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Title: Solomon
Author: Woolson, Constance Fenimore, 1840-1894
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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

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



SOLOMON.

BY

CONSTANCE FENIMORE WOOLSON.


ODESSA, ONTARIO: JAMES NEISH & SONS, PUBLISHERS.



SOLOMON.


Midway in the eastern part of Ohio lies the coal country; round-topped
hills there begin to show themselves in the level plain, trending back
from Lake Erie; afterwards rising higher and higher, they stretch away
into Pennsylvania and are dignified by the name of Alleghany Mountains.
But no names have they in their Ohio birthplace, and little do the
people care for them, save as storehouses for fuel. The roads lie along
the slow-moving streams, and the farmers ride slowly over them in their
broad-wheeled wagons, now and then passing dark holes in the bank from
whence come little carts into the sunshine, and men, like _silhouettes_,
walking behind them, with glow-worm lamps fastened in their hat-bands.
Neither farmers nor miners glance up towards the hilltops; no doubt they
consider them useless mounds, and, were it not for the coal, they would
envy their neighbors of the grain-country whose broad, level fields
stretch unbroken through Central Ohio; as, however, the canal-boats go
away full, and long lines of coal-cars go away full, and every man's
coal-shed is full, and money comes back from the great iron-mills of
Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and Cleveland, the coal country, though unknown
in a picturesque point of view, continues to grow rich and prosperous.

Yet picturesque it is, and no part more so than the valley where stands
the village of the quaint German Community on the banks of the
slow-moving Tuscarawas River. One October day we left the lake behind us
and journeyed inland, following the water-courses and looking forward
for the first glimpse of rising ground; blue are the waters of Erie on a
summer day, red and golden are its autumn sunsets, but so level, so
deadly level are its shores that, at times, there comes a longing for
the sight of distant hills. Hence our journey. Night found us still in
the 'Western Reserve.' Ohio has some queer names of her own for portions
of her territory, the 'Fire Lands,' the 'Donation Grant,' the 'Salt
Section,' the 'Refugee's Tract,' and the 'Western Reserve' are names
well known, although not found on the maps. Two days more and we came
into the coal country; near by were the 'Moravian Lands,' and at the end
of the last day's ride we crossed a yellow bridge over a stream called
the 'One-Leg Creek.'

'I have tried in vain to discover the origin of this name,' I said, as
we leaned out of the carriage to watch the red leaves float down the
slow tide.

'Create one, then. A one-legged soldier, a farmer's pretty daughter, an
elopement in a flat-bottomed boat, and a home upon this stream which
yields its stores of catfish for their support,' suggested Erminia.

'The original legend would be better than that if we could only find it,
for real life is always better than fiction,' I answered.

'In real life we are all masked; but in fiction the author shows the
faces as they are, Dora.'

'I do not believe we are all masked, Erminia. I can read my friends like
a printed page.'

'O, the wonderful faith of youth!' said Erminia, retiring upon her
seniority.

Presently the little church on the hill came into view through a vista
in the trees. We passed the mill and its flowing race, the blacksmith's
shop, the great grass meadow, and drew up in front of the quaint hotel
where the trustees allowed the world's people, if uninquisitive and
decorous, to remain in the Community for short periods of time, on the
payment of three dollars per week for each person. This village was our
favorite retreat, our little hiding-place in the hill-country; at that
time it was almost as isolated as a solitary island, for the Community
owned thousands of outlying acres and held no intercourse with the
surrounding townships. Content with their own, unmindful of the rest of
the world, these Germans grew steadily richer and richer, solving
quietly the problem of co-operative labor, while the French and
Americans worked at it in vain with newspapers, orators, and even cannon
to aid them. The members of the Community were no ascetic anchorites;
each tiled roof covered a home with a thrifty mother and train of grave
little children, the girls in short-waisted gowns, kerchiefs, and
frilled caps, and the boys in tailed coats, long-flapped vests, and
trousers, as soon as they were able to toddle. We liked them all, we
liked the life; we liked the mountain-high beds, the coarse snowy linen,
and the remarkable counterpanes; we liked the cream stewed chicken, the
Käse-lab, and fresh butter, but, best of all, the hot bretzels for
breakfast. And let not the hasty city imagination turn to the hard,
salty, saw-dust cake in the shape of a broken-down figure eight which is
served with lager-beer in saloons and gardens. The Community bretzel was
of a delicate flaky white in the inside, shading away into a
golden-brown crust of crisp involutions, light as a feather, and flanked
by little pats of fresh, unsalted butter, and a deep-blue cup wherein
the coffee was hot, the cream yellow, and the sugar broken lumps from
the old-fashioned loaf, now alas! obsolete.

We stayed among the simple people and played at shepherdesses and
pastorellas; we adopted the hours of the birds, we went to church on
Sunday and sang German chorals as old as Luther. We even played at work
to the extent of helping gather apples, eating the best, and riding home
on top of the loaded four-horse wains. But one day we heard of a new
diversion, a sulphur-spring over the hills about two miles from the
hotel on land belonging to the Community; and, obeying the fascination
which earth's native medicines exercise over all earth's children, we
immediately started in search of the nauseous spring. The road wound
over the hill, past one of the apple-orchards, where the girls were
gathering the red fruit, and then down a little declivity where the
track branched off to the Community coal-mine; then a solitary stretch
through the thick woods, a long hill with a curve, and at the foot a
little dell with a patch of meadow, a brook, and a log-house with
overhanging root, a forlorn house unpainted and desolate. There was not
even the blue door which enlivened many of the Community dwellings.
'This looks like the huts of the Black Forest,' said Erminia. 'Who would
have supposed that we should find such an antique in Ohio!'

'I am confident it was built by the M. B.'s,' I replied. 'They tramped,
you know, extensively through the State, burying axes and leaving every
now and then a mastodon behind them.'

'Well, if the Mound-Builders selected this site they showed good taste,'
said Erminia, refusing, in her afternoon indolence, the argumentum
nonsensicum with which we were accustomed to enliven our conversation.
It was, indeed, a lovely spot,--the little meadow, smooth and bright as
green velvet, the brook chattering over the pebbles, and the hills, gay
in red and yellow foliage, rising abruptly on all sides. After some
labor we swung open the great gate and entered the yard, crossed the
brook on a mossy plank, and followed the path through the grass towards
the lonely house. An old shepherd-dog lay at the door of a dilapidated
shed, like a block-house, which had once been a stable; he did not bark,
but, rising slowly, came along beside us,--a large, gaunt animal that
looked at us with such melancholy eyes that Erminia stooped to pat him.
Ermine had a weakness for dogs; she herself owned a wild beast of the
dog kind that went by the name of the 'Emperor Trajan'; and, accompanied
by this dignitary, she was accustomed to stroll up the avenues of C----,
lost in maiden meditations.

We drew near the house and stepped up on the sunken piazza, but no signs
of life appeared. The little loophole windows were pasted over with
paper, and the plank door had no latch or handle. I knocked, but no one
came. 'Apparently it is a haunted house, and that dog is the spectre,' I
said, stepping back.

'Knock three times,' suggested Ermine; 'that is what they always do in
ghost-stories.'

'Try it yourself. My knuckles are not cast-iron.'

Ermine picked up a stone and began tapping on the door. 'Open sesame,'
she said, and it opened.

Instantly the dog slunk away to his block-house and a woman confronted
us, her dull face lighting up as her eyes ran rapidly over our attire
from head to foot. 'Is there a sulphur-spring here?' I asked. 'We would
like to try the water.'

'Yes, it's here fast enough in the back hall. Come in, ladies; I'm right
proud to see you. From the city, I suppose?'

'From C----,' I answered; 'we are spending a few days in the Community.'

Our hostess led the way through the little hall, and throwing open a
back door pulled up a trap in the floor, and there we saw the
spring,--a shallow well set in stones, with a jar of butter cooling in
its white water. She brought a cup, and we drank. 'Delicious,' said
Ermine. 'The true, spoiled-egg flavor! Four cups is the minimum
allowance, Dora.'

'I reckon it is good for the insides,' said the woman, standing with arms
akimbo and staring at us. She was a singular creature, with large black
eyes, Roman nose, and a mass of black hair tightly knotted on the top of
her head, but pinched and gaunt; her yellow forehead was wrinkled with a
fixed frown, and her thin lips drawn down in permanent discontent. Her
dress was a shapeless linsey-woolsey gown, and home-made list slippers
covered her long, lank feet 'Be that the fashion?' she asked, pointing
to my short, closely fitting walking-dress.

'Yes,' I answered; 'do you like it.'

'Well, it does for you, sis, because you're so little and peaked-like,
but it wouldn't do for me. The other lady, now, don't wear nothing like
that; is she even with the style, too?'

'There is such a thing as being above the style, madam,' replied Ermine,
bending to dip up glass number two.

'Our figgers is a good deal alike,' pursued the woman; 'I reckon that
fashion ud suit me best.'

Willowy Erminia glanced at the stick-like hostess. 'You do me honor,'
she said, suavely. 'I shall consider myself fortunate, madam, if you
will allow me to send you patterns from C----. What are we if not well
dressed?'

'You have a fine dog,' I began hastily, fearing lest the great, black
eyes should penetrate the sarcasm; 'what is his name?'

'A stupid beast! He's none of mine; belongs to my man.'

'Your husband?'

'Yes, my man. He works in the coal-mine over the hill.'

'You have no children?'

'Not a brat. Glad of it, too.'

'You must be lonely,' I said, glancing around the desolate house. To my
surprise suddenly the woman burst into a flood of tears, and sinking
down on the floor she rocked from side to side, sobbing, and covering
her face with her bony hands.

'What can be the matter with her?' I said in alarm; and, in my
agitation, I dipped up some sulphur-water and held it to her lips.

'Take away the nasty smelling stuff,--I hate it!' she cried, pushing the
cup angrily from her.

Ermine looked on in silence for a moment or two, then she took off her
neck-tie, a bright-colored Roman scarf, and threw it across the trap
into the woman's lap. 'Do me the favor to accept that trifle, madame,'
she said, in her soft voice.

The woman's sobs ceased as she saw the ribbon; she fingered it with one
hand in silent admiration, wiped her wet face with the skirt of her
gown, and then suddenly disappeared into an adjoining room, closing the
door behind her.

'Do you think she is crazy?' I whispered.

'O no; merely pensive.'

'Nonsense, Ermine! But why did you give her that ribbon?'

'To develop her æsthetic taste,' replied my cousin, finishing her last
glass, and beginning to draw on her delicate gloves.

Immediately I began gulping down my neglected dose; but so vile was the
odor that some time was required for the operation, and in the midst of
my struggles our hostess re-appeared. She had thrown on an old dress of
plaid delaine, a faded red ribbon was tied over her head, and around her
sinewed throat reposed the Roman scarf pinned with a glass brooch.

'Really, madam, you honor us,' said Ermine, gravely.

'Thankee, marm. It's so long since I've had on anything but that old
bag, and so long since I've seen anything but them Dutch girls over to
the Community, with their wooden shapes and wooden shoes, that it sorter
come over me all 't onct what a miserable life I've had. You see, I
ain't what I looked like; now I've dressed up a bit I feel more like
telling you that I come of good Ohio stock, without a drop of Dutch
blood. My father, he kep' store in Sandy, and I had everything I wanted
until I must needs get crazy over Painting Sol at the Community. Father,
he wouldn't hear to it, and so I ran away; Sol, he turned out good for
nothing to work, and so here I am, yer see, in spite of all his pictures
making me out the Queen of Sheby.'

'Is your husband an artist?' I asked.

'No, miss. He's a coal-miner, he is. But he used to like to paint me all
sorts of ways. Wait, I'll show yer.' Going up the rough stairs that led
into the attic, the woman came back after a moment with a number of
sheets of drawing-paper which she hung up along the walls with pins for
our inspection. They were all portraits of the same face, with brick-red
cheeks, enormous black eyes, and a profusion of shining black hair
hanging down over plump white shoulders; the costumes were various, but
the faces were the same. I gazed in silence, seeing no likeness to
anything earthly. Erminia took out her glasses and scanned the pictures
slowly.

'Yourself, madam, I perceive' she said, much to my surprise.

'Yes, 'm, that's me,' replied our hostess, complacently. 'I never was
like those yellow-haired girls over to the Community. Sol allers said my
face was real rental.'

'Rental?' I repeated, inquiringly.

'Oriental, of course,' said Ermine. 'Mr.--Mr. Solomon is quite right.
May I ask the names of these characters, madam?'

'Queen of Sheby, Judy, Ruth, Esthy, Po-co-hon-tus, Goddess-aliberty,
Sunset, and eight Octobers, them with the grapes. Sunset's the one with
the red paint behind it like clouds.'

'Truly a remarkable collection,' said Ermine. 'Does Mr. Solomon devote
much time to his art?'

'No, not now. He couldn't make a cent out of it, so he's took to digging
coal. He painted all them when we was first married, and he went a
journey all the way to Cincinnati to sell 'em. First he was going to buy
me a silk dress and some ear-rings, and, after that, a farm. But pretty
soon home he come on a canal-boat, without a shilling, and a bringing
all the pictures back with him! Well, then he tried most everything, but
he never could keep to any one trade, for he'd just as lief quit work in
the middle of the forenoon and go to painting; no boss 'll stand that,
you know. We kep' a going down, and I had to sell the few things my
father give me when he found I was married whether or no,--my chany, my
feather-beds, and my nice clothes, piece by piece. I held on to the big
looking' glass for four years, but at last it had to go, and then I just
gave up and put on a linsey-woolsey gown. When a girl's spirit's once
broke, she don't care for nothing, you know; so, when the Community
offered to take Sol back as coal-digger, I just said, "Go," and we
come.' Here she tried to smear the tears away with her bony hands, and
gave a low groan.

'Groaning probably relieves you,' observed Ermine.

'Yes, 'm. It's kinder company like, when I'm all alone. But you see it's
hard on the prettiest girl in Sandy to have to live in this lone lorn
place. Why, ladies, you mightn't believe it, but I had open-work
stockings, and feathers in my winter bunnets before I was married!' And
the tears broke forth afresh.

'Accept my handkerchief,' said Ermine; 'it will serve your purpose
better than fingers.'

The woman took the dainty cambric and surveyed it curiously, held at
arm's length. 'Reg'lar thistle-down, now, ain't it?' she said; 'and
smells like a locust-tree blossom.'

'Mr Solomon, then, belonged to the Community?' I asked, trying to gather
up the threads of the story.

'No he didn't either; he's no Dutchman, I reckon, he's a Lake County
man, born near Painesville, he is.'

'I thought you spoke as though he had been in the Community.'

'So he had; he didn't belong, but he worked for 'em since he was a boy,
did middling well, in spite of the painting, until one day, when he come
over to Sandy on a load of wood and seen me standing at the door. That
was the end of him,' continued the woman, with an air of girlish pride;
'he couldn't work no more for thinking of me.'

'_Où la vanité va-t-elle se nicher?_' murmured Ermine, rising. 'Come,
Dora, it is time to return.'

As I hastily finished my last cup of sulphur water, our hostess followed
Ermine towards the door. 'Will you have your handkercher back, marm?'
she said, holding it out reluctantly.

'It was a free gift, madam,' replied my cousin; 'I wish you a good
afternoon.'

'Say, will yer be coming again to-morrow?' asked the woman as I took my
departure.

'Very likely; good by.'

The door closed, and then, but not till then, the melancholy dog joined
us and stalked behind until we had crossed the meadow and reached the
gate. We passed out and turned up the hill; but looking back we saw the
outline of the woman's head at the upper window, and the dog's head at
the bars, both watching us out of sight.

In the evening there came a cold wind down from the north, and the
parlor, with its primitive ventilators, square openings in the side of
the house, grew chilly. So a great fire of soft coal was built in the
broad Franklin stove, and before its blaze we made good cheer, nor
needed the one candle which flickered on the table behind us. Cider
fresh from the mill, carded ginger-bread, and new cheese crowned the
scene, and during the evening came a band of singers, the young people
of the Community, and sang for us the song of the Lorelei, accompanied
by home-made violins and flageolets. At length we were left alone, the
candle had burned out, the house door was barred, and the peaceful
Community was asleep; still we two sat together with our feet upon the
hearth, looking down into the glowing coals.

    'Ich weisz nicht was soll es bedeuten
     Dasz ich so traurig bin,'

I said, repeating the opening lines of the Lorelei; 'I feel absolutely
blue to-night.'

'The memory of the sulphur-woman,' suggested Ermine.

'Sulphur-woman! What a name!'

'Entirely appropriate, in my opinion.'

'Poor thing! How she longed with a great longing for the finery of her
youth in Sandy.'

'I suppose from those barbarous pictures that she was originally in the
flesh,' mused Ermine; 'at present she is but a bony outline.'

'Such as she is, however, she has had her romance,' I answered. 'She is
quite sure that there was one to love her; then let come what may, she
has had her day.'

'Misquoting Tennyson on such a subject!' said Ermine, with disdain.

'A man's a man for all that and a woman's a woman too,' I retorted. 'You
are blind, cousin, blinded with pride. That woman has had her tragedy,
as real and bitter as any that can come to us.'

'What have you to say for the poor man, then!' exclaimed Ermine, rousing
to the contest. 'If there is a tragedy at the sulphur-house, it belongs
to the sulphur-man, not to the sulphur-woman.'

'He is not a sulphur-man, he is a coal-man; keep to your bearings,
Ermine.'

'I tell you,' pursued my cousin, earnestly, 'that I pitied that unknown
man with inward tears all the while I sat by that trap door. Depend upon
it, he had his dream, his ideal; and this country girl with her great
eyes and wealth of hair represented the beautiful to his hungry soul. He
gave his whole life and hope into her hands, and woke to find his
goddess a common wooden image.'

'Waste sympathy upon a coal-miner!' I said, imitating my cousin's former
tone.

'If any one is blind, it is you,' she answered, with gleaming eyes.
'That man's whole history stood revealed in the selfish complainings of
that creature. He had been in the Community from boyhood, therefore of
course he had no chance to learn life, to see its art-treasures. He has
been shipwrecked, poor soul; hopelessly shipwrecked.'

'She too, Ermine.'

'She!'

'Yes. If he loved pictures, she loved her chany and her feather-beds,
not to speak of the big looking-glass. No doubt she had other lovers,
and might have lived in a red brick farmhouse with ten unopened front
windows and a blistered front door. The wives of men of genius are
always to be pitied; they do not soar into the crowd of feminine
admirers who circle round the husband, and they are therefore called
'grubs,' 'worms of the earth,' 'drudges,' and other sweet titles.'

'Nonsense,' said Ermine, tumbling the arched coals into chaos with the
poker; 'it's after midnight, let us go up stairs.' I knew very well that
my beautiful cousin enjoyed the society of several poets, painters,
musicians, and others of that ilk, without concerning herself about
their stay-at-home wives.

The next day the winds were out in battle array, howling over the
Strasburg hill, raging up and down the river, and whirling the colored
leaves wildly along the lovely road to the One-Leg Creek. Evidently
there could be no rambling in the painted woods that day, so we went
over to old Fritz's shop, played on his home-made piano, inspected the
woolly horse who turned his crank patiently in an underground den, and
set in motion all the curious little images which the carpenter's deft
fingers had wrought. Fritz belonged to the Community, and knew nothing
of the outside world; he had a taste for mechanism, which showed itself
in many labor-saving devices, and with it all he was the roundest,
kindest little man, with bright eyes like a canary-bird.

'Do you know Solomon the coal-miner?' asked Ermine, in her correct,
well-learned German.

'Sol Bangs? Yes, I know him,' replied Fritz in his Würtemburg dialect.

'What kind of a man is he?'

'Good for nothing,' replied Fritz, placidly.

'Why?'

'Wrong here'; tapping his forehead.

'Do you know his wife?' I asked.

'Yes.'

'What kind of a woman is she?'

'Too much tongue. Women must not talk much.'

'Old Fritz touched us both there,' I said, as we ran back laughing to
the hotel through the blustering wind. 'In his opinion, I suppose, we
have the popular verdict of the township upon our two _protégés_, the
sulphur-woman and her husband.'

The next day opened calm, hazy, and warm, the perfection of Indian
summer; the breezy hill was outlined in purple, and the trees glowed in
rich colors. In the afternoon we started for the sulphur-spring without
shawls or wraps, for the heat was almost oppressive; we loitered on the
way through the still woods, gathering the tinted leaves, and wondering
why no poet has yet arisen to celebrate in fit words the glories of the
American autumn. At last we reached the turn whence the lonely house
came into view, and at the bars we saw the dog awaiting us.

'Evidently the sulphur-woman does not like that melancholy animal,' I
said, as we applied our united strength to the gate.

'Did you ever know a woman of limited mind who liked a large dog?'
replied Ermine. 'Occasionally such a woman will fancy a small cur; but
to appreciate a large, noble dog requires a large, noble mind.'

'Nonsense with your dogs and minds,' I said, laughing, 'Wonderful! There
is a curtain.'

It was true. The paper had been removed from one of the windows, and in
its place hung some white drapery, probably part of a sheet rigged as a
curtain.

Before we reached the piazza the door opened, and our hostess appeared.
'Glad to see yer, ladies,' she said. 'Walk right in this way to the
keeping room.'

