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Title: Mam'selle Jo
Author: Comstock, Harriet T. (Harriet Theresa)
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Mam'selle Jo" ***

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[Illustration: Cover art]



[Illustration: "Jo Morey was forty and as dark as a midwinter day
deprived of the sanctifying warmth of the sun.  She was formed for
service, not charm."]



                             *MAM’SELLE JO*


                                   BY

                          HARRIET T. COMSTOCK



                              Illustrated
                                   By
                               E. F. Ward



                                TORONTO
                          THE MUSSON BOOK CO.
                                LIMITED
                                  1918



                PRINTED IN GARDEN CITY, N. Y., U. S. A.

           ALL RIGHTS RESERVED, INCLUDING THAT OF TRANSLATION
           INTO FOREIGN LANGUAGES, INCLUDING THE SCANDINAVIAN



                              *DEDICATION*

          Beside each cradle—so an old legend runs—Fate stands
         and with just scale weighs the sunshine and shadow to
        which every life is entitled.  But if Dame Fate is in a
           kindly mood ’tis said she throws in a bit of extra
                 brightness for the pure joy of giving.

                        BARBARA WILSON COMSTOCK
                                you are
                            "THE EXTRA BIT"
                      To you I dedicate this book

HARRIET T. COMSTOCK.

_Flatbush—Brooklyn, N. Y._



                               *CONTENTS*

CHAPTER

      I. Mam’selle Jo Is Set Free
     II. Mam’selle Must Buy a Husband
    III. Mam’selle Does Not Buy a Husband
     IV. But Mam’selle Makes a Vow
      V. Enter Donelle
     VI. Mam’selle Hears Part of the Truth
    VII. Marcel Takes Her Stand by Jo
   VIII. The Priest and the Road Mender
     IX. Woman and Woman
      X. Pierre Gets His Revenge
     XI. The Great Decision
    XII. The Hidden Current Turns
   XIII. The Inevitable
    XIV. A Choice of Roads
     XV. The Look
    XVI. The Story
   XVII. The Blighting Truth
  XVIII. Tom Gavot Settles the Matter
    XIX. The Confession
     XX. Gavot Gets His Call
    XXI. Donelle at Last Sees Tom
   XXII. Norval Comes Back
  XXIII. Both Norval and Donelle—See
   XXIV. The Glory Breaks Through



                        *LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS*

"Jo Morey was forty and as dark as a midwinter day deprived of the
sanctifying warmth of the sun.  She was formed for service, not charm" .
. . _Frontispiece_

"At the foot of the cross, her head bowed and her tears falling, Donelle
shivered and prayed"

"Tom looked at her.  He saw the thrill of life, adventure, and youth
shake her.  He saw with an old, old understanding that because he was
going away, alone, upon the road, he meant to her what he never could
have meant had he remained"

"’Indeed, Mr. Norval, it is your sacred duty to tell it to—to that girl
in Canada.  You promised and she ought to know’"



                          *LIST OF CHARACTERS*


This is a story of a woman who having no beauty of face or form was
deprived for a time of the beautiful things of life.

Then she prayed to the God of men and He gave her material success.
Having this she raised her eyes from the earth which had been her
battlefield and made a vow that she would take what was possible from
the odds and ends of happiness and weave what she could into love and
service.

Through this she won a reward far beyond her wildest dreams and found
peace and joy.

"You are a strange man"—she said to him who discovered her.

"You are a very strange woman, Mam’selle"—he returned.

Besides these two there are:

Captain Longville—and his wife Marcel.

Pierre Gavot—and his wife Margot who found life paid because of her boy
Tom.

Old Father Mantelle—more friend than priest who helped them all.

But Dan Kelly—of Dan’s Place—better known as The Atmosphere—made life
difficult for them all.

Then after a time the Lindsays of the Walled House drew things together
and opened a new vista. Here we find:

Man-Andy; called by some, The Final Test, or Old Testy.

James Norval—who had some talent and an occasional flash of genius.

Katherine Norval, his wife, who from the highest motives nearly drove
him to hell.

There are Sister Angela with the convenient memory and Little Sister
Mary with the Lost Look.

Mary Maiden who happened into the story for a second only.

And lastly: Tom Gavot who dreamed of roads, played with roads, made
roads, and at last found The Right Road which led him to the top, from
that high point he saw—who can tell what?

And—Donelle who early prayed that she might be part of life and vowed
that she was willing to suffer and pay.  Life took her at her word, and
used her.



                             *MAM’SELLE JO*



                              *CHAPTER I*

                       *MAM’SELLE JO IS SET FREE*


One late afternoon in September Jo Morey—she was better known in the
village of Point of Pines as Mam’selle Jo—stood on the tiny lawn lying
between her trim white house and the broad highway, lifted her eyes from
the earth, that had long been her battlefield, and murmured aloud as
lonely people often do,

"Mine!  Mine!  Mine!"

She did not say this arrogantly, but, rather, reverently.  It was like a
prayer of appreciation to the only God she recognized; a just God who
had crowned her efforts with success.  Not to a loving God could
Mam’selle pray, for love had been denied her; not to a beautiful God,
for Jo had yet to find beauty in her hard and narrow life; but to the
Power that had vindicated Itself she was ready to do homage.

"Mine!  Mine!  Mine!"

Jo was forty and as dark as a midwinter day deprived of the sanctifying
warmth of the sun.  She was short and muscular, formed for service, not
charm.  Her mouth was the mouth of a woman who had never known rightful
self-expression; her nose showed character, but was too strong for
beauty; heavy brows shaded her eyes, shielding them from the
idly-curious, but when those eyes were lifted one saw that they had been
in God’s keeping and preserved for happier outlooks.  They were
wonderful eyes.  Soft brown with the sheen of horsechestnut.

Mam’selle’s attire was as unique as she was herself. It consisted, for
the most part, of garments which had once belonged to her father who had
departed this life fifteen years before, rich in debts and a bad
reputation; bequeathing to his older daughter his cast-off wardrobe and
the care of an imbecile sister.

Jo now plunged her hands in the pockets of the rough coat; she planted
her feet more firmly in the heavy boots much too large for her and, in
tossing her head backward, displaced the old, battered felt hat that
covered the lustrous braids of her thick, shining hair.

Standing so, bare headed, wide eyed, and shabby, Jo was a dramatic
figure of victory.  She looked at the neatly painted house, the hill
rising behind it crowned with a splendid forest rich in autumn tints.
Then her gaze drifted across the road to the fine pastures which had
yielded a rare harvest; to the outhouses and barns that sheltered the
wealth chat had been lately garnered.  The neighing of Molly, the strong
little horse; the rustling of cows, chickens, and the grunting of pigs
were like sounds of music to her attentive ears.  Then back to the house
roved the keen but tender eyes, and rested upon the massive wood pile
that flanked the north side of the house beginning at the kitchen door
and ending, only, within a few feet of the highway.

This trusty guardian standing between Jo and the long, cold winter that
lurked not far off, filled her with supreme content.  Full well she knew
that starting with the first log, lying close to her door, she might
safely count upon comfort and warmth until late spring without
demolishing the fine outline of the sturdy wall at the road-end!

That day Jo had paid the last dollar she owed to any man.  She had two
thousand dollars still to her credit; she was a free woman at last!
Free after fifteen years of such toil and privation as few women had
ever known.

She was free—and——

Just then Mam’selle knew the twinge of sadness that is the penalty of
achievement.  Heretofore there had been purpose, necessity, and
obligation but now?  Why, there was nothing; really nothing.  She need
not labour early and late; there was no demand upon her.  For a moment
her breath came quick and hard; her eyes dimmed and vaguely she realized
that the struggle had held a glory that victory lacked.

Fifteen years ago she had stood as she was standing now, but had looked
upon a far different scene. Then the house was falling to decay, and was
but a sad shelter for the poor sister who lay muttering unintelligible
words all day long while she played with bits of bright coloured rags.
The barns and outhouses were empty and forlorn, the harvest a failure;
the wood pile dangerously small.

Jo had but just returned from her father’s funeral and she was
wondering, helplessly, what she could do next in order to keep the
wretched home, and procure food and clothing for Cecile and herself. She
was thankful, even then, that her father was dead; glad that her poor
mother, who had given up the struggle years before, did not complicate
the barren present—it would be easier to attack the problem single
handed.

And as she stood bewildered, but undaunted, Captain Longville came up
the highway and paused near the ramshackle gate.  Longville was the
power in Point of Pines with whom all reckoned, first or last.  He was
of French descent, clever, lazy, and cruel but with an outward courtesy
that defied the usual methods of retaliation.  He had money and capacity
for gaining more and more.  He managed to obtain information and secrets
that added to his control of people.  He was a silent, forceful creature
who never expended more than was necessary in money, time, or words to
reach his goal—but he always had a definite goal in view.

"Good day, Mam’selle," he called to Jo in his perfect English which had
merely a trace of accent, "it was a fine funeral and I never saw the
father look better nor more as he should.  He and you did yourselves
proud."  Longville’s manner and choice of words were as composite as
were his neighbours; Point of Pines was conglomerate, the homing place
of many from many lands for generations past.

"I did my best for him," Jo responded, "and it’s all paid for, Captain."

The dark eyes were turned upon the visitor proudly but helplessly.

"Paid, eh?" questioned Longville.  This aspect of affairs surprised and
disturbed him.  "Paid, eh?"

"Yes, I saved.  I knew what was coming."

"Well, now, Mam’selle, I have an offer to make. While your father lived
I lent, and lent often, laying a debt on my own land in order to save
his, but pay day has come.  This is all—mine!  But I’m no hard and fast
master, specially to women, and in turning things about in my mind I
have come to this conclusion.  Back of my house is a small cabin, I
offer it to you and Cecile.  Bring what you choose from here and make
the place homelike and, for the help you give Madame when the States’
folks summer with us, we’ll give you your clothing and keep. What do you
say, eh?"

For full a minute Jo said nothing.  She was a woman whose roots struck
deep in every direction, and she recoiled at the idea of change.  Then
something happened to her.  Without thought or conscious volition she
began to speak.

"I—I want the chance, Captain Longville, only the chance."

"The chance, eh?  What chance, Mam’selle?"

"The chance to—to get it back!"  The screened eyes seemed to gather all
the old, familiar wretchedness into their own misery.

Longville laughed, not brutally, but this was too much, coming as it did
from Morey’s daughter.

"Why, Mam’selle," he said, "the interest hasn’t been paid in years."

"The interest—and how much is that?" murmured Jo.

"Oh, a matter of a couple of hundreds."  This was flung out
off-handedly.

"But if—if I could pay that and promise to keep it up, would you give me
the chance?  My money is as good as another’s and the first time I fail,
Captain, I’ll fetch Cecile over to the cabin and sell myself to you."

This was not a gracious way to put it and it made Longville scowl, still
it amused him mightily. There was a bit of the sport in him, too, and
the words, wild and improbable as they were, set in motion various
ideas.

If Jo could save from the wreck of things in the past enough money to
pay for the funeral might she not, the sly minx, have saved more?
Stolen was what Longville really thought.  Ready money, as much as he
could lay hands on, was the dearest thing in life to him and the fun of
having any one scrimping and delving to procure it for him was a joy not
to be lightly thrown away.  And might he not accomplish all he had in
mind by giving Jo her chance?  He did not want the land and the
ramshackle house, except for what they would bring in cash; and if
Mam’selle must slave to earn, might she not be willing to slave in his
kitchen as well as in another’s?  To be sure he would have, under this
new dispensation, to pay her, or credit her, with a certain amount—but
he could make it desirably small and should she rebel he would threaten
her, in a kindly way, with disinclination to carry on further business
relations with her.

So Longville pursed up his thin lips and considered.

"But the money, the interest money, Mam’selle, the chance depends upon
that."

Jo turned and walked to the house.  Presently she came back with a
cracked teapot in her hands.

"In this," she said slowly as if repeating words suggested to her,
"there are two hundred and forty-two dollars and seventy-nine cents,
Captain.  All through the years I have saved and saved.  I’ve sold my
linens and woollens to the city folks—I’ve lied—but now it will buy the
chance."

A slow anger grew in Longville’s eyes.

"And you did this, while owing everything to me?" he asked.

"It was father who owed you; your money went for drink, for anything and
everything but safety for Cecile and me.  The work of my own hands—is
mine!"

"Not so say our good laws!" sneered Longville, "and now I could take it
all from you and turn you out on the world."

"And will—you?" Jo asked.

She was a miserable figure standing there with her outstretched hands
holding the cracked teapot.

Longville considered further.  He longed to stand well in the community
when it did not cost him too much.  Without going into details he could
so arrange this business with Jo Morey that he might shine forth
radiantly—and he did not always radiate by any means.

"No!" he said presently; "I’m going to give you your chance, Mam’selle,
that is, if you give me all your money."

"You said—two hundred!"

"_About_, Mam’selle, _about_.  That was my word."

"But winter is near and there is Cecile.  Captain, will you leave me a
bit to begin on?"

"Well, now, let us see.  How about our building up your wood pile;
starting you in with potatoes, pork, and the like and leaving say
twenty-five dollars in the teapot?  How about that, eh?"

"Will you write it down and sign?"  Jo was quivering.

"You’re sharp, devilishly sharp, Mam’selle.  How about being good
friends instead of hard drivers of bargains?"

"You must write it out and sign, Captain.  We’ll be better friends for
that."

Again Longville considered.

The arrangement would be brief at best, he concluded.

"I’ll sign!" he finally agreed, "but, Mam’selle, it’s like a play
between you and me."

"It’s no play, Captain, as you will see."

And so it had begun, that grim struggle which lasted fifteen long years
with never a failure to meet the interest; and, in due time, the
payments on the original loan were undertaken.  Early and late Jo
slaved, denying herself all but the barest necessities, but she managed
to give poor Cecile better fare.

During the second year of Jo’s struggle, two staggering things had
occurred that threatened, for a time, to defeat her.  She had known but
little brightness in her dun-coloured girlhood, but that little had been
connected with Henry Langley the best, by far, of the young men of the
place.  He was an American who had come from the States to Canada, as
many others had, believing his chance on the land to be better than at
home.  He was an educated man with ambitions for a future of
independence and a free life.  He bought a small farm for himself and
built a rude but comfortable cabin upon it.  When he was not working out
of doors he was studying within and his only extravagances were books
and a violin.

Jo Morey had always attracted him; her mind, her courage, her defiance
of conditions, called forth all that was fine in him.  Without fully
understanding he recognized in her the qualities that, added to his own,
would secure the success he craved.  So he taught her, read with her,
and made her think.  He was not calculating and selfish, the crude
foundation was but the safety upon which he built a romance that was as
simple and pure as any he had ever known.  The plain, brave girl with
her quiet humour and delicate ideals appealed mightily to him.  His
emotions were in abeyance to his good common sense, so he and Jo had
planned for a future—never very definite, but always sincere.

After the death of Morey, Jo, according to her bargain with Longville,
went to help in the care of the summer boarders who, that year, filled
Madame Longville’s house to overflowing and brought in a harvest that
the Captain, not his womankind, gathered. That was the summer when poor
Jo, over-worked, worried at leaving Cecile alone for so many weary
hours, grew grim and unlovely and found little time or inclination to
play the happy part with Langley that had been the joy and salvation of
their lives. And just then a girl from the States appeared—a delicate,
pretty thing ordered to the river-pines to regain her health.  She
belonged to the class of women who know no terminals in their lives, but
accept everything as an open passage to the broad sea of their desires.
She was obliged to work for her existence and the effort had all but
cost her her life; she must get someone, therefore, to undertake the
business for the future.  Her resources were apparently limited, while
the immediate necessity was pressing.  Since nothing was to her finite
and binding, she looked upon Henry Langley and beheld in him a
possibility; a stepping stone.  She promptly began her attack, by way of
poor Jo, who, she keenly realized, was her safest and surest course to
Langley’s citadel.  She made almost frantic efforts to include the tired
drudge in the summer frivolities; her sweet compassion and delicate
prettiness were in terrific contrast to Jo’s shabbiness and lack of
charm. While Langley tried to be just and loyal he could but acknowledge
that Jo’s blunt refusals to accept, what of course she could not accept,
were often brutal and coarse.  Then, as his senses began to blind him,
he became stupidly critical, groping and bungling. He could not see,
beneath Jo’s fierce retorts to his very reasonable demands, the
scorching hurt and ever-growing recognition of defeat.

It was the old game played between a professional and an amateur—and the
professional won!

Quite unbeknown to poor Jo, toiling in Madame Longville’s kitchen,
Langley quietly sold his belongings to the Captain and, taking his prize
off secretly, left explanations to others.

Longville made them.

"Mam’selle," he said, standing before Jo as she bent over a steaming pan
of dishes in the stifling kitchen, "we’ve been cheated out of a merry
wedding."

"A wedding?" asked Jo listlessly, "has any one time to marry now?"

"They made time and made off with themselves as well.  Langley was
married last night and is on his way, heaven knows where!"

Jo raised herself and faced Longville.  Her hair was hanging limply, her
eyes were terror-filled.

"Langley married and gone?" she gasped.  Then: "My God!"

That was all, but Longville watching her drew his own evil conclusions
and laughed good-naturedly.

"It’s all in the day’s work, Mam’selle," he said, and wondered silently
if the slave before him would be able to finish out the summer.

Jo finished out the summer efficiently and silently. In September Cecile
simply stopped babbling and playing with rags and became wholly dead.
After the burial Jo, with her dog at her heels, went away. No one but
Longville noticed.  Her work at his house was over; the last boarder had
departed.

Often Jo’s home was unvisited for weeks at a time, so her absence, now,
caused no surprise.  Two weeks elapsed, then she reappeared, draggled
and worn, the dog closely following.

That was all, and the endless work of weaving and spinning was resumed.
Jo invented three marvellously beautiful designs that winter.

But now, this glorious autumn day, she stood victoriously reviewing the
past.  Suddenly she turned. As if playing an appointed part in the grim
drama, Longville again stood by the gate looking a bit keener and
grayer, but little older.  In his hands, signed and properly executed,
were all the papers that set Jo free from him forever unless he could,
by some other method, draw her within his power.  That money of hers in
the bank lay heavy on his sense of propriety.

"Unless she’s paying and paying me," he pondered, "what need has she of
money?  Too much money is bad for a woman—I’ll give her interest."

And just then Jo hailed him in the tone and manner of a free creature.

"Ah, Captain, it’s a good day, to be sure.  A good day!"

"Here are the papers!"  Longville came near and held them toward her.

"Thanks, there was no hurry."

"And now," Longville leered broadly.  "’Tis I as comes a-begging.  How
about those hundreds in the bank, Mam’selle?  I will pay the same
interest as others and one good turn deserves another."

But Jo shook her head.

"No.  I’m done with borrowing and lending, Captain.  In the future, when
I part with my money, I will give it.  I’ve never had that pleasure in
my life before."

"That’s a course that will end in your begging again at my door."
Longville’s smile had vanished.

"If so be," and Jo tossed her head, "I’ll come humbly, having learned my
lesson from the best of teachers."

Jo plunged her hands deeper in the pockets of her father’s old coat.

"A woman and her money are soon parted," growled Longville.

"You quote wrong, Captain.  It is a fool and money; a woman is not
always a fool."

Longville reserved his opinion as to this but assumed his grinning,
playful manner which reminded one of the antics of a wild cat.

"Ah, Mam’selle, you must buy a husband.  He will manage you and your
good money."

A deep flush rose to Jo’s dark face; her scowling brows hid her
suffering eyes.

"You think I must buy what I could not win, Captain?" she asked quietly.
"God help me from falling to such folly."

The two talked a little longer, but the real meaning and purpose that
had held them together during the past years was gone.  They both
realized this fully, for the first time, as they tried now to make talk.

They spoke of the future only to find that they had no common future.
Jo retreated as Longville advanced.

They clutched at the fast receding past with the realization that it was
a dead thing and eluded them already.

The present was all that was left and that was heavy with new emotions.
Longville presently became aware of a desire to hurt Jo Morey, since he
could no longer control her; and Jo eyed the Captain as a suddenly
released animal eyes its late torturer: free, but haunted by memories
that still fetter its movements.  She wanted to get rid of the
disturbing presence.

"Yes, Mam’selle, since you put it that way," Longville shifted from one
foot to the other as he harked back to the words that he saw hurt, "you
must buy a husband."

"I must go inside," Jo returned bluntly, "good afternoon, Captain."  And
she abruptly left him.

It was rather awkward to be left standing alone on Jo Morey’s trim lawn,
so Longville muttered an uncomplimentary opinion of his late victim and
strode toward home.



                              *CHAPTER II*

                     *MAM’SELLE MUST BUY A HUSBAND*


Longville turned the affairs of Jo Morey over and over in his scheming
mind as he walked home.  He had made the suggestion as to buying a
husband from a mistaken idea of pleasantry, but its effect upon Jo had
caused him to take the idea seriously, first as a lash, then as purpose.
By the time he reached home he had arrived at a definite conclusion, had
selected Jo’s future mate, and had all but settled the details.

He ate his evening meal silently, sullenly, and watched his wife
contemplatively.

There were times when Longville had an uncomfortable sensation when
looking at Marcel.  It was similar to the sensation one has when he
discovers that he has been addressing a stranger instead of the intimate
he had supposed.

He was the type of man who among his own sex sneers at women because of
attributes with which he endows them, but who, when alone with women,
has a creeping doubt as to his boasted conclusions and seeks to right
matters by bullying methods.

Marcel had been bought and absorbed by Longville when she was too young
and ignorant to resist openly.  What life had taught her she held in
reserve.  There had never been what seemed an imperative need for
rebellion so Marcel had been outwardly complacent.  She had fulfilled
the duties, that others had declared hers, because she was not clear in
her own mind as to any other course, but under her slow outward manner
there were currents running from heart to brain that Longville had never
discovered, though there were times, like the present, when he stepped
cautiously as he advanced toward his wife with a desire for coöperation.

"Marcel," he said presently with his awkward, playful manner, "I have an
idea!"

He stretched his long legs toward the stove.  He had eaten to his fill
and now lighted his pipe, watching his wife as she bent over the
steaming pan of dishes in the sink.

Marcel did not turn; ideas were uninteresting, and Longville’s generally
involved her in more work and no profit.

"’Tis about Pierre, your good-for-nothing brother."

"What about him?" asked Marcel.  Blood was blood after all and she
resented Longville’s superior tone.

"Since Margot died he has had a rough time of it," mused the Captain,
"caring for the boy and shifting for himself.  It has been hard for
Pierre."

"You want him and Tom—here?"  Marcel turned now, the greasy water
dripping from her red hands. She had small use for her brother, but her
heart yearned over the motherless Tom.

"God forbid," ejaculated Longville, "but a man must pity such a life as
Pierre’s."

"Pierre takes his pleasures," sighed Marcel, "as all can testify."

"You mean that a man should have no pleasure?" snapped the Captain.
"You women are devilish hard."

"I meant no wrong.  ’Tis no business of mine."

"’Tis the business of all women to marry off the odds and ends"; and now
Longville was ready.  He launched out with a clear statement of Jo
Morey’s finances and the absolute necessity of male control of the same.
Marcel listened and waited.

"Mam’selle Jo Morey must marry," Longville continued.  He had his pipe
lighted and between long puffs blinked luxuriously as he outlined the
future.  "She has too much money for a woman and—there is Pierre!"

"Mam’selle Jo and Pierre!"  Almost Marcel laughed.  "But Mam’selle is so
homely and Pierre, being the handsome man he is, detests an ugly woman."

"What matters?  Once married, the good law of the land gives the wife’s
money to her master. ’Tis a righteous law.  And Pierre has a way with
women that breaks them or kills them—generally both!"

This was meant jocosely, but Marcel gave a shudder as she bent again
over the steaming suds.

"But Mam’selle with money," she murmured more to herself than to
Longville.  "Will Mam’selle sell herself?"

This almost staggered Longville.  He took his pipe from his lips and
stared at the back of the drudge near him.  Then he spoke slowly,
wonderingly:

"Will a woman marry?  What mean you?  All women will sell their souls
for a man.  Mam’selle, being ugly, must buy one.  Besides——"  And here
Longville paused to impress his next words.

"Besides, you remember Langley?"

For a moment Marcel did not; so much had come and gone since Langley’s
time.  Then she recalled the flurry his going with one of the summer
people had caused, and she nodded.

"You know Langley walked and talked with Mam’selle before that red and
white woman from the States caught him up in her petticoat and carried
him off?"

It began to come back to Marcel now.  Again she nodded indifferently.

"And some months after," Longville was whispering as if he feared the
cat purring under the stove would hear, "some months later, what
happened then."  Marcel rummaged in her litter of bleak memories.

"Oh!  Cecile died!"  She brought forth triumphantly.

"Cecile died, yes!  And Mam’selle went away. And what for?"  The
whispered words struck Marcel’s dull brain like sharp strokes.

"I do not know," she faltered.

"You cannot guess—and you a woman?"

"I cannot."

"Then patch this and this together.  Why does a woman go away and hide
when a man has deserted her?  Why?"

Marcel wiped the suds from her red, wrinkled hands.  She stared at her
husband like an idiot, then she sat down heavily in a chair.

"And that’s why Mam’selle will buy Pierre."

For a full moment Marcel looked at her husband as if she had never seen
him before, then her dreary eyes wandered to the window.

Across the road, in the growing darkness, lay three small graves in a
row.  Marcel was seeking them, now, seeking them with all the fierce
love and loyalty that lay deep in her heart.  And out of those pitiful
mounds little forms, oh! such tiny forms, seemed to rise and plead for
Jo Morey.

Who was it that had shared the black hours when Marcel’s babies came—and
went?  Whose understanding and sympathy had made life possible when all
else failed?

"I’ll do no harm to Mam’selle Jo Morey!"  The tone and words electrified
Longville.

"What?" he asked roughly.

"If what you hint is true," Marcel spoke as from a great distance, her
voice trailing pitifully; "I’ll never use it to hurt Mam’selle, or I
could not meet my God."

"You’ll do what I say!"

But as he spoke Longville had a sense of doubt. For the second time that
day he was conscious of being baffled by a woman; his purposes being
threatened.

"You may regret," he growled, "if you do not help along with this—this
matter of Pierre.  There will come a time when Pierre will lie at your
door. What then, eh?"

"Is that any reason why I should throw him at the door of another
woman?"  Marcel’s pale face twitched.  "Why should a man expect any
woman’s door to open to him," she went on, "when he has disgraced
himself all his life?"

Longville stirred restlessly.  Actually he dared not strike his wife,
but he had all the impulse to do so.  He resorted to hoary argument.

"’Tis the unselfish, the noble woman who saves—man!" he muttered, half
ashamed of his own words.

At this Marcel laughed openly.  Something was rising to the surface,
something that life had taught her.

"It’s a poor argument to use when the unworthy one is the gainer by a
woman’s unselfishness," retorted Marcel.  "Unless she, too, gets
something out of her—her nobleness, I should think a man would hate to
fling it always in her teeth."

Longville half rose; his jaw looked ugly.

"’Tis my purpose," he said slowly, harshly, "to marry Mam’selle and
Pierre.  I have my reasons, and if you cannot help you can keep out of
the way!"

"Yes, I can do that," murmured Marcel.  She had taken up her knitting
and she rarely spoke while she knitted.  She thought!

But if Longville’s suggestion seemed to die in the mind of his own
woman, it had no such fate in that of Jo Morey.  When she went into her
orderly house, after leaving the Captain, she put her papers on the
table and stood staring ahead into space.  She seemed waiting for the
ugly thought he had left to follow its creator, but instead it clung to
her like a stinging nettle.

"Buy a husband!" she repeated; "buy a husband."

Into poor Jo’s dry and empty heart the words ate their way like a spark
in the autumn’s brush.  The flame left a blackened trail over which she
toiled drearily back, back to that one blessed taste she had had of love
and happiness.  Memories, long considered dead, rose from their shallow
graves like spectres, claiming Mam’selle for their own at last.

She had believed herself beyond suffering.  She had thought that
loneliness and hard labour had secured her at least from the agony she
was now enduring, but with the consciousness that she could feel as she
was feeling, a sort of terror overcame her.

Her past days of toil had been blessed with nights of exhausted slumber.
But with the newly-won freedom there would be hours when she must
succumb to the tortures of memory.  She could not go on slaving with no
actual need to spur her, she must have a reason, a motive for existence.
Like many another, poor Jo realized that while she had plenty to retire
on, she had nothing to retire to, for in her single purpose of freeing
herself from Longville, she had freed herself from all other ties.

But Jo Morey would not have been the woman she was if obstacles could
down her.  She turned abruptly and strode toward the barn across the
road. Nick, her dog, materialized at this point.  Nick had no faith in
men and discreetly kept out of sight when one appeared.  He was no
coward, but caution was a marked characteristic in him and unless
necessity called he did not care, nor deem it advisable, to display his
feelings to strangers.

Jo felt for Nick an affection based upon tradition and fact.  His mother
had been her sole companion during the darkest period of her life and
Nick was a worthy son of a faithful mother.  Jo talked to the dog
constantly when she was most troubled and confused.  She devoutly
believed she often received inspiration and solution from his strange,
earnest eyes.

"Well, old chap," she said now as she felt his sturdy body press against
her knee.  "What do you think of that?"

Nick gave a sharp, resentful yelp.

"We want no man planting his tobacco in our front yard; do we, sir?  He
might even expect us to plant it!"

Jo always spoke editorially when conversing with Nick.  "And fancy a man
sitting by the new stove, Nick, spitting and snoring and kicking no
doubt _you_, my good friend, if not me!"

Nick refused to contemplate such a monstrous absurdity.  He showed his
teeth in a sardonic grin and, to ease his feelings, made a dash after a
giddy hen who had forgotten the way to the coop and was frantically
proclaiming the fact in the gathering darkness.

"If that hussy," muttered Jo, "don’t stick closer to the roost, I’ll
have her for dinner!"  Then a light broke upon Jo’s face.  From trifles,
often, our lives are turned into new channels.  "I declare, I’ll have
her anyway!  I’ll live from now on like folks."

States’ folks, Jo had in mind, the easy-going summer type.  "Chicken
twice a week, hereafter, and no getting up before daybreak."

Nick had chased the doomed hen to the coop and was virtuously returning
when his mistress again addressed him.

"Nick, the little red cow is about to calve.  What do you think of
that?"

Nick thought very little of it.  The red cow was a nuisance.  She calved
at off times of the year and had an abnormal affection for her
offspring.  She would not be comforted when it was torn from her for
financial reasons.  She made known her objections by kicking over milk
pails and making nights hideous by her wailing; then, too, she had a way
of looking at one that weakened the moral fibre. Nick followed his
mistress to the cow shed and stood contemplatively by while Jo smoothed
the glossy head of the offending cow and murmured:

"Poor little lass, you cannot understand, but you do not want to be
alone, do you?" The animal pressed close and gave a low, sweet sound of
appreciation.

"All right, girl.  I’ll fill Nick up and take a bite, then I’ll be back
and bide with you."

The mild maternal eyes now rested upon Nick and his grew forgiving!

"Come, Nick!" called Jo.  "We’ll have to hurry. The little red cow, once
she decides, does not waste time.  It’s a snack and dash for us, old
man, until after the trouble is over.  But there’s no need of early
bed-going to-night, Nick, and before we sleep we’ll have the fire in the
stove!"

So Nick followed obediently, ate voraciously but rapidly, and Jo took
her snack while moving about the kitchen and planning for the
celebration that was to follow the little red cow’s accouchement.

It must be a desolate life indeed, a life barren of imagination, that
has not had some sort of star to which the chariot of desire has been
hitched.  Jo Morey had a vast imagination and it had kept her safe
through all the years of grind and weariness. Her star was a stove!

Back in the time when her relations with Longville were growing less
strained and she could look beyond her obligations and still see—money,
she had closed the fireplace in the living room and bought, on the
instalment plan, a most marvellous invention of iron, nickle, and glass,
with broad ovens and cavernous belly, and set it up in state.

Jo’s conception of honesty would not permit her to build a fire in the
monster until every cent was paid, but she had polished it, almost
worshipped before it, and had silently vowed that upon the day when she
was free from all debt to man she would revel in such warmth and glory
as she had never known before.

"No more roasted fronts and frozen backs,"

Mam’selle had secretly sworn.  "No more huddling in the kitchen and
scrimping of fires.  From the first frost to the first thaw I’ll have
two fires going. The new stove will heat the north chamber and perhaps
the upper room as well.  ’Tis a wondrous heater, I’m told."

But the red cow’s affairs had postponed the thrilling event.  Still
neither Jo nor Nick ever expected perfection in fulfillment and they
took the delay with patient dignity.

Later they again started for the cow shed, this time guided by a
lantern, for night had fallen upon Point of Pines.

Jo took a seat upon an upturned potato basket with Nick close beside
her, and so they waited. Waited until all need and danger were past;
then, tenderly stroking the head of the newly-made mother, Jo spoke in
the tone that few ever heard.  Margot Gavot had heard it as she drifted
out of life, her hungry eyes fastened on Jo and the sobbing boy—Tom.
Marcel Longville had heard it as she clung to the hard, rough hand that
seemed to be her only anchor when life and death battled for her and
ended in taking her babies.  The little red cow had heard it once before
and now turned her grateful eyes to Mam’selle.

"So!  So, lass," murmured Jo; "we don’t understand, but we had to see it
through.  Brave lass, cuddle the wee thing and take your rest.  So, so!"

Then back to the house went Jo and Nick, the lantern swinging between
them like a captured star.

A wonderful, uplifted feeling rose in Jo Morey’s heart.  She was unlike
her old, unheeding self, she heeded everything; she started at the
slightest sound and drew her breath in sharply.  She was almost afraid
of the sensation that overcame her.  Depression had fled; exhilaration
had taken its place. A sense of freedom, of adventure, possessed her.
She was ready at last to fling aside the bonds and go forth!  Then Nick
stopped short and strained forward as if sensing something in the dark
that not even the lantern could disclose.

"So, Nick!" laughed Jo, "you feel it, too?  It’s all right, old man.
The mystery of the shed has upset us both.  It’s always the same,
whether it comes to woman or creature.  Something hidden makes us see
it, but our eyes are blind, blind to the meaning."

Then Jo resorted to action.  She carried a load of wood from the pile to
the living room; with bated breath she placed it in the stove.

"Suppose it shouldn’t draw?" she whispered to Nick, and struck a match.
The first test proved this fear ungrounded.  The draw was so terrific
that it threatened to suck everything up.

In a panic Jo experimented with the dampers and soon had the matter in
control.  She was perspiring, and Nick was yelping and dashing about in
circles, when the fire was brought to a sense of its responsibility,
ceased roaring like a wild bull, and settled down into a steady,
reliable body of glowing heat.

Then Jo drew a chair close, pulled up her absurd skirts, put her
man-shod feet into the oven, and gave a sigh of supreme content.

Nick took the hint.  Since this was not an accident but, apparently, a
permanent innovation, it behooved him to adapt himself as his mistress
had done.  Behind the fiery monster there was a space, hot as Tophet,
but commanding a good view.  It might be utilized, so Nick appropriated
it.

"There seems no end to what this stove can do," muttered Jo, twisting
about and disdaining the smell of overheated leather and wool.  "No more
undressing in the kitchen and freezing in bed in the north chamber.
I’ve never been warm in winter since I was born, but that’s done with
now!  I shouldn’t wonder if I might open the room upstairs after a bit—I
shouldn’t wonder!"

Then Jo caught a glimpse of her reflection in the mirror over the stove!
As she looked, her excitement lessened, the depression of the afternoon
overcame her.  She acknowledged that she looked old and ugly.  A woman
first to be despised, then ridiculed, by men.  "Buy a husband!"  She, Jo
Morey, who had once had her vision and the dreams of a woman.  She, who
had had so much to offer in her shabby youth, so much that was fine and
noble.  Intelligence that had striven with, and overcome, obstacles; a
passion for service, passion and love.  All, all she had had except the
one, poor, pitiful thing called beauty.  That might have interpreted all
else to man for her and won her the sacred desires of her soul.

She had had faith until Langley betrayed it. She had scorned the doubt
that, what she lacked, could deprive her of her rights.

Through a never-to-be-forgotten spring and early summer she had been as
other girls.  Love had stirred her senses and set its seal upon the man
who shared her few free hours.  He had felt the screened loveliness of
the spirit and character of Jo Morey; had revelled in her appreciation
and understanding. He had loved her; told her so, and planned, with her,
for a future rich in all that made life worth while. That was the spring
when Jo had first noticed how the sand pipers, circling against the blue
sky, made a brown blur that changed its form as the birds rose higher or
when they dipped again, disappearing behind the tamarack pines on the
hilltop.

That was the spring when the swift, incoming tide of the St. Lawrence
made music in the fragrant stillness and she and Langley had sung
together in their queer halting French "A la Claire Fontaine" and had
laughed their honest English laughs at their clumsy tongues struggling
with the rippling words.

And then; the girl had come, and—the end!

Jo believed that something had died in her at that time, but it had only
been stunned.  It arose now, and in the still, hot room demanded its
own!

"Fifteen years ago!" murmured Jo and looked about at the evidences of
her toiling years: the quaint room and the furnishings.  The floor was
painted yellow and on it were islands of gay, tinted rugs all woven by
her tireless hands.  There were round rugs and square rugs, long ones
and short ones.  In the middle of the room was a large table covered by
a cloth designed and wrought by the same restless hands.  Neatly painted
chairs were ranged around the walls, and beneath the low broad window
stood a hard, unyielding couch upon which lay a thick blanket and
several bright pillows stuffed with sweet-grass.

At the casement were spotless curtains, standing out stiffly like
starched skirts on prim little girls, and behind them rows of tin cans
in which were growing gorgeous begonias and geraniums pressed against
the glistening glass, like curious children peering into the black outer
world.  So had Jo’s inarticulate life developed and expressed itself in
this home-like room, while her mind had matured and her thoughts
deepened.  Then her eyes travelled to the winding stairway in the
farthest corner.  Her gaze kept to the strip of yellow paint in the
middle of the white steps.  It mounted higher and higher. Above was the
upper chamber, the Waiting Room!

Long years ago, while serving in Madame Longville’s home, Jo had
conceived an ambition that had never really left her through all the
time that had intervened.  Some day she would have a boarder!  Not upon
such terms as the Longvilles accepted, however.

Her boarder was not merely to pay and pay in money, but he would be to
her an education, a widening experience.  She, alone, would reap the
reward of the toil she expended upon him.  And so with this in mind she
had furnished the upper chamber, bit by bit, and had calculated over and
again the proper sum to charge for the benefits to be derived and given.

"And now," said Jo, panting a little as if her eyes mounting the stairs
had tired her.  "Come summer I will get my boarder, but love of heaven!
What price shall I set?"

The wind was rising and the pine trees were making that sound that
always reminded Jo of poor Cecile’s wordless moan.

Something seemed to press against the door.  Nick started and bristled.

"Who’s there?" demanded Mam’selle.  There was no reply—only that tense
pressure that made the panels creak.



                             *CHAPTER III*

                   *MAM’SELLE DOES NOT BUY A HUSBAND*


The tall clock in the kitchen struck eight in a sharp, affrighted way
much as a chaperone might have done who wished to call her heedless
charge to the demands of propriety.

Eight o’clock in Point of Pines meant, under ordinary conditions, just
two things: house and bed for the respectable, Dan’s Place—a reeking,
dirty tavern—for the others.

And while Jo Morey’s door creaked under the unseen pressure from
without, Pierre Gavot and Captain Longville smoked and snoozed by the
red-hot stove at Dan’s, occasionally speaking on indifferent subjects.

These two men disliked and distrusted each other, but they hung
together, drank together; for what reason who could tell?  Gavot had
eaten earlier in the day at the Longville house and during the meal the
name of Jo Morey had figured rather prominently. However, Gavot had paid
little heed, he had little use for women and no interest, whatever, in
an ugly one.  A long past French ancestry had given Gavot as it had
Longville a subtle suavity of manner that somewhat cloaked his
brutality, and he was an extremely handsome man of the big, dark type.

Suddenly now, in the smoky drowsiness of the tavern, Mam’selle Morey’s
name again was introduced.

"Mam’selle!  Mam’selle!" muttered Pierre impatiently; "I tire of the
mention of the black Mam’selle.  Such a woman has but two uses: to serve
while she can, to die when she cannot serve."

"But her service while she can serve, that has its value," Longville
retorted, puffing lustily and blowing the smoke upward until it quite
hid his eyes, no longer sleepy, but decidedly keen.

"The Mam’selle has money, much money," he went on, "that and her service
might come in handy for you and Tom."

And now Pierre sat a little straighter in his chair.

"Me and Tom?" he repeated dazedly.  "You mean that I get the Mam’selle
to come to my—my cabin and work?"

Somehow this idea made Longville laugh, and the laugh brought a scowl to
Pierre’s face.

"Tom will be going off some day," the Captain said irrelevantly, "then
what?"

"Tom will stick," Gavot broke in, "I’ll see to that. Break the spirit of
a woman or child and they stick."

But as he spoke Gavot’s tone was not one of assurance.  His boy Tom was
not yet broken, even after the years of deprivation and cruelty, and
lately he had shown a disposition for work, work that brought little or
no return.  This worried Gavot, who would not work upon any terms so
long as he could survive without it.

"You can’t depend upon children," Longville flung back, "a woman’s safer
and handier, and while the Mam’selle, having money, might not care to
serve you for nothing, she might——" here the Captain left an eloquent
pause while he leered at his brother-in-law seductively.  Gradually the
meaning of the words and the leer got into Gavot’s consciousness.

"Good God!" he cried in an undertone, "you mean I should—marry the ugly
Mam’selle Morey?"  But even as he spoke the man gripped the idea
savagely and, with a quickness that always marked the end of his muddled
conclusions, he began to fix it among the possibilities of his wretched
life.

"She needs a man to handle her money," Longville was running on.  He saw
the spark had ignited the rubbish in Gavot’s mind.  "And she’s a
powerful worker and saver.  She cooks like an angel; she studies that
art as another might study her Bible. She has a mind above most women,
but properly handled and with reason——"

"What mean you, Longville, properly handled and with reason?  Would any
man marry Mam’selle?"

"A wise man might—yes," Longville was leading his brother-in-law by the
most direct route, but he smiled under cover of the smoke.  The Morey
money in Gavot’s hands meant Longville control in the near future.  So
the Captain smiled.

"She’d marry quick enough," he rambled on, refilling his pipe.  "A man
of her own is a big asset for such a woman as the Mam’selle.  And then
the law stands by the husband; woman’s wit does not count."

Gavot was not heeding.  His inflamed imagination had outstripped
Longville’s words.  Once he had mastered the physical aspect of the
matter, the rest became a dazzling lure.  Never for an instant did he
doubt that Jo Morey would accept him.  The whole thing lay in his power
if——

"She’s old and ugly," he grunted half aloud.

"What care you?" reassured Longville, "ugliness does not hamper work,
and her age is an advantage."

"But, what was that Langley story——?"  Pierre was groping back
helplessly.

Point of Pines had its moral standards for women, but it rarely
gossiped; it stood by its own, on general principles, so long as its own
demanded little and was content to take what was offered.

"That?  Why, who cares for that after all this time?"  Longville spoke
benignly.  "If Langley left the Mam’selle with that which no woman,
without a ring, has a right to, she was keen enough to rid herself of
the burden and cut her own way back to decent living.  She has asked no
favours, but she’d give much for a man to place her among her kind once
more."

A deep silence followed, broken only by the guzzling and snoring of the
other occupants of Dan’s Place.

Suddenly Gavot got to his feet and reached for his hat.  His inflamed
face gave evidence of his true state.

"Back to Mastin’s Point?" Longville asked, stretching himself and
yawning.

"No, by heaven! but to Mam’selle Jo Morey’s."

This almost staggered Longville.  He was slower, surer than his wife’s
brother.

"But your togs," he gasped, "you’re not a figure for courting."

"Courting?"  Gavot laughed aloud.  His drinking added impetus to every
impulse and desire. "Does Mam’selle have to have her pill coated? Will
she not swallow it without a question?"

"But ’tis late, Gavot——"

"And does the chaste Mam’selle keep to the early hours of better women?"

"But to-morrow—the next day," pleaded Longville, seeking to control the
situation he had evolved. He feared he might be defeated by the force he
had set in motion.

"No, by heaven, to-night!" fiercely and hoarsely muttered Gavot,
"to-night or never for the brown and ugly Mam’selle Jo.  To-night will
make the morrows safe for me.  If I stopped to consider, I could not put
it through."

With that Gavot, big, handsome, and breathing hard, strode from the
tavern and took to the King’s Highway.

The wind rushed past him; pushed ahead; pressed at Jo’s door with its
warning.  But she did not speak, and only when Gavot himself thumped on
the panel was Jo roused from her revery and Nick from his puppy dreams.

"Who’s there?" shouted Mam’selle, and clumped across the floor in her
father’s old boots.  She slipped on one of the rugs and slid to the
entrance before regaining her balance.

"It is I, Mam’selle, I, Pierre Gavot."

Jo opened the door at once.

"Well," she said with a calmness and serenity that chilled the excited
man, "it’s a long way from here to Mastin’s and the hour’s late, tell
your business and get on your way, Pierre Gavot.  Come in, sit by the
fire.  My, what a wind is stirring.  Now, then—out with it!"

This crude opening to what Pierre hoped would be a dramatic scene,
sweeping Jo Morey off her feet, nonplussed the would-be gallant not a
little.  He sat heavily down and eyed Nick uneasily.  The dog was
sniffing at his heels in a most suspicious fashion. Every hair of his
body was on guard and his eyes were alert and forbidding.

"Well, Pierre Gavot, what is your errand?"

This did not improve matters and a shuffling motion toward Nick with a
heavy boot concluded the investigation on the dog’s part.  Nick was
convinced of the caller’s disposition; he showed his teeth and growled.

"Come, come, now," laughed Mam’selle, whistling Nick to her, "you see,
Pierre Gavot, I have a good care-taker.  That being settled, let us
proceed."  Then, as Gavot still shuffled uneasily, she went on:

"Maybe it is Tom.  I heard the other day that ’twas whispered among your
good friends that unless you did your duty by Tom, there would be a sum
raised to give the poor lad a chance—away from his loving father."  Jo
laughed a hard laugh.  She pitied Tom Gavot with her woman-heart while
she hated the man who deprived the boy of his rights.

Gavot shut his cruel lips close, but he controlled the desire to voice
his real sentiments concerning the bit of gossip.

"Indeed there is no need for my neighbours showing their hate,
Mam’selle.  Tom’s best good is what I’m seeking.  He’s young, young
enough to be cared for and watched.  I’m thinking more of Tom than of
myself, and yet I ask nothing for him from you, Mam’selle Jo."

"So, Gavot!  Well, then, I am in the dark.  Surely you could ask nothing
of me for yourself!"

Again Pierre was chilled and inclined to anger. All his fire and fury
were deserting him; his intention of taking Jo by storm was
disappearing; almost he suspected that she was getting control of the
situation.  He slyly looked at her dark, forbidding face and weighed the
possibilities of the future. Jo, he realized, was secure now in her
unusual independent position.  Once let him, backed by the good law,
which covers the just and the unjust husband with its mantle of
authority, get possession of her future and her body, he’d manage—ah!
would he not—to utilize the one and degrade the other!

"Mam’selle, I come to you as a lone and helpless man.  Mam’selle, I
must—Mam’selle, I want that you should live the rest of the time of our
lives—with me!"

Jo was aroused, frightened.  She turned her luminous eyes upon the man.

"You—you are asking me to marry you, Pierre Gavot?"

Gavot, believing that the meaning of his visit had at last brought her
to his feet at the first direct shot, replied with a leer:

"Well, something like that, Mam’selle."

And now Jo’s brows drew close; the eyes were darkened, the lips twitched
ominously.  As if to emphasize the moment, Nick, abristle and teeth
showing, snarled gloomily as he eyed Gavot’s feet.

"Something like that?" repeated Jo with a thrill in her tones.  "You
insult me, Gavot!  Something like that.  What do you mean?"

"God of mercy, Mam’selle," Gavot was genuinely alarmed, "I ask you
to—be—my wife."

Jo leaned back in her chair.  "I wish you’d talk less of the Almighty,
Gavot.  I reckon the Lord can speak for himself, if men, specially such
men as you, get out of his way.  It sickens me to have to find the
meaning of God through—men.  And you ask me to be your wife?  You.  And
I was with Margot when she died!"

Gavot’s eyes, for an instant, fell.

"Margot was out of her head," he muttered. "She talked madness."

"It was more truth than fever, Gavot.  Her tongue ran loose—with truth.
I know, I know."

"Well, then, Mam’selle, ’tis said a second wife reaps the harvest the
first wife sowed.  I have learned, Mam’selle Jo."

"Almost it is a greater insult than what I first thought!"  Jo sighed
sadly.  "But ’tis the best you have to offer—I should not forget
that—and some women would lay much stress on the chance you are offering
me.  One thing Margot said, Gavot, has never passed my lips until
now—though often I’ve thought of it.  When she’d emptied her poor soul
of all that you had poured into it, when she had shriven herself, and
was ready to meet her God, the God you had never let her find before
because you got in between, she looked at Tom.  The poor lad sat huddled
up on the foot of the bed watching his mother going forth.  ’Jo,’ she
whispered, ’when all’s said and done, it paid because of Tom!  When I
tell God about Tom and what Tom meant, He’ll forgive a lot else.  He
does with women.’"

Gavot dared not look up, and for a moment a death-like silence fell in
the hot, tidy room.  Jo looked about at her place of safety and freedom
and wondered how she could hurry the disturbing element out.

Just then Gavot spoke.  He had grasped the only straw in sight on the
turgid stream.

"Mam’selle, you’re not too old yet to bear a child, but you’ll best
waste no time."  And then he smiled a loathsome smile that had its roots
in all that had soiled and killed poor Margot Gavot’s life.  Jo recoiled
as if something unclean were, indeed, near her.

"Don’t," she shuddered warningly, "don’t!"  Then quite suddenly she
turned upon the man, her eyes blazing, her mouth twisted with revolt and
disdain.

