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

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HORACE CHASE

A Novel

by

CONSTANCE FENIMORE WOOLSON

AUTHOR OF "JUPITER LIGHTS" "EAST ANGELS" ETC.

NEW YORK

HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS

1894

Copyright, 1894, by HARPER & BROTHERS.

_All rights reserved._



HORACE CHASE



CHAPTER I


In a mountain village of North Carolina, in the year 1873, the spring
had opened with its accustomed beauty. But one day there came a pure
cold wind which swept through the high valley at tremendous speed from
dawn to midnight. People who never succumb to mere comfort did not
relight their fires. But to the Franklin family comfort was a goddess,
they would never have thought of calling her "mere"; "delightful" was
their word, and Ruth would probably have said "delicious." The fire in
Mrs. Franklin's parlor, therefore, having been piled with fresh logs at
two o'clock as an offering to this deity, was now, at four, sending out
a ruddy glow. It was a fire which called forth Ruth's highest
approbation when she came in, followed by her dog, Petie Trone, Esq. Not
that Ruth had been facing the blast; she never went out from a sense of
duty, and for her there was no pleasure in doing battle with things that
were disagreeable for the sake merely of conquering them. Ruth had come
from her own room, where there was a fire also, but one not so generous
as this, for here the old-fashioned hearth was broad and deep. The girl
sat down on the rug before the blaze, and then, after a moment, she
stretched herself out at full length there, with her head resting on her
arm thrown back behind it.

"It's a pity, Ruth, that with all your little ways, you are not little
yourself," remarked Dolly Franklin, the elder sister. "Such a whalelike
creature sprawled on the floor isn't endearing; it looks like something
out of Gulliver."

"It's always so," observed Mrs. Franklin, drowsily. "It's the oddest
thing in the world--but people never will stay in character; they want
to be something different. Don't you remember that whenever poor Sue
Inness was asked to sing, the wee little creature invariably chanted,
'Here's a health to King Charles,' in as martial a voice as she could
summon? Whereas Lucia Lewis, who is as big as a grenadier, always
warbles softly some such thing as 'Call me pet names, dearest. Call me a
bird.' Bird! Mastodon would do better."

"Mastodon?" Ruth commented. "It is evident, His Grand, that you have
seen Miss Billy to-day!"

Ruth was not a whale, in spite of Dolly's assertion. But she was tall,
her shoulders had a marked breadth, and her arms were long. She was very
slender and supple, and this slenderness, together with her small hands
and feet, took away all idea of majesty in connection with her, tall
though she was; one did not think of majesty, but rather of girlish
merriment and girlish activity. And girlish indolence as well. Mrs.
Franklin had once said: "Ruth is either running, or jumping, or doing
something in such haste that she is breathless; or else she is stretched
out at full length on the carpet or the sofa, looking as though she
never intended to move again!"

The girl had a dark complexion with a rich color, and hair that was
almost black; her face was lighted by blue eyes, with long thick black
lashes which made a dark fringe round the blue. The persons who liked
Ruth thought her beautiful; they asserted that her countenance had in it
something which was captivating. But others replied that though her
friends might call her captivating if they pleased, since that word
denotes merely a personal charm, they had no right to say that she was
beautiful; for as regards beauty, there are well-defined rules, and,
with the exception of her wonderful eyes, the face of the second Miss
Franklin transgressed every one of these canons. Ruth's features were
without doubt irregular. And especially was it true that her mouth was
large. But the lips were exquisitely cut, and the teeth very white.
Regarding her appearance as a whole, there was a fact which had not as
yet been noticed, namely, that no man ever found fault with it; the
criticism came always from feminine lips. And these critics spoke the
truth; but they forgot, or rather they did not see, some of the
compensations. There were people not a few, even in her own small
circle, who did not look with favor upon Ruth Franklin; it was not
merely, so they asserted, that she was heedless and frivolous, caring
only for her own amusement, and sacrificing everything to that, for of
many young persons this could be said; but they maintained in addition
that hers was a disposition in its essence self-indulgent; she was
indolent; she was fond of luxuries; she was even fond of "good
eating"--an odd accusation to be brought against a girl of that age. In
this case also the charges were made by feminine lips. And again it may
be added that while these critics spoke the truth, or part of the truth,
they did not, on the other hand, see some of the compensations.

"Why do you say '_poor_ Sue Inness,' His Grand?" inquired Dolly, in an
expostulating tone. "Why do people always say '_poor_' so-and-so, of any
one who is dead? It is an alarmingly pitying word; as though the
unfortunate departed must certainly be in a very bad place!"

"Here is something about the bishop," said Mrs. Franklin, who was
reading a Raleigh newspaper in the intervals of conversation. Her tone
was now animated. "He has been in Washington, and one of his sermons
was--"

But she was interrupted by her daughters, who united their voices in a
chant as follows:

    "Mother Franklin thinks,
     That General Jackson,
     Jared the Sixth,
     Macaroon custards,
     And Bishop Carew,
     Are per-_fec_-tion!"

Mrs. Franklin made no reply to these Gregorian assertions (which she had
often heard before), save the remark, "You have torn your skirt, Ruth."

"Oh, please don't look at me over your glasses, His Grand. It spoils
your profile so," answered Ruth; for Mrs. Franklin was surveying the
skirt with her head bent forward and her chin drawn sharply in, so that
her eyes could be brought to bear upon the rent over her spectacles.

She now drew off these aids to vision impatiently. "Whether I look
through them or over them doesn't matter; you and Dolly are never
satisfied. I cannot read the paper without my glasses; do you wish me to
know nothing of the news of the world?"

"We'll _tell_ you," responded Dolly, going on busily with her knitting.
"For instance, to-day: Genevieve has had _all_ the paint cleaned and
_all_ the windows washed; she is now breathing that righteous atmosphere
of cold, fireless bleakness and soap which she adores. Miss Billy Breeze
has admired everything that she can think of, because admiration is so
uplifting. And she has written another page about the primeval world;
now she--"

Here the door which led to the entrance-hall was opened with a jerk by
Linda, a plump negro girl, who bounced in, ejaculated "Lady!" in a
congratulatory tone, and then bounced out to act as usher for the
incoming guest.

"Billy herself, probably," said Mrs. Franklin. "Ruth, are you stretched
out there under the plea that you are not yet fully grown?"

But Ruth did not deem it necessary to leave her couch for Miss Billy
Breeze. "Hail, Billy!" she said, as the visitor entered. "Mother thinks
that I ought to be seated politely on the sofa; will you please imagine
that I am there?"

"Oh, certainly," replied Miss Breeze, in a conciliatory tone. Miss
Breeze lived under the impression that the members of this family
quarrelled with each other almost incessantly; when she was present,
therefore, she did her best to smooth over their asperities. "It is
rather good for her, you know," she said reassuringly to Mrs. Franklin;
"for it is a windy day, and Ruth is not robust." Then to Ruth: "Your
mother naturally wishes you to look your best, my dear."

"Do you, His Grand?" inquired Ruth. "Because if you do, I must certainly
stay where I am, so that I can tuck under me, very neatly, this rip in
my skirt, which Miss Billy has not yet seen. Petie Trone, Esq., shake
hands with the lady." The dog, a small black-and-tan terrier, was
reposing on the rug beside Ruth; upon hearing her command, he trotted
across to the visitor, and offered a tiny paw.

"Dear little fellow," said Miss Breeze, bending, and shaking it gently.
"His Grand must allow that he looks extremely well?"

For the circle of friends had ended by accepting the legend (invented by
Ruth) that Mrs. Franklin was Petie Trone's grandmother, or "His Grand."
The only person who still held out against this title was Genevieve, the
daughter-in-law; Mrs. Franklin the younger thought that the name was
ridiculous. Her husband's family seemed to her incomprehensibly silly
about their pets.

Miss Wilhelmina Breeze was thirty-five; but no one would have thought so
from her fair pink-and-white complexion, and young, innocent eyes. From
her earliest years she had longed to hear herself called "Wilhelmina."
But the longing was almost never gratified; the boyish name given to her
in joke when she was a baby had clung to her with the usual fatal
tenacity.

"Miss Billy, have you seen mother to-day?" Dolly inquired.

"Not until now," answered the visitor, surprised.

"Well, then, have you thought of mastodons?"

"Certainly I have; and if you yourself, Dolly, would think more
seriously of the whole subject, the primeval world--you would soon be as
fascinated with it as I am. Imagine one of those vast extinct animals,
Dolly, lifting his neck up a hill to nibble the trees on its top!" said
Miss Breeze with enthusiasm. "And birds as large as chapels flying
through the air! Probably they sang, those birds. What sort of voices
do you suppose they had? The cave-lion was twenty-nine feet high. The
horned tryceratops was seventy-five feet long! It elevates the mind even
to think of them."

"You see, His Grand, that she _has_ thought of mastodons," commented
Dolly. "Your unexpected mention of them, therefore, is plainly the
influence of her mind acting upon yours from a distance--the distance of
the Old North Hotel."

"Have you really thought of them, dear Mrs. Franklin? And do you believe
there can be such a thing as the conscious--I mean, of course,
_un_conscious--influence of one mind upon another?" inquired Miss Billy,
her face betraying a delighted excitement.

"No, no; it's only Dolly's nonsense," answered Mrs. Franklin.

"It's easy to say nonsense, His Grand. But how, then, do you account for
the utterances of my planchette?" demanded Dolly, wagging her head
triumphantly.

Dolly, the second of Mrs. Franklin's three children, was an invalid. The
Franklins, as a family, were tall and dark, and Dolly was tall and dark
also; her face, owing to the pain which frequently assailed her, was
thin, worn, and wrinkled. She sat in a low easy-chair, and beside her
was her own especial table, which held what she called her "jibs." These
were numerous, for Dolly occupied herself in many ways. She sketched,
she carved little knick-knacks, she played the violin; she made lace,
she worked out chess problems, and she knitted; she also scribbled
rhymes which her family called poetry. The mantel-piece of this parlor
was adorned with a hanging which bore one of her verses, stitched in old
English text, the work of her mother's needle:

    "O Fire! in these dark frozen days
       So gracious is thy red,
     So warm thy comfort, we forget
       The violets are dead."

The family thought this beautiful. Dolly's verses, her drawing and
wood-carving, her lace-making and chess, were amateurish; her
violin-playing was at times spirited, and that was the utmost that could
be said of it. But her knitting was remarkable. She knitted nothing but
silk stockings, and these, when finished, had a wonderful perfection.
Dolly was accustomed to say of herself that in the heels of her
stockings was to be found the only bit of conscience which she
possessed.

When she mentioned planchette, her mother frowned. "I do not approve of
such things."

"Yes, because you are afraid!" chuckled Dolly.

"Oh, anything that dear Mrs. Franklin does not approve of--" murmured
Miss Billy.

Mrs. Franklin rose.

"His Grand is fleeing!" Dolly announced, gleefully.

"I must make the salad-dressing, mustn't I? Ruth will not touch Zoe's
dressing. Billy, Mr. Chase is to dine with us to-day, informally; don't
you want to stay and help us entertain him?" added the mistress of the
house as she left the room.

"Dolly," suggested Ruth, from her place on the rug, "set planchette to
work, and make it tell us secrets; make it tell us whether Miss Billy
understands the _true_ character of Achilles Larue!"

"She does not; I can tell her that without planchette," replied Dolly.
"Only one person in the world has ever fully understood Achilles--had
the strength to do it; and _he_ died!"

"Yes, I know; I have heard Mr. Larue speak of that one friend," said
Miss Billy, regretfully. "How unfortunate that he lost him!"

"Yes, baddish. And the term is quite in his own line," commented Dolly.
"With him it is never warm, but warmish; the bluest sky is bluish; a
June day, fairish; a twenty-mile walk, longish. In this way he is not
committed to extravagant statements. When he is dead, he won't be more
than deadish. But he's that now."

Mrs. Franklin, having made the salad-dressing (when she made it, it was
always perfection), returned to the parlor. "Ruth, go and change your
dress. Take Miss Billy with you, but take her to my room, not yours. For
of course you will stay, Billy?"

"I don't think I'd better; I'm not dressed for the evening; and I said I
should be back," answered Miss Breeze, hesitatingly.

"To whom did you say it? To the Old North? Run along," said Mrs.
Franklin, smiling. "If it is shoes you are thinking of, as yours are
muddy, Ruth can lend you a pair."

"That she cannot," remarked Dolly. "Buy Ruth six pairs of new shoes, and
in six days all will be shabby. But you can have a pair of mine, Miss
Billy."

When she was left alone with her elder daughter, Mrs. Franklin said:
"Poor Billy! She is always haunted by the idea that she may possibly
meet Achilles Larue here. She certainly will not meet him at the Old
North, for he never goes near the place, in spite of her gentle
invitations. But here there is always a chance, and I never can resist
giving it to her, although in reality it is folly; he has never looked
at her, and he never will."

"No. But you need not be anxious about her," replied Dolly; "she has the
happy faculty of living in illusions, day after day. She can go on
hopefully admiring Achilles to the last moment of her life, and I dare
say she even thinks that he has a liking for her, little as he shows it.
She has occult reasons for this belief; she would find them in a kick."

"Goose!" said Mrs. Franklin, dismissing Billy's virginal dreams with the
matron's disillusioned knowledge. "Aren't you going to change your
dress, Dolly?"

"Why? Am I not tidy as I am? I thought you considered me too tidy?" And
it was true that the elder Miss Franklin was always a personification
of rigid neatness; from the dark hair that shaded her tired face, to the
shoes on her feet, all was severely orderly and severely plain.

"Oh, go, go!" answered her mother, impatiently.

Dolly screwed up her mouth, shook her head slowly, and laid her work
aside; then she rose, and with her cane walked towards the door. On her
way she stopped, and, bending, kissed her mother's forehead. "Some of
these days, mother, I shall be beautiful. It will be during one of our
future existences somewhere. It must be so, dear; you have earned it for
me by your loving pity here." Nothing could exceed the tenderness of her
tone as she said this.

Mrs. Franklin made no response beyond a little toss of her head, as
though repudiating this account of herself. But after Dolly had left the
room, a moisture gathered in the mother's eyes.

Ruth, meanwhile, had conducted Miss Billy to her own chamber.

"But Mrs. Franklin said I was to go to _her_ room?" suggested the guest.

"She doesn't mind; she only meant that Bob is probably here," answered
Ruth, as she opened the windows and threw back the blinds; for the
afternoon was drawing towards its close.

Miss Billy took off her bonnet, and, after a moment's thought, hung it
by its crown on a peg; in that position it did not seem possible that
even Bob could make a resting-place within it. Bob was young and very
small. He was beautiful or devilish according to one's view of
flying-squirrels. But whether you liked him or whether you hated him,
there was always a certain amount of interest in connection with the
creature, because you could never be sure where he was. Miss Billy, who
was greatly afraid of him, had given a quick look towards the tops of
the windows and doors. There was no squirrel visible. But that was small
comfort; Bob could hide himself behind a curtain-ring when he chose. One
of the blinds came swinging to with a bang, and Ruth, reopening the
window, struggled with it again. "There is Mr. Hill coming along the
back street on Daniel," she said, pausing. "He is beckoning to me! What
can he want? You will find shoes in the closet, Miss Billy, and don't
wait for me; I am going down to speak to him." Away she flew, running
lightly at full speed through the upper hall and down the back stairs,
closely followed by Petie Trone, Esq.

Miss Billy closed the window and stood there for a moment looking out.
Presently she saw Ruth at the stone wall at the end of the garden. She
also recognized (with disapproving eyes) the unclerical hat of the Rev.
Malachi Hill, who had stopped his horse in the road outside. He was
talking to Ruth, who listened with her chin resting on her hands on the
top of the wall, while the wind roughened her hair wildly, and blew out
her skirts like a balloon. Miss Billy watched her for a while; then,
after making her own preparations for the evening, she seated herself
by the fire to wait. For no one could make Ruth come in one moment
before she chose to do so; it seemed better, therefore, not to call
attention to her absence by returning to the parlor alone, lest Mrs.
Franklin should be made uneasy by knowing that the girl was out,
bareheaded, in the cold wind. Having made her decision (Billy was always
troubled, even upon the smallest occasion, by four or five different
theories as to the best course to pursue), she looked about the room
with the same wonder and gentle dislike which she had often felt before.
The necessary articles of furniture were all set closely back against
the wall, in order that the central space of the large chamber should be
left entirely free. For Ruth did not like little things--small objects
of any kind which required dusting, and which could be easily upset.
Miss Billy, who adored little things, and who lived in a grove of them,
thought the place dreadfully bare. There were no souvenirs; no
photographs of friends in velvet frames; there were no small tables,
brackets, screens, hanging shelves, little chairs, little boxes, little
baskets, fans, and knick-knacks; there was not even a wall-calendar.
With Miss Billy, the removal of the old leaf from her poetical calendar,
and the reading of the new one each morning, was a solemn rite. And when
her glance reached the toilet-table, her non-comprehension reached its
usual climax. The table itself was plain and unadorned, but on its top
was spread out a profuse array of toilet articles, all of ivory or
crystal. That a girl so wholly careless about everything else should
insist upon having so many costly and dainty objects for her personal
use in the privacy of her own room seemed remarkable. "Give Ruth her
bath in scented water, and all these ivory and crystal things to use
when she dresses, and she is perfectly willing to go about in a faded,
torn old skirt, a hat entirely out of fashion, shabby gloves, and
worn-out shoes; in short, looking anyhow!" mused Billy, perplexed.

Down-stairs Mrs. Franklin was receiving another visitor. After Dolly's
departure, Rinda had made a second irruptive entrance, with the
announcement, "Gen'lem!" and Mr. Anthony Etheridge came in. Etheridge
was a strikingly handsome man, who appeared to be about fifty-eight. He
entered with light step and smiling face, and a flower in his coat.

"Ah, commodore, when did you return?" said Mrs. Franklin, giving him her
hand.

"Two hours ago," answered Etheridge, bowing over it gallantly. "You are
looking remarkably well, my dear madam. Hum-ha!" These last syllables
were not distinct; Etheridge often made this little sound, which was not
an ahem; it seemed intended to express merely a general enjoyment of
existence--a sort of overflow of health and vitality.

"Only two hours ago? You have been all day in that horrible stage, and
yet you have strength to pay visits?"

"Not visits; _a_ visit. You are alone?"

"Only for the moment; Dolly and Ruth are dressing. We are expecting some
one to dine with us--a new acquaintance, by-the-way, since you left; a
Mr. Chase."

"Yes, Horace Chase; I knew he was here. I should like to kick him out!"

"Why so fierce?" said Mrs. Franklin, going on with her lamplighters. For
the making of lamplighters from old newspapers was one of her pastimes.

"Of course I am fierce. We don't want fellows of that sort here; he will
upset the whole place! What brought him?"

"He has not been well, I believe" ("That's one comfort! They never are,"
interpolated Etheridge), "and he was advised to try mountain air. In
addition, he is said to be looking into the railroad project."

"Good heavens! Already? The one solace I got out of the war was the
check it gave to the advance of those horrible rails westward; I have
been in hopes that the locomotives would not get beyond Old Fort in my
time, at any rate. Why, Dora, this strip of mountain country is the most
splendid bit of natural forest, of nature undraped, which exists to-day
between the Atlantic Ocean and the Rockies!"

"Save your eloquence for Genevieve, commodore."

"Hum-ha! Mrs. Jared, eh?"

"Yes; she knew Mr. Chase when he was a little boy; she says she used to
call him Horrie. As soon as she heard that he was here, she revived the
acquaintance; and then she introduced him to us."

"Does she _like_ him?" asked Etheridge, with annoyance in his tone.

"I don't know whether she likes him or not; but she is hoping that he
will do something that will increase the value of property here."

"It is intelligent of Mrs. Jared to be thinking of that already," said
Etheridge, softening a little. "Perhaps if I owned land here, I should
take another view of the subject myself! You too, Dora--you might make
something?"

"No; we have no land save the garden, and the house is dreadfully
dilapidated. Personally, I may as well confess that I should be glad to
see the railroad arrive; I am mortally tired of that long jolting
stage-drive from Old Fort; it nearly kills me each time I take it. And I
am afraid I don't care for nature undraped so much as you do, commodore;
I think I like draperies."

"Of course you do! But when you--and by you I mean the nation at
large--when you perceive that your last acre of primitive forest is
forever gone, then you will repent. And you will begin to cultivate
wildness as they do abroad, poor creatures--plant forests and guard 'em
with stone walls and keepers, by Jove! Horace Chase appears here as the
pioneer of spoliation. He may not mean it; he does not come with an axe
on his shoulder exactly; he comes, in fact, with baking-powder; but
that's how it will end. Haven't you heard that it was baking-powder? At
least you have heard of the powder itself--the Bubble? I thought so.
Well, that's where he made his first money--the Bubble Baking-Powder;
and he made a lot of it, too! Now he is in no end of other things. One
of them is steamships; some of the Willoughbys of New York have gone in
with him, and together they have set up a new company, with steamers
running south--the Columbian Line."

"Yes, Genevieve explained it to us. But as he does not travel with his
steamers round his neck, there remains for us, inland people as we are,
only what he happens to be himself. And that is nothing interesting."

"Not interesting, eh?" said Etheridge, rather gratified.

"To my mind he is not. He is ordinary in appearance and manners; he says
'yes, ma'am,' and 'no, ma'am,' to me, as though I were a
great-grandmother! In short, I don't care for him, and it is solely on
Genevieve's account that I have invited him. For she keeps urging me to
do it; she is very anxious to have him like Asheville. He has already
dined with us twice, to meet her. But to-day he comes informally--a
chance invitation given only this morning (and again given solely to
please _her_), when I happened to meet him at the Cottage."

"How old is the wretch?"

"I don't know. Forty-four or forty-five."

"Quite impossible, then, that Mrs. Jared should have known him when he
was a boy; she was not born at that time," commented Etheridge. "What
she means, of course, is that she, as a child herself, called him
'Horrie.'"

Mrs. Franklin did not answer, and at this moment Dolly came in.

"Yes, I am well," she said, in reply to the visitor's greeting; "we are
all well, and lazy. The world at large will never be helped much by us,
I fear; we are too contented. Have you ever noticed, commodore, that the
women who sacrifice their lives so nobly to help humanity seldom
sacrifice one small thing, and that is a happy home? Either they do not
possess such an article, or else they have spoiled it by quarrelling
with every individual member of their families."

"Now, Dolly, no more of your sarcasms. Tell me rather about this new
acquaintance of yours, this bubbling capitalist whom you have invented
and set up in your midst during my unsuspecting absence," said
Etheridge.

"You need not think, commodore, that you can make me say one word about
him," answered Dolly, solemnly; "for I read in a book only the other day
that a tendency to talk about other persons, instead of one's self, was
a sure sign of advancing age. Young people, the book goes on to say, are
at heart interested in nothing on earth but themselves and their own
affairs; they have not the least curiosity about character or traits in
general. As I wish to be considered young, I have made a vow to talk of
nothing but myself hereafter. Anything you may wish to hear about _me_
I am ready to tell you." Dolly was now attired in a velvet dress of dark
russet hue, like the color of autumn oak leaves; this tint took the eye
away somewhat from the worn look of her plain thin face. The dress,
however, was eight years old, and the fashion in which it had been made
originally had never been altered.

"The being interested in nothing but themselves, and their own doings
and feelings, is not confined to young people," said Mrs. Franklin,
laughing. "I have known a goodly number of their elders who were quite
as bad. When these gentry hold forth, by the hour, about their
convictions and their theories, their beliefs and disbeliefs, their
likings and dislikings, their tastes and their principles, their souls,
their minds, and their bodies--if, in despair, you at last, by way of a
change, turn the conversation towards some one else, they become loftily
silent. And they go away and tell everybody, with regret of course, that
you are hopelessly given to gossip! Gossip, in fact, has become very
valuable to me; I keep it on hand, and pour it forth in floods, to drown
those egotists out."

"When you gossip, then, I shall know that _I_ bore you," said Etheridge,
rising, "I mustn't do so now; I leave you to your Bubble. Mrs. Jared, I
suppose, will be with you this evening? I ask because I had thought of
paying her a how-do-you-do visit, later."

"Pay it here, commodore," suggested Mrs. Franklin. "Perhaps you would
like to see her 'Horrie' yourself?"

"Greatly, greatly. I am always glad to meet any of these driving
speculators who come within my reach. For it makes me contented for a
month afterwards--contented with my own small means--to see how yellow
they are! Not a man jack of them who hasn't a skin like guinea gold."
Upon this point the commodore could enlarge safely, for no color could
be fresher and finer than his own.

After he had gone, Mrs. Franklin said: "Imagine what he has just told
me--that Genevieve could not possibly have known Horace Chase when he
was a boy, because she is far too young!" And then mother and daughter
joined in a merry laugh.

"It would be fun to tell him that she was forty on her last birthday,"
said Dolly.

"He would never believe you; he would think that you fibbed from
jealousy," answered Mrs. Franklin. "As you are dressed, I may as well go
and make ready myself," she added, rising. "I have been waiting for
Ruth; I cannot imagine what she is about."

This is what Ruth was about--she was rushing up the back stairs in the
dark, breathless. When she reached her room, she lit the candles
hastily. "You still here, Miss Billy? I supposed you had gone down long
ago." She stirred the fire into a blaze, and knelt to warm her cold
hands. "Such fun! I have made an engagement for us all, this evening.
You can never think what it is. Nothing less than a fancy-dress
procession at the rink for the benefit of the Mission. A man is carrying
costumes across the mountains for some tableaux for a soldiers' monument
at Knoxville; his wagon has broken down, and he is obliged to stay here
until it is mended. Mr. Hill has made use of this for the Mission. Isn't
it a splendid idea? He has been rushing about all the afternoon, and he
has found twenty persons who are willing to appear in fancy dress, and
he himself is to be an Indian chief, in war-paint and feathers."

"In war-paint and feathers? _Oh!_"

"Yes. It seems that he has a costume of his own. He had it when he was
an insurance agent, you know, before he entered the ministry; he was
always fond of such things, he says, and the costume is a very handsome
one; when he wore it, he called himself Big Moose."

"Big Moose! It must be stopped," said Miss Billy, in a horrified voice.
For Miss Billy had the strictest ideas regarding the dignity of the
clergy.

"On the contrary, I told him that it would be a great attraction, and
that it was his duty to do all he could," declared Ruth, breaking into
one of her intense laughs. Her laugh was not loud, but when it had once
begun it seemed sometimes as if it would never stop. At present, as soon
as she could speak, she announced, "We'll _all_ go."

"Do not include me," said Miss Billy, with dignity. "I think it
shocking, Ruth. I do indeed."

"Oh, you'll be there," said Ruth, springing up, and drawing Miss Billy
to her feet. "You'll put on roller-skates yourself, and go wheeling off
first this way, then that way, with Achilles Larue." And, as she said
this, she gleefully forced her visitor across the floor, now in a long
sweep to the right, now to the left, with as close an imitation of
skating as the circumstances permitted.

While they were thus engaged, Mrs. Franklin opened the door. "What are
you doing? Ruth--not dressed yet?"

"I'm all ready, His Grand," responded Ruth, running across the room and
pouring water into the basin in a great hurry. "I have only to wash my
hands" (here she dashed lavender into the water); "I'll be down
directly."

"And we shall all admire you in that torn dress," said her mother.

"Never mind, I'll pin it up. Nobody will see it at dinner, under the
table. And after dinner my cloak will cover it--for we are all going
out."

"Going out this windy evening? Never! Are you ready, Billy? And Ruth,
you must come as you are, for Mr. Chase is already here, and Rinda is
bringing in the soup."

"Never fear, His Grand. I'll come."

And come she did, two minutes later, just as she was, save that her
wind-roughened hair had been vaguely smoothed, and fastened down hastily
with large hair-pins placed at random. Owing to her hurry, she had a
brilliant color; and seeing, as she entered, the disapproving
expression in her mother's eyes, she was seized with the idea of making,
for her own amusement, a stately sweeping courtesy to Horace Chase; this
she accordingly did, carrying it off very well, with an air of majesty
just tempered at the edges with burlesque.

Chase, who had risen, watched this salutation with great interest. When
it was over, he felt it incumbent upon him, however, to go through, in
addition, the more commonplace greeting. "How do you do, Miss Ruth?" he
said, extending his hand. And he gave the tips of her fingers (all she
yielded to him) three careful distinct shakes.

Then they went to dinner.



CHAPTER II


The meal which followed was good; for Zoe, the cook, was skilful in her
old-fashioned way. But the dinner service was ordinary; the only wine
was Dry Catawba; Rinda's ideas of waiting, too, were primitive. The
Franklins, however, had learned to wait upon themselves. They had the
habit of remaining long at the table; for, whether they were alone or
whether they had a guest, there was always a soup, there was always a
salad, there were always nuts and fruit, followed by coffee--four
courses, therefore, in addition to the two which the younger Mrs.
Franklin, whose household was managed in a very different way,
considered all that was necessary "for the body."

"A serious rice pudding, Genevieve, no doubt _is_ enough for the body,
as you call it," Dolly had once said. "But _we_ think of the mind also;
we aim at brilliancy. And no one ever scintillated yet on cod-fish and
stewed prunes!"

"Mrs. Jared Franklin is well, I hope?" Chase asked, when the last course
was reached. He was not fond of nuts or figs, but he was playing his
part, according to his conception of it, by eating at intervals one
raisin.

"Quite well; thanks. I have never known her to be ill," replied Dolly.

"Mr. Chase, I am going to suggest something: as mother and my
sister-in-law are both Mrs. Jared, and as mother has no burning desire
to be called 'old Mrs. Franklin' just yet, why don't you say 'Mrs. G.
B.' when you mean the younger matron?"

Chase would never have thought of calling either the one or the other a
matron, his idea of the word being the female superintendent of a public
institution. "G. B.--are those her initials?" he said. "Yes, of course;
G. for Genevieve, or Gen, as I used to call her."

"And B. for Beatrice; isn't that lovely? Our own names, unfortunately,
are very plain--Ruth, Dolly, and Jared; Genevieve has taken pity upon
the Jared, and changed it to Jay. Mother, however, actually likes the
name Jared. She is weak enough to be proud of the fact that there have
been six Jared Franklins in the direct line, from eldest son to father,
going back to colonial days. People are _very_ sorry for this delusion
of hers; they have told her repeatedly that the colonial period was
unimportant. Genevieve, in particular, has often explained to her that
modern times are far more interesting."

"I guess there isn't much question about that, is there?" said Chase.
"No doubt they did the best they could in those old days. But they
couldn't do much, you see, because they had nothing to work with, no
machinery, no capital, no combinations; they couldn't hear anything
until long after it had happened, and they couldn't go anywhere except
on horseback. I've always been glad _I_ didn't serve my time then. I
guess I should have found it slow."

"You must find Asheville rather slow?" remarked Dolly.

"It is more than slow, Miss Franklin; it has stopped entirely. But it
has great natural advantages--I have been surprised to see how many. I
like new enterprises, and I've been thinking about something." Here he
paused and ate one more raisin, balancing it for a moment upon the palm
of his hand before he swallowed it. "I've been thinking of picking up
that railroad at Old Fort and pushing it right through to this place,
and on to Tennessee; a branch, later, to tap South Carolina and Georgia.
That isn't all, however." He paused again. Then with a glance which
rested for a moment on each face, and finally stopped at Mrs.
Franklin's, "What do you say," he added, with an hospitable smile, "to
my making a big watering-place of your hilly little village?"

"_Asheville_ watered? What next!" said Dolly.

"The next is that the stock won't be," replied Chase, laughing. "I mean,
the stock of the company that undertakes the affair, if it does
undertake it. You'd better apply for some right off; all of you. Shall I
tell you how the thing strikes me, while you are finishing your nuts?
Well, then, this is about it. The whole South is a hot place in summer,
ladies; from Baltimore down to the end of Florida and Louisiana they
simply swelter from June to October, and always must swelter. If you
will look at a map, you can see for yourselves that the only region
where the people of all this big section can get fresh air during the
heated term, without a long journey for it, is this one line of
mountains, called Alleghanies in the lump, but in reality including the
Blue Ridge, the Cumberlands, your Smokies and Blacks, and others about
here. For a trip to the southern sea-coast isn't much relief; a hot
beach is about the hottest place I know! Now, then, what is the best
point among these mountains? The Alleghanies lie _this_ way." (He made
the Alleghanies with a table-spoon.) "Then _there_ is the Blue Ridge."
(A nut-cracker.) "And here you get your Smokies and so forth." (Almonds
taken hastily from a dish and arranged in a line.) "And I'll just
indicate the Cumberlands with this orange. Very well. Now where are the
highest peaks of these lines? Let us follow the range down. Do we find
them in Pennsylvania? No, sir. Do we find them in Virginia? We do not.
Are they over there among the Cumberlands? Not by a long shot. Where are
they, then? Right here, ladies, at your own door; right here, where I
make a dot this minute." And taking a pencil from his pocket, he made a
small mark on the table-cloth between the spoon and the nut-cracker. "In
this neighborhood," he went on, emphasizing his statement by pointing
his pencil at Miss Billy, "there are thirteen nearly seven thousand
feet high. It seems to me, therefore, that in spite of all the jokes
about talking for buncombe, the talk for Buncombe has not been half tall
enough yet. For this very Buncombe County is bound to be the favorite
watering-place for over twelve millions of people, some day or other."

"Watering-place?" commented Dolly. "Well, we _have_ the two rivers, the
French Broad and the Swannanoa. But the Swannanoa is small; if the
millions should all drink at once, it would soon go dry."

"I meant summer resort, Miss Franklin, not watering-place," said Chase,
inwardly entertained by the quickness bordering on the sharp with which
"the sickly one," as he called her, always took him up. "Though there
are sulphur springs near by too: I have been out to look at them. And it
isn't only the Southerners who will come here," he went on. "Northerners
will flock also, when they understand what these mountains are. For, in
comparison with them, the Catskills are a suburb; the White Mountains,
ornamental rock-work; and the Adirondacks, a wood-lot. _Here_ everything
is absolutely wild; you can shoot because there are all sorts of things
_to_ shoot, from bears down. And then there's another point--for I
haven't got to the bottom of the sack yet. This mountain valley of
yours, being 2400 feet above the sea, has a wonderfully pure dry air,
and yet, as it is so far south, it is not cold; its winter climate,
therefore, is as good as its summer, and even better. So here's the
situation: people who live in hot places will come here from June to
October, and people who live in cold places will come from October to
June." He returned the orange and the almonds to their dishes, replaced
the table-spoon and nut-cracker, and then, looking at Mrs. Franklin, he
gave her a cheerful nod. "That's it, ma'am; that's the whole in a
nutshell."

Ruth gravely offered him an empty almond shell.

"We'll have something better than that, Miss Ruth--a philopena." And
taking a nut-cracker, he opened several almonds. Finding a double
kernel, he gave her one of the halves. "Now, if I win, I should be much
favored if you would make me something of worsted--a tidy is the name, I
think?"

Ruth began to laugh.

"Well, then, a picture-frame of cones."

And now the other ladies joined in Ruth's merriment.

"We must decline such rare objects," said Mrs. Franklin. "But we have
our own small resources, Mr. Chase." And, leading the way back to the
parlor, she showed him the mantel-cover with Dolly's verse.

"Why, that's beautiful, Miss Franklin," said Chase, with sincere
admiration, when he had read the lines. "I didn't know you could write
poetry."

"Oh yes," answered Dolly. "I think in elegies as a general thing, and I
make sonnets as I dress. Epics are nothing to me, and I turn off
triolets in no time. But I don't publish, Mr. Chase, because I don't
want to be called a _minor_ poet."

Here Rinda came in like a projectile, carrying a large box clasped in
her arms. "Jess lef'! 'Spress!" she exclaimed excitedly.

"Express?" repeated Mrs. Franklin, trying to make out the address
without her glasses. "Read it, Ruth."

Ruth looked at the label, and then broke into another laugh. She had
hardly recovered from the preceding one, and Chase, with amusement,
watched her start off again. But he soon found himself surrounded by
laughers a second time.

"Why, what's wrong with it?" he asked, seeing that it was the label
which excited their mirth. And in his turn he examined it. "Miss Ruth
Franklin, Lommy Dew, Asheville? That's right, isn't it? Isn't Lommy Dew
the name of your place?"

Rinda meanwhile, wildly curious, had been opening the box by main force
with the aid of the poker. She now uncovered a huge cluster of hot-house
roses, packed in moss.

"Flowers? Who could have sent them?" said Mrs. Franklin, surprised. She
had no suspicion of her present guest; her thoughts had turned towards
some of their old friends at the North. But Ruth, happening to catch the
look in Horace Chase's eyes as he glanced for an instant at the
blossoms, not so much admiringly as critically, exclaimed:

"_You_ sent them, Mr. Chase. How perfectly lovely!"

"I'm afraid they're not much," Chase answered. "I thought they'd send
more." He had wished to show that he appreciated the invitations to
L'Hommedieu, and as, according to his idea, it was the young lady of the
family to whom it was proper to pay such attentions, he had ordered the
box to be sent to Ruth rather than to Mrs. Franklin or Dolly.

Ruth's laugh had stopped. She was passionately fond of hot-house
flowers, and now both her hands together could hardly encircle even the
stems alone of these superb tea-roses, whose gorgeous masses filled her
arms as she raised them. With a quick movement she buried her face in
the soft petals.

"But, I say, what was wrong with this?" asked Chase a second time, as he
again looked at the label.

"L'Hommedieu is a French name--" began Dolly.

But Ruth interrupted her: "It is an ugly old French name, Mr. Chase, and
as it is pronounced, in America at least, exactly as you wrote it, I
think it might as well be spelled so, too. At present, however, this is
the way--the silly way." And holding her flowers with her left arm, she
detached her right hand, and scribbled the name on the edge of the
Raleigh paper.

"Ah!" said Chase, looking at it. "I don't speak French myself. I thought
perhaps it had something to do with dew." And frowning a little, a frown
of attention, he spelled the word over.

An old negro woman, her head covered with a red kerchief folded like a
turban, now came stiffly in with the coffee-tray, her stiffness being
an angry dignity. It was Zoe, the cook, tired of waiting for Rinda, who,
still in the parlor, was occupied in gazing with friendly interest at
the roses. "Lawdy--ef I ain't clean ferget!" remarked the waitress,
genially, to the company in general.

"You clar out, good-fer-nutt'n nigger!" muttered the offended cook, in
an undertone to her coadjutor.

With the tray, or rather behind it, a lady came in.

"Just in time for coffee, Genevieve," remarked Dolly, cheerfully.

"Thanks; I do not take it at night," Genevieve answered.

This was a dialogue often repeated in one form or another, for Dolly
kept it up. The younger Mrs. Franklin did not like evening dinners, and
Dolly even maintained that her sister-in-law thought them wicked. "She
sees a close connection between a late dinner with coffee after it, and
the devil." The Franklins had always dined at the close of the day, for
the elder Jared Franklin, having been the editor of a daily paper, had
found that hour the most convenient one. The editor was gone; his family
had moved from the North to the South, and life for them was changed in
many ways; but his habit of the evening dinner they had never altered.

The younger Mrs. Franklin greeted Chase cordially. Dolly listened,
hoping to hear her call him "Horrie." But Genevieve contented herself
with giving him her hand, and some frank words of welcome. Genevieve
was always frank. And in all she said and did, also, she was absolutely
sincere. She was a beautiful woman with golden hair, fair skin, regular
features, and ideally lovely eyes; her tall figure was of Juno-like
proportions. Chase admired her, that was evident. But Dolly (who was
noting this) had long ago discovered that men always admired her
sister-in-law. In addition to her beauty, Genevieve had a sweet voice,
and an earnest, half-appealing way of speaking. She was appealing to
Chase now. "There is to be an entertainment at the rink to-night,
Horace, for the benefit of the Mission; won't you go? I hope so. And,
mamma, that is what I have come over for; to tell you about it, and beg
you to go also." She had seated herself beside Chase; but, as she said
these last words, she put out her hand and laid it affectionately on
Mrs. Franklin's shoulder.

"I believe I am to have the pleasure of spending the evening here?"
Chase answered, making a little bow towards his hostess.

"But if mamma herself goes to the rink, as I am sure she will, then
won't you accompany her? The Mission and the Colored Home, Horace,
are--"

But here Chase, like a madman, made a sudden bound, and grasped the top
of Miss Billy Breeze's head.

Quick as his spring had been, however, Ruth's was quicker. She pulled
his hands away. "Don't hurt him! _Don't!_"

But the squirrel was not under Chase's fingers; he had already escaped,
and, running down the front of Miss Billy's dress (to her unspeakable
terror), he now made another leap, and landed on Dolly's arm, where Ruth
caught him.

"What in creation is it?" said Chase, who had followed. "A bird? Or a
mouse?"

"Mouse!" said Ruth, indignantly. "It's Bob, my dear little
flying-squirrel; I saw him on the cornice, but I thought he would fly to
me. It's amazing that any one can possibly be afraid of the darling,"
she added, with a reproachful glance towards Miss Billy, who was still
cowering. "I had him when he was nothing but a baby, Mr. Chase--he had
fallen from his nest--and I have brought him up myself. Now that he is
getting to be a big boy, he naturally likes to fly about a little. He
cannot be always climbing his one little tree in the dining-room. He is
so soft and downy. Look at his bright eyes." Here she opened her hand so
that Chase could see her pet. "Would you like to hold him for a moment?"

"Oh, I'll look at _you_ holding him," answered Chase. "Hollo! here's
another." For Petie Trone, Esq., his jealousy roused by his mistress's
interest in the squirrel, had come out from under the sofa, and was now
seated on his hind-legs at the edge of her dress, begging. "Wouldn't you
like an owl?" Chase suggested. "Or a 'possum? A 'coon might be tamed, if
caught young."

Ruth walked away, offended.

This made him laugh still more as he returned to his place beside
Genevieve.

"She is only eighteen," murmured the younger Mrs. Franklin,
apologetically. Her words were covered by a rapturous "Gen'lem!" from
Rinda at the door. For Rinda was always perfectly delighted to see
anybody; when, therefore, there were already two or three guests, and
still another appeared, her voice became ecstatic. The new-comer was
Anthony Etheridge.

"How fortunate!" said Genevieve. "For it makes another for our little
charity party. There is to be an impromptu entertainment at the rink
to-night, commodore, for the benefit of the Mission, and mamma is going,
I hope. Won't you accompany her? Let me introduce Mr. Chase--a very old
friend of mine. Mr. Chase, Commodore Etheridge."

"Happy to meet you," said Chase, rising in order to shake hands.

"Gen'lem!" called Rinda again; this time fairly in a yell.

The last "gen'lem" was a slender man of thirty-five, who came in with
his overcoat on. "Thanks; I did not take it off," he said, in answer to
Mrs. Franklin, "because I knew that you were all going to the"--(here
Ruth gave a deep cough)--"because I thought it possible that you might
be going to the rink to-night," he went on, changing the form of his
sentence, with a slight smile; "and in that case I hoped to accompany
you."

"Yes," said Genevieve, "mamma is going, Mr. Larue. I only wish I could
go, also."

The cheeks of Miss Billy Breeze had become flushed with rose-color as
the new-comer entered. Noticing instantly the change he had made in his
sentence when Ruth coughed, she at once divined that the girl had gone,
bareheaded and in the darkness, to his residence during that long
absence before dinner, in order to secure his co-operation in the frolic
of the evening. Ruth had, in fact, done this very thing; for nothing
amused her so much as to watch Billy herself when Larue was present. The
girl was now wicked enough to carry on her joke a little longer. "I am
_so_ sorry, Miss Billy, that you do not care to go," she said,
regretfully.

Miss Billy passed her handkerchief over her mouth and tried to smile.
But she was, in fact, winking to keep back tears.

And then Mrs. Franklin, always kind-hearted, came to the rescue. "Did
you tell Ruth that you could not go, Billy? Change your mind, my dear;
change it to please _me_."

"Oh, if _you_ care about it, dear Mrs. Franklin," murmured Billy,
escaping, and hurrying happily up the stairs to put on her wraps.

The rink was a large, bare structure of wood, with a circular arena for
roller-skating. This evening the place was lighted, and the gallery was
occupied by the colored band. The members of this band, a new
organization, had volunteered their services with the heartiest
good-will. It was true that they could play (without mistakes) but one
selection, namely, "The lone starry hours give me, love." But they
arranged this difficulty by playing it first, softly; then as a solo on
the cornet; then fortissimo, with drums; by means of these alterations
it lasted bravely throughout the evening. Nearly the whole village was
present; the promenade was crowded, and there were many skaters on the
floor below. The Rev. Malachi Hill, the originator of the entertainment,
was distributing programmes, his face beaming with pleasure as he
surveyed the assemblage. Presently he came to the party from
L'Hommedieu. "Programmes, Mrs. Franklin? Programmes, gentlemen?" He had
written these programmes himself, in his best handwriting. "The
performance will soon begin," he explained. "The procession will skate
round the arena five times, and afterwards most of the characters will
join in a reel--" Here some one called him, and he hastened off.

Chase, who had received a programme, looked at it in a business-like
way. "Christopher Columbus," he read aloud; "Romeo and Juliet; the
Muses, Calliope, and--and others," he added, glancing down the list.

His Calliope had rhymed with hope, and a gleam of inward entertainment
showed itself for one instant in the eyes of Etheridge and Larue. Ruth
saw this scintillation; instantly she crossed to Chase's side, as he
still studied the programme, and bending to look at it, said, "Please,
may I see too?"

"Oh! I thought you had one," said Chase, giving her the sheet of paper.

"The Muses," read Ruth again, aloud. "Cally-ope," she went on, giving
the word Chase's pronunciation. "And Terp-si-core." She made this name
rhyme with "more." Then, standing beside her new acquaintance, she
glared at the remainder of the party, defiantly.

Mrs. Franklin was so much overcome by this performance of her daughter's
that she was obliged to turn away to conceal her laughter.

"What possesses her--the witch!" asked Etheridge, following.

"It is only because she thinks I don't like him. He has given her those
magnificent roses, and so she intends to stand up for him. I never know
whom she will fancy next. Do look at her now!"

"I am afraid you have spoiled her," commented Etheridge, but joining in
the mother's laugh himself, as he caught a glimpse of Ruth starting off,
with high-held head and firm step, to walk with Chase round the entire
promenade.

Owing to this sudden departure, Miss Billy Breeze found herself
unexpectedly alone with Larue. She was so much excited by this state of
things that at first she could hardly speak. How many times, during this
very month, had she arranged with herself exactly what she should say if
such an opportunity should be given her. Her most original ideas, her
most beautiful thoughts (she kept them written out in her diary),
should be summoned to entertain him. The moment had come. And this is
what she actually did say: "Oh!" (giggle), "how pretty it is, isn't it?"
(Giggle.) "Really a most beautiful sight. So interesting to see so many
persons, and all so happy, is it not? I don't know when I've seen
anything lovelier. Yes, indeed--_lovely_. But I hope you won't take
cold, Mr. Larue? Really, now, do be careful. One takes cold so easily;
and then it is sometimes so hard to recover." With despair she heard
herself bringing out these inanities. "I hope you are not in a draught?"
she wandered on. "Colds are _so_ tiresome."

And now, with a loud burst from the band, the procession issued from an
improvised tent at the end of the building. First came Christopher
Columbus at the head; then Romeo and Juliet; the Muses, three and three;
George Washington and his wife, accompanied by Plato and a shepherdess;
other personages followed, and all were mounted on roller-skates, and
were keeping time to the music as well as they could. Then the rear was
closed by a single American Indian in a complete costume of
copper-colored tights, with tomahawk, war-paint, and feathers.

This Indian, as he was alone, was conspicuous; and when he skated into
the brighter light, there came from that part of the audience which was
nearest to him, a sound of glee. The sound, however, was instantly
suppressed. But it rose again as he sailed majestically onward, in long
sweeps to the right and the left, his head erect, his tomahawk
brandished; it increased to mirth which could not be stifled. For nature
having given to this brave slender legs, the costume-maker had supplied
a herculean pair of calves, and these appendages had shifted their
position, and were now adorning the front of each limb at the knee, the
chieftain meanwhile remaining unconscious of the accident, and
continuing to perform his part with stateliness at the end of the
skating line. Ruth, with her hands dropping helplessly by her side,
laughed until her mother came to her. Mrs. Franklin herself was laughing
so that she could hardly speak. But Ruth's laughs sometimes were almost
dangerous; they took such complete possession of her.

"Give her your arm and make her walk up and down," said Mrs. Franklin to
Etheridge.

And Etheridge took the girl under his charge.

Chase, who had grinned silently each time the unsuspecting Moose came
into view (for the procession had passed round the arena three times),
now stepped down to the skating-floor as he approached on his fourth
circuit, and stopped him. There was a short conference, and then, amid
peals of mirth, the Moose looked down, and for the first time discovered
the aspect of his knees. Chase signalled to the band to stop.

"Ladies and gentlemen," he said, "this Indian was not aware of his
attractions." (Applause.)

"But now that he knows what they are, he will take part in the reel
(which he had not intended to do), and he will take part _as he is_! For
the benefit of the Mission, ladies and gentlemen. The hat will be passed
immediately afterwards." Signing to the musicians to go on again, he
conducted the chief to the space which had been left free for the reel,
and then, when the other couples had skated to their places, he led off
with his companion in a sort of quickstep (as he had no skates); and it
is safe to say that North Carolina had never beheld so original a dance
as that which followed (to the inexhaustible "Starry Hours" played as a
jig). Chase and the Indian led and reled. Finally Chase, with his hat
tilted back on his head, and his face extremely solemn, balanced with
his partner, taking so much pains with remarkable fancy steps, which
were immediately imitated by the Indian's embossed legs, that the entire
audience was weak from its continuous mirth. Then removing his hat,
Chase made the rounds, proffering it with cordial invitation to all:
"For the Mission, ladies and gentlemen. For _Big Moose's_ Mission."

Big Moose, on his way home later (in his clergyman's attire this time),
was so happy that he gave thanks. He would have liked, indeed, to chant
a gloria. For the Mission was very near his heart, and from its
beginning it had been so painfully fettered by poverty that, several
times, he had almost despaired. But now that magic hat had brought to
the struggling little fund more than it had ever dreamed of possessing;
for underneath the dimes and the quarters of Asheville had laid a fat
roll, a veritable Golconda roll of greenbacks. But one person could have
given this roll, namely, the one stranger, Horace Chase.



CHAPTER III


Mrs. Franklin was a widow, her husband, Jared Franklin, having died in
1860. Franklin, a handsome, hearty man, who had enjoyed every day of his
life, had owned and edited a well-known newspaper in one of the large
towns on the Hudson River. This paper had brought him in a good income,
which he had spent in his liberal way, year after year. The Franklins
were not extravagant; but they lived generously, and they all had what
they wanted. Their days went on happily, for they were fond of each
other, they had the same sense of humor, and they took life easily, one
and all. But when Jared Franklin died (after a sudden and short
illness), it was found that he at least had taken it too easily; for he
had laid aside nothing, and there were large debts to pay. As he had put
his only son, the younger Jared, into the navy, the newspaper was sold.
But it did not bring in so much as was expected, and the executors were
forced in the end to sell the residence also; when the estate was
finally cleared, the widow found herself left with no home, and, for
income, only the small sum which had come to her from her father, Major
Seymour, of the army. In this condition of things her thoughts turned
towards the South.

For her mother, Mrs. Seymour, was a Southerner of Huguenot descent, one
of the L'Hommedieu family. And Mrs. Seymour's eldest sister, Miss Dora
L'Hommedieu, had bequeathed to the niece (now Mrs. Franklin), who had
been named after her, all she had to leave. This was not much. But the
queer, obstinate old woman did own two houses, one for the summer among
the mountains of North Carolina, one for the winter in Florida. For she
believed that she owed her remarkable health and longevity to a careful
change of climate twice each year; and, accompanied by an old negress as
cross-grained as herself, she had arrived in turn at each of these
residences for so many seasons that it had seemed as if she would
continue to arrive forever. In 1859, however, her migrations ceased.

At that date the Franklins were still enjoying their prosperity, and
this legacy of the two ramshackle L'Hommedieu abodes, far away in the
South, was a good deal laughed at by Jared Franklin, who laughed often.
But when, soon afterwards, the blow came, and his widow found herself
homeless and bereft, these houses seemed to beckon to her. They could
not be sold while the war lasted, and even after that great struggle was
over no purchasers appeared. In the meantime they were her own; they
would be a roof, two roofs, over her head; and the milder climate would
be excellent for her invalid daughter Dolly. In addition, their reduced
income would go much further there than here. As soon after the war,
therefore, as it could be arranged, she had made the change, and now for
seven years she had been living in old Dora's abodes, very thankful to
have them.

Mrs. Franklin herself would have said that they lived in North Carolina;
that their visits to Florida were occasional only. It was true that she
had made every effort to dispose of the Florida place. "For sale--a good
coquina house on the bay," had been a standing advertisement in the St.
Augustine _Press_ year after year. But her hopes had been disappointed,
and as the house still remained hers, she had only once been able to
withstand the temptation of giving Dolly the benefit of the Florida
climate in the winter, little as she could afford the additional
expense; in reality, therefore, they had divided their year much as Miss
L'Hommedieu had divided hers.

The adjective ramshackle, applied at random by Jared Franklin, had
proved to be appropriate enough as regarded the North Carolina house,
which old Dora had named L'Hommedieu, after herself. L'Hommedieu was a
rambling wooden structure surrounded by verandas; it had been built
originally by a low-country planter who came up to these mountains in
the summer. But old Miss L'Hommedieu had let everything run down; she
had, in truth, no money for repairs. When the place, therefore, came
into the hands of her niece, it was much dilapidated. And in her turn
Mrs. Franklin had done very little in the way of renovation, beyond
stopping the leaks of the roof. Her daughter-in-law, Genevieve, was
distressed by the aspect of everything, both without and within. "You
really ought to have the whole house done over, mamma," she had said
more than once. "If you will watch all the details yourself, it need not
cost so very much: see what I have accomplished at the Cottage.

"In time, in time," Mrs. Franklin had answered. But in her heart she was
not fond of Genevieve's abode; she preferred the low-ceilinged rooms of
L'Hommedieu, shabby though they might be. These rooms had, in fact, an
air of great cheerfulness. Anthony Etheridge was accustomed to say that
he had never seen anywhere a better collection of easy-chairs. "There
are at least eight with the long seat which holds a man's body
comfortably as far as the knees, as it ought to held; not ending
skimpily half-way between the knee and the hip in the usual miserable
fashion!" Mrs. Franklin had saved three of these chairs from the wreck
of her northern home, and the others had been made, of less expensive
materials, under her own eye. Both she and her husband had by nature a
strong love of ease, and their children had inherited the same
disposition; it could truthfully be said that as a family they made
themselves comfortable, and kept themselves comfortable, all day long.

They did this at present in the face of obstacles which would have made
some minds forget the very name of comfort. For they were far from their
old home; they were cramped as to money; there was Dolly's suffering to
reckon with; and there was a load of debt. The children, however, were
ignorant in a great measure of this last difficulty; whatever property
there was, belonged to Mrs. Franklin personally, and she kept her cares
to herself. These fresh debts, made after the estate had finally been
cleared, were incurred by the mother's deliberate act--an act of folly
or of beauty, according to the point from which one views it; after her
husband's death she had borrowed money in order to give to her daughter
Dora every possible aid and advantage in her contest with fate--the long
struggle which the girl made to ignore illness, to conquer pain. These
sums had never been repaid, and when the mother thought of them, she was
troubled. But she did not think of them often; when she had succeeded
(with difficulty) in paying the interest each year, she was able to
dismiss the subject from her mind, and return to her old habit of taking
life easily; for neither her father, the army officer, nor her husband,
the liberal-handed editor, had ever taught her with any strictness the
importance of a well-balanced account. Poor Dolly's health had always
been uncertain. But when her childhood was over, her mother's tender
help from minute to minute had kept her up in a determined attempt to
follow the life led by other girls of her age. A mother's love can do
much. But heredity, coming from the past, blind and deaf to all appeal,
does more, and the brave effort failed. The elder Miss Franklin had now
been for years an invalid, and an invalid for whom no improvement could
be expected; sometimes she was able, with the aid of her cane, to take a
walk of a mile's length, or more, and often several weeks would pass in
tolerable comfort; but sooner or later the pain was sure to come on
again, and it was a pain very hard to bear. But although Dolly was an
invalid, she was neither sad nor dull. Both she and her mother were
talkers by nature, and they never seemed to reach the end of their
interest in each other's remarks. Ruth, too, was never tired of
listening and laughing over Dolly's sallies. The whole family, in fact,
had been born gay-hearted, and they were always sufficiently entertained
with their own conversation and their own jokes; on the stormy days,
when they could expect no visitors, they enjoyed life on the whole
rather more than they did when they had guests--though they were fond of
company also.

One evening, a week after the masquerade at the rink, Mrs. Franklin,
leaning back in her easy-chair with her feet on a footstool, was
peacefully reading a novel, when she was surprised by the entrance of
Miss Breeze; she was surprised because Billy had paid her a visit in the
afternoon. "Yes, I thought I would come in again," began Billy, vaguely.
"I thought perhaps--or rather I thought it would be better--"

"Take off your bonnet and jacket, won't you?" interposed Ruth.

"Why, how smart you are, Billy!" remarked Mrs. Franklin, as she noted
her guest's best dress, and the pink ribbon round her throat above the
collar.

"Yes," began Billy again; "I thought--it seemed better--"

"Dolly," interrupted Ruth, "get out planchette, and make it write Billy
a love letter!" And she gave her sister a glance which said: "Head her
off! Or she will let it all out."

Dolly comprehended. She motioned Miss Breeze solemnly to a chair near
her table, and taking the planchette from its box, she arranged the
paper under it.

"I don't like it! I don't like it!" protested Mrs. Franklin.

"His Grand, if you don't like it, beat it," said Ruth, jumping up. "Give
it a question too hard to answer. Go to the dining-room and do
something--anything you like. Then planchette shall tell us what it
is--aha!"

"A good idea," said Mrs. Franklin, significantly. And with her light
step she left the room. The mother was as active as a girl; no one was
ever deterred, therefore, from asking her to rise, or to move about, by
any idea of age. She was tall, with aquiline features, bright dark eyes,
and thick silvery hair. As she was thin, her face showed the lines and
fine wrinkles which at middle age offset a slender waist. But, when she
was animated, these lines disappeared, for at such moments her color
rose, the same beautiful color which Ruth had inherited.

Dolly sat with her hands on the little heart-shaped board, pondering
what she should say; for her familiar spirit was simply her own quick
invention. But while it would have been easy to mystify Miss Billy, it
was not easy to imagine what her mother, a distinctly hostile element,
might do for the especial purpose of perplexing the medium; for although
Mrs. Franklin knew perfectly well that her daughter invented all of
planchette's replies, she remained nevertheless strongly opposed to even
this pretended occultism. Dolly therefore pondered. But, as she did so,
she was saying to herself that it was useless to ponder, and that she
might as well select something at random, when suddenly there sprang
into her mind a word, a word apropos of nothing at all, and, obeying an
impulse, she wrote it; that is, planchette wrote it under the unseen
propelling power of her long fingers. Then Ruth pushed the board aside,
and they all read the word; it was "grinning."

"Grinning?" repeated Ruth. "How absurd! Imagine mother grinning!"

She opened the door, and called, "What did you do, His Grand?"

"Wishing to expose that very skilful pretender, Miss Dora Franklin, I
did the most unlikely thing I could think of," answered Mrs. Franklin's
voice. "I went to the mirror, and standing in front of it, I grinned at
my own image; grinned like a Cheshire cat."

Miss Billy looked at Dolly with frightened eyes. Dolly herself was
startled; she crumpled the paper and threw it hastily into the
waste-basket.

Mrs. Franklin, returning through the hall, was met by Anthony Etheridge,
who had entered without ringing, merely giving a preliminary tap on the
outer door with his walking-stick. Dolly began to talk as soon as they
came in, selecting a subject which had nothing to do with planchette.
For the unconscious knowledge which, of late years, she seemed to
possess, regarding the thoughts in her mother's mind, troubled them
both.

"Commodore, I have something to tell you. It is for you especially, for
I have long known your secret attachment! From my window, I can see that
field behind the Mackintosh house. Imagine my beholding Maud Muriel
opening the gate this afternoon, crossing to the big bush in the centre,
seating herself behind it, taking a long clay pipe from her pocket,
filling it, lighting it, and smoking it!"

"No!" exclaimed Etheridge, breaking into a resounding laugh. "Could she
make it go?"

"Not very well, I think; I took my opera-glass and watched her. Her
face, as she puffed away, was exactly as solemn as it is when she models
her deadly busts."

"Ho, ho, ho!" roared Etheridge again. "Ladies, excuse me. I have always
thought that girl might be a genius if she could only get drunk!
Perhaps the pipe is a beginning."