The dog went away to his block-house, and we followed the woman into a
room on the right of the hall; there were three rooms, beside the attic
above. An Old-World German stove of brick-work occupied a large portion
of the space, and over it hung a few tins, and a clock whose pendulum
swung outside; a table, a settle, and some stools completed the
furniture; but on the plastered walls were two rude brackets, one
holding a cup and saucer of figured china, and the other surmounted by a
large bunch of autumn leaves, so beautiful in themselves and so
exquisitely arranged that we crossed the room to admire them.

'Sol fixed 'em, he did,' said the sulphur-woman; 'he seen me setting
things to rights, and he would do it. I told him they was trash, but he
made me promise to leave 'em alone in case you should call again.'

'Madam Bangs, they would adorn a palace,' said Ermine, severely.

'The cup is pretty too,' I observed, seeing the woman's eyes turn that
way.

'It's the last of my chany' she answered, with pathos in her
voice,--'the very last piece.'

As we took our places on the settle we noticed the brave attire of our
hostess. The delaine was there; but how altered! Flounces it had,
skimped, but still flounces, and at the top was a collar of crochet
cotton reaching nearly to the shoulders; the hair, too, was braided in
imitation of Ermine's sunny coronet, and the Roman scarf did duty as a
belt around the large flat waist.

'You see she tries to improve,' I whispered, as Mrs. Bangs went into the
hall to get some sulphur-water for us.

'Vanity,' answered Ermine.

We drank our dose slowly, and our hostess talked on and on. Even I, her
champion, began to weary of her complainings. 'How dark it is!' said
Ermine at last, rising and drawing aside the curtain. 'See, Dora, a
storm is close upon us.'

We hurried to the door, but one look at the black cloud was enough to
convince us that we could not reach the Community hotel before it would
break, and somewhat drearily we returned to the keeping-room, which grew
darker and darker, until our hostess was obliged to light a candle.
'Reckon you'll have to stay all night; I'd like to have you ladies,' she
said. 'The Community ain't got nothing covered to send after you, except
the old king's coach, and I misdoubt they won't let that out in such a
storm, steps and all. When it begins to rain in this valley, it do rain,
I can tell you; and from the way it's begun, 't won't stop 'fore
morning. You just let me send the Roarer over to the mine, he'll tell
Sol; Sol can tell the Community folks, so they'll know where you be.'

I looked somewhat aghast at this proposal, but Ermine listened to the
rain upon the roof a moment, and then quietly accepted; she remembered
the long hills of tenacious red clay and her kid boots were dear to her.

'The Roarer, I presume, is some faithful kobold who bears your message
to and from the mine,' she said, making herself as comfortable as the
wooden settle would allow.

The sulphur-woman stared. 'Roarer's Sol's old dog,' she answered,
opening the door; perhaps one of you will write a bit of a note for him
to carry in his basket,--Roarer, Roarer!'

The melancholy dog came slowly in, and stood still while she tied a
small covered basket around his neck.

Ermine took a leaf from her tablets and wrote a line or two with the
gold pencil attached to her watch-chain.

'Well now, you do have everything handy, I do declare,' said the woman,
admiringly.

I glanced at the paper.

     'MR. SOLOMON BANGS: My cousin Theodora Wentworth and myself have
     accepted the hospitality of your house for the night. Will you be
     so good as to send tidings of our safety to the Community, and
     oblige,

     ERMINIA STUART.'

The Roarer started obediently out into the rain-storm with his little
basket; he did not run, but walked slowly, as if the storm was nothing
compared to his settled melancholy.

'What a note to send to a coal-miner!' I said, during a momentary
absence of our hostess.

'Never fear; it will be appreciated,' replied Ermine.

'What is this king's carriage of which you spoke?' I asked, during the
next hour's conversation.

'O, when they first come over from Germany, they had a sort of a king;
he knew more than the rest, and he lived in that big brick house with
dormel-winders and a cuperler, that stands next the garden. The carriage
was hisn, and it had steps to let down, and curtains and all; they
don't use it much now he's dead. They're a queer set anyhow! The women
look like meal-sacks. After Sol seen me, he couldn't abide to look at
'em.'

Soon after six we heard the great gate creak.

'That's Sol,' said the woman,' and now of course Roarer'll come in and
track all over my floor.' The hall door opened and a shadow passed into
the opposite room, two shadows,--a man and a dog.

'He's going to wash himself now,' continued the wife; 'he's always
washing himself, just like a horse.'

'New fact in natural history, Dora love,' observed Ermine.

After some moments the miner appeared,--a tall, stooping figure with
high forehead, large blue eyes, and long thin yellow hair; there was a
singularly lifeless expression in his face, and a far-off look in his
eyes. He gazed about the room in an absent way, as though he scarcely
saw us. Behind him stalked the Roarer, wagging his tail slowly from side
to side.

'Now, then, dont yer see the ladies, Sol? Where's yer manners?' said his
wife, sharply.

'Ah,--yes,--good evening,' he said, vaguely. Then his wandering eyes
fell upon Ermine's beautiful face, and fixed themselves there with
strange intentness.

'You received my note, Mr. Bangs?' said my cousin in her soft voice.

'Yes, surely. You are Erminia,' replied the man, still standing in the
centre of the room with fixed eyes. The Roarer laid himself down behind
his master, and his tail still wagging, sounded upon the floor with a
regular tap.

'Now then, Sol, since you've come home, perhaps you'll entertain the
ladies while I get supper,' quoth Mrs. Bangs; and forthwith began a
clatter of pans.

The man passed his long hand abstractedly over his forehead. 'Eh,' he
said with long-drawn utterance,--'eh-h? Yes, my rose of Sharon,
certainly, certainly.'

'Then why don't you do it!' said the woman, lighting the fire in the
brick stove.

'And what will the ladies please to do?' he answered, his eyes going
back to Ermine.

'We will look over your pictures, sir,' said my cousin, rising; 'they
are in the upper room, I believe.'

A great flush rose in the painter's thin cheeks. 'Will you,' he said
eagerly,--'will you? Come!'

'It's a broken-down old hole, ladies; Sol will never let me sweep it
out. Reckon you'll be more comfortable here,' said Mrs. Bangs, with her
arms in the flour.

'No, no, my lily of the valley. The ladies will come with me; they will
not scorn the poor room.'

'A studio is always interesting,' said Ermine, sweeping up the rough
stairs behind Solomon's candle. The dog followed us, and laid himself
down on an old mat, as though well accustomed to the place. 'Eh-h, boy,
you came bravely through the storm with the lady's note.' said his
master, beginning to light candle after candle. 'See him laugh!'

'Can a dog laugh?'

'Certainly; look at him now. What is that but a grin of happy
contentment? Don't the Bible say, "grin like a dog"?'

'You seem much attached to the Roarer.'

'Tuscarora, lady, Tuscarora. Yes, I love him well. He has been with me
through all, he has watched the making of all my pictures; he always
lies there when I paint.'

By this time a dozen candles were burning on shelves and brackets, and
we could see all parts of the attic studio. It was but a poor place,
unfloored in the corners where the roof slanted down, and having no
ceiling but the dark beams and thatch; hung upon the walls were the
pictures we had seen, and many others, all crude and high colored, and
all representing the same face,--the sulphur-woman in her youth, the
poor artist's only ideal. He showed us these one by one, handling them
tenderly, and telling us, in his quaint language, all they symbolized.
'This is Ruth, and denoteth the power of hope,' he said. 'Behold Judith,
the queen of revenge. And this dear one is Rachel, for whom Jacob served
seven years, and they seemed unto him but a day, so well he loved her.'
The light shone on his pale face, and we noticed the far-off look in his
eyes, and the long, tapering fingers coming out from the hard-worked
broad palm. To me it was a melancholy scene, the poor artist with his
daubs and the dreary attic.

But Ermine seemed eagerly interested; she looked at the staring
pictures, listened to the explanations, and at last she said gently,
'Let me show you something of perspective, and the part that shadows
play in a pictured face. Have you any crayons?'

No; the man had only his coarse paints and lumps of charcoal; taking a
piece of the coal in her delicate hand, my cousin began to work upon a
sheet of drawing-paper attached to the rough easel. Solomon watched her
intently, as she explained and demonstrated some of the rules of
drawing, the lights and shades, and the manner of representing the
different features and curves. All his pictures were full faces, flat
and unshaded; Ermine showed him the power of the profile and the
three-quarter view. I grew weary of watching them, and pressing my face
against the little window gazed out into the night; steadily the rain
came down and the hills shut us in like a well. I thought of our home in
C----, and its bright lights, warmth, company, and life. Why should we
come masquerading out among the Ohio hills at this late season? And then
I remembered that it was because Ermine would come; she liked such
expeditions, and from childhood I had always followed her lead. '_Dux
nascitur_, etc., etc.' Turning away from the gloomy night, I looked
towards the easel again; Solomon's cheeks were deeply flushed, and his
eyes shone like stars. The lesson went on, the merely mechanical hand
explaining its art to the ignorant fingers of genius. Ermine had taken
lessons all her life, but she had never produced an original picture,
only copies.

At last the lesson was interrupted by a voice from below, 'Sol, Sol,
supper's ready!' No one stirred until, feeling some sympathy for the
amount of work which my ears told me had been going on below, I woke up
the two enthusiasts and took them away from the easel down stairs into
the keeping-room, where a loaded table and a scarlet hostess bore
witness to the truth of my surmise. Strange things we ate that night,
dishes unheard of in towns, but not unpalatable. Ermine had the one
china cup for her corn-coffee; her grand air always secured her such
favors. Tuscarora was there and ate of the best, now and then laying his
shaggy head on the table, and, as his master said, 'smiling at us';
evidently the evening was his gala time. It was nearly nine when the
feast was ended, and I immediately proposed retiring to bed, for, having
but little art enthusiasm, I dreaded a vigil in that dreary attic.
Solomon looked disappointed, but I ruthlessly carried off Ermine to the
opposite room, which we afterwards suspected was the apartment of our
hosts, freshened and set in order in our honor. The sound of the rain on
the piazza roof lulled us soon to sleep, in spite of the strange
surroundings; but more than once I woke and wondered where I was,
suddenly remembering the lonely house in its lonely valley with a shiver
of discomfort. The next morning we woke at our usual hour, but some time
after the miner's departure; breakfast was awaiting us in the
keeping-room, and our hostess said that an ox-team from the Community
would come for us before nine. She seemed sorry to part with us, and
refused any remuneration for our stay; but none the less did we promise
ourselves to send some dresses and even ornaments from C----, to feed
that poor, starving love of finery. As we rode away in the ox-cart, the
Roarer looked wistfully after us through the bars; but his melancholy
mood was upon him again, and he had not the heart even to wag his tail.

As we were sitting in the hotel parlor, in front of our soft-coal fire
in the evening of the following day, and discussing whether or no we
should return to the city within the week, the old landlord entered
without his broad-brimmed hat,--an unusual attention, since he was a
trustee and a man of note in the Community, and removed his hat for no
one or nothing; we even suspected that he slept in it.

'You know Zolomon Barngs,' he said, slowly.

'Yes,' we answered.

'Well, he's dead. Kilt in de mine.' And putting on the hat, removed, we
now saw, in respect for death, he left the room suddenly as he had
entered it. As it happened, we had been discussing the couple, I, as
usual, contending for the wife, and Ermine, as usual, advocating the
cause of the husband.

'Let us go out there immediately to see her, poor woman!' I said,
rising.

'Yes, poor man, we will go to him!' said Ermine.

'But the man is dead, cousin.'

'Then he shall at least have one kind friendly glance before he is
carried to his grave,' answered Ermine quietly.

In a short time we set out in the darkness, and dearly did we have to
pay for the night-ride; no one could understand the motive of our going,
but money was money, and we could pay for all peculiarities. It was a
dark night, and the ride seemed endless as the oxen moved slowly on
through the red-clay mire. At last we reached the turn and saw the
little lonely house with its upper room brightly lighted.

'He is in the studio,' said Ermine; and so it proved. He was not dead,
but dying; not maimed but poisoned by the gas of the mine, and rescued
too late for recovery. They had placed him upon the floor on a couch of
blankets and the dull-eyed Community doctor stood at his side. 'No good,
no good,' he said; 'he must die.' And then, hearing of the returning
cart, he left us, and we could hear the tramp of the oxen over the
little bridge, on their way back to the village.

The dying man's head lay upon his wife's breast, and her arms supported
him; she did not speak, but gazed at us with a dumb agony in her large
eyes. Ermine knelt down and took the lifeless hand streaked with
coal-dust in both her own. 'Solomon,' she said, in her soft, clear
voice, 'do you know me?'

The closed eyes opened slowly, and fixed themselves upon her face a
moment: then they turned towards the window, as if seeking something.

'It's the picter he means,' said the wife. 'He sat up most all last
night a doing it.'

I lighted all the candles, and Ermine brought forward the easel; upon it
stood a sketch in charcoal wonderful to behold,--the same face, the face
of the faded wife, but so noble in its idealized beauty that it might
have been a portrait of her glorified face in Paradise. It was a
profile, with the eyes upturned,--a mere outline, but grand in
conception and expression. I gazed in silent astonishment.

Ermine said, 'Yes, I knew you could do it, Solomon. It is perfect of its
kind.' The shadow of a smile stole over the pallid face, and then the
husband's fading gaze turned upward to meet the wild, dark eyes of the
wife.

'It's you, Dorcas,' he murmured; 'that's how you looked to me, but I
never could get it right before.' She bent over him, and silently we
watched the coming of the shadow of death; he spoke only once, 'My rose
of Sharon--' And then in a moment he was gone, the poor artist was dead.

Wild, wild was the grief of the ungoverned heart left behind; she was
like a mad-woman, and our united strength was needed to keep her from
injuring herself in her frenzy. I was frightened, but Ermine's strong
little hands and lithe arms kept her down until, exhausted, she lay
motionless near her dead husband. Then we carried her down stairs and I
watched by the bedside, while my cousin went back to the studio. She was
absent some time, and then she came back to keep the vigil with me
through the long, still night. At dawn the woman woke, and her face
looked aged in the gray light. She was quiet, and took without a word
the food we had prepared awkwardly enough, in the keeping-room.

'I must go to him, I must go to him.' she murmured, as we led her back.

'Yes,' said Ermine, 'but first let me make you tidy. He loved to see you
neat.' And with deft, gentle touch she dressed the poor creature,
arranging the heavy hair so artistically that, for the first time, I saw
what she might have been, and understood the husband's dream.

'What is that?' I said, as a peculiar sound startled us.

'It's Roarer. He was tied up last night, but I suppose he's gnawed the
rope,' said the woman. I opened the hall door, and in stalked the great
dog, smelling his way directly up the stairs.

'O, he must not go!' I exclaimed.

'Yes, let him go, he loved his master,' said Ermine; 'we will go too.'
So silently we all went up into the chamber of death.

The pictures had been taken down from the walls, but the wonderful
sketch remained on the easel, which had been moved to the head of the
couch where Solomon lay. His long, light hair was smooth, his face
peacefully quiet, and on his breast lay the beautiful bunch of autumn
leaves which he had arranged in our honor. It was a striking
picture,--the noble face of the sketch above, and the dead face of the
artist below. It brought to my mind a design I had once seen, where Fame
with her laurels came at last to the door of the poor artist and gently
knocked; but he had died the night before!

The dog lay at his master's feet, nor stirred until Solomon was carried
out to his grave.

The Community buried the miner in one corner of the lonely little
meadow. No service had they and no mound was raised to mark the spot,
for such was their custom; but in the early spring we went down again
into the valley, and placed a block of granite over the grave. It bore
the inscription:--

              SOLOMON.

    He will finish his work in heaven.

Strange as it may seem, the wife pined for her artist husband. We found
her in the Community trying to work, but so aged and bent that we hardly
knew her. Her large eyes had lost their peevish discontent, and a great
sadness had taken the place.

'Seems like I couldn't get on without Sol,' she said, sitting with us in
the hotel parlor after work-hours. 'I kinder miss his voice and all them
names he used to call me; he got 'em out of the Bible, so they must have
been good, you know. He always thought everything I did was right, and
he thought no end of my good looks, too; I suppose I've lost 'em all
now. He was mighty fond of me; nobody in all the world cares a straw for
me now. Even Roarer wouldn't stay with me, for all I petted him; he kep'
a going out to that meader and a lying by Sol, until, one day, we found
him there dead. He just died of sheer loneliness, I reckon. I sha'n't
have to stop long I know, because I keep a dreaming of Sol, and he
always looks at me like he did when I first knew him. He was a beautiful
boy when I first saw him on that load of wood coming into Sandy. Well,
ladies, I must go. Thank you kindly for all you've done for me. And say,
Miss Stuart, when I die you shall have that coal pictur; no one else 'ud
vally it so much.'

Three months after, while we were at the sea-shore, Ermine received a
long tin case, directed in a peculiar handwriting; it had been forwarded
from C----, and contained the sketch and a note from the Community.

     'E. STUART: The woman Dorcas Bangs died this day. She will be put
     away by the side of her husband, Solomon Bangs. She left the
     enclosed picture, which we hereby send, and which please
     acknowledge by return of mail.

     'JACOB BOLL, _Trustee_.'



I unfolded the wrappings and looked at the sketch; 'It is indeed
striking,' I said. 'She must have been beautiful once, poor woman!'

'Let us hope that at least she is beautiful now, for her husband's sake
poor man!' replied Ermine.

Even then we could not give up our preferences.



WILHELMINA.


'And so, Mina, you will not marry the baker?'

'No: I waits for Gustav.'

'How long is it since you have seen him?'

'Three year; it was a three-year regi-mènt.'

'Then he will soon be home?'

'I not know' answered the girl, with a wistful look in her dark eyes, as
if asking information from the superior being who sat in the skiff,--a
being from the outside world where newspapers, the modern Tree of
Knowledge, were not forbidden.

'Perhaps he will re-enlist, and stay three years longer,' I said.

'Ah, lady,--six year! It breaks the heart,' answered Wilhelmina.

She was the gardener's daughter, a member of the Community of German
Separatists who live secluded in one of Ohio's rich valleys, separated
by their own broad acres and orchard-covered hills from the busy world
outside; down the valley flows the tranquil Tuscarawas on its way to the
Muskingum, its slow tide rolling through the fertile bottom-lands
between stone dikes, and utilized to the utmost extent of carefulness by
the thrifty brothers, now working a saw-mill on the bank, now sending a
tributary to the flour-mill across the canal, and now branching off in a
sparkling race across the valley to turn wheels for two or three
factories, watering the great grass meadow on the way. We were floating
on this river in a skiff named by myself Der Fliegende Holländer, much
to the slow wonder of the Zoarites, who did not understand how a
Dutchman could, nor why he should, fly. Wilhelmina sat before me, her
oars trailing in the water. She showed a Nubian head above her white
kerchief: large-lidded soft brown eyes, heavy braids of dark hair,
creamy skin with, purple tints in the lips and brown shadows under the
eyes, and a far off expression which even the steady monotonous toil of
Community life had not been able to efface. She wore the blue dress and
white kerchief of the society, the quaint little calico bonnet lying
beside her; she was a small maiden; her slender form swayed in the
stiff, short-waisted gown, her feet slipped about in the broad shoes,
and her hands, roughened and browned with garden-work, were yet narrow
and graceful. From the first we felt sure she was grafted, and not a
shoot from the Community stalk. But we could learn nothing of her
origin; the Zoarites are not communicative; they fill each day with
twelve good hours of labor, and look neither forward nor back. 'She is a
daughter,' said the old gardener in answer to our questions. 'Adopted?'
I suggested; but he vouchsafed no answer. I liked the little daughter's
dreamy face, but she was pale and undeveloped, like a Southern flower
growing in Northern soil; the rosy-cheeked, flaxen-haired Rosines,
Salomes, and Dorotys, with their broad shoulders and ponderous tread,
thought this brown changeling ugly, and pitied her in their slow,
good-natured way.

'It breaks the heart,' said Wilhelmina again, softly, as if to herself.

I repented me of my thoughtlessness. 'In any case he can come back for a
few days,' I hastened to say. 'What regiment was it?'

'The One Hundred and Seventh, lady.'

I had a Cleveland paper in my basket, and taking it out I glanced over
the war-news column, carelessly, as one who does not expect to find what
he seeks. But chance was with us and gave this item: 'The One Hundred
and Seventh Regiment, O. V. I., is expected home next week. The men will
be paid off at Camp Chase.'

'Ah!' said Wilhelmina, catching her breath with a half-sob under her
tightly drawn kerchief--'ah, mein Gustav!'

'Yes, you will soon see him,' I answered, bending forward to take the
rough little hand in mine; for I was a romantic wife, and my heart went
out to all lovers. But the girl did not notice my words or my touch;
silently she sat, absorbed in her own emotion, her eyes fixed on the
hilltops far away, as though she saw the regiment marching home through
the blue June sky.

I took the oars and rowed up as far as the inland, letting the skiff
float back with the current. Other boats were out, filled with
fresh-faced boys in their high-crowned hats, long-waisted, wide-flapped
vests of calico, and funny little swallow-tailed coats with buttons up
under the shoulder-blades; they appeared unaccountably long in front,
and short behind, these young Zoar brethren. On the vine-covered dike
were groups of mothers and grave little children, and up in the
hill-orchards were moving figures, young and old; the whole village was
abroad in the lovely afternoon, according to their Sunday custom, which
gave the morning to chorals and a long sermon in the little church, and
the afternoon to nature, even old Christian, the pastor, taking his
imposing white fur hat and tasselled cane for a walk through the
Community fields, with the remark, 'Thus is cheered the heart of man,
and his countenance refreshed.'

