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Title: A Virginia Cousin & Bar Harbor Tales
Author: Harrison, Mrs Burton
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Transcriber's Note:

  Inconsistent hyphenation and spelling in the original document have
  been preserved. Obvious typographical errors have been corrected.

  Italic text is denoted by _underscores_.

  On page 16, "bran-new" may be a typo for "brand-new".



  [Illustration: Constance Cary Harrison]



     A Virginia Cousin
     & Bar Harbor
     Tales

     _By_
     Mrs Burton Harrison

     M D CCC XCV

     Lamson Wolffe and Co.
     Boston and New York

     Copyright, 1895,
     By Lamson, Wolffe, & Co

     All rights reserved



Note by the Author


The little story "A Virginia Cousin," here put into print for the
first time, is in some sort a tribute offered by a long-exiled child
of the South to her native soil. It is also a transcript of certain
phases of that life in the metropolis which has been pooh-poohed by
some critics as trivially undeserving of a chronicler, but fortunate
hitherto in finding a few readers willing to concede as much humanity
to the "heroine in satin" as to the "confidante in linen."

Of the other contents of this volume, "Out of Season" made its first
appearance some time ago in _Two Tales_, and "On Frenchman's Bay" was
published in _The Cosmopolitan Magazine_.

     C. C. H.

     NEW YORK,
     _November, 1895_



A Virginia Cousin


Chapter I

Mr. Theodore Vance Townsend awoke to the light of a spring morning in
New York, feeling at odds with the world. The cause for this state of
variance with existing circumstances was not at sight apparent. He was
young, good-looking, well-born, well-mannered, and, to support these
claims to favorable consideration, had come into the fortunes of a
father and two maiden aunts,--a piece of luck that had, however, not
secured for him the unqualified approbation of his fellow-citizens.

Joined to the fact that, upon first leaving college, some years
before, he had led a few _cotillons_ at New York balls, his wealth and
leisure had brought upon Townsend the reproach of the metropolitan
press to the extent that nothing short of his committing suicide would
have induced it to look upon anything he did as in earnest.

With an inherited love of letters, he had dabbled in literature so far
as to write and publish a book of verse, of fair merit, which,
however, had been received with tumultuous rhapsodies of satire by the
professional critics. The style and title of "Laureate of the 400,"
applied in this connection, had indeed clung to him and made life
hateful in his sight. To escape it and the other rubs of unoccupied
solvency, he had made many journeys into foreign countries, had gone
around the globe, and, in due course, had always come to the surface
in New York again, with a sort of doglike attachment to the place of
his birth that would not wear away.

Of the society he was familiar with, Vance was profoundly weary. Of
domestic ties, he had only a sister, married to a rich banker, and in
possession of a fine new house, whose tapestries and electric lighting
occupied all her thoughts and conversation that could be spared for
things indoors. Away from home, Mrs. Clifton was continually on the
wing, attending to the demands of philanthropy or charity, and to
cultivation of the brain in classes of women of incomes equal to her
own. Whenever her brother dined with her, she entertained him with a
voluble flow of conversation about these women and their affairs,
never failing, however, to exhibit her true sisterly feeling by
telling Vance that she could not see why in the world he did not marry
Kitty Ainger and settle down.

By dint of much iteration, this suggestion of Kitty Ainger as a wife
had come to take languid possession of the young man's brain. Besides,
he liked Miss Ainger as well as admired her, and was perhaps more
content in her company than in that of anybody else he knew.

On the spring morning in question, he had awaked in a flood of
sunshine and fresh air that poured through the open windows of his
room. His cold bath, his simple breakfast, his ride in the Park,
brought his sensations of physical well-being to a point that almost
excited his spirits to strike a balance of youthful cheerfulness. He
forgot his oppressive belongings, the obloquy they had conferred upon
him in the minds of men who make public opinion about others as
citizens, his unreasonable stagnation of ambition.

As he cantered along the equestrian byways of the Park, and felt,
without noting, the stir of new life in nature, he grew light of heart
and buoyant. And as this condition increased, his thoughts
crystallized around the image of Katherine Ainger. She, too, loved her
morning ride; no doubt he should meet her presently. He had not seen
her since Thursday of last week, when he had taken her in to dinner at
Mrs. Cartwright's; and he had a vague idea she had resented him a
little on that occasion. Her talk had been a trifle baffling, her eyes
evasive. But she had worn a stunning gown, and was by all odds the
best-looking woman of the lot. How well she sat at table, by the way!
What an admirable figure for a man who would be forced to entertain,
to place at the head of his board in perpetuity!

Their families, too, had always known each other. And she was so
uncommonly level-headed and sensible! Agreeable, too; no whims, no
fancies. He had never heard of her being ill for a day. As to temper
and disposition, they matched all the rest. She had never flirted;
and, marrying at twenty-six a husband of twenty-nine, she would give
him no possible anxiety on that score.

Yes, his sister was right; everybody was right. Miss Ainger was the
mate designed for him by heaven; and he had been a fool to dawdle so
long in making up his mind to accept the fact.

As the sunshine warmed him, and his horse forged along with a
beautiful even stride beneath him, Vance worked up to a degree of
enthusiasm he had not felt since he played on a winning football
eleven in a college game. That very day he would seek her and ask her
to be his wife. They would be married as soon as she was willing, and
would go away in the yacht somewhere and learn to love each other. He
would have an aim, a home, a stake in the community. At thirty years
of age, he should be found no longer in dalliance with time to make it
pass away.

Vance, enamored of these visions, finished the circuit of the Park
without seeing the central object of them, with whom he had resolved
to make an appointment to receive him at home that afternoon. He rode
back to the stable where he kept his horse, left it there, and,
getting into an elevated car, went down-town to visit his lawyer,
going with that gentleman afterwards into the stately halls of the
Lawyers' Club for luncheon.

At a table near him, Vance saw, sitting alone, a man named Crawford,
whom he had met casually and knew for a hardworking and ambitious
junior member of the New York bar. They exchanged nods, and Vance
fancied that Crawford looked at him with a scrutiny more close than
the occasion warranted.

"You know Crawford, then?" said Mr. Gleason, an old friend of Vance's
father. "He began work with our firm, but had an offer for a
partnership in a year or two, and left us. He's a tremendous fellow to
grind, but is beginning to reap the benefit of it in making a name for
himself. If that fellow had a little capital, there is nothing he
could not do, in this community. He has never been abroad, has had no
pleasures of society, leads a scrupulously regular life, drinks no
liquors or wines of any kind, and is in bed by twelve o'clock every
night of his life. His only indulgence is to buy books, with which his
lodgings overflow. We have always supposed him to be a woman-hater,
until latterly, when straws seem to show that the wind blows for him
from a point of sentiment. He was in the Adirondacks last summer, in
camp with a friend, and I've an idea he met his fate then. After all,
Vance, my dear boy, marriage is the goal man runs for, be he what he
may. It will develop John Crawford, just as it would develop you, in
the right direction; and I heartily wish you would tell me when you
intend to succumb to the universal fate, and fall in love."

"I heartily wish I could," said Vance, with a tinge of the mockery he
had that morning put aside.

At that moment, Crawford, who had finished his luncheon, passed their
table, hat in hand, bowing and smiling as he did so. A waiter,
jostling by, made him loosen his hold of the hat, a rather shabby
light-brown Derby, that rolled under Vance Townsend's feet. It was
lifted by Vance and restored to its owner before the waiter could
reach the spot; and again Vance thought he detected a look of
significance, incomprehensible to him, in the frank eyes Crawford
turned upon him as he expressed his thanks.

"It would have been a benefit to Crawford's friends to have
accidentally put your foot through that hat," said Mr. Gleason,
laughing. "He is accused by them of having worn it ever since he was
admitted to the bar. But then, who thinks of clothes, with a real man
inside of them? And no doubt the girl they say he is going to marry
will right these trifling matters in short order."

"I like Crawford; I must see more of him," replied Vance. "He strikes
me as the fellow to pass a pleasant evening with. I wonder if he would
come to dine with me."

"If you bait your invitation with an offer to show your first
editions, no doubt of it," said Mr. Gleason. "But to go back to our
conversation, Vance. When are we to--"

"I decline to answer," interrupted the young man, smiling,
nevertheless, in such a way that Mr. Gleason built up a whole
structure of probabilities upon that single smile.

Yes, Vance decided, everything conspired to urge him toward his
intended venture that afternoon. When, about four o'clock, he turned
his steps in the direction of Miss Ainger's home, he had reached a
pitch of very respectably loverlike anxiety. He even fancied the day
had been unusually long. He caught himself speculating as to where she
would be sitting in the drawing-room, how she would look when he laid
his future in her hands.

At that moment, he allowed himself to remember a series of occasions
during the years of their friendship, upon any one of which he
believed he might have spoken as he now meant to speak, and that she
would have answered as he now expected her to answer. Ah! what had he
not lost? In her gentle, equable companionship, he would have been a
better, a higher, a less discontented fellow. All the virtues,
charms, desirable qualities, of this fine and high-bred young woman,
who had been more patient, more forgiving, than he deserved, were
concentrated into one small space of thought, like the Lord's Prayer
engraved upon a tiny coin. But even as his foot touched the lowest
step of her father's portal, he experienced a shock of doubt of
himself and of his own stability. He tarried; he turned away, and
strolled, whither he knew not.

In the adjoining street lived Mrs. Myrtle, an aunt of his, to whom, it
must be said, Vance rarely paid the deference considered by that
excellent lady her just due. She inhabited the brown-stone dwelling in
which, as a bride, she had gone to housekeeping when New York society
was still within limits of visitors on foot. Not that that made any
difference to Mrs. Myrtle, who had always kept her carriage, and had,
about twenty years back, been cited as a leader of the metropolitan
_beau monde_.

In those days, whether on wheels or a-foot, everybody went to Mrs.
Myrtle's Thursdays. Her spacious drawing-rooms, papered in crimson
flock paper, with their massive doors and mouldings and mirror-frames
and curtain-tops of ebonized wood with gold scroll decorations, their
furniture in the same wood, with red satin damask coverings, had, in
their time, contained the elect of good society. The pictures upon
Mrs. Myrtle's walls, and the statuary scattered on pedestals about the
rooms, were then quoted by the newspapers, and by those so favored as
to see them, as a rare display of the highest art, accumulated by an
American householder. One of the earliest affronts of many
unintentionally put upon his aunt by Vance had been his contemptuous
shrug of the shoulders when called upon by her, shortly after his
return from his first winter spent in Italy, to view her "statuary."

Since then, Mrs. Myrtle had, little by little, come to a perception of
the fact that her "art collection" was not, any more than its
mistress, an object of the first importance to New York. But Vance had
been always associated in her mind with the incipient stages of
enlightenment, and she loved him accordingly. Her love for Vance's
sister, Mrs. Clifton, who refused to pay her tribute, and belonged to
the new "smart set," was even less.

Upon Mrs. Myrtle, Vance now resolved to pay a long-deferred duty-call.
Admitted by an old negro butler, he was left alone in the large
darkling drawing-room, in the shade of the crimson curtains, amid the
ghostly ranks of the statues, to ruminate until Mrs. Myrtle should
make her appearance. Little thought did he bestow upon the duration of
this ordeal. He was well occupied, and, for once in his life, heartily
ashamed,----first, of his indecision upon the Ainger door-steps, and,
secondly, of the fact that he had put in here to gain courage to
return there.

Mrs. Myrtle's heavy tread upon her own parquet floor aroused him from
meditation. His aunt was a massive lady, who wore black velvet, with a
neck-ruff of old point-lace; who, never pretty, and no longer pleasant
to look upon, yet carried herself with a certain ease born of
assurance in her own place in life, and cultivated by many years of
receiving visitors. Her small white hand, twinkling with diamonds,
was extended to him with something of the grand air he remembered his
mother, who was the beauty of her family, to have possessed; and then
Mrs. Myrtle, seating herself, fixed an unsmiling gaze upon her nephew.

"I--ah--thought I would look in and see how you are getting on," he
said, with an attempt at jocularity.

"But it is not Thursday," she answered, cold as before. "I make it a
point to see no one except on Thursday, or after five. And it is not
yet after five."

Townsend, who could not dispute this fact, was at a loss how to go on.
But Mrs. Myrtle, having put things upon the right footing, launched at
once into an exposition of her grievances against him, his sister, and
the ruling society of latter-day New York.

"I am sure if any one had told your mother and me, when we first came
out, what people were to push _us_ against the wall, and to have all
New York racing and tearing after their invitations, we should never
have believed it. It's enough to make your poor mother come back from
the dead, to revise Anita Clifton's visiting-list. And I suppose the
next thing to hear of will be your marriage into one of these bran-new
families. I must say, Theodore, although it is seldom my opinion is
listened to, I _was_ pleased when I heard, the other day, that you
were reported engaged to Katherine Ainger. The Aingers are of our own
sort; and her fortune, although it is not so important to you, will be
handsome. She is one of the few girls who go much into the world who
still remember to come to see me; and she has been lunching here
to-day."

"Really?" said Vance, turning over his hat in what he felt to be a
most perfunctory way.

"Yes; if you or Anita Clifton had been here in the last two months,
you might have found out that I have had a young lady--a Southern
cousin--stopping in the house."

"A cousin of mine?" queried the young man, indifferently.

"My first cousin's daughter, Evelyn Carlyle. You know there was a
break between the families about the beginning of the war, and, for
one reason or another, we have hardly met since. When I went to the
Hot Springs for my rheumatism last year,--you and Anita Clifton
doubtless are not aware that I have been a great sufferer from
rheumatism,--I stopped a night or two at Colonel Carlyle's house in
Virginia, and took rather a fancy to this girl. I found out that she
has a voice, and desired to cultivate it in New York, and so invited
her to come on after Christmas and stay in my house."

Vance was conscious of a slight feeling of somnolence. Really, he
could not be expected to care for the Virginian cousin's voice. And
Aunt Myrtle had such a soporific way of drawling out her sentences! He
wished she would return to the subject of her luncheon-guest, and
then, perhaps, he might manage to keep awake.

"So you invited Miss Ainger to-day, to keep the young lady company?"
he ventured to observe.

"If you will give me time to explain, I will tell you that Katherine
Ainger and she have struck up the greatest friendship this winter,
and have been together part of every day. I wish, Vance, that you
could bring yourself to extend some attention to your mother's first
cousin's child. From Anita Clifton I expect nothing--absolutely
nothing. Not belonging to the 'smart set,' whatever that may be, I
make no demands upon Anita Clifton. But you, Vance, have not yet shown
that you are absolutely heartless. When Eve goes home, as she soon
will, it would be gratifying to have her able to say you had
recognized her existence."

"I will leave a card for the young lady in the hall," he said,
awkwardly; "and perhaps she would allow me to order some flowers for
her. Just now, Aunt Myrtle, I have an engagement, and I must really be
going on."

He had risen to his feet, and Mrs. Myrtle was about shaping a last
arrow to aim at him, when the door opened, and a girl came into the
room.

"Oh! Cousin Augusta," she said, in the most outspoken manner, a
slight Southern accent marking some of the syllables enunciated in a
remarkably sweet voice, "I have been taking your Dandie Dinmont for a
walk, and he has been such a good, obedient dear, you must give him
two lumps of sugar when he comes to tea at five o'clock."

As Mrs. Myrtle performed the ceremony of introduction between them,
Vance became conscious that he was in the presence of one of the most
radiantly pretty young persons who had ever crossed the line of his
languid vision. Equipped in a tailor-made frock of gray serge, a black
hat with many rampant plumes upon her red-brown hair, a boa of black
ostrich feathers curling around her pearly throat and caressing the
rosiest of cheeks, his Cousin Eve surveyed him with as much
indifference as if he had been the veriest casual met in a crowd in
Fifth Avenue. Two fingers of a tiny gloved hand were bestowed on him
in recognition of their relationship, after which she resumed her
interrupted talk about the dog.

"You understand that Mr. Townsend is a relative, my dear?" asked Mrs.
Myrtle, in her rocking-horse manner. "You have heard me speak of him?"

"Yes; oh, yes, certainly," Eve said, with preoccupation. "But to us
Virginians a cousin means either very much--or very, very little."

"The presumption, then, is against me?" he asked, determined not to be
subdued.

"Is it? I had not thought," she answered, hardly looking in his
direction. Vance took the hint and his departure. When again out of
doors, he straightened himself, and walked with a firmer, more
determined tread, conscious of a little tingling in his veins on the
whole not disagreeable. In this mood, he reached the corner of the
street in which dwelt Miss Ainger, and was very near indeed to passing
it, but, recovering himself with a start, turned westward from the
Avenue, and again sought the house from which he had gone irresolute a
little while before.

The door was opened for him by a servant, who did not know "for sure,"
but "rather thought" Miss Ainger was in the drawing-room. While
following the man across a wide hall, Vance espied, lying upon a
chair, a man's hat--not the conventional high black hat of the
afternoon caller, but a rusty brown "pot" hat, of an unobtrusive
pattern.

"Humph! the piano-tuner, no doubt," he said to himself, and
simultaneously recalled the fact that he had seen the object in
question, or its twin brother, that same day. Before the footman could
put his hand upon the knob of the drawing-room door, it opened, and
the owner of the hat came out. It was indeed Crawford, dressed in
morning tweeds, as Vance had seen him at luncheon in the Lawyers'
Club, his plain, strong face illuminated with an expression Vance knew
nothing akin to, and therefore did not interpret.

But Vance did know Miss Ainger for an independent in her set, a girl
who struck out for herself to find clever and companionable people
with whom to fraternize; and he was accordingly not surprised to meet
Crawford here as a visitor. As once before that day, the two men
exchanged silent nods, and parted. Vance found Miss Ainger caressing
with dainty fingertips a large bunch of fresh violets that lay in her
lap and filled the room with fragrance.

Kitty Ainger, a daughter of New York, calm, reserved, temperamentally
serious, fond of argument upon high themes, cultivated in minor points
to a fastidious degree, handsome in a sculptural way, had always
seemed to him lacking in the one grace of womanly tenderness he
vaguely felt to be of vast moment in a young man's choice for a wife.

To-day, as she greeted him, her manner was gentle and gracious to
perfection. Perhaps it so appeared in contrast to that of the fair
Phyllida who had flouted him in his Aunt Myrtle's drawing-room;
perhaps Kitty was really glad of this first occasion in many days when
they were alone together, undisturbed.

The thought caused a wave of excitement to rise in the suitor's veins.
He wondered how he could have held back, an hour before, when upon the
threshold of such an opportunity. But then, had he made appearance, no
doubt there would have been other visitors,--Crawford, for instance,
whom Miss Ainger was plainly taking by the hand, to lead into society,
as clever girls will do when they find an unknown clever man;
Crawford, who did not know enough of conventionality to put on a black
coat when he called on a girl in the afternoon; Crawford, poor and
plain, a man's man, whom the Ainger family no doubt regarded as one of
Kitty's freaks. Yes, Crawford would have been a decided interruption
to this _tête-à-tête_.

Now, there was an open sea before Vance, and he had only to launch the
boat, so long delayed, a craft he at last candidly believed to be
freighted with the best hopes of his life. They talked for awhile upon
impersonal subjects--Kitty exerting herself, he could see, to be
agreeable and sympathetic with her visitor. In the progress of this
conversation, he took note with satisfaction of the artistic elegance
of her dress (of the exact color of the Peach Blow Vase, he said to
himself, searching for a simile in tint), with sleeves of sheenful
velvet, and a silken train that lay upon the rug. Her long, white
fingers, playing with the violets, wore no rings. Her slim figure,
her braids of pale brown hair, her calm, gray eyes, attracted him as
never before, with their girlish and yet womanly composure.

"Why have you never told me," he said abruptly, "of your friendship
with that little witch of a Virginia cousin of mine who has been
staying with Mrs. Myrtle this winter?"

"If you wish me to tell you the truth, it was because she asked me
never to do so," replied Kitty, coloring a little. "You have met her?"
she added eagerly.

"Yes, to-day; a little while ago, when I called upon my aunt. But how
could she know of me? What reason was there for her to avoid me?"

"Evelyn is an impulsive creature," was the answer; and now the blood
rushed into Kitty's cheek, and she was silent.

"Impulsive, yes; but how could she resent a man she had never seen;
who had not had the smallest opportunity to prove whether or not he
was obnoxious to her? That is quite too ridiculous, I think. You, who
have so much sense, character, judgment, why could not you exercise
your influence over this very provincial little person, and teach her
that a prejudice is, of all things, petty?"

"She is not a provincial little person," said Kitty, with spirit. "And
she does not merit that patronizing tone of yours."

"If _you_ take her under your wing, she is perfection," he answered
lightly, as if the subject were no longer of value for discussion.
"But before we begin to differ about her, only tell me if it is my
Aunt Myrtle's objection to me as a type that my truculent Cousin Eve
has inherited?"

"I hardly think so. Please ask me no questions," the girl said,
uncomfortable with blushing.