"I wonder—if you could understand, if I showed you a woman’s heart?" she
asked with a curious break in her voice.  "Long, long years I’ve ached
to show the poor, dead thing lying here," she put her work-hardened
hands across her breast, "to someone.  There have been times when I have
wondered if the telling might not help other women in Point of Pines;
might not make men see plainer the wrong they do women; but until now
there has never been any one to tell."

Expression was crying aloud, and the incongruity of the situation did
not strike Jo Morey in her excitement.

"You’ve got to hear me out, Pierre Gavot," she went on.  "You’ve come,
God knows why, to offer me all that you have to give in exchange
for—well! I’m going to give you all that I have to give you—all, all!

"There was a time, Gavot, when I longed for the thing that most women
long for, the thing that made Margot take you—you!  She knew her
chances, poor soul, but you seemed the only way to her desires, so she
took you!

"’Tis no shame to a woman to want what her nature cries out for, and the
call comes when she’s least able to understand and choose.  Here in
Point of Pines a girl has small choice.  It is all well enough for them
who do not know to talk of love and the rest.  The burning desire in man
and woman is there with or without love; it’s the mercy of God when love
is added.  I knew what I wanted, all that counted to me must come
through man, and love—my own love—sanctified everything for me. I did
not understand, I did not try to, I was lifted up——"

Jo choked and Gavot twisted uneasily in his chair.  This was all very
boring, but he must endure it for the time being.

"I—I was willing to play the game and take my chances," Jo had got
control of herself, "and I never feared, until it was forced upon me,
that my ugliness stood in the way.  All that I had to offer, and I had
much, Gavot, much, counted as nothing with men because their eyes were
held by this face of mine and could not see what lay behind.

"Perhaps that was God’s way of saving me.  I thought that for the first
when I saw Margot dying.

"I had my love killed in me, but the desire was there for years and
years; the longing for a home of my own and—children, children!  After
love was gone, after I staggered back to feeling, there were times when
I would have bartered myself, as many another woman has, for the rights
that _are_ rights.  But, since they must come by man’s favour, I was
denied and starved.  Then the soul died within me, first with longing,
then with contempt and hatred.  By and by I took to praying, if one
could call my state prayer.  I prayed to the God of man.  I demanded
something—something from life, and this man’s God was just.  He let me
succeed as men do, and this, this is the result!"

Jo flung her arms wide as if disclosing to Gavot’s stupid eyes all that
his greed ached to possess: her fields and barns; her house and her fat
bank account. But the man dared not speak.  He seemed to be confronting
an awful Presence.  He looked weakly at Jo Morey, estimating his chances
after she had had her foolish way with him.  Vaguely he knew that in the
future this outburst of hers would be an added weapon in his hand; not
even yet did he doubt but what he would gain his object.

"It’s all wrong," Jo rushed on, seemingly forgetting her companion,
"that women should have to wait for what their souls crave and die for
until some man, looking at their faces, makes it possible.  A pretty
face is not all and everything: it should not be the only thing that
counts against the rest.  Why, the time came, Gavot, when a man meant
nothing to me compared with—with other things."

The fire and purpose died away.  The outbreak, caused by the day’s
experience, left Jo weak and trembling.  She turned shamed and hating
eyes upon Gavot.  She had let loose the thought of her lonely years.

"And now you come, you!" she said, "and offer me, what?"

Pierre breathed hard, his time had come at last.

"Marriage, Mam’selle.  I’m willing to risk it."

"Marriage!  My God!  Marriage, what does that mean to such as you,
Pierre Gavot?  And you think I would give up my clean, safe life for
anything you have to offer?  Do men think so low of women?"

Gavot snarled at this, his lips drew back in an ugly smile.

"God made the law for man and woman, Mam’selle——"

"Stop!"  Jo stood up and flung her head back. "Stop!  What do such as
you know of God and his law?  It’s your own law you’ve made to cover all
your wickedness and selfishness and then you—you label it with God’s
mark.  But it’s not God’s fault.  We women must show up the fraud and
learn the true from the false.  Oh!  I’ve worked it out in my mind all
these years while I’ve toiled and thought.  But, Gavot, while we’ve been
talking something has come to me quite clear.  Not meaning to, you’ve
done me a good turn.

"There’s one way I can get something of what I want, and it’s taken this
scene to show me the path. Come to-morrow.  You shall see, all of you,
that I’m not the helpless thing you think me.  Thinking isn’t all.  When
we’ve thought our way out, we must act.  And now get along, Gavot, the
Lord takes queer ways and folks to work out his plans. Good-night to you
and thank you!"

Pierre found himself on his feet and headed toward the door which Jo was
holding open.

Outraged and flouted, knowing no mercy or justice, he had only one thing
to say:

"Curse you!" he muttered; "curse and blast you."

Then he slunk out into the wild, black night.

A woman scorned and a man rejected have much in common, and there was
the explanation to the Longvilles to be faced!



                              *CHAPTER IV*

                      *BUT MAM’SELLE MAKES A VOW*


After Mam’selle was certain that Gavot was beyond seeing her next move,
she flung the door wide open, letting the fresh, pure night air sweep
through the hot room.

Nick sprang to his feet but, deciding that the change in temperature had
nothing to do with the late guest, he sidled over to Jo who stood on the
threshold and pushed his questioning nose into her hand.

"Come, old fellow," she said gently, "we do not want sleep; let us go
out and have a look at the sky. It will do us both good."

Quietly they went forth into the night and stood under a clump of pine
trees back of the house and near the foot of the hill.

The clouds were splendid and the wind, like a mighty sculptor, changed
their form and design moment by moment.  They were silver-edged clouds,
for a moon was hidden somewhere among them; here and there in the rifts
stars shone and the murmuring of the pines, so like Cecile’s cry,
touched Mam’selle strangely.  It seemed to her, standing there with Nick
beside her, that something of the old, happy past was being given back
to her.  She smiled, wanly, to be sure, and tears, softer than had
blurred her eyes for many a year, wet her lashes. In a numb sort of way
she tried to understand the language of the night and the hour; it was
bringing her peace—after all her storms.  It was like having passed from
a foul spot in a dark valley, to find oneself in a clear open space with
a safe path leading——? With this thought Jo drew in her breath sharply.
As surely as she had ever felt it in her life, she now felt that
something new and compelling was about to occur.  The meaning and
purpose of her life seemed about to be revealed.  Jo was a mystic; a
fatalist, though she was never to realize this.  Standing under the
wind-swept sky she opened her arms wide, ready to accept!  And then it
came to her in definite form, the thought that had arisen during her
talk with Gavot.  She had said that she could have done without man if
only the rest had been vouchsafed.

Well, then, what remained?  She had house and lands and money.  She
might be denied the travail and mystery of having a child, but there
were children; forgotten, disinherited children.  They were possible,
and if she accepted what was hers to take, her life need not be aimless
and cheerless.  She might yet know, vicariously, what her poor soul had
craved.

A wave of religious exaltation swept over Jo Morey.  Such moments have
been epoch-making since the world began.  The shepherds on Judea’s
plains, caught in the power of this emotion, lifted their eyes and saw
the guiding star that led them to the Manger and the world’s salvation!
Down the ages it has turned the eyes of lesser men and women to their
rightful course, and it now pointed Jo Morey to her new hope!

"I will adopt a child!" she said aloud and reverently as if dedicating
herself.  "A man child."

And then, in imagination, she followed the star.

Over at St. Michael’s-on-the-Rocks there was a Catholic institution
where baby driftwood was taken in without question.  St. Michael’s was a
harbour town boasting a summer colony.  Women there, as elsewhere, paid
for too much faith or unsanctified greed, and the institution was often
the solution of the pitiful outcome.

Jo had repeatedly contributed to the Home.  She had no affiliation with
the church that supported it, but the priest of Point of Pines had
gained her respect and liking, and for his sake she had secretly aided
causes that he approved.  Tom Gavot, for instance, and the St. Michael’s
institution.

"Come, Nick," she said presently, "we’ll sleep on it."

All night Mam’selle tossed about on her bed trying to argue herself into
common sense.  When she came down from the heights her decision appeared
wild and unreasonable.

What would people say?

Rarely did Jo consider this, but it caught and held her now.  Her hard,
detached life had set her apart from the common conditions of the women
near her. She was in many ways as innocent and guileless as a child
although the deepest meanings of suffering and sorrow had not been
hidden from her.  That any one suspected her of being what she was not,
had never occurred to her.  She had shrunk from everyone at the time of
Langley’s desertion, because she neither wanted, nor looked for,
sympathy and understanding.  She was grateful for the indifference that
followed that period of her life, but never for a moment had she known
of that which lay hidden in the silence of her people.

Poor Jo!  What Point of Pines was destined to think was impossible for
her to conceive, because her planning was so wide of the reality that
was to ensue.  Tossing and restless, Jo tried to laugh her sudden
resolve to scorn, but it would not be scorned either by reason or mirth.

"Very well!" she concluded for the second time, "I’ll adopt a child, a
man child!  No girl things for me.  I could not watch them straining out
for their lives with the chance of losing them.  A man can get what he
wants and I’ll do my best, under God, to make him merciful."

Toward morning Jo slept.

The next day she cooked and planned as calmly as if she were arranging
for an invited guest.  All her excitement and fire were smothered, but
she did not falter in her determination.  She explained to Nick as she
tossed scraps to him.  Nick was obligingly broad in his appetite and
tastes, bones and bits of dough were equally acceptable, and he patted
the floor thankfully with his sturdy little tail whenever Jo remembered
him.

"We’ll take it as a sign, Nick," she said, "that what I’m trying to do
is right if there is at St. Michael’s a man-thing, handsome and under a
year old.  We must have him handsome, that’s half of the battle, and he
must be so young that he can’t remember.  I want to begin on him.

"Now I’ll bet you, Nick, that the Home is bristling with girl children
and we’ll have none of them."

Nick thumpingly agreed to all this but kept his eye on a plate of
cookies that Mam’selle was lavishly sugaring.  Nick did not spurn scraps
but, like others, he yearned for tidbits.

All day Jo worked, cooking and setting her house in order.

Late in the afternoon she contemplated cutting a door between the two
north chambers, her own and the one her father had used, which had never
been occupied since.

"The child will soon need a place of his own," mused Jo, already looking
ahead as a real mother might have done.  Suddenly she started, recalling
for the first time since before Pierre Gavot’s diverting call her
ambition concerning a boarder.

"Well, the boarder will have to wait," she thought, "they hate babies,
and boys are terribly noisy and messy.  I’ll take a boarder when the lad
goes away to school.  I’ll need company then."

By nightfall the little white house was spotless and in order.  The
fragrance of cooking mingled with the odour of wood fire was soothing to
Jo’s tired nerves; it meant home and achievement.

"I’ll not let on about the child," she concluded just before she went to
sleep.  "When the doors of St. Michael’s close on a child going in or
out, they close, and that is the end of it.  If folks care to pry it
will give them something to do and keep them alive, but it’s little
they’ll get from the Sisters or me.

"I’m a fool, a big fool, but I can pay for my folly and that’s more than
many women can do."

Early on the following morning Jo set forth in her broad-bellied little
cart in which were a hamper of goodies for the waifs of St. Michael’s,
and a smaller basket containing Jo’s own midday meal.  Jo, herself, sat
on the shaft beside the fat Molly and bobbed along in the best of
spirits.

"You’re to watch the place, Nick," she commanded, "and if he returns,
you know who, just save a nip of him for me, that’s a good beastie."

With this possibility of adventure, Nick had to be content.

Madame Longville saw Jo pass and remarked to the Captain who was eating
the pancakes his wife was making:

"There goes Mam’selle, and so early, too; somehow she doesn’t look as if
she had taken up with Pierre."

"How does she look?" asked the Captain with his mouth full.

"Sort of easy and cheerful."

"Fool," muttered Longville and reached for more cakes.  "Is she afoot?"

"No.  She’s in the little cart and it’s empty."

"She’s going to fetch Gavot, bag and baggage."  Longville felt that he
had solved the problem. "It takes a woman like Mam’selle to clinch a
good bargain."

Then Longville laughed and sputtered.

"It was a good turn I did for your rascal brother when I turned him on
to Mam’selle," he continued. "I took the matter in my own hands."

"I’m glad you did," Marcel returned, "but all the same Jo Morey doesn’t
look as if she had taken up with Pierre."

The repetition irritated Longville and again he muttered "fool!" then
added "damn fool" and let the matter rest.

But Jo was out of sight by that time and seemed to have the empty world
to herself.  And what a world it was.  The wind of the past few hours
had swept the sky clear of clouds and for that time of year the day was
warm.

Presently Jo found herself singing: "A la Claire Fontaine" and was
surprised that it caused her no heartache.  So grateful was she for
this, that she dismounted and stood under one of the tall crosses by the
wayside and prayed in her silent, wordless fashion, recalling the years
that were gone as another might count the beads of a rosary.  Her state
of mind was most perplexing and surprising, but it was wonderful.  What
did it matter, the cause that resulted in this sense of freedom, and, at
the same time, of being used and controlled?  Jo felt herself a part of
a great and powerful plan.  Surely there is no truer freedom than that.
At noon the roofs of St. Michael’s were in plain sight over the
pastures; by the road was a delectable pine grove with an opening broad
enough to drive in, so in Jo drove.  She unhitched Molly and fed her,
then taking her own food to a log lying in the warm sunlight, she laid
out her feast and seated herself upon the fragrant pine needles.  She
was healthfully hungry and thirsty and, for a few minutes, ate and drank
without heeding anything but her needs.  Then a stirring in the bushes
attracted her attention.  She raised her eyes and noted that the
branches of a crimson sumach near the road were moving restlessly.
Thinking some hungry but shy creature of the woods was hiding, Jo kept
perfectly still, holding a morsel of food out enticingly.

The branches ceased trembling, there was no sound, but suddenly Jo
realized that she was looking straight into eyes that were holding hers
by a strange magnetism.

"What do you want?" she asked.  "Who are you?"

There was no reply from the flaming bush, only that stare of fright and
alertness.

"Come here.  I will not hurt you.  No one shall hurt you."

Either the words, or actual necessity, compelled obedience: the branches
parted and out crawled a human figure covered by a coarse horse blanket
over the dingy uniform of St. Michael’s.

For a moment Jo was not sure whether the stranger were a boy or girl,
for a rough boyish cap rested on the head, but when the form rose
stiffly, tremblingly she saw it was that of a girl.  She was pale and
thin, with long braids of hair known as tow-colour, a faintly freckled
face, and marvellous eyes.  ’Twas the eyes that had caught and held Jo
from the start, yellow eyes they were and black fringed.  They were like
pools in a wintry landscape; pools in which the sunlight was reflected.

"I—I am starving to death," said the girl advancing cautiously, slowly.

"Sit down and eat, then," commanded Jo, and her throat contracted as it
always did when she witnessed suffering.  "After you’ve had enough, tell
me about yourself."

For a few minutes it seemed as if there were not enough food to satisfy
the hungry child.  She ate, not greedily or disgustingly, but
tragically.  At last, after a gulp of milk, she leaned back against a
tree and gave Jo a grateful, pitiful smile.

"And now," said Jo, "where did you come from?"

"Over there," a denuded chicken bone pointed toward the Home.

"You live there?"

"I used to.  I ran away last night.  I’ve run away many times.  They
always caught me before."

The words were spoken in good, plain English. For this Jo was thankful.
French, or the composite, always hampered her.

"Where were you last night?" she asked.

"Here in the woods."

Remembering the manner of night it was, Jo shivered and her face
hardened.

"Were they cruel to you over there?" she said gruffly.

"Do you mean, did they beat me?  No, they didn’t beat my body, but they
beat something else, something inside of me, all out of shape.  They
tried to make me into something I am not, something I do not want to be.
They, they flattened me out. They were always teaching me, teaching me."

There was a comical fierceness in the words.  Jo Morey recognized the
spirit back of it and set her jaw.

"I never saw you at the Home," she said; "I’ve often been there."

"They only show the good ones—the ones they can be sure of.  I took care
of the babies when I wasn’t being punished, locked up, you know.  You
see, I learned and could teach."

"They locked you up?"  Mam’selle and the child were being drawn close by
ties that neither understood.

"Yes, to keep me from running away.  You’re not going to tell them about
me, are you?"

The wonderful eyes seemed searching Jo’s very soul.

"No.  But where are you going?"

"I’m, I’m looking for someone."  As she spoke the light vanished from
the yellow eyes, a blankness spread over the pale, thin face.

"Looking for whom?"

"I do not know."

"What is your name?"  Jo was struck by the change in the girl, she had
become listless, dull.

"I do not know.  Over there they call me Marie, but that isn’t my name."

"I can’t let you go off alone by yourself," Jo was talking more to
herself than to the girl.

"Then, what are you going to do with me?  Please try to help me.  You
see I was very sick once and I—I cannot remember what happened before
that, but it keeps coming closer and closer and pressing harder and
harder—here."  The girl put her hand to her head.  "Once in awhile I
catch little bits and then I hold them close and keep them.  If I could
be let alone I think soon I would remember."

The pleading eyes filled with tears, the lips trembled.

Now the obvious thing to do, Jo knew very well: she ought to bundle the
girl into the cart and drive as fast as possible to the Home.  But
Mam’selle Jo knew that she was not going to do the obvious thing, and
before she had time to plan another course she saw two black-robed
figures coming across the pasture opposite.  The girl saw them, too, and
rushed to Jo.  She clung to her fiercely and implored:

"God in heaven, save me!  If they get me, I will kill myself."

The appeal turned Jo to stone.

"Get in the cart," she commanded, "and cover up in the straw."

The two Sisters from the Home were in the road as Jo bent to gather up
the debris of the meal.

"Ah, ’tis the Mam’selle Morey," said the older Sister.  "You were coming
to St. Michael’s perhaps, with your goodly gifts?"  The words were
spoken in pure French.

"I was coming, Sister—to—to adopt a child!"

The blunt statement, in bungling words, made both Sisters stare.

"’Tis like your good heart to think of this thing, Mam’selle Morey.
Another day we will consider it."

"Why not to-day, Sister?  My time is never empty.  I want a boy, very
young and—and good to look at."

"Oh, but Mam’selle Morey, one does not adopt a child as one does a stray
cat.  Another day, Mam’selle, and we will consider gladly, but to-day——"

"What of to-day, Sister?"

"Well, one of our little flock has strayed, a child sadly lacking but
dearly loved; we must find her."

"She has been gone long?"  Jo was moving to the cart with her basket and
bottles.

"She has just been missed.  We will soon find her."

Jo’s hand, searching the straw, was patting the cold one that trembled
beneath her touch.  "May I give you a lift along the road?" she asked
grimly, the humour of the thing striking her while she reassured the
hidden girl by a whispered word.

"Thanks, no, Mam’selle.  We will not keep to the roads.  The lost one
loved the woods.  She’d seek them."

Jo waited until the Sisters had departed, her hand never having left the
trembling one beneath hers.

"You are going to—to take me with you?"  The words came muffled, from
the straw.

"Yes."

"And where?"

"To Point of Pines."

"What a lovely name.  And you, what may I call you?"

"Jo, Mam’selle Jo."

"Mam’selle Jo.  That is pretty, too, like Point of Pines.  How kind you
are and good.  I did not know any one could be so good."

"Lie down now, child, and sleep."

Jo was hitching Molly to the cart; her hands fumbled and there was a
deep fire in her dark eyes.

"We’re going home," she said presently, but the girl was already asleep.

Through the autumn sunset and under the clear stars the little cart
bobbed along to Point of Pines. The stirring in the straw, the touch,
now and then, of a small, groping hand were all that disturbed Jo’s
troubled thoughts.  When she reached her darkened house, Nick met her at
the gate.  Very solemnly Jo dismounted and took the dog’s head in her
hands.

"Nick," she explained, "Nick, it’s a girl, and an ugly one at that.
She’s old enough to remember, too, but she don’t—she don’t, Nick.  God
help me! I’m a fool, but I could do nothing else."



                              *CHAPTER V*

                            *ENTER DONELLE*


Many times during the next few weeks Jo Morey repeated that "I could do
nothing else."  It was like a defense of her action to all the opposing
forces.

Poor Jo!  She, who had stood before Longville a free woman but a short
time ago; she who had flouted Gavot and sworn to have something of her
own out of life in spite of man, was now held in the clutch of Fate.

The girl she had brought into her home was raving with fever and tossing
restlessly on Jo’s own bed in the little north chamber.  No one ever
sent for a doctor in Point of Pines until the need of one was
practically past.  Every woman was trained to care for the sick, and
Mam’selle Jo was a master of the art, so she watched and cared for the
sufferer, mechanically dazed by conditions and reiterating that she
could have done nothing else.

The sweet autumn weather had changed suddenly, and winter came howling
over the hills sheathed in icy rain that lashed the trees and houses and
flooded the roads.  No one came to disturb Jo Morey, and her secret was
safe for the time being.  But the long, dark, storm-racked nights; the
dull days filled with anxiety and hard work, wore upon Jo.  Constant
journeys to the wood pile were necessary in order to keep the fires to
their full duty; food had to be provided and the animals cared for.

Nick grew sedate and nervous; he followed his mistress closely and often
sat by the bed upon which lay the stranger who had caused all the
disturbance.

And so the storm raged, and in the loneliness poor Jo, like Nick,
developed nerves.

She moved about, looking over her shoulder affrightedly if she heard an
unusual sound.  She forced herself to eat and when she could, she slept,
lying beside the sick girl, her hand upon the hot body.  At such times
the flesh looses its hold upon the spirit and strange things happen.  At
such times, since the world began, miracles have occurred, and Jo became
convinced, presently, that she had been led to do what she had done, by
a Power over which she had no control and which she had no longer any
desire to defy.  She submitted; ceased to rebel; did not even reiterate
that she could have done nothing else.

At first she listened to the sick girl’s ravings, hoping she might learn
something of the past, but as no names or places entered into the
confused words she lost interest.  Nevertheless, the words sank into her
subconsciousness and made an impression.  The fevered brain was groping
back past the St. Michael days, groping in strange, distant places, but
never finding anything definite.  There seemed to be long, tiresome
journeys, there were pathetic appeals to stop and rest.  More than once
the hoarse, weak voice cried: "They’ll believe me if I tell.  I saw how
it was.  Let me tell, they’ll believe me."

But when Jo questioned as to this the burning eyes only stared and the
lips closed.  At other times the girl grew strangely still and her face
softened.

"The white high-top is all pink," she once whispered looking toward the
north window against which the sheet of icy rain was dashing; "it is
morning!"

Jo grew superstitious; she felt haunted and afraid for the first time in
her life and finally she decided to call in Marcel Longville and let her
share the secret vigil.

The night of the day she decided upon this, something remarkable
happened.  Toward evening the rain ceased and the wind took to sobbing
remorsefully in long, wearied gasps.  The girl in the north chamber lay
resting with lowered temperature and steadier pulse.  "The crisis is
past," murmured Jo, and when all was made comfortable, she went to the
living room, put her feet in the oven, and looked at her weary, haggard
face in the glass.  The reflection did not move her, she was too utterly
worn out, but she did think of the morrow and the coming of Marcel.

"Now that there is no need," she muttered, "I must have someone.  I’m
all but done for.  I cannot think straight, and there has got to be some
straight thinking from now on."

She was still looking at her plain face in the glass when she heard the
clock in the kitchen strike ten and heard the even breathing of the girl
in her north chamber.  She was still looking in the glass, still
hearing—what?  Why, footsteps coming up the little white-shell path!
Familiar steps they were, but coming from, oh! such a distance, and out
of the many years!  They caused no surprise nor alarm, however, and Jo
smiled.  She saw, quite distinctly, the face in the glass smiling, and
now it was no longer old and haggard, and it seemed right that those
steps should be near.  Jo’s smile broadened.

The steps came close; they were at the door. There was a quick, sharp
knock as if the comer were hurrying gladly.  Mam’selle sprang up
and—found herself standing in the middle of the room, the fire all but
burned out, the lamp sputtering!

"I’ve been dreaming!" murmured Jo, pushing her hair back from her face.

"Nick!"

Mam’selle was fully roused by now and her eyes were riveted upon her
dog.  He stood near the door all a-bristle, as if awaiting the entrance
of one he knew and loved.  Then he whined and capered about for all the
world as if he were fawning at the feet of someone.

"Nick, come here!"

But Nick paid no heed.

"None of that, sir!"

The cold sweat stood on Jo Morey’s face.  "None of that!"  Then, with a
gasp, "You, too, heard the steps, the steps that have no right here.
Nick!"

And now the dog turned and came abjectly toward his mistress.  He looked
foolish and apologetic.

"We’re both going mad!" muttered Jo, but bent to soothe poor Nick before
she turned to the north chamber.

Under the spell of her dream she trembled, and was filled with
apprehension.  How quiet the sick room was!  The candle sputtering in
its holder made flashes of light and cast queer shadows.  The girl was
not sleeping, her eyes were wide open, her hands groping feebly.

"Father," she moaned as Jo bent over her, "father, where are you?  I’ll
remember, father.  The name—Mam’selle Jo Morey, and she will
understand!"

Then—all was still, deadly, terribly still.  During the past weeks of
strain and watching a door had been gradually opening into a darkened
room, but now a sudden light was flashed and Jo saw and understood!

Undoubting, stunned, but keenly alive, she believed she was looking upon
Henry Langley’s child and felt that she had always known!  It was most
natural, Langley had been coming home to her: because he could trust
her; knew that she would understand.  Understand—what?  But did that
matter? Something had happened, Jo meant to find all that out later.
Now she must act, and act quickly.  The crisis had not passed; it was
here.  Jo set to work and for hours she fought death off by primitive
but effective means.  She knew the danger; counted the chances and
strained every nerve to her task.  When morning came she saw she had
saved the girl and she dropped by the bedside, faint and listless, but
lifting up her soul, where another woman would have prayed, to the Power
that she acknowledged and trusted.

Mam’selle did not send for Marcel Longville, she was given strength to
go on alone for a little longer. The sick girl rallied with wonderful
response to Jo’s care which now had a new meaning.  She was docile,
sweet, and pathetically grateful, but she did not want Jo long out of
her sight.

"It is queer, Mam’selle," she sometimes said, "but when you go out of
the door it seems as if something, a feeling, got me.  And when you come
in again, it goes."

"What kind of a feeling, child?"

"I do not know, but I am afraid of it and _It_ is afraid of you.  You’re
like a light, making the darkness go.  When I was sickest, sometimes I
felt I was lost in the blackness.  Then I touched your hand, and I found
my way back."

After awhile the "Mam’selle" was shortened to "Mam’sle," then, and quite
unconsciously, to Mamsey.  To that the girl clung always.  And Jo, for
no reason but a quaint whim, disdained the Marie by which the girl had
been known and called her Donelle after poor Mrs. Morey who had died at
Cecile’s birth.

The winter after the ice storm settled down seriously.  It had no more
tantrums, but grew still and white and lonely.  The snow was deep and
glistening, the sky blue and cloudless and the pines cracked in the cold
like the rifles of hunters in the woods. Donelle crept, a little, pale
ghost, from the north chamber to the sunny living room.  By putting her
hand on Nick’s head she walked more steadily and laughed at the progress
she made.  Jo tucked her up on the hard couch under the glowing begonias
and geraniums.

"Good Mamsey!  It’s like coming back from a far, far place," whispered
the girl.  As strength returned Donelle grew often strangely thoughtful.

"I thought," she confided one night to Jo, "that when I was left alone I
could remember, but I cannot."

Then Jo took things in her own hands.  She was always one to muster all
the help in sight, and not be too particular.  She was developing a deep
passion for the girl she had rescued; she meant to see the thing through
and _well_ through.  As soon as she could she meant to go to St.
Michael’s and learn all that the Sisters knew of the girl’s past.  She
felt she had a power over them that might wring the truth from their
frozen silence.  Then she meant to use her last dollar in procuring the
proper medical skill for the girl.  There was a big doctor every summer
at St. Michael’s Hotel; until summer Jo must do her best.

As her nerves grew calm and steady the experiences of the night of
Donelle’s crisis lost their hold.

"She heard my name at the Home," Jo argued, "and I myself spoke it when
she was the most frightened and on the verge of fever.  In the muddle
and confusion of delirium it came to the surface with the rest of the
floating bits.  That’s all."

Still there was a lurking familiarity about the girl that haunted Jo’s
most prosaic hours.  It lay about the girl’s mouth, the way she had of
looking at Jo as if puzzled, and then a slow smile breaking. Langley had
that same trick, back in the spring and summer of the past.  He would
take a long look, then smile contentedly as if an answer to a longing
had come.  But something else caught and held Jo Morey’s attention as
she watched the girl.  That charm of manner, that poise and ease; how
like they were to—but Jo dared not mention the name, for the hurt had
broken out afresh after all the years!

"But such things do not happen in real life," she argued in her sane,
honest mind.  "She wouldn’t have been hiding in those bushes just when I
stopped to eat!  I’m getting wild to fancy such things, wild!"

So Jo turned from the impossible and attacked the possible, but as often
happens in life, she confused the two.

"See here, child," she said one day when Donelle was brooding and sad,
"You’ve been very sick and you’re weak yet, but while you were at the
worst you remembered, and it will all come back again soon."

The girl brightened at once.

"What did I remember, Mamsey?" she asked.

Jo, weaving a new design, puckered her brow. "Oh, you told of travels
with your father," then with inspiration, "they must have been in
far-off places, for you spoke about high-tops white with snow and the
sun making them pink.  They must have been handsome."

Donelle’s eyes widened and grew strained.

"Yes," she said dreamily; "they must have been handsome.  But my father,
Mamsey, what about my father?"

"Well, child, he died."  Jo made the plunge and looked for the results.

"Yes, I think I knew he was dead.  Did you know my father, Mamsey?"

Again Jo plunged.

"Yes, child, long ago.  He must have been bringing you to me when
something happened.  Then you were ill and the Sisters took you——"

"But why did they not bring me to you?"  Donelle was clinging to every
word.

"I think they did not know.  You forgot what had happened.  Your father
was dead——"

"Yes, I see.  But always I was trying to get away. Many times I did get
out of the gates, but always they found me until the time when I found
you. Things happen very queer sometimes."

Then, quickly changing the subject;

"Mamsey, did you know my mother, too?"

"Yes, child."  And now poor, honest, simple Jo Morey bent her head over
the loom.

"Was she a good—mother?"

For the life of her Jo could not answer.  The wide sunny eyes of the
girl were upon her, the awful keenness of an awakening mind was
searching her face and what lay behind her troubled eyes.

The moment of silence made the next harder; conclusions had been reached
by the girl.  She came toward Jo, stood before her, and laid her hands
upon her shoulders,

"Mamsey," she faltered; "we will not talk about my mother if it hurts
you."  The quick gratitude and sympathy almost frightened Jo.

And they did not for many a year after that speak of Donelle’s mother.

"But, child," Jo pleaded, "just do not push yourself, it will all come
back to you some day.  You must trust me as your father did.  And
another thing, Donelle, you are to live with me now, and—and it was your
father’s wish, it is best that you take my name.  And you must not let
on about—about—the Home at St. Michael’s."

Donelle shivered.

"I will not!" she said.  "Do they know where I am?"

"No.  But when you are able to be left, I am going to tell them!"  This
came firmly.  "They will be glad enough to forget you and leave the rest
to me. They have great powers of forgetting and remembering, when it
pays.  But they are through with you, child, forever."

"Oh!  Mamsey, thank God!"

Donelle folded her thin arms across her breast and swayed to and fro.
This gesture of hers was characteristic.  When she was glad she moved
back and forth; when she was troubled she moved from side to side,
holding her slim body close.

"I will mind nothing Mamsey, now.  I will begin with you!"

"And I," murmured Jo gruffly, "I will begin with you, Donelle.  You and
I, you and I."

But of course the outside world soon had to be considered.  People came
to Jo Morey’s door on one errand or another, but they got no further.

"I cannot make Mam’selle out," Marcel Longville confided to the Captain,
"she has always been quick to answer a call when sickness was the
reason.  Now here is poor Tom laid up with a throat so bad that I know
not what to do and when I went she opened her door but halfway and said,
’send for a doctor!’"  Longville grunted. He had his suspicions about
Mam’selle and Gavot, but he could get nothing definite from Pierre and
surely there was nothing hopeful about Jo Morey’s attitude.

"I’ll call myself," he decided.  But to his twice-repeated knocks he got
no response; then he kicked on the door.  At this Jo opened a window,
risking the life and health of her begonias and geraniums by so doing.

"Well?" was all she said, but her plain, haggard face startled the
Captain.  He had formulated no special errand; he had trusted to
developments, and this unlooked-for welcome to his advances threw him
back upon a flimsy report of Tom Gavot’s sore throat.

"I’m sorry, Captain," Jo said, "but I’m not able to do anything to help.
There’s no reason why you shouldn’t get a doctor.  If it’s a case of
money, I’ll pay the bill for the sake of the poor boy and his dead
mother."

"Mam’selle, you’re not yourself," Longville retorted.

"I’m just myself," Jo flung back.  "I’ve just found myself.  But I’m
going off for a few days, Captain, so good-bye."

Longville retreated from the house in a sadly befuddled state.  Surely
something serious was the matter with Jo Morey.  She looked ill and
acted queer, almost suspiciously queer.  And she was going away!  No one
went away from Point of Pines unless dire necessity drove them.  Why
should people ever go away from anywhere unless forced?

Then Longville’s thoughts drifted back to the time when Mam’selle had
gone away before and came back so bedraggled and spent.

It was all very odd and unsettling.

"Surely Mam’selle needs watching," mumbled Longville and he decided to
watch.

Night favoured his schemes.  He forsook the tavern and made stealthy
trips to the little white house, only to be greeted by blank darkness,
except for a dim gleam at the edges of the curtain at the window of the
small north chamber.

"Mam’selle has not yet gone," concluded Longville, but that was little
comfort.  Then one night he got bolder and crept close to the rear and
listened under the chamber window.

Jo was talking to——  At that instant the kitchen door was flung open and
out dashed Nick.

"At him!" commanded Mam’selle, standing in the panel of light, laughing
diabolically, "It’s a skunk, no doubt; drive him off, Nick; don’t touch
him!"

Longville escaped, how, he could not tell, for Nick sniffed at his
retreating heels well down the highway.

Three or four nights after, Longville, discreetly keeping to the road,
where he had a perfect right to be, paused before the white house again.
It was a dark night, with occasional flashes of moonlight as the wind
scattered the clouds.

Presently the house door opened and Mam’selle came out with Nick close
beside her.  They stood quite still on the little lawn, their faces
turned upward.  And just then Longville could have sworn he heard a sob,
a deep, smothered sob, and Nick certainly whined piteously.  Then the
two went back into the house and Longville, with a nervous start, turned
and faced—Gavot!

"What do you make of it?" whispered Pierre.

"Make of what?" demanded Longville.

"Oh, I’ve done some watching myself," Gavot replied, "I’ve watched you
_and_ her!  A man doesn’t keep to the night when the tavern has a warm
place for him.  I’ve kept you company, Longville, when you didn’t know
it."

"Well, then, what’s the meaning that you make out, Pierre?"

"The Mam’selle Morey is up to—to tricks," Gavot nodded knowingly, "and
she’s not going to escape me."

"’Tis not the first caper she has cut," Longville snorted, "and she will
well need an eye kept on her."

Then the two went amicably arm in arm to Dan’s Place.

"Four eyes, brother Longville," said Gavot who always grew nauseously
familiar when he dared. "Four eyes on Mam’selle and four _such_ eyes!"



                              *CHAPTER VI*

                  *MAM’SELLE HEARS PART OF THE TRUTH*


Jo Morey came out of her house quite boldly and locked the door!

She had left Nick inside, a most unusual proceeding.  Then she harnessed
Molly to the caliche, also an unusual proceeding, for the picturesque
carriage was reserved for the use of summer visitors and brought a good
price when driven by one of the young French-Canadians from the
settlement a few miles away.  Openly, indeed encouraging nods and
conversation, Jo started toward St. Michael’s in her Sunday best and
nicely poised on the high seat.

"Good morning, Captain," she greeted as she passed Longville on the
road; "I’m off at last, you see!  So you can take a rest from watching."

"When do you return, Mam’selle?" asked the Captain, quite taken aback by
the sight.

"That depends," and Jo smiled, another rare proceeding, surely; "the
roads are none too good and time is my own these days."

Then she bobbed along, the high feather on her absurd hat waving
defiance.

But Jo was quite another person to young Tom Gavot whom she met a mile
farther on.  The boy was a handsome, shabby fellow and at present his
throat was bound close in a band of red flannel.  His clothing was thin
and ragged and his bare hands rested upon the handle of a shovel which
he held. He leaned slightly on it, as he paused to greet Mam’selle
Morey.

"Tom, you’ve been sick," said Jo, stopping short and leaning toward him.
"I hated not to come to you—but I couldn’t."

"’Tis all right, now, Mam’selle.  I went to the curé when my throat was
the worst and the good Father took me in and sent for the doctor."

"I’ll remember that, Tom, when the curé asks for help this winter.  And,
Tom, how goes life?"

The boy’s clear, dark eyes looked troubled.  "I want to get away,
Mam’selle Jo.  I can never make anything of myself here.  Sometimes,"
the boy smiled grimly, "sometimes I find myself—longing to forget
everything in——"

"No, Tom, not the tavern!  Remember what I’ve always told you, boy, of
the night your mother went.  She said you paid for all she had suffered!
Tom, when you get down and things look black, just remember and keep on
being worth what she went through.  It was worse than anything you’ll
ever be called upon to bear."

The boy’s eyes dimmed.

"I’m holding close," he said grimly.  "Holding close to—I don’t know
what."

"That’s it, Tom, we don’t know what; but it’s something, isn’t it?"

"Yes, Mam’selle."

"Now listen, Tom.  How old are you?  Let me see——"

"Sixteen, Mam’selle."

"To be sure.  And you study hard at the school, the curé has told me.
And you mend the roads in the summer with the men?"

"Yes, Mam’selle," Tom grinned, "and get a bit of money and hide it well.
There’s nearly twenty dollars now."

"Good!  Well, Tom, this winter, study as you never have before and next
summer, if the men come, work and save.  You shall go away some day,
that I swear.  I’ll promise that, but it must be a secret. You shall
have your chance."

"Mam’selle!"  Tom instinctively took off his hat and stood beside Jo
like a ragged and forlorn knight.

"You’ve got to pay for all your mother suffered!"  Jo’s lips quivered.
"It’s the least you can do."

Then with a nod and a cheery farewell, Jo bobbed along while Tom Gavot
returned to his self-imposed task of filling in the ruts on the road.
Occasionally a traveller tossed him a coin, and the work kept him
occupied, but best of all it assumed the dignity of a job and made him
capable of helping intelligently when the real workers came in the late
spring.

Just after midday Jo Morey drew up before the Home of St.
Michael’s-on-the-Rocks.  She was very quiet, very dignified and firm,
but her heart was pounding distractedly against her stiffly boned waist.
She was to learn, at last, all there was to learn about the girl who, at
that moment, was locked in the white house behind drawn shades, with
instructions to remain hidden until Jo’s return.

There was little doubt now in Mam’selle’s mind but that the fantastic
conclusions she had drawn during the strenuous hours of illness were
mere figments and not to be relied upon.  They could all be easily
explained, no doubt.

Poor Jo!

But, no matter what she was to hear, and undoubtedly it would be most
prosaic, she meant to keep the girl even if she had to threaten in order
to do so!  She, plain, unlovable Jo Morey, had developed a sudden and
violent fancy for the girl she had rescued.  Jo was almost ashamed of
her emotions, but she could not, inwardly, control them. Outwardly, she
might scowl and glower, but her heart beat quick at the touch of the
girl’s hands, her colour rose at the tones of the low voice; some women
are thus moved by little children.  Jo, repressed and suppressed, was
like a delicate instrument upon which her own starved maternal instinct
now played riotously.

She was led to the bare little reception room of the Home and left to
her own devices while a small maid scurried away to summon the Sister in
charge.

Alone, Jo sat on the edge of a hard chair and tried to believe that she
was prepared for anything—or nothing, but all the time she was getting
more and more agitated.  When things were at the tensest she always
looked the sternest, so when Sister Angela entered the room, she was
rather taken aback by the face Mam’selle turned toward her soft
greeting. Sister Angela was the older of the two nuns who had questioned
Jo while the lost girl lay hidden under the straw in the cart that first
day.

"Ah, it’s Mam’selle Morey!  A good day to you, Mam’selle."

"Have you found that girl yet?" bluntly spoke Jo.

The manner and question took the Sister off her guard.

"Oh! the girl!  I remember, Mam’selle.  We met you while we were looking
for her.  The child is quite safe, thank you.  We have long wanted to
find a good home for her."

"So you found her?"

Mam’selle was struggling with the fragments of French at her command and
making poor work with them.  The Sister pretended not to understand.

"The girl," Jo was losing what little control she had, "is over at my
house; she’s been terribly ill."

Sister Angela’s face grew ashy and she drew her chair close.  "And now?"
she whispered.

"She’s going to get well."  Jo settled back.

"And—and she has talked?  She had an illness here once, the physician
told us another shock might restore her memory.  That sometimes does
happen.  Mam’selle, the girl has remembered and—talked?"

"She’s talked, yes!"  Jo was groping along.  "I want her story, Sister."

"What is there to tell, Mam’selle?"  Sister Angela took a chance.  "We
always give the sinning mothers an hour in which to consider whether
they will keep their children or not.  We try to make them see their
duty, if they will not, we assume it.  And the past is dead.  You know
our way here, we do the best we can for the children.  ’Tis wiser to
forget—much."

"Sister Angela, I said the girl talked and she remembered!"

Under Jo’s lowering brows the dark eyes gleamed.

"Then, Mam’selle, if the girl remembered and talked surely you can see
why it was best to hush her story?"

The colour again receded from Sister Angela’s face.  She did not look
guilty, but she looked anxious.

She had circulated a report that the missing girl was on probation in a
good home; she had carried on a still hunt untiringly; and now if
Mam’selle Jo Morey could be prevailed upon to adopt the girl, how
perfectly everything would work out.  And there was to be a meeting of
the managers in a week!

"Sister, I mean to take this girl if it can be done legally and quietly,
but I will not unless I hear all I can from you, all there is to know."

"Very well, Mam’selle, we only have the girl’s good at heart, I assure
you.  Our Sister Mary was the one who brought the girl to us four years
ago.  I will send her to you.  As to the legal steps, they are practical
and easy, and when one of our fold goes to another, that is the end!  We
have educated this girl carefully; she is well trained.  We had always
her interest at heart.  And now I will send Sister Mary."

Left alone again, Jo clasped her hands close and stiffened as for an
ordeal.

The door opened and closed.  A very pale little Sister took a chair near
Mam’selle and, holding to her crucifix as to an anchor, she said gently:

"I am to tell you of the little girl, Marie.  ’Tis not much of a story.
We know very little, but the little were best forgot; it is not a pretty
story.

"Four years ago word came from a tavern back in the hills that a man and
child were very ill there and I went over to nurse them.  The girl had
fallen and hurt her head.  She was quite out of her mind and I decided
to bring her here; the doctor said she could be moved.  The man, he was
the father of the child, was dying.  I sent for a priest and waited
until the priest came.

"The man was a bit delirious and talked wildly, but at every question he
hushed suddenly as if he were mortally afraid of something.

"He said he wanted no priest, insisted that he was able to start on.  He
was taking the child to someone who, he kept repeating, would believe
him and understand.

"When I asked him what there was to believe and to whom he was taking
the child, he looked at me strangely and laughed!  He died before the
priest came.  I brought the girl away and somehow the report got around
that she, too, had died, and we thought it best to let the matter rest
there.

"A year later two men came to hear what we had to tell about the man who
had died; he was wanted for—murder!"

To Morey sprang to her feet.

"Not—that!" she panted.  Then quickly regaining her self-control, "I see
now why you felt you must keep the story secret," she continued, and
sank back limply in her chair.

"Exactly," nodded Sister Mary, then glanced about the room and lowered
her voice.

"I told the men about the father’s death—and—I said the girl had died
later.  Mam’selle, I took that course because one of the men, he said he
had known the dead man, wanted the girl, and I could not trust the man;
his eyes were bad.  I feared for the child. ’Twas better that she stayed
where she was, shielded, cared for.  I had grown to be fond of her.  I
taught her carefully, she was a great help with the younger children.  I
hoped she would come into the Sisterhood, but perhaps it is best she
should have a safe home."

"Is that all?  Did those men tell you nothing of the past?"  Jo’s words
came like hard, quick strokes.

The waxen face of Sister Mary did not change expression.  She had left
life’s sordid problems so far behind that they were mere words to her.

"Oh! they had their story," she said.  "The dead man had shot his wife
because he discovered that she had a lover.  He shot her in the presence
of the little girl and the lover.  Mam’selle, I believe the man with the
officer was the lover.  He wanted the child for reasons of his own; that
was why I said—she was dead.

"That’s all, Mam’selle."

Jo Morey felt a strange sympathy with the pale little Sister and a deep
gratitude.

"You’re a good woman!" she said to Sister Mary.

"I did my best for the girl," the Sister went on, still holding to her
crucifix, "she never recovered her memory for that, God be praised!  But
she had a bright mind and I trained that carefully.  She knows much from
books; all that I could get for her. She never took kindly to—religion,
and that is why Sister Angela was thinking of finding a home for her;
the girl was not happy here, but we did our best."

"I am sure you did, Sister!" Jo looked grateful. "I understand.  But
those men, did they not mention the name of the man they sought?"

Sister Mary drew her brows together.  "The name?  Yes, but it has
escaped me.  It was an English name if I recall rightly, something
like—Long—no—yes—it was Longley or Longdon, something sounding like
that."

Never in her life had Jo fainted, but she feared she was going to do so
now.  The bare little room was effaced as though a huge, icy blackness
engulfed it. In the darkness a clock on a shelf ticked madly, dashingly,
like blow upon blow on iron.

"Here is a glass of water, Mam’selle, you are ill."

Sister Mary pressed the glass to Jo’s lips and she drank it to the last
drop.

"I have nursed this girl through a long sickness," she explained.  "I am
tired.  But I will keep her. Tell Sister Angela to make arrangements and
let me know."

"Very well, Mam’selle.  And the girl, Marie; she remembers, Sister
Angela says.  ’Tis a miracle. I shall miss her, but God has been kind to
her."

"She will remember only what I tell her, from now on!"  Jo set her teeth
over her tingling tongue. "And now, I must go."

Mam’selle almost expected to find it dark when she went out from the dim
room, but it was broad daylight, and when she looked at the clock in the
church tower she saw that she had been but an hour inside.

In all the years of her life she had never experienced half so much as
she had during the space of time with the two Sisters.  She was
conscious of trying to keep what she had heard in the Home, out of her
mind; she was afraid to face it in the open. There were children playing
about; a Sister or two looked at her curiously; she must be alone before
she dared take her terrible knowledge into consideration. Gravely she
went to the caleche, stiffly she took the reins and clicked to Molly.  A
mile from St. Michael’s, much to Molly’s disgust, they turned from the
main road and struck into a wood trail where the snowy slush made travel
difficult.  Jo did not go far, she merely wanted to hide from any chance
passerby.  Then she let the reins drop in her lap and staring straight
ahead—thought!

It was growing cold, that dead cold that comes when the mercury is
dropping.  But Jo was back in the summer time of her life, she was
studying Langley, and the woman who had lured him, with the mature power
that suffering years had later evolved in Jo herself.  By some psychic
force she seemed able to follow them far, far.  So far she went in
imagination that she saw the "white high-tops" changing from shade to
shade.  Jo, who had never been fifty miles from her birthplace, went far
in that hour!

She understood Langley as she never had before. She suffered with him,
no longer because of him. The dreadful scene in the lonely wood-cabin;
the stranger man who had told his story!  And against that story who
could prevail?  But would Langley have been coming to her with his child
had he been guilty of the crime with which he was charged?  And
Donelle’s words: "They will believe me.  Let me tell, I saw how it was."

Mam’selle, stiff with cold, smiled with rare radiance as one might who,
considering her dishonoured dead, knows in her heart that he is
innocent.

"If the child ever remembers, then I can speak," thought poor Jo.  "I
believe the man who came to the Home is the guilty one.  He wanted the
girl, wanted to hush her story.  He must think her dead, dead, unless
she can prove—the truth."

The black tragedy into which poor Mam’selle had been plunged quickened
every sense.  Her one determination was to hide Langley’s child, not
only for her own safety, but in order that the horrible story of the
crime might be stilled.  Langley was dead, he must rest in peace.  But
that man might be alive; the merest suspicion of Donelle’s existence
would bring about the greatest disaster.  He might claim the girl, by
pretending relationship, and then go to any lengths to insure her
silence.  No; come what might, all must be hidden.

It was dark when Mam’selle Jo reached Point of Pines.  She took Molly to
the stable and fed her, then silently made her way to the little house.
Not a gleam of light shone from the windows; all was quiet and safe.

But was it?  As Jo reached the lowest step of the porch she saw a black
figure crouching under the living-room window.  So absorbed was the
watcher that he had not heard Jo’s approach; neither did he notice when,
on tiptoes, she mounted and stood behind him, the better to see what
might be the object of his spying.

The shade of the broad window was lowered, but the bottom rested on the
pots of flowers, and there was a space through which one might look into
the room.  The fire was burning brightly and its radiance clearly showed
Donelle on the couch by the window, fast asleep, Nick crouching beside
her, his eyes glaring at the intruder outside and his teeth showing!

"Well, Captain!"

Longville jumped up as if he had been shot.  For an instant Jo had the
master position, but only for an instant; then Longville spoke.

"So that’s what you have been hiding!" he said.

"And this is the way you take to find out?"  Jo looked dangerous.  She
was thinking quickly.  She had meant to guard the future by safe
courses, but she had little choice now.  Only one thing was clear, she
must save the secret she had just learned.  In reaching this conclusion
Jo did not consider how badly she was plunging into dangerous depths.
For herself she gave no thought, her innocence and ignorance made her
blind; she stood before her persecutor and answered blankly like one who
must reply, and does not count the cost.