As the sun sank in the, warm western sky, homeward came the villagers
from the river, the orchards, and the meadows, men, women and children,
a hardy, simple-minded band, whose fathers, for religion's sake, had
taken the long journey from Würtemburg across the ocean to this distant
valley, and made it a garden of rest in the wilderness. We, too, landed,
and walked up the apple-tree lane towards the hotel.

'The cows come,' said Wilhelmina as we heard a distant, tinkling; 'I
must go.' But still she lingered. 'Der regi-mènt, it come soon, you
say?' she asked in a low voice, as though she wanted to hear the good
news again and again.

'They will be paid off next week; they cannot be later than ten days
from now.'

'Ten day? Ah, mein Gustav,' murmured the little maiden; she turned away
and tied on her stiff bonnet, furtively wiping off a tear with her prim
handkerchief folded in a square.

'Why, my child,' I said, following her and stooping to look in her face,
'what is this?'

'It is nothing; it is for glad,--for very glad,' said Wilhelmina. Away
she ran as the first solemn cow came into view, heading the long
procession meandering slowly towards the stalls. They knew nothing of
haste, these dignified Community cows; from stall to pasture, from
pasture to stall, in a plethora of comfort, this was their life. The
silver-haired shepherd came last with his staff and scrip, and the
nervous shepherd-dog ran hither and thither in the hope of finding some
cow to bark at, but the comfortable cows moved on in orderly ranks, and
he was obliged to dart off on a tangent every now and then, and bark at
nothing, to relieve his feelings. Reaching the paved court-yard each cow
walked into her own stall, and the milking began. All the girls took
part in this work, sitting on little stools and singing together as the
milk frothed up in the tin pails; the pails were emptied into tubs, and
when the tubs were full the girls bore them on their heads to the dairy,
where the milk was poured into a huge strainer, a constant procession of
girls with tubs above and the old milk-mother ladling out as fast as she
could below. With the beehives near by, it was a realization of the
Scriptural phrase, 'A land flowing with milk and honey.'

The next morning, after breakfast, I strolled up the still street,
leaving the Wirthshaus with its pointed roof behind me. On the right
were some ancient cottages built of crossed timbers filled in with
plaster; sundials hung on the walls, and each house had its piazza,
where, when the work of the day was over, the families assembled, often
singing folk-songs to the music of their home-made flutes and pipes. On
the left stood the residence of the first pastor, the reverend man who
had led these sheep to their refuge in the wilds of the New World. It
was a wide-spreading brick mansion, with a broadside of white-curtained
windows, an enclosed glass porch, iron railings, and gilded eaves; a
building so stately among the surrounding cottages, it had gained from
outsiders the name of the King's Palace, although the good man whose
grave remains unmarked in the quiet God's Acre, according to the
Separatist custom, was a father to his people, not a king.

Beyond the palace began the Community garden, a large square in the
centre of the village filled with flowers and fruit adorned with arbors
and cedar-trees clipped in the form of birds, and enriched with an
old-style greenhouse whose sliding glasses were viewed with admiration
by the visitors of thirty years ago, who sent their choice plants
thither from far and near to be tended through the long, cold
lake-country winters. The garden, the cedars, and the greenhouse were
all antiquated, but to me none the less charming. The spring that gushed
up in one corner, the old-fashioned flowers in their box-bordered beds,
larkspur, lady slippers, bachelor's buttons, peonies, aromatic pinks,
and all varieties of roses, the arbors with red honeysuckle overhead and
tan bark under foot, were all delightful; and I knew, also, that I
should find the gardener's daughter at her never-ending task of weeding.
This time it was the strawberry bed. 'I have come to sit in your
pleasant garden, Mina,' I said, taking a seat on a shaded bench near the
bending figure.

'So?' said Wilhelmina in long-drawn interrogation, glancing up shyly
with a smile. She was a child of the sun, this little maiden, and while
her blond companions wore always their bonnets or broad-brimmed hats
over their precise caps, Wilhelmina, as now, constantly discarded these
coverings and sat in the sun basking like a bird of the tropics. In
truth, it did not redden her; she was one of those whose coloring comes
not from without, but within.

'Do you like this work, Mina?'

'O--so. Good as any.'

'Do you like work?'

'Folks must work.' This was, said gravely, as part of the Community
creed.

'Wouldn't you like to go with me to the city?'

'No; I's better here.'

'But you can see the great world, Mina. You need not work, I will take
care of you. You shall have pretty dresses; wouldn't you like that?' I
asked, curious to discover the secret of the Separatist indifference to
everything outside.

'Nein,' answered the little maiden, tranquilly; 'nein, fräulein. Ich bin
zufrieden.'

Those three words were the key. 'I am contented.' So were they taught
from childhood, and--I was about to say--they knew no better; but, after
all, is there anything better to know?

We talked on, for Mina understood English, although many of her mates
could chatter only in their Würtemberg dialect, whose provincialisms
confused my carefully learned German; I was grounded in Goethe, well
read in Schiller, and struggling with Jean Paul, who, fortunately, is
'der Einzige,' the only; another such would destroy life. At length a
bell sounded, and forthwith work was laid aside in the fields, the
workshops, and the houses, while all partook of a light repast, one of
the five meals with which the long summer day of toil is broken. Flagons
of beer had the men afield, with bread and cheese; the women took bread
and apple-butter. But Mina did not care for the thick slice which the
thrifty house-mother had provided; she had not the steady unfanciful
appetite of the Community which eats the same food day after day, as the
cow eats its grass, desiring no change.

'And the gardener really wishes you to marry Jacob?' I said as she sat
on the grass near me, enjoying the rest.

'Yes, Jacob is good,--always the same.'

'And Gustav?'

'Ah, mein Gustav! Lady, _he_ is young, tall,--so tall as tree; he run,
he sing, his eyes like veilchen there, his hair like gold. If I see him
not soon, lady, I die! The year so long,--so long they are. Three year
without Gustav!' The brown eyes grew dim, and out came the square-folded
handkerchief, of colored calico for week-days.

'But it will not be long now, Mina.'

'Yes; I hope.'

'He writes to you, I suppose?'

'No. Gustav knows not to write, he not like school. But he speak through
the other boys, Ernst the verliebte of Rosine, and Peter of Doroty.'

'The Zoar soldiers were all young men?'

'Yes; all verliebte. Some are not; they have gone to the Next Country'
(died).

'Killed in Battle?'

'Yes; on the berge that looks,--what you call I not know.'

'Lookout Mountain?'

'Yes'

'Were the boys volunteers?' I asked, remembering the Community theory of
non-resistance.

'O yes; they volunteer, Gustav the first. _They_ not drafted,' said
Wilhelmina, proudly. For these two words so prominent during the war,
had penetrated even into this quiet little valley.

'But did the trustees approve?'

'Apperouve?'

'I mean did they like it?'

'Ah! they like it not. They talk, they preach in church, they say 'No.'
Zoar must give soldiers? So. Then they take money and pay for der
substitute; but the boys they must not go.'

'But they went in spite of the trustees?'

'Yes; Gustav first. They go in night, they walk in woods, over the hills
to Brownville, where is der recruiter. The morning come, they gone!'

'They have been away three years, you say? They have seen the world in
that time,' I remarked half to myself, as I thought of the strange
mind-opening and knowledge-gaining of those years to youths brought up
in the strict seclusion of the Community.

'Yes; Gustav have seen the wide world,' answered Wilhelmina with pride.

'But will they be content to step back into the dull routine of Zoar
life?' I thought; and a doubt came that made me scan more closely the
face of the girl at my side. To me it was attractive because of its
possibilities; I was always fancying some excitement that would bring
the color to the cheeks and full lips, and light up the heavy-lidded
eyes with soft brilliancy. But would this Gustav see these might-be
beauties? And how far would the singularly ugly costume offend eyes
grown accustomed to fanciful finery and gay colors?

'You fully expect to marry Gustav?' I asked.

'We are verlobt,' answered Mina, not without a little air of dignity.

'Yes, I know. But that was long ago.'

'Verlobt once, verlobt always,' said the little maiden, confidently.

'But why, then, does the gardener speak of Jacob, if you are engaged to
this Gustav?'

'O, fader he like the old, and Jacob is old, thirty year! His wife is
gone to the Next Country. Jacob is a brother, too; he write his name in
the book. But Gustav he not do so; he is free.'

'You mean that the baker has signed the articles, and is a member of the
Community?'

'Yes; but the baker is old, very old; thirty year! Gustav not twenty and
three yet; he come home, then he sign.'

'And have you signed these articles, Wilhelmina?'

'Yes; all the womens signs.'

'What does the paper say?'

'Da ich Unterzeichneter,'--began the girl.

'I cannot understand that. Tell me in English.'

'Well; you wants to join the Zoar Community of Separatists; you writes
your name and says, "Give me house, victual, and clothes for my work and
I join; and I never fernerer Forderung an besagte Gesellschaft machen
kann, oder will."'

'Will never make further demand upon said society,' I repeated,
translating slowly.

'Yes; that is it.'

'But who takes charge of all the money?'

'The trustees.'

'Don't they give you any?'

'No; for what? It's no good,' answered Wilhelmina.

I knew that all the necessaries of life were dealt out to the members of
the Community according to their need, and, as they never went outside
of their valley, they could scarcely have spent money even if they had
possessed it. But, nevertheless, it was startling in this nineteenth
century to come upon a sincere belief in the worthlessness of the
green-tinted paper we cherish so fondly. 'Gustav will have learned its
value,' I thought, as Mina, having finished the strawberry-bed, started
away towards the dairy to assist in the butter-making.

I strolled on up the little hill, past the picturesque bakery, where
through the open window I caught a glimpse of the 'old, very old Jacob,'
a serious young man of thirty, drawing out his large loaves of bread
from the brick oven with a long-handled rake. It was gingerbread-day
also, and a spicy odor met me at the window; so I put in my head and
asked for a piece, receiving a card about a foot square, laid on fresh
grape-leaves.

'But I cannot eat all this,' I said, breaking off a corner.

'O, dat's noding!' answered Jacob, beginning to knead fresh dough in a
long white trough, the village supply for the next day.

'I have been sitting with Wilhelmina,' I remarked, as I leaned on the
casement, impelled by a desire to see the effect of the name.

'So?' said Jacob, interrogatively.

'Yes; she is a sweet girl.'

'So?' (doubtfully.)

'Dont you think so, Jacob?'

'Ye-es. So-so. A leetle black,' answered this impassive lover.

'But you wish to marry her?'

'O, ye-es. She young and strong; her fader say she good to work. I have
children five; I must have some one in the house.'

'O Jacob! Is that the way to talk?' I exclaimed.

'Warum nicht?' replied the baker, pausing in his kneading, and regarding
me with wide-open, candid eyes.

'Why not, indeed?' I thought, as I turned away from the window. 'He is
at least honest, and no doubt in his way he would be a kind husband to
little Mina. But what a way.'

I walked on up the street, passing the pleasant house where all the
infirm old women of the Community were lodged together, carefully tended
by appointed nurses. The aged sisters were out on the piazza sunning
themselves, like so many old cats. They were bent with hard, out-door
labor for they belonged to the early days when the wild forest covered
the fields now so rich, and only a few log-cabins stood on the site of
the tidy cottages and gardens of the present village. Some of them had
taken the long journey on foot from Philadelphia westward, four hundred
and fifty miles, in the depths of winter. Well might they rest from
their labors and sit in the sunshine, poor old souls!

A few days later, my friendly newspaper mentioned the arrival of the
German regiment at Camp Chase. 'They will probably be paid off in a day
or two,' I thought, 'and another day may bring them here.' Eager to be
the first to tell the good news to my little favorite, I hastened to the
garden, and found her engaged, as usual, in weeding.

'Mina,' I said, 'I have something to tell you. The regiment is at Camp
Chase; you will see Gustav soon, perhaps this week.'

And there, before my eyes, the transformation I had often fancied took
place; the color rushed to the brown surface, the cheeks and lips glowed
in vivid red, and the heavy eyes opened wide and shone like stars, with
a brilliancy that astonished and even disturbed me. The statue had a
soul at last; the beauty dormant had awakened. But for the fire of that
soul would this expected Pygmalion suffice? Would the real prince fill
his place in the long-cherished dreams of this beauty of the wood?

The girl had risen as I spoke, and now she stood erect, trembling with
excitement, her hands clasped on her breast, breathing quickly and
heavily as though an overweight of joy was pressing down on her heart;
her eyes were fixed upon my face, but she saw me not. Strange was her
gaze, like the gaze of one walking in sleep. Her sloping shoulders
seemed to expand and chafe against the stuff gown as though they would
burst their bonds; the blood glowed in her face and throat, and her lips
quivered, not as though tears were coming, but from the fulness of
unuttered speech. Her emotion resembled the intensest fire of fever, and
yet it seemed natural; like noon in the tropics when the gorgeous
flowers flame in the white, shadowless heat. Thus stood Wilhelmina,
looking up into the sky with eyes that challenged the sun.

'Come here, child,' I said; 'come here and sit by me. We will talk about
it.'

But she neither saw nor heard me. I drew her down on the bench at my
side; she yielded unconsciously; her slender form throbbed, and pulses
were beating under my hands wherever I touched her. 'Mina!' I said
again. But she did not answer. Like an unfolding rose, she revealed her
hidden, beautiful heart, as though a spirit had breathed upon the bud;
silenced in the presence of this great love, I ceased speaking, and left
her to herself. After a time single words fell from her lips, broken
utterances of happiness. I was as nothing; she was absorbed in the One.
'Gustav! mein Gustav!' It was like the bird's note, oft repeated, ever
the same. So isolated, so intense was her joy, that, as often happens,
my mind took refuge in the opposite extreme of commonplace, and I found
myself wondering whether she would be able to eat boiled beef and
cabbage for dinner, or fill the soft-soap barrel for the laundry-women,
later in the day.

All the morning I sat under the trees with Wilhelmina, who had forgotten
her life-long tasks as completely as though they had never existed. I
hated to leave her to the leather-colored wife of the old gardener, and
lingered until the sharp voice came from the distant house-door,
calling, 'Veel-hel-meeny,' as the twelve-o'clock bell summoned the
Community to dinner. But as Mina rose and swept back the heavy braid
that had fallen from the little ivory stick which confined them, I saw
that she was armed _cap-à-pie_ in that full happiness from which all
weapons glance off harmless.

All the rest of the day she was like a thing possessed. I followed her
to the hill-pasture, whither she had gone to mind the cows, and found
her coiled up on the grass in the blaze of the afternoon sun, like a
little salamander. She was lost in day dreams, and the decorous cows had
a holiday for once in their sober lives, wandering beyond bounds at
will, and even tasting the dissipations of the marsh, standing unheeded
in the bog up to their sleek knees. Wilhelmina had not many words to
give me; her English vocabulary was limited; she had never read a line
of romance nor a verse of poetry. The nearest approach to either was the
Community hymn-book, containing the Separatist hymns, of which the
following lines are a specimen,

    "Ruhe ist das beste Gut
     Dasz man haben kann,"--

    "Rest is the best good
     That man can have,"--

and which embody the religious doctrine of the Zoar Brethren, although
they think, apparently, that the labor of twelve hours each day is
necessary to its enjoyment. The 'Ruhe,' however, refers more especially
to their quiet seclusion away from the turmoil of the wicked world
outside.

The second morning after this it was evident that an unusual excitement
was abroad in the phlegmatic village. All the daily duties were
fulfilled as usual at the Wirthshaus: Pauline went up to the bakery with
her board, and returned with her load of bread and bretzels balanced on
her head; Jacobina served our coffee with slow precision; and the
broad-shouldered, young-faced Lydia patted and puffed up our
mountain-high feather-beds with due care. The men went afield at the
blast of the horn, the workshops were full and the mills running. But,
nevertheless, all was not the same; the air seemed full of mystery;
there were whisperings when two met, furtive signals, and an inward
excitement glowing in the faces of men, women, and children, hitherto
placid as their own sheep. 'They have heard the news,' I said, after
watching the tailor's Gretchen and the blacksmith's Barbara stop to
exchange a whisper behind the wood-house. Later in the day we learned
that several letters from the absent soldier-boys had been received that
morning, announcing their arrival on the evening train. The news had
flown from one end of the village to the other; and although the
well-drilled hands were all at work, hearts were stirring with the
greatest excitement of a lifetime, since there was hardly a house where
there was not one expected. Each large house often held a number of
families, stowed away in little sets of chambers, with one dining-room
in common.

Several times during the day we saw the three trustees conferring apart
with anxious faces. The war had been a sore trouble to them, owing to
their conscientious scruples against rendering military service. They
had hoped to remain non-combatants. But the country was on fire with
patriotism, and nothing less than a _bona fide_ Separatist in United
States uniform would quiet the surrounding towns, long jealous of the
wealth of this foreign community, misunderstanding its tenets, and
glowing with that zeal against 'sympathizers' which kept star-spangled
banners flying over every suspected house. 'Hang out the flag!' was
their cry, and they demanded that Zoar should hang out its soldiers,
giving them to understand that if not voluntarily hung out, they would
soon be involuntarily hung up! A draft was ordered, and then the young
men of the society, who had long chafed against their bonds, broke
loose, volunteered, and marched away, principles or no principles,
trustees or no trustees. These bold hearts once gone, the village sank
into quietude again. Their letters, however, were a source of anxiety,
coming as they did from the vain outside world; and the old postmaster,
autocrat though he was, hardly dared to suppress them. But he said,
shaking his head, that they 'had fallen upon troublous times,' and
handed each dangerous envelope out with a groan. But the soldiers were
not skilled penmen; their letters, few and far between, at length
stopped entirely. Time passed, and the very existence of the runaways
had become a far-off problem to the wise men of the Community, absorbed
in their slow calculations and cautious agriculture, when now, suddenly,
it forced itself upon them face to face, and they were required to solve
it in the twinkling of an eye. The bold hearts were coming back, full of
knowledge of the outside world, almost every house would hold one, and
the bands of law and order would be broken. Before this prospect the
trustees quailed. Twenty years before they would have forbidden the
entrance of these unruly sons within their borders; but now they dared
not, since even into Zoar had penetrated the knowledge that America was
a free country. The younger generation were not as their fathers were;
objections had been openly made to the cut of the Sunday coats, and the
girls had spoken together of ribbons!

The shadows of twilight seemed very long in falling that night, but at
last there was no further excuse for delaying the evening bell, and home
came the laborers to their evening meal. There was no moon, a soft mist
obscured the stars, and the night was darkened with the excess of
richness which rose from the ripening valley-fields and fat bottom-lands
along the river. The Community store opposite the Wirthshaus was closed
early in the evening, the houses of the trustees were dark, and indeed
the village was almost unlighted, as if to hide its own excitement. The
entire population was abroad in the night, and one by one the men and
boys stole away down the station road, a lovely, winding track on the
hillside, following the river on its way down the valley to the little
station on the grass-grown railroad, a branch from the main track. As
ten o'clock came, the women and girls, grown bold with excitement,
gathered in the open space in front of the Wirthshaus, where the lights
from the windows illumined their faces. There I saw the broad-shouldered
Lydia, Rosine, Doroty, and all the rest, in their Sunday clothes,
flushed, laughing, and chattering; but no Wilhelmina.

'Where can she be?' I said.

If she was there, the larger girls concealed her with their buxom
breadth; I looked for the slender little maiden in vain.

'Shu!' cried the girls, 'de bugle!'

Far down the station road we heard the bugle and saw the glimmering of
lights among the trees. On it came, a will-o' the-wisp procession, first
a detachment of village boys each with a lantern or torch, next the
returned soldiers winding their bugles,--for, German-like, they all had
musical instruments,--then an excited crowd of brothers and cousins
loaded with knapsacks, guns, and military accoutrements of all kinds;
each man had something, were it only a tin cup, and proudly they
marched in the footsteps of their glorious relatives, bearing the spoils
of war. The girls set up a shrill cry of welcome as the procession
approached, but the ranks continued unbroken until the open space in
front of the Wirthshaus was reached; then, at a signal, the soldiers
gave three cheers, the villagers joining in with all their hearts and
lungs, but wildly and out of time, like the scattering fire of an
awkward squad. The sound had never been heard in Zoar before. The
soldiers gave a final 'Tiger-r-r!' and then broke ranks, mingling with
the excited crowd, exchanging greetings and embraces. All talked at
once; some wept, some laughed; and through it all silently stood the
three trustees on the dark porch in front of the store, looking down
upon their wild flock, their sober faces visible in the glare of the
torches and lanterns below. The entire population was present; even the
babies were held up on the outskirts of the crowd, stolid and staring.

'Where can Wilhelmina be?' I said again.

'Here, under the window; I saw her long ago,' replied one of the women.

Leaning against a piazza-pillar, close under my eyes, stood the little
maiden, pale and still. I could not disguise from myself that she looked
almost ugly among those florid, laughing girls, for her color was gone,
and her eyes so fixed that they looked unnaturally large; her somewhat
heavy Egyptian features stood out in the bright light, but her small
form was lost among the group of broad, white-kerchiefed shoulders,
adorned with breast-knots of gay flowers. And had Wilhelmina no flower?
She, so fond of blossoms? I looked again; yes, a little white rose,
drooping and pale as herself.

