back way, in order to avoid
him. The old priest, coming in, found the house deserted. Anne was on
her knees in her own room, sobbing as if her heart would break; but the
walls were thick, and he could not hear her.

Then Tita came in. "Annet is going away," she said, softly; "she is
going to school. The letter came to-day."

"So Miss Vanhorn consents, does she? Excellent! excellent!" said Père
Michaux, rubbing his hands, his eyes expressing a hearty satisfaction.

"When will you say 'Excellent! excellent!' about me?" said Tita,
jealously.

"Before long, I hope," said the priest, patting her small head.

"But are you sure, mon père?"

"Well, yes," said Père Michaux, "on the whole, I am."

He smiled, and the child smiled also; but with a deep quiet triumph
remarkable in one so young.



CHAPTER VII.

     "To all appearance it was chiefly by Accident, and the grace of
     Nature."--CARLYLE.


It was still September; for great sorrows come, graves are made and
turfed over, and yet the month is not out. Anne had written her letter
immediately, accepting her grandaunt's offer, and Père Michaux gave her
approval and praise; but the others did not, could not, and she suffered
from their silence. It made, however, no change in her purpose; she went
about her tasks steadily, toiling all day over the children's clothes,
for she had used part of the money in her hands to make them
comfortable, and part was to be given to Miss Lois. Her own garments
troubled her little; two strong, plain black gowns she considered amply
sufficient. Into the midst of all this swift sewing suddenly one day
came Rast.

"Why did I do it?" he said, in answer to everybody. "Do you suppose I
was going to let Annet go away for a whole long year without saying even
good-by? Of course not."

"It is very kind," said Anne, her tired eyes resting on his handsome
face gratefully, her sewing for the moment cast aside. Her friends had
not been overkind to her lately, and she was deeply touched by this
proof of attachment from her old playmate and companion. Rast expressed
his affection, as usual, in his own way. He did not say that he had come
back to the island because he wished to see her, but because he knew
that she wished to see him. And Anne willingly agreed. Dr. Gaston, as
guardian of this runaway collegian, gave him a long lecture on his
escapade and its consequences, his interrupted studies, a long train of
disasters to follow being pictured with stern distinctness. Rast
listened to the sermon, or rather sat through it, without impatience: he
had a fine sunny temper, and few things troubled him. He seldom gave
any attention to subtleties of meaning, or under-currents, but took the
surface impression, and answered it promptly, often putting to rout by
his directness trains of reasoning much deeper than his own. So now all
he said was, "I could not help coming, sir, because Annet is going away;
I wanted to see her." And the old man was silenced in spite of himself.

As he was there, and it could not be helped, Rast, by common consent of
the island, was allowed to spend several days unmolested among his old
haunts. Then they all began to grow restive, to ask questions, and to
speak of the different boats. For the public of small villages has
always a singular impatience as to anything like uncertainty in the date
of departure of its guests. Many a miniature community has been stirred
into heat because it could not find out the day and hour when Mrs. Blank
would terminate her visit at her friend's mansion, and with her trunk
and bag depart on her way to the railway station; and this not because
the community has any objection to Mrs. Blank, or any wish to have her
depart, but simply because if she is going, they wish to know _when_,
and have it settled. The few days over, Rast himself was not unwilling
to go. He had seen Anne, and Anne was pressed with work, and so
constantly threatened by grief that she had to hold it down with an iron
effort at almost every moment. If she kept her eyes free from tears and
her voice steady, she did all she could; she had no idea that Rast
expected more. Rast meanwhile had learned clearly that he was a
remarkably handsome, brilliant young fellow, and that the whole world
was before him where to choose. He was fond of Anne; the best feelings
of his nature and the associations of his whole boyhood's life were
twined round her; and yet he was conscious that he had always been very
kind to her, and this coming back to the island on purpose to see
her--that was remarkably kind. He was glad to do it, of course; but she
must appreciate it. He began now to feel that as he had seen her, and as
he could not in any case stay until she went, he might as well go. He
yielded, therefore, to the first suggestion of the higher powers,
saying, however, frankly, and with real feeling, that it was hard to bid
farewell for so long a time to his old playmate, and that he did not
know how he could endure the separation. As the last words were spoken
it was Rast who had tear-dimmed eyes; it was Rast's voice that faltered.
Anne was calm, and her calmness annoyed him. He would have liked a more
demonstrative sorrow. But as he went down the long path on his way to
the pier where the steamboat was waiting, the first whistle having
already sounded, he forgot everything save his affection for her and the
loneliness in store for him after her departure. While she was on their
island she seemed near, but New York was another world.

Down in the shadow of the great gate there was an ancient little
cherry-tree, low and gnarled, which thrust one crooked arm across the
path above the heads of the passers-by. As Rast approached he saw in the
dusky twilight a small figure perched upon this bough, and recognized
Tita.

"Is that you, child?" he said, pausing and looking up. She answered by
dropping into his arms like a kitten, and clinging to him mutely, with
her face hidden on his shoulder.

"What an affectionate little creature she is, after all!" he thought,
stroking her dark hair. Then, after saying good-by, and giving her a
kiss, he disengaged himself without much ceremony, and telling her to be
a good girl and mind Miss Lois during the winter, he hurried down to the
pier, the second whistle summoning all loiterers on board with shrill
harshness. Tita, left alone, looked at her arms, reddened by the force
with which she had resisted his efforts to unclasp them. They had been
pressed so closely against the rough woollen cloth of his coat that the
brown flesh showed the mark of the diagonal pattern.

[Illustration: "SHE SAT THERE HIGH IN THE AIR WHILE THE STEAMER BACKED
OUT FROM THE PIERS."]

"It is a hurt," she said, passionately--"it is a hurt." Her eyes
flashed, and she shook her small fist at the retreating figure. Then, as
the whistle sounded a third time, she climbed quickly to the top of the
great gates, and sat there high in the air while the steamer backed
out from the piers, turned round, and started westward through the
Straits, nothing now save a moving line of lights, the short Northern
twilight having faded into night.

When the long sad day of parting was at last over, and everything done
that her hands could find to do in that amount of time, Anne, in her own
room alone, let her feelings come forth; she was the only watcher in the
old house, every other eye was closed in sleep. These moments alone at
night, when she allowed herself to weep and think, were like breathing
times; then her sorrows came forth. According to her nature, she did not
fear or brood upon her own future so much as upon the future of the
children; the love in her heart made it seem to her a bitter fate to be
forced to leave them and the island. The prospect of the long journey,
the city school, the harsh aunt, did not dishearten her; they were but
parts of her duty, the duty of her life. It was after midnight; still
she sat there. The old shutters, which had been rattling for some time,
broke their fastenings, and came violently against the panes with a
sound like the report of a pistol.

"The wind is rising," she thought, vaguely, as she rose to fasten them,
opening one of the windows for the purpose. In rushed the blast, blowing
out the candle, driving books and papers across the floor, and whirling
the girl's long loosened hair over her face and round her arms like the
coils of a boa-constrictor. Blinded, breathless, she hastily let down
the sash again, and peered through the small wrinkled panes. A few stars
were visible between the light clouds which drove rapidly from north to
south in long regular lines like bars, giving a singular appearance to
the sky, which the girl recognized at once, and in the recognition came
back to present life. "The equinoctial," she said to herself; "and one
of the worst. Where can the _Huron_ be? Has she had time to reach the
shelter of the islands?"

The _Huron_ was the steamer which had carried Rast away at twilight. She
was a good boat and stanch. But Anne knew that craft as stanch had been
wrecked and driven ashore during these fierce autumn gales which sweep
over the chain of lakes suddenly, and strew their coasts with fragments
of vessels, and steamers also, from the head of Superior to the foot of
Ontario. If there was more sea-room, vessels might escape; if there were
better harbors, steamers might seek port; in a gale, an ocean captain
has twenty chances for his vessel where the lake captain has one. Anne
stood with her face pressed against the window for a long time; the
force of the wind increased. She took her candle and went across to a
side room whose windows commanded the western pass: she hoped that she
might see the lights of the steamer coming back, seeking the shelter of
the island before the worst came. But all was dark. She returned to her
room, and tried to sleep, but could not. Dawn found her at the window,
wakeful and anxious. There was to be no sun that day, only a yellow
white light. She knelt down and prayed; then she rose, and braided anew
her thick brown hair. When she entered the sitting-room the vivid rose
freshness which always came to her in the early morning was only
slightly paled by her vigil, and her face seemed as usual to the boys,
who were waiting for her. Before breakfast was ready, Miss Lois arrived,
tightly swathed in a shawl and veils, and carrying a large basket.

"There is fresh gingerbread in there," she said; "I thought the boys
might like some; and--it will be an excellent day to finish those
jackets, Anne. No danger of interruption."

She did not mention the gale or Rast; neither did Anne. They sat down to
breakfast with the boys, and talked about thread and buttons. But, while
they were eating, Louis exclaimed, "Why, there's Dr. Gaston!" and
looking up, they saw the chaplain struggling to keep his hat in place as
he came up the path sideways, fighting the wind.

"He should just have wrapped himself up, and scudded before it as I
did," said Miss Lois.

Anne ran to open the door, and the old clergyman came panting in.

"It is such a miserable day that I thought you would like to have that
dictionary, dear; so I brought it down to you," he said, laying the
heavy volume on the table.

"Thanks. Have you had breakfast?" said Anne.

"Well, no. I thought I would come without waiting for it this morning,
in order that you might have the book, you know. What! _you_ here, Miss
Lois?"

"Yes, sir. I came to help Anne. We are going to have a good long day at
these jackets," replied Miss Lois, briskly.

They all sat down at the table again, and Gabriel was going to the
kitchen for hot potatoes, when he spied another figure struggling
through the gate and driving up the long path. "Père Michaux!" he cried,
running to open the door.

In another moment the priest had entered, and was greeting them
cheerfully. "As I staid in town overnight, I thought, Anne, that I would
come up and look over those books. It is a good day for it; there will
be no interruption. I think I shall find a number of volumes which I may
wish to purchase."

"It is very kind; I shall like to think of my dear father's books in
your hands. But have you breakfasted?"

No, the priest acknowledged that he had not. In truth, he was not hungry
when he rose; but now that he saw the table spread, he thought he might
eat something after all.

So they sat down again, and Louis went out to help Gabriel bring in more
coffee, potatoes, and eggs. There was a good deal of noise with the
plates, a good deal of passing to and fro the milk, cream, butter, and
salt; a good deal of talking on rather a high key; a great many
questions and answers whose irrelevancy nobody noticed. Dr. Gaston told
a long story, and forgot the point; but Miss Lois laughed as heartily as
though it had been acutely present. Père Michaux then brought up the
venerable subject of the lost grave of Father Marquette; and the others
entered into it with the enthusiasm of resurrectionists, and as though
they had never heard of it before, Miss Lois and Dr. Gaston even seeming
to be pitted against each other in the amount of interest they showed
concerning the dead Jesuit. Anne said little; in truth, there was no
space left for her, the others keeping up so brisk a fire of phrases. It
was not until Tita, coming into the room, remarked, as she warmed her
hands, that breakfast was unusually early, that any stop was made, and
then all the talkers fell upon her directly, in lieu of Father
Marquette. Miss Lois could not imagine what she meant. It was sad,
indeed, to see such laziness in so young a child. Before long she would
be asking for breakfast in bed! Dr. Gaston scouted the idea that it was
early; he had often been down in the village an hour earlier. It was a
fine bracing morning for a walk.

All this time the high ceaseless whistle of the wind, the roar of the
water on the beach, the banging to and fro of the shutters here and
there on the wide rambling old mansion, the creaking of the near trees
that brushed its sides, and the hundred other noises of the gale, made
the room seem strange and uncomfortable; every now and then the solid
old frame-work vibrated as a new blast struck it, and through the floor
and patched carpet puffs of cold air came up into the room and swept
over their feet. All their voices were pitched high to overcome these
sounds.

Tita listened to the remarks addressed to her, noted the pretense of
bustle and hearty appetite, and then, turning to the window, she said,
during a momentary lull in the storm, "I do not wonder that you can not
eat, when poor Rast is somewhere on that black water."

Dr. Gaston pushed away his plate, Miss Lois sat staring at the wall with
her lips tightly compressed, while Anne covered her face with her hands
to keep back the tears. Père Michaux rose and began to walk up and down
the room; for a moment, besides his step, there was no sound save the
roar of the storm. Tita's words had ended all pretense, clothed their
fear in language, and set it up in their midst. From that moment,
through the long day, there was no more disguise; every cloud, every
great wave, was watched, every fresh fierce blast swept through four
anxious hearts. They were very silent now, and as the storm grew
wilder, even the boys became awed, and curled themselves together on the
broad window-seat, speaking in whispers. At noon a vessel drove by under
bare poles; she seemed to be unmanageable, and they could see the
signals of the sailors as they passed the island. But there was no
life-boat, and nothing else could live in that sea. At two o'clock a
large bark came into view, and ran ashore on the reef opposite; there
she lay, pounding to pieces for two hours. They saw the crew try to
launch the boats; one was broken into fragments in a moment, then
another. The third and last floated, filled with humanity, and in two
minutes she also was swamped, and dark objects that they knew were men
were sucked under. Then the hull of a schooner, with one mast standing,
drove aimlessly by, so near the shore that with the glass they could see
the features of the sailors lashed to the pole.

"Oh! if we could but save them!" said Anne. "How near they are!" But
even as she spoke the mast fell, and they saw the poor fellows drown
before their eyes.

At four the _Huron_ came into sight from the western pass, laboring
heavily, fighting her way along inch by inch, but advancing. "Thanks be
to the Lord for this!" said the chaplain, fervently. Père Michaux took
off his velvet cap, and reverently made the sign of the cross.

"'Twouldn't be any harm to sing a hymn, I guess," said Miss Lois, wiping
her eyes. Then Anne sang the "De Profundis." Amid the storm all the
voices rose together, the children and Miss Lois and the two priests
joining in the old psalm of King David, which belongs to all alike,
Romanist and Protestant, Jew and Christian, bond and free.

"I do feel better," said Miss Lois. "But the steamer is still far off."

"The danger will be when she attempts to turn," said Père Michaux.

They all stood at the windows watching the boat as she rolled and
pitched in the heavy sea, seeming half the time to make no headway at
all, but on the contrary to be beaten back, yet doggedly persisting. At
five o'clock she had reached the point where she must turn and run the
gauntlet in order to enter port, with the gale striking full upon her
side. Every front window in the village now held gazing faces, and along
the piers men were clustered under the lee of the warehouses with ropes
and hooks, waiting to see what they could do. The steamer seemed to
hesitate a moment, and was driven back. Then she turned sharply and
started in toward the piers with all steam on. The watchers at the
Agency held their breath. For a moment or two she advanced rapidly, then
the wind struck her, and she careened until her smoke-stacks seemed
almost to touch the water. The boys cried out; Miss Lois clasped her
hands. But the boat had righted herself again by changing her course,
and was now drifting back to her old station. Again and again she made
the attempt, now coming slowly, now with all the sudden speed she could
muster; but she never advanced far before the lurch came, throwing her
on her side, with one paddle-wheel in the air, and straining every
timber in her frame. After half an hour of this work she drew off, and
began to ply slowly up and down under the partial shelter of the little
island opposite, as if resting. But there was not a place where she
could cast anchor, nor any safety in flight; the gale would outlast the
night, and the village harbor was her best hope. The wind was
increasing, the afternoon sinking into night; every one on the island
and on board also knew that when darkness fell, the danger, already
great, would be trebled. Menacing and near on every side were long low
shore-lines, which looked harmless enough, yet held in their sands the
bones of many a drowned man, the ribs of many a vessel.

"Why doesn't she make another trial?" said Dr. Gaston, feverishly wiping
his eyeglasses. "There is no use in running up and down under that
island any longer."

"The captain is probably making everything ready for a final attempt,"
answered Père Michaux.

And so it seemed, for, after a few more minutes had passed, the steamer
left her shelter, and proceeded cautiously down to the end of the little
island, keeping as closely in shore as she could, climbing each wave
with her bows, and then pitching down into the depth on the other side,
until it seemed as if her hind-quarters must be broken off, being too
long to fit into the watery hollows under her. Having reached the end of
the islet, she paused, and slowly turned.

"Now for it," said Père Michaux.

It was sunset-time in pleasant parts of the land; here the raw, cold,
yellow light, which had not varied since early morning, giving a
peculiar distinctness to all objects near or far, grew more clear for a
few moments--the effect, perhaps, of the after-glow behind the clouds
which had covered the sky all day unmoved, fitting as closely as the
cover upon a dish. As the steamer started out into the channel, those on
shore could see that the passengers were gathered on the deck as if
prepared for the worst. They were all there, even the children. But now
no one thought any more, only watched; no one spoke, only breathed. The
steamer was full in the gale, and on her side. Yet she kept along,
righting herself a little now and then, and then careening anew. It
seemed as though she would not be able to make headway with her one
wheel, but she did. Then the islanders began to fear that she would be
driven by too far out; but the captain had allowed for that. In a few
seconds more it became evident that she would just brush the end of the
longest pier, with nothing to spare. Then the men on shore ran down, the
wind almost taking them off their feet, with ropes, chains,
grappling-irons, and whatever they could lay their hands on. The
steamer, now unmanageable, was drifting rapidly toward them on her side,
the passengers clinging to her hurricane-deck and to the railings. A
great wave washed over her when not twenty feet from the pier, bearing
off several persons, who struggled in the water a moment, and then
disappeared. Anne covered her eyes with her hands, and prayed that Rast
might not be among these. When she looked again, the boat was fastened
by two, by ten, by twenty, ropes and chains to the end of the pier, bows
on, and pulling at her halters like an unmanageable steed, while women
were throwing their children into the arms of those below, and men were
jumping madly over, at the risk of breaking their ankle-bones. Anything
to be on the blessed shore! In three minutes a hundred persons were on
the pier, and Rast among them. Anne, Dr. Gaston, Père Michaux, Miss
Lois, and the children all recognized his figure instantly, and the two
old men started down through the storm to meet him, in their excitement
running along like school-boys, hand in hand.

Rast was safe. They brought him home to the Agency in triumph, and
placed him in a chair before the fire. They all wanted to touch him, in
order to feel that he was really there, to be glad over him, to make
much of him; they all talked together. Anne came to his side with tender
affection. He was pale and moved. Instinctively and naturally as a child
turns to its mother he turned to her, and, before them all, laid his
head down upon her shoulder, and clung to her without speaking. The
elders drew away a little; the boys stopped their clamor. Only Tita kept
her place by the youth's side, and frowned darkly on the others.

Then they broke into a group again. Rast recovered himself, Dr. Gaston
began to make puns, and Père Michaux and Miss Lois revived the subject
of Father Marquette as a safe ladder by which they could all come down
to common life again. A visit to the kitchen was made, and a grand
repast, dinner and supper combined, was proposed and carried into effect
by Miss Lois, Père Michaux, and the Irish soldier's wife, the three boys
acting as volunteers. Even Dr. Gaston found his way to the distant
sanctuary through the series of empty rooms that preceded it, and
proffering his services, was set to toasting bread--a duty he
accomplished by attentively burning one side of every slice, and
forgetting the other, so that there was a wide latitude of choice, and
all tastes were suited. With his wig pushed back, and his cheery face
scarlet from the heat, he presented a fine contrast to Père Michaux,
who, quietly and deliberately as usual, was seasoning a stew with
scientific care, while Miss Lois, beating eggs, harried the Irish
soldier's wife until she ran to and fro, at her wits' end.

Tita kept guard in the sitting-room, where Anne had been decisively
ordered to remain and entertain Rast; the child sat in her corner,
watching them, her eyes narrowed under their partly closed lids. Rast
had now recovered his usual spirits, and talked gayly; Anne did not say
much, but leaned back in her chair listening, thankfully quiet and
happy. The evening was radiant with contentment; it was midnight when
they separated. The gale was then as wild as ever; but who cared now
whether the old house shook?

Rast was safe.

At the end of the following day at last the wind ceased: twenty-two
wrecks were counted in the Straits alone, with many lives lost. The dead
sailors were washed ashore on the island beaches and down the coast, and
buried in the sands where they were found. The friends of those who had
been washed overboard from the steamer came up and searched for their
bodies up and down the shores for miles; some found their lost, others,
after days of watching in vain, went away sorrowing, thinking, with a
new idea of its significance, of that time "when the sea shall give up
her dead."

After the storm came halcyon days. The trees now showed those brilliant
hues of the American autumn which as yet no native poet has so strongly
described, no native artist so vividly painted, that the older nations
across the ocean have fit idea of their splendor. Here, in the North,
the scarlet, orange, and crimson trees were mingled with pines, which
made the green of the background; indeed, the islets all round were like
gorgeous bouquets set in the deep blue of the water, and floating
quietly there.

Rast was to return to college in a few days. He was in such gay spirits
that Miss Lois was vexed, although she could hardly have told why. Père
Michaux, however, aided and encouraged all the pranks of the young
student. He was with him almost constantly, not returning to the
hermitage at all during the time of his stay; Miss Lois was surprised
to see how fond he was of the youth.

"No one can see Rast a moment alone now," she said, complainingly; "Père
Michaux is always with him."

"Why do you want to see him alone?" said Tita, from her corner, looking
up for a moment from her book.

"Don't you know that it is rude to ask questions?" said Miss Lois,
sharply. But although she gave no reasons, it was plain that for some
reason she was disappointed and angry.

The last day came, the last afternoon; the smoke of the coming steamer
could be seen beyond the blue line of the point. No danger now of storm;
the weather would be fair for many days. Père Michaux had proposed that
Anne, Rast, and himself should go up to the heights behind the house and
watch the sunset hues for the last time that year; they were to come
back to the Agency in time to meet Dr. Gaston and Miss Lois, and take
tea there all together, before the steamer's departure. Tita announced
that she wished to go to the heights also.

"Come along then, Puss," said Rast, giving her his hand.

They set out through the garden, and up the narrow winding path; but the
ascent was steep, and the priest climbed slowly, pausing now and then to
take breath. Rast staid with him, while Anne strolled forward; Tita
waited with Rast. They had been sitting on a crag for several minutes,
when suddenly Rast exclaimed: "Hallo! there's Spotty's dog! he has been
lost for three days, the scamp. I'll go up and catch him, and be back in
a moment." While still speaking he was already scaling the rocks above
them, not following the path by which Anne had ascended, but swinging
himself up, hand over hand, with the dexterity and strength of a
mountaineer; in a minute or two he was out of sight. Spotty's dog was a
favorite in the garrison, Spotty, a dilapidated old Irish soldier, being
his owner in name. Spotty said that the dog had "followed" him, when he
was passing through Detroit; if he did, he had never repeated the act,
but had persistently gone in the opposite direction ever since. But the
men always went out and hunted for him all over the island, sooner or
later finding him and bringing him back; for they liked to see him dance
on his mournful hind legs, go through the drill, and pretend to be
dead--feats which once formed parts of his répertoire as member of the
travelling canine troupe which he had deserted at Detroit. It was
considered quite an achievement to bring back this accomplished animal,
and Rast was not above the glory. But it was not to be so easy as he had
imagined: several minutes passed and he did not return, Spotty's dog
having shown his thin nose and one eye but an instant at the top of the
height, and then withdrawn them, leaving no trace behind.

"We will go up the path, and join Anne," said Père Michaux; "we will not
wait longer for Rast. He can find us there as well as here."

They started; but after a few steps the priest's foot slipped on a
rolling stone; he lost his balance, and half fell, half sank to the
ground, fortunately directly along the narrow path, and not beyond its
edge. When he attempted to rise, he found that his ankle was strained:
he was a large man, and he had fallen heavily. Tita bound up the place
as well as she could with his handkerchief and her own formed into a
bandage; but at best he could only hobble. He might manage to go down
the path to the house, but evidently he could not clamber further. Again
they waited for Rast, but he did not come. They called, but no one
answered. They were perched half way up the white cliff, where no one
could hear them. Tita's whole face had grown darkly red, as though the
blood would burst through; she looked copper-colored, and her expression
was full of repressed impatience. Père Michaux, himself more perturbed
and angry than so slight a hurt would seem to justify, happening to look
at her, was seized with an idea. "Run up, child," he said, "and join
Anne; do not leave her again. Tell her what has happened, and--mind what
I say exactly, Tita--do not leave her."

Tita was off up the path and out of sight in an instant. The old priest,
left to himself, hobbled slowly down the hill and across the garden to
the Agency, not without some difficulty and pain.

Anne had gone up to the heights, and seated herself in good faith to
wait for the others; Rast had gone after the dog in good faith, and not
to seek Anne. Yet they met, and the others did not find them.

The dog ran away, and Rast after him, down the north path for a mile,
and then straight into the fir wood, where nothing can be caught, man or
dog. So Rast came back, not by the path, but through the forest, and
found Anne sitting in a little nook among the arbor vitæ, where there
was an opening, like a green window, overlooking the harbor. He sat down
by her side, and fanned himself with his hat for a few moments, and then
he went down to find Père Michaux and bring him up thither. But by that
time the priest had reached the house, and he returned, saying that he
saw by the foot-marks that the old man had for some reason gone down the
hill again, leaving them to watch their last sunset alone. He threw
himself down by Anne's side, and together they looked through their
green casement.

"The steamer has turned the point," said Anne.

They both watched it in silence. They heard the evening gun from the
fort.

"I shall never forgive myself, Rast, for having let you go before so
carelessly. When the gale began that night, every blast seemed to go
through my heart."

"I thought you did not appear to care much," said Rast, in an aggrieved
tone.

"Did you notice it, then? It was only because I have to repress myself
every moment, dear, lest I should give way entirely. You know I too must
go far away--far away from all I love. I feel it very deeply."

[Illustration: "YOU KNOW I TOO MUST GO FAR AWAY."]

She turned toward him as she spoke, with her eyes full of tears. Her hat
was off, and her face, softened by emotion, looked for the first time to
his eyes womanly. For generally that frank brow, direct gaze, and
impersonal expression gave her the air of a child. Rast had never
thought that Anne was beautiful; he had never thought of himself as her
lover. He was very fond of her, of course; and she was very fond of
him; and he meant to be good to her always. But that was all. Now,
however, suddenly a new feeling came over him; he realized that her eyes
were very lovely, and that her lips trembled with emotion. True, even
then she did not turn from him, rather toward him; but he was too young
himself to understand these indications, and, carried away by her
sweetness, his own affection, and the impulse of the moment, he put his
arm round her, and drew her toward him, sure that he loved her, and
especially sure that she loved him. Poor Anne, who would soon have to
part with him--dear Anne, his old playmate and friend!

Half an hour later he came into the Agency sitting-room, where the
others were waiting, with a quick step and sparkling eyes, and, with the
tone and manner of a young conqueror, announced, "Dr. Gaston, and all of
you, I am going to marry Annet. We are engaged."



CHAPTER VIII.

    "Shades of evening, close not o'er us,
       Leave our lonely bark awhile;
     Morn, alas! will not restore us
       Yonder dear and fading isle.
     Though 'neath distant skies we wander,
       Still with thee our thoughts must dwell:
     Absence makes the heart grow fonder--
       Isle of beauty, fare thee well!"

     --THOMAS HAYNES BAYLY.


"We are engaged."

Dr. Gaston, who was standing, sat down as though struck down. Miss Lois
jumped up, and began to laugh and cry in a breath. Père Michaux, who was
sitting with his injured foot resting on a stool, ground his hands down
suddenly on the arms of his chair with a sharp displeasure visible for
an instant on his face. But only for an instant; it was gone before any
one saw it.

"Oh, my darling boy!" said Miss Lois, with her arms round Rast's neck.
"I always knew you would. You are made for each other, and always were.
_Now_ we shall have you both with us always, thank the Lord!" Then she
sobbed again, and took a fresh and tighter hold of him. "I'll take the
boys, dear; you need not be troubled with them. And I'll come over here
and live, so that you and Annet can have the church-house; it's in much
better repair; only there should be a new chimney. The dearest wish of
my heart is now fulfilled, and I am quite ready to die."

Rast was kind always; it was simply impossible for him to say or do
anything which could hurt the feelings of any one present. Such a course
is sometimes contradictory, since those who are absent likewise have
their feelings; but it is always at the moment agreeable. He kissed Miss
Lois affectionately, thanked her, and led her to her chair; nor did he
stop there, but stood beside her with her hand in his until she began to
recover her composure, wipe her eyes, and smile. Then he went across to
Dr. Gaston, his faithful and early friend.

"I hope I have your approval, sir?" he said, looking very tall and
handsome as he stood by the old man's chair.

"Yes, yes," said the chaplain, extending his hand. "I was--I was
startled at first, of course; you have both seemed like children to me.
But if it must be, it must be. Only--make her happy, Rast; make her
happy."

"I shall try, sir."

"Come, doctor, acknowledge that you have always expected it," said Miss
Lois, breaking into permanent sunshine, and beginning to wipe her
spectacles in a business-like way, which showed that the moisture was
ended for the present.

"No--yes; I hardly know what I have expected," answered the chaplain,
still a little suffocated, and speaking thickly. "I do not think I have
expected anything."

"Is there any one else you would prefer to have Rast marry? Answer me
that."

"No, no; certainly not."

"Is there any one you would prefer to have Anne marry?"

"Why need she marry at all?" said the chaplain, boldly, breaking
through the chain of questions closing round him. "I am sure you
yourself are a bright example, Miss Hinsdale, of the merits of single
life."

But, to his surprise, Miss Lois turned upon him.

"What! have Anne live through my loneliness, my
always-being-misunderstood-ness, my general sense of a useless ocean
within me, its breaking waves dashed high on a stern and rock-bound
coast?" she said, quoting vehemently from the only poem she knew.
"Never!"

While Dr. Gaston was still gazing at her, Rast turned to Père Michaux.
"I am sure of your approval," he said, smiling confidently. "I have had
no doubt of that."

"Haven't you?" said the priest, dryly.

"No, sir: you have always been my friend."

"And I shall continue to be," said Père Michaux. But he rose as he
spoke, and hobbled into the hall, closing the door behind him.

Tita was hurrying through the garden on her way from the heights; he
waited for her.

"Where have you been?" he asked, sternly.

The child seemed exhausted, her breath came in panting gasps; her skirt
was torn, her hair streaming, and the dark red hue of her face was
changed to a yellow pallor.

"I have run and run, I have followed and followed, I have listened with
my ear on the ground; I have climbed trees to look, I have torn a path
through bushes, and I have not found them," she said, huskily, a slight
froth on her dry lips as she spoke, her eyes bright and feverish.

"They are here," said Père Michaux; "they have been at home some time.
What can you have been about, Angélique?"

"I have told you," said the child, rolling her apron tightly in her
small brown hands. "I followed his track. He went down the north path. I
traced him for a mile; then I lost him. In the fir wood. Then I crept,
and looked, and listened."

"You followed Rast, then, when I told you to go to Anne! Enough. I
thought, at least, you were quick, Tita; but it seems you are dull--dull
as an owl," said the priest, turning away. He hobbled to the front door
and sat down on the threshold. "After all my care," he said to himself,
"to be foiled by a rolling stone!"

Through the open window he heard Miss Lois ask where Anne was. "Did she
not come back with you, Rast?"

"Yes, but she was obliged to go directly to the kitchen. Something about
the tea, I believe."

"Oh no; it was because she did not want to face us," said Miss Lois,
archly. "I will go and bring her, the dear child!"

Père Michaux smiled contemptuously in the twilight outside; but he
seemed to have recovered his equanimity also. "Something about the tea!"
he said to himself. "Something about the tea!" He rose and hobbled into
the sitting-room again with regained cheerfulness. Miss Lois was leading
in Anne. "Here she is," said the old maid. "I found her; hiding, of
course, and trembling."

Anne, smiling, turned down her cuffs, and began to light the lamp as
usual. "I had to watch the broiling of the birds," she said. "You would
not like to have them burned, would you?"

Père Michaux now looked thoroughly happy. "By no means," he replied,
hobbling over and patting her on the head--"by no means, my dear." Then
he laughed contentedly, and sat down. The others might talk now; he was
satisfied.

When the lamp was lighted, everybody kissed Anne formally, and wished
her happiness, Père Michaux going through the little rite with his
finest Parisian courtesy. The boys added their caresses, and Gabriel
said, "Of course _now_ you won't go away, Annet?"

"Yes, dear, I must go just the same," said the sister.

"Certainly," said Père Michaux. "Erastus can not marry yet; he must go
through college, and afterward establish himself in life."

"They could be married next spring," suggested Miss Lois: "we could help
them at the beginning."

"Young Pronando is less of a man than I suppose, if he allows any one
save himself to take care of his wife," said Père Michaux,
sententiously.

[Illustration: TITA LISTENING.]

"Of course I shall not," said Rast, throwing back his handsome head with
an air of pride.

"That is right; stand by your decision," said the priest. "And now let
us have tea. Enough has happened for one day, I think, and Rast must go
at dawn. He can write as many letters as he pleases, but in real life he
has now to show us what metal he is made of; I do not doubt but that it
will prove pure ore."

Dr. Gaston sat silent; he drank his tea, and every now and then looked
at Anne. She was cheerful and contented; her eyes rested upon Rast with
confidence; she smiled when he spoke as if she liked to hear his voice;
but of consciousness, embarrassment, hesitation, there was not a trace.
The chaplain rubbed his forehead again and again, and pushed his wig so
far back that it looked like a brown aureole. But if he was perplexed,
Miss Lois was not; the happy old maid supplied all the consciousness,
archness, and sentimental necessities of the occasion. She had kept them
suppressed for years, and had a large store on hand. She radiated
romance.

While they were taking tea, Tita entered, languid and indifferent as a
city lady. No, she did not care for any tea, she said; and when the
boys, all together, told her the great news, she merely smiled, fanned
herself, and said she had long expected it.

Miss Lois looked up sharply, with the intention of contradicting this
statement, but Tita gazed back at her so calmly that she gave it up.

After Père Michaux had left her in the hall, she had stolen to the back
door of the sitting-room, laid her ear on the floor close to the crack
under it, and overheard all. Then, trembling and silent, she crept up to
her own room, bolted the door, and, throwing herself down upon the
floor, rolled to and fro in a sort of frenzy. But she was a supple,
light little creature, and made no sound. When her anger had spent
itself, and she had risen to her feet, those below had no consciousness
that the ceiling above them had been ironed all over on its upper side
by the contact of a fierce little body, hot and palpitating wildly.

Père Michaux threw himself into that evening with all the powers he
possessed fully alert; there were given so many hours to fill, and he
filled them. The young lover Rast, the sentimental Miss Lois, the
perplexed old chaplain, even the boys, all gave way to his influence,
and listened or laughed at his will. Only Tita sat apart, silent and
cold. Ten o'clock, eleven o'clock--it was certainly time to separate.
But the boys, although sleepy and irritable, refused to go to bed, and
fought with each other on the hearth-rug. Midnight; the old priest's
flow of fancy and wit was still in full play, and the circle unbroken.

At last Dr. Gaston found himself yawning. "The world will not stop, even
if we do go to bed, my friends," he said, rising. "We certainly ought
not to talk or listen longer to-night."

Père Michaux rose also, and linked his arm in Rast's. "I will walk home
with you, young sir," he said, cordially. "Miss Lois, we will take you
as far as your gate."

Miss Lois was willing, but a little uncertain in her movements; inclined
toward delay. Would Anne lend her a shawl? And, when the young girl had
gone up stairs after it, would Rast take the candle into the hall, lest
she should stumble on her way down?

"She will not stumble," said Père Michaux. "She never stumbled in her
life, Miss Lois. Of what are you thinking?"

Miss Lois put on the shawl; and then, when they had reached the gate,
"Run back, Rast," she said; "I have left my knitting."

"Here it is," said the priest, promptly producing it. "I saw it on the
table, and took charge of it."

Miss Lois was very much obliged; but she was sure she heard some one
calling. Perhaps it was Anne. If Rast--

"Only a night-bird," said Père Michaux, walking on. He left Miss Lois at
the church-house; and then, linking his arm again in Rast's, accompanied
him to his lodgings. "I am going to give you a parting present," he
said--"a watch, the one I am wearing now. I have another, which will do
very well for this region."

The priest's watch was a handsome one, and Rast was still young enough
to feel an immense satisfaction in such a possession. He took it with
many thanks, and frankly expressed delight. The old priest accompanied
his gift with fatherly good wishes and advice. It was now so late that
he would take a bed in the house, he thought. In this way, too, he would
be with Rast, and see the last of him.

But love laughs at parsons.

Père Michaux saw his charge to bed, and went to bed himself in an
adjoining room. He slept soundly; but at the first peep of dawn his
charge was gone--gone to meet Anne on the heights, as agreed between
them the night before.

O wise Père Michaux!

The sun was not yet above the horizon, but Anne was there. The youth
took her hands in his, and looked at her earnestly. He was half
surprised himself at what he had done, and he looked at her again to see
how it had happened. All his life from earliest childhood she had been
his dearest companion and friend; but now she was his betrothed wife,
would she be in any way different? The sun came up, and showed that she
was just the same--calm, clear-eyed, and sweet-voiced. What more could
he ask?

"_Do_ you love me, Annet?" he said more than once, looking at her as
though she ought to be some new and only half-comprehended person.

"You know I do," she answered. Then, as he asked again, "Why do you ask
me?" she said. "Has not my whole life shown it?"

"Yes," he answered, growing more calm. "I believe you _have_ loved me
all your life, Annet."

"I have," replied the girl.

He kissed her gently. "I shall always be kind to you," he said. Then,
with a half-sigh, "You will like to live here?"

"It is my home, Rast. However, other places will not seem strange after
I have seen the great city. For of course I must go to New York, just
the same, to learn to be a teacher, and help the children: we may be
separated for years."

"Oh no; I shall be able to take care of you all before long," said Rast,
grandly. "As soon as I have been through college I shall look about and
decide upon something. Would you like me to be a lawyer? Or a surgeon?
Then there is always the army. Or we might have a farm."

"There is only Frobisher's."

"Oh, you mean here on the island? Well, Frobisher's would do. We could
repair the old house, and have a pony-cart, and drive in to town." Here
the steamer sounded its first whistle. That meant that it would start in
half an hour. Rast left the future and his plans in mid-air, and took
Anne in his arms with real emotion. "Good-by, dear, good-by," he said.
"Do not grieve, or allow yourself to be lonely. I shall see you soon in
some way, even if I have to go to New York for the purpose. Remember
that you are my betrothed wife now. That thought will comfort you."

"Yes," said Anne, her sincere eyes meeting his. Then she clung to him
for a few moments, sobbing. "You must go away, and I must go away," she
said, amid her tears: "nothing is the same any more. Father is dead, and
the whole world will be between us. Nothing is the same any more.
Nothing is the same."

"Distance is nothing nowadays," said the youth, soothing her; "I can
reach you in almost no time, Annet."

"Yes, but nothing is the same any more; nothing ever will be the same
ever again," she sobbed, oppressed for the first time in her life by the
vague uncertainties of the future.

"Oh yes, it will," said her companion, decidedly. "I will come back here
if you wish it so much, and you shall come back, and we will live here
on this same old island all our lives. A man has but to choose his home,
you know."

Anne looked somewhat comforted. Yet only part of her responded to his
words; she still felt that nothing would ever be quite the same again.
She could not bring back her father; she could not bring back their long
happy childhood. The door was closed behind them, and they must now go
out into the wide world.

The second whistle sounded--another fifteen minutes gone. They ran down
the steep path together, meeting Miss Lois on her way up, a green
woollen hood on her head as a protection against the morning air.

"You will want a ring, my dears," she said, breathlessly, as she kissed
them--"an engagement ring; it is the custom, and fortunately I have one
for you."

With a mixture of smiles and tears of delight and excitement, she took
from a little box an old-fashioned ring, and handed it to Rast.

"It was your mother's, dear," she said to Anne; "your father gave it to
me as a memento of her when you were a baby. It is most fit that you
should wear it."

Rast examined the slender little circlet without much admiration. It was
a hoop of very small rubies placed close together, with as little gold
visible as was possible. "I meant to give Annet a diamond," he said,
with the tone of a young duke.

"Oh no, Rast," exclaimed the girl.

"But take this for the present," urged the old maid. "You must not let
her go from you without one; it would be a bad sign. Put it on yourself,
Rast; I want to see you do it."

Rast slipped the circlet into its place on Anne's finger, and then, with
a little flourish which became him well, he uncovered his head, bent his
knee, and raised the hand to his lips.

"But you have put it on the right hand," said Miss Lois, in dismay.

"It does not make any difference," said Rast. "And besides, I like the
right hand; it means more."

Rast did not admire the old-fashioned ring, but to Anne it was both
beautiful and sacred. She gazed at it with a lovely light in her eyes,
and an earnest thoughtfulness. Any one could see how gravely she
regarded the little ceremony.

When they came back to the house, Dr. Gaston was already there, and Père
Michaux was limping up the path from the gate. He caught sight of Rast
and Anne together. "Check!" he said to himself. "So much for being a
stupid old man. Outwitted yesterday by a rolling stone, and to-day by
your own inconceivable dullness. And you gave away your watch--did
you?--to prevent what has happened! The girl has probably bound herself
formally, and now you will have her conscience against you as well as
all the rest. Bah!"

But while thinking this, he came forward and greeted them all happily
and cheerfully, whereas the old chaplain, who really had no especial
objection to the engagement, was cross and silent, and hardly greeted
anybody. He knew that he was ill-tempered, and wondered why he should
be. "Anything unexpected is apt to disturb the mind," he remarked,
apologetically, to the priest, taking out his handkerchief and
rubbing his forehead violently, as if to restore equanimity by
counter-circulation. But however cross or quiet the others might be,
Miss Lois beamed for all; she shed forth radiance like Roman candles
even at that early hour, when the air was still chill and the sky gray
with mist. The boys came down stairs with their clothes half on, and
then Rast said good-by, and hurried down to the pier, and they all stood
together on the old piazza, and watched the steamer back out into the
stream, turn round, and start westward, the point of the island soon
hiding it from view. Then Dr. Gaston took his unaccountable ill temper
homeward, Père Michaux set sail for the hermitage, Anne sat down to sew,
and only Miss Lois let every-day life take care of itself, and cried on.

"I know there will be no more storms," she said; "it isn't that. But it
is everything that has happened, Anne dear: the engagement, and the
romance of it all!"

Tita now entered: she had not appeared before. She required that fresh
coffee should be prepared for her, and she obtained it. For the Irish
soldier's wife was almost as much afraid of her as the boys were. She
glanced at Miss Lois's happy tears, at Anne's ruby ring, at the general
disorder.

"And all this for a mere boy!" she said, superbly.

Miss Lois stopped crying from sheer astonishment. "And pray, may I ask,
what are you?" she demanded.

"A girl; and about on a line with the boy referred to," replied Miss
Tita, composedly. "Anne is much too old."

The boys gave a laugh of scorn. Tita turned and looked at them, and they
took to the woods for the day. Miss Lois cried no more, but began to
sew; there was a vague dread in her heart as to what the winter would be
with Tita in the church-house. "If I could only cut off her hair!" she
thought, with a remembrance of Samson. "Never was such hair seen on any
child before."

As Tita sat on her low bench, the two long thick braids of her black
hair certainly did touch the floor; and most New England women, who,
whether from the nipping climate or their Roundhead origin, have, as a
class, rather scanty locks, would have agreed with Miss Lois that "such
a mane" was unnatural on a girl of that age--indeed, intolerable.

Amid much sewing, planning, and busy labor, time flew on. Dr. Gaston did
not pretend to do anything else now save come down early in the morning
to the Agency, and remain nearly all day, sitting in an arm-chair,
sometimes with a book before him, but hardly turning a page. His dear
young pupil, his almost child, was going away. He tried not to think how
lonely he should be without her. Père Michaux came frequently; he spoke
to Tita with a new severity, and often with a slight shade of sarcasm in
his voice. "Are you not a little too severe with her?" asked Miss Lois
one day, really fearing lest Tita, in revenge, might go out on some dark
night and set fire to the house.

"He is my priest, isn't he, and not yours? He shall order me to do what
he pleases, and I shall do it," answered the small person whom she had
intended to defend.

And now every day more and more beautiful grew the hues on the trees; it
was a last intensity of color before the long, cold, dead-white winter.
All the maple and oak leaves were now scarlet, orange, or crimson, each
hue vivid; they died in a glory to which no tropical leaf ever attains.
The air was warm, hazy, and still--the true air of Indian summer; and as
if to justify the term, the Indians on the mainland and islands were
busy bringing potatoes and game to the village to sell, fishing, cutting
wood, and begging, full of a tardy activity before the approach of
winter. Anne watched them crossing in their canoes, and landing on the
beach, and when occasionally the submissive, gentle-eyed squaws,
carrying their little pappooses, came to the kitchen door to beg, she
herself went out to see them, and bade the servant give them something.
They were Chippewas, dark-skinned and silent, wearing short calico
skirts, and a blanket drawn over their heads. Patient and uncomplaining
by nature, they performed almost all the labor on their small farms,
cooked for their lords and masters, and took care of the children, as
their share of the duties of life, the husbands being warriors, and
above common toil. Anne knew some of these Chippewa women personally,
and could talk to them in their own tongue; but it was not old
acquaintance which made her go out and see them now. It was the feeling
that they belonged to the island, to the life which she must soon leave
behind. She felt herself clinging to everything--to the trees, to the
white cliffs, to the very sunshine--like a person dragged along against
his will, who catches at every straw.

The day came at last; the eastern-bound steamer was at the pier; Anne
must go. Dr. Gaston's eyes were wet; with choked utterance he gave her
his benediction. Miss Lois was depressed; but her depression had little
opportunity to make itself felt, on account of the clamor and wild
behavior of the boys, which demanded her constant attention. The clamor,
however, was not so alarming as the velvety goodness of Tita. What could
the child be planning? The poor old maid sighed, as she asked herself
this question, over the life that lay before her. But twenty such lives
would not wear out Lois Hinsdale. Père Michaux was in excellent spirits,
and kept them all in order. He calmed the boys, encouraged Anne, cheered
the old chaplain and Miss Lois, led them all down the street and on
board the boat, then back on the pier again, where they could see Anne
standing on the high deck above them. He shook the boys when they howled
in their grief too loudly, and as the steamer moved out into the stream
he gave his arm to Miss Lois, who, for the moment forgetting everything
save that the dear little baby whom she had loved so long was going
away, burst into convulsive tears. Tita sat on the edge of the pier, and
watched the boat silently. She did not speak or wave her handkerchief;
she shed no tears. But long after the others had gone home, when the
steamer was a mere speck low down on the eastern horizon, she sat there
still.

Yes, Anne was gone.

And now that she was gone, it was astonishing to see what a void was
left. No one had especially valued or praised her while she was there;
she was a matter of course. But now that she was absent, the whole life
of the village seemed changed. There was no one to lead the music on
Sundays, standing by the organ and singing clearly, and Miss Lois's
playing seemed now doubly dull and mechanical. There was no one going up
to the fort at a certain hour every morning, passing the windows where
the fort ladies sat, with books under her arm. There was no one working
in the Agency garden; no one coming with a quick step into the butcher's
little shop to see what he had, and consult him, not without hidden
anxiety, as to the possibility of a rise in prices. There was no one
sewing on the piazza, or going out to find the boys, or sailing over to
the hermitage with the four black-eyed children, who plainly enough
needed even more holy instruction than they obtained. They all knew
everything she did, and all her ways. And as it was a small community,
they missed her sadly. The old Agency, too, seemed to become suddenly
dilapidated, almost ruinous; the boys were undeniably rascals, and Tita
"a little minx." Miss Lois was without doubt a dogmatic old maid, and
the chaplain not what he used to be, poor old man--fast breaking up.
Only Père Michaux bore the test unaltered. But then he had not leaned
upon this young girl as the others had leaned--the house and garden, the
chaplain as well as the children: the strong young nature had in one way
supported them all.

Meanwhile the girl herself was journeying down the lake. She stood at
the stern, watching the island grow distant, grow purple, grow lower and
lower on the surface of the water, until at last it disappeared; then
she covered her face and wept. After this, like one who leaves the
vanished past behind him, and resolutely faces the future, she went
forward to the bow and took her seat there. Night came on; she remained
on deck through the evening: it seemed less lonely there than among the
passengers in the cabin. She knew the captain; and she had been
especially placed in his charge, also, by Père Michaux, as far as one of
the lower-lake ports, where she was to be met by a priest and taken to
the eastern-bound train. The captain, a weather-beaten man, past middle
age, came after a while and sat down near her.

"What is that red light over the shore-line?" said Anne to her taciturn
companion, who sat and smoked near by, protecting her paternally by his
presence, but having apparently few words, and those husky, at his
command.

"Fire in the woods."

"Is it not rather late in the season for a forest fire?"

"Well, there it is," answered the captain, declining discussion of the
point in face of obvious fact.

Anne had already questioned him on the subject of light-houses. Would he
like to live in a light-house?

No, he would not.

But they might be pleasant places in summer, with the blue water all
round them: she had often thought she would like to live in one.

Well, _he_ wouldn't.

But why?

Resky places sometimes when the wind blew: give him a good stiddy boat,
now.

After a time they came nearer to the burning forest. Anne could see the
great columns of flame shoot up into the sky; the woods were on fire for
miles. She knew that the birds were flying, dizzy and blinded, before
the terrible conqueror, that the wild-cats were crying like children,
that the small wolves were howling, and that the more timid wood
creatures were cowering behind fallen trunks, their eyes dilated and
ears laid flat in terror. She knew all this because she had often heard
it described, fires miles long in the pine forests being frequent
occurrences in the late summer and early autumn; but she had never
before seen with her own eyes the lurid splendor, as there was no
unbroken stretch of pineries on the Straits. She sat silently watching
the great clouds of red light roll up into the dark sky, and the shower
of sparks higher still. The advance-guard was of lapping tongues that
caught at and curled through the green wood far in front; then came a
wall of clear orange-colored roaring fire, then the steady incandescence
that was consuming the hearts of the great trees, and behind, the long
range of dying fires like coals, only each coal was a tree. It grew
late; she went to her state-room in order that the captain might be
relieved from his duty of guard. But for several hours longer she sat by
her small window, watching the flames, which turned to a long red line
as the steamer's course carried her farther from the shore. She was
thinking of those she had left behind, and of the island; of Rast, and
her own betrothal. The betrothal seemed to her quite natural; they had
always been together in the past, and now they would always be together
in the future; she was content that it was so. She knew so little of the
outside world that few forebodings as to her own immediate present
troubled her. She was on her way to a school where she would study hard,
so as soon to be able to teach, and help the children; the boys were to
be educated one by one, and after the first year, perhaps, she could
send for Tita, since Miss Lois never understood the child aright,
failing to comprehend her peculiar nature, and making her, poor little
thing, uncomfortable. It would be a double relief--to Miss Lois as well
as Tita. It was a pity that her grand-aunt was so hard and ill-tempered;
but probably she was old and infirm. Perhaps if she could see Tita, she
might take a fancy to the child; Tita was so small and so soft-voiced,
whereas she, Anne, was so overgrown and awkward. She gave a thought of
regret to her own deficiencies, but hardly a sigh. They were matters of
fact which she had long ago accepted. The coast fire had now faded into
a line of red dots and a dull light above them; she knelt down and
prayed, not without the sadness which a lonely young traveller might
naturally feel on the broad dark lake.

At the lower-lake port she was met by an old French priest, one of Père
Michaux's friends, who took her to the railway station in a carriage,
bought her ticket, checked her trunk, gave her a few careful words of
instruction as to the journey, and then, business matters over, sat down
by her side and talked to her with enchanting politeness and ease until
the moment of departure. Père Michaux had arranged this: although not of
their faith, Anne was to travel all the way to New York in the care of
the Roman Catholic Church, represented by its priests, handed from one
to the next, and met at the entrance of the great city by another, who
would cross the river for the purpose, in order that her young island
eyes might not be confused by the crowd and turmoil. At first Dr. Gaston
had talked of escorting Anne in person; but it was so long since he had
travelled anywhere, and he was so absent-minded, that it was evident
even to himself that Anne would in reality escort him. Miss Lois had the
children, and of course could not leave them.

"I would go myself if there was any necessity for it," said Père
Michaux, "but there is not. Let me arrange it, and I promise you that
Anne shall reach her school in safety; I will have competent persons to
meet her all along the route--unless, indeed, you have friends of your
own upon whom you prefer to rely?"

This was one of the little winds which Père Michaux occasionally sent
over the self-esteem of his two Protestant companions: he could not help
it. Dr. Gaston frowned: he had not an acquaintance between New York and
the island, and Père Michaux knew it. But Miss Lois, undaunted, rushed
into the fray.

"Oh, certainly, it would be quite easy for us to have her met by friends
on the way," she began, making for the moment common and Protestant
cause with Dr. Gaston; "it would require only a few letters. In New
England I should have my own family connections to call upon--persons of
the highest respectability, descendants, most of them, of the celebrated
patriot Israel Putnam."

"Certainly," replied Père Michaux. "I understand. Then I will leave Anne
to you."

"But unfortunately, as Anne is going to New York, not Boston, my
connections do not live along the route, exactly," continued Miss Lois,
the adverb standing for a small matter of a thousand miles or so; "nor,"
she added, again admitting Dr. Gaston to a partnership, "can we make
them."

"There remain, then, the pastors of your church," said the priest.

"Certainly--the pastors. It will be the simplest thing in the world for
Dr. Gaston to write to them; they will be delighted to take charge of
any friend of ours."

The chaplain pushed his wig back a little, and murmured, "Church
Almanac."

Miss Lois glanced at him angrily. "I am sure I do not know what Dr.
Gaston means by mentioning 'Church Almanac' in that way," she said,
sharply. "We know most of the prominent pastors, of course. Dr.
Shepherd, for instance, and Dr. Dell."

Dr. Shepherd and Dr. Dell, who occasionally came up to the island during
the summer for a few days of rest, lived in the lower-lake town where
Anne's long railway journey began. They were not pastors, but rectors,
and the misuse of the terms grated on the chaplain's Anglican ear. But
he was a patient man, and accustomed now to the heterogeneous phrasing
of the Western border.

"And besides," added Miss Lois, triumphantly, "there is the bishop!"

Now the bishop lived five miles farther. It was not evident, therefore,
to the ordinary mind what aid these reverend gentlemen could give to
Anne, all living, as they did, at the western beginning of her railway
journey; but Miss Lois, who, like others of her sex, possessed the
power (unattainable by man) of rising above mere logical sequence, felt
that she had conquered.

"I have no bishops to offer," said Père Michaux, with mock humility;
"only ordinary priests. I will therefore leave Anne to your care, Miss
Lois--yours and Dr. Gaston's."

So the discussion ended, and Miss Lois came off with Protestant colors
flying. None the less Père Michaux wrote his letters; and Dr. Gaston did
not write his. For the two men understood each other. There was no need
for the old chaplain to say, plainly, "I have lived out of the world so
long that I have not a single clerical friend this side of New York upon
whom I can call"; the priest comprehended it without words. And there
was no need for Père Michaux to parade the close ties and net-work of
communication which prevailed in the ancient Church to which he
belonged; the chaplain knew them without the telling. Each understood
the other; and being men, they could do without the small teasing
comments, like the buzzing of flies, with which women enliven their
days. Thus it happened that Anne Douglas travelled from the northern
island across to the great city on the ocean border in the charge of the
Roman Catholic Church.

She arrived in New York worn out and bewildered, and having lost her
sense of comparison by the strangeness and fatigue of the long journey,
she did not appreciate the city's size, the crowded streets, and roar of
traffic, but regarded everything vaguely, like a tired child who has
neither surprise nor attention to give.

At length the carriage stopped; she went up a broad flight of stone
steps; she was entering an open door. Some one was speaking to her; she
was in a room where there were chairs, and she sank down. The priest who
had brought her from the other side of the river was exchanging a few
words with a lady; he was going; he was gone. The lady was coming toward
her.

"You are very tired, my child;" she said. "Let me take you a moment to
Tante, and then you can go to your room."

"To Tante?" said Anne.

"Yes, to Tante, or Madame Moreau, the principal of the school. She
expects you."



CHAPTER IX.

     "Manners--not what, but _how_. Manners are happy ways of doing
     things; each once a stroke of genius or of love--now repeated and
     hardened into usage. Manners require time; nothing is more vulgar
     than haste."--EMERSON.


Madame Moreau was a Frenchwoman, small and old, with a thin shrewd face
and large features. She wore a plain black satin gown, the narrow skirt
gathered in the old-fashioned style, and falling straight to the floor;
the waist of the gown, fastened behind, was in front plaited into a long
rounded point. Broad ruffles of fine lace shielded her throat and hands,
and her cap, garnished with violet velvet, was trimmed with the same
delicate fabric. She was never a handsome woman even in youth, and she
was now seventy-five years of age; yet she was charming.

She rose, kissed the young girl lightly on each cheek, and said a few
words of welcome. Her manner was affectionate, but impersonal. She never
took fancies; but neither did she take dislikes. That her young ladies
were all charming young persons was an axiom never allowed to be brought
into question; that they were simply and gracefully feminine was with
equal firmness established. Other schools of modern and American origin
might make a feature of public examinations, with questions by bearded
professors from boys' colleges; but the establishment of Madame Moreau
knew nothing of such innovations. The Frenchwoman's idea was not a bad
one; good or bad, it was inflexible. She was a woman of marked
character, and may be said to have accomplished much good in a
mannerless generation and land. Thoroughly French, she was respected and
loved by all her American scholars; and it will be long ere her name
and memory fade away.

Miss Vanhorn did not come to see her niece until a week had passed. Anne
had been assigned to the lowest French class among the children, had
taken her first singing lesson from one Italian, fat, rosy, and smiling,
and her first Italian lesson from another, lean, old, and soiled, had
learned to answer questions in the Moreau French, and to talk a little,
as well as to comprehend the fact that her clothes were remarkable, and
that she herself was considered an oddity, when one morning Tante sent
word that she was to come down to the drawing-room to see a visitor.

The visitor was an old woman with black eyes, a black wig, shining false
teeth, a Roman nose, and a high color (which was, however, natural), and
she was talking to Tante, who, with her own soft gray hair, and teeth
which if false did not appear so, looked charmingly real beside her.
Miss Vanhorn was short and stout; she was muffled in an India shawl, and
upon her hands were a pair of cream-colored kid gloves much too large
for her, so that when she fumbled, as she did every few moments, in an
embroidered bag for aromatic seeds coated with sugar, she had much
difficulty in finding them, owing to the empty wrinkled ends of the
glove fingers. She lifted a gold-rimmed eye-glass to her eyes as Anne
entered, and coolly inspected her.

"Dear me! dear me!" she said. Then, in execrable French, "What can be
done with such a young savage as this?"

"How do you do, aunt?" said Anne, using the conventional words with a
slight tremor in her voice. This was the woman who had brought up her
mother--her dear, unremembered mother.

"Grandaunt," said Miss Vanhorn, tartly. "Sit down; I can not bear to
have people standing in front of me. How old are you?"

"I am seventeen, grandaunt."

[Illustration: "DEAR ME, WHAT CAN BE DONE WITH SUCH A YOUNG SAVAGE?"]

Miss Vanhorn let her eyeglass drop, and groaned. "_Can_ anything be done
with her?" she asked, closing her eyes tightly, and turning toward
Tante, while Anne flushed crimson, not so much from the criticism as the
unkindness.

"Oh yes," said Tante, taking the opportunity given by the closed eyes to
pat the young girl's hand encouragingly. "Miss Douglas is very
intelligent; and she has a fine mezzo-soprano voice. Signor Belzini is
much pleased with it. It would be well, also, I think, if you would
allow her to take a few dancing lessons."

"She will have no occasion for dancing," answered Miss Vanhorn, still
with her eyes closed.

"It was not so much for the dancing itself as for grace of carriage,"
replied Tante. "Miss Douglas has a type of figure rare among American
girls."

"I should say so, indeed!" groaned the other, shaking her head gloomily,
still voluntarily blinded.

"But none the less beautiful in its way," continued Tante, unmoved. "It
is the Greek type."

"I am not acquainted with any Greeks," replied Miss Vanhorn.

"You are still as devoted as ever to the beautiful and refined study of
plant life, dear madame," pursued Tante, changing the current of
conversation. "How delightful to have a young relative to assist you,
with the fresh and ardent interest belonging to her age, when the
flowers bloom again upon the rural slopes of Haarderwyck!" As Tante said
this, she looked off dreamily into space, as if she saw aunt and niece
wandering together through groves of allegorical flowers.

"She is not likely to see Haarderwyck," answered Miss Vanhorn. Then,
after a moment's pause--a pause which Tante did not break--she peered at
Anne with half-open eyes, and asked, abruptly, "Do you, then, know
anything of botany?"

Tante made a slight motion with her delicate withered old hand. But Anne
did not comprehend her, and answered, honestly, "No, grandaunt, I do
not."

"Bah!" said Miss Vanhorn; "I might have known without the asking. Make
what you can of her, madame. I will pay your bill for one year: no
longer. But no nonsense, no extras, mind that." Again she sought a
caraway seed, pursuing it vindictively along the bottom of her bag, and
losing it at the last, after all.

"As regards wardrobe, I would advise some few changes," said Tante,
smoothly. "It is one of my axioms that pupils study to greater advantage
when their thoughts are not disturbed by deficiencies in dress.
Conformity to our simple standard is therefore desirable."

"It may be desirable; it is not always, on that account, attainable,"
answered Miss Vanhorn, conveying a finally caught seed to her mouth,
dropping it at the last moment, and carefully and firmly biting the seam
of the glove finger in its place.

"Purchases are made for the pupils with discretion by one of our most
experienced teachers," continued Tante.

"Glad to hear it," said her visitor, releasing the glove finger, and
pretending to chew the seed which was not there.

"But I do not need anything, Tante," interposed Anne, the deep color
deepening in her cheeks.

"So much the better," said her grandaunt, dryly, "since you will have
nothing."

She went away soon afterward somewhat placated, owing to skillful
reminiscences of a favorite cousin, who, it seemed, had been one of
Tante's "dearest pupils" in times past; "a true Vanhorn, worthy of her
Knickerbocker blood." The word "Neeker-bo-ker," delicately comprehended,
applied, and, what was more important still, limited, was one of Tante's
most telling achievements--a shibboleth. She knew all the old Dutch
names, and remembered their intermarriages; she was acquainted with the
peculiar flavor of Huguenot descent; she comprehended the especial
aristocracy of Tory families, whose original property had been
confiscated by a raw republic under George Washington. Ah! skillful old
Tante, what a general you would have made!

Anne Douglas, the new pupil, was now left to face the school with her
island-made gowns, and what courage she could muster. Fortunately the
gowns were black and severely plain. Tante, not at all disturbed by
Miss Vanhorn's refusal, ordered a simple cloak and bonnet for her
through an inexpensive French channel, so that in the street she passed
unremarked; but, in the house, every-day life required more courage than
scaling a wall. Girls are not brutal, like boys, but their light wit is
pitiless. The Southern pupils, provided generously with money in the
lavish old-time Southern way, the day scholars, dressed with the
exquisite simplicity of Northern school-girls of good family, glanced
with amusement at the attire of this girl from the Northwest. This girl,
being young, felt their glances; as a refuge, she threw herself into her
studies with double energy, and gaining confidence respecting what she
had been afraid was her island patois, she advanced so rapidly in the
French classes that she passed from the lowest to the highest, and was
publicly congratulated by Tante herself. In Italian her progress was
more slow. Her companion, in the class of two, was a beautiful dark-eyed
Southern girl, who read musically, but seldom deigned to open her
grammar. The forlorn, soiled old exile to whom, with unconscious irony,
the bath-room had been assigned for recitations in the crowded house,
regarded this pupil with mixed admiration and despair. Her remarks on
Mary Stuart, represented by Alfieri, were nicely calculated to rouse him
to patriotic fury, and then, when the old man burst forth in a torrent
of excited words, she would raise her soft eyes in surprise, and inquire
if he was ill. The two girls sat on the bath-tub, which was decorously
covered over and cushioned; the exile had a chair for dignity's sake.
Above, in a corresponding room, a screen was drawn round the tub, and a
piano placed against it. Here, all day long, another exile, a German
music-master, with little gold rings in his ears, gave piano lessons,
and Anne was one of his pupils. To Signor Belzini, the teacher of vocal
music, the drawing-room itself was assigned. He was a prosperous and
smiling Italian, who had a habit of bringing pieces of pink cream candy
with him, and arranging them in a row on the piano for his own
refreshment after each song. There was an atmosphere of perfume and
mystery about Belzini. It was whispered that he knew the leading
opera-singers, even taking supper with them sometimes after the opera.
The pupils exhausted their imaginations in picturing to each other the
probable poetry and romance of these occasions.

Belzini was a musical trick-master; but he was not ignorant. When Anne
came to take her first lesson, he smiled effusively, as usual, took a
piece of candy, and, while enjoying it, asked if she could read notes,
and gave her the "Drinking Song" from _Lucrezia Borgia_ as a trial. Anne
sang it correctly without accompaniment, but slowly and solemnly as a
dead march. It is probable that "Il Segreto" never heard itself so sung
before or since. Belzini was walking up and down with his plump hands
behind him.

"You have never heard it sung?" he said.

"No," replied Anne.

"Sing something else, then. Something you like yourself."

After a moment's hesitation, Anne sang an island ballad in the voyageur
patois.

"May I ask who has taught you, mademoiselle?"

"My father," said the pupil, with a slight tremor in her voice.

"He must be a cultivated musician, although of the German school," said
Belzini, seating himself at the piano and running his white fingers over
the keys. "Try these scales."

It was soon understood that "the islander" could sing as well as study.
Tolerance was therefore accorded to her. But not much more. It is only
in "books for the young" that poorly clad girls are found leading whole
schools by the mere power of intellectual or moral supremacy. The
emotional type of boarding-school, also, is seldom seen in cities; its
home is amid the dead lethargy of a winter-bound country village.

The great event in the opening of Anne's school life was her first
opera. Tante, not at all blinded by the country garb and silence of the
new pupil, had written her name with her own hand upon the opera list
for the winter, without consulting Miss Vanhorn, who would, however,
pay for it in the end, as she would also pay for the drawing and dancing
lessons ordered by the same autocratic command. For it was one of
Tante's rules to cultivate every talent of the agreeable and decorative
order which her pupils possessed; she bathed them as the photographer
bathes his shadowy plate, bringing out and "setting," as it were, as
deeply as possible, their colors, whatever they happened to be. Tante
always attended the opera in person. Preceded by the usher, the old
Frenchwoman glided down the awkward central aisle of the Academy of
Music, with her inimitable step, clad in her narrow satin gown and all
her laces, well aware that tongues in every direction were saying:
"There is Madame Moreau at the head of her school, as usual. What a
wonderful old lady she is!" While the pupils were filing into their
places, Tante remained in the aisle fanning herself majestically, and
surveying them with a benignant smile. When all were seated, with a
graceful little bend she glided into her place at the end, the motion of
sitting down and the bend fused into one in a manner known only to
herself.

Anne's strong idealism, shown in her vivid although mistaken conceptions
of Shakspeare's women, was now turned into the channel of opera music.
After hearing several operas, she threw herself into her Italian songs
with so much fervor that Belzini sat aghast; this was not the manner in
which demoiselles of private life should sing. Tante, passing one day
(by the merest chance, of course) through the drawing-room while Anne
was singing, paused a moment to listen. "Ma fille," she said, when the
song was ended, tapping Anne's shoulder affably, "give no more
expression to the Italian words you sing than to the syllables of your
scales. Interpretations are not required." The old Frenchwoman always
put down with iron hand what she called the predominant tendency toward
too great freedom--sensationalism--in young girls. She spent her life in
a constant struggle with the American "jeune fille."

During this time Rast wrote regularly; but his letters, not being
authorized by Miss Vanhorn, Anne's guardian, passed first through the
hands of one of the teachers, and the knowledge of this inspection
naturally dulled the youth's pen. But Anne's letters to him passed the
same ordeal without change in word or in spirit. Miss Lois and Dr.
Gaston wrote once a week; Père Michaux contented himself with
postscripts added to the long, badly spelled, but elaborately worded
epistles with which Mademoiselle Tita favored her elder sister. It was
evident to Anne that Miss Lois was having a severe winter.

The second event in Anne's school life was the gaining of a friend.

At first it was but a musical companion. Helen Lorrington lived not far
from the school; she was one of Tante's old scholars, and this Napoleon
of teachers especially liked this pupil, who was modelled after her own
heart. Helen held what may be called a woman's most untrammelled
position in life, namely, that of a young widow, protected but not
controlled, rich, beautiful, and without children. She was also heir to
the estate of an eccentric grandfather, who detested her, yet would not
allow his money to go to any collateral branch. He detested her because
her father was a Spaniard, whose dark eyes had so reprehensibly
fascinated his little Dutch daughter that she had unexpectedly plucked
up courage to marry in spite of the paternal prohibition, and not only
that, but to be very happy also during the short portion of life
allotted to her afterward. The young Spanish husband, with an
unaccountable indifference to the wealth for which he was supposed to
have plotted so perseveringly, was pusillanimous enough to die soon
afterward, leaving only one little pale-faced child, a puny girl, to
inherit the money. The baby Helen had never possessed the dimples and
rose tints that make the beauty of childhood; the girl Helen had not the
rounded curves and peach-like bloom that make the beauty of youth. At
seventeen she was what she was now; therefore at seventeen she was old.
At twenty-seven she was what she was then; therefore at twenty-seven she
was young.

She was tall, and extremely, marvellously slender; yet her bones were
so small that there were no angles visible in all her graceful length.
She was a long woman; her arms were long, her throat was long, her eyes
and face were long. Her form, slight enough for a spirit, was as natural
as the swaying grasses on a hill-side. She was as flexible as a ribbon.
Her beauties were a regally poised little head, a delicately cut
profile, and a remarkable length of hair; her peculiarities, the color
of this hair, the color of her skin, and the narrowness of her eyes. The
hue of her hair was called flaxen; but it was more than that--it was the
color of bleached straw. There was not a trace of gold in it, nor did it
ever shine, but hung, when unbound, a soft even mass straight down below
the knee. It was very thick, but so fine that it was manageable; it was
never rough, because there were no short locks. The complexion which
accompanied this hair was white, with an under-tint of ivory. There are
skins with under-tints of pink, of blue, and of brown; but this was
different in that it shaded off into cream, without any indication of
these hues. This soft ivory-color gave a shade of fuller richness to the
slender straw-haired woman--an effect increased by the hue of the eyes,
when visible under the long light lashes. For Helen's eyes were of a
bright dark unexpected brown. The eyes were so long and narrow, however,
that generally only a line of bright brown looked at you when you met
their gaze. Small features, narrow cheeks, delicate lips, and little
milk-white teeth, like a child's, completed this face which never had a
red tint, even the lips being but faintly colored. There were many men
who, seeing Helen Lorrington for the first time, thought her exquisitely
beautiful; there were others who, seeing her for the first time, thought
her singularly ugly. The _second_ time, there was never a question. Her
grandfather called her an albino; but he was nearly blind, and could
only see the color of her hair. He could not see the strong brown light
of her eyes, or the soft ivory complexion, which never changed in the
wind, the heat, or the cold.

Mrs. Lorrington was always dressed richly, but after a fashion of her
own. Instead of disguising the slenderness of her form, she intensified
it; instead of contrasting hues, she often wore amber tints like her
hair. Amid all her silks, jewels, and laces, there was always supreme
her own personality, which reduced her costumes to what, after all,
costumes should be, merely the subordinate coverings of a beautiful
woman.

Helen had a clear, flute-like voice, with few low notes, and a
remarkably high range. She continued her lessons with Belzini whenever
she was in the city, more in order that he might transpose her songs for
her than for any instruction he could now bestow. She was an old pupil
of his, and the sentimental Italian adored her; this adoration, however,
did not prevent him from being very comfortable at home with his portly
wife. One morning Helen, coming in for a moment to leave a new song,
found Anne at the piano taking her lesson. Belzini, always anxious to
please his fair-haired divinity, motioned to her to stay and listen.
Anne's rich voice pleased her ears; but she had heard rich voices
before. What held her attention now was the girl herself. For although
Helen was a marvel of self-belief, although she made her own peculiar
beauty an object of worship, and was so saturated with knowledge of
herself that she could not take an attitude which did not become her,
she yet possessed a comprehension of other types of beauty, and had, if
not an admiration for, at least a curiosity about, them. In Anne she
recognized at once what Tante had also recognized--unfolding beauty of
an unfamiliar type, the curves of a nobly shaped form hidden under an
ugly gown, above the round white throat a beautiful head, and a
singularly young face shadowed by a thoughtfulness which was very grave
and impersonal when compared with the usual light, self-centred
expressions of young girls' faces. At once Helen's artistic eye had Anne
before her, robed in fit attire; in imagination she dressed her slowly
from head to foot as the song went on, and was considering the question
of jewels when the music ceased, and Belzini was turning toward her.

"I hope I may become better acquainted with this rich voice," she said,
coming back gracefully to the present. "May I introduce myself? I
should like to try a duet with you, if you will allow me, Miss--"

"Douglas," said Belzini; "and this, mademoiselle, is Mrs. Lorrington."

Such was the beginning.

In addition to Helen's fancy for Anne's fair grave face, the young
girl's voice proved a firmer support for her high soprano than it had
ever obtained. Her own circle in society and the music classes had been
searched in vain more than once. For she needed a soprano, not a
contralto. And as soprani are particularly human, there had never been
any lasting co-operation. Anne, however, cheerfully sang whatever
Belzini put before her, remained admiringly silent while Helen executed
the rapid runs and trills with which she always decorated her part, and
then, when the mezzo was needed again, gave her full voice willingly,
supporting the other as the notes of an organ meet and support a flute
after its solo.

Belzini was in ecstasies; he sat up all night to copy music for them. He
said, anxiously, to Helen: "And the young girl? You like her, do you
not? Such a voice for you!"

"But I can not exactly buy young girls, can I?" said Mrs. Lorrington,
smiling.

More and more, however, each day she liked "the young girl" for herself
alone. She was an original, of course; almost an aboriginal; for she
told the truth exactly upon all occasions, appropriate or inappropriate,
and she had convictions. She was not aware, apparently, of the
old-fashioned and cumbrous appearance of these last-named articles of
mental furniture. But the real secret of Helen's liking lay in the fact
that Anne admired her, and was at the same time neither envious nor
jealous, and from her youth she had been troubled by the sure
development of these two feelings, sooner or later, in all her girl
companions. In truth, Helen's lot _was_ enviable; and also, whether
consciously or unconsciously, she had a skill in provoking jealousy. She
was the spoiled child of fortune. It was no wonder, therefore, that
those of her own sex and age seldom enjoyed being with her: the
contrast was too great. Helen was, besides, the very queen of Whim.

The queen of Whim! By nature; which means that she had a highly
developed imagination. By the life she had led, having never, save for
the six short months of her husband's adoring rule, been under the
control, or even advice, of any man. For whim can be thoroughly
developed only in feminine households: it is essentially feminine. And
Helen had been brought up by a maiden aunt, who lived alone. A man,
however mild, demands in a home at least a pretense of fixed hours and
regularity; only a household of women is capable of no regularity at
all, of changing the serious dinner hour capriciously, and even giving
up dinner altogether. Only a household of women has sudden inspirations
as to journeys and departures within the hour; brings forth sudden ideas
as to changes of route while actually on the way, and a going southward
instead of westward, with a total indifference to supper. Helen's
present whim was Anne.

"I want you to spend part of the holidays with me," she said, a few days
before Christmas. "Come on Monday, and stay over New-Year's Day."

"Oh, I can not," said Anne, startled.

"Why not? Tante will consent if I ask her; she always does. Do you love
this crowded house so much that you can not leave it?"

"It is not that. But--"

"But you are shy. But Miss Vanhorn might not like it. You do not know
Aunt Margaretta. You have no silk gown. Now let _me_ talk. I will write
to Miss Vanhorn. Aunt Margaretta is as gentle as a dove. I am bold
enough for two. And the silk dress shall come from me."

"I could not take that, Mrs. Lorrington."

"Because you are proud?"

"No; but because I would rather not. It would be too great an
obligation."

"You repay me by your voice a thousandfold, Anne. I have never had the
right voice for mine until now; and therefore the obligation is on my
side. I do not speak of the pleasure your visit will give me, because I
hope to make that mutual. But say no more. I intend to have my way."

And she had her way. "I have always detested Miss Vanhorn, with her
caraway seeds, and her malice," she explained to Tante. "Much as I like
Anne for herself alone, it will be delicious also to annoy the old
dragon by bringing into notice this unknown niece whom she is hiding
here so carefully. Now confess, Tante, that it will be delicious."

Tante shook her head reprovingly. But she herself was in her heart by no
means fond of Miss Vanhorn; she had had more than one battle royal with
that venerable Knickerbocker, which had tested even her celebrated
suavity.

Helen's note was as follows:

       *       *       *       *       *

"DEAR MISS VANHORN,--I very much wish to persuade your charming niece,
Miss Douglas, to spend a portion of the holidays with me. Her voice is
marvellously sweet, and Aunt Margaretta is most anxious to hear it;
while _I_ am desirous to have her in my own home, even if but for a few
days, in order that I may learn more of her truly admirable qualities,
which she inherits, no doubt, from your family.

"I trust you will add your consent to Tante's, already willingly
bestowed, and make me thereby still more your obliged friend,

"HELEN ROOSBROECK LORRINGTON."

       *       *       *       *       *

The obliged friend had the following answer:

       *       *       *       *       *

"Miss Vanhorn presents her compliments to Mrs. Lorrington, with thanks
for her note, which, however, was an unnecessary attention, Miss Vanhorn
claiming no authority over the movements of Anne Douglas (whose
relationship to her is remote), beyond a due respect for the rules of
the institution where she has been placed. Miss Vanhorn is gratified to
learn that Miss Douglas's voice is already of practical use to her, and
has the honor of remaining Mrs. Lorrington's obliged and humble servant.

"MADISON SQUARE, _Tuesday_."

       *       *       *       *       *

Tears sprang to Anne's eyes when Helen showed her this note.

"Why do you care? She was always a dragon; forget her. Now, Anne,
remember that it is all understood, and the carriage will come for you
on Monday." Then, seeing the face before her still irresolute, she
added: "If you are to have pupils, some of them may be like me. You
ought, therefore, to learn how to manage _me_, you know."

"You are right," said Anne, seriously. "It is strange how little
confidence I feel."

Helen, looking at her as she stood there in her island gown, coarse
shoes, and old-fashioned collar, did not think it strange at all, but
wondered, as she had wondered a hundred times before, why it was that
this girl did not think of herself and her own appearance. "And you must
let me have my way, too, about something for you to wear," she added.

"It shall be as you wish, Helen. It can not be otherwise, I suppose, if
I go to you. But--I hope the time will come when I can do something for
you."

"Never fear; it will. I feel it instinctively. You will either save my
life or take it--one or the other; but I am not sure which."

Monday came; and after her lonely Christmas, Anne was glad to step into
Miss Teller's carriage, and be taken to the home on the Avenue. The
cordial welcome she received there was delightful to her, the luxury
novel. She enjoyed everything simply and sincerely, from the late
breakfast in the small warm breakfast-room, from which the raw light of
the winter morning was carefully excluded, to the chat with Helen over
the dressing-room fire late at night, when all the house was still.
Helen's aunt, Miss Teller, was a thin, light-eyed person of fifty-five
years of age. Richly dressed, very tall, with a back as immovable and
erect as though made of steel, and a tower of blonde lace on her head,
she was a personage of imposing aspect, but in reality as mild as a
sheep.

"Yes, my dear," she said, when Anne noticed the tinted light in the
breakfast-room; "I take great care about light, which I consider an
influence in our households too much neglected. The hideous white glare
in most American breakfast-rooms on snowy winter mornings has often made
me shudder when I have been visiting my friends; only the extremely
vigorous can enjoy this sharp contact with the new day. Then the
æsthetic effect: children are always homely when the teeth are changing
and the shoulder-blades prominent; and who wishes to see, besides, each
freckle and imperfection upon the countenances of those he loves? I have
observed, too, that even morning prayer, as a family observance, fails
to counter-act the influence of this painful light. For if as you kneel
you cover your face with your hands, the glare will be doubly unbearable
when you remove them; and if you do _not_ cover your brow, you will
inevitably blink. Those who do not close their eyes at all are the most
comfortable, but I trust we would all prefer to suffer rather than be
guilty of such irreverence."

"Now that is Aunt Gretta exactly," said Helen, as Miss Teller left the
room. "When you are once accustomed to her height and blonde caps, you
will find her soft as a down coverlet."

Here Miss Teller returned. "My dear," she said, anxiously, addressing
Anne, "as to soap for the hands--what kind do you prefer?"

"Anne's hands are beautiful, and she will have the white soap in the
second box on the first shelf of the store-room--the rose; _not_ the
heliotrope, which is mine," said Helen, taking one of the young girl's
hands, and spreading out the firm taper fingers. "See her wrists! Now my
wrists are small too, but then there is nothing but wrist all the way
up."

"My dear, your arms have been much admired," said Miss Margaretta, with
a shade of bewilderment in her voice.

"Yes, because I choose they shall be. But when I spoke of Anne's hands,
I spoke artistically, aunt."

"Do you expect Mr. Blum to-day?" said Miss Teller.

"Oh no," said Helen, smiling. "Mr. Blum, Anne, is a poor artist whom
Aunt Gretta is cruel enough to dislike."

"Not on account of his poverty," said Miss Margaretta, "but on account
of my having half-brothers, with large families, all with weak lungs,
taking cold, I may say, at a breath--a mere breath; and Mr. Blum insists
upon coming here without overshoes when there has been a thaw, and
sitting all the evening in wet boots, which naturally makes me think of
my brothers' weak families, to say nothing of the danger to himself."

"Well, Mr. Blum is not coming. But Mr. Heathcote is."

"Ah."

"And Mr. Dexter may."

"I am always glad to see Mr. Dexter," said Aunt Margaretta.

Mr. Heathcote did not come; Mr. Dexter did. But Anne was driving with
Miss Teller, and missed the visit.

"A remarkable man," said the elder lady, as they sat at the dinner table
in the soft radiance of wax lights.

"You mean Mr. Blum?" said Helen. "This straw-colored jelly exactly
matches me, Anne."

"I mean Mr. Dexter," said Miss Teller, nodding her head impressively.
"Sent through college by the bounty of a relative (who died immediately
afterward, in the most reprehensible way, leaving him absolutely
nothing), Gregory Dexter, at thirty-eight, is to-day a man of modern and
distinct importance. Handsome--you do not contradict me there, Helen?"

"No, aunt."

"Handsome," repeated Miss Teller, triumphantly, "successful, moral,
kind-hearted, and rich--what would you have more? I ask you, Miss
Douglas, what would you have more?"

"Nothing," said Helen. "Anne has confided to me--nothing. Long live
Gregory Dexter! And I feel sure, too, that he will outlive us all. I
shall go first. You will see. I always wanted to be first in
everything--even the grave."

"My dear!" said Miss Margaretta.

"Well, aunt, now would you like to be last? Think how lonely you would
be. Besides, all the best places would be taken," said Helen, in
business-like tones, taking a spray of heliotrope from the vase before
her.

New-Year's Day was, in the eyes of Margaretta Teller, a solemn festival;
thought was given to it in June, preparation for it began in September.
Many a call was made at the house on that day which neither Miss
Margaretta, nor her niece, Mrs. Lorrington, attracted, but rather the
old-time dishes and the old-time punch on their dining-room table. Old
men with gouty feet, amateur antiquarians of mild but obstinate aspect,
to whom Helen was "a slip of a girl," and Miss Margaretta still too
youthful a person to be of much interest, called regularly on the old
Dutch holiday, and tasted this New-Year's punch. They cherished the idea
that they were thus maintaining the "solid old customs," and they spoke
to each other in moist, husky under-tones when they met in the hall, as
much as to say, "Ah, ah! you here? That's right--that's right. A
barrier, sir--a barrier against modern innovation!"

Helen had several friends besides Anne to assist her in receiving, and
the young island girl remained, therefore, more or less unnoticed, owing
to her lack of the ready, graceful smiles and phrases which are the
current coin of New-Year's Day. She passed rapidly through the different
phases of timidity, bewilderment, and fatigue; and then, when more
accustomed to the scene, she regained her composure, and even began to
feel amused. She ceased hiding behind the others; she learned to repeat
the same answers to the same questions without caring for their inanity;
she gave up trying to distinguish names, and (like the others) massed
all callers into a constantly arriving repetition of the same person,
who was to be treated with a cordiality as impersonal as it was
glittering. She tried to select Mr. Dexter, and at length decided that
he was a certain person standing near Helen--a man with brown hair and
eyes; but she was not sure, and Helen's manner betrayed nothing.

The fatiguing day was over at last, and then followed an hour or two of
comparative quiet; the few familiar guests who remained were glad to
sink down in easy-chairs, and enjoy connected sentences again. The faces
of the ladies showed fine lines extending from the nostril to the chin;
the muscles that had smiled so much were weary.

And now Anne discovered Gregory Dexter; and he was not the person she
had selected. Mr. Dexter was a tall, broad-shouldered man, with an
appearance of persistent vigor in his bearing, and a look of
determination in his strong, squarely cut jaw and chin. His face was
rather short, with good features and clear gray eyes, which met the
gazer calmly; and there was about him that air of self-reliance which
does not irritate in a large strong man, any more than imperiousness in
a beautiful woman.

The person with brown eyes proved to be Mr. Heathcote. He seemed
indolent, and contributed but few words to the general treasury of
conversation.

Mr. Blum was present also; but on this occasion he wore the peculiarly
new, shining, patent-leather boots dear to the hearts of his countrymen
on festal occasions, and Miss Teller's anxieties were quiescent. Helen
liked artists; she said that their ways were a "proud assertion that a
ray of beauty outvalued all the mere utilities of the world."

"Are bad boots rays of beauty?" inquired Miss Margaretta.

"Yes. That is, a man whose soul is uplifted by art may not always
remember his boots; to himself, no doubt, his feet seem winged."

"Very far from winged are Blum's feet," responded Miss Margaretta,
shaking her head gravely. "Very, very far."

Late in the evening, when almost all the guests had departed, Helen
seemed seized with a sudden determination to bring Anne into
prominence. Mr. Dexter still lingered, and the artist. Also Ward
Heathcote.

"Anne, will you sing now? First with me, then alone?" she said, going to
the piano.

A bright flush rose in Anne's face; the prominent blue eyes of the
German artist were fixed upon her; Gregory Dexter had turned toward her
with his usual prompt attention. Even the indolent Heathcote looked up
as Helen spoke. But having once decided to do a thing, Anne knew no way
save to do it; having accepted Helen's generous kindness, she must now
do what Helen asked in return. She rose in silence, and crossed the
brightly lighted room on her way to the piano. Few women walk well; by
well, is meant naturally. Helen was graceful; she had the lithe shape
and long step which give a peculiar swaying grace, like that of elm
branches. Yet Helen's walk belonged to the drawing-room, or at best the
city pavement; one could not imagine her on a country road. Anne's gait
was different. As she crossed the room alone, it drew upon her for the
first time the full attention of the three gentlemen who were present.
Blum stared gravely. Dexter's eyes moved up to her face, as if he saw it
now with new interest. Heathcote leaned back on the sofa with an amused
expression, glancing from Anne to Helen, as if saying, "I understand."

Anne wore one of Helen's gifts, a soft silk of pale gray, in deference
to her mourning garb; the dress was high over the shoulders, but cut
down squarely in front and behind, according to a fashion of the day.
The sleeves came to the elbow only; the long skirt was severely plain.
They had taken off their gloves, and the girl's beautiful arms were
conspicuous, as well as her round, full, white throat.

The American Venus is thin.

American girls are slight; they have visible collar-bones and elbows.
When they pass into the fullness of womanhood (if they pass at all), it
is suddenly, leaving no time for the beautiful pure virginal outlines
which made Anne Douglas an exception to her kind. Anne's walk was
entirely natural, her poise natural; yet so perfect were her
proportions that even Tante, artificial and French as she was, refrained
from the suggestions and directions as to step and bearing which
encircled the other pupils like an atmosphere.

The young girl's hair had been arranged by Helen's maid, under Helen's
own direction, in a plain Greek knot, leaving the shape of the head, and
the small ear, exposed; and as she stood by the piano, waiting, she
looked (as Helen had intended her to look) like some young creature from
an earlier world, startled and shy, yet too proud to run away.

They sang together; and in singing Anne recovered her self-possession.
Then Helen asked her to sing without accompaniment a little island
ballad which was one of her favorites, and leading her to the centre of
the room, left her there alone. Poor Anne! But, moved by the one desire
of pleasing Helen, she clasped her hands in simple child-like fashion,
and began to sing, her eyes raised slightly so as to look above the
faces of her audience. It was an old-fashioned ballad or chanson, in the
patois of the voyageurs, with a refrain in a minor key, and it told of
the vanishing of a certain petite Marie, and the sorrowing of her
mother--a common-place theme long drawn out, the constantly recurring
refrain, at first monotonous, becoming after a while sweet to the ear,
like the wash of small waves on a smooth beach. But it was the ending
upon which Helen relied for her effect. Suddenly the lament of the
long-winded mother ended, the time changed, and a verse followed
picturing the rapture of the lovers as they fled away in their
sharp-bowed boat, wing and wing, over the blue lake. Anne sang this as
though inspired; she forgot her audience, and sang as she had always
sung it on the island for Rast and the children. Her voice floated
through the house, she shaded her eyes with her hand, and leaned
forward, gazing, as though she saw the boat across the water, and then
she smiled, as, with a long soft note, the song ended.

But the instant it was over, her timidity came back with double force,
and she hastily sought refuge beside Helen, her voice gone, in her eyes
a dangerous nearness to tears.

There was now an outburst of compliments from Blum; but Helen kindly met
and parried them. Mr. Dexter began a few well-chosen sentences of
praise; but in the midst of his fluent adjectives, Anne glanced up so
beseechingly that he caught the mist in her eyes, and instantly ceased.
Nor was this all; he opened a discussion with Miss Teller, dragging in
Heathcote also (against the latter's will), and thus secured for Anne
the time to recover herself. She felt this quick kindness, and was
grateful. She decided that she liked him; and she wondered whether Helen
liked him also.

The next morning the fairy-time was over; she went back to school.



CHAPTER X.

     "There are three sorts of egoists: those who live themselves and
     let others live; those who live themselves and don't let others
     live; and those who neither live themselves nor let others live."

     "With thoughts and feelings very simple but very
     strong."--TOURGUÉNIEFF.


The winter passed. The new pupil studied with diligence, and insisted
upon learning the beginnings of piano-playing so thoroughly that the
resigned little German master with ear-rings woke up and began to ask
her whether she could not go through a course of ten years or so, and
become "a real blayer, not like American blayers, who vant all to learn
de same biece, and blay him mit de loud pedal down." Sometimes Helen
bore her away to spend a Sunday; but there were no more New-Year's Days,
or occasions for the gray silk. When together at Miss Teller's, the two
sat over the dressing-room fire at night, talking with that delightful
mixture of confidence and sudden little bits of hypocrisy in which women
delight, and which undress seems to beget. The bits of hypocrisy,
however, were all Helen's.

She had long ago gathered from Anne her whole simple history; she was
familiar with the Agency, the fort, Miss Lois, Père Michaux, Dr.
Gaston, Rast, Tita, and the boys, even old Antoine and his dogs, René
and Lebeau. Anne, glad to have a listener, had poured out a flood of
details from her lonely homesick heart, going back as far as her own
lost mother, and her young step-mother Angélique. But it was not until
one of these later midnight talks that the girl had spoken of her own
betrothal. Helen was much surprised--the only surprise she had shown. "I
should never have dreamed it, Crystal!" she exclaimed. "Never!" (Crystal
was her name for Anne.)

"Why not?"

"Because you are so--young."

"But it often happens at my age. The fort ladies were married at
eighteen and nineteen, and my own dear mother was only twenty."

"You adore this Rast, I suppose?"

"Yes, I like him."

"Nonsense! You mean that you adore him."

"Perhaps I do," said Anne, smiling. "I have noticed that our use of
words is different."

"And how long have you adored him?"

"All my life."

The little sentence came forth gravely and sincerely. Helen surveyed the
speaker with a quizzical expression in her narrow brown eyes. "No one
'adores' all one's life," she answered. Then, as Anne did not take up
the challenge, she paused, and, after surveying her companion in silence
for a moment, added, "There is no time fixed as yet for this marriage?"

"No; Rast has his position to make first. And I myself should be better
pleased to have four or five years to give to the children before we are
married. I am anxious to educate the boys."

"Bon!" said Helen. "All will yet end well, Virginie. My compliments to
Paul. It is a pretty island pastoral, this little romance of yours; you
have my good wishes."

The island pastoral was simple indeed compared with the net-work of
fancies and manœuvres disclosed by Helen. Her life seemed to be a drama.
Her personages were masked under fictitious names; the Poet, the
Haunted Man, the Knight-errant, the Chanting Tenor, and the Bishop, all
figured in her recitals, to which Anne listened with intense interest.
Helen was a brilliant story-teller. She could give the salient points of
a conversation, and these only. She colored everything, of course,
according to her own fancy; but one could forgive her that for her
skillful avoidance of dull details, whose stupid repetition, simply
because they are true, is a habit with which many good people are
afflicted.

The narrations, of course, were of love and lovers: it is always so in
the midnight talks of women over the dying fire. Even the most secluded
country girl will on such occasions unroll a list as long as
Leporello's. The listener may know it is fictitious, and the narrator
may know that she knows it. But there seems to be a fascination in the
telling and the hearing all the same.

Helen amused herself greatly over the deep interest Anne took in her
stories; to do her justice, they were generally true, the conversations
only being more dramatic than the reality had been. This was not Helen's
fault; she performed her own part brilliantly, and even went over, on
occasion, and helped on the other side. But the American man is not
distinguished for conversational skill. This comes, not from dullness or
lack of appreciation, but rather from overappreciation. Without the
rock-like slow self-confidence of the Englishman, the Frenchman's
never-failing wish to please, or the idealizing powers of the German,
the American, with a quicker apprehension, does not appear so well in
conversation as any one of these compeers. He takes in an idea so
quickly that elaborate comment seems to him hardly worth while; and thus
he only has a word or two where an Englishman has several
well-intentioned sentences, a Frenchman an epigram, and a German a whole
cloud of philosophical quotations and comments. But it is, more than all
else, the enormous strength which ridicule as an influence possesses in
America that makes him what he is; he shrinks from the slightest
appearance of "fine talking," lest the ever-present harpies of mirth
should swoop down and feed upon his vitals.

Helen's friends, therefore, might not always have recognized themselves
in her sparkling narratives, as far as their words were concerned; but
it is only justice to them to add that she was never obliged to
embellish their actions. She related to Anne apart, during their music
lessons, the latest events in a whisper, while Belzini gave two minutes
to cream candy and rest; the stories became the fairy tales of the
school-girl's quiet life. Through all, she found her interest more and
more attracted by "the Bishop," who seemed, however, to be anything but
an ecclesiastical personage.

Miss Vanhorn had been filled with profound astonishment and annoyance by
Helen's note. She knew Helen, and she knew Miss Teller: what could they
want of Anne? After due delay, she came in her carriage to find out.

Tante, comprehending her motive, sent Anne up stairs to attire herself
in the second dress given by Helen--a plain black costume, simply but
becomingly made, and employed the delay in talking to her visitor
mellifluously on every conceivable subject save the desired one. She
treated her to a dissertation on intaglii, to an argument or two on
architecture, and was fervently asking her opinion of certain recently
exhibited relics said to be by Benvenuto Cellini, when the door opened
and Anne appeared.

The young girl greeted her grandaunt with the same mixture of timidity
and hope which she had shown at their first interview. But Miss
Vanhorn's face stiffened into rigidity as she surveyed her.

"She is impressed at last," thought the old Frenchwoman, folding her
hands contentedly and leaning back in her chair, at rest (temporarily)
from her labors.

But if impressed, Miss Vanhorn had no intention of betraying her
impression for the amusement of her ancient enemy; she told Anne curtly
to put on her bonnet, that she had come to take her for a drive. Once
safely in the carriage, she extracted from her niece, who willingly
answered, every detail of her acquaintance with Helen, and the holiday
visit, bestowing with her own eyes, meanwhile, a close scrutiny upon the
black dress, with whose texture and simplicity even her angry annoyance
could find no fault.

"She wants to get something out of you, of course," she said, abruptly,
when the story was told; "Helen Lorrington is a thoroughly selfish
woman. I know her well. She introduced you, I suppose, as Miss Vanhorn's
niece?"

"Oh no, grandaunt. She has no such thought."

"What do you know of her thoughts! You continue to go there?"

"Sometimes, on Sundays--when she asks me."

"Very well. But you are not to go again when company is expected; I
positively forbid it. You were not brought down from your island to
attend evening parties. You hear me?"

"Yes."

"Perhaps you are planning for a situation here at Moreau's next winter?"
said the old woman, after a pause, peering at Anne suspiciously.

"I could not fill it, grandaunt; I could only teach in a country
school."

"At Newport, or some such place, then?"

"I could not get a position of that kind."

"Mrs. Lorrington could help you."

"I have not asked her to help me."

"I thought perhaps she had some such idea of her own," continued Miss
Vanhorn. "You can probably prop up that fife-like voice of hers in a way
she likes; and besides, you are a good foil for her, with your big
shoulders and bread-and-milk face. You little simpleton, don't you know
that to even the most skillful flirt a woman friend of some kind or
other is necessary as background and support?"

"No, I did not know it," said Anne, in a disheartened voice.

"What a friend for Helen Lorrington! No wonder she has pounced upon you!
You would never see one of her manœuvres, although done within an inch
of you. With your believing eyes, and your sincerity, you are worth your
weight in silver to that straw-faced mermaid. But, after all, I do not
interfere. Let her only obtain a good situation for you next year, and
pay you back in more useful coin than fine dresses, and I make no
objection."

She settled herself anew in the corner of the carriage, and began the
process of extracting a seed, while Anne, silent and dejected, gazed
into the snow-covered street, asking herself whether Helen and all this
world were really as selfish and hypocritical as her grandaunt
represented. But these thoughts soon gave way to the predominant one,
the one that always came to her when with Miss Vanhorn--the thought of
her mother.

"During the summer, do you still live in the old country house on the
Hudson, grandaunt?"

Miss Vanhorn, who had just secured a seed, dropped it. "I am not aware
that my old country house is anything to you," she answered, tartly,
fitting on her flapping glove-fingers, and beginning a second search.

A sob rose in Anne's throat; but she quelled it. Her mother had spent
all her life, up to the time of her marriage, at that old river
homestead.

Soon after this, Madame Moreau sent out cards of invitation for one of
her musical evenings. Miss Vanhorn's card was accompanied by a little
note in Tante's own handwriting.

       *       *       *       *       *

"The invitation is merely a compliment which I give myself the pleasure
of paying to a distinguished patron of my school" (wrote the old French
lady). "There will be nothing worthy of her ear--a simple school-girls'
concert, in which Miss Douglas (who will have the kind assistance of
Mrs. Lorrington) will take part. I can not urge, for so unimportant an
affair, the personal presence of Miss Vanhorn; but I beg her to accept
the inclosed card as a respectful remembrance from

"HORTENSE-PAULINE MOREAU."

       *       *       *       *       *

"That will bring her," thought Tante, sealing the missive, in her
old-fashioned way, with wax.

She was right; Miss Vanhorn came.

Anne sang first alone. Then with Helen.

"Isn't that Mrs. Lorrington?" said a voice behind Miss Vanhorn.

"Yes. My Louise tells me that she has taken up this Miss Douglas
enthusiastically--comes here to sing with her almost every day."

"Who is the girl?"

Miss Vanhorn prepared an especially rigid expression of countenance for
the item of relationship which she supposed would follow. But nothing
came; Helen was evidently waiting for a more dramatic occasion. She felt
herself respited; yet doubly angry and apprehensive.

When the song was ended, there was much applause of the subdued
drawing-room kind--applause, however, plainly intended for Helen alone.
Singularly enough, Miss Vanhorn resented this. "If I should take Anne,
dress her properly, and introduce her as my niece, the Lorrington would
be nowhere," she thought, angrily. It was the first germ of the idea.

It was not allowed to disappear. It grew and gathered strength slowly,
as Tante and Helen intended it should; the two friendly conspirators
never relaxed for a day their efforts concerning it. Anne remained
unconscious of these manœuvres; but the old grandaunt was annoyed, and
urged, and flattered, and menaced forward with so much skill that it
ended in her proposing to Anne, one day in the early spring, that she
should come and spend the summer with her, the children on the island to
be provided for meanwhile by an allowance, and Anne herself to have a
second winter at the Moreau school, if she wished it, so that she might
be fitted for a higher position than otherwise she could have hoped to
attain.

"Oh, grandaunt!" cried the girl, taking the old loosely gloved hand in
hers.

"There is no occasion for shaking hands and grandaunting in that way,"
said Miss Vanhorn. "If you wish to do what I propose, do it; I am not
actuated by any new affection for you. You will take four days to
consider; at the end of that period, you may send me your answer. But,
with your acceptance, I shall require the strictest obedience. And--no
allusion whatever to your mother."

"What are to be my duties?" asked Anne, in a low voice.

"Whatever I require," answered the old woman, grimly.

At first Anne thought of consulting Tante. But she had a strong
under-current of loyalty in her nature, and the tie of blood bound her
to her grandaunt, after all: she decided to consult no one but herself.
The third day was Sunday. In the twilight she sat alone on her narrow
bed, by the window of the dormitory, thinking. It was a boisterous March
evening; the wildest month of the twelve was on his mad errands as
usual. Her thoughts were on the island with the children; would it not
be best for them that she should accept the offered allowance, and go
with this strange grandaunt of hers, enduring as best she might her cold
severity? Miss Lois's income was small; the allowance would make the
little household comfortable. A second winter in New York would enable
her to take a higher place as teacher, and also give the self-confidence
she lacked. Yes; it was best.

But a great and overwhelming loneliness rose in her heart at the thought
of another long year's delay before she could be with those she loved.
Rast's last letter was in her pocket; she took it out, and held it in
her hand for comfort. In it he had written of the sure success of his
future; and Anne believed it as fully as he did. Her hand grew warmer as
she held the sheet, and as she recalled his sanguine words. She began to
feel courageous again. Then another thought came to her: must she tell
Miss Vanhorn of her engagement? In their new conditions, would it not be
dishonest to keep the truth back? "I do not see that it can be of any
interest to her," she said to herself. "Still, I prefer to tell her."
And then, having made her decision, she went to Tante.

Tante was charmed with the news (and with the success of her plan). She
discoursed upon family affection in very beautiful language. "You will
find a true well-spring of love in the heart of your venerable
relative," she remarked, raising her delicate handkerchief, like the
suggestion of a happiness that reached even to tears. "Long, long have I
held your cherished grandaunt in a warm corner of my memory and heart."

This was true as regarded the time and warmth; only the latter was of a
somewhat peppery nature.

The next morning Helen was told the news. She threw back her head in
comic despair. "The old dragon has taken the game out of my hands at
last," she said, "and ended all the sport. Excuse the title, Anne. But I
am morally certain she has all sorts of vinegarish names for me. And
now--am I to congratulate you upon your new home?"

"It is more a matter of duty, I think, than congratulation," said Anne,
thoughtfully. "And next, I must tell her of my engagement."

"I wouldn't, if I were you, Crystal."

"Why?"

"She would rather have you free."

"I shall be free, as far as she is concerned."

"Do not be too sure of that. And take my advice--do not tell her."

Anne, however, paid no heed to this admonition; some things she did
simply because she could not help doing them. She had intended to make
her little confession immediately; but Miss Vanhorn gave her no
opportunity. "That is enough talking," she said. "I have neuralgia in my
eyebrow."

"But, grandaunt, I feel that I ought to tell you."

"Tell me nothing. Don't you know how to be silent? Set about learning,
then. When I have neuralgia in my eyebrow, you are to speak only from
necessity; when I have it in the eye itself, you are not to speak at
all. Find me a caraway, and don't bungle."

She handed her velvet bag to Anne, and refitted the fingers of her
yellow glove: evidently the young girl's duties were beginning.

Several days passed, but the neuralgia always prevented the story. At
last the eyebrow was released, and then Anne spoke. "I wish to tell
you, grandaunt, before I come to you, that I am engaged--engaged to be
married."

"Who cares?" said Miss Vanhorn. "To the man in the moon, I suppose; most
school-girls are."

"No, to--"

"Draw up my shawl," interrupted the old woman. "_I_ do not care who it
is. Why do you keep on telling me?"

"Because I did not wish to deceive you."

"Wait till I ask you not to deceive me. Who is the boy?"

"His name is Erastus Pronando," began Anne; "and--"

"Pronando?" cried Katharine Vanhorn, in a loud, bewildered
voice--"Pronando? And his father's name?"

"John, I believe," said Anne, startled by the change in the old face.
"But he has been dead many years."

Old Katharine rose; her hands trembled, her eyes flashed. "You will give
up this boy at once and forever," she said, violently, "or my compact
with you is at an end."

"How can I, grandaunt? I have promised--"

"I believe I am mistress of my own actions; and in this affair I will
have no sort of hesitation," continued the old woman, taking the words
from Anne, and tapping a chair back angrily with her hand. "Decide
now--this moment. Break this engagement, and my agreement remains.
Refuse to break it, and it falls. That is all."

"You are unjust and cruel," said the girl, roused by these arbitrary
words.

Miss Vanhorn waved her hand for silence.

"If you will let me tell you, aunt--"

The old woman bounded forward suddenly, as if on springs, seized her
niece by both shoulders, and shook her with all her strength. "There!"
she said, breathless. "_Will_ you stop talking! All I want is your
answer--yes, or no."

The drawing-room of Madame Moreau had certainly never witnessed such a
sight as this. One of its young ladies shaken--yes, absolutely shaken
like a refractory child! The very chairs and tables seemed to tremble,
and visibly hope that there was no one in the _salon des élèves_,
behind.

Anne was more startled than hurt by her grandaunt's violence. "I am
sorry to displease you," she said, slowly and very gravely; "but I can
not break my engagement."

Without a word, Miss Vanhorn drew her shawl round her shoulders, pinned
it, crossed the room, opened the door, and was gone. A moment later her
carriage rolled away, and Anne, alone in the drawing-room, listened to
the sound of the wheels growing fainter and fainter, with a chilly
mixture of blank surprise, disappointment, and grief filling her heart.
"But it _was_ right that I should tell her," she said to herself as she
went up stairs--"it _was_ right."

Right and wrong always presented themselves to her as black and white.
She knew no shading. She was wrong; there are grays. But, so far in her
life, she had not been taught by sad experience to see them. "It _was_
right," she repeated to Helen, a little miserably, but still
steadfastly.

"I am not so sure of that," replied Mrs. Lorrington. "You have lost a
year's fixed income for those children, and a second winter here for
yourself; and for what? For the sake of telling the dragon something
which does not concern her, and which she did not wish to know."

"But it was true."

"Are we to go out with trumpets and tell everything we know, just
because it is true? Is there not such a thing as egotistical
truthfulness?"

"It makes no difference," said Anne, despairingly. "I had to tell her."

"You are stubborn, Crystal, and you see but one side of a question. But
never fear; we will circumvent the dragon yet. I wonder, though, why she
was so wrought up by the name Pronando? Perhaps Aunt Gretta will know."

Miss Teller did not know; but one of the husky-voiced old gentlemen who
kept up the "barrier, sir, against modern innovation," remembered the
particulars (musty and dusty now) of Kate Vanhorn's engagement to one of
the Pronandos--the wild one who ran away. He was younger than she was, a
handsome fellow (yes, yes, he remembered it all now), and "she was
terribly cut up about it, and went abroad immediately." Abroad--great
panacea for American woes! To what continent can those who live "abroad"
depart when trouble seizes _them_ in its pitiless claws?

Time is not so all-erasing as we think. Old Katharine Vanhorn, at
seventy, heard from the young lips of her grandniece the name which had
not been mentioned in her presence for nearly half a century--the name
which still had power to rouse in her heart the old bitter feeling. For
John Pronando had turned from her to an uneducated common girl--a
market-gardener's daughter. The proud Kate Vanhorn resented the
defection instantly; she broke the bond of her betrothal, and sailed for
England before Pronando realized that she was offended. This idyl of the
gardener's daughter was but one of his passing amusements; and so he
wrote to his black-browed goddess. But she replied that if he sought
amusement of that kind during the short period of betrothal, he would
seek it doubly after marriage, and _then_ it would not be so easy to
sail for Europe. She considered that she had had an escape. Pronando,
handsome, light-hearted, and careless, gave up his offended Juno without
much heartache, and the episode of Phyllis being by this time finished,
he strayed back to his Philadelphia home, to embroil himself as usual
with his family, and, later, to follow out the course ordained for him
by fate. Kate Vanhorn had other suitors; but the old wound never healed.

"Come and spend the summer with me," said Helen. "I trust I am as
agreeable as the dragon."

"No; I must stay here. Even as it is, she is doing a great deal for me;
I have no real claim upon her," replied Anne, trying not to give way to
the loneliness that oppressed her.

"Only that of being her nearest living relative, and natural heir."

"I have not considered the question of inheritance," replied the island
girl, proudly.

"I know you have not; yet it is there. Old ladies, however, instead of
natural heirs, are apt to prefer unnatural ones--cold-blooded Societies,
Organizations, and the endless Heathen. But I am in earnest about the
summer, Crystal: spend it with me."

"You are always generous to me," said Anne, gratefully.

"No; I never was generous in my life. I do not know how to be generous.
But this is the way it is: I am rich; I want a companion; and I like
_you_. Your voice supports mine perfectly, and is not in the least too
loud--a thing I detest. Besides, we look well together. You are an
excellent background for me; you make me look poetic; whereas most women
make me look like a caricature of myself--of what I really am. As though
a straw-bug should go out walking with a very attenuated grasshopper.
Now if the straw-bug went out always with a plump young toad or
wood-turtle, people might be found to admire even _his_ hair-like
fineness of limb and yellow transparency, by force, you know, of
contrast."

Anne laughed; but there was also a slight change of expression in her
face.

"I can read you, Crystal," said Helen, laughing in her turn. "Old
Katharine has already told you all those things--sweet old lady! She
understands me so well! Come; call it selfishness or generosity, as you
please; but accept."

"It is generosity, Helen; which, however, I must decline."

"It must be very inconvenient to be so conscientious," said Mrs.
Lorrington. "But mind, I do not give it up. What! lose so good a
listener as you are? To whom, then, can I confide the latest particulars
respecting the Poet, the Bishop, the Knight-errant, and the Haunted
Man?"

"I like the Bishop," said Anne, smiling back at her friend. She had
acquired the idea, without words, that Helen liked him also.

The story of Miss Vanhorn's change was, of course, related to Tante:
Anne had great confidence both in the old Frenchwoman's kindness of
heart and excellent judgment.

Tante listened, asked a question or two, and then said: "Yes, yes, I
see. For the present, nothing more can be done. She will allow you to
finish your year here, and as the time is of value to you, you shall
continue your studies through the vacation. But not at my New Jersey
farm, as she supposes; at a better place than that. You shall go to
Pitre."

"A place, Tante?"

"No; a friend of mine, and a woman."

Mademoiselle Jeanne-Armande Pitre was not so old as Tante (Tante had
friends of all ages); she was about fifty, but conveyed the impression
of never having been young. "She is an excellent teacher," continued the
other Frenchwoman, "and so closely avaricious that she will be glad to
take you even for the small sum you will pay. She is employed in a
Western seminary somewhere, but always returns to this little house of
hers for the summer vacation. Your opportunity for study with her will
be excellent; she has a rage for study. Write and tell your grandaunt,
ma fille, what I have decided."

"Ma fille" wrote; but Miss Vanhorn made no reply.

Early in June, accompanied by "monsieur," Anne started on her little
journey. The German music master said farewell with hearty regret. He
was leaving also; he should not be with Madame Moreau another winter, he
said. The Italian atmosphere stifled him, and the very sight of Belzini
made him "dremble vit a er-righteous er-rage." He gave Anne his address,
and begged that she would send to him when she wanted new music; "music
_vort_ someding." Monsieur Laurent, Anne's escort, was a nephew of
Tante's, a fine-looking middle-aged Frenchman, who taught the verbs with
a military air. But it was not so much his air as his dining-room which
gave him importance in the eyes of the school. The "salle à manger de
monsieur" was a small half-dark apartment, where he took his meals by
himself. It was a mysterious place; monsieur was never seen there; it
was not known even at what hour he dined. But there were stories in
whispered circulation of soups, sauces, salads, and wines served there
in secret, which made the listeners hungry even in the mere recital.
They peered into the dim little room as they passed, but never saw
anything save a brown linen table-cloth, an old caster, and one chair.
It was stated, however, that this caster was not a common caster, but
that it held, instead of the ordinary pepper and mustard, various
liquids and spices of mysterious nature, delightfully and wickedly
French.

In less than an hour the travellers reached Lancaster. Here monsieur
placed Anne in a red wagon which was in waiting, said good-by hastily
(being, perhaps, in a hurry to return to his dining-room), and caught
the down train back to the city. He had lived in America so long that he
could hurry like a native.

The old horse attached to the red wagon walked slowly over a level
winding road, switching his tail to and fro, and stopping now and then
to cough, with the profundity which only a horse's cough possesses. At
last, turning into a field, he stopped before what appeared to be a
fragment of a house.

"Is this the place?" said Anne, surprised.

"It's Miss Peter's," replied the boy driver.

The appearance of Mademoiselle Pitre in person at the door now removed
all doubt as to her abode. "I am glad to see you," she said, extending a
long yellow hand. "Enter."

The house, which had never been finished, was old; the sides and back
were of brick, and the front of wood, temporarily boarded across. The
kitchen and one room made all the depth; above, there were three small
chambers. After a while, apparently, windows and a front door had been
set in the temporary boarding, and a flight of steps added. Mademoiselle
had bought the house in its unfinished condition, and had gradually
become an object of great unpopularity in the neighborhood because, as
season after season rolled by, she did nothing more to her purchase.
What did she mean, then? Simple comment swelled into suspicion; the
penny-saving old maid was now considered a dark and mysterious person at
Lancaster. Opinions varied as to whether she had committed a crime in
her youth, or intended to commit one in her age. At any rate, she was
not like other people--in the country a heinous crime.

The interior of this half-house was not uncomfortable, although arranged
with the strictest economy. The chief room had been painted a brilliant
blue by the skillful hands of mademoiselle herself; there was no carpet,
but in summer one can spare a carpet; and Anne thought the bright color,
the growing plants and flowers, the gayly colored crockery, the four
white cats, the sunshine, and the cool open space unfilled by furniture,
quaintly foreign and attractive.

The mistress of the house was tall and yellow. She was attired in a
black velvet bodice, and a muslin skirt whereon a waving design, like an
endless procession of spindling beet roots, or fat leeches going round
and round, was depicted in dark crimson. This muslin was secretly
admired in the neighborhood; but as mademoiselle never went to church,
and, what was worse, made no change in her dress on the Sabbath-day, it
was considered a step toward rationalism to express the liking.

Anne slept peacefully on her narrow bed, and went down to a savory
breakfast the next morning. The old Irish servant, Nora, who came out
from the city every summer to live with mademoiselle, prepared with
skill the few dishes the careful mistress ordered. But when the meal was
over, Anne soon discovered that the careful mistress was also an expert
in teaching. Her French, Italian, music, and drawing were all reviewed
and criticised, and then Jeanne-Armande put on her bonnet, and told her
pupil to make ready for her first lesson in botany.

"Am I to study botany?" said Anne, surprised.

[Illustration: IN THE WOODS.]

"All study botany who come to me," replied Jeanne-Armande, much in the
tone of "Lasciate ogni speranza voi ch' entrate." "Is that all the
bonnet you have? It is far too fine. I will buy you a Shaker at the
shop." And with her tin flower case slung from her shoulder, she
started down the road toward the country store at the corners; here
she bought a Shaker bonnet for her pupil, selecting one that was bent,
and demanding a reduction in price in consequence of the "irreparable
injury to the fibre of the fabric." The shop-keeper, an anxious little
man with a large family, did his best to keep on good terms with "the
foreigner" privately, and to preserve on other occasions that appearance
of virtuous disapproval which the neighborhood required of him. He lived
haunted by a fear lest the Frenchwoman and her chief detractors should
meet face to face in the narrow confines of his domain; and he had long
determined that in case of such event he would be down in the cellar
drawing molasses--an operation universally known to consume time. But
the sword of Damocles does not fall; in this instance, as in others,
mademoiselle departed in safety, bearing Anne away to the woods, her
face hidden in the depths of the Shaker.

Wild flowers, that seem so fresh and young, are, singularly enough, the
especial prey of old maids. Young girls love the garden flowers;
beautiful women surround themselves with hot-house hues and perfumes.
But who goes into the woods, explores the rocky glens, braves the
swamps? Always the ardent-hearted old maid, who, in her plain garb and
thick shoes, is searching for the delicate little wild blossoms, the
world over.

Jeanne-Armande had an absorbing love for flowers, a glowing enthusiasm
for botany. She now taught Anne the flower study with what Tante would
have called "a rage." More than once the pupil thought how strange it
was that fate should have forced into her hands at this late hour the
talisman that might once have been the key to her grandaunt's favor. It
did not occur to her that Tante was the Fate.

Letters had come from all on the island, and from Rast. Regarding her
course in telling Miss Vanhorn of her engagement, Miss Lois wrote that
it was "quite unnecessary," and Dr. Gaston that it was "imprudent." Even
Rast (this was hardest to bear) had written, "While I am proud, dearest,
to have your name linked with mine, still, I like better to think of the
time when I can come and claim you in person, in the face of all the
grandaunts in the world, who, if they _knew_ nothing, could not in the
mean time harass and annoy you."

Père Michaux made no comment. Anne looked through Tita's letters for
some time expectantly, but no message in his small, clear handwriting
appeared.

The weeks passed. The pupil learned the real kindness of the teacher,
and never thought of laughing at her oddities, until--Helen came.

For Helen came: on her way home from her grandfather's bedside, whither
she had been summoned (as usual two or three times each year) "to see
him die."

"Grandpapa always recovers as soon as I enter the door," she said. "I
should think he would insist upon my living there as a safeguard! This
time I did not even see him--he did not wish me in the room; and so,
having half a day to spare, I decided to send my maid on, and stop over
and see _you_, Crystal."

Anne, delighted and excited, sat looking at her friend with happy eyes.
"I am so glad, glad, to see you!" she said.

"Then present me to your hostess and jailer. For I intend to remain
overnight, and corrupt the household."

Jeanne-Armande was charmed with their visitor; she said she was "a lady
decidedly as it should be." Helen accompanied them on their botany walk,
observed the velvet bodice and beet-root muslin, complimented the
ceremonious courses of the meagre little dinner, and did not laugh until
they were safely ensconced in Anne's cell for the night.

"But, Crystal," she said, when she had imitated Jeanne-Armande, and Anne
herself as pupil, with such quick and ridiculous fidelity that Anne was
obliged to bury her face in the pillow to stifle her laughter, "I have a
purpose in coming here. The old dragon has appeared at Caryl's, where
Aunt Gretta and I spent last summer, and where we intend to spend the
remainder of this; she is even there to-night, caraway seeds, malice,
and all. Now I want you to go back with me, as my guest for a week or
two, and together we will annihilate her."

"Do not call her by that name, Helen."

"Not respectful enough? Grand Llama, then; the double l scintillates
with respect. The Grand Llama being present, I want to bring you on the
scene as a charming, botanizing, singing niece whom she has strangely
neglected. Will you go?"

"Of course I can not."

"You have too many principles; and, mind you, principles are often
shockingly egotistical and selfish. I would rather have a mountain of
sins piled up against me on the judgment-day, and a crowd of friends
whom I had helped and made happy, than the most snowy empty pious record
in the world, and no such following."

"One does not necessitate the other," said Anne, after her usual pause
when with Helen: she was always a little behind Helen's fluent phrases.
"One can have friends without sins."

"Wait and see," said Helen.

In the morning the brilliant visitor took her departure, and the
half-house fell back into its usual quietude. Anne did not go with
Helen; but Helen avowed her purpose of bringing her to Caryl's yet, in
spite of fate. "I am not easily defeated," she said. "When I wish a
thing, it always happens. But, like the magicians, nobody notices how
hard I have worked to have it happen."

She departed. And within a week she filled Caryl's with descriptions of
Jeanne-Armande, the velvet bodice, the beet-root skirt, the blue room,
the white cats, and the dinner, together with the solitary pupil, whose
knowledge of _botany_ was something unparalleled in the history of the
science. Caryl's was amused with the descriptions, and cared nothing for
the reality. But when Miss Vanhorn heard the tale, it was the reality
that menaced her. No one knew as yet the name of the solitary pupil, nor
the relationship to herself; but of course Mrs. Lorrington was merely
biding her time. What was her purpose? In her heart she pondered over
this new knowledge of botany, expressly paraded by Helen; her own eyes
and hands were not as sure and deft as formerly. Sometimes now when she
stooped to gather a flower, it was only a leaf with the sun shining on
it, or a growth of fungus, yellowly white. "Of course it is all a plan
of old Moreau's," she said to herself. "Anne would never have thought of
studying botany to gain my favor; she hasn't wit enough. It is old
Moreau and the Lorrington together. Let us see what will be their next
step."

But Helen merely decorated her stories, and told nothing new. One day
some one asked: "But who is this girl? All this while you have not told
us; nor the place where this remarkable half-house is."

"I am not at liberty to tell," replied Helen's clear even voice. "That
is not permitted--at present."

Miss Vanhorn fidgeted in her corner, and put up her glass to catch any
wandering expressions that might be turning in her direction; but there
were none. "She is giving me a chance of having Anne here peaceably,"
she thought. "If, after a reasonable time, I do not accept it, she will
declare war, and the house will ring with my hard-heartedness.
Fortunately I do not care for hard-heartedness."

She went off on her solitary drive; mistook two flowers; stumbled and
hurt her ankle; lost her magnifying-glass. On her way home she sat and
meditated. It would be comfortable to have young eyes and hands to
assist her. Also, if Anne was really there in person, then, when all the
duets were sung, and the novelty (as well as difficulty) over, Mrs.
Lorrington would be the first to weary of her protégée, and would let
her fall like a faded leaf. And that would be the end of that. Here a
sudden and new idea came to her: might not this very life at Caryl's
break up, of itself, the engagement which was so obnoxious? If she
should bring Anne here and introduce her as her niece, might not her
very ignorance of the world and crude simplicity attract the attention
of some of the loungers at Caryl's, who, if they exerted themselves,
would have little difficulty in effacing the memory of that boy on the
island? They would not, of course, be in earnest, but the result would
be accomplished all the same. Anne was impressionable, and truthfulness
itself. Yes, it could be done.

Accompanied by her elderly maid, she went back to New York; and then out
to the half-house.

"I have changed my mind," she announced, abruptly, taking her seat upon
Jeanne-Armande's hard sofa. "You are to come with me. This is the blue
room, I suppose; and there are the four cats. Where is the bodiced
woman? Send her to me; and go pack your clothes immediately."

"Am I to go to Caryl's--where Helen is?" said Anne, in excited surprise.

"Yes; you will see your Helen. You understand, I presume, that she is at
the bottom of all this."

"But--do you like Helen, grandaunt?"

"I am extremely fond of her," replied Miss Vanhorn, dryly. "Run and make
ready; and send the bodiced woman to me. I give you half an hour; no
longer."

Jeanne-Armande came in with her gliding step. In her youth a lady's
footfall was never heard. She wore long narrow cloth gaiters without
heels, met at the ankles by two modest ruffles, whose edges were visible
when the wind blew. The exposure of even a hair's-breadth rim of ankle
would have seemed to her an unpardonable impropriety. However, there was
no danger; the ruffles swept the ground.

The Frenchwoman was grieved to part with her pupil; she had conceived a
real affection for her in the busy spot which served her as a heart. She
said good-by in the privacy of the kitchen, that Miss Vanhorn might not
see the tears in her eyes; then she returned to the blue room and went
through a second farewell, with a dignity appropriate to the occasion.

"Good-by," said Anne, coming back from the doorway to kiss her thin
cheek a second time. Then she whispered: "I may return to you after all,
mademoiselle. Do not forget me."

"The dear child!" said Jeanne-Armande, waving her handkerchief as the
carriage drove away. And there was a lump in her yellow old throat which
did not disappear all day.



CHAPTER XI.

     "Those who honestly make their own way without the aid of fortunate
     circumstances and by the force of their own intelligence. This
     includes the great multitude of Americans."

     --GEORGE WILLIAM CURTIS.

     "He is a good fellow, spoiled. Whether he can be unspoiled, is
     doubtful. It might be accomplished by the Blessing we call Sorrow."


When the two travellers arrived at Caryl's, Helen was gone. Another
telegraphic dispatch had again summoned her to her frequently dying
grandfather.

"You are disappointed," said Miss Vanhorn.

"Yes, grandaunt."

"You will have all the more time to devote to me," said the old woman,
with her dry little laugh.

Caryl's was a summer resort of an especial kind. Persons who dislike
crowds, persons who seek novelty, and, above all, persons who spend
their lives in carefully avoiding every thing and place which can even
remotely be called popular, combine to make such nooks, and give them a
brief fame--a fame which by its very nature must die as suddenly as it
is born. Caryl's was originally a stage inn, or "tarvern," in the
dialect of the district. But the stage ran no longer, and as the railway
was several miles distant, the house had become as isolated as the old
road before its door, which went literally nowhere, the bridge which had
once spanned the river having fallen into ruin. Some young men belonging
to those New York families designated by Tante as "Neeker-bokers"
discovered Caryl's by chance, and established themselves there as a
place free from new people, with some shooting, and a few trout. The
next summer they brought their friends, and from this beginning had
swiftly grown the present state of things, namely, two hundred persons
occupying the old building and hastily erected cottages, in rooms which
their city servants would have refused with scorn.

The crowd of summer travellers could not find Caryl's; Caryl's was not
advertised. It was not on the road to anywhere. It was a mysterious
spot. The vogue of such places changes as fantastically as it is
created; the people who make it take flight suddenly, and never return.
If it exist at all, it falls into the hands of another class; and there
is a great deal of wondering (deservedly) over what was ever found
attractive in it. The nobler ocean beaches, grand mountains, and
bounteous springs will always be, must always be, popular; it is
Nature's ironical method, perhaps, of forcing the would-be exclusives to
content themselves with her second best, after all.

Caryl's, now at the height of its transient fame, was merely a quiet
nook in the green country, with no more attractions than a hundred
others; but the old piazza was paced by the little high-heeled shoes of
fashionable women, the uneven floors swept by their trailing skirts.
French maids and little bare-legged children sported in the
old-fashioned garden, and young men made up their shooting parties in
the bare office, and danced in the evening--yes, really danced, not
leaving it superciliously to the boys--in the rackety bowling-alley,
which, refloored, did duty as a ball-room. There was a certain woody,
uncloying flavor about Caryl's (so it was asserted), which could not
exist amid the gilding of Saratoga. All this Miss Vanhorn related to her
niece on the day of their arrival. "I do not expect you to understand
it," she said; "but pray make no comment; ask no question. Accept
everything, and then you will pass."

Aunt and niece had spent a few days in New York, _en route_. The old
lady was eccentric about her own attire; she knew that she could afford
to be eccentric. But for her niece she purchased a sufficient although
simple supply of summer costumes, so that the young girl made her
appearance among the others without attracting especial attention.
Helen was not there; no one identified Miss Douglas as the _rara avis_
of her fantastic narrations. And there was no surface sparkle about
Anne, none of the usual girlish wish to attract attention, which makes
the eyes brighten, the color rise, and the breath quicken when entering
a new circle.

That old woman of the world, Katharine Vanhorn, took no step to attract
notice to her niece. She knew that Anne's beauty was of the kind that
could afford to wait; people would discover it for themselves. Anne
remained, therefore, quietly by her side through several days, while
she, not unwilling at heart to have so fresh a listener, talked on and
instructed her. Miss Vanhorn was not naturally brilliant, but she was
one of those society women who, in the course of years of fashionable
life, have selected and retained for their own use excellent bits of
phrasing not original with themselves, idiomatic epithets, a way of
neatly describing a person in a word or two as though you had ticketed
him, until the listener really takes for brilliancy what is no more than
a thread-and-needle shop of other people's wares.

"Any man," she said, as they sat in the transformed bowling-alley--"any
man, no matter how insignificant and unattractive, can be made to
believe that any woman, no matter how beautiful or brilliant, is in love
with him, at the expense of two looks and one sigh."

"But who cares to make him believe?" said Anne, with the unaffected,
cheerful indifference which belonged to her, and which had already
quieted Miss Vanhorn's fears as to any awkward self-consciousness.

"Most women."

"Why?"

"To swell their trains," replied the old woman. "Isabel Varce, over
there in blue, and Rachel Bannert, the one in black, care for nothing
else."

"Mrs. Bannert is very ugly," said Anne, with the calm certainty of
girlhood.

"Oh, is she?" said Miss Vanhorn, laughing shortly. "You will change your
mind, my Phyllis; you will learn that a dark skin and half-open eyes are
superb."

"If _Helen_ was here, people would see real beauty," answered Anne, with
some scorn.

"They are a contrast, I admit; opposite types. But we must not be
narrow, Phyllis; you will find that people continue to look at Mrs.
Bannert, no matter who is by. Here is some one who seems to know you."

"Mr. Dexter," said Anne, as the tall form drew near. "He is a friend of
Helen's."

"Helen has a great many friends. However, I happen to have heard of this
Mr. Dexter. You may present him to me--I hope you know how."

All Madame Moreau's pupils knew how. Anne performed her task properly,
and Dexter, bringing forward one of the old broken-backed chairs (which
formed part of the "woody and uncloying flavor" of Caryl's), sat down
beside them.

"I am surprised that you remembered me, Mr. Dexter," said the girl. "You
saw me but once, and on New-Year's Day too, among so many."

"But you remembered me, Miss Douglas."

"That is different. You were kind to me--about the singing. It is
natural that I should remember."

"And why not as natural that I should remember the singing?"

"Because it was not good enough to have made any especial impression,"
replied Anne, looking at him calmly with her clear violet eyes.

"It was at least new--I mean the simplicity of the little ballad," said
Dexter, ceasing to compliment, and speaking only the truth.

"Simplicity!" said Miss Vanhorn: "I am tired of it. I hope, Anne, you
will not sing any simplicity songs here; those ridiculous things about
bringing an ivy leaf, only an ivy leaf, and that it was but a little
faded flower. They show an extremely miserly spirit, I think. If you can
not give your friends a whole blossom or a fresh one, you had better not
give them any at all."

"Who was it who said that he was sated with poetry about flowers, and
that if the Muses must come in everywhere, he wished they would not
always come as green-grocers?" said Dexter, who knew perfectly the home
of this as of every other quotation, but always placed it in that way to
give people an opportunity of saying, "Charles Lamb, wasn't it?" or
"Sheridan?" It made conversation flowing.

"The flowers do not need the Muses," said Miss Vanhorn--"slatternly
creatures, with no fit to their gowns. And that reminds me of what Anne
was saying as you came up, Mr. Dexter; she was calmly and decisively
observing that Mrs. Bannert was very ugly."

A smile crossed Dexter's face in answer to the old woman's short dry
laugh.

"I added that if Mrs. Lorrington was here, people would see real
beauty," said Anne, distressed by this betrayal, but standing by her
guns.

Miss Vanhorn laughed again. "Mr. Dexter particularly admires Mrs.
Bannert, child," she said, cheerfully, having had the unexpected
amusement of two good laughs in an evening.

But Anne, instead of showing embarrassment, turned her eyes toward
Dexter, as if in honest inquiry.

"Mrs. Bannert represents the Oriental type of beauty," he answered,
smiling, as he perceived her frank want of agreement.

"Say creole," said Miss Vanhorn. "It is a novelty, child, which has made
its appearance lately; a reaction after the narrow-chested type which
has so long in America held undisputed sway. We absolutely take a
quadroon to get away from the consumptive, blue-eyed saint, of whom we
are all desperately tired."

"New York city is now developing a type of its own, I think," said
Dexter. "You can tell a New York girl at a glance when you meet her in
the West or the South. Women walk more in the city than they do
elsewhere, and that has given them a firm step and bearing, which are
noticeable."

"To think of comparisons between different parts of this raw land of
ours, as though they had especial characteristics of their own!" said
Miss Vanhorn, looking for a seed.

"You have not traveled much in this country, I presume," said Dexter.

"No, man, no. When I travel, I go abroad."

"I have never been abroad," answered Dexter, quietly. "But I can see a
difference between the people of Massachusetts and the people of South
Carolina, the people of Philadelphia and the people of San Francisco,
which is marked and of the soil. I even think that I can tell a
Baltimore, Buffalo, Chicago, Louisville, or St. Louis family at sight."

"You go to all those places?" said Miss Vanhorn, half closing her eyes,
and speaking in a languid voice, as if the subject was too remote for
close attention.

"Yes. You are not aware that I am a business man."

"Ah? What is it you do?" said the old woman, who knew perfectly Dexter's
entire history, but wanted to hear his own account of himself.

"I am interested in iron; that is, I have iron mills, and--other
things."

"Exactly; as you say--other things. Does that mean politics?"

"Partly," said Dexter, smiling.

"And oil?"

"No. I have never had any opportunity to coin gold with the Aladdin's
lamp found in Pennsylvania. There is no magic in any of my occupations;
they are all regular and commonplace."

"Are you in Congress now?"

"No; I was only there one term."

"A bore, isn't it?"

"Not to me."

"Congress is always a riot," said Miss Vanhorn, still with her eyes
closed.

"I can not agree with you," said Dexter, his face taking on one of its
resolute expressions. "I have small patience with those Americans who
affect to be above any interest in the government of the country in
which they live. It _is_ their country, and they can no more alter that
fact than they can change their plain grandfathers into foreign
noblemen."

"Dear me! dear me!" said Miss Vanborn, carelessly. "You talk to me as if
I were a mass-meeting."

"I beg your pardon," said Dexter, his former manner returning. "I forgot
for the moment that no one is in earnest at Caryl's."

"By-the-way, how did _you_ ever get in here?" said Miss Vanhorn, with
frank impertinence.

"I came because I like to see all sides of society," he replied, smiling
down upon her with amused eyes.

"Give me your arm. You amount to something," said the old woman, rising.
"We will walk up and down for a few moments; and, Anne, you can come
too."

"I am almost sure that he is Helen's Knight-errant," thought Anne. "And
I like him _very_ much."

A niece of Miss Vanhorn's could not of course be slighted. The next day
Isabel Varce came up and talked a while; later, Mrs. Bannert and the
others followed. Gregory Dexter was with aunt and niece frequently; and
Miss Vanhorn was pleased to be very gracious. She talked to him herself
most of the time, while Anne watched the current of the new life round
her. Other men had been presented to her; and among them she thought she
recognized the Chanting Tenor and the Poet of Helen's narratives. She
could not write to Helen; the eccentric grandfather objected to letters.
"Fools and women clog the mails," was one of his favorite assertions.
But although Anne could not write, Helen could smuggle letters
occasionally into the outgoing mail-bags, and when she learned that Anne
was at Caryl's, she wrote immediately. "Have you seen Isabel Varce yet?"
ran the letter. "And Rachel Bannert? The former is my dearest rival, the
latter my deadliest friend. Use your eyes, I beg. What amusement I shall
have hearing your descriptions when I come! For of course you will make
the blindest mistakes. However, a blind man has been known to see
sometimes what other people have never discovered. How is the Grand
Llama? I conquered her at last, as I told you I should. With a high
pressure of magnanimity. But it was all for my own sake; and now,
behold, I am here! But you can study the Bishop, the Poet, the Tenor,
and the Knight-errant in the flesh; how do you like the Knight?"

"This place is a prison," wrote Helen, again; "and I am in the mean time
consumed with curiosity to know _what_ is going on at Caryl's. Please
answer my letters, and put the answers away until I come; it is the only
method I can think of by which I can get the aroma of each day. Or,
rather, not the aroma, but the facts; you do not know much of aromas. If
facts were 'a divine thing' to Frederick the Great (Mr. Dexter told me
that, of course), they are certainly extremely solemn to you. Tell me,
then, what everybody is doing. And particularly the Bishop and the
Knight-errant."

And Anne answered the letters faithfully, telling everything she
noticed, especially as to Dexter. Who the Bishop was she had not been
able to decide.

In addition to the others, Ward Heathcote had now arrived at Caryl's,
also Mr. Blum.

In the mean time Miss Vanhorn had tested without delay her niece's new
knowledge of botany. Her face was flushed and her hand fairly trembled
with eagerness as she gave Anne her first wild flower, and ordered her
to analyze it. Would she blunder, or show herself dull and incompetent?
One thing was certain: no pretended zeal could deceive old
Katharine--she knew the reality too well.

But there was no pretense. Anne, honest as usual, analyzed the flower
with some mistakes, but with real interest; and the keen black eyes
recognized the genuine hue of the feeling, as far as it went. After that
initiation, every morning they drove to the woods, and Anne searched in
all directions, coming back loaded down with spoil. Every afternoon
there followed analyzing, pressing, drying, and labelling, for hours.

"Pray leave the foundations of our bridge intact," called Isabel Varce,
passing on horseback, accompanied by Ward Heathcote, and looking down at
Anne digging up something on the bank below, while at a little distance
Miss Vanhorn's coupé was waiting, with the old lady's hard face looking
out through the closed window.

Anne laughed, and turned her face, glowing with rose-color, upward to
look at them.

"Do you like that sort of thing?" said Isabel, pausing, having noted at
a glance that the young girl was attired in old clothes, and appeared in
every way at a disadvantage. She had no especial malice toward Anne in
this; she merely acted on general principles as applied to all of her
own sex. But even the most acute feminine minds make mistakes on one
subject, namely, they forget that to a man dress is not the woman. Anne,
in her faded gown, down on the muddy bank, with her hat off, her boots
begrimed, and her zeal for the root she was digging up, seemed to Ward
Heathcote a new and striking creature. The wind ruffled her thick brown
hair and blew it into little rings and curls about her face, her eyes,
unflinching in the brilliant sunshine, laughed back at them as they
looked over the railing; the lines of her shoulder and extended arms
were of noble beauty. To a woman's eyes a perfect sleeve is of the
highest importance; it did not occur to Isabel that through the ugly,
baggy, out-of-date sleeve down there on the bank, the wind, sturdily
blowing, was revealing an arm whose outline silk and lace could never
rival. Satisfied with her manœuvre, she rode on: Anne certainly looked
what all women would have called "a fright."

Yet that very evening Heathcote approached, recalled himself to Miss
Vanhorn's short memory, and, after a few moments of conversation, sat
down beside Anne, who received him with the same frank predisposition to
be pleased which she gave to all alike. Heathcote was not a talker like
Dexter; he seemed to have little to say at any time. He was one of a
small and unimportant class in the United States, which would be very
offensive to citizens at large if it came in contact with them; but it
seldom does. To this class there is no city in America save New York,
and New York itself is only partially endurable. National reputations
are nothing, politics nothing. Money is necessary, and ought to be
provided in some way; and generally it is, since without it this class
could not exist in a purely democratic land. But it is inherited, not
made. It may be said that simply the large landed estates acquired at an
early date in the vicinity of the city, and immensely increased in value
by the growth of the metropolis, have produced this class, which,
however, having no barriers, can never be permanent, or make to itself
laws. Heathcote's great-grandfather was a landed proprietor in
Westchester County; he had lived well, and died at a good old age, to be
succeeded by his son, who also lived well, and died not so well, and
poorer than his father. The grandson increased the ratio in both cases,
leaving to his little boy, Ward, but a small portion of the original
fortune, and departing from the custom of the house in that he died
early. The boy, without father, mother, brother, or sister, grew up
under the care of guardians, and, upon coming of age, took possession of
the remnant left to him. A good portion of this he himself had lost, not
so much from extravagance, however, as carelessness. He had been abroad,
of course, and had adopted English ways, but not with any violence. He
left that to others. He passed for good-natured in the main; he was not
restless. He was quite willing that other men should have more luxuries
than he had--a yacht, for instance, or fine horses; he felt no
irritation on the subject. On the other hand, he would have been much
surprised to learn that any one longed to take him out and knock him
down, simply as an insufferable object. Yet Gregory Dexter had that
longing at times so strongly that his hand fairly quivered.

Heathcote was slightly above middle height, and well built, but his gait
was indolent and careless. Good features unlighted by animation, a brown
skin, brown eyes ordinarily rather lethargic, thick brown hair and
mustache, and heavy eyebrows standing out prominently from the face in
profile view, were the items ordinarily given in a general description.
He had a low-toned voice and slow manner, in which, however, there was
no affectation. What was the use of doing anything with any particular
effort? He had no antipathy for persons of other habits; the world was
large. It was noticed, however (or rather it was _not_ noticed), that he
generally got away from them as soon as he quietly could. He had lived
to be thirty-two years old, and had on the whole enjoyed life so far,
although he was neither especially important, handsome, nor rich. The
secret of this lay in one fact: women liked him.

What was it that they found to like in him? This was the question asked
often in irritation by his brother man. And naturally. For the women
themselves could not give a reasonable reason. The corresponding side of
life is not the same, since men admire with a reason; the woman is
plainly beautiful, or brilliant, or fascinating round whom they gather.
At Caryl's seven or eight men were handsomer than Heathcote; a number
were more brilliant; many were richer. Yet almost all of these had
discovered, at one time or another, that the eyes they were talking to
were following Heathcote furtively; and they had seen attempts that made
them tingle with anger--all the more so because they were so
infinitesimally delicate and fine, as became the actions of well-bred
women. One or two, who had married, had had explained to them
elaborately by their wives what it was they (in their free days, of
course) had liked in Heathcote--elaborately, if not clearly. The
husbands gathered generally that it was only a way he had, a manner; the
liking was half imaginative, after all. Now Heathcote was not in the
least imaginative. But the women were.

Manly qualities, good hearts, handsome faces, and greater wealth held
their own in fact against him. Marriages took place in his circle,
wedding chimes pealed, and brides were happy under their veils in spite
of him. Yet, as histories of lives go, there was a decided balance in
his favor of feminine regard, and no one could deny it.

He had now but a small income, and had been obliged to come down to a
very simple manner of life. Those who disliked him said that of course
he would marry money. As yet, however, he had shown no signs of
fulfilling his destiny in this respect. He seldom took the trouble to
express his opinions, and therefore passed as having none; but those who
were clear-sighted knew better. Dexter was one of these, and this
entire absence of self-assertion in Ward Heathcote stung him. For Dexter
always asserted himself; he could not help it. He came in at this
moment, and noted Heathcote's position near Anne. Obeying an impulse, he
crossed the room immediately, and began a counter-conversation with Miss
Vanhorn, the chaperon.

"Trying to interest that child," he thought, as he listened to the
grandaunt with the air of deferential attention she liked so well. With
eyes that apparently never once glanced in their direction, he kept
close watch of the two beyond. "She is no match for him," he thought,
with indignation; "she has had no experience. It ought not to be
allowed."

But Dexter always mistook Heathcote; he gave him credit for plans and
theories of which Heathcote never dreamed. In fact, he judged him by
himself. Heathcote was merely talking to Anne now in the absence of
other entertainment, having felt some slight curiosity about her because
she had looked so bright and contented on the mud-bank under the bridge.
He tried to recall his impression of her on New-Year's Day, and
determined to refresh his memory by Blum; but, in the mean time,
outwardly, his manner was as though, silently of course, but none the
less deeply, he had dwelt upon her image ever since. It was this
impalpable manner which made Dexter indignant. He knew it so well! He
said to himself that it was a lie. And, generally speaking, it was. But
possibly in this case (as in others) it was not so much the falsity of
the manner as its success which annoyed the other man.

He could not hear what was said; and the words, in truth, were not many
or brilliant. But he knew the sort of quiet glance with which they were
being accompanied. Yet Dexter, quick and suspicious as he was, would
never have discovered that glance unaided. He had learned it from
another, and that other, of course, a woman. For once in a while it
happens that a woman, when roused to fury, will pour out the whole story
of her wrongs to some man who happens to be near. No man does this. He
has not the same need of expression; and, besides, he will never show
himself at such a disadvantage voluntarily, even for the sake of
comfort. He would rather remain uncomforted. But women of strong
feelings often, when excited, cast wisdom to the winds, and even seem to
find a desperate satisfaction in the most hazardous imprudences, which
can injure only themselves. In a mood of this kind, some one had poured
out to Gregory Dexter bitter testimony against Heathcote, one-sided,
perhaps, but photographically accurate in all the details, which are so
much to women. Dexter had listened with inward anger and contempt; but
he had listened. And he had recognized, besides, the accent of truth in
every word. The narrator was now in Austria with a new and foreign
husband, apparently as happy as the day is long. But the listener had
never forgotten or forgiven her account of Heathcote's method and
manner. He said to himself that he despised it, and he did despise it.
Still, in some occult way, one may be jealous of results attained even
by ways and means for which one feels a righteous contempt; and the more
so when one has a firm confidence in his own abilities, which have not
yet, however, been openly recognized in that field. In all other fields
Gregory Dexter was a marked type of American success.

As the days moved slowly on, he kept watch of Heathcote. It was more a
determination to foil him than interest in Anne which made him add
himself as a third whenever he could unobtrusively; which was not often,
since Miss Vanhorn liked to talk to him herself, and Anne knew no more
how to aid him than a nun. After a while Heathcote became conscious of
this watchfulness, and it amused him. His idea of Dexter was "a clever
sort of fellow, who has made money, and is ambitious. Goes in for
politics, and that sort of thing. Talks well, but too much. Tiresome."
He began to devote himself to Anne now in a different way; hitherto he
had been only entertaining himself (and rather languidly) by a study of
her fresh naïve truthfulness. He had drawn out her history; he, too,
knew of the island, the fort, and the dog trains. Poor Anne was always
eloquent on these subjects. Her color rose, her words came quickly.

"You are fond of the island," he said, one evening, as they sat on the
piazza in the moonlight, Dexter within three feet of them, but unable to
hear their murmured words. For Heathcote had a way of interposing his
shoulder between listeners and the person to whom he was talking, which
made the breadth of woollen cloth as much a barrier as a stone wall; he
did this more frequently now that he had discovered Dexter's
watchfulness.

"Yes," said Anne, in as low a voice as his own. Then suddenly, plainly
visible to him in the moonlight, tears welled up and dropped upon her
cheeks.

She had been homesick all day. Sometimes Miss Vanhorn was hard and cold
as a bronze statue in winter; sometimes she was as quick and fiery as if
charged with electricity. Sometimes she veered between the two. To-day
had been one of the veering days, and Anne had worked over the dried
plants five hours in a close room, now a mark for sarcastic darts of
ridicule, now enduring an icy silence, until her lot seemed too heavy to
bear. She had learned to understand the old woman's moods, but
understanding pain does not make it lighter. Released at last, a great
wave of homesickness had swept over her, which did not, however, break
bounds until Heathcote's words touched the spring; then the gates opened
and the tears came.

They had no sooner dropped upon her cheeks, one, two, three, than she
was overwhelmed with hot shame at having allowed them to fall, and with
fear lest any one should notice them. Mr. Heathcote had seen them, that
was hopelessly certain; but if only she could keep them from her
grandaunt! Yet she did not dare to lift her handkerchief lest its white
should attract attention.

But Heathcote knew what to do.

As soon as he saw the tears (to him, of course, totally unexpected; but
girls are so), he raised his straw hat, which lay on his knee, and,
holding it by the crown, began elaborately to explain some peculiarity
in the lining (he called it South American) invented for the occasion,
at the same time, by the motion, screening her face completely from
observation on the other side. But Anne could not check herself; the
very shelter brought thicker drops. He could not hold his hat in that
position forever, even to look at Brazilian linings. He rose suddenly,
and standing in front so as to screen her, he cried, "A bat! a bat!" at
the same time making a pass with his hat as though he saw it in the air.

Every one on the piazza rose, darted aside hither and thither, the
ladies covering their heads with their fans and handkerchiefs, the men
making passes with their hats, as usual on bat occasions; every one was
sure the noxious creature flew by. For a number of minutes confusion
reigned. When it was over, Anne's cheeks were dry, and a little cobweb
tie had been formed between herself and Heathcote. It was too slight to
be noticed, but it was there.



CHAPTER XII.

    "Le hasard sait ce qu'il fait!"--_French Proverb._


The next day there was a picnic. No one wished to go especially save
Isabel Varce, but no one opposed her wish. At Caryl's they generally
followed whatever was suggested, with indolent acquiescence. Miss
Vanhorn, however, being a contrary planet revolving in an orbit of her
own, at first declined to go; there were important plants to finish. But
Mr. Dexter persuaded her to change her mind, and, with Anne, to
accompany him in a certain light carriage which he had ordered from the
next town, more comfortable than the Caryl red wagons, and not so heavy
as her own coupé. Miss Vanhorn liked to be comfortable, and she was
playing the part also of liking Gregory Dexter; she therefore accepted.
She knew perfectly well that Dexter's "light carriage" had not come from
the next town, but from New York; and she smiled at what she considered
the effort of this new man to conceal his lavishness. But she was quite
willing that he should spend his money to gain her favor (she having
already decided to give it to him), and therefore it was with
contentment that she stepped into the carriage--a model of its kind--on
the morning of the appointed day, and put up her glass to watch the
others ascending, by a little flight of steps, to the high table-land of
the red wagons. Mr. Heathcote was on horseback; he dismounted, however,
to assist Mrs. Bannert to her place. He raised his hat to Anne with his
usual quiet manner, but she returned his salutation with a bright smile.
She was grateful to him. Had he not been kind to her?

The picnic was like most picnics of the sort--heavy work for the
servants, languid amusement, not unmixed with only partially concealed
ennui, on the part of the guests. There was but little wandering away,
the participants being too few for much severance. They strolled through
the woods in long-drawn links; they went to see a view from a knoll;
they sang a few songs gently, faint pipings from the ladies, and nothing
from the men (Blum being absent) save the correct bass of Dexter, which
seemed very far down indeed in the cellars of melody, while the ladies
were on the high battlements. The conversation was never exactly allowed
to die out, yet it languished. Almost all would rather have been at
home. The men especially found small pleasure in sitting on the ground;
besides, a distinct consciousness that the attitude was not becoming.
For the American does not possess a taste for throwing himself heartily
down upon Mother Earth. He can camp; he can hunt, swim, ride, walk, use
Indian clubs, play base-ball, drive, row, sail a yacht, or even guide a
balloon; but when it comes to grass, give him a bench.

Isabel Varce, in a wonderful costume of woodland green, her somewhat
sharp features shaded by a shepherdess hat, carried out her purpose--the
subjugation of a certain Peter Dane, a widower of distinction, a late
arrival at Caryl's. Mrs. Bannert had Ward Heathcote by her side,
apparently to the satisfaction of both. Other men and women were
contented or discontented as it happened; and two or three school-girls
of twelve or thirteen really enjoyed themselves, being at the happy age
when blue sky and golden sunshine, green woods and lunch on the grass,
are all that is necessary for supreme happiness.

There was one comic element present, and by mistake. A reverend
gentleman of the kind that calls everybody "brother" had arrived
unexpectedly at Caryl's; he was journeying for the purpose of
distributing certain thin pamphlets of powerfully persuasive influence
as to general virtue, and as he had not been over that ground for some
years, he had no suspicion that Caryl's had changed, or that it was any
more important than Barr's, Murphy's, Allen's, and other hamlets in the
neighborhood and possessive case, with whose attributes he was familiar.
Old John Caryl had taken him in for a night or two, and had ordered the
unused school-house at the cross-roads to be swept out for a hamlet
evening service; but the hamlet could not confine the Reverend Ezra
Sloane. His heart waxed warm within him at the sight of so many persons,
all well-to-do, pleasant to the eye, and apparently not pressed for
time. He had spent his life in ministering to the poor in this world's
goods, and to the workers who had no leisure; it was a new pleasure to
him simply to be among the agreeable, well-dressed, and unanxious. He
took his best coat from his lean valise, and wore it steadily. He was so
happy in his child-like satisfaction that no one rebuffed him, and when
he presented himself, blandly smiling, to join the picnic party, no one
had the heart to tell him of his mistake. As he climbed complacently
into one of the wagons, however, stiff old Mrs. Bannert, on the back
seat, gave John Caryl, standing at the horses' heads, a look which he
understood. The Reverend Ezra must depart the next morning, or be
merged--conclusively merged--in the hamlet. His fate was sealed. But
to-day he disported himself to his heart's content; his smiling face was
everywhere. He went eagerly through the woods, joining now one group,
now another; he laughed when they laughed, understanding, however, but
few of their allusions. He was restlessly anxious to join in the
singing, but could not, as he did not know their songs, and he proposed,
in entire good faith, one or two psalms, giving them up, however,
immediately, when old Mrs. Bannert, who had taken upon herself the task
of keeping him down, remarked sternly that no one knew the tunes. He
went to see the view, and extending his hand, said, in his best manner,
"Behold! brethren, is there not hill, and dale, and mountain, and
valley, and--river?" As he said "river" he closed his eyes impressively,
and stood there among them the image of self-complacence. The wind blew
out his black coat, and showed how thin it was, and the wearer as well.

[Illustration: "HE TOOK HIS BEST COAT FROM HIS LEAN VALISE."]

"Why is it always a thin, weakly man like that who insists upon calling
people 'brethren'?" said Heathcote, as they stood a little apart.

"Because, being weakly, we can not knock him down for it, as we
certainly should do if he was stronger," said Dexter.

But it was especially at lunch that the Reverend Ezra shone forth;
rising to the occasion, he brought forth all the gallant speeches of his
youth, which had much the air of his grandfather's Green Mountain
musket. Some of his phrases Anne recognized: Miss Lois used them. The
young girl was pained to see how out of place he was, how absurd in his
well-intentioned efforts; and she therefore drew him a little apart, and
strove to entertain him herself. She had known plain people on the
island, and had experienced much of their faithful goodness and
generosity in times of trouble; it hurt her to have him ridiculed. It
came out, during this conversation, that he knew something of botany,
and on the strength of this passport she took him to Miss Vanhorn. The
Reverend Ezra really did understand the flora of the district, through
which he had journeyed many times in former years on his old mare; Miss
Vanhorn's sharp questions brought out what he knew, and gave him also
the grateful sensation of imparting valuable information. He now
appeared quite collected and sensible. He mentioned, after a while, that
an orchid grew in these very woods at some distance up the mountain--an
orchid which was rare. Miss Vanhorn had never seen that particular
orchid in its wild state; a flush rose in her cheek.

"We can drive out to-morrow and look for it, grandaunt," said Anne.

"No," replied Miss Vanhorn, firmly; "that orchid must be found to-day,
while Mr.--Mr.--"

"Sloane," said the minister, affably.

"--while Mr. Stone is with you to point out the exact locality. I desire
you to go with him immediately, Anne; _this_ is a matter of importance."

"It is about two miles up the mountain," objected the missionary, loath
to leave the festival.

"Anne is not afraid of two short miles," replied the old woman,
inflexibly. "And as for yourself, Mr. Doane, no doubt you will be glad
to abandon this scene of idle frivolity." And then the Reverend Ezra, a
little startled by this view of the case, yielded, and sought his hat
and cane.

This conversation had taken place at one side. Mr. Dexter, however,
talking ceremoniously with old Mrs. Bannert, overheard it, and
immediately thought of a plan by which it might be made available for
his own purposes. The picnic had not given him much satisfaction so far;
it had been too languid. With all his effort, he could not quite enter
into the continuous indolence of Caryl's. True, he had taken Anne from
Heathcote, thus checking for the moment that gentleman's lazy supremacy,
at least in one quarter; but there were other quarters, and Heathcote
was now occupying the one which Dexter himself coveted most of all,
namely, the seat next to Rachel Bannert. Rachel was a widow, and
uncomfortably dependent upon her mother-in-law. The elder Mrs. Bannert
was sharp-eyed as a hawk, wise as a serpent, and obstinate as a
hedge-hog; Rachel as soft-voiced and soft-breasted as a dove; yet the
latter intended to have, and did in the end have, the Bannert estate,
and in the mean time she "shared her mother-in-law's home." There were
varying opinions as to the delights of that home.

Dexter, fretted by Heathcote's unbroken conversation with Rachel, and
weary of the long inaction of the morning, now proposed that they should
all go in search of the orchid; his idea was that at least it would
break up existing proximities, and give them all something to do. Lunch
had been prolonged to the utmost extent of its vitality, and the
participants were in the state of nerveless leaves in Indian summer,
ready to float away on the first breeze. They strolled off, therefore,
all save the elder ladies, through the wood, led by the delighted Ezra,
who had that "God-bless-you-all-my-friends" air with which many worthy
people are afflicted. The apparent self-effacement effected by
good-breeding, even in the wicked, is certainly more agreeable to an
ordinary world than the unconscious egotism of a large class of the
good.

After a quarter of an hour the woodman's trail they were following
turned and went up the mountain-side. No one save Anne and the
missionary had the slightest intention of walking two miles to look for
a flower, but they were willing to stroll on for a while. They came to
the main road, and crossed it, making many objections to its being
there, with its commonplace daylight, after the shade, flickering
sunbeams, and vague green vistas of the forest. But on this road, in the
dust, a travelling harp-player was trudging along, accompanied by a
wizened little boy and a still more wizened monkey.

"Let us carry them off into the deepest woods, and have a dance," said
Isabel. "We will be nymphs and dryades, and all sorts of woodland
things."

It is difficult to dance on uneven ground, in the middle of the day, to
the sound of an untuned old harp, and a violin held upside down, and
scraped by a melancholy boy. But Isabel had her way, or rather took it,
and they all set off somewhat vaguely for "the deepest woods," leaving
the woodman's path, and following another track, which Isabel pronounced
"such a dear little trail it must lead somewhere." The Reverend Ezra was
disturbed. He thought he held them all under his own guidance, when, lo!
they were not only leaving him and his orchid without a word of excuse,
but were actually departing with a wandering harpist to find a level
spot on which to dance!

"I--I think that path leads only to an old quarry," he said, with a
hesitating smile.

But no one paid any attention to him, save Anne, who had paused also,
uncertain what to do.

"We will get the orchid afterward, Miss Douglas," said Dexter. "I
promise that you shall have it."

"But Mr. Sloane," said Anne, glancing toward the deserted missionary.

"Come with us, dominie," said Dexter, with the ready good-nature that
was one of his outward characteristics. It was a quick, tolerant
good-nature, and seemed to belong to his broad, strong frame.

But the dominie had a dignity of his own, after all. When he realized
that he was forsaken, he came forward and said quietly that he would go
up the mountain alone and get the orchid, joining them at the main-road
crossing on the way back.

"As you please," said Dexter. "And I, for one, shall feel much indebted
to you, sir, if you bring back the flower, because I have promised Miss
Douglas that she should have it, and should be obliged to go for it
myself, ignorant as I am, were it not for your kindness."

He raised his hat courteously, and went off with Anne to join the
others, already out of sight.

"I suppose he does not approve of the dancing," said the girl, looking
back.

But Dexter did not care whether he approved or disapproved; he had
already dismissed the dominie from his mind.

