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´╗┐Title: The Choir Invisible
Author: Allen, James Lane
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Choir Invisible" ***

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Project Gutenburg/Make A Difference Day Project 1999.



THE CHOIR INVISIBLE

by James Lane Allen



"O may I join the choir invisible
Of those immortal dead who live again
In minds made better by their presence. . .
. . . feed pure love,
Beget the smiles that have no cruelty,
Be the sweet presence of a good diffused
And in diffusion evermore intense.
So shall I join the choir invisible
Whose music is the gladness of the world."

GEORGE ELIOT

THE middle of a fragrant afternoon of May in the green wilderness of
Kentucky: the year 1795.

High overhead ridges of many-peaked cloud--the gleaming, wandering Alps of
the blue ether; outstretched far below, the warming bosom of the earth,
throbbing with the hope of maternity. Two spirits abroad in the air,
encountering each other and passing into one: the spirit of scentless spring
left by melting snows and the spirit of scented summer born with the
earliest buds. The road through the forest one of those wagon-tracks that
were being opened from the clearings of the settlers, and that wound along
beneath trees of which those now seen in Kentucky are the unworthy
survivors--oaks and walnuts, maples and elms, centuries old, gnarled,
massive, drooping, majestic, through whose arches the sun hurled down only
some solitary spear of gold, and over whose gray-mossed roots some cold
brook crept in silence; with here and there billowy open spaces of wild rye,
buffalo grass, and clover on which the light fell in sheets of radiance;
with other spots so dim that for ages no shoot had sprung from the deep
black mould; blown to and fro across this wagon-road, odours of ivy,
pennyroyal and mint, mingled with the fragrance of the wild grape; flitting
to and fro across it, as low as the violet-beds, as high as the sycamores,
unnumbered kinds of birds, some of which like the paroquet are long since
vanished.

Down it now there came in a drowsy amble an old white bob-tail horse, his
polished coat shining like silver when he crossed an expanse of sunlight,
fading into spectral paleness when he passed under the rayless trees; his
foretop floating like a snowy plume in the light wind, his unshod feet,
half-covered by the fetlocks, stepping noiselessly over the loamy earth; the
rims of his nostrils expanding like flexible ebony; and in his eyes that
look of peace which is never seen but in those of petted animals.

He had on an old bridle with knots of blue violets hanging, down at his
ears; over his broad back was spread a blanket of buffalo-skin; on this
rested a worn black side-saddle, and sitting in the saddle was a girl, whom
every young man of the town not far away knew to be Amy Falconer, and whom
many an old pioneer dreamed of when he fell asleep beside his rifle and his
hunting-knife in his lonely cabin of the wilderness. She was perhaps the
first beautiful girl of aristocratic birth ever seen in Kentucky, and the
first of the famous train of those who for a hundred years since have
wrecked or saved the lives of the men.

Her pink calico dress, newly starched and ironed, had looked so pretty to
her when she had started from home, that she had not been able to bear the
thought of wearing over it this lovely afternoon her faded, mud-stained
riding-skirt; and it was so short that it showed, resting against the
saddle-skirt, her little feet loosely fitted into new bronze morocco shoes.
On her hands she had drawn white half-hand mittens of home-knit; and on her
head she wore an enormous white scoop-bonnet, lined with pink and tied under
her chin in a huge muslin bow. Her face, hidden away under the
pink-and-white shadow, showed such hints of pearl and rose that it seemed
carved from the inner surface of a sea-shell. Her eyes were gray, almond
shaped, rather wide apart, with an expression changeful and playful, but
withal rather shrewd and hard; her light brown hair, as fine as unspun silk,
was parted over her brow and drawn simply back behind her ears; and the lips
of her little mouth curved against each other, fresh, velvet-like, smiling.

On she rode down the avenue of the primeval woods; and Nature seemed
arranged to salute her as some imperial presence; with the waving of a
hundred green boughs above on each side; with a hundred floating odours;
with the swift play of nimble forms up and down the boles of trees; and all
the sweet confusion of innumerable melodies.

Then one of those trifles happened that contain the history of our lives, as
a drop of dew draws into itself the majesty and solemnity of the heavens.

>From the pommel of the side-saddle there dangled a heavy roll of home-spun
linen, which she was taking to town to her aunt's merchant as barter for
queen's-ware pitchers; and behind this roll of linen, fastened to a ring
under the seat of the saddle, was swung a bundle tied up in a large
blue-and-white checked cotton neckkerchief. Whenever she fidgeted in the
saddle, or whenever the horse stumbled as he often did because he was clumsy
and because the road was obstructed by stumps and roots, the string by which
this bundle was tied slipped a little through the lossening knot and the
bundle hung a little lower down. Just where the wagon-trail passed out into
the broader public road leading from Lexington to Frankfort and the
travelling began to be really good, the horse caught one of his forefeet
against the loop of a root, was thrown violently forward, and the bundle
slipped noiselessly from the saddle to the earth.

She did not see it. She indignantly gathered the reins more tightly in her
hand, pushed back her bonnet, which now hung down over her eyes like the
bill of a pelican, and applied her little switch of wild cherry to the
horse's flank with such vehemence that a fly which was about to alight on
that spot went to the other side. The old horse himself--he bore the
peaceable name of William Penn--merely gave one of the comforting switches
of his bob-tail with which he brushed away the thought of any small
annoyance, and stopped a moment to nibble at the wayside cane mixed with
purple blossoming peavine.

Out of the lengthening shadows of the woods the girl and the horse passed on
toward the little town; and far behind them in the public road lay the lost
bundle.

II

IN the open square on Cheapside in Lexington there is now a bronze statue of
John Breckinridge. Not far from where it stands the pioneers a hundred years
ago had built the first log school-house of the town.

Poor old school-house, long since become scattered ashes! Poor little
backwoods academicians, driven in about sunrise, driven out toward dusk!
Poor little tired backs with nothing to lean against! Poor little bare feet
that could never reach the floor! Poor little droop-headed figures, so
sleepy in the long summer days, so afraid to fall asleep! Long, long since,
little children of the past, your backs have become straight enough,
measured on the same cool bed; sooner or later your feet, wherever
wandering, have found their resting-places in the soft earth; and all your
drooping heads have gone to sleep on the same dreamless pillow and there are
sleeping. And the young schoolmaster, who seemed exempt from frailty while
he guarded like a sentinel that lone outpost of the alphabet--he too has
long since joined the choir invisible of the immortal dead. But there is
something left of him though more than a century has passed away: something
that has wandered far down the course of time to us like the faint summer
fragrance of a young tree long since fallen dead in its wintered
forest--like a dim radiance yet travelling onward into space from an orb
turned black and cold--like an old melody, surviving on and on in the air
without any instrument, without any strings.

John Gray, the school-master. At four o'clock that afternoon and therefore
earlier than usual, he was standing on the hickory block which formed the
doorstep of the school-house, having just closed the door behind him for the
day. Down at his side, between the thumb and forefinger of one hand, hung
his big black hat, which was decorated with a tricoloured cockade, to show
that he was a member of the Democratic Society of Lexington, modelled after
the Democratic Society of Philadelphia and the Jacobin clubs of France. In
the open palm of the other lay his big silver English lever watch with a
glass case and broad black silk fob.

A young fellow of powerful build, lean, muscular; wearing simply but with
gentlemanly care a suit of black, which was relieved around his wrists and
neck by linen, snow-white and of the finest quality. In contrast with his
dress, a complexion fresh, pure, brilliant--the complexion of health and
innocence; in contrast with this complexion from above a mass of coarse
dark-red hair, cut short and loosely curling. Much physical beauty in the
head, the shape being noble, the pose full of dignity and of strength;
almost no beauty in the face itself except in the gray eyes which were
sincere, modest, grave. Yet a face not without moral loftiness and
intellectual power; rugged as a rock, but as a rock is made less rugged by a
little vine creeping over it, so his was softened by a fine network of
nerves that wrought out upon it a look of kindness; betraying the first
nature of passion, but disciplined to the higher nature of control;
youthful, but wearing those unmistakable marks of maturity which mean a
fierce early struggle against the rougher forces of the world. On the whole,
with the calm, self respecting air of one who, having thus far won in the
battle of life, has a fiercer longing for larger conflict, and whose entire
character rests on the noiseless conviction that he is a man and a
gentleman.

Deeper insight would have been needed to discover how true and earnest a
soul he was; how high a value he set on what the future had in store for him
and on what his life would be worth to himself and to others; and how,
liking rather to help himself than to be helped, he liked less to be trifled
with and least of all to be seriously thwarted.

He was thinking, as his eyes rested on the watch, that if this were one of
his ordinary days he would pursue his ordinary duties; he would go up street
to the office of Marshall and for the next hour read as many pages of law as
possible; then get his supper at his favourite tavern--the Sign of the
Spinning, Wheel--near the two locust trees; then walk out into the country
for an hour or more; then back to his room and more law until midnight by
the light of his tallow dip.

But this was not an ordinary day--being one that he had long waited for and
was destined never to forget. At dusk the evening before, the post-rider, so
tired that he had scarce strength of wind to blow his horn, had ridden into
town bringing the mail from Philadelphia; and in this mail there was great
news for him. It had kept him awake nearly all of the night before; it had
been uppermost in his mind the entire day in school. At the thought of it
now he thrust his watch into his pocket, pulled his hat resolutely over his
brow, and started toward Main Street, meaning to turn thence toward Cross
Street, now known as Broadway. On the outskirts of the town in that
direction lay the wilderness, undulating away for hundreds of miles like a
vast green robe with scarce a rift of human making.

He failed to urge his way through the throng as speedily as he may have
expected, being withheld at moments by passing acquaintances, and at others
pausing of his own choice to watch some spectacle of the street.

The feeling lay fresh upon him this afternoon that not many years back the
spot over which the town was spread had been but a hidden glade in the heart
of the beautiful, awful wilderness, with a bountiful spring bubbling up out
of the turf, and a stream winding away through the green, valley-bottom to
the bright, shady Elkhorn: a glade that for ages had been thronged by
stately-headed elk and heavy-headed bison, and therefore sought also by
unreckoned generations of soft-footed, hard eyed red hunters.  Then had come
the beginning of the end when one summer day, toward sunset, a few tired,
rugged backwoodsmen of the Anglo-Saxon race, wandering fearless and far into
the wilderness from the eastern slopes of the Blue Ridge and the
Alleghanies, had made their camp by the margin of the spring; and always
afterwards, whether by day or by night, they had dreamed of this as the land
they must conquer for their homes.  Now they had conquered it already; and
now this was the town that had been built there, with its wide streets under
big trees of the primeval woods; with a long stretch of turf on one side of
the stream for a town common; with inns and taverns in the style of those of
country England or of Virginia in the reign of George the Third; with shops
displaying the costliest merchandise of Philadelphia; with rude dwellings of
logs now giving way to others of frame and of brick; and, stretching away
from the town toward the encompassing wilderness, orderly gardens and
orchards now pink with the blossom of the peach, and fields of young maize
and wheat and flax and hemp.

As the mighty stream of migration of the Anglo-Saxon race had burst through
the jagged channels of the Alleghanies and rushed onward to the unknown,
illimitable West, it was this little town that had received one of the main
streams, whence it flowed more gently dispersed over the rich lands of the
newly created State, or passed on to the Ohio and the southern fringes of
the Lakes.  It was this that received also a vast return current of the
fearful, the disappointed, the weak, as they recoiled from the awful
frontier of backwood life and resought the peaceful Atlantic seaboard--one
of the defeated Anglo-Saxon armies of civilization.

These two far-clashing tides of the aroused, migrating race--the one flowing
westward, the other ebbing eastward--John Gray found himself noting with
deep interest as he moved through the town that afternoon a hundred years
ago; and not less keenly the unlike groups and characters thrown
dramatically together upon this crowded stage of border history.

At one point his attention was arrested by the tearful voices of women and
the weeping of little children: a company of travellers with
pack-horses--one of the caravans across the desert of the Western woods--was
moving off to return by the Wilderness Road to the old abandoned homes in
Virginia and North Carolina. Farther on, his passage was blocked by a joyous
crowd that had gathered about another caravan newly arrived--not one
traveller having perished on the way. Seated on the roots of an oak were a
group of young backwoodsmen--swarthy, lean, tall, wild and reckless of
bearing--their long rifles propped against the tree or held fondly across
the knees; the gray smoke of their pipes mingling with the gray of their
jauntily worn raccoon-skin caps; the rifts of yellow sunlight blending with
the yellow of their huntingshirts and tunics; their knives and powder-horns
fastened in the belts that girt in their gaunt waists: the heroic youthful
sinew of the old border folk. One among them, larger and handsomer than the
others, had pleased his fancy by donning more nearly the Indian dress. His
breech-clout was of dappled fawn-skin; his long thigh boots of thin
deer-hide were open at the hips, leaving exposed the clear whiteness of his
flesh; below the knees they were ornamented by a scarlet fringe tipped with
the hoofs of fawns and the spurs of the wild turkey; and in his cap he wore
the intertwined wings of the hawk and the scarlet tanager.

Under another tree in front of a tavern bearing the sign of the Virginia
arms, a group of students of William and Mary, the new aristocrats of the
West, were singing, gambling, drinking; while at intervals one of them, who
had lying open before him a copy of Tom Paine's "Age of Reason," pounded on
the table and apostrophied the liberties of Man. Once Gray paused beside a
tall pole that had been planted at a street corner and surmounted with a
liberty cap. Two young men, each wearing the tricolour cockade as he did,
were standing, there engaged in secret conversation.  As he joined them,
three other young men--Federalists--sauntered past, wearing black cockades,
with an eagle button on the left side. The six men saluted coolly.

Many another group and solitary figure he saw to remind him of the turbulent
history of the time and place.  A parson, who had been the calmest of Indian
fighters, had lost all self-control as he contended out in the road with
another parson for the use of Dr. Watts' hymns instead of the Psalms of
David. Near by, listening to them, and with a wondering eye on all he saw in
the street, stood a French priest of Bordeaux, an exile from the fury of the
avenging jacobins. There were brown flatboatmen, in weather-beaten felt
hats, just returned by the long overland trip from New Orleans and
discussing with tobacco merchants the open navigation of the Mississippi;
and as they talked, up to them hurried the inventor Edward West, who said
with excitement that if they would but step across the common to the town
branch, he would demonstrate by his own model that some day navigation would
be by steam: whereat they all laughed kindly at him for a dreamer, and went
to laugh at the action of his mimic boat, moving hither and thither over the
dammed water of the stream. Sitting on a stump apart from every one, his dog
at his feet, his rifle across his lap, an aged backwoodsman surveyed in
sorrow the civilization that had already destroyed his hunting and that was
about sending him farther west to the depths of Missouri--along with the
buffalo. His glance fell with disgust upon two old gentlemen in
knee-breeches who met and offered each other their snuff-boxes, with a deep
bow. He looked much more kindly at a crave, proud Chickasaw hunter, who
strode by with inward grief and shame, wounded by the robbery of his people.
Puritans from New England; cavaliers from Virginia; Scotch-Irish from
Pennsylvania; mild-eyed trappers and bargemen from the French hamlets of
Kaskaskia and Cahokia; wood-choppers; scouts; surveyors; swaggering
adventurers; land-lawyers; colonial burgesses,--all these mingled and
jostled, plotted and bartered, in the shops, in the streets, under the
trees.

And everywhere soldiers and officers of the Revolution--come West with their
families to search for homes, or to take possession of the grants made them
by the Government. In the course of a short walk John Gray passed men who
had been wounded in the battle of Point Pleasant; men who had waded behind
Clark through the freezing marshes of the Illinois to the storming of
Vincennes; men who had charged through flame and smoke up the side of King's
Mountain against Ferguson's Carolina loyalists; men who with chilled ardour
had let themselves be led into the massacre of the Wabash by blundering St.
Clair; men who with wild thrilling pulses had rushed to victory behind mad
Antony Wayne.

And the women! Some--the terrible lioness-mothers of the Western jungles who
had been used like men to fight with rifle, knife, and axe--now sat silent
in the doorways of their rough cabins, wrinkled, scarred, fierce, silent,
scornful of all advancing luxury and refinement.  Flitting gaily past them,
on their way to the dry goods stores--supplied by trains of pack-horses from
over the Alleghanies, or by pack-horse and boat down the Ohio--hurried the
wives of the officers, daintily choosing satins and ribands for a coming
ball. All this and more he noted as he passed lingeringly on. The deep
vibrations of history swept through him, arousing him as the marshalling
storm cloud, the rush of winds, and sunlight flickering into gloom kindle
the sense of the high, the mighty, the sublime.

As he was crossing the common, a number of young fellows stripped and girt
for racing--for speed greater than an Indian's saved many a life in those
days, and running was part of the regular training of the young--bounded up
to him like deer, giving a challenge: he too was very swift.  But he named
another day, impatient of the many interruptions that had already delayed
him, and with long, rapid strides he had soon passed beyond the last fields
and ranges of the town. Then he slackened his pace. Before him, a living
wall, rose the edge of the wilderness. Noting the position of the sun and
searching for a point of least resistance, he plunged in.

Soon he had to make his way through a thicket of cane some twelve feet high;
then through a jungle of wild rye, buffalo grass and briars; beyond which he
struck a narrow deertrace and followed that in its westward winding through
thinner undergrowth under the dark trees.

He was unarmed. He did not even wear a knife. But the thought rose in his
mind of how rapidly the forest also was changing its character. The Indians
were gone. Two years had passed since they had for the last time flecked the
tender green with tender blood. And the deadly wild creatures--the native
people of earth and tree--they likewise had fled from the slaughter and
starvation of their kind. A little while back and a maddened buffalo or a
wounded elk might have trodden him down and gored him to death in that
thicket and no one have ever learned his fate--as happened to many a
solitary hunter. He could not feel sure that hiding in the leaves of the
branches against which his hat sometimes brushed there did not lie the
panther, the hungrier for the fawns that had been driven from the near
coverts. A swift lowering of its head, a tense noiseless spring, its fangs
buried in his neck,--with no knife the contest would not have gone well with
him. But of deadly big game he saw no sign that day.  Once from a distant
brake he was surprised to hear the gobble of the wild turkey; and more
surprised still--and delighted--when the trail led to a twilight gloom and
coolness, and at the green margin of a little spring he saw a stag drinking.
It turned its terrified eyes upon him for an instant and then bounded away
like a gray shadow.

When he had gone about two miles, keeping his face steadily toward the sun,
he came upon evidences of a clearing: burnt and fallen timber; a field of
sprouting maize; another of young wheat; a peach orchard flushing all the
green around with its clouds of pink; beyond this a garden of vegetables;
and yet farther on, a log house.

He was hurrying on toward the house; but as he passed the garden he saw
standing in one corner, with a rake in her hand, a beautifully formed woman
in homespun, and near by a negro lad dropping garden-seed. His eyes lighted
up with pleasure; and changing his course at once, he approached and leaned
on the picket fence.

"How do you do, Mrs. Falconer?"

She turned with a cry, dropping her rake and pushing her sun-bonnet back
from her eyes.

"How unkind to frighten me!" she said, laughing as she recognized him; and
then she came over to the fence and gave him her hand--beautiful, but
hardened by work.  A faint colour had spread over her face.

"I didn't mean to frighten you," he replied, smiling at her fondly. "But I
had rapped on the fence twice. I suppose you took me for a flicker. Or you
were too busy with your gardening to hear me. Or, may be you were too deep
in your own thoughts."

"How do you happen to be out of school so early?" she asked, avoiding the
subject.

"I was through with the lessons."

"You must have hurried."

"I did."

"And is that the way you treat people's children?"

"That's the way I treated them to-day."

"And then you came straight out here?"

"As straight and fast as my legs could carry me--with a good many
interruptions."

She searched his face eagerly for a moment. Then her eyes fell and she
turned back to the seed-planting. He stood leaning over the fence with his
hat in his hand, glancing impatiently at the house.

"How can you respect yourself, to stand there idling and see me hard at
work?" she said at length, without looking, at him.

"But you do the work so well--better than I could! Besides, you are obeying
a Divine law. I have no right to keep you from doing the will of God. I
observe you as one of the daughters of Eve--under the curse of toil."

"There's no Divine command that I should plant beans. But it is my command
that Amy shall. And this is Amy's work. Aren't you willing to work for her?"
she asked, slowly raising her eyes to his face.

"I am willing to work for her, but I am not willing to do her work!" he
replied." If the queen sits quietly in the parlour, eating bread and
honey"--and he nodded, protesting, toward the house.

"The queen's not in the parlour, eating bread and honey. She has gone to
town to stay with Kitty Poythress till after the ball."

She noted how his expression instantly changed, and how, unconscious of his
own action, he shifted his face back to the direction of the town.

"Her uncle was to take her in to-morrow," she went on, still watching him,
"but no! she and Kitty must see each other to-night; and her uncle must be
sure to bring her party finery in the gig to-morrow. I'm sorry you had your
walk for nothing; but you'll stay to supper?"

"Thank you; I must go back presently."

"Didn't you expect to stay when you came?"

 He flushed and laughed in confusion.

"If you'll stay, I'll make you a johnny-cake on a new ash shingle with my
own hands."

"Thank you, I really must go back. But if there's a johnny-cake already
made, I could easily take it along."

"My johnny-cakes do not bear transportation."

"I wouldn't transport it far, you know."

"Do stay! Major Falconer will be so disappointed. He said at dinner there
were so many things he wanted to talk to you about. He has been looking for
you to come out. And, then, we have had no news for weeks. The major has
been too busy to go to town; and I!--I am as dry as one of the gourds of
Confucius."

His thoughts settled contentedly upon her once more and his face cleared.

"I can't stay to supper, but I'll keep the Indians away till the major
comes," he said. "What were you thinking of when I surprised you?"

"What was I thinking of?" She stopped working while she repeated his words
and folded her hands about the handle of the rake as if to rest awhile. A
band of her soft, shining hair, loosened by its own weight when she had bent
over to thin some seed carelessly scattered in the furrow, now fell across
her forehead. She pushed her bonnet back and stood gathering it a little
absently into its place with the tips of her fingers. Meanwhile he could see
that her eyes rested upon the edge of the wilderness. It seemed to him that
she must be thinking of that; and he noted with pain, as often before, the
contrast between her and her surroundings. From every direction the forest
appeared to be rushing in upon that perilous little reef of a clearing--that
unsheltered island of human life, newly displaying itself amid the ancient,
blood-flecked, horror-haunted sea of woods. And shipwrecked on this island,
tossed to it by one of the long tidal waves of history, there to remain in
exile from the manners, the refinement, the ease, the society to which she
had always been accustomed, this remarkable gentlewoman.

III

HE had learned a great deal about her past, and held it mirrored in his
memory.  The general picture of it rose before his eyes now, as he leaned on
the fence this pleasant afternoon in May and watched her restoring to its
place, with delicate strokes of her finger-tips, the lock of her soft,
shining hair.How could any one so fine have thriven amid conditions so
exhausting? Those hard toiling fingers, now grasping the heavy hoe, once
used to tinkle over the spinet; the small, sensitive feet, now covered with
coarse shoe-packs tied with leather thongs, once shone in rainbow hues of
satin slippers and silken hose.  A sunbonnet for the tiara of osprey plumes;
a dress spun and woven by her own hand out of her own flax, instead of the
stiff brocade; log hut for manor-house; one negro boy instead of troops of
servants: to have possessed all that, to have been brought down to all this,
and not to have been ruined by it, never to have lost distinction or been
coarsened by coarseness never to have parted with grace of manner or grace
of spirit, or been bent or broken or overclouded in character and
ideals,--it was all this that made her in his eyes a great woman, a great
lady.

He held her in such reverence that, as he caught the serious look in her
eyes at his impulsive question, he was sorry he had asked it: the last thing
he could ever have thought of doing would have been to intrude upon the
privacy of her reflections.
"What was I thinking of?"

There was a short silence and then she turned to him eagerly, brightly, with
an entire change of voice and expression--
"But the news from town--you haven't told me the news."
"Oh, there is any amount of news!" he cried, glad of a chance to retreat
from his intrusion. And he began lightly, recklessly:
"A bookbinder has opened a shop on Cross Street--a capital hand at the
business, by the name of Leischman--and he will bind books at the regular
market prices in exchange for linen rags, maple sugar, and goose-quills. I
advise you to keep an eye on your geese, if the major once takes a notion to
have his old Shakespeare and his other volumes, that had their bindings
knocked off in crossing the Alleghanies, elegantly rebound. You can tell him
also that after a squirrel-hunt in Bourbon County the farmers counted
scalps, and they numbered five thousand five hundred and eighty-nine; so
that he is not the only one who has trouble with his corn. And then you can
tell him that on the common the other day Nelson Tapp and Willis Tandy had a
fearful fight over a land-suit. Now it was Tandy and Tapp; now it was Tapp
and Tandy; but they went off at last and drowned themselves and the memory
of the suit in a bowl of sagamity.""And there is no news for me, I suppose?"

"Oh yes! I am happy to inform you that at McIllvain's you can now buy the
finest Dutch and English letter-paper, gilt, embossed, or marbled."

"That is not very important; I have no correspondents."
"Well, a saddlery has been opened by two fellows from London, England, and
you can now buy Amy a new side-saddle. She needs one."
"Nor is that! The major buys the saddles for the family."
"Well, then, as I came out on Alain Street, I passed some ladies who accused
me of being on my way here, and who impressed it upon me that I must tell
you of the last displays of women-wear: painted and velvet ribbons, I think
they said, and crepe scarfs, and chintzes and nankeens and moreens and
sarcenets, and--oh yes!-some muslinette jackets tamboured with gold and
silver.  They said we were becoming civilized--that the town would soon be
as good as Williamsburg, or Annapolis, or Philadelphia for such things.  You
see I am like my children: I remember what I don't understand."

"I understand what I must not remember! Don't tell me of those things," she
added. "They remind me of the past; they make me think of Virginia. I wear
homespun now, and am a Kentuckian.""Well, then, the Indians fired on the
Ohio packet-boat near Three Islands and killed--"

"Oh!" she said, with pain and terror, "don't tell me of that, either! It
reminds me of the present.""Well, in Holland two thousand cats have been put
into the corn-stores, to check the ravages of rats and mice," he said,
laughing.

"What is the news from France? Do be serious!"
"In New York some Frenchmen, seeing their flag insulted by Englishmen who
took it down from the liberty-cap, went upstairs to the room of an English
officer named Codd, seized his regimental coat and tore it to pieces."

"I'm glad of it! It was a very proper action!"
"But, madam, the man Codd was perfectly innocent!"
"No matter! His coat was guilty. They didn't tear him to pieces; they tore
his coat. Are there any new books at the stores?"

"A great many! I have spent part of the last three days in looking over
them. You can have new copies of your old favourites, Joseph Andrews, or
Roderick Random, or Humphrey Clinker. You can have Goldsmith and Young, and
Chesterfield and Addison. There is Don Quixote and Hudibras, Gulliver and
Hume, Paley and Butler, Hervey and Watts, Lavater and Trenck, Seneca and
Gregory, Nepos and even Aspasia Vindicated--to say nothing of Abelard and
He1oise and Thomas a Kempis. All the Voltaires have been sold, however, and
the Tom Paines went off at a rattling gait. By the way, while on the subject
of books, tell the major that we have raised five hundred dollars toward
buying books for the Transylvania Library, and that as soon as my school is
out I am to go East as a purchasing committee. What particularly interests
me is that I am going to Mount Vernon, to ask a subscription from President
Washington. Think of that! Think of my presenting myself there with my
tricoloured cockade --a Kentucky Jacobin!"
"The President may be so occupied with the plots of you Kentucky jacobins,"
she said, "that he will not feel much like supplying you with more
literature." Then she added, looking at him anxiously, " And so you are
going away?"

"I'm going, and I'm glad I'm going. I have never set eyes on a great man. It
makes my heart beat to think of it. I feel as a young Gaul might who was
going to Rome to ask Caesar for gold with which to overthrow him. Seriously,
it would be a dreadful thing for the country if a treaty should be ratified
with England.  There is not a democratic society from Boston to Charleston
that will not feel enraged with the President. You may be sure that every
patriot in Kentucky will be outraged, and that the Governor will denounce it
to the House."

"There is news from France, then--serious news?""Much, much! The National
Convention has agreed to carry into full effect the treaty of commerce
between the two Republics, and the French and American flags have been
united and suspended in the hall. The Dutch have declared the sovereignty of
the French, and French and Dutch patriots have taken St. Martin's.  The
English have declared war against the Dutch and granted letters of marque
and reprisals. There has been a complete change in the Spanish Ministry.
There has been a treaty made between France and the Grand Duke of Tuscany.
The French fleet is in the West Indies and has taken possession of
Guadeloupe.  All French emigrants in Switzerland have been ordered to remove
ten leagues from the borders of France. A hundred and fifty thousand
Austrians are hurrying down toward the Rhine, to be reinforced by fifty
thousand more."

He had run over these items with the rapidity of one who has his eye on the
map of the world, noting, the slightest change in the situation of affairs
that could affect Kentucky; and she listened eagerly like one no less
interested.

"But the treaty! The treaty! The open navigation of the Mississippi!" she
cried impatiently.
"The last news is that the treaty will certainly be concluded and the open
navigation of the Mississippi assured to us forever. The major will load his
flatboats, drift down to New Orleans, sell those Spanish fops his tobacco
for its weight in gems, buy a mustang to ride home on, and if not robbed and
murdered by the land-pirates on the way, come back to you like an enormous
bumblebee from a clover-field, his thighs literally packed with gold."

"I am so glad, so glad, so glad!"
He drew from his pockets a roll.
"Here are papers for two months back. And now I've something else to tell
you. That is one of the things I came for"

As he said this, his manner, hitherto full of humour and vivacity, turned
grave, and his voice, sinking to a lower tone, became charged with
sweetness. It was the voice in which one refined and sincere soul confides
to another refined and sincere soul the secret of some new happiness that
has come to it.

But noticing the negro lad, who had paused in his work several paces off and
stood watching them, he said to her:

"May I have a drink?"
She turned to the negro:"Go to the spring-house and bring some water."The
lad moved away, smiling to himself and shaking his head.

"He has broken all my pitchers," she added. "To-day I had to send my last
roll of linen to town by Amy to buy more queen's-ware. The moss will grow on
the bucket before he gets back."
When the boy was out of hearing, she turned again to him:

"What is it? Tell me quickly."

"I have had news from Philadelphia. The case is at last decided in favour of
the heirs, and I come at once into possession of my share. It may be eight
or ten thousand dollars." His voice trembled a little despite himself.

She took his hands in hers with a warm, close pressure, and tears of joy
sprang to her eyes.
The whole of his bare, bleak life was known to her; its half-starved
beginning; its early merciless buffeting; the upheaval of vast circumstance
in the revolutionary history of the times by which he had again and again
been thrown back upon his own undefended strength; and stealthily following
him from place to place, always closing around him, always seeking to
strangle him, or to poison him in some vital spot, that most silent, subtle
serpent of life--Poverty. Knowing this, and knowing also the man he had
become, she would in secret sometimes liken him to one of those rare unions
of delicacy and hardihood which in the world of wild flowers Nature refuses
to bring forth except from the cranny of a cold rock. Its home is the
battle-field of black roaring tempests; the red lightnings play among its
roots ; all night seamless snow-drifts are woven around its heart; no bee
ever rises to it from the valley below where the green spring is kneeling;
no morning bird ever soars past it with observant song; but in due time,
with unswerving obedience to a law of beauty unfolding from within, it sets
forth its perfect leaves and strains its steadfast face toward the sun.

These paltry thousands! She realized that they would lift from him the
burden of debts that he had assumed, and give him, without further waiting,
the libertyof his powers and the opportunities of the world."God bless you!"
She said with trembling lips. "It makes me happier than it does you. No one
else in the whole world is as glad as I am."Silence fell upon them. Both
were thinking, but in very different ways--of the changes that would now
take place in his life.

"Do you know," he said at length, looking into her face with the quietest
smile, that if this lawsuit had gone against me it would have been the first
great defeat of my life? Sorely as I have struggled, I have yet to encounter
that common myth of weak men, an insurmountable barrier. The imperfection of
our lives-- what is it but the imperfection of our planning and doing?
Shattered ideals--what hand shatters them but one's own? I declare to you at
this moment, standing here in the clear light of my own past, that I firmly
believe I shall be what I will, that I shall have what I want, and that I
shall now go on rearing the structure of my life, to the last detail, just
as I have long planned it."She did not answer, but stood looking at him with
a new pity in her eyes. After all, was he so young, so untaught by the
world?  Had a little prosperity already puffed him up?
"There will be this difference, of course," he added. "Hitherto I have had
to build slowly; henceforth there will be no delay, now that I am free to
lay hold upon the material. But, my dear friend, I cannot bear to think of
my life as a structure to be successfully reared without settling at once
how it is to be lighted from within. And, therefore, I have come to speak to
you about--the lamp."
As he said this a solemn beauty flashed out upon his face. As though the
outer curtain of his nature had been drawn up, she now gazed into the depths
and confidences.

Her head dropped quickly on her bosom; and she drew slightly back, as though
to escape pain or danger."You must know how long I have loved Amy," he
continued in a tone of calmness. "I have not spoken sooner, because the
circumstances of my life made it necessary for me to wait; and now I wish to
ask her to become my wife, and I am here to beg your consent first."

For some time she did not answer. The slip of an elm grew beside the picket
fence, and she stood passing her fingers over the topmost leaves, with her
head lowered so that he could not see her face. At length she said in a
voice he could hardly hear:

"I have feared for a long time that this would come; but I have never been
able to get ready for it, and I am not ready now."

Neither spoke for some time longer; only his expression changed, and he
looked over at her with a compassionate, amused gravity, as though he meant
to be very patient with her opposition. On her part, she was thinking--Is it
possible that the first use he will make of his new liberty is to forge the
chain of a new slavery? Is this some weak spot now to be fully revealed in
his character? Is this the drain in the bottom of the lake that will in the
end bring its high, clear level down to mud and stagnant shallows and a
swarm of stinging insects? At last she spoke, but with difficulty:"I have
known for a year that you were interested in Amy. You could not have been
here so much without our seeing that. But let me ask you one question: Have
you ever thought that I wished you to marry her?"
"I have always beheld in you an unmasked enemy," he replied, smiling.

"Then I can go on," she said. "But I feel as though never in my life have I
done a thing that is as near being familiar and unwomanly. Nevertheless, for
your sake--for hers--for ours--it is my plain, hard duty to ask you whether
you are sure--even if you should have her consent--that my niece is the
woman you ought to marry." And she lifted to him her clear, calm eyes,
prematurely old in the experience of life.

"I am sure," he answered with the readiness of one who has foreseen the
question.

The negro boy approached with a bucket of cold crystal water, and he drank a
big gourd full of it gratefully.

"You can go and kindle the fire in the kitchen," she said to the negro. "It
is nearly time to be getting supper. I will be in by and by."

"You have been with her so much!" she continued to Gray after another
interval of embarrassment. "And you know, or you ought to know, her
disposition, her tastes, her ways and views of life. Is she the companion
you need now? will always need?"

"I have been much with her," he replied, taking up her words with humorous
gravity. "But I have never studied her as I have studied law. I have never
cross-examined her for a witness, or prosecuted her as an attorney, or
pronounced sentence on her is a judge. I am her advocate--and I am ready to
defend her now--even to you!"
"John!--""I love her--that is all there is of it!"

"Suppose you wait a little longer."

"I have waited too long already from necessity." It was on his lips to add:
"I have gone too far with her; it is too late to retreat;" but he checked
himself.

"If I should feel, then, that I must withhold my consent?"

He grew serious, and after the silence of a few moments, he said with great
respect:"I should be sorry; but--" and then he forbore.

"If Major Falconer should withhold his?"
He shook his head, and set his lips, turning his face away through courtesy.
"It would make no difference!  Nothing would make any difference!" and then
another silence followed.
"I suppose all this would be considered the proof that you loved her," she
began at length, despairingly, "but even love is not enough to begin with;
much less is it enough to live by."

"You don't appreciate her! You don't do her justice!" he cried rudely. "But
perhaps no woman can ever understand why a man loves any other woman!"
"I am not thinking of why you love my niece," she replied, with a curl of
pride in her nostril and a flash of anger in her eyes. "I am thinking of why
you will cease to love her, and why you will both be unhappy if you marry
her. It is not my duty to analyze your affections; it is my duty to take
care of her welfare.""My dear friend," he cried, his face aglow with
impatient enthusiasm --"my dear friend" and he suddenly lifted her hand to
his lips, "I have but one anxiety in the whole matter: will you cease to be
my friend if I act in opposition to your wishes?"
"Should I cease to be your friend because you had made a mistake? It is not
to me you are unkind," she answered, quickly withdrawing her hand. Spots of
the palest rose appeared on her cheeks, and she bent over and picked up the
rake, and began to work.

"I must be going," he said awkwardly; "it is getting late."

"Yes," she said; "it is getting late."

Still he lingered, swinging his hat in his hand, ill at case, with his face
set hard away.
"Is that all you have to say to me?" he asked at length, wheeling and
looking her steadily and fondly in the eyes.

"That is all," she replied, controlling the quiver in her voice; but then
letting herself go a little, she added with slow distinctness:
"You might remember this: some women in marrying demand all and give all:
with good men they are the happy; with base men they are the brokenhearted.
Some demand everything and give little: with weak men they are tyrants; with
strong men they are the divorced. Some demand little and give all: with
congenial souls they are already in heaven; with uncongenial they are soon
in their graves. Some give little and demand little: they are the heartless,
and they bring neither the joy of life nor the peace of death."
"And which of these is Amy?" he said, after a minute of reflection. "And
which of the men am I?"
"Don't ask her to marry you until you find out both," she answered.