"As you like. It is veiled in mystery," he said, rather piqued. "At
least, you won't mind informing me if she got any of her ideas of me
from you. No, that is hardly fair. I will alter it. Did you and she
ever speak of me together?"

"What if I tell you yes, and that, every time we met?" exclaimed Miss
Ainger, plucking up courage when thus driven into a corner.

To her surprise and dismay, Vance took this admission quite otherwise
than she had meant it. In Eve's attitude toward him, he thought he
read a girlish jealousy of the object preoccupying the affections of
her friend.

"I see. I understand," he said, with a gleam in his eyes she had not
seen there in all of their acquaintance. Until now, the hearth-rug had
been between them. With an animation quite foreign to him, he crossed
it, and leaned down to take her hands. At once, Kitty, withdrawing
from his grasp, rose to her feet and faced him.

"I think there is some great mistake," she said, very quietly. As
Vance gazed at her, he became aware that he had until now never seen
the true Kitty Ainger, and that her face was beautiful.

"You repulse me? You have never cared for me?" he said, fiercely.

A wave of color came upon her cheeks, and her eyes dropped before his
to the violets in her hand.

"I must tell you," she said, after a pause, during which both thought
of many things stretching back through many years, "that I have just
promised to marry Mr. Crawford."


Chapter II

The day of Miss Ainger's marriage with Crawford, which took place in
New York, a month later than the events heretofore recorded, found
Vance Townsend on horseback in Virginia, following, with no especial
purpose, a highway that crosses the Blue Ridge Mountains to descend
sharply into the valley of the Shenandoah.

Before leaving home, he had acquitted himself of conventional duty to
the bride by ordering to be sent to her the finest antique vase of his
collection,--a gem of carved metal that Cellini might have
signed,--filled with boughs of white lilac, his card and best wishes
accompanying it. Then, with a heart overburdened, as he fancied, with
regretful self-reproach, he had turned his back upon the chief
might-have-been of his experience.

Katherine, who had, in fact, passed many days in her paternal mansion
unsought by him, was now invested with a veil of tender sentiment. In
his waistcoat pocket he carried an unfinished poem, addressed to
her,--or to an idealized version of Miss Ainger,--which, at intervals
on his journey, he would take out and polish and shape with assiduity,
forgetting sometimes to sigh over it in his zeal for metrical
construction.

The morning of the day that was to see the prize he had lost become
definitely another's beheld Vance bargaining with a farmer--a former
cavalryman in the Confederate service--to ride one of the two horses
he had shipped by train from New York, and serve as guide in the
war-harried region through which he desired to pass.

The process was a simple one, the sum negligently offered for his
services for a day sufficing to cover the expenses of ex-corporal
Claggett for a fortnight, and leave a margin to fill his pipe with.
Therefore, the rusty squire in attendance (to whom the treat of
bestriding a steed like this would have been requital all-sufficient),
the riders left the village that had sheltered Townsend for the
night, and at once set out to ascend a long and toilsome hill, giving
views on every side of an enchanting prospect.

"I don't mean to appear boastful, suh," observed Mr. Claggett,
modestly, "an' I ain't travelled much myself out o' this State, but
I've heerd people say this 'ere view beats creation."

"It is very fine, certainly, Claggett," replied Vance, halting to look
back at the wide expanse of hill and valley mantled with springing
green, the far-off, grassy heights serving as pasture for sheep and
cows, and scattered with limestone boulders, against which redbud and
dogwood in blossom made brilliant patches; with mountains beyond,
above, everywhere, and all of that exquisite, velvet-textured shade of
blue, so soft and melting it seems to invite caress.

"By Jove! It is well named the Blue Ridge," Vance went on,
approvingly.

"Jest there, Mr. Townsend, in that very spot where the old red cow's
a-munchin' in the grass, was where Pelham stood when his artillery let
fly at them plucky Yankee cavalry that was behind the stone wall
firin' like fury at our Confeds."

"And who was Pelham?" asked the visitor, with interest.

"Never heard o' Pelham? Well, I wouldn't 'a' thought it," was the
compassionate answer. "Why, suh, he was a boy,--major of
artillery--nuthin' but a boy,--an' they killed him early in the war.
But he'd the skill an' the sense of an old general; an' there wornt no
risk to himself he'd stop at in a fight. He'd just _swipe_ vict'ry,
every time, suh, Pelham would; an' he was the pride an' idol of our
army. Thar! them johnny-jump-ups are growin' where his gun stood, an'
he rammin' charges into it with his own hand, when he sent that
murderin' volley that made batterin'-rams out o' the stones o' the
wall here, an' druv the poor Yankees behind it into Kingdom Come.
Things look different to me, suh, now. I was a youngster, then, run
mad to git into any kind o' fightin'; but I've got sons o' my own now,
an' I can't somehow see the pints in all that killin' we did in our
war, like I used to. But I can't think o' fellers like Pelham without
wantin' to be in it again, suh.

"Why, at Snicker's Gap (heard o' Snicker's Gap, Mr. Townsend?) that
lad, who was commandin' Stuart's horse-artillery, charged on a
squadron of cavalry that had been botherin' him with its
sharp-shooters, and, with a gun that they'd dragged by hand through
the undergrowth, fired a double charge of canister into their
reserves. Then, suh, he charged agin,--a reg'lar thunderbolt that
sally was,--picked up sev'ral prisoners an' horses, an', limberin' up
his gun like wild-fire, hurried back to his first position, his men
shoutin' for him all the while."

"Those were stirring days for you, Claggett," said Townsend, whose
blood began to answer to the man's enthusiasm.

"Yes, Mr. Townsend, they were so; but you mustn't let me impose on you
with my war stories. My present wife, suh,--a young lady I courted in
King William, about the age of my oldest daughter,--she won't have me
open my mouth 'bout war stories at our house. Says I tire everybody
out with my old chestnuts, suh; an' perhaps I do. The ladies like to
do a good deal of the talkin' themselves, I've noticed, Mr. Townsend."

With a subdued sigh, Claggett subsided into silence, but not for long.
The names of Stuart and Mosby and their officers were ever upon his
lips, interspersed with anecdote and gossip concerning the country
people whose dwellings were only occasionally seen from the road. Here
and there, in the distance, chimneys behind clumps of trees were
pointed out as belonging to old inhabitants who had held on to their
homes through storm and stress of ill-fortune since the war.

"Since you are from the Nawth, I would like to tell you, suh, that
nobody who is anybody among our gentry ever lived in a village. They
lived to themselves, suh, an' the further away from each other the
better. If you had the time, suh, an' were acquainted with the
families, I could show you some places that would surprise you. An'
the ladies an' gentlemen, Mr. Townsend, of our best old stock are as
fine people as any on God's earth, I reckon. Pity you ain't
acquainted, as I said. It would give me pleasure to take you inside
some of the gates of our foremost residents."

Vance noted with amusement that Claggett did not assume to be on a
social plane with the people he extolled, but had accepted the
tradition of their superiority as part of the Virginian creed.
Laughing, he joined in the honest fellow's regret at his ineligibility
to take rank as a guest in the neighborhood.

"Though it seems to me, Claggett, now that I think of it, I have a
kinsman somewhere hereabout. Do you know anything of a family of
Carlyles--Colonel Carlyle, I believe they call him?"

Claggett's manner underwent instant transformation.

"Colonel Guy Carlyle, of the Hall, suh?" he exclaimed, eagerly.
"That's in the next county, a matter of twenty or thirty miles from
here. I had the luck to serve under the Colonel, Mr. Townsend, and
he'd know me if you spoke my name. You'll be goin' that way, suh?
We'll strike north from Glenwood, and get there by supper-time."

"Hold on, Claggett, you'll be pouring out my coffee and asking me to
take more of the Colonel's waffles, presently. Colonel Carlyle married
my mother's cousin, but I fancy would not recognize my name as quickly
as yours. I have certainly no grounds for venturing to offer myself as
an inmate of his house."

"Beg your pardon, suh, but the Colonel'd never get over a relation
ridin' so near the Hall an' not stoppin' there to sleep," persisted
Claggett. "It's a thing nobody ever heard of, down this way."

"I shall have to brave tradition, then," answered Vance,
indifferently.

"It's a fine old place, suh. House built by the Hessian prisoners in
the Revolution, and splendid furniture. They do say there's one mirror
in the big saloon that covers fourteen foot of wall, Mr. Townsend.
Yanks bivouacked in that room, too, but didn't so much as crack it.
An' chandeliers, all over danglers like earrings, suh. For all they
ain't got such a sight o' money as they had, Miss Eve, she's got a
real knack at fixin' up, an' she's travelled Nawth, an' got all the
new ideas. You must 'a' met Miss Eve when she was Nawth, Mr. Townsend.
Why, suh, she's the beauty o' three counties; nobody could pass _her_
in a crowd, or out of it."

"I _have_ met Miss Carlyle, Claggett," Vance said, growing
uncomfortable at the recollection. "But only once, and for a moment.
As you say, she is a beautiful young woman."

"Then you _will_ stop at the Hall, suh?" pleaded his guide.

"No," said Vance, briefly. "We will go on to Glenwood, and sleep there
at the inn. To-morrow, you shall show me as much of the country as I
have enjoyed to-day, but I am here for travelling, and not to
cultivate acquaintance, understand."

"Up yonder, on the hill-top, suh," observed Mr. Claggett, ignoring
rebuke, "when we git through this little village we're comin' to (I
was in a red-hot skirmish once, right in the middle of the street,
ahead, suh), is a tree we call the Big Poplar. It marks the junction
of three counties, an' 'twas there George Washin'ton slept, when he
was on his surveyin' tour as a boy, suh--you've heard of General
Washin'ton up your way, Mr. Townsend?"

"Yes, confound you," said Vance, laughing at his sly look.

"General Lee halted at that point to look at the country round, on his
way to Gettysburg. A great friend of Colonel Carlyle was the General,
suh; you'll see a fine picture of the General in the dinin'-room at
the Hall. Colonel Carlyle lost two brothers followin' Lee into battle,
suh, but we call that an honor down here. They do say little Miss Eve
keeps the old swords and soldier caps of them two uncles in a sort o'
altar in her chamber, suh. Heard the news that Miss Eve's engaged to
her cousin, Mr. Ralph Corbin, in Wash'n't'n, suh? It's all over the
country, I reckon. He's a young archytec', an' doin' well; but down
here nobody knows if a young lady's engaged for sure, till the day's
set for the weddin'."

At this point Vance interrupted his garrulous guide to suggest that
they should seek refreshment for man and beast in the hamlet close at
hand; and the diversion this created turned Claggett from the
apparently inexhaustible subject of the Carlyles.

They rode onward, the genial sun, as it mounted higher in the heaven,
serving to irradiate, not overheat, the beautiful earth.

From this point the road went creeping up, by gentle degrees, to the
summit of the mountain, beyond which Shenandoah cleft their way in
twain. Traversing Ashby's Gap, the efflorescence of the woods, the
music of many waters, the balm of purest air, confirmed Vance's
satisfaction in his choice of an expedition. Descending the steep
grade to the river, they crossed the classic stream upon the most
primitive of flat ferry-boats, and on the further side passed almost
at once into a rich, agricultural country, upon a well-kept turnpike,
where the horses trotted rapidly ahead.

Claggett, strange to say, did not resume allusions to the Carlyle
family; but upon reaching a certain cross-road, he ventured an
appealing glance at his employer.

"Turn to the right here, to get a short cut to Carlyle Hall, suh."

"Where does the left road take us?" asked Vance, shortly.

"You _kin_ git to Glenwood that way, Mr. Townsend. But it's a
roundabout way, an' a new road, an' a pretty bad one, an' it's just in
the opposite direction from Colonel--"

Vance answered him by riding to the left.

A new road, with a vengeance, and one apparently bottomless, the
horses at every step plunging deeper into clinging, red-clay mud; but
the obstinacy of Vance kept him riding silently ahead, and the
trooper, with a quizzical look upon his weather-beaten face, followed.
Miles, traversed in this fashion, brought them into the vicinity of a
small gathering of houses, at sight of which Vance spoke for the first
time in an hour.

"Claggett."

"Yes, suh?" This, deferentially.

"If I ever go back of my own free will over that infernal piece of
road"--he paused for a sufficiently strong expression.

"Yes, suh?" said Claggett, expectantly.

"You may write me down an ass."

"Yes, _suh_," Claggett exclaimed, with what Vance thought a trifle too
much alacrity. "Better let me go befo' you for a little piece, Mr.
Townsend," added the countryman. "Just where the road slopes down to
the crick, here, it's sorter treacherous, if you don't know the best
bit."

Vance, choosing to be deaf, kept in front. He traversed the creek in
safety; but, in ascending the other side, his horse plunged knee-deep
into a quagmire,--throwing his rider, who arose none the worse except
for a plaster of red mud,--and emerged evidently lamed.

"He's all right, suh, excep' for a little strain," said the
ex-trooper, after his experienced eye and hand had passed over
Merrylad's injuries.

"We will go at once to the hotel in the village, and get quarters for
the night," said Vance, ruefully. "I've a change of clothes in that
bag you carry, so I don't mind for myself. But I wouldn't have
Merrylad the worse for this for anything."

"The trouble is, Mr. Townsend," answered Claggett, "that you may get
quarters fit for a horse here, but you won't be stoppin' yourself,
I'll tell you."

"Nonsense! Come along! You lead Merrylad; I'm glad to stretch my legs
by a walk," and the young man started off at a good pace, plashing
ever through liquid mire, that overflowed street and so-called
sidewalk.

There was no sign of an inn of any kind. A few dilapidated houses of
the poorest straggled on either side the street, at the end of which
they came upon a country store and post-office combined. Three or four
mud-splashed horses hitched to a rock; as many mud-splashed loungers
upon tilted chairs on the platform before the door. That was all.

"Better take 'em on to old Josey's, Charley," called out a friendly
voice to Claggett.

"Yes, old Josey will do the correct thing by them," remarked a
full-bearded, sunburned gentleman, who, seated astride of a mule, now
came "clopping" toward them through the mud, from the opposite
direction.

"I am really afraid, Mr. Townsend," Claggett said, persuasively, "that
we shall be forced to go on a mile or so further, to old Josey's."

"And who in the thunder _is_ old Josey?" exclaimed Vance, testily.

"Never heard o' him up Nawth, suh?" answered the trooper, with a
twinkle in his eye. "He's the big person o' this part,--an old
bachelor,--Mr. Joseph Lloyd, who runs the best farms and raises the
best stock in the neighborhood. The truth is, not many visitors come
here, unless they are booked for Mr. Lloyd's."

"What claim have I on him, unless I can pay my night's lodging and
yours? I will leave you and the lame horse here, and make my way back
to-night to Glenwood."

"To get to Glenwood, you'd have to pass over right smart of that mire
we came through," said Claggett, pensively.

"Then, in Heaven's name, let us go to Josey's," said Vance, laughing,
in spite of his bad humor.

They bade farewell to the village, and went off as they had come,
Vance choosing to walk, the trooper leading the lame horse.

And now, in defiance of his plight, his melancholy appearance, the
accident to his favorite, Vance yielded himself to the spell of a
region that became at every moment, as he advanced, more wildly
beautiful. The sun, about to set, sent a flood of radiance over hills
high and low, over a broken rolling country dominated by the massive
shaft of Massanutton Mountain, rising like a tower above his lesser
brethren. That the "mile or two further on" stretched into four or
five, the young man cared not a jot. His lungs filling with crisp,
invigorating air, he strode forward, and was almost sorry when the
dormer-windows of an old house shrouded by locust-trees in bloom
appeared upon a plateau across intervening fields.

"Now for my best cheek!" he said to himself. "What _am_ I to say to
old Josephus? Ask for lodging, like the tramp I look? Hang it! I
believe I'll sleep under the nearest haystack, rather!"

While thus absorbed, Mr. Theodore Vance Townsend, the fine flower of
various clubs, did not perceive that he was an object of varying
interest and solicitude to three persons looking over the fence of a
pasture near-by, where cattle were enclosed.

Two elderly gentlemen surveyed him closely. A girl, who had tossed a
glance at him over her shoulder, seemed to find more attraction in the
Alderney heifer, whose saucy rough tongue was at that moment stretched
out to lick salt from a velvet palm, than in the mud-stained wayfarer.

"That's no common tramp," said one of the gentlemen to the other. "If
you will stay here with my Lady-love, I'll just go and investigate his
case."

Vance Townsend had, perhaps, like other mortals, known his "bad
moments" in life. But he felt that there had been few like this, when
the old gentleman, issuing through a gate opening from the pasture,
came to him with a quick, decided step.

The younger man took off his hat. The older did likewise. And then
Vance, between a laugh and a groan, told his story, confirmed by the
apparition at that moment, in the distance, of the horses and
Claggett, who was himself afoot.

"Say no more, my dear fellow, say not another word," interrupted the
astonished old gentleman. "My name is Lloyd, and I'm the owner of that
house behind the locusts, where I'm delighted to take you in, and
Charley Claggett, too. We'll find out what's the matter with your
horse, quick enough. Welcome to Wheatlands, sir, and just come along
with me."

Before Vance fairly knew how, he found himself in a "prophet's
chamber," looking upon a sloping roof, where a martin was nesting
within reach of his hand. Tapping the panes of the upper sash of his
window, a branch tasselled with sweet-smelling blossoms swayed in the
breeze. Outside, he had a wide and glorious view of field and
mountains. Inside, he possessed a clean, if homely, bedroom, at the
door of which a soft-voiced negro woman was already knocking, to ask
for his bespattered garments.

Vance was delighted. When he furthermore found left at his portal a
tub with a large bucket of ice-cold water from the spring, together
with his bag, he began to think that Virginia hospitality was not to
be relegated among things traditional.

       *       *       *       *       *

The soft Virginia dusk was closing upon the scene, when our young man,
leaving his room, went down-stairs, through a hall hung with trophies
and implements of sport, and out of an open door upon the "front
porch," to look at the evening star hanging above the mountain crest.
In this occupation he found another person indulging likewise, and in
the clear gloom discovered the face and figure of a young and
singularly graceful girl, who without hesitation accosted him.

"Mr. Lloyd has told us of your mishap," she said, courteously. "He is
congratulating himself that it happened near enough to let him help
you out of it. I hope the horse will fare as well as the master."

"Merrylad will be all right, thank you, so Claggett has been up to
tell me. It appears that Mr. Lloyd, in addition to his other
attractions, is a famous amateur vet."

"You will find he has all the virtues," she said, laughing. At that
moment, a lamp, lighted by the servant in the hall, sent a stream of
illumination upon them. To Townsend's utter surprise, he saw the face
of his cousin, Evelyn Carlyle.

"You!" he heard her say, in a not too well pleased tone; and "You?" he
repeated, with what he felt to be not a distinguished success.

"How extraordinary that it should turn out to be you!" she began
again, first of the two to recover her composure. "Did you think--were
you, that is, on your way to visit _us_?"

"Nothing was further from my thoughts," he answered, bluntly. "I, on
the contrary, believed myself to be going in the opposite direction
from where you live."

"Of course," she said, somewhat piqued. "It is impossible you should
have known that papa and I came yesterday on a visit to dear old
Cousin Josephus. I beg your pardon if I was very rude."

"It is certainly not a welcome that seems inspired by what I have been
led to think is Virginia cordiality," he answered, coolly.

"But I have asked your pardon, and that's not the way to answer me.
You might grant it, never so stiffly; and after that, we, being thrown
together this way through no fault of either of us, might agree to be
decently civil before papa, who can have no idea how I feel toward--I
mean what my reasons are for feeling--well, never mind what I mean,"
she ended, vexed at his immobility.

"I quite join with you in thinking it would be very silly to take any
one else into this armed neutrality of ours. I shall at the earliest
moment, to-morrow, relieve you of my presence. Suppose, until then,
you try to treat me as you would another unoffending man under my
circumstances."

"Yes. You are right. It would be better, and it would not worry papa
and Cousin Josephus," she said, reflectively. "Well, then, if you were
another man, I should begin by asking you what brought you to
Virginia. No; that would not be at all polite, would it? I think I
shall just say nothing at all."

"Not till you let me assure you that I came because a fellow I know
told me he had made a driving tour in this part, last year, with his
wife, and had found it rather nice--and another reason was, that I
wanted to get away from myself."

"You are very flattering to our State," she said, bridling her head
after a fashion he found both comical and sweet. She was silent a
little while, then resumed, more gently:

"I was thinking of what you last said, and maybe I have done you an
injustice. Maybe you are to be pitied more than blamed."

"Do you mean because I spoiled a good suit of clothes and hurt my
horse's leg?"

"No; not that. You are clearly not in need of sympathy. There! They
are going to ring the supper-bell, and you must go and be introduced
to my father, as his cousin. He is the dearest daddy in the world, and
will be sure to try to make you come to visit us at the Hall."

"Am I to understand this is a hint not to accept?"

"I _could_ stay on here, you know," she said, in a businesslike way.

"You are perfectly exasperating," he exclaimed, and then the summons
came to go into the house. Just before they crossed the threshold, she
appeared to have undergone another change of mind. Turning back
swiftly, in a voice of exceeding sweetness she breathed into his ear
these words:

"Please, I am sorry. I ought not to keep forgetting, ought I, that you
are a stranger within our gates, and a cousin, really?"

"Is she a coquette?" Vance began to ask himself, but was interrupted
by a _sortie_ of his host in search of him.


Chapter III

Vance Townsend had reckoned without his host when he made the
declaration that he would relieve Miss Carlyle of his presence the
following day. The kind owner of Wheatlands, indulgent to every man
and beast upon his premises, had yet a way of holding on to and
controlling guests that none might resist.

Vance, however, did not try very hard to resist the invitation to stay
at least until "Thursday, when the Carlyles would be running away
home." An evening spent with the kind, simple, yet cultivated people
who formed the little _coterie_ at Wheatlands (there was among them a
widowed cousin with her unruly boy, and a cousin who had been
unfortunate in his investments) had, somehow, quite upset our hero's
notions upon many points.

Claggett, dismissed with a _douceur_, the liberality of which consoled
that worthy countryman for an early reunion with the lady who would
not allow him to tell stories of the war, took an affectionate leave
of his employer. In his manner Vance detected more satisfaction in the
vindication of Virginia customs than regret at the severance of their
relation. The little triumph Claggett might readily have derived from
the incident of the wayfarer's meeting, in spite of himself, with his
relations was heroically suppressed. And before Townsend had turned
upon his pillow the morning after his arrival, a telegram had gone to
the town where his luggage had been left, ordering it to be sent by
train that day.

Vance had been told that breakfast would be at nine; and, awakened at
half-past seven by a bird on the bough in his window, he abandoned
himself to a lazy review of his impressions of the family. Of his
Cousin Eve he had seen little more than what has already been told.
After filling her place at a bounteous supper-table, where the talk
was chiefly absorbed by the three gentlemen, she had vanished, in
company with the widowed cousin, and was invisible thereafter--the men
sitting together till midnight in the large, raftered hall, with a
fire in its wide chimney, that served the old bachelor for a general
living-room.

Vance could not remember to have seen a face of finer lines, a manner
of finer courtesy, than that of his seventy-year-old host, who, in
spite of the rust of desuetude in worldly ways, carried his inbred
gentility where all who approached him might profit by it.

That he was a politician went without saying; and, indeed, the talk
once directed in the channel of national government had kept there
until they separated. On a claw-footed table holding a lamp beside Mr.
Lloyd's easy chair, covered with frayed haircloth, Vance saw lying a
crisp new Review of English publication, and all about were piled
newspapers and magazines, while shelves displayed row upon row of the
antique, tawny volumes that had made up the complete library of a
country gentleman in the days of old Josephus's grandfather.

Around the hearth, coming and going with every opening of many doors,
gathered dogs of fine and varied breeds. One old patriarch of a St.
Bernard, who attached himself particularly to the stranger, had
remained close to Vance's feet, and gravely escorted him to bed.

In his kinsman, Guy Carlyle, a handsome man of fifty odd years, who in
a military youth had been noted for deeds of daring that rang through
the army of Northern Virginia, but had long since resigned himself to
the peaceful pursuits of agriculture, Vance saw the origin of Eve's
rare beauty. He also became aware that, of a large family of sons and
daughters born to the now widowed Colonel, Eve was the sole survivor;
and it did not need the expression that irradiated her father's face
when her name was touched upon to show in what estimation she was held
by him.

The tinge of melancholy in Mr. Carlyle's manner had, however, no
effect like repression of the cordial friendliness he extended to the
newcomer. Vance had gone to rest with a feeling that he had conferred
a genuine favor upon his two elders by according to them, as he had,
his company.

Spite of these conditions of good-fellowship, he awoke next morning
conscious that there was one under the roof with him who had the power
(and no desire to withhold it) to make him far from comfortable; to
puzzle him, to banter him, to pull him up with a jerk at the moment he
might feel that he was getting reasonably ahead with her; to punish
him, it would appear, for some offence he could not own to having
committed.

It was very clear that Eve thought him a poor fellow, mentally and
morally; that, apart from her specific grudge against him, of nature
unknown, she was not in the least inclined to pay tribute to his
position, fashion, culture, wealth,--the appendages of Vance
Townsend's personality people around him had always been disposed to
make so much of. In the firmament of American society, he took himself
to be a planet of first importance. In other lands, he had enjoyed
more than a reasonable share of social success. Why should he here,
for the first time in his life, feel like a man coming in fancy
costume to a dinner where all the other guests wore plain clothes?

It must be the doing of that girl. She it was who, with a few words, a
cool glance or two that appeared to read his soul, had brought him
into this strait; and Vance was still young enough to feel himself
flame with resentment of her. Then fell upon his mental ear the soft
cadence of her voice, asking his pardon for having possibly misjudged
him, and his anger passed.

As from Eve he went on to think of Kitty Ainger, now Mrs. Crawford,
Vance was surprised at the freedom from soreness the reflection left
upon his mind. Mrs. Crawford, he even reflected, was really an
admirable woman--just the wife, as everybody had said, for a rising
fellow like Crawford, who would surely reach the top! She had shown
her good sense in taking him. Was it possible Vance had ever thought
anything else?

On a table near the bed lay the contents of a pocket emptied
overnight--among them a folded paper, inscribed with the latest and
most satisfactory draft of his verses to Kitty. This he now seized,
and, upon re-reading it, a flush that was not of tender consciousness
overspread his face. Regardless of the loss to the world of poetry,
ignoring the recurrent efforts that Calliope had witnessed, he
deliberately tore it up, and went to the open window prepared to
scatter the tiny remnants upon a matin breeze.

A view of wide green plains, with here and there a clump of noble
trees, of soaring blue hills beyond them, all shining in the morning
sun, met his eye; and almost directly beneath his window were a couple
of horses, of which one was bestridden by old Josephus, in a nankeen
coat and venerable Panama hat; the other, little more than a colt, was
held by a negro and saddled for a woman's use.

"Lady-love! Lady-love, I say!" called out the old gentleman, in a
voice of Stentor.

"Coming, coming, come!" gaily answered somebody; and in a moment
Vance's Cousin Eve appeared.

Springing lightly upon the segment of an enormous tree that served as
horse-block, she dropped into her saddle, and devoted herself to
subduing the juvenile remonstrance of her steed.

With the fragments of his effusion to Kitty Ainger still in hand,
Vance felt a curious sensation, as though the old world had suddenly
become young and beautiful and tuneful; and then, from his ambush, he
heard Josephus say:

"I'd half a mind to rouse up our visitor, and take him with us to see
the sheep in Six-Acre Lot. The ride before breakfast would have given
him a good idea of the way my land lies."

"O Cousin Josey, I am so thankful you did _not_!" answered Eve, with
sincerity unmistakable.

"Tut, tut, my dear child," began Mr. Lloyd, rebukingly; but Eve, who
just then succeeded in starting her colt in the right direction, was
off and away, sending back a trill of laughter to her ancient
cavalier, who made good speed to follow her.

The new conviction of his folly in having agreed to remain under the
same shelter with Miss Carlyle did not prevent Mr. Townsend from
making his appearance with an excellent appetite at the
breakfast-table, whither he was duly escorted by Bravo, the old dog he
had found outside his bedroom door waiting to take him in charge.

With Bravo and another dog or two at heel, Vance had walked off his
pique over dew-washed slopes of short, rich grass to a summit near the
house, to be joined on the return by Colonel Carlyle, who had strolled
out to meet him.

Breakfasts at Wheatlands were justly considered the _chefs d'oeuvre_
of old Josey's cook. Vance, helping himself to quickly succeeding
dainties seen for the first time, cast a mental glance backward to the
egg and a cup of tea that formed his accustomed meal at home. Half-way
in the repast, Eve, who had been changing her habit to a pretty cotton
gown, slipped into place between her father and the widow, who was
pouring out the coffee.

"What! What!" said Cousin Josey, detecting her absence from a seat at
his side, that would have brought her face to face with Townsend. "My
Lady-love desert me like that? Come back, little runaway, and see
your Cousin Vance taste his first mouthful of a Wheatlands ham!"

Thus adjured, Eve could but take the seat indicated; and Vance, who
had determined to be no longer oppressed by so small and pink a
person, bestowed on her an openly admiring glance that angered her
anew.

"We must leave you to Eve's mercies this morning, Mr. Townsend,"
observed their host, at the conclusion of the repast. "Carlyle and I
have promised to ride over to the County Court to hear a case tried,
and to call on the Judge, who is an old college chum of the Colonel's.
We shall be home to dinner at two, and you young people must entertain
each other until then."

"Could you not manage not to show so plainly what you feel?" asked
Vance in his cousin's little ear, as they left the table. "Pray
believe that I am not a party to the infliction put upon you."

They had strolled bareheaded out under the trees shading the lawn
about the house.

"Shall we never have done quarrelling?" said Eve, wearily. "Just as I
think I begin to feel kindly toward you, something happens, and I
break down again."

"Were we not moderately successful last night, when I assumed to be
somebody else?" he asked.

"Yes; that is better. I will treat you as I would any other man
stopping here--any one not of your exalted class, I mean."

"That was a quite unnecessary taunt. But I will allow it to pass if
you agree for to-day--until the gentlemen return--to treat me as you
would Mr. Ralph Corbin, for example."

"What do you mean?" she asked, quickly. "Ralph is the dearest, most
obliging cousin I have, and I impose upon him dreadfully. If he were
here, I should begin by sending him indoors to fetch my hat and
parasol from the hall rack, and a new magazine I left in the
window-seat, and tell him to call the dogs to come with us--What!
_you_ can't intend to condescend to wait upon a mere girl, a country
cousin?"

He was off and back again with the articles demanded, showing no
enmity in the smile offered with them to her acceptance. But he did
not at once surrender the periodical, or until he had satisfied
himself of the contents of the page held open by a marker of beaten
silver.

"You don't mind my looking at what you read?" he asked.

"If you like. It is some verses--_not_ what _you_ would care for, in
the least, but they have given me great pleasure."

A glance showed him that his suspicion was correct. The stanzas in
question had been written by him some months before, and sent,
unsigned, to the editor.

"Will you tell me what you fancy in these?" he said, with fine
indifference of manner.

"Why does one like a flower, or worship a star? They suit me, I
suppose, and I am learning them by heart."

His own heart throbbed with a schoolboy's glee and pride. But he said
nothing, and walked beside her light figure, in the round of garden
and orchard, bringing up in the stable-yard. Here, a space paved with
grass-grown cobblestones was bounded on three sides by frame
structures, now, in their decay, as gray and as fragile-looking as
hornets' nests.

"And the little house built of limestone, with one window, was put up
in Colonial days, for refuge in case of an Indian raid. Mr. Lloyd will
tell you one of his best stories, about an adventure of his ancestor
in there, when three white men successfully resisted a band of
red-skins. Perhaps our aboriginal anecdotes would bore you, however.
If so, give us only a little hint, and we desist. Now, shan't we go in
and see your horses?"

She lifted the latch; Vance followed her, past stalls where the
occupants gave her immediate recognition, to those in which his own
pair were comfortably ensconced. Merrylad, ungallant fellow, would
have none of the young lady, but at the touch and voice of his master,
turned his beautiful head sidewise to lay it upon Vance's shoulder
with affection.

"I am, at last, an illustration of the legend, 'Some one to love me,'"
he said, laughing. "So you thought I had forsaken you, old man? Not I,
my beauty. Gently, gently, you are too demonstrative."

"I can't imagine life without horses and dogs; can you?" she said,
with the quickly growing comradeship of a child. "There; I was
determined that Merrylad should let me stroke his neck!"

From the stables, whose inmates seemed to have put them upon a better
footing, they passed again under the pink-blossomed arcades of an
apple-orchard, to pause beside a curious indentation, like a dimple,
in the turf.

"Just here," began Evelyn,--"but I shall not tell you, unless you
promise to be properly impressed,--a sad fate overcame a dishonest
negro servant of Mr. Lloyd's ancestor. He--the servant, I mean--was a
fellow much given to acrobatic feats, and was accustomed to divert his
master's guests by tumbling and turning cart-wheels. One day, he
robbed old Mr. Lloyd's money-chest, and filling his pockets, went out
in the orchard, and testified his glee by standing on his head."

"What happened? Evidently something of a supernatural nature."

"The earth opened, and out came a great hairy red hand," said Eve, "(I
am telling it to you as my nurse told it to me) and 'cotched him by
de hayde, and drawed him down.'"

"What evidence do they offer of this event?"

"That is the thrilling part. About fifty years ago, when the present
owner was just of age, some men at work in this place dug up a
treasure of golden 'cob-coins,' clipped here and there to regulate
their value, as the custom was in olden days. And there, wedged in the
earth where the gold lay scattered, was the skeleton of a man standing
upon his head!"

"Proof positive," said Vance, laughing.

"I thought I should convince you. As an actual fact, the coins brought
six hundred dollars at the Philadelphia mint, and the money was
distributed among the finders."

"Imagine how many darkeys have stolen out here, since, to work at
night with pick and shovel! I suppose that accounts for the depression
of the sod."

"I myself found a George II. coin in the garden yesterday. See! If I
were to give it to you, do you think it would bind you to continue to
be 'some one else,' during the rest of your stay with us?"

He took the bit of copper she held out, wondering, as he had done the
night before, whether this kindly mood meant coquetry, then deciding
it was but the frolic spirit of a wholesome and untrammelled youth not
to be restrained. Whatever it meant, he would profit by it. A creature
so bright, so impulsive as this, his new-found cousin, was not within
his ken, even if the occasional prick of her wit did keep him in an
attitude of self-defence.

"Her cheeks are true apple-blossoms," he found himself murmuring,
irrelevantly, as he pursued her through the tunnel of orchard boughs.
"But her lips--what? Ah! bard beloved, I thank you--'Her mouth a
crimson flower.' That's it. 'Her mouth a crimson flower.'"

"What are you talking about, back there?" exclaimed his guide, turning
sharply to call him to account.

"Did I speak aloud? I was--ah--only wondering where we are going to
bring up?"

"Do I tire you? Perhaps you are not used to walking. Never mind; we
shall soon reach the graveyard, and then you can sit upon the stone
wall and rest."

"I think I can last to the graveyard," meekly said the young man,
whose tramps in the Alps and Dolomites and Rockies had included of
"broken records" not a few.

"Now, you are laughing at me," she said, suspiciously. "But you know I
have never heard of you except as a lounger in clubs and a leader of
_cotillons_."

Vance thought it useless to protest.

They now reached an enclosure under a grove of maples, where,
motioning him to sit upon a low wall tapestried with moss and fern and
creepers, she perched upon the gnarled root of a tree, and, opening
her book, prepared to become absorbed in it.

"Suppose you read aloud to me," he suggested, with cunning
aforethought.

"This?" she said, doubtfully, surveying his verses. "Oh, no; I think
not. You would hardly care for _this_. It is something quite out of
your line, don't you see? The writer gives expression to a perfectly
straightforward, yet eloquent, expression of a true man's true
feeling, about a thing of every day. It is not only that the words are
lovely and the sentiment is noble, but the measure ripples like a
stream--Why, what is the matter with you? One would think you know the
author."

"I am afraid, upon reflection, that I _do not_ know the author," he
said, drawing back into his shell.

"If you did, I should get you to thank him for me for this," she
resumed. "They say authors are always disappointing to meet, after one
has idealized them through their writings. But _he_ would not be. No;
I would trust him, through everything, to be a noble gentleman. Of
course he is unworldly. I believe he lives in a remote Territory, and
despises petty conventionalities of society, especially those in New
York. And I think he never even heard of that dreadful 400 of yours."

Vance, smiling at her girlish nonsense, felt himself, nevertheless,
lapped in the Elysium of her speech.

Then her mood changed to pathos, as she told him the story of "Cousin
Josey's" single episode of love, ending in the mound beside them,
where slept the old man's bride-betrothed of seventeen,--a ward of his
mother,--who had died of a tragic accident, forty years agone.

"And every day, since, he has come here. See, there are fresh
wood-violets upon her breast. And the dear old man has never thought
of such a thing as giving her a successor. Now, let us go. There are
lambs to show you, and a lot of other things."

The passing cloud was gone from her April face. She was again radiant,
and in some bedazzlement of mind he arose and followed her.

       *       *       *       *       *

Townsend's acquaintance with his Virginia cousins had, as might have
been expected, prolonged itself into a visit to Carlyle Hall; and he
was on the eve of departure, after a stay of two weeks in that
delightful refuge, before he realized how much his fancy had begun to
twine around the place and its inmates.

Sentiment for the young creature who was its ruling spirit he did not
admit, other than the natural tribute of his age and sex to hers. Nor
did he give her credit for more than temporary feeling on any point
disconnected with her strong local attachments. Her father, her home,
and those she grandiosely called her "people"--meaning, he supposed,
the individuals indebted to Providence for having been born within the
limits of her State--were the objects of Eve's warm affection.

Vance felt sure her courteous thought of him was the result of only
transmitted consideration for a guest. So soon as he should quit the
pleasant precincts of the Hall, he feared he must put aside his claim
to even this consideration. This condition of affairs worried our
young man more than he cared to admit to himself. To no one else would
he have confessed that the fortnight had been spent by him in a daily
effort to impress upon her a personality widely different from her
conception of it. Now, at the end of his enterprise, he was conscious
that he had not advanced in the endeavor; and this last evening in her
company was correspondingly depressing to his _amour propre_.

They were sitting together in a window-seat of the drawing-room,
looking into an old-world garden with box walks, a sun-dial, and a
blaze of tulips piercing the brown mold. From the western sky, facing
them, the red light was vanishing, and in the large, dim room a couple
of lamps made islands of radiance in a sea of shadows. In the library,
adjoining, sat the Colonel, reading, his strong, handsome head seen in
profile from where they were.

Sounds of evening in the country, the sweet whistle of a negro in the
distance, alone broke the spell of silence brooding over the old
house. Vance hesitated to further disturb it, the more so that Evelyn
had been in a mood of unusual graciousness. Nor did he, in truth, feel
prepared to broach the discussion of certain things he had put off
until now.

"To-morrow," he said at last, with a genuine sigh, "I shall be on my
way northward, and this beautiful, restful life will be among my
has-beens."

"Too restful, I'm afraid," she cried, in her brusque, schoolgirl
fashion. "Your Aunt Myrtle always speaks of Virginia as nothing but a
'cure,' which she is clearly glad to have accomplished and lived
down."

"It has been a cure for me in another sense. I wonder if you know what
you have done for me?"

"I?"

"Yes. Don't fence with me now. For once, believe in your cousin, who
is, after this, going to leave you for a long time in peace. Tell me;
when I shall have gone, and that big, comfortable 'spare room' is put
in order again for the next guest, shall you sometimes think of the
subject of your missionary labors in the past two weeks?"

"But I have never undertaken to reform you," she said, in a vexed
tone. "It is absurd for you to think I imagined myself capable of
that. The best I could hope for was that your visit should pass
without our coming to open conflict. Papa could tell you I promised
him to try that this should be so."

"Then I am indebted to your father for the modicum of personal
consideration you have vouchsafed me?"

"And Cousin Josey--yes," she answered, with startling candor. "At the
same time, I must say, I like you now better than I believed I ever
could. It makes me wish with all my heart I could trust you."

Vance felt a sting that was not all resentment, or all pain. The
expression of her eyes, so fearless, so intense, waked in him a
feeling that, in the moment they had reached, he desired nothing so
much in all the world as to win this "mere girl's" approval. The color
deepened in his face, as he said:

"And yet you have given the author of those verses, who happens to be
myself, credit for something in which you could place faith?"

"You--_you_?" she exclaimed, starting violently. "Ah no! Don't destroy
my ideals."

"This may be wholesome, but it is certainly not pleasant," he said,
praying Heaven for patience.

There was nothing of her customary light spirit of bravado in the
manner in which, after a pause, she next spoke to him.

"I hardly know how--for the sake of others, I mean, not on my own
account--to ask if it is possible you have not, in connection with me,
given a thought to one who was my daily, intimate companion all of
last winter."

"That!" he interrupted, with a dry laugh. Why not arraign her for the
wreck of me?"

"You understand me, I see," she said, with meaning. "Let me say this,
then: that I hold a trifler with women's hearts to be the most
despicable of characters. A man who is too indolent or too infirm of
purpose to deny himself the pleasure he gets from watching his
progress in a girl's affections is an offender the law mayn't reach,
but he deserves it should. That he makes his victim old before her
time, in his gradual, refined disappointment of her hopes, may not
count for much, in your estimation. But--but--oh! I could not have
believed it of the person who wrote those verses!"

There were tears in her honest eyes, a tremor in her young voice. Save
for these, Vance, who had walked away from her a dozen steps, would
have continued to put distance between himself and this "angel at the
gate."