While he was saying this, Horace Chase was ushered in. A moment later
there came another ring, and the Rev. Mr. Hill appeared, followed by
Achilles Larue.

"Why, I have a party!" said Mrs. Franklin, smiling, as she welcomed the
last comer.

"Yes, His Grand, it _is_ a party," said Ruth. "Now you may know, since
they are here, and you cannot stop it. I invited them all myself, late
this afternoon; and it is a molasses-candy-pulling; Dolly and I have
arranged it. We did not tell you beforehand, because we knew you would
say it was sticky."

"Sticky it is," replied Mrs. Franklin.

"Vilely sticky!" added Etheridge, emphatically.

"And then we knew, also, that you would say that you could not get up a
supper in so short a time," Ruth went on. "But Zoe has had her sister to
help her, and ever so many nice things are all ready; chicken salad, for
instance; and--listen, His Grand--a long row of macaroon custards, each
cup with _three_ macaroons dissolved in madeira!" And then she intoned
the family chant, Dolly joining in from her easy-chair:

    "Mother Franklin thinks,
     That General Jackson,
     Jared the Sixth,
     Macaroon custards,
     And Bishop Carew,
     Are per-_fec_-tion!"

"What does she mean by that?" said Chase to Miss Billy.

"Oh, it is only one of their jokes; they have so many! Dear Mrs.
Franklin was brought up by her father to admire General Jackson, and
Dolly and Ruth pretend that she thinks he is still at the White House.
And Jared the Sixth means her son, you know. And they say she is fond of
macaroon custards; that is, _fondish_," added Miss Billy, getting in the
"ish" with inward satisfaction. "And she is much attached to Bishop
Carew. But, for that matter, so are we all."

"A Roman Catholic?" inquired Chase.

"He is our bishop--the Episcopal Bishop of North Carolina," answered
Miss Breeze, surprised.

"Oh! I didn't know. I'm a Baptist myself. Or at least my parents were,"
explained Chase.

The kitchen of L'Hommedieu was large and low, with the beams showing
overhead; it had a huge fireplace with an iron crane. This evening a pot
dangled from the crane; it held the boiling molasses, and Zoe, brilliant
in a new scarlet turban in honor of the occasion, was stirring the syrup
with a long-handled spoon. One of the easy-chairs had been brought from
the parlor for Dolly. Malachi Hill seated himself beside her; he seemed
uneasy; he kept his hat in his hand. "I did not know that Mr. Chase was
to be here, Miss Dolly, or I would not have come," he said to his
companion, in an undertone. "I can't think what to make of myself--I'm
becoming a regular cormorant! Strange to say, instead of being satisfied
with all he has given to the Mission, I want more. I keep thinking of
all the good he might do in these mountains if he only knew the facts,
and I have fairly to hold myself in when he is present, to keep from
flattering him and getting further help. Yes, it's as bad as that!
Clergymen, you know, are always accused of paying court to rich men, or
rather to liberal men. For the first time in my life I understand the
danger! It's a dreadful temptation--it is indeed. I really think, Miss
Dolly, that I had better go."

"No, you needn't; I'll see to you," answered Dolly. "If I notice you
edging up too near him, I'll give a loud ahem. Stay and amuse yourself;
you know you like it."

And Malachi Hill did like it. In his mission-work he was tirelessly
energetic, self-sacrificing, devoted; on the other hand, he was as fond
of merrymaking as a boy. He pulled the candy with glee, but also with
eager industry, covering platter after platter with his braided sticks.
His only rival in diligence was Chase, who also showed great energy.
Dolly pulled; Mrs. Franklin pulled; even Etheridge helped. Ruth did not
accomplish much, for she stopped too often; but when she did work she
drew out the fragrant strands to a greater length than any one else
attempted, and she made wheels of it, and silhouettes of all the
company, including Mr. Trone. Miss Billy had begun with much interest;
then, seeing that Larue had done nothing beyond arranging the platters
and plates in mathematical order on the table, she stopped, slipped out,
and went up-stairs to wash her hands. When she returned, fortune favored
her; the only vacant seat was one near him, and, after a short
hesitation, she took it. Larue did not speak; he was looking at Ruth,
who was now pulling candy with Horace Chase, drawing out the golden rope
to a yard's length, and throwing the end back to him gayly.

Finally, when not even the painstaking young missionary could scrape
another drop from the exhausted pot, Dolly, taking her violin, played a
waltz. The uncarpeted floor was tempting, and after all the sticky hands
had been washed, the dancing began--Ruth with Chase, Etheridge with Miss
Billy; then Etheridge with Mrs. Franklin, while Miss Billy returned
quickly to her precious chair.

"But these dances do not compare with the old ones," said Mrs. Franklin,
when they had paused to let Dolly rest. "There was the mazurka; and the
varsovienne--how pretty that was! La-la-la, la, _la_!" And humming the
tune, she took a step or two lightly. Etheridge, who knew the
varsovienne, joined her.

"Go on," said Ruth. "I'll whistle it for you." And sitting on the edge
of a table she whistled the tune, while the two dancers circled round
the kitchen, looking extremely well together.

"Whistling girls, you know," said Chase, warningly.

He had joined Ruth, and was watching her as she performed her part. She
kept on, undisturbed by his jests, bending her head a little to the
right and to the left in time with the music; her whistling was as clear
as a flute.

"And then there was the heel-and-toe polka. Surely you remember that,
commodore," pursued Mrs. Franklin, with inward malice.

For the heel-and-toe was a very ancient memory. It was considered old
when she herself had seen it as a child.

"Never heard of it in my life," answered Etheridge. "Hum--ha."

"Oh, I know the heel-and-toe," cried Ruth. "I learned it from mother
ages ago, just for fun. Are you rested, Dolly? Play it, please, and
mother and I will show them."

Dolly began, and then Mrs. Franklin and Ruth, tall, slender mother, and
tall, slender daughter, each with one arm round the other's waist, and
the remaining arm held curved above the head, danced down the long room
together, taking the steps of the queer Polish dance with charming grace
and precision.

"Oh, _dear_ Mrs. Franklin, so young and cheerful! So pleasant to see
her, is it not? So lovely! Don't you think so? And dancing is so
interesting in so many ways! Though, of course, there are other
amusements equally to be desired," murmured Miss Billy, incoherently, to
Larue.

"Now we will have a quadrille, and I will improvise the figures," said
Ruth. "Mother and the commodore; Miss Billy and Mr. Larue; Mr. Chase
with me; and we will take turns in making the fourth couple."

"Unfortunately, I don't dance," observed Larue.

"Spoil-sport!" said Ruth, annihilatingly.

"You got it that time," remarked Chase, condolingly, to the other man.

"Miss Ruth, I can take the senator's place, if you like," said Malachi
Hill, springing up, good-naturedly.

Since the termination of the candy-pulling, he had been sitting
contentedly beside Dolly, watching her play, and regaling himself
meanwhile with a stick of the fresh compound, its end carefully
enveloped in a holder of paper.

"Excellent," said Ruth. "Please take Miss Billy, then."

Poor Miss Billy, obliged to dance with a misguided clergyman! This time
there was not the excuse of the Mission; it was a real dance. He already
smoked; the next step certainly would be cards and horse-racing! While
she was taking her place, Rinda ushered in a new guest.

"Maud Muriel--how lucky!" exclaimed Ruth. "You are the very person we
need, for we are trying to get up a quadrille, and have not enough
persons. I know you like to dance?"

"Yes, I like it very much--for hygienic reasons principally," responded
the new-comer.

"Please take my place, then," Ruth went on. "This is Mr. Chase, Miss
Maud Mackintosh. Now we will see if our generic geologist and
sensational senator will refuse to dance with _me_." And sinking
suddenly on her knees before Larue, Ruth extended her hands in petition.

"What is all that she called him, Miss Maud?" inquired Chase, laughing.

"Miss Mackintosh," said his partner, correctively. "They are only
alliterative adjectives, Mr. Chase, rather indiscriminately applied.
Ruth is apt to be indiscriminate."

Larue had risen, and Ruth triumphantly led him to his place. He knew
that she was laughing at him; in fact, as he went through the figures
calmly, his partner mimicked him to his face. But he was indifferent
alike to her laughter and her mimicry; what he was noticing was her
beauty. If he had been speaking of her, he would have called her
"prettyish"; but as he was only thinking, he allowed himself to note the
charm of her eyes for the moment, the color in her cheeks and lips. For
he was sure that it was only for the moment. "The coloring is
evanescent," was his mental criticism. "Her beauty will not last. For
she is handsome only when she is happy, and happiness for her means
doing exactly as she pleases, and having her own way unchecked. No woman
can do that forever. By the time she is thirty she may be absolutely
plain."

Maud Muriel had laid aside her hat and jacket. She possessed a wealth of
beautiful red hair, whose thick mass was combed so tightly back from her
forehead that it made her wink; her much-exposed countenance was not at
all handsome, though her hazel eyes were large, calm, and clear. She was
a spinster of thirty-six--tall and thin, with large bones. And from her
hair to her heels she was abnormally, extraordinarily straight. She
danced with much vigor, scrutinizing Chase, and talking to him in the
intervals between the figures. These intervals, however, were short, for
Ruth improvised with rapidity. Finally she kept them all flying round in
a circle so long that Mrs. Franklin, breathless, signalled that she must
pause.

"Now we are all hungry," said Ruth. "Zoe, see to the coffee. And, Rinda,
you may make ready here. We won't go to the dining-room, His Grand; it's
much more fun in the kitchen."

Various inviting dishes were soon arrayed upon a table. And then Ruth,
to pass away the time until the coffee should be ready, began to sing.
All the Franklins sang; Miss Billy had a sweet soprano, Maud Muriel a
resonant contralto, and Malachi Hill a tenor of power; Etheridge, when
he chose, could add bass notes.

    "Hark, the merry merry Christ-Church bells,
             One, two, three, four, five, six;
     They sound so strong, so wondrous sweet,
     And they troll so merrily, merrily."

Horace Chase took no part in the catch song; he sat looking at the
others. It was the Franklin family who held his attention--the mother
singing with light-hearted animation; Dolly playing her part on her
violin, and singing it also; and Ruth, who, with her hands clasped
behind her head, was carolling like a bird. To Chase's mind it seemed
odd that a woman so old as Mrs. Franklin, a woman with silver hair and
grown-up children, should like to dance and sing. Dolly was certainly a
very "live" invalid! And Ruth--well, Ruth was enchanting. Horace Chase's
nature was always touched by beauty; he was open to its influences, it
had been so from boyhood. What he admired was not regularity of feature,
but simply the seductive sweetness of womanhood. And, young as she was,
Ruth Franklin's face was full of this charm. He looked at her again as
she sat singing the chorus:

    "Hark, the first and second bell,
     Ring every day at four and ten"--

Then his gaze wandered round the kitchen. From part of the wall the
plastering was gone; it had fallen, and had never been replaced. The
housewives whom he had hitherto known, so he said to himself, would have
preferred to have their walls repaired, and spend less, if necessary,
upon dinners. Suppers, too! (Here he noted the rich array on the kitchen
table.)

This array was completed presently by the arrival of the coffee, which
filled the room with its fragrant aroma, and the supper was consumed
amid much merriment. When the clock struck twelve, Maud Muriel rose. "I
must be going," she said. "Wilhelmina, I came for you; that is what
brought me. When I learned at the hotel that you were here, I followed
for the purpose of seeing you home."

"Allow me the pleasure of accompanying you both," said Chase.

"That is not necessary; I always see to Wilhelmina," answered Miss
Mackintosh, as she put on her hat.

"Yes; she is so kind," murmured Miss Billy. But Miss Billy in her heart
believed that in some way or other Achilles Larue would yet be her
escort (though he never had been that, or anything else, in all the
years of their acquaintance). He was still in the house, and so was she;
something might happen!

What happened was that Larue took leave of Mrs. Franklin, and went off
alone.

Then Billy said to herself: "On the whole, I'm glad he didn't suggest
it. For it is only five minutes' walk to the hotel, and if he had gone
with me it would have counted as a call, and then he needn't have done
anything more for a long time. So I'm glad he did not come. Very."

"Maud Muriel," demanded Dolly, "why select a _clay_ pipe?"

"Oh, did you see me?" inquired Miss Mackintosh, composedly. "I use a
clay pipe, Dolly, because it is cleaner; I can always have a new one.
Smoking is said to insure the night's rest, and so I thought it best to
learn it, as my brother's children are singularly active at night. I
have been practising for three weeks, and I generally go to the woods,
where no one can see me. But to-day I did not have time."

Chase broke into a laugh. Etheridge had emitted another ho, ho, ho! Then
he gave Maud a jovial tap. "My dear young lady, don't go to the woods.
Let _me_ come, with another clay pipe, and be your protector."

"I have never needed a protector in my life," replied Miss Mackintosh;
"I don't know what that feeling is, commodore. I secrete myself simply
because people might not understand my motives; they might think that I
was secretly given to dissolute courses. Are you ready, Wilhelmina?"

As the two ladies opened the outer door and stepped forth into the
darkness, Chase, not deterred by the rebuff he had received from the
stalwart virgin, passed her, and offered his arm to the gentler Miss
Billy. And then Malachi Hill, feeling that he must, advanced to offer
himself as escort for the remaining lady.

"Poor manikin! Do you think I need _you_?" inquired the sculptress
sarcastically, under her breath.

The young clergyman disappeared. He did not actually run. But he was
round the corner in an astonishingly short space of time.

Etheridge was the last to take leave. "Well, you made a very merry
party for your bubbling friend," he said to Mrs. Franklin.

"It wasn't for _him_," she answered.

"He is not mother's bubbling friend, and he is not Dolly's, either,"
said Ruth; "he is mine alone. Mother and Dolly do not in the least
appreciate him."

"Is he worth much appreciation?" inquired Etheridge, noting her beauty
as Larue had noted it. "How striking she grows!" he thought. And,
forgetting for the moment what they were talking about, he looked at her
as Chase had looked.

Meanwhile Ruth was answering, girlishly: "Much appreciation? _All_,
commodore--all. Mr. Chase is _splendid_!"



CHAPTER IV


Nothing could exceed the charm of the early summer, that year, in this
high valley. The amphitheatre of mountains had taken on fresher robes of
green, the air was like champagne; it would have been difficult to say
which river danced more gayly along its course, the foam-flecked French
Broad, its clear water open to the sunshine, or the little Swannanoa,
frolicking through the forest in the shade.

One morning, a few days after the candy-pulling at L'Hommedieu, even
Maud Muriel was stirred to admiration as she threw open the blinds of
her bedroom at her usual early hour. "No humidity. And great
rarefaction," she said to herself, as she tried the atmosphere with a
tentative snort. Maud Muriel lived with her brother, Thomas Mackintosh;
that is, she had a room under his roof and a seat at his table. But she
did not spend much time at home, rather to the relief of Mrs. Thomas
Mackintosh, an easy-going Southern woman, with several young children,
including an obstreperous pair of twins. Maud Muriel, dismissing the
landscape, took a conscientious sponge-bath, and went down to breakfast.
After breakfast, on her way to her studio, she stopped for a moment to
see Miss Billy. "At any rate, I _walk_ well," she had often thought
with pride. And to-day, as she approached the hotel, she was so straight
that her shoulders tipped backward.

Miss Billy was staying at the inn. This hotel bore the name "The Old
North State," the loving title given by native North-Carolinians to
their commonwealth--a commonwealth which, in its small long-settled
towns, its old farms, and in the names of its people, shows less change
in a hundred years than any other portion of the Union. The Old North,
as it was called, was a wooden structure painted white, with outside
blinds of green; in front of it extended a row of magnificent
maple-trees. Miss Billy had a small sitting-room on the second floor;
Maud Muriel, paying no attention to the negro servants, went up the
uncarpeted stairway to her friend's apartment, and, as she opened the
door, she caught sight of this friend carefully rolling a waste bit of
string into a small ball.

"Too late--I saw you," she said. (For Miss Billy had nervously tried to
hide the ball.) "I know you have at least fifty more little wads of the
same sort somewhere, arranged in graded rows! A new ball of string of
the largest size--enough to last a year--costs a dime, Wilhelmina. You
must have a singularly defective sense of proportion to be willing to
give many minutes (for I have even seen you taking out knots!) to a
substance whose value really amounts to about the thousandth part of a
cent! I have stopped on my way to the barn to tell you two things,
Wilhelmina. One is that I do _not_ like your 'Mountain Walk.'" Here she
took a roll of delicately written manuscript, tied with blue ribbons,
from her pocket, and placed it on the table. "It is supposed to be about
trees, isn't it? But you do not describe a single one with the least
accuracy; all you do is to impute to them various allegorical
sentiments, which no tree--a purely vegetable production--_ever_ had."

"It was only a beginning--leading up to a study of the pre-Adamite
trees, which I hope to make, later," Miss Billy answered. "Ruskin, you
know--"

"You need not quote Ruskin to me--a man who criticises sculpture without
any practical knowledge whatever of human anatomy; a man who
subordinates correct drawing in a picture to the virtuous state of mind
of the artist! If Ruskin's theory is true, very good persons who visit
the poor and go to church, are, if they dabble in water-colors, or
pen-and-ink sketches, the greatest of artists, because their piety is
sincere. And _vice versa_. The history of art shows that, doesn't it?"
commented Maud, ironically. "I am sorry to see that you sat up so late
last night, Wilhelmina."

"Why, how do you know?" said Miss Billy, guiltily conscious of midnight
reading.

"By the deep line between your eyebrows. You must see to that, or you
will be misjudged by scientific minds. For marked, lined, or wrinkled
foreheads indicate criminal tendencies; the statistics of prisons prove
it. To-night put on two pieces of strong sticking-plaster at the
temples, to draw the skin back. The other thing I had to tell you is
that the result of my inquiries of a friend at the North who keeps in
touch with the latest investigations of Liébeault and the Germans, is,
that there may, after all, be something in the subject you mentioned to
me, namely, the possibility of influencing a person, not present, by
means of an effort of will. So we will try it now--for five minutes. Fix
your eyes steadily upon that figure of the carpet, Wilhelmina"--she
indicated a figure with her parasol--"and I will do the same. As subject
we will take my sister-in-law. We will will her to whip the twins. Are
you ready?" She took out her watch. "Begin, then."

Miss Billy, though secretly disappointed in the choice of subject, tried
hard to fix her mind upon the proposed castigation. But in spite of her
efforts her thoughts would stray to the carpet itself, to the pattern of
the figure, and its reds and greens.

"Time's up," announced Maud, replacing her watch in the strong
watch-pocket on the outside of her skirt; "I'll tell you whether the
whipping comes off. Do you think it is decent, Wilhelmina, to be
dressing and undressing yourself whenever you wish to know what time it
is?" (For Miss Billy, who tried to follow the fashions to some extent,
was putting her own watch back in her bodice, which she had unbuttoned
for the purpose.) "Woman will never be the equal of man until she has
grasped the conception that the position of her pockets should be
unchangeable," Maud went on.

"I think I will go with you as far as L'Hommedieu," suggested Billy,
ignoring the subject of the watch-pocket (an old one). "I have some
books to take, so I may as well." She put on her hat, and piled eight
dilapidated paper-covered volumes on her arm.

"Are you still collecting vapid literature for that feather-headed
woman?" inquired Maud. For Billy went all over Asheville, to every house
she knew, and probed in old closets and bookcases in search of novels
for Mrs. Franklin. For years she had performed this office. When Mrs.
Franklin had finished reading one set of volumes, Billy carried them
back to their owners, and then roamed and foraged for more.

"If you do go as far as L'Hommedieu, you must stop there definitely; you
must not go on to the barn," Maud Muriel announced, as they went down
the stairs. "For if you do, you will stay. And then I shall be going
back with you, to see to you. And then you will be coming part way back
with me, to talk. And thus we shall be going home with each other all
the rest of the day!" She passed out and crossed the street, doing it in
the face of the leaders of a team of six horses attached to one of the
huge mountain wagons, which are shaped like boats tilted up behind; for
two files of these wagons, heavily loaded, were coming slowly up the
road. Miss Billy started to cross also, but after three or four steps
she turned and hurried back to the curb-stone. Then suddenly she started
a second time, running first in one direction, then in another, and
finally and unexpectedly in a third, so that the drivers of the wagons
nearest to her, and even the very horses themselves, were filled with
perplexity as to the course which she wished to pursue. Miss Billy,
meanwhile, finding herself hemmed in, began to shriek wildly. The
drivers in front stretched their necks round the corners of the canvas
hoods erected, like gigantic Shaker bonnets, over their high-piled
loads, in order to see what was the matter. And the drivers who were
behind stood up and peered forward. But they could make out nothing,
and, as Miss Billy continued her yells, the whole procession, and with
it the entire traffic of the main street, came slowly to a pause. The
pause was not long. The energetic Maud Muriel, jerking up the heads of
two of the leaders, made a dive, caught hold of her frightened friend,
and drew her out by main strength. The horses whom she had thus
attacked, shook themselves. "Hep!" called their driver. "Hep!" called
the other drivers, in various keys. And then, one by one, with a jerk
and a creak, the great wains started on again.

When the friends reached L'Hommedieu, Billy was still trembling.

"I'd better take them in for you," said Maud Muriel, referring to the
load of books which Billy was carrying for her companion. They found
Dolly in the parlor, winding silk for her next pair of stockings. "Here
are some volumes which Wilhelmina is bringing to Mrs. Franklin," said
Maud Muriel, depositing the pile on a table.

"More novels?" said Dolly. "I'm so glad. Thank you, Miss Billy. For
mother really has nothing for to-day. The one she had yesterday was very
dull; she said she was 'worrying' through it. It was a story about
female suffrage--as though any one could care for that!"

"Care for it or not, it is sure to come," declared Miss Mackintosh.

"Yes, in A.D. 5000."

"Sooner, much sooner. _We_ may not see it," pursued Maud Muriel, putting
up her finger impressively. "But, mark my words, our _children_ will."

Miss Billy listened to this statement with the deepest interest.

"Well, Maud Muriel--Miss Billy, yourself, and myself as _parents_--that
certainly is a new idea!" Dolly replied.

Ruth came in. At the same moment Maud Muriel turned to go; and,
unconsciously, Billy made a motion as if about to follow.

"Wilhelmina, you are to _stay_," said Maud, sternly, as she departed,
straighter than ever.

"Yes, Miss Billy, please stay," said Ruth. "I want you to go with me to
see Genevieve."

"Genevieve?" repeated Dolly, surprised.

"Yes. She has bought another new dress for me, and this time she is
going to fit it herself, she says, so that there may be no more
bagging," answered Ruth, laughing. "I know she intends to _squeeze_ me
up. And so I want Miss Billy to come and say it's dangerous!"

Ruth was naturally what is called short-waisted; this gave her the long
step which in a tall, slender woman is so enchantingly graceful.
Genevieve did not appreciate grace of this sort. In her opinion Ruth's
waist was too large. If she had been told that it was the waist of Greek
sculpture, the statement would not have altered her criticism; she had
no admiration for Greek sculpture; the few life-sized casts from antique
statues which she had seen had appeared to her highly unpleasant
objects. Her ideas of feminine shape were derived, in fact, from the
season's fashion plates. Her own costumes were always of one unbroken
tint, the same from head to foot. To men's eyes, therefore, her attire
had an air of great simplicity. Women perceived at once that this
unvarying effect was not obtained without much thought, and Genevieve
herself would have been the last to disclaim such attention. For she
believed that it was each woman's duty to dress as becomingly as was
possible, because it increased her attraction; and the greater her
attraction, the greater her influence. If she had been asked, "influence
for what?" she would have replied unhesitatingly, "influence for good!"
Her view of dress, therefore, being a serious one, she was disturbed by
the entire indifference of her husband's family to the subject, both
generally and in detail. She had the most sincere desire to assist them,
to improve them; most of all she longed to improve Ruth (she had given
up Dolly), and more than once she had denied herself something, and
taken the money it would have cost, to buy a new costume for the
heedless girl, who generally ruined the gifts (in her sister-in-law's
opinion) by careless directions, or no directions at all, to the
Asheville dressmaker.

Ruth bore Miss Billy away. But as they crossed the garden towards the
cottage she said: "I may as well tell you--there will be no fitting. For
Mr. Chase is there; I have just caught a glimpse of him from the upper
window."

"Then why go now?" inquired Miss Billy, who at heart was much afraid of
Genevieve.

"To see Mr. Chase, of course. I wish to thank him for my philopena,
which came late last night. Mother and Dolly are not pleased. But _I_
am, ever so much." She took a morocco case from her pocket, and, opening
it, disclosed a ring of very delicate workmanship, the gold circlet
hardly more than a thread, and enclosing a diamond, not large, but very
pure and bright.

"Oh-ooh!" said Miss Billy, with deep admiration.

"Yes; isn't it lovely? Mother and Dolly say that it is too much. But I
have never seen anything in the world yet which I thought too much! I
should like to have ever so many rings, each set with one gem only, but
that gem perfect. And I should like to have twenty or thirty bracelets,
all of odd patterns, to wear on my arms above the elbow. And I should
like close rows of jewels to wear round my throat. And clasps of jewels
for the belt; and shoe-buckles too. I have never had an ornament, except
one dreadful silver thing. Let me see; it's on now!" And feeling under
her sleeve, she drew off a thin silver circlet, and threw it as far as
she could across the grass.

"Oh, your pretty bracelet!" exclaimed Miss Billy.

"Pretty? Horrid!"

Horace Chase had called at the Cottage in answer to a note from
Genevieve, offering to take him to the Colored Home. "As you have shown
so much kindly interest in the Mission, I feel sure that this second
good work of ours will also please you," she wrote.

"I think I won't go to-day, Gen, if it's all the same to you," said
Chase, when he entered. "For my horses have come and I ought not to
delay any longer about making some arrangements for them."

"Any other time will do for the Home," answered Genevieve, graciously.
"But can't you stay for a little while, Horace? Let me show you my
house."

Chase had already seen her parlor, with its velvet carpet, its set of
furniture covered with green, its pictures arranged according to the
size of the frames, with the largest below on a line with the eye, and
the others above in pyramidical gradations, so that the smallest were
near the cornice. At that distance the subjects of the smaller pictures
were more or less indistinguishable; but at least the arrangement of the
frames was full of symmetry. In the second story, at the end of the
house, was "Jay's smoking-room." "Jay likes to smoke; it is a habit he
acquired in the navy; I have therefore fitted up this room on purpose,"
said Jay's wife.

It was a small chamber, with a sloping ceiling, a single window
overlooking the kitchen roof, oil-cloth on the floor, one table, and one
chair.

"Do put in _two_ chairs," suggested Chase, jocularly. For though he
thought the husband of Genevieve a fortunate man, he could not say that
his smoking-room was a cheerful place.

"Oh, _I_ never sit here," answered Genevieve. "Now come down and take a
peep at my kitchen, Horace. I have been kneading the bread; there it is
on the table. I prefer to knead it myself, though I hope that in time
Susannah will be able to do it according to my method" (with a glance
towards the negro servant, who returned no answering smile). "And this
is my garden. I can never tell you how glad I am that we have at last a
fixed home of our own, Horrie. No more wandering about! Jay is able to
spend a large part of his summers here, and, later, when he has made a
little more money, he will come for the whole summer--four months. And I
go to Raleigh to be with him in the winter; I am hoping that we can
have a winter home there too, very soon. We are _so_ much more
comfortable in every way than we used to be. And looking at it from
another point of view, it is inexpressibly better for Jay himself to be
out of the navy. It always disturbed me--such a limited life!"

Jared Franklin, when an ensign, had met Genevieve Gray, fallen in love
with her, and married her, in the short space of three months. He had
remained in the navy throughout the war, and for two years longer; then,
yielding at last to his wife's urgent entreaties, he had resigned. After
his resignation he had been for a time a clerk in Atlanta. Now he was in
business for himself in a small way at Raleigh; it was upon his
establishment there that Genevieve had started this summer home in
Asheville. "Our prospects are much brighter," she went on, cheerfully;
"for at present we have a future. No one has a future in the navy; no
one can make money there. But now there is no reason why Jay should not
succeed, as other men have succeeded; that is what I always tell him.
And I am not thinking only of ourselves, Horrie, as I say that; when Jay
is a rich man, my principal pleasure in it will be the power which we
shall have to give more in charity, to do more in all good works." And
in saying this, Genevieve Franklin was entirely sincere.

"You must keep me posted about the railroad," she went on, as she led
the way across the garden.

"Oh yes; if we decide to take hold of it, you shall be admitted into
the ring," answered Chase--"the inside track."

"I could buy land here beforehand--quietly, you know?"

"You've got a capital head for business, haven't you, Gen! Better than
any one has at your mother-in-law's, I reckon?"

"They are not clever in that way; I have always regretted it. But they
are very amiable."

"Not that Dolly!"

"Oh, Dolly? My principal feeling for poor Dolly, of course, is simply
pity. This is my little dairy, Horrie; come in. I have been churning
butter this morning."

Ruth and Miss Billy, finding no one in the house, had followed to the
dairy; and they entered in time to hear this last phrase.

"She does churning and everything else, Mr. Chase, at three o'clock in
the morning," said Ruth, with great seriousness.

"Not quite so early," Genevieve corrected.

The point was not taken up. The younger Mrs. Franklin, a fresh, strong,
equable creature, who woke at dawn as a child wakes, liked an early
breakfast as a child likes it. She found it difficult, therefore, to
understand her mother-in-law's hour of nine, or half-past nine. "But you
lose so much time, mamma," she had remarked during the first weeks of
her own residence at Asheville.

"Yes," Dolly answered. (It was always Dolly who answered Genevieve;
Dolly delighted in it.) "We _do_ lose it at that end of the morning--the
raw end, Genevieve. But when we are once up, we remain up, available,
fully awake, get-at-able, until midnight; we do not go off and seclude
ourselves impregnably for two hours or so in the middle of the day." For
Dolly was aware that it was her sister-in-law's habit to retire to her
room immediately after her one o'clock dinner, and take a nap; often a
long one.

"Do you wish to see something pretty, Genevieve?" said Ruth, giving her
the morocco case. "Thank you, Mr. Chase; I have wanted a ring so long;
you can't think how long!"

"Have you?" said Chase, smiling.

"Yes. And this is such a beauty."

"Well, to me it seemed rather small. I wrote to a friend of mine to get
it; it was my partner, in fact, Mr. Willoughby. I told him that it was
for a young lady. That's his taste, I suppose."

"The taste is perfect," said Miss Billy. For poor Miss Billy, browbeaten
though she was by almost everybody, possessed a very delicate and true
perception in all such matters.

"I have been _perfectly_ happy ever since it came," Ruth declared, as
she took the ring, slipped it on her finger, and looked at the effect.

"You make me proud, Miss Ruth."

"Don't you want to be a little prouder?" and she came up to him
coaxingly. "I am sure Genevieve has been asking you to go with her to
the Colored Home?" This quick guess made Chase laugh. "For it is the
weekly reception day, and all her old women have on their clean turbans.
The Colored Home is excellent, of course, but it won't fly away;
there'll be more clean turbans next week. Meanwhile, _I_ have something
very pressing. I have long wanted Miss Mackintosh to make a bust of
Petie Trone, Esq. And she won't, because she thinks it is frivolous. But
if _you_ will go with me, Mr. Chase, and speak of it as a fine thing to
do, she will be impressed, I know; for she has a sort of concealed
liking for you." Chase made a grimace. "I don't mean anything fiery,"
Ruth went on; "it's only a reasonable scientific interest. She is at the
barn now: won't you come? For Petie Trone, Esq., is not a young dog any
longer. He is more than eight years old," concluded the girl,
mournfully.

Genevieve, who had been greatly struck by the ring, glanced at Chase
with inward despair, as her sister-in-law made this ineffective
conclusion. They had left the dairy, and were standing in the garden,
and her despair renewed itself as, in the brighter light, she noted
Ruth's faded dress, and the battered garden hat, whose half-detached
feather had been temporarily secured with a large white pin.

But Chase was not looking at the hat. "Of course I'll go," he answered.
"We'll have the little scamp in bronze, if you like. Don't worry about
his age, Miss Ruth; he is so tremendously lively that he will see us all
out yet."

"Come, then," said Ruth, exultingly. She linked her arm in Miss Billy's.
"You must go, too, Miss Billy, so that you can tell mother that I did
not tease Mr. Chase _too_ hard."

Maud Muriel's studio was in an unused hay-barn. Here, ranged on rough
shelves, were her "works," as Miss Billy called them--many studies of
arms, and hands, and a dozen finished portrait-busts in clay. The
subjects of the busts appeared to have been selected, one and all, for
their strictly commonplace aspect; they had not even the distinction of
ugliness. There were three old men with ordinary features, and no marked
expression of any kind; there were six middle-aged women, each with the
type of face which one forgets the moment after seeing it; and there
were three uncompromisingly uninteresting little boys. The modelling was
conscientious, and it was evident in each case that the likeness was
faithful.

"But Petie Trone, Esq., is a _pretty_ dog," objected the sculptress,
when Ruth had made her request, backed up by Chase, who described the
"dogs and animals of all sorts" which he had seen in bronze and marble
in the galleries abroad. No one laughed, as the formal title came out
from Maud's lips, Asheville had long ago accepted the name; Petie Trone,
Esq., was as well known as Mount Pisgah.

"Don't you like pretty things?" Chase asked, gazing at the busts, and
then at the studies of arms and hands--scraggy arms with sharp elbows
and thin fingers, withered old arms with clawlike phalanges, lean arms
of growing boys with hands like paws, hard-worked arms with distorted
muscles--every and any human arm and hand save a beautiful one.

"Prettiness is the exception, not the rule," replied Maud, with
decision. "I prefer to model the usual, the average; for in that
direction, and in that only, lies truth."

"Yes; and I suppose that if I should make a usual cur of Petie Trone,
Esq., cover him with average mud, and beat him so that he would cower
and slink in his poor little tail, _then_ you would do him?" said Ruth,
indignantly.

"See here, Miss Mackintosh, your principles needn't be upset by one
small dog. Come, do him; not his bust, but the whole of him. A
life-sized statue," added Chase, laughing; "he must be about eleven
inches long! Do him for me," he went on, boldly, looking at her with
secret amusement; for he had never seen such an oaken bearing as that of
this Asheville spinster.

Maud Muriel did not relax the tension of her muscles; in fact, she could
not. The condition called "clinched," which with most persons is
occasional only, had with her become chronic. Nevertheless, somehow, she
consented.

"I'll get the darling this minute," cried Ruth, hurrying out. And Chase
followed her.

"Well, here you are again! What did I tell you?" said the sculptress to
Miss Billy, when they were left alone.

"I did not mean to come, Maud Muriel. I really did not intend--" Billy
began.

"What place, Wilhelmina, is _paved_ with good intentions? Now, of
course, we shall be going home with each other all the rest of the day!"
declared the sculptress, good-humoredly.

Meanwhile, outside, Ruth was suggesting to Horace Chase, coaxingly, that
he should wait until she could find her dog, and bring him to the barn.
"Because if _you_ are not with me, Maud Muriel will be sure to change
her mind!"

"Not she. She is no more changeable than a telegraph pole. I am afraid I
must leave you now, Miss Ruth; for the men are waiting to see me about
the horses."

"Whose horses?"

"Mine."

"Did you send for them? Oh, _I_ love horses too. Where are they?"

"At the Old North stables. So you like horses? I'll drive the pair
round, then, in a day or two, to show them to you." And after shaking
hands with her--Chase always shook hands--he went towards the village;
for Maud Muriel's barn was on the outskirts. In figure he was tall,
thin, and muscular. He never appeared to be in haste; all his movements
were leisurely, even his words coming out with deliberation. His voice
was pitched in a low key; his articulation was extremely distinct;
sometimes, when amused, he had a slight humorous drawl.

Ruth looked after him for a moment. Then she went in search of her dog.

A little later Anthony Etheridge paid his usual morning visit to the
post-office. On his return, when near his own abode, he met Horace
Chase.

"A mail in?" inquired Chase, quickly, as he saw the letters.

"No; they came last night. _I_ am never in a hurry about mails,"
answered Etheridge. "You younger fellows have not learned, as I have,
that among every six letters, say, four at least are sure to be more or
less disagreeable. Well, have you decided? Are you coming to my place?"
For Etheridge had rooms in a private house, where he paid for a whole
wing in order that his night's rest should not be disturbed by other
tenants, who might perhaps bring in young children; with his usual
thriftiness, he had offered his lower floor to Chase.

"Well, no, I guess not; I'm thinking of coming here," Chase answered,
indicating the hotel near by with a backward turn of his thumb. "My
horses are here; they came last night. I'm making some arrangements for
them, now."

Anthony Etheridge cared more for a good horse than for anything else in
the world. In spite of his title of Commodore, sailing had only a second
place in his list of tastes. He had commanded a holiday squadron only, a
fleet of yachts. Some years before, he had resigned his commandership
in the Northern club. But he was still a commodore, almost in spite of
himself, for he had again been elected, this time by the winter yacht
club of St. Augustine. At the word "horses" his face had lighted up.
"Can I have a look at them?" he said, eagerly. "Did they stand the
journey well?"

"O. K. They're round in the stable, if you want to come."

The three horses were beautiful specimens of their kind. "The pair, I
intend to drive; I found that there was nothing in Asheville, and as I'm
going to stay awhile longer (for the air is bringing me right up), I had
to have something," Chase remarked. "The mare is for riding."

"She looks like a racer?"

"Well, she _has_ taken one prize. But I shall never race her again; I
don't care about it. I remember when I thought a race just heaven! When
I wasn't more than nineteen, I took a prize with a trotter; 'twas a very
small race, to be sure; but a big thing to me. Not long after that,
there was another prize offered for a well-matched pair, and by that
time I had a pair--temporarily--bays. One of them, however, had a white
spot on his nose. Well, sir, I painted his nose, and won the premium!"
He broke into a laugh.

"Was that before you invented the Bubble Baking-powder?" inquired
Etheridge.

In this question, there was a tinge of superciliousness. Chase did not
suspect it; in his estimation, a baking-powder was as good a means as
anything else, the sole important point being its success. But even if
he had perceived the tinge, it would only have amused him; with his
far-stretching plans--plans which extended across a continent--his large
interests and broad ambitions, criticism from this obscure old man would
have seemed comical. Anthony Etheridge was not so obscure a personage as
Chase fancied. But he was not known in the world of business or of
speculation, and he had very little money. This last fact Chase had
immediately divined. For he recognized in Etheridge a man who would
never have denied himself luxury unless forced to do it, a man who would
never have been at Asheville if he could have afforded Newport; the talk
about "nature undraped" was simply an excuse. And he had discovered also
another secret which no one (save Mrs. Franklin) suspected, namely, that
the handsome commodore was in reality far older than his gallant bearing
would seem to indicate.

"_I_ didn't invent the Bubble," he had said, explanatorily. "I only
bought it. Then the inventor and I ran it together, in a sort of
partnership, as long as he lived. 'Twas as good as a silver mine for a
while. Nothing could stand against it, sir--nothing."

But Etheridge was not interested in the Bubble. "I should like greatly
to see your mare go," he said. "Here, boy, isn't that track in the field
in pretty fair condition still?"

"Yes, boss," answered the negro, whom he had addressed.

"Why not let her go round it, Chase? It will do her good to stretch her
legs this fine morning."

Here a shadow in the doorway caused them both to turn their heads. It
was Ruth Franklin.

"Good heavens, Ruth, what are you doing here in the stables?" asked
Etheridge, astonished.

"I have come to see the horses," replied Ruth, confidently. She
addressed Chase. She had already learned that she could count upon
indulgence from him, no matter what fancies might seize her.

"Here they are, then," Chase answered. "Come closer. This is Peter, and
that is Piper. And here is the mare, Kentucky Belle. Your friend, the
commodore, was urging me, as you came in, to send Kentucky round a
race-course you have here somewhere."

"Yes, I know; the old ring," said Ruth. "Oh, please do! Please have a
real race."

"But there's nothing to run against her, Miss Ruth. The pair are not
racers."

"You go to Cyrus Jaycox," said Etheridge to the negro, "and ask him
for--for" (he could not remember the name)--"for the colt," he
concluded, in an enraged voice.

"Fer Tipkinoo, sah? Yassah."

"Tell him to come himself."

"Yassah." The negro started off on a run.

"It's the landlord of the Old North," Etheridge explained. "He has a
promising colt, Tippecanoe" (he brought it out this time sonorously).
"No match, of course, for your mare, Chase. Still, it will make a little
sport." His color had risen; his face was young with anticipation. "Now,
Ruth, go home; you have seen the horses, and that is enough. Your mother
would be much displeased if she knew you were here."

For answer, Ruth looked at Chase. "I won't be the least trouble," she
said, winningly.

"Oh, do be! I like trouble--feel all the better for lots of it," he
answered. "Come along with me. And make all the trouble you can!"

Three little negro boys, highly excited, had already started off to act
as pilots to the field. Ruth put her hand in Chase's arm; for if the
owner of Kentucky Belle wished to have her with him, or at least if he
had the appearance of wishing it, there was less to be said against her
presence. They led the way, therefore. Then came Chase's man with the
mare, Etheridge keeping close to the beautiful beast, and watching her
gait with critical eyes. All the hangers-on of the stable brought up the
rear. The field, where an amateur race had been held during the
preceding year, was not far distant; its course was a small one. Some
minutes later their group was completed by the arrival of Cyrus Jaycox
with his colt, Tippecanoe.

"But where is Groves?" said Chase to his men. "Groves is the only one of
you who can ride her properly." It turned out, however, that Groves had
gone to bed ill; he had taken a chill on the journey.

"I didn't observe that he wasn't here," said Chase. (This was because he
had been talking to Ruth.) "We shall have to postpone it, commodore."

"Let her go round with one of the other men just once, to show her
action," Etheridge urged.

"Yes, please, please," said Ruth.

The mare, therefore, went round the course with the groom Cartright,
followed by the Asheville colt, ridden by a little negro boy, who clung
on with grins and goggling eyes.

"There is Mr. Hill, watching us over the fence," said Ruth. "How
astonished he looks!" And she beckoned to the distant figure.

Malachi Hill, who had been up the mountain to pay a visit to a family in
bereavement, had recognized them, and stopped his horse in the road to
see what was going on. In response to Ruth's invitation, he found a
gate, opened it by leaning from his saddle, and came across to join
them. As he rode up, Etheridge was urging another round. "If I were not
such a heavy weight, I'd ride the mare myself!" he declared, with
enthusiasm. Cyrus Jaycox offered a second little negro, as jockey. But
Chase preferred to trust Cartright, unfitted though he was. In reality
he consented not on account of the urgency of Etheridge, but solely to
please the girl by his side.

There was trouble about this second start; the colt, not having been
trained, boggled and balked. Kentucky Belle, on her side, could not
comprehend such awkwardness. "I'll go a few paces with them, just to get
them well off," suggested Malachi Hill. And, touching Daniel with his
whip, he rode forward, coming up behind the other two.

Mr. Hill's Daniel was the laughing-stock of the irreverent; he was a
very tall, ancient horse, lean and rawboned, with a rat tail. But he
must have had a spark of youthful fire left in him somewhere, or else a
long-thwarted ambition, for he made more than the start which his rider
had intended; breaking into a pounding pace, he went round the entire
course, in spite of the clergyman's efforts to pull him up. The mare,
hearing the thundering sound of his advance behind her, began to go
faster. Old Daniel passed the Asheville colt as though he were nothing
at all; then, stretching out his gaunt head, he went in pursuit of the
steed in front like a mad creature, the dust of the ring rising in
clouds behind him. Nothing could now stop either horse. Cartright was
powerless with Kentucky Belle, and Daniel paid no heed to his rider.
But, the second time round, it was not quite clear whether the clergyman
was trying to stop or not. The third time there was no question--he
would not have stopped for the world; his flushed face showed the
deepest delight.

Meanwhile people had collected as flies collect round honey; the negroes
who lived in the shanties behind the Old North had come running to the
scene in a body, the big children "toting" the little ones; and down the
lane which led from the main street had rushed all the whites within
call, led by the postmaster himself, a veteran of the Mexican War. After
the fourth round, Kentucky Belle decided to stop of her own accord. She
was, of course, ahead. But not very far behind her, still thundering
along with his rat tail held stiffly out, came old Daniel, in his turn
ahead of Tippecanoe.

As Daniel drew near, exhausted but still ardent, there rose loud
laughter and cheers. "Good gracious!" murmured the missionary, as he
quickly dismounted, pulled his hat straight, and involuntarily tried to
hide himself between Etheridge and Chase. "What _have_ I done!"

His perturbation was genuine. "Come along," said Chase, who had been
laughing uproariously himself; "we'll protect you." He gave his arm to
Mr. Hill, and with Ruth (who still kept her hold tightly) on his left,
he made with his two companions a stately progress back to the hotel,
followed by the mare led by Cartright, with Etheridge as body-guard;
then by Cyrus Jaycox, with Tippecanoe; and finally by all the
spectators, who now numbered nearly a hundred. But at the head of the
whole file (Chase insisted upon this) marched old Daniel, led by the
other groom.

"Go round to the front," called Chase. And round they all went to the
main street, amid the hurrahs of the accompanying crowd, white and
black. At the door of the Old North, Ruth escaped and took refuge
within, accompanied by the troubled clergyman; and a moment later Chase
and Etheridge followed. Ruth had led the way to Miss Billy's
sitting-room. Miss Billy received her guests with wonder; Maud Muriel
was with her (for her prophecy had come true; the two had already begun
the "going home" with each other).

"We have had the most exciting race, Miss Billy," explained Ruth. "A
real horse-race round the old track out in the field. And Mr. Hill came
in second on Daniel!"

The eyes of Miss Billy, turning to the clergyman with horror, moved
Chase to fresh laughter. "I say--why not all stay and dine with me?" he
suggested. "To celebrate Daniel's triumph, you know? I am coming here to
stay, so I might as well begin. The dinner hour is two o'clock, and it
is almost that now. We can have a table to ourselves, and perhaps they
can find us some champagne."

"That will be great fun; _I'll_ stay," said Ruth. "And the commodore
will, I'm sure. Mr. Hill, too."

"Thanks, no. I must go. Good-day," said the missionary, hastening out.

Chase pursued him. "Why, you are the hero of the whole thing," he said;
"the man of the hour! We can't bring old Daniel into the dining-room. So
we must have you, Hill."

"I am sorry to spoil it; but you will have to excuse me," answered the
other man, hurriedly. Then, with an outburst of confidence: "It is
impossible for me to remain where Miss Mackintosh is present. There is
something perfectly awful to me, Mr. Chase, in that woman's eye!"

"Is that all? Come back; I'll see to her," responded Chase. And see to
her he did. Aided by Etheridge, who liked nothing better than to assail
the sculptress with lovelorn compliments, Chase paid Maud Muriel such
devoted attention that for the moment she forgot poor Hill, or rather
she left him to himself. He was able, therefore, to eat his dinner. But
he still said, mutely, "Good gracious!" and, taking out his
handkerchief, he furtively wiped his brow.

The Old North had provided for its patrons that day roast beef, spring
chickens, new potatoes, and apple puddings. All the diners at the other
tables asked for "a dish of gravy." A saucer containing gravy was then
brought and placed by the side of each plate. Small hot buscuits were
offered instead of bread, and eaten with the golden mountain butter.
Mrs. Jaycox, stimulated by the liberal order for champagne, sent to
Chase's table the additional splendors of three kinds of fresh cake,
peach preserves, and a glass jug of cream.



CHAPTER V


The spring deepened into summer, and July opened. On the 10th, the
sojourners at the Warm Springs, the beautiful pools that well up in the
valley of the French Broad River, were assembled on the veranda of the
rambling wooden hotel, after their six o'clock supper, when they saw two
carriages approaching. "Phew! who can they be?" "What horses!"

The horses were indeed remarkably handsome--two bays and a
lighter-limbed pair of sorrels; in addition there was a mounted groom.
The housekeeper, who had come out on the veranda, mentioned in a low
tone that a second groom had arrived, three hours earlier, to engage
rooms for the party, and make preparations. "They are to have supper by
themselves, later; we're to do our best. Extras have been ordered, and
they've sent all sorts of supplies. And champagne!"

"Chase, did you say the name was? That's a hoax. It's General Grant
himself, I reckon, coming along yere like a conqueror in disguise," said
a wag.

The bays were Horace Chase's Peter and Piper, attached to a two-seated
carriage which was a model as regarded comfort; Anthony Etheridge was
driving, and with him were Mrs. Franklin, Dolly, and Ruth. Horace Chase
himself, in a light vehicle for two, which he called his cart, had the
sorrels. His companion was a gaunt, dark man, who looked as though he
had been ill. This man was Mrs. Franklin's son Jared.

Franklin had been stricken by that disheartening malady which is formed
by the union of fever and ague. After bearing it for several weeks, and
sending no tidings of his condition to his family (for he considered it
a rather unmasculine ailment), he had journeyed to Asheville with the
last remnants of his strength, and arriving by stage, and finding no one
at the cottage (for it was his wife's day at the Colored Home), he had
come with uncertain steps across the field to L'Hommedieu, entering the
parlor like a yellow spectre, his eyes sunken, his mind slightly
wandering. "Ye-es, here I am," he said, vaguely. "I was coming next
week, you know. But I--I didn't feel well. And so I've--come now."

His mother had given a cry; then, with an instinctive movement, her tall
figure looking taller than ever, she had rushed forward and clasped her
dazed, fever-stricken son in her arms.

The mountain air, prompt remedies, and the vigilant nursing of
Genevieve, soon routed the insidious foes. Routed them, that is, for the
moment; for their strength lies in stealthy returns; as Jared said (he
made jokes even at the worst stages), they never know when they are
beaten. But as soon as there was even a truce, their victim, though
still yellow and weak, announced that he must return to his business
immediately.

"But I thought you spent your summers here, Mr. Franklin?" remarked
Horace Chase, inquiringly.

"Yes, that is the plan, and I have been here a good deal for the past
three seasons. But this year I can't stay," Jared answered.

This was said at L'Hommedieu. Ruth was sitting beside her brother on the
sofa, her arm in his. "But you must stay," she protested. "You are not
strong yet; you are not strong at all." She put her other arm across his
breast, as if to keep him. "I shall not let you go!"

Jared Franklin was tall and broad-shouldered, with dark eyes whose
expression was always sad. In spite of this sadness, he had Dolly's
habit of making jocular remarks. But he had not Dolly's sharpness; where
she was sarcastic, the brother was only ironical. In looks Jared did not
resemble his mother or Dolly. But there was a strong likeness between
his face and Ruth's; they had the same contours, the same mouth.

While Ruth was protesting, Mrs. Franklin, making no pretence of busying
herself with anything, not even with lamplighters, sat looking at her
son with eyes which seemed to have grown larger, owing to the depth of
love within them. Chase, who had happened to be at L'Hommedieu when
Jared arrived, had never forgotten that rush of the mother--the mother
whose easy indolence he had, up to that moment, condemned. So now he
said, with his slight drawl: "Oh, you want to give the fever another
round of shot before you go back, Mr. Franklin. Why not take a few days
more, and drive with me over the Great Smokies into Tennessee?" And the
result was the party already described.

The evening before the start, Ruth had come out on the veranda of
L'Hommedieu. Chase and her brother had been smoking there (for Jared had
not shown any deep attachment to his smoking-room), and Dolly, who loved
the aroma of cigars, had seated herself near them. Jared had now
strolled off with his mother, and Genevieve, coming over from the
cottage, had taken her husband's place. As she approached, Chase had
extinguished his cigar and tossed it into the grass; for tobacco smoke
always gave the younger Mrs. Franklin a headache.

Ruth had walked up to Chase's chair. "No, please don't rise; I am only
looking at you, Mr. Chase. You are so wonderful!"

"Now don't be _too_ hard on me!" interposed the visitor, humorously.

"First, you are making my brother take this long drive," Ruth went on;
"the very thing of all others that will do him good--and I could go down
on my knees to you just for that! Then you have sent for that easy
carriage, so that Dolly can go, too. Then you are taking _me_. The
commodore also, who would rather drive Peter and Piper than go to
heaven! I have always wanted to see somebody who could do _everything_.
It must be very nice to have money," she concluded, reflectively.

"And to do so much good with it," added Genevieve. Genevieve had
insisted that her mother-in-law should take the fourth place in the
carriage; for the drive would be excellent for Mrs. Franklin, who was
far from strong; whereas, for herself, as she was in perfect health, no
change was necessary. Genevieve might have mentioned, also, that she had
had change enough for her whole life, and to spare, during the years
which her husband had spent in the navy; for the younger Mrs. Franklin
did not enjoy varying scenes. A house of her own and everything in it
hers; prearranged occupations, all useful or beneficent, following each
other regularly in an unbroken round; a leading place in the management
of charitable institutions; the writing and despatching of letters,
asking for contributions to these institutions; the general supervision
of the clergy, with an eye to dangerous ritualistic tendencies; the
conscientious endeavor to tell her friends on all occasions what they
ought to do (Genevieve was never angry when they disagreed with her, she
only pitied them. There was, in fact, no one she knew whom she had not
felt herself competent, at one time or another, to pity)--all this gave
her the sense of doing good. And to Genevieve that was more precious
than all else--the feeling that she was doing good. "Ruth is right; it
must be enchanting to have money," she went on. "I have often planned
what I should do myself if I had a fortune. I think I may say that I can
direct, administer; I have never seen or read of any charitable
institution, refuge, hospital, home, asylum, or whatever it may be,
which seemed too large or too complicated for me to undertake. On the
contrary, I know I should like it; I feel that I have that sort of
capacity." Her face kindled as she spoke; her genius (for she had a
genius, that of directorship) was stirring within her.

"You certainly have one part of the capacity, and that is the
despotism," remarked Dolly, laughing. "The other members of your Board
of Managers for the Colored Home, for instance--Mrs. Baxter, Miss Wynne,
Miss Kent--they haven't a voice in even the smallest matter, poor souls!
You rule them with a rod of iron--all for their good, no doubt."

"As it is," continued the younger Mrs. Franklin, combating not Dolly's
sarcasms (to which she had paid no attention), but her own sincere
longings--"as it is, I cannot build a hospital at present, though I
don't give up hope for the future. But I can at least give my prayers to
all, and that I do; I never ring a door-bell without offering an inward
petition that something I may say will help those whom I shall see when
I go in."

"Now that's generous," commented Dolly. "But don't be too unselfish,
Genevieve; think of yourself occasionally; why not pray that something
_they_ may say will be a help to _you_?"

After the arrival of his party at the Warm Springs, Chase devoted a
half-hour to a brief but exhaustive examination of the site, the pool,
and the buildings. "When we have made a Tyrol of Buncombe, we'll annex
this place as a sort of Baden-Baden," he said. "Thirty-five miles from
Asheville--that will just do. Ever tried the baths, commodore?"

"You must apply to somebody who has rheumatism, Mr. Chase," answered
Etheridge, loftily.

"The pool has an abundant supply at a temperature of 104 Fahrenheit,"
Chase went on, with the gleam of a smile showing itself in his eyes for
a moment (for the commodore's air of youth always amused him; it was so
determined). "Baden-Baden was one of the prettiest little places I saw
over there, on the other side of the big pond. They've taken lots of
pains to lay out a promenade along a stream, and the stream is about as
big as one from a garden-hose! But here there could be a walk worth
something--along this French Broad."

They were strolling near the river in the red light of the sunset.
"Their forest that they talk about, their Black Forest, is all guarded
and patrolled," Chase continued; "every tree counted! I don't call that
a forest at all. Now _these_ woods are perfectly wild. Why--they're as
wild as Noah!"

"Don't you mean old as Noah?" inquired Ruth, laughing.

"Certainly not," commented Jared. "Noah was extremely wild. And not in
his youth only; in his age as well."

"The first thing, however, would be the roads," Chase went on. "I never
thought I should have to take a back seat about the United States of
America! But I returned from Europe singing small, I can tell you, about
our roads. Talk about the difficulty of making 'em? Go and look at
Switzerland!"

"By all means," said Ruth, promptly. "Only tell us how, Mr. Chase. We'll
go at once." She was walking with her brother, her hat dangling by its
elastic cord from her arm.

Chase came out of his plans. "So you want to see Switzerland, do you?"
he said, in an indulgent tone.

Ruth lifted her hat, and made with it a gesture which took in the entire
horizon. "I wish to see everything in the world!" Jared took her hat
away from her, put it on her head and secured it, or tried to secure it.
"Will you take me, Jared? I mean some day?" she said, as he bungled with
the cord, endeavoring to get it over her hair. "That's not the way." She
unbuttoned the loop and adjusted it. It was a straw hat (thanks to
Genevieve, a new one), which shaded her face, but left free, behind, the
thick braids which covered her small head from crown to throat.

"Once, pussy, I might have answered yes. But now I'm not so sure,"
replied Jared, rather gloomily.

"I don't want to go, I wasn't in earnest; I only want to stay where you
are," exclaimed his young sister, her mood changing. "But if only you
had never left the navy! If only you were not tied down in that horrid,
horrid Raleigh!"

"Is Raleigh so very horrid?" inquired Chase.

"Any place is horrid that keeps Jared shut up in a warehouse all day,"
announced Ruth, indignantly.

Mrs. Franklin, who was behind with Etheridge, came forward, took Ruth's
arm, and led her back.

"She is sorry that you left the service?" Chase inquired of the brother.

Ruth overheard this question. "Jared was always well when he was in the
navy," she called out. "No, His Grand, I _will_ say it: he was always
well, and he was happy too; Dolly has told me so. Now he is never well;
he is growing so thin that I can't bear to see it. And as for
happiness--he is _miserable_!" Her voice broke; she stood still, her
breast heaving.

Jared strolled on, his hands in the pockets of his flannel coat. "It's
nothing," he said to Chase, who was looking back; "she'll get over it in
a moment. She says whatever comes into her head; we have spoiled her, I
suppose. She was so much younger, you see; the last of my mother's six
children. And the three who came before her had died in infancy, so
there was a great to-do when this one lived."

Chase glanced back a second time. Ruth, Mrs. Franklin, and Etheridge had
turned, and were going towards the hotel. "She appears to wish that you
had remained in the navy; isn't that rather odd?" he inquired, the idea
in his mind being simply the facilities that existed for seeing this
idolized brother, now that Raleigh was his home instead of the ocean.

"Odd?" repeated Jared. And his tone had such a strange vibration that
his companion turned and looked at him.

They continued their walk for an hour longer. When they came back, they
found the commodore seated on the veranda of the cottage which had been
arranged for their use by Chase's courier. Ruth and Mrs. Franklin were
his companions, and Dolly was also there, resting on a sofa which had
been rolled out from the room behind. Chase and Jared lighted cigars;
Etheridge took out a cigarette.

"Now if we only had Maud Muriel with her long clay pipe!" said Ruth.
There was no trace of trouble left in her voice; she had drawn her chair
close to her brother's, and seated herself contentedly.

"It's to the pipe you owe the very clever likeness she has made of your
scamp of a dog," remarked Etheridge. "The smoking relaxed her a little,
without her knowing it, and so she didn't confine herself, as she
usually does, to the purely commonplace side."

"Petie! A _commonplace_ side!" protested Ruth.

"She now wishes _me_ to sit to her," said Mrs. Franklin; "for my
wrinkles have grown so deep lately that she is sure she can make
something satisfactorily hideous. Oh, I don't mind the wrinkles, Mr.
Chase!" (for Chase had begun to say, "Not at all, ma'am"). "I received
my quietus long ago. When I was not quite forty, there was some question
about a particular dress-maker whom I wished to see at McCreery's. 'Was
she an _old_ woman?' inquired an assistant. 'We have only one _old_
fitter.' It proved to be the person I meant. She was of my own age. The
same year I asked a young friend about a party which he had attended the
night before. 'Dreadfully dull,' he answered. 'Nobody there but old
frumps.' And the old frumps (as I happened to know) were simply twenty
or thirty of my contemporaries."

"Yes, it's hard; I have often thought so!" said Etheridge, with
conviction. "Men, you see, have no age. But nothing saves a woman."

"Yes, one thing--namely, to look like a sheep," replied Mrs. Franklin.
"If a woman wishes her face to remain young, she must cultivate calm,
and even stolidity; she must banish changing expressions; she must give
her facial muscles many hours, daily, of absolute repose. Most of my
wrinkles have been caused by my wretched habit of contorting my poor
thin slave of a face, partly of course to show my intelligence and
appreciation, but really, also, in a large measure from sympathy. I have
smiled unflinchingly at other people's jokes, looked sad for their
griefs, angry for their injuries; I have raised my eyebrows to my hair
over their surprises, and knitted my forehead into knots over their
mysteries; in short, I have never ceased to grimace. However, even to
the sheep-women there comes the fatal moment when their cheeks begin to
look like those of an old baby," she concluded, laughing.