She watched him as he strode away from her across the clearing, with a look
in her eyes that she knew nothing of--watched him, motionless, until his
tall, black figure passed from sight behind the green sunlit wall of the
wilderness. What undisciplined, unawakened strength there was in him! how
far such a stride as that would carry him on in life! It was like the tread
of one of his own forefathers in Cromwell's unconquer-able, hymn-singing
armies. She loved to think of him as holding his descent from a line so
pious and so grim: it served to account to her for the quality of stern,
spiritual soldiership that still seemed to be the mastering trait of his
nature. How long would it remain so, was the question that she had often
asked of herself. A fighter in the world he would always be--she felt sure
of that; nor was it necessary to look into his past to obtain this
assurance; one had but to look into his eyes. Moreover, she had little doubt
that with a temper so steadily bent on conflict, he would never suffer
defeat where his own utmost strength was all that was needed to conquer. But
as he grew older, and the world in part conquered him as it conquers so many
of us, would he go into his later battles as he had entered his earlier
ones--to the measure of a sacred chant? Beneath the sweat and wounds of all
his victories would he carry the white lustre of conscience, burning
untarnished in him to the end?

It was this religious purity of his nature and his life, resting upon him as
a mantle visible to all eyes but invisible to him, that had, as she
believed, attracted her to him so powerfully. On that uncouth border of
Western civilization, to which they had both been cast, he was a little
lonely in his way, she in hers; and this fact had drawn them somewhat
together. He was a scholar, she a reader; that too had formed a bond. He had
been much at their home as lover of her niece, and this intimacy had given
her a good chance to take his wearing measure as a man. But over and above
all other things, it was the effect of the unfallen in him, of the highest
keeping itself above assault, of his first youth never yet brushed away as a
bloom, that constituted to her his distinction among the men that she had
known. It served to place him in contrast with the colonial Virginia society
of her remembrance--a society in which even the minds of the clergy were not
like a lawn scentless with the dew on it, but like a lawn parched by the
afternoon sun and full of hot odours. It kept him aloof from the loose ways
of the young backwoodsmen and aristocrats of the town, with whom otherwise
he closely mingled. It gave her the right, she thought, to indulge a
friendship for him such as she had never felt for any other man; and in this
friendship it made it easier for her to overlook a great deal that was rude
in him, headstrong, overbearing.

When, this afternoon, he had asked her what she was thinking of when he
surprised her with his visit, she had not replied: she could not have avowed
even to herself that she was thinking of such things as these: that having,
for some years, drawn out a hard, dull life in that settlement of
pathfinders, trappers, woodchoppers, hunters, Indian fighters, surveyors;
having afterwards, with little interest, watched them, one by one, as the
earliest types of civilization followed,--the merchant, the lawyer, the
priest, the preacher of the Gospel, the soldiers and officers of the
Revolution,--at last, through all the wilderness, as it now fondly seemed to
her, she saw shining the white light of his long absent figure, bringing a
new melody to the woods, a new meaning to her life, and putting an end to
all her desire ever to return to the old society beyond the mountains.

His figure passed out of sight, and she turned and walked sorrowfully to the
cabin, from the low rugged chimney of which a pale blue smoke now rose into
the twilight air. She chid herself that she had confronted the declaration
of his purpose to marry her niece with so little spirit, such faulty tact.
She had long known that he would ask this; she had long gotten ready what
she would say; but in the struggle between their wills, she had been
unaccountably embarrassed, she had blundered, and he had left rather
strengthened than weakened in his determination.

But she must prevent the marriage; her mind was more resolute than ever as
to that.
Slowly she reached the doorstep of the cabin, a roughly hewn log, and
turning, stood there with her bonnet in her hand, her white figure outlined
before the doorway, slender and still.
The sun had set. Night was rushing on over the awful land. The wolf-dog, in
his kennel behind the house, rose, shook himself at his chain, and uttered a
long howl that reached away to the dark woods--the darker for the vast
pulsing yellow light that waved behind them in the west like a gorgeous soft
aerial fan. As the echoes died out from the peach orchard came the song of a
robin, calling for love and rest.
Then from another direction across the clearing another sound reached her:
the careless whistle of the major, returning from his day's work in the
field. When she heard that, her face took on the expression that a woman
sometimes comes to wear when she has accepted what life has brought her
although it has brought her nothing for which she cares; and her lips opened
with an unconscious sigh of weariness--the weariness that has been gathering
weariness for years and that runs on in weariness through the future.

Later, she was kneeling before the red logs of the fireplace with one hand
shielding her delicate face from the blistering heat; in the other holding
the shingle on which richly made and carefully shaped was the bread of
Indian maize that he liked. She did not rise until she had placed it where
it would be perfectly browned; otherwise he would have been disappointed and
the evening would have been spoiled.

IV

JOHN GRAY did not return to town by his straight course through the forest,
but followed the winding wagon-road at a slow, meditative gait. He was
always thoughtful after he had been with Mrs. Falconer; he was unusually
thoughtful now; and the gathering hush of night, the holy expectancy of
stars, a flock of white clouds lying at rest low on the green sky like sheep
in some far uplifted meadow, the freshness of the woods soon to be hung with
dew,--all these melted into his mood as notes from many instruments blend in
the ear.
But he was soon aroused in an unexpected way. When he reached the place
where the wagon-road passed out into the broader public road leading from
Lexington to Frankfort, he came near stumbling over a large, loose bundle,
tied in a blue and white neckerchief.
Plainly it had been lost and plainly it was his duty to discover if possible
to whom it belonged. He carried it to one side of the road and began to
examine its contents: a wide, white lace tucker, two fine cambric
handkerchiefs, two pairs of India cotton hose, two pairs of silk hose, two
thin muslin handkerchiefs, a pair of long kid gloves,--straw colour,--a pair
of white kid shoes, a pale-blue silk coat, a thin, white striped muslin
dress.The articles were not marked. Whose could they be? Not Amy's: Mrs.
Falconer had expressly said that the major was to bring her finery to town
in the gig the next day. They might have been dropped by some girl or by
some family servant, riding into town; he knew several young ladies, to any
one of whom they might belong. He would inquire in the morning; and
meantime, he would leave the bundle at the office of the printer, where lost
articles were commonly kept until they could be advertised in the paper, and
called for by their owners.
He replaced the things, and carefully retied the ends of the kerchief. It
was dark when he reached town, and he went straight to his room and locked
the bundle in his closet. Then he hurried to his tavern, where his supper
had to be especially cooked for him, it being past the early hour of the
pioneer evening meal. While he sat out under the tree at the door, waiting
and impatiently thinking that he would go to see Amy as soon as he could
despatch it, the tavern-keeper came out to say that some members of the
Democratic Society had been looking for him. Later on, these returned. A
meeting of the Society had been called for that night, to consider news
brought by the postrider the day previous and to prepare advices for the
Philadelphia Society against the postrider's return: as secretary, he was
wanted at the proceedings. He begged hard to be excused, but he was the
scholar, the scribe; no one would take his place.
When the meeting ended, the hour was past for seeing Amy. He went to his
room and read law with flickering concentration of mind till near midnight.
Then he snuffed out his candle, undressed, and stretched himself along the
edge of his bed.

It was hard and coarse.  The room itself was the single one that formed the
ruder sort of pioneer cabin. The floor was the earth itself, covered here
and there with the skins of wild animals; the walls but logs, poorly
plastered. From a row of pegs driven into one of these hung his clothes--not
many. The antlers of a stag over the doorway held his rifle, his
hunting-belt, and his hat. A swinging shelf displayed a few books, being
eagerly added to as he could bitterly afford it--with a copy of Paley, lent
by the Reverend James Moore, the dreamy, saintlike, flute-playing Episcopal
parson of the town. In the middle of the room a round table of his own
vigorous carpentry stood on a panther skin; and on this lay some copy books
in which he had just set new copies for his children; a handful of
goosequills to be fashioned into pens for them; the proceedings of the
Democratic Society, freshly added to this evening; copies of the Kentucky
Gazette containing essays by the political leaders of the day on the
separation of Kentucky from the Union and the opening of the Mississippi to
its growing commerce--among them some of his own, stately and academic,
signed "Cato the Younger." Lying open on the table lay his Bible; after law,
he always read a little in that; and to-night he had reread one of his
favourite chapters of St.Paul: that wherein the great, calm, victorious
soldier of the spirit surveys the history of his trials, imprisonments,
beatings. In one corner was set a three-cornered cupboard containing his
underwear, his new cossack boots, and a few precious things that had been
his mother's: her teacup and saucer, her prayer-book.  It was in this closet
that he had put the lost bundle.

He had hardly stretched himself along the edge of his bed before he began to
think of this.
Every complete man embraces some of the qualities of a woman, for Nature
does not mean that sex shall be more than a partial separation of one common
humanity; otherwise we should be too much divided to be companionable. And
it is these womanly qualities that not only endow a man with his insight
into the other sex, but that enable him to bestow a certain feminine
supervision upon his own affairs when no actual female has them in charge.
If he marries, this inner helpmeet behaves in unlike ways toward the newly
reigning usurper; sometimes giving up peaceably, at others remaining her
life-long critic--reluctant but irremovable. If many a wife did but realize
that she is perpetually observed not only by the eyes of a pardoning husband
but by the eyes of another woman hidden away in the depths of his being, she
would do many things differently and not do some things at all.

The invisible slip of a woman in Gray now began to question him regarding
the bundle. Would not those delicate, beautiful things be ruined, thus put
away in his closet? He got up, took the bundle out, laid it on his table,
untied the kerchief, lifted carefully off the white muslin dress and the
blue silk coat, and started with them toward two empty pegs on the wall. He
never closed the door of his cabin if the night was fine. It stood open now
and a light wind blew the soft fabrics against his body and limbs, so that
they seemed to fold themselves about him, to cling to him. He disengaged
them reluctantly--apologetically.

Then he lay down again. But now the dress on the wall fascinated him. The
moonlight bathed it, the wind swayed it. This was the first time that a
woman's garments had ever hung in his room. He welcomed the mere accident of
their presence as though it possessed a forerunning intelligence, as though
it were the annunciation of his approaching change of life. And so laughing
to himself, and under the spell of a growing fancy, he got up again and took
the little white shoes and set them on the table in the moonlight--on the
open Bible and the speech of St.Paul--and then went back, and lay looking at
them and dreaming--looking at them and dreaming.

His thoughts passed meantime like a shining flock of white doves to Amy,
hovering about her. They stole onward to the time when she would be his
wife; when lying thus, he would wake in the night and see her dress on the
wall and feel her head on his bosom; when her little shoes might stand on
his open Bible, if they chose, and the satin instep of her bare foot be
folded in the hard hollow of his.

He uttered a deep, voiceless, impassioned outcry that she might not die
young nor he die young; that the struggles and hardships of life, now
seeming to be ended, might never begirt him or her so closely again; that
they might grow peacefully old together.
To-morrow then, he would see her; no, not tomorrow; it was long past
midnight now.
He got down on his bare knees beside the bed with his face buried in his
hands and said his prayers.

And then lying outstretched with his head resting on his folded hands, the
moonlight streaming through the window and lighting up his dark-red curls
and falling on his face and neck and chest, the cool south wind blowing down
his warm limbs, his eyes opening and closing in religious purity on the
dress, and his mind opening and closing on the visions of his future, he
fell asleep.
V

WHEN he awoke late, he stretched his big arms drowsily out before his face
with a gesture like that of a swimmer parting the water: he was in truth
making his way out of a fathomless, moonlit sea of dreams to the shores of
reality. Broad daylight startled him with its sheer blinding revelation of
the material world, as the foot of a swimmer, long used to the yielding
pavements of the ocean, touches with surprise the first rock and sand.

He sprang up, bathed, dressed, and stepped out into the crystalline
freshness of the morning. He was glowing with his exercise, at peace with
himself and with all men, and so strong in the exuberance of his manhood
that he felt he could have leaped over into the east, shouldered the sun,
and run gaily, impatiently, with it up the sky. How could he wait to see Amy
until it went up its long slow way and then down again to its setting? A
powerful young lion may some time have appeared thus at daybreak on the edge
of a jungle and measured the stretches of sand to be crossed before he could
reach an oasis where memory told him was the lurking-place of love.

It was still early. The first smoke curled upward from the chimneys of the
town; the melodious tinkle of bells reached his ear as the cows passed from
the milking to the outlying ranges deep in their wild verdure. Even as he
stood surveying the scene, along the path which ran close to his cabin came
a bare-headed, nutbrown pioneer girl, whose close-fitting dress of white
homespun revealed the rounded outlines of her figure. She had gathered up
the skirt which was short, to keep it from the tops of the wet weeds. Her
bare, beautiful feet were pink with the cold dew. Forgotten, her slow fat
cows had passed on far ahead; for at her side, wooing her with drooping
lashes while the earth was still flushed with the morn, strolled a young
Indian fighter, swarthy, lean tall, wild. His long thigh boots of thin
deer-hide, open at the hips, were ornamented with a scarlet fringe and
rattled musically with the hoofs of fawns and the spurs of the wild turkey;
his gray racoonskin cap was adorned with the wings of the hawk and the
scarlet tanager.

The magnificent young, warrior lifted his cap to the school-master with a
quiet laugh; and the girl smiled at him and shook a warning finger to remind
him he was not to betray them. He smiled back with a deprecating gesture to
signify that he could be trusted. He would have liked it better if he could
have said more plainly that he too had the same occupation now; and as he
gazed after them, lingering along the path side by side, the long-stifled
cravings of his heart rose to his unworldly, passionate eyes: he all but
wished that Amy also milked the cows at early morning and drove them out to
pasture.

When he went to his breakfast at the tavern, one of the young Williamsburg
aristocrats was already there, pretending to eat; and hovering about the
table, brisk to appease his demands, the daughter of the taverner: she as
ruddy as a hollyhock and gaily flaunting her head from side to side with the
pleasure of denying him everything but his food, yet meaning to kiss him
when twilight came--once, and then to run.

Truly, it seemed that this day was to be given up to much pairing: as be
thought it rightly should be and that without delay. When he took his seat
in the school-room and looked out upon the children, they had never seemed
so small, so pitiful. It struck him that Nature is cruel not to fit us for
love and marriage as soon as we are born--cruel to make us wait twenty or
thirty years before she lets us really begin to live.  He looked with eyes
more full of pity than usual at blear-eyed, delicate little Jennie, as to
whom he could never tell whether it was the multiplication-table that made
her deathly sick, or sickness that kept her from multiplying. His eye lit
upon a wee, chubby-cheeked urchin on the end of a high, hard bench, and he
fell to counting how many ages must pass before that unsuspicious grub would
grow his palpitating wings of flame.  He felt like making them a little
speech and telling them how happy he was, and how happy they would all be
when they got old enough to deserve it.

And as for the lessons that day, what difference could it make whether ideas
sprouted or did not sprout in those useless brains? He answered all the hard
questions himself; and, indeed, so sunny and exhilarating was the weather of
his discipline that little Jennie, seeing how the rays fell and the wind
lay, gave up the multiplication-table altogether and fell to drawing
tomahawks.

A remarkable mixture of human life there was in Gray's school. There were
the native little Kentuckians, born in the wilderness--the first wild, hardy
generation of the new people; and there were little folks from Virginia,
from Tennessee, from North Carolina, and from Pennsylvania and other
sources, huddled together, some uncouth, some gentle-born, and all starting
out to be formed into the men and women of Kentucky.
They had their strange, sad, heroic games and pastimes under his guidance.
Two little girls would be driving the cows home about dusk; three little
boys would play Indian and capture them and carry them off; the husbands of
the little girls would form a party to the rescue; the prisoners would drop
pieces of their dresses along the way; and then at a certain point of the
woods--it being the dead of night now and the little girls being bound to a
tree, and the Indians having fallen asleep beside their smouldering
campfires--the rescuers would rush in and there would be whoops and shrieks
and the taking of scalps and a happy return. Or some settlers would be shut
up in their fort. The only water to be had was from a spring outside the
walls, and around this the enemy skulked in the corn and grass. But their
husbands and sweethearts must not perish of thirst. So, with a prayer, a
tear, a final embrace, the little women marched out through the gates to the
spring in the very teeth of death and brought back water in their wooden
dinner-buckets.
Or, when the boys would become men with contests of running and pitching
quoits and wrestling, the girls would play wives and have a quilting, in a
house of green alder-bushes, or be capped and wrinkled grandmothers sitting
beside imaginary spinning-wheels and smoking imaginary pipes.

Sometimes it was not Indian warfare but civil strife.  One morning as many
as three Daniel Boones appeared on the playground at the same moment; and at
once there was a dreadful fight to ascertain which was the genuine Daniel.
This being decided, the spurious Daniels submitted to be: the one, Simon
Kenton; the other, General George Rogers Clark.

And there was another game of history--more practical in its bearings--which
he had not taught them, but which they had taught him; they had played it
with him that very morning.
When he had stepped across the open to the school, he found that the older
boys, having formed themselves into a garrison for the defence of the
smaller boys and girls, had barricaded the door and barred and manned the
wooden windows: the schoolhouse had suddenly become a frontier station; they
were the pioneers; he was the invading Indians--let him attack them if he
dared! He did dare and that at once; for he knew that otherwise there would
be no school that day or as long as the white race on the inside remained
unconquered. So had ensued a rough-and-tumble scrimmage for fifteen minutes,
during which the babies within wailed aloud with real terror of the battle,
and he received some real knocks and whacks and punches through the
loop-holes of the stockade: the end being arrived at when the schoolhouse
door, by a terrible wrench from the outside, was torn entirely off its
wooden hinges; and the victory being attributed--as an Indian victory always
was in those days--to the overwhelming numbers of the enemy.

With such an opening of the day, the academic influence over childhood may
soon be restored to forcible supremacy but will awaken little zest. Gray was
glad therefore on all accounts that this happened to be the day on which he
had promised to tell them of the battle of the Blue Licks. Thirteen years
before and forty miles away that most dreadful of all massacres had taken
place; and in the town were many mothers who still wept for their sons, many
widows who still dreamed of their young husbands, fallen that beautiful,
fatal August day beneath the oaks and the cedars, or floating down the
red-dyed river. All the morning he could see the expectation of this story
in their faces: a pair of distant, clearest eyes would be furtively lifted
to his, then quickly dropped; or another pair more steadily directed at him
through the backwoods loop-hole of two stockade fingers.

At noon, then, having dismissed the smaller ones for their big recess, he
was standing amid the eager upturned faces of the others--bareheaded under
the brilliant sky of May. He had chosen the bank of the Town Fork, where it
crossed the common, as a place in which he should be freest from
interruption and best able to make his description of the battle-field well
understood. This stream flows unseen beneath the streets of the city now
with scarce rent enough to wash out its grimy channel; but then it flashed
broad and clear through the long valley of scattered cabins and orchards and
cornfields and patches of cane.

It was a hazardous experiment with the rough jewels of those little minds.
They were still rather like diamonds rolling about on the bottom of
barbarian rivers than steadily set and mounted for the uses of civilization.

He fixed his eyes upon a lad in his fifteenth year, the commandant of the
fort of the morning, who now stood at the water edge, watching him with
breathless attention.  A brave, sunny face;--a big shaggy head holding a
mind in it as clear as a sphere of rock-crystal; already heated with vast
ambition--a leader in the school, afterwards to be a leader in the
nation--Richard Johnson.

"Listen!" he cried; and when he spoke in, that tone he reduced everything
turbulent to peace. "I have brought you here to tell you of the battle of
the Blue Licks not because it was the last time, as you know, that an Indian
army ever invaded Kentucky; not because a hundred years from now or a
thousand years from now other school-boys and other teachers will be talking
of it still; not because the Kentuckians will some day assemble on the field
and set up a monument to their forefathers, your fathers and brothers; but
because there is a lesson in it for you to learn now while you are children.
A few years more and some of you boys will be old enough to fight for
Kentucky or for your country. Some of you will be common soldiers who will
have to obey the orders of your generals; some of you may be generals with
soldiers under you at the mercy of your commands. It may be worth your own
lives, it may save the lives of your soldiers, to heed this lesson now and
to remember it then. And all of you--whether you go into battles of that
sort or not--will have others; for the world has many kinds of fighting to
be done in it and each of you will have to do his share.  And whatever that
share may be, you will need the same character, the same virtues, to
encounter it victorious; for all battles are won in the same way, all
conquerors are alike. This lesson, then, will help each of you to win, none
of you to lose.

"Do you know what it was that brought about the awful massacre of the Blue
Licks? It was the folly of one officer.

"Let the creek here be the Licking River. The Kentuckians, some on foot and
some on horse, but all tired and disordered and hurrying along, had just
reached the bank. Over on the other side--some distance back--the Indians
were hiding in the woods and waiting.  No one knew exactly where they were;
every one knew they counted from seven hundred to a thousand. The
Kentuckians were a hundred and eighty-two. There was Boone with the famous
Boonsborough men, the very name of whom was a terror; there was Trigg with
men just as good from Harrodsburg; there was Todd, as good as either, with
the men from Lexington. More than a fourth of the whole were commissioned
officers, and more fearless men never faced an enemy. There was but one
among them whose courage had ever been doubted, and do you know what that
man did?
"After the Kentuckians had crossed the river to attack, been overpowered,
forced back to the river again, and were being shot down or cut down in the
water like helpless cattle, that man--his name was Benjamin Netherland--did
this: He was finely mounted. He had quickly recrossed the river and had
before him the open buffalo trace leading back home. About twenty other men
had crossed as quickly as he and were urging their horses toward this road.
But Netherland, having reached the opposite bank, wheeled his horse's head
toward the front of the battle, shouted and rallied the others, and sitting
there in full view and easy reach of the Indian army across the narrow
river, poured his volley into the foremost of the pursuers, who were cutting
down the Kentuckians in the river.  He covered their retreat.  He saved
their lives.

"There was another soldier among them named Aaron Reynolds. He had had a
quarrel some days before with Colonel Patterson and there was bad blood
between them. During the retreat, he was galloping toward the ford. The
Indians were close behind. But as he ran, he came upon Colonel Patterson,
who had been wounded and, now exhausted, had fallen behind his comrades.
Reynolds sprang from his horse, helped the officer to mount, saw him escape,
and took his poor chance on foot. For this he fell into the hands of the
Indians.

"That is the kind of men of whom that little army of a hundred and
eighty-two was made up--the oak forest of Kentucky.
"And yet, when they had reached the river in this pursuit and some twenty of
the officers had come out before the ranks to hold a council of war and the
wisest and the oldest were urging caution or delay, one of
them--McGary--suddenly waved his hat in the air, spurred his horse into the
river, and shouted:

"'Let all who are not cowards follow me!'

"They all followed; and then followed also the shame of defeat, the awful
massacre, the sorrow that lasts among us still, and the loss to Kentucky of
many a gallant young life that had helped to shape her destiny in the
nation.

"Some day perhaps some historian will write it down that the Kentuckians
followed McGary because no man among them could endure such a taunt. Do not
believe him. No man among them even thought of the taunt: it had no meaning.
They followed him because they were too loyal to desert him and those who
went with him in his folly. Your fathers always stood together and fought
together as one man, or Kentucky would never have been conquered; and in no
battle of all the many that they ever fought did they ever leave a comrade
to perish because he had made a mistake or was in the wrong.

"This, then, is your lesson from the battle of Blue Licks: Never go into a
battle merely to show that you are not a coward: that of itself shows what a
coward you are.

"Do not misunderstand me! whether you be men or women, you will never do
anything in the world without courage. It is the greatest quality of the
mind--next to honor. It is your king. But the king must always have a good
cause. Many a good king has perished in a bad one; and this noblest virtue
of courage has perhaps ruined more of us than any other that we possess. You
know what character the old kings used always to have at their courts. I
have told you a great deal about him. It was the Fool. Do you know what
personage it is that Courage, the King, is so apt to have in the Court of
the Mind? It is the Fool also. Lay these words away; you will understand
them better when you are older and you will need to understand them very
well. Then also you will know what I mean when I say to you this morning
that the battle of the Blue Licks was the work of the Fool, jesting with the
King."

He had gone to the field himself one Saturday not long before, walking
thoughtfully over it. He had had with him two of the Lexington militia who,
in the battle, had been near poor Todd, their colonel, while fighting like a
lion to the last and bleeding from many wounds.  The recollection of it all
was very clear now, very poignant: the bright winding river, there
broadening at its ford; the wild and lonely aspect of the country round
about. On the farther bank the long lofty ridge of rock, trodden and licked
bare of vegetation for ages by the countless passing buffalo; blackened by
rain and sun; only the more desolate for a few dwarfish cedars and other
timber scant and dreary to the eye. Encircling this hill in somewhat the
shape of a horseshoe, a deep ravine heavily wooded and rank with grass and
underbrush. The Kentuckians, disorderly foot and horse, rushing in
foolhardiness to the top of this uncovered expanse of rock; the Indians,
twice, thrice, their number, engirdling its base, ringing them round with
hidden death. The whole tragedy repossessed his imagination and his
emotions. His face had grown pale, his voice took the measure and cadence of
an old-time minstrel's chant, his nervous fingers should have been able to
reach out and strike the chords of a harp.With uplifted finger he was going
on to impress them with another lesson: that in the battles which would be
sure to await them, they must be warned by this error of their fathers never
to be over-hasty or over-confident, never to go forward without knowing the
nature of the ground they were to tread, or throw themselves into a struggle
without measuring the force of the enemy. He was doing this when a child
came skipping joyously across the common, and pushing her way up to him
through the circle of his listeners, handed him a note. He read it, and in
an instant the great battle, hills, river, horse, rider, shrieks, groans,
all vanished from his mind as silently as a puff of white smoke from a
distant cannon.

For a while he stood with his eyes fixed upon the paper, so absorbed as not
to note the surprise that had fallen upon the children. At length merely
saying, "I shall have to tell you the rest some other day," he walked
rapidly across the common in the direction from which the little messenger
had come.

A few minutes later he stood at the door of Father Poythress, the Methodist
minister, asking for Amy. But she and Kitty had ridden away and would not
return till night. Leaving word that he would come to see her in the
evening, he turned away.

The children were scattered: there could be no more of the battle that day.
But it was half an hour yet before his duties would recommence at the
school. As he walked slowly along debating with himself how he should employ
the time, a thought struck him; he hastened to the office of one of many
agents for the locating and selling of Kentucky lands, and spent the
interval in determining the titles to several tracts near town--an intricate
matter in those times. But he found one farm, the part of an older military
grant of the French and Indian wars, to which the title was unmistakably
direct.

As soon as his school was out, he went to look at this property again, now
that he was thinking of buying it. He knew it very well already, his walks
having often brought him into its deep majestic woods; and he penetrated at
once to an open knoll sloping toward the west and threw himself down on the
deep green turf with the freedom of ownership.

VI

YES, this property would suit him; it would suit Amy. It was near town; it
was not far from Major Falconer's. He could build his house on the hill-top
where he was lying. At the foot of it, out of its limestone caverns, swelled
a bountiful spring. As he listened he could hear the water of the branch
that ran winding away from it toward the Elkhorn. That would be a pleasant
sound when he sat with her in their doorway of summer evenings. On that
southern slope he would plant his peach orchard, and he would have a
vineyard. On this side Amy could have her garden, have her flowers. Sloping
down from the front of the house to the branch would be their lawn, after he
had cleared away everything but a few of the noblest old trees: under one of
them, covered with a vine that fell in long green cascades from its summit
to the ground, he would arrange a wild-grape swing for her, to make good the
loss of the one she now had a" Major Falconer's.

Thus, out of one detail after another, he constructed the whole vision of
the future, with the swiftness of desire, the unerring thoughtfulness of
love; and, having transformed the wilderness into his home, he feasted on
his banquet of ideas, his rich red wine of hopes and plans.

One of the subtlest, most saddening effects of the entire absence of
possessions is the inevitable shrinkage of nature that must be undergone by
those who have nothing to own. When a man, by some misfortune, has suddenly
suffered the loss of his hands, much of the bewilderment and consternation
that quickly follow have their origin in the thought that he never again
shall be able to grasp. To his astonishment, he finds that no small part of
his range of mental activity and sense of power was involved in that
exercise alone. He has not lost merely his hands; much of his inner being
has been stricken into disuse.

But the hand itself is only the rudest type of the universal necessity that
pervades us to take hold. The body is furnished with two; the mind, the
heart, the spirit--who shall number the invisible, the countless hands of
these? All growth, all strength, all uplift, all power to rise in the world
and to remain arisen, comes from the myriad hold we have taken upon higher
surrounding realities.

Some time, wandering in a thinned wood, you may have happened upon an old
vine, the seed of which had long ago been dropped and had sprouted in an
open spot where there was no timber. Every May, in response to Nature's
joyful bidding that it yet shall rise, the vine has loosed the thousand
tendrils of its hope, those long, green, delicate fingers searching the
empty air. Every December you may see these turned stiff and brown, and
wound about themselves like spirals or knotted like the claw of a frozen
bird. Year after year the vine has grown only at the head, remaining
empty-handed; and the head itself, not being lifted always higher by
anything the hands have seized, has but moved hither and thither, back and
forth, like the head of a wounded snake in a path. Thus every summer you may
see the vine, fallen back and coiled upon itself, and piled up before you
like a low green mound, its own tomb; in winter a black heap, its own ruins.
So, it often is with the poorest, who live on at the head, remaining
empty-handed; fallen in and coiled back upon themselves, their own
inescapable tombs, their own unavertible ruins.
The prospect of having what to him was wealth had instantly bestowed upon
John Gray the liberation of his strength. It had untied the hands of his
idle powers; and the first thing he had reached fiercely out to grasp was
Amy--his share in the possession of women; the second thing was land--his
share in the possession of the earth. With these at the start, the one
unshakable under his foot, the other inseparable from his side, he had no
doubt that he should rise in the world and lay hold by steady degrees upon
all that he should care to have. Naturally now these two blent far on and
inseparably in the thoughts of one whose temperament doomed him always to be
planning and striving for the future.

The last rays of the sun touched the summit of the knoll where he was lying.
Its setting was with great majesty and repose, depth after depth of cloud
opening inward as toward the presence of the infinite peace.  The boughs of
the trees overhead were in blossom; there were blue and white wild-flowers
at his feet. As he looked about him, he said to himself in his solemn way
that the long hard winter of his youth had ended; the springtime of his
manhood was turning green like the woods.

With this night came his betrothal. For years he had looked forward to that
as the highest white mountain peak of his life. As he drew near it now, his
thoughts made a pathway for his feet, covering it as with a fresh fall of
snow. Complete tenderness overcame him as he beheld Amy in this new sacred
relation; a look of religious reverence for her filled his eyes. He asked
himself what he had ever done to deserve all this.Perhaps it is the
instinctive trait of most of us to seek an explanation for any great
happiness as we are always prone to discuss the causes of our adversity.
Accordingly, and in accord with our differing points of view of the
universe, we declare of our joy that it is the gift of God to us despite our
shortcomings and our transgressions; or that it is our blind share of things
tossed out impersonally to us by the blind operation of the chances of life;
or that it is the clearest strictest logic of our own being and doing--the
natural vintage of our own grapes.

Of all these, the one that most deeply touches the heart is the faith, that
a God above who alone knows and judges aright, still loves and has sent a
blessing. To such a believer the heavens seem to have opened above his head,
the Divine to have descended and returned; and left alone in the possession
of his joy, he lifts his softened eyes to the Light, the Life, the Love,
that has always guided him, always filled him, never forgotten him.

This stark audacity of faith was the schoolmaster's. It belonged to him
through the Covenanter blood of his English forefathers and through his
Scotch mother; but it had surrounded him also in the burning spiritual
heroism of the time, when men wandered through the Western wilderness, girt
as with camel's hair and fed as on locusts, but carrying from cabin to
cabin, from post to post, through darkness and snow and storm the lonely
banner of the Christ and preaching the gospel of everlasting peace to those
who had never known any peace on earth. So that all his thoughts were linked
with the eternal; he had threaded the labyrinth of life, evermore awestruck
with its immensities and its mysteries; in his ear, he could plainly hear
immortality sounding like a muffled bell across a sea, now near, now farther
away, according as he was in danger or in safety. Therefore, his sudden
prosperity--Amy--marriage--happiness--all these meant to him that Providence
was blessing him.

In the depth of the wood it had grown dark. With all his thoughts of her
sounding like the low notes of a cathedral organ, he rose and walked slowly
back to town. He did not care for his supper; he did not wish to speak with
any other person; the rude, coarse banter of the taverns and the streets
would in some way throw a stain on her. Luckily he reached his room
unaccosted; and then with care but without vanity having dressed himself in
his best, he took his way to the house of Father Poythress.

VII

HE was kept waiting for some time. More than once he heard in the next room
the sounds of smothered laughter and two voices, pitched in a confidential
tone: the one with persistent appeal, the other with persistent refusal. At
last there reached him the laughter of a merry agreement, and Amy entered
the room, holding Kitty Poythress by the hand.

She had been looking all day for her lost bundle. Now she was tired; worried
over the loss of her things which had been bought by her aunt at great cost
and self-sacrifice; and disappointed that she should not be able to go to
the ball on Thursday evening. It was to be the most brilliant assemblage of
the aristocratic families of the town that had ever been known in the
wilderness and the first endeavour to transplant beyond the mountains the
old social elegance of Williamsburg, Annapolis, and Richmond. Not to be seen
in the dress that Mrs. Falconer, dreaming of her own past, had deftly
made--not to have her beauty reign absolute in that scene of lights and
dance and music--it was the long, slow crucifixion of all the impulses of
her gaiety and youth.

She did not wish to see any one to-night, least of all John Gray with whom
she had had an engagement to go.  No doubt he had come to ask why she had
broken it in the note which she had sent him that morning.  She had not
given him any reason in the note; she did not intend to give him the reason
now. He would merely look at her in his grave, reproachful, exasperating way
and ask what was the difference: could she not wear some other dress? or
what great difference did it make whether she went at all? He was always
ready to take this manner of patient forbearance toward her, as though she
were one of his school children. To-night she was in no mood to have her
troubles treated as trifles or herself soothed like an infant that was
crying to be rocked.

She walked slowly into the room, dragging Kitty behind her. She let him
press the tips of her unbending fingers, pouted, smiled faintly, dropped
upon a divan by Kitty's side, strengthened her hold on Kitty's hand, and
fixed her eyes on Kitty's hair.
"Aren't you tired?" she said, giving it an absorbed caressing stroke, with a
low laugh. "I am."
"I am going to look again to-morrow, Kitty," she continued, brightening up
with a decisive air, "and the next day and the next." She kept her face
turned aside from John and did not include him in the conversation. Women
who imagine themselves far finer ladies than this child was treat a man in
this way--rarely--very rarely--say, once in the same man's lifetime.

"We are both so tired," she drowsily remarked at length, turning to John
after some further parley which he did not understand and tapping her mouth
prettily with the palm of her hand to fight away a yawn. "You know we've
been riding all day. And William Penn is at death's door with hunger. Poor
William Penn! I'm afraid he'll suffer to-night at the tavern stable. They
never take care of him and feed him as I do at home. He is so unhappy when
be is hungry; and when he is unhappy, I am. And he has to be rubbed down so
beautifully, or he doesn't shine."
The tallow candles, which had been lighted when he came, needed snuffing by
this time. The light was so dim that she could not see his face--blanched
with bewilderment and pain and anger. What she did see as she looked across
the room at him was his large black figure in an absent-minded awkward
posture and his big head held very straight and high as though it were
momentarily getting higher. He had remained simply silent. His silence
irritated her; and she knew she was treating him badly and that irritated
her with him all the more. She sent one of her light arrows at him barbed
with further mischief.

"I wish, as you go back, you would stop at the stable and see whether they
have mistreated him in any way. He takes things so hard when they don't go
to suit him," and she turned to Kitty and laughed significantly.

Then she heard him clear his throat, and in a voice shaking with passion, he
said:

"Give your orders to a servant."
A moment of awkward silence followed. She did not recognize that voice as
his or such rude, unreasonable words.
"I suppose you want to know why I broke my engagement with you," she said,
turning toward him aggrievedly and as though the subject could no longer be
waived. "But I don't think you ought to ask for the reason. You ought to
accept it without knowing it."
"I do accept it. I had never meant to ask."

He spoke as though the whole affair were not worth recalling. She could not
agree with him in this, and furthermore his manner administered a rebuke.

"Oh, don't be too indifferent," she said sarcastically, looking to Kitty for
approval. If you cared to go to the party with me, you are supposed to be
disappointed."

"I am disappointed," he replied briefly, but still with the tone of wishing
to be done with the subject. Amy rose and snuffed the candles.

"And you really don't care to know why I broke my engagement?" she
persisted, returning to her seat and seeing that she worried him.

"Not unless you should wish to tell me."

"But you should wish to know, whether I tell you or not. Suppose it were not
a good reason?"

"I hadn't supposed you'd give me a poor one."

"At least, it's serious, Kitty."

"I had never doubted it."

"It might be amusing to you."

"It could hardly be both."

"Yes; it is both. It is serious and it is amusing."

He made no reply but by an impatient gesture.

"And you really don't wish to know?"He sat silent and still.
"Then, I'll tell you: I lost the only reason I had for going," and she and
Kitty exchanged a good deal of laughter of an innocent kind.
The mood and the motive with which he had sought her made him feel that he
was being unendurably trifled with and he rose. But at the same moment Kitty
effected an escape and he and Amy were left alone.
She looked quickly at the door through which Kitty had vanished, dropped her
arms at her sides and uttered a little sigh of inexpressible relief.

"Sit down," she said, repeating her grimace at absent Kitty.

"You are not going! I want to talk to you. Isn't Kitty dreadful?"

Her voice and manner had changed. There was no one now before whom she could
act--no one to whom she could show that she could slight him, play with him.
Furthermore, she had gotten some relief from the tension of her ill humour
by what she had already said; and now she really wanted to see him. The ill
humour had not been very deep; nothing in her was very deep.  And she was
perfectly sincere again--for the moment. What does one expect?

"Don't look so solemn," she said with mock ruefulness. "You make me feel as
though you had come to baptize me, as though you had to wash away my sins.
Come here!" and she laid her hand invitingly on the chair that Kitty had
vacated at her side.

He stood bolt upright in the middle of the room, looking down at her in
silence. Then he walked slowly over and took the seat. She folded her hands
over the back of her own chair, laid her cheek softly down on them and
looked up with a smile--subdued, submissive, fond, absolutely his.

"Don't be cross!" she pleaded, with a low laugh full of maddening music to
him.