"Whose girl is that?"

"Mine."

"Yours and Langley’s, by God!  And you have the shamelessness to stand
there and tell me so to my face.  So that’s what you went away for, the
summer Langley turned you adrift.  All these years you’ve kept your
disgrace hidden—where?"

Horrified, Jo staggered back and confronted Longville with desperate
eyes.  She had meant to tell him that she had adopted the girl; had even
felt she might go so far as to mention the Home, but now! What was she
to do?  This mean and suspicious mind had fastened on an explanation of
the child’s presence in her house that had not even occurred to her.  No
matter what she said she doubted if Longville would believe her.  She
stood in the dark, face to face with the Captain, while her mind battled
with the question.  "Shall I say the child is my own?" thought Jo.
"That will stop all further questions, no one need ever know about the
murder, and Donelle can be kept safe from the hateful suspicion that
I——" she could not even say the horrible thing to herself.

"Answer me!"  Longville, feeling that his victim feared, flung all
disguise aside.

Still she stared and debated with herself.  She knew that if she said
that she had adopted Donelle, Longville would not believe her mere
statement; she would have to bare this whole awful story to this
scandal-monger; the man would expect proofs, he would ferret out the
last detail.  Everyone in the village would know it next day, the child
would be questioned, her house would be the centre of the curious.

The other horn of the dilemma would be safer for the child; they would
be let alone, she could live the evil name down.  Sometime the truth
would come out.

Jo had decided.  She faced Longville, her head up, her jaws clamped,
silent.

"Answer me—you—harlot!"

The word stung Jo Morey and she sprang forward. Longville thought she
was going to strike him and like the coward he was, he dodged.

"You dare not speak for yourself," he snarled.

Then Jo laughed.  The sound frightened her. She did not feel like
laughing, heaven knew; but the relief of it steadied her.  Then, as one
does who sees a struggle is useless, she let herself go.

"Oh! yes; I can speak for myself, Captain.  The girl is mine.  Where
I’ve kept her is my business, and you and I have finished business
together. That—that brother-in-law of yours came after my money; was
willing to marry me for it, and flung some hateful words in my face.
But he set me thinking.  Why should a woman do without a child because a
man will have none of her, or only that which he wants?  If I could not
have my own in man’s way, I take it in my own.  I have my child, and
now—what will you do?  If you make my life and hers a hell here I have
money and can go elsewhere.  Go so far that your black words will not be
heard.  On the other hand, if you mind your business and leave me and
mine alone, we’ll stay.  And now get off my property."

Longville was so utterly dumbfounded that he slunk from the porch and
was in the road before he regained his self-control.  Then he started
back, but Jo had gone inside, locked the door noisily, and was pulling
the shade down to its extreme limit!



                             *CHAPTER VII*

                     *MARCEL TAKES HER STAND BY JO*


Apparently Longville decided to mind his business, but that, he declared
did not exclude Mam’selle’s.  Greed, curiosity, and indecision caused
him to refrain from persecution. Indeed the psychology of the situation
was peculiar. For the first time in her life Jo Morey became
interesting.  A woman with a past may, or may not be happy, but she
certainly affords speculation and conjecture. Point of Pines, when it
had considered Jo before, felt an amused sort of pity for her and, since
she asked nothing of it, left her completely alone.  But now, at this
late day, she sailed into the open in such an unlooked-for manner that
she inspired awe rather than the contempt or outraged scorn of Point of
Pines.  Without stir or fuss she simply annexed the child, and went the
even gait that she had heretofore gone alone.

She was a mystery, and the men, generally in the fragrant atmosphere of
Dan’s Place, discussed her smartness and independence with resentment,
and a—smothered—admiration!  The women, especially those with whom Jo
had shared hours of pain and sorrow, wondered where she had been when
her own hour overtook her; whose hands had helped her who never refused
help to others.  And who had kept Jo’s child?  That question stirred in
Dan’s Place and in the houses roundabout.

"Perhaps some hill woman has kept the child," whispered the women over
their work; but to hunt among the hills would be futile.  Besides,
Mam’selle’s money had undoubtedly closed any lips which might be able to
furnish facts.

It was a thrilling situation.  One not to be despised by the lonely
hamlet.  Some were for, some against, Mam’selle Morey; but no one
wanted, or dared, to ignore her utterly.  Marcel Longville issued forth
from the cloud of indecision, girded on her armour, and struck a blow
for Jo Morey.

In order to make known her position, she wrapped herself in a shawl one
day, and boldly walked to Jo’s house in the middle of the afternoon,
when several men, her husband among them, were sitting about the stove
in the tavern, their faces turned to the highway.

"A woman like Mam’selle Morey can corrupt a town unless—"  It was Gavot
who spoke, and he sniffed disagreeably, looking down the road. Longville
was watching his wife pass; he grew hot with anger, but made no reply.

"Marcel can cut her up with her tongue.  It takes a woman to slash a
woman," Pierre continued.

The proprietor, Dan Kelly, came to the fore.  He rarely took part in
conversation.  He was like a big, silent, congenial Atmosphere.  He
pervaded his Place, but did not often materialize in conversation. Now
he spoke.

"Queer, ain’t it," he drawled, "how we just naturally hate to get our
women mixed up?  Lord knows we must have both kinds—we’ve fixed things
that way—but when they edge toward each other we get damned religious
and moral, don’t we?  Why?"

The words rolled around the stifling room like a bomb.  Every man
dodged, not knowing whether the thing was aimed at him or not, and
everyone was afraid it might explode.

"Why?" continued Dan.

Then, getting no verbal answer, he went to the chair behind the bar, his
throne, and became once more an Atmosphere.

But by that time Marcel was sitting in a rocker in the middle of Jo
Morey’s cheerful living room, watching Donelle asleep upon the couch.
Jo was at her loom and both women whispered as they talked.

"I had to come, Mam’selle," said Marcel, "not because you need me or
because I want to act a part, making myself better or different; it
isn’t that.  I just want to stand a bit closer because I feel you are a
good woman.  I’ve always felt that, and my opinion hasn’t changed, only
I want you to know."

Jo tried not to smile; she felt she was taking of Marcel’s best under
false pretences.  Had she been what they all thought, this neighbourly
act would have bowed her with gratitude.  As it was she felt a deeper
sympathy for Marcel than she had ever felt, and she yearned to confide
in her—but she dared not.

"Nights I get to thinking," Marcel droned on while Jo’s busy fingers
flew at her task, "how it was with you when she came," Marcel nodded
toward the couch.

And now Jo’s face twitched.  How little any one guessed, or could guess,
how it had been with her at the time when another woman gave birth to
the girl.

"I got through somehow," she replied vaguely.

"We never get to a wall without finding an opening to crawl through,
Marcel.  It may be a pretty tight squeeze, but we get through."

"God knows those times are hard for a woman, Mam’selle."

"They are, bitter hard."

"And men folks don’t take them into account."

"How can they, Marcel?  It wouldn’t be reasonable to expect it."

"It’s queer, Mam’selle, how this—this thing that makes women willing to
go through it, goes on and on.  It means one thing to a woman; another
to a man, but it seems to pay, though the Lord knows why, or how."

Jo was thinking of the subtle something that she, poor Tom Gavot,
Marcel, and all the rest clung to. The thing that none of them
understood.

"I’m glad you’ve got her!" Marcel suddenly broke in fiercely, again
nodding toward the sleeping girl. "It just proves that you, Mam’selle,
had the woman’s reason, not the man’s.  That makes the difference.  A
woman cannot, a decent woman I mean, forgive a woman for acting like a
man; casting off her young and all that, but she can understand—this!
And isn’t she fine and rare, Mam’selle.  It’s another queer thing, how
many a child that comes in the straight and narrow way isn’t half what
it should be.  Sometimes they just haven’t spirit enough to stay, mine
didn’t, and then such children as—as yours, Mam’selle, seem to have
God’s blessing shining all over them."

So firmly and simply had Marcel accepted what, in reality, did not exist
that poor Jo felt the uselessness of confession drawing closer and
closer about her. For some days past she had been considering Marcel as
a recipient for the truth, for Jo hated to accept, without some protest,
the belief that she felt was spreading among her silent people.  It
might ease her own conscience to confide in Marcel; it might be a bit of
proof in the future, but unless she told all the truth she could hardly
hope to impress even the kindly Marcel, for she saw that the shabby,
down-trodden woman was accepting her as the most vital and absorbing
thing that had ever happened in her life.  Jo, in her real self, had
never inspired Marcel. Jo, in her present guise, not only claimed
interest, but aroused purpose.  She brought to life the struggling
nobility that was inherent in Marcel but which life had never before
utilized.

"I’m going to stand by her," Marcel nodded toward the couch, "by her and
you—so help me God!"

Jo went to the quivering woman and laid her hand on the thin, drooping
shoulder.  She was mutely thanking Marcel in the name of all women who
sadly needed such support.

"I’d rather have been a—a bad woman," Marcel quivered, using the term
almost reverently, "and have had such as this to comfort me, than be the
thing men think I ought to be, and have——"  She did not finish, but Jo
knew she meant those piteous little graves on the hillside.

"It don’t pay to be good, Mam’selle!"

"Yes; it does, Marcel, it does."  Jo’s voice shook.  "It pays to do your
best with the things that _are_, as you see them.  It’s when we try to
do what others think is good, others who haven’t our problems, that we
get lost.  We women folks have got to blaze our own way and stick to it.
No man, or man’s God, is ever going to side-track me.  And, Marcel, I
thank you for what you came to do for me.  There may be a time coming
when you can serve me, and I’m sure you will.  But if ever I did you a
good turn, you’ve more than paid me back to-day."

Long after Marcel had gone to her cheerless home Jo Morey thought and
thought, and as her heart grew soft her head grew hard.  While her lips
trembled her eyes glowed with fire, and from that moment she was able,
in a strange, perplexed way, to project herself into the position that
was falsely forced upon her.  As she accepted it, Langley’s wife was
largely eliminated.  It was Jo, herself, who had followed Langley to the
far places; it was she who had borne and reared his child out of her
great love. It was she, Jo Morey, who had stood by him, shielded him to
the end, and was now determined to fill his place and her own toward the
girl!—and to keep the secret!  Langley had loved fine things, books,
music. Jo recalled how he could fiddle and whistle, why, he could
imitate any bird that sang in the summer woods.  Well, somehow Donelle
should have those things!  Jo went later to the attic, and brought down
books, long-hidden books, among them one Langley had given her because
he loved some verses in it. Donelle should have learning, too.  Jo meant
to consult the priest about that.  In short, the girl should have her
chance.  Poor Jo; even then she did not take into consideration the harm
she was unconsciously doing the girl.  She felt all-powerful.  Her
starved and yearning affection went out to Donelle and met no obstacle,
for the girl, her health regained, was the sunniest, most grateful
creature that one could imagine.  No need to warn her to silence
concerning St. Michael’s, that experience was apparently as if it never
had been.

The legal steps had been taken, and Jo was in complete control.  The
gates of St. Michael’s were closed forever upon the girl known as Marie.
She now faced the world, though she did not know it, as Mam’selle’s
illegitimate child.

Sometimes this fact frightened Jo, but she knew her people fairly well.
The ugly belief about herself had been so silently borne that she
trusted that when Donelle went among them her advent would not loose
tongues.  For the rest; she meant constantly to guard the girl, meant,
in time, to send her away to school.  Jo dreamed long dreams and,
mentally keen and wise, was stupid in her ignorance of the more sordid
aspects of life.

"If they’ll only keep still!" she fervently hoped. And she based her
present life on that.

In the meantime Donelle, in a marvellous fashion, had appropriated
everything about her, Jo included. Nick was the girl’s abject slave.
Sometimes he’d turn his eyes on his mistress remorsefully, as he edged
toward Donelle; his affections were sorely torn.  The animals all
learned to watch for Donelle, Molly, the horse, was foolishly
sentimental.  The house rang with girlish laughter and song.  In the
once-still rooms a constant chatter went on whenever Jo and the girl
were together.  Donelle, especially, had much to say and she said it in
a strange, original way that set Jo thinking on many new lines.

How was she to keep this girl from knowing the truth, once she mingled
with others?  And how was she to keep her apart?  Donelle had a passion
for friendliness.  To Jo, who had lived her life alone, the girl’s
constant desire for conversation and companionship was little less than
appalling.  Then, too, Donelle was a startling combination of
precociousness and childishness.  Her mind had been well-trained; early
she had been utilized in teaching the younger children of the Home.  She
had absorbed all the books at her command; her imagination was
ungoverned, and some of the Sisters had shared confidences with her that
had added fuel to the inquisitive, bright mind.

There were times when Jo Morey felt absurdly young compared with
Donelle, young and crude. Then suddenly the light would fade from the
girl’s face, something, probably her incapacity to go back of her life
in the Home, would make her helpless, weak, and appealing.

So far, the little white house, Jo, and the animals, supplied Donelle’s
every need, but Mam’selle sensed complications for the future.  She
watched and listened while Donelle read and then enlarged romantically
upon what she read; she felt lost already in the face of the problem.

"Mamsey," Donelle suddenly exclaimed one night, "I want you to take off
those horrid old man-things. Let us burn them."

Jo was rigged out in her father’s ancient garments; she had been to the
outhouses working long and hard.

"What’s the matter with them?" she asked half-guiltily.

"They’re ugly and they’re smelly."  This was true.  "Besides, they hide
you and most folks wouldn’t find you.  They go with your scrouchy
frown," here Donelle mimicked Jo’s most forbidding manner, "and your
tight mouth.  Why, Mamsey, it took, even me, a long while to find you
behind these things.  I had to keep remembering how you looked while I
was so sick in the long, dark nights; how you looked when you
kept—It—away."

The vague look crept to Donelle’s eyes, she rarely beat against the wall
that hid her past.  For that, Jo was hourly thankful.

"But of course now I can always find you, Mamsey. I just say to the
thing you put up in front of you, ’Get out of the way’ and then I see
you, my kind, my dear, faithful, blessed Mamsey, shining!"

Poor Jo as a shining object was rather absurd; but the colour rose to
her dark face, as it might have at the tones of a lover.

"You’re a beautiful Mamsey when you don’t hide.  I suppose my father
could find you, and that’s why he wanted to bring me to you.  Mamsey,
did you love my father?"

Poor Jo, standing by the stove, her ugly garments steaming and hot,
looked at the girl as a frightened culprit might; then she saw that the
question was put from the most primitive viewpoint and so she said:

"Yes, I loved him."

"Of course.  Well, now, Mamsey, will you let me burn those ugly old,
smelly clothes?"

"No; but I’ll put them in the attic, child."

"That’s a good Mamsey.  And the scowl and the tight mouth, will you put
them in the attic, too?"

Jo grinned.  The relaxation was something more complete than a smile.

"You’re daft," was all she said, but her deep, splendid eyes met the
clear, golden ones with pathetic surrender.

And then, later on toward spring, when Jo was revelling in the richness
of her life and putting away the thoughts that disturbed her concerning
Donelle’s future, several things occurred that focussed her upon
definite action.

She and the girl were sitting in the living room one evening while a
soft, penetrating rain pattered against the windows.

"That rain," Jo remarked, her knitting needles clicking, "will get to
the heart of things, and make them think of growing."  Donelle looked up
from her book.  Her eyes were full of warmth and sunlight.

"You say beautiful things sometimes, Mamsey."  Then quite irrelevantly,
"Why doesn’t any one ever come here?  I should think everyone would be
here all the time, other places are so ugly and other people so—so—well,
so snoozy."

What Jo had feared rose to the surface.  She stopped knitting and gazed
helplessly at Donelle.

"At first," the girl went on musingly, "I thought there were no folks;
it was so empty outdoors.  Then I saw people once in a while crawling
along.  Why do they crawl, Mamsey?  You and I don’t.  And then I ran
around a bit, when no one was looking, and there are some horrid places,
one place where only men go.  It is nasty, dirty, and bad.  It sort of
makes all the houses seem smudgy.  There was a big man at the door, and
he saw me and he said, ’So you’re Mam’selle Jo Morey’s girl!’" just like
that.  And with this Donelle impersonated Dan Kelly so that his merest
acquaintance would have recognized him.  "And I made a very nice bow,"
to Jo’s blank horror, Donelle showed how she had done it, "and I said ’I
am, sir; and who are you?’ And he put his hand in his pockets, so!  and
he said, ’I’m Dan, Dan Kelly, and any time you want a little chat, come
to the side door.  Mrs. Kelly and I will make you welcome.’  And—what is
the matter, Mamsey?"

For Jo’s knitting had fallen to the floor, and her face was haggard.

"You—you must never go near that place again," she gasped.

"I never will, Mamsey, for the smell kept coming back to me for days and
days.  And the man’s eyes—I saw them in my sleep, they were dirty eyes!"

"My God!" moaned Jo, but Donelle was off on another trail.

"But Mamsey, why don’t we have folks in our lives.  Is it because it is
winter, and the roads bad?"

"Yes——" this was said doubtfully; but something had to be said.

"Well, I’m glad of that, for I love people.  I even liked some of the
Sisters.  There was one who made me guess whenever I saw her, it was
Sister Mary, she was little and pretty and had a sorry face as if she
was lost and couldn’t find the way out.  Almost I wanted to ask her to
run away with me every time I tried to do it myself.  And the babies
were so jolly, Mamsey.  I used to play that I could make nice, happy
little lives for them.  There was one," Donelle’s eyes dimmed, "Patsy I
called her, her name was Patricia—such a big, hard name for such a
cunning little tot.  I fixed up a perfectly dear life for Patsy, but
poor Patsy didn’t seem to want any kind of a life.  She’d rather lie in
my arms and rock. I used to sing to her.  Then she died!"

The tragedy touched Jo strangely.  She had heard little of the details
of Donelle’s institution life; but those details, few as they were, had
been vital and impressive.

"Yes, Patsy died.  I missed her terribly.  Oh! Mamsey, I couldn’t do
without folks.  Why, I want to tell you something; you like to have me
tell you everything, don’t you, Mamsey?"

"Yes; yes."  Jo took up her knitting, dropped two stitches, made an
impatient remark under her breath, and caught them up.  "If you didn’t
tell me everything I’d feel pretty bad," she went on lamely.

"Well, it’s this way, Mamsey.  I don’t cry any more because I can’t
remember.  I begin with you and me.  You see what I don’t remember is
like the preface in a book; I never read it and it doesn’t matter,
anyway.  So we begin—you and I, and everyone is supposed to know about
us without telling; and the things that happened before are just helps
to get us into the first chapter.  Then, after that, folks come along
and we don’t ask them any questions, they just get mixed up with our
story and on we all go until that stupid old word End, brings us up with
a jolt.  Mamsey, dear, I want to get all tangled with stories and
stories and people and people; I want to be part of it.  I’m willing to
pay, you have to, all the books show that.  I’ll suffer and struggle
along, and fall and get up again, but I must be part of it all."

Jo had drawn a full needle out, leaving all the helpless stitches
gaping.  "Lord!" she murmured under her breath, and at the moment
decided to go to Father Mantelle on the morrow and get what help she
could.

Aloud she said, quite calmly, very tenderly for her, poor soul:

"I wish you’d take that old book," it was the one Langley had given her;
there was no name or date in it, "and read me some of those verses that
sort of make you feel good, good and—sleepy."

"I just love this," Donelle said, quick to fall into Jo’s mood:

    The scarlet of the maples can shake me like a cry
      Of bugles going by.
    And my lonely spirit thrills
      To the frosty asters like smoke upon the hills.


"Why, you don’t like the words?  Your eyes are wet, Mamsey!"

"I’m tired, my eyes ache with the knitting and weaving.  The winter
always gets me."  Jo was gathering up her work.  "We must go to bed,
child. I’m glad spring is coming and we can work in the open."

But Donelle was singing, to a tune of her own, other lines of the
interrupted poem:

    And my heart is like a rhyme
      With the yellow and the purple keeping time.



                             *CHAPTER VIII*

                    *THE PRIEST AND THE ROAD MENDER*


The following day was warm.  Jo went to the upper pasture early in the
day to make plans for the spring sowing.  It was a day full of promise;
winter seemed almost a memory.

Donelle had been left to finish the work about the house.  It should
have taken her until Jo returned, but things flew through the girl’s
hands, she was so eager to get out of doors.  She sang and gavotted with
Nick who, by the way, had sneaked into hiding rather than make a choice
as to whether he should follow Jo or remain with Donelle.  When he came
forth all responsibility was ended.  He remained with Donelle!

"Nick," she said presently, "how would you like to take a walk?"

A frantic thump gave proof of Nick’s feelings.

"All right, come on!  We’ve got to find folks if folks won’t find us,
Nick.  I’m pretty nearly starved to death for folks!"

Donelle made a wide sweep back of Dan’s Place. Jo’s words were in her
mind, but more, the memory of Dan’s "dirty eyes" warned her.  She took
to the woods on the river side, and was soon fascinated by the necessity
of jumping from rock to rock in order to escape the mushy, mossy earth.
Nick was frantic with delight.  Jo never would jump or nose around among
the trees where such delectable scents lurked.

Finally the two emerged on the highway a mile beyond the little cluster
of houses which was Point of Pines, and nothing was in sight but a
lonely, boyish figure apparently carrying mud from one place on the road
and depositing it in another.

"That’s an awfully funny thing to do," Donelle mused.  "Maybe he’s a
moon calf."

Donelle had seen Marcel and Longville, had even talked with Marcel and
liked her.  She had heard Jo speak of others, the Gavots among them, but
they were mere names to which, occasionally, Jo had added an
illuminating description.

"That low-down beast, Gavot," Mam’selle had picturesquely said to Marcel
once when not noticing Donelle’s presence, "ought to have Tom taken from
him.  That boy will be driven to Dan’s, if we don’t look out.  We ought
to raise money and give the boy a start."

"I shouldn’t wonder," mused Donelle, now, standing in the road and
eyeing the only other figure on the landscape, "I shouldn’t wonder if
that was Gavot’s Tom.  I’ll just see!"  So she walked on sedately and
came upon her quarry unexpectedly.

"I believe," she said, showing her teeth in a friendly smile, "I believe
you must be Tom Gavot."

The boy turned abruptly, spilling as he did so the shovelful of soft
earth he was carrying.

"And—you—are Mam’selle’s girl!"

Tom was very handsome with a frank, appealing look that seemed to
deprecate the rags and sordidness that hampered his appearance.

"Yes.  What are you doing?"

"Mending the roads.  And you?"

"Taking a walk on the road you mend."

They both laughed at this, Tom flinging his head back, Donelle folding
her arms over her slim body.

"How did you know me?" asked Tom.

"Why—why, I heard Mamsey talk about your father."

Tom’s face clouded.  His father, like his rags, hampered his very
thoughts.

"How did you know me?"  Donelle was growing shy.

"I think maybe you won’t like it if I tell you."

Tom felt very old compared to this girl in her short skirts and long,
light braids.  He had never felt young in his life, but he had inherited
that ease and grace of manner which his father abused so.

"I should just love to hear," Donelle was fingering Nick’s ears
nervously.

"Well, then, I spied on you.  All winter, I spied. I heard them talking
about you, and I had to see for myself.  I always have to know things
for myself."

"So do I.  But after you spied," Donelle laughed, her yellow eyes
shining, "what did you think?"

"Oh!  I don’t know."  Tom shifted his position. "I thought you were all
right."

They both laughed again at that.

"Are you mostly on the roads?" Donelle asked presently.  Nick was
growing restless under her hands.

"Yes, when I’m not somewhere else.  I fish some, and Father Mantelle
teaches me and I read a lot, but I’m on the road a good deal."

"I think," Donelle beamed, "I think your Father Mantelle is going to
teach me.  I heard Mamsey talking about it.  Does he keep school?"

"No.  He’s the curé.  He teaches only a few.  He knows everything in the
world.  He once lived in Quebec.  He’s old so they sent him here."

"Well!"  Donelle suddenly turned.  "I’m going now, but I shall often
walk on the road."  She flung this back mischievously.  At a distance
her shyness disappeared.

A few days later she met Tom again, this time she was more at her ease.
They were young, lonely, and the spring helped thaw the superficial
crust of convention.

It was after they had seen each other several times that Tom confided to
Donelle his feeling about roads.

"They’re like friends," he said, blushing and laughing.

"A road doesn’t mean anything to me," Donelle replied, "but something to
walk or ride on, something that gets you somewhere."

"Yes, it does get you somewhere, but you don’t always have to ride or
walk on it.  If you think about it, it gets you somewhere," said Tom.

Donelle paused to whistle Nick back, the dog was after something in the
bushes.

"You’re very queer," she said at last eyeing Tom furtively.  "Now I
think about dogs and cats and birds as real, but I never thought about a
road being real."

Donelle was looking at the ground as if it were something alive upon
which she had stepped inadvertently.

"Tell me more about roads," she said.

"There isn’t much, I’ve never told any one before—they would laugh."

"I will not laugh."  And indeed Donelle was very serious.

"It began when I was a little chap.  I didn’t have much to play with and
a boy has to have something. I used to wonder where the road went and
when I was only five I got to the top of the hill and looked beyond.  My
father walloped me for running away. I wasn’t really running away, but
of course he wouldn’t have understood, and my mother was frightened.  I
didn’t go again for a long time.  I was always a bit of a coward and I
remembered the whipping."

"I don’t believe you are a coward, Tom Gavot."

"I am, a little.  You see, I hate to be hurt, I sort of—dread it, but
once I make the start, I forget and go on like everyone else."

"I think that’s being braver than most people. If you are afraid and
still do things, that’s not cowardly."  Donelle spoke loyally and Tom
gave her a long side glance of gratitude.

The spring was in Tom’s blood, this lately-come friend was developing
him rapidly.

"Well, anyway, by the time I was seven I managed the hill again.  From
that time on I went every day. I think there must be a dent in a rock
where I used to sit, playing with the road."

"Playing with the road!  Playing with the road!" Donelle repeated.  "Oh!
but you are queer.  What did you play, Tom Gavot?"

"Oh!  I sent people up and down it.  The people I did not like I sent
down and never let them come back."

"That is perfectly lovely.  Go on, Tom."

"And then I made up my mind that when I was big enough I’d run away with
my mother.  I always meant to explain to her about the road, but I
didn’t. Sometimes I fancied that people would come over the road
bringing to me the things I wanted."

"What things, Tom?"

"Oh! all sorts of things that boys want and don’t get.  After I grew
older and Father Mantelle began to teach me, I still felt as if the road
was a friend, but I did not play with it any more.  Then one summer some
surveyors and engineers came and one man, he was a great sort, let me
talk to him and he made me think about roads in quite another way.  I
tell you, my road had got pretty rutty, so I began filling in the holes.
It was the only decent thing I could do when I’d used it so; and besides
it kept me near the men and they helped me to know things that I really
wanted."

"What, Tom Gavot?"

"Why, I want to learn how to make roads.  When I can, I am going away
and I’m not coming back until I can do more than fill in holes."

"I shall miss you dreadfully when you go!" said Donelle.  It all seemed
imminent and real to her now. "Of course you must go, but—well, the road
will be pretty lonely until you come back."  Then the girl looked up.

"I sort of feel," she said whimsically, "that I ought to be the right
kind—of a girl to walk on your road, Tom Gavot."

"Well, you are."

"No, I haven’t told Mamsey that I know you. I’ve come with Nick when
Mamsey was off on the farm.  She thinks I’m spinning or weaving, but I
hurry through and get out.  I’ve hoped that someone would tell her, but
they haven’t."

"Would she mind if she knew?" asked Tom, and his dark face reddened.

"I don’t know, but I think I must _think_ she would or I would have
told.  She and I talk of everything right out; everything but you."

For a moment the two walked on in silence. Then Tom spoke.

"You’d better tell her," he said.  Then with a brave attempt at
cheerfulness: "When I come back, Donelle, all the world can see us
walking on the road and it won’t matter."

"I’m going to tell Mamsey to-day," murmured Donelle.  Somehow she felt
as if she had wronged Tom.  "This very day."

Gavot looked into her face.  He suddenly felt old and detached as if he
had got a long way ahead of her on the road.

"Your eyes are a strange colour," he said, "they look as if there was a
light behind them shining through."

They both laughed at that, and then Donelle whistled Nick to her and
turned.

"I’m going to tell Mamsey," she said, "good bye."

Tom looked after her and his eyes grew hard and lonely.

"Good-bye," he repeated.  "Good-bye," but the girl was out of sight.

That afternoon she told Jo, but she advanced toward her confession by so
indirect a route that she mislead Mam’selle.

"I wish you’d tell me about Tom Gavot," she said.

"Why?  What does Tom matter?  Poor lad, he’s got a beast of a father."

"Was his mother a beast?"

"No.  She was a sad, hunted soul."

"It is too bad she died, if she had waited Tom would have taken her on
his road."

Jo looked up from her sewing.

"What are you talking about?" she asked.

"Tom Gavot.  He used to play with the road and now he mends it.  Some
day he’s going to make roads.  They’ll be splendid roads, I’m sure,
and——"

"What do you know of Tom Gavot, Donelle?"

Jo started as she had when Donelle had told her of Dan Kelly.

"Mamsey, don’t be angry, I know I should have told you.  I don’t know
why I didn’t, but while you were away I hurried and got through my work
and then I was so lonely.  I went out on the road—Nick and I, and I
found Tom Gavot."

"You’ve seen him—often?"

And now Jo’s eyes were stern and frightened.

"Why, yes, I suppose so.  I didn’t count.  It seems as if I had always
known him.  He’s wonderful. Besides knowing about roads, he knows books,
all kinds.  Father Mantelle teaches him.  I’d like to go, too, and learn
from Father Mantelle."

"Well, you’ll not study with Tom Gavot!"  Jo was perplexed.  She decided
to go the very next day to the priest.

"Why not, Mamsey?"

"One sort of learning for girls; another for boys."  Jo snapped her
thread.

"I wonder why, Mamsey!  They both travel the same road."

The word made Jo nervous.

"No, they do not!" she said sharply.

"Well, I shall.  You can choose your road, can’t you, Mamsey?  I mean
the sort of things you learn?"

"No."

"It’s all wrong then."

"Stop asking stupid questions, child, about things you do not know," Jo
broke in.

"But that’s why I ask questions, because I don’t know.  Are they
stupid?"

"Yes, very.  Now come, Donelle, and help me get supper."

It was mid-afternoon of the next day when Jo started for Father
Mantelle’s.  Her errand was a very simple one: she wanted the old man to
teach Donelle.  Not while he was instructing Tom Gavot, however!

As she walked along the muddy road, picking her way as she could, Jo was
thinking of how much or how little she should tell of her relations with
Donelle.  She had grown to accept what she felt people believed and it
no longer caused her indignation; there were graver problems.  But the
incident that Donelle had related of her conversation with Dan Kelly had
thoroughly aroused her.  Her consciousness of injustice could not save
her from the shock of the brutal meaning of Dan’s attitude.

"They’ll get to think the girl’s common property if I don’t set her
above their reach," muttered Jo, and then wondered whether it would be
safer to lay the truth bare to Father Mantelle.  Would it be safer for
Donelle to come forth in her true character, as the daughter of a
supposed murderer, or to remain as she was, the supposed love-child of a
deserted woman? For herself Jo Morey took little heed; the self-respect
that had always upheld her came to her support now.  Had Donelle been
hers, she believed her inheritance would have been better than that
which was rightfully hers from her real mother.

"A minister’s words can’t make or mar these things," she muttered, "and
since my blood doesn’t flow in the girl’s veins, my common sense can
save her, God helping me!"

As she plodded on poor Jo thought of Langley himself.  She had never
believed the accusation brought against him.  She could not, but what
proof had she to support her belief?  And somewhere, in the world,
possibly, that man was still alive who had brought forth the charge.
Might he not at this late day materialize and menace Donelle were she,
Jo, to let the full light of truth on her?

What reason was there for that strange man to want to get possession of
Langley’s child?  Was he afraid of her?  Did he want to silence her,
or—and here poor Jo stopped in the road and breathed hard—had he
believed that Donelle was his?

For a moment Jo grew dizzy.  Suppose he did think so.  How could she
prove the contrary? Would her insistence as to resemblance or her innate
belief in her love going true, weigh against any proof which that
unknown man might have?

Less and less did Jo believe that Donelle would ever recall the past.
And if she did, what would it avail?

"I think I will have to let the poor child stagger along with me tacked
to her past," she concluded, "her chances for safety are better, though
she may never know it.  I may be able to keep her from hearing, people
do forget, and my money and her learning may help."  Jo sighed and
trudged on.

The relations between Father Mantelle and Mam’selle were very peculiar.
The old priest admired her intelligence and was amused by her keen wit
and independence.  He simply could not account for her and that added to
his interest.  He had not been in Point of Pines long, he rarely left
it, and never had company unless a passing father stopped for
refreshment or a report.  In short, Mantelle was as much a mystery as
Mam’selle, and for that very reason they unconsciously respected each
other.

They never discussed religion, but Mantelle’s attitude toward Jo had
been always one of esteem and neighbourliness.

"In loneliness the poor soul has worked out her own redemption,"
Mantelle had decided.  At first he had pondered upon Mam’selle’s
loneliness, but had never questioned it, having much sympathy for any
one who, for any reason, could not mingle freely with his fellows.

When Jo entered the priest’s house his servant, an old Indian woman,
showed her to a rear room in which she had never been before.

It surprised Jo by its comfort and even luxury. Books lined the walls,
rugs covered the rude board flooring; there were comfortable chairs,
broad tables, and a clear fire burning on the spotless hearth.

The old man sat before the fire, and as he looked up and saw Jo his
delicate face flushed.  Something in his manner caught her attention at
once.  Subtle as it was, she was keenly sensitive of it.

"He’s heard!" thought Jo, and stiffened.

Father Mantelle had heard and he thought, he certainly hoped, that the
erring daughter had come to confess.  It was not in the church, but that
did not matter; more was dragged out of heavily-burdened souls in that
comfortable room than was ever got in the small church on the hill.

The priest meant to be very kind, very tolerant; he knew the world
outside Point of Pines and was extremely human when men and women
deserved his kindness.  But until they were brought to the proper state
of mind, mercy must be withheld, and this disclosure of Jo’s past had
shaken him tremendously.  Certainly whatever he had thought about her,
he had not thought this!  He felt that he, in his office and character,
had been grossly deceived.  He had been permitted to associate on equal
terms with a woman outside the pale.  It was outrageous.

Something intangible, but strangely like Dan Kelly’s manner toward
Donelle, marked Mantelle’s attitude at the present moment.  A
half-concealed familiarity, an assumption of authority.

"Well, well, you have come, daughter," he said, and pointed Jo to the
chair across the hearth.  He thought Jo had been driven to him in her
extremity, he had never addressed her as "daughter" before.

"Father," Jo began bluntly, "I’ve come to ask your help with this young
girl I’ve adopted."

The priest thought Mam’selle hard.  Indeed Longville had told him, in
strict privacy, that she was hard and defiant.  For the good of her own
soul and the soul of other women likely to defy the laws of God and man,
she must be brought to a repentant state.  Now that he understood
conditions, Mantelle was prepared to reduce Jo to that desirable state.
He smiled kindly, blandly; he was a bit daunted but he realized that,
erring as Mam’selle was, she was no ordinary woman.

He kindly led her on.

"Though you have seen your duty late, daughter," he said gently, "there
is still time to strive for the child’s best good."

Then Jo told him quite concisely of her desires for Donelle.

"I want to have her learn all that you can teach her, Father," she said,
"and after that—well, I have no plans, but my money and life will be
devoted to the girl."

There was a suspicion of defiance and bitterness in Mam’selle’s tone.

Now Mantelle had only seen Jo’s adopted daughter at a distance.  Having
no authority over the parish of St. Michael’s he had not connected the
girl’s past with the institution there.  He had asked Longville whence
Mam’selle Morey had brought the girl, but as Longville did not know, he
had let the matter drop as non-essential, but it puzzled him.

"You think it wise to keep the child in Point of Pines?" he asked.  "You
think it for her good, after all these years, to—to bring the
unfortunate past to the—the surface?"

"Yes," Jo answered and her lips drew close. She was thinking of Dan
Kelly, but she believed Father Mantelle and she could outwit him.

"My daughter, do you think this would be fair to the girl?"

"Why not?"

"Is it right, or just, that she should suffer for the wrong of
a—another?"

"No, it is not right."  Jo said this as a general truth.

"But you think your money can buy favour? Mam’selle, you are wrong.
There are some things money, not even years of blameless life, can buy.

"Your people, I am sure, have treated you kindly, compassionately, and
they will continue to do so, if you show the proper spirit.  But you
must not, daughter, think that gold can wipe away the result of defiance
to the laws of God and man.  You must be repentant, prove that you have
the best interests of this girl at heart, and then, then only can the
future be secure."

The thin, delicate face was pale and stern, the deep eyes burned.  Not
only the sanctity of Mantelle’s authority, but his position among men
was being questioned by the woman before him.  And Jo was defiant, there
was no doubt about that.

"Your kind heart, daughter, has betrayed you into error.  Before
bringing this child here you should have consulted me.  Much might have
been saved for us all."

"What would you have advised?"  Mam’selle dropped her eyes and the
forbidding brows seemed to hide every kindly expression of her face.

"I should have strongly advised against letting the innocent suffer for
the guilty!"  Mantelle’s voice was stern.

"Yes, but she had to have a home; care, the best possible."

"To give that, daughter, is not in your power. In violating the most
sacred emotions of life, in spurning the very safeguards of society, you
put yourself outside the pale, as far as the child’s best good is
concerned.  Women should fully understand this before they take the
fatal step.  The price must be paid!  If, by assuming your duty at this
late day you could condone the past, I would help you, but I cannot
advise keeping this girl here.  For her truest good, she should be
saved, where only such unfortunates can be saved."

"And that is?"  Mam’selle’s voice was slow and even.

"In the bosom of the church, daughter.  Send the child to St. Michael’s;
let them train her there for a life of devotion and service in a field
where temptation, inherited weakness——"

Mantelle got no further for Jo—laughed!

The priest rose in his chair, white with anger.

"You laugh?" he said as if his hearing had betrayed him.

"Forgive me, Father, but it struck me as being rather hard on the girl
that, for a wrong she never committed, she should be condemned to—to
exile; not even given a chance of her own."

"You stole that from her, daughter!"

"I?  Why, how could I?  And is the Church able to accept whatever
service, my—this young girl might give, while the world is unable to do
so?"

"It can."

Then Mam’selle stood up.  Her patient, work-worn hands were folded
before her, she raised her deep, sad eyes.

"Father," she said calmly, "you feel that you have a right to assume
this attitude toward me, without even hearing my side?  My life, as you
know it, has done nothing to save me from this—this mistake of yours.
You have taken my money, what help I could give, and I believed that you
were my friend."

"I am; your real and only friend."  Mantelle was deceived by the tone
and words.

"You have shown me that a man cannot be a friend to a woman!  He cannot
give her justice."

"You are not speaking to a man, daughter!"

The desire to laugh again consumed Jo, but she mastered it.

"In that capacity alone did I regard you, Father Mantelle, and you have
failed me.  For the rest, I let no one stand between my conscience and
my God! No.  If I ask help again it will be from a woman; she at least
can understand."

"A woman is hardest upon women in such cases as yours, Mam’selle!"

Jo was thankful that at last the priest had dropped the objectionable
"daughter."

"She will be the first who will turn against you."

"And was it a woman who came to you, Father, with my—my trouble?"

Mantelle’s face flushed and Jo shook her head sadly.

"I see it was not.  So the first and second who have turned against me
have been men.  Good day, Father, and"—Mam’selle stopped at the door—"if
you ever need help in giving that poor Tom Gavot his chance, I stand
ready to do what I have always promised to do, and I do it for the sake
of his mother."

Condemnation and contempt rang in Jo’s voice. It was her last arrow and
it sank home.

The priest was practical and having done his Christian duty he could
afford to be human.

"It speaks well for your good sense, Mam’selle," he said; "that you do
not utterly shut yourself away from your people."  Then Mantelle paused,
"Mam’selle!" he said.

"Yes, Father."  Jo turned and lifted her deep eyes to his face.

"I wonder if you _have_ something to tell me that I should know in
justice to you?"

"You should have thought of that first, Father. It is too late now."

"We may"—the man’s recent manner fell from him like an unnecessary
garment—"be friends, still?"

Again Jo laughed.  She felt that she had by some kindly power regained
something of her lost position with this lonely old man.  Since he could
not understand her, save her, he was willing to accept her.

"Father, I have too few friends to cast them off heedlessly."

And then she went out, more of a mystery than ever to Mantelle.



                              *CHAPTER IX*

                           *WOMAN AND WOMAN*


It was early June when Mam’selle heard that the Walled House, the
country place of some rich people from the States, was to be opened.

It had been closed for many years, but recently the master had died and
his wife, with a staff of servants and an old, blind, white-haired man,
had returned.

The moment Jo heard that, her spirits rose.  Here was a most
unlooked-for opportunity for advice and, perhaps, assistance.

The Lindsays of the Walled House had always mingled freely with their
neighbours; Mr. Lindsay was a Canadian.  Jo, in her earlier days, had
often served them; had sold her linens and wools to them at, what seemed
to her, fabulous prices.  Mrs. Lindsay, having taken a fancy to
Mam’selle, often tried to annex her to her establishment, but to that
the independent Jo would not consent.

"Well, Mam’selle," Alice Lindsay had said during the last interview they
had had, "if I ever can help you, please let me."

"I’ll go to her now!" decided Mam’selle.

A week later, dressed in her absurd best, she made the journey in her
caliche.  Her days of sitting on the shaft by Molly, her economies in
clothes, were over, she was living up to her ambitions for Donelle and
her defiance of Point of Pines’ morality. Outwardly, Jo was fairly
awe-inspiring and even Dan Kelly was impressed; inwardly, Jo was a good
deal chastened by her visit to Father Mantelle.

There were doubts now in her heart as to the role she had assumed for
Donelle’s sake.  Perhaps it would be better to let the girl shoulder her
father’s possible crime and her foolish mother’s wrongdoing, rather than
the disguise which Jo had self-sacrificingly wrought for her.

And yet, even now she could not bring herself to lay the dead Langley
open to a charge she did not believe, but could not disprove, and the
girl, herself, to danger.  And so as she drove to the Walled House she
was very quiet, very subdued, but her faith was strong.  She meant to
give as much as she dared of the past to the woman whose sympathies and
assistance she was about to interest.  She was ready to put all her
future wools and linens at Mrs. Lindsay’s disposal in return for any
help she could obtain for the betterment of Donelle.  Poor Jo was ready
to abdicate, if that were best.  After her months of happiness with the
girl, after living in the dear companionship and love of the sunny young
nature, she was willing to stand aside for the girl’s future good.

"She shall not be condemned to death!" Jo snorted, and Molly reared.
"St. Michael’s shall not get her.  But there must be a place for her,
and I love her well enough to get out of her way.  I only took her for
the best, her best, and if I cannot keep her, I can let her go!"

Jo found Mrs. Lindsay on the beautiful shaded porch, found her changed,
but none the less lovely and kindly.

"Why, it is the dear Mam’selle of the wonderful linens!" Alice Lindsay
cried, stretching out her slim hands in welcome.  "I have been thinking
of you. How glad I am to see you.  You have heard?"  Mrs. Lindsay looked
down at the thin black gown she wore.

"I have heard," Jo said and her throat grew dry.

"I—I have come back because my husband seems more here than anywhere,
now.  He loved the Walled House so much; he loved his Canada,
Mam’selle."

Jo was thinking of two bleak, lonely weeks in her own past when she had
stolen away and gone to Langley’s deserted cabin because he, _the he_
that she had known and loved—seemed more there than anywhere else.  She
had buried her hatred and bitterness toward him there.  She knew it,
now, as she had never known it before.  The two women were drawing close
by currents of sympathy.

They had tea together, they talked of future linens and wools, and then
Jo told her story, taking small heed of the impression she was giving.
She was blindly thinking only of Donelle, and Mrs. Lindsay did not hurt
her by question or voiced doubt.

That night, when a great silence reigned over the Walled House, broken
only by the soft, tender tones of a violin played at a distance in the
moonlit garden, Alice Lindsay wrote a long letter to Anderson Law, her
father’s oldest friend, her own faithful advisor and closest confidant.

Law was an artist and critic.  Old Testy he was called by those whom he
often saved from the folly of their false ambitions; The Final Test, by
those who came humbly, tremblingly, faithfully to him with their great
hopes.  To a few he was Man-Andy, the name that Alice Lindsay had given
to him when she was a little child.


MAN-ANDY: I have had a wonderful day.  I have waited to tell you that
your advice as to my coming here was good.  I know it is cowardly to run
away from one’s troubles, dear.  Troubles, as you say, have their divine
lessons, but I could not believe, at first, that I would find Jack here.
I dreaded the emptiness and loneliness, but you were right, right!  I am
not desolate here and I have the blessed feeling of peace that can only
come when one has chosen the right course.

I felt that everything worth while had been taken: Jack, my babies.
Only the money remained, and that I hated, because it could not keep
what I wanted.  But you were splendid when you said, "make the thing you
despise a blessing!"  I’ve tried, Man-Andy, to make it a blessing to
others, and it is becoming a blessing to me.  I feel I am using it for
Jack and for the babies and that they are making it sacred.  I feared
that in this big, empty house the ghosts would haunt me; not the strange
old history ghosts of great ladies and dashing men who used to forget
their homesickness for their mother-countries by revelling in this
shelter in the New World.  I did not think of them, for do you not
remember Jack’s comical ghost hunts?  How he joked about it, saying that
he’d yet lure some old English or French aristocrat to stay and sanctify
our presence by his sponsorship? But oh!  I did fear the memories of my
man’s dear, jovial ways, the pretty babble of my little babies.

And then—I know I am rambling shamefully, but I cannot sleep, the
moonlight is flooding the garden—I hear Professor Revelle’s violin.
Andy, he has actually recovered to the extent of music when he thinks I
do not know.  As I look at the dear old soul, so like a gentle wraith, I
remember how you and father and Jack adored his music and how Jack
grieved when illness and poverty stilled it.  But you found him,
Man-Andy, and you lent him to me to save, and his music at least has
been given back to him.  Not with its old fire and passion—I think if
any demand were made upon him he might be aroused.  I may take lessons
myself some day.  But he plays dreamily, softly when he is alone,
generally in the garden and at night.  He forgets his blindness then.

But to-day I had a caller.  I wonder if you remember the nice Mam’selle
Jo Morey that Jack and I used to talk about?  You have some of her
linens in your studio.  You may recall the incident of the summer when
we told you of her troubles; her desertion by a man of the place and the
death of her imbecile sister? I had almost forgotten it myself, so much
has happened since then, but it all came back to me to-day when she came
with her story.

Andy, her story is quite the most tragic a woman can have; such things
happen even here.  She did not cringe or whine, I would have hated her
if she had; you know how I feel about such things.  My Mam’selle Jo does
not whine!

There was a child, and now that Mam’selle can afford to do well by it,
she has taken it.  She has done this so quietly and simply that it has
shocked the breath out of the very moral Point of Pines.  Still, before
the breath left the body of the hamlet, it hissed!  And when it recovers
its breath it is going to hound this poor Mam’selle, whose shoes it is
not worthy to touch.  It’s going to hound and snarl and snap, two of its
inhabitants have done it already, and the Mam’selle Morey is not going
to have her child harried for what she is innocent of!

Isn’t this a situation?

The Mam’selle knows her world, however, and all worlds are pretty much
alike, Andy, and she is prepared, in exchange for her child’s happiness,
to renounce her!  It almost broke my heart as she told me; she saw no
other way and she fiercely demands that justice be shown the girl.  I
tell you it takes the fine, large courage to renounce, when love tempts.
Mam’selle loves this child as such children often are loved,
passionately because they cost so much.

And this Mam’selle Morey came to me.  She felt I could understand,
advise.  Well, I do understand because of Jack’s attitude toward such
things, and yours and father’s.  Thank God, the men I have known have
helped me uphold my standard, and I understand because of my dear, dear
babies, who left so much of themselves with me when they had to go away.

I grew hot and cold as I listened, Man-Andy, and I grew puffed up and
chesty, too.  How I gloried, for the moment, in my power. It’s all right
to have power if you keep it in its proper place.

I kept saying to myself, "Mam’selle, you and I will win out! And you
shall not be the sacrifice, either!  Together we can play the game; two
women ought to be able to see that one innocent child has its rights!"

Man-Andy, I rolled up my sleeves, then and there, and that dear old poem
you love came to my mind, it often does; that one about tears:

    By every cup of sorrow that ye had
      Loose us from tears and make us see aright
    How each hath back what once he stayed to weep
      Homer, his sight; David, his little lad?


I thought of dear old blind Revelle; he has something back, even though
much is withheld.  He has safety, and his fiddle. And then I vowed that
this brave, strong Mam’selle Morey should have her little lass.  She
shall not be taken from her; I will help, and give the girl her chance,
I am quite fierce about it. And my Mam’selle shall keep her in the end,
somehow I’ll manage that.  With other things, this girl shall get a
comprehension of—her mother!

Man-Andy, tell me what you think of all this and tell me of yourself; of
the Norvals, and the rest of the folks I love but do not need just now.
And tell me of your sad duty, dear man. Do you go every week to the
Lonely Place?  Some day, when it is all past, you will come here to this
Walled House.  You and I will go out on the highway and kneel under one
of the tall black and white-tipped crosses and give thanks!  Man-Andy,
to-night I can give thanks that I am being used, that the power my money
can give is being used, and that I am not left to my tears.


To this long outpouring of the heart Anderson Law replied within the
month.


MY GIRL: you have only proved yourself.  It took a little time, but I
knew you were not the sort to hide your face and run. Revelle and his
fiddle are about the best combination I know, I certainly hadn’t counted
on the fiddle.  I thought with care and safety he’d find peace and I
knew he would be good for you; but I feared his blindness would kill his
music.

It’s a great thing, too, girl, that your children did not shut the door
of your motherhood when they went out.  You’d hardly have been worthy of
them if you had not learned the lesson they taught.