As it was, he controlled himself sufficiently to return and say, in a
hard, strained voice:

"I shall not attempt to change your estimate of me. But I am glad you
have given me an opportunity to tell you that on the day I saw you
first, I went directly from my aunt's house to ask Katherine Ainger to
be my wife. Some day, when you are older, and know more of the world,
and take broader views of poor humanity, all these things may seem to
you different. Then you may, perhaps, admit that, with all my faults,
I could never be such a cad as you have pictured. In the little time
that we are together now, please, let us say no more about it."

He walked away, joining the Colonel, to engage that unsuspecting
gentleman in an exhaustive discussion of politics.

Eve sat for awhile in her dusky corner, absorbed in thought. She had
decided to say a few words to him, before he should go, that might
contribute to her relief rather than his. But Vance gave her no
opportunity to speak any words to him, except those of conventional
farewell. Betimes, next morning, he took leave of his cousins; and the
Virginia episode was over.

After he had left, Eve locked herself in her room, and gave way to a
burst of tears.


Chapter IV

In a railway carriage that had long before left Genoa with the
ultimate intention of getting into Rome, a girl sat, tranced in
satisfaction, looking from the window, throughout an afternoon of
spring. To speed thus leisurely between succeeding pictures of a
scenery and life she seemed to recognize from some prior state of
existence--although now, in fact, seen for the first time--was a joy
sufficient to annihilate fatigue.

The milk-white oxen ploughing the red fields; the peasant women at
work amid young vines; the sheets of wild flowers; the pink and white
and blue-washed villas, with their terraces and palms and flower-pots;
the hedges of roses, and groves of olive and eucalyptus; above all,
the classic names of stations, albeit placarded in a commonplace
way,--made Miss Evelyn Carlyle, lately a passenger of a steamer
arriving at Genoa from America, turn and twist from side to side of
the carriage, and flush and thrill with satisfaction, after a fashion
causing her father, who accompanied her, to rejoice that they occupied
their apartment undisturbed.

As evening closed upon the scene, she at last consented to throw her
head back upon the cushion of the seat, and admit she was a prey to
the mortal consideration of exceeding hunger. Since leaving Genoa, a
roll and some cakes of chocolate, only, had supplied the luncheon for
a journey of ten hours. Therefore, when the train, stopping after dark
at a little buffet, was promptly forsaken by its passengers, Eve and
her father joined the eager throng craving refreshment at the hands of
a perspiring landlord and his inefficient aids.

"If I could only make these fellows understand, perhaps they would
stop to listen," said Colonel Carlyle, growing wroth at the
struggling, vociferating, jostling crowd massed in a small room,
snatching for food like hungry dogs.

"Allow me to--By Jove, it's the Colonel!" said a voice behind him,
whose possessor was trying to pass on.

"Ralph Corbin! Where did you drop from?" and, "Ralph, this is too
delightful" were the greetings received by the young man thus
unexpectedly encountered.

"I am on my way from Nice to Rome to meet--er--some friends who are
expected there for the Silver Wedding festivities," said he, with
becoming blushes.

"I know," exclaimed Evelyn, gleefully. "I was sure they had something
to do with it."

"But it's uncertain whether they have returned from Greece yet; and
it's awfully jolly to meet you, anyway, Eve, and the Colonel. Here,
let's get some food, and I'll go in your carriage for the rest of the
way, of course. I'd not an idea you were coming out this year."

"Nor we, until a fortnight since," said Eve.

Ralph capturing a supply of bread, and fruit, and roast chicken, they
made off with their booty to the train, and the evening passed in
merry chat and explanation of their plans. Evelyn, however, by no
means lost the consciousness of her advance for the first time upon
Rome; and when, after crossing the Tiber at midnight, and catching
glimpses, on either side the railway, of ruins that heralded their
vicinity to the goal of her hopes, she was keyed to high excitement.

Ralph laughed at her disappointment as the train ran slowly into a
large, modern station lighted by electricity, and decorated with
hangings of gold and crimson, a crimson carpet spread across the
platform to one of the doors of exit. When they enquired of the
_facchino_ who took their bags in charge, what great arrival was
expected, the man answered with an indifference worthy of democratic
New York: "It is for the Silver Wedding of their Majesties, Signor;
but there are so many Kings and Emperors and Princes in Rome now, we
have ceased to take account of them."

"We have struck Rome at a crowded season," said Ralph, "and I don't
know that you are going to like it overmuch. I say, Eve, if Somebody
doesn't come for another week or so, what a heaven-send you and your
father will be to me for company!"

"That is the most cold-blooded way of making use of us to kill time
with," said Eve; but she bestowed on him a well-pleased smile. To her,
Ralph had been ever a chum,--a dear, good fellow, who was the best of
company. His unexpected appearance here promised to add tenfold to her
pleasure, while his hopes in the affair hinted at between them had
been, for some time, familiar to her in detail.

"And all this while I have never told you," he went on, in his boyish
manner, "that at Nice I fell in with that swell New York cousin of
yours, Vance Townsend. Not half a bad chap, if he is rather
close-mouthed. Shouldn't wonder if he's in Rome, now, like everybody
else in this part of the world."

"Townsend?" said the Colonel, with animation. "Glad to hear there's a
chance of seeing him. Just a year--isn't it, Eve?--since he visited us
at the Hall. Well, there's no doubt we are in luck, if we meet Vance
as well as you, Ralph."

"The funny part of it is," whispered the joyous Ralph to Evelyn, "some
of the people we both knew in Nice put it into Townsend's head I was
coming here to meet my _fiancée_. And you know, Eve, I am not engaged
to her yet; her mother put us on probation for six months. The six
months are out next week, though, and I don't think it would hurt
Maud's mamma to hurry herself a little bit to get here, do you? How
you will admire Maud's style, Evie! Her hair is dark as--" etc., etc.,
until Evelyn cut it short by jumping into the carriage drawn up in
waiting for them.

Just now, she was not as well prepared to listen as usual. Certain
feelings she had believed extinct proved themselves to have been
merely dormant. Even the spectacle of Rome _en fête_, by night, its
bands and fountains playing, its streets still filled with lively
promenaders, did not wholly distract her from this sudden tumult of an
emotion she was not prepared to define.

Constantly, during the crowded days that followed, while they drove
hither and thither, attracted but provoked by the jumbling of ancient
and modern in these haunts of history, she tried to persuade herself
she was not ever on the alert to see somebody who did not appear. For,
from among the many acquaintances and a few friends encountered in the
streets of the sociable little city, Vance was persistently missing.

Ralph, however, whose sweetheart also kept her distance, proved his
philosophy by devoting his days to the Carlyles; and thus, under a sky
blue as the fabled Elysian fields of Virgil, the festal week went on.
Wherever their Majesties of Italy and Germany passed in public, they
were greeted by thoroughfares black with people, windows and balconies
blazing with flags and draperies, the clash of bands and the clank of
soldiery.

The coachman engaged for the service of our friends would contrive,
wherever bound, to take on the way some passing show of sovereigns;
and, upon a certain fair day, for no reason avowed, he drove them into
the tangle of vehicles and people always seen surrounding the doors of
the Quirinal Palace whenever there was a chance to catch glimpses of
royalties upon the move. There ensconced, the saucy, bright-eyed
fellow stood up, pretended his inability to get out of the snarl,
gesticulated, talked to his friends and threatened his enemies in the
crowd, while visibly rejoicing in the opportunity to see all likely to
occur in that coveted quarter.

"Look here, cabby, if you don't move out of this to the Baths of
Caracalla in just two minutes and a half," began Ralph, at last, in
emphatic English; but he had no reason to go on, as the driver, seeing
the young man's face, gathered up the reins, and extricated himself
with much dexterity from the crowd.

Neither of his passengers noticed that a gentleman, in a carriage just
then crossing theirs, looked at them, leaned forward, gave orders to
his coachman, and at once proceeded to follow on their tracks.

In the glorious ruin of the greatest of temples to athletic exercise,
Evelyn drew a deep breath of delight. Nothing in Rome, not even the
Colosseum, had so impressed her with the grandeur of bygone
achievement in architecture as this wondrous pile, with its vast
spaces, the gray walls breached by Time, out of which maidenhair grew
and crows were flying--"crying to heaven for rain," as the guide
poetically explained; the stately columns of red porphyry grouped
around the beautiful mosaic floors; the lace-like traceries of carven
stone; the niches and pedestals from which marvels of old sculpture
had been removed; over all, the air that is gold and balm combined!

Evelyn leaned against a column abstractedly, while Ralph and her
father walked about, discussing with their guide facts and statistics
of the Thermae. They had indeed strolled quite out of her sight, when
a shadow on the pavement beside her caused her to look up. If an
answer to thought be no surprise, then was not Evelyn surprised; for
the person confronting her was Vance Townsend.

"I have known that you were in Rome ever since the night you arrived,"
he said, without preamble other than coldly offering her his hand. "I
happened to be at the station to meet an English friend, when you
came out; and I saw you get into your carriage and drive away."

"Then you can hardly claim to have earned a welcome from us, now," she
began to say, lightly, but found it impossible to go on, checked by
the look upon his face.

"I make no pretences," he said, bitterly. "If you care to know that I
have either kept you in view every day since, or else have gone for
long rides into the country, where I saw nobody, it is quite true. I
have done everything foolish, everything foreign to my principles and
habits, to satisfy, or to get away from, the feeling the sight of you
aroused in me. I wonder what you'd think, if I told you I've been
wandering about pretty much ever since I parted with you, a year ago,
trying to get you out of my head. Many's the letter I've written to
you and destroyed. Twice I set out to see you, and once I got back
into the neighborhood of your home. When I saw you in the crowd at the
station here, I actually thought I was possessed--" He checked
himself. "I beg your pardon. I have no right to say these things to
you, I know."

"You? You?" she could only repeat, bewildered by the meaning in his
tone and the expression of his eyes. "Is it possible that you--"

"That I fell in love with you that time when you were holding me to
account for a thousand transgressions, committed or not committed?
Yes, it is quite possible. That need not prevent our remaining good
friends, need it? I hope I've too much common sense to ask you to
indulge in a discussion of these points, now; during the past week,
I've been engaged continually, and I trust with some success, in
disposing of the last remnant of hope I may have cherished that some
day things might work around to give me at least a chance."

"You make me very unhappy," she exclaimed.

"That is far from my wish," he said, more gently. "Just at present you
ought to be walking on roses. There! Your father and Corbin are coming
back this way. I want to ask you to help me to excuse myself in your
good father's sight, if I seem unsociable."

"One word," she said, the blood flaming into her cheeks. "It is due
you to know that long ago, soon after you left us, I received a letter
from Katherine Crawford,--a letter that made me understand many things
I had judged harshly in your conduct."

"Mrs. Crawford has been always kind to me," he answered. "And no one
rejoices more than I in her present happiness."

"Yes, she is happy,--perfectly so,--and her life is full of the duties
that best suit her. She says it was all planned out for her by
Providence, and kept in reserve until she was fit for it."

"So runs the world away!" he exclaimed, with a whimsical gesture.

After that, the others came, and there was much talk of the subjects
naturally presenting themselves. When they moved out of the enclosure
to go to the carriage, Vance walked with the Colonel, following Evelyn
and Ralph.

"You will dine with us at our hotel this evening?" said the older man,
at parting.

"I am sorry that I am engaged," Vance answered, with appropriate
courtesy, "and that to-morrow I am off for Sicily. Sometime, later on
in your wanderings, I shall hope to run upon you again. This is the
worst of pleasant meetings in travel, is it not?"

When they were seated in the victoria, he shook Evelyn's hand last.

       *       *       *       *       *

The day was finally at hand that was to bring Ralph's sweetheart--with
her incidental father, mother, two younger sisters, and a
governess--to the quarters engaged for them at Rome. In the young
man's enthusiasm, he did not forget to wonder what cloud had passed
over his Cousin Evelyn's enjoyment of the place, the sights, the
season. He even consulted the Colonel as to whether Eve might not be
unduly affected by the crowded condition of the town, and proposed for
them to change to a quieter spot. And Eve's father, who had had his
own anxieties on this point, prevailed upon her to give up the
engagements she had made with apparent zest, and resort to Naples and
Sorrento.

To Naples, accordingly, they went, the faithful Ralph accompanying
them, at the cost of a night-journey on his return to Rome for the day
that was to see his happiness in flower. He drove with them to their
hotel, through the interminable streets, lined with palaces and
thronged with paupers, and saw them ensconced in pleasant quarters
facing Vesuvius, whose feather of smoke pointed to good weather. They
dined together in a vast _salle-à-manger_, where, in a gallery, was
conducted during their repast a noisy and mirth-provoking concert of
fiddlers, mandolins, and guitars,--the performers singing, shouting,
dancing, as they played. There was an hour before his train left, in
which, while the Colonel smoked upon the balcony of their
sitting-room, Eve walked out upon one of the quays with her cousin;
and this hour Ralph determined to improve.

In the last day or two, trifles had shown this astute young man that
the depression of his cousin (for whom he cherished no grudge
because, a year or two before, he had been wild to call her wife, and
she would not hear of it) had been coincident with the meeting in Rome
with Townsend. That very morning, he had found at his bankers', had
read and put into his pocket, a letter written by Vance on arriving at
Taormina, which had thrown upon the subject a new and surprising
light. Just how to convey his discoveries to Evelyn, the most proud
and sensitive of creatures about her sacred feelings, he had not yet
decided.

They talked of the bay, of the mountains, of Vesuvius. Calmed and
enchanted by the hour and scene, Eve wore her gentlest aspect, and
Ralph felt emboldened to begin.

"This is as it should be," he said, with an air of generalizing. "You
will go to Sorrento and Amalfi and Capri, and your roses will come
back. I shall not forget you, Evie dear, because I am getting what I
most want in life. You have always been to me a thing apart, and I've
told Maud so, over and over again. By and by, I shall bring her to the
Hall, and let her see you at your best, as its mistress. For you are
not quite the same over here, Evie, as in Virginia air."

"Perhaps I am growing old," she said, smiling. "But never mind me. We
shall miss you, Ralph, and it will require the greatest heroism to do
without you. After this journey, nobody need tell me that 'three is
trumpery.' We know better, do we not?"

"Why not send for your other cousin to take my place?" said Ralph,
seeing his opportunity. "He is at Taormina, and would come,
undoubtedly. I had a letter from him this morning, by the way. The
most characteristic letter,--just like the man."

No answer. Ralph felt as he were treading a bridge of glass.

"To explain it, I should have to go back to the evening of that
meeting in the Baths of Caracalla. He came to me at the hotel, and
after a friendly chat, just as he was leaving, took occasion to say
some uncommonly nice things about my relations with (as I thought)
_Maud_; so I thanked him, and gushed a little about her, maybe,--in
my circumstances, a fellow's excusable,--and off he went, I never
suspecting that he all the time thought I was going to marry _you_."

Here Ralph was rewarded by a genuine start and a blush, but still Eve
did not speak.

"A day later," Ralph went on, determined now to do or die, "something
I recalled of our conversation made me realize the mistake he was
under, and I wrote him a letter explaining it. Such a time as I had to
find his whereabouts! His banker had no instructions to forward
anything, and I won't tell you all the ups and downs of trying to get
at him. Finally, in despair, I sent the letter, on the chance, to
Taormina, and from there he answered me."

At this point, in revenge for her indifference, the diplomatist
remained, in his turn, silent, until Eve, who could bear it no longer,
turned upon him her beautiful young face, glowing in the evening light
with an eager joy. "And--and?" she exclaimed, impetuously.

"He is a good sort--Townsend," went on Ralph, reflectively. "I've an
idea, Evie, that if you and he could have managed to hit it off, you
would have suited each other capitally. He would be the kind likely to
settle down into a country gentleman, too; and you would never be
happy in town. He has brains and a heart, in addition to his good
looks and manners, and a restrained force of character that would be
an excellent balance for this little impulsive lady, whose only fault
is that she jumps at conclusions instead of working to them."

"You are perfectly right about that, Ralph," she said, laughing away a
strong desire to cry. "I am learning wisdom, however, with rapidly
advancing years. And you do only justice to my Cousin Vance, in your
estimate of him. No doubt," here she swallowed a nervous catch in her
voice, "if he told the truth in his letter, he congratulated you upon
being allied to some one other than the young person who made his
visit to Virginia last year a very hard test of patience, to say no
more."

She stopped, and tried to turn away her head. But Ralph, looking her
gently in the face, read there what gave him courage to launch the
last arrow in his quiver.

"Whatever he said, I saw through it, Evie dear. And I--I could not
wait to write an answer. I telegraphed my advice to come to Naples as
fast as steam can carry him."

       *       *       *       *       *

Shortly after her conversation upon the quay with Ralph (who,
returning to Rome, had been duly translated into anticipated bliss),
Eve and her father took advantage of a perfect Sunday for the
excursion up Mount Vesuvius.

In a landau with two horses,--a third to be annexed on the
ascent,--they traversed the long street formed by the villages of San
Giovanni, La Barra, Portici, and Resina, stretching from the parent
city--a street suggesting in the matter of population a series of
scattered ant-hills. Such a merry, dirty, shameless horde of all ages,
who, abandoning the dens they called homes, had issued forth under the
sun blazing even at that early hour of morning in his vault of blue,
to bivouac in the open highway, was never seen! Marketing,
chaffering, vending, gossiping, cooking, eating, drinking, performing
the rites of religion and of the toilet, the hum of their voices was
like the note of some giant insect. It was when a stranger's carriage
came in sight that the air became suddenly vocal with shrill cries for
alms; vehicles and horses were surrounded, escorted by noisy beggars,
whose half-naked children offered flowers, or turned somersaults
perilously near the wheels.

Resina passed, they could breathe more freely. The street turmoil was
succeeded by the peace of a country road mounting between lava walls,
over which glimpses of sea, of deep-red clover in fields, of vineyard
or lemon grove, were finally succeeded by glorious, unobstructed views
of the mountains, bay, and city. In the region of recent overflows,
they saw the most curious spectacle, to the newcomer, of fertile
garden-strips of green, where clung tiny houses, pink or whitewashed,
daring the mute monster overhead, while close beside them the
mountain-side was streaked with ominous stains marking the spots
where other homes had defied him just one day too long.

Higher still, in the track of the overflow of 1872, they experienced
the striking effect of entering into a valley of desolation between
walls of living green. Here, the lava in settling had wreathed itself
into the forms of dragons couchant, of huge serpents, and other
monstrous shapes that lay entwined as if asleep. Up above, arose the
main cone of the crater, smooth as a heap of gun-powder, vast,
majestic, cloud-circled; taking upon itself in the intense light a
blooming purple tint; the smoke issuing from its summit now soon
melting into space, now showing dense and threatening.

Evelyn, in whom the novelty as well as beauty of the scene had aroused
fresh spirit, looked more like her old self than her fond father had
seen her for many a long day. But it is fortunately not given to
parents, however solicitous, to see all the workings of young minds;
and the good gentleman would have been indeed surprised had he divined
the mainspring of her animation. While he was indulging in a few mild
objections to the length and slowness of the drive, the rapacity of
wayside beggars, the heat of the sun, etc., such as naturally occur to
the traveller unsupported by sentimental hopes, to our young lady the
condition of motion was a necessity, and the act of getting upward a
relief.

For the plain truth was that, since the last talk with Ralph, Evelyn
had given rein to a thousand emotions repressed, during the months
gone by, with stern self-chiding.

Until now, recalling the year before when Vance had left her to an
unavailing sense of regret for her harsh judgment of him, she had
hardly realized what their intercourse together had meant to her. But
the period of his visit was, in fact, succeeded by one in which her
salt of life had lost its savor; and Evelyn, to her dismay, found that
her affections had gone from her keeping to this man's, acknowledged
to have been the suitor of her friend.

That Katherine had refused Vance, and straightway married another
lover, made very little difference to one of Eve's rigid creed in
these matters. To her, love declared was love unchangeable; with air
her heart she pitied Vance for his disappointment, and blamed herself
for having repeatedly wounded him without reason. By means of this
mode of argument, she had naturally succeeded in raising Townsend to
the pedestal of a martyred hero, which, it may be conceived by those
of colder judgment, did not lessen his importance in the girl's
imagination.

As the months had gone on, and she had had nothing from him save
packages of books and prints sent according to promise, as to a polite
entertainer who is thus agreeably disposed of by the beneficiary of
hospitality extended, her feelings had taken on the complexion of
hopeless regret for an irrevocable past. What Eve had henceforth to
do, according to her own strict ordinance, was to live down the
impulse that made her give her heart unasked. The stress of these
emotions had, in spite of her brave efforts, so worked upon her health
that the Colonel, as fond of home as a limpet of his rock, determined
to try for her the change of air and experience, resulting as we have
seen.

And now, on this dazzling day, a "bridal of earth and sky" in one of
the loveliest spots upon earth, she kept saying to herself, "By
to-morrow--to-morrow, at latest--he will be with me! And then--and
then--and _then_--!"

The carriage halted at a little wayside booth for the sale of wines
and fruit. A dark-skinned woman, bearing a tray of glasses, with
flasks of the delusive _Lachrymae Christi_ (made from the grapes
ripened upon these slopes) came forward to greet them. On Evelyn's
side, a hawker, with shells and strings of coral, and coins alleged to
have been found imbedded in the lava near at hand, importuned her.
But, rejecting the others, she beckoned to a pretty, bare-legged boy
carrying oranges garnished in their own glossy, dark-green leaves; and
so busy was she in selecting the best of his refreshing fruit, she
hardly observed that another claimant for her attention had appeared
close beside the wheel.

"Please go away, my good man," she said at last, laughingly, without
giving him a glance. "Indeed, I want nothing you can supply."

"That is a harsh assertion," Vance said, in a low tone meant for her
ear, and then proceeded to greet both his cousins outspokenly.

He had reached Naples early that morning; had ascertained at their
hotel that they were engaged to start for Vesuvius at a given hour;
fearing collision with a party of strangers, had set out alone to walk
up the mountain and take his chance of intercepting them; and had
waited here for the purpose.

"After you had been journeying all night?" said the Colonel, with
unfeigned surprise. "Why, my dear fellow, in your place I should
have--"

Just then he intercepted, passing between Evelyn and Vance, a look
that startled him. That his sentence remained unfinished nobody
observed. The Colonel drew back into his corner, as if he had been
shot.

If she had divined her father's feeling, Eve could not have pitied
any one who was gaining Vance. And Vance, at that moment, believed all
the world to be as happy as himself!

       *       *       *       *       *

To a love-affair so obvious, the ending naturally to be expected is of
the old-fashioned and inevitable sort. In the beautiful Indian summer
of the following autumn in Virginia, these two people were duly
married at the Hall. From far and wide came relatives to wish them
joy; it was like the gathering of a Scotch clan at the summons of the
pipes. Prominent among the revellers at the dance following the
nuptial ceremony was Cousin Josey, who, in a pair of antiquated
leather pumps with buckles, led down the middle of a reel with his
cherished "Lady-love." To please the old boy, Evelyn had worn the
little string of pearls bought by him, years before, for a bride who
was never to be. And so everybody was content, and one of the cousins
said it was "exactly like a weddin' befo' the wah."



Out of Season


Chapter I

"No; no house-parties till the middle of July. Dear knows, what with a
string of big dinners, my two little dances, and those tiresome
Thursdays in January and February when everybody came, I have done all
that could be expected by society from paupers like ourselves," said
Mrs. Henry Gervase, settling herself in a wicker chair, on the veranda
of her country home, and looking approvingly at her water-view.

"Paupers!" said a lady from a neighboring cottage, who had dropped in
to call. Mrs. Gervase's friends rarely liked to commit themselves to
positive comment upon her statements until certain which way the cat
was meant to jump. Mrs. Luther Prettyman, the wife of the dry-goods
magnate, whose good fortune it was to own the land adjoining the
Gervase property at Sheepshead Point,--a recently famous resort for
summer visitors on our far eastern coast,--now contented herself with
a little deprecatory giggle that might mean anything, and waited for
Mrs. Gervase to go on.

"Oh, well! everything is comparative; and on the scale by which people
measure things in New York, to-day, we are simply grovelling in
poverty. John,"--to her gardener,--"you have got that row of myosotis
entirely out of line; and, remember, nothing but salvia behind the
heliotropes. I like a blaze of scarlet and purple against a blue
sea-line like this. Heavens! what a perfect afternoon! The atmosphere
has been clarified, and those birches in the ravine 'twinkle with a
million lights.' My dear woman, I make no apologies. Any one who wants
me at this season of the year must take me as I am. After eight months
of bricks and mortar, dirty streets, and stupid drives in the Park, I
am fairly maudlin over Nature when I get her back in June.

"I went to a concert where Paderewski played a night or two before he
left America; and I give you my word that while the music was going on
I put up my fan and plainly heard the babble of this little brook of
mine, and the lap of the waves over the rocks at high tide, with, now
and then, the notes of the song-sparrow that comes back every year and
perches on my Norway pine. Somebody said of me afterwards, at supper,
that I had been having a little nap. They may say anything of me, I
believe, and some idiot will be found to credit it. But please don't
accept the newspaper report that I am to have Mr. and Mrs. This, or
Mr. That and Mrs. T'other, stopping with me at Stoneacres during June.
I am much too busy with my granger-work, and my husband too
industrious doing nothing, to play host and hostess now."

"I did not know; I only thought--" ventured Mrs. Prettyman. "You see,
everything is so dull here, socially, till August. And when one has a
guest coming who is accustomed to a great deal of fashionable
gaiety,--a young lady, a distinguished belle,--one naturally grasps at
the idea of such pleasant house-parties as yours are known to be, dear
Mrs. Gervase."

"We shall be dull as ditch-water," answered relentless Mrs. Gervase,
turning around to survey the struggle of a fat-breasted robin to
extract from the turf a worm that continued to emerge in apparently
unending length. "And if you _will_ have a girl out of season, why,
put her on bread and milk and beauty-sleep, give her plenty of trashy
novels and a horse to ride, and she'll do well enough."

"But--perhaps I am wrong--surely Mr. Gervase told Mr. Prettyman, when
they were smoking on our veranda last Sunday, that you are expecting
your nephew, Mr. Alan Grove."

"That's just like Mr. Gervase,--a perfect sieve for secrets," quoth
Mrs. Gervase, contemptuously; "when I particularly requested him to
mention Alan's visit to nobody. The poor boy is completely used up
with work, and has engaged to get a paper ready to read before some
scientific congress next month, and finds himself unable to write a
line of it in town. Here, I have promised him, he may have absolute
quiet--not be called on to play civility or squire-of-dames for any
one; and, I may as well warn you _now_, he's not to be expected to do
a _hand's turn_ of entertainment for your girl. Besides, I happen to
know that he can't abide 'society' young women. He is plunged up to
the neck in electricity, is poor, ambitious, clever, on the way to
sure success; and I'm going to back him all I can, not put
stumbling-blocks in his path."

"How plunged up to his neck in electricity?" asked puzzled Mrs.
Prettyman.

"Electric law, my good soul; did you think it a new kind of capital
punishment? The lucrative law of the future, I've heard wise men say.
Simpkins!" hailing, with irresistible command, a butcher's cart that
seemed possessed of a strong desire to drive away in a hurry from a
side entrance to the house. "_Simpkins!_ Oh! there you are; I meant to
leave orders with the cook not to let you get away again to-day
without a word from me. I noticed, on the book, that you had the
effrontery to charge sixty cents a pound for spring chickens here in
June. Now, don't tell me! The way all you natives do; you have a short
season, and must make the most of it. This is not your season, or my
season, either. Wait till August before you put on the screws. And
your sweetbreads, eighty cents a pair, when _you know_ that when Mr.
Gervase and I first came here to live, you were _throwing sweetbreads
away_, till we taught you the use of them! Now, mind, I shall get
tired of sending friends to you to be fleeced in August, if this is
what you do to me in June."

"I must be running off," said Mrs. Prettyman, arising from her spot of
shade and luxurious comfort in the deep veranda filled, though not
encumbered, with picturesque belongings, with stands and pots of
blooming plants in every nook. "I'll declare, nobody's flowers do as
well as yours. And the wages we pay our head gardener! It makes me
really envious."

This, be it known, was a clever stroke on the part of neighbor
Prettyman. Secretly resentful of the tepid interest in the personality
of her expected guest,--who, in the eyes of the house of Prettyman,
was an event,--she yet did not dare attempt to bring the greater lady
to yield sympathy upon the spot. Mrs. Gervase's weakest side was for
her flowers. She possessed the magic touch that alone nurtures them to
perfection, and with it the proud love of a parent for children that
grow inclined according to her will.

"Hum! We do pretty well, considering this house is built on the ragged
edge of nothing over the sea, and is swept by all the winds of heaven,
in turn, and sometimes all together. And, in a climate where one goes
to bed in the Tropics and wakes up at the North Pole, what would you
have? John, there, though I'll not set him up by telling him so, has
learned all I know about flowers, and picks up new ideas every day. By
August, now, these beds and stands will be worth looking at. What did
you say is the name of the young person who's coming to stop with you?
If you've nothing better, suppose you and she and Mr. Prettyman come
over to dinner Saturday. Alan has promised me not to work at night,
and by that time my plants will all be in the ground and my mind at
rest."

"Thank you so much," said the lesser luminary. "It is always a treat
to dine with you _en famille_; and it is--didn't I mention
her?--Gladys Eliot who is coming to us to-morrow."

"Gladys Eliot! Why, she's gone with her people to London for two
months. I saw her name in the _Teutonic's_ list last Thursday. Those
Eliots would never in the world let slip another chance for her to
make the great match they've set out to get."

"Nevertheless," said Mrs. Prettyman, with some show of spirit, "Mrs.
Eliot, who is my old school-friend, wrote me, the day before they
sailed, that Gladys had taken it into her head to stay behind, and
begged me to keep her till her aunt can come up from Baltimore in July
and take the girl in charge."

"Three weeks of Gladys Eliot!" remarked Mrs. Gervase. "My poor woman,
I pity you. By the end of the month there will be no health in you. A
professional beauty, who has run the gauntlet of four or five years of
incessant praises, has been advertised like 'Pear's Soap,' in England
and America, and has failed to make her _coup_! I remember what Alan
Grove said about her no longer ago than Christmas of last year: 'I
haven't the advantage of Miss Eliot's acquaintance, but her and her
kind I hold in abhorrence,--denationalized Americans; hangers-on of
older civilizations that make a puppet-show of them; spoiled for home,
with no rightful place abroad; restless, craving what no
healthy-minded husband of their own kind can give them.' Bless me--and
_those two_ are going to _meet here_!"

"I think Mr. Alan Grove need not concern himself," said Mrs.
Prettyman, driven to bay. "Mrs. Eliot mentioned in her letter that
Gladys--it is no secret, evidently--is nearly, if not quite, engaged
to marry some one the family feels is _in all respects_ all they could
have hoped for her."

"Then it must be either that Colonel Larkyns, the very rude man with
large feet, who walked all over my velvet gown at the Egertons', last
winter,--came over with Lord Glenmore, whom the Eliots tried for and
couldn't get,--or else McLaughlin, the Irishman who made such a lot of
money in Montana. The two men were running evenly, 'twas said. Let
me think--didn't I see her at Claremont on McLaughlin's coach, last
month? Pray, my dear, are we to congratulate you on having Mr.
McLaughlin, also, as a member of your household, before long?"

"Oh dear, dear!" continued the plain-spoken lady to herself, when poor
Mrs. Prettyman, fairly routed, had retired without honors from the
field. "Why is nature so heavenly kind to us in American places of
resort, and 'only man is vile'? Why does this struggle for place, this
pride of vogue, these types of our worst social element--I hate that
word 'social,' it sounds vulgar; but what else expresses this for
me?--follow one into this earthly Paradise? Here I have got myself
into a pretty kettle of fish with Alan Grove. He will be bored to
death and his visit broken up, for we can't rid ourselves of people
who sit in our pocket, like the Prettymans in summer; and he will be
running upon this Eliot creature perpetually. If Henry would help me,
we might--but he is so abominably friendly and cordial with country
neighbors, there's no hope from him. Besides, if a girl is pretty, it
makes no earthly difference to my good man whether she is a fiend of
calculation and cold-heartedness. I declare, I've no patience with
Henry, anyhow."

So saying, Mrs. Gervase went out to drive with the offender in
question, behind a pair of sleek cobs, in a little buckboard of tawny
wood with russet leather cushions and harness,--his latest
present,--and soon, in cheerful companionship, forgot all sorrows amid
such views of land and water as Sheepshead Point people think only
Sheepshead Point can offer.


Chapter II

To reach Sheepshead Point, a boat steams daily, and several times a
day, from a station on the line of a great railway skirting the
eastern Atlantic coast. Issuing from a drawing-room car there, a young
woman, dressed in a tight-fitting skirt and jacket of sailor blue,
with a loose shirt of red silk belted around a taper waist, her small
head with its sailor-hat half shrouded from view in a blue tissue
veil, walked lightly ahead of Mr. Alan Grove and, attended by an
elderly maid, went far forward to stand in the bows of the boat.

Grove, struck by the grace and distinction of her carriage, looked
again, and then was conscious of an actual fierce jump of the heart.

"Can there be two of them?" he asked of his inner man. "Doctors tell
you if you keep your body in good order, and your mind healthily at
work, you will never see a ghost--and yet--that's the double of the
woman who sailed away from me last Thursday; who's haunted me during
the six madly misspent weeks since I had the misfortune to be told off
to take her in to dinner. Oh! no, it isn't. Yes, it is--by Jove, it
_is_ Gladys Eliot."

He was never so astonished. Believing her to be at that moment on the
ocean, nearing British shores, Grove was fairly staggered when Miss
Eliot, turning, espied him and, by a graciously easy nod, summoned him
to her side. Considering the manner of their parting a few weeks back,
he wondered at himself for the immediate abjectness of his obedience.

It was a favorite phrase of Gladys Eliot's admirers to describe her as
having a "Duchess of Leinster head and throat." Nature had certainly
bestowed upon this daughter of nobody in particular in the Western
Hemisphere a pose of a proud little head upon broad, sloping
shoulders, as fine as that much-photographed great lady's. She had, in
addition, a pair of innocent, Irish-blue eyes and a guileless smile; a
voice, in speaking, that was sweet and low; and the best or worst
manners in the world, so critics said, according to the desirableness
of her interlocutor.

"Mr. Grove! How perfectly extraordinary that you should be here," she
exclaimed, giving him the tips of her well-gloved fingers, while the
maid and dressing-bag withdrew discreetly into the background.

"Did you expect me to remain forever on the steps of the Claremont
tea-house, like a monument of a city father, to adorn the suburbs of
New York?"

"You are so quick-tempered, so unreasonable! How should I know you
were going to take such dire offence? But please--I can't quarrel away
off here, or even justify myself. If you are going to remain furious
with me, at least gratify my curiosity first, and tell me how you came
on this boat, and where you are going. Then, if you are so inclined,
you may retire into your shell and sulk."

A soft light was shining in her eye. Her voice was pleading; her face,
most beautiful. Grove, promising himself, in street vernacular, to "go
off and kick himself" directly afterwards, took his place at her
elbow and gazed down hungrily upon her artless, changeful countenance.

"Rather tell me why you are not about to plant your triumphant banner
on British shores once more. I read your name in the list of those
sailing. The newspapers have given all of your summer plans in detail,
all the country-houses that are to receive you, all the aristocrats
that are to send invitations to dinner, to meet your ship at
Queenstown."

She colored slightly. "As usual, you are making fun of me. What would
be the use, since you won't believe me, of telling you my actual
reason for backing out of this English visit, and letting my mother
and sister go without me? No, I shan't flatter you by showing my real
self."

"I have seen enough of your real self, thank you. I believe I prefer
the unreal, the imaginary woman I suffered myself to fancy you to be
for a brief space after our acquaintance began."

"Now you are rude," she began, her voice faltering ever so little, but
enough to shake his equilibrium. He made a movement towards her; and
she looked him in the face, trying to keep down the tingle of
satisfaction in her veins. For Gladys's experience of men had taught
her to recognize in a certain phase of incivility the existence of
passion unsubdued. It is only indifference in his sex that can
maintain an armor of polite self-control towards hers.

Grove caught the transient gleam in her eye, and read it aright.
Immediately he was on the defensive, and his manner froze.

"I believe you know my aunt, Mrs. Gervase, in town," he said. "I think
I saw you at one of her dances, in January."

"Mrs. Gervase is the dearest thing," interrupted Miss Eliot, conscious
of blankness in her tone.

"She may be, but it would be a brave person who would tell her so. She
is a delightful, but autocratic, personage; and one of the treats of
the year for me is to get away to her and my uncle for a holiday, when
they have no one else. This is one of those rare occasions. The
cottage people who have come down to Sheepshead have a tacit agreement
to keep to themselves, just now. They are supposed to be getting
their houses to rights, and making gardens, and what not. Mrs. Gervase
says they are really wearing out the past season's gloves, and putting
tonics on their hair, and trying new cures and doses, for which there
was no time before leaving town. The days will pass in doing as we
please, and in the evening we shall dine well (for the Gervases have a
corker of a cook), after which my aunt and uncle and I will take each
a book and a lamp into some nook of the library, and read till
bedtime. You can't imagine a life more to my taste."

"Prohibitory to outsiders, at least," said Gladys. "This is, as I
suppose you mean it to be, awfully alarming to me; for I haven't told
you that I am for three weeks to be Mrs. Gervase's nearest neighbor. I
am going to visit an old friend of my mother's,--Mrs. Luther
Prettyman."

Grove experienced a sensation of dismay. The Prettymans! Château
Calicot, as he had dubbed their new florid "villa," built on the shore
in objectionable proximity to his uncle's house, some three years
back! He remembered the vines planted, the shrubs set out, the rattan
screens hung, the final adjustment of chairs by Mrs. Gervase, in the
attempt to shut out every glimpse of the Prettyman belongings from
their place of daily rendezvous on the veranda at Stoneacres; his
uncle's sly amusement when the cupola of the Prettyman stables, and
the roof of a detestable little sugar-temple tea-house were projected
on their line of vision, spite of all. Mrs. Gervase could not forgive
herself for not having secured that point of land when land was so
ridiculously cheap. On an average of once a day, she reminded her
husband that she had begged him to do so, and he had put it off until
too late.

Mrs. Prettyman, unvisited by Mrs. Gervase for many months after the
red-brown gables of her costly dwelling rose into prominence at
Sheepshead Point, had gradually found her way into quasi-intimacy at
Stoneacres. Mrs. Gervase, protesting that her neighbor was
commonplace, vacuous, a being from whom one could derive nothing more
profitable than the address of a place in town to have one's lace
lampshades made a dollar cheaper than elsewhere, allowed herself, in
time, to take a mild but perceptible interest in Prettyman affairs.
Through force of habit, she had grown accustomed to survey the
Prettyman lodge-gates, in driving, without remarking upon "the
absurdity of gilded finials to iron railings, at a rough, seaside
place like this." Nay, the noses of the Gervase cobs were now not
infrequently turned in through these gilded railings. Mr. and Mrs.
Gervase dined periodically with the Prettymans. The Prettymans
repaired more frequently to Stoneacres. Mrs. Prettyman made capital,
in town, of her friendship with "dear Mrs. Gervase." This, Grove, like
the rest of the world, had come gradually to know and accept. But it
grated on him to hear that the woman who, so far, had furnished his
life its chief feminine influence should be associated in this way
with the mistress of Château Calicot. It belittled his one
passion--now put away as dead, but still his own. This, indeed, set
the crowning touch upon his misfortune of meeting her again.


Chapter III

"My dear boy, you might have knocked me down with a feather," said
Mrs. Gervase, upon capturing her nephew at the wharf and driving away
with him. "Tell me at once what you mean by knowing Gladys Eliot, and
arriving with her in that intimate sort of way, just as I had, with
infinite trouble, succeeded in bluffing the Prettymans with a mere
dinner on Saturday! Now you will be _having_ to call. _You_, of all
people, hitting it off with Gladys Eliot!"

"Give yourself no concern," put in Mr. Gervase, who was driving,
looking back over his shoulder with a beaming smile; "I offer to throw
myself into the breach. A woman as beautiful, as tall, as placid, as
Miss Eliot commands the best homage of my heart. I forewarn you that I
am going desperately into this affair. Such luck never came my way
before."

"Stop at the confectioner's for the macaroons, Henry," said his wife,
ignoring transports. "Alan, you are looking wretched. When I think of
those ruddy, brown cheeks, and the look of vigor you brought out of
your college athletics a few years back, I'm inclined to renounce mind
and go in for muscle exclusively. Oh, that wretched grind of life in
New York that crushes the youth and spirit out of you poor boys that
have to toil for a living! Surely, it isn't _only_ law that's worked
such havoc in those pale, thin cheeks--"

"My dear Agatha, your sympathy would put a well man in his bed," said
Mr. Gervase, whose keen eyes took in more of the actual situation than
did his wife's.

"Oh well!--stop here, please; no, I won't get down, Jonas sees me; he
will be out directly, with the parcel--you must see, Henry, that Alan
has changed, even since--"

"Alan, let me tell you of a bill our friend Jonas, here, who is a bit
of a horse-jockey, as well as local confectioner and pastry-cook,
sent in recently to your aunt. He had been selling her a mate to her
chestnut, and the account ran this way:

     "'MRS. H. GERVASE TO I. JONAS, DR.
     1 lb. lady-fingers           $  0.30
     One horse                     250.00
     ½ lb. cream peppermints         0.20
                                   ------
                           Total, $250.50'"

Grove was glad to cover his various discomforts with a laugh. But he
did not find it easy to elude the vigilance of Mrs. Gervase, who bided
her time until an opportunity presented itself for an uninterrupted
talk with him.

"Stretch yourself out on that bamboo couch, and let me put the pillows
in," she said, when they two adjourned to the veranda, in the twilight
after dinner. "It is such fun to have a boy to cosset once more, with
my own lads at college, and three weeks to wait before I can get Tom
and Louis back from New London after the boat-race."

