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Title: Flute and Violin and other Kentucky Tales and Romances
Author: Allen, James Lane
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Flute and Violin and other Kentucky Tales and Romances" ***

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[Illustration: THE MAGIC FLUTE.  [_See p. 8._ ]



    Flute and Violin

    AND OTHER KENTUCKY TALES
    AND ROMANCES. BY JAMES
    LANE ALLEN. ILLUSTRATED

    [Illustration: Drawing of girl]

    NEW YORK
    HARPER & BROTHERS
    MDCCCXCVI.


    Copyright, 1891, by HARPER & BROTHERS.

    _All rights reserved._



                     To her

    FROM WHOSE FRAIL BODY HE DREW LIFE IN THE
     BEGINNING, FROM WHOSE STRONG SPIRIT HE
      WILL DRAW LIFE UNTIL THE CLOSE, THESE
        TALES, WITH ALL OTHERS HAPLY HERE-
          AFTER TO BE WRITTEN, ARE DEDI-
            CATED AS A PERISHABLE MONU-
                MENT OF INEFFABLE
                   REMEMBRANCE



    PREFACE.


The opening tale of this collection is taken from HARPER'S MONTHLY;
the others, from the _Century Magazine_. By leave of these periodicals
they are now published, and of the kindness thus shown the author makes
grateful acknowledgment.

While the tales and sketches have been appearing, the authorship of
them has now and then been charged to Mr. James Lane Allen, of Chicago,
Illinois--pardonably to his discomfiture.

A sense of fitness forbade that the author should send along with each,
as it came out, a claim that it was not another's; but he now gladly
asks that the responsibility of all his work be placed where it solely
belongs.



    CONTENTS.


[Illustration: Woman standing]

                             PAGE

 FLUTE AND VIOLIN               3

 KING SOLOMON OF KENTUCKY      65

 TWO GENTLEMEN OF KENTUCKY     97

 THE WHITE COWL               135

 SISTER DOLOROSA              175

 POSTHUMOUS FAME              281


[Illustration: Man reading by candle light]



[Illustration: People at dinner]


    FLUTE AND VIOLIN


    THE PARSON'S MAGIC FLUTE.

On one of the dim walls of Christ Church, in Lexington, Kentucky, there
hangs, framed in thin black wood, an old rectangular slab of marble. A
legend sets forth that the tablet is in memory of the Reverend James
Moore, first minister of Christ Church and President of Transylvania
University, who departed this life in the year 1814, at the age of
forty-nine. Just beneath runs the record that he was learned, liberal,
amiable, and pious.

Save this concise but not unsatisfactory summary, little is now known
touching the reverend gentleman. A search through other sources of
information does, indeed, result in reclaiming certain facts. Thus,
it appears that he was a Virginian, and that he came to Lexington in
the year 1792--when Kentucky ceased to be a county of Virginia, and
became a State. At first he was a candidate for the ministry of the
Presbyterian Church; but the Transylvania Presbytery having reproved
him for the liberality of his sermons, James kicked against such rigor
in his brethren, and turned for refuge to the bosom of the Episcopal
Communion. But this body did not offer much of a bosom to take refuge
in.

Virginia Episcopalians there were in and around the little wooden
town; but so rampant was the spirit of the French Revolution and the
influence of French infidelity that a celebrated local historian, who
knew thoroughly the society of the place, though writing of it long
afterwards, declared that about the last thing it would have been
thought possible to establish there was an Episcopal church.

"Not so," thought James. He beat the canebrakes and scoured the buffalo
trails for his Virginia Episcopalians, huddled them into a dilapidated
little frame house on the site of the present building, and there
fired so deadly a volley of sermons at the sinners free of charge that
they all became living Christians. Indeed, he fired so long and so
well that, several years later--under favor of Heaven and through the
success of a lottery with a one-thousand-dollar prize and nine hundred
and seventy-four blanks--there was built and furnished a small brick
church, over which he was regularly called to officiate twice a month,
at a salary of two hundred dollars a year.

Here authentic history ends, except for the additional fact that in the
university he sat in the chair of logic, metaphysics, moral philosophy,
and belles-lettres--a large chair to sit in with ill-matched legs and
most uncertain bottom. Another authority is careful to state that he
had a singularly sweet breath and beautiful manners. Thus it has
been well with the parson as respects his posthumous fame; for how many
of our fellow-creatures are learned without being amiable, amiable
without being pious, and pious without having beautiful manners!

[Illustration: "HE HAD BEAUTIFUL MANNERS."]

And yet the best that may be related of him is not told in the books;
and it is only when we have allowed the dust to settle once more upon
the histories, and have peered deep into the mists of oral tradition,
that the parson is discovered standing there in spirit and the flesh,
but muffled and ghost-like, as a figure seen through a dense fog.

A tall, thinnish man, with silky pale-brown hair, worn long and put
back behind his ears, the high tops of which bent forward a little
under the weight, and thus took on the most remarkable air of paying
incessant attention to everybody and everything; set far out in front
of these ears, as though it did not wish to be disturbed by what was
heard, a white, wind-splitting face, calm, beardless, and seeming never
to have been cold, or to have dropped the kindly dew of perspiration;
under the serene peak of this forehead a pair of large gray eyes,
patient and dreamy, being habitually turned inward upon a mind toiling
with hard abstractions; having within him a conscience burning always
like a planet; a bachelor--being a logician; therefore sweet-tempered,
never having sipped the sour cup of experience; gazing covertly at
womankind from behind the delicate veil of unfamiliarity that lends
enchantment; being a bachelor and a bookworm, therefore already old at
forty, and a little run down in his toilets, a little frayed out at the
elbows and the knees, a little seamy along the back, a little deficient
at the heels; in pocket poor always, and always the poorer because of
a spendthrift habit in the matter of secret chanties; kneeling down
by his small hard bed every morning and praying that during the day
his logical faculty might discharge its function morally, and that his
moral faculty might discharge its function logically, and that over all
the operations of all his other faculties he might find heavenly grace
to exercise both a logical and a moral control; at night kneeling down
again to ask forgiveness that, despite his prayer of the morning, one
or more of these same faculties--he knew and called them all familiarly
by name, being a metaphysician--had gone wrong in a manner the most
abnormal, shameless, and unforeseen; thus, on the whole, a man shy
and dry; gentle, lovable; timid, resolute; forgetful, remorseful;
eccentric, impulsive, thinking too well of every human creature but
himself; an illogical logician, an erring moralist, a wool-gathered
philosopher, but, humanly speaking, almost a perfect man.

But the magic flute? Ah, yes! The magic flute!

Well, the parson had a flute--a little one--and the older he grew, and
the more patient and dreamy his gray eyes, always the more and more
devotedly he blew this little friend. How the fond soul must have loved
it! They say that during his last days as he lay propped high on white
pillows, once, in a moment of wandering consciousness, he stretched
forth his hand and in fancy lifting it from the white counterpane,
carried it gently to his lips. Then, as his long, delicate fingers
traced out the spirit ditties of no tone and his mouth pursed itself in
the fashion of one who is softly blowing, his whole face was overspread
with a halo of ecstatic peace.

And yet, for all the love he bore it, the parson was never known to
blow his flute between the hours of sunrise and sunset--that is, never
but once. Alas, that memorable day! But when the night fell and he came
home--home to the two-story log-house of the widow Spurlock; when the
widow had given him his supper of coffee sweetened with brown sugar,
hot johnny-cake, with perhaps a cold joint of venison and cabbage
pickle; when he had taken from the supper table, by her permission, the
solitary tallow dip in its little brass candlestick, and climbed the
rude steep stairs to his room above; when he had pulled the leathern
string that lifted the latch, entered, shut the door behind him on
the world, placed the candle on a little deal table covered with
text-books and sermons, and seated himself beside it in a rush-bottomed
chair--then--He began to play? No; then there was dead silence.

For about half an hour this silence continued. The widow Spurlock used
to say that the parson was giving his supper time to settle; but, alas!
it must have settled almost immediately, so heavy was the johnny-cake.
Howbeit, at the close of such an interval, any one standing at the
foot of the steps below, or listening beneath the window on the street
outside, would have heard the silence broken.

At first the parson blew low, peculiar notes, such as a kind and
faithful shepherd might blow at nightfall as an invitation for his
scattered wandering sheep to gather home about him. Perhaps it was a
way he had of calling in the disordered flock of his faculties--some
weary, some wounded, some torn by thorns, some with their fleeces,
which had been washed white in the morning prayer, now bearing many
a stain. But when they had all answered, as it were, to this musical
roll-call, and had taken their due places within the fold of his
brain, obedient, attentive, however weary, however suffering, then the
flute was laid aside, and once more there fell upon the room intense
stillness; the poor student had entered upon his long nightly labors.

Hours passed. Not a sound was to be heard but the rustle of book
leaves, now rapidly, now slowly turned, or the stewing of sap in the
end of a log on the hearth, or the faint drumming of fingers on the
table--those long fingers, the tips of which seemed not so full of
particles of blood as of notes of music, circulating impatiently back
and forth from his heart. At length, as midnight drew near, and the
candle began to sputter in the socket, the parson closed the last book
with a decisive snap, drew a deep breath, buried his face in his hands
for a moment, as if asking a silent blessing on the day's work, and
then, reaching for his flute, squared himself before the dying embers,
and began in truth to play. This was the one brief, pure pleasure he
allowed himself.

It was not a musical roll-call that he now blew, but a dismissal
for the night. One might say that he was playing the cradle song of
his mind. And what a cradle song it was! A succession of undertone,
silver-clear, simple melodies; apparently one for each faculty, as
though he was having something kind to say to them all; thanking some
for the manner in which they had served him during the day, the music
here being brave and spirited; sympathizing with others that had been
unjustly or too rudely put upon, the music here being plaintive and
soothing; and finally granting his pardon to any such as had not used
him quite fairly, the music here having a searching, troubled quality,
though ending in the faintest breath of love and peace.

It was not known whence the parson had these melodies; but come whence
they might, they were airs of heavenly sweetness, and as he played
them, one by one his faculties seemed to fall asleep like quieted
children. His long, out-stretched legs relaxed their tension, his feet
fell over sidewise on the hearth-stone, his eyes closed, his head
sank towards his shoulder. Still, he managed to hold on to his flute,
faintly puffing a few notes at greater intervals, until at last, by the
dropping of the flute from his hands or the sudden rolling of his big
head backward, he would awaken with a violent jerk. The next minute he
would be asleep in bed, with one ear out on guard, listening for the
first sound that should awake him in the morning.

Such having been the parson's fixed habit as long as any one had known
him, it is hard to believe that five years before his death he abruptly
ceased to play his flute and never touched it again. But from this
point the narrative becomes so mysterious that it were better to have
the testimony of witnesses.


    II.

Every bachelor in this world is secretly watched by some woman. The
parson was watched by several, but most closely by two. One of these
was the widow Spurlock, a personage of savory countenance and wholesome
figure--who was accused by the widow Babcock, living at the other end
of the town, of having robust intentions towards her lodger. This piece
of slander had no connection with the fact that she had used the point
of her carving knife to enlarge in the door of his room the hole
through which the latch-string passed, in order that she might increase
the ventilation. The aperture for ventilation thus formed was exactly
the size of one of her innocent black eyes.

[Illustration: Head of woman]

The other woman was an infirm, ill-favored beldam by the name of Arsena
Furnace, who lived alone just across the street, and whose bedroom was
on the second floor, on a level with the parson's. Being on terms of
great intimacy with the widow Spurlock, she persuaded the latter that
the parson's room was poorly lighted for one who used his eyes so much,
and that the window-curtain of red calico should be taken down. On the
same principle of requiring less sun because having less use for her
eyes, she hung before her own window a faded curtain, transparent only
from within. Thus these two devoted, conscientious souls conspired to
provide the parson unawares with a sufficiency of air and light.

On Friday night, then, of August 31, 1809--for this was the exact
date--the parson played his flute as usual, because the two women
were sitting together below and distinctly heard him. It was unusual
for them to be up at such an hour, but on that day the drawing of the
lottery had come off, and they had held tickets, and were discussing
their disappointment in having drawn blanks. Towards midnight the
exquisite notes of the flute floated down to them from the parson's
room.

"I suppose he'll keep on playing those same old tunes as long as there
is a thimbleful of wind in him: _I_ wish he'd learn some new ones,"
said the hag, taking her cold pipe from her cold lips, and turning her
eyes towards her companion with a look of some impatience.

"He might be better employed at such an hour than playing on the
flute," replied the widow, sighing audibly and smoothing a crease out
of her apron.

As by-and-by the notes of the flute became intermittent, showing that
the parson was beginning to fall asleep, Arsena said good-night, and
crossing the street to her house, mounted to the front window. Yes,
there he was; the long legs stretched out towards the hearth, head
sunk sidewise on his shoulder, flute still at his lips, the sputtering
candle throwing its shadowy light over his white weary face, now
wearing a smile. Without doubt he played his flute that night as usual;
and Arsena, tired of the sight, turned away and went to bed.

A few minutes later the widow Spurlock placed an eye at the aperture of
ventilation, wishing to see whether the logs on the fire were in danger
of rolling out and setting fire to the parson's bed; but suddenly
remembering that it was August, and that there was no fire, she glanced
around to see whether his candle needed snuffing. Happening, however,
to discover the parson in the act of shedding his coat, she withdrew
her eye, and hastened precipitately down-stairs, but sighing so loud
that he surely must have heard her had not his faculty of external
perception been already fast asleep.

At about three o'clock on the afternoon of the next day, as Arsena
was sweeping the floor of her kitchen, there reached her ears a sound
which caused her to listen for a moment, broom in air. It was the
parson playing--playing at three o'clock in the afternoon!-- and
playing--she strained her ears again and again to make sure--playing
a Virginia reel. Still, not believing her ears, she hastened aloft to
the front window and looked across the street. At the same instant the
widow Spurlock, in a state of equal excitement, hurried to the front
door of her house, and threw a quick glance up at Arsena's window. The
hag thrust a skinny hand through a slit in the curtain and beckoned
energetically, and a moment later the two women stood with their heads
close together watching the strange performance.

Some mysterious change had come over the parson and over the spirit of
his musical faculty. He sat upright in his chair, looking ten years
younger, his whole figure animated, his foot beating time so audibly
that it could be heard across the street, a vivid bloom on his lifeless
cheeks, his head rocking to and fro like a ship in a storm, and his
usually dreamy, patient gray eyes now rolled up towards the ceiling
in sentimental perturbation. And how he played that Virginia reel!
Not once, but over and over, and faster and faster, until the notes
seemed to get into the particles of his blood and set them to dancing.
And when he had finished that, he snatched his handkerchief from his
pocket, dashed it across his lips, blew his nose with a resounding
snort, and settling his figure into a more determined attitude, began
another. And the way he went at that! And when he finished that, the
way he went at another! Two negro boys, passing along the street with
a spinning-wheel, put it down and paused to listen; then, catching
the infection of the music, they began to dance. And then the widow
Spurlock, catching the infection also, began to dance, and bouncing
into the middle of the room, there actually did dance until her
tucking-comb rolled out, and--ahem!--one of her stockings slipped
down. Then the parson struck up the "Fisher's Hornpipe," and the widow,
still in sympathy, against her will, sang the words:

    "Did you ever see the Devil
    With his wood and iron shovel,
    A-hoeing up coal
    For to burn your soul?"

"He's bewitched," said old Arsena, trembling and sick with terror.

"By _whom?_" cried the widow Spurlock, indignantly, laying a heavy hand
on Arsena's shoulder.

"By his flute," replied Arsena, more fearfully.

At length the parson, as if in for it, and possessed to go all
lengths, jumped from his chair, laid the flute on the table, and
disappeared in a hidden corner of the room. Here he kept closely locked
a large brass-nailed hair trunk, over which hung a looking-glass.
For ten minutes the two women waited for him to reappear, and
then he did reappear, not in the same clothes, but wearing the
ball dress of a Virginia gentleman of an older time, perhaps his
grandfather's--knee-breeches, silk stockings, silver buckles, low
shoes, laces at his wrists, laces at his throat and down his bosom. And
to make the dress complete he had actually tied a blue ribbon around
his long silky hair. Stepping airily and gallantly to the table, he
seized the flute, and with a little wave of it through the air he began
to play, and to tread the mazes of the minuet, about the room, this way
and that, winding and bowing, turning and gliding, but all the time
fingering and blowing for dear life.

"Who would have thought it was in him?" said Arsena, her fear changed
to admiration.

"_I_ would!" said the widow.

While he was in the midst of this performance the two women had their
attention withdrawn from him in a rather singular way. A poor lad
hobbling on a crutch made his appearance in the street below, and
rapidly but timidly swung himself along to the widow Spurlock's door.
There he paused a moment, as if overcome by mortification, but finally
knocked. His summons not being answered, he presently knocked more
loudly.

"Hist!" said the widow to him, in a half-tone, opening a narrow slit in
the curtain. "What do you want, David?"

The boy wheeled and looked up, his face at once crimson with shame. "I
want to see the parson," he said, in a voice scarcely audible.

"The parson's not at home," replied the widow, sharply. "He's out;
studying up a sermon." And she closed the curtain.

An expression of despair came into the boy's face, and for a moment in
physical weakness he sat down on the door-step. He heard the notes of
the flute in the room above; he knew that the parson _was_ at home; but
presently he got up and moved away.

The women did not glance after his retreating figure, being reabsorbed
by the movements of the parson. Whence had he that air of grace and
high-born courtesy? that vivacity of youth?

"He must be in love," said Arsena. "He must be in love with the widow
Babcock."

"He's no more in love with her than _I_ am," replied her companion,
with a toss of her head.

[Illustration: "HE BEGAN TO PLAY."]

A few moments later the parson, whose motions had been gradually
growing less animated, ceased dancing, and disappeared once more
in the corner of the room, soon emerging therefrom dressed in his
own clothes, but still wearing on his hair the blue ribbon, which he
had forgotten to untie. Seating himself in his chair by the table,
he thrust his hands into his pockets, and with his eyes on the floor
seemed to pass into a trance of rather demure and dissatisfying
reflections.

When he came down to supper that night he still wore his hair in the
forgotten queue, and it may have been this that gave him such an air of
lamb-like meekness. The widow durst ask him no questions, for there was
that in him which held familiarity at a distance; but although he ate
with unusual heartiness, perhaps on account of such unusual exercise,
he did not lift his eyes from his plate, and thanked her for all her
civilities with a gratitude that was singularly plaintive.

That night he did not play his flute. The next day being Sunday, and
the new church not yet being opened, he kept his room. Early in the
afternoon a messenger handed to the widow a note for him, which, being
sealed, she promptly delivered. On reading it he uttered a quick,
smothered cry of grief and alarm, seized his hat, and hurried from
the house. The afternoon passed and he did not return. Darkness fell,
supper hour came and went, the widow put a candle in his room, and then
went across to commune with Arsena on these unusual proceedings.

Not long afterwards they saw him enter his room carrying under his arm
a violin case. This he deposited on the table, and sitting down beside
it, lifted out a boy's violin.

"A _boy's_ violin!" muttered Arsena.

"A _boy's_ violin!" muttered the widow; and the two women looked
significantly into each other's eyes.

"Humph!"

"Humph!"

By-and-by the parson replaced the violin in the box and sat motionless
beside it, one of his arms hanging listlessly at his side, the other
lying on the table. The candle shone full in his face, and a storm of
emotions passed over it. At length they saw him take up the violin
again, go to the opposite wall of the room, mount a chair, knot the
loose strings together, and hang the violin on a nail above his meagre
shelf of books. Upon it he hung the bow. Then they saw him drive a
nail in the wall close to the other, take his flute from the table,
tie around it a piece of blue ribbon he had picked up off the floor,
and hang it also on the wall. After this he went back to the table,
threw himself in his chair, buried his head in his arms, and remained
motionless until the candle burned out.

"What's the meaning of all this?" said one of the two women, as they
separated below.

"I'll find out if it's the last act of my life," said the other.

But find out she never did. For question the parson directly she dared
not; and neither to her nor any one else did he ever vouchsafe an
explanation. Whenever, in the thousand ways a woman can, she would hint
her desire to fathom the mystery, he would baffle her by assuming an
air of complete unconsciousness, or repel her by a look of warning so
cold that she hurriedly changed the subject.

As time passed on it became evident that some grave occurrence indeed
had befallen him. Thenceforth, and during the five remaining years of
his life, he was never quite the same. For months his faculties, long
used to being soothed at midnight by the music of the flute, were like
children put to bed hungry and refused to be quieted, so that sleep
came to him only after hours of waiting and tossing, and his health
suffered in consequence. And then in all things he lived like one who
was watching himself closely as a person not to be trusted.

[Illustration: Man standing on chair]

Certainly he was a sadder man. Often the two women would see him lift
his eyes from his books at night, and turn them long and wistfully
towards the wall of the room where, gathering cobwebs and dust, hung
the flute and the violin.

If any one should feel interested in having this whole mystery cleared
up, he may read the following tale of a boy's violin.


    III.

    A BOY'S VIOLIN.

On Friday, the 31st of August, 1809--that being the day of the
drawing of the lottery for finishing and furnishing the new Episcopal
church--at about ten o'clock in the morning, there might have been
seen hobbling slowly along the streets, in the direction of the public
square, a little lad by the name of David. He was idle and lonesome,
not wholly through his fault. If there had been white bootblacks in
those days, he might now have been busy around a tavern door polishing
the noble toes of some old Revolutionary soldier; or if there had
been newsboys, he might have been selling the _Gazette_ or the
_Reporter_--the two papers which the town afforded at that time. But
there were enough negro slaves to polish all the boots in the town for
nothing when the boots got polished at all, as was often not the case;
and if people wanted to buy a newspaper, they went to the office of the
editor and publisher, laid the silver down on the counter, and received
a copy from the hands of that great man himself.

The lad was not even out on a joyous summer vacation, for as yet there
was not a public school in the town, and his mother was too poor to
send him to a private one, teaching him as best she could at home. This
home was one of the rudest of the log-cabins of the town, built by his
father, who had been killed a few years before in a tavern brawl. His
mother earned a scant livelihood, sometimes by taking in coarse sewing
for the hands of the hemp factory, sometimes by her loom, on which with
rare skill she wove the finest fabrics of the time.

As he hobbled on towards the public square, he came to an elm-tree
which cast a thick cooling shade on the sidewalk, and sitting down, he
laid his rickety crutch beside him, and drew out of the pocket of his
home-made tow breeches a tangled mass of articles--pieces of violin
strings, all of which had plainly seen service under the bow at many a
dance; three old screws, belonging in their times to different violin
heads; two lumps of resin, one a rather large lump of dark color and
common quality, the other a small lump of transparent amber wrapped
sacredly to itself in a little brown paper bag labelled "Cucumber
Seed;" a pair of epaulets, the brass fringes of which were tarnished
and torn; and further miscellany.

These treasures he laid out one by one, first brushing the dirt off
the sidewalk with the palm of one dirty hand, and then putting his
mouth close down to blow away any loose particles that might remain to
soil them; and when they were all displayed, he propped himself on one
elbow, and stretched his figure caressingly beside them.

A pretty picture the lad made as he lay there dreaming over his earthly
possessions--a pretty picture in the shade of the great elm, that
sultry morning of August, three-quarters of a century ago! The presence
of the crutch showed there was something sad about it; and so there
was; for if you had glanced at the little bare brown foot, set toes
upward on the curb-stone, you would have discovered that the fellow to
it was missing--cut off about two inches above the ankle. And if this
had caused you to throw a look of sympathy at his face, something yet
sadder must long have held your attention. Set jauntily on the back of
his head was a weather-beaten dark blue cloth cap, the patent-leather
frontlet of which was gone; and beneath the ragged edge of this there
fell down over his forehead and temples and ears a tangled mass of soft
yellow hair, slightly curling. His eyes were large, and of a blue to
match the depths of the calm sky above the tree-tops; the long lashes
which curtained them were brown; his lips were red, his nose delicate
and fine, and his cheeks tanned to the color of ripe peaches. It was
a singularly winning face, intelligent, frank, not describable. On it
now rested a smile, half joyous, half sad, as though his mind was full
of bright hopes, the realization of which was far away. From his neck
fell the wide collar of a white cotton shirt, clean but frayed at the
elbows, and open and buttonless down his bosom. Over this he wore an
old-fashioned satin waistcoat of a man, also frayed and buttonless.
His dress was completed by a pair of baggy tow breeches, held up by a
single tow suspender fastened to big brown horn buttons.

After a while he sat up, letting his foot hang down over the
curb-stone, and uncoiling the longest of the treble strings, he put one
end between his shining teeth, and stretched it tight by holding the
other end off between his thumb and forefinger. Then, waving in the air
in his other hand an imaginary bow, with his head resting a little on
one side, his eyelids drooping, his mind in a state of dreamy delight,
the little musician began to play--began to play the violin that he had
long been working for, and hoped would some day become his own.

It was nothing to him now that his whole performance consisted of one
broken string. It was nothing to him, as his body rocked gently to
and fro, that he could not hear the music which ravished his soul. So
real was that music to him that at intervals, with a little frown of
vexation as though things were not going perfectly, he would stop, take
up the small lump of costly resin, and pretend to rub it vigorously on
the hair of the fancied bow. Then he would awake that delicious music
again, playing more ecstatically, more passionately than before.

At that moment there appeared in the street, about a hundred yards off,
the Reverend James Moore, who was also moving in the direction of the
public square, his face more cool and white than usual, although the
morning was never more sultry.

He had arisen with an all but overwhelming sense of the importance
of that day. Fifteen years are an immense period in a brief human
life, especially fifteen years of spiritual toil, hardships, and
discouragements, rebuffs, weaknesses, and burdens, and for fifteen such
years he had spent himself for his Episcopalians, some of whom read too
freely Tom Paine and Rousseau, some loved too well the taverns of the
town, some wrangled too fiercely over their land suits. What wonder if
this day, which, despite all drawbacks, was to witness the raising of
money for equipping the first brick church, was a proud and happy one
to his meek but victorious spirit! What wonder if, as he had gotten
out of bed that morning, he had prayed with unusual fervor that for
this day in especial his faculties, from the least to the greatest,
and from the weakest to the strongest, might discharge their functions
perfectly, and that the drawing of the lottery might come off decently
and in good order; and that--yes, this too was in the parson's
prayer--that if it were the will of Heaven and just to the other
holders of tickets, the right one of the vestry-men might draw the
thousand-dollar prize; for he felt very sure that otherwise there would
be little peace in the church for many a day to come, and that for him
personally the path-way of life would be more slippery and thorny.

So that now as he hurried down the street he was happy; but he was
anxious; and being excited for both reasons, the way was already
prepared for him to lose that many-handed self-control which he had
prayed so hard to retain.

He passed within the shade of the great elm, and then suddenly came to
a full stop. A few yards in front of him the boy was performing his
imaginary violin solo on a broken string, and the sight went straight
to the heart of that musical faculty whose shy divinity was the flute.
For a few moments he stood looking on in silence, with all the sympathy
of a musician for a comrade in poverty and distress.

Other ties also bound him to the boy. If the divine voice had said to
the Reverend James Moore: "Among all the people of this town, it will
be allowed you to save but one soul. Choose you which that shall be,"
he would have replied: "Lord, this is a hard saying, for I wish to save
them all. But if I must choose, let it be the soul of this lad."

The boy's father and he had been boyhood friends in Virginia,
room-mates and classmates in college, and together they had come to
Kentucky. Summoned to the tavern on the night of the fatal brawl, he
had reached the scene only in time to lay his old playfellow's head on
his bosom, and hear his last words:

"Be kind to my boy!... Be a better father to him than I have been!...
Watch over him and help him!... Guard him from temptation!... Be kind
to him in his little weaknesses!... Win his heart, and you can do
everything with him!... Promise me this!"

"So help me Heaven, all that I can do for him I will do!"

[Illustration: Man kneeling at bedside]

From that moment he had taken upon his conscience, already toiling
beneath its load of cares, the burden of this sacred responsibility.
During the three years of his guardianship that had elapsed, this
burden had not grown lighter; for apparently he had failed to acquire
any influence over the lad, or to establish the least friendship
with him. It was a difficult nature that had been bequeathed him to
master--sensitive, emotional, delicate, wayward, gay, rebellious of
restraint, loving freedom like the poet and the artist. The Reverend
James Moore, sitting in the chair of logic, moral philosophy,
metaphysics, and belles-lettres; lecturing daily to young men on all
the powers and operations of the human mind, taking it to pieces and
putting it together and understanding it so perfectly, knowing by name
every possible form of fallacy and root of evil--the Reverend James
Moore, when he came to study the living mind of this boy, confessed to
himself that he was as great a dunce as the greatest in his classes.
But he loved the boy, nevertheless, with the lonely resources of his
nature, and he never lost hope that he would turn to him in the end.

How long he might have stood now looking on and absorbed with the
scene, it is impossible to say; for the lad, happening to look up and
see him, instantly, with a sidelong scoop of his hand, the treasures on
the sidewalk disappeared in a cavernous pocket, and the next moment he
had seized his crutch, and was busy fumbling at a loosened nail.

"Why, good-morning, David," cried the parson, cheerily, but with some
embarrassment, stepping briskly forward, and looking down upon the
little figure now hanging its head with guilt. "You've got the coolest
seat in town," he continued, "and I wish I had time to sit down and
enjoy it with you; but the drawing comes off at the lottery this
morning, and I must hurry down to see who gets the capital prize." A
shade of anxiety settled on his face as he said this. "But here's the
morning paper," he added, drawing out of his coat-pocket the coveted
sheet of the weekly _Reporter_, which he was in the habit of sending to
the lad's mother, knowing that her silver was picked up with the point
of her needle. "Take it to your mother, and tell her she must be sure
to go to see the wax figures." What a persuasive smile overspread his
face as he said this! "And _you_ must be certain to go too! They'll be
fine. Good-bye."

He let one hand rest gently on the lad's blue cloth cap, and looked
down into the upturned face with an expression that could scarcely have
been more tender.

"He looks feverish," he said to himself as he walked away, and then his
thoughts turned to the lottery.

"Good-bye," replied the boy, in a low voice, lifting his dark blue eyes
slowly to the patient gray ones. "I'm glad he's gone!" he added to
himself; but he nevertheless gazed after the disappearing figure with
shy fondness. Then he also began to think of the lottery.

If Mr. Leuba should draw the prize, he might give Tom Leuba a new
violin; and if he gave Tom a new violin, then he had promised to give
him Tom's old one. It had been nearly a year since Mr. Leuba had said
to him, laughing, in his dry, hard little fashion:

"Now, David, you must be smart and run my errands while Tom's at school
of mornings; and some of these days, when I get rich enough, I'll give
Tom a new violin and I'll give you his old one."

"Oh, Mr. Leuba!" David had cried, his voice quivering with excitement,
and his whole countenance beaming with delight, "I'll wait on you
forever, if you'll give me Tom's old violin."

Yes, nearly a whole year had passed since then--a lifetime of waiting
and disappointment. Many an errand he had run for Mr. Leuba. Many a
bit of a thing Mr. Leuba had given him: pieces of violin strings, odd
worn-out screws, bits of resin, old epaulets, and a few fourpences; but
the day had never come when he had given him Tom's violin.

Now if Mr. Leuba would only draw the prize! As he lay on his back on
the sidewalk, with the footless stump of a leg crossed over the other,
he held the newspaper between his eyes and the green limbs of the elm
overhead, and eagerly read for the last time the advertisement of
the lottery. Then, as he finished reading it, his eyes were suddenly
riveted upon a remarkable notice printed just beneath.

This notice stated that Messrs. Ollendorf and Mason respectfully
acquainted the ladies and gentlemen of Lexington that they had opened
at the Kentucky Hotel a new and elegant collection of wax figures,
judged by connoisseurs to be equal, if not superior, to any exhibited
in America. Among which are the following characters: An excellent
representation of General George Washington giving orders to the
Marquis de la Fayette, his aid. In another scene the General is
represented as a fallen victim to death, and the tears of America,
represented by a beautiful female weeping over him--which makes it
a most interesting scene. His Excellency Thomas Jefferson. General
Buonaparte in marshal action. General Hamilton and Colonel Burr. In
this interesting scene the Colonel is represented in the attitude of
firing, while the General stands at his distance waiting the result
of the first fire: both accurate likenesses. The death of General
Braddock, who fell in Braddock's Defeat. An Indian is represented as
scalping the General, while one of his men, in an attempt to rescue
him out of the hands of the Indians, was overtaken by another Indian,
who is ready to split him with his tomahawk. Mrs. Jerome Buonaparte,
formerly Miss Patterson. The Sleeping Beauty. Eliza Wharton, or the
American coquette, with her favorite gallant and her intimate friend
Miss Julia Granby. The Museum will be open from ten o'clock in the
morning 'til nine in the evening. Admittance fifty cents for grown
persons; children half price. Profiles taken with accuracy at the
Museum.

The greatest attraction of the whole Museum will be a large magnificent
painting of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane.

All this for a quarter! The newspaper suddenly dropped from his hands
into the dirt of the street--he had no quarter! For a moment he sat as
immovable as if the thought had turned him into stone; but the next
moment he had sprung from the sidewalk and was speeding home to his
mother. Never before had the stub of the little crutch been plied so
nimbly among the stones of the rough sidewalk. Never before had he
made a prettier picture, with the blue cap pushed far back from his
forehead, his yellow hair blowing about his face, the old black satin
waistcoat flopping like a pair of disjointed wings against his sides,
the open newspaper streaming backward from his hand, and his face alive
with hope.


    IV.

Two hours later he issued from the house, and set his face in the
direction of the museum--a face full of excitement still, but full also
of pain, because he had no money, and saw no chance of getting any. It
was a dull time of the year for his mother's work. Only the day before
she had been paid a month's earnings, and already the money had been
laid out for the frugal expenses of the household. It would be a long
time before any more would come in, and in the mean time the exhibition
of wax figures would have been moved to some other town. When he had
told her that the parson had said that she must go to see them, she had
smiled fondly at him from beside her loom, and quietly shaken her head
with inward resignation; but when he told her the parson had said _he_
must be sure to go too, the smile had faded into an expression of fixed
sadness.

On his way down town he passed the little music store of Mr. Leuba,
which was one block this side of the Kentucky Hotel. He was all
eagerness to reach the museum, but his ear caught the sounds of the
violin, and he forgot everything else in his desire to go in and speak
with Tom, for Tom was his lord and master.

"Tom, are you going to see the wax figures?" he cried, with trembling
haste, curling himself on top of the keg of nails in his accustomed
corner of the little lumber-room. But Tom paid no attention to the
question or the questioner, being absorbed in executing an intricate
passage of "O Thou Fount of every Blessing!" For the moment David
forgot his question himself, absorbed likewise in witnessing this
envied performance.

When Tom had finished, he laid the violin across his knees and wiped
his brow with his shirt-sleeves. "Don't you know that you oughtn't to
talk to me when I'm performing?" he said, loftily, still not deigning
to look at his offending auditor. "Don't you know that it disturbs a
fiddler to be spoken to when he's performing?"

[Illustration: "EXECUTING AN INTRICATE PASSAGE."]

Tom was an overgrown, rawboned lad of some fifteen years, with stubby
red hair, no eyebrows, large watery blue eyes, and a long neck with a
big Adam's apple.

"I didn't mean to interrupt you, Tom," said David, in a tone of the
deepest penitence. "You know that I'd rather hear you play than
anything."

"Father got the thousand-dollar prize," said Tom coldly, accepting the
apology for the sake of the compliment.

"Oh, _Tom_! I'm so glad! _Hurrah!_" shouted David, waving his old blue
cap around his head, his face transfigured with joy, his heart leaping
with a sudden hope, and now at last he would get the violin.

"What are _you_ glad for?" said Tom, with dreadful severity. "He's _my_
father; he's not _your_ father;" and for the first time he bestowed a
glance upon the little figure curled up on the nail keg, and bending
eagerly towards him with clasped hands.

"I _know_ he's _your_ father, Tom, but--"

"Well, then, what are you _glad_ for?" insisted Tom. "You're not going
to get any of the money."

"I know _that_, Tom," said David, coloring deeply, "but--"

"Well, then, what _are_ you glad for?"

"I don't think I'm so _very_ glad, Tom," replied David, sorrowfully.

But Tom had taken up the bow and was rubbing the resin on it. He used
a great deal of resin in his playing, and would often proudly call
David's attention to how much of it would settle as a white dust under
the bridge. David was too well used to Tom's rebuffs to mind them long,
and as he now looked on at this resining process, the sunlight came
back into his face.

"Please let me try it once, Tom--just _once_." Experience had long ago
taught him that this was asking too much of Tom; but with the new hope
that the violin might now soon become his, his desire to handle it was
ungovernable.

"Now look here, David," replied Tom, with a great show of kindness
in his manner, "I'd let you try it once, but you'd spoil the tone.
It's taken me a long time to get a good tone into this fiddle, and
you'd take it all out the very first whack. As soon as you learn to
get a good tone out of it, I'll let you play on it. Don't you _know_
you'd spoil it, if I was to let you try it _now_?" he added, suddenly
wheeling with tremendous energy upon his timid petitioner.

"I'm afraid I would, Tom," replied David, with a voice full of anguish.

"But just listen to me," said Tom; and taking up the violin, he
rendered the opening passage of "O Thou Fount of every Blessing!"
Scarcely had he finished when a customer entered the shop, and he
hurried to the front, leaving the violin and the bow on the chair that
he had quitted.

No sooner was he gone than the little figure slipped noiselessly from
its perch, and hobbling quickly to the chair on which the violin
lay, stood beside it in silent love. Touch it he durst not; but his
sensitive, delicate hands passed tremblingly over it, and his eyes
dwelt upon it with unspeakable longing. Then, with a sigh, he turned
away, and hastened to the front of the shop. Tom had already dismissed
his customer, and was standing in the door, looking down the street in
the direction of the Kentucky Hotel, where a small crowd had collected
around the entrance of the museum.

As David stepped out upon the sidewalk, it was the sight of this crowd
that recalled him to a new sorrow.

"Tom," he cried, with longing, "are you going to see the wax figures?"

"Of course I'm going," he replied, carelessly. "We're all going."

"When, Tom?" asked David, with breathless interest.

"Whenever we want to, of course," replied Tom. "I'm not going just
once; I'm going as often as I like."

"Why don't you go now, Tom? It's so hot--they might melt."

This startling view of the case was not without its effect on Tom,
although a suggestion from such a source was not to be respected. He
merely threw his eyes up towards the heavens and said, sturdily: "You
ninny! they'll not melt. Don't you see it's going to rain and turn
cooler?"

"I'll bet you _I'd_ not wait for it to turn cooler. I'll bet you _I'd_
be in there before you could say Jack Roberson, if _I_ had a quarter,"
said David, with resolution.


    V.

All that long afternoon he hung in feverish excitement around the door
of the museum. There was scarce a travelling show in Kentucky in those
days. It was not strange if to this idler of the streets, in whom
imagination was all-powerful, and in whose heart quivered ungovernable
yearnings for the heroic, the poetic, and the beautiful, this day of
the first exhibition of wax figures was the most memorable of his life.

It was so easy for everybody to go in who wished; so impossible for
him. Groups of gay ladies slipped their silver half-dollars through
the variegated meshes of their silken purses. The men came in jolly
twos and threes, and would sometimes draw out great rolls of bills.
Now a kind-faced farmer passed in, dropping into the hands of the
door-keeper a half-dollar for himself, and three quarters for three
sleek negroes that followed at his heels; and now a manufacturer with
a couple of apprentices--lads of David's age and friends of his. Poor
little fellow! at many a shop of the town he had begged to be taken as
an apprentice himself, but no one would have him because he was lame.

And now the people were beginning to pour out, and he hovered about
them, hoping in this way to get some idea of what was going on inside.
Once, with the courage of despair, he seized the arm of a lad as he
came out.

"Oh, Bobby, _tell_ me all about it!"

But Bobby shook him off, and skipped away to tell somebody else who
didn't want to hear.

After a while two sweet-faced ladies dressed in mourning appeared. As
they passed down the street he was standing on the sidewalk, and there
must have been something in his face to attract the attention of one of
them, for she paused, and in the gentlest manner said:

"My little man, how did you like the wax figures and the picture?"

"Oh, madam," he replied, his eyes filling, "I have not seen them!"

"But you will see them, I hope," she said, moving away, but bestowing
on him the lingering smile of bereft motherhood.

The twilight fell, and still he lingered, until, with a sudden
remorseful thought of his mother, he turned away and passed up the dark
street. His tongue was parched, there was a lump in his throat, and a
numb pain about his heart. Far up the street he paused and looked back.
A lantern had been swung out over the entrance of the museum, and the
people were still passing in.


    VI.

A happy man was the Reverend James Moore the next morning. The lottery
had been a complete success, and he would henceforth have a comfortable
church, in which the better to save the souls of his fellow-creatures.
The leading vestry-man had drawn the capital prize, and while the other
members who had drawn blanks were not exactly satisfied, on the whole
the result seemed as good as providential. As he walked down town at
an early hour, he was conscious of suffering from a dangerous elation
of spirit; and more than once his silent prayer had been: "Lord, let
me not be puffed up this day! Let me not be blinded with happiness!
Keep the eyes of my soul clear, that I overlook no duty! What have I,
unworthy servant, done that I should be so fortunate?"

Now and then, as he passed along, a church member would wring his hand
and offer congratulations. After about fifteen years of a more or less
stranded condition a magnificent incoming tide of prosperity now seemed
to lift him off his very feet.

From wandering rather blindly about the streets for a while, he started
for the new church, remembering that he had an engagement with a
committee of ladies, who had taken in charge the furnishing of it. But
when he reached there, no one had arrived but the widow Babcock. She
was very beautiful; and looking at womankind from behind his veil of
unfamiliarity, the parson, despite his logic, had always felt a desire
to lift that veil when standing in her presence. The intoxication of
his mood was not now lessened by coming upon her so unexpectedly alone.

"My dear Mrs. Babcock," he said, offering her his hand in his beautiful
manner, "it seems peculiarly fitting that you should be the first of
the ladies to reach the spot; for it would have pained me to think you
less zealous than the others. The vestry needs not only your taste in
furniture, but the influence of your presence."

The widow dropped her eyes, the gallantry of the speech being so
unusual. "I came early on purpose," she replied, in a voice singularly
low and tremulous. "I wanted to see you alone. Oh, Mr. Moore, the
ladies of this town owe you such a debt of gratitude! You have been
such a comfort to those who are sad, such a support to those who needed
strengthening! And who has needed these things as much as I?"

As she spoke, the parson, with a slight look of apprehension, had put
his back against the wall, as was apt to be his way when talking with
ladies.

[Illustration: "THE WIDOW DROPPED HER EYES."]

"Who has needed these things as I have?" continued the widow, taking a
step forward, and with increasing agitation. "Oh, Mr. Moore, I should
be an ungrateful woman if I did not mingle my congratulations with the
others. And I want to do this now with my whole soul. May God bless
you, and crown the labors of your life with every desire of your
heart!" And saying this, the widow laid the soft tips of one hand on
one of the parson's shoulders, and raising herself slightly on tiptoe,
kissed him.

"Oh, Mrs. Babcock!" cried the dismayed logician, "what have you done?"
But the next moment, the logician giving place to the man, he grasped
one of her hands, and murmuring, "May God bless _you_ for _that_!"
seized his hat, and hurried out into the street.

The most careless observer might have been interested in watching his
movements as he walked away.

He carried his hat in his hand, forgetting to put it on. Several
persons spoke to him on the street, but he did not hear them. He strode
a block or two in one direction, and then a block or two in another.

"If she does it again," he muttered to himself--"if she does it again,
I'll marry her!... Old?... I could run a mile in a minute!"

As he was passing the music-store, the dealer called out to him:

"Come in, parson. I've got a present for you."

"A--present--for--_me_?" repeated the parson, blank with amazement. In
his life the little music-dealer had never made him a present.

"Yes, a present," repeated the fortunate vestry-man, whose dry heart,
like a small seed-pod, the wind of good-fortune had opened, so that a
few rattling germs of generosity dropped out. Opening a drawer behind
his counter, he now took out a roll of music. "Here's some new music
for your flute," he said. "Accept it with my compliments."

New music for his flute! The parson turned it over dreamily, and
it seemed that the last element of disorder had come to derange his
faculties.

"And Mrs. Leuba sends her compliments, and would like to have you to
dinner," added the shopkeeper, looking across the counter with some
amusement at the expression of the parson, who now appeared as much
shocked as though his whole nervous system had been suddenly put in
connection with a galvanic battery of politeness.

It was a very gay dinner, having been gotten up to celebrate the
drawing of the prize. The entire company were to go in the afternoon to
see the waxworks, and some of the ladies wore especial toilets, with a
view to having their profiles taken.

"Have you been to see the waxworks, Mr. Moore?" inquired a spinster
roguishly, wiping a drop of soup from her underlip.

The unusual dinner, the merriment, the sense of many ladies present,
mellowed the parson like old wine.

"No, madam," he replied, giddily; "but I shall go this very afternoon.
I find it impossible any longer to deny myself the pleasure of
beholding the great American Coquette and the Sleeping Beauty. I must
take my black sheep," he continued, with expanding warmth. "I must
drive my entire flock of soiled lambs into the favored and refining
presence of Miss Julia Granby."

Keeping to this resolution, as soon as dinner was over he made his
excuses to the company, and set off to collect a certain class of boys
which he had scraped together by hook and crook from the by-ways of
the town, and about an hour later he might have been seen driving them
before him towards the entrance of the museum. There he shouldered
his way cheerfully up to the door, and shoved each of the lads
good-naturedly in, finally passing in himself, with a general glance at
the by-standers, as if to say, "Was there ever another man as happy in
this world?"

But he soon came out, leaving his wild lambs to browse at will in those
fresh pastures, and took his way up street homeward. He seemed to be
under some necessity of shaking them off in order to enjoy the solitude
of his thoughts.

"If she does it again!... If she does it again!... _Whee! whee!
whee!--whee! whee! whee!_" and he began to whistle for his flute with a
nameless longing.

It was soon after this that the two women heard him playing the reel,
and watched him perform certain later incredible evolutions. For
whether one event, or all events combined, had betrayed him into this
outbreak, henceforth he was quite beside himself.

Is it possible that on this day the Reverend James Moore had driven the
ancient, rusty, creaky chariot of his faculties too near the sun of
love?


    VII.

A sad day it had been meantime for the poor lad.

He had gotten up in the morning listless and dull and sick at the sight
of his breakfast. But he had feigned to be quite well that he might
have permission to set off down-town. There was no chance of his being
able to get into the museum, but he was drawn irresistibly thither
for the mere pleasure of standing around and watching the people, and
hoping that something--_something_ would turn up. He was still there
when his dinner-hour came, but he never thought of this. Once, when the
door-keeper was at leisure, he had hobbled up and said to him, with
a desperate effort to smile, "Sir, if I were rich, I'd live in your
museum for about five years."

But the door-keeper had pushed him rudely back, telling him to be off
and not obstruct the sidewalk.

[Illustration: Boys walking through village]

He was still standing near the entrance when the parson came down the
street driving his flock of boys. Ah, if he had only joined that class,
as time after time he had been asked to do! All at once his face lit up
with a fortunate inspiration, and pushing his way to the very side of
the door-keeper, he placed himself there that the parson might see him
and take him with the others; for had he not said that _he_ must be
sure to go? But when the parson came up, this purpose had failed him,
and he had apparently shrunk to half his size behind the bulk of the
door-keeper, fearing most of all things that the parson would discover
him and know why he was there.

He was still lingering outside when the parson reappeared and started
homeward; and he sat down and watched him out of sight. He seemed
cruelly hurt, and his eyes filled with tears.

"_I'd_ have taken _him_ in the very first one," he said, choking down
a sob; and then, as if he felt this to be unjust, he murmured over and
over: "Maybe he forgot me; maybe he didn't mean it; maybe he forgot me."

Perhaps an hour later, slowly and with many pauses, he drew near the
door of the parson's home. There he lifted his hand three times before
he could knock.

"The parson's not at home," the widow Spurlock had called sharply down
to him.

With this the last hope had died out of his bosom; for having dwelt
long on the parson's kindness to him--upon all the parson's tireless
efforts to befriend him--he had summoned the courage at last to go and
ask him to lend him a quarter.

With little thought of whither he went, he now turned back down-town,
but some time later he was still standing at the entrance of the museum.

He looked up the street again. All the Leubas were coming, Tom walking,
with a very haughty air, a few feet ahead.

"Why don't you go in?" he said, loudly, walking up to David and
jingling the silver in his pockets. "What are you standing out here
for? If you _want_ to go in, why don't you _go_ in?"

"Oh, Tom!" cried David, in a whisper of eager confidence, his utterance
choked with a sob, "I haven't got any money."

"I'd hate to be as poor as _you_ are," said Tom, contemptuously. "I'm
going this evening, and to-night, and as often as I want," and he
turned gayly away to join the others.

He was left alone again, and his cup of bitterness, which had been
filling drop by drop, now ran over.

Several groups came up just at that moment. There was a pressure and
a jostling of the throng. As Mr. Leuba, who had made his way up to
the door-keeper, drew a handful of silver from his pocket, some one
accidentally struck his elbow, and several pieces fell to the pavement.
Then there was laughter and a scrambling as these were picked up and
returned. But out through the legs of the crowd one bright silver
quarter rolled unseen down the sloping sidewalk towards the spot where
David was standing.

It was all done in an instant. He saw it coming; the little crutch was
set forward a pace, the little body was swung silently forward, and as
the quarter fell over on its shining side, the dirty sole of a brown
foot covered it.

The next minute, with a sense of triumph and bounding joy, the
poverty-tortured, friendless little thief had crossed the threshold
of the museum, and stood face to face with the Redeemer of the world;
for the picture was so hung as to catch the eye upon entering, and
it arrested his quick, roving glance and held it in awe-stricken
fascination. Unconscious of his own movements, he drew nearer and
nearer, until he stood a few feet in front of the arc of spectators,
with his breathing all but suspended, and one hand crushing the old
blue cloth cap against his naked bosom.

[Illustration: BEFORE THE PICTURE.]

It was a strange meeting. The large rude painting possessed no claim
to art. But to him it was an overwhelming revelation, for he had
never seen any pictures, and he was gifted with an untutored love of
painting. Over him, therefore, it exercised an inthralling influence,
and it was as though he stood in the visible presence of One whom he
knew that the parson preached of and his mother worshipped.

Forgetful of his surroundings, long he stood and gazed. Whether it
may have been the thought of the stolen quarter that brought him
to himself, at length he drew a deep breath, and looked quickly
around with a frightened air. From across the room he saw Mr. Leuba
watching him gravely, as it seemed to his guilty conscience, with
fearful sternness. A burning flush dyed his face, and he shrank back,
concealing himself among the crowd. The next moment, without ever
having seen or so much as thought of anything else in the museum, he
slipped out into the street.

There the eyes of everybody seemed turned upon him. Where should he go?
Not home. Not to Mr. Leuba's music-store. No; he could never look into
Mr. Leuba's face again. And Tom? He could hear Tom crying out, wherever
he should meet him, "You stole a quarter from father."

In utter terror and shame, he hurried away out to the southern end of
the town, where there was an abandoned rope-walk.

It was a neglected place, damp and unhealthy. In the farthest corner
of it he lay down and hid himself in a clump of iron-weeds. Slowly
the moments dragged themselves along. Of what was he thinking? Of his
mother? Of the parson? Of the violin that would now never be his? Of
that wonderful sorrowful face which he had seen in the painting? The
few noises of the little town grew very faint, the droning of the
bumblebee on the purple tufts of the weed overhead very loud, and
louder still the beating of his heart against the green grass as he lay
on his side, with his head on his blue cap and his cheek in his hand.
And then he fell asleep.

When he awoke he started up bewildered. The sun had set, and the heavy
dews of twilight were falling. A chill ran through him; and then the
recollection of what had happened came over him with a feeling of
desolation. When it was quite dark he left his hiding-place and started
back up-town.

He could reach home in several ways, but a certain fear drew him into
the street which led past the music-store. If he could only see Mr.
Leuba, he felt sure that he could tell by the expression of his face
whether he had missed the quarter. At some distance off he saw by the
light of the windows Mr. Leuba standing in front of his shop talking to
a group of men. Noiselessly he drew near, noiselessly he was passing
without the courage to look up.

"Stop, David. Come in here a moment. I want to talk to you."

As Mr. Leuba spoke, he apologized to the gentlemen for leaving, and
turned back into the rear of the shop. Faint, and trembling so that he
could scarcely stand, his face of a deadly whiteness, the boy followed.

"David," said Mr. Leuba--in his whole life he had never spoken so
kindly; perhaps his heart had been touched by some belated feeling, as
he had studied the boy's face before the picture in the museum, and
certainly it had been singularly opened by his good-fortune--"David,"
he said, "I promised when I got rich enough I'd give Tom a new violin,
and give you his old one. Well, I gave him a new one to-day; so here's
yours," and going to a corner of the room, he took up the box, brought
it back, and would have laid it on the boy's arm, only there was no arm
extended to receive it.

"Take it! It's yours!"

"Oh, Mr. Leuba!"

It was all he could say. He had expected to be charged with stealing
the quarter, and instead there was held out to him the one treasure in
the world--the violin of which he had dreamed so long, for which he had
served so faithfully.

"Oh, Mr. Leuba!"

There was a pitiful note in the cry, but the dealer was not the man to
hear it, or to notice the look of angelic contrition on the upturned
face. He merely took the lad's arm, bent it around the violin, patted
the ragged cap, and said, a little impatiently:

"Come, come! they're waiting for me at the door. To-morrow you can come
down and run some more errands for me," and he led the way to the front
of the shop and resumed his conversation.

Slowly along the dark street the lad toiled homeward with his treasure.
At any other time he would have sat down on the first curb-stone,
opened the box, and in ecstatic joy have lifted out that peerless
instrument; or he would have sped home with it to his mother, flying
along on his one crutch as if on the winds of heaven. But now he could
not look at it, and something clogged his gait so that he loitered and
faltered and sometimes stood still irresolute.

But at last he approached the log-cabin which was his home. A rude
fence enclosed the yard, and inside this fence there grew a hedge of
lilacs. When he was within a few feet of the gate he paused, and did
what he had never done before--he put his face close to the panels
of the fence, and with a look of guilt and sorrow peeped through the
lilacs at the face of his mother, who was sitting in the light of the
open door-way.

She was thinking of him. He knew that by the patient sweetness of
her smile. All the heart went out of him at the sight, and hurrying
forward, he put the violin down at her feet, and threw his arms around
her neck, and buried his head on her bosom.


    VIII.

After he had made his confession, a restless and feverish night he had
of it, often springing up from his troubled dreams and calling to her
in the darkness. But the next morning he insisted upon getting up for a
while.

Towards the afternoon he grew worse again, and took to his bed, the
yellow head tossing to and fro, the eyes bright and restless, and his
face burning. At length he looked up and said to his mother, in the
manner of one who forms a difficult resolution: "Send for the parson.
Tell him I am sick and want to see him."

It was this summons that the widow Spurlock had delivered on the Sunday
afternoon when the parson had quitted the house with such a cry of
distress. He had not so much as thought of the boy since the Friday
morning previous.

[Illustration]

"How is it possible," he exclaimed, as he hurried on--"how is it
_possible_ that I _could_ have forgotten _him?_"

The boy's mother met him outside the house and drew him into an
adjoining room, silently, for her tears were falling. He sank into the
first chair.

"Is he so ill?" he asked, under his trembling breath.

"I'm afraid he's going to be very ill. And to see him in so much
trouble--"

"What is the matter? In God's name, has anything happened to him?"

She turned her face away to hide her grief. "He said he would tell you
himself. Oh, if I've been too hard with him! But I did it for the best.
I didn't know until the doctor came that he was going to be ill, or I
would have waited. Do anything you can to quiet him--anything he should
ask you to do," she implored, and pointed towards the door of the room
in which the boy lay.

Conscience-stricken and speechless, the parson opened it and entered.

The small white bed stood against the wall beneath an open window, and
one bright-headed sunflower, growing against the house outside, leaned
in and fixed its kind face anxiously upon the sufferer's.

The figure of the boy was stretched along the edge of the bed, his
cheek on one hand and his eyes turned steadfastly towards the middle of
the room, where, on a table, the violin lay exposed to view.

He looked quickly towards the door as the parson entered, and an
expression of relief passed over his face.

"Why, David," said the parson, chidingly, and crossing to the bed
with a bright smile. "Sick? This will never do;" and he sat down,
imprisoning one of the burning palms in his own.

The boy said nothing, but looked at him searchingly, as though needing
to lay aside masks and disguises and penetrate at once to the bottom
truth. Then he asked, "Are you mad at me?"

"My poor boy!" said the parson, his lips trembling a little as he
tightened his pressure--"my poor boy! why should _I_ be mad at _you_?"

"You never could do anything with me."

"Never mind that now," said the parson, soothingly, but adding, with
bitterness, "it was all my fault--all my fault."

"It wasn't your fault," said the boy. "It was mine."

A change had come over him in his treatment of the parson. Shyness had
disappeared, as is apt to be the case with the sick.

"I want to ask you something," he added, confidentially.

"Anything--anything! Ask me anything!"

"Do you remember the wax figures?"

"Oh yes, I remember them very well," said the parson, quickly, uneasily.

"I wanted to see 'em, and I didn't have any money, and I stole a
quarter from Mr. Leuba."

Despite himself a cry escaped the parson's lips, and dropping the boy's
hand, he started from his chair and walked rapidly to and fro across
the room, with the fangs of remorse fixed deep in his conscience.

"Why didn't you come to me?" he asked at length, in a tone of helpless
entreaty. "Why didn't you come to me? Oh, if you had only come to me!"

"I did come to you," replied the boy.

"When?" asked the parson, coming back to the bedside.

"About three o'clock yesterday."

About three o'clock yesterday! And what was he doing at that time? He
bent his head over to his very knees, hiding his face in his hands.

[Illustration: Woman sitting beside child in bed]

"But why didn't you let me know it? Why didn't you come in?"

"Mrs. Spurlock told me you were at work on a sermon."

"God forgive me!" murmured the parson, with a groan.

"I thought you'd lend me a quarter," said the boy, simply. "You took
the other boys, and you told me _I_ must be certain to go. I thought
you'd lend me a quarter till I could pay you back."

"Oh, David!" cried the parson, getting down on his knees by the
bedside, and putting his arms around the boy's neck, "I would have lent
you--I would have given you--anything I have in this poor world!"

The boy threw his arms around the parson's neck and clasped him close.
"Forgive me!"

"Oh, boy! boy! can you forgive _me_?" Sobs stifled the parson's
utterance, and he went to a window on the opposite side of the room.

When he turned his face inward again, he saw the boy's gaze fixed once
more intently upon the violin.

"There's something I want you to do for me," he said. "Mr. Leuba gave
me a violin last night, and mamma says I ought to sell it and pay him
back. Mamma says it will be a good lesson for me." The words seemed
wrung from his heart's core. "I thought I'd ask _you_ to sell it for
me. The doctor says I may be sick a long time, and it worries me." He
began to grow excited, and tossed from side to side.

"Don't worry," said the parson, "I'll sell it for you."

The boy looked at the violin again. To him it was priceless, and his
eyes grew heavy with love for it. Then he said, cautiously: "I thought
_you'd_ get a good price for it. I don't think I could take less than a
hundred dollars. It's worth more than that, but if I have to sell it, I
don't think I _could_ take less than a hundred dollars," and he fixed
his burning eyes on the parson's.

"Don't worry! I'll sell it for you. Oh yes, you can easily get a
hundred dollars for it. I'll bring you a hundred dollars for it by
to-morrow morning."

As the parson was on the point of leaving the room, with the violin
under his arm, he paused with his hand on the latch, an anxious look
gathering in his face. Then he came back, laid the violin on the table,
and going to the bedside, took the boy's hands in both of his own.

"David," said the moral philosopher, wrestling in his consciousness
with the problem of evil--"David, was it the face of the Saviour that
you wished to see? Was it _this_ that tempted you to--" and he bent
over the boy breathless.

"I wanted to see the Sleeping Beauty."

The parson turned away with a sigh of acute disappointment.

It was on this night that he was seen to enter his room with a boy's
violin under his arm, and later to hang it, and hang his beloved flute,
tied with a blue ribbon, above the meagre top shelf of books--Fuller's
_Gospel_, Petrarch, Volney's _Ruins_, Zollicoffer's _Sermons_, and
the _Horrors of San Domingo_. After that he remained motionless at
his table, with his head bowed on his folded arms, until the candle
went out, leaving him in inner and outer darkness. Moralist, logician,
philosopher, he studied the transgression, laying it at last solely to
his own charge.

At daybreak he stood outside the house with the physician who had been
with the boy during the night. "Will he die?" he asked.

The physician tapped his forehead with his forefinger. "The chances are
against him. The case has peculiar complications. All night it has been
nothing but the wax figures and the stolen quarter and the violin. His
mother has tried to persuade him not to sell it. But he won't bear the
sight of it now, although he is wild at the thought of selling it."

"David," said the parson, kneeling by the bedside, and speaking
in a tone pitiful enough to have recalled a soul from the other
world--"David, here's the money for the violin; here's the hundred
dollars," and he pressed it into one of the boy's palms. The hand
closed upon it, but there was no recognition. It was half a year's
salary.

The first sermon that the parson preached in the new church was on the
Sunday after the boy's death. It was expected that he would rise to
the occasion and surpass himself, which, indeed, he did, drawing tears
even from the eyes of those who knew not that they could shed them,
and all through making the greatest effort to keep back his own. The
subject of the sermon was "The Temptations of the Poor." The sermon of
the following fortnight was on the "Besetting Sin," the drift of it
going to show that the besetting sin may be the one pure and exquisite
pleasure of life, involving only the exercise of the loftiest faculty.
And this was followed by a third sermon on "The Kiss that Betrayeth,"
in which the parson ransacked history for illustrations to show that
every species of man--ancient, mediæval, and modern--had been betrayed
in this way. During the delivery of this sermon the parson looked so
cold and even severe that it was not understood why the emotions of
any one should have been touched, or why the widow Babcock should have
lowered her veil and wept bitterly.

And thus being ever the more loved and revered as he grew ever the
more lovable and saint-like, he passed onward to the close. But not
until the end came did he once stretch forth a hand to touch his flute;
and it was only in imagination then that he grasped it, to sound
the final roll-call of his wandering faculties, and to blow a last
good-night to his tired spirit.

[Illustration: Man resting head on book]



    KING SOLOMON OF KENTUCKY.


    I.

It had been a year of strange disturbances--a desolating drought, a
hurly-burly of destructive tempests, killing frosts in the tender
valleys, mortal fevers in the tender homes. Now came tidings that all
day the wail of myriads of locusts was heard in the green woods of
Virginia and Tennessee; now that Lake Erie was blocked with ice on the
very verge of summer, so that in the Niagara new rocks and islands
showed their startling faces. In the Blue-grass Region of Kentucky
countless caterpillars were crawling over the ripening apple orchards
and leaving the trees as stark as when tossed in the thin air of bitter
February days.

Then, flying low and heavily through drought and tempest and frost and
plague, like the royal presence of disaster, that had been but heralded
by its mournful train, came nearer and nearer the dark angel of the
pestilence.

M. Xaupi had given a great ball only the night before in the
dancing-rooms over the confectionery of M. Giron--that M. Giron who
made the tall pyramids of meringues and macaroons for wedding-suppers,
and spun around them a cloud of candied webbing as white and misty as
the veil of the bride. It was the opening cotillon party of the summer.
The men came in blue cloth coats with brass buttons, buff waistcoats,
and laced and ruffled shirts; the ladies came in white satins with
ethereal silk overdresses, embroidered in the figure of a gold beetle
or an oak leaf of green. The walls of the ball-room were painted to
represent landscapes of blooming orange-trees, set here and there in
clustering tubs; and the chandeliers and sconces were lighted with
innumerable wax-candles, yellow and green and rose.

Only the day before, also, Clatterbuck had opened for the summer a new
villa-house, six miles out in the country, with a dancing-pavilion in a
grove of maples and oaks, a pleasure-boat on a sheet of crystal water,
and a cellar stocked with old sherry, Sauterne, and Château Margaux
wines, with anisette, "Perfect Love," and Guigholet cordials.

Down on Water Street, near where now stands a railway station, Hugh
Lonney, urging that the fear of cholera was not the only incentive to
cleanliness, had just fitted up a sumptuous bath-house, where cold and
shower baths might be had at twelve and a half cents each, or hot ones
at three for half a dollar.

Yes, the summer of 1833 was at hand, and there must be new pleasures,
new luxuries; for Lexington was the Athens of the West and the Kentucky
Birmingham.

Old Peter Leuba felt the truth of this, as he stepped smiling out of
his little music-store on Main Street, and, rubbing his hands briskly
together, surveyed once more his newly-arranged windows, in which were
displayed gold and silver epaulets, bottles of Jamaica rum, garden
seeds from Philadelphia, drums and guitars and harps. Dewees & Grant
felt it in their drug-store on Cheapside, as they sent off a large
order for calomel and superior Maccoboy, rappee, and Lancaster snuff.
Bluff little Daukins Tegway felt it, as he hurried on the morning of
that day to the office of the _Observer and Reporter_, and advertised
that he would willingly exchange his beautiful assortment of painted
muslins and Dunstable bonnets for flax and feathers. On the threshold
he met a florid farmer, who had just offered ten dollars' reward for
a likely runaway boy with a long fresh scar across his face; and
to-morrow the paper would contain one more of those tragical little
cuts, representing an African slave scampering away at the top of his
speed, with a stick swung across his shoulder and a bundle dangling
down his back. In front of Postlethwaite's Tavern, where now stands
the Phœnix Hotel, a company of idlers, leaning back in Windsor chairs
and planting their feet against the opposite wall on a level with
their heads, smoked and chewed and yawned, as they discussed the
administration of Jackson and arranged for the coming of Daniel Webster
in June, when they would give him a great barbecue, and roast in
his honor a buffalo bull taken from the herd emparked near Ashland.
They hailed a passing merchant, who, however, would hear nothing of
the bull, but fell to praising his Rocky Mountain beaver and Goose
Creek salt; and another, who turned a deaf ear to Daniel Webster, and
invited them to drop in and examine his choice essences of peppermint,
bergamot, and lavender.

But of all the scenes that might have been observed in Lexington on
that day, the most remarkable occurred in front of the old court-house
at the hour of high noon. On the mellow stroke of the clock in the
steeple above the sheriff stepped briskly forth, closely followed by
a man of powerful frame, whom he commanded to station himself on
the pavement several feet off. A crowd of men and boys had already
collected in anticipation, and others came quickly up as the clear
voice of the sheriff was heard across the open public square and old
market-place.

He stood on the topmost of the court-house steps, and for a moment
looked down on the crowd with the usual air of official severity.

"Gentlemen," he then cried out sharply, "by an ordah of the cou't I now
offah this man at public sale to the highes' biddah. He is able-bodied
but lazy, without visible property or means of suppoht, an' of
dissolute habits. He is therefoh adjudged guilty of high misdemeanahs,
an' is to be sole into labah foh a twelvemonth. How much, then, am I
offahed foh the vagrant? How much am I offahed foh ole King Sol'mon?"

Nothing was offered for old King Solomon. The spectators formed
themselves into a ring around the big vagrant and settled down to enjoy
the performance.

"Staht 'im, somebody."

Somebody started a laugh, which rippled around the circle.

The sheriff looked on with an expression of unrelaxed severity, but
catching the eye of an acquaintance on the outskirts, he exchanged a
lightning wink of secret appreciation. Then he lifted off his tight
beaver hat, wiped out of his eyes a little shower of perspiration which
rolled suddenly down from above, and warmed a degree to his theme.

"Come, gentlemen," he said, more suasively, "it's too hot to stan' heah
all day. Make me an offah! You all know ole King Sol'mon; don't wait
to be interduced. How much, then, to staht 'im? Say fifty dollahs!
Twenty-five! Fifteen! Ten! Why, gentlemen! Not _ten_ dollahs? Remembah
this is the Blue-grass Region of Kentucky--the land of Boone an'
Kenton, the home of Henry Clay!" he added, in an oratorical _crescendo_.

"He ain't wuth his victuals," said an oily little tavern-keeper,
folding his arms restfully over his own stomach and cocking up one
piggish eye into his neighbor's face. "He ain't wuth his 'taters."

"Buy 'im foh 'is rags!" cried a young law-student, with a Blackstone
under his arm, to the town rag-picker opposite, who was unconsciously
ogling the vagrant's apparel.

"I _might_ buy 'im foh 'is _scalp_," drawled a farmer, who had taken
part in all kinds of scalp contests and was now known to be busily
engaged in collecting crow scalps for a match soon to come off between
two rival counties.

"I think I'll buy 'im foh a hat-sign," said a manufacturer of
ten-dollar Castor and Rhorum hats. This sally drew merry attention to
the vagrant's hat, and the merchant felt rewarded.

"You'd bettah say the town ought to buy 'im an' put 'im up on top of
the cou't-house as a scarecrow foh the cholera," said some one else.

"What news of the cholera did the stage-coach bring this mohning?"
quickly inquired his neighbor in his ear; and the two immediately fell
into low, grave talk, forgot the auction, and turned away.

"Stop, gentlemen, stop!" cried the sheriff, who had watched the
rising tide of good-humor, and now saw his chance to float in on
it with spreading sails. "You're runnin' the price in the wrong
direction--down, not up. The law requires that he be sole to the
highes' biddah, not the lowes'. As loyal citizens, uphole the
constitution of the commonwealth of Kentucky an' make me an offah;
the man is really a great bargain. In the first place, he would cos'
his ownah little or nothin', because, as you see, he keeps himself in
cigahs an' clo'es; then, his main article of diet is whiskey--a supply
of which he always has on han'. He don't even need a bed, foh you know
he sleeps jus' as well on any doohstep; noh a chair, foh he prefers
to sit roun' on the curb-stones. Remembah, too, gentlemen, that ole
King Sol'mon is a Virginian--from the same neighbohhood as Mr. Clay.
Remembah that he is well educated, that he is an _awful_ Whig, an' that
he has smoked mo' of the stumps of Mr. Clay's cigahs than any other man
in existence. If you don't b'lieve _me_, gentlemen, yondah goes Mr.
Clay now; call _him_ ovah an' ask 'im foh yo'se'ves."

He paused, and pointed with his right forefinger towards Main street,
along which the spectators, with a sudden craning of necks, beheld the
familiar figure of the passing statesman.

"But you don't need _any_body to tell you these fac's, gentlemen," he
continued. "You merely need to be reminded that ole King Sol'mon is no
ohdinary man. Mo'ovah he has a kine heaht, he nevah spoke a rough wohd
to anybody in this worl', an' he is as proud as Tecumseh of his good
name an' charactah. An', gentlemen," he added, bridling with an air of
mock gallantry and laying a hand on his heart, "if anythin' fu'thah
is required in the way of a puffect encomium, we all know that there
isn't anothah man among us who cuts as wide a swath among the ladies.
The'foh, if you have any appreciation of virtue, any magnanimity of
heaht; if you set a propah valuation upon the descendants of Virginia,
that mothah of Presidents; if you believe in the pure laws of Kentucky
as the pioneer bride of the Union; if you love America an' love the
worl'--make me a gen'rous, high-toned offah foh ole King Sol'mon!"

He ended his peroration amid a shout of laughter and applause, and,
feeling satisfied that it was a good time for returning to a more
practical treatment of his subject, proceeded in a sincere tone:

"He can easily earn from one to two dollahs a day, an' from three to
six hundred a yeah. There's not anothah white man in town capable of
doin' as much work. There's not a niggah han' in the hemp factories
with such muscles an' such a chest. _Look_ at 'em! An', if you don't
b'lieve me, step fo'wahd and _feel_ 'em. How much, then, is bid foh
'im?"

"One dollah!" said the owner of a hemp factory, who had walked forward
and felt the vagrant's arm, laughing, but coloring up also as the
eyes of all were quickly turned upon him. In those days it was not an
unheard-of thing for the muscles of a human being to be thus examined
when being sold into servitude to a new master.

"Thank you!" cried the sheriff, cheerily. "One precinc' heard from! One
dollah! I am offahed one dollah foh ole King Sol'mon. One dollah foh
the king! Make it a half. One dollah an' a half. Make it a half. One
dol-dol-dol-dollah!"

Two medical students, returning from lectures at the old Medical Hall,
now joined the group, and the sheriff explained:

"One dollah is bid foh the vagrant ole King Sol'mon, who is to be sole
into labah foh a twelvemonth. Is there any othah bid? Are you all done?
One dollah, once--"

"Dollah and a half," said one of the students, and remarked half
jestingly under his breath to his companion, "I'll buy him on the
chance of his dying. We'll dissect him."

"Would you own his body if he _should_ die?"

"If he dies while bound to me, I'll arrange _that_."

"One dollah an' a half," resumed the sheriff; and falling into the tone
of a facile auctioneer he rattled on:

"One dollah an' a half foh ole Sol'mon--sol, sol, sol,--do, re, mi,
fa, sol--do, re, mi, fa, sol! Why, gentlemen, you can set the king to
music!"

All this time the vagrant had stood in the centre of that close ring
of jeering and humorous by-standers--a baffling text from which to
have preached a sermon on the infirmities of our imperfect humanity.
Some years before, perhaps as a master-stroke of derision, there had
been given to him that title which could but heighten the contrast of
his personality and estate with every suggestion of the ancient sacred
magnificence; and never had the mockery seemed so fine as at this
moment, when he was led forth into the streets to receive the lowest
sentence of the law upon his poverty and dissolute idleness. He was
apparently in the very prime of life--a striking figure, for nature at
least had truly done some royal work on him. Over six feet in height,
erect, with limbs well shaped and sinewy, with chest and neck full
of the lines of great power, a large head thickly covered with long
reddish hair, eyes blue, face beardless, complexion fair but discolored
by low passions and excesses--such was old King Solomon. He wore a
stiff, high, black Castor hat of the period, with the crown smashed in
and the torn rim hanging down over one ear; a black cloth coat in the
old style, ragged and buttonless; a white cotton shirt, with the broad
collar crumpled, wide open at the neck and down his sunburnt bosom;
blue jeans pantaloons, patched at the seat and the knees; and ragged
cotton socks that fell down over the tops of his dusty shoes, which
were open at the heels.

In one corner of his sensual mouth rested the stump of a cigar. Once
during the proceedings he had produced another, lighted it, and
continued quietly smoking. If he took to himself any shame as the
central figure of this ignoble performance, no one knew it. There was
something almost royal in his unconcern. The humor, the badinage, the
open contempt, of which he was the public target, fell thick and fast
upon him, but as harmlessly as would balls of pith upon a coat of mail.
In truth, there was that in his great, lazy, gentle, good-humored bulk
and bearing which made the gibes seem all but despicable. He shuffled
from one foot to the other as though he found it a trial to stand up so
long, but all the while looking the spectators full in the eyes without
the least impatience. He suffered the man of the factory to walk round
him and push and pinch his muscles as calmly as though he had been the
show bull at a country fair. Once only, when the sheriff had pointed
across the street at the figure of Mr. Clay, he had looked quickly in
that direction with a kindling light in his eye and a passing flush on
his face. For the rest, he seemed like a man who has drained his cup of
human life and has nothing left him but to fill again and drink without
the least surprise or eagerness.

The bidding between the man of the factory and the student had gone
slowly on. The price had reached ten dollars. The heat was intense,
the sheriff tired. Then something occurred to revivify the scene.
Across the market-place and towards the steps of the court-house
there suddenly came trundling along in breathless haste a huge old
negress, carrying on one arm a large shallow basket containing apple
crab-lanterns and fresh gingerbread. With a series of half-articulate
grunts and snorts she approached the edge of the crowd and tried to
force her way through. She coaxed, she begged, she elbowed and pushed
and scolded, now laughing, and now with the passion of tears in her
thick, excited voice. All at once, catching sight of the sheriff, she
lifted one ponderous brown arm, naked to the elbow, and waved her hand
to him above the heads of those in front.

"Hole on, marseter! Hole on!" she cried, in a tone of humorous
entreaty. "Don' knock 'im off till I come! Gim _me_ a bid at 'im!"

The sheriff paused and smiled. The crowd made way tumultuously, with
broad laughter and comment.

"Stan' aside theah an' let Aun' Charlotte in!"

"_Now_ you'll see biddin'!"

"Get out of the way foh Aun' Charlotte!"

"Up, my free niggah! Hurrah foh Kentucky!"

A moment more and she stood inside the ring of spectators, her basket
on the pavement at her feet, her hands plumped akimbo into her
fathomless sides, her head up, and her soft, motherly eyes turned
eagerly upon the sheriff. Of the crowd she seemed unconscious, and on
the vagrant before her she had not cast a single glance.

She was dressed with perfect neatness. A red and yellow Madras kerchief
was bound about her head in a high coil, and another was crossed over
the bosom of her stiffly starched and smoothly ironed blue cottonade
dress. Rivulets of perspiration ran down over her nose, her temples,
and around her ears, and disappeared mysteriously in the creases of her
brown neck. A single drop accidentally hung glistening like a diamond
on the circlet of one of her large brass ear-rings.

The sheriff looked at her a moment, smiling, but a little disconcerted.
The spectacle was unprecedented.

"What do you want heah, Aun' Charlotte?" he asked, kindly. "You can't
sell yo' pies an' gingerbread heah."

"I don' _wan'_ sell no pies en gingerbread," she replied,
contemptuously. "I wan' bid on _him_," and she nodded sidewise at the
vagrant.

"White folks allers sellin' niggahs to wuk fuh _dem_; I gwine buy a
white man to wuk fuh _me_. En he gwine t' git a mighty hard mistiss,
you heah _me_!"

The eyes of the sheriff twinkled with delight.

"Ten dollahs is offahed foh ole King Sol'mon. Is theah any othah bid?
Are you all done?"

"'Leben," she said.

Two young ragamuffins crawled among the legs of the crowd up to her
basket and filched pies and cake beneath her very nose.

"Twelve!" cried the student, laughing.

"Thirteen!" she laughed too, but her eyes flashed.

"_You are bidding against a niggah_," whispered the student's companion
in his ear.

"So I am; let's be off," answered the other, with a hot flush on his
proud face.

Thus the sale was ended, and the crowd variously dispersed. In a
distant corner of the court-yard the ragged urchins were devouring
their unexpected booty. The old negress drew a red handkerchief out of
her bosom, untied a knot in a corner of it, and counted out the money
to the sheriff. Only she and the vagrant were now left on the spot.

"You have bought me. What do you want me to do?" he asked quietly.

"Lohd, honey!" she answered, in a low tone of affectionate chiding, "I
don' wan' you to do _nothin'_! I wuzn' gwine t' 'low dem white folks to
buy you. Dey'd wuk you till you dropped dead. You go 'long en do ez you
please."

She gave a cunning chuckle of triumph in thus setting at naught the
ends of justice, and, in a voice rich and musical with affection, she
said, as she gave him a little push:

"You bettah be gittin' out o' dis blazin' sun. G' on home! I be 'long
by-en-by."

He turned and moved slowly away in the direction of Water Street,
where she lived; and she, taking up her basket, shuffled across the
market-place towards Cheapside, muttering to herself the while:

"I come mighty nigh gittin' dah too late, foolin' 'long wid dese pies.
Sellin' _him_ 'ca'se he don' wuk! Umph! If all de men in dis town
dat don' wuk wuz to be tuk up en sole, d' wouldn' be 'nough money in
de town to buy 'em! Don' I see 'em settin' 'roun' dese taverns f'om
mohnin' till night?"

She snorted out her indignation and disgust, and sitting down on the
sidewalk, under a Lombardy poplar, uncovered her wares and kept the
flies away with a locust bough, not discovering, in her alternating
good and ill humor, that half of them had been filched by her old
tormentors.

This was the memorable scene enacted in Lexington on that memorable
day of the year 1833--a day that passed so briskly. For whoever met
and spoke together asked the one question: Will the cholera come to
Lexington? And the answer always gave a nervous haste to business--a
keener thrill to pleasure. It was of the cholera that the negro woman
heard two sweet passing ladies speak as she spread her wares on the
sidewalk. They were on their way to a little picture-gallery just
opened opposite M. Giron's ball-room, and in one breath she heard
them discussing their toilets for the evening and in the next several
portraits by Jouett.

So the day passed, the night came on, and M. Xaupi gave his brilliant
ball. Poor old Xaupi--poor little Frenchman! whirled as a gamin of
Paris through the mazes of the Revolution, and lately come all the way
to Lexington to teach the people how to dance. Hop about blithely on
thy dry legs, basking this night in the waxen radiance of manners and
melodies and graces! Where will be thy tunes and airs to-morrow? Ay,
smile and prompt away! On and on! Swing corners, ladies and gentlemen!
Form the basket! Hands all around!

While the bows were still darting across the strings, out of the low,
red east there shot a long, tremulous bow of light up towards the
zenith. And then, could human sight have beheld the invisible, it might
have seen hovering over the town, over the ball-room, over M. Xaupi,
the awful presence of the plague.

But knowing nothing of this, the heated revellers went merrily home
in the chill air of the red and saffron dawn. And knowing nothing
of it also, a man awakened on the door-step of a house opposite the
ball-room, where he had long since fallen asleep. His limbs were
cramped and a shiver ran through his frame. Staggering to his feet, he
made his way down to the house of Free Charlotte, mounted to his room
by means of a stair-way opening on the street, threw off his outer
garments, kicked off his shoes, and taking a bottle from a closet
pressed it several times to his lips with long outward breaths of
satisfaction. Then, casting his great white bulk upon the bed, in a
minute more he had sunk into a heavy sleep--the usual drunken sleep of
old King Solomon.

He, too, had attended M. Xaupi's ball, in his own way and in his proper
character, being drawn to the place for the pleasure of seeing the
fine ladies arrive and float in, like large white moths of the summer
night; of looking in through the open windows at the many-colored waxen
lights and the snowy arms and shoulders, of having blown out to him
the perfume and the music; not worthy to go in, being the lowest of
the low, but attending from a door-step of the street opposite--with
a certain rich passion in his nature for splendor and revelry and
sensuous beauty.


    II.

About 10 o'clock the sunlight entered through the shutters and awoke
him. He threw one arm up over his eyes to intercept the burning rays.
As he lay out-stretched and stripped of grotesque rags, it could be
better seen in what a mould nature had cast his figure. His breast,
bare and tanned, was barred by full, arching ribs and knotted by
crossing muscles; and his shirt-sleeve, falling away to the shoulder
from his bent arm, revealed its crowded muscles in the high relief of
heroic bronze. For, although he had been sold as a vagrant, old King
Solomon had in earlier years followed the trade of a digger of cellars,
and the strenuous use of mattock and spade had developed every sinew to
the utmost. His whole person, now half naked and in repose, was full
of the suggestions of unspent power. Only his face, swollen and red,
only his eyes, bloodshot and dull, bore the impress of wasted vitality.
There, all too plainly stamped, were the passions long since raging and
still on fire.

The sunlight had stirred him to but a low degree of consciousness, and
some minutes passed before he realized that a stifling, resinous fume
impregnated the air. He sniffed it quickly; through the window seemed
to come the smell of burning tar. He sat up on the edge of the bed and
vainly tried to clear his thoughts.

The room was a clean but poor habitation--uncarpeted, whitewashed,
with a piece or two of the cheapest furniture, and a row of pegs on
one wall, where usually hung those tattered coats and pantaloons,
miscellaneously collected, that were his purple and fine linen. He
turned his eyes in this direction now and noticed that his clothes were
missing. The old shoes had disappeared from their corner; the cigar
stumps, picked up here and there in the streets according to his wont,
were gone from the mantel-piece. Near the door was a large bundle tied
up in a sheet. In a state of bewilderment, he asked himself what it all
meant. Then a sense of the silence in the street below possessed him.
At this hour he was used to hear noises enough--from Hugh Lonney's new
bath-house on one side, from Harry Sikes's barber-shop on the other.

A mysterious feeling of terror crept over and helped to sober him. How
long had he lain asleep? By degrees he seemed to remember that two or
three times he had awakened far enough to drink from the bottle under
his pillow, only to sink again into heavier stupefaction. By degrees,
too, he seemed to remember that other things had happened--a driving of
vehicles this way and that, a hurrying of people along the street. He
had thought it the breaking-up of M. Xaupi's ball. More than once had
not some one shaken and tried to arouse him? Through the wall of Harry
Sikes's barber-shop had he not heard cries of pain--sobs of distress?

He staggered to the window, threw open the shutters, and, kneeling at
the sill, looked out. The street was deserted. The houses opposite were
closed. Cats were sleeping in the silent door-ways. But as he looked up
and down he caught sight of people hurrying along cross-streets. From a
distant lumber-yard came the muffled sound of rapid hammerings. On the
air was the faint roll of vehicles--the hush and the vague noises of a
general terrifying commotion.

In the middle of the street below him a keg was burning, and, as he
looked, the hoops gave way, the tar spread out like a stream of black
lava, and a cloud of inky smoke and deep-red furious flame burst upward
through the sagging air. Just beneath the window a common cart had
been backed close up to the door of the house. In it had been thrown a
few small articles of furniture, and on the bottom bedclothes had been
spread out as if for a pallet. While he looked old Charlotte hurried
out with a pillow.

He called down to her in a strange, unsteady voice:

"What is the matter? What are you doing, Aunt Charlotte?"

She uttered a cry, dropped the pillow, and stared up at him. Her face
looked dry and wrinkled.

"My God! De chol'ra's in town! I'm waitin' on you! Dress, en come down
en fetch de bun'le by de dooh." And she hurried back into the house.

But he continued leaning on his folded arms, his brain stunned by the
shock of the intelligence. Suddenly he leaned far out and looked down
at the closed shutters of the barber-shop. Old Charlotte reappeared.

"Where is Harry Sikes?" he asked.

"Dead en buried."

"When did he die?"

"Yestidd'y evenin'."

"What day is this?"

"Sadd'y."

M. Xaupi's ball had been on Thursday evening. That night the cholera
had broken out. He had lain in his drunken stupor ever since. Their
talk had lasted but a minute, but she looked up anxiously and urged him.

"D' ain' no time to was'e, honey! D' ain' no time to was'e. I done got
dis cyart to tek you 'way in, en I be ready to start in a minute. Put
yo' clo'es on en bring de bun'le wid all yo' yudder things in it."

With incredible activity she climbed into the cart and began to roll
up the bedclothes. In reality she had made up her mind to put him into
the cart, and the pallet had been made for him to lie and finish his
drunken sleep on, while she drove him away to a place of safety.

Still he did not move from the window-sill. He was thinking of Harry
Sikes, who had shaved him many a time for nothing. Then he suddenly
called down to her:

"Have many died of the cholera? Are there many cases in town?"

She went on with her preparations and took no notice of him. He
repeated the question. She got down quickly from the cart and began to
mount the staircase. He went back to bed, pulled the sheet up over him,
and propped himself up among the pillows. Her soft, heavy footsteps
slurred on the stair-way as though her strength were failing, and as
soon as she entered the room she sank into a chair, overcome with
terror. He looked at her with a sudden sense of pity.

"Don't be frightened," he said, kindly. "It might only make it the
worse for you."

"I can' he'p it, honey," she answered, wringing her hands and rocking
herself to and fro; "de ole niggah can' he'p it. If de Lohd jes spah
me to git out'n dis town wid you! Honey, ain' you able to put on yo'
clo'es?"

"You've tied them all up in the sheet."

"De Lohd he'p de crazy ole niggah!"

She started up and tugged at the bundle, and laid out a suit of his
clothes, if things so incongruous could be called a suit.

"Have many people died of the cholera?"

"Dey been dyin' like sheep ev' since yestidd'y mohnin'--all day, en all
las' night, en dis mohnin'! De man he done lock up de huss, en dey been
buryin' 'em in cyarts. En de grave-diggah he done run away, en hit look
like d' ain' nobody to dig de graves."

She bent over the bundle, tying again the four corners of the sheet.
Through the window came the sound of the quick hammers driving nails.
She threw up her arms into the air, and then seizing the bundle dragged
it rapidly to the door.

"You heah dat? Dey nailin' up cawfins in de lumbah-yahd! Put on yo'
clo'es, honey, en come on."

A resolution had suddenly taken shape in his mind.

"Go on away and save your life. Don't wait for me; I'm not going. And
good-bye, Aunt Charlotte, in case I don't see you any more. You've been
very kind to me--kinder than I deserved. Where have you put my mattock
and spade?"

He said this very quietly, and sat up on the edge of the bed, his feet
hanging down, and his hand stretched out towards her.

"Honey," she explained, coaxingly, from where she stood, "can't you
sobah up a little en put on yo' clo'es? I gwine to tek you 'way to
de country. You don' wan' no tools. You can' dig no cellahs now. De
chol'ra's in town en de people's dyin' like sheep."

"I expect they will need me," he answered.

She perceived now that he was sober. For an instant her own fear was
forgotten in an outburst of resentment and indignation.

"Dig graves fuh 'em, when dey put you up on de block en sell you same
ez you wuz a niggah! Dig graves fuh 'em, when dey allers callin' you
names on de street en makin' fun o' you!"

"They are not to blame. I have brought it on myself."

"But we can' stay heah en die o' de chol'ra!"

"You mustn't stay. You must go away at once."

"But if I go, who gwine tek cyah o' _you_?"

"Nobody."

She came quickly across the room to the bed, fell on her knees, clasped
his feet to her breast, and looked up into his face with an expression
of imploring tenderness. Then, with incoherent cries and with sobs and
tears, she pleaded with him--pleaded for dear life; his and her own.

It was a strange scene. What historian of the heart will ever be able
to do justice to those peculiar ties which bound the heart of the negro
in years gone by to a race of not always worthy masters? This old
Virginia nurse had known King Solomon when he was a boy playing with
her young master, till that young master died on the way to Kentucky.

At the death of her mistress she had become free with a little
property. By thrift and industry she had greatly enlarged this. Years
passed and she became the only surviving member of the Virginian
household, which had emigrated early in the century to the Blue-grass
Region. The same wave of emigration had brought in old King Solomon
from the same neighborhood. As she had risen in life, he had sunk.
She sat on the sidewalks selling her fruits and cakes; he sat on the
sidewalks more idle, more ragged and dissolute. On no other basis than
these facts she began to assume a sort of maternal pitying care of him,
patching his rags, letting him have money for his vices, and when, a
year or two before, he had ceased working almost entirely, giving him a
room in her house and taking in payment what he chose to pay.

He brushed his hand quickly across his eyes as she knelt before him
now, clasping his feet to her bosom. From coaxing him as an intractable
child she had, in the old servile fashion, fallen to imploring him,
with touching forgetfulness of their real relations:

"O my marseter! O my marseter Solomon! Go 'way en save yo' life, en tek
yo' po' ole niggah wid you!"

But his resolution was formed, and he refused to go. A hurried footstep
paused beneath the window and a loud voice called up. The old nurse got
up and went to the window. A man was standing by the cart at her door.

"For God's sake let me have this cart to take my wife and little
children away to the country! There is not a vehicle to be had in town.
I will pay you--" He stopped, seeing the distress on her face.

"Is he dead?" he asked, for he knew of her care of old King Solomon.

"He _will_ die!" she sobbed. "Tilt de t'ings out on de pavement. I
gwine t' stay wid 'im en tek cyah o' 'im."


    III.

A little later, dressed once more in grotesque rags and carrying on his
shoulder a rusty mattock and a rusty spade, old King Solomon appeared
in the street below and stood looking up and down it with an air of
anxious indecision. Then shuffling along rapidly to the corner of Mill
Street, he turned up towards Main.

Here a full sense of the terror came to him. A man, hurrying along with
his head down, ran full against him and cursed him for the delay:

"Get out of my way, you old beast!" he cried. "If the cholera would
carry you off it would be a blessing to the town."

Two or three little children, already orphaned and hungry, wandered
past, crying and wringing their hands. A crowd of negro men with the
muscles of athletes, some with naked arms, some naked to the waist,
their eyes dilated, their mouths hanging open, sped along in tumultuous
disorder. The plague had broken out in the hemp factory and scattered
them beyond control.

He grew suddenly faint and sick. His senses swam, his heart seemed to
cease beating, his tongue burned, his throat was dry, his spine like
ice. For a moment the contagion of deadly fear overcame him, and,
unable to stand, he reeled to the edge of the sidewalk and sat down.

Before him along the street passed the flying people--men on horseback
with their wives behind and children in front, families in carts and
wagons, merchants in two-wheeled gigs and sulkies. A huge red and
yellow stage-coach rolled ponderously by, filled within, on top, in
front, and behind with a company of riotous students of law and of
medicine. A rapid chorus of voices shouted to him as they passed:

"Good-bye, Solomon!"

"The cholera'll have you befoah sunset!"

"Better be diggin' yoah grave, Solomon! That 'll be yoah last cellah."

"Dig us a big wine cellah undah the Medical Hall while we are away."

"And leave yo' body there! We want yo' skeleton."

"Good-bye, old Solomon!"

A wretched carry-all passed with a household of more wretched women;
their tawdry and gay attire, their haggard and painted and ghastly
faces, looking horrible in the blaze of the pitiless sunlight. They,
too, simpered and hailed him and spent upon him their hardened and
degraded badinage. Then there rolled by a high-swung carriage, with
the most luxurious of cushions, upholstered with morocco, with a
coat-of-arms, a driver and a footman in livery, and drawn by sparkling,
prancing horses. Lying back on the satin cushions a fine gentleman; at
the window of the carriage two rosy children, who pointed their fingers
at the vagrant and turned and looked into their father's face, so that
he leaned forward, smiled, leaned back again, and was whirled away to a
place of safety.

Thus they passed him, as he sat down on the sidewalk--even physicians
from their patients, pastors from their stricken flocks. Why should
not he flee? He had no ties, except the faithful affection of an old
negress. Should he not at least save her life by going away, seeing
that she would not leave him?

The orphaned children wandered past again, sobbing more wearily. He
called them to him.

"Why do you not go home? Where is your mother?" he asked.

"She is dead in the house," they answered; "and no one has come to bury
her."

Slowly down the street was coming a short funeral train. It passed--a
rude cortege: a common cart, in the bottom of which rested a box of
plain boards containing the body of the old French dancing-master;
walking behind it, with a cambric handkerchief to his eyes, the old
French confectioner; at his side, wearing the robes of his office and
carrying an umbrella to ward off the burning sun, the beloved Bishop
Smith; and behind them, two by two and with linked arms, perhaps a
dozen men, most of whom had been at the ball.

No head was lifted or eye turned to notice the vagrant seated on the
sidewalk. But when the train had passed he rose, laid his mattock and
spade across his shoulder, and, stepping out into the street, fell into
line at the end of the procession.

They moved down Short Street to the old burying-ground, where the
Baptist church-yard is to-day. As they entered it, two grave-diggers
passed out and hurried away. Those before them had fled. They had been
at work but a few hours. Overcome with horror at the sight of the dead
arriving more and more rapidly, they, too, deserted that post of peril.
No one was left. Here and there in the church-yard could be seen bodies
awaiting interment. Old King Solomon stepped quietly forward and,
getting down into one of the half-finished graves, began to dig.

The vagrant had happened upon an avocation.


    IV.

All summer long, Clatterbuck's dancing-pavilion was as silent in its
grove of oaks as a temple of the Druids, and his pleasure-boat nestled
in its moorings, with no hand to feather an oar in the little lake. All
summer long, no athletic young Kentuckians came to bathe their white
bodies in Hugh Lonney's new bath-house for twelve and a half cents,
and no one read Daukins Tegway's advertisement that he was willing
to exchange his Dunstable bonnets for flax and feathers. The likely
runaway boy, with a long, fresh scar across his face, was never found,
nor the buffalo bull roasted for Daniel Webster, and Peter Leuba's
guitars were never thrummed on any moonlit verandas. Only Dewees and
Grant were busy, dispensing, not snuff, but calomel.

Grass grew in the deserted streets. Gardens became little wildernesses
of rank weeds and riotous creepers. Around shut window-lattices roses
clambered and shed their perfume into the poisoned air, or dropped
their faded petals to strew the echoless thresholds. In darkened rooms
family portraits gazed on sad vacancy or looked helplessly down on
rigid sheeted forms.

In the trees of poplar and locust along the streets the unmolested
birds built and brooded. The oriole swung its hempen nest from a bough
over the door of the spider-tenanted factory, and in front of the old
Medical Hall the blue-jay shot up his angry crest and screamed harshly
down at the passing bier. In a cage hung against the wall of a house in
a retired street a mocking-bird sung, beat its breast against the bars,
sung more passionately, grew silent and dropped dead from its perch,
never knowing that its mistress had long since become a clod to its
full-throated requiem.

Famine lurked in the wake of the pestilence. Markets were closed. A
few shops were kept open to furnish necessary supplies. Now and then
some old negro might have been seen, driving a meat-wagon in from the
country, his nostrils stuffed with white cotton saturated with camphor.
Oftener the only visible figure in the streets was that of a faithful
priest going about among his perishing fold, or that of the bishop
moving hither and thither on his ceaseless ministrations.

But over all the ravages of that terrible time there towered highest
the solitary figure of that powerful grave-digger, who, nerved by the
spectacle of the common misfortune, by one heroic effort rose for the
time above the wrecks of his own nature. In the thick of the plague,
in the very garden spot of the pestilence, he ruled like an unterrified
king. Through days unnaturally chill with gray cloud and drizzling
rain, or unnaturally hot with the fierce sun and suffocating damps
that appeared to steam forth from subterranean caldrons, he worked
unfaltering, sometimes with a helper, sometimes with none. There were
times when, exhausted, he would lie down in the half-dug graves and
there sleep until able to go on; and many a midnight found him under
the spectral moon, all but hidden by the rank nightshade as he bent
over to mark out the lines of one of those narrow mortal cellars.

What weaknesses he fought and conquered through those days and nights!
Out of what unforeseen depths of nature did he draw the tough fibre of
such a resolution! To be alone with the pestilential dead at night--is
not that a test of imperial courage? To live for weeks braving swift
death itself--is not that the fierce and ungovernable flaring up of the
soul in heroism? For all the mockery and derision of his name, had it
not some fitness? For had he not a royal heart?


    V.

Nature soon smiles upon her own ravages and strews our graves with
flowers, not as memories, but for other flowers when the spring returns.

It was one cool, brilliant morning late in that autumn. The air
blew fresh and invigorating, as though on the earth there were no
corruption, no death. Far southward had flown the plague. A spectator
in the open court-square might have seen many signs of life returning
to the town. Students hurried along, talking eagerly. Merchants met for
the first time and spoke of the winter trade. An old negress, gayly
and neatly dressed, came into the market-place, and sitting down on a
sidewalk displayed her yellow and red apples and fragrant gingerbread.
She hummed to herself an old cradle-song, and in her soft, motherly
black eyes shone a mild, happy radiance. A group of young ragamuffins
eyed her longingly from a distance. Court was to open for the first
time since the spring. The hour was early, and one by one the lawyers
passed slowly in. On the steps of the court-house three men were
standing: Thomas Brown, the sheriff; old Peter Leuba, who had just
walked over from his music-store on Main Street; and little M. Giron,
the French confectioner. Each wore mourning on his hat, and their
voices were low and grave.

"Gentlemen," the sheriff was saying, "it was on this very spot the day
befoah the cholera broke out that I sole 'im as a vagrant. An' I did
the meanes' thing a man can evah do. I hel' 'im up to public ridicule
foh his weaknesses an' made spoht of 'is infirmities. I laughed at 'is
povahty an' 'is ole clo'es. I delivahed on 'im as complete an oration
of sarcastic detraction as I could prepare on the spot, out of my own
meanness an' with the vulgah sympathies of the crowd. Gentlemen, if
I only had that crowd heah now, an' ole King Sol'mon standin' in the
midst of it, that I might ask 'im to accept a humble public apology,
offahed from the heaht of one who feels himself unworthy to shake 'is
han'! But, gentlemen, that crowd will nevah reassemble. Neahly ev'ry
man of them is dead, an' ole King Sol'mon buried them."

"He buried my friend Adolphe Xaupi," said François Giron, touching his
eyes with his handkerchief.

"There is a case of my best Jamaica rum for him whenever he comes for
it," said old Leuba, clearing his throat.

"But, gentlemen, while we are speakin' of ole King Sol'mon we ought
not to fohget who it is that has supported 'im. Yondah she sits on the
sidewalk, sellin' 'er apples an' gingerbread."

The three men looked in the direction indicated.

"Heah comes ole King Sol'mon now," exclaimed the sheriff.

Across the open square the vagrant was seen walking slowly along with
his habitual air of quiet, unobtrusive preoccupation. A minute more and
he had come over and passed into the court-house by a side door.

"Is Mr. Clay to be in court to-day?"

"He is expected, I think."

"Then let's go in; there will be a crowd."

"I don't know; so many are dead."

They turned and entered and found seats as quietly as possible; for a
strange and sorrowful hush brooded over the court-room. Until the bar
assembled, it had not been realized how many were gone. The silence was
that of a common overwhelming disaster. No one spoke with his neighbor,
no one observed the vagrant as he entered and made his way to a seat
on one of the meanest benches, a little apart from the others. He had
not sat there since the day of his indictment for vagrancy. The judge
took his seat and, making a great effort to control himself, passed his
eyes slowly over the court-room. All at once he caught sight of old
King Solomon sitting against the wall in an obscure corner; and before
any one could know what he was doing, he hurried down and walked up to
the vagrant and grasped his hand. He tried to speak, but could not. Old
King Solomon had buried his wife and daughter--buried them one clouded
midnight, with no one present but himself.

Then the oldest member of the bar started up and followed the example;
and then the other members, rising by a common impulse, filed slowly
back and one by one wrung that hard and powerful hand. After them came
the other persons in the court-room. The vagrant, the grave-digger,
had risen and stood against the wall, at first with a white face and
a dazed expression, not knowing what it meant; afterwards, when he
understood it, his head dropped suddenly forward and his tears fell
thick and hot upon the hands that he could not see. And his were not
the only tears. Not a man in the long file but paid his tribute of
emotion as he stepped forward to honor that image of sadly eclipsed
but still effulgent humanity. It was not grief, it was not gratitude,
nor any sense of making reparation for the past. It was the softening
influence of an act of heroism, which makes every man feel himself a
brother hand in hand with every other--such power has a single act of
moral greatness to reverse the relations of men, lifting up one, and
bringing all others to do him homage.

It was the coronation scene in the life of old King Solomon of
Kentucky.



    TWO GENTLEMEN OF KENTUCKY.


    "The woods are hushed, their music is no more:
      The leaf is dead, the yearning passed away:
    New leaf, new life--the days of frost are o'er:
      New life, new love, to suit the newer day."


    THE WOODS ARE HUSHED.

It was near the middle of the afternoon of an autumnal day, on the
wide, grassy plateau of Central Kentucky.

The Eternal Power seemed to have quitted the universe and left all
nature folded in the calm of the Eternal Peace. Around the pale blue
dome of the heavens a few pearl-colored clouds hung motionless, as
though the wind had been withdrawn to other skies. Not a crimson leaf
floated downward through the soft, silvery light that filled the
atmosphere and created the sense of lonely, unimaginable spaces. This
light overhung the far-rolling landscape of field and meadow and wood,
crowning with faint radiance the remoter low-swelling hill-tops and
deepening into dreamy half-shadows on their eastern slopes. Nearer, it
fell in a white flake on an unstirred sheet of water which lay along
the edge of a mass of sombre-hued woodland, and nearer still it touched
to spring-like brilliancy a level, green meadow on the hither edge of
the water, where a group of Durham cattle stood with reversed flanks
near the gleaming trunks of some leafless sycamores. Still nearer,
it caught the top of the brown foliage of a little bent oaktree and
burned it into a silvery flame. It lit on the back and the wings of a
crow flying heavily in the path of its rays, and made his blackness as
white as the breast of a swan. In the immediate foreground, it sparkled
in minute gleams along the stalks of the coarse, dead weeds that fell
away from the legs and the flanks of a white horse, and slanted across
the face of the rider and through the ends of his gray hair, which
straggled from beneath his soft black hat.

The horse, old and patient and gentle, stood with low-stretched neck
and closed eyes half asleep in the faint glow of the waning heat; and
the rider, the sole human presence in all the field, sat looking across
the silent autumnal landscape, sunk in reverie. Both horse and rider
seemed but harmonious elements in the panorama of still-life, and
completed the picture of a closing scene.

To the man it was a closing scene. From the rank, fallow field through
which he had been riding he was now surveying, for the last time, the
many features of a landscape that had been familiar to him from the
beginning of memory. In the afternoon and the autumn of his age he was
about to rend the last ties that bound him to his former life, and,
like one who had survived his own destiny, turn his face towards a
future that was void of everything he held significant or dear.

The Civil War had only the year before reached its ever-memorable
close. From where he sat there was not a home in sight, as there was
not one beyond the reach of his vision, but had felt its influence.
Some of his neighbors had come home from its camps and prisons, aged
or altered as though by half a lifetime of years. The bones of some
lay whitening on its battle-fields. Families, reassembled around their
hearth-stones, spoke in low tones unceasingly of defeat and victory,
heroism and death. Suspicion and distrust and estrangement prevailed.
Former friends met each other on the turnpikes without speaking;
brothers avoided each other in the streets of the neighboring town.
The rich had grown poor; the poor had become rich. Many of the latter
were preparing to move West. The negroes were drifting blindly hither
and thither, deserting the country and flocking to the towns. Even the
once united church of his neighborhood was jarred by the unstrung and
discordant spirit of the times. At affecting passages in the sermons
men grew pale and set their teeth fiercely; women suddenly lowered
their black veils and rocked to and fro in their pews; for it is always
at the bar of Conscience and before the very altar of God that the
human heart is most wrung by a sense of its losses and the memory of
its wrongs. The war had divided the people of Kentucky as the false
mother would have severed the child.

It had not left the old man unscathed. His younger brother had fallen
early in the conflict, borne to the end of his brief warfare by his
impetuous valor; his aged mother had sunk under the tidings of the
death of her latest-born; his sister was estranged from him by his
political differences with her husband; his old family servants, men
and women, had left him, and grass and weeds had already grown over
the door-steps of the shut, noiseless cabins. Nay, the whole vast
social system of the old régime had fallen, and he was henceforth but a
useless fragment of the ruins.

All at once his mind turned from the cracked and smoky mirror of
the times and dwelt fondly upon the scenes of the past. The silent
fields around him seemed again alive with the negroes, singing as they
followed the ploughs down the corn-rows or swung the cradles through
the bearded wheat. Again, in a frenzy of merriment, the strains of the
old fiddles issued from crevices of cabin-doors to the rhythmic beat of
hands and feet that shook the rafters and the roof. Now he was sitting
on his porch, and one little negro was blacking his shoes, another
leading his saddle-horse to the stiles, a third bringing his hat, and
a fourth handing him a glass of ice-cold sangaree; or now he lay under
the locust-trees in his yard, falling asleep in the drowsy heat of the
summer afternoon, while one waved over him a bough of pungent walnut
leaves, until he lost consciousness and by-and-by awoke to find that
they both had fallen asleep side by side on the grass and that the
abandoned fly-brush lay full across his face.

From where he sat also were seen slopes on which picnics were danced
under the broad shade of maples and elms in June by those whom death
and war had scattered like the transitory leaves that once had
sheltered them. In this direction lay the district schoolhouse where on
Friday evenings there were wont to be speeches and debates; in that,
lay the blacksmith's shop where of old he and his neighbors had met
on horseback of Saturday afternoons to hear the news, get the mails,
discuss elections, and pitch quoits. In the valley beyond stood the
church at which all had assembled on calm Sunday mornings like the
members of one united family. Along with these scenes went many a
chastened reminiscence of bridal and funeral and simpler events that
had made up the annals of his country life.

The reader will have a clearer insight into the character and past
career of Colonel Romulus Fields by remembering that he represented a
fair type of that social order which had existed in rank perfection
over the blue-grass plains of Kentucky during the final decades of the
old régime. Perhaps of all agriculturists in the United States the
inhabitants of that region had spent the most nearly idyllic life, on
account of the beauty of the climate, the richness of the land, the
spacious comfort of their homes, the efficiency of their negroes, and
the characteristic contentedness of their dispositions. Thus nature and
history combined to make them a peculiar class, a cross between the
aristocratic and the bucolic, being as simple as shepherds and as proud
as kings, and not seldom exhibiting among both men and women types of
character which were as remarkable for pure, tender, noble states of
feeling as they were commonplace in powers and cultivation of mind.

It was upon this luxurious social growth that the war naturally fell
as a killing frost, and upon no single specimen with more blighting
power than upon Colonel Fields. For destiny had quarried and chiselled
him, to serve as an ornament in the barbaric temple of human bondage.
There _were_ ornaments in that temple, and he was one. A slave-holder
with Southern sympathies, a man educated not beyond the ideas of his
generation, convinced that slavery was an evil, yet seeing no present
way of removing it, he had of all things been a model master. As such
he had gone on record in Kentucky, and no doubt in a Higher Court;
and as such his efforts had been put forth to secure the passage
of many of those milder laws for which his State was distinguished.
Often, in those dark days, his face, anxious and sad, was to be seen
amid the throng that surrounded the blocks on which slaves were sold
at auction; and more than one poor wretch he had bought to save him
from separation from his family or from being sold into the Southern
plantations--afterwards riding far and near to find him a home on one
of the neighboring farms.

But all those days were over. He had but to place the whole picture of
the present beside the whole picture of the past to realize what the
contrast meant for him.

At length he gathered the bridle reins from the neck of his old horse
and turned his head homeward. As he rode slowly on, every spot gave
up its memories. He dismounted when he came to the cattle and walked
among them, stroking their soft flanks and feeling in the palm of his
hand the rasp of their salt-loving tongues; on his sideboard at home
was many a silver cup which told of premiums on cattle at the great
fairs. It was in this very pond that as a boy he had learned to swim on
a cherry rail. When he entered the woods, the sight of the walnut-trees
and the hickory-nut trees, loaded on the topmost branches, gave him a
sudden pang.

Beyond the woods he came upon the garden, which he had kept as his
mother had left it--an old-fashioned garden with an arbor in the
centre, covered with Isabella grape-vines on one side and Catawba on
the other; with walks branching thence in four directions, and along
them beds of jump-up-johnnies, sweet-williams, daffodils, sweet-peas,
larkspur, and thyme, flags and the sensitive-plant, celestial and
maiden's-blush roses. He stopped and looked over the fence at the very
spot where he had found his mother on the day when the news of the
battle came.

She had been kneeling, trowel in hand, driving away vigorously at the
loamy earth, and, as she saw him coming, had risen and turned towards
him her face with the ancient pink bloom on her clear cheeks and the
light of a pure, strong soul in her gentle eyes. Overcome by his
emotions, he had blindly faltered out the words, "Mother, John was
among the killed!" For a moment she had looked at him as though stunned
by a blow. Then a violent flush had overspread her features, and then
an ashen pallor; after which, with a sudden proud dilating of her
form as though with joy, she had sunk down like the tenderest of her
lily-stalks, cut from its root.

Beyond the garden he came to the empty cabin and the great wood-pile.
At this hour it used to be a scene of hilarious activity--the little
negroes sitting perched in chattering groups on the topmost logs or
playing leap-frog in the dust, while some picked up baskets of chips or
dragged a back-log into the cabins.

At last he drew near the wooden stiles and saw the large house of which
he was the solitary occupant. What darkened rooms and noiseless halls!
What beds, all ready, that nobody now came to sleep in, and cushioned
old chairs that nobody rocked! The house and the contents of its attic,
presses, and drawers could have told much of the history of Kentucky
from almost its beginning; for its foundations had been laid by his
father near the beginning of the century, and through its doors had
passed a long train of forms, from the veterans of the Revolution
to the soldiers of the Civil War. Old coats hung up in closets; old
dresses folded away in drawers; saddle-bags and buckskin-leggins;
hunting-jackets, powder-horns, and militiamen hats; looms and
knitting-needles; snuffboxes and reticules--what a treasure-house of
the past it was! And now the only thing that had the springs of life
within its bosom was the great, sweet-voiced clock, whose faithful face
had kept unchanged amid all the swift pageantry of changes.

He dismounted at the stiles and handed the reins to a gray-haired
negro, who had hobbled up to receive them with a smile and a gesture of
the deepest respect.

"Peter," he said, very simply, "I am going to sell the place and move
to town. I can't live here any longer."

With these words he passed through the yard-gate, walked slowly up the
broad pavement, and entered the house.


    MUSIC NO MORE.

On the disappearing form of the colonel was fixed an ancient pair of
eyes that looked out at him from behind a still more ancient pair of
silver-rimmed spectacles with an expression of indescribable solicitude
and love.

These eyes were set in the head of an old gentleman--for such he
was--named Peter Cotton, who was the only one of the colonel's
former slaves that had remained inseparable from his person and his
altered fortunes. In early manhood Peter had been a wood-chopper;
but he had one day had his leg broken by the limb of a falling tree,
and afterwards, out of consideration for his limp, had been made
supervisor of the wood-pile, gardener, and a sort of nondescript
servitor of his master's luxurious needs.

Nay, in larger and deeper characters must his history be writ, he
having been, in days gone by, one of those ministers of the gospel whom
conscientious Kentucky masters often urged to the exercise of spiritual
functions in behalf of their benighted people. In course of preparation
for this august work, Peter had learned to read and had come to
possess a well-chosen library of three several volumes--_Webster's
Spelling-Book_, _The Pilgrim's Progress_, and the Bible. But even these
unusual acquisitions he deemed not enough; for being touched with a
spark of poetic fire from heaven, and fired by the African's fondness
for all that is conspicuous in dress, he had conceived for himself
the creation of a unique garment which should symbolize in perfection
the claims and consolations of his apostolic office. This was nothing
less than a sacred blue-jeans coat that he had had his old mistress
make him, with very long and spacious tails, whereon, at his further
direction, she embroidered sundry texts of Scripture which it pleased
him to regard as the fit visible annunciations of his holy calling.
And inasmuch as his mistress, who had had the coat woven on her own
looms from the wool of her finest sheep, was, like other gentlewomen
of her time, rarely skilled in the accomplishments of the needle,
and was moreover in full sympathy with the piety of his intent, she
wrought of these passages a border enriched with such intricate curves,
marvellous flourishes, and harmonious letterings, that Solomon never
reflected the glory in which Peter was arrayed whenever he put it on.
For after much prayer that the Almighty wisdom would aid his reason
in the difficult task of selecting the most appropriate texts, Peter
had chosen seven--one for each day in the week--with such tact, and
no doubt heavenly guidance, that when braided together they did truly
constitute an eloquent epitome of Christian duty, hope, and pleading.

From first to last they were as follows: "Woe is unto me if I preach
not the gospel;" "Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters
according to the flesh;" "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are
heavy laden;" "Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they
toil not, neither do they spin;" "Now abideth faith, hope, and charity,
these three; but the greatest of these is charity;" "I would not have
you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep;"
"For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive."
This concatenation of texts Peter wished to have duly solemnized,
and therefore, when the work was finished, he further requested his
mistress to close the entire chain with the word "Amen," introduced in
some suitable place.

But the only spot now left vacant was one of a few square inches,
located just where the coat-tails hung over the end of Peter's spine;
so that when any one stood full in Peter's rear, he could but marvel at
the sight of so solemn a word emblazoned in so unusual a locality.

Panoplied in this robe of righteousness, and with a worn leathern Bible
in his hand, Peter used to go around of Sundays, and during the week,
by night, preaching from cabin to cabin the gospel of his heavenly
Master.

The angriest lightnings of the sultriest skies often played amid the
darkness upon those sacred coat-tails and around that girdle of
everlasting texts, as though the evil spirits of the air would fain
have burned them and scattered their ashes on the roaring winds. The
slow-sifting snows of winter whitened them as though to chill their
spiritual fires; but winter and summer, year after year, in weariness
of body, often in sore distress of mind, for miles along this lonely
road and for miles across that rugged way, Peter trudged on and on,
withal perhaps as meek a spirit as ever grew foot sore in the paths
of its Master. Many a poor overburdened slave took fresh heart and
strength from the sight of that celestial raiment; many a stubborn,
rebellious spirit, whose flesh but lately quivered under the lash, was
brought low by its humble teaching; many a worn-out old frame, racked
with pain in its last illness, pressed a fevered lip to its hopeful
hem; and many a dying eye closed in death peacefully fixed on its
immortal pledges.

When Peter started abroad, if a storm threatened, he carried an old
cotton umbrella of immense size; and as the storm burst, he gathered
the tails of his coat carefully up under his armpits that they might be
kept dry. Or if caught by a tempest without his umbrella, he would take
his coat off and roll it up inside out, leaving his body exposed to the
fury of the elements. No care, however, could keep it from growing old
and worn and faded; and when the slaves were set free and he was called
upon by the interposition of Providence to lay it finally aside, it was
covered by many a patch and stain as proofs of its devoted usage.

One after another the colonel's old servants, gathering their children
about them, had left him, to begin their new life. He bade them all a
kind good-bye, and into the palm of each silently pressed some gift
that he knew would soon be needed. But no inducement could make Peter
or Phillis, his wife, budge from their cabin. "Go, Peter! Go, Phillis!"
the colonel had said time and again. "No one is happier that you are
free than I am; and you can call on me for what you need to set you
up in business." But Peter and Phillis asked to stay with him. Then
suddenly, several months before the time at which this sketch opens,
Phillis had died, leaving the colonel and Peter as the only relics of
that populous life which had once filled the house and the cabins. The
colonel had succeeded in hiring a woman to do Phillis's work; but her
presence was a strange note of discord in the old domestic harmony, and
only saddened the recollections of its vanished peace.

Peter had a short, stout figure, dark-brown skin, smooth-shaven face,
eyes round, deep-set and wide apart, and a short, stub nose which
dipped suddenly into his head, making it easy for him to wear the
silver-rimmed spectacles left him by his old mistress. A peculiar
conformation of the muscles between the eyes and the nose gave him
the quizzical expression of one who is about to sneeze, and this was
heightened by a twinkle in the eyes which seemed caught from the
shining of an inner sun upon his tranquil heart.

Sometimes, however, his face grew sad enough. It was sad on this
afternoon while he watched the colonel walk slowly up the pavement,
well overgrown with weeds, and enter the house, which the setting sun
touched with the last radiance of the finished day.


    NEW LIFE.

About two years after the close of the war, therefore, the colonel and
Peter were to be found in Lexington, ready to turn over a new leaf in
the volumes of their lives, which already had an old-fashioned binding,
a somewhat musty odor, and but few unwritten leaves remaining.

After a long, dry summer you may have seen two gnarled old apple-trees,
that stood with interlocked arms on the western slope of some quiet
hill-side, make a melancholy show of blooming out again in the autumn
of the year and dallying with the idle buds that mock their sapless
branches. Much the same was the belated, fruitless efflorescence of the
colonel and Peter.

The colonel had no business habits, no political ambition, no wish to
grow richer. He was too old for society, and without near family ties.
For some time he wandered through the streets like one lost--sick with
yearning for the fields and woods, for his cattle, for familiar faces.
He haunted Cheapside and the court-house square, where the farmers
always assembled when they came to town; and if his eye lighted on
one, he would button-hole him on the street-corner and lead him into
a grocery and sit down for a quiet chat. Sometimes he would meet an
aimless, melancholy wanderer like himself, and the two would go off
and discuss over and over again their departed days; and several times
he came unexpectedly upon some of his old servants who had fallen into
bitter want, and who more than repaid him for the help he gave by
contrasting the hardships of a life of freedom with the ease of their
shackled years.

In the course of time, he could but observe that human life in the town
was reshaping itself slowly and painfully, but with resolute energy.
The colossal structure of slavery had fallen, scattering its ruins far
and wide over the State; but out of the very débris was being taken
the material to lay the deeper foundations of the new social edifice.
Men and women as old as he were beginning life over and trying to fit
themselves for it by changing the whole attitude and habit of their
minds--by taking on a new heart and spirit. But when a great building
falls, there is always some rubbish, and the colonel and others like
him were part of this. Henceforth they possessed only an antiquarian
sort of interest, like the stamped bricks of Nebuchadnezzar.

Nevertheless he made a show of doing something, and in a year or two
opened on Cheapside a store for the sale of hardware and agricultural
implements. He knew more about the latter than anything else; and,
furthermore, he secretly felt that a business of this kind would enable
him to establish in town a kind of headquarters for the farmers. His
account-books were to be kept on a system of twelve months' credit; and
he resolved that if one of his customers couldn't pay then, it would
make no difference.

Business began slowly. The farmers dropped in and found a good
lounging-place. On county-court days, which were great market-days for
the sale of sheep, horses, mules, and cattle in front of the colonel's
door, they swarmed in from the hot sun and sat around on the counter
and the ploughs and machines till the entrance was blocked to other
customers.

When a customer did come in, the colonel, who was probably talking with
some old acquaintance, would tell him just to look around and pick
out what he wanted and the price would be all right. If one of those
acquaintances asked for a pound of nails, the colonel would scoop up
some ten pounds and say, "I reckon that's about a pound, Tom." He had
never seen a pound of nails in his life; and if one had been weighed on
his scales, he would have said the scales were wrong.

He had no great idea of commercial despatch. One morning a lady came in
for some carpet-tacks, an article that he had forgotten to lay in. But
he at once sent off an order for enough to have tacked a carpet pretty
well all over Kentucky; and when they came, two weeks later, he told
Peter to take her up a dozen papers with his compliments. He had laid
in, however, an ample and especially fine assortment of pocket-knives,
for that instrument had always been to him one of gracious and very
winning qualities. Then when a friend dropped in he would say,
"General, don't you need a new pocket-knife?" and, taking out one,
would open all the blades and commend the metal and the handle. The
"general" would inquire the price, and the colonel, having shut the
blades, would hand it to him, saying in a careless, fond way, "I reckon
I won't charge you anything for that." His mind could not come down to
the low level of such ignoble barter, and he gave away the whole case
of knives.

These were the pleasanter aspects of his business life which did not
lack as well its tedium and crosses. Thus there were many dark stormy
days when no one he cared to see came in; and he then became rather a
pathetic figure, wandering absently around amid the symbols of his past
activity, and stroking the ploughs, like dumb companions. Or he would
stand at the door and look across at the old court-house, where he had
seen many a slave sold and had listened to the great Kentucky orators.

But what hurt him most was the talk of the new farming and the abuse of
the old which he was forced to hear; and he generally refused to handle
the improved implements and mechanical devices by which labor and waste
were to be saved.

Altogether he grew tired of "the thing," and sold out at the end of the
year with a loss of over a thousand dollars, though he insisted he had
done a good business.

As he was then seen much on the streets again and several times heard
to make remarks in regard to the sidewalks, gutters, and crossings,
when they happened to be in bad condition, the _Daily Press_ one
morning published a card stating that if Colonel Romulus Fields would
consent to make the race for mayor he would receive the support of many
Democrats, adding a tribute to his virtues and his influential past. It
touched the colonel, and he walked down-town with a rather commanding
figure the next morning. But it pained him to see how many of his
acquaintances returned his salutations very coldly; and just as he was
passing the Northern Bank he met the young opposition candidate--a
little red-haired fellow, walking between two ladies, with a rose-bud
in his button-hole--who refused to speak at all, but made the ladies
laugh by some remark he uttered as the colonel passed. The card had
been inserted humorously, but he took it seriously; and when his
friends found this out, they rallied round him. The day of election
drew near. They told him he must buy votes. He said he wouldn't buy
a vote to be mayor of the New Jerusalem. They told him he must "mix"
and "treat." He refused. Foreseeing he had no chance, they besought
him to withdraw. He said he would not. They told him he wouldn't poll
twenty votes. He replied that _one_ would satisfy him, provided it was
neither begged nor bought. When his defeat was announced, he accepted
it as another evidence that he had no part in the present--no chance of
redeeming his idleness.

A sense of this weighed heavily on him at times; but it is not likely
that he realized how pitifully he was undergoing a moral shrinkage
in consequence of mere disuse. Actually, extinction had set in with
him long prior to dissolution, and he was dead years before his heart
ceased beating. The very basic virtues on which had rested his once
spacious and stately character were now but the mouldy corner-stones of
a crumbling ruin.

It was a subtle evidence of deterioration in manliness that he had
taken to dress. When he had lived in the country, he had never dressed
up unless he came to town. When he had moved to town, he thought he
must remain dressed up all the time; and this fact first fixed his
attention on a matter which afterwards began to be loved for its
own sake. Usually he wore a Derby hat, a black diagonal coat, gray
trousers, and a white necktie. But the article of attire in which he
took chief pleasure was hose; and the better to show the gay colors of
these, he wore low-cut shoes of the finest calf-skin, turned up at the
toes. Thus his feet kept pace with the present, however far his head
may have lagged in the past; and it may be that this stream of fresh
fashions, flowing perennially over his lower extremities like water
about the roots of a tree, kept him from drying up altogether.

Peter always polished his shoes with too much blacking, perhaps
thinking that the more the blacking the greater the proof of love. He
wore his clothes about a season and a half--having several suits--and
then passed them on to Peter, who, foreseeing the joy of such an
inheritance, bought no new ones. In the act of transferring them the
colonel made no comment until he came to the hose, from which he seemed
unable to part without a final tribute of esteem, as: "These are fine,
Peter;" or, "Peter, these are nearly as good as new." Thus Peter, too,
was dragged through the whims of fashion. To have seen the colonel
walking about his grounds and garden followed by Peter, just a year and
a half behind in dress and a yard and a half behind in space, one might
well have taken the rear figure for the colonel's double, slightly the
worse for wear, somewhat shrunken, and cast into a heavy shadow.

Time hung so heavily on his hands at night that with a happy
inspiration he added a dress suit to his wardrobe, and accepted the
first invitation to an evening party.

He grew excited as the hour approached, and dressed in a great fidget
for fear he should be too late.

"How do I look, Peter?" he inquired at length, surprised at his own
appearance.

"Splendid, Marse Rom," replied Peter, bringing in the shoes with more
blacking on them than ever before.

"I think," said the colonel, apologetically--"I think I'd look better
if I'd put a little powder on. I don't know what makes me so red in the
face."

But his heart began to sink before he reached his hostess's, and
he had a fearful sense of being the observed of all observers as he
slipped through the hall and passed rapidly up to the gentlemen's room.
He stayed there after the others had gone down, bewildered and lonely,
dreading to go down himself. By-and-by the musicians struck up a waltz,
and with a little cracked laugh at his own performance he cut a few
shines of an unremembered pattern; but his ankles snapped audibly, and
he suddenly stopped with the thought of what Peter would say if he
should catch him at these antics. Then he boldly went down-stairs.

He had touched the new human life around him at various points: as he
now stretched out his arms towards its society, for the first time he
completely realized how far removed it was from him. Here he saw a
younger generation--the flowers of the new social order--sprung from
the very soil of fraternal battle-fields, but blooming together as
the emblems of oblivious peace. He saw fathers, who had fought madly
on opposite sides, talking quietly in corners as they watched their
children dancing, or heard them toasting their old generals and their
campaigns over their champagne in the supper-room. He was glad of it;
but it made him feel, at the same time, that, instead of treading
the velvety floors, he ought to step up and take his place among the
canvases of old-time portraits that looked down from the walls.

The dancing he had done had been not under the blinding glare of
gaslight, but by the glimmer of tallow-dips and star-candles and the
ruddy glow of cavernous firesides--not to the accompaniment of an
orchestra of wind-instruments and strings, but to a chorus of girls'
sweet voices, as they trod simpler measures, or to the maddening sway
of a gray-haired negro fiddler standing on a chair in the chimney
corner. Still, it is significant to note that his saddest thought, long
after leaving, was that his shirt bosom had not lain down smooth, but
stuck out like a huge cracked egg-shell; and that when, in imitation of
the others, he had laid his white silk handkerchief across his bosom
inside his vest, it had slipped out during the evening, and had been
found by him, on confronting a mirror, flapping over his stomach like a
little white masonic apron.

"Did you have a nice time, Marse Rom?" inquired Peter, as they drove
home through the darkness.

"Splendid time, Peter, splendid time," replied the colonel, nervously.

"Did you dance any, Marse Rom?"

"I didn't _dance_. Oh, I _could_ have danced if I'd _wanted_ to; but I
didn't."

Peter helped the colonel out of the carriage with pitying gentleness
when they reached home. It was the first and only party.

Peter also had been finding out that his occupation was gone.

Soon after moving to town, he had tendered his pastoral services
to one of the fashionable churches of the city--not because it was
fashionable, but because it was made up of his brethren. In reply
he was invited to preach a trial sermon, which he did with gracious
unction.

It was a strange scene, as one calm Sunday morning he stood on the edge
of the pulpit, dressed in a suit of the colonel's old clothes, with one
hand in his trousers-pocket, and his lame leg set a little forward at
an angle familiar to those who know the statues of Henry Clay.

How self-possessed he seemed, yet with what a rush of memories did
he pass his eyes slowly over that vast assemblage of his emancipated
people! With what feelings must he have contrasted those silk hats,
and walking-canes, and broadcloths; those gloves and satins, laces
and feathers, jewelry and fans--that whole many-colored panorama of
life--with the weary, sad, and sullen audiences that had often heard
him of old under the forest trees or by the banks of some turbulent
stream!

In a voice husky, but heard beyond the flirtation of the uttermost pew,
he took his text: "Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow;
they toil not, neither do they spin." From this he tried to preach a
new sermon, suited to the newer day. But several times the thoughts of
the past were too much for him, and he broke down with emotion.

The next day a grave committee waited on him and reported that the
sense of the congregation was to call a colored gentleman from
Louisville. Private objections to Peter were that he had a broken leg,
wore Colonel Fields's second-hand clothes, which were too big for him,
preached in the old-fashioned way, and lacked self-control and repose
of manner.

Peter accepted his rebuff as sweetly as Socrates might have done.
Humming the burden of an old hymn, he took his righteous coat from a
nail in the wall and folded it away in a little brass-nailed deer-skin
trunk, laying over it the spelling-book and the _Pilgrim's Progress_,
which he had ceased to read. Thenceforth his relations to his people
were never intimate, and even from the other servants of the colonel's
household he stood apart. But the colonel took Peter's rejection
greatly to heart, and the next morning gave him the new silk socks
he had worn at the party. In paying his servants the colonel would
sometimes say, "Peter, I reckon I'd better begin to pay you a salary;
that's the style now." But Peter would turn off, saying he didn't "have
no use fur no salary."

Thus both of them dropped more and more out of life, but as they did
so drew more and more closely to each other. The colonel had bought
a home on the edge of the town, with some ten acres of beautiful
ground surrounding. A high osage-orange hedge shut it in, and forest
trees, chiefly maples and elms, gave to the lawn and house abundant
shade. Wild-grape vines, the Virginia-creeper, and the climbing-oak
swung their long festoons from summit to summit, while honeysuckles,
clematis, and the Mexican-vine clambered over arbors and trellises, or
along the chipped stone of the low, old-fashioned house. Just outside
the door of the colonel's bedroom slept an ancient, broken sundial.

The place seemed always in half-shadow, with hedgerows of box, clumps
of dark holly, darker firs half a century old, and aged, crape-like
cedars.

It was in the seclusion of this retreat, which looked almost like a
wild bit of country set down on the edge of the town, that the colonel
and Peter spent more of their time as they fell farther in the rear
of onward events. There were no such flower-gardens in the city, and
pretty much the whole town went thither for its flowers, preferring
them to those that were to be had for a price at the nurseries.

There was, perhaps, a suggestion of pathetic humor in the fact that
it should have called on the colonel and Peter, themselves so nearly
defunct, to furnish the flowers for so many funerals; but, it is
certain, almost weekly the two old gentlemen received this chastening
admonition of their all-but-spent mortality. The colonel cultivated
the rarest fruits also, and had under glass varieties that were not
friendly to the climate; so that by means of the fruits and flowers
there was established a pleasant social bond with many who otherwise
would never have sought them out.

But others came for better reasons. To a few deep-seeing eyes the
colonel and Peter were ruined landmarks on a fading historic landscape,
and their devoted friendship was the last steady burning-down of that
pure flame of love which can never again shine out in the future of
the two races. Hence a softened charm invested the drowsy quietude of
that shadowy paradise in which the old master without a slave and the
old slave without a master still kept up a brave pantomime of their
obsolete relations. No one ever saw in their intercourse ought but
the finest courtesy, the most delicate consideration. The very tones
of their voices in addressing each other were as good as sermons on
gentleness, their antiquated playfulness as melodious as the babble of
distant water. To be near them was to be exorcised of evil passions.

The sun of their day had indeed long since set; but like twin clouds
lifted high and motionless into some far quarter of the gray twilight
skies, they were still radiant with the glow of the invisible orb.

Henceforth the colonel's appearances in public were few and regular.
He went to church on Sundays, where he sat on the edge of the choir
in the centre of the building, and sang an ancient bass of his own
improvisation to the older hymns, and glanced furtively around to
see whether any one noticed that he could not sing the new ones. At
the Sunday-school picnics the committee of arrangements allowed him
to carve the mutton, and after dinner to swing the smallest children
gently beneath the trees. He was seen on Commencement Day at Morrison
Chapel, where he always gave his bouquet to the valedictorian. It was
the speech of that young gentleman that always touched him, consisting
as it did of farewells.

In the autumn he might sometimes be noticed sitting high up in the
amphitheatre at the fair, a little blue around the nose, and looking
absently over into the ring where the judges were grouped around the
music-stand. Once he had strutted around as a judge himself, with a
blue ribbon in his button-hole, while the band played "Sweet Alice,
Ben Bolt," and "Gentle Annie." The ring seemed full of young men now,
and no one even thought of offering him the privileges of the grounds.
In his day the great feature of the exhibition had been cattle; now
everything was turned into a horse-show. He was always glad to get home
again to Peter, his true yoke-fellow. For just as two old oxen--one
white and one black--that have long toiled under the same yoke will,
when turned out to graze at last in the widest pasture, come and put
themselves horn to horn and flank to flank, so the colonel and Peter
were never so happy as when ruminating side by side.


    NEW LOVE.

In their eventless life the slightest incident acquired the importance
of a history. Thus, one day in June, Peter discovered a young couple
love-making in the shrubbery, and with the deepest agitation reported
the fact to the colonel.

Never before, probably, had the fluttering of the dear god's wings
brought more dismay than to these ancient involuntary guardsmen of
his hiding-place. The colonel was at first for breaking up what he
considered a piece of underhand proceedings, but Peter reasoned stoutly
that if the pair were driven out they would simply go to some other
retreat; and without getting the approval of his conscience to this
view, the colonel contented himself with merely repeating that they
ought to go straight and tell the girl's parents. Those parents lived
just across the street outside his grounds. The young lady he knew very
well himself, having a few years before given her the privilege of
making herself at home among his flowers. It certainly looked hard to
drive her out now, just when she was making the best possible use of
his kindness and her opportunity. Moreover, Peter walked down street
and ascertained that the young fellow was an energetic farmer living a
few miles from town, and son of one of the colonel's former friends; on
both of which accounts the latter's heart went out to him. So when, a
few days later, the colonel, followed by Peter, crept up breathlessly
and peeped through the bushes at the pair strolling along the shady
perfumed walks, and so plainly happy in that happiness which comes but
once in a lifetime, they not only abandoned the idea of betraying the
secret, but afterwards kept away from that part of the grounds, lest
they should be an interruption.

"Peter," stammered the colonel, who had been trying to get the words
out for three days, "do you suppose he has already--_asked_ her?"

"Some's pow'ful quick on de trigger, en some's mighty slow," replied
Peter, neutrally. "En some," he added, exhaustively, "don't use de
trigger 't all!"

"I always thought there had to be asking done by _somebody_," remarked
the colonel, a little vaguely.

"I nuver axed Phillis!" exclaimed Peter, with a certain air of triumph.

"Did Phillis ask _you_, Peter?" inquired the colonel, blushing and
confidential.

"No, no, Marse Rom! I couldn't er stood dat from no 'oman!" replied
Peter, laughing and shaking his head.

The colonel was sitting on the stone steps in front of the house, and
Peter stood below, leaning against a Corinthian column, hat in hand, as
he went on to tell his love-story.

"Hit all happ'n dis way, Marse Rom. We wuz gwine have pra'r-meetin',
en I 'lowed to walk home wid Phillis en ax 'er on de road. I been
'lowin' to ax 'er heap o' times befo', but I ain' jes nuver done so.
So I says to myse'f, says I, 'I jes mek my sermon to-night kiner lead
up to whut I gwine tell Phillis on de road home.' So I tuk my tex'
from de _lef'_ tail o' my coat: 'De greates' o' dese is charity;' caze
I knowed charity wuz same ez love. En all de time I wuz preachin' an'
glorifyin' charity en identifyin' charity wid love, I couldn' he'p
thinkin' 'bout what I gwine say to Phillis on de road home. Dat mek me
feel better; en de better I _feel_, de better I _preach_, so hit boun'
to mek my _heahehs_ feel better likewise--Phillis 'mong um. So Phillis
she jes sot dah listenin' en listenin' en lookin' like we wuz a'ready
on de road home, till I got so wuked up in my feelin's I jes knowed de
time wuz come. By-en-by, I had n' mo' 'n done preachin' en wuz lookin'
roun' to git my Bible en my hat, 'fo' up popped dat big Charity Green,
who been settin' 'longside o' Phillis en tekin' ev'y las' thing I said
to _her_se'f. En she tuk hole o' my han' en squeeze it, en say she felt
mos' like shoutin'. En 'fo' I knowed it, I jes see Phillis wrap 'er
shawl roun' 'er head en tu'n 'er nose up at me right quick en flip out
de dooh. De dogs howl mighty mou'nful when I walk home by myse'f _dat_
night," added Peter, laughing to himself, "en I ain' preach dat sermon
no mo' tell atter me en Phillis wuz married.

"Hit wuz long time," he continued, "'fo' Phillis come to heah me preach
any mo'. But 'long 'bout de nex' fall we had big meetin', en heap
mo' um j'ined. But Phillis, she ain't nuver j'ined yit. I preached
mighty nigh all roun' my coat-tails till I say to myse'f, D' ain't but
one tex' lef', en I jes got to fetch 'er wid dat! De tex' wuz on de
_right_ tail o' my coat: 'Come unto me, all ye dat labor en is heavy
laden.' Hit wuz a ve'y momentous sermon, en all 'long I jes see Phillis
wras'lin' wid 'erse'f, en I say, 'She _got_ to come _dis_ night, de
Lohd he'pin' me.' En I had n' mo' 'n said de word, 'fo' she jes walked
down en guv me 'er han'.

"Den we had de baptizin' in Elkhorn Creek, en de watter wuz deep en
de curren' tol'ble swif'. Hit look to me like dere wuz five hundred
uv um on de creek side. By-en-by I stood on de edge o' de watter, en
Phillis she come down to let me baptize 'er. En me en 'er j'ined han's
en waded out in the creek, mighty slow, caze Phillis didn' have no shot
roun' de bottom uv 'er dress, en it kep' bobbin' on top de watter till
I pushed it down. But by-en-by we got 'way out in de creek, en bof uv
us wuz tremblin'. En I says to 'er ve'y kin'ly, 'When I put you un'er
de watter, Phillis, you mus' try en hole yo'se'f stiff, so I can lif'
you up easy.' But I hadn't mo' 'n jes got 'er laid back over de watter
ready to souze 'er un'er when 'er feet flew up off de bottom uv de
creek, en when I retched out to fetch 'er up, I stepped in a hole; en
'fo' I knowed it, we wuz flounderin' roun' in de watter, en de hymn
dey was singin' on de bank sounded mighty confused-like. En Phillis
she swallowed some watter, en all 't oncet she jes grap me right tight
roun' de neck, en say mighty quick, says she, 'I gwine marry whoever
gits me out'n dis yere watter!'

"En by-en-by, when me en 'er wuz walkin' up de bank o' de creek,
drippin' all over, I says to 'er, says I:

"'Does you 'member what you said back yon'er in de watter, Phillis?'

"'I ain' out'n no watter yit,' says she, ve'y contemptuous.

"'When does, you consider yo'se'f out'n de watter?' says I, ve'y humble.

"'When I git dese soakin' clo'es off'n my back,' says she.

"Hit wuz good dark when we got home, en atter a while I crope up to
de dooh o' Phillis's cabin en put my eye down to de key-hole, en see
Phillis jes settin' 'fo' dem blazin' walnut logs dressed up in 'er new
red linsey dress, en 'er eyes shinin'. En I shuk so I 'mos' faint. Den
I tap easy on de dooh, en say in a mighty tremblin' tone, says I:

"'Is you out'n de watter yit, Phillis?'

"'I got on dry dress,' says she.

"'Does you 'member what you said back yon'er in de watter, Phillis?'
says I.

"'De latch-string on de outside de dooh,' says she, mighty sof'.

"En I walked in."

As Peter drew near the end of this reminiscence, his voice sank to a
key of inimitable tenderness; and when it was ended he stood a few
minutes, scraping the gravel with the toe of his boot, his head dropped
forward. Then he added, huskily:

"Phillis been dead heap o' years now;" and turned away.

This recalling of the scenes of a time long gone by may have awakened
in the breast of the colonel some gentle memory; for after Peter was
gone he continued to sit a while in silent musing. Then getting up, he
walked in the falling twilight across the yard and through the gardens
until he came to a secluded spot in the most distant corner. There he
stooped or rather knelt down and passed his hands, as though with mute
benediction, over a little bed of old-fashioned China pinks. When he
had moved in from the country he had brought nothing away from his
mother's garden but these, and in all the years since no one had ever
pulled them, as Peter well knew; for one day the colonel had said, with
his face turned away:

"Let them have all the flowers they want; but leave the pinks."

He continued kneeling over them now, touching them softly with his
fingers, as though they were the fragrant, never-changing symbols of
voiceless communion with his past. Still it may have been only the
early dew of the evening that glistened on them when he rose and slowly
walked away, leaving the pale moonbeams to haunt the spot.

Certainly after this day he showed increasing concern in the young
lovers who were holding clandestine meetings in his grounds.

"Peter," he would say, "why, if they love each other, don't they get
married? Something may happen."

"I been spectin' some'n' to happ'n fur some time, ez dey been quar'lin'
right smart lately," replied Peter, laughing.

Whether or not he was justified in this prediction, before the end
of another week the colonel read a notice of their elopement and
marriage; and several days later he came up from down-town and told
Peter that everything had been forgiven the young pair, who had gone
to house-keeping in the country. It gave him pleasure to think he had
helped to perpetuate the race of blue-grass farmers.


    THE YEARNING PASSED AWAY.

It was in the twilight of a late autumn day in the same year that
nature gave the colonel the first direct intimation to prepare for the
last summons. They had been passing along the garden walks, where a few
pale flowers were trying to flourish up to the very winter's edge, and
where the dry leaves had gathered unswept and rustled beneath their
feet. All at once the colonel turned to Peter, who was a yard and a
half behind, as usual, and said:

"Give me your arm, Peter, I feel tired;" and thus the two, for the
first time in all their lifetime walking abreast, passed slowly on.

"Peter," said the colonel, gravely, a minute or two later, "we are
like two dried-up stalks of fodder. I wonder the Lord lets us live any
longer."

"I reck'n He's managin' to use us _some_ way, or we wouldn' be heah,"
said Peter.

"Well, all I have to say is, that if He's using me, He can't be in much
of a hurry for his work," replied the colonel.

"He uses snails, en I _know_ we ain' ez slow ez _dem_," argued Peter,
composedly.

"I don't know. I think a snail must have made more progress since the
war than I have."

The idea of his uselessness seemed to weigh on him, for a little later
he remarked, with a sort of mortified smile:

"Do you think, Peter, that we would pass for what they call
representative men of the New South?"

"We done _had_ ou' day, Marse Rom," replied Peter. "We got to pass fur
what we _wuz_. Mebbe de _Lohd's_ got mo' use fur us yit 'n _people_
has," he added, after a pause.

From this time on the colonel's strength gradually failed him; but it
was not until the following spring that the end came.

A night or two before his death his mind wandered backward, after the
familiar manner of the dying, and his delirious dreams showed the
shifting, faded pictures that renewed themselves for the last time on
his wasting memory. It must have been that he was once more amid the
scenes of his active farm life, for his broken snatches of talk ran
thus:

"Come, boys, get your cradles! Look where the sun is! You are late
getting to work this morning. That is the finest field of wheat in the
county. Be careful about the bundles! Make them the same size and tie
them tight. That swath is too wide, and you don't hold your cradle
right, Tom....

"Sell _Peter_! _Sell Peter Cotton!_ No, sir! You might buy _me_ some
day and work _me_ in your cotton-field; but as long as he's mine, you
can't buy Peter, and you can't buy any of _my_ negroes....

"Boys! boys! If you don't work faster, you won't finish this field
to-day.... You'd better go in the shade and rest now. The sun's very
hot. Don't drink too much ice-water. There's a jug of whisky in the
fence-corner. Give them a good dram around, and tell them to work slow
till the sun gets lower."...

Once during the night a sweet smile played over his features as he
repeated a few words that were part of an old rustic song and dance.
Arranged, not as they came broken and incoherent from his lips, but as
he once had sung them, they were as follows:

    "O Sister Phœbe! How merry were we
    When we sat under the juniper-tree,
          The juniper-tree, heigho!
    Put this hat on your head! Keep your head warm;
    Take a sweet kiss! It will do you no harm,
          Do you no harm, I know!"

After this he sank into a quieter sleep, but soon stirred with a look
of intense pain.

"Helen! Helen!" he murmured. "Will you break your promise? Have you
changed in your feelings towards me? I have brought you the pinks.
Won't you take the pinks, Helen?"

Then he sighed as he added, "It wasn't her fault. If she had only
known--"

Who was the Helen of that far-away time? Was this the colonel's
love-story?

But during all the night, whithersoever his mind wandered, at intervals
it returned to the burden of a single strain--the harvesting. Towards
daybreak he took it up again for the last time:

"O boys, boys, _boys_! If you don't work faster you won't finish the
field to-day. Look how low the sun is!... I am going to the house. They
can't finish the field to-day. Let them do what they can, but don't let
them work late. I want Peter to go to the house with me. Tell him to
come on."...

In the faint gray of the morning, Peter, who had been watching by the
bedside all night, stole out of the room, and going into the garden
pulled a handful of pinks--a thing he had never done before--and,
re-entering the colonel's bedroom, put them in a vase near his sleeping
face. Soon afterwards the colonel opened his eyes and looked around
him. At the foot of the bed stood Peter, and on one side sat the
physician and a friend. The night-lamp burned low, and through the
folds of the curtains came the white light of early day.

"Put out the lamp and open the curtains," he said, feebly. "It's day."
When they had drawn the curtains aside, his eyes fell on the pinks,
sweet and fresh with the dew on them. He stretched out his hand and
touched them caressingly, and his eyes sought Peter's with a look of
grateful understanding.

"I want to be alone with Peter for a while," he said, turning his face
towards the others.

When they were left alone, it was some minutes before anything was
said. Peter, not knowing what he did, but knowing what was coming, had
gone to the window and hid himself behind the curtains, drawing them
tightly around his form as though to shroud himself from sorrow.

At length the colonel said, "Come here!"

Peter, almost staggering forward, fell at the foot of the bed, and,
clasping the colonel's feet with one arm, pressed his cheek against
them.

"Come closer!"

Peter crept on his knees and buried his head on the colonel's thigh.

"Come up here--_closer_;" and putting one arm around Peter's neck he
laid the other hand softly on his head, and looked long and tenderly
into his eyes. "I've got to leave you, Peter. Don't you feel sorry for
me?"

"Oh, Marse Rom!" cried Peter, hiding his face, his whole form shaken by
sobs.

"Peter," added, the colonel with ineffable gentleness, "if I had served
my Master as faithfully as you have served yours, I should not feel
ashamed to stand in his presence."

"If my Marseter is ez mussiful to me ez you have been--"

"I have fixed things so that you will be comfortable after I am gone.
When your time comes, I should like you to be laid close to me. We can
take the long sleep together. Are you willing?"

"That's whar I want to be laid."

The colonel stretched out his hand to the vase, and taking the bunch of
pinks, said very calmly:

"Leave these in my hand; I'll carry them with me." A moment more, and
he added:

"If I shouldn't wake up any more, good-bye, Peter!"

"Good-bye, Marse Rom!"

And they shook hands a long time. After this the colonel lay back
on the pillows. His soft, silvery hair contrasted strongly with his
child-like, unspoiled, open face. To the day of his death, as is apt to
be true of those who have lived pure lives but never married, he had a
boyish strain in him--a softness of nature, showing itself even now in
the gentle expression of his mouth. His brown eyes had in them the same
boyish look when, just as he was falling asleep, he scarcely opened
them to say:

"Pray, Peter."

Peter, on his knees, and looking across the colonel's face towards the
open door, through which the rays of the rising sun streamed in upon
his hoary head, prayed, while the colonel fell asleep, adding a few
words for himself now left alone.

Several hours later, memory led the colonel back again through the dim
gate-way of the past, and out of that gate-way his spirit finally took
flight into the future.

Peter lingered a year. The place went to the colonel's sister, but he
was allowed to remain in his quarters. With much thinking of the past,
his mind fell into a lightness and a weakness. Sometimes he would be
heard crooning the burden of old hymns, or sometimes seen sitting
beside the old brass-nailed trunk, fumbling with the spelling-book and
_The Pilgrim's Progress_. Often, too, he walked out to the cemetery on
the edge of the town, and each time could hardly find the colonel's
grave amid the multitude of the dead.

One gusty day in spring, the Scotch sexton, busy with the blades of
blue-grass springing from the animated mould, saw his familiar figure
standing motionless beside the colonel's resting-place. He had taken
off his hat --one of the colonel's last bequests--and laid it on the
colonel's head-stone. On his body he wore a strange coat of faded
blue, patched and weather-stained, and so moth-eaten that parts of the
curious tails had dropped entirely away. In one hand he held an open
Bible, and on a much-soiled page he was pointing with his finger to the
following words:

"I would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are
asleep."

It would seem that, impelled by love and faith, and guided by his
wandering reason, he had come forth to preach his last sermon on the
immortality of the soul over the dust of his dead master.

The sexton led him home, and soon afterwards a friend, who had loved
them both, laid him beside the colonel.

It was perhaps fitting that his winding-sheet should be the vestment in
which, years agone, he had preached to his fellow-slaves in bondage;
for if it so be that the dead of this planet shall come forth from
their graves clad in the trappings of mortality, then Peter should
arise on the Resurrection Day wearing his old jeans coat.



    THE WHITE COWL.


    I.

In a shadowy solitary valley of Southern Kentucky and beside a
noiseless stream there stands to-day a great French abbey of
white-cowled Trappist monks. It is the loneliest of human habitations.
Though not a ruin, an atmosphere of gray antiquity hangs about and
forever haunts it. The pale-gleaming cross on the spire looks as though
it would fall to the earth, weary of its aged unchangeableness. The
long Gothic windows; the rudely carven wooden crucifixes, suggesting
the very infancy of holy art; the partly encompassing wall, seemingly
built to resist a siege; the iron gate of the porter's lodge, locked
against profane intrusion--all are the voiceless but eloquent emblems
of a past that still enchains the memory by its associations as it once
enthralled the reason by its power.

Over the placid stream and across the fields to the woody crests around
float only the sounds of the same sweet monastery bells that in the
quiet evening air ages ago summoned a ruder world to nightly rest
and pious thoughts of heaven. Within the abbey at midnight are heard
the voices of monks chanting the self-same masses that ages ago were
sung by others, who all night long from icy chapel floors lifted up
piteous hands with intercession for poor souls suffering in purgatory.
One almost expects to see coming along the dusty Kentucky road which
winds through the valley meek brown palmers returning from the Holy
Sepulchre, or through an upper window of the abbey to descry lance and
visor and battle-axe flashing in the sunlight as they wind up a distant
hill-side to the storming of some perilous citadel.

Ineffable influences, too, seem to bless the spot. Here, forsooth, some
saint, retiring to the wilderness to subdue the devil in his flesh,
lived and struggled and suffered and died, leaving his life as an
heroic pattern for others who in the same hard way should wish to win
the fullest grace of Christlike character. Perhaps even one of the old
monks, long since halting towards the close of his pilgrimage, will
reverently lead you down the aisle to the dim sepulchre of some martyr,
whose relics repose under the altar while his virtues perpetually
exhale heavenward like gracious incense.

The beauty of the region, and especially of the grounds surrounding
the abbey, thus seems but a touching mockery. What have these
inward-gazing, heavenward-gazing souls to do with the loveliness of
Nature, with change of season, or flight of years, with green pastures
and waving harvest-fields outside the wall, with flowers and orchards
and vineyards within?

It was in a remote corner of the beautiful gardens of the monastery
that a young monk, Father Palemon, was humbly at work one morning some
years ago amid the lettuces and onions and fast-growing potatoes.
The sun smote the earth with the fierce heat of departing June; and
pausing to wipe the thick bead of perspiration from his forehead, he
rested a moment, breathing heavily. His powerful legs were astride a
row of the succulent shoots, and his hands clasped the handle of the
hoe that gave him a staff-like support in front. He was dressed in the
sacred garb of his order. His heavy sabots crushed the clods in the
furrows. His cream-colored serge cowl, the long skirt of which would
have touched the ground, had been folded up to his knees and tied with
hempen cords. The wide sleeves, falling away, showed up to the elbows
the superb muscles of his bronzed arms; and the calotte, pushed far
back from his head, revealed the outlines of his neck, full, round,
like a column. Nearly a month had passed since the convent barber had
sheared his poll, and his yellow hair was just beginning to enrich his
temples with a fillet of thick curling locks. Had Father Palemon's
hair been permitted to grow, it would have fallen down on each side
in masses shining like flax and making the ideal head of a saint. But
his face was not the face of a saint. It had in it no touch of the
saint's agony--none of those fine subtle lines that are the material
net-work of intense spirituality brooding within. Scant vegetarian diet
and the deep shadows of cloistral life had preserved in his complexion
the delicate hues of youth, noticeable still beneath the tan of recent
exposure to the summer sun. His calm, steady blue eyes, also, had the
open look peculiar to self-unconscious childhood; so that as he stood
thus, tall, sinewy, supple, grave, bareheaded under the open sky,
clad in spotless white, a singular union of strength, manliness, and
unawakened innocence, he was a figure startling to come upon.

As he rested, he looked down and discovered that the hempen cords
fastening the hem of his cowl were becoming untied, and walking to the
border of grass which ran round the garden just inside the monastery
wall, he sat down to secure the loosened threads. He was very tired.
He had come forth to work before the first gray of dawn. His lips
were parched with thirst. Save the little cup of cider and a slice of
black bread with which he had broken his fast after matins, he had not
tasted food since the frugal meal of the previous noon. Both weary
and faint, therefore, he had hardly sat down before, in the weakness
of his flesh, a sudden powerful impulse came upon him to indulge in a
moment's repose. His fingers fell away from the untied cords, his body
sank backward against the trunk of the gnarled apple-tree by which he
was shaded, and closing his eyes, he drank in eagerly all the sweet
influences of the perfect day.

For Nature was in an ecstasy. The sunlight never fell more joyous
upon the unlifting shadows of human life. The breeze that cooled his
sweating face was heavy with the odor of the wonderful monastery roses.
In the dark green canopy overhead two piping flame-colored orioles
drained the last bright dew-drop from the chalice of a leaf. All the
liquid air was slumbrous with the minute music of insect life, and from
the honeysuckles clambering over the wall at his back came the murmur
of the happy, happy bees.

But what power have hunger and thirst and momentary weariness over
the young? Father Palemon was himself part of the pure and beautiful
nature around him. His heart was like some great secluded crimson
flower that is ready to burst open in a passionate seeking of the sun.
As he sat thus in the midst of Nature's joyousness and irrepressible
unfoldings, and peaceful consummations, he forgot hunger and thirst
and weariness in a feeling of delicious languor. But beneath even
this, and more subtle still, was the stir of restlessness and the low
fever of vague desire for something wholly beyond his experience. He
sighed and opened his eyes. Right before them, on the spire beyond the
gardens, was the ancient cross to which he was consecrated. On his
shoulders were the penitential wounds he had that morning inflicted
with the knotted scourge. In his ears was the faint general chorus of
saints and martyrs, echoing backward ever more solemnly to the very
passion of Christ. While Nature was everywhere clothing itself with
living greenness, around his gaunt body and muscular limbs--over his
young head and his coursing hot blood--he had wrapped the dead white
cowl of centuries gone as the winding-sheet of his humanity. These
were not clear thoughts in his mind, but the vaguest suggestions of
feeling, which of late had come to him at times, and now made him sigh
more deeply as he sat up and bent over again to tie the hempen cords.
As he did so, his attention was arrested by the sound of voices just
outside the monastery wall, which was low here, so that in the general
stillness they became entirely audible.


    II.

Outside the wall was a long strip of woodland which rose gently to the
summit of a ridge half a mile away. This woodland was but little used.
Into it occasionally a lay-brother drove the gentle monastery cows to
pasture, or here a flock sheltered itself beneath forest oaks against
the noontide summer heat. Beyond the summit lay the homestead of a
gentleman farmer. As one descended this slope towards the abbey, he
beheld it from the most picturesque side, and visitors at the homestead
usually came to see it by this secluded approach.

If Father Palemon could have seen beyond the wall, he would have
discovered that the voices were those of a young man and a young
woman--the former a slight, dark cripple, and invalid. He led the way
along a foot-path up quite close to the wall, and the two sat down
beneath the shade of a great tree. Father Palemon, listening eagerly,
unconsciously, overheard the following conversation:

"I should like to take you inside the abbey wall, but, of course, that
is impossible, as no woman is allowed to enter the grounds. So we shall
rest here a while. I find that the walk tires me more than it once
did, and this tree has become a sort of outside shrine to me on my
pilgrimages."

"Do you come often?"

"Oh yes. When we have visitors, I am appointed their guide, probably
because I feel more interest in the place than any one else. If they
are men, I take them over the grounds inside; and if they are women, I
bring them thus far and try to describe the rest."

"As you will do for me now?"

"No; I am not in the mood for describing. Even when I am, my
description always disappoints me. How is one to describe such human
beings as these monks? Sometimes, during the long summer days, I walk
over here alone and lie for hours under this tree, until the influences
of the place have completely possessed me and I feel wrought up to the
point of description. The sensation of a chill comes over me. Look up
at these Kentucky skies! You have never seen them before. Are there
any more delicate and tender? Well, at such times, where they bend
over this abbey, they look as hard and cold as a sky of Landseer's.
The sun seems no longer to warm the pale cross on the spire yonder,
the great drifting white clouds send a shiver through me as though
uplifted snow-banks were passing over my head. I fancy that if I were
to go inside I should see the white butterflies dropping down dead from
the petals of the white roses, finding them stiff with frost, and that
the white rabbits would be limping trembling through the frozen grass,
like the hare in 'The Eve of St. Agnes.' Everything becomes cold to
me--cold, cold, cold! The bleak and rugged old monks themselves, in
their hoary cowls, turn to personifications of perpetual winter; and if
I were in the chapel, I should expect to meet in one of them Keats's
very beadsman--patient, holy man, meagre, wan--whose fingers were numb
while he told his rosary, and his breath frosted as it took flight for
heaven. Ugh! I am cold now. My blood must be getting very thin."

"No; you make _me_ shiver also."

"At least the impression is a powerful one. I have watched these old
monks closely. Whether it is from the weakness of vigils and fasts or
from positive cold, they all tremble--perpetually tremble. I fancy that
their souls ache as well. Are not their cowls the grave-clothes of a
death in life?"

"You seem to forget, Austin, that faith warms them."

"By extinguishing the fires of nature! Why should not faith and
nature grow strong together? I have spent my life on the hill-side
back yonder, as you know, and I have had leisure enough for studying
these monks. I have tried to do them justice. At different times I
have almost lived with St. Benedict at Subiaco, and St. Patrick on the
mountain, and St. Anthony in the desert, and St. Thomas in the cell.
I understand and value the elements of truth and beauty in the lives
of the ancient solitaries. But they belong so inalienably to the past.
We have outgrown the ideals of antiquity. How can a man now look upon
his body as his evil tenement of flesh? How can he believe that he
approaches sainthood by destroying his manhood? The highest type of
personal holiness is said to be attained in the cloister. That is not
true. The highest type of personal holiness is to be attained in the
thick of the world's temptations. Then it becomes sublime. It seems
to me that the heroisms worth speaking of nowadays are active, not
meditative. But why should I say this to you, who as much as any one
else have taught me to think thus--I who myself am able to do nothing?
But though I can do nothing, I can at least look upon the monastic
ideal of life as an empty, dead, husk, into which no man with the
largest ideas of duty will ever compress his powers. Even granting that
it develops personal holiness, this itself is but one element in the
perfect character, and not even the greatest one."

"But do you suppose that these monks have deliberately and freely
chosen their vocation? You know perfectly well that often there are
almost overwhelming motives impelling men and women to hide themselves
away from the world--from, its sorrows, its dangers, its temptations."

"You are at least orthodox. I know that such motives exist, but are
they sufficient? Of course there was a time when the cloister was a
refuge from dangers. Certainly that is not true in this country now.
And as for the sorrows and temptations, I say that they must be met in
the world. There is no sorrow _befalling_ a man in the world that he
should not _bear_ in the world--bear it as well for the sake of his
own character as for the sake of helping others who suffer like him.
This way lie moral heroism and martyrdom. This way, even, lies the
utmost self-sacrifice, if one will only try to see it. No, I have but
little sympathy with such cases. The only kind of monk who has all my
sympathy is the one that is produced by early training and education.
Take a boy whose nature has nothing in common with the scourge and the
cell. Immure him. Never let him get from beneath the shadow of convent
walls or away from the sound of masses and the waving of crucifixes.
Bend him, train him, break him, until he turns monk despite nature's
purposes, and ceases to be a man without becoming a saint. I have
sympathy for _him_. Sympathy! I do not know of any violation of the law
of personal liberty that gives me so much positive suffering."

"But why suffer over imaginary cases? Such constraint belongs to the
past."

"On the contrary, it is just such an instance of constraint that has
colored my thoughts of this abbey. It is this that has led me to haunt
the place for years from a sort of sad fascination. