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´╗┐Title: The Earth Trembled
Author: Roe, Edward Payson, 1838-1888
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Earth Trembled" ***

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[Illustration: "Well Chile, Wot You Wants Ter Say?"]

The Works of E. P. Roe


_VOLUME FIFTEEN_


THE EARTH TREMBLED


ILLUSTRATED



CONTENTS


CHAPTER I
  MARY WALLINGFORD
CHAPTER II
  LOVE'S AGONY
CHAPTER III
  UNCLE SHEBA'S EXPERIENCE
CHAPTER IV
  MARA
CHAPTER V
  PAST AND FUTURE
CHAPTER VI
  "PAHNASHIP"
CHAPTER VII
  MARA'S PURPOSE
CHAPTER VIII
  NEVER FORGET; NEVER FORGIVE
CHAPTER IX
  A NEW SOLACE
CHAPTER X
  MISS AINSLEY
CHAPTER XI
  TWO QUESTIONS
CHAPTER XII
  A "FABULATION"
CHAPTER XIII
  CAPTAIN BODINE
CHAPTER XIV
  "ALL GIRLS TOGETHER"
CHAPTER XV
  TWO LITTLE BAKERS
CHAPTER XVI
  HONEST FOES
CHAPTER XVII
  FIRESIDE DRAMAS
CHAPTER XVIII
  A FAIR DUELLIST
CHAPTER XIX
  A CHIVALROUS SURPRISE
CHAPTER XX
  THE STRANGER EXPLAINS
CHAPTER XXI
  UNCLE SHEBA SAT UPON
CHAPTER XXII
  YOUNG HOUGHTON IS DISCUSSED
CHAPTER XXIII
  THE WARNING
CHAPTER XXIV
  "THE IDEA!"
CHAPTER XXV
  FEMININE FRIENDS
CHAPTER XXVI
  ELLA'S CRUMB OF COMFORT
CHAPTER XXVII
  RECOGNIZED AS LOVER
CHAPTER XXVIII
  "HEAVEN SPEED YOU THEN"
CHAPTER XXIX
  CONSTERNATION
CHAPTER XXX
  TEMPESTS
CHAPTER XXXI
  "I ABSOLVE YOU"
CHAPTER XXXII
  FALSE SELF-SACRIFICE
CHAPTER XXXIII
  A SURE TEST
CHAPTER XXXIV
  "BITTERNESS MUST BE CHERISHED"
CHAPTER XXXV
  NOBLE REVENGE
CHAPTER XXXVI
  A FATHER'S FRENZY
CHAPTER XXXVII
  CLOUDS LIFTING
CHAPTER XXXVIII
  "YES, VILET"
CHAPTER XXXIX
  THE EARTHQUAKE
CHAPTER XL
  "GOD"
CHAPTER XLI
  SCENES NEVER TO BE FORGOTTEN
CHAPTER XLII
  A HOMELESS CITY
CHAPTER XLIII
  "THE TERROR BY NIGHT"
CHAPTER XLIV
  HOPE TURNED INTO DREAD
CHAPTER XLV
  A CITY ENCAMPING
CHAPTER XLVI
  "ON JORDAN'S BANKS WE STAN'"
CHAPTER XLVII
  LIGHTS AND SHADOWS OF A NIGHT
CHAPTER XLVIII
  GOOD BROUGHT OUT OF EVIL



THE EARTH TREMBLED



THE EARTH TREMBLED


CHAPTER I

MARY WALLINGFORD


At the beginning of the Civil War there was a fine old residence on
Meeting Street in Charleston, South Carolina, inhabited by a family almost
as old as the State. Its inheritor and owner, Orville Burgoyne, was a
widower. He had been much saddened in temperament since the death of the
wife, and had withdrawn as far as possible from public affairs. His
library and the past had secured a stronger hold upon his interest and his
thoughts than anything in the present, with one exception, his idolized
and only child, Mary, named for her deceased mother. Any book would be
laid aside when she entered; all gloom banished from his eyes when she
coaxed and caressed him.

She was in truth one to be loved because so capable of love herself. She
conquered and ruled every one not through wilfulness or imperiousness, but
by a gentle charm, all her own, which disarmed opposition.

At first Mr. Burgoyne had paid little heed to the mutterings which
preceded the Civil War, believing them to be but Chinese thunder, produced
by ambitious politicians, North and South. He was preoccupied by the study
of an old system of philosophy which he fancied possessed more truth than
many a more plausible and modern one. Mary, with some fancy work in her
hands, often watched his deep abstraction in wondering awe, and
occasionally questioned him in regard to his thoughts and studies; but as
his explanations were almost unintelligible, she settled down to the
complacent belief that her father was one of the most learned men in the
world.

At last swiftly culminating events aroused Mr. Burgoyne from his
abstraction and drove him from his retirement. He accepted what he
believed to be duty in profound sorrow and regret. His own early
associations and those of his ancestors had been with the old flag and its
fortunes; his relations to the political leaders of the South were too
slight to produce any share in the alienation and misunderstandings which
had been growing between the two great sections of his country, and he
certainly had not the slightest sympathy with those who had fomented the
ill-will for personal ends. Finally, however, he had found himself face to
face with the momentous certainty of a separation of his State from the
Union. For a time he was bewildered and disturbed beyond measure; for he
was not a prompt man of affairs, living keenly in the present, but one who
had been suddenly and rudely summoned from the academic groves of the old
philosophers to meet the burning imperative questions of the
day--questions put with the passionate earnestness of a people excited
beyond measure.

It was this very element of popular feeling which finally turned the scale
in his decision. Apparently the entire Southern people were unanimous in
their determination "to be free" and to separate themselves from their old
political relations. His pastor with all other friends of his own rank
confirmed this impression, and, as it was known that he wavered, the best
and strongest men of his acquaintance argued the question with him. His
daughter was early carried away by the enthusiasm of her young companions,
nevertheless she watched the conflict in her father's mind with the
deepest interest. She often saw him walk the floor with unwonted tears in
his eyes and almost agony on his brow; and when at last, he decided in
accordance with the prevailing sentiment of his State, the Act of
Secession and all that it involved became sacred in her thoughts.

She trembled and shrank when the phase of negotiation passed away, and war
was seen to be the one alternative to submission. She never doubted or
hesitated, however; neither did her father after his mind was once made
up. Every day the torrent of bitter feeling deepened and broadened between
them and the North, of which, practically, they knew very little. Even
such knowledge as they possessed had come through distorted mediums, and
now everything was colored by the blackest prejudice. They were led to
believe and made to feel that not only their possessions but their life
and honor were at stake. In early years Mr. Burgoyne had served with
distinction in the war with Mexico, and he therefore promptly received a
commission.

The effect of her father's decision and action had been deepened a
hundred-fold by an event which occurred soon afterward. Among the
thousands who thronged to Charleston when Fort Sumter was attacked, was
the son of a wealthy planter residing in the interior of the State. This
young soldier's enthusiasm and devotion were much bruited in the city,
because, waiving wealth and rank, he had served as a private. His
fearlessness at Fort Moultrie enhanced his reputation, and when the small
garrison of heroes, commanded by Major Anderson, succumbed, Sidney
Wallingford found that he had been voted a hero himself, especially by his
fair compatriots with whom he had formerly danced when visiting the town.

The young fellow's head was not easily turned, however, for when, at an
evening gathering, a group was lauding the great achievement he said
disdainfully, "What! thousands against seventy? Despise the Yankees as we
may, the odds were too great. The only thing we can plume ourselves upon
is that we would have fought just the same had the seventy been seven
thousand. I think the fellows did splendidly, if they were Yankees, yet
what else could we expect since their commander was a Southern man? Oh no!
we must wait till the conditions are more even before we can exult over
our victories. I reckon we'll have them all the same though."

Murmurs of approbation followed these remarks, but he saw only the
eloquent eyes of Mary Burgoyne, and, offering her his arm, led her away.

The spring night was as warm as a June evening at the North, and they
joined the groups that were strolling under the moonlight in the garden.

Sidney felt the young girl's hand tremble on his arm, and he drew it
closer to his side. She soon asked falteringly, "Mr. Wallingford, do you
think--will the conditions become more even, as you suggested? Can it be
that the North will be so carried away by this abolition fanaticism as to
send armies and ships in the vain effort to subjugate us?"

"Thank you, Miss Mary, for saying that it will be a 'vain effort.'"

"Of course it will be, with such men as my father and"--she suddenly
hesitated.

"And who else?" he gently asked, trying to look into her averted face.

"Oh--well," she stammered with a forced little laugh, "thousands of brave
fellows like you. You do not answer my question. Are we to have anything
like a general war? Surely, there ought to be enough good, wise men on
both sides to settle the matter."

"The matter might be settled easily enough," he replied lightly. "We know
our rights, and shall firmly assert them. If the Yankees yield, all well;
if not, we'll make 'em."

"But making them may mean a great war?"

"Oh, yes, some serious scrimmages I reckon. We're prepared however, and
will soon bring the North to its senses."

"If anything should happen to my father!" she sighed.

He had led her beneath the shadow of a palmetto, and now breathed into her
ear, "Mary, dear Mary, how much I'd give to hear you say in the same tone,
'If anything should happen to Sidney'!" She did not withdraw her hand from
his arm, and he again felt it tremble more than before. "Mary," he
continued earnestly, "I have asked your father if I might speak to you,
and he did not deny me the privilege. Oh, Mary, you must have seen my love
in my eyes and heard it in my tones long since. Mary," he concluded
impetuously, "let me but feel that I am defending you as well as my State,
and I can and will be a soldier in very truth."

She suddenly turned and sobbed on his shoulder, "That's what I fear,--I
can hide my secret from you no longer--that's what I fear. Those I love
will be exposed to sudden and terrible death. I am not brave at all."

"Shall I go home and plant cotton?" he asked, half jestingly.

"No, no, a thousand times no," she cried passionately. "Have I not seen
the deep solemnity with which my father accepted duty so foreign to his
tastes and habits? Can you think I would wish you to shrink or fail--you
who are so strong and brave? No, no, in very truth. Self must mean only
self-sacrifice until our sacred cause is won. Yet think twice, Sidney,
before you bind yourself to me. I fear I am not so brave as other women
appear to be in these times. My heart shrinks unspeakably from war and
bloodshed. Although I shall not falter, I shall suffer agonies of dread. I
cannot let you go to danger with stern words and dry eyes. I fear you'll
find me too weak to be a soldier's wife."

He led her into deeper and shadier seclusion as he asked, "Do you think
I'll hesitate because you have a heart in your bosom instead of a stone?
No, my darling. We must keep a brave aspect to the world, but my heart is
as tender toward you as yours toward me. What else in God's universe could
I dread more than harm to you? But there is little cause to fear. The
whole South will soon be with us, foreign nations will recognize us as an
independent people, and then we will dictate our own terms of peace; then
you shall be my bride in this, our proud city by the sea."

He kissed away her tears, and they strolled through the shadowy walks
until each had regained the composure essential in the bright
drawing-rooms.

A commission with the rank of captain was speedily offered young
Wallingford. He accepted it, but said he would return home and raise his
own company. This action was also applauded by his friends and the
authorities. Mary saw her father smile approvingly and proudly upon her
choice, and he became her ideal hero as well as lover.

He fulfilled his promises, and before many weeks passed, re-entered
Charleston with a hundred brave fellows, devoted to him. The company was
incorporated into one of the many regiments forming, and Mr. Burgoyne
assured his daughter that the young captain was sure of promotion, and
would certainly make a thorough soldier.

Even in those early and lurid days a few things were growing clear, and
among them was the fact that the North would not recognize the doctrine of
State Rights, nor peaceably accept the Act of Secession. Soldiers would be
needed,--how long no one knew, for the supreme question of the day had
passed from the hands of statesmen to those of the soldier. The lack of
mutual knowledge, the misapprehension and the gross prejudices existing
between the two sections, would have been ludicrous had they not been
fraught with such long-continued woes. Southern papers published such
stuff as this: "The Northern soldiers are men who prefer enlisting to
starvation; scurvy fellows from the back slums of cities, with whom
Falstaff would not have marched through Coventry. Let them come South, and
we will put our negroes at the dirty work of killing them. But they will
not come South. Not a wretch of them will live on this side of the border
longer than it will take us to reach the ground and drive them off." The
Northern press responded in kind: "No man of sense," it was declared,
"could for a moment doubt that this much-ado-about-nothing would end in a
month. The Northern people are simply invincible. The rebels, a mere band
of ragamuffins, will fly like chaff before the wind on our approach." Thus
the wretched farces of bluster continued on either side until in blood,
agony, and heartbreak, Americans learned to know Americans.

President Lincoln, however, had called out seventy-five thousand troops,
and these men were not long in learning that they could not walk over the
South in three months. The South also discovered that these same men could
not be terrified into abandoning the attempt. There were thoughtful men on
both sides who early began to recognize the magnitude of the struggle upon
which they had entered. Among these was Major Burgoyne, and the
presentiment grew upon him that he would not see the end of the conflict.
When, therefore, impetuous young Wallingford urged that he might call Mary
his wife before he marched to distant battlefields, the father yielded,
feeling that it might be well for her to have another protector besides
himself. The union was solemnized in old St. Michael's Church, where
Mary's mother and grandmother had been married before her; a day or two of
quiet and happiness was vouchsafed, and then came the tidings of the first
great battle of the war. Charleston responded with acclamations of
triumph; bells sent out their merriest peals; cannon thundered from every
fort on the harbor, but Mary wept on her husband's breast. Among the
telegrams of victory had come an order for his regiment to go North
immediately. Not even a brief honeymoon was permitted to her.



CHAPTER II

LOVE'S AGONY


As the exaggerated reports of a magnificent Confederate victory at Bull
Run continued to pour in, Major Burgoyne shared for a time in the general
elation, believing that independence, recognition abroad, and peace had
been virtually secured. All the rant about Northern cowardice appeared to
be confirmed, and he eagerly waited for the announcement that Washington
had been captured by Johnston's victorious army.

Instead, came the dismal tidings from his only sister that her husband,
Captain Hunter, had been killed in the battle over which he had been
rejoicing. Then for some mysterious reason the Southern army did not
follow the Federals, who had left the field in such utter rout and panic.
It soon appeared that the contending forces were occupying much the same
positions as before. News of the second great uprising of the North
followed closely, and presaged anything but a speedy termination of the
conflict. Major Burgoyne was not a Hotspur, and he grew thoughtful and
depressed in spirit, although he sedulously concealed the fact from his
associates. The shadow of coming events began to fall upon him, and his
daughter gradually divined his lack of hopefulness. The days were already
sad and full of anxiety, for her husband was absent. He had scouted the
idea of the Yankees standing up before the impetuous onset of the Southern
soldiers, and his words had apparently proved true, yet even those
Northern cowards had killed one closely allied to her before they fled.
Remembering, therefore, her husband's headlong courage, what assurance of
his safety could she have although victory followed victory?

Major Burgoyne urged his widowed sister to leave her plantation in the
charge of an overseer and make her home with him. "You are too near the
probable theatre of military operations to be safe," he wrote, "and my
mind cannot rest till you are with us in this city which we are rapidly
making impregnable." The result was that she eventually became a member of
his family. Her stern, sad face added to the young wife's depression, for
the stricken woman had been rendered intensely bitter by her loss. Mary
was too gentle in nature to hate readily, yet wrathful gleams would be
emitted at times even from her blue eyes, as her aunt inveighed in her
hard monotone against the "monstrous wrong of the North." They saw their
side with such downright sincerity and vividness that the offenders
appeared to be beyond the pale of humanity. Few men, even though the
frosts of many winters had cooled their blood and ripened their judgment,
could reason dispassionately in those days, much less women, whose hearts
were kept on the rack of torture by the loss of dear ones or the dread of
such loss.

It is my purpose to dwell upon the war, its harrowing scenes and intense
animosities, only so far as may be essential to account for my characters
and to explain subsequent events. The roots of personality strike deep,
and the taproot, heredity, runs back into the being of those who lived and
suffered before we were born.

Gentle Mary Burgoyne should have been part of a happier day and
generation. The bright hopes of a speedily conquered peace were dying
away; the foolish bluster on both sides at the beginning of the war had
ceased, and the truth so absurdly ignored at first, that Americans, North
and South, would fight with equal courage, was made clearer by every
battle. The heavy blows received by the South, however, did not change her
views as to the wisdom and righteousness of her cause, and she continued
to return blows at which the armies of the North reeled, stunned and
bleeding. Mary was not permitted to exult very long, however, for the
terrible pressure was quickly renewed with an unwavering pertinacity which
created misgivings in the stoutest hearts. The Federals had made a strong
lodgment on the coast of her own State, and were creeping nearer and
nearer, often repulsed yet still advancing as if impelled by the
remorseless principle of fate.

At last, in the afternoon of a day early in April, events occurred never
to be forgotten by those who witnessed them. Admiral Dupont with his
armored ships attempted to reduce Fort Sumter and capture the city.
Thousands of spectators watched the awful conflict; Mary Wallingford and
her aunt, Mrs. Hunter, among them. The combined roar of the guns exceeded
all the thunder they had ever heard. About three hundred Confederate
cannon were concentrated on the turreted monitors, and some of the
commanders said that "shot struck the vessels as fast as the ticking of a
watch." It would seem that the ships which appeared so diminutive in the
distance must be annihilated, yet Mary with her powerful glass saw them
creep nearer and nearer. It was their shots, not those of her friends,
that she watched with agonized absorption, for every tremendous bolt was
directed against the fort in which was her father.

The conflict was too unequal; the bottom of the harbor was known to be
paved with torpedoes, and in less than an hour Dupont withdrew his
squadron in order to save it from destruction.

In strong reaction from intense excitement, Mary's knees gave way, and she
sank upon them in thankfulness to God. Her aunt supported her to her room,
gave restoratives, and the daughter in deep anxiety waited for tidings
from her father. He did not come to her; he was brought, and there settled
down upon her young life a night of grief and horror which no words can
describe. While he was sighting a gun, it had been struck by a shell from
the fleet, and when the smoke of the explosion cleared away he was seen
among the debris, a mangled and unconscious form. He was tenderly taken
up, and after the conflict ended, conveyed to his home. On the way thither
he partially revived, but reason was gone. His eyes were scorched and
blinded, his hearing destroyed by the concussion, and but one lingering
thought survived in the wreck of his mind. In a plaintive and almost
childlike tone he continually uttered the words, "I was only trying to
defend my city and my home."

Hour after hour he repeated this sentence, deaf to his child's entreaties
for recognition and a farewell word. His voice grew more and more feeble
until he could only whisper the sad refrain; at last his lips moved but
there was no sound; then he was still.

For a time it seemed as if Mary would soon follow him, but her aunt, her
white face tearless and stern, bade her live for her husband and her
unborn child. These sacred motives eventually enabled her to rally, but
her heart now centred its love on her husband with an intensity which made
her friends tremble for her future. His visits had been few and brief, and
she lived upon his letters. When they were delayed, her eyes had a hunted,
agonized look which even her stoical aunt could not endure.

One day about midsummer she found the stricken wife, unconscious upon the
floor with the daily paper in her clenched hand. When at last the
physician had brought back feeble consciousness and again banished it by
the essential opiate, Mrs. Hunter read the paragraph which, like a bolt,
had struck down her niece. It was from an account of a battle in which the
Confederates had been worsted and were being driven from a certain vantage
point. "At this critical moment," ran the report, "Colonel Wallingford,
with his thinned regiment, burst through the crowd of fugitives rushing
down the road, and struck the pursuing enemy such a stinging blow as to
check its advance. If the heroic colonel and his little band could only
have been supported at this instant the position might have been regained.
As it was, they were simply overwhelmed as a slight obstacle is swept away
by a torrent. But few escaped; some were captured, while the colonel and
the majority were struck down, trampled upon and fairly obliterated as the
Northern horde of infantry and artillery swept forward all the more
impetuously. The check was of very great advantage, however, for it gave
our vastly outnumbered troops more time to rally in a stronger position."

This brief paragraph contained the substance of all that was ever learned
of the young husband, and his mangled remains filled an unknown grave. His
wife had received the blow direct, and she never rallied. Week after week
she moaned and wept upon her bed when the physician permitted
consciousness. Even in the deep sleep produced by opiates, she would
shudder at the sound of Gilmore's guns as they thundered against Forts
Sumter and Wagner. A faithful colored woman who had been a slave in the
family from infancy watched unweariedly beside her, giving place only to
the stern-visaged aunt, whose touch and words were gentle, but who had
lost the power to disguise the bitterness of her heart. She tried to
awaken maternal instincts in the wife, but in vain, for there are wounds
of the spirit, like those of the body, which are fatal. All efforts to
induce the widow to leave the city, already within reach of the Federal
guns, were unavailing, and she was the more readily permitted to have her
own way, because, in the physician's opinion, the attempt would prove
fatal.

Meanwhile her time was drawing near. One August night she was dozing, and
moaning in her sleep, when suddenly there was a strange, demoniac shriek
through the air followed by an explosion which in the still night was
terrifically loud. The invalid started up and looked wildly at her sable
nurse, who was trembling like a leaf.

"O Lawd hab mercy, Missus," she exclaimed. "Dem Yankees shellin' de town."

Mrs. Hunter was instantly at the bedside. The faithful doctor came
hurriedly of his own accord, and employed all his skill.

A few hours later Mrs. Hunter tried to say cheerily, "Come, Mary, here is
a fine little girl for you to love and live for."

"Aunty," said the mother calmly, "I am dying. Let me see my child and kiss
her. Then put her next my heart till it is cold."

Mrs. Hunter lifted her startled eyes to the physician, who sadly nodded
his head in acquiescence. In a few moments more the broken heart found
healing far beyond all human passion and strife.

With hot, yet tearless eyes, and a face that appeared to be chiselled from
marble in its whiteness and rigidity, the aunt took up the child. Her tone
revealed the indescribable intensity of her feelings as she said, "Thy
name is Mara--bitterness."



CHAPTER III

UNCLE SHEBA'S EXPERIENCE


Many years have elapsed since the events narrated in the last chapter
occurred, and the thread of story is taken up again in the winter of 1886.
In a small dwelling, scarcely more than a cabin, and facing on an obscure
alley in Charleston, a rotund colored woman of uncertain age is sitting by
the fire with her husband. She is a well-known character in the city, for
she earns her bread by selling cakes, fruits, and other light articles
which may be vended in the street with chances of profit. Although "Aun'
Sheba," as she was familiarly called, had received no training for
mercantile pursuits, yet her native shrewdness had enabled her to hit upon
the principles of success, as may be discovered by the reader as the story
progresses. She had always been so emphatically the master of the house
and the head of the family, that her husband went by the name of "Uncle
Sheba." It must be admitted that the wife shared in the popular opinion of
her husband.

When in an amiable mood, which, happily, was her usual condition of mind,
she addressed him as "Unc.;" when some of his many short-comings exhausted
her good-nature--for Aun' Sheba had more good-nature than patience--he was
severely characterized as "Mr. Buggone." Since they had been brought up in
Major Burgoyne's family, they felt entitled to his surname, and by
evolution it had become "Buggone." Uncle Sheba's heart failed him when his
wife addressed him by this title, for he knew he was beyond the dead line
of safety. They dwelt alone in the cabin, their several children, with one
exception, having been scattered they knew not where. Adjacent was another
cabin, owned by a son-in-law, named Kern Watson, who had married their
youngest daughter years before, and he was the pride of Aun' Sheba's
heart. Uncle Sheba felt that he was not appreciated, or perhaps
appreciated too well, by his son-in-law, and their intercourse was rather
formal.

On the evening in question, supper was over, but the table had not yet
been cleared. Uncle Sheba was a good deal of an epicure, and, having left
not a scrap of what his wife had vouchsafed to him, was now enjoying his
corn-cob pipe. Aun' Sheba also liked a good square meal as much as any
one, and she had the additional satisfaction that she had earned it. At
this hour of the day she was usually very tired, and was accustomed to
take an hour's rest before putting her living-room in order for the night.
Although the twilight often fell before she returned from her mercantile
pursuits, she never intrusted Uncle Sheba with the task of getting supper,
and no housekeeper in the city kept her provisions under lock and key more
rigorously than did Aun' Sheba. After repeated trials, she had come to a
decision. "Mr. Buggone," she had said in her sternest tones, "you's wuss
dan poah white trash when you gets a chance at de cubbard. Sence I can't
trus' you nohow, I'se gwine to gib you a 'lowance. You a high ole
Crischun, askin' for you'se daily bread, an' den eatin' up 'nuff fer a
week."

Uncle Sheba often complained that he was "skimped," but his appearance did
not indicate any meagreness in his "'lowance," and he had accepted his lot
in this instance, as in others, rather than lose the complacent
consciousness that he was provided for without much effort on his part.

Supper was Aun' Sheba's principal meal, and she practically dined at the
fashionable hour of six. What she termed her dinner was a very uncertain
affair. Sometimes she swallowed it hastily at "Ole Tobe's rasteran," as
she termed the eating-room kept by a white-woolled negro; again she would
"happen in" on a church sister, when, in passing, the odor of some cookery
was appetizing. She always left, however, some compensation from her
basket, and so was not unwelcome. Not seldom, also, a lady or a citizen
who knew her well and the family to which she had once belonged, would
tell her to go to the kitchen. On such days Aun' Sheba's appetite flagged
at supper, a fact over which her husband secretly rejoiced, since his
allowance was almost double.

She was now resting after the fatigues of the day, and the effort to get
and dispose of a very substantial supper, and was puffing at her pipe in a
meditative aspect. Evidently something unusual was on her mind, and she at
last ejaculated, "I know dey'se poah."

"Who's?" languidly queried Uncle Sheba.

"Oh, you'd neber fin' out. Dey'd starve long o' you."

"I dunno who dey is. What 'casion I got to pervide for dey?"

"Ha, ha, ha, Unc.! You'se a great pervider. Somehow or oder I'se got de
notion dat you'se a 'sumer."

"I bress de Lawd my appetite am' failin' in spite ob de rheumatiz."

"If you rheumatiz was only in you jints, dere'd be a comfort in keerin'
fer you, Unc., but it's in you min'."

"You'll cotch it some day, an' den you know what 'tis. But who's dey dat
you got on you min'?"

"Why, de young Missy and de ole Missus to be sho'."

"I don't see how dey can be poah. Dey mus' hab kep' someting out all dey
had."

"So dey did, but it wan't much, an' I jus' b'lebe it's clar dun gone!"

"What! de plantation in Virginny all gone?"

"How often I tole you, Unc., dat I heard ole Missus say herself dat
plantation was all trompl'd in de groun' an' what was lef' was took fer
taxes."

"I forgits," remarked Uncle Sheba, his eyes growing heavy in his lack of
interest; "but ole Marse Wallingford mus' hab lef' de widder ob his son
someting."

"Now look heah, Unc., you'se haf asleep. You'se 'lowance too hebby dis
ebenin'. How you forgit when I tell you ober an' ober? You doan keer.
Dat's de foot de shoe's on. You know ole Marse Wallingford's plantation
was trompl'd in de groun' too--not a stick or stone lef' by Sherman's
sogers."

"Well, dey sole dere fine house on Meetin' Street, an' dat mus' a brought
a heap," protested Uncle Sheba, rousing himself a little.

"Mighty little arter de mor'giges an' taxes was paid. Didn't I help dem
pack up what dey tink dey could sabe, and see poah Missy Mara wrung her
han's as she gib up dis ting an' dat ting till at las' she cry right out,
'Mought as well gib up eberyting. Why don't dey kill us too, like dey did
all our folks?' You used to be so hot fer dat ole Guv'ner Moses and say he
was like de Moses in de Bible--dat he was raised up fer ter lead de culled
people to de promise' lan'. You vote fer him, an' hurrah fer him, an'
whar's yer promise' lan'? Little you know 'bout Scripter when you say he
secon' Moses. Don' want no more sich Moseses in dis town. Dey wouldn't
lebe a brick heah ef dey could take dem off. He'n his tribe got away wid
'bout all ole Missus' and young Missus' prop'ty in my 'pinion. Anyhow I
feels it in my bones dey's poah, an' I mus' try an' fin' out. Dey's so
proud dey'd starbe fore dey'd let on."

"'Spose you does fin' out, what kin you do? You gwine ter buy back de big
house fer dem?"

"I'se not de one ter talk big 'bout what I'se gwine ter do," replied Aun'
Sheba, nodding her head portentously as she knocked the ashes from her
pipe, and prepared for the remaining tasks of the evening.

Her husband's self-interest took alarm at once, and he began to hitch
uneasily on his chair. At last he broke out: "Now look heah, Aun' Sheba,
you'se got suffin on you' min' 'bout dem white folks--"

"Dem white folks! Who you talkin' 'bout?"

"Well, dey ain't none o' our flesh an' blood, and de Bible say shuah dat
dey dat don' pervide fer dere own flesh an' blood am wuss dan a inferdel."

"Den I reckon you'se an inferdel, Mister Buggone," retorted Aun' Sheba,
severely.

"I'se not," retorted her husband, assuming much solemnity, "I'se a 'umble
an' 'flicted sarbent ob de Lawd, an' it's my duty to 'monstrate wid you. I
know what's on you' min'. You'se gwine ter do fer dem white folks when you
got all you kin do now."

"Mister Buggone, don' you call Miss Mara white folks no mo'."

"Well, ain't she white folks? Didn't I slabe fer her granpar yeahs an'
yeahs, an' wat I got ter show fer 't?"

"You got no stripes on you back, an' you'd had plenty ter show ef you'd
wuked fer any oder man. I 'member all about you slabin' an' how de good
major use' to let you off. You know, too, dat he war so took up wid his
book dat you could do foolishness right under his nose. An' dar was my
poah young Missy Mary, who hadn't de heart to hurt a skeeter. You s'pose I
watch ober dat broken-hearted lam' an' her little chile an' den heah 'em
called white folks, as if dey'se no 'count ter me? How ofen dat poah dyin'
lam' turn to me in de middle ob de night an' say ter me, Sheba, you will
took keer on my chile ef it libe, an' I say to her 'fore de Lawd dat I
would. An' I did too. Dat po' little moderless and faderless chile lay on
my bosom till I lubed it fer hersef, and Missy Mara neber gwine to hab
trubble when I ain't dar."

Aun' Sheba's voice had been reaching a higher and higher key under the
influence of reminiscence and indignation. Although her husband was in
dire trepidation he felt that this point was too serious to be yielded
without a desperate effort. He had been put on short allowance once before
when his wife had gone to help take care of Mara in a severe illness, and
now he had a presentiment that Aun' Sheba would try to help support the
girl and her great-aunt as well as himself. Such an attempt threatened
privations which were harrowing even to contemplate, and in a sort of
desperation he resolved once more to assert his marital position. "Aun'
Sheba," he began with much dignity, "I'se been bery easy an' bendin' like
ter you. I'se gib you you'se own head dead agin de principles ob Scripter
which say dat de husban' am de head ob de wife--"

"Mister Buggone," interrupted Aun' Sheba in a passion which was bursting
all restraint, "you'se wrestin' Scripter to you'se own 'struction. Ef you
am de head ob dis fam'ly, I'se gwine ter sit down an fole my hans, an you
can jes' git out an earn my libin' an' yours too. Git up dar now, an'
bring in de wood an' de kinlin' fer de mawnin', an' when mawnin' come, you
make de fiah. Arter breakfas' you start right off ter work, and I'se sit
on de do' step and talk to de neighbos. You shall hab all de headin ob de
house you wants, but you can't hab de 'sition widout de 'sponsibilities.
I'se gwine now to take a res' an' be 'sported," and the irate wife filled
her pipe, sat down and smoked furiously.

Uncle Sheba was appalled at the result of his Scriptural argument. He
would like to be king by divine right without any responsibilities. His
one thought now was to escape until the storm blew over and his wife's
tolerant good-nature resumed its wonted sway. Shuffling cautiously around
to the door he remarked meekly as he held it ajar, "I reckon I'll drap in
at de prar-meetin', fer I tole brudder Simpkins I'd gib dem a lif' dis
ebenin'."

His heart misgave him as he heard his wife bound up and bolt the door
after him, but he was a philosopher who knew the value of time in
remedying many of the ills of life. It must be admitted that he could not
get into the spirit of the meeting, and Brother Simpkins remarked rather
severely at its close, "Mister Buggone, I'se feared you'se zeal am
languishin'."

Uncle Sheba's forebodings increased as he saw that his house was dark, and
he fell into something like panic when he found that the door was still
bolted. He knocked gently at first, then louder and louder, adding to the
uproar by calls and expostulations. A light appeared in the adjacent
cottage, and Kern Watson, his son-in-law, came out. "Wat de matter now,
Uncle Sheba?" he asked. "Does yer wan' ter bring de perlice? You'se been
takin' a drap too much again, I reckon."

"No, I'se only been to prar-meetin', and Aun' Sheba jes' dun gone and bolt
me out."

"Well, you'se been cuttin' up some shine, an' dat's a fac'. Come in an'
stop you noise. You can sleep on de lounge. We don' want to pay ten
dollahs in de mawnin to get you out ob de caboose."

Uncle Sheba was glad to avail himself of this rather equivocal
hospitality, and eagerly sought to win Kern's sympathy by relating his
grievance. His son-in-law leaned against the chimney-side that he might,
in his half-dressed condition, enjoy the warmth of the coals covered with
ashes on the hearth, and listened. He was a tall, straight negro of
powerful build, and although his features were African, they were not
gross in character. The candle on the mantel near him brought out his
profile in fine silhouette, while his quiet steady eyes indicated a nature
not stirred by trifles.

"You'se a 'publican, Kern, an' you knows dat we culled people got ter take
keer ob ourselves."

"Yes, I'se a Republican," said Kern, "but wat dat got ter do wid dis
matter? Is Aun' Sheba gwine ter take any ob your money? Ef she set her
heart on helpin' her ole Missus an' young Missy an' arn de money herself,
whose business is it but hers? I'se a Republican because I belebe in
people bein' free, wedder dey is white or black, but I ain't one ob dem
kin' ob Republicans dat look on white folks as inemies. Wot we do widout
dem, an' wat dey do widout us? All talk ob one side agin de toder is fool
talk. Ef dere's any prosperity in dis lan' we got ter pull tergedder.
You'se free, Uncle Sheba, an' dere ain't a man in Charleston dat kin
hender you from goin' to work termorrow."

"I reckon I'se try ter git a wink ob slepe, Kern," responded Uncle Sheba
plaintively. "My narbes been so shook up dat my rheumatiz will be po'ful
bad for a spell."

Kern knew the futility of further words, and also betook himself to rest.

With Aun' Sheba, policy had taken the place of passion. Through a
knot-hole in her cabin she had seen her husband admitted to her
son-in-law's dwelling, and so her mind was at rest. "Unc," she muttered,
"forgits his 'sper'ence at de prar-meetin's bery easy, but he mus' have a
'sper'ence to-night dat he won't forgit. I neber so riled in my bawn days.
Ef he tinks I can sit heah and see him go'mandizin' when my honey lam'
Mara hungry, he'll fin' out."

Before the dawn on the following day, Uncle Sheba had had time for many
second thoughts, and when his wife opened the door he brought in plenty of
kindlings and wood. Aun' Sheba accepted these marks of submission in grim
silence, resolving that peace and serenity should come about gradually.
She relented so far, however, as to give him an extra slice of bacon for
breakfast, at which token of returning toleration Uncle Sheba took heart
again. Having curtly told him to clear the table, Aun' Sheba proceeded to
make from the finest of flour the delicate cakes which she always sold
fresh and almost warm from her stove, and before starting out on her
vending tour of the streets, the store-room was locked against the one
burglar she feared.



CHAPTER IV

MARA


On the same evening which witnessed Uncle Sheba's false step and its
temporarily disastrous results, Owen Clancy sat brooding over his fire in
his bachelor apartment. If his sitting-room did not suggest wealth, it
certainly indicated refined and intellectual tastes and a fair degree of
prosperity. A few fine pictures were on the walls, an unusually
well-selected library, although a small one, was in a bookcase, while upon
the table lay several of the best magazines and reviews of the period.
Above the mantel was suspended a cavalry sabre, its scabbard so dented as
to suggest that it had seen much and severe service. Young Clancy's eyes
were fixed upon it, and his revery was so deep that a book fell from his
hand to the floor without his notice. His thoughts, however, were dwelling
upon a young girl. Strange that a deadly weapon should be allied to her in
association. Yet so it was. He never could look upon that sabre which his
father had used effectively throughout the Civil War, without thinking of
Mara Wallingford. Neither this object nor any other was required to
produce thoughts of her, for he passed few waking hours in which she was
not present to his fancy. He loved her sincerely, and felt that she knew
it, and he also hoped that she concealed a deeper regard for him than she
would admit even to herself. Indeed he almost believed that if he could
share fully with her all the ideas and antipathies symbolized by the
battered scabbard before him, his course of love would run smoothly. It
was just at this point that the trouble between them arose. She was
looking back; he, forward. He could not enter into her sad and bitter
retrospection, feeling that this was morbid and worse than useless.
Remembering how cruelly she and her kindred had suffered, he made great
allowances for her, and had often tried to soften the bitterness in her
heart by reminding her that he, too, had lost kindred and property. By
delicate efforts he had sought to show the futility of clinging to a dead
past, and a cause lost beyond hope, but Mara would only become grave and
silent when such matters were touched upon.

Clancy had been North repeatedly on business, and had never discovered a
particle of hostility toward him or his section in the men with whom he
dealt and associated. They invited him to their homes; he met the women of
their families, from whom he often received rather more than courtesy, for
his fine appearance and a certain courtliness of manner, inherited from
his aristocratic father, had won a thinly veiled admiration of which he
had been agreeably conscious. Since these people had no controversy with
him, how could he continue to cherish enmity and prejudice against them?
His warm Southern nature revolted at receiving hearty good-will and not
returning it in kind. There was nothing of a "we-forgive-you" in the
bearing of his Northern acquaintances, nor was there any effusiveness in
cordiality with an evident design of reassuring him. He was made to feel
that he was guilty of an anachronism in brooding over the war, that it had
been forgotten except as history, and that the present with its
opportunities, and the future with its promise, were the themes of
thought. The elements of life, energy, hopefulness with which he came in
contact had appealed to him powerfully, for they were in harmony with his
youth, ambition, yes, and his patriotism. "The South can never grow rich
and strong by sulking," he had often assured himself, "and since the old
dream is impossible, and we are to be one people, why shouldn't we accept
the fact and unite in mutual helpfulness?"

Reason, ambition, and policy prompted him to the divergence of view and
action which was alienating Mara. "Imitation of her example and spirit
would be political and financial suicide on our part," he broke out. "I
love her; and if she loved in the same degree, I would be more to her than
bitter memories. She would help me achieve a happy future for us both. As
it is, I am so pulled in different ways that I'm half insane," and with
contracted brow he sprang up and paced the floor.

But he could not hold to this mood long, and soon his face softened into
an expression of anxiety and commiseration. Resuming his chair his
thoughts ran on, "She isn't happy either. For some cause I reckon she
suffers more than I do. She looked pale to-day when I met her, and her
face was full of anxiety until she saw me, and then it masked all feeling.
She has worn that same cloak now for three winters. Great Heaven! if she
should be in want, and I not know it! Yet what could I do if she were? Why
will she be so proud and obdurate? I believe that gaunt, white-haired aunt
has more to do with her course than her own heart. Well, I can't sit here
and think about it any longer. If I see her something may become clearer,
and I must see her before I go North again."

Mara Wallingford's troubles and anxieties had indeed been culminating of
late. Almost her sole inheritance had been sadness, trouble and enmity.
Not only had her unhappy mother's history been kept fresh in her memory by
her great-aunt, Mrs. Hunter, but the very blood that coursed in her veins
and the soul that looked out from her dark, melancholy eyes had received
from that mother characteristics which it is of the province of this story
to reveal. To poor Mary Wallingford, the death of her father and of her
husband had been the unspeakable tragedy and wrong which had destroyed her
life; and the long agony of the mother had deprived her offspring of the
natural and joyous impulses of childhood and youth. If Mara had been left
to the care of a judicious guardian--one who had sought by all wholesome
means to counteract inherited tendencies, a most cheerful and hopeful life
would have been developed, but in this respect the girl had been most
unfortunate. The mind grows by what it feeds upon, and Mrs. Hunter's
spirit had become so imbittered by dwelling upon her woes and losses that
she was incapable of thinking or speaking of much else. She had never been
a woman of warm, quick sympathies. She had seen little of the world, and,
in a measure, was incapable of seeing it, whatever advantages she might
have had. This would have been true of her, no matter where her lot had
been cast, for she was a born conservative. What she had been brought up
to believe would always be true; what she had been made familiar with by
early custom would always be right, and anything different would be viewed
with disapproval or intoleration. Too little allowance is often made for
characters of this kind. We may regret rigidity and narrowness all we
please, but there should be some respect for downright sincerity and the
inability to see both sides of a question.

It often happens that if natures are narrow they are correspondingly
intense; and this was true of Mrs. Hunter. She idolized her husband dead,
more perhaps than if he had been living. Her brother and nephew were
household martyrs, and little Mara had been taught to revere their
memories as a devout Catholic pays homage to a patron saint. Between the
widow and all that savored of the North, the author of her woes, there was
a great gulf, and the changes wrought by the passing years had made no
impression, for she would not change. She simply shut her eyes and closed
her ears to whatever was not in accord with her own implacable spirit. She
grew cold toward those who yielded to the kindly influences of peace and
the healing balm of time; she had bitter scorn for such as were led by
their interests to fraternize with the North and Northern people. In her
indiscrimination and prejudice they were all typified by the unscrupulous
adventurers who had made a farce of government and legally robbed the
South when prostrate and bleeding after the War. She and her niece had
been taxed out of their home to sustain a rule they loathed. Not a few
women in Boston, in like circumstances, would be equally bitter and
equally incapable of taking the broad views of an historian.

The influence of such a concentrated mind warped almost to the point of
monomania, upon a child like Mara, predisposed from birth to share in a
similar spirit, can be readily estimated. Peace and time, moreover, had
not brought the ameliorating tendencies of prosperity, but rather a
continuous and hopeless pressure of poverty.

Mrs. Hunter had been incapable of doing more than save what she could out
of the wreck of their fortunes. There were no near relations, and those
remaining, with most of their friends and acquaintances who had not been
alienated, were struggling like themselves in straitened circumstances.
Yet out of this poverty, many open, generous hands would have been
stretched to the widow and her ward had they permitted their want to be
known. But they felt that they would rather starve than do this, for they
belonged to that class which suffers in proud silence. Although they had
practiced an economy that was so severe as to be detrimental to both
health and character, their principal had melted away, and their jewelry
and plate, with the exception of heirlooms that could not be sold without
a sense of sacrilege, had been quietly disposed of. The end of their
resources was near, and they knew not what to do. Mara had tried to eke
out their means by fancy-work, but she had no great aptitude for such
tasks, and her education was too defective and old-fashioned for the
equipment of a modern teacher. She was well read, especially in the
classics, yet during the troubled years of her brief life she had not been
given the opportunity to acquire the solid, practical knowledge which
would enable her to instruct others. The exclusiveness and seclusion, so
congenial to her aunt, had been against her, and now reticence and a
disposition to shrink from the world had become a characteristic of her
own.

She felt, however, that her heart, if not her will, was weak toward Owen
Clancy. In him had once centred the hope of her life, and from him she now
feared a wound that could never heal.

She underrated his affection as he did hers. He felt that she should throw
off the incubus of the past for his sake; she believed that any depth of
love on his part should render impossible all intercourse with the North
beyond what was strictly necessary for the transaction of business. In
order to soften her prejudices, he had told her of his social experiences
in New York, and, as a result, had seen her face hardened against him....
She had no words of bitter scorn such as her aunt had indulged in when
learning of the fact. She had only thought in sorrow that since he was
"capable of accepting hospitality from the people who had murdered her
kindred and blighted the South, there was an impassable gulf between
them."

Now, however, the imperative questions of bread and shelter were
uppermost. She believed that Clancy could and would solve these questions
at once if permitted, and it was characteristic of her pride and what she
regarded as her loyalty, that she never once allowed herself to think of
this alternative. Yet what could she and her aunt do? They were in the
pathetic position of gentlewomen compelled to face the world with
unskilled hands. This is bad enough at best, but far worse when hands are
half paralyzed by pride and timidity as well as ignorance. The desperate
truth, however, stared them in the face. Do something they must, and that
speedily.

They were contemplating the future in a hopeless sort of dread and
perplexity on the evening when Aunt Sheba and young Clancy's thoughts were
drawn toward them in such deep solicitude. This fact involves no mystery.
The warm-hearted colored woman had seen and heard little things which
suggested the truth, and the sympathetic lover had seen the face of the
young girl when she was off her guard. Its expression had haunted him, and
impelled him to see her at once, although she had chilled his hopes of
late.

When compelled to leave the old home, Mrs. Hunter had taken the second
floor of a small brick house located on a side street. In spite of herself
Mara's heart fluttered wildly for a moment when the woman who occupied the
first story brought up Clancy's card.

"You can't see him to-night," said her aunt, frowning.

Mara hesitated a moment, and then said firmly, "Yes, I will see him.
Please ask him to come up." When they were alone, she added in a low
voice, "I shall see him once more, probably for the last time socially. We
cannot know what changes are in store for us."

"Well, I won't see him," said Mrs. Hunter, frigidly; and she left the
room.



CHAPTER V

PAST AND FUTURE


Under the impulses of his solicitude and affection Clancy entered quickly,
and took Mara's hand in such a strong, warm grasp that the color would
come into her pale face. In spite of her peculiarities and seeming
coldness, she was a girl who could easily awaken a passionate love in a
warm, generous-hearted man like the one who looked into her eyes with
something like entreaty in his own. She had a beauty peculiar to herself,
and now a strange loveliness which touched his very soul. The quick flush
upon her cheeks inspired hope, and a deep emotion, which she could not
wholly suppress, found momentary expression. Even in that brief instant
she was transfigured, for the woman within her was revealed. As if
conscious of a weakness which seemed to her almost criminal, her face
became rigid, and she said formally, "Please be seated, Mr. Clancy."

"You must not speak to me in that way and in that tone," he began
impetuously, and then paused, for he was chilled by her cold, questioning
gaze. Her will was so strong, and found such powerful expression in her
dark, sad eyes, that for a moment he was dumb and embarrassed. Then his
own high spirit rallied, and a purpose grew strong that she should hear
him, and hear the truth also. His gray eyes, that had wavered for a
moment, grew steady in their encounter with hers.

Seating himself on the opposite side of the table, he said quietly, "You
think I have no right to speak to you in such a way."

"I fear we think differently on many subjects, Mr. Clancy."

"Admitting that, would you like a man to be a weak echo of yourself?"

"A man should not be weak in any respect. I do not think it necessary,
however, to raise the question of my likes or dislikes."

"I must differ with you, Mara," he replied gravely.

"I agree with you now, fully, Mr. Clancy. We differ. Had we not better
change the subject?"

"No, not unless you would be unfair. I am at a disadvantage. I am in your
home. You are a lady, and therefore can compel me to leave unsaid what I
am bent on saying. We have been friends, have we not?"

She bowed her acquiescence.

"Well," he continued a little bitterly, "I have one Southern trait
left--frankness. You know I would speak in a different character if
permitted, if I received one particle of encouragement." Then, with a
sudden flush, he said firmly, "I will speak as I feel. I only pay homage
in telling you what you must already know. I love you, and would make you
my wife."

Her face became very pale as she averted it, and replied briefly, "You are
mistaken, Mr. Clancy."

"Mara, I am not mistaken. Will you be fair enough to listen to me? We
agree that we differ. Can we not also agree that we differ
conscientiously? You cannot think me false, even though you say I am
mistaken. Hitherto you have opposed to me a dead wall of silence. Though
you will not listen to me as a lover, you might both listen and speak to
me as a friend. That word would be hollow indeed if estrangment could
result from honest differences of opinion."

"It is far more than a difference of opinion."

"Let the difference be what it may, Mara," he answered gently, resolving
not to be baffled, "if you are so sure you are right, you should at least
be willing to accord to one whom you once regarded as a friend the
privilege of pleading his cause. Truth and right do not intrench
themselves in repelling silence. That is the refuge of prejudice. If you
will hear my side of the question, I will listen with the deepest interest
to yours, and believe me you have a powerful ally in my heart."

"Your head has gained such ascendency over your heart, Mr. Clancy, that
you cannot understand me. In some women the strongest reasons for or
against a thing proceed from the latter organ."

"Is yours, then, so cold toward me?" he asked sadly.

"It is not cold toward the memory of my murdered parents," she replied
with an ominous flash in her eyes.

Clancy looked at her in momentary surprise, then said firmly, "My father
eventually died from injuries received in the war, but he was not
murdered. He was wounded in fair battle in which he struck as well as
received blows."

Again there was a quick flush upon her pale face, but now it was one of
indignation as she said bitterly, "Fair battle! So you call it fair battle
when men are overpowered in defending their homes. If armed robbers broke
into your house, and you gave blows as well as received them, would you
not be murdered if it so happened that you were killed? Why should we
speak of these subjects further?" And there was a trace of scorn in her
tone.

His pride was touched, and he was all the more determined that he would be
heard. "I can give you good reason why we should speak further," he
answered resolutely yet quietly. "However strong your feeling may be, I
have too much respect for your intelligence and too much confidence in
your courage to believe that you will weakly shrink from hearing one who
is as conscientious as yourself. I cannot accept your illustration, and do
not think the instance you give is parallel. In the differences between
the North and the South, an appeal was made to the sword. If I had been
old enough I would have fought at my father's side. But the question is
now settled. No matter how we feel about it, the North and the South must
live together, and it is not my nature to live in hate. Suppose I
could--suppose it were possible for all Southern men to feel as you do and
act in accordance with such bitter enmity, what would be the result? It
would be suicide. Our land would become a desert. Capital and commerce
would leave our cities because there would be no security among a people
implacably hostile. Such a course would be more destructive than invading
armies. My business, the business of the city, is largely with the North.
If native Southern men tried to transact it in a cold, relentless spirit,
we should lose the chance to live, much less to do anything for our land.
We have suffered too much from this course already, and have allowed
strangers, who care nothing for us, to take much that might have been
ours. I love the South too well to advocate a course which would prove so
fatal. What is more, I cannot think it would be right. The North of your
imagination does not exist. I cannot hate people who have no hate for me,
but on the contrary abound in honest, kindly feeling."

She had listened quietly with her face turned from him, and now met his
eyes with an inscrutable expression in hers. "Have I not listened?" she
asked.

"But you have not answered," he urged, "you have not even tried to show me
wherein I am wrong."

The eyes whose sombre blackness had been like a veil now flamed with the
anger she had long repressed. "How little you understand me," she said
passionately, "when you think I can argue questions like these. You are
virtually asking what to me is sacrilege. I have listened to you
patiently, at what cost to my feelings you are incapable of knowing. Do
you think that I can forget that my grandfather was mangled to death, and
that his last words were, 'I was only trying to defend my home'? Do you
think I can forget that my father was trampled into the very earth by your
Northern friends with whom you must fraternize as well as trade? I will
not speak of my martyred mother. Her name and agony are too sacred to be
named in a political argument," and she uttered these last words with
intense bitterness. Then rising to end the interview, she continued coldly
in biting sarcasm, "Mr. Clancy, I have no relations with the North. I do
not deal in cotton, and none of its fibre has found its way into my
nature."

At these words he flushed hotly, sprang up, but by an evident and powerful
effort controlled himself, and sat down again.

"How could you even imagine," she added, "that words, arguments, political
and financial considerations would tempt me to be disloyal to the memory
of my dead kindred?"

"You _are_ disloyal to them," he said firmly.

"What!"

"Mara, I am indeed proving myself a friend because I am such and more, and
because you so greatly need a friend. Your kindred had hearts in their
breasts. Would they doom you to the life upon which you are entering? Can
you not see that you are passing deeper and deeper into the shadow of the
past? What good can it do them? Could they speak would they say, 'We wish
our sorrows to blight your life'? You are not happy, you cannot be happy.
It is contrary to the law of God, it is impossible to human nature, that
happiness and bitter, unrelenting enmity should exist in the same heart.
You are not only unhappy, but you are in deep trouble of some kind. I saw
that from your face to-day before you saw me and could mask from a friend
its expression of deep anxiety. You shall hear the truth from me which I
fear you hear from no other, and your harsh words shall not deter me from
my resolute purpose to be kind, to rescue you virtually from a condition
of mind that is so morbid, so unhealthful, that it will blight your life.
I cannot so wrong your father and mother as even to imagine that it could
be their wish to see your beautiful young life grow more and more
shadowed, to see you struggling under burdens which strong, loving hands
would lift from you. Can you believe that they, happy in heaven, can wish
you no happiness on earth?"

There was a grave, convincing earnestness in his tone, and a truth in his
words hard to resist. What she considered loyalty to her kindred had been
like her religion, and he had charged her with disloyalty, yes, and while
he spoke the thought would assert itself that her course might be a
wretched mistake. Although intrenched in prejudice, and fortified against
his words by the thought and feeling of her life, she had been made to
doubt her position and feel that she might be a self-elected martyr. The
assertion that she was doing what would be contrary to the wishes of her
dead kindred pierced the very citadel of her opposition, and tended to
remove the one belief which had been the sustaining rock beneath her feet.
She knew she had been severe with him, and she was touched by his
forbearance, his resolute purpose to befriend her. She remembered her
poverty, the almost desperate extremity in which she was, and her heart
upbraided her for refusing the hand held out so loyally and persistently
to her help. She became confused, torn, and overwhelmed by conflicting
emotions; her lip quivered, and, bowing her head in her hands, she sobbed,
"You are breaking my heart."

In an instant he was on one knee at her side. "Mara," he began gently, "if
I wound it is only that I may heal. Truly no girl in this city needs a
friend as you do. For some reason I feel this to be true in my very soul.
Who in God's universe would forbid you a loyal friend?" and he tried to
take her hand.

"I forbid you to be her friend," said a stern voice.

Springing up, Clancy encountered the gaze of a gaunt, white-haired woman,
with implacable enmity stamped upon her thin visage. The young man's eyes
darkened as they steadily met those of Mrs. Hunter, and it was evident
that the forbearance he had manifested toward the girl he loved would not
be extended to her guardian. Still he controlled himself, and waited till
she should speak again.

"Mr. Clancy," she resumed after a moment, "Miss Wallingford is my ward; I
received her from her dying mother, and so have rights which you must
respect. I forbid you seeing her or speaking to her again."

"Mrs. Hunter," he replied, "permit me to tell you with the utmost courtesy
that I shall not obey you. Only Mara herself can forbid me from seeing her
or speaking to her."

"What right have you, sir--"

"The best of rights, Mrs. Hunter, I love the girl; you do not. As
remorselessly as a graven image you would sacrifice her on the altar of
your hate."

"Mr. Clancy, you must not speak to my aunt in that way. She has been
devoted to me from my infancy."

"On the contrary, she has devoted you from infancy to sadness, gloom, and
bitter memories. She is developing within you the very qualities most
foreign to a woman's heart. Instead of teaching you to enshrine the memory
of your kindred in tender, loving remembrance, she is forging that memory
into a chain to restrain you from all that is natural to your years. She
is teaching you to wreck your life in fruitless opposition to the healing
influences that have followed peace. Madam, answer me--the question is
plain and fair--what can you hope to accomplish by your enmity to me and
to the principles of hope and progress which, in this instance, I
represent, but the blighting of this girl whom I love?"

"You are insolent, sir," cried Mrs. Hunter, trembling with rage.

"No, madam, I am honest, and be the result to me what it may, you shall
both hear the truth to-night."

"This is our home," was the harsh response, "and you are not a gentleman
if you do not leave it instantly."

"I shall certainly do so. Mara, am I to see you and speak to you no more?"

She had sunk into a chair, and again buried her face in her hands.

He waited a moment, but she gave no sign. Then with his eyes fixed on her
he sadly and slowly left the apartment.

At last she sprang up with the faint cry, "Owen," but her aunt stood
between her and the door, and he was gone.



CHAPTER VI

"PAHNASHIP"


When Mara realized that her lover had indeed gone, that in fact he had
been driven forth, and that she had said not one word to pave the way for
a future meeting, a sense of desolation she had never known before
overwhelmed her. Hitherto she had been sustained by an unfaltering belief
that no other course than the one which her aunt had inculcated was
possible; that, cost what it might, and end as it might, it was her
heritage. All now was confused and in doubt. She had heard her lofty,
self-sacrificing purpose virtually characterized as vain and wrong. She
had idolized the memory of her father and mother, and yet had been told
that her course was the very one of which they would not approve. The
worst of it all was that it now seemed true, for she could not believe
that they would wish her to be so utterly unhappy. In spite of her
unworldliness and lack of practical training, the strong common-sense of
Clancy's question would recur, "What good will it do?" She was not
sacrificing her heart to sustain or further any cause, and her heart now
cried out against the wrong it was receiving. These miserable thoughts
rushed through her mind and pressed so heavily upon all hope that she
leaned her arms upon the table, and, burying her face, sobbed aloud.

"Mara," said her aunt, severely, "I did not think you could be so weak."

Until the storm of passionate grief passed, the young girl gave no heed to
Mrs. Hunter's reproaches or expostulations. At last she became quiet, as
much from exhaustion as from self-control, and said wearily, "You need
worry no further about Mr. Clancy. He will not come again. If he has a
spark of pride or manhood left, he will never look at me again," and a
quick, heart-broken sob would rise at the thought.

"I should hope you would not look at him again after his insolence to me."

Mara did not reply. For the first time her confidence in her aunt had been
shaken, for she could not but feel that Mrs. Hunter, in her judgment of
Clancy, saw but one side of the question. She did not approve of his stern
arraignment of her aunt, but she at least remembered his great
provocation, and that he had been impelled to his harsh words by loyalty
to her.

At last she said, "Aunty, I'm too worn out to think or speak any more
tonight. There is a limit to endurance, and I've reached it."

"That's just where the trouble is," Mrs. Hunter tried to say reassuringly.
"In the morning you will be your own true, brave self again."

"What's the use of being brave; what can I be brave for?" thought Mara in
the solitude of her room.

Although her sleep was brief and troubled, she had time to grow calm and
collect her thoughts. While she would not admit it to herself, Clancy's
repeated assertions of his love had a subtle and sustaining power. She
could see no light in the future, but her woman's heart would revert to
this truth as to a secret treasure.

In the morning after sitting for a time almost in silence over their
meagre breakfast, her aunt began: "Mara, I wish you to realize the truth
in regard to Mr. Clancy. It is one of those things which must be nipped in
the bud. There is only one ending to his path, and that is full acceptance
of Northern rule and Northern people. What is more, after his words to me,
I will never abide under the same roof with him again."

"Aunty," said Mara sadly, "we have much else to think about besides Mr.
Clancy. How are we going to keep a roof over our own heads?"

Compelled to face their dire need, Mrs. Hunter broke out into bitter
invective against those whom she regarded as the cause of their poverty.

"Aunty," protested Mara, almost irritably, for her nerves were sadly worn,
"what good can such words do? We must live, I suppose, and you must advise
me."

"Mara, I am almost tempted to believe that you regret--"

"Aunty, you must fix your mind on the only question to be considered. What
are we to do? You know our money is almost gone."

Mrs. Hunter's only response was to stare blankly at her niece. She could
economize and be content with very little as long as her habitual trains
of thought were not interrupted and she could maintain her proud
seclusion. Accustomed to remote plantation life, she knew little of the
ways of the modern world, and much less of the methods by which a woman
could obtain a livelihood from it. To the very degree that she had lived
in the memories and traditions of the past, she had unfitted herself to
understand the conditions of present life or to cope with its
requirements. Now she was practically helpless. "We can't go and reveal
our situation to our friends," she began hesitatingly.

"Certainly not," said Mara, "for most of them have all they can do to
sustain themselves, and I would rather starve than live on the charity of
those on whom we have no claim."

"We might take less expensive rooms."

"What good would that do, Aunty? If we can't earn anything, five dollars
will be as hard to raise as ten."

"Oh, to think that people of the very best blood in the State, who once
had scores of slaves to work for them, should be so wronged, robbed and
reduced!"

Mara heaved a long, weary sigh, and Clancy's words would repeat themselves
again and again. She saw how utterly incapable her aunt was to render any
assistance in their desperate straits. Even the stress of their present
emergency could not prevent her mind from vainly reverting to a past that
was gone forever. Again her confidence was more severely shaken as she was
compelled to doubt the wisdom of their habits of seclusion and reticence,
of living on from year to year engrossed by memories, instead of adapting
themselves to a new order of things which they were powerless to prevent.
"Truly," she thought, "my father and mother never could have wished me to
be in this situation out of love for them. It is true I could never go to
the length that he does without great hypocrisy, and I do not see the need
of it. I can never forget the immense wrong done to me and mine, but Aunty
should have taught me something more than indignation and hostility,
however just the causes for them may be."

While such was the tenor of her thoughts, she only said a little bitterly:
"Oh, that I knew how to do something! My old nurse, Aun' Sheba, is better
off than we are."

"She belongs to us yet," said Mrs. Hunter, almost fiercely.

"You could never make her or any one else think so," was the weary reply.
"Well, now that I have thought of her, I believe I could advise with her
better than any one else."

"Advise with a slave? Oh, Mara!--"

"Whom shall I advise with then?" And there was a sharp ring in the girl's
tone.

"Oh, any one, so that it be not Mr. Clancy," replied her aunt irritably.
"Were it not that you so needed a protector, I could wish that I were
dead."

"Aunt," said Mara, gently yet firmly, "we must give up this hopeless,
bitter kind of talk. I, at least, must do something to earn honest bread,
and I am too depressed and sad at heart to carry any useless burdens. Mr.
Clancy said much that was wrong last night, and there are matters about
which he and I can never agree, but surely he was right in saying that my
father and mother would not wish to see me crushed body and soul. If I am
to live, I must find a way to live and yet keep my self-respect. I suppose
the natural way would be to go to those who knew my father and
grandfather; but they would ask me what I could do. What could I tell
them? It would seem almost like asking charity."

"Of course it would," assented her aunt.

Then silence fell between them.

Before Mara could finish her morning duties and prepare for the street, a
heavy step was heard on the stairs, then a knock at the door. Opening it,
the young girl saw the very object of her thoughts, for Aun' Sheba's ample
form and her great basket filled all the space.

"Oh, Aun' Sheba," cried the girl, a gleam of hope lighting up her eyes,
"I'm so glad to see you. I was just starting for your cabin."

"Bress your heart, honey, Aun' Sheba'll allus be proud to hab you come. My
spec's, Missus," and she dropped her basket and a courtesy before Mrs.
Hunter.

"Aun' Sheba," said Mara, giving the kindly vender a chair, "you are so
much better off than we are. I was saying just that to aunty this
morning."

"Why, honey, I'se only a po' culled body, and you'se a beauty like you
moder, bress her po' deah heart."

"Yes, Aun' Sheba, you were a blessing to her," said Mara with moist eyes.
"How you watched over her and helped to take care of me! Perhaps you can
help take care of me again. For some reason, I can speak to you and tell
you our troubles easier than to any one else in the world."

"Dat's right, honey lam', dat's right. Who else you tell your troubles to
but Aun' Sheba? Didn't I comfort you on dis bery bres time an' time agin
when you was a little mite? Now you'se bigger and hab bigger troubles,
I'se bigger too," and Aunt Sheba shook with laughter like a great form of
jelly as she wiped her eyes with sympathy.

"Aun' Sheba," said Mara in a voice full of unconscious pathos, "I don't
know what to do, yet I must do something. It seems to me that I could be
almost happy if I were as sure of earning my bread as you are."

"Now, doggone dat ar lazy husban' o' mine. But he got his 'serts an'll git
mo' ob dem eff he ain't keerful. I jes' felt it in my bones las' night how
'twas wid you, an I 'lowed how I'd see you dis mawnin', an' den he began
to go on as ef you was nothin' but white folks stid ob my deah honey lam'
dat I nussed till you was like my own chile. But he won' do so no mo'."

"Oh, Aun' Sheba, believe me, I don't wish to interfere with any of your
duties to him," began Mara earnestly.

"Duty to him," exclaimed the colored woman with a snort of indignation.
"He mout tink a little 'bout his duty to me. Doan you trubble 'bout him,
for he's boun' to git mo' dan his shar anyhow. Now I know de good Lawd put
it in my min' to come heah dis mawnin' case you was on my min' las' night.
You needn't tink you kin go hungry while Aun' Sheba hab a crus'."

"I know what a big heart you've got, but that won't do, Aun' Sheba. Can
you think I would live idly on your hard-earned money?"

"Well, 'tis my money, an' I make mo dan you tink, an' a heap mo' dan I let
Unc. know about. He'd be fer settin' up his kerrige ef he knew," and she
again laughed in hearty self-complacency. "Why, honey, I can 'sport you
an' Missus widout pinchin', an' who gwine to know 'bout it?"

"I'd know about it," said Mara, rising and putting her hand caressingly on
the woman's shoulder, "yet I feel your kindness in the very depths of my
heart. Come, I have a thought. Let me see what's in your basket."

"Ony cakes dis mawnin', honey. Help you's sef."

"Oh, how delicious they are," said Mara eating one, and thoughtfully
regarding her sable friend. "You beat me making cakes, Aun' Sheba, and I
thought I was good at it."

"So you am, Missy, so you am, fer I taught you mysef."

"Aun' Sheba, suppose we go into partnership."

"Pahnaship!" ejaculated Aun' Sheba in bewilderment.

"Oh, Mara!" Mrs. Hunter expostulated indignantly.

"Well, I suppose it would be a very one-sided affair," admitted the girl,
blushing in a sort of honest shame. "You are doing well without any help
from me, and don't need any. I'm very much like a man who wants to share
in a good business which has already been built up, but I don't know how
to do anything else, and could at least learn better every day,
and--and--I thought--I must do something--I thought, perhaps, if I made
the cakes and some other things, and you sold them, Aun' Sheba, you
wouldn't have to work so hard, and--well, there might be enough profit for
us both."

"Now de Lawd bress you heart, honey, dar ain't no need ob you blisterin'
you'se pretty face ober a fiah, bakin' cakes an' sich. I kin--"

"No, no, Aun' Sheba, you can't, for I won't let you."

"Mara," protested Mrs. Hunter, severely, "do you realize what you are
saying? Suppose it became known that you were in--in--" but the lady could
not bring herself to complete the humiliating sentence.

"Yis, honey, Missus am right. De idee! Sech quality as you in pahnaship
wid ole Aun' Sheba!" and she laughed at the preposterous relationship.

"Perhaps it needn't be known," said Mara, daunted for a moment. Then the
necessities in the case drove her forward, and, remembering that her aunt
was unable to suggest or even contemplate anything practicable, she said
resolutely, "Let it be known. Others of our social rank are supporting
themselves, and I'm too proud to be ashamed to do it myself even in this
humble way. What troubles me most is that I'm making such a one-sided
offer to Aun' Sheba. She don't need my help at all, and I need hers so
much."

"Now see heah, honey, is your heart set on dis ting?"

"Yes, it is," replied Mara, earnestly. "My heart was like lead till you
came, and it would be almost as light as one of these cakes if I knew I
could surely earn my living. Oh, Aun' Sheba, you've had troubles, and you
know what sore troubles my poor mother had, but neither you nor she ever
knew the fear, the sickening dread which comes over one when you don't
know where your bread is to come from or how you are to keep a roof over
your head. Aunty, do listen to reason. Making cake and other things for
Aun' Sheba to sell would not be half so humiliating as going to people of
my own station and revealing my ignorance, or trying to do what I don't
know how to do, knowing all the time that I was only tolerated. My plan
leaves me in seclusion, and if any one thinks less of me they can leave me
alone. I don't want to make my way among strangers; I don't feel that I
can. This plan enables us to stay together, Aunty, and you must know now
that we can't drift any longer."

While Mara was speaking Aun' Sheba's thrifty thoughts had been busy. Her
native shrewdness gave her a keen insight into Mrs. Hunter's character,
and she knew that the widow's mind was so warped that she was practically
as helpless as a child. While, in her generous love for Mara and from a
certain loyalty to her old master's family, she was willing temporarily to
assume what would be a very heavy burden, she was inwardly glad, as she
grew accustomed to the idea, that Mara was willing to do her share. Indeed
it would be a great relief if her basket could be filled for her, and she
said, heartily, "Takes some time, honey, you know, fer an idee to git into
my tick head, but when it gits dar it stick. Now you'se sensible, an'
Missus'll see it soon. You'se on de right track. Ob cose, I'd be proud ob
pahnaship, an' it'll be a great eas'n up to me. Makes a mighty long day,
Missy, to git up in de mawnin' an' do my bakin' an' den tromp, tromp,
tromp. I could put in an hour or two extra sleep, an' dat counts in a
woman ob my age an' heft. But, law sakes! look at dat clock dar. I mus' be
gitten along. Set you deah little heart at res', honey. I'se comin' back
dis ebenin', an' we'se start in kin' ob easy like so you hab a chance to
larn and not get 'scouraged."

"I can't approve of this plan at all," said Mrs. Hunter, loftily, "I wash
my hands of it."

"Now, now, Missus, you do jes' dat--wash you hans ob it, but don' you
'fere wid Missy, kase it'll set her heart at res' and keep a home fer you
bof. We's gwine to make a pile, honey, an' den de roses come back in you
cheeks," and nodding encouragingly, she departed, leaving more hope and
cheer behind her than Mara had known for many a month.

To escape the complaining of her aunt, Mara shut herself in her room and
thought long and deeply. The conclusion was, "The gulf between us has
grown wider and deeper. When Mr. Clancy learns how I have sought
independence without his aid--" but she only finished the sentence by a
sad, bitter smile.



CHAPTER VII

MARA'S PURPOSE


"Neber had sech luck in all my bawn days," soliloquized Aun' Sheba as she
saw the bottom of her basket early in the day. "All my cus'mers kin' o'
smilin' like de sunshine. Only Marse Clancy grumpy. He go by me like a
brack cloud. I'se got a big grudge against dat ar young man. He use to be
bery sweet on Missy. He mus' be taken wid some Norvern gal, and dat's
'nuff fer me. Ef he lebe my honey lam' now she so po', dar's a bad streak
in his blood and he don' 'long to us any mo'. I wouldn't be s'prised ef
dey hadn't had a squar meal fer a fortnight. I can make blebe dat I wants
to take my dinner 'long o' dem to sabe time, an' den dey'll hab a dinner
wat'll make Missy real peart 'fore she gin to work," and full of her
kindly intentions she bought a juicy steak, some vegetables, a quantity of
the finest flour, sugar, coffee, and some spices.

Mara had slipped out and invested the greater part of her diminished hoard
in the materials essential to her new undertaking. Not the least among
them, as she regarded it, was an account book. When, therefore, Aun' Sheba
bustled in between one and two o'clock, she found some bulky bundles on
the kitchen table over which Mrs. Hunter had already groaned aloud.

"Law sakes, honey, what all dese?" the colored aunty asked.

"They are my start in trade," replied Mara, smiling.

"Den you's gwine to hab a mighty big start, fer I got lots o' tings in dis
basket."

"Why, Aun' Sheba! Did you think I was going to let you furnish the
materials?"

"Ef you furnish de makin' up ob de 'terials what mo' you oughter do, I'd
like ter know?"

"Aun' Sheba, I could cheat you out af your two black eyes."

"Dey see mo' dan you tink, Missy," she replied, nodding sagaciously.

"Yes, I reckon they do, but my eyes must look after your interests as well
as my own. I am going to be an honest partner. Do you see this book?"

"What dat ar got to do wid de pahnaship?"

"You will see. It will prevent you from ever losing a penny that belongs
to you."

"Penny, indeed! As if I'se gwine to stand on a penny!"

"Well, I am. Little as I know about business, I am sure it will be more
satisfactory if careful accounts are kept, and you must promise to tell me
the whole truth about things. That's the way partners do, you know, and
everything is put down in black and white."

"Oh, go 'long wid you, honey, an' hab you own way. All in my pahnaship go
down in black, I s'pose, an' you'se in white. How funny it all am!" and
the old woman sat back in her chair and laughed in her joyous content.

"It is all a very humiliating farce to me," said Mrs. Hunter, looking
severely at the former property.

"Yas'm," said Aun' Sheba, suddenly becoming stolid as a graven image.

"Aunty," said Mara firmly but gently, "the time has come when I must act,
for your sake as well as my own. Nothing will prevent me from carrying out
this plan, except its failure to provide for Aun' Sheba as well as for
ourselves."

"Well, I wash my hands of it, and, if your course becomes generally known,
I shall have it understood that you acted without my approval." And she
rose and left the kitchen with great dignity.

When the door closed upon her, Aun' Sheba again shook in vast and silent
mirth.

"Doan you trubble long o' Missus, honey," she said, nodding encouragingly
at Mara. "She jes' like one dat lib in de dark an' can't see notin'
right." Then in sudden revulsion of feeling she added, "You po' honey
lam', doan you see you'se got to take keer ob her jes' as ef she was a
chile?"

"Yes," said Mara, sadly, "I've been compelled to see it at last."

"Now doan you be 'scouraged. 'Tween us we take keer ob her, an' she be a
heap betteh off eben ef she doan know it. You hab no dinner yit?"

"We were just going to get it as you came."

"Well now, honey, I habn't had a bite nudder, an' I'se gwine to take
dinneh heah ef you'se willin'."

"Why, surely, Aun' Sheba. It's little we have, you but know I'd share my
last crust with you."

Again the guest was bubbling over with good-natured merriment. "We ain't
got to de las' crus' yit, an' I couldn't make my dinneh on a crus' nohow.
Dar's one ting I'se jes' got to 'sist on in de pahnaship. I don't keer
notin' 'bout 'count books and sich, but ef we'se gwine to make a fort'n
you got to hab a heap o' po'er in you'se arms. You got to hab a strong
back and feel peart all ober. Dis de ony ting I 'sist on. Now how you
gwine to be plump and strong?"

"Oh, I'm pretty strong, and I'll get stronger now that I have hope, and
see my way a little."

"Hope am bery good fer 'sert, honey, but we want somep'n solider to start
in on. You jes' set de table in de oder room, an' I'll be de brack raben
dat'll pervide. Now you must min' kase I'se doing 'cording to Scripter,
an' we neber hab no luck 'tall if we go agin Scripter."

"Very well," said Mara, laughing, "you shall have your own way. I see
through all your talk, but I know you'll feel bad if you can't carry out
your purpose. You'll have a better dinner, too."

"Yeh, yeh, she knows a heap moah'n me," thought Aun' Sheba when alone,
"but I know some tings too, bress her heart. I kin see dat her cheeks am
pale and thin an' dat her eyes am gettin' so big and brack dat her purty
face am like a little house wid big winders. She got quality blood in her
vein, shuah, but habn't got neah 'nuff. Heah's de 'terial wat gibs hope
sometimes better'n preachin," and she whipped out the steak and prepared
it for the broiler. Then she clapped some potatoes into the oven, threw
together the constituents of light biscuit, and put the coffee over the
fire. A natural born cook, she was deft and quick, and had a substantial
repast ready in an amazingly short time. Soon it was smoking on the table,
and then she said with a significant little nod at Mara, "Now I'se gwine
to wait on Missus like ole times."

Mara understood her and did not protest, for she felt the necessity of
humoring her aunt, who quite thawed out at the semblance of her former
state. While the poor lady enlarged on the thought that such should be the
normal condition of affairs, and would be if the world were not wholly out
of joint, she nevertheless dined so heartily as to prove that she could
still enjoy the good things of life if they were provided without personal
compromise on her part. Mara made a silent note of this, and felt more
strongly than ever that her aunt's needs and not her words must control
her actions. After dinner she said, "Come, aunty, you have had much to try
your nerves of late, and there must be much more not in harmony with your
feelings. It can't be helped, but I absolve you of all responsibility, and
I know very well if you had what was once your own, I would not have to
raise my hand. You see I am not seeking relief in the way that is so
utterly distasteful to you, and, when you come to think this plan all
over, you will admit that it is the one that would attract the least
attention, and involve the least change. Now lie down and take a good rest
this afternoon."

"Well," said Mrs. Hunter, with the air of one yielding a great deal, "I
will submit, even though I can not approve, on the one condition that you
have nothing more to say to Mr. Clancy."

A painful flush overspread Mara's features, and she replied in a
constrained voice, "You will have no occasion to worry about Mr. Clancy.
After--" then remembering that Aunt Sheba was within ear-shot, she
concluded, "Mr. Clancy will have nothing to say to me when he knows what
is taking place. When you have thought it over you will see that my plan
makes me independent of every one."

"That is, if you succeed," remarked Mrs. Hunter, "and it will be about the
only thing to be said in its favor."

This degree of toleration obtained, Mara prepared to join Aunt Sheba in
the kitchen, with the purpose of giving her whole thought and energy to
the securing of an independence, now coveted more than ever. In spite of
the influences and misapprehensions of her life which had tended to
separate her from Clancy, when she fully learned that he was affiliating
with those who dwelt as aliens in her thoughts, she had been overborne by
his words and the promptings of her own heart. She was glad, indeed, that
she had not revealed what she now regarded as her weakness, feeling that
it would have complicated matters most seriously. While she had been
compelled to see the folly of seclusion and inaction, the natural result
of a morbid pride which blinds as well as paralyzes, she was by no means
ready to accept his views or go to his lengths. She would have shared
poverty with him gladly if he would continue to be "a true Southerner," in
other words, one who submitted in cold and unrelenting protest to the new
order of things. In accepting this new order, and in availing himself of
it to advance his fortunes and those of his State as he also claimed, he
alienated her in spite of all his arguments, and his avowed love. She felt
that he should take the ground with her that they had suffered too deeply,
and had been wronged too greatly, to ignore the past. They were a
conquered people, but so were the Poles and Alsatians. Were those subject
races ready to take the hands that had struck them and still held them in
thraldom? Their indignant enmity was patriotism, not hate. Now that the
habitual thoughts of her life had been given time to resume their control,
she felt all the more bitterly what seemed a hopeless separation. The
North had not only robbed her of kindred and property, but was now taking
her lover. She knew she loved him, yet not for the sake of her love would
she be false to her deep-rooted feelings and convictions. If he had seen
how nearly she yielded to _him_, not to his views, the previous evening,
it would have been doubly hard to show him in the end that she could never
share in his life, unless he adopted her attitude of passive submission to
what could not be helped.

Others might do as they pleased, but their dignity and personal memories
required this position, and, as she had said to him, she could take no
other course without hypocrisy, revolting alike to her feelings and sense
of honor. His strong words, however, combining with the circumstances of
her lot, had broken the spell of her aunt's influence, and had planted in
her mind the thought that any useless suffering on her part was not
loyalty to the memory of her father and mother. Her new impulse was to
make the most and best of her life as far as she could conscientiously:
and the hope would assert itself that if she were firm he would eventually
be won over to her position. "If he loves as I do," she thought, "he will
be. He, no doubt, is sincere, but he has been beguiled into seeing things
in the light of his immediate interests. Love to me, if it is genuine, and
loyalty to the cause for which his father gave his life, should lead him
to the dignified submission of the conquered and away from all association
with the conquerors that can be avoided. I'll prove to him," was her
mental conclusion, accompanied with a flash of her dark eyes, "that a girl
ignorant of the world and its ways, and with the help only of a former
slave, can earn her bread, and thus show him how needless are his Northern
allies."

Thoughts like these had been swiftly coursing through her mind while
dining, and therefore, when she joined Aun' Sheba in the kitchen, she was
ready to employ every faculty, sharpened to the utmost, in the tasks
before her.

In that humble arena, and by the prosaic method contemplated, she would
assert her unsubdued spirit, and maintain a consistency which should not
be marred, even at the bidding of love, by an insincere acceptance of his
views and associations.