"You have such an inspired faculty for making men comfortable," Grove
remarked, from the depths of his _bien-être_.

"Custom, I suppose. An only daughter, with a father and three brothers
to wait upon till I married, and a husband and two sons to impose on
me since. I should not know how to handle girls. I like them, of
course,--find them all very well in their way,--but they bother me.
Perhaps it is that there are no old-fashioned girls any more--no young
ones, certainly. They come into the world like Minerva from Jove's
brain. They are so learned, or clever, or worldly-wise, read
everything, see everything, hear everything discussed, have no
illusions--but, there, I can't explain my preference. Men are
captious, obstinate, whimsical, by turns; disappoint one continually
in little things--but in the main they are so broad and big; scatter
nonsense into thin air; are so loyal and unswerving to their beliefs;
know where they stand, and, having made up their minds to action, do
not change."

"In short," remarked Grove, "you are like the little servant-maid in
Cranford, when they told her to hand the potatoes to the ladies first.
'I'll do as you bid me, ma'am, but I like the lads best.' My dearest
auntie, there must be guardian angels specially appointed to look
after our sex, and you are one of them. This is the age and America is
the field for the unchecked efflorescence of young womankind. But when
the conversation takes on this complexion, I feel it to be unfair not
to allow the defendant the assistance of counsel; though, even if
Uncle Henry were here, I am sure we should both be demolished
speedily."

"Never mind Henry," said that gentleman's representative. "He has got
a new letter from a man in London whom he keeps for the purpose of
making him miserable with catalogues of sales of books and papers he
can't afford to buy. But he potters over them, and marks the lists,
and writes back to the man in London, and, as you know, we do manage
to become possessed of much more dear antiquity than the house will
hold or our income warrant. This time, he is buried alive for an hour
to come, for it is about a sale of Sir Philip Francis's letters and
manuscripts at Sotheby's very soon."

"I don't believe the real 'Junius' announcing himself would get me out
of this bamboo chair and away from this deepening of eventide upon the
sea and islands, the afterglow of sunset melting into moonlight, the
soft caressing of the salt air blending with those hidden heliotropes
of yours! Now, dear lady, let's go back to the concrete. I knew, the
moment your eagle eye fell on me this afternoon, you would find out
all that in me is. For so many years I've been telling you my scrapes,
I may as well out with the latest and biggest of them. Two months ago,
I took Gladys Eliot in to dinner at the Sargents'. I kept it from you
in town, for which you'll say I am properly punished. I fell in love
with her, like a schoolboy with green apples, heeding not the danger
of unwholesomeness. After that, I met her when and wherever I could
push my way to her. I thought of her, sleeping and waking; received
from her looks and tones and words that would, as the lady novelists
are so fond of saying, 'tempt an anchorite;' _believed_ in her!"

"My poor child, how wretched!" said Mrs. Gervase, promptly.

"So it proved. Last but not least of the comedy,--I skip the
details,--I was deluded into buttoning myself up in a fluffy,
long-tailed, iron-gray coat that I got in London last spring and had
not had time to wear, put on a bunch of white carnations, and drove
out to one of those inane Claremont teas in my friend Pierre Sargent's
trap, because, forsooth, _she_ asked me. For an hour I suffered
martyrdom in that little greenhouse sort of a veranda, with people
herded together gossiping, and not setting their feet upon the lawn
over the river that they came out to see. Women talked drivel to me,
waiters slopped tea over me, and we walked on slices of buttered
bread. Then _she_ came--on the box-seat of that brute McLaughlin's
drag, having eyes for him only, so that every one talked of it!"

"I remember--and I could not imagine what brought you there. Yes, I
sat down on a little cake and completely ruined my new porcelain-blue
_crépon_--those waiters were very careless. Jolly faded it trying to
take out the spot, and Mathilde had the greatest trouble to match the
stuff. Alan, that man McLaughlin ought to be drummed out of polite
society. The girl who would receive his attentions, let herself be
talked of as likely to be his wife, cannot at heart be nice. When your
dear mother and I were girls, we would not have _looked_ at a big,
vulgar creature like that, simply because he drove four-in-hand and
was known to be rich. He would never have been asked to your
grandfather's table. The materialism of this age takes, to me, no form
more objectionable than the frank acceptance of such as he by women,
old and young."

"Exactly," said Grove, grimly. "And when I met her at his side, she
turned away from him one moment with a banal jest for me, and then
quickly recaptured him, as if fearful he would escape. That, even my
infatuation would not suffer. I turned on my heel, and, until I met
her by chance on the boat to-day, have never seen her since."

"What can have been her reason for not going abroad?" said Mrs.
Gervase, eagerly--a trifle suspiciously.

Grove was silent. In his ear sounded a dulcet voice, murmuring as the
boat neared shore: "Perhaps, when you have consented to feel better
friends with me, you will come and let me tell you _why I stayed_."

"You know, of course, that everybody says she is engaged? Her mother
has hinted it to Mrs. Prettyman. If it be to this McLaughlin, then God
knows you are well rid of her. If that be a blind, Alan dear,--you
know it was always my way with you boys to scold about little things
and let great ones pass,--I shan't add a word to your self-reproach;
but I'll warn you--oh! I won't have the sin on my soul of letting you
go unwarned. That woman, no matter whether she thinks she loves you or
not, would make your misery. The parents of to-day don't trouble
themselves to train up wives for the rank and file of our honest
gentlemen. They create fine ladies, and look about for some one to
take the expense of them off their hands. It is common talk that the
Eliots have been strained to their utmost means to carry their girls
from place to place, with the expectation of making rich marriages.
The beauty and success of this one has apparently blinded those poor
people to the consequences of their folly. The girl has been brought
up to fancy herself of superior clay,--her habits are luxurious, her
wants extravagant.

"More than all, for five years she has been fed on the flatteries of
society. Personal praise is indispensable to her. She has lived and
consorted with the most lavish entertainers of the most reckless
society in our republic. Even supposing that you won her beauty and
graces for your own, what on earth could you expect to offer her in
exchange for what she would give up? My poor, dear lad, I'm talking
platitudes, you think; but you and Tom and Louis shall not be allowed
to wreck your futures upon such as Gladys Eliot, while I have breath
to speak. I'm afraid I think all marriages a mistake for young men. I
know they are, as we measure and value things, in what we call
'fashionable life.' Go out of it, by all means, if you can. To take
_her_ out of it you would find to be quite another matter. And now,
after this long homily, I've one question to put. Answer it, if you
like--if you think I've the right to ask it. After seeing her again
to-day, do you feel there is danger in her proximity?"

"You have certainly torn sentiment to shreds," said Alan, getting up
from amid his cushions and beginning to stride up and down the long
veranda. Mrs. Gervase watched him without further speech. That he did
not again allude to the subject sent her to bed with keen anxiety and
a renewed regret that Mr. Gervase had not taken her advice about
buying that point of land before it fell into the hands of the
Prettymans.

For the two or three days following his arrival at Stoneacres, Grove
made no attempt to see his neighbor's guest. Once, indeed, they
encountered her on horseback, while driving together in a family party
in the buckboard, behind the cobs. Mr. Gervase, who, in his later
enthusiasm about the Junius correspondence, had forgotten his
charmer, asked who was that stunning, pretty girl, and, on being
rallied by his wife, declared his poor sight was at fault, and that he
meant to call on the Prettymans that very day; but Saturday brought
with it the appointed dinner, without other overture from Stoneacres
than cards left by Mrs. Gervase when the ladies were from home.

Grove was hardly surprised when, on descending to the drawing-room in
evening clothes, he found only that very colorless pair of Prettymans.
Miss Eliot, it was alleged, was suffering from too long a ride in the
hot sun of the afternoon to make the effort to come out. He saw in the
countenance of his aunt a look of relief, which she at once proceeded
to mask by unusual suavity to mankind in general, her flattered guests
in particular.

"The worst is over; I am safe," Grove decided. "But I like her all the
better for that womanly holding back. Now, to live down my folly as
best I can."

He threw himself into hard work, and the days passed healthily. Mrs.
Gervase had begun to relax her vigilance, to breathe almost free of
care, when, upon one of his morning rides, ahead of him in a forest
glade, he espied Gladys Eliot, in the saddle, attended by one of the
Prettyman boys, a youngster of thirteen, mounted on a polo pony in
process of "showing off" his and his master's accomplishments.

At the sound behind them, both Gladys and the boy turned to look; and
Grove saw that he could not retreat without a decided lack of dignity.
He therefore rode by them, receiving from Miss Eliot a faint and
chilly nod; from the boy,--an acquaintance of last year,--a more
cordial salutation.

"I say, Mr. Grove, _can't_ Punch take that fallen tree?" cried out the
lad, in shrill treble. "_She_ says it's dangerous, because the bank is
caved. Hold on one minute, and I'll show you he can clear it, bank and
all."

Punch, proving nothing loth, jumped the obstacles in question
gallantly, but on the far side slipped on something, and spilled his
rider among a bed of tall bracken, in which the boy lay, lost to
sight. Both Grove and Gladys were in a minute at his side, shocked at
finding him white and senseless.

"It was not the fall," she said, rapidly. "He has heart-trouble, and
his mother is always anxious about a sudden shock for him. He will
outgrow it probably, the doctors say. Here, you hold him in your arms,
while I get water from that brook. I know what to do, and he will soon
come to himself."

Grove found himself silently obeying her behests. He was struck by her
prompt presence of mind, her deftness, and good sense. "What an
admirable trained nurse is lost to the world in her!" he thought, and,
when all was done, and the boy gave token of returning life, sat
still, content to crush down moss and ferns, awkwardly holding his
burden, while Gladys knelt so close that her breath in speaking fanned
his cheek.

"It wasn't Punch's fault. I've got a big bee buzzing in my head," were
the welcome words they at last heard from the sufferer.

"Yes, I know, Jim dear, but don't talk now till the big bee flies
away," and the boy, closing his eyes, appeared to sleep.

"Lay his head on my lap, and then, if you don't mind riding back and
ordering some sort of a trap, without letting his mother know--"

"I can't leave you here. It is too far from home, and the country
hereabouts is quite bare of dwellings. Nor would I like you to ride so
far alone. There; let him sleep, and we will watch him till he wakes.
No doctor could have treated him more cleverly than you."

"It's the result of a 'First Aid to the Injured' class I went to once,
perhaps. But I always had a knack with ill people," she said, dropping
the deep fringes of her eyes upon damask cheeks.

       *       *       *       *       *

That evening, Grove could do no less than call to inquire after Master
Jim, who, not much the worse for his attack, kept his adoring mother
in durance at his bedside, while Grove sat watching the opal flushes
die out of a western sky, in company with Gladys. Quite another
Gladys was this, in all save beauty and her dulcet voice, from his
enslaver of town life.

And now, to Mrs. Gervase's ill-concealed dismay, visits, meetings,
rides, boating, began and continued daily. Grove was teaching Miss
Eliot chess, he said, and the other things were what they call upon
the stage "incidental divertisements."

A fortnight of glorious weather had passed thus, when, on the eve of
Grove's return to town and work, he asked Gladys to go out in a boat
with him to watch the sunset on the water.

"Now you have told me there is no reason I may not speak, I can wait
no longer for an answer," he said, as, resting on his oars, he scanned
her face eagerly. "When a man tears his heart out and throws it at a
woman's feet, surely he offers something. But that, you know, is my
all. If you can consent to share the kind of life mine has got to be
for the next five or six years, I think I see daylight beyond. By that
time, your first youth will be gone, you will be forgotten by the
people who court you now, you will be a nobody in their esteem. To me,
you will always be the one woman of the world. You will have the full
love of my heart; and you shall see what that means, when a true man
pours it upon you unrestrained. I don't pretend to be worth it, Heaven
knows. But I do say you have never before been loved by a man like me,
and you know it and feel it thoroughly. It's for you to take or leave
me, accepting consequences."

"What a stand-and-deliver kind of love-making," Gladys tried to say;
but she was deeply stirred. Remaining silent, her eyes filled with
tears; her head drooped towards her breast.

"Gladys!" cried he, exultingly.

"Don't you see, now, the real reason why I could not go abroad?" she
said, smiling on him brightly, and lifting, at the same moment, her
ungloved left hand to put back a loose lock of hair that the wind had
blown across her cheek. Grove, gazing at her with his whole soul in
his eyes, became aware of a ring upon the fourth finger,--a ring of
such conspicuous brilliancy and choice gems as to convey but one
meaning,--and his expression changed.

"Oh! I hate it! I shall give it back!" she exclaimed, a burning blush
settling upon her face. "I did not mean--it was an accident. I hate
it, I tell you! Why do you look at me like that?"

She tore the ring from her hand, and impetuously put it out of sight.
Presently, as Grove, in mechanical fashion, resumed his rowing without
a word, she cried out, passionately:

"Why do you not ask me to explain all the--circumstances of my life
since I saw you last? Why can't you understand that a girl situated as
I am has temptations that at times seem to her irresistible? Need I
mortify myself by telling you that I am _driven_--driven till I feel
as if I would do anything to get rest from eternal lectures about what
a rich marriage has got to do for me--and for others? Yes, you are
right in saying that a man like you never before asked me to marry
him. Because I feel that--because--because--Oh! you are cruel not to
speak--to help me! How can I put into words that I am willing to give
up all--"

It was impossible, facing the rigid coldness of his face, to go on.
She sat in wretched silence till they reached shore, and he gave her
his chilly hand to help her upon the float. Then the touch of her
fingers sent a tremor of relenting into his veins.

"Oh, if I could! If I could! But he too--that other one--believed.
Tell me; he does not still believe in you?"

"I hate him," she said, doggedly. She shivered a little, as the
quickened breeze of evening struck her thinly-clad form.

Grove, clasping her hand, gazed into her eyes with a desperate resolve
to read her heart.

"Let me go--it is no use," she said, turning away from him.

And, with a sigh deep as Fate, he loosened his hold of her--forever.



On Frenchman's Bay

Chapter I

From Maxwell Pollock, Esq., No. -- Fifth Avenue, New York, to Stephen
Cranbrooke, Esq., ---- Club, New York.

     "May 30, 189-.

     "My dear Cranbrooke:

     "You will wonder why I follow up our conversation of last
     evening with a letter; why, instead of speaking, I should
     write what is left to be said between us two.

     "But after a sleepless night, of which my little wife
     suspects nothing, I am impelled to confide in you--my oldest
     friend, _her_ friend, although you and she have not yet grown
     to the comprehension of each other I hoped for when she
     married me three years ago--a secret that has begun to weigh
     heavy upon my soul.

     "I do not need to remind you that, since our college days,
     you have known me subject to fits of moodiness and depression
     upon which you have often rallied me. How many times you
     have said that a fellow to whom Fate had given health,
     strength, opportunity, and fortune--and recently the treasure
     of a lovely and loving wife--has no business to admit the
     word 'depression' into his vocabulary!

     "This is true. I acknowledge it, as I have a thousand times
     before. I am a fool, a coward, to shrink from what is before
     me. But I was still more of a fool and a coward when I
     married her. For her sake, the prospect of my death before
     this summer wanes impels me to own to you my certainty that
     my end is close at hand.

     "In every generation of our family since the old fellow who
     came over from England and founded us on Massachusetts soil,
     the oldest son has been snatched out of life upon the
     threshold of his thirtieth year. I carried into college with
     me an indelible impression of the sudden and distressing
     death of my father, at that period of his prosperous career,
     and of the wild cry of my widowed mother when she clasped me
     to her breast, and prayed Heaven might avert the doom from
     me.

     "Everything that philosophy, science, common sense, could
     bring to the task of arguing me out of a belief in the
     transmission of this sentence of a higher power to me, has
     been tried. I have studied, travelled, lived, enjoyed myself
     in a rational way; have loved and won the one woman upon
     earth for me, have revelled in her wifely tenderness.

     "I have tried to do my duty as a man and a citizen. In all
     other respects, I believe myself to be entirely rational,
     cool-headed, unemotional; but I have never been able to down
     that spectre. He is present at every feast; and, although in
     perfectly good health, I resolved yesterday to put the
     question to a practical test. I called at the office of an
     eminent specialist, whom I had never met, although doubtless
     he knew my name, as I knew his.

     "Joining the throng of waiting folk in Dr. ----'s outer
     office, I turned over the leaves of the last number of
     _Punch_, with what grim enjoyment of its _menu_ of jocularity
     you may conceive. When my turn came, I asked for a complete
     physical examination. But the doctor got no farther than my
     heart before I was conscious of awakening interest on his
     part. When the whole business was over, he told me frankly
     that in what he was pleased to call 'a magnificent physique,'
     there was but one blemish,--a spot upon the ripe side of a
     peach,--a certain condition of the heart that 'might or might
     not' give serious trouble in the future.

     "'Might or might not'! How I envied the smooth-spoken man of
     science his ability to say these words so glibly! While I
     took his medical advice,--that, between us, was not worth a
     straw, and he knew it, and I knew it,--I was thinking of
     Ethel. I saw her face when she should know the worst; and I
     became, immediately, an abject, cringing, timorous thing,
     that crept out of the doctor's office into the spring
     sunshine, wondering why the world was all a-cold.

     "Here's where the lash hits me: I should never have married
     Ethel; I should, knowing my doom, have married no one but
     some commonplace, platitudinous creature, whom the fortune I
     shall leave behind me would have consoled. But Ethel!
     high-strung, ardent, simple-hearted, worshipping me far
     beyond my deserts! Why did I condemn her, poor girl, to what
     is so soon to come?

     "On the fifteenth day of the coming August, I shall have
     reached thirty years. Before that day, the blow will fall
     upon her, and it is my fault. You know, Cranbrooke, that I do
     not fear death. What manly soul fears death? It is only to
     the very young, or to the very weak of spirit, the King
     appears in all his terrors. Having expected him so long and
     so confidently, I hope I may meet him with a courageous
     front. But Ethel! Ethel!

     "She will be quite alone with me this summer. Her mother and
     sisters have just sailed for the other side, and I confess I
     am selfish enough to crave her to myself in the last hours.
     But some one she must have to look after her, and whom can I
     trust like you? I want you to promise to come to us to spend
     your August holiday; to be there, in fact, when--

     "In the meantime, there must be no suggestion of what I
     expect. She, least of all, must suspect it. I should like to
     go out to the unknown with her light-hearted, girlish laugh
     ringing in my ears.

     "When we meet, as usual, you will oblige me by saying nothing
     of this letter or its contents. By complying with this
     request, you will add one more--a final one, dear old man--to
     the long list of kindnesses for which I am your debtor; and,
     believe me, dear Cranbrooke,

     "Yours, always faithfully,

     "MAXWELL POLLOCK."


"Good heaven!" exclaimed Stephen Cranbrooke, dropping the sheet as if
it burnt him, and sitting upright and aghast. "So _this_ is the cranny
in Pollock's brain where I have never before been able to penetrate."

Later that day, Mr. Cranbrooke received another epistle, prefaced by
the house address of the Maxwell Pollocks.

     "Dear Mr. Cranbrooke," this letter ran, "Max tells me he has
     extended to you an invitation to share our solitude _à deux_
     in your August holiday. I need hardly say that I endorse
     this heartily; and I hope you will not regret to learn that,
     instead of going, as usual, to our great, big, isolated
     country-place in New Hampshire, I have persuaded Max to take
     a cottage on the shore of Frenchman's Bay, near Bar
     Harbor,--but not too near that gay resort,--where he can have
     his sailboat and canoe, and a steam-launch for me to get
     about in. They say the sunsets over the water there are
     adorable, and Max has an artist's soul, as you know, and will
     delight in the picturesque beauty of it all.

     "I want to tell you, confidentially, that I have fancied a
     change of air and scene might do him good this year. He is
     certainly not ill; but is, as certainly, not quite himself. I
     suppose you will think I am a little goose for saying so; but
     I believe if anything went wrong with Max, I could never
     stand up against it. And there is no other man in the world,
     than you, whom I would ask to help me to find out what it
     really is that worries him,--whether ill-fortune, or
     what,--certainly not ill-health, for he is a model of
     splendid vigor, as everybody knows, my beautiful husband!"

"This is what she calls pleasant reading for me," said plain, spare
Stephen Cranbrooke, with a whimsical twist of his expressive mouth.

     "At any rate," he read, resuming, "you and I will devote
     ourselves to making it nice for him up there. No man, however
     he loves his wife, can afford to do altogether without men's
     society; and it is so hard for me to get Max to go into
     general company, or to cultivate intimacy with any man but
     you!

     "There is a bachelor's wing to the cottage we have taken,
     with a path leading direct to the wharf where the boats are
     moored; and this you can occupy by yourself, having breakfast
     alone, as Max and I are erratic in that respect. We shall
     have a buckboard for the ponies, and our saddle-horses, with
     a horse for you to ride; and we shall pledge each other not
     to accept a single invitation to anybody's house, unless it
     please us to go there.

     "Not less than a month will we take from you, and I wish it
     might be longer. Perhaps you may like to know there is no
     other man Max would ask, and I should want, to be 'one of us'
     under such circumstances.