As for us here: Jim Norval is doing some good things in his moments of
genius.  When plain talent grips him, he’s not so good.  Katherine, from
perfectly exalted motives, is driving him to hell.  It’s the most
puzzling situation I ever saw.  You cannot advise a man to leave a
high-natured, moral, devoted wife just because she’s pushing him to
perdition and depriving him of his birthright, but that’s the situation
in the Norval family. Their child somehow did not get its lesson over!

The Lonely House still holds my duty, but if the time ever comes when I
can stand beside you under the cross, there will be many things, hard to
bear now, that will then make thanks possible.  ANDY.


Law’s letter came after Donelle had entered the Walled House where she
was to stay from Monday till Friday of each week.  The week-ends
belonged to Mam’selle Jo!

"For awhile, Mam’selle," Alice Lindsay had said, holding Jo’s hands as
she had made plain her understanding, "I will teach the child myself and
learn to know her.  We need not plan far ahead.  There is a dear, old,
blind musician living with me; if the girl has any inclination for
music, she will be a god-send to him."

"I am sure she will have, Mrs. Lindsay," Jo’s plain face was radiant,
"her father had, and she sings the day through."

"You must bring her at once, Mam’selle, and believe me, whatever comes
or does not come, she will always be yours.  She is your recompense."

And within the week Donelle Morey came to the Walled House.

Her entrance was dramatic and made a deep impression upon Mrs. Lindsay.

There had been a struggle between Jo and Donelle before the matter had
been arranged, so, while not sullen, the girl was decidedly on guard.

Propelled by Jo she came into the great, sunny hall.  She was very pale
and her yellow eyes were wide and alert.

"My dear," Alice Lindsay had said, "I hope you are going to be very
happy here."

"I did not come to be happy, I came to learn," Donelle returned, and her
voice saved the words from rudeness.

"Perhaps you can be both, dear," but Donelle looked her doubts.

Still from the first she played her part courageously. She studied
diligently and, when she was given the freedom of the library, she
showed a keen and vital interest.

She was not indifferent, either, to the kindness and consideration shown
her, but the wildness in her blood reasserted itself and she often felt,
as she had felt at St. Michael’s, a desire to fly from restraint; even
this kindly restraint.  Point of Pines had given her a sense of liberty
that was now lacking.  The refinements and richness of the Walled House
oppressed her, she yearned for Jo, for the hard, unlovely tasks, for the
chance talks with Tom Gavot.  But, oddly enough, it was the thought of
Tom that kept her to her duty.  Somehow she dared not run away and hope
to keep his approval.  Something of her struggle Alice Lindsay saw, and
she considered it seriously.  To win the girl wholly from her yearnings
just then might mean winning her from Mam’selle.  While not a child,
Donelle was very unformed and might easily, if she were conquered, be
lost to Jo whom she regarded simply in the light of an adopted guardian.
She was grateful, she loved Jo, but the secret tie that Alice Lindsay
believed existed held no part in her thoughts.

"But she shall be saved for Mam’selle," Alice Lindsay vowed.  "I will
not permit any other solution.  If the time ever comes when she
understands she shall know the splendour of this dear soul."

So Alice Lindsay took Jo into her confidence.

"You must not, Mam’selle," she said, "even think yourself renouncing
her.  She is yours and you ought not to forget that, nor deprive her of
yourself. Take things for granted; let her see you as I see you!"

Jo’s face twitched.

"There’s no earthly reason," Alice Lindsay went on, "for blotting you
out.  Why, the girl will never know another woman as fine as you,
Mam’selle. Think of how you have studied and thought yourself into a
place that many a woman with untold advantages has not attained!"

"Donelle’s father was a scholar," Jo faltered, not knowing how to act in
the strained moment.  "He taught me, not only books, but how to think."

"Yes, and to suffer, Mam’selle," Alice Lindsay controlled her true
emotions.  Then:

"Mam’selle, Donelle must learn to appreciate her inheritance from you.
She shall, she shall!  Now throw off your usual manner with her; let her
see you!"

"She always has, Mrs. Lindsay."

"Very well, don’t let go of her now!"

And so Jo permitted herself the luxury of doing what her heart longed to
do, she put off her guarded manner and played for the first time in her
life.

It was during Donelle’s week-end visits home that she first came forth
in her new character of comrade. In an especially fine spell of weather
she suggested camping out in the woods.  Donelle and Nick were beside
themselves with delight, for Mam’selle was a genius at camping.  Never
had she so truly revealed herself as she did then, and Donelle looked at
her in amazement.

"Mamsey," she said, "is it because I’m away from you so much that you
seem different?  You are wonderful and you know about the loveliest wood
things and stars.  It’s like magic."

It was like magic, and Jo rightly concluded that something in Donelle’s
early life responded to these nights in the woods.  She recalled the
girl’s delirium, her references to weary wanderings.

"It seems," Donelle once said, hugging her knees beside the glowing
fire, "it seems as if I’d been here before."

"One often feels that way," Jo replied as she prepared a fragrant meal,
"and I’m not saying but what we do pass along the same way more than
once.  It may take more than one little life to learn all there is to
know."

And then Donelle talked of a book she had been reading and they grew
very chummy.  Once Jo suggested—it was when Donelle told her how she
lived through the weeks, only because the week-ends were in view—that
Nick should stay at the Walled House.

"Nick, would you leave Mamsey?"  Donelle held the dog’s face in her
hands.  It was an awful moment for Nick.  He actually slunk.

"I’d hate you if you would!" Donelle continued. "Now, sir, who is your
choice?"

Nick saved the day, he ambled over to Jo and licked her hand.

"There!" exultingly cried Donelle; "that shows his blood."

"It shows his common sense," laughed Jo.

Once Tom Gavot shared their campfire for a night. He was waiting for
them when they dismounted, his eyes shining.  He wore a new, and whole,
suit.

"I am going away," he explained.  This was no news to Jo, but it took
Donelle by surprise.

"I am going to Quebec," he went on.  "Father Mantelle has a friend there
who is to take me into his office.  I’m going to learn about roads.  You
see, I always knew I’d get a chance!"

He was very gay and full of hope.

"And how does your father take it?" asked Jo, bending over the flames.

The boy’s face darkened.

"Father Mantelle talked to him," was all he said.

But that evening Jo was wondrously kind.  She gave permission to Tom to
make his own pine-bough bed in the woods; she even seemed to be asleep
when, by the fire, Donelle, holding her body close, her pale face
shining in the glow, said to Tom:

"I am never going to forget about roads, Tom Gavot.  I always think of
them as real things, I always have ever since you told me how to see
them.  I’m sure your roads are going to be very splendid ones."

"They’ll be mighty lonely, just at first," Tom, stretched by the fire,
smiled grimly.

"Yes," Donelle nodded, "yes; they will.  Why, Tom, I stand by the gates
of the Walled House and look at the road and it is the loneliest
feeling.  I think of Mamsey at one end and something in me goes
stretching out until it hurts.  It goes stretching and pulling along the
road until I can scarcely bear it."

"That’s the way it will be with me, Donelle," then poor Tom’s face
flushed a deep red.  "You won’t mind, will you, if I tell you
something?"

"I’d love it."  Donelle smiled happily.

"You see, I haven’t ever had any one who cared since my mother died.  I
never dared tell any one but you about the roads.  You seemed to
understand; you didn’t laugh.  And when I’m off in Quebec and something
in me goes stretching over the road until it hurts, it’s going to be you
at the other end!  You’re not laughing?"

"No, Tom Gavot, I’m—I’m crying a little."

"I think it’s your eyes, they’re like lights.  And then you are kind,
kind."

Just then Jo shook herself and awoke.

A few days later Tom was off for Quebec and Donelle’s homesickness and
longing for Mam’selle were to be lessened by an unlooked-for occurrence.

Mrs. Lindsay had not thought of Donelle being in the slightest musical,
though Jo had suggested it, for she never sang in the Walled House as
she did at Point of Pines.  There were lessons and walks and drives;
Mrs. Lindsay was growing genuinely attached to the girl, and more and
more determined to see that life should play fair with her, but the idea
of interesting old Professor Revelle did not occur to her.  The shy,
delicate old man shrank from strangers with positive aversion.  He was
not unfriendly, but his loss of eyesight was recent.  His late poverty
and illness, from which Anderson Law had rescued him, had left their
scar, and he kept to the rooms Mrs. Lindsay set aside for him with
gentle gratitude. Sometimes she dined with him there; often sat evenings
with him; but for the most the old man was happiest alone.

Then came the day when the silent garden tempted him.  He had heard the
carriage depart earlier and thought that Mrs. Lindsay and the stranger
girl had both gone driving.

With his violin under his arm Revelle groped his way from the house; he
was learning, slowly, as the lately-blinded do, to walk alone.  At the
far end of the garden there was an arbour, Revelle knew it was
rose-covered by the fragrance, and he loved to play there, for no one
ever disturbed him.  To-day he found the place and sat down.  His old
face was growing peaceful, full of renunciation; the fear and bitterness
were gone.

The roses thrilled him, he could touch them by reaching out his hand;
they were soft and velvety, and he hoped they were pink.  He had always
loved pink roses.  And then he played as he had not played for years.

Close to him sat Donelle.  She had been reading when he entered.  She
did not move or speak though she longed to help and guide him.  She knew
all about him, pitied and respected his desire to be alone in a very
lonely and dark world, but she had never heard him play before.  As she
listened the yellow eyes darkened.  Never had Donelle heard such music;
never had she been so gloriously happy. Something in her felt free,
free!  Then something, quite beyond her control, floated after the
notes; it rested and throbbed, it ... but just then Revelle, with a wide
sweep of the bow, stopped!

Donelle crept to his side, his quick ear caught the sound.

"Who is it?" he asked sharply.

"It’s—it’s Donelle, Donelle Morey.  I—couldn’t go away; please do not
mind—if you only knew!"

"Knew what?"

"Why, it’s what I’ve wanted all my life.  I did not know; how could I?
But now I know, the music has told me."

The voice, the intensity and passion stirred the old man.

"Come here!" he said, reaching out his hand. "The love you have, does it
mean that you sing? Your voice is—is rather fine.  Let me have the
fingers."

Half afraid, Donelle placed her hand in his.

"Oh!"  Revelle was feeling every inch of the slim hand and fingers.
"The long hand and wide between the fingers!  And the finger tips; it is
the musician’s hand unless nature has played a trick. Will you let me
find out if nature has spoken true?"

"I—I do not know what you mean."

"Are you a young child?"

"No, I am old, quite old."

"Stand up, let me feel how tall you are.  Ah! you are of the right age!
Young enough to obey; old enough to hunger.  Are you beautiful?"

"Oh!  No.  I’m sure I’m ugly."

"Of the light or the dark?"

"I’m white, I—I am thin, too."

"May I touch your face?"

Quite simply Donelle knelt again and quivered as the delicate fingers
passed over her brow, eyes, and mouth.

"You have a soul!" murmured Revelle.

"A soul?" murmured Donelle.

"Ah! yes.  You do not know.  One never finds his soul until he suffers.
You are young, but you have a soul.  Keep it safe, safe; and while you
wait, let me see if nature has made you for use.  If you can learn, I
shall find joy.  I had thought my life was over."

And so Donelle began to find her way out upon her road.



                              *CHAPTER X*

                       *PIERRE GETS HIS REVENGE*


The first year passed, with those blessed weekends coming now, not as
the only bright spots, but always loved.

"The girl may not have the great genius," Revelle told Mrs. Lindsay,
"she may not go much further, but as she goes, she goes radiantly.  Her
tone it is pure, her ear it is true, and her soul, it is a hungry soul,
a waiting soul.  She will suffer, but she will be the better for that.
If she is ever to be great it will be when she has learned to know
suffering."

Donelle had a strange habit that amused them all; she played best when
she could move about. Gropingly, painstakingly, she practised with the
old, blind man beside her.  At times she would wander under the trees on
the lawn, her violin tucked lovingly under her chin.

"Pretty, little pale thing," Alice Lindsay often said.  "What is life
going to do with her?"

When three years had passed, Donelle was no longer a simple girl.  Point
of Pines was as detached from her real interests as St. Michael’s was.
She loved to be with Jo and Nick, but the luxury and comfort of the
Walled House had become part of her life. She wished it might be that Jo
and Nick could come to her; not make it necessary for her to go to them.
She was not more selfish or ungrateful than the young usually are, but
she was artistic and temperamental and her mind and soul were full of
music and beauty.  Unconsciously, she was pressing on into life by the
easiest way.  Life, she must have; life to the full, that had always
been her ambition, but she had yet to learn, poor child, that the short,
direct path that stretched so alluringly from the Walled House was not
the best one for her own good.

For Mrs. Lindsay she had a deep affection; for Revelle a passion of
gratitude and yearning.  He it was who had opened her heaven for her; he
it was who subtly developed her.  With no set purpose, but with the
insistence that Art always demands, he brought to bear upon Donelle the
arguments of devotion to her gift, her God-given gift, he reiterated.
She must not let anything, any one stand in its path.  She was not
worthy of it unless she forsook all else for it.

Donelle had accepted what was offered to her. She believed Jo Morey had
the best of reasons for burying the past.  As she grew older, she saw
the wisdom of forgetting much and in proving herself worthy of becoming
what Jo, what Mrs. Lindsay, and most of all Revelle, hoped for her.

The St. Michael days were blotted out, they were but an incident at
best.  Jo was giving her every advantage, she must do her part.  She saw
the Point of Pines people on the road as she drove with Mrs. Lindsay or
Jo and they were like shadows to her, they had no place in her
sheltered, beautiful life. She heard indirectly from Tom Gavot, he was
bravely hewing and hacking his road, poor chap. He was helping to
support his unworthy father; he was coming home some day to show
himself, but the time went by and he did not come!

And then, quite suddenly, Mrs. Lindsay decided to close the Walled House
and go abroad.  Professor Revelle’s health was restored and Anderson Law
had obtained employment for him.

"I want to take Donelle with me," Alice Lindsay said.  "She’s quite your
own, Mam’selle; you stand first with her, so I can take her with a clear
conscience and give her all the advantages she should have. She will
come back to you in the end, or you will come to her."

Jo’s lips drew close.

"Will my linens pay for this?" she asked.

"They will help, Mam’selle, and you have no right to stand in Donelle’s
way now that we have gone so far.  Some day Donelle can repay me
herself, she has great gifts."

Jo thought hard and quickly.  In her heart she had always felt this day
would come, lately she had been haunted by it.  It was inevitable.  Only
God knew how she dreaded the separation, but she would not withhold her
hand.

"I suppose, Mam’selle, this is what Motherhood means?"  Alice Lindsay
spoke the fact boldly, splendidly.

"It’s all right," said Jo, "it’s all it should mean. I’m glad I do feel
as I do about her."

"And, Mam’selle, this girl loves you very tenderly. Sometimes I think we
ought to tell her——’

"No, no, Mrs. Lindsay."  Jo started and flushed.

"When she’s found her place and made it sure: when she has so much that
this won’t matter, then she shall know everything.  I haven’t overlooked
this, but I couldn’t stand it now.  I want her to be able to
understand."

"All right, Mam’selle.  And now it is your part to make her feel that it
is your desire that she should make the most of her gifts.  Send her
forth happy, Mam’selle, that will mean much to her."

So Jo began the new role and actually made Donelle unhappy in the effort
to achieve the reverse. Alone, in the white house at Point of Pines, Jo
found her father’s old clothes and contemplated them gravely.  She was
slipping back, poor soul, to her empty life.

Donelle had not accepted the proposed plans without a struggle.  She was
wonderfully sensitive and compassionate and her quick imagination made
it possible for her to understand what the future would mean to poor Jo.
Then, too, she shrank from the uprooting.  Her dreams of what lay before
were exciting and thrilling, but with sincere kinship she loved the
quiet hills, the marvellous river, and the peace, freedom, and
simplicity which were her birthright.

"Sometimes I fear," she said to Mrs. Lindsay, "that it will deafen me,
hush me, kill me!"

"It will not, dear; and I will always be near."

"Unless you were, I would not dare.  You are the only hope, Mrs.
Lindsay."

"That’s not so, Donelle.  The real hope is your gift.  You are taking it
there to make it perfect."

"I hope so.  And when I have learned, I must get Mamsey into my new
life, quick."

"Indeed, yes!"  Mrs. Lindsay nodded cheerfully.

"Isn’t it queer how some people are part of you? Mamsey is part of me,
Mrs. Lindsay."  Then softly, "I suppose you know how Mamsey got me and
from where?"

Alice Lindsay started.

"Yes, Mam’selle told me," she said.

"I never speak of it.  Mamsey thought best that I should not; but I do
not forget!  Often, when we are driving past St. Michael’s—I remember."

"Donelle, why do you tell me this now?"

"Just because I want you to understand how I feel about Mamsey.  She
didn’t have to do things for me, she chose to, and I know all about her
spinning and weaving and—the rest.  I have cost her a good deal, and I
mean to make it all up."

Proudly, happily Donelle stood.  And looking at her, Mrs. Lindsay
fervently wished the real truth might be kept away from the girl.
Better the uncertainty of birth to such a spirit than the ugly fact.
Safer would her relations with Mam’selle be if she could keep her
present belief.

"Come," she said suddenly, "take your violin and stand—so!  This is the
way my good friend Anderson Law is to paint you."

Donelle took the violin; she tucked it under her chin and drew her bow
lovingly across it.  The uplifted face smiled serenely.  Donelle was no
longer afraid; something bigger than herself caught her and carried her
to safety.

Alice Lindsay’s eyes grew dim.

"Life is not all that is lying in wait for the child," she thought.
"What is love going to do with her?"

And then, it was two days before they were to start for the States,
Donelle went for a walk along the quiet highway!  She had bidden Jo
good-bye! Her heart ached with the haunting fear that she had not been
quite sure about Mamsey.  Was it enough that she was going to prepare
for life?  Were her purpose and joy quite unselfish?  How about those
long empty days, when the Walled House would be but a memory?

And Nick!  The dog had acted so strangely.  His awful eyes, yes, they
were quite awful, had been fixed upon her a long, long time, then he had
gone—to Jo!  After that he could not be lured from her.  It was as if he
said:

"Very well, think what you choose, _I_ will never desert Mamsey!"

Jo had tried to force the dog from her; had scolded him sharply, but he
would not stir.

His silent protest had angered Donelle, and she remembered it now,
walking on the road.  She felt her tears rising.

It was a day of calm and witchery.  Never had the trees been more
splendid, never the river more changing and beautiful.  And the quiet,
was there in all the world so sacred and safe a place as this?

And just then, toward Donelle, came a staggering, wretched figure.  The
girl stopped short and the man, seeing her, stopped also, not twenty
feet away.

"It’s Tom Gavot’s terrible father," thought Donelle.  She had never been
so close to anything so loathesome before.  She was not really
frightened, the day made things safe enough, but she estimated the best
chances of getting by the ugly thing and escaping from it.

Gavot knew her.  All Point of Pines knew her and snapped their hateful
remarks about her at Dan’s Place.  They were like a pack that had been
defeated.  Even Father Mantelle had the feeling that he had been
incapable of coping with a situation that should not exist.  It was
putting a premium on immorality.

"Ha!"  Pierre Gavot reeled and laughed aloud. When he was in the first
stages of drunkenness he was diabolically keen.  His senses always put
up a revolt before they surrendered.

"So!" he called in his thick voice and with that debauched gallantry
that marked him, "So! it is Mam’selle’s bastard dressed and ready to
skip out as her damned father did before her, leaving the Mam’selle to
make the most of the broken bits. Curse ye, for what ye are!"

The veins swelled in Gavot’s face, a confused, bestial desire for
revenge on somebody, somehow, possessed him.

"Ye’ve taken all she had to give, as your father did before ye, blast
him!  And now, like him, ye kick her out of your way.  Her, who spent
herself."

The words were scorching into Donelle’s soul, but they numbed sensation
as they went.  It was later the hurt would come!  Now, there was but one
thing to do, pass the beast in the road and get behind the walls of
safety.

And so Donelle darted forward so suddenly that Gavot staggered aside in
surprise.  She gave him one horrified look and was gone!

No one saw her enter the house.  She was breathing hard, her face was
like a dead face, set and waxen.  In the great hall was a book stand.
On it was a dictionary.

Donelle was repeating over and again in her mind a word.  A strange,
fearful word, she must know about that—word.  It would explain
something, perhaps.

The trembling hands found it, the wide eyes read it once—twice—three
times.

Slowly, then, the heavy feet mounted the shallow stairs.  As old, blind
Revelle used to grope in the upper hall, so Donelle groped now.  She
reached her room, closed the door and locked it.  Then she sat down by
the window and began to—suffer.  The safe ground upon which she had
trodden for the last few years crumbled.  At last she managed to reach
St. Michael’s.  Yes, she remembered St. Michael’s, but how long she had
been there before Jo found her she could not remember!

But it was clear: Jo, not her father, had put her there.  Jo had made up
the sad story to save her, Donelle!  She bore Jo’s name, and that was to
save her, too.  And her father had deserted poor Mamsey long ago and she
had made the most of the bits that were left!

That is what the horrible man had said.  And they had all known, always.
That was why people never came to the little white house; that was why
Jo had put her in the Walled House, to save her. And Jo had stayed
outside as she always had done, outside, making the most of the bits!

At last, a wild, hot fury smote the girl, a kind of fury that resented
the love that placed her in a position which unfitted her for the only
part she could decently play.  Of course they must have realized that
she would know some day, and have to give up! She could not go on with
the sham and be happy. They had defrauded her of life while thinking
they had saved her for life.  It was cruel, wicked!  The yellow eyes
blazed and the slender hands clenched.

"What have they done to me?" she moaned.

And so through the afternoon, alone and driven to bay, Donelle suffered.
The sun went down, leaving its benediction on the wonderful river which
glistened and throbbed as it swelled with the high, full tide, but there
was no peace for Donelle.  A shame she could not understand overcame
her.  Her unawakened sex battled with the grim spectre.

Then memory helped the girl and she became a woman as she sat alone in
the still room; a woman so pure and simple that Jo was saved.

How great poor Jo’s love must have been, always! How little she had
asked, how bravely she had borne her punishment!

The care and devotion of the long nights, when Donelle was so ill,
returned like dreams and haunted the girl.  That was the beginning of
Jo, and this was the end?  But was it?

It was all in her, Donelle’s, hands, to decide.  She could keep still!
She could take her life, make it beautiful, and by and by she could come
back to Mamsey.  Then she would say, "This I have done for you!  But I
could not do it then!  I could not give up then," Donelle murmured.

Then the present held the girl, drove away the temptation.  There was
the little, lonely white house under the hill at Point of Pines and
Mamsey who that morning had said:

"Child, I’m gladder than you know to be able to give you your chance."

Her chance!

Just then a maid tapped at the door and gave her a message.

Mrs. Lindsay would be detained for dinner and would not be home until
late.

"We are to start to-morrow," the girl said, "very early."

And again Donelle was alone with her chance!

Later she ate her dinner quietly in the dim oak dining room.  Candles
burned; there was an open fire on the hearth and pale yellow hothouse
roses on the table.  Never was the girl to forget that last meal in the
Walled House.  And then, she was once more alone upstairs with—her
chance!

She went to the window and looked out.  A rising moon was lighting the
road, The Road!

Suddenly Tom Gavot seemed to stand in the emptiness and beckon her from
that road with which he had played when he was a sad and neglected
child. How clean and fine he had made it seem; he who had come from such
a father!  In that moment Pierre Gavot shrank from sight, he had
polluted the road, but Tom had sanctified it.

The road was open now for Donelle to choose. Should she go over the hill
to life or——  And so she struggled.  She heard Mrs. Lindsay return, but
it did not occur to her to confide in any one.  The shame was only
bearable if she bore it in secret, but where should she bear it?  Out,
over the hill, where no one knew; where Mrs. Lindsay and Jo would keep
people from knowing?  Could she be happy and forget?

Donelle took up her violin.  She clutched it to her.  It could make her
forget, it _must_!  Even if she wakened the household she felt she must
play.

But she could not play!  Her hand was heavy, her brain dull.

Then something Revelle had once said to her flashed into her mind.

"Always live right, child.  You can never have your gift at its best
unless you keep its place holy.  No matter what any one may tell you,
keep the place clean and right in which your gift lives!"

Then it was that Donelle dressed herself in a plain, warm suit, packed a
little bag, took her violin, left a note on her dressing table, and went
on—Tom Gavot’s Road!  Just for a moment she stood outside the tall gates
and looked wistfully up the hill, then she turned as if relinquishing
all the joy and promise of life, and set her face toward Point of Pines.



                              *CHAPTER XI*

                          *THE GREAT DECISION*


Donelle made herself a little fire that night in the shelter of a pine
grove.  She slept, too, with her back against a sturdy tree and the
sound of the river in her ears.

She had walked fast for many miles.  She was tired, but she meant to go
on and reach Point of Pines before any one saw her; before Mrs. Lindsay
could get there and talk to Jo.

At three o’clock she roused herself and went on. There was no one else,
in all the world, it seemed, she was alone, alone.  But something was
strengthening her, she no longer grieved or felt remorse.  She was, poor
child, learning a tremendous lesson, she had an ideal for which she was
ready to suffer and die.  She had found her soul and a peace had come to
her; a peace that the world can neither give nor take away.

"I’m glad!" murmured Donelle; "I’m not a bit sorry.  I’d have hated
myself if I had gone away, after I knew."

The gray dawn was creeping with chilly touch over the empty road when
Donelle, footsore and aching in every muscle, came in sight of the
little house.

"Why, there’s a light burning!" she said, "a light in the living room.
Maybe Mamsey is ill, ill and all alone."

The fear drove her on more quickly.

Up the steps she went softly and peered into the room.  Nothing mattered
now to Jo, she had nothing to hide, so she had not even lowered the
shade.

And there she sat, nodding before the stove in which the fire had long
since died.  She wore her father’s old discarded clothes—she had
resurrected them after returning from bidding Donelle good-bye—she had
worked hard until late, had fallen asleep exhausted by the fire, and
forgotten to go to bed.

Close to Jo, so close that his faithful head rested against her arm, was
Nick!

He was not asleep, he was on guard.  He had heard those steps outside;
he knew them and his ears were tilted and alert.  Still, he would not
leave Jo! The time for choice had come and passed with Nick. His heart
might break but he had decided.

The door opened softly, Jo never locked it, and Donelle came tiptoeing
across the room.  Nick tapped the floor, but otherwise did not move.

Beside the sleeping Jo the girl crouched down and waited.  She was
crying, blessed, happy tears, and one tired hand lay upon Nick’s head.

The clock in the kitchen struck in its surprised, alarmed way.  How well
Donelle remembered!  The sun edged in through the east window, and found
the little group by the cold stove.

Then Jo awoke.  She did not move, she only looked!  She could not make
it out, and gave an impatient exclamation.  She felt that her mind was
betraying her.

"Donelle!" she said presently, "what does this mean?"

"Only that I—I have come, Mamsey."

"Tell me everything."  The words were stern.

"Why, Mamsey, there isn’t much to tell—except—that I’m here."

"How did you get here?"

"I—I walked.  I walked all night."

"And Mrs. Lindsay, she knows?"

"Oh! no, Mamsey, she was away, but I left a note. I had to come Mamsey,
I had to.  You see," brightly, piteously, "I—I couldn’t play my fiddle.
It would not be played.  When I got to thinking of how it would be out
where I was going, I just couldn’t! The pretty dresses and the—the
excitement made me forget for a little time, but all of a sudden I saw
how it was going to be.  Then I tried to play, and I couldn’t!  Then I
knew that I must stay, because more than anything, Mamsey, I
wanted—you!"

"This is sheer nonsense!" said Jo, but her voice shook, and the hand
lying against Donelle’s cheek trembled.

"You mad child!  Why, Donelle, don’t you see you are running away from
your life?"

"It will have to find me here, then, Mamsey. Don’t send me away.  I
would hate it as I would have hated St. Michael’s if you had sent me
back there.  You see, Mamsey, when I run away I always run to what is
really mine.  Don’t you see?"

"Are you sick, child?"

Jo felt, now, the uplifted face.

"No, but I would have been, off there!  And I couldn’t play.  What good
would anything have been, if I couldn’t play?"

Jo was thoroughly alarmed.

"Can you play here?" she asked, bewildered, not knowing what to think,
but seeking to calm the girl on the floor.

"Why, Mamsey, let me try!"

And Donelle tried, rising stiffly, fixing the violin and raising the
bow.

A moment of indecision, of fear; then the radiance drove the haggard
lines from the tired, white face.

She could play!  She walked about the plain home-room. She forgot Jo,
forgot her troubles, she knew everything was all right now!  The final
answer had been given her!  When she finished she stood before Jo, and
Nick crept toward her.  He, too, felt that something, which had been
very wrong, was righted.

Mrs. Lindsay came later.  She was alarmed and angry.  She and Jo
attacked poor Donelle’s position and were indignant that they were
obliged to do so; they, women and wise; she, a stubborn and helpless
girl!

"I couldn’t leave Mamsey," was her only reply, and she looked faint from
struggle.

"But Mam’selle does not want you!" Mrs. Lindsay said almost brutally,
seeing that she had succeeded only too well in preserving this girl for
Jo. "You have no right to become a burden, Donelle, when you have the
opportunity of independence."

"Am I a burden?"  Donelle turned weary, patient eyes on Jo.  And Jo
could not lie.  That white, girlish face wrung her heart.

"This is temperament run mad!" exclaimed Alice Lindsay.  "I have a great
mind to take you by force, Donelle.  I will if Mam’selle gives the
word."

"You won’t though, will you, Mamsey?"

Jo could not speak.  Then Donelle turned kind, pleading eyes to Mrs.
Lindsay.

"You see, I couldn’t play if I were dragged. When I’m dragged I can
never do anything.  I wish I could tell you how sorry I am and how much
I love you; but I am so tired.  When I got to thinking of Mamsey here
alone, and the Walled House closed, why——"

Alice Lindsay turned from the sad eyes, the quivering mouth.

"Listen, dear!" she said in her old, gentle tones; "I’ve lived enough
with natures like yours to understand them.  Stay with Mam’selle this
winter, Donelle, and think your way out.  You have a clear mind, you
will see that what we all want to do for you is right.  In the spring I
will return, we’ll have another summer in the Walled House.  A year from
now all will be safe and right.  The trip abroad can wait, everything
shall wait, for you.  Now will you be good, Donelle?"

She turned smilingly to the girl, and Donelle gratefully stretched out
her hands.

"Oh! how I thank you," she said, "and I do love and trust you.  I will
try to be good.  Oh! if you only really knew!"

"Knew what, Donelle?"

"Why, how I could not live away off there, even with you, if I
remembered Mamsey sitting here making the best of the bits that are
left."  Then Donelle broke down and wept violently.

Still she was not ill.  She was worn to the edge of endurance, but after
a day and night of rest in the room beside Jo she got up, quite herself
again.

"And we’ll say no more about it until spring," vowed Jo, but a wonderful
light had crept into her eyes.

"I’m a selfish, unworthy lot——"  But the light stayed in her eyes.

Then one day Donelle took her fiddle and strolled out alone to test the
virtue of her safe, happy feeling. She went down to the river and sat
upon the bare, black rocks.  The tide was low and the day was more like
spring than early autumn.

"And now," whispered Donelle, "I’ll play and think.  I have to act too
much when Mamsey is watching."

Donelle knew she had to untangle many loose ends, now that she had
snapped her thread.  She did not want, above anything on earth, that Jo
should know her deep, real reason for returning.  But how could she make
sure with that horrible man, Pierre, loose in Point of Pines?  It did
not matter how lonely she and Jo might be, if only they could have each
other without their common secret rising between them.

Donelle had stayed close to Jo since she had come back, she shrank from
everyone.  She meant, some day, to go to Marcel Longville—when the
Captain was at a safe distance.  She meant to have Marcel tell her many
things, but not now!  She was going to face the future quite bravely,
without shame or cringing.  Jo should have that reward at least.

In the meantime, Donelle wished fervently, and with primitive
directness, that Pierre Gavot would die a quick and satisfactory death
and be well out of the way before he again got drunk enough to open his
vile lips.

"If he were here now," mused Donelle, the while playing a charming
sonata, "I’d push him off the rocks and have done with it!  What good is
he? All his life he’s been messing things, and I’m horribly afraid of
him.  I wish he was dead."

A crackling of the dry bushes startled her and she turned to see, coming
down the Right of Way leading from the road to the river, Tom Gavot!

Donelle knew him at once though his good clothes, his happy, handsome
face did their best to disguise him.

"Why!" she cried, getting up with a smile, "when did you get back?"

"A week ago," said Tom, "and it’s about time.  It has been three years
since I went away."  He beamed upon the girl.  "I’ve learned how to see
a road where there isn’t even a trail," he went on.  "I’m a surveyor.
And you?"  He glanced at her violin.

"I’ve learned to fiddle."  Donelle’s eyes could not leave the dark,
handsome face.  It was such a good, brave face, and the mere fact of Tom
Gavot having returned seemed to make things safer.  Tom was like that,
quiet, strong, and safe!  In a flash Donelle realized that the sense of
shame and degradation which had driven her from the Walled House was
driving her now to Tom Gavot.  She felt sure that he, that all the
others, had known what she herself knew now, and yet it had not made Tom
despise her.

Her lips quivered and her eyes filled.

"It is so good to see you!" she said softly.

Tom’s face was suddenly very serious.

"I came back to see how things were going," he said quietly, "and now
that I am here, I’m going to stay."

"How long?" the question was weighted with longing.

"Until there is no more need," said Tom.  Then he threw caution to the
winds.  "My father has told me!" he breathed hard, "he told me!  Are
you, a girl like—like you, going to let the mad words of a drunken man
turn you back?"

For an instant Donelle faltered.  Could there be a mistake?  She had not
thought of that.

"If what he said, Tom Gavot, was true, I had to turn back.  The words
_were_ true, were they not?"

Tom longed to lie, longed to set her free from the horror that he saw
filled her, but he was too wise and just.

"Suppose they were, suppose they were!  Suppose Mam’selle did have the
blackest wrong done her that a man can do a woman; hasn’t she paid for
it by her life and goodness?"

"Yes, Tom, she has!"

Hope had gone from the girlish face, but purpose and strength were
there.

"And that is why I came back to her.  For a moment, Tom Gavot, I stood
on your road, the road you played with and mended.  I wanted to run up
and over the hill.  I wanted to turn my back on the awful thing I had
heard, but I couldn’t, Tom, I couldn’t. I would have seemed too mean to
be on your road. I believe something died in me as I stood, but when I
could think once more, I didn’t suffer except for Mamsey.  I’m so
thankful I feel this way.  I want to make up to her—for—for my father.
He left her, but I never will.  Why once, Tom, I asked her about my
father, it was long ago, and she said he was a _good father_.  And then
I asked her about—about my mother, and she kept still.  She let me think
my mother was—not good; she would not hurt my father!  But oh! if I can
only keep her from knowing that I know.  If I could only make her think
I came back to her simply because I wanted her!  I do not want her to
think the truth!  That would kill her, I know.  She is so proud.  So
fine.  I want to make her happy in my own way."

"She shall think that, if I can help!" said Tom.

"But you mustn’t stay here for me, Tom.  I couldn’t bear that."

"See here, Donelle.  If you have turned back, so will I.  I had my
choice of going to the States or overseeing some work back in the hills
here.  I have chosen."

"But, Tom, you mustn’t turn back."

"Perhaps neither of us has turned back," Tom’s dark face relaxed.  "When
things make you dizzy you cannot always tell which is back or forward.
I wish you would play your fiddle."

Donelle looked up at him with a kind of glory in her eyes.

"I will," she said; "and after, you must tell me about your roads, the
roads that you can see when there are no roads!"

"It’s a bargain."

So Tom sat down upon a rock and Donelle paced to and fro on the leafy
path and, as she played and played, she smiled contentedly at Tom over
her bow. When she was tired she dropped beside him and leaned against a
tree.

"Now," she whispered; "I want to hear about your roads."

"It’s splendid work," said Tom.  "You can imagine such a lot.  Someone
wants a road built; you go and see only woods or rocks or plains, then
suddenly, you see the road—finished!  You set to work overcoming the
obstacles, getting results with as little fuss as possible, always
seeing that finished road! It’s great!"

"Yes, it must be.  I think, Tom, the work we love is like that.  When I
am practising and making mistakes, the perfect music is singing in my
ears and I keep listening and trying to follow.  Yes, it is great!"

They were both looking off toward the river.

"It’s the sort of work for me," Tom murmured, thinking of his roads.
"You know I like to lie out of doors nights.  I like the sky over me and
a fire at my feet.  Do you remember," he laughed shyly, "the night
before I went away; how Mam’selle made believe to be asleep while we
talked?"

"Yes," Donelle’s eyes were dreamy; "dear Mamsey, how she has made
believe all her life."

"Donelle, I only learned a little while ago that it was Mam’selle’s
money that sent me off, gave me my chance."

"Tom!"  And now Donelle’s eyes were no longer dreamy.

"Yes.  She worked and saved and never told."  Tom’s voice was vibrant
with emotion.

"And she worked and saved that I might have my chance," murmured
Donelle.

"I’m going to pay her back double," Tom said.

"Now, Tom Gavot," Donelle rose as she spoke, "you can see why I came
back.  I am going to pay her back—double.  Some day I may go away and
learn how to make money, much money, but first I have to show Mamsey
that I love her best in all the world."

"I guess you know your way," Tom replied. "And, Donelle, I want to tell
you, I’m not going to live with my father.  I couldn’t.  Here, can you
see that little hut down there?"

Donelle bent and peered through the trees.

"Yes," she said.

"Well, I’m going to clean that up and live there. It has a chimney, and
the windows look right on the river.  When you open the wide door it’s
almost as good as being out under the sky.  That’s where I’m going to
set up housekeeping."

"How wonderful, Tom!  And Mamsey and I will help you.  We’ll make rugs
and curtains.  We’ll make it like a home."

"It will be the first, then, that I’ve ever had."  Tom did not say this
bitterly, but with a gentle longing that touched Donelle.

"I’ll come and see you, sometimes, Tom.  Mamsey and I.  It will be great
fun to sit by your fire and hear about your roads."

"And you’ll fiddle, Donelle?"

"Oh!  yes, I’ll fiddle until you tell me to stop."  Then suddenly
Donelle grew grave.  "Tom, do you think you can keep your father
straight if you are so far away?"

"I’ll keep him _quiet_!" Tom answered.  "I’ll see to that."

"After a little while, no one will remember," Donelle went on slowly.
"Point of Pines is like that. Mamsey knew, they all knew.  But if I can
keep them from thinking that I know, I do not mind."

"They shall!" Tom promised.

What Tom Gavot did not tell Donelle, but what burned and blistered his
soul, was this: Pierre, sober and keenly vicious, had welcomed Tom with
eagerness and cunning.  Tom meant money and perhaps care.  Tom was
redeemed and successful, he would have to look after his poor father in
order to keep the respect he had wrung from better folk.

After a maudlin display of sentiment and devotion Pierre had said:

"That girl of Mam’selle Morey’s, Tom, she’s yours for the getting!"

"What do you mean?" Tom had asked, turning his young and awful eyes upon
his father, "I thought Mam’selle—I thought Donelle was with the Lindsays
and going to the States.  Father Mantelle wrote——"

"Ah! but that was before I played my game, Tom."  And Pierre had given
an ugly laugh.  "They took the girl and put her out of our reach, they
thought; even the good Father frowned at that.  He tried to speak the
truth up at the Walled House, but they would not hear.  The girl was
kept from knowing, and the pride of her was enough to make an honest
soul sick. She looked down on us—us!  But I waited my chance and when I
got it, I flung the truth in her white face, and it sort of did for her!
I saw that the pride they had put in her couldn’t stand mud!

"And so she’s here, Mam’selle’s girl, and when one is not over
particular and knows the worst, he can take and make——  What’s the
matter?  Leave off shaking me, Tom.  I’m your old father!  Mother of
Heaven, let me go!"

But Tom, holding the brute by the shoulders, was shaking him like a bag
of rags.  The flaming young eyes were looking into the bleary, old ones,
looking with hate and loathing.  The tie that held the two together
added horror to the situation.

"You—did this thing, you!  You killed my mother; you have tried to damn
everything you ever touched; you pushed this young girl into hell—you!
And you tell me I can pull her out, in order to shove her back?  You!

"Well, then, hear me!  I’ll try, God helping me, to get her out, but
nothing that belongs to you shall harm her.  And if your black tongue
ever touches her or hers, I’ll kill you, so help me God!"

Then Pierre found himself panting and blubbering on the floor with Tom
rising above him.

"Father Mantelle shall know of this," groaned Gavot.  "He’ll put the
curse of the Church on you."

"I’ll fling him beside you, if he dares speak of this thing."

Actual horror now spread over Pierre’s face.  If natural ties and the
fear of the Church were defied, where did authority rest?

"See here," poor Tom, having conquered his father, was now conquering
himself, "see here.  So long as you keep your tongue where it belongs, I
will see that you do not want, but I’m going to be near enough to _know_
and keep you to the line.  I couldn’t breathe in this hole, it’s too
full of—of dead things, but I’ll be near, remember that."

And Pierre accepted the terms.  He grovelled in spirit before this son
of his, and his lips were free of guile while he ate and drank and slept
and hated. And the others, too, left Jo and Donelle alone. There seemed
nothing else to do, so the little flurry fell into calm as the winter
settled.



                             *CHAPTER XII*

                       *THE HIDDEN CURRENT TURNS*


The winter passed and spring came.  Point of Pines awoke late but very
lovely.  Mam’selle and Donelle had at last burned the old clothes of the
long-dead Morey.  That phase, at least, was done with and much else had
been laid on the pyre with them.

"And you came just because you wanted to, child?" Jo often asked when
she even yet doubted her right to happiness.

"Yes, Mamsey, just for that.  Wasn’t I a silly?"  And then Donelle would
look into Jo’s deep, strange eyes and say:

"You never run and hide any more, Mamsey. I see how glad you are; how
you love me!  Kiss me, Mamsey.  Isn’t it strange that I had to teach you
to kiss me?  Now don’t keep thinking you mustn’t be happy, it’s our duty
to be happy."  Donelle gloried in her triumph.

Jo dropped a good many years in that winter and Nick inherited his
second puppyhood.  He no longer doubted, he no longer had a struggle of
choice, for Mam’selle and Donelle kept close.

They read and worked together, and sometimes while Jo worked Donelle
played those tunes that made Nick yearn to howl.  But he saw they did
not understand his feelings so he controlled himself.

"And when spring comes, child, you will go to Mrs. Lindsay, won’t you?"

Jo played her last card.

"You see, it has all been going out and nothing coming in for years.
You cost a pretty figure, Donelle, though I never grudged a cent, God
knows! But you must help now, I’m seeing old age in the distance."

"Come spring," whispered Donelle, and she struck into the Spring Song,
"we’ll see, we’ll see! But, Mamsey, we can always keep boarders.  I
should love that and you have always dreamed of it.  That room
upstairs," the lovely tones rose and fell, "I can just see how some
tired soul would look into that room and find peace.  We’d make good
things for him to eat, we’d play the fiddle for him, and——"

"A man’s so messy," Jo put in, "I’d hate to have the room messed after
all these years."

"Well, there are women boarders," Donelle was adaptable to
possibilities.  "We’d be firm about messiness; man or woman.  How much
are you going to charge, Mamsey?"

This was a joke between them.

Longville’s rapacity disgusted Jo.  On the other hand, she felt that
what one got for nothing he never valued.  It was a nice question.

"I’m figuring about the price, child.  The Longvilles never count what
the boarders give them besides money."

"What do they give, Mamsey?"

"Rightly handled, they give much.  Think, Donelle," Jo’s eyes lighted,
"they come from here, there, and everywhere!  If they are treated right,
they can let you share what they know.  Why once, when I was waiting on
table at the Longvilles’, there was a man who had been around the world!
Around the world, child, all around it.  One day he got talking, real
quiet, to the man next to him and I’ll never forget some things he said.
I got so interested I stood stock still with a dish in my hands.  I
stood until——"

"Until what, Mamsey?"

"Until the Captain called from the kitchen."

"Oh! my poor, Mamsey.  Well, dear, our boarder shall talk and we’ll not
stop him and you shall not be called from the kitchen."

"You are laughing, Donelle."

"No, Mamsey, just planning."

"But you must go away, child.  You must learn, and then perhaps they’ll
take you at the St. Michael’s Hotel.  Someone always plays there
summers, you know.  Could folks dance to your tunes, Donelle?"

The girl stared.

"Anyway you could learn," Jo sought to comfort.

"Perhaps I could, Mamsey, but I’d rather take boarders."

"We could do both, Donelle," Jo was all energy. "Old age is within eye
shot, but I’m long sighted. There’s a good bit of power in me yet,
child, and I’m eager for you to go with Mrs. Lindsay when she comes."

Poor Jo, having had the glory of Donelle’s choice, was almost desperate
now in her desire to send the girl forth.  She had not been blind; she
was wise, too, and she realized that if the future were to be secure and
her own place in it worthy of love and respect, she must refuse further
sacrifice.  And sacrifice it would be, a dull, detached life in Point of
Pines.

It was May when a letter came to Jo from Anderson Law.  It was a brief
letter, one written when the man’s heart was torn with grief and shock.
It told of Mrs. Lindsay’s sudden death just when she was preparing for
her return to the Walled House.

It dwelt upon Law’s knowledge of the affection and ambition of Mrs.
Lindsay for her protégée, and while her will did not provide for the
carrying out of her wishes, Law, himself, would see to it that
everything should be done that was possible.

He would come to Canada later and consult with "Mam’selle Morey."

Jo looked at Donelle blankly.

What the two had thought, dreamed, and hoped they, themselves, had not
fully realized until now. In the passing of Alice Lindsay they felt a
door closing upon them.

Donelle was crying bitterly.  At the moment she felt only the personal
loss, the sense of hurt; later the conviction grew upon her that what
had unconsciously been upholding her was taken away.  She had been
hoping, hoping.  The blow given her by Pierre Gavot, the paralyzing
effect of it, had worn away during the secluded winter months; she was
young, the world was hers, nothing could really take it away.  Nothing
had really happened in Point of Pines and they all knew!  The larger
world would not care, either.  She had adjusted herself and in silence
the fear and shame had departed, she had even grown to look at Jo as
if—it were not true!  But now, all was different.

"This man, this Mr. Law," Jo comforted, "will have some plan.  And there
are always my linens, Donelle, and if there is a boarder——"

But Donelle shook her head; a little tightening of her lips made them
almost hard.

"This Mr. Law does not come, Mamsey," she said, "and besides, what could
I do in that big, dreadful city with just him?"

"There would be that Professor Revelle," Jo’s words were mere words, and
she, herself, knew it. Donelle again shook her head.

But what humiliated her most of all was that she had let Jo see the
truth!  All the fine courage that had borne her from the Walled House to
Point of Pines; where was it?  She had meant to make up to poor Jo for
the bitter wrong that was a hideous secret between them, and all the
time there had been the longing for release; the expectation of it.

"I am like my father," shuddered the girl, "just as that awful Pierre
said—only I did not run away."

With this slight comfort she began her readjustment, but her hope was
dead.  She struggled to forget that it had ever existed, and she put her
violin away.

This hurt Jo cruelly, but she did not speak.  Instead she wrote, in her
queer, cramped handwriting, to Anderson Law.

It was a stilted, independent letter, for poor Jo was struggling between
the dread of losing her self-respect and her fear that Donelle should
lose her opportunity.

Law received the letter and read it while young James Norval was in his
studio.

"Jim, do you remember that girl that Alice Lindsay discovered up in
Canada?" he said; he was strangely moved and amused by Jo’s words.

"The little Moses?"  Norval was standing in front of an easel upon which
rested one of his own pictures, one he had brought for Law’s verdict.

"What?"  Law stared at Norval.

"Oh! wasn’t that the girl that some woman said she had adopted out of a
Home?"

"Yes.  What of it?"

"Only a joke, Andy.  You remember Pharaoh’s daughter _said_ she took
Moses out of the bulrushes. Don’t scowl, Andy; you don’t look pretty."

"Listen to this letter, Jim, and don’t be ribald."  Law read the letter.

"What are you going to do, Andy?"  Norval was quite serious now.

"As soon as I can I’m going up there, and take a look at things."

"You are going to help the girl?"

"Yes, if I can."

"After all, Andy, can you?  Could Alice?  The girl would have to be
rather large-sized to overcome her handicaps, wouldn’t she?"

"Alice had faith."

"I know, but a man might muddle things."

"I shall run up, however."  Law was still scowling.

Then Norval changed the subject.

"How’s Helen?" he asked, deep sympathy in his eyes.  The insane wife of
Anderson Law was rarely mentioned, but her recent illness made the
question necessary.

"Her body grows stronger, her mind——"  Law’s face was grim and hard.

"Andy, can’t you be just to yourself?  Have the years taught you
nothing?  There can be but one end for Helen and if you see to her
comfort, you have every right to your freedom."

"Jim, I cannot do it!  God, Man!  I’ve had my temptations.  When I saw
her so ill, I saw—Jim, I saw hope; but while she lives I cannot cast her
off. It would be like stealing something when she wasn’t looking."

"But Lord, Andy!  Helen can never come back. They all tell you that."

"It seems so, but while life remains she might. She loved me, Jim.  The
woman I loved in her died when our child came but I cannot forget.  I’m
a fool, but when I’ve been most tempted the thought has always come: how
could I go on living if she _did_ recover and found that I had deserted
her?"

"You’re worn to the edge, Andy, better chuck the whole thing and come
off for a vacation with me. But first look at this, tell me what you
think."

Law’s face relaxed.  He shifted his burden to where it belonged, and
walked over to the easel.

"Umph!" he said, and stepped to the right and to the left, his head
tilted, his eyes screwed up.

"Another, eh?"

"Yes."

"Jim, what in thunder ails you to let a woman play the devil with you?"

"You ask that, Andy?"

"Yes.  Our cases are quite different, Helen’s dead, but Katherine knows
damned well what she is doing."

"She doesn’t, Andy.  In one way she’s as dead as Helen, she hasn’t waked
up."

"And you think she will?  You think the time will come when she can see
your genius and get her little carcass out of the way?"

"Hold up, Andy!  I came to have you criticise my picture, not my wife."

But Law did not pay any attention.

"She ought to leave you alone, if she cannot understand.  No human being
has a right to twist another one out of shape."

Norval retreated; but he was too distraught to refuse any haven for his
perplexity.

"After all," he said, "there’s no more reason for my having my life than
for Katherine having hers. She wanted a husband and we were married.  If
I had known that I couldn’t be—a husband, I might have saved the day,
but I didn’t, Law, I didn’t. Getting married seemed part of the game,
nearly everyone does get married.  And then, well, the trouble began.
There are certain obligations that go with being a husband.  Katherine
has never exacted more than her due only——"

"Only, her husband happened to be a genius and Katherine doesn’t know a
genius when she sees one. From the best intentions she’s driving you to
hell, Jim."

"Oh! well, I may be able to get the best of it, Andy, and paint even if
I do keep to the well-trodden paths of husbands.  A fellow can’t call
himself a genius to his own wife, you know, especially when he hasn’t
proved it.  One hates to be an ass.  You see, Andy, when all’s said and
done, I can wring a thing or two out.  This is good, isn’t it?"

The two men looked at the picture.

"It’s devilish good, but it has been wrung out! Jim, it’s no use.  The
home-loving, society-trotting, movie-show husband role will be the end
of you."

"Well, if I slam my studio door in Katherine’s face and leave her to go
about alone, or sit by herself, that would be the end of her.  Andy, the
worst of it is that when she puts it up to me, I see she’s right.  We’re
married and she only wants her share."

"I suppose this meant," Law was gravely contemplating the picture,
"nights of prowling and days when you felt as if you’d kill any one who
spoke to you?"

"Something like that, and all the while Katherine was entertaining and
I’d promised to help.  I didn’t go near them once."

"Umph!"

"So you see, Testy, it isn’t Katherine’s fault.  The two roles don’t
jibe, that’s the long and short of it."

"And your love," Law was thinking aloud.  "Your love and sense of
right——"

"I’m not a cad, Andy."

"Leave this thing here for a day or two, Jim," Law raised the picture
and carried it to the window. "I never saw such live light," he said.
"Where did you get it."

"I—I was lying under the Palisades one night and just at daybreak I saw
it.  It’s a home product, though it looks Oriental, doesn’t it?"

"Yes, it does."

There was silence for a few moments, then Norval asked in quite his
natural manner, "And you won’t come away for a clip, Andy?"

"Not until autumn, Jim, then I’m going to run up into Canada."

"All right.  Having got the—the live light out of my system, and if you
won’t play with me, I’m going to coax Katherine to take me to any summer
orgy she wants to.  I owe it to her, she hasn’t had a good dance for
ages."

"Jim, you’re a fool or——"

"A modest reflection of yourself, Testy."

But something snapped that summer which sent the Norvals and Anderson
Law whirling in widely different directions.  In the upheaval Donelle
and her small affairs were forgotten.

Mrs. Law died suddenly.

The doctors sent for Law and he got there in time.

"She may, toward the end," they told him, "have a gleam of
consciousness.  Such things do happen. You would want to be with her."

"Yes, in any case," Law replied and he took his place by the bed.  In
his heart was that cold fear which many know in the presence of death.

The long afternoon hours drifted by.  The face on the pillow, so
tragically young because it did not show the tracings of experience,
scarcely moved. Toward evening Law went to the west window to raise the
shade, there was a particularly splendid sky. When he came back he saw
that a change had come; the change, but instead of blotting out
expression in his wife’s eyes, it was giving expression, meaning, to
what had been, for so long, vacuous.  Law wanted to call for help, but
instead he sank limply into the chair and took the hand that was groping
toward his.

"I’m glad you’re here——" said the strained, hoarse voice.

"I am glad, too, Helen."

For years Law had not addressed his wife by name. That would have seemed
sacrilege.

"Have you been here all the time?"

"Yes, dear."

"That was like you!  And the baby; it is all right?"

"Yes, quite all right."

"It is a boy?"

Law struggled, then said:

"Yes, Helen, a boy."

"I’m glad.  I want him to be like his father."

She smiled vaguely; the light went out of her eyes, she drifted back.

There were a few hours more of blank waiting, then it was over.

A week later Law left a note for Norval.

"I’m sorry, old chap, that I could not see you. Pass my regrets along.
I’m off for the ends of the earth, and I’ve neglected buying a return
ticket."

And just when Norval was most sensitive to shock; just when Law’s
trouble and desertion left him in the deepest gloom, Katherine
devastated the one area, which he believed to be sane and impregnable,
by a most unlooked-for assault.

She was the sort of woman who comes slowly and secretively to
conclusions.  She was as unconscious of this herself as others were.
Apparently she was a most conservative, obvious person, a person with an
overwhelming sense of duty and obligation and untiring in her efforts to
prove this.

Since Helen Law’s death, Norval had gone as little to his studio as
possible; had devoted himself to Katherine; had condoned her coldness
and indifference.

"I deserve all she gives," he thought and rose to greater effort.  He
even got to the point of noticing her beauty, her grace, and concluded
that they, and what they represented, meant more than paint pots and
canvases.

"A man cannot have everything," he confessed, "he must make a choice."

Virtually Norval had made his choice, when Katherine blotted out, for
the time being, all his power to think straight.

He was trying to plan for the summer, he was patiently setting forth the
charms of the watering places he loathed but which promised the most
dissipation.

"I am not going away with you, Jim."  Katharine’s soft face grew hard.
"I have a duty to myself, I see it at last.  All my life I have
sacrificed everything for you, Jim."

This was humiliating, but Norval assented.

"Even my talent!"  Katherine flung this out defiantly.

They were in their home, having one of their endless get-no-where talks.

Norval meant to do his full part, but the trouble was that he had no
part in the actual life of his pretty, commonplace wife.

"Your talent, Katherine, your talent?"

Norval did not question this derisively, but as if she had told him of
having an eye in the middle of her forehead.

"You have not even been interested enough to notice."  This with
bitterness.

Norval, for some idiotic reason, or lack of it, stared at the middle of
her smooth, white brow.

"I’ve written this; I did not tell you until it was between covers."

Norval took a book she offered as he might have taken a young and very
doubtful baby.

"It looks ripping!" he said.

"It—it is well spoken of," Katherine’s eyes were tear-dimmed.

Norval gingerly handed the book back.

"You—you don’t even care, now!  You won’t open it.  I have dedicated it
to you.  The first copy is yours.  I don’t believe you’ll even read it."

"I will, Kit," Norval grabbed the book back fiercely.  He was so stunned
that he could not think at all.

Katherine writing a book!  It would be as easy to think of her riding
the circus ring.

"I’ll sit up nights reading it, Kit.  That’s what folks always do, they
don’t lay it down until the last word, even if it takes all night!  What
is it about?"

"It is called ’The Awakened Soul.’"  Katherine tried to repress a sob.
Her anger, too, was rising.

"Good God!" gasped Norval, forgetting his wife’s hatred of profanity.

Katherine reached for the book and held it to her hurt heart.

"You are selfish, you are an egotist, Jim.  Your talent, your freedom to
develop it have made you callous, brutal.  There are more ways of
killing a woman than to—beat her.  Now that I am sure I have a sacred
spark that must be kept alive, I shall demand my rights; freedom equal
to your own!"

"Of course, Kit, if you’ve gone in for this sort of thing, we’ll have to
shift our bases a little.  I know that."

"Jim, we’re not fitted for each other!"  The sob rose triumphant and
because in his soul Norval knew that she spoke the truth, he was furious
and ready to fight.

"Rot!" he cried.  "Now see here, Kit, don’t get the temperament bug;
there’s nothing in it!  You can do your job and yet keep clean and safe;
do it best by playing the game honest.  Good God! I haven’t smutted up
my life along with my canvas, you don’t have to.  It’s the fashion,
thank the Lord, to be decent, although gifted.  Your book has run you
down, old girl.  Let’s cut and forget it!"

The indignation of the narrow, weak, and stubborn swayed Katherine
Norval.

"Jim," she said, gulping and holding desperately to "The Awakened Soul,"
"I think we should be—be—divorced."

"Punk!"  Norval snapped his fingers.  "Unless you’ve given cause, there
isn’t any."

"I—I cannot live under present conditions, Jim."

"All right, we’ll get a new set."

"You are making fun and I am deadly in earnest."

"You mean you want to chuck me?"  Norval frowned, but something was
steadying him.

"I mean that I must live my life."

"Of course, Katherine, this all sounds as mad as a March hare, and it’s
August, you know. Why, we couldn’t get free if we wanted to, we’re too
decent."

"But you’re not happy, Jim."

"Well, who is, all the time?"

"And, Jim, you do your best work when you are leaving me horribly alone.
I’ve noticed."  This was another hideous truth and it stung.

"I’ve done my best, Kit," he said lamely.

"And it hasn’t worked, Jim.  I will not stand in your way.  Though I
die, I will do my duty, now I seek!"

"Don’t, Kit, for heaven’s sake, don’t."

"I mean every word that I say.  I will not submit longer to being—being
eliminated.  I must have reality of some kind.  Jim, you don’t fit into
home life.  Our baby died.  You can forget me, and I have had to forget
you.  I want my freedom."

For a full moment they stared helplessly over the chasm that for years
had been widening without their knowing it.  They could not touch each
other now, reach as they might.

"I—why—I’m stunned," said Norval.

"I alone have seen it coming," Katherine went on. "If my staying made
you happier, better, I would stay even now; but it does not, Jim."

And Norval continued to stare.

"I feel I am doing you and—and your Art a great service by letting you
go."  Katherine looked the supreme martyr.

"On what grounds?" mumbled Jim, "’An Awakened Soul’?"

This was most unfortunate.

"I’m leaving for California to-morrow!"  Katherine spoke huskily, she no
longer cried.

"Everything ready, only good-bye, eh?  Well, Kit, you’ve worked
efficiently once you began."

They looked at each other like strangers.

"I shall not follow you.  When you want me, come to me.  My soul has not
been awakened as yours has, I’ll keep on right here and fly the flag
over the ruins.  My God!  This _is_ a shot out of a clear sky."

"Jim, I’ve seen the clouds gathering ever since——"

"When, Kit?"

"That first picture that Andy said meant genius, not plain talent, and
since the baby went."

"Poor girl."

"But not so poor as I might have been," Katherine again clutched her
book proudly.

"It’s the heat, Kit.  By autumn we’ll be rational. A vacation apart will
fill up the cracks."

"Until then, Jim, we’ll be friends?"

"Friends, Kit, friends!"  Norval clutched the straw.  On this basis a
sense of relief came.

And so Katherine went to California—and Jim Norval?



                             *CHAPTER XIII*

                            *THE INEVITABLE*


Jim Norval took to the Canadian north-west.

He had meant to be quite tragic and virtuous. He had meant to stay in
the studio and fight out the biggest problem of his life, but he did
not. Undoubtedly the shock Katherine had given him stunned him at first.
But, as he revived, he was the victim of all sorts of devils which,
during his life, had been suppressed by what he believed was character.

Perhaps if the season had been less humid and Anderson Law had been near
with his plain ideals and picturesque language, things might have been
different.  But the humidity was infernal and Law obliterated.

The man is the true conservative.  Realizing how cramping this is, he
has verbally relegated the emotion to woman; but he has not escaped
actuality. No matter how widely a man’s fancy may wander, his
convictions must be planted on something. Norval, having married,
believing himself in love, took root.  Now that he was confronted by the
possibility of either shrivelling or clutching to something else, he
found he could make no decision in the old environment.  For a week he
contemplated following Katherine, it would be easier than floundering
around without her.  The next week he decided to telegraph.  He grew
calm as he wondered whether it would be wiser to capitulate; take the
position of an outraged but masterful husband, or to say he was on the
verge of death?

Then something over which Norval had no control calmed and held him.

"A summer apart will hurt neither of us," he concluded, and took the
train for Banff.  Mentally and physically, he let go.  He kept to the
silent places, the deep woods and big rivers.  He took no note of time.

Once a letter was forwarded from Anderson Law. Law wrote:


When I came to, I found myself on the way to Egypt.  It was too late to
turn back, Jim, or I would have done so and got you to come with me, I
can bear folks now.  If you think well of it, come along anyway.  And,
by the way, in the general jamboree do you know I completely forgot the
little girl of Alice Lindsay’s, fiddling away up in Canada.  I do not
usually forget such things, and I’m deeply ashamed.  If you don’t come
to Egypt, perhaps you would not mind looking her up and explaining.
I’ll be back in a year or so.


Norval smiled.  It was his first smile in many a day.  It was mid
September then and, though he did not realize it, he was edging toward
home. Home!  After all, it was good for a man and woman to know the
meaning of home.  Of course you had to pay for it, and he was ready to
pay.  It’s rather shocking to drift about and have no place to anchor
in.  That side of the matter had been uppermost in Norval’s mind for
weeks.  He meant to make all this very clear to Katherine; he wondered
if she, too, were edging across the continent.  There must be hours in
the studio, of course.  He and Katherine had enough to live on, but a
man ought to have something definite in the way of work.  Painting was
more than play to Norval, it was a profession, a job!  If he made
Katherine look at it as a job, everything would smooth out.  Then, too,
he meant to focus on her newly discovered talent.  Perhaps she was
gifted and he had been brutally blind.  No wonder she had resented it.
And, thank God, he was not one of the men who wanted the world for
themselves.  It would really be quite jolly to have Katherine write
about Awakened Souls and things of that sort while he painted.  Then,
after business hours, they would have a common life interest, maybe they
could adopt children.  Norval adored children.  Yes, it was as he had
hoped; a summer apart had brought them together!

And just then Katherine’s letter came.

It ran:


JIM, I am not coming back.  Here in my little bungalow I have found
myself and I mean to keep myself!

I feel very kindly.  All the hurt is gone now or I would not write.  I
see your genius, I really do, and I also see that it would be impossible
for me to help you.  I tried and failed horribly. Had you married a
woman, the waiting, thankful sort, the kind of woman who would always be
there when you came back, always glad to have you making your brilliant
way and basking in your light, all would have been well.  But, Jim, I
want something of my own out of life, and I wasn’t getting it.  I was
starving.  I feared I would starve here, but I haven’t and——  Well, Jim,
I don’t know how divorces are managed when people are as respectable as
we, but unless you want to leave things as they are, do try to help me
out.  After all, you must be just enough to admit that there is
something to be said for me?


The last feeling of security died in Norval’s heart as he read.  He had
been flung into space when his wife had first spoken.  He was not angry
now.  He was not really grieving, but he felt as a man might who, in
falling, had been clutching to what he thought was a sturdy sapling only
to find it a reed.

He had been falling ever since Katherine had shown him the "Awakened
Soul," but he had reached out on the descent for anything that might
stop him, even the partial relinquishing of his ambition.  And here he
was with nothing!  Falling, falling.

Then, as one notices some trivial thing when one is most tense and
shocked, Norval thought of that little girl of Alice Lindsay’s fiddling
away in Canada!

"I’ll get down to Chicoutimi and take to the river; Point of Pines is on
the way and I can do this for old Andy.  It’s about the only thing for
me to do anyway, just now."

There were forest fires all along the route and travel was retarded.
When Point of Pines was seen in the distance, its location marked by a
twinkling lantern swung from a pole on the dock, the captain of the
_River Queen_ was surly because one lone traveller was determined to be
put ashore.

"Why not go on to Lentwell?" he argued; "we’re late anyway.  You could
get a rig to bring you back to this God-forsaken hole to-morrow.  It’s
only six miles from Lentwell."

But Norval insisted upon his rights.

"What in thunder do you want to go for?" the captain grew humorously
fierce.  "No one ever goes to Point of Pines."

"I’m going to surprise them," Norval rejoined. "Give them a shock, make
history for them."

"Your luggage is at the bottom of the pile," this seemed a final
argument, "you didn’t say you were going to get off."

"I didn’t know just where the place was; but chuck the trunks at
Lentwell, I’ll send for them."

So the _River Queen_ chugged disgustedly up to the wharf and in the
gloom of the early evening Norval, with a couple of bags, was deposited
on it.

A man took in the lantern that had made known to the captain of the
departing boat that Point of Pines was doing its duty.  Then a voice,
not belonging to the hand, called from a short distance back of the
wharf:

"Jean Duval, did a box come for us?"

"No, Mam’selle."

"Didn’t anything come?"

"Nothing, Mam’selle."

"Why, then, did the boat stop?"

"To make trouble, Mam’selle, for honest people."

With this the unseen man departed, grumbling. He had either not seen
Norval or had decided not to court further trouble.

Norval laughed.  The sound brought a young girl into evidence.  She was
a tall, slight thing, so fair that she seemed luminous in the dim shadow
caused by the hill which rose sharply behind her.

"Well!" she said, coming close to Norval.  "Well! How did you get here?"

"The _River Queen_ left me," Norval explained, "probably instead of the
box you expected."

"Why?" asked the girl.

"Heaven knows!  I rather insisted, to be sure, but I don’t know why.  I
wonder if any one could give me a bed for the night?  Do you know?"

"Perhaps Mam’selle Morey could.  All her life she’s been getting ready
for a boarder."

Norval started.

"Mam’selle Morey?" he said slowly; "and you——?"

"I’m Donelle Morey.  I have Molly and the cart here.  We can try, if you
care to."

So Norval put his bags in the cart and stretched out his hand to help
the girl.

"Thanks," she said; "I will ride beside Molly on the shaft."

"But—why, that’s absurd, you know.  The seat is wide enough for us
both."

"I prefer the shaft."

The air, manner, and voice of the girl were proofs enough of Alice
Lindsay’s work, but Norval was determined to keep his own identity, for
the time being, secret.

"I’m Richard Alton," he said, as the little creaking cart mounted the
Right of Way.

"Good evening, Mr. Richard Alton," came the reply from the shaft.  It
was improbable that the slip of a girl sitting there was laughing at
him, but the man on the seat had his doubts.

"I’m a painter," he added.

"A painter?  Do you paint houses?"

"Oh! yes, and barns and even people and trees."

This seemed to interest the voice in the gloom, for they had entered the
woods and it was quite dark.

"You are making fun?"

"Far from it, Mam’selle."

"I am not Mam’selle.  I’m Donelle."

How childish the words and tones were!

"Excuse me, Donelle."

"And here’s home!"  Suddenly Molly had emerged from the trees and stood
stock still in the highway in front of the little white house.

"Would you rather wait until I let Molly into the stable, or will you go
in?"  Standing in the road, with the moonlight touching her, Donelle
looked like nothing so much as a silver birch in the shadowy woods.

"I’d much rather wait.  I’m horribly afraid."

"Afraid of what?"

"That Mam’selle Morey may not approve of me as a boarder."

"Then she will say so," comforted the girl, turning to open the gate
across the road for the horse. "Molly," she said, "you trot along and
make yourself easy, I’ll be back in a few minutes."  Then she turned to
Norval.  "We’d better go right in.  If you are not to stay here you’ll
have to try Captain Longville’s and that is a good three miles."

"Good Lord!" muttered Norval, and began to straighten his tie and hat in
a desperate attempt at respectability.

As long as he lived Norval was to remember his first glimpse of Jo Morey
and the strangely home-like room that greeted him.  Perhaps because his
need was great the scene touched his heart.

The brilliant stove was doing its best.  The hanging lamp was like
electricity for clearness.  The brightness, comfort, and Jo at her loom
made a picture upon which the tired, heartsore man looked reverently.

Jo lifted her glad face to welcome Donelle and saw the stranger!

Instantly the protecting brows fell, but not until Norval had seen the
worship that filled the eyes.

"Mamsey!"  Donelle went quickly forward and half whispered.

"This—this is a boarder!  Now, don’t——"  Norval could not catch the
rest, but it was a warning to Jo not to put her price too high.

"A boarder?"  Jo got upon her feet, plainly affected. She took life
pretty much as it came, but this unexpected appearance of her secret
desire almost stunned her.

"Where did you get him, Donelle?"

Then the girl told her story while her yellow eyes danced with childish
amusement.

"He’s just like an answer to prayer, isn’t he, Mamsey?"

"And I’m quite prayerful in my attitude," Norval put in.  "Anything in
the way of a bite and a bed will be gratefully received.  Name your
price, Mam’selle."

Now that the hour had come Jo’s conscience and her sense of justice rose
in arms against each other.

"He looks as if he could pay," she mused.

"But see how tired he looks—and interesting!"  Conscience and
inclination pushed Jo to the wall. However, she was hard-headed.

"How about five dollars a week?" she ejaculated.

"Oh!" gasped Donelle to whom money was a dead language; "Mamsey, that is
awful."

Norval was afraid he was going to spoil everything by roaring aloud.
Instead he said:

"I can stand that, Mam’selle.  I suppose you’ll call it a dollar if I’m
put out to-morrow?"

"Surely."

Then Jo bustled about preparing food while Donelle went back to Molly,
with Nick hurtling along in the dark beside her.

And so Norval, known as Alton, occupied the upper chamber of Jo Morey’s
house.  His artist’s eye gloated over the rare old furniture; he touched
reverently the linen and the woollen spreads; he laid hands as gentle as
a woman’s on the dainty curtains; and he gave thanks, as only a
weary-souled man can, for the haven into which he had drifted.  He was
as nervous as a girl for fear he might be weighed and found wanting by
Mam’selle Morey.  He contemplated, should she give him notice, buying
her. Then he laughed.  He had not been in the little white house
twenty-four hours before he realized that his landlady was no ordinary
sort and to view her in the light of a mercenary was impossible.

But Jo did not dismiss her boarder.  His adaptability won her from the
start and, although she frowned upon him, she cooked for him like an
inspired creature and hoped, in her heart, that she might prove worthy
of the fulfilment of her dreams.  To Donelle’s part in the arrangement
she gave, strangely enough, little thought except that the money would
ease the future for the girl.  Perhaps poor Jo, simple as a child in
many ways, believed that it was inherent in a boarder to be exempt from
the frailties of other and lesser men.  She never thought of him in
terms of sex, and Donelle was still to her young, very young.

Alton had been with her a week when Marcel Longville, embodying the
sentiments of the village, came deprecatingly into Jo’s kitchen and sat
dolefully down on a hard yellow chair.  She sniffed critically.  Marcel
was a judge of cooking, but no artist.  She cooked of necessity, not for
pleasure.  Jo revelled in ingredients and had visions of results.

"Crullers and chicken!" said Marcel.  "You certainly do tickle the
stomach, Mam’selle."

"He pays well and steady," Jo answered, attending strictly to business.
"And such a relisher I’ve never seen.  Not even among your best payers,
Marcel.  They always ate and thought afterward if they wanted to, or had
to; mine thinks while he eats.  I’ve watched him pause a full minute
over a mouthful, getting the flavour."

"That’s flattering to a woman, certainly," Marcel sighed.  Then: "Father
Mantelle says your boarder is handsome, Mam’selle, and young."

"Tastes differ," Jo basted her chicken with steady hand; "he’s terrible
brown and lean.  As to age, he wasn’t born yesterday."

"What’s he doing here, Jo?"

"Eating and sleeping, mostly eating.  He wanders some, too.  He’s
partial to woods."

"Hasn’t he any excuse for being here?"

"Marcel, does any one have to have an excuse for being in Point of
Pines?  What’s the matter with the place?"

"The Captain argues that he is a prospector."  Marcel brought the word
out carefully.

"What’s that?"  Mam’selle dipped out her crullers from the deep fat.

"Sensing about timber or land, or something that someone secret wants to
buy, and has sent him to spy on."

"Well, I don’t believe the Captain has shot the right bird," Jo laughed
significantly, "the Captain isn’t always a good shot.  My boarder is a
painter."

"A painter?  What does he think he can get to do here?  We leave our
houses to nature."

"He’s going to fix up the wood-cabin."  Jo spoke indifferently, but her
colour rose.  The wood-cabin was Langley’s deserted house.  Years ago
she had bought it, for a song, and then left it alone.

"He goes there every day.  I shouldn’t wonder if he was going to paint
that.  It will take gallons, for the knotholes will just drink paint."

"Mam’selle," here Marcel panted a bit, "you don’t fear for Donelle?"

Jo stood still, wiped her hands on her checked apron, and stared at
Marcel.

"Why should I?" she asked.

"Jo, a strange man and Donelle growing wonderful pretty, and——"

Still Jo stared.

"Mam’selle, the men have fixed the world for themselves; you know that.
They have even fixed the women.  Some are to labour and bend under their
loads until they break, then the scrap heap!  Others, the pretty ones,
are to be taken or bought as the case may be.  And young girls innocent
and longing do not count the cost.  Oh!  Mam’selle, have you thought of
Donelle?"

Poor Marcel’s eyes were tear-filled.

Jo looked dazed and helpless.  Presently she said, with that slow
fierceness people dreaded:

"Marcel, I haven’t lived my life for nothing. No man fixes my life for
me nor labels me or mine.  Donelle is nothing but a child.  Why, look at
her!  When she’s a woman, if a man wants her, he’s going to hear
something that I’m keeping just for him, and unless he believes it, he’s
not fit for the girl.  In the meantime, my boarder is my boarder."

With this Marcel had to be content, and the others also.  For they were
waiting for the result of the interview like hungry animals afraid to go
too near the food supply, but full of curiosity.

Yet for all her scornful words, Jo watched the man within her house.
She realized that he was still young and for all his leanness and
brownness, handsome, in a way.  He had a habit, after the evening meal
was done, of sitting astride a chair, and, while smoking, laughing at
Donelle.

"He’d never do that if he saw in her a woman," thought Jo with relief.
"She amuses him."

And that surely Donelle did.  Her mimicry was delicious, her abandon
before Alton most diverting. She knew no shyness, she even returned his
teasing with a quick pertness that disarmed Jo completely.

"Well, Mr. Richard Alton," Donelle said one night as she watched him
puff his pipe, "I went up to the wood-cabin to-day to see how much
painting you’d done and I found it locked.  I looked into the window and
there was something hung inside."

"Little girls mustn’t snoop," said Alton.

Donelle twisted her mouth and cocked her head.

"Very well," she said, "keep your old cabin.  I know another that is
never locked against me."

"Meaning whose?"

"You’ll have to hunt and find, Mr. Richard Alton."

Norval laughed and turned to Jo.

"Why don’t you spank her, Mam’selle?" he asked.  "She’s a little
rascal."  Then: "Whose fiddle is that?" for Donelle never played.

Donelle’s eyes followed his and rested upon the case standing against
the wall.

"How did you know it was a fiddle?" she asked.

"Well, it’s a fiddle case.  Of course, Mam’selle may keep cheese in it!"

"It’s—it’s my fiddle," Donelle’s gaiety fled, "but I don’t play it any
more."

"Why?"

"Well, everything that went with the fiddle has gone!  I’m trying to
forget it."

"Mam’selle," Norval frowned his darkest, "have you ever heard of a bird
who could sing and wouldn’t?"

"No, Mr. Alton, never!"  Jo was quite sincere. Her boarder was always
giving her interesting information.

"It can be made to, Mam’selle.  Again, I advise spanking."

Surely there was no fear that her boarder and Donelle might come to
grief!  Jo laughed light heartedly.  Her own bleak experience in the
realm of love and danger was so far removed that it gave her no
guidance.  She might have felt differently had she seen what happened
the following day.  But at that time she was diligently building her
wood pile while Donelle, among the trees on the hilltop, was supposed to
be instructing a couple of boys in sawing wood.

But Donelle had finished her instructions, the boys were working
intelligently, and she had wandered away with her heart singing within
her, she knew not why.  Then she threw back her head and laughed. She
knew the reason at last, Tom Gavot was coming back!  Tom had been seeing
roads in the deeper woods for nearly three weeks, but he was coming
back.  Marcel had said so.  Of course that was why Donelle was happy.

    And my heart is like a rhyme,
      With the yellow and the purple keeping time;
    The scarlet of the maples can shake me like a cry
      Of bugles going by.


Over and over Donelle said the words in a kind of chant which presently
degenerated into words merely strung together.

"Like a rhyme—keeping time—like a cry—going by——" and then suddenly she
heard her name.

"Donelle!"  Standing under a flaming maple was Norval.

"I have been following you," he said, and his eyes, dark, compelling,
were holding hers.

"Why, Mr. Richard Alton?"

"Because I am going to make you promise to play your fiddle again."

"No, I am happier when I forget my fiddle."

"Why, Donelle Morey, are you happier?"

"You would not understand."

"I’d try.  Come, sit here on this log.  The sun strikes it and we will
be warm."

Donelle stepped off the narrow path and reached the log, while Norval
sat down beside her.

"Now tell me about that fiddle."

"Once," Donelle raised her eyes to his, "once, for a long time I stayed,
you would not know if I told you where, but it was near here and yet so
far away. Everything was different—I thought I belonged there and I was
the happiest girl, and had such big dreams.  They taught me to play; a
wonderful old man said I could play and I did.  A dear lady opened the
way for me to go on!  Then something happened.  It was just a word, but
it told me that I did not belong in that lovely place, and if I went on
I would be—cheating somebody; somebody who had let me have my life and
never asked anything, who never would, but who would go on, making the
best of——"  Donelle’s eyes were full of tears, her throat ached.

"Of what, little girl?"

"The—the bits that were left."

"Perhaps," Norval, quite unconsciously laid his hand over Donelle’s
which were clasped on her knees, "perhaps that somebody could have made
quite a splendid showing of the bits, dear girl.  And you might have
made the place yours, the one that did not seem quite your own.  Places
are not always inherited, you know.  Often they are—conquered."

"You make me afraid," said Donelle as she looked down at the hand
covering hers.  "You see, I want to do the thing you say.  I almost did
it, but the dear lady died.  I’m not very brave; I think I would gave
gone."

"She may not be the only one, child."

"But I couldn’t take anything unless I had it, clean and safe.  I
wouldn’t want it, unless I, myself, made it sure first.  I’m like that.
Don’t you think something you are afraid of being sometimes keeps you
from being what you want to be?"

"Yes.  But, little girl, come, some time, to the cabin in the woods and
play for me; will you?  I might help you.  And you could help me, I am
trying to find my place, too."

"You?"

"Yes, Donelle."  Then, quite irrelevantly, as once Tom Gavot had done,
he said: "Your eyes are glorious, child, do you know that?  The soul of
you shines through.  Donelle, it is almost as bad to starve a soul as to
kill it.  Will you bring the fiddle some day?"

"Yes, some day."

She was very sweet and pretty sitting there with the autumn light on her
face.

"Donelle!"

"Yes."

"Just Donelle.  The name is like you.  You will keep your promise?"

"Some day, yes."



                             *CHAPTER XIV*

                          *A CHOICE OF ROADS*


Day after day Donelle looked at her fiddle, but turned away.  Day after
day she sang the hours through, working beside Jo, or playing with Nick.
Something was happening to her; something that frightened her, but
thrilled her. She kept remembering the touch of Norval’s hand upon hers!
In the night, when she thought of it, she trembled.  When she saw him
she was shy.

"I wish Tom Gavot would come back," she said to herself, for Tom had
been detained.  Then, at last, one day she heard that he was on his way.
He would leave the little train, five miles below Point of Pines, and
would walk the rest of the way. She knew the path so she went to meet
him.

It was mid afternoon when she saw him coming, swinging along in his
rough corduroys and high boots, his cap on the back of his handsome
head, his bag slung over his shoulder.

She stepped behind a tree, laughing, and when he was close she suddenly
appeared and grasped his arm.

"Donelle, I thought——"

"Did I frighten you, Tom?"

"Well, you know there is always the bit of a coward in me.  Why are you
here?"

"I came to meet you, Tom."

"Has anything gone wrong?"  His face darkened; poor Tom never expected
things had gone right.  His life had not been formed on those lines.

"No, but I wanted you, Tom.  There are so many things to talk about,
wonderful things.  I’ve gone to your cabin, Tom, and made it ready for
you. Every day I’ve lighted a fire the nights are cold.  I thought you
might come at night."

Donelle had lighted a fire of which she knew nothing, and Tom could not
tell her!

"You’re kind," was all he said as he looked at her. Then: "I never had a
home until I got that cabin, Donelle.  While I am away, I see the
curtains you and Mam’selle made and the bedspread and all the rest.
When I’ve been shivering in camp, I saw the fire on my own little
hearth, and I was warm!"

Donelle smiled up to him.

"Tell me about your road," she said.

"Well, there’s going to be one!  I meant to come back ten days ago, but
something happened and I decided to start work this fall, not wait for
spring, so I stayed on.  There was sickness at a settlement back in the
woods.  Many people almost died, some of them did, because they couldn’t
get a doctor and proper care.  It’s criminal to put women and children
in such a hole; there’s got to be a road connecting those places
with—help!  A man is a brute to take a woman with him under such
conditions. What _he_ wants goes!  He never thinks of _her_ part."

"But, Tom, maybe she, the woman, wants to go."

"He ought not to let her, he knows."

"But if she just will go, what then, Tom?"

"It doesn’t make it right for him, he knows."

"But it might be worse to stay back, Tom.  A woman might choose to go."

"But _she_ doesn’t know; _he_ does."

"But she may want to know, and be willing to pay."

"Donelle, you’re a crazy little know-nothing."

Tom looked down and laughed.  He was wondrously happy.  "Always wanting
to pay for what isn’t worth it."

"You’re wrong, Tom.  It is worth it."

"What?"

"Why, the thing that makes a woman want to go into the woods with a man,
even when there are no roads; the thing that makes her willing to pay
before she knows."

Tom breathed hard.

"I suppose it is—love, Tom."

"It’s something worse, often!"  Gavot turned his eyes away from the
upturned face.

"Lately, Tom," Donelle came close to him and touched his arm as she
walked beside him, "I’ve been thinking about such a lot of new things
and love among them."

"Love!"  And now Tom stood still, as if an unseen blow had stunned him.

"Yes, and I had no one to talk to.  I couldn’t speak to Mamsey.  Always
I think of you, Tom, whenever thoughts come.  You see everything, just
as you see your roads in the deep woods.  Are you tired, Tom?"

"No," Gavot got control of himself, "no, not tired."

"You see," and now they were going on again, "the big feelings of life
just come to everyone. They don’t pick, and when you are young, you have
young thoughts.  That is the way it seems to me, and often, Tom Gavot,
the very things that you ought to have an old head to think about come
when you haven’t any sense at all."  This tremendous truth fell from the
girlish lips quite irrelevantly. "And then you just take and pay what
you must, but often you have to pay more than you ought, because—well,
because you are young when you bought——"

Donelle sobbed.  "I’ve been thinking of Mamsey," she ended pitifully.
Tom stopped short.  He flung his pack on the ground and laid his strong,
work-hardened hands on Donelle’s shoulders.

"You don’t have to pay for Mam’selle," he said in a whisper; "she’s
paid, God knows."

"But I’ve got to pay for my father, Tom."

"What do you mean?"

"Why, you see, lately I’ve known that I must be like my father more than
like, like Mamsey.  She learned and stayed and paid, he ran away.  Oh,
Tom, it’s good to be able to say this to you, out here under the trees,
alone.  It has been choking me for days and days.  You see, Tom, a big
feeling comes up in me that wants and wants.  And, always, too, there is
another feeling.  I do not want to pay, as Mamsey did.  It would be
easier to run and hide! But, Tom, I’m not going to, I’m not!  I’m going
to pay for my father!"

"What ails you, Donelle?  Has any one been talking?"  Tom still held
her, his hungry heart yearned to draw her close, but he held her at
arm’s length.

"No, it is only—thoughts that have been talking. I just cannot settle
down by Mamsey, and know I’m to stay here without that running away
feeling. Then I say: ’I don’t care, I want to go and I’ll go,’ and
then—why, I cannot, Tom, for I know I must pay for my father."

"Go where?"

"Go, Tom, where my fiddle would take me.  Go where people do not know;
go and learn things, and then if any one did find out—pay!"

Poor Tom was weary almost to the breaking point. Nights in rough camps,
days of wood tramping had worn upon him, the fire of which Donelle knew
nothing sent the blood racing through his veins.  Her touch on his arm
made him tremble.

"See here, Donelle," he said; "would you come along my road with me?
Would you, could you, learn enough—that way?"

But Donelle smiled her vague smile, "I think I must have my own road,
Tom.  The trouble is I cannot see my road as you see roads.  I only feel
my feet aching.  But, Tom, surely you must have seen life a little in
Quebec, tell me: could a great big strong love keep on loving even if it
knew about me and Mamsey?"

"Yes."  The word was more like a groan.

"Even if it had to keep Mamsey from knowing that we know?"

"Yes."

"Why, Tom, dear Tom, you make me feel wonderful. You always do, you big,
safe Tom.  I just knew how it would be; that is why I had to come and
meet you."

She rubbed her cheek against the rough sleeve of his jacket.  "I think
your mother would just worship you, Tom."

Then Gavot laughed, laughed his honest laugh, and picked up his pack.

"Donelle," he said presently, "you ought to make your music again.  You
have no right not to."

"You, you really mean that, Tom?"

"Yes, I do."

"Well, I think I’ll get the fiddle out some day, soon, and come to your
cabin.  While you draw your roads on your paper, I’ll see if the tunes
will come back."

But Donelle did not speak of Richard Alton.

The autumn lingered in Point of Pines; even the gold and red clung to
the trees to add to the delusion that winter was far off.  The mid-days
were warm, and only now and then did the frost nip.

Norval kept saying to himself, as he lay on that wonderful bed in Jo
Morey’s upper chamber, "I must go back!"  But he made no move southward.
The quiet of the woods, the lure of the river held him, and then he
began to ask why he _should_ go back?

Law was still in Egypt, Katherine was undoubtedly in her bungalow; why
not have what he always had wanted, a winter away from things?

Then a letter forwarded by his lawyer clarified his thoughts.  It was
from Katherine, who had discovered a new set of duties and was
hot-footed to perform them.

She wrote:


JIM, until you are willing to die for something, you have never lived.
In letting loose what really was never mine, my own came to me.  I have
a new book out.  Shall I send you a copy?  I’ve called it "The Soul Set
Free."  I do not want to be too personal, but I find the world loves the
close touch.

You have not said one word, Jim, about a divorce and I have waited.  I
think you owe me assistance along this line, and now I must insist.
For, Jim, with the rest of what is my own has come a startling
realization, that love, understanding love, is to be mine, too.  Until I
hear from you I will not name the man who discovered my talent before he
saw me.  He read the manuscript of my first book, he had never heard of
me then.  Only recently has he come to California.  He is my mate, Jim,
I know that, and I owe him a great duty.  I must go as I see duty, but I
must go with a clear conscience.  I owe him that, also.


Norval read this amazing letter lying on a couch before a blazing fire
in his wood-cabin.  He read and reread it.  He felt as he might have
felt had a toy dog—or a fluffy kitten, risen up and smitten him.
Katherine had been giving him a series of tremendous thumps ever since
she had shown him her awakened soul.  Little by little she had receded
from his understanding of her; but to come forth now in this stupefying
characterization of the untrammeled woman, was——  Norval laughed, a
hard, bitter laugh.

Then he went to his improvised desk, the cabin was filled with his
attempts at furniture making; it was a remarkable place.

He wrote rather unsteadily:


KIT, do you remember the story of the mouse that ran in the whiskey
drippings, licked his legs, got drunk, and then took his stand, crying,
"Where’s that damned cat I was so afraid of yesterday?"  Well, you make
me think of that.  You were once, unless I was mistaken, a nice little
mouse of a thing, pretty well scared of the conventional cat—the world,
you know.  Then came the whiskey lickings, your talent.  I’m afraid
you’re drunk, child, drunk as a lord.  But there you are, all the same,
with your back up against the wall, defying the cat.  Well, you’re
thirty-two, and although you were afraid of the cat, you certainly know
something about the animal.  I agree with you that we were not suited to
one another, and I’m ready to let your soulmate have a show.  I do not
quite know how to do it, but if you think you will not be defrauding him
too much—and if your sense of duty will permit, give me time to get my
breath and I swear I’ll think up some sort of "cause" that will set you
free.  Just now I am hidden away in the woods, painting as I used to
paint when Andy stared and stared.  I can tell quality now.  I’m on the
right road and do not want to be jerked back until I’ve made sure.
Perhaps the law in California would make it easy for you. Anything short
of making a villain of me, I’m willing to consider.


Then Norval, having written, stalked down to the Post Office, sent his
ultimatum off with the Point of Pines official stamp on it, and went to
Dan’s Place for no earthly reason but to forget.  He drank a little,
scorned himself for taking that road out of his perplexity, drank a
little more with old, grimy Pierre Gavot, and then started back to the
wood-cabin. He did not want to face Jo Morey—or Donelle. He felt
unclean; he was, in a befuddled way, paying for Katherine.

The sun was setting in a magnificent glory of colour and cloud banks.
There was a flurry of snow in the clouds, and until it fell there would
be that chill in the air that was vicariously cooling Norval’s hot
brain.

He wanted the seclusion of the cabin more than he wanted anything else
just then.  He had left a fire on the hearth, he could stretch himself
on the couch for the night.  He did not want food, but he was frantic to
get to his canvas; he had begun a few days ago a fantastic thing, quite
out of his ordinary style.  While there was light enough he could work.
So he pressed on.

The clouds quite unexpectedly gave up their burden, and Norval was soon
covered with snow as he flew along, taking a short cut to the cabin.
But having given up the snow, the clouds disappeared and the daylight
was lengthened.  Pounding the snow from his feet, shaking himself like a
bear, Norval entered the cabin and saw—Donelle standing transfixed
before the easel!

She did not turn as he came in; she was rigid, her hands holding her
violin case.

"You—you said you were a painter!" she gasped when she felt Norval was
near her.

"And you think I’m not?"  Something in the voice startled her, she
looked at him.

"You said you painted houses and barns and——"

"People sometimes and trees.  I spoke the truth, but you think I’m no
painter?"

"Why, I’ve been—I’ve been thinking I was dreaming until just now.  See
these woods," she was gazing at the unfinished thing on the easel, "They
are my woods.  I know the very paths, they are back of the lumber
cutting.  See! is there a face, somewhere in the dark, a face back of
those silver birches, is there?"

Norval, with the Joan of Arc conception in mind, had painted those woods
while Donelle’s face had haunted him.

"Can you see a face?" he asked.  He was close to the girl now, so close
that her young body touched him.

"Is it only a fancy?"

"Look again, Donelle.  Whose face?"

"I—I do not know!"

But she did know, and she looked mutely at him.

"Donelle, why did you come here?"

"I promised I was going to—to play for you."

"Then, in God’s name, do it!  See, go over there by the window."  Norval
had folded his arms over his breast.  He was afraid of himself, of the
madness that Katherine and Dan’s Place had evolved.  "Play, and I’ll
finish this thing."

"I can play best if I move about."

"Move, then, but fiddle!"

"You are sure you want me?  I can come again. You are strange, I should
not have stolen in, but once I had seen—I couldn’t get away."

"Donelle, you are to stay.  Do you hear?  For your sake and mine you are
to stay.  Now, then."

He turned his back on her, flung off his coat, and fell to work.

Donelle tuned her violin, tucked it under her chin, and slowly walking
to and fro, she played and played until the hunger in her heart grew
satisfied.  Like a little pale ghost she passed up and down the rude
room, smiling and happy.

After half an hour Norval looked at her; he was haggard, but quite
himself.

Then Donelle turned and, nodding over her bow, said:

"It’s all right, the joy of it has come back and——  Oh!  I see the face
among the trees.  What a beautiful picture!  It’s like a wood with a
heart and soul; it’s alive like Tom Gavot’s road.  Now we must go home,
Mr. Richard Alton.  We’re tired, you and I.

"Home?" Norval laughed.  "Home?"

"Yes, to Mamsey.  I always am so glad of Mamsey when I’m tired."

"Donelle, I meant to stay here to-night."

"But instead, you are coming with me!"  Donelle put out her hand,
"Come!"

Norval raised the hand to his lips.

"You little, white wood-spirit," he said, "they did not teach you to
play, they only let you free. Donelle, are you a spirit?"

"No," and now the yellow eyes sought and held his, "I’m a—woman, Mr.
Richard Alton."



                              *CHAPTER XV*

                               *THE LOOK*


And Donelle began to know what love was. Know it as passionate, daring
natures know it.  She thought of her father, of Mamsey, in a new light.
She grew to understand her supposed mother with a tragic realization and
she shuddered when she reflected upon her father.

"To go and leave love!" she thought.  "Oh! how could he?"

Then Donelle took to gazing upon Jo with the critical eyes of youth, and
yet with pity.

What manner of girl had Jo been?  Had she always been plain?

The word caused Donelle pain.  It sounded disloyal to Jo; but it sent
her to her mirror in the little north chamber beside Mam’selle’s.

The face that looked back at Donelle puzzled her. Was it pretty?  What
was the matter with it?

The eyes were too large, they looked hungry. The mouth, too, was queer;
it did things too easily. It smiled and quivered; it turned up at the
corners, it drooped down, all too easily.  The nose was rather nice as
noses go, but it had tiny freckles on it that you could see if you
looked close.  Those freckles were, in colour, something like the eyes.

"I like my hair!" confessed Donelle, and she smoothed the soft, pale
braids wound about her delicately poised head.  "My throat is too long,
but it’s white!"

Then she tried on her few dresses, one after the other, and chose a
heavy dark blue one.  Jo had woven the material, it was very fine and
warm.

"I think I will take my fiddle and go up to the wood-cabin," thought
Donelle, and then her face grew bright and rose-touched.

But instead, Donelle went to Tom Gavot’s hut.

Once outside the house, she simply could not go to the wood-cabin.  She
knew Alton was there, he painted constantly when he was not tramping the
sunny forests or sitting with Jo and Donelle, reading in the smothering
heat of the overworked stove.

"Some time when he is away, then I’ll go."

But oh! how she wanted to go.  The very thought of Alton made her
thrill.  Sometimes she saw him looking at her, when Jo was bent over her
loom or needles, and the look always called something out of Donelle;
something that went straight to Alton and never returned!

On that winter day, a still white day, Donelle carried her violin under
her long fur coat; she must play to somebody, and Jo had gone to the
distant town for the day.

The door of Tom’s hut was closed, but a curl of smoke rose from the
chimney so Donelle knocked rather formally.

Tom’s step sounded inside, he took down the bar which secured the door
and flung it open.  His eyes were dark and his brow scowling.

"Why, Tom," laughed Donelle, "who are you locking and barring out?
Maybe you do not want company?"

"I don’t, but I want you."

"Tom, who do you call company?"

"Mam’selle’s boarder, that Mr. Alton."  Tom had run across Norval once
or twice since his return.

"Don’t you like him, Tom?"

Donelle had come inside and taken a chair by the hearth, now she flung
her coat aside and laid the violin on her knee.

"Yes, I like him well enough, and that’s the trouble.  I don’t want to
like people unless there is a reason.  I can’t find a reason for this
man."

Donelle laughed.

"What is he here for anyway, Donelle?"

"Why don’t you go up to his wood-cabin and see, Tom?  He’s asked you."
She had heard Norval do so rather insistently.

"Yes.  But I’m not going."

"Why, Tom?"

"I’m too busy."

"I wish you would go, Tom.  I wish you could see his pictures.  Why,
Tom, you’d feel like taking the shoes off your feet."

Tom laughed grimly.

"Not while the weather’s so cold," he said.

"But, Tom, that’s the reason for Mr. Alton.  He is getting our woods and
skies and river safe on his canvases.  He’s going to take them back to
people who have never seen such things."

"Why don’t they come and board here, then, and see them for themselves?"
Tom threw a log viciously on the fire.  "You don’t mean he’s doing this
to give a lot of people pleasure?"

"Tom, he sells his pictures; he gets a great deal of money for them."

"Umph!"  Then, "Has he ever put you in the pictures, Donelle?"

There was a slight pause.  Remembering the faint suggestion in the first
picture she had ever seen in the cabin, Donelle said softly:

"No, Tom."

"I’m glad.  I’d hate to have a lot of strangers staring at you."

"Tom, you’re scrouchy.  Let me play for you."

And, while she played, growing more rapt and absorbed as she did so, Tom
took his drawing board to the window and bent over his blueprints.
Gradually the look of doubt and irritation left his face, a flood of
happiness swept over him.  He began to see roads.  Always roads.  He
wanted to go to Quebec in the spring and tell his firm about something
he had discovered lately; and it was on Mam’selle Morey’s land, too.  If
there were a road back among the hills over which to haul that which he
had found, haul it by a short cut to the railroad, by and by Mam’selle
and Donelle would not have to take objectionable strangers into their
home and——

Donelle played on unheedingly, but Tom started as a knock fell on the
door!

"I will not open it!" he thought savagely.  "Let him think what he damn
pleases."

The tune ran glidingly on.

"You like this tune, Tom?"  Donelle was far away from the still cabin.

"Yes, I like it, Donelle, but play something louder, faster."

"Well, then, how about this?" and with a laugh Donelle swung into a new
theme.

Again the knock!  This time softer but more insinuating.

Then all was quiet, but the mad music was filling the warm room.

Just then the visitor at the door stepped around the house and came in
full view of the window before which Tom sat, rigid and defiant.  It was
Norval, and he paused, came nearer and stood still.  Tom got up, and the
movement attracted Donelle’s attention.  She turned and saw the two men
glaring at each other, the glass between.

"Curse him!" muttered Tom, "curse him!"

Norval vanished instantly, but not before Donelle had caught the
expression in his eyes.

"Tom," she said affrightedly, "what did he think?"

"What does it matter what he thought?"

"But, Tom, tell me, what did he think to make him look like that?
Perhaps, perhaps he thinks I should not be here, alone with you."

"Damn him.  What right has he to stare into my place?"

"But, Tom, his eyes, I cannot bear to think of the look in his eyes.
It—it was laughing, but it hurt."

"Who cares about what he thought?"  Tom was savage.

"I do," Donelle whispered.  She was putting her violin away.  "I do.  I
couldn’t stand having a man look at me like that.  Why, Tom, it made me
feel ashamed."