He could not speak to her or look at her for anger and shame and
disappointment; so she withdrew one hand from under her cheek and folded it
softly over the back of his--his was pressed hard down on the cap of his
knee--and took hold of his big finders one by one, caressing them.

"Don't be cross!" she pleaded. "Be good to me! I'm tired and unhappy!"

Still he would not speak, or look at her; so she put her hand back under her
cheek again, and with a patient little sigh closed her eyes as though she
had done all she could. The next moment she leaned over and let her forehead
rest on the back of his hand."You are so cross!" she said. "I don't like
you!"

"Amy!" he cried, turning fiercely on her and catching her hand cruelly in
his, "before I say anything else to you, you've got to promise me--"And then
he broke down and then went on again foolishly--,you've got to promise me
one thing now. You sha'n't treat me in one way when we are by ourselves and
go in another way when other people are present. If you love me, as you
always make me believe you do when we are alone, you must make the whole
world believe it!"

"What right would I have to make the whole world believe I loved you?" she
asked, looking at him quizzically.

"I'll give you the right!"
The rattle of china at the cupboard in the next room was heard. Amy started
up and skipped across the room to the candle on the mantelpiece.

"If Kitty does come back in here--" she said, in a disappointed undertone;
and with the snuffers between her thumb and forefinger, she snipped them
bitingly several times at the door.
The door was opened slightly, a plate was thrust through, and a laughing
voice called apologetically:

"Amy!"
"Come in here! Come in!" commanded Amy, delightedly; and as Kitty
reluctantly entered, she fixed upon her a telling look. "Upon my word," she
said, "what do you mean by treating me this way?" and catching Kitty's eye,
she made a grimace at John.

Kitty offered the candy to John with the assurance that it was made out of
that year's maple sugar in their own camp.
"He never eats sweet things and he doesn't care for trifles: bring it here!"
And the girls seated themselves busily side by side on the opposite side of
the room. Amy bent over the plate and chose the largest, beautiful white
plait."Now there'll be a long silence," she said, holding it up between her
dainty fingers and settling herself back in her chair. "But, Kitty, you
talk. And if you do leave your company again!--" She threatened Kitty
charmingly.

He was in his room again, thinking it all over. She had not known why he had
come: how could she know? To her it meant simply an ordinary call at an
unfortunate hour; for she was tired--he could see that--and worried--he
could see that also. And he!--had he ever been so solemn, so implacably in
earnest, so impatient of the playfulness which at another time he would have
found merely amusing? Why was he all at once growing so petty with her and
exacting? Little by little he went over the circumstances judicially, in an
effort to restore her to lovable supremacy over his imagination.

His imagination--for his heart was not in it. He wrought out her entire
acquittal, but it did no good. Who at any time sounds the depths of the mind
which, unlike the sea, can regain calm on the surface and remain troubled by
a tempest at the bottom? What is the name of that imperial faculty dwelling
within it which can annul the decisions of the other associated powers?
After he had taken the entire blame upon himself, his rage and
disappointment were greater than ever.
Was it nothing for her to break her engagement with him and then to follow
it up with treatment like that? Was it nothing to force Kitty into the
parlour despite the silent understanding reached by all three long ago that
whenever he called at the Poythress home, he would see her alone? Was it
nothing to take advantage of his faithfulness to her, and treat him as
though he had no spirit? Was it nothing to be shallow and silly herself?

Was it nothing--and ah! here was the trouble at the bottom of it all! Here
was the strain of conviction pressing sorely, steadily in upon him through
the tumult of his thoughts--was it nothing for her to be insincere? Did she
even know what sincerity was? Would he marry an insincere woman? Insincerity
was a growth not only ineradicable, but sure to spread over the nature as
one grew older. He knew young people over whose minds it had begun to creep
like the mere slip of a plant up a wall; old ones over whose minds it lay
like a poisonous creeper hiding a rotting ruin. To be married and sit
helplessly by and see this growth slowly sprouting outward from within,
enveloping the woman he loved, concealing her, dragging her down--an
unarrestable disease--was that to be his fate?

Was it already taking palpable possession of Amy? Could he hide his eyes any
longer to the fact that he had felt its presence in her all the time--in its
barely discoverable stages? What else could explain her conduct in allowing
him, whenever they were alone, to think that she was fond of him, and then
scattering this belief to the winds whenever others were present? Was this
what Mrs. Falconer had meant? He could never feel any doubt of Mrs.
Falconer. Merely to think of her now had the effect of instantly clearing
the whole atmosphere for his baffled, bewildered mind.So the day ended. He
had been beaten, routed, and by forces how insignificant! Bitterly he
recalled his lesson to the children that morning. What a McGary he had
been--reckless, overconfident, knowing neither theplan nor the resources of
the enemy! He recalled his boast to Mrs. Falconer the day before, that he
had never been defeated and that now he would proceed to carry out the plans
of his life without interruption.
But to-morrow evening, Amy would not be going to the ball. She would be
alone. Then he would not go. He must find out all that he wished to know--or
all that he did not.
VIII

THE evening of the ball had come at last.Not far from John's school on the
square stood another log cabin, from which another and much more splendid
light streamed out across the wilderness: this being the printing room and
book-bindery of the great Mr. John Bradford. His portrait, scrutinized now
from the distance and at the disadvantage of a hundred years, hands him down
to posterity as a bald-headed man with a seedy growth of hair sprouting
laterally from his temples, so that his ears look like little flat-boats
half hidden in little canebrakes; with mutton-chop whiskers growing far up
on the overhanging ledges of his cheek-bones and suggesting rather a daring
variety of lichen; with a long arched nose, running on its own hook in a
southwesterly direction; one eye a little higher than the other; a
protruding upper lip, as though he had behind it a set of the false teeth of
the time, which were fixed into the jaws by springs and hinges, all but
compelling a man to keep his mouth shut by main force; and a very short neck
with an overflowing jowl which weighed too heavily on his high shirt collar.

Despite his maligning portrait a foremost personage of his day, of
indispensable substance, of invaluable port: Revolutionary soldier, Indian
warrior; editor and proprietor of the Kentucky Gazette, the first newspaper
in the wilderness; binder of its first books--some of his volumes still
surviving on musty, forgotten shelves; senatorial elector; almanac-maker,
taking his ideas from the greater Mr. Franklin of Philadelphia, as Mr.
Franklin may have derived his from the still greater Mr. Jonathan Swift of
London; appointed as chairman of the board of trustees to meet the first
governor of the State when he had ridden into the town three years before
and in behalf of the people of the new commonwealth which had been carried
at last triumphantly into the Union, to bid his excellency welcome in an
address conceived in the most sonorous English of the period; and afterwards
for many years author of the now famous "Notes," which will perhaps make his
name immortal among American historians.
On this evening of the ball at the home of General James Wilkinson, the
great Mr. Bradford was out of town, and that most unluckily; for the
occasion--in addition to all the pleasure that it would furnish to the
ladies--was designed as a means of calling together the leaders of the
movement to separate Kentucky from the Union; and the idea may have been,
that the great Mr. Bradford, having written one fine speech to celebrate her
entrance, could as easily turn out a finer one to celebrate her withdrawal.

It must not be inferred that his absence had any political significance. He
had merely gone a few days previous to the little settlement at
Georgetown--named for the great George--to lay in a supply of paper for his
Weekly, and had been detained there by heavy local rains, not risking so dry
an article of merchandise either by pack-horse or open wagon under the
dripping trees. Paper was very scarce in the wilderness and no man could
afford to let a single piece get wet.

In setting out on his journey, he had instructed his sole assistant--a young
man by the name of Charles O'Bannon--as to his duties in the meantime: he
was to cut some new capital letters out of a block of dog-wood in the
office, and also some small letters where the type fell short; to collect if
possible some unpaid subscriptions--this being one of the advantages that an
editor always takes of his own absence--in particular to call upon certain
merchants for arrears in advertisements; and he was to receive any lost
articles that might be sent in to be advertised, or return such as should be
called for by their owners: with other details appertaining to the
establishment.

O'Bannon had performed his duties as he had been told--reserving for
himself, as always, the right of a personal construction. He had addressed a
written appeal to the nonpaying subscribers, declaring that the Gazette had
now become a Try-Weekly, since Mr. Bradford had to try hard every week to
get it out by the end; he had collected from several delinquent advertisers;
whittled out three new capital letters, and also the face of Mr. Bradford
and one of his legs; taken charge with especial interest of the department
of Lost and Found and was now ready for other duties.

On this evening of the ball he was sitting in the office.

In one corner of the room stood a worn handpress with two dog-skin
inking-balls. Between the logs of the wall near another corner a horizontal
iron bar had been driven, and from the end of this bar hung a saucer-shaped
iron lamp filled with bear-oil. Out of this oil stuck the end of a cotton
rag for a wick; which, being set on fire, filled the room with a strong
smell and a feeble, murky, flickering light. Under the lamp stood a plain
oak slab on two pairs of crosslegs; and on the slab were papers and letters,
a black ink-horn, some leaves of native tobacco, and a large gray-horn
drinking-cup--empty. Under the table was a lately emptied bottle.O'Bannon
sat in a rough chair before this drinking-cup, smoking a long tomahawk-pipe.
His head was tilted backward, his eyes followed the flight of smoke upward.

That he expected to be at the party might have been inferred from his dress:
a blue broadcloth coat with yellow gilt buttons; a swan's-down waistcoat
with broad stripes of red and white; a pair of dove-coloured corded-velvet
pantaloons with three large yellow buttons on the hips; and a neckcloth of
fine white cam- bric.His figure was thickset, strong, cumbrous; his hair
black, curly, shining. His eyes, bold, vivacious, and now inflamed, were of
that rarely beautiful blue which is seen only in members of the Irish race.
His complexion was a blending of the lily and the rose.  His lips were thick
and red under his short fuzzy moustache. His hands also were thick and soft,
always warm, and not very clean--on account of the dog-skin inking-balls.

He had two ruling passions: the influence he thought himself entitled to
exert over women; and his disposition to play practical jokes on men. Both
the first and the second of these weaknesses grew out of his confidence that
he had nothing to fear from either sex. Nevertheless he had felt forced to
admit that his charms had never prevailed with Amy Falconer. He had often
wondered how she could resist; but she had resisted without the least
effort. Still, he pursued, and he had once told her with smiling candour
that if she did not mind the pursuit, he did not mind the chase. Only, he
never urged it into the presence of Mrs. Falconer, of whom alone he stood in
speechless, easily comprehensible awe. Perhaps to-night--as Amy had never
seen him in ball-dress--she might begin to succumb; he had just placed her
under obligation to him by an unexpected stroke of good fortune; and finally
he had executed one neat stratagem at the expense of Mr. Bradford and
another at the expense of John Gray. So that esteeming himself in a fair way
to gratify one passion and having already gratified the other, he leaned
back in his chair, smiling, smoking, drinking.

He had just risen to pinch the wick in the lamp overhead when a knock
sounded on the door, and to his surprise and displeasure--for he thought he
had bolted it--there entered without waiting to be bidden a low,
broadchested, barefooted, blond fellow, his brown-tow breeches rolled up to
his knees, showing a pair of fine white calves; a clean shirt thrown open at
the neck and rolled up to the elbows, displaying a noble pair of arms; a
ruddy shine on his good-humoured face; a drenched look about his short,
thick, whitish hair; and a comfortable smell of soap emanating from his
entire person.

Seeing him, O'Bannon looked less displeased; but keeping his seat and merely
taking the pipe from his lips, he said, with an air of sarcasm, "I would
have invited you to come in, Peter, but I see you have not waited for the
invitation."

Peter deigned no reply; but walking forward, he clapped down on the oak slab
a round handful of shillings and pence. "Count it, and see if it's all
there," he said, taking a short cob pipe out of his mouth and planting his
other hand stoutly on his hip.
"What's this for?" O'Bannon spoke in a tone of wounded astonishment.

"What do you suppose it's for? Didn't I hear you've been out collecting?"
"Well, you have had an advertisement running in the paper for some time."
"That's what it's for then! And what's more, I've got the money to pay for a
better one, whenever you'll write it."

"Sit down, sit down, sit down!" O'Bannon jumped from his chair, hurried
across the room--a little unsteadily--emptied a pile of things on the floor,
and dragged back a heavy oak stool. "Sit down. And Peter?" he added
inquiringly, tapping his empty drinking-cup.

Peter nodded his willingness. O'Bannoli drew a key from his pocket and shook
it temptingly under Peter's nose. Then he bolted the door and unlocked the
cupboard, displaying a shelf filled with bottles.

"All for advertisements!" he said, waving his hand at the collection. "And a
joke on Mr. Bradford. Fourth-proof French brandy, Jamaica rum, Holland gin,
cherry bounce, Martinique cordial, Madeira, port, sherry, cider. All for
advertisements! Two or three of these dealers have been running bills up,
and to-day I stepped in and told them we'd submit to be paid in merchandise
of this kind. And here's the merchandise.  What brand of merchandise will
you take?"
"We had better take what you have been taking."

"As you please." He brought forward another drinking-cup and a bottle.

"Hold on!" cried Peter, laying a hand on his arm. "My advertisement first!"

"As you please."
"About twice as long as the other one," instructed Peter.
"As you please." O'Bannon set the bottle down, took up a goose-quill, and
drew a sheet of paper before him.

"My business is increasing," prompted Peter still further, with a puzzled
look as to what should come next. "Put that in!"
"Of course," said O'Bannon. "I always put that in."

He was thinking impatiently about the ball and he wrote out something
quickly and read it aloud with a thick, unsteady utterance:

"'Mr. Peter Springle continues to carry on the blacksmith business opposite
the Sign of the Indian Queen. Mr. Springle cannot be rivalled in his shoeing
of horses. He keeps on hand a constant supply of axes, chains, and hoes,
which he will sell at prices usually asked--'"

"Stop," interrupted Peter who had sniffed a strange, delicious odour of
personal praise in the second sentence. "You might say something more about
me, before you bring in the axes."

"As you please."
"'Mr. Peter Springle executes his work with satisfaction and despatch; his
work is second to none in Kentucky; no one surpasses him; he is a noted
horseshoer; he does nothing but shoe horses.'" He looked at Peter
inquiringly.
"That sounds more like it," admitted Peter.

"Is that enough?"

"Oh, if that's all you can say!""'Mr. Springle devotes himself entirely to
the shoeing of fine horses; fine horses are often injured by neglect in
shoeing; Mr. Springle does not injure fine horses, but shoes them all around
with new shoes at one dollar for each horse.'"

"Better," said Peter." Only, don't say so much about the horses! Say more
about--"

"'Mr.  Springle is the greatest blacksmith that ever left New Jersey--'""Or
that ever lived I'll New Jersey."

O'Bannon rose and pinched the cotton wick, seized the bottle, and poured out
more liquor.

"Peter," he said, squaring himself, "I'm going to let you into a secret. If
you were not drunk, I wouldn't tell you. You'll forget it by morning."

"If I were half as drunk as you are, I couldn't listen," retorted Peter. "I
don't want to know any secrets. I tell everything I know."

"You don't know any secrets? You don't know that last week Horatio Turpin
sold a ten dollar horse in front of your shop for a hundred because he
had--"

"Oh, I know some secrets about horses," admitted Peter, carelessly.
"It's a secret about a horse I'm going to tell you," said O'Bannon.

"Here is an advertisement that has been left to be inserted in the next
paper: 'Lost, on Tuesday evening, on the road between Frankfort and
Lexington, a bundle of clothes tied up in a blue-and-white checked cotton
neckerchief, and containing one white muslin dress, a pale-blue silk coat,
two thin white muslin handkerchiefs, one pair long kid gloves--straw
colour--one pair white kid shoes, two cambric handkerchiefs, and some other
things. Whoever will deliver said clothes to the printer, or give
information so that they can be got, will be liberally rewarded on
application to him.'

"And here, Peter, is another advertisement. Found, on Tuesday evening, on
the road between Lexington and Frankfort, a bundle of clothes tied in a
blue-and-white neckerchief. The owner can recover property by calling on the
printer.'"

He pushed the papers away from him.

"Yesterday morning who should slip around here but Amy Falconer. And then,
in such a voice, she began. How she had come to town the day before, and had
brought her party dress. How the bundle was lost. How she had come to
inquire whether any one had left the clothes to be advertised; or whether I
wouldn't put an advertisement in the paper; or, if they were left at my
office before Thursday evening, whether I wouldn't send them to her at
once."

"Ahem!" said Peter drily, but with moisture in his eyes.

"She hadn't more than gone before who should come in here but a boy bringing
this same bundle of clothes with a note from John Gray, saying that he had
found them in the public road yesterday, and asking me to send them at once
to the owner, if I should hear who she was; if not, to advertise them."

"That's no secret," said Peter contemptuously.

"I might have sent that bundle straight to the owner of it. But, when I have
anything against a man, I always forgive him, only I get even with him
first."

"What are you hammering at?" cried Peter, bringing his fist down on the
table. "Hit the nail on the head."

"Now I've got no grudge against her," continued O'Bannon. "I'd hate her if I
could. I've tried hard enough, but I can't. She may treat me as she pleases:
it's all the same to me as soon as she smiles. But as for this redheaded
Scotch-Irishman--"

"Stop!" said Peter. "Not a word against him!" O'Bannon stared.

"He's no friend of yours," said he, reflectively.

"He is!"

"Oh, is he? Well, only the other day I heard him say that he thought a good
deal more of your shoes than he did of you," cried O'Bannon, laughing
sarcastically.

Peter made no reply, but his neck seemed to swell and his face to be getting
purple.

"And he's a friend of yours? I can't even play a little joke on him."
"Play your joke on him!" exclaimed Peter, "and when my time comes, I'll play
mine."
"When he sent the bundle here yesterday morning I could have returned it
straight to her. I locked it in that closet! 'You'll never go to the ball
with her,' I said, 'if I have to keep her away.' I set my trap. To-day I
hunted up Joseph Holden. 'Come by the office, as you are on your way to the
party to-night,' I said. 'I want to talk to you about a piece of land. Come
early; then we can go together.' When he came--just before you did--I said,
'Look here, did you know that Amy wouldn't be at the ball? She lost her
clothes as she was coming to town the other day, and somebody has just sent
them here to be advertised. I think I'd better take them around to her yet:
it's not too late.' 'I'll take them! I'll go with her myself!' he
cried,jumping up.

"So she'll be there, he'll be there, I'll be there, we'll all be there--but
your John can hear about it in the morning." And O'Bannon arose slowly, but
unexpectedly sat down again.

"You think I won't be there," he said threateningly to Peter.
"You think I'm drunk. I'll show you! I'll show you that I can walk--that I
can dance--dance by myself --do it all--by myself--furnish the music and do
the dancing."

He began whistling "Sir Roger de Coverley," and stood up, but sank down
again and reached for the bottle.

"Peter," he said with a soft smile, looking down at his gorgeous swan's-down
waistcoat and his well-shaped dove-coloured legs: "ain't I a beauty?"
"Yes, you are a beauty!" said Peter.

Suddenly lifting one of his bare feet, he shot O'Bannon as by the action of
a catapult against the printing-press.

He lay there all night.

IV

HOW fine a thing it would be if all the faculties of the mind could be
trained for the battles of life as a modern nation makes every man a
soldier. Some of these, as we know, are always engaged in active service;
but there are times when they need to be strengthened by others,
constituting a first reserve; and yet graver emergencies arise in the
marchings of every man when the last defences of land and hearth should be
ready to turn out: too often even then the entire disciplined strength of
his forces would count as a mere handful to the great allied powers of the
world and the devil.

But so few of our faculties are of a truly military turn, and these wax
indolent and unwary from disuse like troops during long times of peace. We
all come to recognize sooner or later, of course, the unfailing little band
of them that form our standby, our battle-smoked campaigners, our Old Guard,
that dies, neversurrenders. Who of us also but knows his faithful artillery,
dragging along his big guns--and so liable to reach the scene after the
fighting is over? Who when worsted has not fought many a battle through
again merely to show how different the result would have been, if his
artillery had only arrived in time! Boom! boom! boom!  Where are the enemy
now?  And who does not take pride in his navy, sweeping the high seas of the
imagination but too often departed for some foreign port when the coast
defences need protecting?

Beyond this general dismemberment of our resources do we not all feel the
presence within us of certain renegades? Does there not exist inside every
man a certain big, ferocious-looking faculty who is his drum major--loving
to strut at the head of a peaceful parade and twirl his bawble and roll his
eyes at the children and scowl back at the quiet intrepid fellows behind as
though they were his personal prisoners?  Let but a skirmish threaten, and
our dear, ferocious, fat major--! not even in the rear--not even on the
field!  Then there is a rattling little mannikin who sleeps in the barracks
of the brain and is good for nothing but to beat the cerebral drum. There is
a certain awkward squad--too easily identified--who have been drafted again
and again into service only to be in the way of every skilled manoeuvre,
only to be mustered out as raw recruits at the very end of life. And,
finally, there is a miscellaneous crowd of our faculties scattered far and
near at their humdrum peaceful occupations; so that if a quick call for war
be heard, these do but behave as a populace that rushes into a street to
gaze at the national guard already marching past, some of the spectators not
even grateful, not even cheering.

All that day John had to fight a battle for which he had never been trained;
moreover he had been compelled to divide his forces: there was the far-off
solemn battle going on in his private thoughts; and there was the usual
siege of duties in the school. For once he would gladly have shirked the
latter; but the single compensation he always tried to wrest from the
disagreeable things of life was to do them in such a way that they would
never fester in his conscience like thorns broken off in the flesh.

During the forenoon, therefore, by an effort which only those who have
experienced it can understand, he ordered off all communication with larger
troubles and confined himself in that stifling prison-house of the mind
where the perplexities and toils of childhood become enormous and everything
else in the world grows small. Up under the joists there was the terrible
struggle of a fly in a web, at first more and more violent, then ceasing in
a strain so fine that the ear could scarce take it; a bee came in one
window, went out another; a rat, sniffing greedily at its hole, crept toward
a crumb under a bench, ran back, crept nearer, seized it and was gone; a
toiling slate-pencil grated on its way as arduously as a wagon up a hill; he
had to teach a beginner its letters. These were the great happenings. At
noon the same child that had brought him a note on the day before came with
another:

"Kitty is going to the ball with Horatio. I shall be alone. We can have our
talk uninterrupted. How unreasonable you are! Why don't you understand
things without wanting to have them explained? If you wish to go to the
ball, you can do this afterwards. Don't come till Kitty has gone."

Duties in the school till near sunset, then letters.  O'Bannon had told him
that Mr. Bradford's post-rider would leave at four o'clock next morning; if
he had letters to send, they must be deposited in the box that night. Gray
had letters of the utmost importance to write--to his lawyer regarding the
late decision in his will case, and to the secretary of the Democratic Club
in Philadelphia touching the revival of activity in the clubs throughout the
country on account of the expected treaty with England.

After he had finished them, he strolled slowly about the dark town--past his
school-house, thinking that his teaching days would soon be over--past
Peter's blacksmith shop, thinking what a good fellow he always was--past Mr.
Bradford's editorial room, with a light under the door and the curtain drawn
across the window.  Two or three times he lingered before show-windows of
merchandise. He had some taste in snuff-boxes, being the inheritor of
several from his Scotch and Irish ancestors, and there were a few in the new
silversmith's window which he found little to his liking. As he passed a
tavern, a group of Revolutionary officers, not yet gone to the ball, were
having a time of it over their pipes and memories; and he paused to hear one
finish a yarn of strong fibre about the battle of King's Mountain. Couples
went hurrying by him beautifully dressed. Once down a dark street he fancied
that he distinguished Amy's laughter ringing faintly out on the still air;
and once down another he clearly heard the long cry of a pet panther kept by
a young backwoods hunter.

The Poythress homestead was wrapped in silence as he stepped upon the porch;
but the door was open, there was a light inside, and by means of this he
discovered, lying asleep on the threshold, a lad who was apprentice to the
new English silversmith of the town and a lodger at the minister's--the bond
of acquaintanceship being the memory of John Wesley who had sprinkled the
lad's father in England.

John laid a hand on his shoulder and tried to break his slumber. He opened
his eyes at last and said, "Nobody at home," and went to sleep again. When
thoroughly aroused, he sat up.  Mr. and Mrs. Poythress had been called away
to some sick person; they had asked him to sit up till they came back; he
wished they'd come; he didn't see how he was ever to learn how to make
watches if he couldn't get any sleep; and be lay down again.

John aroused him again.

"Miss Falconer is here; will you tell her I wish to see her?"

The lad didn't open his eyes but said dreamily:

"She's not here; she's gone to the party."

John lifted him and set him on his feet. Then he put his hands on his
shoulders and shook him:

"You are asleep! Wake up! Tell Miss Falconer I wish to see her."
The lad seized Gray by the arms and shook him with all his might.

"You wake up," he cried. "I tell you she's gone to the party. Do you hear?
She's gone to the party! Now go away, will you? How am I ever to be a
silversmith, if I can't get any sleep?" And stretching himself once more on
the settee, he closed his eyes.

John turned straight to the Wilkinsons'. His gait was not hurried; whatever
his face may have expressed was hidden by the darkness. The tense quietude
of his mind was like that of a summer tree, not one of whose thousands of
leaves quivers along the edge, but toward which a tempest is rolling in the
distance.

The house was set close to the street. The windows were open; long bars of
light fell out; as he stepped forward to the threshold, the fiddlers struck
up "Sir Roger de Coverley"; the company parted in lines to the right and
left, leaving a vacant space down the middle of the room; and into this
vacant space he saw Joseph lead Amy and the two begin to dance.
She wore a white muslin dress--a little skillful work had restored its
freshness; a blue silk coat of the loveliest hue; a wide white lace tucker
caught across her round bosom with a bunch of cinnamon roses; and
straw-coloured kid gloves, reaching far up her snow-white arms. Her hair was
coiled high on the crown of her head and airily overtopped by a great
curiously carved silver-and-tortoise-shell comb; and under her dress played
the white mice of her feet. The tints of her skin were pearl and rose; her
red lips parted in smiles. She was radiant with excitement, happiness,
youth. She culled admiration, visiting all eyes with hers as a bee all
flowers.  It was not the flowers she cared for.

He did not see her dress; he did not recognize the garments that had hung on
the wall of his room. What he did see and continued to see was the fact that
she was there and dancing with Joseph.

If he had stepped on a rattlesnake, he could not have been more horribly,
more miserably stung. He had the sense of being poisoned, as though actual
venom were coursing through his blood. There was one swift backward movement
of his mind over the chain of forerunning events.

"She is a venomous little serpent!" he groaned aloud. "And I have been
crawling in the dust to her, to be stung like this!" He walked quietly into
the house.

He sought his hostess first. He found her in the centre of a group of
ladies, wearing the toilet of the past Revolutionary period in the capitals
of the East. The vision dazzled him, bewildered him. But he swept his eye
over them with one feeling of heart-sickness and asked his hostess one
question: was Mrs. Falconer there? She was not.

In another room he found his host, and a group of Revolutionary officers and
other tried historic men, surrounding the Governor.
They were discussing the letters that had passed between the President and
his Excellency for the suppression of a revolution in Kentucky. During this
spring of 1795 the news had reached Kentucky that Jay had at last concluded
a treaty with England. The ratification of this was to be followed by the
surrender of those terrible Northwestern posts that for twenty years had
been the source of destruction and despair to the single-handed, maddened,
or massacred Kentuckians. Behind those forts had rested the inexhaustible
power of the Indian confederacies, of Canada, of England. Out of them,
summer after summer, armies that knew no pity had swarmed down upon the
doggedly advancing line of the Anglo-Saxon frontiersmen. Against them,
sometimes unaided, sometimes with the aid of Virginia or of the National
Government, the pioneers hurled their frantic retaliating armies: Clarke and
Boone and Kenton often and often; Harmar followed by St. Clair; St. Clair
followed by Wayne. It was for the old failure to give aid against these that
Kentucky had hated Virginia and resolved to tear herself loose from the
mother State and either perish or triumph alone. It was for the failure to
give aid against these that Kentucky hated Washington, hated the East, hated
the National Government, and plotted to wrest Kentucky away from the Union,
and either make her an independent power or ally her with France or Spain.

But over the sea now France--France that had come to the rescue of the
colonies in their struggle for independence--this same beautiful, passionate
France was fighting all Europe unaided and victorious. The spectacle had
amazed the world. In no other spot had sympathy been more fiercely kindled
than along that Western border where life was always tense with martial
passion. It had passed from station to station, like a torch blazing in the
darkness and with a two-forked fire--gratitude to France, hatred of
England--hatred rankling in a people who had come out of the very heart of
the English stock as you would hew the heart out of a tree. So that when,
two years before this, Citizen Genet, the ambassador of the French republic,
had landed at Charleston, been driven through the country to New York amid
the acclamations of French sympathizers, and disregarding the
President'sproclamation of neutrality, had begun to equip privateers and
enlist crews to act against the commerce of England and Spain, it was to the
backwoodsmen of Kentucky that he sent four agents, to enlist an army,
appoint a generalissimo, and descend upon the Spanish settlements at the
mouth of the Mississippi--those same hated settlements that had refused to
the Kentuckians the right of navigation for their commerce, thus shutting
them off from the world by water, as the mountains shut them off from the
world by land.

Hence the Jacobin clubs that were formed in Kentucky: one at Lexington, a
second at Georgetown, a third at Paris. Hence the liberty poles in the
streets of the towns; the tricoloured cockades on the hats of the men; the
hot blood between the anti-federal and the federalist parties of the State.

The actions of Citizen Genet had indeed been disavowed by his republic. But
the sympathy for France, the hatred of England and of Spain, had but grown
meantime; and when therefore in this spring of 1795 the news reached the
frontier that Jay had concluded a treaty with England--the very treaty that
would bring to the Kentuckians the end of all their troubles with the posts
of the Northwest--the flame of revolution blazed out with greater
brilliancy.

During the hour that John Gray spent in that assemblage of men that night,
the talk led always to the same front of offence: the baser truckling to
England, an old enemy; the baser desertion of France, a friend. He listened
to one man of commanding eloquence, while he traced the treaty to the
attachment of Washington for aristocratic institutions; to another who
referred it to the jealousy felt by the Eastern congressmen regarding the
growth of the new power beyond the Alleghanies; to a third who foretold that
like all foregoing pledges it would leave Kentucky still exposed to the fury
of the Northern Indians; to a fourth who declared that let the treaty be
once ratified with Lord Granville, and in the same old faithless way,
nothing more would be done to extort from Spain for Kentucky the open
passage of the Mississippi.

At any other time he would have borne his part in these discussions. Now he
scarcely heard them. All the forces of his mind were away, on another
battle-field and he longed to be absent with them, a field strewn with the
sorrowful carnage of ideal and hope and plan, home, happiness, love. He was
hardly aware that his own actions must seem unusual, until one of the older
men took him affectionately by the hand and said:

"Marshall tells me that you teach school till sunset and read law till
sunrise; and tonight you come here with your eyes blazing and your skin as
pallid and dry as a monk's. Take off the leeches of the law for a good
month, John! They abstract too much blood. If the Senate ratifies in June
the treachery of Jay and Lord Granville, there will be more work than ever
for the Democratic Societies in this country, and nowhere more than in
Kentucky. We shall need you then more than the law needs you now, or than
you need it. Save yourself for the cause of your tricolour. You shall have a
chance to rub the velvet off your antlers."

"We shall soon put him beyond the reach of his law," said a member of the
Transylvania Library Committee. "As soon as his school is out, we are going
to send him to ask subscriptions from the President, the Vice-President, and
others, and then on to Philadelphia to buy the books."

A shadow fell upon the face of another officer, and in a lowered tone he
said, with cold emphasis:
"I am sorry that the citizens of this town should stoop to ask anything from
such a man as George Washington."

The schoolmaster scarcely realized what he had done when he consented to act
as a secret emissary of the Jacobin Club of Lexington to the club in
Philadelphia during the summer.

The political talk ended at last, the gentlemen returned to the ladies. He
found himself standing in a doorway beside an elderly man of the most
polished hearing and graceful manners, who was watching a minuet.

"Ah!" he said, waving his hand with delight toward the scene. "This is
Virginia and Maryland brought into the West! It reminds me of the days when
I danced with Martha Custis and Dolly Madison. Some day, with a beginning
like this, Kentucky will be celebrated for its beautiful women. The
daughters and the grand-daughters and the great-granddaughters of such
mothers as these--"

"And of fathers like these!" interposed one of the town trustees who came up
at that moment. "But for the sake of these ladies isn't it time we were
passing a law against the keeping of pet panthers? I heard the cry of one as
I came here to-night. What can we do with these young backwoods hunters?
Will civilization ever make pets of them--ever tame them?"
John felt some one touch his arm; it was Kitty with Horatio. Her cheeks were
like poppies; her good kind eyes welcomed him sincerely.

"You here! I'm so glad. Haven't you seen Amy? She is in the other room with
Joseph. Have they explained everything? But we will loose our place--"she
cried, and with a sweet smile of adieu to him, and of warning to her
partner, she glided away.

"We are entered for this horse race," remarked Mr. Turpin, lingering a
moment longer. "Weight for age, agreeable to the rules of New Market. Each
subscriber to pay one guinea, etc., etc., etc." He was known as the rising
young turfman of the town, having first run his horses down Water Street;
but future member of the first Jockey Club; so that in the full blossom of
his power he could name all the horses of his day with the pedigree of each:
beginning with Tiger by Tiger, and on through Sea Serpent by Shylock, and
Diamond by Brilliant, and Black Snake by Sky Lark: a type of man whom long
association with the refined and noble nature of the horse only vulgarizes
and disennobles.

Once afterward Gray's glance fell on Amy and Joseph across the room. They
were looking at him and laughing at his expense and the sight burnt his eyes
as though hot needles had been run into them. They beckoned gaily, but he
gave no sign; and in a moment they were lost behind the shifting figures of
the company. While he was dancing, however, Joseph came up.

"As soon as you get away, Amy wants to see you."

Half and hour later he came a second time and drew Gray aside from a group
of gentlemen, speaking more seriously: "Amy wants to explain how all this
happened. Come at once."

"There is nothing to explain," said John, with indifference.
Joseph answered reproachfully:
"This is foolish, John! When you know what has passed, you will not censure
her. And I could not have done otherwise." Despite his wish to be serious,
he could not help laughing for he was very happy himself.

But to John Gray these reasonable words went for the very thing that they
did not mean. His mind had been forced to a false point of view; and from a
false point of view the truth itself always looks false. Moreover it was
intolerable that Joseph should be defending to him the very woman whom a few
hours before he had hoped to marry.
"There is no explanation needed from her," he replied, with the same
indifference. "I think I understand. What I do not understand I should
rather take for granted.  But you, Joseph, you owe me an explanation. This
is not the place to give it." His face twitched, and he knotted the fingers
of his large hands together like bands of iron. "But by God I'll have it;
and if it is not a good one, you shall answer." His oath sounded like an
invocation to the Divine justice--not profanity.
Joseph fixed his quiet fearless eyes on Gray's. "I'll answer for myself--and
for her"--he replied and turned away.

Still later Gray met her while dancing--the faint rose of her cheeks a shade
deeper, the dazzling whiteness of her skin more pearl-like with warmth, her
gaiety and happiness still mounting, her eyes still wandering among the men,
culling their admiration.

"You haven't asked me to dance to-night. You haven't even let me tell you
why I had to come with Joseph, when I wanted to come with you." She gave a
little pout of annoyance and let her eyes rest on his with the old fondness.
"Don't you want to know why I broke my engagement with you?" And she danced
on, smiling back at him provokingly.
He did not show that he heard; and although they did not meet again, he was
made aware that a change had at last come over her. She was angry now. He
could hear her laughter oftener--laughter that was meant for his ear and she
was dancing oftener with Joseph. He looked at her repeatedly, but she
avoided his eyes.

"I am playing a poor part by staying here!" he said with shame, and left the
house.

After wandering aimlessly about the town for some two hours, he went
resolvedly back again and stood out in the darkness, looking in at her
through the windows.  There she was, unwearied, happy, not feigning; and no
more affected by what had taken place between them than a candle is affected
by a scorched insect. So it seemed to him.

This was the first time he had ever seen her at a ball.  He had never
realized what powers she possessed in a field like this: what play, what
resources, what changes, what stratagems, what victories. He mournfully
missed for the first time certain things in himself that should have
corresponded with all those light and graceful things in her.
Perhaps what hurt him most were her eyes, always abroad searching for
admiration, forever filling the forever emptied honeycomb of self-love.

With him love was a sacred, a grim, an inviolate selection. He would no more
have wished the woman he had chosen to seek indiscriminate admiration with
her eyes than with her lips or her waist. It implied the same fatal flaw in
her refinement, her modesty, her faithfulness, her high breeding.
A light wind stirred the leaves of the trees overhead.  A few drops of rain
fell on his hat. He drew his hand heavily across his eyes and turned away.
Reaching his room, he dropped down into a chair before his open window and
sat gazing absently into the black east.

Within he faced a yet blacker void--the ruined hopes on which the sun would
never rise again.

It was the end of everything between him and Amy: that was his one thought.
It did not occur to him even to reflect whether he had been right or wrong,
rude or gentle: it was the end: nothing else appeared worth considering.

Life to him meant a simple straightforward game played with a few well-known
principles. It must be as open as a chess-board: each player should see
every move of the other: and all who chose could look on.

He was still very young.

X
THE glimmer of gray dawn at last and he had never moved from his seat. A
fine, drizzling rain had set in.  Clouds of mist brushed against the walls
of his cabin.  In the stillness he could hear the big trees shedding their
drops from leaf to bending leaf and the musical tinkle of these as they took
their last leap into little pools below.
With the chilliness which misery brings he got up at last and wrapped his
weather-coat about him. If it were only day when he could go to his work and
try to forget! Restless, sleepless, unable to read, tired of sitting, driven
on by the desire to get rid of his own thoughts, he started out to walk.
As he passed his school-house he noticed that the door of it, always
fastened by a simple latch, now stood open; and he went over to see if
everything inside were in order.  All his life, when any trouble had come
upon him, he had quickly returned to his nearest post of duty like a
soldier; and once in the school-room now, he threw himself down in his chair
with the sudden feeling that here in his familiar work he must still find
his home--the home of his mind and his affections--as so long in the past.
The mere aspect of the poor bare place had never been so kind. The very
walls appeared to open to him like a refuge, to enfold themselves around him
with friendly strength and understanding.