     "Always cordially yours,

     "ETHEL POLLOCK."

"I asked her for bread, and she gave me a stone," he quoted, with a
return of the whimsical expression. "Well! neither he nor she has ever
suspected my infatuation. I am glad she wrote as she did, though, for
it makes the watch I mean to set over Max easier. After looking at his
case in every aspect, I am convinced there is a remedy, if I can only
find it."

A knock, just then, at the door of Mr. Cranbrooke's comfortable
bachelor sitting-room was followed by the appearance inside of it of a
man, at sight of whom Cranbrooke's careworn and puzzled countenance
brightened perceptibly.

"Ha! Shepard!" he said, rising to bestow on the newcomer a hearty grip
of the hand. "Did you divine how much I wanted to talk to a fellow who
has pursued exactly your line of study, and one, too, who, more than
any other I happen to be acquainted with, knows just how far mind may
be made to influence matter in preventing catastrophe, when--but,
there, what am I to do? It's another man's affair,--a confidence that
must be held inviolable."

"Give me the case hypothetically," said Shepard, dropping, according
to custom, into a leathern chair out at elbows but full of comfort to
the spine of reclining man, while accepting one of Cranbrooke's galaxy
of famously tinted pipes.

"I think I will try to do so," rejoined his friend, "since upon it
hangs the weal or woe of two people, in their way more interesting to
me than any others in the world."

"I am all ears," said Dr. Shepard, fixing upon Cranbrooke the full
gaze of a pair of deep-set orbs that had done their full share of
looking intelligently into the mystery of cerebral vagaries.
Cranbrooke, as well as he could, told the gist of Pollock's letter,
expressing his opinion that to a man of the writer's temperament the
conviction of approaching death was as good as an actual
death-warrant.

Shepard, who asked nothing better than an intelligent listener when
launched upon his favorite theories, kept the floor for fifteen
minutes in a brilliant offhand discourse full of technicalities
intermingled with sallies of strong original thought, to which
Cranbrooke listened, as men in such a case are wont to do, in
fascinated silence.

"But this is generalizing," the doctor interrupted himself at last.
"What you want is a special discussion of your friend's condition. Of
course, not knowing his physical state, I can't pretend to say how
long it is likely to be before that heart-trouble will pull him up
short. But the merest tyro knows that men under sentence from
heart-disease have lived their full span. It is the obsession of his
mind, the invasion of his nerves by that long-brooding idea, that
bothers me. I am inclined to think the odds are he will go mad if he
doesn't die."

"Good God, Shepard!" came from his friend's pale lips.

"Isn't that what _you_ were worrying about when I came in? Yes--you
needn't answer. You think so, too; and we are not posing as wise men
when we arrive at that simple conclusion."

"What on earth are we to do for him?"

"I don't know, unless it be to distract his mind by some utterly
unlooked-for concatenation of circumstances. Get his wife to make love
to another man, for instance."

"Shepard, you forget; these are my nearest friends."

"And you forget I am a sceptic about a love between the sexes that
cannot be alienated," answered the little doctor, coolly.

Cranbrooke had indeed, for a moment, lost sight of his confidant's
dark page of life--forgotten the experience that, years ago, had
broken up the doctor's home, and made of him a scoffer against the
faith of woman. He was silent, and Shepard went on with no evidence of
emotion.

"When that happened to _me_, it was a dynamite explosion that
effectually broke up the previous courses of thought within me; and,
naturally, the idea occurs to me as a specific for the case of your
melancholy friend. Seriously, Cranbrooke, you could do worse than
attack him from some unexpected quarter, in some point where he is
acutely sensitive--play upon him, excite him, distract him, and so
carry him past the date he fears."

"How could I?" asked Cranbrooke of himself.

There was another knock; and, upon Cranbrooke's hearty bidding to come
in, there entered no less a person than the subject of their
conversation.

Even the astute Shepard finished his pipe and took his leave without
suspecting that the manly, healthy, clear-eyed, and animated Maxwell
Pollock had anything in common with the possessed hero of Cranbrooke's
story. Cranbrooke, who had dreaded a reopening of the subject of
Pollock's letter, was infinitely relieved to find it left untouched.

The visit, lasting till past midnight, was one of a long series dating
back to the time when they were undergraduates at the university.
There had never been a break in their friendship. The society of
Cranbrooke, after that of his own wife, was to Pollock ever the most
refreshing, the most inspiring to high and manly thought. They talked,
now, upon topics grave and gay, without hinting at the shadow
overlying all. Pollock was at his best; and his friend's heart went
out to him anew in a wave of that sturdy affection "passing the love
of woman"--rare, perhaps, in our material money-getting community,
but, happily, still existing among true men.

When the visitor arose to take leave, he said in simple fashion: "Then
I may count on you, Cranbrooke, to stand by us this summer?"

"Count on me in all things," Cranbrooke answered; and the two shook
hands, and Pollock went his way cheerily, as usual.

"Is this a dream?" Cranbrooke asked himself, when left alone. "Can it
be possible that sane, splendid fellow is a victim of pitiful
hallucination, or that he is really to be cut off in the golden summer
of his days. No, it can't be; it must not be. He must be, as Shepard
says, 'pulled up short' by main force. At any cost, I must save him.
But how? _Anyhow!_ Max must be made to forget himself--even if I am
the sacrifice! By George! this _is_ a plight I'm in! And Ethel, who
adores the ground he walks upon! I shall probably end by losing both
of them, worse luck!"

The morning had struggled through Cranbrooke's window-blinds before he
stirred from his fit of musing and went into his bedroom for a few
hours of troubled sleep.


Chapter II

Mr. and Mrs. Pollock took possession of their summer abiding-place on
a glorious day of refulgent June, such as, in the dazzling atmosphere
of Mount Desert Island, makes every more southerly resort on our
Atlantic coast seem dull by comparison. To greet them, they found a
world of fresh-washed young birches sparkling in the sun; of
spice-distilling evergreens, cropping up between gray rocks; of
staring white marguerites, and huge, yellow, satin buttercups, ablow
in all the clearings; of crisp, young ferns and blue iris, unfolding
amid the greenery of the wilder bits of island; haunts that were soon,
in turn, to be blushing pink with a miracle of brier-roses.

And what a charmed existence followed! In the morning, they awoke to
see the water, beneath their windows, sparkle red in the track of the
rising sun; the islets blue-black in the intense glow. All day they
lived abroad in the virgin woods, or on the bay in their canoe. And,
after sunsets of radiant beauty, they would fall asleep, lulled by the
lapping of little waves upon the rock girdle that bound their lawn. It
was all lovely, invigorating, healthful. Of the cottagers who composed
the summer settlement, only those had arrived there who, like the
Pollocks, wanted chiefly to be to themselves.

In these early days of the season, Max and Ethel liked to explore on
horseback the bosky roads that thread the island, startling the mother
partridge, crested and crafty, from her nest, or sending her, in
affected woe, in a direction to lead one away from where her brood was
left; lending themselves to the pretty comedy with smiles of sympathy.
Or else, they would rifle the ferny combs of dew-laden blossoms, all
the while hearkening to the spring chatter of birds that did their
best to give utterance to what wind-voice and leaf-tone failed to
convey to human comprehension. Then, emerging from green arcades, our
equestrians would find themselves, now, in some rocky haunt of
primeval solitude facing lonely hilltops and isolated tarns; now,
gazing upon a stretch of laughing sea framed by a cleft in the
highlands.

Another day, they would climb on foot to some higher mountain top, and
there, whipped by tonic breezes, stand looking down upon the wooded
waves of lesser summits, inland; and, seaward, to the broad Atlantic,
with the ships; and, along the coast, to the hundreds of fiords, with
their burden of swirling waters!

Coming home from these morning expeditions with spirit refreshed and
appetite sharpened, it was their custom to repair, after luncheon, to
the water, and by the aid of sails, steam, or their own oars or
paddles, cut the sapphire bay with tracks of argent brightness, or
linger for many a happy hour in the green shadow of the sylvan shore.

The month of July was upon the wane before husband and wife seemingly
aroused to the recollection that their idyl was about to be
interrupted by the invasion of a third person. Ethel, indeed, had
pondered regretfully upon the coming of Cranbrooke for some days
before she spoke of it to her husband; while Max!--

The real purpose of Cranbrooke's visit, dismissed from Pollock's mind
with extraordinary success during the earlier weeks of their stay upon
the island, had by now assumed, in spite of him, the suggestion of a
death-watch set upon a prisoner. He strove not to think of it. He
refrained from speaking of it. So delicious had been to him the draft
of Ethel's society, uninterrupted by outsiders, in this Eden of the
eastern sea; so perfect their harmony of thought and speech; so
charming her beauty, heightened by salt air and outdoor exercise and
early hours, Max wondered if the experience had been sent to him as an
especial allowance of mercy to the condemned. To the very day of
Cranbrooke's arrival, even after a trap had been sent to the evening
boat to fetch him, the husband and wife refrained from discussing the
expected event.

It was the hour before sunset, following a showery afternoon; and,
standing together upon their lawn to look at the western sky, Max
proposed to her to go out with him for awhile in the canoe. They ran
like children, hand in hand, to the wharf, where, lifting the frail
birch-bark craft from its nest, he set it lightly afloat. Ethel,
stepping expertly into her place, was followed by Max, who, in his
loose cheviot shirt, barearmed and bareheaded, flashing his red-dyed
paddle in the clear water, seemed to her the embodiment of manly grace
and strength.

They steered out into the bay; and, as they paused to look back upon
the shore, the glory of the scene grew to be unspeakable. Behind the
village, over which the electric globes had not yet begun to gleam,
towered Newport, a rampart of glowing bronze, arched by a rainbow
printed upon a brooding cloud. Elsewhere, the multicolored sky flamed
with changing hues, reflected in a sea of glass. And out of this sea
arose wooded islands; and, far on the opposite shore of the mainland,
the triple hills had put on a vestment of deepest royal purple.

"I like to look away from the splendor, to the side that is in
shadow," said Ethel. "See, along that eastern coast, how the
reflected sunlight is flashed from the windows on that height, and the
blue columns of hearth smoke arise from the chimneys! Doesn't it make
you somehow rejoice that, when the color fades, as it soon must, we
shall still have our home and the lights we make for ourselves to go
back to?"

There was a long silence.

"What has set you to moralizing, dear?" he asked, trying to conceal
that he had winced at her innocent question.

"Oh! nothing. Only, when one is supremely happy, as I am now, one is
afraid to believe it will endure. How mild the air is to-night! Look
over yonder, Max; the jewelled necklace of Sorrento's lights has begun
to palpitate. Let us paddle around that fishing-schooner before we
turn."

"Ethel, you are crying."

"Am I? Then it is for pure delight. I think, Max, we had never so fine
an inspiration as that of coming to Mount Desert. My idea of the place
has always been of a lot of rantipole gaieties, and people crowded in
hotels. While this--it is a little like Norway, and a great deal like
Southern Italy. Besides, when before have we been so completely to
ourselves as in that gray stone lodge by the waterside, with its hood
of green ivy, and the green hill rising behind it? Let us come every
year; better still, let us build ourselves a summer home upon these
shores."

"Should you like me to buy the cottage we now have, so that you can
keep it to come to when you like?"

"When _you_ like, you mean. Max, it can't be you have caught cold in
this soft air, but your voice sounds a little hoarse. Well! I suppose
we must go in, for Mr. Cranbrooke will be arriving very soon."

Ethel's sigh found an echo in one from her husband, at which the
April-natured young woman laughed.

"There, it's out! We don't want even Cranbrooke, do we? To think the
poor, dear man's coming should have been oppressing both of us, and
neither would be first to acknowledge it! After all, Max darling, it
is your fault. It was you who proposed Cranbrooke. I knew, all along,
that I'd be better satisfied with you alone. Now, we must just take
the consequence of your overhasty hospitality, and make him as happy
as we are--if we can."

"If we can!" said Max; and she saw an almost pathetic expression drift
across his face--an expression that bewildered her.

"Why do you look so rueful over him?"

"I am thinking, perhaps, how hard it will be for him to look at
happiness through another man's eyes."

"Nonsense! Mr. Cranbrooke is quite satisfied with his own lot. He is
one of those self-contained men who could never really love, I think,"
said Mrs. Pollock, conclusively.

"He has in some way failed to show you his best side. He has the
biggest, tenderest heart! I wish there was a woman fit for him,
somewhere. But Stephen will never marry, now, I fear. She who gets him
will be lucky--he is a very tower of strength to those who lean on
him."

"As far as strength goes, Max, you could pick him up with your right
hand. It may be silly, but I do love your size and vigor; when I see
you in a crowd of average men, I exult in you. Imagine any woman who
could get _you_ wanting a thin, sallow person like Cranbrooke!"

"He can be fascinating, when he chooses," said Max.

"The best thing about Cranbrooke, Max, is that he loves you," answered
his wife, wilfully.

"Then I want you, henceforth, to try to like him better, dear; to like
him for himself. He is coming in answer to my urgent request; and I
feel certain the more you know of him, the more you will trust in him.
At any rate, give him as much of your dear self as I can spare, and
you will be sure of pleasing me."

"Max, now I believe it is you who are crying because you are too
happy. I never heard such a solemn cadence in your voice. I don't want
a minute of this lovely time to be sad. When we were in town, I
fancied you were down--about something; now, you are yourself again;
let me be happy without alloy. I am determined to be the _cigale_ of
the French fable, and dance and sing away the summer. Between us, we
may even succeed in making that sober Cranbrooke a reflection of us
both. There, now, the light has faded; quicken your speed; we must go
ashore and meet him. See, the moon has risen--O Max darling, to please
me, paddle in that silver path!"

This was the Ethel her husband liked best to see,--a child in her
quick variations of emotion, a woman in steadfast tenderness.
Conquering his own strongly excited feeling, he smiled on her
indulgently; and when, their landing reached, Cranbrooke's tall form
was descried coming down the bridge to receive them, he was able to
greet his friend with an unshadowed face.

The three went in to dinner, which Ethel, taking advantage of the
soft, dry air, had ordered to be served in a _loggia_ opening upon the
water. The butler, a sympathetic Swede, had decked their little round
table with wild roses in shades of shell-pink, deepening to crimson.
The candles, burning under pale-green shades, were scarcely stirred by
the faint breeze. Hard, indeed, to believe that, upon occasion, that
couchant monster, the bay, could break up into huge waves, ramping
shoreward, leaping over the rock wall, upon the lawn, up to the
_loggia_ floor, and there beat for admission to the house, upon
storm-shutters hastily erected to meet its onslaught!

To-night, a swinging lantern of wrought iron sent down through its
panels of opal glass a gentle illumination upon three well-pleased
faces gathered around the dainty little feast. Ethel, who, in the days
of gipsying, would allow no toilets of ceremony, retained her
sailor-hat, with the boat-gown of white serge, in which her infantile
beauty showed to its best advantage. Cranbrooke was dazzled by the new
bloom upon her face, the new light in her eye.

Pollock, too, tall, broad-shouldered, blonde, clean-shaven save for a
mustache, his costume of white flannel enhancing duly the transparent
healthiness of his complexion, looked wonderfully well--so Cranbrooke
thought and said.

"Does he not?" cried Ethel, exultingly. "I knew you would think so.
Max has been reconstructed since we have lived outdoors in this
wonderful air. Just wait, Mr. Cranbrooke, till we have done with you,
and you, too, will be blossoming like the rose."

"I, that was a desert, you would say," returned Cranbrooke, smiling.
Involuntarily it occurred to him to contrast his own outer man with
that of his host. Somehow or other, the fond, satisfied look Ethel
bestowed upon her lord aroused anew in their friend an old, teasing
spirit of envy of nature's bounty to another, denied to him.

As the moon transmuted to silver the stretch of water east of them,
and the three sat over the table, with its _carafes_ and decanters and
egg-shell coffee-cups, till the flame of a cigar-lighter died utterly
in its silver beak, their talk touching all subjects pleasantly,
Cranbrooke persuaded himself he had indeed been dreaming a bad dream.
The journey thither, of which every mile had been like the link of a
chain, was, for him, after all, a mere essay at pleasure-seeking. He
had come on to spend a jolly holiday with a couple of the nicest
people in the world--nothing more! His fancies, his plans, his
devices, conceived in sore distress of spirit, were relegated to the
world of shadows, whence they had been summoned.

When Ethel left the two men for the night, and the butler came out to
collect his various belongings, Pollock rose and bade Cranbrooke
accompany him to see the mountains from the other side of the house.
Here, turning their backs on the enchantment of the water view, they
looked up at an amphitheatre of hills, dominated in turn by rocky
summits gleaming in the moon. But for the lap of the water upon the
coast, the stir of a fresh wind arising to whisper to the leaves of a
clump of birches, Mother Earth around them was keeping silent vigil.

"What a perfect midsummer night!" said Cranbrooke, drawing a deep
breath of enjoyment. "After the heat and dust of that three hundred
miles of railway journey from Boston, this _is_ a reward!"

"We chose better than we knew the scene of my euthanasia," answered
Pollock, without a tremor in his voice.

A thrill ran through Cranbrooke's veins. He could have sworn the air
had suddenly become chill, as if an iceberg had floated into the bay.
He tried to respond, and found himself babbling words of weak
conventionality; and all the while the soul of the strong man within
him was saying: "It must not be. It shall not be. If I live, I shall
rescue you from this ghastly phantom."

"Don't think it necessary to give words to what you feel for me," said
Pollock, smiling slightly. "You are not making a brilliant success of
it, old man, and you'd better stop. And don't suppose I mean to
continue to entertain my guest by lugubrious discussions of my
approaching _finale_. Only, it is necessary that you should know
several things, since the event may take us unawares. I have made you
my executor, and Ethel gets all there is; that's the long and short of
my will, properly signed, attested, and deposited with my lawyer
before I left town. Ethel's mother and sisters will be returning to
Newport in a fortnight, and they will, no doubt, come to the poor
child when she needs them. There _must_ be some compensation for a
decree of this kind, and I have it in the absolute bliss I have
enjoyed since we came here. That child-wife of mine is the most
enchanting creature in the world. If I were not steeped in
selfishness, I could wish she loved me a little less. But all emotions
pass, and even Ethel's tears will dry."

"Good Heaven, Max, you are talking like a machine! One would think
this affair of yours certain. Who are you, to dare to penetrate the
mystery of the decrees of your Maker--"

"None of that, if you please, Cranbrooke," interrupted Pollock; "I
have fought every inch of the way along there, by myself, and have
been conquered by my conviction. Did I tell you that my father, before
me, struggled with similar remonstrances from _his_ friends? The
parsons even brought bell and book to exorcise his tormentor--and all
in vain. He was snuffed out in full health, as I shall be, and why
should I whine at following him? Come, my dear fellow, I am keeping
you out of a capital bed, from sleep you must require. There's but one
matter in which you can serve me,--take Ethel into your care. Win her
fullest confidence; let her know that when I am not there, _you will
be_."

Cranbrooke went to his room, but not to rest. When his friends next
saw him, he was returning from a solitary cruise about the bay in a
catboat Pollock kept at anchor near their wharf.

"Why, Mr. Cranbrooke!" cried Ethel, lightly. "The boatman says you
have been out ever since daybreak. But that we espied the boat tacking
about beyond that far rock, I should have been for sending in search
of you."

"Cranbrooke is an accomplished sailor," said Max. "But just now,
breakfast's the thing for him, Ethel. See that he is well fed, while I
stroll out to the stable and look after the horses."

As he crossed the greensward, Ethel's gaze followed him, till he
disappeared behind a clump of trees. Then she turned to her guest.

"Let me serve you with all there is, until they bring you something
hot," she said, with her usual half-flippant consideration of him. "Do
you know you look very seedy? I have, for my part, no patience with
these early morning exploits."

"If you could have seen the world awakening as I saw it, this morning,
you would condone my offence," he answered, a curious expression Ethel
thought she had detected in his eyes leaving them unclouded, as he
spoke.


Chapter III

No one who knew Stephen Cranbrooke well could say he did anything by
halves. In the days that followed his arrival at Mount Desert, Max
Pollock saw that his friend was lending every effort to the task of
establishing friendly relations with his wife. From her first
half-petulant, half-cordial manner with him,--the manner of a woman
who tries to please her husband by recognition of the claim of his
nearest male intimate,--Ethel had passed to the degree of manifestly
welcoming Cranbrooke's presence, both when with her husband and
without him.

As Max saw this growing friendship, he strove to increase it by
absenting himself from Ethel, instead of, as heretofore, spending
every hour he could wring from the society of other folk, in the light
of her smiles. His one wish that Ethel might be insensibly led to
find another than himself companionable; that she might be, though
never so little, weaned from her absolute dependence upon him for
daily happiness, before the blow fell that was to plunge her in
darkest night, kept him content in these acts of self-sacrifice.