Again Gavot cursed, but under his breath.

"You going?" he asked.  "Wait, I’ll come with you. Wait, Donelle."

But the girl did not pause.

"I’d rather go alone," she called back.

But she did not go directly home, she took a round-about way and reached
the hill back of the little white house.  The tall pines rose black from
the untrodden snow, the winter sky was as blue as steel, and as cold.
In among the trees, where it was sheltered, Donelle sat down.  There she
could think!

The power of a look is mighty.  The mere instant that Norval had gazed
upon Donelle through the window was sufficient to carry the meaning in
the man’s mind to the sensitive girl.

It took her some time to translate the truth as she sat under the trees
on the hilltop, but slowly it all became clear.

"He does not know, but he thinks wrong of me."  Donelle spoke aloud as
if repeating a lesson.

"Why should he think wrong?" questioned the hard teacher.

Then Donelle remembered her father and Jo, and the word with which
Pierre Gavot had polluted her life.

"That’s why he laughed," shuddered the girl. Her own secret interpreting
the hurting look though knowing him only as Richard Alton, she had no
reason to believe he knew her story.

Then the relentless teacher pointed her back to the look in Dan Kelly’s
eyes, the look that had frightened her and had made Jo send her away to
the Walled House.

"Unless I save myself," moaned Donelle, "no one can keep people from
looking—those looks!"

Quietly she got up and walked down the hill, a tall, slim, ghostly form,
with eyes haunted by knowledge.

That night after the evening meal Norval stayed in the bright living
room and tortured Donelle.  He knew he was brutal, but something drove
him on. He was suffering dumbly, suffering without cause, he believed.
Why should he care that a girl about whom he knew too much should hide
herself away with a rough young giant behind a locked door in a lonely
hut?

Then he concluded it was because he knew how Alice Lindsay and Law might
feel, that he suffered. They would be so shocked.

"After all," Norval tried to reason himself into indifference, "blood
will cry out.  The world may be damned unjust to women, but there is
something lacking when a girl like this makes herself—cheap."

Then it was that Norval began his torture.  Jo was in the kitchen at the
moment, Donelle was clearing the table.

"Where were you this afternoon?"  Norval was carefully filling his pipe,
sitting astride his chair.

"Part of the time I was in the woods on the hill," Donelle glanced at Jo
through the open door.

"That’s odd!"  Norval puffed slowly and Donelle’s eyes pleaded
unconsciously.  For no real reason she did not want Jo to know she had
been with Tom. She was haunted by the look!

"Why don’t you come up to my cabin and play to me?"  This in a tone so
low that Mam’selle could not hear.

"I—I don’t know.  I might be in the way while you work."

"On the contrary.  Come up to-morrow, Donelle, I’ll paint you with your
fiddle.  You’ll make the town stare, the town back home."

The colour rose to Donelle’s face.  She remembered Tom’s words.

"I do not want strangers staring at my face," she said with some spirit.

"Why not?  It’s a pretty face, Donelle."

Then the girl crossed the room and stood before him.

"If you talk and look like that," she warned in an undertone, "I’ll make
Mamsey send you away."

Norval laughed.

"I don’t believe you will," he said, and reached out toward her.

And, for hours that night, after everything was still, Donelle lay in
her dark room and cried while she struggled with her confused emotions.

"He shall go away!  He shall _not_ dare to look at me so, and whisper!"

Then she tossed about.

"But he must not go until I make him ashamed to look at me—so.  But how
can I?  How can I?"

Toward morning sleep came and when Donelle awoke, Norval had had his
breakfast and gone.

After the morning’s work was finished Jo asked Donelle to go on an
errand.  A poor woman back among the hills was ill and needed food of
the right sort.

"I have a crick in my back, Donelle," Jo explained, "I don’t believe I
could walk there, and the road is unbroken.  Molly is too old to force
her way through. If you take the wood path, it won’t be too far."

"I’d love to go, Mamsey.  It’s such a still day, and did you ever see
such sunlight?"

The release was welcome, poor Donelle still was thrashing about in her
confused emotions.  She was grateful that Alton was gone; she yearned to
see him, and so it went.

"I’ll be back as soon as I can, Mamsey.  Is the basket packed?"

It was only eight o’clock when Donelle set forth. She wore her long,
dark fur coat, a cowl-like hood of fur covered her pale hair, her
delicate, white face shone sweetly in the soft, dusky setting.  The eyes
were full of sunlight but her mouth drooped pathetically.

Jo remembered the look long after the girl had departed.

"I mustn’t keep her here," she reasoned; "I’m going to write again to
that Mr. Law.  I will wait until spring; he couldn’t come now.  I’m
going to ask him to come up here and talk things over."

Then Mam’selle went to her loom and worked like a Fate; there were piles
of wonderful things to sell. Surely they would help Donelle to her own!
And so Jo worked and dreamed and feared, while Donelle made her way over
the crusty snow, through the silent, holy woods, over the shining hill
to the sick woman in her distant cabin.

For an hour the girl worked in the lonely house. She built a roaring
fire, carried in a store of wood, fed and cheered the poor soul on her
hard bed, and then turned her face toward Point of Pines.

Almost childishly she dallied by the way, trying to set her feet in the
marks she had made on the way up.  So interested did she become in this
that it made her _almost_ forget that queer, sad feeling in her heart.

"I’ll make a new path," she decided, and that caused her to think of Tom
Gavot and Alton and—the Look!

Then she forgot all else and drifted far away.  She was unhappy as the
young know unhappiness; no perspective, no comparison.  Never had there
been such a case as hers!  Never had any one suffered as she was
suffering because no one had ever had the same reason!

When Donelle recalled herself, she found that she was on the highway
several miles beyond Point of Fines.  The sun was sloping down, the west
was golden, and a solemn stillness, almost deathly, pervaded space.

There was a tall cross close beside Donelle.  Black it rose from the
unsullied snow, white tipped it was and shining against the glowing sky.
Beneath it someone had evidently knelt, for the crust of the snow was
broken.  What meaning all this had for Donelle, who could tell?  But the
confusion and hurt of the last few hours clutched at her heart, and she
who had never been urged by Jo Morey to consider religion in any form
went slowly to the cross and sank down!

The teachings of St. Michael’s claimed her, the memory of little Sister
Mary with the lost look clung to her; then a peace entered into her
soul.

"No one could hurt me there," she sobbed.  "No one could look at me—with
that look."  Then, at the foot of the cross, her head bowed and her
tears falling, Donelle shivered and prayed.

[Illustration: "At the foot of the cross, her head bowed and her tears
falling, Donelle shivered and prayed."]

Presently she raised her face; it was calm and pale. There was a round
teardrop on her cheek that had not fallen with the others.  She turned
and there by the roadside stood Norval.  How long he had been there he
could hardly have told himself.

When he had gone to the white house for his noon-day meal, Jo had told
him, quite inconsequently, of Donelle’s errand and he had followed her,
for what reason God only knew.

"Donelle!" he said, "Donelle!"

The terrible look in his eyes was gone, gone was the mocking smile of
the night before.  Pity, divine pity, moved him.

"Donelle!"

"Yes, Mr. Richard Alton."  The poor girl strove to be her teasing self,
but her lips trembled and suddenly a strange, almost an awful, dignity
and detachment overcame her.  Standing with clasped hands, in her
nun-like garb, she seemed to have taken farewell of the world that women
crave.

"What are you doing, Donelle, by that cross?"  Norval did not draw near,
and a distance of several feet separated them.

"Thinking and praying."

"Thinking what?  And praying for what?"

The trouble in his eyes met the trouble in hers and called for simple
truth.

"I was thinking of how you looked at me yesterday when I was in Tom
Gavot’s hut and of how you made me suffer last night.  And I was praying
to God to help me, help me to stop loving you."

So naïve and direct were the words that they made Norval breathe hard.
In a flash he saw the true nature of the girl before him.  She was old,
gravely, inheritedly old; and she was, too, a young and pitiful child.

People had only touched the outer surface of her character and
personality.  Alone she had learned the primitive and desperate lessons
of womanhood.

"Stop loving me?"  Norval repeated the words slowly.

"Yes, I was beginning to love you very much, more than everything else.
Then, when you looked as you did yesterday, I remembered and all night I
was afraid.  Oh!  I am glad you did not get to loving me.  It hurts so!"

"How do you know that I have not got to loving you?  How do you know but
that it was because I love you that I looked as I did yesterday?"

"Ah, no, Mr. Richard Alton, you couldn’t have looked so had you loved
me."  Donelle tried to smile and made a pitiful showing.

"You don’t know men, Donelle."

"But I know love."

Now that she had taken her last leave of it, Donelle could talk of it as
little Sister Mary might have done, for she had vowed beside the cross
to go back to St. Michael’s.  Long ago Sister Angela had said that she
would find peace there.  Then she spoke suddenly to Norval.

"You see, maybe you have heard something about Mamsey and me, but you
did not quite understand and you felt you had a right to look as you
did.  I wonder why men want to make it harder for—for women, when women
try to forget?"

Norval winced; the shaft had sunk into its rightful place.

And still the white-faced girl stood her distance, and tried to smile.

"I am going to tell you all about Mamsey and me," she said.  "I will
tell you as we walk along."



                             *CHAPTER XVI*

                              *THE STORY*


How little she really knew of life!  But how the last year of suffering
and renunciation had filled the void with a young but terrible
philosophy.  Norval did not speak.  With bowed head, hands clasped
behind him, he walked beside Donelle as she went along, bearing her
cross and poor Jo’s.

"You see I could not let Mamsey know that I knew.  I could not hurt her
so.  She would have made me go away, and always I would have remembered
her here alone where my father left her.  And Tom Gavot has helped me
keep the people still. He stays here, and he wanted to go way, way off,
and be something so different.  That is why I can play for Tom in his
cabin.  He knows and understands; he couldn’t hurt Mamsey and me, he
couldn’t! Women like Mamsey and me feel a hurt terribly, that’s why I am
telling you this, I want you to be kind. Don’t make things harder, they
are bad enough!"

"Donelle, for God’s sake, spare me!"

The words were wrung from Norval, but he did not look up.

"I’m sure now that you know, you never will hurt us again," Donelle’s
voice soothed and caressed unconsciously.  "I!—I wanted to be happy just
as if nothing had happened, before I was born, to keep me from being
happy.  I thought about love, just as girls will.  They cannot help it.
Then you came and I wanted you!"

A quivering fierceness shot through the words. Norval gave a quick
glance at the face near him and saw that the purest, most primitive
statement of a mighty truth held the girl’s thought.  If she had said,
she, the first woman, to him, the first man:

"You are mine, I want you," she could not have said it more divinely.

"I wanted to make you happy; to play for you while you painted your
beautiful pictures, and then when you were tired and I was tired, why,
our big love would bring us more and more happiness. Then, well, then
you looked at me through Tom Gavot’s window and somehow I understood!"

Donelle and Norval were nearing the little white house, they could see
the smoke rising from the chimney.  Norval’s thoughts were racing madly
ahead, crowding upon him, choking him.  He meant to make the future safe
for this young girl, safe from himself and the sacredest passion of his
life which, he now acknowledged, had mastered him.  Reason,
world-understanding, had no part in it, he wanted her. He must have her,
and was prepared to clear the path leading to an honest love.  But he
could not tell her of Katherine, of himself, there was no time; no time
and her experience could not possibly have prepared her for bearing it.

"I am going to tell you a great secret," Donelle half whispered, "back
there by the cross I remembered what the Sisters at the Home used to
tell me. They knew, but I did not—then.  For girls like me—well, I am
going back to St. Michael’s-on-the-Rocks and teach the babies.  That’s
why I could tell you what I have just told you."

Then Norval turned and took her in his arms.  So swiftly, so
overpoweringly did he do this, that Donelle lay quiet and frightened,
her white face pressed against his breast, her wonderful eyes searching
his stern, strange face.

"No, by God!  You are not going back to St. Michael’s!" he whispered.
"You little white soul, can’t you see I love and adore you?  Can’t you
see it was because I couldn’t bear another man to—to have you, that I
was a brute to you?  Do you think that any wrong others have done can
keep you from me, from letting me take you where you belong? Donelle!
Donelle, kiss me, child."

Only the deep eyes moved; they widened and grew dark.

"May I—kiss you?"

"No."  And Norval did not kiss her!

"But you are mine, Donelle, and all the powers in the world cannot alter
that.  I am going to make you believe me.  What do I care for anything
but this?  You have driven everything but yourself from sight.  When you
play, great heavens, Donelle, when you play to me, moving about as you
did that first and only time in my cabin, you took me into a Great
Place.  Don’t tremble, little girl, don’t.  Every quiver hurts me.  I am
going to make you forget the brute in me; I’m going to meet your love,
dear heart, with one as fine, so help me God!  Trust me, Donelle, trust
me and when you can tell me that you do trust me, we will go to
Mam’selle.  She will understand, she has the mighty soul.  Oh, Donelle!"

Norval leaned over the tender face, almost touched it with his lips, but
did not.

"My little white love!" he whispered.  "But you will come and play for
me?" he pleaded.

"Yes."

"And you will, you will give me a fair show?"  She smiled wanly.

"If I ever give you cause again to fear me, I hope——"

Then Donelle raised her hand and laid it across his lips.

"I am so afraid of this wonderful thing that is happening to me," she
said, "and you mustn’t say—well! what you were going to say just then."

"Don’t fear the love, my darling.  It’s the sacredest thing in the
world."  Norval had taken the hand from his lips and now held it in his
own.  "And we’ll keep it holy, Donelle.  That is our part."

"Yes, yes; but to think, to think!"

"Don’t think, sweet, here.  Come close and try to—to—love for a moment
without remembering."

"Why, how can I?"

"Try."

And so they stood with the golden light of the west on their faces.
Norval did the thinking.  He thought of the quickest possible method of
setting Katherine free and making it right for him to kiss Donelle.  He
thought of the wild realization of his true nature—a nature that had
been distorted and contracted by inheritance and training.  He did not
want the beaten tracks, that had always been the trouble.  He wanted the
unbroken trails, God! how he had thirsted and hungered for just what
this little, wild, sweet thing in his arms represented.  Love, simple,
primitive love, music, understanding!  And then Norval thought of
Anderson Law!  Thought of him, longed for him at that moment as a blind
man might long for guiding, not to the right path, but on it.

"You may kiss me now!"  This in a whisper.

The quick surrender startled Norval.  He bent his head, still thinking
of Law.

"My woman," he said to that uplifted face, "when I have the right, that
somehow I forfeited, I will kiss you."

"But you said we were not to think; when you think, you remember."

"Yes, Donelle, we remember and we look ahead with faith."

Gently Norval let her free.  He smiled at her, and the look in his eyes
made her stand very straight, but she smiled back.

"I am so happy," she said simply.  "And I thought I was never to be
happy again."

"And I—why, Donelle, you’ve taught me what happiness means.  And you
will keep your promise about coming to the wood-cabin?"

"Yes, Mr. Richard Alton."  Donelle made a courtesy.

"And you’ll bring the fiddle?"

"Of course."

"And Donelle, before you, dear child, I beg the pardon and forgiveness
of Tom Gavot."

"I wish he could know that you are what you are," Donelle’s eyes
saddened.

"He shall, child.  That, I swear.  Next to Mam’selle," here, almost
unconsciously Norval raised his cap, "next to Mam’selle, Tom Gavot shall
know. Come, little girl, here’s home!"

And together they went up to Jo’s house.  It was marvellous how they
managed the great thing that had happened.  Never outwardly did it
overcome them.

The winter grew still and hard, the people shrank into their houses.
There were trodden paths, like spokes of a wheel, leading from most of
the houses to the hub, which was Dan’s Place; there were more or less
broken paths reaching to the river, where, under the ice, fish were
obtainable.

Tom Gavot just at that time was called to duty and left his father with
money enough to keep him silent; and food and fuel enough to keep him
safe.

Jo, with a growing content and happiness, cooked for her boarder,
revelled in his society during the long evenings, and was perfectly
oblivious of the stupendous thing that was going on under her very eyes.

Norval sent for books, many of them.  Books of travel; Jo grew
breathless over them.

"I can sit in this rocker," she often said to Marcel Longville, "shut my
eyes, and there I am in those far places.  I see palm groves and I hear
the swishing of the sea.  Mercy!  Marcel, just fancy a body of water as
long as the St. Lawrence and as wide as it is long!"

"I can’t," said Marcel.  "And I wouldn’t want to. Water isn’t what I
take to most.  But I do like the palm countries, Mam’selle.  They are,
generally speaking, warm.  Sometimes I feel as if I never would be warm
again as long as I live."

While Norval read aloud to Jo and Donelle, he would often lift his eyes
to find Donelle looking at him.  Over the gulf of silence that separated
them they smiled and trusted.

Norval wrote to his lawyer, instructed him to take legal steps at once,
upon whatever ground he could, legitimately, select.  "Leave my wife and
me free," he said; "with as decent characters as our stupid laws permit.
I don’t see why society should feel more moral if we are sullied."

But Norval did not write to Katherine.  He left that for his lawyers to
do.  He did, however, send a pretty fair statement of the case of
himself and his wife to Anderson Law who, at that time, was basking
under Egypt’s calm skies, wandering in deserts, forgetting, and pulling
himself together.

And according to her promise Donelle went often to the cabin in the
woods.  Because it was winter and Point of Pines in a subnormal state,
no one knew of the secret visits.  Not even the joyous notes of the
violin attracted attention.  Norval painted as he never had in his life
before.  His genius burned bright. He knew the difference now; it made
him humble and grateful.  He painted the winter woods with an inspired
brush.  They were asleep, but not dead.  His sunlight was alive; his
moonlight, pure magic.  He caught the frozen river with its strange,
shifting colours; he dealt appealingly with the lonely, scattered
houses; they seemed, under his hand, to ask for sympathy in their
isolation.

Guided by Donelle’s interpretation, he painted a road full of mystery
and delight.  A long road leading to a hilltop.

"Oh!" Donelle cried when she stood close and beheld the picture.  "Now I
see what Tom saw long ago, but you had to teach me.  The road is alive,
it is a—a friend!  You just would not want to hurt it or make it
ashamed.  Oh! how the sunlight lies on it. I believe it moves!"

Norval lifted his face, his yearning eyes claimed the love he saw in
Donelle’s.

"Sweetheart, trot around and play for me," he would suddenly say, his
lips closing firm, "play and play while I make Tom Gavot’s road ready
for him. Child, when I give Tom Gavot this picture, I’ll make him
understand many things."

"And you will give him the Road?  He’ll be so happy."  Donelle was
moving about, her eyes dreamy.

"I wonder!" breathed Norval.

"Wonder what?" Donelle paused.

"About a thousand things, my sweet."

By and by Norval painted his love; painted it in the splendid picture
that afterward hung in a distant gallery and was known as "Fairer than
morning, lovelier than the daylight."

In it sat Donelle where the western glow fell upon her.  With a rapt
expression in her yellow eyes, her violin poised, the bow ready, she was
looking and smiling at the vision that had caught and held her.

"I seem to be looking at you," Donelle whispered as, standing beside
him, she gazed at the canvas. "Waiting for you to tell me what to play.
I believe, I believe you are saying to me, ’play our pretty little
French song.’  Shall I play it now?"

"Yes, my beloved, and then," Norval was sternly intent upon his brushes,
"then we’ll go for a tramp with Nick.  That infernal little scamp is
like an alarm clock.  Look, Donelle, he’s coming up the path, coming to
tell us the evening meal is ready. Sometimes I wonder if Mam’selle
guesses?"

After some delay a letter came from Norval’s lawyer.

It said:


I think by summer we can bring everything to a satisfactory conclusion.
I can take no definite steps at present because Mrs. Norval’s lawyer
writes that she has been quite ill and has gone to the mountains to
recuperate.


Norval frowned, he was getting impatient of delay, he wanted to take
Donelle to Egypt in the early summer.  He wanted Law to set his seal of
approbation upon her.

But Donelle saw no reason for perplexity; she existed in so glorious a
state that no disturbing thing ever entered.  It was enough for her to
waken in the morning and to know that her love was in Jo’s upper
chamber, safe and near.  It was joy for her to look at Jo herself and
think that the world could no longer hurt her.  How could it, with the
big love holding them all?

When Norval touched her, Donelle felt the thrill of trust and
understanding.  She never doubted now and often she would laugh as she
remembered her vow by the cross and thought of St.
Michael’s-on-the-Rocks.

"Oh! but it is the magic that has caught me!" she whispered to herself,
hugging her slim body and wishing, with happy tears, that all the world,
her little world, could know.

She wanted Jo to know, and Tom Gavot!  She couldn’t bear to have Tom
nursing a hate while he was away making his roads.  She wanted everyone
in Point of Pines to know, even old Pierre.

She wished, almost pathetically, that Mrs. Lindsay and Professor Revelle
could know.

"For they made me just a little more like my dear love," She said to
herself.  "They brightened me and gave me the music.  My dear loves me
to be pretty and he loves my music."

But it was not all so easy for Norval.  There were times when, alone
with Donelle in the wood-cabin, the crude side of love made its
tremendous claim.

How desirable Donelle was when, casting her violin aside, she flung
herself in a chair by the hearth and said:

"Come, put the paints away and wipe the brushes carefully.  Come tell me
a story and then, dear man, I’ll stir you some maple and put in a lot of
nuts. Oh! but I will make it good."

Norval, at such commands, felt his strength departing.

"There’s one story I’d like to tell you, little woman," he once flung
back to her desperately.

"And that is what?"

"A story of a man and woman."

"Go on, go on," Donelle urged.  "That will be the best of all."

"You bet it will!"  Then Norval tossed his brushes aside.

"I’m coming over to take you in my arms and kiss you, sweet!" he warned,
but did not move.

"Well, why don’t you?  And then we can tell Mamsey."

Norval frowned.

"Shall I come to you, dear man?"

Oh! how she lured and tempted from her safe, innocent love.  "I trust
you now.  I beg your pardon because I once did not.  I will come half
the way."

"My sweet, when I take you in my arms to tell you the story I mean to
tell you, I will come all the way!  Now stir the syrup, you hard little
bargainer. Throw in an extra handful of nuts for the crimes you commit
but know not of."

"And now you are laughing!" cried Donelle.

"Far from it, I’m thinking of swearing."

"At what?"  Donelle was cracking the nuts.

"At the absolute stupidity of——Good Lord, child"—Norval sprang toward
her—"your skirt was on fire!  He crushed the sparks and held her for a
moment.

"If anything happened to you," he muttered.

"What would you do?"  Donelle trembled a little in his arms.

"I’d go—don’t look at me that way, Donelle—I’d go to St.
Michael’s-on-the-Rocks."



                             *CHAPTER XVII*

                         *THE BLIGHTING TRUTH*


Then spring came softly, fragrantly up the hill from the river.  Almost
every day a new little flower showed its head.  Tom Gavot came back
grim, tired, and eager.  He found his cabin swept and shining, a fire
upon the hearth, and a bunch of timid snow blossoms in a cracked mug on
the table—that made him laugh.  But at the sight of them Tom’s weariness
vanished and he sat down by his own fireside with a sigh of complete
content.

Jo sang at her work that spring, actually sang "A la Claire Fontaine."
She sang it boldly, without reservations, and Nick forgot his years and
a growing dimness of the eyes.  He smelled around among the delectable
new things in the woods, found the scent for which he was searching, and
trotted off gaily, feeling young and dapper once again.  Molly, the
sturdy horse, felt her oats; she almost ran away once, tossing Jo from
the shaft into the muddy road.

But Jo only laughed aloud.  It was all so absurd and natural.

"The little red cow," Jo said to Donelle that spring, "is old, old.  I
really do not know that it’s wise to keep her longer.  She eats her head
off."

"But you are going to keep her, Mamsey, aren’t you?  You just couldn’t
send her away?  Think of all her pretty calves, and she has been so
faithful."

Suddenly Mam’selle recalled the night before Donelle came: when she and
Nick had bided with the little red cow.

"Of course," she blurted out, "I am going to keep her.  I was only
supposing."

"Oh!  Mamsey, you are such fun, and you never hide any more.  You’re
really getting to be handsome.  Do you know Mr. Alton, Mr. Richard
Alton, says he’d like to paint you as ’The Woman With the Hoe.’  He says
you’d show the man—I don’t know who he means—what a hoe can do for the
right sort."

"Well, Mr. Richard Alton isn’t going to mess me up in his paints.  It’s
an awful waste of time for a full-grown man to make pictures all day.  I
wonder when he’s going home?"

"I wonder?" whispered Donelle.

"We’ll never have another boarder like him, child."

"Oh! never, Mamsey."

"I wish he’d stay through the summer.  I’d like to fling him in the
teeth of Marcel’s boarders."

"Oh!  Mamsey."

"The Captain says he’s all ready for folks now; he’s opened sooner
because Father Mantelle prophesies an early summer."

Then one night, after everyone was in bed, the _River Queen_ sneaked up
to the wharf—there is no other word for her action—and a lone figure,
with several bags and a trunk, was deposited.

Jean Duval, who had swung out the lantern from the pole, took charge.

"I’ll just take you up to Captain Longville’s," he said.  "The Captain
can manage."

The following morning Donelle found, upon going to the living room, that
Alton had departed at daybreak.

"He wanted to see the sunrise on the river," Jo explained; "he took
lunch enough to feed a dozen; fried chicken and doughnuts and pickles.
He’s the biggest pickle eater I ever saw," Jo laughed. Then added:
"Donelle, I’m going to the village to-day with my linens.  The man in
the shop over there has offered a tidy sum for them.  I don’t think I
can get back to-night.  Molly acts like a colt, but her staying powers
are nothing to boast of.  You better go to Marcel——"

"But I hate to, Mamsey."

"Child, I’d rest easier——"

"Then I’ll go, Mamsey.  I’d even go to that dirty old Pierre’s or to the
Kelly’s if you would rest easier, Mamsey.  Isn’t life just like a book?"

"It is!" murmured Jo with conviction.  "It certainly is wonderfully like
a book."

After Jo had gone and Donelle had put the little house in order she
closed the door and windows and whistled to Nick.

"Come on, you old dear," she said, "and how thankful I am you can’t
talk, Nick.  You can look and thump your tail all you want to; no one
understands that.  Nick, when _he_ gets back, he’ll be tired. We’ll be
there to meet him.  Come on, Nick!"

The sun was warm and bright, it filtered through the trees and reached
the brave spring flowers showing in the moss and the rich, black earth.

"Don’t step on the flowers, Nick.  Where are your manners?"  Donelle
gave a laugh and Nick made wide circles.  And so they came to the
wood-cabin and went inside.  Donelle left the door open for she meant to
make a rousing fire, and the day was too fine to be shut out.  Nick
pattered around the room for a few moments and then curled up in the
window seat.

"There, now," said Donelle at last, "I think everything is right and
cosey, I can finish that book."

So she took the story she and Norval had been reading and, buried in the
deep chair, with her back to the door, she was soon absorbed.

She heard a step outside, smiled, and made believe she was asleep.

Someone entered, saw her, and quickly drew conclusions; bitter, cruel
conclusions, but conclusions that drove an almost defeated sense of duty
to the fore.

"Good morning.  Is this Mr. Norval’s—" there was a pause—"studio?"

Donelle sprang up as if she had been shot.  A thin, desperately
sick-looking woman in rich velvet and furs confronted her.  The
incongruous garments, the strangely haunting name, made Donelle stare.

"Is this Mr. Norval’s—studio?  I asked."  The thin, sharp voice seemed
to awaken Donelle at last.

"No," she replied, "this cabin is where Mr. Richard Alton paints his
pictures."

"Indeed!  He’s changed his name, I see.  I—" and now the stranger came
in and closed the door after her, closed it with an air of
proprietorship—"I am Mrs. James Norval," she said, sitting down. "And
you, I suppose, are—let me see if I can recall your name, it is rather
an odd one.  Now I have it, Donelle Morey.  That’s right, isn’t it?"

"Yes."  Donelle stood staring.  She was not quite sure that she was
awake, but—yes, there was Nick snoring on the window seat and the lovely
river picture was on the easel.  Besides, like a stab, the name she had
just heard became vividly familiar, it belonged to the Walled House.

"Yes, I’m Donelle Morey," she managed to say faintly.

"I know all about you.  Mrs. Lindsay was my friend.  I thought Mr. Law
was going to look after you.  Has he been up here, Mr. Anderson Law?"

Katherine Norval was glancing about the room, her keen eyes taking in
the pictures.  How splendid they were!

"No, Mr. Law has never been here."

Donelle was groping, groping among other familiar names in this suddenly
quickened moment.

"I suppose he sent Mr. Norval?"

A righteous anger seized upon Katherine Norval; she felt she understood.
Anderson Law had urged her husband to act for him.  Norval had come,
disguised, and had taken his own method of solving matters. He was
making "cause" for his divorce undoubtedly, while at the same time he
was deluding an innocent and trusting girl.

A stern sense of duty arose in her.  "I will save the girl as far as I
can," she thought, "but what a dastardly thing!"

"My dear," she said, "I do wish you would sit down.  You make me feel
quite uncomfortable."  Katherine meant to disregard, before Norval’s
victim, what she really believed.

Donelle groped toward a chair and sat down.

"I quite understand your surprise," said Katherine. "You have known my
husband as—as Richard Alton.  You see, Mr. Law was going abroad; he was
to have carried out Mrs. Lindsay’s wishes for you, but he sent my
husband instead.  I suppose Mr. Norval wanted to know you well before he
disclosed his errand."

Donelle was experiencing the same sensation she had felt when Pierre
Gavot, upon the lonely road, had spoken the terrible word years and
years before!

"I see I have surprised you, child?"

Katherine Norval was growing restive under the look in the wide, glowing
eyes fixed upon her.  "It is always a bit of a shock to find that
someone has—played with you.  But I’m sure my husband meant no harm, at
first; and then he would not know how to get out of his scrape.  That
would be like him, too."  A laugh followed the words, a hard, thin, but
sweet laugh.

Still Donelle sat looking straight before her and keeping that awful
silence which was becoming irritating.

"Perhaps you do not believe me," Katherine said rather desperately and
with a distinct sense of the absurdity of her position.  "See here!"

Taking a locket from her bosom she opened it and held it before
Donelle’s staring eyes.

"These are my husband and baby!"

The picture of Norval was perfect; the child, young and lovely, seemed
to be smiling trustfully at him.

"It’s a pretty baby," Donelle said, and her voice seemed to come from a
long distance.  Then she got up quickly.

"Where are you going?" asked Katherine Norval.

"I—I don’t——  Oh! yes, I’m going to Tom Gavot’s."

"Don’t you think you better wait here with me until—until Mr. Norval
returns?  He will speak openly to you then and explain everything."

"No, oh, no, I couldn’t!"

A great fear rose in Donelle’s eyes.

"My dear, I am very sorry for you!"  And Katherine spoke the truth.  She
was sorry, deeply so, but she was more shocked and indignant than she
had ever been in her life before.  It was to Norval’s credit that she
did not believe the worst of him.  She concluded that stupidity, rather
than viciousness, had led him on to deceive this simple girl without
realizing what the actual result would be.

"And so you will not wait with me?"  She watched Donelle cross the room.
"I am so sorry, child.  I wish now that I had come before."

"Good-bye!"  Donelle gave her a long, sad look. Then she whistled to
Nick and went out, closing the cabin door behind her as one does who
leaves a chamber of death.

She walked along slowly, feeling nothing keenly, but noticing with a
queer sort of concentration the flickering shadows; there were clouds
coming up, it was growing darker.  She was glad that she had closed the
little house before leaving.  If there were a storm all would be safe.
Presently she came to Tom Gavot’s hut and went in, thankful that it was
empty, though she knew Tom would soon be coming.

She made a fire, brushed the hearth, and sat down upon the floor, trying
hard to think—think!  But she could not get very far.  Round and round
the one fact her thoughts whirled.  The man she loved, the man she had
trusted, had wronged her in the deadliest way.  He had killed something
in her, something that had made her happy and good.  She did not want to
remember anything now; she wanted to put herself beyond the reach of the
look Norval had once given her, and of his later words—words which had
made her trust him.  Donelle grasped at the thought of St. Michael’s
with a yearning that hurt her.  If little Sister Mary were there, she
would understand.  Donelle was sure the lost look in Sister Mary’s eyes
would make her understand. But St. Michael’s was a long way off, and
Donelle meant to place herself out of reach of more hurt before Norval
could see her.  Pride, love, shame, and then—desperation swept over the
girl.  Everything had failed her, everything, and all because her father
had left her mother!  That was why people dared to—to play with her.

And just then Tom Gavot came in, shaking the wet of a sudden shower from
his fuzzy coat.

"Well!" he cried, looking at Donelle with startled eyes; "what’s the
matter?"

"Tom, I wonder if you would do—something for me?  It’s a big thing, and
you’d just have to trust me more than any man ever trusted a girl
before."  A feverish colour flamed in Donelle’s cheeks.

The light flickered in Gavot’s eyes, his lips twitched as he looked at
her.

"I guess you know there isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for you, Donelle,"
he said, coming close and standing over her protectingly.

"It—it isn’t fair to you, Tom, but I’ll live my whole life making it up
to you.  And you know I can keep my word."

"What is it, Donelle?"

"Tom, I want you to—to marry me.  Marry me, now, this very afternoon!"

"My God!" murmured Tom and sat down, leaning forward over his clasped
hands.

"It’s this way," Donelle went on slowly, as if afraid she might not make
herself clear and yet fearing more that she might wrong another in her
determination to reach safety.  "It is Mr. Richard Alton. He—he isn’t
Mr. Alton at all, he’s Mr. Norval. Mrs. Lindsay used to talk about him,
and he came here to—to get to know me without my knowing him.  And
then—something happened!"

"What?"  The word issued from Tom’s lips like a snarl.

"We loved each other very much, Tom.  We couldn’t help it, but you see I
am the kind of girl that makes it seem as if it did not matter very
much, I guess.  I am sure he didn’t mean to hurt me; it just happened,
and neither of us could help it, Tom."

"God!  I’ll kill him."

"Oh! no, Tom, you will not, you shall not hurt him.  You will just help
me, and then he’ll think, I—I—did not care very much, that I was
playing, just as he was.  I want him to think that, more than anything
else, for then everything will be easy. He must not think I care!"

"Did he tell you that he would marry you?" asked Tom with a terrible
understanding in his eyes.

"Well, not exactly," Donelle tried to be very just, very true, "it was
the big love, you know, and I just thought of being always with him."

"Why have you stopped thinking so?"

"Well, Tom, I will tell you.  I was up in his cabin, waiting for him
this morning, and his wife came.  I know about her, too.  When I heard
her name I knew everything.  And she told me many things and she showed
me their baby’s picture.  It is such a pretty baby—oh!  Tom."

The misery on Donelle’s face roused in Gavot a cruel hate.

"Blast his soul!" he cried, then took Donelle’s face in his cold hands
and looked deep into her eyes. His soul revolted at the question he was
about to put, it was like giving poison to a child: "Donelle, tell me
before God, has he done to you what—what your father did to Mam’selle
Jo?"

For an instant Donelle repeated the words in her inner consciousness
until the meaning was quite plain.  Her lovely eyes never faltered, but
suddenly a new knowledge rose in them.

"No," she whispered, "no, Tom, not that.  It was only—the love."

"Thank God, then, I’ve got you in time."

"Yes, in time, Tom.  That’s what I meant.  He would never hurt me that
way, Tom—never!  But I do not want him to know that he could hurt me at
all!  Don’t you see, Tom, if he thought that I was caring for you all
the time and just playing with him, it——"

The quivering face writhed in Tom’s hands.

"Oh!  Tom, I know it is wicked for me to ask you to do this for me, but
all my life long I will repay you!"

The man looked down at the girl, who was pleading with him to take that
for which his soul hungered—at any price!  Full well he knew that she
would keep her bargain, poor little hurt thing.  And he could slave and
work for her—he could shield her from harm and make her safer than she
could be in any other way.  The devil tempted him, and for the moment,
claimed him.

"Yes, by God!" he cried.  "I will take you to Father Mantelle’s now!
We’ll make our future beyond the reach of that infernal scoundrel,
Norval, or whatever his name is!"

"Tom, never any more must we talk about him. We must just begin from
now—you and I.  All these years Mamsey has let people think well—of my
father.  I think I am a little like Mamsey, Tom, and from now on, it is
just you and I.  You must promise or I could not marry you."

"Come on, Donelle!  See, it is raining, you must wear this heavy coat,
it will quite cover you.  Come!"

Tom had appropriated her, taken command.  His face was almost terrible
in its set purpose.

She followed him mutely, obediently, as any little hill woman might have
done.  Her face was ghastly, but she did not tremble.  Side by side they
made their way to Father Mantelle’s; the rain poured upon them, their
steps sloughed in the soft earth, and behind them trudged Nick, looking
old and forsaken!

Father Mantelle did his duty—as he saw it.  He made sure that Tom fully
understood what he was undertaking; he made sure that Donelle was wiser
than he had believed her.  He winced as she confessed that her love for
Mam’selle Morey had, after full comprehension of their relation, brought
her back and kept her silent.  She had known about herself all along.

"And that’s why," Tom put in, "that we insist upon silence now.  I’m
going to run things hereafter."

And so Father Mantelle married them and put the blessing of the Church
upon them.

It was quite dark when they left the priest’s house; dark and still
storming in the quiet, persistent way that spring knows.

"Was Mam’selle going to leave you in the house with—with that man
to-night?" Tom asked suddenly.

"No—I was going to Marcel’s.  But, Tom, I must go and feed the animals."
Almost Donelle had forgotten the helpless creatures.  She was terribly
afraid that she might encounter the man she most dreaded in the world,
for he was quite one of the family and often made his own meal when Jo
and Donelle were away.  But if he had gone to the wood-cabin first, she
argued, he would not come to the little white house.  Of that she felt
sure!

So she and Tom fed the animals and made them safe for the night.  In
doing the homely, familiar tasks Donelle felt a certain peace, but she
had not yet recovered from her terrible shock; she was spiritually numb.

"Come, now!" Tom said at last.  "We must get back to the hut, you’re wet
to the skin and I haven’t eaten since morning."

"Tom!"  Donelle was aghast; and then she remembered that she, too, had
fasted since breakfast.

So, silently, stolidly they went down the Right of Way to the river-hut.
The fire was still burning on the hearth, the room was hot and still.

"Come in, Nick!" called Tom to the dog who had kept close to them; "come
in!"

Wet and bedraggled Nick slouched in and, eyeing Donelle as if she were a
stranger, passed to the far side of the room and lay down, his head upon
his paws, his eyes alert.

Tom brought out food and they all ate, Nick condescending to come
nearer.

The heat, the weariness and suffering of the day, began to tell upon
Donelle and presently a terror seized her—a terror she had never known
in her life before.  She looked at Tom with wide eyes, her face became
livid.

The rain outside beat against the window and pattered on the roof.

The devil that had tempted Tom earlier was taking control of the
situation.  His face was tense, his eyes burning.  He was thinking,
thinking, and his thoughts scorched.  He was thinking of women, women,
his mother, Mam’selle Morey—even that unknown woman, the wife of the man
who had all but ruined Donelle.  Then he thought of Donelle herself, but
he dared not look at the pale little thing by the fire.  She was his!
She had done him a great injustice, it was only fair that he should hold
her to her bargain.  She had only thought of herself, how to save
herself, she ought to pay for that.

Pay—pay—pay!  The word was hateful and ugly. Again Tom thought of his
mother, and her face rose sharply before him.

Then the finest thing that Tom ever did in his life he did at that
moment.

In the still, hot room, with eyes at last resting upon Donelle’s bowed
head, he vowed to his God that _she_ should not pay, not if it cost him
all that life held dear! If the time ever came when she could give—Tom
breathed hard.  Then he spoke.

"Donelle," his voice was deep and solemn, "you’re tired, done almost to
death, but you’re safe—safer than you know.  I want you to go to that
bed"—Gavot pointed to his cot in the far corner by the side of which
Nick lay curled—"and you are to sleep. I’m going to pile the fire high,
and——"

"Tom, let me go to Marcel’s just for to-night, please, Tom!"

The agony in Donelle’s eyes made Gavot shudder.

"I guess I’d rather have my wife stay here," he said.  Then added, "You
must do what I say, Donelle.  I’ve done my part, you’ve got to do
yours."

"I will, Tom.  I will."

Gropingly she walked across the room, while Tom piled wood on the fire.
In the dark shadows she waited.  Then Tom rose up, took his heavy coat,
his fur cap, and went toward the door.

"Good-night," he said.  It was like a groan. "Good-night, and you’re
safe, Donelle, so help me God!  After I am gone, draw the bar across the
door."

Then Donelle was alone with Nick.  She stood and looked blankly after
Tom.  Then she tiptoed across the room, took the bar in her hand,
paused, lifted it, and—let it fall!  Proudly she went back, her eyes
were aflame, her heart beat until it hurt. She lay down upon the wide
cot, drew over her the heavy blankets Mam’selle had donated for Tom’s
comfort, and fear left her.

"Nick," she whispered, "Nick, come here!"

The dog came close, licked the hand reaching out to him in the darkness,
then lay down close to the bed.

For an hour Donelle listened, waited, then she began to suffer.  But she
made no moan and always no matter how she thrashed the matter over, she
saw St. Michael’s-on-the-Rocks.  It seemed like home after a hard
journey; her home, the place where she belonged.  The only place to
which she had a right to go.



                            *CHAPTER XVIII*

                     *TOM GAVOT SETTLES THE MATTER*


The rain had detained Norval.  He had watched the sunrise on the river
and he had caught as much of it as his soul could take in. He had eaten
a hasty lunch at noon and then became absorbed by the beauty of the gray
mists that were rising, where, but a little time before, the glory had
controlled everything.  He painted until mid-afternoon, then a raindrop
caused him to glance up.

"Hello!" he said, and scrambled for his belongings. In a few minutes he
was on his way back, but to protect his sketches, he had to pause every
now and then, when the downpour was heaviest.

He had meant to go right to Jo’s and get dry clothing, but by skirting
the road he could reach the cabin _en route_, leave his paints and
canvases, and the rest did not matter.  It was after five when he came
in sight of his cabin.

"By all that’s holy," he said, and laughed, "that little rascal is
there, she’s made a fire.  Of course this is all wrong, she mustn’t——
But to think she has no fear!"  Somehow this elated Norval considerably.
He hastened on, meaning to get Donelle and start out at once for
Mam’selle’s, as it was growing very dark.

He opened the door with an amused smile on his face, then he fell back.

"My God!  Katherine," he said, "what does this mean?"

"I think, Jim, you better come in and close the door.  I cannot go out
in this rain and we can have our talk here."  Katherine spoke as if her
presence there was the most natural thing in the world; her voice was
hard and even.  She knew her duty; she had even acknowledged, during the
hours she had sat alone after Donelle went, that part of the blame for
all this confusion rested upon her.  She had fallen short in her
estimate of her original duty to Norval.  She had deserted him, not
without some cause to be sure, but no matter what his selfishness and
indifference had been in the past they had not made it right for a wife
to forsake the sacred tie that bound her.

After Donelle had left the hut Katherine went over and over the matter
from the day when with her "Awakened Soul" in her hands she had demanded
a freedom that it was in no man’s power to bestow. It had taken her a
long time to learn her lesson, but once having learned it, having come
back, her path of duty was, to her, quite plain.  She gave not a
moment’s thought to the shock her sudden appearance would give Norval;
she was rallying from the effects of the shock that Donelle had given
her.  She must make sure, of course, but the more she considered, the
more confident she became that no real harm had been done.  She had come
in time.

Self-centred, incapable of wide visions, Katherine Norval had leaped
over non-essentials and had arrived at safe conclusions.  But her
husband was unnerving her; he made her feel as that white slip of a girl
had and she resented it.

Norval was deliberately taking off his wet coat. Having done this he put
on an old velvet jacket, came to the fire, leaned his arm on the
mantel-shelf and looked down upon his wife.  That she was still his wife
he had to confess, though she seemed the merest stranger.

"I don’t suppose there is a chance that I am dreaming?" he said grimly
in an effort to relieve a situation that was becoming hideously awkward.
"You don’t happen to be an optical illusion, do you?"

"I’m quite myself, Jim.  Is it such an unusual thing for a wife to come
and see her husband, especially when she has much—much business to
discuss?  And your work——"  Katherine was struggling with the growing
impression that she was bungling something, though absurdly enough she
did not quite know what.  "You’ve worked to some purpose, Jim."

Norval ignored her reference to his work.

"It’s a bit queer to have my especial kind of wife here," he said.  "You
see, Katherine, I had every reason to believe that you desired to
eliminate me; I’d taken every step possible to assist you.  I simply
cannot account for you, that’s all."

Norval noted her pallor and thinness, then he remembered that she had
been ill.

"Jim," she said suddenly, her sharp little chin raised, her cold, clear
eyes searching his, "before we go any further I must ask you a question:
This girl, this Donelle Morey, what is she to you?  What are you to
her?"

"What right have you to ask that?"  Norval grew rigid.  "How did you
manage to get here?  How did you know I was here, anyway, Katherine?"

"You sent a letter once with the postmark on it. Then I remembered!  For
awhile, I did not care. Then things became different.  Jim, I must know,
I have a right to know, has this girl any claim upon you?  I could make
nothing of her, I——"

"Good God!  Have you seen her?"  Norval sprang a step forward.  "Have
you talked to her?"

"Why do you glare at me so, Jim?  Of course I have seen her, talked to
her.  I came last night. I am staying at a house down the road.  I heard
that a painter by the name of Alton lived with Mam’selle Jo Morey, made
pictures in a cabin in the woods; I put things together.  I went to
Mam’selle Morey’s, found the house empty.  I came here and found the—the
young girl quite at home, apparently waiting for you."

The cold voice was calm and deadly distinct, the eyes were indignant—but
just.

"And then you talked!"  There was a sneer in Norval’s voice.  "I suppose
you felt it your duty to talk?  What did you talk about, Katherine?"

Norval was in a dangerous mood, but his wife had never been afraid of
him and she knew no fear now. Besides, she had the whip hand.  He knew
it; she knew it!

"I told her your name, for one thing.  I do not question your
conscience, Jim.  I leave that to you."

"Thank you, and what next did you tell her?"

"I told her the truth.  Are you afraid of the truth?  Are you afraid of
the truth, Jim?  You were flying under false colours, were you not?"

"Yes."

"I told her Anderson Law sent you; he did, did he not, Jim?"

"He asked me to come, yes."

"And you think you have fulfilled your duty to Anderson Law?  You think
he would approve?"

Norval winced.

"I ask you again, Jim, has this girl any hold on you?"

"If you mean the vile thing I fear you mean, no! As God hears me, no!"
Norval spoke in a still fury. "If you mean has she the highest claim a
woman can have on a man, yes.  Katherine, it may be best for us to get
this over as soon as possible.  If I seem brutal, you’ll have to forgive
me.  I’m pretty far gone in my capacity of self-control.  I dare say
you’ve spoken nothing but the truth to the girl you found here.  I make
no excuse for her or myself. Think what you please, patch it up anyway
you can. Whatever wrong has been committed is mine, not hers.  She never
knew of your existence until you informed her.  She is as simple as a
child, as wonderful as a woman can be before the world has spoiled her.
I love her and she loves me.  I meant to tell her everything when I was
free; she could not understand before.  My only desire is to—to marry
her and know the first pure joy of my life.  But I suppose your plain,
damnable truth has killed her.  If it has, I swear——"

"It has not killed her, Jim."  And there was a glint in Katherine’s
steely eyes.  "She said she was going to a Tom Gavot, whoever he may be.
And, Jim, doesn’t it sound a bit, well, peculiar, for you to speak as
you have just spoken to—to your wife?  For, after all, I still am your
wife."

"But that tie will soon be broken.  Why did you come here; why, in
heaven’s name?"

An impotent fear held Norval.  Katherine was there, and Donelle had gone
to Tom Gavot!  That was about all he could take in.  Suddenly Katherine
Norval’s face softened, her head dropped, she looked terribly ill and
haggard.

"Please, Jim," she pleaded, "sit down, I must tell you something I came
here to tell you, and I’m not very strong."

Norval sat down, still repeating in his clogged thoughts:

"Donelle has gone to Tom Gavot."

"I suppose," Katherine’s words ran along, at times sinking into Norval’s
confused brain, "I suppose I had to pass through a certain phase of
life, as many do.  I had been so sheltered, so, well suppressed by my
training and experience.  Then, when I believed I could write, I felt I
could not resist the thing that rose up in me.  I almost hated you
because you seemed to stand between me and my—my rights.  Then for a
time I was bewildered by my success, and when he, the man I told you
about, came into my life, I was driven astray!  He seemed to see only
me, my life.  He subjugated everything to my wishes.  He was getting for
me what I did not know how to get for myself; recognition and—and a
great deal of money.  Jim, I, who had never earned a penny!  It was
wonderful! Then, I was taken ill and he wanted me to get my divorce and
marry him at once.  I tried to, I really felt it was right, I wanted to,
but as soon as I saw him in the light of a husband, Jim, a dreadful
revulsion came.  I kept seeing you, in him.  I wonder if you can
understand?  When he came to my room I saw you and when I saw him I was
afraid.  It seemed so fearfully wrong.

"I was sent away into the hills where it was cold. I had had pneumonia
and the doctors thought I should have the mountain treatment.  I would
not let him come, Jim.  I went alone, and I was so lonely; so
miserable——"  Katherine was weeping desolately and sopping the tears up
with her delicate handkerchief.

"Often I longed to die and be put under the snow, where it would be
warmer and I could forget.  And then I began to think of you, Jim, as I
never had before.  I saw you always patient with my moods, always kind.
I saw you so humble about your great talent, trying so hard to hide it
and live down to me! Yes, Jim, down to me.  And then I hated myself and
the silly ideas I had had.  I was afraid to die until I told you.  I was
afraid to go to our—our baby, until you understood.  And so I came back,
Jim, and I found that girl—here.  Oh!  Jim, I may have only a little
while to stay, please go with me for the rest of the way!"