He sat at the upper end of the room, gazing blankly through the doorway at
the gray light and clouds of white mist trailing. Once an object came into
the field of his vision. At the first glimpse he thought it a dog--long,
lean, skulking, prowling, tawny--on the scent of his tracks. Then the mist
passed over it.  When he beheld it again it had approached nearer and was
creeping rapidly toward the door. His listless eyes grew fascinated by its
motions--its litheness, suppleness, grace, stealth, exquisite caution. Never
before had he seen a dog with the step of a cat. A second time the fog
closed over it, and then, advancing right out of the cloud with more
swiftness, more cunning, its large feet falling as lightly as flakes of
snow, the weight of its huge body borne forward as noiselessly as the
trailing mist, it came straight on.  It reached the hickory block, which
formed the doorstep; it paused there an instant, with its fore quarters in
the doorway, one fore foot raised, the end of its long tail waving; and then
it stole just over the threshold and crouched, its head pressed down until
its long, whitish throat lay on the floor; its short, jagged ears set
forward stiffly like the broken points of a javelin; its dilated eye blazing
with steady green fire--as still as death. And then with his blood become as
ice in his veins from horror and all the strength gone out of him in a
deathlike faintness, the school- master realized that he was face to face
unarmed with a cougar, gaunt with famine and come for its kill.

This dreaded animal, the panther or painter of the backwoodsman, which has
for its kindred the royal tiger and the fatal leopard of the Old World, the
beautiful ocelot and splendid unconquerable jaguar of the New, is now rarely
found in the Atlantic States or the fastnesses of the Alleghanies. It too
has crossed the Mississippi and is probably now best known as the savage
puma of more southern zones. But a hundred years ago it abounded throughout
the Western wilderness, making its deeper dens in the caverns of mountain
rocks, its lair in the impenetrable thickets of bramble and brakes of cane,
or close to miry swamps and watery everglades; and no other region was so
loved by it as the vast game park of the Indians, where reined a
semi-tropical splendour and luxuriance of vegetation and where, protected
from time immemorial by the Indian hunters themselves, all the other animals
thatconstitute its prey roved and ranged in unimaginable numbers. To the
earliest Kentuckians who cut their way into this, the most royal jungle of
the New World, to wrest it from the Indians and subdue it for wife and
child, it was the noiseless nocturnal cougar that filled their imaginations
with the last degree of dread. To them its cry--most peculiar and startling
at the love season, at other times described as like the wail of a child or
of a traveller lost in the woods--aroused more terror than the nearest bark
of the wolf; its stealth and cunning more than the strength and courage and
address of the bear; its attack more than the rush of the majestic,
resistless bison, or the furious pass with antlers lowered of the noble,
ambereyed, infuriated elk. Hidden as still as an adder in long grass of its
own hue, or squat on a log, or amid the foliage of a sloping tree, it waited
around the salt licks and the springs and along the woodland pathways for
the other wild creatures. It possessed the strength to kill and drag a
heifer to its lair; it would leap upon the horse of a traveller and hang
there unshaken, while with fang and claw it lacerated the hind quarters and
the flanks--as the tiger of India tries to hamstring its nobler,
unmanageable victims; or let an unwary bullock but sink a little way in a
swamp and it was upon him, rending him, devouring him, in his long agony.

Some hunter once had encamped at the foot of a tree, cooked his supper, seen
his fire die out and lain down to sleep, with only the infinite solitude of
the woods for his blanket, with the dreary, dismal silence for his pillow.
Opening his eyes to look up for the last time at the peaceful stars, what he
perceived above him were two nearer stars set close together, burning with a
green light, never twinkling. Or another was startled out of sleep by the
terrible cry of his tethered horse.  Or after a long, ominous growl, the
cougar had sprung against his tent, knocking it away as a squirrel would
knock the thin shell from a nut to reach the kernel; or at the edge of the
thicket of tall grass he had struck his foot against the skeleton of some
unknown hunter, dragged down long before.

To such adventures with all their natural exaggeration John Gray had
listened many a time as they were recited by old hunters regarding earlier
days in the wilderness; for at this period it was thought that the cougar
had retreated even from the few cane-brakes that remained unexplored near
the settlements. But the deer, timidest of animals, with fatal persistence
returns again and again to its old-time ranges and coverts long after the
bison, the bear, and the elk have wisely abandoned theirs; and the cougar
besets the deer.

It was these stories that he remembered now and that filled him with horror,
with the faintness of death.  His turn had come at last, he said; and as to
the others, it had come without warning. He was too shackled with weakness
to cry out, to stand up. The windows on each side were fastened; there was
no escape. There was nothing in the room on which he could lay hold--no
weapon or piece of wood, or bar of iron.  If a struggle took place, it would
be a clean contest between will and will, courage and courage, strength and
strength, the love of prey and the love of life.It was well for him that
this was not the first time he had ever faced death, as he had supposed; and
that the first thought that had rushed into his consciousness before
returned to him now. That thought was this: that death had come far too
soon, putting an end to his plans to live, to act, to succeed, to make a
great and a good place for himself in this world before he should leave it
for another. Out of this a second idea now liberated itself with incredible
quickness and spread through him like a living flame: it was his lifelong
attitude of victory, his lifelong determination that no matter what opposed
him he must conquer. Young as he was, this triumphant habit had already
yielded him its due result that growth of character which arises silently
within us, built up out of a myriad nameless elements--beginning at the very
bottom of the ocean of unconsciousness; growing as from cell to cell, atom
to atom--the mere dust of victorious experience--the hardening deposits of
the ever-living, ever-working, ever-rising will; until at last, based on
eternal quietude below and lifting its wreath of palms above the waves of
life, it stands finished, indestructible, our inward rock of defence against
every earthly storm.

Soon his face was worth going far to see. He had grown perfectly calm. His
weakness had been followed by a sense of strength wholly extraordinary. His
old training in the rough athletics of the wilderness had made him supple,
agile, wary, long-winded. His eyes hadnever known what it was to be subdued;
he had never taken them from the cougar.

Keeping them on it still, he rose slowly from the chair, realizing that his
chances would be better if he were in the middle of the room. He stepped
round in front of his table and walked two paces straight forward and then
paused, his face as white, as terrible, as death. At the instant of his
moving he could see the tense drawing in of all the muscles of the cougar
and the ripple of its skin, as its whole body quivered with excitement and
desire; and he knew that as soon as he stopped it would make its spring.

With a growl that announces that all hiding and stealth are over, the leap
came. He had thrown his body slightly forward to meet it with the last
thought that whatever happened he must guard his throat. It was at this that
the cougar aimed, leaping almost perpendicularly, its widespread fore feet
reaching for his shoulders, while the hind feet grasped at his legs.  The
under part of its body being thus exposed, he dealt it a blow with all his
strength--full in the belly with his foot, and hurled it backward. For a
second it crouched again, measuring him anew, then sprang again.  Again he
struck, but this time the fore feet caught his arm as they passed backward;
the sharp, retractile nails tore their way across the back and palm of his
hand like dull knives and the blood gushed. Instantly the cougar leaped upon
the long, wooden desk that ran alone one side of the room, and from that
advantage, sprang again but he bent his body low so that it passed clean
over him. Instantly it was upon his desk at his back; and before he could
more than recover his balance and turn, it sprang for the fourth time. He
threw out his arm to save his throat, but the cougar had reached his left
shoulder, struck its claws deep into his heavy coat; and with a deafening
roar sounding close in his ears, had buried its fangs near the base of his
neck, until he heard them click as they met through his flesh.

He staggered, but the desk behind caught him.  Straightening himself up, and
grappling the panther with all his strength as he would a man, he turned
with it and bent it over the sharp edge of the ponderous desk, lower, lower,
trying to break its back. One of the fore feet was beginning to tear through
his clothing, and straightening himself up again, he reached down and caught
this foot and tried to bend it, break it. He threw himself with all his
force upon the floor, falling with the cougar under him, trying to crush it.
He staggered to his feet again, but stepped on his own blood and fell. And
then, feeling his blood trickling down his breast and his strength going,
with one last effort he put up his hands and seizing the throat, fastened
his fingers like iron rivets around the windpipe. And then--with the long,
loud, hoarse, despairing roar with which a man, his mouth half full of
water, sinks far out in the ocean--he fell again.
XI

IT was ten o'clock that morning of mid-May. The rain was over. Clouds and
mists were gone, leaving an atmosphere of purest crystal. The sun floated a
globe of gold in the yielding blue. Above the wilderness on a dead treetop,
the perch of an eagle now flashing like a yellow weather-vane, a thrush
poured the spray-like far-falling fountain of his notes over upon the bowed
woods. Beneath him the dull green domes of the trees flashed as though
inlaid with gems, white and rose.  Under these domes the wild grapevines,
climbing the forest arches as the oak of stone climbs the arches of a
cathedral, filled the ceiling and all the shadowy spaces between with fresh
outbursts of their voluptuous dew-born fragrance.  And around the
rough-haired Satyr feet of these vines the wild hyacinth, too full of its
own honey to stand, fell back on its couch of moss waiting to be visited by
the singing bee.

The whole woods emerged from the cloudy bath of Nature with the coolness,
the freshness, the immortal purity of Diana united to the roseate glow and
mortal tenderness of Venus; and haunted by two spirits: the chaste, unfading
youth of Endymion and the dust-born warmth and eagerness of Dionysus.

Through these woods, feeling neither their heat nor their cold, secured by
Nature against any passion for either the cooling star or the inflaming
dust, rode Amy--slowly homeward from the ball. Yet lovelier, happier than
anything the forest held. She had pushed her bonnet entirely off so that it
hung by the strings at the back of her neck; and her face emerged from the
round sheath of it like a pink and white tulip, newly risen and bursting
forth.

When she reached home, she turned the old horse loose with many pattings and
good-byes and promises of maple sugar later in the day; and then she bounded
away to the garden to her aunt, of whom, perhaps, she was more truly fond
than of any one in the world except herself.

Mrs. Falconer had quickly left off work and was advancing very slowly--with
mingled haste and reluctance--to meet her.
"Aunt Jessica! Aunt Jessica!" cried Amy in a voice that rang like a small
silver bell, "I haven't seen you for two whole nights and three whole days!"
Placing her hands on Mrs. Falconer's shoulders, she kissed her once on each
cheek and twice playfully on the pearly tip of the chin; and then she looked
into her eyes as innocently as a perfect tulip might look at a perfect rose.

Mrs. Falconer smilingly leaned forward and touched her lips to Amy's
forehead. The caress was as light as thistle-down--perhaps no warmer.

"Three entire days!" she said chidingly. "It has been three months," and she
searched through Amy's eyes onward along the tortuous little passages of her
heart as a calm blue air might search the chambers of a cold beautiful
sea-shell.

Each of these women instantly perceived that since they had parted a change
had taken place in the other; neither was aware that the other noticed the
change in herself. Mrs. Falconer had been dreading to find one in Amy when
she should come home; and it was the one she saw now that fell as a chill
upon her. Amy was triumphantly aware of a decisive change in herself, but
chose for the present, as she thought, to keep it hidden; and as for any
change in her aunt--that was an affair of less importance.

"Why, Aunt Jessica!" she exclaimed indignantly, "I don't believe you are
glad to see me," and throwing her arms around Mrs. Falconer's neck, she
strained her closely. "But you poor dear auntie! Come, sit down. I'm going
to do all the work now--mine and yours, both. Oh! the beautiful gardening!
Rows and rows and rows! With all the other work beside. And me an idle
good-for-nothing!"

The two were walking toward a rough bench placed under a tree inside the
picket fence. Amy had thrown her arm around Mrs. Falconer's waist.

"But you went to the ball," said the elder woman. "You were not idle there,
I imagine. And a ball is good for a great deal. One ought to accomplish more
there than in a garden. Besides, you went with John Gray, and he is never
idle. Did--he--accomplish--nothing?""Indeed, he was not idle!" exclaimed Amy
with a jubilant laugh. "Indeed he did accomplish something--more than he
ever did in his life before!"

Mrs. Falconer made no rejoinder; she was too poignantly saying to herself:

"Ah! if it is too late, what will become of him? "

The bench was short. Instinctively they seated themselves as far apart as
possible; and they turned their faces outward across the garden, not toward
each other as they had been used when sitting thus.

The one was nineteen--the tulip: with springlike charm but perfectly hollow
and ready to be filled by east wind or west wind, north wind or south wind,
according as each blew last and hardest; the other thirty-six--the rose: in
its midsummer splendour with fold upon fold of delicate symmetric
structures, making a masterpiece.

"Aunt Jessica," Amy began to say drily, as though this were to be her last
concession to a relationship now about to end, "I might as well tell you
everything that has happened, just as I've been used to doing since I was a
child--when I've done anything wrong."
She gave a faithful story of the carrying off of her party dress, which of
course had been missed and accounted for, the losing of it and the breaking
of her engagement with John; the return of it and her going to the ball with
Joseph. This brought her mind to the scenes of the night, and she abandoned
herself momentarily to the delight of reviving them.

"Ah! if you had been there, Aunt Jessica! If they had seen you in a ball
dress as I've seen you without one: those shoulders! those arms! that skin!
You would have been a swan among the rough-necked, red-necked turkeys," and
Amy glanced a little enviously at a neck that rose out of the plain dress as
though turned by a sculptor.

The sincere little compliment beat on Mrs. Falconer's ear like a wave upon a
stone.

"But if you did not go with John Gray, you danced with him, you talked with
him?"

"No," replied Amy, quickly growing grave, "I didn't dance with him. But we
talked yes--not much; it was a little too serious for many words," and she
sank into a mysterious silence, seeming even to forget herself in some new
recess of happiness.

Mrs. Falconer was watching her.

"Ah!" she murmured to herself. "It is too late! too late!" She passed her
fingers slowly across her brow with a feeling that life had turned ashen,
cold, barren."How is Kitty?" she asked quickly.
"Well--as always; and stupid."

"She is always kind and good, isn't she? and faithful."

"Kindness is not always interesting, unfortunately; and goodness is
dreadful, and her faithfulness bores me to death."

"At least, she was your hostess, Amy." "I lent her my silk stockings or
she'd have had to wear cotton ones," exclaimed Amy, laughing. "We're even."

"If you were merely paying for a lodging, you should have gone to the inn."

"There was nobody at the tavern who could wear my silk stockings; and I had
spent all my money."

"Don't you expect Kitty to return your visit?

"I certainly do-- more's the pity. She has such big feet!" Amy put out her
toe and studied it with vixenish satisfaction.

"Aunt Jessica," she observed at length, looking round at her aunt.  "You
have to work too hard. And I have always been such a care to you. Wouldn't
you like to get rid of me?"

Mrs. Falconer leaned quickly, imploringly, toward her.

"Is that a threat, Amy?"

Amy waited half a minute and then began with a composure that was tinged
with condescension:

"You have had so much trouble in your life, Aunt Jessica; so much sorrow."

Mrs. Falconer started and turned upon her niece her eyes that were always
exquisite with refinement.

"Amy, have I ever spoken to you of the troubles of my life?" The reproof was
majestic in dignity and gentleness.

"You have not."

"Then will you never speak of them to me never again--while you live!"

Amy began again with a dry practical voice, which had in it the sting of
revenge; her aunt's rebuke had nettled her.

"At least, I have always been a trouble to you. You sew for me, cook for me,
make the garden for me, spin and weave for me, and worry about me. Uncle has
to work for me and support me."

The turn of the conversation away from herself brought such relief that Mrs.
Falconer replied even warmly.

"You have been a great pleasure to him and to me! The little I have done,
you have repaid a thousand fold. Think of us at night without you! Your
uncle on one side of the fireplace--me on the other, and you away! Think of
us at the table--him at one end, me at the other, and you away! Think of me
alone in the house all day, while he is in the fields! Child, I have
depended on you--more than you will ever understand!" she added to herself.

"Aunt Jessica," observed Amy with the air of making a fine calculation,
"perhaps uncle would think more of you if I were not in the house."

"Amy!"

"Perhaps you would think more of him!"

"Amy!"
"Perhaps if neither of you had me to depend on, you might depend more on
each other and be happier."

"You speak to me in this way--on a subject like this! You'd better go!"

"Aunt Jessica," replied Amy, never budging, "the time has been when I would
have done so. But it is too late now for you ever to tell me to leave your
presence. I am a woman! If I had not been, I shouldn't have said what I just
have."

Mrs. Falconer looked at her in silence. This rare gentlewoman had too
profound a knowledge of the human heart not to realize that she was
completely vanquished. For where in this world is not refinement instantly
beaten by coarseness, gentleness by rudeness, all delicacy by all that is
indelicate? What can the finest consideration avail against no
consideration? the sweetest forbearance against intrusiveness? the beak of
the dove against the beak of the hawk?  And yet all these may have their
victory; for when the finer and the baser metal are forced to struggle with
each other in the same field, the finer may always leave it.

With unruffled dignity and with a voice that Amy had never heard--a voice
that brought the blood rushing into her cheeks--Mrs. Falconer replied:"Yes;
it is true: you are a woman. This is the first day that you have ever made
me feel this. For I have always known that as soon as you became one, you
would begin to speak to me as you have spoken. I shall never again request
you to leave my presence: when it becomes unavoidable, I shall leave yours."

She rose and was moving away. Amy started up and caught her.

"Aunt Jessica, I've something to tell you!" she cried, her face dyed scarlet
with the sting.

Mrs. Falconer released herself gently and returned to her seat.

"You know what I mean by what I said?" inquired Amy, still confused but
regaining self command rapidly.

"I believe I know: you are engaged to be married."

The words were very faint: they would have reached the subtlest ear with the
suggestiveness of a light dreary wind blowing over a desolation.

"Yes; I am engaged to be married."

Amy affirmed it with a definite stress.

"It is this that has made you a woman?

"It is this that has made me a woman."

After the silence of a moment Mrs. Falconer inquired:

"You do not expect to ask my consent--my advice?"

"I certainly do not expect to ask your consent--your advice."

Amy was taking her revenge now--and she always took it as soon as possible.

"Nor your uncle's?"

"Nor my uncle's."

After another, longer silence:

"Do you care to tell me how long this engagement has lasted?"

"Certainly!--Since last night."

"Thank you for telling me that. I think I must go back to my work now."

She walked slowly away. Amy sat still, twirling her bonnet strings and
smiling to herself.

This outburst of her new dignity--this initial assertion of her
womanhood--had come almost as unexpectedly to herself as to her aunt. She
had scarcely known it was in herself to do such a thing.  Certain
restrictions had been chafing her for a long time: she had not dreamed that
they could so readily be set aside, that she had only to stamp her foot
violently down on another foot and the other foot would be jerked out of the
way. In the flush of elation, she thought of what had just taken place as
her Declaration of Independence. She kept on celebrating it in a sort of
intoxication at her own audacity:

"I have thrown off the yoke of the Old Dynasty! Glory for the thirteen
colonies! A Revolution in half an hour! I'm the mother of a new country!
Washington, salute me!"

Then, with perhaps somewhat the feeling of a pullet that has whipped a hen
in a barnyard and that after an interval will run all the way across the
barnyard to attack again and see whether the victory is complete, she rose
and went across the garden, bent on trying the virtue of a final peck.

"But you haven't congratulated me, Aunt Jessica!  You have turned your back
on the bride elect--you with all your fine manners! She presents herself
once more to your notice the future Mrs. Joseph Holden, Junior, to be
married one month from last night!" And unexpectedly standing in front of
Mrs. Falconer, Amy made one of her low bows which she had practised in the
minuet. But catching the sight of the face of her aunt, she cried
remorsefully:

"Oh, I have been so rude to you, Aunt Jessica! Forgive me!" There was
something of the new sense of womanhood in her voice and of the sisterhood
in suffering which womanhood alone can bring.

But Mrs. Falconer had not heard Amy's last exclamation.

"What do you mean?" she asked with quick tremulous eagerness. She had
regained her firmness of demeanour, which alone should have turned back any
expression of sympathy before it could have been offered.

"That I am to become Mrs. Joseph Holden--a month from last night," repeated
Amy bewitchingly.

"You are serious?"

"I am serious!"

Mrs. Falconer did not take Amy's word: she searched her face and eyes with
one swift scrutiny that was like a merciless white flame of truth, scorching
away all sham, all play, all unreality. Then she dropped her head quickly,
so that her own face remained hidden, and silently plied her work. But how
the very earth about the rake, how the little roots and clods, seemed to
come to life and leap joyously into the air! All at once she dropped
everything and came over and took Amy's hand and kissed her cheek. Her
lovely eyes were glowing; her face looked as though it had upon it the rosy
shadow of the peach trees not far away.

"I do congratulate you," she said sweetly, but with the reserve which Amy's
accession to womanhood and the entire conversation of the morning made an
unalterable barrier to her. "You have not needed advice: you have chosen
wisely. You shall have a beautiful wedding. I will make your dress myself.
The like of it will never have been seen in the wilderness. You shall have
all the finest linen in the weaving-room. Only a month! How shall we ever
get ready!--if we stand idling here! Oh, the work, the work!" she cried and
turned to hers with a dismissing smile--unable to trust herself to say more.

"And I must go and take the things out of my bundle," cried Amy, catching
the contagion of all this and bounding away to the house. Some five minutes
later Mrs. Falconer glanced at the sun: it was eleven o'clock--time to be
getting dinner.

When she reached her room, Amy was standing beside the bed, engaged in
lifting out of the bundle the finery now so redolent of the ball.
"Aunt Jessica," she remarked carelessly, without looking round, "I forgot to
tell you that John Gray had a fight with a panther in his schoolroom this
morning," and she gave several gossamer-like touches to the white lace
tucker.
Mrs. Falconer had seated herself in a chair to rest. She had taken off her
bonnet, and her fingers were unconsciously busy with the lustrous edges of
her heavy hair. At Amy's words her hands fell to her lap. But she had long
ago learned the value of silence and self-control when she was most deeply
moved: Amy had already surprised her once that morning.

"The panther bit him in the shoulder close to the neck," continued Amy,
folding the tucker away and lifting out the blue silk coat. "They were on
the floor of the school-house in the last struggle when Erskine got there.
He had gone for Phoebe Lovejoy's cows, because it was raining and she
couldn't go herself; and he heard John as he was passing. He said his voice
sounded like the bellow of a dying bull."
"Is he much hurt? Where is he? Did you go to see him?  ho dressed his wound?
Who is with him?"

"They carried him home," said Amy, turning round to the light and pressing
the beautiful silk coat in against her figure with little kicks at the
skirt. "No; I didn't go; Joseph came round and told me. He didn't think the
wound was very dangerous--necessarily.  One of his hands was terribly
clawed."

"A panther? In town? In his schoolroom?"--

"You know Erskine keeps a pet panther. I heard him tell Mrs. Poythress it
was a female," said Amy with an apologetic icy, knowing little laugh. "And
he said this one had been prowling about in the edge of the canebrakes for
several days. He had been trying to get a shot at it. He says it was nearly
starved: that was why it wanted to eat John whole before breakfast."

Amy turned back to the bed and shook out delicately the white muslin
dress--the dress that John had hung on the wall of his cabin--that had wound
itself around his figure so clingingly.


There was silence in the room. Amy had now reached the silk stockings; and
taking up one, she blew down into it and quickly peeped over the side, to
see whether it would fill out to life-size--with a mischievous wink.

"I am going to him at once."

Amy looked up in amazement.
"But, Aunt Jessica," she observed reproachfully; "who will get uncle's
dinner? You know I can't."
"Tell your uncle what has happened as soon as he comes."

She had risen and was making some rapid preparations.

"I want my dinner," said Amy ruefully, seating herself on the edge of the
bed and watching her aunt with disapproval.

"You can't go now!" she exclaimed. "Uncle has the horses in the field."

Mrs. Falconer turned to her with simple earnestness.

"I hoped you would lend me your horse?"

"But he is tired; and beside I want to use him this afternoon: Kitty and I
are going visiting."

"Tell your uncle when he comes in," said Mrs. Falconer, turning in the
doorway a minute later, and speaking rapidly to her niece, but without the
least reproach, "tell your uncle that his friend is badly hurt. Tell him
that we do not know how badly. Tell him that I have gone to find out and to
do anything for him that I can.  Tell him to follow me at once.  He will
find me at his bedside. I am sorry about the dinner."


XII

SEVERAL days had slipped by.

At John's request they had moved his bed across the doorway of his cabin;
and stretched there, he could see the sun spring every morning out the
dimpled emerald ocean of the wilderness; and the moon follow at night,
silvering the soft ripples of the multitudinous leaves lapping the shores of
silence: days when the inner noises of life sounded like storms; nights when
everything within him lay as still as memory.

His wounds had behaved well from the out-set. When he had put forth all his
frenzied despairing strength to throttle the cougar, it had let go its hold
only to sink its fangs more deeply into his flesh, thus increasing the
laceration; and there was also much laceration of the hand. But the rich
blood flowing in him was the purest; and among a people who for a quarter of
a century had been used to the treatment of wounds, there prevailed a rough
but genuine skill that stood him in good stead.  To these hardy fighting
folk, as to him, it was a scratch and he would have liked to go on with his
teaching. Warned of the danger of inflammation, however, he took to his bed;
and according to our own nervous standards which seem to have intensified
pain for us beyond the comprehension of our forefathers, he was sick and a
great sufferer.

Those long cool, sweet, brilliant days! Those long still, lonely, silvery
nights! His cabin stood near the crest of the hill that ran along the
southern edge of the settlement; and propped on his bed, he could look down
into the wide valley--into the town. The frame of his door became the frame
of many a living picture. Under a big shady tree at the creek-side, he could
see some of his children playing or fishing: their shouts and laughter were
borne to his ear; he could recognize their shrill voices--those always
masterful voices of boys at their games. Sometimes these little figures were
framed timidly just outside the door--the girls with small wilted posies,
the boys with inquiries. But there was no disguising the dread they all felt
that he might soon be well: he had felt himself once; he did not blame them.
Wee Jennie even came up with her slate one day and asked him to set her a
sum in multiplication; he did so; but he knew that she would rub it out as
soon as she could get out of sight, and he laughed quietly to himself at
this tiny casuist, who was trying so hard to deceive them both.

Two or three times, now out in the sunlight, now under the shadow of the
trees, he saw an old white horse go slowly along the distant road; and a
pink skirt and a huge white bonnet--two or three times; but he watched for
it a thousand times till his eyes grew weary.

One day Erskine brought the skin of the panther which he was preparing for
him, to take the place of the old one under his table. He brought his rifle
along also,--his "Betsy," as he always called it; which, however, he
declared was bewitched just now; and for a while John watched him curiously
as he nailed a target on a tree in front of John's door, drew on it the face
of the person whom he charged with having bewitched his gun, and then,
standing back, shot it with a silver bullet; after which, the spell being
now undone, he dug the bullet out of the tree again and went off to hunt
with confidence in his luck.

And then the making of history was going on under his eyes down there in the
town, and many a thoughtful hour he studied that.  The mere procession of
figures across his field of vision symbolized the march of destiny, the
onward sweep of the race, the winning of the continent. Now the barbaric
paint and plumes of some proud Indian, peaceably come to trade in pelts but
really to note the changes that had taken place in his great hunting ground,
loved and ranged of old beyond all others: this figure was the Past--the
old, old Past. Next, the picturesque, rugged outlines of some backwoods
rifleman, who with his fellows had dislodged and pushed the Indian westward:
this figure was the Present--the short-lived Present. Lastly, dislodging
this figure in turn and already pushing him westward as he had driven the
Indian, a third type of historic man, the fixed settler, the land-loving,
house-building, wife-bringing, child-getting, stock-breeding yeoman of the
new field and pasture: this was the figure of the endless Future. The
retreating wave of Indian life, the thin restless wave of frontier life, the
on-coming, all-burying wave of civilized life--he seemed to feel close to
him the mighty movements of the three. His own affair, the attack of the
panther, the last encounter between the cabin and the jungle looked to him
as typical of the conquest; and that he should have come out of the struggle
alive, and have owed his life to the young Indian fighter and hunter who had
sprung between him and the incarnate terror of the wilderness, affected his
imagination as an epitome of the whole winning of the West.

One morning while the earth was still fresh with dew, the great Boone came
to inquire for him, and before he left, drew from the pocket of his hunting
shirt a well-worn little volume.

"It has been my friend many a night," he said. "I have read it by many a
camp-fire. I had it in my pocket when I stood on the top of Indian Old
Fields and saw the blue grass lands for the first time.  And when we
encamped on the creek there, I named it Lulbegrud in honour of my book. You
can read it while you have nothing else to do;" and he astounded John by
leaving in his hand Swift's story of adventures in new worlds.

He had many other visitors: the Governor, Mr. Bradford, General Wilkinson,
the leaders in the French movement, all of whom were solicitous for his
welfare as a man, but also as their chosen emissary to the Jacobin Club of
Philadelphia. In truth it seemed to him that everyone in the town came
sooner or later, to take a turn at his bedside or wish him well.

Except four persons: Amy did not come; nor Joseph, with whom he had
quarrelled and with whom he meant to settle his difference as soon as he
could get about; nor O'Bannon, whose practical joke had indirectly led to
the whole trouble; nor Peter, who toiled on at his forge with his wounded
vanity.

Betrothals were not kept secret in those days and engagements were short.
But as he was sick and suffering, some of those who visited him forbore to
mention her name, much less to speak of the preparations now going forward
for her marriage with Joseph. Others, indeed, did begin to talk of her and
to pry; but he changed the subject quickly.

And so he lay there with the old battle going on in his thoughts, never
knowing that she had promised to become the wife of another: fighting it all
over in his foolish, iron-minded way: some days hardening and saying he
would never look her in the face again; other days softening and resolving
to seek her out as soon as he grew well enough and learn whether the fault
of all this quarrel lay with him or wherein lay the truth: yet in all his
moods sore beset with doubts of her sincerity and at all times passing sore
over his defeat--defeat that always went so hard with him.

Meantime one person was pondering his case with a solicitude that he wist
not of: the Reverend James Moore, the flute-playing Episcopal parson of the
town, within whose flock this marriage was to take place and who may have
regarded Amy as one of his most frisky wayward fleeces. Perhaps indeed as
not wearing a white spiritual fleece at all but as dyed a sort of
merino-brown in the matter of righteousness.

He had long been fond of John--they both being pure-minded men, religious,
bookish, and bachelors; but their friendship caused one to think of the pine
and the palm: for the parson, with his cold bleak face, palish straight hair
put back behind white ears, and frozen smile, appeared always to be
inhabiting the arctic regions of life while John, though rooted in a
tropical soil of many passions, strove always to bear himself in character
like a palm, up-right, clean-cut; having no low or drooping branches; and
putting forth all the foliage and blossoms of the mind at the very summit of
his powers.
The parson and the school-master had often walked out to the Falconers'
together in the days when John imagined his suit to be faring prosperously;
and from Amy's conduct, and his too slight knowledge of the sex, this arctic
explorer had long since adjusted his frosted faculties to the notion that
she expected to become John's wife. He was sorry; it sent an extra chill
through the icebergs of his imagination; but perhaps he gathered comforting
warmth from the hope that some of John's whiteness would fall upon her and
that thus from being a blackish lambkin she would at least eventually turn
into a light-gray ewe.

When the tidings reached his far-inward ear that she was to marry Joseph
instead of his friend, a general thaw set in over the entire landscape of
his nature: it was like spring along the southern fringes of Greenland.

The error must not be inculcated here that the parson had no passions: he
had three-ruling ones: a passion for music, a passion for metaphysics, and a
passion for satirizing the other sex.

Dropping in one afternoon and glancing with delicate indirection at John's
short shelf of books, he inquired whether he had finished with his Paley.
John said he had and the parson took it down to bear away with him. Laying
it across his stony knees as he sat down and piling his white hands on it,

"Do you believe Paley?" he asked, turning upon John a pair of the most
beautiful eyes, which looked a little like moss agates.

"I believe St. Paul," replied John, turning his own eyes fondly on his open
Testament.

"Do you believe Paley?" insisted the parson, who would always have his
questions answered directly.

"There's a good deal of Paley: what do you mean?" said John, laughing
evasively.

"I mean his ground idea-the corner stone of his doctrine -his pou sto. I
mean do you believe that we can infer the existence and character of God
from any evidences of design that we see in the universe "

"I'm not so sure about that," said John. "What we call the evidences of
design in the universe may be merely certain laws of our own minds, certain
inward necessities we are under to think of everything as having an order
and a plan and a cause. And these inner necessities may themselves rest on
nothing, may be wrong, may be deceiving us."

"Oh, I don't mean that!" said the parson. "We've got to believe our own
minds. We've got to do that even to disbelieve them. If the mind says of
itself it is a liar, how does it know this to be true if it is a liar
itself? No; we have to believe our own minds whether they are right or
wrong. But what I mean is: can we, according to Paley, infer the existence
and character of God from anything we see?"
"It sounds reasonable," said John.
"Does it! Then suppose you apply this method of reasoning to a woman: can
you infer her existence from anything you see? Can you trace the evidences
of design there? Can you derive the slightest notion of her character from
her works?"
As the parson said this, he turned upon the sick man a look of such logical
triumph that John, who for days had been wearily trying to infer Amy's
character from what she had done, was seized with a fit of laughter--the
parson himself remaining perfectly grave.

Another day he examined John's wound tenderly, and then sat down by him with
his beautiful moss-agate eyes emitting dangerous little sparkles.

"It's a bad bite," he said, "the bite of a cat--felis concolor.  They are a
bad family--these cats--the scratchers." He was holding John's wounded hand.
"So you've had your fight with a felis. A single encounter ought to be
enough! If some one hadn't happened to step in and save you!--What do you
suppose is the root of the idea universal in the consciousness of our race
that if a man had not been a man he'd have been a lion; and that if a woman
hadn't been a woman she'd have been a tigress? "

"I don't believe there's any such idea universal in the consciousness of the
race," replied John, laughing.

"It's universal in my consciousness," said the parson doggedly, "and my
consciousness is as valid as any other man's. But I'll ask you an easier
question: who of all men, do you suppose, knew most about women?"

"Women or Woman?" inquired John.

"Women," said the parson. "We'll drop the subject of Woman: she's beyond us!

"I don't know," observed John. "St. Paul knew a good deal, and said some
necessary things."

"St. Paul!" exclaimed the parson condescendingly. "He knew a few noble
Jewesses--superficially--with a scattering acquaintance among the pagan
sisters around the shores of the Mediterranean.  As for what he wrote on
that subject--it may have been inspired by Heaven: it never could have been
inspired by the sex."
"Shakspeare, I suppose," said John.
"The man in the Arabian Nights," cried the parson, who may have been put in
mind of this character by his own attempts to furnish daily entertainment.
"He knew a thousand of them--intimately. And cut off the heads of nine
hundred and ninety-nine! The only reason he did not cut off the head of the
other was that he had learned enough: he could not endure to know any more.
All the evidence had come in: the case was closed."

"I suppose there are men in the world," he continued, "who would find it
hard to stand a single disappointment about a woman. But think of a thousand
disappointments! A thousand attempts to find a good wife--just one woman who
could furnish a man a little rational companionship at night. Bluebeard also
must have been a well-informed person. And Henry the Eighth--there was a man
who had evidently picked up considerable knowledge and who made considerable
use of it. But to go back a moment to the idea of the felis family. Suppose
we do this: we'll begin to enumerate the qualities of the common house cat.
I'll think of the cat; you think of some woman; and we'll see what we come
to."

"I'll not do it," said John. "She's too noble."

"Just for fun!"

"There's no fun in comparing a woman to a cat."

"There is if she doesn't know it. Come, begin!" And the parson laid one long
forefinger on one long little finger and waited for the first specification.
"Fineness," said John, thinking of a certain woman.

"Fondness for a nap," said the parson, thinking of a certain cat.

"Grace," said John.
"Inability to express thanks," said the parson.

"A beautiful form," said John."A desire to be stroked," said the parson.
"Sympathy," said John.
"Oh, no!" said the parson; "no cat has any sympathy. A dog has: a man is
more of a dog."
"Noble-mindedness," said John.

"That will not do either," said the parson. "Cats are not noble-minded; it's
preposterous!"

"Perfect case of manner," said John.

"Perfect indifference of manner," said the parson."

"No vanity," said John.
"No sense of humour," said the parson.

"Plenty of wit," said John.

"You keep on thinking too much about some woman," remonstrated the parson,
slightly exasperated.

"Fastidiousness," said John.

"Soft hands and beautiful nails," said the parson, nodding encouragingly.

"A gentle footstep," said John with a softened look coming into his eyes. "A
quiet presence."

"Beautiful taste in music," said John.

"Oh! dreadful!" said the parson. "What on earth are you thinking about?"

"The love of rugs and cushions," said John, groping desperately.
"The love of a lap," said the parson fluently.

"The love of playing with its victim," said John, thinking of another woman.

"Capital!" cried the parson. "That's the truest thing we've said. We'll not
spoil it by another word;" but he searched John's face covertly to see
whether this talk had beguiled him.

All this satire meant nothing sour, or bitter, or ignoble with the parson.
It was merely the low, far-off play of the northern lights of his mind,
irradiating the long polar night of his bachelorhood. But even on the polar
night the sun rises--a little way; and the time came when he married--as one
might expect to find the flame of a volcano hidden away in a mountain of
Iceland spar.

Toward the end of his illness, John lay one night inside his door, looking
soberly, sorrowfully out into the moonlight. A chair sat outside, and the
parson walked quietly up the green hill and took it. Then he laid his hat on
the grass; and passed his delicate hands slowly backward over his long fine
straight hair, on which the moonbeams at once fell with a luster as upon
still water or the finest satin.