Dolly, for once untalkative, had not paid attention to this
conversation; the moon had risen, and she had been watching its radiance
descend slowly and make a silver path across the river. It was so
beautiful! And (a rare occurrence with Dolly) it led her to think of
herself. "How I should have enjoyed, enjoyed, _enjoyed_ everything if I
had only been well!" Even the tenderly loving mother could not have
comprehended fully her daughter's heart at that moment. For Mrs.
Franklin had had her part, such as it was, on the stage of human
existence, and had played it. But Dolly's regret was for a life unlived.
"How enchantingly lovely!" she murmured aloud, looking at the moonlit
water.

"Yes," said Etheridge; "and its greatest beauty is that it's primeval.
Larue, I suppose, would call it primevalish!"

"I had thought of asking the senator to come along with us," observed
Chase.

"In a sedan-chair?" inquired Etheridge. "I don't think you know what a
petrified squam-doodle he is!"

"No, I can't say I do. I only know he's a senator, and we want some
senators. To boom our Tyrol, you know. Generals, too. Cottages might be
put up at pleasant points near Asheville--on Beaucatcher, for
instance--and presented to half a dozen of the best-known Southern
generals? What do you say to that?"

"Generals as much as you like; but when you and the Willoughbys spread
your nets for senators, do select better specimens than Achilles Larue!
He is only in the place temporarily at best; he'll be kicked out soon.
He succeeded the celebrated old senator who had represented this state
for years, and was as well known here, he and his trunk, as the
mountains themselves. When he resigned, there happened to be no one of
the right sort ready in the political field. Larue was here, he was a
college-bred man, and he had some reputation as an author (he has
written a dreadfully dull book, _The Blue Ridge in the Glacial Period_).
He had a little money, too, and that was in his favor. So they put him
in; and now they wish they hadn't! He has no magnetism, no go; nothing
but his tiresome drawing-copy profile and his good clothes. You say you
don't know what sort of a person he is? He is a decrier, sir; nothing
ever fully pleases him. His opinions on all subjects are so clipped to
the bone, so closely shaved and denuded, that they are like the plucked
chickens, blue and skinny, that one sees for sale at a stall. Achilles
Larue never smokes. On the hottest day Achilles Larue remains clammily
cold. He has no appreciation of a good dinner; he lives on salt mackerel
and digestive crackers. Finally, to sum him up, he is a man, sir, who
can neither ride nor drive--a man who knows nothing whatever about a
horse! What do you suppose he asked me, when I was looking at a
Blue-Grass pacer last year? 'Does he possess endurance?' Yes--actually
those words of a _horse_! 'Does he possess endurance?'" repeated
Etheridge, pursing up his lips and pronouncing the syllables in a
mincing tone.

"You say he has nothing but his drawing-copy profile and his good
clothes," remarked Dolly. "But he has something more, commodore: the
devotion of Mrs. Kip and Miss Billy Breeze."

Etheridge looked discomfited.

"_Two_ ladies?" said Chase. "Why, he's in luck! Bachelor, I suppose?"

"He is a widower," answered Mrs. Franklin. "His wife happened to have
been a fool. He now believes that all women are idiots."

"He is a man who has never written, and who never will write, a book
that stands on its own feet, whether good or bad; but only books _about_
books," grumbled Etheridge. "He has merely the commentator's mind. His
views on the Glacial Period are all borrowed. He can't be original even
about an iceberg!"

"The ladies I have mentioned think that his originality is his strongest
point," objected Dolly. "He produces great effects by describing some
one in this way, for instance: 'He had small eyes and a grin. He was
remarkably handsome.' This leaves them open-mouthed. But Miss Billy
herself, as she stands, is his greatest effect; she was never outlined
in very vivid hues, and now she has so effaced herself, rubbed herself
out, as it were (from fear lest he should call her 'sensational'), that
she is like a skeleton leaf. She has the greatest desire to be
'delicate,' extremely delicate, in everything that she does; and she
tries to sing, therefore, with so much expression that it's all
expression and very little singing! 'Coarse!'--that is to her the most
terrible word in the whole vocabulary. I asked her once whether her
horned tryceratops, with his seventy-five feet of length, might not have
been a little coarse in his manners."

"I declare I'll never go to see the woman again; she _is_ such a goose!"
exclaimed Etheridge, angrily.

Jared laughed. And then his mother laughed also, happy to see him
amused. But at the same time she was thinking: "You may not go to see
Billy. But, dear me! you will come to see _us_ forever and forever!" And
she had a weary vision of Etheridge, entering with his "hum-ha," and his
air of youth, five or six times a week as long as she lived.

"Commodore," said Dolly, "you may not go to see Miss Breeze. But I am
sure you will come to see _us_, with your cheerful hum-ha, and your
youthful face, as long as we live."

Mrs. Franklin passed her hand over her forehead. "There it is again!"
she thought. For, strangely often, Dolly would give voice to the very
ideas that were passing through her mother's mind at the moment. At
L'Hommedieu the two would fall into silence sometimes, and remain
silent for a half-hour, one with her embroidery, the other with her
knitting. And then when Dolly spoke at last, it would be of the exact
subject which was in her mother's mind. Mrs. Franklin no longer
exclaimed: "How could you know I was thinking of that!" It happened too
often. She herself never divined Dolly's thoughts. It was Dolly who
divined hers, most of the time unconsciously.

Meanwhile Etheridge had replied, in a reassuring voice: "Well, Dolly,
I'll do my best; you may count upon _that_." And then Ruth, leaning her
head against her brother's arm so that her face was hidden, laughed
silently.

From the Warm Springs they drove over the Great Smoky Mountains into
Tennessee. Then returning, making no haste, they climbed slowly up again
among the peaks. At the top of the pass they paused to gaze at the
far-stretching view--Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina,
South Carolina, and Georgia; on the west, the Cumberland ranges sloping
towards Chattanooga; in the east, the crowded summits of the Blue Ridge,
their hue an unchanging azure; the Black Mountains with Mitchell, the
Cat-tail Peak, the Balsams, the Hairy Bear, the Big Craggy, Great
Pisgah, the Grandfather, and many more. The brilliant sunshine and the
crystalline atmosphere revealed every detail--the golden and red tints
of the gigantic bald cliffs near them, the foliage of every tree; the
farm-houses like white dots thousands of feet below. Up here at the top
of the pass there were no clearings visible; for long miles in every
direction the forest held unbroken sway, filling the gorges like a leafy
ocean, and sweeping up to the surrounding summits in the darker tints of
the black balsams. The air was filled with delicate wild odors, a
fragrance which is like no other--the breath of a virgin forest.

"And you want to put a railroad here?" broke out Dolly, suddenly. She
addressed Horace Chase, who had drawn up his sorrels beside the
carriage.

"Oh no, Miss Dolly; it can't get up so high, you know," he answered, not
comprehending her dislike. "It will have to go through down below;
tunnels."

"The principal objection I have to your railroad, Chase, is that it will
bring railroad good-byes to this uncorrupted neighborhood," said Jared.
"For there will be, of course, a station. And people will have to go
there to see their friends off. The train will always be late in
starting; then the heretofore sincere Ashevillians will be driven to all
the usual exaggerations and falsities to fill the eternal time; they
will have to repeat the same things over and over, stand first on one
leg and then on the other, and smile until they are absolute clowns.
Meanwhile their departing friends will be obliged to lean out of the
car-windows in return, and repeat inanities and grin, until they too are
perfectly haggard." Jared was now seated beside Etheridge; he had given
up his place in the cart to Ruth for an hour or two. Several times Mrs.
Franklin herself had tried the cart. She was very happy, for Jared had
undoubtedly gained strength; there was a faint color in his cheeks, and
his face looked less worn, his eyes a little less dreary.

"How I should like to see _all_ the mountains!" exclaimed Ruth,
suddenly, looking at the crowded circle of peaks.

"Well--I suppose there are some sort of roads?" Chase answered.

"Put the two pairs together and make a four-in-hand," suggested
Etheridge, eagerly. "Then we might drive down Transylvania way. When I
wasn't more than eighteen I often drove a four-in-hand over
the--the--the range up there where I was born," he concluded, with fresh
inward disgust over the forgotten name.

"The Green Mountains," said Mrs. Franklin.

"Not at all. The Catskills," Etheridge answered, curtly. His birthplace
was Rutland, Vermont. But on principle he never acknowledged a forgotten
title.

"This is the country of the moonshiners, isn't it?" asked Chase, his
keen eyes glancing down a wild gorge.

"The young lady beside you can tell about that," Etheridge answered.

Chase turned to Ruth, surprised. The color was leaving her face. "Yes, I
_did_ see; I saw a man shot!" she said, her dark-fringed blue eyes
lifted to his with an awe-struck expression. "It was at Crumb's, the
house where we stayed the first night, you know. I was standing at the
door. A man came running along the road, trying to reach the house.
Behind him, not more than ten feet distant, came another man, also
running. He held a pistol at arm's-length. He fired twice. After the
first shot, the man in front still ran. After the second, he staggered
along for a step or two, and then fell. And the other man disappeared."
These short sentences came out in whispered tones; when she finished,
her face was blanched.

"You ought not to have seen it. You ought not to have told me," said
Chase, giving an indignant glance towards the carriage; he thought they
should have prevented the narration.

"Oh, don't be disturbed, Mr. Chase," said Dolly, looking at him from her
cushions with an amused smile. "The balls were extracted, and the man is
now in excellent health. Ruth has a way of turning perfectly white and
then enormously red on all occasions. She was much whiter last week when
it was supposed that Petie Trone, Esq., had inflammation of the lungs."

And Ruth herself was already laughing again, and the red had returned.

"It was a revenue detective," explained Mrs. Franklin; "I mean the man
who was shot. The mountaineers have always made whiskey, and they think
that they have a right to make it; they look upon the detectives as
spies."

But Chase had no sympathy for moonshiners; he was on the side of law and
order. "The government should send up troops," he said. "What else are
they for?"

"It is not the business of the army to hunt out illicit stills," replied
Jared Franklin, all the ex-officer in his haughty tone.

"Well, maybe not; you see I'm only a civilian myself," remarked Chase,
in a pacific voice. "Shall we go on?"

They started down the eastern slope. When the cart was at some distance
in front, Ruth said: "Oh, Mr. Chase, thank you for answering so
good-naturedly. My brother has in reality a sweet temper. But lately he
has been so out of sorts, so unhappy."

"Yes, I am beginning to understand about that, Miss Ruth; I didn't at
first. It's a great pity. Perhaps something can be done?"

"No; he can't get back into the navy now," said Ruth, sadly.

"But a change of some kind might be arranged," answered Chase, touching
the off horse.

At the base of the mountains they followed the river road again, a rocky
track, sometimes almost in the water, under towering cliffs that rose
steeply, their summits leaning forward a little as though they would
soon topple over. At many points it was a veritable cañon, and the swift
current of the stream foamed so whitely over the scattered rocks of its
bed that it was like the rapids of Niagara. Here and there were bold
islands; the forest on both sides was splendid with the rich tints of
the _Rhododendron maximum_ in full bloom; not patches or single bushes,
but high thickets, a solid wall of blazing color.

Their stopping-place for the last evening was the farm-house called
Crumb's, where they had also spent the first night of their journey on
their way westward. Crumb's was one of the old farms; the grandfather of
David Crumb had tilled the same acres. It was a pleasant place near the
river, the house comparatively large and comfortable. The Crumbs were
well-to-do in the limited mountain sense of the term, though they had
probably never had a hundred dollars in cash in their lives. Mrs. Crumb,
a lank woman with stooping shoulders and a soft, flat voice, received
them without excitement. Nothing that life had to offer, for good or for
ill, could ever bring excitement again to Portia Crumb. Her four sons
had been killed in battle in Virginia, one after the other, and the
mother lived on patiently. David Crumb was more rebellious against what
he called their "bad luck." Once a week, and sometimes twice, he went to
Asheville, making the journey a pretext for forgetting troubles
according to the ancient way. He was at Asheville now, his wife
explained, "with a load of wood." She did not add that he would probably
return with a load of another sort--namely, a mixture of whiskey and
repentance. The two never spoke of their lost boys; when they talked
together it was always about "the craps."

Porshy, as her friends called her, having been warned by Chase's courier
that her former guests were returning, had set her supper-table with
care. People stopped at Crumb's perforce; for, save at Warm Springs,
there were no inns in the French Broad Valley. Ruth had been there
often. For the girl, who was a fearless horsewoman, was extravagantly
fond of riding; at one time or another she had ridden almost every horse
in Asheville, including old Daniel himself. Of late years the Crumbs
would have been glad to be relieved of all visitors. But the mountain
farmers of the South are invariably hospitable--hospitable even with
their last slice of corn-bread, their last cup of coffee. Porshy,
therefore, had brought out her best table-cloth (homespun, like her
sheets), her six thin silver teaspoons, her three china teacups and
saucers. "Yes, rale chiny, you bet," she had said, in her gentle,
lifeless voice, when Mrs. Franklin, who knew the tragedy of the house,
was benevolently admiring the painstaking effort. The inevitable hot
biscuits were waiting in a flat pan, together with fried bacon and
potatoes and coffee. Chase's supplies of potted meats, hot-house fruit,
and excellent champagne made the meal an extraordinary combination. The
table was set in the kitchen, which was also the living-room. One end of
the large, low-browed apartment was blocked by the loom, for Portia had
been accustomed to spin, weave, dye, and fashion all the garments worn
by herself and her family.

As they left the table, the sinking sun sent his horizontal beams
through the open windows in a flood of golden light. "Let us go up to
the terrace," said Ruth.

The terrace was a plateau on the mountain-side at some distance above; a
winding path led thither through the thick forest. "It is too far," said
Mrs. Franklin. "It is at least a mile from here, and a steep climb all
the way; and, besides, it will soon be dark."

"Oh, but I want to go immensely, His Grand. Mr. Chase liked it so much
when we were up there on our way out that he says it shall be named
after me. And perhaps they will put up a cottage."

"Yes, Ruth's Terrace, ma'am. That is the name I propose," said Chase.

"There will be light enough to go up; and then we can wait there until
the moon rises," continued Ruth. "The moon is full to-night, and the
view will be lovely. You will go, Jared, won't you? Oh, please!"

She had her way, as usual. Chase and Jared, lighting cigars, prepared to
accompany her.

"You'll stay here, I suppose, commodore?" said Chase.

"Stay here! By no means. There is nothing I like better than an evening
stroll," answered Etheridge, heroically. And, lighting a cigarette, he
walked on in advance, swinging his cane with an air of meditative
enjoyment.

Dolly and Mrs. Franklin, meanwhile, sat beside the small fire which
Portia had made on the broad hearth of her "best room." The fire, of
aromatic "fat-pine" splinters only, without large sticks, had been
kindled more on account of the light than from any need of its warmth;
for the evening, though cool, was not cold. The best room, however, was
large, and the great forest and cliffs outside, and the wild river, made
the little blaze seem cheerful. Portia had been proud of this apartment
in the old days before the war. In one corner there was a bed covered
with a brilliant patch-work quilt; on the mantel-piece there was an old
accordion, and a vase for flowers whose design was a hand holding a
cornucopia; the floor was covered by a rag carpet; and tacked on the
walls in a long row were colored fashion plates from _Godey's Lady's
Book_ for 1858. At ten o'clock Ruth and the commodore came in. But long
after midnight, when the others were asleep, Chase and Jared Franklin
still strolled to and fro along the river road in the moonlight,
talking. The next day they all returned to Asheville.

At the end of the week, when Jared went back to his business, Chase
accompanied him. "I thought I might as well take a look at that horrid
Raleigh," he said to Ruth, with solemn humor. "You see, I have been
laboring under the impression that it was a very pretty place--a
mistake which evidently wants to be cleared up."

Ten days later the mud-bespattered Blue Ridge stage came slowly into
Asheville at its accustomed hour. The mail-bags were thrown out, and
then the postmaster, in his shirt-sleeves, with his spectacles on his
nose and his straw hat tilted back on his head, began the distribution
of their contents, assisted (through the open windows) by the usual
group of loungers. This friendly audience had its elbows on the sill. It
made accompanying comments as follows: "Hurry up, you veteran of the
Mexican war!" "That letter ain't for Johnny Monroe. It's for Jem Morse;
I can see the direction from here. Where's your eyes?" "_Six_ for
General Cyarter? Lucky reb, _he_ is!"

Twenty minutes later Genevieve Franklin entered the parlor of
L'Hommedieu, a flush of deep rose-color in each cheek, her eyes
lustrous. "Mamma, a letter from Jay! It is too good--I cannot tell
you--" Her words came out pantingly, for she had been running; she sat
down with her hand over her breast as if to help herself breathe.

"From Jared? Oh, where are my glasses?" said Mrs. Franklin, searching
vainly in her pocket and then on the table. "Here, Dolly. Quick! Read
it!"

And then Dolly, also excited, read Jared's letter aloud.

Ruth came in in time to hear this sentence: "I am to have charge of
their Charleston office (the office of the Columbian Line), at a salary
of three thousand dollars a year."

"Who? What? Not Jared? And at _Charleston_?" cried the girl, clapping
her hands. "Oh, how splendid! For it's the water, you know; the
salt-water at last. With the ships coming and going, and the ocean, it
won't be so awfully inland to him, poor fellow, as Raleigh and Atlanta."

"And the large salary," said Genevieve, still breathless. "_That's_
Horrie! I have felt sure, from the first, that he would do something for
us. Such an old friend of mine. Dear, dear Horrie!"

A week later Chase returned. "Yes, he'll get off to Charleston, ma'am,
in a few days," he said to Mrs. Franklin. "When he is settled there, you
must pay him a visit. I guess you'll end by going there to live."

"Oh, we can't; we have this house, and no house there. If I could only
sell that place in Florida! However, we can stop in Charleston when we
go to Florida this winter. That is, if we go," added the mother,
remembering her load of debts. But she soon forgot it again; she forgot
everything save her joy in the brighter life for her son. "How can I
thank you?" she said to Chase, gratefully.

"Oh, it's no favor, ma'am. We have always needed a first-class man at
Charleston, and we've never had it; we think ourselves very lucky in
being able to secure Mr. Franklin."

As he went back to the Old North with Etheridge, whom he had met at
L'Hommedieu (as Mrs. Franklin would have said, "of course!"), Chase
added some further particulars. "You never saw such a mess as he'd made
of it, commodore. He told me--we had a good deal of talk when we took
that French Broad drive--that his business wasn't what he had hoped it
would be when he went into it; that he was afraid it was running down.
Running down? It was at a standstill; six months more, and he would have
been utterly swamped. The truth is, he didn't know how to manage it. How
should he? What does a navy man know about leather? He saw that it was
all wrong, yet he didn't know how to help it; that took the heart out of
him, you see. There was no use in going on with it a day longer; and so
I told him, as soon as I had looked into the thing a little. He has,
therefore, made an arrangement--sold out. And now he is going to take a
place at Charleston--our Columbian Line."

"To the tune of three thousand dollars a year, I understand?"

"He'll be worth it to us. A navy officer as agent will be a feather in
our caps. It's a pity he couldn't take command of one of our
steamers--with his hankering for the sea. Our steamer officers wear
uniforms, you know?"

"Take care that he doesn't knock you down," said Etheridge, dryly.

"Oh, I haven't suggested it. I see he's cranky," Chase answered.

When Jared Franklin reached Charleston, he went to the office of the
Columbian Company. It faced a wharf or dock, and from its windows he
could see the broad harbor, the most beautiful port of the South
Atlantic coast. He looked at Fort Sumter, then off towards the low white
beaches of Morris Island; he knew the region well; his ship had lain
outside during the war. Deliciously sweet to him was the salt tang of
the sea; already, miles inland, he had perceived it, and had put his
head out of the car window; the salt marshes had been to him like a
tonic, as the train rushed past. The ocean out there in the east, too,
that was rather better than a clattering street! Words could never
express how he loathed the remembrance of the hides and the leather. A
steamer of the Columbian Line came in. He went on board, contemptuous of
everything, of course, but enjoying that especial species of contempt.
Ascending to the upper deck, he glanced at the rigging and smoke-stacks.
They were not what he approved of; but, oh! the solace of abusing any
sort of rigging outlined against the sky! He went down and looked at the
engines; he spoke to the engineer; he prowled all over the ship, from
stem to stern, his feet enjoying the sensation of something underneath
them that floated. That evening, seated on a bench at the Battery, with
his arms on the railing, he looked out to sea. His beloved old life came
back to him; all his cruises--the Mediterranean ports, Villefranche and
the Bay of Naples; the harbors of China, Rio Janeiro, Alexandria;
tropical islands; the color of the Pacific--while the wash of the water
below sounded in his ears. At last, long after midnight, he rose; he
came back to reality again. "Well, even this is a great windfall. And I
must certainly do the best I can for that long-legged fellow"--so he
said to himself as he went up Meeting Street towards his hotel. He liked
Chase after a fashion; he appreciated his friendliness and his genius
for business. But this was the way he thought of him--"that long-legged
fellow." Chase's fortune made no impression upon him. At heart he had
the sailor's chronic indifference to money-making. But at heart he had
also something else--Genevieve; Genevieve and her principles and plans,
Genevieve and her rules.



CHAPTER VI


One afternoon early in September, Miss Billy Breeze, her cheeks pink,
her gentle eyes excited, entered the principal store of Asheville, the
establishment of Messrs. Pinkham & Bebb. "Kid gloves, if you please, Mr.
Bebb. Delicate shades. No. 6." The box of gloves having been produced,
Miss Billy selected quickly twelve pairs. "I will take these. And please
add twelve pairs of white."

Mr. Bebb was astounded, the order seemed to him reckless. Everybody in
Asheville knew that Miss Billy's income was six hundred dollars a year.
He made up the parcel slowly, in order to give her time to change her
mind. But Miss Billy paid for the twenty-four pairs without a quiver,
and, with the same excited look, took the package and went out. She
walked down the main street to its last houses; she came back on the
other side. Turning to the right, she traversed all the cross-roads in
that direction. When this was done, she re-entered the main street
again, and passed through its entire length a second time. It was
Saturday, the day when the country people came to town. Ten mountaineers
in a row were sitting on their heels in front of the post-office.
Mountain women on horseback, wearing deep sun-bonnets, rode up and down
the street, bartering. Wagons passed along, loaded with peaches heaped
together as though they were potatoes. Miss Billy was now traversing all
the cross-roads to the left. When this was accomplished she came back to
the main street, and began over again. It took about an hour to make the
entire circuit. At half-past five, on her fourth round, still walking
quickly and always with an air of being bound to some especial point,
she met Achilles Larue. "Oh--really--is this _you_, Mr. Larue? Such a
_surprise_ to see you! Lovely day, isn't it? I've been buying gloves."
She opened the package and turned over the gloves hastily. "Light
shades, you see. I--I thought I'd better."

Larue, slightly lifting his hat, was about to pass on.

But Miss Billy detained him. "Of course you are interested in the news,
Mr. Larue? Weren't you surprised? I was. I am afraid she is a little too
young for him. I think it is rather better when they are of _about_ the
same age--don't you?" She had no idea that she had been walking, and at
twice her usual speed, for more than four hours. But her slender body
knew; it trembled from fatigue.

Larue made another move, as if about to continue his course.

"But do tell me--weren't you surprised?" Billy repeated, hastily. (For,
oh! he _must_ not go so soon.)

"I don't think I am ever surprised, Miss Breeze."

Here Anthony Etheridge came by, and stopped. He looked sternly at Miss
Billy. "But what do you _think_ of it, Mr. Larue?" Billy was inquiring.

"I have not thought of it," Larue responded, coldly.

"Are you selling gloves?" inquired Etheridge. For the paper having
fallen to the ground, the two dozen pairs were visible, lying in
confusion over Billy's arm.

"To Mr. Larue?" (Giggle.) "Oh, I couldn't." (Giggle.) "They're only No.
6." For poor Billy had one humble little pride--her pretty hand.

There was a sound of horses' feet, and Ruth Franklin rode round the
corner, on Kentucky Belle, giving them a gay nod as she passed. Horace
Chase and Malachi Hill were with her, both mounted on beautiful
horses--one black, one chestnut; and at some distance behind followed
Chase's groom. "How _happy_ she looks!" murmured Miss Billy, with an
involuntary sigh.

"Yes. She has obtained what she likes," commented Larue. "Hers is a
frivolous nature; she requires gayety, change, luxury, and now she will
have them. Her family are very wise to consent. For they have, I
suspect, but little money. Her good looks will soon disappear; at thirty
she will be plain." And this time, decidedly, he walked away.

Miss Billy, her eyes dimmed by unshed tears, looked after him. "Such
a--such a _worldly_ view of marriage!" she managed to articulate.

"What can you expect from a fish?" answered Etheridge, secretly glad of
his opportunity. "Achilles Larue is as cold-blooded as a mackerel, and
always was. I don't say he will never marry again; but if he does, the
woman he selects will have to go down on her knees and stay there" (Miss
Billy's eyes looked hopeful); "and bring him, also, a good big sum of
money in her hand." Here, noticing that one of the pairs of gloves had
slipped down so far that it was held by the tips of its fingers only, he
turned away with a sudden "Good-afternoon." For he had had rheumatism
all night in the small of his back; he could walk, but he could not
stoop.

Miss Billy went home much depressed. The night before, after her usual
devotions and an hour's perusal of _The Blue Ridge in the Glacial
Period_ (she read the volume through regularly once a month), she had
attempted a thought-transferrence. She had, indeed, made many such
experiments since Maud Muriel's explanation of the process. But last
night she had for the first time succeeded in keeping her mind strictly
to the subject; for nearly ten minutes, with her face screwed up by the
intensity of the effort, she had willed continuously, "Like me,
Achilles, like me!" (She was too modest even to _think_ "love" instead
of "like.") "You must! You _shall_!" And now, when at last she had
succeeded in meeting him, this was the result! She put away the gloves
mechanically: she had bought them not from any need, but simply because
she had felt the wish to go out and _do_ something when the exciting
news of Ruth Franklin's engagement had reached her at noon. Stirred as
she already was by her own private experiment of the previous night, the
thought in her heart was: "Well, it isn't extravagance, for light gloves
are always useful. And then in case of--of anything happening to _me_,
they'd be all ready."

When Anthony Etheridge left her, he went to L'Hommedieu, where he found
Dolly in the parlor with Petie Trone, Esq. Trone's basket had been
established by Ruth under the pedestal which now held his own likeness.
For Chase had kept his word; Maud Muriel's clever work had been
reproduced in bronze. The squirrel also was present; he was climbing up
the window-curtain. "So _you_ have to see to the pets, do you?" remarked
the visitor as he seated himself. He had known of the engagement for
several days; he had already made what he called "the proper speeches"
to Mrs. Franklin and Ruth, and to Chase himself. "I have just seen
her--on Kentucky Belle," he went on. "Well, he will give her everything,
that's one certainty. On the whole, she's a lucky girl."

"It is Mr. Chase who is lucky," answered Dolly, stiffly. She was
finishing off the toe of a stocking, and did not look up. "I consider
Mr. Chase a miraculously fortunate man."

"Miraculously? How do you mean? Because she is young? The good-fortune,
as regards that, is for the wife, not the husband; for she will always
be so much his junior that he will have to consider her--he will never
dare to neglect her. Well, Dolly, all Asheville has heard the news this
morning; the town is ringing with it. And it is such an amiable
community that it has immediately given its benediction in the most
optimistic way. Of course, though, there are some who maintain that she
is marrying him for his money."

Dolly knitted more rapidly.

"And so she is," Etheridge added. "Though not in their sense, for she
has never reflected, never thought about it, never made a plan. All the
same, it is his wealth, you know, which has fascinated her--his wealth
and his liberality. She has never seen anything like it. No one she
knows has ever done such things--flowers, jewels, journeys, her brother
lifted out of his troubles as if by magic, a future sparkling and
splendid opening before her; no wonder she is dazzled. In addition, she
herself has an ingrained love of ease--"

Dolly dropped her stocking. "Do you think I intend to sit here and
listen to you?" she demanded, with flashing eyes.

"Wait, wait," answered Etheridge, putting out his hand as if to explain;
"you don't see what I am driving at, Dolly. As Mrs. Chase, your sister
will have everything she wishes for; all her tastes and fancies
gratified to the full; and that is no small affair! Chase will be fond
of her; in addition, he will be excessively indulgent to her in every
way. With her nature and disposition, her training, too (for you have
spoiled her, all of you), it is really an ideal marriage for the girl,
and that is what I am trying to tell you. You might search the world
over, and you could not find a better one."

"I don't like it; I never shall like it," answered Dolly, implacably.
"And mother in her heart agrees with me, though she has, somehow, a
higher idea of the man than I have. As for Ruth--Ruth is simply swept
away--"

"Exactly; swept into her proper sphere," interrupted Etheridge. "Don't
interfere with the process."

"She doesn't understand--" Dolly began.

"She understands immensely well what she likes! Give Ruth indulgence,
amusement, pleasure, and she will be kind-hearted, amiable, generous; in
short, good and happy. On the other hand, there might be another story.
Come, I am going to be brutal; I don't know how much money your mother
has; but I suspect very little, with the possibility, perhaps, of less.
And I can't imagine, Dolly, any one more unhappy than your sister would
be, ten years hence, say, if shut up here in Asheville, poor, her good
looks gone, to face a life of dull sameness forever. I think it would
kill her! She is not at all the girl to accept monotony with resignation
or heroism; to settle down to mending and reading, book-clubs and
whist-clubs, puddings and embroidery, gossip and good works."

Here the house-door opened; Mrs. Franklin and Genevieve came in
together, and entered the parlor. When Dolly heard Genevieve's step, she
rose. Obliged to walk slowly, she could not slip out; but she made a
progress which was almost stately, as, without speaking to her
sister-in-law, or looking at her, she left the room.

Genevieve, however, required no notice from Dolly. Her face was radiant
with satisfaction. She shook hands with Etheridge warmly. "I have not
seen you since it happened, commodore. I know you are with us in our
pleasure? I know you congratulate us?"

Etheridge had always thought the younger Mrs. Franklin a beautiful
woman; she reminded him of the Madonna del Granduca at Florence. Now she
held his hand so long, and looked at him with such cordial friendliness,
that he came out with the gallant exclamation, "Chase is the one I
congratulate, by Jove!--on getting such a sister-in-law!"

"Think of all Ruth will now be able to do--all the good! I seem to see
even my hospital," added Genevieve, gayly.

"Hum--yes," added Etheridge. Walking away a step or two, he put his
hands in the pockets of his trousers and looked towards his legs
reflectively for a moment, as though surveying the pattern of the
garments--a convenient gesture to which a (slender) man can resort when
he wishes to cover a silence.

"For dear mamma, too, it is so delightful," continued Genevieve. She had
seated herself, and she now drew her mother-in-law down beside her.
"Ruth will never permit mamma to have another care."

"Yes--I think I'll just run up and take off my bonnet," said Mrs.
Franklin, disengaging herself. And she left the room.

Genevieve was not disturbed by this second departure; she was never
disturbed by any of the actions or the speeches of her husband's family.
She did her own duty regarding them regularly and steadily, month after
month; it was part of her rule of conduct. But what they did or said to
her in return was less important. "Ruth is a fortunate girl," she went
on, as she drew off her gloves with careful touches. "And she
appreciates it, commodore--I am glad to tell you that; I have been
talking to her. She is very happy. Horace is such an able and splendidly
successful man--a man whom every one must respect and admire most
warmly."

"Yes, a clever speculator indeed!" commented Etheridge, ungratefully,
throwing over his drive with the bays.

"Speculator? Oh no; it is all genuine business; I can assure you of
that," answered Genevieve, seriously. "And now perhaps you can help us a
little. Horace is anxious to have the marriage take place this fall. And
I am on his side. For why, indeed, should they wait? The usual delays
are prudential, or for the purpose of making preparations. But in this
case there are no such conditions; he already has a house in New York,
for he has always preferred home life. Ruth is willing to have it so.
But mamma decidedly, almost obstinately, opposes it."

"Dolly too, I suppose?"

"Oh, I never count Dolly; her temper is so uncertain. But it is very
natural that it should be so, and one always excuses her, poor dear!
Couldn't _you_ say a word or two to mamma, commodore? You have known her
so long; I am sure you have influence. But my chief dependence, of
course, is upon Jay. Mamma always yields to Jay."

"Franklin, then, is pleased with the engagement?" said Etheridge,
walking about the room, taking up books, looking at them vaguely, and
laying them down again.

"How could he _not_ be! As it happens, however, we have not yet heard
from him, for when our letters reached Charleston he had just started
for New York on one of their steamers; some business errand. But he was
to return by train, and I am expecting to hear from him to-morrow."

There was a sound outside. "Here they come," said Etheridge, looking
out.

Genevieve rose quickly to join him at the window. Chase and Malachi Hill
were dismounting. Then Chase lifted Ruth from Kentucky Belle. "Those are
two new horses, you know," explained Genevieve, in a low tone; "Horrie
sent for them. And he lets Mr. Hill ride one of them every day."

"Yes; _horses_ enough!" grumbled Etheridge, discontentedly.

Ruth, holding up the skirt of her habit, was coming towards the house,
talking to her two escorts. When she entered the parlor, Genevieve went
forward and put her arm round her. "I know you have enjoyed your ride,
dear?"

"Of course I have. How do you do, commodore? I have just been planning
another excursion with Horace." (The name came out happily and
securely.) "To Cæsar's Head this time; you to drive the four-in-hand,
and I to ride Kentucky Belle."

"Yes, that's right; arrange it with him," said Chase. "For I must go; I
have letters to write which can be postponed no longer. You have had
enough of me for to-day, I guess? May I come in to-morrow
afternoon--early?"

"Come to lunch," said Ruth, giving him her hand. He held it out for a
moment, looking at her with kindly eyes. "You don't know how much I
enjoyed my ride," said the girl, heartily. "It is such a joy to be on
Kentucky Belle; she is so beautiful, and she moves so lightly! It was
the nicest ride I have ever had in my life!"

This seemed to please Chase. He took leave of the others and went away.

"I will wait here, if you will allow it, Miss Ruth, until he is out of
sight," said Malachi Hill. "For I may as well confess to you--I have
already told Miss Dolly--that I seem fairly to lose my head when I find
myself with Mr. Chase alone! I am so haunted by the idea of all he could
do for the Church in these mountains that in spite of the generous gifts
he has already made, I keep hankering after more--like a regular
_gorilla_ of covetousness!"

"I shall have to see that he is never left alone with you," said Ruth,
laughing.

"There! he has turned the corner. Now _I'll_ go the other way,"
continued the missionary, his seriousness unbroken.

"Mr. Hill is such a _good_ man," remarked Genevieve as she closed the
window.

"Miss Billy thinks him full of the darkest evil," commented Ruth. "Why
do you shut the window?"

"You were in a draught. After your ride you must be warm."

"I'm a precious object, am I?"

"Yes, dear, you certainly are," replied Genevieve, with all the
seriousness of Malachi Hill.

"If that simpleton of a Billy could see the parson eat apples, she would
change her opinion about him," remarked Etheridge. "A man who can devour
with relish four, five, and even six, cold raw apples (and the Asheville
apples are sixteen inches round) late in the evening, cores, seeds, and
all, _must_ be virtuous--as virtuous as mutton!" He was looking at Ruth
as he spoke. The girl was leaning back in an easy-chair; Petie Trone,
Esq., had lost no time, he was already established in her lap, and the
squirrel had flown to her shoulder. She had taken off her gauntlets, and
as she lifted her hands to remove her hat, he saw a flash. "Trinkets?"
he said.

"Oh--you haven't seen it?" She drew off a ring and tossed it across to
him.

"Take care!" said Genevieve.

But Etheridge had already caught it. It was a solitaire diamond ring,
the stone of splendid beauty, large, pure, brilliant.

"It came yesterday," Genevieve explained. Then she folded her
hands--this with Genevieve was always a deliberate motion. "There will
be diamonds--yes. But there will be other things also; surely our dear
Ruth will remember the duties of wealth as well as its pleasures."

Ruth paid no heed to this; put on her ring again, using the philopena
circlet as a guard; then she said, "Petie Trone, Esq., there will be
just time before dinner for your Saturday scrubbing."

Half an hour later when she returned, the little dog trotting behind
her, his small body pinned up in a hot towel, Genevieve cried in alarm,
"Where are your rings?"

"Oh," said Ruth, looking at her hands, "I didn't miss them; they must
have come off in the tub. Since then I have been in my room, dressing."

"And Rinda may have thrown away the water!" exclaimed her sister-in-law,
rushing up the stairs in breathless haste.

But Rinda was never in a hurry to perform any of her duties, and the
wooden tub devoted to Mr. Trone still stood in its place. Genevieve,
baring her white arms, plunged both her hands into the water, her heart
beating with anxiety. But the rings, very soapy, were there.

That evening, at nine o'clock, Mrs. Franklin was galloping through the
latest tale of Anthony Trollope. For she always read a novel with racing
speed to get at the story, skipping every description; then, if she had
been interested, she went back and reperused it in more leisurely
fashion. It was unusual to have a book fresh from the press; the
well-fingered volumes which Miss Billy borrowed for her so industriously
were generally two or three years old. Horace Chase, learning from Ruth
the mother's liking for novels, had sent a note to New York, ordering in
his large way "all the latest articles in fiction;" a package to be sent
to L'Hommedieu once a month. The first parcel had just arrived, and Mrs.
Franklin, opening it, much surprised, had surveyed the gift with mixed
feelings. She was alone; Dolly was upstairs. Ruth, seized with a sudden
fancy for a glass of cream, had gone, with Rinda as protector, to a
house at some distance, where cream was sold; for with Ruth fancies were
so vivid that it always seemed to her absolutely necessary to follow
them instantly. The mother turned over the volumes. "It doesn't make me
like him a bit better!" she said to herself. But her easy-chair was
comfortable; the reading-lamp was burning brightly at her elbow. For
fourteen years novels had been her opiates; she put on her glasses, took
up the Trollope, and began. She had not been reading long, when her
attention suddenly jumped back to the present, owing to a sound outside.
For the window was open, somebody was coming up the path from the gate,
and she recognized--yes, she recognized the step. Letting the book drop,
she ran to the house-door. "Jared! Why--how did you get here? The stage
came in long ago."

"I drove over from Old Fort," answered her son as he entered.

"And you did not find Genevieve? She has gone with Mr. Hill to--"

"I haven't been to the Cottage yet; I came directly here. Where is
Ruth?"

"Out. But she will be in soon. Dolly isn't well to-night; she has gone
to bed."

"The coast is clear, then, and we can talk," said Jared. "So much the
better." They were now in the parlor; before seating himself he closed
the door. "I have come up, mother, about this affair of Ruth's. As soon
as I got back to Charleston and read your letters, I started at once.
You have been careless, I fear; but at least I hope that nothing has
been said, that no one knows?"

"Everybody knows, Jared. At least, everybody in Asheville."

"Who has told? Chase?" asked Jared, angrily.

"Oh no; he left that to us. I have said nothing, and Dolly has said
nothing. But--but--"

"But what?"

"Genevieve has announced it everywhere," answered Mrs. Franklin, her
inward feeling against her daughter-in-law for once getting the better
of her.

"I will speak to Genevieve. But she is not the one most in fault,
mother; she could not have announced it unless _you_ had given your
consent. And how came you to do that?"

"I don't think I have consented. I have been waiting for you."

"Very well, then; we can act together. Now that _I_ have come, Horace
Chase will find that there's some one on hand to look after you; he will
no longer be able to do as he pleases!"

"Our difficulty is, Jared, that it is not so much a question of his
doing as he pleases as it is of Ruth's doing as _she_ pleases; she
thinks it is all enchanting; and she is headstrong, you know."

"Yes. That is the very reason why I think you have been careless,
mother. You were here and I was not; you, therefore, were the one to
act. You should have taken Ruth out of town at once; you should have
taken her north, if necessary, and kept her there; you should have done
this at any sacrifice."

"It is not so easy--" began his mother. Then she stopped. For she was
living on credit; she owed money everywhere, and there were still ten
days to elapse before any remittances could reach her. But she would
have borne anything, and resorted to everything, rather than let Jared
know this. "It took me so completely by surprise," she said, beginning
again. "I am sure that you yourself had no suspicion of any such
possibility when we took that French Broad drive?"

"No, I had not. And it enrages me to think how blind I was! He was
laying his plans even then; the whole trip, and all those costly things
he did--that was simply part of it." And leaving his chair, the brother
walked up and down the room, his face darkly flushed with anger.
"Ruth--a child! And he--thirty years older!"

"Not that, dear. He is thirty-eight; and she was nineteen last week."

"He looks much more than thirty-eight. But that isn't the point. You
don't seem to see, mother, what makes it so insufferable; he has bribed
her about _me_, bribed her with that place in Charleston; that's the
whole story! She is so happy about that, that she forgets all else."

"I don't like the idea of an engagement between them any better than you
do, Jared. But I ought to say two things. One is, that I don't believe
he made any plot as to the Charleston place; I think he likes to help
people--"

"Yes, our family!" interrupted the son, hotly. "No, mother, you don't
understand him in the least. Horace Chase is purely a business man, a
long-headed, driving, money-making fellow; all his ambition (and he has
plenty of it) is along that one line. It's the only line, in fact, which
he thinks important. But the idea of his being a philanthropist would
make any one who has ever had business dealings with him laugh for a
week!"

"Well, have that as you like. But even if he first gave you the place on
Ruth's account (for he has fallen very much in love with her, there is
no doubt of that), I don't see that he has any need to be a benefactor
in keeping you there. They are no doubt delighted to have you; he says
so himself, in fact. A navy officer, a gentleman--they may well be!"
added Mrs. Franklin, looking for the moment very much like her father,
old Major Seymour, with his aristocratic notions.

"Why, mother, don't you know that people with that brutal amount of
money--Chaise and the Willoughbys, for instance--don't you know that
they look upon the salaries of army and navy officers simply as genteel
poverty?" said Jared, forgetting for the moment his anger in amusement
over her old-fashioned mistake.

But he could not have made Mrs. Franklin believe this in ten years of
repetition, much less in ten minutes. "And the other thing I had to
say," she went on, "is that I don't think Ruth is marrying him on _your_
account solely."

"Oh yes, she is, though she may not be conscious of it. But when I have
given up the Charleston place, which I shall do to-morrow, then she will
be free again. The moment she sees that she can do _me_ no good, all
will look different to her. I'd rather do anything--sell the Cottage,
and live on a crust all the rest of my days--than have a sister of mine
help me along in that way!"

His mother watched him as he paced to and fro. He looked ill; there were
hollows at his temples and dark circles under his eyes; his tall figure
had begun to stoop. He was the dearest of all her children; his
incurable, unspoken regrets, his broken life, were like a dagger in her
heart at all times. He would give up his place, and then he would have
nothing; and she, his mother, could not help him with a penny. He would
give up his place and sell the Cottage, and then--Genevieve! It all came
back to that; it would always come back to that--Genevieve! She
swallowed hard to keep down the sob in her throat. "He is very much in
love with her," she repeated, vaguely, in order to say something.

"Who cares if he is! I almost begin to think you like it, after all?"

"No, dear, no; neither Dolly nor I like it in the least. But Ruth is not
easy to manage. And Genevieve was sure that you--"

"This is not Genevieve's affair. It is mine!" thundered Jared.

His mother jumped up, ran to him, and gave him a kiss. For the moment
she forgot his illness, his uncertain future, her own debts, all her
troubles, in the joy of hearing him at last assert his will against
that of his wife. But it was only for a moment; she knew--knew far
better than he did--that the even-tempered feminine pertinacity would
always in the end have its way. Jared, impulsive, generous,
affectionate, was no match for Genevieve. In a contest of this sort it
is the nobler nature, always, that yields; the self-satisfied, limited
mind has an obstinacy that never gives way. She leaned her head against
her son's breast, and all the bitterness of his marriage came over her
afresh like a flood.

"Why, mother, what is it?" asked Jared, feeling her tremble. He put his
arm round her, and smoothed her hair tenderly. "Tell me what it is that
troubles you so?"

The gate swung to. Mrs. Franklin lifted her head. "Ruth is coming," she
whispered. "Say what you like to her. But, under all circumstances,
remember to be kind. I will come back presently." She hurried out.

Rinda and Ruth entered. Rinda went to the kitchen, and Ruth, after
taking off her hat, came into the parlor, carrying her glass of cream.
"Jared!" She put down the glass on the table, and threw her arms round
her brother's neck. "Oh, I am _so_ glad you have come!"

"Sit down. Here, by me. I wish to speak to you, Ruth."

"Yes--about my engagement. It's very good of you to come so soon;" and
she put her hand through his arm in her old affectionate way.

"I do not call it an engagement when you have neither your mother's
consent nor mine," answered her brother. "Whatever it is, however, you
must make an end of it."

"An end of it? Why?"

"Because we all dislike the idea. You are too young to comprehend what
you are doing."

"I am nineteen; that is not so very young. I comprehend that I am going
to be happy. And I _love_ to be happy! I have never seen any one half so
kind as Mr. Chase. If there is anything I want to do, he arranges it. He
doesn't wait, and hesitate, and consider; he _does_ it. He thinks of
everything; it is perfectly beautiful! Why, Jared--what he did for you,
wasn't that kind?"

"Exactly. That is what he has bribed you with!"

"Bribed?" repeated Ruth, surprised, as she saw the indignation in his
eyes. Then comprehending what he meant, she laughed, coloring a little
also. "But I am not marrying him on your account; I am marrying him on
my own. I am marrying because I like it, because I want to. You don't
believe it? Why--look at me." She rose and stood before him. "I am the
happiest girl in the world as I stand here! I should think you could see
it for yourself?" And in truth her face was radiant. "If I have ever had
any dreams of what I should like my life to be (and I have had plenty),
they have all come true," she went on, with her hands behind her,
looking at him reflectively. "Think of all I shall have! And of where I
can go! And of what I can do! Why--there's no end of it!"

"That is not the way to talk of marriage."

"How one talks of it is not important. The important point is to be
happy _in_ it, and that I shall be to the full--yes, to the full. His
Grand shall have whatever she likes; and Dolly too. First of all, Dolly
shall have a phaeton, so that she can drive to the woods every day. The
house shall be put in order from top to bottom. And--oh, everything!"

"Is that the way you talk to _him_?"

But the sarcasm fell to the ground. "Precisely. Word for word," answered
Ruth, lightly. And he saw that she spoke the truth.

"He is much too old for you. If there were no other--"

But Ruth interrupted him with a sort of sweet obstinacy. "That is for me
to judge, isn't it?"

"He is not at all the person you fancy he is."

"I don't care what he is generally, what he is to other people; all I
care for is what he is to me. And about that you know nothing; I am the
one to know. He is nicer to me, and he always will be nicer, than
Genevieve has ever been to _you_!" And turning, the girl walked across
the room.

"If I have been unhappy, that is the very reason I don't want you to
be," answered her brother, after a moment's pause.

His tone touched her. She ran back to him, and seated herself on his
knee, with her cheek against his. "I didn't mean it, dear; forgive me,"
she whispered, softly. "But please don't be cross. You are angry because
you believe I am marrying to help _you_. But you are mistaken; I am
marrying for myself. You might be back in the navy, and mother and Dolly
might have more money, and I should still marry him. It would be because
I want to, because I like him. If you had anything to say against him
personally, it would be different, but you haven't. He is waiting to
tell you about himself, to introduce you to his family (he has only
sisters), and to his partners, the Willoughbys. Your only objections
appear to be that I am marrying him on your account, and I have told you
that I am not; and that he is older than I am, and _that_ I like; and
that he has money, while we are poor. But he gets something in getting
me," she added, in a lighter tone, as she raised her head and looked at
him gayly. "Wait till you see how pretty I shall be in fine clothes."

The door opened, and Mrs. Franklin came in.

Ruth rose. "Here is mother. Now I must say the whole. Listen, mother;
and you too, Jared. I intend to marry Horace Chase. If not with your
consent, then without it. If you will not let me be married at home,
then I shall walk out of the house, go to Horace, and the first
clergyman or minister he can find shall marry us. There! I have said it.
But _why_ should you treat me so? Don't make me so dreadfully unhappy."

She had spoken wilfully, determinedly. But now she was pleading--though
it was pleading to have her own way. Into her beautiful eyes came two
big tears as she gazed at them. Neither Mrs. Franklin nor Jared could
withstand those drops.



CHAPTER VII


The wedding was over. Pretty little Trinity Church was left alone with
its decorations of flowers and vines, the work of Miss Billy Breeze.
Miss Billy, much excited, was now standing beside Ruth in the parlor at
L'Hommedieu; for Miss Billy and Maud Muriel were the bridesmaids. Maud
Muriel had consented with solemnity. "It is strange that such a man as
Horace Chase, a man of sense and importance, should be taken with a
child like Ruth Franklin," she confided to Miss Billy. "However, I won't
desert him at such a moment. I'll stand by him." She was in reality not
so much bridesmaid as groomsman.

L'Hommedieu was decked with flowers. It was a warm autumn day, the
windows and doors were open. All Asheville was in attendance, if not in
the house and on the verandas, then gazing over the fence, and waiting
outside the gate. For there were many things to engage its attention.
First, there was Mrs. Franklin, looking very distinguished; then
Genevieve, the most beautiful woman present. Then there was Bishop
Carew, who had come from Wilmington to officiate. All Asheville admired
the bishop--the handsome, kindly, noble old man, full of dignity, full
of sweetness as well; they were proud that he had come to "their"
wedding. For that was the way they thought of it. Even the
negroes--those who had flocked to old Daniel's race--had a sense of
ownership in the affair.

A third point of interest was the general surprise over Maud. As Ruth
had selected the costumes of her bridesmaids, Miss Mackintosh was
attired for the first time in her life in ample soft draperies. Her
hair, too, arranged by Miss Billy, had no longer the look of the
penitentiary, and the result was that (to the amazement of the town) the
sculptress was almost handsome.

Anthony Etheridge, much struck by this (and haunted by his old idea),
pressed upon her a glass of punch.

"Take it," he urged, in a low tone, "take two or three. Then, as soon as
this is over, hurry to your studio and _let yourself go_. You'll do
wonders!"

Two of Chase's partners were present, Nicholas Willoughby, a
quiet-looking man of fifty-eight, and his nephew Walter of the same
name; Walter was acting as "best man." The elder Willoughby had made use
of the occasion to take a general look at this mountain country, with
reference to Chase's ideas concerning it, in order to make a report to
his brother Richard. For Nicholas and Richard were millionaires many
times over; their business in life was investment. Asheville itself,
meanwhile, hardly comprehended the importance of such an event as the
presence within its borders of a New York capitalist; it knew very
little about New York, still less about capitalists. Mrs. Franklin,
however, possessed a wider knowledge; she understood what was
represented by the name of Willoughby. And it had solaced her
unspeakably also to note that the uncle had a genuine liking for her
future son-in-law. "They have a real regard for him," she said to her
son, in private. "And I myself like him rather better than I once
thought I should."

Jared had come from Charleston on the preceding day. "Oh, that's far too
guarded, mother," he answered. "The only way for us now is to like
Horace Chase with enthusiasm, to cling to him with the deepest
affection. We must admire unflinchingly everything he says and
everything he does--swallow him whole, as it were; it isn't difficult to
swallow things _whole_! Just watch me." And, in truth, it was Jared's
jocularity that enlivened the reception, and made it so gay; it reached
even Dolly, who (to aid him) became herself a veritable Catherine-wheel
of jokes, so that every one noticed how happy all the Franklins
were--how delighted with the marriage.

Chase himself appeared well. His rather ordinary face was lighted by an
expression of deep inward happiness which was touching; its set lines
were relaxed; his eyes, which were usually too keen, had a softness that
was new to them. He was very silent; he let his best man talk for him.
Walter Willoughby performed this part admirably; standing beside the
bridegroom, he "supported" him gayly through the two hours which were
given up to the outside friends.

Ruth looked happy, but not particularly pretty. The excitement had given
her a deep flush; even her throat was red.

At three o'clock Peter and Piper were brought round to the door; Chase
was to drive his wife over the mountains, through the magnificent
forest, now gorgeous with the tints of autumn, and at Old Fort a special
train was waiting to take them eastward.

A few more minutes and then they were gone. There was nothing left but
the scattered rice on the ground, and Petie Trone, Esq., barking his
little heart out at the gate.



CHAPTER VIII


Early on a moonlit evening in January, 1875, Mr. and Mrs. Horace Chase
were approaching St. Augustine. They had come by steamer up the broad
St. Johns, the beautiful river of Florida, to the lonely little landing
called Tocoi; here they had intrusted themselves to the Atlantic Ocean
Railroad. This railroad undertook to convey travellers across the
peninsula to the sea-coast, fifteen miles distant; and the promise was
kept. But it was kept in a manner so leisurely that more than once
Horace Chase had risen and walked to and fro, as though, somehow, that
would serve to increase the speed. The rolling-stock possessed by the
Atlantic Ocean Railroad at that date consisted of two small street-cars,
one for passengers, one for luggage; Chase's promenade, therefore,
confined as it was to the first car, had a range of about four steps.
"I'm ridiculously fidgety, and that's a fact," he said to his wife,
laughing at himself. "I can be lazy enough in a Pullman, for then I can
either read the papers or go to sleep. But down here there are no papers
to read. And who can sleep in this jolting? I believe I'll ask that
darky to let me drive the mules!"

"Do," said Ruth. "Then I can be out there with you on the front
platform."

As there were no other passengers (save Petie Trone, Esq., asleep in his
travelling basket), Abram, the negro driver, gave up the reins with a
grin. Taking his station on the step, he then admonished the volunteer
from time to time as follows: "Dish yere's a bad bit; take keer, boss."
"Jess ahead de rail am splayed out on de lef'. Yank 'em hard to de
right, or we'll sut'ny run off de track. We ginerally _do_ run off de
track 'bout yere." On each side was a dense forest veiled in the gray
long moss. Could that be snow between the two black lines of track
ahead? No snow, however, was possible in this warm atmosphere; it was
but the spectral effect of the moonlight, blanching to an even paler
whiteness the silvery sand which formed the road-bed between the rails.
This sand covered the sleepers to such a depth that the mules could not
step quickly; there was always a pailful of it on each foot to lift and
throw off. They moved on, therefore, in a sluggish trot, the cow-bells
attached to their collars keeping up a regular tink-tank, tink-tank.

The tableau of her husband driving these spirited steeds struck Ruth as
comical. She was seated on a camp-stool by his side, and presently she
broke into a laugh. "Oh, you do look _so_ funny, Horace! If you could
only see yourself! You, so particular about horses that you won't drive
anything that is not absolutely perfect, there you stand taking the
greatest pains, and watching solemnly every quiver of the ear of those
old mules!"

They were alone, Abram having gone to the baggage-car to get his tin
horn. "Come, now, are you never going to stop making fun of me?"
inquired Chase. "How do you expect to hit St. Augustine to-night if this
fast express runs off the track?" But in spite of his protest, it was
easy to see that he liked to hear her laugh.

Abram, coming back, put the horn to his lips and blew a resounding
blast; and presently, round a curve, the half-way station came into
view--namely, a hut of palmetto boughs on the barren, with a bonfire
before it. The negro station-men, beguiling their evening leisure by
dancing on the track to their own singing and the music of a banjo, did
not think it necessary to stop their gyrations until the heads of the
mules actually touched their shoulders. Even then they made no haste in
bringing out the fresh team which was to serve as motive power to St.
Augustine, and Mr. and Mrs. Chase, leaving the car, strolled up and down
near by. The veiled forest had been left behind; the rest of the way lay
over the open pine-barrens. The leaping bonfire, the singing negroes,
and the little train on its elevated snow-like track contrasted with the
wild, lonely, silent, tree-dotted plain, stretching away limitlessly in
the moonlight on all sides.

"Perhaps Petie Trone, Esq., would like to take a run," said Ruth.
Hastening into the car with her usual heedlessness, she tripped and
nearly fell, Chase, who had followed, catching her arm just in time to
save her.

"Some of these days, Ruthie, you will break your neck. Why are you
always in such a desperate hurry?"

"Talk about hurry!" answered Ruth, as she unstrapped the basket and woke
the lazy Mr. Trone. "Who saw the whole of Switzerland in five days? and
found it slow at that?" And then they both laughed.

After a stretch, Petie Trone decided to make a foray over the barren;
his little black figure was soon out of sight. "Horace, now that we are
here, I wish you would promise to stay. Can't we stay at least until the
middle of March? It's lovely in Florida in the winter," Ruth declared,
as they resumed their walk.

"Well, I'll stay as long as I can. But I must go to California on
business between this and spring," Chase answered.

"Why don't you make one of the Willoughbys do that? They never do
anything!"

"That's all right; I'm the working partner of the firm; it was so
understood from the beginning. The Willoughbys only put in capital; all
but Walter, of course, who hasn't got much. But Walter's a knowing young
chap, who will put in brains. My California business, however, has
nothing to do with the Willoughbys, Ruthie; it's my own private affair,
_that_ is. If I succeed, and I think I shall, it'll about double my
pile. Come, you know you like money." He drew her hand through his arm
and held it. "How many more rings do you want? How many more houses?
How many more French maids and flounces? How many more carriages?"

"Oh, leave out the carriages, do," interrupted Ruth. "When it comes to
anything connected with a horse, who spends money--you or I?"

"My one small spree compared to your fifty!"

"Small!" she repeated. "Wherever we go, whole troops of horses appear by
magic!" Then, after a moment, she let her head rest against his shoulder
as they strolled slowly on. "You are only too good to me," she added, in
another tone.

"Well, I guess that's about what I want to be," Chase answered,
covering, as he often did, the deep tenderness in his heart with a vein
of jocularity.

The Atlantic Ocean Railroad's terminal station at St. Augustine
consisted of a platform in the sand and another flaring bonfire. At
half-past six Mrs. Franklin, Dolly, and Anthony Etheridge were waiting
on this platform for the evening train. With them was a fourth
person--Mrs. Lilian Kip. "Oh, I can scarcely wait to see her!" exclaimed
this lady, excitedly. "Will she be the same? But no. Impossible!"

"She is exactly the same," answered Dolly, who, seated on an empty
dry-goods box, was watching the bonfire.

"But you must remember that Ruth did not come to Florida last winter
after her marriage. And this summer, when I was in Asheville, she was
abroad. And as none of you came south winter before last--don't you see
that it makes nearly _two_ years since I have seen her?" Mrs. Kip went
on. "In addition, marriage changes a woman's face so--deepens its
expression and makes it so _much_ more beautiful. I am sure, commodore,
that _you_ agree with me there?" And she turned to the only man present.

"Yes, yes," answered Etheridge, gallantly. In his heart he added: "And
therefore the more marriage the better? Is that what you are thinking
of, you idiot?"

The presence of Mrs. Kip always tore Etheridge to pieces. He had never
had any intention of marrying, and he certainly had no such intention
now. Yet he could not help admiring this doubly widowed Lilian very
deeply, after a fashion. And he knew, too--jealously and angrily he knew
it--that before long she would inevitably be led to the altar a third
time; so extremely marriageable a woman would never lack for leaders.

"Ruth is handsomer," remarked Mrs. Franklin; "otherwise she is
unchanged. You will see it for yourself, Lilian, when she comes."

The mother's tone was placid. All her forebodings had faded away, and
she had watched them disappear with thankful eyes. For Ruth was happy;
there could be no doubt about that. In the year that had passed since
her marriage, she had returned twice to Asheville, and Mrs. Franklin
also had spent a month at her son-in-law's home in New York. On all
these occasions it had been evident that the girl was enjoying greatly
her new life; that she was delightedly, exultantly, and gleefully
contented, and all in a natural way, without analyzing it. She delighted
in the boundless gratification of her taste for personal ease and
luxury; she exulted in all that she was able to do for her own family;
she was full of glee over the amusements, the entertainments, and
especially the change, that surrounded her like a boundless horizon. For
her husband denied her nothing; she had only to choose. He was not what
is known as set in his ways; he had no fixed habits (save the habit of
making money); in everything, therefore, except his business affairs, he
allowed his young wife to arrange their life according to her fancy.
This freedom, this power, and the wealth, had not yet become an old
story to Ruth, and, with the enjoyment which she found in all three, it
seemed as if they never would become that. It had been an immense
delight to her, for instance, to put L'Hommedieu in order for her
mother. A month after her marriage, on returning to Asheville for a
short visit, she had described her plan to Dolly. "And think what fun it
will be, Dolly, to have the whole house done over, not counting each
cent in Genevieve's deadly way, but just _recklessly_! And then to see
her squirm, and say 'surely!' And you and mother must pretend not to
care much about it; you must hardly know what is going on, while they
are actually putting in steam-heaters, and hard-wood floors, and
bath-rooms with porcelain tubs--hurrah!" And, with Petie Trone barking
in her arms, she whirled round in a dance of glee.

Chase happening to come in at this moment, she immediately repeated to
him all that she had been saying.

He agreed; then added, with his humorous deliberation, "But you don't
seem to think quite so much of my old school-mate as I supposed you
did?"