Katherine stretched out her thin hands.

But Norval did not move.  He stood looking at the woman before him with
compassionate eyes, but his soul saw Donelle.  Alone in the midst of all
this trouble stood Donelle who had done no wrong, who had come into her
great love with trust and purity.  Must she be the sacrifice?  She, for
whom he hungered and thirsted with the best that was in him?

And yet, if he defended Donelle’s claim, could he hope to make
Katherine, make any one, believe that he was not seeking his own ends
first, Donelle’s afterward?  The easiest thing to do may often be the
bravest, and after a moment Norval made his choice.

"Katherine," he said, "this is heart-breaking, incomprehensible.  Things
have gone too far for us to retrace our steps as simply as you think.
You must try to believe that I do not want to hurt you, but I fear I
must.  You and I were never fitted for each other, though I did not
realize it until you took your stand.  Your decision knocked life all
out of gear for me and I wandered about like a lost soul. I came here to
see this young girl for Andy Law’s sake and with no other intention than
doing him a good turn and learning all I could.  I grew to love Donelle
Morey and learned to know what love was for the first time in my life.
Oh!  I know what you, what our world would say; she’s not your kind,
their kind.  But before God, she’s my kind!  I cannot set her aside.  I
did not oppose your wishes, Katherine, even before I saw this girl.  I
felt I had no right to stand in your way.  Have you a right to stand in
mine, now?  Is there no justice in my case? Katherine, you think only of
yourself.  You are a selfish woman!"

Dumbly Katherine looked at Norval.  She was capable of drawing only one
conclusion—he was a man!  He felt no duty, no sacred relationship. She
was ill, desperate; he wanted to be free and seek love where youth,
health, and fascination were. She felt she understood and she must save
him from himself.

"Jim, think of our child!"  She thought she was putting herself aside,
she resented the thing Norval had called her.

"I do think of him, Katherine.  I have never forgotten him.  I was glad
he was dead when, when you went away."

"But, Jim, has the past no hold upon you?  No claims?"

"Yes, and because it has, I dare not make any further mistakes.  Listen,
Katherine, I am going to tell this—this young girl, Donelle, the whole
ugly, confused thing.  I’m going to lay my soul, yours, too, if I can,
open before her and she shall decide.  She, young as she is, has a
spirit that can face this tremendous situation, and she has a mighty
love that can save us all.  May I take you to your boarding-place,
Katherine, or will you wait here?  I must go to Donelle."

"Jim, Jim, what are you thinking of?  Dare you burden this child with
this hideous decision?"

"Yes."  Norval strode toward the door.

Katherine wept afresh.  "I will wait here.  I’m tired and I cannot
endure the long walk in this storm."

And then Norval was gone out into the night, closing the door behind him
with a sound so final that the woman by the hearth moaned.

Crashing through the thicket Norval went to Gavot’s cabin only to find
it empty.  But the fire burned freshly upon the hearth.

"She’s been here and made his place ready for him," thought Norval, "and
then she went back home."

So up the Right of Way Norval plodded to Mam’selle’s house.  He went
into the living room and lighted the lamp.  There on the table lay one
of Jo’s queer notes of instruction.

"I can’t get back to-night.  There’s chicken and stuff in the pantry.
Donelle’s staying with Marcel Longville."

Norval smiled at the note and clutched it close. How trustingly it had
been left.  And Donelle was safe with the Longville’s.  There was a
gleam of comfort in the blackness.

Norval walked to the kitchen and took two glasses of milk.  He then went
upstairs, changed his wet clothes, came down, extinguished the light
and, with cap drawn over his face, hands plunged in his heavy coat
pockets, set forth in the drizzle on the three-mile walk to Longville’s.
Before he reached the house he paused.  What had his wife told them?
Did he dare present himself?  He stood still on the road to consider.
Just then Marcel came to the door, candle in hand, and spoke to the
Captain, who was behind her in the room.

"It’s queer that that Mrs. Norval don’t come back, Captain.  I wonder if
she’s lost.  I wonder if we oughtn’t to set out and look her up?"

"Like as not she’s found Mam’selle and Donelle more to her taste.  You
told her how to reach them, didn’t you?  She’s safe enough.  Her kind
hates water as a cat does, she’s under shelter.  Mam’selle will look
after her, try to keep her like as not, now that she’s out for
business."

"It’s early for the boarding season, anyway," murmured Marcel, going
within, "too early by far."

"I must go back to Gavot’s!" thought Norval, and turned wearily to
retrace his way over the wet, slimy road.

It was nearly nine when he reached Tom’s place and he was just in time
to see Gavot come out of the house with bowed head and stumbling step.
He went close and spoke before Tom realized that any one was near.

"Gavot, in heaven’s name, have you seen Donelle Morey?"

Tom reeled back against a tree.

"You dare come here?" he growled under his breath.  "Damn you!"

"Hold on, Gavot, you’re too big a fellow to judge a man unheard.  I know
things are black against me; I’m going to try to explain.  It’s your due
and I can trust your common sense.  Can we go inside and have it out?"

"No, I want none like you to enter my house."

"Then you shall hear what I have to say here."  Norval drew nearer.

"Not so fast, you!" Tom warned him off.  "Answer me a few questions
first, no talk, just plain answers.  Then we’ll argue about the rest,
I’m thinking.  Is your name what you’ve held it to be, Richard Alton?"

"No, Gavot——"

"Are you a married man?"

"Gavot, in God’s name, let me——"

"Answer me, or I swear I’ll try to kill you."

"Don’t be an ass, Gavot."

"Have you a wife?"

"Yes, but——"

"And you made a girl love you, with all this in your soul?  Well, she
came to me, curse you, before—before much harm was done.  When she heard
what she heard this morning, her eyes were opened and she came where she
rightfully belonged. Donelle came to me!  She told me, and we were
married an hour ago.  I’ve always wanted her, she knew that, and when
she knew about you, she came to her senses."

"You lie!"  Norval made a movement toward Gavot, but Tom stayed him.

"If you touch me," he said threateningly, "I’ll do my best to end you.
Go to Father Mantelle, if you doubt my word.  But first, look here; look
through the window you spied through once before."

Like thieves the two men went to the side of the house.  Just then, in
the fireplace a large log fell, the sparks lighting up the room inside.
In the glow Norval saw Donelle curled up on the bed, her hand on the
head of faithful Nick.  A deep moan escaped him, he turned to Gavot like
a stricken man.

"By all you hold holy," he whispered, "deal with her as you hope for
God’s mercy.  She was driven to you when she was beside herself.  I
cannot help her, but it lies in your power, Gavot, to keep her out of
hell."

"I know what to do with my own, you!  See to it that you do the same."
Tom glared at Norval.

Then Norval turned and went back to the wood-cabin. His face had grown
old and stern, his eyes hard.  Katherine was awake; she was still
crying.

"Jim—what—what—is it to be?"

"I’m going the rest of the way with you, Katherine. And as you value the
future, let us bury everything here.  To-morrow, we must take the boat
back to New York."

Early the next morning Norval, he and Katherine having passed as
comfortable a night as possible in the cabin, went to Mam’selle Jo’s and
hastily packed most of his clothing.  He sent a boy to Longville’s for
Katherine’s luggage, giving them no explanations, left a brief note for
Jo, and—drifted from Point of Pines.

Mam’selle returned from her business trip late in the afternoon.  Marcel
stopped her as she passed.

"I think you’ll find company at your house," she said, quite excitedly
for her.  "A boarder came here day before yesterday; she walked down to
Point of Pines the next morning.  She knows your boarder. The storm must
have kept her.  I daresay Donelle made her comfortable."

"Donelle?" Jo stared.  "Wasn’t Donelle with you last night, Marcel?"

"No."

Jo waited to hear no more.  She laid the whip on Molly’s surprised back
and bent over the reins.



                             *CHAPTER XIX*

                            *THE CONFESSION*


Jo was not one to take any step hurriedly. Though her heart broke, she
was cautious. Upon entering her quiet house she found a note from Alton.
It merely said that Donelle would explain.  Going to the room above, Jo
saw that a hurried but orderly departure had evidently been made.

"He hasn’t messed much," she muttered vaguely, while a great fear rose
in her heart, she knew not why.

"Well, there’s nothing to do but wait for Donelle," she concluded, and
began the waiting.

She went to the stable and sheds.  The animals had evidently been fed
the night before, so Jo milked the cow, did the chores, and whistled
aimlessly for Nick. She was comforted by his absence, he was with
Donelle.  But where was Donelle?  The sun was setting, what should be
done?

Jo decided to wait until the sun had gone wholly down before she took
any steps.  She was not one to set tongues wagging.

It was nearing sundown when Marcel Longville, standing by her kitchen
window, saw Donelle coming toward the house.  The Captain was at Dan’s
Place.  Donelle walked slowly, and when she saw Marcel, smiled wanly and
opened the door.

"Marcel," she began, and her voice was tired and thin, "I want you to do
something for me.  I want you to—to tell a lie for me."

"Why, child, what’s the matter?"

"Marcel, Mamsey thought I was here last night. Will you please tell her
I was?"

Marcel’s hands were in biscuit dough; she leaned forward heavily, and
the soft, light mass rose half-way up her arms.

"Lord! child, where were you last night?  I thought you were keeping my
boarder as well as your own.  Mam’selle just stopped here; she looked
queer enough when she found you were not here.  There’s no use of the
lie, child.  She knows."

For a moment Donelle looked as though nothing mattered, as if the earth
had slipped from beneath her feet.

From Gavot’s window she had seen the _River Queen_ depart with its two
passengers from Point of Pines.  Tom had not been visible since
daybreak, the world had drifted away.  Alone, in space, Donelle waited,
looking dumbly at Marcel.

"Where were you, child?"

"I was at Tom’s cabin.  I’m married to him. Father Mantelle married us."

Marcel raised herself, the dough clinging to her hands.  She shook it
off, tore it off, went to a bucket of water and soaked it off, then sank
into a chair.

"I’m fainting," she announced in a businesslike tone, and seemed, for an
instant, to have lost consciousness.

This brought Donelle to her senses, she sprang to Marcel and put her arm
around the limp form.

"It’s quite true," she faltered, "but of course you could not know.  All
my life has happened to me since yesterday morning.  I’ve got used to
it, but I forgot you did not know.  Nothing is any use now, nothing need
be hidden.  I am going back to Mamsey and tell her
everything—everything."

Marcel was reviving.  She still lay on the young, protecting arm, her
eyes fastened on the white, sad face above her.

"You better go slow, Donelle, when you tell Mam’selle.  You don’t want
to stop her heart," she cautioned.

"No, I do not want to stop her heart.  But I’m going to tell her
everything, beginning from the time I came back from the Walled House,
after Pierre Gavot told me—who I was!  I can tell her now because it
does not matter; nothing matters since I’m married to Tom Gavot."

"It will kill her, Donelle!  Mam’selle brought you from the place where
she hid you.  She’s had high hopes for you.  It will kill her to know
you’re married to Tom.  Whatever made this happen?"

"Why, whatever makes such things happen to any one?" Donelle sighed.
Then: "If you are better, I’m going now to Mamsey."

"And I’m going with you!"

Marcel sprang to her feet.

"Come, I’m ready," she said, wrapping her rough shawl about her head and
shoulders.

And together they went to Jo, followed by poor Nick.

They found Jo sitting in the living room, knitting, knitting.  Every
nerve was strained, but outwardly she was calm as ever.

"Well, child," she said as they entered, "you look worn to the death.
You need not talk now unless you want to."  She rose and went to
Donelle.

"I want to, Mamsey.  I want to."

"And you want Marcel to stay?"  Jo spoke only to the girl.  No one
entered the sacred precincts of her deepest love when Donelle needed
her.

"Yes, I want her, too, Mamsey, because she is your friend and mine."

Marcel blinked her tears back and sat down. Jo went back to her chair
and Donelle dropped beside her and quietly told her pitiful story; both
women sat like dead figures while they listened.

"You see, Mamsey, there was no other way, I had to do something quick.
But," and here she smiled dimly, "there must have been some reason for
what happened.  Maybe the love was so big it caught him and would not
let him go.  I do not know, but just as you have kept still about my
father after he left you, so I am going to keep still about my man. Tom
knows, you, and now Marcel Longville, know. No one else matters, shall
ever matter!"

But Jo was rousing herself.  Her deep eyes flamed, she forgot Marcel,
she leaned over the girl at her feet.

"How did you know your father left me?" she whispered.

"Pierre Gavot told me!"

"When?"

Donelle described the scene on the road by the Walled House, but she
withheld the ugly word.

"And you came back because of that?  You believed I was——"

"I knew you were my mother, and I could not hurt you as my father had.
You had never hurt him.  I had to do his part.  But now, Mamsey, I am
glad, oh! so glad, for now I understand everything that life meant for
me.  I’m safe here with you and Tom and I mean to—pay—pay.  You know I
always said I would pay, if I were part of life, and I will!"

Jo got up unsteadily.  She seemed tall and menacing, her breath came
hard and quick.

"Whose step is that outside?" she asked suddenly. The two had not
noticed, but to Jo’s "Come" Father Mantelle entered.  He meant to make
sure that all was well; he had seen Mam’selle return and had come as
soon as he could.

"Father," Jo said solemnly, "take a seat.  I am going to confess!  Once
you would not give me an opportunity, now I am going to take it."

Her trembling hand lay upon Donelle’s head.  The girl did not move.

"This child is not mine.  I swear it before my God.  Her father left me
for another woman. Marcel can testify to that.  My heart broke within
me, and later, when my poor sister died, I went away. I went to—to
Langley’s cabin in the woods.  I fought out my trouble there, and then
came back to my years of labour, that you all know of.  I never knew,
until long after, the black thoughts that were held against me.  I lived
alone—alone."  Here Jo rose majestically, threw back her head, and let
her flaming eyes rest upon the two petrified listeners.  Her hand was
still touching with a marvellously gentle touch the bent head of
Donelle, who was crouched on the floor at her feet, and was listening,
listening, her breath coming in quick, soft little gasps.

"And then," the stern voice went on, "Pierre Gavot did me the most
hideous wrong a man can do a woman, Gavot, Pierre Gavot, a man unworthy
of looking at an honest woman, offered to—to marry me, for my money!  He
sought to get control of the only thing that I had won from life for my
own protection.  But out of his foul lips something was sent to guide
me.  He somehow made me see that I might yet have what my soul had
hungered and almost died for—a child!  I went to St. Michael’s. I meant
to take what some other woman had disinherited.  I meant to take a
man-child, because I felt I could not see another woman endure what I
had endured!  But God worked a miracle.  He drove me aside, He sent"—and
here Jo’s eyes fell upon Donelle with a glance of supreme pity and of
worship—"He sent this girl to me, I found her in the woods.  During the
weeks of her sickness, which followed her coming to my house, she
revealed—her identity.  It was marvellous.  I was frightened, but in my
soul I knew God was having His way with me. He had sent me the child of
the man I had loved, of the woman who had betrayed me!

"I went, when I could, to St. Michael’s and got the Sisters’ story, and
I found——"  Jo paused.  Even now she hesitated before delivering her
best beloved to the danger she long had feared.  Then she remembered Tom
Gavot and lifted her eyes.

"This girl’s father had been accused of taking the life of his wife.  He
was bringing his child to me because he knew I would understand.  He
died before he could reach me.  But a man, who, before God, I believe
was the guilty one, was after the girl, wanted to get possession of her.
For what reason, who can tell?  The Sisters saved her.  When I took her,
I tried to save her by giving her my name.  I felt that I was less
harmful to her than—than the things the world might say.  But I see,"
poor Jo’s voice quivered, almost broke, "I see I was wrong.  How could I
prove my belief in the innocence of Henry Langley, though I could stake
my soul’s salvation on my belief that he did not kill his wife?"

Donelle was slowly rising to her feet.  A dazed but brilliant light
flooded her eyes, she reached out to Jo as she used to do in those first
nights of delirium and fever.

"Mamsey, Mamsey, he did not!  It was this way. My father came into the
cabin, he had been hunting. My mother was there.  I was there, and—and
the man!  I cannot, oh!  Mamsey, I cannot remember his name, but I hated
him.  I was afraid.  He used to say he would carry me off if—if I told!
When my father came into the cabin—I cannot remember it all, for I ran
and hid behind a door.  But yes, I can remember this: the man said I
was—his!  Then my father ran toward him and he screamed something, and
my mother," Donelle was crouching, looking beyond Mantelle and Marcel,
at what no eyes but hers could see, "and my mother cried out that what
the man said was a lie!  And then my father and the man struggled.  They
fought and the gun went off—and—and—my mother fell!

"Mamsey, I—I cannot remember the rest.  I was always tired, always going
somewhere, but my father did not do that awful thing!"

A sudden stillness filled the dim room, a silence that hurt.  Then Jo’s
tones rang out like a clanging bell:

"Father, this girl is Tom Gavot’s wife?"

"She is."  The priest was as white as death. Marcel was silent.

"Then no harm can reach her from that man, wherever, whoever, he is?"

"None."

"And that boy took my girl believing what the world thinks is the
worst?"  Jo’s voice suddenly softened, her eyes dimmed.  There was no
reply to this. Marcel was crying softly, persistently, her face covered
by her poor, wrinkled hands.  The priest’s white face shone in the
shadowy room.

Then Jo laughed and lifted Donelle up.

"Child, you have seen the worst and the best in man.  We still have Tom
Gavot and he will keep all harm from you."  Then she turned to Marcel.
"Margot would have been proud of Tom, could she have known," she said.
Marcel groped her way across the room.  Her eyes were hidden, her sobs
choked her.

"Mam’selle," she faltered, "Mam’selle Jo!"

Then the two women clung together.  Father Mantelle watched them.  What
he thought no one could know, but a radiance overspread his face.

"Mam’selle Morey," he said quietly at last, "you have opened my eyes.
God’s peace be with you."

Then, as if leaving a sacred place, he turned and went out into the
early evening.

Marcel soon followed, but she was not crying when she went.  Donelle had
kissed her, Jo had held her hands and smiled into her eyes.  Marcel had
received her blessing from them.

Then, when they were alone, Jo lighted the lamp and piled wood in the
stove.

"And now we will eat, child," she said.  Donelle was still dazed,
trembling.

"I remember!" was what she kept repeating. "How strange, Mamsey, but I
see it clear and true after all these years."

"And now, forget it, Donelle.  The vision was given to you from God.  It
has done its work.  We must forget the past."  And for years it was
never talked of between them.

"But, Mamsey——"

"Not another word, Donelle.  We must eat and then talk of Tom."

It was after eight when, the work indoors and out finished, Jo and
Donelle talked of Tom Gavot.  By that time Donelle was quiet and
strangely at peace.

"All night, Mamsey, while Nick and I were in his cabin," she said, "he
was out in the rain!  I crept to the window many times and always he was
there walking about or sitting by a little fire that he made in a dry
spot to warm his poor, wet body.  Mamsey, he told me to put the bar
across the door, and I wanted to, but I did not."  Donelle’s eyes shone.
"Somehow I felt safer with the bar off.  And then, when it was morning,
Tom was gone."

"He will come again!" breathed Jo, her breast heaving.  "And what then
will you do with him, child?"

"I do not know, Mamsey."

"He has done the greatest thing for you that it is possible for man to
do."

"Yes, I know, I know.  But, Mamsey," the agony of deadly hurt shook
Donelle’s voice, "Mamsey, for a little time I want, I must stay with
you. And we must never speak of the other!  You kept still when, when my
father——"

"Yes, yes, Donelle, I understand," Jo clutched the girl to her.  "You
shall stay with me for a little time, but I think the day will come when
you will go to Tom Gavot on bended knees."

"Perhaps, Mamsey, perhaps.  I love Tom for his great goodness.  I see
him always, so safe, so kind, so splendid, but just now——  Oh! Mamsey,"
the girl shuddered, "the love has me!  I know I am wrong and wicked to
let it hold me.  I know I was selfish and bad to let Tom save me.  You
see I had to do something quick; I was so alone.  But by and by, Mamsey,
the way will be easier and then I will think only of Tom Gavot.  I
promised."

In the upper chamber were a few articles belonging to Norval.  Jo put
them under lock and key the following day, and set the room in its
sweet, waiting orderliness once more.  The cabin in the wood too, was
securely closed against prying eyes and hands.  A few sketches and
pictures were still there—"The Road" among them.  The others had been
hastily gathered together.  Books rested on a shelf and table, the
oil-stained coat hung on a peg.  Jo longed, with human revolt, to set
fire to the place where she and Langley’s child had known Gethsemane,
but her hand was held.

And still Tom Gavot did not return.  No word came from him for a week,
and a great fear rose in Jo’s heart.  Then came a brief note to Donelle.


You know you can trust me.  Father Mantelle has written to me about you
and Mam’selle; it’s a big thing.  And, Donelle, I’m never going to take
anything you don’t want to give! I didn’t marry you to hurt you.  I did
it to help you.  It seemed the only way, in the hurry.

I’m staying here in Quebec for a few months.  Nothing can harm you now
and I am thinking of longer and bigger roads, farther away, where I can
make more money and get ahead.  It can’t harm you, Donelle, to tell you
that, always from the first time I saw you, I loved you better than
anything else.  I love you now better than myself, my roads, anything!
And because I love you this way, I’m leaving you with Mam’selle.


How they all evaded Norval.  It was as if he had never been.  Point of
Pines was like that.

Since Tom had not killed him, he was able to blot him out.

"Tom is a man, a big one!" murmured Jo.  "Donelle, you will be able to
see him by and by."

"Yes, Mamsey, by and by."

Then summer came warmly, brightly, over the hills, but with it stalked a
grim, black shadow.  A shadow that no one dared speak about aloud,
though they whispered about it at Dan’s Place, on the roads, and in the
quiet houses.  Father Mantelle felt his old blood rising hot and fierce.
He remembered his France; but he remembered that his France had driven
his Order from its fasthold.  He remembered England, with traditional
prejudice.  Then he gazed into the depth of the black shadow that would
not depart, and preached "peace, peace," even before his people had
thought of anything else but peace. It was full summer.  The States’
people filled Marcel’s house, the Point of Pines hamlet throbbed and
waited.  Then the shadow stood revealed—War! And from over the sea
England called to her sons. And they no longer paused.  They lifted up
their stern young faces and turned from field, river, and woods, turned
back again Home!

And the women!  At first they were stunned; horrified.  It could not be!
It could not be!

Soon, soon, they were to learn the lesson of patience, bravery, and
heroism, but at first they saw only their boys going away.  They saw the
deserted houses, farms, and river, their own great helplessness, their
agony of fear.

They saw their children grow old in a night with the acceptance of this
call they could not quite comprehend, but which could not be
disregarded.  It was such a strange call, it sounded depths they,
themselves, had never known.  It found an answer in their untried youth.
They simply had to go.

The old men were sobered, exalted.  Even Pierre Gavot forgot the tavern,
put on his best clothes, and waited for Tom.  Were all the others going,
and not his son?  Gavot was full of anxiety.  He did not want to drink
and forget.  He was obliged to stay clearheaded and watch for Tom’s
return.  He even forgot himself and his demands on Tom.  He’d manage
somehow, but he could not endure the shame of Tom’s not going overseas.

It was an hour when souls were marching up to the Judgment Seat, each
according to its kind.

And one day Jo Morey met Pierre on the high-road, her burning
woman-heart not yet adjusted to the shock that was reverberating through
Canada.

"And so, Gavot," she said, "’tis taking this cause to bring you to your
senses?  I hear of your talking of Tom as if he was a big thing.  Why,
he’s been big ever since he was born, and you took no heed."

Pierre drew back.  Tom was not yet revealed as a hero, but Gavot could
not conceive of the boy being anything else.

"I’m ready to lay my only son on the altar," mumbled Pierre
grandiloquently.  "I can sacrifice my all for my country."

Jo laughed, a hard, bitter laugh.

"You men!" she sneered, "ever since Abraham carried his poor boy up the
mountain to lay him on the altar, you’ve all been alike, you fathers!
You don’t lay yourselves on the fire, not you!  You don’t even live your
decent best when you might, but you’re ready enough with the sacrifice
of your young.  Gavot, have you ever noticed that the Sarahs of the
world don’t carry their sons to the altar?"  Jo’s feelings choked her.

Gavot looked at the woman before him with bleared and strangely serious
eyes.  "That’s wild talk," he mumbled, "bad talk.  The right has to be
done.  Could such as _I_ fight?"

Jo looked at the wretched creature by the roadside and she did not laugh
now.  That intangible something that was settling on the faces of her
people hushed her.



                              *CHAPTER XX*

                         *GAVOT GETS HIS CALL*


And Tom Gavot was in Quebec.  The alarm had stilled, for an instant, his
very heart, and the first terrible sense of fear that always came to him
in danger rose fiercely within him. His vivid imagination began to burn
and light the way on ahead.  Horrors that he had read of and shuddered
at clutched at his brain and made it ache and throb.

No one knew of his sad marriage.  He was going about his work bearing
his heavy secret as best he could, but now he began to view it in a new
light. He was married; he could remain behind with honour.  But could
he?

"Going to enlist, Tom?" the head of his firm asked one day.  "We’d hate
to lose you, we want to send you to Vancouver.  There’s something
special to do there.  After all, the matter will soon be settled and we
need some boys here."

"I’m thinking it over," Tom replied, and so he was, over and over while
his quivering flesh challenged his bright spirit.

He walked daily in front of the Chateau Frontenac and watched and
watched the gallant boys, oh! so pitifully young, marching, drilling
with that look in their eyes that he could not comprehend. He went to
the Plains of Abraham and stood spellbound while the past and present
flayed his fevered imagination.  He stood in front of the pictured
appeals that the Government posted on fences and buildings, and still
his flesh held his spirit captive. Then one day, quite unconsciously,
the Government reached him—him, Tom Gavot!  There was a new picture
among the many, an old mother with a transfigured face, her hand on the
shoulder of her boy.

"My son, your country needs you."

Tom looked, and turned away.  It did not seem fair to—to bully fellows
like that.  He was angry, but he went back.  The boy’s face seemed to
grow like his own!  Poor Tom, he could not realize that it was the face
of young Canada.  The woman why, she was like the long-dead mother!  Tom
felt sure, had his mother lived, that she would have been old and
saintly.  Yes, saintly in spite of everything, for would not he have
seen to that?  He, and his roads?

Tom thought of his roads, his peaceful, beautiful roads.  Would he be
fit to plan them, travel on them if he let other men make them safe for
him?

Then one September day he said quietly—and the man to whom he spoke
never forgot his eyes—"I’m going to enlist.  I’m going back to my home
place. I’d like to start with the boys from there."  So Tom went back to
Point of Pines.  He almost forgot that he was the husband of Donelle
Langley.  He had taken farewell of many, many things without realizing
it: his own fear, his wife, his roads, his hope of Donelle.

He went back very simply, very quietly, and with that new look in his
sad young eyes he seemed like a stranger.  Not for him was the glory and
the excitement.  He was going because he dared not stay. His soul was
reaching out to an ideal that was screened in mystery, he had only just
courage enough to press on.  Pierre looked at his boy pleadingly.

"Tom," he whimpered, "I’m not much of a father.  I can’t send you off
feeling proud of me, I’ve held you back all your life.  But I can make
you feel easier about me by telling you that I’ve got work.  You won’t
have to fash yourself about that."

Tom regarded his father with a vague sense of gladness; then he reached
out falteringly and took his hand!

Marcel drew Tom to her heart.  All her motherhood was up in arms.

"Tom," she whispered, "all through the years I’ve broken my heart over
those little graves on the hill, but to-day I thank God they’re there!"

Tom held the weeping woman close.

"Aunt Marcel," he asked quietly, "if they, the children, were here,
instead of on the hill, would you bid them stay?"

"That’s it, Tom, I couldn’t, and that’s why I thank God He’s taken the
choice from me."

Tom kissed her reverently with a mighty tenderness.

"Aunt Marcel," he went on, "when I’m over there I shall think of you and
of the children on the hill.  I’ll try and do my best for you and them.
I may fail, but I’ll try."

And at last Tom went up the road to Mam’selle and Donelle.  They saw him
coming and met him on the way.  Jo’s head was bent; her breast heaving.
A terrible fear and bitterness made her face hard and almost cruel.

All night she had been recalling Tom’s pitiful youth.  And now this
renunciation!  But on Donelle’s face shone the glory of the day.

Quietly, firmly she took Tom’s hands and lifted her eyes.

"Oh! but you are splendid," she whispered.  "I thought perhaps you might
feel you ought to stay back for me!  But, Tom, everything is all right
and safe!  Always you are going to grow bigger, nearer, until you make
me forget everything else.  Why, Tom now, now I would go with you on
your road, if I could!  You must believe that, dear."

Tom looked at her.  He saw the thrill of life, adventure, and youth
shake her.  He saw with an old, old understanding that because he was
going away, alone, upon the road, he meant to her what he never could
have meant had he remained.  He saw that his renunciation had awakened
her sympathy and admiration, but he saw that love lay dead in her eyes.

[Illustration: "Tom looked at her. He saw the thrill, of life, adventure
and youth shake her.  He saw with an old, old understanding that because
he was going away, alone, upon the road, he meant to her what he never
could have meant had he remained."]

And then Tom bent and kissed her.  He could in all honour because
something deep in his heart told him that he was indeed bidding her
good-bye.

"When I come back," he was saying, while he felt far, far away, "we’ll
just try the road, Donelle. I know you’ll do your part.  And always keep
this in mind: when I look back home I’ll see you at the other end of the
road, girl.  Your eyes will have the yellow light in them that will
brighten the darkest night I’ll ever tramp through.  I had to tell you
that."

"Thank you, Tom."

"It wasn’t the honest thing to marry you the way I did.  I had no
right."

"Yes, you had, Tom.  Yes.  Yes!"

"No.  I think we could have found a better way, if we had taken time,
but I was sort of blinded."

"And so was I, Tom, blinded and crazed."

"Donelle—"

"Yes, Tom."

"I’ve got to tell you something—now that I’m going.  He—he came back
that night.  He came to me and he would not believe, until I let him
look in the window to see you as you lay there asleep.  He wanted to
tell me something, and I wouldn’t let him!  But, Donelle, before God, I
think we need not hate him and if he ever gets a chance let him tell you
what he wanted to tell me."

"Tom, oh!  Tom!"  Donelle was weeping now in Gavot’s arms.  "Thank you,
thank you, my own good Tom!  And when you come back, I’ll be waiting for
you, no matter what I hear."

But Tom understood.  Again he bent and kissed her pretty hair, her
little white face, then gently pushed her toward Jo.

"Mam’selle," he said and smiled his good smile: "I’m going, with
heaven’s help, to make up to my mother."

"You have, Tom, you have!"  Jo rushed to him. "You have by your clean,
fine life and they have no right to take that young life; they have no
right, no right!"

But Tom went away, smiling, with the little company of Point of Pines’
men.  The women watched the going with still faces and folded hands.
Those boys going on, on to what, they knew not; just going! Some looked
self-centred, proud, senselessly uplifted. Others looked grim, not
knowing all, but sensing it.

Tom looked at his group, his father, Marcel, Longville, Jo, and Donelle,
turned a last glance at the white, set face of Father Mantelle, and so
said good-bye to Point of Pines.

Together Jo and Donelle returned to the little white house.  It was like
going back from a freshly made grave.

"I’ll not help the bad business, no, not I!" vowed Mam’selle, the hard
look still upon her face. Donelle looked piteously at her.

"It is a great evil, a damnable sin; no words can make it right.  For us
to work and forgive is but to help the sin along.  I will not stand for
the cursed wrong."

"Mamsey, it is all wrong, but it is not their wrong, Tom’s and all the
other boys.  They are just doing what they have to: holding to that
something that won’t let go of us.  Mamsey, we must go along with them.
We cannot leave them alone.  I don’t quite see yet what we can do, but
Mamsey, we, too, must hold on.  See, here is the loom.  Spin, spin, dear
Mamsey."

"No, the loom stands still!"  Jo shut her lips. But Donelle led her
forward.

"Mamsey, it will save us," she said, "save us. We must work all the
time; spin, weave, knit.  We’ve got to.  It is all we can do."

"Yes.  And because we have always spun and woven and knitted, they are
going off there, those boys!  Donelle, I will not touch the loom!"

But Donelle was placing her fingers on the frame.

Suddenly, groping for the threads, Jo said, while her voice broke:

"Where’s Nick, child?"

"He’s following Tom as far as he can, Mamsey. I did not call him back."

At that Jo bent her head until it rested on the loom.

"That’s all dogs and women can do!" she moaned; "follow them as far as
they can."

"Yes, Mamsey, and catch up with them—somehow. We will, we will."

The two women clung together and wept until only grief was left, the
bitterness melted.

And afar in Egypt Anderson Law heard the summons and saw the blackening
cloud.

"I’m too old to take a gun," he muttered grimly, "but my place is home!
Every man to his hearth, now, unless he can serve his neighbour."

It was October when Law reached New York.  In his long-deserted studio
lay much that claimed his immediate attention.  Norval had had a key to
the apartment and had seen that it was kept ready for its absent master.
A mass of mail lay upon the table, among it a note from Norval himself.


ANDY, when you can, go to Point of Pines.  If any man in God’s world can
mend the mischief I made there, it is you!  I went innocently enough and
at a time when I was down and out.  I managed to evolve about as much
hell as possible. I don’t expect you will ever be able to excuse or, in
any sense, justify my actions.  I am only thinking of that little girl
of Alice Lindsay’s, the only love of my life.


Law was petrified.  This was a letter Norval had written from Point of
Pines, it had got no farther than New York, for Norval in his
abstraction had addressed it there.

For an instant even the war sank into insignificance as Law read on:


The divorce that Katherine desired was about to be consummated. I
reckoned without Katharine’s sense of justice and duty, which got active
just when I thought the road was clear. Well, Andy, you know how
damnable truth can become when it is handled in the dark?  Katherine
came to Point of Pines; saw Donelle alone.  Need I say more?  Only this,
Andy: I did not wrong the girl, I only loved her.

I’ve left a picture.  I want you to see it before you leave for Canada.
You’ll find it by your north window.

I’m going to the Adirondacks with Katherine.  She’s developed
tuberculosis, this is her only chance, and, short or long, I’ve sworn to
go the rest of the way with her.


Law went across the room to his north window. With fumbling hands he
uncovered the canvas standing there and placed it on an easel before he
dared look at it.

A bit of paper was attached to the picture.  Law read:

"Fairer than morning, lovelier than the daylight."

Then standing in his coldest, most critical attitude, Anderson Law
feasted his eyes upon Donelle!

Not only the sweet, appealing beauty of the rare, girlish face held Law,
but the masterfulness of the hand that had reproduced it, clutched his
senses. Such colour and light!  Why, for a moment it seemed almost as if
there were movement.

"Good God!" muttered Law.  "I stayed in Egypt too long."

It was like him, however, to make ready at once to go to Point of Pines.
He did not write to Norval; how could he?  Of course he disapproved
heartily of what he knew and suspected.  No man, he reflected, has a
right to take chances at another’s expense. Norval was a fool, a damned
fool, but he was no merely selfish wretch.  That he could swear to. But
the girl—well, how could a man keep his senses cool with those eyes
fixed upon him?

"That white-flame sort," mused the man in the still room, "is the most
far reaching.  There’s so much soul along with the rest."


A week later the _River Queen_, rather dignifiedly, puffed up to the
wharf of Point of Pines.  The sturdy boat was doing her bravest bit that
summer.  She went loaded down the river; she panted back
contemplatively, knowing that she must bear yet other loads away.  Away,
always, away!

"I want Mam’selle Jo Morey’s," Anderson Law said as he was deposited,
with other freight and bags on the dock.  "She takes boarders?"

Jean Duval frowned.

"She took one," he replied, "but he ran away. I’m thinking the Mam’selle
Jo is not reaching out for more."

"Then I will go to her," said Law in his most ingratiating manner; "she
shall not reach out for me."

Jo was in the barn, but Donelle stood by the gate, her fair, uncovered
head shining in the warm October light.

"I am Anderson Law!"

Donelle turned and her wide eyes grew dark.

"I have come late, I’m afraid, child," Law saw that his name was
familiar to the girl, saw her lips quiver, "but I’ll do my best now to
mend the trouble.  You must accept me for Alice Lindsay’s sake."

Bluntly, but with grave tenderness, he put out his hand.

There are some people who come into the world for no other reason,
apparently, than to lighten the burdens of others.  The mere sight of
them is the signal for the shifting of heavy loads.  Weary, lost ones
know their deliverers.  Donelle gave a long, long look, her eyes filled
with sudden and sadly-suppressed tears.  All the weight she had borne
since the time she had entered the Walled House cried out for support.

"Oh!  I am so glad you’ve come.  So glad!"

And Donelle’s hands lay in Law’s.

And so Mam’selle found them, clinging to each other like shipwrecked
souls, when she came up with Nick wheezing at her heels.  Nick wheezed
now, there was no denying it.

"And, sir, you are——?" she said, standing with her feet astride, her
hands reaching down to where her father’s old pockets used to be.

"A boarder, Mam’selle, heaven willing."

"I can take no more boarders, sir.  But I can hitch up Molly and drive
you to Captain Longville’s."

"Mam’selle Morey, I am Alice Lindsay’s friend, Anderson Law."

Then Jo, who had always been a burden-bearer herself, scented another of
her kind.  She came a step nearer.  Her lifted brows disclosed her
wonderful eyes, the eyes of a woman who had suffered and made no cry.

Law held her by a long glance; a searching glance.

"Mam’selle," he said; "I half believe you will reconsider and take me
in."

"I half believe I will!"  Jo’s lips twitched.

Her instinct guided her.

"The upper chamber is ready," she added, "and the noon meal is about to
be set on the table."

"And I’ll show you the way!"  Donelle went on before Law, a new look
upon her face, a gladder look than had rested there for many a day.



                             *CHAPTER XXI*

                       *DONELLE AT LAST SEES TOM*


"The greatest wrong Norval did was to leave you in the dark."

Law and Donelle sat in the wood-cabin, and the room was warm and bright.
Norval’s deserted pictures were hung in good light and now some of Law’s
own had also found a place on the rough walls.

"You are woman enough to have understood."

"Yes, I would have understood," Donelle replied from her seat near the
window.  She was knitting; knitting, always knitting.

"Love is a thing you cannot always manage.  I would have understood.
Love just came to us and when it got hurt, I did wrong in going to Tom
Gavot, my husband.  But you see he had helped me before. It was wrong,
but there did not seem to be any other way.  I think I felt I had to
make it impossible—for—for Mr. Norval to do anything."

"But, my child, of course—Norval wronged you by withholding the whole
truth.  Still, I wish he could have spoken for himself, not left it for
me."

"You have done it beautifully, Man-Andy!"

The name fell lingeringly from Donelle’s lips. Law had urged her to call
him by it.

It was February now and still Law lingered.  He could hardly have told
why, but Canada seemed more homelike to him than the States.  He was one
of the first to resent his country’s holding back from entering the
terrific struggle that was sucking the other countries into its hellish
maw.

"If I cannot bear a gun," Law often vowed in Jo’s upper chamber, "I’ll
hang around close to them who are bearing them.  The boys will be coming
back soon, some of the hurt chaps, I’ll lend a hand here in Canada."

So he remained and the little white house was happy in its welcome.

Law went among the people.  He became a constant visitor in Father
Mantelle’s house; went with the old priest to the homes, already
bereaved, because of the son or father who had marched away and would
never come back.  The war dealt harshly with the men of Canada who,
counting not the cost, went grimly to the front and took the heavier
blows with no thought of turning back.

"And, Man-Andy," Donelle was talking quietly while Law smoked by the
fire, "I have often thought that Mr. Norval"—the stilted words were
shy—"might have felt that I came first.  He might have."

"I think he might."  The cloud of smoke rose higher.  "That would have
been like him."

"But it wouldn’t have been right.  The big love we couldn’t help, but he
once told me that it was our part to keep it holy.  If—if—he forgot for
a minute, Man-Andy, it was for me to remember.  I think I was afraid I
might _not_, and that was why something drove me to Tom, my husband."

Law winced at the constant reiteration of the "husband."  It was as if
she were forcing him to keep the facts clearly in mind.

"I wouldn’t have had my love be anything but what I knew him, Man-Andy.
And now I am almost happy thinking of him doing what is right.  It’s
better, even if it is hard."

"Yes, I suppose so!"  And Law knew whereof he spoke.

"But you?" he lifted his eyes to Donelle’s white, sweet face.

"I?  Why, it is all right for me, Man-Andy. You see, there are many
kinds of love, and Tom, my husband, why, I love him.  He is strong, and
oh! so safe.  When his country does not need him any more, I will make
him happy.  I can.  I am sure I can, for Tom is not one who wants all.
He has had so little in his life that he will be glad, very glad with
me.  He has the big love, too, Man-Andy."

"You are quite beyond me!" muttered Law. "You and your Mam’selle, you
are a pair."

"I love to think that.  Mam’selle has been more than a mother to me.  I
am so glad you know all about us."

Law did know, from Father Mantelle.

"I feel, wrong as it may seem," the priest had once confided to Law,
"like making the sign of the cross whenever I come in the presence of
Mam’selle Morey."

"Well, crosses have apparently been quite in her line," Law laughed
back, "she’d naturally take it as a countersign."

Law had a habit that reminded Jo of Langley, of Donelle and, indeed now
that she reflected, of others besides, who knew her more or less
intimately. He would sit and watch her while she worked and then,
without rhyme or reason, smile.  Often, indeed, he laughed.

"Am I so amusing?" she asked Law once.

"Not so amusing, Mam’selle, as consumedly comical."

"Comical, Mr. Law?"  Jo frowned.

"No good in scowling, Mam’selle.  I mean no reflection.  The fact is,
you’ve taken us all into camp, we might as well laugh."

"Camp, Mr. Law?"  The brows lifted.

"Yes, you made us look like small beer and then you forgive us, and
label us champagne!"

"Mr. Law, you talk!"  Jo sniffed.

"I certainly do, Mam’selle."

"I do not understand your tongue."

"I’ll wager a dollar to a doughnut that Donelle does."

"Umph!  Well, then, Donelle, just you tell me what he means."

They were all sitting around the hot stove, a winter storm howling
outside.

"I’m afraid I cannot very well, Mamsey.  But I know what he means."

"Do your best, child.  I hate to be kept guessing."

"Well, it is something like this:"  Donelle looked at Law, getting
guidance from his eyes, "some people, not as blessed as you, Mamsey,
might not have forgiven all those years when no one knew! You were so
big and silent and brave, you made them all look pretty small.  And now
when they do know, you somehow let them do the large, kind things that
you make possible, and you stand aside, praising them."

"Nonsense!" Jo snapped.  "Who’s blowing my horn, I’d like to know?"

"Oh!  Mamsey, it’s your horn, but you let others think it isn’t.  Who
was it that made Father Mantelle come out and compel his people to go
overseas?"

"That’s silly, Donelle.  When he came to his senses, he saw he’d be
mobbed if he didn’t."

"Oh!  Mamsey, you bullied him outrageously. And who sees to old Pierre?"

"You, child.  You can’t see your husband’s father want, when it’s
rheumatism, not bad whiskey, that’s laying him low."

"Oh!  Mamsey!  And who got Marcel little flags to put on—on those graves
on the hill because it would make her feel proud?"

"Donelle you _are_ daft.  Marcel felt she had to do something to make it
her war, too, and she’s too busy to weave and knit.  Why"—and here Jo
turned to Law whose eyes were twinkling through the smoke that nearly
hid his face—"in old times the people around here used to light fires on
St. John’s Day in front of their houses, to show there had been a death.
I told Marcel about that and she herself thought of the flags.  She
would have given her children if they had lived; she’s brought herself,
like the rest of us, to see there is nothing else to do but give and
give!"

Mam’selle choked over her hurried words and Law suddenly changed the
subject.

"Mam’selle," he asked, "is there a chimney place behind this red-hot
monster?" he kicked the stove.

"There is, Mr. Law, one about twice too large for the house."

"Let’s take the stove down and have the chimney place!"

"Take the stove down?" Jo dropped ten stitches. "Take that stove down!
Why, you don’t know what it cost me!  I—I am proud of that stove."

"Really, Mam’selle?"

"Well, I used to be prouder than I am now.  It is a heap of trouble to
keep clean, but it’s going to stay where it is.  When things cost what
that did, they stay.  It’s like Nick and the little red cow——"

"And me!" put in Donelle softly.

"You ought to be ashamed, Donelle," Jo turned indignant eyes upon her,
"putting yourself beside stoves and dogs and cows."

"And other things that cost too much.  Oh! Mamsey."

And still Law stayed on, the peace in his eyes growing each day deeper,
surer.  He felt, in a vague way, as Norval had, the sense of _living_
for the first time in his life.  The wood-cabin he called the
co-operative workshop.  In time he got Donelle to play there for him.
At first she tried and failed. Weeping, she looked at him helplessly and
put her violin aside.

"You have no right," he said to her with infinite tenderness, "to let
any earthly thing kill the gift God gave you."

The philosophy that had upheld poor Law had given him courage to pass it
on to others.  It now drove Donelle to her duty.

Old Revelle had prophesied that suffering would develop her and her
talent; and it was doing so. Her face became wonderfully strong and fine
as the months dragged on and the Fear grew in waiting hearts.  In
forgetting herself she made place for others and they came to her
faithfully.  Her music was heard in many a hill cabin; down by the
river, where the older men worked, while their thoughts were overseas.
She taught little children, helped make the pitiful black dresses which
meant so much to the lonely poor who had given their all and had so
little with which to show respect to their sacred dead.

Jo watched her girl with eyes that often ached from unshed tears.

"It will be the death of her," she confided to Anderson Law.  "She’ll
break."

"No," Law returned, "she will not break.  She’s as firm and true as
steel; she’s getting ready."

"Ready for what?" Jo’s voice shook.

"For life.  So many, Mam’selle, simply get ready to live.  Life is going
to use this little Donelle."

"Men have caused a deal of trouble for women," Jo remarked irrelevantly.

"Ah! there you have us, Mam’selle.  The best of us know that we’re bad
bunglers.  Most of us, in our souls, are begging your pardon."

"Well, you’re all boys, mere children."  Jo was clicking her needles
like mad.  "Sometimes I think it would settle the whole question if we
could bunch all the men in one man and give him a good spanking."

Law’s eyes twinkled.

"And after that, after the spanking, Mam’selle, what would you do?"

"Give him an extra dose of jam, like as not. We’re fools, every last one
of us, God help us!"

"Yes, thank God, you are!"

It was March when a letter came from Norval that sent Law to the
wood-cabin and to his knees.


ANDY:

It’s over!  Poor Katherine!  I’m going to leave her body here under the
snow and the pines.  It came quite suddenly at the last.  She just could
not stand it.

I’m glad I went the rest of the way with her.  I never could have done
it except that you showed me the path.  You’ve been here with me close,
old friend, all these months.  I wonder if you can understand me when I
say that I am glad for Katherine, for her alone, that she is safe under
the snow?  It is easier to think of her so, than to remember the losing
battle she waged for her health.  I’m sure my being here made her less
lonely, and she grew so tender and generous, so understanding.

She begged me to return to Point of Pines.  She never knew about Gavot.

And now, Andy, before you get this, I will be on my way over-seas to
offer what I have to France.  I’m strong, well, and have nothing to hold
me back.  I can do something there, I’m sure.


Law looked at the date on the letter, then noticed that the postmark was
nearly a month later.  There was no need to hurry back; Norval was gone.

Law did not tell Donelle or Jo of his news. Everything was being tossed
into the seething pot; the outcome must be awaited with patience and
whatever courage one could muster.

When spring came the little _River Queen_ came regularly to the dock.
She came quietly, reverently, bearing now her children home: the sick,
the tired, the hopelessly maimed, the boys who had borne the brunt of
battle and had escaped with enough mind and body to come back.  Some of
them had news of others; they had details that waiting hearts craved.
Under the soft skies of spring they told their brave stories so simply;
oh! so divinely simply.  The bravado, the jest were stilled; they had
seen and suffered too much to dwell upon glory or upon the tales of
adventure.

Poor old Pierre went from one to another with his question:

"Tell me about my Tom."

Tom had been transferred here, there, and everywhere.  Only an
occasional comrade who had left home with him had been near him
overseas.  But one or two had stories about Tom that soon became public
property.

"Old Tom was always talking about being afraid," said one.  "In the
trenches, while we were waiting for orders, he’d beg us to see that if
he were a coward his home folks might not know the truth.  He always
expected to be the cur, and then, when the order came, up the old duffer
would get and scramble to the front as if he was hell-bound for suicide.
It got to be a joke and the funny part was, when it was over, he never
seemed to know he’d done the decent thing.  He’d ask us how he had
acted.  He’d believe anything we told him.  After awhile we got to
telling him the truth."

Marcel wept beside her little row of graves after hearing about Tom and
wished, at last, that a son of her own could be near that poor Tom of
Margot’s.

Jo’s eyes shone and she looked at Donelle.  She felt the girl’s big
heart throb with pity, but she knew full well that even in his tragic
hour of triumph Tom had not called forth Donelle’s love.

Sometimes she was almost angry at Donelle. Why could not the girl see
what she had won, and glory in it?  What kind of reward was it to be for
Tom to have her "keep her promise?"

"Women were not worthy of men!" she blurted out to Anderson Law.  "Think
of those young creatures offering all they have to make a world safe for
a lot of useless women!’

"They ought to be spanked, the useless women," Anderson remarked
solemnly.

"That they should!" agreed Jo.

"Ah, well, Mam’selle," Law’s face grew stern, "we are all, men and
women, getting our punishment alike. But what has the rebel, Donelle,
now done?"

"She will not see Tom Gavot, her husband, as he is!  She only sees him
as a brave soldier.  Instead, he is a man!"

"Ah!  Mam’selle Jo, wait until he comes home and _needs her_.  Then she
will give him the best she has to give.  Is that not enough?"

"No!" Jo exploded.  "No! it is not.  She ought to give him, poor lad,
what she has not in her power to give."

Then they both laughed.

It was full summer when the word came that Tom Gavot had made the
supreme sacrifice.