They talked awhile of the best things in life, as they commonly did. At
length the parson said in his unworldly way:

"I have one thing against Aristotle: he said the effect of the flute was bad
and exciting. He was no true Greek. John, have you ever thought how much of
life can be expressed in terms of music? To me every civilization has given
out its distinct musical quality; the ages have their peculiar tones; each
century its key, its scale. For generations in Greece you can hear nothing
but the pipes; during other generations nothing but the lyre. Think of the
long, long time among the Romans when your ear is reached by the trumpet
alone.

"Then again whole events in history come down to me with the effect of an
orchestra, playing in the distance; single lives sometimes like a great
solo. As for the people I know or have known, some have to me the sound of
brass, some the sound of wood, some the sound of strings. Only--so few, so
very, very few yield the perfect music of their kind. The brass is a little
too loud; the wood a little too muffled; the strings--some of the strings
are invariably broken. I know a big man who is nothing but a big drum; and I
know another whose whole existence has been a jig on a fiddle; and I know a
shrill little fellow who is a fife; and I know a brassy girl who is a pair
of cymbals; and once--once," repeated the parson whimsically, "I knew an old
maid who was a real living spinet. I even know another old maid now who is
nothing but an old music book--long ago sung through, learned by heart, and
laid aside: in a faded, wrinkled binding--yellowed paper stained by
tears--and haunted by an odour of rose-petals, crushed between the leaves of
memory: a genuine very thin and stiff collection of the rarest original
songs--not songs without words, but songs without sounds--the ballads of an
undiscovered heart, the hymns of an unanswered spirit."

After a pause during which neither of the men spoke, the parson went on:

"All Ireland--it is a harp! We know what Scotland is. John," he exclaimed,
suddenly turning toward the dark figure lying just inside the shadow, "you
are a discord of the bagpipe and the harp: there's the trouble with you.
Sometimes I can hear the harp alone in you, and then I like you; but when
the bagpipe begins, you are worse than a big bumblebee with a bad cold."

"I know it," said John sorrowfully. "My only hope is that the harp will
outlast the bee."

"At least that was a chord finely struck," said the parson warmly. After
another silence he went on.

"Martin Luther--he was a cathedral organ. And so it goes. And so the whole
past sounds to me: it is the music of the world: it is the vast choir of the
ever-living dead." He gazed dreamily up at the heavens: "Plato! he is the
music of the stars."

After a little while, bending over and looking at the earth and speaking in
a tone of unconscious humility, he added:

"The most that we can do is to begin a strain that will swell the general
volume and last on after we have perished. As for me, when I am gone, I
should like the memory of my life to give out the sound of a flute."

He slipped his hand softly into the breastpocket of his coat and more softly
drew something out.

"Would you like a little music?" he asked shyly, his cold beautiful face all
at once taking on an expression of angelic sweetness.

John quickly reached out and caught his hand in a long, crushing grip: he
knew this was the last proof the parson could ever have given him that he
loved him. And then as he lay back on his pillow, he turned his face back
into the dark cabin.

Out upon the stillness of the night floated the parson's passion--
silver-clear, but in an undertone of such peace, of such immortal
gentleness.  It was as though the very beams of the far-off serenest moon,
falling upon his flute and dropping down into its interior through its
little round openings, were by his touch shorn of all their lustre, their
softness, their celestial energy, and made to reissue as music. It was as
though his flute had been stuffed with frozen Alpine blossoms and these had
been melted away by the passionate breath of his soul into the coldest
invisible flowers of sound.
At last, as though all these blossoms in his flute had been used up--blown
out upon the warm, moon-lit air as the snow-white fragrances of the ear--the
parson buried his face softly upon his elbow which rested on the back of his
chair.
And neither man spoke again.
XIII

WHEN Mrs. Falconer had drawn near John's hut on the morning of his
misfortune, it was past noon despite all her anxious, sorrowful haste to
reach him. His wounds had been dressed. The crowd of people that had
gathered about his cabin were gone back to their occupations or their
homes--except a group that sat on the roots of a green tree several yards
from his door. Some of these were old wilderness folk living near by who had
offered to nurse him and otherwise to care for his comforts and needs. The
affair furnished them that renewed interest in themselves which is so liable
to revisit us when we have escaped a fellow-creature's suffering but can
relate good things about ourselves in like risks and dangers; and they were
drawing out their reminiscences now with unconscious gratitude for so
excellent an opportunity befalling them in these peaceful unadventurous
days. Several of John's boys lay in the grass and hung upon these
narratives. Now and then they cast awe-stricken glances at his door which
had been pushed to, that he might be quiet; or, if his pain would let him,
drop into a little sleep. They made it their especial care, when any
new-comer hurried past, to arrest him with the command that he must not go
in; and they would thus have stopped Mrs. Falconer but she put them gently
aside without heed or hearing.

When she softly pushed the door open, John was not asleep. He lay in a
corner on his low hard bed of skins against the wall of logs-- his eyes wide
open, the hard white glare of the small shutter-less window falling on his
face. He turned to her the look of a dumb animal that can say nothing of why
it has been wounded or of how it is suffering; stretched out his hand
gratefully; and drew her toward him. She sat down on the edge of the bed,
folded her quivering fingers across his temples, smoothed back his heavy,
coarse, curling hair, and bending low over his eyes, rained down into them
the whole unuttered, tearless passion of her distress, her sympathy.
Major Falconer came for her within the hour and she left with him almost as
soon as he arrived.
When she was gone, John lay thinking of her.

"What a nurse she is!" he said, remembering how she had concerned herself
solely his about life, his safety, his wounds. Once she had turned quickly:

"Now you can't go away!" she had said with a smile that touched him deeply.

"I wish you didn't have to go!" he had replied mourningfully, feeling his
sudden dependence on her.

This was the first time she had ever been in room--with its poverty, its
bareness. She must have cast about it a look of delicate inquiry--as a woman
is apt to do in a singleman's abode; for when she came again, in addition to
pieces of soft old linen for bandages brought fresh cool fragrant
sheets--the work of her own looms; a better pillow with a pillow-case on it
that was delicious to his cheek; for he had his weakness about clean, white
linen. She put a curtain over the pitiless window. He saw a wild rose in a
glass beside his Testament. He discovered moccasin slippers beside his bed.

"And here," she had said just before leaving, with her hand on a pile of
things and with an embarrassed laugh--keeping her face turned away--"here
are some towels."
Under the towels he found two night shirts--new ones.

When she was gone, he lay thinking of her again.

He had gratefully slipped on one of the shirts. He was feeling the new sense
of luxury that is imparted by a bed enriched with snow-white, sweet-smelling
pillows and sheets. The curtain over his window strained into his room a
light shadowy, restful. The flower on his table,--the transforming touch in
his room--her noble brooding tenderness--everything went into his gratitude,
his remembrance of her. But all this--he argued with a sudden taste for fine
discrimination--had not been done out of mere anxiety for his life: it was
not the barren solicitude of a nurse but the deliberate, luxurious regard of
a mother for his comfort: no doubt it represented the ungovernable overflow
of the maternal, long pent-up in her ungratified.  And by this route he came
at last to a thought of her that novel for him--the pitying recollection of
her childlessness.

"What a mother she would have been!" he said rebelliously. "The mother of
sons who would have become great through her--and greater through the memory
of her after she was gone."
When she came again, seeing him out of danger and seeing him comfortable,
she seated herself beside his table and opened her work."It isn't good for
you to talk much," she soon said reprovingly, "and I have to work--and to
think."

And so he lay watching her--watching her beautiful fingers which never
seemed to rest in life--watching her quiet brow with its ripple of lustrous
hair forever suggesting to him how her lovely neck and shoulders would be
buried by it if its long light waves were but loosened. To have a woman
sitting by his table with her sewing--it turned his room into something
vaguely dreamed of heretofore: a home. She finished a sock for Major
Falconer and began on one of his shirts.  He counted the stitches as they
went into a sleeve. They made him angry. And her face!--over it had come a
look of settled weariness; for perhaps if there is ever a time when a woman
forgets and the inward sorrow steals outward to the surface as an unwatched
shadow along a wall, it is when she sews.

"What a wife she is!" he reflected enviously after she was gone; and he
tried not to think of certain matters in her life. "What a wife! How
unfaltering in duty!"

The next time she came, it was early. She seemed to him to have bathed in
the freshness, the beauty, the delight of the morning. He had never seen her
so radiant, so young. She was like a woman who holds in her hand the
unopened casket of life--its jewels still ungazed on, still unworn. There
was some secret excitement in her as though the moment had at last come for
her to open it. She had but a few moments to spare.

"I have brought you a book," she said, smiling and laying her cheek against
a rose newly placed by his Testament. For a moment she scrutinized him with
intense penetration. Then she added:

"Will you read it wisely?"

"I will if I am wise," he replied laughing. "Thank you," and he held out his
hand for the book eagerly.
She clasped it more tightly with the gayest laugh of irresolution.  Her
colour deepened. A moment later, however, she recovered the simple and noble
seriousness to which she had grown used as the one habit of her life with
him.

"You should have read it long ago," she said. "But it is not too late for
you. Perhaps now is your best time. It is a good book for a man, wounded as
you have been; and by the time you are well, you will need it more than you
have ever done. Hereafter you will always need it more."

She spoke with partly hidden significance, as one who knows life may speak
to one who does not.
He eyed the book despairingly.

"It is my old Bible of manhood," she continued with rich soberness, " part
worthless, part divine. Not Greek manhood--nor Roman manhood: they were too
pagan. Not Semitic manhood: that--in its ideal at least--was not pagan
enough. But something better than any of these--something that is
everything."
The subject struck inward to the very heart's root of his private life. He
listened as with breath arrested.

"We know what the Greeks were before everything else," she said resolutely:
" hey were physical men: we think less of them spiritually in any sense of
the idea that is valued by us and of course we do not think of them at all
as gentlemen: that involves of course the highest courtesy to women. The
Jews were of all things spiritual in the type of their striving. Their
ancient system, and the system of the New Testament itself as it was soon
taught and passed down to us, struck a deadly blow at the development of the
body for its own sake--at physical beauty: and the highest development of
the body is what the race can never do without. It struck another blow at
the development of taste--at the luxury and grace of the intellect: which
also the race can never do without. But in this old book you will find the
starting-point of a new conception of ideal human life. It grew partly out
of the pagan; it grew partly out of the Christian; it added from its own age
something of its own. Nearly every nation of Europe has lived on it ever
since--as its ideal.  The whole world is being nourished by that ideal more
and more.  It is the only conception of itself that the race can never fall
away from without harm, because it is the ideal of its own perfection. You
know what I mean?" she asked a little imperiously as though she were talking
to a green boy.

"What do you mean?" he asked wonderingly. She had never spoken to him in
this way. Her mood, the passionate, beautiful, embarrassed stress behind all
this, was a bewildering revelation.

"I mean," she said, "that first of all things in this world a man must be a
man--with all the grace and vigour and, if possible, all the beauty of the
body. Then he must be a gentleman--with all the grace, the vigour, the good
taste of the mind. And then with both of these--no matter what his creed,
his dogmas, his superstitions, his religion--with both of these he must try
to live a beautiful life of the spirit."
He looked at her eagerly, gratefully.

"You will find him all these," she resumed, dropping her eyes before his
gratitude which was much too personal. "You wil1 find all these in this
book: here are men who were men; here are men who were gentlemen; and here
are gentlemen who served the unfallen life of the spirit."

She kept her eyes on the book. Her voice had become very grave and reverent.
She had grown more embarrassed, but at last she went on as though resolved
to finish:

"So it ought to help you! It will help you. It will help you to be what you
are trying to be. There are things here that you have sought and have never
found. There are characters here whom you have wished to meet without ever
having known that they existed.  If you will always live by what is best in
this book, love the best that it loves, hate what it hates, scorn what it
scorns, follow its ideals to the end of the world, to the end of your
life --"

"Oh, but give it to me!" he cried, lifting himself impulsively on one elbow
and holding out his hand for it.
She came silently over to the bedside and placed it on his hand. He studied
the title wonderingly, wonderingly turned some of the leaves, and at last,
smiling with wonder still, looked up at her. And then he forgot the
book--forgot everything but her.

Once upon a time he had been walking along a woodland path with his eyes
fixed on the ground in front of him as was his studious wont. In the path
itself there had not been one thing to catch his notice: only brown
dust--little stones--a twig--some blades of withered grass.

Then all at once out of this dull, dead motley of harmonious nothingness, a
single gorgeous spot had revealed itself, swelled out, and disappeared: a
butterfly had opened its wings, laid bare their inside splendours, and
closed them again--presenting to the eye only the adaptive, protective,
exterior of those marvellous swinging doors of its life. He had wondered
then that Nature could so paint the two sides of this thinnest of all
canvases: the outside merely daubed over that it might resemble the dead and
common and worthless things amid which the creature had to live--a
masterwork of concealment; the inside designed and drawn and coloured with
lavish fullness of plan, grace of curve, marvel of hue--all for the purpose
of the exquisite self revelation which should come when the one great
invitation of existence was sought or was given.
As the young school-master now looked up--too quickly--at the woman who
stood over him, her eyes were like a butterfly's gorgeous wings that for an
instant had opened upon him and already were closing--closing upon the
hidden splendours of her nature--closing upon the power to receive upon
walls of beauty all the sunlight of the world.

"What a woman!" he said to himself, strangely troubled a moment later when
she was gone. He had not looked at the book again. It lay forgotten by his
pillow.

"What a woman!" he repeated, with a sigh that was like a groan.

Her bringing of the book--her unusual conversation--her excitement--her
seriousness--the impression she made upon him that a new problem was
beginning to work itself out in her life--most of all that one startling
revelation of herself at the instant of turning away: all these occupied his
thoughts that day.

She did not return the next or the next or the next.  And, it was during
these long vacant hours that he began to weave curiously together all that
he had ever heard of her and of her past; until, in the end, he accomplished
something like a true restoration of her life--in the colour of his own
emotions. Then he fell to wandering up and down this long vista of scenes as
he might have sought unwearied secret gallery of pictures through which he
alone had the privilege of walking.

At the far end of the vista he could behold her in her childhood as the
daughter of a cavalier land-holder in the valley of the James: an heiress of
a vast estate with its winding creeks and sunny bays, its tobacco
plantations worked by troops of slaves, its deer parks and open country for
the riding to hounds. There was the manor-house in the style of the grand
places of the English gentry from whom her father was descended; sloping
from the veranda to the river landing a wide lawn covered with the silvery
grass of the English parks, its walks bordered with hedges of box, its
summer-house festooned with vines, its terraces gay with the old familiar
shrubs and flowers loyally brought over from the mother land. He could see
her as, some bright summer morning, followed by a tame fawn, she bounded
down the lawn to the private landing where a slow frigate had stopped to
break bulk on its way to Williamsburg-perhaps to put out with other
furniture a little mahogany chair brought especially for herself over the
rocking sea from London or where some round-sterned packet from New England
or New Amsterdam was unloading its cargo of grain or hides or rum in
exchange for her father's tobacco. Perhaps to greet her father himself
returning from a long absence amid old scenes that still could draw him back
to England; or standing lonely on the pier, to watch in tears him and her
brothers--a vanishing group--as they waved her a last good-bye and drifted
slowly out to the blue ocean on their way "home" to school at Eton.

He liked to dwell on the picture of her as a little school-girl herself:
sent fastidiously on her way, with long gloves covering her arms, a white
linen mask tied over her face to screen her complexion from tan, a sunbonnet
sewed tightly on her head to keep it secure from the capricious winds of
heaven and the more variable gusts of her own wilfulness; or on another
picture of her--as a lonely little lass--begging to be taken to court, where
she could marvel at her father, an awful judge in his wig and his robe of
scarlet and black velvet; or on a third picture of her--as when she was
marshalled into church behind a liveried servant bearing the family
prayer-book, sat in the raised pew upholstered in purple velvet, with its
canopy overhead and the gilt letters of the family name in front; and a
little farther away on the wall of the church the Lord's Prayer and the
Commandments put there by her father at the cost of two thousand pounds of
his best tobacco; finally to be preached to by a minister with whom her
father sometimes spilt wine on the table-cloth, and who had once fought a
successful duel behind his own sanctuary of peace and good will to all men.
Here succeeded other scenes; for as his interest deepened, he never grew
tired of this restorative image-building by which she could be brought
always more vividly before his imagination.

Her childhood gone, then, he followed her as she glided along the shining
creeks from plantation to plantation in a canoe manned by singing black
oarsmen: or rode abroad followed by her greyhound, her face concealed by a
black velvet riding mask kept in place by a silver mouth-piece held between
her teeth; or when autumn waned, went rolling slowly along towards
Williamsburg or Annapolis in the great family coach of mahogany, with its
yellow facings, Venetian windows, projection lamps, and high seat for
footmen and coachman --there to take a house for the winter season--there to
give and to be given balls, where she trod the minuet, stiff in blue
brocade, her white shoulders rising out of a bodice hung with gems, her
beautiful head bearing aloft its tower of long white feathers.
Yet with most of her life passed at the great lonely country-house by the
bright river: qazing wistfully out of the deep-mullioned windows of diamond
panes; flitting up and down the wide staircase of carven oak; buried in its
library, with its wainscoted walls crossed with swords and hung with
portraits of soldierly faces: all of which pleased him best, he being a
home-lover. So that when facts were lacking, sometimes he would kindle true
fancies of her young life in this place: as when she reclined on mats and
cushions in the breeze-swept balls, fanned by a slave and reading the Tatler
or the Spectator; or if it were the chill twilights of October, perhaps came
in from a walk in the cool woods with a red leaf at her white throat, and
seated herself at the spinet, while a low blaze from the deep chimney seat
flickered over her face, and the low music flickered with the shadows; or
when the white tempests of winter raved outside, gave her nights to the
reading of "Tom Jones," by the light of myrtleberry candles on a
slender-legged mahogany table.

But he had heard a great deal of her visits at the other great country
places of the day. Often at Greenway Court, where her father went to ride to
hounds with Lord Fairfax and Washington; at Carter's Grove; at the homes of
the Berkeleys, the Masons, the Spottswoods; once, indeed, at Castlewood
itself, where the stately Madam Esmond Warrington had placed her by her own
side at dinner and had kissed her check at leaving; but oftenest at Brandon
Mansion where one of her heroines had lived--Evelyn Byrd; so that, Sir
Godfrey Knell having painted that sad young lady, who now lies with a heavy
stone on her heavier heart in the dim old burying-ground at Westover, she
would have it that hers must be painted in the same identical fashion, with
herself sitting on a green bank, a cluster of roses in her hand, a
shepherd's crook across her knees.

And then, just as she was fairly opening into the earliest flower of
womanhood, the sudden, awful end of all this half-barbaric,
half-aristocratic life--the revolt of the colonies, the outbreak of the
Revolution, the blaze of way that swept the land like a forest fire, and
that enveloped in its furies even the great house on the James. One of her
brothers turned Whig, and already gone impetuously away in his uniform of
buff and blue, to follow the fortunes of Washington; the other siding with
the "home" across the sea, and he too already ridden impetuously away in
scarlet.  Her proud father, his heart long torn between these two and
between his two countries, pacing the great hall, his face flushed with
wine, his eyes turning confusedly, pitifully, on the soldierly portraits of
his ancestors; until at last he too was gone, to keep his sword and his
conscience loyal to his king.

And then more dreadful years and still sadder times; as when one dark
morning toward daybreak, by the edge of a darker forest draped with snow
where the frozen dead lay thick, they found an officer's hat half filled
with snow, and near by, her father fallen face downward; and turning him
over, saw a bullet-hole over his breast, and the crimson of his blood on the
scarlet of his waistcoat; so departed, with manfulness out of this world and
leaving behind him some finer things than his debts and mortgages over dice
and cards and dogs and wine and lotteries. Then not long after that, the
manor-house on the James turned into the unkindest of battlefields; one
brother defending at the head of troops within, the other attacking at the
head of troops without; the snowy bedrooms becoming the red-stained wards of
a hospital; the staircase hacked by swords; the poor little spinet and the
slender-legged little mahogany tables overturned and smashed, the portraits
slashed, the library scattered. Then one night, seen from a distance, a vast
flame licking the low clouds; and afterwards a black ruin where the great
house had stood, and so the end of it all forever.

During these years, she, herself, had been like a lily in a lake, never
uprooted, but buried out of sight beneath the storm that tosses the waves
back and forth.

Then white and heavenly Peace again, and the liberty of the Anglo-Saxon race
in the New World. But with wounds harder to heal than those of the flesh;
with memories that were as sword-points broken off in the body; with glory
to brighten more and more, as time went on, but with starvation close at
hand. Virginia willing to pay her heroes but having naught wherewith to pay,
until the news comes from afar, that while all this has been going on in the
East, in the West the rude border-folk, the backwoodsmen of the Blue Ridge
and the Alleghanies, without generals, without commands, without help or
pay, or reward of any kind, but fighting of their own free will and dyeing
every step of their advance with their blood, had entered and conquered the
great neutral game-park of the Northern and the Southern Indians, and were
holding it against all plots: in the teeth of all comers and against the
frantic Indians themselves; against England, France, Spain,--a new land as
good as the best of old England--Kentucky! Into which already thousands upon
thousands were hurrying in search of homes --a new movement of the race--its
first spreading-out over the mighty continent upon its mightier destiny.

So had come about her hasty marriage with her young officer, whom Virginia
rewarded for his service with land; so had followed the breaking of all
ties, to journey by his side into the wilderness, there to undergo hardship,
perhaps death itself after captivity and torture such that no man who has
ever loved a woman can even look another man in the face and name.

Thus ever on and on unwittingly he wove the fibres of her life about him as
his shirt of destiny: following the threads nearer, always nearer, toward
the present, until he reached the day on which he had first met her on his
in the wilderness. From that time, he no longer relied upon hearsay, but
drew from his own knowledge of her to fill out and so far to end all these
fond tapestries of his memory and imagination.

But as one who has traversed a long gallery of pictures, and, turning to
look back upon all that he has passed, sees a straight track narrowing away
into the dimming distance, and only the last few life scenes standing out
lustrous and clear, so the school-master, gazing down this long vista,
beheld at the far end of it a little girl, whom he did not know, playing on
the silvery ancestral lawns of the James; at the near end, watching by his
bedside on this rude border of the West, a woman who had become
indispensable to his friendship.

More days passed, and still she did not return. His eagerness for her rose
and followed, and sorrowfully set with every sun.

Meantime he read the book, beginning it with an effort through finding it
hard to withdraw his mind from his present. But soon he was clutching it
with a forgotten hand and lay on his bed for hours joined fast to it with
unreleasing eyes; draining its last words into his heart, with a thirst
newly begotten and growing always the more quenchless as it was always being
quenched. So that having finished it, he read it again, now seeing the high
end of it all from the low beginning. And then a third time, more
clingingly, more yearningly yet, thrice lighting the fire in his blood with
the same straw. Like a vital fire it was left in him at last, a red and
white of flame; the two flames forever hostile, and seeking each to burn the
other out. And while it stayed in him thus as a fire, it had also filled all
tissues of his being as water fills a sponge--not dead water a dead
sponge--but as a living sap runs through the living sponges of a young oak
on the edge of its summer. So that never should he be able to forget it;
never henceforth be the same in knowledge or heart or conscience; and
nevermore was the lone spiritual battle of his life, if haply waged at all,
to be fought out by him with the earlier, simpler weapons of his innocence
and his youth, but with all the might of a tempted man's high faith in the
beauty and the right and the divine supremacy of goodness.

One morning his wounds had begun to require attention.  No one had yet come
to him: it was hardly the customary hour: and moreover, by rising in bed he
could see that something unusual had drawn the people into the streets. The
news of a massacre on the western frontier, perhaps; the arrival of the
post-rider with angry despatches from the East; or the torch of revolution
thrown far northward from New Orleans. His face had flushed with feverish
waiting and he lay with his eyes turned restlessly toward the door.

It was Mrs. Falconer who stepped forward to it with hesitation.  But as soon
as she caught sight of him, she hurried to the bed.
"What is the trouble? Have you been worse?"

"Oh, nothing! It is nothing."
"Why do you say that--to me?"

"My shoulder. But it is hardly time for them to come yet."
She hesitated and her face showed how serious her struggle was.
"Let me," she said firmly.

He looked up quickly, confusedly, at her with a refusal on his lips; but she
had already turned away to get the needful things in readiness, and he
suffered her, if for no other reason than to avoid letting her see the
painful rush of blood to his face.  As she moved about the room, she spoke
only to ask unavoidable questions; he, only to answer them; and neither
looked at the other.

Then he sat up in the bed and bared his neck and shoulder, one arm and half
his chest; and with his face crimson, turned his eyes away. She had been
among the women in the fort during that summer thirteen years before, when
the battle of the Blue Licks had been fought; and speaking in the quietest,
most natural of voices, she now began to describe how the wounded had
straggled in from the battle-field; one rifleman reeling on his horse and
held in his seat by the arm of a comrade, his bleeding, bandaged head on
that comrade's shoulder; another borne on a litter swung between two horses;
others --footmen--holding out just long enough to come into sight of the
fort, there to sink down; one, a mere youth, fallen a mile back in the hot
dusty buffalo trace with an unspoken message to some one in his brave,
beautiful, darkening eyes. But before this, she told him how the women had
watched all that night and the day previous inside the poor little
earth-mound of a defence against artillery, built by order of Jefferson and
costing $37.5O; the women taking as always the places of the men who were
gone away to the war; becoming as always the defenders of the land, of the
children, of those left behind sick or too old to fight. How from the black
edge of dawn they had strained their eyes in the direction of the battle
until at last a woman's cry of agony had rent the air as the first of the
wounded had ridden slowly into sight. How they had rushed forth through the
wooden gates and heard the tidings of it all and then had followed the
scenes and the things that could never be told for pity and grief and love
and sadness.

After a little pause she began to speak of Major Falconer as the
school-master had never known her to speak; tremulously of his part in that
battle, a Revolutionary officer serving as a common backwoods soldier;
eloquently of his perfect courage then and always, of his perfect manliness;
and she ended by saying that the worst thing that could ever befall a woman
was to marry an unmanly man.

"If any one single thing in life could ever have killed me," she said, "it
would have been that."

With her last words she finished the dressing of his wounds.  Spots of the
deepest rose were on her cheeks; her eyes were lighted with proud fire.
Confusedly he thanked her and, lying back on his pillow, closed his eyes and
turned his face away.

When she had quickly gone he sat up in the bed again. He drew the book
guiltily from under his pillow, looked long and sorrowfully at it, and then
with a low cry of shame--the first that had ever burst from his lips--he
hurled it across the room and threw himself violently down again, with his
forehead against the logs, his eyes hidden, his face burning.


XIV

THE first day that John felt strong enough to walk as far as that end of the
town, he was pulling himself unsteadily past the shop when he saw Peter and
turned in to rest and chat.The young blacksmith refused to speak to him.

"Peter!" said John with a sad, shaky voice, holding out his hand, "have I
changed so much? Don't you know me?"

"Yes; I know you," said Peter. "I wish I didn't."

"I don't think I recognize you any more," replied John, after a moment of
silence. "What's the matter?"

"Oh, you get along," said Peter. "Clear out!"

John went inside and drank a gourd of water out of Peter's cool bucket, came
back with a stool and sat down squarely before him.

"Now look here," he said with the candour which was always the first law of
nature with him, "what have I done to you?"

Peter would neither look nor speak; but being powerless before kindness, he
was beginning to break down.

"Out with it," said John. "What have I done?""You know what you've said."

"What have I said about you?" asked John, now perceiving that some mischief
had been at work here. "Who told you I had said anything about you?"

"It's no use for you to deny it."

"Who told you?"

"O'Bannon!"

"O'Bannon!" exclaimed John with a frown. "I've never talked to O'Bannon
about you--about anything."

"You haven't abused me?" said Peter, wheeling on the schoolmaster, eyes and
face and voice full of the suffering of his wounded self-love and of his
wounded affection.

"I hope I've abused nobody!" said John proudly.

"Come in here!" cried Peter, springing up and hurrying into his shop.

Near the door stood a walnut tree with wide-spreading branches wearing the
fresh plumes of late May, plumes that hung down over the door and across the
windows, suffusing the interior with a soft twilight of green and brown
shadows. A shaft of sunbeams penetrating a crevice fell on the white neck of
a yellow collie that lay on the ground with his head on his paws, his eyes
fixed reproachfully on the heels of the horse outside, his ears turned back
toward his master. Beside him a box had been kicked over: tools and shoes
scattered. A faint line of blue smoke sagged from the dying coals of the
forge toward the door, creeping across the anvil bright as if tipped with
silver. And in one of the darkest corners of the shop, near a bucket of
water in which floated a huge brown gourd, Peter and John sat on a bench
while the story of O'Bannon's mischief-making was begun and finished. It was
told by Peter with much cordial rubbing of his elbows in the palms of his
hands and much light-hearted smoothing of his apron over his knees. At times
a cloud, passing beneath the sun, threw the shop into heavier shadow; and
then the school-master's dark figure faded into the tone of the sooty wall
behind him and only his face, with the contrast of its white linen collar
below and the bare discernible lights of his auburn hair above--his face,
proud, resolute, astounded, pallid, suffering--started out of the gloom like
a portrait from an old canvas.

"And this is why you never came to see me." He had sprung up like a man made
well, and was holding Peter's hand and looking reproachfully into his eyes.

"I'd have seen you dead first," cried Peter gaily, giving him a mighty slap
on the shoulder. "But wait! O'Bannon's not the only man who can play a
joke!"

John hurriedly left the shop with a gesture which Peter did not understand.

The web of deceptive circumstances that had been spun about him had been
brushed away at last: he saw the whole truth now--saw his own blindness,
blundering, folly, injustice.

He was on his way to Amy already.

When he had started out, he had thought he should walk around a little and
then lie down again. Now with his powerful stride come back to him, he had
soon passed the last house of the town and was nearing the edge of the
wilderness. He took the same straight short course of the afternoon on which
he had asked Mrs. Falconer's consent to his suit. As he hurried on, it
seemed to him a long time since then! What experiences he had undergone!
What had he not suffered! How he was changed!

"Yes," he said over and over to himself, putting away all other thoughts in
a resolve to think of this nearest duty only. "If I've been unkind to her,
if I've been wrong, have I not suffered?"

He had not gone far before his strength began to fail. He was forced to sit
down and rest. It was near sundown when he reached the clearing.

"At last!" he said gratefully, with his old triumphant habit of carrying out
whatever he undertook. He had put out all his strength to get there.

He passed the nearest field--the peach trees--the garden--and took the path
toward the house.

"Where shall I find her?" he thought. "Where can I see her alone?"

"Between him and the house stood a building of logs and plaster.  It was a
single room used for the spinning and the weaving of which she had charge.
Many a time he had lain on the great oaken chest into which the homespun
cloth was stored while she sat by her spinning-wheel; many a talk they had
had there together, many a parting; and many a Saturday twilight he had put
his arms around her there and turned away for his lonely walk to town,
planning their future.  "If she should only be in the weaving-room!"

He stepped softly to the door and looked in. She was there-- standing near
the middle of the room with her face turned from him. The work of the day
was done. On one side were the spinning-wheels, farther on a loom; before
her a table on which the cloth was piled ready to be folded away; on the
other the great open chest into which she was about to store it. She had
paused in revery, her hands clasped behind her head.

At the sight of her and with the remembrance of how he had misjudged and
mistreated her--most of all swept on by some lingering flood of the old
tenderness--he stepped forward put his arms softly around her, drew her
closely to him, and buried his check against hers:

"Amy!" he murmured, his voice quivering his whole body trembling, his heart
knocking against his ribs like a stone.
She struggled out of his arms with a cry and recognizing him, drew her
figure up to its full height. Her eyes filled with passion, cold and
resentful.

He made a gesture.

"Wait!" he cried. "Listen."

He laid bare everything--from his finding of the bundle to the evening of
the ball.

He was standing by the doorway. A small window in the opposite wall of the
low room opened toward the West. Through this a crimson light fell upon his
face revealing its pallor, its storm, its struggle for calmness.

She stood a few yards off with her face in shadow. As she had stepped
backward, one of her hands had struck against her spinning-wheel and now
rested on it; with the other she had caught the edge of the table. From the
spinning-wheel a thread of flax trailed to the ground; on the table lay a
pair of iron shears.

As he stood looking at her facing him thus in cold half-shadowy anger--at
the spinning wheel with its trailing flax--at, the table with its iron
shears--at her hands stretched forth as if about to grasp the one and to lay
hold on the other--he shudderingly thought of the ancient arbitress of Life
and Death--Fate the mighty, the relentless. The fancy passed and was
succeeded by the sense of her youth and loveliness. She wore a dress of
coarse snow-white homespun, narrow in the skirt and fitting close to her
arms and neck and to the outlines of her form. Her hair was parted simply
over her low beautiful brow. There was nowhere a ribbon or a trifle of
adornment: and in that primitive, simple, fearless revelation of itself her
figure had the frankness of a statue.   While he spoke the anger died out of
her face. But in its stead came something worse--hardness; and something
that was worse still--an expression of revenge.

"If I was unfeeling with you," he implored, "only consider! You had broken
your engagement without giving any reason; I saw you at the party dancing
with Joseph; I believed myself trifled with, I said that if you could treat
in that way there was nothing you could say that I cared to hear. I was
blind to the truth; I was blinded by suffering.

"If you suffered, it was your own fault," she replied, calm as the Fate that
holds the shears and the thread. "I wanted to explain to you why I broke my
engagement and why I went with Joseph: you refused to allow me."

"But before that! Remember that I had gone to see you the night before. You
had a chance to explain then. But you did not explain. Still, I did not
doubt that your reason was good. I did not ask you to state it. But when I
saw you at the party with Joseph, was I not right, in thinking that the time
for an explanation had passed?"

"No," she replied. "As long as I did not give any reason, you ought not to
have asked for one; but when I wished to give it, you should have been ready
to hear it."
He drew himself up quickly.

"This is a poor pitiful misunderstanding. I say, forgive me! We will let it
pass. I had thought each of us was wrong--you first, I, afterward."
"I was not wrong either first or last!"

"Think so if you must! Only, try to understand me! Amy, you know I've loved
you. You could never have acted toward me as you have, if you had not
believed that. And that night--the night you would not see me alone--I went
to ask you to marry me. I meant to ask you the next night. I am here to ask
you now! . . ."

He told her of the necessity that had kept him from speaking sooner, of the
recent change which made it possible. He explained how he had waited and
planned and had shaped his whole life with the thought that she would share
it. She had listened with greater interest especially to what he had said
about the improvement in his fortunes. Her head had dropped slightly forward
as though she were thinking that after all perhaps she had made a mistake.
But she now lifted it with deliberateness:

"And what right had you to be so sure all this time that I would marry you
whenever you asked me? What right had you to take it for granted that
whenever you were ready, I would be?"

The hot flush of shame dyed his face that she could deal herself such a
wound and not even know it.

He drew himself up again, sparing her:

"I loved you. I could not love without hoping. I could not hope without
planning. Hoping, planning, striving,--everything!--it was all because I
loved you!" And then he waited, looking down on her in silence.

She began to grow nervous. She had stooped to pick up the thread of flax and
was passing it slowly between her fingers. When he spoke again, his voice
showed that he shook like a man with a chill:
"I have said all I can say. I have offered all I have to offer. I am
waiting."

Still the silence lasted for the new awe of him that began to fall upon her.
In ways she could not fathom she was beginning to feel that a change had
come over him during these weeks of their separation. He used more
gentleness with her: his voice, his manner, his whole bearing, had finer
courtesy; he had strangely ascended to some higher level of character, and
he spoke to her from this distance with a sadness that touched her
indefinably--with a larger manliness that had its quick effect. She covertly
lifted her eyes and beheld on his face a proud passion of beauty and of pain
beyond anything that she had ever thought possible to him or to any man. She
quickly dropped her head again; she shifted her position; a band seemed to
tighten around her throat; until, in a voice hardly to be heard, she
murmured falteringly:

"I have promised to marry Joseph."

He did not speak or move, but continued to stand leaning against the lintel
of the doorway, looking down on her. The colour was fading from the west
leaving it ashen white. And so standing in the dying radiance, he saw the
long bright day of his young hope come to its close; he drained to its dregs
his cup of bitterness she had prepared for him; learned his first lesson in
the victory of little things over the larger purposes of life, over the
nobler planning; bit the dust of the heart's first defeat and tragedy.

She had caught up the iron shears in her nervousness and begun to cut the
flaxen thread; and in the silence of the room only the rusty click was now
heard as she clipped it, clipped it, clipped it.

Then such a greater trembling seized her that she laid the shears back upon
the table. Still he did not move or speak, and there seemed to fall upon her
conscience--in insupportable burden until, as if by no will of her own, she
spoke again pitifully:

"I didn't know that you cared so much for me. It isn't my fault. You had
never asked me, and he had already asked me twice."
He changed his position quickly so that the last light coming in through the
window could no longer betray his face. All at once his voice broke through
the darkness, so unlike itself that she started:

"When did you give him this promise? I have no right to ask . . . when did
you give him this promise?"

She answered as if by no will of her own:"The night of the ball--as we were
going home."

She waited until she felt that she should sink to the ground.

Then he spoke again as if rather to himself than to her, and with the
deepest sorrow and pity for them both:

"If I had gone with you that night--if I had gone with you that night--and
had asked you--you would have married me."

Her lips began to quiver and all that was in her to break down before
him--to yearn for him. In a voice neither could scarce hear she said:

"I will marry you yet!"

She listened. She waited, Out of the darkness she could distinguish not the
rustle of a movement, not a breath of sound; and at last cowering back into
herself with shame, she buried her face in her hands.

Then she was aware that he had come forward and was standing over her. He
bent his head down so close that his lids touched her hair--so close that
his warm breath was on her forehead--and she  felt rather than knew him
saying to himself, not to her:

"Good-bye!"

He passed like a tall spirit out of the door, and she heard his footsteps
die away along the path--die slowly away as of one who goes never to return.


XV

A JEST may be the smallest pebble that was ever dropped into the sunny
mid-ocean of the mind; but sooner or later it sinks to a hard bottom, sooner
or later sends it ripples toward the shores where the caves of the fatal
passions yawn and roar for wreckage. It is the Comedy of speech that forever
dwells as Tragedy's fondest sister, sharing with her the same unmarked
domain; for the two are but identical forces of the mind in gentle and in
ungentle action as one atmosphere holds within itself unseparated the zephyr
and the storm.