"Sisters-in-law, Mr. Chase, are seldom _very_ devoted friends,"
explained Dolly, going on with her embroidery. Dolly always did
something that required her close attention whenever Horace Chase was
present. "How, indeed, can they be? A sister sees one side of her
brother's nature, and sees it correctly; a wife sees another side, and
with equal accuracy. Each honestly believes that the other is entirely
wrong. Their point of view, you see, is so different!"

The waiting group at the St. Augustine station on this January evening
heard at last the blast of Abram's horn, and presently the train came
in, the mules for the last few yards galloping madly, their tin bells
giving out a clattering peal, and Chase still acting as driver, with
Ruth beside him. Affectionate greetings followed, for all the Franklins
were warmly attached to each other. Mrs. Kip was not a Franklin, but she
was by nature largely affectionate; she was probably the most
affectionate person in Florida. To the present occasion she contributed
several tears of joy. Then she signalled to Juniper, her colored
waiter; for, being not only affectionate, but romantic as well, she had
brought in her phaeton a bridal ornament, a heart three feet high, made
of roses reposing upon myrtle, and this symbol, amid the admiration of
all the bystanders, black and white, was now borne forward in the arms
of Juniper (who, being a slender lad, staggered under its weight). Ruth
laughed and laughed as this edifice was presented to her. But as, amid
her mirth, she had kissed the donor and thanked her very prettily, Mrs.
Kip was satisfied. For Ruth might laugh--Ruth, in fact, always
laughed--but marriage was marriage none the less; the most beautiful
human relation; and it was certainly fit that the first visit of a
happily wedded pair to the land of flowers should be commemorated
florally. Mrs. Kip volunteered to carry her heart to Mrs. Franklin's
residence; she drove away, therefore, Etheridge accompanying her, and
Juniper behind, balancing the structure as well as he could on his
knees, with his arms stretched upward to their fullest extent in order
to grasp its top.

In a rickety barouche drawn by two lean horses the others followed,
laughing and talking gayly. Chase got on very well with his
mother-in-law; and he supposed, also, that he got on fairly well with
Dolly: he had not divined Dolly's mental attitude towards him, which was
that simply of an armed neutrality. Dolly would have been wildly happy
if, for herself and her mother at least, she could have refused every
cent of his money. This had not been possible. Chase had settled upon
his wife a sum which gave her a large income for her personal use,
independent of all their common expenses; it was upon this income that
Ruth had drawn for the restoration of L'Hommedieu, and also for the
refurnishing of her mother's house at St. Augustine. "I can't be happy,
His Grand, I can't enjoy New York, or our trip to Europe, or anything,
unless I feel certain that you are perfectly comfortable in every way,"
she had said during that first visit at home. "All this money is mine; I
am not asked what I do with it, and I never shall be asked; you don't
know Horace if you think he will ever even allude to the subject. He
intends it for my ownest own, and of course he knows what I care the
most for, and that is you and Jared and Dolly. I have always suspected
that something troubled you every now and then, though I didn't know
what. And if it was money, His Grand, you _must_ take some from me, now
that I have it; you must take it, and make your little girl really
happy. For she can't be happy until you do."

This youngest child really was still, in the mother's eyes, her "baby."
And when the baby, sitting down in her lap, put her arms round her neck
and pleaded so lovingly, the mother yielded. Her debts were now all
paid; it was a secret between herself and Ruth. The disappearance of the
burden was a great relief to the mother, though not so much so as it
would have been to some women; for it was characteristic of Mrs.
Franklin that she had never thought there was anything wrong in being
in debt; she had only thought that it was unfortunate. It would not have
occurred to her, even in her worst anxieties, to reduce sternly her
expenses until they accorded with her means, no matter how low that
might lead her; there was a point, so she believed, beyond which a Mrs.
Franklin could not descend with justice to her children. And justice to
her children was certainly a mother's first duty; justice to creditors
must take a second place.

To Dolly, unaware of the payment of the debts, the acceptance even of
the restoration of the two houses had been bitter enough; for though the
money came through Ruth's hands, it was nevertheless provided by this
stranger. "If I had only been well, I could have worked and saved mother
from this," she thought. "But I am helpless. Not only that, but a care!
Nobody stops to think how dreary a lot it is to be always a care. And
how hard, hard, never to be able to give, but always to have to accept,
accept, and be thankful!" But Dolly, at heart, had a generous nature;
she would not cloud even by a look her mother's contentment or the
happiness of Ruth. So when Chase said, as the barouche swayed crazily
through the deep mud-hole which for years formed the junction between
the station lane and the main road, "This old rattletrap isn't safe,
ma'am. Is it the best St. Augustine can do? You ought to have something
better!"--when Chase said this to her mother, Dolly even brought forward
a smile.

The rattletrap followed the long causeway which crossed the salt-marsh
and the San Sebastian River. Entering the town beneath an archway of
foliage, this causeway broadened into a sandy street under huge
pride-of-India trees, whose branches met overhead. Old Miss
L'Hommedieu's winter residence was not far from St. Francis Barracks, at
the south end of the town. It was an old coquina house which rose
directly from a little-travelled roadway. An open space on the other
side of this roadway, and the absence of houses, gave it the air of
being "on the bay," as it was called. Chase had taken, for a term of
years, another house not far distant, which really was on the bay. He
had done this to please Ruth. It was not probable that they should spend
many winters in Florida; but in case they should wish to come
occasionally, it would be convenient to have a house ready. "And when we
don't want it, Jared could stay here now and then," Ruth had suggested.

"Your brother? I guess he isn't going to be a very easy chap to arrange
for, here or anywhere," Chase had answered, laughing. "We've already
slipped up once pretty well--Charleston, you know." Then, seeing her
face grow troubled, "But he'll take another view of something else I
have in mind," he went on. "If my California project turns out as I
hope, it will be absolutely necessary for me to have a confidential man
to see to the New York part of it--some one whom I can trust. And I
shall be able to convince Franklin that this time, at any rate, instead
of its being a favor to him, it'll be a favor to me. He won't kick at
_that_, I reckon."

For Jared was now again at Raleigh, working as a clerk for the man who
had bought his former business; he had resigned his Charleston place in
spite of Ruth, in spite even of Genevieve. He had waited until the
wedding was over, in order that Ruth might not be made unhappy at the
moment; and then he had done it.

Notwithstanding this, his wife had never had so much money in her life
as she had now. For she and Ruth, with the perfectly good conscience
which women have in such matters, had combined together, as it were, to
circumvent secretly the obstinate naval officer. Ruth was warmly
attached to her brother; he was the one person who had been able to
control her when she was a child; his good opinion had been a hundred
times more important to her than that of her mother and Dolly. Now that
she was rich, she was bent upon helping him; and having found that she
could not do it directly, she had turned all her intelligence towards
doing it indirectly, through the capable, the willing Genevieve. Mrs.
Jared Franklin, Junior, had quietly and skilfully bought land in
Asheville (in readiness for the coming railroad); she had an account at
the bank; she had come into the possession of bonds and stock; she had
enlarged her house, and she had also given herself the pleasure (she
called it the benediction) of laying the foundations of an addition to
the Colored Home. As she kept up a private correspondence with Ruth,
she had heard of the proposed place in New York for Jared, the place
where his services would be of value. She was not surprised; it was what
she had been counting upon. Jared's obstinacy would give way, _must_
give way, before this new opportunity; and in the meanwhile, here at
Asheville, all was going splendidly well.

Amid these various transactions Jared Franklin's mother had been obliged
to make up her mind as to what her own attitude should be. It had been
to her a relief unspeakable, an overmastering joy, to know that her son
would not, after all, sink to harassing poverty. Soothed by this, lulled
also by the hope that before very long he would of his own accord
consent to give up what was so distasteful to him, she had virtually
condoned the underhand partnership between Ruth and Genevieve, arranging
the matter with her conscience after her own fashion, by simply turning
her head away from the subject entirely. As she had plenty of
imagination, she had ended by really convincing herself that she was not
aware of what was going on, because she had not heard any of the
details. (She had, in fact, refused to hear them.) This left her free to
say to Jared (if necessary) that she had known nothing. But she hoped
that no actual words of this sort would be required. Her temperament,
indeed, had always been largely made up of hope.

It was true that Jared for the present was still at Raleigh, drudging
away at a very small salary. That, however, would not last forever. And
in the meantime (and this was also extraordinarily agreeable to the
mother) Madame Genevieve was learning that she could not lead her
husband quite so easily as she had supposed she could. In her enjoyment
of this fact, Mrs. Franklin, in certain moods, almost hoped that (as his
affairs were in reality going on so well) her son would continue to hold
out for some time longer.

The house which Horace Chase had taken at St. Augustine was much larger
than old Miss L'Hommedieu's abode; it was built of coquina, like hers,
but it faced the sea-wall directly, commanding the inlet; from its upper
windows one could see over Anastasia Island opposite, and follow miles
of the blue southern sea. Ruth's French maid, Félicité, had arrived at
this brown mansion the day before, with the heavy luggage; to-night,
however, new-comers were to remain with the mother in the smaller house.

When the barouche reached Mrs. Franklin's door, Etheridge, Mrs. Kip, and
the heart were already there. "I won't stay now," said Mrs. Kip. "But
may I look in later? Evangeline Taylor is perfectly _wild_ to come."

When she returned, a little after eight, Chase was still in the
dining-room with Anthony Etheridge, who had dined there. The heart had
been suspended from a stout hook on the parlor wall, and Ruth happened a
moment before to have placed herself under it, when, having discovered
her old guitar in a closet, she had seated herself to tune it. "It's
_so_ sweet, Ruth, your sitting there under my flowers," said the
visitor, tearfully. "And yet, for _me_, such an--such an _association_!"

"I thought your daughter was coming?" said Mrs. Franklin, peering
towards the door over her glasses.

"Evangeline Taylor will be here in a moment," answered her mother; "her
governess is bringing her." And presently there entered a tall, a
gigantically tall girl, with a long, solemn, pale face. As she was
barely twelve, she was dressed youthfully in a short school-girl frock
with a blue sash. Advancing, she kissed Ruth; then, retiring to a
corner, she seated herself, arranged her feet in an appropriate pose,
and crossed her hands in her lap. A little later, when no one was
looking, she furtively altered the position of her feet. Then she
changed once or twice the arrangement of her hands. This being settled
at last to her satisfaction, she turned her attention to her features,
trying several different contortions, and finally settling upon a
drawing in of the lips and a slight dilatation of the nostrils. And all
this not in the least from vanity, but simply from an intense personal
conscientiousness.

"The dear child longed to see you, Ruth. She danced for joy when she
heard you had come," explained the mother.

"Yes, Evangeline and I have always been great chums," answered Ruth,
good-naturedly.

The room was brightly lighted, and the light showed that the young
wife's face was more beautiful than ever; the grace of her figure also
was now heightened by all the aids that dress can bestow. Ruth had said
to Jared, jokingly, "Wait till you see how pretty I shall be in fine
clothes!" The fine clothes had been purchased in profusion, and, what
was better, Félicité knew how to adapt them perfectly to her slender
young mistress.

Mrs. Kip, having paid her tribute to "the association" (she did not say
whether the feeling was connected with Andrew Taylor, her first husband,
or with the equally departed John Kip, her second), now seated herself
beside Ruth, and, with the freedom of old friendship, examined her
costume. "I know you had that made in Paris!" she said. "Simple as it
is, it has a sort of something or other! And, oh, what a beautiful
bracelet! What splendid rings!"

Ruth wore no ornaments save that on her right wrist was a band of
sapphires, and on her right hand three of the same gems, all the stones
being of great beauty. On her left hand she wore the wedding circlet,
with her engagement-ring and the philopena guard over it. In answer to
the exclamation, she had taken off the jewels and tossed them all into
Mrs. Kip's lap. Mrs. Kip looked at them, her red lips open.

To some persons, Lilian Kip seemed beautiful, in spite of the fact that
the outline of her features, from certain points of view, was almost
grotesque; she had a short nose, a wide mouth, a broad face, and a
receding chin. Her dark-brown eyes were neither large nor bright, but
they had a soft, dove-like expression; her curling hair was of a
mahogany-red tint, and she had the exquisitely beautiful skin which
sometimes accompanies hair of this hue; her cheeks really had the
coloring of peaches and cream; her lips were like strawberries; her
neck, arms, and hands were as fair as the inner petals of a tea-rose.
With the exception of her imperfect facial outlines, she was as
faultlessly modelled as a Venus. A short Venus, it is true, and a
well-fed one; still a Venus. No one would ever have imagined her to be
the mother of that light-house of a daughter; it was necessary to recall
the fact that the height of the late Andrew Taylor had been six feet
four inches. Andrew Taylor having married Lilian Howard when she was but
seventeen, Lilian Kip, in spite of two husbands and her embarrassingly
overtopping child, found herself even now but thirty.

She had put Ruth's rings on her hands and the bracelet on her wrist; now
she surveyed the effect with her head on one side, consideringly. While
she was thus engaged, Mrs. Franklin's little negro boy, Samp, ushered in
another visitor--Walter Willoughby.

"Welcome to Florida, Mrs. Chase," he said, as he shook hands with Ruth.
"As you are an old resident, however, it's really your husband whom I
have come to greet; he is here, isn't he?"

"Yes; he is in the dining-room with Commodore Etheridge," Ruth
answered. "Will you go out?" For it was literally out; the old house was
built in the Spanish fashion round an interior court, and to reach the
dining-room one traversed a long veranda.

"Thanks; I'll wait here," Walter answered. In reality he would have
preferred to go and have a cigar with Chase. But as he had not seen his
partner's wife since she returned from Europe, it was only courtesy as
well as good policy to remain where he was. For Mrs. Chase was a power.
She was a power because her husband would always wish to please her;
this desire would come next to his money-making, and would even, in
Walter's opinion (in case there should ever be a contest between the two
influences), "run in close!"

Mrs. Kip had hastily divested herself of the jewels, and replaced them
on Ruth's wrist and hands, with many caressing touches. "Aren't they
_lovely_?" she said to Walter.

"That little one, the guard, was _my_ selection," he replied, indicating
the philopena circlet.

"And not this also?" said Ruth, touching her engagement ring.

"No; that was my uncle Richard's choice; Chase wrote to _him_ the second
time, not to me," Walter answered. "I'm afraid he didn't like my taste."
He laughed; then turned to another subject. "You were playing the guitar
when I came in, Mrs. Chase; won't you sing something?"

"I neither play nor sing in a civilized way," Ruth answered. "None of
us do. In music we are all awful barbarians."

"How can you say so," protested Mrs. Kip, "when, as a family, you are
_so_ musical?" Then, summoning to her eyes an expression of great
intelligence, she added: "And I should know that you were, all of you,
from your thick eyebrows and very thick hair. You have heard of that
theory, haven't you, Mr. Willoughby? That all true musicians have very
thick hair?"

"Also murderers; I mean the women--the murderesses," remarked Dolly.

"Oh, Dolly, what ideas you do have! Who would ever think of associating
murderesses with music? Music is _so_ uplifting," protested the rosy
widow.

"We should take care that it is not too much so," Dolly answered. "Lots
of us are ridiculously uplifted. We know one thing perhaps, and like it.
But we remain flatly ignorant about almost everything else. In a busy
world this would do no harm, if we could only be conscious of it. But
no; on we go, deeply conceited about the one thing we know and like, and
loftily severe as to the ignorance of other persons concerning it. It
doesn't occur to us that upon other subjects save our own, we ourselves
are presenting precisely the same spectacle. A Beethoven, when it comes
to pictures, may find something very taking in a daub representing a
plump child with a skipping-rope, and the legend: 'See me jump!' A
painter of the highest power may think 'The Sweet By-and-By' on the
cornet the acme of musical expression. A distinguished sculptor may
appreciate on the stage only negro minstrels or a tenth-rate farce. A
great historian may see nothing to choose, in the way of beauty, between
a fine etching and a chromo. It is well known that the most celebrated,
and deservedly celebrated, scientific man of our day devours regularly
the weakest fiction that we have. And people who love the best classical
music and can endure nothing else, have no idea, very often, whether
they belong to the mammalia or the crustacea, or whether the Cologne
cathedral is Doric or late Tudor."

"Carry it a little further, Miss Franklin," said Walter Willoughby; "it
has often been noted that criminals delight in the most sentimental
tales."

"That isn't the same thing," Dolly answered. "However, to take up your
idea, Mr. Willoughby, it is certainly true that it is often the good
women who read with the most breathless interest the newspaper reports
of crimes."

"Oh no!" exclaimed Mrs. Kip.

"Yes, they do, Lilian," Dolly responded. "And when it comes to tales,
they like dreadful events, with plenty of moral reflections thrown in;
the moral reflections make it all right. A plain narrative of an even
much less degree of evil, given impartially, and without a word of
comment by the author--_that_ seems to them the unpardonable thing."

"Well, and isn't it?" said Mrs. Kip. "Shouldn't people be
_taught_--_counselled_?"

"And it's for the sake of the counsel that they read such stories?"
inquired Dolly.

During this conversation, Chase, in the dining-room, had risen and given
a stretch, with his long arms out horizontally. He was beginning to feel
bored by the talk of Anthony Etheridge, "the ancient swell," as he
called him. In addition, he had a vision of finishing this second cigar
in a comfortable chair in the parlor (for Mrs. Franklin had no objection
to cigar smoke), with Ruth near by; for it always amused him to hear his
wife laugh and talk. The commodore, meanwhile, having assigned to
himself from the day of the wedding the task of "helping to civilize the
Bubble," never lost an opportunity to tell him stories from his own more
cultivated experience--"stories that will give him ideas, and, by Jove!
phrases, too. He needs 'em!" He had risen also. But he now detained his
companion until he had finished what he was saying. "So there you have
the reason, Mr. Chase, why _I_ didn't marry. I simply couldn't endure
the idea of an old woman's face opposite mine at table year after year;
for our women grow old so soon! Now you, sir, have shown the highest
wisdom in this respect. I congratulate you."

"I don't know about that," answered Chase, as he turned towards the
door. "Ruth will have an old man's face opposite _her_ before very long,
won't she?"

"Not at all, my good friend; not at all. Men have no age. At least,
they _need_ not have it," answered Etheridge, bringing forward with
joviality his favorite axiom.

Cordial greetings took place between Chase and Walter Willoughby. "Your
uncles weren't sure you would still be here," Chase remarked. "They
thought perhaps you wouldn't stay."

"I shall stay awhile--outstay you, probably," answered Walter, smiling.
"I can't imagine that you'll stand it long."

"Doing nothing, you mean? Well, it's true I have never loafed _much_,"
Chase admitted.

"You loafed all summer in Europe," the younger man replied, and his
voice had almost an intonation of complaint. He perceived this himself,
and smiled a little over it.

"So that was loafing, was it," commented Ruth, in a musing
tone--"catching trains and coaches on a full run, seeing three or four
cantons, half a dozen towns, two passes, and several ranges of mountains
every day?"

All laughed, and Mrs. Kip said: "Did you rush along at that rate? That
was baddish. There's no hurry _here_; that's one good thing. The laziest
place! We must get up a boat-ride soon, Ruth. Boat-drive, I mean."

Mrs. Franklin meanwhile, rising to get something, knocked over
accidentally the lamplighters which she had just completed, and Chase,
who saw it, jumped up to help her collect them.

"Why, how many you have made!" he said, gallantly.

She was not pleased by this innocent speech; she had no desire to be
patted on the back, as it were, about her curled strips of paper; she
curled them to please herself. She made no reply, save that her nose
looked unusually aquiline.

"Yes, mother is tremendously industrious in lamplighters," remarked
Dolly. "Her only grief is that she cannot send them to the Indian
missions. You can send _almost_ everything to the Indian missions; but
somehow lamplighters fill no void."

"Do you mean the new mission we are to have here--the Indians at the
fort?" asked Walter Willoughby. "They are having a big dance to-night."

Ruth looked up.

"Should you like to see it?" he went on, instantly taking advantage of
an opportunity to please her. "Nothing easier. We could watch it quite
comfortably, you know, from the ramparts."

"I should like it ever so much! Let us go at once, before it is over!"
exclaimed Ruth, eagerly.

"Ruth! Ruth!" said her mother. "After travelling all day, Mr. Chase may
be tired."

"Not at all, ma'am," said Chase. "I don't take much stock in Indians
myself," he went on, to his wife. "Do you really want to go?"

"Oh yes, Horace. Please."

"And the commodore will go with _me_," said Mrs. Kip, turning her soft
eyes towards Etheridge, who went down before the glance like a house of
cards.

"But we must take Evangeline Taylor home first," said Mrs. Kip. "We'll
go round by way of Andalusia, commodore. It would never do to let her
see an Indian dance at _her_ age," she added, affectionately, lifting
her hand high to pat her daughter's aerial cheek. "It would make her
tremble like a babe."

"Oh, _did_ you hear her 'baddish'!" said Dolly, as, a few minutes later,
they went up the steps that led to the sea-wall, Chase and Walter
Willoughby, Ruth and herself. "And did you hear her 'boat-drive'? She
has become so densely confused by hearing Achilles Larue inveigh against
the use of 'ride' for 'drive' that now she thinks everything must be
drive."

Chase and Walter Willoughby smiled; but not unkindly. There are some
things which the Dolly Franklins of the world are incapable, with all
their cleverness, of comprehending; one of them is the attraction of a
sweet fool.

The sea-wall of St. Augustine stretches, with its smooth granite coping,
along the entire front of the old town, nearly a mile in length. On the
land side its top is but four or five feet above the roadway; towards
the water it presents a high, dark, wet surface, against which comes the
wash of the ocean, or rather of the inlet; for the harbor is protected
by a long, low island lying outside. It is this island, called
Anastasia, that has the ocean beach. The walk on top of the wall is
just wide enough for two. Walter Willoughby led the way with Dolly, and
Chase and his wife followed, a short distance behind.

Walter thought Miss Franklin tiresome. With the impatience of a young
fellow, he did not care for her clever talk. He was interested in clever
men; in woman he admired other qualities. He had spent ten days in
Asheville during the preceding summer in connection with Chase's plans
for investment there, and he had been often at L'Hommedieu during his
stay; but he had found Genevieve more attractive than Dolly--Genevieve
and Mrs. Kip. For Mrs. Kip, since her second widowhood, had spent her
summers at Asheville, for the sake of "the mountain atmosphere;" ("which
means Achilles atmosphere," Mrs. Franklin declared). This evening Walter
had felt a distinct sense of annoyance when Dolly had announced her
intention of going with them to see the Indian dance, for this would
arrange their party in twos. He had no desire for a tête-à-tête with
Dolly, and neither did he care for a tête-à-tête with Ruth; his idea had
been to accompany Mr. and Mrs. Chase as a third. However, he made the
best of it; Walter always did that. He had the happy faculty of getting
all the enjoyment possible out of the present, whatever it might be.
Postponing, therefore, to the next day his plan for making himself
agreeable to the Chases, he led the way gayly enough to the fort.

Fort San Marco is the most imposing ancient structure which the United
States can show. Begun in the seventeenth century, when Florida was a
province of Spain, it has turrets, ramparts, and bastions, a portcullis
and barbacan, a moat and drawbridge. Its water-battery, where once stood
the Spanish cannon, looks out to sea. Having outlived its use as a
fortification, it was now sheltering temporarily a band of Indians from
the far West, most of whom had been sentenced to imprisonment for crime.
With the captives had come their families, for this imprisonment was to
serve also as an experiment; the red men were to be instructed,
influenced, helped. At present the education had not had time to
progress far.

The large square interior court, open to the sky, was to-night lighted
by torches of pine, which were thrust into the iron rings that had
served the Spaniards for the same purpose long before. The Indians,
adorned with paint and feathers, were going through their wild
evolutions, now moving round a large circle in a strange squatting
attitude, now bounding aloft. Their dark faces, either from their actual
feelings or from the simulated ferocity appropriate to a war-dance, were
very savage, and with their half-naked bodies, their whoops and yells,
they made a picture that was terribly realistic to the whites who looked
on from the ramparts above, for it needed but little imagination to
fancy a _bona fide_ attack--the surprise of the lonely frontier
farm-house, with the following massacre and dreadful shrieks.

Ruth, half frightened, clung to her husband's arm. Mrs. Kip, after a
while, began to sob a little.

"I'm _thinking_--of the _wo-women_ they have probably _scalped_ on the
_pla-ains_" she said to Etheridge.

"What?" he asked, unable to hear.

"Never mind; we'll _convert_ them," she went on, drying her eyes
hopefully. For a Sunday-school was to be established at the fort, and
she had already promised to take a class.

But Dolly was on the side of the Indians. "The crimes for which these
poor creatures are imprisoned here are nothing but virtues upside down,"
she shouted. "They killed white men? Of course they did. Haven't the
white men stolen all their land?"

"But we're going to _Christianize_ them," yelled Mrs. Kip, in reply.
They were obliged to yell, amid the deafening noise of the dance and the
whoopings below.

Ruth had a humorous remark ready, when suddenly her husband, to Walter's
amusement, put his hand over her lips. She looked up at him, laughing.
She understood.

"Funniest thing in the world," he had once said to her, "but the more
noise there is, the more incessantly women _will_ talk. Ever noticed?
They are capable of carrying on a shrieking conversation in the cars all
day long."

The atmosphere grew dense with the smoke from the pitch-pine torches,
and suddenly, ten minutes later, Dolly fainted. This in itself was not
alarming; with Dolly it happened not infrequently. But under the present
circumstances it was awkward.

"Why did you let her come? I was amazed when I saw her here," said
Etheridge, testily.

For Etheridge was dead tired. He hated the Indians; he detested the
choking smoke; he loathed open ramparts at this time of night. Ruth and
Mrs. Franklin had themselves been surprised by Dolly's desire to see the
dance. But they always encouraged any wish of hers to go anywhere; such
inclinations were so few.

Walter Willoughby, meanwhile, prompt as ever, had already found a
vehicle--namely, the phaeton of Captain March, the army officer in
charge of the Indians; it was waiting outside to take Mrs. March back to
the Magnolia Hotel. "The captain lends it with pleasure; as soon,
therefore, as Miss Franklin is able, I can drive her home," suggested
Walter.

But Chase, who knew through his wife some of the secrets of Dolly's
suffering, feared lest she might now be attacked by pain; he would not
trust her to a careless young fellow like Walter. "I'll take her
myself," he said. "And Ruth, you can come back with the others, along
the sea-wall."

Dolly, who had recovered consciousness, protested against this
arrangement. But her voice was only a whisper; Chase, paying no
attention to it, lifted her and helped her down to the phaeton. He was
certainly the one to do it, so he thought; his wife's sister was his
sister as well. It was a pity that she was not rather more amiable. But
that made no difference regarding one's duty towards her.

The others also left the ramparts, and started homeward, following the
sea-wall.

This granite pathway is not straight; it curves a little here and there,
adapting itself to the line of the shore. To-night it glittered in the
moonlight. It was high tide, and the water also glittered as it came
lapping against the stones waveringly, so that the granite somehow
seemed to waver, too. Etheridge was last, behind Mrs. Kip. He did not
wish to make her dizzy by walking beside her, he said. Suddenly he
descended. On the land side.

Mrs. Kip, hearing the thud of his jump, turned her head, surprised. And
then the commodore (though he was still staggering) held out his hand,
saying, "We get off here, of course; it is much our nearest way. That's
the reason I stepped down," he carelessly added.

Mrs. Kip had intended to follow the wall as far as the Basin. But she
always instinctively obeyed directions given in a masculine voice. If
there were two masculine voices, she obeyed the younger. In this case
the younger man did not speak. She acquiesced, therefore, in the elder's
sharp "Come!" For poor Etheridge had been so jarred by his fall that his
voice had become for the moment falsetto.

Mrs. Chase and Walter Willoughby, thus deserted, continued on their way
alone.

It was a beautiful night. The moon lighted the water so brilliantly that
the flash of the light-house on Anastasia seemed superfluous; the dark
fort loomed up in massive outlines; a narrow black boat was coming
across from the island, and, as there was a breeze, the two Minorcans it
carried had put up a rag of a sail, which shone like silver. "How fast
they go!" said Ruth.

"Would you like to sail home?" asked Walter. He did not wait for her
answer, for, quick at divination, he had caught the wish in her voice.
He hailed the Minorcans; they brought their boat up to the next flight
of water-steps; in two minutes from the time she had first spoken, Ruth,
much amused by this unexpected adventure, was sailing down the inlet.
"Oh, how wet! I didn't think of that," Walter had exclaimed as he saw
the water in the bottom of the boat; and with a quick movement he had
divested himself of his coat, and made a seat of it for her in the
driest place. She had had no time to object, they were already off; she
must sit down, and sit still, for their tottlish craft was only a
dugout. Walter, squatting opposite, made jocular remarks about his
appearance as he sat there in his shirt-sleeves.

It was never difficult for Ruth to laugh, and presently, as the water
gained on her companion in spite of all his efforts, she gave way to
mirth. She laughed so long that Walter began to feel that he knew her
better, that he even knew her well. He laughed himself. But he also took
the greatest pains at the same time to guard her pretty dress from
injury.

The breeze and the tide were both in their favor; they glided rapidly
past the bathing-house, the Plaza, the Basin, and the old mansion which
Chase had taken. Then Walter directed the Minorcans towards another
flight of water-steps. "Here we are," he said. "And in half the time it
would have taken us if we had walked. We have come like a shot."

He took her to her mother's door. Then, pretty wet, with his ruined coat
over his arm, he walked back along the sea-wall to the St. Augustine
Hotel.



CHAPTER IX


Two weeks later Mrs. Kip gave an afternoon party for the Indians.
Captain March had not been struck by her idea that the sight of "a
lady's quiet home" would have a soothing effect upon these children of
the plains. Mrs. Kip had invited the whole band, but the captain had
sent only a carefully selected half-dozen in charge of the interpreter.
And he had also added, uninvited, several soldiers from the small force
at his disposal. Mrs. Kip was sure that these soldiers were present
"merely for form." There are various kinds of form. Captain March,
having confided to the colonel who commanded at the other end of the
sea-wall, that he could answer for the decorum of his six "unless the
young ladies get hold of them," a further detachment of men had arrived
from St. Francis Barracks; for the colonel was aware that the party was
to be largely feminine. The festivities, therefore, went on with double
brilliancy, owing to the many uniforms visible under the trees.

These trees were magnificent. Mrs. Kip occupied, as tenant, the old
Buckingham Smith place, which she had named Andalusia. Here, in addition
to the majestic live-oaks, were date-palms, palmettoes, magnolias,
crape-myrtles, figs, and bananas, hedges of Spanish-bayonet, and a
half-mile of orange walks, which resembled tunnels through a
glossy-green foliage, the daylight at each end looking like a far-away
yellow spot. All this superb vegetation rose, strangely enough to
Northern eyes, from a silver-white soil. It was a beautiful day, warm
and bright. Above, the sky seemed very near; it closed down over the
flat land like a soft blue cover. The air was full of fragrance, for
both here and in the neighboring grove of Dr. Carrington the
orange-trees were in bloom. Andalusia was near the San Sebastian border
of the town, and to reach it on foot one was obliged to toil through a
lane so deep in sand that it was practically bottomless.

There was no toil, however, for Mrs. Horace Chase; on the day of the
party she arrived at Andalusia in a phaeton drawn by two pretty ponies.
She was driving, for the ponies were hers. Her husband was beside her,
and, in the little seat behind, Walter Willoughby had perched himself.
It was a very early party, having begun with a dinner for the Indians at
one o'clock; Mr. and Mrs. Chase arrived at half-past two. Dressed in
white, Mrs. Kip was hovering round her dark-skinned guests. When she
could not think of anything else to do, she shook hands with them; she
had already been through this ceremony eight times. "If I could only
speak to them in their own tongue!" she said, yearningly. And the long
sentences, expressive of friendship, which she begged the interpreter to
translate to them, would have filled a volume. The interpreter, a very
intelligent young man, obeyed all her requests with much politeness.
"Tell them that we _love_ them," said Mrs. Kip. "Tell them that we think
of their _souls_."

The interpreter bowed; then he translated as follows: "The white squaw
says that you have had enough to eat, and more than enough; and she
hopes that you won't make pigs of yourselves if anything else is
offered--especially Drowning Raven!"

The Chases and Walter Willoughby had come to the Indian party for a
particular purpose, or rather Walter had asked the assistance of the
other two in carrying out a purpose of his own, which was to make Mrs.
Kip give them a ball. For Andalusia possessed a capital room for
dancing. The room was, in fact, an old gymnasium--a one-story building
near the house. Mrs. Kip was in the habit of lending this gymnasium for
tableaux and Sunday-school festivals; to-day it had served as a
dining-room for the Indians. Walter declared that with the aid of flags
and flowers the gymnasium would make an excellent ball-room; and as the
regimental band had arrived at St. Francis Barracks that morning for a
short stay, the mistress of Andalusia must be attacked at once.

"We'll go to her Indian party, and compliment her out of her shoes," he
suggested. "You, Mrs. Chase, must be struck with her dress. I shall
simply make love to her. And let me see--what can you do?" he went on,
addressing Chase. "I have it; you can admire her chiefs."

"Dirty lot!" Chase answered. "I'd rather admire the hostess."

But the six Indians were not at all dirty; they had never been half so
clean since they were born; they fairly shone with soap and ablutions.
Dressed in trousers and calico shirts, with moccasins on their feet, and
their black hair carefully anointed, they walked, stood, or sat in a
straight row all together, according to the strongly emphasized
instructions which they had received before setting out. Two old
warriors, one of them the gluttonous Drowning Raven reproved by the
interpreter, grinned affably at everything. The others preserved the
dignified Indian impassiveness.

Soon after his arrival, Walter, who had paid his greetings upon
entering, returned to his fair hostess. "I hear you have a rose-tree
that is a wonder, Mrs. Kip; where is it?"

Mrs. Kip began to explain. "Go through the first orange-walk. Then turn
to the right. Then--"

"I am afraid I can't remember. Take me there yourself," said Walter,
calmly.

"Oh, I ought to be here, I think. People are still coming, you know,"
answered the lady. Then, as he did not withdraw his order, "Well," she
said, assentingly.

They were absent twenty minutes.

When they returned, the soft brown eyes of the widow had a partly
pleased, partly deprecatory expression. Another young man in love with
her! What could she do to prevent these occurrences?

Walter, meanwhile, had returned to Mr. and Mrs. Chase. "It's all right,"
he said to Ruth. "The ball will come off to-morrow night. Impromptu."

"Well, you _have_ got cheek!" commented Chase.

Mrs. Kip herself soon came up. "Ruth, dear, do you know that the
artillery band is only to stay a short time? My gymnasium has a capital
floor; what do you say to an impromptu dance there to-morrow night? I've
just thought of it; it's my own idea entirely."

"Now what made her lug in that unnecessary lie at the end?" inquired
Chase, in a reasoning tone, when their hostess, after a few minutes more
of conversation, had returned to her duties. "It's of no importance to
anybody whose idea it was. That's what I call taking trouble for
nothing!"

"If you believe your lie, it's no longer a lie," answered Walter; "and
she believes hers. A quarter of a minute after a thing has happened, a
woman can often succeed in convincing herself that it happened not
_quite_ in that way, but in another. Then she tells it in _her_ way
forever after."

Chase gave a yawn. "Well, haven't you had about enough of this fool
business?" he said to his wife, using the words humorously.

"I am ready to go whenever you like," she answered. For if he allowed
her to arrange their days as she pleased, she, on her side, always
yielded to his wishes whenever he expressed them.

"I'll go and see if the ponies have come," he suggested, and he made his
way towards the gate.

"You don't give us a very nice character," Ruth went on to Walter.

"About fibs, do you mean? I only said that you ladies have very powerful
beliefs. Proof is nothing to you; faith is all. There is another odd
fact connected with the subject, Mrs. Chase, and that is that an
absolutely veracious woman, one who tells the exact, bare, cold truth on
all occasions and nothing more; who never exaggerates or is tempted to
exaggerate, by even a hair's-breadth--who is never conscious that she is
coloring things too rosily--such a woman is somehow a very uninteresting
person to men! I can't explain it, and it doesn't seem just. But it's
so. Women of that sort (for they exist--a few of them) move through life
very admirably; but quite without masculine adorers." Then he stopped
himself. "I'm not here, however, to discuss problems with her," he
thought. "Several hours more of daylight; let me see, what can I suggest
next to amuse her?"

This young man--he was twenty-seven--had had an intention in seeking St.
Augustine at this time; he wished to become well acquainted, if possible
intimate, with the enterprising member of his uncle's firm. He had some
money, but not much. His father, the elder Walter, had been the one
black sheep of the Willoughby flock, the one spendthrift of that
prudent family circle. After the death of the prodigal, Richard and
Nicholas had befriended the son; the younger Walter was a graduate of
Columbia; he had spent eighteen months in Europe; and when not at
college or abroad, he had lived with his rich uncles. But this did not
satisfy him, he was intensely ambitious; the other Willoughbys had no
suspicion of the reach of this nephew's plans. For his ambitions
extended in half a dozen different directions, whereas what might have
been called the family idea had moved always along one line. Walter had
more taste than his uncles; he knew a good picture when he saw it; he
liked good architecture; he admired a well-bound book. But these things
were subordinate; his first wish was to be rich; that was the
stepping-stone to all the rest. As his uncles had children, he could not
expect to be their heir; but he had the advantage of the name and the
relationship, and they had already done much by making him, nominally at
least, a junior partner in this new (comparatively new) firm--a firm
which was, however, but one of their interests. The very first time that
Walter had met the Chase of Willoughby & Chase he had made up his mind
that this was the person he needed, the person to give him a lift.
Richard and Nicholas were too cautious, too conservative, for daring
enterprises, for outside speculations; in addition, they had no need to
turn to things of that sort. Their nephew, however, was in a hurry, and
here, ready to his hand, appeared a man of resources; a man who had
made one fortune in a baking-powder, another by the bold purchase of
three-quarters of an uncertain silver mine, a third by speculation on a
large scale in lumber, while a fourth was now in progress, founded (more
regularly) in steamers. At present also there was a rumor that he had
something new on foot, something in California; Walter had an ardent
desire to be admitted to a part in this Californian enterprise, whatever
it might be. But Chase's trip to Europe had delayed any progress he
might have hoped for in this direction, just as it had delayed the
carrying out of the Asheville speculation. The Chases had returned to
New York in November. But immediately (for it had seemed immediately to
the impatient junior partner) Chase had been hurried off again, this
time to Florida, by his silly wife. Walter did not really mean that Ruth
was silly; he thought her pretty and amiable. But as she was gay,
restless, fond of change, she had interfered (unconsciously of course)
with his plans and his hopes for nearly a year; to call her silly,
therefore, was, in comparison, a mild revenge. "What under heaven is the
use of her dragging poor Chase 'away down South to the land of the
cotton,' when she has already kept him a whole summer wandering about
Europe," he had said to himself, discomfited, when he first heard of the
proposed Florida journey. The next day an idea came to him: "Why
shouldn't I go also? Chase will be sure to bore himself to death down
there, with nothing in the world to do. And then I shall be on hand to
help him through the eternal sunshiny days! In addition, I may as well
try to make myself agreeable to his gadding wife; for, whether she knows
it as yet or not, it is evident that _she_ rules the roost." He
followed, therefore. But as he came straight to Florida, and as Mr. and
Mrs. Chase had stopped _en route_ at Baltimore, Washington, Richmond,
Charleston, and Savannah, Walter had been in St. Augustine nearly two
weeks before they arrived.

So far, all had turned out as he had hoped it would. This was not
surprising; for young Willoughby was, not merely in manner, but also in
reality, a good-natured, agreeable fellow, full of life, fond of
amusement. He was ambitious, it is true. But he was as far as possible
from being a drudging money-maker. He meant to carry out his plans, but
he also meant to enjoy life as he went along. He had noticed, even as
far back as the time of the wedding, that the girl whom Horace Chase was
to marry had in her temperament both indolence and activity; now one of
these moods predominated, now the other. As soon, therefore, as Mr. and
Mrs. Chase were established in their St. Augustine house, he let himself
go. Whenever the young wife's mood for activity appeared to be
uppermost, he opened a door for it; he proposed an excursion, an
entertainment of some sort. Already, under his leadership, they had
sailed down the Matanzas River (as the inlet is called) to see the old
Spanish lookout; they had rowed up Moultrie Creek; they had sent horses
across to Anastasia Island and had galloped for miles southward down the
hard ocean beach. They had explored the barrens; they had had a
bear-hunt; they had camped out; they had caught sharks. On these
occasions they had always been a party of at least four, and often of
seven, when Mrs. Franklin and Dolly, Mrs. Kip and Commodore Etheridge
joined in the excursion. Dolly in particular had surprised everybody by
her unexpected strength; she had accompanied them whenever it had been
possible. When it was not, she had urged her mother to take the vacant
place. "Do go, His Grand, so that you can tell me about it. For it does
amuse me so!"

Walter's latest inspiration, the ball at Andalusia, having been
arranged, he now suggested that they should slip out unobserved and
finish the afternoon with a sail. "I noticed the _Owl and the Pussycat_
moored at the pier as we came by," he said. "If she is still there, Paul
Archer is at the club, probably, and I can easily borrow her."

"Anything to get away from these Apaches," Chase answered. "And I'm a
good deal afraid, too, of that Evangeline Taylor! She has asked me three
times, with such a voice from the tombs, if I feel well to-day, that she
has turned me stiff."

"Why on earth does that girl make such _awful_ face?" inquired Walter.

Ruth gave way to laughter. "I can never make you two believe it, but it
is really her deep sense of duty. She thinks that she ought to look
earnest, or intelligent, or grateful, or whatever it may be, and so she
constantly tries new ways to do it."

"What way is it when she glares at a fellow's collar for fifteen minutes
steadily," said Walter; "at close range?"

"She _never_ did!" protested Ruth.

"Yes--in the tea-room; _my_ collar. And every now and then she gave a
ghastly smile."

"She didn't know it was your collar; she was simply fixing her eyes upon
a point in space, as less embarrassing than looking about. And she
smiled because she thought she ought to, as it is a party."

"A point in space! My collar!" grumbled Walter.

At the gate they looked back for a moment. The guests, nearly a hundred
in number, had gathered in a semicircle under a live-oak; they were
gazing with fresh interest at the Indians, who had been drawn up before
them. The six redskins were still in as close a row as though they had
been handcuffed together; the serious spinsters had failed entirely in
their attempts to break the rank, and have a gentle word with one or two
of them, apart. The Rev. Mr. Harrison, who was to make an address, now
advanced and began to speak; the listeners at the gate could hear his
voice, though they were too far off to catch the words. The voice would
go on for a minute or two, and pause. Then would follow the more
staccato accents of the interpreter.

"The horse-joke comes in, Walter, when that interpreter begins," said
Chase. "Who knows what he is saying?"

The interpreter, however, made a very good speech. It was, perhaps, less
spiritual than Mr. Harrison's.

It turned out afterwards that the thing which had made the deepest
impression upon the Apaches was not the "lady's quiet home," nor the
Sunday-school teachers, nor the cabinet-organ, nor even the dinner; it
was the extraordinary length of "the young-squaw-with-her-head-in-the-sky,"
as they designated Evangeline Taylor.

Ruth drove her ponies down to the Basin. The little yacht called the
_Owl and the Pussycat_ was still moored at the pier; but Paul Archer,
her owner, was not at the club, as Walter had supposed; he had gone to
the Florida House to call upon some friends. Commodore Etheridge was in
the club-room; he was forcing himself to stay away from Andalusia, for
he had an alarming vision of its mistress, dressed in white, with the
sunshine lighting up her sea-shell complexion and bringing out,
amorously, the rich tints of her hair. Delighted to have something to
do, he immediately took charge of Walter.

"Write a line, Mr. Willoughby; write a line on your card, and our porter
shall take it to the Florida House at once. In the meanwhile Mr. and
Mrs. Chase can wait here. Not a bad place to wait in, Mrs. Chase?
Simple, you see. Close to nature. And nature's great restorer" (for two
of the club-men were asleep).

The room was close to restorers of all sorts, for the land front was let
to a druggist. The house stood on the wooden pier facing the little
Plaza, across whose grassy space the old Spanish cathedral and the more
modern Episcopal church eyed each other without rancour. The Plaza's
third side was occupied by the post-office, which had once been the
residence of the Spanish governor.

The club-room was a large, pleasant apartment, with windows and verandas
overlooking the water. There was a general straightening up of lounging
attitudes when Mrs. Chase came in. Etheridge had already introduced
Horace Chase to everybody at the club, and Chase, in his turn, had
introduced almost everybody to his wife. The club, to a man, admired
Mrs. Chase; while she waited, therefore, she held a little court. The
commodore, meanwhile, kindly took upon himself, as usual, the duty of
entertaining the Bubble.

"Mr. Willoughby need not have gone to the Florida House in person; our
porter could perfectly well have taken a note, as I suggested. Capital
fellow, our porter; I never come South, Mr. Chase, without being struck
afresh with the excellence of the negroes as servants; they are the best
in the world; they're born for it!"

"That's all right, if they're willing," Chase answered. "But not to
force 'em, you know. That slave-market in the Plaza, now--"

"Oh Lord! Slave-market! Have _you_ got hold of that story too?"
interposed Etheridge, irritably. "It was never anything but a
fish-market in its life! But I'm tired of explaining it; that, and the
full-length skeleton hanging by its neck in an iron cage in the
underground dungeon at the fort--if they're not true, they ought to be;
that's what people appear to think! '_Si non ee veero, ee ben
trovatoro_,' as the Italians say. And speaking of the fort, I suppose
you have been to that ridiculous Indian party at Andalusia to-day? Mrs.
Kip must have looked grotesque, out-of-doors? In white too, I dare say?"

"Grotesque? Why, she's pretty," answered Chase.

"Not to my eye," responded Etheridge, determinedly. "She has the facial
outlines of a frog. Do you know the real reason why I didn't marry? I
couldn't endure, sir, the prospect of an old woman's face opposite mine
at table year after year. For our women grow old so soon--"

As he brought this out, a dim remembrance of having said it to Horace
Chase before came into his mind. Had he, or had he not? Chase's face
betrayed nothing. If he had, what the devil did the fellow mean by not
answering naturally, "Yes, you told me?" Could it be possible that he,
Anthony Etheridge, had fallen into a habit of repeating?--So that people
were accustomed--? He went off and pretended to look at a file of
porpoises, who were going out to sea in a long line, like so many fat
dark wheels rolling through the water.

Chase, left alone, took up a newspaper. But almost immediately he threw
it down, saying, "Well, I didn't expect to see _you_ here!"

The person whom he addressed was a stranger, who came in at this moment,
brought by a member of the club. He shook hands with Chase, and they
talked together for a while. Then Chase crossed the room, and, smiling a
little as he noted the semicircle round his wife, he asked her to come
out and walk up and down the pier while they waited for Willoughby. Once
outside, he said:

"Ruthie, I want to have a talk with Patterson, that man you saw come in
just now. I'm not very keen about sailing, anyhow. Will you let me off
this time?"

"Oh yes; I don't care about going," Ruth answered.

"You needn't give it up because I do," said her husband, kindly; "you
like to sail. Take the ancient swell in my place. He will be delighted
to go, for it will make him appear so young. Just Ruth, Anthony, and
Walter--three gay little chums together!"

As Chase had predicted, the commodore professed himself "enchanted." He
went off smilingly in Paul Archer's yacht, whose device of an owl and
pussycat confounded the practically minded, while to the initiated--the
admirers of those immortal honey-mooners who "ate with a runcible
spoon"--it gave delight; a glee which was increased by the delicate
pea-green hue of the pretty little craft.

But in spite of his enchantment, the commodore soon brought the boat
back. He had taken the helm, and, when he had shown himself and his
young companions to everybody on the sea-wall; when he had dashed past
the old fort; and then, putting about, had gone beating across the inlet
to the barracks, he turned the prow towards the yacht club again. It was
the hour for his afternoon whist, and he never let anything interfere
with that.

The excursion, therefore, had been a short one, and, as Walter walked
home with Mrs. Chase, she lingered a little. "It's too early to go in,"
she declared. As they passed the second pier, a dilapidated construction
with its flooring gone, she espied a boat she knew. "There is the
_Shearwater_ just coming in. I am sure Mr. Kean would lend it to us.
Don't you want to go out again?"

The _Shearwater_ was an odd little craft, flat on the water, with a
long, pointed, covered prow and one large sail. Ruth knew it well, for
Mr. Kean was an old friend of the Franklin's, and, in former winters, he
had often taken her out.

"My object certainly is to please her," Walter said to himself. "But she
_does_ keep one busy. Well, here goes!"

Mr. Kean lent his boat, and presently they were off again.

"Take me as far as the old light-house," Ruth suggested.

"Easy enough going; but the getting back will be another matter,"
Walter answered. "We should have to tack."

"I like tacking. I insist upon the light-house," Mrs. Chase replied,
gayly.

The little boat glided rapidly past the town and San Marco; then turned
towards the sea. For the old light-house, an ancient Spanish beacon, was
on the ocean side of Anastasia.

"We can see it now. Isn't this far enough?" Walter asked, after a while.

"No; take me to the very door; I've made a vow to go," Ruth declared.

"But at this rate we shall never get back. And when we do, your husband,
powerfully hungry for his delayed dinner, will be sharpening the
carving-knife on the sea-wall!"

"He is more likely to be sharpening pencils at the Magnolia. He is sure
to be late himself; in fact, he told me so; for he has business matters
to talk over with that Mr. Patterson."

Walter had not known, until now, the name of the person who had carried
off Chase; he had supposed that it was some ordinary acquaintance; he
had no idea that it was the Chicago man whose name he had heard
mentioned in connection with Chase's California interests. "David
Patterson, of Chicago?" he asked. "Is he going to stay?"

"No; he leaves to-morrow morning, I believe," replied Ruth, in an
uninterested tone.

"And here I am, sailing all over creation with this insatiable girl,
when, if I had remained at the club, perhaps Chase would have introduced
me; perhaps I might even have been with them now at the Magnolia,"
Walter reflected, with intense annoyance.

At last she allowed him to put about. The sun was sinking out of sight.
Presently the after-glow gave a second daylight of deep gold. Down in
the south the dark line of the dense forest rose like a range of hills.
The perfume from the orange groves floated seaward and filled the air.

"I used to believe that I liked riding better than anything," remarked
Ruth. "But ever since that little rush we had together in the dugout--do
you remember? the night we arrived?--ever since then, somehow, sailing
has seemed more delicious! For one thing, it's lazier."

They were seated opposite each other in the small open space, Walter
holding the helm with one hand, while with the other he managed the
sail, and Ruth leaning back against the miniature deck. Presently she
began to sing, softly, Schubert's music set to Shakespeare's words:

    "'Hark! hark! the lark at heaven's gate sings,
        And Phoebus 'gins arise--'"

"Not the lark already?" asked Walter.

He was exerting all his skill, but their progress was slow; the
_Shearwater_ crossed and recrossed, crossed and recrossed, gaining but a
few feet in each transit.

        "'Arise! arise!
    My lady sweet, arise!'"

sang Ruth.

"Do you think I could get a rise out of those Minorcans?" suggested her
companion, indicating a fishing-boat at a little distance. "Perhaps they
could lend me some oars. I was a great fool to come out without them!"

"Oh, don't get oars; that would spoil it. The tide has turned, and the
wind is dying down; we can float slowly in. Everything is exactly right,
and I am perfectly happy!"

Walter, his mind haunted by that vision of Chase and Patterson at the
Magnolia, did not at first take in what she had said. Then, a minute or
two afterwards, her phrase returned to him, and he smiled; it seemed so
naïve. "It's delightful, in a discontented world, to hear you say that,
Mrs. Chase. Is it generally, or in particular, that you are so blissful?
St. Augustine? or life as a whole?"

"Both," replied Ruth, promptly. "For I have everything I like--and I
like so many things! And everybody does whatever I want them to do. Why,
you yourself, Mr. Willoughby! Because I love to dance, you have arranged
that ball for to-morrow night. And when I asked you to take me out this
second time in the _Shearwater_, you did it at once."

"Ah, my lady, with your blue eyes and dark lashes, you little know why!"
thought Walter, with an inward laugh.

At last he got the boat up to the dilapidated pier again. It was long
after dark. He took her to her door, and left her; she must explain her
late arrival in her own way. Women, fortunately, are excellent at
explanations.

But Chase was not there.

Twenty minutes afterwards he came in, late in his turn. "You didn't have
dinner, Ruthie? I'm sorry you waited; I was detained."

"I was very late myself," Ruth answered.

"Even now I can't stay," Chase went on, hurriedly; "I came back to tell
you, and to get a few things. I am going up to Savannah with Patterson
for three or four days, on business. We are to have a special--a mule
special--this evening, and hit a steamer. You'd better have your mother
to stay with you while I'm away."

"Yes. To-morrow."

"She could come to-night, couldn't she?"

"Yes; but it's late; I won't make her turn out to-night. With seven
servants in the house, I am not afraid," Ruth answered.

"I only thought you might be lonely?"

"I'll sing all my songs to Petie Trone, Esq."

He laughed and kissed her.

"You must come back soon," she said.

When he had gone she went up-stairs and changed her dress for a long,
loose costume of pale pink tint, covered with lace; then, returning, she
rang for dinner. Here, as in New York, there was a housekeeper, who
relieved the young wife of all care. The dinner, in spite of the long
postponement, was excellent; it was also dainty, for the housekeeper had
learned Mrs. Chase's tastes. Mrs. Chase enjoyed it. She drank a glass of
wine, and dallied over the sweets and the fruit. Afterwards, in the
softly lighted drawing-room, she amused herself by singing half a dozen
songs. Petie Trone, Esq., the supposed audience, was not fond of music,
though the songs were sweet; he slinked out, and going softly up the
stairs, deposited himself of his own accord in his basket behind the
cheval-glass in the dressing-room. At eleven his mistress came up; she
let Félicité undress her, and brush with skilful touch the long, thick
mass of her hair. When the maid had gone, she read a little, leaning
back in an easy-chair, with a shaded lamp beside her; then, letting the
novel slip down on her lap, she sat there, looking about the room. Miss
Billy Breeze had marvelled over the luxurious toilet table at
L'Hommedieu; here the whole room was like that table. Presently its
occupant put out her hand, and drew towards her a small stand which held
her jewel-box. For she already had jewels, as Chase liked to buy them
for her. He would have covered his wife with diamonds if Mrs. Franklin
had not said (during that first visit at Asheville after the marriage),
"Ruth is too young to wear diamonds, Mr. Chase; don't you think so?"
Chase did not think so; but he had deferred to her opinion--at least, he
supposed himself to be deferring to it when he bought only rubies and
sapphires and pearls. His wife now turned over these ornaments. She put
on the pearl necklace; then she took it off, and held it against her
cheek. But she did not spend as much time as usual over the jewels.
Often she entertained herself with them for an hour; it had been one of
her husband's amusements to watch her. To-night, putting the case aside,
she strolled to the window, opened it and looked out. The stars were
shining brilliantly overhead; she could hear the soft lapping of the
water against the sea-wall. From Anastasia came at intervals the flash
of the light-house. "I was over there at sunset," she said to herself as
she watched the gleam. Then closing the window, she walked idly to and
fro, with her hands clasped behind her. "How happy I am!" she thought;
or rather she did not think it, she felt it. She had no desire to sleep;
the door of the bedroom stood open behind her, but she did not go in.
She sat down on the divan, and let her head fall back among the
cushions: "Everything is perfect--perfect. How delightful it is to
live!"



CHAPTER X


Two days after the Indian party at Andalusia, the excursion which Mrs.
Kip had called a "boat-drive" came off. Horace Chase was still absent;
he had telegraphed to his wife that he could not return before the last
of the week. As all the preparations had been made, the excursion was
not postponed on his account. Nor was there any reason why it should be.
It was not given in honor of his wife, especially; Ruth, after sixteen
months of marriage, could hardly be called a bride. In addition, the
little winter colony had learned that an hour or two of their leisurely
pleasure-making was about as much as this man of affairs could enjoy
(some persons said "could endure"); after that his face was apt to
betray a vague boredom, although it was evident that (with his usual
careful politeness) he was trying to conceal it.

Walter Willoughby, meanwhile, was making the best of an annoying
situation. He had lost the chance of being introduced to David
Patterson, and with it the opportunity of learning something definite,
at last, about Chase's Californian interests, and this seemed to him a
great misfortune. But there was no use in moaning over it; the course to
follow was not still further to lose the five days of Chase's absence
in sulking, but to employ them in the only profitable way that was left
open (small profit, but better than nothing)--namely, in cementing still
further a friendly feeling between himself and Chase's wife, that
butterfly young wife who had been the cause of so many of his
disappointments. "Every little helps, I suppose," he said to himself,
philosophically. "And as the thing she likes best, apparently, is to go
and keep going, why, I'll take her own pace and outrace her--the little
gad-about!" For, to Walter's eyes, Ruth appeared very young; mentally
unformed as yet, child-like. His adjective "little" could, in truth,
only be applied to her in this sense, for in actual inches Mrs. Chase
was almost as tall as he was. Walter was of medium height, robust and
compact. He had a well-shaped, well-poised head, which joined his strong
neck behind with no hollow and scarcely a curve. His thick, dark hair
was kept very short; but, with his full temples and facial outlines,
this curt fashion became him well. He was not called handsome, though
his features were clearly cut and firm. His gray eyes were ordinarily
rather cold. But when he was animated--and he was usually very
animated--young Willoughby looked full of life. He was fond of pleasure,
fond of amusement. But this did not prevent his possessing, underneath
the surface, a resolute will, which he could enforce against himself as
well as against others. He intended to enjoy life. And as, according to
his idea, there could be no lasting enjoyment without freedom from the
pinch of anxiety about material things, he also intended to get
money--first of all to get money. "For a few years, while one is young,
to have small means doesn't so much matter," he had told himself. "But
when one reaches middle age, or passes it, then, if one has children,
care inevitably steps in. There are anxieties, of course, which cannot
be prevented. But this particular one can be--with a certain amount of
energy, and also of resolute self-control in the beginning. The
'have-a-good-time-while-you-are-young' policy doesn't compensate for
having a bad time when you are old, in my opinion. And it's care that
makes one old!"

Horace Chase had left St. Augustine on Monday. The next evening, at Mrs.
Kip's impromptu ball in the gymnasium, the junior partner of Willoughby,
Chase, & Company devoted his time to Mrs. Chase with much skill. His
attentions remained unobtrusive; he did not dance with her often. The
latter, indeed, would not have been possible in any case; for Mrs. Chase
was surrounded, from first to last, by all that St. Augustine could
offer. Graceful as she was in all her movements, Ruth's dancing was
particularly charming. And it was also striking; for, sinuous, lithe,
soon excited, she danced because she loved it, danced with unconscious
abandon. That night, her slender figure in the white ball dress, that
floated backward in the rapid motion, her happy face with the starry
eyes and beautiful color coming and going--this made a picture which
those who were present remembered long. At ten o'clock she had begun to
dance; at two, when many persons were taking leave, she was still on the
floor; with her circle of admirers, it was now Mrs. Chase who was
keeping up the ball. Her mother, who was staying with her during her
husband's absence, had accompanied her to Andalusia. But there was no
need to ask whether Mrs. Franklin was tired; Mrs. Franklin was never
tired in scenes of gayety; she was as well entertained as her daughter.
Walter had danced but twice with Mrs. Chase during the four hours. But
always between her dances he had been on hand. If she had a fancy for
spending a few moments on the veranda, he had her white cloak ready; if
she wished for an ice, it appeared by magic; if there was any one she
did not care to dance with, she could always say that she was engaged to
Mr. Willoughby. It was in this way, in fact, that Mr. Willoughby had
obtained his two dances. The last dance, however, was all his own. It
was three o'clock; even the most good-natured chaperons had collected
their charges, and the music had ceased. "How sorry I am! I do so long
for just one waltz more," said Ruth.

She spoke to her mother, but Walter overheard the words. He went across
to the musicians (in reality he bribed them); then returning, he said:
"I've arranged it, Mrs. Chase. You are to have that one waltz more." A
few of the young people, tempted by the revived strains, threw aside
their wraps and joined them, but practically they had the floor to
themselves. Walter was an expert dancer, skilful and strong; he bore his
partner down the long room, guiding her so securely that she was not
obliged to think of their course; she could leave that entirely to him,
and give herself up to the enjoyment of the motion. As they returned
towards the music for the third time, she supposed that he would stop.
But he did not; he swept her down again, and in shorter circles that
made her, light as she was on her feet, a little giddy. "Isn't this
enough?" she asked. But apparently he did not hear her. The floor began
to spin. "Please stop," she murmured, her eyes half closing from the
increasing dizziness. But her partner kept on until he felt that she was
faltering; then, with a final bewildering whirl, he deposited her safely
on a bench, and stood beside her, laughing a little.

There was no one near them; Mrs. Franklin, Mrs. Kip, and the few who
still remained, were at the other end of the room. Ruth, after a moment,
began to laugh also, while she pressed her hands over her eyes to help
herself see more clearly. "What possessed you?" she said. "Another
instant and I should certainly have fallen; I couldn't see a thing!"

"No, you wouldn't have fallen, Mrs. Chase; I could have held you up
under any circumstances. But I wanted to make you for once acknowledge
that we are not all so lethargic as you constantly accuse us of being."

"Accuse?" said Ruth, surprised. She was still panting.

"Yes, you accuse the whole world; you do nothing _but_ accuse. You are
never preoccupied yourself, and so preoccupation in others seems to you
stupidity. You are never tired; so the rest of us strike you as owlish
and lazy."

"Oh, but I'm often lazy myself," protested Ruth.

"Precisely. No doubt when you go in for being lazy at all, you carry it
further than any poor, dull, reasonable man would ever dream of doing,"
Walter went on. "I dare say you are capable of lying motionless on a
sofa, with a novel, for ten hours at a stretch!"

"Ten hours? That's nothing. Ten days," answered Ruth. "I have spent ten
days at L'Hommedieu in that way many a time; Maud Muriel used to call it
'lucid stupor.'"

"Lucid?" said Walter, doubtfully. "Do you think you can walk?" he went
on, as her mirth still continued. "Because the music really has stopped
this time, and I see your mother's eyes turning this way. Your laughs
are perfectly beautiful, of course. But do they leave you your walking
powers?"

The musicians, seeing them rise, began suddenly to play again (for his
bribe had been a generous one), and he took her back to her mother in a
rapid _deux temps_.

"Splendid! I like dancing better than anything else in the world," Ruth
declared.

"I thought it was sailing? However, whatever it is, please make use of
me often, Mrs. Chase. When I've nothing to do I become terribly
low-spirited: for my uncles are bent upon marrying me!"

"Have they selected any special person?" inquired Mrs. Franklin,
laughing, as he helped her to put on her cloak.

"I think they have their eye on a widow, a widow of thirty-seven with a
fortune," answered Walter, with exaggerated gloom.

"Will she have you?"

"Never in the world!" Walter declared; "that's just it! Why, therefore,
should my uncles force me forward--such a tender flower as I am--to
certain defeat? It is on that account that I have run away. I have come
to hide in Florida--under your protection, Mrs. Chase."

The meeting-place for the water-party the next day was St. Francis
Barracks--the long, brown structure with pointed gables and deep shady
verandas, which stood on the site of an old Spanish monastery, at the
south end of the sea-wall. The troops stationed at St. Francis that
winter belonged to the First Artillery; to-day the colonel and his
family, the captain and his wife, and the two handsome lieutenants took
part in the excursion; there were fifty people in all, and many yachts,
from the big _Seminole_ down to the little _Shearwater_. Walter had _The
Owl and the Pussycat_, and with him embarked Mrs. Franklin with her two
daughters, Miss Franklin and Mrs. Chase; Mrs. Lilian Kip; and Commodore
Etheridge. At two o'clock the little fleet sped gayly down the Matanzas.

"Matanzas, Sebastian, St. Augustine," said Walter; "these names are all
in character. It's an awful misfortune for your husband's budding summer
resort in the North Carolina mountains, Mrs. Chase, that its name
happens to be Asheville, after that stupid custom of tacking the French
'ville' to some man's name; (for I take it that Ashe is a name, and not
cinders). In this case, the first settlers were more than usually
asinine; for they had the beautiful Indian 'Swannanoa' ready to their
hands."

"Oh, but first settlers have no love for Indian names," commented Dolly.
"How can they have? The Indians and the great forest--these are their
enemies. To me there is something touching in our Higgsvilles and
Slatervilles. I see the first log cabins in the little clearing; then a
short, stump-bedecked street; then two or three streets and a
court-house. The Higgs or the Slater was their best man, their leader,
the one they looked up to. In North Carolina alone there are one hundred
and ten towns or villages with names ending in 'ville.'"

"North Carolina? Oh yes, I dare say!" remarked Etheridge.

"And two hundred and forty-one in New York," added Dolly.

"Well, we make up for it in other ways," said Mrs. Franklin. "If the men
name the towns, the women name the children; I have known mothers to
produce simply from their own imaginations such titles as Merilla, and
Idelusia, for their daughters. I once knew a girl who had even been
baptized Damask Rose."

"What did they call her for short?" inquired Walter.

"Oh, Mr. _Willoughby!_" said Lilian Kip, shocked.

"Damask's mother was trying to solace herself with names, I fancy," Mrs.
Franklin went on, "because by the terms of her husband's will (she was a
widow), she forfeited all she had if she married again."

"How outrageous?" exclaimed Mrs. Kip, bristling into vehemence. "If a
woman has been a good wife to one man, is that any reason why she should
be denied the _privilege_ of being a good wife to another?"

"Privilege?" repeated Dolly.

"Surely there is no greater one," said Mrs. Kip, with a sigh. "Love is
so beautiful! And it is such a benefit! The more one loves, the better,
I think. And the more _persons_ one loves, the more sweet and generous
one's nature becomes. If any one has been bereaved, I am always _so_
glad to hear that they are in love again. Even if the love is
unreturned" (here she gave a little swallow), "I still think it in
itself the greatest blessing we have; and the most improving."

After a friendly race towards the south, the fleet turned and came back;
the company disembarked and walked across the narrow breadth of
Anastasia Island to the ocean beach, where, at the Spanish light-house,
the collation was to be served later in the day. The old beacon stood,
at high tide, almost in the water; for, in two hundred years, the ocean
had encroached largely upon the shore. Its square stone tower, which had
been topped in the Spanish days with an iron grating and a bonfire, now
displayed a revolving light, which flashed and then faded, flashed and
faded, signalling out to sea the harbor of St. Augustine. Under the
tower stood a coquina house for the keeper, and the whole was fortified,
having a defensive wall, with angles and loop-holes. Nothing could have
been more beautiful than the soft sapphire tint of the ocean, whose long
rollers, coming smoothly in, broke with a musical wash upon the broad
white beach which, firm as a pavement, stretched towards the south in
long curves. Not a ship was in sight. Overhead sailed an eagle. "Oh, why
did we land so soon?" said Ruth, regretfully. "We might have stayed out
two hours longer. For we are not to have the supper--or is it the
dinner?--at any rate, it's chowder--until sunset."

"We can go out again, if you like," said Walter.

Here Etheridge came up. The implacably clear light which comes from a
broad expanse of sea was revealing every minute line in Mrs. Franklin's
delicate face. "How wrinkled she looks!" was his self-congratulatory
thought. "Even fifteen years ago she was finished--done!" Then he
added, aloud: "I think I'll accompany you, if you _are_ going out again.
The afternoon promises to be endlessly long here, with nothing to do but
gawp for sea-beans, or squawk poetry!" This strenuous description of
some of the amusements already in progress on the beach showed that, in
the commodore's plans, something had gone wrong.

"Are you really going, commodore?" asked Mrs. Franklin. "Then I'll put
Ruth in your charge."

"Put me in it, too," said Dolly. "I should much rather sail than sit
here."

"Oh no, Dolly. You never can take that walk to the landing a second time
so soon," said the mother.

And so it proved. Dolly started. But, after a few steps, she had to give
it up. "I should think _you_ would like to go, His Grand?" she
suggested.

"I can't. I have promised to see to the chowder," answered Mrs.
Franklin. "Sailing and sea-beans and poetry are all very well. But I
have noticed that every one grows gloomy when the chowder is bad!"

Etheridge, Ruth, and Walter Willoughby, therefore, recrossed the island
and embarked. The commodore took the helm.

"What boat is that ahead of us?" asked Walter. "Some of our people? Has
any one else deserted the sea-beans?"

"I dare say," replied Etheridge, carelessly.

The commodore could manage a boat extremely well; the _Owl and the
Pussycat_ flew after that sail ahead, in a line as straight as a
plummet.

"Why, it's Mrs. Kip," said Ruth, as they drew nearer. She had recognized
the gypsy hat in the other boat.

"Yes, with Albert Tillotson," added Walter.

"What, that donkey?" inquired Etheridge, with well-feigned surprise (and
an anger that required no feigning). "He can no more manage a boat than
I can manage a comet! Poor Mrs. Kip is in actual danger of her life. The
idea of that Tom Noddy of a Tillotson daring to take her out! I must run
this boat up alongside, Mr. Willoughby, and get on board immediately.
Common humanity requires it."

"The commodore's common humanity is uncommonly like jealousy," said
Walter to Ruth when the _Owl_ had dropped behind again after this
manoeuvre had been successfully executed. "He is a clever old fellow!
Of course he knew she was out, and he came with us on purpose. We'll
keep near them, Mrs. Chase, and watch their faces; it will be as good as
a play."

To his surprise, Ruth, who was generally so ready to laugh, did not pay
heed to this. "I am glad he has gone," she said; "for now we need not
talk--just sail and sail! Let us go over so far--straight down towards
the south." Her eyes had a dreamy expression which was new to him.

"What next!" thought her companion. He glanced furtively at his watch.
"I can keep on for half an hour more, I suppose."

But when, at the end of that time, he put about, Ruth, who had scarcely
spoken, straightened herself (she had been lying back indolently, with
one hand behind her head), and watched the turning prow with regret.
"_Must_ we go back so soon? Why?"

"To look for sea-beans," answered Walter. "Are you aware, Mrs. Chase, of
the awful significance of that New England phrase of condemnation, 'You
don't know beans'? It will be said that _I_ don't know if I take you any
farther. For the tide will soon turn, and the wind is already against
us."

But his tasks were not yet at an end; another idea soon took possession
of his companion's imagination.

"How wild Anastasia looks from here! I have never landed at this point.
Can't we land now, just for a few moments? It would be such fun."

"Won't it be more than fun, Mrs. Horace? A wild-goose--? Forgive the
pun."

On Anastasia there are ancient trails running north and south. Ruth,
discovering one of these paths, followed it inland. "I wish we could
meet something, I wish we could have an adventure!" she said. "There are
bears over here; and there are alligators too at the pools. Perhaps this
trail leads to a pool?" The surmise was correct; the path soon brought
them within sight of a dark-looking pond, partly covered with lily
leaves. Ruth, who was first (for the old Indian trail was so narrow that
they could not walk side by side), turned back suddenly. "There really
_is_ an alligator," she whispered. "He is half in and half out of the
water. I am going to run round through the thicket, so as to have a
nearer view of him." And hurrying with noiseless steps along the trail,
she turned into the forest.

He followed. "Don't be foolhardy," he urged. For she seemed to him so
fearless that there was no telling what she might do.

But when they reached the opposite side of the pool no alligator was
visible, and Ruth, seating herself in the loop of a vine, which formed a
natural swing, laughed her merriest.

"You are an excellent actress," he said. "I really believed that you had
seen the creature."

"And if I had? They don't attack people; they are great cowards."

"I have an admirable air of being more timid than she is!" he thought,
annoyed.

They returned towards the shore along a low ridge. On their way he saw
something cross this ridge about thirty feet ahead of them--a slender
dark line. He ran forward and looked down (for the ridge was four feet
high).

"Come quickly!" he called back to Ruth. "Your alligator was a base
invention. But here is something real. He is hardly more than an
infant," he continued, his eyes still fixed on the lower slope. "But he
is of the blood royal, I can tell by the shape of his neck. I'll get a
long branch, Mrs. Chase, and then, as you like adventures, you can see
him strike." Where they stood, they were safe, for the snake (it was a
young rattlesnake) would not come up the ascent; when he moved, he would
glide the other way into the thicket. Hastily cutting a long wand from a
bush, he gave it to her. "Touch him," he directed; "on the body, not on
the head. Then you will see him coil!" He himself kept his eyes
meanwhile on the snake; he did not look at her. But the wand did not
descend. "Make haste," he urged, "or he will be off!"

The wand came down slowly, paused, and then touched the reptile, who
instantly coiled himself, reared his flat head, and struck at it with
his fangs exposed. Walter, excited and interested, waited to see him
strike again. But there was no opportunity, for the wand itself was
dropping. He turned. Ruth, her face covered with her hands, was
shuddering convulsively.

"The snake has gone," he said, reassuringly; "he went off like a shot
into the thicket, he is a quarter of a mile away by this time." For he
was alarmed by the violence of the tremor that had taken possession of
her.

In spite of her tremor, she began to run; she hurried like a wild
creature along the ridge until she came to a broad open space of white
sand, over which no dark object could approach unseen; here she sank
down, sobbing aloud.

He was at his wits' end. Why should a girl, who apparently had no fear
of bears or alligators, be frightened out of her senses by one small
snake?

"Supposing she should faint--that Dolly is always fainting! What on
earth could I do?" he thought.

Ruth, however, did not faint. But she sobbed and sobbed as if she could
not stop.

"It's just like her laughing," thought Walter, in despair. "Dear Mrs.
Chase," he said aloud, "I am distracted to see how I have made you
suffer. These Florida snakes do very little harm, unless one happens to
step on them unawares. I did not imagine, I did not dream, that the mere
sight--But that makes no difference; I shall never forgive myself;
never!"

Ruth looked up, catching her breath. "It was so dreadful!" she murmured,
brokenly. "Did you see its--its mouth?" She was so white that even her
lips were colorless; her blue eyes were dilated strangely.

He grew more and more alarmed. Apparently she saw it, for she tried to
control herself; and, after two or three minutes, she succeeded. "You
must not mind if I happen to look rather pale," she said, timidly. "I am
sometimes very pale for a moment or two. And then I get dreadfully red
in the same way. Dolly often speaks of it. But it doesn't mean anything.
I can go now," she added, still timidly.

"She thinks I am vexed," he said to himself, surprised. He was not
vexed; on the contrary, in her pallor and this new shyness she was more
interesting to him than she had ever been before. As he knew that they
ought to be on their way back, he accepted her offer to start, in spite
of her white cheeks. But her steps were so weak, and she still trembled
so convulsively, that he drew her hand through his arm and held it.
Giving her in this way all the help he could, he took her towards the
shore, choosing a route through open spaces, so that there should be no
vision of any gliding thing in the underbrush near by. When they were
off again, crossing the Matanzas on a long tack, she was still very
pallid. "I haven't been clever," he thought. "At present she is unnerved
by fright. But by to-morrow it will be anger, and she will say that it
was my fault." While thinking of this, he talked on various subjects.
But it was a monologue; for a long time Ruth made no answer. Then
suddenly the color came rushing back to her cheeks. "_Please_ don't
tell--don't tell any one how dreadfully frightened I was," she pleaded.

"I never tell anything; I have no talent for narrative," he answered,
much relieved to see the returning red. "But I am dreadfully cut up and
wretched about that fright I was stupid enough to give you. I wish I
could make you forget it, Mrs. Chase; forget it forever."

"On the contrary, I am afraid I shall remember it forever," Ruth
answered. Then she added, still timidly, "But you were so kind--It won't
be _all_ unpleasant."

"What a school-girl it is!" thought Walter. "And above all things, what
a creature of extremes! She must lead Horace Chase a life! However, she
is certainly seductively lovely."



CHAPTER XI


At the end of this week Horace Chase returned. And the next morning he
paid a visit to his mother-in-law. He still used his "ma'am" when
talking to her; she still called him "Mr. Chase." In mentioning him to
others, she sometimes succeeded in bringing out a "Horace." But when the
tall, grave-looking business man was before her in person, she never got
beyond the more formal title.

"My trip to Savannah, ma'am, was connected with business," Chase began,
after he had gone through his usual elaborate inquiries about her health
and "the health of Miss Dolly." "One of my friends, David Patterson by
name, and myself, have been engaged for some time in arranging a new
enterprise in which we are about to embark in California. Matters are
now sufficiently advanced for me to mention that about May next we shall
need a confidential man in New York to attend to the Eastern part of it.
It is highly important to me, ma'am, to have for that position some one
I know, some one I can trust. Mr. Patterson will go himself to
California, and remain there, probably, a year or more. Meanwhile I, at
the East, shall need just the right man under me; for _I_ have other
things to see to; I cannot give all my time to this new concern. Do you
think, ma'am, that Mr. Franklin could be induced to take this place?
Under the circumstances, I should esteem it a favor." And here he made
Jared's mother a little bow.

"You are very kind," answered Mrs. Franklin. Having refused to know
anything of the correspondence between Ruth and Genevieve, she had had
until now no knowledge of the proposed New York place. "Jared's present
position is certainly most wretched drudgery," she went on; "far beneath
his abilities--which are really great."

"Just so. And what should you recommend, ma'am, as the best way to open
the subject? Shall I take a run up to Raleigh? Or shall I drop him a
line? Perhaps you yourself would like to write?"

The mother reflected. "If I do," she thought, "Jared will fancy that I
have begged the place for him. If Ruth writes, he will be sure of it. If
Mr. Chase writes, Jared will answer within the hour--a letter full of
jokes and friendliness, but--declining. If Chase goes to Raleigh in
person, Jared will decline verbally, and with even more unassailable
good-humor. No, there is only one person in the world who could perhaps
make him yield, and that person is Genevieve!" At this thought, her
face, which always showed like a barometer her inward feelings, changed
so markedly that her son-in-law hastened to interpose. "Don't bother
about the ways and means, ma'am; I guess I can fix it all right." He
spoke in a confident tone, in order to reassure her; for he had a liking
for the "limber old lady," as he mentally called her. His confidence,
however, was in a large measure assumed; where business matters were in
question, the "offishness," as he termed it, of this ex-naval officer
had seemed to him such a queer trait that he hardly knew how to grapple
with it.

"I was only thinking that my daughter-in-law would perhaps be the best
person to speak to Jared," replied Mrs. Franklin at last. (The words
came out with an effort.)

"Gen? So she would; she is very clear-headed. But if she is to be the
one, I must first let her know just what the place is, and all about it,
and how can that be done, ma'am? Wouldn't Mr. Franklin see my letter?"

"No. For she isn't in Raleigh with her husband; she is at Asheville."

"Why, how's that?" inquired Chase, who had seen, from the first, Jared's
deep attachment to his wife.

"How indeed!" thought the mother. Her lips quivered. She compressed them
in order to conceal it. The satisfaction which she had, for a time, felt
in the idea that Genevieve was learning, at last, that she could not
always control her husband--this had now vanished in the sense of her
son's long and dreary solitude. For the wife had not been in Raleigh
during the entire winter; Jared had been left to endure existence as
best he could in his comfortless boarding-house. "My daughter-in-law has
been very closely occupied at Asheville," she explained, after a moment.
"They are improving their house there, you know, and she can superintend
work of that sort remarkably well."

"That's so," said Chase, agreeingly.

"She is also much interested in a new wing for the Colored Home,"
pursued Mrs. Franklin; and this time a little of her deep inward
bitterness showed itself in her tone.

"Gen's pretty cute!" thought Chase. "She's not only feathering her own
nest up there in Asheville, but at the same time she is starving out
that wrong-headed husband of hers." Then he went on aloud: "Well, ma'am,
if it's to be Mrs. Jared who is to attend to the matter for me, I guess
I'll wait until I can put the whole thing before her in a nutshell, with
the details arranged. That will be pretty soon now--as soon as I come
back from California. For I must go to California myself before long."

"Are you going to take Ruth? How I shall miss her!" said the mother,
dispiritedly.

"We shall not be gone a great while--only five or six weeks. On second
thoughts, why shouldn't you come along, ma'am?--come along with us? I
guess I could fix it so as you'd be pretty comfortable."

"You are very kind. But I could not leave Dolly."

"Of course not. I didn't mean that, ma'am; I meant that Miss Dolly
should come along too. That French woman of Ruth's--Felicity--she's
capital when travelling. Or we could have a trained nurse? They have
very attractive nurses now, ma'am; real ladies; and good-looking too,
and sprightly."

"You are always thoughtful," answered Mrs. Franklin, amused by this
description. "But it is impossible. Dolly can travel for two or three
days, if we take great precautions; but a longer time makes her ill.
Ruth is coming to lunch, isn't she? With Malachi? I am so glad you
brought him; he doesn't have many holidays."

"Well, ma'am, he was there in Savannah, buying a bell, or, rather,
getting prices. A church bell, as I understood. He'd about got through,
and was going back to Asheville, when I suggested to him to come along
down to St. Augustine for three or four days. 'Come and look up your
wandering flock'--that is what I remarked to him. For you know, ma'am,
that with yourself and Miss Dolly, the commodore and Mrs. Kip, you make
four--four of his sheep in Florida; including Miss Evangeline Taylor,
four sheep and a first-prize lamb."

Mrs. Franklin smiled. But she felt herself called upon to explain a
little. "We are not of his flock, exactly; Mr. Hill has a mission
charge. But though he is not our rector, we are all much attached to
him."

"He's a capital little fellow, and works hard; I've great respect for
him. But somehow, ma'am, he's taken a queer way lately of stopping short
when he is talking. Almost as though he had choked!"

"So he has--choked himself off," answered Mrs. Franklin, breaking into a
laugh. "When with you, he is constantly tempted to ask for money for the
Mission, he says. He knows, however, that the clergy are always accused
of paying court to rich men for begging purposes, and he is determined
to be an exception. But he finds it uncommonly difficult."

"How much does he want?" inquired Chase. Then he paused. "Perhaps his
notions take the form of a church?" he went on. "I've been thinking a
little of building a church, ma'am. You see, my mother was a great
church-goer; she found her principal comfort in it. I've been very far
from steady myself, I'm sorry to say; I haven't done much credit to her
bringing-up. And so I've thought that I'd put up a church some day, as a
sort of memory of her. Because, if she'd lived, she would have liked
that better than anything else."

"Do you mean an Episcopal church?" inquired Mrs. Franklin, touched by
these words.

"Well, she was a Baptist herself," Chase replied. "So perhaps I have
rather a prejudice in favor of that denomination. But I'm not set upon
it; I should think it might be built so as to be suitable for all
persuasions. At any rate, I guess Hill and I could hit it off together
somehow."

Here Dolly came in, and a moment afterwards Ruth appeared with the Rev.
Malachi Hill. Dolly greeted the young missionary with cordiality. "How
is Asheville?" she inquired. "How is Maud Muriel?"

Malachi's radiant face changed. "She is the same. When I see her coming,
I do everything I can to keep out of the way. But sometimes there is no
corner to turn, or no house to go into, and I _have_ to pass her. And
then I know just how she will say it!" And, tightening his lips, he
brought out a low "Manikin!"

"Brace up," said Dolly. "You must look back at her and look her down;
make her falter."

"Oh, falter!" repeated poor Malachi, hopelessly.

Another guest now appeared--Mrs. Kip. For Mrs. Franklin had invited them
all to lunch before the jessamine hunt, which had been appointed for
that afternoon. As it happened, Mrs. Kip's first question also was, "How
is Miss Mackintosh?"

"Unchanged. At least, she treats _me_ with the same contumely," answered
the clergyman.

"If you indulge yourself with such words as 'contumely,' Mr. Hill,
people will call you affected," said Dolly, in humorous warning.

"Now, Dolly, don't say that," interposed Mrs. Kip. "For unusual words
are full of dignity. I don't know what I wouldn't give if _I_ could
bring in, just naturally and easily, when I am talking, such a word, for
instance, as jejune! And for clergymen it is especially distinguished.
Though there is _one_ clerical word, Mr. Hill, that I do think might be
altered, and that is closet. Why should we always be told to meditate in
our closets? Generally there is no room for a chair; so all one can
think of is people sitting on the floor among the shoes."

Every one laughed. Mrs. Kip, however, had made her remark in perfect
good faith.

The entrance of Walter Willoughby completed the party, and lunch was
announced. When the meal was over, and they came back to the parlor,
they found Félicité in waiting with Petie Trone, Esq. Félicité, a French
woman with a trim waist and large eyes, always looked as though she
would like to be wicked. In reality, however, she was harmless, for one
insatiable ambition within her swallowed up all else, namely, the
ambition not to be middle-aged. As she was forty-eight, the struggle
took all her time. "I bring to madame le petit trône for his promenade,"
she said, as, after a respectful salutation to the company, she detached
the leader from the dog's collar.

"Must that fat little wretch go with us?" Chase inquired, after the maid
had departed.

For answer, Ruth took up Mr. Trone and deposited him on her husband's
knee. "Yes; and you are to see to him."

"Is the squirrel down here too?" inquired Walter. "I haven't seen him."

"Robert the Squirrel--" began Chase, with his hands in his trousers
pockets; then he paused. "That's just like Robert the Devil, isn't it? I
mean an opera, ma'am, of that name that they were giving in New York
last winter," he explained to Mrs. Franklin, so that she should not
think he was swearing.

"Robert the Devil will do excellently well as a nickname for Bob," said
Dolly. "It's the best he has had."

"Well, at any rate, Robert the Squirrel isn't here," Chase went on. "He
boards with Mr. Hill for the winter, Walter; special terms made for
nuts. And, by-the-way, Hill, you haven't mentioned Larue; how is the
senator? I'm keeping my eye on him for future use in booming our resort,
you know. The Governor of North Carolina remarking to the Governor of
South Carolina--you've heard that story? Well, sir, what we propose now
is to have the _senator_ from North Carolina remark to the senator from
South Carolina (and to all the other senators thrown in) that Asheville
is bound to be the Lone Star of mountain resorts south of the
Catskills."

Lilian Kip's heart had given a jump at Larue's name; to carry it off,
she took up a new novel which was lying on the table. (For Chase's order
had been a perennial one: "all the latest articles in fiction," pursued
Mrs. Franklin hotly, month after month.) "Oh, I am sure you don't like
_this_," said Lilian, when she had read the title.

"I have only just begun it," answered Mrs. Franklin. "But why shouldn't
I like it? It is said to be original and amusing."

"It is not _at all_ the book I should wish to put into the hands of
Evangeline Taylor," replied Mrs. Kip, with decision.

"The one unfailing test of the American mother for the entire literature
of the world!" commented Dolly.

The search for the first jessamine was in those days one of the regular
amusements of a St. Augustine winter. Where St. George Street ends,
beyond the two pomegranate-topped pillars of the old city gate, Mrs.
Franklin's party came upon the other members of the searching
expedition, and they all walked on together along the shell road. On the
right, Fort San Marco loomed up, with the figures of several Indians on
its top outlined against the sky. Beyond shone the white sand-hills of
the North Beach. At the end of the road the searchers entered a long
range of park-like glades; here the yellow jessamine, the loveliest wild
flower of the Florida spring, unfolds its tendrils as it clambers over
the trees and thickets, lighting up their evergreen foliage with its
bell-shaped flowers. Dolly and Mrs. Franklin had accompanied the party
in a phaeton. "I think I can drive everywhere, even without a road, as
the ground is so level and open," Dolly suggested. "But you must serve
as guide, Ruth. Please keep us in sight."

But after a while Ruth forgot this injunction. Mrs. Franklin, always
interested in whatever was going on, had already disappeared, searching
for the jessamine with the eagerness of a girl. Dolly, finding herself
thus deserted, stopped. But her brother-in-law, who had had his eye on
her pony from the beginning, soon appeared. "What, alone?" he said,
coming up.

Upon seeing him, Dolly cleared her brow. "I don't mind it; the glades
are so pretty."

Chase examined the glades; but without any marked admiration in his
glance.

"Where is Ruth?" Dolly went on.

"Just round the corner--I mean on the other side of that thicket. Walter
has found some of the vine they are all hunting for, and she's in a
great jubilation over it; she wanted to find it ahead of that Mr. Kean,
who always gets it first."

"Please tell her to bring me a spray of it. As soon as she can."

Assuring himself that the pony felt no curiosity about the absence of a
road under his feet, Chase, with his leisurely step, went in search of
his wife. He found her catching jessamine, which Walter, who had climbed
into a wild-plum tree, was throwing down. She had already adorned
herself with the blossoms, and when she saw her husband approaching she
went to meet him, and wound a spray round his hat.

"Your sister wants some; she told me to tell you. She's back there a
little way--on the left," said Chase. "Hullo! here comes a wounded
hero;" for Petie Trone, Esq., had appeared, limping dolefully. "Never
mind; I'll see to the little porpoise if you want to go to Dolly." He
stooped and took up the dog with gentle touch. "He has probably been
interviewing some prickly-pears."

When Ruth had gone, Walter's interest in the jessamine vanished. He
swung himself down to the ground. "Mrs. Chase has been telling me that
you are thinking of going to California very soon?" he said,
inquiringly.

"Yes; I guess we shall get off next week," Chase answered, examining
Trone's little paws.

"I am going to be very bold," Walter went on. "I am going to ask you to
take me with you."

Chase's features did not move, but his whole expression altered; the
half-humorous look which his face always wore when, in the company of
his young wife, he was "taking things easy," as he called it, gave place
in a flash to the cool reticence of the man of business. "Take you?" he
inquired, briefly. "Why?"

And then Willoughby, in the plainest and most direct words (a directness
which was not, however, without the eloquence that comes from an intense
desire), explained his wish to be admitted to a part, however small, in
the California scheme. He allowed himself no reserves; he told the whole
story of his father's spendthrift propensities, and his own small means
in consequence. "I have a fixed determination to make money, Mr. Chase.
I dare say you have thought me idle; but I should not have idled if I
had had at any time the right thing to go into. Work? There is literally
no amount of work that I should shrink from, if it led towards the
fortune upon which I am bent. I can, and I will, work as hard as ever
you yourself have worked."

"I'm afraid you're looking for a soft snap," said Chase, shifting Mr.
Trone to his left arm, and putting his right hand into his trousers
pocket, where he jingled a bunch of keys vaguely.

"If you will let me come in, even by a little edge only, I am sure you
won't regret it," Walter went on. "Can't you recall, by looking back,
your own determination to succeed, and how far it carried you, how
strong it made you? Well, that is the way I feel to-day! You ought to be
able to comprehend me. You've been over the same road."

"The same road!" repeated Chase, ironically. "Let's size it up a little.
I was taken out of school before I was fourteen--when my father died.
From that day I had not only to earn every crumb of bread I ate, but
help to earn the bread of my sisters too. Before I was eighteen I had
worked at half a dozen different things, and always at the rate of
thirteen or fourteen hours a day. By the time I was twenty I was old; I
had already lived a long and hard life. Now your side: A good home;
every luxury; school; college; Europe!"

"You think that because I have been through Columbia, and because I once
had a yacht (the yacht was in reality my uncle's), I shall never make a
good business man," replied Walter. "Unfortunately, I have no means of
proving to you the contrary, unless you will give me the chance I ask
for. I don't pretend, of course, to have anything like your talents;
they are your own, and unapproached. But I do say that I have ability; I
_feel_ that I have."

"It's sizzling, is it?" commented Chase. "Why don't you put it into the
business you're in already, then; the steamship firm of Willoughby,
Chase, & Co.? Boom that; put on steam, and boom it for all you're worth;
your uncles and I will see you through. You say you only want a chance;
why on earth don't you take the one that lies before you? If you wish to
convince me you know something, _that's_ the way."

"The steamship concern is too slow for me; I have looked into it, and I
know. I might work at it for ten years, and with the small share I have
in it I should not be very rich," Walter answered. "I'm in a hurry! I am
willing to give everything on my side--all my time and my strength and
my brains; but I want something good on the other."

"Now you're shouting!"

"The steamship firm is routine--regular; that isn't the way you made
_your_ money," Walter went on.

"My way is open to everybody. It isn't covered by any patent that I know
of," remarked Chase, in his dry tones.

"Yes, it is," answered Walter, immediately taking him up. "Or rather it
was; the Bubble Baking-Powder was very tightly patented."

Chase grinned a little over this sally. But he was not moved towards the
least concession, and Walter saw that he was not; he therefore played
his last card. "I have a great deal of influence with my uncles, I
think; especially with my uncle Nicholas."

"Put your money on Nicholas Willoughby, and you're safe, every time,"
remarked Chase, in a general way.

"I don't know whether you and Patterson care for more capital in
developing your California scheme?" Walter went on. "But if you do, I
could probably help you to some."

Chase looked at him. The younger man's eyes met his, bright as steel.

The millionaire walked over to a block of coquina, which had once formed
part of a Spanish house; here he seated himself, established Petie Trone
comfortably on his knee, and lifting his hand, tilted back still farther
on his head his jessamine-decked hat. "You've been blowing about being
able to work, Walter. But we can get plenty of hard workers without
letting 'em into the ring. And you've been talking about being sharp.
Sharp you may be. But I rather guess that when it comes to _that_, Dave
Patterson and I don't need any help. Capital, however, is another
matter; it's always another matter. By enlarging our scheme at its
present stage by a third (which we could do easily if your uncle
Nicholas came in), we should make a much bigger pile."

There was no second block of coquina; Walter remained standing. But his
compact figure looked sturdy and firm as he stood there beside the other
man. "I could not go to my uncle without knowing what I am to tell him,"
he remarked, after a moment.

"Certainly not!" Chase answered. Then, after further reflection (this
time Walter did not break the silence), he said: "Well, see here; I may
as well state at the outset that unless your uncle will come in to a
pretty big tune, we don't want him at all; 'twouldn't pay us; we'd
prefer to play it alone. Now your uncles don't strike me as men who
would be willing to take risks. You say you have influence with 'em, or
rather with Nick. But I've got no proof of that. Of course it's
possible; Nick has brought you up; he's got no son--only girls; perhaps
he'd be willing to do for you what he'd do for a son of his own; perhaps
he really would take a risk, to give you a first-class start. But I
repeat that I've no proof of your having the least influence with him.
What's more, I've a healthy amount of doubt about it! Oh, I dare say
_you_ believe you've got a pull; you're straight as far as that goes. My
notion is simply that you're mistaken, that you're barking up the wrong
tree; Nicholas ain't that sort! However, as it happens to be the moment
when we _could_ enlarge (and double the profits), I'll give you my
terms. You have convinced me at least of one thing, and that is that
you're very sharp set yourself as to money-making; you want tremendously
to catch on. And it's _that_ I'm going to take as my security. In this
way. In order to learn whether your uncle Nicholas, to oblige _you_, is
willing to come in with Patterson and myself in this affair, you must
first know what the affair is (as you very justly remarked); I must
therefore tell you the whole scheme--show all my hand. Now, then, if I
do this, and your uncle _doesn't_ take it up, then not only you don't
get in yourself, but if I see the slightest indication that my
confidence has been abused, I sell out of that steamship firm instanter,
and, as I'm virtually the firm, you know what that will mean! And the
one other property you have--that stock--you'll be surprised to see how
it'll go down to next to nothing on the street. 'Twon't hurt _me_, you
know. As for you, you'll deserve it all, and more, too, for having been
a dunderhead!"

"I accept the terms," answered Willoughby. "Under the circumstances,
they're not even hard. If I fail, I _am_ a dunderhead!--I shall be the
first to say it. But I sha'n't fail." (Even at this moment, though he
was intensely absorbed, his eye was struck by the contrast between the
keen, hard expression of Horace Chase's face and his flower-decked hat;
between the dry tones of his voice and the care with which he still held
his wife's little dog, who at this instant, after a long yawn,
affectionately licked the hand that held him, ringing by the motion the
three small silver bells with which his young mistress had adorned his
collar.) "If I am to go to California with you next week, I have no time
to lose," he went on, promptly. "For I must first go to New York, of
course, to see my uncle."

"Well, rather!" interpolated Chase.

"Couldn't you tell me now whatever I have to know?" Walter continued.
"This is as good a place as any. We might walk off towards that house on
the right, near the shore; there is no danger of there being any
jessamine _there_."

Here Ruth appeared. "Haven't you found any more?" she asked, surprised.
"Mr. Willoughby, you pretended to be so much interested! As for you,
Horace, where is your spirit? I thought you liked to be first in
everything?"

"First in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen,"
quoted Chase. "Here--you'd better put your monkey in the phaeton," he
went on, passing over Mr. Trone. "He has a little rheumatism in his paw.
But you must try to bear it." His voice had again its humorous tones;
the penetrating look in his eyes had vanished. His wife standing there,
adorned with jessamine, her face looking child-like as she stroked her
dog, seemed to change the man of a moment before into an entirely
different being. In reality it did not do this; but it brought out
another part of his nature, and a part equally strong. Ruth had taken
off her gloves; the gems which her husband had given her flashed on her
hands as she lifted Mr. Trone to her shoulder and laid her cheek against
his little black head. "We are going for a short walk, Willoughby and
I," Chase said--"over towards that house on the shore. We'll be back
soon."

"That house is Dalton's," answered Ruth, looking in that direction.
"Mrs. Dalton makes the loveliest baskets, Horace; won't you get me one?
They are always a little one-sided, and that makes them much more
original, you know, than those that are for sale in town."

"Oh, it makes them more original, does it?" repeated Chase.

When he returned, an hour later, he brought the basket.

Walter Willoughby started that night for New York.



CHAPTER XII


Seven weeks after she had searched for the first jessamine, Ruth Chase
was again at St. Augustine. But in the meanwhile she had made a long
journey, having accompanied her husband to California. Chase had
unexpectedly come back to Florida, to see David Patterson. When he
reached New York on his return from the West, and learned that Patterson
had been stricken down by illness at Palatka, he decided that the best
thing he could do would be to go to Palatka himself immediately.

Ruth was delighted. "That means St. Augustine for me, doesn't it? Mother
and Dolly are still there. Oh, I _am_ so glad!"

"Why, Ruthie, do you care so much about it as all that? Why didn't you
say so before?" said Chase, looking up from his letters. "Then I could
have taken you down there in any case. Whereas now it's only this
accident of Patterson's being laid up that has made me decide to go. You
must _tell_ me what you want, always. It's the only way we can possibly
get along," he concluded, with mock severity.

Ruth gazed at the fire; for in New York, at the end of March, it was
still cold. "I love St. Augustine. I was _so_ happy there this winter,"
she said, musingly.

"Shall I build you a house near the sea-wall?" inquired her husband,
gathering up his letters and telegrams. As he left the room, he paused
beside her long enough to pass his hand fondly over her hair.

It was arranged that Walter Willoughby, who had returned with them from
California, should also accompany them southward. For there were certain
details of the Western enterprise which Patterson understood better than
any one else did, as he had devoted his attention to them for six
months; it now became important that these details should be explained
to the younger man, in the (possible) case of Patterson's being laid up
for some time longer. After one day in New York, therefore, Chase and
his wife and young Willoughby started for the land of flowers. At
Savannah a telegram met them: "Horace Chase, Pulaski House, Savannah.
Come alone. Patterson."

"When he's sick, he is always tremendously scared," commented Chase. "I
suppose we shall have to humor him. But I'll soon stir him up, and make
him feel better, Walter, and then I'll wire for you to come over at
once. Probably within twenty-four hours." After taking his wife to St.
Augustine, he crossed to Palatka alone. Walter was to wait at St.
Augustine for further directions.

The young New-Yorker agreed to everything. He was in excellent spirits;
throughout the whole Californian expedition he had, in truth, been
living in a state of inward excitement, though his face showed nothing
of it. For his uncle had consented, and he (Walter) had got his foot
into the stirrup at last. The ride might be breakneck, and it might be
hard; but at least it would not be long, and it would end at the
wished-for goal. Between two such riders as Patterson and Horace Chase
(Horace Chase especially; best of all, Horace Chase!), he could not fall
behind; they would sweep him along between them; he should come in
abreast. A closer acquaintance with Chase had only increased his
admiration for the man's extraordinary mind. "If ever there was a genius
for directing big combinations, here's one with a vengeance!" he said to
himself.

On the second day after Chase's departure for Palatka, Ruth and her
mother, in the late afternoon, drove across the Sebastian River by way
of the red bridge, and thence to the barrens. These great tree-dotted
Florida prairies possess a charm for far-sighted eyes; their broad,
unfenced, unguarded expanses, stretching away on all sides, carpeted
with flowers and ferns, and the fans of the dwarf-palmetto, have an air
of freedom that is alluring. Walter Willoughby accompanied the two
ladies, perched in the little seat behind. He had, in fact, nothing else
to do, as Chase had as yet sent no telegram.

They drove first to the Ponce de Leon spring. And Ruth made them drink:
"so that we shall always be young!"

Leaving the spring, they drove to another part of the barren. Here the
violets grew so thickly that they made the ground blue. "I must have
some," said Ruth, joyously. And leaving her mother comfortably leaning
back in the phaeton under her white umbrella, she jumped out and began
to gather the flowers with her usual haste and impetuosity. "Why don't
you come and help?" she said to Walter. "You're terribly lazy. Tie the
ponies to that tree, and set to work."

Walter obeyed. But he only gathered eight violets; then he stopped, and
stood fanning himself with his straw hat. "It is very warm," he said.
"Won't you let me get pitcher-plants instead? There are ever so many
over there. They are so large that eight of them will make a splendid
show." Daily companionship for seven weeks had made him feel thoroughly
at his ease with her. He had forgiven her for those old delays which she
had unknowingly caused in his plans; he now associated her with his
good-fortune, with his high hopes. She had been in the gayest spirits
throughout their stay in California, and this, too, had chimed in with
his mood.

"Pitcher-plants!" said Ruth. "Horrid, murdering things! Let them alone."
But they strolled that way to look at them; and then they walked on
towards a ridge, where she was sure that they should find calopogon.
Beyond the ridge there was a clear pool, whose amber-colored water
rested on a bed of silver sand; along one side rose the tall, delicate
plumes of the _Osmunda regalis_. "Isn't it lovely?" said Ruth. "I don't
believe there is anything more beautiful in all Florida!"

"Yes, one thing," thought Walter, "and that is Ruth Chase." For Ruth's
beauty had deepened richly during the past half-year. It was not Walter
alone who had noticed the change, every one spoke of it. At present his
eyes could not but note it once more, as she stood there in her white
dress under the ferns.

Then suddenly his thoughts were diverted in another direction. "I'm sure
that's for me!" he exclaimed. For he had discerned in the distance a
little negro boy on horseback. "He is bringing me my telegram at last--I
mean the one from your husband, Mrs. Chase, which I have been expecting
for two days. The stupid is following the road. I wonder if I couldn't
make him see me from here, so as to gain time?" And taking off his hat,
he waved it high in the air. But the child kept on his course. "Perhaps
I can make him hear," said Walter. He shouted, whistled, called. But all
to no purpose. "We might as well go back towards the phaeton," he
suggested. And they started.

"What will the telegram be?" said Ruth, arranging her violets as she
walked on. "Have you any idea?"

"A very clear one; it will tell me to arrive at Palatka as soon as
possible."

"And, from Palatka, do you go back to New York?"

"Yes; immediately."

"We shall be in New York, too, by the middle of April. You are to stay
in New York, aren't you?"

"Yes. It is to be my post in the game which will end, we trust, in your
husband's piling up still higher his great fortune, while _I_ shall have
laid very solidly the foundation of mine. Good! that boy sees me at
last." For the little negro, suddenly leaving the road, was galloping
directly towards them over the barren, his bare feet flapping the flanks
of his horse to increase its speed. Walter ran forward to meet him, took
the telegram, tore open the envelope, and read the message within. Then,
after rewarding the messenger (who went back to town in joyful
opulence), he returned to Ruth.

"Palatka?" she said, as he came up.

"No. Something entirely different. And very unexpected. I am to go to
California; I am to start to-morrow morning. And I am to stay
there--live there. It will be for a year or two, I suppose; at any rate,
until this new campaign of your husband's planning has been fought out
and won--as won it surely will be. For Patterson, it seems, won't be
able to go at present, and I am to take his place. Later, he hopes to be
on the spot. But even then I am to remain, they tell me. My instructions
will be here to-night by letter." He felt, inwardly, a great sense of
triumph that he was considered competent--already considered
competent--to take charge of the more important post. And as he put the
telegram in his pocket, the anticipation of success came to him like a
breeze charged with perfume; his pulses had a firm, quick beat; the
future--a future of his own choosing--unrolled itself brightly before
him.

Ruth had made no reply. After a moment her silence struck him--struck
him even in his preoccupation--and he turned to look at her.

Her face had a strange, stiffened aspect, as though her breathing had
suddenly been arrested.

"Are you ill?" he asked, alarmed.

"Oh no; I am only tired. Where is the phaeton? I have lost sight of it."

"Over there; don't you see your mother's white parasol?"

"Let us go back to her. But no--not just yet. I'll wait a moment or two,
as I'm so tired." And, turning her back to him, she sat down on a fallen
pine-tree, and rested her head on her hand.

"I can bring the phaeton over here?" Walter suggested. "There is no
road, but the ground is smooth."

She shook her head.

After a moment he began to talk; partly to fill the pause, partly to
give expression to the thoughts that occupied his own mind--occupied it
so fully that he did not give close heed to her. She was suddenly tired.
Well, that was nothing unusual; it was always something sudden;
generally a sudden gayety. At any rate, she could rest there comfortably
until she felt able to go on. "It's very odd to me to think that
to-morrow I shall be on my way to California again," he began. "That's
what I get by being the poor one of the company, Mrs. Chase! Your
husband, and Patterson, and my uncle, they sit comfortably at home; but
they send _me_ from pillar to post without the least scruple. I don't
mind the going. But the staying--that's a change indeed. To live in
California--I have had a good many ideas in my mind, but I confess I
have never had that." He laughed. But it was easy to see that the idea
pleased him greatly.

Ruth turned. Her eyes met his. And then, startled, amazed, the young man
read in their depths something that was to him an intense surprise.

At the same moment she rose. "I can go now. Mother will be wondering
where I am," she said.

He accompanied her in silence, his mind in a whirl. She said a few words
on ordinary subjects. Every now and then her voice came near failing
entirely, and she paused. But she always began again. Just before she
reached the phaeton she took a gray gauze veil from her pocket, and tied
it hastily across her face under her broad-brimmed hat. Mrs. Franklin
was waiting for them in lazy tranquillity. While Walter untied the
ponies, Ruth took the small seat behind. "Just for a change," she
explained. Walter, therefore, in her vacant place, drove them back to
town. Having taken Mrs. Franklin home, he left Ruth at her own door. "As
I'm off early to-morrow morning, Mrs. Chase, I'll bid you good-by now,"
he said, as the waiting servant came forward to the ponies' heads. She
gave him her hand. He could not see her face distinctly through that
baffling gray veil.

That evening at eleven o'clock he passed the house again; he was taking
a farewell stroll on the sea-wall. As he went by, he saw that there was
a light in the drawing-room. "She has not gone to bed," he thought. He
jumped down from the wall, crossed the road, and, going up the steps,
put his hand on the bell-knob. But a sudden temptation took possession
of him, and, instead of ringing, he opened the door. "If her mother is
with her, I'll pretend that I found it ajar," he said to himself. But
there were no voices, all was still. His step had made no sound on the
thick rugs, and, advancing, he drew aside a curtain. On a couch in a
corner of the drawing-room was Ruth Chase, alone, her face hidden in her
hands.

She started to her feet as he came in. "After all, Mrs. Chase, I found
that I wanted more of a good-by--" he began. And then, a second time, in
her eyes he read the astonishing, bewildering story. "She is still
unconscious of what it is," he thought. "If I go away at once--at once
and forever--no harm is done. And that is what I shall do." This was his
intention, and he knew that he should follow it. The very certainty,
however, made him allow himself a moment or two of delay. For how
beautiful she was, and how deeply she loved him! He could not help
offering, as it were, a tribute to both; it seemed to him that he would
be a boor not to do so. And then, before he knew it, he had gone
further. "You see how it is with me," he began. "You see that I love
you; I myself did not know it until now." (What was this he was telling
her? And somehow, for the moment, it was true!) "Don't think that I do
not understand," he went on. "I understand all--all--" While he was
uttering these words he met her eyes again. And then he felt that he was
losing his head. "What am I doing? I'm not an abject fool!" he managed
to say to himself, mutely--mutely but violently. And he left the house.

It took all his strength to do it.



CHAPTER XIII


Horace Chase, meanwhile, had arrived at Palatka, and opened the
discussion with David Patterson which ended in the decision to despatch
young Willoughby to California without delay. Having sent these
instructions, he remained at Palatka two days longer, his intention
being to cross, on the third day, to St. Augustine, get his wife and go
back to New York, stopping on the way at Raleigh in order to see Jared.
Always prompt, as soon as the question of the representative in
California was settled, his thoughts had turned towards his
brother-in-law; the proper moment had now arrived for fulfilling his
promises concerning him. But in answer to this note to Ruth, mentioning
this plan, there had come a long epistle from Mrs. Franklin. Ruth, she
wrote, wanted to go north by sea; it was a sudden fancy that had come to
her. Her wish was to go by the _Dictator_ to Charleston, and there
change for the larger steamer. "As Dolly and I intend to start towards
L'Hommedieu next week, Ruth's idea is that we could go together as far
as Charleston; for the rest of the way, Félicité could look after her.
You need not therefore take the trouble to come to St. Augustine at all,
she says; you can go directly from Palatka to Raleigh. All this sounds
a little self-willed. But, my dear Mr. Chase, if we spoiled her more or
less in the beginning, you must acknowledge that _you_ have carried on
the process! In the eighteen months that have passed since your
marriage, have you ever refused compliance with even one of her whims? I
think not. On the contrary, I fear you encourage them; you always seem
to me to be waiting, with an inward laugh, to see what on earth she will
suggest next!" Thus wrote the mother in a joking strain. Then, turning
to the subject which was more important to her, she filled three sheets
with her joyful anticipations concerning her son. "Insist upon his
resigning his present place on the spot," she urged; "take no denial.
Make him go _with_ you to New York. _Then_ you will be sure of him."

"The old lady seems to think he will be a great acquisition," said Chase
to himself, humorously.

Her statement that he had, from the first, allowed his wife to follow
her fancies unchecked was a true one. It amused him to do this, amused
him to watch an idea dawn, and then, in a few minutes, take such entire
possession of her that it shook her hard--only to leave her and vanish
with equal suddenness. The element of the unexpected in her was a
constant entertainment to him. Her heedlessness, her feminine
indifference to logic, to the inevitable sequences of cause and
effect--this, too, had given him many a moment of mirth. If her face had
been less lovely, these characteristics would have worn, perhaps,
another aspect. But in that case Horace Chase would not have been their
judge; for it was this alluring beauty (unconsciously alluring) which
had attracted him, which had made him fall in love with her. He was a
man whose life, up to the time of his engagement to Ruth, had been
irregular. But, though irregular, it had not been uncontrolled; he had
always been able to say, "Thus far; no farther!" But though her beauty
had been the first lure, he was now profoundly attached to his wife; his
pride in her was profound, his greatest pleasure was to make her happy.

"By sea to New York, is it?" he said to himself, as his eyes hastily
glanced through the remainder of Mrs. Franklin's long letter (that is,
the three sheets about Jared). "Well, she is a capital sailor, that's
one comfort. Let's see; which of our steamers will she hit at
Charleston?"

He was not annoyed because Ruth had not written, herself; Ruth did not
like to write letters. But it was a surprise to him that she should, of
her own accord, relinquish an opportunity to see her brother. "I reckon
she is counting upon my taking him up to New York with me, so that
she'll see him on the dock waiting for her when her steamer comes in,"
he thought. "I guess she knows, too, that I'm likely to succeed better
with Jared when _she's_ out of the business entirely. Franklin isn't
going to be boosted by his sister--that's been his fixed notion all
along. He doesn't suspect that his sister's nowhere in the matter
compared with his wife; his whole position of being independent of _me_,
and all that, has been so undermined and honeycombed by Gen, that, in
reality, his sticking it out there at Raleigh is a farce! But he doesn't
know it. It's lucky he don't!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Ruth had her way, as usual. Chase went northward from Palatka to
Savannah, where he had business; thence he was to go to Raleigh. His
wife, meanwhile, remained in St. Augustine for one week longer, and her
mother and sister, closing their own home, spent the time with her.

Their last day came; they were to leave St. Augustine on the morrow.
Early in the afternoon, Ruth disappeared. When they were beginning to
wonder where she was, Félicité brought them a note. Mrs. Franklin read
it, and laughed. "She has gone for a sail; by herself!"

"She might have told us. We could have gone with her," said Dolly,
irritably. "I don't like her being alone."

"Oh, she is safe enough, as far as that goes," answered the mother,
comfortably. "She has taken old Donato, who, in spite of his seventy
years, is an excellent sailor; and he has, too, a very good boat."

Dolly went to the window. "You are not in the least thinking of Ruth,
mother! You are thinking of Jared; you are thinking that if he takes
that place in New York, we must somehow get up there to see him this
summer; and you are planning to go to that boarding-house on Staten
Island that the commodore told you about."

Mrs. Franklin, who really was thinking of Staten Island, rolled a
lamplighter the wrong way. "It is happening oftener and oftener!" she
said to herself. "Is she going to die?" And she glanced towards her
invalid daughter with the old pang of loving pity quickened for the
moment to trepidation.

Dolly's back was turned; she was gazing down the inlet. The house, which
was formerly the residence of General Worth, the Military Governor of
Florida, commanded an uninterrupted view of the Matanzas north and
south, and, over the low line of Anastasia Island, even the smallest
sail going towards the ocean was visible. But in spite of this long
expanse of water, Dolly could not see old Donato's boat. "His Grand
suspects nothing! Are mothers always so blind?" she thought. "So secure?
But she shall never know anything through _me_--dear old Grand! Ruth has
of course gone to say good-bye to the places which are associated in her
mind with that hateful Willoughby. If I could only have known it, I
would have kept her from it at any price. These long hours alone which
she covets so--they are the worst things, the worst!"

Ruth's boat was far out of sight; at this moment she was landing on
Anastasia at the point where she had disembarked with Walter on the day
of the excursion. Telling the old Minorcan to wait for her, she sought
for the little Carib trail, and followed it inland to the pool. Here
she spent half an hour, seated in the loop of the vine where she had sat
before. Then, rising, she slowly retraced their former course along the
low ridge.

Since Walter's departure--he had left St. Augustine at dawn after that
strange evening visit--Ruth had been the prey of two moods, tossed from
one to the other helplessly; for the feelings which these moods by turn
excited were so strong that she had had no volition of her own--she had
been powerless against them. One of these mental states (the one that
possessed her now) was joy. The other was aching pain.

For her fate had come upon her, as it was sure from the first to come.
And it found her defenceless; those who should have foreseen it had
neither guarded her against it, nor trained her so that she could guard
herself. She had no conception of life--no one had ever given her such a
conception--as a lesson in self-control; from her childhood all her
wishes had been granted. It is true that these wishes had been simple.
But that was because she had known no other standard; the degree of
indulgence (and of self-indulgence) was as great as if they had been
extravagant. If her disposition as a girl had been selfish, it was
unconscious selfishness; for her mother, her elder sister, and her
brother had never required anything from her save that she should be
happy. With her joyous nature, life had always been delightful to her,
and her marriage had only made it more delightful. For Horace Chase,
unconsciously, had adopted the habit that the family had always had;
they never expected Ruth to take responsibility, to be serious, and, in
the same way, he never expected it. And he loved to see her contented,
just as they had loved it. There was some excuse for them all in the
fact that Ruth's contentment was a very charming thing--it was so
natural and exuberant.

And, on her side, this girl had married Horace Chase first of all
because she liked him. What he had done for her brother, and his
wealth--these two influences had come only second, and would not have
sufficed without the first; her affection (for it was affection) had
been won by his kindness to herself. Since their marriage his lavish
generosity had pleased her, and gratified her imagination. But his
delicate consideration for her--this girl nineteen years younger than
himself--and his unselfishness, these she had not appreciated; she
supposed that husbands were, as a matter of course, like that. As it
happened, she had not a single girl friend who had married, from whose
face (if not from whose words also) she might have divined other ways.
Thus she had lived on, accepting everything in her easy, epicurean
fashion, until into her life had come love--this love for Walter
Willoughby.

Walter devoting himself to Mrs. Chase for his own purposes, had never
had the slightest intention of falling in love with her; in truth, such
a catastrophe (it would have seemed to him nothing less) would have
marred all his plans. He had wished only to amuse her. And, in the
beginning, it had been in truth his gay spirits which had attracted
Ruth, for she possessed gay spirits herself. She had been unaware of the
nature of the feeling which was taking possession of her; her
realization went no further than that life was now much more
interesting; and, with her rich capacity for enjoyment, she had grasped
this new pleasure eagerly. It was this which had made her beauty so much
more rich and vivid. It was this which had caused her to exclaim, "How
delightful it is to live!" If obstacles had interfered, the pain of
separation might have opened her eyes, at an earlier period, to the
nature of her attachment. But, owing to the circumstances of the case,
the junior partner had been with Mr. and Mrs. Chase almost daily ever
since their return from Europe. That announcement, therefore, out on the
barrens--his own announcement--of his departure the next morning, and
for an indefinite stay, had come upon her like the chill of sudden
death. And then in the evening, while she was still benumbed and
pulseless, had followed his strange, short visit, and the wild thrill of
joy in her heart over his declaration of his own love for her. For he
had said it, he had said it!

These two conflicting tides--the pain of his absence and the joy of his
love--had held entire possession of her ever since. But passionate
though her nature was, in matters of feeling it was deeply reticent as
well, and no one had noticed any change in her save Dolly, Dolly who had
divined something from her sister's new desire to be alone. Never before
had Ruth wished to be alone; but now she went off for long walks by
herself; and this plan for returning to New York by sea--that was simply
the same thing. From the moment of Ruth's engagement, Dolly had been
haunted by a terrible fear. Disliking Horace Chase herself, she did not
believe that he would be able to keep forever a supreme place in his
wife's heart. And then? Would Ruth be content to live on, as so many
wives live, with this supreme place unoccupied? It was her dread of
this, a dread which had suddenly become personified, that had made her
form one of almost all the excursions of this Florida winter; she had
gone whenever she was able, and often when she was unable--at least, she
would be present, she would mount guard.

But in spite of her guardianship, something had evidently happened. What
was it? Was this desire of Ruth's to be alone a good sign or a bad sign?
Did it come from happiness or unhappiness? "If it is unhappiness, she
will throw it off," Dolly told herself. "She hates suffering. She will
manage, somehow, to rid herself of it." Thus she tried to reassure
herself.

Ruth gave not only the afternoon but the evening to her pilgrimage; she
visited all the places where she had been with Walter. When the twilight
had deepened to night, she came back to town, and, still accompanied by
Donato, she went to the old fort, and out the shell road; finally she
paid a visit to Andalusia. A bright moon was shining; over the low land
blew a perfumed breeze. Andalusia was deserted, Mrs. Kip had gone to
North Carolina. Bribing Uncle Jack, the venerable ex-slave who lived in
a little cabin under the bananas near the gate, Ruth went in, and
leaving her body-guard, the old fisherman, resting on a bench, she
wandered alone among the flowers. "You see that I love you. I myself did
not know it until now"--this was the talisman which was making her so
happy; two brief phrases uttered on the spur of the moment, phrases
preceded by nothing, followed by nothing. It was a proof of the
simplicity of her nature, its unconsciousness of half-motives,
half-meanings, that she should think these few words so conclusive. But
to her they were final. Direct herself, she supposed that others were
the same. She did not go beyond her talisman; she did not reason about
it, or plan. In fact, she did not think at all; she only felt--felt each
syllable take a treasure in her heart, and brooded over it happily. And
as she wandered to and fro in the moonlight, it was as well that Walter
did not see her. He did not love her--no. He had no wish to love her; it
would have interfered with all his plans. But if he had beheld her now,
he would have succumbed--succumbed, at least, for the moment, as he had
done before. He was not there, however. And he had no intention of
being there, of being anywhere near Horace Chase's wife for a long time
to come. "I'll keep out of _that_!" he had said to himself,
determinedly.

It was midnight when at last Ruth returned home, coming into the
drawing-room like a vision, in her white dress, with her arms full of
flowers.

"Well, have you had enough of prowling?" asked her mother, sleepily. "I
must say that it appears to agree with you!"

Even Dolly was reassured by her sister's radiant eyes.

But later, when Félicité had left her mistress, then, if Dolly could
have opened the locked door, her comfort would have vanished; for the
other mood had now taken possession, and lying prone on a couch, with
her face hidden, Ruth was battling with her grief.

Pain was so new to her, sorrow so new! Incapable of enduring (this was
what Dolly had hoped), many times during the last ten days she had
revolted against her suffering, and to-night she was revolting anew. "I
_will_ not care for him; it makes me too wretched!" Leaving the couch,
she strode angrily to and fro. The three windows of the large room--it
was her dressing-room--stood open to the warm sea-air; she had put out
the candles, but the moonlight, entering in a flood, reflected her white
figure in the long mirrors as she came and went. Félicité had braided
her hair for the night, but the strands had become loosened, and the
thick, waving mass flowed over her shoulders. "I will not think of him;
I will _not_!" And to emphasize it, she struck her clinched hand with
all her force on the stone window-seat. "It is cut. I'm glad! It will
make me remember that I am _not_ to think of him." She was intensely in
earnest in her resolve, and, to help herself towards other thoughts, she
began to look feverishly at the landscape outside, as though it was
absolutely necessary that she should now resee and recount each point
and line. "There is the top of the light-house--and there is the
ocean--and there are the bushes near the quarry." She leaned out of the
window so as to see farther. "There is the North Beach; there is the
fort and the lookout tower." Thus for a few minutes her weary mind
followed the guidance of her will. "There is the bathing-house. And
there is the dock and the club-house; and there is the Basin. Down there
on the right is Fish Island. How lovely it all is! I wish I could stay
here forever. But even to-morrow night I shall be gone; I shall be on
the _Dictator_. And then will come Charleston. And then New York." (Her
mind had now escaped again.) "And then the days--and the months--and the
_years_ without him! Oh, what shall I do? What shall I do?" And the pain
descending, sharper than ever, she sank down, and with her arms on the
window-seat and her face on her arms, and cried and cried--cried so long
that at last her shoulders fell forward stoopingly, and her whole
slender frame lost its strength, and drooped against the window-sill
like a broken reed. Her despair held no plan for trying to see Walter,
her destiny seemed to her fixed; her revolts had not been against that
destiny, but against her pain. But something was upon her now which was
stronger than herself, stronger than her love of ease, stronger than her
dread of suffering. Dolly knew her well. But there were some depths
which even Dolly did not know.

Dawn found her still there, her hands and feet cold, her face white; she
had wept herself out--there were no more tears left. The sun came up;
she watched it mechanically. "Félicité mustn't find me here," she
thought. She dragged herself to her feet; all her muscles were stiff.
Then going to the bedroom, she fell into a troubled sleep.

It would be too much to say that during the entire night her mind had
not once turned towards her husband. She had thought of him now and
then, much as she had thought of her mother; as, for instance--would her
mother see any change in her face the next morning, after this night of
tears? Would her husband see any at New York when he arrived? Whenever
she remembered either one of them, she felt a sincere desire not to make
them unhappy. But this was momentary; during most of the night the
emotions that belonged to her nature swept over her with such force that
she had no power, no will, to think of anything save herself.



CHAPTER XIV


Horace Chase, following the suggestion of Mrs. Franklin (a suggestion
which had come in reality from Ruth), travelled northward to Raleigh
from Palatka without crossing to St. Augustine. He went "straight
through," as he called it; when he was alone he always went straight
through. He was no more particular as to where he slept than he was as
to what he ate. Reaching Raleigh in the evening, he went in search of
his brother-in-law. He had not sent word that he was coming. "I won't
give him time to trot out all his objections beforehand," he had said to
himself. He intended to make an attempt to arrange the matter with Jared
without calling in the aid of Genevieve. "If I fail, there'll always be
time to bring her on the scene. If I succeed, it'll take her down a bit;
and that won't hurt her!" he thought, with an inward smile.

Ruth's "horrid Raleigh" looked very pretty as he walked through its
lighted streets. The boarding-house where Jared had passed the winter
proved to be an old mansion, which, in its day, had possessed claims to
dignity; it was large, with two wings running backward, and the main
building had a high pointed roof with dormer-windows. The front was
even with the street; but the street itself was rural, with its two long
lines of magnificent trees, which formed the divisions (otherwise rather
vague) between the sidewalks and the broad expanse of the sandy roadway.
Chase's knock was answered by a little negro boy, whose head did not
reach the door-knob. "Mas' Franklin? Yassah. He's done gone out. Be in
soon, I reckon," he added, hopefully.

Chase, after a moment's reflection, decided to go in and wait.

"Show you in de parlo,' or right up in his own room, boss?" demanded the
infant, anxiously. "Dere's a party in de parlo'." This statement was
confirmed by the sound of music from within.

"A party, is there? I guess I'll go up, then," said Chase.

The child started up the stairs. His legs were so short that he had to
mount to each step with both feet, one after the other, before he could
climb to the next. These legs and feet and his arms were bare; the rest
of his small, plump person was clad in a little jacket and very short
breeches of pink calico. There were two long flights of stairs, and a
shorter flight to the attic; the pink breeches had the air of climbing
an Alp. Presently Chase took up the little toiler, candle and all.

"You can tell me which way to go," he said. "What's your name?"

"Pliny Abraham, sah."

"Do you like Mr. Franklin?"

"Mas' Franklin is de bes' body in dishyer house!" declared Pliny
Abraham, shrilly.

"The best what?"

"De bes' body. We'se got twenty-five bodies now, boss. Sometimes dere's
twenty-eight."

"Oh, you mean boarders?"

"Yassah. Bodies."

Jared's room was in the attic. Pliny Abraham, who had been intensely
serious, began to grin as his bearer, after putting him down, placed a
dime in each of his little pink pockets; then he dashed out of the room,
his black legs disappearing so suddenly that Chase had the curiosity to
follow to the top of the stairs and look over. Pliny had evidently slid
down the banisters; for he was already embarked on the broader rail of
the flight below.

Twenty minutes later there was a step on the stair; the door opened, and
Jared Franklin came in.

"They didn't tell you I was here?" said Chase, as they shook hands.

"No. Mrs. Nightingale is usually very attentive; too much so, in fact;
she's a bother!" Jared answered. "To-night, however, there's a party
down below, and she has the supper on her mind."

"Is Pliny Abraham to serve it?"

"You've seen him, have you?" said Jared, who was now lighting a lamp.
"Confounded smell--petroleum!" And he threw up the sash of the window.

"I'm on my way up to New York, and I came across from Goldsborough on
purpose to see you, Franklin, on a matter of business," Chase began.
"Ruth isn't with me this time; she took a notion to go north by sea.
Your mother and sister, I expect, will be seeing her off to-morrow from
Charleston; then, after a little rest for Miss Dolly, they're to go to
L'Hommedieu."

"They'll stop here, won't they?" asked Jared, who was standing at the
window in order to get air which was untainted by the odor of the lamp.

"Perhaps," Chase answered. He knew that Dolly and her mother believed
that by the time they should reach Raleigh, Jared would have already
left. "Well, the gist of the matter, Franklin, is about this," he went
on. And then, tilting his chair back so that his long legs should have
more room, and with his thumbs in the pockets of his waistcoat, he began
deliberately to lie.

For in the short space of time which had elapsed since his eyes first
rested upon Ruth's brother, he had entirely altered his plan. His
well-arranged arguments and explanations about the place in New York in
connection with his California scheme--all these he had abandoned;
something must be invented which would require no argument at all,
something which should attract Jared so strongly that he would of his
own accord accept it on the spot, and start northward the next morning.
"Once in New York, in our big house there, with Gen (for I shall
telegraph her to come on) and Ruth and the best doctors, perhaps the
poor chap can be persuaded to give up, and take a good long rest," he
thought.

For he had been greatly shocked by the change in Jared's appearance.
When he had last seen him, the naval officer had been gaunt; but now he
was wasted. His eyes had always been sad; but now they were deeply
sunken, with dark hollows under them and over them. "He looks _bad_,"
Chase said to himself, emphatically. "This sort of life's been too much
for him, and Gen's got a good deal to answer for!" The only ornament of
the whitewashed wall was a large photograph of the wife; her handsome
face, with its regular outlines and calm eyes, presided serenely over
the attic room of the lonely husband.

To have to contrive something new, plausible, and effective, in two
minutes' time, might have baffled most men. But Horace Chase had never
had a mind of routine, he had always been a free lance; original
conceptions and the boldest daring, accompanied by an extraordinary
personal sagacity, had formed his especial sort of genius--a genius
which had already made him, at thirty-nine, a millionaire many times
over. His invention, therefore, when he unrolled it, had an air of
perfect veracity. It had to do with a steamer, which (so he represented)
a man whom he knew had bought, in connection with what might be called,
perhaps, a branch of his own California scheme, although a branch with
which he himself had nothing whatever to do. This man needed an
experienced officer to take the steamer immediately from San Francisco
to the Sandwich Islands, and thence on a cruise to various other islands
in the South Pacific. "The payment, to a navy man like you, ought to be
pretty good. But I can't say what the exact figure will be," he went on,
warily, "because I'm not in it myself, you see. He's a good deal of a
skinflint" (here he coolly borrowed a name for the occasion, the name of
a capitalist well known in New York); "but he's sound. It's a _bona
fide_ operation; I can at least vouch for that. The steamer is
first-class, and you can pick out your own crew. There'll be a man
aboard to see to the trading part of it; all _you've_ got to do is to
sail the ship." And in his driest and most practical voice he went on
enumerating the details.

Jared knew that his brother-in-law had more than once been engaged in
outside speculations on a large scale; his acquaintance, therefore, with
kindred spirits, men who bought ocean steamers and sent them on cruises,
did not surprise him. The plan attracted him; he turned it over in his
mind to see if there were any reasons why he should not accept it. There
seemed to be none. To begin with, Horace Chase had nothing to do with
it; he should not be indebted to _him_ for anything save the chance. In
addition, it would not be an easy berth, with plenty to get and little
to do, like the place at Charleston; on the contrary, a long voyage of
this sort would call out all he knew. And certainly he was sick of his
present life--deathly sick!

Chase had said to himself: "Fellows who go down so low--and he's at the
end of _his_ rope; that's plain--go up again like rockets sometimes,
just give 'em a chance."

Jared, however, showed no resemblance to a rocket. He agreed, after a
while, to "undertake the job," as Chase called it, and he agreed, also,
to start the next morning with his brother-in-law for New York, where
the final arrangements were to be made; but his assent was given
mechanically, and his voice sounded weak, as though, physically, he had
very little strength. Mentally there was more stir. "I shall be deuced
glad to be on salt-water again," he said. "I dare say _you_ think it's a
very limited life," he went on (and in the phrase there lurked something
scornful).

"Well," answered Chase, with his slight drawl, "that depends upon what a
man wants, what he sets out to do." He put his hands down in the pockets
of his trousers, and looked at the lamp reflectively; then he
transferred his gaze to Jared. "I guess you've got a notion, Franklin,
that I care for nothing but money? And that's where you make a mistake.
For 'tain't the money; it's the making it. Making it (that is, in large
sums) is the best sort of a game. If you win, there's nothing like it.
It's sport, _that_ is! It's fun! To get down to the bed-rock of the
subject, it's the power. Yes, sir, that's it--the power! The knowing
you've got it, and that other men know it too, and feel your hand on the
reins! For a big pile is something more than a pile; it's a proof that
a man's got brains. (I mean, of course, if he has made it himself; I'm
not talking now about fortunes that are inherited, or are simply rolled
up by a rise in real estate.) As to the money taken alone, of course
it's a good thing to have, and I'm going on making more as long as I
can; I like it, and I know how. But about the disposing of it" (here he
took his hands out of his pockets and folded his arms), "I don't mind
telling you that I've got other ideas. My family--if I have a
family--will be provided for. After that, I've a notion that I may set
aside a certain sum for scientific research (I understand that's the
term). I don't know much about science myself; but I've always felt a
sort of general interest in it, somehow."

"Oh, you intend to be a benefactor, do you?" said Jared, ironically. "I
hope, at least, that your endowment won't be open to everybody. It's
only fair to tell you that, in _my_ opinion, one of the worst evils of
our country to-day is this universal education--education of all classes
indiscriminately."

Chase looked at him for a moment in silence. Then, with a quiet dignity
which was new to the other man, he answered, "I don't think I understand
you."

"Oh yes, you do," responded Jared, with a little laugh. But he felt
somewhat ashamed of his speech, and he bore it off by saying, "Are you
going to found a new institution? Or leave it in a lump to Harvard?"

"I haven't got as far as that yet. I thought perhaps Ruth might like to
choose," Chase answered, his voice softening a little as he pronounced
his wife's name.

"Ruth? Much _she_ knows about it!" said the brother, amused. In his
heart he was thinking, "Well, at any rate, he isn't one of the blowers,
and that's a consolation! He is going to 'plank down' handsomely for
'scientific research.' (I wonder if he thinks they'll research another
baking-powder!) But he isn't going to shout about it. The fact is that
this is the first time I have ever heard him speak of himself, and his
own ideas. What he said just now about making money, that's his credo,
evidently. Pretty dry one! But, for such a fellow as he is, natural
enough, I suppose."

Chase's credo, if such it was, was ended; he showed no disposition to
speak further of himself; on the contrary, he turned the conversation
towards his companion. For as the minutes had passed, more and more
Jared seemed to him ill--profoundly changed. "I'm afraid, Franklin, that
your health isn't altogether first-class nowadays?" he said,
tentatively.

"Oh, I'm well enough, except that just now there's some sort of an
intermittent fever hanging about me. But it's very slight, and it only
appears occasionally; I dare say it will leave me as soon as I'm fairly
out of this hole of a place," Jared answered, in a dull tone.

"He must be mighty glad to get away, and yet he doesn't rally worth a
cent," thought Chase, with inward concern. "I say," he went on, aloud,
"as there's a party in the house, why not come along down to the hotel
and sleep there? I'm going to have some sort of a lunch when I go back;
you might keep me company?"

Jared, however, made a gesture of repugnance. "I couldn't eat; I've no
appetite. The party doesn't trouble me--I'll go to bed. There'll be
plenty to do in the morning, if we are to catch that nine o'clock
train."

Chase therefore took leave, and Jared accompanied him down to the street
door. Dancing was going on in the parlors on each side of the hall, and
the two, as they passed, caught a glimpse of pretty girls in white, with
flowers in their hair. After making an early appointment for the next
day, Chase said good-night, and turned down the tree-shaded street
towards his hotel.

His step was never a hurried one; he had not, therefore, gone far when a
person, who had left the house two minutes after his own departure,
succeeded in overtaking him. "If you please--will you stop a moment?"
said this person. She was panting, for she had been running.

Chase turned; by the light from a street-lamp, which reached them
flickeringly through the foliage, he saw a woman. Her face was in the
shadow, but a large flower, poised stiffly on the top of her head,
caught the light and gleamed whitely.

"I am Mrs. Nightingale," she began. "Mr. Franklin, the gentleman you
called awn this evenin', is a member of my family. And I've been right
anxious about Mr. Franklin; I'm thankful somebody has come who knows
him. For indeed, sir, he's more sick than he likes to acknowledge. I've
been watchin' for you to come down; but when I saw _he_ was with you, I
had to wait until he'd gone up again; then I slipped out and ran after
you."

"I've been noticing that he looked bad, ma'am," Chase answered.

"Oh, sir, somebody ought to be with him; he has fever at night, and when
it comes awn, he's out of his head. I've sat up myself three nights
lately to keep watch. He locks his do'; but there's an empty room next
to his where I stay, so that if he comes out I can see that he gets no
harm."

"He walks about, then?"

"In his own room--yes, sir; an' he talks, an' raves."

"Couldn't you have managed to have him see a doctor, ma'am?"

"I've done my best, but he won't hear of it. You see, it only comes awn
every third night or so, an' he has no idea himself how bad it is. In
the mawnin' it's gone, an' then all he says is that the breakfast is
bad. He goes to his business every day regular, though he looks so
po'ly. And he doesn't eat enough to keep a fly alive."

Chase reflected. "I'll have a doctor go with us on the sly to-morrow,"
he thought, "and I'll engage a whole sleeper at Weldon to go through to
New York. I'll wire to Gen to start at once; she needn't be more than a
day behind us if she hurries." Then he went on, aloud: "Do you think he
is likely to be feverish to-night, ma'am?"

"I hope not, sir, as last night was bad."

"I guess it will be better, then, not to wake him up and force a doctor
upon him now, as he told me he was going to bed. I intend to take him
north with me to-morrow morning, ma'am, and in the meantime--that little
room you spoke of next to his--_I'll_ occupy it to-night, if you'll let
me? I'll just go down to the hotel and get my bag, and be back soon. I'm
his brother-in-law," Chase continued, shaking hands with her, "and we're
all much obliged, ma'am, for what you've done; it was mighty kind--the
keeping watch at night."

He went to his hotel, made a hasty supper, and returned, bag in hand,
before the half-hour was out. Mrs. Nightingale ushered him down one of
the long wings to her own apartment at the end, a comfortless, crowded
little chamber, full of relics of the war--her husband's sword and
uniform (he was shot at Gettysburg); his portrait; the portrait of her
brother, also among the slain; photographs of their graves; funeral
wreaths and flags.

"Excuse my bringin' you here, sir; it's the only place I have. Mr.
Franklin hasn't gone to bed yet; I slipped up a moment ago to see, and
there was a light under his do'. I'm afraid it would attract his
attention if you should go up now, sir, for he knows that the next room
is unoccupied."

"_You've_ occupied it, ma'am. But I guess you know how to step pretty
soft," Chase answered, gallantly. For now that he saw this good
Samaritan in a brighter light, he appreciated the depth of her charity.
The mistress of the boarding-house was the personification of chronic
fatigue; her dim eyes, her worn face, her stooping figure, and the
enlarged knuckles and bones of her hands, all told of hard toil and
care. Her thin hair was re-enforced behind by huge palpably false braids
of another shade, and the preposterous edifice, carried over the top of
the head, was adorned, in honor of the party, by the large white
camellia, placed exactly in the centre--"like a locomotive head-light,"
Chase thought--which had attracted his notice in the street. But in
spite of her grotesque coiffure, no one with a heart could laugh at her.
The goodness in her faded face was so genuine and beautiful that
inwardly he saluted it. "She's the kind that'll never be rested _this_
side the grave," he said to himself.

Left alone in her poor little temple of memories, he went to the window
and looked out. It was midnight, and the waning moon--the same moon
which had been full when Ruth made her happy pilgrimage at St.
Augustine--was now rising in its diminished form; diminished though it
was, it gave out light enough to show the Northerner that the old house
had at the back, across both stories, covered verandas--"galleries,"
Mrs. Nightingale called them. Above, the pointed roof of the main
building towered up dark against the star-decked sky, and from one of
its dormer-windows came a broad gleam of light. "That's Jared's room,"
thought Chase. "He is writing to Gen, telling her all about it; sick as
he is, he sat up to do it. Meanwhile _she_ was comfortably asleep at
ten."

At last, when Jared had finally gone to bed, Mrs. Nightingale (who made
no more sound than a mouse) led the way up to the attic. Chase followed
her, shoeless, treading as cautiously as he could, and established
himself in the empty room with his door open, and a lighted candle in
the hall outside. By two o'clock the party down-stairs was over; the
house sank into silence.

There had been no sound from Jared. "He's all right; I shall get him
safely off to-morrow," thought the watcher, with satisfaction. "At New
York, if he's well enough to talk, I shall have to invent another yarn
about that steamer. But probably the doctors will tell him on the spot
that he isn't able to undertake it. So that'll be the end of _that_."

His motionless position ended by cramping him; the chair was hard; each
muscle of both legs seemed to have a separate twitch. "I might as well
lie down on the bed," he thought; "there, at least, I can stretch out."

He was awakened by a sound; startled, he sat up, listening. Jared, in
the next room, was talking. The words could not be distinguished; the
tone of the voice was strange. Then the floor vibrated; Jared had risen,
and was walking about. His voice grew louder. Chase noiselessly went
into the hall, and stood listening at the door. There was no light
within, and he ventured to turn the handle. But the bolt was fast. A
white figure now stole up the stairs and joined him; it was Mrs.
Nightingale, wrapped in a shawl. "Oh, I heard him 'way from my room! He
has never been so bad as this before," she whispered.

Chase had always been aware that the naval officer disliked him; that
is, that he had greatly disliked the idea of his sister's marriage. "If
he sees me now, when he is out of his head, will it make him more
violent? Would it be better to have a stranger go in first?--the
doctor?"--these were the questions that occupied his mind while Mrs.
Nightingale was whispering her frightened remark.

From the room now came a wild cry. That decided him. "I am going to
burst in the lock," he said to his companion, hurriedly. "Call up some
one to help me hold him, if necessary." His muscular frame was strong;
setting his shoulder against the door, after two or three efforts he
broke it open.

But the light from the candle outside showed that the room was empty,
and, turning, he ran at full speed down the three flights of stairs,
passing white-robed, frightened groups (for the whole house was now
astir), and, unlocking the back door, he dashed into the court-yard
behind, his face full of dread. But there was no lifeless heap on the
ground. Then, hastily, he looked up.

Dawn was well advanced, though the sun had not yet risen; the clear,
pure light showed that nothing was lying on the roof of the upper
gallery, as he had feared would be the case. At the same instant, his
eyes caught sight of a moving object above; coming up the steep slope of
the roof from the front side, at first only the head visible, then the
shoulders, and finally the whole body, outlined against the violet sky,
appeared Jared Franklin. He was partly dressed, and he was talking to
himself; when he reached the apex of the roof he paused, brandishing his
arms with a wild gesture, and swaying unsteadily.

Several persons were now in the court-yard; men had hurried out. Two
women joined them, and looked up. But when they saw the swaying figure
above, they ran back to the shelter of the hall, veiling their eyes and
shuddering. In a few moments all the women in the house had gathered in
this lower hall, frightened and tearful.

Chase, meanwhile, outside, was pulling off his socks. "Get ladders," he
said, quickly, to the other men. "I'm going up. I'll try to hold him."

"Oh, how _can_ you get there?" asked Mrs. Nightingale, sobbing.

"The same way he did," Chase answered, as he ran up the stairs.

The men remonstrated. Two of them hurried after him. But he was ahead,
and, mounting to the sill of Jared's window, he stepped outside. Then,
not allowing himself to look at anything but the apex directly above
him, he walked slowly and evenly towards it up the steep incline, his
head and shoulders bent forward, his bare feet clinging to the
moss-grown shingles, while at intervals he touched with the tips of his
fingers the shingles that faced him, as a means of steadying himself.

Down in the court-yard no word was now spoken. But the gazers drew their
breath audibly. Jared appeared to be unaware of any one below; his eyes,
though wide open, did not see the man who was approaching. Chase
perceived this, as soon as he himself had reached the top, and he
instantly took advantage of it; he moved straight towards Jared on his
hands and knees along the line of the ridge-pole. When he had come
within reach, he let himself slip down a few inches to a chimney that
was near; then, putting his left arm round this chimney as a support, he
stretched the right upward, and with a sudden grasp seized the other
man, throwing him down and pinning him with one and the same motion.
Jared fell on his back, half across the ridge, with his head hanging
over one slope and his legs and feet over the other; it was this
position which enabled Chase to hold him down. The madman (his frenzy
came from a violent form of inflammation of the brain) struggled
desperately. His strength seemed so prodigious that to the watchers
below it appeared impossible that the rescuer could save him, or even
save himself. The steep roof had no parapet; and the cruel pavement
below was stone; the two bodies, grappled in a death-clutch, must go
down together.

"Oh, _pray_! Pray to God!" called a woman's voice from the court below.

She spoke to Chase. But at that moment nothing in him could be spared
from his own immense effort; not only all the powers of his body, but of
his heart and mind and soul as well, were concentrated upon the one
thing he had to do. He accomplished it; feeling his arm growing weak, he
made a tremendous and final attempt to jam down still harder the breast
he grasped, and the blow (for it amounted to a blow) reduced Jared to
unconsciousness; his hands fell back, his ravings ceased. His strength
had been merely the fictitious force of fever; in reality he was weak.

The ladders came. Both men were saved.

"Come, now, if the roof had been only three inches above the ground--how
then?" Chase said, impatiently, as, after the visit of a doctor and the
arrival of two nurses, he came down for a hasty breakfast in Mrs.
Nightingale's dining-room, where the boarders began to shake hands with
him, enthusiastically. "The thing itself was simple enough; all that was
necessary was to act as though it _was_ only three inches."



CHAPTER XV


A week later, early in the evening, a four-horse stage was coming slowly
down the last mile or two of road above the little North Carolina
village of Old Fort at the eastern base of the Blue Ridge. It was a
creaking, crazy vehicle, thickly encrusted with red clay. But as it had
pounded all the way from Asheville by the abominable mountain-road, no
doubt it had cause to be vociferous and tarnished. Above, the stars were
shining brightly; and the forest also appeared to be starlit, owing to
the myriads of fire-flies that gleamed like sparks against the dark
trees.

A man who was coming up the road hailed the stage as it approached.
"Hello! Is Mr. Hill inside? The Rev. Mr. Hill of Asheville?"

"Yes," answered a voice from the back seat of the vehicle, and a head
appeared at the window. "What--Mr. Chase? Is that you?" And, opening the
door, Malachi Hill, with his bag in his hand, jumped out.

"I came up the road, thinking I might meet you," Horace Chase explained.
"Let's walk; there's something I want to talk over." They went on
together, leaving the stage behind. "I've got a new idea," Chase began.
"What do you say to going up to New York to get my wife? I had intended
to go for her myself, as you know, starting from here to-night, as soon
as I had put the other ladies in your charge, to take back to Asheville.
But Mrs. Franklin looks pretty bad; and Dolly--she might have one of her
attacks. And, take it altogether, I've begun to feel that it's my
business to go with 'em all the way. For it's a long drive over the
mountains at best, and though the night's fine so far, there's no moon,
and the road is always awful. I have four men from Raleigh along--the
undertaker (who is a damn fool, always talking), and his assistants; and
so there'll be four teams--a wagon, the two carriages, and the hearse. I
guess I know the most about horses, and if you can fix it so as to take
my place, I'll see 'em through."

"Certainly. I am anxious to help in any way you think best," answered
Malachi. "I wish I could start at once! But the stage is so late
to-night that, of course, the train has gone?"

"That's just it--I kept it," Chase answered; "I knew one of us would
want to take it. You'll have to wait over at Salisbury in the usual
stupid way. But as Ruth can't be here in time for the funeral, it's not
of vital importance. The only thing that riles me is that, owing to that
confounded useless wait, you can't be on the dock to meet her when her
steamer comes in at New York; you won't be able to get there in time.
There'll be people, of course--I've telegraphed. But no one she knows
as well as she knows you."

Reaching the village, they walked quickly towards the railroad and
finished their talk as they stood beside the waiting train. There was no
station, the rails simply came to an end in the main street. A small
frame structure, which bore the inscription "Blue Ridge Hotel," faced
the end of the rails.

"He's in there," said Chase, in a low tone, indicating a lighted window
of this house; "that room on the ground-floor. And the old lady--she is
sitting there beside him. She is quiet, she doesn't say anything. But
she just sits there."

"Mrs. Jared and Miss Dolly are with her, aren't they?" said the young
clergyman.

"Well, Dolly is keeping Gen in the other room across the hall as much as
she _can_. For Dolly tells me that her mother likes best to sit there
alone. Women, you know, about their sons--sometimes they're queer!"
remarked Chase.

"The mother's love--yes," Malachi answered, his voice uncertain for a
moment. He swallowed. "There isn't a man who doesn't feel, sooner or
later, after it has gone, that he hasn't prized it half enough--that it
was the best thing he had! It was brain-fever, wasn't it?" he went on,
hurriedly, to cover his emotion. For he, too, had been an only son.

"Yes, and bad. He was raving; he knocked down one of the doctors. After
the fever left him, it was just possible, they told me, that he might
have pulled through, if he had only been stronger. But he was played out
to begin with; I discovered that myself as soon as I reached Raleigh.
Gen got there in time to see him. But the old lady was too late; and
pretty hard lines for her! She kept telegraphing from different stations
as she and Dolly hurried up from Charleston; and I did my best to
hearten her by messages that met her here and there; but she missed it.
By only half an hour. When I saw that it had come--that he was sinking
and she wouldn't find him alive--I went out and just cursed, cursed the
luck! For Gen had his last words, and everything. And his poor old
mother had nothing at all."

Here the conductor came up.

"Ready?" said Chase. "All right, here's your through ticket, Hill--the
one I bought for myself. And inside the envelope is a memorandum, with
the number and street of our house in New York, and other items. I'm no
end obliged to you for going." They shook hands cordially. "When you
come back, don't let my wife travel straight through," added the
husband. "Make her stop over and sleep."

"I'll do my best," answered Hill, as the train started. In deference to
the mourning party which it had brought westward, there was no whistle,
no ringing of the bell; the locomotive moved quietly away, and the
clergyman, standing on the rear platform, holding on by the handle of
the door, watched as long as he could see it the lighted window of the
room where lay all that was mortal of Jared Franklin.

An hour later the funeral procession started up the mountain. First,
there was a wagon, with the undertaker and his three assistants. Then
followed the large, heavy hearse drawn by four horses. Next came a
carriage containing Mrs. Franklin and Dolly; and, finally, a second
carriage for Genevieve and Horace Chase.

"Poor mamma is sadly changed," commented Genevieve to her companion.
"She insisted upon being left alone with the remains at the hotel, you
know; and now she wishes her carriage to be as near the hearse as
possible. Fortunately, these things are very unimportant to me, Horace.
I do not feel, as they do, that Jay is _here_. My husband has gone--gone
to a better world. He knew that he was going; he said good-bye to me so
tenderly. He was always so--_so_ kind." And covering her face, Genevieve
gave way to tears.

"Yes, he thought the world and all of you, Gen. There's no doubt about
that," Chase answered.

He did full justice to the sobbing woman by his side. He was more just
to her than her husband's family had ever been, or ever could be; he had
known her as a child, and he comprehended that according to her nature
and according to her unyielding beliefs as to what was best, she had
tried to be a good wife. In addition (as he was a man himself), he
thought that it was to her credit that her husband had always been fond
of her, that he had remained devoted to her to the last. "That doesn't
go for nothing!" he said to himself.

The ascent began. The carriages plunged into holes and lurched out of
them; they jolted across bits of corduroy; now and then, when the track
followed a gorge, they forded a brook. The curves were slippery, owing
to the red clay. Then, without warning, in the midst of mud would come
an unexpected sharp grind of the wheels over an exposed ledge of bare
rock. Before midnight clouds had obscured the stars and it grew very
dark. But the lamps on the carriages burned brightly, and a negro was
sent on in advance carrying a pitch-pine torch.

In the middle of the night, at the top of the pass, there was a halt.
Chase had made Genevieve comfortable with cushions and shawls, and soon
after their second start she fell asleep. Perceiving this, he drew up
the window on her side, and then, opening the carriage-door softly, he
got out; it was easy to do it, as all the horses were walking. Making a
detour through the underbrush, so that he should not be seen by Mrs.
Franklin and Dolly in case they were awake, he appeared by the side of
the hearse.

"Don't stop," he said to the driver, in a low tone; "I'm going to get up
there beside you." He climbed up and took the reins. "I'll drive the
rest of the way, or at least as far as the outskirts of the town. For
between here and there are all the worst places. You go on and join that
fellow in front. You might carry a second torch; you'll find some in the
wagon."

The driver of the hearse, an Asheville negro, who knew Chase, gave up
his seat gladly. There were bad holes ahead, and there was a newly
mended place which was a little uncertain; he would not have minded
taking the stage over that place (none of the Blue Ridge drivers minded
taking the stage anywhere), but he was superstitious about a hearse.
"Fo' de Lawd, I'm glad to be red of it!" he confided to the other negro,
as they went on together in advance with their flaring torches. "It
slips an' slews when dey ain't no 'casion! Sump'n mighty quare 'bout it,
I tell you _dat_!"

Presently the plateau came to an end, and the descent began. Rain was
now falling. The four vehicles moved slowly on, winding down the zigzags
very cautiously in the darkness, slipping and swaying as they went.

After half an hour of this progress, the torch-bearers in front came
hurrying back to give warning that the rain had loosened the temporary
repairs of the mended place, so that its edge had given away; for about
one hundred and forty yards, therefore, the track was dangerously narrow
and undefended, with the sheer precipice on one side and the high cliff
on the other; in addition, the roadway slanted towards this verge, and
the clay was very slippery.

Chase immediately sent word back to the drivers of the carriages behind
to advance as slowly as was possible, but not to stop, for that might
waken the ladies; then, jumping down from the hearse, and leaving one of
the negroes in charge of his team, he hurried forward to make a personal
inspection. The broken shelf, without its parapet, certainly looked
precarious; so much so that the driver of the wagon, when he came up,
hesitated. Chase, ordering him down, took his place, and drove the wagon
across himself. Whereupon the verbose undertaker began to thank him.

"Don't worry; I didn't do it for _you_" answered Chase, grimly. "If
you'd gone over, you'd have carried away more of the track; that was
all." Going back, he resumed his place on the hearse. Then speaking to
his horses, he guided them on to the shelf. Here he stood, in order to
see more clearly, the men on the far side watching him breathlessly, and
trying meanwhile (at a safe distance) to aid him as much as they could,
by holding their torches high. The ponderous hearse began to slip by its
own weight towards the verge. Then, with strong hand, Chase sent his
team sharply towards the cliff that towered above them, and kept them
grinding against it as they advanced, the two on the inside fairly
rubbing the rock, until, by main strength, the four together had dragged
their load away. But in a minute or two it began over again. It happened
not once merely, but four times. And, the last time, the hind wheels
slipped so far, in spite of Chase's efforts, that it seemed as if they
would inevitably go over, and drag the struggling horses with them. But
Chase was as bold a driver as he was speculator. How he inspired them,
the horror-stricken watchers could not discover; but the four bays,
bounding sharply round together, sprang in a heap, as it were, at the
rocky wall on the left, the leaders rearing, the others on top of them;
and by this wild leap, the wheels (one of them was already over) were
violently jerked away. It was done at last; the dark, ponderous car
stood in safety on the other side, and the spectators, breathing again,
rubbed down the wet horses. Then Horace Chase went back on foot, and, in
turn, drove the two carriages across. Through these last two transits
not a word was spoken by any one; he mounted soundlessly, so that
Genevieve slept on undisturbed, and Mrs. Franklin and Dolly, unaware of
the danger or of the new hand on the reins, continued to gaze vaguely at
the darkness outside, their thoughts pursuing their own course. Finally,
leaving one of the negroes on guard to warn other travellers of the
wash-out and its perils, Chase resumed his place on the hearse, and the
four vehicles continued their slow progress down the mountain.

After a while, the first vague clearness preceding dawn appeared; the
rain ceased. Happening to turn his head fifteen minutes later, he was
startled to see, in the dim light, the figure of a woman beside the
hearse. It was Mrs. Franklin. The road was now smoother, and she walked
steadily on, keeping up with the walk of the horses. As the light grew
clearer, she saw who the driver was, and her eyes met his with
recognition. But her rigid face seemed to have no power for further
expression; it was set in lines that could not alter. Chase, on his
side, bowed gravely, taking off his hat; and he did not put it on again,
he left it on the seat by his side. He made no attempt to stop her, to
persuade her to return to her carriage; he recognized the presence of
one of those moods which, when they take possession of a woman, no power
on earth can alter.

As they came to the first outlying houses of Asheville, he gave up his
place to the negro driver, and getting down on the other side of the
hearse, away from Mrs. Franklin, he went back for a moment to Dolly.
"You must let her do it! _Don't_ try to prevent her," Dolly said,
imperatively, in a low tone, the instant she saw him at the carriage
door.

"I'm not thinking of preventing her," Chase answered. Waiting until the
second carriage passed, he looked in; Genevieve was still asleep. Then,
still bareheaded, he joined Mrs. Franklin, and, without speaking, walked
beside her up the long, gradual ascent which leads into the town.

The sun now appeared above the mountains; early risers coming to their
windows saw the dreary file pass--the wagon and the two carriages, heavy
with mud; the hearse with four horses, and the mother walking beside
it. As they reached the main street, Chase spoke. "The Cottage?"

"No; home," Mrs. Franklin answered. As the hearse turned into the
driveway of L'Hommedieu, she passed it, and, going on in advance, opened
the house door; here, waving away old Zoe and Rinda, who came hurrying
to meet her, she waited on the threshold until the men had lifted out
the coffin; then, leading the way to the sitting-room, she pointed to
the centre of the floor.

"Oh, not to _our_ house?" Genevieve whispered, as she alighted, her eyes
full of tears.

But Dolly, to whom she spoke, limped in without answering, and Mrs.
Franklin paid no more heed to her daughter-in-law, who had followed her,
than as though she did not exist. Genevieve, quivering from her grief,
turned to Horace Chase.

He put his arm round her, and led her from the sitting-room. "Give way
to her, Gen," he said, in a low tone. "She isn't well--don't you see it?
She isn't herself; she has been walking beside that hearse for the last
hour! Let her do whatever she likes; it's her only comfort. And now I am
going to take you straight home, and you must go to bed; if you don't,
you won't be able to get through the rest--and you wouldn't like that.
I'll come over at noon and arrange with you about the funeral; to-morrow
morning will be the best time, won't it?" And half leading, half
carrying her, for Genevieve was now crying helplessly, he took her
home.

When he came back, Dolly was in the hall, waiting for him.

There was no one in the sitting-room save Mrs. Franklin; he could see
her through the half-open door. She was sitting beside the coffin, with
her head against it, and one arm laid over its top. Her dress was
stained with mud; she had not taken off her bonnet; her gloves were
still on. Dolly closed the door, and shut out the sight.

"You ought to see to her; she must be worn out," Chase said,
expostulatingly.

"I'll do what I can," Dolly answered. "But mother has now no desire to
live--that will be the difficulty. She loves Ruth, and she loves me. But
not in the same way. Her father, her husband, and her son--these have
been mother's life. And now that the last has gone, the last of the
three men she adored, she doesn't care to stay. That is what she is
thinking now, as she sits there."

"Come, you can't possibly know what she is thinking," Chase answered,
impatiently.

"I always know what is in mother's mind; I wish I didn't!" said Dolly,
her features working convulsively for a moment. Then she controlled
herself. "I am sorry you came all the way back with us, Mr. Chase. It
wasn't necessary as far as _we_ were concerned. We could have crossed
the mountain perfectly well without you. But Ruth--that is another
affair, and I wish you had gone for her yourself, instead of sending Mr.
Hill! You must be prepared to see Ruth greatly changed. I should not be
surprised if she should arrive much broken, and even ill. She was very
fond of Jared. She will be overwhelmed--" Here, feeling that she was
saying too much, the elder sister abruptly disappeared.

Chase, left alone, went out to see to the horses. The men were waiting
at the gate, the carriages and the hearse were drawn up at a little
distance; the undertaker and his assistants were standing in the garden.
"Get your breakfast at the hotel; I'll send for you presently," he said
to the latter. Then he paid the other men, and dismissed them. "You go
and tell whoever has charge, to have that bad bit of road put in order
to-day," he directed. "Tell them to send up a hundred hands, if
necessary. I'll pay the extra."



CHAPTER XVI


The morning after the funeral, Chase, upon coming down to breakfast,
found Mrs. Franklin already in the sitting-room. She had not taken the
trouble to put on the new mourning garb which had been hastily made for
her; her attire was a brown dress which she had worn in Florida. She sat
motionless in her easy-chair, with her arms folded, her feet on a
footstool, and her face had the same stony look which had not varied
since she was told, upon her arrival at Raleigh, that her son was dead.

"Well, ma'am, I hope you have slept?" Chase asked, as he extended his
hand.

She gave him hers lifelessly.

"Yes; I believe so."

"Ruth will soon be here now," her son-in-law went on, as he seated
himself. "I told Hill not to let her travel straight through, for it
would only tire her; and she needs to keep well, ma'am, so as to be of
use to you. I'm going to drive over to Old Fort to-day, starting
late--about six o'clock, I guess. I've calculated that if Ruth spent a
night in New York (as she probably did, waiting for Hill to get there),
and if she stops over one night on the way, she would reach Old Fort
to-morrow noon. Then I'll bring her right on to L'Hommedieu."

"Yes, bring her. And let her stay."

"As long as ever you like, ma'am. I can't hold on long myself just now,
but I'll leave her with you, and come for her later. I am thinking of
taking a house at Newport for the summer; I hope that you and Miss Dolly
will feel like spending some time there with Ruth? Say August and
September?"

"I shall travel no more. Leave her with me; it won't be for long."

"You must cheer up, ma'am--for your daughters' sake."

"Ruth has you," Mrs. Franklin responded. "And _you_ are good." Her tone
remained lifeless. But it was evident that her words were sincere; that
a vague sense of justice had made her rouse herself long enough to utter
the commendation.

"That's a mistake. I've never laid claim to anything of _that_ sort,"
Chase answered rather curtly, his face growing red.

"When I say '_good_' I mean that you will be good to Ruth," said the
mother; "it is the only sort of goodness I care for! At present you
don't like Dolly. But Dolly is so absolutely devoted to her sister that
you will end by accepting her, faults and all; you won't mind her little
hostilities. I can therefore trust them both to you--I do so with
confidence," she added. And, with her set face unchanged, she made him a
little bow.

"Why talk that way, ma'am? We hope to have you with us many years
longer," Chase answered. "A green old age is a very fine thing to see."
(He thought rather well of that phrase.) "My grandmother--she stuck it
out to ninety-eight, and I hope you'll do the same."

"Probably she wished to live. I have no such desire. As I sat here
beside my son the morning we arrived, I knew that I longed to go, too. I
want to be with him--and with my husband--and my dear father. My life
here has now come to its end, for _they_ were my life."

"That queer Dolly knew!" thought Chase. "But perhaps they've talked
about it?" He asked this question aloud. "Have you told your daughter
that, ma'am?"

"Told my poor Dolly? Of course not. Please go to breakfast, Mr. Chase; I
am sure it is ready." Chase went to the dining-room. A moment later
Dolly came in to pour out the coffee.

"Is there anything I can do for you this morning?" Chase asked, as he
took a piece of Zoe's hot corn-bread. "I am going to drive over to Old
Fort this afternoon, and wait there for Ruth, for I've calculated the
trains, and I reckon that she and Hill will reach there to-morrow."

Dolly looked at him for a moment. Then she said: "You have a great deal
of influence with Genevieve; perhaps you could make her understand that
for the present it is better that she should not try to see mother. Tell
her that mother is much more broken than she was yesterday; tell her
that she is very nervous; tell her, in short, anything you please,
provided it keeps her away!" Dolly added, suddenly giving up her long
effort to hide her bitter dislike.

Chase glanced at her, and said nothing; he ate his corn-bread, and
finished his first cup of coffee in silence. Then, as she poured out the
second, he said: "Well, she might keep away entirely? She might leave
Asheville? She has a brother in St. Louis, and she likes the place, I
know; I've heard her say so. If her property here could be taken off her
hands--at a good valuation--and if a well-arranged, well-furnished house
could be provided for her there, near her brother, I guess she'd go. I
even guess she'd go pretty quick," he added; "she'd be a long sight
happier there than here." For though he had no especial affection for
Genevieve, he at least liked her better than he liked Dolly.

Dolly, however, was indifferent to his liking or his disliking. "_Oh!_"
she said, her gaze growing vague in the intensity of her wish, "if it
could only be done!" Then her brow contracted, she pushed her plate
away. "But we cannot possibly be so much indebted to you--I mean so much
_more_ indebted."

"You needn't count yourself in, if it worries you," Chase answered with
his deliberate utterance. "For I should be doing it principally for
Ruth, you know. When she comes, the first thing she'll want to do, of
course, is to make her mother comfortable. And if Gen's clearing out,
root and branch, will help that, I rather guess Ruth can fix it."

"You mean that _you_ can."

"Well, we're one; I don't think that even _you_ can quite break that up
yet," Chase answered, ironically. Then he went on in a gentler tone: "I
want to do everything I can for your mother. She has always been very
kind to me."

And Dolly was perfectly well aware that, as he looked at her (looked at
her yellow, scowling face), his feeling for her had become simply pity,
pity for the sickly old maid whom no one could possibly please--not even
her sweet young sister.

Soon after breakfast Chase went to the Cottage. Genevieve received him
gratefully. Her cheeks were pale; her eyes showed the traces of the
tears of the previous day, the day of the funeral.

Her visitor remained two hours. Then he rose, saying, "Well, I must see
about horses if I am to get to Old Fort to-night. I shall tell Ruth
about this new plan of ours, Gen. She'll be sure to like it; she'll
enjoy going to St. Louis to see you; we'll both come often. And you'll
be glad of a change yourself. The other house, too, is likely to be shut
up. For, though they don't say so yet, I guess the old lady and Dolly
will end by spending most of their time with Ruth, in New York."

"I must go over and see mamma at once," answered Genevieve. "I must have
her opinion, first of all. I shall ask mamma's advice more than ever
now, Horace; it will be my pleasure as well as my duty. For Jay was very
fond of his mother; he often told me--" Her voice quivered, and she
stopped.

"Now, Gen, listen to me," said Chase, taking her hand. "Don't go over
there at all to-day. And, when you go to-morrow, and later, don't try to
see the old lady; wait till she asks for you. For she is all unhinged;
I've just come from there, and I know. She is very nervous, and
everything upsets her. It won't do either of you any good to meet at
present; it would only be a trial to you both. And Dolly says so, too.
Promise me that you'll take care of yourself; promise me especially that
you won't leave the house at all to-day, but stay quietly at home and
rest."

Genevieve promised. But after he had gone, the sense of duty that was a
part of her nature led her to reconsider her determination. That her
husband should have been laid in his grave only twenty-four hours
before, and that she, the widow, should not see his bereaved mother
through the whole day, when their houses stood side by side; that they
should not mingle their tears, and their prayers also, while their
sorrow was still so new and so poignant--this seemed to her wrong. In
addition, it seemed hardly decent. The mother was ill and broken? So
much the more, then, was it her duty to go to her. At four o'clock,
therefore, she put on her bonnet and its long crape veil, and her black
mantle, and crossed the meadow towards L'Hommedieu.

Mrs. Franklin was still sitting in the easy-chair with her arms folded,
as she had sat in the morning when Chase came in. The only difference
was that now a newspaper lay across her lap; she had hastily taken it
from the table, and spread it over her knees, when she recognized her
daughter-in-law's step on the veranda.

Genevieve came in. She was startled at first by the sight of the brown
dress, which happened to have red tints as well as brown in its fabric.
But it was only another cross to bear; her husband's family had always
given her so many! "I hope you slept last night, mamma?" she said,
bending to kiss Mrs. Franklin's forehead.

"Yes, I believe so," the elder woman answered, mechanically, as she had
answered Chase. She was now indefinitely the elder. Between the wife of
forty, and the slender, graceful, vivacious mother of fifty-eight, there
had been but the difference of one short generation. But now the mother
might have been any age; her shoulders were bent, her skin looked
withered, and all the outlines of her face were set and sharpened.

Genevieve took off her crape mantle, folding it (with her habitual
carefulness) before she laid it on a chair. "You must let me see to your
mourning, mamma," she said, as she thus busied herself. "I suppose your
new dress doesn't fit you? It was made so hastily. I shall be sitting
quietly at home for the present, day after day, and it will occupy me
and take my thoughts from myself to have some sewing to do. And I know
how to cut crape to advantage also, for I was in mourning so long when
I was a girl."

Mrs. Franklin made no reply.

Her daughter-in-law, seating herself beside her, stroked back her gray
hair. "You look so tired! And I am afraid Dolly is tired out also, as
she isn't with you?"

"I sent her to bed half an hour ago; for I am afraid one of her attacks
is coming on," Mrs. Franklin answered, her lips compressing themselves
as she endured the caress. Genevieve's touch was gentle. But Mrs.
Franklin did not like to have her hair stroked.

"Poor Dolly! But, surely, it is not surprising. I must see her before I
go back. But shall I go back, mamma? As you are alone, wouldn't it be
better for me to stay with you for the rest of the day? I could read to
you; I should love to do it. It seems providential that my dear copy of
_Quiet Hours_ should have come back from Philadelphia only yesterday; I
had sent it to Philadelphia, you know, to be rebound. But there have
been greater providences still; for instance, how I was able to get to
Raleigh in time to see our dear one. For the stage had gone when
Horace's telegram came, and Mr. Bebb's having arranged, by a mere
chance, to drive to Old Fort with that pair of fast horses at the very
_moment_ I wished to start--surely that was providential? But you look
so white; do let me get you some tea? Or, better still, won't you go to
bed? I should so love to undress you, and bathe your face with cologne."

Mrs. Franklin shook her head; through her whole life she had detested
cologne. On the top of her dumb despair, on the top of her profound
enmity, rose again (a consciousness sickening to herself) all the petty
old irritations against this woman; against her "providential"; her
_Quiet Hours_; her "surely"; her "cutting crape to advantage"; and even
her "cologne." She closed her eyes so that at least she need not _see_
her.

"I have had a letter from my sister," Genevieve went on. "I brought it
with me, thinking that you might like to hear it, for it is so
_beautifully_ expressed. As you don't care to lie down, I'll read it to
you now. My sister reminds me, mamma, that in the midst of my grief I
ought to remember that I have had one great blessing--a blessing not
granted to all wives; and that is, that from the first moment of our
engagement to his last breath, dear Jay was perfectly devoted to me; he
never looked--he never cared to look--at any one else!"

Mrs. Franklin refolded her arms; her hands, laid over her elbows,
tightened on her sleeves.

Genevieve began to read the letter. But when she came to the passage she
had quoted, the tears began to fall. "I won't go on," she said, as she
wiped them away. "For we must not dwell upon our griefs--don't you think
so, mamma? Not _purposely_ remind ourselves of them; surely that is
unwise. I have already arranged to give away Jay's clothes, for
instance--give them to persons who really need them. For as long as they
are in the house I can't help cr-crying whenever I see them." Her voice
broke, and she stopped; her effort at self-control, both here and at
home, was sincere.

She replaced the letter in her pocket. And as she did so, the crape of
her sleeve, catching on the edge of the newspaper which lay over Mrs.
Franklin's knees, drew it so far to one side that it fell to the floor.
And there, revealed on the mother's lap, lay a little heap: a package of
letters in a school-boy hand; a battered top, and one or two other toys;
a baby's white robe yellow with age; some curls of soft hair, and a
little pair of baby shoes.

"Oh, mamma, are you letting yourself brood over these things? Surely it
is not wise? Let me put them away."

But Mrs. Franklin, gathering her poor treasures from Genevieve's touch,
placed them herself in her secretary, which she locked. Then she began
to walk to and fro across the broad room--to and fro, to and fro, her
step feverishly quick.

After a minute, Genevieve followed her. "Mamma, try to be resigned. Try
to be calm."

Mrs. Franklin stopped. She faced round upon her daughter-in-law. "You
dare to offer advice to me, you barren woman? You tell me to be
resigned? What do _you_ know of a mother's love for her son--you who
have never borne a child? You can comprehend neither my love nor my
grief. Providential, is it, that you reached Raleigh in time? Providence
is a strange thing if it assists _you_. For you have killed your
husband--killed him as certainly as though you had given him slow
poison. You broke up his life--the only life he loved; you never rested
until you had forced him out of the navy. And then, your greed for money
made you urge him incessantly to go into business--into business for
himself, which he knew nothing about. You gave him no peace; you drove
him on; your determination to have all the things _you_ care for--a
house of your own and a garden; chairs and tables; handsome clothes;
money for _charities_" (impossible to describe the bitterness of this
last phrase)--"these have been far more important to you than anything
else--than his own happiness, or his own welfare. And, lately, your
process of murder has gone on faster. For he has been very ill all
winter (I know it _now_!) and you have not been near him; you have
stayed here month after month, buying land with Ruth's money, filling
your pockets and telling him nothing of it, adding to your house, and
saying to yourself comfortably meanwhile that this wise course of yours
would in the end bring him round to your views. It _has_ brought him
round--to his death! His life for years has been wretched, and you were
the cause of the misery. For it was his feeling of being out of his
place, his gradual discouragement, his sense of failure, that finally
broke down his health. If he had never seen _you_, he might have lived
to be an old man, filling with honor the position he was fitted for.
Now, at thirty-nine, he is dead. He was faithful to you, you say? He
was. And it is my greatest regret! I do not wish ever to see your face
again. For he was the joy of my life, and you were the curse of his.
Go!"

These sentences, poured out in clear, vibrating tones, had filled
Genevieve with horror. And something that was almost fear followed as
the mother, coming nearer, her eyes blazing in her death-like face,
emphasized her last words by stretching out her arm with a gesture that
was fiercely grand--the grandeur of her bereavement and her despair.

Genevieve escaped to the hall. Then, after waiting for a moment
uncertainly, she hurried home.

When the sound of her footsteps had died away, Mrs. Franklin went to the
secretary and took out again the dress and the top, the little shoes and
the baby-curls; seating herself, she began to rearrange them. But her
hands only moved for a moment or two. Then her head sank back, her eyes
closed.



CHAPTER XVII


As it happened, Horace Chase was the next person who entered the parlor.
He was touched when he saw the old-looking figure, with the pathetic
little heap in its lap. But when he perceived that the figure was
unconscious, he was much alarmed; summoning help, he sent hastily for a
doctor. After being removed to her own room, Mrs. Franklin was extremely
restless; she moved her head incessantly from side to side on the
pillow, and she seemed to be half blind; her mind wandered, and her
voice, as she spoke incoherently, was very weak. Then suddenly she sank
into a lethargic slumber. The doctor waited to see in what condition she
would waken; for there were symptoms he did not like. Miss Billy,
meanwhile, was installed as nurse.

Mrs. Kip, Maud Muriel, and Miss Billy had visited this house of mourning
many times since the arrival of the funeral procession two days before,
with the mother walking beside the coffin of her son. And now that this
poor mother was stricken down, they all came again, anxious to be of
use. Chase, who had always liked her gentle ways, selected Miss Billy.

Dolly knew nothing of her mother's prostration; for her pain (her old
enemy), having been deadened by an opiate, she was sleeping. In order
that she should not suspect what had happened, Miss Billy did not show
herself at all in Dolly's room; Rinda, who was accustomed to this
service, was established there on a pallet, ready to answer if called.

Chase had decided that he would wait for the doctor's report before
starting on his drive across the mountain; it would be satisfactory to
have something definite to tell Ruth. It was uncertain when that report
would come. But as he intended to set out, in spite of the darkness, the
first moment that it was possible, there was no use in going to bed.
Alone in the parlor, therefore, he first read through all the newspapers
he could find. Then, opening the window, he smoked a cigar or two.
Finally, his mind reverted, as it usually did when he was alone, to
business; drawing a chair to the table, he took out some memoranda and
sat down. Midnight passed. One o'clock came. Two o'clock. He still sat
there, absorbed. Mrs. Franklin's reading-lamp, burning brightly beside
him, lighted up his hard, keen face. For it looked hard now, with its
three deeply set lines, one on each side of the mouth, and one between
the eyes; and the eyes themselves were hard and sharp. But though the
business letter he was engaged upon was a masterpiece of shrewdness (as
those who received it would not fail to discover sooner or later), and
though it dealt with large interests that were important, the faintest
sound upstairs would have instantly caught the attention of its writer.
On a chair beside him were railroad time-tables, and a sheet of
commercial note-paper with two lines of figures jotted down in orderly
rows side by side; these represented the two probabilities regarding the
trains which his wife might take--their hours of departure and their
connections. He had received no telegrams, and this had surprised him.
"What can the little chap be about?" he had more than once thought. His
adjective "little" was not depreciatory; Malachi Hill was, in fact,
short. In addition, his fresh, pink-tinged complexion and bright blue
eyes gave him a boyish air. To Horace Chase, who was over six feet in
height, and whose dark face looked ten years older than it really was,
the young missionary (whom he sincerely liked) seemed juvenile; his
youthful appearance, in fact, combined with his unmistakable "grit" (as
Chase called it), had been the thing which had first attracted the
notice of the millionaire.

A little before three there was a sound. But it was not from upstairs,
it was outside; steps were coming up the path from the gate. The man in
the parlor went into the hall; and as he did so, to his surprise the
house-door opened and his wife came in.

Behind her there was a momentary vision of Malachi Hill. The clergyman,
however, did not enter; upon seeing Horace Chase, he closed the door
quietly and went away.

Ruth's face, even to the lips, was so white that her husband hastily
put his arm round her; then he drew her into the sitting-room, closing
the door behind them.

"Where is he?" Ruth had asked, or rather, her lips formed the words.
"Didn't you _wait_ for me?"

"My darling, he was buried yesterday," Chase answered, sitting down and
drawing her into his arms. "Didn't Hill tell you?"

"Yes, but I didn't believe it. I thought you would wait for me; I
thought you would _know_ that I wanted to see him."

"No one saw him after we left Raleigh, dear. The coffin was not opened
again."

"If I had been here, mother would have--_mother_ would have--"

"It was your mother who arranged everything," Chase explained gently, as
with careful touch he took off her hat, and then her gloves; her hands
were icy, and he held them in his to warm them.

"Where _is_ mother? And Dolly? Weren't they expecting me? Didn't they
_know_ I would come?"

"Your mother is sick upstairs. No, don't get up--you can't see her now;
she is asleep, and mustn't be disturbed. But the first moment she wakes
up the doctor is to let me know, and then you shall go to her right
away. Miss Breeze is up there keeping watch. Dolly has broken down, too.
But Dolly's case is no worse than it has often been before, and you'd
better let her sleep while she can. And now, will you stay here with me,
Ruthie, till the doctor comes? Or would you rather go to bed? If you'll
go, I promise to tell you the minute your mother wakes." He put his hand
on her head protectingly, and kissed her cheek. Her face was cold. Her
whole frame had trembled incessantly from the moment of her entrance.
"My darling little girl, how tired you are!"

"Tell me everything--everything about Jared," Ruth demanded, feverishly.

Though she was so white, it was evident that she had not shed tears; her
eyes were bright, her lips were parched. Her husband, with his
rough-and-ready knowledge of women, knew that it would be better for her
to "have her cry out," as he would have phrased it; it would quiet her
excitement and subdue her so that she would sleep. As she could not eat,
he gave her a spoonful of brandy from his own flask, and wrapped her
cold feet in his travelling-shawl; then, putting her on the sofa, he sat
down beside her, and, holding her tenderly in his arms, he told her the
story of Jared's last hours.

His account was truthful, save that he softened the details. In his
narrative Mrs. Nightingale's shabby house became homelike and
comfortable, and Jared's bare attic a pleasant place; Mrs. Nightingale
herself (here there was no need for exaggeration) was an angel of
kindness. He dwelt upon Jared's having agreed to go with him to New
York. "I had planned to start at nine o'clock the next morning, Ruthie,
having a doctor along without his knowing it; and I had ordered a
private car--a Pullman sleeper--to go through to New York; once there, I
thought you could make him take a good long rest. That kind woman had
been sitting up at night in the room next to his. So I fixed that by
taking the same room myself. I didn't undress, but I guess I fell
asleep; and I woke up hearing him talking. And then he walked about the
room, and he even climbed out on the roof; but we soon got him back all
right. Everything possible was done, dear; the best doctor in Raleigh,
and a nurse--two of 'em. But it was no use. It was brain-fever, or
inflammation of the brain rather, and after it had left him he was too
weak to rally. They thought everything of him at Raleigh; your mother
wanted him brought here, and when we went to the depot, everybody who
had ever known him turned out, so that there was a long procession; and
all the ladies of his boarding-house brought flowers. At Old Fort, I had
intended to let Hill (I had wired to him to meet us there) take charge
of them across the mountains, for I wanted to go to New York to get
_you_. But the night was dark, and the road is always so bad that I
thought, on the whole, you'd rather have me stay with your mother. And
she has been tolerably well, too, until this afternoon, when she had an
attack of some sort. But I guess it's only that she is overtired; the
doctor will probably come down and tell us so before long."

"I _wanted_ to see him," repeated Ruth, her eyes still dry and bright.
"It was very little to do for me, I think. If I could have just taken
his poor hand once--even if it _was_ dead! Everybody else got there in
time to speak to him, to say good-by."

"No; your mother didn't get there," Chase explained.

"She didn't get there? And Genevieve _did?_ I know it by your face. Let
me go to mother--poor mother! Let me go to her, and _never_ leave her
again."

"You shall go the instant she wakes; you shall stay with her as long as
you like," Chase answered, drawing her down again, and putting his cheek
against her head as it lay on his breast. "There is nothing in the world
I wouldn't do for your mother; you have only to choose. And for Dolly,
too. You shall stay with them; or they can go with you; or anything you
think best, my poor little girl."

Ruth still trembled, and no tears came to her relief.

Her cry, "And Genevieve _did?_" had struck him. "How they all hate her?"
he thought.

He had seen Genevieve since Mrs. Franklin's attack; he had gone over for
a moment to tell her what had happened.

Genevieve, when driven from L'Hommedieu, had taken refuge in her own
room at the Cottage; here, behind her locked door, she had spent a long
hour in examining herself searchingly, examining her whole married life.
Her hands had trembled as she looked over her diaries, and as she
turned the pages of her "Questions for the Conscience." But with all her
efforts she could not discern any point where she had failed. Finally,
at the end of the examination, she summed the matter up more calmly: "It
_was_ best for Jared to be out of the navy; he was forming habits there
that I understood better than his mother. And I _know_ that I am not
avaricious. I know that I have always tried to do what was best for him,
that I have tried to elevate him and help him in every way. I have
worked hard--hard. I have never ceased to work. It is all a falsehood,
or, rather, it is a delusion; for she is, she _must_ be, insane." Having
reached this conclusion (with Genevieve conclusions were final), she put
away her diaries and went down-stairs to tea. When Chase came in and
told what had happened, she said, with the utmost pity, "I am _not_
surprised! When she comes out of it, I fear you will find, Horace, that
her mind is affected. But surely it is natural. Mamma's mind--poor, dear
mamma!--never was very strong; and, in this great grief which has
overwhelmed us all, it has given way. We must make every allowance for
her." She told him nothing of her terrible half-hour at L'Hommedieu. She
never told any one. Silence was the only proper course--a pitying
silence over Jay's poor mother, his crazed mother.

Ruth had paid no heed to her husband's soothing words, his promise to do
everything that he possibly could for her mother and Dolly. "What did
Jared say? You were with him before he was ill. Tell me everything,
everything!"

He tried to satisfy her. Then he attempted to draw her thoughts in
another direction. "How did you get here so soon, Ruthie? I told Hill to
make you stop over and sleep."

"Sleep!" repeated Ruth. "I only thought of one thing, and that was to
get here in time to see him." She left the sofa. "You ought to have
waited for me. It would have been better if you had. _Jared_ was the one
I cared for. One look at his face, even if he _was_ dead. Where did they
put him when they brought him home? For I know mother had him here, here
and not at the Cottage. It was in this room, wasn't it? In the centre of
the floor?" She walked to the middle of the room and stood there.
"_Jared_ could have helped me," she said, miserably. "Why did they take
my _brother_--the one person I had!"

The door opened and the doctor entered. "_You_ here, Mrs. Chase? I
didn't know you had come." He hesitated.

"What is it?" said Ruth, going to him. "Tell me! _Tell_ me."

The doctor glanced at Chase.

Chase came up, and took his wife's hand protectingly. "You may as well
tell her."

"It is a stroke of paralysis," explained the doctor, gravely.

"But she'll _know_ me?" cried Ruth in an agony of tears.

"She _may_. You can go up if you like."

But the mother saw nothing, heard nothing on earth again. She might live
for years. But she did not know her own child.

Chase came at last, and took his wife away.

"Oh, be good to me, Horace, or I shall die! I think I _am_ dying now,"
she added in sudden terror.

She clung to him in alarm. His immense kindness was now her refuge.



CHAPTER XVIII


In spite of all there was to see that afternoon, Dolly Franklin had
chosen to remain at home; she sat alone in the drawing-room, adding
silken rows to her stocking of the moment. Wherever Ruth was, that was
now Dolly's home; since Mrs. Franklin's death, two years before, Dolly
had lived with her sister. The mother had survived her son but a month.
Her soul seemed to have departed with the first stroke of the benumbing
malady; there was nothing but the breathing left. At the end of a few
weeks, even the breathing ceased. Since then, L'Hommedieu had been
closed, save for a short time each spring. Horace Chase had bought a
cottage at Newport, and his wife and Dolly had divided their time
between Newport and New York. This winter, however, Chase had reopened
his Florida house, the old Worth place, at St. Augustine; for Ruth's
health appeared to be growing delicate; at least she had a dread of the
cold, of the icy winds, and the snow.

"Well, we'll go back to the land of the alligators," said Chase; "we'll
live on sweet potatoes and the little oysters that grow round loose. You
seem to have forgotten that you own a shanty down there, Ruthie?"

At first Ruth opposed this idea. Then suddenly she changed her mind.
"No, I'll go. I want to sail, and sail!"

"So do I," said Dolly. "But why shouldn't we try new waters? The Bay of
Naples, for instance? Mr. Chase, if you cannot go over at present, you
could come for us, you know, whenever it was convenient?" Dolly expended
upon her idea all the eloquence she possessed.

But Horace Chase never liked to have his wife beyond the reach of a
railroad. He himself often made long, rapid journeys without her. But he
was unwilling to have her "on the other side of the ferry," as he called
it, unless he could accompany her; and at present there were important
business interests which held him at home. As Ruth also paid small heed
to Dolly's brilliant (and wholly imaginary) pictures of Capri, Ischia,
and Sorrento, the elder sister had been forced (though with deep inward
reluctance) to yield; since December, therefore, they had all been
occupying the pleasant old mansion that faced the sea-wall.

To-day, four o'clock came, and passed. Five o'clock came, and passed;
and Dolly still sat there alone. At last she put down her knitting, and,
taking her cane, limped upstairs and peeped into her sister's
dressing-room. Ruth, who was lying on the lounge with her face hidden,
appeared to be asleep. Dolly, therefore, closed the door noiselessly and
limped down again. Outside the weather was ideally lovely. The
beautiful floral arch which had been erected in the morning still filled
the air with its fragrance, though the tea-roses of which it was
composed were now beginning to droop. St. Augustine, or rather the
visitors from the North, who at this season filled the little Spanish
town, had set up this blossoming greeting in honor of a traveller who
was expected by the afternoon train. This traveller had now arrived; he
had passed through the floral gateway in the landau which was bringing
him from the station. The arch bore as its legend: "The Ancient City
welcomes the great Soldier." The quiet-looking man in the landau was
named Grant.

At length Dolly had a visitor; Mrs. Kip was shown in. A moment later the
Reverend Malachi Hill appeared, his face looking flushed, as though he
had been in great haste. Mrs. Kip's eyes had a conscious expression when
she saw him. She tried to cover it by saying, enthusiastically, "How
_well_ you do look, Mr. Hill! You look so fresh; really _classic_."

The outline of the clergyman's features was not the one usually
associated with this adjective. But Mrs. Kip was not a purist; it was
classic enough, in her opinion, to have bright blue eyes and golden
hair; the accidental line of the nose and mouth was less important.

"Yes, my recovery is now complete," Malachi answered; "I must go back to
my work in a day or two. But I wish it hadn't been measles, you know.
Such a ridiculous malady!"

"Oh, don't say that; measles are so sweet, so domestic. They make one
think of dear little children; and lemons," said Mrs. Kip,
imaginatively. "And then, when they are getting well, all sorts of
toys!"

While she was speaking, Anthony Etheridge entered. And he, too, looked
as if he had been making haste. "What, Dolly, neither you nor Ruth out
on this great occasion? Are you a bit of a copperhead?"

"No," Dolly answered. "I haven't spirit enough. _My_ only spirit is in a
lamp; I have been making flaxseed tea and hot lemonade for Ruth, who has
a cold."

"Does she swallow your messes?" Etheridge asked.

"Never. But I like to fuss over them, and measure them out, and _stir_
them up!"

"Just as I do for Evangeline Taylor," remarked Mrs. Kip, affectionately.

"Lilian, isn't Evangeline long enough without that Taylor?" Dolly
suggested. "I have always meant to ask you."

"I do it as a remembrance of her father," replied Lilian, with solemnity
"For I myself am a Taylor no longer; _I_ am a Kip."

"Oh, is that it? And if you should marry again, what then could you do
(as there is no second Evangeline) for your present name?" Dolly
inquired, gravely.

"I have thought of that," answered the widow. "And I have decided that
I shall keep it. It shall precede any new name I may take; I should make
it a condition."

"You are warned, gentlemen," commented Dolly.

Etheridge for an instant looked alarmed. Then, as he saw that Malachi
had reddened violently, he grew savage. "Kip-Hill? Kip-Larue?
Kip-Willoughby?" he repeated, as if trying them. "Walter Willoughby,
however, is very poor dependence for you, Mrs. Lilian; for he is
evidently here in the train of the Barclays. He arrived with them
yesterday, and he tells me he is going up the Ocklawaha; I happen to
know that the Barclays are taking that trip, also."

Walter Willoughby's name had rendered Mrs. Kip visibly conscious a
second time. The commodore's allusion to "the Barclays," and to Walter's
being "in their train," had made no impression upon her. They were
presumably ladies; but Lilian's mind was never troubled by the
attractions of other women, she was never jealous. One reason for this
immunity lay in the fact that she was always so actively engaged in the
occupation of loving that she had no time for jealousy; another was that
she had in her heart a soft conviction, modest but fixed, regarding the
power of her own charms. As excuse for her, it may be mentioned that the
conviction was not due to imagination, it was a certainty forced upon
her by actual fact; from her earliest girlhood men had been constantly
falling in love with her, and apparently they were going to continue it
indefinitely. But though not jealous herself, she sympathized deeply
with the pain which this tormenting feeling gave to others, and, on the
present occasion, she feared that Malachi might be suffering from the
mention of Walter Willoughby's name, and that of Achilles Larue, in
connection with her own; she therefore began to talk quickly, as a
diversion to another subject. "Oh, do you know, as I came here this
afternoon I was reminded of something I have often meant to ask you--ask
all of you, and I'll say it now, as it's in my mind. Don't you know that
sign one so often sees everywhere--'Job Printing'? There is one in
Charlotte Street, and it was seeing it there just now as I passed that
made me think of it again. I suppose it must be some especial kind of
printing that they have named after Job? But it has always seemed to me
so odd, because there was, of course, no printing at all, until some
time after Job was dead? Or do you suppose it means that printers have
to be so _very_ patient (with the bad handwriting that comes to them),
that they name _themselves_ after Job?"

Dolly put down her knitting. "Lilian, come here and let me kiss you. You
are too enchanting!"

Mrs. Kip kissed Dolly with amiability. She already knew--she could not
help knowing--that she was too enchanting. But it was not often a
woman's voice that mentioned the fact. "It is late, I must go," she
said. "Mr. Hill, if you--if you want those roses for Mrs. Chase's
bouquet, this is the best time to gather them."

Malachi Hill found his hat with alacrity, and they went out together.
And then Etheridge took refuge in general objurgations. "I'm dead sick
of Florida, Dolly! It's so monotonous. So flat, and deep in sand. No
driving is possible. One of the best drives I ever had in my life was in
a sleigh; right up the Green Mountains. The snow was over the tops of
the fences, and the air clear as a bell!"

"Do the Green Mountains interest the little turtle-dove who has just
gone out?" Dolly inquired.

"Little turtle-fool! She makes eyes at every young idiot who comes
along."

"Oh no, she only coos. It's her natural language. I won't answer as to
Achilles Larue, commodore, for that is a long-standing passion; she
began to admire his fur-lined overcoat, his neat shoes, his 'ish,' and
his mystic coldness within a month after the departure of her second
dear one. But as to her other flames, I think you could cut them out in
her affections if you would give your mind to it seriously; yes, even
the contemporary Willoughby. But you'll never give your mind to it,
you're a dog in the manger! You have no intention of marrying her
yourself. Yet you don't want any one else to marry her. Isn't it
tremendously appropriate that she happens to own an orange-grove?
Orange-blossoms always ready."

"Contemporary?" Etheridge repeated, going back to the word that had
startled him.

"Yes. Haven't you noticed how vividly contemporary young fellows of
Walter's type are? They have no fixed habits; for fixed habits are
founded in retrospect, and they never indulge in retrospect. Anything
that happened last week seems to them old; last year, antediluvian. They
live in the moment, with an outlook only towards the future. This makes
them very 'actual' wooers. As my brother-in-law would phrase it, they
are 'all there!'"

"Nonsense!" said Etheridge. But as he went home to his own quarters (to
take a nap so as to be fresh for the evening), he turned over in his
thoughts that word "contemporary!" And he made up his mind that from
that hour he would mention no event which had occurred more than one
year before; he would tell no story which dated back beyond the same
period of time; he would read only the younger authors (whom he loathed
without exception); he would not permit himself to prefer any particular
walking-stick, any especial chair. At the club he would play euchre
instead of whist; and if there was any other even more confoundedly
modern and vulgar game, he would play that. Habits, indeed? Stuff and
nonsense!

Left alone, Dolly went upstairs a second time. But Ruth's door was now
locked. The elder sister came back therefore to the drawing-room. Her
face was anxious.

She banished the expression, however, when she heard her
brother-in-law's step in the hall; a moment later Horace Chase entered,
his hands full of letters, and newspapers piled on his arm; he had come
from the post-office, where the afternoon mail had just been
distributed. "Where is Ruth? Still asleep?" he asked.

"I think not; I heard Félicité's voice speaking to her just now, when I
was upstairs," Dolly answered.

"They're taking another look at that new frock," Chase suggested,
jocosely, as he seated himself to reread his correspondence (for he had
already glanced through each letter in the street). "Where is Hill?" he
went on rather vaguely, his attention already attracted by something in
the first of these communications.

"He came in, after the welcoming ceremonies, red in the face from
chasing Mrs. Kip. And the commodore appeared a moment later, also
breathless, and in search of her. But Malachi was selected to walk home
with the fair creature. And then the commodore trampled on Florida, and
talked of the Green Mountains."

Dolly's tone was good-natured. But beneath this good-nature Chase
fancied that there was jealousy. "Eh--what's that you say?" he
responded, bringing out his words slowly, while he bestowed one more
thought upon the page he was reading before he gave her his full
attention. "The little Kip? Well, Dolly, she is a very sweet little
woman, isn't she?" he went on, reasonably, as if trying to open her eyes
gently to a fact that was undeniable. "But I didn't know that Hill had
a fancy in that quarter. If he has, we must lend him a hand."

For Chase had a decided liking for Malachi; the way the young clergyman
had carried through that rapid journey to New York and back, after Jared
Franklin's death, had won his regard and admiration. Malachi had not
stopped at Salisbury; his train went no farther, but he had succeeded in
getting a locomotive, by means of which, travelling on all night, he had
made a connection and reached New York in time after all to meet Ruth's
steamer. As it came in, there he was on the dock, dishevelled and
hungry, but there.

And then when Ruth, frenzied by the tidings he brought (for it really
seemed to him almost frenzy), had insisted upon starting on her journey
to L'Hommedieu without an instant's delay, he had taken her, with
Félicité, southward again as rapidly as the trains could carry them. His
money was exhausted, but he did not stop; he travelled on credit,
pledging his watch; it was because he had no money that he had not
telegraphed. At Old Fort he procured a horse and light wagon, also on
trust, and though he had already spent four nights without sleep, he did
not stop, but drove Ruth across the mountains in the darkness on a sharp
trot, with the utmost skill and daring, leaving Félicité to follow by
stage. The sum which Chase had placed in the envelope with the ticket
had been intended merely for his own expenses; the additional amount
which was now required for Ruth and her maid soon exhausted it,
together with all that he had with him of his own. Ruth's state of
tension--for she was dumb, white, and strange--had filled him with the
deepest apprehension; she did not think of money, and he could not bear
to speak to her of it. Such a contingency had not occurred to Chase, who
knew that his wife had with her more money than the cost of half a dozen
such journeys; for her purse was always not only full, but over-full; it
was one of his pleasures to keep it so. When, afterwards, he learned the
facts (from Ruth herself, upon questioning her), he went off, found
Malachi, and gave him what he called "a good big grip" of the hand.
"You're a trump, Hill, and can be banked on every time!" Since then he
had been Malachi's friend and advocate on all occasions, even to the
present one of endeavoring to moderate the supposed jealousy of his
sister-in-law regarding Lilian Kip.

After this kindly meant attempt of his, Dolly did not again interrupt
him; she left him to finish his letters, while she went on with her
knitting in silence.

Mrs. Franklin's prophecy, that Chase would end by liking Dolly for
herself, had not as yet come true. Ruth's husband accepted the presence
of his wife's sister under his roof; as she was an invalid, he would not
have been contented to have her elsewhere. Dolly's life now moved on
amid ease and comfort; she had her own attendant, who was partly a
lady's-maid, partly a nurse; she had her own phaeton, and, when in New
York, her own coupé. If she was to live with Ruth at all, there was,
indeed, no other way; she could not do her own sister the injustice of
remaining a contrast, a jarring note by her side. Chase was invariably
kind to Dolly. Nevertheless Dolly knew that her especial combination of
ill-health and sarcasm seemed to him incongruous; she could detect in
his mind the thought that it was odd that a woman so sickly, with the
added misfortune of a plain face, should not at least try to be amiable,
since it was the only rôle she could properly fill. Her little
hostilities, as her mother had called them, were now necessarily
quiescent. But she had the conviction that, even if they had remained
active, her tall brother-in-law would not have minded them; he would
have taken, probably, a jocular view of them; and of herself as well.

When the last letter was finished, and she saw her companion begin on
his newspapers, she spoke again: "I don't think Ruth ought to go to that
reception to-night; she is not well enough."

"Why, I thought it was nothing but a very slight cold," Chase said,
turning round, surprised. "She mustn't think of going if she's sick. She
_wants_ to go; she telegraphed for that dress."

"Yes; last week. But that was before--before she felt ill. If she goes
now, it will be only because _you_ care for it."

"Oh, shucks! _I_ care for it! What do I care for that sort of thing?
I'll go and tell her to give the whole right up." He rose, leaving his
newspapers on the floor (Chase always wanted his newspapers on the
floor, and not on a table), and went towards the door. But, at the same
instant, Ruth herself came in. "I was just going up to tell you, Ruthie,
that I guess we won't turn out to-night after all--I mean to that show
at the Barracks. I reckon they can manage without us?"

"Oh, but I want to see it," said Ruth. "If you are tired, I can go with
Mrs. Kip."

"Well, who's running this family, anyway?" Chase demanded, going back to
his seat, not ill-pleased, however, that Dolly should see that her
information concerning her sister was less accurate than his own. But
his care regarding everything that was connected with his wife made him
add, "You'll give it up if I want you to, Ruthie?"

"You don't. It's Dolly!" Ruth declared. "Dolly-Dulcinea, I have changed
my mind. I did not want to go this morning; I did not want to go this
noon. But, at half-past five o'clock precisely, I knew that I must go or
perish! Nothing shall keep me away." And, gayly waving her hand to her
sister, she went into the music-room, which opened from the larger
apartment, and, seating herself at the piano, began to play.

Chase returned to his reading; his only comment to Dolly was, "She seems
to _look_ pretty well." And it was true that Ruth looked not only well,
but brilliant. After a while they heard her begin to sing:

    "My short and happy day is done;
     The long and dreary night comes on;
     And at my door the Pale Horse stands,
     To carry me to unknown lands.

    "His whinny shrill, his pawing hoof,
     Sound dreadful as a gathering storm;
     And I must leave this sheltering roof,
     And joys of life so soft and warm."

"_Don't_ sing that!" called Dolly, sharply.

"Why not let her do as she likes?" suggested Chase, in the conciliatory
tone he often adopted with Dolly. To him all songs were the same; he
could not tell one from the other.

At this moment Malachi Hill entered, with his arms full of roses. "Long
stalks?" said Ruth, hurrying to meet him. "Lovely! Now you shall help me
make my posy. What shall I bring home for you in my pocket, Mr. Hill?
Ice-cream?"

"Well, the truth is I am thinking of going myself," answered Malachi,
coloring a little. "It has been mentioned to me that I ought to go--as a
representative of the clergy. It is not in the least a ball, they tell
me; it is a reception--a reception to General Grant. The young people
may perhaps dance a little; but not until after the general's
departure."

"Capital idea," said Chase, adding a fourth to his pile of perused
sheets on the floor. "And don't go back on us, Hill, by proposing to
escort some one else. Ruth wants to make an impression on the general,
and, three abreast, perhaps we can do it."

Suddenly Ruth went to her sister. "Dolly, you must go too. Now don't say
a word. You can go early and have a good seat; and as to dress, you can
wear your opera-cloak."

"Oh no--" began Dolly.

But Ruth stopped her. "You must. I want you to _see_ me there."

"Well, who's conceited, I'd like to know?" commented Chase, as he read
on.

But Ruth's face wore no expression of conceit; its expression was that
of determination. With infinite relief Dolly saw this. "I'll go," she
said, comprehending Ruth's wish.

The reception was given by a West Point comrade of General Grant's, who
happened to be spending the winter in Florida. As he had left the army
many years before, he was now a civilian, and the participation of St.
Francis Barracks in the affair was therefore accidental, not official.
For the civilian, being a man of wealth, had erected for the occasion a
temporary hall or ball-room, and had connected it by a covered passage
with the apartments of his brother, who was an artillery officer,
stationed that winter at this old Spanish post. At ten o'clock, this
improvised hall presented a gay appearance, owing to the flowers with
which it was profusely decorated, to the full dress of the ladies, and
to the uniforms; for the army had been reinforced by a contingent from
the navy, as two vessels belonging to the Coast Survey were in port.

The reticent personage to whom all this homage was offered looked as if
he would like to get rid of it on any terms. He had commanded great
armies, he had won great battles, and that seemed to him easy enough.
But to stand and have his hand shaken--this was an ordeal!

A lane had been kept open through the centre of the long room in order
to facilitate the presentations. At half-past ten, coming in his turn up
this avenue, the tall figure of Horace Chase could be seen; his wife was
with him, and they were preceded by the Rev. Malachi Hill. Chase,
inwardly amused by the ceremony, advanced towards Grant with his face
very solemn. But for the moment no one looked at him; all eyes were
turned towards the figure by his side.

Half an hour earlier, as he sat alone in his drawing-room, waiting (and
reading another newspaper to pass away the time), Ruth had come to him.
As he heard her enter, he had looked up with a smile. Then his face
altered a little.

"What! no diamonds?" he said.

Ruth wore the new dress about which he had joked, but no ornaments save
a string of pearls.

"It shall be just as you like," she answered, in a steady voice.

"Oh no, Ruthie; just as _you_ like."

He admired diamonds, and now that she was nearly twenty-three, he had
said to himself that even her mother, if she had lived, would no longer
have objected to her wearing them. He had therefore bought for her
recently a superb necklace, bracelets, and other ornaments, and he had
pleased himself with the thought that for this official occasion they
would be entirely appropriate. Ruth, reading his disappointment in his
eyes, went out, and returned a few minutes later adorned with all his
gifts to the very last stone. And now, as she came up the lane in the
centre of the crowded room, the gems gleamed and flashed, gleamed on her
neck, on her arms, in her hair, and in the filmy lace of her dress.
Always tall, she had grown more womanly, and she could therefore bear
the splendor. To-night, in addition, her own face was striking, for her
color had returned, and her extraordinarily beautiful eyes were at their
best--lustrous and profound. It had always been said of Ruth that her
beauty came and went. To-night it had certainly come, and to such a
degree that it spurred Etheridge to the exclamation, in an undertone:

"Too many diamonds. But, by George, she shines them down!"

After the presentation was over Chase stepped aside, and, with his wife,
joined Dolly. Dolly had a very good place; draped in her opera-cloak,
which was made of a rich Oriental fabric, she looked odd, ugly, and
distinguished.

"Everybody is here except the Barclays," Etheridge announced. "There
can't be a soul left in any of the hotels. And all the negroes in town
are on the sea-wall outside, ready to hurrah when the great man drives
away."

"Here's Walter. He is coming this way--he is looking for _us_," said
Chase. "How are you, Walter?"

"Mrs. Chase! Delighted to meet you again," said Willoughby, shaking
hands with Ruth with the utmost cordiality.

"My sister is here also," Ruth answered, moving aside so that he could
see Dolly. And then Walter greeted Miss Franklin with the same extreme
heartiness.

"Bless my soul, what enthusiasm!" commented Etheridge. "One would
suppose that you had not met for years."

"And we haven't," said Ruth, surveying Walter, coolly. "Mr. Willoughby
has changed. He has a sort of Chinese air."

"Willoughby has been living in California for two years, commodore;
didn't you know that?" Chase explained, inwardly enjoying his wife's
sally. "_I've_ been to California four times since then. But as he
hasn't been east, the ladies have lost sight of him."

"Are you returning to the Pacific?" Etheridge inquired of the younger
man, "so as to look more Chinese still?"

"The Celestial air I have already caught will have to do," Walter
answered, laughing. "California is a wonderfully fascinating country.
But I am not going back; the business which took me there is concluded."

Horace Chase smiled, detecting the triumph under these words. For his
Pacific-coast enterprise had been highly successful, and Walter had
carried out his part of it with great energy and intelligence, and had
profited accordingly. That particular partnership was now dissolved.

When the dancing began, Ruth declined her invitations. "It isn't
necessary to stay any longer, is it?" Dolly suggested in a low tone.
"The carriage is probably waiting."

Here Chase, who had left them twenty minutes before, came up. "I've been
seeing the general off," he said. "Well--he appeared middling glad to
go! No dancing, Ruthie?" For he always remembered the things that amused
his wife, and dancing, he knew, was high on her list.

And then, with that overtouch which it is so often the fate of an elder
sister to bestow, Dolly said, "I really think she had better not try it.
She is not thoroughly strong yet--after her cold."

This second assertion of a knowledge superior to his own annoyed Chase.
And Ruth perceived it. "I am perfectly well," she answered. And,
accepting the next invitation, she began to dance. She danced with
everybody. Walter Willoughby had his turn with the rest.

A week later, Chase, coming home at sunset, looked into the
drawing-room. His wife was not there, and he went upstairs in search of
her. He found her in her dressing-room, with a work-basket by her side.
"Well! I've never seen you _sew_ before," he declared, amused by this
new industry.

"I've had letters that make it necessary for me to go north, Ruthie.
You'll be all right here, with Dolly, won't you?" He had seated himself,
and was now glancing over a letter.

"Don't go," said Ruth, abruptly. And she went on sewing with her
unnecessarily strong stitches; her mother had been wont to say of her
that, if she sewed at all, the results were like iron.

Petie Trone, Esq., aged but still pretty, had been reposing on the
lounge by her side. But the moment Chase seated himself, the little
patriarch had jumped down, gone over, and climbed confidently up to his
knees, where, after turning round three times, he had finally settled
himself curled up like a black ball, with his nose on his tail.

"Oh, I must," Chase answered. "There's something I've got to attend to."
And he continued to study the letter.

"Take me with you, then," said Ruth, going on with her rocklike seam.

"What's that? Take you?" her husband responded, still absorbed. "Not
this time, I guess. For I'm going straight through to Chicago. It would
tire you."

"No; I should like it; I don't want to stay here." She put down her
work; going to one of the tables, she stood there with her back towards
him, turning things over, but hardly as though she perceived what they
were. Chase finished his letter. Then, as he replaced it in his pocket,
he saw that she had risen, and, depositing Mr. Trone on the lounge, he
went to her and put his arm round her shoulders.

"I'd take you if I could, Ruthie," he said, indulgently, beginning a
reasonable argument with her. "But my getting to Chicago by a certain
date is imperative, and to do it I've got to catch to-night's train and
go through, and that would be too hard travelling for you. Besides, you
would lose all the benefit of your Southern winter if you should hurry
north now, while it is still so cold; that is always a mistake--to go
north too early. Your winter here has done you lots of good, and that's
a great pleasure to me. I want to be proud of you next summer at
Newport, you know." And he pinched her cheek.

Ruth turned and looked at him. "_Are_ you proud of me?"

"Oh no!" answered Chase, laughing. "Not at all!" Then, after a moment,
he went on, his tone altering. "I like to work a big deal through; I'm
more or less proud of that, I reckon. But down below everything else,
Ruthie, I guess my biggest pride is just--_you_." He was a man without
any grace in speech. But certain tones of his voice had an eloquence of
their own.

Ruth straightened herself. "I will do what you wish. I will stay
here--as you prefer it. And you must keep on being proud of me. You must
be proud of me always, _always_."

This made her husband laugh a second time. "It's a conceit that's come
to stay, Mrs. Chase. You may put your money on it!"



CHAPTER XIX


As he walked down the sea-wall to his hotel after the Grant reception,
Walter Willoughby said to himself that Mrs. Chase's coldness was the
very thing he desired, the thing he had been hoping for, devoutly, for
more than two years. The assertion was true. But though he had hoped, he
had hardly expected that her indifference would have become so complete.
If he did not exactly enjoy it, it had at least the advantage of leaving
him perfectly free. For purposes of his own (purposes which had nothing
to do with her), he had found it convenient to come to Florida this
winter. And now that St. Augustine was reached, these same private
purposes made him desire to remain there rather longer than he had at
first intended. After the Grant reception he told himself with relief
that there was now no reason, "no reason on earth," why he should not
stay as long as it suited him to do so. He therefore remained. He joined
in the amusements of the little winter-colony, the riding, driving,
sailing, walking, and fishing parties that filled the lovely days. Under
these conditions two weeks went by. Horace Chase had not as yet
returned; he was engaged in one of those bold enterprises of a
speculative nature which he called "a little operation;" occasionally
he planned and carried through one of these campaigns alone.

On the last night of this second week Ruth came into her sister's room.
It was one o'clock, but Dolly was awake; the moonlight, penetrating the
dark curtains, showed her who it was. "Is that you, Ruth?"

"Yes," Ruth answered. "Dolly, I want to go away."

Dolly raised herself, quickly. "Whenever you like," she answered. "We
can go to-morrow morning by the first train; they can pack one trunk,
and the rest can be sent after us. I shall be quite well enough to go."
For Dolly had been in bed all day, suffering severely; it was the only
day for two weeks which she had not spent, hour by hour, with her
sister. "You will have had a telegram from Mr. Chase," she went on; "we
can say that as explanation."

Ruth turned away. She left the details to her sister.

"Oh, don't go off and shut yourself up. Stay here with me," pleaded
Dolly, entreatingly.

"I'd rather be alone," Ruth began. But her voice broke. "No, I'm afraid!
I _will_ stay here. But you mustn't talk to me, Dolly."

"Not a word," Dolly responded; "if you will tell me, first, where you
have been?"

"Oh, only at Andalusia, as you know," Ruth answered, in the same
exhausted tone. "It isn't very late; every one stayed till after
twelve. And I came home as I went; that is, with Colonel and Mrs.
Atherton; they left me just now at the door."

"Alone?"

"No; with Walter Willoughby. But he did not come in; he only stood there
on the steps with me for a moment; that's all." While Ruth was saying
this, she had taken off her hat and gloves; then, in the dim light,
Dolly saw her sink down on the divan, and lie there, motionless. The
elder sister crept towards her on the outside of the bed (for the divan
was across its foot), and covered her carefully with a warm shawl; then,
faithful to her promise, she returned to her place in silence. And
neither of them spoke again.

On the divan Ruth was not fighting a battle; she had given up, she was
fleeing.

When, two years before, absorbed in her love for Walter, she had
insisted upon that long, solitary voyage northward from Charleston, so
that she could give herself up uninterruptedly to her own thoughts,
alone with them and the blue sea, the tidings which had met her at New
York as she landed--the tidings of her brother's death--had come upon
her almost like a blinding shaft of lightning. It was as if she, too,
had died. And she found her life again only partially, as she went
southward in the rushing trains, as she crossed the mountains in the
wagon, and arrived by night at dimly lighted L'Hommedieu. Sleepless
through both journeys--the voyage northward and the return by
land--worn out by the intense emotions which, in turn, had swept over
her, she had reached her mother's door at last so exhausted that her
vital powers had sunk low. Then it was that the gentle care of the man
who knew nothing of the truth had saved her--saved her from the
dangerous tension of her own excitement, and, later, from a death-like
faintness which, if prolonged, would have been her end. For when she
beheld the changed, drawn, unconscious face of her mother, that "mother"
who had seemed to her as much a fixed part of her life as her own
breath, her heart had failed her, failed not merely in the common
meaning of the phrase, but actually; its pulsations grew so weak that a
great dread seized her--the instinctive shrinking of her whole young
being from the touch of death. In her terror, she had fled to her
husband, she had taken refuge in his boundless kindness. "Oh, I am
dying, Horace; I _must_ be dying! Save me!" was her frightened cry.

For she was essentially feminine. In her character, the womanhood, the
sweet, pure, physical womanhood, had a strong part; it had not been
refined away by over-development of the mental powers, or reduced to a
subordinate position by ascetic surroundings. It remained, therefore,
what nature had made it. And it gave her a great charm. But its presence
left small place for the more masculine qualities, for stoical fortitude
and courage; she could not face fear; she could not stand alone; and
she had always, besides, the need to be cherished and protected, to be
held dear, very dear.

This return to her husband was sincere as far as it carried her. From
one point of view, it might be said that she had never left him. For her
love for Walter had contained no plan; and her girlish affection for
Horace Chase remained what it always had been, though the deeper
feelings were now awake underneath.

Time passed; the days grew slowly to months, and the months at last
became a long year, and then two. Little by little she fell back into
her old ways; she laughed at Dolly's sallies, she talked and jested with
her husband. She sometimes asked herself whether those buried feelings
would ever rise and take possession of her again. But Walter remained
absent--that was the thing that saved her. A personal presence was with
her always a powerful influence. But an absence was equally powerful in
its quieting effect; it produced temporarily more or less oblivion. She
had never been able to live on memories. And she had a great desire at
all times to be happy. And, therefore, to a certain degree, she did
become happy again; she amused herself with fair success at Newport and
New York.

And then Walter had re-entered the circle of her life. And by a fatality
this had come to her at St. Augustine. On the morning of the day of the
Grant reception, she had suddenly learned that he was in town. And she
knew (it came like a wave over her) that she dreaded the meeting.

There had been no spoken confidences between the sisters. But Dolly had
instantly extended all the protection that was in her power, and even
more; for she had braved the displeasure of her brother-in-law by
maintaining that his wife was ill, and that she (Dolly) knew more of the
illness than he did. And then, suddenly, this elder sister was put in
the wrong. For Ruth herself appeared, declaring gayly that she was well,
perfectly well. The gayety was assumed. But the declaration that she was
well was a truthful one; she was not only well, but her heart was
beating with excitement. For the idea had taken possession of her that
this was the very opportunity she needed to prove to herself (and to
Dolly also) that she was changed, that she was calm and indifferent. And
it would be a triumph also to show this indifference to Walter. Her
acts, her words, her every intonation should make this clear to him;
delightfully, coldly, brilliantly clear!

Yet, into this very courage had come, as an opposing force, that vague
premonition which had made her suddenly begin to sing "The Stirrup Cup."

But a mood of renewed gayety had followed; she had entered the
improvised ball-room with pulses beating high, sure that all was well.

Before the evening was over she knew that all was ill; she knew that at
the bottom of everything what had made her go thither was simply the
desire to see Walter Willoughby once more.

When, a few days later, her husband told her that he was going north,
with one of her sudden impulses she said, "Take me with you." He had not
consented. And she knew that she was glad that he had not. Certain tones
of his voice, however, when he spoke of his pride in her, had touched
her deeply; into her remembrance came the thought of all he had done for
her mother, all he had done for Jared, and she strengthened herself
anew: she would go through with it and he should know nothing; he should
remain proud of her always, always.

But this was not a woman who could go on unmoved seeing daily the man
she loved; those buried feelings rose again to the surface, and she was
powerless to resist them. All she could do (and this required a constant
effort) was to keep her cold manner unaltered.

Walter, meanwhile, was not paying much heed to Mrs. Chase. At the Grant
reception, he had been piqued by her sarcasms; he had smarted under the
surprise which her laughing coolness and gayety gave him. But this
vexation soon faded; it was, after all, nothing compared with the great
desire which he had at this particular moment to find himself entirely
free from entanglements of that nature. He was therefore glad of her
coldness. He continued to see her often; in that small society they
could not help but meet. And occasionally he asked himself if there was
nothing underneath this glittering frost? No least little scrap left of
her feeling of two years before? But, engrossed as he was with his own
projects, this curiosity remained dormant until suddenly these projects
went astray; they encountered an obstacle which for the time being made
it impossible for him to pursue them further. This happened at the end
of his second week in St. Augustine. Foiled, and more or less irritated,
and having also for the moment nothing else to do, he felt in the mood
to solace himself a little with the temporary entertainment of finding
out (of course in ways that would be unobserved by others) whether there
was or was not anything left of the caprice which the millionaire's
pretty wife had certainly felt for him when he was in Florida before.

For that was his idea of it--a caprice. He saw only one side of Ruth's
nature; to him she seemed a thoughtless, spoiled young creature, highly
impressionable, but all on the surface; no feeling would last long with
her or be very deep, though for the moment it might carry her away.

What he did was so little, during this process of finding out, and what
he said was so even less, that if related it would not have made a
narrative, it would have been nothing to tell. But the woman he was
studying was now like a harp: the lightest touch of his hand on the
strings drew out the music. And when, therefore, upon that last night,
taking advantage of the few moments he had with her alone at her door,
after her friends from the Barracks had passed on--when he then said a
word or two, to her it was fatal. His phrase meant in reality nothing;
it was tentative only. But Ruth had no suspicion of this; her own love
was direct, uncomplicated, and overmastering; she supposed that his was
the same. She looked at him dumbly; then she turned, entering the house
with rapid step and hurrying up the stairs, leaving the sleepy servant
who came forward to meet her to close the door. Fatal had his words been
to her; fatally sweet!

The two sisters left St. Augustine the next morning; in the evening they
were far down the St. John's River on their way to Savannah. They sat
together near the bow of the steamer, watching in silence the windings
of the magnificent stream; the moonlight was so bright that they could
see the silvery long-moss draping the live-oaks on shore, and, in the
tops of signal cypresses, bare and gaunt, the huge nests of the
fish-hawks, like fortifications.

"Poor Chase! covering her with diamonds, and giving her everything;
while _I_ can turn her round my finger!" Walter said to himself when he
heard they had gone.

On the day of his wife's departure--that sudden departure from St.
Augustine of which he as yet knew nothing, Horace Chase, in Chicago, was
bringing to a close his "little operation"; by six o'clock, four
long-headed men had discovered that they had been tremendously
out-generalled. Later in the evening, three of these men happened to be
standing together in a corridor of one of the Chicago hotels, when the
successful operator, who was staying in the house, came by chance
through the same brightly lighted passage-way.

"I guess you think, Chase, that you've got the laugh on us," said one of
the group. "But just wait a month or two; we'll make you walk!"

"Oh, the devil!" answered Chase, passing on.

"He's as hard as flint!" said the second of the discomfited trio, who,
depressed by his losses (which to him meant ruin), had a lump in his
throat. "There isn't such a thing as an ounce of feeling in Horace
Chase's _whole_ composition, damn him!"



CHAPTER XX


His little campaign over, Horace Chase made his preparations for
returning to Florida. These consisted in hastily throwing into a valise
the few things which he had brought with him, and ringing the bell to
have a carriage called so that he could catch the midnight train. As he
was stepping into this carriage, a telegram was handed to him. "Hold on
a minute," he called to the driver, as he opened it. "We are on our way
to Savannah," he read. "You will find us at the Scriven House. Ruth not
well." And the signature was "Dora Franklin." "Drive on," he called a
second time, and as the carriage rolled towards the station he said to
himself, "That Dolly! Always trying to make out that Ruth's sick. I
guess it's only that she's tired of Florida. She wanted to leave when
_I_ came north; asked me to take her."

But when he reached Savannah, he found his wife if not ill, at least
much altered; she was white and silent, she scarcely spoke; she sat hour
after hour with her eyes on a book, though the pages were not turned.
"She isn't well," Dolly explained again.

"Then we must have in the doctors," Chase answered, decisively. "I'll
get the best advice from New York immediately; I'll wire at once."

"Don't; it would only bother her," objected Dolly. "They can do no more
for her than we can, for it is nothing but lack of strength. Take her up
to L'Hommedieu, and let her stay there all summer; that will be the best
thing for her, by far."

"That's the question; will it?" remarked Chase to himself, reflectively.

"Do I know her, or do I not?" urged Dolly. "I have been with her ever
since she was born. Trust me, at least where _she_ is concerned; for she
is all I have left in the world, and I understand her every breath."

"Of course I know you think no end of her," Chase answered. But he was
not satisfied; he went to Ruth herself. "Ruthie, you needn't go to
Newport this summer, if you're tired of it; you can go anywhere you
like, short of Europe (for I can't quite get abroad this year). There
are all sorts of first-rate places, I hear, along the coast of Maine."

"I don't care where I go," Ruth answered, dully, "except that I want to
be far away from--from the tiresome people we usually see."

"Well, that means far away from Newport, doesn't it? We've been there
for two summers," Chase answered, helping her (as he thought) to find
out what she really wanted. "Would you like to go up the lakes--to
Mackinac and Marquette?"

"No, L'Hommedieu would do, perhaps."

"Yes, Dolly's plan. Are you doing it for _her_?"

"Oh," said Ruth, with weary truthfulness, "don't you know that I never
do things for Dolly, but that it's always Dolly who does things for me?"

Her husband took her to L'Hommedieu.

She seemed glad to be there; she wandered about and looked at her
mother's things; she opened her mother's secretary and used it; she sat
in her mother's easy-chair, and read her books. There was no jarring
element at hand; Genevieve, beneficent, much admired, and well off, had
been living for two years in St. Louis; her North Carolina cottage was
now occupied by Mrs. Kip.

Chase had the inspiration of sending for Kentucky Belle, and after a
while Ruth began to ride. This did her more good than anything else;
every day she was out for hours among the mountains with her husband,
and often with the additional escort of Malachi Hill.

One morning they made an expedition to the wild gorge where the squirrel
had received his freedom two years before; Ruth dismounted, and walked
about under the trees, looking up into the foliage.

"He's booming; he's got what _he_ likes," said Chase--"your Robert the
Squirrel; or Robert the Devil, as Dolly called him."

"Oh, I don't want him back," Ruth answered; "I am glad he is free. Every
one ought to be free," she went on, musingly, as though stating a new
truth which she had just discovered.

"I came out nearly every week, Mrs. Chase, during the first six months,
with nuts for him," said Malachi, comfortingly. "I used to bring at
least a quart, and I put them in a particular place. Well--they were
always gone."

As they came down a flank of the mountain overlooking the village, Chase
surveyed the valley with critical eyes. "If we really decide to take
this thing up at last--Nick and Richard Willoughby, and myself, and one
or two more--my own idea would be to have a grand combine of all the
advantages possible," he began. "In the United States we don't do this
thing up half so completely as they do abroad. Over there, if they have
mountains--as in Switzerland, for instance--they don't trust to that
alone, they don't leave people to sit and stare at 'em all day; they add
other attractions. They have boys with horns, where there happen to be
echoes; they illuminate the waterfalls; girls dressed up in costumes
milk cows in arbors; and men with flowers and other things stuck in
their hats, yodel and sing. All sorts of carved things, too, are
constantly offered for sale, such as salad-forks, paper-cutters, and
cuckoo clocks. Then, if it isn't mountains, but springs, they always
have the very best music they can get, to make the water go down. It
would be a smart thing to have the sulphur near here brought into town
in pipes to a sort of park, where we could have a casino with a hall for
dancing, and a restaurant where you could always get a first-class meal.
And, outside, a stand for the band. And then in the park there ought to
be, without fail, long rows of bright little stores for the ladies--like
those at Baden-Baden, Ruthie? No large articles sold, but a great
variety of small things. Ladies always like that; they can drink the
water, listen to the music, and yet go shopping too, and buy all sorts
of little knick-knacks to take home as presents; it would be extremely
popular. The North Carolina garnets and amethysts could be sold; and
specimens of the mica and gold and the native pink marble could be
exhibited. Then those Cherokee Indians out Qualla way might be
encouraged to come to the park with their baskets and bead-work to sell.
And there must be, of course, a museum of curiosities, stuffed animals,
and mummies, and such things. There's a museum opposite that lion cut in
the rock at Lucerne Hill--I guess you've heard of it? It attracts more
interest than the lion himself; I've watched, and I know; ten out of
twelve of the people who come there, look two minutes at the lion, and
give ten at least to the museum. Then it wouldn't be a half-bad idea to
get hold of an eminent doctor; we might make him a present of half a
mountain as an inducement. Larue, by the way, won't be of much use to
our boom, now that he isn't a senator any longer. Did they kick him out,
Hill, or freeze him out?"

"Well--he resigned," answered Malachi, diplomatically. "You see, they
wanted the present senator--a man who has far more magnetism."

"Larue never _was_ 'in it'; I saw that from the first," Chase
commented. "Well, then, in addition, there must, of course, be a
hospital in the town, so that the ladies can get up fairs for it each
year at the height of the season; they find the _greatest_ interest in
fairs; I've often noticed it. Then I should give _my_ vote for a good
race-course. And, finally, all the churches ought to be put in tip-top
condition--painted and papered and made more attractive. But that, Hill,
we'll leave to you."

Malachi laughed. He admired Horace Chase greatly, but he had long ago
despaired of making him pay heed to certain distinctions. "I think I
won't meddle with the other churches if you will only help along ours,"
he answered; "our Church school here, and my mountain missions."

"All right; we'll boom them all," said Chase, liberally. "There might be
a statue of Daniel Boom in the park, near the casino," he went on in a
considering tone; "he lived near here for some time. Though, come to
think of it, his name was Boone, wasn't it?--just missed being
appropriate! Well, at any rate, we can have a statue of Colonel David
Vance, and of Dr. Mitchell, who is buried on Mitchell's Peak. And of
David L. Swain."

"Have you any especial sculptor in view?" inquired Malachi, who was not
without a slight knowledge of art.

"No. But we could get a good marble-cutter to take a contract for the
lot; that would be the easiest way, I reckon."

Malachi could not help being glad, revengefully glad, that at least
there was no mention of Maud Muriel. Only the day before the sculptress
had greeted him with her low-breathed "Manikin!" as he came upon her in
a narrow winding lane which he had incautiously entered. A man may be as
dauntless as possible (so he told himself), but that does not help him
when his assailant is a person whom he cannot knock down--"a striding,
scornful, sculping spinster!" "She had better look out!" he had thought,
angrily, as he passed on.

His morning ride over, Chase took a fresh horse after lunch, and went
down to Crumb's. Nicholas Willoughby, struck by the wildness and beauty
of these North Carolina mountains, had built a cottage on the high
plateau above Crumb's, the plateau which Chase had named "Ruth's
Terrace" several years before. During the preceding summer, Nicholas had
occupied this house (which he called The Lodge) for a month or more.
This year, having lent it to some friends for August and September, he
had asked Chase to see that all was in order before their arrival.

While Chase was off upon this errand, Ruth and Dolly were to go for a
drive along the Swannanoa. But first Dolly stopped at Miss Mackintosh's
barn; her latest work was on exhibition there. This was nothing less
than a colossal study in clay of the sculptress's own back from the nape
of the neck to the waist; Dolly, who had already had a view of this
masterpiece, was now bringing Ruth to see it, with the hope that it
would make her laugh. It did. Her old mirth came back for several
minutes as she gazed at the rigidly faithful copy of Maud Muriel's
shoulder-blades, her broad, gaunt shoulders, and the endless line of
conscientiously done vertebræ adorning her spine.

Mrs. Kip was there, also looking. "Maud Muriel, how could you _see_ your
back?" she inquired.

"Hand-glass," replied the sculptress, briefly.

"Well, to me it looks hardly proper," commented Mrs. Kip; "it's
so--_exposed_. And then, without any head or arms, it seems so
mutilated; like some awful thing from a battle-field! I don't think it's
necessary for lady artists to study anatomy, Maud Muriel; it isn't
expected of them; it doesn't seem quite feminine. Why don't you carve
angels? They _have_ no anatomy, and, of course, they need none. Angels,
little children, and flowers--I think those are the most appropriate
subjects for _lady_ artists, both in sculpture and in painting." Then,
seeing Maud Muriel begin to snort (as Dolly called the dilation of the
sculptress's nostrils when she was angry), Mrs. Kip hurried on, changing
the subject as she went. "But sculpture certainly agrees with you,
Maudie dear. I really think your splendid hair grows thicker and
thicker! You could always earn your living (if you had occasion) by just
having yourself photographed, back-view, with your hair down, and a
placard--'Results of Barry's Tricopherus.' Barry would give _anything_
to get you."

Maud Muriel was not without humor, after her curt fashion. "Well,
Lilian," she answered, "_you_ might be 'Results of Packer's Granulated
Food,' I'm sure. You look exactly like one of the prize health-babies."

"Oh no!" cried Mrs. Kip, in terror, "I'm not at _all_ well, Maud Muriel.
Don't tell me so, or I shall be ill directly! Neither Evangeline Taylor
nor I are in the _least_ robust; we are _both_ pulmonic."

At this moment Evangeline herself appeared at the door, accompanied by
her inseparable Miss Green, a personage who was the pride of Mrs. Kip's
existence. This was not for what she was, but for her title: "Evangeline
Taylor and her governess"--this to Mrs. Kip seemed almost royal. She now
hurried forward to meet her child, and, taking her arm, led her away
from the torso to the far end of the barn, where two new busts were
standing on a table, one of them the likeness of a short-nosed,
belligerent boy, and the other of a dreary, sickly woman. "Come and look
at these _sweet_ things, darling."

And then Ruth broke into a second laugh.

"Mrs. Chase," said Maud Muriel, suddenly, "I wish _you_ would sit to
me."

"No. Ask her husband to sit," suggested Dolly. "You know you like to do
men best, Maud Muriel."

"Well, generally speaking, the outlines of a man's face are more
distinct," the sculptress admitted. "And yet, Dolly, it doesn't always
follow. For, generally speaking, women--"

"Maud Muriel, I am _never_ generally speaking, but always particularly,"
Dolly declared. "Do Mr. Chase. He will come like a shot if you will
smoke your pipe; he has been dying to see you do it for three years."

"I have given up the pipe; I have cigars now," explained Maud, gravely.
"But I do not smoke here; I take a walk with a cigar on dark nights--"

"Sh! Don't talk about it now," interrupted Mrs. Kip, warningly. For
Evangeline Taylor, having extracted all she could from the "sweet
things," was coming towards them. There was a good deal to come. Her
height was now six feet and an inch. Her long, rigid face wore an
expression which she intended to be one of deep interest in the works of
art displayed before her; but as she was more shy than ever, her eyes,
as she approached the group, had a suppressed nervous gleam which, with
her strange facial tension, made her look half-mad.

"Dear child!" said the mother, fondly, as Ruth, to whom the poor young
giant was passionately devoted, made her happy by taking her off and
talking to her kindly, apart. "She has the true Taylor eyes. So
profound! And yet so dove-like!" Here the head of Achilles Larue
appeared at the open door, and Lilian abandoned the Taylor eyes to
whisper quickly, "Oh, Maud Muriel, do cover that dreadful thing up!"

"Cover it up? Why--it is what he has come to see," answered the intrepid
Maud.

The ex-senator inspected the torso. "Most praise-worthy, Miss
Mackintosh. And, in execution, quite--quite fairish. Though you have
perhaps exaggerated the anatomical effect--the salient appearance of the
bones?"

"Not at all. They are an exact reproduction from life," answered Maud,
with dignity.

Lilian Kip, still apprehensive as to the influence of the torso upon a
young mind, sent her daughter home to play "battledoor and shuttlecock,
dear" (Evangeline played "battledoor and shuttlecock, dear," every
afternoon for an hour with her governess, to acquire "grace of
carriage"); Larue was now talking to Ruth, and Lilian, after some
hesitation, walked across the barn and seated herself on a bench at its
far end (the only seat in that resolute place); from this point she
gazed and gazed at Larue. He was as correct as ever--from his straight
nose to his finger-tips; from his smooth, short hair, parted in the
middle, to his long, slender foot with its high in-step. Dolly, tired of
standing, came after a while and sat down on the bench beside the widow.
They heard Achilles say, "No; I decided not to go." Then, a few minutes
later, came another "No; I decided not to do that."

"All his decisions are _not_ to do things," commented Dolly, in an
undertone. "When he dies, it can be put on his tombstone: 'He was a verb
in the passive voice, conjugated negatively.' Why, what's the matter,
Lilian?"

"It's nothing--I am only a little agitated. I will tell you about it
some time," answered Mrs. Kip, squeezing Dolly's hand. Ruth, tired of
the senator, looked across at Dolly. Dolly joined her, and they took
leave.

Maud Muriel followed them to the door. "I _should_ like to do your head,
Ruth."

"No; you are to do Mr. Chase's," Dolly called back from the phaeton.
"She has been in love with your husband from the first," she went on to
her sister, as she turned her pony's head towards the Swannanoa. And
then Ruth laughed a third time.

But though Dolly thus made sport, in her heart there was a pang. She
knew--no one better--that her sister's face had changed greatly during
the past three months. Now that his wife was well again, Chase himself
noticed nothing. And to the little circle of North Carolina friends Ruth
was dear; they were very slow to observe anything that was unfavorable
to those they cared for. To-day, however, Maud Muriel's unerring scent
for ugliness had put her (though unconsciously) upon the track, and, for
the first time in all their acquaintance, she had asked Ruth to sit to
her. It was but a scent as yet; Ruth was still lovely. But the elder
sister could see, as in a vision, that with several years more, under
the blight of hidden suffering, her beauty might disappear entirely; her
divine blue eyes alone could not save her if her color should fade, if
the sweet expression of her mouth should alter to confirmed
unhappiness, if her face should grow so thin that its irregular
outlines would become apparent.

Two hours later there was a tap at Miss Billy Breeze's door, at the Old
North Hotel.

"Come in," said Miss Billy. "Oh, is it you, Lilian? I am glad to see
you. I haven't been out this afternoon, as it seemed a little coolish!"

Mrs. Kip looked excited. "Coolish, Billy?" she repeated, standing still
in the centre of the room. "Ish? _Ish?_ And I, too, have said it; I
don't pretend to deny it. But it is over at last, and I am free! I have
been--been different for some time. But I did not know _how_ different
until this very afternoon. I met him at Maud Muriel's barn, soon after
two. And I sat there, and looked at him and _looked_ at him. And
suddenly it came across me that _perhaps_ after all I didn't care
_quite_ so much for him. I was so nervous that I could scarcely speak,
but I did manage to ask him to take a little stroll with me. For you see
I wanted to be perfectly _sure_. And as he walked along beside me,
putting down his feet in that precise sort of way he does, and every now
and then saying 'ish'--like a great light in the dark, like a falling
off of _chains_, I knew that it was at last at an end--that he had
ceased to be all the world to me. And it was such an _enormous_ relief
that when I came back, if there had been a circus or a menagerie in
town, I give you my word I should certainly have gone to it--as a
celebration! And then, Billy, I thought of _you_. And I made up my mind
that I would come right straight over here and ask you--_Is_ he worth
it? What has Achilles Larue ever done for either of us, Billy, but just
snub, snub, snub? and crush, crush, crush? If you could only feel what a
joy it is to have that tiresome old ache gone! And to just _know_ that
he is hateful!" And Lilian, much agitated, took Billy's hand in hers.

But Billy, dim and pale, drew herself away. "You do him great injustice,
Lilian. But he has never expected the ordinary mind to comprehend him.
Your intentions, of course, are good, and I am obliged to you for them.
But I am not like you; to me it is a pleasure, and always will be, as
well as a constant education, to go on admiring the greatest man I have
ever known!"

"Whether he looks at you or not?" demanded Lilian.

"Whether he looks at me or not," answered Billy, firmly.

"If you had ever been _married_, Wilhelmina, you would know that you
could not go on forever living on _shadows_!" declared the widow as she
took leave. "Shadows may be all very well. But we are human, after all,
and we need _realities_." Having decided upon a new reality, her step
was so joyous that Horace Chase, coming home from his long ride to
Crumb's, hardly recognized her, as he passed her in the twilight. At
L'Hommedieu he found no one in the sitting-room but Dolly. "Ruth is
resting after our drive," explained the elder sister. "I took her first
to the barn to see Maud Muriel's torso, and that made her laugh
tremendously. Well, is The Lodge in order?"

"Yes, it's all right; Nick's friends can come along as soon as they
like," Chase answered.

"And are none of the Willoughbys to be there this summer?" Dolly went
on.

"No; Nick has gone to Carlsbad--he isn't well. And Richard is off
yachting. Walter has taken a cottage at Newport."

Dolly already knew this latter fact. But she wished to hear it again.

Rinda now appeared, ushering in Malachi Hill. The young clergyman was so
unusually erect that he seemed tall; his face was flushed, and his eyes
had a triumphant expression. He looked first at Dolly, then at Chase.
"I've done it!" he announced, dashing his clerical hat down upon the
sofa. "That Miss Mackintosh has called me 'Manikin' once too often. She
did it again just now--in the alley behind your house. And I up and
kissed her!"

"You didn't," said Chase, breaking into a roaring laugh.

"Yes; I did. For three whole years and more, Mr. Chase, that woman has
treated me with perfectly outrageous contempt. She has seemed to think
that I was nothing at all, that I wasn't a man; she has walked on me,
stamped on me, shoved me right and left, and even kicked me, as it were.
I have felt that I couldn't stand it _much_ longer. And I have tried to
think of a way to take her down. Suddenly, just now, it came to me that
nothing on earth would take her down quite so much as that. And so when
she came out with her accustomed epithet, I just gave her a hurl, and
did it! It is true I'm a clergyman, and I have acted as though I had
kept on being only an insurance agent. But a man is a man after all, in
spite of the cloth," concluded Malachi, belligerently.

"Oh, don't apologize," said Dolly. "It's too delicious!" And then she
and Horace Chase, for once of the same mind, laughed until they were
exhausted.

Meanwhile the sculptress had appeared in Miss Billy's sitting-room. She
came in without knocking, her footfall much more quiet than usual.
"Wilhelmina, how old are you?" she demanded, after she had carefully
closed the door.

"Why--you know. I am thirty-nine," Billy answered, putting down with
tender touch the book she was reading (_The Blue Ridge in the Glacial
Period_).

"And I am forty," pursued Maud, meditatively. "It is never too late to
add to one's knowledge, Wilhelmina, if the knowledge is accurate; that
is, if it is observed from life. And I have stopped in for a moment, on
my way home, to mention something which _is_ so observed. You know all
the talk and fuss there is in poetry, Wilhelmina, about kisses (I mean
when given by a man)? I am now in a position to tell you, from actual
experience, what they amount to." She came nearer, and lowered her
voice. "They are _very far indeed_ from being what is described. There
is nothing in them. Nothing whatever!"



CHAPTER XXI


Horace Chase spent the whole summer at L'Hommedieu, without any journeys
or absences. His wife rode with him several times a week; she drove out
with Dolly in the phaeton; she led her usual life. Usual, that is, to a
certain extent; for, personally, she was listless, and the change in her
looks was growing so much more marked that at last every one, save her
husband, noticed it. When September came, Chase went to New York on
business. He was absent two weeks. When he returned he found his wife
lying on the sofa. She left the sofa for a chair when he came in; but,
after the first day, she no longer made this effort; she remained on the
couch, hour after hour, with her eyes closed. Once or twice, when her
husband urged it, she rode out with him. But her figure drooped so, as
she sat in the saddle, that he did not ask her to go again. He began to
feel vaguely uneasy. She seemed well; but her silence and her pallor
troubled him. As she herself was impenetrable--sweet, gentle, and
dumb--he was finally driven to speak to Dolly.

"You say she seems well," Dolly answered. "But that is just the trouble;
she seems so, but she is not. What she needs, in my opinion, is a
complete change--a change of scene and air and associations of all
kinds. Take her abroad for five or six years, and arrange your own
affairs so that you can stay there with her."

"Five or six years? That's a large order; that's _living_ over there,"
Chase said, surprised.

"Yes," answered Dolly, "that is what I mean. Live there for a while."
Then she made what was to her a supreme sacrifice: "_I_ will stay here.
I won't try to go." This was a bribe. She knew that her brother-in-law
found her constant presence irksome.

"Of course I wouldn't hesitate if I thought it would set her up," said
Chase. "I'll see what she says about it."

"If you consult her, that will be the end of the whole thing," answered
Dolly; "you will never go, and neither will she. For she will feel that
you would be sure to dislike it. You ought to arrange it without one
syllable to her, and then _do_ it. And if I were you, I wouldn't
postpone it too long."

"What do you talk that way for?" said Chase, angrily. "You have no right
to keep anything from me if you _know_ anything. What do you think's the
matter with her, that you take that tone?"

"I think she is dying," Dolly answered, stolidly. "Slowly, of course; it
might require three or four years more at the present rate of progress.
If nothing is done to stop it, by next year it would be called nervous
prostration, perhaps. And then, the year after, consumption."

Chase sprang up. "How dare you sit there and talk to me of her dying?"
he exclaimed, hotly. "What the hell do you mean?"

Dolly preserved her composure unbroken. "She has never been very strong.
Nobody can know with absolute accuracy, Mr. Chase; but at least I am
telling you exactly what I think."

"I'll take her abroad at once. I'll live over there forever if it will
do any good," Chase answered, turning to go out in order to hide his
emotion.

"Remember, if you tell her about it beforehand, she will refuse to go,"
Dolly called after him.

Always prompt, that same afternoon Chase started northward. He was on
his way to New York, with the intention of arranging his affairs so that
he could leave them for several years. It would be a heavy piece of
work. But work never daunted him. The very first moment that it was
possible he intended to return to L'Hommedieu, take his wife, and go
abroad by the next steamer, allowing her not one hour for demur. In the
meanwhile, she was to know nothing of the project; it was to take her by
surprise, according to Dolly's idea.

Dolly spent the time of his absence in trying to amuse her sister, or at
least in trying to occupy her and fill the long days. These days, out of
doors, were heavenly in their beauty; the atmosphere of paradise, as we
imagine paradise, was now lent to earth for a time; a fringe of it lay
over the valley of the French Broad. The sunshine was a golden haze; the
hue of the mountains was like violet velvet; there was no wind, the air
was perfectly still; in all directions the forest was glowing and
flaming with the indescribably gorgeous tints of the American autumn.
For a time Ruth had seemed a little stronger; she had taken two or three
drives in the phaeton. Then her listlessness came back with double
force. One afternoon Dolly found her lying with her head on her arm
(like a flower half-broken from its stalk, poor Dolly thought). But the
elder sister began bravely, with a laugh. "Well, it's out, Ruth. It is
announced to-day, and everybody knows it. I mean the engagement of
Malachi and the fair Lilian. But somebody ought really to speak to them,
it is a public matter; it ought to be in the hands of a Society for the
Prevention of Cruelty to the Future. Think of her profile, and then of
his, and imagine, if you can, a combination of the two let loose upon an
innocent world!"