Law brought the official announcement, the bald, hurting fact.  He had,
on his way past Dan’s Place, rescued Pierre before he had begun
drinking.

"Come to Mam’selle Morey’s," he commanded calmly.  "I have news of your
boy."

"And he is still brave?  It is good news?"

Gavot shuffled on beside Law.

"He’s still brave, yes."

"That’s good; that’s good.  Tom was always one who began by trembling
and ended like iron."

Jo was at her loom, Donelle at her knitting, when the two men entered
the sunny home-room of the little white house.

"This has come," said Law, and reverently held up the envelope.

They all knew what it was.  In Point of Pines the bolt had fallen too
often to be misunderstood.  By that time every heart was waiting;
waiting.

"It’s Tom?" asked Donelle and her face shone like a frozen, white thing
in the cheerful room.

Law read the few terrible words that could not soften the blow, though
they tried hard to do so.

"The war office regrets to announce——"

Pierre staggered to his feet.

"It’s a lie!" he said thickly, "a lie!"  Then he began to weep aloud
like a frightened child.

Law went to him and shook him roughly.

"Stop that!" he said sternly.  "Can’t you try to be worthy of your boy?"

"But—but I wanted him to know how I have been trying, even when I
couldn’t quite make it.  And now——"

"Perhaps he does know," Law spoke more softly, "perhaps he does."

Jo did not move, but her eyes seemed to reflect all the misery of her
stricken country.

"Mam’selle, can you not help us?"  Law spoke from his place beside the
groaning Pierre.

"I—I’m afraid not, Mr. Law.  Not just now."  Poor Jo; for the first time
in her life she was overpowered.  "I somehow," she spoke as if to
herself, "I somehow thought I understood how it felt when I saw the
others.  But I didn’t; I didn’t."  Then she turned to Donelle.  "Where
are you going?" she asked.

"Mamsey, I’m going down to—to Tom’s hut.  It seems as if he will be
there."

Then Jo bent her head.

"Go, child," she said with a break in her hard voice.  "Go."

And later Law found Donelle there in the little river-hut.  She was
sitting by the open door, her face, tearless and tragically white,
turned to the river whose tide was coming in with that silent, mighty
rush that almost took away the breath of any one who might be watching.

"Dear, little girl!" said Law soothingly, taking his place at her feet,
"I wish you would cry."

"Cry?  Why, Man-Andy, I cannot cry."

She was holding an old coat of Tom’s, the one he had discarded for the
uniform of his country.

"I wish we could have known just how he went—my Tom!"

"We may some day, child.  But this we both know: he went a hero."

"Yes, I’m sure of that.  He would be afraid, but he would do the big
thing.  He was like that.  I think such men are the bravest.  Listen,
Man-Andy!"

Law listened.  The strange, swift, silent, incoming tide filled his
ears.

"I have been thinking," Donelle whispered, "thinking as I sat here of a
wide, shining road and a great many, many men and boys rushing along it
making the sound of the river.  I think it is that way with the many
boys who have died so suddenly; so soon.  They are hurrying along some
safe, happy road; and oh!  Man-Andy, it seems as if it were Tom’s road.
All the afternoon as I have been sitting here in the only place he ever
knew as home," Law glanced back into the pitiful, plain, empty room, "I
have seen Tom at the head of the great crowd going on and on.  He seems
to be leading them, showing them the way over the road he loved."

The water was covering the highest black rocks, the rushing, still sound
was indeed like the noise of boyish feet hurrying eagerly home.

Law stood up and took Donelle in his arms.  She frightened him by her
awful calm.

"Little girl," he whispered, "try to cry.  For God’s sake, try to cry!"

"But, Man-Andy, how can I?  If only I could have kissed him just once so
he could have remembered——"  And then Donelle broke down.  She relaxed
in Law’s arms; she clung to him sobbing softly, wildly.

"Why, Man-Andy, I’m going to remember always that I couldn’t give him
what he deserved most in all the world."

"My dear, my dear!  You gave him of your best, he understands that now
as he could not before."

"And oh!" here Donelle lifted her tear-stained face, "I’m so thankful I
did not bar the door against him."

Law thought her mind was wandering.

"What door, child?" he asked.

"This door, the night we were married.  He—he knew, I am sure he knew,
as he watched outside, that I trusted him."

Law’s eyes dropped.

"Your husband was a big man," was all he said.



                             *CHAPTER XXII*

                          *NORVAL COMES BACK*


Anderson Law was sawing wood behind Mam’selle’s little white house.  He
was mighty proud of his success in manual labour; to help Jo with her
wood pile was a delight, altruistically and vaingloriously.

The summer with its heart throbs had made people indifferent to the
winter on ahead, but the days were growing colder and shorter and even
the most careless were aware that some provision must be made at once if
one were to escape needless suffering.

Law was thinking as he worked, and occasionally wiped the perspiration
from his brow.  There were so many things to think about in Point of
Pines; to think about, smile about tenderly, and grieve about.

There was old Pierre, the Redeemed, he was called now.  Since Tom’s
going the wretched father had ceased drinking, was housed by Father
Mantelle, and had fallen into a gentle, vague state that called forth
pity and tolerance.

Early and late he was on the highway with his shovel or rake making the
road easy for the feet of his boy!

If any one came over the hill into Point of Pines the wandering, bleary
eyes would be raised and the one question would break from the trembling
lips: "Have you seen my Tom?"

If any one went away over the hill, Pierre had a message:

"Tell my Tom I’m filling in the ruts.  He won’t find it such hard
travelling when he comes back."

Anderson Law often kept old Gavot company—for Tom’s sake.  Even
Mam’selle had forgiven him and, quite secretly, helped the priest in his
generous support.

The Longvilles, the Captain at least, had forsaken Pierre.  Marcel, poor
soul, gave what, and when, she could.

As Law bent to his task at the wood pile, the priest hailed him from the
road.

"I go now," he explained as he declined the invitation to enter, "to
pray for rain.  The forest fires are bad, but until the crops were in I
would not pray."

So simply did the curé say this that Law refrained from smiling, but he
did say, looking afar to where the heavy smoke-cloud hung above the
trees:

"Ah! well, Father, now that the harvest is in, you had better give the
Lord a free hand or there will be a sad pay-day on ahead."

"I go to pray," Mantelle rejoined and passed on.

Amused and thoughtful, Law looked after the tall, thin, bent figure.  He
recalled how the patient old soul taught and encouraged the children,
held the older ones—children too, in their simplicity and
superstition—to the plain, common paths of life with what success he
might; remembered how day or night he travelled near and far to watch
with the dying or comfort those from whom death had torn their sacredest
and best.

"At such," Law thought, "one cannot scoff."

And just then a fragrant odour came to Anderson Law.  Pleasant and
welcome it was.  He looked up and, at a little distance, saw Mam’selle
at her outdoor oven, pushing into its yawning mouth a tray of noble
loaves of bread.

Down went Law’s saw, out came his sketching pad; Jo before that oven was
a sight for the reverent.

"Eighteen loaves!" called Mam’selle, not realizing that she was becoming
immortal, "eighteen loaves at a lick, Mr. Law, and but a drop in the
bucket.  The boys, whatever else was knocked out of them over there,
managed to keep their stomachs. There’s no filling the lads up, but the
good Lord knows that it’s little enough for us to do, trying to fill
them."

"To-morrow will be Friday," cried a cheery young voice from the highway,
"so we must fish to-day, Mam’selle.  I’m off to the river, but I swear I
cannot get past the smell of your oven.  And I wanted to tell you, I
have my old job back.  Hereafter I swing the light from the dock."

Law and Jo turned.  A boy in the garb of a great country stood leaning
on his crutches, smiling; smiling, but with that look in his eyes that
was never to depart.  The look the trenches had put there; the hall mark
of the world’s wrong to its young.

"Ah! it’s that nice boy, Jean," laughed Jo eagerly. "Wait, son," the
wounded and sick were all "sons" to Mam’selle now, "wait, here is a
large, brown, hot loaf.  Take it along to munch while you catch your
fish.  And it’s glad I am about the job, Jean.  No one ever swung the
lantern as you did.  The _River Queen_ will perk up when she sees you
back."

Jean laughed and patted his hot loaf of bread.

"Ah!  Mam’selle.  And to think I used to run from you when I was a silly
lout of a kid.  I did not know your great heart then, Mam’selle," he
said.

The boyish eyes were lifted to Jo’s face as she pressed the crisp loaf
in his bag.

"It’s my turn to run after you now," she said softly.  "It is worth the
run, though, son.  You’re good sorts, the lot of you."

Law was watching and listening.  Jo affected him strangely.  Lately he
was aware of a glow whenever he got to thinking of her.  If he meant
ever to escape from Point of Pines he had better make a hasty retreat.
That was what the glow meant.  As if to challenge this state of mind Jo
now came toward him.

"It’s a noble pile you’ve cut, Mr. Law," she said. "For a painter-man
you’re not the useless truck one might expect.  Mr. Law, I’ll think of
you often when I burn this wood.  And now that I’m rather soft in my
feelings for your sex—those hurt boys have pleaded for you—I might as
well tell you that I’m going to put my stove in the outhouse and open up
the chimney in the living room."

"Mam’selle!  This is surrender indeed!  A triumph of soul over matter!"
cried Law.

"This winter you can think of me toasting my shins and shivering up the
back, Mr. Law."  Jo smiled broadly.

Anderson Law threw his head back and laughed. Jo’s plain, unvarnished
Anglo-Saxon was like a northwest wind to his mind.

And just then the postman jogged in sight, reading the postcards with
relish and letting his old horse find his own way along the road.

"Where is Donelle?" Law was asking as the mail man paused at the gate.
Jo’s eyes darkened.

"Knitting and thinking down in the river-cabin. Nick’s with her.  Mr.
Law, there are times when I think that dog has a soul."

"I never doubt it, Mam’selle.  One look in his eyes is enough.  But
what, now, about Nick?"

"When he thinks the child has been alone long enough he goes after her.
She says he tugs at her skirt until she follows.  He cries if she holds
back. Mr. Law, I fear Donelle is—is—taking to Tom’s road."

Poor Jo turned away.

"Nonsense, Mam’selle."

Law often thought this, too, so his denial was doubly intense.

"We’ll find a way yet to get Donelle on the road that belongs to her.
Ah! a letter," he broke in, seeing the postman waving an envelope from
the cart.

Law went forward and took the letter, tore it open, and read the few
words enclosed.  It was from his lawyer.  For a moment Anderson Law
could not speak.  The bright day seemed suddenly to darken.  Then he
said slowly, though his thoughts were swift:

"Mam’selle, Jim Norval is back in New York. He’s not able to see just
now; something’s gone wrong with his eyes, and his legs, too.  There’s
hope, but I must go."  Then, as if inspired, "Mam’selle, I must take
Donelle."

"No!"  Jo sprang back as if Law had hit her.

"Mam’selle, I must take Donelle.  Have these hurt boys, here, not taught
you a lesson?"

"But, Mr. Law, this is not decent."

"Norval’s wife died last summer, Mam’selle. He went abroad because there
was nothing else for him to do.  Now may I have Donelle?"

Jo reflected.

"But it will kill her," she said half-heartedly, "the strangeness.  And
what may happen."

"It will cure her," Law went on; "no matter what happens.  She’s part of
it all; she must bear what is hers."

"Mr. Law——"

"Ah!  Mam’selle," and here Anderson Law took Jo’s hand, "there is so
little, after all, that we older ones can do for them.  May I have
Donelle?"

"Yes.  God help us all, Mr. Law."  And poor Jo bowed her head.

"Thank you, Mam’selle.  The conventions have all crumbled, we’re all
stripped down to our bare souls.  We cannot afford to waste time looking
forward or back.  Keep that fire burning on the opened hearth,
Mam’selle.  Some of us will come back to you, God willing, soon.  We
must hurry.  See! there is the child coming up the Right of Way, Nick
clinging to her skirt.  Donelle!"

Law called to her and went to meet her.

"Child, I’m going to take you to the States with me.  Norval needs you!"

Just for an instant the white face twitched and the yellow eyes
darkened.

"When do we go?" was all the cold lips said. Never a doubt; never a
pause.

"What did I tell you?" Law turned to Jo.  "Conventions be damned!

"To-day we start, Donelle.  And, Mam’selle, just you ’tend to that
fire!"

When Norval had been landed in New York he was taken to a hospital—to
die.  But he did not die, though he tried hard enough, and gave no end
of trouble to his doctors and nurses.

"Whom shall we send for?" he was asked when, helpless and blinded, he
lay in the small, quiet, white room.

"Am I going west?"  The phrase clung like an idiom of a foreign
language.

"Good Lord, man, no!  You’re getting on rippingly."  The young house
doctor was tireless in his service to this stricken man.

"Then send for no one.  I’m not eager to have a chance acquaintance
gaping at my useless legs and sightless eyes."

"But you’re going to come around all right.  It’s the effect of shock,
you know.  How about your relatives?"

"Haven’t got any, thank the Lord."  Norval’s chin stiffened.  The young
doctor gripped the clasped hands on the counterpane.

"I wish you’d try a bit to buck up," he said.

"What for?"

"Well, just for your country’s sake."

"My country!  Why isn’t my country where I have been, helping to lower
the temperature of hell?"

The bitter tone rang through the words.  Norval was glad for the company
of this young doctor; glad to have someone, who, really did not matter,
share with him the moments when the memory of horrors he had witnessed
overwhelmed him.

"Our country is going to be there soon!"  The doctor’s voice was
strained.  "A big country like this has to go slow."

"Slow be damned!  This is no time to put on brakes.  Are they, are they
actually steaming up, Burke?  You’re not saying this to—to quiet my
nerves?"

"No.  Your nerves are settling into shape.  Yes, our country is heaving
from the inside."

"Thank God!" Norval sighed.

"And you bet, Mr. Norval, I’m going on the first ship if I have to go as
a stoker.  If there’s one blessed trick of my trade that can help
fellows like you, lead me to it!"

"Burke, you’re a devilish good tonic."

A week later Norval had young Burke again to himself.

"Old man, I feel that I am not going west.  It’s rotten bad form for me
to be holding down this bed any longer.  I suppose I could be moved?"

"Yes, Mr. Norval.  It would do you good, I think you ought to make an
effort.

"I don’t see why, old chap, but—here goes!  Send for this man," he named
Law’s lawyer.  "There is only one person in God’s world I care to have
see me now.  Let them send for him."

So the lawyer came to the hospital, viewed Norval with outward calm;
felt his heart tighten and his eyes dim, then wrote the short, stiff
note that reached Anderson Law by Mam’selle’s wood pile.

From that moment events moved rapidly. Taken from the still place where
death seemed to have crushed everything, Donelle aroused herself slowly.
She simply could not realize the wonderful thing that was happening; the
marvellous fact that life still persisted and that she was part of it.

"He—he will not die?" she asked Law over and over again, apparently
forgetting that she had put the question before.

"Die?  Jim Norval?  Certainly _not_," vowed Law with energy born of fear
and apprehension.

"And," here Donelle’s eyes would glow, "he did his duty to, to the last!
I am so glad that he stayed with her, Man-Andy, until she needed him no
longer.  Then I’m glad he went over there to help.  There will be
nothing to be sorry for now. It was worth waiting for.  And does he know
about Tom, my husband?"

The word husband seemed to justify the rest.

"He does not, Donelle.  And see here, child, we’ve got to go slow.
Norval is going to come around all right and God knows he needs you,
though he may not know it himself."

"But why, Man-Andy?  And what is the matter with him, exactly?  You have
not told me."

There had been so much to say and do that details had been artistically
eliminated.

"Well, his legs are wobbly."  Law sought for the least objectionable
symptoms.

"Wobbly?  But he _has_ them, hasn’t he?"  Donelle thought of the boys of
Point of Pines who—had not.

"Legs?  Jim Norval?  Well, I should say so! But they’ve rather gone back
on him for the moment. And his eyes——"

"His eyes?"  Donelle clutched Law.  "What about his eyes?"

"Now, see here, Donelle.  I’m taking you to Norval because I believe you
alone can cure him; make him want to live, but you’ve got to behave
yourself.  My girl, I don’t know much myself, they’ve simply sent for
me."

The river steamer was nearing New York.  It was early morning and the
gray mysterious mists were hiding the mighty, silent city.  It was like
a dream of a distant place.  A solemn fear that strengthened and
hardened Donelle rose in her at Law’s words.  She groped for, found, and
held his hand like a good comrade.

"Whatever it is, Man-Andy," she whispered, "I’m ready.  If—he never
walks again, I can fetch and carry.  If—if his dear eyes can never see
the—the things he loved, he shall use my eyes, always."

Law then understood that the girl near him drew her strength and force
from hidden sources.  He knew that he could depend upon her.  He
tightened his clasp of the little hand.

"And now," he explained, gulping unvoluntarily, "you’ll understand why I
cannot take you right to Norval."

"Yes, Man-Andy."  The white face grew set.

"I’m going to have him moved from the hospital to my studio.  I’ve got
plenty of room and he’d like it there."

"Yes, have him moved, have him moved."  Donelle said the words over as
if learning a lesson.  She was trying to visualize the helpless man.

"As for you, little girl, I’m going to send you to Revelle.  He’s
waiting for you.  I telegraphed from Quebec.  There’s a nice young body
keeping house for him, a Mary Walden, who once mistook love of art _for_
art.  She got saved and is now making a kind of home for—well, people
like you and old Revelle. She’s found her heaven in doing this and
you’ll be safe and happy with her until you can come to Norval."

"Yes.  Quite safe and happy, Man-Andy."

And through the days that followed Donelle made no complaint; no
demands.  She kept near Revelle; listened to his music with yearning
memories; grew to love Mary Walden, who watched over her like a kind and
wise sister.

Law came daily with his happy reports.  Norval was gaining fast; had
been overjoyed at the change from hospital to the studio; had borne the
moving splendidly.

But still there was no mention of Donelle going to him, and the girl
asked no questions.

At last Law was driven into the open.  He was in despair.  He’d got
Norval to the studio, but there he seemed to find himself up against a
wall.

He took Donelle into his confidence.

"Perhaps if we could get him to Point of Pines," she suggested, her own
longing and homesickness adding force to the words.  The noise and
unrest of the city were all but killing her.

"No," Law shook his head.  "I touched on that but he said he’d be
hanged, or something to that effect, if he’d be carried like a funeral
cortege to Point of Pines."

"Doesn’t he ever speak of me?"  The question was heavy with heartache
and longing.

"No, and I wonder if you can get any happiness out of that?  You ought
to."

The deep eyes were raised to Law’s.

"Yes.  I see what you mean," Donelle smiled. Then: "Man-Andy, there are
times when I think I must go to him.  Fling everything aside and say
’here I am!’"

"There are times when I’ve wished to God you could, Donelle, but I asked
the doctor and he said a shock would be a bad thing.  No, we must wait."

Then he turned to Mary Walden, who was quietly sewing by the window.
The plain, comfortable little woman was like a nerve tonic.

"Mary," he said, "I’m going to ask you to do something for me."

"Yes, Mr. Law."  The voice in itself restored poise to the poiseless.

"I’m tuckered out, I want you to come for two or three hours each day
and read to Norval.  My voice gets raspy and he absorbs books like a
sponge. Besides, I want to paint.  I’ve got an idea on my chest.
Revelle can take care of Donelle while you are with me."

And then, so suddenly that Law fell back before the onslaught, Donelle
rushed to him.

"Why can’t I go?" she demanded.  No other word could describe the look
and tone.  "He could not see me!"

"But, good Lord, he still has his hearing, devilish sharp hearing."

"I could talk like Mary Walden!  Why, Man-Andy, always I could act and
talk like others, if I wanted to.  Mamsey could tell you.  I used to
make her laugh.  Please listen——"

And then in a kind of desperation Donelle made an effort, such a pitiful
one, to speak in the calm, colourless tones of Mary Walden.  They all
wanted to laugh, even Revelle who, at the moment, entered the room, but
the strained, tense look on the girl’s face restrained them.

But a week later Donelle made a test.  From another room she carried on
quite a conversation with Law and, until she showed herself, he could
have sworn he was talking to Mary Walden.

"Now, then!" Donelle exclaimed, confronting him almost fiercely, "you’ve
got to let me try. Mary Walden and I have worked it all out.  I’m to
wear a red wig and a black dress with white collar and cuffs.  If the
bandages should slip, and he happened at that moment to see, he wouldn’t
know me.  My voice is—is perfect, Man-Andy, and besides," here Donelle
quivered, "I’m going to him, anyway!"

"In that case," and Law shrugged his shoulders, "I’ll surrender.  You’re
a young wonder, Donelle."

Then Law laughed, and laughs were rare treats to him those days.

And that night he broke the plan to Norval in the following manner:

"See here, boy, I’m willing to go on with this job of getting you on
your feet provided I have my usual half holidays."

"I know I’m using you up, Andy.  Why not put me in a home for
incurables?"

"Nothing doing, Jim.  They’d discover you even in this disguise."

"It’s a sin not to have a law that permits the demolishing of
derelicts."  Norval’s chin looked grim.

"So it is, but there you are!"

There was a pitiful pause.  Then Law brought forth his suggestions as to
a certain Mary Walden.

"She could read you to sleep while I daub, Jim."

"She?  Good heavens!  What is it, a pretty young female thing yearning
to do her bit?"

"On the other hand, she’s as plain as a pipe stem and is an equal wage
advocate.  She’s red-headed," Law had seen the new wig, "dresses for her
job, and is warranted to read without stopping for three hours at a
stretch."

"Good Lord."  Norval moved uneasily.

"Shall we corral her, Jim?"

"Yes, run her in mornings, I can smoke and snooze afternoons, and the
evenings are your best times, Andy.  You’re almost human then.  Yes,
engage the red head."

So Donelle, after a few days of further practice in mimicking Mary
Walden’s calm, even voice, went to Norval.



                            *CHAPTER XXIII*

                     *BOTH NORVAL AND DONELLE—SEE*


When Donelle stood on the threshold of Anderson Law’s studio and looked
within, her courage almost deserted her.  There, stretched on the
steamer chair, was Norval, his eyes bandaged, his helpless legs covered
by a heavy rug. He was very still and his long, thin hands were folded
in a strange, definite way that seemed to say eloquently, "Finis."

The tears rose to Donelle’s eyes, overflowed, and rolled down her white
cheeks.  She stretched out her empty, yearning arms toward the man
across the room.  Law, standing by, shook his head warningly. He feared
the beautiful, dramatic plan was about to crumble, but in another moment
he realized that the strength of Donelle lay in her depths, not her
surfaces.

"Jim," he said, "here’s Miss Walden."

Norval was alert on the instant.  Making the best of things, as both
Donelle and Law saw, he smiled, put out a hand, and said:

"Glad to see you, Miss Walden.  It’s awfully good of you to spend hours
making life a little less of a bore to a fellow."

Donelle tried her brand-new voice:

"One has to make a living, Mr. Norval.  This is a very pleasant way to
do it."

Mary Walden had framed that speech and had coached her pupil.  Then:

"May I go in the inner room and take off my hat?"

"Law, show her, please.  You see, Miss Walden, I’m a squatter.  This is
Mr. Law’s place."

In ten minutes Donelle was back, red wig, trim gown, white collar and
cuffs, a demure and tragically determined young person.

Law began to enjoy the sport now that he knew Donelle was not going to
betray him.

"I’m going over to the north end of the room," he said, "and daub.
There’s a book on the stand, Miss Walden, that Norval likes.  There’s a
cigarette stump between the pages where we left off."

"Reading will not disturb you, Mr. Law?"  Donelle was reaching for the
book when suddenly Norval started up as if an electric current had gone
through him.  Donelle shivered, that cigarette stump had made her
careless.

"What is the matter, Mr. Norval?" she asked in Mary Walden’s most casual
and businesslike tones.

"Oh! just for a moment, please excuse me, but you made me think of
someone I once knew.  The blind are subject to all sorts of fancies.
Law, did you notice——" but Norval stopped short and Anderson Law waved
frantic hands at Donelle.

She did not let go of herself after that for many days; not until her
assumed voice became so familiar to Norval that those undertones lost
their power over him.

Donelle read tirelessly, her practice with Jo stood her in good stead.
Books, books, books!  Greedily Norval demanded them, motionless he lay
upon his couch, and listened while Law at the north window painted and
dreamed, and then painted his dreams. He got Jo at the oven on canvas
for the spring exhibit.  Donelle silently wept before it, kissed the
blessed face, and gave Law a bad half hour painting off the kiss!

Always while life lasted Donelle was to look back upon those studio days
as a sacred memory. Life was using her and she was ready to pay—to pay.
New York, until years later, meant to her only three high notes: terror
of its bigness and noise, patience while she waited with Mary Walden
until she was used, glory as she served the man she loved.

The flights through the city streets grew to be mere detail.  She
neither saw nor heeded the bustle and unrest.  She was like a little,
eager soul seeking, unerringly, its own.

There was to be a time when Donelle would know the splendour and meaning
of the City, but not then. She was conscious at that time only of the
crude joy of existence near her love.

He depended upon, watched for her; the maternal in her was so rapidly
developed that at length Norval, from his dark place of helplessness,
confided in her!

"Your voice is tired," he said one day; they had been reading Olive
Schreiner’s "Dreams."

"Oh, no, I’m not tired, only the little Lost Joy sort of filled me up."
That was an expression of Jo’s.

"But it’s infernally true," Norval went on, "these ’Dreams’ are about as
gripping as anything I know of.  If we cannot have exactly what we want
in life, we are as blind as bats to, perhaps, the thing that is better
than our wishes."  Then, so suddenly that Donelle drew back in alarm, he
asked:

"Are you a big young person, or a little one?"

"Why, I’m thin, but I’m quite tall."  The voice was sterner than Mary
Walden could have evolved.

"You think me rude, presuming?"

"Oh! no, Mr. Norval.  I was only wishing I was, well—rather nicer to
talk about."

Law, by the north window, went through a series of contortions that
lightened the occasion.

"You know, here in the dark where I live now, one has to imagine a lot.
Lately I’ve wanted to know exactly—exactly as words can portray, just
how you look.  Andy?"

"Yes, Jim.  What’s up?"

"Come here."

Law came forward, smudgy and dauby, pallette on thumb.

"Tell me how Miss Walden looks.  I want to place her.  She has a ghastly
habit of escaping me when I’m alone and thinking her over.  I can’t seem
to fix her."

"Well," Law stood off and regarded Donelle seriously, "She’s red headed
and thin.  She ought to be fed up.  I don’t believe she can stand the
city in summer.  She doesn’t walk very well, she’s at her best when
running."

"Oh!  Mr. Law."  Donelle found herself laughing in spite of herself.

"Well, you are.  I’ve caught you running two or three times on the
street.  You looked as if you had your beginnings in wide spaces and
could not forget them."

"I—I am a country girl," the practical young voice almost broke.  "I
hate the city.  Maybe I do run sometimes.  I always feel that something
is after me."

"What?" asked Norval, and he, too, was laughing.

His old depression seldom came now when his faithful reader was present.

"I cannot describe it.  I read a child’s story once about a Kicker.  It
was described as a big, round thing with feet pointing in every
direction.  One didn’t stand a chance when the Kicker got after him.
The city seems like that to me.  The round thing is full of noise,
noise, noise; it just hurls itself along on its thousands of feet.  I do
run when I get thinking of it."

Norval leaned his head back with a delighted chuckle.

"Law," he asked presently, "does Miss Walden ever remind you of any
one?"

Law looked at the red wig.

"No," he said contemplatively, "she doesn’t."

A week after that, it was a warm, humid day, the windows of the studio
were open.

"I suppose you’ll go away when summer comes?" Norval asked.

"And you?"  Donelle laid down her book.

"No.  I’ll stay on here.  I mean to get a man to look after me.  I’m
going to send Law on an errand."

"I wish," Donelle’s eyes were filled with the yellow glow so like
sunlight.  "I wish, Mr. Norval, that you would try to walk.  Your
masseur says you are better."

"What’s the use, Miss Walden?  At the best it would mean a crutch or a
cane.  I couldn’t bring myself to that.  A dog would be better, but I
never saw but one dog I’d cotton to for the job."

"Where is that dog, Mr. Norval?"

"The Lord knows.  Gone to the heaven of good, faithful pups, probably."

"Mr. Norval?"

"Yes, Miss Walden."

"I wish, while Mr. Law is out every morning for his airing, that you
would try—you could lean on my shoulder—to walk!  Just think how
surprised he’d be some day to find you on your feet by the north
window."

"Would that please you, Miss Walden, to act the part of a nice little
dog leading a blind man?"

"I’d love it!  And you must remember, your doctor says your eyes are
better.  Mr. Norval," here the words came with almost cruel sternness,
"I think it is—it is cowardly for you not to try and make the best of
things.  Even if you can’t see very well, or walk very well, you have no
right to hold back from doing the best you can!  It is mean and small."

Ah! if Norval could have seen the eyes that were searching his grim
face.

"You may be right.  I begin to feel I am not going to die!"  Norval drew
in a deep breath, his lips relaxed.

"The shock is passing," Donelle’s voice softened. "You will recover, I
know you will—if you are brave."

"The shock!  Good God, the shock!  It was like hell let loose.  For
months I heard the splitting noise, the hot sand in my face——!"

It was the first time Norval had spoken of the war, and the drops of
perspiration started on his forehead.

"Don’t talk of it, Mr. Norval.  Please let me help you to your feet.
Just a few steps."

Donelle was afraid of the excitement she had aroused.

In self-defense Norval let her help him.  He would not lie still and
remember.  His self-imposed silence, once broken, might overpower him.
Something dynamic was surging in him.

"I cannot stand," he said weakly.  "You see?"

"Of course the first time is hard.  You may fall halfway, but I’ll catch
you, and I—I won’t tell."

Norval laughed nervously.

"You’re a brick," he faltered.

"Now then, Mr. Norval.  Put your hand on my shoulder, the other hand on
this chair.  Why, you’re not falling.  Come on!"

Two, three steps Norval took, while the veins stood out on his temples.

"Good God!" he muttered under his breath, "I’m not crumbling, that’s a
sure thing."

The next day he did a little better; the tenth day he reached the north
window with the aid of the chair and the little shoulder, that felt,
under his hand, like fine steel.  They kept their mighty secret from
Law.

"What’s on the easels?" Norval asked on the morning of the fourteenth
day when he felt the breeze from the north coming in through the
half-opened window.

"One easel has a girl on it; a girl with a fiddle."

Norval breathed hard, then gave a laugh.

"Fairer than morning, lovelier than the daylight," he whispered.

"Yes.  Why, yes, Mr. Norval.  Those words are on a piece of paper
hanging from the frame.  How did you know?"

"Miss Walden, I painted that picture.  You may not believe it, but I
did.  It is a portrait of about the purest soul I ever met."

"Can you tell me about her?"

"No, she’s not the kind to tell about."

"I beg your pardon, Mr. Norval."  But Donelle’s face was aglow.

"And the other easel?" Norval was asking. "What’s on that?"

"Such a dear, funny woman.  She’s standing by a big oven, an outdoor
oven; she’s got loaves of bread on something that looks like a flat
spade."

Norval’s face was a study.

"Where do they use those ovens?" Donelle asked.

"Oh! somewhere in Canada."

"Did you ever know this dear, funny woman, Mr. Norval."

"She’s not the kind one _knows_.  I’ve seen her, thank heaven!  I’m glad
to be able to recall her when I’m alone."

"Yes—she looks like that kind."  Donelle threw a kiss to the pictured
Jo.

Another week and then the chair was discarded. Quite impressively
Norval, his hand on the small, steady shoulder, did the length of the
studio.

"It’s great," he said like a happy boy.  "Miss Walden, you ought to have
the cross, iron, gold, or whatever it is they give to brave women."

"I have," Donelle whispered delightedly; "I have."

"What is it made of, Miss Walden, this cross that you have won?"

"You’ll have to guess."

"You’re a pert young secretary if that is the title your job goes by.
Aren’t you afraid I’ll bounce you?"

"I’m going to bounce myself."

"What!"  The hand on the shoulder tightened. "You’re going away?"

"Yes, I cannot stand a summer in the city.  That Kicker almost caught me
this morning."

"You treat me like a spoiled child, Miss Walden. Amusing me, coaxing me;
you’ll be bringing me toys next."

"You’re a strong man, now, Mr. Norval, that is why I’m going away.  Soon
you will not need me. The doctor told Mr. Law yesterday that surely you
would see."

"Did he?  Don’t fool me, Miss Walden.  I do not want to be eased up.
Did he say that?"

"Yes, I heard him."

A growing excitement stirred Norval and that afternoon he met Law
halfway across the room! Not even the little shoulder aided him.  He
stretched out his hand and said:

"Andy, here I am!"

For a moment Law reeled back.  Of late he feared that Norval would
defeat all their hopes by his indifference.

"You—you’ve done this?" he said to Donelle, who stood behind Norval, her
trembling hands covering her quivering lips.

"No, he did it quite by himself, Mr. Law.  He’s been so brave," she
managed to say, the tears in Law’s eyes making her afraid that she might
lose control over her own shaking nerves.

"Lord, Jim!"  Law was gripping Norval’s hand. "I feel as if—well, as if
I’d seen a miracle."

The next day the specialist confirmed what Donelle had said about the
eyes.

"You’re going to see again, Norval," was the verdict.  "You’ll have to
go slow, wear dark glasses for awhile, but most of all, forget what
brought this about.  Your nerves have played the deuce with you."

"Yes," Norval replied, "for some time I’ve had that line on my nerves,
ever since Miss Walden bullied me into walking."

The afternoon of that same day Norval surprised Donelle by announcing
that he was dead tired of reading.

"I want to talk," he said.  "Where is Law?"

"He went to—to see Professor Revelle.  He said he wanted some music;
that you," the pale face broke into a pathetic smile, "that you had got
on his nerves.  Unless he got out he’d be——"

"What, Miss Walden?  What, exactly?"

"Well, he’d be damned!  That is what he said, exactly."

"He’s beginning to treat me like a human being, Miss Walden.  I love Law
when he’s at his worst. I suppose I’ve been a big trial, moping here.
Have I injured your nerves?"

"No—o!  Not for life."

"You’re a comical little codjer.  Excuse me, Miss Walden.  There are
times still when you remind me of someone to whom I once dared to speak
my mind."

Then, quite suddenly:

"Where are you going this summer?"

"I have not decided yet, Mr. Norval.  Why?"

"Nothing, I was only thinking, but I’ll have to speak to Law first.  One
thing is sure, I’m not going to be an ass much longer.  See here, Miss
Walden, you’re a sturdy sort; you’ve stuck it out with me at my lowest.
I’m going to repay you for the trouble I’ve made you by making more for
you.  I’m going to go away this summer, too.  I’ve wanted to go lately.
I’ve got to dreaming about it.  I’m going to a little place hidden away
in Canada.  I have something to do there."

"Yes?"  The word was a mere breath.

"For a time I couldn’t contemplate it; I was too proud to show my
battered hulk.  Now it seems that I have no longer any right to consider
myself. I was going to ask Mr. Law to carry a message for me to a young
girl there; the girl on that canvas by the window.  Instead—I’m going to
carry it!"

Donelle’s hands gripped each other.  She struggled to keep her voice
steady, cold.

"I think you ought to carry your message yourself, if you can.  You have
no right to consider only yourself," she faltered.

"I wasn’t, entirely."  This came humbly from Norval.  "The girl to whom
I am going is the sort who would be deeply sorry for me; she’d go to any
lengths to make up to me, if she could.  Of course, you understand, I
would not let her, but I’d hate to make life harder for her."

"Perhaps she has a right to—to judge for herself." Donelle was holding
firm.

"Well, I don’t know, Miss Walden.  Such a woman as you might judge
wisely—even for yourself.  She wouldn’t.  She’s the kind that risks
everything; she’s what you might call a divine gambler."

"Poor girl!"

"Yes, that’s what I often say of her—poor girl!"

It was twilight in the quiet studio; there was no one to see Donelle’s
tears.

"I’m going to tell you something," Norval said suddenly, "something that
has been troubling me lately.  At first it didn’t seem vital, it seemed
rather like a detail.  I’m wondering how a woman would consider it."

"I’d love to hear unless you’d rather have me read to you, Mr. Norval."

"No, for a wonder, I’d rather tell you a story."



                             *CHAPTER XXIV*

                       *THE GLORY BREAKS THROUGH*


And then Norval told Donelle about Tom Gavot.

"You see that girl in Canada is married—was married, I mean; the young
fellow is dead. He lies under French earth in a pretty little village
that’s been battered to the ground.  Some day it will rise gloriously
again.  I like to think of that Canadian boy sleeping there, waiting.

"He was a surveyor and, before a dirty sniper got him, he used to prowl
about the desolated country and lay out roads!  In his mind, you know.
He was a fanciful chap, but a practical worker.

"I ran across him one day; I had known him before.  He had never liked
me when I knew him in Canada, but most anything goes when you’re over
there.  He got to—to rather chumming with me at last, and many a laugh
I’ve had with him over the roads he saw through the hell about us.

"Once we had silently agreed to ignore the past—and the poor fellow had
something to forgive in it, though not all he had supposed—we got on
famously. We really got to feel like brothers.  You do—there. He was a
queer chap through and through.  He always expected he was going to do
the white-livered thing and he always did the bravest when the snap
came.  He did his thinking and squirming beforehand. At the critical
moment he just acted up like—well, like the man he was.

"Why, he would talk by the hour of what a good idea it was of the
Government’s to let the families of men, shot as traitors, think them
heroes who had died serving their country.  He often said it didn’t
matter, one way or the other, for the man who got what was coming to
him, but for them who had to live on it was something to think the best,
even if it were not so.

"Then he’d write letters and cards, to be sent home in case he should
meet a traitor’s death. Poor devil!  I have some of those letters now."

A throbbing, aching pause.  Then:

"Miss Walden, does this depress you too much?"

"No, it—I—I love it, Mr. Norval.  Please go on; it is a beautiful
story."

Donelle sat in the deepening shadows, her eyes seeming to hold the
sunlight that had long since faded behind the west.

"Well, there isn’t much more to tell and the end—unless one happens to
know how things are over there: how big things seem little, and little
things massive—the end seems almost like a grisly joke.

"We had got to thinking the French place where we were billeted was as
safe as New York.  I wasn’t a trained man, I was doing whatever happened
to be lying around loose.  They called it reconstruction work.  Good
Lord!  My special job, though, just then was driving an ambulance.
Well, quite unexpectedly one night the enemy got a line on us from God
knows what distance, and they just peppered us.  There was a hospital
there, too.  They must have known that, the fiends, and, for a time,
things were mighty ticklish.  The boys knew their duty, however, and did
it magnificently.  Those Canadians were superb; given a moment to catch
their breath, they were as steady as steel.  By morning the worst was
over, the shelling, you know, and they began to bring the boys in; back
from the fight, back to where the hospital used to be.  Out in the open
doctors and nurses were working; the ones who had escaped I never saw
such nerve; they just worked over the poor hurt fellows as if nothing
had happened.

"I was jumping about.  There was plenty to do even for an unskilled
fellow who could only drive an ambulance.  I kept bringing in loads—such
loads! And I kept an eye open for the chap from Canada that I knew best
of all.

"About noon a giant of a fellow who, they said, had fought like a devil
all night, came up to me blubbering like a baby.  It seems my man had
been fighting beside this boy, doing what one might expect, the big
thing!  The two of them had crawled into a shell-hole and worked from
that cover where they were comparatively safe.  In a lull—and here comes
the grim joke—a poor dog ran in front of them with a piece of barbed
wire caught about his haunches.  The brute was howling as he ran and
my—my chap just went after him, caught him, pulled the wire out,
and—keeled over himself.  A sniper had done for him!

"He wanted me; had sent his comrade to find me. I got there just before
the end.

"’You’ve heard?’ he asked, and when I nodded he whispered that I was to
tell his wife; he knew she would understand.  He was quite firm about my
telling her, he was like a boy over that, and I promised.  He only spoke
once again.

"’It paid!’ he said, and with that he went over to his rest.

"Are you crying, Miss Walden?"

"Yes, yes, but oh! how glorious they are, those boys!"

"I should not have told you this story."

"I thank God you have!  And indeed, Mr. Norval it is your sacred duty to
tell it to—to that girl in Canada.  You promised and she ought to know."

[Illustration: "’Indeed, Mr. Norval, it is your sacred duty to tell it
to—to that girl in Canada.  You promised and she ought to know.’"]

"You, a woman, think that?  Don’t you think it might be better for her
if she didn’t know?"

"How dare you!  Oh! forgive me, Mr. Norval. I was only thinking
of—of—the girl."

"Well, lately, I’ve been wondering.  You see, Miss Walden, soon after I
saw my friend safe, I got my baptism shock—gas and the rest.  It
flattened me out, but now I am beginning to feel, to suffer. Using my
legs has brought me to myself."

"And you will go and keep your promise, Mr. Norval, you will?"

"Yes, that is what I’ve been turning over in my mind."

"You see," Donelle was holding herself tight, "that, that girl in Canada
might be thinking, knowing her husband, that he had not played the man
at the last.  The truth might save so much.  And don’t you understand
how he, that poor boy, had to save the dog?  It was saving himself.
Another could have afforded to see the folly of exposing himself, but he
could not.  Had he stayed in the hole he might have been a coward
after!"

"I had not thought of that, Miss Walden.  The deadly absurdity of the
act made me bitter.  I saw—just the dog part, you know."

"I believe the girl in Canada will see the man part."  The words came
solemnly.  "Yes, it did pay; it did!"

"You have convinced me, Miss Walden.  I must go and keep my promise.

"To-morrow they are going to make a big test of my eyes.  After that I
will start.  I want you and Law to come, too."

"Oh!  I——"

"Couldn’t you do this just as a last proof of your good heartedness,
Miss Walden?"

Donelle struggled with her tears.  Her heart was beating wildly; beating
for Tom and for the helpless man before her.  She, sad little frail
thing, stood between the dead and the pitiful living.

"Yes, I will go," she said at length.

"Thank you, Miss Walden."

Norval smiled in the darkness.

The next day the test came—the test to his eyes. Norval meant that his
first look should rest upon Miss Walden!

He heard her moving about, getting books and tables out of the doctor’s
way.  He heard Law excitedly directing her, and then—the bandages fell
away.  There was a moment of tense silence.

"What do you see, Norval?" the doctor asked.

Norval saw a slim, little black-robed back and a red head!  But all he
said was:

"I see Andy’s ugly mug!"

The words were curiously broken and hoarse.  Then:

"Andy, old man, get a hold on me; it’s almost too good to be true!"

In July they went to Canada.  By that time Norval could make quite a
showing by walking between Law and Miss Walden.  He wore heavy dark
glasses and only had periods of "seeing things."  At such moments Miss
Walden was conspicuously absent.

The _River Queen_ swept grandly up to the dock in the full glory of high
noon.  Jean Duval was there on his crutches; he was at his old job,
grateful and at peace.

"Where are we going?" Norval asked.  He had hardly dared put the
question.

"Mam’selle Jo Morey is going to take us in," Law replied.  "At least
she’ll feed us.  It’s a cabin in the woods for us, Jim."

"That sounds good to me, Andy."  Norval drew in his breath sharply.

"The pines are corking," he added.  Then: "Miss Walden, how do you like
the looks of the place?"

Donelle, under a heavy veil, was feasting her eyes on Point of Pines; on
a blessed figure waiting by a sturdy cart.

"It looks like heaven!" replied the even voice of Mary Walden.

Jo Morey came to the gang plank, and found her own among the passengers.
Then her brows drew close, almost hiding her eyes.

"Those are my boarders!" she proclaimed loudly, seizing Donelle.  "This
way, please."

Law was the only one who spoke on the drive up. Jo sat on the shaft, the
others on the broad seat.

"I miss Nick," he remarked.

Mam’selle turned and gave him a stern look. Could he not know, the
stupid man, that Nick would have given the whole thing away?  Nick had a
sense that defied red wigs and false voices.  Nick was at that moment
indignantly scratching splinters off the inside of the cow-shed door.

There was a sumptuous meal in the spotless and radiant living room.
There was a gentle fire on the hearth, though why, who could tell?

And then, according to orders when the sun was not too bright, Norval
announced that he was going to take off his "screens."

"I’m going to look about for a full hour," he said quietly, but with
that tone in his voice that always made Donelle bow her head.

"Mam’selle!"

"Yes, Mr.——" Jo wanted to say Richard Alton, instead she managed the
Norval with a degree of courtesy that put heart in the man who listened.

"Mam’selle, I haven’t noticed Donelle’s voice. Where is she?"

"She’ll come, if you want her, Mr. Norval."

Want her?  Want her?  The very air throbbed with the want.

"She’s upstairs," added Jo, looking grimmer than ever.

"I—I have something to tell her about Tom Gavot—her husband."  Norval
smiled strangely.

"I’ll call her, Mr. Norval."

Then they all waited.

Law walked to the window and choked.  In the distance he could hear the
howling demands of the imprisoned Nick and the swishing of the outgoing
tide.

Mam’selle stood by the foot of the little winding stairs.  She was
afraid of herself, poor Jo, afraid she was going to show what she felt!

Norval sat in the best rocker, his hands clasped rigidly.  He had not
removed his screens, he did not intend to until he heard upon the stairs
the step for which he hungered.

And then Donelle came so softly that the listening man did not know she
was there until she stood beside him.  She had put on a white dress that
Mam’selle had spun for her.  The pale hair was twisted about her little
head in the old simple way; the golden eyes were full of the light that
had never shone there until love lighted it.

Law and Jo had stolen from the room.

"Here I am!"

Then Norval took down the screens and opened his arms.

"My love, my love," he whispered, "come!"

"Why——"  Donelle drew back, her eyes widened.

"Donelle, Donelle, do you think you could hide yourself from me?  Why,
it was because I saw you that I wanted to live; wanted to make the most
of what I had.

"Child, the day you got me out of the chair I was sure!  Before that I
hoped, prayed; then I knew! I drew the bandage off a little and I saw
your eyes."

"My beloved!"

And Donelle, kneeling beside him, raised her face from his breast.

"I am going to kiss you now, Donelle," he said, "but to think that such
as I am is the best that life has for you, is——!"

"Don’t," she whispered, "don’t!  Remember the dear Dream of First Joy,
my man.  I never lost our First Joy.  God let me keep her safe."

From across the road came the wild, excited yelps of the released Nick.
Slowly, for Nick was old, he padded up the steps, into the room, up to
the girl on the floor beside the chair.  Donelle pressed the shaggy head
to her.

"Nick always has kept First Joy, too," she whispered.  And oh, but her
eyes were wonderful.

"And you’ll play again for me, Donelle?"  Norval still held her, though
he heard Law and Mam’selle approaching.

"Sometime, dear man, sometime I’ll bring the fiddle to the wood-cabin.
Sometime after I get strings.  The strings, some of them, have snapped."

Late that evening, quite late, nine o’clock surely, Law and Jo stood
near the hearth where the embers still glowed.

"Where are the children?" Law asked as if all the mad happenings of the
day were bagatelles.

"Out on the road, the road!"  Jo’s face quivered. "The moonlight is
wonderful, the road is as clear as day."  She was thinking of Tom Gavot
while her great heart ached with pity of it all.

"Queer ideas that young Gavot had about roads," Law said musingly, "Jim
has told me."

"Poor boy, he got precious little for himself out of life," Jo flung
back.

The bitterness lay deep in Mam’selle’s heart. Almost her love for
Donelle, her joy in her, were darkened by what seemed to Jo to be
forgetfulness. That was unforgivable in her eyes.

"I wonder!" Law said gently; he was learning to understand the woman
beside him.

"If this were all of the road, you might feel the way you do.  But it’s
a mighty little part of it, Mam’selle.  To most of us is given short
sight, to a few, long.  I would wager all I have that young Gavot always
saw over the hilltop."

"That’s a good thing to say and feel, Mr. Law."  Jo tried to control her
brows, failed, and let Law look full in her splendid eyes.

"Life’s too big for us, Mam’selle," he said, "too big for us.  There are
times when it lets us run along, lets us believe we are managing it.
Then comes something like this war that proves that when life needs us,
it clutches us again.

"It needs those two out there on the road in the moonlight, one groping,
the other leading; on and on! Life will use them for its own purposes.
No use in struggling, Mam’selle; life has us all by the throat."

"You’re a strange man, Mr. Law."

Jo was trembling.

"You’re a strange woman, Mam’selle."

There was a pause.  Out on the road Donelle was singing a little French
song, one she had brought with her out of the Home at St. Michael’s.

"You and I," Law continued, "have learned some of life’s lessons in a
hard school, Mam’selle. Many of our teachers have been the same; they’ve
made us _hew_ where others have molded, but I’m thinking we have come to
know the true values of things, you and I.  The value of labour,
companionship on the long road, a hearth fire somewhere at the close of
the day."

And now Law held out his hand as a good friend does to another.

"I wish, Mam’selle," his voice grew wonderfully kind, "I wish you could
bring yourself to—travel the rest of the way with me."

The door was wide open, the fair moonlight lay across the porch, but Jo
was thinking of another night when the howling wind had pressed a
warning against the door and Pierre Gavot defiled the shelter she had
wrung from her life battle—Pierre the Redeemed!

"Are you asking me to marry you, Mr. Law?"  Jo’s deep eyes were seeking
an answer in the look which was holding her.  She was dazed, frightened.

"Will you honour me by bearing my name, Mam’selle? Will you let me help
you keep the fire upon the hearth for them?"

Nearer and nearer came Donelle and Norval, Donelle still singing with
the moonlight on her face.

"I have fought my way up from lonely boyhood, Mam’selle.  I’ve lived a
lonely man!  And you, Mam’selle, I know your story.  When all is said
and done, loneliness is the hardest thing to bear."

Tears stood in Jo’s eyes—tears!

"You are a strange man," she repeated.

"And you a strange woman, Mam’selle."

But they were smiling now, smiling as people smile who, at the turn of
the road, see that it does not end, but goes on and on and on.



                                THE END



                         THE COUNTRY LIFE PRESS
                           GARDEN CITY, N. Y.





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