The following afternoon O'Bannon was ambling back to town--slowly and
awkwardly, he being a poor rider and dreading a horse's back as he would
have avoided its kick. He was returning from the paper mill at Georgetown
whither he had been sent by Mr. Bradford with an order for a further supply
of sheets. The errand had not been a congenial one; and he was thinking now
as often before that he would welcome any chance of leaving the editor's
service.
What he had always coveted since his coming into the wilderness was the
young master's school; for the Irish teacher, afterwards so well known a
figure in the West, was even at this time beginning to bend his mercurial
steps across the mountains. Out of his covetousness had sprung perhaps his
enmity toward the master, whom he further despised for his Scotch blood, and
in time had grown to dislike from motives of jealousy, and last of all to
hate for his simple purity. Many a man nurses a grudge of this kind against
his human brother and will take pains to punish him accordingly; for success
in virtue is as hard for certain natures to witness as success in anything
else will irritate those whose nerveless or impatient or ill-directed grasp
it has wisely eluded.

On all accounts therefore it had fallen well to his purpose to make the
schoolmaster the dupe of a disagreeable jest. The jest had had unexpectedly
serious consequences: it had brought about the complete discomfiture of John
in his love affair; it had caused the trouble behind the troubled face with
which he had looked out upon every one during his illness.

The two young men had never met since; but the one was under a cloud; the
other was refulgent with his petty triumph; and he had set his face all the
more toward any further aggressiveness that occasion should bring happily to
his hand.

The mere road might have shamed him into manlier reflections. It was one of
the forest highways of the majestic bison opened ages before into what must
have been to them Nature's most gorgeous kingdom, her fairest, most magical
Babylon: with hanging gardens                              of verdure
everywhere swung from the tree-domes to the ground; with the earth one vast
rolling garden of softest verdure and crystal waters: an ancient Babylon of
the Western woods, most alluring and in the end most fatal to the luxurious,
wantoning wild creatures, which know no sin and are never found wanting.

This old forest street of theirs, so broad, so roomy, so arched with hoary
trees, so silent now and filled with the pity and pathos of their ruin--it
may not after all have been marked out by them. But ages before they had
ever led their sluggish armies eastward to the Mississippi and, crossing,
had shaken its bright drops from their shaggy low-hung necks on the eastern
bank--ages before this, while the sun of human history was yet silvering the
dawn of the world--before Job's sheep lay sick in the land of Uz-- before a
lion had lain down to dream in the jungle where Babylon was to arise and to
become a name,--this old, old, old high road may have been a footpath of the
awful mastodon, who had torn his terrible way through the tangled, twisted,
gnarled and rooted fastnesses of the wilderness as lightly as a wild young
Cyclone out of the South tears his way through the ribboned corn.

Ay, for ages the mastodon had trodden this dust. And, ay, for ages later the
bison. And, ay, for ages a people, over whose vanished towns and forts and
graves had grown the trees of a thousand years, holding in the mighty claws
of their roots the dust of those long, long secrets. And for centuries later
still along this path had crept or rushed or fled the Indians: now coming
from over the moon-loved, fragrant, passionate Southern mountains; now from
the sad frozen forests and steely marges of the Lakes: both eager for the
chase. For into this high road of the mastodon and the bison smaller
pathways entered from each side, as lesser watercourses run into a river:
the avenues of the round-horned elk, narrow, yet broad enough for the
tossing of his lordly antlers; the trails of the countless migrating
shuffling bear; the slender woodland alleys along which buck and doe and
fawn had sought the springs or crept tenderly from their breeding coverts or
fled like shadows in the race for life; the devious wolf-runs of the
maddened packs as they had sprung to the kill; the threadlike passages of
the stealthy fox; the tiny trickle of the squirrel, crossing, recrossing,
without number; and ever close beside all these, unseen, the grass-path or
the tree-path of the cougar.
Ay, both eager for the chase at first and then more eager for each other's
death for the sake of the whole chase: so that this immemorial game-trace
had become a war-path--a long dim forest street alive with the advance and
retreat of plume-bearing, vermilion-painted armies; and its rich black dust,
on which hereand there a few scars of sunlight now lay like stillest
thinnest yellow leaves, had been dyed from end to end with the red of the
heart.

And last of all into this ancient woodland street of war one day there had
stepped a strange new-comer--the Anglo-Saxon. Fairhaired, blue-eyed, always
a lover of Land and of Woman and therefore of Home; in whose blood beat the
conquest of many a wilderness before this--the wilderness of Britain, the
wilderness of Normandy, the wildernesses of the Black, of the Hercinian
forest, the wilderness of the frosted marshes of the Elbe and the Rhine and
of the North Sea's wildest wandering foam and fury.

Here white lover and red lover had metand fought: with the same high spirit
and overstrung will, scorn of danger, greed of pain; the same vehemence of
hatred and excess of revenge; the same ideal of a hero as a young man who
stands in the thick of carnage calm and unconscious of his wounds or rushes
gladly to any poetic beauty of death that is terrible and sublime. And
already the red lover was gone and the fair-haired lover stood the quiet
owner of the road, the last of all its long train of conquerors brute and
human--with his cabin near by, his wife smiling beside the spinning-wheel,
his baby crowing on the threshold.
History was thicker here than along the Appian Way and it might well have
stirred O'Bannon; but he rode shamblingly on, un-touched, unmindful. At
every bend his eye quickly swept along the stretch of road to the next turn;
for every man carried the eye of an eagle in his head in those days.

At one point he pulled his horse up violently. A large buckeye tree stood on
the roadside a hundred yards ahead. Its large thick leaves already full at
this season, drew around the trunk a seamless robe of darkest green. But a
single slight rent had been made on one side as though a bough bad been
lately broken off to form an aperture commanding a view of the road; and
through this aperture he could see something black within-as black as a
crow's wing.

O'Bannon sent his horse forward in the slowest walk: it was unshod; the
stroke of its hoofs was muffled by the dust; and he had approached quite
close, remaining himself unobserved, before he recognized the school-master.

He was reclining against the trunk, his hat off, his eyes closed; in the
heavy shadows he looked white and sick and weak and troubled. Plainly he was
buried deep in his own thoughts. If he had broken off those low boughs in
order that he might obtain a view of the road, he had forgotten his own
purpose; if he had walked all the way out to this spot and was waiting, his
vigilance had grown lax, his aim slipped from him.

Perhaps before his eyes the historic vision of the road had risen: that
crowded pageant, brute and human, all whose red passions, burning rights and
burning wrongs, frenzied fightings and awful deaths had left but the
sun-scarred dust, the silence of the woods clothing itself in green. And
from this panoramic survey it may have come to him to feel the shortness of
the day of his own life, the pitifulness of its earthly contentions, and
above everything else the sadness of the necessity laid upon him to come
down to the level of the cougar and the wolf.

But as O'Bannon struck his horse and would have passed on, he sprang up
quickly enough and walked out into the middle of the road. When the horse's
head was near he quietly took hold of the reins and throwing his weight
slightly forward, brought it to a stop.

"Let go!" exclaimed O'Bannon, furious and threatening.

He did let go, and stepping backward three paces, he threw off his coat and
waistcoat and tossed them aside to the green bushes: the action was a
pathetic mark of his lifelong habit of economy in clothes: a coat must under
all circumstances be cared for.  He tore off his neckcloth so that his high
shirt collar fell away from his neck, showing the purple scar of his wound;
and he girt his trousers in about his waist, as a laboring man will trim
himself for neat, quick, violent work. Then with a long stride he came round
to the side of the horse's head, laid his hand on its neck and looked
O'Bannon in the eyes:

"At first I thought I'd wait till you got back to town. I wanted to catch
you on the street or, in a tavern where others could witness. I'm sorry. I'm
ashamed I ever wished any man to see me lay my hand on you.

"Since you came out to Kentucky, have I ever crossed you?  Thwarted you in
any plan or purpose? Wronged you in any act?  Ill-used your name? By
anything I have thought or wished or done taken from the success of your
life or made success harder for you to win?

"But you had hardly come out here before you began to attack me and you have
never stopped. Out of all this earth's prosperity you have envied me my
little share: you have tried to take away my school. With your own good name
gone, you have wished to befoul mine. With no force of character to rise in
the world, you have sought to drag me down. When I have avoided a brawl with
you, preferring to live my life in peace with every man, you have said I was
a coward, you unmanly slanderer!  When I have desired to live the best life
I could, you have turned even that against me.  You lied and you know you
lied--blackguard! You have laughed at the blood in my veins--the sacred
blood of my mother--"

His words choked him. The Scotch blood, so slow to kindle like a mass of
cold anthracite, so terrible with heat to the last ashes, was burning in him
now with flameless fury.

"I passed it all over, I only asked to go on my way and have you go yours.
But now--" He seemed to realize in an instant everything that he had
suffered in consequence of O'Bannon's last interference in his affairs.  He
ground his teeth together and shook his head from side to side like an
animal that had seized its prey.

"Get down!" he cried, throwing his head back. "I can't fight you as an equal
but I will give you one beating for the low dog you are."

O'Bannon had listened immovable. He now threw the reins down and started to
throw his leg over the saddle but resumed his seat. "Let go!" he shouted. "I
will not be held and ordered."

The school-master tightened his grasp on the reins.
"Get down! I don't trust you."

O'Bannon held a short heavy whip. He threw this into the air and caught it
by the little end.

The school-teacher sprang to seize it; but O'Bannon lifted it backward over
his shoulder, and then raising himself high in his stirrups, brought it
down. The master saw it coming and swerved so that it grazed his ear; but it
cut into the wound on his neck with a coarse, ugly, terrific blow and the
blood spurted. With a loud cry of agony and horror, he reeled and fell
backward dizzy and sick and nigh to fainting. The next moment in the deadly
silence of a wild beast attacking to kill, he was on his feet, seized the
whip before it could fall again, flung it away, caught O'Bannon's arm and
planting his foot against the horse's shoulder, threw his whole weight
backward. The saddle turned, the horse sprang aside, and he fell again,
pulling O'Bannon heavily down on him.

There in the blood-dyed dust of the old woodland street, where bison and
elk, stag and lynx, wolf and cougar and bear had gored or torn each other
during the centuries before; there on the same level, glutting their
passion, their hatred, their revenge, the men fought out their strength--the
strength of that King of Beasts whose den is where it should be: in a man's
spirit.

A few afternoons after this a group of rough young fellows were gathered at
Peter's shop. The talk had turned to the subject of the fight: and every one
had thrown his gibe at O'Bannon, who had taken it with equal good nature.
>From this they had chaffed him on his fondness for a practical joke and his
awkward riding; and out of this, he now being angry, grew a bet with Horatio
Turpin that he could ride the latter's filly, standing hitched to the fence
of the shop. He was to ride it three times around the enclosure, and touch
it once each time in the flank with the spur which the young horseman took
from his heel.

At the first prick of it, the high-spirited mettlesome animal, scarcely
broken, reared and sprang forward, all but unseating him.  He dropped the
reins and instinctively caught its mane, at the same time pressing his legs
more closely in against the animal's sides, thus driving the spur deeper.
They shouted to him to lie down, to fall off, as they saw the awful danger
ahead; for the maddened filly, having run wildly around the enclosure
several times, turned and rushed straight toward the low open doors of the
smithy and the pasture beyond. But he would not release his clutch; and with
his body bent a little forward, he received the
blow of the projecting shingles full on his head as the mare shot from under
him into the shop, scraping him off.

They ran to him and lifted him out of the sooty dust and laid him on the
soft green grass. But of consciousness there was never to be more for him:
his jest had reached its end.

XVI

IT was early summer now.
In the depths of the greening woods the school-master lay reading:

"And thus it passed on from Candlemass until after Easter that the month of
May was come, when every lusty heart beginneth to blossom and to bring forth
fruit; for like as herbs and trees bring forth fruit and flourish in May, in
likewise, every lusty heart that is any manner a lover springeth and
flourisheth in lusty deeds. For it giveth unto all lovers courage--that
lusty month of May--in something to constrain him to some manner of thing
more in that month than in any other month. For diverse causes: For then all
herbs and trees renew a man and woman; and, in likewise, lovers call again
to their mind old gentleness and old service and many kind deeds that were
forgotten by negligence. For like as winter rasure doth always erase and
deface green summer, so fareth it by unstable love in man and woman. For in
many persons there is no stability;...for a little blast of winter's rasure,
anon we shall deface and lay apart true love (for little or naught), that
cost so much. This is no wisdom nor stability, but it is feebleness of
nature and great disworship whomever useth this. Therefore like as May month
flowereth and flourisheth in many gardens, so in likewise let every man of
worship flourish his heart in this world: first unto God, and next unto the
joy of them that he promised his faith unto; for there was never worshipful
man nor worshipful woman but they loved one better than the other. And
worship in arms may never be foiled; but first reserve the honour to God,
and secondly the quarrel must come of thy lady; and such love I call
virtuous love. But nowsdays men cannot love seven nights but they must have
all their desires... Right so fareth love nowadays, soon hot, soon cold:
this is no stability. But the old love was not so. Men and women could love
together seven years...and then was love truth and faithfulness. And lo! In
likewise was used love in King Arthur's days. Wherefore I liken love
nowadays unto summer and winter; for like the one is hot and the other cold,
so fareth love nowadays.".......

He laid the book aside upon the grass, sat up, and mournfully looked about
him. Effort was usually needed to withdraw his mind from those low-down
shadowy centuries over into which of late by means of the book, as by means
of a bridge spanning a known and an unknown land, he had crossed, and
wonder-stricken had wandered; but these words brought him swiftly home to
the country of his own sorrow.
Unstable love! feebleness of nature! one blast of a cutting winter wind and
lo! green summer defaced: the very phrases seemed shaped by living lips
close to the ear of his experience.  It was in this spot a few weeks ago
that he had planned his future with Amy: these were the acres he would buy;
on this hill-top he would build; here, home-sheltered, wife-anchored, the
warfare of his flesh and spirit ended, he could begin to put forth all his
strength upon the living of his life.
Had any frost ever killed the bud of nature's hope more unexpectedly than
this landscape now lay blackened before him?  And had any summer ever cost
so much? What could strike a man as a more mortal wound than to lose the
woman he had loved and in losing her see her lose her loveliness?
As the end of it all, he now found himself sitting on the blasted rock of
his dreams in the depths of the greening woods. He was well again by this
time and conscious of that retightened grasp upon health and redder stir of
life with which the great Mother-nurse, if she but dearly love a man, will
tend him and mend him and set him on his feet again from a bed of wounds or
sickness. It had happened to him also that with this reflushing of his blood
there had reached him the voice of Summer advancing northward to all things
and making all things common in their awakening and their aim.

He knew of old the pipe of this imperious Shepherd; sounding along the inner
vales of his being; herding him toward universal fellowship with seeding
grass and breeding herb and every heart-holding creature of the woods. He
perfectly recognized the sway of the thrilling pipe; he perfectly realized
the joy of the jubilant fellowship. And it was with eyes the more mournful
therefore that he gazed in purity about him at the universal miracle of old
life passing into new life, at the divinely appointed and divinely fulfilled
succession of forms, at the unrent mantle of the generations being visibly
woven around him under the golden goads of the sun. " ...for like as herbs
bring forth fruit and flourish in May, in likewise, every heart that is in
any manner a lover spingeth and flourisheth in lusty deeds." . . . But all
this must come, must spend itself, must pass him by, as a flaming pageant
dies away from a beholder who is forbidden to kindle his own torch and claim
his share of its innocent revels. He too had laid his plans to celebrate his
marriage at the full tide of the Earth's joy, and these plans had failed
him.

But while the school-master thus was gloomily contemplating the end of his
relationship with Amy and her final removal from the future of his life, in
reality another and larger trouble was looming close ahead.
A second landscape had begun to beckon not like his poor little frost-killed
field, not of the earth at all, but lifted unattainable into the air, faint,
clear, elusive--the marriage of another woman. And how different she! He
felt sure that no winter's rasure would ever reach that land; no
instability, no feebleness of nature awaited him there; the loveliness of
its summer, now brooding at flood, would brood unharmed upon it to the
natural end.

He buried his face guiltily in his hands as he tried to shut out the
remembrance of how persistently of late, whithersoever he had turned, this
second image had reappeared before him, growing always clearer, drawing
always nearer, summoning him more luringly. Already he had begun to know the
sensations of a traveller who is crossing sands with a parched tongue and a
weary foot, crossing toward a country that he will never reach, but that he
will stagger toward as long as he has strength to stand.
During the past several days--following his last interview with Amy--he had
realized for the first time how long and how plainly the figure of Mrs.
Falconer had been standing before him and upon how much loftier a level.
Many a time of old, while visiting the house, he had grown tired of Amy; but
he had never felt wearied by her. For Amy he was always making apologies to
his own conscience; she needed none. He had secretly hoped that in time Amy
would become more what he wished his wife to be; it would have pained him to
think of her as altered. Often he had left Amy's company with a grateful
sense of regaining the larger liberty of his own mind; by her he always felt
guided to his better self, he carried away her ideas with the hope of making
them his ideas, he was set on fire with a spiritual passion to do his utmost
in the higher strife of the world.

For this he had long paid her the guiltless tribute of his reverence and
affection. And between his reverence and affection and all the forbidden
that lay beyond rose a barrier which not even his imagination had ever
consciously overleaped. Now the forbidding barrier had disappeared, and in
its place had appeared the forbidden bond--he knew not how or when. How
could he? Love, the Scarlet Spider, will in a night hang between two that
have been apart a web too fine for either to see; but the strength of both
will never avail to break it.

Very curiously it had befallen him furthermore that just at the time when
all these changes were taking place around him and within him, she had
brought him the book that she had pressed with emphasis upon his attention.
In the backwoods settlements of Pennsylvania where his maternal Scotch-Irish
ancestors had settled and his own life been spent, very few volumes had
fallen into his hands. After coming to Kentucky not many more until of late:
so that of the world's history he was still a stinted and hungry student.
When,therefore, she had given him Malory's "LeMorte D'Arthur," it was the
first time that the ideals of chivalry had ever flashed their glorious light
upon him; for the first time the models of Christian manhood, on which
western Europe nourished itself for centuries, displayed themselves to his
imagination with the charm of story; he heard of Camelot, of the king, of
that company of men who strove with each other in arms, but strove also with
each other in grace of life and for the immortal mysteries of the spirit.
She had said that he should have read this book long before but that
henceforth he would always need it even more than in his past: that here
were some things he had looked for in the world and had never found;
characters such as he had always wished to grapple to himself as his abiding
comrades: that if he would love the best that it loved, hate what it hated,
scorn what it scorned, it would help him in the pursuit of his own ideals to
the end.
Of this and more he felt at once the truth, since of all earthly books known
to him this contained the most heavenly revelation of what a man may be in
manliness, in gentleness, and in goodness.  And as he read the nobler
portions of the book, the nobler parts of his nature gave out their
immediate response.
Hungrily he hurried to and fro across the harvest of those fertile pages,
gathering of the white wheat of the spirit many a lustrous sheaf: the love
of courage, the love of courtesy, the love of honour, the love of high aims
and great actions, the love of the poor and the helpless, the love of a
spotless name and a spotless life, the love of kindred, the love of
friendship, the love of humility of spirit, the love of forgiveness, the
love of beauty, the love of love, the love of God. Surely, he said to
himself, within the band of these virtues lay not only a man's noblest life,
but the noblest life of the world.

While fondling these, he failed not to notice how the great book, as though
it were a living mouth, spat its deathless scorn upon the things that he
also--in the imperfect measure of his powers--had always hated: all
cowardice of mind or body, all lying, all oppression, all unfaithfulness,
all secret revenge and hypocrisy and double-dealing: the smut of the heart
and mind.
But ah! the other things besides these.

Sown among the white wheat of the spirit were the red tares of the flesh;
and as he strode back and forth through the harvest, he found himself
plucking these also with feverish vehemence. There were things here that he
had never seen in print: words that he had never even named to his secret
consciousness; thoughts and desires that he had put away from his soul with
many a struggle, many a prayer; stories of a kind that he had always
declined to hear when told in companies of men: all here, spelled out,
barefaced, without apology, without shame: the deposits of those old, old
moral voices and standards long since buried deep under the ever rising
level of the world's whitening holiness.
With utter guilt and shame he did not leave off till he had plucked the last
red tare; and having plucked them, he had hugged the whole inflaming bundle
against his blood--his blood now flushed with youth, flushed with health,
flushed with summer.

And finally, in the midst of all these things, perhaps coloured by them,
there had come to him the first great awakening of his life in a love that
was forbidden.

He upbraided himself the more bitterly for the influence of the book because
it was she who had placed both the good and the evil in his hand with
perfect confidence that he would lay hold on the one and remain unsoiled by
the other. She had remained spirit-proof herself against the influences that
tormented him; out of her own purity she had judged him. And yet, on the
other hand, with that terrible candour of mind which he used either for or
against himself as rigidly as for or against another person, he pleaded in
his own behalf that she had made a mistake in overestimating his strength,
in underestimating his temptations.  How should she know that for years his
warfare had gone on direfully? How realize that almost daily he had stood as
at the dividing of two roads: the hard, narrow path ascending to the bleak
white peaks of the spirit; the broad, sweet, downward vistas of the flesh?
How foresee, therefore, that the book would only help to rend him in twain
with a mightier passion for each?

He had been back at the school a week now. He had never dared go to see her.
Confront that luminous face with his darkened one?  Deal such a soul the
wound of such dishonour? He knew very well that the slightest word or glance
of self-betrayal would bring on the immediate severance of her relationship
with him: her wifehood might be her martyrdom, but it was martyrdom
inviolate. And yet he felt that if he were once with her, he could not be
responsible for the consequences: he could foresee no degree of self-control
that would keep him from telling her that he loved her. He had been afraid
to go.
But ah, how her image drew him day and night, day and night!  Slipping
between him and every other being, every other desire.     Her voice kept
calling to him to come to her--a voice new, irresistible, that seemed to
issue from the deeps of Summer, from the deeps of Life, from the deeps of
Love, with its almighty justification.

This was his first Saturday. To-day he had not even the school as a post of
duty, to which he might lash himself for safety. He had gone away from town
in an opposite direction from her home, burying himself alone in the forest.
But between him and that summoning voice he could put no distance. It sang
out afresh to him from the inviting silence of the woods as well as from its
innumerable voices. It sang to him reproachfully from the pages of the old
book: "In the lusty month of May lovers call again to their mind old
gentleness and old service and many deeds that were forgotten by
negligence:" he had never even gone to thank her for all her kindness to him
during his illness!

Still he held out, wrestling with himself. At last Love itself, the
deceiver, snaringly pleaded that she alone could cure him of all this folly.
It had grown up wholly during his absence from her, no doubt by reason of
this. Many a time before be had gone to her about other troubles, and always
he had found her carrying that steady light of right-mindedness which had
scatteredhis darkness and revealed his better pathway.

He sprang up and set off sternly through the woods. Goaded by love, he
fancied that the presence of the forbidden woman would restore him to his
old, blameless friendship.

XVIII

SHE was at work in the garden: he had long ago noted that she never idled.

He approached the fence and leaned on it as when they had last talked
together; but his big Jacobin hat was pulled down over his eyes now. He was
afraid of his own voice, afraid of the sound of his knuckles, so that when
at last he had rapped on the fence, he hoped that she had not heard, so that
he could go away.

"Knock louder," she called out from under her bonnet. "I'm not sure that I
heard you."

How sunny her voice was, how pure and sweet and remote from any suspicion of
hovering harm! It unshackled him as from a dreadful nightmare.

He broke into his old laugh--the first time since he had stood there
before--and frankly took off his hat.

"How did you know who it was? You saw me coming!"

"Did I? I don't like to contradict a stranger."

"Am I a stranger?"

"What makes a stranger? How long has it been since you were here?"

"A lifetime," he replied gravely.
"You are still living! Will you walk into my parlour?"

"Will you meet me at the door?"
It was so pleasant to seem gay, to say nothing, be nothing!  She came
quietly over to the fence and gave him her hand with a little laugh."
"You have holiday of Saturdays. I have not, you see. But I can take a
recess: come in. You are looking well! Wounds agree with you."

He went trembling round to the gate, passed in, and they sat down on the
bench.

"How things grow in this soil," she said pointing to the garden.  "It has
only been five or six weeks since you were here. Do you remember? I was
planting the seed: now look at the plants!"

"I, too, was sowing that afternoon," he replied musingly. "But my harvest
ripened before yours; I have already reaped it."

"What's that you are saying about me?" called out a hard, smooth voice from
over the fence at their back. "I don't like to miss anything!"

Amy had a piece of sewing, which she proceeded to spread upon the fence.

"Will you show me about this, Aunt Jessica?"

She greeted John without embarrassment or discernible remembrance of their
last meeting. Her fine blond hair was frowsy and a button was missing at the
throat of her dress. (Some women begin to let themselves go after marriage;
some after the promise of marriage.) There were cake-crumbs also in one
corner of her mouth.
"These are some of my wedding clothes," she said to him prettily. "Aren't
they fine?"

Mrs. Falconer drew her attention for a moment and they began to measure the
cloth over the back of her finger, counting the lengths under her breath.

Amy took a pin from the bosom of her dress and picked between her pearly
teeth daintily.

"Aunt Jessica," she suddenly inquired with mischievous look at John, "before
you were engaged to uncle, was there any one else you liked better?"

With a terrible inward start, he shot a covert glance at her and dropped his
eyes. Mrs. Falconer's answer was playful and serene.

"It has been a long time; it's hard to remember. But I've heard of such
cases."

There was something in the reply that surprised Amy and she peeped under
Mrs. Falconer's bonnet to see what was going on. She had learned that a
great deal went on under that bonnet.
"Well, after you were engaged to him, was there anybody else?"

"I don't think I remember. But I've known of such cases."

Amy peeped again, and the better to see for herself hereafter, coolly lifted
the bonnet off. "Well, after you were married to him," she said, "was there
anybody else? I've known of such cases," she added, with a dry imitation of
the phrase.

"You have made me forget my lengths," said Mrs. Falconer with unruffled
innocence. "I'll have to measure again."
Amy turned to John with sparkling eyes.
"Did you ever know a man who was in love with a married woman?"

"Yes," said John, secretly writhing, but too truthful to say "no."

"What did he do about it?" asked Amy.

"I don't know," replied John, shortly.
"What do you think he ought to have done? What would you do?" asked Amy.
"I don't know," replied John, more coolly, turning away his confused face.

Neither of you seems to know anything this afternoon," observed Amy, "and
I'd always been led to suppose that each of you knew everything."

As she departed with her sewing, she turned to send a final arrow, with some
genuine feeling.
"I think I'll send for uncle to come and talk tome."

"Stay and talk to us," Mrs. Falconer called to her with a sincere, pitying
laugh. "Come back!"

Amy's questions had passed high over her head like a little flock of
chattering birds they had struck him low, like bullets.

"Go on," she said quietly, when they were seated again, "what was it about
the harvest?"

He could not reply at once; and she let him sit in silence, looking across
the garden while she took up her knitting from the end of the bench, and
leaning lightly toward him, measured a few rows of stitches across his
wrist. It gave way under her touch.

"These are your mittens for next winter," she said softly, more softly than
he had ever heard her speak. And the quieting melody of her mere tone!--how
unlike that other voice which bored joyously into you as a bright gimlet
twists its unfeeling head into wood. He turned on her one quick, beautiful
look of gratitude.

"What was it about the harvest?" she repeated, forbearing to return his
look, and thinking that all his embarrassment followed from the pain of
having thus met Amy.

He began to speak very slowly:
"The last time I was here I boasted that I had yet to meet my first great
defeat in life . . . that there was nothing stronger in the world than a
man's will and purpose . . . that if ideals got shattered, we shattered them
. . . that I would go on doing with my life as I had planned, be what I
wished, have what I wanted."

"Well?" she urged, busy with her needles.

"I know better now."

"Aren't you the better for knowing better?"
He made no reply; so that she began to say very simply and as a matter of
course:
"It's the defeat more than anything else that hurts you! Defeat is always
the hardest thing for you to stand, even in trifles. But don't you know that
we have to be defeated in order to succeed?  Most of us spend half our lives
in fighting for things that would only destroy us if we got them. A man who
has never been defeated is usually a man who has been ruined. And, of
course," she added with light raillery, "of course there are things stronger
than the strongest will and purpose: the sum of other men's wills and
purposes, for instance. A single soldier may have all the will and purpose
to whip an army, but he doesn't do it. And a man may have all the will and
purpose to whip the world, walk over it rough-shod, shoulder it out of his
way as you'd like to do, but he doesn't do it. And of course we do not
shatter our ideals ourselves--always: a thousand things outside ourselves do
that for us. And what reason had you to say that you would have what you
wanted? Your wishes are not infallible. Suppose you craved the forbidden?"

She looked over at him archly, but he jerked his face farther away.  Then he
spoke out with the impulse to get away from her question:

"I could stand to be worsted by great things. But the little ones, the low,
the coarse, the trivial! Ever since I was here last--beginning that very
night--I have been struggling like a beast with his foot in a trap.  I don't
mean Amy!" he cried apologetically.

"I'm glad you've discovered there are little things," she replied. "I had
feared you might never find that out. I'm not sure yet that you have. One of
your great troubles is that everything in life looks too large to you, too
serious, too important. You fight the gnats of the world as you fought your
panther. With you everything is a mortal combat. You run every butterfly
down and break it on an iron wheel; after you have broken it, it doesn't
matter: everything is as it was before, except that you have lost time and
strength. The only things that need trouble us very much are not the things
it is right to conquer, but the things it is wrong to conquer. If you ever
conquer in yourself anything that is right, that will be a real trouble for
you as long as you live--and for me!"

He turned quickly and sat facing her, the muscles of his face moving
convulsively. She did not look at him, but went on:

"The last time you were here, you told me that I did not appreciate Amy;
that I could not do her justice; but that no woman could ever understand why
a man loved any other woman."

"Did I say that?" he muttered remorsefully.

"It was because you did not appreciate he--it was because you would never be
able to do her justice--that I was so opposed to the marriage.  And this was
largely a question of little things. I knew perfectly well that as soon as
you married Amy, you would begin to expect her to act as though she were
made of iron: so many pieces, so many wheels, so many cogs, so many
revolutions. All the inevitable little things that make up the most of her
life--that make up so large a part of every woman's life--the little moods,
the little play, little changes, little tempers and inconsistencies and
contradictions and falsities and hypocrisies which come every morning and go
every night,--all these would soon have been to you--oh! I'm afraid they'd
have been as big as a herd of buffalo! There would have been a bull fight
for every foible."

She laughed out merrily, but she did not look at him.

"Yes," she continued, trying to drain his cup for him, since he would not do
it himself, "you are the last man in the world to do a woman like Amy
justice. I'm afraid you will never do justice to any woman, unless you
change a good deal and learn a good deal. Perhaps no woman will ever
understand you--except me."

She looked up at him now with the clearest fondness in her exquisite eyes.

With a groan he suddenly leaned over and buried his face in his hands.  His
hat fell over on the grass. Her knitting dropped to her lap, and one of her
hands went out quickly toward his big head, heavy with its shaggy reddish
mass of hair, which had grown long during his sickness. But at the first
touch she quickly withdrew it, and stooping over picked up his hat and put
it on her knees, and sat beside him silent and motionless.

He straightened himself up a moment later, and keeping his face turned away
reached for his hat and drew it down over his eyes.

"I can't tell you! You don't understand!" he said in a broken voice.

"I understand everything. Amy has told me-poor little Amy! She is not wholly
to blame. I blame you more. You may have been in love with your idea of her,
but anything like that idea she never has been and never will be; and who is
responsible for your idea, then, but yourself? It is a mistake that many a
man makes; and when the woman disappoints him, he blames her, and deserts
her or makes her life a torment. Of course a woman may make the same
mistake; but, as a rule, women are better judges of men than men are of
women. Besides, if they find themselves mistaken, they bear their
disappointment better and show it less: they alone know their tragedy; it is
the unperceived that kills."

The first tears that he had ever seen gathered and dimmed her eyes.  She was
too proud either to acknowledge them or to hide them. Her lids fell quickly
to curtain them in, and the lashes received them in their long, thick
fringes. But she had suffered herself to go too far.

"Ah, if you had loved her! loved her!" she cried with an intensity of
passion, a weary, immeasurable yearning, that seemed to come from a life in
death. The strength of that cry struck him as a rushing wind strikes a young
eagle on the breast, lifting him from his rock and setting him afloat on the
billows of a rising storm. His spirit mounted the spirit of her unmated
confession, rode it as its master, exulted in it as his element and his
home. But the stricken man remained motionless on the bench a few feet from
the woman, looking straight across the garden, with his hands clinched about
his knees, his hat hiding his eyes, his jaws set sternly with the last grip
of resolution.

It was some time before either spoke. Then her voice was very quiet.

"You found out your mistake in time; suppose it had been too late? But this
is all so sad; we will never speak of it again. Only you ought to feel that
from this time you can go on with the plans of your life uninterrupted.
Begin with all this as small defeat that means a larger victory! There is no
entanglement now, not a drawback; what a future!  It does look as though you
might now have everything that you set your heart on."

She glanced up at him with a mournful smile, and taking the knitting which
had lain forgotten in her lap leaned over again and measured the stitches
upon his wrist.

"When do you start?" she asked, seeing a terrible trouble gathering in his
face and resolved to draw his thoughts to other things.

"Next week."

The knitting fell again.

"And you have allowed all this time to go by without coming to see us!  You
are to come everyday till you go: promise!"

He had been repeating that he would not trust himself to come at all again,
except to say good-bye.

"I can't promise that."

"But we want you so much! The major wants you, I want you more than the
major. Why should meeting Amy be so hard? Remember how long it will be
before you get back. When will you be back?"

He was thinking it were better never.

"It is uncertain," he said.

"I shall begin to look for you as soon as you are gone. I can hear your
horse's feet now, rustling in the leaves of October. But what will become of
me till then? Ah, you don't begin to realize how much you are to me!"

"Oh!"

He stretched his arms out into vacancy and folded them again quickly.

"I'd better go."

He stood up and walked several paces into the garden, where he feigned to be
looking at the work she had left. Was he to break down now? Was the strength
which he had relied on in so many temptations to fail him now, when his need
was sorest?

In a few minutes he wheeled round to the bench and stopped full before her,
no longer avoiding her eyes. She had taken up the book which he had laid on
his end of the seat and was turning the pages.

"Have you read it?"

"Over and over."

"Ah! I knew I could trust you! You never disappoint. Sit down a little
while."

"I'd--better go!"

"And haven't you a word? Bring this book back to me in silence? After all I
said to you? I want to know how you feel about it--all your thoughts."

She looked up at him with a reproachful smile--

The blood had rushed guiltily into his face, and she seeing this, without
knowing what it meant, the blood rushed into hers.

"I don't understand," she said proudly and coldly, dropping her eyes and
dropping her head a little forward before him, and soon becoming very pale,
as from a death-wound.

He stood before her, trembling, trying to speak, trying not to speak.  Then
he turned and strode rapidly away.


XVIII

THE next morning the parson was standing before his scant congregation of
Episcopalians.

It was the first body of these worshippers gathered together in the
wilderness mainly from the seaboard aristocracy of the Church of England. A
small frame building on the northern slope of the wide valley served them
for a meeting-house. No mystical half-lights there but the mystical
half-lights of Faith; no windows but the many-hued windows of Hope; no
arches but the vault of Love. What more did those men and women need in that
land, over-shadowed always by the horror of quick or
waiting death?

In addition to his meagre flock many an unclaimed goat of the world fell
into that meek valley-path of Sunday mornings and came to hear, if not to
heed, the voice of this quiet shepherd; so that now, as be stood delivering
his final exhortation, his eyes ranged over wild, lawless, desperate
countenances, rimming him darkly around. They glowered in at him through the
door, where some sat upon the steps; others leaned in at the windows on each
side of the room. Over the closely packed rough heads of these he could see
others lounging further away on the grass beside their rifles, listening,
laughing and talking. Beyond these stretched near fields green with maize,
and cabins embosomed in orchards and gardens. Once a far-off band of
children rushed across his field of vision, playing at Indian warfare and
leaving in the bright air a cloud of dust from an old Indian war trail.

As he observed it all--this singularly mixed concourse of God-fearing men
and women and of men and women who feared neither God nor man nor devil--as
he beheld the young fields and the young children and the sweet transition
of the whole land from bloodshed to innocence, the recollection of his
mission in it and of the message of his Master brough out upon his cold,
bleak, beautiful face the light of the Divine: so from a dark valley one may
sometime have seen a snow-clad peak of the Alps lit up with the rays of the
hidden sun.

He had chosen for his text the words "My peace I give unto you," and long
before the closing sentences were reached, his voice was floating out with
silvery, flute-like clearness on the still air of the summer morning,
holding every soul, however unreclaimed, to intense and reverential silence:

"It is now twenty years since you scaled the mountains and hewed your path
into this wilderness, never again to leave it. Since then you have known but
war. As I look into your faces, I see the scar of many a wound; but more
than the wounds I see are the wounds I do not see: of the body as well as of
the spirit--the lacerations of sorrow, the strokes of bereavement. So that
perhaps not one of you here but bears some brave visible or invisible sin of
this awful past and of his share in the common strife. Twenty years are a
long time to fight enemies of any kind, a long time to bold out against such
as you have faced; and had you not been a mighty people sprung from the
loins of a mighty race, no one of you would be here this day to worship the
God of your fathers in the faith of your fathers. The victory upon which you
are entering at last is never the reward of the feeble, the cowardly, the
faint-hearted. Out of your strength alone you have won your peace.

"But, O my brethren, while your land is now at peace, are you at peace? In
the name of my Master, look each of you into his heart and answer: Is it not
still a wilderness? full of the wild beasts of the appetites? the favourite
hunting-ground of the passions? And is each of you, tried and faithful and
fearless soldier that he may be on every other field, is each of you doing
anything to conquer this?"

"My cry to-day then is the war-cry of the spirit. Subdue the wilderness
within you! Step by step, little by little, as you have fought your way
across this land from the Eastern mountains to the Western river, driven out
every enemy and now hold it as your own, begin likewise to take possession
of the other until in the end you may rule it also. If you are feeble; if
fainthearted; if you do not bring into your lonely, silent, unwitnessed
battles every virtue that you have relied on in this outward warfare of
twenty years, you may never hope to come forth conquerors. By your strength,
your courage, patience, watchfulness, constancy,--by the in-most will and
beholden face of victory you are to overmaster the evil within yourselves as
you have overmastered the peril in Kentucky."

"Then in truth you may dwell in green and tranquil pastures, where the will
of God broods like summer light. Then you may come to realize the meaning of
this promise of our Lord, 'My peace I give unto you': it is the gift of His
peace to those alone who have learned to hold in quietness their land of the
spirit."

White, cold, aflame with holiness, he stood before them; and every beholder,
awe-stricken by the vision of that face, of a surety was thinking that this
man's life was behind his speech: whether in ease or agony, he had found for
his nature that victory of rest that was never to be taken from him.

But even as he stood thus, the white splendour faded from his countenance,
leaving it shadowed with care. In one corner of the room, against the wall,
shielding his face from the light of the window with his big black hat and
the palm of his hand, sat the school-master. He was violently flushed, his
eyes swollen and cloudy, his hair tossed, his linen rumpled, his posture
bespeaking wretchedness and self-abandonment.  Always in preaching the
parson had looked for the face of his friend; always it had been his
mainstay, interpreter, steadfast advocate in every plea for perfection of
life. But to-day it had been kept concealed from him; nor until he had
reached his closing exhortation, had the school-master once looked him in
the eye, and he had done so then in a most remarkable manner: snatching the
hat from before his face, straightening his big body up, and transfixing him
with an expression of such resentment and reproach, that among all the wild
faces before him, he could see none to match this one for disordered and
evil passion. If he could have harboured a conviction so monstrous, he would
have said that his words had pierced the owner of that face like a spear and
that he was writhing under the torture.

As soon as he had pronounced the benediction he looked toward the corner
again, but the school-master had already left the room. Usually he waited
until the others were gone and the two men walked homeward together,
discussing the sermon.

To-day the others slowly scattered, and the parson sat alone at the tipper
end of the room disappointed and troubled.

John strode up to the door.

"Are you ready?" he asked in a curt unnatural voice.

"Ah!" The parson sprang up gladly. "I was hoping you'd come!"

They started slowly off along the path, John walking unconsciously in it,
the parson stumbling along through the grass and weeds on one side.  It had
been John's unvarying wont to yield the path to him.

"It is easy to preach," he muttered with gloomy, sarcastic emphasis.

"If you tried it once, you might think it easier to practise," retorted the
parson, laughing.

"It might be easier to one who is not tempted."

"It might be easier to one who is. No man is tempted beyond his strength,
but a sermon is often beyond his powers. I let you know, young man, that a
homily may come harder than a virtue."

"How can you stand up and preach as you've been preaching, and then come out
of the church and laugh about it!" cried John angrily.

"I'm not laughing about what I preached on," replied the parson with
gentleness.

"You are in high spirits! You are gay! You are full of levity!"

"I am full of gladness. I am happy: is that a sin?"

John wheeled on him, stopping short, and pointing back to the church:

"Suppose there'd been a man in that room who was trying to some
temptation--more terrible than you've ever known anything about. You'd made
him feel that you were speaking straight at him -bidding him do right where
it was so much easier to do wrong. You had helped him; he had waited to see
you alone, hoping to get more help. Then suppose he had found you as you are
now--full of your gladness! He wouldn't have believed in you! He'd have been
hardened."

"If he'd been the right kind of man," replied the parson, quickly facing an
arraignment had the rancour of denunciation, "he ought to have been more
benefited by the sight of a glad man than the sound of a sad sermon. He'd
have found in me a man who practises what he preaches: I have conquered my
wilderness. But, I think," he added more gravely, "that if any such soul had
come to me in his trouble, I could have helped him: if he had let me know
what it was, he would have found that I could understand, could sympathize.
Still, I don't see why you should condemn my conduct by the test of
imaginary cases. I suppose I'm happy now because I'm glad to be with you,"
and the parson looked the school-master a little reproachfully in the eyes.

"And do you think I have no troubles?" said John, his lips trembling.  He
turned away and the parson walked beside him.

"You have two troubles to my certain knowledge," said he in the tone of one
bringing forward a piece of critical analysis that was rather mortifying to
exhibit. "The one is a woman and the other is John Calvin.  If it's Amy,
throw it off and be a man. If it's Calvinism, throw it off and become an
Episcopalian." He laughed out despite himself.

"Did you ever love a woman?" asked John gruffly.

"Many a one--in the state of the first Adam!"

"That's the reason you threw it off: many a one!"

"Don't you know," inquired the parson with an air of exegetical candour,
"that no man can be miserable because some woman or other has flirted his
friend? That's the one trouble that every man laughs at--when it happens in
his neighbourhood, not in his own house!"

The school-master made no reply.

"Or if it is Calvin," continued the parson, "thank God, I can now laugh at
him, and so should you! Answer me one question: during the sermon, weren't
you thinking of the case of a man born in a wilderness of temptations that
he is foreordained never to conquer, and then foreordained to eternal
damnation because he didn't conquer it?"

"No--no!"

"Well, you'd better've been thinking about it! For that's what you believe.
And that's what makes life so hard and bitter and gloomy to you. I know! I
carried Calvinism around within me once: it was like an uncorked ink-bottle
in a rolling snowball: the farther you go, the blacker you get! Admit it
now," he continued in his highest key of rarefied persistency, "admit that
you were mourning over the babies in your school that will have to go to
hell! You'd better be getting some of your own: the Lord will take care of
other people's! Go to see Mrs. Falconer! See all you can of her. There's a
woman to bring you around!"

They had reached the little bridge over the clear, swift Elkhorn. Their
paths diverged. John stopped at his companion's last words, and stood
looking at him with some pity.

"I thank you for your sermon," he said huskily; "I hope to get some help
from that. But you!--you are making things harder for me every word you
utter. You don't understand and I can't tell you."

He took the parson's cool delicate hand in his big hot one.

Alone in the glow of the golden dusk of that day he was sitting outside his
cabin on the brow of the hill, overlooking the town in the valley. How
peaceful it lay in the Sunday evening light! The burden of the parson's
sermon weighed more heavily than ever on his spirit. He had but to turn his
eye down the valley and there, flashing in the sheen of sunset, flowed the
great spring, around the margin of which the first group of Western hunters
had camped for the night and given the place its name from one of the
battle-fields of the Revolution; up the valley he could see the roof under
which the Virginia aristocracy of the Church of England had consecrated
their first poor shrine. What history lay between the finding of that spring
and the building of that altar! Not the winning of the wilderness simply;
not alone its peace. That westward penetrating wedge of iron-browed,
iron-muscled, iron-hearted men, who were now beginning to be known as the
Kentuckians, had not only cleft a road for themselves; they had opened a
fresh highway for the tread of the nation and found a vaster heaven for the
Star of Empire. Already this youthful gigantic West was beginning to make
its voice heard from Quebec to New Orleans while beyond the sea the three
greatest kingdoms of Europe had grave and troubled thoughts of the
on-rushing power it foretokened and the unimaginably splendid future for the
Anglo-Saxon race that it forecast.

He recalled the ardour with which he had followed the tramp of those wild
Westerners; footing it alone from the crest of the Cumberland; subsisting on
the game he could kill by the roadside; sleeping at night on his rifle in
some thicket of underbrush or cane; resolute to make his way to this new
frontier of the new republic in the new world; open his school, read law,
and begin his practice, and cast his destiny in with its heroic people.

And now this was the last Sunday in a long time, perhaps forever, that he
should see it all--the valley, the town, the evening land, resting in its
peace. Before the end of another week his horse would be climbing the ranges
of the Alleghanies, bearing him on his way to Mount Vernon and thence to
Philadelphia. By outward compact he was going on one mission for the
Transylvania Library Committee and on another from his Democratic Society to
the political Clubs of the East. But in his own soul he knew he was going
likewise because it would give him the chance to fight his own battle out,
alone and far away.

Fight it out here, he felt that he never could. He could neither live near
her and not see her, nor see her and not betray the truth. His whole life
had been a protest against the concealment either of his genuine dislikes or
his genuine affections. How closely he had come to the tragedy of a
confession, she to the tragedy of an understanding, the day before! Her
deathly pallor had haunted him ever since--that look of having suffered a
terrible wound. Perhaps she understood already.

Then let her understand! Then at least he could go away better satisfied: if
he never came back, she would know: every year of that long separation, her
mind would be bearing him the pardoning companionship that every woman must
yield the man who has loved her, and still loves her, wrongfully and
hopelessly: of itself that knowledge would be a great deal to him during all
those years.

Struggle against it as he would, the purpose was steadily gaining ground
within him to see her and if she did not now know everything then to tell
her the truth. The consequences would be a tragedy, but might it not be a
tragedy of another kind? For there were darker moments when he probed
strange recesses of life for him in the possibility that his confession
might open up a like confession from her. He had once believed Amy to be
true when she was untrue. Might he not be deceived here? Might she not
appear true, but in reality be untrue? If he were successfully concealing
his love from her, might she not be successfully concealing her love from
him? And if they found each other out, what then?

At such moments all through him like an alarm bell sounded her warning: "The
only things that need trouble us very much are not the things it is right to
conquer but the things it is wrong to conquer. If you ever conquer anything
in yourself that is right, that will be a real trouble for you as long as
you live--and for me!"

Had she meant this? But whatever mood was uppermost, of one thing he now
felt assured: that the sight of her made his silence more difficult. He had
fancied that her mere presence, her purity, her constancy, her loftiness of
nature would rebuke and rescue him from the evil in himself: it had only
stamped upon this the consciousness of reality. He had never even realized
until he saw her the last time how beautiful she was; the change in himself
had opened his eyes to this; and her greater tenderness toward him in their
talk of his departure, her dependence on his friendship, her coming
loneliness, the sense of a tragedy in her life--all these sweet half-mute
appeals to sympathy and affection had rioted in his memory every moment
since.

Therefore it befell that the parson's sermon of the morning had dropped like
living coals on his conscience. It had sounded that familiar, lifelong,
best-loved, trumpet call of duty--the old note of joy in his strength
rightly and valiantly to be put forth--which had always kindled him and had
always been his boast. All the afternoon those living coals of divine
remonstrance had been burning into him deeper and deeper but in vain: they
could only torture, not persuade. For the first time in his life he had met
face to face the fully aroused worst passions of his own stubborn, defiant,
intractable nature: they too loved victory and were saying they would have
it.

One by one the cabins disappeared in the darkness. One by one the stars
bloomed out yellow in their still meadows. Over the vast green sea of the
eastern wilderness the moon swung her silvery lamp, and up the valley
floated a wide veil of mist bedashed with silvery light.

The parson climbed the crest of the hill, sat down, laid his hat on the
grass, and slipped his long sensitive fingers backward over his shining
hair. Neither man spoke at first; their friendship put them at ease.  Nor
did the one notice the shrinking and dread which was the other's only
welcome.

"Did you see the Falconers this morning?"

The parson's tone was searching and troubled and gentler than it had been
earlier that day.

"No."

"They were looking for you. They thought you'd gone home and said they'd go
by for you. They expected you to go out with them to dinner. Haven't you
been there to-day?"

"No."

"I certainly supposed you'd go. I know they looked for you and must have
been disappointed. Isn't this your last Sunday?"

"Yes."

He answered absently. He was thinking that if she was looking for him, then
she had not understood and their relation still rested on the old innocent
footing. Whatever explanation of his conduct and leave-taking the day before
she had devised, it had not been in his disfavour. In all probability, she
had referred it, as she had referred everything else, to his affair with
Amy. His conscience smote him at the thought of her indestructible trust in
him.

"If this is your last Sunday," resumed the parson in a voice rather
plaintive, "then this is our last Sunday night together. And that was my
last sermon. Well, it's not a bad one to take with you. By the time you get
back, you'll thank me more for it than you did this morning--if you heed
it."

There was another silence before he continued, musingly:

"What an expression a sermon will sometimes bring out on a man's face!
While I was preaching, I saw many a thing that no man knew I saw. It was as
though I were crossing actual wilderness-es; I met the wild beasts of
different souls, I crept up on the lurking savages of the passions. I
believe some of those men would have liked to confess to me. I wish they
had."

He forbore to speak of John's black look, though it was of this that he was
most grievously thinking and would have led the way to have explained. But
no answer came."

There was one face with no hidden guilt in it, no shame. I read into the
depths of that clear mind. It said: 'I have conquered my wilderness.' I have
never known another such woman as Mrs. Falconer. She never speaks of
herself; but when I am with her, I feel that the struggles of my life have
been nothing."

"Yes," he continued, out of kindness trying to take no notice of his
companion's silence, "she holds in quietness her land of the spirit; but
there are battle-fields in her nature that fill me with awe by their
silence. I'd dread to be the person to cause her any further trouble in this
world."

The schoolmaster started up, went into the cabin, and quickly came out
again. The parson, absorbed in his reflections, had not noticed:

"You've thought I've not sympathized with you in your affair with Amy.  It's
true. But if you'd ever loved this woman and failed, I could have
sympathized."

"Why don't you raise the money to build a better church by getting up a
lottery?" asked John, breaking in harshly upon the parson's gentleness.

The question brought on a short discussion of this method of aiding schools
and churches, then much in vogue. The parson rather favoured the plan (and
it is known that afterwards a better church was built for him through this
device); but his companion bore but a listless part in the talk: he was
balancing the chances, the honour and the dishonour, in a lottery of life.

"You are not like yourself to-day," said the parson reproachfully after
silence had come on again.

I know it," replied John freely, as if awaking at last.

"Well, each of us has his troubles. Sometimes I have likened the human race
to a caravan of camels crossing a desert--each with sore on his hump and
each with his load so placed as to rub that sore. It is all right for the
back to bear its burden, but I don't think there should have been any sore!"

"Let me ask you a question," said John, suddenly and earnestly. "Have there
ever been days in your life when, if you'd been the camel, you'd have thrown
the load and driver off?"

"Ah!" said the parson keenly, but gave no answer.

"Have there ever been days when you'd rather have done wrong than right?"

"Yes; there have been such days--when I was young and wild." The confession
was reluctant.

"Have you ever had a trouble, and everybody around you fell upon you in the
belief that it was something else?"

"That has happened to me--I suppose to all of us."

"Were you greatly helped by their misunderstanding you?"

"I can't say that I was."

"You would have been glad for them to know the truth, but you didn't choose
to tell them?"

"Yes; I have gone through such an experience."

"So that their sympathy was in effect ridiculous?"

"That is true also."

"If you have been through all this," said John conclusively, "then without
knowing anything more, you can understand why I am not like myself, as you
say, and haven't been lately."

The parson moved his chair over beside the school-master's and took one of
his hands in both of his own, drawing it into his lap.

"John," he said with affection, "I've been wrong: forgive me! And I can
respect your silence. But don't let anything come between us and keep it
from me. One question now on this our last Sunday night together: Have you
anything against me in this world?"

"Not one thing! Have you anything against me?"

"Not one thing!"

Neither spoke for a while.  Then the parson resumed:

"I not only have nothing against you, but I've something to say; we might
never meet hereafter. You remember the woman who broke the alabaster box for
the feet of the Saviour while he was living--that most beautiful of all the
appreciations? And you know what we do? Let our fellow-beings carry their
crosses to their Calvarys, and after each has suffered his agony and entered
into his peace, we go out to him and break our alabaster boxes above his
stiff cold feet. I have always hoped that my religion might enable me to
break my alabaster box for the living who alone can need it--and who always
do need it. Here is mine for your feet, John: Of all the men I have ever
known, you are the most sincere; of them all I would soonest pick upon you
to do what is right; of them all you have the cleanest face, because you
have the most innocent heart; of them all you have the highest notions of
what a man may do and be in this life. I have drawn upon your strength ever
since I knew you.  You have a great deal. It is fortunate; you will need a
great deal; for the world will always be a battle-field to you, but the
victory will be worth the fighting. And my last words to you are: fight it
out to the end; don't compromise with evil; don't lower your ideals or your
aims.  If it can be any help to you to know it, I shall always be near you
in spirit when you are in trouble; if you ever need me, I will come; and if
my poor prayers can ever bring you a blessing, you shall have that."

The parson turned his calm face up toward the firmament and tears glistened
in his eyes. Then perhaps from the old habit and need of following a sermon
with a hymn, he said quite simply:

"Would you like a little music? It is the Good-bye of the Flute to you and a
pleasant journey."

The school-master's head had dropped quickly upon his arms, which were
crossed over the back of his chair. While the parson was praising him, he
had put out his hand two or three times with wretched, imploring gestures.
Keeping his face still hidden, he moved his head now in token of assent; and
out upon the stillness of the night floated the Farewell of the Flute.

But no sermon, nor friendship, nor music, nor voice of conscience, nor voice
of praise, nor ideals, nor any other earthly thing could stand this day
against the evil that was in him. The parson had scarce gone away through
the misty beams before he sprang up and seized his hat.

There was no fog out on the clearing. He could not have said why he had
come. He only knew that he was there in the garden where he had parted from
her the day before. He sat on the bench where they had talked so often, he
strolled among her plants. How clear in the moonlight every leaf of the dark
green little things was, many of them holding white drops of dew on their
tips and edges! How plain the last shoe-prints where she had worked! How
peaceful the whole scene in every direction, how sacredly at rest! And the
cabin up there at the end of the garden where they were sleeping side by
side--how the moon poured its strongest light upon that: his eye could never
get away from it. So closely a man might live with a woman in this
seclusion! So entirely she must be his!

His passions leaped like dogs against their chains when brought too near.
They began to draw him toward the cabin until at last he had come opposite
to it, his figure remaining hidden behind the fence and under the heavy
shadow of a group of the wilderness trees. Then it was that taking one step
further, he drew back.

The low window of the cabin was open and she was sitting there near the foot
of her bed, perfectly still and looking out into the night. Her face rested
in one palm, her elbow on the window sill. Her nightgown had slipped down
from her arm. The only sleepless thing in all the peace of that summer
night: the yearning image of mated loneliness.

He was so close that he could hear the loud regular breathing of a sleeper
on the bed just inside the shadow. Once the breathing stopped abruptly; and
a moment later, as though in reply to a command, he heard her say without
turning her head:

"I am coming!"

The voice was sweet and dutiful; but to an ear that could have divined
everything, so dead worn away with weariness.

Then he saw an arm put forth. Then he heard the shutter being fastened on
the inside.


XIX

THE closing day of school had come; and although he had waited in impatience
for the end, it was with a lump in his throat that he sat behind the desk
and ruler for the last time and looked out on the gleeful faces of the
children. No more toil and trouble between them and him from this time on; a
dismissal, and as far as he was concerned the scattering of the huddled
lambkins to the wide pastures and long cold mountain sides of the world. He
had grown so fond of them and he had grown so used to teach them by talking
to them, that his speech overflowed. But it had been his unbroken wont to
keep his troubles out of the schoolroom; and although the thought never left
him of the other parting to be faced that day, he spoke out bravely and
cheerily, with a smile:

"This is the last day of school, and you know that to-morrow I am going away
and may never come back. Whether I do or not, I shall never teach again, so
that I am now saying good-bye to you for life.

"What I wish to impress upon you once more is the kind of men and women your
fathers and mothers were and the kind of men and women you must become to be
worthy of them. I am not speaking so much to those of you whose parents have
not been long in Kentucky as to those whose parents were the first to fight
for the land until it was safe for others to follow and share it. Let me
tell you that nothing like that was ever done before in all this world. And
if, as I sit here, I can't help seeing that this one of you has no father
and this one no mother and this one neither father nor mother and that
almost none of you have both, still I cannot help saying, You ought to be
happy children! not that you have lost your parents, but that you have had
such parents to lose and to remember!

"All of you are still too young to know fully what they have done and how
the whole world will some day speak of them. Still, you can understand some
things. For nowadays, when you go to your homes at night, you can lie down
and sleep without fear or danger.

"And in the mornings your fathers go off to the fields to their work, your
mothers go off to theirs, you go off to yours, feeling sure that you will
all come together at night again. Some of you can remember when this was not
so. Your father would put his arms around you in the morning and you would
never see him again; your mother kissed you, and waved her hand to you as
she went out of the gate; and you never knew what became of her afterwards.

"And don't you recollect how you little babes in the wilderness could never
go anywhere? If you heard wild turkeys gobbling just inside the forest, or
an owl hooting, or a paroquet screaming, or a fawn bleating, you were warned
never to go there; it was the trick of the Indians. You could never go near
a clump of high weeds, or a patch of cane, or a stump, or a fallen tree. You
must not go to the sugar camp, to get a good drink, or to a salt lick for a
pinch of salt, or to the field for an ear of corn, or even to the spring for
a bucket of water: so that you could have neither bread nor water nor sugar
nor salt. Always, always, it was the Indians. If you cried in the night,
your mother came over to you and whispered 'Hush! they are coming! They will
get you!' And you forgot your pain and clung to her neck and listened.

"Now you are let alone, you go farther and farther away from your homes, you
can play hide-and-seek in the canebrakes, you can explore the woods, you
fish and you hunt, you are free for the land is safe.

"And then only think, that by the time you are men and women, Kentucky will
no longer be the great wilderness it still is. There will be thousands and
thousands of people scattered over it; and the forest will be cut down--can
you ever believe that?--cut through and through, leaving some trees here and
some trees there. And the cane will be cut down: can you believe that? And
instead of buffalo and wild-cats and bears and wolves and panthers there
will be flocks of the whitest sheep, with little lambs frisking about on the
green spring meadows. And under the big shady trees in the pastures there
will be herds of red cattle, so gentle and with backs so soft and broad that
you could almost stretch yourselves out and go to sleep on them, and they
would never stop chewing their cuds. Only think of the hundreds of orchards
with their apple-blossoms and of the big ripe, golden apples on the trees in
the fall! It will be one of the quietest, gentlest lands that a people ever
owned; and this is the gift of your fathers who fought for it and of your
mothers who fought for it also. And you must never forget that you would
never have had such fathers, had you not had such mothers to stand by them
and to die with them.

"This is what I have wished to teach you more than anything in your
books--that you may become men and women worthy of them and of what they
have left you. But while being the bravest kind of men and women, you should
try also to be gentle men and gentle women. You boys must get over your
rudeness and your roughness; that is all right in you now but it would be
all wrong in you afterwards. And the last and the best thing I have to say
to you is be good boys and grow up to be good men! That sounds very plain
and common but I can wish you nothing better for there is nothing better. As
for my little girls, they are good enough as they are!

"I have talked a long time. God bless you everyone. I wish you long and
happy lives and I hope we may meet again. And now all of you must come and
shake hands with me and tell me good-bye."

They started forward and swarmed toward him; only, as the foremost of them
rose and hid her from sight, little Jennie, with one mighty act of defiant
joy, hurled her arithmetic out of the window; and a chubby-cheeked veteran
on the end of the bench produced a big red apple from between his legs and
went for it with a smack of gastric rapture that made his toes curl and sent
his glance to the rafters. They swarmed on him, and he folded his arms
around the little ones and kissed them; the older boys, the warriors, brown
and barefoot, stepping sturdily forward one by one, and holding out a strong
hand that closed on his and held it, their eyes answering his sometimes with
clear calm trust and fondness, sometimes lowered and full of tears; other
little hands resting unconsciously on each of his shoulders, waiting for
their turns.  Then there were softened echoes --gay voices, dying away in
one direction and another, and then--himself alone in the
room--school-master no longer.

He waited till there was silence, sitting in his old erect way behind his
desk, the bight smile still on his face though his eyes were wet.  Then,
with the thought that now he was to take leave of her, he suddenly leaned
forward and buried his face on his arms.


XX

IN the Country of the Spirit there is a certain high table-land that lies
far on among the out-posts toward Eternity. Standing on that calm clear
height, where the sun shines ever though it shines coldly, the wayfarer may
look behind him at his own footprints of self-renunciation, below on his
dark zones of storm, and forward to the final land where the mystery, the
pain, and the yearning of his life will either be infinitely satisfied or
infinitely quieted. But no man can write a description of this place for
those who have never trodden it; by those who have, no description is
desired: their fullest speech is Silence.  For here dwells the Love of which
there has never been any confession, from which there is no escape, for
which there is no hope: the love of a man for a woman who is bound to
another, or the love of a woman for a man who is bound to another. Many
there are who know what that means, and this is the reason why the land is
always thronged. But in the throng no one signals another; to walk there is
to be counted among the Unseen and the Alone.

To this great wistful height of Silence he had struggled at last after all
his days of rising and falling, of climbing and slipping back. It was no
especial triumph for his own strength. His better strength had indeed gone
into it, and the older rightful habitudes of mind that always mean so much
to us when we are tried and tempted, and the old beautiful submission of
himself to the established laws of the world.  But more than what these had
effected was what she herself had been to him and had done for him. Even his
discovery of her at the window that last night had had the effect of bidding
him stand off; for he saw there the loyalty and sacredness of wifehood that,
however full of suffering, at least asked for itself the privilege and the
dignity of suffering unnoticed.

Thus he had come to realize that life had long been leading him blindfold,
until one recent day, snatching the bandage from his eyes, she had cried:
"Here is the parting of three ways, each way a tragedy: choose your way and
your tragedy!"

If he confessed his love and found that she felt but friendship for him,
there was the first tragedy. The wrong in him would lack the answering wrong
in her, which sometimes, when the two are put together, so nearly makes up
the right. From her own point of view, he would merely be offering her a
delicate ineffaceable insult. If she had been the sort of woman by whose
vanity every conquest is welcomed as a tribute and pursued as an aim, he
could never have cared for her at all. Thus while his love took its very
origin from his belief of her nobility, he was premeditating the means of
having her prove to him that this did not exist.

If he told her everything and surprised her love for him, there was the
second tragedy. For over there, beyond the scene of such a confession, he
could not behold her as anything else than a fatally lowered woman.  The
agony of this, even as a possibil-ity, overwhelmed him in advance.  To
require of her that she should have a nature of perfect loyalty and at the
same time to ask her to pronounce her own falseness--what happiness could
that bring to him? If she could be faithless to one man because she loved
another, could she not be false to the second, if in time she grew to love a
third? Out of the depths even of his loss of her the terrible cry was wrung
from him that no love could long be possible between him and any woman who
was not free to love him.

And so at last, with that mingling of selfish and unselfish motives, which
is like the mixed blood of the heart itself, he had chosen the third
tragedy: the silence that would at least leave each of them blameless. And
so he had come finally to that high cold table-land where the sun of Love
shines rather as the white luminary of another world than the red quickener
of this.

Over the lofty table-land of Kentucky the sky bent darkest blue, and was
filled with wistful, silvery light that afternoon as he walked out to the
Falconers'. His face had never looked so clear, so calm; his very linen
never so spotless, or so careful about his neck and wrists; and his eyes
held again their old beautiful light--saddened.

>From away off he could descry her, walking about the yard in the pale
sunshine. He had expected to find her preoccupied as usual; but to-day she
was strolling restlessly to and fro in front of the house, quite near it and
quite idle. When she saw him coming, scarce aware of her own actions, she
went round the house and walked on quickly away from him.

As he was following and passing the cabin, a hand was quickly put out and
the shutter drawn partly to.

"How do you do!"

That hard, smooth, gay little voice!

"You mustn't come here! And don't you peep! When are you going?"

He told her.

"To-morrow! Why, have you forgotten that I'm married to-morrow! Aren't you
coming? Upon my word! I've given you to the widow Babcock, and you are to
ride in the procession with her. She has promised me not to laugh once on
the way or even to allude to anything cheerful! Be persuaded! . . . Well,
I'm sorry. I'll have to give your place to Peter, I suppose.  And I'll tell
the widow she can be natural and gay: Peter'll not mind!  Good-bye! I can't
shake hands with you."

Behind the house, at the foot of the sloping hill, there was a spring such
as every pioneer sought to have near his home; and a little lower down, in
one corner of the yard, the water from this had broadened out into a small
pond. Dark-green sedgy cane grew thick around half the margin.

One March day some seasons before, Major Falconer had brought down with his
rifle from out the turquoise sky a young lone-wandering swan. In those early
days the rivers and ponds of the wilderness served as resting places and
feeding-grounds for these unnumbered birds in their long flights between the
Southern waters and the Northern lakes. A wing of this one had been broken,
and out of her wide heaven of freedom and light she had floated down his
captive but with all her far-sweeping instincts throbbing on unabated. This
pool had been the only thing to remind her since of the blue-breasted waves
and the glad fellowship of her kind. On this she had passed her existence,
with a cry in the night now and then that no one heard, a lifting of the
wings that would never rise, an eye turned upward toward the turquoise sky
across which familiar voices called to each other, called down, and were
lost in the distance.

As he followed down the hill, she was standing on the edge of the pond,
watching the swan feeding in the edge of the cane. He took her hand without
a word, and looked with clear unfaltering eyes down into her face, now
swanlike in whiteness.

She withdrew her hand and gave him the gloves which she was holding in the
other.

"I'm glad you thought enough of them to come for them."

"I couldn't come! Don't blame me!"

"I understand! Only I might have helped you in your trouble. If a friend
can't do that--may not do that! But it is too late now! You start for
Virginia tomorrow?"

"To-morrow."

"And to-morrow Amy marries, I lose you both the same day! You are going
straight to Mount Vernon?"

"Straight to Mount Vernon."

"Ah, to think that you will see Virginia so soon! I've been recalling a
great deal about Virginia during these days when you would not come to see
me. Now I've forgotten everything I meant to say!"

They climbed the hill slowly. Two or three times she stopped and pressed her
hand over her heart. She tried to hide the sound of her quivering breath and
glanced up once to see whether he were observing. He was not. With his old
habit of sending his thoughts on into the future, fighting its distant
battles, feeling its far-off pain, he was less conscious of their parting
than of the years during which he might not see her again. It is the woman
who bursts the whole grape of sorrow against the irrepressible palate at
such a moment; to a man like him the same grape distils a vintage of
yearning that will brim the cup of memory many a time beside his lamp in the
final years.

He would have passed the house, supposing they were to go to the familiar
seat in the garden; but a bench had been placed under a forest tree near the
door and she led the way to this. The significance of the action was lost on
him.

"Yes," she continued, returning to a subject which furnished both an escape
and a concealment of her feelings, "I have been revisiting my girlhood.  You
love Kentucky but I cannot make myself over."

Her face grew full of the finest memories and all the fibres of her nature
were becoming more unstrung. He had made sure of his strength before he had
ever dared see her this day, had pitted his self-control against every
possible temptation to betray himself that could arise throughout their
parting; and it was this very composure, so unlocked for, that unconsciously
drove her to the opposite extreme. Shades of colour swept over her neck and
brow, as though she were setting under wind-tossed blossoming peach boughs.
Her lustrous, excited eyes seemed never able to withdraw themselves from his
whitened solemn face.  Its mute repressed suffering touched her; its
calmness filled her with vague pain that at such a time he could be so calm.
And the current of her words ran swift, as a stream loosened at last from
some steep height."Sometime you might be in that part of Virginia. I should
like you to know the country there and the place where my father's house
stood. And when you see the Resident, I wish you would recall my father to
him. And you remember that one of my brothers was a favourite young officer
of his. I should like you to hear him speak of them both: he has not
forgotten. Ah! My father! He had his faults, but they were all the faults of
a gentleman. And the faults of my brothers were the faults of gentlemen. I
never saw my mother; but I know how genuine she was by the books she liked
and her dresses and her jewels, and the manner in which she had things put
away in the closets. One's childhood is everything!  If I had not felt I was
all there was in the world to speak for my father and my mother and my
brothers! Ah, sometimes pride is the greatest of virtues!"

He bowed his head in assent.

With a swift transition she changed her voice and manner and the
conversation:
"That is enough about me. Have you thought that you will soon be talking to
the greatest man in the world--you who love ideals?"

"I have not thought of it lately."
"You will think of it soon!  And that reminds me: why did you go away as you
did the last time you were here--when I wanted to talk with you about the
book?"

Her eyes questioned him imperiously.
"I cannot tell you: that is one of the things you'd better not wish to
understand.

She continued to look at him, and when she spoke, her voice was full of
relief:
"It was the first time you ever did anything that I could not understand: I
could not read your face that day."
"Can you read it now?" he asked, smiling at her sorrowfully.
"Perfectly!"

"What do you read?"

"Everything that I have always liked you for most. Memories are a great deal
to me. Ah, if you had ever done anything to spoil yours!"
Do you think that if I loved a woman she would know it by looking at my
face?"
"You would tell her: that is your nature."

"Would I? Should I?"

"Why not?"
There was silence.
"Let me talk to you about the book," he cried suddenly. He closed his eyes
and passed one hand several times slowly across his forehead; then facing
her but with his arm resting on the back of the seat and his eyes shaded by
his hand he began:

"You were right: it is a book I have needed. At first it appeared centuries
old to me and far away: the greatest gorgeous picture I had ever seen of
human life anywhere. I could never tell you of the regret with which it
filled me not to have lived in those days--of the longing to have been at
Camelot to have seen the King and to have served him; to have been friends
with the best of the Knights; to have taken their vows; to have gone out
with them to right what was wrong, to wrong nothing that was right."

The words were wrung from him with slow terrible effort, as though he were
forcing himself to draw nearer and nearer some spot of supreme mental
struggle. She listened, stilled, as she had never been by any words of his.
At the same time she felt stifled--felt that she should have to cry
out--that he could be so deeply moved and so self-controlled.

More slowly, with more composure, he went on. He was still turned toward
her, his hand shading the upper part of his face:

"It was not until--not until--afterwards--that I got something more out of
it than all that--got what I suppose you meant. . . . suppose you meant that
the whole story was not far away from me but present here--its right and
wrong--its temptation; that there was no vow a man could take then that a
man must not take now; that every man still has his Camelot and his King,
still has to prove his courage and his strength to all men . . . and that
after he has proved these, he has--as his last, highest act of service in
the world. . . to lay them all down, give them all up, for the sake of--of
his spirit. You meant that I too, in my life, am to go in quest of the
Grail: is it all that?"

The tears lay mute on her eyes. She rose quickly and walked away to the
garden. He followed her. When they had entered it, he strolled beside her
among the plants.

"You must see them once more," she said. Her tone was perfectly quiet and
careless. Then she continued with animation:
"Some day you will not know this garden. When we are richer, you will see
what I shall do: with it, with the house, with everything!  I do not live
altogether on memories: I have hopes."

They came to the bench where they were used to talk, She sat down, and
waited until she could control the least tremor of her voice. Then she
turned upon him her noble eyes, the exquisite passionate tender light of
which no effort of the will could curtain in. Nor could any self-restraint
turn aside the electrical energy of her words:"I thought I should not let
you go away without saying something more to you about what has happened
lately with Amy. My interest in you, your future, your success, has caused
me to feel everything more than you can possibly realize. But I am not
thinking of this now: it is nothing, it will pass. What it has caused me to
see and to regret more than anything else is the power that life will have
to hurt you on account of the ideals that you have built up in secret.  We
have been talking about Sir Thomas Malory and chivalry and ideals: there is
one thing you need to know--all of us need to know it--and to know it
well."Ideals are of two kinds. There are those that correspond to our
highest sense of perfection. They express what we might be were life, the
world, ourselves, all different, all better.  Let these be high as they may!
They are not useless because unattainable. Life is not a failure because
they are never attained. God Himself requires of us the unattainable: 'Be ye
perfect, even as I am perfect! He could not do less. He commands perfection,
He forgives us that we are not perfect!  Nor does He count us failures
because we have to be forgiven. Our ideals also demand of us perfection--the
impossible; but because we come far short of this we have no right to count
ourselves as failures.  What are they like--ideals such as these? They are
like light-houses. But light-houses are not made to live in; neither can we
live in such ideals. I suppose they are meant to shine on us from afar, when
the sea of our life is dark and stormy, perhaps to remind us of a haven of
hope, as we drift or sink in shipwreck.  All of your ideals are lighthouses.
"But there are ideals of another sort; it is these that you lack. As we
advance into life, out of larger experience of the world and of ourselves,
are unfolded the ideals of what will be possible to us if we make the best
use of the world and of ourselves, taken as we are. Let these be as high as
they may, they will always be lower than those others which are perhaps the
veiled intimations of our immortality. These will always be imperfect; but
life is not a failure because they are so.  It is these that are to burn for
us, not like light-houses in the distance, but like candles in our hands.
For so many of us they are too much like candles!--the longer they burn, the
lower they burn, until before death they go out altogether! But I know that
it will not be thus with you. At first you will have disappoint-ments and
sufferings--the world on one side, unattainable ideals of perfection on the
other. But by degrees the comforting light of what you may actually do and
be in an imperfect world will shine close to you and all around you, more
and more.  It is this that will lead you never to perfection, but always
toward it."

He bowed his head: the only answer he could make.

It was getting late. The sun at this moment passed behind the western
tree-tops. It was the old customary signal for him to go. They suddenly
looked at each other in that shadow.
"I shall always think of you for your last words to me," he said in a thick
voice, rising.
"Some day you will find the woman who will be a candle," she replied sadly,
rising also. Then with her lips trembling, she added piteously:

"Oh, if you ever marry, don't make the mistake of treating the woman as an
ideal Treat her in every way as a human being exactly like yourself!  With
the same weakness, the same strug-les, the same temptations! And as you have
some mercy on yourself despite your faults, have some mercy on her despite
hers."

"Must I ever think of you as having been weak and tempted as I have been?"
he cried, the guilty blood rushing into his face in the old struggle to tell
her everything.
"Oh, as for me--what do you know of me!" she cried, laughing.  And then more
quickly:
"I have read your face! What do you read in mine?"
He looked long into it:
"All that I have most wished to see in the face of any woman--except one
thing!"
"What is that? But don't tell me!"