CHAPTER VIII

NEVER FORGET; NEVER FORGIVE


While Ann' Sheba finished her dinner Mara began to open and put in their
places the slender materials which she had purchased as her first step
toward self-support. The generous meal, and especially the coffee
combining with the strong incentive of her purpose, gave elasticity to her
step and flushed her face slightly with color. The old aunty watched her
curiously and sympathetically as she thought, "Bress her heart how purty
she am, bendin' heah an' dar like a willow an' lookin' de lady ebery inch
while she doin' kitchen work! Quar pahner fer sech an ole woman as me ter
hab, but I dun declar dat her han's, ef dey am little, seem po'ful smart.
Dey takes hole on tings jes' as if dey'd coax 'em right along whar she
wants dem!" Then she broke out, "Wot a fool dat Owen Clancy am!"

Mara started and was suddenly busy in a distant part of the room. "I
reckon you are the only one that thinks so, Aun' Sheba," she remarked
quietly.

"Ef he could see you now he'd tink so hisself."

"Very likely," and there was a little bitterness in Mara's accent.

"De mo' fool he be den," said Aun' Sheba with an indignant toss of her
head. "Whar ud his eyes be ef he could see you and not go down on his
marrow-bones, I'd like to know? Habn't I seen all de quality ob dis town?
and dat fer de new quality," with a snap of her fingers, "an you take de
shine off'n dem all eben in de kitchen. Law sakes, what kin' ob blood dat
man Clancy hab to lebe you kase you po'? Pears ter me de ole cun'l, his
fader, ud be orful figety in his coffin."

"Mr. Clancy has not left me because I am poor, Aun' Sheba," said Mara
gravely. "You do him great injustice. We are not so good friends as we
were simply because we cannot agree on certain subjects. But I would
rather you would not talk about him to me or to any one else. Come now,
you must give me some lessons in your mystery of making cakes that melt in
one's mouth. Otherwise people will say you are growing old and losing your
high art."

"Dey better not tell me no sech lies. Law, Missy, you is gwine ter beat me
all holler wen onst you gits de hang ob de work. You little white han's
gib fancy teches dat ain't in my big black han'. Arter all, tain't de
han's; it's de min'. Dere's my darter Mis Watson. Neber could larn her
much mo'n plain cookin'. Dere's a knack at dese tings dat's bawn in one.
It's wot you granpa used ter call genus, an' you allus hab it, eben when
you was a chile an' want ter muss in de kitchen."

Thus full of reminiscence and philosophy eminently satisfactory to her own
mind, Aun' Sheba taught her apt and eager pupil the secrets of her craft.
Mara was up with the dawn on the following day, and achieved fair success.
Other lessons followed, and it was not very long before the girl passed
beyond the imitative stage and began to reason upon the principles
involved in her work and then to experiment.

One day an old customer said to Aun' Sheba: "There's a new hand at the
bellows."

"Dunno not'n 'bout bellus. Ain't de cakes right?"

"Well, then, you've got some new receipts."

"Like a'nuff I hab," said the vender warily. "De pint am, howsumeber,
isn't de cakes good?"

"Yes, they seem better every day, but they are not the same every day. I
reckon some one's coaching you."

"Law sakes, Massa, wo't you mean by coachin' me?"

"Do you make the cakes?" was asked pointblank.

"Now, Massa, you's gittin' too cur'us. Wot de Scripter say? Ask no
questions fer conscience' sake."

"Come, come, Aun' Sheba; if you begin to wrest Scripture, I'll take pains
to find you out."

She shuffled away in some trepidation and shook her head over the problem
of keeping her relations with Mara secret. "Missy puttin' her min' in de
cakes an' I didn't hab much min' to put in an' folks know de dif'ence,"
she soliloquized. Later on she was down among the cotton warehouses, and
finding herself weary and warm, stopped to rest in the shade of a
building. Suddenly Owen Clancy turned the corner. His brow was contracted
as if in deep and not agreeable thought.

Aun' Sheba's lowered at him, for he seemed about to pass her without
noticing her. The moment he became aware of her presence, however, he
stopped and fixed upon her his penetrating gray eyes. His gaze was so
persistent and stern that she was disconcerted, but she spoke with her
accustomed assurance: "You ain't gwine ter call de perlice, is you, Mars'
Clancy?" and she placed her arms akimbo on her hips.

This reference was shrewd, for it reminded him that his grievance was
purely personal and one that he could not resent in her case, yet his
heart was so sore with the suspicion that Mara was looking to this negress
for help instead of to himself, that for the time being he detested the
woman. Love is not a judicial quality, and rarely has patience with those
who interfere with its success. He had hoped that eventually the pressure
of poverty would turn Mara's thoughts to him, especially as he had
revealed so emphatically his wish to help her disinterestedly as a friend
even; but if his present fears were well grounded, he would have to admit
that her heart had grown utterly cold toward him.

"Why should you think of the police, Aun' Sheba, unless you have something
on your mind?" he asked, coolly removing the cover of the basket and
helping himself. "You didn't make these cakes. Did you steal them?"

"Marse Clancy, what you take me fer?"

"That depends on how honest your answers are."'

"I ain't 'bliged ter answer 'tall."

"Oh, you're afraid then."

"No, I ain't afeerd. Ef dey is stolen, you'se a 'ceivin ob stolen goods,
fum de way dem cakes dis'pearin'."

"You're pert, Aun'Sheba."

"Oh co'se I'se peart. Hab to be spry to arn a libin' in dese yer times,
but I can do it fum dem dat's fren'ly and not fum dem dat glower at me."

"Will you tell me if Miss Wallingford--"

"Marse Clancy, hab Miss Wallingford sent you word dat she want you to know
'bout her 'fairs?"

"I understand," he said almost savagely, and throwing a quarter into the
basket he passed on.

There had been a tacit understanding at first that Mara's part in Aun'
Sheba's traffic should not be revealed. The girl had not wholly shaken off
the influence of her aunt's opposition, and she shrank with almost morbid
dread from being the subject of remark even among those of her own class.
The chief and controlling motive for secrecy, however, had been distrust,
the fear that the undertaking would not be successful. As the days had
passed this fear had been removed. Aun' Sheba did not come to make her
returns until after she had taken her supper in the evening, and at about
ten in the morning she reached Mara's home by an unfrequented side street.
There were those, however, who had begun to notice the regularity of her
visits and among them was Owen Clancy. We have also seen that the
daintiness of the viands had caused surmises.

Mara had become preoccupied with her success and with plans for increasing
it. At first Aun' Sheba had supplemented her attempts, and her plan had
been entered on so quietly and carried forward so smoothly that even Mrs.
Hunter was becoming reconciled to the scheme although she tried to conceal
the fact. It would be hard to find two women more ignorant of the world,
or more averse to being known by it, yet from it the unsophisticated girl
now hoped to divert a little sustaining rill of currency without a ripple
of general comment until the hour should come when she could reveal the
truth to Clancy as a rebuke to his course and as a suggestion that a man
might do more and yet not compromise himself. Full of these thoughts and
hopes, her life, if not happy, had at least ceased to stagnate and was
growing in zest and interest.

The day on which occurred the events just narrated was destined to prove a
fateful one. When Aun' Sheba came in the evening it was soon evident that
she had something on her mind. She paid little heed to the accounts while
Mara was writing them down and explaining the margin of profit, as the
girl was always careful to do, for it satisfied her conscience that her
over-loyal partner was prospering now as truly as before. After everything
had been attended to and the programme arranged for the morning, Aun'
Sheba still sat and fidgeted in her chair. Mara leaned back in hers and
looking across the kitchen table said: "Be honest now. There's something
you want to say."

"Don't want ter say it, but s'pose I ought."

"I reckon you had, Aun' Sheba."

The woman's native shrewdness had been sharpened by the varied experience
of her calling, and she had become convinced that the policy of secrecy
would be a failure. What would be Mara's course when compelled to face the
truth, was the question that troubled her. The kind soul hoped that it
would make no difference, and proposed to use all her tact to induce the
girl to continue her enterprise openly, believing that this course would
be best for several reasons. She had the wit to know that Mara would yield
far more out of consideration for her than for any thought of self, so she
said as a masterpiece of strategy, "Marse Clancy ax me to-day if I stole
de cakes."

"What," cried Mara, flushing hotly.

"Jes dat--ef I stole de cakes; an' anoder man say I was gittin' new
reseets or dat somebody was coachin' me, whateber dat is. Den he put it
right straight, 'Did you make 'em?'"

"Oh, Aun' Sheba, I've thoughtlessly been causing trouble. I should have
continued to make the cakes just as you did, and it was only to divert my
mind that I tried other ways. I won't do so any more."

"Dunno 'bout dat, honey."

"Indeed I will not when I promise you."

"I doesn't want any sech a promise. De folks like de new-fangle' cakes
betteh, an' gwine back to de ole way wouldn't do no good. It's all
boun'ter come out dat I'se sellin' fer you as well as fer me. Marse Clancy
axed ef you wasn't, leastways he 'gan to ax when I shut him up."

"How did you shut him up?" said Mara, breathing quickly.

"By axin' him anoder question. Yah, yah, I'se Yankee 'nuff fer dat. I say,
'Hab Miss Wallingford sen' you word dat she want you to know 'bout her
'fairs'?"

"Didn't he say anything after that?"

"Yes, he say 'I understand,' an' I'spect he do, fer he drap a quarter in
my basket an' look as if he was po'ful mad as he walk away. He better min'
his own business."

Mara understood Clancy and Aun' Sheba did not. The young girl was troubled
and perplexed, for she could not but see in her lover's mind the effect of
her step. She felt that it was natural he should be hurt and even angered
to learn that, after all he had offered to do for her, she should avail
herself of Aun' Sheba's services instead of his. What she feared most was
that he would take it as final evidence that she was hostile to him
personally and not merely estranged because he would not conform his views
and life to her own. Her secret and dearest purpose, that of teaching him
that he could live without compromise as she could, might be defeated.
What if the very act should lead to the belief that she no longer wished
to have any part in his life? A girl cannot feel that same toward a man
who has told her openly of his love, for such words break down the
barriers of maidenly reserve even in her own self-communings. Since he had
spoken so plainly she could think more plainly. She knew well how mistaken
Aun' Sheba was in her judgment, but could not explain that Clancy felt he
was not only rejected as a lover but had been ignored even as a helpful
friend; and her own love taught her to gauge the bitterness of this
apparent truth.

She soon became conscious that Aun' Sheba was watching her troubled face,
and to hide her deeper thoughts she said, "Yes, I suppose it is all bound
to come out. Well, let it. You shall not be misjudged." "Law sake, Missy,
wot does I keer! De ting dat trouble me is dat you'se gwine to keer too
much. I doan want you to gib up and I doan want you to be flustered ef you
fin' it's known. De pa'hnership, as you call 'im, been doin' you a heap o'
good. You'se min' been gettin' int'usted an' you fo'gits you'se troubles.
Dat's wot pleases me. Now to my po' sense, folks is a heap betteh off,
takin' keer ob dem selves, dan wen dey worry 'bout wat dis one say an' dat
one do. Dere is lots ob folks dat'll talk 'bout you a month dat won't lif'
dere finger for you a minit. An' wat can dey say, honey, dat'll harm you?
You prouder'n all ob dem, but you got dis kin' ob pride. Ef de rent fall
due you fight again eben you'se ole nuss payin' it. Talk's only breff, but
an empty pocket mean an orful lot ob trouble to folks who ain't willin' to
take out ob dere pocket wat dey didn't put dere."

"Yes, Aun' Sheba, I think it would be the worst kind of trouble."

"I know it ud be fer you, but dar's Unc. He'd like his pocket filled ebery
day an' he wouldn't keer who filled it ef he could spend. He'd say de Lawd
pervided. Unc.'d rather trust de Lawd dan work any day."

"I am afraid you are not very religious," said Mara, smiling.

"Well, I of'n wonder wedder I'se 'ligious or no," resumed Aun' Sheba,
introspectively. "Some sarmons and prars seem like bread made out ob bran,
de bigger de loaf de wuss it is. Unc. says I'se very cole an backsliden,
but I'd be a heap colder ef I didn't keep up de wood-pile.

"And you help others keep up their wood-piles."

"Well, I reckon I does, but dere ain't much 'ligion in dat. Dat's kin' ob
human natur which de preacher say am bad, bery bad stuff. De Lawd knows I
say my prars sho't so as to be up an' doin'. Anyhow I doan belebe he likes
ter be hollered at so, as dey do in our meetin' an' Unc. says dat sech
talk am 'phemous. But dat ain't heah nor dar. We'se gwine right along,
honey, ain't we? We'se gwine ter min' our own business jes' as if we'se
the bigges' pahners in de town?"

"Yes, Aun' Sheba, you can say what you please hereafter, and I want you to
come and go openly. I should have taken the stand before and saved you
from coming out evenings. It has been far more on Aunty's account than on
my own."

"Well, honey, now my min's at res' an' I belebe we do po'ful lot ob trade.
Dat orful human natur gwine to come in now an' I belebe dat folks who know
you an' all 'bout you'se family will help you, 'stid ob talkin' agin you.
You see. You knows I doan' mean no disrespec' to ole Missus, but she'd jes
sit down an' starbe, tinkin' ob de good dinners she orter hab, an' did hab
in de ole times. All you'se folks in hebin is a smilin' on you, honey. Dey
is, fer I feels it in my bones. You'se got de co'age ob you pa an' granpa
an' dey know, jes' as we knows, dat ole Missus take a heap mo' comfort
grumblin' dan in bein' hungry."

"Oh, Aun' Sheba, do you truly think they know about my present life?" the
girl asked, with wet eyes.

"Dat's a bery deep question, honey, but it kin' a seem reason'ble ter me
dat wen you gettin' on well an' wen you doin' good to some po' soul de
Lawd'll sen' an angel to tell 'em. Wen dey ain't hearin' notin' I spects
dey's got to tink as we does dat no news is good news."

The girl was deeply moved, for the vernacular of her old nurse had been
familiar from childhood and did not detract from the sacred themes
suggested. "Oh, that I could have seen my father," she sighed. "Portraits
are so unsatisfying. Tell me again just how he looked."

"He'd be proud ob you, honey, an' you kin be proud ob him. You hab his
eyes, only you'se is bigger and of'n look as if you'se sorrowin' way down
in you soul. Sometimes, eben wen you was a baby, you'd look so long an'
fixed wid you big sad eyes as if you seed it all an' know'd it all dat I
used to boo-hoo right out. Nuder times I'd be skeered, fer you'd reach out
you'se little arms as ef you seed you'se moder an' wanted to go to her. De
Lawd know bes' why he let such folks die. She was like a passion vine
creepin' up de oak--all tender and clingin' an' lubin', wid tears in her
blue eyes ebin wen he pettin' her, an' he was tall an' straight an' strong
wid eyes dat laffed or flashed jes as de 'casion was. I kin see him now
come marchin' down Meetin' Street at de head ob his men, all raised
hisself. He walk straight as an arrow wid his sword flashin' in de
sunshine an' a hundred men step tromp, tromp, arter him as ef dey proud to
follow. Missy Mary stood on de balc'ny lookin' wid all her vi'let eyes an'
wabin' her hank'chief. Oh, how purty she look! de roses in her cheek, her
bref comin' quick, bosom risin' an' fallin', an' she a-tremblin' an' alibe
all ober wid excitement an' pride an' lub. Wen he right afore de balc'ny
his voice rung out like a trumpet, 'Right 'bout, face. 'Sent arms.' I dun
declar dat 'fore we could wink dey was all in line frontin' us wid dere
guns held out. Den he s'lute her wid his sword an' she take a red rose fum
her bosom an' trow it to him an' he pick it up an' put it to his lips; den
it was 'Right 'bout! March!' an' away dey went tromp, tromp, towa'ds de
Bat'ry. I kin see it all. I kin see it all. O Lawd, Lawd, dey's all dead,"
and she rocked back and forth, wiping her eyes with her apron.

Mara sprang up, her streaming tears dried by the hotness of her
indignation as she cried, "And I too can see him, with his little band,
dashing against almost an army and then trodden in the soil he died to
defend. No, no, Owen Clancy, never!"

"Ah," said a low stern voice, "that's the true spirit. Now, Mara, you are
your father's child. Never forget; never forgive," and they saw that Mrs.
Hunter stood with them in the dim kitchen.

"Dunno 'bout dat, Missus. Reckon de wah am ober, an' what we gwine ter do
wid de Lawd's prar? Dar, dar, honey, 'pose you'se nerves. 'Taint bes' to
tink too much ob de ole times, an' I mustn't talk to you so no mo'."



CHAPTER IX

A NEW SOLACE


On her way home Aun' Sheba shook her head more than once in perplexity and
disapprobation over what she had heard. She had the freedom of speech of
an old family servant who had never been harshly repressed even when a
slave, and now was added the fearlessness of a free woman. Her affection
for Mara was so strong that in her ignorance she shared in some of the
girl's prejudices against the North, but not in her antipathy. The thought
that Clancy had waned in his regard or that he could even think of a
Northern girl after having "kep' company" with Mara, had been
exasperating, but now Aun' Sheba began to suspect that the estrangement
was not wholly his fault. "She set agin him by his gwine Norf an' his
habin' to do wid de folks dat she an' ole Missus hates. Doan see why he is
mad at me 'bout it. Reckon he's mad anyhow an' can't speak peac'ble to
nobody. Well, I likes him a heap betteh in dat view ob de case an' he kin
glower at me all he please 'long as he ain't 'sertin' young Missy case she
is po'. Couldn't stan' dat no how. He's willin' an' she ain't, an' dat wat
she mean by sayin' 'No, Owen Clancy, nebbeh.' She won't lis'n to him kase
he doan hate de Norf like pizen. Now dat is foolishness, an' she's sot up
to it by de ole Missus. De Norf does as well as it know how. To be sure,
it ain't quality like young Missy, but it buy de cotton an' it got de
po'r. Wat's mo', it gib me a chance to wuck fer mysef. I would do as much
fer young Missy as eber. I'd wuck my fingers off fer her, but I likes ter
do it like white folks, kase I lub her. She orten' be so hard on young
Clancy. He got his way ter make and dere'd be no good in his buttin' his
head agin a wall. Tings am as dey is, an' I'm glad dey is as dey am. Dey's
a long sight betteh fer cullud folks and white folks too, ef dey's a min'
ter pull wid de curren' sted ob agin it. Massa Clancy's no fool. He know
dis. He los' his pa an his prop'ty too, but he know betteh dan to go on
hatin' fereber. Dey can't spec' me to uphole dem in dis fer it agin de
Scripter an' my feelin's. Ole Missus bery 'ligious. She dun fergit wat de
words mean she say ebry Sunday, But den, wot de use ob callin' ole Missus
to 'count. She neber could see ony her side ob de question. It don make
any dif'ence to her how many widers dere is in de Norf an' she hab jes
dinged her 'pinions inter young Missy eber sence she was bawn. I'se glad
ter do fer dem long as I lib, but I'se gwine ter speak my min' too."

With such surmises and self-communings she reached her home and found
Uncle Sheba asleep in his chair and the fire out. She nodded at him
ominously and muttered, "I gib him anuder lesson." Slipping quietly into
the bedroom, she bolted the door, and, unrelenting to all remonstrances
left him to get through the night as well as he could in his chair. The
result justified the wisdom of the means employed, for thereafter Uncle
Sheba always had a good fire when she returned.

Aun' Sheba had correctly interpreted the ellipsis suggested by Mara's
passionate utterance. The scenes called up by her old nurse's words and
rendered vivid by a strong imagination again presented themselves as an
impassable barrier between herself and her lover unless he should feel
their significance as she did. As a woman her heart was always pleading
for him, but when strongly excited by the story of the past her anger
flamed that he should even imagine that she would continue her regard for
him. Indeed she wondered and was almost enraged at herself that she could
not at once blot out his image and dismiss him from her thoughts when he
was taking the course of all others most repugnant to her. At such moments
she could easily believe that all was over between them, but with quiet
persistence her heart knew better, and preferred love to enmities and sad
memories.

Moreover, passionate as had been her mood there was a hard, homely
common-sense in her old nurse's words, "Reckon de wah's ober an' wat you
gwine ter do wid de Lawd's prar?" that quenched her fire like cold water.
No one can be in a false position, out of harmony with normal laws and
principles, without meeting spiritual jars. Mara was too young and too
intelligent not to recognize the difficulties in maintaining her position,
but she believed sincerely that the circumstances of her lot justified
this position and made it the only honorable one for her. Northerners were
to her what the Philistines were to the ancient Hebrews, the hereditary
foes from which she had suffered the chief ills of her life. To compromise
with them was to compromise with evil, and therefore she was always able
to reason away the significance of all words like those of Aun' Sheba,
although for the moment they troubled her.

Mrs. Hunter, however, had long since been incapable of doubts or
compunctions. She tolerated Aun' Sheba's outspokenness as she would that
of a child or a slave babbling of matters far above her comprehension.

The day marked a change in Mara's policy and action, and these led to some
very important experiences. A false pride had at first prompted, or at
least induced her to acquiesce in secrecy; now an honest pride led her to
openness in all her efforts to obtain a livelihood. She would volunteer no
information, but would simply go on in an unhesitating manner, let the
consequences be what they might.

They soon began to take a surprisingly agreeable form, for the quick warm
sympathies of the Southern people were touched. Here was a young girl, the
representative of one of the oldest and best families, seeking quietly and
unostentatiously to support herself and her aged aunt. There had been
scores of people who would gladly have offered her assistance, but they
had respected her reticence in regard to her affairs as jealously as they
guarded the condition of their own. Frank in the extreme with each other
in most respects, there was an impoverished class in the city who would
suffer much rather than reveal pecuniary need or accept the slightest
approach to charity. Poverty was no reproach among these families that had
once enjoyed wealth in abundance. Indeed it was rather like a badge of
honor, for it indicated sacrifice for the "lost cause" and an unreadiness
for thrifty compacts and dealings with those hostile to that cause. In the
class to which Mara belonged, therefore, she gained rather than lost in
social consideration, and especial pains were taken to assure her of this
fact.

Those in whose veins, even in Mrs. Hunter's estimation, flowed the oldest
and bluest blood, called more frequently and spoke words of cheer and
encouragement. That good lady, in a rich but antiquated gown, received the
guests and was voluble in Mara's praises and in lamentation over the
wrongs of the past. The majority were sympathetic listeners, but all were
glad that the girl could do and was willing to do something more than
complain. To their credit it should be said that they were ready to do
more than sympathize, for even the most straitened found that they could
spare something for Mara's cake, and Aun' Sheba's basket began to be
emptied more than once every day. Orders were given also, and the young
girl had all she could do to keep up with the growing demand.

It was well for her that each day brought its regular work, and its close
found her too weary for the brooding so often the bane of idleness. Yet,
in spite of all that was encouraging, the cheering words spoken to her,
the elation of Aun' Sheba and the excitement resulting from her humble
prosperity, she was ever conscious of a dull ache at heart. Clancy had
gone North for an indefinite absence, and it looked as if their separation
were final. In vain she assured herself that it was best that they should
not meet again until both were satisfied that their paths led apart. She
knew that she had hoped his path would come back to hers--that in secret
she hoped this still, with a pathetic persistence which defied all effort.
She believed, however, that such effort was her best resource, for he was
again under the influences she most feared and detested. At times she
reproached herself for having been too reserved, too proud and passionate
in her resentment at his course. He had asked her to convince him of his
error if she could, and she had not only failed to make such effort, but
also had denied him the hope that would have been more than all argument.
Thus, at variance with her heart, she alternated between the two extremes
of anger at his course and regret and compunction at her own. As a rule,
though, her resolute will enabled her to concentrate her thoughts on daily
occupations and immediate interests, and it became her chief aim to so
occupy herself with these interests that no time should be left for
thoughts which now only tended to distress and discourage.

Mara was a girl who consciously would be controlled by a few simple
motives rather than by impulses, circumstances or the influence of others.
We have seen that loyalty, as she understood it, was her chief motive. Her
love for parents she had never seen was profound, and all relating to them
was sacred. To do what she believed would be pleasing to them, what would
now reflect honor upon their memory, was her supreme duty. All other
motives would be dominated by this pre-eminent one and all action guided
by it. She felt that the effort to provide for her aunt, the one remaining
member of her family, and to enable her to spend her remaining days in the
congenial atmosphere of the past, would certainly be in accord with her
parents' wishes. Then by natural sequence her sympathies went out to those
whose fortunes, like her own, had been wrecked by the changes against
which they could interpose only a helpless protest. In various ways she
learned of those of her own class who had been disabled and impoverished,
whose lives were stripped of the embroidery of pleasant little
gratifications only permitted by a surplus of income. It gradually came to
be a cherished solace after the labors of the morning, to carry to the
sick and afflicted, dwelling in homes of faded gentility like her own,
some delicacy made by her own hands. While these were received in the
spirit in which they were brought, the girl's lovely, sympathetic face was
far more welcome, and the orphan began to embody to those of the old
regime the cause for which they all had suffered so much. Within this
limited circle Mara was kindness and gentleness itself, beyond it cold and
unapproachable. Occasionally some, with whom she had no sympathy, sought
to patronize her. They intimated that they were willing to buy lavishily,
but it was also evident that they wished their good-will appreciated and
reciprocated in ways that excited the girl's scorn. In spite of her
poverty and homely work, it was known that she was a favorite in the most
aristocratic circle in the city, and there are always those ready to seek
social recognition in many and devious ways. These pushing people
represented to Mara the Northern element and leaven in the city, and she
soon made it clear that there was an invisible line beyond which they
could not pass. Their orders were either declined or scrupulously filled,
if her time permitted, but with a quiet tact which was inflexible she
warded off every approach which was not purely commercial.



CHAPTER X

MISS AINSLEY


While in New York, Owen Clancy had been kept informed of the drift of
those events in which he was especially interested. While Mara's effort
had increased his admiration for her, its success had still further
discouraged his hope. In his way he was as proud as she was. He had
committed himself to a totally different line of action, for in his
business relations he had been led into friendly relations with many
Northern people in both cities. He had accepted and returned their
hospitalities in kind as far as it was possible for a young bachelor of
modest means. This courtesy had been expected and accepted as a matter of
course, and to exchange it for cold, freezing politeness limited only to
matters of trade, would not only subject him to ridicule but cut short his
business career. Considerations supreme in Mara's circle were ignored by
the great world, and, having once felt the impulses of the large currents
of life, it would be impossible for Clancy to withdraw into the little
side eddy wherein thought was ever turning back to no purpose. Having
clasped hands and broken bread with the men and women of the North, he
felt that he could not, and would not stultify himself, even for the sake
of his love, by any change toward them. They would despise him not only as
a miracle of narrowness but also as an insincere man, whose courtesy had
been but business policy, easily dropped at the bidding of some more
pressing interest.

His last interview with Mara had depressed him exceedingly, for while it
had increased his love it had also revealed to him the radical divergence
in their views and made it more clear that he could only hope to win her
love by the sacrifice of self-respect. He must cease to be a thinking,
independent man, a part of his own day and generation, and fix his
thoughts upon the dead issues of the past. "The idea," he would mutter,
"of sitting down and listening to Mrs. Hunter's inane and endless lament."
He could not conform to Mara's views without being guilty of hypocrisy
also, and she proved her narrowness by not recognizing this truth.

After all, the point of view was chiefly the cause of the trouble between
them. She had ever dwelt in the shaded valley; he had been on the
mountain-top, and so had secured a broad range of vision. He had come into
contact with the great forces which were making the future and the men of
the future, and he recognized that his own State and his own people must
be vitalized by these forces or else be left far behind. And he
represented a large and increasing class in his native city. In birth and
breeding he was the peer of Mara or any of her aristocratic circle. He had
admission to the best society in the State, and, if looked upon coldly by
some, it was for the same reasons which actuated the girl for whom he
would gladly yield everything except his principles and right of private
judgment.

While he had many warm, sympathetic friends he felt that the old should
give way to the new, he yet ran against the prejudices which Mara embodied
so often that he began to feel ill at ease in Charleston.

He thought of removing permanently to cosmopolitan New York more than once
during his absence North. If he should be fully convinced after his return
that Mara was lost to him, unless he became a part of her implacable and
reactionary coterie, it might be better for his peace of mind that he were
far away.

One evening, before his departure home, he was invited to dine with a
gentleman who had large railroad interests in the South. Mr. Ainsley was a
widower, a man of wealth, and absorbed in the pleasure of its increase. He
had made a business acquaintance with Clancy, and, finding him unusually
intelligent and well informed in regard to Southern matters, naturally
wished to converse more at length with him. The cordial invitation, the
hearty welcome of the Northern capitalist could scarcely fail in
gratifying the young Southerner, who keenly felt the importance of
interesting just such men as his host in the enterprises under
consideration. During the preliminary talk in the library of his palatial
home, Mr. Ainsley soon discovered that his guest was not only well
informed but frank and honest in statements, giving the cons as well as
the pros, in spite of an evident desire to secure for the South all the
advantages possible.

Before going to the dining-room, Miss Caroline, his host's only daughter,
entered the library and was presented. Clancy was fairly dazzled by her
remarkable beauty. She was a blonde of the unusual type characterized by
dark eyes and golden hair. Naturally, therefore, the first impression of
beauty was vivid, nor was it banished by closer observation. As she
presided with ease and grace at her father's table, Clancy found himself
fascinated as he had never been before by a stranger.

Although their table-talk lost its distinctively business and statistical
character, Mr. Ainsley still pursued his inquiries in a broad, general
way, and the daughter also asked questions in regard to life and society
at the South which indicated a personal interest on her part.

At last she said, "Papa thinks it quite possible that we may spend some
time in your region, and in that case we should probably make Charleston
our headquarters. I have a friend, Mrs. Willoughby--do you know her?"

"Yes, indeed; a charming lady. She resides on the Battery."

"I'm glad you know her. I met her abroad, and we became very fond of each
other. She has often asked me to visit her, but as I rarely leave Papa,
the way has never opened."

"My daughter is very good in accompanying me in my various business
expeditions," her father explained, "and you know they do not often lead
to fashionable watering-places, nor can they always be adjusted to such
seasons as I could desire. I wish I could go to Charleston at an early
date, but in view of other interests, I cannot tell when I can get away."

"When I do come, I shall make the most of my name and insist on being
regarded as a Carolinian," said Miss Ainsley, laughing.

Clancy was pleased with the conceit and the delicate compliment implied,
but he was already impressed with the idea that his hostess was the most
cosmopolitan girl that he had ever met. She piqued his curiosity, and he
led her to talk of her experiences abroad. Apparently she had been as much
at home in Europe as in America, and had been received in the highest
social circles everywhere. When after dinner she played for him some
brilliant, difficult classical music, he began to regard her a perfect
flower of metropolitan culture. Yet she perplexed him. She revealed so
much about herself without the slightest hesitation, yet at the same time
seemed to veil herself completely. He and her father could broach no topic
of conversation in which she could not take an intelligent part. Matters
of European policy were touched upon, and she was at home in regard to
them. She smiled broadly when he tried to explain to her father that
patience would still be required with the South, but that in time the two
parts of the country would be more firmly welded together than ever. "Such
antipathies amuse me," she said. "It is one side keeping up a quarrel
which the other has forgotten all about."

"The circumstances are different, Miss Ainsley," Clancy replied. "The war
cost me my father, my property, and impoverished my State."

He could not tell whether her eyes expressed sympathy or not, for they had
beamed on him with a soft alluring fire from the first, but her father
spoke up warmly: "The North has not forgotten, especially the older
generation. We have not suffered materially and have become absorbed in
new interests, but the heart of the North was wounded as truly as that of
the South. I wish to assure you, Mr. Clancy, how deeply I sympathize with
and honor your spirit of conciliation. What is there for us all but to be
Americans? Believe me, sir, such men as yourself are the strength and hope
of your section."

"I believe with you, Mr. Ainsley, that it has been settled that we are to
have but one destiny as a nation, but in justice to my people I must say
that our wounds were so deep and the changes involved so vast that it is
but reasonable we should recover slowly. You may say that we committed
errors during the reconstruction period, yet they were errors natural to a
conquered people. In the censure we have received from many quarters we
have been almost denied the right to our common human nature. Possibly the
North, in our position would not have acted very differently. But the past
_is_ past, and the question is now, what is right and wise? I know that I
represent a strong and growing sentiment which desires the unity and
prosperity of the entire country. I in turn, sir, can say that men like
yourself, in coming among us and investing their money do more than all
politicians in increasing this sentiment. It proves that you trust us; and
trust begets trust and good feeling. The North, however, will always be
mistaken if it expects us to denounce our fathers or cease to honor the
men who fought and prayed for what they believed was right."

"Suppose, Mr. Clancy," Miss Ainsley asked, with mirthful eyes, "that a
party in the South had the power to array your section against the North
again, would you go with your section?"

"Oh, come, Carrie, it is scarcely fair to ask tests on utterly improbable
suppositions," said her father laughing, yet he awaited Clancy's answer
with interest.

"No," he said quietly, "not with the light I now possess. I would have
done so five years ago. Are Northern young men so intrinsically wise and
good that they are not influenced by their traditions and immediate
associations?"

"Mr. Clancy, where are your eyes? Go to the Delmonico cafe at noon
to-morrow, and observe the flower of our patrician youth taking their
breakfast. You will see beings who are intrinsically what they are."

"I fear we are rather even in this respect," said Clancy, laughing. "You
have your metropolitan dudes and manikins, and we our rural ruffians,
slaves of prejudice, who hate progress, schools and immigration, as they
do soap and water. There is some consideration for our fellows, however,
for they scarcely know any better, and many of their characteristics are
bred in the bone. It would almost seem that the class you refer to are
fools and nonentities from choice."

"I fear not," she said, lifting her eyebrows, "if I were a medical student
I should be tempted to kill one of them--it wouldn't be murder--to see if
he had a brain."

"You think brain, then, is absolutely essential?'

"Yes, indeed. I could endure a man without a heart, but not if he were a
fool. If a man is not capable of thinking himself into what is sensible he
is a poor creature."

Clancy shrugged his shoulders in slight protest and soon after took his
leave, having first acquiesced in an appointment with Mr. Ainsley at his
office in the morning.

On the way to his hotel and until late into the night, he thought over his
experiences of the evening. Did Miss Ainsley intend to compliment him by
suggesting that he was thinking himself into what was sensible? It was
difficult to tell what she intended as far as he was concerned. "She could
only have the most transient interest in such a stranger as I am," he
reasoned, "yet her eyes were like magnets. They both fascinate and awaken
misgivings. Perhaps they are the means by which she discovers whether a
man is a fool or not; if he speedily loses his head under their spells,
she mentally concludes, weighs and finds wanting. Probably, however, like
hosts of pretty women, she simply enjoys using her powers and seeing men
succumb; and men not forearmed and steeled as I am, might well hesitate to
see her often, for my impression is right strong that she has more brain
than heart. Yet she is a dazzling creature. Jove, what a contrast to Mara!
Yet there is a nobility and womanly sincerity in Mara's expression than I
cannot discover in Miss Ainsley's face. However wrong Mara may be, you are
sure she is sincere and that she would be true to her conscience even if
she put the whole North to the sword; but this brilliant girl--how much
conscience and heart has she? Back of all her culture and accomplishments
there is a woman; yet what kind of a woman? Well, the prospects are that I
may have a chance to find out when she comes South. One thing is certain,
she will not discover that I am a fool by speedily kindling a vain
sentiment. Yet I would like to find her out, to discover the moral texture
of her being. A girl like Miss Ainsley could more than fulfil a man's
ideal or else make his life a terror."

He called again just before his departure, and saw her alone. As at first,
she appeared to veil the woman in her nature completely, while, at the
same time, the mild lightning of her eyes played about him.

Although consciously on his guard he found himself fascinated in spite of
himself by her marvellous beauty, and his curiosity piqued more than ever.
He discovered that her range of reading was wide, especially in modern
European literature, and he was charmed by her broad, liberal views.
Perhaps it was because he was singularly free from egotism that he was so
conscious of her fine reticence which took the mask of apparent frankness.
Most men would have been flattered by her seeming interest in them and
willingness to listen to all they had to say about themselves. According
to Clancy's opinion, conversation should be an equal interchange. He
looked direct into Miss Ainsley's eyes. They bewildered and perplexed him,
for they appeared to gather the rays of some light he did not understand
and focus them upon himself. He wished he could see her in the society of
other men and could learn more of her antecedents so that he might better
account for her, but he went away feeling that she was more of an enigma
than ever.

The glamour of her perplexing personality was upon him during much of his
journey, but as he approached his native city thoughts of Mara
predominated. Was she utterly estranged, and was the secret of her
coldness due to the truth that he had never had any real hold upon her
heart? If Mrs. Hunter had not so harshly interposed at the critical moment
of their last interview, he believed that he would have discovered why it
was she said he was "breaking her heart." Was it because he charged her
with disloyalty to her kindred? Or had his own course which she felt was
separating them some part in her distress? The fact that she had been
silent to his last appeal, that she had proved his fears in regard to her
poverty to be true, yet had sought aid from such an unexpected source,
rather than permit him to endow her with his love and all that it
involved, forced him to the miserable conclusion that she had at least
decided against him.

But hope dies hard in a lover's breast. He longed to see her again, yet
how could he see her except in the presence of others?

He knew they soon would meet; he was determined that they should; and
possibly something in her involuntary manner or expression might suggest
that she had thought of his words in his absence.

She had thought of his words as we know, but she had also been given other
food for reflection which the following chapter will reveal.



CHAPTER XI

TWO QUESTIONS


In the division of labor between Mara and her aunt, the latter, with the
assistance of their landlady's daughter, tried to leave the young girl few
tasks beyond that of filling Aun' Sheba's basket.

Mrs. Hunter was also expected to be ready to receive callers, and excuse
Mara during the morning hours. Under the new order of things, more people
dropped in than in former times, for, as we have seen, it had become a
kindly fashion to show good-will. The caller on a certain morning in April
was not wholly actuated by sympathy, for she had news which she believed
would be interesting if not altogether agreeable. Clancy's attentions had
not been unknown, and he had at first suffered in the estimation of others
as well as of Aun' Sheba, because of his apparent neglect. The impression,
however, had been growing, that Mara had withdrawn her favor on account of
his friendly relations with Northern people and his readiness to bury the
past. The morning visitor had not only learned of a new proof of his
objectionable tendencies, but also--so do stories grow as they
travel--that he was paying attention to a New York belle and heiress. Mrs.
Hunter was soon possessed of these momentous rumors, and when, at last,
weary from her morning labors, Mara sat down to their simple dinner, she
saw that her aunt was preternaturally solemn and dignified. The girl
expressed no curiosity, for she knew that whatever burdened her aunt's
mind would soon be revealed with endless detail and comment.

"Well," ejaculated Mrs. Hunter at last, "my impressions concerning people
are usually correct, and it is well for you that they are. If it had not
been for me you might have become entangled in association with a man
false and disloyal in all respects. I say entangled in association,
resulting from a moment of weakness, for assuredly the instant you gained
self-possession and had time for thought, you would have repudiated
everything. I saved you from the embarrassment of all this, and now you
can realize how important was the service I rendered. I have heard of the
performances of Mr. Clancy at the North."

The hot flush on Mara's cheeks followed by pallor proved that her
indifference had been thoroughly banished, but she only looked at her aunt
like one ready for a blow.

"Yes," resumed Mrs. Hunter, "the story has come very straight--straight
from that young Mrs. Willoughby, who, with her husband, seems as ready to
forget and condone all that the South has suffered as your devoted admirer
himself. Devoted indeed! He is now paying his devotions at another shrine.
A Northern girl with her Northern gold is the next and natural step in his
career, and he said to her pointblank that if the South again sought to
regain her liberty, he would not help. He wasn't a Samson, but he was not
long in being shorn by a Northern Delilah of what little strength he had."

"How do you know that this is true?" asked Mara rigid, with suppressed
feeling.

"Oh, Mrs. Willoughby must talk if the heavens fell. It seems that she met
this Northern girl abroad, and that they have become great friends. She
has received a letter, and it is quite probable that this girl will come
here. It would be just like her to follow up her new admirer. Mrs.
Willoughby is so hot in her advocacy of what she terms the 'New South,'
that she must speak of everything which seems to favor her pestilential
ideas. By birth she belongs to the Old South and the only true South, and
she tries to keep in with it, but she is getting the cold shoulder from
more than one."

Mara said nothing, but her brow contracted.

"You take it very quietly," remarked her aunt severely.

"Yes," said Mara.

"Well, if I were in your place I would be on fire with indignation."

"Perhaps I would be if I did not care very much," was the girl's
constrained answer.

"I do not see how you can care except as I do."

"You are you, aunty, and I am myself. People are not all made exactly
alike."

"But a girl should have some self-respect."

"Yes, aunty, and she should be respected. I am one to show my self-respect
by deeds, not words. You must not lecture me any more now as if I were a
child," and she rose and left her almost untasted dinner.

A little thought soon satisfied Mrs. Hunter that the iron had entered deep
into the soul of her niece, and that her deeds would be satisfactory. She
therefore finished her dinner complacently.

Mara felt that she had obtained a test which might justly compel the
giving up of her dream of love forever. She was endowed with a simplicity
and sincerity of mind which prompted to definite actions and conclusions,
rather than to the tumultuous emotions of anger, jealousy and doubt. She
would not doubt; she would know. Either Clancy had been misrepresented or
he had not been, and he had seemed so true and frank in his words to her
that she would not condemn him on the story of a gossip. From her point of
view she concluded that if he had gone so far as to say to a Northern girl
that he would not join the South in an effort to achieve independence,
supposing such an attempt to be made, then he had passed beyond the pale
of even her secret sympathy and regard, no matter what the girl might
become to him. She scarcely even hoped that there would ever be a chance
for him to make such a choice of sides as his reputed words indicated, but
he could contemplate the possibility, and if he could even think, in such
an imagined exigency, of remaining aloof from the cause for which his and
her own father had died, then he would be dismissed from her thoughts as
utterly unworthy.

So she believed during the unhappy hours of the afternoon which were
robbed of all power to bring rest. She determined, if it were possible, to
hear the truth from his own lips. She would subdue her heart by giving it
proof positive that he had either drifted or had been lured far away. If
this were true--and she would not be influenced by her aunt's bitter
prejudice--then it was all over between them. If once so completely
convinced that he did not love her sufficiently to give up his Northern
affiliations for her sake, her very pride would cast out her own stubborn
love.

The opportunity to accomplish all she desired soon occurred, for later she
met him at a house where a few guests had been invited to spend the
evening. Social life had ceased to divide sharply upon the opinions held
by different persons, and the question as to what guests should be brought
together had been decided by the hostess chiefly on the ground of birth
and former associations. On this occasion when Clancy's eyes met those of
Mara, he bowed, and was about to cross the room in the hope of receiving
something like a welcome after his absence, but he was repelled at once
and chilled by her cold, slight bow, and her prompt return of attention to
the gentleman with whom she was conversing.

Clancy was so hurt and perturbed that he was capable of but indifferent
success in his efforts to maintain conversation with others. When supper
was served he strayed into the deserted library and made a pretence of
looking at some engravings. A dear and familiar voice brought a sudden
flush to his face, but the words, "Mr. Clancy, I wish to speak with you,"
were spoken so coldly that he only turned and bowed deferentially and then
offered Mara a chair.

She paid no attention to this act, and hesitated a moment in visible
embarrassment before proceeding.

"Miss Wallingford," he began eagerly, "I have longed and hoped--"

She checked him by a gesture as she said, "Perhaps I would better speak
first. I have a question to ask. You need not answer it of course if you
do not wish to. I am not conventional in seeking this brief interview.
Indeed," she added a little bitterly, "my life has ceased to be
conventional in any sense, and I have chosen to conform to a few simple
verities and necessities. As you once said to me, you and I have been
friends, and, if I can trust your words, you have meant kindly by me--"

"Miss Wallingford, can you doubt my words," he began in low, passionate
utterance, "can you doubt what I mean and have meant? You know I--"

Her brow had darkened with anger, and she interrupted him, saying, "You
surely cannot think I have sought this interview in the expectation of
listening to such words and tones. I have come because I wish to be just,
because I will not think ill of you unless I must, because I wish you to
know where I stand immovably. If my friendship is worth anything you will
seek it by deeds, not words. I now only wish to ask if you said in effect,
while North, that if the South should again engage in a struggle for
freedom you would not help?"

Clancy was astounded, and exclaimed, "Miss Wallingford, can you even
contemplate such a thing?"

Her face softened as she said, "I knew that you could never have said
anything of the kind."

How tremendous was the temptation of that moment! He saw the whole truth
instantaneously, that she was lost to him unless he came unreservedly to
her position. In that brief moment her face had become an exquisite
transparency illumined with an assurance of hope. He had an instinctive
conviction that even if he admitted that he had spoken the words, yet
would add, "Mara, I am won at last to accept your view of right and duty,"
all obstacles between them would speedily melt away.

The temptation grappled his heart with all the power of human love, and
there was an instant of hesitation that was human also, and then
conscience and manhood asserted themselves. With the dignity of conscious
victory he said gravely, "Miss Wallingford, I have ever treated your
convictions with respect even when I differed with you most. I have an
equal right to my own convictions. I should be but the shadow of a man if
I had no beliefs of my own. You misunderstand me. My first thought as you
spoke was surprise that you could even contemplate such a thing as a
renewed struggle between the North and the South."

"Certainly I could contemplate it, sir, though I can scarcely hope for
it."

"I trust not; and even at the loss of what I value far more than you can
ever know, I will not be false to myself nor to you. I did speak such
words, and I must confirm them now." She bowed frigidly and was turning
away when he said, "I, too, perhaps have the right to ask a question."

She paused with averted face. "Can you not at least respect a man who is
as sincere as you are?"

Again the vigilant Mrs. Hunter, uneasy that Mara and Clancy were not
within the range of her vision, appeared upon the scene. She glared a
moment at the young man, and Mara left the room without answering him.



CHAPTER XII

A "'FABULATION"


It had been Mara's belief, indeed almost her hope, that if truth compelled
Clancy to admit that he had spoken the obnoxious words he would become to
her as a "heathen man and a publican." No matter how much she might
suffer, she had felt that such proof of utter lack of sympathy with her
and all the motives which should control him, would simplify her course
and render it much easier, for she had thought that her whole nature would
rise in arms against him. It would end all compunction, quench hope and
even deal a fatal blow to love itself. She would not only see it her duty
to banish him from her thoughts, but had scarcely thought it possible that
he could continue to dwell in them.

The result had not justified her expectations, and she was baffled,
exasperated and torn by conflicting feelings. Although he had admitted the
words and confirmed them to her very face, he had not allowed himself to
be put in a position which enabled her to turn coldly and contemptuously
away. Brief as had been the interview, he had made it impossible for her
to doubt two things; first, that the Northern girl was nothing to him and
that he had not spoken the words to win her favor, for he had come back to
herself with the same love in his eyes and the same readiness to give it
expression despite her coldness and even harshness. No matter how bitterly
she condemned herself, this truth thrilled and warmed her very soul. In
the second place, however mistaken he might be, he had compelled her to
believe him to be sincere, so loyal, indeed, to his own sense of right
that not even for her sake would he yield. She could not doubt this as the
eagerness of the lover passed into the grave dignity and firmness of a
self-respecting man. Moreover, another truth had been thrust upon her
consciousness--that she was more woman than partisan. As he had stood
before her, revealing his love and constancy and at the same time
asserting his right to think and act in accordance with his own
convictions, he had appeared noble, handsome, manly; her heart
acknowledged him master, and however vigilantly she might conceal the
fact, she could not deny it to herself.

Nevertheless, his course had simplified her action; it had decided her
that all was over between them. The case was hopeless now; for neither
could yield without becoming untrue to themselves, and there could be no
happy union in such radical diversity. The less often they met the better,
as he only made her course the harder to maintain and the separation more
painful than it had been before.

She might hide her unhappiness, but she could not banish the resulting
despondency and flagging strength. Her aunt had half forced an explanation
of the reason why she was alone with Clancy, and, in hasty self-defence,
she admitted a resolve to know with certainty whether he had spoken the
words charged against him. When Mrs. Hunter learned that he had
acknowledged the truth of the story, she spoke of him with redoubled
bitterness, making it hard indeed for Mara to listen, for her heart took
his side almost passionately. Unintentionally Mrs. Hunter proved herself
the young man's best ally, yet Mara outwardly was compelled to acquiesce,
for she herself had proved the enormity which was to end everything.
Consistency, however, was torn to tatters one day, and she said in sudden
passion, "Aunty, never mention Mr. Clancy's name again. I demand this as
my right."

When Mara spoke in this manner Mrs. Hunter yielded. Indeed she was not a
little perplexed over the girl who had been so passive and subservient.
She was not a profound reasoner upon any subject, nor could she understand
how one step, even though Mara had been driven to it by hard necessity,
led to many others. The girl had begun to assert her individual life, and
her nature, once awakened, was proving a strong one. Deepening and
widening experience perplexed and troubled her unguided mind, and prepared
the way for doubtful experiments.

As before, Aun' Sheba was quick to discover that all was not well with
Mara, but believed that she, like herself, was working beyond her
strength. The old woman had a bad cold and was feeling "rudder po'ly" one
evening when her minister came to pay a pastoral visit.

On so momentous an occasion as this, her son-in-law Kern Watson and his
wife and children were summoned; a few neighbors also dropped in as they
often did, for Aun' Sheba was better in their estimation than any
newspaper in town. Since the necessity for much baking had been removed,
she had hired out her stove in order to make more room and to enjoy the
genial fire of the hearth. So far from being embarrassed because her head
was tied up in red flannel, she had the complacent consciousness that she
was the social centre of the group, an object of sympathy and the
respected patron of all present.

The Reverend Mr. Birdsall, the minister, treated Aun' Sheba with much
consideration; he justly regarded her as one of the "pillars of the
church," knowing well from long experience that she abounded in liberality
if not in long prayers and contentions. He was a plain, sincere, positive
man who preached what he believed to be the truth. If he was sometimes
beyond it, beneath it or away from it altogether, he was as serenely
unconscious of the fact as were his hearers. There was no agnosticism in
his congregation, for he laid down the law and the gospel in a way that
discouraged theological speculation. Nevertheless, among his followers
there were controversial spirits who never doubted that they were right,
however much they might question his ecclesiastical methods and views. To
many, freedom meant the right to have their say, and, as is often true,
those having the least weighty matter on their minds were the most ready
to volunteer opinions and advice. Aun' Sheba was a doer, not a talker, in
her church relations. If she occasionally dozed a little in her pew during
the sermon, she was always wide awake when the plate was passed around;
and if a "brother" or a "sister" were sick she found time for a visit, nor
did she go empty-handed. If it were a case of back-sliding she had a
homely way of talking sense to the delinquent that savored a little of
worldly wisdom. There were not a few who shared in her doubt whether she
was "'ligious" or not, but the Reverend Mr. Birdsall was not of these. He
would only have been too glad to have discovered more religion like hers.

"Mis' Buggone," he said, sympathetically, after Aun' Sheba had given her
symptoms with much detail, "in you is a case whar de spirit is willin' but
de flesh is weak. You'se been a-goin' beyon' you strengt."

"Yes, Elder, dat is de gist ob de whole business," affirmed Kern Watson.
"Moder's tromped de streets wid her big basket till she is dun beat out.
She's undertook mo'n her share an' is s'portin' too many people."

"Kern, you means well," said Aun' Sheba with dignity, "but you mus' not
'fleet on young Missy. She am de las' one in de worl' to let a body s'port
her while she fol' her han's. She's po'ly too, jes' kase she's a workin'
harde'n me."

Uncle Sheba hitched uneasily in his chair, feeling that the conversation
rather reflected on him, and he was conscious that old Tobe, keeper of the
"rasteran," was glaring at him. "I reckin," he said, "dat de min'ster
might offer a word ob prar an' comfort fore he go."

"What pressin' business," asked his wife, severely, "hab you got, Unc.,
dat you in sech a hurry fer de min'ster ter go? We ain't into de shank ob
de ebenin' yet, an' dar's no 'casion to talk 'bout folks goin'."

"I dun said nothin' 'bout folks goin'," complained Uncle Sheba in an
aggrieved tone, "I was ony a suggestin' wot 'ud be 'propriate ter de
'casion _fore_ dey go."

"Mr. Buggone is right, and prar is always 'propriate," said Mr. Birdsall
in order to preserve the serenity of the occasion. "Before this little
company breaks up we will sing a hymn and hab a word ob prar. But we mus'
use de right means in dis worl' an' conform ter de inexorable law ob de
universe. Here's de law and dar's de gospel, and dey both have dar place.
If a brick blow off a chimley it alus falls ter de groun'. Dat's one kin'
ob law. Water runs down hill, dat's much de same kin' ob law. If a man
hangs roun' a saloon an' wastes his time an' money, he's boun' to git
seedy an' ragged an' a bad name, an' his fam'ly gets po' an' mis'ble;
dat's another kin' ob law--no 'scapin' it. He's jest as sure ter run down
hill as de water. Den if we git a cut or a burn or a bruise we hab pain;
dat's anuder kin' ob law, an' we all know it's true. But dar's a heap ob
good people, Mis' Buggone, who think dey can run dis po' machine ob a body
in a way dat would wear out wrought-iron, and den pray de good Lawd ter
keep it strong and iled and right up to the top-notch ob po'r. Now dat's
against both law and gospel, for eben He who took de big contrac' ter save
the worl' said ter his disciples, 'come ye yourselves apart and rest a
while.' I reckon dat's de law and de gospel for you, Mis' Buggone, about
dis time." Nods of approval were general, and Kern Watson gave the sense
of the meeting in his hearty way.

"'Deed it am, Elder," he said. "You'se hit de nail squar on de head. Own
up, now, moder, dat you'se neber been preached at mo' convincin'. Hi! wot
a book dat Bible am! It's got a word in season fer ebry 'casion."

"Well," said Aun' Sheba, meditatively, "I wants ter be open ter de truf,
an' I does own up, Kern, dat de Elder puts it monstis peart an' bery
conwincin'. But," she continued argumentatively, laying the forefinger of
her left hand on the broad palm of her right, "dars gen'ly two sides to a
question. Dat's whar folks git trip up so of'n--dey sees ony one side.
I've 'served dat it's po'ful easy fer folks ter tell oder folks wat ter do
and wat not ter do. No 'fence, Elder. You been doin' you duty, but you'se
been layin' down rudder 'stended princ'ples. I know you'se got ter preach
broad an' ter lay down de truf fer de hull winyard, but I wants ter know
wat ter do wid my own little patch ob ground. Now here's me and dar's my
young Missy 'pendin' on me."

"Dat's whar I jes' doesn't 'gree wid Aun' Sheba," put in her husband as
she paused a moment for breath. He felt that public opinion was veering
over to his side and might be employed to enforce his views. "It is all
bery well fer one ter do all dey can 'sistently fer oders, but--"

"Mr. Buggone," remarked Aun' Sheba sternly.

Uncle Sheba subsided, and she went on, "Dere's my young Missy dat's
pendin' on me, but she ain't pendin' in de sense ob hangin' on me," and
she paused and looked impressively at Unc. "She's usin' her two little
han's jest as hard as she know how, an' a heap too hard. Wat's mo' she's
usin' dem to good puppus. I jes' declar' to you, Elder an' frens, dat
since she took hole, de business am rollm' up an' it gettin' too big fer
both ob us. Dat's whar de shoe pinches. I ain't loss notin'. I'se made a
heap mo' by doin' fer young Missy. In dis 'fabulation, I doesn't want no
'flections on her, kase dey wouldn't be fair. Now, Kern, you'se right
smart. You'se had my 'proval eber sence you took a shine ter Sissy. Ud you
belebe it, Elder and frens, dat son-in-law ob mine offered ter s'port me
an' me do nuffin but jes' help Sissy and look arter de chil'n. But dat
ain't my way. I likes ter put my own money in my own pocket an' I likes
ter take it out agin, an' it jes' warm my heart like a hick'y fiah ter
help dat honey lam' ob mine dat I nussed. So you see, Elder, dat gen'l
preachin' am like meal. Folks has got ter take it an' make out ob it a
little hoe-cake fer dere selves. It's de same ole meal, but we's got ter
hab it in a shape dat 'plies ter our own inards, sperital and bodily."

Again there were nods of assent and sounds of approval which old Tobe put
into words. "Aun' Sheba," he said, "you puts you'se 'pinions monst'us
peart, too. I'se an ole man an' has had my shar ob 'sperence, an' I'se
alus 'served dat de hitch come in at de 'plyin' part. Dere's a sight ob
preachin' dat soun' as true an' straight as dat de sun an' rain make de
cotton grow, but when you git down to de berry indewidooel cotton plant
dere's ofen de debil to pay in one shape or oder. Dere's a wum at de root
or a wum in de leaves, or dey's too much rain or too much sun, or de
sile's like a beef bone dat's been biled fer soup mo' dan's reasonable.
Now Aun' Sheba's de indewidooel cotton-plant we's a-'siderin', an' I doan
see how she's gwine to res' a while any mo'n I kin. Ef I shet up my
rasteran de business gwine ter drap off ter some oder rasteran."

"But, bruder Tobe, isn't it better, even as you put it," protested the
minister, "dat Mis Buggone's business should drop off an' yours too, dan
dat you should drop off youselves? Howsumever, I see de force ob what you
both say, and we mus' try ter hit upon a golden mean. I reckon dar's a way
by which you can both keep your business and yet keep youselves from goin'
beyon' your 'bility. You are both useful citizens and supporters ob de
gospel, and I'm concerned fer your welfare, bodily as well as sperital."

"Aun' Sheba," said her daughter, "you'se my moder an' I ought ter be de
fust one ter help ease you up. I just dun declar dat you'se got ter take
Vilet ter help you up. I kin spar her, an' I will spar her. She's strong
an' gwine on twelve, an' de babies is gitten so dat dey ain't aroun' under
my feet all de time. Vilet's spry an' kin run here an' dar an' fill de
orders. She'd ease you up right smart."

"Now, Sissy," said her husband, who always called her by the old household
name, "dat's bery sens'ble and childlike in you to put yousef out fer
you'se muder. I'd been tinkin' 'bout Vilet, but I didn't like de suggestin
ob her leabin' you to do so much, ob de work. But go ahead, Sissy; go
ahead, Vilet, an' you'll fin' me easy goin' at meal times."

"Come here, Vilet," said the minister.

The girl had been sitting on the floor at Aun' Sheba's feet, listening
quietly and intelligently to all that had been said. She was tall for her
age, and had the quiet steadfastness of gaze that was characteristic of
her father. He was exceedingly fond and proud of her, for, with very
little schooling, she had learned to read and write. Even as a child she
had much of his patience and unselfishness, thus making herself very
useful at home. She looked unshrinkingly at the minister, but trembled
slightly, for she felt all eyes were upon her.

"Vilet," began Mr. Birdsall, "you are said to be a good chile, an' I like
the sens'ble, quiet way in which you stan' up an' look me in de face. I
reckon dar ain't much foolishness in you. Your fader and moder hab shown
de right spirit, de self-denying spirit dat de Lawd will bless. Can you
say the fifth commandment, chile?" Vilet repeated it promptly.

"Dat's right. Now your fader an' moder are honahing dar moder, an' you are
goin' to hab a chance ter honah dem an' your granma, too. You will hab
temptations in de streets ter be pert an' idle, ter stop an' talk to dis
one and ter answer back to dat one in a way you shouldn't. But if you go
along quiet an' steady, an' do what you're tole, an' be car'ful 'bout de
money an' de messages an' de orders an' so forth, you will reflect honah
on us all an' 'specially on all your folks. You understan', Vilet?"

"Yes, sir."

The minister put his hand on her head, and said solemnly, "You have my
blessin', Vilet."

She ducked a little courtesy, and again squatted at the feet of Aun'
Sheba, who, much affected, was wiping her eyes with her apron, while
Sissy's emotion was audible.

"Now, frens," resumed Mr. Birdsall, "this 'mergency of Mis Buggone's
health has been met in de right human and Scriptural spirit. Frens and
fam'ly hab gathered 'roun' de 'flicted one, an' hab paid dar respect ter
her usefulness an' value, an' hab shown her becomin' sympathy. Her own
fam'ly, as is also becomin', hab been first ter ease her up accordin',
first, to the law of primigeneshureship. I know dat dis is a long word,
but long words of'en mean a heap, an' dat's why dey are so long. Dat good
little girl, Vilet, is de oldes' granchile, an' she fulfils a great law in
helpin' her granma. Den it's accordin' to the gospel, for a loving an'
self-denyin' spirit has been shown. Mr. Watson has obeyed de great law of
matrimony. He has married _into_ dis fam'ly, an' he pulls with it an' for
it instead ob against it as we see too of'en. De Lawd's blessin' will rest
on dis fam'ly."

"I feels greatly comforted," said Aun' Sheba. "Dis has been a bressed
season an' a out-pourin'. I mos' feels 'ligious dis ebenin'. De chilen an'
dis deah chile" (patting Vi'let's head) "warm me up betteh'n flannel an'
de fiah. Elder, you'se a good shep'd ob de flock. You'se a lookin' arter
body an' soul. You'se got de eddication to talk big words to us, an', now
we'se free, we hab a right to big words, no mattah how much dey mean. It's
po'ful comfortin' ter know we'se doin' 'cordin' to de law an' de gospel."

"'Pears ter me," said old Tobe, "dat Uncle Sheba might hab a little law
an' gospel 'plied ter him. He am one ob de fam'ly. I'se a heap ol'er dan
he be, an' I'se up wid de sun an' I ony wish I could set when de sun sets.
'Pears like he orter tote some ob de tings ez well ez his slip ob a
grandaughter," and old Tobe's wool seemed fairly to bristle with
indignation and antipathy.

"I've no doubt," began Mr. Birdsall, "but Mr. Buggone'll emulate--"

"Elder," interrupted Aunt Sheba, with portentous solemnity, "dere's
bobscure 'flictions in dis worl' dat can't be 'splained, an' de 'flictions
ofen begin wen we say 'for bettah or wusser.' You'se say youself in de
pulpit dat de gret an' bressed sinner, Paul, had a thorn in de flesh an'
he couldn't git rid ob it nohow, dat he jes' bar wid it an' go 'bout his
business. Ole Tobe _am_ old, but he wasn't bawn tired. Dere's men dat's
po'ful weak in de jints ob de body, yit dat doesn't hender dem from
gittin' 'round, but wen de weak feelin' gits inter de jints ob de min' den
dey's shuah to be kinder limpsy-slimpsy an' dey ain't no help fer it. Ez I
sez afore, de 'fliction am bobscure. You see de feet an' you see de han's,
an' you tink dat dey kin go an' do like oder han's an' feet, but dey
doesn't an' dey can't. Dere ain't no backbone runnin' up troo de min' an'
wen dere ain't no backbone in de min' de pusson jest flop down yere an'
flop down dar whareber dere's a com'fo'ble place to flop. Dere's
'flictions dat we kin pray agin an' pray out'n ob, an' dere's oders we jes
got ter bar, an' we gits so kinder used to'm at las dat we'd be mo'
mis'ble ef dey wuz tooken away. We'se got to take de bittah wid de sweet,
but, tank de Lawd! de sweet 'domernate in dis yere fam'ly. Now let's hab
some praise an' prar. Vilet, honey, sing de hymn you'se moder lern you."

And in a somewhat shrill, yet penetrating, musical voice, the girl sang:

  "I'se a-journeyin', I'se a-journeyin',
     An' de way am bery long;
   De road ain't known, de way ain't shown,
     Yit I journeys wid a song.

CHORUS

  "De journey, de journey, howeber rough de road,
   It's a-leadin', it's a-leadin', to a hebinly abode.

  "I'se a-travelin', I'se a-travelin',
     From de cradle to de grave,
   De road am rough and sho' anuff,
     De heart, hit mus' be brave.

  "I'se a-wondrin', I'se a-wondrin',
     Wen de journey will be true;
   But I goes along wid sigh an' song
     An' a cheery word fer you."

Kern Watson and his wife were gifted with those rich, mellow, African
voices made so familiar in plantation songs and hymns. In the case of
"Sissy" there was a pathetic, contralto, minor quality in her tones, and
the first time young Watson heard her sing a spell was thrown round his
fancy which led to all the rest. The same might be said of her, for when
her husband, then a stranger, poured forth, in one of their evening
meetings, the great rich volume of his voice, she ceased to sing that she
might listen with avidity. It was not long after that before Kern mustered
courage to ask "Miss Buggone, mout I hab de pleasure ob 'companyin' you
home?" Not many months elapsed before he accompanied her home to stay,
with Aun' Sheba's full consent.

Other hymns followed in which Uncle Sheba took part with much unction, for
he wished to impress all present that in spite of the "bobscure
affliction" he "injied 'ligion" as much as any of them. Mr. Birdsall
offered a characteristic prayer, and then Aun' Sheba nodded to Sissy, who
brought out a large supply of cakes and apples. Some gossip among the
women and political discussion among the men occurred while these were
being disposed of, and then the little company broke up, leaving Aun'
Sheba much improved in health and spirits.



CHAPTER XIII

CAPTAIN BODINE


The next day was warm and sunny, and Aun' Sheba, rising much refreshed,
felt herself equal to her duties in spite of her fears to the contrary.
She took Vilet with her to a shop, and there purchased a much smaller
basket, the weight of which when filled would not be burdensome to the
girl. Thus equipped she appeared before Mara at the usual hour with her
grandchild, and began complacently: "Now, honey lam', you'se gwine to hab
two strings to you'se bow. I sometimes feel ole an' stiff in my jints an'
my heft is kinder agin me in trompin'. Here's my granddaughter, an' she's
spry as a cricket. She kin run yere an' dar wid de orders'n less dan no
time, so you won't be kept kin' ob scruged back an' down kase I'se slow
an' hebby. You see?"

"Yes, Aun' Sheba, and I am very glad to see. I have been worrying about
you, for it has seemed to me that you were going beyond your strength, and
yet I did not know of any one to help you or whether you wanted any one."

"Now, honey, you jes' took de words out'n my mouth 'bout you. You'se
lookin' po'ly, an' I'se dreffle 'feared you'se gwine ter get beat ont. You
want help mo'n me, an' I'se had it on my min' ter talk wid you."

"Oh, Aun' Sheba, I'm very well," protested Mara, yet glad to think that
her paleness and languor were ascribed to fatigue.

"Now see yere, honey, I'se got my blin' side, I know, but it ain't toward
you. I watch ober you too many yeahs not to know wen you po'ly. You'se
gwine beyon' you strengt, too. Why can't you get some one ter he'p you an'
den we go along swimmin'?"

"Well, I'll see. I reckon I'll be better soon, and I don't care to do more
than can be done in a quiet way."

The new arrangement on Aun' Sheba's side of the "pana'ship" soon began to
work well. Vilet proved quick and trustworthy, saving her grandmother many
a weary step, and Mara was compelled to see that the mutual income might
be greatly increased if she also had efficient help. She recognized the
truth that she was becoming worn, and she also knew the cause to be that
she worked without the spring of hopefulness or even the quietness of a
heart at rest. She had almost decided to intrust Aun' Sheba with the task
of finding a suitable helper, when she made two acquaintances who were
destined to become intimately associated with her experiences.

One afternoon she felt so lonely, desolate and hopeless that she felt she
must go out of herself. The future was taking on an aspect hard to face.
Disposed to self-sacrifice, she was wretchedly conscious that there was
nothing on which she could bestow a devotion which could sustain or
inspire. There was no future to look forward to, no cause to be furthered,
no goal to be reached by brave, patient effort. If she had lived at the
time of the war she would have loved scarcely less than her mother, but
her heart would have been almost equally divided between the cause and
those who fought and suffered for it. If her lot had been cast in the
North it would have been much the same. The same patriotic motives would
have kindled her imagination and produced the most intense loyalty in
thought and action. She was endowed with a spirit which, had she lived in
the past, might easily have led her into an effort to restore some
overthrown dynasty, and she would have so idealized even a very
questionable conspiracy as to render it worthy, in her belief, of
unstinted self-sacrifice. A girl of her character would have faced the
wild beasts of the Roman amphitheatre for the sake of her faith, or she
would have intrigued against the Spanish Inquisition although hourly
conscious that she was exposing herself to its horrors. It was this very
tendency to give herself up wholly to some object which she felt had a
supreme claim upon her, that had enabled her to live so long upon the
memories of the past. The lost cause, for which her father had died, had
been as sacred to her as the old dream of freedom to a Pole, but Clancy's
question in regard to the old phase of her life, "What good will it do?"
combining with other circumstances, had awakened her to the futility of
her course. Denied the hope of any future achievement, lacking a powerful
motive to sacrifice herself and her love, her strong nature chafed and
tended to despondency at the thought of a simple existence. It was not
enough merely to earn a living and live. She craved an inspiring object,
an antidote for her heartache, a consciousness that in giving up much she
also accomplished much. Yet the future stretched away like an arid plain
and she was depressed by the foreboding that every step carried her
further from all that could give zest to life. She was, therefore, in a
mood to accept anything which would relieve the dreary monotony.

On the afternoon in question she decided to call upon an old lady who had
lost nearly all her kindred and property. "Surely," thought the girl, "she
has nothing to look forward to in this world but a few more straitened
years, then death. I wish I were as old as she."

Taking a little delicacy she started out to pay the visit, hoping to gain
an insight into the philosophy of patient endurance. She veiled herself
heavily, for she was ever haunted by the fear of meeting Clancy on the
street, and that her tell-tale face might lead him to guess the cost of
her effort to avoid him.

An old colored woman showed the way into the parlor while she went up to
prepare her mistress for the call. Reading by the window was a middle-aged
gentleman who bowed gravely and resumed his book.

He riveted Mara's attention instantly, for her first glance revealed that
he had lost his right leg and that crutches leaned against the arm of his
chair. He could not be other than a veteran of the Confederate army, as it
would be strange indeed to find an ex-soldier of the North in that abode.
His strong, finely-cut side face, distinctly outlined against the light,
was toward her. It was marked by deep lines as if the man had suffered and
had passed through memorable experiences. He wore no beard or whiskers,
but an iron-gray mustache gave a distinguished cast to a visage whose
habitual expression was rather cold and haughty.

Mara had time to note these characteristics before she was summoned to
Mrs. Bodine's apartment. Although the day was mild, the old lady, wrapped
in shawls, sat by an open fire, and her wrinkled face lighted up with
pleasure as the girl came toward her. Indeed, there was something like
excitement in her manner as she kissed her guest and said: "Bring your
chair close, my dear, so I can see you and hold your hand. I've something
to tell you which I reckon will interest you almost as much as it does
me."

When Mara was seated in a low chair she resumed: "How much you would look
like your father, child, if your eyes were bright and laughing instead of
being so large and sad! Well, well, there has been enough to make all our
eyes sad, and you, poor child, have had more than enough. Yet you are good
and brave, my dear. So far from sitting down in helpless grieving, you are
taking care of yourself and have time to think of an old woman like me.
Poor Mrs. Hunter! what would she do without you? She, like so many of us,
has been blighted and stranded, and she would have been worse off than I
if it had not been for you, for I have a little left, but oh, it is so
little. Never did I wish it were more so much as I do now. You must be
patient with me, child. I sit here so much alone that it is a godsend to
have some one to talk to, and you are the very one I wanted to see. I was
going to send for you, for I knew you would like to see my guests. My
cousin and his daughter are visiting me, and I wish they could stay with
me always. I knew you would like to meet Captain Bodine--"

"Captain Bodine!" exclaimed Mara, "why, that is the name of an officer who
used to be in my father's regiment."

"He is the very same, my dear."

"Was that he in the parlor?" Mara asked, trembling with excitement.

"Yes, he and his daughter arrived only yesterday."

"Oh!" said Mara, "I've received letters from him, and I've longed to see
him for years. Can I not go down and speak to him at once? I surely do not
need any introduction to the old friend of my father."

"No, my dear, no indeed. You need no formal introduction to any guest or
relative of mine. Besides, he knows you well and all about you, although
he has never seen you since you were a child. It would please him greatly
to have you go down and speak to him at once, for he would know that I
would tell you about his being here, and he might think you cold or formal
if you delayed seeing him. I'm glad you feel so, my dear, but you must
come back and sit with me awhile before you go home. I'll ring for Hannah
and have a nice little feast while you are downstairs."

Mara scrupulously veiled her impatience until her kind, garrulous friend
was through, and then stole with swift, noiseless tread to the parlor
below. Standing in the doorway, she saw that the object of her quest was
absorbed in his book. "He is my ideal of the soldier of that day," she
thought. "How truly he represents us, with his sad, proud face and
mutilated body!" In a sort of awe she hesitated a moment and then said
timidly, "Captain Bodine."

He looked up quickly, and seeing Mara's lustrous eyes and flushed face,
divined instantly who she was.

"Is not this Miss Wallingford?" he asked, his face expressing glad
anticipation as he began to gather up his crutches.

"Do not rise," cried Mara, coming forward instantly with outstretched
hands.

But he was on his crutches, and said feelingly, "Heaven forbid that I
should receive the daughter of my old friend with so little respect." He
took the girl's face into his hands, and looked earnestly into her eyes.
"Yes," he resumed gently, "you are Sidney Wallingford's child. God bless
you, my dear," and he kissed her lightly on the forehead. "You won't mind
this from an old comrade of your father," he said as he made her take his
chair and sat down near her. "We have been bereft of so much that what
remains has become very precious. I know all about you, Mara."

Tears were in the girl's eyes as she replied falteringly, "And I know of
you, sir, and have longed to meet you. You can scarcely know how much your
words mean to me when you say you were my father's comrade and friend. I
knew this, but it seems more real to me now, and I feel that seeing you is
coming as near as I can to seeing him."

"My poor child! Would to God that he had lived, for you would have been
his pride and solace, as my daughter is to me. When I saw you last you
were a little black-eyed girl and happily did not understand your loss,
although you looked as if you did. I never thought so many years would
pass before I saw you again, but we have had to fight some of our hardest
battles since the war," and he sighed deeply.

"How soon can I meet your daughter?" Mara asked, her eyes full of
sympathy.

"Very soon. I urged her to take a walk on the Battery, for she has not
been very well of late. I said I knew all about you, as I have been told
of your loyalty and brave efforts and your kindness to my aged cousin, but
now that I see you, I feel that I know very little. Your face is full of
stories, my dear child. You are young, and yet you look as if the memories
of the past had made you far older than your years warrant That is the
trouble with us. We have much more to look back upon than to look forward
to. Yet it should not be so with you."

"It can scarcely be otherwise," Mara answered sadly; "you have touched the
very core of our trouble, and I suppose it is the trouble with us all who
are so closely linked with the past--we have so little to look forward to.
But now that you can tell me about my father the past seems so near and
real that I do not wish to think about anything else."

Time sped rapidly as Captain Bodine recalled the scenes and incidents of
his life which were associated with his old commander, and Mara listened
with an absorbed, tearful interest which touched him deeply. The proud,
reserved expression of his face had passed away utterly, and the girl
appreciated the change. His sympathy, the gentleness of his tones and the
profound respect which was blended with his paternal manner made her feel
that her father's friend was already her friend in a very near and sacred
sense. While he was reserved about his own affairs, and she also was
conscious of a secret of which she could never speak, they had so much in
common that she felt that they could talk for hours. But the old lady in
the apartment above grew impatient, and at last Hannah stood courtesying
in the door as she said, "Missus p'sent her compl'ments an' say would be
glad to see you."

"There, I've been selfish and thoughtless," said Captain Bodine, "but I
shall see you again, for it will give Ella and me great pleasure to call
upon you."

"Yes, indeed, we must meet often," Mara added earnestly. "I hope you are
going to make a long stay in Charleston."

"I scarcely know," he replied, and again there was an involuntary sigh;
"but I must keep you no longer."



CHAPTER XIV

"ALL GIRLS TOGETHER"


"I'm not going to lose my visit altogether," said Mrs. Bodine, when Mara
returned with an apology. "If the captain has only one leg, he can get out
and around better than I can. Indeed it is wonderful how he does get
around. He is the spryest man on crutches I ever saw, and you know, my
dear, I've seen a good many. In that dreadful war we were only too glad to
get our men back, what was left of them, and if an arm or a leg were
missing we welcomed them all the more, but we couldn't give much more than
a welcome. It was wreck and ruin on every side. If we had our own the
captain would be well off, as you and I would be, but he is poor; poorer
than most of us. In fact, he hasn't anything. He wasn't one of those
supple jointed men who could conform to the times, and he wasn't brought
up to make his living by thrifty ways. But he did his best, poor boy, he
did his best. Would you like to hear more about him?"

"Yes, indeed," Mara replied, "you can't know how deeply I am interested in
him and his daughter. He was my father's comrade in arms, his friend and
follower. You must pardon me for staying away so long, but when he began
talking of my father I felt as if I could listen forever, you know. I
honor him all the more because he is poor."

"Yes, my dear, I know. Most of us are learning the hard lessons of
poverty. I call him a boy because it seems only the other day he was a boy
and a handsome one, too. He used to visit us here, and was so full of fun
and frolic! But he has had enough to sober him, poor fellow. He was
scarcely more than a boy when the war began, but he was among the first to
enlist, and, like your father, he was a private soldier at first. He soon
received a commission in the same regiment of which your father became
colonel, and no doubt would have reached a much higher rank if he had not
lost his leg. He met with this loss before your brave father was killed,
but I suppose he told you."

"Yes," faltered Mara, "he told me why he was not with my father at the
last."

"Yes, if he could he would have been with him and died with him, and
sometimes I almost think he wishes that such had been his fate, he has
suffered so much. During the remainder of the war he had command of inland
positions which did not require marching, and he always made the record of
a brave, high-minded officer. After the war he married a lovely girl, and
tried to keep the old plantation: but his capital was gone, taxes were
high, the negroes wouldn't work, and I suppose he and his wife didn't know
how to practice close economy, and so the place had to be sold. It didn't
bring enough to pay the mortgages. It cut him to the quick to part with
the old plantation on which the family had lived for generations, but far
worse was soon to follow, for his wife died, and that nearly broke his
heart. Since that time he has lived in Georgia with his only child, Ella,
getting such occupation as he could--office work of various kinds, but I
suppose his reserved, gloomy ways rendered him unpopular; and even our own
people, when it comes to business, prefer an active man who has a ready
word for every one. I conjecture much of this, for he is not inclined to
talk about himself. Poor as I am, I'm glad they accepted my invitation,
and I mean to do all in my power to get him employment here. I have a
little influence yet with some people, and perhaps a place can be found or
made for him. He and his daughter don't require very much, and God knows
I'd share my last crust with them, and," she concluded with a little
apologetic laugh, "it _is_ almost like sharing a crust."

"Oh, he will get employment," cried Mara, enthusiastically; "his disabled
condition in itself will plead eloquently for him. How old is Ella?"

"She must be eighteen or thereabout."

"I wonder if she wouldn't like to help me?"

"Help you? She'd be delighted. But then, my dear, you must not be carried
away by your generous feeling. We're all proud of you because you have
struck out so bravely for yourself; but surely you have burdens enough
already."

"Perhaps Ella can lighten my burden, and I hers; but it is very homely,
humble work."

"You dear child!" exclaimed Mrs. Bodine, with her little chirruping laugh,
"you are not a very homely, humble doer of the work. I reckon there's no
prouder girl in town. But that's the way it is with the captain and all of
us, in fact. The poorer we are, the prouder we are. Well, well, our pride
is about all we can keep in these times. You need have no fear, however,
that Ella will hesitate in helping you, except as she may very naturally
think herself incompetent, or that you are wronging yourself in trying to
help her."

"We'll see about it," Mara remarked thoughtfully; "I will invite her to
spend a morning with me, and then she can obtain a practical idea of my
work. She might not like it at all, or she might like to do something else
much better, and so would be embarrassed if I asked her to help me,
disliking to refuse, and yet wishing to do so."

"Ah, well," said Mrs. Bodine, smiling; "we have some right to think
ourselves 'quality' still, as old Hannah calls us. We are just as
considerate of one another's feelings as if we were all Royal Highnesses.
Have it your own way, my dear, if you truly think Ella can be of service
to you. I reckon you need help, for you don't look as well as when I saw
you last."

"Yes," acquiesced Mara, "I think I do need help. Aun' Sheba's
granddaughter is assisting her, and a good deal more could be sold if it
were properly prepared. It would be a great happiness if my need opened
the way for Ella, for I feel it would please my father as much as it would
please me if I could be of service to his old friend and his daughter."

"I have heard, dear, that you are always trying to do what you thought
your father and mother would like."

"God forbid I should do otherwise," said the girl solemnly.

"Well, perhaps they know all about it," said the old lady, wiping a tear
from her eye. "How close our troubles bring us together. You are lonely
for your parents, and I am lonely for my husband and children."

"And yet you are braver and more cheerful than I," responded Mara; "I was
so sad and discouraged over the future this afternoon, that I came to you,
thinking that you might unconsciously teach me patience and courage. Truly
I was guided, for you face everything like a soldier. Then in meeting
Captain Bodine, I seem to have been brought nearer my father than ever
before. I can't hear about him without tears, yet I would turn from any
pleasure in the world to hear about him. What happiness if he had lived
and I could help him in some way!"

"Well, my dear, we all have our own way of bearing our burdens, and I
often wonder whether I have done more laughing or crying in my life. It
has been one or the other most of the time. I have always thanked the Lord
that when the pain or the trouble was not too severe, I could laugh, and
soon I know all tears will be wiped away. It's harder for you, my dear; it
is harder for you than me. My voyage has been long and stormy; husband,
sons, and the cause for which they died all lost; but I'm coming into the
harbor. You've got your voyage before you. But take courage. Who knows but
that your early days may be your darkest days? They can't always be dark
when you are so ready to brighten the lives of others. There, I hear
Ella's voice."

A moment later there was a knock at the door, and Ella Bodine entered. We
have all seen bright-hued flowers growing in shaded places, and among
cold, grim rocks. Such brightness had the young girl who now appears upon
the scene of our story. One speedily felt that its cause was not in
externals, but that it resulted from inherent qualities. As with Mara,
there had been much in her young life sad and hard to endure. She had not
surmounted her trouble by shallowness of soul or callousness, but rather
by a spiritual buoyancy which kept her above the dark waves, and enabled
her to enjoy all the sunshine vouchsafed. Yet, unlike her father and Mara,
she lived keenly in the present. She sympathized truly and honestly with
her father, and in a large measure intelligently recognized the nature of
the deep shadows projected across his life from the past, but it was her
disposition to keep as near to him as possible and yet remain just beyond
the shadows. She possessed a wholesome common-sense which taught her that
the shadows were not hers and that they were not good for her father; so
she was ever making inroads upon them, beguiling him into a smile,
surprising him into a laugh--in brief, preventing the shadows from
deepening into that gloom which is dangerous to bodily and spiritual
health. She made his small earnings go a great way, and banished from his
life the sordidness of poverty. God outlines an angel in many a woman's
heart, and often privations and sorrow, more surely than luxury, fill out
the divine sketch. In the instance of Ella Bodine the angelic was so
sweetly and inextricably interwoven with all that was human that to mortal
comprehension she was better than a wilderness of conventional angels. She
was depressed now under one of the few forms of adversity that could cast
her down. Her father was out of employment, their slender income had
ceased, and they were dependent. She felt this cruel position all the more
because Mrs. Bodine out of her poverty gave her hospitality so unstintedly
and ungrudgingly.

To the sensitive, fine-natured girl it was like feeding upon the life of
another, and that other a generous friend.

During her walk a score of schemes to earn money had presented themselves
to her inexperienced mind, but her hands had learned only how to eke out a
small salary and to minister to her father. She had come home resolute to
do something, but troubled because she knew not what to do.

She paused a moment on the threshold of Mrs. Bodine's apartment, and
looked questioningly at Mara, at the same time half divining who she was.

"Come along, Ella," cried Mrs. Bodine, with a little joyous laugh of
anticipation, "and kiss one of your best friends, although you never saw
her before."

"Is it Mara?"

Mara's smile and swift approach answered her question. In an instant the
two girls were in each other's arms, their warm Southern hearts touched by
the electric fire of sympathy and mutual understanding. Mrs. Bodine
clapped her little, thin hands and cried, "Oh, that's fine. Southern girls
have not died out yet. Why, even my old withered heart had one of the most
delicious thrills it ever experienced. Now, my dears, come and sit beside
me and get acquainted."

"Oh, I know you already, Mara Wallingford," said Ella with sparkling eyes.

"And I am learning to know you, Ella. I know you already well enough to
love you."

"Well," exclaimed Mrs. Bodine, raising her hands in a comic gesture, "I
reckon the ice is broken between you."

They all laughed at this sally, and Mara was so cheered, her nerves all
tingling with excitement, that she could scarcely believe herself to be
the half-despairing girl of a few hours before. "Now come," resumed Mrs.
Bodine, "let us all be girls together and have a good talk. At this rate
I'll soon be younger than either of you. I haven't had my share yet. Do
you believe it, Ella? Mara has been downstairs petting your father for an
hour."

"I wonder where he is. He wasn't in the parlor when I came in."

"I reckon he followed your good example and went out for a walk. I heard
the door shut. Well, you girls make a picture that it does my old eyes
good to look at. Here's Mara with her creamy white skin and eyes as
lustrous now as our Southern skies when full of stars, but sometimes, oh
so sad and dark. Dear child, I wish I could take the gloom all out of
them, for then I could think your heart was light. But I know how it is; I
know. Your mother gave you her sad heart when she gave you life, but you
have your father's strength and courage, my dear, and you will never give
up. And here is Ella with complexion of roses and snow and eyes like
violets with the morning dew still on them--forgive an old woman's flowery
speech, for that's the way we used to talk when I was young--yes, here is
Ella, a little peach blossom, yet brimming over with the wish to become a
big, luscious peach. Lor, Lor--oh, fie! Am I saying naughty words? But
then, my dears, you know my husband was a naval officer, and no man ever
swore more piously than he. Bad words never sounded bad to me when he
spoke them--he was such a good Christian! and he always treated me as he
expected to be treated when he was on deck. I reckon that I and the
Commodore are the only ones that ever ordered _him_ around," and the old
lady cried and laughed at the same time, while the faces of her young
companions were like flowers brightened by the sun while still wet with
dew.

"Let me see," continued the old lady, "where was I when I began to swear a
little; just a little, you know. It is a sort of tribute to my husband,
and so can't be very wicked. Oh, I remember, I was thinking what fun it
would have been to chaperon you two girls at one of our grand balls in the
good old times. I would sail around like a great ship of the line,
convoying two of the trimmest little crafts that ever floated, and all the
pirates, I mean gallant young men, my dears, would hover near, dying to
cut you out right under my guns, or nose, as land-lubbers would say. Well,
well, either of you could lead a score of them a chase before you signed
articles of unconditional surrender," and Mrs. Bodine leaned back in her
chair and laughed in her silvery little birdlike twitter. The girls
laughed with her, pleased in spite of themselves with visions that, both
in their nature and by tradition, accorded with the young romantic period
of life. But memory speedily began to restore gravity to Mara's face. Mrs.
Bodine recognized this, and her own face grew gentle and sorrowful. Laying
a hand on each of the girls heads she resumed, "Do not think I am a
frivolous old woman because I run on so. I do not forget the present any
more than Mara, I see, cannot. Dear children, the circumstances of your
lot render you as burdened and, in some ways, almost as old as I am. Ella
can forget easier than you, Mara, but that is because God has put
brightness into her heart. Let us all face the truth together. I am long
past being an elegant matron. I am only a poor old childless widow with
but a few more days of feebleness and suffering before me, yet I do not
sigh in a bitter, murmuring spirit. Old as I am, I am still God's little
child, and sometimes I think this truth makes me as mirthful as a child.
When the pain is hardest to bear, when the past, oh, the past--with all
its immeasurable losses, begins to crush my very soul, I turn my dim eyes
upward and repeat to myself, 'There _is_ a Heaven of eternal rest and
joy,' and so I grow serene in my waiting. I have always loved the bright,
pleasant things of this world--it was my nature to do so--but He who bears
the burdens and heartbreak of the whole world has gently lifted my love up
to Him. Didn't He have compassion on the widow of Nain, and say to her,
'Weep not'? My gallant husband, my brave boys and this poor little widow
are all in His hands, and I try to obey His gentle command not to weep
except sometimes when I can't help it and He knows I can't."

The two girls with their heads in her lap were crying softly from
sympathy. With light, caressing touches to each the old lady continued,
"Ella, my dear, you are like me in some respects. You, too, love the
bright pleasant things of this world, and you are so divinely blessed with
a buoyancy of heart that you will make what is hard and humdrum bright for
yourself and others. You will embroider life with sunshine if there is any
sunshine at all. Like myself, you will be able to smile and laugh whenever
the pain is not too severe, yet I fear it will be very hard sometimes.
Bat, as my husband would say, you are taut, trim and well ballasted, and
good for a long, safe voyage. You have obeyed the Fifth Commandment, and
its promise is yours.

"Mara, dear child my heart, for some reason, aches for you. I knew and
loved your grandfather and your father and mother. You were born into a
heritage of bitterness and sorrow, and I fear Mrs. Hunter, with all her
good qualities, was not so constituted as to be able to counteract
inherited tendencies. I wish I could have brought you up, for then we
could have cried or laughed together over what happened.

"But you have learned to repress and to brood--two dangerous habits. You
want to do some great thing, and alas! there is seldom a great thing which
we poor women can do. You are not impelled by ambition or a desire for
notoriety, but by a sort of passion for self-sacrifice.

"If you had lived twenty odd years ago no soldier of the South could have
been braver or more devoted. You are not satisfied with mere living and
making the best of life as it is. I don't know why, but I feel that there
are depths in your heart which no one understands. Be careful, dear child,
and be patient. Don't yield to some morbid idea of duty, or be involved in
some chimerical plan of an achievement.

"Learn Ella's philosophy, and be as content with sunshine and daily duty
as possible. Ella will do this unconsciously, my dear; you will have to do
it consciously, just as a sick man seeks health. But you will both have to
go forward and meet woman's lot. I was once a young girl, fancy free, like
you. How much has happened since! I now feel like an old hen that would
like to gather you both under her wing in shelter from all trouble," and
again her little laugh chimed out while she wiped away the tears which
sprang from her motherly heart.

The thump of Captain Bodine's crutches was heard on the stair. "Bring him
in," said Mrs. Bodine, mopping her eyes vigorously.

Ella ran to the door and admitted him, and then, with a pretty custom she
had, took away a crutch, and substituting one of her own round shoulders
supported him to a large armchair. The low western sun flooded the room
with light. He looked questioningly at the dewy eyes of the two girls and
at the evidences of emotion which Mrs. Bodine had not been fully able to
remove.

"Well," said he, "what part am I to have in this mournful occasion?"

Ella stood beside him with her arm about his neck, and was about to speak,
when Mrs. Bodine said quickly in her piquant way, "You are to be chief
mourner."

"A role for which I am peculiarly fitted," he replied sadly, not catching
her humor.

"Oh, papa, you don't understand," cried Ella, "we have been having just a
heavenly time."

He looked at Mara as she stood beside the old lady, and his very soul was
touched by the sympathy expressed for him in her beautiful eyes. Standing
there, enveloped in sunshine, it seemed to him that no angel of God could
regard him more kindly. It was not pity, but rather honor, affection and
that deep commiseration of which but few women are capable. He felt
instinctively that she knew all and that her woman's heart was suffering
vicariously with him and for him. The very air was electrical with deep
human feeling, and he, yielding to a strong impulse scarcely understood,
said earnestly, "God bless you, Mara Wallingford."

Sensible old Mrs. Bodine felt that it was time to come back to every-day
life, so she said promptly, "Yes, and He is going to bless her, and bless
us all. If there is any mourning to be done on this occasion you must do
it. We three girls have been having a good talk, and are the better for
it. That's the demmed total--oh, fie! there I am at it again. Well, Cousin
Hugh, to take you into our entire confidence, we have been facing things
and have arrived at several conclusions, one of which is--now, Ella, shut
your ears--that you have one of the best daughters in the world, and that
she and Mara have quite broken the ice between them and are going to be
very good friends, and I was saying how I would like to convoy two such
girls in one of our ballrooms in the good old times--oh, well, we have
just been having a long lingo as girls will when they get together."

Captain Bodine was gifted with tact and a quick appreciation. He
understood the old lady and her purpose.

"Cousin Sophy," he said, "you are just the same as when, a boy, I used to
visit you--tears and smiles close together. Well, I believe that Heaven
comes down very near when you three girls get together."

The old lady lay back in her chair and laughed heartily. "Oh, Ella, if you
only knew what a mischievous boy your father was once! But, there, we have
had enough of the past and the future for one day. Mara, my dear, you must
stay and banquet with us. No, no, no, I won't hear any excuse. When I once
get on quarter-deck every one must obey orders. Ella, direct Hannah to
spread the festive board. You and Mara can lend a hand, and you can put on
all we have in five minutes. To think that I should have eaten that
delicious jelly you brought, greedy old cormorant that I am!"

A few moments later Mara supported the old lady down to the dining-room,
and, though the viands were few and meagre, the banqueters, to say the
least, were not commonplace. Mara said nothing of her plan, but Ella was
invited to spend the following morning with her. In the late lingering
twilight Captain Bodine escorted the young girl home. On the way thither
they came plump upon Owen Clancy. He glanced keenly from one to the other
as he lifted his hat. Mara's only response was a slight bow.



CHAPTER XV

TWO LITTLE BAKERS


Mara led Captain Bodine up to their little parlor and introduced him to
Mrs. Hunter, who received him most cordially, feeling that in him she
recognized a congenial spirit. He treated her with the respect and
old-time courtesy which she said was "so truly Southern." Their feelings
and beliefs touched closely at several points, yet they were very
different in their essential characteristics. Poor Mrs. Hunter had been
limited by nature and education. She could not help being narrow in all
her views; she was scarcely less able to dismiss her intense, bitter
prejudices. She was quite incapable of reasoning herself into her mental
position; it was simply the inevitable result of her circumstances, her
lot and her own temperament. Captain Bodine was a proud man, as proud
toward himself as toward others. The cause for which he and his kindred
had suffered and lost so much had been sacred, and therefore it ever would
be sacred. To change his views, to begin revising his opinions, would be
to stultify himself and to reflect dishonor on his comrades in arms who
had perished. In the very depths of his young, ardent spirit he had once
devoted himself to the South; he had listened reverently to prayers from
the pulpit that God would bless the Southern armies; he had never entered
into battle without petitions to Heaven, not that he might escape, but
that the "Northern invader" might be overcome; his uniform had been
stained with blood again and again as he held dying comrades in his arms
and spoke words of cheer. In his more limited way, he had the spirit of
"Stonewall" Jackson. It was impossible for a man with his nature and with
his memories to argue the whole matter over coolly and recognize
misleading errors. During his youth and early manhood his feelings had
been so intense as to be volcanic, and that feeling, like lava, had cooled
of into its present unchangeable forms and sombre hues. What was
bitterness and almost spite in Mrs. Hunter was a deep, abiding sorrow in
his heart, a great dream unfulfilled, a cause lofty because so idealized,
in support of which he often saw in fancy, when alone, spectral thousands
in gray, marching as he once had seen them in actual life. That all had
been in vain, was to him one of those mysterious providences to which he
could only bow his head in mournful resignation, in patient endurance. He
had no hate for the North, for he was broad enough in mind to recognize
that it saw the question from its own point of view, and, as a soldier, he
knew that its men had fought gallantly. But the North's side of the
question was not his side. He had been conquered in arms but not convinced
in spirit. While he had respect and even admiration for many of his old
foes, and malice toward none, he still felt that there was a bridgeless
chasm between them, and, by the instincts of his nature, he kept himself
aloof. If he could perform an act of kindness to a Northerner he would do
so unhesitatingly; then he would turn away with the impulse of an alien.
He had no ambitious schemes or hopes for the future; he had buried the
"lost cause" as he had buried his wife, with a grief that was too deep for
tears. He had come to value life only for Ella's sake, and he tried to do
his best from a soldier-like and Christian sense of duty, until he too
could join his old comrade in arms.

Mrs. Hunter could not comprehend such a man, and he gave to her but the
casual, respectful sympathy which he thought due to a gentlewoman who had
lost much like so many other thousands in the South. After a brief call he
hobbled away on his crutches, forgetting Mrs. Hunter and, indeed, almost
everything in the deep interest excited by Mara, the daughter of his old
friend. "Would to God," he muttered, "that Sidney Wallingford could have
lived and seen that girl look at him as she looked at me to-day."

Soon after Captain Bodine's departure, Mara pleaded fatigue and retired to
her room, promising to answer her aunt's many questions on the morrow. She
was very sad and discouraged with herself, and yet she had not the
despairing sense of the utter futility of her life which had oppressed her
when she started out in the early afternoon.

She had become so absorbed and interested by the incidents and experiences
of her visit as to be almost happy. Just as she had attained a condition
of mind which had not blessed her for months, she must meet Owen Clancy.
With a sort of inward rage and wonder, she asked herself: "Why did my
heart flutter so? Why did every nerve in my body tingle? He is nothing to
me and never can be, yet, when he passed, a spirit from heaven could
hardly have moved me more. What is his mysterious power which I cannot
eradicate? Oh, oh, was not my life hard enough before? Must I go on,
hiding this bitter secret? fighting this hopeless and seemingly endless
fight? Well, well, thank God for this day, after all. In Ella Bodine and
her father I have found friends who will occupy my thoughts and become
incentives which I did not possess before. Dear father, my own dear, dead,
soldier father, it would please you to have me do something for your old
friend."

The next morning was bright and sunny, and, after an early breakfast, Mara
was in the kitchen, with all the ingredients of the dainties she so
skilfully produced, spread out upon the tables. Ella had been asked to
come early; her father had escorted her to Mara's residence, and then gone
away on an errand of his own.

The young girl was greeted with a warmth which made her at home at once,
and proved the experiences of the previous afternoon were not the result
of mood or passing sentiment. There was a depth in Mara's eyes and a
firmness about her mouth and chin which did not indicate changing and
unreasoning "moods and tenses." In the clearer, calmer thought of the
morning all her kind purposes toward Captain Bodine and Ella had been
strengthened, and she also believed more fully that by interesting herself
in them she would find the best antidote for her own trouble.

Ella had been welcomed by Mrs. Hunter, and now, as she sat in the little
sun-lighted kitchen, there was neither past nor future to her. The present
scene, with its simple, homely details, was all absorbing.

It meant very much to the girl, for she saw how Mara was achieving
independence, and by work, too, which housekeeping for her father enabled
her to understand better than any other. Mara's pulses were also
quickened, for she understood the eager, intelligent glances of her
friend. For a few moments, Ella, as company, felt compelled to maintain
the quiet position of spectator; then overborne, she sprang up exclaiming:
"Oh, Mara, dear, do give me an apron and let me help you. I'd have such a
jolly forenoon!"

"Why, certainly, Ella, if it would give you pleasure."

The article was produced, and, with a sigh of deep content, the girl tied
it around a waist by no means waspish. Then off came the little cuffs, and
up the sleeves were rolled to the shoulder.

"Ella, what lovely arms you have! If I were a man I should be distracted
by such a pair of arms."

"Well," remarked the girl, looking at them complacently, "they'd be strong
enough to help a man that I cared sufficiently for to marry, but I haven't
seen that man yet, and I hope his lordship will keep his distance
indefinitely--till I have more time to bother with him and his
distractions."

"Is your time, then, so completely occupied?"

"It isn't occupied at all, and that's the plague of it. But I reckon it
soon will be," she added with an emphatic little nod. "Papa shall learn
that I can do something more for him than cook, and your example has fired
my ambition. I'll ransack this town till I find something to do that will
bring money. Dear old Mrs. Bodine! wasn't she perfectly enchanting
yesterday? Do you think I can be content to live in idleness on her
slender means? No, indeed. I'd buy a scrubbing-brush first. Oh, isn't this
fun?" and the flour was already up to her elbows.

"Oh, Ella, dear, I'd feel just as you do if I had a father to work for."

"Now, Mara, don't talk so, or I'll put my floury arms right about your
neck and spoil this dough with a flood of briny tears. See, the sun is
shining and there is work to be done. Let's be jolly, and we'll have our
little weep after sundown. Oh, Mara, dear, I wish I could make you as
light-hearted as I am. I used to think it was almost wicked for me to be
so light-hearted, but I don't think so any more, for I know I've kept papa
from going down into horrid depths of gloom. And then this irrepressible
spirit of fun helps me over ever so many hard places." She sprang back
into the middle of the room, and, striking a serio-comic attitude,
continued: "Here I am in no end of trouble--for me. There is a grief
preying on my vitals that would make a poet's hair stand on end should he
attempt to portray it. Were there a lover around the corner, sighing like
a furnace, I would say to him 'Avaunt! My heart is broken, and do you
think I can bother with you?' I am at odds with fate. I am in the most
deplorable position into which any human being can sink. I have _nothing
to do_. But here is a weapon by which one girl has conquered destiny," and
she brandished the roller with which she had been pressing out the dough,
"and I, too, shall find a sword which will cut all the pesky knots of this
snarled-up old world. Then when I have achieved complete and lofty victory
and independence, as you have, dear, I may say to the lover around the
corner, 'Step this way, sir. I must consider first whether you would be
agreeable to papa, and then whether you would be agreeable to me and
then'--Oh, what a little fool I am, and so many cookies to make. Please
don't send me home. I will work now like a beaver," and her round white
arms grew tense as she rolled with a vigor that would almost flatten
brickbats.

Mara stood at one side watching her with eyes that grew wonderfully
lustrous as was ever the case when she was pleased or excited. Then she
stole up behind Ella, and, putting her arm around her neck, looked into
her eyes as she asked, "Wouldn't you like to help me?"

"Of course I like to help you," said Ella, turning with surprise upon her
friend.

"Now, Ella, be frank with me. Say no if you feel no. Wouldn't you like to
help me all the time and earn money in this way?"

A slow deep flush overspread Ella's face as she stood for a moment with
downcast eyes as if oppressed with a sense of shame. Then she said humbly:
"Forgive me, Mara. I've been very thoughtless. I didn't think you would
take my ranting as an appeal to your generous heart. Believe me, Mara, I
was not hinting to you that I might share in the little you are earning so
bravely. As if you had not burdens enough already."

Mara never once removed her eyes from the girl's ingenuous face and
permitted her to reveal the unselfishness and sacred pride of her nature;
then she said gently and firmly: "No, Ella, I did not misunderstand you a
moment, and I want you to understand me. In one sense we have been
acquainted always, yet we have loved each other from personal knowledge
but a few short hours. We Southern girls need no apologies for our swift
intuitions, our quick, warm feelings. I had this on my mind as soon as
Mrs. Bodine told me about your being here, and I had quite set my heart
upon it as soon as I saw you. Ella, dear, I _need_ help; I have more than
I can do. There is business enough to support us both, and I had almost
concluded to ask Aim' Sheba to get me a helper. But what a delight it
would be to work with you!"

Ella's face had been brightening as if gathering all the sunshine in the
spring sky, and she was about to speak eagerly when Mara stopped her by a
gesture. "Wait," she said, "I did not say anything of this last evening
because I was not sure you would like the work. If you do not like it, you
must be frank to tell me so. If you do enter on it you must let me manage
all in business-like ways, for I fear that you, like Aun' Sheba, will be
inclined toward very loose accounts. You must be willing to take what I
feel that you should have, and there must be no generous insubordination.
Now you have the exact truth."

Ella's lip was quivering and her eyes were filling with gathering tears.
With a little quaver in her voice she struggled hard to give a mirthful
conclusion to the affair. "I accept the position, ma'am," she faltered,
making a courtesy, then rushed into her friend's arms and sobbed: "Oh,
Mara, Mara, you have lifted such a burden from my heart! I have had many
troubles, but somehow it seemed that I couldn't bear this one, though I
tried hard to keep the pain to myself--papa and I being dependent. And
then to have the whole trouble banished by working with you in just the
kind of work I like! Oh, Mara, darling, how can I ever thank you enough?"

"Good Lawd, honey, hab you heerd on any ob you'se folks dyin'?" and Aun'
Sheba's awed face and ample form filled the doorway, with Vilet's
wondering little visage peeping around behind her.

Ella sprang away, and, turning her back on the newcomers, mopped her face
vigorously with her floury apron.

"No, Aun' Sheba," replied Mara, smiling through her tears, for Ella's
strong emotion had unsealed the fountain of her eyes, "I've only followed
your good advice and secured just the kind of help I need, the daughter of
my father's dear old friend, Captain Bodine. I reckon you remember him."

"Well, now, de Lawd be bressed!" ejaculated Aun' Sheba, sitting down with
her great basket at her feet. "'Member him? Reckon I does. I kin jes' see
de han'-som boy as he march away wid you'se fader. An' his little Missy is
you'se helper?" and she looked curiously at Ella, who was still seeking to
gain self-control.

The girl wheeled around with a face wonderfully stained and streaked with
flour and tears, and, ducking just such a courtesy as Vilet would have
made, said to Aun' Sheba, "Yes'm. I'm the new hand. I'm a baker by trade."

Aun' Sheba's appreciation of humor was instantaneous, and she sat back in
her chair, which shook and groaned under her merriment. "Can't fool dis
culled pusson," she began at last. "You tink we doesn't keep up wid de
times, but we does. I'se had a bery int'restin' season wid ole Hannah, who
lib wid Mis' Bodine, bress her heart! She's quality yere on arth an' she
gwine ter be quality in Hebin. I knows a heap 'bout you an' you'se pa. I
knowd him 'fore you did. I'se seed him in de gran' ole house in Meetin'
Street a dinin' agin an' agin wid Marse Wallingford an' my deah Misse
Mary, den a bride, an' de gran' ole Major Buggone. Oh, Missy Mara, ef you
could ony seen de ole major, you'd a seen a genywine So' Car'liny
gen'l'man ob wat dey call de ole school. Reckon dey habn't any betteh
schools now. An' young Marse Sidney, dat's you'se fader, Missy, and young
Marse Hugh, dat's you'se fader, Missy Ella, dey was han'som as picters an'
dey drink toasts ter Missy Mary an' compliment her an' she'd blush like a
red rose; an' wen dey all 'bout ter march away Missy Mary kiss Marse Hugh
jes as ef he her own broder. Lor, Lor, how it all come back ter me! Ef de
Lawd don' bress de pa'na'ship twix' you two gyurls den I des dun beat."

Regardless of flour the two little bakers stood before Aun' Sheba with
arms around each other while she indulged in reminiscences, then Ella,
dashing away the tears that were gathering again, said brusquely, "The new
hand will have to be boss if we go on this way. Aun' Sheba, we haven't got
a blessed thing ready to put in your basket."

"Many han's make light wuck," said the old woman sententiously. "I come
yere arly dis mawnin' to gib Missy Mara a lif' kase she's been lookin'
po'ly an' I hab her on my min' anxious-like. But now, wid a larfin',
sunshiny little ting like you aroun', Missy Ella, she'll soon be as peart
as a cricket. Vilet, chile, jes wait on me an' han' me tings, an' dese two
baskets'll be filled in de quickest jiffy you eber see."

And so it turned out. Aunt Sheba was a veteran in the field. Flour, sugar
and spices seemed to recognize her power and to come together as if she
conjured. The stove was fed like the furnace of Nebuchadnezzar, and the
girls' faces suggested peonies as the cake grew light and brown.

Mrs. Hunter, having finished her morning duties, entered at last and
looked with doubtful, troubled eyes upon the scene. Ella and Aun' Sheba's
mirthful talk ceased, while little Vilet regarded the tall, gray-haired
woman with awe.

"Well, times _have_ changed," said the lady, with a sort of groan. "Our
home has become little better than a bake-shop."

"Well, Missus," replied Aun' Sheba, with the graven-image expression that
she often assumed before Mrs. Hunter, "I'se know'd of homes dat hab become
wuss dan bake-shops. Neber in my bawn days hab I heerd on an active,
prosp'rous baker starbin'. Jes' you try dis cooky right fum de stove an'
see ef it doan melt in you'se mouf." And so Aun' Sheba stopped Mrs.
Hunter's lamentations and clinched her argument.



CHAPTER XVI

HONEST FOES


Captain Bodine's errand was characteristic of the man. He had accepted his
cousin's hospitality and sympathy most gratefully, and his quick
apprehension had gathered from some of her words that she was bent on
moving her little segment of "heaven and earth," to secure him employment.
While perfectly ready to receive any gracious benefactions from heaven,
where he justly believed that the good old lady's power centred chiefly,
he shrank from her terrestrial efforts in his behalf, knowing that they
must be made with very few exceptions among those who were straitened and
burdened already. He did not want a "place made" for him and to feel that
other Southern men were practicing a severer self-denial in order to do
so. With a grim, set look on his face as if he were going into battle, he
halted downtown to the counting-room of one of the wealthiest merchants
and shippers in the City. He knew this man only by reputation, and his
friends would regard an application for employment to Mr. Houghton, as
extraordinary as it certainly would be futile in their belief. Mr.
Houghton was quite as bitter against the South in general and Charleston
in particular as Mrs. Hunter in her enmity of all that savored of the
North; and, as human nature goes, they both had much reason, or rather
cause, for their sentiments. The experiences of many of that day were not
conducive to calm historical estimates or to "the charity that suffereth
long and is kind." Mr. Houghton was a New England man, and hated slavery
almost as intensely as it deserved to be hated. The trouble with him had
been that he did not separate the "peculiar institution" widely enough
from the men who had been taught by their fathers, mothers and ministers
to believe in it. He made no allowances for his Southern fellow-citizens,
as many of them would make none for him. With him, it was "Slave-driver";
with them, "Abolitionist"; yet he revered and they revered the
great-hearted planter of Mount Vernon.

When the war came at last to teach its terrible, yet essential lessons,
Mr. Houghton's eldest son was among the first to exercise the courage of
the convictions which had always been instilled into his mind. The grim
New Englander saw him depart with eyes that, although tearless, were full
of agony, also of hatred of all that threatened to cost him so much. His
worst fears were fulfilled, for his son was drowned in a night attack on
Fort Sumter, and, in his father's morbid fancy, still lay in the mud and
ooze at the bottom of Charleston harbor.

The region gained a strange fascination for the stricken man, and he at
last resolved to live near his son's watery grave and take from the very
hands of those whom he regarded as his boy's murderers the business which
they might regard as theirs naturally. So he removed to Charleston, and
employed his capital almost as an instrument of revenge. He did not do
this ostentatiously, or in any way that would thwart his purpose or his
desire to accumulate money, but his aims had come to be very generally
recognized, and he received as much hate as he entertained. Yet his wealth
and business capacity made him a power in commercial circles, and Southern
men, who would no more admit him to their homes than they would an ogre,
dealt with him in a cool politeness that was but the counterpart of his
grim civility.

Captain Bodine knew that Mr. Houghton employed much help in his business.
He knew that the work of many of his employes must be largely mechanical,
requiring little or no intercourse with the master, and the veteran
reasoned, "I could give him honest work, and he in return, pay me my
salary, we personally not being under the slightest social obligation to
each other. I'd rather wring money from his hard fist than take it from
the open hand of a too generous friend. I could then get bread for Ella
and myself on the simple ground of services rendered."

He therefore entered the outer office and asked for Mr. Houghton. A clerk
said, "He is very busy, sir. Cannot I attend to your matter?"

"I wish to see Mr. Houghton personally."

"Will you send in your card, sir?"

Captain Bodine took one from his pocket and wrote upon it, "I wish to see
you briefly on a personal matter." A moment later he was ushered into Mr.
Houghton's presence, who was writing rapidly at his desk. Bodine stood
still, balancing himself on his crutches while the merchant finished the
sentence. He looked at the hard wrinkled face and shock of white hair with
the same steady composure that he had often faced a battery, as yet
silent, but charged with fiery missiles.

At last Mr. Houghton looked up with an impatient word upon his lip, but
checked it as he saw the striking figure before him. For an instant the
two men looked steadily into each other's eyes. Ever since the war,
Captain Bodine had dressed in gray, and Mr. Houghton knew instinctively
that his visitor was a Confederate veteran. Then the captain's mutilation
caught his attention, and his very manhood compelled him to rise and
stiffly offer a chair.

"You wished to see me personally," he remarked, coldly. "I must request
you to be brief, for I rarely allow myself to be disturbed at this hour."

"I will be brief. I merely come to ask if you have employment for a
tolerably rapid, accurate penman?"

"Do you refer to yourself?" Mr. Houghton asked, his brow darkening.

"I do, sir."

"Do you think this a sufficient excuse for interrupting me at this hour?"

"Yes, sir."

Again there was a fixed look in each other's eyes, and Mr. Houghton, with
his large knowledge of men and affairs, became more distinctly aware that
he was not dealing with an ordinary character. He put his thought in
words, for at times he could be very blunt, and he was conscious of an
incipient antagonism to Bodine.

"You think you are a Southern gentleman, my equal, or rather, my superior,
and entitled to my respectful consideration at any hour of the day."

"I certainly think I am a Southern gentleman. I do not for a moment think
I am entitled to anything from you."

"Yet you come and ask a favor with as much dignity as if you represented
the whole State of South Carolina."

"No, sir, I represent only myself, and I have asked no favor. There are
many in your employ. I supposed your relations with them were those of
business, not of favor."

"Well, sir," replied Mr. Houghton, coldly, "there are plenty with whom I
can enter into such relations without employing an enemy of my country."

"Mr. Houghton, I will bring this interview to a close at once, and then
you can settle the matter in a word. Your country will never receive any
harm from me. I am one of a conquered people, and I have now no ambition
other than that of earning bread for my child and myself. You have
dealings with Southern men and ex-Confederate soldiers. You buy from them
and sell to them. I, as one of them, ask nothing more than that you should
buy my labor for what it is worth to you in dollars and cents. Regard my
labor as a bale of cotton, and the case is simple enough."

The lava-crust over the crater of the old man's heart was breaking up, for
the interview was recalling all the associations which centred around the
death of his son. Captain Bodine evoked a strange mixture of antipathy and
interest. There was something in the man which compelled his respect, and
yet he seemed the embodiment of the spirit which the New Englander could
neither understand nor tolerate. His thought had travelled far beyond
business, and he looked at his visitor with a certain wrathful curiosity.
After a moment he said abruptly, "You fought through the war, I suppose?"

"I fought till I was disabled, sir, but I tried to do a soldier's duty to
the close of the war."

"Duty!" ejaculated Mr. Houghton, with an accent of indescribable
bitterness. "You would have killed my son if you had met him?"

"Certainly, if I met him in fair fight and he did not kill me first."

"There wasn't any fair fight at all," cried the old man passionately. "It
was an atrocious, wicked, causeless rebellion."

The dark blood mounted to Captain Bodine's very brow, but he controlled
himself by a strong effort, and only said calmly, "That is your opinion."

The veins fairly stood out on Mr. Houghton's flushed, usually pallid,
face. "Do you know," he almost hissed, "that my boy lies at the bottom of
your accursed harbor yonder?"

"I did not know it, sir. I do know that the sons of Southern fathers and
the fathers themselves lie beside him."

"But what was the use of it all? Damn the whole horrible crime! What was
the use of it all?"

A weaker, smaller-brained man than Bodine would have retorted vehemently
in kind and left the place, but the captain was now on his mettle and
metaphorically in the field again, with the foe before him. What is more,
he respected his enemy. This Northern man did not belong to the
ex-governor Moses type. He was outspoken and sincere to the heart's core
in his convictions, and moreover that heart was bleeding in father-love,
from a wound that could never be stanched. Bodine resolved to put all
passion under his feet, to hold his ground with the coolness and tenacity
of a general in a battle, and attain his purpose without the slightest
personal compromise. His indomitable pride led him to feel that he would
rather work for this honest, implacable foe than for any man in the city,
because their relations would be so purely those of business, and to bring
him to terms now would be a triumph over which he could inwardly rejoice.

"Mr. Houghton," he said, gravely, "we have wandered far from the topic
which I at first introduced. Your reference to your son proves that you
have a heart; your management of business certifies to a large brain. I
think our conversation has made it clear that we are both men of decided
convictions and are not afraid to express them. If you were a lesser man
than you are, I would have shrugged my shoulders contemptuously and left
your office long ago. Yet I am your equal, and you know it, although I
have scarcely a penny in the world. I am also as honest as you are, and I
would work for you all the more scrupulously because you detest me and all
that I represent. I, on the other hand, would not expect a single grain of
allowance or consideration, such as I might receive from a kindly disposed
employer. We would not compromise each other in the slightest degree by
entering into the relations of employer and employed. I would obey your
orders as a soldier has learned to obey. Apart from business we should be
strangers. I knew we were hostile in our feelings, but I had the
impression--which I trust may be confirmed--that you were not a
commonplace enemy. The only question between us is, 'Will you buy my labor
as you would any other commodity in the Charleston market?'"

Captain Bodine's words proved his keen appreciation of character. The old
man unconsciously possessed the spirit of a soldier, and it had been
evoked by the honest, uncompromising attitude of the Southerner. His
emotion passed away. His manner became as courteous as it was cold and
impassive. "You are right, sir," he said, "we are hostile and will
probably ever remain so, but you have put things in a light which enables
me to comply with your wishes. I take you at your word, and will buy your
labor as I would any other article of value. I know enough of life to be
aware of the courtesy which occasionally exists between men whose feelings
and beliefs strongly conflict, yet I agree with you that, apart from
business, we can have little in common. When can you come?"

"To-morrow."

"Are you willing to leave the question of compensation open till I can
learn what your services are actually worth?"

"I should prefer to have the question settled in that way."

Both men arose. "Good-morning, Captain Bodine," said the merchant, bowing
slightly. "Good-morning, Mr. Houghton," and the captain halted quietly
back to Mrs. Bodine's home of faded gentility.

Mr. Houghton sat down at his desk and leaned his head thoughtfully upon
his hand. "I wouldn't have believed that I could have done this," he
muttered. "If he had knuckled to me one iota I would have shown him the
door; if he hadn't been so crippled--if he hadn't been so downright honest
and brave--confound it! he almost made me feel both like killing him and
taking him by the hand. Oh, Herbert, my poor, lost boy, I don't wonder
that you and so many fine fellows had to die before such men were
conquered."



CHAPTER XVII

FIRESIDE DRAMAS


Ella was so overjoyed at her prospects when all had been explained to her,
that she insisted on Mara's spending the evening at the Bodines' so that
her father might understand the whole arrangement.

When she returned early in the afternoon, she found him, as Mara had
before, reading quietly at one of the parlor windows. He looked up with
not only glad welcome in his eyes, but also with much genuine interest,
for he was anxious to learn what further impression Mara had made upon his
daughter. The man who had accepted patient endurance as his lot, could
scarcely comprehend the profound impression made upon him by the child of
his old friend. He had made no effort to analyze his feelings, not
dreaming that there was any reason why he should do this. To his mind
circumstances and the girl herself were sufficient to account for the
deepest sympathy. Then that look with which she had regarded him on the
previous evening--he could never forget that while he lived. He therefore
regarded Ella's flushed, happy face, and said, "You seem to hesitate in
letting your experiences be known, but I reckon, from the sparkle of your
eyes, that you have had a good time."

"Oh, papa, I have had a good time, so much more than a good time. I
hesitate because I don't know just how or where to begin--how to tell you
all the good news. Dear papa, you have had so many more troubles than I
have, and some perhaps which you think I do not share in very deeply. It
was best for us both that I did not--too deeply. But you have a trouble
now in which I do share more than you know, more than I wanted you to
know. We were here dependent on our dear old cousin who is so unselfish
that she would almost open her poor old veins for us. This was too hard
for either of us to endure very long, and I had made up my mind that I
would do something to relieve you--that if Mara could earn money I could."

"My dear child, I appreciate your feelings, and you have understood mine,
but let me hasten to assure you that I have found a way by which I can
support you and myself also."

"You have? So soon? Oh, that is glorious. Tell me all about it."

"No, indeed. Not till I have your wonderful news, and learn how you
enjoyed your visit."

"No more visiting for me, or rather perpetual visiting. Oh, papa, think
what bliss! I'm to help Mara, work with Mara every day, and have a share
in the profits."

The captain's face grew sad and almost stern. Ella understood him
instantly, and put her hand over his mouth as he was about to speak. "Now,
papa, don't you perform the same little tragedy that I did. I know just
how you feel and what you are going to say. Mara had it in her mind the
moment she heard I was in town and--"

"Ella," interrupted her father, firmly, "I do not often cross you, but you
must let me decide this question. Mara is capable of any degree of
self-sacrifice, of even something like a noble deception in this case. No,
this cannot be. I would protect that girl even as I would you, and you
both need protection against your own generous impulses more than all
else."

In vain she tried to explain, and recounted minutely all that had
happened. The captain was so deeply touched that his eyes grew dim with
moisture. Again he exclaimed, "Would to God Sidney Wallingford had lived,
even though poor and crippled as I am, that he might have worshipped this
noble-hearted, generous girl. She has indeed a rare nature. She carried
out her self-sacrificing purpose well, but I understand her better than
you do, my dear. With all a woman's wit, tact, and heart she deceived you
and would deceive us all. She would smile in triumph as she denied herself
for our sakes what she most needed. But, Ella, you know we cannot let her
do this."

The girl was staggered and in sore perplexity. Her father's view was not
pleasing to her ingenuous nature; there had been a sincerity in Mara's
words and manner which had been confirmed not only by circumstances, but
also by Aun' Sheba's hearty approval. "I shall be sorry if what you think
is true," she said, sadly. "I don't wish to be deceived, not even from
such motives as you attribute to Mara, and, of course, she could have no
others if you are right. But how can you be right? There was such a verity
about it all. Why, papa, when at first I imagined that Mara might have
thought I had been hinting in my very foolish talk that I wished what
afterward took place, I was so overwhelmed with shame that I could hardly
speak. If you had seen how she reassured me, and heard her earnest words,
declaring she needed me--oh, if that was all deception, even from the
kindest and noblest motive, I should be wounded to the heart, I could
never be sure of Mara again and scarcely of any one else. I can't think as
you do. Let us ask Cousin and see what she thinks."

The captain was now in perplexity himself, yet he held to his first
impression. "I admit," he said, hesitatingly, "that it was not the wisest
course on Mara's part, yet often the best people, especially when young,
ardent, and a little morbid, are led by the noblest motives to do what is
unwise and scarcely right. Mara is not an ordinary girl, and cannot be
judged by common standards. Be assured, she would die rather than deceive
you to your harm, but a purpose to do you good might confuse both her
judgment and conscience, especially if it involved self-sacrifice on her
part. You must not blame me if I wish to be more thoroughly convinced.
Yes, you can ask Cousin Sophy's opinion if you wish."

"Then come with me, papa, and state your case as strongly as you can. I'd
rather go hungry than go forward another step if you are right."

The wise old lady, who could talk by the hour on most occasions, listened
to both sides of the question and then remarked with sphinx-like
ambiguity. "Your father, Ella, has obtained a remarkably correct idea of
Mara's character. You know I told her in your hearing that she had a
passion for self-sacrifice, and was prone to take a morbid sense of duty.
At the same time, I do not by any means say he is right in this particular
instance. Mara is coming this evening--let her satisfy you both in her own
way. I have my opinion, but would rather she would make the matter plain
to you."

The shrewd old lady, to whom the wheels of time often seemed to move
slowly, was bent on a bit of drama at her own fireside, at the same time
believing that a word, a tone, or even a glance from the young girl
herself would have more power to banish the captain's doubts than anything
she could say. "And yet," thought Mrs. Bodine, "Mara is capable of just
this very kind of dissimulation."

Evening in the South differs slightly from our late afternoon, and the sun
was scarcely below the horizon when Mara arrived under the escort of Mrs.
Hunter, who had also been invited. Therefore Ella in her feverish
impatience had not long to wait.

Mrs. Bodine's simple meal was over, and after having had a fire lighted on
the parlor hearth, she had ensconced herself in a low rocking-chair in
readiness to receive her guests. There was a sort of stately cordiality in
the meeting between her and Mrs. Hunter, quiet courtesy on the part of
Captain Bodine toward all, while honest Ella could not banish a slight
constraint from her manner. Mara gradually became conscious of this and
wondered at it. She also soon observed that no reference was made to the
compact of the morning, and this perplexed her still more.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Bodine, having all the dramatis personae about her, was
complacency embodied, and not averse to taking a part in the little play
herself. She managed at first that the conversation should be general. She
serenely indulged in reminiscences which waked others from Mrs. Hunter,
and even the captain was beguiled into half-humorous old-time anecdotes
about some one they all knew.

"Well," ejaculated Mrs. Bodine, sighing, "that--oh, good gracious! what
was I going to say? Cousin Hugh, you can remember that my most excellent
husband accustomed me to rather strong adjectives. Well, that hardhearted
old wretch, Mr. Houghton, eventually got all the property of the poor man
we were talking about."

"Did he?" said the captain, quietly. "Well, I reckon I'll get some of it
back again."

"You? I'd like to know how. He'd take your head off at one bite if he
could."

"I reckon he would; he looked so inclined this morning. I spent half an
hour alone with him this morning, and am going to work for him to-morrow."

The general exclamations amounted to a chorus, and Mrs. Hunter, bridling,
began formally and almost severely, "Pardon me, Captain Bodine, I do not
wish to be presuming or officious, but I fear you have been absent from
the city so long that you are not aware of the general estimation in which
this Northern carpet-bagger is held."

"I certainly have had a chance to form my own opinion of him, Mrs. Hunter,
and I reckon that he and I will not be any better friends than he and you
would be."

"Friends," ejaculated the old lady, "I could annihilate him. Oh, Captain
Bodine, believe me, you have made a mistake. What will be left of our past
if the best and bravest of our number strike hands with these vampires of
the North?"

"I have not struck hands with him, nor do I ever expect to."

"Hugh, Cousin Hugh," protested Mrs. Bodine, "I don't understand this move
at all."

"Papa," cried Ella, with her arms about his neck, "you have done this for
my sake, so do please give it up for my sake. Some other way will be
provided for us."

"Mara, are you, too, down on me?"

"No, sir, never; but I'll share my last crust with you if you will have
nothing to do with that man."

"I thought so, you brave, generous girl. That was like your father, and
reminds me of a bit of experience. We were on a forced march, and the
provision train had not kept up. It was night, and we were too weary to
hunt around for a morsel. Wallingford (he was major then) came to me and
said, 'Bodine, I've a hard tack and one cup of coffee. We'll go halves,'
and so we did. He was so impolite as to take his half first. Do you know
why?"

"I can guess," she replied with downcast brimming eyes.

"I reckon you can--you of all others; but he didn't succeed. I turned on
him in mock severity and remarked, 'Major Wallingford, I never thought you
would try to overreach an old friend. See, you have scarcely taken over a
third of the coffee and hard tack.' He slapped me on the back and declared
he would have me arrested for insubordinate and disrespectful language.
Considering what sleepy, jaded men we were, we had a lot of fun over that
meagre banquet, but he had to yield even if he were my superior. I fear
you are inclined to go halves just like your father."

"Well, Hugh," cried Mrs. Bodine impatiently, "even that is better than
your taking whatever this--this--I want an adjective that is not too
wicked."

"No matter, Cousin Sophy, we'll each supply one according to our own
degree of wickedness. A Yankee would say 'darned' though, confound the
fellows, they seem to learn to fight and swear in equal degrees."

"I won't say 'darned,'" said the old lady, almost trembling in her
irritation and excitement, for she was being treated to more of a drama
than she had bargained for. "It is a word I never heard my husband use.
Bah! all words are inadequate. I say anything is better than that you
should go to this old Houghton for what little he may choose to give you."

"Now, I appeal to you, Mara--is this fair, four against one?"

"But, dear Captain Bodine, you don't know how deeply we feel about this."

"Ah, that is the charge our enemies bring against us. We _feel_, but don't
reason, they say. We have much reason to retort, 'You reason, but have no
feeling and little comprehension for those that have.' Come, I will be
serious now," and his expression became grave and firm. "Cousin Sophy, Mr.
Houghton will never give me a penny, nor would I take a gift from him even
if starving, yet I have a genuine respect for the man. Let me, as a
soldier, illustrate my course, and then I will explain more fully. Suppose
I was on a march and was hungry. On one hand were ample provisions in the
camp of the enemy; on the other a small farmhouse occupied by friends who
had already been robbed of nearly all they had. If I went to these friends
they would, as Mara has said, share their last crust. Do you not think it
would be more in accordance with the feelings of a man to make a dash at
the enemy's overflowing larder, and not only get what I needed but also
bring away something for my impoverished friends? I reckon it would. I
much prefer spoiling the Egyptians, cost me what it may. My dear child,"
turning to Mara, "do you think I would take half your crust when I know
you need the whole of it? No, indeed. Then you must remember that we got
in the habit of living off the enemy during the war. To drop all this
figurative talk, let me put the matter in plain English, as I did to Mr.
Houghton this morning. We had a pretty hot action, I can tell you. There
was no compromise in word or manner on either side, but he listened to
reason, and so will you. Pick out your most blue-blooded, stanchest South
Carolinians, in the city, and they deal with Mr. Houghton. They sell to
him; they buy of him, and there it all ends. I have no cotton to sell, but
I told him to regard my labor as a bale of cotton and to buy it, if he so
wished, at what it was worth. I also told him that apart from our business
relations we would be strangers, so you see I am neither better nor worse,
practically, no different from other Charlestonians."

Mrs. Bodine leaned back in her chair, and laughed till the tears came into
her eyes. "I do declare," she gasped: "God made men different from women,
and I reckon He knew what He was about. I surrender, Cousin Hugh. Your
argument has blown me out of the water. Spoil this old Egyptian to your
heart's content, only remember when there are no Egyptians to spoil, if
you don't come to your friends you will have one savage old woman to deal
with."

Mrs. Hunter shook her head dubiously. "I don't know what to think of all
this," she said. "It appears to me that it tends to break down the
partition wall between us and those from whom we have received wrongs
which should never be forgiven."

"My dear Mrs. Hunter," replied the captain, urbanely, "the more the
partition wall is broken down in one sense, the better. Isn't it wiser for
me to get money out of Mr. Houghton than to sulk and starve? I _had_ to
break through the wall to get bread. Of course," he added quietly, "we all
understand one another. My military figures of speech must not be pressed
too far. I do not propose to knock Mr. Houghton on the head, or even take
the smallest possible advantage of him. On the contrary, because we are
hostile, I shall be over-scrupulous, if possible, to do his work well.
From him, as I told him, I expect not the slightest allowance,
consideration, or kindness."

"Oh," thought Mara, "how clearly he has put my own thought and wish. Why
could not Owen Clancy have earned his own bread and mine by taking the
course of this brave Southern man? I have been shown to-night how noble,
how dignified and how easy it was. Why should he talk of love when he will
not see what is so reasonable in the action of another?"

"Cousin Hugh, you said one thing which needs explanation. You said you had
a respect for this man floughton, who we all know has not a particle of
good-will toward us."

"Chiefly because he is such an honest enemy," Bodine replied. "He makes
hard bargains with our people when he can, but have you ever heard of his
cheating or doing anything underhand? I learned a good deal about his
business character while in Georgia, and his course to-day corresponded
with what I had been told. Moreover, his feelings got the better of him,
and he revealed in one passionate sentence that his eldest son was killed,
and, as he says, lies at the bottom of our harbor here. This fact enabled
me to stand better what I had to take from him," and in answer to his
cousin's questions he revealed the substance of the interview. "I do
this," he concluded, "that you and other friends may better understand my
course. To-morrow Mr. Houghton becomes my employer, and I shall owe a
certain kind of loyalty. The more seldom we mention his name thereafter,
the better; and I shall never speak of him except in terms of cold
respect."

"Since you have told me about his son," said Mrs. Bodine, "I won't avail
myself of the privilege of freeing my mind to-night, even if it will be my
last chance, that is when you are present. After all, why should I berate
him? In one aspect he is to me a sort of ogre representing all that is
harsh, intolerant and cruel, rejoicing in his power to drain the
life-blood of a conquered and impoverished people; yet he rose before me
as you spoke as a heartbroken father, warped and made unnatural by pain,
haunted by the ghost of his son whom his arms cannot embrace. Sometimes
when thinking alone, the people of the world seem like a lot of squabbling
children, with only degrees of badness and goodness between them. Children
make no allowances for each other. It is like or dislike, quick and
manifested. It is well there is a Heavenly Father over all who may lead
one and all of us 'to make up' some day. I tell you what it is, Hugh, we
may all have to shake hands in Heaven."

"Like enough, Cousin Sophy. In matters pertaining to Heaven you are a
better authority than I am."

"For very good reason. Heaven is nearest those who feel its need most. You
may think I am a queer Christian, and I sometimes think so myself--hating
some people as near as I dare, and calling old Houghton a wretch. Don't I
know about his heartache? Who better than I? God knows I would give his
son back to him if I could. God knows I can almost swear at him; He knows
also that if he were brought into this house wounded I'd nurse him with my
feeble hand as I would you, Cousin Hugh, but I would be apt to say when he
got well (and here came in her little chirping laugh), 'Good sir, I have
not the slightest objection to your going back to Massachusetts, bag and
baggage.' By the way, he has another son who has not been much in
Charleston--being educated at the North, they say. He must be a grown man
now. I was told that when here last he resented the fact bitterly that
there was some society in town which he could not enter."

"I reckon not," remarked Mrs. Hunter, grimly, and then followed some
desultory conversation between the two elder ladies.

As was frequently his custom--in common with men whose past is more than
their future promises to be--the captain had lapsed into a train of
thought which took him far away from present surroundings. He was roused
by Mrs. Hunter's preparations for departure, and looking suddenly at Mara,
saw that her eyes were filled with tears. He was at her side instantly,
and, taking her hand, asked gently, "What troubles you, my child?"

With bowed head she replied: "I understand you, Captain Bodine; your words
have made everything clear to me."

He still held her hand and thought a moment. "About Ella's coming to you?"
he asked.

"Yes, I'm not one of the Egyptians, but I'd so set my heart on it."

"Because of _your_ need, not Ella's?" again the captain queried, while his
grasp on her hand tightened.

"Oh, Captain Bodine, do you think I could deceive you or a girl like Ella
under any circumstances? If she did not come after to-day I feel that I
should give up in despair very soon. I do need help, and just such help to
body and mind as she can give me."

"Forgive me, Mara. The little story I told about your father explains why
I feared. But we will say no more about it. I would rather have Ella with
you than with any one else in the world."

"There," cried that buoyant young woman, "I knew I was right. Out of the
mouths of babes and sucklings you old people are destined to learn
wisdom."

"Well," said Mrs. Bodine, "I've had more drama tonight than I reckoned on,
and I haven't been leading lady either. Will the chief baker escort me to
the dining-room?"

After cake and cream, the captain escorted Mrs. Hunter and Mara home. He
detained the latter at the door a moment, and said gently, "Mara, shun the
chief danger of your life. Never be unfair to yourself."



CHAPTER XVIII

A FAIR DUELLIST


The great hand of time which turns the kaleidoscope of human affairs
appeared to move slowly for a few weeks, as far as the characters of my
story are concerned. The two little bakers worked together daily, one
abounding in mirth and drollery, and the other cheered, or rather beguiled
from melancholy in spite of herself. Business grew apace, not only because
two girls who evoked general sympathy were the principals of the firm, but
also for the reason that they put something of their own dainty natures
into their wares. Aun' Sheba trudged and perspired in moderation, for the
fleet-footed Vilet seemed to outrun Mercury. Moreover, the "head-pahners,"
as Aun' Sheba called them, insisted that their commercial travellers
should take the street-cars when long distances were involved.

Captain Bodine and Mr. Houghton maintained their business relation in the
characteristic manner indicated by their first interview. The
ex-Confederate was given some routine work which kept him at a remote desk
a certain number of hours a day, and employer and employee rarely met, and
scarcely ever spoke to each other. The captain, however, had no reason to
complain of his salary, which was paid weekly, and sufficed for his modest
needs. So far from being dependent on his large-hearted cousin, he and
Ella were enabled to contribute much to her material comfort, and
immeasurably to her daily enjoyment. She and Ella were in the sunshine
again, and it was hard to say which of the two talked the most genial
nonsense. The old lady had what is termed "a sweet tooth," and loved
dainties. The two girls, therefore, vied with each other in evolving rare
and harmless delicacies.

"Two Ariels are ministering to me," she said, "and sometimes I feel so
jolly that I would like to share with that old--I mean Mr. Houghton."

The girls never forgot, however, the depths beneath the ripple and sparkle
of the old lady's manner.

As spring verged into summer, Uncle Sheba yielded more and more to the
lassitude of the season. His "bobscure 'fliction" seemed to grow upon him,
if it were possible to note degrees in his malady, but Aun' Sheba said,
"'Long as he is roun' like a log an' don' bodder me I is use' ter it." He
even began to neglect the "prar-meetin'," and old Tobe told him to his
face, "You'se back-slidin' fur as you kin slide, inch or so." His
son-in-law, Kern Watson, had won such a good reputation for steadiness
that he was taken into the fire department. When off duty he was always
with "Sissy an' de chilen."

Outwardly there was but slight change in Owen Clancy. He had never been
inclined to make many intimate acquaintances, and those who knew him best
only noted that he seemed more reserved about himself if possible, and
that he was unusually devoted to business. Yet he was much spoken of in
business circles, for it was known that he was the chief correspondent of
the wealthy Mr. Ainsley of New York, who was making large investments in
the South. Among the progressive men of the city, no matter what might be
their political faith and association, the young man was winning golden
opinions, for it was clearly recognized that he ever had the interest of
his section at heart, that in a straightforward, honorable manner he was
making every effort to enlist Northern capital in Southern enterprises. He
had withdrawn almost wholly from social life, and ladies saw him but
seldom in their drawing-rooms. When among men, however, he talked
earnestly and sagaciously on the business topics of the hour. The evening
usually found him with book in hand in his bachelor apartment.

Beneath all this ordinary ebb and flow of daily life, changes were taking
place, old forces working silently, and new ones entering in to complicate
the problems of the future. As unobtrusively as possible, Clancy kept
himself informed about Mara and all that related to her welfare. By some
malign fate, as she deemed it, she would unexpectedly hear of him,
encounter him on the street, also, yet rarely now, meet him at some small
evening company. He would permit no open estrangement, and always
compelled her to recognize him. One evening, to her astonishment and
momentary confusion he quietly took a seat by her side and entered into
conversation, as he might have done with other ladies present. By neither
tone nor glance did he recognize any cause for estrangement between them,
and he talked so intelligently and agreeably as to compel her admiration.
His mask was perfect, and after an instant hers was equally so, yet all
the time she was as conscious of his love as of her own.

He recognized the new element which the Bodines had brought into her life,
and with a lover's keen instinct began to surmise what the captain might
become to her. He was not long in discovering the former relations of the
veteran to Colonel Wallingford, and he justly believed that, as yet,
Mara's regard was largely the result of that old friendship and an entire
accordance in views. But he was not so sure about Bodine, whom he knew but
slightly and with whom he had no sympathy. He had learned substantially
the ground on which the captain had taken employment from Mr. Houghton,
and as we know, he was bitterly hostile to that whole line of policy. "It
would eventually turn every Southern man into a clerk," he muttered, "when
it is our patriotic duty to lead in business as in everything else that
pertains to our section." Yet he knew, or at least believed, that if he
had taken the same course Mara might now be his wife.

Sometimes, when reading, apparently, he would throw down his book and say
aloud in his solitude, "Bah, I'm more loyal to the South than this
sombre-faced veteran. He would keep his State forever in his own crippled
condition. No crutches for the South, I say; no general clerkship to the
North, but an equal onward march, side by side, to one national destiny.
He thinks he is a martyr and may very complacently let Mara think so too.
Who has given up the more? He a leg, and I my heart's love!"

It has already been shown that Clancy touched the extremes of political
and social life in the city. Some, of whom Mrs. Hunter was an exasperated
exponent, could be cold toward him, but they could neither ignore nor
despise him. Those beginning to cast off the fetters of enmity and
prejudice, secretly admired him and were friendly. While cordial in his
relations, therefore, with Northern people and Northern enterprises of the
right stamp, he had not so lost his hold on Mara's exclusive circle as to
remain in ignorance of what was transpiring within it, and he secretly
resolved that if Bodine sought to take the girl of his heart from him,
and, as he truly believed, from all chance of true happiness herself, he
would give as earnest a warning as ever one soul gave to another.

In June he received a strong diversion to his thoughts. Mr. Ainsley wrote
him from New York, in effect, that he with his daughter would soon be in
Charleston--that his interests in the South had become so large as to
require personal attention; also that he had new enterprises in view. The
young man's interest and ambition were naturally kindled. As Mara had
taken the Bodines and their affairs as an antidote for her trouble, he
sought relief in the preoccupation which the Ainsleys might bring to his
mind. Accordingly he met father and daughter at the station and escorted
them to the hotel with some degree of pleasurable excitement.

Miss Ainsley made the same impression of remarkable beauty and
cosmopolitan culture as at first. There was a refined, easy poise in her
bearing. Indeed he almost fancied that, to her mind, coming to Charleston
was a sort of condescension, she had visited so many famous cities in the
world. She greeted him cordially, and to a vain man her brilliant eyes
would have expressed more than the mere pleasure of seeing an old
acquaintance again.

But few days elapsed before Mr. Ainsley was on the wing, here and there
where his interests called him, meantime making the Charleston hotel his
headquarters. Miss Ainsley's friend, Mrs. Willoughby, carried off the
daughter to her pretty home on the Battery, where sea-breezes tempered the
Southern sun. Clancy aided the father satisfactorily in business ways, and
the daughter found him so agreeable socially as to manifest a wish to see
him often. She interested him as a _"rara avis"_ which he felt that he
would like to understand better, and he would have been less than a man if
not fascinated by her beauty, accomplishments and intelligence. Miss
Ainsley could not fail to charm the eyes of sense as well, and she was not
chary of the secret that she had been fashioned in one of Nature's finest
molds. The soft, warm languor of the summer evenings was, to her, ample
excuse for revealing the glowing marble of her neck and bosom to dark
Southern eyes, and admirers began to gather like bees to honey ready made.

Clancy had wished to see her deportment toward other young men, and now
had the opportunity. The result flattered him in spite of himself. To
others she was courteous, affable and sublimely indifferent. When he
approached it seemed almost as if a film passed from her eyes, that she
awakened into a fuller life and became an enchantress in her versatile
powers. He responded with as fine a courtesy as her own, although quite
different, but there was a cool, steady self-restraint in eyes and manner
which piqued and charmed her.

Clancy would be long in learning to understand Miss Ainsley. He might
never reach the secret of her life, and certainly would not unless he
bluntly asked her to marry him--asked her so bluntly and persistently that
all the wiles of which woman is capable opened no avenue of escape. She
was an epicure of the finest type. If she had been asked to a banquet on
Mount Olympus, she would have preferred to dine from the one delicious
dish of ambrosia most to her taste and to sip only the choicest brand of
nectar. Profusion, even at a feast of the gods, would have no charms for
her. She had begun to see the world so early and had seen so much of it
that she had learned the art of elimination to perfection. Sensuous to the
last degree, but not sensual, she had a cool self-control and a fineness
of taste which led her to choose but a few refined pleasures at a time and
then to enjoy them deliberately and until satiety pointed to a new choice.
Keen of intellect, she had studied society and with almost the skill of a
naturalist had recognized the various types of men and women. This cool
observation had taught her much worldly wisdom. She saw all about her,
mere girls jaded with life already, faded young women keeping up with the
fashionable procession as fagged out soldiers drag themselves along in the
rear of a column. She had seen fresh young _debutantes_ rush into the
giddy whirl to become pallid from the excess of one season. At one time,
she and other friends of hers had been exultant, excited and distracted by
their many admirers and suitors. She soon wearied, however, of this
indiscriminate slaughter, and the devoted eager attentions, the manifest
desires and hopes of commonplace men, so far from kindling a sense of
triumph and power, almost made her ill. She became like a knight of the
olden time who had hewn down inferiors until he was sick of gore.

And so she gradually withdrew from the fashionable rout, took time for
reading and study and the perfection of her accomplishments. She accepted
merely such invitations as were agreeable to her, smiling contemptuously
at the idea that in order to maintain position in society one must wear
herself out by rushing around to everything; and society respected her all
the more. It became a triumph to secure her presence; but she only went
where everything would accord with her taste and inclination. This was
true of her life abroad as well as at home. Conscious of her father's
wealth, and that, apart from an unexacting companionship to him, she could
do as she pleased, she proposed to make the most of life as she estimated
it. She would have all the variety she wished, but she would take it
leisurely. She would not perpetrate the folly of gulping pleasures, still
less would she permit herself to fall tumultuously in love with some
ordinary man only to waken from a romantic dream to discover how ordinary
he was.

She was also too shrewd, indeed one may almost say too wise, to think of
an ambitious marriage. The man of millions or the man of rank or fame
could never buy her unless personally agreeable to her. Yet she was rarely
without a suitor, whom to a certain point she encouraged. Unless a man
possessed some real or fancied superiority which pleased or interested
her, she was practically inaccessible to him. She would be courtesy
itself, yet by her strong will and tact would speedily make a gentleman
understand, "You have no claim upon me; your wishes are nothing to me." If
he interested her, however, if she admired him even slightly, she would
give him what she might term a chance. Then to her mind their relations
became much like a duel; she at least would conquer him; he might subdue
her if he could; she would give him the opportunity, and if he could find
a weak place in her polished armor and pierce her heart she would yield.
The question was whether she had a heart, and she was not altogether sure
of this herself. On one thing, however, she was resolved--she would not
give up her liberty, ease and epicurean life for the duties, obligations
and probable sorrows of wifehood, unless she met a man who had the power
to make this course preferable.

During Clancy's visit to New York in the winter, Mr. Ainsley had spoken of
him to his daughter in terms that interested her before she even saw the
young man, and the moment the experienced woman of the world (for she was
a woman of the world, though but little past her majority) looked upon him
she was still more interested, recognizing at a glance the truth that
whatever Clancy might be, he was not commonplace. This explains why he was
perplexed by the intentness and soft fire of her eyes. If the way opened,
she was inclined to give him "a chance." It might cost him dear, as it had
others, but that was his affair. She felt that he was highly honored and
distinguished in being given what she contemptuously denied to the great
majority. The way _had_ opened. She was in Charleston, and now, this
particular and lovely June evening found her on a balcony overlooking the
shining ripples of the bay, reclining in a cane chair with her head
leaning against a pillar and her eyes fixed on him with all the dangerous
fascination they possessed. Some soft, white clinging material draped her
form that was rendered more graceful than usual by her well-chosen
attitude. A spray from an ivy vine hung above her, and its slightly moving
shadow flickered on her throat and bosom. She knew she was entrancingly
beautiful; so did he. He felt that if he were an artist nothing was left
to be desired. As a man he was flattered with her preference and charmed
with her beauty. He did not and could not believe that he had more than a
passing interest in her mind as yet, and he felt that she would never be
more to him than a gifted lovely friend, who could at one and the same
time gratify his taste and bestow fine intellectual companionship. They
talked freely with lapses of silence between them. These she would
occasionally break with little snatches of song from some opera. Her
familiarity with life abroad enabled her to say much which supplemented
his reading and which interested him. So he was not averse to these
interviews and was conscious of no danger.

To her they had an increasing pleasure. She was delighted that Clancy
thawed so deliberately, that instead of speedily verging toward sentiment
he found more pleasure in her intellectuality than in her outward beauty.
So many others to whom she had given a chance had quickly lost both their
heads and hearts, and she was beginning to rejoice in the belief that it
might require a summer's tactics to beguile him of either. His gray eyes,
which appeared dark in the moonlight, were clearly regarding her with
quiet admiration, but instead of paying a compliment he would broach some
topic so interesting in itself that before she knew it she was talking
well and even brilliantly.

This present evening he did pay her a compliment, however, which delighted
her. She had stated her view of a subject, and he had replied, "I must
differ with you most decidedly, Miss Amsley." Then he added with a little
apologetic laugh, "I could have made such a remark to very few ladies. I
would have said, 'I beg your pardon, do not think I am contradicting you,
but possibly on further reflection--' In brief, I would have gone through
the whole conventional circumlocution. You are a woman of mind, and you
put your views so strongly and clearly that I forget everything except
your thought. Good reason why, your thought is so interesting, all the
more so because it is your view, not mine, and because I do not agree with
you. Have I made sufficient apology?"

"You have done much more, Mr. Clancy, you have paid me the only kind of a
compliment that I enjoy. I am sick of conventionalities, and as for
ordinary compliments, I am as satiated as one would be if the entire
contents of Huyler's candy-shop had been sent to him."

"Oh, I knew that much before I had seen you five minutes. The only
question in my mind was whether you had not been made ill mentally by them
as one would be physically by the candy."

"In other words, whether I was a fool or not."

"Precisely."

"Well?"

"No need of that rising inflection. If you were a fool I would not be
here."

"I reckon not, as you say in the South."

"Yet you value your beauty, Miss Ainsley."

"Indeed I do, very highly."

"And you know equally well that I admire it greatly, but I value your
power of companionship more. Why should not a man and woman entertain each
other without compliments, conventionalities and sentimentalities?"

"No reason in the world if they are capable of such companionship. The
trouble with so many is that they tumble into these things, especially the
last, as if they were blind ditches in their path."

"That is excellent. Do you regard love as a blind ditch?"

"The deepest and worst of them all, judging from the experiences of very
many."

"I am inclined to agree with you," he answered very quietly.

A few moments later he rose to take his leave. She gave him her hand
without rising, and said, "Good-night. I'm not going to leave this lovely
scene till I am sleepy. Come again when you want companionship. Drop
conventionality I would like a friend who would talk to me as men of
brains talk to men of brains, without circumlocution."

"Very well, then, I shall begin at once. You have a head that ought to
inspire an artist, but I like its furniture. I am going to read up on our
point of disagreement. If I actually prove you are wrong you must yield
like a man."

"I will."

The smile on her lips still lingered as she looked out upon the moonlit
waters, and she passed into a delicious revery. At last she murmured,
"Yes, he has a chance. I don't know how it will end. I may yield to his
argument, but as to yielding to him, that is another affair. The best part
of it all is that he is so slow in yielding to me. Here, in this
out-of-the-way corner of the world, is a cup that I can at least drain
slowly."

Clancy sauntered up Meeting Street, his thoughts preoccupied with the
interview. Then half a block in advance two persons entered the
thoroughfare, and he recognized Captain Bodine and Mara. He crossed the
street so as not to meet them, and they passed in low, earnest
conversation. If Miss Ainsley had been in the furthest star, he would not
have cared. Every drop of his Southern blood was fired, and, with clinched
hands, he strode homeward, and passed a sleepless night.



CHAPTER XIX

A CHIVALROUS IMPULSE


It must be admitted that Clancy had some cause for his perturbation.
Captain Bodine was a middle-aged man, who had had deep, if not wide
experiences. He had come to regard himself as saddened and way-worn,
halting slowly down the westward slope of life, away from the exaltations
of vanished joys, and the almost despairing grief of former sorrows.

Memory kept both in sharp outline; nevertheless they were receding, as do
hills and mountains which the traveller leaves behind him. The veteran had
believed that he had no future besides earning an honest living, and
providing for his beloved child.

The traveller--to employ again the figure--often journeys forward in what
promises to be a monotonous road. He is not expecting anything, nor is he
looking forward to any material change. Unawares he surmounts a little
eminence, and there opens a vista which kindles his dull eyes with its
beauty, and stirs his heavy heart with the suggestion that he has not
passed by and beyond all the best things of life.

Mara's glance of profound and intelligent sympathy had opened such a vista
to Bodine's mental vision. It had been enough then; it had been enough
since, in the main, that she was the daughter of his old and dearest
friend, and that their thoughts, beliefs and sorrows were in such complete
accord. Mara had become his daughter's closest friend, as well as
co-laborer, and so he heard of her daily, and saw her very often. All that
he saw and heard confirmed and deepened his first impressions. A
companionship, wonderfully sweet and cheering, was growing between them.
He had not yet begun to analyze this, or to recognize whither it was
tending, while not a shadow of suspicion crossed her mind. She only felt
that she had found a friend who diverted her thoughts, solaced all her
trouble, and made the past, to which she believed she belonged, more real,
more full of precious memories. The days in the main were passing quietly
and evenly for both, full of work and deeply interesting thoughts, and the
delightful reunions around the chair of the genial invalid, Mrs. Bodine,
increased in number.

The old lady talked and acted as if she had emerged into the warmest
sunshine of prosperity, and only Ella could surpass her in blitheness of
spirit and comical speeches. They caricatured each other, every one,
everything, yet without a particle of malice. Even poor old Mrs. Hunter
sometimes had to relax her grim rigidity, and Bodine often laughed with
the hearty ring of his old campaigning days. At times Mara was beguiled
into the belief that she was happy, that her deep wound was healing. The
illusion would last for days together; then something unexpected would
occur, and the love of her heart would reveal itself in bitter out-cry
against its wrong. If she could only see Clancy in some light which her
veritable God-bestowed conscience could condemn, she believed that her
struggle would be much easier; but he always confronted her with his
earnest, steady eyes, which said, "I have as true a right to think as I
do, as you have to think differently. Not even for your sake will I be
false." Thus after days of comparative peace, the tempest would again rage
in her soul.

Buoyant, happy Ella felt now as if she could trip on through life
indefinitely; but one summer morning she tripped into a little adventure
which brought unwonted expressions of perplexity into her fair face. She
was returning along the shady side of the street from her duties, her face
like a blush-rose from the heat, when she observed coming toward her a
young man who, from his garb and bearing, caught her eyes. Pretty Ella
knew she attracted a great deal of attention from the opposite sex when
she appeared in the street, and she was not such a demure little saint as
to let a fine, manly figure pass without her observation, but her
observance was quick, furtive, like the motion of a bird's eye that looks
you over before you are aware of the bird's presence. No staring fellow
ever met her blue eyes in the street. On the present occasion the little
maiden said to herself, "There's a style of a man I haven't seen, and he's
evidently a Northerner, too. Well, he's not bad; indeed he is the
best-looking Vandal, as Mrs. Hunter would say--Oh, merciful Heaven! that
old woman will be run over."

Her commentary had been interrupted by an express wagon driven recklessly
around the corner. Picking her way slowly across the street was a plain,
respectable looking old woman, with a basket of parcels on her arm, and,
at the moment of Ella's cry, she was almost under the horse's feet,
paralyzed with terror. Her cry caught the young man's attention. With a
single bound, he was in the street, his right hand and arm forcing the
horse back on its haunches, while with his left he gathered up the old
woman. Then by a powerful effort he threw the horse's head and
forequarters away from him with such force that the shafts cracked.
Bearing the woman to the sidewalk, he placed her upon her feet, then went
back, picked up her parcels and placed them in her basket. Without waiting
to hear her thanks, he lifted his hat and was turning away as if all had
been a trifle, when he was confronted by the enraged expressman pouring
forth volleys of vituperation. With a chivalric impulse the girl drew
nearer the stranger, who looked the bully steadily in the eyes while he
kept his hands in his pockets. The man made a gesture as if to strike.
Instantly the young fellow's left arm was up in the most scientific
attitude of self-defence. "Don't do that, you fool," he said. "Are you too
drunk not to see that I'm strong? Clear out, or I'll have you arrested. If
you touch me, I'll knock you under the feet of your horse."

There was something in the athlete's bearing, and the way he put up his
left arm, which brought the expressman to his senses, and he drew off
swearing about the blanked "Northerners, who acted as if they owned the
city."

George Houghton--for we may as well give his name at once--regarded the
fellow contemptuously an instant, and again turned to pursue his way
regardless of the gathering crowd. But his attention was at once arrested
by a pair of blue eyes which were so eloquent with admiration and
approval, that he smiled and again lifted his hat.

"You are a gentleman," Ella breathed softly, the words coming with
scarcely any volition on her part.

A frown instantly darkened Houghton's face, and, with a slight, stiff
acknowledgment, he strode away. "Why the deuce shouldn't I be a
gentleman!" he muttered. "The very young girls of this town are taught to
look upon Northerners as boors. One has only to save an old woman from
being run over, face a blackguard, and the wondering expression is wrung
from one of the blue-blooded scions, 'You're a gentleman!' And she was
blue-blooded. A fellow with half an eye and in half a minute could see
that. And I suppose she thought that one of my ilk was no more capable of
such a deed than Toots or Uriah Heep. Bah!"

Having thus relieved his mind, young Houghton's step soon grew slower and
slower. It was evident that a new and different train of thought had begun
in his mind. At last, with characteristic force, he communed with himself:

"Thin-skinned fool! why didn't I look at the girl instead of thinking of
my blasted self and pride! Why, that girl's face will haunt me for many a
day, whether I ever see her again or not. I'm as bad as these Bourbons
themselves in my prejudice. Now I think of it she stood almost alone at my
side when others were keeping at a safer distance, fearing a fight. Her
look was one of simple, ingenuous approval--almost the expression of a
child, and I acted like a brute. That's the Old Harry with me, I act first
and think afterward."

A few minutes later he was at the office, and writing rapidly at his
father's dictation. After a time Mr. Houghton said, "Take these two
letters to Bodine's desk, and tell him to make copies. Then you can go,
George. Your vacation is too new for me to take so much of your time."

"See here, father," replied the young man, putting his hand on the old
gentleman's shoulder. "You've been here all these years working like
thunder to make money, and I've been spending it like thunder. If you're
going to keep on working, I'm going to work with you; if you'll knock off
and go on a lark with me, I'll guarantee that you'll be ten years younger
before fall."

The old man's face softened wonderfully. Indeed one could scarcely imagine
it was capable of such an expression.

"Ah, George! you don't, you can't know," he said, "yet my heart is not so
dead but that I feel and recognize the spirit in which you speak. My place
is here, right here, and I should not be contented anywhere else. But you
are just from your studies. You didn't dazzle the faculty by your
performances. Perhaps they would say you were a little too much given to
boating and that sort of thing. But I am satisfied that you have come home
a man, and not a blue-spectacled milk-sop. Help me out a little, and then
go off on your lark yourself and recuperate."

"Recuperate!" and the young fellow made the office ring with his laugh.
"Feel of that muscle, old gentleman. All the recuperation I need I can get
a few hours before and after sundown. I'll go now, however, for there's a
spanking breeze on the bay, and I'd like to make a run around Fort
Sumter."

"George, George, be prudent. You know that your brother lies at the bottom
of that accursed bay."

"There, father, there, he died doing his duty like a man, and you mustn't
grieve for him so. Good-by."

The old man looked wistfully after him a moment, then turned his mind,
like a strong motor power, to the complicated machinery that was coining
wealth.

George went to Bodine, whom he had never seen before, and of whom he knew
nothing, and began in his half-boyish way: "Here, mine ancient, father
wants--Beg your pardon. Didn't know that you had lost a leg."

"What is it that Mr. Houghton wishes?" said the captain coldly, and
turning upon the young man a visage which impressed him instantly.

"I beg your pardon again," said George. "My father would like copies made
of these letters;" and he touched his hat as he turned away.

"Thunder!" he muttered as he left the counting-house. "I was told that I
was a gentleman for a little trumpery act in the street. That man tells
you he is one by a single glance from his sad, stern eyes. He is another
of the blue-bloods, Southerner to the backbone. How is it that he is in
the old gentleman's employ, I wonder? I supposed father hated
ex-Confederates as the Devil does holy water. Bodine, Bodine. I must find
out who he is, for he evidently has a history."

He soon forgot all about Bodine in the pleasure of skilfully sailing his
boat close to the wind.

Ella had pursued her way homeward with bowed head and a confused sense of
shame and resentment. "Suppose I did speak to him, a stranger," she
murmured, "was he so dull, or so cold and utterly conventional as to make
no allowance for the circumstances? No matter, I've had a lesson that I
shall never forget. Hereafter he and his kind may save all the old women
in Charleston, and fight all the bullies, and I won't even look at them.
If he had had the brains and blood of a frog even, he would have
understood me. And he did seem to understand at first, for he smiled
pleasantly and lifted his hat. Does he consider it an insult to be told he
is a gentleman? Perhaps he thought this fact should be too apparent to be
mentioned, or else he thought it bold and unmaidenly to open my lips at
all. A plague on him for not being able to see the simple truth. No
Southerner would have been so stupid, or ready to think evil."

Thus she communed with herself till she reached her own room. After a
little thought, she decided not to speak of the adventure. She had an
unusual share of common-sense, and knew that the affair would only give
pain to her father and cousin, and that its relation would serve no
earthly good to any one.



CHAPTER XX

THE STRANGER EXPLAINS


There are those who touch our life closely, and become essentially a part
of it; there are many more who are but casual and passing acquaintances,
and yet these very people often unconsciously become the most important
factors in our destiny. Ella Bodine was soon to prove this truth. It will
of course be understood that her life was not so secluded and restricted
that she practically had no acquaintances beyond the characters of our
story. Sensible Mrs. Bodine had no intention that her pretty cousin should
be hidden behind the prejudices so powerful in those with whom she was
immediately associated.

"Cousin Hugh," she said, one day soon after Ella's encounter with
Houghton, "how was it with you when you were a young fellow? how was it
with me when I was a girl? Do you suppose your daughter is made of
different flesh and blood? She is so unselfish in nature and sunny in
temperament that you will never learn from her that she has longings for
society of her own age. We have no right to keep her among our shadows. We
belong to the past; she has a future, and should have the chance which is
the right of every young girl. You must not judge her by Mara, who stands
by herself, and is not a representative of any ordinary type. She is as
old as you are, and a great deal older than I am. She has grown up among
shadows and loves them. Ella loves the sunshine, and should have all of it
that we can give her. Now, you must let her go out more. I will choose her
chaperons, and I reckon I know whom to choose. If I do say it, I would
like you to mention any one in Charleston more competent. I know about the
fathers and mothers, the grandfathers and grandmothers, and the remote
ancestors of every one in Charleston who _is_ any one."

"Cousin Sophy, I believe you are right. I have permitted Ella to be too
devoted to me, but we have lived such a precarious life of late--indeed it
has been the vital question how we were to live at all. We are now very
differently situated. Yes, you are right. Ella should see something of
society, and enjoy some of its pleasures, and, as you say, should have her
chance." At these final words he sighed deeply.

"I know what that sigh means," resumed the old lady. "You would wish to
keep Ella to yourself always--the natural impulse of a father's heart. Yet
if you allow this impulse to control you, it will become selfishness of
the worst kind. I say again that every girl should have her chance to see
and be seen, and to make the most and best of her life according to
woman's natural destiny. You may trust me, as I have said, to choose those
who shall have the care of Ella when she goes out. She has an invitation
to a little company at Mrs. Willoughby's, and a most discreet friend has
offered to chaperon her. We'll fix her out so that she will appear as well
as any one, and you know our claims don't rest on expensiveness of dress.
Mrs. Willoughby comes of one of the oldest and best families in the State.
I know she is liberal, and affiliates with Northern people more than I
could wish, but they are all said to be of the best class--and I suppose
there is a best class among 'em. Good Lor', Hugh! we may feel and think as
we please, and can never change, but we can't keep back the rising tide.
If there are a few Northern people present Ella won't be contaminated any
more than you are by working among Northern people. We have our strong
prejudices--that's what they are called--but we must not let them make us
ridiculous. Mrs. Willoughby says she's emancipated, and that she'd have
whom she pleased in her parlors. She has been abroad so much, you know.
Well, well, we'll consider it settled." And so it was.

When Ella was informed of her cousin's plan in her behalf she was half
wild with delight. "I may consider myself a debutante," she said. "Oh,
Cousin Sophy! how shall I behave?"

"Behave just as a bird flies," said the wise old lady. "If you put on any
airs, if you are not your own natural self, I'll shake you when you come
home."

The captain saw his child's pleasure, and felt anew the truth of his
cousin's words. Ella should be immured no longer. Mara had been invited
also, but declined, preferring to spend the evening with Mrs. Bodine.

Mrs. Willoughby's company was not large, and had been selected from
various motives. We need mention but one that had influenced her. Miss
Ainsley had requested that George Houghton should be invited. Her father
and Mr. Houghton had large business interests in common, and at Mr.
Ainsley's request the young man had called upon his daughter. She was
pleased with him, although she felt herself to be immeasurably older than
he. Mrs. Willoughby had also been favorably impressed by his fine
appearance and slightly brusque manner.

"Yes," said the astute Miss Ainsley, as they were talking him over after
his departure, "he's a big, handsome, finely educated boy, who would walk
through your Southern conventionalities as if they were cobwebs, had he a
chance."

"Delightful!" cried Mrs. Willoughby. "If I can keep my drawing-room free
from insipidity, I am content. As to his walking through our
conventionalities, as you term them, let him try it. If he doesn't butt
his head against some rather solid walls, I'm mistaken. You don't half
know what a bold thing I am doing when I invite old Houghton's son; but
then it is just this kind of social temerity that enchants me, and he
shall come. I only hope that some good people won't rise up and shake off
the dust of their feet."

"Don't worry; you're a privileged character. Mr. Clancy has told me all
about it. He admires you immensely because you are so untrammelled."

"He admires you a hundred-fold more. What are you going to do with him?"

"I don't know. I couldn't do anything with him yet. That's his charm. If I
didn't know better, I should say he was the coldest--he is not cold at
all. The woman who reaches his heart will find a lot of molten lava. I'm
often inclined to think it has been reached by some one else, and that his
remarkable poise results from a nature fore-armed, or else chilled by a
former experience. At any rate, there is a fire smouldering in his nature,
and when it breaks out it won't be of the smoky, lurid sort that has so
often made me ill. There will be light and heat in plenty."

"Well, you're an odd girl, Caroline. You experiment with men's hearts like
an old alchemist, who puts all sorts of substances into his crucible in
the hope of finding something that will enrich him."

"And probably, like the old alchemist, I shall never find anything except
what, to me, is dross."

Under Mrs. Robertson's wing Ella appeared, and met with a very kindly
reception. She had not Miss Ainsley's admirable ease, but she possessed
something far better. There was a sweet girlish bloom in addition to her
innately refined manner and ingenuous loveliness of face, which made even
the experienced belle sigh that she had passed by that phase forever. Yet
shrewd Ella's eyes were as busy as they were intelligent. She wondered at
Miss Ainsley with mingled admiration and distrust, but she had received a
sufficient number of hints from Mrs. Bodine to understand her hostess
quite well. She saw Clancy enter, and Miss Ainsley's welcome, and quickly
observed that there was a sort of free-masonry between them. Then some one
appeared who almost took away her breath. It was the stranger to whom she
had spoken so unexpectedly, even to herself. She saw that Mr. Clancy, Miss
Ainsley, and Mrs. Willoughby greeted him cordially, but that many others
appeared surprised and displeased. Little time was given to note more, for
the stranger's eyes fell upon her. He instantly turned to his hostess, and
evidently asked for an introduction. With a slight sparkle of mischief in
her eyes, Mrs. Willoughby complied, and Ella saw the stranger coming
toward her as straight and prompt as if he meant to carry her off bodily.
He seemed to ignore every one and everything else in the room, but she was
too high-spirited to fall into a panic, or even to be confused. Indeed she
found herself growing angry, and was resolving to give him a lesson, when
his name was mentioned. Then she was startled, and for an instant
confused. This was no other than the son of "that old--Mr. Houghton," as
Mrs. Bodine always mentioned him, with a little cough of self-recovery as
if she had been on the perilous edge of saying something very
unconventional. His father was her father's employer, and the instinctive
desire to save her father from trouble led to hesitation in her plan of
rebuke and retaliation. Her petty resentment should not lead to any
unpleasant complications, and she therefore merely bowed civilly.

Houghton repeated her name as if a victim of momentary surprise himself,
and then said with his direct gaze, "I wish to ask ten thousand pardons."

"That is a great many. I shall have to think about granting one."

"If I were you I wouldn't do it," was his next rather brusque remark.

"That is your advice, then?"

"No, indeed. I'm not my own worst enemy. Miss Bodine, circumlocution is
not my forte. I had not walked a block away from you the other day before
I charged myself with being a fool and a brute. It took just that long for
me to get it into my thick head what your manner and words meant, and I've
been in a rage with myself ever since."

"Well," she asked, looking down demurely, "what did they mean?"

"They meant you were a brave girl--that from a chivalric impulse you had
drawn near when even men stood a little aloof, as if fearing that if the
affair came to blows, they might get a chance one themselves. Your face
had the frank expression of a child--how often in fancy I've seen it
since!--the words came from your lips almost as a child would speak them.
Now that I see you again I know how true my second thoughts were of you
and of myself. I deserve a whipping instead of your pardon."

There was a point yet to be cleared up in Ella's mind, and she remarked
coldly, "I do not see how you could have had any other thoughts than what
you term your second thoughts."

"Nor do I, now; and I suppose you can have no mercy on a poor fellow who
is often hasty and wrong-headed. I will make a clean breast of it. I was
charmed with your expression when first aware of your presence, but when
you spoke you touched a sore spot. Miss Bodine, you would not be
ostracized at the North. You would be treated with the courtesy and
cordiality to which every one would see you to be entitled. Practically I
am ostracized here by the class to which you belong. When you spoke I
stalked away like a sulky boy, muttering, 'Why shouldn't I be a
gentleman?' Even the girls in this town are taught to look upon
Northerners as boors. I had only to pick up an old woman, and face a
bully, when, as if in utter surprise that one of my ilk should be so
grandly heroic, I heard the words, 'You are a gentleman.' You see it was
my wretched egotism that got me into the scrape. When I thought of you,
not myself, I saw the truth at once, and felt like going back to the
expressman and meekly asking him to give me a drubbing."

All was clear to Ella now. Indeed there was a frankness and sincerity
about Houghton which left no suspicion of dark corners and mental
reservations. As his explanation proceeded she began to laugh. "Well," she
remarked, "I had my first thoughts too. I said to myself, as I pursued my
way homeward, with burning cheeks, that you or any one else might save all
the old women in town, and fight all the bullies, and that I would pass on
my way without looking to the right or left."

"Pardon me, Miss Bodine, you are mistaken. Your generous spirit would get
the better of you again in two seconds. Heaven grant, however, that next
time you may have a gentleman as your ally. For a few moments I ceased to
be one, and became an egotistical fool."

"You are too hard upon yourself. Since you interpret me so kindly it would
ill become me to--"

"Ella, my dear," said her chaperon, "let me present to you Mr. Vandeveer."

Houghton gave her a bright, grateful glance, rose instantly, and bowed
himself away.

Mrs. Robertson had been on pins and needles over this prolonged
conference. There was something so resolute about Houghton's manner, and
he had placed his chair so adroitly to bar approach to Ella, that the good
lady was in sore straits. Mrs. Willoughby saw her perplexity, and felt not
a little mischievous pleasure over it. She disappeared that she might not
be called upon to interfere. At last in desperation Mrs. Robertson laid
hold on Mr. Vandeveer, and ended the ominous interview.

Ella gave rather lame attention to her new companion's commonplaces; then
others were introduced, and the evening was drifting away in the ordinary
fashion. She soon began to talk well in her own bright way, and had all
the attention a young debutante could desire, but she was always conscious
of Houghton's presence, and also aware that he was quietly observant of
her. She saw that he met with very little cordiality, and that from but a
few. Womanlike, she began to take his part in her thoughts, and to feel
the injustice shown him. She had an innate sense of fair play, and she
resented the manoeuvring of her chaperon to keep him away from her. Yet
she soon found herself enjoying abundantly the conversation of such young
men as met with Mrs. Robertson's approval. This truth was apparent to that
lady's satisfaction, but the independent young woman was not long in
resolving that if she went into society she would not go as a child in
leading-strings, and she determined that she would speak to Houghton again
before the evening was over, if the opportunity offered. He had at last
disappeared, but she soon discovered that he was on the balcony with
Clancy and Miss Ainsley. Strolling past them with her escort, she heard
enough of their bright, merry talk to wish that she had a part in it. It
was her nature, however, to avoid him until she could speak under the eye
of her chaperon, and she again entered the lighted drawing-room.

Houghton, meanwhile, had been doing some thinking himself. The girl, whose
blue eyes had looked at him so approvingly in the street, was taking a
stronger hold on his fancy every moment. The relaxation of her cold aspect
into mirthfulness, and an approach to kindness had enchanted him; while
her ardent, honest, fearless nature appealed to him powerfully. "She
strikes me as a woman who would stand by a fellow through thick and thin
as long as he was right," he thought, "and if my judgment is correct the
whole ex-Confederate army shan't keep me from getting acquainted with her.
Ah! how I liked that severe look in her eyes till she knew what my first
thoughts were! She _has_ blue blood of the right sort, and I'm sorely
mistaken if it doesn't feed a brain that can think for itself."

He also returned to the drawing-room, and was vigilant for an opportunity.
It soon occurred. Ella and her attendant were chatting with Mrs.
Willoughby a little apart from the others. Houghton joined them instantly,
and was encouraged when both the ladies greeted him with a smile. The
attendant gentleman soon withdrew, the hostess remained a few moments
longer, and then Houghton and Ella were alone.

"You may have observed," he said, "the penalty I pay for being a
Northerner."

"Yes," she replied, "and I don't think it's fair."

"Miss Bodine, do you dare _think_ for yourself?"

"I scarcely know how I can help doing so."

"That is just what I was thinking out on the balcony."

"I thought you were charmed by that beautiful Miss Ainsley."

"She has no eyes except for Clancy, and a fine fellow he is too--too good
for her, I imagine. I can't make her out."

"Neither can I."

"Oh, bother her! I don't like feminine riddles. Miss Bodine, there's a
gentleman in my father's employ bearing your name. Is he a relative?"

"He is my father," she replied proudly.

"I should guess as much if your eyes were not so blue."

"I have my mother's eyes, I am told."

"Well, on that same day--you know--he told me that he was a gentleman: can
you guess how?"

"I would rather you should tell me."

"I was sent to him by my father with a message, and I spoke rudely to him
at first; not intentionally, but as a harum-scarum young fellow might
speak to an elderly man under ordinary circumstances, I meaning nothing
more than friendly familiarity. I fear you won't understand, but with you
I can't help downright honesty."

"Yes, I understand. He was one of your father's clerks, and you cared
little what you said to him."

"Scarcely right, Miss Bodine. With all my faults--and they are legion--I'm
good-natured, and do not intentionally hurt people's feelings. What a fine
proof of that I gave you in my insufferable stupidity!"

"That's been explained and is past. Please don't refer to it any more."

"Heaven knows I wish to forget it. Well, your father turned to me from his
writing. One look was enough. I begged his pardon twice on the spot. That
is the way he told me he was a gentleman. It had been so born and bred
into him that, unless a fellow was an idiot, one glance told the story."

Her face softened wonderfully as he spoke, and her eyes grew lustrous with
feeling, as she said:

"You are not an idiot, Mr. Houghton. I am glad you so quickly appreciated
my father. He is more than a gentleman, he is a hero, and I idolize him."

"I should fancy it was a mutual idolatry," and his eyes expressed an
admiration of which the dullest girl would have been conscious, and Ella
was not dull at all. "I wish we could become acquainted," he added
abruptly, and with such hearty emphasis that her color deepened.

Before she could reply, her chaperon managed to separate them again, and
she saw him no more until, rather early in the evening, she was bidding
her hostess goodnight. Then she encountered such an eager, questioning,
friendly look, that she smiled involuntarily, and slightly bowed as she
turned away. Mrs. Robertson was so preoccupied at the moment that she did
not witness this brief, subtile exchange of--what? Ella did not know,
herself, but her heart was wonderfully light, and there was a delicious
sense of exhilaration in all her veins.

As they were driving home, Mrs. Robertson began sententiously, "Ella, in
the main you behaved admirably. I don't suppose anything better could be
expected of one so unversed in society, especially Charleston society. You
were natural and refined in your deportment, and bore yourself as became
your ancestry. You will soon learn to make discriminations. I had no idea
that young Houghton would be present, or I would have told you about him
and his father. Mrs. Willoughby is carrying things too far, even if many
of our people have consented to wink at much that we disapprove of.
Houghton represents the most detested Northern element among us. Of course
you, in your inexperience, felt that you must be polite to every man
introduced to you, and he talked with the volubility of which only a
Yankee is capable. It is scarcely possible that you will meet him anywhere
except at Mrs. Willoughby's, and if you go there any more you must learn
the art of shaking off an objectionable person speedily. Your meeting
Houghton to-night was purely accidental, and I reckon that after you have
been out a few times you will learn to choose your associates from those
only of whom your father and cousin would approve. Perhaps therefore you
had better not say anything about your meeting Houghton, unless you feel
that you ought. No harm has been done, and it would only displease your
father, and render him adverse to your going out hereafter."

The good lady was a little worried by the fear that her reputation as a
chaperon would be damaged, and, sincerely believing that "no harm had been
done," and that her homily would remove all danger from the future, she
counselled as she thought wisely. Her heart was full of goodwill toward
the girl, and she was desirous that nothing should prevent her from
enjoying society in her interpretation of the word.

Ella thanked her warmly for her kindness and advice, but she was in deep
perplexity, for she had never concealed anything from her father before.
Her lightness of heart was already gone, and there were tears in her eyes
before she slept.



CHAPTER XXI

UNCLE SHEBA SAT UPON


Old Tobe, keeper of the "rasteran," may have been right in saying that
Uncle Sheba had backslidden as far as he could slide, remembering the
limitations of a life like his, but circumstances had recently occurred
which brought his church relations to a crisis. Tobe was the opposite pole
in character to Uncle Sheba. There was an energy about the old caterer
which defied age and summer heat. Even his white wool always seemed
bristling aggressively and controversially. His fiery spirit influenced
his commonest acts. When he boiled potatoes his customers were wont to say
"he made 'em bile like de debil."

He carried his energy into his religion, one of his favorite exhortations
in the prayer-meeting being, "Ef you sinners wants to'scape you'se got to
git up an' git." During the preaching service he took a high seat in the
synagogue, and if any one in the range of his vision appeared drowsy he
would turn round and glare till the offender roused into consciousness.
The children and young people stood in awe of him, and there was a perfect
oasis of good behavior surrounding his pew. Once some irreverent young men
thought it would be a joke to pretend to "conviction ob sin," and to seek
religious counsel of old Tobe, but they came away scared half out of their
wits, one of them declaring that he smelt brimstone a week afterward. The
Rev. Mr. Birdsall felt that he had a strong ally in Tobe, but he often
sighed over the old man's want of discretion.

Uncle Sheba was Tobe's _bete noir_, and he often inwardly raged over "dat
lazy niggah." "De time am comin' w'en dat backslider got to be sot on," he
would mutter, and this seemed his one consolation. He could scarcely
possess his soul in patience in the hope of this day of retribution; "but
I kin hole in till it come, fer it's gwine to come shuah," he occasionally
said to some congenial spirits.

Tobe had a very respectable following in the church both as to numbers and
character, for many looked upon his zeal as heaven-inspired. At last there
came a hot Sunday afternoon which brought his hour and opportunity. Mr.
Birdsall was not only expounding, but also pounding the pulpit cushion in
order to waken some attention in his audience. Old Tobe had been whirling
from one side to the other, and glaring hither and thither, till in
desperation he got up and began to nudge and pinch the delinquents. From
one of the back pews, however, there soon arose a sound which so increased
as to drown even Mr. Birdsall's stentorian voice. Tobe tiptoed to the
spot, and, in wrath that he deemed righteous, blended with not a little
exultation, looked upon Uncle Sheba. His head had fallen on his bosom, and
from his nose were proceeding sounds which would put to shame a
high-pressure engine. Aun' Sheba was shaking him on one side and Kern
Watson on the other. Audible snickering was general, but this soon gave
way to alarm as Aun' Sheba exclaimed aloud, "He's dun gwine an' got de
popoplexy shuah."

"Carry him out," said old Tobe, in a whisper which might have been heard
in the street.

Two or three men sprang forward to aid, but Kern sternly motioned them
back, and, lifting Uncle Sheba's portly form as if it were a child,
carried the unconscious man to the vestibule. Scores were about to follow,
but Tobe, with his wool bristling as never seen before, held up his hand
impressively, and in the same loud whisper heard by all, remarked, "It
doan took de hull cong'ration to wait on one po' sinner. Sabe yo'selves,
brud'ren an' sisters. Sabe yo'selves, fer de time am a comin' w'en you'se
all will be toted out dis yere temple ob de Lawd foot fo'most."

With this grewsome recollection forced upon their attention the people sat
down again, wide awake at last. Tobe beckoned to three or four elderly men
whom he knew he could rely upon, and they gathered around Uncle Sheba. His
wife was slapping him on the back and chafing his hands, while Kern was
splashing water in his face. The unfortunate man began to sneeze, and
manifest rather convulsive signs of recovery. At last he blurted out, "Dar
now, dar now, Aun' Sheba, doan go on so. I'se gwine to bring in de kinlins
right smart."

"Bress de Lawd!" exclaimed Aun' Sheba, "dat soun' nat'rel. No popoplexy in
dat ar kin' ob talk."

Tobe and his allies exchanged significant glances. Uncle Sheba was brought
to his senses sufficiently to be supported home by his wife and
son-in-law. He soon became aware that he had committed an awful
indiscretion, for Watson looked stern, and there was a portentous
solemnity in Aun' Sheba's expression. He began to enter on excuses. "I was
jis' come ober by de heat," he said. "'Tween de heat an' de po'ful sarmon,
I was jis' dat 'pressed dat de sperit went out ob me."

"Mr. Buggone," replied his wife, severely, "it was wat went inter you, an'
not wat wen' out ob you, dat made de trouble. You jes' gormidized at
dinnah. I'se gwine to cut off you'se 'lowance one-half."

At this dire threat Uncle Sheba groaned aloud, feeling that his sin had
overtaken him swiftly indeed. His supper was meagre, and to his plaintive
remarks Aun' Sheba made no reply, but maintained an ominous silence until
sleep again brought the relief of oblivion.

After Uncle Sheba's departure, Tobe and the other pillars of the church
held a whispered conference in the vestibule, and soon agreed up their
course. When the services were over, they, with other sympathizers, waited
upon the minister. Mr. Birdsall was hot, tired, and incensed himself, and
so was in a mood to listen to their representations.

"Hit's time dis yere scan'el was r'moved," said Tobe, solemnly. "We
mus'purge ourselves. Mr. Buggone should be sot on, an' 'spended at de
berry leas'; an' ter make de right 'pression on oders dat's gettin' weak
in dere speritool jints, I move we sot on Mr. Buggone's case to-morrer
ebenin'."

Mr. Birdsall was made to feel that it was his duty to accede, but he
already felt sorry for Aun' Sheba and the Watsons, and had misgivings as
to the result.

"Well," said he at last, "I'll agree to a prelim'nary conf'rence to-morrow
evenin' at Mr. Buggone's house. Brud-'ren, we must proceed in de spirit ob
lub an' charity, an' do our best to pluck a bran' from de burnin'."

In the morning he went around to prepare Aun' Sheba for the ordeal, but
she and Vilet had gone out upon their mercantile pursuits, and Uncle Sheba
also had disappeared. To Sissy the direful intelligence was communicated.
In spite of all Mr. Birdsall's efforts to console, she was left sobbing
and rocking back and forth in her chair. When Kern came home, he heard the
news with a rigid face.

"Well," he said, "ef it's right, it's right. Ef I'd done wrong I'd stan'
up an' face wot come ob it."

Uncle Sheba knew when his wife would return, and was ready to receive her
in the meekest of moods. He had cut an unusual quantity of wood and
kindlings, but they failed to propitiate. Sissy soon called her mother to
come over to her cabin to hear of Mr. Birdsall's visit, and all that it
portended. Aun' Sheba listened in silence, and sat for a long time in deep
thought, while Sissy and Vilet sobbed quietly. At last the old woman said
firmly, "Sissy, I wants you and Kern ter be on han'. Vilet kin take keer
ob do chillun. Dis am gwine ter be a solemn 'casion, an' de Lawd on'y
knows wot's gwine ter come out ob it. Anyhow dis fam'ly mus' stan' by one
noder. My mind ain't clar jes yit, but'll git clar wen de'mergency comes;
I jes' feel it in my bones it'll git clar den."

There was such an awful solemnity in her aspect when she returned, that
Uncle Sheba was actually scared. It seemed to him that her manner could
not be more depressing if she were making preparations for his funeral.
His trepidation was increased when he was told briefly and sternly to put
on his "Sunday-go-to-meetin's."

"Wotfer, Aun' Sheba?"

"You'se know soon 'nuff. De Elder's gwine to call on you dis ebenin'. Ef
you'd had de popoplexy in arnest, we'd make great 'lowance fer you, but
wen you eat an' drink till you mos' ready to bust, and den'sturb de hull
meetin' by snortin' like a 'potamus, dar's got to be trouble, an' I'se got
to meet it."

Uncle Sheba did as he was directed, with the feeling that the judgment day
had come.

Meanwhile old Tobe had prepared his indictment, and marshalled his forces
for the occasion. At seven in the evening he led them to the nearest
corner, and waited for Mr. Birdsall, who soon appeared. Led by him, they
entered Aun' Sheba's living-room in solemn procession. Although the
evening was warm, there was a fire on the hearth, for she had said,
"Dere's gwine ter be notin' wantin' to de 'casion." All the chairs had
been brought in from Watson's cabin, and he and Sissy sat in the
background. Uncle Sheba had been placed on the further side of the hearth,
and was fairly trembling with apprehension. He tried to assume a pious,
penitent air, but failed miserably. Aun' Sheba made an imposing spectacle.

She had arrayed herself in her Sunday gown and had wound a flaming turban
about her head. Apparently she was the most collected person present,
except Kern Watson who sat back in shadow, his face quiet and stern. As
the minister and committee entered she rose with dignity and said, "Elder
an' brud'ren, take cheers."

Then she sat down again, folded her hands and gazed intently at the
ceiling.

If old Tobe was not cool, as indeed he never was, he was undaunted, and
only waited for the minister to prepare the way before he opened on Uncle
Sheba. A few moments of oppressive silence occurred, daring which the
culprit shook as if he had an ague, but Aun' Sheba did not even wink. Mr.
Birdsall, regarding her portentous aspect with increased misgiving, began
at last in a mournful voice, "Mis Buggone, dis is a very sorrowful
'casion. We are here not as you'se enemies but as you'se fren's. Our duty
is painful, 'stremely so, but de brud'ren feel dat de time is come wen Mr.
Buggone mus' be made to see de error ob his ways, dat dere mus' be no mo'
precrastination. De honah ob de church is japerdized. Neber-de-less he is
a free-agent. De lamp still holes out to burn--"

"An' de wilest sinner can return," interrupted Aun' Sheba, nodding her
head repeatedly. "I unerstan'. You means well, Elder."

Old Tobe could hold in no longer, and began excitedly, "De question am
weder de wile sinner's gwine ter return, or wants ter return, or's got any
return in 'im. Elder, I feels fer Mis Buggone an' her family, but dis yere
ting's gwine on long anuff. We'se been forbearin' an' long-sufferin' till
dere's a scan'el in de church. I'se tried wid all my might 'er keep de
people awake an' listenin', and I'se gettin' dun beat out. Ef we wink at
dis awful 'zample you mought as well go to de grabeyard an' preach. It ud
be mo' comfable fer you, kase dey'd hear jus' as well, an' dey wouldn't
'sturbe de'scorse by snorin' de roof off. Now I ask de sense ob dis
meetin'. Wen a member backslide so he do notin' but eat an' sleep,
oughtener he be sot on?"

There was audible approval from all of Tobe's followers, and he was
encouraged to go on.

"Ef Mr. Buggone mus' sleep mos' ob de time let him sleep peac' ble in his
own house, but de Scripter say, 'Wake dem dat sleepest,' an' we say it's
time Mr. Buggone woke up. Any cullud pusson dat kin snore so po'ful as Mr.
Buggone needn't say he weakly an' po'ly. Hafe de poah he put in his snore
ud lif' 'im right along in all good works, week days an' Sundays. But I'se
los' faith in 'im. He's been 'spostulated an' 'monstrated with, an'
'zorted so often dat he's hardened an' his conscience zeered wid a hot
iron. We'se jes' got to take sich sinners in han', or de paster-lot won't
hole de flock no mo'. I move we take steps to s'pend Mr. Buggone."

"Secon' dat motion," said one of his followers promptly.

"Mr. an' Mis Buggone, have you nothin' to say?" asked Mr. Birdsall sadly.

"Elder," began Uncle Sheba in his most plaintive tone, "you know de heat
yistidy was po'ful--"

"Mr. Buggone," interrupted his wife severely, "dis ain't no 'casion fer
beatin' round de bush an' creepin troo knotholes. You knows de truf an' I
knows de truf. No, Elder, we'se got not'in ter say at jes' dis time."

"Den, Elder, you put de motion dat we take steps," said Tobe, promptly.

With evident reluctance Mr. Birdsall did so, and the affirmative was
unanimously voted by the committee.

"I wants ter be s'pended too," said Aun' Sheba, still gazing at the
ceiling.

"Now, Mis Buggone, dere would be no right nor reason in dat," the minister
protested.

"Elder, I doesn't say you-uns ain't all right, an' I does say you means
well, but I'se de bes' jedge of my inard speritool frame. Hit was neber
jes' clar in my mind dat I was 'ligious, an' now I know I ain't 'ligious,
an' I wants ter be s'pended."

"But it is clar in my mind dat you are religious, dat you'se a good woman.
Would to de good Lawd dat de church was full ob Christians like you!"

"I'se spoke my min'," persisted Aun' Sheba, doggedly. "Ole Tobe shall hab
his way an' de church be purged."

"Elder," said Tobe, now quite carried away by zeal and exultation, "p'raps
Mis Buggoue am de bes' jedge. Ef she feel she ain't one ob de aninted
ones--"

"Peace!" commanded Mr. Birdsall, "never with my consent shall any steps be
taken to suspend Mis Buggone. You forgits, Tobe, how easy it is to pull up
de wheat wid de tares."

"Den I s'pend myself," said Aun' Sheba, "an' I _is_ s'pended. Now I gwine
ter 'fess de truf. I gave Mr. Buggone an extra Sunday dinner yistidy. I
was puff up wid pride kase business was good, an' I bress de Lawd fer
prosperin' me. Den like a fool I 'dulge myself and I 'dulge Mr. Buggone.
Ef he's ter be s'pended fer a snorin' sleep, I oughter be s'pended fer a
dozin' sleep, fer I _was_ a-dozin'; an' I feels it in my bones dat we bofe
oughter be s'pended, an' I _is_, no matter wot you does wid Mr. Buggone.
Now, Tobe, you hab had you'se say, an' I'se a-gwine to hab mine. You'se
got a heap ob zeal. You wouldn't lead de flock; you'd dribe 'em, you'd
chase 'em, you'd worry de bery wool off ob dem. Whar you git you sperit
fum? You ain't willin' ter wait till de jedgment day; you'd hab a jedgment
ebery day in de week. You'se like dem 'siples dat was allers wantin' ter
call down fiah from Heben. Look out you don't get scorched yo'self. I
can't be 'ligious long o' you, an' if you got 'ligion I habn't. Elder, you
says de Lawd libed yere on dis yarth. I ony wish I'd libed in dem days.
I'd a cooked, an' washed, an' ironed, an' baked fer Him an' all de
'siples. Den like anuff He'd say: 'Ole Aun' Sheba, you means well. I won't
be hard on you nor none of you'se folks when de jedgment day comes.' But
so much happen since dat ar time wen He was yere dat I kinder got mixed
up. I reckon I jes' be s'pended, an' let Him put de ole woman whar she
belong wen de time comes."

There was pathos in her tones; her stoicism had passed away, and tears
were streaming from her eyes, while Sissy was sobbing audibly. The
committee at first had been aghast at the result of the meeting, and now
their emotional natures were being excited also. Old Tobe was
disconcerted, and still more so when Aun' Sheba suddenly rallied, and,
turning upon him, said with ominous nods, "Wen dat day come, Old Tobe, you
won't be de jedge."

Thus far Kern Watson had sat silent as a statue, but now his strong
feelings and religious instincts gained the mastery. Lifting up his
powerful mellow voice he sang:

  "The people was a-gatherin' from far and neah;
  Some come fer fishes an' some ter heah;
  But He fed dem all, an' He look so kin'
  Dat dey followed, dey followed, an' none stay behin'

 "But one got loss, an' he wandered far,
  De night come dark, no moon, no star;
  De lions roared an' de storm rose high,
  An' de po' loss one lie down ter die.

 "Den come a voice, an' de win's went down,
  An' de lions grovel on de groun',
  An' de po' loss one am foun' an' sabed,
  For de Shepherd ebery danger brabed."

These words, as sung by Kern, routed old Tobe completely; he hung his head
and had not a word to say. The committee had beaten time with their feet,
and began to clap their hands softly. Then Mr. Birdsall, with kindly
energy, exhorted Uncle Sheba, who groaned aloud and said "Amen" as if in
the depths of penitence. A long prayer followed which even moved old Tobe,
for Aun' Sheba had shaken his self-confidence terribly. The little company
broke up with hand-shaking all around, Tobe saying: "Sister Buggone, I
bears no ill-will. I'se gwine ter look inter my speritool frame, an' ef I
cotch de debil playin' hob wid me he's gwine to be put out, hoof an'
horns."

Aun' Sheba wrung her son-in-law's hand, as she said: "You'se singin',
Kern, kinder went to de right spot. Neber-de-less I'se s'pended till I
feels mo' shuah."

Sissy kissed her mother and father affectionately, and then the old couple
were left alone. Aun' Sheba gazed thoughtfully into the dying fire, but
before long Uncle Sheba began to hitch uneasily in his chair. Finally he
mustered up courage to say: "Aun' Sheba, dis am been bery po'ful 'casion,
bery tryin' to my narbes an' feelin's. Yet I feels kinder good an' hopeful
in my inards. Ef I wasn't jes' so dun beat out I'd feel mo' good. P'raps
now, 'siderin' all I'se pass troo, you wouldn't min' gibin' me a bit ob
dat cole ham an' hoe-cake--"

"Mr. Buggone," began Aun' Sheba sternly, then she suddenly paused, threw
her apron over her head and rocked back and forth.

"Dar now, Aun' Sheba, dar now, doan go on so. I was ony a sigestin' kase I
feels po'ly, but I kin stan' it."

"I'se no better dan old Tobe hisself," groaned Aun' Sheba. "All on us is
hard on some one, while a hopin' fer marcy ourselves. Ef you'se hebin is
in de cubud, go in dar an' hep a sef." And she rose and opened the door of
the treasure-house.

"I'se jes' take a leetle bite, Aun' Sheba, jes a leetle comf'tin bite,
kase I'se been so sot on dat I feels bery weakly an' gone-like."

Uncle Sheba was soon comforted and sleeping, but Aun' Sheba still sat by
the hearth until the last glowing embers turned to ashes. "Yes," she
muttered at last, "I'se s'pended till I feels mo' shuah."



CHAPTER XXII

YOUNG HOUGHTON IS DISCUSSED


Sleep and buoyancy of temperament enabled Ella to see everything in a very
different light the following morning. "The idea of my taking what
happened last night so seriously!" she said aloud while making her toilet.
"As Mrs. Robertson said, 'no harm has been done.' Of course I shall tell
papa and Cousin Sophy that I met and talked to Mr. Houghton. What if I
did? He was introduced to me just as the others were, and what do I care
for him? He was a very agreeable Vandal, and I'm glad to have had a chance
to see what Vandals are like. As with other bugaboos they lose their
terrors under close inspection."

At breakfast, therefore, she was merrier than usual, and gave a graphic
and humorous account of the company, expatiating on the beauty and mystery
of Miss Ainsley, her preference for Clancy, and his apparent devotion to
her.

"By the way," she said at last, "who do you think was there? You can't
guess, so I will tell you--young Mr. Houghton."

"What! the son of that old-beg pardon, Cousin Hugh," and Mrs. Bodine
laughingly added, "It nearly slipped out that time."

"I hope he was not presented to you, Ella," said her father gravely.

"Well, he was, and by Mrs. Willoughby. I didn't talk with him very much,
but of course I had to be polite. When I first heard his name I felt that
I should be polite for your sake; and I was rather sorry for him, too,
because so many evidently frowned on his presence."

"You need not be polite to him again for my sake," said her father
decidedly. "I am under no obligations to him or his father, and this is a
case into which policy cannot enter. I do not blame you, however," he
added, more kindly, "for you acted from good impulses. Of course, as you
say, you must be polite to every one, but you have a perfect right to be
cold toward those who are unfriendly to us, and with whom we can never
have any part or lot. I have been in Mr. Houghton's employ long enough to
be convinced more fully, if possible, that, while he is an honest man, he
has not a particle of sympathy with or for our people. I told him from the
start that there could be no social relations between us. You must learn
to avoid and shake off people who are objectionable."

"Well," said Ella, laughing, "I won't have to shake off people while under
Mrs. Robertson's wing. She bore down upon us, as Cousin Sophy would say,
like a seventy-four of the line. Dear papa, you know that Mr. Houghton is
nothing to me, but it scarcely seems fair that he should be punished for
the sins of his father."

"You need not punish him, my dear. Simply have nothing to do with him. He
is the last person in the world to be regarded as an object of sympathy,"
and her father spoke a little irritably.

Ella thought it wise to make no further reference to him. "After all," she
thought, "what does it matter? I'm glad he had a chance to explain that
disagreeable episode in the street, and now I am practically done with
him. I can at least be civil, should we ever meet again, and there it will
end."

"Mrs. Willoughby is going too far," said Mrs. Bodine, musingly. "If she
continues to invite such people she may find that other invitations will
be declined without regrets. We haven't much left to us, but we can at
least choose our associates."

"Don't be alarmed," said Ella lightly. "I did not invite him to spend this
evening with us," and kissing her father and cousin good-by, she started
for Mara's home.

Her thoughts were busy on the way, and they were chiefly of a
self-gratulatory character. The whole episode now amused her greatly, for
she could not help agreeing with her father that the great, strapping
fellow was not an object of sympathy. "He probably has a score of flames
at the North," she thought, "and wouldn't mind adding a little Southern
girl to the number, especially as she is a sort of forbidden fruit to him.
Well, he's not a bad fellow, if he is that old blank's son, as Cousin
Sophy always suggests. Nevertheless, I don't think he's treated fairly,
and I can't keep up these old bitter feelings. What had he or I to do with
the war, I'd like to know? Well, well, I suppose it's natural for those
who went through it to feel as they do, but I wish Mara wasn't so bound up
in the past. It isn't fair to him," she broke out again. "He said I
wouldn't be ostracized at the North. Bother! it don't matter what he said.
As to our getting acquainted--" And she almost laughed outright at the
preposterous idea.

She and Mara were soon busy as usual, and as opportunity offered, she told
her fellow-worker of the events of the evening. Mara, with a languid
interest, inquired about those whom she knew, and how they appeared, and
she sometimes laughed aloud at Ella's droll descriptions. She was even
more emphatic in her disapproval of young Houghton's presence than the
captain or Mrs. Bodine had been. "I shall never accept any invitation from
Mrs. Willoughby after this," she said firmly.

"Well now, Mara," replied Ella, with a little toss of her head, "I can't
share in that spirit. Mr. Houghton is a gentleman, and I could meet him in
society, chat with him, and let it end there. We can't keep this thing up
forever, that is, we of the younger generations. Why should I hate that
big, good-natured fellow? The very idea seems ridiculous. I could laugh at
him, and tease and satirize him a little, but I could no more feel as you
do toward him, than I could cherish an enmity toward a sunflower. Still,
since father feels as he does, I shall have to cut him as far as possible,
should I ever meet him again, which is not probable. I reckon that Mrs.
Willoughby will be so crushed that even she won't invite him any more."

"I should hope not, truly."

"Well, she has a Northern girl visiting her, and a very remarkable looking
girl she is."

"That is a different affair, although I do not approve of it. Miss Ainsley
is the daughter of a rich man who is doing much for the South, and who
feels kindly toward us, while old Mr. Houghton detests us as heartily as
we do him. He is absorbing our business and taking it away from Southern
men, and he exults over the fact. Miss Ainsley is certainly a very
beautiful girl, for I've seen her. I suppose she received much attention."
Mara purposely turned her back on Ella, and busied herself in the further
part of the kitchen. She had heard rumors of Clancy's attention to the
fair Northerner, and she both dreaded and hoped to have them verified.
"Anything," she sighed, "oh, anything which will break his hold upon my
heart!"

Unconsciously, Ella gave her more information than she could well endure.
"I reckon she did receive attention, very concentrated attention, and that
was all she cared for evidently. She was rather languid until Mr. Clancy
appeared, and then she welcomed him with all her brilliant eyes. He looked
as if he understood her perfectly, and they spent most of the evening on
the shadowy balcony together. It is another case of the North conquering
the South; but if I were a man, I'd think twice before surrendering to
that girl. I had an instinctive distrust of her."

Mara felt that she was growing pale, and she immediately busied herself
about the stove until her face flamed with the heat.

"You don't seem to take much interest in the affair," Ella remarked, as
Mara continued silent.

"I never expect to make Miss Ainsley's acquaintance," was the quiet reply,
"and Mr. Clancy in my view has almost ceased to be a Southerner."

"Well, I never met him before, and have only heard a little about him from
cousin Sophy, and that not in his favor. He has a strong, intelligent face
though, and a very resolute look in his eyes."

"Yes," admitted Mara coldly, "I reckon he's one who would have his own way
without much regard for others."

"He may slip up for once. Miss Ainsley struck me as a girl who would have
her way, no matter how many hearts she fractured."

Aun' Sheba and Vilet now entered, diverting Ella's thoughts. The old woman
sat down rather wearily, a look of deep dejection on her face.

"Look here, Aun' Sheba," said the lively girl, "you're not well, or else
something is troubling you. You looked down-hearted yesterday, and you
look funereal now."

"We'se been sot on," said Aun' Sheba solemnly.

"'Sot on!' good gracious! Aun' Sheba, what do you mean?"

"Well, dey sot on my ole man, an' husband an' wife am me. Hit didn't turn
out bad as I s'posed it would, bress tat ar son-in-law ob mine, but I
keeps a tinkin' it all ober, an' I'se 'jected, I is; an' dar's no use ob
shoutin' glory wen you doan feel glory." Then she told the whole story,
which kept Ella on pins and needles, for, while she felt an honest
sympathy for the poor soul, she had an almost uncontrollable desire to
laugh.

"Yes, Missy Mara," concluded Aun' Sheba pathetically, "I'se s'pended, I
s'pended myself, an' I'se gwine to stay s'pended till I feels mo' shuah."

"Suspended, Aun' Sheba!" said Mara, starting, suddenly becoming conscious
of present surroundings.

Aun' Sheba looked at her wonderingly, but voluble Ella made it all right
by saying, "No wonder Mara exclaimed. The idea! I wish I was half as good
as you are."

"Oh, yes," cried Mara, striving to conceal her deep preoccupation, "that's
the way with Aun' Sheba; the better she is, the worse she thinks she is.
Do you mean to say that your church people have suspended you?"

"No. I'se s'pended myself. Didn't I tole you?"

"There, there, Aunty, I didn't understand. I believe in you and always
will."

"Well, honey, I reckon you'se ole nuss'll alers be do same ter you wheder
she'se 'ligious or no."

Both the girls now stood beside her, with a hand on either shoulder, and
Ella said heartily, "Now, Aun' Sheba, it is just as you said, you're
'jected; you've got the blues, and everything looks blue and out of shape
to you. You can't see the truth any more than if you were cross-eyed. I
can prove to you whether you're 'ligious or not. Vilet, ain't your grandma
a good Christian woman?"

"'Deed an' she is troo an' troo," said the child, who had been a silent,
yet deeply sympathetic listener. "Many's de time she's sent me wid good
tings to po' sick folks."

"There now," cried Ella. "Aun' Sheba, you've got to believe the Bible.
'Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings,' it says. You can't deceive a
child. Vilet knows better than you do."

"Shuah now, does you tink it's dataway?" and Aun' Sheba looked up with
hope in her eyes.

"Of course we think it's that way," said Ella. "Aun' Sheba, you know a
heap, as you say, about many things, but you don't half know how good you
are."

"I know how bad I is anyhow. I tells you I was in a dozin' sleep."

"Well, I've been in a dozin' sleep many a time," said Ella, "and I'm not
going to be suspended by any one, not even myself."

"Aun' Sheba," said Mara gently but firmly, "you know I'm in earnest, and
how much I love you for all your goodness ever since I was a helpless
baby. You wouldn't say hard, untrue things against any one else. You have
no more right to be unjust to yourself. As Ella says, I wish I was as good
a Christian as you are."

"Now, Missy Mara, no mo' ob dat ar talk. I knows my inard feelin's bes' ob
any one. What Vilet say chirk me up po'fully, kase she see me ebery day. I
tell you what I'se gwine ter do; I'se gwine ter put myself on 'bation, and
den see wot come ob it. Now, honeys, I'se 'feered long nuff wid business.
You'se dun me good, honey lam's, an' de Lawd bress you bofe. I'se tote de
basket a heap pearter fer dis yere talk. I feels a monst'us sight betteh.
Wish I could see you, honey, lookin' as plump as Missy Ella. Dat do me
mos' as much good as feelin' 'ligious."

Mara worried Mrs. Hunter over her pretence of making a dinner, and then
gladly sought the solitude of her own room. At last she said with a bitter
smile, "He has broken the last shred that bound me." But as the hours
passed in tumultuous thoughts, her heart told her how vain were such
words.



CHAPTER XXIII

THE WARNING


Captain Bodine was halting serenely down into that new vista in his life
of which we have already spoken. Every day both promise and fulfilment
seemed richer than he had ever imagined any future experience could be. He
was domiciled in a home exactly to his taste; his cousin's brave, cheerful
spirit was infectious; the worry of financial straits was over, and Ella
was blooming and happy. These favorable changes in themselves would have
done much toward banishing gloom and despondency; but another element had
entered into his existence which was as unexpected as it was sweet. A
deep, subtile exhilaration was growing out of his companionship with Mara.
Every long, quiet talk that he enjoyed with her left a longing for
another. She was learning to regard him almost as a father, but he did not
think of her as he did of Ella. He loved Ella as his child, but her
buoyant spirit, her intense enjoyment of the present, and her eager,
hopeful eyes, fixed upon the future, separated her from him. He did not
wish it otherwise in her case, for he hoped that there was a happy future
for her, and he rejoiced daily over the gladness in her face. Mara,
although so young, seemed of his own generation. He often repeated to
himself his cousin's words, "She is as old as you are." She appeared to
live in the past as truly as himself. There was scarcely a subject on
which they were not in sympathy.

He believed that Mrs. Bodine was right, and that Mara was essentially
different from others of her age. Indeed the impression grew upon him that
the mysterious principle of heredity had prepared her for the
companionship which apparently was valued as much by her as by himself.
During the many hours in which he was alone, he thought the subject over
in all its aspects, as he supposed, and a hope, exquisitely alluring,
began to take form in his heart.

No man is without a certain amount of egotism and self-love, and, although
these were not characteristics of Bodine, he could not help dwelling upon
the truth that the remainder of his life would be very different from what
he had expected could Mara be near to him.

Her eloquent look of sympathy so soon after they met began to take the
form of prophecy. At first it led him to believe that she would receive a
paternal, loving regard, much the same as he gave to Ella; but, as time
passed, he began to dwell upon the possibility of a closer tie. She
appeared to have no especial friends among young men, nor indeed to care
for any. Might not a strong, quiet affection grow in each heart until they
could become one in the closest sense, even as they were now one in so
many of their thoughts and views?

It was natural that his deepening regard should tinge his manner, yet Mara
dreamed of nothing beyond the affection which she was glad to receive from
him. Vigilant eyes, however, were following Captain Bodine, and Clancy,
with a lover's jealous intuition, was guessing his rival's thoughts and
intentions more clearly every day. He did not adopt any system of
espionage, nor did he ask questions of any one, but merely took occasion
to walk on the Battery at an hour when it was most frequented. Here he
often saw Mara and the veteran enjoying the cool sunset hour, and
sometimes he observed that Mara saw him. So far from shunning such
observation, he not infrequently compelled her recognition, which was
always coldly bestowed upon her part.

"It would seem that Mr. Clancy is more inclined to be friendly than you
are," Bodine remarked one evening.

"Before Mr. Clancy valued Northern friends more than Southern ones we were
friendly," was Mara's quiet reply. She had schooled herself now into
outward self-control, but she chafed at his presence, and thought he
happened to be near her too frequently. Still it was ever will versus
heart, for the latter always acknowledged him as master.

He was satisfied that his impressions in regard to Bodine were correct,
and was impelled by his love to make an effort to save her from drifting
into relations which he believed must inevitably destroy her chance for
happiness. His strong, keen mind had analyzed her every word, tone, and
varying expression, and he had become quite sure that her bearing toward
him was not the result of indifference, but was rather due to pride, and a
resolute purpose not to yield to him unless he adopted her views. He also
understood her sufficiently well to dread lest a morbid sense of loyalty
to her father's memory might lead her to accept his friend and old
companion in arms.

"Her immediate associates would encourage the idea," he thought, "and
there are none to advise or warn her except myself. She is morbid and
unbalanced enough to commit just such a fatal error. Her bringing up, and
all the influence of that warped Mrs. Hunter, would lead her to sacrifice
herself to the manes of her ancestors. Yet how can I warn her--how can I
reach her except I write? I wish to look into her eyes when I speak. I
wish to plead with her with all the power that I possibly possess. Great
Heaven! if this that I fear should happen, what an awakening she might
have when it was too late!"

At last he resolved on the simplest and most straightforward course, and
wrote--

"MARA--Will you grant me one more interview--the last, unless you freely
concede others. I have something important to say to you, something that
relates far more to your happiness than to my own. In excuse for my
request, I have nothing better to plead than my love which you have
rejected, and yet which entitles me to some consideration. I think my
motive is unselfish--as unselfish as can be possible under the
circumstances. You may treat me as you please, but your welfare will
always be dear to me. I shall not seek to change your convictions, nor
shall I plead for myself, for I know that all this would be useless; but I
wish to see you face to face once more alone in your own home. I must also
request that Mrs. Hunter will not interfere with our interview. You are
not a child, and you know that I am a gentleman, and that I am incapable
of saying a word at variance with my profound respect for you.    OWEN
CLANCY."

Mara was deeply agitated by this missive. Her first emotion was that of
anger, as much at herself as at him--a confused resentment that his words,
his very handwriting, should so move her, and that he should venture to
write at all. Had she not made it sufficiently plain that he had no right
to take, or, at least, to manifest any such interest in her affairs? Were
all her efforts futile to hide her love? In spite of her habit of reserve
and repression she had a passionate heart, and this fact had been forced
upon her by vain and continuous struggles. Had he the penetration to learn
the truth? She could not tell, and this uncertainty touched her pride to
the very quick. After hours of wavering purpose, impulses to ignore him
and his request, moments of tenderness in which will, pride, and every
consideration were almost overwhelmed, she at last arrived at a fixed
resolution. "I _will_ see him," she murmured. "He has virtually told me
that he will not give up what he terms his principles for love. I shall
not acknowledge my secret, but if he has discovered it, he shall learn
that I also will not give up my principles for love."

The next morning she quietly handed Clancy's note to Mrs. Hunter.

"Shameful!" ejaculated the lady. "Of course you will pay no attention to
him, or else write a curt refusal. I insist on one course or the other."

Mara looked steadfastly at her aunt until the worthy lady was somewhat
disconcerted, and asked fretfully, "What do you mean by that look, Mara?"

"Aunty, can't you realize that I am no longer a child, as he says?"

"Well, but in a case like this--"

"In a case like this which concerns me so personally, I must act according
to my own judgment. You can be in the adjoining room. Indeed I have no
objection to your hearing what is said, but I would rather you should not.
You have no occasion to fear. Mr. Clancy has alienated me forever. I have
no doubt that before the summer is over he will be engaged to Miss
Ainsley, if he is not already engaged virtually. I have reasons for
granting this final interview which are personal--which my self-respect
requires, and, since they are personal, I need not mention them. There
shall be no want of respect and affection for you, aunty, but you must
realize that I have become an independent woman, and I have the entire
right to decide certain questions for myself."

"Well, I wash my hands of it all," said Mrs. Hunter, coldly, "and since my
strong convictions have no weight with you, and you intend to act
independently of me, of course I shall not permit myself to hear a word of
your conversation."

"That will be the more delicate and honorable course, aunty."

"Well, Mara, I only wish I need not be in the house at the time."

"Aunty, that is the same as saying that your enmity toward Mr. Clancy is
greater than your love for me."

"But I don't see the use of this intensely disagreeable interview. This is
the only home I have."

"And the only home I have also, aunty."

"Oh, well, if you will, you will, I reckon."

"Yes, if I will, I _will_, and Mr. Clancy shall learn that I have a will."

As Aun' Sheba was departing that morning, Mara followed her into the
hallway, and, placing a note in her hand, said, "Give that to Mr. Clancy
and to no other. Say nothing to him or to any one else. Do you understand,
Aun' Sheba?"

"I does, honey. Wen you talk dataway you'se heah an eyster shoutin' 'fore
Aun' Sheba speak."

Clancy only said, "Thank you," as he thrust a half-dollar into the old
woman's hand.

Aun' Sheba laid it on the desk, and remarked with great dignity, "I does
some tings widout money."

He paid no heed to her, but read eagerly, "Mr. Clancy--Come this evening.
Mara Wallingford."

With a long breath he thought, "It will be my last chance. I fear it will
be useless, but at no future day shall she think in bitterness of heart,
'He might have done more to save me.'"

There was no sudden, involuntary illumination of her face on this occasion
when he entered her little parlor, and she could not help noticing that
his face was pale. She also saw from his expression that his spirit was as
high as hers; that there was not a trace of the lover, eager to plead his
cause. "He has pleaded successfully elsewhere," she thought, and, in spite
of all other conflicting feelings, she was curious to know what his motive
could be in seeking the interview.

"Good-evening, Mr. Clancy. Will you sit down?" she said, coldly.

"Yes, Mara. Pardon me for calling you Mara. I am beyond any affectation of
formality with you, and you know there is no lack of respect on my part."

She merely bowed and waited in silence.

"When you learn my motive for making my request, for coming here to-night,
you will probably resent it, but you have taught me to expect little else
except resentment from you."

"Mr. Clancy, there is no cause for such language. Certainly I was quietly
pursuing the even tenor of my way."

"Do you understand fully whither that way is leading?"

"Truly, Mr. Clancy, that is a singular question for you to ask."

"I understand you, Mara. You mean that it is no affair of mine."

He knew that her silence gave assent to this view, and he answered as if
she had spoken.

"Nevertheless you are mistaken. It _is_ an affair of mine. There could be
no peace for me in the future if I failed you now, for it seems to me I am
the only true friend you have in the world."

"Mr. Clancy," she said hotly, "we have differed so greatly before that I
might have been saved the pain of this interview, but we never differed as
we do at this moment. I cannot listen to you any longer. It would be
disloyalty to those who _are_ true friends--friends that I love and
honor."

"Do you love Captain Bodine?"

"Certainly I do. He was my father's friend; he is my honored friend."

"Do you _love_ Captain Bodine?"

"What do you mean?" she asked angrily, flushing to her very brow.

"Mara, be calm. Listen to me as you value your life, as you value your own
soul. Do you think I would come here for slight cause at such cost to us
both?"

"I think you are strangely mistaken in coming here, and using language
which makes me doubt your sanity."

"Please do me the justice to note that there is nothing wild in my manner,
nor any excitement in my words."

"Noting this, I find it more difficult to explain your course, or to
pardon it."

"It is not necessary at present, that you should do either. Please be
patient a few minutes longer and my mission is ended. I am not pleading
for myself, but for you. Please listen, or a time may come when in a
bitterness beyond words you may regret that you did not hear me. Thank
Heaven! it is clear that I have not come too late. Captain Bodine is more
than your friend in _his_ feelings; he is your lover, and you are so
morbid, unfriended, unguided, that you are capable of sacrificing
yourself--"

"Hush! you are wronging a man whom you are unworthy to name. He has never
dreamed of such love as you suggest."

"I am right. Oh, I have learned too deeply in the school of experience not
to know. My warning may be of no avail, but you shall not drift unawares
into this thing, you shall not enter into it, nor be persuaded into it
from a false spirit of self-sacrifice--"

"Mr. Clancy, I will not listen a moment longer to such preposterous
language. You are passing far beyond the limits of my forbearance. If your
conscience is burdened on my account because I am so 'unfriended,' I
absolve you fully. You will and do know how to console yourself. Our
interview must end here and now. It were disloyalty for me to listen a
moment longer. We are strangers from this day forth, Mr. Clancy." And she
rose flushed and trembling.

He also rose, and with an intent look which held her gaze, said gently:
"There is that which will speak although I am banished."

"What?"

"Your heart."

"If it broke a thousand times I will not speak to you again," she cried
passionately. "Even if you were right it would be ignoble to suggest such
a thing. Truly your associations have led you far from the promise of your
youth."

"I have not said that your heart would plead for me," he replied sternly.
"But it _will_ plead against all that is unnatural, contrary to your young
girlhood, contrary to the true, right instincts which God has created. You
may seek to stifle its voice, but you cannot. When you are alone it will
tell you, like the still small voice of God, that your obdurate will is
wrong, that your narrow prejudices and morbid memories are all wrong and
vain;--it will tell you that you cannot become the wife of this man, who
would sacrifice you as a solace to his remaining years, without wrecking
your happiness for life. Farewell, Mara Wallingford. There is one thing
you can never forget--that I warned you."

He bowed low and departed immediately.



CHAPTER XXIV

"THE IDEA!"


Mara was not the kind of girl that faints or goes into hysterics. The
spirit of her father was aroused to the last degree. She felt that she had
been arraigned and condemned by one who had no right to do either; that
all the cherished traditions of her life had been trampled upon; that her
father's loved companion-in-arms, and her dear friend, had been insulted.
Even wise, saintly Mrs. Bodine, her genial counsellor, had been ignored.
"Was there ever such monstrous assumption!" she cried, as she paced back
and forth with clinched hands.

She soon heard the step of Mrs. Hunter, and became outwardly calm.

"Well?" said her aunt.

"He won't come again, nor shall I speak to him again. Let these facts
content you, aunty."

"That much at least is satisfactory," said Mrs. Hunter, "but I think it
was a wretched mistake to see him at all."

"It was not a mistake, for he has revealed the depths into which a man can
sink who adopts his course. I have some respect for an out-and-out
Northerner, brought up as such; but it does seem that when a man turns
traitor, as it were, he goes to greater lengths than those whose camp he
joins. He suspects those who are too noble for him to understand."

"Whom does Mr. Clancy suspect?"

"Oh, all of us. He came to advise me as an unprotected, unfriended,
unguided girl."

"Was there ever such impudence on the face of the earth!"

Mara sank exhausted into a chair in the inevitable reaction from her
strong excitement.

"Aunty, it is all over, and we shall not meet again except as strangers.
Never say a word of his coming, of this interview, to any one. It is my
affair, and I wish to forget it as far as possible."

"You know I'm not a gossip, Mara, about family matters, especially
disagreeable matters. Well, perhaps it will turn out for the best, since
you have broken with him entirely. It always made me angry that he should
continue to speak to you, and even sit down and talk to you at an evening
company, when you could not repulse him without arresting the attention of
every one."

"Good-night, aunty. All that is over."

"Mara, you must take an opiate to-night."

"Yes; give me something to make me sleep, that will bring oblivion for at
least to-night. I must be ready for my work in the morning. It won't take
me long _now_ to attain self-control."

"Mara," cried Ella the next day, "you look positively ill. I wish you
could take a rest. Suppose we shut up shop for a while, and hang out a
sign, 'closed for repairs.'"

"No, Ella. I can stand it, if you can, till August, and then we will take
a month's rest. I wasn't very well last night, but I have found a remedy
which is going to help me, and I shall be better."

Ella took the surface meaning of these words, and, being preoccupied with
her own thoughts, remained, as well as Mara, rather silent that morning.
Although she assured herself more than once that George Houghton was
"nothing to her," she found herself thinking a great deal about him, and
what she termed "their droll experiences." Prone to take a mirthful view
of everything, she often laughed over the whole affair, and it grew rather
than lost in interest with time. It was the first real adventure of her
girlhood, and he was the first man who had retained more than a transient
place in her thoughts. Feeling that their acquaintance had come about
through no fault of hers, she was disposed to get all the fun possible out
of what had occurred.

The morning was warm, and she was working in charming _dishabille_.
Dressed in light summer costume, thrown open at her throat, and with
sleeves rolled to her shoulders, she appeared a veritable Hebe. Her
bright, golden, fluffy hair was gathered carelessly into a Grecian knot,
and her flushed face received more than one flour-mark as she impatiently
brushed away the flies. Seeing her smiling to herself so often, Mara
envied her, but made no comment. At last the girl broke into a ringing
laugh.

"What is amusing you so greatly?" Mara asked.

"I can't get over that party at Mrs. Willoughby's. It was all so
irresistibly comical. Cousin Sophy thinks she has a genius for choosing
chaperons, and so she has, but fate is too strong for men and gods, not to
mention saintly and secluded old ladies. I had scarcely more than entered
the drawing-room, and taken my bearings, as cousin would say, when the
worst Vandal of the lot is marched up to me, and I--green little
girl--thought I must be polite to him and every one else. When I think of
it all, I see that my chaperon was like a distressed hen with a duckling
that would go into the water. Without any effort of mine, that great Goth,
Mr. Houghton, submitted himself to my inspection, and instead of being
horrified, I have been laughing at him ever since. He struck me as an
exceedingly harmless creature, with large capabilities for blundering. He
would not step on a fly maliciously, yet poor Mrs. Robertson acted as if I
were near an ogre who might devour me at a mouthful. How she did manoeuvre
to keep that big fellow away! and what a homily she gave me on our way
home! It all seems so absurd. I wish papa would not take such things so
seriously, for I can't see any harm in making sport of the Philistines."

"Making sport _for_ the Philistines--that is what your father and what we
all object to. This young Houghton would very gladly amuse himself at your
expense."

"I'd like to see him try it," said Ella defiantly. "I'd turn the tables on
him so quickly as to take away his breath."

"Oh, Ella! why do you think about such people at all?"

"Because they amuse me. What's the harm in thinking about him in my jolly
way? There's nothing bad about him. His worst crimes are, that he is
comical and the son of his father."

"How do you know there's nothing bad about him?"

"For the same reason that I distrust Miss Ainsley. Each makes an
impression which I believe is correct."

"Well, well, Ella," said Mara, a little impatiently, "laugh it out and
have done with him. For all our sakes, please have nothing more to do with
such people."

"I haven't sought 'such people,'" replied Ella, with a shrug; "but I tell
you, Mara, I'm not going through life with my eyes shut, nor am I going to
look through a pair of blue spectacles. See here, sweetheart, what did God
give me eyes for? What did he give me a brain for? To see through some one
else's eyes? to think with the brain of another? No, indeed; that's
contrary to such reason and common-sense as I possess."

"You certainly will be guided by your father?"

"Yes, yes, indeed, in all that pertains to his welfare and happiness. I
could die for him this minute, and would if it were required. But there
are things which I cannot do for him or any one. I cannot ignore my own
conscience and sense of right. I cannot think his thoughts any more than
he can think mine. You dear, melancholy little goose, don't you know that
God never rolls two people into one, even after they are married? They
are, or should be, one in a vital sense, yet they are different,
independent beings, and were made so. I'd like to know of any one in this
town more bent upon having her own way than you."

Mara was silent, for Ella had a way of putting things which disturbed her.

"Cousin Sophy," said Ella in the afternoon, "hasn't the proper time come
for me to make my party call on Mrs. Willoughby? You are my Mentor in all
that relates to etiquette, and that giddy fraction of the world termed
society."

"Well, yes," said the old lady, "I suppose it is time. In the case of Mrs.
Willoughby it will be little more than a formality, for she is an
acquaintance you will not care to cultivate. You may be lucky enough to
find her out, and then your card will answer all the purposes of a call."

"Oh, I know that much, cousin, if I am from the wilds of the interior; but
if she is in, I suppose I should sit down and talk about the weather a
little while."

"Go along, you saucy puss. Tell her how shocked you were to see old
Houghton's son in her parlors."

"Well, I was at first. Bah! cousin, he's a great big boy, and doesn't know
any more than I do about some things."

"Well added. Tell her, then, we have enough Southern gentlemen remaining,
and there is no necessity of inviting big Northern hobble-de-hoys."

"Oh! I didn't mean that, cousin. Be fair now. He was gentlemanly enough,
as much so as the rest of them, but he was young and giddy, like myself,
just as you used to be and are now sometimes;" and she stopped the old
lady's mouth with kisses, then ran to dress for the street.

The kitchen Hebe of the morning was soon metamorphosed into a very
charmingly costumed young woman.

Even Miss Ainsley was compelled to recognize the lovely and harmonious
effect, although it did not bear the latest brand of fashion, or represent
costly expenditure.

Both she and Mrs. Willoughby were pleased as Ella stepped lightly into the
back parlor, and the young girl congratulated herself that she had come so
opportunely, for they were evidently expecting visits like her own.

One and another dropped in until Mrs. Willoughby was entertaining three or
four in the front parlor. Miss Ainsley remained chatting with Ella, who
felt that the Northern girl's remarks were largely tentative, evincing a
wish to draw her out. Shrewd Ella soon began to generalize to such a
degree that Miss Ainsley thought, "You are no fool," and had a growing
respect for the "little baker," as she had termed the young girl.

Then Clancy appeared, and Ella was forgotten, but she saw the same
unmistakable welcome which from some women would mean all that a lover
could desire. Ella thought that a slight expression of vexation crossed
his brow as he recognized in her Mara's partner and friend, but he spoke
to her politely and even cordially. Indeed, no one could do otherwise, for
her face would propitiate an ogre. She thought there was a spice of
recklessness in Clancy's manner, and she heard him remark to Miss Ainsley
that he had come to say good-by for a short time. That young woman led the
way to the balcony and began to expostulate; and then Ella's attention was
riveted on a tall young fellow, who was shaking hands with Mrs.
Willoughby.

"Good gracious!" she thought, "what can I do if he sees me? How can I
'shake off and avoid' in this back parlor? I can't make a bolt for the
front door or sneak out of the back door; I can't sit here like a graven
image if he comes--"

"Miss Bodine! Well, I'm lucky for once in my ill-fated life."

"Oh! I beg your pardon," remarked Ella, turning from the window, out of
which she had apparently been gazing with intense preoccupation.
"Good-afternoon, Mr. Houghton." But he held out his hand with such
imperative cordiality that she had to take it. Then he drew up a chair to
the corner of the sofa on which she sat and placed it in a way that barred
approach or egress. "Oh, shade of Mrs. Hunter!" she groaned inwardly,
"what can I do? I'm fairly surrounded--all avenues of retreat cut off. I
must face the enemy and fight."

"I knew the chance would come for us to get acquainted," said Houghton,
settling himself complacently in the great armchair, "but I had scarcely
hoped for such a happy opportunity as this so soon."

"I must go in a few minutes," she remarked demurely. "I have been here
some time."

"Miss Bodine, you are not capable of such cruelty. You know it is very
early yet."

"I thought you came to call on Mrs. Willoughby?"

"So I did, and I have called on her. See her talking ancient history to
those dowagers yonder. What a figure I'd cut in that group."

She laughed outright, as much from nervous trepidation as at the comical
idea suggested, and was in an inward rage that she did so, for she had
intended to be so dignified and cool as to depress and discourage the
"objectionable person" who hedged her in.

"What a jolly, infectious laugh you have!" he resumed. "To be able to
laugh well is a rare accomplishment. Some snicker, others giggle, chuckle,
cackle, make all sorts of disagreeable noises, but a natural, merry,
musical laugh-Miss Bodine, I congratulate you, and myself also, that I
happened in this blessed afternoon to hear it. And that terrible chaperon
of yours isn't here either. How she frowned on me the other evening as if
I were a wolf in the fold," and the young man broke into a clear ringing
laugh at the recollection.

Ella was laughing with him in spite of herself. Indeed the more she tried
to be grave and severe the more impossible it became.

"Mr. Houghton," she managed to say at last, "will you do me a favor?"

"Scores of them."

"Then stop making me laugh. I don't wish to laugh."

His face instantly assumed such portentous and awful gravity that he set
her off again to such a degree that the dowagers in the other room looked
at her rebukingly. It was bad enough, they thought, that she should talk
to old Houghton's son at all, but to show such unbecoming levity-well, it
was not what they would "expect of a Bodine." Ella saw their disapproval,
and felt she was losing her self-control. The warnings she had received
against her companion embarrassed her, and banished the power to be her
natural self.

"Please don't," she gasped, "or I shall go at once. I asked a favor."

"Pardon me, Miss Bodine," he now said in a tone and manner which quieted
her nerves at once. "I have blundered again, but I was so happy to think
that I had met you here. I am not wholly a rattle-brain. What would you
like to talk about?" and he looked so kindly and eager to please her that
she cast down her eyes and contracted her brow in deepest perplexity.

"Truly, Mr. Houghton, I should be on my way homeward, and you have so
hedged me in that I cannot escape."

"Is running away from me escaping?"

"I don't like that phrase 'running away.'"

"Yet that is what you propose to do."

"Oh, no, I shall take my departure in a very composed and dignified
manner."

His face had the expression of almost boyish distress. "You find on
further thought that you cannot forgive me?" he asked sadly.

"Did I not say that was all explained and settled? Southern girls are not
fickle or false to their word." And she managed to assume an aspect of
great dignity. "If I do not shake him off in the next few minutes I'm
lost," she thought.

"I've offended you again," he said anxiously.

She took refuge in silence.

"Miss Bodine, I ask your pardon. You know I can't do more than that, or if
I can, tell me what. I wish to please you very much."

The girl was at her wit's end, for his ingenuous expression emphasized the
truth of his words. "There is no reason why you should please me," she
began coolly, and then knew not how to proceed.

"Let us be frank with each other," he resumed earnestly. "We are too young
yet to indulge in society lies. When a man apologizes at the North he is
forgiven. I have been told that Southerners are a generous, warm-hearted
people. In their cool treatment of me they counteract the climate. Are
you, too, going to ostracize me?"

"I fear I shall have to," she replied faintly.

"Of your own free will?"

"No, indeed."

His heart gave a great throb of joy, but he had the sense to conceal his
gladness. He only said quietly, "Well, I'm glad that you at least do not
detest me."

"Why should I detest you, Mr. Houghton?"

"I'm sure I don't know why any one should. I have never harmed any one in
this town that I know of."

She knew not how to answer, for she could not reflect upon his father.

"I don't care about others, but your case."

"Truly, Mr. Houghton," she began hastily, "this is a large city. A few
impoverished Southern people are nothing to you."

"I was not thinking of Southern people," he replied gravely. "You said a
moment since you saw no reason why I should try to please you. Am I to
blame if you have inspired many reasons? I know you better than any girl
in the world. You revealed your very self in a moment of danger to me as
you thought. I saw that you were good and brave--that you possess just the
qualities that I most respect and admire in a woman. Every moment I am
with you confirms this belief. Why should I not wish to please you, to
become your friend? I know I should be the better in every respect if you
were my friend."

She shook her head, but did not venture to look at him.

"You believe I am sincere, Miss Bodine. You cannot think I am sentimental
or flirtatious. I would no more do you wrong, even in my thoughts, than I
would think evil of my dead mother. You are mirthful in your nature; so am
I, but I do not think that either of us is shallow or silly. If I am
personally disagreeable, that ends everything, but how can a man secure
the esteem and friendly regard of a woman, when he covets these supremely,
unless he speaks and reveals his feelings?"

"You are talking wildly, Mr. Houghton," said Ella, with averted face. "We
have scarcely more than met."

"You would lead me to think that you Southern people are tenfold colder
and more deliberate than we of the North. You may not have thought of me
since we met, but I have thought of you constantly. I could not help it."

Ella felt that she must escape now as if for her life, and, summoning all
her faculties and resolution, she said, looking him in the eyes, "I've no
doubt, Mr. Houghton, you think you are sincere in your words at this
moment, but you may soon wonder that you spoke such hasty words."

"In proving you mistaken, time will be my ally."

"You have asked me to be frank," she resumed. "In justice to you and
myself I feel that I must be so. I do not share in the prejudices, if you
prefer that word, of my father, but I must be governed by his wishes. I
trust that you will not ask me to say more. Won't you please let me go
now? See, the last guests are leaving."

"Tell me one thing," he pleaded eagerly as he rose. "I am not personally
disagreeable to you?"

"The idea of my telling you anything of the kind!" and there was a flash
of mirthfulness in her face which left him in a most tormenting state of
uncertainty. A moment later she had shaken hands with Mrs. Willoughby, and
was gone.

He stood looking after her, half-dazed by his conflicting feelings.
Turning, Mrs. Willoughby saw and understood him at once. She came to his
side and said kindly, "Sit down, Mr. Houghton, I've not had a chance to
talk with you yet."

With an involuntary sigh he complied.



CHAPTER XXV

FEMININE FRIENDS


Mrs. Willoughby was a woman of the world, yet in no bad sense. Indeed,
beneath the veneer of fashionable life she possessed much kindliness of
nature. She was capable of a good deal of cynicism toward those who she
said "ought to be able to take care of themselves," and in this category
she placed Clancy and Miss Ainsley. "I shall leave both to paddle their
own canoes," she had said to herself.

Looking kindly at Houghton, who seemed to have lost his volubility, and
waited for her to speak again, she thought: "If this young fellow was
infatuated with Caroline I'd warn him quick enough." With the astuteness
of a matron she merely remarked: "You seem greatly pleased with my little
friend, Miss Bodine. You must not trifle with her, if she is poor, for she
comes of one of the best families in the State."

"Trifle with Miss Bodine! What do you take me for, Mrs. Willoughby?" and
he rose indignantly.

"There, now, sit down, my friend. I only said that so you might reveal how
sincere you are, and I won't use any more diplomacy with you."

"I hope not," he replied laughing grimly. "You ought to know, what I am
fast finding out, that a young fellow, like me, can no more understand a
woman, unless she is frank, than he can Choctaw."

Mrs. Willoughby laughed heartily, and said: "I'll be frank with you, if
you will be so with me."

"Then tell me why I am treated by so many in your set as if I had overrun
the South with fire and sword?"

His first question proved that she could not be frank, for in order to
give an adequate explanation she would have to reveal to him his father's
animus and the hostility it evoked. She temporized by saying: "I do not so
treat you, and surely Miss Bodine seemed to enjoy your conversation."

"I'm not so sure of that. At any rate she said she would have to ostracize
me like the rest."

"She was kind in telling you that she would have to do so. She certainly
bears you no ill-will."

"She probably does not care enough about me yet to do that. The worst of
it is that I shall have no chance. Her father objects to her having
anything to do with me, and that blocks everything. Even if I were capable
of seeking a clandestine acquaintance, she is not. She is a thoroughly
good girl; she doesn't know how to be deceitful."

"I'm glad you appreciate her so truly."

"I'd be a donkey if I didn't."

"Well, don't be unwise in your future action."

"What action can I take?" and he looked at her almost imploringly. A young
man of his age is usually very ready to make a confidante of a married
woman older than himself, yet young enough to sympathize with him in
affairs of the heart. Houghton instinctively felt that the case might not
be utterly hopeless if he could secure an ally in Mrs. Willoughby, for he
recognized her tact, and believed that she was friendly. He promptly
determined therefore to seek and to take her advice.

She looked at him searchingly as she said: "Perhaps it would be best not
to take any action at all. If Miss Bodine has made only a passing and
pleasant impression, and you merely desire to secure another agreeable
acquaintance you had better stop where you are. It will save you much
annoyance, and, what is of far more consequence, may keep her from real
trouble. As you suggest, you cannot do anything in an underhand way. If
you attempted it, you would lose her respect instantly, your own also. She
idolizes her father, and will not act contrary to his wishes. Why not let
the matter drop where it is?"

"Can't take any such advice as that," he replied, shaking his head
resolutely.

"Why not?"

"Oh, confound it! Suppose some one, years ago, had advised Mr. Willoughby
in such style."

"Is it as serious as that?"

He passed his hand in perplexity over his brow. "Mrs. Willoughby," he
burst out, "I'm in deep water. 'I reckon,' as you say here, you understand
me better than I do myself. I only know that I'd face all creation for the
sake of that girl, yet what you say about making her trouble, staggers me.
I'm in sore perplexity, and don't know what to do."

"Will you take my advice?"

"Yes, I will, as long as I believe you are my honest friend, as long as I
can."

"Well, you won't try to see Ella before you have consulted me?"

"I promise that."

"Don't do anything at present Think the matter over quietly and
conscientiously. I'm sorry I must make one other suggestion. I fear your
father would be as much opposed to all this as Captain Bodine himself."

"I think not. My father is not so stern as he seems. At least he is not
stern to me, and he has let me spend more money than my neck's worth. I
fancy he is well disposed toward Captain Bodine, for he has given him
employment. I asked the old gentleman about it one day, but he changed the
subject. He wouldn't have employed the captain, however, unless he was
interested in him some way."

"Why wouldn't he?"

"Oh, well, he naturally prefers to have Northerners about him."

"Will you permit me to be a little more frank than I have been?"

"I supposed you were going to be altogether frank."

"For fear of hurting your feelings I have not been. Your father is not
friendly to us, and we reciprocate. This makes it harder for you."

Houghton thought in silence for a few moments, and then said: "You should
make allowance for an old man, half heart-broken by the death of his
oldest son, drowned in the bay there."

"I do; so would others, if he were not vindictive, if he did not use his
great financial strength against us."

"I don't think he does this, certainly not to my knowledge. He only seeks
to make all he can, like other business men."

"Mr. Houghton, you haven't been very much in Charleston. Even your
vacations have been spent mainly elsewhere, I think, and your mind has
been occupied with your studies and athletics. You are more familiar with
Greek and Roman history than with ours, and you cannot understand the
feelings of persons like Captain Bodine and his cousin, old Mrs. Bodine,
who passed through the agony of the war, and lost nearly
everything--kindred, property, and what they deem liberty. You cannot
understand your own father, who lost his son. You think of the present and
future."

Houghton again sighed deeply as he said: "I admit the force of all you
say. I certainly cannot feel as they do, nor perhaps understand them."
Then he added: "I wouldn't if I could. Why should I tie the millstone of
the past about my neck?"

"You should not do so; but you must make allowance for those to whom that
past is more than the present or future can be."

"Why can't they forgive and forget, as far as possible, as you do?"

"Because people are differently constituted. Besides, young man, I am not
old enough to be your grandmother. I was very young at the time of the
war, and have not suffered as have others."

"Grandmother, indeed! I should think that Mr. Willoughby would fall in
love with you every day."

"The grand passion has a rather prominent place in your thoughts just now.
Some day you will be like Mr. Willoughby, and cotton, stocks, or their
equivalents, will take a very large share of your thoughts."

"Well, that day hasn't come yet. Even the wise man said there was a time
for all things. How long must my probation last before I can come back for
more advice?"

"A week, at least"

"Phew!"

"You must think it all over, as I said before, calmly and conscientiously.
I have tried to enable you to see the subject on all its sides, and I tell
you again that you may find just as much opposition from your father as
from Captain Bodine. He may have very different plans for you. Ella Bodine
has nothing but her own good heart to give you, supposing you were able to
persuade her to give that much."

"That much would enrich me forever."

"Your father wouldn't see it in that light. He may call her that designing
little baker."

"I hope he won't for God's sake. I never said a hot word to my father."

"Never do so, then. If you lose your temper, all is lost. But we are
anticipating. Sober, second thoughts may lead you to save yourself and
others a world of trouble."

"Oh! I've had second thoughts before. Good-by. At this hour, one week
hence;" and he shook hands heartily.

A moment later, he came rushing back from the hall, exclaiming: "There!
See, what a blunderbuss I am! I forgot to thank you, which I do, with all
my heart."

"Ah!" sighed the mature woman, as her guest finally departed, "I'd take
all his pains for the possibilities of his joys."

Ella had not been mistaken in thinking that she detected a trace of
recklessness in Clancy's manner. He had been compelled to believe that
Mara was in truth lost to him; that her will and pride would prove
stronger than her heart. Indeed, he went so far as to believe that her
heart, as far as he was concerned, was not giving her very much trouble.

"I fear she has become so morbid and warped by the malign influences that
have surrounded her from infancy," he had thought, "that she cannot love
as I love. My best hope now is, that when Bodine begins to show his game
more clearly, she will remember my words. It's horrible to think that she
may develop into a woman like Mrs. Hunter. Until this evening, I have
always believed there was a sweet, womanly soul imprisoned in her bosom,
but now I don't know what to think. I'll go off to the mountains on the
pretence of a fishing excursion, and get my balance again."

The following morning had been spent in preparations, and the afternoon,
as we have seen, found him at Mrs. Willoughby's. His sore heart and bitter
mood were solaced by Miss Ainsley's unmistakable welcome. He knew he did
not care for her in any deep and lasting sense, and he much doubted
whether her interest in him was greater than that which she had bestowed
upon others in the past. But she diverted his thoughts, flattered the
self-love which Mara had wounded so ruthlessly, and above all fascinated
him by her peculiar beauty and intellectual brilliancy.

"Why are you going away?" she asked reproachfully, when they were seated
on the balcony.

"Oh, I've been working hard. I'm going off to the mountains to fish and
rest."

"I hope you'll catch cold, and come back again soon."

"What a disinterested friend!"

"You are thinking only of yourself; why shouldn't I do likewise?"

"No, I'm thinking of you."

"Of course, at this minute. You'd be apt to think of a lamp-post if you
were looking at it."

"Please don't put out the sunshine with your brilliancy."

"Ironical, too! What is the matter to-day?"

"What penetration! Reveal your intuitions. Have I failed in business, or
been crossed in love?"

"The latter, I fancy."

"Well, then, how can I better recover peace of mind and serenity than by
going a-fishing? You know what Izaak Walton says--"

"Oh, spare me, please, that ancient worthy! You are as cold-blooded as any
fish that you'll catch. If I find it stupid in Charleston I'll go North."

"That threat shakes my very soul. I promise to come back in a week or ten
days."

"Or a month or so," she added, looking hurt.

"Come, my good friend," he said, laughing. "We're too good fellows, as you
wished we should be, to pretend to any forlornness over a parting of this
kind. You will sleep as sweetly and dreamlessly as if you had never seen
Owen Clancy, and I will write you a letter, such as a man would write to a
man, telling you of my adventures. If I don't meet any I'll bring some
about--get shot by the moonlighters, save a mountain maid from drowning in
a trout pool, or fall into the embrace of a black bear."

"The mountain maid, you mean."

"Did I? Well, your penetration passes bounds."

"You may go, if you will write the letter. There must be no dime-novel
stories in it, no drawing on your imagination. It shall be your task to
make interesting just what you see and do."

"Please add the twelve labors of Hercules."

"No trifling. I'm in earnest, and put you on your mettle in regard to that
letter. Unless you do your best, your friendship is all a pretence. And
remember what you said about its being a letter to a man. If you begin in
a conventional way, as if writing to a lady, I'll burn it without
reading."

"Agreed. Good-by, old fellow--beg pardon, Miss Ainsley."

She laughed and said, "I like that; good-by." And she gave him a warm,
soft hand, in a rather lingering clasp.

When he was gone she murmured softly, "Yes, he has a chance."



CHAPTER XXVI

ELLA'S CRUMB OF COMFORT


Ella walked up Meeting Street in a frame of mind differing widely from the
complacent mood in which she sought Mrs. Willoughby's residence. The
unexpected had again happened, and to her it seemed so strange, so very
remarkable, that she should have met Mr. Houghton once more without the
slightest intention, or even expectation, on her part, that she was
perplexed and troubled. What did it mean?

In matters purely personal, and related closely to our own interests, we
are prone to give almost a superstitious significance to events which come
about naturally enough. It was not at all strange that Houghton should
have been strongly and agreeably impressed by Ella from the first; and
that he should happen to call at the same hour that she did, would have
been regarded by her as a very ordinary coincidence, had not the case been
her own. Since it was her own, she was almost awed by the portentous
interview from which she had just escaped. The inexperienced girl found
her cherished ideas in respect to young Houghton completely at fault. She
had sighed that she could not meet him without restraint or embarrassment,
for, as she had assured herself, "It would be such fun." She had supposed
that she could laugh at him and with him indefinitely--that he would be a
source of infinite jest and amusement. He had banished all these illusions
in a few brief moments. How could she make sport of a man who had coupled
her name with that of his dead mother? His every glance, word, and tone
expressed sincere respect and admiration, and, she had to admit to
herself, something more. She was so sincere herself, so unsullied, so
lacking in the callousness often resulting from much contact with the
world, that it seemed to her that it would be a profanation henceforth to
regard him as the butt of even the innocent ridicule of which she was
capable. Yet in all her perplexity and trouble there was a confused
exhilaration and a glad sense of power.

"To think that I, little Ella Bodine, a baker by trade," she thought,
"should have inspired that big fellow to talk as he did! He is apology
embodied, and seems far more afraid of me than he was of that great bully
on the street." And she bent her head to conceal a laugh of exultation.

Then she remembered her father, and her face grew troubled. "I shall have
to tell him," she murmured, "and then the old scene will be enacted over
again. A plague on that old shadow of the war! If I were a man I'd fight
it out and then shake hands."

Soon after reaching home she heard her father's crutches on the sidewalk,
and ran down to meet him. In accordance with her custom, she took away one
crutch, and supported him to a chair in the parlor. He kissed her fondly,
and remarked, "You look a little pale, Ella."

"I feel pale, papa. I've something to tell you, and you must listen
patiently and sensibly. I've met Mr. Houghton again."

The veteran's face darkened instantly, but he waited till she explained
further.

"Now see how you begin to look," she resumed. "You are judging me already.
You can't be even fair to your own child."

"It would rather seem that you are judging me, Ella."

"Oh, bother it all!" she exclaimed. "I wish I could be simple and natural
in this affair, for I was so embarrassed and constrained that I fear I
acted like a fool. Well, I'll tell you how it happened. After lunch I
asked Cousin Sophy if it was not time for me to make my party call on Mrs.
Willoughby, and she said it was. I found that Mrs. Willoughby was
expecting callers. We chatted a few minutes, and then others came, Mr.
Houghton among them. I no more expected to meet him than I expected to
meet you there. After shaking hands with Mrs. Willoughby he came to me in
the back parlor instantly, and drew up a chair so that I could not escape
unless I jumped over him. He began with such funny speeches that I got
laughing, as much from nervousness as anything else, for I'd been so
warned against him that I couldn't be myself."

"You shall not go to Mrs. Willoughby's again," said her father, decidedly.

"Now please listen till I'm all through. He soon saw that I did not want
to laugh, and stopped his nonsense. He wanted to become acquainted,
friendly, you know; and finally I had to tell him that it couldn't
be--that I must be governed by your wishes."

"Ah, that was my dear, good, sensible girl!"

"No, papa, I don't feel sensible at all. On the contrary, I have a mean,
absurd feeling--just as if I had gone to Mrs. Willoughby's and slapped a
child because it was a Northern child."

He laughed at this remark, for she unconsciously gave the impression that
she had been more repellant than had actually been true. He soon checked
himself, however, and said gravely, "Ella, you take these things too
seriously."

"No, papa, it seems to me that it is you and Cousin and Mara who take
these things too seriously. What harm has that young fellow ever done any
of us?"

"He could do me an immense deal of harm if you gave him your thoughts, and
became even friendly. I should be exceedingly unhappy."

"Oh, well! that isn't possible--I mean, that we should become friendly. I
certainly won't permit him to speak to me in the streets, although I spoke
to him once in the street. Oh, I'm going to tell you everything now!" and
she related the circumstances of her first meeting with Houghton.

"All this is very painful to me," her father said, with clouded brow.
"But, as you say, it has come about without intention on your part. I am
glad you have told me everything, for now I can better guard you from
future mischances. My relations to this young man's father are such that
it would make it very disagreeable, indeed, positively unendurable, if his
son should seek your society. You should also remember that Mr. Houghton
would be as bitterly hostile to any such course on his son's part as I am.
Your pride, apart from my wishes, should lead you to repel the slightest
advance."

"I reckon your wishes will have the most influence, papa. I have too
strong a sense of justice to punish the son on account of his father."

"You cannot separate them, Ella. Think of our own relation. What touches
one touches the other."

"Well, papa, it's all over, and I've told you everything. Since I'm not to
go to Mrs. Willoughby's any more, there is little probability that I shall
meet him again, except in the street. If he bows to me, I shall return the
courtesy with quiet dignity, for he has acted like a gentleman toward me,
and, for the sake of my own self-respect, I must act like a lady toward
him. If he seeks to talk to me, I shall tell him it is forbidden, and that
will end it, for he is too honorable to attempt anything clandestine."

"I'm not sure of that."

"I am, papa. He wouldn't be such an idiot, for he understands me well
enough to know what would be the result of that kind of thing. But he
isn't that kind of a man."

"How should you know what kind of a man he is?"

"Oh, Heaven has provided us poor women with intuitions!"

"True, to a certain extent, but the rule is proved by an awful lot of
exceptions."

"Perhaps if they were studied out, inclinations rather than intuitions
were followed."

"Well, my dear, we won't discuss these vague questions. Your duty is as
simple and clear as mine is. Do as you have promised, and all will be
well. I must now dress for dinner." And kissing her affectionately, he
went up to his room.

She took his seat, and looked vacantly out of the window, with a vague
dissatisfaction at heart. Unrecognized fully as yet, the great law of
nature, which brings to each a distinct and separate existence, was
beginning to operate. As she had said to Mara, vital interests were
looming up, new experiences coming, of which she could no more think his
thoughts than he hers.

Her face was a little clouded when she sat down to dinner, and she
observed Mrs. Bodine looking at her keenly. Instinctively she sought to
conceal her deeper feelings, and to become her mirthful self.

"You have not told me about your call yet," the old lady remarked.

"Well, I felt that papa should have the first recital. I met again the son
of that old--ahem!--Mr. Houghton, and I have begun to ostracize him."

"Ella," said her father, almost sternly, "do not speak in that way. Our
feelings are strong, sincere, and well-grounded."

"There, papa, I did not mean to reflect lightly upon them. Indeed, I was
not thinking of them, but of Mr. Houghton."

"Oh, Cousin Hugh! let the child talk in her own natural way. She wouldn't
scratch one of your crutches with a pin, much less hurt you."

"Forgive me, Ella," he said, "I misunderstood you."

"Yes, in the main, papa, but to be frank, I don't enjoy this ostracizing
business, and I hope I won't have any more of it to do."

"There is no reason why you should. Cousin Sophy, there should be people
enough in Charleston for Ella to visit without the chance of meeting Mr.
Houghton, or any of his ilk."

"So there are. I'll manage that. Well, Ella, how did you set about
ostracizing young Houghton?" And the old lady began to laugh.

"It's no laughing matter," said Ella, shaking her head ruefully. "He was
frank and polite and respectful as any young gentleman would be under
similar circumstances, and he wanted to become better acquainted, call on
me, I suppose, and all that, but I had to tell him virtually that he was
an objectionable person."

"I would rather this subject should not be discussed any further," said
her father gravely.

"So would I," Ella added. "Papa and I have settled the matter, and Mr.
Houghton is to recede below the horizon."

The old lady thought that when Ella was alone with her she would get all
the details of the interview, but she was mistaken. The girl not only grew
more and more averse to speaking of Houghton, but she also felt that what
he had said so frankly and sincerely to her was not a proper theme for
gossip, even with kindly old Mrs. Bodine, and that a certain degree of
loyalty was due to him, as well as to her father and cousin.

The captain had some writing on hand that night, and Ella read aloud to
her cousin till it was time to retire. Apparently the evening passed
uneventfully away; yet few recognize the eventful hours of their lives. A
subtle and mysterious change was taking place in the girl's nature which
in time she would recognize. More than once she murmured, "How can I be
hostile to him? He said he could no more do me wrong, even in his
thoughts, than think evil of his dead mother. He said he would be better
if I were his friend, and he is as good-hearted this minute as I am. Yet I
must treat him as if he were not fit to be spoken to. Well, I reckon it
will hurt me as much as it does him. There's some comfort in that."



CHAPTER XXVII

RECOGNIZED AS LOVER


It was inevitable that Mara should pay the penalty of being at variance
with nature and her own heart. The impulses of youth had been checked and
restrained. Instead of looking forward, like Ella, she was turning ever
backward, and drawing her inspiration from the past, and a dead, hopeless
past, at that. It fell upon her like a shadow. All its incentive tended
toward negation, prompting her to frown on changes, progress, and the
hopefulness springing up in many hearts. The old can hug their gloom in a
sort of complacent misanthropy; the young cannot. If they are unhappy they
chafe, and feel in their deepest consciousness that something is wrong.
Mara laid the blame chiefly upon Clancy, believing that, if he had taken
the course adopted by Captain Bodine, she could have been happy with him
in an attic. His words, at their interview, were not the only causes of
her intense indignation and passion. Although she was incensed to the last
degree, that he should charge Captain Bodine with such "preposterous"
motives and intentions, she was also aware that her fierce struggles with
her own heart, at the time, distracted and confused her. She could not
maintain the icy demeanor she had resolved upon.

Left to herself, the long afternoon and evening of the following day, she
had time for many second thoughts. She was compelled to face in solitude
the hard problems of her life. Anger died out, and its support was lost.
She had driven away the only man she loved, or could ever love, and she
had used language which he could never forget, or be expected to forgive.
The more she thought of his motive in seeking the interview, the more
perplexed and troubled she became. As now in calmer mood she recalled his
words and manner, she could not delude herself with the belief that he
came only in his own behalf, or that he was prompted by jealousy. She
remembered the grim frankness with which he said virtually that he had
nothing to hope from her, not even tolerance. She almost writhed under the
fact that he had again compelled her to believe that, however mistaken, he
was sincere and straightforward, that he truly thought that Bodine was
lover rather than friend.

She would not, could not, imagine that this was true, and yet she groaned
aloud, "He has destroyed my chief solace. I was almost happy with my
father's friend, and was coming to think of him almost as a second father.
Now, when with him I shall have a miserable self-consciousness, and a
disposition to interpret his words and manner in a way that will do him
hateful wrong. Oh, what is there for me to look forward to? What is the
use of living?"

These final words indicated one of Mara's chief needs. She craved some
motive, some powerful incentive, which could both sustain and inspire.
Mere existence, with its ordinary pleasures and interests, did not satisfy
her at all. Clancy's former question in regard to her devotion to the past
and the dead, "What goodwill it do?" haunted her like a spectre. He had
again made the dreary truth more clear, that there was nothing in the
future to which she could give the strong allegiance of her soul. She
would work for nothing, suffer for nothing, hope for nothing, except her
daily bread. As she said, the friendship of Bodine was but a solace, great
indeed, but inadequate to the deep requirements of a nature like hers. She
knew she was leading a dual life--cold, reserved, sternly self-restrained
outwardly, yet longing with passionate desire for the love she had
rejected, and, since that was impossible, for something else, to which she
could consecrate her life, with the feeling that it was worth the
sacrifice. If she had been brought up in the Roman Catholic religion, she
might have been led to the austere life of a nun. But, in her morbid
condition, she was incapable of understanding the wholesome faith, the
large, sweet liberty of those who remain closely allied to humanity in the
world, yet purifying and saving it, by the sympathetic tenderness of Him
who had "compassion on the multitude." She had still much to learn in the
hard school of experience.

The next day, Ella was nothing like so voluble as usual. Little frowns and
moments of deep abstraction took the place of the mirthful smiles of the
day before. Nevertheless, her strong love for Mara led her to speak quite
freely of her experience during her call at Mrs. Willoughby's. As Mara's
closest friend, she felt that reticence was a kind of disloyalty. It was
also true that out of the abundance of her heart she was prone to speak.
At the same time, the belief grew stronger hourly that she had a secret
which she had not revealed, and could not reveal to any one. The more she
thought over Houghton's words and manner, the more sure she became that
his interest in her was not merely a passing fancy. Maidenly reserve,
however, forbade even a hint of what might seem to others a conceited and
indelicate surmise. She therefore gave only the humorous side of her
meeting with Houghton again, and laughed at Mara's vexation. So far from
being afraid of her friend, she rather enjoyed shocking her. At last she
said, "There, Mara, don't take it so to heart. Papa says I must ostracize
him, and so Goth and Vandal he becomes--the absurd idea!"

"Your father would not require you to do anything absurd."

"No, not what was absurd to him; but he does not know Mr. Houghton any
more than you do. It's not only absurd, but it's wrong, from my point of
view."

"Oh, Ella, I'm sorry you feel so different from the rest of us."

"Why do you feel different from so many others, Mara? It isn't to please
this or that one, or because you have been told to think or to feel thus
and so. You have your views and convictions because you are Mara
Wallingford, and not someone else. Am I made of putty any more than you
are, sweetheart?"

Her words were like a stab to Mara, for the thought flashed into her mind,
"I have required that Clancy should be putty under my will." Ella, in her
simple common-sense, often made remarks which disturbed Mara's cherished
belief that she was right and Clancy all wrong.

As a very secondary matter of interest to her, Ella at last began to speak
of Clancy and Miss Ainsley. "If ever a girl courted a man with her eyes
that feminine riddle courts Mr. Clancy. I don't think I ever could be so
far gone as to look at a man as she does at him, unless I was engaged."

"How does he look at her?" Mara asked with simulated indifference.

"Oh, there's some freemasonry between them, probably an engagement or an
understanding! She expostulated against his going away as if she had the
right. I don't think he cares for her as I would wish a man to care for
me, for there was a humorous, half-reckless gleam in his eyes. It may be
all natural enough though," she added musingly. "I don't believe Miss
Ainsley could inspire an earnest, reverent love. A man wouldn't associate
her in his thoughts with his dead mother."

"What a strange expression! What put it into your mind?"

"Oh," replied Ella hastily, and flushing a little, "I've been told that
Mr. Clancy's parents are dead! A plague on them both, and all people that
I can't understand--I don't mean the dead Clancys, but these two who are
fooling like enough. You should be able to interpret Clancy better than I,
for Cousin Sophy says you were once very good friends."

"I cannot remain the friend of any one who is utterly out of sympathy with
all that I believe is right and dignified."

"Well, Mara, forgive me for saying it, but Mr. Clancy may have had
convictions also."

"Undoubtedly," replied Mara coldly, "but there can be no agreeable
companionship between clashing minds."

"No, I suppose not," said Ella, laughing; "not if each insists that both
shall think exactly alike. It would be like two engines meeting on the
same track. They must both back out, and go different ways."

"Well, I've back out," Mara remarked almost sternly.

"That's like you, Mara dear. Well, well, I hope the war will be over some
day. By the way, papa told me to tell you that he was busy last evening,
but that he would call this afternoon for a breathing with you on the
Battery."

At the usual hour the veteran appeared. Mara's greeting was outwardly the
same; nevertheless, Clancy's words haunted her, and her old serene
unconsciousness was gone. Now that her faculties were on the alert, she
soon began to recognize subtle, unpremeditated indications of the light in
which Bodine had begun to regard her, and a sudden fear and repugnance
chilled her heart. "Was Clancy right after all?" she began to ask herself
in a sort of dread and presentiment of trouble. Instinctively, and almost
involuntarily, she grew slightly reserved and distant in manner, ceasing
to meet his gaze in her former frank, affectionate way. With quick
discernment he appreciated the change, and thought, "She is not ready yet,
and, indeed, may never be ready." His manner, too, began to change, as a
cloud gradually loses something of its warmth of color. Mara was grateful,
and in her thoughts paid homage to his tact and delicacy.

"Mara," he said, "has Ella told you of her experiences at Mrs.
Willoughby's?"

"Yes, quite fully. I should think, however, from her words that you were
more truly her confidant."

"Yes, she has acted very honorably, just as I should expect she would, and
yet I am anxious about her. I wish she sympathized with us more fully in
our desire to live apart from those who are inseparable in our thoughts
from the memory of 'all our woes,' as Milton writes."

"I have often expressed just this regret to Ella; but she loves us all,
and especially you, so dearly that I have no anxiety about her action."

"No, Mara, not her action; I can control that: but I should be sorry
indeed if she became interested in this young man. There is often a
perversity about the heart not wholly amenable to reason."

Poor Mara thought she knew the truth of this remark if any one did, nor
could she help fancying that her companion had himself in mind when he
spoke.

"Young Houghton," he resumed, "is beginning to make some rather shy,
awkward advances, as if to secure my favor--a very futile endeavor as you
can imagine. My views are changing in respect to remaining in his father's
employ. The grasping old man would monopolize everything. I believe he
would impoverish the entire South if he could, and I don't feel like
remaining a part of his infernal business-machine."

"I don't wonder you feel so!" exclaimed Mara warmly. "I don't like to
think of your being there at all."

"That settles it then," said Bodine quietly. "It would not be wise or
honorable for me to act hastily. I must give Mr. Houghton proper
notification, but I shall at once begin to seek other employment."

Mara was embarrassed and pained by such large deference to her views, and
her spirits grew more and more depressed with the conviction that Clancy
was right. But she had been given time to think, and soon believed that
her best, her only course, was to ignore that phase of the captain's
regard, and to teach him, with a delicacy equal to his own, that it could
never be accepted.

"Moreover," resumed Bodine, "apart from my duty to Mr. Houghton--and I
must be more scrupulous toward him than if he were my best friend--I owe
it to Ella and my cousin not to give up the means of support, if I can
honorably help it, until I secure something else. Houghton has held to our
agreement both in spirit and letter, and I cannot complain of him as far
as I am concerned."

"I have confidence in your judgment, Captain, and I know you will always
be guided by the most delicate sense of honor."

"I hope so, Mara; I shall try to be, but with the best endeavor we often
make mistakes. To tell the truth I am more anxious about Ella than myself.
This young Houghton is, I fear, a rather hair-brained fellow. I've no
doubt that he is sincere and well-meaning enough as rich and indulged
young men of his class go, but he appears to me to be impetuous, and
inclined to be reckless in carrying out his own wishes. Ella, in her
inexperience, has formed far too good an opinion of him."

"Well, Captain, I wouldn't worry about it. Ella is honest as the sunshine.
They have scarcely more than met, and she will be guided by you. This
episode will soon be forgotten."

"Yes, I hope so; I think so. I shall count on your influence, for she
loves you dearly."

"I know," was the rather sad reply, "but Ella does not think and feel as I
do. I wish she could become interested in some genuine Southern man."

"That will come in time, all too soon for me, I fear," he said, with a
sigh, "but I must accept the fact that my little bird is fledged, and may
soon take flight. It will be a lonely life when she is gone."

"She may not go far," Mara answered gently, "and she may enrich you with a
son, instead of depriving you of a daughter."

He shook his head despondently, and soon afterward accompanied her to her
home. She knew there was something like an appeal to her in his eyes as he
pressed her hand warmly in parting. By simply disturbing the blind
confidence in which she had accepted and loved her father's friend, Clancy
had given her sight. She saw the veteran in a new character, and she was
distressed and perplexed beyond measure. Scarcely able, yet compelled to
believe the truth, she asked herself all the long night, "How can I bear
this new trouble?"



CHAPTER XXVIII

"HEAVEN SPEED YOU THEN"


Aun' Sheba and Vilet entered at the usual hour the following day. The
girls smiled and nodded in an absent sort of way, and then the old woman
thought they seemed to forget all about her. She also observed that they
were not so forward with the work as customary, and she watched them
wonderingly yet shrewdly. Suddenly she sprang up, exclaiming, "Lor bress
you, Missy Ella, dat de secon' time you put aw-spice in dat ar dough."

Both the girls started nervously, and Ella began to laugh.

"Missy Mara, you fergits some cake in de oben from de way it smell," and
Aun' Sheba drew out cookies as black as herself instead of a delicate
brown.

Mara looked at them ruefully, and then said, "I must make some more,
that's all." "Wot's de matter wid you bofe, honeys?" the old woman asked
kindly.

"Politics," Ella blurted out.

"Polytics! No won'er you'se bofe off de handle. Dere's been only two times
wen I couldn't stan' Unc. nohow. De fust an' wust was wen he get polytics
on de brain, an' belebed dat ole guv'ner Moses was gwine ter lead de culud
people to a promis' lan'. I alus tole him dat his Moses 'ud lead him into
a ditch, an' so he did. De secon' time was wen he got sot on, but you
knows all 'bout dat. You'se bofe too deep fer me. How you git into
polytics I doan see nohow."

"There, Aun' Sheba, don't you mind Ella's nonsense. We're no more into
politics than you are."

"You'se inter sump'in den."

"Yes," said Ella, "we're still carrying on the war."

"Please don't talk so, Ella."

"Oh, Mara! I must have my nonsense. You've got the 'storied past'--that's
how it's phrased, isn't it?--to sustain you, and I've only my nonsense."

"Well, puttin' in aw-spice double is nonsense, shuah nuff," said Aun'
Sheba, looking at the girl keenly. "Wot you want spicin' so fer all't
once, Missy Ella? You peart, an' saucy as eber. I ony wish I could see
Missy Mara lookin' like you."

"You are getting old and blind, Aun' Sheba. I have a secret sorrow gnawing
at my 'inards,' as you term those organs which keep people awake o'
nights, gazing at the moon."

"Yes, honey, Aun' Sheba gittin' bery ole an' bery blin', but she see dat
dere's sump'in out ob kilter wid de inards ob you bofe. Well, well, I
s'pose it's none ob de ole woman's business."

"Ann' Sheba," cried Ella, with an exaggerated sigh, "if you could mend
matters I'd come to you quicker than to any one else, you dear old soul!
Well now, to tell you the honest truth, there isn't very much the matter
with me, and there's a certain doctor that's going to cure me just as sure
as this batter (holding up a spoonful) is going to be cake in ten
minutes."

"Who dat?"

"Doctor Time--oh, get out!" At this instant an irate bumble-bee darted in,
and Ella, in a spasmodic effort of self-defence, threw the spoon at it,
and both went flying out of the window. The girl sat down half-crying,
half-laughing in her vexation, while Aun' Sheba shook with mirth in all
her ample proportions.

"Dat ar cake's gwine to be dough for eber mo', Missy Ella," she said.
"I'se feerd you'se case am bery serus. Yit I worries mo' 'bout Missy Mara.
Heah now, honey, you jes dun beat out. You sit down an' Missy Ella an'
me'll finish up in a jiffy. I reckon Missy Ella ony got a leetle tantrum
dis mawnin, but you'se been a wuckin' an' tinkin' too hard dis long time."

"Yes, Aun' Sheba," cried Ella, "that's the trouble. Let's you and I take
the business out of her hands for a time, and make her a silent partner."

"She too silent now. Bofe oh you gittin' ter be silent par'ners. In de
good ole times I'd heah you chatterin' as I come up de stars, an' to-day
you was bofe right smart ways off from dis kitchen in you mins. Mum, mum,
tinkin' deep, bofe ob you. Eysters ud make a racket long ob you uns dis
mawnin'."

"There, Aun' Sheba," said Mara, kindly, "don't you worry about us. This is
July, and in August we'll take a rest. You deserve and need it as much as
either of us. I'll get well and strong then, and you know it makes people
worse to tell them they don't look well and all that."

Aun' Sheba gave a sort of dissatisfied grunt, but she helped the girls
through with their tasks in her own deft way, and departed with Vilet, who
was always very quiet and shy except when at home.

"Well," said Ella, giving herself a little shake, when they were alone,
"I'm going to get over my nonsense at once."

"What's troubling you, Ella?"

"Oh, I hardly know myself. What's troubling you? We both seem out of
sorts. Do let us be sensible and jolly. Now if we both had a raging
toothache we'd have some excuse for melancholy. Good-by, dear, I'll be up
with the lark to-morrow, and we'll make a lark of our work;" and she
started homeward, with her cherry lips sternly compressed in her
resolution to be her old mirthful self. In the energy of her purpose she
began to walk faster and faster. "There now, Ella Bodine," she muttered,
"since it's your duty to ostracize and bake, _ostracize_ and _bake_, and
be done with your ridiculous fancies." And she swiftly turned the corner
of a street, as if, under the inspiration of a great purpose, she was
entering upon a new and wiser course. The result was, she nearly ran over
George Houghton. Looking up, she saw him standing, hat in hand, with a
broad, glad smile on his face.

"You almost equal that express-wagon," he said. "Are you going for the
doctor?"

Her mouth twitched nervously, but she managed to say, "Good-morning, Mr.
Houghton, I'm in haste," and on she went. He saw her head go down. Was she
laughing or crying? The latter possibility brought him to her side
instantly.

"Are you in trouble?" he asked very kindly. "Isn't there something--oh, I
see you are laughing at me," and his tones proved that his feelings were
deeply hurt.

Her mirth ceased at once. "No, Mr. Houghton," she replied, looking up at
him with frank directness, "I was not laughing at _you_, but I could not
help laughing at what you said. I'm in no trouble, nor shall I be
if--if--well, you know what I told you. We must be strangers, you know,"
and she went on again as if her feet were winged.

"I don't know anything of the kind," he muttered, as he turned on his heel
and slowly pursued his way to his father's counting-rooms. Entering he
paused an instant and looked grimly at Bodine, whose head was bent over
his writing. "I'll tackle you next, old gentleman," was his thought.

Punctually to a minute he called on Mrs. Willoughby when the week had
expired. She looked into his resolute face and surmised before he spoke
that time and reflection had not inclined him to a prudent withdrawal from
a very doubtful suit. Nevertheless she said: "Well, you've had a little
time to think, and you probably see now that your wisest course will be to
give up this little affair utterly."

"Pardon me, Mrs. Willoughby, I've had an age in which to think, and it's
not a little affair to me. I did not quite understand myself when I last
saw you--it was all so new, strange, and heavenly. But I understand myself
now. Ella Bodine shall be my wife unless she finally rejects me, unless
she herself makes me sure that it's of no use to try. What's more, it will
take years to prove this. As long as she does not belong to another I'll
never give up."

"She belongs to her father."

"No, not in this sense. She has the right of every American girl to choose
her husband."

"Do you mean to defy her father?"

"No, I mean to go to him like a gentleman, and ask permission to pay my
addresses to his daughter. I mean to do this before I say one word of love
to her."

"Since you are so resolved upon your course you do not need any more
advice from me."

"I don't mean that at all. Isn't this the right, honorable course?"

"Oh, your royalty wishes me to applaud your decrees and decisions," she
said laughing.

"Now please don't be hard on me, Mrs. Willoughby. I've followed your
advice with all my might for a week."

"Done nothing with all your might?"

"Yes, and you couldn't have given me a harder task."

"Are you of age?"

"Yes, I am. I'm twenty-two, however immature I may seem to you."

"Miss Bodine is not of age."

"Well, I'll wait till she is."

"Wouldn't that be better? Wait till she is of age, and more capable of
judging and acting for herself. Time may soften her father's feelings, and
your father's also, for, believe me, you are going to have as much trouble
at home as with Captain Bodine, that is, supposing that Ella would listen
to your suit."

"And while I'm idly biting my nails through the creeping years some
level-headed Southerner will quietly woo and win her. I would deserve to
lose her, should I take such a course."

"You certainly would have to take that risk; but perhaps you will incur
greater risks by too hasty action."

"Be sincere with me now, Mrs. Willoughby. I don't believe you women like
timid, pusillanimous men. How could I appear otherwise to Miss Bodine if I
should withdraw, like a growling bear into winter quarters, there to
hibernate indefinitely? The period wouldn't be life to me, scarcely
tolerable existence. What could she know about my motives and feelings? I
tell you my love is as sacred as my faith in God. I'm proud of it, rather
than ashamed. I wish her to know it, no matter what the result may be, and
I don't care if all the world knows it, too."

"You mean to tell your father then?"

"Certainly, at the proper time."

"Suppose you find him utterly opposed to it all?"

"I do not think I shall; not when he sees my happiness is at stake. He may
fume over it for a time, but when he comes to know Ella she'll disarm him.
Why, it's just as clear to me as that I see you, that she could make the
old gentleman happier than he has been for over a quarter of a century."

"My poor young friend! I wish I could share in your sanguine feelings."

"Oh, I'm not so very sanguine about her. What she will do worries me far
more than what the old people will do."

"Well, you are right there. The old people are the outworks, she the
citadel, which you can never capture unless she chooses to surrender."

"That's true, but I don't believe she ever would surrender to a man who
was afraid to approach even the outworks."

Mrs. Willoughby laughed softly as she admitted, "Perhaps you are right."

"If I'm not, my whole manhood is at fault," he replied earnestly. "Please
tell me, haven't I decided on the right, honorable course--on what would
seem honorable to Captain Bodine and to Ella also?"

"Yes, if you _will_ act now you can take no other."

"Well, won't you please approve of it?"

"Mr. Houghton, I'm not going to be timid and pusillanimous either. Since
you are of age, and will take a perfectly honorable course, I will stand
by you as a friend. I will still counsel you, if you so wish, for I fear
that your troubles have only begun."

"I thank you from my heart," he said, seizing her hand and pressing it
warmly. "I do need and wish your counsel, for I have very little tact. I
can sail a boat better than I can manage an affair like this."

"Will you make me one solemn promise?"

"Yes, if I can."

"Then pledge me your word that you will not lose your temper with either
Captain Bodine or your father."

"Oh, I think I can easily do that," he said good-humoredly.

"You don't know, you can't imagine, how you may be tried."

"Well, it's a sensible thing you ask, and I've sense enough to know it. I
pledge you my word. If I break it, it will be because I'm pushed beyond
mortal endurance."

"Mr. Houghton," she said, almost sternly, "you must not break it, no
matter what is said or what happens. You would jeopardize everything if
you did. You might lose Ella's respect."

He drew a long breath. "You make me feel as if I were going into a very
doubtful battle," he said thoughtfully.

"It is a very doubtful battle. It certainly will be a hard, and probably a
long one, and you will lose it if you don't keep cool."

"I can be very firm, I suppose."

"Yes, as firm and decided as you please, as long as you are quiet and
gentlemanly in your words. Let me say one thing more," she added, very
gravely. "If you enter on this affair, and then, in any kind of weakness
or fickleness, give it up, I shall despise you, and so will all in this
city who know about it. Count the cost. I'm too true a Southerner to look
at you again if you trifle with a Southern girl. Your father will offer
you great inducements to abandon this folly, as he will term it."

He flushed deeply, but only said, in quiet emphasis, "If I ever give up,
except for reasons satisfactory to you, I shall despise myself far more
than you can despise me."

"And you give me your word that you will keep your temper to the very
end?"

"Yes, Heaven helping me, I will."

"Heaven speed you then, my friend."



CHAPTER XXIX

CONSTERNATION


Young Houghton was like a high-mettled steed, from which the curb had been
removed. His temperament, even more than the impatience of youth, led him
to chafe at delay, and Ella appeared so lovely, so exactly to his mind,
that he had a nervous dread lest others should equally appreciate her, and
forestall his effort to secure her affection. He resolved, therefore, that
not an hour should be lost, and so went directly back to his father's
counting-rooms.

Bodine was writing as usual at his desk, and Houghton looked at him with
an apprehension thus far unknown in his experience. But he did not
hesitate. "Captain Bodine," he said, with a little nervous tremor in his
voice, "will you be so kind as to grant me a private interview this
evening?"

The veteran looked at him coldly as he asked, "May I inquire, sir, your
object in seeking this interview?"

"I will explain fully when we are alone. I cannot here, but will merely
say that my motives are honorable, as you yourself will admit."

Bodine contracted his brows in painful thought for a moment. "I may as
well have it out with him at once," was his conclusion. "Very well, sir, I
will remain after the office is closed," he said frigidly, then turned to
his writing.

George went to his desk in his father's private room, and there was a very
grim, set look on his face also. "I understand you, my future
father-in-law," he murmured softly. "You think you are going to end this
affair in half an hour. We'll see."

The afternoon was very warm, and his father said kindly, "Come, George,
knock off for to-day. I'm going home and shall try to get a nap before
dinner."

"That's right, father; do so by all means. I have an engagement this
evening, so please don't wait dinner for me." His thought was, "If I'm to
keep my temper I can't tackle more than one the same day; yet I don't
believe my father will be obdurate. If I succeed, the time will come when
he'll thank me with all his heart."

Mr. Houghton had no disposition to control his son in small matters, and
the young fellow came and went at his own will. Thus far his frankness and
general good behavior had inspired confidence. His tastes had always
inclined to athletic, manly sports, and these are usually at variance with
dissipation of every kind.

The impatient youth had not long to wait. The clerks soon departed, and
the colored janitor entered on his labors. Bodine remained writing quietly
until George came and said, "Will you be so kind as to come to the private
office?"

The veteran deliberately put his desk in order, and followed the young man
without a word. There was still an abundance of light in which to see each
other's faces, and George observed that Bodine's expression boded ill. He
took a seat in silence, and looked at the flushed face of the youth coldly
and impassively.

"Captain Bodine," George began hesitatingly, "you can make this interview
very hard for me, and I fear you will do so. Yet you are a gentleman, and
I wish to act and speak as becomes one also."

Bodine merely bowed slightly.

"I will use no circumlocution. You have been a soldier, and so will
naturally prefer directness. I wish your permission to pay my addresses to
your daughter."

"I cannot grant it."

"Please do not make so hasty a decision, sir. I fear that you are greatly
prejudiced against me, but--"

"No, sir," interrupted Bodine, "I am not prejudiced against you at all. I
have my own personal reasons for taking the ground I do, and it is not
necessary to discuss them. I think our interview may as well end at once."

"Captain Bodine, you will admit that I have acted honorably in this
matter. Since your daughter told me that you were averse to our
acquaintance, I have made no effort to see her."

"Certainly, sir, that was right and honorable. Any other course would not
have been so."

"It is my purpose to maintain a strictly honorable and straightforward
course in this suit."

"Do you mean to say that you will pursue this suit contrary to my wishes?"

"Certainly. There is no law, human or divine, which forbids a man from
loving a good woman, and Miss Bodine is good if any one is."

"How do you propose to carry on this suit?" the captain asked sternly.

"I scarcely know yet, but in no underhand way. I must ask you to inform
Miss Bodine of this interview."

"Suppose I decline to do this?"

"Then I shall make it known to her myself."

"In other words, you defy me."

"Not at all, not in the sense in which you speak. I shall take no action
whatever without your knowledge."

"You must remember that my daughter is not of age."

"I do not dispute your right in the least to control her action till she
is, but I shall not take the risk of losing her by timidity and delay.
Others will appreciate her worth as well as myself. I wish her to know
that I love her, and would make her my wife."

"You appear to think that this is all that is essential so far as she is
concerned," said Bodine, in bitter sarcasm.

"You do me wrong, sir," Houghton replied, flushing hotly. "Even if you
should give your full consent, I, better than any one, know that my suit
would be doubtful. But it would be hopeless did I not reveal to her my
feelings and purposes."

"If she herself, then, informs you that it is hopeless, that would end the
matter?"

"Certainly, after years of patient effort to induce her to think
otherwise."

"I do not think you have shown any patience thus far, sir. You have
scarcely more than met her before you enter, recklessly and selfishly, on
a 'suit,' as you term it, which can only bring wretchedness to her and to
those who have the natural right to her allegiance and love."

"You do me wrong again, Captain Bodine. I am no more reckless or selfish
than any other man who would marry the girl he loves. By reason of
circumstances over which I had no control I have met Miss Bodine, and she
has inspired a sacred love, such as her mother inspired in you. You can
find no serious fault with me personally, and I am not responsible for
others. I have my own life to make or mar, and never to win Miss Bodine
would mar it wofully. I am an educated man and her equal socially,
although she is greatly my superior in other respects. I have the means
with which to support her in affluence. I mean only good toward her and
you. This is neither selfishness nor recklessness."

"Have you spoken to Mr. Houghton of your intentions?"

"Not yet, but I shall."

"You will find him as bitterly opposed to it all as I am."

"I think not. I shall be sorry beyond measure if you are right, but it can
make no difference."

"You will defy him also, then?"

"I object to the use of that word, Captain Bodine. In availing myself of
my inalienable rights I defy no one."

"Have I no rights in my own child? Your purpose is to rob me as ruthlessly
as our homes were desolated years since."

"I am not responsible for the past, any more than I am for your prejudices
against me. My purpose is simple and honorable, as much so as that of any
other man who may ask you for your daughter's hand."

"Mr. Houghton," said Bodine, rising, "there is no use in prolonging this
painful and intensely disagreeable interview. I said to your father in
this office that our relations could be only those of business. Even these
shall soon cease. I now understand you, sir. Of course the past is nothing
to you, and you are bent on obtaining what you imagine you wish at the
present moment, without any regard to others. Let me tell you once for all
there can be no alliance between your house and mine. I would as soon bury
my daughter as see her married to you. I do find fault with you
personally. You are headlong and inconsiderate. You would lay your hands
on the best you can find in the South just as your armies and politicians
have done. But you proceed further at your peril--do you comprehend
me?--at your peril," and the veteran's eyes gleamed fiercely.

"Captain Bodine," said George, also rising, "you cannot make me lose my
temper. I shall give you no just reason for saying that I am headlong. I
wish you could be more calm and fair yourself. Before we part one point
must be settled. My request must be met in one way or the other. If you
will give me your word that you will repeat the purport of what I have
said to Miss Bodine, I will make no effort to do so myself. However
hostile you may be to me, I know that you are a man of honor, and I will
trust you. I merely wish Miss Bodine to know that I love her and am
willing to wait for her till I am gray."

"You wish me to tell her that you will wait and pray for my death, and
seek to lead her to do likewise," was the angry reply.

"It is useless for me to protest against your unjust and bitter words. The
trust that I offer to repose in you entitles me to better courtesy."

By a great effort Bodine regained self-control, and balanced himself for a
few moments on his crutches in deep thought. At last he said, "I accept
the trust, and will be as fair to you as it is possible for an outraged
father to be. I forbid that you should have any communication with my
daughter whatever, and I shall forbid her to receive any from you. What is
more, you must take her answer as final."

"I promise only this, Captain Bodine, that I shall take no action without
your knowledge. I shall trust you implicitly in repeating the purport of
this interview. The moment that I looked into your face I recognized that
you were a gentleman, and I again apologize for my rude remark before I
knew who you were. Good-evening, sir."

Bodine bowed stiffly, and departed with many conflicting emotions surging
in his breast, none of them agreeable. He scarcely knew whether he had
acted wisely or not. Indeed, the impression grew upon him that he had been
worsted in the encounter, that George, in making him his messenger to
Ella, had acted with singular astuteness. This was true, but the young
man's action was not the result of the Yankee shrewdness with which the
veteran was disposed to credit him. A simple, straightforward course is
usually the wisest one, and George instinctively knew that Ella would
appreciate such openness on his part. He was left in a very anxious and
perturbed condition, it is true, but in his heart he again thanked Mrs.
Willoughby for putting him so sacredly on his guard against his hasty
temper.

Absorbed in thought, he sat till the gloom of night gathered in the
office; then the shuffling feet of the impatient janitor aroused him.

Solacing the old man with a dollar, he went out hastily, and walked a mile
or two to work off his nervous excitement, then sought a restaurant,
muttering, "I haven't reached the point of losing my appetite yet."

By the time Bodine reached home he was much calmer, and disposed to take a
much more hopeful view of the affair.

He again concluded that after all it was best that he should be the one to
inform Ella, and thus keep the matter entirely within his own hands.
Believing her to be as yet untouched by anything that Houghton might have
said to her, he felt quite sure that he could readily induce her to take
the same attitude toward the objectionable suitor which he proposed to
maintain to the end.

He found her and his cousin very anxious about his late return--an anxiety
not allayed by his grim, stern expression.

"I have been detained by an unpleasant interview," he said.

"With that old--"

"No, not with Mr. Houghton. I will explain after dinner."

With the swiftness of light, Ella surmised the truth, and made but a very
indifferent repast. Her father noted this, and asked himself, "Could she
have known of his purpose?" Then he reproached himself inwardly for
entertaining the thought.

The meal was comparatively a silent one, and soon over; then they all went
to Mrs. Bodine's room.

"I wish you to be present, Cousin Sophy," said the captain, "for I have a
very disagreeable task to perform, and I can scarcely trust myself to do
it fairly. You must prompt me if you think I do not. Ella, my dear and
only child, I trust that you will receive the message, which, in a sense,
I have been compelled to bring you, in the right spirit I feel sure that
you will do so, and that your course now and hereafter will continue to
give me that same deep, glad peace at heart which your fidelity to duty
and your devotion to me have always inspired. You have my happiness now in
your hands as never before; but I do not fear that you will fail me. The
son of the man whom we all detest, and whose employ I shall leave
presently, has asked permission to pay you his addresses."

She turned pale as he spoke so gravely, and trembled visibly.

"Why do you tell me this, papa?" she faltered. "I would rather not have
known it."

"Because he requested me to tell you. Because he said he wished you to
know that he loved you, and that if I did not tell you he would himself;"
and he looked at her keenly.

"Then," cried Ella, impetuously, "although I may never speak to him again,
I say he has acted honorably. I told you that he was incapable of anything
clandestine."

"I trust that you never will speak to him again," said her father, almost
sternly. "I have forbidden him to have any communication with you, and I
certainly forbid your speaking with him again."

"Father," said Ella, gently, with tears in her eyes, "I do not deserve
that you should speak to me in that tone. I've always tried to obey you."

"Forgive me, Ella, but I have been intensely annoyed by the interview
inflicted upon me, and I cannot think of it, or of his preposterous
course, with patience. Moreover, pardon me for saying it, you have shown a
friendly interest in him which it has been very painful to note."

"I've only tried to be fair to him, papa."

"Please try merely to forget him, Ella--to think nothing about him
whatever."

"I shall try to obey you, papa; but you are too old and wise to tell me
not to think. As well tell me not to breathe."

"Ella," began her father sternly, "can you mean--"

"Now, Hugh," interrupted his cousin, "be careful you don't do more
mischief than young Houghton can possibly accomplish. How men do bungle in
these matters! Hough-ton hasn't bungled, though. His making you his
messenger strikes me as the shrewdest Yankee trick I ever heard of."

"I had the same impression on my way home," admitted Bodine, irritably.

Ella felt that she owed no such deference to Mrs. Bodine as she did to her
father, and, with an ominous flash in her eyes, said decidedly, "You are
bungling, Cousin Sophy. George Houghton is incapable of what you term a
Yankee trick. I will be pliant under all motives of love and duty to my
father, but you must not outrage my sense of justice. You must remember
that I have a conscience, as truly as you have."

"There, forgive me, Ella. You've seen the young fellow, and I haven't.
Cousin Hugh, remember that Ella has your spirit, and the spirit of her
ancestors. Show her what is right and best, and she will do it."

Bodine looked at his daughter in deep perturbation. Could that flushed,
beautiful woman be his little Ella? With an indescribable pang he began to
recognize that she was becoming a woman, with an independent life of her
own. The greatness of the emergency calmed him, as all strong minds are
quieted by great and impending danger. "Ella," he said, gently and sadly,
"I do not wish to treat you as a little, foolish girl, but as becomes your
years. I wish your conscience and reason to go with mine. You know that
your happiness is the chief desire of my life. There could be no happiness
for either of us in such a misalliance. The father of this hasty youth
will be as bitterly opposed to it all as I am. We belong to different
camps, and can never have anything in common. You know my motive in taking
employment from him. I have thought better of it, and shall now leave his
office as soon as I can honorably. I don't wish to outrage your sense of
justice, Ella, and I will mention one other essential point in the
interview. I told young Houghton that he must accept your answer as final,
and that he would proceed further at his peril, and he said he would only
take a final answer from you after years of patient waiting and wooing.
How he proposes to do the latter I do not know, nor does he know himself.
He did say, however, that he would take no action without my knowledge.
You see that I am trying to be just to him."

"I would like to ask one question, papa. Did he use any angry,
disrespectful language toward you?"

Bodine winced under this question, but said plainly, "No, he did not. He
apologized for the third time for a hasty remark he once made before he
knew who I was. He said that he recognized that I was a gentleman then,
and that he would trust me as such to deliver his message."

The girl drew a long breath as if a deep cause for anxiety had been
removed.

"Oh, come now, Cousin Hugh, you and Ella are taking this matter too much
to heart. Why, Lor bless you! I had nearly a dozen offers by the time I
was Ella's age. There is nothing tragic about this young fellow or his
proceedings. Indeed, I think with Ella, that he has done remarkably well,
wonderfully well, considering. Nine out of ten of his kind wouldn't be so
scrupulous. He has done neither you nor Ella any wrong, only paid you the
highest compliment in his power. Regard it as such, and let the matter end
there. He can't marry Ella out of hand any more than he can me."

At this the girl, seeing inevitably the comic side of everything, burst
into a laugh. "Cousin Sophy," she cried, "you surpass Solomon himself.
Come, dear papa, let us try to be sensible. Of course Mr. Houghton can't
marry me without your consent or mine."

"Then I may tell him that you will never give your consent--that what he
terms his suit must end at once and forever?"

She again became very pale, and did not answer immediately.

"Ella, my only child, the hope and solace of my life, can you hesitate?"

With a rush of tears, she threw herself upon his neck, and sobbed, "Tell
him that I will never do anything without your consent." Then she fled to
her own room.

The captain and Mrs. Bodine sat looking at each other in consternation.



CHAPTER XXX

TEMPESTS


On his return home George found his father reading such of the Boston
papers as most nearly reflected his own views, and in which he had lost
none of his early interest. He had always looked upon himself somewhat in
the light of an exile, and it had been his purpose to return to his native
State; but as time passed, a dread of its harsh climate had begun to
reconcile him to the thought of ending his days in Charleston. All morbid
tendencies strengthen, if indulged. The desire, therefore, to remain near
the watery grave of his eldest son increased. Allied to this motive was
the pleasure of accumulating money, the excitement of business, and
exultation over the fact that he was taking tens of thousands from his
enemies. As far as possible he invested his capital at the North. The
people among whom he dwelt knew this, knew that, unlike Mr. Ainsley, he
was doing as little as possible to build up the section from which he was
drawing his wealth.

George, as yet, had not been inducted into the spirit or knowledge of his
father's business methods, for the old man had believed that the time for
this had not come. Moreover, as the merchant became better acquainted with
the maturer character of his son, he became convinced that George would
not, indeed could not, carry on the business as he had. There was a large,
tolerant good-nature about the youth which would render it impossible for
him to deal with any one in his father's spirit. He had not known his
elder brother, and was merely proud of his record as that of a brave
soldier who had died in the performance of duty. George was like many of
the combatants, both Union and Confederate, capable of fighting each other
to the death during the war, but ready to shake hands after the battle was
over.

No one understood this disposition better than Mr. Houghton, and he felt
that the South was no place for George. He wished his son to go back to
Massachusetts, where wealth and influence would open the way for a
brilliant career; and the old man already saw in imagination his name
famous in the Old Commonwealth.

He had been thinking over this scheme on the present evening, and his mind
was full of it when George entered. "Glad to see you so early," he said
genially. "Had a good dinner? Yes; well, then, sit down a while, for I
wish to talk to you. I've had a good nap, and so won't need to go to bed
very early. Well, my boy, you've reached that age when you should take
your bearings for your future career."

"Why, father, I've always expected to go into business with you, and
gradually relieve you of its burdens and cares."

"No, George, that wouldn't be best; that wouldn't suit me at all. You are
fitted for something better and larger. You wouldn't carry on the business
as I do, and that would lead to differences between us. I couldn't stand
that. The iron entered into my soul before you were born. Your brother had
equal promise with yourself, and, to put it very mildly, I have no love
for those who destroyed him. I do business with them, but in much the same
spirit that Antonio dealt with the Jew on the Rialto. You would not do
this, nor could I expect you to. The accursed crime of rebellion has not
smitten your soul as with lightning, nor broken your heart. The young fall
into the ways of those with whom they live, and I wish you to have as
little to do with this Southern people as possible. There is no career for
you in this city, but in your native State you can become almost what you
please. If, for instance, with your splendid health you entered upon the
study of law and mastered it, I have influence and wealth enough to
advance you rapidly, until by your own grip you can climb to the top of
the ladder. You can then eventually marry into one of the best families in
the State, and thus at the same time secure happiness and double your
chances of success."

George listened aghast as his father proceeded complacently, and with a
touch of enthusiasm rarely indulged. He was sitting by an open window, at
some distance from Mr. Houghton, the darkness concealing his face. He now
began to realize the truth of Mrs. Willoughby's belief and Bodine's
conviction, that he might find as much trouble at home as elsewhere. It
quickly became clear to him that he must reveal the truth at once, but how
to set about it he scarcely knew, and he hesitated like one on the brink
of icy water. What he considered a bright thought struck him, and he said,
"Speaking of marrying, you never told me how you came to marry mother."

"Oh!" replied the old man dreamily, "I was almost brought up to marry her.
She was the daughter of a near neighbor and dear friend of my father's.
Your mother and I played together as children. I scarcely think we knew
when our mutual affection changed into love--it all came about so
gradually and naturally--and the union gave the deepest satisfaction to
both families. Ah! George, George, your brother's death shortened the life
of your mother, and left me very sad and lonely. I can never forgive this
people for the irreparable injuries they have done to me and mine. I know
you cannot feel as I do; but love of country and your affection for me
should lead you to stand aloof from those who are still animated by the
old, diabolical spirit which caused the death of such brave fellows as
your brother, and broke the hearts of such women as your mother."

His son's distress was so deep that he buried his face in his hands.

"I don't wonder that your feelings are touched by my reminiscences,
George," and the old man wiped tears from his own eyes.

"Oh, father!" cried the son, springing up, and placing his hand on the old
man's shoulder, "I'm going to test your love for me severely. You are
right in saying I cannot feel as you do. I did not know that you felt so
strongly. I've given my love to a Southern girl."

Moments of oppressive silence followed this announcement, and the old
man's face grew stern and rigid.

"Father, listen patiently," George began. "She is not to blame for the
past, nor am I. If you only knew how good and noble and lovely she is--"

"Who is she? What is her name?"

"Ella Bodine."

"What! A relative of that double-dyed rebel in my office?"

"His daughter."

"George Houghton!" and his father sprang up, and confronted his son with a
visage distorted by anger. Never had the youth called forth a look like
that, and he trembled before the passion he had evoked.

"Father," he said entreatingly, "sit down. Do not look at me so, do not
speak to me till you are calm. Remember I am your son."

The old man paced the room for a few moments in strong agitation, for he
had been wounded at his most vulnerable point. The thought that his only
son would ally himself with those whom he so detested, and whom for years
he had sought to punish, almost maddened him. As we have seen before,
there was a slumbering volcano in this old man's breast when adequate
causes called it into action, and now the deepest and strongest forces of
his nature were awakened.

At last he said in a constrained voice: "I hope you also will remember
that I am your father. It would appear that you had forgotten the fact,
when you made love to one whom I never can call daughter."

"I have not made love to her yet. You--"

"Has she been making love to you then?"

"Father, please don't speak in that way. There never were harsh words
between us before, and there must not be now."

Again the dreadful silence fell between them, but it was evident that Mr.
Houghton was making a great effort for self-control.

"You are right, George," he said at last. "I have never spoken to you
before as I have to-night, and, I hope to God, I may never have cause to
do so again. I have not been a harsh father, nor have I inflicted my
unhappiness on you. I have given you large liberty, the best education
that you would take, and ample means with which to enjoy yourself. I had
expected that in return you would consult my wishes in some vital
matters--as vital to your happiness as mine. I never dreamed that such
incredible folly as you have mentioned was possible. Your very birthright
precluded the idea. You said that you would have to test my love severely.
I shall not only have to test your love, but also your reason, your
common-sense, almost your sanity. What is thought of a man who throws away
everything for a pretty face?"

"That I shall never do, father. The beauty in Ella Bodine's face is but
the reflex of her character."

"That's what every enamored fool has said from the beginning of time,"
replied Mr. Houghton, in strong irritation. "What chance have you had to
learn her character? I know more about the girl and her connections than
you do. She works with that Wallingford girl, and that old fire-eater,
Mrs. Hunter, in the baking trade. She lives with her cousin old Mrs.
Bodine, who thinks of little else than what she is pleased to consider her
blue blood, forgetting that it is not good, loyal, American blood. This
little patch of a State is more to her than the Union bequeathed to us by
our fathers. As to Bodine himself, if the South rose again, he'd march
away on his crutches with the rebellious army. Can you soberly expect to
live among such a set of people? Can you expect me to fraternize with
them, to stultify all my life, to trample on my most sacred convictions,
to be disloyal to the memory of wife and son, who virtually perished by
the action of just such traitors?" and he laughed in harsh, bitter
protest.

George sat down, again buried his face in his hands, and groaned aloud.

"You may well groan, young man, when you face the truth which you have so
strangely forgotten. But come, I'm not one to yield weakly to any such
monstrous absurdity. You are young and strong, and should have a spirit
equal to your stature and muscle. You have not made love to this girl, you
say. Never do it. Steer as wide of her as you would of a whirlpool, and
all will soon be well. I won't believe that a son of mine can be so
wretchedly, miserably, and contemptibly weak as to throw himself away in
this fashion."

George was silent and overwhelmed. His father's words had opened an abyss
at his feet. He loved the old man tenderly and gratefully, and, under his
burning, scathing words, felt at the time that his course was black
ingratitude. Even if he could face the awful estrangement which he saw
must ensue, the thought of striking such a blow at his father's hopes,
affection and confidence made him shudder in his very soul. It might be
fatal even to a life already held in the feeble grasp of age. He could not
speak.

At last Mr. Houghton resumed, very gravely, and yet not unkindly: "You are
not the first one of your age who has been on the verge of an irreparable
blunder. Thank God it is not too late for you to retreat! Do not let this
word jar upon you, for it often requires much higher courage and manhood
to retreat than to advance. To do the latter in this case would be as
foolhardy as it would be wrong and disastrous to all concerned. It would
be as fatal to me as to you, for I could not long survive if I learned
that I had been leaning on such a broken reed. It would be fatal to you,
for I would not leave my money so you could enrich these people. You would
have nothing in the world but the pretty face for which you sold your
birthright. I will say no more now, George. You will wake in the morning a
sane man, and my son. Good-night."

"Good-night, father," George answered in a broken voice. Then, when alone,
he added bitterly: "Wake! When shall I sleep again?"

The eastern horizon was tinged with light before, exhausted by his fierce
mental conflict, he sank into a respite of oblivion. For a long time he
wavered, love for his father tugging at his heart with a restraining power
far beyond that of words which virtually were threats. "He could keep his
money," the young fellow groaned, "if I could only keep his affection and
confidence, if I could only be sure that I would not harm his life and
health. I could be happy in working as a day-laborer for her."

At last he came to a decision. He had given both his love and his word to
Ella. She only could reject the one, and absolve him from the other.

He was troubled to find that the forenoon had nearly passed when he awoke.
Dressing hastily, he went down to make inquiries for his father.

"Marse Houghton went to de sto' at de us'l time," said the colored waiter.
"He lef word not to 'sturb you, an' ter hab you'se breakfus' ready."

George merely swallowed a cup of coffee, and then hastened down town.
Meanwhile, events had occurred at the office which require attention.

A very few moments after Mr. Houghton entered his private room he touched
a bell. To the clerk who entered he said, "Take this letter to Mr.
Bodine."

The veteran's face was as rigid and stern with his purpose as the employer
was grim in his resolves; but when the captain read the curt note handed
to him, his face grew dark with passion. It ran as follows:

"MR. BODINE--I have no further need of your services. Inclosed find check
for your wages to the end of the month."

The captain sat still a few moments to regain self-control then quietly
put his desk in order. He next halted to the private office, and the two
men looked steadily and un-blenchingly into each other's eyes for a
moment. Then the Southerner began sternly, "That hair-brained son of yours
has told you of the interview he forced upon me last night."

"This is my private office, sir," replied Mr. Houghton, with equal
sternness. "You have no right to enter it, or to use such language."

"Yes, sir, I have the right. Were it not for the folly and presumption of
your headlong boy, I would have left your employ quietly in a few days,
and had nothing more to do with you or yours. To save my daughter
annoyance from his silly sentimentality I was compelled to come into this
hated place wherein you concoct your schemes to suck dry our Southern
blood. He asked for permission to pay his addresses to my daughter, and I
forbade it. I told him that he could only do so at his peril."

"You are certainly right, sir. I also have told him that he would do so at
his peril."

"I also told him that I would rather bury my daughter than see her married
to him."

"Truly, sir, I never imagined we could agree so perfectly on any
question," was Mr. Houghton's sarcastic reply. "Can we not now part with
this clear understanding? I have much to attend to this morning."

"I have but one word more, and then trust I am through with his
sentimentality and your insolence. Tell the boy that my daughter says she
will have nothing to do with him without my consent. Now if there is even
the trace of a gentleman in his anatomy he will leave us alone.
Good-morning, sir." And tearing the check in two, he dropped it on the
floor and halted away.

Mr. Houghton coolly and contemptuously turned to his writing till the door
closed on Bodine, and then he smiled and rubbed his hands in
self-felicitation. "This is better than I had hoped," he said. "I've often
laughed at the idiotic pride of these black-blooded, rather than
blue-blooded, fire-eaters, but I shall bless it hereafter."

"As you virtually say, you hardened old rebel, if George is worth the
powder to blow him up, he'll drop you all now as if you had the plague.
I've only to tell him what you and your doll-daughter have said."



CHAPTER XXXI

"I ABSOLVE YOU"


When George reached the counting-rooms, he saw that Bodine was not in his
accustomed place. Surmising the truth at once, he hastened to his father's
room, and asked almost sternly:

"Where is Captain Bodine?"

"I neither know nor care," was the cool reply. "He is dismissed from my
service."

"You have acted unjustly, sir," his son began hotly, "you have punished
him for my--"

"George," interrupted his father gravely, "remember what you said about
angry words between us."

The young man paced the office excitedly for a few moments in silence and
then sat down.

"That's right," resumed his father quietly. "I am glad you are able to
attain self-control, for you now require the full possession of all your
faculties. Fortunately for both of us, this man, Bodine, has said more
than enough to end this folly forever," and he began to repeat the
conversation which had taken place.

At a certain point George started, and, looking at his father with a
shocked expression, asked, "Did you mean, sir, that you also would rather
see me buried than married to a good woman whom I love?"

"That is your way of putting it," replied Mr. Houghton, somewhat
disconcerted, for his son's tone and look smote him sorely. "You will
understand my feelings better when you have heard that rebel's final
words;" and he repeated them, ending with the sentences, "'Tell the boy
that my daughter says she will have nothing to do with him without my
consent. Now if there is even the trace of a gentleman in his anatomy he
will leave us alone.' In this final remark I certainly do agree with him
most emphatically," concluded the old man sternly. "Any human being,
possessing a particle of self-respect, would prefer death to the
humiliation and dishonor of seeking to force himself on such people."

"I suppose you are right, sir, but I cannot help having my own thoughts."

"Well, what are they?"

"That the girl has met in her home the same harsh, terrible opposition
that I have found in mine."

"Undoubtedly, thank heaven! Whether she needed it or not she has evidently
had the sense to take the wholesome medicine. The probabilities are,
however, that she has laughed at the idea of receiving attentions so
repugnant to her father and to me."

"No doubt," said George wearily. "Very well, there _is_ a trace of a
gentleman in my anatomy. I would like to leave town for a while."

"A very sensible wish, George," said his father kindly. "Go where you
please, and take all the money you need. When you have come to see this
affair in its true light come back to me. I will try to arrange my
business so that we can make a visit North together in the early autumn."

"Very well, sir," and there was apathy in his tones. After a moment he
added, "Please give me some work this morning."

"No, my boy. Go and make your preparations at once. Divert your thoughts
into new channels. Be a resolute man for a few days, and then your own
manhood will right you as a boat is righted when keeled over by a sudden
gust."

George was not long in forming the same plan which Clancy had adopted. He
would go to the mountains in the interior, fish, hunt and tramp till the
fever in his blood subsided. He told his father of his purpose.

"All right, George. I only wish I were young and strong enough to go with
you. It will not be long before you will see that I have had at heart only
what was best for you."

"I hope so, father; I truly do, for I have had a new, strange experience.
Even yet I can scarcely comprehend that you and Mr. Bodine could speak to
your children, and dictate to them in matters relating to their happiness
as you both have done. It savors more of feudal times than of this free
age."

"In all times, George, the hasty passions and inconsiderate desires of the
young, when permitted gratification, have led to a lifetime of
wretchedness. But we need not refer to this matter again. Bodine's final
words have settled it for all time."

"It would certainly seem so," said young Houghton. "Well, I will make my
preparations to start to-morrow."

His first step was to go direct to Mrs. Willoughby, and his dejected
expression revealed to the lady that her anticipations of strong
opposition were correct.

"I won't annoy you," she said, as George sat down and looked at her with
troubled eyes, "by that saying of complacently sagacious people, 'I told
you so.' You may tell me all if you wish."

"I do so wish, for I fear my way is blocked." And he related all that had
occurred. When he ended with Bodine's final words she said thoughtfully,
"Such language as that, combined with Ella's message, does seem to end the
affair."

"Well, I know this much," he replied ruefully, "I am a gentleman. No
matter what it costs me I must continue to be one."

"Yes, Mr. Houghton, you have acted like a gentleman, and, as you say, you
must continue to do so. Let me congratulate and thank you for keeping your
temper."

"I nearly lost it when I learned that my father had discharged Mr.
Bodine."

"I understand how you felt then. You were sorely tried as I feared. Have
you any reason to think that Ella feels in any such way as you do?"

"None at all. My best hope was, that with time and opportunity I could
awaken like regard. While not at all sanguine, I would have made every
effort in my power to win her respect and love. But now what can I do? If
I take another step I must forfeit my father's love and confidence, which
is far more to me than his money. I have at least brain and muscle enough
to earn a living for us both. I fear, however, that such a course would
kill the old gentleman. I could meet this problem by simply waiting if
Ella cared for me, but she and her father have made it impossible to
approach her again. She has said she would have nothing to do with me
without her father's consent, and he has said that he would rather bury
her than permit my attentions."

"Well, my friend, I see how it is, and I absolve you utterly. You can't go
forward under the circumstances."

"No, for she would now probably meet any effort on my part with contempt,
and agree with her father that a Northern man couldn't even appreciate
words that were like a kick."

"Well, then, go to the mountains and forget all about it. If Ella had set
her heart upon you as you have on her, and you both could be patiently
constant, the future might have possibilities; but if I were a man I would
make no further effort under the circumstances."

George went home with a heavy heart, and grimly entered upon the first
hard battle of his life.

Ella tried to be her old mirthful self when she came down to breakfast
that morning, and succeeded fairly well. In spite of her father's bitter
words and opposition he had told her a truth that was like the sun in the
sky. George Houghton loved her, and he had revealed his love in no
underhand way. She was proud of him; she exulted over him, and, in the
delicious pain of her own awakening heart, she forgot nearly everything
except the fact that he loved her.

Bodine was perplexed by her manner and not wholly reassured. When she had
kissed him good-by for the day, he said, "Cousin Sophy, perhaps our fears
last night had little foundation. Ella does not seem cast down this
morning."

The old lady shook her head and only remarked, "I hope it is not as
serious as I feared."

"Why do you fear so greatly?"

"Suppose Ella does care for him more than we could wish, the fact you told
her last night that this young fellow loves her, or thinks he does, would
be very exhilarating. Oh, I know a woman's heart. We're all alike."

"Curse him!" muttered the captain.

"No, no, no, pray for your enemies. That's commanded, but not that we
should marry our daughters to them. Dear Cousin Hugh, we must keep our
comon-sense in this matter. This is probably Ella's first little love
affair, and girls as well as boys often have two or three before they
settle down. Ella will soon get over it, if we ignore the whole affair as
far as possible. You have much to be thankful for, since neither of the
young people is sly and underhanded. Never fear. That old Houghton will
set his boy down more decidedly than you have Ella, and also send him out
of town probably. This cloud will sink below the horizon before we are
many months older. Perhaps Ella will mope a little for a time, but we must
not notice it, and must make it as cheerful for her as possible.
Charleston men are beginning to call on her, and she'll soon discover that
there are others in the world besides George Houghton."

But the veteran halted to his work sore-hearted and angry. Strong-willed
and decided as Mr. Houghton himself, he could not endure the truth that
his daughter had looked with favor on one so intensely disagreeable to
him. He, too, felt that such an alliance would stultify his life and all
his past, that it would bring him into contempt with those whose respect
he most valued. Young Houghton's coolness and resolute purpose to ignore
his opposition, together with the fact that Ella was not indifferent,
troubled him, and led to the determination to take the strongest measures
within his power to prevent further complications. This resolve accounted
for his visit to Mr. Houghton's office and the words he uttered there. His
employer, however, had aroused his anger to the last degree, and he
returned home in a rage.

Mrs. Bodine listened quietly to his recital of what had occurred, and then
said, with her irrepressible little laugh, "Well, it was Greek meeting
Greek. You both fired regular broadsiders. Cool off, Cousin Hugh. Don't
you see that all things are working for the best? Your rupture with old
Houghton will only secure you greater favor with our people, and Ella be
cured all the sooner of any weakness toward that old curmudgeon's son."

"I should hope so," said her father most emphatically.

"Don't you be harsh to Ella. We can laugh her out of this fancy much
better than scold or threaten her out of it."

"I shall not do either," said Bodine gravely. "I shall tell her the facts
and then trust to her love, loyalty and good sense. It has been no
laughing matter to me."

Ella's cheerfulness and happiness grew apace all the morning. "To think
that I should have brought that great Vandal to my feet so soon!" she
thought, smiling to herself. "Dear me! Why can't people let bygones be
bygones? Now if I could see him, naturally what a chase I could lead him!
If he thinks I'll put my two hands together and say, 'Please, sir, don't
exert yourself. The weather is too warm for that. Behold thine handmaid,'
he will be so mistaken that he will make some poor dinners. I'd be bound
to keep him sighing like a furnace for a time. Well, well, I fear we both
will have to do a lot of sighing, but time and patience see many changes.
As Aun' Sheba says, he's on ''bation,' and, if he holds out, our stern
fathers may eventually see that the best way to be happy themselves is to
make us happy. He thinks I'm a very frigid representative of the Southern
people. Wouldn't he dance a jig if he knew? Well, speed thee on, old
Father Time, and touch softly obdurate hearts." Thus with the hopefulness
of youth she looked forward.

Mara regarded her with misgivings, but asked no questions. She also was
sadly preoccupied with her own thoughts.

"Aun' Sheba," Ella said, as the old woman entered, "I rather like this
''bation' scheme of yours. I think of putting myself on ''bation.'"

"Oh, you go long, honey. Doan you make light ob serus tings."

"I'm doing nothing of the kind, Aun' Sheba. I've too much respect for
you."

"Oh, well, honey, sich as you gits 'ligion jes as you did de measles. It's
kin ob bawn an' baptize inter yez wen you doan know it. But I'se got to
hab a po'ful conwiction ob sin fust, an' dats de trouble wid me. I says to
myself, 'Aun' Sheba, you'se a wile sinner. Why doan you cry an' groan, an'
hab a big conwiction? Den you feel mo' shuah;' but de conwiction won' come
no how. Sted ob groanin' I gits sleepy."

"Well, I think I've got a conviction, Aun' Sheba, and I'm not a bit
sleepy."

"I don't know what you dribin at. Bettah be keerful how you talk, honey."

"I think so too, Ella."

"Oh, Mara! you take such 'lugubrious' views, as I heard some one say.
There, Aun' Sheba! I'll sober down some day."



CHAPTER XXXII

FALSE SELF-SACRIFICE


Ella was very much surprised to find her father reading in the parlor when
she returned home. "Why papa!" she cried, with misgivings of trouble, "are
you not well?"

"I cannot say that I am, Ella, but my pain is mental rather than physical.
Mr. Houghton dismissed me with insults from his service this morning."

Ella flushed scarlet. "Where was young Mr. Houghton?" she asked
indignantly.

"Sent to Coventry, probably. He evidently did not dare put in an
appearance."

She sat down and drew a long breath.

"Ella," said her father very gravely, "I shall not treat you as a child.
You have compelled me to recognize that you are no longer the little girl
that had grown so gradually and lovingly at my side."

"Papa," cried Ella, "I am not less lovingly at your side to-day."

"I hope so. I shall believe it if, with the spirit which becomes your
birth, you do take your place at my side in unrelenting hostility to these
Houghtons who have heaped insult upon us, the son by rash, headlong action
which he would soon regret, and the father by insufferable insolence. But
you shall judge for yourself." And he began, as Mr. Houghton had done, to
repeat what had passed between them.

At the same terrible words which had smitten George, she also cried,
"Papa, did you say you would rather bury me?"

"Yes," said the veteran sternly, "and I would rather be buried myself. You
must remember that I am at heart a soldier and not a trader. I could not
survive dishonor to you or myself; and any relation except that of enmity
to these Houghtons would humiliate me into the very mire. What's more, Mr.
Houghton feels in the same way about his son. I am not one whit more
averse than he is. He virtually said that he would disinherit and cast out
his son should he continue to offend by seeking your hand. I, in return,
told him that if the sentimental boy had even the trace of a gentleman in
his anatomy he would leave us alone. Now you can measure the gravity of
the situation. The name of our ancestors, the sacred cause for which I and
so many that I loved perilled and lost life, forbid that I should take any
other course. Turn from this folly and all will be serene and happy soon.
I can obtain a position elsewhere. Surely, Ella, you are too true a
Southern girl to have given your heart unsought, unasked to your knowledge
till last night. Your very pride should rescue you from such a slough as
this."

The girl had turned pale and red as he spoke. Now she rose and said
falteringly: "Papa, I'm no hypocrite. As I told you last night, I will do
nothing whatever without your consent."

"You will never have my consent even to speak to that fellow."

"Very well then," she said quietly, "that ends it."

So apparently it did. Ella went to her room and for a few moments indulged
in a passion of grief. "Oh, to think," she moaned, "that fathers can say
to their children that they would rather bury them than give up the
bitterness of an old and useless enmity! It is indeed all ended, for he
would never look at me again after papa's words." In a few moments she
added, "Mine also, mine also, for I said, 'Tell him I will do nothing
without papa's consent.' Well, I only hope he can get over it easier than
I can."

She soon washed the traces of tears from her eyes and muttered: "I won't
show the white feather anyhow, even if I haven't Aun's Sheba's comfort of
being on ''bation.'" And she marched down to dinner with the feeling of a
soldier who has a campaign rather than a single battle before him.

There was a little stiffness at first; but Mrs. Bodine, with her fine
tact, soon began to banish this, and the old lady was pleased that Ella
seconded her efforts so readily. Bodine was a man and a straightforward
soldier, honest in his views and actions, however mistaken they might be.
He had not feminine quickness in outward self-recovery, and the waves of
his strong feeling could only subside gradually. He soon began to
congratulate himself, however, that his strong measures had led to a most
fortunate escape, and he admitted the truth of his cousin's words that
young girls were subject to sudden attacks of romantic sentiment before
they were fairly launched into society.

As the days passed these impressions were strengthened, for Ella appeared
merrier than ever before. Mrs. Bodine kept pace with her nonsense which at
times even verged on audacity, and the veteran began to laugh as he had
done before the "Houghton episode," as he now characterized it in his
mind. Mrs. Bodine, however, began to observe little things in Ella which
troubled her.

On the morning following that of Bodine's dismissal, Mara saw at once from
Ella's expression that something unpleasant had occurred.

"What has happened?" she asked anxiously.

"Oh, we've had an earthquake at our house," was the somewhat bitter reply.
Fondly as she loved Mara, Ella stood in no awe of her whatever, and her
heart was almost bursting from the strong repression into which she knew
she must school herself for the sake of her father.

"Please, Ella, don't talk riddles."

"Well, papa and old Houghton have had a regular pitched battle; papa has
been discharged, and is now a gentleman of leisure."

"Shameful! What earthly reason could that old wretch--"

"I'm the earthly reason."

"Ella, don't tantalize me."

"Well, that misguided little boy, who must stand six feet in his
stockings, had the preposterous presumption--there's alliteration for you,
but nothing else is equal to the case--to ask papa if he might pay his
addresses to me. Isn't that the conventional phrase? At the bare thought
both of our papas went off like heavy columbiads, and we poor little
children have been blown into space."

"Oh, Ella I how can you speak so!" cried Mara indignantly. "The idea of
associating your father with that man Houghton in your thoughts! It does
indeed seem that no one can have anything to do with such Yankees as come
to this city--"

"There now, Mara," said Ella a little irritably, "I haven't Aun' Sheba's
grace of self-depreciation. I haven't been conjured into a monster by
Northern associations, and I haven't lost my common-sense. I don't
associate papa with old Houghton, as no one should know better than you.
No daughter ever loved father more than I love papa. What's more, I've
given him a proof of it, which few daughters are called upon to give. But
I'm not a fool. The same faculties which enable me to know that you are
Mara Wallingford reveal to me with equal clearness that papa and Mr.
Houghton have acted in much the same way."

"Could you imagine for a _moment_ that your father would permit the
attentions of that young Houghton?"

"Certainly I could imagine it. If papa had come to me and said, 'Ella, I
have learned beyond doubt that Mr. Houghton is sly, mean, unscrupulous, or
dissipated,' I should have dropped him as I would a hot poker. Instead of
all this the Vandal goes to papa like a gentleman, tells him the truth,
intrusts him with the message of his regard for me, and promises that if
papa will tell me he will not--also promises that he will not make the
slightest effort to win my favor without papa's knowledge. Then he told
his own father about his designs upon the little baker. Then both of our
loving papas said in chorus of us silly children, 'We'll see 'em buried
first.'"

"I don't wonder your father said so," Mara remarked sternly.

"Well, _I_ wonder, and I can't understand it," cried Ella, bursting into a
passion of tears.

"There now, Ella," Mara began soothingly, "you will see all in the true
light when you have had time to think it over. Remember how old Houghton
is looked upon in this city. Consider his intense hostility to us."

"I've nothing to say for him," sobbed Ella.

"Well, it would be said that your father had permitted you to marry the
son of this rich old extortioner for the sake of his money. Your action
would throw discredit on all your father's life and devotion to a cause--"

"Which is dead as Julius Caesar," Ella interrupted.

"But which is as sacred to us," continued Mara very gravely, "as the
memory of our loved and honored dead."

"I don't believe our loved and honored dead would wish useless unhappiness
to continue indefinitely. What earthly good can ever result from this
cherished bitterness and enmity? Oh, mamma, mamma! I wish you had lived,
for you would have understood the love which forgives and heals the wounds
of the past."

"Ella, can you have given your love to this alien and almost stranger?"

"I have at least given him my respect and admiration," she replied, rising
and wiping her eyes before resuming her work. Suddenly she paused, and in
a serio-comic attitude she pointed with the roller as she said, "Mara,
suppose you insisted that that kitchen table was a cathedral, would it be
a cathedral to me? No more so than that your indiscriminate prejudices
against Northern people are grand, heroic, or based on truth. So there,
now. I've got to unburden my feelings somewhere; although I expect
sympathy from no one, I believe in the angels' song of 'Peace on earth and
good will toward men.'"

"I fear your good will toward one man," said Mara, very sadly, "is taking
you out of sympathy with those who love you, and who have the best and
most natural right to your love."

"See how mistaken you are! I shall never be out of sympathy with you,
papa, or Cousin Sophy. But how can I sympathize with some of your views
when God has given me a nature that revolts at them? If you ever love a
good man, God and your own heart will teach you what a sacred thing it is.
What if I am poor, and lacking in graces and accomplishments, I know I
have an honest, loving nature. Think of that old man Houghton condemning
and threatening his son, as if he had committed a vile crime in his most
honorable intentions toward me! Well, well, it's all over. I've given my
word to papa that I'll do nothing without his consent, and he'll see me
buried before he'll give it. Don't you worry, I'm not going to pine and
live on moonshine. I'll prove that I'm a Bodine in my own way."

"Yes, Ella, you will, and eventually it will be in the right way."

"Mara, what I have said is in confidence, and since I've had my say I'd
rather not talk about it any more."

Mara was glad enough to drop the subject, for Ella had been saying things
to which her own heart echoed most uncomfortably. She and Mrs. Hunter
accepted Mrs. Bodine's invitation to dine that evening, and, in her
sympathy for Bodine, was kinder to him than ever, thus reviving his hopes
and deepening his feelings.

Time passed, bringing changes scarcely perceptible on the surface, yet
indicating to observant eyes concealed and silent forces at work. And
these were observant eyes; Mrs. Bodine saw that Ella was masking feelings
and memories to which no reference was made. Ella began to observe that
her father's demeanor toward Mara was not the same as that by which he
manifested his affection for her. While she was glad for his sake, and
hoped that Mara would respond favorably, she had an increased sense of
injustice that he should seek happiness in a way forbidden to her. The
thought would arise, "I am not so much to him after all."

One day, near the end of July, Ella, her father, Mrs. Hunter and Mara,
were on the Battery, sitting beneath the shade of a live oak. The raised
promenade, overlooking the water, was not far away, and among the
passers-by Mara saw Clancy and Miss Ainsley approaching. Apparently they
were absorbed in each other, but, when opposite, Clancy turned and looked
her full in the face. She gave no sign of recognition nor did he. That
mutual and unobserved encounter of their eyes set its seal on their last
interview. They were strangers.

"There goes a pair, billing and cooing," said Ella with a laugh.

"Mara, don't you feel well?" asked the captain anxiously. "You look very
pale."

"I felt the heat very much to-day," she replied evasively. "I am longing
for August and rest."

"Oh, Mara! let us shut up shop at once," cried Ella. "Papa is at leisure
now and we can make little expeditions down the bay, out to Summerville
and elsewhere."

"No," Mara replied, "I would rather do just what we agreed upon. It's only
a few days now."

"You are as sot as the everlasting hills."

Mara was silent, and glad indeed that her quiet face gave no hint of the
tumult in her heart.

Mrs. Hunter's eyes were angrily following Clancy and Miss Ainsley. "Well,"
she said, with a scornful laugh, "that renegade Southerner has found his
proper match in that Yankee coquette. I doubt whether he gets her though,
if a man ever does get a born flirt. When she's through with Charleston
she'll be through with him, if all I hear of her is true."

"Oh, you're mistaken, Mrs. Hunter," Ella answered. "She fairly dotes on
him, and if he don't marry her he's a worse flirt than she is. Think of
Mr. Clancy's blue blood. She undoubtedly appreciates that."

"I'm inclined to think that he was a changeling, and that old Colonel
Clancy's child was spirited away."

"I beg your pardon, Mrs. Hunter, but I differ with you. While I cannot
share in many of Mr. Clancy's views and affiliations, he has the
reputation of being sincere and straightforward. Even his enemies must
admit that he seeks to make his friendliness to the North conducive to
Southern interests."

Mara's heart smote her that even Captain Bodine had been fairer to Clancy
than she had been.

Words rose to Ella's lips, but she repressed them, and soon afterward they
returned to their respective homes.

Mara early retired to the solitude of her own room, for that cold mutual
glance on the Battery had suggested a new thought not yet entertained. In
her mental excitement it promised to banish the dreary stagnation of her
life. She must have a motive, and if it involved the very self-sacrifice
that she had been warned against, so much the better.

"It would teach Owen Clancy how futile were his words," she said to
herself. "It would bring happiness to my father's friend; it would become
a powerful incentive in my own life, and, above all, would compel me to
banish the thought of one to whom I have said I will never speak again."

The more she dwelt upon this course, the more clear it became in her
warped judgment the one path of escape from an aimless, hopeless existence
fast becoming unendurable. She was not by any means wholly selfish in
reaching her decision, for thoughts of her own need did not predominate.
"If I cannot be happy myself," she reasoned, "I can make Captain Bodine
happy, for there could not be a more devoted wife than I will become, if
he puts into words the language of his eyes. Ella has already ceased to be
in true sympathy with him in matters that have made so much of the warp
and woof of his life. We two are one in these respects. I can and will
cast out all else if my motive is strong enough."



CHAPTER XXXIII

A SURE TEST


Clancy had gone to Nature to be calmed and healed, but he had brought a
spirit at variance with her teachings. He soon recognized that he was
neither receptive nor docile. He chafed impatiently and angrily at Mara's
obduracy, which, nevertheless, only increased his love for her. The
deepest instincts of his nature made him feel that she belonged to him,
and he to her. The barrier between them was so intangible that he was in a
sort of rage that he could not brush it aside. Reflection always brought
him back to the conviction that she did love him. Her passionate words:
"If my heart break a thousand times I will never speak to you again," grew
more and more significant. Odd fancies, half-waking dreams about her,
pursued him into the solitude of the forest. She seemed like one
imprisoned; he could see, but could not reach and release her. Again she
was under a strange, malign spell, which some day might suddenly be
broken--broken all too late.

Then she would dwell in his thoughts as the victim of a species of moral
insanity which might pass away. At times her dual life became so clear to
him that he was almost impelled to hasten back to the city, in the belief
that he could speak such strong, earnest words as would enable her to cast
aside her prejudices, and break away from the influences which were
darkening and misshaping her life. Then he would despondently recall all
that he had said and done, and how futile had been his effort.

He neither fished nor hunted, but passed the time either in long tramps,
or in sitting idly tormented by perturbed thoughts. Believing that he had
reached a crisis in his life, it was his nature to come to some decision.
He was essentially a man of action, strong-willed and resolute. He
despised what he termed weakness, forgetting that the impulses of strength
often lead to error, for the reason that patience and fortitude are
lacking.

In facing the possibilities of the future, he began to yield to the
promptings of ambition, a trait which had no mean place in his character.
"If Mara denies her love, and sacrifices herself to Bodine," he reasoned,
"what is there left for me but to make the most of my life by attaining
power and influence? I can only put pleasures and excitements in the place
of happiness. I won't go through life like a winged bird."

When such thoughts were in the ascendant, Miss Ainsley presented herself
to his fancy, alluring, fascinating, beckoning. She seemed the embodiment
of that brilliant career which he regarded as the best solace he could
hope for. Often, however, he would wake in the night, and, from his forest
bivouac, look up at the stars. Then a calm, deep voice in his soul would
tell him unmistakably that, even if he attained every success that he
craved, his heart would not be in it, that he would always hide the
melancholy of a lifelong disappointment. All these misgivings and
compunctions usually ended in the thought: "Caroline Amsley and all that
she represents is the best I can hope for now. She may be playing with
me--I'm not sure, if she will marry me, I can probably give her as true a
regard as she will bestow upon me. She is not a woman to love devotedly
and unselfishly, not counting the cost. I could not marry such a woman,
for I feel it would be base to take what I could not return; but I could
marry her. I would do her no wrong, for I could give to her all the
affection to which she is entitled, all that she would actually care for.
If I am mistaken, I am totally at fault in the impression which she has
made upon me, and I do not think that I am. I am not in love with her, and
therefore am not blind. She is not in love with me. It has merely so
happened that I have proved agreeable to her, pleased, amused, and
interested her. Possibly I have led her to feel that we are so
companionable that a life journey together would be quite endurable. My
reason, all my instincts, assure me that this beautiful girl has
considered this question more than once before--that she is considering it
now, coolly and deliberately. I am being weighed in the balances of her
mind, for I do not think she has heart enough to enable that organ to have
much voice in the matter. Her views and beliefs are intellectual. No
strong, earnest feelings sway her. When have her sympathies been touched
in behalf of any one or any cause? Oh, my rare beauty! I am not blind.
Selfishness is the mainspring of your character; but it is a selfishness
so refined, so rational and amenable to the laws of good taste, that it
can be calculated upon with almost mathematical accuracy. You are no
saint, but a saint might be beguiled into faults which to you are
impossible. You are a fit bride for ambition, and would be its crown and
glory."

Such was often the tenor of his thoughts, and ambition suggested the many
doors to advancement which such an alliance would open. Mr. Ainsley was
not only a man of wealth, but also of large, liberal ideas. It certainly
would be a pleasure and a constant exhilaration to aid him in carrying out
his great enterprises.

Thus Clancy, as well as Mara, was led by disappointment in his dearest
hope of happiness to seek what next promised best in his estimation to
redeem life from a dreary monotony of negations. He also resolved to have
motives and incentives; nor was his ambition purely selfish, for he
purposed to use whatever power, wealth and influence he might obtain for
the benefit of the people among whom he dwelt. Hers, however, was the
nobler motive, and the less selfish, for it involved self-sacrifice, even
though it was mistaken, and could lead only to wrong action. It would cost
him nothing to carry out his large, beneficent purposes. Indeed, they
would add to his pleasures and enhance his reputation. She was but a
woman, and saw no other path of escape from the conditions of her lot
except the thorny one of self-abnegation.

Alternately cast down, and fired by conflicting thoughts and purposes,
Clancy soon discovered that the woods was no place for him, and he
resolved to return to the city, there to be guided by the circumstances of
the next few weeks. If it became clear that Mara had not been influenced
by his warning, but on the contrary was accepting Bodine's attentions,
then he would face the truth that she was lost to him beyond hope. Without
compunction he would turn to Miss Ainsley, and, with all the wariness and
penetration which he could exercise, seek to discover how far she would go
with him in his life campaign to achieve eminence. He was glad, however,
that he did not regard her as essential to his plans and hopes. Indeed, he
had the odd feeling that even if she rejected him as a husband, he could
shake hands with her and say: "Very well, Ainsley, we can be good comrades
just the same. We amuse and interest each other, we mutually stimulate our
mental faculties. Let it end here."

In this mood he fulfilled his promise and wrote as follows:

"My DEAR AINSLEY--Permit me to remind you of my existence--if one can be
said to exist in these wilds. An expedition of this kind is a good thing
for a fellow occasionally. It enables him to get acquainted with himself,
to indulge in egotism without being a nuisance. I have neither hunted,
fished, nor studied the natives. I have not seen a "mountain maid" whose
embrace I would prefer to that of a bear. I have merely tramped aimlessly
about, meanwhile learning that I am not adapted to communion with nature.
At this moment I should prefer smoking a cigar with you on the balcony to
looking at scenery which should inspire artist and poet. I am neither,
merely a man of affairs. Humanity interests me more than oaks, however
gigantic. You see I have no soul, no heart, no soaring imagination. I am
as matter-of-fact a fellow as you are. That's why we get on so well
together. We can chaff, spar, and run intellectual tilts as amicably as
any two men in town. This proves you to be quite exceptional--delightfully
so. I'm not surprised, however, for, as I have said to you, you are sated
with the other kind of thing. How long will this fancy last? Now that you
are so manly you should not be fickle. You have not half comprehended the
penalties of your new _role_, for you may find that it involves a
distressing frankness. I think I had better close. Letter-writing
pre-supposes literary qualities which I do not possess. Men, unless
sentimentally inclined, or given to hobbies, rarely write long letters to
each other. If unusually congenial they can talk together as long as
women. I do not know of a man in town who can equal you as good company;
and with this fact in mind, I shall atone for a brief letter by putting in
an appearance at an early date. If you have had any flirtations in my
absence I shall expect all the details. You know I do not care for such
trivial amusements. In this material age, making the world move in the way
of business affords ample scope for my limited faculties, while a chat
with you is better than a game of chess in the way of recreation, better
than moping in the woods.         Your friend,        CLANCY."

He had barely time to post the letter before the mail-stage left the
little hamlet in which it was written. He was soon dissatisfied with
himself and the missive, and regretted having written it. Before an hour
had passed he muttered: "I never wrote such a letter to a woman before,
and I won't again. I put myself in the worst light, in fact was unjust to
myself. How differently I would write to Mara! Is it the difference in
women which inevitably inspires different thought and action? At any rate,
there is a touch of coarseness in this masculine _persiflage_ which
grates. When I return we must become friends as man and woman. I wonder if
she will feel as I do about it?"

Miss Ainsley was not satisfied with the letter at all, one reason being
that it revealed too much penetration on Clancy's part. While she welcomed
him with her old cordiality she took him to task at once.

"This is a spurious letter," she said, holding it up. "You would never
write such an affair to a male friend. You betrayed a consciousness of my
femininity in every line. You preached to me and warned me with the same
penful of ink. You write as if you were a commonplace male cynic, and I a
woman who was trying to unsex herself by a lot of ridiculous affectations.
I wished a genial, jolly letter such as you might write to an old college
chum."

"Do you know the reason why I did not, rather could not, write such a
letter?"

"No."

"Because you are not an old college chum."

"I was not aware that you were so tremendously sincere."

"I'm not tremendously sincere--not tremendous in any grand sense of the
word, but I've learned that I can be tremendously awkward in a false
position. It is absurd of you to fancy that I can think of you in any
other light than that of a beautiful woman, gifted with more than your
share of intellect. I prefer that our friendship should rest on this
obvious fact. We are too old 'to make believe,' as children say. I came to
this conclusion within an hour after I wrote the letter."

"Oh, you dashed it off hastily, without giving it thought?"

"I've given you two thoughts to your one," he replied, laughing lightly.

"And none of them very complimentary, judging from the letter." And she
impatiently tore it up.

"That's right. Put it out of existence."

"I almost wish I had kept it as documentary evidence against you," she
remarked.

"Oh, come! Friends do not wish evidence against, but for each other. I
could remain away scarcely a week."

"From business, yes."

"Or from my most delightful recreation; yes."

"You find me very amusing then."

"I do indeed, and interesting also. I am quite certain that your society
gives me far more pleasure than mine affords you."

"Since I am relegated to woman's sphere I certainly shall not protest
against that belief. I am now under no bonds to be distressingly frank."

"You never would have been any franker than you wished to be. For the
manifestation of that trait I shall have to depend on something very
different."

"And what may that be?"

"Why, simply the quality of your friendship."

"I am satisfied that mine compares very favorably with yours."

"In both instances neither of us can escape one sure test."

"Indeed! What test?"

"That of time," he replied, smiling significantly. "Good-by. I'm quite
sure that your regard will survive till to-morrow afternoon when we are to
take a sail in the harbor, so Mrs. Willoughby has informed me."

Miss Ainsley gave a little complacent nod in his direction as he
disappeared, and thought, "Since you are so content and agreeable as a
friend merely, I'm half-inclined to keep you as such, and marry some one
else."



CHAPTER XXXIV

"BITTERNESS MUST BE CHERISHED"


To all appearance the long hot days of August were passing very
uneventfully to the characters of our story. The cold look which Clancy
received from Mara on the Battery, together with the fact that Bodine
appeared more lover-like than ever, speedily satisfied him that his best
resource was the ambitious career which in his absence he had accepted in
the place of happiness. He therefore gave himself up quite unreservedly to
Miss Ainsley's fascinations, and, with all the skill and energy he
possessed, seconded her father's business enterprises. Mr. Ainsley was
sometimes in town, and again absent, as his business interests required;
for he was one of those indefatigable men who, with soldier-like energy
and fearlessness, carry out their plans, regardless of discomfort or
danger. He recognized the fact that Clancy was both capable and useful,
and was already inclined to make him one of his chief lieutenants in the
South. He understood the young man's relations to his daughter perfectly,
and was not at all averse to a union between them. At the same time, he
knew how problematical Caroline's action would be, and that it would be
useless for him to appear for or against the match. He was aware of his
daughter's attitude in regard to marriage, and also convinced that she
would take her own course.

It would seem that she was taking no course whatever at present, but
indolently and complacently letting matters drift. She sometimes smilingly
thought, "I scarcely know whether Mr. Clancy is friend or lover. I suppose
I could lead him to be more pronounced in either character if I chose, but
since he is so agreeable as he is, I would be a fool not to keep
everything _in statu quo_ till I wish a change. Life is too long to give
up a pleasure before you are through with it."

Clancy quietly studied her mood, and was in no greater hurry than herself.
Indeed, both felt that they had arrived at a comparatively clear mutual
understanding, and so were quite at their ease, she enjoying his society
abundantly, and he hers, as far as his bitter memories would permit.

Quick of apprehension, Bodine soon perceived a change in Mara's attitude
toward him, but was considerate in availing himself of such slight
encouragement as she gave. He had been taught by her manner that her first
feeling on the discovery of a warmer regard than she had expected was that
of repulsion. He now believed that she had thought the matter over, and
was learning that it might not be impossible to regard him in a new and
different light. Long since the ardor of youth had passed, and he was
disposed to allow her time to become accustomed to the thought of
wifehood. In the meantime he put forth every effort to prove himself
companionable, in spite of their disparity in age. It was not his delicate
and thoughtful attentions, however, which reconciled her to the future
that she had accepted, but rather the motives already revealed. Under the
influence of these, a certain species of mental excitement had been
evoked. She had not ceased to suffer, but she had ceased merely to exist.

There was something now to look forward to, sacred duties to anticipate,
and a future which was not a blank. She believed that in giving help and
happiness to another she would more surely trample on self, and make it
the vantage-ground for a greater devotion than that of most women whose
love is often partly self-love. In regarding her first pure love and all
its promptings as the phase of self to be destroyed, she was committing
her fatal error; and of this error, not only Clancy's words, but also her
own heart, often warned her. But she was not one to turn back, having once
resolved upon a course.

She had far too much delicacy and maidenly pride to suggest consciously to
Bodine the nature of her thoughts, but she was willing that he should see
that she no longer shrank outwardly from his occasional manifestations of
a tenderer regard than he bestowed upon Ella. That something in her
woman's nature beyond her control did shrink and plead for escape, she
knew well; but to conquer this instinctive aversion was a part of the task
which she had set for herself.

Not only quick-witted Ella, but also Mrs. Bodine and Mrs. Hunter, saw the
drift of affairs, and gave their unhesitating approval. Mrs. Hunter was
glad, because it would destroy Clancy's prospects forever, and prove a
sort of triumph over him. Then it was, as she assured Mara one day,
"eminently fitting. Your father and mother would both approve."

"That thought comes to me, too," calmly rejoined the girl. "I hope they
will--I think they will. But let us not talk further till all is settled."

Mrs. Bodine believed the marriage would result well on other grounds.
"Cousin Hugh," she said one day when they were alone, "you may shut me up
if I am meddling, but you are not thinking of Mara in the same way that
you did in the spring."

"I admit it, Cousin Sophy, and you need not shut up."

"Well, I reckon it will come about. On general principles I don't approve
of such marriages, but I suppose there are exceptions to most rules. As I
have said to you before, Mara is as old in her feelings as you are, and I
think you will be happier together than you would be apart. I never
understood Mara altogether; but of one thing I am certain, she must have
some strong motive, something or some person for whom she can sacrifice
herself; and, being a woman, she would have a good deal better time
sacrificing herself to a man than to anything else;" and the old lady
chirped her little complacent laugh.

"Rest assured," said the veteran, "I don't want any self-sacrifice in
Mara's case."

"Of course not; nor do I. I wouldn't approve of any actual self-sacrifice,
but Mara will try to come as near it as she can. I reckon she'd be more
drawn toward a cripple like you than the handsomest young fellow in town,
on general principles; and then she has been interested in you from the
first, because you, in a peculiar sense, represent to her the past, which
has been almost her only inheritance."

"I confess that I have indulged in the same thoughts which you express.
God grant that we both are right! She has become strangely dear to me.
Once I could never have imagined it at my time of life."

"Oh, the heart needn't grow old," was the laughing reply.

The captain's outlook was rendered more favorable by the reception of a
note which contained the offer of a better position than that held in the
employ of the detested Mr. Houghton. When he investigated the matter he
learned that the offer came largely through the influence of Clancy, and
this last confirmed the veteran's impression that the young man was using
his influence and prosperity for the benefit of the South.

To Mara it was a bitter ordeal to listen to Bodine's complacent
explanation of the affair, and she was glad that she was told in the dusky
twilight, which concealed an expression of pain even beyond her control.
Words of passionate protest rose to her very lips, but she remembered in
time that they would involve revelations which would thwart her purpose to
make him happy at every cost to herself. If he ever learned what Clancy
had been to her, what he was at this agonized moment, her vocation, if not
gone, would be impaired beyond remedy. Afterward, in the solitude of her
own room, she accepted this bitter experience, as she had resolved to
accept all others, as a part of her lot.

In her morbidness she became Jesuitical. Her father's old friend should be
made as happy as it was in her power to render him. Whatever interfered
with this purpose should be concealed or trampled upon. Of Clancy she said
bitterly, "If he thinks he has been magnanimous, how little he understands
me."

Clancy's motives had been somewhat mixed. He was willing that her pride
should be rebuked and wounded, and he also wished her to know that he was
above the petty resentment of jealousy.

Poor Ella felt that she was becoming isolated; an impression, however,
which she would not have had were it not for her recent experiences. Had
her heart remained as light and untouched as it was when we first met her,
her pleasure over her father's prospects would have been unalloyed. Even
now her satisfaction was deep and sincere, but it was not in human nature
to forget how summarily she had been denied the happiness so sweet to
those of her age. She felt, however, that all were against her; that even
kind old Mrs. Bodine would not listen patiently to her thoughts. So she
kept them to herself, and sought by forced mirthfulness to disguise them.
She talked and laughed with the young men who called upon her, and they
came in increasing numbers as inevitably as a flower attracts the bees.
She was the life of the "family excursions," as she characterized in her
thoughts those in which Mara and Mrs. Hunter had a part; and she joined
others of which her father approved, but there was often trouble and
sadness in her eyes, and her cheeks and form were losing their roundness
of outline. Mrs. Bodine was not deceived. She noted everything silently,
and thought, "She is making a brave fight; she must make a brave fight.
There is no other course for her. I reckon she'll win it, as many a girl
has before."

The old lady was thoughtful, kind, and very attentive. At the same time,
with the nicest tact, she infused a firmness and spirit into her demeanor
which made the girl feel that her cousin had sympathy only with the effort
to conquer or forget. And she honestly made such effort, but was often
aghast at its futility. In her brusque way she said to herself, "What's
the use of trying? It seems like a disease which must run its course till
old Father Time brings some sort of a cure."

One day she went to see Aun' Sheba, and found the old woman feeling
poorly.

"Yes, honey," she said, "bein' lazy doan 'gree wid me 'tall. I doan see
how Unc. stan's it all de yeah roun'."

"I hab de rheumatiz," Uncle Sheba remarked in the way of explanation.

"Now, Unc., dat ar rheumatiz is like de scapegoat in de Bible. You loads
it up with all you sins. We all hope dat wen you got so sot on dat you'd
turn ober a new leaf. How you stan' it sittin' roun' all day I doan see,
no how. I'se gettin' so heaby an' logy an' oncomf'ble dat I'se gwine ter
take in washin' de rest ob de month."

"I'd be glad to go to work to-morrow, too," said Ella. "I'd be glad of
anything to make the time pass."

"Why, honey, wot you want de time to pass quick fer? You oughter be like
de hummin'-bird, gederin sweets all de day."

"I feel more like a croaking raven."

"You'se quar, Missy Ella. You'se up an' you'se down, an' you doan know
why. Ole Hannah dat lib wid you says dat you'se gittin' a lot ob beaux.
Why, you eben make a 'pression on dat big, 'ansome Northern chap, ole
Houghton's son, wen you doan know it. More'n once he ax me which de cakes
you make, an' wen I tell him, he wanter buy dem all."

"That's very funny," Ella said, and there was the old mirthful ring in her
laugh.

"You know him?" Aun' Sheba asked, quickly.

"I met him at Mrs. Willoughby's."

"Shuah now! Dat counts fer it. Well, he'd gobble all you'se cake if I'd
let him, but I had oder cus'mers on my min'; an' he seem ter hab on'y you
on his min'."

"You were very wise, Aun' Sheba. So much cake would have made him ill,"
and she still laughed joyously.

"'Pears to me you'se gittin' betteh, Missy Ella."

"Oh, you always make me laugh and hearten me up, Aun' Sheba."

"Well, who'd a tink dat ar civil, nice spoken young man was de son ob dat
ole sinner Houghton. Beckon Missy Mara doan like you'se talkin' wid him at
Mis Wil'by's."

"Of course not. He's a Northern Vandal, you know."

"Dunno notin' 'bout Wandals. I jedge folks by wot dey is deysefs. He
couldn't help bein' bawn at de Norf. Long as he 'habe himself, wot dat
agin him?"

"Being born at the North is a crime, some people think."

"Yes,--I know, but dat ar suttingly fool talk. Dat ain't de trouble so
much in dis case. It's cause he's dat ole 'tankerous Houghton's son."

"He isn't to blame for that either," Ella answered, hotly.

"Lor', Missy Ella! how you stan' up fer 'im."

"I don't believe in injustice, Aun' Sheba," said Ella quietly, conscious
meanwhile that her cheeks were getting very red.

"De heat _am_ po'ful," Aun' Sheba remarked, sententiously. Then her plump
form began to shake with mirth. "Dar now, Missy Ella," she added, "de
blin' ole woman kin see as fur in de grin-stone as de next one. He'd stan'
up fer you agin de hull worl. It shines right out in his 'ansome face."

"How very blind you are, Aun' Sheba! Why, he's not fit to be spoken to,
and I'm not to speak to him again as long as I live. Good-by. Good-by,
Uncle Sheba. I've heard that sawing wood was the best cure for rheumatism
known;" and she flitted out of the dusky cabin like a tropical bird.

Aun' Sheba still laughed to herself, and remarked, "Unc., s'pose you try
Missy Ella's cure?"

"Wot she know 'bout it?" growled Uncle Sheba, with an injured aspect. "Wot
de use ob sawin' wood all day wen de town hot 'nuff now to roas'
lobsters?"

"Dat min's me, Unc. Why don' you took ter some sittin' wuck like fishin'
in de harbor? You mought catch a lobster, or some oder fish."

"De fish an' me 'ud bof be briled in dis yere sun 'fore we got home."

"Bar, Unc., you wouldn't go to Heben 'less you was toted."

"Ob cose not. Doan de Bible say de angels gwine ter tote us?"

"Well, I s'pose dey is.--Ef a body ony know'd weder it ud be up or down."

"Dar now, Aun' Sheba, wot fei you talk so se'rus in Augst? Nex' winter
we'se gwine ter hab a refreshin' from on high."

"P'raps you won' lib till nex' winter, Unc."

Uncle Sheba began to hitch uneasily, and remarked, "I doan see no use ob
sech oncomf'ble talk in de restin' time ob de yeah."

Aun' Sheba soon forgot him in her unspoken thoughts of Ella and young
Houghton.

"I begins ter unerstan' dat leetle gal now, an' all her goins on--puttin'
aw-spice in de cake twice, an' sayin' quar tings. Well, well, I knows
dey's all agin her, po' chile. Wot foolishness it all am! I once jam my
ban' in de do'--s'pose I went on jamin' for eber. Der's no use ob der
lookin' glum at me, fer dat young man's gwine ter hab all her cakes he
wants. I won'er if Missy Mara got de same 'plaint as Missy Ella. She bery
deep, an' won' let on, eben ter her ole nuss. Pears ter me de cap'n's
gittin' kiner lopsided toward her, but I don' belibe dat'll wuck."

Ella was both gladdened and saddened by her visit. Houghton's buying her
cake was one of those little homely facts on which love delights to dwell;
for the heart instinctively knows that genuine love permeates the whole
being, prompting to thoughtfullness in small matters which indifference
overlooks. She could not but be glad that he had seemed to have "on'y you
on his min'"; and then she grieved that all which was coming about so
naturally, like a spring growth, should have been harshly smitten by the
black frost of prejudice and hate.

After an early dinner that evening her father asked her kindly to go with
him and Mara to the Battery; but she declined, saying she would rather
keep Mrs. Bodine company. He did not urge her; and he had been so
preoccupied by his thoughts as not to observe that she was pale and
dejected, in spite of her efforts to appear as usual.

When alone Mrs. Bodine said, "You should have gone, Ella. You need the
fresh cool air from the water. Why didn't you go?"

"Oh!" said the girl, in assumed lightness of tone, "three is sometimes a
crowd."

"You shouldn't feel that way, Ella. You would never be a crowd."

"You are forgetting your old experiences, Cousin Sophy."

"No, I'm not. So you see whither affairs are tending?"

"Oh, cousin! Am I a bat?"

"I hope you are not averse."

"No, Cousin Sophy, I would do anything, and suffer much, to make papa
happy. You know how I love Mara, though we disagree on many points; and if
she and papa would be happier--Oh! why can't I be happy, too?" and she
gave way to a tempest of sobs.

"We all wish you to be happy, Ella," said Mrs. Bodine, soothingly.

"Yes, in your own way," she replied, brokenly. "What happened before I was
born must be considered first. If love is sweet to papa at his age think
what it is to me?"

"You must not imagine, Ella dear, that we don't feel with you and for you.
I am proud of you as I watch your brave fight in which you will conquer."

"Why should I conquer when my heart tells me that the one I love is worthy
of my love? It hurts me, it wounds my very soul, that he and I should be
spoken to as if we had committed a crime. How could my love be so sacred
and heavenly if it were wrong? Oh, how I hate, hate! There is nothing so
hateful as hate."

"But, Ella, you don't consider all--"

"There is no need of considering all, Cousin Sophy. There are some things
which stand out so clearly that all else is insignificant. Mr. Houghton
hates papa and me. Does papa love him or his son? You know me, faulty,
foolish little girl that I am; but think of that man raging at his son
because he dared to love me! If George had committed a crime his father
would have spent a fortune in defending him. To love me was worse than a
crime. He would have been turned into the streets. Oh, it's all so unjust,
it's all the spawn of hate!"

Mrs. Bodine was aghast at the intensity of the girl's feelings, but could
only say, "Well, Ella, dear, since things are as they are you must fight
it out. Trust the experience of an old woman. Marriages in the face of
such bitter opposition are rarely happy."

"Yes, the bitterness must be sacredly cherished, whatever else is lost.
Oh, I know, Cousin Sophy, I know I must fight it out if it takes my
lifetime, and all the while know that God would bless our love if hate
hadn't blighted it."



CHAPTER XXXV

NOBLE REVENGE


George Houghton took to the mountain solitudes a better and purer spirit
than Clancy, who was so ready to be consoled by ambition and the
fascinations of a woman incapable of evoking the best in his nature. The
young fellow did fish and hunt with tireless energy, and many a humble
cabin was stocked with provisions by his exertions. Believing that not
only Bodine, but also that Ella herself, would have nothing to do with
him, his affectionate nature turned to his father. With a large charity he
tried to forget the stern words which had sorely wounded him, and only to
remember the influences on his father's life which had led to their
utterance. He recalled the abundant proofs of his kindness and liberality;
and, now that his young dream was over, he purposed to carry out the old
man's schemes as best he could.

He tired himself out through the long hot days, and slept at night from
exhaustion. The time thus passed until he felt that he had the strength to
return to the city, and act as if Ella did not dwell there. He also
thought of his father's need of help, and regretted that he had remained
away so long.

The old man looked at him keenly when he returned, seeing that the young
face had grown older by years, and that steadiness of purpose and
resolution were in its every bronzed line.

"It's all right, father," George replied to the questioning glance. "I've
come back to carry out your wishes."

"Ah, my boy! now I know that you are made of the same stuff as your
brother. Well, you won't be sorry."

"I wish to leave this town, and I wish you would too. I don't think it's
good for you to be here."

"I'll think of it, George. I have thought of it. I shouldn't be mulish
since you are not."

"I'm glad you feel so about leaving, father. Go back with me to your old
congenial friends and surroundings. I, for one, don't wish to stay where I
am ostracized."

"Oh, curse the rebels! I've punished them! I've punished them well!"

"I don't wish to punish them; but, since they will have nothing to do with
me, a decent self-respect leads me to go where I can be treated according
to my behavior."

"I know you can't feel as I do. All I ask is that you have nothing to do
with them."

For the next few days, regardless of the heat, George toiled early and
late in his father's office, incited by the hope of soon taking the old
man away on a visit to the more bracing climate of the North. In the
evenings he refreshed himself by a long swim in the harbor, and by sailing
his boat over its waters.

One evening, while enjoying the latter favorite pastime in the early
twilight, it so happened that he caught sight, in a passing boat, of a
group which made his heart throb quickly. In the stern sat Captain Bodine
steering the vessel toward the city. Ella was near him, and two ladies
whom he did not know. As a hunter his eyes were keen, and he was satisfied
that he had not been recognized. He could not resist the temptation to get
a better view of Ella, and, drawing his hat over his eyes, he began to
manoeuvre his boat so as to accomplish his purpose.

His little craft skimmed here and there so swiftly, as he tacked, that
Ella at last began to watch it with a pleased yet languid interest,
remarking, "That boat yonder tacks about and sails as if it were alive."

"Yah, yah, so 'tis alibe," said the negro owner of the craft which Bodine
had hired for their excursion. "Young Marse Houghton sail dat boat, an' he
beats any duck dat eber swum."

Ella's breath came quick, and she turned pale and red in her conflicting
feelings, for it was evident that Houghton was purposely keeping near to
them. She saw the frown on her father's face, and that Mara's expression
was grave. Mrs. Hunter indignantly said, "He had better go on and mind his
own business. Why should old Houghton's son be hovering around us like a
hawk, I'd like to know?"

"The harbor is as free to him as to us," Ella answered, hotly.

Mrs. Hunter pursed her lips and looked unutterable things at the girl, but
she regarded neither the matron's sour expression nor her father's stern
glance, for her eyes were fascinated and held by the vessel which sped
along the water like a white-winged gull. No one except Ella and the
colored man continued the observance of Houghton. The girl was in a
perverse mood, and watched until her father rebukingly spoke her name;
then she turned away.

Meanwhile George gazed wistfully at one whom he believed that he might
never see again; for he and his father were almost ready for their visit
North, where the young man was to remain. Then he saw her steady gaze in
his direction. Could she have recognized him? Did she continue to watch
him because of some faint interest? His pulses quickened at the thought.
After a few moments he said bitterly: "Yes, she knows me at last, and
turns away. Very well, away go I, then."

At this moment he caught a glimpse of the western sky, and his sailor
instincts were alarmed. There was a single dark cloud rising rapidly,
portending not a storm, but sudden, violent gusts. In the gathering gloom
all thought of vanishing was abandoned. No matter how Ella regarded him,
he would not be far away while there was a shadow of danger to her.
Examining his sail carefully he knew he could drop it to the point of
safety at a moment's notice.

The wind on which he had been sailing died out. Then came little puffs
from the west. To catch these the colored skipper of the captain's boat
took the helm and tacked, presenting a broad surface of sail to their
force. Houghton tacked also in the same direction, but with his eye on the
westward water, and his hand on the rope which would bring down his sail
with a run. He speedily had need of this caution. There was a distant
roar, the water shoreward darkened, and then, as his sail came down and
the prow of his boat went round to the gust, he was enveloped in a cloud
of spray. At the same instant shrill screams of women and the hoarse cries
of men came from Bodine's vessel.

The fury of the first gust passed quickly. When the atmosphere cleared a
little, Houghton saw that the mast of the other craft had broken, and,
with the sail, lay over on the leeward side. He instantly knew that the
occupants were in imminent danger. Raising his sail as high as he dared,
he tacked toward them with such nice judgment that if he kept on he would
pass a little abaft of the disabled vessel.

"Oh, Marse Houghton! come quick," yelled the negro. "She'm won' float
anoder minit!"

"Bail, you lubber!"

"Don got notin to bail wid!"

"As usual," growled Houghton.

All the rest were now silent. In his agonized apprehension for Mara and
Ella, Bodine felt his heart beat as it had never done in the bloodiest
battle. His careless boatman had not recognized the danger since the cloud
was so comparatively small, and when he sought to lower the sail something
was out of gear and it stuck. The gust struck it fairly, and would have
capsized the boat had not the mast broken. As it was, the vessel so
careened as to ship a dangerous quantity of water, which was rapidly
increased by every wave that broke over the sides.

Mara and Mrs. Hunter were pallid indeed, but calm in woman's patient
fortitude, remembering, too, even in that awful moment, that if they
escaped they would owe their lives to one whom they regarded with scorn
and hostility. Ella's hope buoyed her spirit, although she felt herself
sinking deeper every moment in the cold waters. With love's confidence she
believed that Houghton would be equal to the emergency, and his swiftly
coming sail was like the white wings of an angel. Then for an instant she
was perplexed and troubled, for he seemed to be steering as if to pass
them, near, yet much too far.

"She'm sinkin', she'm goin' un'er," the negro yelled.

"Be ready, every one, to jump the moment I lay alongside," Houghton
shouted. Then he luffed sharply to the wind, dropped his sail; his light
craft lost headway, and glided alongside of the sinking boat.

"Now jump, all," he cried.

The women and negro did so and were safe, but the crippled veteran failed,
fell backward, and would have dragged Ella, who held his hand, with him,
had not Houghton broken her grasp. As quick as light he sprang into the
vessel, now down to the water's edge, and fairly flung the captain into
his own boat. As he did so the water-logged craft went down, and he with
it. Ella shrieked and called his name imploringly. In the wild anguish of
the moment she would have jumped overboard after him had she not been
restrained.

"Patience," cried her father, "he will rise in a moment."

Houghton's little boat, now so heavily freighted, had almost gone under in
the suction. The negro, rendered half wild with terror, was bent only on
saving his own life. He was scarcely in the boat before he had the oars in
the rowlocks, and began to pull for the shore. In their eager scanning of
the dark water, Bodine and the others did not notice this at first, and
when they did the negro was deaf to their expostulations and threats. The
captain tried to reach him as he heaped maledictions on his head, but at
that instant another squall swooped down, enshrouding them in spray, and
nearly swamping their frail vessel. They sat silent and trembling,
expecting Houghton's fate, but the gust passed finally, and the lights of
the city gleamed out.

"Now put about, you--coward," thundered Bodine.

"No, sah, neber," replied the negro; "de boat swamp in two mi nit if I put
'bout in dis sea."

The veteran began to crawl toward him to compel obedience. The man
shouted: "Stop dat ar. Ef you comes nigher I hit you wid'n oar. Bettah one
drown dan we all drown."

Ella gave a despairing cry, and found oblivion in a deathlike swoon.

"Truly, Captain Bodine," said Mrs. Hunter sternly, "you must keep your
senses. If the man is right, and we have every reason to believe he is,
you must not throw away all our lives for the chance of saving one."

Then she, with Mara, gave all her attention to Ella.

The captain groaned aloud, "Would to God it had been me instead of him!"
Between his harrowing solicitude for Ella, and the awful belief that
Houghton had given his life for him, he passed moments which whitened his
hair.

As they neared the landing the water grew stiller, and their progress more
rapid. Assured of safety, the negro began to reason and apologize. "Mus'
be reas'n'ble, boss," he said. "I dun declar ter you dat we'd all be at de
bottom, feedin' fishes, if I'd dun wot you ax. Been no use nohow. Young
Marse Houghton mus' got cotched in de riggin' or he'd come up an' holler.
I couldn't dibe a'ter 'im in de dark, and in dat swashin' sea."

"Stop your cursed croaking. If you had known how to manage your boat it
wouldn't have happened."

"I dun my bes', boss. S'pose I want ter lose my boat an' my life? I'se
jis' busted, an' I kin neber go out on de harbor agin widout fearin' I see
young Marse Houghton's spook. I'se wus off dan you is, but I'se he'p you
wen we gits asho', if you ain't 'tankerous."

"Certainly you must help us," said Mrs. Hunter, decidedly. "You must get
men and a carriage. Captain Bodine has lost his crutches, and his daughter
is in a swoon. If you help us I will testify that you did the best you
could under the circumstances."

"All right, missus. I kin swar dat it ud been death to hab dun any oder
ting."

The carriage was brought, and men lifted into it the unconscious girl and
the almost equally helpless veteran. Then one mounted the box with the
driver and another ran for a physician, who was directed to go to Mrs.
Bodine's residence. The negro carefully moored Houghton's boat, feeling
that there might be something propitiatory to the dreaded ghost in this
act. He then hastened to his humble cabin, and filled the cars of his
family and neighbors with lamentations over the lost boat and lost man,
and also with self-gratulations that he was alive to tell the story.

On the way home, Mara took the stricken veteran's hand and said: "Captain,
you must bear up under this. In no respect have you been to blame."

"Nevertheless," he replied, and there was almost desperation in his tone:
"I feel that it will prove the most terrible misfortune of my life. Ella
may never be herself again, and I have wronged one to whom I can never
make reparation--a noble, generous boy who has taken a revenge like
himself, but which is scorching my very soul."

"You are noble yourself, captain, or you wouldn't feel it so keenly," was
the gentle reply.

Mrs. Bodine, without waiting for explanations, peremptorily ordered that
Ella should be carried to her room. The veteran, using a second pair of
crutches which he kept in reserve, went to the adjoining apartment, buried
his face in his hands, and groaned audibly. He knew not how to perform one
imperative and pressing duty, that of relating to Mr. Houghton what had
happened.

Aware of what was on his mind, Mara came to him and said, "I will go and
tell his father."

"God bless you, Mara, for the offer. I would rather face death than that
old man, but it is my duty and I alone must do it. Hard as it is, it is
not so terrible as the thought that the poor boy died for me and mine, and
that I can never make the acknowledgment which his heroic self-sacrifice
deserves. It would have been heroic in any man, but in him whom I had
treated with such bitter scorn and enmity--How can I meet Ella's eyes
again! Oh, I fear, I fear all this will destroy her!"

"Courage, my friend," said Mara, putting her hand on his shoulder. "Ella
will live to comfort you."

"Mara, you will not fail me?"

"No, I will not fail you."

He pressed her hand to his lips, and then she returned to Ella.

Mrs. Hunter and old Hannah removed the poor girl's wet garments and
applied restoratives. The invalid, whose strength and spirit rose with the
emergency, directed their efforts, meantime listening to the fragmentary
explanations which were possible at such a time.

"Oh, just God!" she exclaimed, "we are punished, terribly punished for our
thoughts and actions toward that poor boy. Ella, dear child, was right
after all, and we all wrong. She might well love such a hero."

At last Ella gave signs of returning consciousness. Mrs. Bodine hastened
to the captain, and said: "Cousin Hugh, Ella is reviving. You must control
yourself. Everything depends on how we tide her over the next few hours."

The length of the swoon revealed the force of the blow which the loving
girl had received. Perhaps the long oblivion was nature's kindly effort to
ward off the crushing weight. Mrs. Bodine hung over her when she opened
her eyes with a dazed expression. "There, Ella dear," she said, "don't
worry. You'll soon be better. Take this," and she gave the girl a little
brandy and water.

The powerful stimulant acted speedily on an unvitiated system, and with
returning strength memory recalled what had befallen the one she loved.
From tears she passed to passionate sobs, writhing and moaning, as if the
agony of her spirit had communicated itself to every fibre of her body.

"Oh, Ella, darling, don't," cried her father. "I cannot endure this. He
has conquered me utterly; my prejudice is turned into homage. We will all
love and revere his memory. Would to God it had been I instead of him!"

"There, Hugh, thank God," said Mrs. Bodine, "that Ella can weep. Such
tears keep the heart from breaking."

The old lady was right. Expression of her anguish brought alleviation, and
there was also consolation in her father's words. The physician came, and
his remedies also had their effect.

There was nothing morbid or unhealthful in Ella's nature. With returning
reason came also the influence of conscience and the sustaining power of a
brave, unselfish spirit. Her father had put himself in accord with her
feelings, and her heart began to go out toward him in tenderness and
consideration, and she said brokenly: "Papa, I will rally. I will live for
your sake, since you will let me love his memory."

"You cannot love it or honor it more than I shall," he replied, in a voice
choked with emotion. Then he took the physician into the adjoining room,
to consult how best they might break the dreadful news to Mr. Houghton.

At this moment the front door burst open, and hasty, uncertain steps were
heard.



CHAPTER XXXVI

A FATHER'S FRENZY


Mr. Houghton knew that his son had gone out sailing in the harbor, and,
when the gusts swept over the city, became very anxious about him. He was
aware, however, of George's good seamanship, and tried to allay his fears
by thoughts of this nature. As time lapsed, anxiety passed into alarm and
dread foreboding. At last he summoned his coachman, and determined to go
to the place where his son moored his boat. As he was about to prepare
himself for the street, there were two hasty rings of the door-bell. He
sank into a chair, overcome by the awful fear which, for a moment, robbed
him of strength.

Now it had so happened that one of his younger clerks had been on the
Battery when the rescued party reached it, and he had gathered little more
from the colored boatman than that young Houghton had been drowned in
saving Bodine and the ladies with him. His first impulse was to go to tell
his employer, and he started to carry out this purpose. On his way he
remembered that, in horror over the event, he had not stopped to ask
fuller particulars, and he turned back to question the negro more fully.
When he reached George's boat he found that the man had gone, and that the
small crowd which had gathered had dispersed. With a heavy heart he again
started for Mr. Houghton's residence, regretting sadly that it was his
duty to communicate the terrible news. His feelings increased to a nervous
dread by the time he reached Mr. Houghton's door. He feared the stern old
man, and believed that he would always be associated with the tragedy, and
so become abhorrent in the eyes of his employer. But, as the thing must be
done, the sooner it was over the better.

The colored waiter admitted the trembling form, and exclaimed, "O Lawd!
what happen?"

"I wish to see Mr. Houghton."

"Bring him up," shouted the old man hoarsely. "Well," he gasped as the
clerk entered.

"Mr. Houghton, I'm very sorry--"

"For God's sake, out with it!"

"Well, sir, I fear Mr. George--"

"Drowned!" shrieked the father.

The young clerk was silent and appalled.

"Oh, curse that harbor! Curse that harbor!" the old man groaned.

"Perhaps, sir," faltered the clerk, "Mr. Bodine can--"

"Bodine! Bodine! what in hell had he to do with it?"

"I could not learn the particulars beyond that Mr. George was--was--in
saving Mr. Bodine, his daughter, and two other ladies--"

"Now may all the infernal powers blast that rebel!" and the old man rushed
down the stairway.

The frightened clerk and waiter followed hastily, and restrained him as he
was opening the front door.

"Sir, dear sir, be patient--"

"Now, Marse Houghton, wot you gwine ter do?" cried the negro.

"I'm going straight to that damned Bodine."

"Den, Marse Houghton, you mus ride. Sam's puttin' de bosses to de kerrige
dis minit."

Houghton instantly darted through the house and out to the stable.
"Haste!" he thundered, "haste, you snail!"

The waiter helped Sam, and in a moment or two the carriage rumbled away,
the waiter on the box with the coachman, and the clerk inside with the
frenzied father.

It was his steps which had startled Bodine and the physician, and they
opened the door facing the landing as the old man came rushing up, crying
hoarsely, "Where's my boy?"

"Where I wish I was," replied Bodine gravely.

The doctor was a strong and decided man. A glance showed him that Mr.
Houghton was excited almost to the point of insanity. Seizing his hand the
doctor drew the old man into the room, and with gentle force placed him in
a chair. Never for a moment, however, did Mr. Houghton take his fiery eyes
from Bodine, who, now that he was in the stress of the emergency,
maintained his sad composure perfectly. Only a soldier whose nerves had
been steeled in battle could have looked upon the half-demented man so
quietly, for he presented a terrible spectacle. His white hair was
dishevelled, and his eyes had the ferocity of a lioness robbed of her
young. Foam gathered at his lips as he began again:

"Curse your ill-omened face! Such men as you are worse than a pestilence.
As a rebel was there not enough blood on your hands? He saved you, why
couldn't you do something to save him?"

"Mr. Houghton, I did try. I would have perilled even the lives of women."

"You have virtually murdered him, sir. Did you not say that if he had the
trace of a gentleman in his anatomy he would leave you and yours alone? He
would rather drown than go ashore with you."

Ella could not help hearing his loud, harsh words, and her long, wailing
cry was their echo.

At this instant Mrs. Bodine burst into the room, and her slender form
seemed to dilate until a consciousness of her presence filled the
apartment. Her face was more than stern. It wore the commanding expression
of a high-born woman roused to the full extent of an unusually strong
nature. Her dark eyes had an overmastering fire, and her withered cheeks
were red with blood direct from her heart.

"Listen to me, sir," she said imperiously, "and stop your raving. Do not
forget for another instant that you are a man, and that there are women in
this house whom you are wounding by your brutal words. You, yourself, in
very truth will commit murder, if you do not become sane. Did you not hear
that cry? fit response to language that is like a bludgeon. How are you
worse off than I, who have lost husband, sons, all? Have you not said to
your boy as cruel things as Captain Bodine has said? This son of yours was
too noble, too generous, too lofty for either you or us to understand in
our damnable prejudices and blind hate. Come with me," and, seizing his
hand, she dragged him to where Ella lay, white as death. "There," she
resumed in the same impetuous yet clear-cut tones, "is as pure and good a
girl as ever God created. Was loving her a crime? Go home, and ask God to
forgive you, to take you where your son is in His good time. That poor
child is the real victim. Unless you are mad indeed you will ask her
forgiveness, and go quietly away."

The old man trembled like a leaf, swayed to and fro between his fierce
conflicting emotions, and then left the house as hastily as he had
entered. As he did so, Ella called after him feebly, but her voice was
unheard.

The clerk and the colored waiter stood at the open door, and received Mr.
Houghton's tottering form. "Home," he gasped.

In renewed dread they bore him to his carriage, which Sam drove rapidly
away. By the time he reached his residence he was in almost a fainting
condition, and was carried to his bed. The waiter, who also acted in the
capacity of valet at times, gave the old man stimulants, as he said to the
clerk, "Go for Dr. Devoe: Sam dribe you. Bring 'im wid you quick."

The old man at last lay still, breathing heavily, and half-consciously
making an instinctive struggle for existence. The shock of his passion and
the weight of an immeasurable loss had been almost beyond endurance to a
man of his age and of his volcanic nature. His physician was soon at his
side, and, with some degree of success, put forth all his skill to rally
his exhausted patient. He at last succeeded in producing a certain degree
of lethargy, which, in benumbing the brain, brought respite from mental
agony.

The impression of Bodine and all the others with him that young Houghton
had been drowned was natural and almost inevitable. They had seen him
disappear beneath the water, and that was the last that was seen or heard.
The boatman's explanation that the young man had become entangled in the
rigging of the sunken vessel seemed the only way of accounting for the
fact that he did not rise again and strike out for his own boat. The words
of Mr. Houghton, recalling that final sentence of Bodine's, which had
destroyed George's hope and made him feel that he could not approach Ella
again, had greatly augmented the veteran's distress. The thought, once
lodged, could not be banished that the youth, in his wounded pride, might
have silently chosen to brave every danger in order to prove that he was a
"gentleman," and that he would "leave them alone," even at the cost of his
life. This result of his harsh words was crushing to Bodine, and to escape
from its intolerable weight he tried to entertain the hope that George had
found some way of attaining safety as yet unknown.

The young man had not been drowned, although he had had an exceedingly
narrow escape. It was not the rigging which so endangered his life. As he
rose toward the surface his head struck the pole with which the negro was
accustomed to push his boat around in the shallow water, and the blow was
so stunning that he did no more than instinctively cling to the object
which had injured him. It sustained his weight, but, in the wind-lashed
waves and darkness, he and his support were unseen. The tide was running
out swiftly, and he and the pole had been swept well astern, while Bodine
looked at the spot where they thought he had sunk-a point from which the
negro's frantic oar-strokes were rapidly taking them.

Gradually George's clouded senses cleared, and at last he recalled all
that had occurred; far too late, however, for his voice to be heard. He
shouted two or three time but soon recognized that his cries were lost in
the dashing waves and howling wind. So far from giving way to panic, he
encouraged himself with the hope that his effort to rescue Ella and those
with her had not been in vain. Pointing the pole toward the city lights,
he tried to make progress by striking out with his feet, but was soon
convinced that he was exhausting himself to little purpose, for both wind
and tide were against him. He therefore let himself float, hoping to be
picked up by some vessel, or, at the worst, to land at Fort Sumter, which
he deemed to be the nearest point of safety. Before very long he heard the
throbbing of a steamer's engine, and soon her lights pierced the gloom. To
get near enough to make his condition known without being run down was now
his aim. She seemed to be coming directly toward him, and he thanked
Heaven that the wind was dying out so that his voice might be heard.

As soon as he thought the steamer was within hailing distance he began to
shout, "Ship ahoy!" No heed was given until the boat seemed to be almost
upon him, and he swam, with his pole, desperately to the left to avoid
her. Then inflating his lungs he shouted, "Help, if you are men and not
devils!"

"Hallo there! Man overboard?"

"I should say so," thundered Houghton. "Slow up, and throw me a rope."

The wheels were reversed at once. A man near the bow seized a coil of rope
and yelled, "Where are you?"

"Here!" cried Houghton, splashing the water with his hands.

The rope flew with a boatman's aim; George grasped it, and, with
sailor-like dexterity, fastened the end around his body under his arms.
Then laying hold of it also with his hands, he cried from the water almost
under the wheel, "Pull."

In a moment or two he was on deck and besieged with questions. "Boat
swamped in the squall," he replied briefly. "I kept afloat on a pole till
you picked me up. There was another boat that I am anxious about. I'll go
up in the pilot-house and keep a weather-eye open."

"Well, you're a cool one," said the captain.

"I've been in the water long enough to get cool. Would you mind lending me
an overcoat or some wrap?" And he escaped from the gathering crowd to the
pilot-house.

The vessel proved to be a little steamer which plied between the islands
down the harbor and the city. "That was young Houghton," said one of the
passengers.

"--him!" said another. "It's a pity he and his old money-griper of a dad
are not both at the bottom."

Wrapped in the captain's greatcoat, George was as comfortable as his
anxieties would permit. No sign of life was upon the dark waters. When the
boat made her landing, he slipped out of his coat, leaped ashore, and,
walking and running alternately, soon reached his father's house.

Opening the door with his latch-key, he stumbled on Jube, the waiter, who
backed away from him with something like a yell of fear, believing that
his young master had come back in ghostly guise.

"Shut up, you fool!" said George sternly. "Don't you know me?"

"O Lawd, Lawd! you ain't a spook, Marse George?"

"I'll box your ears in a way that will convince you--"

At this moment Dr. Devoe came hastily from the sickroom, and met George on
the stairs. "Thank God!" exclaimed the physician, "you have escaped.
Caution, now, caution. You must not show yourself to your father till I
give permission."

"Has he heard? Is he very ill?" George asked, in deep anxiety.

"Yes, but he'll come through all right, now that you are alive, I've had
to stupefy him partially. He was told that you had been drowned. Go change
your clothes, and be ready when I want you. How did you escape?"

"Picked up by the steamer 'Firefly.' Did they escape?--I mean Mr. Bodine
and his party."

"Yes; and, as far as I can make out, left you to drown."

When the physician returned Mr. Houghton roused a little, and asked, "What
is the matter? Is George ill?"

"No, he's better."

The old man closed his eyes, and at last said dreamily, "Yes, he's better,
better off in heaven."

"Mr. Houghton," said the doctor, kindly, "I've just heard that a man was
picked up by the steamer running between the city and the islands. I don't
give up hope yet."

"Hope! hope! Do you mean to say there is hope?"

"I do. If you will be patient we will soon know. I have taken steps to
find out speedily."

"O God, be merciful! I don't see how I can long survive if he is dead."

Jube, satisfied that George was in the flesh, followed him to his room,
and aided him in exchanging his wet clothes for dry ones, meanwhile
answering the young man's rapid questions.

Touched to the very soul by the account of his father's frantic grief,
George's thoughts centred on him, but he asked, "What happened at Mr.
Bodine's?"

"Dunno, Marse George. Marse Houghton run up de stairs, an' dey took 'im in
a room. Den I heerd loud talkin', an' soon he come runnin' out all kin ob
gone like, and he gasp, 'Home.' We lif him in de kerrige, an Sam dribe as
if de debil was arter 'im. Den we gits de doctor sudden."

Having dressed, George opened his desk and wrote:

"CAPTAIN BODINE,

"Sir--It may relieve you of some natural anxiety to learn that I escaped,
and that I am well and at home. My father is very ill, and absolute quiet
of mind and body is essential.    GEORGE HOUGHTON."

Then he addressed a line to the editor of the daily paper:

"Rumors of an accident in the harbor and of my being drowned may reach
you. This note is evidence that I am safe and well. I will esteem it a
favor if no mention is made of the affair."

Despatching Sam with these two missives, he held himself in readiness for
the summons to his father's bedside.

Dr. Devoe, in his efforts to save his patient from any more nervous
shocks, administered another sedative, and then talked quietly of the
probability of George's escape.

The old man's mind was far from clear, and in his half dreamy state was
inclined to believe what was said to him. Then the physician pretended to
hear the return of his messenger, and went out for a few moments. When he
came back he saw Mr. Houghton's eyes dilating with fear and hope.

"Take courage, my friend," he said. "Great joys are dangerous as well as
great sorrows. You must be calm for your son's sake as well as for your
own. He has escaped, as I told you he might, and will see you when you
feel strong enough."

"Now, now!"

A moment later the father's arms were about his boy. With gentle, soothing
words and endearing terms George calmed the sobs of the aged man, whose
stern eyes had been so unaccustomed to tears. At last he slept, holding
his son's hand.

The clerk was dismissed with cordial thanks; George and the physician
watched unweariedly, for the latter said that everything depended on the
patient's condition when he awoke.



CHAPTER XXXVII

CLOUDS LIFTING


In Mrs. Bodine's humbler home there was another patient who also had found
such respite as anodynes can bring. Ella's fair face had become like the
purest marble in its whiteness, but the hot tears had ceased to flow, and
the bosom which had heaved convulsively with anguish was now so still that
the girl scarcely seemed to breathe at all. Captain Bodine, Mara, and old
Hannah were the watchers. Mara now, for the first time, observed how white
the veteran's iron-gray hair had become. He had grown old in a night,
rather in an hour. The strong lines of his face were graven deep; his
troubled eyes were sunken, giving a peculiarly haggard expression to his
countenance.

Her heart was full of gentleness and sympathy toward him, and of this he
was assured from time to time by her eloquent glances.

Mrs. Bodine was being cared for by Mrs. Hunter, for she was ill in the
reaction from her strong excitement and unwonted exertion.

But few hours had passed when there was a ring at the door. All except
Ella looked at each other with startled eyes. What did this late summons
portend? Mara rose to go to the door, but with a silent gesture the
captain restrained her and went down himself.

"Who is this from?" he asked, as he took the letter from Sam.

"Fum young Marse Houghton. He ain't drowned no mo'n I be."

"Thank God!" ejaculated Bodine, with such fervor that he was heard in the
rooms above.

"Yes," said Sam, "I reckon He de one ter t'ank." Sam had imbibed the
impression that Bodine had left his young master to drown.

"What is it?" whispered Mara over the banisters.

"Young Houghton escaped, after all.--Here, my man, is a dollar. Wait a few
minutes, for I may wish to send an answer."

The gas was burning dimly in the parlor. Turning it up, he read the brief
missive, and recognized from its tone that the young man still had in mind
the veteran's former attitude toward him. He sat down and wrote rapidly:

"MR. GEORGE HOUGHTON,

"_Honored Sir_--At this late hour, and with your coachman waiting, I must
be brief. My term, 'Honored Sir,' is no empty phrase, for from the depths
of my heart I do honor your heroic, generous risk of life for me and mine;
and my sentiments are shared by the ladies whom you rescued. I have been
harsh and unjust to you, and I ask your forgiveness. You have conquered my
prejudice utterly. Do not imagine that a Southern man and a Confederate
soldier cannot appreciate such noble magnanimity.

"Yours in eternal respect and gratitude,

"HUGH BODINE."

As he finished it Mara entered, and was astonished at his appearance. The
haggard face, seamed with suffering, that she had looked upon but a few
moments before, was transfigured. Anguish of soul was no longer expressed,
but rather gladness, and the impress of those divine impulses which lead
men to acknowledge their wrong and to make reparation. In the strong light
his white hair was like a halo, and his luminous eyes revealed the good
and the spiritual in the man, as they are manifested only in the best and
supreme moments of life.

He handed Mara the letter. When she had read it she looked at him with
tear-dimmed eyes, and said: "It is what I should have expected from you."

After dismissing Sam he returned to the parlor, and, taking the girl's
hand again, began, "God bless you, Mara! You have stood by me, you have
sustained me in the most terrible emergency of my life. There were
features in this ordeal which it seemed impossible for me to endure, which
I could not have endured but for your sympathy and the justice you have
done me in your thoughts. Oh, Mara, do not let me err again. You know I
love you fondly, but your happiness must be first, now and always. In my
wish to make you my wife, let me be sure that I am securing your happiness
even more than my own."

At that moment she was exalted by an enthusiasm felt to be divine. In her
deep sympathy her heart was tender toward him. She had just seen him put
his old proud self under his feet, as he acknowledged heroic action in one
whom she had thought incapable of it. Could she fail this loved and
honored friend, when a wronged Northern boy had counted his life as naught
to save him?

Never had her spirit of self-sacrifice so asserted itself before. Indeed,
it no longer seemed to be self-sacrifice, as she gave him her hand, and
said, "Life offers me nothing better than to become your wife."

He drew her close to his breast, but at this touch of her sacred person,
something deep in her woman's nature shrunk and protested. Even at that
moment she was compelled to learn that the heart is more potent than the
mind, even though it be kindled by the strongest and most unselfish
enthusiasm. Only the deep and subtle principle of love could have given to
that embrace unalloyed repose. Nevertheless she had said what she believed
true, "Life had nothing better for her."

As Ella still slept quietly, Bodine insisted that Mara should retire,
saying, "I and old Hannah can do all that is required."

"But you need rest more than I," Mara protested.

"No. Gladness has banished sleep from my eyes, and I must be at Ella's
side when she wakes."

Mara was glad to obey, for no divine exhilaration had come to her. She was
not strong, and a reaction approaching exhaustion was setting in.

In the dawn of the following day Ella began to stir uneasily in her sleep,
to moan and sigh. Vaguely the unspent force of her grief was reasserting
itself, as the benumbing effects of anodynes passed from her brain. Her
father motioned Hannah to leave the apartment, and then took Ella's hand.
At last she opened her eyes, and looked at him in a dazed, troubled way.
"Oh!" she moaned, "I've had such dreadful dreams. Have I been ill?"

"Yes, Ella dear, very ill, but you are better now. The worst is well
over."

"Dear papa, have you been watching all night?"

"That's a very little thing to do, Ella darling."

She lay silent for a few moments, and then began to sob, "Oh, I remember
all now. He's dead, dead, dead."

"Ella," said her father gently, taking her hands from her face, "I do not
believe he is dead. There is a report that he escaped--that he was picked
up by a steamer."

She sat up instantly, as if all her strength had returned, and, with her
blue eyes dilating through her tears, exclaimed, "Oh, papa, don't keep me
on the rack of suspense! Give me life by telling me that he lives."

"Yes, Ella, he is alive. He has written to me, and I have answered in the
way that you would wish."

She threw her arms about his neck in an embrace that was almost
convulsive, and then sank back exhausted.

"Now, Ella darling, for all our sakes you must keep quiet and composed;"
and he gave her a little of the strong nourishment which the physician had
ordered.

For a long time she lay still with a smile upon her lips. In her
feebleness one happy thought sufficed, "He is not dead!"

At last a faint color stole into her cheeks, and she asked: "What did you
write, papa?"

He repeated his letter almost verbatim.

"That was enough, papa," she said, with a sigh of relief. "It was very
noble in you to write in that way."

"No, Ella, it was simple justice."

She gave him a smile which warmed his heart. After a little while she
again spoke. "Go and rest, papa. I feel that I can sleep again. Oh, thank
God! thank God! His sun is rising on a new heaven and a new earth."

Kissing her fondly, her father halted away. Old Hannah resumed her watch,
but was soon relieved by Mara.

When George read Captain Bodine's letter the night grew luminous about
him. He had not expected any such acknowledgment. With characteristic
modesty he had underrated his own action, and he had not given Bodine
credit for the degree of manhood possessed by him. Indeed, he had almost
feared that both father and daughter might be embarrassed and burdened by
a sense of obligation, whose only effect would be to make them miserable.
Generous himself, he was deeply touched by the proud man's absolute
surrender, and he at once appreciated the fine nature which had been
revealed by the letter.

"Now," he reasoned, "as far as her father is concerned, the way is open
for me to seek Ella's love by patient and devoted attentions. I shall at
last have the chance which was impossible when I could not approach her at
all. After this experience I believe that my own dear father will be
softened, and be led to see how much better are happiness and content than
ambitious schemes."

But Mr. Houghton was destined to disappoint his son. He awoke very feeble
in body, and not very clear in mind. His one growing desire was to get
away from Charleston. "I don't ever wish to look on that accursed harbor
again," he repeated over and over.

"We must humor him in every way possible," Dr. Devoe said to George, "and
as soon as he is strong enough you must take him North."

George's heart sank at these words, and at others which his father
constantly reiterated.

"I wish to get away from this city, George," he would say feebly. "I will
go anywhere, only to be away from this town and its people. Oh, I've had
such a warning! This is no place for you or me. Its people are aliens.
They destroyed one of my boys, and they have nearly cost you your life, as
well as your happiness and success in life. Oh, that terrible old woman,
with her tongue of fire! She looked and talked like an accusing fiend. I
want to go away from it all, and forget it all--that such a place and
people exist. Help me get strong, doctor, and then George and I will go,
as Lot fled from Sodom."

"Yes, Mr. Houghton," Dr. Devoe would answer, "all your wishes shall be
carried out;" and this assurance would pacify the old man for a time.

When alone with George the physician would add: "You see how it is, my
young friend. Your father is in such a feeble, wavering state of mind and
body that we must make it all clear sailing for him. Even if he asks for
what is impossible, we must appear to gratify him. Anything which disturbs
his mind will be injurious to his physical health."

George could not but admit the truth of the doctor's words, and he
manfully faced his duty, hoping that the future still had possibilities.

After getting some much-needed sleep the day following his escape, he
wrote:

"MY DEAR CAPTAIN BODINE--If I had known you better your letter would not
have been such an agreeable surprise. Please do me the favor not to
over-estimate my effort for you and those with you--an effort which any
man would have made. That it was successful, is as much a cause for
gratitude in my own case as in yours. Please present my compliments to the
ladies, and express my hope that they suffered no ill effects from their
hasty exchange of boats. I trust that the stupid boatman, who was to blame
for your disaster, will not attempt to navigate anything more complicated
than a wheelbarrow hereafter. I regret to say that my father is still very
ill, and that his physician enjoins the utmost care and quiet until he
recovers from his nervous shock. With much respect, I am, Gratefully
yours,

"GEORGE HOUGHTON."

When Ella's physician came the following day, he found his patient so much
better that he could not account for it until he had heard the glad news.
The healthful, elastic nature of the girl rallied swiftly. George's second
letter was handed her to read, and she kept it. Being clever with her
pencil, she made a ludicrous caricature of the colored boatman caught in a
gale with a wheelbarrow. Her smile was glad now, for hope grew stronger
every moment. Her right to love was now unquestioned, and even her proud
father and cousin had only words of respect and admiration for the lover
who, in a few brief moments, had vindicated the manhood which she had
recognized in the first moments of their chance encounter.

She could not believe that Mr. Houghton would remain obdurate when he
recovered sufficiently to think the matter over calmly. "Our papas," she
thought, with a little sigh and a smile, "have learned that burying their
children is a rather serious matter after all."

When two or three days passed, however, and no further communication had
been received from George, her father thought it wise to say a few words
of caution. "Ella," he began, "you are now strong enough to look at this
matter in all its bearings. Young Mr. Houghton probably finds that his
father is as adverse to his thoughts of you as ever. He has himself also
had time for many second thoughts, and--"

"Papa," said the girl, with a reproachful glance, "you have not yet
learned to do George Houghton justice. At the same time I wish neither you
nor any one else to give him the slightest hint of my feelings, nor to say
anything to him of my illness and what occurred in the boat. He asked
permission to pay his addresses, and he's got to pay them, principal and
interest, if I wait till I am as gray as you are. Dear papa, how you must
have suffered! To think that one's hair should turn white so soon! Haven't
I got a little gray, too?"

She looked at herself in the mirror, but the late afternoon sun turned her
light tresses, which she never could keep smooth, into an aureole of gold.

Mr. Houghton rallied slowly, but grew calmer and more rational with time.
He wished to see his confidential clerk on business, but Dr. Devoe said
gently but firmly, "Not yet." He began to permit, however, a daily written
statement from the office that all was going well. During this
convalescence George felt that he must take no middle course. He resolved
to have no further communication with Captain Bodine, and not to do
anything which, if it came to his father's knowledge, would retard his
recovery. One thing, however, he was resolved upon. In carrying out his
father's wishes he would draw the line at an ambitious alliance at the
North. "Since I have conquered Captain Bodine," he muttered, with a little
resolute nod of his head: "I will subdue my own paternal ancestor; then
the way will be open for a siege of the fair citadel, the peerless little
baker. No wonder her cakes seemed all sugar and spice." Thus George often
mused, complacently regardless of the incongruous terms bestowed upon Ella
in his thoughts.

Sometimes these reveries brought smiles to his face, and more than once he
started and flushed as he observed his father looking at him searchingly
yet wistfully.

Meanwhile he scarcely left the old man night or day. He slept on a cot by
his side, and at the slightest movement was awake, and ready to anticipate
wishes before they could be spoken. On the last day of August his father
was well enough to be up and dressed most of the forenoon.

George began to read the beloved Boston papers, but Mr. Houghton soon
said: "That will do, I'm in no mood for dog-day politics. Go off and amuse
yourself, as long as you don't go near the harbor."

"I've no wish to go out, father. When the sun is low I'll take a tramp of
a mile or two."

"In a week or so more I think I'll be able to travel, George."

"I hope so."

"I fear you don't wish to leave Charleston."

"I wish to do what is best for your health."

Then a long silence followed, each busy with his own thoughts.

At last Mr. Houghton said: "It's strange we've heard nothing from those
Bodines. They appear to accept their lives from your hand as a matter of
course;" and the old man watched the effect of these tentative words.

George flushed, but said gently: "Dear father, try to be just, even in
your enmities. I have heard from Captain Bodine, and--"

"What! have you been corresponding with them, and all that?" interrupted
Mr. Houghton irritably. "Why didn't you tell me?"

"I merely replied to Mr. Bodine's note the day after the accident. Since
then I have not heard from any of the rescued party, nor have I made the
slightest effort to do so. Dr. Devoe said you required quiet of body and
mind, and I have not done anything which would interfere with this."

"Thank you, my boy, thank you heartily. I shall owe my life more to your
faithful attendance than to Dr. Devoe."

"I am glad to hear you say that, whether it is true or not. I wish you to
live many years, and to take the rest to which a long and laborious life
entitles you. I will show you Captain Bodine's letter if you wish."

"Well, let me see what the rebel has to say for himself."

"Humph!" Mr. Houghton ejaculated, finishing the letter. "What did you say
in reply?"

George repeated the substance of his note.

"And nothing has passed between him, his daughter, or you since?"

"Nothing whatever."

"I suppose by this time that little gust of passion, inspired by the
daughter's pretty face, has passed?" and he looked at his son keenly.

"It would have passed, father, if it had been only a gust of passion, and
inspired merely by a pretty face."

"Humph! Do you mean to say that you love her still?"

"I cannot control my heart, only my actions."

"You will give her up then, since it is my wish?"

"I cannot give up loving her, father. If I had drowned and gone to another
world I feel that I would have carried my love with me."

There was another long silence, and then Mr. floughton said, "But you will
control your action?"

"My action, father, shall be guided by most considerate loyalty to you."

"But you will not promise never to marry her?"

"It is true, indeed, that I may never marry her, for I have no reason
whatever to think that she cares for me in any such way as I do for her.
As long as her father felt as he did, I could not approach her. As long as
you feel as you do, I cannot seek her, but to give her up deliberately
would be doing violence to the best in my nature. I know my love is the
same as that which you had for mother, and God would punish a man who
tried to put his foot on such a love. I feel that it would keep me from
the evil of the world."

"The first thing you know, George, you will be wishing that I am dead."

"No, father, no!" his son cried impulsively. "You would do me wicked wrong
in thinking that. A foolish, guilty passion might probably lead to such
thoughts, but not a pure, honest love, which prompts to duty in every
relation in life. I can carry out your every plan for me without
bolstering myself by marrying wealth and position. My self-respect revolts
at the idea. A woman that I loved could aid me far more than the
wealthiest and highest born in the land. I believe that in time you will
see these things as I cannot help seeing them. Until then I can be
patient. I certainly will not jeopardize your health by doing what is
contrary to your wishes. Don't you think we had better drop the subject
for the present?"

"Yes, I think we had," said Mr. Houghton sadly, but without any appearance
of irritation.



CHAPTER XXXVIII

"YES, VILET"


With the exception of Aun' Sheba's household, the final days of August
were passing quietly and uneventfully to the other characters of our
story. Little Vilet had received something like a sunstroke, and she never
rallied. Day and night she lay on her cot, usually wakeful and always
patient. It would seem that her vital forces were sapped, for she grew
steadily weaker and thinner. Aun' Sheba did little else than wait on and
watch her, except when Kern was home. When off duty at the fire
department, he would permit no one else to do anything for his child but
himself. The little girl preferred his attendance even to that of her
mother, and the strong man would carry her up and down his little yard in
the cool night air by the hour, or rock her to sleep on his breast when
the sun was high. No touch was so gentle as his, or so soothing. He would
hush his great, mellow voice into soft, melodious tones as he sung her
favorite hymns, and often her feeble treble would blend with his rich
baritone. He yearned over her with inexpressible tenderness, counting the
minutes when on duty till the hour came which permitted his return.

In his agony of apprehension "his flesh jes drap off'n him," as Aun' Sheba
and his wife said. He slept little and ate little, but was always punctual
at the engine-house to the minute.

Mara and Ella visited the child daily, and tried to tempt her failing
appetite with delicacies. Sissy, Vilet's mother, hovered about her child
most of the time, when her housekeeping duties and the care of the other
children permitted, but after all her chief solicitude centred in her
husband. She and Aun' Sheba often said, "Kern, ef de Lawd wants her we mus
jes gib her up. De Hebenly Fader hab de fust right."

"I hab my feelins all de same," Kern would reply. "Ef de Lawd put sech
feelins in my heart I can't help it."

On the evening of the 31st of August, Vilet was very feeble. The closeness
and heat oppressed her. All, except Uncle Sheba, made a poor pretence of
supper. Nothing affected his appetite, and, having cleared the table, he
went over to his own doorstep and lighted his pipe. Before it was finished
he was dozing comfortably against the doorcase. Aun' Sheba, with a great
sigh, lighted her pipe also, and sat down on the Watson steps with her
daughter that they might breathe cooler air. Kern took up his little
daughter, and began to walk in the yard and sing as usual.

"Well," ejaculated Aun' Sheba, "Missy Mara's call yis-tidy 'lieve my min'
po'ful. I'se couldn't tromp de streets wid a basket now nohow. Missy Mara
say she won' begin bakin' till I'm ready. She look too po'ly to tink ob it
hersef. Lor! what a narrow graze she an de res ob dem hab! No won'er she
all broken up. Dat awful 'scape keeps runnin ebin in my dreams. Bress de
good Lawd dat brung Marse Houghton right dar in time!"

"Missy Ella an' Marse Houghton oughter hab dey own way now, shuah," Sissy
remarked.

"I reckon dey will," Aun' Sheba answered. "Missy Ella look kin'er
dat-a-way. Dey was all agin her 'fore de ax'dent, but now I reckon dey's
all cabed in, from what she says, eben ef she ain't talkin' much. I 'specs
ole man Houghton is de mos' sot;" and then their anxious thoughts reverted
to the sick child.

"Daddy," said Vilet, when her father had finished a hymn, "I wants ter
talk wid you."

"Well, chile, wot you wants ter say?"

"I wants you ter let me go to Hebin, daddy."

"I doesn't feel dat I kin spar' you, Vilet," and she felt his tears
dropping on her cheeks.

"Yes, daddy, you kin, fer a little while. I'se gittin' so-o tired," and
she sighed wearily, "an' you'se gittin' all worn out too."

"No, deah chile, I'd ruder tote you all de res' ob my bawn days. I
couldn't stan' comin' home an' not fin' you lookin' fer me nohow."

Vilet thought a while in silence and then said, "Daddy, I'se keep
a-lookin' fer you jes de same. I'se gwine ter ax de good Lawd ter gib me a
little place on de wall near de pearly gate, an' dar I'se watch an' wait
till you come, an' moder, an' granny all come. I kin watch bettah up dar,
fer I won' be so bery, bery tired. Won' you let me go? 'Pears I couldn't
go to Hebin widout you says, 'Yes, Vilet.'"

The man's powerful frame trembled like an aspen; convulsive sobs heaved
his breast as he carried the child to the further corner of the yard. At
last he buried his face in her neck and whispered, "Yes, Vilet."

"Dat's good an' kin' ob you, daddy. You fin' me waitin' and lookin' fer
you, shuah."

Kern grew calm after his mighty struggle, and, in his simple faith,
believed that angels were around him, ready to take his child when he
should lay her down. He began to sing again, and, a little before nine
o'clock, repaired to his post of duty.

As the days passed without any further communication from Houghton
whatever, Ella's first glow of hope began to pale. She tried to banish all
other thoughts except that Mr. Houghton was very ill or as obdurate as
ever. On the last day of August, however, she heard a rumor that the
invalid was better, and that his son was soon to take him North. Then her
faith began to falter. If George should go away without seeing her,
without a word or a line, what must she think? The tears would come at
this possibility. She had noted that her father and cousin had ceased to
speak of him, and that their bearing toward her was very gentle, giving
her the impression of that deep yet delicate sympathy which is felt for
one destined to pass through a very painful ordeal.

On the evening of this miserable day she yielded, for the first time, to
great dejection, and was about to retire to her room early when Mrs.
Bodine said kindly, "Don't go away, Ella. I feel strangely oppressed, as
if I could scarcely breathe."

"I feel oppressed too, Cousin Sophy."

"Yes, dear child, I know you are grieving. I wish I could help you."

"Oh, Cousin Sophy, it would be so much harder to bear now! He looked so
grand as he loomed up in the gloom of that terrible night! His eyes seemed
like living coals; his action was swift and decided, showing that his mind
was as clear as his courage was high. He seemed to take in everything at a
glance, and in breaking my hold of papa's hand he almost the same as saved
my life twice. And then his leap into the sinking boat, and the almost
giant strength with which he flung papa into his own!--oh, I see it all so
often, and my heart always seems to go down with him when, in fancy, I see
him sink. It was all so heroic, so in accord with my ideal of a man! Why,
Cousin Sophy, he was so sensible about it all! He did just the right thing
and the only thing that could be done, except that horrid sinking. I can't
help feeling that if he had got into the boat with us all would have come
about right. Oh, that stupid, cowardly negro boatman! Well, well, somehow
I fear to-night that I've only been saved to suffer a heartache all my
life."

"I hope not, Ella dear. I cannot think so. God rarely permits to any life
either unalloyed suffering or happiness."

"There, Cousin Sophy, I'm forgetting that you are suffering now. I'll put
on my wrapper, and then fan you till you get asleep."

The captain meantime was solacing himself with thoughts of Mara--thoughts
not wholly devoid of anxiety, for she appeared to be growing thin and
losing strength in spite of her assurances to the contrary.

Mr. Houghton had not been so well in the afternoon and evening, and George
did not leave him. As the evening advanced the sultriness increased. Since
his father seemed quiet, and lay with his eyes closed, he installed Jube
in his place with the fan, and went out into the open air. He found, with
surprise, that he obtained scarcely any relief from the extreme closeness
which had oppressed him indoors. He threw off even the light coat he wore,
and walked up and down the gravel roadway in his shirtsleeves with the
restlessness which great heat imparts to the full-blooded and strong. Sam
sat near the barn-door, smoking his pipe. At last he said, "Marse George,
'spose I took out de hosses an let dem stan in de open."

"What's the matter with them?"

"Dunno, 'less it's de po'ful heat. Dey's bery oneasy."

"All right. Tie them outside here."

At this moment the watch-dog gave a long, piteous howl, and crept into his
kennel.

"That's queer," George remarked. "What's the matter with the dog?"

"Pears as eberyting's gettin quar dis ebnin," Sam replied, knocking the
ashes from his pipe and rising. "You'se pinter dar's been kin ob scrugin
up agin me, an he neber do dat befo'. Now he's right twixt you'se legs es
if he was feerd on someting."

George caressed the dog, and said: "What's up, old fellow?" and then was
perplexed that, instead of answering him with wonted playfulness, the poor
brute should begin to whine and yelp. The horses came out as if escaping
from their stalls, but on reaching the door sniffed the air, stopped, and
seemed reluctant to go further.

"Dey's eider gone crazy, or sump'n gwine ter happen," Sam affirmed,
looking up and around uneasily.

At this moment the pointer broke away from George's caressing hand, and
with a howl such as he had never been heard to utter, slunk away and
disappeared.

"I declare, Sam, I don't know what to make of it all. The air is getting
so hot and close that I can scarcely breathe."

The horses now came out hastily, and began to snort and whinny. Then they
put their heads over Sam's shoulder, with that instinct to seek human
protection often noted in domestic animals.

"Marse George, dey _is_ sump'n gwine ter happen. See dese bosses yere; see
ole Brune dar. He darsn't stay in de ken'l an' he darsn't stay out. Heah
how oder dogs is howlin. Dey is sump'n gwine ter--O good Lawd! what's
dat?"

George's nerves were healthy and strong, but his hair rose on his head and
his knees smote for a second as he heard what seemed a low, ominous roar.
Having a confused impression that the sound came from the street he rushed
toward it, but by the time he reached the front of the house the awful
sound had grown into a thunder peal which was in the earth beneath and the
air above. Obeying the impulse to reach his father, he sprung up the steps
and dashed through the open door. As he did so the solid mansion rocked
like a skiff at sea; the heavy portico under which he had just passed fell
with a terrific crash; all lights went out; while he, stunned and bleeding
from the falling plaster, clung desperately to the banisters, still
seeking to reach his father.



CHAPTER XXXIX

THE EARTHQUAKE


Owen Clancy was also leading a dual life, and when, at times, conscience
compelled introspection, he was ill at ease, for he could not fail to
recognize that his sinister side was gaining ascendency. With a feeling
bordering on recklessness he banished compunctions, and yielded himself
more completely to the inspiration of ambition and the fascinations of
Miss Ainsley. It had become evident that Mara was either engaged to Bodine
or soon would be, and the thought imbittered and hardened his nature. He
gave the day to business, and in the evening was rarely absent from Miss
Ainsley's side.

Mrs. Willoughby had invited a small whist party to meet at her house on
the evening of the 31st, and Clancy of course was among the number.

Before sitting down to their games there was some desultory conversation,
of which young Houghton's exploit was the principal theme. Mrs. Willoughby
was enthusiastic in his praise, and even the most prejudiced yielded
assent to her words. Equally strong in their commendation were Miss
Ainsley and Clancy, and the latter, who had called on Houghton, explained
how admirably he had managed his boat in effecting the rescue, and related
the incidents of his narrow escape. Although there had been no published
record of the affair, the main particulars had become very generally
known, and the tide of public favor was turning rapidly toward Houghton,
for the act was one that would especially commend itself to a brave
people. Of the secret and inner history, known only to herself, Mrs.
Willoughby did not speak, and in all comment a sharp line of division was
drawn between George and his father.

Then conversation turned upon the slight earthquake tremor which had been
experienced in Charleston and Summerville on the previous Friday. This
phenomenon, scarcely noticed at the time and awakening no especial alarm,
had been brought into greater prominence by the very serious disturbances
in Greece on the following day, August 29, and some theories as to the
causes were briefly and languidly discussed.

Then Clancy remarked lightly, "We had our share of disaster in the last
August's cyclone. Lightning doesn't strike twice in the same place. The
jar of Friday was only a little sympathetic symptom in old mother Earth,
who, like other mothers and women in general, are said to be subject to
nervous attacks. Suppose we settle down to our games."

"Nervous attacks in mother Earth and mother Eve's daughters are serious
affairs, I'd have you understand, Mr. Clancy," laughed Mrs. Willoughby.

"And very mysterious," he added. "Who can account for either?"

"There is no reason why they should be accounted for in our case," Miss
Ainsley remarked. "Woman should always remain a mystery."

"Yes, I suppose she must so remain in her deepest nature," he replied,
sotto voce, "but is there any need for small secrecies?"

"That question would have to be explained before I could answer it. Will
you deal?"

He was her partner. They played quietly for an hour, and then the wife of
the gentleman opposed to them rose and said: "The heat is so great I shall
have to be excused"; and, with her husband, she bade Mrs. Willoughby
goodnight.

Clancy and Miss Ainsley repaired to the balcony, the latter taking her
favorite seat, and leaning her head against the ivy-entwined pillar. She
knew the advantages of this locality, for while she was hidden from the
occupants of the parlor, the light shone through the open French windows
in sufficient degree to reveal the graceful outlines of her person, which
was draped as scantily on that hot night as fashion permitted.

"How stifling the air is!" she remarked. "I'm glad to escape from the
lighted room, yet am surprised that we obtain so little relief out here."

"It is strange," Clancy replied. "I scarcely remember such a sultry
evening. From what I've read I should be inclined to think it was an
earthquake atmosphere, or else that it portended a storm."

"Now don't croak," she said. "The stars are shining, and there is no sign
of a storm. You have already proved that an earthquake cannot occur. You
know the old saying about worry over what never happens. The true way to
enjoy life is to take the best you can get out of it each day as it comes.
Don't you think so?"

"A very embarrasing question if I should answer it honestly," he replied,
laughing.

"How so?" Never had the brilliant fire in her eyes been so soft and
alluring. She had detected a slight tremor in his voice, and had seen an
answering fire in his eyes. Although conscious of a rising and delicious
excitement in her own veins, she believed from much experience that in her
perfect self-control she could prevent him from saying too much. Even if
he did overstep the liberal bounds which she was willing to accord, she
thought, "I can rally him back into our old relations if I so wish."

What she did wish, she scarcely knew herself, and the thought passed
through her mind, "I may accept him after all."

He shared her mood, with the exception that he had decided long since to
obtain her hand if she was disposed to give it. To-night, more than ever,
he felt the recklessness which had been growing upon him, and was inclined
to follow her lead to the utmost, even warily to go beyond such
encouragement as he might receive. He therefore replied vaguely, "One may
wish the best in life, and not be able to obtain it."

"I see nothing embarrassing in that commonplace remark."

"There might be in its application."

"Possibly. Who knows to what one and one make two might lead?--a murder,
like enough."

"Sometimes one and one make one."

"How odd! Still more so, that you should indulge in abstruse mathematics
this hot night."

"That reminds me that a man is said to be merely a vulgar fraction till he
is married, when he is redeemed into a whole number."

"If I were equal to it, I'd get a pencil, and preserve such great nuggets
of abstract truth."

"When you are so concretely and distractingly enchanting, what other
refuge is there for a man than the abstract?"

"Is the abstract a refuge?" she asked, looking dreamily out over the dark
waters of the harbor. "Perhaps it is. It certainly suggests coolness which
should be grateful tonight." Then turning, and with a mirthful and
provoking gleam in her eyes, he remarked, "I should think this weather
would be just to your taste."

"Why so?"

"Oh, you have become enough of a Yankee to guess."

"Would you say that even this furnace-like air cannot quicken my blood?"

"My friend, I do not believe that anything could quicken your pulse one
beat."

"I'll demonstrate the contrary," he said, with a quick flash in his eyes.
"Put your finger on my pulse."

She laughingly did so. By a slight, quick movement he clasped her hand,
and it appeared to him that the passion which he knew to be in his face
was reflected in hers. She did not withdraw her hand. For an instant there
was a subtle, swift interchange of thought. She saw he was about to speak
plainly, passionately; she felt herself yielding as never before in all
her experience. It was as if a wave of emotion was lifting and sweeping
her away. He held her eyes; a smile began to part her lips; the thought
came to him that words were not essential, that she was giving herself to
him through the agency of the brilliant eyes which at the first had
awakened his wondering surmises. He gently drew her to her feet, and she
did not resist. He bent toward her that he might look deeper into her rosy
face, and felt her sweet breath coming quickly against his cheek. Then, as
his lips parted to speak, a low, deep sound far to the southeast caught
his attention. Still clasping hands they faced it. With awful rapidity it
approached, increasing, deepening, pervading the air to the sky, bellowing
as if from the centre of the earth, filling their ears with its
unutterable and penetrating power, and appalling their hearts by its
supernatural weirdness. They shrank before it down the balcony and through
the window into the drawing-room, cowering, trembling, speechless.

They were scarcely within the apartment before the large, substantial
mansion rocked as if it had been a cork, and the waters of the harbor had
passed under it. The balcony on which they had stood an instant before
went down, leaving gaping darkness in its place.

With an agonized shriek Miss Ainsley threw her arms about Clancy. As with
uncertain footing he sought to place her on a sofa they were both thrown
violently upon it. He saw the chandeler swaying to and fro, as if a
thousand lights were dancing before his eyes; saw the other guests
staggering and falling. Statuettes, bric-a-brac, and articles of furniture
came crashing down; part of the ceiling fell with a thud, raising a
stifling dust, which, choking the shrieking voices, rendered more distinct
the grinding sound, as walls of solid masonry drew apart, gaped, and
closed under the impulse of immeasurable power.

Above all rose the mysterious thunder, which was not thunder, because now
it seemed to come from unknown depths. Time is but relative, and the
occupants of the room felt as if they were passing through an eternity of
agony.

The climax of horror was reached when the gas was extinguished, and all
were left in pitchy darkness. It seemed as if reason itself would go, but
as suddenly as the convulsion had begun, it ceased. There was a second or
two of breathless waiting, and then Clancy shouted, "Come, quick. There
may be another shock."

With his right hand he struck a match, and, supporting Miss Ainsley by his
left arm, led the way.

"Oh, what is it?" she gasped.

"An earthquake. Come; courage. We must get away from all buildings." Half
lifting her, he swiftly sought the street, and then the adjacent open
ground of the Battery.

"All here?" he asked, panting, and looking around. The others soon
appeared, Mr. Willoughby coming last, and carrying his half-fainting wife.
The negro servants had preceded, and were already on their knees, groaning
and praying. From every side other fugitives were pouring in.

"Miss Ainsley, you are with friends and as safe here as you can be
anywhere," Clancy said hastily. "There are others in the heart of the
city," and he dashed away, regardless of her appealing cry to return.

As Clancy rushed up Meeting Street he felt that any moment might be his
last, and yet he was more appalled at himself than at the awful sights
about him. The human mind in such crises is endowed with wonderful
capacity. It seemed to him that his eyes took in all details as he passed,
and that his brain comprehended them. People were rushing from their
homes, or carrying out the feeble and injured. His way was impeded by
fugitives, whose faces were seen by the street-lamps to be ghastly pale
and horror-stricken. The awful impression of the final day of doom was
heightened by the comparative nudity of many, both men and women; and
among the multitudinous images passing through Clancy's mind was a picture
of the Judgment Day by one of the old masters, with its naked, writhing
human forms.

The air was resonant with every tone of anguish, hoarse shoutings, shrill
screams, and the plaintive cries of children. Above all other sounds
articulate and inarticulate was heard the word "God," as the stricken
people appealed to Him, some on their knees, others as they stood dazed
and almost paralyzed, and others still as they rushed toward open places
for safety.

"Yes, God," muttered Clancy. "May He forgive me for having forgotten Him!
There are but two thoughts left in this wreck, God and Mara. How unworthy
were my recent motives and passion! How unlike the love which leads me
inevitably to breathe the name of Mara in my appeal to God!"



CHAPTER XL

"GOD"


Had Mara's heart been hers to keep or to give when she met Bodine, she
could easily have learned to love him for his own sake. Mrs. Bodine's
impression was well founded, that Mara, unlike most girls, was suited to
such an alliance. The trouble was, that, before Bodine became friend, then
lover, she had given to Clancy what she could not recall, although she
strove to do so with a will singularly resolute, and from the strongest
convictions of hopeless discord between him and herself. With the purpose
to make her father's friend happy was also blended the powerful motive to
extricate herself. She had felt that she must tear up by the roots the
affection which had been growing for years before she had recognized it,
and at times, as we have seen, thought it was yielding to the unrelenting
grasp of her will. Again, discouraged and appalled by its hold upon every
fibre of her being, she would recognize how futile had been her efforts.
She could not, like many others, divert her thoughts and preoccupy her
mind by various considerations apart from the truth that she had promised
to marry a man whom she did not love. Although so warped, her nature was
too simple, too concentrated, to permit any weak drifting toward events.
She believed that her life had narrowed down to Bodine, and she had
decided to become his devoted wife at every cost to herself, flow great
that cost would be she was learning sadly, day by day and hour by hour. As
we know, she had permitted Bodine to learn her purpose at a time of
excitement and enthusiasm--at a time when his profound distress touched
her deepest sympathies. She had also hoped, that, when the irrevocable
words had been spoken on each side, the calm of fixed purpose and
certainty would fall upon her spirit.

She had been disappointed. She trembled with a strange dread whenever she
recalled the moment when Bodine drew her to himself, conscious now of a
truth, before unknown, that there was something in her nature not amenable
to enthusiasm, spiritual exaltation, or her passion for
self-sacrifice--something that would not shrink from death for his sake
yet which did shrink from his kisses upon her lips.

Never had she suffered as during the last few days, for she was being
taught by the inexorable logic of facts and events. In Ella's crystal
nature she saw what her own love should be, and might have been. She had
witnessed the girl's wild impulse to follow her lover to the depths of the
harbor, and her own heart gave swift interpretation. She was alive because
a Northern boy, deemed incapable of anything better than selfish, reckless
love-making, had unhesitatingly risked his life to save one who had
spurned him. Even Mrs. Hunter's prejudice had been compelled to yield, and
she to admit the young fellow's nobility, of which she was a living proof.
The wretched thought haunted Mara that Owen Clancy, unblinded, had
discovered for himself, what had been forced upon her, that there were
Northern people with whom he could gladly affiliate. The shadow of death
had not been so dark and baleful as the shadow of the past in which she so
long had dwelt, for in the former there had been light enough to reveal
the folly and injustice of indiscriminating prejudice and enmity. Worse
than all these thoughts, piercing like shafts of light the darkness which
had obscured her judgment, was the truth, upon which she could not reason,
that she shrunk with an ever-increasing dread from words and acts of love
unprompted by her heart.

Like a rock, however, amid all this chaos--this breaking up of the old
which left nothing stable in its place--remained her purpose to go
forward. On this evening which was to witness a wilder chaos than that of
her long-repressed yet passionate heart, she had said sternly, "My word
has been passed, my honor is involved, and he shall never learn that I
have trembled and faltered."

Mrs. Hunter had retired, overcome by the heat, and, believing that she
could endure the sultriness better in the little parlor, Mara had turned
down the gas, and was sitting by an open window. The city seemed
singularly quiet. The street on which she dwelt contained a large
population, yet the steps on the pavement were comparatively few. Her own
languor was general, and people sought refuge in the seclusion and the
undress permitted in their own homes.

In a vague, half-conscious way she wondered that a large city could be so
still at that hour. "Like myself," she murmured, "it is half shrouded in
gloom and gives but slight hint of much that is hidden, that ever must be
hidden.--I wonder where he is to-night. Oh, I've no right to think of him
at all. Why can't I say, 'Stop,' and end it?--this miserable stealing away
of my thoughts until will, like a jailer, pursues and drags them back. Why
should a presentiment of danger to him weigh down my spirit to-night? What
other peril can he be exposed to except that of marrying a beauty and an
heiress? Ah! peril enough, if his heart shrinks like mine. Here, now,
_quit_," and the word came sharply and angrily in her self-condemnation.

Then in the silence began that distant groan of nature. It was so
distinct, so unlike anything she had ever heard in its horrible suggestion
of all physical evil that she shrank from the window overwhelmed by a
nameless dread. Instinctively she turned up the gas, that she might not
face the terror in darkness. As she did so she thought of the rush and
roar of the last year's cyclone, but in the next breath learned that this
was something infinitely worse--what, she was too confused and terrified
to imagine. Then she was thrown to the floor. Raising herself partially on
a chair she witnessed an event which paralyzed her with horror. The wall
toward the street, with its mirror, pictures, windows, and all pertaining
to it fell outward with a crash.

For a second all was still, as she looked into the darkness which had
swallowed up the front and sheltering side of her home. Then immediately
about her began a wail of human anguish which grew in agonized intensity,
gathering volume far and near until it became like the death-cry of a
city. Unconsciously she was joining in it--that involuntary "oh-h," that
crescendo tidal wave of sound sweeping upward from despairing humanity.
Then this mighty and bitter cry seemed to become articulate in the word
"God." With an instinct swift, inevitable, and irresistible as the power
that had shaken the city, the thought of God as the only other power able
to cope with the mysterious destroyer, entered into all hearts and found
expression.

Clouds of stifling, whitish-looking dust now came pouring into the
unprotected apartment, obscuring the street and rendering dim even the
familiar objects near the terrified girl. For a few moments the nervous
shock was so great that Mara felt as if paralyzed. She remained lying on
the floor, half supporting herself by the chair, waiting in breathless
expectation for she knew not what. The malign power had been so vast, and
its work so swift, that even her fearless spirit was overwhelmed.

The shrieks, groans, and prayers, the hurrying steps in the dust-clouded
street at last forced upon her attention the fact that all were seeking to
escape from the buildings. With difficulty she regained her feet and
tottered to Mrs. Hunter's room, but found, to her dismay, that she could
not open the door. She called and even shrieked, but there was no answer.
A sense of utter desolation and helplessness overpowered her. Who could
come to her aid? Bodine could not. At such a time he would be almost
helpless himself, and there were women in his charge. With a bitterness
also akin to the death, which she momentarily expected, she knew that her
thoughts had flown to Clancy and to no other human being at that hour. She
was learning what all others discovered in the stress of the earthquake,
that everything not absolutely essential to life and soul was swept away
and almost forgotten.

To go into the street and get help seemed her only resource, and she made
her way down the stairs to where had been the doorway. In vain she
appealed to the flying forms. Her cries were unheard in the awful din of
shrieks, prayers, groans, and calls of the separated to their friends. The
impression made was of a wild panic in which the frenzied thought of
flight, escape, predominated.

She was about to return in something like despair, feeling that she could
not leave her aunt, when she saw a tall form rushing toward her. A second
later she recognized Owen Clancy leaping over the ruins of her home. With
a cry, she fell into his outstretched arms, faint, trembling, yet with a
sense of refuge, a thrill of exquisite joy before unknown in all her life.

"Mara, dear Mara, you are not hurt?" he asked breathlessly.

"No, oh, thank God, you have come!"

Again there was the same ominous growl, deep in the earth, which once
heard could never be mistaken, never forgotten. Lifting her up Clancy
carried her swiftly from beneath the shattered buildings to the middle of
the street. She clung to him almost convulsively as the earth again swayed
and trembled beneath them, and the awful moan of nature swelled, then died
away in the distance. There was an instant of agonized, breathless
suspense, then the wail of the stricken city rose again with a deeper
accent of terror, a more passionate appeal to heaven, and the effort to
escape to the wider spaces was renewed in a more headlong flight.

"Mara," said Clancy, "at this hour, when everything may be swept away in a
moment, there is nothing left for me but you and God. Will you trust me,
and let me do my very best to save you?"

"Oh, Owen, Owen, God forgive me!" She uttered the words like a despairing
cry, then buried her face upon his breast.

With a dread greater than that inspired by the earthquake he thought: "Is
it too late? Can she have married Bodine?" The anguish in her tone
combined with her action had revealed both her love and its hopelessness.
He said gently, yet firmly: "We must act now and quickly. Where is Mrs.
Hunter?"

Mara had apparently become speechless from grief. Without a word she
turned swiftly, and taking his hand led him toward the ruined building.

"No, stay here. It will not be safe for you to enter," and pushing her
gently back he ran up the exposed stairway, into the parlor, noticing with
dismay the general wreck and the danger Mara had run.

He found that Mara had followed him. "Oh, why will you come?" he exclaimed
in deep anxiety. "Where is she? We must get away from all this."

The sobbing girl could only point to Mrs. Hunter's door. Clancy tried it,
but found it jammed, as were so many others that night, adding to the
terror of imprisoned inmates. With strength doubled by excitement he put
his shoulder against the barrier and burst it open. A ghastly spectacle
met their eyes. Mrs. Hunter lay senseless on her bed in her night-robe,
which was stained with blood. She had evidently risen to a sitting posture
on the first alarm, and then had been stunned and cut by the hurling of
some heavy object against her head and neck, the shattered mantel clock on
the bed beside her showing how the injury had been done.

Mara's overwhelming distress ceased its expression at this new horror as
she gasped, "Can she be dead?"

"This is no place to discover," Clancy replied, rolling the poor woman's
form in a blanket. "Mara, dear, we must get away from this house. It may
come down any moment. Snatch up wraps, clothing, all you can lay your
hands upon, and come."

Already he was staggering away with Mrs. Hunter in his arms. In a moment
Mara did his bidding and followed. Slowly and with difficulty he made his
way down the tottering, broken stairway, then across the prostrate wall to
the centre of the street, now almost deserted. He looked anxiously around,
calculating that no building, if it fell, could reach them at that point,
then laid his heavy burden down, and stood panting and recovering from his
exertion.

"I think we shall be as safe here as anywhere until we can reach one of
the squares. Put your hand, Mara, over Mrs. Hunter's heart, and see if it
is beating."

"Yes, faintly."

"Have you stimulants in the house? Can you tell me where to find them?"

"You shall not go back there: I will go." And, as if endowed with sudden
access of strength, she sprang away. Putting his coat under Mrs. Hunter's
head for a pillow he followed instantly. "Now why do you come?" she
protested.

"Because I would rather die with you, Mara, than live safely without you."

"Oh, for God's sake don't speak that way!" she replied with a sob. "Here,
I have it. Come away, quick."

As she hastily sought to cross the ruins in the street she missed her
footing, and would have fallen had not his ready arm encircled her and
borne her to Mrs. Hunter's side.

"Would to God I had heeded your warning, Owen," she moaned, as she sought
to give her aunt some of the brandy, while he chafed the poor woman's
wrists.

"You are not married to Bodine?" he asked, springing to his feet.

"No, but I am pledged to him. I cannot break faith and live. You must be
my protector in a double sense, protecting me against myself. As you are a
Southern gentleman, help and shield me."

"You ask what is next to impossible, Mara. I can only do my best for you."

"Oh, how I have wronged you!"

"Not so greatly as I have wronged myself. I will tell you all some other
time."

"No, Owen, no. We must keep apart. We must, we must indeed. Oh, oh, it
would have been better that I had died! You must harden your face and
heart against me--that is the only way to help me now."

"Never shall I harden my heart against you. Whatever comes I shall be your
loyal friend."

"Oh, the cruelty of my fate--to wrong two such men!"

"Bress de Lawd! I'se fown you;" and Aun' Sheba stood before them, panting
and abounding in grateful ejaculations.

"Aun' Sheba!" cried Mara, throwing herself into the arms of her old nurse.
"To think that you should come to me through all these dangers!"

"Wot else I do, honey lam? You tink you kin be in trouble an' I ain't dar?
Marse Clancy, my 'specs. Once I tinks you a far-wedder frien', but I takes
it back. Lawd, Lawd! is de ole missus dun gone?"

"No, Aun' Sheba," said Clancy. "Help us revive her, and then help me carry
her to a place of greater safety. You come like an angel of light."

"I'se rudder hebby an' brack fer'n angel, but, like de angels, we'se all
got ter do a heap ob totin' ter-night."



CHAPTER XLI

SCENES NEVER TO BE FORGOTTEN


When George Houghton reached his father's room he heard Jube fairly
howling in the darkness, and the old man groaning heavily.

"Father," cried the young man, "you are not hurt?"

"Oh, George, thank God, you have again escaped! This is an earthquake,
isn't it?"

"It must be, and I must take you out to some open space at once. Jube,
shut up, and keep your senses. If you don't help me I'll break your
bones."

Groping about he found a match and lighted a candle.

"Oh, George, you are hurt. Your face is covered with blood!" cried Mr.
Houghton.

"Slight cuts only. Come, father, there may be another shock, and it will
not be safe to dress you here. Let me wrap you in blankets, and then Jube
and I will carry you to Marion Square. I will come back for your clothes."

This they proceeded to do, Mr. Houghton meanwhile protesting, "No, George,
you shall not come back." Then he asked a moment or two later, "Why do you
take me out at the side door?"

"It will be safer," George replied, not wishing to explain that the
pillared and massive portico was in ruins.

As they passed the front of the house, however, Jube groaned, "Oh, Lawd!
de porch dun smashed!"

"This is awful, my boy!" ejaculated Mr. Houghton. "Oh, this dreadful city!
this dreadful city!"

"The worst is over, I think. Brace up, Jube. If you are so anxious to save
your life, step lively."

"Jes hear de people holler," cried Jube, trembling so he could scarcely
keep his hold, and he gave a loud, sympathetic yell himself.

"Stop that," said George sternly. "Oh, Dr. Devoe, I am so glad to see
you," he added, as the physician came running up. "You are a godsend."

"I was passing near," explained the physician, "and, being a bachelor, can
think of my patients first. Jube, if you yell again I'll cuff you. Be a
man now and we'll all soon be safe."

They joined the throngs which were gathering on the square, and Mr.
Houghton was tenderly placed upon the grass. "Doctor, you and Jube will
stay with him while I get articles for his comfort;" and before his father
could again interpose George was off at full speed.

"He will come out all right," said Dr. Devoe soothingly. "Never fear for
George."

But when the second roll of subterranean thunder was heard, and the cries
and lamentations of the people were redoubled, the old man wrung his hands
and groaned, "Oh, why did you let him go?" After the quiver passed he sat
up and strained his eyes in the direction from which he hoped again to see
his son. The house was not far away, and George soon appeared staggering
under a mattress, with bedding, clothing, and other articles essential to
the comfort and safety of his father. Jube, under the doctor's assurances,
was beginning to rally from his terror, and between them they speedily
made the old man comfortable.

As George was arranging the pillows his father said, "God forgive me for
being so obdurate, my boy. I know where your thoughts are. Go and help her
if you can."

With heartfelt murmured thanks the young man kissed his father, and
bounded away.

Ella Bodine and her father were truly in sore trouble. A few minutes
before ten, Mrs. Bodine's delicate and enfeebled organization succumbed to
the heat and closeness of the air, and she suddenly swooned. Ella in alarm
summoned her father and old Hannah, and all were engaged in applying
restoratives when they too were appalled by the hideous sound which gave
such brief and terrible warning of the disaster. The veteran, who sat by
the bedside, chafing his cousin's wrists with spirits, barely had time to
get on his crutches when he was thrown violently to the floor, while Ella,
with a wild cry, fell across the bed. Then, in expectation of instant
death, they listened with an awe too great for expression to the infernal
uproar, the crash of falling objects, the groaning and grinding of the
swaying house, and above all to the voice of the deep, subterranean power
which appeared to be rending the earth.

Most fortunately the gas was not extinguished, and when it was still
again, Ella rushed to her father, and exclaimed as she helped him up, "Oh,
papa, what is this?"

"De Jedgmen Day," said a quivering voice.

Bodine's face was very white, but his iron nerves did not give way.
"Ella," he said firmly, "you must keep calm and do as I say. It is an
earthquake. Since the house stands we may hope to revive Cousin Sophy
before taking her to the street. Come, Hannah, get up and do your best."

From her sitting posture on the floor, the old woman only answered in a
low terrified monotone, "De Jedgmen Day."

"Oh, papa, she's just crazed, and we must do everything ourselves;" and,
Ella, with trembling hands and stifled sobs, began to aid her father. "Oh,
hear those awful cries in the street," she said after a moment. "Don't you
think we should try to take cousin out?"

"If I were not so helpless!" Bodine groaned. "Hannah, wake up and help."

"De Jedgmen Day," was the only response.

"There is no use to look to her, papa. I'm strong. See, I can lift cousin,
she is so light."

"No, Ella, it might injure you for life. If we could only partially revive
her, and she could help you a little--There may not be another shock."

They worked on, growing more assured as the house remained quiet. Hannah
was evidently crazed for the time being, for, deaf to all expostulations,
she would not move, and kept repeating the terrible refrain.

"O God!" said Bodine in tones of the deepest distress, "to think that I
cannot go to Mara!"

"Well, papa, you can't help it. Your duty is here. May God pity and save
us all!"

At last the ominous rumble began again in the distance. Ella gave her
father a startled look, and saw confirmation of her fear in his face. Old
Hannah started up exclaiming, "De Lawd is comin' now shuah. I'se gwine ter
meet Him," and she rushed away.

With another wild cry Ella lifted the form of her cousin in her arms, and,
with a strength created by the emergency, staggered down the stairs to the
door. Then a man saw and relieved her of her burden. Bodine with
difficulty tried to follow, but could not during the brief shock. When all
was still again he threw the bedding over his shoulder, went down and
speedily checked Ella's wild cries that he should not delay.

The street was comparatively wide; the houses were not high, and they
found themselves in the midst of a group of refugees like
themselves--mothers sobbing over their babes, men caring for sick and
fainting wives, and children standing by feeble and aged parents. Family
servants crouched on the pavement beside their employers, and continually
gave utterance to ejaculatory prayers which found sympathetic echoes in
the stoutest hearts. Many were coming and going. The place seemed a
partial refuge, yet the proximity of houses led one group after another to
seek the open squares. In many instances rare fortitude and calmness were
displayed. Here, as elsewhere throughout the city, frail women, more often
than strong men, were patient and resigned in their Christian faith.

Ella supported Mrs. Bodine's head upon her lap, and others now aided in
the effort to bring back consciousness. Fortunately, however, for the poor
lady, she knew not what was passing.

Suddenly the group parted to make way for a hatless, coatless man, whose
face was terribly disfigured with blood and dust. Nevertheless Ella
recognized him with the glad cry, "Mr. Houghton!"

"Thank Heaven you are safe!" he gasped, panting heavily; and he gave his
hand to Mr. Bodine.

"But you are injured," said the captain, in deep solicitude.

"No, nothing worth mentioning; merely cut and bruised. I came as soon as I
had fixed my father safe in the square. I thought you might need help."

"Mr. Houghton, you are overwhelming us--"

"Please don't think and talk that way. God knows, a man should give help
where it is most needed at such a time. This is Mrs. Bodine?"

"Yes, she fainted before the first shock. We have been unable to revive
her. At the last shock my daughter carried her down."

"Miss Bodine!" exclaimed George in surprise and admiration.

She gave him a swift glance through her tears, and then, dropping her
eyes, resumed her efforts to revive her cousin.

"You may well exclaim," said her father. "How she did it I do not know.
Excitement gave strength, I suppose."

"Everything these kind friends and I can do for her seems useless," Ella
faltered.

"Let me get my wind a little," said George, eagerly, "and I will carry her
to the square, where my father is. A good physician is with him."

At this instant came a third and severer shock than the last, and with it
the new terror which sickened the bravest. "O God," cried Ella, "will
there be no respite?" Then observing for the first time the pillars of
light and smoke rising at different points, she cried in still deeper
fear, "Oh, papa, can those be volcanic fires?"

"No, no, my child."

"I saw a fire kindling in a deserted house as I came," George added
excitedly. "Truly, Captain Bodine, this is no place for your family; or,"
turning to the groups near, "for you either, friends. Ah, see! there is a
house almost opposite beginning to burn. Come;" and without further
hesitation he lifted Mrs. Bodine and strode away.

Not only Ella and her father followed, but also the others, those who were
the strongest supporting the feeble and injured.

They had gone but little way before Bodine said, "Ella, I must go and see
if Mara has escaped. I cannot seek safety myself unless assured that she
is safe."

"Oh, papa, it will be almost suicide for you to go through these streets
alone."

"Ella, there are some things so much worse than death. If you and cousin
were alone I would not leave you, but with a strong helper and a physician
in prospect I must go. How could I look Mara in the face again if I made
no effort in her behalf? Explain to Mr. Houghton."

He dropped behind, then turned up a side street and carefully yet quickly
halted over and around the impediments strewn in the way.

Aware of the danger of delay, George went forward with a rapid stride.
"Can you keep up?" he asked.

"Yes," Ella replied.

"We must get by and beyond these higher buildings. I have the horrible
dread that they may fall on you any moment."

"You never seem to think of yourself, Mr. Houghton."

"I must now," he said after a moment or two. "Here is a corner at which we
can rest, for there are no high buildings near;" and he sank on the ground
with Mrs. Bodine still in his arms.

"Oh, you are killing yourself!" she cried in deep distress.

"Not at all, only resting. Where is your father?"

Ella explained and revealed her fears.

"I will go to his aid and Miss Wallingford's as soon as you and Mrs.
Bodine are safe."

"Mr. Houghton, how can I--"

"By giving me the privilege of serving you, and by not making me miserable
from seeing you burdened with a sense of obligation," he said quickly.
"That is the one thing I have feared--that you would be unhappy because it
has been my good-fortune--oh, well, you understand."

She did, better than he, for his swift coming to her aid had banished all
doubt of him.

"Please understand, then, that I gratefully and gladly accept your
chivalrous help. Have I not seen it given to the old and feeble before?
Oh, these heart-rending cries! It seems to me that they will haunt me
forever."

"Please support Mrs. Bodine a moment. That is a woman's scream just beyond
us. She is evidently injured, and probably held fast in the ruins."

He ran to the spot, and found that a woman had been prostrated and
partially buried by the bricks of a falling chimney. She had been
unconscious for a time, but now, reviving, her agonized shrieks rose above
the other cries. George spoke soothingly to her as he threw the bricks to
right and left. She was evidently suffering the extremity of pain, for she
again screamed and moaned in the most heart-rending way, although George
lifted her as carefully as possible. Laying her down beside Mrs. Bodine he
began in distressed perplexity, "What shall we do now? We cannot leave her
here."

At this moment a group of negroes approached. One was carrying a little
girl whom Ella immediately recognized as Vilet. Then she saw Sissy, the
mother, carrying her youngest, and weeping hysterically, while the other
children clung to her skirts. Uncle Sheba brought up the rear, fairly
howling in his terror. The man carrying the child was Mr. Birdsall, who
had called with old Tobe just before the first shock. The gray-woolled
negro was walking beside his minister, uttering petitions and
self-accusations. Old Tobe was comparatively alone in the world, without
kith or kin. Mr. Birdsall, feeling that he owed almost an equal duty to
his flock, had only stipulated that he should stop at his home for his
wife and children. Happily they were unharmed, and were able to follow
unaided; and so, like a good shepherd, he still carried the weakest of his
lambs.

Ella called to them, and they paused. George, ever prompt in action, saw
that old Tobe and Uncle Sheba were able to do more than use their lungs,
and he sprang forward to press them into his service. Tobe readily
yielded, but Uncle Sheba would do nothing but howl. In his impatience
George struck him a sharp blow across the mouth, exclaiming, "Stop your
infernal noise. If you are strong enough to yell that way you can do
something better. Stop, I say, or I'll be worse than two earthquakes;" and
he shook Uncle Sheba's howl into staccato and tremolo notes.

"Dere am no use foolin' wid dat niggah," said old Tobe.

"Howl, then, if you will, but help you shall;" and taking him by his
shoulder, George pushed him beside Tobe, made the two form a chair with
their hands, and put the woman into it, with her arms about the neck of
each.

Taking up Mrs. Bodine he again went forward. The miserable little
procession followed, Uncle Sheba mechanically doing his part, at the same
time continuing to make night hideous by the full use of a pair of lungs
in which was no rheumatic weakness. Motion caused the wretched woman
renewed agony, and her shrieks mingled with his stentorian cries.

"Oh, this is horrible!" Ella said at George's side.

"It is indeed, Miss Bodine; yet how glad I am that you Have not been
injured!"

"Oh, oh, I fear so greatly that my cousin will not live through this
dreadful night; and my father, too, is facing unknown dangers!"

"This is an awful ill wind, Miss Bodine, but the fact that I can help you
and yours gives me a deeper satisfaction than you can imagine."

She could not trust herself to answer, therefore was silent, and his
thought was, "I must go slower on that tack, and not so close to the
wind." The forlorn company eventually reached the square, and made their
way to the place where George had left his father. As the old man saw his
son, and comprehended his mission of mercy as well as love, he murmured,
"God forgive me that it should require an earthquake to teach how much
better is his spirit than mine," and his heart grew as tender as a
mother's toward his boy.

Dr. Devoe, who was attending another patient not far away, came up hastily
and eased the poor creature out of the negroes' hands to the ground.

He gave her some of the wine George had brought for his father, saying as
he did so, "Try to be calm, now, madam. I am a physician, and will do all
I can for you."

Mr. Houghton promptly sent Jube to the doctor with one of his pillows and
part of his bedding, so the woman was made as comfortable as her condition
permitted.

George laid Mrs. Bodine on the grass, and then with the scanty bedding
Ella had carried, aided in making a resting-place not far from his father.
He next lifted Mrs. Bodine's head into the girl's lap, and was about to
turn his attention to Uncle Sheba, but was anticipated. Two men had taken
him by the shoulders, one of them saying, "If you don't keep still we'll
tie you under the nearest building and leave you there," and they began to
march him off. At this dire threat Uncle Sheba collapsed and fell to the
ground, where he was left.

Dr. Devoe divided his attention between the fatally injured woman and Mrs.
Bodine, who under his remedies and the efforts of George and Ella soon
revived. Mr. Houghton looked with wonder, pity, and some embarrassment at
the small, frail form, and the white, thin face of one whom had
characterized as "that terrible old woman." She seemed scarcely a shadow
of what she had been on that former night, more terrible even that this
one to the then stricken father. Now the son whom he had thought dead had
carried her to his side, and was bending over her.

"Well, well," he muttered, "the ways of God are above and beyond me. I
give up, I give up."

Then his eyes rested on Ella. He saw a face which even the dust of the
streets could not so begrime as to hide its sweetness or its tenderness,
as, with deep solicitude, she bent over her cousin. A conflagration raging
near now began to flame so high that its lights flickered on the girl's
face, etherealizing its beauty, and turning her fluffy hair to gold. She
became like a vision to the old man, angelic, yet human in her natural
sympathy. The thought would come, "I have fought like a demon to keep that
face from bending over me in my feebleness and age. Truly God's ways are
best."

Ella had only glanced at his pale, rugged face with awe and dread, and
then had given all her thoughts to her cousin.

As the latter began to regain consciousness, she motioned George away, and
with Dr. Devoe, sought to complete the work of restoration. To dazed looks
and confused questions she replied merely with soothing words until the
doctor said kindly, but firmly, "Mrs. Bodine, you are now safe, and as
comfortable as we can make you. Do not try to comprehend what has
happened. There are so many worse off who need attention--"

"There, there, doctor," Mrs. Bodine interrupted, with a flash of her old
spirit, "no matter what's happened, I thank you for your attention. Please
give it now to others."

"Doctor," said George, "I fear the little colored girl who came in with us
is dying." They went to the spot where Sissy was pillowing Vilet's head
against her breast. The physician made a brief examination, and heard how
a brick had fallen on the child as they were getting her out, then said,
"I'm sorry I can do nothing but alleviate her pain a little."

Turning away promptly he began, "See here, Houghton, I must go to the
nearest drug-store and help myself if no one's there. Will you come with
me? I shall need a lot of things, more than I can carry."

"I can't," George replied, "but here is the man that will, I think;" and
he roused old Tobe who sat quietly near with his head buried in his hands.

"Sartin. I do wot I kin while de can'el hole out to burn," Tobe assented
rising.

"That's right, my man, and you'll help other candles to hold out."

"Doctor, understand me," explained George, "I must go and search for
Captain Bodine, who is wandering on crutches about the city," and he
hastened to say a word to his father.

Ella saw him kneel by the old man, and then rise after a moment or two
with such gladness in his face that even the blood and dust stains could
not disguise it. Little wonder, for Mr. Houghton had said, "I'm conquered,
George. I give all up--all my ambitious dreams about you. What dreams they
now seem! This awful earthquake has shaken away everything except life,
and the love which makes life worth anything. I've seen the girl, and I
don't blame you. Go ahead."

"Oh, thanks, thanks. You'll never be sorry; but, father, please don't say
anything to her about--about--Well, she don't know, and I must woo before
I can hope to win."

"You needn't worry about me. I'm old enough to be wary," and the old man
could not repress a grim smile. Then he added, "George, for mercy's sake,
try to get the blood and dust off your face and find a coat. You look as
if you had been through a prize-fight."

George explained the quest he was about to enter upon, and promised
caution. Then he approached Ella. "Miss Bodine," he said, "I will now
search for your father till I find him."

Again the girl could not trust herself to speak, but tears came into her
eyes as she gave him her hand. He pressed it so hard as to leave a
delicious ache, and hastened away.

"Good Lor! who was that awful-looking man?" Mrs. Bodine asked Ella.

"George Houghton. He carried you from home here."

"Lor! Lor! Saved my life as well as yours and Cousin Hugh's?"

"Yes, and now he's going to help papa and Mara."

"Well, well, we'll have to forgive him for being born North. Is that
old--"

Ella stopped her mouth with a kiss, and whispered: "That is his father.
Don't let us look at him. In fact, I'm afraid to--at least while he is so
ill."

"Well," ejaculated Mrs. Bodine, "if this earthquake does not cure him of
his cussedness, I hope the Lord will take him to heaven."

"He did not prevent George from coming to me, nor his going to papa's aid.
He was kind, too, to that poor woman yonder. Oh, I'm sorry for her, and I
wish I could do something."

"Perhaps you can. Go and see."

"I've nothing to put under your head, cousin."

"I'll put patience under it. That, I reckon, is all I have left now. Go,
Ella, dear, I can't bear to hear her moan. I'm in no pain, and that wine
has quite heartened me."

Ella did as she was bidden. That Mr. Houghton was observant was quickly
proved, for he said to Jube, "Take this pillow to that lady yonder. If she
declines, say you have your orders, and leave it."

Mrs. Bodine raised herself on her elbow and protested.

"Madam," said Mr. Houghton, "do not deny a helpless man the privilege of
doing a little for the comfort of others at a time like this."

"But you have none left for yourself, sir," Mrs. Bodine replied.

"Madam, you can understand what a satisfaction that will be to me under
the circumstances."

Mrs. Bodine yielded and admitted to herself that she was much more
comfortable. "I reckon the earthquake is doing him good," she thought,
"and that the Lord better keep him here a while longer."

"Can't you lift me up a little?" gasped the injured woman to Ella. "Oh,
how I suffer, _suffer_!"

Ella sat down beside her, and gently shifted the pillow so that it came
under the wounded back, while the weary head rested against her bosom.

"Ah!" said the poor creature, "that's easier. I reckon I won't have to
suffer much longer."

Ella spoke soothingly and gently. Mr. Houghton, who could only hear the
sweet tenderness of her tones, wiped tears from his eyes as he again
murmured, "God forgive me, blind, obstinate old fool that I've been!"

The adjacent flames now lighted up the entire scene, throwing their
baleful light on such an assemblage as had never before gathered in this
New World.

The convulsion which threatened to raze every home in the city had
certainly brought the people down to the same level. Both white and
colored citizens were mingled together on the square in a swiftly created
democracy. Character, the noble qualities of the soul, without regard to
color or previous condition, now only gave distinction.



CHAPTER XLII

A HOMELESS CITY


The efforts of Clancy and Mara combined with the vigorous and sensible
ministrations of Aun' Sheba at last brought consciousness to Mrs. Hunter.
Tearing up a linen sheet they stanched and bound up her wounds, and then
Clancy said, "We must get her to one of the squares and under a
physician's care as soon as possible."

"My folks is gwine to Mar'on Squar, an' dar I promise ter come," said Aun'
Sheba. "It's 'bout as nigh as any ob dem."

Mrs. Hunter looked at Clancy, and shrank from him visibly. He said
quickly, "Surely, Mrs. Hunter, all enmities should be forgotten at this
time, or at least put aside. We should leave this narrow side-street at
once."

"Aunty," said Mara, gently, "Mr. Clancy has saved us both from
destruction. For my sake and Aun' Sheba's as well as your own, you must
let him do all in his power."

The earthly, yet unearthly, rumble of another shock put an end to further
hesitation. It would be long before the terror inspired by this phenomenon
would cease to be overwhelming.

Aun' Sheba lifted her arms imploringly to heaven, while the vivid
consciousness of the direst peril known brought Mara and Clancy together
again in an embrace that was the natural expression of the feeling that,
if die they must, they would die together. With such black ruin about
them, caused by one shock, the fear could not be combated that the next
might end everything.

When the convulsion passed, Clancy and Aun' Sheba immediately formed a
chair with their hands, and Mara helped Mrs. Hunter, now ready enough to
escape by any means, to avail herself of it. They made their way with
difficulty over the debris to King Street. Here they were obliged to pause
and rest. No rest, however, did Clancy obtain, for a momentary glance
revealed one of the awful phases of the disaster. Three or four doors
above them, houses were burning from overturned and exploded lamps. Some
of the shop-keepers were frantically endeavoring to save a few of their
goods, often, in their excitement, carrying out the strangest and most
valueless articles. Clancy's brief glance gave no heed to such efforts,
but before he could turn away, a woman with a child in her arms came
rushing from one of the burning houses. Her dress had touched the fire,
and was beginning to burn. Clancy caught one of the blankets from Mara,
and with it extinguished the flames, while Mara took the infant. The
instant the babe was out of her arms the mother tried to break away and
rush back, shrieking, "There's another! there's another child!"

"Where?" cried Clancy, restraining her.

"In the front room there."

"Stay here, then," and he darted through the doorway, out of which the
smoke was pouring as from a chimney.

Mara and the mother looked after him in breathless and agonized suspense.
The flames had burst suddenly into the apartment, and through the windows
they could see him enter, snatch up the child, and disappear. But he did
not come out of the street door as soon as they expected. They could
endure waiting no longer. Both dashed into the smoke-clouded passage-way,
and stumbled against Clancy Where he had sunk down within a few steps of
safety.

The mother seized her child, while Mara, with a strength given by her
heart, dragged the strangling man to the open air. By this time Aun' Sheba
was at her side, and between them they carried him to the spot where Mrs.
Hunter lay. Now that he could breathe he soon recovered; Mara's tender and
imploring words being potent indeed in rallying him. His exposure to heat
and the smoke had been terrible, but fortunately very brief. He was soon
on his feet, exclaiming, "We must go on to Meeting Street, for there we
shall have a better chance."

Thither they made their way with other fugitives, Clancy and Aun' Sheba
carrying Mrs. Hunter as before, Mara following with the infant, and close
beside her the grateful mother with the other child.

Having reached a somewhat open space in the wider thoroughfare, the young
man became satisfied that another mode of transportation must be found.
Mrs. Hunter was too heavy for the primitive method adopted in the
emergency. Aun' Sheba took the injured woman's head upon her lap while he
rested and looked about for something like an army stretcher. Among the
ruins he found one of the long wooden shutters which a jeweller had placed
against his window hours before. Watches and gems gleamed in the light of
kindling fires, and were within easy reach, but the most unscrupulous of
thieves were honest that night. Clancy carried the shutter to Mrs.
Hunter's side, and then watched for some man whom he could persuade into
his service.

The great thoroughfare was full of fugitives, and soon among them the
mother recognized a man of her acquaintance, who took charge of her and
the children. The majority, like Clancy, had been delayed by efforts in
behalf of the sick or injured, and already had their hands full. Others
were so dazed and horror-stricken that they moved about aimlessly, or sat
upon the pavement, moaning and lamenting in despairing accents. It would
appear as if the emergency developed the strength and the weakness of
every mind. Some were evidently crazed. As Mara stood beside Mrs. Hunter
to prevent the crowd from trampling upon her, she saw a half-dressed man,
breaking his way through the throng. The maniac stopped before her, and
for a moment fixed upon her wild, blood-shot eyes, then placed an infant
in her arms, and with a yell bounded away. Mara, horror-stricken, saw that
the child was dead, and that its neck was evidently broken. Clancy came up
immediately, and taking the infant laid it down out of the central path,
for all kept to the middle of the street.

As he did so, he heard his name called by a voice he knew too well. The
feeling it inspired compelled him again to recognize how false he had been
to himself and also to Miss Ainsley. Her summons now brought the feeling
that he too, like Mara, was bound, and he went instantly to her side.

"Ah, you deserted me!" she said bitterly.

He silently pointed to Mrs. Hunter, who presented so sad a spectacle that
even the exacting girl had no further words of reproach, but she glanced
keenly at Mara.

"We feared a tidal wave," Mr. Willoughby explained, "and so decided to
seek the upper portion of the city."

"Mrs. Willoughby, if you are able to walk," said Clancy, "your husband
must aid me and Aun' Sheba in carrying Mrs. Hunter, who is very badly
injured."

"Oh, now that the first terrible shock to my nerves is over, I am as well
able to take care of myself as any of you," replied the spirited little
woman.

"That's like you!" exclaimed Clancy heartily. Then turning, he said with
emphasis, "Miss Ainsley, you see that a man's first duty to-night is to
the injured and utterly helpless."

"Forgive me," she replied in tones meant for his ear only, "I did not know
you owed so much to Mrs. Hunter and her niece."

"I shall owe my services to every injured man and woman until all are
rescued," was his quiet reply. Then he helped Mr. Willoughby place Mrs.
Hunter on the improvised support, and between them they bore her onward,
the others following.

Their progress was necessarily slow, for the street was encumbered not
only with fugitives like themselves, but also with tangled telegraph-wires
and all sorts of other impediments. Once they had to cower tremblingly
under a tall building while a fire-engine thundered by, threatening to
bring down upon them the shattered walls. As they resumed their slow and
painful march Bodine met them, his glad, outspoken greeting to Mara
filling her heart with new grief and dismay, while it allayed the jealousy
and bitterness of Miss Ainsley's wounded pride.

The Northern girl had heard the report that Mara and the veteran were
engaged, and here was confirmation. Mara inquired eagerly after Mrs.
Bodine and Ella, then took her place at the captain's side, while Clancy
moved on with set teeth and a desperate rallying of his physical powers,
which he knew to be failing.

Now that Ella was in the square, young Houghton was not so impetuous as to
ignore the claims of nature or to be regardless of his outward appearance.
He again returned to his home, and saw Sam kneeling and praying aloud near
the barn, with the two horses standing beside him.

"Sam, go to the square," he shouted.

"Can't lebe dese hosses. Dey's bofe lookin' ter me, an' I'se prayin' fer
dem an us all."

"No matter about the horses. The house is too near." Then he ventured into
the butler's pantry, cleansed his face and the cuts and bruises about his
head, snatched some food, and hastened away. He believed he had a hard
night's work before him, and that he must maintain his strength. He had
not gone very far down Meeting Street before he met the group accompanying
Mrs. Hunter. With a glad cry he welcomed Mrs. Willoughby, and was about to
take her hand when Clancy said, "Houghton, for God's sake, quick!"

George caught the end of the litter while Clancy reeled backward and would
have fallen had not Mara, with a cry she could not repress, caught him in
her arms and sunk with him to the pavement. He gasped a moment or two,
then his eyes closed; he became still and looked as if dead.

Again the supremely dreaded subterranean rumble was heard. Mr. Willoughby
shouted wildly, "Forward, quick! We can't stay here under these
buildings." He and Houghton went on with a rush, the rest following with
loud cries, Miss Ainsley's piercing scream ringing out above all. She did
not even look back at her prostrate suitor.

Mara paid no heed to the passing shock, but with eyes full of anguish
looked upon the white face in her lap.

"Mara," said the deep voice of Bodine after the awful sound had passed.
She started violently and began to tremble.

"Mara, go with the others. I will stay with Mr. Clancy."

She shook her head, but was speechless.

He stood beside her, his face full of deep and perplexed trouble.

At last she said hoarsely, "You go and bring aid. He saved aunty and me,
and I cannot leave him."

At this moment Aun' Sheba came running back, exclaiming: "Good Lawd forgib
me dat I should leab my honey lam'! My narbes all shook out ob jint like
de houses, an' my legs run away wid me, dog gone 'em! Dey's brung me back
howsomeber. Now, Missy Mara, gib him ter me;" and taking him under the
arms she dragged him by the adjacent tall buildings. "Missy," she added,
sinking down with her burden, "go on ter de squar wid Marse Bodine, an'
tell dat ar young Houghton ter come quick, 'fore my legs run away wid me
agin." "Both of you go to the square," commanded Bodine in the tone he
would have used on the battlefield. "I will stay. There shall be no
useless risk of life."

Mara lifted her dark eyes to his face. Even at that moment he knew he
should never forget their expression. "My friend," she said in low,
agonized tones, "he may be dying, he may be dead. I cannot, will not leave
him."

"No, he ain't dead," said Aun' Sheba, with her hand over Clancy's heart,
"but seems purty nigh it. Him jes gone beyon his strengt. Ole missus
po'ful heby ef she ain't fat like me. Tank de Lawd, I hasn't ter be toted
ter-night. No one but Kern ud tote me. Po' Kern! him heart jes break wen
he know."

Bodine stood guard silent and grim while Mara mechanically chafed one of
Clancy's hands. She was now far beyond tears, far beyond anything except
the anguish depicted in her face. In a confused way she felt that the
terrible events of the night and her own heart had overpowered her; and,
with a half-despairing recklessness, she merely lived from moment to
moment.

The earthquake had ceased to have personal terrors for Bodine. He had
faced death too often. Nevertheless a great fear oppressed him as he
looked down upon the girl he loved.

The square was not far away; Houghton and Mr. Willoughby came hastening
back, and Clancy was soon added to the group of sufferers under Dr.
Devoe's care.

To Miss Ainsley's general disgust at a city in which she had been treated
to such a rude and miserable experience, was added a little self-disgust
that she had rushed away and left Clancy to his fate. She tried to satisfy
herself by thinking that he had acted in much the same way toward her, but
it would not answer. Mrs. Hunter's blood-stained face, rendered tenfold
more ghastly by the light of the flames, was too strong refutation, and
the fact that Mara had remained with Clancy had its sting. She saw Ella
and many others ministering to the injured and feeble, and felt that she
must redeem her character. When the unconscious man was brought in,
therefore, she hastened forward to receive and in a measure claim him.

Although mentally comparing her conduct with that of Mara, Houghton and
Mr. Willoughby thought it was all right, put Clancy in her charge, and
began to follow Dr. Devoe's directions. Mara gave the girl a look which
brought a blush to her face, and then devoted herself to her aunt.

Captain Bodine's first act was to speak gently and encouragingly to his
daughter and cousin, congratulating the latter on her recovery.

"Yes, Hugh," said the old lady, "I'm safe, safer than I've been at other
times in my life. This is but one more storm, and it is only driving me
nearer the harbor. You look dreadfully; you're worn out."

"More by anxiety than exertion. It is awful to be so helpless at such a
time."

"Sit down here on the grass beside me. I want to talk. I may not have much
more chance in this world, but feel sure that I shall do my share in the
next. Oh, Hugh, Hugh, we've all been shaken like naughty children, and
some of us may be the better and the wiser for it. If Ella and that
gallant knight of hers survive, how happy they will be! It makes me happy
even to think of it, though for aught we know the earth may open and
swallow us all within the next five minutes."

"Yes, the dear child! Thank God for her sake!"

"For your own too. There is Mara safe also. Poor Mrs. Hunter! she looks
death-like to me. You look awfully too. I never saw you so pale and
haggard."

"Cap'n Bodine, Marse Houghton send you dis," said Jube at his elbow,
proffering a glass of wine.

The captain turned his startled eyes upon his old employer, who lay just
out of earshot of their low tones.

"Take it, Hugh," said his cousin earnestly. "Drink to the death of hate.
He and I have made up."

The veteran hesitated, and a spasm, as if from a wrench of pain, passed
over his face. Then he took the glass, and said coldly, "I drink to your
recovery, sir."

"I thank you," was Mr. Houghton's response.

"A very fair beginning, Hugh, for a man," his cousin resumed. "You might
as well give up at once, though. Everything is going to be shaken down
that shouldn't stand."

Ominous words to the veteran, for he felt that his dream of happiness was
falling in ruins.

By the natural force of circumstances the several characters of our story
had been brought comparatively near together, yet were separated into
little groups. Dr. Devoe passed from one to the other as his services were
needed, nor were they confined to those known to us. He simply made a
little open space beside Mr. Houghton his headquarters, where he left his
remedies under the charge of the invalid, Jube, and old Tobe. Other
physicians had joined him and were indefatigable in the work of relief.
Some of the city clergy were also in the square, speaking words of
Christian faith and hope, which never before had seemed so precious.

To Clancy Dr. Devoe gave a good deal of attention. Not only was his hair
singed, but his neck and hands were badly burned, and his swoon was so
obstinate as to indicate great exhaustion. This could scarcely be
otherwise, for he possessed no such physique as young Houghton had
developed. Moreover, he had passed through a mental strain and excitement
which no one could comprehend except Mara, and she but partially. Houghton
had put his coat under the head of the unconscious man, and was doing his
best for him. So also was Miss Ainsley now. She had purposely turned her
back on Mara, and her face was toward the adjacent conflagration, which
distinctly lighted up her face and form, transforming her into a vision of
marvellous beauty. Her long hair had fallen in a golden veil over her bare
shoulders and neck; her dark eyes were lustrous with excitement and full
of solicitude. When at last Clancy opened his eyes his first impression
was that an angel was ministering to him in a light too brilliant to be
earthly. He recognized Miss Ainsley's voice, however, and when he had
taken some of the wine which the doctor pressed to his lips, all that had
happened came back to him. George now returned in solicitude to his
father, also designing to take a little much-needed rest, while the doctor
gave his attention to other patients. With returning consciousness Clancy
was overpowered by a deep sense of gratitude to this beautiful creature,
and also by a strong feeling of compunction that he had sought the regard
which she now seemed to bestow unstintedly. "Like Mara," he thought,
"there is nothing left for me but to fulfil obligations from which I
cannot honorably withdraw."

"You are indeed kind and devoted," he said feebly. "I fear I have made a
good deal of trouble."

"No, Mr. Clancy, you have gone beyond your strength. In fact, we are all
distracted and half beside ourselves. Won't you let me take your head into
my lap? If I am caring for you I can better endure these awful scenes."
And she made the change.

"I hope you will forgive me for leaving you so abruptly on the Battery.
Mrs. Hunter and Miss Wallingford really had no one to look to."

"Captain Bodine evidently thinks Miss Wallingford should look to him."

"In such an emergency he would be even more helpless than she."

"Oh, well, I hope the worst is now over for us all, and that we can soon
get away from this awful town."

He gave no answer. Miss Ainsley knew that her father was not far distant,
and that he would come for her by the first train which could reach the
city. Accustomed all her life to look at everything from the central point
of self, she now, in the greater sense of safety, began to give some
thought to the future. Her first conscious decision was to try to be as
brave as possible, and so leave a good impression. The second was to get
away from the city at once, and she hoped she might never see it again. If
Clancy would go with her, if he would even eventually join her at the
North, she believed that she could marry him, so favorable was the
impression that he had made, but she felt that she was making a great
concession, which he must duly appreciate. At present the one consuming
wish was to escape, to get away from scenes which to her were horrible in
the last degree.

In truth only a brave spirit could witness what was taking place on every
side, or maintain fortitude under the overwhelming impression of personal
danger--an impression which soon banished the partial sense of security
felt after reaching the square. The extent of the terror inspired by the
earthquake can best be measured by the fact that although columns of smoke
and fire, consuming homes and threatening to lay the city in ashes, were
rising at several points, they were scarcely heeded. The roar of adjacent
flames could even be heard by the vast concourse, but ears were strained
to detect that more terrible roar that seemed to come from unknown depths
beneath the ocean and the land, and to threaten a fate as awful and
mysterious as itself. Even many of the white population could not help
sharing in some degree the general belief among the negroes that the end
of all things was at hand. The nervous shock sustained by all prepared the
way for the wildest fears and conjectures. As in the instance of a bloody
battle, those were the best off who were the most occupied.

Thousands, however, sat and waited in sickening apprehension, fearing some
new horror with every passing moment. There was a sound of weeping
throughout the square, while above this monotone rose groans, cries,
hysterical screams, loud petitions for mercy, and snatches of hymns. The
emotional negroes left no moments of silence. The majority of the white
people had become comparatively calm. They talked in low tones,
encouraging and soothing one another; the lips of even those who seldom
looked heavenward now often moved in silent prayer; fathers, on whose
brows rested a heavy load of care, tried to cheer their trembling
families; and mothers clasped their sobbing children in their arms, with
the feeling that even death should not part them.

Over all this array of pallid, haggard faces, shone the flames of the
still unquenched conflagration.



CHAPTER XLIII

"THE TERROR BY NIGHT"


When Aun' Sheba saw that Mara, Mrs. Hunter, and Clancy were among friends,
with a physician in attendance, she sat down by her daughter Sissy, and
took little Vilet in her lap.

"I kin'er feel," she said, "dat ef de yearth is gwine ter swaller us, I'se
like ter go down wid dis chile. Vilet shuah to go up ag'in, an' p'raps de
Lawd ud say, 'You kin come too, Aun' Sheba.'"

The sound of her voice so far restored Uncle Sheba to his normal condition
that he was able to creep on his hands and knees to a position just behind
his wife, where he crouched as if she were a sort of general protection.

Vilet, roused at her grandmother's voice, looked around, and then asked in
her plaintive voice, "Whar's daddy?"

"He's hep'n' put'n' out de fiahs, deah chile."

"My bref gittin' bery sho't, granny. I can't stay dis side ob de riber
much longer; I wants ter see daddy 'fore I go."

"Po' chile and po' Kern," groaned Aun' Sheba. "We doesn't know whar he be,
an' I'se 'feerd he couldn't lebe off puttin' out de fiahs."

From time to time Vilet wailed, "Daddy, come, come quick. I'se gwine fas,
an' I wants to see you onst mo'."

Captain Bodine heard the cry, and, having rested himself a little, came to
Aun' Sheba and asked, "Do you know where Kern is?"

"I doan, Marse Cap'n, but he mought be at dis nighest fiah."

"I'll see," said the veteran, halting away with the feeling that he must
do something to divert his torturing thoughts.

Watson was soon pointed out to him, where with stern and quiet face he was
carrying out his orders. When told that Vilet was near and calling for
him, the veins came out on his forehead, and for a moment he was
irresolute. Then he cried, "No, sah, I can't go. Fo' de Lawd, ef she die
an' we all die I won't lebe my duty."

"You're a man," said Bodine, clapping him on the shoulder, "I will arrange
this."

He went direct to Kern's superior officer and briefly told him the
circumstances, then added, "I know these people. Watson deserves
consideration. I will take his place. I can hold the hose as well as he,
and will stand as near the fire as he does if you will order him to go to
his dying child for a few minutes."

"In that case I can comply," said the officer. "Watson has behaved
splendidly, and he'll come back soon."

The first thing Kern knew, the hose was taken from his hand, and he
ordered to go and return within ten minutes. He hesitated. "Obey orders,"
was the stern command. Then he rushed away.

The plaintive cry, "Daddy, daddy," guided him, and Vilet was in his arms.

"Chile, deah chile!" was all he could say as he kissed the thin face again
and again.

"Now my min's at res'," said the little girl, with a sigh of ineffable
content. "You 'member, daddy--you says--'Yes, Vilet.'--I'se a-goin',
daddy. De angels--is all ready--to tote me to Heben. I kin jes' heah dere
wings--rustlin' roun' me. I was jes' waitin'--an' hol'n back--ter see you
onst mo'. Good-by, moder--granny."

Then she feebly wound her little arms about Kern's neck and whispered,
"Good-by, daddy, fer jes' a lil while. I'se wait neah de gate fer you
_shuah_."

It would seem that she put all her remaining strength into this effort,
for her head fell over on his shoulder; she quivered a moment, then was
still. Kern could not repress one deep groan. He looked for a moment of
agony into his child's face, kissed it, then placing her in Ann' Sheba's
lap, departed as swiftly as he came. Sissy was so overcome as to be
helpless.

"Your time wasn't up," said the veteran.

"Her time was up, Cap'n Bodine," Kern managed to reply, his face rigid
with repressed emotion. "She die in my arms. God bless yo' fer you'se
feelins fer a po' man."

"Watson, I do feel for you and with you. Our hearts are all breaking
to-night. Take care of yourself. You have a wife and children still to
live for." And Bodine halted back and seated himself by his cousin.

Alas! for thousands the words of Bodine were only too true. As they
contemplated what had happened and what might occur at any moment, they
felt that heavy, crushing pain, unlike all others, which gathers at the
heart, overwhelming the spirit and threatening physical dissolution at one
and the same time.

Yet such is the power of human affection and Christian faith, that they
won many triumphs, even during that night of horrors. In Ella and the
dying woman, whose head she pillowed on her breast, were examples of both.
The girl's heart was indeed pitiful and sympathetic, and the poor creature
knew that it was, for in broken, gasping words she told her brief,
pathetic story, so like that of many other women in the South. Once she
was a happy girl at home on a small plantation, but father, brothers, and
lover had all perished in the war. Home and mother had since been lost and
she was fighting out life's long, weary battle when this final disaster
brought the end. "Yes, kind lady, I reckon I'm dying: I hope so. I
couldn't take care of myself any longer, and I'd rather join those who
have gone on before me than trust to the charity of this world. I am very
weary, very heavy laden, and I'd rather go to Him who said, 'Come to Me.'
If you can stay with me a little longer--I don't fear, but it's very sweet
to have human kindness and company down into the dark valley."

Her words proved true. She evidently perished from internal injuries, for
she soon ceased to gasp, and her head lay still against the bosom of the
sobbing girl.

Dr. Devoe was present during the last moments, then gently relieved Ella
from her lifeless burden, and supported her to her father on whose
shoulder she shed those natural tears which soon bring relief to the
hearts of the young. George Houghton and Jube carried the body to the
place set apart for the dead. Then George returned to his father's side,
but looked wistfully at Ella with an unspeakable longing to comfort her.

"I don't wonder, my boy," said Mr. Houghton, interpreting his thoughts.
"Go and speak to her."

George approached timidly, and said, "Miss Bodine."

She started, raised her head, and began to wipe her eyes.

"I--I--Well, I don't know what to say to make you understand how my father
and I have sympathized with your brave--Well, you were so kind and patient
with that poor woman. I wish I could do something for _you_, and I will,"
and he hastened away.

She called, "I don't need anything, Mr. Houghton. Indeed I do not. It
would only distress me--" But he was out of hearing. "Oh," she moaned
again on her father's shoulder, "why will he take risks?"

It was evident that Mr. Houghton shared her anxiety, for he divined his
son's purpose, and looked with troubled face for his return. He soon came
back carrying another mattress, pillows and blankets. Sam, compelled to
leave the horses, followed with a basket of provisions. Ella was clothed
in little besides a light wrapper, and had shivered more than once in the
night air. George tried to induce her and Mrs. Bodine to accept of the
mattress, but they asked as a favor that it might be placed under Mrs.
Hunter. He readily complied, saying he would get another for them.

At this moment came the ominous groan of the severe shock which occurred
at about half-past two o'clock Wednesday morning. To the terrified people
it was like the growl of some ravening beast rushing upon them, and a long
wailing cry blended with the horrible roar as it swept under and over
them, then died away in the northwest.

"Oh, Mr. Houghton," sobbed Ella, when her voice could be heard, "please
don't go away--please don't go near a building again."

"George," added his father, almost sternly, "not with my consent will you
leave me again till we learn more definitely what our fate is to be. If
you were in the house when this shock occurred, you might have perished.
It is no longer a question of more or less comfort."

"I reckon not," said Mrs. Bodine. "It's a question of ever seeing the sun
rise again. We may as well speak out what is in our minds, and get ready
for a city not made with hands."

"I wish we were all as ready to go as you are, Cousin Sophy," Ella
whispered.

"Well, my dear, I've more property in that city than in this wrecked town,
and 'where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.'" Then she
added, "You'll be spared, dear child. You and your knight will see many
happy years. God bless you both."

"Oh, cousin! it is such a comfort, even at this awful time, to see him, to
know he is near, to think he came for--for us!"

"For you, dear little goose. He'd face earthquakes, volcanoes, tornadoes,
cyclones, and even his father before this well-deserved shaking converted
him, for your sake."

"Cousin," whispered the girl, "I'm so glad. Is it wrong to be glad at such
a time?"

"Wrong to be glad when God loves you and a good man loves you? I reckon
not. All the quakes that ever shook this crazy old earth are bagatelles
compared with such facts."

"Oh, cousin, you are such a tower of strength and comfort!"

"I'm a leaning tower," replied the old lady, whose vein of humor ran
through all her thoughts, "but I'm leaning on what won't fail me. Nestle
down by my side, dear child. You are shivering, and this extra blanket
will do us both good. Now be comfortable, and believe with me that nothing
in the universe can or will harm you."

"Poor Mara!" Ella sighed.

"Yes, I've been watching and grieving over her. I never saw any face more
expressive of suffering than hers. I don't understand her
unless--unless--well, time will show, that is, if there is much more time
for me."

"Oh, cousin, we never could spare you!"

"That is what I used to think about my husband, but he always went when
sailing orders came, and I survived. I feel to-night as if he and the boys
were just waiting off shore, if this tossing and pitching earth can be
called shore, for me to join them."

Captain Bodine sat through the shock without moving a muscle. His eyes
rested wistfully on Mara. With an indescribable pang he saw that in the
supreme moment of general terror her eyes turned not to him but to Clancy,
and that she made a half involuntary movement as if to go to him. The
glance, the act, combined with what had gone before, were too significant,
and Bodine buried his face in his hands that she might not see his
trouble. She knew it all the more surely, yet felt how powerless she was
to console him.

"Oh, my blind, blind folly!" she groaned inwardly. "If I had been true to
my heart, I might be caring for Owen instead of that woman who left him to
die, and my father's friend acting like a father toward us both. I wanted
to be so heroic and self-sacrificing, and I've only sacrificed those I
love most."

Mrs. Hunter was so fully under the influence of anodynes as not to be
cognizant of what was taking place, and Bodine, soldier-like, was not long
in reaching his decision. Rising, he went aside with Dr. Devoe, and said,
"Miss Wallingford is keeping up from the sheer force of will. Nothing but
your command can induce her to yield and take such rest as can be obtained
here. I do not think you can interpose too soon. I will watch Mrs.
Hunter."

Mara had indeed reached the limit of endurance, and the physician quickly
detected the fact. He took her by the hand and arm, and gently raised her
to her feet as he said, "I am autocrat here. Even kings and generals must
obey their doctor. So I shall ask no permission to place you beside Mrs.
Bodine. She and rest can do you more good than I can. Captain Bodine and I
will look after Mrs. Hunter."

Mara gave the veteran a grateful glance and yielded. Then she buried her
face in Mrs. Bodine's neck, and was silent until she slept from physical
exhaustion.

Miss Ainsley, with multitudes of others, yielded to her terror at the
passing of the midnight earthquake. She shrieked and half rose in her wild
impulse to fly. Then apparently forgetting Clancy she piteously begged Dr.
Devoe to give her something that would certainly bring oblivion for a few
hours at least. He good-naturedly complied. When the opiate began to take
effect she was placed on the mattress beside Mrs. Hunter, and was soon in
stupor. Clancy had so far recovered that he was able to sit up, and he
felt that he should watch beside the girl who he believed had been so
devoted to him in his unconsciousness.

Dr. Devoe in excuse for Miss Ainsley said, "We can't make too much
allowance to-night for every one. Many strong men are utterly overcome and
nauseated by these, shocks. No wonder women cannot face them."

"I think Miss Ainsley has borne up wonderfully," Clancy replied.

"Oh, yes, as well as the average. It's a question of nerves with the
majority."

Clancy sat down and looked with pity at the beautiful face and dishevelled
hair. "Poor girl!" he thought, "she did her best by me. Indeed, I had
scarcely thought her capable of such devotion. By all that's honorable I'm
bound to her now. Well, eventually I can give her a truer affection, for
she has ceased to be merely a part of my ambitious scheme. By our own acts
Mara and I are separated, and, however deep our grief may be, it must be
hidden from all."

Thus he and Captain Bodine sat on either side of the pallet, each immersed
in painful thought, oblivious of the strange scenes enacted all around
them. They did not feel then that they could speak to each other.

The veteran was perplexed, and his proud spirit also labored under a deep
sense of wrong. It was evident that he had been deceived by Mara, and that
all along she had loved the man so near to him, loved him better than her
own life. Why had she concealed the fact? Why had she been so cold and
harsh toward Clancy himself until the awful events of the night and peril
to life had overpowered her reserve and revealed her heart? He could think
of no other explanation than that afforded by the unconscious girl over
whom Clancy watched. He had heard of the young man's devotion to Miss
Ainsley, and, from what he had seen, believed that they were affianced. He
was too just and large in his judgment to think Mara's course toward him
was due to pique and wounded pride, and he was not long in arriving at a
very fair explanation of her motives and action. Keenly intelligent and
mature in years he was beyond the period of passionate and inconsiderate
resentment. Moreover his love for the orphan girl was so true, and the
memory of her father and mother so dear to him, that he was able to rise
nobly above mere self, and resolve to become the most loyal of friends, a
protector against her very self. "Now I think of it," he mused, "she has
never said she loved me, although she permitted me to think she did. Even
when I declared my love she only said, 'Life offers me nothing better than
to be your wife.' That no doubt was true as she meant it, for she then
thought this man here was lost to her. She did not welcome my love when
she first recognized it, but soon her spirit of self-sacrifice came in,
and she reasoned that since she could not be happy in herself, she would
make me happy. From the very first I believed that this spirit could lead
her to deception for the sake of others, and I have not been sufficiently
on my guard against it. Yet how could I suspect this Clancy, whom she so
repelled and contemned, and who was devoting himself to another woman?
Perhaps she partially deceived herself as well as me. The affection
probably struck root years since when she and Clancy were friends. He
outgrew it; she has not, as she has learned to night, if not before. He
went to her aid because he was friendly in spite of her apparent
bitterness toward him, which perhaps he understood better than I. Possibly
Mrs. Hunter may have broken their relations, for there is no doubt about
her feelings. Well, time must unravel the snarl. It would now seem that he
is devoted to this girl here, and she to him as far as she can be to any
one. What he will think when he learns that she ran shrieking away and
left him, while Mara, reckless of life itself, stood by him to the last, I
cannot know. If he loves her he will forgive her, for no man can blame a
woman for succumbing to the terror of this night. Possibly at some distant
day Mara may still think that life offers her nothing better than to be my
wife; but she shall be free, free as air, and know, too, that I know all."

Thus Bodine communed with himself after a habit learned long ago in the
presence of danger.

Clancy also was confronted by possible results of his action, the fear of
which enabled his cool, resolute nature to rise above all other fear. He
resolved to go at once to Aun' Sheba, and caution her against speaking of
the scenes in which she, with Mara, and himself had taken part.



CHAPTER XLIV

HOPE TURNED INTO DREAD


Clancy was guided by the voice of Aun' Sheba, the wailing of Sissy, and
the groans and unearthly sounds to which Uncle Sheba was giving utterance.
The adjacent fire was so far subdued that only a red glow in the sky above
marked the spot. The stars shone in calm, mocking serenity on the wide
scene of human distress and fear. "Alas," he thought, "what atoms we are;
and what an atom is this earth itself! It would seem that faith is the
simplest, yet mightiest effort of the mind at such a time," and he paused
till Aun' Sheba should be more free to listen to him.

Mr. Birdsall, with his youngest child in his arms, had been exhorting
those of his people near him, but his words had been of little effect in
quieting Sissy and Uncle Sheba. The latter had concluded that he would not
wait till the coming winter before again "'speriencin 'ligion," and his
uncouth appeals to Heaven were but the abject expression of animal fear.
Aun' Sheba had lost her patience with both him and her daughter, and was
expostulating vigorously. "I'se asham on you, Sissy," she said. "Wot good
de 'ligion you 'fess do you, I'd like ter know? Ain't Vilet in Hebin?
Ain't you got de bes husban bawn? Ain't de oder chil'n heah? Now ef you'se
'ligion any good 'tall, be quiet an tankful dat you bettah off dan
hun'erds. Unc., you kin pray all you wants, but ef you specs de Lawd ter
listen you'se got ter pray like a man an not like a hog dat wants his
dinnah. You'se 'sturbin everybody wuss dan you did wen you got sot on. I
won hab it said my folks made a rumpus in dis time ob trouble. You'se got
ter min me, Mr. Buggone, or I'se hab you took out de squar."

Uncle Sheba was never so far gone in his fears but that he shrunk from
facing anything worse, and so he subsided into low inarticulate groans.
Sissy was not so tractable, for her weeping was largely nervous and
hysterical. She had an affectionate emotional nature, but was far from
being gifted with the strength of mind and character possessed by her
mother and husband.

"Aun' Sheba," said Clancy kindly, "your daughter needs something to quiet
her nerves. I will bring it to her." He soon returned with medicine from
the doctor, and under its influence the bereaved mother became calmer and
wept softly by her dead child.

Clancy drew Aun' Sheba a little apart so that others could not hear, even
if any were disposed to listen at this time of intense preoccupation. "You
have been a friend indeed to-night," he said. "I must ask another proof of
your good-will. The earthquake has brought trouble enough, but I fear that
Mara and I have brought greater trouble upon ourselves. Probably you've
seen enough to explain what I mean."

"I'se seen a heap, Marse Clancy."

"Well, you are Mara's old nurse. She loves and trusts you. She is engaged
to Captain Bodine."

"She ain't mar'ed to 'im."

"She feels herself bound, and has said that if I was a true Southern
gentleman I would not interfere. This is bad enough, but there's worse
still. I thought she was lost to me--you know about it, I reckon."

"Yes, I knows now. I was a blin ole fool an tink it was wuckin' so hard
dat made her po'ly."

"Oh, we have both made such fatal mistakes! I, like a fool, when I
believed she would never speak to me again, entangled myself also. Now,
Aun' Sheba, what I wish is that you say nothing to any one of what you
have seen and heard. We've got to do what's honorable at every cost to
ourselves."

"Dus wot's hon'ble mean dat Missy Mara got ter mar'y Marse Bodine an you
de limpsey-slimpsey one wot say you 'serted her?"

"Nothing else seems to be left for us."

"'Pears ter me, Marse Clancy, you an Missy Mara gittin orful muxed up in
wot's hon'ble. I'se only got wot folks calls hoss-sense, but it's dead
agin you bofe. Take you now. Fust you got ter tell de gal lies, den lies
to her fader an de minister wot jines you, and de hull worl. Missy Mara ud
hab ter lie like de debil, too, an you bofe go on lyin 'miscuously.
Anyhow, you'se hab ter act out de lies ef you didn't say 'em. 'Ud dat be
hon'ble wen all de time you'se yearnin fer each oder?"

"Oh, Aun' Sheba, it's hard enough without such words as yours!"

"Ob corse it's hard. It orter be, fer it's agin de Lawd an natur. Marse
Clancy, took keer wot you do, an wot you let Missy Mara do. My 'sperience
teach me a heap. S'pose I doan' know de dif'ence 'tween Unc. dar an a man
like Kern? I was young an foolish once, an mar'ed Unc. kase he was good
lookin den, an mo' kase he ax me. Well, I'se made de bes on it, an I'se
gwine ter make de bes on it; but if de yearth crack right open heah, as
like 'nuff 'twill 'fo' mawnin, I'd jump right down in de crack 'fo' I'd do
it ober ag'in. You'se on de safe side ob de crack yit, so be keerful. I
knows woman folks soon as I claps my eyes on dem. Miss Mara quar in her
notions 'bout de Norf--she was brung up to 'em--but dere's nuff woman in
my honey lam' to make a tousan ob dis yere limpsey-slimpsey one."

Clancy clinched his hands in mental distress as he listened to the hard
sense and unerring judgment of the sagacious old woman.

"I'm in terrible perplexity," he said, "for there is so much truth in your
words. How can I escape the consequences of my own acts? Think how Miss
Ainsley stood by me in my unconsciousness! When I revived--"

"Dar now, Marse Clancy, you'se been fooled. She stood by hersef. De fac
am, she didn't stan 'tall, but run like a deer, hollerin fer all she's
wuth. Wen you swoonded, Missy Mara cotch you in her arms. I eben run away,
an lef my honey lam' mysef, but I come back sudden, an dar she was a hol'n
you head in her lap right uner a big bildin dat ud a squashed her. I drag
you pass dat, an den Marse Bodine jes ordered me an Missy to go to de
squar. He spoke stern an strong as if we his sogers. An Missy Mara look
'im in de eyes an say, you--dat's you, Marse Clancy--may be dead, or you
may be dyin, an dat she can't leab you an she won leab you. She got de
grit ob true lub, an dere'll neber be any runin away in her heart. Wot you
an Marse Bodine gwine ter do 'bout sich lub as dat? 'Fo' de Lawd my honey
lam' die ef you an Marse Bodine 'sist on bein so orful hon'ble. She ain't
one dem kin' dat takes a husban like dey takes a breakfas kase its ready."

Clancy was so profoundly moved by what he heard that he turned away to
hide his emotion. After a moment he said: "You have been true and
faithful, Aun' Sheba. You won't be sorry. Please do as I have asked." And
he hastened away.

"Reckon I put a spoke in dat hon'ble bizness," Aun' Sheba soliloquized.
"Like 'nuff I put another in. Doan cotch me hep'n along any sich
foolishness. I gibs no promise, an I'se gwine ter make my honey lam' happy
spite hersef." Then she took one of her grandchildren, and soothed it to
sleep.

The slow hours dragged wearily on; the majority of the white people
quieted down to patient, yet fearful waiting; crying children, one after
another, dropped off to sleep; parents and friends watched over them and
one another, conversing in low tones or praying silently for the Divine
mercy, never before felt to be so essential. The negroes were more
demonstrative, and their loud prayers and singing of hymns continued
without abatement or hindrance. The expressions of some were so
extravagant and uncouth as to grate harshly on all natures possessing any
refinement; but when such men as Mr. Birdsall exhorted or prayed, there
were but few among the whites who did not listen reverently, and in their
hearts acknowledge the substantial truth of the words spoken and their
need of the petitions offered.

Clancy went back to his watch. Few men in the city were more troubled and
perplexed than he, for he had not the calmness resulting from a definite
purpose as was true of Bodine.

Unmovedly the two men remained at their posts of duty awaiting the day or
what might happen before the dawn. George lay down beside his father, and
soon slept from fatigue, while Mr. Houghton, now so softened and
chastened, vowed to make him happy.

Ella watched her father in deep solicitude, feeling vaguely that his
trouble was not caused wholly by the general reasons for distress. At last
she stole to his side, and laid her head upon his shoulder. The act
comforted and sustained him more than she knew at the time, for he was not
a demonstrative man. He only kissed her tenderly and bade her return to
her cousin, with whom she kept up a whispered and fragmentary
conversation. Mrs. Willoughby sat beside her husband, her head pillowed
against his breast as they waited for the day.

A breeze sprang up, and the freshness of the morning was in it. Would the
sun ever rise again? Was not Nature so out of joint that nothing familiar
could be looked for any more? The terrors of the long night inspired
morbid thoughts, which come too readily in darkness.

At the appointed time, however, there was a glow in the east, which
steadily deepened in color. Truly, to the weary, haggard, shivering,
half-clad watchers, the sun was an angel of light that morning; and never
did fire-worshippers greet his rise with a deeper feeling of gratitude and
gladness.

There was a general stir in the strange bivouac, an increased murmur of
voices. The hymns of the negroes gradually ceased; and people, singly or
in groups, began to leave the square for their homes, in order to clothe
themselves more fully, and to discover what was left to them in the
general wreck.

There had been no shock since the convulsion at half-past two o'clock, the
fact inspiring general confidence that the worst was over. Hope grew
stronger with the blessed light, and fear vanished with the darkness.

Mr. Houghton touched his son, who immediately awoke, meditating deeds of
hospitality. "Father," he said, "our house is near. Cannot I, with the aid
of Jube and Sam, get our friends some breakfast?"

"Yes, George, and extend the invitation from me."

"Oh, father! I'm so grateful that you are giving me this chance to--to--"

"You shall have all the chance you wish. In fact, I'm rather inclined to
see what I can do myself. I may need a good deal of nursing." And the old
man's face was lighted up with a kindly smile, which made his son
positively happy.

Approaching Bodine, he asked, "Do you think it will be safe for the
invalids to leave the square?"

"I scarcely think so," was the reply. "At least, not until more time
passes without disturbance. From what I've read of earthquakes, our houses
may be unsafe for days to come."

"Well, the first thing to be done is to see that you all have some
breakfast. Fortunately, our house is not far; and, although our
women-servants have fled, I have two men who will stand by me. The fact
is, my hunting expeditions have made me a fairly good cook myself. My
father cordially extends the invitation that all my friends here breakfast
with us."

"I will join in your labors, Houghton," said Clancy, promptly. "Having no
home, I gratefully accept your father's invitation."

"We're all shipwrecked on a desert island," added Mrs. Bodine cheerily to
George. "You appear to be one of the friendly natives, and I put myself
under your protection."

"Our custom here is," replied the young fellow in like vein, "that, after
we have taken salt together, we become fast friends."

"Bring on the salt, then," she answered laughing, while Ella's smile
seemed to the young fellow more vivifying than the first level rays of the
sun. Mara, Mrs. Hunter, and Miss Ainsley were still sleeping, as also was
Dr. Devoe.

"Houghton," called Mr. Willoughby, "won't you enroll me as one of your
cooks or waiters?"

"No," replied George, "I must leave you and Captain Bodine in charge of
camp."

"Too many cooks spile de brof," said Aun' Sheba, rising from Mara's side
where she had been watching for the last hour. "Marse Houghton, you bery
fine cook fer de woods, I spec, but I reckon I kin gib a lil extra tech to
de doin's."

"Ah, Aun' Sheba, if you'll come, you shall be chief cook, and I, for one,
promise to obey. Mrs. Willoughby, I'm so very glad that I can now return a
little of your kindness."

"I take back what I said about absolving you," she whispered.

"You'd better. If I don't make the most of my chance now my name is not
George Houghton. Of course I shan't say anything while these troubles
last. You understand, I don't wish anything to happen which would
embarrass her, or make it hard to accept what I can do for her and hers;
but when the right time comes," and he nodded significantly.

"You are on the right tack as you boatmen say," she whispered laughing.

"See here, Houghton," remarked jolly Mr. Willoughby, "earthquakes and
secret conferences with my wife are more than a fellow can stand at one
and the same time."

"You shall soon have consolation," said George, hastening away, followed
by Clancy, Aun' Sheba, Jube, and Sam. When the last-named worthy appeared
near Mr. Houghton's barn the horses whinnied and the two dogs barked
joyously.

"Mr. Clancy," said George, handing him his pocket-book, "since you have
kindly offered to aid, please take Jube and visit the nearest butcher's
shop and bakery. I suggest that you lay in a large supply, for we don't
know what may happen. Please get eggs, canned delicacies, anything you
think best. Don't spare money. Help yourself, if owners are absent. I will
honor all your I.O.U's."

"All right, Houghton; but remember that I'm an active partner in this
catering business. Fortunately I don't need to go to the bank for money."

Aun' Sheba exclaimed over the evidences of disaster along the street, but
when she saw what a wreck Mr. Houghton's massive portico had become she
lifted her hands in dismay.

"That don't trouble me," said George, "since I'm not under it. I passed
beneath a second or two before it fell."

"De Lawd be praised! 'Pears ter me He know wot He 'bout, an is gwine ter
bring down pride ez well ez piazzers."

"It looks that way, Aun' Sheba. Here, Sam, make the kitchen fire before
you do anything else. Now we must rummage and see what we can find."

Aun' Sheba took possession of the kitchen, and with broom, mop, and
cloths, soon brought order out of chaos. Sam found that although the
chimney had lost its top, it fortunately drew, and the fire in the range
speedily proved all that could be desired. George ravaged the store-closet
until Aun' Sheba said, "Nuff heah already ter feed de squar."

Then he went up and looked about the poor wrecked home, meanwhile setting
Sam to dusting chairs and carrying them to the square. Then a table,
crockery, knives, forks, spoons, napkins, etc., were despatched.

Clancy and Jube found that the proprietors of some of the shops were
plucking up courage to enter them and resume trade, and so they eventually
returned well laden with provisions. Then Jube was sent with wash-basins,
water and towels for ablutions. Meantime George and Clancy took a hasty
bath and exchanged their ruined clothing for clean apparel.

"Houghton, you are a godsend to us all," exclaimed his friend.

"I suppose the whole affair is a godsend," was the reply; "anyway, I'm
getting my satisfaction out of it this morning."

As sprightly Mrs. Willoughby saw the applicances for their comfort
following one after another she said to Ella, "We may as well make believe
that it is a picnic."

Ella smiled and replied, "I'm better dressed for breakfast than you are,
for I have on a wrapper, and you are in a low-necked evening costume."

"I feel as if I could eat a breakfast all the same. What creatures these
mortals be! A little while ago I was in the depths of misery, and now I'm
hungry and kind of happy."

"Oh, you are," said her husband, "when you may have to take in washing for
a living, while I shovel brick and mortar."

"No, indeed," cried his wife, "I'll join the firm of Wallingford and
Bodine, and you can help Aun' Sheba peddle cakes."

"That's right, children," said Mrs. Bodine, "that's the true brave
Southern spirit. We are all born soldiers, seamen rather, since the land
has been as freakish as the waves. Now mind, I'll send the first one below
who shows the white feather."

Mr. Houghton lay apart from this group; and, while he felt his isolation,
knew that he was to blame for it. They also felt the awkwardness of their
situation, not knowing how far he was willing or able to converse with
them. Mr. Willoughby was about to break the ice, but Ella forestalled him.
"Mr. Houghton," she said, timidly approaching, "is there anything we can
do for you? We are all so grateful."

"Yes, Miss Bodine. Forget and forgive."

"There seems very little now to forgive, and we do not wish to forget your
kindness."

"Good Lor!" whispered Mrs. Bodine to Mrs. Willoughby, "I couldn't have
turned a neater sentence myself."

"Well, Miss Bodine," resumed Mr. Houghton, "I suppose we shall have to let
bygones be bygones. Now that sunshine and brightness have come, we should
not recall anything painful. I trust that the worst is over, but our
courage may yet be sorely tried. I will esteem it a very great favor if
you and your friends will accept without reluctance what my son can do for
your comfort."

Ella could not repress a little laugh of pleasure as she replied, "It is
too late now to affect any reluctance. We owe him so much that we might as
well owe him more." Then, ever practical, she arranged a screen to shade
his face from the sun's rays.

Mr. Willoughby now came up and spoke in a friendly way of the probable
effects of the disaster upon the city, and so the touch of mutual kindness
began to make them kin.

Mrs. Hunter commenced to moan and toss, and this awakened Miss Ainsley,
who looked around wonderingly. Mrs. Willoughby in low tones recalled what
had happened, and explained the present aspect of affairs. Mrs. Bodine
performed the same office for Mara, who also had been aroused by the
voices near. The girl's habit of self-control served her in good stead,
and she immediately rose, gave her hand to Bodine in greeting, and then
knelt beside her aunt. Seeing Mara so near, Miss Ainsley quickly rose
also, and moved away in instinctive antipathy.

Mrs. Hunter was feverish and evidently very ill. She was unable to
comprehend what was taking place, but recognized Mara, whose soothing
touch and words alone had the power of quieting her.

Ella bathed Mrs. Bodine's face and hands, and enabled her to make "the
ghost of a toilet," as the old lady said. Then Ella whispered, "I wish I
could do as much for Mr. Houghton."

"I dare you to do it," said Mrs. Bodine, with a mirthful gleam in her
eyes.

Ella caught her spirit, and without hesitation, although blushing like a
rose, went to Mr. Houghton, and asked, "Will you please let me bathe your
hands and face also?"

"Why, Miss Bodine, I should not expect such kindness from you. I can wait
till my son returns."

"He is doing so much that he will be tired. It would give me pleasure if
you will permit it. In waiting on my cousin I've learned to be not a very
awkward nurse."

"Well, Miss Bodine, I am learning that even earthquakes can bring pleasant
compensations. You shall have your own way. Yes, you are a good nurse, and
a brave and patient one. Your kindness to that poor creature who died in
your arms touched my heart."

"And mine too, Mr. Houghton. She told me a very pitiful story."

"You shall tell it to me some time, my dear."

Her heart thrilled as he gently spoke these words, while George, striding
up with a great platter of steak, almost dropped it as he saw the girl
waiting on his father as if filial relations were already established. The
old man enjoyed his look of pleased wonder, and, when he had a chance,
whispered, "I'm getting ahead of you, my boy, I don't want your clumsy
hands or Jube's around me any more." Mrs. Bodine put her head under the
blanket and shook with silent laughter.

Ella was very shy of the young man, however. He could not catch her eye,
nor get a chance to speak to her except in the presence of her father,
Mrs. Bodine, or some one else. But he possessed his soul in patience, and
did his best to be a genial host. Clancy, Jube, and Sam followed with the
coffee and various comestibles. Miss Ainsley was a little effusive in her
greeting of the man whom she had deserted in the street, and again had
left to pass the night as he could, while she sought oblivion. His
response was grave, kind, yet not altogether reassuring. He certainly
indulged in no lover-like glances; and he went direct to Mara, and
inquired gently after Mrs. Hunter. She replied quietly, without looking
up. It was evident that the sound of his voice distressed the injured
woman, who was barely conscious enough to have vague memories of the past.

Weary Dr. Devoe was wakened, while George gave Mrs. Willoughby his arm,
and gallantly placed her behind the coffee-urn. Even Captain Bodine
assumed a measure of cheerfulness during breakfast. When newsboys came
galloping up with the morning paper, Mr. Willoughby rose and waved his
hat, joining in the general hurrah which rose from all parts of the
square. Every one warmly appreciated the heroism displayed in gathering
news and printing a journal during the past night. Next to the vivifying
light and the apparent cessation of the shocks, nothing did more to
restore confidence than the appearance of the familiar paper.

"Old Charleston is alive yet," cried Mr. Willoughby; "and if the rest of
us have half the pluck shown in that printing-house, we'll soon restore
everything."

"Give me a paper," said Mrs. Bodine. "I'd rather have it than my
breakfast."

"You shall have both," replied Ella, bringing a little tray to her side.

"Ah, Cousin Hugh, you veterans never did anything braver. Own up."

"I do, most sincerely and heartily."

Clancy read the journal aloud; and the coffee grew cold as all listened
breathlessly to a chapter in the city's history never to be forgotten. Mr.
Houghton was so absorbed that he suddenly became conscious that Ella was
beside him with the daintiest of breakfasts. "You are spoiling me for any
other nurse," he said.

"It is a relief at such a time to care for those who are ill and feeble,"
she replied gently. "If we have to stay here, I hope you will let me wait
on you; but I trust that we can all soon go to our homes."

"I have my doubts. Now give me the pleasure of seeing you make a good
meal."

"Mr. Clancy," cried Mrs. Willoughby, "in the general chaos women may
obtain their just pre-eminence. I shall take the lead by ordering you to
lay down that paper, so that you and others may have a hot breakfast."

Mara could be induced to take nothing beyond a cup of coffee. In spite of
the sunshine and the general reaction into hopefulness and courage, she
felt that black chaos was coming into her life. Her aunt and natural
protector was very ill. After the events of the night she shrank
inexpressibly from her former relations to Bodine. Indeed, it seemed
impossible to continue them. Yet she asked herself again and again, "What
else is there for me?" He was very kind, but the expression of his face
was inscrutable. Moreover, there was Miss Ainsley acting as if Clancy were
her own natural property, and he unable to dispute her claims. It appeared
to her that poor stricken Mrs. Hunter was her only refuge, and she
resolved to remain close by the invalid's side.

With the coming of the day Uncle Sheba's most poignant fears had gradually
subsided. He kept his eyes on his wife, feeling that any good that he
might hope for in this world would come through her. Indeed the impression
was growing that the greatest immediate good to be obtained from any world
was a breakfast; and when Aun' Sheba went with George to his home, Unc.
also followed at a discreet distance. The result was that his wife again
had to put him on a "'lowance," or little would have been left in Mr.
Houghton's kitchen. He surreptitiously stuffed a few eatables into his
pocket, and then went out to smoke his pipe.

Breakfast was at last over at the square. Mr. Willoughby rose and said to
his wife, "I will go to the house, and get more suitable costumes for you
and Carrie. Houghton will loan you a dressing-room at his house, for the
streets can be scarcely suitable for you to traverse yet. I'll bring a
carriage for you, however, as soon as it is possible. Serious danger is
now over, I hope."

He had scarcely uttered the words when, as if in mockery, far in the
southeast was heard again the sound which appalled the stoutest hearts. On
it came, as if a lightning express-train were thundering down upon them.
They saw the tops of distant trees nod and sway as if agitated by a gale;
men, women, and children rushing again, with loud cries, from their homes;
then it seemed as if some subterranean monster was tearing its way through
the earth.

The moment the paralysis of terror passed, Miss Ainsley threw herself
shrieking upon Clancy, who was compelled to support and soothe her. Mara
covered her face with her hands, trembled violently, but uttered no sound.
Ella could not repress a cry, as she hid her face upon her father's
breast, a cry echoed by Mrs. Willoughby as she and her husband clung
together. George knelt, holding the hand of his father, who looked at his
son with the feeling that, if the end had come, his boy should be the last
object on which his eyes rested. Mrs. Bodine was as composed as the
veteran himself, and simply looked heavenward. There was something so
terrific in the immeasurable power of the convulsion, so suggestive of
immediate and awful death, that few indeed could maintain any degree of
fortitude.

There was one, however, a few rods away, who scarcely noticed the shock.
Kern Watson, at last released from duty, sat on the ground, with his face
buried in the neck of his dead child. He did not raise his head, and
trembled only as the quivering earth agitated his form.



CHAPTER XLV

A CITY ENCAMPING


The earthquake which occurred at 8:25 Wednesday morning had a disastrous
effect, although it was not so severe as to injure materially the
buildings already so shattered. It nipped hope and growing confidence in
the bud. Multitudes had left the square for their homes, a large
proportion with the immediate purpose of obtaining more clothing. Many
would have been comparatively naked were it not for enveloping blankets
and the loan of articles of apparel from the more fortunate. With the
confidence which the morning and the continued quiet of the earth inspired
there had been a general movement from the square. Some hastily dressed
themselves, snatched up bedding and food, and returned to the open spaces
immediately; others breakfasted at home, and some had the heart to begin
the task of putting their houses in order. The shock drove them forth
again with all their fears renewed and increased, for the homes, which in
many cases had been a refuge for generations, were now looked upon as
deathtraps, threatening to mangle and torture as well as destroy. The love
of gain, the instinct to preserve property, was also obliterated.
Merchants deserted their shops and warehouses. Banks were unopened, except
for the gaps rent by the earthquake. The city was full of food, yet people
went hungry, not daring to enter the places where it was stored. After a
second and general flight to the square, the question in all hearts, "What
next?" paralyzed with its dread suggestion.

The fear among the educated had become definite and rational. Not that
they could explain the earthquake or its causes, but the sad experiences
of other regions were known to them. These experiences, however, had
varied so greatly in their horrors as to leave a wide margin of terrible
possibilities. A tidal wave might roll in, for the city was scarcely more
than nine feet above the sea. The earth might open in great and ingulfing
fissures. The tremendous forces beneath them might seek a volcanic outlet.
These were all dire thoughts, and were brought home to the consciousness
the more vividly because the awful phenomena continued in the serene light
of day. The nightmare aspect of what had occurred in darkness passed away,
and the coolest and most learned found themselves confronted by dangers
which they could not gauge or explain. Nor could the end be foreseen. If
such considerations weighed down the spirits of the most intelligent men,
imagine the fears of frail, nervous women, of the children, the wild panic
of the superstitious negroes to whom science explained nothing. To their
excited minds the earthquake was due directly either to the action of a
malignant, personal devil, or of an angry God. While many of the poor
ignorant creatures inevitably indulged in what were justly termed
"religious orgies," the great majority were well behaved and patient,
finding in their simple faith unspeakable comfort and support.

One fact, however, was clear to all: that the place of immediate and
greatest danger was near or beneath anything which might be prostrated by
the recurring shocks.

Another feature in Wednesday's experience was very depressing. The city
was completely isolated from the rest of the world. All telegraph-wires
were down, all railroads leading into the city had been rendered
impassable. For many hours those without who had friends and relatives in
Charleston were kept in dreadful suspense. From adjacent cities reports of
the catastrophe were flashed continuously, but in regard to Charleston
there was an ominous lack of information, and the fear was very general
that the city by the sea had sunk beneath the waves.

Mr. Ainsley shared in this horrible dread. He telegraphed repeatedly from
an inland town, and took the first train despatched toward the city. His
daughter was right in believing that he would reach her at the earliest
possible moment.

She was greatly demoralized by the shock which dissipated her impression
of comparative safety; and when she realized that the city was utterly cut
off from the outside world, that it was impossible to know when her father
could arrive, she gave way to selfish fear and the deepest dejection. With
embarrassing pertinacity she insisted that Clancy should remain near her.
Even to the others it was apparent that fear, rather than affection, led
her to desire his presence so earnestly. He had once wondered what kind of
a woman was masked by her culture and a reserve so perfect that it had
seemed frankness. The veneer now was stripped off. After her own fashion,
she was almost as abject in her terror as Uncle Sheba, who had run howling
back to the square, leaving the wife who had fed him to her fate. In her
lack of honest sympathy for others, and indisposition to exert herself in
their behalf, Miss Ainsley quite equalled the selfish old negro. The
conventional world in which she had shone to such advantage had passed
away. Her very perfection in form and feature made defects in character
more glaring, for she was seen to be a fair yet broken promise.

How sweetly the noble qualities of Ella and Mara were revealed by
comparison! They had been taught in the school of adversity. From
childhood they had learned to think of others first rather than of
themselves. Miss Ainsley would have been resplendent and at ease in a
royal drawing-room; these two girls maintained womanly fortitude and gave
themselves up to unselfish devotion in the presence of a mysterious power
which would level an emperor's palace as readily as a negro's cabin.

Clancy saw the difference--no one more clearly--and his very soul recoiled
from the woman he had purposed to marry. He patiently bore with her as
long as he could after the shock, and then joined Mr. Willoughby, George,
Bodine, and Dr. Devoe, who were consulting at Mr. Houghton's bedside. In
his shame and distress he did not venture even to glance at Mara.

As the stress of the emergency increased Mr. Houghton's mind had grown
clear and decided; his old resolute, business habits asserted themselves,
and from his low couch he practically became the leader in their council.
"From what we know of other and like disturbances," he said, "it is
impossible to foresee when these shocks will end, or how soon a refuge can
be sought in regions exempt from our dangers. Now that I am established in
this square near my home I intend to remain here for the present. I
cordially ask you all to share my fortunes. My son will spare no expense
or effort, that can be made in safety, for our general comfort." Then he
added before them all, "Captain Bodine, I have done you much wrong and
discourtesy. I apologize. You have invalid and injured ladies in your
charge. Their claims are sacred and imperative. I will esteem it a favor
if you will permit my son to do what he can for their comfort and
protection."

Bodine at once came forward, and giving Mr. Houghton his hand, replied,
"You and your son are teaching me that I have done you both much greater
wrong. I think I shall have to surrender as I did once before, but I am
glad that it is to kindness rather than to force in this instance."

"Here's the true remedy for our differences," cried Mr. Willoughby. "Let
the North and South get acquainted, and all will be well. But come, we
must act, and act promptly."

"Yes," replied George, "for the square is filling up again, and we should
keep as much space here as possible. I have a small tent which I will put
up at once for Mrs. Bodine and Mrs. Hunter. Then I'll rig an awning for my
father, and help the rest of you in whatever you decide upon."

"George," said his father, anxiously, "let your visits to the house be as
brief as possible."

Clancy offered to assist George in meeting the immediate need of shelter
from the sun, and Dr. Devoe gave the morning to the care of his many
patients. Mr. Willoughby said that he must first go to his home for
clothing and to look after matters, but that he would soon return. Bodine
was asked to mount guard and prevent, as far as possible, the fugitives
from encroaching on the needed space. This proved no easy task. Old Tobe,
after having received some breakfast, maintained his watch over the
medical stores, while Aun' Sheba, who had followed her husband as fast as
her limited powers of travelling permitted, cleared away the remnants of
the breakfast for her family, George assuring her that he would soon make
all comfortable provision for her and them.

With Clancy and the two colored men he repaired to his home, as the
wrecked venture to a ship which may break up at any moment, in order to
secure what was absolutely essential. A tent was soon pitched for the
invalids; a shelter of quilts suspended over and around his father, and a
large carpet jerked from the floor formed an awning for the ladies. Part
of this awning was partitioned off so as to give them all the privacy
possible under the circumstances, and the remainder was inclosed on three
sides, but left open toward the east.

"I'm not going to be sent to the hospital," said Mrs. Bodine. "I'd rather
sit up and direct Ella how to transform this outer habitation into a
drawing-room."

Then George brought her and his father easy-chairs. Rugs were spread on
the grass, and the rude shelter became positively inviting. Ella and Mrs.
Willoughby made themselves so useful that at last Miss Ainsley so far
recovered from her panic as to assist. She detested Mara, and Mrs.
Hunter's ghastly face and white hair embodied to her mind the terror of
which all were in dread. The bright sunshine and homely work were
suggestive of rural pleasures rather than of dire necessity, and helped,
for the time, to retire the spectre of danger to the background. The
coming and going of many acquaintances and friends also helped to rally
her spirits, and incite her to the semblance of courage. Mrs. Willoughby,
Mrs. Bodine, and Mara had stanch friends who sought them out the moment
comparative safety had been secured for their nearer dependants. The
demands of our story require nothing more than the brief statement that
there was a general disposition on the part of the people to think of and
care for all who had claims upon them. Even in the dreadful hours
immediately following the first shock, much unselfish heroism was
displayed; and during the weary days and nights which followed, men and
women vied with each other in their attentions to those who most needed
care.

Mrs. Bodine, Mrs. Willoughby, and the captain had several whispered
conferences with those who felt surprise at associations with Mr.
Houghton, and there was a quick, generous response to the old man's
kindness. Some who would not have looked at him the day before now went
and spoke to him gratefully and sympathetically, while for George only
cordiality and admiration were manifested. He was not a little uneasy over
the profuse attentions and offers of help which Ella received from several
young men. To his jealous eyes she appeared unnecessarily gracious, and
more ready to talk with them than with him; but he could not discover that
she had an especial favorite among them. Indeed, she managed in their case
as in his that Mrs. Willoughby, Miss Ainsley, or some one else should
share in the conversation.

At last Bodine said to George, "I will now go to Mrs. Hunter's rooms and
to Mrs. Bodine's residence, and obtain what is most essential. Can you
spare one of your servants to carry what I cannot?"

"Certainly, and I will go with you myself. Clancy and Sam can continue
operations here."

"George," said his father, "as soon as the absolute necessity for entering
buildings is over, I wish you to keep away from them."

"Yes, father."

Ella added, "Remember, Mr. Houghton, that is a promise. Please let the
words 'absolute necessity' have their full meaning;" and her face was so
full of solicitude that he said, "I promise you also."

With a smile and flush she turned to her father whispering the tenderest
cautions and emphasizing the truth that but few things were essential,
some of which she mentioned. Jube had become like a faithful spaniel, the
spirit of his young master reassuring him so as to feel his only safety
lay in obedience.

As George and Bodine went down the street they were saddened by the
evidences of disaster on every side. Even Meeting Street was still so
obstructed as to be almost impassable for vehicles, and in some places the
ruins were still being searched for the dead. When they reached Mrs.
Hunter's home Bodine groaned inwardly, "How the poor girl must have
suffered!" He added aloud, "The mental distress caused by my helplessness
during the last few hours, Mr. Houghton, has been much harder to bear than
the wound which cost me my leg and the suffering which followed."

"My dear captain," replied George, "your courage and clear head make you
far less helpless than hundreds who only use their legs to run with. Let
me enter this shell of a house alone."

"That would be a sad commentary on your remark."

They speedily obtained what they deemed essential, and turned off the gas,
which was still burning. It was evident that no one had entered the house
since its occupants had left it. Mrs. Bodine's residence was comparatively
uninjured, and when leaving it the captain was able to lock the outer
door.

On their way back to the square George stammered:

"Captain Bodine, it may be very bad taste to speak of such a matter now,
but we do not know what an hour will bring forth. I would like to have
some understanding with you. Beyond that there may be no need of anything
further being said until all these troubles are over. I--I--well, can I
venture to make my former request? Your daughter has my happiness wholly
in her hands. I do not intend to embarrass her by a word until she is
again in her own home, but I wish to know that my hopes and efforts to win
her regard have your sanction."

"How does your father feel about this?" Bodine asked gravely.

"He has given his full and cordial approval. Now that he has seen Miss
Bodine she has won him completely."

"Mr. Houghton, I owe to you her life which I value more than my own. You
know we are lacking in everything except pride and good name."

"My dear sir," interrupted George earnestly, "God has endowed your
daughter as man could not. You know I love and honor her for herself and
always shall."

"You are right," said the father proudly, "and you are so truly a man, as
well as a gentleman, that you estimate my penniless daughter at her
intrinsic worth. As far as my approval and good wishes are concerned you
have them."

Ella thought that George's face was wonderfully radiant when he appeared.
As soon as she could get a word alone with her father, she asked, "What
have you been saying to Mr. Houghton?"

"I have only answered his second request that he might pay you his
addresses."

"Oh, papa! what a tantalizing answer! What did he say, and what did you
say, word for word? Surely you didn't tell--"

"I only gave my consent, not yours. You are at perfect liberty to reject
him," was the smiling reply.

"That is well as far as it goes, but I wish to know every word."

Her father's heart was too heavy to permit continuance in a playful vein,
and he told her substantially what had been said. "Well," she concluded,
with a complacent little nod, "I think I'll let him pay his addresses a
while longer. The absurd fellow to go and idealize me so! Time will cure
such folly, however. Papa, there's something troubling you besides the
earthquake."

"Yes, Ella, and you must help me--you and Cousin Sophy." Then he told her
how he thought matters stood between Mara and Clancy, checked her first
indignant words, explained and insisted until she promised that she and
Mrs. Bodine would shield Mara, and act as if she were as free as she had
ever been. "It will all come about yet, papa," Ella whispered, "for Mr.
Clancy has evidently committed himself to Miss Ainsley, although now I
reckon he regrets it."

"Well, Ella dear, redouble your kindness and gentleness to Mara, and let
matters over which we have no control take their course."

Clancy had not been idle during the morning, finding in constant
occupation, and even in the incurring of risks, a relief to his perturbed
thoughts. He and Sam procured a small cooking-stove, and also set up the
cross-sticks of a gypsy camp before the open side of the awning. Aun'
Sheba was placed in charge of the provisions, a responsibility in which
Uncle Sheba wished to share, but she said severely, "Mr. Buggone, you'se
dun git yer lowance wid Sissy an' de chil'n."

Mr. Willoughby at last returned on an express-wagon, well loaded with
articles which would add much comfort in the enforced picnic. His face was
sad and troubled as he greeted his wife.

"Oh, Jennie," he said, "our pretty home is such a wreck!"

"No matter, Hal, since you are safe and sound," was her cheery reply.
"Come, girls, we can now dress for dinner. I feel like a fool in this
light silk."

They all eventually reappeared in costumes more suitable for camping.

Mrs. Bodine was also enabled to exchange her blanket wrapper for the one
she was accustomed to wear at home. With almost the zest of a girl she
appreciated the picturesque elements of their experiences; and her high
spirits and courage were infectious. With the aid of Sam and Jube, Aunt
Sheba entered vigorously on preparations for dinner; a breeze with passing
clouds tempered the sun's hot rays; and hope again began to cheer as time
passed without further disturbance.



CHAPTER XLVI

"ON JORDAN'S BANKS WE STAND"


Aunt Sheba had succeeded fairly well with the dinner, considering the
materials and the appliances available. Not one, however, was disposed to
epicurean fastidiousness. The situation was gravely discussed, and the
experiences of friends related. Dr. Devoe gave cheering assurances that
injury to life and limb had been far less than might have been expected.
"The first shock could scarcely have come at a better time," he said. "If
it had happened when the streets were full of people, one shudders to
think of the number that would have been killed or maimed. The fact is,
the great majority of casualties appear to have occurred as people were
leaving their houses."

Mrs. Hunter received much attention from him, and she continued so ill
that Mara did not leave her. Bodine became convinced that a chance to
speak with Mara in private might not be obtained very speedily, and
therefore, with kindly consideration for her feelings, resolved to write
that afternoon. He had nothing at hand better than pencil and note-book.
He wrote:

"MY DEAR MARA--You have so many sorrows and anxieties now that I cannot
wait longer in my effort to relieve you of one of them. You should have
been more frank with me; yet, so far from reproaching you, I only remember
that you are the daughter of my dearest friend, and that you need me as
protector and father rather than as lover. I appreciate your motive to
sacrifice yourself for my sake. Perhaps you will remember that I have
warned you against this noble impulse of self-sacrifice--a tendency,
however, which may be carried much too far. You utterly misjudge me if you
think I would consciously accept any such sacrifice on your part. As far
as I am concerned you are free from any obligation whatever, except that
of trusting me, and coming to me as Ella does, as nearly as you can. You
need a stanch and faithful protector against yourself, and such will be
HUGH BODINE."

Ella carried this missive into the little tent set apart for Mrs. Hunter.
When Mara read the note she hid it in her bosom, and buried her face in
her hands. Ella tried to soothe her, assuring her that she knew how it had
all come about, and that it would make no difference in her love.

"Oh, Ella!" Mara sobbed, "my pride needed humbling, and I am overwhelmed
in very truth. I thought I was superior to you, and that my course was so
heroic. The result is I have wronged and made unhappy your father, the man
I honor most in all the world. Oh, I feel now that it would have been
better if I had been buried under the ruins."

"Mara," said Ella firmly, "this is a time when we must make the best of
everything--when we should not waste our strength in grieving over what
cannot be helped. Papa has explained everything to me, and you will only
wound him further if you do not comply with his wishes. He is very
resolute; and, in a matter of this kind, you could not move him a
hair's-breadth. Please do just what he asks now, and let time make future
duty clearer."

Bodine was not astray in thinking that his note would relieve Mara's mind.
Sad and humiliated as she was, his words had taken her from a false
position, and would enable her to give him the filial love and homage with
which her heart overflowed. Even if Clancy escaped from his entanglement,
which she much doubted, she felt that both should pay the penalty of their
errors in long probation.

As the afternoon wore away Mrs. Willoughby and Mrs. Bodine took some
much-needed rest. Clancy went down town to look after his own affairs. Mr.
Houghton had a consultation with his confidential man of business, at
which George was present. Then the young fellow busied himself in
perfecting the camp appointments and securing more provisions.

Kern Watson and his family, Aun' Sheba and her husband, with old Tobe and
a few friends and neighbors, knelt around the remains of little Vilet as
Mr. Birdsall offered a prayer. Bodine, Ella, and George, with his two
servants, were also present. Then the minister and a few others helped the
stricken father to bury his child. After the brief service the captain
told Ella that she must go and rest till he called her.

George ventured to walk back with the tearful girl and to say, "Miss
Bodine, you seem to have a hand to help and a heart to feel with every
one."

"I should be callous indeed," she replied, "if I did not grieve at the
death of that little girl. She aided in my effort to earn a livelihood. I
saw her daily, and no one could help becoming fond of her, she was so
good, and gentle, and quiet. Her poor father--how I pity him! The mute
anguish in his face was overpowering. He is the most quiet, but he grieves
the most, and will never get over it."

"I think you are right, Miss Bodine. I don't believe your intuitions would
often lead you astray."

"I am very matter-of-fact," Ella replied.

"If I admit that, I must also add that one would have to do his level best
to furnish the kind of facts you would approve of."

"And I must also add, Mr. Houghton, that you are furnishing them in
plenty. I can never try to thank you, for I shouldn't know where to begin,
or when to leave off."

"Please leave off now. Oh, Miss Bodine! I am so grateful for your kindness
to my father, and he is just as pleased as I am."

"Ah! I've at last caught you in a bit of selfishness," she said with a
piquant smile. "You would keep the privilege of thanking people while
denying it to me;" and she vanished before he could reply.

"Oh!" he groaned inwardly, "if any of these Southern fellows carry her
off, I'm done for."

Miss Ainsley spent a very wretched afternoon. Clancy was away, Mrs.
Willoughby worn out, and she was left chiefly to her own resources, which
were meagre indeed under the circumstances. Instead of forgetting self in
behalf of those less fortunate, she brooded over what she deemed neglect.
Mr. Willoughby talked to her for a time after dinner, and then busied
himself in helping others provide shelter against the coming night;
loaning here and there some of the articles which he had brought from his
home. Throughout the day multitudes had been making preparations to spend
the night in the squares, vacant lots, and in spacious yards. Few had been
so forehanded as George Houghton, who had the advantage of abundant means,
and good, fearless help in his efforts. By this time, however, the square
was well covered by almost every variety of hastily improvised shelters,
and the rays of the late afternoon sun brought out rainbow hues, strange
and picturesque effects, so diverse were the materials employed and the
ingenuity in construction which had been exercised.

Clancy had been almost reckless in his disposition to enter buildings, a
risk which few others would incur on that day. He returned after four
o'clock with a large supply of provisions, which he believed might be
difficult to obtain should the shocks continue with greater violence. So
far from observing that he was pale from exhaustion, Miss Ainsley was
inclined to be reproachful that he had remained away so long. He listened
wearily for a time, then answered, "I did not think that I could be
especially useful here. _Men_, like soldiers, _must_ do what must be done.
I have taken pains to learn in your behalf that telegraphic and railroad
communication will soon be re-established, and I have arranged, as soon as
a despatch can be sent, to have one forwarded to your father's last
address, assuring him that you are safe."

"My father is not at the place of his last address. If he is alive, he is
trying to reach me, and he will not leave me till he has taken me utterly
away from all this horror and danger. I hope you are ready to leave
Charleston now."

"Leave my native city in its present plight! Why, Miss Ainsley, that would
be almost like running away and leaving my mother."

"Are brick and mortar more to you than I am?"

"Bricks and mortar do not make Charleston, but the people with whom I have
always lived. I will certainly take you to a place of safety, if your
father cannot; but my duty is here. I would not only lose the respect of
every one, but also my own self-respect, if I did not cast in my lot with
this people until every vestige of ruin has disappeared."

"I'm sure I never wish to see the place again," she replied sullenly.

"It would be unjust for me to expect that you should feel as I do about
it; but I am a citizen, and you yourself would eventually despise me were
I not faithful to my obligations."

This method of putting the case silenced her for the time. She knew that
he had ascribed to her a higher conception of duty than she possessed, and
she believed that he was also aware of the fact. Since she had gone so far
with him she now wished him to be a blind, unquestioning lover, wholly
devoted and ready to fly with her at the first opportunity. The very
qualities which they had mutually admired were now seen on their seamy
side. Her cosmopolitan spirit which led her to sigh, "Anywhere so it be
not Charleston," was now at war with his feeling of almost passionate
commiseration for his stricken birthplace; while she in turn found his
unyielding nature and keen perceptions which had afforded such pleasure in
overcoming and meeting were now not at all to her wishes. She had yielded
to him as never before to any one, and was intensely chagrined that he was
not wholly subservient to her. If he should not become so she could never
think of him without humiliation. He had seen her undisguised in all her
weakness. She had thrown herself into his arms and implored his protection
almost as unreservedly as Mrs. Willoughby had clung to her husband. She
had also left him when he was helpless, and again when he was ill and
weak. What she required now, therefore, was a blind idolatry; and so many
had offered this that she felt entitled to it, even though there should be
no such devotion on her part. If, in any sense, he should be critic as
well as lover, he could make her exceedingly uncomfortable; and she had a
growing perception that he was comparing her with others, that there was a
lack of warmth in his words and manner, which even the circumstances could
not extenuate. She resolved, therefore, to teach him that she would
tolerate nothing halfway in his conduct. She was sitting on a chair while
he reclined at her feet, and she determined that he should be at her feet
in a sense which had large meanings to her. So she rose and said coldly,
"Mr. Clancy, you seem to have so many obligations that I scarcely know
where I come in."

Then she went toward the awning, intending to withdraw herself from his
society until he should become sufficiently humble. He rose in strong
irritation, too weary even to be patient. At this instant the shock which
occurred at 5.16 passed over the city. In a second all her purposes
vanished; her abject terror returned, and she threw herself on his breast,
and sobbing, buried her face on his shoulder. Mrs. Willoughby also fled to
her husband. As Mrs. Hunter had seemed quieter Aun' Sheba had been
watching in the place of Mara, who had sought a little rest beneath the
awning. She now came hastily out, but Clancy would not encounter her eyes.
Indeed, his false position overwhelmed him with increasing shame and
confusion. He resolved in a sort of desperation to meet Miss Ainsley's
requirements as far as possible until she was safe in her father's hands,
and then to become free. If he had known how Mara's position enabled her
to interpret his own he would have been more resigned.

The shock which occurred so late in the day was a sad preparation for the
night, to which all looked forward with unspeakable dread. Such little
confidence or cheerfulness as had been maintained was dissipated;
weariness and deferred relief increased the general dejection; only the
bravest could maintain their fortitude.

Mrs. Bodine's courage was due to a faith and a temperament which did not
fail her. The veteran remained quiet and steady, with soldier-like
endurance, but Ella was becoming exhausted. She had had very little sleep
for a long time, and had passed through strong excitement. Indeed, all her
powers had been taxed severely. While she had more physical and moral
courage than most girls of her age possess, she, like the great majority,
suffered much from fear at the recurrence of the shocks. As night came on
she yielded to the general depression.

Aun' Sheba also had almost reached the limits of her powers, a fact she
could not help showing as she set about preparations for supper. George
instantly noted this. He had secured some rest the night before, and
possessed great capabilities of endurance combined with an unusually
fearless spirit. He also believed that this was his hour and opportunity,
and that he could do more to win Ella's favor that night by brave cheerful
effort than by any amount of love-making afterward. He little dreamed how
completely won she was already. Her plan of receiving his "address"
indefinitely had already lost its charms. She now simply longed to lean
her weary head upon his shoulder and be petted and comforted a little.
Unaware that the citadel could be had at any time for the asking, George
began his sapping and mining operations with great vigor. He made Aun'
Sheba sit down and give directions for supper, which he and his two
colored men carried out. Mrs. Bodine was the only one who would jest with
him, and he had a word of banter with her; and a cheery word for every one
as occasion permitted.

"Bravo, George!" said Dr. Devoe, as they at last sat down to supper. "We
vote you the Mark Tapley of this occasion. I'm so used up that I've only
energy enough to drink a cup of coffee."

Ella was about to wait on Mr. Haughton as before, but George intercepted
her, saying, "You are too tired."

"I would rather," she urged with downcast eyes. She bore the tray to the
invalid, who looked at her very kindly, as he said, "You are worn out, my
dear."

"Please don't speak that way," she faltered. "I'm just that silly and
tired that I can't stand anything."

"You brave, noble girl! What haven't you stood and endured for the last
few hours and weeks! I have a very guilty conscience, Miss Bodine, and you
only can absolve me."

"No one must be kind to me to-night, or I shall break down utterly;" and
dashing a tear away, she hastily withdrew.

George heaped her plate; but when he saw that she would touch nothing but
her coffee, he looked at her with such deep solicitude in his face that
she sprang up and fled to the sheltering awning, leaving him perplexed and
troubled indeed. All were too well bred to make any remark upon this
little side scene. At her post of observation by the fire, and although
her eyes were full of tears, tributes to little Vilet, Aun' Sheba shook
for a moment with suppressed laughter. Motherly Mrs. Bodine soon followed
Ella, and taking her in her arms, said soothingly, "There, now, child,
have a good cry, and you'll feel better. I wish to the Lord, though, that
all the world had as little to cry about as you, my dear."

"That's what provokes me so, cousin. It's so silly and weak."

"Oh, well, Ella, you're done beat out, as Aun' Sheba says; and that's the
only trouble--that and the blindness of yonder great boy, who expects to
court you for months before venturing to stammer some incoherent nonsense.
Now, a Southern man--"

"Cousin Sophy, I won't listen to such words," said Ella, the hot blood
coming into her pale face. "He isn't a great boy; he's the bravest man I
ever heard of. Now, when every one is giving out, he is only the braver
and stronger. If he is absurd enough to be afraid of me--Well, you are the
last one to speak so."

"There, there, child; this is my way of feeling your pulse and giving a
little tonic," said Mrs. Bodine, laughing. "You have indications of strong
vitality, as the doctor would say. Bless the big Vandal! If I were a girl,
I'd set my cap at him myself."

"Oh, Cousin Sophy! Aren't you ashamed to work me up so? Well, that is the
last glimmer of spunk that I can show to-night."

"If I could only manage to give him a hint of your weak and defenceless
condition--"

"Cousin Sophy, if you do anything of the kind--" and she almost sprang to
her feet.

The old lady pulled her back, stopped her mouth with kisses, as she said,
"I won't tease you any more to-night." In a few moments she had soothed
the girl to sleep.

George and Clancy now took full charge of the camp; for the members of
their party, both white and black, were so exhausted and depressed as to
be unequal to much exertion. Clancy seemed possessed by a sort of feverish
restlessness. If he had been soothed and quieted when he returned in the
afternoon, he would have passed the danger point unharmed; but his jaded
body and mind had been stung into renewed action, and now he was fast
losing the power to rest. Outraged Nature was beginning to take her
revenge, but no one except Bodine observed the fact. Again putting self
under his feet, he took Clancy aside, and said, "Pardon an old soldier,
but experience in the field has taught me when a man must stop. Dr. Devoe
is exhausted and asleep, or I would send him to you. So take honest advice
from me. If you don't quiet your nerves and sleep, you'll have trouble."

Clancy, in grateful surprise, thanked him warmly, and said he would rest
later on. His hope was that Miss Ainsley would retire, for in his present
condition he felt that her voluble expressions of fear and general
dissatisfaction would be intolerable. At this juncture some one came and
said that a friend of his in another part of the square was ill and wished
to see him. He explained and excused himself to Miss Ainsley, who replied
only by a cold, reproachful glance.

The light of day faded; the stars shone calmly above the strange scene,
where lamps and candles flickered dim and pale, like the hopes of those
who had lighted them. The murmur of conversation was lost in the loud
singing of hymns, prayers and exhortations on the part of the negroes.

Mr. Birdsall had gathered many of his flock about him, and was conducting
a religious service in a fairly orderly manner. Both he and his people
yielded somewhat to the intense excitement of the occasion, but it was his
intention that the religious exercises should cease at a reasonable hour.

Kern, Sissy, and Aun' Sheba were sitting silently near him, and at last
the minister said, "Bruder Watson, you an' your wife will feel bettah if
you express you'se feelin's, an' sing a while. I reckon, if I say you an'
you' wife will sing, they will be mo' quiet."

Kern assented to anything like a call of duty, and Mr. Birdsall resumed,
"Fren's, in closin' de meetin' fer dis ebenin', Bruder an' Sista Watson
will sing a hymn togeder; an' we, respectin' dere berebement, will listen.
Dey have been greatly offlicted, for de Lawd has taken from dem de lam' of
dere bosoms. I ask you all now to listen to de expression of dere faith in
dis night ob sorrow. Den we mus' remembah dat de sick an' weak are in dis
squar, and gib dem a chance to res'."

Kern lifted up his magnificent voice, charged with the pent-up feeling of
his heart, and his wife joined him with her rich, powerful contralto.

  "On Jordan's banks we stan',
  An Jordan's stream roll by;
  No bridge de watahs span,
  De flood am risin high.
  Heah it foam an' roar, de dark flood tide,
  How shel we cross to de oder side?

  "De riber deep an strong,
  De wabes am bery cole;
  We see it rush along,
  But who can venture bole?
  Heah it foam an' roar, etc.

  "A little chile step down;
  It go in de riber deep.
  Kin little feet touch groun'
  Whar mountain billows sweep?
  Heah dem foam an roar, etc.

  "Dere comes a flash ob light,
  Ober de cole dark wabes;
  Dere come de angels' flight--
  See shinin' bans dat sabe,
  From de watah's foam, de dark flood tide,
  Fer de Lawd hab seen from de oder side.

  "Heah music swellin gran';
  Yes, songs of welcome ring,
  White wings de riber span
  De little chile to bring.
  Den let ole Jordan roar, de dark flood tide;
  We'se borne across to de oder side."

The melodious duet rose and fell in great waves of sound, silencing all
other voices. Contrary to Mr. Birdsall's expectations, religious fervor
was only increased, and hoping to control it he asked Kern and Sissy to
lead in several familiar hymns. The negroes throughout the square promptly
responded, while not a few white refugees joined their voices to the
mighty diapason of sound, which often swelled into grand harmonies.

Kern soon afterward went on duty for the night; Mr. Birdsall confined
himself to quiet ministrations to his own people, and the leadership of
the religious exercises fell into less judicious hands.



CHAPTER XLVII

LIGHTS AND SHADOWS OF A NIGHT


Aun' Sheba, with a devotion which quite equalled that to her own
offspring, returned to Mara with the intention of watching Mrs. Hunter
while the girl slept. She found Mrs. Bodine sitting with Mara, but the old
colored woman was received with a warmth of welcome and sympathy which put
her at ease at once. Mrs. Hunter had sunk into a kind of stupor rendering
her unconscious of what was passing, and therefore they conversed in low
tones.

"I reckon we need have no secrets from Aun' Sheba," said Mrs. Bodine.

"No," answered Mara, taking her old mammy's hand. "If ever a motherless
girl had a true friend I have one in Aun' Sheba."

"Yes, honey, you'se right dar, an' I hopes you git right on some oder
tings. I put a spoke in de hon'ble business an' I'se ready to put mo' in."
She then briefly related her interview with Clancy and concluded, "Missy
Mara, fo' da Lawd, wot kin you do but mar'y Marse Clancy arter wot happen
wen he come fer you an' ole missus?"

Mara made no reply, but sat with her face buried in her hands.

"Aun' Sheba, this matter is all settled and settled honorably, too, as far
as it can be. Captain Bodine has released Mara in words of the utmost
kindness."

"Well, now, he am quality!" ejaculated Aun' Sheba in hearty appreciation.

"But," sobbed Mara, "it just breaks my heart--"

"No, honey lam', it won' break you heart, nor his nuther. Doin' what's
right an' nat'ral an 'cordin to de Lawd doan break no hearts. It's de oder
ting wot dus in de long run, an' mar'in' gen'ly means a long run. You'd
hab ter begin by lyin' 'miscuously, as I tole Marse Clancy, an no good ud
come ob dat."

"Well, it is all settled as far as Mara is concerned," said Mrs. Bodine,
with a little laugh, "and there need be no 'miscuous lying. How Mr. Clancy
will get out of his scrape remains to be seen."

"Well, I tells you how he git out. I'se keep an eye on dat
limpsey-slimpsey runaway as well as on de pots an kittles, an she's gwine
ter run away agin from dis yere town jes as soon as de way open. Dat'll be
de las you see ob her."

"She's had a hard time of it, poor thing," said Mrs. Bodine, charitably,
"and we can't expect her to feel about Charleston as we do. The question
is, will Mr. Clancy feel obliged to follow her eventually?"

"I tink he's 'bliged not ter."

"Well, Aun' Sheba, I'm glad you have such strong religious ideas of
marriage."

"I'se feerd I ain't bery 'ligious 'bout anyting. I put myself on 'bation
while ago, but I kin'er forgits 'bout dat 'bation, I hab so much to tink
ob."

Mrs. Bodine began to laugh as she said, "I thought you were a sensible
woman, Aun' Sheba."

"Yes, I know. I did tole Marse Clancy dat I hab hoss-sense."

"Then you were lying 'miscuously."

"How dat, missus?"

"Why, Aun' Sheba, do you think you have been hiding your light under a
bushel basket all this time? Old Hannah--poor old Hannah! I wonder what
has become of her--she and Mara have told me how you do for the sick and
poor. Don't you know that the Bible says, 'Inasmuch as ye have done it
unto one of the least of these My brethren ye have done it unto Me'?
You've sent me nice things more than once. I'm 'one of the least of
these.' You don't do these things to be seen of men."

"No, nor I doesn't do it kase I specs ter git anoder string to my harp
bime-by. I does it kase I'se kin'er sorry fer de po' critters."

"Exactly. That is why He fed the hungry and healed the sick. He was sorry
for them. Come, Aun' Sheba, don't be foolish any more."

"I feels it kin'er sumptious ter be so shuah."

"Now, Aun' Sheba, you _are_ doing wrong," said Mrs. Bodine, gravely and
earnestly. "The Lord has been very patient with you--more so than I would
be. If I had made you promises and you kept saying, 'I don't feel sure
about them,' I'd give you a piece of my mind."

"Lor, missus, how you puts it! Is it dataway?"

"Certainly."

"Well, den, I jes takes myse'f off 'bation. I'se gwine ter hang onter de
promises. Lawd, Lawd, missus, I s'posed I'd hab ter groan so dey heah me
all ober de square fo' I could be 'ligious."

"Oh, dear, hear it now! Such groaning makes every one else groan. The
voice that God hears is the wish of the heart and not a hullabaloo. How
shall we get through the night if this keeps up? If you'll help me to my
quarters I'll try to get what rest I can."

When Aun' Sheba returned, Mara insisted on her lying down till she was
called. "I shall do something in this time of trouble except make
trouble," said the girl resolutely, and she would take no denial.

Clancy found that his friend needed much attention, which he gave until
warned by his own symptoms that he must see a physician. He found George
lying on a blanket by a small fire, and that all the others were either
sleeping or resting. "I declare I hate to waken Dr. Devoe," he said, "but
I feel as if I were going to be ill."

George felt the hand of his friend, and sprang up, saying, "I'll waken Dr.
Devoe with or without your leave."

After a brief examination the physician said:

"Why did you not come to me before?"

Clancy explained that he had been caring for a sick friend, to which the
doctor replied testily:

"I don't believe he was half so ill as you are. Well, you must obey me now
as long as you are rational, and I fear that won't be very long." And he
promptly placed Clancy under the open part of the awning, which was the
sleeping-room for the men by night, and general living-room by day. Having
given his patient a remedy, he returned and said, "Here you are, too,
Houghton, up and around. Do you wish to break down also?"

"You forget, doctor, that I had some sleep last night. Feel my pulse."

"Slightly febrile, but then I know what's the matter with _you_. If I were
not so old and bald-headed I'd cut out a slow coach like you. I'm half a
mind to try it as it is."

"Go ahead, doctor. You'll be only one more. How many are there now, do you
suppose?"

"I know how many there should be after what I've seen. But bah! you
Northern young chaps lay siege to a girl at such long range that she
surrenders to some other fellow before you find it out."

"Would you have me call her now, shake her awake, and propose?" asked
George, irritably.

"No, I'd have you fight shy and give me a chance. There, you are too far
gone for a jest. What are you up for?"

"Because I'm not sleepy, for one thing, and I think some one should be on
guard. What's more, I don't like the way those negroes are performing.
They seem to be going wild."

"Yes, and they are doing a lot of harm to the sick and feeble. If they
don't stop at midnight I'll find out whether there's any law in this city.
I say, Houghton, since you are going to sit up, give Clancy this medicine
every half hour, and call me at twelve." He then wrapped himself in a
blanket and was asleep in a minute.

If George had been wide awake before, the doctor's raillery so increased
his impatience and worry that for a time he paced up and down before the
fire. Was he faint-hearted in wooing Ella? Suppose some bold Southerner
should forestall him? The thought was torture; yet it seemed ungenerous
and unkind to seek her openly while she was in a sense his guest and
dependent upon him. "Well," he growled at last, "I won't do it. When she
first spoke to me she said I was a gentleman, and I'll be hanged if I
don't remain one and take my chances."

He threw himself down again by the fire with his back to the awning.
Before very long he heard a light step. Turning hastily he saw Ella's
startled face by the light of the fire.

"Oh, Mr. Houghton! is it you? Pardon me for disturbing you," and she was
about to retreat.

He was on his feet instantly and said, "You will only disturb me by going
away, that is--I mean if you are not tired and sleepy."

"There is such a dreadful noise I can't sleep any more," she replied,
hesitating a moment.

"Suppose--you might help me watch a little while then," he stammered.

"I'll watch if you will rest."

"Certainly;" and he brought her a chair and then reclined near her feet.

"But I meant that you should sleep."

"I only promised to rest."

"But you need sleep if any one does. I've had a good nap and feel much
better. How late is it?"

"Nearly eleven, and time for Clancy's medicine." When he returned he told
her about Clancy.

"Poor fellow!" she said, sympathetically,

"Clancy seems to have trouble on his mind. We all have enough, but he more
than his share."

"I should think you would be worried out of your senses with so many
people to think about and care for. No wonder you can't sleep."

"Thoughts of _people_ do not keep me awake, and I am glad to say my
father's resting quietly. He and your father are born soldiers."

"Your father's to blame for my making a fool of myself at the
supper-table. He spoke so kindly and sympathetically, and I was so tired
and silly that I couldn't stand anything. Then you looked reproachfully at
me because I couldn't eat all you sent--enough to make Uncle Sheba ill."

"Now, Miss Bodine, I didn't look at you reproachfully."

"Who's that snoring over there?"

"Dr. Devoe. My facial muscles must have been shaken out of shape to have
given you so false an impression. Anyhow, I seem to have driven you away,
and I've been miserable ever since."

"Why, Mr. Houghton! The idea of letting a tired girl's weakness disturb
you! You will soon be as ill as Mr. Clancy."

"I'm only stating a fact."

"Well, facts are very queer nowadays. I suppose we shouldn't be surprised
at anything."

"Yet you are a continual surprise to me, Miss Bodine. Do you think I've
forgotten anything since you carried Mrs. Bodine out of her tottering
house?"

"Oh, Mr. Houghton! my memory goes further back than that. I can see a tall
man leap into a sinking boat and--and--oh, why did you sink with it? My
father's agony over the thought that you had died for him turned his hair
white."

"I couldn't help sinking, Miss Bodine. If it hadn't been for that blasted
pole--Well, perhaps it saved all our lives, for my boat was overloaded as
it was. But don't think about that affair. It might have turned out
worse."

"It might indeed. If you knew how we all felt when we thought you were
drowned!"

"Well, I thank God that I happened to be near."

"Happened! You seemed to have a presentiment of evil, and kept near."

"I was facing a certainty of evil then, Miss Bodine. I expected to go
North in a few days, and feared I might not see you again. There, I
shouldn't speak so now. My memory goes back further than yours. I remember
a blue-eyed stranger who drew near to me when I was facing a street bully,
as if she meditated becoming my protector. I saw a noble woman's soul in
those clear eyes, and she said 'I was a gentleman.' I must remember her
words now with might and main. All that I ask is that you won't let any
one else--that you will give me a chance when in your own home. Your
father has--"

"Mr. Houghton, is it not time for Mr. Clancy's medicine?"

"Yes, and past time," he replied, ruefully.

When he returned she said demurely, "I think I can promise what you ask.
Now surely, since your mind is at rest, you can sleep. I will watch."

"I'm too happy to sleep."

"How absurd!"

"Oh, the shock this morning did not disturb me half so much as to see
those fellows around with their devouring eyes."

"Mr. Houghton, don't you think that if we asked them, those colored people
would be less loud? It must be dreadful for those who are sick, and there
are so many."

"They will be brutal indeed if they don't yield to you," and he led the
way to the nearest centre of disturbance.

"Oh, see! Mr. Houghton, there's our old Hannah."

He saw an old woman swaying back and forth, her lips moving spasmodically,
but uttering no sound. The crowd watched her in a sort of breathless
suspense. Suddenly she burst out with the hymn, "Oh, Raslin' Jacob! let me
go," and the throng joined in the mighty refrain. The women swayed to and
fro violently, all going together in a sort of rhythmic motion, meantime
clapping their hands in an ecstasy of emotion. A man dropped to the earth
"converted." He yelled rather than prayed for mercy, then suddenly swooned
and became rigid as a corpse. Others, both men and women, were prostrated
also; and to bring as many as possible into this helpless condition
appeared to be the general object as far as any purpose was manifested.
The crowd seemed to regard poor, demented Hannah as inspired, for a space
was kept clear before her. When she began to sway in her weird fashion,
and her face to twitch, she was the priestess and the oracle. The hymn she
began was taken up first by two self-appointed exhorters, then by all.

"Oh, Hannah!" cried Ella, when her voice could be heard, "do stop and come
away. You are harming the sick and the injured."

The old woman started, and on seeing the girl rushed forward, crying,
"Down on you knees. Now you chance. Pray, bruders, pray, sistahs. De
quakes neber stop till a white man or woman converted--converted till dere
proud heads in de bery dus'"--and she sought to force Ella on her knees.

In a moment Ella was surrounded by the worshippers, whose groans, shouts,
prayers and ejaculations created Pandemonium. The girl was terrified, but
George encircled her with his arm, and thundered, "Give way. I'll brain
the first man who stops us."

Awed for an instant they yielded to George's vigorous push out and away,
and then returned to their former wild indulgence of religious frenzy.

For several paces after their escape he seemed to forget that his arm was
still around Ella, nor did she remind him. Suddenly he removed it, saying,
"Pardon me, Miss Bodine, I am that enraged with those lunatics that I'd
like to give them something to howl about."

"Please be calm, Mr. Houghton," said Ella gently. "I'm not afraid now, and
should not have been afraid at all. I know these people better than you
do. They wouldn't have harmed us, and I fear they don't know any better.
It's only their looks, tones, and words that seem blasphemous, that are
frightful. It was I who took you there and I should have known better."

"Oh, Ella!--beg pardon--Miss Bodine, what a savage a man would be if you
couldn't manage him!"

"Then promise you won't go near those people any more."

"You are too brave a girl to ask that when you learn that Dr. Devoe is
going to tackle them with the police if they don't quiet down by
midnight."

They spoke in low tones as he again held her hand, while they picked their
way among the extemporized shelters and uneasy refugees in the square. As
they approached their own quarters she faltered, "I'm not very brave
tonight, and I have long since learned that you are only too brave."

He paused, still retaining her hand as he said, "What a strange scene this
is! How wild and unearthly those sounds now seem! How odd it all is--our
homes yonder deserted and we here under the stars. It's stranger than any
dream I ever had, yet if it were a dream I would not wish to wake with
you--"

"Mr. Houghton, what's that, that, _that?_"

Far oft in the southeast there were sounds like faint explosions which
grew rapidly louder. Instinctively he drew her nearer, and saw her face
grow white even in the faint radiance of the stars.

"Oh!" she gasped shuddering as the deep roar of the coming earthquake
began. Then his arm drew her close, and she hid her face on his breast.

"Ella," he said solemnly, "I love you, God knows if these words were my
last I would still say I love you."

The mighty roar gradually deepened, and with it blended the cry of
thousands; the earth quivered and swayed, then the thunder passed on,
accompanied by sounds like the distant crash of falling buildings.

George kissed the bowed head and whispered, "There, it's over and we are
safe."

"Oh, thank God! you were with me!" she sobbed.

"May I not be with you always, Ella?"

"God grant it! Oh, George, George, I would have leaped after you into the
water if they had not held me. How could I do without you now?"

"Come, my brave little wife, come with me to my father and reassure him."

"George," cried Mr. Houghton.

"We are here," he answered, drawing aside the screen.

"We?"

"Yes, Ella and I. That last shock has rather hastened matters."

"Ella, my dear child! Truly God is bringing good out of evil;" and he took
the girl into his arms. Then he added, "You'll forgive me and be my own
dear daughter?"

"Yes, Mr. Houghton. You'll find I am rich in love if nothing else."

"Ah! Ella dear, the world seems going to pieces, and my wealth with it,
but love only grows more real and more precious."

"My father's calling me;" and kissing him a hasty good-by she vanished.

Miss Ainsley again ran shrieking out, calling upon Clancy, but Dr. Devoe
met her and drew her away from his muttering, half-conscious patient. When
she became sufficiently quiet he told her that Clancy was dangerously ill,
and that nothing must be said or done to excite him. This seemed to her
only another proof of general disaster, and, in almost abject tones, she
begged, "Oh, doctor, make me sleep till--my father will surely come
to-morrow, and then I can get away."

Her entreaty was so loud that even Mara could not help hearing her. The
physician rather contemptuously thought that it would be better for all if
she were quiet, and gave the anodyne. So far from feeling sympathy for
Clancy she was almost vindictive toward him for having failed her.

Fear, uncontrolled, becomes one of the most debasing of the emotions. It
can lead to panic even among soldiers with arms in their hands; sailors
will trample on women and children in their blind rush for the boats; men
will even deny their convictions, their faith, and cringe to brutal power;
crimes the most vile are committed from fear, and fear had virtually
obliterated womanhood in Miss Ainsley's soul. She was in a mood to accept
any conditions for the assurance of safety, and she gave not a thought to
any one or anything that offered no help. With the roar of the earthquake
still in her ears, and in the dark midnight she knew there was no help, no
way of escape, and so with the impulse of the shipwrecked who break into
the spirit room she besought the opiate which could at least bring
oblivion. Her eyes, which could be so beautiful, had the wild, hunted look
of an animal, and her form, usually grace itself, writhed into
distortions. Her demoralization under the long-continued terror was
complete, and all were glad when she became unconscious and could be
hidden from sight. As Aun' Sheba made her way to her own household she
grunted, "A lun'tic out ob a 'sylem wouldn' mar'y dat gal if he seed wot I
seed."



CHAPTER XLVIII

GOOD BROUGHT OUT OF EVIL


There were brave spirits and Heaven-sustained souls in the little camp
which falls under our immediate observation; and outward calm was soon
restored, yet it was long before any one could sleep again. Although she
had trembled like a leaf, Mara had not left her watch by Mrs. Hunter, nor
had Aun' Sheba till some moments after the shock. Then Mrs. Bodine joined
the girl with soothing and reassuring words. She did not tell Mara,
however, of Clancy's illness, feeling that no additional burden should be
imposed until it was necessary. Mr. and Mrs. Willoughby sat together by
the fire; so also did Ella, with her head upon her father's breast, as she
told of the great joy which robbed the night of so much of its terror. Old
Tobe, with Sam and Jube, crouched on the opposite side of the low,
flickering blaze, which lighted up in odd effect the white wool and
wrinkled visage of the aged negro. In some respects he and Mr. Houghton
were alike. The scenes they were passing through toned down their fiery
domineering spirits into resignation and fortitude.

George was restless, strong and inspired rather than awed by the recent
events. He knew that Ella's eyes followed him as he came and went from his
father's bedside, waited on Clancy, and made himself useful in other ways.
A man would be craven indeed who could not be brave under such
circumstances.

Beyond his camp, scenes impossible to describe were taking place. White
clergymen were going from group to group, and from shelter to shelter,
speaking words of cheer and hope. Physicians were busy among those who
needed physical aid; husbands soothing wives, and parents their sobbing
children.

On the edge of the square near the street the groans and cries of a woman
began to draw the restless people who always run to any point of
disturbance.

"George," shouted Dr. Devoe. The young man responded promptly. "Keep this
crowd away--the vulgar wretches!"

A woman of refinement and wealth, who with her husband had clung to their
adjacent home until the last shock occurred, was in the throes of
childbirth.

No one could stand a moment before the young man's words and aspect, and
in a few moments he secured all the privacy possible.

Eventually he bore the almost swooning mother to the inner room under the
awning, where a bed had been made for her, while Mrs. Bodine and Mrs.
Willoughby cared for the child. The husband was so prostrated by anxiety
for his wife as to be almost helpless himself.

Among a certain class of the negroes, to religious excitement was added
the wild terror of the earthquake, and they were simply becoming frantic
in their actions and expressions. George, Dr. Devoe, Mr. Willoughby and
some others went to the large group of which old Hannah and two great
burly exhorters were the inspiration. They commanded and implored them to
be more quiet, but received only insolent replies.

"We'se savin' de city which de wickedness ob you white folks is
'stroyin'," one of the shepherds shouted; "an' we'se gwine to cry loud and
mighty till mawnin'."

At this moment, George espied Uncle Sheba, who certainly appeared, in the
general craze, to have a sense of his besetting sin; for he was yelling at
the top of his lungs, "I'se gwine ter wuck in de mawnin'."

Suddenly there burst through the crowd an apparition before which he
quailed; his jaw dropped and his howl degenerated into a groan. Aun' Sheba
had heard and recognized his voice, and she went through the throng like a
puffing tug through driftwood. "Mister Buggone," she said, with the
sternness of fate, "ef yer doan stop yer noise you'se 'lowance stop heah
and now. Yer'll hab ter wuck shuah or starbe, fer if yer doan come wid me
now yer neber come agin."

Uncle Sheba went away with her, meek as a lamb.

The others were too frenzied even to notice this little scene. George, Mr.
Willoughby, and some others were with difficulty restrained by the cooler
Dr. Devoe. "Go with me to the station-house," he said. "In behalf of my
patients I will demand that this nuisance be abated."

The officer on duty returned with them, backed by a resolute body of men.
The two exhorters were told to take their choice between silence and the
station-house. There is usually a good deal of selfish method in such
leaders' madness, and they sullenly retired. Poor, demented Hannah was
bundled away, and comparative quiet restored through the square.

The weary hours dragged on; the uneasy earth caused no further alarms that
night. At last the dawn was again greeted with thankfulness beyond words.

There was no paper that morning, for compositors and pressmen could not be
induced to work, and at first there was a feeling of great uncertainty and
depression.

Mrs. Bodine's spirit was again like a cork on the surface. At breakfast
she remarked, "We had an awful time last night, but here we are still
alive, and able to take some nourishment. I expect the Northern papers
will say that this wicked and rebellious old city is getting its deserts;
but we shall soon have help and cheer from our Southern friends."

"I think you will find yourself mistaken, Mrs. Bodine, about the North,"
said George.

"Oh. you!" cried the old lady, laughing, "you look at the South through a
pair of blue eyes. I reckon we shall have to send you and Ella North as
missionaries."

George in his pride and happiness could not keep his secret, and had been
congratulated with honest heartiness. He therefore responded gayly, "When
I take Ella North even earthquakes won't keep young fellows from coming
here to see if any more like her are left."

Again Ella remarked, nodding significantly, "Time will cure him, Cousin
Sophy."

Nevertheless the illness of Mrs. Hunter and Clancy, and the precarious
condition of the young mother, cast a gloom over the little party.
Clancy's pulse indicated great exhaustion, and he only recognized people
when he was spoken to. Dr. Devoe prohibited any one from going near him
except himself and George. Miss Ainsley uttered no protest at this. She
truly felt that after the events of the night all was over between them.
In a sort of sullen shame she said little and longed only for the hour
which would bring her father and escape.

Mr. Ainsley arrived during the morning, and George entertained him
hospitably. His daughter clung to him, imploring him to take her away at
the first possible moment. He was much distressed at Clancy's condition,
and offered to take him North also; but Dr. Devoe said authoritatively,
"He is too ill to be moved or even spoken to." Mrs. Willoughby and her
husband were determined that Miss Ainsley should not give her father a
false impression, and spoke freely of Clancy's great exertions. "Yes,"
added Dr. Devoe, "I feel guilty myself. He should have been taken in hand
yesterday afternoon and compelled to be quiet in mind and body, but I had
so many to look after, and he seemed the embodiment of energy and
fearlessness. Well, it's too late now, and we must do the best we can for
him."

That day Mr. Ainsley and his daughter left the city. She gave vivid
descriptions of the catastrophe at the North, but her friends remarked
upon her fine reserve and modesty in speaking of her personal experiences.
Her faultless veneer was soon restored, and we suppose she is pursuing her
career of getting the most and best out of life after a fashion which has
too many imitators.

Poor Mara's name was significant of her experience of that day and others
which followed. In the morning she learned of Clancy's illness, and it was
eventually found that her voice and touch had a soothing effect possessed
by no other.

We have followed our characters through the climax of their experiences,
and need only to suggest what further happened. They, with others,
realized more fully the conditions of their lot and the extent of the
disaster.

With an ever-increasing courage and fortitude the people faced the
situation, and resolved to build anew the fortunes of their city.
Communication with the outside world permitted messages of sympathy and
far more. In the Sunday morning issue of the "News and Courier" the
following significant editorial appeared: "There is no break in the broad
line of brotherly love throughout the United States. All hearts in this
mighty country throb in unison. In the North as in the South, in the West
as in the East, there is a sincere sorrow at the calamity which has
befallen Charleston, and there is shining evidence of a beneficent desire
to give the suffering people the assistance of both act and word."

Boston, the former headquarters of the abolitionists, and the veterans of
the Grand Army vied with Southern cities and ex-Confederates in a
spontaneous outpouring of sympathy and help. The hearts of a proud people
were at last subdued, but it was by hands stretched out in fraternal love
and not to strike.

In the city squares and other places of refuge there still continued sad
and awful experiences, one of which was graphically described by the city
editor of the journal already quoted.

At nearly midnight on Friday there had been a cessation in the shocks for
about twenty-four hours, and the people were resting quietly. Then came a
convulsion second only in severity to the first one which had wrought such
widespread ruin. "It had scarcely died away," to quote from the account
referred to, "before there rose through the still night air in the
direction of the public squares and parks the now familiar but still
terrible cries of thousands of wailing voices, united in one vast chorus,
expressive only of the utmost human misery. For a while this sound was
heard above all other sounds, suggesting vividly to the mind what has been
told by survivors of the scene that follows the sinking of a great ship at
sea, when its living freight is left struggling with the waves; and this
impression was heightened to the distant auditor by the gradual diminution
in the volume of the cries, as though voice after voice were being
silenced, as life after life were quenched beneath the tossing waves."

Dr. Devoe advised Mr. Houghton to leave the city, but he said, "No, I
shall remain with my children; I shall share in the fortunes of the city
which is henceforth to be my home."

Mrs. Hunter did not long survive, but she became quiet and rational before
her end. To Mara's imploring words she replied calmly, "No, my time is
near; and I feel that it is best. I belong to the old order of things, and
have lingered too long already. I may have been mistaken in my feelings,
and wrong in my enmities, but I had great provocation. Now I forgive as I
hope to be forgiven. God grant, dear child, that you may have brighter
days."

A sad little company followed her to the cemetery, and as they laid her to
rest, they also spread over her memory the mantle of a broad, loving
charity.

For a time it seemed as if brighter days could never come to Mara, for
Clancy's life flickered like the light of an expiring candle. At last the
fever broke and he became rational, the pure, open air conducing to his
recovery. He was very weak and his convalescence was slow, measuring the
mental and physical strain through which he had passed. Never had a poor
mortal more faithful watchers, never was life wooed back from the dark
shore by more devoted love. "Live, live," was ever the language of Mara's
eyes, and happiness gave him the power to live.

Captain Bodine carried out both the letter and spirit of his note. While
he was very gentle, he was also very firm with Mara, expressing only
paternal affection and also exerting paternal authority. At proper times
he told her to go and rest in tones which she obeyed.

One day when Clancy was able to sit up a little, he took her aside and
said, "Mara, you and Mr. Clancy are in one sense comparatively alone in
the world, although you have many stanch friends. His health, almost his
life, requires the faithful, watchful care which you can best give, and
which you are entitled to give. It is his wish and mine, also Cousin
Sophy's, that you should be married at once."

Again she gave him that luminous look which he so well remembered--an
expression so full of homage, affection and sympathy that for the first
time tears came into his eyes. "There, my child," he said, "you have
repaid me, you have compensated me for everything. There is no need of
words"--and he turned hastily away.

When the sun was near the horizon Mara was married, not in old St.
Michael's, as her mother had been, but in the large tent which of late had
sheltered her lover. Her pastor employed the old sacred words to which her
mother had responded; and Captain Bodine, with the impress of calm,
victorious manhood on his brow, gave her away in the presence of the
little group of those who knew her best and loved her most. We may well
believe from that time forth her gentleness and happiness would change the
meaning of her name.

At last all ventured back to their homes. Mr. Houghton was so averse to
parting with Ella that he equalled George in his impatience for the
marriage. Aun' Sheba, who supervised preparations for the wedding
breakfast, declared, "It am jes jolly ter see old Marse Houghton. As fer
Missus Bodine, it pears as if she'd go off de han'l."

Then father and son took the blue-eyed bride to the North on a visit, in
what George characterized as a "sort of triumphal procession."

The cabins of Aun' Sheba and Kern Watson were restored to a condition
better than their former state, but Uncle Sheba discovered that the good
old times of his wife's easy tolerance were gone. She put the case
plainly, "Mr. Buggone, de Bible says dat dem dat doesn't wuck mus'n't eat,
an' I'se gwine ter stick ter de Bible troo tick an' tin. You'se able to
wuck as I be, an' you'se 'lowance now 'pends on you'se wuck."

We have already seen that Uncle Sheba was one of those philosophers who
always submit to the inevitable.

Late one September night the moonbeams shone under the moss-draped
branches of a live oak in a cemetery. They brought out in snowy whiteness
a small headstone on which were engraved the words, "Yes, Vilet." Sitting
by the grave and leaning his head against the stone was Kern Watson, but
his calm, strong face was turned heavenward where his little girl waited
for him "shuah."

THE END





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