But where was Gustav? The soldiers came and went in the crowd, and all
spoke to Mina; but where was the One? I caught the landlord's little son
as he passed, and asked the question.

'Gustav! Dat's him,' he answered, pointing out a tall, rollicking
soldier who seemed to be embracing the whole population in his gleeful
welcome. That very soldier had passed Mina a dozen times, flinging a gay
greeting to her each time; but nothing more.

After half an hour of general rejoicing, the crowd dispersed, each
household bearing off in triumph the hero that fell to its lot. Then the
tiled domiciles, where usually all were asleep an hour after twilight,
blazed forth with unaccustomed light from every little window; within we
could see the circles, with flagons of beer and various dainties
manufactured in secret during the day, sitting and talking together in a
manner which, for Zoar, was a wild revel, since it was nearly eleven
o'clock! We were not the only outside spectators of this unwonted
gayety; several times we met the trustees stealing along in the shadow
from house to house, like anxious spectres in broad-brimmed hats. No
doubt they said to each other, 'How, how will this end!'

The merry Gustav had gone off by Mina's side, which gave me some
comfort; but when in our rounds we came to the gardener's house and
gazed through the open door, the little maiden sat apart, and the
soldier, in the centre of an admiring circle, was telling stories of the
war.

I felt a foreboding of sorrow as I gazed out through the little window
before climbing up into my high bed. Lights still twinkled in some of
the houses, but a white mist was rising from the river, and the drowsy
long-drawn chant of the summer night invited me to dreamless sleep.

The next morning I could not resist questioning Jacobina, who also had
her lover among the soldiers, if all was well.

'O yes. They stay,--all but two. We's married next mont.'

'And the two?'

'Karl and Gustav.'

'And Wilhelmina!' I exclaimed.

'O she let him go,' answered Jacobina, bringing fresh coffee.

'Poor child! How does she bear it?'

'O so. She cannot help. She say noding.'

'But the trustees, will they allow these young men to leave the
Community?'

'They cannot help,' said Jacobina. 'Gustav and Karl write not in the
book; they free to go. Wilhelmina marry Jacob; it's joost the same; all
r-r-ight,' added Jacobina, who prided herself upon her English, caught
from visitors at the Wirthshaus table.

'Ah! but it is not just the same,' I thought as I walked up to the
garden to find my little maiden. She was not there; the leathery mother
said she was out on the hills with the cows.

'So Gustav is going to leave the Community,' I said in German.

'Yes, better so. He is an idle, wild boy. Now Veelhelmeeny can marry the
baker, a good steady man.'

'But Mina does not like him,' I suggested.

'Das macht nichts,' answered the leathery mother.

Wilhelmina was not in the pasture; I sought for her everywhere, and
called her name. The poor child had hidden herself, and whether she
heard me or not she did not respond. All day she kept herself aloof; I
almost feared she would never return; but in the late twilight a little
figure slipped through the garden-gate and took refuge in the house
before I could speak; for I was watching for the child, apparently the
only one, though a stranger, to care for her sorrow.

'Can I not see her?' I said to the leathery mother, following to the
door.

'Eh, no; she's foolish; she will not speak a word; she has gone off to
bed,' was the answer.

For three days I did not see Mina, so early did she flee away to the
hills and so late return. I followed her to the pasture once or twice,
but she would not show herself, and I could not discover her hiding
place. The fourth day I learned that Gustav and Karl were to leave the
village in the afternoon, probably forever. The other soldiers had
signed the articles presented by the anxious trustees, and settled down
into the old routine, going afield with the rest, although still heroes
of the hour; they were all to be married in August. No doubt the
hardships of their campaigns among the Tennessee mountains had taught
them that the rich valley was a home not to be despised; nevertheless,
it was evident that the flowers of the flock were those who were about
departing, and that in Gustav and Karl the Community lost its brightest
spirits. Evident to us; but possibly, the Community cared not for bright
spirits.

I had made several attempts to speak to Gustav; this morning I at last
succeeded. I found him polishing his bugle on the garden bench.

'Why are you going away, Gustav?' I asked. 'Zoar is a pleasant little
village.'

'Too slow for me, miss.'

'The life is easy, however; you will find the world a hard place.'

'I don't mind work, ma'am, but I do like to be free. I feel all cramped
up here, with these rules and bells; and, besides, I couldn't stand
those trustees; they never let a fellow alone.'

'And Wilhelmina? If you do go, I hope you will take her with you or come
for her when you have found work.'

'Oh no, miss. All that was long ago. It's all over now.'

'But you like her, Gustav.'

'O so. She's a good little thing, but too quiet for me.'

'But she likes you,' I said desperately, for I saw no other way to
loosen this Gordian knot.

'O no, miss. She got used to it, and has thought of it all these years;
that's all. She'll forget about it and marry the baker.'

'But she does not like the baker.'

'Why not? He's a good fellow enough. She'll like him in time. It's all
the same. I declare it's too bad to see all these girls going on in the
same old way, in their ugly gowns and big shoes! Why, ma'am, I could'nt,
take Mina outside, even if I wanted to; she's too old to learn new ways,
and everybody would laugh at her. She could'nt get along a day.
Besides,' said the young soldier, coloring up to his eyes, 'I don't mind
telling you that--that there's some one else. Look here, ma'am.'

And he put into my hand a card photograph representing a pretty girl,
over dressed, and adorned with curls and gilt jewelery. 'That's Miss
Martin,' said Gustav with pride; 'Miss Emmeline Martin, of Cincinnati.
I'm going to marry Miss Martin.'

As I held the pretty, flashy picture in my hand, all my castles fell to
the ground. My plan for taking Mina home with me, accustoming her
gradually to other clothes and ways, teaching her enough of the world to
enable her to hold her place without pain, my hope that my husband might
find a situation for Gustav in some of the iron-mills near Cleveland, in
short, all the idyl I had woven, was destroyed. If it had not been for
this red-cheeked Miss Martin in her gilt beads! 'Why is it that men will
be such fools?' I thought. Up sprung a memory of the curls and ponderous
jet necklace I sported at a certain period of my existence, when
John--I was silenced, gave Gustav his picture, and walked away without a
word.

At noon the villagers, on their way back to work, paused at the
Wirthshaus to say good bye; Karl and Gustav were there, and the old
woolly horse had already gone to the station with their boxes. Among the
others came Christine, Karl's former affianced, heartwhole and smiling,
already betrothed to a new lover; but no Wilhelmina. Good wishes and
farewells were exchanged, and at last the two soldiers started away,
falling into the marching step and watched with furtive satisfaction by
the three trustees, who stood together in the shadow of the smithy
apparently deeply absorbed in a broken-down cask.

It was a lovely afternoon, and I, too, strolled down the station road
embowered in shade. The two soldiers were not far in advance. I had
passed the flour-mill on the outskirts of the village and was
approaching the old quarry, when a sound startled me; out of the rocks
in front rushed a little figure and crying 'Gustav, mein Gustav!' fell
at the soldier's feet. It was Wilhelmina.

I ran forward and took her from the young men; she lay in my arms as if
dead. The poor child was sadly changed; always slender and swaying, she
now looked thin and shrunken, her skin had a strange, dark pallor, and
her lips were drawn in as if from pain. I could see her eyes through the
large-orbed thin lids, and the brown shadows beneath extended down into
the cheeks.

'Was ist's?' said Gustav, looking bewildered. 'Is she sick?'

I answered 'Yes,' but nothing more. I could see that he had no suspicion
of the truth, believing as he did that the 'good fellow' of a baker
would do very well for this 'good little thing' who was 'too quiet' for
him. The memory of Miss Martin sealed my lips. But if it had not been
for that pretty, flashy picture, would I not have spoken!

'You must go; you will miss the train,' I said after a few minutes. 'I
will see to Mina.'

But Gustav lingered. Perhaps he was really troubled to see the little
sweetheart of his boyhood in such desolate plight; perhaps a touch of
the old feeling came back; and perhaps also it was nothing of the kind,
and, as usual, my romantic thoughts were carrying me away. At any rate,
whatever it was, he stooped over the fainting girl.

'She looks bad,' he said, 'very bad. I wish-- But she'll get well and
marry the baker. Good bye, Mina.' And bending his tall form, he kissed
her colorless cheek, and then hastened away to join the impatient Karl;
a curve in the road soon hid them from view.

Wilhelmina had stirred at his touch; after a moment her large eyes
opened slowly; she looked around as if dazed, but all at once memory
came back and she started up with the same cry, 'Gustav, mein Gustav!' I
drew her head down on my shoulder to stifle the sound; it was better the
soldier should not hear it, and its anguish thrilled my own heart also.
She had not the strength to resist me, and in a few minutes I knew that
the young men were out of hearing as they strode on towards the station
and out into the wide world.

The forest was solitary, we were beyond the village; all the afternoon I
sat under the trees with the stricken girl. Again, as in her joy her
words were few; again as in her joy her whole being was involved. Her
little rough hands were cold, a film had gathered over her eyes; she did
not weep, but moaned to herself, and all her senses seemed blunted. At
nightfall I took her home, and the leathery mother received her with a
frown; but the child was beyond caring, and crept away, dumbly, to her
room.

The next morning she was off to the hills again, nor could I find her
for several days. Evidently in spite of my sympathy I was no more to her
than I should have been to a wounded fawn. She was a mixture of the
wild, shy creature of the woods and the deep-loving woman of the
tropics; in either case I could be but small comfort. When at last I did
see her, she was apathetic and dull; her feelings, her senses, and her
intelligence seemed to have gone within, as if preying upon her heart.
She scarcely listened to my proposal to take her with me; for in my pity
I had suggested it, in spite of its difficulties.

'No,' she said, mechanically, 'I'se better here'; and fell into silence
again.

       *       *       *       *       *

A month later a friend went down to spend a few days in the valley, and
upon her return described to us the weddings of the whilom soldiers. 'It
was really a pretty sight,' she said, 'the quaint peasant dresses and
the flowers. Afterwards, the band went round the village playing their
odd tunes, and all had a holiday. There were two civilians married also;
I mean two young men who had not been to the war. It seems that two of
the soldiers turned their backs upon the Community and their allotted
brides, and marched away; but the Zoar maidens are not romantic, I
fancy, for these two deserted ones were betrothed again, and married,
all in the short space of four weeks.'

'Was not one Wilhelmina, the gardener's daughter, a short, dark girl?' I
asked.

'Yes.'

'And she married Jacob the baker?'

'Yes.'

       *       *       *       *       *

The next year, weary of the cold lake-winds, we left the icy shore and
went down to the valley to meet the coming spring, finding her already
there, decked with vines and flowers. A new waitress brought us our
coffee.

'How is Wilhelmina?' I asked.

'Eh,--Wilhelmina? O, she not here now; she gone to the Next Country,'
answered the girl in a matter-of-fact way. 'She die last October, and
Jacob he have anoder wife now.'

In the late afternoon I asked a little girl to show me Wilhelmina's
grave in the quiet God's Acre on the hill. Innovation was creeping in,
even here; the later graves had mounds raised over them, and one had a
little head-board with an inscription in ink.

Wilhelmina lay apart, and some one, probably the old gardener, who had
loved her in his silent way, had planted a rose-bush at the head of the
mound. I dismissed my guide and sat there in the sunset, thinking of
many things, but chiefly of this: 'Why should this great wealth of love
have been allowed to waste itself? Why is it that the greatest of power,
unquestionably, of this mortal life should so often seem a useless
gift?'

No answer came from the sunset clouds, and as twilight sank down on the
earth I rose to go. 'I fully believe,' I said, as though repeating a
creed, 'that this poor, loving heart, whose earthly body lies under this
mound, is happy in its own loving way. It has not been changed, but the
happiness it longed for has come. How we know not; but the God who made
Wilhelmina understands her. He has given unto her not rest, not peace,
but an active, living joy.'

I walked away through the wild meadow, under whose turf, unmarked by
stone or mound, lay the first pioneers of the Community and out into the
forest road, untravelled save when the dead passed over it to their last
earthly home. The evening was still and breathless, and the shadows lay
thick on the grass as I looked back. But I could still distinguish the
little mound with the rose-bush at its head, and, not without tears, I
said, 'Farewell, poor Wilhelmina; farewell.'



ST. CLAIR FLATS


In September, 1855, I first saw the St. Clair Flats. Owing to Raymond's
determination, we stopped there.

'Why go on?' he asked. 'Why cross another long, rough lake, when here is
all we want?'

'But no one ever stops here,' I said.

'So much the better; we shall have it all to ourselves.'

'But we must at least have a roof over our heads.'

'I presume we can find one.'

The captain of the steamer, however, knew of no roof save that covering
a little lighthouse set on spiles, which the boat would pass within the
half hour; we decided to get off there, and throw ourselves upon the
charity of the lighthouse-man. In the meantime, we sat on the bow with
Captain Kidd, our four-legged companion, who had often accompanied us on
hunt-expeditions, but never so far westward. It had been rough on Lake
Erie,--very rough. We, who had sailed the ocean with composure, found
ourselves most inhumanly tossed on the short chopping waves of this
fresh water sea; we, who alone of all the cabin-list had eaten our four
courses every day on the ocean-steamer, found ourselves here reduced to
the depressing diet of a herring and pilot-bread. Captain Kidd, too, had
suffered dumbly; even now he could not find comfort, but tried every
plank in the deck, one after the other, circling round and round after
his tail dog-fashion, before lying down, and no sooner down than up
again, for another choice of planks, another circling, and another
failure. We were sailing across a small lake whose smooth waters were
like clear green oil; as we drew near the outlet, the low, green shores
curved inward and came together, and the steamer entered a narrow, green
river.

'Here we are,' said Raymond. 'Now we can soon land.'

'But there isn't any land,' I answered.

'What is that, then?' asked my near-sighted companion, pointing toward
what seemed a shore.

'Reeds.'

'And what do they run back to?'

'Nothing.'

'But there must be solid ground beyond?'

'Nothing but reeds, flags, lily-pads, grass, and water, as far as I can
see.'

'A marsh?'

'Yes, a marsh.'

The word 'marsh' does not bring up a beautiful picture to the mind, and
yet the reality was as beautiful as anything I have ever seen,--an
enchanted land, whose memory haunts me as an idea unwritten, a melody
unsung, a picture unpainted, haunts the artist, and will not away. On
each side and in front, as far as the eye could reach, stretched the low
green land which was yet no land, intersected by hundreds of channels,
narrow and broad, whose waters were green as their shores. In and out,
now running into each other for a moment, now setting off each for
himself again, these many channels flowed along with a rippling current;
zigzag as they were, they never seemed to loiter, but, as if knowing
just where they were going and what they had to do, they found time to
take their own pleasant roundabout way, visiting the secluded households
of their friends the flags, who, poor souls, must always stay at home.
These currents were as clear as crystal, and green as the water-grasses
that fringed their miniature shores. The bristling reeds, like companies
of free-lances, rode boldly out here and there into the deeps, trying to
conquer more territory for the grasses, but the currents were hard to
conquer; they dismounted the free-lances, and flowed over their
submerged heads; they beat them down with assaulting ripples; they broke
their backs so effectually that the bravest had no spirit left, but
trailed along, limp and bedraggled. And, if by chance the lances
succeeded in stretching their forces across from one little shore to
another, then the unconquered currents forced their way between the
closely serried ranks of the enemy, and flowed on as gayly as ever,
leaving the grasses sitting hopeless on the bank; for they needed solid
ground for their delicate feet, these graceful ladies in green.

You might call it a marsh; but there was no mud, no dark slimy water, no
stagnant scum; there were no rank yellow lilies, no gormandizing frogs,
no swinish mud-turtles. The clear waters of the channels ran over golden
sands, and hurtled among the stiff reeds so swiftly that only in a bay,
or where protected by a crescent point, could the fair white lilies
float in the quiet their serene beauty requires. The flags, who
brandished their swords proudly, were martinets down to their very
heels, keeping themselves as clean under the water as above, and
harboring not a speck of mud on their bright green uniforms. For
inhabitants, there were small fish roving about here and there in the
clear tide, keeping an eye out for the herons, who, watery as to legs,
but venerable and wise of aspect, stood on promontories musing,
apparently, on the secrets of the ages.

The steamer's route was a constant curve; through the larger channels of
the archipelago she wound, as if following the clew of a labyrinth. By
turns she headed toward all the points of the compass, finding a channel
where, to our uninitiated eyes, there was no channel, doubling upon her
own track, going broadside foremost, floundering and backing, like a
whale caught in a shallow. Here, landlocked, she would choose what
seemed the narrowest channel of all, and dash recklessly through, with
the reeds almost brushing her sides; there she crept gingerly along a
broad expanse of water, her paddle-wheels scarcely revolving, in the
excess of her caution. Saplings, with their heads of foliage on, and
branches adorned with fluttering rags, served as finger-posts to show
the way through the watery defiles, and there were many other
hieroglyphics legible only to the pilot. 'This time, surely, we shall
run ashore,' we thought again and again, as the steamer glided, head-on,
toward an islet; but at the last there was always a quick turn into some
unseen strait opening like a secret passage in a castle-wall, and we
found ourselves in a new lakelet, heading in the opposite direction.
Once we met another steamer, and the two great hulls floated slowly past
each other, with engines motionless, so near that the passengers could
have shaken hands with each other had they been so disposed. Not that
they were so disposed, however; far from it. They gathered on their
respective decks and gazed at each other gravely; not a smile was seen,
not a word spoken, not the shadow of a salutation given. It was not
pride, it was not suspicion; it was the universal listlessness of the
travelling American bereft of his business, Othello with his occupation
gone. What can such a man do on a steamer? Generally, nothing. Certainly
he would never think of any such light-hearted nonsense as a smile or
passing bow.

But the ships were, _par excellence_, the bewitched craft, the Flying
Dutchmen of the Flats. A brig, with lofty, sky-scraping sails, bound
south, came into view of our steamer, bound north, and passed, we
hugging the shore to give her room: five minutes afterward the
sky-scraping sails we had left behind veered around in front of us
again; another five minutes, and there they were far distant on the
right; another, and there they were again close by us on the left. For
half an hour those sails circled around us, and yet all the time we were
pushing steadily forward; this seemed witching work indeed. Again, the
numerous schooners thought nothing of sailing over-land; we saw them on
all sides gliding before the wind, or beating up against it over the
windows as easily as over the water; sailing on grass was a mere trifle
to these spirit-barks. All this we saw, as I said before, apparently.
But in that adverb is hidden the magic of the St. Clair Flats.

'It is beautiful,--beautiful,' I said, looking off over the vivid green
expanse.

'Beautiful?' echoed the captain, who had himself taken charge of the
steering when the steamer entered the labyrinth,--'I don't see anything
beautiful in it!--Port your helm up there; port!'

'Port it is, sir,' came back from the pilot-house above.

'These Flats give us more trouble than any other spot on the lakes;
vessels are all the time getting aground and blocking up the way, which
is narrow enough at best. There's some talk of Uncle Sam's cutting a
canal right through,--a straight canal; but he's so slow, Uncle Sam is,
and I'm afraid I'll be off the waters before the job is done.'

'A straight canal!' I repeated, thinking with dismay of an ugly
utilitarian ditch invading this beautiful winding waste of green.

'Yes, you can see for yourself what a saving it would be,' replied the
captain. 'We could run right through in no time, day or night; whereas,
now, we have to turn and twist and watch every inch of the whole
everlasting marsh.' Such was the captain's opinion. But we, albeit
neither romantic nor artistic, were captivated with his 'everlasting
marsh,' and eager to penetrate far within its green fastnesses.

'I suppose there are other families living about here, besides the
family at the lighthouse?' I said.

'Never heard of any; they'd have to live on a raft if they did.'

'But there must be some solid ground.'

'Don't believe it; it's nothing but one great sponge for miles.--Steady
up there; steady!'

'Very well,' said Raymond, 'so be it. If there is only the lighthouse,
at the lighthouse we'll get off, and take our chances.'

'You're surveyors, I suppose?' said the captain.

Surveyors are the pioneers of the lake-country, understood by the people
to be a set of harmless monomaniacs, given to building little
observatories along-shore, where there is nothing to observe; mild
madmen, whose vagaries and instruments are equally singular. As
surveyors, therefore, the captain saw nothing surprising in our
determination to get off at the lighthouse; if we had proposed going
ashore on a plank in the middle of Lake Huron, he would have made no
objection.

At length the lighthouse came into view, a little fortress perched on
spiles, with a ladder for entrance; as usual in small houses, much time
seemed devoted to washing, for a large crane, swung to and fro by a
rope, extended out over the water, covered with fluttering garments hung
out to dry. The steamer lay to, our row-boat was launched, our traps
handed out, Captain Kidd took his place in the bow, and we pushed off
into the shallows; then the great paddle-wheels revolved again, and the
steamer sailed away, leaving us astern, rocking on her waves, and
watched listlessly by the passengers until a turn hid us from their
view. In the mean time numerous flaxen-haired children had appeared at
the little windows of the lighthouse,--too many of them, indeed, for our
hopes of comfort.

'Ten,' said Raymond, counting heads.

The ten, moved by curiosity as we approached, hung out of the windows so
far that they held on merely by their ankles.

'We cannot possibly save them all,' I remarked, looking up at the
dangling gazers.

'O, they're amphibious,' said Raymond; 'web-footed, I presume.'

We rowed up under the fortress, and demanded parley with the keeper in
the following language:--

'Is your father here?'

'No; but ma is,' answered the chorus.--'Ma! ma!'

Ma appeared, a portly female, who held converse with us from the top of
the ladder. The sum and substance of the dialogue was that she had not a
corner to give us, and recommended us to find Liakim, and have him show
us the way to Waiting Samuel's.

'Waiting Samuel's?' we repeated.

'Yes; he's a kind of crazy man living away over there in the Flats. But
there's no harm in him, and his wife is a tidy housekeeper. You be
surveyors, I suppose?'

We accepted the imputation in order to avoid a broadside of questions,
and asked the whereabouts of Liakim.

'O, he's round the point, somewhere there, fishing!'

We rowed on and found him, a little, round-shouldered man, in an old
flat-bottomed boat, who had not taken a fish, and looked as though he
never would. We explained our errand.

'Did Rosabel Lee tell ye to come to me?' he asked.

'The woman in the lighthouse told us,' I said.

'That's Rosabel Lee, that's my wife; I'm Liakim Lee,' said the little
man, gathering together his forlorn old rods and tackle, and pulling up
his anchor.

    "In the kingdom down by the sea
     Lived the beautiful Annabel Lee,"

I quoted, _sotto voce_.

'And what very remarkable feet had she!' added Raymond, improvising
under the inspiration of certain shoes, scow-like in shape, gigantic in
length and breadth, which had made themselves visible at the top round
of the ladder.

At length the shabby old boat got under way, and we followed in its
path, turning off to the right through a network of channels, now
pulling ourselves along by the reeds, now paddling over a raft of
lily-pads, now poling through a winding labyrinth, and now rowing with
broad sweeps across the little lake. The sun was sinking, and the
western sky grew bright at his coming; there was not a cloud to make
mountain-peaks on the horizon, nothing but the level earth below meeting
the curved sky above, so evenly and clearly that it seemed as though we
could go out there and touch it with our hands. Soon we lost sight of
the little lighthouse; then one by one the distant sails sank down and
disappeared, and we were left alone on the grassy sea, rowing toward the
sunset.

'We must have come a mile or two, and there is no sign of a house,' I
called out to our guide.

'Well, I don't pretend to know how far it is, exactly,' replied Liakim;
'we don't know how far anything is here in the Flats, we don't.'

'But are you sure you know the way?'

'O my, yes! We've got most to the boy. There it is!'

The 'boy' was a buoy, a fragment of plank painted white, part of the
cabin-work of some wrecked steamer.

'Now, then,' said Liakim, pausing, 'you jest go straight on in this here
channel till you come to the ninth run from this boy, on the right; take
that, and it will lead you right up to Waiting Samuel's door.'

'Aren't you coming with us?'

'Well, no. In the first place, Rosabel Lee will be waiting supper for
me, and she don't like to wait; and, besides, Samuel can't abide to see
none of us round his part of the Flats.'

'But--' I began.

'Let him go,' interposed Raymond; 'we can find the house without
trouble.' And he tossed a silver dollar to the little man, who was
already turning his boat.

'Thank you,' said Liakim. 'Be sure you take the ninth run and no
other,--the ninth run from this boy. If you make any mistake, you'll
find yourselves miles away.'

With this cheerful statement, he began to row back. I did not altogether
fancy being left on the watery waste without a guide; the name, too, of
our mythic host did not bring up a certainty of supper and beds.
'Waiting Samuel,' I repeated, doubtfully. 'What is he waiting for?' I
called back over my shoulder; for Raymond was rowing.

'The judgment-day!' answered Liakim, in a shrill key. The boats were now
far apart; another turn, and we were alone.

We glided on, counting the runs on the right: some were wide, promising
rivers; others wee little rivulets; the eighth was far away; and, when
we had passed it, we could hardly decide whether we had reached the
ninth or not, so small was the opening, so choked with weeds, showing
scarcely a gleam of water beyond when we stood up to inspect it.

'It is certainly the ninth, and I vote that we try it. It will do as
well as another, and I for one, am in no hurry to arrive anywhere,' said
Raymond, pushing the boat in among the reeds.

'Do you want to lose yourself in this wilderness?' I asked, making a
flag of my handkerchief to mark the spot where we had left the main
stream.

'I think we are lost already,' was the calm reply. I began to fear we
were.

For some distance the 'run,' as Liakim called it, continued choked with
aquatic vegetation, which acted like so many devil-fish catching our
oars; at length it widened and gradually gave us a clear channel, albeit
so winding and erratic that the glow of the sunset, our only beacon,
seemed to be executing a waltz all round the horizon. At length we saw a
dark spot on the left, and distinguished the outline of a low house.
'There it is,' I said, plying my oars with renewed strength. But the run
turned short off in the opposite direction, and the house disappeared.
After some time it rose again, this time on our right, but once more the
run turned its back and shot off on a tangent. The sun had gone, and the
rapid twilight of September was falling around us; the air, however, was
singularly clear, and, as there was absolutely nothing to make a shadow,
the darkness came on evenly over the level green. I was growing anxious,
when a third time the house appeared, but the wilful run passed by it,
although so near that we could distinguish its open windows and door,
'Why not get out and wade across?' I suggested.

'According to Liakim, it is the duty of this run to take us to the very
door of Waiting Samuel's mansion, and it shall take us,' said Raymond,
rowing on. It did.

Doubling upon itself in the most unexpected manner, it brought us back
to a little island, where the tall grass had given way to a
vegetable-garden. We landed, secured our boat, and walked up the pathway
toward the house. In the dusk it seemed to be a low, square structure,
built of planks covered with plaster; the roof was flat, the windows
unusually broad, the door stood open,--but no one appeared. We knocked.
A voice from within called out, 'Who are you, and what do you want with
Waiting Samuel?'

'Pilgrims, asking for food and shelter,' replied Raymond.

'Do you know the ways of righteousness?'

'We can learn them.'

'We can learn them,' I echoed.

'Will you conform to the rules of this household without murmuring?'

'We will.'

'Enter then and peace be with you!' said the voice drawing nearer. We
stepped cautiously through the dark passage into a room, whose open
windows let in sufficient twilight to show us a shadowy figure. 'Seat
yourselves,' it said. We found a bench, and sat down.

'What seek ye here?' continued the shadow.

'Rest!' replied Raymond.

'Hunting and fishing!' I added.

'Ye will find more than rest,' said the voice, ignoring me altogether (I
am often ignored in this way),--'more than rest, if ye stay long enough,
and learn of the hidden treasures. Are you willing to seek for them?'

'Certainly!' said Raymond. 'Where shall we dig?'

'I speak not of earthly digging, young man. Will you give me the charge
of your souls?'

'Certainly, if you will also take charge of our bodies.'

'Supper, for instance,' I said, again coming to the front; 'and beds.'

The shadow groaned; then it called out wearily, 'Roxana!'

'Yes, Samuel,' replied an answering voice, and a second shadow became
dimly visible on the threshold. 'The woman will attend to your earthly
concerns,' said Waiting Samuel.--'Roxana, take them hence.' The second
shadow came forward, and, without a word, took our hands and led us
along the dark passage like two children, warning us now of a step, now
of a turn, then of two steps, and finally opening a door and ushering us
into a fire-lighted room. Peat was burning upon the wide hearth, and a
singing kettle hung above it on a crane; the red glow shone on a rough
table, chairs cushioned in bright calico, a loud ticking clock, a few
gayly flowered plates and cups on a shelf, shining tins against the
plastered wall, and a cat dozing on a bit of carpet in one corner. The
cheery domestic scene, coming after the wide, dusky Flats, the silence,
the darkness, and the mystical words of the shadowy Samuel, seemed so
real and pleasant that my heart grew light within me.

'What a bright fire!' I said. 'This is your domain, I suppose,
Mrs.--Mrs.--'

'I am not Mrs.; I am called Roxana,' replied the woman, busying herself
at the hearth.

'Ah, you are then the sister of Waiting Samuel, I presume?'

'No, I am his wife, fast enough; we were married by the minister twenty
years ago. But that was before Samuel had seen any visions.'

'Does he see visions?'

'Yes, almost every day.'

'Do you see them, also?'

'O no; I'm not like Samuel. He has great gifts, Samuel has! The visions
told us to come here; we used to live away down in Maine.'

'Indeed! That was a long journey!'

'Yes! And we didn't come straight either. We'd get to one place and
stop, and I'd think we were going to stay, and just get things
comfortable, when Samuel would see another vision, and we'd have to
start on. We wandered in that way two or three years, but at last we got
here, and something in the Flats seemed to suit the spirits, and they
let us stay.'

At this moment, through the half-open door, came a voice.

'An evil beast is in this house. Let him depart.'

'Do you mean me?' said Raymond, who had made himself comfortable in a
rocking-chair.

'Nay; I refer to the four-legged beast,' continued the voice. 'Come
forth, Apollyon!'

Poor Captain Kidd seemed to feel that he was the person in question, for
he hastened under the table with drooping tail and mortified aspect.

'Roxana, send forth the beast,' said the voice.

The woman put down her dishes and went toward the table; but I
interposed.

'If he must go, I will take him,' I said, rising.

'Yes; he must go,' replied Roxana, holding open the door. So I ordered
out the unwilling Captain, and led him into the passageway.

'Out of the house, out of the house,' said Waiting Samuel. 'His feet may
not rest upon this sacred ground. I must take him hence in the boat.'

'But where?'

'Across the channel there is an islet large enough for him; he shall
have food and shelter, but here he cannot abide,' said the man, leading
the way down to the boat.

The Captain was therefore ferried across, a tent was made for him out of
some old mats, food was provided, and, lest he should swim back, he was
tethered by a long rope, which allowed him to prowl around his domain
and take his choice of three runs for drinking-water. With all these
advantages, the ungrateful animal persisted in howling dismally as we
rowed away. It was company he wanted, and not a 'dear little isle of his
own'; but then, he was not by nature poetical.

'You do not like dogs?' I said, as we reached our strand again.

'St. Paul wrote, 'Beware of dogs,' replied Samuel.

'But did he mean--'

'I argue not with unbelievers; his meaning is clear to me, let that
suffice,' said my strange host, turning away and leaving me to find my
way back alone. A delicious repast was awaiting me. Years have gone by,
the world and all its delicacies have been unrolled before me, but the
memory of the meals I ate in that little kitchen in the Flats haunts me
still. That night it was only fish, potatoes, biscuit, butter, stewed
fruit, and coffee; but the fish was fresh, and done to the turn of a
perfect broil, not burn; the potatoes were fried to a rare crisp, yet
tender perfection, not chippy brittleness; the biscuits were light,
flaked creamily, and brown on the bottom; the butter freshly churned,
without salt; the fruit, great pears, with their cores extracted,
standing whole on their dish, ready to melt, but not melted; and the
coffee clear and strong, with yellow cream and the old-fashioned,
unadulterated loaf-sugar. We ate. That does not express it; we devoured.
Roxana waited on us, and warmed up into something like excitement under
our praises.

'I _do_ like good cooking,' she confessed. 'It's about all I have left
of my old life. I go over to the mainland for supplies, and in the
winter I try all kinds of new things to pass away the time. But Samuel
is a poor eater, he is; and so there isn't much comfort in it. I'm
mighty glad you've come, and I hope you'll stay as long as you find it
pleasant.' This we promised to do, as we finished the potatoes and
attacked the great jellied pears. 'There's one thing, though,' continued
Roxana; 'you'll have to come to our service on the roof at sunrise.'

'What service?' I asked.

'The invocation. Dawn is a holy time, Samuel says, and we always wait
for it; 'before the morning watch,' you know,--it says so in the Bible.
Why, my name means 'the dawn,' Samuel says; that's the reason he gave it
to me. My real name, down in Maine, was Maria,--Maria Ann.'

'But I may not wake in time,' I said.

'Samuel will call you.'

'And if, in spite of that, I should sleep over?'

'You would not do that; it would vex him,' replied Roxana calmly.

'Do you believe in these visions, madam?' asked Raymond, as we left the
table, and seated ourselves in front of the dying fire.

'Yes,' said Roxana; emphasis was unnecessary, of course she believed.

'Almost every day there is a spiritual presence, but it does not always
speak. They come and hold long conversations in the winter, when there
is nothing else to do; that I think is very kind of them, for in the
summer Samuel can fish and his time is more occupied. There were
fisherman in the Bible, you know; it is a holy calling.'

'Does Samuel ever go over to the mainland?'

'No, he never leaves the Flats. I do all the business; take over the
fish, and buy the supplies. I bought all our cattle,' said Roxana, with
pride. 'I poled them away over here on a raft, one by one, when they
were little things.'

'Where do you pasture them?'

'Here on the island; there are only a few acres, to be sure; but I can
cut boat-loads of the best feed within a stone's throw. If we only had a
little more solid ground! But this island is almost the only solid piece
in the Flats.'

'Your butter is certainly delicious.'

'Yes, I do my best. It is sold to the steamers and vessels as fast as I
make it.'

'You keep yourself busy, I see.'

'O, I like to work; I could'nt get on without it.'

'And Samuel?'

'He is not like me,' replied Roxana. 'He has great gifts, Samuel has. I
often think how strange it is that I should be the wife of such a holy
man! He is very kind to me, too; he tells me about the visions, and all
the other things.'

'What things?' said Raymond.

'The spirits, and the sacred influence of the sun; the fiery triangle,
and the thousand years of joy. The great day is coming, you know; Samuel
is waiting for it.'

'Nine of the night. Take thou thy rest. I will lay me down in peace, and
sleep, for it is thou, Lord, only, that makest me dwell in safety,'
chanted a voice in the hall; the tone was deep and not without melody,
and the words singularly impressive in that still, remote place.

'Go,' said Roxana, instantly pushing aside her half-washed dishes.
'Samuel will take you to your room.'

'Do you leave your work unfinished?' I said, with some curiosity,
noticing that she had folded her hands without even hanging up her
towels.

'We do nothing after the evening chant,' she said. 'Pray go; he is
waiting.'

'Can we have candles?'

'Waiting Samuel allows no false lights in his house; as imitations of
the glorious sun, they are abominable to him. Go, I beg.'

She opened the door, and we went into the passage; it was entirely dark,
but the man led us across to our room, showed us the position of our
beds by sense of feeling, and left us without a word. After he had gone,
we struck matches, one by one, and, with the aid of their uncertain
light, managed to get into our respective mounds in safety; they were
shake-downs on the floor, made of fragrant hay instead of straw, covered
with beautifully clean white sheets and patchwork coverlids, and
provided with large, luxurious pillows. O pillow! Has any one sung thy
praises? When tired or sick, when discouraged or sad, what gives so much
comfort as a pillow? Not your curled hair brickbats; not your stiff,
fluted, rasping covers, or limp cotton cases; but a good, generous, soft
pillow, deftly cased in smooth, cool, untrimmed linen! There's a friend
for you, a friend who changes not, a friend who soothes all your
troubles with a soft caress, a mesmeric touch of balmy forgetfulness.

I slept a dreamless sleep. Then I heard a voice borne toward me as if
coming from far over a sea, the waves bringing it nearer and nearer.

'Awake!' it cried; 'awake! The night is far spent; the day is at hand.
Awake!'

I wondered vaguely over this voice as to what manner of voice it might
be, but it came again, and again, and finally I awoke to find it at my
side. The gray light of dawn came through the open windows, and Raymond
was already up, engaged with a tub of water and crash towels. Again the
chant sounded in my ears.

'Very well, very well,' I said, testily. 'But if you sing before
breakfast you'll cry before night, Waiting Samuel.'

Our host had disappeared, however, without hearing my flippant speech,
and slowly I rose from my fragrant couch; the room was empty save for
our two mounds, two tubs of water, and a number of towels hanging on
nails. 'Not overcrowded with furniture,' I remarked.

'From Maine to Florida, from Massachusetts to Missouri, have I
travelled, and never before found water enough,' said Raymond. 'If
waiting for the judgment day raises such liberal ideas of tubs and
towels, I would that all the hotel-keepers in the land could be convened
here to take a lesson.'

Our green hunting-clothes were soon donned, and we went out into the
hall; a flight of broad steps led up to the roof; Roxana appeared at the
top and beckoned us thither. We ascended, and found ourselves on the
flat roof. Samuel stood with his face toward the east and his arms
outstretched, watching the horizon; behind was Roxana, with her hands
clasped on her breast and her head bowed: thus they waited. The eastern
sky was bright with golden light; rays shot upward toward the zenith,
where the rose-lights of dawn were retreating down to the west, which
still lay in the shadow of night; there was not a sound; the Flats
stretched out dusky and still. Two or three minutes passed, and then a
dazzling rim appeared above the horizon, and the first gleam of sunshine
was shed over the level earth; simultaneously the two began a chant,
simple as a Gregorian, but rendered in correct full tones. The words,
apparently, had been collected from the Bible:--

    "The heavens declare the glory of God--
                   Joy cometh in the morning!
     In them is laid out the path of the sun--
                   Joy cometh in the morning!
     As a bride groom goeth he forth;
     As a strong man runneth his race,
     The outgoings of the morning
                   Praise thee, O Lord!
     Like a pelican in the wilderness,
     Like a sparrow upon the house top,
                   I wait for the Lord.
     It is good that we hope and wait,
                   Wait--wait.

The chant over, the two stood a moment silently, as if in contemplation,
and then descended, passing us without a word or sign, with their hands
clasped before them as though forming part of an unseen procession.
Raymond and I were left alone upon the house-top.

'After all, it is not such a bad opening for a day; and there is the
pelican of the wilderness to emphasize it,' I said, as a heron flew up
from the water, and, slowly flapping his great wings, sailed across to
another channel. As the sun rose higher, the birds began to sing; first
a single note here and there, then a little trilling solo, and finally
an outpouring of melody on all sides,--land-birds and water-birds, birds
that lived in the Flats, and birds that had flown thither for
breakfast,--the whole waste was awake and rejoicing in the sunshine.

'What a wild place it is!' said Raymond. 'How boundless it looks! One
hill in the distance, one dark line of forest, even one tree, would
break its charm. I have seen the ocean, I have seen the prairies, I have
seen the great desert, but this is like a mixture of the three. It is an
ocean full of land,--a prairie full of water,--a desert full of
verdure.'

'Whatever it is, we shall find in it fishing and aquatic hunting to our
hearts' content,' I answered.

And we did. After a breakfast delicious as the supper, we took our boat
and a lunch-basket, and set out. 'But how shall we ever find our way
back?' I said, pausing as I recalled the network of runs, and the
will-o'-the-wisp aspect of the house, the previous evening.

'There is no other way but to take a large ball of cord with you, fasten
one end on shore, and let it run out over the stern of the boat,' said
Roxana. 'Let it run out loosely, and it will float on the water. When
you want to come back you can turn around and wind it in as you come.
_I_ can read the Flats like a book, but they're very blinding to most
people; and you might keep going round in a circle. You will do better
not to go far, anyway. I'll wind the bugle on the roof an hour before
sunset; you can start back when you hear it; for it's awkward getting
supper after dark.' With this musical promise we took the clew of twine
which Roxana rigged for us in the stern of our boat, and started away,
first releasing Captain Kidd, who was pacing his islet in sullen
majesty, like another Napoleon on St. Helena. We took a new channel and
passed behind the house, where the imported cattle were feeding in their
little pasture; but the winding stream soon bore us away, the house sank
out of sight, and we were left alone.

We had fine sport that morning among the ducks,--wood, teal, and
canvas-back,--shooting from behind our screens woven of rushes; later in
the day we took to fishing. The sun shone down, but there was a cool
September breeze, and the freshness of the verdure was like early
spring. At noon we took our lunch and a _siesta_ among the water-lilies.
When we awoke we found that a bittern had taken up his position near by,
and was surveying us gravely:--

    "'The moping bittern, motionless and stiff,
      That on a stone so silently and stilly
      Stands, an apparent sentinel, as if
                    To guard the water-lily,'"

quoted Raymond. The solemn bird, in his dark uniform, seemed quite
undisturbed by our presence; yellow-throats and swamp-sparrows also came
in numbers to have a look at us; and the fish swam up to the surface and
eyed us curiously. Lying at ease in the boat, we in our turn looked down
into the water. There is a singular fascination in looking down into a
clear stream as the boat floats above; the mosses and twining
water-plants seem to have arbors and grottoes in their recesses, where
delicate marine creatures might live, naiads and mermaids of miniature
size; at least we are always looking for them. There is a fancy, too,
that one may find something,--a ring dropped from fair fingers idly
trailing in the water; a book which the fishes have read thoroughly; a
scarf caught among the lilies; a spoon with unknown initials; a drenched
ribbon, or an embroidered handkerchief. None of these things did we
find, but we did discover an old brass breastpin, whose probable glass
stone was gone. It was a paltry trinket at best, but I fished it out
with superstitious care,--a treasure-trove of the Flats. '"Drowned,"' I
said, pathetically, '"drowned in her white robes--"'

'And brass breastpin,' added Raymond, who objected to sentiment, true or
false.

'You Philistine! Is nothing sacred to you?'

'Not brass jewelry, certainly.'

'Take some lilies and consider them,' I said, plucking several of the
queenly blossoms floating along-side.

    "Cleopatra art thou, regal blossom,
       Floating in thy galley down the Nile,--
     All my soul does homage to thy splendor,
       All my heart grows warmer in thy smile;
     Yet thou smilest for thine own grand pleasure,
       Caring not for all the world beside,
     As in insolence of perfect beauty,
       Sailest thou in silence down the tide.

     "Loving, humble river all pursue thee,
       Wafted are their kisses at thy feet;
     Fiery sun himself cannot subdue thee,
       Calm thou smilest through his raging heat;
     Naught to thee the earth's great crowd of blossoms,
       Naught to thee the rose-queen on her throne;
     Haughty empress of the summer waters,
       Livest thou, and diest, all alone."

This from Raymond.

'Where did you find that?' I asked.

'It is my own.'

'Of course! I might have known it. There is a certain rawness of style
and versification which--'

'That's right,' interrupted Raymond; 'I know just what you are going to
say. The whole matter of opinion is a game of 'follow-my-leader'; not
one of you dares admire anything unless the critics say so. If I had
told you the verses were by somebody instead of a nobody, you would have
found wonderful beauties in them.'

'Exactly. My motto is, 'Never read anything unless it is by a somebody.'
For, don't you see, that a nobody, if he is worth anything, will grow
into a somebody, and, if he isn't worth anything you will have saved
your time!'

'But it is not merely a question of growing,' said Raymond; 'it is a
question of critics.'

'No; there you are mistaken. All the critics in the world can neither
make nor crush a true poet.'

'What is poetry?' said Raymond, gloomily.

At this comprehensive question, the bittern gave a hollow croak, and
flew away with his long legs trailing behind him. Probably he was not of
an æsthetic turn of mind, and dreaded lest I should give a ramified
answer.

Through the afternoon we fished when the fancy struck us, but most of
the time we floated idly, enjoying the wild freedom of the watery waste.
We watched the infinite varieties of the grasses, feathery,
lance-leaved, tufted, drooping, banner-like, the deer's tongue, the
wild-celery, and the so-called wild-rice, besides many unknown beauties
delicately fringed, as difficult to catch and hold as thistle-down.
There were plants journeying to and fro on the water like nomadic tribes
of the desert; there were fleets of green leaves floating down the
current; and now and then we saw a wonderful flower with scarlet bells
but could never approach near enough to touch it.

At length, the distant sound of the bugle came to us on the breeze, and
I slowly wound in the clew, directing Raymond as he pushed the boat
along, backing water with the oars. The sound seemed to come from every
direction. There was nothing for it to echo against, but, in place of
the echo, we heard a long, dying cadence, which sounded on over the
Flats fainter and fainter in a sweet, slender note, until a new tone
broke forth. The music floated around us, now on one side, now on the
other; if it had been our only guide, we should have been completely
bewildered. But I wound the cord steadily; and at last suddenly, there
before us, appeared the house with Roxana on the roof, her figure
outlined against the sky. Seeing us, she played a final salute, and then
descended, carrying the imprisoned music with her.

That night we had our supper at sunset. Waiting Samuel had his meals by
himself in the front room. 'So that in case the spirits come, I shall
not be there to hinder them,' explained Roxana. 'I am not holy, like
Samuel; they will not speak before me.'

'Do you have your meals apart in the winter, also?' asked Raymond.

'Yes.'

'That is not very sociable,' I said.

'Samuel never was sociable,' replied Roxana. 'Only common folks are
sociable; but he is different. He has great gifts, Samuel has.'

The meal over, we went up on the roof to smoke our cigars in the open
air; when the sun had disappeared and his glory had darkened into
twilight, our host joined us. He was a tall man, wasted and gaunt, with
piercing dark eyes and dark hair, tinged with gray; hanging down upon
his shoulders. (Why is it that long hair on the outside is almost always
the sign of something wrong in the inside of a man's head?) He wore a
black robe like a priest's cassock, and on his head a black skull-cap
like the _Faust_ of the operatic stage.

'Why were the Flats called St. Clair?' I said; for there is something
fascinating to me in the unknown history of the West. 'There isn't any,'
do you say? you I mean, who are strong in the Punic wars! you, too, who
are so well up in Grecian mythology. But there is history, only we don't
know it. The story of Lake Huron in the time of the Pharaohs, the story
of the Mississippi during the reign of Belshazzar, would be worth
hearing. But it is lost? All we can do is to gather together the details
of our era,--the era when Columbus came to this New World, which was,
nevertheless, as old as the world he left behind.

'It was in 1679,' began Waiting Samuel, 'that La Salle sailed up the
Detroit River in his little vessel of sixty tons burden, called the
Griffin. He was accompanied by thirty-four men, mostly fur-traders; but
there were among them two holy monks, and Father Louis Hennepin, a friar
of the Franciscan order. They passed up the river and entered the little
lake just south of us, crossing it and these Flats on the 12th of
August, which is St. Clair's day. Struck with the gentle beauty of the
scene, they named the waters after their saint, and at sunset sang a _Te
Deum_ in her honor.'

'And who was Saint Clair?'

'Saint Clair, virgin and abbess, born in Italy, in 1193, made superior
of a convent by the great Francis, and canonized for her distinguished
virtues,' said Samuel, as though reading from an encyclopædia.

'Are you a Roman Catholic?' asked Raymond.

'I am everything; all sincere faith is sacred to me,' replied the man.
'It is but a question of names.'

'Tell us of your religion,' said Raymond, thoughtfully; for in religions
Raymond was something of a polyglot.

'You would hear of my faith? Well, so be it. Your question is the work
of spirit influence. Listen, then. The great Creator has sowed immensity
with innumerable systems of suns. In one of these systems a spirit
forgot that he was a limited, subordinate being, and misused his
freedom; how, we know not. He fell, and with him all his kind. A new
race was then created for the vacant world, and, according to the fixed
purpose of the Creator, each was left free to act for himself; he loves
not mere machines. The fallen spirit, envying the new creature called
man, tempted him to sin. What was his sin? Simply the giving up of his
birthright, the divine soul-sparkle, for an earthly pleasure. The triune
divine deep, the mysterious fiery triangle, which, to our finite minds,
best represents the Deity, now withdrew his personal presence; the
elements, their balance broken, stormed upon man; his body, which was
once ethereal, moving by mere volition, now grew heavy; and it was also
appointed unto him to die. The race thus darkened, crippled, and
degenerate, sank almost to the level of brutes, the mind-fire alone
remaining of all their spiritual gifts. They lived on blindly, and as
blindly died. The sun, however, was left to them, a type of what they
had lost.

'At length, in the fulness of time, the world-day of four thousand
years, which was appointed by the council in heaven for the regiving of
the divine and forfeited soul-sparkle, as on the fourth day of creation
the great sun was given, there came to earth the earth's compassionate
Saviour, who took upon himself our degenerate body, and revivified it
with the divine soul-sparkle, who overcame all our temptations, and
finally allowed the tinder of our sins to perish in his own painful
death upon the cross. Through him our paradise body was restored, it
waits for us on the other side of the grave. He showed us what it was
like on Mount Tabor, with it he passed through closed doors, walked upon
the water, and ruled the elements; so will it be with us. Paradise will
come again; this world will, for a thousand years, see its first estate;
it will be again the Garden of Eden. America is the great
escaping-place; here will the change begin. As it is written, 'Those who
escape to my utmost borders.' As the time draws near, the spirits who
watch above are permitted to speak to those souls who listen. Of these
listening, waiting souls am I; therefore have I withdrawn myself. The
sun himself speaks to me, the greatest spirit of all; each morning I
watch for his coming; each morning I ask, 'Is it to-day?' Thus do I
wait.'

'And how long have you been waiting?' I asked.

'I know not; time is nothing to me.'

'Is the great day near at hand?' said Raymond.

'Almost at its dawning; the last days are passing.'

'How do you know this?'

'The spirits tell me. Abide here, and perhaps they will speak to you
also,' replied Waiting Samuel.

We made no answer. Twilight had darkened into night, and the Flats had
sunk into silence below us. After some moments I turned to speak to our
host; but, noiselessly as one of his own spirits, he had departed.

'A strange mixture of Jacob Boehmen, chiliastic dreams, Christianity,
sun-worship, and modern spiritualism,' I said. 'Much learning hath made
the Maine farmer mad.'

'Is he mad?' said Raymond. 'Sometimes I think we are all mad.'

'We should certainly become so if we spent our time in speculations upon
subjects clearly beyond our reach. The whole race of philosophers from
Plato down are all the time going round in a circle. As long as we are
in the world, I for one propose to keep my feet on solid ground;
especially as we have no wings. 'Abide here, and perhaps the spirits
will speak to you,' did he say? I think very likely they will, and to
such good purpose that you won't have any mind left.'

'After all, why should not spirits speak to us?' said Raymond, in a
musing tone.

As he uttered these words the mocking laugh of a loon came across the
dark waste.

'The very loons are laughing at you,' I said, rising. 'Come down; there
is a chill in the air, composed in equal parts of the Flats, the night,
and Waiting Samuel. Come down, man; come down to the warm kitchen and
common-sense.'

We found Roxana alone by the fire, whose glow was refreshingly real and
warm; it was like the touch of a flesh-and-blood hand, after vague
dreamings of spirit-companions, cold and intangible at best, with the
added suspicion that, after all, they are but creations of our own
fancy, and even their spirit-nature fictitious. Prime, the graceful
_raconteur_ who goes a-fishing, says, 'firelight is as much of a
polisher in-doors as moonlight outside.' It is; but with a different
result. The moonlight polishes everything into romance, the firelight
into comfort. We brought up two remarkably easy old chairs in front of
the hearth and sat down, Raymond still adrift with his wandering
thoughts, I, as usual, making talk out of the present. Roxana sat
opposite, knitting in hand, the cat purring at her feet. She was a
slender woman, with faded light hair, insignificant features, small dull
blue eyes, and a general aspect which, with every desire to state at
its best, I can only call commonplace. Her gown was limp, her hands
roughened with work, and there was no collar around her yellow throat. O
magic rim of white, great is thy power! With thee, man is civilized;
without thee, he becomes at once a savage.

'I am out of pork,' remarked Roxana, casually; 'I must go over to the
mainland to-morrow and get some.'

If it had been anything but pork! In truth, the word did not chime with
the mystic conversation of Waiting Samuel. Yes; there was no doubt about
it. Roxana's mind was sadly commonplace.

'See what I have found,' I said, after a while, taking out the old
breastpin. 'The stone is gone; but who knows? It might have been a
diamond dropped by some French duchess, exiled, and fleeing for life
across these far Western waters; or perhaps that German Princess of
Brunswick-Wolfen-something-or-other, who, about one hundred years ago,
was dead and buried in Russia, and travelling in America at the same
time, a sort of a female wandering Jew, who has been done up in stories
ever since.'

(The other day, in Bret Harte's 'Melons,' I saw the following: 'The
singular conflicting conditions of John Brown's body and soul were, at
that time, beginning to attract the attention of American youth.' That
is good, isn't it? Well, at the time I visited the Flats, the singular
conflicting conditions of the Princess of
Brunswick-Wolfen-something-or-other had, for a long time, haunted me.)

Roxana's small eyes were near-sighted; she peered at the empty setting,
but said nothing.

'It is water-logged,' I continued, holding it up in the firelight, 'and
it hath a brassy odor; nevertheless, I feel convinced that it belonged
to the princess.'

Roxana leaned forward and took the trinket; I lifted up my arms and gave
a mighty stretch, one of those enjoyable lengthenings-out which belong
only to the healthy fatigue of country life. When I drew myself in
again, I was surprised to see Roxana's features working, and her rough
hands trembling, as she held the battered setting.

'It was mine,' she said; 'my dear old cameo breastpin that Abby gave me
when I was married. I saved it and saved it, and wouldn't sell it, no
matter how low we got, for someway it seemed to tie me to home and
baby's grave. I used to wear it when I had baby--I had neck-ribbons
then; we had things like other folks, and on Sundays we went to the old
meeting-house on the green. Baby is buried there--O baby, baby!' and the
voice broke into sobs.

'You lost a child?' I said, pitying the sorrow which was, which must be,
so lonely, so unshared.

'Yes. O baby! baby!' cried the woman, in a wailing tone. 'It was a
little boy, gentlemen, and it had curly hair, and could just talk a word
or two; its name was Ethan, after father, but we all called it Robin.
Father was mighty proud of Robin, and mother, too. It died, gentlemen,
my baby died, and I buried it in the old churchyard near the thorn-tree.
But still I thought to stay there always along with mother and the
girls; I never supposed anything else, until Samuel began to see
visions. Then, everything was different, and everybody against us; for,
you see, I would marry Samuel, and when he left off working and began to
talk to the spirits, the folks all said, 'I told yer so, Maria Ann!'
Samuel wasn't of Maine stock exactly: his father was a sailor, and 't
was suspected that his mother was some kind of an East-Injia woman, but
no one knew. His father died and left the boy on the town, so he lived
round from house to house until he got old enough to hire out. Then he
came to our farm, and there he stayed. He had wonderful eyes, Samuel
had, and he had a way with him--well, the long and short of it was, that
I got to thinking about him, and couldn't think of anything else. The
folks didn't like it at all, for, you see, there was Adam Rand, who had
a farm of his own over the hill; but I never could bear Adam Rand. The
worst of it was, though, that Samuel never so much as looked at me,
hardly. Well, it got to be the second year, and Susan, my younger
sister, married Adam Rand. Adam, he thought he'd break up my nonsense,
that's what they called it, and so he got a good place for Samuel away
down in Connecticut, and Samuel said he'd go, for he was always
restless, Samuel was. When I heard it, I was ready to lie down and die.
I ran out into the pasture and threw myself down by the fence like a
crazy woman. Samuel happened to come by along the lane, and saw me; he
was always kind to all the dumb creatures, and stopped to see what was
the matter, just as he would have stopped to help a calf. It all came
out then, and he was awful sorry for me. He sat down on the top bar of
the fence and looked at me, and I sat on the ground a-crying with my
hair down, and my face all red and swollen.

'I never thought to marry, Maria Ann,' says he.

'O, please do, Samuel,' says I, 'I'm a real good housekeeper, I am, and
we can have a little land of our own, and everything nice--'

'But I wanted to go away. My father was a sailor,' he began, a-looking
off toward the ocean.

'O, I can't stand it,' says I, beginning to cry again. Well after that
he 'greed to stay at home and marry me, and the folks they had to give
in to it when they saw how I felt. We were married on Thanksgiving day,
and I wore a pink delaine, purple neck-ribbon, and this very breastpin
that sister Abby gave me,--it cost four dollars, and came 'way from
Boston. Mother kissed me, and said she hoped I'd be happy.

'Of course I shall, mother,' says I, 'Samuel has great gifts; he isn't
like common folks.'

'But common folks is a deal comfortabler,' says mother. The folks never
understood Samuel.

'Well, we had a chirk little house and bit of land, and baby came, and
was so cunning and pretty. The visions had begun to appear then, and
Samuel said he must go.

'Where?' says I.

'Anywhere the spirits lead me,' says he.

'But baby couldn't travel, and so it hung along; Samuel left off work,
and everything ran down to loose ends; I did the best I could, but it
wasn't much. Then baby died, and I buried him under the thorn-tree, and
the visions came thicker and thicker; Samuel told me as how this time he
must go. The folks wanted me to stay behind without him; but they never
understood me nor him. I could no more leave him than I could fly; I was
just wrapped up in him. So we went away; I cried dreadfully when it came
to leaving the folks and Robin's little grave, but I had so much to do
after we got started, that there wasn't time for anything but work. We
thought to settle in ever so many places, but after a while there would
always come a vision, and I'd have to sell out and start on. The little
money we had was soon gone, and then I went out for days' work, and
picked up any work I could get. But many's the time we were cold, and
many's the time we were hungry, gentlemen. The visions kept coming, and
by and by I got to like 'em too. Samuel he told me all they said when I
came home nights, and it was nice to hear all about the thousand years
of joy, when there'd be no more trouble, and when Robin would come back
to us again. Only I told Samuel that I hoped the world wouldn't alter
much, because I wanted to go back to Maine for a few days, and see all
the old places. Father and mother are dead, I suppose,' said Roxana,
looking up at us with a pathetic expression in her small dull eyes.
Beautiful eyes are doubly beautiful in sorrow; but there is something
peculiarly pathetic in small dull eyes looking up at you, struggling to
express the grief that lies within, like a prisoner behind the bars of
his small dull window.

'And how did you lose your breastpin?' I said, coming back to the
original subject.

'Samuel found I had it, and threw it away soon after we came to the
Flats; he said it was vanity.'

'Have you been here long?'

'O yes, years. I hope we shall stay here always now,--at least, I mean
until the thousand years of joy begin,--for it's quiet, and Samuel's
more easy here than in any other place. I've got used to the lonely
feeling, and don't mind it much now. There's no one near us for miles,
Rosabel Lee and Liakim; they don't come here, for Samuel can't abide
'em, but sometimes I stop there on my way over from the mainland, and
have a little chat about the children. Rosabel Lee has got lovely
children, she has! They don't stay there in the winter, though; the
winters _are_ long, I don't deny it.'

'What do you do then?'

'Well, I knit and cook, and Samuel reads to me, and has a great many
visions.'

'He has books, then!'

'Yes, all kinds; he's a great reader, and he has boxes of books about
the spirits, and such things.'

'Nine of the night. Take thou thy rest. I will lay me down in peace and
sleep, for it is thou, Lord, that makest me dwell in safety,' chanted
the voice in the hall; and our evening was over.

At dawn we attended the service on the roof; then, after breakfast, we
released Captain Kidd, and started out for another day's sport. We had
not rowed far when Roxana passed us, poling her flat-boat rapidly along;
she had a load of fish and butter, and was bound for the mainland
village. 'Bring us back a Detroit paper,' I said. She nodded and passed
on, stolid and homely in the morning light. Yes, I was obliged to
confess to myself that she _was_ commonplace.

A glorious day we had on the moors in the rushing September wind.
Everything rustled and waved and danced, and the grass undulated in long
billows as far as the eye could see. The wind enjoyed himself like mad;
he had no forests to oppose him, no heavy water to roll up,--nothing but
merry, swaying grasses. It was the west wind,--'of all the winds, the
best wind.' The east wind was given us for our sins; I have long
suspected that the east wind was the angel that drove Adam out of
Paradise. We did nothing that day,--nothing but enjoy the rushing
breeze. We felt like Bedouins of the desert, with our boat for a steed.
'He came flying upon the wings of the wind,' is the grandest image of
the Hebrew poet.

Late in the afternoon we heard the bugle and returned, following our
clew as before. Roxana had brought a late paper, and, opening it, I saw
the account of an accident,--a yacht run down on the Sound and five
drowned; five, all near and dear to us. Hastily and sadly we gathered
our possessions together; the hunting, the fishing, were nothing now;
all we thought of was to get away, to go home to the sorrowing ones
around the new-made graves. Roxana went with us in her boat to guide us
back to the little lighthouse. Waiting Samuel bade us no farewell, but
as we rowed away we saw him standing on the house-top gazing after us.
We bowed; he waved his hand; and then turned away to look at the sunset.
What were our little affairs to a man who held converse with the
spirits!

We rowed in silence. How long, how weary seemed the way! The grasses,
the lilies, the silver channels,--we no longer even saw them. At length
the forward boat stopped. 'There's the lighthouse yonder,' said Roxana.
'I won't go over there to-night. Mayhap you'd rather not talk, and
Rosabel Lee will be sure to talk to me. Good by.' We shook hands, and I
laid in the boat a sum of money to help the little household through the
winter; then we rowed on toward the lighthouse. At the turn I looked
back; Roxana was sitting motionless in her boat; the dark clouds were
rolling up behind her; and the Flats looked wild and desolate. 'God help
her!' I said.

A steamer passed the lighthouse and took us off within the hour.

Years rolled away, and I often thought of the grassy sea, and its
singularly strange associations, and intended to go there; but the
intention never grew into reality. In 1870, however, I was travelling
westward, and, finding myself at Detroit, a sudden impulse took me up to
the Flats. The steamer sailed up the beautiful river and crossed the
little lake, both unchanged. But, alas! the canal predicted by the
captain fifteen years before had been cut, and, in all its unmitigated
ugliness, stretched straight through the enchanted land. I got off at
the new and prosaic brick lighthouse, half expecting to see Liakim and
his Rosabel Lee; but they were not there, and no one knew anything about
them. And Waiting Samuel? No one knew anything about him either. I took
a skiff, and, at the risk of losing myself, I rowed away into the
wilderness, spending the day among the silvery channels, which were as
beautiful as ever. There were fewer birds; I saw no grave herons, no
sombre bitterns, and the fish had grown shy. But the water-lilies were
beautiful as of old, and the grasses as delicate and luxuriant. I had
scarcely a hope of finding the old house on the island, but late in the
afternoon, by a mere chance, I rowed up unexpectedly to its little
landing-place. The walls stood firm and the roof unbroken; I landed and
walked up the overgrown path. Opening the door, I found the few old
chairs and tables in their places, weather-beaten and decayed, the
storms had forced a way within, and the floor was insecure; but the gay
crockery was on its shelf, the old tins against the wall, and all looked
so natural that I almost feared to find the mortal remains of the
husband and wife as I went from room to room. They were not there,
however, and the place looked as if it had been uninhabited for years. I
lingered in the doorway. What had become of them? Were they dead? Or had
a new vision sent them farther toward the setting sun? I never knew,
although I made many inquiries. If dead, they were probably lying
somewhere under the shining waters; if alive, they must have 'folded
their tents, like the Arabs, and silently stolen away.'

I rowed back in the glow of the evening across the grassy sea. 'It is
beautiful, beautiful,' I thought, 'but it is passing away. Already
commerce has invaded its borders; a few more years and its loveliness
will be but a legend of the past. The bittern has vanished; the loon has
fled away. Waiting Samuel was the prophet of the waste; he has gone, and
the barriers are broken down. No artist has painted, no poet has sung
your wild, vanishing charm; but in one heart, at least, you have a
place, O lovely land of St. Clair!'



THE LADY OF LITTLE FISHING.


It was an island in Lake Superior.

I beached my canoe there about four o'clock in the afternoon, for the
wind was against me and a high sea running. The late summer of 1850, and
I was coasting along the south shore of the great lake, hunting,
fishing, and camping on the beach, under the delusion that in that way I
was living 'close to the great heart of nature,'--whatever that may
mean. Lord Bacon got up the phrase; I suppose he knew. Pulling the boat
high and dry on the sand with the comfortable reflection that here were
no tides to disturb her with their goings-out and comings-in, I strolled
through the woods on a tour of exploration, expecting to find bluebells,
Indian pipes, juniper rings, perhaps a few agates along-shore, possibly
a bird or two for company. I found a town.

It was deserted; but none the less a town, with three streets,
residences, a meeting-house, gardens, a little park, and an attempt at a
fountain. Ruins are rare in the New World. I took off my hat. 'Hail,
homes of the past!' I said. (I cultivated the habit of thinking aloud
when I was living close to the great heart of nature.) 'A human voice
resounds through your arches' (there were no arches,--logs won't arch;
but never mind) 'once more, a human hand touches your venerable walls, a
human foot presses your deserted hearth-stones.' I then selected the
best half of the meeting-house for a camp, and kindled a glorious
bonfire in the park. 'Now that you are illuminated with joy, O Ruin,' I
remarked, 'I will go down to the beach and bring up my supplies. It is
long since I have had a roof over my head; I promise you to stay until
your last residence is well burned; then I will make a final cup of
coffee with the meeting-house itself, and depart in peace, leaving your
poor old bones buried in decent ashes.'

The ruin made no objection, and I took up my abode there, the roof of
the meeting-house was still water-tight (which is an advantage when the
great heart of nature grows wet). I kindled a fire on the sacerdotal
hearth, cooked my supper, ate it in leisurely comfort, and then
stretched myself on a blanket to enjoy an evening pipe of peace,
listening meanwhile to the sounding of the wind through the great
pine-trees. There was no door to my sanctuary, but I had the cosey far
end; the island was uninhabited, there was not a boat in sight at
sunset, nothing could disturb me unless it might be a ghost. Presently a
ghost came in.

It did not wear the traditional gray tarlatan armor of Hamlet's father,
the only ghost with whom I am well acquainted; this spectre was clad in
substantial deer-skin garments, and carried a gun and loaded game-bag.
It came forward to my hearth, hung up its gun, opened its game-bag, took
out some birds, and inspected them gravely.

'Fat?' I inquired.

'They'll do,' replied the spectre, and forthwith set to work preparing
them for the coals. I smoked on in silence. The spectre seemed to be a
skilled cook, and after deftly broiling its supper, it offered me a
share; I accepted. It swallowed a huge mouthful and crunched with its
teeth; the spell was broken, and I knew it for a man of flesh and blood.

He gave his name as Reuben, and proved himself an excellent camping
companion; in fact, he shot all the game, caught all the fish, made all
the fires, and cooked all the food for us both. I proposed to him to
stay and help me burn up the ruin, with the condition that when the last
timber of the meeting-house was consumed, we should shake hands and
depart, one to the east, one to the west, without a backward glance. 'In
that way we shall not infringe upon each other's personality,' I said.

'Agreed,' replied Reuben.

He was a man of between fifty and sixty years, while I was on the sunny
side of thirty; he was reserved, I was always generously affable; he was
an excellent cook, while I--well, I wasn't; he was taciturn, and so, in
payment for the work he did, I entertained him with conversation, or
rather monologue, in my most brilliant style. It took only two weeks to
burn up the town, burned we never so slowly; at last it came to the
meeting house, which now stood by itself in the vacant clearing. It was
a cool September day; we cooked breakfast with the roof, dinner with the
sides, supper with the odds and ends, and then applied a torch to the
framework. Our last camp-fire was a glorious one. We lay stretched on
our blankets, smoking and watching the glow. 'I wonder, now, who built
the old shanty,' I said in a musing tone.

'Well,' replied Reuben, slowly, 'if you really want to know, I will tell
you. I did.'

'You!'

'Yes.'

'You didn't do it alone?'

'No; there were about forty of us.'

'Here?'

'Yes; here at Little Fishing;'

'Little Fishing?'

'Yes; Little Fishing Island. That is the name of the place.'

'How long ago was this?'

'Thirty years.'

'Hunting and trapping, I suppose?'

'Yes; for the Northwest and Hudson Bay Companies.'

'Wasn't a meeting house an unusual accompaniment?'

'Most unusual.'

'Accounted for in this case by--'

'A woman.'

'Ah!' I said in a tone of relish; 'then of course there is a story?'

'There is.'

'Out with it, comrade. I scarcely expected to find the woman and her
story up here; but since the irrepressible creature would come, out with
her by all means. She shall grace our last pipe together, the last
timber of our meeting-house, our last night on Little Fishing. The dawn
will see us far from each other, to meet no more this side heaven. Speak
then, O comrade mine! I am in one of my rare listening moods!'

I stretched myself at ease and waited. Reuben was a long time beginning
but I was too indolent to urge him. At length he spoke.

'They were a rough set here at Little Fishing, all the worse for being
all white men; most of the other camps were full of half-breeds and
Indians. The island had been a station away back in the early days of
the Hudson Bay Company; it was a station for the Northwest Company while
that lasted; then it went back to the Hudson, and stayed there until the
company moved its forces farther to the north. It was not at any time a
regular post; only a camp for the hunters. The post was farther down the
lake. O, but those were wild days! You think you know the wilderness,
boy; but you know nothing, absolutely nothing. It makes me laugh to see
the airs of you city gentlemen with your fine guns, improved
fishing-tackle, elaborate paraphernalia, as though you were going to wed
the whole forest, floating up and down the lake for a month or two in
the summer! You should have seen the hunters of Little Fishing going out
gayly when the mercury was down twenty degrees below zero, for a week in
the woods. You should have seen the trappers wading through the hard
snow, breast high, in the gray dawn, visiting the traps and hauling home
the prey. There were all kinds of men here, Scotch, French, English, and
American; all classes, the high and the low, the educated and the
ignorant; all sorts, the lazy and the hard-working. One thing only they
all had in common,--badness. Some had fled to the wilderness to escape
the law, others to escape order; some had chosen the wild life because
of its wildness, others had drifted into it from sheer lethargy. This
far northern border did not attract the plodding emigrant, the
respectable settler. Little Fishing held none of that trash; only a
reckless set of fellows who carried their lives in their hands, and
tossed them up, if need be without a second thought.'

'And other people's lives without a third,' I suggested.

'Yes; if they deserved it. But nobody whined; there wasn't any nonsense
here. The men went hunting and trapping, got the furs ready for the
bateaux, ate when they were hungry, drank when they were thirsty, slept
when they were sleepy, played cards when they felt like it, and got
angry and knocked each other down whenever they chose. As I said before,
there wasn't any nonsense at Little Fishing,--until _she_ came.'

'Ah! the she!'

'Yes, the Lady,--our Lady, as we called her. Thirty-one years ago; how
long it seems!'

'And well it may,' I said. 'Why, comrade, I wasn't born then!'

This stupendous fact seemed to strike me more than my companion; he went
on with his story as though I had not spoken.

'One October evening, four of the boys had got into a row over the
cards; the rest of us had come out of our wigwams to see the fun, and
were sitting around on the stumps, chaffing them, and laughing; the
camp-fire was burning in front, lighting up the woods with a red glow
for a short distance, and making the rest doubly black all around. There
we were, as I said before, quite easy and comfortable, when suddenly
there appeared among us, as though she had dropped from heaven, a woman!

'She was tall and slender, the firelight shone full on her pale face and
dove-colored dress, her golden hair was folded back under a little white
cap, and a white kerchief lay over her shoulders; she looked spotless. I
stared; I could scarcely believe my eyes; none of us could. There was
not a white woman west of the Sault Ste. Marie. The four fellows at the
table sat as if transfixed; one had his partner by the throat, the other
two were disputing over a point in the game. The lily lady glided up to
their table, gathered the cards in her white hands, slowly, steadily,
without pause or trepidation before their astonished eyes, and then,
coming back, she threw the cards into the centre of the glowing fire.
'Ye shall not play away your souls,' she said in a clear, sweet voice.
'Is not the game sin? And its reward death?' And then, immediately, she
gave us a sermon, the like of which was never heard before; no argument,
no doctrine, just simple, pure entreaty. 'For the love of God,' she
ended, stretching out her hands toward our silent, gazing group,--'for
the love of God, my brothers, try to do better.'

'We did try; but it was not for the love of God. Neither did any of us
feel like brothers.

'She did not give any name; we called her simply our Lady, and she
accepted the title. A bundle carefully packed in birch-bark was found on
the beach. 'Is this yours?' asked black Andy.

'It is,' replied the Lady; and removing his hat, the black-haired giant
carried the package reverently inside her lodge. For we had given her
our best wigwam, and fenced it off with pine saplings so that it looked
like a miniature fortress. The Lady did not suggest this stockade; it
was our own idea, and with one accord we worked at it like beavers, and
hung up a gate with a ponderous bolt inside.

'Mais, ze can nevare farsen eet wiz her leetle fingares,' said Frenchy,
a sallow little wretch with a turn for handicraft; so he contrived a
small spring which shot the bolt into place with a touch. The Lady lived
in her fortress; three times a day the men carried food to her door,
and, after tapping gently, withdrew again, stumbling over each other in
their haste. The Flying Dutchman, a stolid Holland-born sailor, was our
best cook, and the pans and kettles were generally left to him; but now
all wanted to try their skill, and the results were extraordinary.

'She's never touched that pudding, now' said Nightingale Jack,
discontentedly, as his concoction of berries and paste came back from
the fortress door.

'She will starve soon, I think,' remarked the Doctor, calmly; 'to my
certain knowledge she has not had an eatable meal for four days.' And he
lighted a fresh pipe. This was an aside, and the men pretended not to
hear it; but the pans were relinquished to the Dutchman from that time
forth.

'The Lady wore always her dove-colored robe, and little white cap,
through whose muslin we could see the glimmer of her golden hair. She
came and went among us like a spirit; she knew no fear; she turned our
life inside out, nor shrank from its vileness. It seemed as though she
was not of earth, so utterly impersonal was her interest in us, so
heavenly her pity. She took up our sins, one by one, as an angel might;
she pleaded with us for our own lost souls, she spared us not, she held
not back one grain of denunciation, one iota of future punishment.
Sometimes, for days, we would not see her; then, at twilight, she would
glide out among us, and, standing in the light of the camp-fire, she
would preach to us as though inspired. We listened to her; I do not mean
that we were one whit better at heart, but still we listened to her,
always. It was a wonderful sight, that lily face under the pine-trees,
that spotless woman standing alone in the glare of the fire, while
around her lay forty evil-minded, lawless men, not one of whom but would
have killed his neighbor for so much as a disrespectful thought of her.

'So strange was her coming, so almost supernatural her appearance in
this far forest, that we never wondered over its cause, but simply
accepted it as a sort of miracle; your thoroughly irreligious men are
always superstitious. Not one of us would have asked a question, and we
should never have known her story had she not herself told it to us; not
immediately, not as though it was of any importance, but quietly,
briefly, and candidly as a child. She came, she said, from Scotland,
with a band of God's people. She had always been in one house, a
religious institution of some kind, sewing for the poor when her
strength allowed it, but generally ill, and suffering much from pain in
her head; often kept under the influence of soothing medicines for days
together. She had no father or mother, she was only one of this band;
and when they decided to send out missionaries to America, she begged to
go, although but a burden; the sea voyage restored her health; she grew,
she said, in strength and in grace, and her heart was as the heart of a
lion. Word came to her from on high that she should come up into the
northern lake-country and preach the gospel there; the band were going
to the verdant prairies. She left them in the night, taking nothing but
her clothing; a friendly vessel carried her north; she had preached the
gospel everywhere. At the Sault the priests had driven her out, but
nothing fearing, she went on into the wilderness, and so, coming part of
the way in canoes, part of the way along-shore, she had reached our far
island. Marvellous kindness had she met with, she said; the Indians, the
half-breeds, the hunters, and the trappers had all received her, and
helped her on her way from camp to camp. They had listened to her words
also. At Portage they had begged her to stay through the winter, and
offered to build her a little church for Sunday services. Our men looked
at each other. Portage was the worst camp on the lake, notorious for its
fights; it was a mining settlement.

'But I told them I must journey on toward the west,' continued our Lady.
'I am called to visit every camp on this shore before winter sets in; I
must soon leave you also.'

'The men looked at each other again; the Doctor was spokesman. 'But, my
Lady,' he said 'the next post is Fort William, two hundred and
thirty-five miles away on the north shore.'

'It is almost November; the snow will soon be six and ten feet deep.
The Lady could never travel through it,--could she now?' said Black
Andy, who had begun eagerly, but in his embarrassment at the sound of
his own voice, now turned to Frenchy and kicked him covertly into
answering.

'Nevare!' replied the Frenchman; he had intended to place his hand upon
his heart to give emphasis to his word, but the Lady turned her calm
eyes that way, and his grimy paw fell, its gallantry wilted.

'I thought there was one more camp,--at Burntwood River,' said our Lady
in a musing tone. The men looked at each other a third time; there was a
camp there, and they all knew it. But the Doctor was equal to the
emergency.

'That camp, my Lady,' he said gravely,--'that camp no longer exists!
Then he whispered hurriedly to the rest of us, 'It will be an easy job
to clean it out, boys. We'll send over a party to-night; it's only
thirty-five miles.'

'We recognized superior genius; the Doctor was our oldest and deepest
sinner. But what struck us most was his anxiety to make good his lie.
Had it then come to this,--that the Doctor told the truth?

'The next day we all went to work to build our Lady a church; in a week
it was completed. There goes its last cross-beam now into the fire; it
was a solid piece of work, wasn't it? It has stood this climate thirty
years. I remember the first Sunday service: we all washed, and dressed
ourselves in the best we had; we scarcely knew each other we were so
fine. The Lady was pleased with the church, but yet she had not said she
would stay all winter; we were still anxious. How she preached to us
that day! We had made a screen of young spruces set in boxes, and her
figure stood out against the dark green background like a thing of
light. Her silvery voice rang through the log-temple, her face seemed to
us like a star. She had no color in her cheeks at any time; her dress,
too, was colorless. Although gentle, there was an iron inflexibility
about her slight, erect form. We felt, as we saw her standing there,
that if need be she would walk up to the cannon's mouth, with a smile.
She took a little book from her pocket and read to us a hymn,--'O come,
all ye faithful,' the old 'Adeste Fideles.' Some of us knew it; she
sang, and gradually, shamefacedly, voices joined in. It was a sight to
see Nightingale Jack solemnly singing away about 'choirs of angels';
but it was a treat to hear him, too,--what a voice he had! Then our
Lady prayed, kneeling down on the little platform in front of the
evergreens, clasping her hands, and lifting her eyes to heaven. We did
not know what to do at first, but the Doctor gave us a severe look and
bent his head, and we all followed his lead.

'When service was over and the door opened, we found that it had been
snowing; we could not see out through the windows because white cloth
was nailed over them in place of glass.

'"Now, my Lady, you will have to stay with us," said the Doctor. We all
gathered around with eager faces.

'"Do you really believe that it will be for the good of your souls?"
asked the sweet voice.

'The Doctor believed--for us all.

'"Do you really hope?"

'The Doctor hoped.

'"Will you try to do your best?"

'The Doctor was sure he would.

'"I will," answered the Flying Dutchman, earnestly. "I moost not fry de
meat any more; I moost broil!"

'For we had begged him for months to broil, and he had obstinately
refused; broil represented the good, and fry the evil, to his mind; he
came out for the good according to his light; but none the less did we
fall upon him behind the Lady's back, and cuff him into silence.

'She stayed with us all winter. You don't know what the winters are up
here; steady, bitter cold for seven months, thermometer always below,
the snow dry as dust, the air like a knife. We built a compact chimney
for our Lady, and we cut cords of wood into small, light sticks, easy
for her to lift, and stacked them in her shed; we lined her lodge with
skins, and we made oil from bear's fat and rigged up a kind of lamp for
her. We tried to make candles, I remember, but they would not run
straight; they came out humpbacked and sidling, and burned themselves to
wick in no time. Then we took to improving the town. We had lived in all
kinds of huts and lean-to shanties; now nothing would do but regular
log-houses. If it had been summer, I don't know what we might not have
run to in the way of piazzas and fancy steps; but with the snow five
feet deep, all we could accomplish was a plain, square log-house, and
even that took our whole force. The only way to keep the peace was to
have all the houses exactly alike; we laid out the three streets, and
built the houses, all facing the meeting-house, just as you found them.'

'And where was the Lady's lodge?' I asked, for I recalled no stockaded
fortress, large or small.

My companion hesitated a moment. Then he said abruptly, 'it was torn
down.'

'Torn down!' I repeated. 'Why, what--'

Reuben waved his hand with a gesture that silenced me, and went on with
his story. It came to me then for the first time, that he was pursuing
the current of his own thoughts rather than entertaining me. I turned to
look at him with a new interest. I had talked to him for two weeks, in
rather a patronizing way; could it be that affairs were now, at this
moment, reversed?

'It took us almost all winter to build those houses,' pursued Reuben.
'At one time we neglected the hunting and trapping to such a degree,
that the Doctor called a meeting and expressed his opinion. Ours was a
voluntary camp, in a measure, but still we had formally agreed to get a
certain amount of skins ready for the bateaux by early spring; this
agreement was about the only real bond of union between us. Those whose
houses were not completed scowled at the Doctor.

'"Do you suppose I'm going to live like an Injun when the other fellows
has regular houses?" inquired Black Andy, with a menacing air.

'"By no means," replied the Doctor, blandly, "My plan is this: build at
night."

'"At night?"

'"Yes; by the light of pine fires."

'We did. After that, we faithfully went out hunting and trapping as long
as daylight lasted, and then, after supper, we built up huge fires of
pine logs, and went to work on the next house. It was a strange picture;
the forest deep in snow, black with night, the red glow of the great
fires, and our moving figures working on as complacently as though
daylight, balmy air, and the best of tools were ours.

'The Lady liked our industry. She said our new houses showed that the
"new cleanliness of our inner man required a cleaner tabernacle for the
outer." I don't know about our inner man, but our outer was certainly
much cleaner.

'One day the Flying Dutchman made one of his unfortunate remarks. "De
boys t'inks you'll like dem better in nize houses," he announced when,
happening to pass the fortress, he found the Lady standing at her gate
gazing at the work of the preceding night. Several of the men were near
enough to hear him, but too far off to kick him into silence as usual;
but they glared at him instead. The Lady looked at the speaker with her
dreamy, far-off eyes.

'"De boys t'inks you like dem," began the Dutchman again, thinking she
did not comprehend; but at that instant he caught the combined glare of
the six eyes, and stopped abruptly, not all knowing what was wrong, but
sure there was something.

'"Like them," repeated the Lady, dreamily; "yea I do like them. Nay,
more, I love them. Their souls are as dear to me as the souls of
brothers."

'Say, Frenchy, have you got a sister?' said Nightingale Jack,
confidentially, that evening.

'Mais oui,' said Frenchy.

'You think all creation of her, I suppose?'

'We fight like four cats and one dog; _she_ is the cats,' said the
Frenchman concisely.

'You don't say so!' replied Jack. 'Now, I never had a sister,--but I
thought perhaps--' He paused, and the sentence remained unfinished.

'The Nightingale and I were housemates. We sat late over our fire not
long after that; I gave a gigantic yawn. 'This lifting logs half the
night is enough to kill one,' I said, getting out my jug. Sing
something, Jack. It's a long time since I've heard anything but hymns.'

'Jack always went off as easily as a music-box: you only had to wind him
up; the jug was the key. I soon had him in full blast. He was giving out

    'The minute gun at sea,--the minute gun at sea,'

with all the pathos of his tenor voice, when the door burst open and the
whole population rushed in upon us.

'What do you mean by shouting thes way, in the middle of the night?'

'Shut up your howling, Jack.'

'How do you suppose any one can sleep?'

'It's a disgrace to the camp!'

'Now then, gentlemen,' I replied, for my blood was up (whiskey,
perhaps), 'is this my house, or isn't it? If I want music, I'll have it.
Time was when you were not so particular.'

'It was the first word of rebellion. The men looked at each other, then
at me.

'I'll go and ask her if she objects,' I continued, boldly.

'No, no. You shall not.'

'Let him go,' said the Doctor, who stood smoking his pipe on the
outskirts of the crowd. 'It is just as well to have that point settled
now. The Minute Gun at Sea is a good moral song in its way,--a sort of
marine missionary affair.'

'So I started, the others followed; we all knew that the Lady watched
late; we often saw the glimmer of her lamp far on toward morning. It was
burning now. The gate was fastened, I knocked; no answer. I knocked
again, and yet a third time; still silence. The men stood off at a
little distance and waited. 'She shall answer,' I said angrily, and
going around to the side where the stockade came nearer to the wall of
the lodge, I knocked loudly on the close-set saplings. For answer I
thought I heard a low moan; I listened, it came again. My anger
vanished, and with a mighty bound I swung myself up to the top of the
stockade, sprung down inside, ran around, and tried the door. It was
fastened; I burst it open and entered. There, by the light of the
hanging lamp, I saw the Lady on the floor, apparently dead. I raised her
in my arms; her heart was beating faintly, but she was unconscious. I
had seen many fainting fits; this was something different; the limbs
were rigid. I laid her on the low couch, loosened her dress, bathed her
head and face in cold water, and wrenched up one of the warm
hearth-stones to apply to her feet. I did not hesitate; I saw that it
was a dangerous case, something like a trance or an 'ectasis.' Somebody
must attend to her, and there were only men to choose from. Then why not
I?

'I heard the others talking outside; they could not understand the
delay; but I never heeded, and kept on my work. To tell the truth, I had
studied medicine, and felt a genuine enthusiasm over a rare case. Once
my patient opened her eyes and looked at me, then she lapsed away again
into unconsciousness in spite of all my efforts. At last the men
outside came in, angry and suspicious; they had broken down the gate.
There we all stood, the whole forty of us, around the deathlike form of
our Lady.

'What a night it was! To give her air, the men camped outside in the
snow with a line of pickets in whispering distance from each other from
the bed to their anxious group. Two were detailed to help me,--the
Doctor (whose title was a sarcastic D. D.) and Jimmy, a gentle little
man, excellent at bandaging broken limbs. Every vial in the camp was
brought in,--astonishing lotions, drops, and balms; each man produced
something; they did their best, poor fellows, and wore out the night
with their anxiety. At dawn our Lady revived suddenly, thanked us all,
and assured us that she felt quite well again; the trance was over. 'It
was my old enemy,' she said, 'the old illness of Scotland, which I hoped
had left me for ever. But I am thankful that it is no worse; I have come
out of it with a clear brain. Sing a hymn of thankfulness for me, dear
friends, before you go.'

'Now, we sang on Sunday in the church; but then she led us, and we had a
kind of an idea that after all she did not hear us. But now, who was to
lead us? We stood awkwardly around the bed, and shuffled our hats in our
uneasy fingers. The Doctor fixed his eyes upon the Nightingale; Jack saw
it and cowered. 'Begin,' said the Doctor in a soft voice; but gripping
him in the back at the same time with an ominous clutch.

'I don't know the words,' faltered the unhappy Nightingale.

    "'Now thank we all our God,
      With hearts and hands and voices,'

began the Doctor, and repeated Luther's hymn with perfect accuracy from
beginning to end. 'What will happen next? The Doctor knows hymns!' we
thought in profound astonishment. But the Nightingale had begun, and
gradually our singers joined in; I doubt whether the grand old choral
was ever sung by such a company before or since. There was never any
further question, by the way, about that minute gun at sea; it stayed at
sea as far as we were concerned.

'Spring came, the faltering spring of Lake Superior. I won't go into my
own story, but such as it was, the spring brought it back to me with new
force. I wanted to go,--and yet I didn't. 'Where,' do you ask? To see
her, of course,--a woman, the most beautiful,--well, never mind all
that. To be brief, I loved her; she scorned me; I thought I had learned
to hate her--but--I wasn't sure about it now. I kept myself aloof from
the others and gave up my heart to the old sweet, bitter memories; I did
not even go to church on Sundays. But all the rest went; our Lady's
influence was as great as ever. I could hear them singing; they sang
better now that they could have the door open; the pent-up feeling used
to stifle them. The time for the bateaux drew near, and I noticed that
several of the men were hard at work packing the furs in bales, a job
usually left to the _voyageurs_ who came with the boats. 'What's that
for?' I asked.

'You don't suppose we're going to have those bateaux rascals camping on
Little Fishing, do you?' said black Andy, scornfully. 'Where are your
wits, Reub?'

'And they packed every skin, rafted them all over to the mainland, and
waited there patiently for days, until the train of slow boats came
along and took off the bales; then they came back in triumph. 'Now we're
secure for another six months,' they said, and began to lay out a park,
and gardens for every house. The Lady was fond of flowers; the whole
town burst into blossom. The Lady liked green grass; all the clearing
was soon tufted over like a lawn. The men tried the ice-cold lake every
day, waiting anxiously for the time when they could bathe. There was no
end to their cleanliness; Black Andy had grown almost white again, and
Frenchy's hair shone like oiled silk.

'The Lady stayed on, and all went well. But, gradually, there came a
discovery. The Lady was changing,--had changed! Gradually, slowly, but
none the less distinctly to the eyes that knew her every eyelash. A
little more hair was visible over the white brow; there was a faint
color in the cheeks, a quicker step; the clear eyes were sometimes
downcast now, the steady voice softer, the words at times faltering. In
the early summer the white cap vanished, and she stood among us crowned
only with her golden hair; one day she was seen through her open door
sewing on a white robe! The men noted all these things silently; they
were even a little troubled as at something they did not understand,
something beyond their reach. Was she planning to leave them?

'It's my belief she's getting ready to ascend right up into heaven,'
said Salem.

'Salem was a little 'wanting,' as it is called, and the men knew it;
still, his words made an impression. They watched the Lady with an awe
which was almost superstitious; they were troubled, and knew not why.
But the Lady bloomed on. I did not pay much attention to all this; but I
could not help hearing it. My heart was moody, full of its own sorrows;
I secluded myself more and more. Gradually I took to going off into the
mainland forests for days on solitary hunting expeditions. The camp went
on its way rejoicing; the men succeeded, after a world of trouble, in
making a fountain which actually played, and they glorified themselves
exceedingly. The life grew quite pastoral. There was talk of importing a
cow from the East, and a messenger was sent to the Sault for certain
choice supplies against the coming winter. But, in the late summers the
whisper went round again that the Lady had changed, this time for the
worse. She looked ill, she drooped from day to day; the new life that
had come to her vanished, but her former life was not restored. She grew
silent and sad, she strayed away by herself through the woods, she
scarcely noticed the men who followed her with anxious eyes. Time
passed, and brought with it an undercurrent of trouble, suspicion, and
anger. Everything went on as before; not one habit, not one custom was
altered; both sides seemed to shrink from the first change, however
slight. The daily life of the camp was outwardly the same, but brooding
trouble filled every heart. There was no open discussion, men talked
apart in twos and threes; a gloom rested over everything, but no one
said, 'What is the matter?'

'There was a man among us,--I have not said much of the individual
characters of our party, but this man was one of the least esteemed, or
rather liked; there was not much esteem of any kind at Little Fishing.
Little was known about him; although the youngest man in the camp, he
was a mooning, brooding creature, with brown hair and eyes and a
melancholy face. He wasn't hearty and whole-souled, and yet he wasn't an
out-and-out rascal; he wasn't a leader, and yet he wasn't follower
either. He wouldn't be; he was like a third horse, always. There was no
goodness about him; don't go to fancying that that was the reason the
men did not like him, he was as bad as they were, every inch! He never
shirked his work, and they couldn't get a handle on him anywhere; but he
was just--unpopular. The why and the wherefore are of no consequence
now. Well, do you know what was the suspicion that hovered over the
camp? It was this: our Lady loved that man!

'It took three months for all to see it, and yet never a word was
spoken. All saw, all heard; but they might have been blind and deaf for
any sign they gave. And the Lady drooped more and more.

'September came, the fifteenth; the Lady lay on her couch, pale and
thin; the door was open and a bell stood beside her, but there was no
line of pickets whispering tidings of her state to an anxious group
outside. The turf in the three streets had grown yellow for want of
water, the flowers in the little gardens had drooped and died, the
fountain was choked with weeds, and the interiors of the houses were all
untidy. It was Sunday, and near the hour for service; but the men
lounged about, dingy and unwashed.

'"A'n't you going to church?" said Salem, stopping at the door of one of
the houses; he was dressed in his best, with a flower in his
button-hole.

'"See him now! See the fool," said Black Andy. 'He's going to church, he
is! And where's the minister, Salem? Answer me that!'

'Why,--in the church, I suppose,' replied Salem, vacantly.

'"No, she a'n't; not she! She's at home, a-weeping, and a-wailing, and
a-ger-nashing her teeth," replied Andy with bitter scorn.

'"What for?" said Salem.

'"What for? Why, that's the joke! Hear him, boys; he wants to know what
for!"

'The loungers laughed,--a loud, reckless laugh.

'"Well, I'm going anyway," said Salem, looking wonderingly from one to
the other; he passed on and entered the church.

'"I say, boys, let's have a high old time," cried Andy savagely. "Let's
go back to the old way and have a jolly Sunday. Let's have out the jugs
and the cards and be free again!"

'The men hesitated; ten months and more of law and order held them back.

'"What are you afraid of?" said Andy. "Not of a canting hypocrite, I
hope. She's fooled us long enough, I say. Come on!" He brought out a
table and stools, and produced the long-unused cards and a jug of
whiskey. 'Strike up, Jack,' he cried; give us old Fiery-Eyes.'

'The Nightingale hesitated. Fiery-Eyes was a rollicking drinking song;
but Andy put the glass to his lips and his scruples vanished in the
tempting aroma. He began at the top of his voice, partners were chosen,
and, trembling with excitement and impatience, like prisoners
unexpectedly set free, the men gathered around, and made their bets.

'"What born fools we've been," said Black Andy, laying down a card.

'"Yes," replied the Flying Dutchman, "porn fools!" And he followed suit.

'But a thin white hand came down on the bits of colored pasteboard. It
was our Lady. With her hair disordered, and the spots of fever in her
cheeks, she stood among us again: but not as of old. Angry eyes
confronted her, and Andy wrenched the cards from her grasp. "No, my
Lady," he said, sternly; "never again!"

'The Lady, gazed from one face to the next, and so all around the
circle; all were dark and sullen. Then she bowed her head upon her hands
and wept aloud.

'There was a sudden shrinking away on all sides, the players rose, the
cards were dropped. But the Lady glided away, weeping as she went; she
entered the church door and the men could see her taking her accustomed
place on the platform. One by one they followed; Black Andy lingered
till the last, but he came. The service began, and went on falteringly,
without spirit, with palpable fears of a total breaking down which never
quite came; the Nightingale sang almost alone, and made sad work with
the words; Salem joined in confidently, but did not improve the sense of
the hymn. The Lady was silent. But when the time for the sermon came she
rose and her voice burst forth.

'"Men, brothers, what have I done? A change has come over the town, a
change has come over your hearts. You shun me! What have I done?"

'There was a grim silence; then the Doctor rose in his place and
answered,--

'"Only this, madam. You have shown yourself to be a woman."

'"And what did you think me?"

'"A saint."

'"God forbid!" said the Lady, earnestly. "I never thought myself one."

'"I know that well. But you were a saint to us; hence your influence. It
is gone."

'"Is it all gone?" asked the Lady, sadly.

'"Yes. Do not deceive yourself; we have never been one whit better save
through our love for you. We held you as something high above ourselves;
we were content to worship you."

'"O no, not me!" said the Lady, shuddering.

'"Yes, you, you alone! But--our idol came down among us and showed
herself to be but common flesh and blood! What wonder that we stand
aghast? What wonder that our hearts are bitter? What wonder (worse than
all!) that when the awe has quite vanished, there is strife for the
beautiful image fallen from its niche?"

'The Doctor ceased, and turned away. The Lady stretched out her hands
towards the others; her face was deadly pale, and there was a bewildered
expression in her eyes.

'"O, ye for whom I have prayed, for whom I have struggled to obtain a
blessing,--ye whom I have loved so,--do ye desert me thus?" she cried.

'"You have deserted us," answered a voice.

'"I have not."

'"You have," cried Black Andy, pushing to the front. 'You love that
Mitchell! Deny it if you dare!'

'There was an irrepressible murmur, then a sudden hush. The angry
suspicion, the numbing certainty had found voice at last; the secret was
out. All eyes, which had at first closed with the shock, were now fixed
upon the solitary woman before them; they burned like coals.

'"Do I?" murmured the Lady, with a strange questioning look that turned
from face to face,--"do I?--Great God! I do." She sank upon her knees
and buried her face in her trembling hands. "The truth has come to me at
last,--I do!"

'Her voice was a mere whisper, but every ear heard it, and every eye saw
the crimson rise to the forehead and redden the white throat.

'For a moment there was silence, broken only by the hard breathing of
the men. Then the Doctor spoke.

'"Go out and bring him in," he cried. "Bring in this Mitchell! It seems
he has other things to do,--the blockhead!"

'Two of the men hurried out.

'"He shall not have her," shouted Black Andy. "My knife shall see to
that!" And he pressed close to the platform. A great tumult arose, men
talked angrily and clinched their fists, voices rose and fell together.
"He shall not have her,--Mitchell! Mitchell!"

'"The truth is, each one of you wants her himself," said the Doctor.

'There was a sudden silence, but every man eyed his neighbor jealously.
Black Andy stood in front, knife in hand, and kept guard. The Lady had
not moved; she was kneeling with her face buried in her hands.

'"I wish to speak to her," said the Doctor, advancing.

'"You shall not," cried Andy, fiercely interposing.

'"You fool! I love her this moment ten thousand times more than you do.
But do you suppose I would so much as touch a woman who loved another
man?"

'The knife dropped; the Doctor passed on and took his place on the
platform by the Lady's side. The tumult began again, for Mitchell was
seen coming in the door between his two keepers.

'"Mitchell! Mitchell!" rang angrily through the church.

'"Look, woman!" said the Doctor, bending over the kneeling figure at his
side. She raised her head and saw the wolfish faces below.

'"They have had ten months of your religion," he said.

'It was his revenge. Bitter, indeed; but he loved her.

'In the mean time the man Mitchell was hauled and pushed and tossed
forward to the platform by rough hands that longed to throttle him on
the way. At last, angry himself, but full of wonder, he confronted them,
this crowd of comrades suddenly turned madmen! "What does this mean?" he
asked.

'"Mean! mean!" shouted the men; "a likely story! He asks what this
means!" And they laughed boisterously.

'The Doctor advanced. 'You see this woman,' he said.

'"I see our Lady."

'"Our Lady no longer; only a woman like any other,--weak and fickle.
Take her,--but begone."

'"Take her!" repeated Mitchell, bewildered.--"take our Lady! And where?"

'"Fool! Liar! Blockhead!" shouted the crowd below.

'"The truth is simply this, Mitchell," continued the Doctor, quietly.
"We herewith give you up our Lady,--ours no longer; for she has just
confessed, openly confessed, that she loves you."

'Mitchell started back. "Loves me!"

'"Yes."

'Black Andy felt the blade of his knife. "He'll never have her alive,"
he muttered.

'"But," said Mitchell, bluntly confronting the Doctor, "I don't want
her."

'"You don't want her?"

'"I don't love her."

'"You don't love her?"

'"Not in the least," he replied, growing angry, perhaps at himself.
"What is she to me? Nothing. A very good missionary, no doubt; but _I_
don't fancy woman-preachers. You may remember that _I_ never gave in to
her influence; _I_ was never under her thumb. _I_ was the only man in
Little Fishing who cared nothing for her!"

'And that is the secret of _her_ liking,' murmured the Doctor. 'O woman!
woman! the same the world over!'

'In the mean time the crowd had stood stupefied.

'"He does not love her!" they said to each other; "he does not want
her!"

'Andy's black eyes gleamed with joy; he swung himself up on to the
platform. Mitchell stood there with face dark and disturbed, but he did
not flinch. Whatever his faults, he was no hypocrite. 'I must leave this
to-night,' he said to himself, and turned to go. But quick as a flash
our Lady sprang from her knees and threw herself at his feet. 'You are
going,' she cried. 'I heard what you said,--you do not love me! But take
me with you! Let me be your servant--your slave--anything--anything, so
that I am not parted from you, my lord and master, my only, only love!'

'She clasped his ankles with her thin, white hands, and laid her face on
his dusty shoes.

'The whole audience stood dumb before this manifestation of a great
love. Enraged, bitter, jealous as was each heart, there was not a man
but would at that moment have sacrificed his own love that she might be
blessed. Even Mitchell, in one of those rare spirit-flashes when the
soul is shown bare in the lightning, asked himself, 'Can I not love her?
But the soul answered, 'No.' He stooped, unclasped the clinging hands,
and turned resolutely away.'

'"You are a fool," said the Doctor. 'No other woman will ever love you
as she does.'

'"I know it," replied Mitchell.

'He stepped down from the platform and crossed the church, the silent
crowd making a way for him as he passed along; he went out in the
sunshine, through the village, down towards the beach,--they saw him no
more.

'The Lady had fainted. The men bore her back to the lodge and tended her
with gentle care one week,--two weeks,--three weeks. Then she died.

'They were all around her; she smiled upon them all, and called them all
by name, bidding them farewell. 'Forgive me,' she whispered to the
Doctor. The Nightingale sang a hymn, sang as he had never sung before.
Black Andy knelt at her feet. For some minutes she lay scarcely
breathing; then suddenly she opened her fading eyes. 'Friends,' she
murmured, 'I am well punished. I thought myself holy,--I held myself
above my kind,--but God has shown me I am the weakest of them all.'

'The next moment she was gone.

'The men buried her with tender hands. Then in a kind of blind fury
against Fate, they tore down her empty lodge and destroyed its every
fragment; in their grim determination they even smoothed over the ground
and planted shrubs and bushes, so that the very location might be lost.
But they did not stay to see the change. In a month the camp broke up of
itself, the town was abandoned, and the island deserted for good and
all; I doubt whether any of the men ever came back or even stopped when
passing by. Probably I am the only one. Thirty years ago,--thirty years
ago!'

'That Mitchell was a great fool,' I said, after a long pause. 'The
Doctor was worth twenty of him; for that matter, so was Black Andy. I
only hope the fellow was well punished for his stupidity.'

'He was.'

'O, you kept track of him, did you?'

'Yes. He went back into the world, and the woman he loved repulsed him a
second time, and with even more scorn than before.'

'Served him right.'

'Perhaps so; but after all, what could he do? Love is not made to order.
He loved one, not the other; that was his crime. Yet,--so strange a
creature is man,--he came back after thirty years, just to see our
Lady's grave.'

'What! Are you--'

'I am Mitchell,--Reuben Mitchell.'



MACARIUS THE MONK.

BY JOHN BOYLE O'REILLY.


    In the old days, while yet the church was young,
    And men believed that praise of God was sung
    In curbing self as well as singing psalms,
    There lived a monk, Macarius by name,
    A holy man, to whom the faithful came
    With hungry hearts to hear the wonderous Word.
    In sight of gushing springs and sheltering palms,
    He lived upon the desert: from the marsh
    He drank the brackish water, and his food
    Was dates and roots,--and all his rule was harsh,
    For pampered flesh in those days warred with good,

    From those who came in scores a few there were
    Who feared the devil more than fast and prayer,
    And these remained and took the hermit's vow.
    A dozen saints there grew to be; and now
    Macarius, happy, lived in larger care.
    He taught his brethren all the lore he knew,
    And as they learned, his pious rigors grew.
    His whole intent was on the spirit's goal:
    He taught them silence--words disturb the soul;
    He warned of joys, and bade them pray for sorrow,
    And be prepared to-day for death to-morrow;
    To know that human life alone was given
    To test the souls of those who merit heaven;
    He bade the twelve in all things be as brothers,
    And die to self, to live and work for others.
    "For so," he said, "we save our love and labors,
    And each one gives his own and takes his neighbor's."

    Thus long he taught, and while they silent heard,
    He prayed for fruitful soil to hold the word.

    One day, beside the marsh they labored long,--
    For worldly work makes sweeter sacred song,--
    And when the cruel sun made hot the sand,
    And Afric's gnats the sweltering face and hand
    Tormenting stung, a passing traveller stood
    And watched the workers by the reeking flood.
    Macarius, nigh, with heat and toil was faint;
    The traveller saw, and to the suffering saint
    A bunch of luscious grapes in pity threw.
    Most sweet and fresh and fair they were to view,
    A generous cluster, bursting-rich with wine.
    Macarius longed to taste. "The fruit is mine,"
    He said, and sighed; "but I, who daily teach,
    Feel now the bond to practice as I preach."
    He gave the cluster to the nearest one,
    And with his heavy toil went patient on.

    As one athirst will greet a flowing brim,
    The tempting fruit made moist the mouth of him
    Who took the gift; but in the yearning eye
    Rose brighter light: to one whose lip was dry
    He gave the grapes, and bent him to his spade.
    And he who took, unknown to any other,
    The sweet refreshment handed to a brother.
    And so, from each to each, till round was made
    The circuit wholly--when the grapes at last,
    Untouched and tempting, to Macarius passed.

    "Now God be thanked!" he cried, and ceased to toil;
    "The seed was good, but better was the soil.
    My brothers, join with me to bless the day."
    But, ere they knelt, he threw the grapes away.





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