She turned away toward the garden gate. In silence they passed out--walking
toward the edge of the clearing. Half-way she paused. He lifted his hat and
held out his hand. She laid hers in it and they gave each other the long
clinging grasp of affection."Always be a good man," she said, tightening her
grasp and turning her face away.

As he was hurrying off, she called to him in a voice full of emotion:

"Come back!"

He wheeled and walked towards her blindly.

She scanned his face, feature by feature.

"Take off your hat!" she said with a tremulous little laugh. He did so and
she looked at his forehead and his hair.

"Go now, dear friend!" she said calmly but quickly.

XXI

It was the morning of the wedding.

According to the usage of the time the marriage ceremony was to take place
early in the forenoon, in order that the guests, gathered in from distant
settlements of the wilderness, might have a day for festivity and still
reach home before night. Late in the afternoon the bridal couple, escorted
by many friends, were to ride into town to Joseph's house, and in the
evening there was to be a house-warming.

The custom of the backwoods country ran that a man must not be left to build
his house alone; and one day some weeks before this wagons had begun to roll
in from this direction and that
direction out of the forest, hauling the logs for Joseph's cabin.
Then with loud laughter and the writhing of tough backs and the straining of
powerful arms and legs, men old, middle-aged, and young had raised the house
like overgrown boys at play, and then had returned to their own neglected
business: so that to him was left only the finishing.He had finished it and
furnished it for the simple scant needs of pioneer life.But on this, his
wedding morning, he had hardly left the town, escorted by friends on
horseback, before many who had variously excused themselves from going began
to issue from their homes: women carrying rolls of linen and pones of bread;
boys with huge joints of jerked meat and dried tongues of the buffalo, bear,
and deer. There was a noggin, a piggin, a churn, a homemade chair; there was
a quilt from a grandmother and a pioneer cradle--a mere trough scooped out
of a walnut log. An old pioneer sent the antlers of a stag for a hat-rack,
and a buffalo rug for the young pair to lie warm under of bitter, winter
nights; his wife sent a spinning-wheel and a bundle of shingles for
johnny-cakes. Some of the merchants gave packages of Philadelphia groceries;
some of the aristo-cratic families parted with heirlooms that had been
laboriously brought over the mountains--a cup and saucer of Sevres, a pair
of tall brass candlesticks, and a Venus -mirror framed in ebony. It was
about three o'clock in the afternoon when John Gray jumped on the back of a
strong trusty horse at the stable of the Indian Queen, leaned over to shake
the hands of the friends who had met there to see him off, and turned his
horse's head in the direction of the path that led to the Wilderness Road.

But when he had gone about a mile, he struck into the forest at right angles
and rode across the country until he reached that green woodland pathway
which led from the home of the Falconers to the public road between
Lexington and Frankfort. He tied his horse some distance away, and walking
back, sat down on the roots of an oak and waited.

It was a day when the beauty of the earth makes itself felt like ravishing
music that has no sound. The air, warm and full of summer fragrance, was of
that ethereal untinged clearness which spreads over all things the softness
of velvet. The far-vaulted heavens, so bountiful of light, were an
illimitable weightless curtain of pale-blue velvet; the rolling clouds were
of white velvet; the grass, the stems of bending wild flowers, the drooping
sprays of woodland foliage, were so many forms of emerald velvet; the
gnarled trunks of the trees were gray and brown velvet; the wings and
breasts of the birds, flitting hither and thither, were of gold and scarlet
velvet; the butterflies were stemless, floating velvet blossoms."Farewell,
Kentucky! farewell!" he said, looking about him at it all.
Two hours passed. The shadows were lengthening rapidly. Over the forest,
like the sigh of a spirit, swept from out the west the first intimation of
waning light, of the mysteries of coming darkness. At last there reached his
ear from far down the woodland path the sounds of voices and laughter--again
and again--louder and louder--and then through the low thick boughs he
caught glimpses of them coming. Now beneath the darker arches of the trees,
now across pale-green spaces shot by slanting sunbeams. Once there was a
halt and a merry outcry. Long grape-vines from opposite sides of the road
had been tied across it, and this barrier had to cut through. Then on they
came again: At the head of procession, astride an old horse that in his
better days had belonged to a mounted rifleman, rode the parson. He was
several yards ahead of the others and quite forgetful of them. The end of
his flute stuck neglectedly out of his waistcoat pocket; his bridle reins
lay slack on the neck of the drowsy beast; his hands were piled on the
pommel of the saddle as over his familiar pulpit; his dreamy moss-agate eyes
were on the tree-tops far ahead. In truth he was preparing a sermon on the
affection of one man for another and ransacking Scripture for illustrations;
and he meant to preach this the following Sunday when there would be some
one sadly missed among his hearers. Nevertheless he enjoyed great peace of
spirit this day: it was not John who rode behind him as the bridegroom:
otherwise he would as soon have returned to the town at the head of the
forces of Armageddon.

Behind the parson came William Penn in the glory of a new bridle and saddle
and a blanket of crimson cloth; his coat smooth as satin, his mane a
tumbling cataract of white silk; bunches of wild roses at his ears; his
blue-black eyes never so soft, and seeming to lift his feet cautiously like
an elephant bearing an Indian princess.

They were riding side by side, the young husband and wife. He keeping one
hand on the pommel of her saddle, thus holding them together; while with the
other he used his hat to fan his face, now hers, though his was the one that
needed it, she being cool and quietly radiant with the thoughts of her
triumph that day--the triumph of her wedding, of her own beauty. Furthermore
show was looking ahead to the house-warming that night when she would be
able to triumph again and also count her presents.

Then came Major and Mrs. Falconer. Her face was hidden by a veil and as they
passed, it was held turned toward him: he was talking, uninterrupted.

Then followed Horatio Turpin and Kitty Poythress; and then Erskine and his
betrothed, he with fresh feathers of the hawk and the scarlet tanager
gleaming in his cap above his swart, stern aquiline face. Then Peter, beside
the widow Babcock; he openly aflame and solicitous; she coy and discreetly
inviting, as is the wisdom of some. Then others and others and others--a
long gay pageant, filling the woods with merry voices and laughter.

They passed and the sounds died away--passed on to the town awaiting the, to
the house-warming, and please God, to long life and some real affection and
happiness.

Once he had expected to ride beside her at the head of this procession.
There had gone by him the vision of his own life as it was to have been.

Long after the last sound had ceased in the distance he was sitting at the
root of the red oak. The sun set, the moon rose, he was there still. A loud,
impatient neigh from his horse aroused him. He sprang lightly up, meaning to
ride all night and not to draw rein until he had crossed the Kentucky River
and reached Traveller's Rest, the home of Governor Shelby, where he had been
invited to break his travel.

All that nigh he rode and at sunrise was far away. Pausing on a height and
turning his horse's head, he sat a long time motion-less as a statue. Then
he struck his feet into its flank and all that day rode back again.

The sun was striking the tree-tops as he neared the clearing. He could see
her across the garden. She sat quite still, her face turned toward the
horizon. Against her breast, opened but forgotten, lay a book. He could
recognize it. By that story she had judged him and wished to guide him. The
smile smote his eyes like the hilt of a knight's sword used as a Cross to
drive away the Evil One. For he knew the evil purpose with which he had
returned.

And so he sat watching her until she rose and walked slowly to the house.

XXII

IT was early autumn when the first letters from him were received over the
mountains. All these had relation to Mount Vernon and his business there.

To the Transylvania Library Committee he wrote that the President had mad a
liberal subscription for the buying of books and that the Vice-President and
other public men would be likely to contribute.

His sonorous, pompous letter to a member of the Democratic Society was much
longer and in part as follows:

"When I made know to the President who I was and where I came from, he
regarded me with a look at once so stern and so benign, that I felt like one
of my school-boys overtaken in some small rascality and was almost of a mind
to march straight to a corner of the room and stand with my face to the
wall. If he had seized me by the coat collar and trounced me well, I should
somehow have felt that he had the right. From the conversations that
followed I am led to believe that he knows the name of every prominent
member of the Democratic Society of Lexington, and that he understands
Kentucky affairs with regard to national and international complications as
no other living man. While questioning me on the subject, he had the manner
of one who, from conscientiousness, would further verify facts which he had
already tested. But what impressed me even more than his knowledge was his
justice; in illustration of which I shall never forget his saying, that the
part which Kentucky had taken, or had wished to take, in the Spanish and
French conspiracies had caused him greater solicitude than any other single
event since the foundation of the National Government; but that nowhere else
in America had the struggle for immediate self-government been so necessary
and so difficult, and that nowhere else were the mistakes of patriotic and
able men more natural or more to be judged with mildness.

"I think I can quote his very words when he spoke of the foolish jealousies
and heartburnings, due to misrepresentations, that have influenced Kentucky
against the East as a section and against the Government as favouring it:
'The West derives from the East supplies requisite to its growth and
comfort; and what is perhaps of still greater consequence, it must of
necessity owe the secure enjoyment of indispensable outlets for its own
production to the weight, influence, and future maritime strength of the
Atlantic side of the Union, directed by an indissoluble community of
interest, as One Nation.'

"Memorable to me likewise was the language in which he proceeded to show
that this was true:

"'The inhabitants of our Western country have lately had a useful lesson on
this head. They have seen in the negotiations by the Executive, and in the
unanimous ratification by the Senate of the treaty with Spain, and in the
universal satisfaction of that event throughout the United States, a
decisive proof how unfounded were the suspicions propagated among them of a
policy in the General Government and in the Atlantic States unfriendly to
their interests in regard to the Mississippi. . . . Will they not henceforth
be deaf to those advisers, if such there are, who would sever them from
their Brethren and connect them with Aliens?'

"I am frank to declare that, having enjoyed the high privilege of these
interviews with the President and been brought to judge rightly what through
ignorance I had judged amiss, I feel myself in honour bound to renounce my
past political convictions and to resign my membership in the Lexington
Democratic Society. Nor shall I join the Democratic Society of Philadelphia,
as had been my ardent purpose; and it will not be possible for me on
reaching that city to act as the emissary of the Kentucky Clubs. But I shall
lay before the Society the despatches of which I am the bearer. And will you
lay before yours the papers herewith enclosed, containing my formal
resignation with the grounds thereof carefully stated?"

To Mrs. Falconer he wrote bouyantly:

"I have crossed the Kentucky Alps, seen the American Caesar, carried away
some of his gold. I came, I saw, I overcame. How do you think I met the
President? I was riding toward Mount Vernon one quiet sunny afternoon and
unexpectedly came upon an old gentleman who was putting up some bars that
opened into a wheat-filed by the roadside. He had on long boots, corduroy
smalls, a speckled red jacket, blue coat with yellow buttons, and a
broad-brimmed hat. He held a hickory switch in his hand. An umbrella and a
long staff were attached to his saddle-bow. His limbs were so long, large,
and sinewy; his countenance so lofty, masculine, and contemplative; and
although he was of a presence so statue-like and venerable that my heart
with a great throb cried out, It is Washington!"

"My dear friend," he wrote at the close, "it is of no little worth to me
that I should have come to Mount Vernon at this turning-point of my life. I
find myself uplifted to a plane of thought and feeling higher than has ever
been trod by me. When I began to draw near this place, I seemed to be
mounting higher, like a man ascending a mountain; and ever since my arrival
there has been this same sense of rising into a still loftier atmosphere, of
surveying a vaster horizon, of beholding the juster relations of surrounding
objects.

"All this feeling has its origin in my contemplation of the character of the
President. You know that when a heavy sleet falls upon the Kentucky forest,
the great trees crack and split, or groan and stagger, with branches snapped
off or trailing. In adversity it is often so with men. But he is a vast
mountain-peak, always calm, always lofty, always resting upon a base that
nothing can shake; never higher, never lower, never changing; from every
quarter of the earth storms have rushed in and beaten upon him; but they
have passed; he is as he was. The heavens have emptied their sleets and
snows on his head,--these have made him look only purer, only the more
sublime.

"From the spectacle of this great man thus bearing the great burdens of his
great life, a new standard of what is possible to human nature has been
raised within me. I have seen with my own eyes a man whom the adverse forces
of the world have not been able to wreck--a lover of perfection, who has so
wrought it out in his character that to know him is to be awed into
reverence of his virtues. I shall go away from him with nobler hopes of what
a man may do and be.

"It is to you soley that I owe the honour of having enjoyed the personal
consideration of the President. His reception of me had been in the highest
degree ceremonious and distant; but upon my mentioning the names of father
and brother, his manner grew warm: I had touched that trait of affectionate
faithfulness with which he has always held on to every tie of kin and
friendship. That your father should have fought against him and your brother
under him made no difference in his memory. He had many questions to ask
regarding you--your happiness, your family--to some of which I could return
the answers that gave him pleasure or left him thoughtful. Upon my setting
out from Mount Vernon, his last words made me the bearer of his message to
you, the child of an old comrade and the sister or a gallant young soldier."

Beyond this there was nothing personal in his letter and nothing as to his
return.

When she next heard, he was in Philadelphia, giving his attention to the
choosing and shipment of the books. One piece of news, imparted in perfect
calmness by him, occasioned her acute disappointment. His expectation of
coming into possession of some ten thousand dollars had not quite been
realized. An appeal had been taken and the case was yet pending. He was
pleased neither with the good faith nor with the good sense of the counsel
engaged; and he would remain on the spot himself during the trial. He added
that he was lodging with a pleasant family. Then followed the long winter
during which all communication between the frontier and the seaboard was
interrupted. When spring returned at last and the earliest travel was
resumed, other letters came, announcing that the case had gone against him,
and that he had nothing.

She sold at once all the new linen that had been woven, got together all the
money she otherwise could and despatched it with Major Falconer's consent,
begging him to make use of it for the sake of their friendship--not to be
foolish and proud: there were lawyers' fees it could help to pay, or other
plain practical needs it might cover. But when the post-rider returned, he
brought it all back with a letter of gratitude: only, he couldn't accept it.
And the messenger had been warned not to let it be known that he was in
prison for debt on account of these same suit expenses; for having from the
first formed a low opinion of his counsel's honour and ability and having
later expressed this opinion at the door of the court-room with a good deal
of fire and a good deal of contempt, and being furthermore unable and
unwilling to pay the exorbitant fee, he had been promptly clapped into jail
by the incensed attorney, as well for his poverty and for his temper and his
pride.

In jail he spent that spring and summer and autumn. Then an important turn
was given to his history. It seems that among the commissions with which he
was charged on leaving Lexington was one from Edward West, the watchmaker
and inventor, who some time before, and long before Fulton, had made trial
of steam navigation with a small boat on the Town Fork of the Elkhorn, and
who desired to have his invention brought before the American Philosophical
Society of Philadelphia. He had therefore placed a full description of his
steamboat in John's hands with the request that he would enforce this with
the testimony of an eye-witness as to its having moved through water. At
this time, through Franklin's influence, the Society was keenly interested
in the work of inventors, having received also some years previous from
Hyacinthe de Magellan two hundred guineas to be used for rewarding the
authors of improvements and discoveries. Accordingly it took up the subject
of West's invention but desired to hear more regarding the success of the
experiment; and so requested John to appear before it at one of its
meetings. But upon looking for this obscure John and finding him in jail,
the committee were under the necessity of appearing before him. Whereupon,
grown interested in him and made acquainted with the ground of his
unreasonable imprisonment, some of the members effected his release--by
recourse to the attorney with certain well-direct threats that he could
easily be put into jail for his own debts. Not only this; but soon
afterwards the young Westerner was taken into the law-office of one of these
gentlemen, binding himself for a term of years.

It was not until spring that he wrote he humorously of his days in jail; but
when it came to telling her of the other matter, the words refused to form
themselves before his will or his hand to shape them on the paper. He would
do this in the next letter, he said to himself mournfully.

But early that winter Major Falconer had died, and his next letter was but a
short hurried reply to one from her, bringing him this intelligence. And
before he wrote again, certain grave events had happened that led him still
further to defer acquainting her with his new situation, new duties, new
plans.

That same spring, then, during which he was entering upon his career in
Philadelphia, she too began really to live. And beginning to live, she began
to build--inwardly and outwardly; for what is all life but ceaseless inner
and outer building?

As the first act, she sold one of the major's military grants, reserving the
ample, noble, parklike one on which she had passed existence up to this; and
near the cabin she laid the foundations of her house. Not the great
ancestral manor-house on the James and yet a seaboard aristocratic Virginia
country-place: two story brick with two-story front veranda of Corinthian
columns; wide hall, wide stairway; oak wood interior, hand-carved, massive;
sliding doors between the large library and large dining-room; great
bedrooms, great fireplaces, great brass fenders and fire-dogs, brass locks
and keys: full of elegance, spaciousness, comfort, rest.

In every letter she sent him that spring and summer and early autumn, always
she had something to tell him about this house, about the room in it built
for him, about the negros she had bought, the land she was clearing, the
changes and improvements everywhere: as to many things she wanted his
advice. That year also she sent back to Virginia for flower-seed and shrub
and plants--the same old familiar ones that had grown on her father's lawn,
in the garden, about the walls, along the water--some of which had been
bought over from England: the flags, the lilies, honeysuckles, calacanthus,
snowdrops, roses--all of them. Speaking of this, she wrote him that of
course that most of these would have to be set out that autumn, and little
could be done for grounds till the following season; but the house!--it was
to be finished before winter set in. In the last of these letters, she ended
by saying: "I think I know now the very day you will be coming back. I can
hear your horse's feet rustling in the leaves of--I said--October; but I
will say November this time."

His replies were unsatisfying. There had been the short, hurried, earnest
letter, speaking of Major Falconer's death: that was all right. But since
then a vague blinding mist had seemed to lie between her eyes and every
page. Something was kept hidden--some new trouble. "I shall understand
everything when he comes!" she would say to herself each time. "I can wait."
Her buoyancy was irrepressible.

Late that autumn the house was finished--one of those early country-places
yet to be seen here and there on the landscape of Kentucky, marking the
building era of the aristocratic Virginians and renewing in the wilderness
the architecture of the James.

She had taken such delight in furnishing her room: in the great bedstead
with its mighty posts, its high tester, its dainty, hiding curtains; such
delight in choosing, in bleaching, in weaving the linen for it! And the
pillowcases--how expectant they were on the two pillows now set side by side
at the head of the bed, with the delicate embroidery in the centre of each!
At first she had thought of working her initials within an oval-shaped vine;
but one day, her needle suddenly arrested in the air, she had simply worked
a rose.

Late one afternoon, when the blue of Indian summer lay on the walls of the
forest like a still sweet veil, she came home from a walk in the woods. Her
feet had been rustling among the brown leaves and each time she had laughed.
At her round white throat she had pinned a scarlet leaf, from an old habit
of her girlhood. But was not Kentucky turning into Virginia? Was not
womanhood becoming girlhood again? She was still so young--only
thirty-eight. She had the right to be bringing in from the woods a bunch of
the purple violets of November.

She sat down in her shadowy room before the deep fireplace; where there was
such comfort now, such loneliness. In early years at such hours she had like
to play. She resolved to get her a spinet. Yes; and she would have
myrtle-berry candles instead of tallow, and a slender-legged mahogany table
beside which to read again in the Spectator and "Tom Jones." As nearly as
she could she would bring back everything that she had been used to in her
childhood--was not all life still before her? If he were coming, it must be
soon, and she would know what had been keeping him--what it was that had
happened. She had walked to meet him so many times already. And the
heartless little gusts of wind, starting up among the leaves in the woods,
how often they had fooled her ear and left her white and trembling!

The negro boy who had been sent to town on other business and to fetch the
mail, soon afterwards knocked and entered. There was a letter from him--a
short one and a paper. She read the letter and could not believe her own
eyes, could not believe her own mind. Then she opened the paper and read the
announcement of it printed there": he was married.

That night in her bedroom--with the great clock measuring out life in the
corner--the red logs turning slowly to ashes--the crickets under the bricks
of the hearth singing of summer gone--that night, sitting by the
candle-stand, where his letter lay opened, in a nightgown white as white
samite, she loosened the folds of her heavy lustrous hair--wave upon
wave--until the edges that rippled over her forehead rippled down over her
knees. With the loosening of her hair somehow had come the loosening of her
tears. And with the loosening of her tears came the loosening of her hold
upon what she, until this night, had never acknowledged to herself--her love
for him, the belief that he had loved her.

The next morning the parson, standing a white, cold shepherd before his
chilly wilderness flock, preached a sermon from the text: "I shall go softly
all my years." While the heads of the rest were bowed during the last
moments of prayer, she rose and slipped out.

"Yes," she said to herself, gathering her veil closely about her face as she
alighted at the door of her house and the withered leaves of November were
whirled fiercely about her feet, "I shall go softly all my years."

XXIII

AFTER this the years were swept along. Fast came the changes in Kentucky.
The prophecy which John Gray had made to his school-children passed to its
realization and reality went far beyond it. In waves of migration, hundreds
upon hundreds of thousands of settlers of the Anglo-Saxon race hurried into
the wilderness and there jostled and shouldered each other in the race
passion of soil-owning and home-building; or always farther westward they
rushed, pushing the Indian back. Lexington became the chief manufacturing
town of the new civilization, thronged by merchants and fur-clad traders;
gathered into it were men and women making a society that would have been
brilliant in the capitals of the East; at its bar were heard illustrious
voices, the echoes of which are not yet dead, are past all dying; the genius
of young Jouett found for itself the secret of painting canvases so luminous
and true that never since in the history of the State have they been
equalled; the Transylvania University arose with lecturers famous enough to
be known in Europe: students of law and medicine travelled to it from all
parts of the land.

John Gray's school-children grew to be men and women. For the men there were
no longer battles to fight in Kentucky, but there were the wars of the
Nation; and far away on the widening boundaries of the Republic they
conquered or failed and fell; as volunteers with Perry in the victory on
Lake Erie; in the awful massacre at the River Raisin; under Harrison at the
Thames; in the mud and darkness of the Mississippi at New Orleans, repelling
Pakenham's charge with Wellington's veteran, victory-flushed campaigners.

The school-master's friend, the parson, he too had known his more peaceful
warfare, having married and become a manifold father. Of a truth it was
feared at one period that the parson was running altogether to prayers and
daughters. For it was remarked that with each birth, his petitions seemed
longer and his voice to rise from behind the chancel with a fresh wail as of
one who felt a growing grievance both against himself and the almighty.
Howbeit, innocently enough after the appearance of the fifth female infant,
one morning he preached the words: "No man knoweth what manner of creature
he is"; and was unaware that a sudden smile rippled over the faces of his
hearers. But it was not until later on when mother and six were packed into
one short pew at morning service, that they became known in a body as the
parson's Collect for all Sundays.

Sometimes the little ones were divided and part of them sat in another pew
where there was a single occupant--a woman--childless.

"Yes"," she had said, "I shall go softly all my years."

The plants she had brought that summer from Virginia had long since become
old bushes. The Virginia Creeper had climbed to the tops of the trees. The
garden, though in the same spot, was another place now, with vine-heavy
arbours and sodden walks running between borders of flowers and
vegetables--daffodils and thyme--in the quaint Virginia fashion. There was a
lawn covered as the ancestral one had been with the feathery grass of
England. There was a park where the deer remained at home in their
wilderness.

Crowning this landscape of comfort and good taste, stood the house. Often of
nights when its roof lay deep under snow and the eaves were bearded with
hoary icicles, there were candles twinkling at every window and the sounds
of music and dancing in the parlours. Once a year there was a great venison
supper in the dining-room, draped with holly and mistletoe. On Christmas eve
man a child's sock or stocking was hung--no one knew when or by whom--around
the shadowy chimney-seat of her room; and every Christmas morning the little
negros from the cabins knew to whom each of these belonged. In spring,
parties of young girls and youths came out from town for fishing parties and
picknicked in the lawn amid the dandelions and under the song of the
blackbird; during the summer, for days at a time, other gay company filled
the house; of autumns there were nutting parties in the russet woods. Other
guests also, not young, not gay. Aaron Burr was entertained there; there met
for counsel the foremost Western leaders in his magnificent conspiracy. More
than one great man of his day, middle-aged, unmarried, began his visits,
returned oftener for awhile--always alone--and one day drove away
disappointed.

Through seasons and changes she had gone softly: never retreating from life
but drawing about her as closely as she could its ties, its sympathies, it
duties: in all things a character of the finest equipois, the truest
moderation.

But these are women of the world--some of us men may have discerned one of
them in the sweep of our experiences--to whom the joy and the sorrow come
alike with quietness. For them there is neither the cry of sudden delight
nor the cry of sudden anguish. Gazing deep into their eyes, we are reminded
of the light of dim churches; hearing their voices, we dream of some
minstrel whose murmurs reach us imperfectly through his fortress wall;
beholding the sweetness of their faces, we are touched as by the appeal of
the mute flowers; merely meeting them in the street, we recall the
long-vanished image of the Divine Goodess. They are the women who have
missed happiness and who know it, but having failed of affection, give
themselves to duty. And so life never rises high and close about them as
about one who stands waist-deep in a wheat-field, gathering at will either
its poppies or its sheaves; it flows forever away as from one who pauses
waist-deep in a stream and hearkens rather to the rush of all things toward
the eternal deeps. It was into the company of theses quieter pilgrims that
she had passed: she had missed happiness twice.

Her beauty had never failed. Nature had fought hard in her for all things;
and to the last youth of her womanhood it burned like an autumn rose which
some morning we may have found on the lawn under a dew that is turning to
ice. But when youth was gone, in the following years her face began to
reflect the freshness of Easter lilies. For prayer will in time make the
human countenance its own divinest alter; years upon years of true thoughts,
like ceaseless music shut up within, will vibrate along the nerves of
expression until the lines of the living instrument are drawn into
correspondence, and the harmony of visible form matches the unheard
harmonies of the mind. It was about this time also that there fell upon her
hair the earliest rays of the light which is the dawn of Eternal Morning.

She had never ceased to watch his career as part of her very life. Time was
powerless to remove him farther from her than destiny had removed him long
before: it was always yesterday; the whole past with him seemed caught upon
the clearest mirror just at her back. Once or twice a year she received a
letter, books, papers, something; she had been kept informed of the birth of
his children. From other sources--his letters to the parson, traders between
Philadelphia and the West--she knew other things: he had risen in the world,
was a judge, often leading counsel in great cases, was almost a great man.
She planted her pride, her gratitude, her happiness, on this new soil: they
were the few seed that a woman in the final years will sow in a window-box
and cover the window-pane and watch and water and wake and think of in the
night--she who was used once to range the fields.

But never from the first to last had she received a letter from him that was
transparent; the mystery stayed unlifted; she had to accept the constancy of
his friendship without its confidence. Question or chiding of course there
never was from her; inborn refinement alone would have kept her from
curiosity or prying; but she could not put away the conviction that the
concealment which he steadily adhered to was either delicately connected
with his marriage or registered but too plainly some downward change in
himself. Which was it, or was it both? Had he too missed happiness? Missed
it as she had--by a union with a perfectly commonplace, plodding,
unimaginative, unsympathetic, unrefined nature? And was it a mercy to be
able to remember him, not to know him?

These thoughts filled her so often, so often! For into the busiest life--the
life that toils to shut out thought--the inevitable leisure will come; and
with the leisure will return the dreaded emptiness, the loneliness, the
never stifled need of sympathy, affection, companionship--for that world of
two outside of which every other human being is a stranger. And it was he
who entered into all these hours of hers as by a right that she had neither
the heart nor the strength to question.

For behind everything else there was one thing more--deeper than anything
else, dearer, more sacred; the feeling she would never surrender that for a
while at least he had cared more for her than he had ever realized.

One mild afternoon of autumn she was walking with quiet dignity around her
garden. She had just come from town where she had given to Jouett the last
sitting of her portrait, and she was richly dressed in the satin gown and
cap of lace which those who see the picture nowadays will remember. The
finishing of it had saddened her a little; she meant to leave it to him; and
she wondered whether, when he looked into the eyes of this portrait, he
would at last understand": she had tried to tell him the truth; it was the
truth that Jouett painted.

Thus she was thinking of the past as usual; and once she paused in the very
spot where one sweet afternoon of May long ago he had leaned over the fence,
holding in his hand his big black had decorated with a Jacobin cockade, and
had asked her consent to marry Amy. Was not yonder the very maple, in the
shade of which he and she sat some weeks later while she had talked with him
about the ideals of life? She laughed, but she touched her handkerchief to
her eyes as she turned to pass on. Then she stopped abruptly.

Coming down the garden walk toward her with a light rapid step, his head in
the air, a smile on his fresh noble face, an earnest look in his gray eyes,
was a tall young fellow of some eighteen years. A few feet off he lifted his
hat with a free, gallant air, uncovering a head of dark-red hair, closely
curling.

"I beg your pardon, madam," he said, in a voice that fell on her ears like
music long remembered. "Is this Mrs. Falconer?"

"Yes," she replied, beginning to tremble, "I am Mrs. Falconer."

"Then I should like to introduce myself to you, dearest madam. I am John
Gray, the son of your old friend, and my father sends me to you to stay with
you if you will let me. And he desires me to deliver this letter."

"John Gray!" she cried, running forward and searching his face. "You John
Gray! You! Take off your hat!" For a moment she looked at his forehead and
his hair; her eyes became blinded with tears. She threw her arms around his
neck with a sob and covered his face with kisses.

"Madam," said the young fellow, stooping to pick up his hat, and laughing
outright at his own blushes and confusion, "I don't wonder that my father
thinks so much of you!"

"I never did that to your father!" she retorted. Beneath the wrinkled ivory
of her skin a tinge of faintest pink appeared and disappeared.

Half and hour later she was sitting at a western window. Young John Gray had
gone to the library to write to his father and mother, announcing his
arrival; and in her lap lay his father's letter which with tremulous fingers
she was now wiping her spectacles to read. In all these years she had never
allowed herself to think of her John Gray as having grown older; she saw him
still young, as when he used to lean over the garden fence. But now the
presence of this son had the effect of suddenly pushing the father far on
into life; and her heart ached with this first realization that he too must
have passed the climbing-point and have set his feet on the shaded downward
slope that leads to the quiet valley.

His letter began lightly:

"I send John to you with the wish that you will be to the son the same
inspiring soul you once were to the father. You will find him headstrong and
with great notions of what he is to be in the world. But he is warm-hearted
and clean-hearted. Let him do for you the things I used to do; let him hold
the yarn on his arms for you to wind off, and read to you your favourite
novels; he is a good reader for a young fellow. And will you get out your
spinning-wheel some night when the logs are in roaring in the fireplace and
let him hear its music? Will you some time with your hands make him a
johnny-cake on a new ash shingle? I want him to know a woman who can do all
things and still be a great lady. And lay upon him all the burdens that in
any way you can, so that he shall not think too much of what he may some day
do in life, but, of what he is actually doing. We get great reports of the
Transylvania University, of the bar of Lexington, of the civilization that I
foresaw would spring up in Kentucky; and I send John to you with the wish
that he hear lectures and afterward go into the office of some one whom I
shall name, and finally marry and settle there for life. You recall this as
the wish of my own; through John shall be done what I could not do. You see
how stubborn I am! I have given him the names of my school-children. He is
to find out those of them who still live there, and to tell me of those who
have passed away or been scattered.

"I do not know; but if at the end of life I should be left alone here,
perhaps I shall make my way back to Kentucky to John, as the old tree falls
beside the young one."

>From this point the tone of the letter changed.

"And now I am going to open to you what no other eye has ever seen, must
ever see--one page in the book of my life."

When she reached these words with a contraction of the heart and a loud
throbbing of the pulses in her ears, she got up and locked the letter in her
bureau. Then, commanding herself, she went to the dining-room, and with her
own hands prepared the supper table; got our her finest linen, glass,
silver; had the sconces lighted, extra candelabra brought in; gave orders
for especial dishes to be cooked; and when everything was served, seated her
guest at the foot of the table and let him preside as though it were his old
rightful place. Ah, how like his father he was! Several times when the
father's name was mentioned, he quite choked up with tears.

At an early hour he sought rest from the fatigue of travel. She was left
alone. The house was quiet. She summoned the negro girl who slept on the
floor in her room and who was always with her of evenings:

"You can go to the cabin till bedtime. And when you come in, don't make any
noise. And don't speak to me. I shall be asleep."

Then seating herself beside the little candle stand which mercifully for her
had had shed its light on so many books in the great lonely bedchamber, she
re-read those last words:

"And now I am going to open to you what no other eye has ever seen, must
ever see--one page in the book of my life:

"Can you remember the summer I left Kentucky? On reaching Philadelphia I
called on a certain family consisting, as I afterwards ascertained, of
father, mother, and daughter; and being in search of lodgings, I was asked
to become a member of their household. This offer was embraced the more
eagerly because I was sick for a home that summer and in need of some kind
soul to lean on in my weakness. I had indeed been led for these reasons to
seek their acquaintance--the father and mother having known my own parents
even before I met them. You will thus understand how natural a haven with my
loneliness and amid such memories this house became to me, and upon what
grounds I stood in my association with its members from the beginning.

"When the lawsuit went against me and I was wrongfully thrown into jail for
debt, their faithful interest only deepened. Very poor themselves, they
would yet have make any sacrifice in my behalf. During the months of my
imprisonment they were often with me, bringing every comfort and brightening
the dulness of many an hour.

"Upon my release I returned gladly to their joyous household, welcomed I
could not say with what joyous affection. Soon afterwards I found a position
in the office of a law firm and got my start in life.

"And now I cross the path of some things that cannot be written. But you who
know what my life and character had been will nobly understand: remember
your last words to me.

"One day I offered my hand to the daughter. I told her the whole truth: that
there was some one else--not free; that no one could take the place of this
other was filling at the moment, and would always fill. Nevertheless, if she
would accept me on these conditions, everything that it was in my power to
promise she could have.

"She said that in time she would win the rest.

"A few weeks later that letter came from you, bringing the intelligence that
changed everything. (Do you remember my reply? I seem only this moment to
have dropped the pen.) As soon as I could control myself, I told her that
now you were free, that it was but justice and kindness alike to her and to
me that I should give here the chance to reconsider the engagement. A week
passed, I went again. I warned her how different the situation had become. I
could promise less than before--I could not say how little. A month later I
went again.

"Ah, well--that is all!

"The summer after my marriage I travelled to Virginia regarding a landsuit.
One day I rode far out of my course into the path of the country where you
lived. I remained some days strolling over the silent woods and fields,
noting the bushes on the lawn, such as you had carried over into Kentucky,
hunting out the quiet nooks where you were used to read in your girlhood.
Those long, sweet, sacred summer days alone with you there before you were
married! O Jessica! Jessica! Jessica! Jessica! And to this day the sight of
peach blossoms in the spring--the rustle of autumn leaves under my feet! Can
you recall the lines of Malory? 'Men and women could love together seven
years, and then was love truth and faithfulness.' How many more than seven
have I loved you!--you who never gave me anything but friendship, but who
would in time, I hope, have given me everything if I had come back. Ah, I
did come back! Many a time even now as soon as I have hurried through the
joyous gateways of sleep, I come back over the mountains to you as naturally
as though there had been no years to separate and to age. Let me tell you
all this! My very life would be incomplete without it! I owed something to
you long before I owed anything to another: a duty can never set aside a
duty. And as to what I have owed you since, it becomes more and more the
noblest earthly that I shall ever leave unpaid. I did not know you perfectly
when we parted: I was too young, too ignorant of the world, too ignorant of
many women. A man must have touched their coarseness in order to appreciate
their refinement; have been wounded by untruthfulness to understand their
delicate honour; he must have been driven to turn his eyes mercifully away
from their stain before he can ever look with all the reverence and
gratitude of his heart and soul upon their brows of chastity.

"But of my life otherwise. I take it fir granted that you would know where I
stand, what I have become, whether I have kept faith with the ideals of my
youth.

"I have succeeded, perhaps reached now what men call the highest point of
their worldly prosperity, made good my resolve that no human power should
defeat me. All that Macbeth had not I have: a quiet throne of my own,
children, wife, troops of friends, duties, honours, ease. There have been
times when with natural misgiving lest I had wandered too far these many
summers on a sea of glory, I have prepared for myself the lament of Wolsey
on his fall: yet ill fortune had not overwhelmed me or mine.

"All this prosperity, as the mere fruit of my toil, has been less easy than
for many. I may not boast the Apostle that I have fought a good fight, but I
can say that I fought a hard one. The fight will always be hard for any man
who undertakes to conquer life with the few simple weapons I have used and
who will accept victory only upon such terms as I have demanded. For be my
success small or great, it has been won without inner compromise or other
form of self-abasement. No man can look me in the eyes and say I ever
wronged him for my own profit; none may charge that I have smiled on him in
order to use him, or call him my friend that I might make him do for me the
work of a servant.

"Do not imagine I fail to realize that I have added my full share to the
general evil of the world: in part unconsciously, in part against my
conscious will. It is the knowledge of this influence of imperfection
forever flowing from myself to all others that has taught me charity with
all the wrongs that flow from others toward me. As I have clung to myself
despite the evil, so I have clung to the world despite all the evil that is
in the world. To lose faith in men, not humanity; to see justice go down and
not believe in the triumph of injustice; for every wrong that you weakly
deal another or another deals you to love more and more the fairness and
beauty of what is right; and so to turn with ever-increasing love from the
imperfection that is in us all to the Perfection that is above us all--the
perfection that is God: this is one of the ideals of actual duty that you
once said were to be as candles in my hand. Many a time this candle has gone
out; but as quickly as I could snatch any torch--with your sacred name on my
lips--it has been relighted.

"My candles are all beginning to burn low now. For as we advance far on into
life, one by one our duties end, one by one the lights go out. Not much
ahead of me now must lurk the great mortal changes, coming always nearer,
always faster. As they approach, I look less to my candles, more toward my
candles, more toward my lighthouses--those distant unfailing beacons that
cast their rays over the stormy sea of this life from the calm ocean of the
Infinate. I know this: that if I should live to be an old man, my duties
ended and my candles gone, it is these that will shine in upon me in that
vacant darkness. And I have this belief: that if we did but recognize them
aright, these ideals at the close of life would become one with the ideals
of youth. We lost them as we left mortal youth behind; we regain them as we
enter upon youth immortal.

"If I have kept unbroken faith with any of mine, thank you. And thank God!"





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