Ruth smiled a little, but the smile was faint. She lay for some minutes
longer with closed eyes, and then, wearily, she sat up. "Oh, I am so
tired of this room! I believe I'll go out, after all. Please call
Félicité, and order the phaeton."

"A drive? That is a good idea, as it is such a divine afternoon," said
Dolly. "I will go with you."

"Oh no--with your lame arm." (For rheumatism had been bothering Dolly
all day.) "If you are afraid to have me go alone, I can take Félicité."

"Very well," said Dolly, who thwarted Ruth now in nothing. "May I sit
here while you dress?"

"If you like," answered Ruth, her voice dull and languid.

Dolly pretended to knit, and she made jokes about the approaching
nuptials. "It is to come off during Christmas week, they say. The bishop
is to be here, but he will only pronounce the benediction, for Lilian
prefers to have Mr. Arlington perform the ceremony. You see, she is
accustomed to Mr. Arlington; she usually has him for her marriages, you
know." But in Dolly's heart, as she talked, there were no jokes. For as
Félicité dressed Ruth, the elder sister could not help seeing how wasted
was the slender figure. And when the skilful hand of the Frenchwoman
brushed and braided the thick hair, the hollows at the temples were
conspicuous. Félicité, making no remark about it, shaded these hollows
with little waving locks. But Ruth, putting up her hands impatiently,
pushed the locks all back.

When she returned from her drive two hours later, the sun was setting.
She entered the parlor with rapid step, her arms full of branches of
bright leaves which she had gathered. Their tints were less bright than
her cheeks, and her eyes had a radiance that was startling.

Dolly looked at her, alarmed, though (faithful to her rule) she made no
comment. "Can it be fever?" she thought. But this was not fever.

Ruth decorated the room with her branches. She said nothing of
importance, only a vague word or two about the sunshine, and the beauty
of the brilliant forest; but she hummed to herself, and finally broke
into a song, as with the same rapid step she went upstairs to her room.

A few moments later Miss Billy Breeze was shown in. "I couldn't help
stopping for a moment, Dolly, because I am so perfectly delighted to see
that dear Ruth is _so_ much better; she passed me a little while ago in
her phaeton, looking really brilliant! Her old self again. After all,
the mountain air _has_ done her good. I was so glad that (I don't mind
telling you)--I went right home and knelt down and thanked God," said
the good little woman, with the tears welling up in her pretty eyes.

Miss Billy stayed nearly half an hour. Just before she went away she
said (after twenty minutes of excited talk about Lilian and Malachi),
"Oh, I saw Mr. Willoughby in the street this afternoon; he had ridden up
from The Lodge, so Mr. Bebb told me. I didn't know he was staying
there?"

"Why, has he come back from Carlsbad?" asked Dolly, surprised.

"Oh, I don't mean Mr. Nicholas Willoughby," answered Billy, "I mean
Walter; the nephew, you know. The one who was groomsman at Ruth's
wedding."



CHAPTER XXII


Ruth had seen Walter. It was this which had given her that new life.
Tired of Félicité's "flapping way of driving," as she called it, she had
left the phaeton for a few moments, and was sitting by herself in the
forest, with her elbow on her knee and her chin resting on the palm of
her hand; her eyes, vaguely fixed on a red bush near by, had an
indescribably weary expression. Her figure was out of sight from the
place where the phaeton and the maid were waiting; her face was turned
in the other direction. In this direction there was at some distance a
second road, and along this track she saw presently a man approaching on
horseback. Suddenly she recognized him. It was Walter Willoughby. He
slackened his speed for a moment to say a word or two to a farmer who
was on his way to Asheville with a load of wood; then, touching his
horse with his whip, he rode on at a brisk pace, and in a moment more
was out of sight.

Ruth had started to her feet. But the distance was too great for her to
call to him. Straight as the flight of an arrow she ran towards the
wagon, which was pursuing its way, the horses walking slowly, the wheels
giving out a regular "scrunch, scrunch."

"The gentleman who spoke to you just now--do you know where he is
staying?"

"Down to Crumb's; leastways that new house they've built on the mountain
'bove there. He 'lowed I might bring him down some peaches! But
_peaches_ is out long ago," replied the man. Ruth returned home. She
went through the evening in a dream, listening to Dolly's remarks
without much answer; then, earlier than usual, she sought her own room.
She fell asleep instantly, and her sleep was so profound that Dolly, who
stole softly to the door at midnight and again at one o'clock, to see if
all was well, went back to her room greatly cheered. For this was the
best night's rest which Ruth had had for months. The elder sister,
relieved and comforted, soon sank into slumber herself.

Ruth's tranquil rest came simply from freedom, from the end of the long
struggle which had been consuming her strength and her life. The sudden
vision of the man she loved, his actual presence before her, had broken
down her last barrier; it had given way silently, as a dam against which
deep water has long pressed yields sometimes without a sound when the
flood rises but one inch higher. She slept because she was going to him,
and she knew that she was going.

She had been vaguely aware that she could not see Walter again with any
security. It was this which had made her take refuge in her mother's old
home in the mountains, far away from him and from all chance of meeting
him. She could not trust herself, but she could flee. And she had fled.
This, however, was the limit of her force; her will had not the power to
sustain her, to keep her from lassitude and despair; and thus she had
drooped and faded until to her sister had come that terrible fear that
the end would really be death. When Walter appeared, she was powerless
to resist further, she went to him as the needle turns to the pole. Her
love led her like a despot, and it was sweet to her to be thus led. Her
action was utterly uncalculating; the loss of her home was as nothing to
her; the loss of her good-repute, nothing; her husband, her sister, the
whole world--all were alike forgotten. She had but one thought, one
idea--to go to him.

She woke an hour before dawn; it was the time she had fixed upon. She
left her bed and dressed herself, using the brilliant moonlight as her
candle; with soft, quick steps she stole down the stairs to the kitchen,
and taking a key which was hanging from a nail by the fireplace, she let
herself out. The big watch-dog, Turk, came to meet her, wagging his
tail. She went to the stable, unlocked the door, and leaving it open for
the sake of the light, she saddled Kentucky Belle. Then she led the
gentle creature down the garden to a gate at its end which opened upon
the back street. Closing this gate behind her so that Turk should not
follow, she mounted and rode away.

The village was absolutely silent; each moonlit street seemed more still
than the last. When the outskirts were left behind, she turned her
horse towards the high bridle-path, whose general course was the same as
that of the road along the river below, the road which led to the Warm
Springs, passing on its way the farm of David Crumb.

As she did these things, one after the other, she neither thought nor
reasoned; her action was instinctive. And the ride was a revel of joy;
her cheeks were flushed with rose, her eyes were brilliant, her pulses
were beating with a force and health which they had not known for
months; she sang to herself little snatches of songs, vaguely, but
gayly.

The dawn grew golden, the sun came up. The air was perfectly still and
softly hazy. Every now and then a red leaf floated gently down from its
branch to the ground; the footfalls of Kentucky Belle were muffled in
these fallen leaves.

The bridle-path, winding along the flanks of the mountain, was longer
than the straighter road below. It was eight o'clock before it brought
her in sight of Crumb's. "I must leave Kentucky Belle in good hands,"
she thought. A steep track led down to the farm. The mare followed it
cautiously, and brought her to Portia's door. "Can your husband take
care of my horse for an hour or two?" she asked, smiling, as Portia came
out. "Is he at home?"

"He's at home. But he ain't workin' to-day," Mrs. Crumb replied; "he's
ailin' a little. But _I'll_ see to yer mare."

Ruth dismounted; patting Kentucky Belle, she put her cheek for a moment
against the beautiful creature's head. "Good-bye," she whispered. "I am
going for a walk," she said to Portia.

"Take a snack of sump'n' nerrer to eat first?" Portia suggested.

But Ruth shook her head; she was already off. She went down the river
road as though she intended to take her walk in that direction. But as
soon as the bend concealed her from Portia's view she turned into the
forest. The only footpath to the terrace, "Ruth's Terrace," where
Nicholas Willoughby had built his cottage, was the one which led up from
Crumb's; Ruth's idea was that she should soon reach this track. But
somehow she missed it; she gave up the search, and, turning, went
straight up the mountain. This slope also was covered with the fallen
leaves, a carpet of red and gold. She climbed lightly, joyously, pulling
herself up the steepest places by the trunks of the smaller trees. Her
color brightened. Taking some of the leaves, she twisted their stalks
round the buttons of her habit so as to make a red-and-gold trimming.

When she reached the summit she knew where she was, for she could now
see the cliffs on the other side of the French Broad. They told her that
she had gone too far to the left; and, turning, this time in the right
direction, she made her way through the forest along the plateau,
keeping close to its verge as a guide. As the chimneys of the Lodge came
into view, she reminded herself that she wished to see Walter
first--Walter himself, and not the servants. She had already paid
several visits to The Lodge; she knew the place well. A good
carriage-road led to it through a ravine which opened three miles below
Crumb's; Nicholas Willoughby had constructed this new ascent. But he had
not built any fences or walls, and she could therefore approach without
being seen by keeping among the trees. At the side there was a thicket,
which almost touched one end of the veranda; she stole into this
thicket, and noiselessly made her way towards the house. When she
reached the nearest point which she could attain unseen, she paused; her
idea was to wait here until Walter should come out.

For he would be sure to come before long. The veranda was always the
sitting-room; it commanded that wide view of the mountains far and near
which had caused Nicholas Willoughby, at the cost of much money and
trouble, to perch his cottage just here. The friends to whom he had lent
The Lodge had left it ten days before, as Ruth knew. A man and his wife
were always in charge, but when they were alone the front of the house
was kept closed. To-day the windows were all open, a rising breeze
swayed the curtains to and fro, and there were numerous other signs of
Walter's presence; on the veranda were several easy-chairs and a lounge,
besides a table with books and papers. And wasn't that the hat he had
worn when she saw him talking to the farmer the day before? Yes, it was
the same. "What time can it be?" she thought. She had not her watch
with her--the costly diamond-decked toy which Horace Chase had given
her; she had left it with her rings on the toilet-table at L'Hommedieu.
Her wedding-ring was there also. But this was not from any plan about
it; she always took off her rings at night. She had simply forgotten to
put them on.

After ten minutes of waiting her heart gave a leap--she heard Walter's
voice within the house. "That is a woman answering. He is talking to the
housekeeper," she said to herself.

But presently there seemed to be three voices. "It is another servant,"
she thought. Then, before she had time to recognize that the intonations
were not those of the mountain women (who were the only resource as
servants in this remote spot), Walter Willoughby himself came into view,
pushing aside the curtains of one of the long windows that opened on the
veranda.

But before Ruth could detach herself from the branches that surrounded
her, he had drawn back again to make room for some one else, and a lady
came out. He followed this lady; he took his seat familiarly upon the
lounge where she had placed herself. It was Marion Barclay, the
handsome, inanimate girl who, with her father and mother, had spent some
weeks at St. Augustine during the preceding winter.

Marion was no longer inanimate. The fault of her finely chiselled face
had been its coldness; but there was no coldness now as Walter
Willoughby took her hand and pressed it to his lips.

At this moment Mrs. Barclay, Marion's mother, appeared. "Well, Darby and
Joan," she said, smiling, as she established herself in the most
comfortable chair.

Mrs. Barclay had favored Walter's suit from the first. It was her
husband who had opposed it. Christopher Barclay had, in fact, opposed it
so strongly that at St. Augustine he had dismissed young Willoughby with
a very decided negative. It was while held at bay by this curt refusal
that young Willoughby had entertained himself for a time by a fresh
study of Mrs. Horace Chase.

This, however, had been but a brief diversion; he had never had the
least intention of giving up Marion, and he had renewed his suit at
Newport as soon as the summer opened. This time he had been more
successful, and finally he had succeeded in winning Christopher Barclay
to the belief that he would know how to manage his daughter's fortune,
as, from the first, he had won Mrs. Barclay to the conviction that he
would know how to manage her daughter's heart. Marion herself meanwhile
had never had the slightest doubt as to either the one or the other. The
engagement was still very new. As Mr. Barclay had investments at
Chattanooga to look after, the little party of four had taken these
beautiful October days for an excursion to Tennessee. Mrs. Barclay had
heard that one of the elder Willoughbys had built a cottage "not far
from the Great Smoky Mountains," and as the paradisiacal weather
continued, with the forests all aglow and the sky a mixture of blue and
gold, she suggested that they should go over from Chattanooga and take a
look at it. Walter had therefore arranged it. From the Warm Springs he
himself had ridden on in advance, in order to have the house opened;
this was the moment when he had made his brief visit to Asheville for
the purpose of ordering supplies. The Barclays were to come no farther
eastward than The Lodge; they were to return in a day or two to Warm
Springs, and thence back to Chattanooga. Even if he had known that Ruth
Chase was at L'Hommedieu, Walter would not have been deterred from
pleasing Mrs. Barclay by any thought of her vicinity; but, as it
happened, he supposed that she was in New York. For a recent letter from
Nicholas Willoughby had mentioned that Chase himself was there, and that
he was going abroad with his wife for several years, sailing by the next
Wednesday's Cunarder.

"Darby and Joan?" Walter had repeated, in answer to Mrs. Barclay's
remark. "That is exactly what I am after, mother. Come, let us settle
the matter now on the spot--the _bona fide_ Darby-and-Joan-ness. When
shall it begin?"

"'Mother'!" commented Mrs. Barclay, laughing. "You have not lost much in
your life through timidity, Walter; I venture to say that."

"Nothing whatever," Walter replied, promptly. "Shall we arrange it for
next month? I have always said I should select November for my wedding,
to see how my wife bears bad weather."

"No, no. Not quite so soon as that," answered Mrs. Barclay. "But early
in the year perhaps," she went on, consentingly, as she looked at her
daughter's happy blushing face.

Ruth heard every word; the veranda was not four yards distant; through
the crevices in the foliage she could see them all distinctly.

She had immediately recognized the Barclays. Anthony Etheridge's speech
about Walter's being in their train came back to her, and other mentions
of their name as well. But this was mechanical merely; what held her,
what transfixed her, was Walter's own countenance. Marion Barclay, Mrs.
Barclay, all the rumors that Etheridge could collect, these would have
been nothing to her if it had not been for that--for Walter's face.

And Walter was, in truth, very happy. Marion was everything that he
wished his wife to be: she was accomplished and statuesque; to those she
liked she could be charming; her features had the distinction which he
had always been determined that his wife should possess. He was not
marrying her for her fortune, though he was very glad she had that,
also. He was much in love with her, and it was this which Ruth had
perceived--perceived beyond a doubt.

For ten minutes she stood there motionless, her eyes resting upon him.
Then, feeling a death-like chill coming, she had just sense enough, just
life enough left, to move backward noiselessly through the smooth leaves
until she had reached the open forest beyond. As a whole life passes
before the eyes of a drowning man, in the same way she saw as in a
vision her long mistake, and her one idea was to get to some spot where
he could not see her, where he would never find her, before she sank
down. She glanced over her shoulder; yes, the thicket concealed her in
that direction. Then she looked towards the verge; her hurrying steps
took her thither. Sitting down on the edge, she let herself slip over,
holding on by a little sapling. It broke and gave way. And then the
figure in the dark riding-habit, which was still adorned gayly with the
bright leaves, disappeared.



CHAPTER XXIII


Dolly Franklin woke soon after dawn. A moment later she stole to Ruth's
door and listened. There was no sound within, and, hoping that the
tranquil slumber still continued, the elder sister turned the
door-handle and looked in.

The window-curtains were drawn widely aside, as Ruth had arranged them
several hours before, in order to let in the moonlight; the clear
sunshine showed that the bed was tenantless, the room empty. Dolly
entered quickly, closing the door behind her. But there was no letter
bearing her name fastened to the pin-cushion or placed conspicuously on
the mantel-piece, as she had feared. The rings, watch, and purse lying
on the toilet-table next attracted her attention; she placed them in a
drawer and locked it, putting the key in her pocket. Then, with her
heart throbbing, she looked to see what clothes had been taken. "The
riding-habit and hat. She has gone to The Lodge! She has found out in
some way that he is staying there. Probably she is on Kentucky Belle."

After making sure that there were no other betrayals in Ruth's deserted
room, the elder sister returned to her own apartment and rang for her
English maid, Diana Pollikett. Diana was not yet up. As soon as
possible she came hurrying in, afraid that Miss Franklin was ill. "Call
Félicité," ordered Dolly. Then when the two returned together, the
sallow Frenchwoman muffled in a pink shawl, Dolly said: "Mrs. Chase has
gone off for an early ride. I dare say that she thought it would be
amusing to take me by surprise." And she laughed. But that there was
anger underneath her laugh was very evident. "Félicité, go down and see
if I am not right," she went on. "I think you will find that her horse
is gone."

Her acting was so perfect--the feigned mirth, with the deep annoyance
visible beneath it--that the two maids were secretly much entertained;
Mrs. Chase's escapade and her sharp-eyed sister's discomfiture were in
three minutes known to everybody in the house. "Your mademoiselle, she
tr'ry to keep _my_ young madame a _leetle_ too tight," commented
Félicité in confidence to Miss Pollikett.

Dolly, having set her story going, went through the form of eating her
breakfast. Then, as soon as she could, without seeming to be in too
great haste, she drove off in her own phaeton, playing to the end her
part of suppressed vexation.

She was on her way to The Lodge. It was a long drive, and the road was
rough; the gait of her old pony was never more than slow; but she had
not dared to take a faster horse, lest the unusual act should excite
surprise. "Oh, Prosper, _do_ go on!" she kept saying, pleadingly, to
the pony. But with all her effort it was two o'clock before she reached
Crumb's, Prosper's jog-trot being hardly faster than a walk.

As the farm-house at last came into sight, she brushed away her tears of
despair and summoned a smile. "My sister is here, or she has been here,
hasn't she?" she said, confidently, to Mrs. Crumb, who, at the sound of
the wheels, had come to the door.

"Yes, she's been yere. She's gone for a walk," Portia answered. "She
left her mare; but she wouldn't stop to eat anything, though she must
have quit town mortial early."

"Oh, she had breakfast before she started," lied Dolly, carelessly. "And
I have brought lunch with me; we are to eat it together. But I am very
late in getting here, my fat old pony is so slow! Which way has she
gone?"

"Straight down the road," replied Portia. "An' when you find her, I
reckon you'd both better be thinkin' of gettin' todes home befo' long.
For the fine weather's about broke; there's a change comin'."

"Down the road--yes," thought Dolly. "But as soon as she was out of
sight she went straight up the mountain! Oh, if I could only do it too!
It is _so_ much shorter." But as she feared her weak ankle might fail,
all she could do was to drive up by the new road, the road which
Nicholas Willoughby had built through the ravine below. She went on,
therefore; there were still three miles to cover before this new road
turned off.

It was the only well-made carriage-track in the county. First it
followed the ravine, crossing and recrossing the brook at its bottom;
then, leaving the gorge behind, it wound up the remainder of the ascent
in long zigzags like those of the Alpine passes. The breeze, which had
stirred the curtains of The Lodge when Ruth was standing in the thicket,
had now grown into a wind, and clouds were gathering. But Dolly noticed
nothing. Reaching the new road at last, she began the ascent.

When about a third of the way up, she thought she heard the sound of
wheels coming down. The zigzag next above hers was fringed with trees,
so that she could see nothing, but presently she distinguished the trot
of two horses. Was it Ruth with Walter Willoughby? Were they already
taking flight? Fiercely Dolly turned her phaeton straight across the
road to block the way. "She shall never pass me. I will drag her from
him!" The bend of the zigzag was at some distance; she waited,
motionless, listening to the wheels above as they came nearer and
nearer. Then round the curve into view swept a pair of horses and a
light carriage. The top of the carriage was down; she could see that it
held four persons; on the back seat was a portly man with gray hair, and
with him a comfortable-looking elderly lady; in front was a tall,
fair-haired girl, and by her side--Walter Willoughby.

In the first glance Dolly had recognized Walter's companions. And the
radiant face of Marion Barclay, so changed, so happy, told her all. She
drew her pony straight, and, turning out a little so as to make room,
she passed them with a bow, and even with a smile.

Walter seemed astonished to see her there. But he had time to do no more
than return her salutation, for he was driving at a sharp pace, and the
descent was steep. He looked back. But her pony was going steadily up
the zigzag, and presently turning the bend the phaeton disappeared.

"This road leads only to The Lodge; I cannot imagine why Miss Franklin
is going there now," he commented. "Or what she is doing here in any
case, so far from L'Hommedieu."

"L'Hommedieu? What is that? Oh yes, I remember; Anthony Etheridge told
me that the Franklins had a place with that name (Huguenot, isn't it?)
in the North Carolina mountains somewhere," remarked Mrs. Barclay. "What
has become, by-the-way, of the pretty sister who married your uncle's
partner, Horace Chase? She wasn't in Newport this summer. Is she
abroad?"

"No. But she is going soon," Walter answered. "My last letter from my
uncle mentioned that Chase was in New York, and that he had taken
passage for himself and his wife in the Cunarder of next Wednesday."

"Dear me! those clouds certainly look threatening," commented Mrs.
Barclay, forgetting the Chases, as a treeless space in front gave her
for a moment a wider view of the sky.

It was this change in the weather which had altered their plans.
Nicholas Willoughby's mountain perch, though an ideal spot when the sky
was blue, would be dreary enough in a long autumn storm; the Barclays
and their prospective son-in-law were therefore hastening back to the
lowlands.

Dolly reached the summit. And as the road brought her nearer to The
Lodge, she was assailed by sinister forebodings. The first enormous
relief which had filled her heart as she read the story told by the
carriage, was now darkened by dread of another sort. If Ruth too had
seen Marion, if Ruth too had comprehended all--where was she? From the
untroubled countenances of the descending party, Dolly was certain that
they, at least, had had no glimpse of Ruth; no, not even Walter. Dolly
believed that men were capable of every brutality. But Walter's
expression, when he returned her bow, had not been that of assumed
unconsciousness, or assumed anything; there was no mistaking it--he was
happy and contented; he looked as though he were enjoying the rapid
motion and his own skilful driving, but very decidedly also as though
all the rest of his attention was given to the girl by his side. "He has
not even seen her! And he cares nothing for her; it is all a mistake!
Now let me only find her and get her home, and no one shall _ever_
know!" Dolly had said to herself with inexpressible relief. But then had
followed fear: _could_ she find her?

When the chimneys of The Lodge came into sight she drove her pony into
the woods and tied him to a tree. Then she approached the house
cautiously, going through the forest and searching the carpet of fallen
leaves, trying to discover the imprint of footsteps. "If she came here
(and I _know_ she did), is there any place from which, herself
concealed, she could have had a glimpse of Marion? That thicket,
perhaps? It stretches almost to the veranda." And limping to this copse,
Dolly examined its outer edge closely, inch by inch. She found two
places where there was a track; evidently some one had entered at one of
the points, and penetrated to a certain distance; then had come out in a
straight line, backward. Dolly entered the thicket herself and followed
this track. It brought her to a spot whence she had a clear view of the
veranda. All signs of occupation were already gone; the chairs and
tables had been carried in, the windows had been closed and barred. "If
she stood here and saw them, and then if she moved backward and got
herself out," thought Dolly, "where did she go next?" When freed from
the thicket, she knelt down and looked along the surface of the ground,
her eyes on a level with it; she had seen the negroes find small
articles in that way--a button, or even a pin. After changing her place
two or three times, she thought she discerned a faint indication of
footsteps, and she followed this possible trail, keeping at some
distance from it at one side so that it should not be effaced, and every
now and then stooping to get another view of it, horizontally. For the
signs were so slight that it was difficult to see them--nothing but a
few leaves pressed down a little more than the others, here and there.
The trail led her to the edge of the plateau. And here at last was
something more definite--flattened herbage, and a small sapling bent
over the verge and broken, as though some one had borne a weight upon
it. "She let herself slip over the edge," thought Dolly. "She is down
there in the woods somewhere. Oh, how shall I find her!"

The October afternoon would be drawing to its close before long, and
this evening there would be no twilight, for black clouds were covering
the sky, and the wind was beginning to sway the boughs of the trees
above. In spite of her lameness, Dolly let herself down over the edge.
There was no time to lose; she must find her sister before dark.

The slope below was steep; she tried to check her sliding descent, but
she did not succeed in stopping herself until her clothes had been torn
and her body a good deal bruised. When at last her slide was arrested,
she began to search the ground for a second trail. But if there had been
one, the leaves obscured it; not only were they coming down in showers
from above, but the wind every now and then scooped up armfuls of those
already fallen, and whirled them round and round in eddying spirals.
Keeping the peeled sapling above her as her guide, Dolly began to
descend, going first to the right for several yards, then to the left,
and pausing at the end of each zigzag to examine the forest beyond. With
her crippled ankle her progress was slow. She lost sight, after a while,
of the sapling. But as she had what is called the sense of locality, she
was still able to keep pretty near the imaginary line which she was
trying to follow. For her theory was that Ruth had gone straight down;
that, once out of sight from that house, she had let herself go. Light
though she was on her feet, she must have ended by falling, and then, if
there was a second ledge below--"But I won't think of that!" Dolly said
to herself, desperately.

She was now so far from the house that she knew she could not be heard.
She therefore began to call "Ruth! Ruth!" But there was no reply. "I
will count, and every time I reach a hundred I will call. Oh why, just
this one day, should it grow dark so early, after weeks of the clearest
twilight?" Drops began to fall, and finally the rain came down in
torrents. She crouched beside a large tree, using its trunk as a
protection as much as she could. Her hat and jacket were soon wet
through, but she did not think of herself, she thought only of
Ruth--Ruth, who had been fading for months--Ruth, out in this storm.
"But I'll find her and take her back. And no one shall ever know,"
thought the elder sister, determinedly.

After what seemed a long time the rain grew less dense. The instant she
could see her way Dolly resumed her search. The ground was now wet, and
her skirts were soon stained as she moved haltingly back and forth,
holding on by the trees. "Ruth! Ruth?" At the end of half an hour, when
it was quite dark, she came to a hollow lined with bushes. She
hesitated, but her determination to make her search thorough over every
inch of the ground caused her to let herself down into it by sense of
feeling, holding on as well as she could by the bushes.

And there at the bottom was the body of her sister.

"O God, _don't_ let her be dead!" she cried, aloud. Drying the palm of
her hand, she unbuttoned the soaked riding-habit and felt for the heart.
At first there seemed to be no beating. Then she thought she perceived a
faint throb, but she could not be sure; perhaps it was only her intense
wish transferred to the place. Ruth's hat was gone, her hair and her
cold face were soaked. "If I could only _see_ her! Poor, poor little
girl!" said Dolly, sobbing aloud.

Presently it began to rain again with great violence; and then Dolly, in
a rage, seated herself on the soaked ground at the bottom of the hollow,
took her sister's lifeless form in her arms, and held it close. "She is
_not_ dead, for she isn't heavy; she is light. If she had been dead I
_couldn't_ have lifted her." She dried Ruth's face. She began to chafe
her temples and breast. After half an hour she thought she perceived
more warmth, and her cramped arm redoubled its effort. The rain was
coming down in sheets, but she did not mind it now, for she felt a
breath, a sigh. "Ruth, do you know me? It is Dolly; no one but Dolly."

Ruth's eyes opened, though Dolly could not see them. Then she said,
"Dolly, he loves some one else." That was all; she did not speak again.

The storm kept on, and they sat there together, motionless. Ruth's
clothes were so wet that they were like lead. At length the black cloud
from which that especial deluge had come moved away, and fitful
moonlight shone out. Now came the anxious moment: would Ruth be able to
walk?

At first it seemed as if she could not even rise, her whole body was so
stiff. She was also extremely weak; she had eaten nothing since the
night before, and the new life which had inspired her was utterly gone.
But Dolly, somehow, made herself firm as iron; standing, she lifted her
sister to her feet and held her upright until, little by little, she
regained breath enough to take one or two steps. Then slowly they
climbed from the hollow. With many pauses they went down the mountain;
from this point, fortunately, its slope was not quite so steep. How she
did it Dolly never knew, but the moment came at last when she saw a
lighted window, and made her way towards it. And the final moment also
came when she arrived at a door. Her arm was still supporting her pale
young sister, who leaned against her. Ruth had not spoken; she had moved
automatically; her senses were half torpid.

The lighted window was that of Portia Crumb. Portia had not gone to bed.
But she was not sitting up on their account; she supposed that they had
found shelter at one of several small houses that were scattered along
the river road in the direction which they had taken. She was sitting up
in order to minister to her "Dave." David Crumb's fits of drunkenness
generally lasted through two days. When he came to himself, his first
demand was for coffee, and his wife, who never could resist secretly
sympathizing a little with the relief which her surly husband was able
to obtain for a time from the grief which gnawed incessantly at her own
poor heart--his wife always remained within call to give him whatever he
needed. And, oddly enough, these vigils had become almost precious to
Portia. For occasionally at these moments David of his own accord would
talk of his lost boys--the only times he ever mentioned them or
permitted his wife to do so. And now and then he would allow her to read
her Bible to him, and even to sing a hymn perhaps, to which he would
contribute in snatches a growling repentant bass.

Portia's coffee-pot now stood on the hot coals of her kitchen fireplace;
she had been occupying the time in spinning, and in chanting softly to
herself, as the rain poured down outside:

[Illustration: musical notation:

Je -_ru_ -sa-lem, my hap-py _home_, Name ev-er de-ar tu

_me_, When _shell_ my la-ber-rs hev an end? Thy

joys when shell I see ? Thy-y joys when _shell-el_ I see?]

Then, hearing some one at the outer door, she had come to open it.

"Good Lors! Miss Dolly! Here!--lemme help you! Bring her right into the
kitchen, an' put her down on the mat clost to the fire till I get her
wet close off!"



CHAPTER XXIV


HORACE CHASE, having by hard work arranged his far-stretching affairs so
that he could leave them, reached L'Hommedieu late in the evening of the
day of Ruth's flight. He had not telegraphed that he was coming; his
plan was to have his wife well on her way to New York and the Liverpool
steamer almost before she knew it. She had always been fond of the
unexpected; this fondness would perhaps serve him now. When he reached
the old house, to which his money had given a new freshness, there was
no one to meet him but Dolly's Diana. Diana, in her moderate, unexcited
way, began to tell him what had happened. But she was soon re-enforced
by Félicité, whose ideas (regarding the same events) were far more
theoretic.

"Miss Franklin had a lunch prepared, and took it with her," Diana went
on.

"Eet ended in a peekneek," interrupted Félicité. "The leaf was so red,
and the time so beautiful, monsieur; no clouds, and the sky of a blue!
Then suddenlee the rain ees come. No doubt they have entered in a house
to wait till morning."

"Which road did my wife take?" inquired Chase, his tone anxious.

"Ah, monsieur, no one _see_ herr, she go so early. Eet was herr joke--to
escape a leetle from herr sistare, if eet is permit to say eet; pardon."

"Which way, then, did Miss Franklin go?" continued Chase, impatiently.

Both women pointed towards the left. "She went _down_ the street. _That_
way."

"Down the street? That's no good. What I want to know is which road she
took after leaving town?"

But naturally neither Félicité nor Miss Pollikett could answer this
question; they had not followed the phaeton.

Chase rang the bell, and sent for one of the stablemen. "Let Pompey and
Zip go and ask at all the last houses (where the three roads that can be
reached from the end of this street turn off) whether any one noticed
Miss Franklin drive past this morning? They all know her pony and trap.
Tell Pompey to step lively, and if the people have gone to bed, he must
knock 'em up."

The two negroes returned in less than fifteen minutes; they had found
the trace without trouble: Miss Franklin had taken the river road
towards Warm Springs.

"Saddle my horse," said Chase; "and you, Jeff, as soon as I have
started, put the pair in the light carriage and drive down to Crumb's.
Have the lamps in good order and burning brightly, and see that the
curtains are buttoned down so as to keep the inside dry. Felicity, put
in shawls and whatever's necessary; the ladies are no doubt under cover
somewhere; but they may have got wet before reaching it. Perhaps one of
you had better go along?" he added, looking at the two women
reflectively, as if deciding which one would be best.

"Yes, sir; I can be ready in a moment," said Diana, going out.

"Ah! for _two_ there is not enough place," murmured Félicité, relieved.

Chase ate a few mouthfuls of something while his horse was being
saddled; then, less than half an hour after his arrival, he was off
again. It was very dark, but he did not slacken his speed for that, nor
for the rough, stony ascents and descents, nor for the places where the
now swollen river had overflowed the track. The distance which Dolly's
slow old pony had taken five hours to traverse, this hard rider covered
in less than half the time. At one o'clock he reached Crumb's. It was
the first house in that direction after the village and its outskirts
had been left behind. Along the mile or two beyond it, farther towards
the west, were three smaller houses, and at one of the four he hoped to
find his wife. As he drew near Crumb's, he saw that the windows were
lighted. "They're here!" he said to himself, with a long breath of
relief. As he rode up to the porch, Portia, who had heard his horse's
footsteps, looked out.

"They're here?" he asked.

"Yes," answered Portia, "they be."

"And all right?"

"I reckon so, by this time. Mis' Chase, she was pretty well beat when
she first come; but she's asleep now, an' restin' well. And Miss Dolly,
she's asleep too."

Chase dismounted. "Can my horse be put up? Just call some one, will
you?"

"Well, Isrul Porter, who works here, has gone home," answered Mrs.
Crumb. "Arter Mis' Chase and Miss Dolly got yere, I sent Isrul arter
their pony, what they'd lef' in the woods more'n two miles off, an' he
'lowed, Isrul did, that he'd take him home with him for the night when
he found him, bekase the Porters's house is nearer than our'n to the
place where he was lef'. An' Dave, he ain't workin' ter-day; he's ailin'
a little. But _I_ kin see to yer hoss."

"Show a light and I'll do it myself," Chase answered, amused at the idea
of his leaving such work to a woman.

Portia returned to the kitchen, and came back with a burning brand of
pitch-pine, which gave out a bright flare. Carrying this as a torch, she
led the way to the stable, Chase following with the horse. "Your mare,
she's in yere erready," said the farmer's wife, pointing to Kentucky
Belle.

Then, as they went back to the house by the light of the flaring brand,
she asked whether she should go up and wake Ruth.

"Yes, and I'll go along; which room is it? Hold on, though; are you sure
my wife's asleep?"

"When I went up the minute before you come, she was, an' Miss Dolly
too."

"Well, then, I guess I won't disturb 'em just yet," said Chase, and he
went with Portia to her kitchen, where she brought forward her
rocking-chair for his use. "What time did they get here?" he inquired.

Portia, seating herself on a three-legged stool, told what she knew. As
she was finishing her story there came a growl from the dark end of the
long room, the end where the loom stood. "It's only Dave wakin' up," she
explained, and she hastened towards her husband. But as she did so he
roared "Coffee!" in impatient tones, and, hurrying back, she knelt down
and blew up the fire. "I'm comin', Dave; it's all ready," she called.
Then as she continued to work the bellows quickly she went on in a low
voice to Chase: "He'll stay awake now fer an hour or two. An' he'll be
talkin', an' takin' on, p'raps. Mebbe you'd ruther set in the best room
for a whilst? There's a fire; an' the stairs mount right up from there
to the room where yer wife's asleep, so you kin go up whenever you like.
Relse you might lay down yourself, without disturbin' 'em at all till
mawnin'. There's a good bed in the best room; none better."

"Coffee!" demanded the farmer a second time, and Portia quickly took the
cup, which stood waiting with sugar and cream already in it, and lifting
her pot from the coals, poured out the odorous beverage, the strong
coffee of Rio. Though she had an intense desire to be left alone with
"Dave," now that his precious waking-time had come, her inborn sense of
hospitality would never have permitted her to suggest that her guest
should leave her, if she had not believed with all her heart that her
best room was really a bower of beauty; she even had the feeling that
she ought to urge it a little, lest he should be unwilling to "use it
common." Chase, perceiving that she wished him to go, went softly out,
and, entering the bower, closed the door behind him. The fire was low.
He put on some pitch-pine splinters, and added wood; for, in spite of
his water-proof coat (which was now hanging before the fireplace in the
kitchen), his clothes were damp. He lifted the logs carefully, so as not
to waken the sleepers above; then he sat down and stretched out his legs
to the blaze. In spite of Portia's assertion that his wife was "all
right," he was very uneasy; he could scarcely keep himself from stealing
up to get a look at her. But sleeplessness had been for so long one of
her troubles that he knew it was far wiser to let her rest as long as
she could. One thought pleased him; it had pleased him since the moment
he heard it: her stealing off for a ride at dawn simply to tease Dolly.
That certainly looked as if she must be much stronger than she had been
when he left her. It was an escapade worthy of the days when she had
been the frolicking Ruth Franklin. On the other hand loomed up the
results of this freak of hers, namely, her having been out so long in
the storm. Portia's expression, "pretty well beat when she first
come"--that was not encouraging. Thus he weighed the possibilities,
sitting there with his chair tilted back, his eyes fixed on the reviving
flame. He knew that he could not sleep until he had seen her. Portia's
"best bed," therefore, did not tempt him. In addition, he wished to wait
for the carriage, in order to contrive some sort of shelter for it, and
to assist in putting up the horses, since there was no one else to do
it. After a while, with his hands clasped behind his head, he moved his
chair a little and looked vaguely round the room. Everything was the
same as when he had paid his former visit there during the excursion
which he had made over the Great Smoky Mountains with the Franklins and
poor Jared. The red patch-work quilt was spread smoothly over the bed;
the accordion was on the mantel-piece, flanked by the vase whose design
was a pudgy hand holding a cornucopia; on the wall was the long row of
smirking fashion-plates. This means of entertainment, however, was soon
exhausted, and after a while he took some memoranda from his pocket,
and, bending forward towards the fire, began to look them over.

He had been thus engaged for nearly half an hour when a door opened
behind him, and Dolly Franklin came in.

She had no idea that he was there. The bedroom above, whose flight of
steep stairs she had just descended, possessed windows only towards the
river; and the second-story floors of the old house were so thick that
no sound from below could penetrate them. She had not therefore heard
Chase ride up on the other side; she had not distinguished any sounds in
the kitchen.

He jumped up when he saw her. "I'm _mighty_ glad you've come down,
Dolly. I've been afraid to disturb her. Is she awake?"

Dolly closed the door behind her. "No; she is sleeping soundly. I
wouldn't go up just now if I were you. A good sleep is what she needs
most of all."

"All right; I'll wait. But how in the world came she to be out so long
in the rain, and you too? That's the part I don't understand."

Dolly's heart had stood still when she saw her brother-in-law. "I'll sit
here for a while," she suggested, in order to gain time. "Will you
please pull forward that chair--the one in the corner? I had no idea you
were here. I only came down for the pillows from this bed; they are
better than those upstairs." While she was getting out these words her
quick mind had flown back to L'Hommedieu, and to the impression which
she had left behind her there, carefully arranged and left as
explanation of their absence. The explanation had been intended for any
of their friends who might happen to come to the house during the day.
But it would do equally well for Horace Chase, and Félicité could be
safely trusted to have repeated it to him within five minutes after his
unexpected arrival! For Félicité was not fond of Miss Dora Franklin. The
idea that her young mistress had gone off for a ride at daylight would
be an immense delight to the Frenchwoman, not for the expedition itself
(such amusements in a country so "sauvage" being beyond her
comprehension), but for the annoyance to mademoiselle--mademoiselle
whose watchfulness over everything that concerned her sister (even her
sister's maid) was so insupportably oppressive. Their start, therefore,
Dolly reflected, both Ruth's at dawn and her own a little later, was
probably in a measure accounted for in Horace Chase's mind. But as
regarded the hours in the rain, what could she invent about that? For
Portia had evidently described Ruth's exhaustion and their wet clothes.
She had seated herself by the fire; arrayed in one of the shapeless
dresses of her hostess, with her hair braided and hanging down her back,
her plain face looked plainer than ever. Worn out though she was, she
had not been asleep even for a moment; she had been sitting by the
bedside watching her sister. Ruth had lain motionless, with her head
thrown back lifelessly, her breathing scarcely perceptible. Whenever
Portia had peeped in (and the farmer's wife had stolen softly up the
stairs three times) Dolly had pretended to be asleep; and she knew that
Portia would think that Ruth also was sleeping. But Ruth was not asleep.
And Dolly's mind was filled with apprehension. What would follow this
apathy?

"As I understand it, Ruthie took a notion to go off for a ride at
daybreak," Horace Chase began, "and then, after breakfast, you followed
her. How did you know which way she went? I suppose you asked. But she
left her mare here as early as half-past eight this morning, the woman
of the house tells me, and you yourself got here at two; what happened
afterwards? How came you to stay out in the rain? Unless you got lost, I
don't see what you were about."

"We _were_ lost for a while," answered Dolly, who had now arranged her
legend. "But that was afterwards. Our staying out was my fault, or,
rather, my misfortune." She put out her feet and warmed them calmly.
"After I drove on from here, I didn't find Ruth for some time. When at
last I came upon her, we took our lunch together, and then I tied the
pony to a tree and we strolled off through the woods, picking up the
colored leaves. Suddenly I had one of my attacks. And it must have been
a pretty bad one, for it lasted a long time. How long I don't know; but
when I came to myself it was dark. Ruth, of course, couldn't carry me,
poor child. And she wouldn't leave me. So there we stayed in the rain.
And when finally I was able to move, it took us ages to get here, for
not only was I obliged to walk slowly, but it was so dark that we
couldn't find the road. I am all right now. But meanwhile _she_ is
dreadfully used up."

Here, from the kitchen, came the sound of Portia's gentle voice:

    "When _shell_ these eyes thy heavenly walls
     An' peerly gates behold?
     Thy buildin's with salvation strong,
     An' streets of shinin' gold?
     An'-an' streets of shi-i-_nin_' gold!"

"Crumb has arrived at his religious stage, and his wife is celebrating,"
commented Dolly. "He goes through them all in regular succession every
time he is drunk. Obstinacy. Savagery. Lethargy. And then, finally,
Repentance, for he isn't one of those unimportant just persons who need
none."

Chase glanced at her with inward disfavor; cynicism in a woman was
extremely unpleasant to him. His mental comment, after she had explained
their adventures, had been: "Well, if _Dolly_ had let the whole job
alone, none of this would have happened; Ruth would have had her lark
out and come home all right, and that would have been the end of it. But
Dolly must needs have _her_ finger in the pie, and out she goes. Then of
course she gets sick, and the end is that instead of her seeing to Ruth,
Ruth has to see to her." But he kept these reflections to himself. He
brought forward instead the idea that was important to him: "Isn't it a
pretty good sign she's better, that she _wanted_ to go off for a ride in
that way? It's like the things she used to do when I first knew her.
Don't you remember how she stayed out so long that cold, windy night
without her hat, talking with Malachi Hill over the back fence about his
Big Moose masquerade? And how she even went on, bareheaded and in the
dark, half across the village to find Achilles Larue and get him to
come, so that she could tease Miss Billy?" He gave a short laugh over
the remembrance. "I cannot help thinking, Dolly, that she isn't half as
sick as you made out; in fact, I've never thought she was, though I've
more or less fallen in with your idea of giving her a change. I _had_
made arrangements to start for New York to-morrow morning, so as to hit
the Cunarder of Wednesday. But, as things have turned out, I don't know
that we need pull up stakes so completely, after all. She's evidently
better."

For one instant Dolly thought. Then she spoke: "No, carry out your plan.
Take her away to-morrow morning just as you intended. Even if she _is_
somewhat stronger (though I think you'll find that she isn't), she needs
a change." She said this decidedly. But the decision was for her own
sake; it was an effort to make herself believe, by the sound of the
spoken words, that this course would still be possible. "It _shall_ be
possible," she resolved in her own mind.

"Well, I guess I won't decide till I see her," Chase answered. "Perhaps
she's awake by this time?"

Dolly got up quickly. "I will go and see; my step is lighter than yours.
If I do not come back, that will mean that she is still asleep, and that
I think it best not to disturb her. The moment she does wake, however,
I will come and call you. Will that do?"

"All right," said Chase, briefly, a second time. He did not especially
enjoy the prospect of several years in Europe. But at least it would be
agreeable to have his wife to himself, with no Dolly to meddle and
dictate.

After she had gone, he sat expectant for nearly fifteen minutes. But she
did not return; Ruth evidently had not wakened. He rose, gave a stretch,
and, going to the window, raised the curtain and looked out. The rain
was pouring down; there was no sign of the carriage; it was so dark that
he could not see even the nearest trees. Dropping the curtain again, he
walked about the room for a while. Then he started to go to the kitchen,
to see how his wet coat was coming on; but remembering Portia's vigil
(which nothing could have induced him to break in upon, now that he
understood its nature), he stopped. He looked at all the simpering
ladies of the fashion-plates, ladies whose bodies were formed on the
model which seems to be peculiar to such publications, and to exist only
for them; he lifted the vase and inspected it a third time; he even
tried the accordion softly. Finally he sat down by the fire, and, taking
out his memoranda again, he went back to business calculations.

Dolly had gone swiftly up the stairs and along the entry which led to
the bedroom. Ruth was lying just as she had left her, with her eyes
shut, her head thrown back. Dolly closed the door and locked it; then
she came and leaned over her.

"Ruth, do you hear me?"

"Yes," answered Ruth, mechanically.

Dolly sat down by the side of the bed and drew her sister towards her.

"I have something to tell you," she whispered. "Your husband is
down-stairs."

Ruth did not start. After a moment she opened her eyes and turned them
slowly towards her sister.

"He came home unexpectedly," Dolly went on, in the same low tone. "He
reached L'Hommedieu this evening, and when they told him that we had not
returned he had inquiries made as to the road we had taken, and came
down here himself on horseback. At L'Hommedieu, Ruth, they think that
you slipped out at dawn for a ride, just to play me a trick, because I
have watched you so closely about your health lately that you were out
of all patience. I let them think this; or, rather, I made them think
it. And they have repeated it to your husband, who accepts it just as
they did. The only thing he could not understand was why we stayed out
so long in the storm, for Portia had evidently told him how late it was
when we came in, and how exhausted you looked. So I have just said that
after I found you we had our lunch together, and then, after tying the
pony to a tree, we strolled through the woods, picking up the colored
leaves. Suddenly one of my attacks came on, and it was a bad attack; I
was unconscious for a long time. You wouldn't leave me; and so there we
had to stay in the rain. When at last I could walk I had to come slowly.
And we couldn't find the road for a long while--it was so dark. All this
seems to him perfectly natural, Ruth; he suspects nothing. The only
point he is troubled about is your health--how that will come out after
the exposure. He is sitting by the fire down-stairs waiting for you to
wake, for I told him you were asleep. And here is something supremely
fortunate: his plan is to take you off to New York to-morrow morning, to
hit the Wednesday's Cunard steamer for Liverpool. He has had this idea
for some weeks--the idea of going abroad. That was the reason he went
away--to make ready. He didn't tell you about it, because he thought he
would take you by surprise. And he still hopes to sail on Wednesday,
provided you are well enough, it isn't to be a flying trip this time; he
is willing to stay over there for years if you like. Now, Ruth, listen
to me. You _must_ go. You need make no effort of any kind; just let
yourself slip on from day to day, passively. There is nothing difficult
about that. If there were, I should not ask you to do it, for I know you
could never play a part. But here there is no part; you need do no more
than you always have done. That has never been much, for from the first
the devotion has been on his side, not on yours, and he will expect no
more. Now try to sleep a little, and then at sunrise I will let him come
up. When he comes you needn't talk; you can say you are too tired to
talk. He is so uneasy about your health that he will fall in with
anything. Don't think about it any more. The whole thing's settled."

Suiting her actions to her words, Dolly rearranged the coverlet over her
sister, and then, rising, she began to make a screen before the fire
with two chairs and a blanket, so that its light should not fall across
the bed. While she was thus engaged she heard a sound, and, turning her
head, she saw that Ruth was getting up.

"What is it?" she said, going to her. "Do you want anything?"

"Where are my clothes?" Ruth asked. She was sitting on the edge of the
bed, her bare feet resting on the rag mat by its side.

"Portia is drying them. She left some of her things on that chair for
you. But don't get up now; the night isn't anywhere near over."

Ruth went to the chair where lay the garments, coarse but clean; she
unbuttoned her night-gown (also one of Portia's). Then her strength
failed, and she sank down on the chair. "Come back to bed," said Dolly,
urgently.

Ruth let her head rest on the chair-back for a moment or two. Then she
said: "I won't try to dress; I don't feel strong enough. But please get
me some stockings and shoes, and a shawl. That will be enough."

"Are you tired of the bed? I can make you comfortable in that chair by
the fire, then," Dolly answered. "Here are stockings. And shoes,
too--Portia's. But I'm afraid they will drop off!" Kneeling down, she
drew on the stockings, and then Ruth, rising, stepped into the shoes.
Dolly went to spread a blanket over the chair, and while she was thus
engaged Ruth, seeing a homespun dress of Portia's hanging from a peg,
took it and put it on over her night-gown.

"You need not have done that," commented Dolly; "here is a second
blanket to wrap you up in."

But Ruth was going towards the door. Dolly hurried after her and caught
her arm. "You are not going down? What for?"

"I don't know," answered Ruth, vaguely. Then, with quickened breath, she
added, "Yes, I _do_ know; I am going to tell--tell what I did." She was
panting a little; Dolly could hear the sound.

The elder sister held her tightly. But Ruth did not struggle, she stood
passive. "What are you going to tell?" Dolly asked, sternly. "What _is_
there to tell? You took a ride; you walked in the forest; you stood in a
thicket; you came back. That is all. No one saw you; no one on earth
knows anything more. And there _was_ nothing more, save in thought. Your
thoughts are your own affair, you are not required to tell them; it
would be a strange world indeed if we had to tell all our thoughts! In
your _acts_ as it has turned out, there has been nothing wrong. Leave it
so, then. Let it rest."

Ruth did not reply. But in her clouded eyes Dolly thought she read
refusal. "Ruth, let me judge for you," she pleaded. "Could I possibly
advise you to do anything that was not your best course? Your very best?
If you force an account of your inward feelings upon your husband--who
does not ask for them or want them--you destroy his happiness, you make
him wretched. Don't you care for that? If I have never liked him--and I
may as well confess that I never have--at least I know his devotion to
you. If you tell, therefore, tell so unnecessarily, it will be a great
cruelty. Think of all he did for mother! Of all he did and tried to do
for Jared!"

Two tears welled up in Ruth's eyes. But she did not speak.

"And then there is another thing," Dolly went on. "If he knows the
truth, all the good in him will be changed to bitterness. And, besides,
he will be very harsh to you, Ruth; he will be brutal; and he will even
think that it is right that he should be so. For those are the ideas
of--of some people about wives who go wrong." To the woman who had
married Horace Chase Dolly could say no more. But if she had spoken out
all that was in her heart, her phrase would have been, "For those are
the ideas of common people about wives who go wrong." (For to Dolly,
Horace Chase's commonness--or what seemed to her commonness--had always
been the insupportable thing.) But what she was saying now about her
dread of his possible brutality was not in the least a fiction invented
to influence Ruth; she had in reality the greatest possible dread of it.

Ruth, however, seemed either to have no fears at all, or else she was
all fear--fear that had reached the stage of torpor.

"Think of _this_, too," urged Dolly, finally. "If you tell, have you the
slightest idea that your husband will be able to keep himself from
breaking off instantly all relations with the Willoughbys--with the
uncles as well as the nephew? And do you want Walter Willoughby to
suspect--as he certainly would suspect--the cause? Do you wish this
young fellow who has merely played with you, who from the beginning has
amused himself at your expense, and, no doubt, laughed at you over and
over again--do you wish him to have a fresh joke at the sight of your
imbittered husband's jealousy? Is he to tell the whole story to Marion
Barclay? And have _her_ laughing also at your hopeless passion for
him?--at the way you have thrown yourself at his head? If you are
silent, not only will your husband be saved from all his wretchedness,
but Walter Willoughby will have no story to tell!"

For answer, Ruth gave a moan of physical weakness; she did not try to
free herself from her sister's hold; she stood motionless, her figure
drooping, her eyes closed. "Dolly," she murmured, "if you keep on
opposing me--and my strength won't hold out very long--you will end by
preventing it, preventing my telling. But there is something you won't
be able to prevent: I am so tired that I want to die! And I shouldn't
be afraid of _that_; I mean, finding a way."

Dolly's hands dropped.

And then Ruth, after a moment more of delay, pushed back the bolt,
passed along the entry, and began to go down the dark stairs. She went
slowly, a step at a time. A step; then a hesitation; then another step.
Finally she reached the bottom, and opened the door.

Her descent had been noiseless; it was not until her hand touched the
latch that Chase turned his head. When he saw her, he sprang up. "_You_,
Ruthie!" he exclaimed, delightedly, as she entered, followed, after a
moment, by the frightened, wretched Dolly. "Are you well enough to be
up?" He put his arm round her and kissed her. "Come to the fire."

But Ruth drew herself away; she moved off to a little distance. "Wait; I
have something to tell you," she answered.

"At any rate, sit down," Chase responded, bringing the best arm-chair
and placing it before her. He had had a long experience regarding her
changing caprices; he never disputed them.

But she did not seat herself; she only leaned on the back of the chair,
her hands grasping its top. "I did not take that ride this morning for
the reason you think," she began. "I was going to Walter Willoughby; I
knew he was at The Lodge."

"Well, then, I wish you hadn't," replied Chase. He looked annoyed, but
not angry. "Fellows like Walter are conceited enough without that sort
of thing. If you wanted to see him, you could have sent a note, asking
him to come to L'Hommedieu. Or Dolly could have written it for you; that
would have been the best way. But don't stand there; sit down."

Ruth took a fresh grasp of the chair. "You do not comprehend," she said,
her voice showing how little strength she had. But though she was weak
physically, there was no nervousness; she was perfectly calm. "You do
not comprehend. I was going to him because I loved him, Horace. I have
loved him for a long time. I loved him so that I _had_ to go!"

As she said this her husband's face changed--changed in a way that was
pitiful to see. He looked stunned, stricken.

"I did not mean to," Ruth went on. "I did not know what it was at first.
And then--it was too late. I thought he loved me; I was sure of it. And
so--I went to him."

Dolly, hurrying forward, laid her hand restrainingly on Chase's wrist.
"He didn't see her, no one saw her. And she did no harm, no harm
whatever."

But Chase shook Dolly off with a motion of his shoulder. Ruth, too, paid
no heed to her sister; she looked straight at her husband, not
defiantly, but drearily; she went on with her tale almost mechanically,
and with the same desperate calmness as before. "So I went to him; I
left my horse here, and went up through the woods. But he had Marion
Barclay there; I saw her. And I saw his face, the expression of his
face, as he talked to her; it is Marion he loves!"

"I could have told you that. At least I could have told you that he has
been trying to get that girl for a long time," said Chase, bitterly.
"But there was nothing in that to hold him back as regards _you_. And it
hasn't held him back; it hasn't prevented him from--But he shall answer
for this! Answer to _me_." The rage in his face was deep; his eyes
gleamed; his hands were clinched. Dolly turned cold. "He will _kill_
Walter," she thought. "Oh, what will he do to Ruth?"

Ruth had left her chair; she came and stood before her husband. "He
isn't to blame, Horace. I would tell you if he were; I should like to
see Marion Barclay suffer! But if you go to him, he will only laugh at
you, and with reason; for he has never cared for me, and he has never
even pretended to care; I see that now. It is _I_ who have been in love
with _him_. It began that first winter we spent in Florida," she went
on. She had returned to her place behind the chair, and her eyes were
again fixed upon her husband's face. "And when he told me, suddenly,
that he was going to California, going for years, I could not breathe.
Then, when Jared died, and mother died, and you were so good to me, I
tried to forget him. But as soon as I saw him again I knew that it was
of no use--no sort of use!"

"You'll never make me believe that _he_ did nothing all this time," said
Chase, savagely. "That he didn't profit--that he didn't take
advantage--"

But Ruth shook her head. "No. Perhaps he amused himself a little. Once
or twice he said a few words. But that was all. And even this was called
out by me--by _my_ love. Left to himself, he always drew back, he always
stopped. But _I_--I never did! You must believe me about this--I mean
about its having been _my_ doing. How can I make you believe it? If I
say that by my mother's memory, by Jared's, what I have told you is
true, will you believe it then? Very well; I _do_ say so." Exhausted,
she put her face down upon her hands on the top of the chair-back.

The firelight, which was now brilliant, had revealed her clearly. Her
figure in the homespun dress looked wasted; in her face there was now no
beauty, the irregularity of its outlines was conspicuous, the bright
color was gone, the eyes were dull and dead.

Something in her bowed head touched Chase keenly. A memory of her as she
was when he married her came before him, the radiant young creature who
had given herself to him so willingly and so joyously.

"Ruthie, we'll forget it," he said, in a changed voice. "I was too old
for you, I am afraid. I ought not to have asked you to marry me. But
it's done now, past mending, and we must make the best of it. But we'll
begin all over again, my poor little girl." For his wife had always
seemed to him a child, an impulsive, lovely child; a little spoiled, no
doubt, but enchantingly sweet and dear. Her affection for him, as far as
it went, had been sincere; he had comprehended that from the beginning.
And alluring though she was to him in her young beauty, he would not
have married her without it; her consent, even her willing consent,
would not have been enough. And now it seemed to him that he could go
back to that girlish liking, that he could foster it and draw it out. He
had not protected her from her own fancies, he had not guarded her or
guided her. Now he would make her more a part of his life; he would no
longer think of her as a child.

He had come to her as he spoke. This time she did not draw herself away;
but, looking at him with the same fixed gaze, she went on. She had been
speaking slowly, but now her words came pouring forth in a flood as
though she felt that it was the only way in which she could get them
spoken at all; each brief phrase was hurried out with a quick pant.

"Oh, you don't understand. You think it was a fancy. But it wasn't, it
wasn't; I _loved_ him! I was going to stay with him forever. I would
have gone to the ends of the earth with him. I would never have asked a
question. I hadn't the least hesitation; you mustn't think that I had. I
sang to myself as I rode out here, I was so happy and glad. I didn't
care what became of you; I didn't even think of you. If he had been
alone at The Lodge, I should have gone straight into his arms. And you
might have come in, and I shouldn't have minded; I shouldn't even have
known you were there! From the moment I started, you were nothing to
me--nothing; you didn't exist! I am as guilty as a woman can be. I had
every intention, every inclination. What was lacking was _his_ will; but
never mine! It was only twelve hours ago. I haven't changed in that
time. The only change is that now I know he doesn't care for _me_. I
would have accepted anything--yes, anything. It was only twelve hours
ago, and if he _had_ been alone at The Lodge, whether he really loved me
or not, he would not have--turned me out."

"No; damn him!" answered Chase.

"And _I_ should have been glad to stay," Ruth concluded, inflexibly.

Her husband turned away. It was a strong man's anguish. He sat down by
the fire, his face covered by his hands.

Into the pause there now came again the strains of Portia's hymn in the
kitchen--that verse about "the peerly gates" which she was hopefully
singing a second time to Dave. Then, in the silence that followed, the
room seemed filled with the rushing sound of the rain.

Ruth had remained motionless. "I shall never be any better," she went on
with the same desperation; "I wish you to understand me just as I really
am. I might even do it a second time; I don't know. You may make
whatever arrangements you like about me; I agree to all in advance. And
now--I'll go." Turning, she went towards the door of the stairway, the
pale Dolly joining her in silence.

Then Horace Chase got up. His face showed how profoundly he had
suffered; it was changed, changed for life. "After all this that you've
told me, Ruth, I don't press myself upon you--I never shall again; I
_couldn't;_ that's ended. You haven't got any father or mother, and
you're very young yet; so I shall have to see to you for the present.
But it can be done from a distance, and that's the way I'll fix it. You
mustn't think I don't feel this thing because I don't say much. It just
about kills me! But as to condemning, coming down on you out and out, I
don't do it, I haven't got the cheek! Who am I that I should dare to?
Have I been so faultless myself that I have any right to judge _you?_"
And as he said this, his rugged face had, for the moment, an expression
that was striking in its beauty; its mixture of sorrow, honesty, and
grandeur.

Ruth gazed at him. Then she gave an inarticulate entreating cry, and ran
to him.

But she was so weak that she fell, and Dolly rushed forward.

Horace Chase put Dolly aside--put her aside forever. He lifted his wife
in his arms, and silently bent his head over hers as it lay on his
breast.

THE END

       *       *       *       *       *

BY CONSTANCE F. WOOLSON.

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       *       *       *       *       *

The following typographical error was corrected by the etext
transcriber:

Two woman joined them=>Two women joined them





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