The path took them to a deserted stone-quarry in the side of the hill.
There was the usual yawning pit, floored with broken jagged masses, and
chips of stone, the straight bare wall of rock above, and the forest
greenery coming to the edge of the desolation on all sides, and leaning
over to peep down. The quarrymen had camped below, and the little open
space where once their lodge of boughs had stood was selected by Isabel
for the dancing floor. The harpist, a small old man clad in a grimy
velveteen coat, played a waltz, to which the little Italian boy added a
lagging accompaniment; the monkey, who seemed to have belonged to some
defunct hand-organ, sat on a stump and surveyed the scene. They did not
all dance, but Isabel succeeded in persuading a few to move through a
quadrille whose figures she improvised for the occasion. But the scene
was more picturesque when, after a time, the dull partners in coats were
discarded, and the floating draperies danced by themselves, joining
hands in a ring, and circling round and round with merry little motions
which were charmingly pretty, like kittens at play. Then they made the
boy sing, and he chanted a tune which had (musically) neither beginning
nor end, but a useful quality of going on forever. But whatever he did,
and whatever they gave him, made no difference in his settled
melancholy, which the monkey's small face seemed to caricature. Then
they danced again, and this time Dexter took part, while the other
coated ones remained on the grass, smoking. It ended in his waltzing
with them all in turn, and being overwhelmed with their praises, which,
however, being levelled at the heads of the others by strongly implied
comparison, were not as valuable as they seemed. Dexter knew that he
gained nothing by joining in that dance; but where there was something
to do, he could not resist doing it. When the waltz was over, and the
wandering musicians sent on their way with a lavish reward of silver,
which the monkey had received cynically as it was placed piece by piece
in his little paw, Isabel led off all the ladies "to explore the
quarry," expressly forbidding the others to follow. With an air of great
enjoyment in their freedom and solitude the floating draperies departed,
and the smokers were left under the trees, content, on their side also,
to have half an hour of quiet. Mr. Peter Dane immediately and heartily
yawned at full width, and was no longer particular as to the position of
his legs. In truth, it was the incipient fatigue on the face of this
distinguished widower which had induced Isabel to lead off her exploring
party; for when a man is over fifty, nothing is more dangerous than to
tire him. He never forgives it.

Isabel led her band round to an ascent, steep but not long; her plan was
to go up the hill through the wood, and appear on the top of the quarry,
so many graceful figures high in the air against the blue sky, for the
indolent smokers below to envy and admire. Isabel was a slender creature
with a pale complexion; the slight color produced by the exercise would
be becoming. Rachel, who was dimpled, "never could climb"; her "ankles"
were "not strong." (And certainly they were very small ankles for such a
weight of dimples.) The party now divided itself under these two
leaders; those who were indolent staid with Rachel; those who were not
afraid of exercise went with Isabel. A few went for amusement, without
motive; among these was Anne. One went for wrath; and this was Valeria
Morle.

It is hard for a neutral-faced girl with a fixed opinion of her own
importance to learn the lesson of her real insignificance, when removed
from the background of home, at a place like Caryl's. Valeria was there,
mistakenly visiting an aunt for two weeks, and with the calm security of
the country mind, she had mentally selected Ward Heathcote as her knight
for the time being, and had bestowed upon him in consequence several
little speeches and smiles carefully calculated to produce an
impression, to mean a great deal to any one who was watching. But
Heathcote was not watching; the small well-regulated country smiles had
about as much effect as the twitterings of a wren would have in a wood
full of nightingales. Miss Morle could not understand it; had they not
slain their thousands, nay, ten thousands (young lady's computation), in
Morleville? She now went up the hill in silent wrath, glad to do
something and to be away from Heathcote. Still, she could not help
believing that he would miss her; men had been known to be very much
interested in girls, and yet make no sign for a long time. They watched
them from a distance. In this case Valeria was to have her hopes
realized. She was to be watched, and from a distance.

The eight who reached the summit sported gayly to and fro for a while,
now near the edge, now back, gathering flowers and throwing them over,
calling down to the smokers, who lay and watched them, without, however,
any burning desire especially visible on their countenances to climb up
and join them. Valeria, with a stubborn determination to make herself in
some way conspicuous, went to the edge of the cliff, and even leaned
over; she had one arm round a young tree, but half of her shoes (by no
means small ones) were over the verge, and the breeze showed that they
were. Anne saw it, and spoke to Isabel.

"If she will do it, she will," answered Isabel; "and the more we notice
her, the more she will persist. She is one of those dull girls intended
by Nature to be always what is called sensible. And when one of _those_
girls takes to making a fool of herself, her idiocy is colossal."

But Isabel's philosophy did not relieve Anne's fear. She called to
Valeria, warningly, "You are very near the edge, Miss Morle; wouldn't it
be safer to step back a little?"

But Valeria would not. They were all noticing her at last. They should
see how strong her nerves were, how firm her poise. The smokers below,
too, were now observing her. She threw back her head, and hummed a
little tune. If the edge did not crumble, she was, in truth, safe
enough. To a person who is not dizzy, five inches of foot-hold is as
safe as five yards.

But--the edge did crumble. And suddenly. The group of women behind had
the horror, of seeing her sway, stagger, slip down, frantically writhe
on the verge half an instant, and then, with an awful scream, slide over
out of sight, as her arm was wrenched from the little tree. Those below
had seen it too. They sprang to their feet, and ran first forward, then
round and up the hill behind.

For she had not slipped far. The cliff jutted out slightly a short
distance below the verge, and, by what seemed a miracle, the girl was
held by this second edge. Eight inches beyond, the sheer precipice
began, with the pile of broken stones sixty feet below. Anne was the
first to discover this, reaching the verge as the girl sank out of
sight; the others, shuddering, put their hands over their eyes and clung
together.

"She has not fallen far," cried Anne, with a quick and burning
excitement. "Lie still, Valeria," she called down. "Close your eyes,
and make yourself perfectly motionless; hardly breathe. We will save you
yet."

She took hold of the young tree to test its strength, at the same time
speaking rapidly to the others. "By lying down, and clasping that tree
trunk with one arm, and then stretching over, I can just reach her hand,
I think, and seize it. Do you see? That is what I am going to try to do.
I can not tell how strong this tree is; but--there is not a moment to
lose. After I am down, and have her hand, do anything you think best to
secure us. Either hold me yourselves or make ropes of your sacques and
shawls. If help comes soon, we can save her." While still speaking, she
threw herself down upon the edge, clasped one arm strongly round the
tree trunk, and stretching down sideways, her head and shoulder over the
verge, she succeeded in first touching, then clasping, the wrist of the
girl below, who could not see her rescuer as she lay facing the
precipice with closed eyes, helpless and inert. It was done, but only
two girls' wrists as a link.

The others had caught hold of Anne as strongly as they could.

"No," said Isabel, taking command excitedly; "one of you hold her
firmly, and the rest clasp arms and form a chain, all sitting down, to
that large tree in the rear. If the strain comes, throw yourselves
toward the large tree."

So they formed a chain. Isabel, looking over, saw that the girl below
had clasped Anne's wrist with her own fingers also--a strong grasp, a
death-grasp. If she slipped farther, Anne must slip too.

All this had not taken two minutes--scarcely a minute and a half. They
were now all motionless; they could hear the footsteps of the men
hurrying up the hill behind, coming nearer and nearer. But how slow they
were! How long! The men were exactly three minutes, and it is safe to
say that never in their lives had they rushed up a hill with such
desperate haste and energy. But--women expect wings.

Heathcote and Dexter reached the summit first. There they beheld five
white-cheeked women, dressed in various dainty floating fabrics, and
adorned with ferns and wild flowers, sitting on the ground, clasping
each others' hands and arms. They formed a line, of which the woman at
one end had her arm round a large tree, and the woman at the other round
the body of a sixth, who was half over the cliff. A seventh and free
person, Isabel, stood at the edge, her eyes fixed on the heavy form
poised along the second verge below. No one spoke but Isabel. "She has
caught on something, and Anne is holding her," she explained, in quick
although low tones, as if afraid to disturb even the air. But while she
was speaking the two men had gone swiftly to the edge, at a little
distance below the group, and noted the position themselves.

"Let me--" began Dexter.

"No, you are too heavy," answered Heathcote. "_You_ must hold _me_."

"Yes," said Isabel. "Quick! quick!" A woman in a hurry would say
"Quick!" to the very lightning.

But if men are slow, they are sure. Heathcote stretched himself down
carefully on the other side of the little tree, but without touching it,
that being Anne's chief support, and bearing his full weight upon
Dexter, who in turn was held by the other men, who had now come up, he
seized Valeria's arm firmly above Anne's hand, and told Anne to let go
her hold. They were face to face; Anne's forehead was suffused with red,
owing to her cramped position.

"I can not; she has grasped my wrist," she answered.

"Let go, Miss Morle," called Heathcote. "I have you firmly; do you not
feel my hand?"

But Valeria would not; perhaps could not.

"Some of you take hold of Miss Douglas, then," called Heathcote to the
men above. "The girl below will not loosen her hold, and you will have
to draw us all up together."

"Ready?" called the voices above, after an instant.

"Ready," answered Heathcote.

Then he felt himself drawn upward slowly, an inch, two inches; so did
Anne. The two downward-stretched arms tightened; the one upward-lifted
arm began to rise from the body to which it belonged. But what a weight
for that one arm! Valeria was a large, heavy girl, with a ponderous
weight of bone. In the position in which she lay, it seemed probable
that her body might swing over the edge, and almost wrench the arm from
its socket by its weight.

"Stop," said Heathcote, perceiving this. The men above paused. "Are you
afraid to support her for one instant alone, Anne?" he asked.

"No," murmured Anne. Her eyes were blood-shot; she saw him through a
crimson cloud.

"Keep me firmly," he called out, warningly, to Dexter. Then, letting go
his first hold, he stretched down still farther, made a slight spring
forward, and succeeded in grasping Valeria's waist. "_Now_ pull up, and
quickly," he said, panting.

And thus, together, Valeria firmly held by Heathcote, the two rescuers
and the rescued were drawn safely up from danger to safe level again.
Only a few feet, but all the difference between life and death.

When the others looked down upon the now uncovered space, they saw that
it was only the stump of a slender cedar sapling, a few inches in
height, and two little edges of rock standing up unevenly here and
there, which had formed the parapet. A person might have tried all day,
with an acrobat's net spread below for safety, to cling there, without
success; Valeria had fallen at the one angle and in the one position
which made it possible. Two arms were strained, and that was all.

Isabel was white with nervous fear; the others showed traces of tears.
But the cause of all this anxiety and trouble, although entirely
uninjured and not nervous (she had not seen herself), sat smiling upon
them all in a sweet suffering-martyr way, and finally went down the hill
with masculine escort on each side--apotheosis not before attained. Will
it be believed that this girl, fairly well educated and in her sober
senses, was simpleton enough to say to Heathcote that evening, in a
sentimental whisper, "How I wish that Miss Douglas had not touched me!"
There was faint moonlight, and the simpering expression of the neutral
face filled him with astonishment. Dexter would have understood: Dexter
was accustomed to all varieties of women, even the Valeria variety: but
Heathcote was not. All he said, therefore, was, "Why?"

"Because then _you_ alone would have saved me," murmured Valeria,
sweetly.

"If Miss Douglas had not grasped you as she did, we might all have been
too late," replied Heathcote, looking at her in wonder.

"Ah, no; I did not slip farther. You would have been in time," said the
belle of Morleville, with what she considered a telling glance. And she
actually convinced herself that she had made an impression.

"I ought not to have done it, of course, Louisa," she said to her
bosom-friend, in the privacy of her own room, after her return to
Morleville; "but I really felt that he deserved at least _that_ reward
for his great devotion to me, poor fellow!"

"And why couldn't you like him, after all, Valeria dear?" urged Louisa,
deeply interested, and not a little envious.

"I could not--I could not," replied Valeria, slowly and virtuously,
shaking her head. "He had not the principles I require in a man. But--I
felt sorry for him."

Oh, ineffable Valerias! what would life be without you?

Dexter had been the one to offer his arm to Anne when she felt able to
go down the hill. At the main-road crossing they found the Reverend Mr.
Sloane faithfully sitting on a dusty bank, with the orchid in his hand,
waiting for them. It seemed to Anne that a long and vague period of time
had passed since they parted from him. But she was glad to get the
orchid; she knew that no slight extraneous affair, such as the saving of
a life, would excuse the absence of that flower. Rachel Bannert had
chafed Heathcote's strained arm with her soft hands, and arranged a
sling for it made of her sash. She accompanied him back to the picnic
ground. It was worth while to have a strained arm.

Miss Vanhorn considered that it was all nonsense, and was inclined to
reprove her niece. But she had the orchid; and when Dexter came up, and
in a few strong words expressed his admiration for the young girl's
courage, she changed her mind, and agreed with him, although regretting
"the display."

"Girls like that Morle should be manacled," she said.

"And I, for one, congratulate myself that there was, as you call it, a
display--a display of the finest resolution I have ever seen in a young
girl," said Dexter, warmly. "Miss Douglas was not even sure that the
little tree was firm; and of course she could not tell how long it would
take us to come."

"They all assisted, I understand," said Miss Vanhorn, impassively.

"They all assisted _afterward_. But not one of them would have taken her
place. Miss Morle seized her wrist immediately, and with the grasp of a
vise. They must inevitably have gone over together."

"Well, well; that is enough, I think," said Miss Vanhorn. "We will drive
home now," she added, giving her orders as though both the carriage and
its owner were her own property.

When she had been assisted into her place, and Anne had taken her seat
beside her, Heathcote, who had not spoken to his fellow-rescuer since
they reached level ground, came forward to the carriage door, with his
arm in its ribbon sling, and offered his hand. He said only a word or
two; but, as his eyes met hers, Anne blushed--blushed suddenly and
vividly. She was realizing for the first time how she must have looked
to him, hanging in her cramped position, with crimson face and wild
falling hair.



CHAPTER XIII.

    "So on the tip of his subduing tongue
     All kinds of arguments and questions deep."

     --SHAKSPEARE.

     "What is the use of so much talking? Is not this wild rose sweet
     without a comment?"--HAZLITT.


Early the next morning Miss Vanhorn, accompanied by her niece, drove off
on an all-day botanizing expedition. Miss Vanhorn understood the worth
of being missed. At sunset she returned; and the girl she brought back
with her was on the verge of despair. For the old woman had spent the
hours in making her doubt herself in every possible way, besides
covering her with ridicule concerning the occurrences of the day before.
It was late when they entered the old ball-room, Anne looking newly
youthful and painfully shy; as they crossed the floor she did not raise
her eyes. Dexter was dancing with Rachel, whose soft arms were visible
under her black gauze, encircled with bands of old gold. Anne was
dressed in a thick white linen fabric (Miss Vanhorn having herself
selected the dress and ordered her to wear it), and appeared more like a
school-girl than ever. Miss Vanhorn, raising her eye-glass, had selected
her position on entering, like a general on the field: Anne was placed
next to Isabel on the wooden bench that ran round the room. And
immediately Miss Varce seemed to have grown suddenly old. In addition,
her blonde beauty was now seen to be heightened by art. Isabel herself
did not dream of this. Hardly any woman, whose toilet is a study, can
comprehend beauty in unattractive unfashionable attire. So she kept her
seat unconsciously, sure of her Paris draperies, while the superb youth
of Anne, heightened by the simplicity of the garb she wore, reduced the
other woman, at least in the eyes of all the men present, to the
temporary rank of a faded wax doll.

Dexter soon came up and asked Anne to dance. She replied, in a low voice
and without looking up, that she would rather not; her arm was still
painful.

"Go," said Miss Vanhorn, overhearing, "and do not be absurd about your
arm. I dare say Miss Morle's aches quite as badly." She was almost
always severe with her niece in Dexter's presence: could it have been
that she wished to excite his sympathy?

Anne rose in silence; they did not dance, but, after walking up and down
the room once or twice, went out on the piazza. The windows were open:
it was the custom to sit here and look through at the dancers within.
They sat down near a window.

"I have not had an opportunity until now, Miss Douglas, to tell you how
deeply I have admired your wonderful courage," began Dexter.

"Oh, pray do not speak of it," said Anne, with intense embarrassment.
For Miss Vanhorn had harried her niece so successfully during the long
day, that the girl really believed that she had overstepped not only the
edge of the cliff, but the limits of modesty as well.

"But I must," said Dexter. "In the life I have lived, Miss Douglas, I
have seen women of all classes, and several times have been with women
in moments of peril--on the plains during an Indian attack, at the mines
after an explosion, and once on a sinking steamer. Only one showed
anything like your quick courage of yesterday, and she was a mother who
showed it for her child. You did your brave deed for a stranger; and you
seem, to my eyes at least, hardly more than a child yourself. It is but
another proof of the innate nobility of our human nature, and I, an
enthusiast in such matters, beg you to let me personally thank you for
the privilege of seeing your noble act." He put out his hand, took hers,
and pressed it cordially.

It was a set speech, perhaps--Dexter made set speeches; but it was
cordial and sincere. Anne, much comforted by this view of her impulsive
action, looked at him with thankfulness. This was different from Miss
Vanhorn's idea of it; different and better.

"I once helped one of my little brothers, who had fallen over a cliff,
in much the same way," she said, with a little sigh of relief. "I am
glad you think it was excusable."

"Excusable? It was superb," said Dexter. "And permit me to add, too,
that I am a better judge of heroism than the people here, who belong,
most of them, to a small, prejudiced, and I might say ignorant, class.
They have no more idea of heroism, of anything broad and liberal, or of
the country at large, than so many canary-birds born and bred in a cage.
They ridicule the mere idea of being in earnest about anything in this
ridiculous world. Yet the world is not so ridiculous as they think, and
earnestness carries with it a tremendous weight sometimes. All the great
deeds of which we have record have been done by earnest beliefs and
earnest enthusiasms, even though mistaken ones. It is easy enough, by
carefully abstaining from doing anything one's self, to maintain the
position of ridiculing the attempts of others; but it is more than
probable--in fact it is almost certain--that those very persons who
ridicule and criticise could not themselves do the very least of those
deeds, attain the very lowest of those successes, which afford them so
much entertainment in others."

So spoke Dexter; and not without a tinge of bitterness, which he
disguised as scorn. A little of the indifference to outside opinion
which characterized the very class of whom he spoke would have made him
a contented, as he already was a successful, man. But there was a
surface of personal vanity over his better qualities which led him to
desire a tribute of universal liking; and this is the tribute the class
referred to always refuses--to the person who appears to seek it.

"But, in spite of ridicule, self-sacrifice is still heroic, faith in our
humanity still beautiful, and courage still dear, to all hearts that
have true nobility," he continued. Then it struck him that he was
generalizing too much, feminine minds always preferring a personal
application. "I would rather have a girl who was brave and truthful for
my wife than the most beautiful woman on earth," he said, with the
quick, sudden utterance he used when he wished to appear impulsive.

"But beautiful women can be truthful too," said Anne, viewing the
subject impartially, with no realization of any application to herself.

"Can, but rarely are. I have, however, known--that is, I think I now
know--_one_," he added, with quiet emphasis, coming round on another
tack.

"I hope you do," said Anne; "and more than one. Else your acquaintance
must be limited." As she spoke, the music sounded forth within, and
forgetting the subject altogether, she turned with girlish interest to
watch the dancers.

Dexter almost laughed aloud to himself in his shadowed corner, she was
so unconscious. He had not thought her beautiful, save for the
perfection of her youthful bloom; but now he suddenly began to discover
the purity of her profile, and the graceful shape of her head, outlined
against the lighted window. His taste, however, was not for youthful
simplicity; he preferred beauty more ripened, and heightened by art.
Having lived among the Indians in reality, the true children of nature,
he had none of those dreams of ideal perfection in a brown skin and in
the wilderness which haunt the eyes of dwellers in cities, and mislead
even the artist. To him Rachel in her black floating laces, and Helen
Lorrington in her shimmering silks, were far more beautiful than an
Indian girl in her calico skirt could possibly be. But--Anne was
certainly very fair and sweet.

"Of what were you thinking, Miss Douglas, during the minutes you hung
suspended over that abyss?" he asked, moving so that he could rest his
head on his hand, and thus look at her more steadily.

Anne turned. For she always looked directly at the person who spoke to
her, having none of those side glances, tableaux of sweeping eyelashes,
and willful little motions which belong to most pretty girls. She
turned. And now Dexter was surprised to see how she was blushing, so
deeply and slowly that it must have been physically painful.

"She is beginning to be conscious of my manner at last," he said to
himself, with self-gratulation. Then he added, in a lower voice, "_I_
was thinking only of you; and what a brutal sacrifice it would be if
your life should be given for that other!"

"Valeria is a good girl, I think," said Anne, recovering herself, and
answering as impersonally as though he had neither lowered his voice nor
thrown any intensity into his eyes. "However, none of the ladies here
approach Helen--Mrs. Lorrington; and I am sure _you_ agree with me in
thinking so, Mr. Dexter."

"You are loyal to your friend."

"No one has been so kind to me; I both love her and warmly admire her.
How I hope she may come soon! And when she does, as I can not help
loving to be with her, I suppose I shall see a great deal more of
_you_," said the girl, smiling, and in her own mind addressing the
long-devoted Knight-errant.

"Shall you?" thought Dexter, not a little piqued by her readiness to
yield him even to her friend. "I will see that you do not long continue
quite so indifferent," he added to himself, with determination. Then, in
pursuance of this, he decided to go in and dance with some one else;
that should be a first step.

"I believe I am engaged to Mrs. Bannert for the next dance," he said,
regretfully. "Shall I take you in?"

"No; please let me stay here a while. My arm really aches dully all the
time, and the fresh air is pleasant."

"And if Miss Vanhorn should ask?"

"Tell her where I am."

"I will," answered Dexter. And he fully intended to do it in any case.
He liked, when she was not with him, to have Anne safely under her
grandaunt's watchful vigilance, not exactly with the spirit of the dog
in the manger, but something like it. He was conscious, also, that he
possessed the chaperon's especial favor, and he did not intend to
forfeit it; he wished to use it for his own purposes.

But Rachel marred his intention by crossing it with one of her own.

Dexter admired Mrs. Bannert. He could not help it. When she took his
arm, he was for the time being hers. She knew this, and being piqued by
some neglect of Heathcote's, she met the other man at the door, and made
him think, without saying it, that she wished to be with him awhile on
the moon-lit piazza; for Heathcote was there. Dexter obeyed. And thus it
happened that Miss Vanhorn was not told at all; but supposing that her
niece was still with the escort she had herself selected, the
fine-looking owner of mines and mills, the future Senator, the "type of
American success," she rested mistakenly content, and spent the time
agreeably in making old Mrs. Bannert's life a temporary fever by
relating to her in detail some old buried scandals respecting the
departed Bannert, pretending to have forgotten entirely the chief
actor's name.

In the mean while Heathcote, sauntering along the piazza in his turn,
came upon Anne sitting alone by the window, and dropped into the vacant
place beside her. He said a few words, playing with the fringe of
Rachel's sash, which he still wore, "her colors," some one remarked, but
made no allusion to the occurrences of the previous day. What he said
was unimportant, but he looked at her rather steadily, and she was
conscious of his glance. In truth, he was merely noting the effect of
her head and throat against the lighted window, as Dexter had done, the
outline being very distinct and lovely, a profile framed in light; but
she thought it was something different. A painful timidity again seized
her; instead of blushing, she turned pale, and with difficulty answered
clearly. "_He_ does not praise me," she thought. "_He_ does not say that
what I did yesterday was greater than anything among Indians and mines
and on sinking steamers. _He_ is laughing at me. Grandaunt was right,
and no doubt he thinks me a bold, forward girl who tried to make a
sensation."

[Illustration: "HE WAS MERELY NOTING THE EFFECT."]

Heathcote made another unimportant remark, but Anne, being now nervously
sensitive, took it as having a second meaning. She turned her head away
to hide the burning tears that were rising; but although unshed,
Heathcote saw them. His observation was instantaneous where women were
concerned; not so much active as intuitive. He had no idea what was the
matter with her: this was the second inexplicable appearance of tears.
But it would take more than such little damp occasions to disconcert
him; and rather at random, but with sympathy and even tenderness in his
voice, he said, soothingly, "Do not mind it," "it" of course
representing whatever she pleased. Then, as the drops fell, "Why, you
poor child, you are really in trouble," he said, taking her hand and
holding it in his. Then, after a moment: "I do not know, of course, what
it is that distresses you, but I too, although ignorant, am distressed
by it also. For since yesterday, Anne, you have occupied a place in my
memory which will never give you up. You will be an image there
forever."

It was not much, after all; most improbable was it that any of those who
saw her risk her life that day would soon forget her. Yet there was
something in the glance of his eye and in the clasp of his hand that
soothed Anne inexpressibly. She never again cared what people thought of
her "boyish freak" (so Miss Vanhorn termed it), but laid the whole
memory away, embalmed shyly in sweet odors forever.

Other persons now came in sight. "Shall we walk?" said Heathcote. They
rose; she took his arm. He did not lead her out to the shadowed path
below the piazza; they remained all the time among the lights and
passing strollers. Their conversation was inconclusive and unmomentous,
without a tinge of novel interest or brilliancy; not one sentence would
have been worth repeating. Yet such as it was, with its few words and
many silences which the man of the world did not exert himself to break,
it seemed to establish a closer acquaintance between them than eloquence
could have done. At least it was so with Anne, although she did not
define it. Heathcote had no need to define; it was an old story with
him.

As the second dance ended, he took her round, as though by chance, to
the other side of the piazza, where he knew Rachel was sitting with Mr.
Dexter. Here he skillfully changed companions, simply by one or two of
his glances. For Rachel understood from them that he was bored,
repentant, and lonely; and once convinced of this, she immediately
executed the manœuvre herself, with the woman's usual means of natural
little phrases and changes of position, Heathcote meanwhile standing
passive until it was all done. Heathcote generally stood passive. But
Dexter often had the appearance of exerting himself and arranging
things.

Thus it happened that Miss Vanhorn saw Anne re-enter with the same
escort who had taken her forth.

Another week passed, and another. Various scenes in the little dramas
played by the different persons present followed each other with more or
less notice, more or less success. One side of Dexter's nature was
completely fascinated with Rachel Bannert--with her beauty, which a
saint-worshipper would have denied, although why saintliness should be a
matter of blonde hair remains undiscovered; with her dress and grace of
manner; with her undoubted position in that narrow circle which he
wished to enter even while condemning--perhaps merely to conquer it and
turn away again. His rival with Rachel was Heathcote; he had discovered
that. He was conscious that he detested Heathcote. While thus secretly
interested in Rachel, he yet found time, however, to give a portion of
each day to Anne; he did this partly from policy and partly from jealous
annoyance. For here too he found the other man. Heathcote, in truth,
seemed to be amusing himself in much the same way. If Dexter waltzed
with Rachel, Heathcote offered his arm to Anne and took her out on the
piazza; if Dexter walked with Anne there, Heathcote took Rachel into the
rose-scented dusky garden. But Dexter had Miss Vanhorn's favor, if that
was anything. She went to drive with him and took Anne; she allowed him
to accompany them on their botanizing expeditions; she talked to him,
and even listened to his descriptions of his life and adventures. In
reality she cared no more for him than for a Choctaw; no more for his
life than for that of Robinson Crusoe. But he was a rich man, and he
would do for Anne, who was not a Vanhorn, but merely a Douglas. He had
showed some liking for the girl; the affair should be encouraged and
clinched. She, Katharine Vanhorn, would clinch it. He must be a very
different man from the diagnosis she had made up of him if he did not
yield to her clinching.

During these weeks, therefore, there had been many long conversations
between Anne and Mr. Dexter; they had talked on many subjects
appropriate to the occasion--Dexter was always appropriate. He had
quoted pages of poetry, and he quoted well. He had, like Othello,
related his adventures, and they were thrilling and true. Then, when
more sure of her, he had turned the conversation upon herself. It is a
fascinating subject--one's self! Anne touched it timidly here and there,
but, never having had the habit or even the knowledge of self-analysis,
she was more uncomfortable than pleased, after all, and inclined
mentally to run away. She did not know herself whether she had more
imagination than timidity, whether conscientiousness was more developed
in her than ideality, or whether, if obliged to choose between saving
the life of a brother or a husband, she would choose the former or the
latter. Dexter had to drag her opinions of her own character from her
almost by main strength. But he persisted. He had never known an
imaginative young girl at the age when all things are problems to her
who was not secretly, often openly, fascinated by a sympathetic research
into her own timid little characteristics, opening like buds within her
one by one. Dexter's theory was correct, his rule a good one probably in
ninety-nine cases out of a hundred; only--Anne was the hundredth. She
began to be afraid of him as he came toward her, kind, smiling, with his
invisible air of success about him, ready for one of their long
conversations. Yet certainly he was as pleasant a companion as a
somewhat lonely young girl, isolated at a place like Caryl's, could
wish for; at least that is what every one would have said.

During these weeks there had been no long talks with Heathcote. Miss
Vanhorn did not ask him to accompany them to the woods; she did not
utter to him the initiative word in passing which gives the opportunity.
Still, there had been chance meetings and chance words, of
course--five-minute strolls on the piazza, five-minute looks at the
sunset or at the stars, in the pauses between the dances. But where
Heathcote took a minute, Dexter had, if he chose, an hour.

Although in one way now so idle, Anne seemed to herself never to have
been so busy before. Miss Vanhorn kept her at work upon plants through a
large portion of each day, and required her to be promptly ready upon
all other occasions. She barely found time to write to Miss Lois, who
was spending the summer in a state betwixt anger and joy, veering one
way by reason, the other by wrath, yet unable to refrain entirely from
satisfaction over the new clothes for the children which Miss Vanhorn's
money had enabled her to buy. The allowance was paid in advance; and it
made Anne light-hearted whenever she thought, as she did daily, of the
comforts it gave to those she loved. To Rast, Anne wrote in the early
morning, her only free time. Rast was now on the island, but he was to
go in a few days. This statement, continually repeated, like lawyers'
notices of sales postponed from date to date, had lasted all summer, and
still lasted. He had written to Anne as usual, until Miss Vanhorn,
although without naming him, had tartly forbidden "so many letters."
Then Anne asked him to write less frequently, and he obeyed. She,
however, continued to write herself as before, describing her life at
Caryl's, while he answered (as often as he was allowed), telling of his
plans, and complaining that they were to be separated so long. But he
was going to the far West, and there he should soon win a home for her.
He counted the days till that happy time.

And then Anne would sit and dream of the island: she saw the old house,
Rast, and the children, Miss Lois's thin, energetic face, the blue
Straits, the white fort, and the little inclosure on the heights where
were the two graves. She closed her eyes and heard their voices; she
told them all she hoped. Only this one more winter, and then she could
see them again, send them help, and perhaps have one of the children
with her. And then, the year after--But here Miss Vanhorn's voice
calling her name broke the vision, and with a sigh she returned to
Caryl's again.

Helen's letters had ceased; but Anne jotted down a faithful record of
the events of the days for her inspection when she came. Rumors varied
at Caryl's respecting Mrs. Lorrington. Now her grandfather had died, and
left her everything; and now he had miraculously recovered, and deeded
his fortune to charitable institutions. Now he had existed without
nourishment for weeks, and now he had the appetite of ten, and exhibited
the capabilities of a second Methuselah. But in the mean time Helen was
still absent. Under these circumstances, Anne, if she had been older,
and desirous, might have collected voluminous expressions of opinion as
to the qualities, beauty, and history, past and present, of the absent
one from her dearest friends on earth. But the dearest friends on earth
had not the habit of talking to this young girl as a companion and
equal; to them she was simply that "sweet child," that "dear fresh-faced
school-girl," to whom they confided only amiable platitudes. So Anne
continued to hold fast undisturbed her belief in her beautiful
Helen--that strong, grateful, reverent feeling which a young girl often
cherishes for an older woman who is kind to her.

One still, hazy morning Miss Vanhorn announced her programme for the
day. She intended to drive over to the county town, and Anne was to go
with her six miles of the distance, and be left at a certain glen, where
there was a country saw-mill. They had been there together several
times, and had made acquaintance with the saw-miller, his wife, and his
brood of white-headed children. The object of the present visit was a
certain fern--the Camptosorus, or walking-leaf--which Miss Vanhorn had
recently learned grew there, or at least had grown there within the
memory of living botanists. That was enough. Anne was to search for the
plant unflinchingly (the presence of the mill family being a sufficient
protection) throughout the entire day, and be in waiting at the
main-road crossing at sunset, when her grandaunt's carriage would stop
on its return home. In order that there might be no mistake as to the
time, she was allowed to wear one of Miss Vanhorn's watches. There were
fourteen of them, all heirlooms, all either wildly too fast in their
motions or hopelessly too slow, so that the gift was an embarrassing
one. Anne knew that if she relied upon the one intrusted to her care,
she would be obliged to spend about three hours at the crossing to allow
for the variations in one direction or the other which might erratically
attack it during the day. But her hope lay in the saw-miller's
bright-faced little Yankee clock. At their early breakfast she prepared
a lunch for herself in a small basket, and before Caryl's had fairly
awakened, the old coupé rolled away from the door, bearing aunt and
niece into the green country. When they reached the wooded hills at the
end of the six miles, Anne descended with her basket, her digging
trowel, and her tin plant case. She was to go over every inch of the
saw-miller's ravine, and find that fern, living or dead. Miss Vanhorn
said this, and she meant the plant; but it sounded as if she meant Anne.
With renewed warnings as to care and diligence, she drove on, and Anne
was left alone. It was ten o'clock, and a breathless August day. She
hastened up the little path toward the saw-mill, glad to enter the wood
and escape the heat of the sun. She now walked more slowly, and looked
right and left for the fern; it was not there, probably, so near the
light, but she had conscientiously determined to lose no inch of the
allotted ground. Owing to this slow search, half an hour had passed when
she reached the mill. She had perceived for some time that it was not in
motion; there was no hum of the saw, no harsh cry of the rent boards:
she said to herself that the miller was getting a great log in place on
the little cart to be drawn up the tramway. But when she reached the
spot, the miller was not there; the mill was closed, and only the
peculiar fresh odor of the logs recently sawn asunder told that but a
short time before the saw had been in motion. She went on to the door of
the little house, and knocked; no one answered. Standing on tiptoe, she
peeped in through the low window, and saw that the rooms were empty, and
in that shining order that betokens the housewife's absence. Returning
to the mill, she walked up the tramway; a bit of paper, for the
information of chance customers, was pinned to the latch: "All hands
gone to the sirkus. Home at sunset." She sat down, took off her straw
hat, and considered what to do.

Three hundred and sixty-four days of that year Saw-miller Pike, his
wife, his four children, and his hired man, one or all of them, were on
that spot; their one absence chance decreed should be on this particular
August Thursday when Anne Douglas came there to spend the day. She was
not afraid; it was a quiet rural neighborhood without beggars or tramps.
Her grandaunt would not return until sunset. She decided to look for the
fern, and if she found it within an hour or two, to walk home, and send
a boy back on horseback to wait for Miss Vanhorn. If she did not find it
before afternoon, she would wait for the carriage, according to
agreement. Hanging her basket and shawl on a tree branch near the mill,
she entered the ravine, and was soon hidden in its green recesses. Up
and down, up and down the steep rocky sides she climbed, her tin case
swinging from her shoulder, her trowel in her belt; she neglected no
spot, and her track, if it had been visible, would have shown itself
almost as regular as the web of the geometric spider. Up and down, up
and down, from the head of the ravine to its foot on one side: nothing.
It seemed to her that she had seen the fronds and curled crosiers of a
thousand ferns. Her eyes were tired, and she threw herself down on a
mossy bank not far from the mill to rest a moment. There was no use in
looking at the watch; still, she did it, and decided that it was either
half past eleven or half past three. The remaining side of the ravine
gazed at her steadily; she knew that she must clamber over every inch
of those rocks also. She sighed, bathed her flushed cheeks in the brook,
took down her hair, and braided it in two long school-girl braids, which
hung down below her waist; then she tied her straw hat to a branch,
pinned her neck-tie on the brim, took off her linen cuffs, and laid them
within together with her gloves, and leaving the tin plant case and the
trowel on the bank, started on her search. Up and down, up and down,
peering into every cranny, standing on next to nothing, swinging herself
from rock to rock; making acquaintance with several very unpleasant rock
spiders, and hastily constructing bridges for them of small twigs, so
that they could cross from her skirt to their home ledge in safety;
finding a trickling spring, and drinking from it; now half way down the
ravine, now three-quarters; and still no walking-leaf. She sat down on a
jutting crag to take breath an instant, and watched a bird on a tree
branch near by. He was one of those little brown songsters that sing as
follows:

[Illustration: Musical notation]

Seeing her watching him, he now chanted his little anthem in his best
style.

"Very well," said Anne, aloud.

"Oh no; only so-so," said a voice below. She looked down, startled, It
was Ward Heathcote.

[Illustration: "SHE BATHED HER FLUSHED CHEEK."]



CHAPTER XIV.

     "From beginning to end it was all undeniable nonsense; but not
     necessarily the worse for that."--NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE.


Heathcote was sitting under a tree by the brook-side, as though he had
never been anywhere else.

"When did you come?" said Anne, looking down from her perch.

"Fifteen minutes or so ago," he answered, looking up from his couch.

"_Why_ did you come?"

"To see you, of course."

"No; I can not believe that. The day is too warm."

"You, at any rate, look cool enough."

"It is cool up here among the rocks; but it must be intense out on the
high-road."

"I did not come by the high-road."

"How, then, did you come?"

"Across the fields."

"Why?"

"Miss Douglas, were you born in New Hampshire? As I can not call all
this information you require up hill, I shall be obliged to come up
myself."

As he rose, Anne saw that he was laden with her dinner basket and shawl,
her plant case and trowel, and her straw hat and its contents, which he
balanced with exaggerated care. "Oh, leave them all there," she called
down, laughingly.

But no, Heathcote would not; he preferred to bring them all with him.
When he reached her rock, he gravely delivered them into her hands, and
took a seat beside her, fanning himself with his hat.

"And now, how does it happen that you are here?" repeated Anne, placing
her possessions in different niches.

"You insist? Why not let it pass for chance? No? Well, then, by
horseback to Powell's: horse loses shoe; blacksmith's shop. Blacksmith
talkative; second customer that morning; old coupé, fat old coachman,
and fat brown horse, who also loses shoe. Coachman talkative; tells all
about it; blacksmith tells _me_; young lady left at saw-mill to be taken
up on return. I, being acquainted with said saw-mill and young lady,
come across by lane through the fields. Find a dinner basket; look in;
conclude to bring it on. Find a small tin coffin, and bring that too.
Find a hat, ditto. Hat contains--"

"Never mind," said Anne, laughing. "But where is your horse?"

"Tied to a tree."

"And what are you going to do?"

"At present, nothing. By-and-by, if you will permit it, I _may_--smoke a
cigar."

"I have no idea what time it is," said Anne, after a pause, while
Heathcote, finding a comfortable place with his back against the rocks,
seemed disposed to enjoy one of his seasons of silence.

He drew out his watch, and without looking at it held it toward her.
"You need not tell; _I_ do not want to know," he said.

"In spite of that, I feel it to be my duty to announce that it is nearly
half past twelve; you may still reach home in time for lunch."

"Thanks. I know what I shall have for lunch."

"What?"

"One small biscuit, three slices of cake, one long corpulent pickle, and
an apple."

"You have left nothing for me," said Anne, laughing over this disclosure
of the contents of her basket.

"On the contrary, I have brought you something," said Heathcote, gravely
producing two potatoes uncooked, a pinch of salt in paper, and a quarter
of a loaf of bread, from the pockets of his blue flannel coat.

Anne burst into a peal of laughter, and the last shadow of timidity
vanished. Heathcote seemed for the moment as young as Rast himself.

"Where have you been foraging?" she said.

"Foraging? I beg your pardon; nothing of the kind. I bought these
supplies regularly from a farmer's wife, and paid for them in the coin
of the land. I remarked to her that I should be out all day, and hated
hunger; it was so sanguinary."

"But you will not be out all day."

"Until eight minutes of six, precisely; that is the time I have selected
for my return." Then, seeing that she looked grave, he dropped into his
usual manner, and added, "Of course, Miss Douglas, I shall only remain a
little while--until the noon heat is over. You are looking for a rare
flower, I believe?"

"A fern."

"What is the color of its flower?"

Anne laughed again. "A fern has no flower," she explained. "See, it is
like this." And plucking a slender leaf, she described the wished-for
plant minutely. "It stretches out its long tip--so; touches the
earth--so; puts down a new little root from the leaf's end--so; and then
starts on again--so."

"In a series of little green leaps?"

"Yes."

Heathcote knew as much of ferns as he did of saurians; but no subject
was too remote for him when he chose to appear interested. He now chose
to appear so, and they talked of ferns for some time. Then Anne said
that she must finish the remaining quarter of the ravine. Heathcote
decided to smoke a cigar where he was first; then he would join her.

But when, half an hour later, she came into view again beside the brook
below him, apparently he had not stirred. "Found it?" he said.

"No."

"There is a sort of thin, consumptive, beggarly little leaf up here
which looks something like your description. Shall I bring him down?"

"No, no; do not touch it," she answered, springing up the rocks toward
him. "If it should be! But--I don't believe you know."

But he did know; for it was there. Very small and slender, creeping
close to the rocks in the shyest way, half lost in the deep moss; but
there! Heathcote had not moved; but the shrinking little plant happened
to have placed itself exactly on a line with his idle eyes.

"It is unfair that you should find it without stirring, while I have had
such a hard climb all in vain," said Anne, carefully taking up the
little plant, with sufficient earth and moss to keep it comfortable.

"It is ever so," replied her companion, lazily, watching the spirals of
cigar smoke above his head: "wait, and in time everything will come to
you. If not in this world, then certainly in the next, which is the
world I have selected for my own best efforts."

When the fern was properly bedded in the tin case, and the cover closed,
Anne sat down for a moment to rest.

"When shall we have lunch?" asked the smoker.

"_You?_"

"Yes; I am bitterly hungry."

"But you said you were only going to stay a short time."

"Half an hour longer."

"What time is it now?"

"I have no idea."

"You can look."

"I refuse to look. Amiability has its limit."

"I had intended to walk home, if I found the fern in time," said Anne.

"Ah? But I think we are going to have a storm. Probably a
thunder-storm," said Heathcote, languidly.

"How do you know? And--what shall we do?"

"I know, because I have been watching that little patch of sky up there.
As to what we shall do--we can try the mill."

They rose as he spoke. Anne took the plant case. "I will carry this,"
she said; "the walking-leaf must be humored."

"So long as I have the dinner basket I remain sweet-tempered," answered
Heathcote.

She put on her hat, but her neck-tie and cuffs were gone.

"I have them safe," he said. "They are with the potatoes."

Reaching the mill, they tried the door, but found it securely fastened.
They tried the house door and windows, with the same result. Unless they
broke several panes of glass they could not gain entrance, and even then
it was a question whether Heathcote would be able to thrust inward the
strong oaken stick above, which held the sash down.

"Do mount your horse and ride home," urged Anne. "I shall be safe here,
and in danger of nothing worse than a summer shower. I will go back in
the ravine and find a beech-tree. Its close, strong little leaves will
keep off the rain almost entirely. Why should both of us be drenched?"

"Neither of us shall be. Come with me, and quickly, for the storm is
close upon us. There is a little cave, or rather hollow in the rock, not
far above the road; I think it will shelter us. I, for one, have no
desire to be out in your 'summer shower,' and ride home to Caryl's
afterward in a limp, blue-stained condition."

"How long will it take us to reach this cave?" said Anne, hesitating.

"Three minutes, perhaps."

"I suppose we had better go, then," she said, slowly. "But pray do not
take those things. They will all have to be brought down again."

"They shall be," said Heathcote, leading the way toward the road.

It was not a long climb, but in some places the ascent was steep. A
little path was their guide to the "cave"--a hollow in the ledge, which
the boys of the neighborhood considered quite a fortress, a bandit's
retreat. A rude ladder formed the front steps of their rock nest, and
Anne was soon ensconced within, her gray shawl making a carpet for them
both. The cave was about seven feet in depth, and four or five in
breadth; the rock roof was high above their heads. Behind there was a
dark, deep little recess, blackened with smoke, which the boys had
evidently used as an oven. The side of the hill jutted out slightly
above them, and this, rather than the seven feet of depth possessed by
the niche, made it possible that they would escape the rain.

The cave was in an angle of the hill. From Heathcote's side part of the
main road could be seen, and the saw-mill; but Anne, facing the other
way, saw only the fields and forest, the sparkle of the little
mill-stream, and the calmer gleam of the river. One half of the sky was
of the deepest blue, one half of the expanse of field and forest golden
in the sunshine. Over the other half hung a cloud and a shadow of deep
purple-black, which were advancing rapidly, although there was not,
where the two gazers sat, so much as a breath of stirred air.

"It will soon be here," said Heathcote. "See that white line across the
forest? That is the wind turning over the leaves. In the fields it makes
the grain look suddenly gray as it is bent forward."

"I should not have known it was the wind," said Anne. "I have only seen
storms on the water."

"That yellow line is the Mellport plank-road; all the dust is whirling.
Are you afraid of lightning?"

"Shall we have it?"

"Yes; here it is." And, with a flash, the wind was upon them. A cloud of
dust rose from the road below; they bent their heads until the whirlwind
had passed by on its wild career down the valley. When, laughing and
breathless, Anne opened her eyes again, her hair, swept out of its loose
braids, was in a wild mass round her shoulders, and she barely saved her
straw hat, which was starting out to follow the whirlwind. And now the
lightning was vivid and beautiful, cutting the blue-black clouds with
fierce golden darts, while the thunder followed, peal after peal, until
the hill itself seemed to tremble. A moment later came the rain, hiding
both the valley and sky with its thick gray veil: they were shut in.

As Heathcote had thought, the drops only grazed their doorway. They
moved slightly back from the entrance; he took off his hat, hung it on a
rock knob, and inquired meekly if they might not _now_ have lunch. Anne,
who, between the peals, had been endeavoring to recapture her hair, and
had now one long thick braid in comparative order, smiled, and advised
him to stay his hunger with the provisions in his own pockets. He took
them out and looked at them.

"If the boys who use this hole for an oven have left us some wood, we
will roast and toast these, and have a hot lunch yet," he said,
stretching back to search. Lighting a match, he examined the hole; the
draught that blew the flame proved that it had an outlet above. "Boys
know something, after all. And here is their wood-pile," he said,
showing Anne, by the light of a second match, a cranny in the rock at
one side neatly filled with small sticks and twigs. The rain fell in a
thick dark sheet outside straight down from the sky to the ground with a
low rushing sound. In a minute or two a tiny blue flame flickered on
their miniature hearth, went out, started again, turned golden, caught
at the twigs, and grew at last into a brisk little fire. Heathcote,
leaning on his elbow, his hands and cuffs grimed, watched and tended it
carefully. He next cut his quarter loaf into slices, and toasted--or
rather heated--them on the point of his knife-blade; he put his two
potatoes under hot ashes, like two Indian mounds, arranged his pinch of
salt ceremoniously upon a stone, and then announced that he had prepared
a meal to which all persons present were generously invited, with a
polite unconsciousness as to any covered baskets they might have in
their possession, or the supposed contents of said receptacles. Anne,
having finished the other long braid and thrown it behind her, was now
endeavoring to wash her hands in the rain. In this attempt Heathcote
joined her, but only succeeded in broadening the grimy spots. The girl's
neck-tie and cuffs were still confiscated. She was aware that a linen
collar, fastened only with a white pin, is not what custom requires at
the base of a chin, and that wrists bare for three inches above the hand
are considered indecorous. At least in the morning, certain qualities in
evening air making the same exposure, even to a much greater extent,
quite different. But she was not much troubled; island life had made her
indifferent even to these enormities.

The rain did not swerve from its work; it came down steadily; they could
not see through the swift lead-colored drops. But, within, the little
cave was cheery in the fire-light, and the toasted bread had an
appetizing fragrance. At least Heathcote said so; Anne thought it was
burned. She opened her basket, and they divided the contents
impartially--half a biscuit, half a pickle, half an apple, and a slice
and a half of cake for each. The potatoes were hardly warmed through,
but Heathcote insisted that they should be tasted, "in order not to
wickedly waste the salt." Being really hungry, they finished everything,
he stoutly refusing to give up even a crumb of his last half-slice of
cake, which Anne begged for on the plea of being still in school. By
this time they were full of merriment, laughing and paying no attention
to what they said, talking nonsense and enjoying it. Anne's cheeks
glowed, her eyes were bright as stars, her brown hair, more loosely
fastened than usual, lay in little waves round her face; her beautiful
arched lips were half the time parted in laughter, and her rounded arms
and hands seemed to fall into charming poses of their own, whichever way
she turned.

About three o'clock the veil of rain grew less dense; they could see the
fields again; from where he sat, Heathcote could see the road and the
mill.

"Can we not go now?" said Anne.

"By no means, unless you covet the drenching we have taken so much care
to escape. But by four I think it will be over." He lit a cigar, and
leaning back against the rock, said, "Tell me some more about that
island; about the dogs and the ice."

"No," said Anne, coloring a little; "you are laughing at me. I shall
tell you no more."

Then he demanded autocratically that she should sing. "I choose the song
you sang on New-Year's night; the ballad."

And Anne sang the little chanson, sang it softly and clearly, the low
sound of the rain forming an accompaniment.

"Do you know any Italian songs?"

"Yes."

"Please sing me one."

She sang one of Belzini's selections, and remembered to sing it as Tante
had directed.

"You do not sing that as well as the other; there is no expression.
However, that could hardly be expected, I suppose."

"Yes, it could, and I know how. Only Tante told me not to do it," said
the girl, with a touch of annoyance.

"Tante not being here, I propose that you disobey."

And Anne, not unwillingly, began; it had always been hard for her to
follow Tante's little rule. She had heard the song more than once in the
opera to which it belonged, and she knew the Italian words. She put her
whole heart into it, and when she ended, her eyes were dimmed with
emotion.

Heathcote looked at her now, and guardedly. This was not the school-girl
of the hour before. But it was, and he soon discovered that it was.
Anne's emotion had been impersonal; she had identified herself for the
time being with the song, but once ended, its love and grief were no
more to her--her own personality as Anne Douglas--than the opera itself.

"Curious!" thought the man beside her.

And then his attention was diverted by a moving object advancing along
the main road below. Through the rain he distinguished the light buggy
of Gregory Dexter and his pair of fine black horses. They had evidently
been under shelter during the heaviest rain-fall, and had now ventured
forth again. Heathcote made no sign, but watched. Anne could not see the
road. Dexter stopped at the mill, tied his horses to a post, and then
tried the doors, and also the door of the miller's little cottage,
peering through the windows as they had done. Then he went up the ravine
out of sight, as if searching for some one. After five minutes he
returned, and waited, hesitating, under a tree, which partially
protected him from the still falling drops. Heathcote was now roused to
amusement. Dexter was evidently searching for Anne. He lit another
cigar, leaned back against the rock in a comfortable position, and began
a desultory conversation, at the same time watching the movements of
his rival below. A sudden after-shower had now come up--one of those
short but heavy bursts of rain on the departing edge of a thunder-storm,
by which the unwary are often overtaken. Dexter, leaving his tree, and
seizing the cushions of the buggy, hurried up the tramway to the mill
door again, intending to force an entrance. But the solid oak stood firm
in spite of his efforts, and the rain poured fiercely down. Heathcote
could see him look upward to the sky, still holding the heavy cushions,
and his sense of enjoyment was so great that he leaned forward and
warmly shook hands with Anne.

"Why do you do that?" she asked, in surprise.

"I remembered that I had not shaken hands with you all day. If we
neglect our privileges, the gods take them from us," he answered. And
then, he had the exquisite pleasure of seeing the man below attempt to
climb up to one of the small mill windows, slip down twice, and at last
succeed so far as to find footing on a projecting edge, and endeavor to
open the stubborn sash, which plainly would not yield. He was exerting
all his strength. But without avail. It was a true dog-day afternoon,
the rain having made the air more close and lifeless than before. The
strong draught up the chimney of their cave had taken the heat of the
small fire away from them; yet even there among the cool rocks they had
found it necessary to put out the little blaze, as making their niche
too warm. Down below in the open valley the heat was unbroken; and to be
wet and warm, and obliged to exert all one's strength at the same time,
is hard for a large man like Gregory Dexter. The rain dripped from the
roof directly down upon his hat, and probably, the looker-on thought
with glee, was stealing down his back also. At any rate he was becoming
impatient, for he broke a pane of glass and put his hand through to try
and reach the sash-spring. But the spring was broken; it would not move.
And now he must be growing angry, for he shivered all the panes, broke
the frame, and then tried to clamber in; the cushions were already
sacrificed down on the wet boards below. But it is difficult for a
broad-shouldered heavy man to climb through a small window, especially
if he have no firm foot-hold as a beginning. Heathcote laughed out aloud
now, and Anne leaned forward to look also.

"Who is it?" she said, as she caught sight of the struggling figure. At
this moment Dexter had one knee on the sill and his head inside, but he
was too broad for the space.

"He is caught! He can neither get in nor out," said Heathcote, in an
ecstasy of mirth.

"Who is it?" said Anne again.

"Dexter, of course; he is here looking for you. There! he has
slipped--he is in real danger! No; he has firm hold with his hands. See
him try to find the edge with his feet. Oh, this is too good!" And
throwing back his head, Heathcote laughed until his brown eyes shone.

But Anne, really alarmed, held her breath; then, when the struggling
figure at last found its former foot-hold, she gave a sigh of relief.
"We must go down," she said.

"And why, Miss Douglas?"

"Did you not say he had come for me?"

"That was a supposition merely. And did not I come for you too?"

"But as he is there, would it not be better for us to go down?"

"Have we not done well enough by ourselves so far? And besides, at this
late hour, I see no object in getting a wetting merely for his sake."

"It is not raining hard now."

"But it is still raining."

She leaned forward and looked down at Dexter again; he was standing
under a tree wiping his hat with his handkerchief.

"Please let me go down," she said, entreatingly, like a child.

"No," said Heathcote, smiling back, and taking her hand as if to make
sure. "Do you remember the evening after the quarry affair, Anne? and
that I took your hand, and held it as I am doing now? Did you think me
impertinent?"

"I thought you very kind. After that I did not mind what grandaunt had
said."

"And what had she said? But no matter; something disagreeable, without
doubt. Even the boys who frequent this retreat could not well have
grimier hands than we have now: look at them. No, you can not be
released, unless you promise."

"What?"

"Not to go down until I give you leave: I will give it soon."

"I promise."

With a quiet pressure, and one rather long look, he relinquished her
hand, and leaned back against the rock again.

"I wonder how Dexter knew that you were here?"

"Perhaps he met grandaunt. I heard him say that he was going to Mellport
to-day."

"That is it. The roads cross, and he must have met her. Probably, then,
he has her permission to take you home. Miss Douglas, will you accept
advice?"

"I will at least listen to it," said Anne, smiling.

"When the rain stops, as it will in a few minutes, go down alone. And
say nothing to Mr. Dexter about me. Now do not begin to batter me with
that aggressive truthfulness of yours. You can, of course, tell Miss
Vanhorn the whole; but certainly you are not accountable to Gregory
Dexter."

"But why should I not tell him?"

"Because it is as well that he should not know I have been here with you
all day," said Heathcote, quietly, but curious to hear what she would
answer.

"Was it wrong?"

"It was a chance. But he would think I planned it. Of course I supposed
the miller and his family were here."

"But if it was wrong for you to be here when you found them absent, why
did you stay?" said Anne, looking at him gravely.

"The storm came up, you know; of course I could not leave you. Do not
look so serious; all is well if we keep it to ourselves. And Miss
Vanhorn's first command to you will be the same. She will look blackly
at me for a day or two, but I shall be able to bear that. Take my
advice; to Dexter, at least, say nothing." Then, seeing her still
unconvinced, he added, "On my own account, too, I wish you would not
tell him."

"You mean it?"

"Yes."

"Then I will not," she answered, raising her sincere eyes to his.

Heathcote laughed, lightly lifted her hand, and touched the blue-veined
wrist with his lips. "You true-hearted little girl!" he said. "I was
only joking. As far as I am concerned, you may tell Dexter and the whole
world. But seriously, on your own account, I beg you to refrain. Promise
me not to tell him until you have seen Miss Vanhorn."

"Very well; I promise that," said Anne.

"Good-by, then. The rain is over, and he will be going. I will not show
myself until I see you drive away. What good fortune that my horse was
tied out of sight! Must you carry all those things, basket, tin case,
and all? Why not let me try to smuggle some of them home on horseback?
You would rather not? I submit. There, your hat has fallen off; I will
tie it on."

"But the strings do not belong there," said Anne, laughing merrily as he
knotted the two blue ribbons with great strength (as a man always ties a
ribbon) under her chin.

"Never mind; they look charming."

"And my cuffs?"

"You can not have them; I shall keep them as souvenirs. And now--have
you had a pleasant day, Anne?"

"Very," replied the girl, frankly.

They shook hands in farewell, and then she went down the ladder, her
shawl, plant case, and basket on her arm. Heathcote remained in the
cave. When she had reached the ground, and was turning to descend the
hill, a low voice above said, "Anne."

She glanced up; Heathcote was lying on the floor of the cave with his
eyes looking over the edge. "Shake hands," he said, cautiously
stretching down an arm.

"But I did."

"Once more."

She put down her shawl, plant case, and basket, and, climbing one round
of the ladder, extended her hand; their finger-tips touched.

"Thanks," said the voice above, and the head was withdrawn.

Dexter, after doing what he could to make the buggy dry, was on the
point of driving away, when he saw a figure coming toward him, and
recognized Anne. He jumped lightly out over the wheel (he could be light
on occasion), and came to meet her. It was as they had thought; he had
met Miss Vanhorn, and learning where Anne was, had received permission
to take her home.

"I shall not be disappointed after all," he said, his white teeth
gleaming as he smiled, and his gray eyes resting upon her with cordial
pleasure. He certainly was a fine-looking man. But--too large for a mill
window. Fortunately mill windows are not standards of comparison.

"It has been raining a long time; where did you find shelter?" he asked,
as the spirited horses, fretted by standing, started down the moist
brown road at a swift pace.

"In a little cave in the hill-side above us," answered Anne, conscious
that at that very moment Heathcote was probably watching them. She
hesitated, and then, in spite of a distinct determination not to do it,
could not help turning her head and glancing backward and upward for a
second behind her companion's broad shoulders. In answer, a handkerchief
fluttered from above; he was watching, then. A bright flush rose in her
cheeks, and she talked gayly to Dexter during the six-mile drive between
the glistening fields, over the wet dark bridge, and up to the piazza of
Caryl's, where almost every one was sitting enjoying the coolness after
the rain, and the fresh fragrance of the grateful earth. Rachel Bannert
came forward as they alighted, and resting her hand caressingly on
Anne's shoulder, hoped that she was not tired--and were they caught in
the rain?--and did they observe the peculiar color of the clouds?--and
so forth, and so forth. Rachel was dressed for the evening in black lace
over black velvet, with a crimson rose in her hair; the rich drapery
trailed round her in royal length, yet in some way failed to conceal
entirely the little foot in its black slipper. Anne did not hurry away;
she stood contentedly where she was while Rachel asked all her little
questions. Dexter had stepped back into the buggy with the intention of
driving round himself to the stables; he had no desire to expose the
wrinkled condition of his attire to the groups on the piazza. But in
that short interval he noted (as Rachel had intended he should note)
every detail of her appearance. Her only failure was that he failed to
note also, by comparison, the deficiencies of Anne.

When he was gone, being released, Anne ran up to her room, placed the
fern in water, and then, happening to think of it, looked at herself in
the glass. The result was not cheering. Like most women, she judged
herself by the order of her hair and dress; they were both frightful.

Miss Vanhorn, also caught in the storm, did not return until late
twilight. Anne, not knowing what she would decree when she heard the
story of the day, had attired herself in the thick white school-girl
dress which had been selected on another occasion of penance--the
evening after the adventure at the quarry. It was an inconvenient time
to tell the story. Miss Vanhorn was tired and cross, tea had been sent
up to the room, and Bessmer was waiting to arrange her hair. "What have
you been doing now?" she said. "Climbing trees? Or breaking in colts?"

Anne told her tale briefly. The old woman listened, without comment, but
watching her closely all the time.

"And he said to tell you," said Anne, in conclusion, "but not to tell
Mr. Dexter, unless you gave me permission."

"Mr. Dexter alone?"

"Mr. Dexter or--any one, I suppose."

"Very well; that will do. And Mr. Heathcote is right; you are not to
breathe a word of this adventure to any one. But what fascination it is,
Anne Douglas, which induces you to hang yourself over rocks, and climb
up into caves, I can not imagine! Luckily this time you had not a crowd
of spectators. Bring me the fern, and--But what, in the name of wonder,
are you wearing? Go to your room immediately and put on the lavender
silk."

"Oh, grandaunt, _that_?"

"Do as I bid you. Bessmer, you can come in now. I suppose it is ordered
for the best that young girls should be such hopeless simpletons!"



CHAPTER XV.

     "No summer ever came back, and no two summers ever were alike.
     Times change, and people change; and if our hearts do not change as
     readily, so much the worse for us."--NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE.

    "But, ah! who ever shunn'd by precedent
     The destined ills she must herself assay?"

     --SHAKSPEARE.


When Miss Vanhorn and her niece entered the ball-room, late in the
evening, heads were turned to look at them; for the old woman wore all
her diamonds, fine stones in old-fashioned settings, and shone like a
little squat-figured East Indian god. Anne was beside her, clad in pale
lavender--an evening costume simply made, but more like full dress than
anything she had yet worn. Dexter came forward instantly, and asked her
to dance. He thought he had never seen her look so well--so much like
the other ladies; for heretofore there had been a marked difference--a
difference which he had neither comprehended nor admired. Anne danced.
New invitations came, and she accepted them. She was enjoying it all
frankly, when through a window she caught sight of Heathcote on the
piazza looking in. She happened to be dancing with Mr. Dexter, and at
once she felt nervous in the thought that he might at any moment ask her
some question about the day which she would find difficulty in
answering. But she had not thought of this until her eyes fell on
Heathcote.

Dexter had seen Heathcote too, and he had also seen her sudden
nervousness. He was intensely vexed. Could Ward Heathcote, simply by
looking through a window, make a girl grow nervous in that way, and a
girl with whom he, Dexter, was dancing? With inward angry determination,
he immediately asked her to dance again. But he need not have feared
interference; Heathcote did not enter the room during the evening.

From the moment Miss Vanhorn heard the story of that day her method
regarding her niece changed entirely; for Mr. Heathcote would never have
remained with her, storm or no storm, through four or five hours, unless
he either admired her, had been entertained by her, or liked her for
herself alone, as men will like occasionally a frank, natural young
girl.

According to old Katharine, Anne was not beautiful enough to excite his
admiration, not amusing enough to entertain him; it must be, therefore,
that he liked her to a certain degree for herself alone. Mr. Heathcote
was not a favorite of old Katharine's, yet none the less was his
approval worth having, and none the less, also, was he an excellent
subject to rouse the jealousy of Gregory Dexter. For Dexter was not
coming forward as rapidly as old Katharine had decreed he should come.
Old Katharine had decided that Anne was to marry Dexter; but if in the
mean time her girlish fancy was attracted toward Heathcote, so much the
better. It would all the more surely eliminate the memory of that fatal
name, Pronando. Of course Heathcote was only amusing himself, but he
must now be encouraged to continue to amuse himself. She ceased taking
Anne to the woods every day; she made her sit among the groups of ladies
on the piazza in the morning, with worsted, canvas, and a pattern, which
puzzled poor Anne deeply, since she had not the gift of fancy-work, nor
a talent for tidies. She asked Heathcote to teach her niece to play
billiards, and she sent her to stroll on the river-bank at sunset with
him under a white silk parasol. At the same time, however, she continued
to summon Mr. Dexter to her side with the same dictatorial manner she
had assumed toward him from the first, and to talk to him, and encourage
him to talk to her through long half-hours of afternoon and evening. The
old woman, with her airs of patronage, her half-closed eyes, and frank
impertinence, amused him more than any one at Caryl's. With his own
wide, far-reaching plans and cares and enterprises all the time pushing
each other forward in his mind, it was like coming from a world of
giants to one of Lilliputians to sit down and talk with limited,
prejudiced, narrow old Katharine. She knew that he was amused; she was
even capable of understanding it, viewed from his own stand-point. That
made no difference with her own.

After three or four days of the chaperon's open arrangement, it grew
into a custom for Heathcote to meet Anne at sunset in the garden, and
stroll up and down with her for half an hour. She was always there,
because she was sent there. Heathcote never said he would come again; it
was supposed to be by chance. But one evening Anne remarked frankly that
she was very glad he came; her grandaunt sent her out whether she wished
to come or not, and the resources of the small garden were soon
exhausted. They were sitting in an arbor at the end of the serpentine
walk. Heathcote, his straw hat on the ground, was braiding three spears
of grass with elaborate care.

"You pay rather doubtful compliments," he said.

"I only mean that it is very kind to come so regularly."

"You will not let even that remain a chance?"

"But it is not, is it?"

"Well, no," he answered, after a short silence, "I can not say that it
is." He dropped the grass blades, leaned back against the rustic seat,
and looked at her. It was a great temptation; he was a finished adept in
the art of flirtation at its highest grade, and enjoyed the pastime. But
he had not really opened that game with this young girl, and he said to
himself that he would not now. He leaned over, found his three spears of
grass, and went on braiding. But although he thus restrained himself, he
still continued to meet her, as Miss Vanhorn, with equal pertinacity,
continued to send her niece to meet him. They were not alone in the
garden, but their conversation was unheard.

One evening tableaux were given: Isabel, Rachel, and others had been
admired in many varieties of costume and attitude, and Dexter had been
everything from Richard the Lion-hearted to Aladdin. Heathcote had
refused to take part. And now came a tableau in which Anne, as the
Goddess of Liberty, was poised on a barrel mounted on three tables, one
above the other. This airy elevation was considered necessary for the
goddess, and the three tables were occupied by symbolical groups of the
Seasons, the Virtues, and the Nations, all gathered together under the
protection of Liberty on her barrel. Liberty, being in this case a
finely poised young person, kept her position easily, flag in hand,
while the merry groups were arranged on the tables below. When all was
ready, the curtain was raised, lowered, then raised again for a second
view, Anne looking like a goddess indeed (although a very young one),
her white-robed form outlined against a dark background, one arm
extended, her head thrown back, and her eyes fixed upon the outspread
flag. But at the instant the curtain began to rise for this second view,
she had felt the barrel broaden slightly under her, and knew that a hoop
had parted. At the same second came the feeling that her best course was
to stand perfectly motionless, in the hope that the staves would still
support her until she could be assisted down from her isolated height.
For she was fifteen feet above the stage, and there was nothing within
reach which she could grasp. A chill ran over her; she tried not to
breathe. At the same moment, however, when the sensation of falling was
coming upon her, two firm hands were placed upon each side of her waist
from behind, very slightly lifting her, as if to show her that she was
safe even if the support did give way beneath her. It was Heathcote,
standing on the table below. He had been detailed as scene-shifter
(Rachel, being behind the scenes herself, had arranged this), had
noticed the barrel as it moved, and had sprung up unseen behind the
draperied pyramid to assist the goddess. No one saw him. When the
curtain reached the foot-lights again he was assisting all the
allegorical personages to descend from their heights, and first of all
Liberty, who was trembling. No one knew this, however, save himself.
Rachel, gorgeous as Autumn, drew him away almost immediately, and Anne
had no opportunity to thank him until the next afternoon.

"You do not know how frightful it was for the moment," she said. "I had
never felt dizzy in my life before. I had nothing with which I could
save myself, and I could not jump down on the tables below, because
there was no footing: I should only have thrown down the others. How
quick you were, and how kind! But you are always kind."

"Few would agree with you there, Miss Douglas. Mr. Dexter has far more
of what is called kindness than I have," said Heathcote, carelessly.

They were sitting in the same arbor. Anne was silent a moment, as if
pondering. "Yes," she said, thoughtfully, "I believe you are right. You
are kind to a few; he is kind to all. It would be better if you were
more like him."

"Thanks. But it is too late, I fear, to make a Dexter of me. I have
always been, if not exactly a grief to my friends, still by no means
their pride. Fortunately I have no father or mother to be disturbed by
my lacks; one does not mind being a grief to second cousins." He paused;
then added, in another tone, "But life is lonely enough sometimes."

Two violet eyes met his as he spoke, gazing at him so earnestly,
sincerely, and almost wistfully that for an instant he lost himself. He
began to speculate as to the best way of retaining that wistful
interest; and then, suddenly, as a dam gives way in the night and lets
out the flood, all his good resolutions crumbled, and his vagrant fancy,
long indulged, asserted its command, and took its own way again. He knew
that he could not approach her to the ordinary degree and in the
ordinary way of flirtation; she would not understand or allow it. With
the intuition which was his most dangerous gift he also knew that there
was a way of another kind. And he used it.

[Illustration: "SHE STARTED SLIGHTLY."]

His sudden change of purpose had taken but a moment. "Lonely enough," he
repeated, "and bad enough. Do you think there is any use in trying to
be better?" He spoke as if half in earnest.

"We must all try," said the girl, gravely.

"But one needs help."

"It will be given."

He rose, walked to the door of the arbor, as if hesitating, then came
back abruptly. "_You_ could help me," he said, standing in front of her,
with his eyes fixed upon her face.

She started slightly, and turned her eyes away, but did not speak. Nor
did he. At last, as the silence grew oppressive, she said, in a low
voice: "You are mistaken, I think. I can not."

He sat down again, and began slowly to excavate a hole in the sand with
the end of his cane, to the consternation of a colony of ants who lived
in a thriving village under the opposite bench, but still in dangerous
proximity to the approaching tunnel.

"I have never pretended to be anything but an idle, useless fellow," he
said, his eyes intent upon his work. "But my life does not satisfy me
always, and at times I am seized by a horrible loneliness. I am not all
bad, I hope. If any one cared enough--but no one has ever cared."

"You have many friends," said Anne, her eyes fixed upon the hues of the
western sky.

"As you see them. The people here are examples of my friends."

"You must have others who are nearer."

"No, no one. I have never had a home." He looked up as he said this, and
met her eyes, withdrawn for a moment from the sunset; they expressed so
much pity that he felt ashamed of himself. For his entire freedom from
home ties was almost the only thing for which he had felt profoundly
grateful in his idle life. Other boys had been obliged to bend to the
paternal will; other fellows had not been able to wander over the world
and enjoy themselves as he had wandered and enjoyed. But--he could not
help going on now.

"I pretend to be indifferent, and all that. No doubt I succeed in
appearing so--that is, to the outside world. But there come moments
when I would give anything for some firm belief to anchor myself to,
something higher and better than I am." (The tunnel was very near the
ants now.) "I believe, Miss Douglas, I can not help believing, that
_you_ could tell me what that is."

"Oh no; I am very ignorant," said Anne, hurriedly, returning to the
sunset with heightened color.

"But you believe. I will never make a spectacle of myself; I will never
ask the conventional questions of conventional good people, whom I hate.
_You_ might influence me--But what right have I to ask you, Anne? Why
should I think that you would care?"

"I do care," said the low voice, after a moment, as if forced to answer.

"Then help me."

"How can I help you?"

"Tell me what you believe. And make me believe it also."

"Surely, Mr. Heathcote, you believe in God?"

"I am not sure that I do."

She clasped her hands in distress. "How _can_ you live!" she cried,
almost in tears.

Again Heathcote felt a touch of compunction. But he could not make
himself stop now; he was too sincerely interested.

"There is no use; I can not argue," Anne was saying. "If you do not
_feel_ God, I can not make you believe in him."

"Tell me how _you_ feel; perhaps I can learn from you."

Poor Anne! she did not know how she felt, and had no words ready.
Undeveloped, unused to analysis, she was asked to unfold her inmost soul
in the broad garish light of day.

"I--I can not," she murmured, in deep trouble.

"Never mind, then," said Heathcote, with an excellent little assumption
of disappointment masked by affected carelessness. "Forget what I have
said; it is of small consequence at best. Shall we go back to the house,
Miss Douglas?"

But Anne was struggling with herself, making a desperate effort to
conquer what seemed to her a selfish and unworthy timidity. "I will do
anything I can," she said, hurriedly, in a low voice.

They had both risen. "Let me see you to-morrow, then."

"Yes."

"It is a beginning," he said. He offered his arm gravely, almost
reverently, and in silence they returned to the house. It seemed to Anne
that many long minutes passed as they walked through the garden, brushed
by the roses on each side: in reality the minutes were three.

For that evening meteors had been appointed by the astronomers and the
newspapers. They were, when they came, few and faint; but they afforded
a pretext for being out on the hill. Anne was there with Mr. Dexter, and
other star-gazers were near. Heathcote and Rachel, however, were not
visible, and this disturbed Dexter. In spite of himself, he could never
be quite content unless he knew where that dark-eyed woman was. But his
inward annoyance did not affect either his memory or the fine tones of
his voice. No one on the hill that night quoted so well or so aptly
grand star-like sentences, or verses appropriate to the occasion.

"When standing alone on a hill-top during a clear night such as this,
Miss Douglas," he said, "the roll of the earth eastward is almost a
palpable movement. The sensation may be caused by the panoramic glide of
the stars past earthly objects, or by the wind, or by the solitude; but
whatever be its origin, the impression of riding along is vivid and
abiding. We are now watching our own stately progress through the
stars."

"Hear Dexter quote," said Heathcote, in his lowest under-tone, to
Rachel. They were near the others, but, instead of standing, were
sitting on the grass, with a large bush for background; in its shadow
their figures were concealed, and the rustle of its leaves drowned their
whispers.

"Hush! I like Mr. Dexter," said Rachel.

"I know you do. You will marry that man some day."

"Do _you_ say that, Ward?"

An hour later, Anne, in her own room, was timidly adding the same name
to her own petitions before she slept.

The next day, and the next, they met in the garden at sunset as before,
and each time when they parted she was flushed and excited by the effort
she was making, and he was calm and content. On the third afternoon they
did not meet, for there was another picnic. But as the sun sank below
the horizon, and the rich colors rose in the sky, Heathcote turned, and,
across all the merry throng, looked at her as if in remembrance. After
that he did not see her alone for several days: chance obstacles stood
in the way, and he never forced anything. Then there was another
unmolested hour in the arbor; then another. Anne was now deeply
interested. How could she help being so, when the education of a soul
was placed in her hands? And Heathcote began to be fascinated too.

By his own conversion?

August was nearly over. The nights were cool, and the early mornings
veiled in mist. The city idlers awakened reluctantly to the realization
that summer was drawing to its close; and there was the same old
surprise over the dampness of the yellow moonlight, the dull look of the
forest; the same old discovery that the golden-rods and asters were
becoming prominent in the departure of the more delicate blossoms. The
last four days of that August Anne remembered all her life.

On the 28th there occurred, by unexpected self-arrangement of small
events, a long conversation of three hours with Heathcote.

On the 29th he quarrelled with her, and hotly, leaving her overwhelmed
with grief and surprise.

On the 30th he came back to her. They had but three minutes together on
the piazza, and then Mr. Dexter joined them. But in those minutes he had
asked forgiveness, and seemed also to yield all at once the points over
which heretofore he had been immovable.

On the 31st Helen came.

It was late. Anne had gone to her room. She had not seen Heathcote that
day. She had extinguished the candle, and was looking at the brassy moon
slowly rising above the trees, when a light tap sounded on her door.

"Who is it?" she said.

"Helen, of course," answered a sweet voice she knew. She drew back the
bolt swiftly, and Mrs. Lorrington came in, dressed in travelling attire.
She had just arrived. She kissed Anne, saying, gayly: "Are you not glad
to see me? Grandfather has again recovered, and dismissed me. I spend my
life on the road. Are you well, Crystal? And how do you like Caryl's?
No, do not light the candle; I can see you in the moonlight, all draped
in white. I shall stay half an hour--no longer. My maid is waiting, and
I must not lose my beauty-sleep. But I wanted to see you first of all.
Tell me about yourself, and everything. Did you put down what happened
in a note-book, as I asked you?"

"Yes; here it is. But the record is brief--only names and dates. How
glad I am to see you, Helen! How very, very glad! It seemed as if you
would never come." She took Helen's hands, and held them as she spoke.
She was very deeply attached to her brilliant friend.

Helen laughed, kissed her again, and began asking questions. She was
full of plans. "Heretofore they have not staid at Caryl's in the
autumn," she said, "but this year I shall make them. September and part
of October would be pleasant here, I know. Has any one spoken of going?"

"Mrs. Bannert has, I think."

"You mean my dearest friend Rachel. But she will stay now that _I_ have
come; that is, if I succeed in keeping--somebody else. The Bishop has
been devoted to her, of course, and likewise the Tenor; the Haunted Man
and others skirmish on her borders. Even the Knight-errant is not, I am
sorry to say, above suspicion. Who has it especially been?"

"I do not know; every one seems to admire her. I think she has not
favored one more than another."

"Oh, has she not?" said Mrs. Lorrington, laughing. "It is well I have
come, Crystal. You are too innocent to live." She tapped her cheek as
she spoke, and then turned her face to the moonlight. "And whom do you
like best?" she said. "Mr. Dexter?"

"Yes," said Anne; "I like him sincerely. And you will find his name very
often there," she added, looking at the note-book by Helen's side.

"Yes, but the others too, I hope. What _I_ want to know, of course, is
the wicked career of the Knight-errant."

"But is not Mr. Dexter the Knight-errant?"

"By no means. Mr. Dexter is the Bishop; have you not discovered that?
The Knight-errant is very decidedly some one else. And, by-the-way, how
do you like Some One Else--that is, Mr. Heathcote?"

"Mr. Heathcote!"

"It is not polite to repeat one's words, Crystal. But--I suppose you do
_not_ like him; and half the time, I confess, he is detestable. However,
now that I have come, he shall behave better, and I shall make you like
each other, for my sake. There is just one question I wish to ask here:
has he been much with Rachel?"

"No--yes--yes, I suppose he has," murmured Anne, sitting still as a
statue in the shadow. The brassy moon had gone slowly and coldly behind
a cloud, and the room was dim.

"You suppose? Do you not know?"

"Yes, I know he has." She stopped abruptly. She had never before thought
whether Heathcote was or was not with Rachel more than with others; but
now she began to recall. "Yes, he _has_ been with her," she said again,
struck by a sudden pang.

"Very well; I shall see to it, now that I am here," said Helen, with a
sharp tone in her voice. "He will perhaps be sorry that I have arrived
just at the end of the season--the time for grand climaxes, you know;
but he will have to yield. My half-hour is over; I must go. How is the
Grand Llama? Endurable?"

"She is helping the children; I am grateful to her," replied Anne's
voice, mechanically.

"Which means that she is worse than ever. What a dead-alive voice you
said it in! Now that I am here, I will do battle for you, Crystal, never
fear. I must go. You shall see my triumphal entrance to-morrow at
breakfast. Our rooms are not far from yours. Good-night."

She was gone. The door was closed. Anne was alone.



CHAPTER XVI.

                  "You who keep account
    Of crisis and transition in this life,
    Set down the first time Nature says plain 'no'
    To some 'yes' in you, and walks over you
    In gorgeous sweeps of scorn. We all begin
    By singing with the birds, and running fast
    With June days hand in hand; but, once for all,
    The birds must sing against us, and the sun
    Strike down upon us like a friend's sword, caught
    By an enemy to slay us, while we read
    The dear name on the blade which bites at us."

    --ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING.


It is easy for the young to be happy before the deep feelings of the
heart have been stirred. It is easy to be good when there has been no
strong temptation to be evil; easy to be unselfish when nothing is
ardently craved; easy to be faithful when faithfulness does not tear the
soul out of its abiding-place. Some persons pass through all of life
without strong temptations; not having deep feelings, they are likewise
exempt from deep sins. These pass for saints. But when one thinks of the
cause of their faultlessness, one understands perhaps better the meaning
of those words, otherwise mysterious, that "joy shall be in heaven over
one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons,
which need no repentance."

Anne went through that night her first real torture; heretofore she had
felt only grief--a very different pain.

Being a woman, her first feeling, even before the consciousness of what
it meant, was jealousy. What did Helen mean by speaking of him as though
he belonged to her? She had never spoken in that way before. Although
she--Anne--had mistaken the fictitious titles, still, even under the
title, there had been no such open appropriation of the Knight-errant.
What did she mean? And then into this burning jealous anger came the
low-voiced question, asked somewhere down in the depths of her being, as
though a judge was speaking, "What--is--it--to--you?" And again, "What
is it to you?" She buried her face tremblingly in her hands, for all at
once she realized what it was, what it had been, unconsciously perhaps,
but for a long time really, to her.