But, as was inevitable, his manner toward them both underwent a
trifling change. His old buoyancy of affection was succeeded by a
quiet, at times wistful, recognition of the fact that his friend and
his wife had now found another interest besides himself. But he was
proud to see Cranbrooke had justified his boast that he "could be
fascinating when he chose;" and he was glad to think Cranbrooke at
last realized the charm Ethel, apparently a mere bright bubble upon
the tide of society, had to a man of intellect and heart. "It was as I
said," the poor fellow repeated to himself, trying to find comfort in
the realization of his prescience; and when Ethel, alone with him,
would break into pæans of his friend, and wonder how she could have
been so blind to the "real man" before, Max answered her loyally that
his highest wish for both of them was at last gratified.

Then the day came when there was question of a companion for Ethel in
a sailing-party to which she had accepted an invitation--and for Max
was destined an emotion something like distaste.

They were sitting over the breakfast table,--a meal no longer
exclusive to wife and husband, as had been agreed, but shared by
Cranbrooke with due regularity,--when Ethel broached the subject.

"You know, Max, I was foolish enough to promise that irresistible Mrs.
Clayton--when she would not take no for an answer, yesterday,--that
_some_ of us would join her water party to-day. It is to be an idle
cruise, with no especial aim--luncheon on board their schooner-yacht;
the sort of thing I knew would bore you to extinction--being huddled
up with the same people half the day."

"It is the opening wedge--if you go to this, you will be booked for
others, that's all," said Max, preparing to say, in a martyrized way,
that he would accompany her, if she liked.

"Oh, I knew you would feel that; and so I told her she must really
excuse my husband, but that I had no doubt Mr. Cranbrooke would accept
with pleasure. You see, Mr. Cranbrooke, what polite inaccuracies you
are pledged by friendship to sustain."

"I _will_ go with pleasure," Stephen said, with what Max thought
almost unnecessary readiness.

"Bravo!" cried Ethel. "This is the hero's spirit. And so, Max dear,
you will have a long day to yourself while I am experimenting in
fashionable pleasuring, and Mr. Cranbrooke is representing you in
keeping an eye on me."

"You will, of course, be at home to dinner?" said her husband.

"Surely. Unless breezes betray us, and we are driven to support
exhausted nature upon hardtack and champagne; for, of course, all of
the Claytons' luncheon will be eaten up, and there are no stores
aboard a craft like that. Will you order the buckboard for ten, dear?
We rendezvous at the boat-wharf. And, as there is no telling when we
shall be in, don't trouble to send to meet me. Mr. Cranbrooke and I
will pick up a trap to return in."

Max saw them off in the buckboard; and, as Ethel turned at some little
distance and looked back at him, where he still stood on the gravel
before their vine-wreathed portal, waving her hand with a charming
grace, then settling again to a _tête-à-tête_ with Cranbrooke, he felt
vaguely resentful at being left behind.

The clear, dazzling atmosphere, the sense of youthful vitality in his
being, made him repel the idea of exclusion from any function of the
animated world. He almost thought Ethel should have given him a chance
to say whether or no he would accompany her. Was it not, upon her
part, even a little bit--a _very_ little bit, lacking in proper wifely
feeling, to be so prompt in dispensing with his society, to accept
that of others for a whole, long, bright summer's day of pleasuring?

This suggestion he put away from him as quickly as it came. He was
like a spoiled child, he said to himself, who does not expect to be
taken at his word. Ethel well knew his dislike of gossiping groups of
idle people; equally well she remembered, no doubt, his frequent
requests that she would mingle more with the world, take more pleasure
on her own account. And Cranbrooke,--dear old Cranbrooke,--of course
he was ready to punish himself by going off on such a party, when it
was an opportunity to serve his friend!

So Max put his discontent away, and, mounting his horse, went off
alone for a ride half around the island, lunching at Northeast Harbor,
and returning, through devious ways, by nightfall.

Restored to healthy enjoyment of all things by his day in the saddle,
he turned into the avenue leading to their house, buoyed up by the
sweet hope of Ethel returned--Ethel on the watch for him. Already, he
saw in fancy the gleam of her jaunty white yachting-costume between
the tubs of flowering hydrangeas ranged on either side the walk before
their door. The lamps inside--the "home lights," of which she had once
fondly spoken to him--were already lighted. She would, perhaps, be
worrying at his delay. He quickened his speed, and rode down the
avenue to the house at a brisk trot. The groom, who, from the stable,
had heard the horse's feet, started up out of the shrubbery to meet
him. But there was no other indication of a watch upon the movements
of the master of the house.

"Mrs. Pollock has not returned, then?" he asked, conscious of
blankness in his tone.

"No, sir; not yet. Our orders were, not to send for her, sir, as there
was no knowing when the party would get in."

"Yes, the breeze has pretty much died out since sunset," said Pollock,
endeavoring to mask his disappointment by commonplace.

He went indoors; and the house, carefully arranged though it was, with
flowers and furniture disposed by expert hands to greet the returning
of the master, seemed to him dull and chill. He ordered a cup of tea
for himself, and, bending down, put a match to the little fire of
birch-wood always kept laid upon the hearth of their picturesque hall
sitting-room.

In a moment, the curling wreathes of pale azure that arose upon the
pyre of silvery-barked logs was succeeded by a generous flame. The
peculiarly sweet flavor of the burning birch was distilled upon the
air. Sipping the cup of tea, as he stood in his riding-clothes before
the fire, Max felt a consoling warmth invade his members and expand
his heart.

"They will be in directly," he said; "and, by George, I shall be as
ready for my dinner as they for theirs."

In one corner of the hall stood a tall, slender-necked vase, where he
had that morning watched Ethel arranging a sheaf of goldenrod with
brown-seeded marsh-grasses,--a combination her touch had made
individual and artistic to a striking degree. He recalled how, as she
had finished it, she looked around, calling him and Stephen from their
newspapers to admire her handiwork. He, the husband, had admired it
lazily from his divan of cushions in the corner. Cranbrooke had gone
over to stand beside his hostess, and thence they had passed, still in
close conversation, out to the grassy terrace above the sea.

Now, why should this recollection awaken in Max Pollock a new sense
of the feeling he had been doing his best to dispose of all day? He
could not say; but there it was, to prick him with its invisible
sting. Then, too, the dinner-hour was past, and he was hungry.

He went out upon the veranda at the rear, and surveyed the expanse of
water. Far off, between the electric ball that hung over the wharf of
the village, and the point of Bar Island, opposite, he saw a bridge of
lights from yachts of all sorts, with which the harbor was now full.
He fancied a little moving star of light, that seemed to creep beneath
the large ones, might be the Claytons' boat on her return, and, after
another interval of watching, called up a wharf authority by
telephone, and asked if the _Lorelei_ was in.

"Not yet, sir," was the reply. "Probably caught out when the wind
fell. Will let you know the minute they are in sight." With which
assurance Mr. Pollock was finally driven by the pangs of natural
appetite to sit down alone to a cheerless meal.

There was a message by telephone, as he finished his repast. The
_Lorelei_ was in, and Mrs. Pollock desired to speak with her husband.

"We're all right," Ethel's voice said, "and I hope you haven't been
worried. They _insist_ on our going to dinner at a restaurant, and, of
course, you understand, I can't spoil the fun by refusing. _Couldn't_
you come down and meet us?"

His first impulse was to say yes; but a second thought withheld him.
He gave her a pleasant answer, however, bidding her enjoy herself
without thought of him, and adding: "Cranbrooke will look out for you
and bring you home."

It was quite ten o'clock when they arrived at the cottage, Ethel in
high spirits, flushed with the excitement of a merry day, full of
chatter over people and things Max had no interest in, appealing to
Cranbrooke to enjoy her retrospects with her. She was "awfully sorry"
about having kept Max from his dinner; "awfully sorry" not to have
come home at once, but there was no getting out of the impromptu
dinner; and, of course, they had to wait for it; and she was the
first, after dinner, to make the move to go; Mr. Cranbrooke would
certify to that.

"I don't need any certification, dear," said Max, gently; but he did
not smile. Cranbrooke, who sat with him after sleepy Ethel had retired
from the scene, felt his heart wrung at thought of certain things that
never entered into Ethel's little head. But he made no effort to
dispel the cloud that had settled over his friend's face.

By and by, Cranbrooke, too, said good-night, and went off into his
wing, and Max was left alone with his cigar.

The day on the water had verified Max's prediction that it would prove
"an opening wedge." Ethel, caught in the tide of the season's
gaieties, found herself impelled from one entertainment to the other;
their cottage was invaded by callers, their little informal dinners
were transformed into banquets of ceremony, as choice and more lively
than those of their conventional life in town. The only persons really
satisfied by the change of habits in the house were the servants,
who, like all artists, require a public to set the seal upon their
worth.

Max, bewildered, found himself sometimes accompanying his wife to her
parties; oftener--struck with the ghastly inappropriateness of his
presence in such haunts--stopping at home and deputing to Cranbrooke
the escort of his wife. To his surprise, he perceived that Cranbrooke
was not only ready, but eager, on all occasions, to carry Ethel away
from him. But then, of course, this was precisely what he had wished.

And Ethel, who lost no opportunity to tell Max how "good," how
"lovely," Cranbrooke had been to her, was she not carrying out to the
letter her husband's wishes? He observed, moreover, that Ethel was
even more impressed than he had expected her to be with that quality
of "fascination." Cranbrooke's mind was like a beautiful new country
into which she was making excursions, she said once; and Max, after a
moment's hesitation, agreed with her very warmly.

At last, Maxwell Pollock awoke one morning, with a start of
disagreeable consciousness, to the fact that this was the eve of his
thirtieth birthday. Occupied as he had been with various thoughts that
had to do with his transient relations to this sublunary sphere, he
had actually allowed himself to lose sight of the swift approach of
his day of doom. Now, he arose, took his bath, dressed, and without
arousing his wife, who, in the room adjoining, slept profoundly after
a gay dance overnight, went alone to the waterside, with the intention
of going out in his canoe.

Early as he was, Cranbrooke was before him, carrying the canoe upon
his head, moving after the fashion of some queer shelled-creature down
to the float.

Max realized, with a sense of keen self-rebuke, that the spectacle of
his friend was repellant to him, and the prospect of a talk alone with
Stephen on this occasion, the last thing he would have chosen.

And--evidently a part of the latter-day revolution of
affairs--Cranbrooke seemed to have forgotten that this day meant more
than another to Pollock. He greeted him cheerily, in commonplace
terms, commented on their identity of fancy in the matter of a paddle
at sunrise, and offered to relinquish the craft in favor of its owner.

"Of course not. Get in, will you," said Max, throwing off his coat;
and, taking one of the paddles, while Cranbrooke plied the other,
their swift, even strokes soon carried them far over toward the
illuminated east.

When well out upon the bay, they paused to watch the red coming of the
sun. Beautiful with matin freshness was the sleeping world around
them; and, inspired by the scene, Max, who was kneeling in the bow,
turned to exclaim to Cranbrooke, with his old, hearty voice, upon the
reward coming to early risers in such surroundings.

"Jove, a man feels born again when he breathes air like this!"

Cranbrooke started. It was almost beyond hope that Max should use such
a phrase, in such accents, at such a juncture. Immediately, however,
the exhilaration died out of Pollock's manner; and, again turning away
his face, he showed that his thoughts had reverted to the old sore
spot. He did not see the expression of almost womanly yearning in
Cranbrooke's face when the certainty of this was fixed upon his
anxious mind.

The two men talked little, and of casual things only, while abroad. As
they returned to the house, Cranbrooke made a movement as if to speak
out something burning upon his tongue, and then, repressing it, walked
with hasty strides to his own apartment.

The day passed as had done those immediately preceding it. Calls, a
party of guests at luncheon, a drive, absorbed Ethel's hours from her
husband. When she reached home, at tea-time, he had come in from
riding, and was standing alone in the hall, awaiting her.

"How nice to find you here alone!" she cried, going up to kiss him,
and then taking her place behind the tea-tray. "Do sit down, and let
us imagine we are back in those dear old days before we were
overpowered by outsiders. Never mind! The rush will soon be over; we
shall be to ourselves again, you and I and--how stupid I am!" she
added, coloring. "You and I, I mean, for he must go back to town."

"You mean Cranbrooke?" he said, as she thought, absent-mindedly, but
in reality with something like a cold hand upon his heart, that for a
moment gave him a sense of physical apprehension. Had _it_ come, he
wondered?

But no, this was not physical; this was a shock of purely emotional
displeasure. Could he believe his ears, that Ethel, his wife, had
indeed blended another than himself with her dream of returning
solitude?

"Yes, it will be all over soon," he said, mechanically. "Had you a
pleasant drive? And did you enjoy the box-seat with Egmont?"

"Oh! Egmont, fortunately, can drive--if he _can't_ talk," she
answered, lightly. "I suppose I am fastidious, or else spoiled for the
conversation of ordinary men, after what I have had recently from
Cranbrooke. By the way, Max dear, are you relentless against going
with us to-night, to the _fête_ at the canoe club? You needn't go
inside the club-house, you know. It will be lovely to look at, from
the water."

"With _us_? Then Cranbrooke has already promised?"

"Yes, of course; he could not leave me in the lurch, could he, when my
husband is such an obstinate recluse?"

"And how do you intend to get there?"

"By water, stupid, of course; how else? I will be satisfied with the
rowboat, if you won't trust me in the canoe; but Mr. Cranbrooke is
such an expert with the paddle, I shouldn't think you would object to
letting me go with him. It will be perfectly smooth water, and the air
is so mild. Do say I may go in the canoe, dear; it's twice the fun."

"I think you know that, unless I take you, it is my wish you go
nowhere at night in a canoe," he answered, coldly.

Ethel was more hurt at his tone than disappointed by his refusal. She
could not think what had come over her husband, of late, so often had
this constrained manner presented itself to her advance. She set it
down to her unwonted indulgence in society, and promised herself,
with a sigh of relinquishment, that, after this summer, she would go
back to her life lived for Max alone.

Then, Cranbrooke coming in with two or three visitors, who lingered
till almost dinner-time and were persuaded easily to stop for dinner,
there was no chance to indulge in meditations, penitential or
otherwise. When her guests took their departure, it was in the little
steam-launch, she and Cranbrooke accompanying the party, and all bound
for the _fête_, to be given on a wooded island in the bay. As they
were leaving the house, something impelled her to run back and, in the
semi-darkness of the veranda, seek her husband's side.

"Max darling, kiss me good-by. Or, if you want me, let me stay with
you."

"No, no; I want you to enjoy every moment while you can," he said,
withdrawing from her gaze to the shadow of a vine-wreathed column.

"Max, your voice is strange. And once, at dinner, I saw you looking at
me, and there was something in your eyes that frightened me. If you
hadn't smiled, and lifted your glass to pledge me, I should not have
known what to think."

"Ethel! Wife! Do you love me?" he said, catching her to his heart.

"Max! Why, Max! You foolish boy, we shall be seen."

"Tell me, and kiss me once more, my own, my own!"

"They are all aboard except you, Mrs. Pollock," a voice said; and,
from the dew of the lawn, Cranbrooke stepped upon the veranda.

Max started violently, and let his wife go from his embrace.

"You see how rude you are making me toward our guests," said Ethel.
"You have my wrap, Mr. Cranbrooke? Good-night, Max; and to-morrow I'll
tell you all about it. Better change your mind and come after us,
though."

"Max need not trouble to do so," put in Cranbrooke, in a muffled
voice. "As usual, I will fill his place."

Max thought he almost hurried her away. They went down the slope of
the lawn together; and, at the steep descent leading to the bridge,
he saw Ethel stumble, and Cranbrooke throw his arm around her to
steady her.

And now, a passion took possession of Maxwell Pollock's being that
impelled him to the impetuous action of following them to the wharf,
and gesticulating madly after the swift little steamer that bore them
away from him.

"He dared take her, did he, when she would have stayed at a word from
me? I see all, now. Specious, false, damnably false, he has snared her
fancy in his net. But she loves me, I'll swear she loves me, and I'll
snatch her from him, if it is with the last effort of my strength. Is
there time? Well, what is to come, let it come! While there's life in
me, she is mine."

A moment, and he was afloat in the canoe, no sign of weakness in his
powerful stroke with the paddle, no thought in his brain but the one
intense determination of the male creature to wrest his beloved from
the hands of his rival.

       *       *       *       *       *

Every one conceded this to be quite the prettiest and most taking
event of the season. The rustic club-house, its peaked gable and
veranda defined with strings of colored lanterns, sent forth the music
of a band, while to its portal trooped maidens and cavaliers, landing
at the wharf from every variety of craft. The woods behind were linked
with chains of light, the shore below lit with bonfires, and more
evanescent eruptions of many-hued fireworks. Rockets hissed through
the air, and broke in a rain of violet, green, and crimson meteors,
till the zenith was a tangled mesh made by the trails of them;
fire-balloons arose and were lost among the stars; little fire-boats,
launched from vessels stocked for the purpose, bore their blazing
cargoes out upon the tide; other unnamed monsters were let loose to
carry apparent destruction zigzag through the waves. Every attendant
yacht, sloop, launch, rowboat, or canoe, with which the water about
the island was covered, carried quaint decoration in the guise of
Chinese lanterns. Some of the smaller boats were arched with these;
others tossed bouquets of fiery bubbles into the air. Creeping about
at a snail's pace among the crowded boats, invisible canoes carried
silent passengers; an occasional "oh!" of exclamation at the beauty of
the scene, the only contribution people felt inclined to make to
conversation. It was a pageant of bedazzlement, as if witches, gnomes,
spirits of earth, air, and the underworld, had mingled their resources
to enchant the eyes of mortals. And over all, sailed the lady-moon
serenely, forgotten, but sure that her time would come again.

Max found his launch without difficulty, on the outer circle of the
amphitheatre of light. As he had divined, it was empty, save for the
two boatmen.

"The ladies went ashore, sir," one of his men said, in answer to his
inquiry. "All but Mrs. Pollock, sir."

"Mrs. Pollock? Where is she, then?" he asked, briefly.

"She took our rowboat, sir, and went off on the water with one of the
gentlemen. Mr. Cranbrooke, I think it was; and they ordered us to wait
just here. No good going ashore, sir, if you want to see. It's better
from this point, even, than nearer in."

"Very well," said the master, and at once his canoe moved off to be
lost in the crowd.

He had sought for them in vain, peering into all the small boats
whenever the flash-light of the rockets, or the catharine-wheels on
the coast, lit the scene. Many a tender interlude was thus revealed;
but of the two people he now longed with the fever of madness to
discover, he saw nothing.

At last, in a burst from a candle rocket, there was a glimpse of
Ethel's red boat-cloak, her bare, golden head rising above it. She was
sitting in the stern of the rowboat, Cranbrooke beside her, their bow
above water, their oars negligently trailing. Ethel's eyes were fixed
upon the glittering panorama; but Cranbrooke's eyes were riveted on
her.

With an oath, Max drove his paddle fiercely into the sea. The canoe
sped forward like an arrow. Blind with anger, he did not observe that
he was directly in the track of a little steamer laden with new
arrivals, turning in toward the wharf.

A new day dawned before the doctors, who had been all night battling
for Maxwell Pollock's life, left him restored to consciousness, and
reasonably secure of carrying no lasting ill effect from the blow on
his head received by collision with the steamer.

Carried under with his canoe, he had arisen to full view in the glare
from a "set piece" of fireworks on the shore, beside the boat
containing Cranbrooke and his wife. It was Cranbrooke, not Ethel, who
identified the white face coming to the surface within reach of his
hand, then sinking again out of sight. It was Cranbrooke, also, who
sprang to Pollock's rescue, and, floating with his inert body, was
dragged with him aboard the launch.

As the rosy light of the east came to play upon Pollock's features, he
opened his eyes for the first time with a look of intelligence. At his
bedside, Ethel was kneeling, her whole loving soul in her gaze.

"Is this--I thought it was heaven," he said, feeling for her hand.

"It is heaven for me, now that I have you back, my own darling," she
answered, through happy tears.

"Have I been here long?"

"A few hours since the accident. The doctors say you will be none the
worse for it. And, Max dear, only think! This is your birthday! Your
thirtieth birthday! Many, many, _many_ happy returns!" and she
punctuated her wish with warm kisses.

At that juncture, Cranbrooke came into the room and stood at the side
of the bed opposite Ethel, who had no eyes for him, but kept on gazing
at her recovered treasure as if she could never have enough.

Max, though aware of Stephen's presence, made no movement of
recognition, till Ethel spoke in playful chiding.

"Darling! Where are your manners? Aren't you going to speak to our
friend, and thank him for saving you--saving you for _me_, thank God!"

She buried her face in the bed-clothes, overcome with the
recollection; but even with the exquisite tenderness of her accents
thrilling in his ear, Max remained obstinately dumb to Stephen
Cranbrooke.

"Forgive him; he is not himself!" pleaded Ethel, as she saw Cranbrooke
about to go dejectedly out of the room.

"Some day he will understand me," answered Stephen, with a gallant
effort at self-control. Then, withdrawing, he murmured to himself:
"But he will never know that, in playing with his edged tools, it is I
who have got the death-blow."





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