She made no attempt at self-deception. Her strongest trait from
childhood had been her sincerity, and now it would not let her go. She
had begun to love Ward Heathcote unconsciously, but now she loved him
consciously. That was the bare fact. It confronted her, it loomed above
her, a dark menacing shape, from whose presence she could not flee. She
shivered, and her breath seemed to stop during the slow moment while the
truth made itself known to her. "O God!" she murmured, bursting into
tears; and there was no irreverence in the cry. She recognized the
faithlessness which had taken possession of her--unawares, it is true,
yet loyal hearts are not conquered so. She had been living in a dream,
and had suddenly found the dream reality, and the actors flesh and
blood--one of them at least, a poor wildly loving girl, with the mark of
Judas upon her brow. She tried to pray, but could think of no words. For
she was false to Rast, she loved Heathcote, and hated Helen, yet could
not bring herself to ask that any of these feelings should be otherwise.
This was so new to her that she sank down upon the floor in utter
despair and self-abasement. She was bound to Rast; she was bound to
Helen. Yet she had, in her heart at least, betrayed them both.

Still, so complex is human nature that even here in the midst of her
abasement the question stole in, whispering its way along as it came,
"_Does_ he care for me?" And "he" was not Rast. She forgot all else to
weigh every word and look of the weeks and days that had passed. Slowly
she lived over in memory all their conversations, not forgetting the
most trivial, and even raised her arm to get a pillow in order that she
might lie more easily; but the little action brought reality again, and
her arm fell, while part of her consciousness drew off, and sat in
judgment upon the other part. The sentence was scathing.

[Illustration: "SHE BURIED HER FACE TREMBLINGLY IN HER HANDS."]

Then jealousy seized her again. She had admired Helen so warmly as a
woman, that even now she could not escape the feeling. She went over in
quick, hot review all that the sweet voice and delicate lips had ever
said concerning the person veiled under the name of Knight-errant, and
the result was a miserable conviction that she had been mistaken; that
there was a tie of some kind--slight, perhaps, yet still a tie. And
then, as she crushed her hands together in impotent anger, she again
realized what she was thinking, and began to sob in her grief like a
child. Poor Anne! she would never be a child again. Never again would be
hers that proud dauntless confidence of the untried, which makes all
life seem easy and secure. And here suddenly into her grief darted this
new and withering thought: Had Heathcote perceived her feeling for him?
and had he been playing upon it to amuse himself?

Anne knew vaguely that people treated her as though she was hardly more
than a child. She was conscious of it, but did not dispute it, accepting
it humbly as something--some fault in herself--which she could not
change. But now the sleeping woman was aroused at last, and she blushed
deeply in the darkness at the thought that while she had remained
unconscious, this man of the world had perhaps detected the truth
immediately, and had acted as he had in consequence of it. This was the
deepest sting of all, and again hurriedly she went over all their
conversations a second time; and imagined that she found indications of
what she feared. She rose to her feet with the nervous idea of fleeing
somewhere, she did not know where.

The night had passed. The sun had not yet risen, but the eastern sky was
waiting for his coming with all its banners aflame. Standing by the
window, she watched the first gold rim appear. The small birds were
twittering in the near trees, the earth was awaking to another day, and
for the first time Anne realized the joy of that part of creation which
knows not sorrow or care; for the first time wished herself a flower of
the field, or a sweet-voiced bird singing his happy morning anthem on a
spray. There were three hours yet before breakfast, two before any one
would be stirring. She dressed herself, stole through the hall and down
the stairs, unbolted the side door, and went into the garden; she longed
for the freshness of the morning air. Her steps led her toward the
arbor; she stopped, and turned in another direction--toward the bank of
the little river. Here she began to walk to and fro from a pile of
drift-wood to a bush covered with dew-drops, from the bush back to the
drift-wood again. Her feet were wet, her head ached dully, but she kept
her mind down to the purpose before her. The nightmare of the darkness
was gone; she now faced her grief, and knew what it was, and had decided
upon her course. This course was to leave Caryl's. She hoped to return
to Mademoiselle at the half-house, and remain there until the school
opened--if her grandaunt was willing. If her grandaunt was
willing--there came the difficulty. Yet why should she not be willing?
The season was over; the summer flowers were gone; it was but
anticipating departure by a week or two. Thus she reasoned with herself,
yet felt all the time by intuition that Miss Vanhorn would refuse her
consent. And if she should so refuse, what then? It could make no
difference in the necessity for going, but it would make the going hard.
She was considering this point when she heard a footstep. She looked up,
and saw--Ward Heathcote. She had been there some time; it was now seven
o'clock. They both heard the old clock in the office strike as they
stood there looking at each other. In half an hour the early risers
would be coming into the garden.

Anne did not move or speak; the great effort she had made to retain her
composure, when she saw him, kept her motionless and dumb. Her first
darting thought had been to show him that she was at ease and
indifferent. But this required words, and she had not one ready; she was
afraid to speak, too, lest her voice should tremble. She saw, standing
there before her, the man who had made her forget Rast, who had made her
jealous of Helen, who had played with her holiest feelings, who had
deceived and laughed at her, the man whom she--hated? No, no--whom she
loved, loved, loved: this was the desperate ending. She turned very
white, standing motionless beside the dew-spangled bush.

And Heathcote saw, standing there before him, a young girl with her fair
face strangely pale and worn, her eyes fixed, her lips compressed; she
was trembling slightly and constantly, in spite of the rigidity of her
attitude.

He looked at her in silence for a moment; then, knocking down at one
blow all the barriers she had erected, he came to her and took her cold
hands in his. "What is it she has said to you?" he asked.

She drew herself away without speaking.

"What has Helen said to you? Has she told you that I have deceived you?
That I have played a part?"

But Anne did not answer; she turned, as if to pass him.

"You shall not leave me," he said, barring the way. "Stay a moment,
Anne; I promise not to keep you long. You will not? But you shall. Am
_I_ nothing in all this? My feelings nothing? Let me tell you one thing:
whatever Helen may have said, remember that it was all before I
knew--_you_."

Anne's hands shook in his as he said this. "Let me go," she cried, with
low, quick utterance; she dared not say more, lest her voice should
break into sobs.

"I will not," said Heathcote, "until you hear me while I tell you that I
have _not_ played a false part with you, Anne. I did begin it as an
experiment, I confess that I did; but I have ended by being in
earnest--at least to a certain degree. Helen does not know me entirely;
one side of me she has never even suspected."

"Mrs. Lorrington has not spoken on the subject," murmured Anne, feeling
compelled to set him right, but not looking up.

"Then what _has_ she said about me, that you should look as you do, my
poor child?"

"You take too much upon yourself," replied the girl, with an effort to
speak scornfully. "Why should you suppose we have talked of you?"

"I do not suppose it; I know it. I have not the heart to laugh at you,
Anne: your white face hurts me like a sharp pain. Will you at least tell
me that you do not believe I have been amusing myself at your
expense--that you do not believe I have been insincere?"

"I am glad to think that you were not wholly insincere."

"And you will believe also that I like you--like you very, very much,
with more than the ordinary liking?"

"That is nothing to me."

"Nothing to you? Look at me, Anne; you shall look once. Ah, my dear
child, do you not see that I can not help loving you? And that you--love
me also?" As he spoke he drew her close and looked down into her eyes,
those startled violet eyes, that met his at last--for one half-moment.

Then she sprang from him, and burst into tears. "Leave me," she said,
brokenly. "You are cruel."

"No; only human," answered Heathcote, not quite master of his words now.
"I have had your confession in that look, Anne, and you shall never
regret it."

"I regret it already," she cried, passionately; "I shall regret it all
my life. Do you not comprehend? can you not understand? I am
engaged--engaged to be married. I was engaged before we ever met."

"_You_ engaged, when I thought you hardly more than a child!" He had
been dwelling only upon himself and his own course; possibilities on the
other side had not occurred to him. They seldom do to much-admired men.

"I can not help what you thought me," replied Anne. At this moment they
heard a step on the piazza; some one had come forth to try the morning
air. Where they stood they were concealed, but from the garden walk they
would be plainly visible.

"Leave me," she said, hurriedly.

"I will; I will cross the field, and approach the house by the road, so
that you will be quite safe. But I shall see you again, Anne." He bent
his head, and touched her hand with his lips, then sprang over the stone
wall, and was gone, crossing the fields toward the distant turnpike.

Anne returned to the house, exchanging greetings as she passed with the
well-preserved jaunty old gentleman who was walking up and down the
piazza twenty-five times before breakfast. She sought her own room,
dressed herself anew, and then tapped at her grandaunt's door; the
routine of the day had her in its iron grasp, and she was obliged to
follow its law.

Mrs. Lorrington came in to breakfast like a queen: it was a royal
progress. Miss Teller walked behind in amiable majesty, and gathered up
the overflow; that is, she shook hands cordially with those who could
not reach Helen, and smiled especially upon those whom Helen disliked.
Helen was robed in a soft white woollen material that clung closely
about her; she had never seemed more slender. Her pale hair, wound round
her small head, conveyed the idea that, unbound, it would fall to the
hem of her dress. She wore no ornaments, not even a ring on her small
fair hands. Her place was at some distance from Miss Vanhorn's table,
but as soon as she was seated she bowed to Anne, and smiled with marked
friendliness. Anne returned the salutation, and wondered that people did
not cry out and ask her if she was dying. But life does not go out so
easily as miserable young girls imagine.

"Eggs?" said the waiter.

She took one.

"I thought you did not like eggs," said Miss Vanhorn. She was in an
ill-humor that morning because Bessmer had upset the plant-drying
apparatus, composed of bricks and boards.

"Yes, thanks," said Anne, vaguely. Mr. Dexter was bowing good-morning to
her at that moment, and she returned the salutation. Miss Vanhorn,
observing this, withheld her intended rebuke for inattention. Dexter had
bowed on his way across to Helen; he had finished his own breakfast, and
now took a seat beside Miss Teller and Mrs. Lorrington. At this instant
a servant entered bearing a basket of flowers, not the old-fashioned
country flowers of Caryl's, but the superb cream-colored roses of the
city, each on its long stalk, reposing on a bed of unmixed heliotrope,
Helen's favorite flower. All eyes coveted the roses as they passed, and
watched to see their destination. They were presented to Mrs.
Lorrington.

Every one supposed that Dexter was the giver. The rich gift was like
him, and perhaps also the time of its presentation. But the time was a
mistake of the servant's; and was not Mrs. Lorrington bowing her
thanks?--yes, she was bowing her thanks, with a little air of
consciousness, yet with openness also, to Mr. Heathcote, who sat by
himself at the end of the long room. He bowed gravely in return, thus
acknowledging himself the sender.

"Well," said Miss Vanhorn, crossly, yet with a little shade of relief
too in her voice, "of all systematic coquettes, Helen Lorrington is our
worst. I suppose that we shall have no peace, now that she has come.
However, it will not last long."

"You will go away soon, then, grandaunt?" said Anne, eagerly.

Miss Vanhorn put up her eyeglass; the tone had betrayed something. "No,"
she said, inspecting her niece coolly; "nothing of the sort. I shall
remain through September, perhaps later."

Anne's heart sank. She would be obliged, then, to go through the ordeal.
She could eat nothing; a choking sensation had risen in her throat when
Heathcote bowed to Helen, acknowledging the flowers. "May I go,
grandaunt?" she said. "I do not feel well this morning."

"No; finish your breakfast like a Christian. I hate sensations. However,
on second thoughts, you _may_ go," added the old woman, glancing at
Dexter and Helen. "You may as well be re-arranging those specimens that
Bessmer stupidly knocked down. But do not let me find the Lorrington in
my parlor when I come up; do you hear?"

"Yes," said Anne, escaping. She ran up stairs to her own room, locked
the door, and then stood pressing her hands upon her heart, crying out
in a whisper: "Oh, what shall I do! What shall I do! How can I bear it!"
But she could not have even that moment unmolested: the day had begun,
and its burdens she must bear. Bessmer knocked, and began at once
tremulously about the injured plants through the closed door.

"Yes," said Anne, opening it, "I know about them. I came up to
re-arrange them."

"It wouldenter been so bad, miss, if it hadenter been asters. But I
never could make out asters; they all seem of a piece to me," said
Bessmer, while Anne sorted the specimens, and replaced them within the
drying-sheets. "Every fall there's the same time with 'em. I just dread
asters, I do; not but what golden-rods is almost worse."

"Anne," said a voice in the hall.

Anne opened the door; it was Helen, with her roses.

"These are the Grand Llama's apartments, I suppose," she said, peeping
in. "I will not enter; merely gaze over the sacred threshold. Come to my
room, Crystal, for half an hour; I am going to drive at eleven."

"I must finish arranging these plants."

"Then come when you have finished. Do not fail; I shall wait for you."
And the white robe floated off down the dark sidling hall, as Miss
Vanhorn's heavy foot made itself heard ascending the stairs. When
Bessmer had gone to her breakfast, to collect what strength she could
for another aster-day, Anne summoned her courage.

"Grandaunt, I would like to speak to you," she said.

"And I do not want to be spoken to; I have neuralgia in my cheek-bones."

"But I would like to tell you--"

"And I do not want to be told. You are always getting up sensations of
one kind or another, which amount to nothing in the end. Be ready to
drive to Updegraff's glen at eleven; that is all I have to say to you
now." She went into the inner room, and closed the door.

"It does not make any difference," thought Anne, drearily; "I shall tell
her at eleven."

Then, nerving herself for another kind of ordeal, she went slowly toward
Helen's apartments.

But conventionality is a strong power: she passed the first fifteen
minutes of conversation without faltering.

Then Helen said: "You look pale, Crystal. What is the matter?"

"I did not sleep well."

"And there is some trouble besides! I see by the note-book that you have
been with the Bishop almost constantly; confess that you like him!"

"Yes, I like him."

"Very much?"

"Yes."

"_Very_ much?"

"You know, Helen, that I am engaged."

"That! for your engagement," said Mrs. Lorrington, taking a rose and
tossing it toward her. "I know you are engaged. But I thought that if
the Bishop would only get into one of his dead-earnest moods--he is
capable of it--you would have to yield. For you are capable of it too."

"Capable of what? Breaking a promise?"

"Do not be disagreeable; I am complimenting you. No; I mean capable of
loving--really loving."

"All women can love, can they not?"

"Themselves! Yes. But rarely any one else. And now let me tell you
something delightful--one of those irrelevant little inconsistencies
which make society amusing: _I_ am going to drive with the Bishop this
morning, and not you at all."

"I hope you will enjoy the drive."

"You take it well," said Mrs. Lorrington, laughing merrily. "But I will
not tease you, Crystal. Only tell me one thing--you are always truthful.
Has anything been said to you--anything that really _means_
anything--since you have been here?"

"By whom?" said Anne, almost in a whisper.

"The Bishop, of course. Who else should it be?"

"Oh, no, no," answered the girl, rising hurriedly, as if uncertain what
to do. "Why do you speak to me so constantly of Mr. Dexter? I have been
with--with others too."

"You have been with him more than with the 'others' you mention," said
Helen, mimicking her tone. "The note-book tells that. However, I will
say no more; merely observe. You are looking at my driving costume;
jealous already? But I tell you frankly, Crystal, that regarding dress
you must yield to me. With millions you could not rival me; on that
ground I am alone. Rachel looked positively black with envy when she saw
me this morning; she is ugly in a second, you know, if she loses that
soft Oriental expression which makes you think of the Nile. Imagine
Rachel in a Greek robe like this, loosely made, with a girdle! I shall
certainly look well this morning; but never fear, it shall be for your
sake. I shall talk of you, and make you doubly interesting by what I do
and do not say; I shall give thrilling glimpses only."

The maid entered, and Anne sat through the change of dress and the
rebraiding of the pale soft hair.

"I do not forbid your peeping through the hall window to see us start,"
said Mrs. Lorrington, gayly, as she drew on her gloves. "Good-by."

Anne went to her own room. "Are they all mad?" she thought. "Or am I?
Why do they all speak of Mr. Dexter so constantly, and not of--"

"You are late," said Miss Vanhorn's voice. "I told you not to keep me
waiting. Get your hat and gloves, and come immediately; the carriage is
there."

But it was not as strange in reality as it seemed to Anne that Helen,
Miss Vanhorn, and others spoke of Mr. Dexter in connection with herself.
Absorbed in a deeper current, she had forgotten that others judge by the
surface, and that Mr. Dexter had been with her openly, and even
conspicuously, during a portion of every day for several weeks. To her
the two hours or three with him had been but so many portions of time
before she could see, or after she had seen, Heathcote. But time is not
divided as young people suppose; she forgot that ordinary eyes can not
see the invisible weights which make ten minutes--nay, five--with one
person outbalance a whole day with another. In the brief diary which she
had kept for Helen, Dexter's name occurred far more frequently than
Heathcote's, and Helen had judged from that. Others did the same, with
their eyes. If old Katharine had so far honored her niece as to question
her, she might have learned something more; but she did not question,
she relied upon her own sagacity. It is a dispensation of Providence
that the old, no matter how crowded their own youth may have been,
always forget. What old Katharine now forgot was this: if a man like
Gregory Dexter is conspicuously devoted to one woman, but always in the
presence of others, making no attempt to secure her attention for a few
moments alone here and there, it is probable that there is another woman
for whom he keeps those moments, and a hidden feeling stronger than the
one openly displayed. Rachel never allowed observable devotion. This,
however, did not forbid the unobserved.

"Grandaunt," began Anne, as the carriage rolled along the country road.
Her voice faltered a little, and she paused to steady it.

"Wait a day," said Miss Vanhorn, with grim sarcasm; "then there will be
nothing to tell. It is always so with girls."

It was her nearest approach to good-humor: Anne took courage. "The
summer is nearly over, grandaunt--"

"I have an almanac."

"--and, as school will soon begin--"

"In about three weeks."

"--I should like to go back to Mademoiselle until then, if you do not
object."

Miss Vanhorn put up her eyeglass, and looked at her niece; then she
laughed, sought for a caraway-seed, and by good luck found one, and
deposited it safely in the tight grasp of her glittering teeth. She
thought Anne was jealous of Mr. Dexter's attentions to Helen.

"You need not be afraid, child," she said, still laughing. "If you have
a rival, it is the Egyptian, and not that long white creature you call
your friend."

"I am unhappy here, grandaunt. Please let me go."

"Girls are always unhappy, or thinking themselves so. It is one of their
habits. Of course you can not go; it would be too ridiculous giving way
to any such childish feeling. You will stay as long as I stay."

"But I can not. I _must_ go."

"And who holds the authority, pray?"

"Dear grandaunt, do not compel me," said Anne, seizing the old woman's
hands in hers. But Miss Vanhorn drew them away angrily.

"What nonsense!" she said. "Do not let me hear another word. You will
stay according to my pleasure (which should be yours also), or you
forfeit your second winter at Moreau's and the children's allowance."
She tapped on the glass, and signaled to the coachman to drive homeward.
"You have spoiled the drive with your obstinacy; I do not care to go
now. Spend the day in your own room. At five o'clock come to me."

And at five Anne came.

"Have you found your senses?" asked the elder woman, and more gently.

"I have not changed my mind."

Miss Vanhorn rose and locked the door. "You will now give me your
reasons," she said.

"I can not."

"You mean that you will not."

Anne was silent, and Miss Vanhorn surveyed her for a moment before
letting loose the dogs of war. In her trouble the girl looked much
older; it was a grave, sad, but determined woman who was standing there
to receive her sentence, and suddenly the inquisitor changed her course.

"There, there," she said; "never mind about it now. Go back to your
room; Bessmer shall bring you some tea, and then you will let her dress
you precisely as I shall order. You will not, I trust, disobey me in so
small a matter as that?"

"And may I go to-morrow?"

"We will see. You can not go to-night, at any rate; so do as I bid you."

Anne obeyed; but she was disappointed that all was not ended and the
contest over. For the young, to wait seems harder than to suffer.

Miss Vanhorn thought that her niece was jealous of Helen in regard to
Dexter, and that this jealousy had opened her eyes for the first time to
her own faithlessness; being conscientious, of course she was, between
the two feelings, made very wretched. And the old woman's solution of
the difficulty was to give Dexter one more and perfect opportunity, if
she, Katharine Vanhorn, could arrange it. And there was, in truth, very
little that old Katharine could not arrange if she chose, since she was
a woman not afraid to use on occasion that which in society is the
equivalent of force, namely, directness. She was capable of saying,
openly, "Mr. Dexter, will you take Anne out on the piazza for a while?
The air is close here," and then of smiling back upon Rachel, Isabel, or
whoever was left behind, with the malice of a Mazarin. Chance favored
old Katharine that night once and again.



CHAPTER XVII.

     "That which is not allotted, the hand can not reach, and what is
     allotted will find you wherever you may be. You have heard with
     what toil Secunder penetrated to the land of darkness, and that,
     after all, he did not taste the water of immortality."--SAADI.

     "When a woman hath ceased to be quite the same to us, it matters
     little how different she becomes."--WALTER SAVAGE LANDOR.


The last dance of the season had been appointed for the evening, and
Mrs. Lorrington's arrival had stimulated the others to ordain "full
dress"; they all had one costume in reserve, and it was an occasion to
bring all the banners upon the field, and the lance also, in a last
tournament. Other contests, other rivalries, had existed, other stories
besides this story of Anne; it never happens in real life that one woman
usurps everything. That this dance should occur on this particular
evening was one of the chances vouchsafed to old Katharine and her
strategy.

For the fairest costume ordered for Anne had not been worn, and at ten
o'clock Bessmer with delight was asking a white-robed figure to look at
itself in the glass, while on her knees she spread out the cloud of
fleecy drapery that trailed softly over the floor behind. The robe was
of white lace, and simple. But nothing could have brought out so
strongly the rich, noble beauty of this young face and form. There was
not an ornament to break the outline of the round white throat, or the
beautiful arms, bared from the shoulder. For the first time the thick
brown hair was released from its school-girl simplicity, and Anne's face
wore a new aspect, as young faces will under such changes. For one may
be sorrowful, and even despairing, yet at eighteen a few waving locks
will make a fair face fairer than ever, even in spite of one's own
determined opposition.

When they entered the ball-room, the second chance vouchsafed to old
Katharine came to meet them, and no strategy was necessary. For Mr.
Dexter, with an unwonted color on his face, offered his arm to Anne
immediately, asking for that dance, and "as many dances besides as you
can give me, Miss Douglas."

All who were near heard his words; among them Rachel. She looked at him
with soft deprecation in her eyes. But he returned her gaze directly and
haughtily, and bore Anne away. They danced once, and then went out on
the piazza. It was a cool evening, and presently Miss Vanhorn came to
the window. "It is too damp for you here, child," she said. "If you do
not care to dance, take Mr. Dexter up to see the flowers in our parlor;
and when you come down, bring my shawl."

"Mr. Dexter does not care about flowers, I think," answered Anne, too
absorbed in her own troubles to be concerned about her grandaunt's open
manœuvre. She spoke mechanically.

"On the contrary, I am very fond of flowers," said Dexter, rising
immediately. "And I particularly thank you, Miss Vanhorn, for giving me
this opportunity to--admire them." He spoke with emphasis, and bowed as
he spoke. The old lady gave him a stately inclination in return. They
understood each other; the higher powers were agreed.

When Anne, still self-absorbed and unconscious, entered the little
parlor, she was surprised to find it brightly lighted and prepared, as
if for their reception. The red curtains were closed, a small fire
crackled on the hearth, the rich perfume of the flowers filled the warm
air; in the damp September evening the room was a picture of comfort,
and in the ruddy light her own figure, in its white lace dress, was
clearly outlined and radiant. "Here are the flowers," she said, going
toward the table. Dexter had closed the door; he now came forward, and
looked at the blossoms a moment absently. Then he turned toward the
sofa, which was covered with the same red chintz which hung over the
windows to the floor.

"Shall we sit here awhile? The room is pleasant, if you are in no hurry
to return."

"No, I am in no hurry," replied Anne. She was glad to be quiet and away
from the dancers; she feared to meet Heathcote. Mr. Dexter always
talked; she would not be obliged to think of new subjects, or to make
long replies.

But to-night Mr. Dexter was unusually silent. She leaned back against
the red cushions, and looked at the point of her slipper; she was asking
herself how long this evening would last.

"Miss Douglas," began Dexter at length, and somewhat abruptly, "I do not
know in what light you regard me, or what degree of estimation you have
conferred upon me; but--" Here he paused.

"It is of no consequence," said Anne.

"What?"

"I mean," she said, rousing herself from her abstraction, "that it does
not matter one way or the other. I am going away to-morrow, Mr. Dexter.
I see now that I ought never to have come. But--how could I know?"

"Why do you go?" said her companion, pausing a moment also, in his own
train of thought.

"I have duties elsewhere," she began; then stopped. "But that is not the
real reason," she added.

"You are unhappy, Miss Douglas; I can always read your face. I will not
obtrude questions now, although most desirous to lift the burdens which
are resting upon you. For I have something to ask you. Will you listen
to me for a few moments?"

"Oh yes," said Anne, falling back into apathy, her eyes still on the
point of her slipper.

"It is considered egotistical to talk of one's self," began Dexter,
after a short silence; "but, under the circumstances, I trust I may be
pardoned." He took an easier attitude, and folded his arms. "I was born
in New Hampshire." (Here Anne tried to pay attention; from this
beginning, she felt that she must attend. But she only succeeded in
repeating, vaguely, the word "New Hampshire?" as though she had reasons
for thinking it might be Maine.)

"Yes, New Hampshire. My father was a farmer there; but when I was five
years old he died, and my mother died during the following year. A rich
relative, a cousin, living in Illinois, befriended me, homeless as I
was, and gave me that best gift in America, a good education. I went
through college, and then--found myself penniless. My cousin had died
without a will, and others had inherited his estate. Since then, Miss
Douglas, I have led a life of effort, hard, hard work, and bitter
fluctuations. I have taught school; I have dug in the mines; I have
driven a stage; I have been lost in the desert, and have lived for days
upon moss and berries. Once I had a hundred thousand dollars--the result
of intensest labor and vigilance through ten long years--and I lost it
in an hour. Then for three days, shovel in hand, I worked on an
embankment. I tell you all this plainly, so that if it, or any part of
it, ever comes up, you will not feel that you have been deceived. The
leading power of my whole life has been action; whether for good or for
ill--action. I am now thirty-eight years old, and I think I may say that
I--am no worse than other men. The struggle is now over; I am rich. I
will even tell you the amount of my fortune--"

"Oh no," said Anne, hurriedly.

"I prefer to do so," replied Dexter, with a formal gesture. "I wish you
to understand clearly the whole position, both as regards myself and all
my affairs."

"Myself and all my affairs," repeated itself buzzingly in Anne's brain.

"My property is now estimated at a little more than a million, and
without doubt it will increase in value, as it consists largely of land,
and especially mines."

He paused. He was conscious that he had not succeeded in controlling a
certain pride in the tone of his voice, and he stopped to remedy it. In
truth, he _was_ proud. No one but the man who has struggled and labored
for that sum, unaided and alone, knows how hard it is to win it, and how
rare and splendid has been his own success. He has seen others go down
on all sides of him like grain before the scythe, while he stood
upright. He knows of disappointed hopes, of bitter effort ended in the
grave; of men, strong and fearless as himself, who have striven
desperately, and as desperately failed. He was silent for a moment,
thinking of these things.

"It must be pleasant to have so much money," said Anne, sighing a
little, and turning her slipper point slightly, as though to survey it
in profile.

Dexter went on with his tale. He was as much for the moment absorbed in
himself as she was in herself; they were like two persons shut up in
closely walled towers side by side.

"For some years I have lived at the East, and have been much in what is
called society in New York and Washington," he continued, "and I have
had no cause to be dissatisfied with the reception accorded to me. I
have seen many beautiful faces, and they have not entirely withheld
their kindness from me. But--Miss Douglas, young girls like romance, and
I have, unfortunately, little that I can express, although I believe
that I have at heart more true chivalry toward women than twenty of the
idle _blasé_ men about here. But that had been better left unsaid. What
I wish to say to you is this: will you be my wife? Anne, dear child,
will you marry me?" He had ended abruptly, and even to himself
unexpectedly, as though his usually fluent speech had failed him. He
took her hand, and waited for her answer, his face showing signs of
emotion, which seemed to be more his own than roused by anything in her.

Anne had started back in surprise; she drew her hand from his. They
were both gloved; only the kid-skins had touched each other. "You are
making a mistake," she said, rising. "You think I am Mrs. Lorrington."

Dexter had risen also; an involuntary smile passed over his face at her
words. He took her hand again, and held it firmly.

"Do you not suppose I know to whom I am talking?" he said, "I am talking
to you, Anne, and thinking only of you. I ask you again, will you be my
wife?"

"Of course not. You do not love me in the least, and I do not love you.
Of what are you dreaming, Mr. Dexter?" She walked across the little
room, and stood between the windows, the red light full upon her. A
brightness had risen in her eyes; she looked very beautiful in her
youthful scorn.

Dexter gazed at her, but without moving. "You are mistaken," he said,
gravely. "I do love you."

"Since when?" asked the sweet voice, with a touch of sarcasm. Anne was
now using the powers of concealment which nature gives to all women,
even the youngest, as a defense. Mr. Dexter should know nothing, should
not be vouchsafed even a glimpse, of her inner feelings; she would
simply refuse him, as girls did in books. And she tried to think what
they said.

But the man opposite her was not like a man in a book. "Since six
o'clock this evening," he answered, quietly.

Anne looked at him in wonder.

"Do you wish to hear the whole?" he asked.

"No; it is nothing to me. Since you only began at six, probably you can
stop at twelve," she answered, still with her girlish scorn perceptible
in her voice.

But Dexter paid no attention to her sarcasm. "I will tell you the whole
when you are my wife," he said. "Let it suffice now that at the hour
named I became aware of the worthlessness and faithlessness of women;
and--I speak God's truth, Anne--even at that bitter moment I fell back
upon the thought of _you_ as a safeguard--a safeguard against total
disbelief in the possibility of woman's fidelity. I knew then that I had
revered you with my better self all the while--that, young as you are,
I had believed in you. I believe in you now. Be my wife; and from this
instant I will devote all the love in me--and I have more than you
think--to you alone." He had crossed the room, and was standing beside
her.

Anne felt at once the touch of real feeling. "I am very sorry," she
said, gently, looking up into his face. "I should have said it at first,
but that I did not think you were in earnest until now. I am engaged,
Mr. Dexter; I was engaged before I came here."

"But," said Dexter, "Miss Vanhorn--"

"Yes, I know. Grandaunt does not approve of it, and will not countenance
it. But that, of course, makes no difference."

He looked at her, puzzled by her manner. In truth, poor Anne, while
immovably determined to keep her promise to Rast, even cherishing the
purpose, also, of hastening the marriage if he wished it, was yet so
inefficient an actress that she trembled as she spoke, and returned his
gaze through a mist of tears.

"You _wish_ to marry this man, I suppose--I am ignorant of his name?" he
asked, watching her with attention.

"His name is Erastus Pronando; we were children together on the island,"
she answered, in a low voice, with downcast eyes.

"And you wish to marry him?"

"I do."

Gregory Dexter put another disappointment down upon the tablets of his
memory--a disappointment and a surprise; he had not once doubted his
success.

In this certainty he had been deceived partly by Miss Vanhorn, and
partly by Anne herself; by her unstudied frankness. He knew that she
liked him, but he had mistaken the nature of her regard. He could always
control himself, however, and he now turned to her kindly. He thought
she was afraid of her aunt. "Sit down for a few minutes more," he said,
"and tell me about it. Why does Miss Vanhorn disapprove?"

"I do not know," replied Anne; "or, rather, I do know, but can not tell
you. Never mind about me, Mr. Dexter. I am unhappy; but no one can help
me. I must help myself."

"Mr. Pronando should esteem it his dearest privilege to do so," said
Dexter, who felt himself growing old and cynical under this revelation
of fresh young love.

"Yes," murmured Anne, then stopped. "If you will leave me now," she
said, after a moment, "it would be very kind."

"I will go, of course, if you desire it; but first let me say one word.
Your aunt objects to this engagement, and you have neither father nor
mother to take your part. I have a true regard for you, which is not
altered by the personal disappointment I am at present feeling; it is
founded upon a belief in you which can not change. Can I not help you,
then, as a friend? For instance, could I not help Mr. Pronando--merely
as a friend? I know what it is to have to make one's own way in the
world unaided. I feel for such boys--I mean young men. What does he
intend to do? Give me his address."

"No," said Anne, touched by this prompt kindness. "But I feel your
generosity, Mr. Dexter; I shall never forget it." Her eyes filled with
tears, but she brushed them away. "Will you leave me now?" she said.

"Would it not be better if we returned together? I mean, would not Miss
Vanhorn notice it less? You could excuse yourself soon afterward."

"You are right. I will go down with you. But first, do I not show--" she
went toward the mirror.

"Show what?" said Dexter, following her, and standing by her side. "That
you are one of the loveliest young girls in the world--as you look
to-night, the loveliest?" He smiled at her reflection in the mirror as
he spoke, and then turned toward the reality. "You show nothing," he
said, kindly; "and my eyes are very observant."

They went toward the door; as they reached it, he bent over her. "If
this engagement should by any chance be broken, then could you not love
me a little, Anne--only a little?" he murmured, looking into her eyes
questioningly.

"I wish I could," she answered, gravely. "You are a generous man. I
would like to love you."

"But you could not?"

"I can not."

He pressed her hand in silence, opened the door, and led the way down to
the hall-room. They had been absent one hour.

Blum, who was standing disconsolately near the entrance, watching Helen,
came up and asked Anne to dance. Reluctant to go to her grandaunt before
it was necessary, she consented. She glanced nervously up and down the
long room as they took their places, but Heathcote was not present. Her
gaze then rested upon another figure moving through the dance at some
distance down the hall. Mrs. Lorrington in her costume that evening
challenged criticism. She did this occasionally--it was one of her
amusements. Her dress was of almost the same shade of color as her hair,
the hue unbroken from head to foot, the few ornaments being little stars
of topaz. Her shoulders and arms were uncovered; and here also she
challenged criticism, since she was so slight that in profile view she
looked like a swaying reed. But as there was not an angle visible
anywhere, her fair slenderness seemed a new kind of beauty, which all,
in spite of sculptor's rules, must now admire. Rachel called her,
smilingly, "the amber witch." But Isabel said, "No; witch-hazel; because
it is so beautiful, and yellow, and sweet." Rachel, Isabel, and Helen
always said charming things about each other in public: they had done
this unflinchingly for years.

Miss Vanhorn was watching her niece from her comfortable seat on the
other side of the room, and watching with some impatience. But the
Haunted Man was now asking Anne to dance, and Anne was accepting. After
that dance she went out on the piazza for a few moments; when she
returned, Heathcote was in the room, and waltzing with Helen.

All her courage left her before she could grasp it, and hardly knowing
what she was doing, she went directly across the floor to Miss Vanhorn,
and asked if she might go to her room.

Miss Vanhorn formed one of a majestic phalanx of old ladies. "Are you
tired?" she asked.

"Very tired," said Anne, not raising her eyes higher than the stout
waist before her, clad in shining black satin.

"She does look pale," remarked old Mrs. Bannert, sympathizingly.

"Anne is always sleepy at eight or nine, like a baby," replied Miss
Vanhorn, well aware that the dark-eyed Rachel was decidedly a
night-bird, and seldom appeared at breakfast at all; "and she has also a
barbarous way of getting up at dawn. Go to bed, child, if you wish; your
bowl of bread and milk will be ready in the morning." Then, as Anne
turned, she added: "You will be asleep when I come up; I will not
disturb you. Take a good rest." Which Anne interpreted, "I give you that
amount of time: think well before you act." The last respite was
accorded.

But even a minute is precious to the man doomed to death. Anne left the
ball-room almost with a light heart: she had the night. She shut herself
in her room, took off the lace dress, loosened her hair, and sat down by
the window to think. The late moon was rising; a white fog filled the
valley and lay thickly over the river; but she left the sash open--the
cool damp air seemed to soothe her troubled thoughts. For she knew--and
despised herself in the knowledge--that the strongest feeling in her
heart now was jealousy, jealousy of Helen dancing with Heathcote below.
Time passed unheeded; she had not stirred hand or foot when, two hours
later, there was a tap on her door. It was Helen.

"Do not speak," she whispered, entering swiftly and softly, and closing
the door; "the Grand Llama is coming up the stairs. I wanted to see you,
and I knew that if I did not slip in before she passed, I could not get
in without disturbing her. Do not stir; she will stop at your door and
listen."

They stood motionless; Miss Vanhorn's step came along the hall, and, as
Helen had predicted, paused at Anne's door. There was no light within,
and no sound; after a moment it passed on, entered the parlor, and then
the bedroom beyond.

"If Bessmer would only close the bedroom door," whispered Helen, "we
should be quite safe." At this moment the maid did close the door; Helen
gave a sigh of relief. "I never could whisper well," she said. "Only
cat-women whisper nicely. Isabel is a cat-woman. Now when it comes to a
murmur--a faint, clear, sweet murmur, I am an adept. I wonder if Isabel
will subdue her widower? You have been here long enough to have an
opinion. Will she?"

"I do not know," said Anne, wondering at her own ability to speak the
words.

"And I--do not care! I am tired, Crystal: may I lie on your bed? Do
close that deathly window, and come over here, so that we can talk
comfortably," said Helen, throwing herself down on the white coverlet--a
long slender shape, with its white arms clasped under its head. The
small room was in shadow. Anne drew a chair to the bedside and sat down,
with her back to the moonlight.

"This is a miserable world," began Mrs. Lorrington. Her companion,
sitting with folded arms and downcast eyes, mentally agreed with her.

"Of course _you_ do not think so," continued Helen, "and perhaps, being
such a crystal-innocent, you will never find it out. There are such
souls. There are also others; and it is quite decided that I
hate--Rachel Bannert, who is one of them."

Anne had moved nervously, but at that name she fell back into stillness
again.

"Rachel is the kind of woman I dread more than any other," continued
Helen. "Her strength is feeling. Feeling! I tell you, Crystal, that you
and I are capable of loving, and suffering for the one we love, through
long years of pain, where Rachel would not wet the sole of her slipper.
Yet men believe in her! The truth is, men are fools: one sigh deceives
them."

"Then sigh," said the figure in the chair.

[Illustration: "ANNE DREW A CHAIR TO THE BEDSIDE AND SAT DOWN, WITH HER
BACK TO THE MOONLIGHT."]

"No; that is not my talent: I must continue to be myself. But _I_ saw
her on the piazza with Ward to-night; and I detest her."

"With--Mr. Heathcote?"

"Yes. Of course nothing would be so much to her disadvantage as to marry
Ward, and she knows it; he has no fortune, and she has none. But she
loves to make me wretched. I made the greatest mistake of my life when I
let her see once, more than a year ago, how things were."

"How things were?" repeated Anne--that commonplace phrase which carries
deep meanings safely because unexpressed.

"Of course there is no necessity to tell _you_, Crystal, what you must
already know--that Ward and I are in a certain way betrothed. It is an
old affair: we have known each other always."

"Yes," said the other voice, affirmatively and steadily.

"Some day we shall be married, I suppose: we like each other. But there
is no haste at present: I think we both like to be free. Heigh-ho! Do
you admire this dress, Crystal?"

"It is very beautiful."

"And yet he only came in and danced with me once!"

"Perhaps he does not care for dancing," said Anne. She was accomplishing
each one of her sentences slowly and carefully, like answers in a
lesson.

"Yes, he does. Do not be deceived by his indolent manner, Crystal; he is
full of all sorts of unexpected strong likings and feelings, in spite of
his lazy look. Do you think I should be likely to fall in love with a
stick?"

Anne made no reply.

"_Do_ you?" said Helen, insistently, stretching out her arms, and
adjusting the chains of topaz stars that decked their slenderness.

Anne leaned forward and drew down her friend's hands, holding them
closely in her own. "Helen," she said, "tell me: do you love Mr.
Heathcote?"

"What is love?" said Mrs. Lorrington, lightly.

"Tell me, Helen."

"Why do you wish to know?"

"I _do_ wish to know."

"Ward Heathcote is not worth my love."

"Is he worth Rachel Bannert's, then?" said Anne, touching the spring by
which she had seen the other stirred.

"Rachel Bannert!" repeated Helen, with a tone of bitter scorn. Then she
paused. "Anne, you are a true-hearted child, and I _will_ tell you. I
love Ward Heathcote with my whole heart and soul."

She spoke in clear tones, and did not turn away or hide her face; she
lay looking up at the moonlight on the rough white wall. It was Anne who
turned, shivering, and shading her eyes with her hand.

"I love him so much," Helen continued, "that if he should leave me, I
believe I should die. Not suddenly, or with any sensation, of course. I
only mean that I should not be able to live."

Again there was silence. Then the clear soft voice went on.

"I have always loved him. Ever since I can remember. Do not be shocked,
but I loved him even when I married Richard. I was very young, and did
it in a sort of desperate revenge because he did not, would not, care
for me. I was not punished for my madness, for Richard loved me dearly,
and died so soon, poor fellow, that he never discovered the truth. And
then it all began over again. Only _this_ time Ward was--different."

Another silence followed. Anne did not move or speak.

"Do not be unhappy about me, child," said Helen at last, turning on her
arm to look at her companion; "all will come right in time. It was only
that I was vexed about this evening. For he has not seemed quite himself
lately, and of course I attribute it to Rachel: her deadly sweetness is
like that of nightshade and tube-roses combined. Now tell me about
yourself: how comes on the quarrel with the Llama?"

"I hardly know."

"I saw you stealing away in your white lace with Gregory Dexter this
evening," pursued Helen. "He was as agreeable as ever this morning.
However, there it is again; just before six, Nightshade strolled off
toward the ravine 'to see the sunset' (one sees the sunset so well from
there, you know, facing the east), and Dexter seemed also to have
forgotten the points of the compass, for--he followed her."

"Then it was Mrs. Bannert," said Anne, half unconsciously.

"It is always Mrs. Bannert. I do not in the least know what you mean,
but--it is always Mrs. Bannert. What did he say about her?"

"Of course I can not tell you, Helen. But--I really thought it was you."

"What should _I_ have to do with it? How you play at cross-purposes,
Crystal! Is it possible that during all this time you have not
discovered how infatuated our Gregory is with Rachel? Ward is only
amusing himself; but Gregory is, in one sense, carried away. However, I
doubt if it lasts, and I really think he has a warm regard for you, a
serious one. It is a pity you could not--"

Anne stopped the sentence with a gesture.

"Yes, I see that little ring," said Helen. "But the world is a puzzle,
and we often follow several paths before we find the right one. How cold
your hands are! The nights are no longer like summer, and the moon is
Medusa. The autumn moon is a cruel moon always, reminding us of the
broken hopes and promises of the lost summer. I must go, Crystal. You
are pale and weary; the summer with the Llama has been too hard. I
believe you will be glad to be safely back at Moreau's again. But I can
not come over now and tell you romances, can I? You know the personages,
and the charm will be gone. To-morrow I am going to ride. You have not
seen me in my habit? I assure you even a mermaid can not compare with
me. Do you know, I should be happy for life if I could but induce Rachel
to show herself once on horseback by my side: on horseback Rachel
looks--excuse the word, but it expresses it--sploshy. The trouble is
that she knows it, and will not go; she prefers moonlight, a piazza,
and sylphide roses in her hair, with the background of fluffy white
shawl."

Then, with a little more light nonsense, Helen went away--went at last.
Anne bolted the door, threw herself down upon her knees beside the bed,
with her arms stretched out and her face hidden. There had been but this
wanting to her misery, and now it was added: Helen loved him.

For she was not deceived by the flippant phrases which had surrounded the
avowal: Helen would talk flippantly on her death-bed. None the less was
she in earnest when she spoke those few words. In such matters a woman
can read a woman: there is a tone of voice which can not be
counterfeited. It tells all.



CHAPTER XVIII.

     "What is this that thou hast been fretting and fuming and lamenting
     and self-tormenting on account of? Say it in a word: is it not
     because thou art not _happy_? Foolish soul! what act of Legislature
     was there that _thou_ shouldst be happy? There is in Man a higher
     than Happiness; he can do without Happiness, and instead thereof
     find Blessedness. This is the everlasting Yea, wherein all
     contradiction is solved."--CARLYLE.


After an hour of mute suffering, Anne sought the blessed oblivion of
sleep. She had conquered herself; she was exhausted. She would try to
gain strength for the effort of the coming day. But nothing avails
against that fever, strong as life and sad as death, which we call Love,
and which, in spite of the crowd of shallower feelings that masquerade
under and mock its name, still remains the master-power of our human
existence. Anne had no sooner laid her head upon the pillow than there
rose within her, and ten times stronger than before, her love and her
jealousy. She would stay and contest the matter with Helen. Had he not
said, had he not looked--And then she caught herself back in an agony of
self-reproach. For it is always hard for the young to learn the lesson
of human weakness. It is strange and humiliating to them to discover
that there are powers within them stronger than their own wills. The old
know this so well that they excuse each other silently; but, loath to
shake the ignorant faith of innocence, they leave the young to find it
out for themselves. The whole night with Anne was but a repetition of
efforts and lapses, followed toward morning, however, by a struggling
return to self-control. For years of faithfulness even as a child are
not thrown away, but yield, thank Heaven! a strength at last in times of
trial; else might we all go drown ourselves. At dawn, with tear-stained
cheeks, she fell asleep, waking with a start when Bessmer knocked and
inquired if she was ill. Miss Vanhorn had gone down to breakfast.

"Please send me some coffee," said Anne, without opening the door. "I do
not care for anything else. I will be ready soon."

She dressed herself slowly, swallowing the coffee. But youth is strong;
the cold bath and the fresh white morning dress made her look as fair as
ever. Miss Vanhorn was waiting for her in the little parlor. Bessmer was
sent away, and the door closed. The girl remained standing, and took
hold of the back of a chair to nerve herself for the first step along
the hard, lonely road stretching out before her like a desert.

"Anne," began Miss Vanhorn, in a magisterial voice, "what did Mr. Dexter
say to you last evening?"

"He asked me to be his wife."

"I hardly expected it so soon, although I knew it would come in time,"
said the old woman, with a swallow of satisfaction. "Sit down. And don't
be an idiot. You will now listen to _me_. Mr. Dexter is a rich man; he
is what is called a rising man (if any one wants to rise); he is a good
enough man also, as men go. He has no claim as regards family; neither
have you. He is a thorough and undiluted American; so are you. He will
be a kind husband, and one far higher in the world than you had any
right to expect. On the other hand, you will do very well as his wife,
for you have fair ability and a pretty face (it is of course your pink
and white beauty that has won him), and principles enough for both.
Like all people who have made money rapidly, he is lavish, and will deny
you nothing; he will even allow you, I presume, to help one and all of
that colony of children, priests, old maids, and dogs, up on that
island. See what power will be put into your hands! You might labor all
your life, and not accomplish one-hundredth part of that which, as
Gregory Dexter's wife, you could do in one day.

"As to your probable objection--the boy-and-girl engagement in which you
were foolish enough to entangle yourself--I will simply say, leave it to
time; it will break itself. How do you know that it is not, in fact,
broken already? The Pronando blood is faithless in its very essence,"
added the old woman, bitterly. "Mr. Dexter is a man of the world. I will
explain it to him myself; he will understand, and will not urge you at
present. He will wait, as I shall, for the natural solution of time. But
in the mean while you must not offend him; he is not at all a man whom a
woman can offend with impunity. He is vain, and has a singularly
mistaken idea of his own importance. Agree to what I propose--which is
simple quiescence for the present--and you shall go back to Moreau's,
and the allowance for the children shall be continued. I have never
before in my life made so many concessions; it is because you have had
at times lately a look that brings back--Alida."

Anne's lips trembled; a sudden weakness came over her at this allusion
to her mother.

"Well?" said Miss Vanhorn, expectantly.

There was a pause. Then a girl's voice answered: "I can not, grandaunt.
I must go."

"You _may_ go, I tell you, back to Moreau's on the 1st of October."

"I mean that I can not marry Mr. Dexter."

"No one asks you to marry him now."

"I can never marry him."

"Why?" said Miss Vanhorn, with rising color. "Be careful what you say.
No lies."

"I--I am engaged to Rast."

"Lie number one. Look at me. If your engagement was ended, _then_ would
you marry Mr. Dexter?"

Anne half rose, as if to escape, but sank back again. "I could not marry
him, because I do not love him," she answered.

"And whom do you love, that you know so much about it, and have your 'do
not' and 'can not' so promptly ready? Never tell me that it is that boy
upon the island who has taught you all these new ways, this faltering
and fear of looking in my face, of which you knew nothing when you came.
Do you wish me to tell you what I think of you?"

"No," cried the girl, rushing forward, and falling on her knees beside
the arm-chair; "tell me nothing. Only let me go away. I can not, can not
stay here; I am too wretched, too weak. You can not have a lower opinion
of me than I have of myself at this moment. If you have any compassion
for me--for the memory of my mother--say no more, and let me go." She
bowed her head upon the arm of the chair and sobbed aloud.

But Miss Vanhorn rose and walked away. "I know what this means," she
said, standing in the centre of the room. "Like mother, like daughter.
Only Alida ran after a man who loved her, although her inferior, while
you have thrown yourself at the feet of a man who is simply laughing at
you. Don't you know, you fool, that Ward Heathcote will marry Helen
Lorrington--the woman you pretend to be grateful to, and call your
dearest friend? Helen Lorrington will be in every way a suitable wife
for him. It has long been generally understood. The idea of _your_
trying to thrust yourself between them is preposterous--I may say a
maniac's folly."

"I am not trying: only let me go," sobbed Anne, still kneeling by the
chair.

"You think I have not seen," continued Miss Vanhorn, her wrath rising
with every bitter word; "but I have. Only I never dreamed that it was as
bad as this. I never dreamed that Alida's daughter could be bold and
immodest--worse than her mother, who was only love-mad."

Anne started to her feet. "Miss Vanhorn," she said, "I will not hear
this, either of myself or my mother. It is not true."

"As to not hearing it, you are right; you will not hear my voice often
in the future. I wash my hands of you. You are an ungrateful girl, and
will come to an evil end. When I think of the enormous selfishness you
now show in thus throwing away, for a mere matter of personal obstinacy,
the bread of your sister and brothers, and leaving them to starve, I
stand appalled. What do you expect?"

"Nothing--save to go."

"And you _shall_ go."

"To-day?"

"This afternoon, at three." As she said this, Miss Vanhorn seated
herself with her back toward Anne, and took up a book, as though there
was no one in the room.

"Do you want me any longer, grandaunt?"

"Never call me by that name again. Go to your room; Bessmer will attend
to you. At two o'clock I will see you for a moment before you go."

Without a reply, Anne obeyed. Her tears were dried as if by fever; words
had been spoken which could not be forgiven. Inaction was impossible;
she began to pack. Then, remembering who had given her all these
clothes, she paused, uncertain what to do. After reflection, she decided
to take with her only those she had brought from the half-house; and in
this she was not actuated by any spirit of retaliation, her idea was
that her grandaunt would demand the gifts in any case. Miss Vanhorn was
not generous. She worked steadily; she did not wish to think; yet still
the crowding feelings pursued her, caught up with her, and then went
along with her, thrusting their faces close to hers, and forcing
recognition. Was she, as Miss Vanhorn had said, enormously selfish in
thus sacrificing the new comfort of the pinched household on the island
to her own obstinacy? But, as she folded the plain garments brought from
that home, she knew that it was not selfishness; as she replaced the
filmy ball dress in its box, she said to herself that she could not
deceive Mr. Dexter by so much even as a silence. Then, as she wrapped
the white parasol in its coverings, the old burning, throbbing misery
rolled over her, followed by the hot jealousy which she thought she had
conquered; she seized the two dresses given by Helen, and added them to
those left behind. But the action brought shame, and she replaced them.
And now all the clothes faced her from the open trunks; those from the
island, those which Rast had seen, murmured, "Faithless!" Helen's gifts
whispered, "Ingratitude!" and those of her grandaunt called more loudly,
"Fool!" She closed the lids, and turned toward the window; she tried to
busy her mind with the future: surely thought and plans were needed. She
was no longer confident, as she had been when she first left her
Northern island; she knew now how wide the world was, and how cold. She
could not apply at the doors of schools without letters or
recommendations; she could not live alone. Her one hope began and ended
in Jeanne-Armande. She dressed herself in travelling garb and sat down
to wait. It was nearly noon, probably she would not see Helen, as she
always slept through the morning after a ball, preserving by this
changeless care the smooth fairness of her delicate complexion. She
decided to write a note of farewell, and leave it with Bessmer; but
again and again she tore up her beginnings, until the floor was strewn
with fragments. She had so very much not to say. At last she succeeded
in putting together a few sentences, which told nothing, save that she
was going away; she bade her good-by, and thanked her for all her
kindness, signing, without any preliminary phrases (for was she
"affectionately" or "sincerely" Helen's "friend"?), merely her name,
Anne Douglas.

At one o'clock Bessmer entered with luncheon. Evidently she had received
orders to enter into no conversation with the prisoner; but she took the
note, and promised to deliver it with her own hands. At two the door
opened, and Miss Vanhorn came in.

The old woman's eye took in at a glance the closed trunks and the
travelling dress. She had meant to try her niece, to punish her; but
even then she could not believe that the girl would really throw away
forever all the advantages she had placed within her grasp. She sat
down, and after waiting a moment, closed her eyes. "Anne Douglas," she
began, "daughter of my misguided niece Alida Clanssen, I have come for a
final decision. Answer my questions. First, have you, or have you not,
one hundred dollars in the world?"

"I have not."

"Have you, or have you not, three brothers and one sister wholly
dependent upon you?"

"I have."

"Is it just or honorable to leave them longer to the charity of a woman
who is poor herself, and not even a relative?"

"It is neither."

"Have I, or have I not, assisted you, offered also to continue the
pension which makes them comfortable?"

"You have."

"Then," said the old woman, still with her eyes closed, "why persist in
this idiotic stubbornness? In offending me, are you not aware that you
are offending the only person on earth who can assist you? I make no
promises as to the future; but I am an old woman now, one to whom you
could at least be dutiful. There--I want no fine words. Show your
fineness by obeying my wishes."

"I will stay with _you_, grandaunt, willingly, gladly, gratefully, if
you will take me away from this place."

"No conditions," said Miss Vanhorn. "Come here; kneel down in front of
me, so that I can look at you. Will you stay with me _here_, if I yield
everything concerning Mr. Dexter?" She held her firmly, with her small
keen eyes searching her face.

Anne was silent. Like the panorama which is said to pass before the eyes
of the drowning man, the days and hours at Caryl's as they would be,
must be, unrolled themselves before her. But there only followed the
same desperate realization of the impossibility of remaining; the
misery, the jealousy; worse than all, the self-doubt. The misery, the
jealousy, she could perhaps bear, deep as they were. But what appalled
her was this new doubt of herself, this new knowledge, that, in spite of
all her determination, she might, if tried, yield to this love which had
taken possession of her unawares, yield to certain words which he might
speak, to certain tones of his voice, and thus become even more
faithless to Rast, to Helen, and to herself, than she already was. If he
would go away--but she knew that he would not. No, _she_ must go.
Consciousness came slowly back to her eyes, which had been meeting Miss
Vanhorn's blankly.

"I can not stay," she said.

Miss Vanhorn thrust her away violently. "I am well paid for having had
anything to do with Douglas blood," she cried, her voice trembling with
anger. "Get back into the wilderness from whence you came! I will never
hear your name on earth again." She left the room.

In a few moments Bessmer appeared, her eyes reddened by tears, and
announced that the wagon was waiting. It was at a side door. At this
hour there was no one on the piazzas, and Anne's trunk was carried down,
and she herself followed with Bessmer, without being seen by any one
save the servants and old John Caryl.

"I am not to say anything to you, Miss Douglas, if you please, but just
the ordinary things, if you please," said Bessmer, as the wagon bore
them away. "You are to take the three o'clock train, and go--wherever
you please, she said. I was to tell you."

"Yes, Bessmer; do not be troubled. I know what to do. Will you tell
grandaunt, when you return, that I beg her to forgive what has seemed
obstinacy, but was only sad necessity. Can you remember it?"

"Yes, miss; only sad necessity," repeated Bessmer, with dropping tears.
She was a meek woman, with a comfortable convexity of person, which,
however, did not seem to give her confidence.

"I was not to know, miss, if you please, where you bought tickets to,"
she said, as the wagon stopped at the little station. "I was to give
you this, and then go right back."

She handed Anne an envelope containing a fifty-dollar note. Anne looked
at it a moment. "I will not take this, I think; you can tell grandaunt
that I have money enough for the present," she said, returning it. She
gave her hand kindly to the weeping maid, who was then driven away in
the wagon, her sun-umbrella held askew over her respectable brown
bonnet, her broad shoulders shaken with her sincere grief. A turn in the
road soon hid even this poor friend of hers from view. Anne was alone.

The station-keeper was not there; his house was near by, but hidden by a
grove of maples, and Anne, standing on the platform, seemed all alone,
the two shining rails stretching north and south having the peculiarly
solitary aspect which a one-track railway always has among green fields,
with no sign of life in sight. No train has passed, or ever will pass.
It is all a dream. She walked to and fro. She could see into the
waiting-room, which was adorned with three framed texts, and another
placard not religiously intended, but referring, on the contrary, to
steamboats, which might yet be so interpreted, namely, "Take the
Providence Line." She noted the drearily ugly round stove, faded below
to white, planted in a sand-filled box; she saw the bench, railed off
into single seats by iron elbows, and remembered that during her journey
eastward, two, if not three, of these places were generally filled with
the packages of some solitary female of middle age, clad in
half-mourning, who remained stonily unobservant of the longing glances
cast upon the space she occupied. These thoughts came to her
mechanically. When a decision has finally been made, and for the present
nothing more can be done, the mind goes wandering off on trivial
errands; the flight of a bird, the passage of the fairy car of
thistle-down, are sufficient to set it in motion. It seemed to her that
she had been there a long time, when a step came through the grove:
Hosea Plympton--or, as he was called in the neighborhood, Hosy Plim--was
unlocking the station door. Anne bought her ticket, and had her trunk
checked; she hoped to reach the half-house before midnight.

Hosy having attended to his official business with dignity, now came out
to converse unofficially with his one passenger. "From Caryl's, ain't
you?"

"Yes," replied Anne.

"Goin' to New York?"

"Yes."

"I haven't yet ben to that me-tropo-lis," said Hosy. "On some accounts I
should admire to go, on others not. Ben long at Caryl's?"

"Yes, some time."

"My wife's cousin helps over there; Mirandy's her name. And she tells
me, Mirandy does, that the heap of washing over to that house is a sight
to see. She tells me, Mirandy does, that they don't especial dress up
for the Sabbath over there, not so much even as on other days."

"That is true, I believe."

"Sing'lar," said the little man, "what folks 'll do as has the money!
They don't seem to be capable of enj'ying themselves exactly; and
p'r'aps that's what Providence intends. We haven't had city folks at
Caryl's until lately, miss, you see; and I confess they've ben a
continooal study to me ever since. 'Tis amazin' the ways the Lord'll
take to make us contented with our lot. Till I _see_ 'em, I thought 'em
most downright and all everlastin' to be envied. But _now_ I feel the
ba'm of comfort and innard strengthenin' when I see how little they know
_how_ to enj'y themselves, after all. Here's the train, miss."

In another moment Anne felt herself borne away--away from the solitary
station, with its shining lines of rails; from the green hills which
encircled Caryl's; from the mountain-peaks beyond. She had started on
her journey into the wide world.

In darkness, but in safety, she arrived at the half-house, in the
station-keeper's wagon, a few minutes before midnight. A light was still
burning, and in response to her knock Jeanne-Armande herself opened the
door, clad in a wrapper, with a wonderful flannel cap on her head. She
was much astonished to see her pupil, but received her cordially,
ordered the trunk brought in, and herself attended to the beating down
of the station-keeper's boy to a proper price for his services. She
remarked upon his audacity and plainly criminal tendencies; she
thoroughly sifted the physical qualities of the horse; she objected to
the shape of the wagon; and finally, she had noted his manner of
bringing in the trunk, and shaving its edges as well as her doorway, and
she felt that she must go over to the station herself early in the
morning, and lodge a complaint against him. What did he mean by--But
here the boy succumbed, and departed with half-price, and Jeanne-Armande
took breath, and closed the door in triumph.

"You see that I have come back to you, mademoiselle," said Anne, with a
faint smile. "Shall I tell you why?"

"Yes; but no, not now. You are very weary, my child; you look pale and
worn. Would you like some coffee?"

"Yes," said Anne, who felt a faint exhaustion stealing over her. "But
the fast-day coffee will do." For there was one package of coffee in the
store-room which went by that name, and which old Nora was instructed to
use on Fridays. Not that Jeanne-Armande followed strict rules and
discipline; but she had bought that coffee at an auction sale in the
city for a very low price, and it proved indeed so low in quality that
they could not drink it more than once a week. Certainly, therefore,
Friday was the appropriate day.

"No," said the hostess, "you shall have a little of the other, child.
Come to the kitchen. Nora has gone to bed, but I will arrange a little
supper for you with my own hands."

They went to the bare little room, where a mouse would have starved. But
mademoiselle was not without resources, and keys. Soon she "arranged" a
brisk little fire and a cheery little stew, while the pint coffee-pot
sent forth a delicious fragrance. Sitting there in a wooden chair beside
the little stove, Anne felt more of home comfort than she had ever
known at Caryl's, and the thin miserly teacher was kinder than her
grandaunt had ever been. She ate and drank, and was warmed; then,
sitting by the dying coals, she told her story, or rather as much of it
as it was necessary mademoiselle should know.

"It is a pity," said Jeanne-Armande, "and especially since she has no
relative, this grandaunt, nearer than yourself. Could nothing be done in
the way of renewal, as to heart-strings?"

"Not at present. I must rely upon you, mademoiselle; in this, even Tante
can not help me."

"That is true; she can not. She even disapproved of my own going forth
into the provinces," said Jeanne-Armande, with the air of an explorer.
"We have different views of life, Hortense Moreau and I; but there!--we
respect each other. Of how much money can you dispose at present, my
child?"

Anne told the sum.

"If it is so little as that," said Jeanne-Armande, "it will be better
for you to go westward with me immediately. I start earlier than usual
this year; you can take the journey with me, and share expenses; in this
way we shall both be able to save. Now as to chances: there is sometimes
a subordinate employed under me, when there is a press of new scholars.
This is the autumn term: there _may_ be a press. I must prepare you,
however, for the lowest of low salaries," said the teacher, her voice
changing suddenly to a dry sharpness. "I shall present you as a novice,
to whom the privilege of entering the institution is an equivalent of
money."

"I expect but little," said Anne. "A beginner must take the lowest
place."

On the second day they started. Jeanne-Armande was journeying to Weston
this time by a roundabout way. By means of excursion tickets to Valley
City, offered for low rates for three days, she had found that she could
(in time) reach Weston _viâ_ the former city, and effect a saving of one
dollar and ten cents. With the aid of her basket, no additional meals
would be required, and the money saved, therefore, would be pure gain.
There was only one point undecided, namely, should she go through to
Valley City, or change at a junction twenty miles this side for the
northern road? What would be the saving, if any, by going on? What by
changing? No one could tell her; the complication of excursion rates to
Valley City for the person who was not going there, and the method of
night travel for a person who would neither take a sleeping-car, nor
travel in a day car, combined themselves to render more impassive still
the ticket-sellers, safely protected in their official round towers from
the rabble of buyers outside. Regarding the main lines between New York
and Weston, and all their connections, it would be safe to say that
mademoiselle knew more than the officials themselves. The remainder of
the continent was an unknown wilderness in her mind, but these lines of
rails, over which she was obliged to purchase her way year after year,
she understood thoroughly. She had tried all the routes, and once she
had gone through Canada; she had looked at canal-boats meditatively. She
was haunted by a vision that some day she might find a clean captain and
captain's wife who would receive her as passenger, and allow her to cook
her own little meals along shore. Once, she explained to Anne, a
Sunday-school camp-meeting had reduced the rates, she being apparently
on her way thither. She had always regretted that the season of State
fairs was a month later: she felt herself capable of being on her way to
all of them.

"But now, whether to go on to Valley City, or to leave the train at
Stringhampton Junction, is the question I can not decide," she said,
with irritation, having returned discomfited from another encounter with
a ticket-seller.

"We reach Weston by both routes, do we not?" said Anne.

"Of course; that follows without saying. Evidently you do not comprehend
the considerations which are weighing upon me. However, I will get it
out of the ticket agent at New Macedonia," said mademoiselle, rising.
"Come, the train is ready."

They were going only as far as New Macedonia that night; mademoiselle
had slept there twice, and intended to sleep there again. Once, in her
decorous maiden life, she had passed a night in a sleeping-car, and
never again would her foot "cross the threshold of one of those
outrageous inventions." She remembered even now with a shudder the
processions of persons in muffled drapery going to the wash-rooms in the
early morning. New Macedonia existed only to give suppers and
breakfasts; it had but two narrow sleeping apartments over its abnormal
development of dining-room below. But the military genius of
Jeanne-Armande selected it on this very account; for sleeping-rooms
where no one ever slept, half-price could in conscience alone be
charged. All night Anne was wakened at intervals by the rushing sound of
passing trains. Once she stole softly to the uncurtained window and
looked out; clouds covered the sky, no star was visible, but down the
valley shone a spark which grew and grew, and then turned white and
intense, as, with a glare and a thundering sound, a locomotive rushed
by, with its long line of dimly lighted sleeping-cars swiftly and softly
following with their unconscious human freight, the line ending in two
red eyes looking back as the train vanished round a curve.

"Ten hours' sleep," said mademoiselle, awaking with satisfaction in the
morning. "I now think we can sit up to-night in the Valley City
waiting-room, and save the price of lodgings. Until twelve they would
think we were waiting for the midnight train; after that, the night
porter, who comes on duty then, would suppose it was the early morning
express."

"Then you have decided to go through to Valley City?" asked Anne.

"Yes, since by this arrangement we can do it without expense."

Two trains stopped at New Macedonia for breakfast, one eastward bound
from over the Alleghanies, the other westward bound from New York.
Jeanne-Armande's strategy was to enter the latter while its passengers
were at breakfast, and take bodily possession of a good seat, removing,
if necessary, a masculine bag or two left there as tokens of ownership;
for the American man never makes war where the gentler sex is concerned,
but retreats to another seat, or even to the smoking-car, with silent
generosity.

Breakfast was now over; the train-boy was exchanging a few witticisms
with the pea-nut vender of the station, a brakeman sparred playfully
with the baggage porter, and a pallid telegraph operator looked on from
his window with interest. Meanwhile the conductor, in his stiff official
cap, pared a small apple with the same air of fixed melancholy and
inward sarcasm which he gave to all his duties, large and small; when it
was eaten, he threw the core with careful precision at a passing pig,
looked at his watch, and called out, suddenly and sternly, "All aboard!"
The train moved on.

It was nine o'clock. At ten there came into the car a figure Anne
knew--Ward Heathcote.



CHAPTER XIX.

     "Man is a bundle of contradictions, tied together with
     fancies."--PERSIAN PROVERB.

    "The might of one fair face sublimes my love,
     For it hath weaned my heart from low desires.
     Nor death I heed, nor purgatorial fires.
     Forgive me if I can not turn away
     From those sweet eyes that are my earthly heaven,
     For they are guiding stars, benignly given
     To tempt my footsteps to the upward way."

     --MICHAEL ANGELO.


Dire was the wrath of Helen Lorrington when, having carefully filled the
measure of her lost sleep, she sent a little note across to Anne, and
answer was returned that Miss Douglas was gone.

Mrs. Lorrington, with compliments to Miss Vanhorn, then begged (on a
card) to be informed _where_ Miss Douglas was gone. Miss Vanhorn, with
compliments to Mrs. Lorrington (also on a card), returned answer that
she did not know. Mrs. Lorrington, deeply grieved to disturb Miss
Vanhorn a second time, then requested to be favored with Miss Douglas's
address. Miss Vanhorn, with assurances that it was no disturbance, but
always a pleasure to oblige Mrs. Lorrington, replied that she did not
possess it. Then Helen waited until the old coupé rolled away for an
afternoon drive, its solitary occupant inside, her profile visible
between the two closed glass windows like an object mounted for a
microscope, and going across, beguiled the mild Bessmer to tell all she
knew. This was not much; but the result was great anger in Helen's mind,
and a determination to avenge the harsh deed. Bessmer did not know
causes, but she knew actions. Anne had been sent away in disgrace, the
maid being forbidden to know even the direction the lonely traveller had
taken. Helen, quick to solve riddles, solved this, at least as far as
one side of it was concerned, and the quick, partially correct guesses
of a quick-witted woman are often, by their very nearness, more
misleading than any others. Mr. Dexter had been with Anne during the
evening of the ball; probably he had asked her to be his wife. Anne,
faithful to her engagement, had refused him; and Miss Vanhorn, faithful
to her cruel nature, had sent her away in disgrace. And when Helen
learned that Mr. Dexter had gone also--gone early in the morning before
any one was stirring--she took it as confirmation of her theory, and was
now quite sure. She would tell all the house, she said to herself. She
began by telling Heathcote.

They were strolling in the garden. She turned toward the little arbor at
the end of the path.

"Not there," said Heathcote.

"Why not? Have you been there so much with Rachel?" said his companion,
in a sweet voice.

"Never, I think. But arbors are damp holes."

"Nevertheless, I am going there, and you are going with me."

"As you please."

"Ward, how much have you been with Rachel?" she asked, when they were
seated in the little bower, which was overgrown with the old-fashioned
vine called matrimony.

"Oh!" said Heathcote, with a sound of fatigue in his voice. "Are we
never to have an end to that subject?"

"Yes; when you _make_ an end."

"One likes to amuse one's self. You do."

"Whom do you mean now?" said Helen, diverted from her questions for the
moment, as he intended she should be.

To tell the truth, Heathcote did not mean any one; but he never
hesitated. So now he answered, promptly, "Dexter." He had long ago
discovered that he could make any woman believe he was jealous of any
man, no matter whom, even one to whom she had never spoken; it
presupposed that the other man had been all the time a silent admirer,
and on this point the grasp of the feminine imagination is wide and
hopeful.

"How like you that is! Mr. Dexter is nothing to me."

"You have been out driving with him already," said Heathcote, pursuing
his advantage; "and you have not been out with me."

"He has gone; so we need not quarrel about him."

"When did he go?"

"Early this morning. And to show you how unjust you are, he went because
last evening Anne Douglas refused him."

"Then he was refused twice in one day," said Heathcote. "Mrs. Bannert
refused him at six."

"How do you know?"

"She told me."

"Traitorous creature!"

"Oh no; she is an especial--I may say confidential--friend of mine."

"Then what am I?"

"Not a friend at all, I hope," said the man beside her. "Something
more." He was pulling a spray of vine to pieces, and did not look up;
but Helen was satisfied, and smiled to herself brightly. She now went
back to Anne. "Did you know poor Anne was gone too, Ward?"

"Gone!" said Heathcote, starting. Then he controlled himself. "What do
you mean?" he asked.

"I mean that Miss Vanhorn cruelly sent her away this afternoon without
warning, and with only a little money; Bessmer was not even allowed to
inquire what she intended to do, or where she was going. I have been
haunted ever since I heard it by visions of the poor child arriving in
New York all alone, and perhaps losing her way: she only knew that one
up-town locality near Moreau's."

"Do you mean to say that no one knows where she has gone?"

"No one. Bessmer tells me that the old dragon was in one of her black
rages. Mr. Dexter was with Anne for some time in the little parlor
during the ball last evening, and Miss Vanhorn had the room made ready,
as though she expected him. Here are the few lines the poor child left
for me: they are constrained, and very unlike her; but I suppose she was
too troubled to choose her words. She told me herself only the day
before that she was very unhappy."

Heathcote took the little note, and slipped it into an inner pocket. He
said nothing, and went on stripping the vine.

"There is one thing that puzzles me," continued Helen. "Bessmer heard
the old woman say, violently, 'You have thrown yourself at the feet of a
man who is simply laughing at you.' Now Anne never threw herself at any
man's feet--unless, indeed, it might be the feet of that boy on the
island to whom she is engaged. I do not know how she acts when with
him."

"It is a pity, since Bessmer overheard so much, that while she was about
it she did not overhear more," said Heathcote, dryly.

"You need not suspect her: she is as honest as a cow, and as
unimaginative. She happened to catch that sentence because she had
entered the next room for something; but she went out again immediately,
and heard no more. What I fear is that Miss Vanhorn has dismissed her
entirely, and that I shall not see her again, even at Moreau's. In the
note she says that she will send me her address when she can, which is
oddly expressed, is it not? I suppose she means that she will send it
when she knows where she is to be. Poor child! think of her to-night out
in the hard world all alone!"

"I do think of her."

"It is good of you to care so much. But you know how much attached to
her I am."

"Yes."

"She is an odd girl. Undeveloped, yet very strong. She would refuse a
prince, a king, without a thought, and work all her life like a slave
for the man she loved, whoever he might be. In truth, she has done what
amounts to nearly the same thing, if my surmises are correct. Those
children on the island were pensioned, and I presume the old dragon has
stopped the pension."

"Have you no idea where she has gone?"

"Probably to Mademoiselle Pitre at Lancaster, on the Inside Road; I
stopped there once to see her. It would be her first resource. I shall
hear from her, of course, in a few days, and then I shall help her in
every way in my power. We will not let her suffer, Ward."

"No."

Then there was a pause.

"Are you not chilly here, Helen?"

"It _is_ damp," said Mrs. Lorrington, rising. She always followed the
moods of this lethargic suitor of hers as closely as she could divine
them; she took the advance in every oblique and even retrograde movement
he made so swiftly that it generally seemed to have originated with
herself. In five minutes they were in the house, and she had left him.

In what was called the office, a group of young men were discussing,
over their cigars, a camping party; the mountains, whose blue sides lay
along the western sky, afforded good hunting ground still, and were not
as yet farmed out to clubs. The men now at Caryl's generally camped out
for a few weeks every year; it was one of their habits. Heathcote, with
his hands in the pockets of his sack-coat, walked up and down,
listening. After a while, "I think I'll go with you," he said.

"Come along, then, old fellow; I wish you would."

"When are you going?"

"To-morrow morning--early."

"By wagon?"

"Train to the junction; then wagons."

"How long shall you stay?"

"A week or two."

"I'll go," said Heathcote. He threw away his cigar, and started toward
his room. Helen was singing in the parlor as he passed; he paused
outside for a moment to listen. Every one was present save Anne and
Gregory Dexter; yet the long room wore to him already the desolate and
empty aspect of summer resorts in September. He could see the singer
plainly; he leaned against the wall and looked at her. He liked her; she
fitted into all the grooves of his habits and tastes. And he thought she
would marry him if he pushed the matter. While he was thus meditating, a
soft little hand touched his arm in the darkness. "I saw you," said
Rachel, in a whisper, "and came round to join you. You are looking at
Helen; what a flute-like voice she has! Let us go out and listen to her
on the piazza."

Mr. Heathcote would be delighted to go. He hated that parlor, with all
those people sitting round in a row. How could Rachel stand it?

Rachel, with a pathetic sigh, answered, How could she do as she wished?
She had no talent for deception.

Heathcote regretted this; he wished with all his heart that she had.

His heart was not all his to wish with, Rachel suggested, in a cooing
murmur.

He answered that it was. And then they went out on the piazza.

Helen missed Rachel, and suspected, but sang on as sweetly as ever. At
last, however, even Rachel could not keep the recreant admirer longer.
He went off to his room, filled a travelling bag, lit a cigar, and then
sat down to write a note:

       *       *       *       *       *

"DEAR HELEN,--I have decided suddenly to go with the camping party to
the mountains for a week or two; we leave early in the morning. I shall
hope to find you still here when I return.

W. H."

       *       *       *       *       *

He sealed this missive, threw it aside, and then began to study a
railway guide. To a person going across to the mountains in a wagon, a
knowledge of the latest time-tables was, of course, important.

The next morning, while her maid was coiling her fair hair, Mrs.
Lorrington received the note, and bit her lips with vexation.

The hunting party drove over to the station soon after six, and waited
there for the early train. Hosy sold them their tickets, and then came
out to gain a little information in affable conversation. All the men
save Heathcote were attired in the most extraordinary old clothes, and
they wore among them an assortment of hats which might have won a prize
in a collection. Hosy regarded them with wonder, but his sharp freckled
face betrayed no sign. They were men, and he was above curiosity. He ate
an apple reflectively, and took an inward inventory: "Hez clothes that I
wouldn't be seen in, and sports 'em proud as you please. Hats like a
pirate. The strangest set of fellers!"

As the branch road train, with a vast amount of self-important
whistling, drew near the junction with the main line, Heathcote said
carelessly that he thought he would run down to the city for a day or
two, and join them later. There was hue and cry over this delinquency,
but he paid his way to peace by promising to bring with him on his
return a certain straw-packed basket, which, more than anything else, is
a welcome sight to poor hard-worked hunters in a thirsty land. The
wagons rolled away with their loads, and he was left to take the
southern-bound express. He reached the city late in the evening, slept
there, and early the next morning went out to Lancaster Station. When he
stepped off the train, a boy and a red wagon were in waiting; nothing
else save the green country.

[Illustration: "WHILE HER MAID WAS COILING HER FAIR HAIR."]

"Does a French lady named Pitre live in this neighborhood?" he inquired
of the boy, who was holding the old mare's head watchfully, as though,
if not restrained, she would impetuously follow the receding train. This
was the boy with whom Jeanne-Armande had had her memorable contest over
Anne's fare. Here was his chance to make up from the pockets of this
stranger--fair prey, since he was a friend of hers--the money lost on
that field.

"Miss Peters lives not fur off. I can drive you there if you want ter
go."

Heathcote took his seat in the wagon, and slowly as possible the boy
drove onward, choosing the most roundabout course, and bringing the
neighborhood matrons to their windows to see that wagon pass a second
time with the same stranger in it, going no one knew where. At last, all
the cross-roads being exhausted, the boy stopped before the closed
half-house.

"Is this the place? It looks uninhabited," said Heathcote.

"'T always looks so; she's such a screw, she is," replied Eli, addressed
as "Li" by his friends.

Heathcote knocked; no answer. He went round to the back door, but found
no sign of life.

"There is no one here. Would any one in the neighborhood know where she
has gone?"

"Mr. Green might, over to the store," said Li.

"Drive there."

"I've got to meet the next train, but I'll take you as fur as the door;
'tain't but a step from there to the station. And you might as well pay
me now," he added, carelessly, "because the mare she's very fiery, and
won't stand." Pocketing his money--double price--he drove off, exultant.
It was a mile and a half to the station, and a hot, cloudless morning.

Heathcote made acquaintance with Mr. Green, and asked his question.
There was no one in the shop at the moment, and Mr. Green responded
freely that he knew Miss Peters very well; in fact, they were old
friends. She had gone to Valley City--had, in fact, left that very
morning in the same red wagon which had brought the inquirer to his
door; he, Green, looking out by chance, had seen her pass. What did she
do in Valley City? Why, she taught--in fact, kept school. She had kept
school there for ten years, and he, Green, was the only one in the
neighborhood who knew it, since she--Miss Peters--wasn't much liked
about there, perhaps on account of her being a Papist. But in such
matters, he, Green, was liberal. Did she have any one with her? Yes, she
had; in fact, Miss Douglas--same young lady as was there the fore part
of the summer. No, they warn't going to stop at all in New York; going
right through to the West. Hoped there was no bad news?

"No," replied Heathcote.

But his monosyllable without details convinced the hearer that there
was, and before night the whole neighborhood was humming with
conjecture. The darkest of the old suspicions about mademoiselle's past
were now held to have been verified.

Heathcote walked back to the station over the red clay road, and looked
for that boy. But Li had taken care to make good his retreat. By the
delay two trains were missed, and he was obliged to wait; when he
reached the city it was two o'clock, and it seemed to him that the
pavements had never exhaled such withering heat. His rooms were closed;
he went to the hotel, took a bath, took two, but could not recover
either his coolness or his temper. Even after dinner he was still
undecided. Should he go westward to Valley City by the ten o'clock
train? or wait till morning? or throw it all up and join the other men
at the mountains? It was a close evening. Anne was at that moment on the
ferry-boat.

Mademoiselle had carefully misled her friend Mr. Green; so great was her
caution, so intricate her manœuvres, that she not only never once told
him the truth, but also had taken the trouble to invent elaborate
fictions concerning herself and her school at Valley City every time she
closed the half-house and bade him good-by. The only person who knew
where she really was was the Roman Catholic priest who had charge of the
mission church at the railway-car shops three miles distant; to this
secret agent was intrusted the duty of walking over once a week, without
exciting the notice of the neighborhood, to see if the half-house
remained safe and undisturbed. For this service mademoiselle paid a
small sum each week to the mission; and it was money well earned. The
priest, a lank, lonely, sad-eyed young Irishman, with big feet in low
shoes, came down the track once in seven days to Lancaster, as if for a
walk, taking the half-house within his varying circuit, and, with the
tact of his nation and profession, never once betraying his real object.
On this occasion Jeanne-Armande had even showed Mr. Green her tickets to
Valley City: what could be surer?

At sunset, in the city, the air grew cooler, a salt breeze came up the
harbor from the ocean, tossing bluely outside. Heathcote decided to take
another glass of wine, and the morning train. To the mountains?

The next day he was somewhat disgustedly eating breakfast at New
Macedonia; and going through the cars an hour later, came upon Anne. He
had not expected to see her. He was as much surprised as she was.

Why had he followed her? He could hardly have given a clear answer, save
perhaps that he was accustomed to follow his inclinations wherever they
led him, without hinderance or question. For there existed no one in the
world who had the right to question him; and therefore he was without
the habit of accounting for what he did, even to himself. It may,
perhaps, be considered remarkable that, with such a position and
training, he was, as a man, no worse than he was; that is, that he
should be so good a fellow, after all, when he had possessed such
unlimited opportunities to be a bad one. But natural refinement and fine
physical health had kept the balance from swaying far; and the
last-named influence is more powerful than is realized. Many a man of
fine mind--even genius--is with the dolts and the brutes in the great
army of the fallen, owing to a miserable, weak, and disappointing body.
Of course he should have learned, early in life, its deficiencies,
should have guarded it, withheld it and himself from exertions which to
his neighbor are naught; but he does not always learn this lesson. The
human creature who goes through his allotted course with vigorous health
and a physical presence fine enough to command the unconscious respect
of all with whom he comes in contact has no conception of the
humiliations and discouragements, the struggles and failures, which
beset the path of his weak-bodied and physically insignificant brother.
Heathcote, indolent as he was, had a superb constitution, for which and
of which, ungratefully, he had never thought long enough to be thankful.

But why was he following Anne?

She had told him of her engagement. Even if he could have broken that
engagement, did he wish to break it? He said to himself that it was
because his chivalry, as a man, had been stirred by the maid's story of
Miss Vanhorn's harsh words--words which he had at once construed as an
allusion to himself. Was he not partially, perhaps wholly, responsible
for her banishment? But, even if this were true, could he not have acted
through Helen, who was by far the most fitting agent? Instead of this,
here he was following her himself!

Why?

Simply because of one look he had had deep down into violet eyes.

He had not expected to find her so soon. In truth, he was following in
rather a purposeless fashion, leaving much to chance, and making no
plans. They had gone to Valley City; he would go to Valley City. Perhaps
he should meet her in the street there; or perhaps he should leave a
letter; perhaps he should do neither, but merely turn round, his impulse
satisfied, and go home again. There was no need to decide now. He was on
the way; that was enough. And more than enough.

Then, suddenly, he saw her.

She was sitting next the aisle. He put out his hand; she gave hers, and
mechanically mentioned his name to mademoiselle, who, helmeted in her
travelling bonnet surmounted by a green veil, presented a martial front
to all beholders. There was no vacant place near; he remained standing.

"How fortunate that I have met you!" he said, with conventional
cordiality. "The day promised to be intolerably long and dull."

Mademoiselle, who at a glance had taken in his appearance from head to
foot as only a Frenchwoman can, inquired if he was going far, in a voice
so harmonious, compared with the bonnet, that it was an agreeable
surprise.

"To Valley City," replied Heathcote.

"We also are going to Valley City," said Jeanne-Armande, graciously. "It
is a pity there happens to be no vacant place near for monsieur. If some
of these good people--" Here she turned the helmet toward her neighbors
behind.

"Pray do not give yourself any trouble," said Heathcote. "I was on my
way to the last car, hoping to find more air and space. If I am so
fortunate as to find there two vacant seats, may I not return for you?
It will be a charity to my loneliness."

"And a pleasure, monsieur, to ourselves," said mademoiselle.

He bowed his thanks, and glanced again at Anne. She had not spoken, and
had not looked at him since her first startled glance. But
Jeanne-Armande was gracious for two; she was charmed to have a monsieur
of such distinguished appearance standing in the aisle by their side,
and she inwardly wished that she had worn her second instead of her
third best gloves and veil.

"Mrs. Lorrington misses you sadly," said Heathcote to the silent averted
face, more for the sake of saying something than with any special
meaning.

A slight quiver in the downcast eyelids, but no answer.

"She hopes that you will soon send her your address."

"It is uncertain as yet where I shall be," murmured Anne.

"I thought you were to be at Valley City?"

She made no reply, but through her mind passed the thought that he could
not know, then, their real destination. He had been speaking in a low
voice; mademoiselle had not heard. But he could not carry on a
conversation long with a person who would not answer. "I will go to the
last car, and see if I can find those seats," he said, speaking to
mademoiselle, and smiling as he spoke. She thought him charming.

As soon as he turned away, Anne said: "Please do not tell him that ours
are excursion tickets, mademoiselle. Let him think that our destination
is really Valley City."

"Certainly, if you wish it," replied Jeanne-Armande, who had a sympathy
with all mysteries; this little speech of Anne's gave a new spice to the
day. "He is one of the circle round your grandaunt, probably?"

"Yes; I met him at Caryl's."

"A most distinguished personage; entirely as it should be. And did I not
overhear the name of the charming Mrs. Lorrington also?"

"He is a friend of Helen's. I think, I am not sure, but still I think
that they are engaged," said Anne, bravely.

"And most appropriate. I do not know when I have been more comforted
than by the culture and manner of that elegant friend of yours who
sought you out at my little residence; I hope it may be my fortunate
privilege to entertain her there again. From these two examples, I am
naturally led to think that the circle round your grandaunt is one
adjusted to that amiable poise so agreeable to the feelings of a lady."

Anne made no reply; the circle round her grandaunt seemed to her a world
of dark and menacing terrors, from which she was fleeing with all the
speed she could summon. But, one of these terrors had followed her.

Presently Heathcote returned. He had found two vacant seats, and the car
was much better ventilated than this one; there was no dust, and no one
was eating either pea-nuts or apples; the floor was clean; the covering
of the seats seemed to have been recently renewed. Upon hearing the
enumeration of all these advantages, mademoiselle arose immediately, and
"monsieur" was extremely attentive in the matter of carrying shawls,
packages, and baskets. But when they reached the car, they found that
the two seats were not together; one was at the end, the other separated
from it by the aisle and four intervening places.

"I hoped that you would be kind enough to give me the pleasure of being
with you by turns," said Heathcote, gallantly, to mademoiselle, "since
it was impossible to find seats together." As he spoke, he placed
Jeanne-Armande in one of the seats, and Anne in the other; and then
gravely, but with just the scintillation of a smile in his brown eyes,
he took his own place, not beside Anne, but beside the delighted
Frenchwoman, who could scarcely believe her good fortune to be real
until she found him actually assisting her in the disposal of basket,
shawl, bag, India-rubber shoes, and precious although baggy umbrella.



CHAPTER XX.

     "_Philip._ Madam, a day may sink or save a realm.
      _Mary._ A day may save a heart from breaking, too."--TENNYSON.


Mr. Heathcote retained his place beside mademoiselle through a whole
long hour. She had time to get over her fear that he would go away soon,
time to adjust her powers, time to enlarge, and to do justice to herself
and several subjects adapted elegantly and with easy grace to the
occasion. In her hard-working life she had seldom enjoyed a greater
pleasure. For Jeanne-Armande had good blood in her veins; the ends of
her poor old fingers were finely moulded, and there had been a title in
the family long ago in Berri. And when at last monsieur did go, it was
not hastily. The proper preliminaries were spoken, the first little
movement made, and then, later, the slow rising, as if with reluctance,
to the feet. Jeanne-Armande was satisfied, and smiled with honeyed
graciousness, as, after another moment's delay, he bowed and went back
to the place behind, where Anne was sitting.

In truth, Heathcote had not been unwilling to take the hour himself; it
was not necessary to talk--Jeanne-Armande would talk for two. The sight
of Anne had been unexpected; he had not decided what he should say to
her even at Valley City, much less here. After an hour's thought, he
took his place beside her. And remarked upon--the beauty of the day.

Dexter would have said something faultless, and all the more so if he
had wished to disguise his thoughts. But all Heathcote said was, "What a
lovely day!"

"Yes," replied Anne. In her mind surged to and fro one constant
repetition: "Ah, my dear child, do you not see that I can not help
loving you? and that you--love me also?" "Do you not see that I can not
help loving you? and that you--love me also?"

"They improve things, after all," said Heathcote. "The last time I went
over this road the train-boy was a poor little cripple, and therefore
one couldn't quite throw his books on the floor." This was in allusion
to the progress of a brisk youth through the car for the purpose of
depositing upon the patient knees of each passenger a paper-covered
novel, a magazine or two, and a song-book.

--"And that you--love me also," ran Anne's thoughts, as she looked out
on the gliding fields.

There was a silence. Then Heathcote moved nearer.

"Anne," he said, in a low tone, "I was very much disturbed when I found
that you had gone. From the little I was able to learn, I fear you were
harshly treated by that hard old woman who calls herself your aunt."

"Not according to her view of it," said Anne, her face still turned to
the window.

"I wish you would look at me, instead of at those stupid fields," said
Heathcote, after a moment, in an aggrieved tone. "Here I have escaped
from Caryl's under false pretenses, told dozens of lies, spent a
broiling morning at a hole of a place called Lancaster, melted myself in
the hot city, and bought tickets for all across the continent, just for
the chance of seeing you a moment, and you will not even look at me."

But she had turned now. "Did you go out to the half-house?" she said,
with a little movement of surprise.

"Yes," he answered, immediately meeting her eyes, and holding them with
his own. (They had not precisely the kind of expression which is
appropriate to the man who has decided to perform the part of "merely a
kind friend." But then Heathcote always looked more than he said.)

"I am very sorry," she murmured--"I mean, sorry that you have followed
me."

"Why are you sorry? You do not know how distressed I was when Mrs.
Lorrington told me."

"Helen!" said Anne, her eyes falling at the sound of the name.

"She does not know where I am; no one knows. They think I have gone to
the mountains. But--I could not be at peace with myself, Anne, until I
had seen you once more. Do you remember the last time we met, that
morning in the garden?" She made a mute gesture which begged for
silence; but he went on: "I can never forget that look of yours. In
truth, I fear I have done all this, have come all this distance, and in
spite of myself, for--another."

There was no one behind them; they had the last seat. Anne was thinking,
wildly, "Oh, if he would but speak in any other tone--say anything else
than that!" Then she turned, at bay. "Mrs. Lorrington told me that you
were engaged to her," she said, announcing it quietly, although her face
was very pale.

"Did she? It is partly true. But--I love _you_, Anne."

The last words that Ward Heathcote had intended to speak, when he took
that seat beside her, he had now spoken; the last step he had intended
to take he had now taken. What did he mean? He did not know himself. He
only knew that her face was exquisitely sweet to him, and that he was
irresistibly drawn toward her, whether he would or no. "I love you," he
repeated.

What could be said to such a plain, direct wooer as this? Anne, holding
on desperately to her self-possession, and throwing up barriers
mentally, made of all her resolutions and duties, her pride and her
prayers, drew away, coldly answering: "However you may have forgotten
your own engagement, Mr. Heathcote, I have not forgotten mine. It is not
right for you to speak and for me to hear such words."

"Right is nothing," said Heathcote, "if we love each other."

"We do not," replied Anne, falling into the trap.

"We do; at least _I_ do."

This avowal, again repeated, was so precious to the poor humiliated
pride of the woman's heart within her that she had to pause an instant.
"I was afraid you would think," she said, blushing brightly--"I was
afraid you would think that I--I mean, that I can not help being glad
that you--"

"That I love you? I do. But just as truly as I love you, Anne, you love
me. You can not deny it."

"I will not discuss the subject. I shall soon be married, Mr. Heathcote,
and you--"

"Never mind me; I can take care of myself. And so you are going to marry
a man you do not love?"

"I do love him. I loved him long before I knew you; I shall love him
long after you are forgotten. Leave me; I will not listen to you. Why do
you speak so to me? Why did you follow me?"

"Because, dear, I love you. I did not fully know it myself until now.
Believe me, Anne, I had no more intention of speaking in this way when I
sat down here than I had of following you when I first heard you had
gone; but the next morning I did it. Come, let everything go to the
winds, as I do, and say you love me; for I know you do."

The tears were in Anne's eyes now; she could not see. "Let me go to
mademoiselle," she said, half rising as if to pass him. "It is cruel to
insult me."

"Do not attract attention; sit down for one moment. I will not keep you
long; but you shall listen to me. Insult you? Did I ever dream of
insulting you? Is it an insult to ask you to be my wife? That is what I
ask now. I acknowledge that I did not follow you with any such
intention. But now that I sit here beside you, I realize what you are to
me. My darling, I love you, child as you have seemed. Look up, and tell
me that you will be my wife."

"Never."

"Why?" said Heathcote, not in the least believing her, but watching the
intense color flush her face and throat, and then die away.

"I shall marry Rast. And you--will marry Helen."

"As I said before, _I_ can take care of myself. The question is _you_."
As he spoke he looked at her so insistently that, struggling and
unwilling, she yet felt herself compelled to meet his eyes in return.

"Helen loves you dearly," she said, desperately.

They were looking full at each other now. In the close proximity
required by the noise of the train, they could see the varying lights
and shadows in the depths of each other's eyes. The passengers' faces
were all turned forward; there was no one on a line with them; virtually
they were alone.

"I do not know what your object is in bringing in Mrs. Lorrington's name
so often," said Heathcote. "She does not need your championship, I
assure you."

"How base to desert her so!"

"Not any more base than to marry a man you do not love," replied
Heathcote. "I hardly know anything more base than that. But marry _me_,
my darling," he added, his voice softening as he bent toward her, "and
you shall see how I will love you."

"You said I could go," said the girl, turning from him, and putting her
hand over her eyes.

"You may go, if you are afraid. But I hardly think you a coward. No; let
us have it out now. Here you are, engaged. Here I am, half engaged. We
meet. Do you suppose I wish to love you? Not at all. You are by no means
the wife I have intended to have. Do you wish to love me? No. You wish
to be faithful to your engagement. In a worldly point of view we could
not do a more foolish deed than to marry each other. You have nothing,
and a burden of responsibilities; I have very little, and a much heavier
burden of bad habits and idleness. What is the result? By some unknown
enchantment I begin to love you, you begin to love me. The very fact
that I am sitting here to-day conclusively proves the former. I am as
fond of you as a school-boy, Anne. In truth, you have made me act like a
school-boy. This is a poor place to woo you in; but, dear, just look at
me once, only once more."

But Anne would not look. In all her struggles and all her resolutions,
all her jealousy and her humiliation, she had made no provision against
this form of trial, namely, that he should love her like this.

"Oh, go, go; leave me," she murmured, hardly able to speak. He gathered
the words more from the movement of her lips than from any sound.

"I will go if you wish it. But I shall come back," he said. And then,
quietly, he left her alone, and returned to Jeanne-Armande.

The Frenchwoman was charmed; she had not expected him so soon. She said
to herself, with a breath of satisfaction, that her conversation had
fallen in fit places.

Alone, looking at the hills as they passed in procession, Anne collected
her scattered resolves, and fought her battle. In one way it was a sweet
moment to her. She had felt dyed with eternal shame at having given her
love unsought, uncared for; but he loved her--even if only a little, he
loved her. This was balm to her wounded heart, and diffused itself like
a glow; her cold hands grew warm, her life seemed to flow more freely.
But soon the realization followed that now she must arm herself in new
guise to resist the new temptation. She must keep her promise. She would
marry Rast, if he wished it, though the earth were moved, and the hills
carried into the midst of the sea. And Heathcote would be far happier
with Helen; his feeling for herself was but a fancy, and would pass, as
no doubt many other fancies had passed. In addition, Helen loved him;
her life was bound up in him, whether he knew it or no. Helen had been
her kindest friend; if all else were free, this alone would hold her.
"But I _am_ glad, glad to the bottom of my heart, that he did care for
me, even if only a little," she thought, as she watched the hills. "My
task is now to protect him from himself, and--and what is harder,
myself from myself. I will do it. But I _am_ glad--I am glad." Quieted,
she waited for his return.

When he came she would speak so calmly and firmly that his words would
be quelled. He would recognize the uselessness of further speech. When
he came. But he did not come. The hills changed to cliffs, the cliffs to
mountains, the long miles grew into thirty and forty, yet he did not
return. He had risen, but did not come to her; he had gone forward to
the smoking-car. He had, in truth, caught the reflection of her face in
a mirror, and decided not to come. It is not difficult to make
resolutions; there is a fervidness in the work that elevates and
strengthens the heart. But once made, one needs to exercise them,
otherwise they grow cold and torpid on one's hands.

Jeanne-Armande, finding herself alone, barricaded her seat with basket
and umbrella, so as to be able to return thither (and perhaps have other
conversations), and came across to Anne.

"A most accomplished gentleman!" she said, with effusion. "Mrs.
Lorrington, charming as she is, is yet to be herself congratulated. He
has even been in Berri," she added, as though that was a chief
accomplishment, "and may have beheld with his own eyes the château of my
ancestors." Rarely indeed did Jeanne-Armande allude to this château:
persons with château ancestors might be required to sustain expenses not
in accordance with her well-arranged rules.

"Where does this train stop?" asked Anne, with some irrelevance as to
the château.

"At Centerville, for what they call dinner; and at Stringhampton
Junction in the evening. It is the fast express."

"Do we meet an eastward-bound train at Centerville?"

"I presume we do; but we shall not get out, so the crowd in the
dining-room will not incommode us. The contents of my basket will be
sufficient. But if you wish a cup of coffee, it will be eight cents.
There is a species of German cake at Centerville, remarkably filling
for the price. They bring them through the cars."

"What time is it now?"

"About half past twelve; we reach Centerville at two. What age has
Monsieur Heathcote, my dear?"

"Thirty-two or thirty-three, I believe."

"A gentleman of independent fortune, I presume?"

"He is independent, but, I was told, not rich."

"The position I should have supposed," said mademoiselle. "What
penetrating eyes he possesses; penetrating, yet soft. There is something
in his glance, coming from under those heavy brows, which is
particularly moving--one might almost say tender. Have you observed it?"

Yes, Anne had observed it.

Jeanne-Armande, protected as she supposed from indiscretion by the
engagement to the charming Mrs. Lorrington, rambled on, enjoying the
real pleasure of being sentimental and romantic, without risk, cost, or
loss of time, on this eventful day.

"I wish you could have seen Mr. Dexter, mademoiselle," said Anne, making
an effort to turn the tide. "He is considered handsome, and he has a
large fortune--"

"But not inherited, I presume," interposed mademoiselle, grandly. "Mr.
Heathcote, as I understand, lives upon his paternal revenues."

If Heathcote had been there, he might have answered that he tried to,
but never succeeded. He was not there, however; and Anne could only
reply that she did not know.

"He has undoubtedly that air," said Jeanne-Armande, faithful to her
distinguished escort, and waving away all diversions in favor of unknown
Dexters. "Do you know when they are to be married?"

"No," said Anne, drearily, looking now at the cliffs which bounded the
narrow valley through which the train was rushing.

"Let us hope that it will be soon; for life is short at best. Though not
romantic by nature, I own I should be pleased to possess a small portion
of the wedding cake of that amiable pair," pursued Jeanne-Armande,
fixing her eyes upon the suspended lamp of the car, lost in sentimental
reverie.

"I think I will buy a newspaper," said Anne, as the train-boy came
toward them.

"Buy a paper? By no means," said mademoiselle, descending hastily to
earth again. "I have yesterday's paper, which I found on the ferry-boat.
It is in good order; I smoothed it out carefully; you can read that."
She produced it from some remote pocket, and Anne took refuge in its
pages, while Jeanne-Armande closed her eyes under the helmet, no doubt
to meditate further on the picture of felicity she had called up.

Anne felt all the weariness of long suspense. It was one o'clock; it was
half past one; it was nearly two; still he did not appear. Even
mademoiselle now roused herself, looked at her watch, and in her turn
began to ask where he could be; but she had the comfort of asking it
aloud.

The speed was now perceptibly slackened, and the brakeman announced at
the door: "Cen--ter--ville. _Twen_--timinets for dinner," in a bar of
music not unlike a hoarse Gregorian chant. At this instant Heathcote
entered from the next car.

"Ah! there he is," said mademoiselle, with satisfaction. "Do you think
he will partake of a little taste with us?" He joined them, and she
repeated her question in the shape of a modest allusion to the contents
of her basket.

"No, thanks; I shall go out and walk up and down to breathe the air. But
first, will you not go with me, and see what they have? Perhaps we might
find something not altogether uneatable."

Mademoiselle declined, with her most gracious smile. She would content
herself with the contents of her basket; but perhaps Anne--

The eastward-bound train was in, drawn up beside them.

"Yes," said Anne, "I should like to go." Then, as soon as they were in
the open air, "I only wish to speak to you for a moment," she began. "I
shall not go to the dining-room."

"Take my arm, then, and we will walk up and down."

"Yes, let us walk," she said, moving onward.

"We can not walk well unless you take my arm."

"I do not wish to walk well," she answered angrily.

He never would act according to her plan or theory. Here was all this
persistence about a trifle, while she was wrought up to matters of deep
moment.

"I do not care whether you wish to take it or not; you must. There!
_Now_ what do you want to say to me?" He was not wrought up at all; he
was even smiling, and looking at her in the same old way. It was hard to
begin under such circumstances; but she did begin. "Mr. Heathcote, while
I thank you for all your kindness--"

"I have not been kind; I only said that I loved you. That is either
above or below kindness, certainly not on a level with that tepid
feeling."

But Anne would not listen, "While I thank you, I wish at the same time
to say that I understand quite well that it is but an impulse which--"

"It _was_ but an impulse, I grant," said Heathcote, again interrupting
her, "but with roots too strong for me to break--as I have found to my
dismay," he added, smiling, as he met her eyes.

"I wish you, I beg you, to return to New York on this train now
waiting," said the girl, abandoning all her carefully composed
sentences, and bringing forward her one desire with an earnestness which
could not be doubted.

"I shall do nothing of the kind."

"But what is the use of going on?"

"I never cared much about use, Miss Douglas."

"And then there is the pain."

"Not for me."

"For me, then," she said, looking away from him across the net-work of
tracks, and up the little village street ending in the blue side of the
mountain. "Putting everything else aside, do you care nothing for my
pain?"

"I can not help caring more for the things you put aside, since _I_
happen to be one of them."

"You are selfish," she said, hotly. "I ask you to leave me; I tell you
your presence pains me; and you will not go." She drew her arm from his,
and turned toward the car. He lifted his hat, and went across to the
dining-hall.

Mademoiselle was eating cold toast. She considered that toast retained
its freshness longer than plain bread. Anne sat down beside her. She
felt a hope that Heathcote would perhaps take the city-bound train after
all. She heard the bell ring, and watched the passengers hasten forth
from the dining-hall. The eastward-bound train was going--was gone; a
golden space of sunshine and the empty rails were now where had been its
noise and bell and steam.

"Our own passengers will soon be returning," said Jeanne-Armande,
brushing away the crumbs, and looking at herself in the glass to see if
the helmet was straight.

"May I sit here with you?" said Anne.

"Certainly, my dear. But Mr. Heathcote--will he not be disappointed?"

"No," replied the girl, dully. "I do not think he will care to talk to
me this afternoon."

Jeanne-Armande said to herself that perhaps he would care to talk to
some one else. But she made no comment.

The train moved on. An hour passed, and he did not appear. The
Frenchwoman could not conceal her disappointment. "If he intended to
leave the train at Centerville, I am surprised that he should not have
returned to make us his farewells," she said, acidly.

"He is not always attentive to such things," said Anne.

"On the contrary. _I_ have found him extremely attentive," retorted
mademoiselle, veering again.

But at this stage Heathcote entered, and Anne's hope that he had left
them was dashed to the ground. He noted the situation; and then he asked
mademoiselle if she would not join him in the other seat for a while.
The flattered Frenchwoman consented, and as he followed her he gave Anne
a glance which said, "Check." And Anne felt that it was "check" indeed.

He had no intention of troubling her; he would give her time to grow
tired.

But she was tired already.

At last, however, he did come. They were in plain sight now, people were
sitting behind them; she could not childishly refuse to let him take the
vacant place beside her. But at least, she thought, his words must be
guarded, or people behind would make out what he said, even from the
motion of his lips.

But Heathcote never cared for people.

"Dear," he said, bending toward her, "I am so glad to be with you
again!" After all, he had managed to place himself so that by supporting
his cheek with his hand, the people behind could not see his face at
all, much less make out what he said.

Anne did not reply.

"Won't you even look at me? I must content myself, then, with your
profile."

"You are ungenerous," she answered, in a tone as low as his own. "It
will end in my feeling a contempt for you."

"And I--never felt so proud of myself in all my life before. For what am
I doing? Throwing away all my fixed ideas of what life should be, for
your sake, and glad to do it."

"Mr. Heathcote, will you never believe that I am in earnest?"

"I know very well that you are in earnest. But I shall be equally in
earnest in breaking down the barriers between us. When that Western
lover of yours is married to some one else, and Mrs. Lorrington
likewise, _then_ shall we not be free?"

"Helen will never marry any one else."

"Why do you not say that Mr. Pronando never will?"

"Because I am not sure," she answered, with sad humility.

"Are you going to tell him all that has happened?"

"Yes."

"And leave the decision to him?"

"Yes."

"You will put yourself in a false position, then. If you really intend
to marry him, it would be safer to tell him nothing," said Heathcote, in
an impartial tone. "No man likes to hear that sort of thing, even if his
wife tells it herself. Though he may know she has loved some one else,
he does not care to have it stated in words; he would rather leave it
disembodied." Anne was looking at him; a sudden pain, which she did not
have time to conceal, showed itself in her face as he spoke. "You
darling child!" said Heathcote, laughing. "See how you look when I even
_speak_ of your marrying any one save me!"

She shrank back, feeling the justice of his inference. Her resolution
remained unchanged; but she could not withstand entirely the personal
power of his presence. She gazed at the afternoon sunshine striking the
mountain-peaks, and asked herself how she could bear the long hours that
still lay between her and the time of release--release from this narrow
space where she must sit beside him, and feel the dangerous subtle
influence of his voice and eyes. Then suddenly an idea came to her, like
a door opening silently before a prisoner in a cell. She kept her face
turned toward the window, while rapidly and with a beating heart she
went over its possibilities. Yes, it could be done. It should be done.
With inward excitement she tried to arrange the details.

Heathcote had fallen into silence; but he seemed quite content to sit
there beside her without speaking. At last, having decided upon her
course, and feeling nervously unable to endure his wordless presence
longer, she began to talk of Caryl's, Miss Vanhorn, mademoiselle, the
half-house--anything and everything which possessed no real importance,
and did not bear upon the subject between them. He answered her in his
brief fashion. If she wished to pad the dangerous edges of the day with
a few safe conventionalities, he had no objection; women would be
conventional on a raft in mid-ocean. The afternoon moved on toward
sunset. He thought the contest was over, that although she might still
make objection, at heart she had yielded; and he was not unwilling to
rest. Why should they hurry? The whole of life was before them.

As night fell, they reached Stringhampton Junction, and the great engine
stopped again. The passengers hastened hungrily into the little
supper-room, and Heathcote urged mademoiselle to accompany him thither,
and taste a cup of that compound found at railway stations called Japan
tea. Jeanne-Armande looked half inclined to accept this invitation, but
Anne, answering for both, said: "No; we have all we need in our basket.
You can, however, if you will be so kind, send us some tea." This
decision being in accordance with Jeanne-Armande's own rules, she did
not like to contravene it, in spite of the satisfaction it would have
given her to enter the supper-room with her decorous brown glove
reposing upon such a coat sleeve. Heathcote bowed, and went out. Anne
watched his figure entering the doorway of the brightly lighted
supper-room, which was separated by a wide space from the waiting train.
Then she turned.

"Mademoiselle," she said, her burning haste contrasting with her clear
calm utterance of the moment before, "I beg you to leave this train with
me without one instant's delay. The peace of my whole life depends upon
it."

"What _can_ you mean?" said the bewildered teacher.

"I can not explain now; I will, later. But if you have any regard for
me, any compassion, come at once."

"But our bags, our--"

"I will take them all."

"And our trunks--they are checked through to Valley City. Will there be
time to take them off?" said Jeanne-Armande, confusedly. Then, with more
clearness, "But why should we go at all? I have no money to spend on
freaks."

[Illustration: "IT IS, OR SHOULD BE, OVER THERE."]

"This is Stringhampton Junction; we can cross here to the northern road,
as you originally intended," explained Anne, rapidly. "All the
additional expense I will pay. Dear mademoiselle, have pity on me,
and come. Else I shall go alone."

The voice was eloquent; Jeanne-Armande rose. Anne hurried her through
the almost empty car toward the rear door.

"But where _are_ we going?"

"Out of the light," answered Anne.

They climbed down in the darkness on the other side of the train, and
Anne led the way across the tracks at random, until they reached a safe
country road-side beyond, and felt the soft grass under their feet.

"Where _are_ we going?" said the Frenchwoman again, almost in tears.
"Monsieur Heathcote--what will he think of us?"

"It is from him I am fleeing," replied Anne. "And now we must find the
cross-road train. Do you know where it is?"

"It is, or should be, over there," said Jeanne-Armande, waving her
umbrella tragically.

But she followed: the young girl had turned leader now.

They found the cross-road train, entered, and took their seats. And then
Anne feverishly counted the seconds, expecting with each one to see
Heathcote's face at the door. But the little branch train did not wait
for supper; the few passengers were already in their places, and at last
the bell rang, and the engine started northward, but so slowly that Anne
found herself leaning forward, as though to hasten its speed. Then the
wheels began to turn more rapidly--clank, clank, past the switches;
rumble, rumble, over the bridge; by the dark line of the wood-pile; and
then onward into the dark defiles of the mountains. They were away.



CHAPTER XXI.

    "How heavy do I journey on the way
       When what I seek, my weary travel's end,
     Doth teach that ease and that repose to say,
       'Thus far the miles are measured from my friend.'"

     --_Shakspeare's Sonnets._


In the mean time Ward Heathcote was in the supper-room. After selecting
the best that the little country station afforded, and feeing a servant
to take it across to the train, he sat down to eat a nondescript meal
with some hunger.

The intelligent mulatto boy who carried the waiter consumed as many
minutes as possible in his search for "the two ladies in that car, on
the right-hand side opposite the fourth window," who, plainly, were not
there. He had the fee in his pocket, there would not be another, and the
two "suppers" were paid for. It was decidedly a case for delay. He
waited, therefore, until the warning bell rang, and he was then
encountered in hot haste hurrying to meet his patron, the waiter still
balanced on his shoulder.

"No ladies there, sah. Looked everywhere fur 'em, sah."

There was no time for further parley. Heathcote hurried forward, and the
train started. They must be there, of course; probably the cars had been
changed or moved forward while the train was waiting. But although he
went from end to end of the long file of carriages, he found no one.
They were under full headway now; the great engine did not need gradual
beginnings. He could not bring himself to ask questions of the
passengers whose faces he remembered in the same car; they would open
upon him a battery of curiosity in return. He went to the rear door,
opened it, and looked out; the two grime-encircled eyes of a brakeman
met his gravely. He stepped outside, closed the door, and entered into
conversation with the eyes.

Yes, he seed two ladies get off; they come out this here end door, and
climbed down on the wrong side. Seemed to be in a hurry. Didn't know
where they went. Called after 'em that that warn't the way to the
dining-room, and the young one said, "Thanks," but didn't say no more.
Was they left behind? No, train didn't stop this side of Valley City;
but the gentleman could telegraph back, and they could come on safe and
sound in the morning express. 'Twarn't likely they'd gone north by the
little branch road, was it? Branch connects at Stringhampton for the
Northern Line.

But this suggestion made no impression upon Heathcote. Mademoiselle
lived in Valley City; he had seen her tickets for Valley City. No, it
was some unlooked-for mistake or accident. He gave the brakeman a
dollar, and went back into the car. But everything was gone--bags,
shawls, basket, cloak, bundle, and umbrella, all the miscellaneous
possessions with which mademoiselle was accustomed to travel; there had
been, then, deliberation enough to collect them all. He sat down
perplexed, and gradually the certainty stole coldly over him that Anne
had fled. It must be this.

For it was no freak of the Frenchwoman's; she had been too much pleased
with his escort to forego it willingly. He was deeply hurt. And deeply
surprised. Had he not followed her to ask her to be his wife? (This was
not true, but for the moment he thought it was.) Was this a proper
response?

Never before had he received such a rebuff, and after brooding over it
an hour in the dismal car, it grew into an insult. His deeper feelings
were aroused. Under his indolence he had a dominant pride, even
arrogance of nature, which would have astonished many who thought they
knew him. Whether his words had or had not been the result of impulse,
now that they were spoken, they were worthy of at least respect. He grew
more angry as the minutes passed, for he was so deeply hurt that he took
refuge in anger. To be so thwarted and played upon--he, a man of the
world--by a young girl; a young girl regarding whom, too, there had
sprung up in his heart almost the only real faith of his life! He had
believed in that face, had trusted those violet eyes, he did not know
how unquestioningly until now. And then, feeling something very like
moisture coming into his own eyes, he rose, angry over his weakness,
went forward to the smoking car, lit a cigar, and savagely tried to
think of other things. A pretty fool he was to be on a night train in
the heart of Pennsylvania, going no one knew whither.

But, in spite of himself, his mind stole back to Anne. She was so
different from the society women with whom he had always associated; she
had so plainly loved him. Poor, remorseful, conscientious, struggling,
faithful heart! Why had she fled from him? It did not occur to him that
she was fleeing from herself.

He arrived at Valley City at eleven o'clock, and had the very room with
gaudy carpet he had pictured to himself. The next morning, disgusted
with everything and out of temper as he was, he yet so far postponed his
return journey as to make inquiries concerning schools for girls--one in
particular, in which a certain Mademoiselle Pitre had been teaching
French and music for several years. The clerk thought it must be the
"Young Ladies' Seminary." Heathcote took down the address of this
establishment, ordered a carriage, and drove thither, inquiring at the
door if Mademoiselle Pitre had arrived.

There was no such person there, the maid answered. No; he knew that she
had not yet arrived. But when was she expected?

The maid (who admired the stranger) did not take it upon herself to deny
his statement, but went away, and returned with the principal, Professor
Adolphus Bittinger. Professor Bittinger was not acquainted with
Mademoiselle Pitre. Their instructress in the French language was named
Blanchard, and was already there. Heathcote then asked if there were any
other young ladies' seminaries in Valley City, and was told (loftily)
that there were not. No schools where French was taught? There might
be, the professor thought, one or two small establishments for day
scholars. The visitor wrote down the new addresses, and drove away to
visit four day schools in succession, sending a ripple of curiosity down
the benches, and exciting a flutter in the breasts of four French
teachers, who came in person to answer the inquiries of monsieur. One of
them, a veteran in the profession, who had spent her life in asking
about the loaf made by the distant one-eyed relative of the baker,
answered decidedly that there was no such person in Valley City.
"Monsieur" was beginning to think so himself; but having now the fancy
to exhaust all the possibilities, he visited the infant schools, and a
private class, and at two o'clock returned to the hotel, having seen
altogether about five hundred young Americans in frocks, from five years
old to seventeen.

According to the statement of the little shop-keeper at Lancaster,
mademoiselle had been teaching in Valley City for a number of years:
there remained, then, the chance that she was in a private family as
governess. Heathcote lingered in Valley City three days longer on this
governess chance. He ate three more dinners in the comfortless
dining-room, slept three more nights in the gaudy bedroom, and was at
the railway station five times each day, to wit, at the hours when the
trains arrived from the east. If they had waited at Stringhampton until
he had had time to return to New York, they would be coming on now. But
no one came. The fourth day opened with dull gray rain; the smoke of the
manufactories hung over the valley like a pall. In the dining-room there
was a sour odor of fresh paint, and from the window he could see only a
line of hacks, the horses standing in the rain with drooping heads,
while the drivers, in a row against an opposite wall, looked, in their
long oil-skin coats, as though they were drawn up there in their black
shrouds to be shot. In a fit of utter disgust he rang for his bill,
ordered a carriage, and drove to the station: he would take the morning
train for New York.

Yet when the carriage was dismissed, he let the express roll away
without him, while he walked to and fro, waiting for an incoming train.
The train was behind time; when it did come, there was no one among its
passengers whom he had ever seen before. With an anathema upon his own
folly, he took the day accommodation eastward. He would return to New
York without any more senseless delays. And then at Stringhampton
Junction he was the only person who alighted. His idea was to make
inquiries there. He spent two hours of that afternoon in the rain, under
a borrowed umbrella, and three alone in the waiting-room. No such
persons as he described had been seen at Stringhampton, and as the
settlement was small, and possessed of active curiosity, there remained
no room for doubt. There was the chance that they had followed him to
Valley City an hour later on a freight train with car attached, in which
case he had missed them. And there was the other chance that they had
gone northward by the branch road. But why should they go northward?
They lived in Valley City, or near there; their tickets were marked
"Valley City." The branch led to the Northern Line, by which one could
reach Chicago, St. Louis, Omaha, the wilderness, but not Valley City.
The gentleman might go up as far as the Northern Line, and inquire of
the station agent there, suggested the Stringhampton ticket-seller, who
balanced a wooden tooth-pick in his mouth lightly, like a cigarette. But
the gentleman, who had already been looking up the narrow line of wet
rails under his umbrella for an hour, regarded the speaker menacingly,
and turned away with the ironical comment in his own mind that the
Northern Line and its station agent might be--what amounted to
Calvinized--before _he_ sought them.

The night express came thundering along at midnight. It bore away the
visitor. Stringhampton saw him no more.

In the mean time Anne and her companion had ridden on during the night,
and the younger woman had explained to the elder as well as she could
the cause of her sudden action. "It was not right that I should hear or
that he should speak such words."

"He had but little time in which to speak them," said Jeanne-Armande,
stiffly. "He spent most of the day with me. But, in any case, why run
away? Why could you not have repelled him quietly, and with the proper
dignity of a lady, and yet remained where you were, comfortably, and
allowed me to remain as well?"

"I _could_ not," said Anne. Then, after a moment, "Dear mademoiselle,"
she added, "do not ask me any more questions. I have done wrong, and I
have been very, very unhappy. It is over now, and with your help I hope
to have a long winter of quiet and patient labor. I am grateful to you;
you do not know how grateful. Save those far away on the island, you
seem to me now the only friend I have on earth." Her voice broke.

Jeanne-Armande's better feelings were touched. "My poor child!" she
said, pityingly.

And then Anne laid her head down upon the Frenchwoman's shoulder, and
sobbed as if her heart would break.

They reached Weston the next day. The journey was ended.

Mademoiselle selected new lodgings, in a quarter which overlooked the
lake. She never occupied the same rooms two seasons in succession, lest
she should be regarded as "an old friend," and expected to make
concessions accordingly. On the second day she called ceremoniously upon
the principal of the school, sending in her old-fashioned glazed card,
with her name engraved upon it, together with a minute "Paris" in one
corner. To this important personage she formally presented her
candidate, endowing her with so large a variety of brilliant qualities
and accomplishments that the candidate was filled with astonishment, and
came near denying them, had she not been prevented by the silent meaning
pressure of a gaiter that divined her intention, and forbade the
revelation. Fortunately an under-teacher was needed, and half an hour
later Anne went away, definitely, although at a very small salary,
engaged.

She went directly home, locked her door, took paper and pen, and began
to write. "Dear Rast," she wrote. Then, with a flood of remorseful
affection, "Dear, dear Rast." Her letter was a long one, without break
or hesitation. She told him all save names, and asked him to forgive
her. If he still loved her and wished her to be his wife, she was ready;
in truth, she seemed almost to urge the marriage, that is, if he still
loved her. When the letter was completed she went out and placed it in a
letter-box with her own hands, coming home with a conscience more free.
She had done what she could. The letter was sent to the island, where
Rast still was when she had heard from him the last time before leaving
Caryl's; for only seven days had passed since then. They seemed seven
years.

A day later she wrote to Miss Lois, telling of Miss Vanhorn's action,
her new home and change of position. She said nothing of her letter to
Rast or the story it told; she left that to him to relate or not as he
pleased. In all things he should be now her master.

When this second letter was sent, she asked herself whether she could
write to Helen. But instantly the feeling came surging over her that she
could not. In addition there was the necessity of keeping her new abode
hidden. No one knew were mademoiselle was, and the younger woman had now
the benefit of that carefully woven mystery. She was safe. She must not
disturb that safety.

To one other person she felt that she must write, namely, Miss Vanhorn.
Harsh as had been the treatment she had received, it came from her
mother's aunt. She wrote, therefore, briefly, stating that she had
obtained a teacher's place, but without saying where it was. This
letter, inclosed in another envelope, was sent to a friend of
Jeanne-Armande in Boston, and mailed from that city. Anne had written
that a letter sent to the Boston address, which she inclosed, would be
immediately forwarded to her. But no reply came. Old Katharine never
forgave.

The school opened; the young teacher had a class of new scholars. To her
also were given the little brothers who were allowed to mingle with the
flock until they reached the age of eleven, when they were banished to
rougher trials elsewhere; to these little boys she taught Latin grammar,
and the various pursuits in the imperfect tense of those two well-known
grammar worthies, Caius and Balbus. Jeanne-Armande had not failed to
proclaim far and wide her candidate's qualifications as to vocal music.
"A pupil of Belzini," she remarked, with a stately air, "was not often
to be obtained so far inland." The principal, a clear-headed Western
woman, with a keen sense of humor, perceived at once (although smiling
at it) the value of the phrase. It was soon in circulation. And it was
understood that at Christmas-time the pupil of Belzini, who was not
often to be obtained so far inland, would assume charge of the music
class, and lift it to a plane of Italian perfection hitherto unattained.

The autumn opened. Anne, walking on the lake shore at sunset, saw the
vessels steal out from port one by one, and opening white sails, glide
away in the breeze of evening silently as spirits. Then came the colored
leaves. The town, even in its meanest streets, was now so beautiful that
the wonder was that the people did not leave their houses, and live
out-of-doors altogether, merely to gaze; every leaf was a flower, and
brighter than the brightest blossom. Then came a wild storm, tearing the
splendor from the branches in a single night; in the morning, November
rain was falling, and all was desolate and bare. But after this, the
last respite, came Indian summer.

If there is a time when the American of to-day recalls the red-skinned
men who preceded him in this land he now calls his own, it is during
these few days of stillness and beauty which bear the name of the
vanished race. Work is over in the fields, they are ready for their
winter rest; the leaves are gone, the trees are ready too. The last red
apple is gathered; men and the squirrels together have gleaned the last
nut. There is nothing more to be done; and he who with a delicate
imagination walks abroad, or drives slowly along country roads, finds
himself thinking, in the stillness, of those who roved over this same
ground not many years ago, and tardily gathering in at this season their
small crops of corn beside the rivers, gave to the beautiful
golden-purple-hued days the name they bear. Through the naked woods he
sees them stealing, bow in hand; on the stream he sees their birch-bark
canoes; the smoke in the atmosphere must surely rise from their hidden
camp fires. They have come back to their old haunts from the happy
hunting grounds for these few golden days. Is it not the Indian summer?
The winter came early, with whirling snow followed by bitter cold. Ice
formed; navigation was over until spring. Anne had heard from Dr. Gaston
and Miss Lois, but not from Rast. For Rast had gone; he had started on
his preliminary journey through the western country, where he proposed
to engage in business enterprises, although their nature remained as yet
vague. The chaplain wrote that a letter addressed to Erastus in her
handwriting had been brought to him the day after the youth's departure,
and that he had sent it to the frontier town which was to be his first
stopping-place. Erastus had written to her the day before his departure,
but the letter had of course gone to Caryl's. Miss Vanhorn, without
doubt, would forward it to her niece. The old man wrote with an effort
to appear cheerful, but he confessed that he missed his two children
sadly. The boys were well, and Angélique was growing pretty. In another
year it would be better that she should be with her sister; it was
somewhat doubtful whether Miss Lois understood the child.

Miss Lois's letter was emphatic, beginning and ending with her opinion
of Miss Vanhorn in the threefold character of grandaunt, Christian, and
woman. She was able to let out her feelings at last, unhindered by the
now-withdrawn allowance. The old bitter resentment against the woman who
had slighted William Douglas found vent, and the characterization was
withering and picturesque. When she had finished the arraignment, trial,
and execution, at least in words, she turned at last to the children;
and here it was evident that her pen paused and went more slowly. The
boys, she hoped (rather as a last resort), were "good-hearted." She had
but little trouble, comparatively, with Tita now; the child was very
attentive to her lessons, and had been over to Père Michaux at his
hermitage almost every other day. The boys went sometimes; and Erastus
had been kind enough to accompany the children, to see that they were
not drowned. And then, dropping the irksome theme, Miss Lois dipped her
pen in romance, and filled the remainder of her letter with praise of
golden-haired Rast, not so much because she herself loved him, as
because Anne did. For the old maid believed with her whole heart in this
young affection which had sprung into being under her fostering care,
and looked forward to the day when the two should kneel together before
Dr. Gaston in the little fort chapel, to receive the solemn benediction
of the marriage service, as the happiest remaining in her life on earth.
Anne read the fervid words with troubled heart. If Rast felt all that
Miss Lois said he felt, if he had borne as impatiently as Miss Lois
described their present partial separation, even when he was sure of her
love, how would he suffer when he read her letter! She looked forward
feverishly to the arrival of his answer; but none came. The delay was
hard to bear.

Dr. Gaston wrote a second time. Rast had remained but a day at the first
town, and not liking it, had gone forward. Not having heard from Anne,
he sent, inclosed to the chaplain's care, a letter for her. With nervous
haste she opened it; but it contained nothing save an account of his
journey, with a description of the frontier village--"shanties, drinking
saloons, tin cans, and a grave-yard already. This will never do for a
home for us. I shall push on farther." The tone of the letter was
affectionate, as sure as ever of her love. Rast had always been sure of
that. She read the pages sadly; it seemed as if she was willfully
deceiving him. Where was her letter, the letter that told all? She wrote
to the postmaster of the first town, requesting him to return it. After
some delay, she received answer that it had been sent westward to
another town, which the person addressed, namely, Erastus Pronando, had
said should be his next stopping-place. But a second letter from Rast,
sent also to the chaplain's care, had mentioned passing through that
very town without stopping--"it was such an infernal den"; and again
Anne wrote, addressing the second postmaster, and asking for the letter.
This postmaster replied, after some tardiness, owing to his conflicting
engagements as politician, hunter, and occasionally miner, that the
letter described had been forwarded to the Dead-letter Office. This
correspondence occupied October and November; and during this time Rast
was still roaming through the West, writing frequently, but sending no
permanent address. Now rumors of a silver mine attracted him; now it was
a scheme for cattle-raising; now speculation in lands along the line of
the coming railway It was impossible to follow him--and in truth he did
not wish to be followed. He was tasting his first liberty. He meant to
look around the world awhile before choosing his home: not long, only
awhile. Still, awhile.

The chaplain added a few lines of his own when he sent these letters to
Anne. Winter had seized them; they were now fast fettered; the mail came
over the ice. Miss Lois was kind, and sometimes came up to regulate his
housekeeping; but nothing went as formerly. His coffee was seldom good;
and he found himself growing peevish--at least his present domestic, a
worthy widow named McGlathery, had remarked upon it. But Anne must not
think the domestic was in fault; he had reason to believe that she meant
well even when she addressed him on the subject of his own
short-comings. And here the chaplain's old humor peeped through, as he
added, quaintly, that poor Mistress McGlathery's health was far from
strong, she being subject to "inward tremblings," which tremblings she
had several times described to him with tears in her eyes, while he had
as often recommended peppermint and ginger, but without success; on the
contrary, she always went away with a motion of the skirts and a manner
as to closing the door which, the chaplain thought, betokened offense.
Anne smiled over these letters, and then sighed. If she could only be
with him again--with them all! She dreamed at night of the old man in
his arm-chair, of Miss Lois, of the boys, of Tita curled in her furry
corner, which she had transferred, in spite of Miss Lois's
remonstrances, to the sitting-room of the church-house. Neither Tita nor
Père Michaux had written; she wondered over their new silence.

Anne's pupils had, of course, exhaustively weighed and sifted the new
teacher, and had decided to like her. Some of them decided to adore her,
and expressed their adoration in bouquets, autograph albums, and various
articles in card-board supposed to be of an ornamental nature. They
watched her guardedly, and were jealous of every one to whom she spoke;
she little knew what a net-work of plots, observation, mines and
countermines, surrounded her as patiently she toiled through each long
monotonous day. These adorations of school-girls, although but
unconscious rehearsals of the future, are yet real while they last;
Anne's adorers went sleepless if by chance she gave especial attention
to any other pupil. The adored one meanwhile did not notice these little
intensities; her mind was absorbed by other thoughts.

Four days before Christmas two letters came; one was her own to Rast,
returned at last from the Dead-letter Office; the other was from Miss
Lois, telling of the serious illness of Dr. Gaston. The old chaplain had
had a stroke of paralysis, and Rast had been summoned; fortunately his
last letter had been from St. Louis, to which place he had unexpectedly
returned, and therefore they had been able to reach him by message to
Chicago and a telegraphic dispatch. Dr. Gaston wished to see him; the
youth had been his ward as well as almost child, and there were business
matters to be arranged between them. Anne's tears fell as she read of
her dear old teacher's danger, and the impulse came to her to go to him
at once. Was she not his child as well as Rast? But the impulse was
checked by the remainder of the letter. Miss Lois wrote, sadly, that she
had tried to keep it from Anne, but had not succeeded: since August her
small income had been much reduced, owing to the failure of a New
Hampshire bank, and she now found that with all her effort they could
not quite live on what was left. "Very nearly, dear child. I think, with
_thirty_ dollars, I can manage until spring. Then everything will be
_cheaper_. I should not have kept it from you if it had not happened at
the _very time_ of your trouble with that _wicked old woman_, and I did
not wish to add to your care. But the boys have what is called _fine_
appetites (I wish they were not quite so 'fine'), and of course _this_
winter, and never before, my provisions were spoiled in my own cellar."

Anne had intended to send to Miss Lois all her small savings on
Christmas-day. She now went to the principal of the school, asked that
the payment of her salary might be advanced, and forwarded all she was
able to send to the poverty-stricken little household in the
church-house. That night she wept bitter tears; the old chaplain was
dying, and she could not go to him; the children were perhaps suffering.
For the first time in a life of poverty she felt its iron hand crushing
her down. Her letter to Rast lay before her; she could not send it now
and disturb the last hours on earth of their dear old friend. She laid
it aside and waited--waited through those long hours of dreary suspense
which those must bear who are distant from the dying beds of their loved
ones.

In the mean time Rast had arrived. Miss Lois wrote of the chaplain's joy
at seeing him. The next letter contained the tidings that death had
come; early in the morning, peacefully, with scarcely a sigh, the old
man's soul had passed from earth. Colonel Bryden, coming in soon
afterward, and looking upon the calm face, had said, gently,

    "Then steal away, give little warning,
               Choose thine own time;
     Say not good-night, but, in some brighter clime,
               Bid me good-morning."

When Anne knew that the funeral was over, that another grave had been
made under the snow in the little military cemetery, and that, with the
strange swiftness which is so hard for mourning hearts to realize, daily
life was moving on again in the small island circle where the kind old
face would be seen no more, she sent her letter, the same old letter,
unaltered and travel-worn. Then she waited. She could not receive her
answer before the eighth or ninth day. But on the fifth came two
letters; on the seventh, three. The first were from Miss Lois and Mrs.
Bryden; the others from Tita, Père Michaux, and--Rast. And the
extraordinary tidings they brought were these: Rast had married Tita.
The little sister was now his wife.



CHAPTER XXII.

     "A slave had long worn a chain upon his ankle. By the order of his
     master it was removed. 'Why dost thou spring aloft and sing, O
     slave? Surely the sun is as fierce and thy burden as heavy as
     before.' The slave replied: 'Ten times the sun and the burden would
     seem light, now that the chain is removed.'"--_From the Arabic._


Miss Lois's letter was a wail:

"MY POOR DEAR OUTRAGED CHILD,--What _can_ I say to you? There is no use
in trying to _prepare_ you for it, since you would never _conceive_ such
_double-dyed_ blackness of heart! Tita has _run away_. She slipped off
clandestinely, and they think she has followed _Rast_, who left
yesterday on his way back to St. Louis and the West. Père Michaux has
followed _her_, saying that if he found them together he should, acting
as Tita's guardian, insist upon a _marriage_ before he returned! He
feels himself responsible for _Tita_, he says, and paid no attention
when I asked him if no one was to be responsible for _you_! My poor
child, it seems that I have been blind all along; I never _dreamed_ of
what was going on. The little minx deceived me completely. I thought her
so much improved, so studious, while all the time she was meeting
Erastus, or planning to meet him, with a skill far beyond _my_
comprehension. All last summer, they tell me, she was with him
constantly; those daily journeys to Père Michaux's island were for that
purpose, while I supposed they were for prayers. What _Erastus_ thought
or meant, no one seems to know; but they all combined in declaring that
the child (child no longer!) was deeply in love with him, and that
everybody saw it save _me_. My New England blood could not, I am proud
to say, grasp it! You know, my poor darling, the opinion I have _always_
had concerning Tita's mother, who slyly and artfully inveigled your
honored father into a _trap_. Tita has therefore but followed in her
mother's footsteps.

"That Erastus has ever _cared_, or cares now in the least, for her, save
as a plaything, I will _never_ believe. But Père Michaux is like a
_mule_ for stubbornness, as you know, and I fear he will marry them in
_any_ case. He did not seem to think of _you_ at all, and when I said,
'Anne will _die_ of grief!' he only smiled--yes, _smiled_--and Frenchly
shrugged his shoulders! My poor child, I have but little hope, because
if he appeals to Erastus's _honor_, what can the boy do? He is the soul
of honor.

"I can hardly write, my brain has been so overturned. To think that
_Tita_ should have outwitted us all at her age, and gained her point
over everything, over you and over Rast--poor, poor Rast, who will be so
_miserably_ sacrificed! I will write again to-morrow; but if Père
Michaux carries out his strange _Jesuitical_ design, you will hear from
him probably before you can hear again from me. Bear up, my dearest
Anne. I acknowledge that, so far, I have found it difficult to see the
Divine purpose in this, unless indeed it be to inform us that we are all
but cinders and ashes; which, however, I for one have long known."

Mrs. Bryden's letter:

"DEAR ANNE,--I feel drawn toward you more closely since the illness and
death of our dear Dr. Gaston, who loved you so tenderly, and talked so
much of you during his last days with us. It is but a short time since I
wrote to you, giving some of the messages he left, and telling of his
peaceful departure; but now I feel that I must write again upon a
subject which is painful, yet one upon which you should have, I think,
all the correct details immediately. Miss Hinsdale is no doubt writing
to you also; but she does not know all. She has not perceived, as we
have, the gradual approaches to this catastrophe--I can call it by no
other name.

"When you went away, your half-sister was a child. With what has seemed
lightning rapidity she has grown to womanhood, and for months it has
been plainly evident that she was striving in every way to gain and hold
the attention of Erastus Pronando. He lingered here almost all summer,
as you will remember; Tita followed him everywhere. Miss Hinsdale,
absorbed in the cares of housekeeping, knew nothing of it; but daily, on
one pretext or another, they were together. Whether Erastus was
interested I have no means of knowing; but that Tita is now extremely
pretty in a certain style, and that she was absorbed in him, we could
all see. It was not our affair; yet we might have felt called upon to
make it ours if it had not been for Père Michaux. He was her constant
guardian.

"Erastus went away yesterday in advance of the mail-train. He bade us
all good-by, and I am positive that he had no plan, not even a suspicion
of what was to follow. We have a new mail-carrier this winter, Denis
being confined to his cabin with rheumatism. Tita must have slipped away
unperceived, and joined this man at dusk on the ice a mile or two below
the island; her track was found this morning. Erastus expected to join
the mail-train to-day, and she knew it, of course; the probability is,
therefore, that they are now together. It seems hardly credible that so
young a head could have arranged its plans so deftly; yet it is
certainly true that, even if Rast wished to bring her back, he could not
do so immediately, not until the up-train passed them. Père Michaux
started after them this morning, travelling in his own sledge. He thinks
(it is better that you should know it, Anne) that Erastus _is_ fond of
Tita, and that only his engagement to you has held him back. Now that
the step has been taken, he has no real doubt but that Rast himself will
wish to marry her, and without delay.

"All this will seem very strange to you, my dear child; but I trust it
will not be so hard a blow as Miss Hinsdale apprehends. Père Michaux
told me this morning in so many words: 'Anne has never loved the boy
with anything more than the affection of childhood. It will be for her a
release.' He was convinced of this, and went off on his journey with
what looked very much like gladness. I hope, with all my heart, that he
is right." Then, with a few more words of kindly friendship, the letter
ended.

The other envelope bore the rude pen-and-ink postmark of a Northwestern
lumber settlement, where travellers coming down, from the North in the
winter over the ice and snow met the pioneer railway, which had pushed
its track to that point before the blockade of the cold began.

Tita's letter:

"DEEREST SISTER,--You will not I am sure blaime your little Tita for
following the impulse of her _hart_. Since you were hear I have grown up
and it is the truth that Rast has loved me for _yeers_ of his own accord
and because he could not help it--deerest sister who can. But he never
ment to break his word to you and he tryed not to but was devowered by
his love for me and you will forgive him deerest sister will you not
since there is no more hope for you as we were married by Père Michaux
an hour ago who approved of all and has hartily given us his
bennydiction. Since my spiritual directeur has no reproche you will not
have enny I am sure and remain your loving sister,

ANGÉLIQUE PRONANDO."

"P. S. We go to Chicago to-day. Enny money for _close_ for me could be
sent to the Illinois Hotel, where my deerest husband says we are to
stay.

A. P."

Père Michaux's letter:

"DEAR ANNE,--It is not often that I speak so bluntly as I shall speak
now. In marrying, this morning, your half-sister Angélique to Erastus
Pronando I feel that I have done you a great service. You did not love
him with the real love of a nature like yours--the love that will
certainly come to you some day; perhaps has already come. I have always
known this, and, in accordance with it, did all I could to prevent the
engagement originally. I failed; but this day's work has made up for the
failure.

"Angélique has grown into a woman. She is also very beautiful, after a
peculiar fashion of her own. All the strength of her nature, such as it
is, is concentrated upon the young man who is now her husband. From
childhood she has loved him; she was bitterly jealous of you even before
you went away. I have been aware of this, but until lately I was not
sure of Rast. Her increasing beauty, however, added to her intense
absorbed interest in him, has conquered. Seeing this, I have watched
with satisfaction the events of the past summer, and have even assisted
somewhat (and with a clear conscience) in their development.

"Erastus, even if you had loved him, Anne, could not have made you
happy. And neither would you have made him happy; for he is
quick-witted, and he would have inevitably, and in spite of all your
tender humility, my child, discovered your intellectual superiority, and
in time would have angrily resented it. For he is vain; his nature is
light; he needs adulation in order to feel contented. On the other hand,
he is kind-hearted and affectionate, and to Tita will be a demi-god
always. The faults that would have been death to you, she will never
see. She is therefore the fit wife for him.

"You will ask, Does he love her? I answer, Yes. When he came back to the
island, and found her so different, the same elfish little creature, but
now strangely pretty, openly fond of him, following him everywhere, with
the words of a child but the eyes of a woman, he was at first surprised,
then annoyed, then amused, interested, and finally fascinated. He
struggled against it. I give him the due of justice--he did struggle.
But Tita was always _there_. He went away hurriedly at the last, and if
it had not been for Dr. Gaston's illness and his own recall to the
island, it might not have gone farther. Tita understood this as well as
I did; she made the most of her time. Still, I am quite sure that he had
no suspicion she intended to follow him; the plan was all her own. She
did follow him. And I followed her. I caught up with them that very day
at sunset, and an hour ago I married them. If you have not already
forgiven me, Anne, you will do so some day. I have no fear. I can wait.
I shall go on with them as far as Chicago, and then, after a day or two,
I shall return to the island. Do not be disturbed by anything Miss Lois
may write. She has been blindly mistaken from the beginning. In truth,
there is a vein of obstinate weakness on some subjects in that otherwise
estimable woman, for which I have always been at a loss to account."

Ah, wise old priest, there are some things too deep for even you to
know!

Rast's letter was short. It touched Anne more than any of the others:

"What must you think of me, Annet? Forgive me, and forget me. I _did_
try. But would you have cared for a man who had to try? When I think of
you I scorn myself. But she is the sweetest, dearest, most winning
little creature the world ever saw; and my only excuse is that--I love
her.

E. P."

These few lines, in which the young husband made out no case for
himself, sought no shield in the little bride's own rashness, but simply
avowed his love, and took all the responsibility upon himself, pleased
the elder sister. It was manly. She was glad that Tita had a defender.

She had read these last letters standing in the centre of her room,
Jeanne-Armande anxiously watching her from the open door. The
Frenchwoman had poured out a glass of water, and had it in readiness:
she thought that perhaps Anne was going to faint. With no distinct idea
of what had happened, she had lived in a riot of conjecture for two
days.

But instead of fainting, Anne, holding the letters in her hand, turned
and looked at her.

"Well, dear, will you go to bed?" she said, solicitously.

"Why should I go to bed?"

"I thought perhaps you had heard--had heard bad news."

"On the contrary," replied Anne, slowly and gravely, "I am afraid,
mademoiselle, that the news is good--even very good."

For her heart had flown out of its cage and upward as a freed bird darts
up in the sky. The bond, on her side at least, was gone; she was free.
_Now_ she would live a life of self-abnegation and labor, but without
inward thralldom. Women had lived such lives before she was born, women
would live such lives after she was dead. She would be one of the
sisterhood, and coveting nothing of the actual joy of love, she would
cherish only the ideal, an altar-light within, burning forever. The
cares of each day were as nothing now: she was free, free!

In her exaltation she did not recognize as wrong the opposite course she
had intended to follow before the lightning fell, namely, uniting
herself to one man while so deeply loving another. She was of so humble
and unconscious a spirit regarding herself that it had not seemed to her
that the inner feelings of her heart would be of consequence to Rast, so
long as she was the obedient, devoted, faithful wife she was determined
with all her soul to be. For she had not that imaginative egotism which
so many women possess, which makes them spend their lives in illusion,
weaving round their every thought and word an importance which no one
else can discern. According to these women, there are a thousand
innocent acts which "he" (lover or husband) "would not for an instant
allow," although to the world at large "he" appears indifferent enough.
They go through long turmoil, from which they emerge triumphantly,
founded upon some hidden jealousy which "he" is supposed to feel, so
well hidden generally, and so entirely supposed, that persons with less
imagination never observe it. But after all, smile as we may, it is only
those who are in most respects happy and fortunate wives who can so
entertain themselves. For cold unkindness, or a harsh and brutal word,
will rend this filmy fabric of imagination immediately, never to be
rewoven again.

Anne wrote to Rast, repeating the contents of the old letter, which had
been doomed never to reach him. She asked him to return the wanderer
unopened when it was forwarded to him from the island; there was a depth
of feeling in it which it was not necessary now that he should see. She
told him that her own avowal should lift from him all the weight of
wrong-doing; she had first gone astray. "We were always like brother and
sister, Rast; I see it now. It is far better as it is."

A few days later Père Michaux wrote again, and inclosed a picture of
Tita. The elder sister gazed at it curiously. This was not Tita; and yet
those were her eyes, and that the old well-remembered mutinous
expression still lurking about the little mouth. Puzzled, she took it
to mademoiselle. "It is my little sister," she said. "Do you think it
pretty?"

Jeanne-Armande put on her spectacles, and held it frowningly at
different distances from her eyes.

"It is odd," she said at last. "Ye--es, it is pretty too. But, for a
child's face, remarkable."

"She is not a child."

"Not a child?"

"No; she is married," replied Anne, smiling.

Mademoiselle pursed up her lips, and examined the picture with one eye
closed. "After all," she said, "I can believe it. The _eyes_ are
mature."

The little bride was represented standing; she leaned against a pillar
nonchalantly, and outlined on a light background, the extreme smallness
of her figure was clearly shown. Her eyes were half veiled by their
large drooping lids and long lashes; her little oval face looked small,
like that of a child. Her dress was long, and swept over the floor with
the richness of silk: evidently Père Michaux had not stinted the lavish
little hands when they made their first purchase of a full-grown woman's
attire. For the priest had taken upon himself this outlay; the "money
for close," of which Tita had written, was provided from his purse. He
wrote to Anne that as he was partly responsible for the wedding, he was
also responsible for the trousseau; and he returned the money which with
great difficulty the elder sister had sent.

"She must be very small," said mademoiselle, musingly, as they still
studied the picture.

"She is; she has the most slender little face I ever saw."

[Illustration: "MISS LOIS SIGHED DEEPLY."]

Tita's head was thrown back as she leaned against the pillar; there was
a half-smile on her delicate lips; her thick hair was still braided
childishly in two long braids which hung over her shoulders and down on
the silken skirt behind; in her small ears were odd long hoops of gold,
which Père Michaux had given her, selecting them himself on account of
their adaptation to her half-Oriental, half-elfin beauty. Her cheeks
showed no color; there were brown shadows under her eyes. On her
slender brown hand shone the wedding ring. The picture was well
executed, and had been carefully tinted under Père Michaux's eye: the
old priest knew that it was Rast's best excuse.

Now that Anne was freed, he felt no animosity toward the young husband;
on the contrary, he wished to advance his interests in every way that he
could. Tita was a selfish little creature, yet she adored her husband.
She would have killed herself for him at any moment. But first she would
have killed him.

He saw them start for the far West, and then he returned northward to
his island home. Miss Lois, disheartened by all that had happened,
busied herself in taking care of the boys dumbly, and often shook her
head at the fire when sitting alone with her knitting. She never opened
the old piano now, and she was less stringent with her Indian servants;
she would even have given up quietly her perennial alphabet teaching if
Père Michaux had not discovered the intention, and quizzically approved
it, whereat, of course, she was obliged to go on. In truth, the old man
did this purposely, having noticed the change in his old antagonist. He
fell into the habit of coming to the church-house more frequently--to
teach the boys, he said. He did teach the little rascals, and taught
them well, but he also talked to Miss Lois. The original founders of the
church-house would have been well astonished could they have risen from
their graves and beheld the old priest and the New England woman sitting
on opposite sides of the fire in the neat shining room, which still
retained its Puritan air in spite of years, the boys, and Episcopal
apostasy.

Regarding Rast's conduct, Miss Lois maintained a grim silence. The
foundations of her faith in life had been shaken; but how could she,
supposed to be a sternly practical person, confess it to the
world--confess that she had dreamed like a girl over this broken
betrothal?

"Do you not see how much happier, freer, she is?" the priest would say,
after reading one of Anne's letters. "The very tone betrays it."

Miss Lois sighed deeply, and poked the fire.

"Pooh! pooh! Do you want her to be _un_happy?" said the old man.
"Suppose that it had been the other way? Why not rejoice as I do over
her cheerfulness?"

"Why not indeed?" thought Miss Lois. But that stubborn old heart of hers
would not let her.

The priest had sent to her also one of the pictures of Tita. One day,
after his return, he asked for it. She answered that it was gone.

"Where?"

"Into the fire."

"She cannot forgive," he thought, glancing cautiously at the set face
opposite.

But it was not Tita whom she could not forgive; it was the young mother,
dead long years before.

The winter moved on. Anne had taken off her engagement ring, and now
wore in its place a ring given by her school-girl adorers, who had
requested permission in a formal note to present one to their goddess.
As she had refused gems, they had selected the most costly plain gold
circlet they could find in Weston, spending a long and happy Saturday in
the quest. "But it is a wedding ring," said the jeweller.

But why should brides have all the heavy gold? the school-girls wished
to know. Other persons could wear plain gold rings also if they pleased.

So they bought the circlet and presented it to Anne with beating hearts
and cheeks flushed with pleasure, humbly requesting in return, for each
a lock of her hair. Then ensued a second purchase of lockets for this
hair: it was well that their extravagant little purses were well filled.

To the school-girls the ring meant one thing, to Anne another; she
mentally made it a token of the life she intended to lead. Free herself,
he was not free; Helen loved him. Probably, also, he had already
forgotten his fancy for the lonely girl whom he had seen during those
few weeks at Caryl's. She would live her life out as faithfully as she
could, thankful above all things for her freedom. Surely strength would
be given her to do this. The ring was like the marriage ring of a nun,
the token of a vow of patience and humility. During all these long
months she had known no more, heard no more, of her companions of that
summer than as though they had never existed. The newspapers of Weston
and the country at large were not concerned about the opinions and
movements of the unimportant little circle left behind at Caryl's. Their
columns had contained burning words; but they were words relating to the
great questions which were agitating the land from the Penobscot to the
Rio Grande. Once, in a stray number of the _Home Journal_, she found the
following paragraph: "Miss Katharine Vanhorn is in Italy at present. It
is understood that Miss Vanhorn contemplates an extended tour, and will
not return to this country for several years. Her Hudson River residence
and her house in the city are both closed." Anne no longer hoped for any
softening of that hard nature; yet the chance lines hurt her, and gave
her a forsaken feeling all day.



CHAPTER XXIII.

              "War! war! war!
    A thunder-cloud in the south in the early spring--
      The launch of a thunder-bolt; and then,
    With one red flare, the lightning stretched its wing,
      And a rolling echo roused a million men."

    --EDMUND CLARENCE STEDMAN.


April. The sound of military music; the sound of feet keeping step
exactly, and overcoming by its regularity the noise of thousands of
other feet hurrying on irregularly in front of them, abreast of them,
and behind them. A crowd in the square so dense that no one could pass
through; the tree branches above black with boys; the windows all round
the four sides filled with heads. And everywhere women pressing forward,
waving handkerchiefs, some pallid, some flushed, but all deeply excited,
forgetful of self, with eyes fixed on the small compact lines of
military caps close together, moving steadily onward in the midst of the
accompanying throng. And happy the one who had a place in the front
rank: how she gazed! If a girl, no matter how light of heart and
frivolous, a silence and soberness came over her for a moment, and her
eyes grew wistful. If a woman, one who had loved, no matter how hard and
cold she had grown, a warmer heart came back to her then, and tears
rose. What was it? Only a few men dressed in the holiday uniform these
towns-people had often seen; men many of whom they knew well, together
with their shortcomings and weaknesses, whose military airs they had
laughed at; men who, taken singly, had neither importance nor interest.
What was it, then, that made the women's eyes tearful, and sent the
great crowd thronging round and after them as though each one had been
crowned king? What made the groups on the steps and piazzas of each
house keep silence after they had passed, and watch them as long as they
could distinguish the moving lines? It was that these men had made the
first reply of this town to the President's call. It was because these
holiday soldiers were on their way to real battle-fields, where balls
would plough through human flesh, and leave agony and death behind. The
poorest, dullest, soldier who was in these ranks from a sense of
loyalty, however dim and inarticulate it might be, gave all he had:
martyr or saint never gave more. Not many of the gazing people thought
of this; but they did think of death by bayonet and ball as the holiday
ranks marched by.

Down through the main street went the little troop, and the crowd made a
solid wall on the sidewalk, and a moving guard before and behind. From
the high windows above, the handkerchiefs of the work-girls fluttered,
while underneath from the law offices, and below from the door-ways, men
looked out soberly, realizing that this meant War indeed--real and near
War.

By another way, down the hill toward the railway-station, rattled the
wheels of an artillery company; also a little holiday troop, with
holiday guns shining brightly. The men sat in their places with folded
arms; the crowd, seeing them, knew them all. They were only Miller, and
Sieberling, and Wagner, and others as familiar; six months ago--a month
ago--they would have laughed inexhaustibly at the idea of calling Tom
Miller a hero, or elevating Fritz Wagner to any other pedestal than the
top of a beer barrel. But now, as they saw them, they gave a mighty
cheer, which rang through the air splendidly, and raised a hue of pride
upon the faces of the artillerymen, and perhaps the first feeling in
some of their hearts higher than the determination not to "back out,"
which had been until then their actuating motive. The two shining little
guns rattled down the hill; the infantry company marched down behind
them. The line of cars, with locomotive attached, was in waiting, and,
breaking ranks, helter-skelter, in any way and every way, hindered by
hand-shaking, by all sorts of incongruous parting gifts thrust upon them
at the last moment by people they never saw before, blessed by excited,
tearful women, made heart-sick themselves by the sight of the grief of
their mothers and wives, the soldiers took their places in the cars, and
the train moved out from the station, followed by a long cheer, taken up
and repeated again and again, until nothing but a dark speck on the
straight track remained for the shouters to look at, when they stopped
suddenly, hoarse and tired, and went silently homeward, pondering upon
this new thing which had come into their lives. The petty cares of the
day were forgotten. "War is hideous; but it banishes littleness from
daily life."

Anne, brought up as she had been in a remote little community, isolated
and half foreign, was in a measure ignorant of the causes and questions
of the great struggle which began in America in April, 1861. Not hers
the prayerful ardor of the New England girl who that day willingly gave
her lover, saw him brought home later dead, buried him, and lived on,
because she believed that he had died to free his brother man, as Christ
had died for her. Not hers the proud loyalty of the Southern girl to her
blood and to her State, when that day she bade her lover go forth and
sweep their fanatical assailants back, as the old Cavaliers, from whom
they were descended, swept back the crop-eared Puritans into the sea.

Jeanne-Armande was not especially stirred; save by impatience--impatience
over this interference with the prosperity of the country. It might
injure property (the half-house), and break up music classes and
schools! What sympathy she felt, too, was with the South; but she was
wise enough to conceal this from all save Anne, since the school was
burning with zeal, and the principal already engaged in teaching the
pupils to make lint. But if Jeanne-Armande was lukewarm, Miss Lois was
at fever heat; the old New England spirit rose within her like a giant
when she read the tidings. Far away as she was from all the influences
of the time, she yet wrote long letters to Anne which sounded like the
clash of spears, the call of the trumpet, and the roll of drums, so
fervid were the sentences which fell of themselves into the warlike
phraseology of the Old Testament, learned by heart in her youth. But
duty, as well as charity, begins at home, and even the most burning zeal
must give way before the daily needs of children. Little André was not
strong; his spine was becoming curved, they feared. In his languor he
had fallen into the habit of asking Miss Lois to hold him in her arms,
rock with him in the old rocking-chair, and sing. Miss Lois had not
thought that she could ever love "those children"; but there was a soft
spot in her heart now for little André.

In June two unexpected changes came. Little André grew suddenly worse;
and Jeanne-Armande went to Europe. A rich merchant of Weston, wishing to
take his family abroad, engaged mademoiselle as governess for his two
daughters, and French speaker for the party, at what she herself termed
"the salary of a princess." The two announcements came on the same day.
Jeanne-Armande, excited and tremulous, covered a sheet of paper with
figures to show to herself and Anne the amount of the expected gain. As
she could not retain her place in the school without the magic power of
being in two places at once, the next best course was to obtain it for
Anne, with the understanding that the successor was to relinquish it
immediately whenever called upon to do so. As they were in the middle of
a term, the principal accepted Miss Douglas, who, although young, had
proved herself competent and faithful. And thus Anne found herself
unexpectedly possessed of a higher salary, heavier duties, and alone.
For Jeanne-Armande, in the helmet bonnet, sailed on the twentieth of the
month for England, in company with her charges, who, with all their
beauty and bird-like activity, would find it impossible to elude
mademoiselle, who would guard them with unflinching vigilance, and, it
is but fair to add, would earn every cent of even that "salary of a
princess" (whatever that may be) which had attracted her.

Before mademoiselle departed it had been decided that in consequence of
little André's illness Miss Lois should close the church-house, and take
the child to the hot springs not far distant, in Michigan, and that
Louis and Gabriel should come to their elder sister for a time. The boys
were to travel to Weston alone, Père Michaux putting them in charge of
the captain of the steamer, while Anne was to meet them upon their
arrival. Miss Lois wrote that they were wild with excitement, and had
begged all sorts of farewell presents from everybody, and packed them in
the two chests which Père Michaux had given them--knives, cord, hammers,
nails, the last being "a box-stove, old and rusty, which they had
actually taken to pieces and hidden among their clothes." Jeanne-Armande
went away on Monday; the boys were to arrive on Saturday. Anne spent all
her leisure time in preparing for them. Two of the little black-eyed
fellows were coming at last, the children who had clung to her skirts,
called her "Annet," and now and then, when they felt like it, swarmed up
all together to kiss her, like so many affectionate young bears. They
were very dear to her--part of her childhood and of the island. The day
arrived; full of expectation, she went down to meet the steamer. Slowly
the long narrow craft threaded its way up the crooked river; the great
ropes were made fast, the plank laid in place; out poured the
passengers, men, women, and children, but no Louis, no Gabriel. Anne
watched until the last man had passed, and the deck hands were beginning
to roll out the freight; then a voice spoke above, "Is that Miss
Douglas?"

She looked up, and saw the captain, who asked her to come on board for a
moment. "I am very much troubled, Miss Douglas," he began, wiping his
red but friendly face. "The two boys--your half-brothers, I
believe--placed in my care by Père Michaux, have run away."

Anne gazed at him in silence.

"They must have slipped off the boat at Hennepin, which is the first
point where we strike a railroad. It seems to have been a plan, too, for
they managed to have their chests put off also."

"You have no idea where they have gone?"

"No; I sent letters back to Hennepin and to Père Michaux immediately,
making inquiries. The only clew I have is that they asked a number of
questions about the plains of one of our hands, who has been out that
way."

"The plains!"

"Yes; they said they had a sister living out there."

A pain darted through Anne's heart. Could they have deserted her for
Tita? She went home desolate and disheartened; the empty rooms, where
all her loving preparations were useless now, seemed to watch her
satirically. Even the boys did not care enough for her to think of her
pain and disappointment.

Père Michaux had had no suspicion of the plan: but he knew of one dark
fact which might have, he wrote to Anne, a bearing upon it. Miss Lois
had mysteriously lost, in spite of all her care, a sum of money, upon
which she had depended for a part of the summer's expenses, and
concerning which she had made great lamentation; it had been made up by
the renting of the church-house; but the mystery remained. If the boys
had taken it, bad as the action was, it insured for a time at least
their safety. The priest thought they had started westward to join Rast
and Tita, having been fascinated by what they had overheard of Rast's
letters.

The surmise was correct. After what seemed to Anne very long delay, a
letter came; it was from Rast. The night before, two dirty little
tramps, tired and hungry, with clothes soiled and torn, had opened the
door and walked in, announcing that they were Louis and Gabriel, and
that they meant to stay. They had asked for food, but had fallen asleep
almost before they could eat it. With their first breath that morning
they had again declared that nothing should induce them to return
eastward, either to the island or to Anne. And Rast added that he
thought they might as well remain; he and Tita would take charge of
them. After a few days came a letter from the boys themselves, printed
by Louis. In this document, brief but explicit, they sent their love,
but declined to return. If Père Michaux came after them, they would run
away again, and _this_ time no one should ever know where they were,
"exsep, purhaps, the _Mormons_." With this dark threat the letter ended.

Père Michaux, as in the case of Tita, took the matter into his own
hands. He wrote to Rast to keep the boys, and find some regular
occupation for them as soon as possible. Anne's ideas about them had
always been rather Quixotic; he doubted whether they could ever have
been induced to attend school regularly. But now they would grow to
manhood in a region where such natural gifts as they possessed would be
an advantage to them, and where, also, their deficiencies would not be
especially apparent. The old priest rather enjoyed this escapade. He
considered that three of the Douglas children were now, on the whole,
well placed, and that Anne was freed from the hampering responsibility
which her father's ill-advised course had imposed upon her. He sailed
round his water parish with brisker zeal than ever, although in truth he
was very lonely. The little white fort was empty; even Miss Lois was
gone; but he kept himself busy, and read his old classics on stormy
evenings when the rain poured down on his low roof.

But Anne grieved.

As several of her pupils wished to continue their music lessons during
the vacation, it was decided by Miss Lois and herself that she should
remain where she was for the present; the only cheer she had was in the
hope that in autumn Miss Lois and the little boy would come to her. But
in spite of all her efforts, the long weeks of summer stretched before
her like a desert; in her lonely rooms without the boys, without
mademoiselle, she was pursued by a silent depression unlike anything she
had felt before. She fell into the habit of allowing herself to sit
alone in the darkness through the evening brooding upon the past. The
kind-hearted woman who kept the house, in whose charge she had been left
by mademoiselle, said that she was "homesick."

"How can one be homesick who has no home?" answered the girl, smiling
sadly.

One day the principal of the school asked her if she would go on
Saturdays for a while, and assist those who were at work in the Aid
Rooms for the soldiers' hospitals. Anne consented languidly; but once
within the dingy walls, languor vanished. There personal sorrow seemed
small in the presence of ghastly lists of articles required for the
wounded and dying. At least those she loved were not confronting cannon.
Those in charge of the rooms soon learned to expect her, this young
teacher, a stranger in Weston, who with a settled look of sadness on her
fair face had become the most diligent worker there. She came more
regularly after a time, for the school had closed, the long vacation
begun.

On Sunday, the 21st of July, Anne was in church; it was a warm day; fans
waved, soft air came in and played around the heads of the people, who,
indolent with summer ease, leaned back comfortably, and listened with
drowsy peacefulness to the peaceful sermon. At that very moment, on a
little mill-stream near Washington, men were desperately fighting the
first great battle of the war, the Sunday battle of Bull Run. The
remnant of the Northern army poured over Long Bridge into the capital
during all that night, a routed, panic-stricken mob.

The North had suffered a great defeat; the South had gained a great
victory. And both sides paused.

The news flashed over the wires and into Weston, and the town was
appalled. Never in the four long years that followed was there again a
day so filled with stern astonishment to the entire North as that Monday
after Bull Run. The Aid Rooms, where Anne worked during her leisure
hours, were filled with helpers now; all hearts were excited and in
earnest. West Virginia was the field to which their aid was sent, a
mountain region whose streams were raised in an hour into torrents, and
whose roads were often long sloughs of despond, through which the
soldiers of each side gloomily pursued each other by turns, the slowness
of the advancing force only equalled by that of the pursued, which was
encountering in front the same disheartening difficulties. The men in
hospital on the edges of this region, worn out with wearying marches,
wounded in skirmishes, stricken down by the insidious fever which haunts
the river valleys, suffered as much as those who had the names of great
battles wherewith to identify themselves; but they lacked the glory.

One sultry evening, when the day's various labor was ended, Anne, having
made a pretense of eating in her lonely room, went across to the bank of
the lake to watch the sun set in the hazy blue water, and look northward
toward the island. She was weary and sad: where were now the resolution
and the patience with which she had meant to crown her life? You did not
know, poor Anne, when you framed those lofty purposes, that suffering is
just as hard to bear whether one is noble or ignoble, good or bad. In
the face of danger the heart is roused, and in the exaltation of
determination forgets its pain; it is the long monotony of dangerless
days that tries the spirit hardest.

A letter had come to her that morning, bearing a Boston postmark; the
address was in the neat, small handwriting of Jeanne-Armande's friend.
Anne, remembering that it was this Boston address which she had sent to
her grandaunt, opened the envelope eagerly. But it was only the formal
letter of a lawyer. Miss Vanhorn had died, on the nineteenth of June, in
Switzerland, and the lawyer wrote to inform "Miss Anne Douglas" that a
certain portrait, said in the will to be that of "Alida Clanssen," had
been bequeathed to her by his late client, and would be forwarded to her
address, whenever she requested it. Anne had expected nothing, not even
this. But an increased solitariness came upon her as she thought of
that cold rigid face lying under the turf far away in Switzerland--the
face of the only relative left to her.

The sun had disappeared; it was twilight. The few loiterers on the bank
were departing. The sound of carriage wheels roused her, and turning she
saw that a carriage had approached, and that three persons had alighted
and were coming toward her. They proved to be the principal of the
school and the president of the Aid Society, accompanied by one of her
associates. They had been to Anne's home, and learning where she was,
had followed her. It seemed that one of the city physicians had gone
southward a few days before to assist in the regimental hospitals on the
border; a telegraphic dispatch had just been received from him, urging
the Aid Society to send without delay three or four nurses to that
fever-cursed district, where men were dying in delirium for want of
proper care. It was the first personal appeal which had come to Weston;
the young Aid Society felt that it must be answered. But who could go?
Among the many workers at the Aid Rooms, few were free; wives, mothers,
and daughters, they could give an hour or two daily to the work of love,
but they could not leave their homes. One useful woman, a nurse by
profession, was already engaged; another, a lady educated and refined,
whose hair had been silvered as much by affliction as by age, had
offered to go. There were two, then; but they ought to send four. Many
had been asked during that afternoon, but without success. The society
was at its wits' end. Then some one thought of Miss Douglas.

She was young, but she was also self-controlled and physically strong.
Her inexperience would not be awkwardness; she would obey with
intelligence and firmness the directions given her. Under the charge of
the two older women, she could go--if she would!

It would be but for a short time--two weeks only; at the end of that
period the society expected to relieve these first volunteers with
regularly engaged and paid nurses. The long vacation had begun; as
teacher, she would lose nothing; her expenses would be paid by the
society. She had seemed so interested; it would not be much more to go
for a few days in person; perhaps she would even be glad to go. All this
they told her eagerly, while she stood before them in silence. Then,
when at last their voices ceased, and they waited for answer, she said,
slowly, looking from one to the other: "I could go, if it were not for
one obstacle. I have music scholars, and I can not afford to lose them.
I am very poor."

"They will gladly wait until you return, Miss Douglas," said the
principal. "When it is known where you have gone, you will not only
retain all your old scholars, but gain many new ones. They will be proud
of their teacher."

"Yes, proud!" echoed the associate. Again Anne remained silent; she was
thinking. In her loneliness she was almost glad to go. Perhaps, by the
side of the suffering and the dying, she could learn to be ashamed of
being so down-hearted and miserable. It was but a short absence. "Yes, I
will go," she said, quietly. And then the three ladies kissed her, and
the associate, who was of a tearful habit, took out her handkerchief.
"It is so sweet, and so--so martial!" she sobbed.

The next morning they started. Early as it was, a little company had
gathered to see them off. The school-girls were there, half in grief,
half in pride, over what they were pleased to call the "heroism" of
their dear Miss Douglas. Mrs. Green, Anne's landlady, was there in her
Sunday bonnet, which was, however, but a poor one. These, with the
principal of the school and the other teachers, and the ladies belonging
to the Aid Society, made quite a snowy shower of white handkerchiefs as
the train moved out from the station, Anne's young face contrasting with
the strong features and coarse complexion of Mary Crane, the
professional nurse, on one side, and with the thin cheeks and silver
hair of Mrs. Barstow on the other, as they stood together at the rear
door of the last car. "Good-by! good-by!" called the school-girls in
tears, and the ladies of the Aid Society gave a shrill little feminine
cheer. They were away.



CHAPTER XXIV.

    "When we remember how they died--
     In dark ravine and on the mountain-side,...
       How their dear lives were spent
     By lone lagoons and streams,
       In the weary hospital tent,...
                       ....it seems
       Ignoble to be alive!"

     --THOMAS BAILEY ALDRICH.


The three nurses travelled southward by railway, steamboat, and wagon.
On the evening of the third day they came to the first hospital, having
been met at the river by an escort, and safely guided across a country
fair with summer and peaceful to the eye, but harassed by constant
skirmishing--the guerrilla warfare that desolated that border during the
entire war. The houses they passed looked home-like and quiet; if the
horses had been stolen and the barns pillaged, at least nothing of it
appeared in the warm sunshine of the still August day. At the door of
the hospital they were welcomed cordially, and within the hour they were
at work, Anne timidly, the others energetically. Mary Crane had the
worst cases; then followed Mrs. Barstow. To Anne was given what was
called the light work; none of her patients were in danger. The men here
had all been stricken down by fever; there were no wounded. During the
next day and evening, however, stories began to come to the little post,
brought by the country people, that a battle had been fought farther up
the valley toward the mountains, and that Hospital Number Two was filled
with wounded men, many of them lying on the hard floor because there
were not beds enough, unattended and suffering because there were no
nurses. Anne, who had worked ardently all day, chafing and rebelling in
spirit at the sight of suffering which could have been soothed by a few
of the common luxuries abundant in almost every house in Weston, felt
herself first awed, then chilled, by this picture of far worse agony
beyond, whose details were pitilessly painted in the plain rough words
of the country people. She went to the door and looked up the valley.
The river wound slowly along, broad, yellow, and shining; it came from
the mountains, but from where she stood she could see only round-topped
hills. While she was still wistfully gazing, a soldier on horseback rode
up to the door and dismounted; it was a messenger from Number Two,
urgently asking for help.

"Under the circumstances, I do not see how I can refuse," said the
surgeon of Number One, with some annoyance in his tone, "because none of
my men are wounded. People never stop to think that fever is equally
dangerous. I was just congratulating myself upon a little satisfactory
work. However, I shall have to yield, I suppose. I can not send you all;
but I ought to spare two, at least for some days. Mary Crane of course
can do the most good; and as Miss Douglas can not be left here alone,
perhaps it would be best that she should go with Mary."

"You retain Mrs. Barstow here?" asked Anne.

"Yes; I have, indeed, no choice. _You_ are too young to be retained
alone. I suppose you are willing? (Women always are wild for a change!)
Make ready, then; I shall send you forward to-night." The surgeon of
Number One was a cynic.

At nine o'clock they started. The crescent of a young moon showed itself
through the light clouds, which, low as mist, hung over the valley.
Nothing stirred; each leaf hung motionless from its branchlet as they
passed. Even the penetrating sing-song chant of the summer insects was
hushed, and the smooth river as they followed its windings made no
murmur. They were in a light wagon, with an escort of two mounted men.

"If you go beyond Number Two, you'll have to take to horseback, I
reckon," said their driver, a countryman, who, without partisan feeling
as to the two sides of the contest, held on with a tight grip to his
horses, and impartially "did teaming" for both.

"Is there still another hospital beyond?" inquired Anne.

"Yes, there's Peterson's, a sorter hospital; it's up in the mountains.
And heaps of sick fellers there too, the last time I was up."

"It does not belong to this department," said Mary Crane.

"I reckon they suffer pooty much the same, no matter where they belong,"
replied the driver, flicking the wheel reflectively with his whip-lash.
"There was a feller up at Number Two the other day as hadn't any face
left to speak of; yet he was alive, and quite peart."

Anne shuddered.

"There now, hold up, won't you?" said Mary Crane. "This young lady ain't
a real nurse, as I am, and such stories make her feel faint."

"If she ain't a real nurse, what made her come?" said the man, glancing
at Anne with dull curiosity.

"Twas just goodness, and the real downright article of patriotism, I
guess," said the hearty nurse, smiling.

"Oh no," said Anne; "I was lonely and sad, and glad to come."

"It _doos_ kinder rouse one up to see a lot of men hit in all sorts of
ways, legs and arms and everything flying round," remarked the driver,
as if approving Anne's selection of remedies for loneliness.

They reached Number Two at dawn, and found the wounded in rows upon the
floor of the barn dignified by the name of hospital. There had been no
attempt to classify them after the few beds were filled. One poor torn
fragment of humanity breathed his last as the nurses entered, another an
hour later. Mary Crane set herself to work with ready skill; Anne, after
going outside two or three times to let her tears flow unseen over the
sorrowful sights, was able to assist in taking care of two kinds of
cases--those who were the least hurt and those who were beyond hope, the
slightly wounded and the dying. One man, upon whose face was the gray
shadow of death, asked her in a whisper to write a letter for him. She
found paper and pen, and sat down beside the bed to receive his farewell
message to his wife and children. "And tell little Jim he must grow up
and be a comfort to his mother," he murmured; and then turning his quiet
gaze slowly upon the nurse: "His mother is only twenty-two years old
now, miss. I expect she'll feel bad, Mary will, when she hears." Poor
young wife! The simple country phraseology covered as much sorrow as the
finest language of the schools. During the night the man died.

The new nurses remained at Number Two six days. Anne's work consisted
principally in relieving Mary Crane at dawn, and keeping the watch
through the early morning hours while she slept; for the head surgeon
and Mary would not allow her to watch at night. The surgeon had two
assistants; with one of these silent old men (they were both
gray-haired) she kept watch while the sun rose slowly over the
hill-tops, while the birds twittered, and the yellow butterflies came
dancing through the open doors and windows, over the heads of the poor
human sleepers. But Number Two had greater ease now. The hopelessly
wounded were all at rest, their sufferings in this life over. Those who
were left, in time would see health again.

On the seventh day a note came to the surgeon in charge from the
temporary hospital at Peterson's Mill, asking for medicines. "If you can
possibly spare us one or two nurses for a few days, pray do so. In all
my experience I have never been so hard pushed as now," wrote the other
surgeon. "The men here are all down with the fever, and I and my
assistant are almost crazed with incessant night-work. If we could be
relieved for one night even, it would be God's charity."

The surgeon of Number Two read this note aloud to Anne as they stood by
a table eating their hasty breakfast. "It is like the note you sent to
us at Number One," she said.

"Oh no; that was different, _I_ never send and take away other people's
nurses," said Dr. Janes, laughingly.

"I should like to go," she said, after a moment.

"You should like to go? I thought you were so much interested here."

"So I am; but after what I have seen, I am haunted by the thought that
there may be worse suffering beyond. That is the reason I came here. But
the men here are more comfortable now, and those who were suffering
hopelessly have been relieved forever from earthly pain. If we are not
needed, some of us ought to go."

"But if we pass you on in this way from post to post, we shall get you
entirely over the mountains, and into the Department of the Potomac,
Miss Douglas. What you say is true enough, but at present I refuse. I
simply can not spare you two. If they should send us a nurse from
Rivertown as they promised, we might get along without you for a while;
but not now. Charity, you know, begins at home."

Anne sighed, but acquiesced. The surgeon knew best. But during that day,
not only did the promised nurse from the Rivertown Aid Society arrive,
but with her a volunteer assistant, a young girl, her face flushed with
exaltation and excitement over the opportunity afforded her to help and
comfort "our poor dear wounded heroes." The wounded heroes were not
poetical in appearance; they were simply a row of ordinary sick men,
bandaged in various ways, often irritable, sometimes profane; their
grammar was defective, and they cared more for tobacco than for texts,
or even poetical quotations. The young nurse would soon have her romance
rudely dispelled. But as there was good stuff in her, she would do
useful work yet, although shorn of many illusions. The other woman was a
professional nurse, whose services were paid for like those of Mary
Crane.

"_Now_ may we go?" said Anne, when the new nurse had been installed.

Dr. Janes, loath to consent, yet ashamed, as he said himself, of his own
greediness, made no long opposition, and the countryman with the
non-partisan horses was engaged to take them to Peterson's Mill. For
this part of the road no escort was required. They travelled in the
wagon for ten miles. Here the man stopped, took the harness from the
horses, replaced it with two side-saddles which he had brought with him,
drew the wagon into a ravine safely out of sight, effaced the trace of
the wheels, and then wiping his forehead after his exertions, announced
that he was ready. Anne had never been on horseback in her life. Mary
Crane, who would have mounted a camel imperturbably if it came into the
line of her business, climbed up sturdily by the aid of a stump, and
announced that she felt herself "quite solid." The horse seemed to agree
with her. Anne followed her example, and being without physical
nervousness, she soon became accustomed to the motion, and even began to
imagine how exhilarating it would be to ride rapidly over a broad plain,
feeling the wind on her face as she flew along. But the two old brown
horses had no idea of flying. They toiled patiently every day, and
sometimes at night as well, now for one army, now for the other; but
nothing could make them quicken their pace. In the present case they
were not asked to do it, since the road was but a bridle-path through
the ravines and over the hills which formed the flank of the mountains
they were approaching, and the driver was following them on foot. The
ascents grew steeper, the ravines deeper and wilder.

"I no longer see the mountains," said Anne.

"That's because you're in 'em," answered the driver.

At night-fall they reached their destination. It was a small mountain
mill, in a little green valley which nestled confidingly among the wild
peaks as though it was not afraid of their roughness. Within were the
fever patients, and the tired surgeon and his still more tired assistant
could hardly believe their good fortune when the two nurses appeared.
The assistant, a tall young medical student who had not yet finished
growing, made his own bed of hay and a coverlet so hungrily in a dusky
corner that Anne could not help smiling; the poor fellow was fairly
gaunt from loss of sleep, and had been obliged to walk up and down
during the whole of the previous night to keep himself awake. The
surgeon, who was older and more hardened, explained to Mary Crane the
condition of the men, and gave her careful directions for the night;
then he too disappeared. Anne and Mary moved about softly, and when
everything was ready, sat down on opposite sides of the room to keep the
vigil. If the men were restless, Mary was to attend to them; Anne was
the subordinate, merely obeying Mary's orders. The place was dimly
lighted by two candles set in bottles; the timbers above were festooned
with cobwebs whitened with meal, and the floor was covered with its fine
yellow dust. A large spider came slowly out from behind a beam near by,
and looked at Anne; at least she thought he did. He was mealy too, and
she fell to wondering whether he missed the noise of the wheel, and
whether he asked himself what all these men meant by coming in and lying
down in rows upon his floor to disturb his peacefulness. At sunrise the
surgeon came in, but he was obliged to shake the student roughly before
he could awaken him from his heavy slumber. It was not until the third
day that the poor youth lost the half-mad expression which had shone in
his haggard face when they arrived, and began to look as though he was
composed of something besides big jaws, gaunt cheeks, and sunken eyes,
which had seemed to be all there was of him besides bones when they
first came.

The fever patients at Peterson's Mill were not Western men, like the
inmates of Number One and Number Two; they belonged to two New York
regiments. Mary Crane did excellent work among them, her best; her
systematic watchfulness, untiring vigilance, and strict rules shook the
hold of the fever, and in many cases routed the dismal spectre, and
brought the victims triumphantly back to hope of health again.

One morning Anne, having written a letter for one of the men, was
fanning him as he lay in his corner; the doors were open, but the air
was sultry. The man was middle-aged and gaunt, his skin was yellow and
lifeless, his eyes sunken. Yet the surgeon pronounced him out of danger;
it was now merely a question of care, patience, and nourishment. The
poor mill-hospital had so little for its sick! But boxes from the North
were at last beginning to penetrate even these defiles; one had arrived
during the previous night, having been dragged on a rude sledge over
places where wheels could not go, by the non-partisan horses, which were
now on their patient way with a load of provisions to a detachment of
Confederates camped, or rather mired, in the southern part of the
county. The contents of that box had made the mill-hospital glad; the
yellow-faced skeleton whom Anne was fanning had tasted lemons at last,
and almost thought he was in heaven. Revived and more hopeful, he had
been talking to his nurse. "I should feel easier, miss, if I knew just
where our captain was. You see, there was a sort of a scrimmage, and
some of us got hurt. He wasn't hurt, but he was took down with the
fever, and so bad that we had to leave him behind at a farm-house. And
I've heard nothing since."

"Where was he left--far from here?"

"No; sing'lerly enough, 'twas the very next valley to this one. _We_
went in half a dozen directions after that, and tramped miles in the
mud, but he was left there. We put him in charge of a woman, who _said_
she'd take care of him, but I misdoubt her. She was a meaching-looking
creature."

"Probably, then, as you have heard nothing, he has recovered, and is
with his regiment again," said Anne, with the cheerful optimism which is
part of a nurse's duty.

"Yes, miss. And yet perhaps he ain't, you know. I thought mebbe you'd
ask the surgeon for me. I'm only a straggler here, anyway; the others
don't belong to my regiment. Heathcote was the name; Captain Ward
Heathcote. A city feller he was, but wuth a heap, for all that."

What was the matter with the nurse that she turned so pale? And now she
was gone! And without leaving the fan too. However, he could hardly have
held it. He found his little shred of lemon, lifted it to his dry lips,
and closed his eyes patiently, hardly remembering even what he had said.

Meanwhile Anne, still very pale, had drawn the surgeon outside the door,
and was questioning him. Yes, he knew that an officer had been left at
a farm-house over in the next valley; he had been asked to ride over and
see him. But how could he! As nothing had been heard from him since,
however, he was probably well by this time, and back with his regiment
again.

"Probably"--the very word she had herself used when answering the
soldier. How inactive and cowardly it seemed now! "I must go across to
this next valley," she said.

"My dear Miss Douglas!" said Dr. Flower, a grave, portly man, whose
ideas moved as slowly as his small fat-encircled eyes.

"I know a Mr. Heathcote; this may be the same person. The Mr. Heathcote
I know is engaged to a friend of mine, a lady to whom I am much
indebted. I must learn whether this officer in the next valley is he."

"But even if it is the same man, no doubt he is doing well over there.
Otherwise we should have heard from them before this time," said the
surgeon, sensibly.

But Anne did not stop at sense. "It is probable, but not certain. There
must be no room for doubt. If _you_ will ride over, I will stay.
Otherwise I must go."

"I can not leave; it is impossible."

"Where can I procure a horse, then?"

"I do not think I ought to allow it, Miss Douglas. It is nearly fifteen
miles to the next valley; of course you can not go alone, and I can not
spare Mary Crane to go with you." The surgeon spoke decidedly; he had
daughters of his own at home, and felt himself responsible for this
young nurse.

Anne looked at him. "Oh, do help me!" she cried, with an outburst of
sudden emotion. "I must go; even if I go alone, and walk every step of
the way, I must, must go!"

Dr. Caleb Flower was a slow man; but anything he had once learned he
remembered. He now recognized the presence of what he called "one of
those intense impulses which make even timid women for the time being
inflexible as adamant."

"You will have to pay largely for horses and a guide," he said, in
order to gain time, inwardly regretting meanwhile that he had not the
power to tie this nurse to her chair.

"I have a little money with me."

"But even if horses are found, you can not go alone; and, as I said
before, I can not spare Mary."

"Why would not Diana do?" said Anne.

"Diana!" exclaimed Dr. Flower, his lips puckering as if to form a long
whistle.

Diana was a middle-aged negro woman, who, with her husband, July, lived
in a cabin near the mill, acting as laundress for the hospital. She was
a silent, austere woman; in her there was little of the
light-heartedness and plenitude of person which generally belong to her
race. A devout Baptist, quoting more texts to the sick soldiers than
they liked when she was employed in the hospital, chanting hymns in a
low voice while hanging out the clothes, Diana had need of her
austerity, industry, and leanness to balance July, who was the most
light-hearted, lazy, and rotund negro in the mountains.

"But you know that Mary Crane has orders not to leave you?" said Dr.
Flower.

"I did not know it."

"Yes; so she tells me. The ladies of the Aid Society who sent her
arranged it. And I wish with all my heart that our other young nurses
were as well taken care of!" added the surgeon, a comical expression
coming into his small eyes.

"On ordinary occasions I would not, of course, interfere with these
orders," said Anne, "but on this I must. You must trust me with Diana,
doctor--Diana and July. They will take good care of me."

"I suppose I shall _have_ to yield, Miss Douglas. But I regret, regret
exceedingly, that I have not full authority over you. I feel it
necessary to say formally that your going is against my wishes and my
advice. And now, since you _will_ have your own way in any case, I must
do what I can for you."

An hour later, two mules were ascending the mountain-side, following an
old trail; Anne was on one, the tall grave Diana on the other. July
walked in front, with his gun over his shoulder.

"No danjah hyah," he assured them volubly; "soldiers doan' come up dis
yer way at all. Dey go draggin' 'long in de mud below always; seem to
like 'em."

But Anne was not thinking of danger. "Could we not go faster by the
road?" she asked.

"'Spec's we could, miss. But wudn't darst to, ef I was you."

"No, no, miss," said Diana. "Best keep along in dese yere woods; dey's
safe."

The hours were endless. At last it seemed to Anne as if they were not
moving at all, but merely sitting still in their saddles, while a
continuous procession of low trees and high bushes filed slowly past
them, now pointing upward, now slanting downward, according to the
nature of the ground. In reality they were moving forward, crossing a
spur of the mountain, but so dense was the foliage of the thicket, and
so winding the path, that they could not see three feet in any
direction, and all sense of advance was therefore lost. Anne fell into a
mental lethargy, which was troubled every now and then by that strange
sense of having seen particular objects before which occasionally haunts
the brain. Now it was a tree, now a bird; or was it that she had known
July in some far-off anterior existence, and that he had kicked a stone
from his path in precisely that same way?

It was late twilight when, after a long descent still shrouded in the
interminable thicket, the path came out suddenly upon a road, and Anne's
eyes seemed to herself to expand as the view expanded. She saw a valley,
the gray smoothness of water, and here and there roofs. July had stopped
the mules in the shadow.

"Can you tell me which house it mought be, miss?" he asked, in a low,
cautious tone.

"No," replied Anne. "But the person I am trying to find is named
Heathcote--Captain Heathcote. We must make inquiries."

[Illustration: "JULY WALKED IN FRONT, WITH HIS GUN OVER HIS
SHOULDER."]

"Now do be keerful, miss," urged July, keeping Anne's mule back.
"I'll jes' go and peer roun' a bit. But you stay hyar with Di."

"Yes, miss," said Diana. "We'll go back in de woods a piece, and wait.
July'll fin' out all about 'em."

Whether willingly or unwillingly, Anne was obliged to yield; the two
women rode back into the woods, and July stole away cautiously upon his
errand.

It was ten o'clock before he returned; Anne had dismounted, and was
walking impatiently to and fro in the warm darkness.

"Found 'em, miss," said July. "But it's cl'ar 'cross de valley.
Howsomever, valley's safe, dey say, and you can ride right along ober."

"Was it Mr. Heathcote?" said Anne, as the mules trotted down a
cross-road and over a bridge, July keeping up with a long loping run.

"Yes, miss; Heathcote's de name. I saw him, and moughty sick he looked."

"What did he say?"

"Fever's in him head, miss, and didn't say nothing. Senses clean done
gone."

Anne had not thought of this, it changed her task at once. He would not
know her; she could do all that was necessary in safety, and then go
unrecognized away. "What will he say?" she had asked herself a thousand
times. Now, he would say nothing, and all would be simple and easy.

"Dis yere's de place," said July, pausing.

It was a low farm-house with a slanting roof; there was a light in the
window, and the door stood open. Anne, springing from her saddle, and
followed by Diana, hastened up the little garden path. At first there
seemed to be no one in the room into which the house door opened; then a
slight sound behind a curtain in one corner attracted her attention, and
going across, she drew aside the drapery. The head moving restlessly to
and fro on the pillow, with closed eyes and drawn mouth, was that of
Ward Heathcote.

She spoke his name; the eyes opened and rested upon her, but there was
no recognition in the glance.

"Bless you! his senses has been gone for days," said the farmer's wife,
coming up behind her and looking at her patient impartially. "He don't
know nobody no more'n a day-old baby!"



CHAPTER XXV.

                          "Love is not love
    Which alters when it alteration finds,
    Or tends with the remover to remove:
    Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
    Within his bending sickle's compass come:
    Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
    But bears it out even to the edge of doom."

    --SHAKSPEARE.


"Why did you not send across to the hospital at the mill?" said Anne.
"Dr. Flower, receiving no second message, supposed that Captain
Heathcote had recovered."

"Well, you see, I reckon I know as much about this yer fever as the
doctors do as never had it," replied Mrs. Redd. "The captain couldn't be
moved; that was plain as day. And we hadn't a horse, nuther. Our horse
and mules have all been run off and stole."

Mrs. Redd was a clay-colored woman, with a figure which, cavernous in
front, was yet so rounded out behind that if she could have turned her
head round she would have been very well shaped. Her knowledge of the
fever was plainly derived from personal experience; she explained that
she had it "by spells," and that "Redd he has it too," and their
daughter Nancy as well. "Redd he isn't to home now, nor Nancy nuther.
But Redd he'll be back by to-morrow night, I reckon. If you want to
stay, I can accommodate you. You can have the loft, and the niggers can
sleep in the barn. But they'll have to cook for themselves. I shall be
mighty glad to have some help in tending on the captain; I'm about wore
out."

Mrs. Redd did not mention that she had confiscated the sick man's money,
and hidden it safely away in an old tea-pot, and that all her knowledge
of arithmetic was at work keeping a daily account of expenses which
should in the end exactly balance the sum. She had no intention of
stealing the money--certainly not. But of course her "just account" must
be paid. She could still work at this problem, she thought, and earn
something as well from the new-comers, who would also relieve her from
all care of the sick man: it was clearly a providence. In the glow of
this expected gain she even prepared supper. Fortunately in summer her
kitchen was in the open air, and the room where Heathcote lay was left
undisturbed.

Anne had brought the hospital medicines with her, and careful
instructions from Mary Crane. If she had come upon Heathcote before her
late experiences, she would have felt little hope, but men whose
strength had been far more reduced than his had recovered under her
eyes. Diana was a careful nurse; July filled the place of valet,
sleeping on straw on the floor. She ordered down the bed-curtains and
opened all the windows; martial law regarding air, quiet, and medicines
was proclaimed. The sick man lay quietly, save for the continued
restless motion of his head.

"If we could only stop his slipping his head across and back in that
everlasting way, I believe he'd be better right off," said Mrs. Redd.

"It done him good, 'pears to me," said July, who already felt a strong
affection in his capacious vagabondizing heart for the stranger
committed to his care. "Yo' see, it kinder rests his mind like."

"Much mind _he's_ got to rest with!" said Mrs. Redd, contemptuously.

With her two assistants, it was not necessary that Anne should remain in
the room at night, and she did not, at least in personal presence; but
every half-hour she was at the top of the stairway, silently watching to
see if Diana fulfilled her duties. On the third day the new medicines
and the vigilance conquered. On the fifth day the sick man fell into his
first natural slumber. The house was very still. Bees droned serenely.
There was no breeze. Anne was sitting on the door-steps. "Ought I to go
now before he wakens?" she was thinking. "But I _can_ not until the
danger is surely over. He may not recognize me even now." She said to
herself that she would stay a short time longer, but without entering
the room where he was; Diana could come to her for orders, and the
others must not allude to her presence. Then, as soon as she was
satisfied that his recovery was certain, she could slip away unseen. She
went round to the back of the house to warn the others; it was all to go
on as though she was not there.

Heathcote wakened at last, weak but conscious. He had accepted without
speech the presence of Diana and July, and had soon fallen asleep again,
"like a chile." He ate some breakfast the next morning, and the day
passed without fever. Mrs. Redd pronounced him convalescent, and
declared decisively that all he needed was to "eat hearty." The best
medicine now would be "a plenty of vittals." In accordance with this
opinion she prepared a meal of might, carried it in with her own hands,
and in two minutes, forgetting all about the instructions she had
received, betrayed Anne's secret. Diana, who was present, looked at her
reproachfully: the black skin covered more faithfulness than the white.

"Well, I do declare to Jerusalem I forgot!" said the hostess, laughing.
"However, now you know it, Miss Douglas might as well come in, and make
you eat if she can. For eat you must, captain. Why, man alive, if you
could see yourself! You're just skin and rattling bones."

And thus it all happened. Anne, afraid to lay so much as a finger's
weight of excitement of any kind upon him in his weak state, hearing his
voice faintly calling her name, and understanding at once that her
presence had been disclosed, came quietly in with a calm face, as though
her being there was quite commonplace and natural, and taking the plate
from Diana, sat down by the bedside and began to feed him with the bits
of chicken, which was all of the meal of might that he would touch. She
paid no attention to the expression which grew gradually in his feeble
eyes as they rested upon her and followed her motions, at first vaguely,
then with more and more of insistence and recollection.

"Anne?" he murmured, after a while, as if questioning with himself. "It
is Anne?"

She lifted her hand authoritatively. "Yes," she said; "but you must not
talk. Eat."

He obeyed; but he still gazed at her, and then slowly he smiled. "You
will not run away again?" he whispered.

"Not immediately."

"Promise that you will not go to-night or to-morrow."

"I promise."

And then, as if satisfied, he fell asleep.

He slept all night peacefully. But Anne did not once lose consciousness.
At dawn she left her sleepless couch, and dressed herself, moving about
the room cautiously, so as not to awaken the sleeper below. When she was
ready to go down, she paused a moment, thinking. Raising her eyes, she
found herself standing by chance opposite the small mirror, and her gaze
rested half unconsciously upon her own reflected image. She drew nearer,
and leaning with folded arms upon the chest of drawers, looked at
herself, as if striving to see something hitherto hidden.

We think we know our own faces, yet they are in reality less known to us
than the countenances of our acquaintances, of our servants, even of our
dogs. If any one will stand alone close to a mirror, and look intently
at his own reflection for several minutes or longer, the impression
produced on his mind will be extraordinary. At first it is nothing but
his own well-known, perhaps well-worn, face that confronts him. Whatever
there may be of novelty in the faces of others, there is certainly
nothing of it here. So at least he believes. But after a while it grows
strange. What do those eyes mean, meeting his so mysteriously and
silently? Whose mouth is that? Whose brow? What vague suggestions of
something stronger than he is, some dormant force which laughs him to
scorn, are lurking behind that mask? In the outline of the features, the
curve of the jaw and chin, perhaps he notes a suggested likeness to this
or that animal of the lower class--a sign of some trait which he was not
conscious he possessed. And then--those strange eyes! They are his own;
nothing new; yet in their depths all sorts of mocking meanings seem to
rise. The world, with all its associations, even his own history also,
drops from him like a garment, and he is left alone, facing the problem
of his own existence. It is the old riddle of the Sphinx.

Something of this passed through Anne's mind at that moment. She was too
young to accept misery, to generalize on sorrow, to place herself among
the large percentage of women to whom, in the great balance of
population, a happy love is denied. She felt her own wretchedness
acutely, unceasingly, while the man she loved was so near. She knew that
she would leave him, that he would go back to Helen; that she would
return to her hospital work and to Weston, and that that would be the
end. There was not in her mind a thought of anything else. Yet this
certainty did not prevent the two large slow tears that rose and welled
over as she watched the eyes in the glass, watched them as though they
were the eyes of some one else.

Diana's head now appeared, giving the morning bulletin: the captain had
slept "like a cherrb," and was already "'mos' well." Anne went down by
the outside stairway, and ate her breakfast under the trees not far from
Mrs. Redd's out-door hearth. She told July that she should return to the
hospital during the coming night, or, if the mountain path could not be
traversed in the darkness, they must start at dawn.

"I don't think it's quite fair of you to quit so soon," objected Mrs.
Redd, loath to lose her profit.

"If you can find any one to escort me, I will leave you Diana and July,"
answered Anne. "For myself, I can not stay longer."

July went in with the sick man's breakfast, but came forth again
immediately. "He wants _yo'_ to come, miss."

"I can not come now. If he eats his breakfast obediently, I will come in
and see him later," said the nurse.

"Isn't much trouble 'bout _eating_," said July, grinning. "Cap'n he eats
like he 'mos' starved."

Anne remained sitting under the trees, while the two black servants
attended to her patient. At ten o'clock he was reported as "sittin' up
in bed, and powerful smart." This bulletin was soon followed by another,
"Him all tired out now, and gone to sleep."

Leaving directions for the next hour, she strolled into the woods behind
the house. She had intended to go but a short distance, but, led on by
her own restlessness and the dull pain in her heart, she wandered
farther than she knew.

Jacob Redd's little farm was on the northern edge of the valley; its
fields and wood-lot ascended the side of the mountain. Anne, reaching
the end of the wood-lot, opened the gate, and went on up the hill. She
followed a little trail. The trees were larger than those through which
she had travelled on the opposite side of the valley; it was a wood, not
a thicket; the sunshine was hot, the green silent shade pleasant. She
went on, although now the trail was climbing upward steeply, and rocks
appeared. She had been ascending for half an hour, when she came
suddenly upon a narrow, deep ravine, crossing from left to right; the
trail turned and followed its edge; but as its depths looked cool and
inviting, and as she thought she heard the sound of a brook below, she
left the little path, and went downward into the glen. When she reached
the bottom she found herself beside a brook, flowing along over white
pebbles; it was not more than a foot wide, but full of life and
merriment, going no one knew whither, and in a great hurry about it. A
little brook is a fascinating object to persons unaccustomed to its
coaxing, vagrant witcheries. There were no brooks on the island, only
springs that trickled down from the cliffs into the lake in tiny silver
water-falls. Anne followed the brook. Absorbed in her own thoughts, and
naturally fearless, it did not occur to her that there might be danger
even in this quiet forest. She went round a curve, then round another,
when--what was that? She paused. Could he have seen her? Was he asleep?
Or--dead?

It was a common sight enough, a dead soldier in the uniform of the
United States infantry. He was young, and his face, turned toward her,
was as peaceful as if he was sleeping; there was almost a smile on his
cold lips. With beating heart she looked around. There were twisted
broken branches above on the steep side of the ravine; he had either
fallen over, or else had dragged himself down to be out of danger, or
perhaps to get water from the brook. The death-wound was in his breast;
she could see traces of blood. But he could not have been long dead. It
had been said that there was no danger in that neighborhood at present;
then what was this? Only one of the chances of war, and a common one in
that region: an isolated soldier taken off by a bullet from behind a
tree. She stood looking sorrowfully down upon the prostrate form; then a
thought came to her. She stooped to see if she could discover the
identity of the slain man from anything his pockets contained. There was
no money, but various little possessions, a soldier's wealth--a puzzle
carved in wood and neatly fitted together, a pocket-knife, a ball of
twine, a pipe, and a ragged song-book. At last she came upon what she
had hoped to find--a letter. It was from the soldier's mother, full of
love and little items of neighborhood news, and ending, "May God bless
you, my dear and only son!" The postmark was that of a small village in
Michigan, and the mother's name was signed in full.

One page of the letter was blank; with the poor soldier's own pencil
Anne drew upon this half sheet a sketch of his figure, lying there
peacefully beside the little brook. Then she severed a lock of his hair,
and went sadly away. July should come up and bury him; but the mother,
far away in Michigan, should have something more than the silence and
heart-breaking suspense of that terrible word "missing." The lock of
hair, the picture, and the poor little articles taken from his pockets
would be her greatest earthly treasures. For the girl forgets her lover,
and the wife forgets her husband; but the mother never forgets her dear
and only son.

When Anne reached the farm-house it was nearly four o'clock. July's
black anxious face met hers as she glanced through the open door of the
main room; he was sitting near the bed waving a long plume of feathers
backward and forward to keep the flies from the sleeping face below. The
negro came out on tiptoe, his enormous patched old shoes looking like
caricatures, yet making no more sound, as he stole along, than the small
slippers of a woman. "Cap'en he orful disappointed 'cause you worn't
yere at dinner-time," he whispered. "An' Mars' Redd, Mis' Redd's
husband, you know, him jess come home, and they's bote gone 'cross de
valley to see some pusson they know that's sick; but they'll he back
'fore long. And Di she's gone to look fer _you_, 'cause she was moughty
oneasy 'bout yer. An' she's been gone so long that _I'm_ moughty oneasy
'bout Di. P'r'aps you seen her, miss?"

No, Anne had not seen her. July looked toward the mountain-side
anxiously. "Cap'en he's had 'em broth, and taken 'em medicine, and has
jess settled down to a good long sleep; reckon he won't wake up till
sunset. If you'll allow, miss, I'll run up and look for Di."

Anne saw that he intended to go, whether she wished it or not: the lazy
fellow was fond of his wife. She gave her consent, therefore, on the
condition that he would return speedily, and telling him of the dead
soldier, suggested that when Farmer Redd returned the two men should go
up the mountain together and bury him. Was there a burial-ground or
church-yard in the neighborhood?

No; July knew of none; each family buried its dead on its own ground,
"in a corner of a meddar." He went away, and Anne sat down to keep the
watch.

She moved the long plume to and fro, refraining from even looking at the
sleeper, lest by some occult influence he might feel the gaze and waken.
Mrs. Redd's clock in another room struck five. The atmosphere grew
breathless; the flies became tenacious, almost adhesive; the heat was
intense. She knew that a thunder-storm must be near, but from where she
sat she could not see the sky, and she was afraid to stop the motion of
the waving fan. Each moment she hoped to hear the sound of July's
returning footsteps, or those of the Redds, but none came. Then at last
with a gust and a whirl of hot sand the stillness was broken, and the
storm was upon them. She ran to close the doors, but happily the sleeper
was not awakened. The flies retreated to the ceiling, and she stood
looking at the black rushing rain. The thunder was not loud, but the
lightning was almost incessant. She now hoped that in the cooler air his
sleep would be even deeper than before.

But when the storm had sobered down into steady soft gray rain, so that
she could open the doors again, she heard a voice speaking her name:

"Anne."

She turned. Heathcote was awake, and gazing at her, almost as he had
gazed in health.

Summoning all her self-possession, yet feeling drearily, unshakenly
sure, even during the short instant of crossing the floor, that no
matter what he might say (and perhaps he would say nothing), she should
not swerve, and that this little moment, with all its pain and all its
sweetness, would, for all its pain and all its sweetness, soon be gone,
she sat down by the bedside, and taking up the fan, said, quietly:

"I am glad you are so much better. As the fever has not returned, in a
week or two you may hope to be quite strong again. Do not try to talk,
please. I will fan you to sleep."

"Very well," replied Heathcote, but reaching out as he spoke, and taking
hold of the edge of her sleeve, which was near him.

"Why do you do that?" said his nurse, smiling, like one who humors the
fancies of a child.

"To keep you from going away. You said you would be here at dinner, and
you were not."

"I was detained. I intended to be here, but--"

She stopped, for Heathcote had closed his eyes, and she thought he was
falling asleep. But no.

"It is raining," he said presently, still with closed eyes.

"Yes; a summer shower."

"Do you remember that thunder-storm when we were in the little cave? You
are changed since then."

She made no answer.

"Your face has grown grave. No one would take you for a child now, but
that day in the cave you were hardly more than one."

"You too are changed," she answered, turning the conversation from
herself; "you are thin and pale. You must sleep and eat. Surrender
yourself to that duty for the time being." She spoke with matter-of-fact
cheerfulness, but her ears were strained to catch the sound of
footsteps. None came, and the rain fell steadily. She began to dread
rain.

Heathcote in his turn did not reply, but she was conscious that his eyes
were open, and that he was looking at her. At last he said, gently,

"_I_ should have placed it there, Anne."

She turned; his gaze was fixed upon her left hand, and the gold ring
given by the school-girls.

"He is kind to you? And you--are happy?" he continued, still gazing at
the circlet.

She did not speak; she was startled and confused. He supposed, then,
that she was married. Would it not be best to leave the error
uncorrected? But--could she succeed in this?

"You do not answer," said Heathcote, lifting his eyes to her face. "Are
you not happy, then?"

"Yes, I am happy," she answered, trying to smile. "But please do not
talk; you are not strong enough for talking."

"I hope he is not here, or expected. Do not let him come in _here_,
Anne: promise me."

"He is not coming."

"He is in the army, I suppose, somewhere in the neighborhood; and you
are here to be near him?"

"No."

"Then how is it that you are here?"

"I have been in the hospitals for a short time as nurse. But if you
persist in talking, I shall certainly leave you. Why not try to sleep?"

"He must be a pretty sort of fellow to let you go into the hospitals,"
said Heathcote, paying no heed to her threat. "I have your fatal
marriage notice, Anne; I have always kept it."

"You have my marriage notice?" she repeated, startled out of her
caution.

"Yes. Put your hand under my pillow and you will find my wallet; the
woman of the house has skillfully abstracted the money, but fortunately
she has not considered a newspaper slip as of any value." He took the
case from her hand, opened it, and gave her a folded square paper, cut
from the columns of a New York journal. Anne opened it, and read the
notice of the marriage of "Erastus Pronando, son of the late John
Pronando, Esquire, of Philadelphia, and Angélique, daughter of the late
William Douglas, surgeon, United States Army."

The slip dropped from her hand. "Père Michaux must have sent it," she
thought.

"It was in all the New York and Philadelphia papers for several days,"
said Heathcote. "There seemed to be a kind of insistence about it."

And there was. Père Michaux had hoped that the Eastern Pronandos would
see the name, and, moved by some awakening of memory or affection, would
make inquiry for this son of the lost brother, and assist him on his
journey through the crowded world.

"I did not know that 'Anne' was a shortening of 'Angélique'; I thought
yours was the plain old English name. But Helen knew; I showed the
notice to her."

Anne's face altered; she could not control the tremor that seized her,
and he noticed it.

"Are you _not_ married then, after all? Tell me, Anne, tell me. You can
not deceive; you never could, poor child; I remember that well."

She tried to rise, but he held her arm with both hands, and she could
not bring herself to use force against that feeble hold.

"Why should you not tell me what all the world is free to know?" he
continued. "What difference does it make?"

[Illustration: "SHE TRIED TO RISE, BUT HE HELD HER ARM WITH BOTH
HANDS."]

"You are right; it makes no difference," she answered, seating herself,
and taking up the fan again. "It is of no especial consequence. No, I
am not married, Mr. Heathcote. Angélique is the name of my little sister
Tita, of whom you have heard me speak; we first called her Petite, then
Tita. Mr. Pronando and Tita are married."

"The same Pronando to whom you were engaged?"

"Yes. He is--"

"Oh, I do not care to hear anything about _him_. Give me your hand,
Anne. Take off that ring."

"No; it was a present from my pupils," she said, drawing back with a
smile, but at the same time an inward sigh of relief that the disclosure
was over. "They--"

"If you knew what I suffered when I read that notice!" pursued
Heathcote, without heeding her. "The world seemed all wrong then
forever. For there was something about you, Anne, which brought out what
small good there was in my worthless self, and young as you were, you
yet in one way ruled me. I might have borne the separation itself, but
the thought that any other man should call you wife was intolerable to
me. I had--I still have it--a peculiar feeling about you. In some
mysterious way you had come to be the one real faith of my life. I was
bitterly hurt and angry when you ran away from me; but angry as I was, I
still searched for you, and would have searched again if Helen had
not--But never mind that now. If I have loved you, Anne, you have loved
me just as dearly. And now you are here, and I am here, let us ask no
more questions, but just--be happy."

"But," said the girl, breathlessly, "Helen--?" Then she stopped.

Heathcote was watching her. She tried to be calm, but her lips trembled.
A little skill in deception now, poor Anne, would have been of saving
help. Heathcote still watched her in silence--watched her until at last
she turned toward him.

"Did you not know," he said, slowly meeting her eyes--"did you not know
that Helen was--married?"

"Married? And not to you?"

There was a perceptible pause. Then he answered. "Not to me."

A silence followed. A whirl of conflicting feelings filled Anne's heart;
she turned her face away, blushing deeply, and conscious of it. "I hope
she is happy," she murmured at last, striving to speak naturally.

"I think she is." Then he stretched out his hands and took hers. "Turn
this way, so that I can see you," he said, beseechingly.

She turned, and it seemed to him that eyes never beheld so exquisite a
face.

"My darling, do you love me? Tell me so. If I was not a poor sick
fellow, I should take you in my arms and draw your sweet face down upon
my shoulder. But, as it is--" He moved nearer, and tried to lift himself
upon his elbow.

There was a feebleness in the effort which went to Anne's heart. She
loved him so deeply! They were both free now, and he was weak and ill.
With a sudden impulse she drew nearer, so that his head could rest on
her shoulder. He silently put out his hand; she took it in hers; then he
closed his eyes as if content.

As for Anne, she felt an outburst of happiness almost too great to bear;
her breath came and went so quickly that Heathcote perceived it, and
raising her hand he pressed it to his lips. Still he did not open his
eyes, or speak one word further to the blushing, beautiful woman whose
arm was supporting him, and whose eyes, timid yet loving, were resting
upon his face. If he had been strong, she would never have yielded so
far. But nothing appeals so powerfully to a woman's heart as the sudden
feebleness of a strong man--the man she loves. It is so new and
perilously sweet that he should be dependent upon her, that her arm
should be needed to support him, that his weak voice should call her
name with childish loneliness and impatience if she is not there. And so
Anne at last no longer turned her eyes away, but looked down upon the
face lying upon her shoulder--a face worn by illness and bronzed by
exposure, but the same face still, the face of the summer idler at
Caryl's, the face she had seen during those long hours in the sunset
arbor in the garden that morning, the face of the man who had followed
her westward, and who now, after long hopeless loneliness and pain, was
with her again, and her own forever. A rush of tenderest pity came over
her as she noted the hollows at the temples, and the dark shadows under
the closed eyes. She bent her head, and touched his closely cut hair
with her lips.

"Do not," said Heathcote.

She had not thought that he would perceive the girlish little caress;
she drew back quickly. Then he opened his eyes. It seemed almost as if
he had been trying to keep them shut.

"It is of no use," he murmured, looking at her. "Kiss me, Anne. Kiss me
once. Oh, my darling! my darling!" And with more strength than she
supposed him to possess, he threw his arms round her, drew her lovely
face down to his and kissed her fondly, not once, but many times.

And she, at first resisting love's sweet violence, at last yielded to
it; for, she loved him.

The rain still fell; it was growing toward twilight. Footsteps were
approaching.

"It is Diana," said Anne.

But Heathcote still held her.

"Please let me go," she said, smiling happily.

"Then tell me you love me."

"You know I do, Ward," she answered, blushing deeply, yet with all the
old honesty in her sincere eyes.

"Will you come and say good-night to me if I let you go now?"

"Yes."

Her beautiful lips were near his; he could not help kissing her once
more. Then he released her.

The room was dim. Opening the door, she saw Diana and July coming
through the shed toward her, their clothes wet and streaked with red
clay. Diana explained their long absence gravely. July had not been able
to restrain his curiosity about the dead soldier, and when he finally
found his wife, where she was searching for "miss," they were both so
far up the mountain that he announced his intention of going to "find
the pore fellow anyway," and that she might go with him or return
homeward as she pleased.

"Sence he would go, it was better fo' me to go too, miss," said the
black wife, glancing at her husband with some severity. "An' while we
was about it, we jess buried him."

The sternly honest principles of Diana countenanced no rifling of
pockets, no thefts of clothing; she would not trust July alone with the
dead man. Who knew what temptation there might be in the shape of a
pocket-knife? Without putting her fears into words, however--for she
always carefully guarded her husband's dignity--she accompanied him,
stood by while he made his examination, and then waited alone in the
ravine while he went to a farm-house a mile or two distant and returned
with two other blacks, who assisted in digging the grave. The rain
pattered down upon the leaves overhead, and at last reached her and the
dead, whose face she had reverently covered with her clean white apron.
When all was ready, they carefully lowered the body to its last
resting-place, first lining the hollow with fresh green leaves,
according to the rude unconscious poetry which the negroes, left to
themselves, often display. Diana had then kneeled down and "offered a
powerfu' prayer," so July said. Then, having made a "firs'-rate moun'
ober him," they had come away, leaving him to his long repose.

Half an hour later the Redds returned also. By contrast with the
preceding stillness, the little house seemed full to overflowing. Anne
busied herself in household tasks, and let the others wait upon the
patient. But she did not deny herself the pleasure of looking at him
from the other side of the room now and then, and she smiled brightly
whenever his eyes met hers and gave back her mute salutation.

Heathcote was so much better that only July was to watch that night;
Diana was to enjoy an unbroken night's rest, with a pillow and a blanket
upon the hay in the barn. July went out to arrange this bed for his
wife, and then, as the patient was for the moment left alone, Anne stole
down from her loft to keep her promise.

"Good-night," she murmured, bending over him. "Do not keep me,
good-night."

He drew her toward him, but, laughing lightly and happily, she slipped
from his grasp and was gone.

When July returned, there was no one there but his patient, who did not
have so quiet a night as they had anticipated, being restless, tormented
apparently by troubled dreams.



CHAPTER XXVI.

     "My only wickedness is that I love you; my only goodness, the
     same."--ANONYMOUS.

     "A Durwaish in his prayer said: 'O God, show kindness toward the
     wicked; for on the good Thou hast already bestowed kindness enough
     by having created them virtuous.'"--SAADI.


Anne passed the next day in the same state of vivid happiness. The mere
joy of the present was enough for her; she thought not as yet of the
future, of next month, next week, or even to-morrow. It sufficed that
they were there together, and free without wrong to love each other.
During the morning there came no second chance for their being alone,
and Heathcote grew irritated as the slow hours passed. Farmer Redd
esteemed it his duty, now that he was at home again, to entertain his
guest whenever, from his open eyes, he judged him ready for
conversation; and Mrs. Redd, July, and Diana seemed to have grown into
six persons at least, from their continuous appearances at the door. At
last, about five o'clock, Anne was left alone in the room, and his
impatient eyes immediately summoned her. Smiling at his irritation, she
sat down by the bedside and took up the fan.

"You need not do that," he said; "or rather, yes, do. It will keep you
here, at any rate. Where _have_ you been all day?"

They could talk in low tones unheard; but through the open door Mrs.
Redd and Diana were visible, taking down clothes from the line.
Heathcote watched them for a moment, and then looked at his nurse with
silent wistfulness.

"But it is a great happiness merely to be together," said Anne,
answering the look in words.

"Yes, I know it; but yet--Tell me, Anne, do you love me?"

"You know I do; in truth, you have told me you knew it more times than
was generous," she answered, almost gayly. She was fairly light-hearted
now with happiness.

"That is not what I want. Look at me and tell me; do, dear." He spoke
urgently, almost feverishly; a sombre restless light burned in his eyes.

And then she bent forward and looked at him with so much love that his
inmost heart was stirred. "I love you with all my heart, all my being,"
she murmured, even the fair young beauty of her face eclipsed by the
light from the soul within. He saw then what he had seen before--how
deep was her love for him. But this time there was in it no fear; only
perfect trust.

He turned his head away as if struggling with some hidden emotion. But
Anne, recovering herself, fell back into her former content, and began
to talk with the child-like ease of happiness. She told him of her life,
all that had happened since their parting. Once or twice, when her story
approached their past, and she made some chance inquiry, he stopped her.
"Do not ask questions," he said; "let us rest content with what we
have;" and she, willing to follow his fancy, smiled and refrained. He
lay silently watching her as she talked. Her faith in him was absolute;
it was part of her nature, and he knew her nature. It was because she
was what she was that he had loved her, when all the habits and purposes
of his life were directly opposed to it.

"Anne," he said, "when will you marry me?"

"Whenever you wish," she answered, with what was to him the sweetest
expression of obedience that a girl's pure eyes ever held.

"Will you go with me, as soon as I am able, and let some clergyman in
the nearest village marry us?"

"I would rather have Miss Lois come, and little André; still, Ward, it
shall be as you wish."

[Illustration: "WEAK, HOLDING ON BY THE TREES."]

He took her hand, and laid his hot cheek upon it; a moisture gathered in
his eyes. "You trust me entirely. You would put your hand in mine
to-night and go out into the world with me unquestioning?"

"Yes."

"Kiss me once, love--just once more." His face was altering; its faint
color had faded, and a brown pallor was taking its place.

"You are tired," said Anne, regretfully; "I have talked to you too
long." What he had said made no especial impression upon her; of course
she trusted him.

"Kiss me," he said again; "only once more, love." There was a strange
dulled look in his eyes; she missed the expression which had lain there
since the avowal of the day before. She turned; there was no one in
sight--the women had gone to the end of the garden. She bent over and
kissed him with timid tenderness, and as her lips touched his cheek,
tears stole from his eyes under the closed lashes. Then, as steps were
approaching, he turned his face toward the wall, and covered his eyes
with his hand. She thought that he was tired, that he had been overtaxed
by all that had happened, and going out softly she cautioned the others.
"Do not go in at present; I think he is falling asleep."

"Well, then, I'll jest take this time to run across to Miss Pendleton's
and git some of that yere fine meal; I reckon the captain will like a
cake of it for supper," said Mrs. Redd. "And, Di, you go down to
Dawson's and git a young chicken for briling. No one need say as how the
captain don't have enough to eat yere."

July was left in charge. Anne took her straw hat, passed through the
garden, and into the wood-lot behind, where she strolled to and fro,
looking at the hues of the sunset through the trees, although not in
reality conscious of the colors at all, save as part of the great
boundless joy of the day.

She had been there some time, when a sound roused her; she lifted her
eyes. Was it a ghost approaching?

Weak, holding on by the trees, a shadow of his former self, it was Ward
Heathcote who was coming toward her as well as he could, swerving a
little now and then, and moving unsteadily, yet walking. July had
deserted his post, and the patient, left alone, had risen, dressed
himself unaided, and was coming to find her.

With a cry she went to meet him, and drew him down upon a fallen tree
trunk. "What _can_ you mean?" she said, kneeling down to support him.

"Do not," he answered (and the voice was unlike Heathcote's). "I will
move along so that I can lean against this tree. Come where I can see
you, Anne; I have something to say."

"Let us first go back to the house. Then you can say it."

But he only made a motion of refusal, and, startled by his manner, she
came and stood before him as he desired. He began to speak at once, and
rapidly.

"Anne, I have deceived you. Helen is married; but _I_--am her husband."

She gazed at him. Not a muscle or feature had stirred, yet her whole
face was altered.

"I did not mean to deceive you; there was no plan. It was a wild
temptation that swept over me suddenly when I found that you were
free--not married as I had thought; that you still loved me, and that
you--did not know. I said to myself, let me have the sweetness of her
love for one short day, one short day only, and then I will tell her
all. Yet I might have let it go on for a while longer, Anne, if it had
not been for your own words this afternoon: you would go with me
anywhere, at any time, trusting me utterly, loving me as you only can
love. Your faith has humiliated me; your unquestioning trust has made me
ashamed. And so I have come to tell you the deception, and to tell you
also that I love you so that I will no longer trust myself. I do not say
that I can not, but that I will not. And I feel the strongest
self-reproach of my life that I took advantage of your innocent faith to
draw out, even for that short time, the proof which I did not need; for
ever since that morning in the garden, Anne, I have known that you loved
me. It was that which hurt me in your marriage. But you are so sweet,
so dangerously sweet to me, and I--have not been accustomed to deny
myself. This is no excuse; I do not offer it as such. But remember what
kind of a man I have been; remember that I love you, and--forgive me."

For the first time he now looked at her. Still and white as a snow
statue, she met his gaze mutely.

"I can say no more, Anne, unless you tell me you forgive me."

She did not answer. He moved as if to rise and come to her, but she
stretched out her hand to keep him back.

"You are too weak," she murmured, hurriedly. "Yes, yes, I forgive you."

"You will wish to know how it all happened," he began again, and his
voice showed his increasing exhaustion.

"No; I do not care to hear."

"I will write it, then."

There was a momentary pause; he closed his eyes. The girl, noting, amid
her own suffering, the deathly look upon his face, came to his side.
"You must go back to the house," she said. "Will my arm be enough? Or
shall I call July?"

He looked at her; a light came back into his eyes. "Anne," he whispered,
"would not the whole world be well lost to us if we could have but love
and each other?"

She returned his gaze. "Yes," she said, "it would--if happiness were
all."

"Then you _would_ be happy with me, darling?"

"Yes."

"Alone with me, and--in banishment?"

"In banishment, in disgrace, in poverty, pain, and death," she answered,
steadily.

"Then you will go with me, trusting to me only?" He was holding her
hands now, and she did not withdraw them.

"No," she answered; "never. If happiness were all, I said. But it is not
all. There is something nearer, higher than happiness." She paused. Then
rapidly and passionately these words broke from her: "Ward, Ward, you
are far more than my life to me. Do not kill me, kill my love for you,
my faith in you, by trying to tempt me more. You could not succeed; I
tell you plainly you could never succeed; but it is not on that account
I speak. It is because it would kill me to lose my belief in you, my
love, my only, only love!"

"But I am not so good as you think," murmured Heathcote, leaning his
head against her. His hands, still holding hers, were growing cold.

"But you are brave. And you _shall_ be true. Go back to Helen, and try
to do what is right, as _I_ also shall try."

"But you--that is different. _You_ do not care."

"Not care!" she repeated, and her voice quivered and broke. "You _know_
that is false."

"It is. Forgive me."

"Promise me that you will go back; promise for my sake, Ward. Light
words are often spoken about a broken heart; but I think, if you fail me
now, my heart will break indeed."

"What must I do?"

"Go back to Helen--to your life, whatever it is."

"And shall I see you again?"

"No."

"It is too hard, too hard," he whispered, putting his arms round her.

But she unclasped them. "I have your promise?" she said.

"No."

"Then I _take_ it." And lightly touching his forehead with her lips, she
turned and was gone.

When July and Diana came to bring back their foolhardy patient, they
found him lying on the earth so still and cold that it seemed as if he
were dead. That night the fever appeared again. But there was only Diana
to nurse him now; Anne was gone.

Farmer Redd acted as guide and escort back to Peterson's Mill; but the
pale young nurse would not stop, begging Dr. Flower to send her onward
immediately to Number Two. She was so worn and changed that the surgeon
feared that fever had already attacked her, and he sent a private note
to the surgeon of Number Two, recommending that Miss Douglas should at
once be returned to Number One, and, if possible, sent northward to her
home. But when Anne arrived at Number One, and saw again the sweet face
of Mrs. Barstow, when she felt herself safely surrounded by the old
work, she said that she would stay for a few days longer. While her
hands were busy, she could think; as she could not sleep, she would
watch. She felt that she had now to learn life entirely anew; not only
herself, but the very sky, sunshine, and air. The world was altered.

On the seventh morning a letter came; it was from Heathcote, and had
been forwarded from Peterson's Mill. She kept it until she had a
half-hour to herself, and then, going to the bank of the river, she sat
down under the trees and opened it. Slowly; for it might be for good, or
it might be for evil; but, in any case, it was her last. She would not
allow herself to receive or read another.

It was a long letter, written with pencil upon coarse blue-lined paper.
After saying that the fever had disappeared, and that before long he
should try to rejoin his regiment, the words went on as follows:

"I said that I would write and tell you all. When you ran away from me
last year, I was deeply hurt; I searched for you, but could find no
clew. Then I went back eastward, joined the camping party, and after a
day or two returned with them to Caryl's. No one suspected where I had
been. From Caryl's we all went down to the city together, and the winter
began.

"I was, in a certain way, engaged to Helen; yet I was not bound. Nor was
she. I liked her: she had known how to adapt herself to me always. But I
had never been in any haste; and I wondered sometimes why she held to
me, when there were other men, worth more in every way than Ward
Heathcote, who admired her as much as I did. But I did not then know
that she loved me. I know it now.

"After our return to the city, I never spoke of you; but now and then
she mentioned your name of her own accord, and I--listened. She was much
surprised that you did not write to her; she knew no more where you
were than I did, and hoped every day for a letter; so did I. But you
did not write.

"All this time--I do not like to say it, yet it is part of the
story--she made herself my slave. There was nothing I could say or do,
no matter how arbitrary, to which she did not yield, in which she did
not acquiesce. No word concerning marriage was spoken, even our former
vague lovers' talk had ceased; for, after you hurt me so deeply, Anne, I
had not the heart for it. My temper was anything but pleasant. The
winter moved on; I had no plan; I let things take their course. But I
always expected to find you in some way, to see you again, until--that
marriage notice appeared. I took it to Helen. 'It is Anne, I suppose?' I
said. She read it, and answered, 'Yes.' She was deceived, just as I
was."

Here Anne put down the letter, and looked off over the river. Helen knew
that Tita's name was Angélique, and that the sister's was plain Anne. It
was a lie direct. But Heathcote did not know it. "He shall never know
through me," she thought, with stern sadness.

The letter went on: "I think she had not suspected me before, Anne--I
mean in connection with you: she was always thinking of Rachel. But she
did then, and I saw it. I was so cut up about it that I concealed
nothing. About a week after that she was thrown from her carriage. They
thought she was dying, and sent for me. Miss Teller was in the hall
waiting; she took me into the library, and said that the doctors thought
Helen might live if they could only rouse her, but that she seemed to be
sinking into a stupor. With tears rolling down her cheeks, she said,
'Ward, I know you love her, and she has long loved you. But you have
said nothing, and it has worn upon her. Go to her and save her life.
_You_ can.'

"She took me into the room, and went out, closing the door. Helen was
lying on a couch; I thought she was already dead. But when I bent over
her and spoke her name, she opened her eyes, and knew me immediately. I
was shocked by her death-like face. It was all so sudden. I had left her
the night before, dressed for a ball. She whispered to me to lift her
in my arms, so that she might die there; but I was afraid to move her,
lest her suffering should increase. She begged with so much earnestness,
however, that at last, gently as I could, I lifted and held her. 'I am
going to die,' she whispered, 'so I need not care any more, or try. I
have always loved you, Ward. I loved you even when I married Richard.' I
thought her mind was wandering; and she must have seen that I did,
because she spoke again, and this time aloud. 'I am perfectly myself. I
tell you that I have always loved you; you _shall_ know it before I
die.' Miss Teller said, 'And he loves you also, my darling child; he has
told me so. Now, for _his_ sake you will try to recover and be his
wife.'

"We were married two days later. The doctors advised it, because when I
was not there Helen sank rapidly. I took care of the poor girl for
weeks; she ate only from my hand. As she grew stronger, I taught her to
walk again, and carried her in my arms up and down stairs. When at last
she began to improve, she gained strength rapidly; she is now well, save
that she will never be able to walk far or dance. I think she is happy.
It seems a feeble thing to say, and yet it is something--I am always
kind to Helen.

"As for you--it was all a wild, sudden temptation.

"I will go back to my regiment (as to my being in the army, after that
attack on Sumter it seemed to me the only thing to do). I will make no
attempt to follow you. In short, I will do--as well as I can. It may not
be very well.

W. H."

       *       *       *       *       *

That was all. Anne, miserable, lonely, broken-hearted, as she was, felt
that she had in one way conquered. She leaned her head against the tree
trunk, and sat for some time with her eyes closed. Then she tore the
letter into fragments, threw them into the river, and watched the slow
current bear them away. When the last one had disappeared, she rose and
went back to the hospital.

"The clean clothes have been brought in, Miss Douglas," said the
surgeon's assistant. "Can you sort them?"

"Yes," she replied. And dull life moved on again.



CHAPTER XXVII.

     "O Toil, O Loneliness, O Poverty, doing the right makes ye no
     easier."


The next morning the new nurses, long delayed, sent by the Weston Aid
Society, arrived at Number One, and Mary Crane, Mrs. Barstow, and Anne
were relieved from duty, and returned to their Northern home. During the
journey Anne decided that she must not remain in Weston. It was a hard
decision, but it seemed to her inevitable. This man whom she loved knew
that her home was there. He had said that he would not follow her; but
could she depend upon his promise? Even in saying that he would try to
do as well as he could, he had distinctly added that it might "not be
very well." She must leave no temptation in his path, or her own. She
must put it out of his power to find her, out of hers to meet him. She
must go away, leaving no trace behind.

She felt deeply thankful that at the present moment her movements were
not cramped by the wants of the children; for if they had been in
pressing need, she must have staid--have staid and faced the fear and
the danger. Now she could go. But whither? It would be hard to go out
into the broad world again, this time more solitary than before. After
much thought, she decided to go eastward to the half-house,
Jeanne-Armande having given her permission to use it. It would be at
least a shelter over her head, and probably old Nora would be glad to
come and stay with her. With this little home as background, she hoped
to be able to obtain pupils in the city, little girls to whom she could
be day governess, giving lessons in music and French. But the pupils:
how could she obtain them? Whose influence could she hope for? She could
not go to Tante, lest Helen should hear of her presence. At first it
seemed as if there were no one; she went over and over in vain her
meagre list of friends. Suddenly a remembrance of the little German
music-master, who had taught classical music, and hated Belzini, came to
her; he was no longer at the Moreau school, and she had his address. He
had been especially kind. She summoned her courage and wrote to him.
Herr Scheffel's reply came promptly and cordially. "I have your letter
received, and I remember you entirely. I know not now all I can promise,
as my season of lessons is not yet begun, but two little girls you can
have at once for scales, though much they will not pay. But with your
voice, honored Fräulein, a place in a church choir is the best, and for
that I will do my very best endeavor. But while you make a beginning,
honored Fräulein, take my wife and I for friends. Our loaf and our cup,
and our hearts too, are all yours."

The little German had liked Anne: this pupil, and this one only, had
cheered the dull hours he had spent in the little third-story room,
where he, the piano, and the screen had their cramped abode. Anne smiled
as she gratefully read his warm-hearted letter, his offer of his cup and
his loaf; she could hear him saying it--his "gup" and his "loave," and
"two liddle girls for sgales, though moche they will not bay." She had
written to old Nora also, and the answer (a niece acting as scribe)
declared, with Hibernian effusiveness, and a curious assemblage of
negatives, that she would be glad to return to the half-house on
Jeanne-Armande's old terms, namely, her living, but no wages. She did
not add that, owing to rheumatism, she was unable to obtain work where
she was; she left Anne to find that out for herself. But even old Nora,
bandaged in red flannel, her gait reduced to a limp, was a companion
worth having when one is companionless. During the interval, Anne had
received several letters from Miss Lois. Little André was better, but
the doctors advised that he should remain where he was through the
winter. Miss Lois wrote that she was willing to remain, in the hope of
benefit to the suffering boy, and how great a concession this was from
the careful housekeeper and home-lover only Anne could know. (But she
did not know how close the child had grown to Miss Lois's heart.) This
new plan would prevent their coming to Weston at present. Thankful now
for what would have been, under other circumstances, a great
disappointment, Anne resigned her position in the Weston school, and
went away, at the last suddenly, and evading all inquiries. Mrs. Green
was absent, the woman in temporary charge of the lodgings was not
curious, and the lonely young teacher was able to carry out her design.
She left Weston alone in the cold dawn of a dark morning, her face
turned eastward.

It was a courageous journey; only Herr Scheffel to rely upon, and the
great stony-hearted city to encounter in the hard struggle for daily
bread. Yet she felt that she must not linger in Weston; and she felt,
too, that she must not add herself to Miss Lois's cares, but rather make
a strong effort to secure a new position as soon as possible, in order
to send money to André. She thought that she would be safely hidden at
the half-house. Heathcote knew that Jeanne-Armande was in Europe, and
therefore he would not think of her in connection with Lancaster, but
would suppose that she was still in Weston, or, if not there, then at
home on her Northern island. In addition, one is never so well hidden as
in the crowds of a large city. But when she saw the spires, as the train
swept over the salt marshes, her heart began to beat: the blur of roofs
seemed so vast, and herself so small and alone! But she made the transit
safely, and drove up to the door of the half-house in the red wagon,
with Li as driver, at sunset. A figure was sitting on the steps outside,
with a large bundle at its feet; it was Nora. Anne opened the door with
Jeanne-Armande's key, and they entered together.

"Oh, wirra, wirra! Miss Douglas dear, and did ye know she'd taken out
all the furrrniture? Sure the ould shell is impty." It was true, and
drearily unexpected.

Jeanne-Armande, finding time to make a flying visit to her country
residence the day before she sailed, had been seized with the sudden
suspicion that certain articles were missing, notably a green wooden
pail and a window-curtain. The young priest, who had met her there by
appointment, and opened the door for her with his key (what mazes of
roundabout ways homeward, in order to divert suspicion, Jeanne-Armande
required of him that day!), was of the opinion that she was mistaken.
But no; Jeanne-Armande was never mistaken. She knew just where she had
left that pail, and as for the pattern of the flowers upon that curtain,
she knew every petal. Haunted by a vision of the abstraction of all her
household furniture, piece by piece, during her long absence--tables,
chairs, pans, and candle-sticks following each other through back
windows, moved by invisible hands--she was seized with an inspiration on
the spot: she would sell off all her furniture by public sale that very
hour, and leave only an empty house behind her. She knew that she was
considered a mystery in the neighborhood; probably, then, people would
come to a Mystery's sale, and pay good prices for a Mystery's furniture.
Of one thing she was certain--no buyer in that region knew how to buy
for prices as low as she herself had paid. Her method of buying was
genius. In five minutes a boy and a bell were secured, in half an hour
the whole neighborhood had heard the announcement, and, as mademoiselle
had anticipated, flocked to the sale. She attended to all negotiations
in person, still in her rôle of a Mystery, and sailed for Europe the
next day in triumph, having in her pocket nearly twice the sum she had
originally expended. She did not once think of Anne in connection with
this. Although she had given her authority to use the half-house, and
had intrusted to her care her own key, it seemed almost impossible that
the young girl would wish to use it. For was she not admirably
established at Weston, with all the advantages of mademoiselle's own
name and position behind her?

And thus it was that only bare walls met Anne's eyes as, followed by
Nora, she went from room to room, asking herself silently what she
should do in this new emergency that confronted her. One door they found
locked; it was the door of the store-room: there must, then, be
something within. Li was summoned to break the lock, and nothing loath,
he broke it so well that it was useless from that hour. Yes, here was
something--the unsold articles, carefully placed in order. A chair, a
kitchen table, an iron tea-kettle with a hole in it, and two straw
beds--the covers hanging on nails, and the straw tied in bundles
beneath; there was also a collection of wooden boxes, which mademoiselle
had endeavored, but without success, to dispose of as "old, superior,
and well-seasoned kindling-wood." It was a meagre supply of furniture
with which to begin housekeeping, a collection conspicuous for what it
lacked. But Anne, summoning courage, directed Li to carry down stairs
all the articles, such as they were, while she cheered old Nora with the
promise to buy whatever was necessary, and asked her to unpack the few
supplies she had herself purchased on her way through the city. The
kitchen stove was gone; but there was a fire-place, and Li made a bright
fire with some of the superior kindling-wood, mended the kettle, filled
it, and hung it over the crackling flame. The boy enjoyed it all
greatly. He stuffed the cases with straw, and dragged them down stairs,
he brought down the chair and table, and piled up boxes for a second
seat, he pinned up Anne's shawl for a curtain, and then volunteered to
go to the store for whatever was necessary, insisting, however, upon the
strict allowance of two spoons, two plates, and two cups only. It was
all like _Robinson Crusoe_ and _The Swiss Family Robinson_, and more
than two would infringe upon the severe paucity required by those
admirable narratives. When he returned with his burden, he affably
offered to remain and take supper with them; in truth, it was difficult
to leave such a fascinating scene as two straw beds on the floor, and a
kettle swinging over a hearth fire, like a gypsy camp--at least as Li
imagined it, for that essence of vagrant romanticism is absent from
American life, the so-called gypsies always turning out impostors, with
neither donkeys, tents, nor camp fires, and instead of the ancient and
mysterious language described by Borrow, using generally the well-known
and unpoetical dialect that belongs to modern and Americanized Erin. At
last, however, Li departed; Anne fastened the door. Old Nora was soon
asleep on the straw, but not her young mistress, in whose mind figures,
added together and set opposite each other, were inscribing themselves
like letters of fire on a black wall. She had not expected any such
outlay as would now be required, and the money she had brought with her
would not admit it. At last, troubled and despairing, she rose from her
hard couch, went to the window, and looked out. Overhead the stars were
serenely shining; her mind went back to the little window of her room in
the old Agency. These were the same stars; God was the same God; would
He not show her a way? Quieted, she returned to her straw, and soon fell
asleep.

In the morning they had a gypsy breakfast. The sun shone brightly, and
even in the empty rooms the young day looked hopeful. The mistress of
the house went in to the city on the morning train, and in spite of all
lacks, in spite of all her trouble and care, it was a beautiful girl who
entered the train at Lancaster station, and caused for a moment the
chronically tired business men to forget their damp-smelling morning
papers as they looked at her. For Anne was constantly growing more
beautiful; nothing had had power as yet to arrest the strong course of
nature. Sorrow had but added a more ripened charm, since now the old
child-like openness was gone, and in its place was a knowledge of the
depth and the richness and the pain of life, and a reticence. The open
page had been written upon, and turned down. Riding on toward the city,
she was, however, as unconscious of any observation she attracted as if
she had been a girl of marble. Hers was not one of those natures which
can follow at a time but one idea; yet something of the intensity which
such natures have--the nature of all enthusiasts and partisans--was
hers, owing to the strength of the few feelings which absorbed her. For
the thousand-and-one changing interests, fancies, and impulses which
actuate most young girls there was in her heart no room. It was not that
she thought and imagined less, but that she loved more.

Herr Scheffel received her in his small parlor. It was over the shop of
a musical instrument maker, a German also. Anne looked into his small
show-window while she was waiting for the street door to be opened,
noted the great brass tubes disposed diagonally, the accordions in a
rampart, the pavement of little music-boxes with views of Switzerland on
their lids, and the violins in apotheosis above. Behind the inner glass
she saw the instrument maker himself dusting a tambourine. She imagined
him playing on it all alone on rainy evenings for company, with the
other instruments looking on in a friendly way. Here Herr Scheffel's
cheery wife opened the door, and upon learning the name, welcomed her
visitor heartily, and ushered her up the narrow stairway.

"How you haf zhanged!" said Herr Scheffel, lifting his hands in
astonishment as he met her at the entrance. "But not for the vorse,
Fräulein. On the gontrary!" He bowed gallantly, and brought forward his
best arm-chair, then bowed again, sat down opposite, folded his hands,
and was ready for business or pleasure, as she saw fit to select. Anne
had come to him hoping, but not expecting. Fortune favored her, however;
or rather, as usual, some one had taken hold of Fortune, and forced her
to extend her favor, the some one in this instance being the little
music-master himself, who had not only bestowed two of his own scholars
as a beginning, but had also obtained for her a trial place in a church
choir. He now went with her without delay to the residence of the little
pupils, and arranged for the first lesson; then he took her to visit the
contralto of the choir, whose good-will he had already besought for the
young stranger. The contralto was a thin, disappointed little woman,
with rather a bad temper; but as she liked Anne's voice, and hated the
organist and tenor, she mentally organized an alliance offensive and
defensive on the spot, contralto, soprano, and basso against the other
two, with possibilities as to the rector thrown in. For, as the rector
regularly attended the rehearsals (under the mild delusion that he was
directing the choir), the contralto hoped that the new soprano's face,
as well as voice, would draw him out of his guarded neutrality, and
give to their side the balance of power. So, being in a friendly mood,
she went over the anthems with Anne, and when the little rehearsal was
ended, Herr Scheffel took her thin hand, and bowed over it profoundly.
Miss Pratt was a native of Maine, and despised romance, yet she was not
altogether displeased with that bow. Sunday morning came; the new voice
conquered. Anne was engaged to fill the vacant place in the choir.
Furniture was now purchased for the empty little home, but very
sparingly. It looked as though it would be cold there in the winter.
But--winter was not yet come.

Slowly she gained other pupils; but still only little girls "for the
sgales," as Herr Scheffel said. The older scholars for whom she had
hoped did not as yet seek her. But the little household lived.

In the mean while Père Michaux on the island and Miss Lois at the
springs had both been taken by surprise by Anne's sudden departure from
Weston. They knew nothing of it until she was safely in the half-house.
But poor Miss Lois, ever since the affair of Tita and Rast, had
cynically held that there was no accounting for anybody or anything in
this world, and she therefore remained silent. Père Michaux divined that
there was something behind; but as Anne offered no explanation, he asked
no question. In truth, the old priest had a faith in her not unlike that
which had taken possession of Heathcote. What was it that gave these two
men of the world this faith? It was not her innocence alone, for many
are innocent. It was her sincerity, combined with the peculiar intensity
of feeling which lay beneath the surface--an intensity of which she was
herself unconscious, but which their eyes could plainly perceive, and,
for its great rarity, admire, as the one perfect pearl is admired among
the thousands of its compeers by those who have knowledge and experience
enough to appreciate its flawlessness. But the majority have not this
knowledge; they admire mere size, or a pear-like shape, or perhaps some
eccentricity of color. Thus the perfect one is guarded, and the world is
not reduced to despair.

During these days in the city Anne had thought often of Helen. Her
engagements were all in another quarter, distant from Miss Teller's
residence; she would not have accepted pupils in that neighborhood. But
it was not probable that any would be offered to her in so fashionable a
locality. She did not allow herself even to approach that part of the
city, or to enter the streets leading to it, yet many times she found
herself longing to see the house in spite of her determination, and
thinking that if she wore a thick veil, so that no one would recognize
her, there would be no danger, and she might catch a glimpse of Miss
Teller, or even of Helen. But she never yielded to these longings.
October passed into November, and November into December, and she did
not once transgress her rules.

Early in December she obtained a new pupil, her first in vocal music.
She gave two lessons without any unusual occurrence, and then--Of all
the powers that make or mar us, the most autocratic is Chance. Let not
the name of Fate be mentioned in its presence; let Luck hide its head.
For Luck is but the man himself, and Fate deals only with great
questions; but Chance attacks all irrelevantly and at random. Though man
avoids, arranges, labors, and plans, one stroke from its wand destroys
all. Anne had avoided, arranged, labored, and planned, yet on her way to
give the third lesson to this new pupil she came suddenly upon--Helen.

[Illustration: "SAW HER SLOWLY ASCEND THE HOUSE STEPS."]

On the opposite side a carriage had stopped; the footman opened the
door, and a servant came from the house to assist its occupant. Anne's
eyes by chance were resting upon the group. She saw a lady lifted to the
pavement; then saw her slowly ascend the house steps, while a maid
followed with shawls and wraps. It was Helen. Anne's eyes recognized her
instantly. She was unchanged--proud, graceful, and exquisitely attired
as ever, in spite of her slow step and need of assistance. Involuntarily
the girl opposite had paused; then, recovering herself, she drew down
her veil and walked on, her heart beating rapidly, her breath coming in
throbs. But no one had noticed her. Helen was already within the
house, and the servant was closing the door; then the footman came
down the steps, sprang up to his place, and the carriage rolled away.

She went on to her pupil's residence, and, quietly as she could, asked,
upon the first opportunity, her question.

"A lady who was assisted up the steps? Oh yes, I know whom you mean; it
is Mrs. Ward Heathcote," replied the girl-pupil. "Isn't she too lovely!
Did you see her face?"

"Yes. Does she live in that house?"

"I am delighted to say that she _does_. She used to live with her aunt,
Miss Teller, but it seems that she inherited this old house over here
from her grandfather, who died not long ago, and she has taken a fancy
to live in it. Of course _I_ think all her fancies are seraphic, and
principally this one, since it has brought her near _us_. I look at her
half the time; just gaze and gaze!" Cora was sixteen, and very pretty;
she talked in the dialect of her age and set. Launched now on a favorite
topic, she rushed on, while the teacher, with downcast eyes, listened,
and rolled and unrolled the sheet of music in her hands. Mrs.
Heathcote's beauty; Mrs. Heathcote's wealth; Mrs. Heathcote's wonderful
costumes; Mrs. Heathcote's romantic marriage, after a fall from her
carriage; Mrs. Heathcote's husband, "_chivalrously_ in the army, with a
pair of _eyes_, Miss Douglas, which, I do assure you, are--well,
_murderously_ beautiful is not a word to express it! Not that he
_cares_. The most _indifferent_ person! Still, if you could _see_ them,
you would _know_ what I mean." Cora told all that she knew, and more
than she knew. The two households had no acquaintance, Anne learned; the
school-girl had obtained her information from other sources. There
would, then, be no danger of discovery in that way. The silent listener
could not help listening while Cora said that Captain Heathcote had not
returned home since his first departure; that he had been seriously ill
somewhere in the West, but having recovered, had immediately returned to
his regiment without coming home on furlough, as others always did,
after an illness, or even the pretense of one, which conduct Cora
considered so "perfectly grand" that she wondered "the papers" did not
"blazon it aloft." At last even the school-girl's volubility and
adjectives were exhausted, and the monologue came to an end. Then the
teacher gave her lesson, and the words she had heard sounded in her ears
like the roar of the sea in a storm--it seemed as though she must be
speaking loudly in order to drown it. But her pupil noticed nothing,
save that Miss Douglas was more quiet than usual, and perhaps more pale.
When she went away, she turned eastward, in order not to pass the house
a second time--the house that held Helen. But she need not have taken
the precaution; hers was not a figure upon which the eyes of Mrs.
Heathcote would be likely to dwell. In the city, unfashionable attire is
like the ring of Gyges, it renders the wearer, if not invisible, at
least unseen.

That night she could not sleep; she could do nothing but think of Helen,
Helen, her once dearly loved friend--Helen, his wife. She knew that she
must give up this new danger, and she knew also that she loved the
danger--these chances of a glimpse of Helen, Helen's home, and--yes, it
might be, at some future time, Helen's husband. But she conquered
herself again. In the morning she wrote a note to Cora's mother, saying
that she found herself unable to continue the lessons; as Cora had the
manuscript music-books which Dr. Douglas had himself prepared for his
daughter when she was a little girl on the island, she added that she
would come for them on Monday, and at the same time take leave of her
pupil, from whom she parted with regret.

Saturday and Sunday now intervened. At the choir rehearsal on Saturday a
foreboding came over her; occult malign influences seemed hovering in
the air. The tenor and organist, the opposition party, were ominously
affable. In this church there was, as in many another, an anomalous
"music committee," composed apparently of vestrymen, but in reality of
vestrymen's wives. These wives, spurred on secretly by the tenor and
organist, had decided that Miss Douglas was not the kind of soprano they
wished to have. She came into the city by train on the Sabbath day; she
was dressed so plainly and unfashionably that it betokened a want of
proper respect for the congregation; in addition, and in spite of this
plain attire, there was something about her which made "the gentlemen
turn and look at her." This last was the fatal accusation. Poor Anne
could not have disproved these charges, even if she had known what they
were; but she did not. Her foreboding of trouble had not been at fault
however, for on Monday morning came a formal note of dismissal, worded
with careful politeness; her services would not be required after the
following Sunday. It was a hard blow. But the vestrymen's wives
preferred the other candidate (friend of the organist and tenor), who
lived with her mother in the city, and patronized no Sunday trains;
whose garments were nicely adjusted to the requirements of the position,
following the fashions carefully indeed, but at a distance, and with
chastened salaried humility as well; who sang correctly, but with none
of that fervor which the vestrymen's wives considered so "out of place
in a church"; and whose face certainly had none of those outlines and
hues which so reprehensibly attracted "the attention of the gentlemen."
And thus Anne was dismissed.

It was a bitterly cold morning. The scantily furnished rooms of the
half-house looked dreary and blank; old Nora, groaning with rheumatism,
sat drawn up beside the kitchen stove. Anne, who had one French lesson
to give, and the farewell visit to make at the residence of Mrs.
Iverson, Cora's mother, went in to the city. She gave the lesson, and
then walked down to the Scheffels' lodging to bear the dark tidings of
her dismissal. The musical instrument maker's window was frosted nearly
to the top; but he had made a round hole inside with a hot penny, and he
was looking through it when Anne rang the street bell. It was startling
to see a human eye so near, isolated by the frost-work--an eye and
nothing more; but she was glad he could amuse himself even after that
solitary fashion. Herr Scheffel had not returned from his round of
lessons. Anne waited some time in the small warm crowded room, where
growing plants, canary-birds, little plaster busts of the great
musicians, the piano, and the stove crowded each other cheerfully, but
he did not come. Mrs. Scheffel urged her to remain all night. "It ees zo
beetter cold." But Anne took leave, promising to come again on the
morrow. It was after four o'clock, and darkness was not far distant; the
piercing wind swept through the streets, blowing the flinty dust before
it; the ground was frozen hard as steel. She made her farewell visit at
Mrs. Iverson's, took her music-books, and said good-by, facing the
effusive regrets of Cora as well as she could, and trying not to think
how the money thus relinquished would be doubly needed now. Then she
went forth into the darkening street, the door of the warm, brightly
lighted home closing behind her like a knell. She had chosen twilight
purposely for this last visit, in order that she might neither see nor
be seen. She shivered now as the wind struck her, clasped the heavy
books with one arm, and turned westward on her way to the railway
station. It seemed to her that the city held that night no girl so
desolate as herself.

As she was passing the street lamp at the first corner, some one stopped
suddenly. "Good heavens! Miss Douglas--Anne--is that you?" said a voice.
She looked up. It was Gregory Dexter.



CHAPTER XXVIII.

    "Loke who that ... most intendeth ay
     To do the generous deedes that he can,
     And take _him_ for the greatest gentleman."

     --CHAUCER.


"Anne! Is it you?" repeated Dexter.

"Yes," she replied, having seen that it was impossible to escape, since
he was standing directly in her path. Then she tried to smile. "I should
not have thought you would have known me in this twilight."

"I believe I should know you anywhere, even in total darkness. But where
are you going? I will accompany you."

"I am on my way to X station, to take a train."

"Let me carry those books for you. X station? That is at some distance;
would it not be better to have a carriage? Here, boy, run and call a
carriage. There will be a half-dollar for you if you make haste."

He was the same as ever, prompt, kind, and disposed to have his own way.
But Anne, who on another occasion might have objected, now stood beside
him unopposing. She _was_ weary, cold, and disheartened, and she was
glad he was there. He had made her take his arm immediately, and even
that small support was comforting. The carriage came, they rolled away,
Anne leaning back against the cushions, and breathing in the grateful
sense of being cared for and protected, taken from the desolate and
darkening streets which otherwise she must have traversed alone.

"I only arrived in town to-day," Dexter was saying; "and, on my way to a
friend's house where I am to dine, I intended calling upon Mrs.
Heathcote. I was going there when I met you. I should have inquired
about you immediately, for I have but just seen the account of the
disposal of Miss Vanhorn's estate, and was thinking of you. I supposed,
Miss Douglas, that you were to be her heir."

"No."

"She certainly allowed me to suppose so."

"I do not think she ever had any such intention," replied Anne.

"You are living near the city?"

"Yes; at Lancaster. I give lessons in town."

"And you come in and out on these freezing days, and walk to and from
the station?"

"It is not always so cold."

"Very well; I am going as far as Lancaster with you," said Dexter. "I
hope I shall be welcome."

"Mr. Dexter, please do not."

But he simply smiled and threw back his head in his old dictatorial way,
helped her from the carriage, bought tickets, secured for her the best
seat in the car, and took his place beside her; it seemed to Anne that
but a few minutes had passed when they heard "Lancaster," and stepping
out on the little platform, found the faithful Li in waiting, his
comforter tied over his ears, and jumping up and down to keep himself
warm. Anne had not ordered the red wagon, and he was not therefore
allowed to bring it out; but the little freckled knight-errant had
brought himself instead as faithful escort homeward.

"Is there no carriage here, or any sort of a vehicle?" said Dexter, in
his quick, authoritative way. "Boy, bring a carriage."

"There ain't none; but you can have the red wagon. Horse good, and wagon
first-rate. It'll be a dollar," answered Li.

"Go and get it, then."

The boy was gone like a dart, and in less time than any one else would
have taken, he was back with the wagon, and Mr. Dexter (in spite of her
remonstrance) was accompanying Anne homeward in the icy darkness. "But
you will lose the return train," she said.

"I intend to lose it."

When they stopped at the gate, no light was visible; Anne knocked, but
crippled old Nora was long in coming. When she did open the door, it was
a room nearly as cold as the air outside into which the guest was
ushered. As Li was obliged to return with the horse, his willing hands
were absent, and the young mistress of the house went out herself,
brought in candles and kindling-wood, and was stooping to light the
fire, when Dexter took the wood from her, led her to a chair, seated her
despotically, and made the fire himself. Then, standing before it, he
looked all round the room, slowly and markedly and in silence; afterward
his eyes came back to her. "So this is where you live--all the home you
have!"

"It is but a temporary home. Some day I hope to go back to the island,"
replied Anne.

"When you have, by teaching, made money enough to live upon, I suppose.
It looks like it _here_," he said, with sarcastic emphasis.

"It has not been so cold before," answered Anne. "The house has an empty
look, I acknowledge; that is because I supposed it was furnished; but
finding it bare, I decided to purchase only necessary articles. What is
the use of buying much for a temporary home?"

"Of course. So much better to do without, especially in this weather!"

"I assure you we have not been uncomfortable until, perhaps, to-night."

"May I ask the amount, Miss Douglas, of your present income?"

"I do not think you ought to ask," said the poverty-stricken young
mistress, bravely.

"But I do ask. And you--will answer."

"It has been, although not large, sufficient for our needs," replied
Anne, who, in spite of her desire to hide the truth from him, was yet
unable to put the statement into the present tense; but she hoped that
he would not notice it.

On the contrary, however, Dexter answered instantly: "Has been? Then it
is not now?"

"I have recently lost my place in a church choir; but I hope soon to
obtain another position."

"And in the mean time you live on--hope? Forgive me if I seem
inquisitive and even harsh, Miss Douglas; but you do not realize how all
this impresses me. The last time I saw you you were richly dressed, a
favorite in a luxurious circle, the reputed heiress of a large fortune.
Little more than a year passes, and I meet you in the street at
twilight, alone and desolate; I come to your home, and find it cold and
empty; I look at you, and note your dress. You can offer me nothing,
hardly a fire. It hurts me, Anne--hurts me deeply--to think that all
this time I have had every luxury, while _you_ have suffered."

"No, not suffered," she replied. But her voice trembled. This strong
assertive kindness touched her lonely heart keenly.

"Then if you have not suffered as yet--and I am thankful to hear you say
it--you will suffer; or rather you might have suffered if I had not met
you in time. But never again, Anne--never again. Why, my child, do you
not remember that I begged you to be my wife? Shall she who, if she had
willed it, would now have been so near and dear to me, be left to
encounter toil and privation, while _I_ have abundance? Never,
Anne--never!"

He left his place, took her hand, and held it in his warm grasp. There
was nothing save friendly earnestness in his eyes as they met her upward
look, and seeing this, she felt herself leaning as it were in spirit
upon him: she had indeed need of aid. He smiled, and comprehended all
without another word.

"I must go on the ten-o'clock train," he said, cheerfully, coming back
to daily life again. "And before I go, in some way or another, that good
Irish goblin of yours must manufacture a supper for me; from
appearances, I should say she had only to wave her broom-stick. When I
met you I was on my way to dine with some friends. What their estimation
of me is at this moment I am afraid to think; but that does not make me
any the less hungry. With your permission, therefore, I will take off
this heavy overcoat, and dine here." As he spoke he removed his large
shaggy overcoat--a handsome fur-lined Canadian garment, suited to his
strong figure and the bitter weather, appearing in evening dress, with a
little spray of fern in his button-hole. "Now," he said, "I am going out
to plead with the goblin in person."

"I will go," said Anne, laughing, won from her depression by his buoyant
manner.

"On the contrary, you will stay; and not only that, but seated precisely
where I placed you. I will encounter the goblin alone." He opened the
door, went through, and closed it behind him. Soon Anne heard the sound
of laughter in the kitchen, not only old Nora's hearty Irish mirth, but
Li's shriller voice added to it. For the faithful Li had hastened back,
after the old horse was housed, in order to be in readiness if Miss
Douglas, owing to her unexpected visitor, required anything. What Dexter
said and did in that bare, dimly lighted kitchen that night was never
known, save from results. But certainly he inspired both Nora, Li, and
the stove. He returned to the parlor, made up the fire with so much
skill that it shone out brightly, and then sat down, allowing Anne to
do nothing save lean back in the low chair, which he had cushioned for
her with his shaggy coat. Before long Li came in, first with four
lighted candles in new candlesticks, which he disposed about the room
according to his taste, and then, later, with table-cloth and plates for
the dining-table. The boy's face glowed with glee and exercise; he had
already been to the store twice on a run, and returned loaded and
breathless, but triumphant. After a while pleasant odors began to steal
in from the kitchen, underneath all the inspiring fragrance of coffee.
At last the door opened, and Nora herself hobbled in, bringing a covered
dish, and then a second, and then a third, Li excitedly handing them to
her from the kitchen entrance. When her ambition was aroused, the old
Irishwoman was a good cook. It had been aroused to-night by Dexter's
largess, and the result was an appetizing although nondescript repast,
half dinner, half high-tea. The room was now brightly illuminated; the
fire-light danced on the bare floor. Dexter, standing by the table, tall
and commanding, his face full of friendliness, seemed to Anne a
personification of kindly aid and strength. She no longer made any
objection, but obeyed him smilingly, even as to where she should sit,
and what she should eat. His sudden appearance, at the moment of all
others when everything seemed to have failed, was comfort too
penetrating to be resisted. And why should it be resisted? There was no
suggestion in his manner of a return to the old subject; on the
contrary, he had himself spoken of it as a thing of the past. He would
not repeat his old request--would not wish to repeat it.

After the repast was over, and Nora and Li were joyously feasting in the
kitchen, he drew his chair nearer to hers, and said, "Now tell me about
yourself, and what your life has been since we parted." For up to this
time, after those few strong words in the beginning, he had spoken only
on general topics, or at least upon those not closely connected with
herself.

Anne, however, merely outlined her present life and position, clearly,
but without explanation.

"And Mrs. Heathcote does not know you are here?"

"She does not know, and she must not know. I have your promise, Mr.
Dexter, to reveal nothing."

"You have my promise, and I will keep it. Still, I do not comprehend--"

"It is not possible that you should comprehend. And in addition to
keeping my secret, Mr. Dexter, you must tell _me_ nothing of her, or of
any of the people who were at Caryl's."

"It is a great gulf fixed?"

"Yes."

He looked at her in silence; she was quiet and thoughtful, her gaze
resting on the fire. After a while she said again, "You will remember?"

"Yes. I never had the talent of forgetting."

Soon afterward he went away, with Li as guide. As he took her hand at
parting, he said, "Are you coming in to the city to-morrow?"

"Yes; I must see Herr Scheffel."

"Will you let me meet you somewhere?"

After a moment's hesitation, she answered, "I would rather not."

"As you please. But I shall come and see you on Wednesday, then.
Good-night." He went out in the intense country darkness, preceded by
Li, who had disposed his comforter about him in such a manner as to look
as much as possible like the shaggy overcoat, which, in his eyes, was
fit for the Czar of all the Russias in his diamond crown.

The next day was even colder. Anne went in to the city, gave one lesson,
and then faced the bitter wind on her way down to Herr Scheffel's
lodgings. Her heart was not so heavy, in spite of the cold, as it had
been the day before, since between that time and this she had heard the
cordial voice of a friend.

The musical instrument maker's window was entirely frozen over, the
frost was like a white curtain shutting him out from the world; it was
to be hoped that he found comfort in playing on his tambourine within.
This time Herr Scheffel was at home, and he had a hope concerning a
place in another choir. Anne returned to Lancaster cheered. As she
walked homeward from the railway station down the hard country road,
darkness was falling, and she wondered why the faithful Li was not there
as usual to meet her. When she came within sight of the half-house, it
was blazing with light; from every window radiance streamed, smoke
ascended from the chimneys, and she could see figures within moving
about as if at work. What could it mean? She went up the steps, opened
the door, and entered. Was this her barren home?

Workmen were putting the finishing touches to what seemed to have been
an afternoon's labor; Li, in a fever of excitement, was directing
everybody. Through the open door Nora could be seen moving to and fro
amid barrels, boxes, and bags. The men had evidently received their
orders, for as soon as the young mistress of the house appeared they
hastily concluded their labors, and, taking their tools, vanished like
so many genii of the ring. Anne called them back, but they were already
far down the road. Li and Nora explained together that the men and two
wagon-loads of furniture had arrived at the door of the half-house at
two o'clock, and that the head workman, showing Mr. Dexter's card, had
claimed entrance and liberty to carry out his orders; he had a rough
plan of the rooms, sketched by Dexter, and was to follow his directions.
Li and Nora, already warm adherents, entered into the scheme with all
their hearts, and the result was that mademoiselle's little house was
now carpeted, and warmed, and filled from top to bottom. The bare
store-room was crowded, the cupboards garnished; there were easy-chairs,
curtains, pictures, and even flowers--tea-roses in a vase. The furniture
was perhaps too massive, the carpets and curtains too costly for the
plain abode; Dexter always erred on the side of magnificence. His
lavishness had been brought up at Caryl's as a testimony against him,
for it was a decided evidence of newness. But on this gloomy freezing
winter night no one could have the heart to say that the rich fabrics
were not full of comfort both to the eye and touch, and Anne, sinking
into one of the easy-chairs, uncertain what to do, was at least not at
all uncertain as to the comfort of the cushioned back; it was luxurious.

Later, in her own room, she sat looking at the unexpected gifts which
faced her from all sides. What should she do? It was not right to force
them upon her; and yet how like him was the lavish quick generosity! In
her poverty the gift seemed enormous; yet it was not. The little home
possessed few rooms, had seemed hardly more than a toy house to the city
workmen who had hastily filled it. But to Anne it seemed magical. Books
had been bought for her also, the well-proved standard works which
Dexter always selected for his own reading. In his busy life this
American had not had time to study the new writers; he was the one
person left who still quoted Addison. After looking at the books, Anne,
opening the closet door by chance, saw a long cedar case upon the floor;
it was locked, but the key was in an envelope bearing her name. She
opened the case; a faint fragrance floated out, as, from its wrappings,
she drew forth an India shawl, dark, rich, and costly enough for a
duchess. There was a note inside the case from Dexter--a note hastily
written in pencil:

       *       *       *       *       *

"DEAR MISS DOUGLAS,--I do not know whether this is anything you can
wear, but at least it is warm. On the night I first met you you
were shivering, and I have thought of it ever since. Please accept
the shawl, therefore, and the other trifles, from your friend, G. D."

       *       *       *       *       *

The trifles were furs--sable. Here, as usual, Dexter had selected the
costly; he knew no other way. And thus surrounded by all the new luxury
of the room, with the shawl and the furs in her hands, Anne stood, an
image of perplexity.

The next day the giver came out. She received him gravely. There was a
look in her eyes which told him that he had not won her approval.

"Of course I do not intend to trouble you often with visits," he said,
as he gave his furred overcoat to Li. "But one or two may be allowed, I
think, from such an old friend."

"And to such a desolate girl."

"Desolate no longer," he answered, choosing to ignore the reproach of
the phrase.

He installed himself in one of the new arm-chairs (looking, it must be
confessed, much more comfortable than before), and began to talk in a
fluent general way, approaching no topics that were personal. Meanwhile
old Nora, hearing from Li that the benefactor of the household was
present, appeared, strong in the new richness of her store-room, at the
door, and dropping a courtesy, wished to know at what hour it would
please him to dine. She said "your honor"; she had almost said "your
highness." Her homage was so sincere that Anne smiled, and Dexter
laughed outright.

"You see I am expected to stay, whether you wish it or not," he said.
"Do let me; it shall be for the last time." Then turning to Nora, he
said, "At four." And with another reverence, the old woman withdrew.

"It is a viciously disagreeable afternoon. You would not, I think, have
the heart to turn out even a dog," he continued, leaning back at ease,
and looking at his hostess, his eyes shining with amusement: he was
reading her objections, and triumphing over them. Then, as he saw her
soberness deepen, he grew grave immediately. "I am staying to-day
because I wish to talk with you, Anne," he said. "I shall not come
again. I know as well as you do, of course, that you can not receive me
while you have no better chaperon than Nora." He paused, looking at her
downcast face. "You do not like what I have done?"

"No."

"Why?"

"You have loaded me with too heavy an obligation."

"Any other reason?"

"I can never repay you."

"In addition?"

"It is not right that you should treat me as though I were a child."

"I knew you would object, and strongly; yet I hope to bring you over yet
to my view of the case," said Dexter. "You say that I have placed you
under too heavy an obligation. But pray consider what a slight affair
the little gift seems to me. The house is very small; I have spent but a
few hundreds; in all, with the exception of the shawl and furs, not much
over five. What is that to an income like mine? You say you can never
repay me. You repay me by accepting. It seems to me a noble quality to
accept, simply and generously accept; and I have believed that yours was
a noble nature. Accept, then, generously what it is such a pleasure to
me to give. On my own side, I say this: the woman Gregory Dexter once
asked to be his wife shall not suffer from want while Gregory Dexter
lives, and knows where to find her. This has nothing to do with you; it
is my side of the subject."

He spoke with much feeling. Anne looked at him. Then she rose, and with
quiet dignity gave him, as he rose also, her hand. He understood the
silent little action. "You have answered my expectation," he said, and
the subject was at an end forever.

After dinner, in the twilight, he spoke again. "You said, an hour or two
ago, that I had treated you as though you were a child. It is true; for
you were a child at Caryl's, and I remembered you as you were then. But
you are much changed; looking at you now, it is impossible that I should
ever think of you in the same way again."

She made no reply.

"Can you tell me nothing of yourself, of your personal life since we
parted? Your engagement, for instance?"

"It is ended. Mr. Pronando is married; he married my sister. You did not
see the notice?" (Anne's thoughts were back in the West Virginia
farm-house now with the folded slip of newspaper.)

"No; I was in the far West until April. I did not come eastward until
the war broke out. Then you are free, Anne? Do not be afraid to tell me;
I remember every word you said in Miss Vanhorn's little red parlor, and
I shall not repeat my mistake. You are, then, free?"

"I can not answer you."

"Then I will not ask; it all belongs to the one subject, I suppose. The
only part intrusted to me--the secret of your being here--I will
religiously guard. As to your present life--you would rather let this
Herr Scheffel continue looking for a place for you?"

"Yes."

"I will not interfere. But I shall write to you now and then, and you
must answer. If at the end of a month you have not obtained this
position you are hoping for--in a church choir, is it not?--you must let
me know. Will you promise?"

"I promise."

"And bear in mind this: you shall never be left friendless again while I
am on earth to protect you."

"But I have no right to--"

"Yes, you have; you have been more to me than you know." Here he paused,
and looked away as if debating with himself. "I have always intended
that you should know it some time," he continued; "perhaps this is as
good a time as any. Will you listen?"

"Yes."

He settled himself anew in his chair, meditated a moment, and then, with
all his natural fluency, which nothing could abate, with the
self-absorption which men of his temperament always show when speaking
of themselves, and yet with a certain guarded look at Anne too all the
while, as if curious to see how she would take his words, he began:

"You know what my life has been--that is, generally. What I wish to tell
you now is an inner phase. When, at the beginning of middle age, at last
I had gained the wealth I always intended to have, I decided that I
would marry. I wished to have a home. Of course, during all those
toiling years, I had not been without what are called love affairs, but
I was far too intensely absorbed in my own purposes to spend much time
upon them. Besides, I had preserved an ideal.

"I do not intend to conceal or deny that I am ambitious: I made a
deliberate effort to gain admittance into what is called the best
society in the Eastern cities, and in a measure I succeeded. I enjoyed
the life; it was another world; but still, wherever I went it seemed to
me that the women were artificial. Beautiful, attractive, women I could
not help admiring, but--not like my ideal of what my wife must be. They
would never make for me that home I coveted; for while I stood ready to
surround that home with luxury, in its centre I wanted, for myself
alone, a true and loving heart, a heart absorbed in me. And then, while
I knew that I wanted this, while I still cherished my old ideal closely,
what did I do? I began to love Rachel Bannert!

"You look at me; you do not understand why I speak in that tone. It is
as well that you should not. I can only say that I worshipped her. It
was not her fault that I began to love her, but it was her fault that I
was borne on so far; for she made me believe that she loved me; she gave
me the privileges of a lover. I never doubted (how could I?) that she
would be my wife in the end, although, for reasons of her own, she
wished to keep the engagement, for the time being, a secret. I
submitted, because I loved her. And then, when I was helpless, because I
was so sure of her, she turned upon me and cast me off. Like a worn-out
glove!

"Anne, I could not believe it. We were in the ravine; she had strolled
off in that direction, as though by chance, and I had followed her. I
asked her what she meant: no doubt I looked like a dolt. She laughed in
my face. It seemed that she had only been amusing herself; that she had
never had any intention of marrying me; a 'comedy of the summer.' But no
one laughs in my face twice--not even a woman. When, at last, I
understood her, my infatuation vanished; and I said some words to her
that night which I think she will not soon forget. Then I turned and
left.

"Remember that this was no boy whose feelings she had played with, whose
respect she had forfeited; it was a man, and one who had expected to
find in this Eastern society a perfection of delicacy and refinement not
elsewhere seen. I scorned myself for having loved her, and for the
moment I scorned all women too. Then it was, Anne, that the thought of
_you_ saved me. I said to myself that if you would be my wife, I could
be happy with your fresh sincerity, and not sink into that unbelieving,
disagreeable cynicism which I had always despised in other men. Acting
on the impulse, I asked you.

"I did not love you, save as all right-minded men love and admire a
sweet young girl; but I believed in you; there was something about you
that aroused trust and confidence. Besides--I tell you this frankly--I
thought I should succeed. I certainly did not want to be repulsed twice
in one day. I see now that I was misled by Miss Vanhorn. But I did not
see it then, and when I spoke to you, I fully expected that you would
answer yes.

"You answered no, Anne, but you still saved me. I still believed in you.
And more than ever after that last interview. I went away from Caryl's
early the next morning, and two days later started for the West. I was
hurt through and through, angry with myself, disgusted with life. I
wanted to breathe again the freedom of the border. Yet through it all
your memory was with me as that of one true, pure, steadfast woman-heart
which compelled me to believe in goodness and steadfastness as
possibilities in women, although I myself had been so blindly befooled.
This is what you, although unconsciously, have done for me: it is an
inestimable service.

"I was not much moved from my disgust until something occurred which
swept me out of myself--I mean the breaking out of the war. I had not
believed in its possibility; but when the first gun was fired, I started
eastward at an hour's notice." Here Dexter rose, and with folded arms
walked to and fro across the floor. "The class of people you met at
Caryl's used to smile and shrug their shoulders over what is called
patriotism--I think they are smiling no longer."--(Here Anne remembered
"After that attack on Fort Sumter, it seemed to me the only thing to
do") "but the tidings of that first gun stirred something in _my_ breast
which is, I suppose, what that word means. As soon as I reached
Pennsylvania, I went up to the district where my mines are, gathered
together and equipped all the volunteers who would go. I have been doing
similar work on a larger scale ever since. I should long ago have been
at the front in person were it not that the Governor requires my
presence at home, and I am well aware also that I am worth twenty times
more in matters of organization than I should be simply as one more man
in the field."

This was true. Gregory Dexter's remarkable business powers and energy,
together with his wealth, force, and lavish liberality, made him the
strong arm of his State throughout the entire war.

He asked for no comment upon his story; he had told it briefly as a
series of facts. But from it he hoped that the listener would draw a
feeling which would make her rest content under his friendly aid. And he
succeeded.

But before he went away she told him that while accepting all the house
contained, she would rather return those of his gifts which had been
personal to herself.

"Why?"

"I would rather do it, but I do not know how to explain the feeling,"
she answered, frankly, although her face was one bright blush.

"If you do not, I do," said Dexter, smiling, and looking at her with the
beginnings of a new interest in his eyes. "As you please, of course,
although I _did_ try to buy a good shawl for you, Anne. Are you not very
poorly dressed?"

"Plainly and inexpensively. Quite warmly, however."

"But what am I to do with the things? I will tell you what I shall do: I
shall keep them just as they are, in the cedar box. Perhaps some day you
will accept them."

She shook her head. But he only smiled back in answer, and soon
afterward he went away.

The next day she sent the cedar case to his city address. She wrote a
note to accompany it, and then destroyed it. Why should she write? All
had been said.

Before the month was quite ended, Herr Scheffel succeeded in obtaining
for her a place in another church choir. It was a small church, and the
salary was not large, but she was glad to accept it, and more than glad
to be able to write to Mr. Dexter that she had accepted it. New pupils
came with the new year; she was again able to send money to Miss Lois,
for the household supplies, so lavishly provided, were sufficient for
the little family throughout the winter.

In February, being again in New York, Dexter came out to see her. It was
a wild evening; the wind whistled round the house, and blew the hail and
sleet against the panes. Most persons would have remained in the city;
but after one look at Dexter's face and figure, no one ever spoke to him
about the weather. Anne had received a long letter from Jeanne-Armande;
she showed it to him. Also one from Père Michaux. "I feel now," she
said, "almost as though you were my--"

"Please do not say father."

"Oh no."

"Brother, then?"

"Hardly that."

"Uncle?"

"Perhaps; I never had an uncle. But, after all, it is more like--" Here
she stopped again.

"Guardian?" suggested Dexter; "they are always remarkable persons, at
least in books. Never mind the name, Anne; I am content to be simply
your friend."

During the evening he made one allusion to the forbidden subject. "You
asked me to tell you nothing regarding the people who were at Caryl's,
but perhaps the prohibition was not eternal. I spent an hour with Mrs.
Heathcote this afternoon (never fear; I kept your secret). Would you not
like to hear something of her?"

Anne's face changed, but she did not swerve. "No; tell me nothing," she
answered. And he obeyed her wish. In a short time he took leave, and
returned to the city. During the remainder of the winter she did not see
him again.



CHAPTER XXIX.

     "The fierce old fires of primitive ages are not dead yet, although
     we pretend they are. Every now and then each man of us is
     confronted by a gleam of the old wild light deep down in his own
     startled heart."


In the middle of wild, snowy March there came a strange week of
beautiful days. On the Sunday of this week Anne was in her place in the
choir, as usual, some time before the service began.

It was a compromise choir. The dispute between the ideas of the rector
and those of the congregation had been ended by bringing the organ
forward to the corner near the chancel, and placing in front of it the
singers' seats, ornamented with the proper devices: so much was done for
the rector. To balance this, and in deference to the congregation, the
old quartette of voices was retained, and placed in these seats, which,
plainly intended for ten or twelve surpliced choristers, were all too
long and broad for the four persons who alone occupied them. The singers
sat in one, and kept their music-books in the other, and objecting to
the open publicity of their position facing the congregation, they had
demanded, and at last succeeded in obtaining (to the despair of the
rector), red curtains, which, hanging from the high railing above,
modestly concealed them when they were seated, and converted that corner
of the church into something between a booth in a fair and a circus
tent.

Before the service began, while the people were coming in, the contralto
pushed aside a corner of the curtain as usual, and peeped out. She then
reported to Anne in a whisper the course of events, as follows, Anne not
caring to hear, but quiescent:

"Loads of people to-day. Wonder why? Oh yes, I remember now; the
apostolic bishop's going to be here, and preach about the Indians. Don't
you love that man? I do; and I wish I was an Indian myself. We'll have
_all_ the curtains put back for the sermon. More people coming. I
declare it's quite exciting. And I forgot gum-drops on this day of all
others, and shall probably be hoarse as a crow, and spoil the duet! I
hope you won't be raging. Oh, _do_ look! Here's such a swell! A lady;
Paris clothes from head to foot. And she's going to sit up here near us
too. Take a look?" But Anne declined, and the reporter went on. "She has
the lightest hair I ever saw. I wonder if it's bleached? And she's as
slender as a paper-cutter." (The contralto was stout.) "But I can't deny
that she's handsome, and her clothes are stunning. They're right close
to us now, and the man's awfully handsome too, come to look at him--her
husband, I suppose. A pair of brown eyes and _such_ heavy eyebrows!
They--"

But the soprano was curious at last, apparently, and the contralto
good-naturedly gave up her look-out corner. Yes, there they were, Helen
and Ward Heathcote, Mrs. Heathcote and her husband, Captain Heathcote
and his wife. Very near her, and unconscious of her presence. Hungrily,
and for one long moment, she could not help looking at them. As the
light-tongued girl had said, Helen looked very beautiful, more beautiful
than ever, Anne thought. She was clad in black velvet from head to foot,
and as the day was unexpectedly warm, she had thrown aside her heavy
mantle edged with fur, and her slender form was visible, outlined in the
clinging fabric. Under the small black velvet bonnet with its single
plume her hair, in all its fine abundance, shone resplendent,
contrasting with the velvet's richness. One little delicately gloved
hand held a prayer-book, and with the other, as Anne looked, she
motioned to her husband. He drew nearer, and she spoke. In answer he
sought in his pockets, and drew forth a fan. She extended her hand as if
to take it, but he opened it himself, and began to fan her quietly. The
heat in the church was oppressive; his wife was delicate; what more
natural than that he should do this? Yet the gazer felt herself acutely
miserable. She knew Helen so well also that although to the rest of the
congregation the fair face preserved unchanged its proud immobility,
Anne's eyes could read at once the wife's happiness in her husband's
attention.

She drew back. "I can not sing to-day," she said, hurriedly; "I am not
well. Will you please make my excuses to the others?" As she spoke she
drew on her gloves. (She had a fancy that she could not sing with her
hands gloved.)

"Why, what in the world--" began the contralto. "But you _do_ look
frightfully pale. Are you going to faint? Let me go with you."

"I shall not faint, but I must get to the open air as soon as possible.
Please stay and tell the others; perhaps Miss Freeborn will sing in my
place."

Having succeeded in saying this, her white cheeks and trembling hands
witnesses for her, she went out through the little choir door, which was
concealed by the curtain, and in another moment was in the street. The
organist, hidden in his oaken cell, looked after her in surprise. When
the basso came in, with a flower in his mouth, he took the flower out,
and grew severely thoughtful over the exigencies of the situation. After
a few minutes of hurried discussion, the basso, who was also the leader,
came forth from the circus tent and made a majestic progress to the
rector's pew, where sat the lily-like Miss Freeborn, the rector's
daughter; and then, after another consultation, she rose, and the two
made a second majestic progress back to the circus tent, the
congregation meanwhile looking on with much interest. When the tenor
came, a rather dissipated youth who had been up late the night before,
he was appalled by the presence of the lily-like Miss Freeborn, and did
not sing as well as usual, Miss Freeborn, although lily-like, keeping
him sternly to his notes, and not allowing him any of those lingering
little descents after the other singers have finished, upon which he,
like many tenors, relied for his principal effects.

Meanwhile Anne was walking rapidly down the street; a mile soon lay
between her and the church, yet still she hastened onward. She was in a
fever, yet a chill as well. Now she was warm with joy, now cold with
grief. She had seen him. Her eyes had rested upon his face at last, and
he was safe, he was well and strong again. Was not this joy enough?

And yet he was with Helen. And Helen loved him.

She had asked him to go back to Helen. He had gone back. She had asked
him to do his part in life bravely. And he was doing it. Was not this
what she wished?

And yet--was it so hard to go back--to go back to beautiful Helen who
loved him so deeply? Did his part in life require bravery? Did he look
as though it was a sacrifice, a hardship? And here she tried to recall
how in truth he had looked--how, to the eyes of a stranger. He was
strong again and vigorous; but beyond that she could think only of how
he looked to her--the face she knew so well, the profile, the short
crisp hair, the heavy eyebrows and brown eyes. He was in citizen's
dress; only the bronzed skin and erect bearing betrayed the soldier. How
he would have looked to a stranger she could not tell; she only knew,
she only felt, how he looked to her. "He is at home on furlough," she
thought, with gladness, realizing the great joy it was that he should be
safe when so many had been taken. And then, in her memory, blotting out
all gladness, rose again the picture of the two figures, side by side,
and she hurried onward, she knew not whither. It was jealousy, plain,
simple, unconquerable jealousy, which was consuming her; jealousy,
terrible passion which the most refined and intellectual share with the
poor Hottentots, from which the Christian can not escape any more than
the pagan; jealousy, horrible companion of love, its guardian and
tormentor. God help the jealous! for they suffer the acutest tortures
the human mind can feel. And Anne was jealous.

If she had not admired Helen so deeply, and loved her (save for this one
barrier) so sincerely, she would not have suffered as she was suffering.
But to her Helen had always been the fairest woman on earth, and even
now this feeling could not be changed. All Helen's words came back to
her, every syllable of her clear, quietly but intensely uttered avowal;
and this man, whom she had loved so deeply, was now her husband.

It was nothing new. Why should she feel it, think of it, in this way?
But she was no longer capable of thinking or feeling reasonably. Of
course he loved her. In his mind she, Anne, was probably but a far-off
remembrance, even if a remembrance at all. Their meeting in West
Virginia had been a chance encounter; its impulses, therefore, had been
chance impulses, its words chance words, meaning nothing, already
forgotten. She, Anne, had taken them as great, and serious, and sincere;
and she, Anne, had been a fool. Her life had been built upon this idea.
It was a foundation of sand.

She walked on, seeing nothing, hearing nothing. Where were now the
resignation and self-sacrifice, the crowned patience and noble
fortitude? Ah, yes, but resignation and fortitude were one thing when
she had thought that he required them also, another when they were
replaced in his life by happiness and content. It is easy to be
self-sacrificing when the one we love suffers in companionship with us,
and there is no rival. But when there is a rival, self-sacrifice goes to
the winds. "He never loved me," was the burning cry of her heart. "I
have been a fool--a poor self-absorbed, blinded fool. If he thinks of me
at all, it is with a smile over my simple credulity."

Through miles of streets she wandered, and at last found herself again
in the quarter where the church stood. A sudden desire seized her to
look at him, at them, again. If the service had been long, she would be
in time to see their carriage pass. She turned, and hastened toward the
church, as anxious now to reach it as she had been before to leave it
far behind. Now she could see the corner and the porch. No, service was
not ended; carriages were waiting without. She was in time. But as she
drew near, figures began to appear, coming from the porch, and she took
refuge under the steps of a house opposite, her figure hidden in the
shadow.

[Illustration: "ANNE, STILL AS A STATUE."]

The congregation slowly made its dignified way into the street. St.
Lucien's had seldom held so large a throng of worshippers. The little
sexton hardly knew, in his excitement, where he was, or what his duty,
on such a momentous occasion. At length they appeared, the last of
all; only one carriage was left, and that was their own. Slowly, leaning
on her husband's arm, the slender fair-haired woman came forth; and
Anne, still as a statue, watched with fixed, burning eyes while he threw
the velvet cloak round her as they reached the open air, and fastened
the clasp. Chance favored the gazer. Helen had left her prayer-book
behind in the pew, and while the sexton went back to look for it,
husband and wife stood waiting on the steps in the sunshine. Yes,
Heathcote had regained all his old vigor, but his expression was
changed. He was graver; in repose his face was stern.

It seemed as if Helen felt the fixed although unseen gaze, for she
shivered slightly, said something, and they began to go down the steps,
the wife supported by her husband's arm as though she needed the
assistance. The footman held open the carriage door, but Helen paused.
Anne could see her slender foot, in its little winter boot, put out, and
then withdrawn, as though she felt herself unable to take the step. Then
her husband lifted her in his arms and placed her in the carriage
himself, took his place beside her, and the man closed the door. In
another minute the sexton had brought the prayer-book, and the carriage
rolled away. Anne came out from her hiding-place. The vision was gone.

Again she walked at random through the streets, unheeding where she was.
She knew that she had broken her compact with herself--broken it
utterly. Of what avail now the long months during which she had not
allowed herself to enter the street or the neighborhood where Helen
lived? Of what avail that she had not allowed herself to listen to one
word concerning them when Mr. Dexter stood ready to tell all? She had
looked at them--looked at them voluntarily and long; had gone back to
the church door to look at them, to look again at the face for a sight
of which her whole heart hungered.

She had broken her vow. In addition, the mist over her blind eyes was
dissolved. He had never loved her; it had been but a passing fancy. It
was best so. Yet, oh, how easy all the past now seemed, in spite of its
loneliness, toil, and care! For _then_ she had believed that she was
loved. She began to realize that until this moment she had never really
given up her own will at all, but had held on through all to this inward
belief, which had made her lonely life warm with its hidden secret
light. She had thought herself noble, and she had been but selfish; she
had thought herself self-controlled, and she had been following her own
will; she had thought herself humble, and here she was, maddened by
humiliated jealous pride.

At last, worn out with weariness, she went homeward to the half-house as
twilight fell. In the morning the ground was white with snow again, and
the tumultuous winds of March were careering through the sky, whipping
the sleet and hail before them as they flew along; the strange halcyon
sunshine was gone, and a second winter upon them. And Anne felt that a
winter such as she had never known before was in her heart also.



CHAPTER XXX.

     "O eloquent and mightie Death! thou hast drawn together all the
     farre-stretched greatnesse, all the pride, crueltie, and ambition
     of men, and covered it all over with these two narrow words, Hic
     jacet!"--SIR WALTER RALEIGH.


A month passed. Anne saw nothing more, heard nothing more, but toiled on
in her daily round. She taught and sang. She answered Miss Lois's
letters and those of Père Michaux. There was no longer any danger in
writing to Weston, and she smiled sadly as she thought of the blind,
self-important days when she had believed otherwise. She now wrote to
her friends there, and letters came in return. Mrs. Barstow's pages were
filled with accounts of hospital work, for Donelson had been followed by
the great blood-shedding of Shiloh, and the West was dotted with
battle-fields.

She had allowed herself no newspapers, lest she should come upon his
name. But now she ordered one, and read it daily. What was it to her
even if she should come upon his name? She must learn to bear it, so
long as they trod the same earth. And one day she did come upon it; but
it was merely the two-line announcement that he had returned to the
front.

The great city had grown used to the war. There were few signs in its
busy streets that a pall hung over the borders of the South. The music
teacher on her rounds saw nothing save now and then the ranks of a
regiment passing through on its way to a train. Traffic went on
unchanged; pleasure was rampant as ever. The shrill voice of the newsboy
calling the details of the last battle was often the only reminder of
the dread reality. May moved onward. The Scheffels began to make those
little excursions into the country so dear to the German heart; but they
could not persuade the honored Fräulein to accompany them. For it was
not the real country to which they went, but only that suburban
imitation of it which thrives in the neighborhood of New York, and
Anne's heart was back on her island in the cool blue Northern straits.
Miss Lois was now at home again, and her letters were like a breath of
life to the homesick girl. Little André was better, and Père Michaux
came often to the church-house, and seemed glad to be with them again.
With them again! If she could but be with them too!--stand on the
heights among the beckoning larches, walk through the spicy aisles of
the arbor vitæ, sit under the gray old pines, listening to the wash of
the cool blue water below, at rest, afar, afar from all this weariness
and sadness and pain!

During these days Stonewall Jackson was making one of his brilliant
campaigns in the Valley, the Valley of Virginia, the beautiful valley of
the Shenandoah. On the last morning in May, while reading the war news,
Anne found in one corner a little list of dead. And there, in small
letters, which grew to great size, and inscribed themselves on the walls
of the room, one succeeding the other like a horrible dream, was the
name, Ward Heathcote. "Captain Ward Heathcote,---- New York Volunteers."
She turned the sheet; it was repeated in the latest news column, and
again in a notice on the local page. "Captain Ward Heathcote,---- New
York Volunteers, is reported among the slain," followed by those brief
items of birth, age, and general history which appall our eyes when we
first behold them on the printed page, and realize that they are now
public property, since they belong only to the dead.

It was early. She was at home in the half-house. She rose, put on her
bonnet and gloves, walked to the station, took the first train to the
city, and went to Helen.

She reached the house, and was denied entrance. Mrs. Heathcote could see
no one.

Was any one with her? Miss Teller?

Miss Teller, the man answered, was absent from the city; but a
telegraphic dispatch had been sent, and she was on her way home. There
was no relative at present with Mrs. Heathcote; friends she was not able
to see. And he looked with some curiosity at this plainly dressed young
person, who stood there quite unconscious, apparently, of the atmosphere
of his manner. And yet Mr. Simpson had a very well regulated manner,
founded upon the best models--a manner which had never heretofore failed
in its effect. With a preliminary cough, he began to close the door.

"Wait," said this young person, almost as though she had some authority.
She drew forth a little note-book, tore out a leaf, wrote a line upon
it, and handed him the improvised card. "Please take this to Mrs.
Heathcote," she said. "I think she will see me."

See her--see _her_--when already members of the highest circles of the
city had been refused! With a slight smile of superior scorn, Simpson
took the little slip, and leaving the stranger on the steps, went
within, partially closing the door behind him. But in a few minutes he
hastily returned, and with him was a sedate middle-aged woman, whom he
called Mrs. Bagshot, and who, although quiet in manner, seemed decidedly
to outrank him.

"Will you come with me, if you please?" she said deferentially,
addressing Anne. "Mrs. Heathcote would like to see you without delay."
She led the way with a quiet unhurrying step up a broad stairway, and
opened a door. In the darkened room, on a couch, a white form was
lying. Bagshot withdrew, and Anne, crossing the floor, sank down on her
knees beside the couch.

"Helen!" she said, in a broken voice; "oh, Helen! Helen!"

The white figure did not stir, save slowly to disengage one hand and
hold it out. But Anne, leaning forward, tenderly lifted the slight form
in her arms, and held it close to her breast.

"I could not help coming," she said. "Poor Helen! poor, poor Helen!"

She smoothed the fair hair away from the small face that lay still and
white upon her shoulder, and at that moment she pitied the stricken wife
so intensely that she forgot the rival, or rather made herself one with
her; for in death there is no rivalry, only a common grief. Helen did
not speak, but she moved closer to Anne, and Anne, holding her in her
arms, bent over her, soothing her with loving words, as though she had
been a little child.

The stranger remained with Mrs. Heathcote nearly two hours. Then she
went away, and Simpson, opening the door for her, noticed that her veil
was closely drawn, so that her face was concealed. She went up the
street to the end of the block, turned the corner, and disappeared. He
was still standing on the steps, taking a breath of fresh air, his
portly person and solemn face expressing, according to his idea, a
dignified grief appropriate to the occasion and the distinction of the
family he served--a family whose bereavements even were above the level
of ordinary sorrows, when his attention was attracted by the appearance
of a boy in uniform, bearing in his hand an orange-brown envelope. In
the possibilities of that well-known hue of hope and dread he forgot for
the moment even his occupation of arranging in his own mind elegant
formulas with which to answer the inquiries constantly made at the door
of the bereaved mansion. The boy ascended the steps; Bagshot, up stairs,
with her hand on the knob of Mrs. Heathcote's door, saw him, and came
down. The dispatch was for her mistress; she carried it to her. The next
instant a cry rang through the house. Captain Heathcote was safe.

The message was as follows:

       *       *       *       *       *

"_To Mrs. Ward Heathcote:_

"My name given in list a mistake. Am here, wounded, but not dangerously.
Will write.

W. H."

       *       *       *       *       *

It was sent from Harper's Ferry. And two hours later, Mrs. Heathcote,
accompanied by Bagshot, was on her way to Harper's Ferry.

It was a wild journey. If any man had possessed authority over Helen,
she would never have been allowed to make it; but no man did possess
authority. Mrs. Heathcote, having money, courage, and a will of steel,
asked advice from no one, did not even wait for Miss Teller, but
departed according to a swift purpose of her own, accompanied only by
Bagshot, who was, however, an efficient person, self-possessed, calm,
and accustomed to travelling. It was uncertain whether they would be
able to reach Harper's Ferry, but this uncertainty did not deter Helen:
she would go as far as she could. In her heart she was not without hope
that Mrs. Heathcote could relax the rules and military lines of even the
strictest general in the service. As to personal fear, she had none.

At Baltimore she was obliged to wait for an answer to the dispatch she
had sent on starting, and the answer was long in coming. To pass away
the time, she ordered a carriage and drove about the city; many persons
noticed her, and remembered her fair, delicate, and impatient face,
framed in its pale hair. At last the answer came. Captain Heathcote was
no longer at Harper's Ferry; he had been sent a short distance northward
to a town where there was a better hospital, and Mrs. Heathcote was
advised to go round by the way of Harrisburg, a route easier and safer,
if not in the end more direct as well.

She followed this advice, although against her will. She travelled
northward to Harrisburg, and then made a broad curve, and came southward
again, within sight of the green hills later to be brought into
unexpected and long-enduring fame--the hills around Gettysburg. But now
the whole region was fair with summer, smiling and peaceful; the farmers
were at work, and the grain was growing. After some delays she reached
the little town, with its barrack-like, white-washed hospital, where her
husband was installed under treatment for a wound in his right arm,
which, at first appearing serious, had now begun to improve so rapidly
that the surgeon in charge decided that he could soon travel northward,
and receive what further care he needed among the comforts of his own
home.

At the end of five days, therefore, they started, attended only by
Bagshot, that useful woman possessing, in addition to her other
qualifications, both skill and experience as a nurse.

They started; but the journey was soon ended. On the 11th of June the
world of New York was startled, its upper circles hotly excited, and one
obscure young teacher in a little suburban home paralyzed, by the great
headings in the morning newspapers. Mrs. Heathcote, wife of Captain Ward
Heathcote,---- New York Volunteers, while on her way homeward with her
husband, who was wounded in the Shenandoah Valley, had been found
murdered in her room in the country inn at Timloesville, where they were
passing the night. And the evidence pointed so strongly toward Captain
Heathcote that he had been arrested upon suspicion.

The city journals appended to this brief dispatch whatever details they
knew regarding the personal history of the suspected man and his victim.
Helen's beauty, the high position of both in society, and their large
circle of friends were spoken of; and in one account the wife's wealth,
left by will unconditionally to her husband, was significantly
mentioned. One of the larger journals, with the terrible and pitiless
impartiality of the great city dailies, added that if there had been a
plan, some part of it had signally failed. "A man of the ability of
Captain Heathcote would never have been caught otherwise in a web of
circumstantial evidence so close that it convinced even the pastoral
minds of the Timloesville officials. We do not wish, of course, to
prejudge this case; but from the half-accounts which have reached us, it
looks as though this blunder, whatever it may have been, was but another
proof of the eternal verity of the old saying, Murder will out."

It was the journal containing this sentence which Anne read. She had
heard the news of Heathcote's safety a few hours after her visit to
Helen. Only a few days had passed, and now her eyes were staring at the
horrible words that Helen was dead, and that her murderer was her own
husband.



CHAPTER XXXI.

        "All her bright hair streaming down,
    And all the coverlid was cloth of gold
    Drawn to her waist, and she herself in white
    All but her face, and that clear-featured face
    Was lovely, for she did not seem as dead,
    But fast asleep, and lay as though she smiled."

    --TENNYSON.


EXTRACT FROM THE NEW YORK "MARS."

"The following details in relation to the terrible crime with whose main
facts our readers are familiar will be of interest at the moment. They
were collected by our special reporter, sent in person to the scene of
the tragedy, for the purpose of gathering reliable information
concerning this case, which promises to be one of the _causes célèbres_
of the country, not only on account of the high position and wealth of
the parties concerned, but also on account of the close net of purely
circumstantial evidence which surrounds the accused man.


"TIMLOESVILLE

is a small village on the border-line between Pennsylvania and Maryland.
Legally in Pennsylvania, it possesses personally the characteristics of
a Maryland village, some of its outlying fields being fairly over the
border. It is credited with about two thousand inhabitants; but the
present observer did not see, during his stay, more than about one
thousand, including women and children. Timloesville is on a branch
railway, which connects with the main line at a junction about thirty
miles distant. It possesses two churches and a saw-mill, and was named
from a highly esteemed early settler (who may perhaps have marched with
our great Washington), Judge Jeremiah Timloe. The agricultural products
of the surrounding country are principally hay and maize--wrongly called
corn. The intelligence and morality of the community are generally
understood to be of a high order. A low fever prevails here in the
spring.


"TIMLOE HOTEL.

"At the southern edge of the town, on the line of the railway, stands
the Timloe Hotel, presenting an imposing façade to the passengers on the
trains as they roll by. It is presided over in a highly liberal and
gentlemanly manner by Mr. Casper Graub; it is, in fact, to the genial
courtesy of 'mine host' that much of this information is due, and we
take this occasion also to state that during all the confusion and
excitement necessarily accruing to his house during the present week,
the high standard of Mr. Graub's table has never once been relaxed.


"MR. GRAUB'S STORY.

"An army officer, with his right arm in a sling, arrived at the Timloe
Hotel, accompanied by his wife, and a maid or nurse named Bagshot, on
the evening of June 10, at six o'clock precisely. The officer registered
the names as follows: 'Ward Heathcote, Mrs. Heathcote and maid, New
York.' He wrote the names with his left hand. A room was assigned to
them in the front part of the house, but upon the lady's objecting to
the proximity of the trains (generally considered, however, by the
majority of Mr. Graub's guests, an enjoyable variety), another apartment
in a wing was given to them, with windows opening upon the garden. The
wing is shaped like an L. The maid, Bagshot, had a room in the bend of
the L, she too having objected, although later, to the room first
assigned to her. At half past six o'clock they had supper; the lady
then retired to her room, but the husband went out, as he said, to
stroll about the town. At half past eight he returned. At nine, Bagshot,
having been dismissed for the night, went to her own room; when she
left, Captain Heathcote was reading a newspaper, and his wife was
writing. It has since been ascertained that this newspaper was the
Baltimore _Chronos_ of the 9th inst. At ten o'clock exactly Captain
Heathcote came down stairs a second time, passed through the office, and
stopped to light a cigar. Mr. Graub noticed that he was able to use his
left hand quite cleverly, and asked him whether he was naturally
left-handed; Captain Heathcote answered that he was not, but had learned
the use only since his right arm had been disabled. Mr. Graub, seeing
him go toward the door, thought that it was somewhat singular that he
should wish to take a second walk, and casually remarked upon the warmth
of the evening. Captain Heathcote replied that it was for that very
reason he was going out; he could not breathe in the house; and he added
something not very complimentary to the air (generally considered
unusually salubrious) of Timloesville. Mr. Graub noticed that he walked
up and down on the piazza once or twice, _as if he wished to show
himself plainly to the persons who were sitting there_. He then strolled
away, going toward the main street.


"THE OUTSIDE STAIRWAY.

"As before mentioned, the second room given to Mrs. Heathcote was in a
wing. This wing is not much used; in fact, at the time, save this party
of three, it had no occupants. It is in the old part of the house. A
piazza or gallery runs across a portion of the second story, to which
access is had from the garden by a flight of wooden steps, or rather an
outside stairway. This stairway is old and sagged; in places the railing
is gone. It is probable that Mrs. Heathcote did not even see it. But
Captain Heathcote might have noticed it, and probably did notice it,
from the next street, through which he passed _when he took his first
walk before dark_.


"MRS. BAGSHOT'S TESTIMONY.

"As we have seen, Captain Heathcote left the hotel ostentatiously by the
front entrance at ten o'clock. At eleven, Mrs. Bagshot, who happened to
be looking from her window in the bend of the L, distinctly saw him (her
candle being out) _stealing up by the outside stairway_ in the only
minute of moonlight there was during the entire evening, the clouds
having suddenly and strangely parted, as if for that very purpose. She
saw him enter his wife's room through one of the long windows which
opened to the floor. In about a quarter of an hour she saw him come
forth again, close the blind behind him, and begin to descend the
stairway. As there was no longer any moonlight, she could only
distinguish him by the light that shone from the room; but in that short
space of time, while he was closing the blind, she recognized him
_beyond the possibility of a doubt_.


"THE NIGHT PORTER'S TALE.

"A little before midnight, all the hotel entrances being closed save the
main door, Captain Heathcote returned. As he passed through the office,
the night porter noticed that he looked pale, and that his clothes were
disordered; his shirt cuffs especially were wet and creased, as _though
they had been dipped in water_. He went up stairs to his room, but soon
came down again. He had knocked, but could not awaken his wife. Would
the porter be able to open the door by turning back the key? His wife
was an invalid; he feared she had fainted.


"THE TRAGEDY.

"The night porter--a most respectable person of Irish extraction, named
Dennis Haggerty--came up and opened the door. The lamp was burning
within; the blinds of the window were closed. On the bed, stabbed to the
heart, apparently while she lay asleep, was the body of the wife.


"DUMB WITNESSES.

"Red marks were found on the shutter, which are pronounced by experts to
be the partial print of a _left hand_. On the white cloth which covered
the bureau is a slight impression of finger-tips, also belonging to a
left hand. These marks are too imperfect to be relied upon in
themselves, save that they establish the fact that the hand which
touched the cloth and closed the shutter was a _left hand_.


"AN IMPROBABLE STORY.

"Captain Heathcote asserts that he left the hotel at ten, as testified,
to smoke a cigar and get a breath of fresh air. That he returned through
the garden at eleven, and seeing by the bright light that his wife was
still awake, he went up by the outside stairway, which he had previously
noted, entered the room through the long window to tell her that he was
going to take a bath in the river, and to get towels. He remained a few
minutes, put two towels in his pocket, and came out, going down the same
stairway, across the garden, and along the main road to the river. (A
track, however, has been found to the river through the large meadow
behind the house.) At the bend where road and river meet, he undressed
himself and took a bath. The disorder in his clothing and his wet cuffs
came from his own awkwardness, as he has but partial use of his right
arm. He then returned by the road as he had come, but he _forgot the
towels_. Probably they would be found on the bank where he left them.


"THE TOWEL.

"No towels were found at the point named. But at the end of the track
through the grass meadow, among the reeds on the shore, a towel _was_
found, and identified as one belonging to the hotel. This towel is
_stained with blood_.


"THE THEORY.

"The theory at Timloesville is that Heathcote had no idea that he would
be seen when he stole up that outside stairway. He knew that the entire
wing was unoccupied: a servant has testified that she told him it was;
and he thought, too, that the maid Bagshot had a room in front, not
commanding the garden. Bagshot says that the room was changed without
his knowledge, while he was absent on his first walk. He supposed, then,
that he would not be seen. He evidently took Mrs. Heathcote's diamond
rings, purse, and watch (they are all missing) in order to turn public
opinion toward the idea that the murder was for the sake of robbery. He
_says_ that a man passed him while he was bathing, and spoke to him;
proof of this would establish something toward the truth of his story.
But, strangely enough, this man can not be found. Yet Timloesville and
its neighborhood are by no means so crowded with inhabitants that the
search should be a difficult one.

"It may be regarded as a direct misfortune in the cause of justice that
the accused heard any of Bagshot's testimony against him before he was
called upon to give his own account of the events of the evening. And
yet his confused, contradictory story is another proof of the incapacity
which the most cunning murderers often display when overtaken by
suspicion; they seem to lose all power to protect themselves. If Captain
Heathcote had denied Bagshot's testimony in toto, had denied having
ascended the outside stairway at all, his chances would have been much
brighter, for people might have believed that the maid was mistaken. But
he _acknowledges the stairway_, and then denies the rest.


"HIS MOTIVE.

"But how can poor finite man detect so obscure a thing as motive? He
must hide his face and acknowledge his feebleness when he stands before
this inscrutable, heavy-browed, silent Fate. In this case, two solutions
are offered. One, that the wife's large fortune was left by will
unconditionally to her husband; the other, that Mrs. Bagshot will
testify that there was jealousy and ill feeling between these two,
linked together by God's holy ordinance, and that this ill feeling was
connected with a third person, and that person--a woman."


EXTRACT FROM THE NEW YORK "ZEUS."

"Mrs. Heathcote was apparently murdered while asleep. When found, her
face wore a natural and sweet expression, as though she had passed from
slumber into death without even a sigh. The maid testifies that her
mistress always removed her rings at night; it is probable, therefore,
that they, together with her purse and watch, were on the bureau where
the marks of the finger-tips were found.

"We refrain at present from comment upon the close circumstantial
evidence which surrounds this case; the strong hand of the law will take
hold of it at the proper time, and sift it thoroughly. Meanwhile the
attitude of all right-minded persons should be calm and impartial, and
the accused man should be held innocent until he is proven guilty. Trial
by newspaper is one of the notable evils of our modern American system,
and should be systematically discountenanced and discouraged; when a
human life is trembling in the balance, the sensation-monger should be
silenced, and his evil wares sternly rejected."

       *       *       *       *       *

This negative impartiality was the nearest approach to friendliness
which the accused man received from the combined newspaper columns of
New York, Baltimore, and Washington.

The body of poor Helen was brought home, and Miss Teller herself arrayed
her darling for her long repose. Friends thronged to see her as she lay
in her luxurious drawing-room; flowers were placed everywhere as though
for a bridal--the bridal of death. Her figure was visible from head to
foot; she seemed asleep. Her still face wore a gentle expression of rest
and peace; her small hands were crossed upon her breast; her unbound
hair fell in waves behind her shoulders, a few strands lying on the
white skirt far below the slender waist, almost to the feet. The long
lashes lay upon the oval cheek; no one would ever see those bright brown
eyes again, and find fault with them because they were too narrow. The
lithe form was motionless; no one would ever again watch it move onward
with its peculiar swaying grace, and find fault with it because it was
too slender. Those who had not been willing to grant her beauty in life,
gazed at her now with tear-dimmed eyes, and willingly gave all the meed
of praise they had withheld before. Those who had not loved her while
she lived, forgot all, and burst into tears when they saw her now, the
delicately featured face once so proud and imperious, quiet forever,
grown strangely youthful too, like the face of a young girl.

Miss Teller sat beside her darling; to all she made the same set speech:
"Dear Ward, her husband, the one who loved her best, can not be here. I
am staying with her, therefore, until she is taken from us; then I shall
go to him, as _she_ would have wished." For Miss Teller believed no word
of the stories with which the newspapers teemed. Indignation and strong
affection supplied the place of whatever strength had been lacking in
her character, and never before in her life had she appeared as resolute
and clear-minded as now.

During the funeral services, Isabel Varce sat beside Miss Teller,
sobbing as if her heart would break. Rachel Bannert was next to Isabel.
She had looked once at Helen, only once, and her dark face had quivered
spasmodically; then she also took her seat beside the fair, still form,
and bowed her head. All Helen's companions were clad in mourning garb;
the tragedy of this death had invested it with a deeper sadness than
belonged to the passing away in the ordinary course of nature of even
closer friends. The old-fashioned mansion was full to overflowing; in
the halls and doorway, on the front steps, and even on the pavement
outside, men were standing, bare-headed and silent, many distinguished
faces being among them; society men also, who in general avoided
funerals as unpleasant and grewsome ceremonials. These had been Helen's
companions and friends; they had all liked and admired her, and as she
was borne past them, covered with heliotrope, there was not one whose
eyes did not grow stern in thinking of the dastard hand that did the
cruel deed.

That night, when darkness fell, many hearts remembered her, lying alone
in the far-off cemetery, the cemetery we call Greenwood, although no
wood made by Nature's hand alone bears the cold white marble flowers
which are found on those fair slopes. And when the next morning dawned,
with dull gray clouds and rain, there were many who could not help
thinking of the beautiful form which had fared softly and delicately all
its life, which had felt only the touch of finest linen and softest
silk, which had never suffered from the cold or the storm, now lying
there alone in the dark soaked earth, with the rain falling upon its
defenseless head, and no one near to replace the wet lilies which the
wind had blown from the mound.

But those who were thinking thus were mistaken: some one was near. A
girl clad in black and closely veiled stood beside the new-made grave,
with tears dropping on her cheeks, and her hand pressed over her heart.
There were many mourners yesterday; there was but one to-day. There were
many flowers then; now there was only the bunch of violets which this
girl had brought. She had knelt beside the mound, her head undefended
from the rain, and had prayed silently. Then she had risen, but still
she could not go. She paced slowly up and down beside the grave, like a
sentinel keeping watch; only when she perceived that one of the men
employed in the cemetery was watching her curiously, no doubt wondering
why she remained there in the storm, did she turn away at last, and go
homeward again by the long route she had traversed in coming.

For Anne had not dared to go to the funeral; had not dared to go to Miss
Teller. The hideous sentence in the newspaper had filled her with doubt
and vague alarm. It was not possible that she, Anne, was meant; and yet
Bagshot, from whom this as yet unrevealed testimony was to come, saw her
on the day she visited Helen, after the tidings of her husband's death.
Surely this was too slight a foundation upon which to found her vague
alarm. She repeated to herself that her dread was unreasonable, yet it
would not down. If the danger had been open, she could have faced and
defied it; but this mute, unknown something, which was only to be
revealed by the power and in the presence of the law, held her back,
bound hand and foot, afraid almost to breathe. For her presence or words
might, in some way she could not foresee or even comprehend, bring
increased danger upon the head of the accused man, already weighted down
with a crushing load of suspicion, which grew heavier every hour.

Suspense supplies a calmness of its own. Anne went into the city as
usual, gave her lessons, and went through all the forms of her
accustomed living, both at home and abroad. Yet all the time she was
accompanied by a muffled shape, its ghostly eyes fixed upon her through
its dark veil, menacing but silent. It was dread.

When the hour came, and she knew that the old words were being spoken
over Helen: "In the midst of life we are in death: of whom may we seek
for succor but of Thee?" "Before the mountains were brought forth, or
ever the earth and the world were made, Thou art God from everlasting."
"A thousand years in Thy sight are but as yesterday, seeing that is past
as a watch in the night." "And now, Lord, what is my hope? Truly my hope
is even in Thee"--she bowed her head and joined in the sentences mutely,
present at least in spirit. The next day, while the rain fell sombrely,
she went to the distant cemetery: no one would be there in the storm,
and she wished to stand once more by Helen's side--poor Helen, beautiful
Helen, taken from this life's errors forever, perhaps already, in
another world, understanding all, repentant for all, forgiving all.

There was no one to whom Anne could speak upon the subject which was
burning like a constant fire within her heart. And when, a few days
later, a letter came from Gregory Dexter, she opened it eagerly: there
would be, there must be, comfort here. She read the pages quickly, and
her heart stood still. "If I thought that there was the least danger
that the secret of this cowardly, cruel deed would not be found out,"
wrote Dexter, "I should at once leave all this labor in which I am
engaged, important as it is, and devote myself to the search for proofs
to convict the murderer. Never in my life has my desire for swift,
sharp justice been so deeply stirred."

Anne laid down the letter with a trembling hand. If he "thought that
there was the least danger"; then he thought there was none. But so far
no one had been apprehended, or even suspected, save Ward Heathcote
alone. Did he think, then, that Heathcote was guilty? _Could_ he think
this, knowing him as he did, having been in a certain sense his
companion and friend?

Dexter had not liked Heathcote personally, but he was capable of just
judgment above his personal likings and dislikings, and Anne knew it.
She knew that he had examined the testimony impartially. It must be,
then, it must be, that there were grounds for his belief. She took her
pen and wrote a burning letter--a letter of entreaty and passionate
remonstrance. And then, the next morning, she burned it: she must not
write or speak on the subject at all, not even to him.

The slow days moved onward like the processions of a dream. But no one
noticed any change in the young teacher, who journeyed wearily through
the long hours. Old Nora saw the piles of newspapers in her mistress's
room, but as she could not read, they betrayed nothing. She would not,
besides, have recognized Helen under the name of Heathcote; the
beautiful lady who had visited the half-house in the days of
Jeanne-Armande was named Lorrington. The slow days moved on, but not
without events. In this case the law had moved speedily. An indictment
had been found, and the trial was to take place without delay in the
county town of the district to which Timloesville belonged.

Miss Teller had gone to this town; the newspapers said that she had
taken a house, and would remain during the trial, or as long as Captain
Heathcote was confined there. Anne, reading these items, reading the
many descriptions of Heathcote, the suggestions regarding the murder,
the theories concerning the blunder (for it was conceded that there had
been a blunder), asked herself wonderingly if he had no friends left--no
friends on earth, save herself and Miss Teller? The whole world seemed
to be against him. But she judged only from the newspapers. There was
another side. This was a small, local, but in one way powerful,
minority, which stood by the accused man immovably. This minority was
composed almost entirely of women--women high in New York society,
Helen's own companions and friends. They formed a determined band of
champions, who, without condescending to use any arguments, but simply
through their own personality, exerted a strong influence, limited, it
is true, but despotic. If the case was tried beforehand by the
newspapers, it was also tried beforehand by sweet voices and scornful
lips in many New York drawing-rooms. Society resolved itself into two
parties--those who did and those who did not believe in the guilt of the
imprisoned man. Those who did believe were almost all men; those who did
not, almost all women; the exceptions being a few men who stood by
Heathcote in spite of the evidence, and a few women who, having logical
minds, stood by the evidence in spite of themselves.

When the trial began, not only was Miss Teller present, but Mrs. Varce
and Isabel, Mrs. Bannert and her daughter-in-law, together with others
equally well known as friends of Helen's, and prominent members of New
York's fashionable society.

Multomah, the little county town, was excited; its one hotel was
crowded. The country people came in to attend the trial from miles
around; great lawyers were to be present, there was to be "mighty fine
speaking." The gentleman had murdered his wife for the million dollars
she constantly carried with her. The gentleman had murdered his wife
because she had just discovered that he was already married before he
met her, and he was afraid she would reveal the secret. A local preacher
improved the occasion by a sermon decked profusely with Apollyons and
Abaddons. It was not clearly known what he meant, or where he stood; but
the discourse was listened to by a densely packed crowd of farming
people, who came out wiping their foreheads, and sat down on convenient
tombstones to talk it over, and eat their dinners, brought in baskets,
trying the case again beforehand for the five-hundredth time, with
texts and Scripture phrases thrown in to give it a Sabbath flavor.

The New York dailies had sent their reporters; every evening Anne read
their telegraphic summaries of the day's events; every morning, the
account of the same in detail. She was not skillful enough to extract
the real evidence from the mass of irrelevant testimony with which it
was surrounded, the questions and answers, the confusing pertinacity of
the lawyers over some little point which seemed to her as far from the
real subject as a blade of grass is from the fixed stars. She turned,
therefore, to the printed comments which day by day accompanied the
report of the proceedings, gathering from them the progress made, and
their ideas of the probabilities which lay in the future. The progress
seemed rapid; the probabilities were damning. No journal pretended that
they were otherwise. Yet still the able pens of the calmer writers
counselled deliberation. "There have been cases with even closer
evidence than this," they warningly wrote, "in which the accused, by
some unexpected and apparently trivial turn in the testimony, has been
proven clearly innocent. In this case, while the evidence is strong, it
is difficult to imagine a motive. Mrs. Heathcote was much attached to
her husband; she was, besides, a beautiful, accomplished, and
fascinating woman. That a man should deliberately plan to murder such a
wife, merely in order to obtain possession of wealth which was already
practically his, is incredible; and until some more reasonable motive is
discovered, many will refuse to believe even the evidence."

Anne, reading this sentence, felt faint. So far the mysterious testimony
to which vague allusion had been made in the beginning had not been
brought forward; the time had been occupied by the evidence concerning
the events at Timloesville, and the questioning and cross-questioning of
the Timloesville witnesses. A "more reasonable motive." The veiled shape
that accompanied her seemed to assume more definite outline, and to grow
from Dread into Fear. And yet she could not tell of what she was
afraid.

The days passed, and she wondered how it was that she could still eat,
and sleep, and speak as usual, while her whole being was away in that
little Pennsylvania town. She did speak and teach as usual, but she did
not eat or sleep. Something besides food sustained her. Was it hope? Or
fear? Oh, why did not all the world cry out that he was not, could not
be guilty! Were people all mad, and deaf, and blind? She lived on in a
suspense which was like a continual endurance of suffocation, which yet
never quite attains the relief of death.

Miss Teller's lawyers labored with skill and vigilance; all that
talent--nay, more, genius--could do, they did. Their theory was that the
murder was committed by a third person, who entered Mrs. Heathcote's
room by the same outside stairway which her husband had used, after his
departure; and they defied the prosecution to prove that they were
wrong. In answer to this theory the prosecution presented certain facts,
namely: that Heathcote was seen entering by the outside stairway, and
that no one else was seen; that the impressions found there were those
of a left hand, and that Heathcote was at the time left-handed; that a
towel, marked with the name of the hotel and stained with blood, was
found on the river-bank at the end of a direct trail from the garden,
and that the chamber-maid testified that, whereas she had placed four
towels in the room a few hours before, there were in the morning but two
remaining, and that no others were missing from the whole number owned
by the hotel.

At this stage of the proceedings, Anne, sitting in her own room as usual
now in the evening, with one newspaper in her hand and the others
scattered on the floor by her side, heard a knock on the door below,
but, in her absorption, paid no attention to it. In a few moments,
however, Nora came up to say that Mr. Dexter was in the parlor, and
wished to see her.

Here was an unexpected trial. She had sent a short, carefully guarded
answer to his long letter, and he had not written again. It had been
comparatively easy to guard written words. But could she command those
that must be spoken? She bathed her face in cold water, and stood
waiting until she felt that she had called up a calmer expression; she
charged herself to guard every look, every word, even the tones of her
voice. Then she went down.



CHAPTER XXXII.

     "I can account for nothing you women do, although I have lived
     among you seventy-five years."--WALTER SAVAGE LANDOR.


As she entered the little parlor, Dexter came forward to meet her. "You
are looking very well," he said, almost reproachfully.

"I am very well," she answered. "And you?"

"Not well at all. What with the constant and harassing work I am doing,
and this horrible affair concerning poor Helen, I confess that I feel
worn and old. It is not often that I acknowledge either. I have been
busy in the city all day, and must return to my post on the midnight
train; but I had two or three hours to spare, and so I have come out to
see you. Before we say anything else, however, tell me about yourself.
How is it with you at present?"

Glad of a respite, she described to him, with more details than she had
hitherto thought necessary, her position, her pupils, and her daily
life. She talked rapidly, giving him no opportunity to speak; she hardly
knew herself as she went along. At last, however, he did break through
the stream of her words. "I am glad you find interest in these matters,"
he said, coldly. "With me it is different; I can think of nothing but
poor Helen."

It was come: now for self-control. All her words failed suddenly; she
could not speak.

"Are you not haunted by it?" he continued. "Do you not constantly see
her lying there asleep, that pale hair unbraided, those small helpless
hands bare of all their jewels--poor defenseless little hands, decked
only with the mockery of that wedding ring?"

He was gazing at the wall, as though it were all pictured there. Anne
made no reply, and after a pause he went on. "Helen was a fascinating
woman; but she was, or could be if she chose, an intensely exasperating
woman as well. I am no coward; I think I may say the reverse; but I
would rather be alone with a tigress than with such a woman as she would
have been, if roused to jealous fury. She would not have stirred, she
would not have raised her voice, but she would have spoken words that
would have stung like asps and cut like Damascus blades. No devil would
have shown in that kind of torment greater ingenuity. I am a
self-controlled man, yet I can imagine Helen Lorrington driving me, if
she had tried, into such a state of frenzy that I should hardly know
what I was doing. In such a case I should end, I think, by crushing her
in my arms, and fairly strangling the low voice that taunted me. But--I
could never have stabbed her in her sleep!"

Again he paused, and again Anne kept silence. But he did not notice it;
he was absorbed in his own train of thought.

"It is a relief to speak of this to you," he continued, "for you knew
Helen, and Heathcote also. Do you know I can imagine just how she worked
upon him; how that fair face and those narrow eyes of hers wrought their
deadly darts. Her very want of strength was an accessory; for if she
could have risen and struck him, if she had been _capable_ of any such
strong action, the exasperation would have been less. But that a
creature so helpless, one whose slight form he had been used to carry
about the house in his arms, one who could not walk far unaided--that
such a creature should lie there, in all her delicate beauty, and with
barbed words deliberately torment him--Anne, I can imagine a rush of
madness which might well end in murder and death. But not a plot. If he
had killed her in a passion, and then boldly avowed the deed, giving
himself up, I should have had some sympathy with him, in spite of the
horror of the deed. But to arrange the method of his crime (as he
evidently tried to do) so that he would not be discovered, but be
enabled quietly to inherit her money--bah! I almost wish I were the
hangman myself! Out on the border he would have been lynched long ago."

His listener still remained mute, but a little fold of flesh inside her
lips was bitten through by her clinched teeth in the effort she made to
preserve that muteness.

It seemed to have been a relief to Dexter to let out those strong words.
He paused, turned toward Anne, and for the first time noted her dress.
"Are you in mourning?" he asked, doubtfully, looking at the unbroken
black of her attire.

"It is the same dress I have worn for several months."

He did not know enough of the details of a woman's garb to see that the
change came from the absence of white at the throat and wrists. After
Helen's death poor Anne had sewed black lace in her plain black gown; it
was the only mourning she could allow herself.

The moment was now come when she must say something. Dexter, his
outburst over, was leaning back in his chair, looking at her. "Miss
Teller has gone to Multomah, I believe," she remarked, neutrally.

"Yes; singularly enough, she believes him innocent. I heard, while in
the city to-day, that the Varces and Bannerts and others of that set
believe it also, and are all at Multomah 'for the moral effect.' For the
moral effect!" He threw back his head and laughed scornfully. "I wish I
had time to run up there myself," he added, "to dwell upon the moral
effect of all those fine ladies. However, the plain American people have
formed their own opinion of this case, and are not likely to be moved by
such influences. They understand. This very evening, on the train, I
heard a mechanic say, 'If the jurymen were only fine ladies, now, that
Heathcote would get off yet.'"

"How can you repeat such words?" said the girl, blazing out suddenly and
uncontrollably, as a fire which has been long smothered bursts into
sudden and overpowering flame at the last.

"Of course it is bad taste to jest on such a subject. I only--Why, Anne,
what is the matter?" For she had risen and was standing before him, her
eyes brilliant with an expression which was almost hate.

"You believe that he did it?" she said.

"I do."

"And I do _not_! You say that Helen taunted him, that she drove him
into a frenzy; you imagine the scene, and picture its details. Know that
Helen loved him with her whole heart. Whatever she may have been to you,
to him she was utterly devoted, living upon his words and his smile. She
esteemed herself blessed simply to be near him--in his presence; and, on
that very night, she said that no wife was ever so happy, and that on
her knees she had thanked her Creator for that which made her life one
long joy."

Gregory Dexter's face had showed the profoundest wonder while the
excited girl was speaking, but by the time she ceased he had, in his
quick way, grasped something of the truth, unexpected and astonishing
though it was.

"You know this?" he said. "Then she wrote to you."

"Yes."

"On the evening of her death?"

"Yes."

"Bagshot testifies that when she left the room, at nine, Mrs. Heathcote
was writing. Was that this letter to you?"

"I presume it was."

"When and how was it mailed? Or rather, what is the date of the
postmark?"

"The next morning."

Dexter looked at her searchingly. "This may prove to be very important,"
he said.

"I know it--now."

"Why have you not spoken before?"

"To whom could I speak? Besides, it has not seemed important to me until
now; for no one has suggested that she did not love her husband, that
she tormented him and drove him into fury, save yourself alone."

"You will see that others will suggest it also," said Dexter, unmoved by
her scorn. "Are you prepared to produce this letter?"

"I have it."

"Can I see it?"

"I would rather not show it."

"There is determined concealment here somewhere, Anne, and I am much
troubled; I fear you stand very near great danger. Remember that this is
a serious matter, and ordinary rules should be set aside, ordinary
feelings sacrificed. You will do well to show me that letter, and, in
short, to tell me the whole truth plainly. Do you think you have any
friend more steadfast than myself?"

"You are kind. But--you are prejudiced."

"Against Heathcote, do you mean?" said Dexter, a sudden flash coming for
an instant into his gray eyes. "Is it possible that _you_, you too, are
interested in that man?"

But at this touch upon her heart the girl controlled herself again. She
resumed her seat, with her face turned toward the window. "I do not
believe that he did it, and you do," she answered, quietly. "That makes
a wide separation between us."

But for the moment the man who sat opposite had forgotten the present,
to ask himself, with the same old inward wonder and anger, why it was
that this other man, who had never done anything or been anything in his
life, who had never denied himself, never worked, never accomplished
anything--why it was that such a man as this had led captive Helen,
Rachel, and now perhaps Anne. If it had been a case of great personal
beauty, he could have partially accounted for it, and--scorned it. But
it was not. Many a face was more regularly handsome than Heathcote's; he
knew that he himself would be pronounced by the majority a handsomer,
although of course older, man. But when he realized that he was going
over this same old bitter ground, by a strong effort of will he stopped
himself and returned to reality. Heathcote's power, whatever it was, and
angry as it made him, was nevertheless a fact, and Dexter never
contradicted facts. With his accurate memory, he now went back and took
up Anne's last answer. "You say I believe it. It is true," he said,
turning toward her (he had been sitting with his eyes cast down during
this whirl of feeling); "but my belief is not founded upon prejudice, as
you seem to think. It rests upon the evidence. Let us go over the
evidence together: women are sometimes intuitively right, even against
reason."

"I can not go over it."

But he persisted. "It would be better," he said, determined to draw the
whole truth from her, if not in one way, then in another. For he
realized how important it was that she should have an adviser.

She looked up and met his eyes; they were kind but unyielding. "Very
well," she said, making an effort to do even this. She leaned back in
her chair and folded her hands: people could endure, then, more than
they knew.

Dexter, not giving her a moment's delay, began immediately: his object
was to rouse her and draw her out. "We will take at first simply the
testimony," he said. "I have the main points here in my note-book. We
will even suppose that we do not know the persons concerned, but think
of them as strangers." He went over the evidence clearly and briefly.
Then the theories. "Note," he said, "the difference. On one side we have
a series of facts, testified to by a number of persons. On the other, a
series of possibilities, testified to by no one save the prisoner
himself. The defense is a theory built to fit the case, without one
proof, no matter how small, as a foundation."

Anne had not stirred. Her eyes were turned away, gazing into the
darkness of the garden. Dexter closed his note-book, and returned it to
his pocket.

"They have advanced no further in the real trial," he said; "but you and
I will now drop our rôle of strangers, and go on. We know him; we knew
her. Can we think of any cause which would account for such an act? Was
there any reason why Ward Heathcote would have been relieved by the
death of his wife?"

Anne remained silent.

"The common idea that he wished to have sole control of her wealth will
hardly, I think, be received by those who have personally known him,"
continued Dexter. "He never cared for money. He was, in my opinion,
ostentatiously indifferent to it." Here he paused to control the tone of
his voice, which was growing bitter. "I repeat--can you imagine any
other reason?" he said. Still she did not answer.

"Why do you not answer? I shall begin to suspect that you do."

At this she stirred a little, and he was satisfied. He had moved her
from her rigidity. Not wishing to alarm her, he went on, tentatively:
"My theory of the motive you are not willing to allow; still, I consider
it a possible and even probable one. For they were not happy: _he_ was
not happy. Beautiful as she was, rich as she was, I was told, when I
first came eastward in the spring, soon after their marriage, that had
it not been for that accident and the dangerous illness that followed,
Helen Lorrington would never have been Ward Heathcote's wife."

"Who told you this?" said Anne, turning toward him.

"I did not hear it from her, but it came from her--Rachel Bannert."

"She is a traitorous woman."

"Yes; but traitors betray--the truth."

He was watching her closely; she felt it, and turned toward the window
again, so that he should not see her eyes.

"Suppose that he did not love her, but had married her under the
influence of pity, when her life hung by a thread; suppose that she
loved him--you say she did. Can you not imagine that there might have
been moments when she tormented him beyond endurance concerning his past
life--who knows but his present also? She was jealous; and she had
wonderful ingenuity. But I doubt if you comprehend what I mean: a woman
never knows a woman as a man knows her. And Heathcote was not patient.
He is a self-indulgent man--a man who has been completely spoiled."

Again he paused. Then he could not resist bringing forward something
else, under any circumstances, to show her that she was of no
consequence in the case compared with another person. "It is whispered,
I hear, that the maid will testify that there was a motive, and a strong
one, namely, a rival; that there was another woman whom Heathcote really
loved, and that Helen knew this, and used the knowledge."

[Illustration: "HE ROSE, AND TOOK HER COLD HANDS IN HIS."]

The formless dread which accompanied Anne began now to assume
definite outline and draw nearer. She gazed at her inquisitor with eyes
full of dumb distress.

He rose, and took her cold hands in his. "Child," he said, earnestly, "I
beseech you tell me all. It will be so much better for you, so much
safer. You are suffering intensely. I have seen it all the evening. Can
you not trust me?"

She still looked at him in silence, while the tears rose, welled over,
and rolled slowly down.

"Can you not trust me?" he repeated.

She shook her head.

"But as you have told me something, why not tell me all?"

"I am afraid to tell all," she whispered.

"For yourself?"

"No."

"For him, then?"

"Yes."

He clinched his hand involuntarily as he heard this answer. Her pale
face and agitation were all for him, then--for Ward Heathcote!

"You are really shaken by fear," he said. "I know its signs, or rather
those of dread. It is pure dread which has possession of you now. How
unlike you, Anne! How unlike yourself you are at this moment!"

But she cared nothing for herself, nothing for the scorn in his voice
(the jealous are often loftily scornful), and he saw that she did not.

"Whom do you fear? The maid?"

"Yes."

"What can she say?"

"I do not know; and yet--"

"Is it possible--can it be possible, Anne, that _you_ are the person
implicated, the so-called rival?"

"I do not know; and it is because I do not know that I am so much
afraid," she answered, still in the same low whisper.

"But why should you take this possibility upon yourself? Ward Heathcote
is no Sir Galahad, Heaven knows. Probably at this moment twenty women
are trembling as you are trembling, fearing lest they be called by
name, and forced forward before the world."

He spoke with anger. Anne did not contradict him, but she leaned her
head upon her hand weariedly, and closed her eyes.

"How can I leave you?" he said, breaking into his old kindness again. "I
ought to go, but it is like leaving a girl in the hands of torturers. If
there were only some one to be with you here until all this is over!"

"There is no one. I want no one."

"You puzzle me deeply," he said, walking up and down with troubled
anxiety. "I can form no opinion as to whether your dread is purely
imaginary or not, because you tell me nothing. If you were an ordinary
woman, I should not give much thought to what you say--or rather to what
you look, for you say nothing; but you are not ordinary. You are
essentially brave, and you have fewer of the fantastic, irrelevant
fancies of women than any girl I have ever known. There must be
something, then, to fear, since _you_ fear so intensely. I like you,
Anne; I respect you. I admire you too, more than you know. You are so
utterly alone in this trouble that I can not desert you. And I will
not."

"Do not stay on my account."

"But I shall. That is, in the city; it is decided. Here is my address.
Promise that if you should wish help or advice in any way--mark that I
say, in any way--you will send me instantly a dispatch."

"I will."

"There is nothing more that I can do for you?"

"Nothing."

"And nothing that you will tell me? Think well, child."

"Nothing."

Then, as it was late, he made her renew her promise, and went away.

The next morning the package of newspapers was brought to Anne from the
station at an early hour as usual. She was in her own room waiting for
them. She watched the boy coming along the road, and felt a sudden
thrill of anger when he stopped to throw a stone at a bird. To stop
with _that_ in his hand! Old Nora brought up the package. Anne took it,
and closed the door. Then she sat down to read.

Half an hour later, Gregory Dexter received a telegraphic dispatch from
Lancaster. "Come immediately. A. D."



CHAPTER XXXIII.

    "He was first always. Fortune
         Shone bright in his face.
     I fought for years; with no effort
         He conquered the place.
     We ran; my feet were all bleeding,
         But he won the race.

     "My home was still in the shadow;
         His lay in the sun.
     I longed in vain; what he asked for,
         It straightway was done.
     Once I staked all my heart's treasure;
         We played--and he won!"

     --ADELAIDE PROCTER.


When the dispatch came, Dexter had not yet seen the morning papers. He
ate his breakfast hastily, and on the way to the station and on the
train he read them with surprise and a tumultuous mixture of other
feelings, which he did not stop then to analyze. Mrs. Bagshot had been
brought forward a second time by the prosecution, and had testified to
an extraordinary conversation which had taken place between Mrs.
Heathcote and an unknown young girl on the morning after the news of
Captain Heathcote's death in the Shenandoah Valley had been received,
parts of which (the conversation) she, in an adjoining room, had
overheard. He had barely time to grasp the tenor of the evidence (which
was voluminous and interrupted by many questions) when the train reached
Lancaster, and he found Li in waiting with the red wagon. All Li could
tell was that Miss Douglas was "going on a journey." She was "all ready,
with her bonnet on."

In the little parlor he found her, walking up and down, as he had
walked during the preceding evening. White as her face was, there was a
new expression in her eyes--an expression of energy. In some way she had
reached a possibility of action, and consequently a relief. When he had
entered, with a rapid motion she closed the doors. "Have you read it?"
she said.

"You mean the new testimony? Yes; I read it as I came out."

"And you understood, of course, that it was I?"

"I feared it might be."

"And you see that I must go immediately to Multomah?"

"By heavens! no. I see nothing of the kind. Rather should you hasten as
far away as possible--to England, Germany--some distant spot where you
can safely rest until all danger, danger of discovery, is over."

"So _you_ believe it also!" cried the girl, with scathing emphasis. "You
believe and condemn! Believe that garbled, distorted story; condemn,
when you only know half! Like all the rest of the world, you are in
haste to believe, glad to believe, the worst--in haste to join the hue
and cry against a hunted man."

She stood in the centre of the room, her form drawn up to its full
height, her eyes flashing. She looked inspired--inspired with anger and
scorn.

"Then it _is_ garbled?" said Dexter, finding time even at that moment to
admire her beauty, which had never before been so striking.

"It is. And I must go to Multomah and give the true version. Tell me
what train to take."

"First tell _me_, Anne; tell me the whole story. Let me hear it before
you give it to the world. Surely there can be no objection to my knowing
it now."

"There is no objection; but I can not lose the time. I must start."

A travelling-bag stood on the table beside her shawl and gloves; the red
wagon was waiting outside. He comprehended that nothing would stop her,
and took his measures accordingly.

"I can arrange everything for you, and I will, and without the least
delay. But first you must tell me the whole," he said, sitting down and
folding his arms. "I will not work in the dark. As to time, the loss of
an hour is nothing compared with the importance of gaining my
co-operation, for the moment I am convinced, I will telegraph to the
court-room itself, and stop proceedings until you arrive. With my help,
my name, my influence, behind you, you can accomplish anything. But what
could you do alone? You would be misunderstood, misrepresented,
subjected to doubt, suspicion, perhaps insult. Have you thought of
this?"

"I mind nothing if I can but save him."

"But if you can save him more effectually with my assistance?"

"How can that be, when you dislike, suspect him?"

"Do you wish to drive me into a rage? Can I not be just to Ward
Heathcote whether I like him or not, suspect him or not? Yes, even
though I believe him to be guilty? Try me. If I promise to go with you
to Multomah to-day, even if I think your presence there will be of no
avail, will _that_ induce you?"

"Yes."

"Then I promise."

Without pausing, she sat down by the table, taking a newspaper from her
pocket. "You have one," she said; "please follow me in the one you have.
When I saw the notice of his death, I went immediately to Helen. This
woman Bagshot testifies that she was in the next room. I am positive
that at first both the doors of Helen's room were closed; Bagshot,
therefore, must have slightly opened one of them afterward unobserved by
us. There was a curtain hanging partly over this door, but only partly;
she could have opened it, therefore, but slightly, or we should have
noticed the change. This accounts for the little that she caught--only
those sentences that were spoken in an elevated voice, for Helen's room
is large. It will shorten the story, I think, if we read the summary on
the editorial page." And in a clear voice she read as follows: "'Our
readers will remember that at the beginning of the Heathcote trial we
expressed the opinion that until some more probable motive for the deed
than the desire to obtain control of wealth already practically his own
was discovered in connection with the accused, the dispassionate
observer would refuse to believe his guilt, despite the threatening
nature of the evidence. This motive appears now to have been supplied.'
In another column parts of a remarkable conversation are given,
overheard by the witness Bagshot--a conversation between Mrs. Heathcote
and an unknown and beautiful young girl, who came to the house on the
morning after the announcement of Captain Heathcote's death in the
Shenandoah Valley, and before the contradiction of the same had been
received. This young girl was a stranger to the man Simpson, who opened
the front door, and Simpson has been in Mrs. Heathcote's service for
some time. He testifies that she was denied entrance, Mrs. Heathcote not
being able to see any one. She then tore a leaf from her note-book,
wrote a line upon it, and requested him to carry it to his mistress,
adding that she thought Mrs. Heathcote would see her. As intimate
friends had already been refused, Simpson was incredulous, but performed
his duty. To his surprise, Mrs. Heathcote sent Bagshot to say that the
stranger was to come to her immediately, and accordingly she was ushered
up stairs, and the door closed. Upon being questioned as to what the
line of writing was, Simpson replied that he did not read it. Bagshot,
however, testifies that, in accordance with her duty, she cast her eye
over it, and that it contained the following words: "Do let me come to
you. Crystal." The word "Crystal" was a signature, and Mrs. Heathcote
seemed to recognize it. Bagshot testifies that the visitor was young and
beautiful, although plainly, almost poorly, dressed, and that she
remained with Mrs. Heathcote nearly two hours. Very soon after her
departure the telegraphic dispatch was received announcing Captain
Heathcote's safety, and then the wife started on that fatal journey
which was to end in death.

"'This woman, Bagshot, so far the most important witness in the case,
testifies that she heard only parts of the conversation--a few detached
sentences which were spoken in an elevated tone. But, disconnected as
the phrases are, they are brimming with significance. The important
parts of her story are as follows: First, she heard Mrs. Heathcote say,
"I shall never rest until you tell me all!" Second, that she cried out
excitedly: "You have robbed me of his love. I will never forgive you."
Third, that she said, rapidly and in a high, strained voice: "Since he
saw you he has never loved me; I see it now. He married me from pity, no
doubt thinking that I was near death. How many times he must have wished
me dead indeed! I wonder _that he has not murdered me_." Fourth, that
later she said: "Yes, he has borne it so far, and now he is dead. But if
he were alive, I should have taunted him with it. Do you hear? I say I
should have taunted him." Fifth (and most remarkable of all), that this
stranger made a strong and open avowal of her own love for the dead man,
the extraordinary words of which are given in another column. There are
several other sentences, but they are unfinished and comparatively
unimportant.

"'The intelligent observer will not fail to note the significance of
this testimony, which bears upon the case not only by supplying a motive
for the deed, but also, possibly, its immediate cause, in the words of
the deeply roused and jealous wife: "I should have taunted him with it.
I say I should have taunted him."

"'The witness has been subjected to the closest cross-questioning; it
seems impossible to confuse her, or to shake her evidence in the
slightest degree. Divest her testimony of all comment and theory, and it
still remains as nearly conclusive as any evidence, save ocular, can be.
She it is who saw the prisoner enter his wife's room by stealth shortly
before the murder; she it is who overheard the avowal of the rival, the
rage and bitter jealousy of the wife, and her declaration that if her
husband had lived she would have made known to him her discovery, and
taunted him with it.

"'He did live; the report of his death was a mistake. It is more than
probable that the wife carried out her threat.'"

Here Anne paused and laid the newspaper down; she was composed and
grave.

"I will now tell you," she said, lifting her eyes to Dexter's face,
"what really occurred and what really was said. As I stated before, upon
seeing the announcement of her husband's death, I went to Helen. I wrote
upon a slip of paper the line you have heard, and signed the name by
which she always called me. As I had hoped, she consented to see me, and
this woman, Bagshot, took me up stairs to her room. We were alone. Both
doors were closed at first, I know; we supposed that they remained
closed all the time. I knelt down by the low couch and took her in my
arms. I kissed her, and stroked her hair. I could not cry; neither could
she. I sorrowed over her in silence. For some time we did not speak. But
after a while, with a long sigh, she said, 'Anne, I deceived him about
the name in the marriage notice--Angélique; I let him think that it was
you.' I said, 'It is of no consequence,' but she went on. She said that
after that summer at Caryl's she had noticed a change in him, but that
she did not think of me; she thought only of Rachel Bannert. But when he
brought her the marriage notice, and asked if it were I, in an instant
an entirely new suspicion leaped into her heart, roused by something in
the tone of his voice: she always judged him by his voice. From that
moment, she said, she had never been free from the jealous apprehension
that he had loved me; and then, looking at me as she lay in my arms, she
asked, 'But he never did, did he?'

"If I could have evaded her then, perhaps we should both have been
spared all that followed, for we both suffered deeply. But I did not
know how; I answered: 'He had fancies, Helen; I may have been one of
them. But only for a short time. _You_ were his wife.' And then I asked
her if her married life had not been happy.

"'Yes, yes,' she answered. 'I worshipped him.' And as she said this she
began at last to sob, and the first tears she had shed flowed from her
eyes, which had been so dulled and narrowed that they had looked dead.
But she had not been satisfied, and later she came back to the subject
again. She did it suddenly; seizing my arm, and lifting herself up, she
cried out quickly that first sentence overheard by Bagshot--'I shall
never rest until you tell me all!' Then, in a beseeching tone, she
added: 'Do not keep it from me. I know that he did not love me as I
loved him; still, he loved me, and I--was content. What you have to
tell, therefore, can not hurt me, for--I was content. Then speak, Anne,
speak.'

"I tried to quiet her, but she clung to me entreatingly. 'Tell me--tell
me all,' she begged. 'When they bring him home, and I see his still face
lying in the coffin, I want to stand beside him with my hand upon his
breast, and whisper that I know all, understand all, forgive all, if
there were anything to forgive. Anne, he will be glad to hear that--yes,
even in death; for I loved him--love him--with all my soul, and he must
know it now, there where he has gone. With all my imperfections, my
follies, my deceptions, I loved him--loved him--loved him.' She began to
weep, and I too burst into tears. It seemed to _me_ also that he would
be glad to hear that sentence of hers, that forgiveness. And so, judging
her by myself, I did tell her all."

She paused, and her voice trembled, as though in another moment it would
break into sobs.

"What did you tell her?" said Dexter. He was leaning back in his chair,
his face divested of all expression save a rigid impartiality.

"Must I repeat it?"

"Of course, if I am to know all."

"I told her that at Caryl's we had been much together," she began, with
downcast eyes; "that, after a while, he made himself seem much nearer to
me by--by speaking of--by asking me about--sacred things--I mean a
religious belief." (Here her listener's face showed a quick gleam of
angry contempt, but she did not see it.) "Then, after this, one morning
in the garden, when I was in great trouble, he--spoke to me--in another
way. And when I went away from Caryl's he followed me, and we were
together on a train during one day; mademoiselle was with us. At evening
I left the train with mademoiselle: he did not know where we went. At
this time I was engaged to Erastus Pronando. In August of the next
summer I went to West Virginia to assist in the hospitals for a short
time. Here, unexpectedly, I heard of him lying ill at a farm-house in
the neighborhood; I did not even know that he was in the army. I went
across the mountain to see if he were in good hands, and found him very
ill; he did not know me. When the fever subsided, there were a few
hours--during which there was a--deception, followed by a confession of
the same, and separation. He was to go back to his wife, and he did go
back to her. It was because I believed that he had so fully gone back to
her--or rather that he had never left her, I having been but a passing
fancy--that I told Helen all. She suspected something; it was better
that she should know the whole--should know how short-lived had been his
interest in me, his forgetfulness of her. But instead of making this
impression upon her, it roused in her a passion of excitement. It was
then that she exclaimed: 'You have robbed me of his love; I will never
forgive you'--the second sentence overheard by that listening spy.

"'Helen,' I answered, 'he did not love me. Do you not see that? _I_ am
the one humiliated. When I saw you with him at St. Lucien's Church, I
knew that he loved you--probably had never loved any one save you.'

"I believed what I said. But this is what she answered: 'It is not true.
Since he saw you he has never loved me. I see it now. He married me from
pity, no doubt thinking that I was near death. How many times he must
have wished me dead indeed! I wonder that he has not murdered me.'

"This, also, Bagshot heard, for Helen had risen to her feet, and spoke
in a high, strained voice, unlike her own. I put my arms round her and
drew her down again. She struggled, but I would not let her go.

"'Helen,' I said, 'you are beside yourself. You were his wife, and you
were happy. That one look I had in church showed me that you were.'

"She relapsed into stillness. After a while she looked up, and said,
quietly, 'It is a good thing he is dead.'

"'Hush!' I answered; 'you do not know what you are saying.'

"'Yes, I do. It is a good thing that he is dead,' she repeated; 'for I
should have found it out, and made his life a torment. And I should
never have died; it would have determined me never to die. I should have
lived on forever, an old, old woman, close to him always, so that he
could not have _you_.'

"She seemed half mad; I think, at the moment, she was half mad, owing to
the shock, and to the dumb grief which was consuming her.

"'It would have been a strange life we should have led,' she went on. 'I
would not have left him even for a moment; he should have put on my
shawl and carried me to and fro just the same, and I should have kissed
him always when he went out and came in, as though we loved each other.
I know his nature. It is--O God! I mean it _was_--the kind I could have
worked upon. He was generous, very tender to all women; he would have
yielded to me always, so far as bearing silently all my torments to the
last.'"

Here Dexter interrupted the speaker. "You will acknowledge _now_ what I
said concerning her?"

"No," replied Anne; "Helen imagined it all. She could never have carried
it out. She loved him too deeply."

Her eyes met his defiantly. The old feeling that he was an antagonist
rose in her face for a moment, met by a corresponding retort in his.
Then they both dropped their glance, and she resumed her narrative.

"It was here that she cried out, 'Yes, he has borne it so far, and now
he is dead. But if he were alive, I should have taunted him with it. Do
you hear? I say I should have taunted him.' This also Bagshot overheard.
And then--" She paused.

"And then?" repeated Dexter, his eyes full upon her face.

"She grew calmer," said the girl, turning her face from him, and
speaking for the first time hurriedly; "she even kissed me. 'You were
always good and true,' she said. 'But it was easy to be good and true,
if you did not love him.' I suppose she felt my heart throb suddenly
(she was lying in my arms), for she sprang up, and wound her arms round
my neck, bringing her eyes close to mine. _Did_ you love him? she asked.
'Tell me--tell me; it will do no harm now.'

"But I drew myself out of her grasp, although she clung to me. I crossed
the room. She followed me. 'Tell me,' she whispered; 'I shall not mind
it. Indeed, I wish that you _did_ love him, that you do love him, for
then we would mourn for him together. I can be jealous of his love for
you, but not of yours for him, poor child. Tell me, Anne; tell me. I
long to know that you are miserable too.' She was leaning on me: in
truth, she was too weak to stand alone. She clung to me in the old
caressing way. 'Tell me,' she whispered. But I set my lips. Then, still
clinging to me, her eyes fixed on mine, she said that I could not love;
that I did not know what love meant; that I never would know, because my
nature was too calm, too measured. She spoke other deriding words, which
I will not repeat; and then--and then--I do not know how it came about,
but I pushed her from me, with her whispering voice and shining eyes,
and spoke out aloud (we were standing near that door) those words--those
words which Bagshot has repeated."

"You said those words?"

"I did."

"Then you loved him?"

"Yes."

"Do you love him now?"

As Dexter asked this question his eyes were fixed upon her with a
strange intentness. At first she met his gaze with the same absorbed
expression unconscious of self which her face had worn from the
beginning. Then a burning blush rose, spread itself over her forehead,
and dyed even her throat before it faded. "You have no right to ask
that," she said, returning to her narrative with haste, as though it
were a refuge.

"After I had said those words, there was no more bitterness between us.
I think _then_ Helen forgave me. She asked me to come and live with her
in her desolation. I answered that perhaps later I could come, but not
then; and it was at this time that she said, not what Bagshot has
reported, 'You can not conquer hate,' but, 'You can not conquer fate.'
And she added: 'We two _must_ be together, Anne; we are bound by a tie
which can not be severed, even though we may wish it. You must bear with
me, and I must suffer you. It is our fate.'

"Later, she grew more feverish; her strength was exhausted. But when at
last I rose to go, she went with me to the door. 'If he had lived,' she
said, 'one of us must have died.' Then her voice sank to a whisper.
'Changed or died,' she added. 'And as we are not the kind of women who
change, it would have ended in the wearing out of the life of one of
us--the one who loved the most. And people would have called it by some
other name, and that would have been the end. But now it is _he_ who has
been taken, and--oh! I can not bear it--I can not, can not bear it!'"
She paused; her eyes were full of tears.

"Is that all?" said Dexter, coldly.

"That is all."

Then there was a silence.

"Do you not think it important?" she asked at last, with a new timidity
in her voice.

"It will make an impression; it will be your word against Bagshot's. The
point proved will be that instead of your having separated in anger,
with words of bitterness and jealousy, you separated in peace, as
friends. Her letter will be important, if it proves this."

"It does. I have also another--a little note telling me of her husband's
safety, and dropped into a letter-box on her way to the train. And I
have the locket she gave me on the day of our last interview. She took
it from her own neck and clasped it round mine a moment before I left
her."

"Did Bagshot know of the existence of this locket?"

"She must have known it. For Helen said she always wore it; and Bagshot
dressed her daily."

"Will you let me see it? And the two letters also, if they are here?"

"They are up stairs. I will get them."

What he wished to find out was whether she wore the locket. She came
back so soon that he said to himself she could not have had it on--there
had not been time to remove it; besides, as he held it in his hand it
was not warm. He read the two letters carefully. Then he took up the
locket again and examined it. It was a costly trinket, set with
diamonds; within was a miniature, a life-like picture of Helen's
husband.

He looked at his rival silently. The man was in prison, charged with the
highest crime in the catalogue of crimes, and Dexter believed him
guilty. Yet it was, all the same, above all and through all, the face of
his rival still--of his triumphant, successful rival.

He laid down the locket, rose, and went over to Anne.

She was standing by the window, much dejected that he had not been more
impressed by the importance of that which she had revealed. She looked
up as he came near.

"Anne," he said, "I have promised to take you to Multomah, and I will
keep my promise, if you insist. But have you considered that if you
correct and restate Bagshot's testimony in all the other points, you
will also be required to acknowledge the words of that confession?"

"Yes, I know it," she murmured, turning toward the window again.

"It can not but be horribly repugnant to you. Think how you will be
talked about, misunderstood. The newspapers will be black with your
name; it will go through the length and breadth of the land accompanied
with jests, and possibly with worse than jests. Anne, look up; listen to
what I am going to say. Marry me, Anne; marry me to-day; and go on the
witness stand--if go you must--as my wife."

She gazed at him, her eyes widened with surprise.

He took her hands, and began to plead. "It is a strange time in which to
woo you; but it is a strange ordeal which you have to go through. As my
wife, no one will dare to insult you or to misconstrue your evidence;
for your marriage will have given the lie beforehand to the worst
comment that can be made, namely, that you still love Heathcote, and
hope, if he is acquitted, to be his wife. It will be said that you loved
him once, but that this tragedy has changed the feeling, and you will be
called noble in coming forward of your own accord to acknowledge an
avowal which must be now painful to you in the extreme. The 'unknown
young girl' will be unknown no longer, when she comes forward as Gregory
Dexter's wife, with Gregory Dexter by her side to give her, in the eyes
of all men, his proud protection and respect."

Anne's face responded to the warm earnestness of these words: she had
never felt herself so powerfully drawn toward him as at that moment.

"As to love, Anne," he continued, his voice softening, "do not fancy
that I am feigning anything when I say that I do love you. The feeling
has grown up unconsciously. I shall love you very dearly when you are my
wife; you could command me, child, to almost any extent. As for your
feeling toward me--marry me, and I will _make_ you love me." He drew her
toward him. "I am not too old, too old for you, am I?" he said, gently.

"It is not that," she answered, in deep distress. "Oh, why, why have you
said this?"

"Well, because I am fond of you, I suppose," said Dexter, smiling. He
thought she was yielding.

"You do not understand," she said, breaking from him. "You are generous
and kind, the best friend I have ever had, and it is for that reason, if
for no other, that I would never wrong you by marrying you, because--"

"Because?" repeated Dexter.

"Because I still love him."

"Heathcote?"

"Yes."

His face changed sharply, yet he continued his urging. "Even if you do
love him, you would not marry him _now_."

She did not answer.

"You would not marry him with poor Helen's blood between you?"

"It is not between us. He is innocent."

"But if, after escaping conviction, it should yet be made clear to
you--perhaps to you alone--that he _was_ guilty, then would you marry
him?"

"No. But the very greatness of his crime would make him in a certain way
sacred to me on account of the terrible remorse and anguish he would
have to endure."

"A good way to punish criminals," said Dexter, bitterly. "To give them
your love and your life, and make them happy."

"He would not be happy; he would be a wretched man through every moment
of his life, and die a wretched death. Whatever forgiveness might come
in another world, there would be none in this. Helen herself would wish
me to be his friend."

"For the ultra-refinement of self-deception, give me a woman," said
Dexter, with even deepened bitterness.

"But why do we waste time and words?" continued Anne. Then seeing him
take up his hat and turn toward the door, she ran to him and seized his
arm. "You are not going?" she cried, abandoning the subject with a
quick, burning anxiety which told more than all the rest. "Will you not
take me, as you promised, to Multomah?"

"You still ask me to take you there?"

"Yes, yes."

"What do you think a man is made of?" he said, throwing down his hat,
but leaving her, and walking across to the window.

Anne followed him. "Mr. Dexter," she said, standing behind him,
shrinkingly, so that he could not see her, "would you wish me to marry
you when I love--love _him_, as I said, in those words which you have
read, and--even more?" Her face was crimson, her voice broken, her hands
were clasped so tightly that the red marks of the pressure were visible.

He turned and looked at her. Her face told even more than her words. All
his anger faded; it seemed to him then that he was the most unfortunate
man in the whole world. He took her in his arms, and kissed her sadly.
"I yield, child," he said. "Think of it no more. But, oh, Anne, Anne, if
it could but have been! Why does he have everything, and I nothing?" He
bowed his head over hers as it lay on his breast, and stood a moment;
then he released her, went to the door, and breathed the outside air in
silence.

Closing it, he turned and came toward her again, and in quite another
tone said, "Are you ready? If you are, we will go to the city, and start
as soon as possible for Multomah."



CHAPTER XXXIV.

    "Then she rode forth, clothed on with chastity:
     The deep air listen'd round her as she rode,
     And all the low wind hardly breathed for fear.
     The little wide-mouth'd heads upon the spout
     Had cunning eyes to see: the barking cur
     Made her cheeks flame: ... the blind walls
     Were full of chinks and holes; and overhead
     Fantastic gables, crowding, stared: but she
     Not less thro' all bore up."--TENNYSON.


Gregory Dexter kept his word. He telegraphed to Miss Teller and to Miss
Teller's lawyers. He thought of everything, even recalling to Anne's
mind that she ought to write to her pupils and to the leader of the
choir, telling them that she expected to be absent from the city for
several days. "It would be best to resign all the places at once," he
said. "After this is over, they can easily come back to you if they wish
to do so."

"It may make a difference, then, in my position?" said Anne.

"It will make the difference that you will no longer be an unknown
personage," he answered, briefly.

His dispatch had produced a profound sensation of wonder in the mind of
Miss Teller, and excitement in the minds of Miss Teller's lawyers.
Helen's aunt, so far, had not been able to form a conjecture as to the
identity of the mysterious young girl who had visited her niece, and
borne part in that remarkable conversation; Bagshot's description
brought no image before her mind. The acquaintance with Anne Douglas,
the school-girl at Madame Moreau's was such a short, unimportant, and
now distant episode in the brilliant, crowded life of her niece that
she had forgotten it, or at least never thought of it in this
connection. She had never heard Helen call Anne "Crystal." Her
imagination was fixed upon a girl of the lower class, beautiful, and
perhaps in her way even respectable--"one of those fancies which," she
acknowledged, "gentlemen sometimes have," the tears gathering in her
pale eyes as she spoke, so repugnant was the idea to her, although she
tried to accept it for Heathcote's sake. But how could Helen have known
a girl of this sort? Was this, too, one of those concealed trials which
wives of "men of the world" were obliged to endure?

Neither did Isabel or Rachel think of Anne. To them she had been but a
school-girl, and they had not seen her or heard of her since that summer
at Caryl's; she had passed out of their remembrance as entirely as out
of their vision. Their idea of Helen's unknown visitor was similar to
that which occupied the mind of Miss Teller. And in their hearts they
had speculated upon the possibility of using money with such a person,
inducing her to come forward, name herself, and deny Bagshot's testimony
point-blank, or at least the dangerous portions of it. It could not
matter much to a girl of that sort what she had to say, provided she
were well paid for it.

Miss Teller and the lawyers were waiting to receive Anne, when, late in
the evening, she arrived, accompanied by Mr. Dexter. The lawyers had to
give way first to Miss Teller.

"Oh, Anne, dear child!" she cried, embracing the young girl warmly; "I
never dreamed it was you. And you have come all this way to help us! I
do not in the least understand how; but never mind--never mind. God
bless you!" She sobbed as she spoke. Then seeing Dexter, who was
standing at some distance, she called him to her, and blessed him also.
He received her greeting in silence. He had brought Anne, but he was in
no mood to appreciate benedictions.

And now the lawyers stepped forward, arranging chairs at the table in a
suggestive way, opening papers, and consulting note-books. Anne looked
toward Dexter for directions; his eyes told her to seat herself in one
of the arm-chairs. He then withdrew to another part of the large room,
and Miss Teller, having vainly endeavored to beckon him to her side, so
that he might be within reach of her tearful whispers and
sympathy-seeking finger, resigned herself to excited listening and
silence.

When Anne Douglas appeared on the witness-stand in the Heathcote murder
trial, a buzz of curiosity and surprise ran round the crowded
court-room.

"A young girl!" was the first whisper. Then, "Pretty, rather," from the
women, and "Beautiful!" from the men.

Isabel grasped Rachel's arm. "Is that Anne Douglas?" she said, in a
wonder-struck voice. "You remember her--the school-girl, Miss Vanhorn's
niece, who was at Caryl's that summer? Helen always liked her; and Ward
Heathcote used to talk to her now and then, although Mr. Dexter paid her
more real attention."

"I remember her," said Rachel, coldly; "but I do not recollect the other
circumstances you mention."

"It _is_ Anne," continued Isabel, too much absorbed to notice Rachel's
manner. "But older, and a thousand times handsomer. Rachel, that girl is
beautiful!"

Anne's eyes were downcast. She feared to see Heathcote, and she did not
even know in what part of the room he was placed. She remained thus
while she was identified by Bagshot and Simpson, while she gave her
name, and went through the preliminary forms; when at last she did raise
her eyes, she looked only at the lawyers who addressed her.

And now the ordeal opened. All, or almost all, of that which she had
told Gregory Dexter she was now required to repeat here, before this
crowded, listening court-room, this sea of faces, these watching
lawyers, the judge, and the dreaded jury. She had never been in a
court-room before. For one moment, when she first looked up, her courage
failed, and those who were watching her saw that it had failed. Then
toward whom did her frightened glance turn as if for aid?

"Rachel, it is Gregory Dexter," said Isabel, again grasping her
companion's arm excitedly.

"Pray, Isabel, be more quiet," answered Mrs. Bannert. But her own heart
throbbed quickly for a moment as she recognized the man who had told her
what he thought of her plainly in crude and plebeian Saxon phraseology.

Anne was now speaking. Bagshot's testimony was read to her phrase by
phrase. Phrase by phrase she corroborated its truthfulness, but added
what had preceded and followed. In this manner all the overheard
sentences were repeated amid close attention, the interest increasing
with every word.

But still it was evident that all were waiting; the attitude was plainly
one of alert expectancy.

For what were they waiting? For the confession of love, to whose
"extraordinary words" the New York journals had called attention.

At last it came. An old lawyer read the sentences aloud, slowly,
markedly; while the fall of a feather could have been heard in the
crowded room, and all eyes were fastened pitilessly upon the defenseless
girl; for she seemed at that moment utterly forsaken and defenseless.

"'You say that I can not love,'" slowly read the lawyer, in his clear,
dry voice; "'that it is not in my nature. You know nothing about it. You
have thought me a child; I am a child no longer. I love Ward Heathcote,
your husband, with my whole heart. It was a delight to me simply to be
near him, to hear his voice. When he spoke my name, all my being went
toward him. I loved him--loved him--so deeply that everything else on
the face of the earth is as nothing to me compared with it. I would have
been gladly your servant, yes, _yours_, only to be in the same house
with him, though I were of no more account in his eyes than the dog on
the mat before his door.'"

There was an instant of dead silence after these last passionate words
had fallen strangely from the old lawyer's thin lips. Then, "Are these
your words?" he asked.

"They are," replied Anne.

In that supreme moment her glance, vaguely turned away from the
questioner, met the direct gaze of the prisoner. Until now she had not
seen him. It was but an instant that their eyes held each other, but in
that instant the thronged court-room faded from her sight, and her face,
which, while the lawyer read, had been white and still as marble, was
now, though still colorless, so transfigured, so uplifted, so beautiful
in its pure sacrifice, that men leaned forward to see her more closely,
to print, as it were, that exquisite image upon their memories forever.

Then the crowd took its breath again audibly; the sight was over. Anne
had sunk down and covered her face with her hands, and Miss Teller, much
agitated, was sending her a glass of water.

Even the law is human sometimes, and there was now a short delay.

So far, while the testimony of the new witness had been dramatic, and in
its interest absorbing, it had not proved much, or shaken to any great
extent the theory of the prosecution. On the contrary, more than ever
now were people inclined to believe that this lovely young girl was in
reality the wife's rival. Men whispered to each other, significantly,
"Heathcote knew what he was about. That is the most beautiful girl I
ever saw in my life; and nothing can alter _that_."

"But now the tide turned. The examination proceeded, and the two
unfinished sentences which Bagshot had repeated were read. Anne
corrected them.

"'You can not conquer hate,'" read the lawyer.

"Mrs. Heathcote did not say that," began Anne; but her voice was still
tremulous, and she paused a moment in order to control it.

"We wish to remark here," said one of Miss Teller's lawyers, "that while
the witness named Minerva Bagshot is possessed of an extraordinary
memory, and while she has also repeated what she overheard with a
correctness and honesty which are indeed remarkable in a person who
would deliberately open a door and _listen_, in this instance her
careful and conscientious ears will be found to have been mistaken."

He was not allowed to say more. But as he had said all he wished to say,
he bore his enforced silence with equanimity.

"Mrs. Heathcote wished me to come and live with her," continued Anne.
"She said, not what Mrs. Bagshot has reported, but, 'You can not conquer
_fate_.' And then she added, 'We two _must_ be together, Anne; we are
bound by a tie which can not be severed, even though we may wish it. You
must bear with me, and I must suffer you. It is our fate.'"

This produced an effect; it directly contradicted the impression made by
Bagshot's phrase, namely, that the two women had parted in anger and
hate, the wife especially being in a mood of desperation. True, it was
but Anne's word against Bagshot's, and the strange tendency toward
believing the worst, which is often seen at criminal trials, inclined
most minds toward the elder woman's story. Still, the lawyers for the
defense were hopeful.

The last sentence, or portion of a sentence, was now read: "'If he had
lived, one of us must have died.'"

It had been decided that Anne should here give all that Helen had said,
without omission, as she had given it to Dexter.

"Yes," she answered; "Mrs. Heathcote used those words. But it was in the
following connection. When we had said good-by, and I had promised to
come again after the funeral, she went with me toward the door. 'If he
had lived,' she said, 'one of us must have died.' Then she paused an
instant, and her voice sank. 'Changed or died,' she added. 'And as we
are not the kind of women who change, it would have ended in the wearing
out of the life of one of us--the one who loved the most. And people
would have called it by some other name, and that would have been the
end. But now it is _he_ who has been taken, and--oh! I can not bear
it--I can not, can not bear it!'"

She repeated these words of Helen's with such realistic power that tears
came to many eyes. Rachel Bannert for the first time veiled her face.
All the feeling in her, such as it was, was concentrated upon Heathcote,
and Helen's bitter cry of grief, repeated by Anne, had been the secret
cry of her own heart every minute since danger first menaced him.

Anne's words had produced a sensation; still, they were but her
unsupported words.

But now something else was brought forward; proof which, so far as it
went, at least, was tangible. Anne was testifying that, before she went
away, Helen had taken from her own neck a locket and given it to her as
a token of renewed affection; and the locket was produced. The defense
would prove by Bagshot herself that this locket on its chain was round
her mistress's neck on the morning of that day, and Mrs. Heathcote must
therefore have removed it herself and given it to the present witness,
since the latter could hardly have taken it from her by force without
being overheard, the door being so very conveniently ajar.

And now the next proof was produced, the hurried note written to Anne by
Helen, after the tidings of her husband's safety had been received.
After the writing had been identified as Helen's, the note was read.

       *       *       *       *       *

"DEAR ANNE,--Ward is safe. It was a mistake. I have just received a
dispatch. He is wounded, but not dangerously, and I write this on my way
to the train, for I am going to him; that is, if I can get through. All
is different now. I trust you. But I love him too much not to try and
make him love _me_ the most, if I possibly can.

HELEN."

       *       *       *       *       *

This was evidence clear and decided. It was no longer Anne's word, but
Helen's own. Whatever else the listeners continued to believe, they must
give up the idea that the wife and this young girl had parted in anger
and hate; for if the locket as proof could be evaded, the note could
not.

But this was not all. An excitement more marked than any save that
produced when Anne acknowledged the confession arose in the court-room
when the lawyers for the defense announced that they would now bring
forward a second letter--a letter written by Mrs. Heathcote to the
witness in the inn at Timloesville on the evening of her death--her last
letter, what might be called her last utterance on earth. It had been
shown that Mrs. Heathcote was seen writing; it would be proved that a
letter was given to a colored lad employed in the hotel soon after
Captain Heathcote left the room, and that this lad ran across the street
to the post-office and dropped it into the mail-box. Not being able to
read, he had not made out the address.

When the handwriting of this letter also had been identified, it was,
amid eager attention, read aloud. The feeling was as if the dead wife
herself were speaking to them from the grave.

       *       *       *       *       *

"TIMLOESVILLE, _June 10, half past 8_ P.M.

"DEAR ANNE,--I sent you a few lines from New York, written on my way to
the train, but now that I have time, I feel that something more is due
to you. I found Ward at a little hospital, his right arm injured, but
not seriously. He will not be able to use it readily for some time; it
is in a sling. But he is so much better that they have allowed us to
start homeward. We are travelling slowly--more, however, on my account
than his. I long to have the journey over.

"Dear Anne, I have thought over all our conversation--all that you told
me, all that I replied. I am so inexpressibly happy to-night, as I sit
here writing, that I can and will do you justice, and tell all the
truth--the part that I have hitherto withheld. And that is, Anne, that
your influence over him _was_ for good, and that your pain and effort
have not been thrown away. You asked him to bear his part in life
bravely, and he has borne it; you asked him to come back to me, and he
did come back. If you were any other woman on earth, I would never
confess this--confess that I owe to _you_ my happiness of last winter,
when he changed, even in his letters, to greater kindness; confess that
it was your influence which made him, when he came home later, so much
more watchful and gentle in his care of, his manner toward, me. I
noticed the change on the first instant, the first letter, and it made
my heart bound. If it had been possible, I should have gone to him then,
but it was not. He had rejoined his regiment, and I could only watch
for his letters like a girl of sixteen. When he did come home, I counted
every hour of that short visit as so much happiness greater than I had
ever known before. For I had always loved him, and _now_ he loved me.

"Do not contradict me; he does love me. At least he is so dear to me,
and so kind and tender, that I do not know whether he does or not, but
am content. You are a better, nobler woman; yet _I_ have the happiness.

"He does not know that I have seen you, and I shall never tell him. He
does not know that I know what an effort he has made. But every kind act
and tone goes to my heart. For I _did_ deceive him, Anne; and if it had
not been for that deception, probably he would not now be my husband--he
would be free.

"Yet good has come out of evil this time, perhaps on account of my deep
love. No wife was ever so thankfully happy as I am to-night, and on my
knees I have thanked my Creator for giving me that which makes my life
one long joy.

"He has come in, and is sitting opposite, reading. He does not know to
whom I am writing--does not dream what I am saying. And he must never
know: I can not rise to _that_.

"No, Anne, we must not meet, at least for the present. It is better so,
and you yourself will feel that it is. But when I reach home I will
write again, and _then_ you will answer.

"Always, with warm love, your friend,

HELEN."

       *       *       *       *       *

During the reading of this letter, the prisoner for the first time sat
with his head bowed, his face shaded by his hand. Miss Teller's sobs
could be heard. Anne, too, broke down, and wept silently.

"When I reach home I will write again, and _then_ you will answer."
Helen _had_ reached home, and Anne--had answered.



CHAPTER XXXV.

     "The cold neutrality of an impartial judge."--BURKE.


The jury were out.

They had been out four hours, but the crowd in the closely packed
court-room still kept its ranks unbroken, and even seemed to grow more
dense; for if, here and there, one person went away, two from the
waiting throng of those in the halls and about the doors immediately
pressed their way in to take the vacant place. The long warm summer day
was drawing toward its close. The tired people fanned themselves, but
would not go, because it was rumored that a decision was near.

Outside, the fair green farming country, which came up almost to the
doors, stretched away peacefully in the twilight, shading into the grays
of evening down the valley, and at the bases of the hills. The fields
were falling asleep; eight o'clock sounding from a distant church bell
seemed like a curfew and good-night.

If one had had time to think of it, the picture of the crowded
court-room, rising in that peaceful landscape, was a strange one. But no
one had time to think of it. Lights had been brought in. The summer
beetles, attracted by them, flew in through the open windows, knocked
themselves against the wall, fell to the floor, and then slowly took
wing again to repeat the process. With the coming of the lights the
crowd stirred a little, looked about, and then settled itself anew. The
prisoner's chances were canvassed again, and for the hundredth time. The
testimony of Anne Douglas had destroyed the theory which had seemed to
fill out so well the missing parts of the story; it had proved that the
supposed rival was a friend of the wife's, and that the wife loved her;
it had proved that Mrs. Heathcote was devoted to her husband, and happy
with him, up to the last hour of her life. This was much. But the
circumstantial evidence regarding the movements of the prisoner at
Timloesville remained unchanged; he was still confronted by the fact of
his having been seen on that outside stairway, by the other significant
details, and by the print of that left hand.

During this evening waiting, the city papers had come, were brought in,
and read. One of them contained some paragraphs upon a point which, in
the rapid succession of events that followed each other in the case, had
been partially overlooked--a point which the country readers cast aside
as unimportant, but which wakened in the minds of the city people
present the remembrance that they had needed the admonition.

"But if this conversation (now given in full) was remarkable," wrote the
editor far away in New York, "it should not be forgotten that the
circumstances were remarkable as well. While reading it one should keep
clearly in mind the fact that the subject of it, namely, Captain
Heathcote, was, in the belief of both the speakers, dead. Had it not
been for this belief of theirs, these words would never have been
uttered. He was gone from earth forever--killed suddenly in battle. Such
a death brings the deepest feelings of the heart to the surface. Such a
death wrings out avowals which otherwise would never be made. Words can
be spoken over a coffin--where all is ended--which could never be spoken
elsewhere. Death brought together these two women, who seem to have
loved each other through and in spite of all. One has gone. And now the
menacing shadow of a far worse death has forced the other to come
forward, and go through a cruel ordeal, an ordeal which was, however,
turned into a triumph by the instant admiration which all rightly minded
persons gave to the pure, noble bravery which thus saved a life. For
although the verdict has not yet been given, the general opinion is that
this new testimony turned the scale, and that the accused man will be
acquitted."

But this prophecy was not fulfilled.

Five hours of waiting. Six hours. And now there came a stir. The jury
were returning; they had entered; they were in their places. Rachel
Bannert bent her face behind her open fan, that people should not see
how white it was. Miss Teller involuntarily rose. But as many had also
risen in the crowded room, which was not brightly lighted save round the
lawyers' tables, they passed unnoticed. The accused looked straight into
the faces of the jurors. He was quite calm; this part seemed far less
trying to him than that which had gone before.

And then it was told: they had neither convicted nor acquitted him. They
had disagreed.

Anne Douglas was not present. She was sitting alone in an unlighted
house on the other side of the little country square. Some one walking
up and down there, under the maples, had noticed, or rather divined, a
figure at the open window behind the muslin curtains of the dark room;
he knew that this figure was looking at the lights from the court-room
opposite, visible through the trees.

This man under the maples had no more intention of losing the final
moment than the most persistent countryman there. But being in the habit
of using his money, now that he had it, rather than himself, he had
posted two sentinels, sharp-eyed boys whom he had himself selected, one
in an upper window of the court-room on the sill, the other outside on
the sloping roof of a one-story building which touched it. The boy in
the window was to keep watch; the boy on the roof was to drop to the
ground at the first signal from the sill, and run. By means of this
human telegraph, its designer under the maples intended to reach the
window himself, through the little house whose door stood open (its
mistress having already been paid for the right of way), in time to hear
and see the whole. This intention was carried out--as his intentions
generally were. The instant the verdict, or rather the want of verdict,
was announced, he left the window, hastened down through the little
house, and crossed the square. The people would be slow in leaving the
court-room, the stairway was narrow, the crowd dense; the square was
empty as he passed through it, went up the steps of the house occupied
by Miss Teller, crossed the balcony, and stopped at the open window.

"Anne?" he said.

A figure stirred within.

"They have disagreed. The case will now go over to the November term,
when there will be a new trial."

He could see that she covered her face with her hands. But she did not
speak.

"It was your testimony that turned the scale," he added.

After a moment, as she still remained silent, "I am going away
to-night," he went on; "that is, unless there is something I can do for
you. Will you tell me your plans?"

"Yes, always," she answered, speaking low from the darkness. "Everything
concerning me you may always know, if you care to know. But so far I
have no plan."

"I leave you with Miss Teller; that is safety. Miss Teller claims the
privilege now of having you with her always."

"I shall not stay long."

"You will write to me?"

"Yes."

People were now entering the square from the other side. The window-sill
was between them; he took her hands, drew her forward from the shadow,
and looked at her in the dim light from the street lamp.

"It is my last look, Anne," he said, sadly.

"It need not be."

"Yes; you have chosen. You are sure that there is nothing more that I
can do?"

"There is one thing."

"What is it?"

"Believe him innocent. Believe it, not for my sake, but for your own."

"If I try, it will be for yours. Good-by."

He left her, and an hour later was on his way back to his post at the
capital of his State. He was needed there; an accumulation of
responsibilities awaited him. For that State owed the excellence of its
war record, its finely equipped regiments, well-supplied hospitals, and
prompt efficiency in all departments of public business throughout those
four years, principally to the brain and force of one man--Gregory
Dexter.



CHAPTER XXXVI.

    "I have no other than a woman's reason:
     I think him so because I think him so."

     --SHAKSPEARE.


Summer was at its height. Multomah had returned to its rural quietude;
the farmers were busy afield, the court-room was closed, the crowd gone.
The interest in the Heathcote case, and the interest in Ward Heathcote,
remained as great as ever in the small circle of which he and Helen had
formed part; but nothing more could happen until November, and as, in
the mean time, the summer was before them, they had found a diversion of
thought in discovering an island off the coast of Maine, and betaking
themselves thither, leaving to mistaken followers the belief that
Caryl's still remained an exclusive and fashionable resort. Beyond this
small circle, the attention of the nation at large was absorbed in a far
greater story--the story of the Seven Days round Richmond.

Word had come to Anne from the northern island that the little boy,
whose failing health had for so many months engrossed all Miss Lois's
time and care, had closed his tired eyes upon this world's pain forever.
He would no longer need the little crutch, which they had both grieved
to think must always be his support; and Miss Lois coming home to the
silent church-house after the burial in the little cemetery on the
height, and seeing it there in its corner, had burst into bitter tears.
For the child, in his helplessness and suffering, had grown into her
very heart. But now Anne needed her--that other child whom she had loved
so long and so well. And so, after that one fit of weeping, she covered
her grief from sight, put a weight of silent remembrance upon it, and
with much energy journeyed southward.

For Anne, Miss Lois, and Miss Teller were now linked together by a
purpose, a feminine purpose, founded upon faith only, and with outlines
vague, yet one none the less to be carried out: to go to Timloesville or
its neighborhood, and search for the murderer there.

Miss Teller, who had found occupation in various small schemes for
additions to Heathcote's comfort during the summer, rose to excitement
when the new idea was presented to her.

"We must have advice about it," she began; "we must consult--" Then seeing
in the young face, upon whose expressions she had already come to rely,
a non-agreement, she paused.

"The best skill of detectives has already been used," said Anne; "they
followed a track, worked from a beginning. We should follow no track,
and accept no beginning, save the immovable certainty that he was
innocent." She was silent a moment; then with a sigh which was a sad,
yet not a hopeless, one, "Dear Miss Teller," she added, "it is said that
women divine a truth sometimes by intuition, and against all
probability. It is to this instinct--if such there be--that we must
trust now."

Miss Teller studied these suggestions with respect; but they seemed
large and indistinct. In spite of herself her mind reverted to certain
articles of furniture which she had looked at the day before, furniture
which was to make his narrow room more comfortable. But she caught
herself in these wanderings, brought back her straying thoughts
promptly, and fastened them to the main subject with a question--like a
pin.

"But how could I go to Timloesville at present, when I have so much
planned out to do here? Oh, Anne, I could not leave him here, shut up in
that dreary place."

"It seems to me safer that you should not go," replied the girl; "it
might be noticed, especially as it is known that you took this house for
the summer. But I could go. And there is Miss Lois. She is free now, and
the church-house must be very lonely." The tears sprang again as she
thought of André, the last of the little black-eyed children who had
been so dear.

They talked over the plan. No man being there to weigh it with a cooler
masculine judgment, it seemed to them a richly promising one. Anne was
imaginative, and Miss Teller reflected Anne. They both felt, however,
that its accomplishment depended upon Miss Lois. But Anne's confidence
in Miss Lois was great.

"I know of no one for whom I have a deeper respect than for that
remarkable woman," said Miss Teller, reverentially. "It will be a great
gratification to see her."

"But it would be best, I think, that she should not come here," replied
Anne. "I should bid you good-by, and go away; every one would see me go.
Then in New York I could meet Miss Lois, and we could go together to
Timloesville by another route. At Timloesville nobody would know Miss
Lois, and I should keep myself in a measure concealed; there were only a
few persons from Timloesville at the trial, and I think I could evade
them."

"I should have liked much to meet Miss Hinsdale," said Miss Margaretta,
in a tone of regret. "But you know best."

"Oh, no, no," said Anne, letting her arms fall in sudden despondency. "I
sometimes think that I know nothing, and worse than nothing! Moments
come when I would give years of my life for one hour, only one, of
trusting reliance upon some one wiser, stronger, than I--who would tell
me what I ought to do."

But this cry of the young heart (brave, but yet so young) distressed
Miss Margaretta. If the pilot should lose courage, what would become of
the passengers? She felt herself looking into chaos.

Anne saw this. And controlled herself again.

"When should you start?" said the elder lady, relieved, and bringing
forward a date. Miss Margaretta always found great support in dates.

"I can not tell yet. We must first hear from Miss Lois."

"I will write to her myself," said Miss Margaretta, putting on her
spectacles and setting to work at once. It was a relief to be engaged
upon something tangible.

And write she did. The pages she sent to Miss Lois, and the pages with
which Miss Lois replied were many, eloquent, and underlined. Before the
correspondence was ended they had scientifically discovered, convicted,
and hanged the murderer, and religiously buried him.

Miss Lois was the most devoted partisan the accused man had gained. She
was pleader, audience, public opinion, detective, judge, and final
clergyman, in one. She had never seen Heathcote. That made no
difference. She was sure he was a concentration of virtue, and the
victim not of circumstances (that was far too mild), but of a "plot"
(she wanted to say "popish," but was restrained by her regard for Père
Michaux).

Miss Teller saw Heathcote daily. So far, she had not felt it necessary
that Anne should accompany her. But shortly before the time fixed for
the young girl's departure she was seized with the idea that it was
Anne's duty to see him once. For perhaps he could tell her something
which would be of use at Timloesville.

"I would rather not; it is not necessary," replied Anne. "You can tell
me."

"You should not think of yourself; in such cases ourselves are nothing,"
said Miss Teller. "The sheriff and the persons in charge under him are
possessed of excellent dispositions, as I have had occasion to prove; no
one need know of your visit, and I should of course accompany you."

Anne heard her in silence. She was asking herself whether this gentle
lady had lost all memory of her own youth, and whether that youth had
held no feelings which would make her comprehend the depth of that which
she was asking now.

But Miss Teller was not thinking of her youth, or of herself, or of
Anne. She had but one thought, one motive--Helen's husband, and how to
save him; all the rest seemed to her unimportant. She had in fact
forgotten it. "I do not see how you can hesitate," she said, the tears
suffusing her light eyes, "when it is for our dear Helen's sake."

"Yes," replied Anne; "but Helen is dead. How can we know--how can we be
sure--what she would wish?" She seemed to be speaking to herself. She
rose, walked to the window, and stood there looking out.

"She would wish to have him saved, would she not?" answered Miss Teller.
"I consider it quite necessary that you should see him before you go.
For you could not depend upon my report of what he says. It has, I am
sorry to say, been represented to me more than once that I have a
tendency to forget what has been variously mentioned as the knob, the
point, the gist of a thing."

Anne did not turn.

Miss Teller noted this obstinacy with surprise.

"It is mysterious to me that after the great ordeal of that trial, Anne,
you should demur over such a simple thing as this," she said, gently.

But to Anne the sea of faces in the court-room seemed now less difficult
than that quiet cell with its one occupant. Then she asked herself
whether this were not an unworthy feeling, a weak one? One to be put
down at once, and with a strong hand. She yielded. The visit was
appointed for the next day.

The county jail with its stone hall; a locked door. They were entering;
the jailer retired.

The prisoner rose to receive them; he knew that they were coming, and
was prepared. Miss Teller kissed him; he brought forward his two chairs.
Then turning to Anne, he said, "It is kind of you to come;" and for a
moment they looked at each other.

It was as if they had met in another world, in a far gray land beyond
all human error and human dread. Anne felt this suddenly; if not like a
chill, it was like the touch of an all-enveloping sadness, which would
not pass away. Her fear left her; it seemed to her then that it would
never come back.

As she looked at him she saw that he was greatly changed; her one glance
in the court-room had not told her how greatly. Part of it was due
doubtless to the effects of his wound, to the unaccustomed confinement
in the heats of a lowland summer; his face, though still bronzed, was
thin, his clothes hung loosely from his broad shoulders. But the marked
alteration was in his expression. This was so widely different from
that of the brown-eyed lounger of Caryl's, that it seemed another man
who was standing there, and not the same. Heathcote's eyes were still
brown; but their look was so changed that Gregory Dexter would never
have occasion to find fault with it again. His half-indolent
carelessness had given place to a stern reticence; his indifference, to
a measured self-control. And Anne knew, as though a prophetic vision
were passing, that he would carry that changed face always, to his
life's end.

Miss Teller had related to him their plan, their womans' plan. He was
strongly, unyieldingly, opposed to it. Miss Teller came home every day,
won over to his view, and then as regularly changed her mind, in talking
with Anne, and went back--to be converted over again. But he knew that
Anne had persisted. He knew that he was now expected to search his
memory, and see if he could not find there something new. Miss Teller,
with a touching eagerness to be of use and business-like, arranged pen,
paper, and ink upon the table, and sat down to take notes. She was still
a majestic personage, in spite of her grief and anxiety; her height,
profile, and flowing draperies were as imposing as ever. But in other
ways she had grown suddenly old; her light complexion was now
over-spread with a net-work of fine small wrinkles, the last faint
blonde of her hair was silvered, and in her cheeks and about her mouth
there was a pathetic alteration, the final predominance of old age, and
its ineffective helplessness over her own mild personality.

But while they waited, he found that he could not speak. When he saw
them sitting there in their mourning garb for Helen, when he felt that
Anne too was within the circle of this grief and danger and pain, Anne,
in all her pure fair youth and trust and courage, something rose in his
throat and stopped utterance. All the past and his own part in it
unrolled itself before him like a judgment; all the present, and her
brave effort for him; the future, near and dark. For Heathcote, like
Dexter, believed that the chances were adverse; and even should he
escape conviction, he believed that the cloud upon him would never be
cleared away entirely, but that it would rest like a pall over the
remainder of his life. At that moment, in his suffering, he felt that
uncleared acquittal, conviction, the worst that could come to him, he
could bear without a murmur were it only possible to separate Anne--Anne
both in the past and present--from his own dark lot. He rose suddenly
from the bench where he had seated himself, turned his back to them,
went to his little grated window, and stood there looking out.

Miss Teller followed him, and laid her hand on his shoulder. "Dear
Ward," she said, "I do not wonder that you are overcome." And she took
out her handkerchief.

He mastered himself and came back to the table. Miss Teller, who, having
once begun, was unable to stop so quickly, remained where she was. Anne,
to break the painful pause, began to ask her written questions from the
slip of paper she had brought.

"Can you recall anything concerning the man who came by and spoke to you
while you were bathing?" she said, looking at him gravely.

"No. I could not see him; it was very dark."

"What did he say?"

"He asked if the water was cold."

"How did he say it?"

"Simply, 'Is the water cold?'"

"Was there any foreign accent or tone, any peculiarity of pronunciation
or trace of dialect, no matter how slight, in his voice or utterance?"

"I do not recall any. Stay, he may have given something of the sound of
g to the word--said 'gold,' instead of 'cold.' But the variation was
scarcely noticeable. Country people talk in all sorts of ways."

Miss Teller hurriedly returned to her chair, after wiping her eyes,
wrote down "gold" and "cold" in large letters on her sheet of paper, and
surveyed them critically.

"Is there nothing else you can think of?" pursued Anne.

"No. Why do you dwell upon him?"

"Because he is the man."

"Oh, Anne, is he?--is he?" cried Miss Teller, with as much excitement as
though Anne had proved it.

"There is no probability. They have not even been able to find him,"
said Heathcote.

"Of course it is only my feeling," said the girl.

"But what _Anne_ feels is no child's play," commented Miss Teller.

This remark, made in nervousness and without much meaning, seemed to
touch Heathcote; he turned to the window again.

"Will you please describe to me exactly what you did from the time you
left the inn to take the first walk until you came back after the
river-bath?" continued Anne.

He repeated his account of the evening's events as he had first given
it, with hardly the variation of a word.

"Are you sure that you took two towels? Might it not be possible that
you took only one? For then the second, found at the end of the meadow
trail, might have been taken by the murderer."

"No; I took two. I remember it because I put first one in my pocket, and
then, with some difficulty, the other, and I spoke to Helen laughingly
about my left-handed awkwardness." It was the first time he had spoken
his wife's name, and his voice was very grave and sweet as he pronounced
it.

Poor Miss Teller broke down again. And Anne began to see her little
paper of questions through a blur. But the look of Heathcote's face
saved her. Why should he have anything more to bear? She went on quickly
with her inquiry.

"Was there much money in the purse?"

"I think not. She gave me almost all she had brought with her as soon as
we met."

"Is it a large river?"

"Rather deep; in breadth only a mill-stream."

Then there was a silence. It seemed as if they all felt how little there
was to work with, to hope for.

"Will you let Miss Teller draw on a sheet of paper the outline of your
left hand?" continued Anne.

He obeyed without comment.

"Now please place your hand in this position, and let her draw the
finger-tips." As she spoke, she extended her own left hand, with the
finger-tips touching the table, as if she was going to grasp something
which lay underneath.

But Heathcote drew back. A flush rose in his cheeks. "I will have
nothing to do with it," he said.

"Oh, Ward, when Anne asks you?" said Miss Teller, in distress.

"_I_ do not wish her to go to Timloesville," he said, with emphasis; "I
have been utterly against it from the first. It is a plan made without
reason, and directly against my feelings, my wishes, and my consent. It
is unnecessary. It will be useless. And, worse than this, it may bring
her into great trouble. Send as many detectives as you please, but do
not send her. It is the misfortune of your position and hers that at
such a moment you have no one to control you, no man, I mean, to whose
better judgment you would defer. My wishes are nothing to you; you
override them. You are, in fact, taking advantage of my helplessness."

He spoke to Miss Teller. But Anne, flushing a little at his tone,
answered him.

"I can not explain the hope that is in me," she said; "but such a hope I
certainly have. I will not be imprudent; Miss Lois shall do everything;
I will be very guarded. If we are not suspected (and we shall not be;
women are clever in such things), where is the danger? It will be
but--but spending a few weeks in the country." She ended hesitatingly,
ineffectively. Then, "To sit still and do nothing, to wait--is
unendurable!" broke from her in a changed tone. "It is useless to oppose
me. I shall go."

Heathcote did not reply.

"No one is to know of it, dear Ward, save ourselves and Miss Hinsdale,"
said Miss Teller, pleadingly.

"And Mr. Dexter," added Anne.

Heathcote now looked at her. "Dexter has done more for me than I could
have expected," he said. "I never knew him well; I fancied, too, that he
did not like me."

[Illustration: "HE OBEYED WITHOUT COMMENT."]

"Oh, there you are quite mistaken, Ward. He is your most devoted
friend," said Miss Teller.

But a change in Anne's face had struck Heathcote. "He thinks me guilty,"
he said.

"Never! never!" cried Miss Teller. "Tell him no, Anne. Tell him no."

But Anne could not. "He said--" she began; then remembering that
Dexter's words, "If I try, it will be for yours," were hardly a promise,
she stopped.

"It is of small consequence. Those who could believe me guilty may
continue to believe it," said Heathcote. But his face showed that he
felt the sting.

He had never cared to be liked by all, or even by many; but when the
blow fell it had been an overwhelming surprise to him that any one, even
the dullest farm laborer, should suppose it possible that he, Ward
Heathcote, could be guilty of such a deed.

It was the lesson which careless men, such as he had been, learn
sometimes if brought face to face with the direct homely judgment of the
plain people of the land.

"Oh, Anne, how can you have him for your friend? And I, who trusted him
so!" said Miss Teller, with indignant grief.

"As Mr. Heathcote has said, it is of small consequence," answered Anne,
steadily. "Mr. Dexter brought me here, in spite of his--his feeling, and
that should be more to his credit, I think, than as though he had
been--one of us. And now, Miss Teller, if there is nothing more to
learn, I should like to go."

She rose. Heathcote made a motion as if to detain her, then his hand
fell, and he rose also.

"I suppose we can stay until Jason Longworthy knocks?" said Miss
Margaretta, hesitatingly.

"I would rather go now, please," said Anne.

For a slow tremor was taking possession of her; the country prison,
which had not before had a dangerous look, seemed now to be growing dark
and cruel; the iron-barred window was like a menace. It seemed to say
that they might talk; but that the prisoner was theirs.

Miss Margaretta rose, disappointed but obedient; she bade Heathcote
good-by, and said that she would come again on the morrow.

Then he stepped forward. "I shall not see you again," he said to Anne,
holding out his hand. He had not offered to take her hand before.

She gave him hers, and he held it for a moment. No word was spoken; it
was a mute farewell. Then she passed out, followed by Miss Teller, and
the door was closed behind them.

"Why, you had twenty minutes more," said Jason Longworthy, the deputy,
keeping watch in the hall outside.



CHAPTER XXXVII.

     "The fisherman, unassisted by destiny, could not catch a fish in
     the Tigris; and the fish, without fate, could not have died upon
     dry land."--SAADI.


Anne met Miss Lois in New York. Miss Lois had never been in New York
before; but it would take more than New York to confuse Miss Lois. They
remained in the city for several days in order to rest and arrange their
plans. There was still much to explain which the letters, voluminous as
they had been, had not made entirely clear.

But first they spoke of the child. It was Miss Lois at length who turned
resolutely from the subject, and took up the tangled coil which awaited
her. "Begin at the beginning and tell every word," she said, sitting
erect in her chair, her arms folded with tight compactness. If Miss Lois
could talk, she could also listen. In the present case she listened
comprehensively, sharply, and understandingly. When all was told--"How
different it is from the old days when we believed that you and Rast
would live always with us on the island, and that that would be the
whole," she said, with a long, sad retrospective sigh. Then dismissing
the past, "But we must do in this disappointing world what is set before
us," she added, sighing again, but this time in a preparatory way. Anew
she surveyed Anne. "You are much changed, child," she said. Something
of her old spirit returned to her. "I wish those fort ladies could see
you _now_!" she remarked, taking off her spectacles and wiping them with
a combative air.

Possessed of Anne's narrative, she now began to arrange their plans in
accordance with it, and to fit what she considered the necessities of
the situation. As a stand-point she prepared a history, which, in its
completeness, would have satisfied even herself as third person,
forgetting that the mental organizations of the Timloesville people were
probably not so well developed in the direction of a conscientious and
public-spirited inquiry into the affairs of their neighbors as were
those of the meritorious New England community where she had spent her
youth. In this history they were to be aunt and niece, of the same name,
which, after long cogitation, she decided should be Young, because it
had "a plain, respectable sound." She herself was to be a widow (could
it have been possible that, for once in her life, she wished to know,
even if but reminiscently, how the married state would feel?), and Anne
was to be her husband's niece. "Which will account for the lack of
resemblance," she said, fitting all the parts of her plan together like
those of a puzzle. She had even constructed an elaborate legend
concerning said husband, and its items she enumerated with relish. His
name, it appeared, had been Asher, and he had been something of a trial
to her, although at the last he had experienced religion, and died
thoroughly saved. His brother Eleazer, Anne's father, had been a very
different person, a sort of New England David. He had taught in an
academy, studied for the ministry, and died of "a galloping
consumption"--a consolation to all his friends. Miss Lois could describe
in detail both of these death-beds, and repeat the inscriptions on the
two tombstones. Her own name was Deborah, and Anne's was Ruth. On the
second day she evolved the additional item that Ruth was "worn out
keeping the accounts of an Asylum for the Aged, in Washington--which is
the farthest thing I can think of from teaching children in New
York--and I have brought you into the country for your health."

Anne was dismayed. "I shall certainly make some mistake in all this,"
she said.

"Not if you pay attention. And you can always say your head aches if you
don't want to talk. I am not sure but that you had better be threatened
with something serious," added Miss Lois, surveying her companion
consideringly. "It would have to be connected with the mind, because,
unfortunately, you always look the picture of health."

"Oh, please let me be myself," pleaded Anne.

"Never in the world," replied Miss Lois. "Ourselves? No indeed. We've
got to _be_ conundrums as well as guess them, Ruth Young."

They arrived at their destination, not by the train, but in the little
country stage which came from the south. The witnesses from Timloesville
present at the trial had been persons connected with the hotel. In order
that Anne should not come under their observation, they took lodgings at
a farm-house at some distance from the village, and on the opposite side
of the valley. Anne was not to enter the village; but of the
meadow-paths and woods she would have free range, as the inhabitants of
Timloesville, like most country people, had not a high opinion of
pedestrian exercise. Anne was not to enter the town at all; but Miss
Lois was to examine "its every inch."

The first day passed safely, and the second and third. Anne was now
sufficiently accustomed to her new name not to start when she was
addressed, and sufficiently instructed in her "headaches" not to
repudiate them when inquiries were made; Miss Lois announced, therefore,
that the search could begin. She classified the probabilities under five
heads.

First. The man must be left-handed.

Second. He must say "gold" for "cold."

Third. As Timloesville was a secluded village to which few strangers
came, and as it had been expressly stated at the trial that no strangers
were noticed in its vicinity either before or after the murder, the deed
had evidently been committed, not as the prosecution mole-blindedly
averred, by the one stranger who _was_ there, but by no stranger at
all--by a resident in the village itself or its neighborhood.

Fourth. As the arrival of Mr. and Mrs. Heathcote was unexpected, the
crime must have been one of impulse: there had not been time for a plan.

Fifth. The motive was robbery: the murder was probably a second thought,
occasioned, perhaps, by Helen's stirring.

Miss Lois did not waste time. Within a few days she was widely known in
Timloesville--"the widow Young, from Washington, staying at Farmer
Blackwell's, with her niece, who is out of health, poor thing, and her
aunt so anxious about her." The widow was very affable, very talkative;
she was considered an almost excitingly agreeable person. But it was
strange that she should not have heard of their event, their own
particular and now celebrated crime. Mrs. Strain, wife of J. Strain,
Esq., felt that this ignorance was lamentable. She therefore proposed to
the widow that she should in person go to the Timloe Hotel, and see with
her own eyes "the very spot."

"The effect, Mrs. Young, is curdling," she declared.

Mrs. Young was willing to be curdled, if Mrs. Strain would support her
in the experience. On the next afternoon, therefore, they went to the
Timloe Hotel, and were shown over "the very floor" which had been
pressed by the footsteps of the murderer, his beautiful wife, and her
highly respectable and observing (one might almost say _providentially_
observing) maid. The landlord himself, Mr. Graub, did not disdain to
accompany them. Mr. Graub had attended the trial in person, and he had
hardly ceased since to admire himself for his own perspicuous cleverness
in owning the house where such a very distinguished crime had been
committed. There might be localities where a like deed would have
injured the patronage of an inn; but the neighborhood of Timloesville
was not one of them. The people slowly took in and appreciated their
event, as an anaconda is said slowly to take in and appreciate his
dinner; they digested it at their leisure. Farmers coming in to town on
Saturdays, instead of bringing luncheon in a tin pail, as usual, went
to the expense of dining at the hotel, with their wives and daughters,
in order to see the room, the blind, and the outside stairway. Mr.
Graub, in this position of affairs, was willing to repeat the tale, even
to a non-diner. For Mrs. Young was a stranger from Washington, and who
knew but that Washington itself might be stirred to a dining interest in
the scene of the tragedy, especially as the second trial was still to
come?

The impression on the blind was displayed; it was very faint, but
clearly that of a left hand.

"And here is the cloth that covered the bureau," continued the landlord,
taking it from a paper and spreading it on the old-fashioned chest of
drawers. "It is not the identical cloth, for that was required at the
trial, together with a fac-simile of the blind; but I can assure you
that this one is just like the original, blue-bordered and fringed
precisely the same, and we traced the spots on it exactly similar before
we let the other go. For we knew that folks would naturally be
interested in such a memento."

"It is indeed deeply absorbing," said Mrs. Young. "I wonder, now, what
the size of that hand might be? Not yours, Mr. Graub; yours is a very
small hand. Let me compare. Suppose I place my fingers so (I will not
touch it). Yes, a large hand, without doubt, and a left hand. Do you
know of any left-handed persons about here?"

"Why, the man himself was left-handed," answered the landlord and Mrs.
Strain together--"Captain Heathcote himself."

"He had been wounded, and carried his right arm in a sling," added Mr.
Graub.

"Ah, yes," said the widow; "I remember now. Was this impression
measured?"

"Yes; I have the exact figures," replied the landlord, taking out a
note-book, and reading the items aloud in a slow, important voice.

"Did you measure it yourself?" asked the widow. "Because if _you_ did
it, I shall feel sure the figures are correct."

"I did not measure it myself," answered Mr. Graub, not unimpressed by
this confidence. "I can, however, re-measure it in a moment if it would
be any gratification to you."

"It would be--immense," said the widow. Whereupon he went down stairs
for a measure.

"I am subject to dizziness myself, but I _must_ hear some one come up
that outside stairway," said Mrs. Young to Mrs. Strain during his
absence. "_Would_ you do it for me? I want to _imagine_ the _whole_."

Mrs. J. Strain, though stout, consented; and when her highly decorated
bonnet was out of sight, the visitor swiftly drew from her pocket the
paper outline of Heathcote's hand which Anne had given her, and compared
it with the impression. The outlines seemed different; the hand which
had touched the cloth appeared to have been shorter and wider than
Heathcote's, the finger-tips broader, as though cushioned with flesh
underneath. Mrs. Strain's substantial step was now heard on the outside
stairway. But the pattern was already safely returned to the deep pocket
of Mrs. Young.

"I have been picturing the entire scene," she said, in an impressive
whisper when the bonnet re-appeared, "and I assure you that when I heard
your footsteps on those stairs, goose-flesh rose and ran like lightning
down my spine." And Mrs. Strain, though out of breath, considered that
her services had been well repaid.

Mr. Graub now returned, and measured the prints with the nicest
accuracy. Owing to the widow's compliment to his hands, he had stopped
to wash them, in order to give a finer effect to the operation. Mrs.
Young requested that the figures be written down for her on a slip of
paper, "as a memorial"; and then, with one more exhaustive look at the
room, the stairway, and the garden, she went away, accompanied by her
friend, leaving Mr. Graub more than ever convinced that he was a very
unusual man.

Mrs. Strain was easily induced to finish the afternoon's dissipations by
going through the grass meadow by the side of the track made by the
murderer on his way to the river. They walked "by the side," because
the track itself was railed off. So many persons had visited the meadow
that Mr. Graub had been obliged to protect his relic in order to
preserve its identity, and even existence. The little trail was now
conspicuous by the fringing of tall grass which still stood erect on
each side of it, the remainder of the meadow having been trodden flat.

"It ends at the river," said Mrs. Young, reflectively.

"Yes, where he came to wash his hands, after the deed was done,"
responded Mrs. Strain. "And what his visions and inward thoughts must
have been at sech a moment I leave you, Mrs. Young, solemnly to
consider."

Mrs. Young then returned homeward, after thanking her Timloesville
friend for a "most impressive day."

"The outlines are too indistinct to be really of much use, Ruth," she
said, as she removed her bonnet. "I believe it was so stated at the
trial, wasn't it? But if I have eyes, they do _not_ fit."

"Of course not, since it is the hand of another person," replied Anne.
"But did you notice, or rather could you see, what the variations were?"

"A broader palm, I should say, and the fingers shorter. The only point,
however, which I could make out with certainty was the thick cushion of
flesh at the ends of the fingers; that seemed clear enough."

At sunset they went across the fields together to the point on the
river-bank where the meadow trail ended.

"The river knows all," said Anne, looking wistfully at the smooth water.

"_They_ think so too, for they've dragged it a number of times,"
responded Miss Lois. "All the boys in the neighborhood have been diving
here ever since, I am told; they fancy the purse, watch, and rings are
in the mud at the bottom. But they're saf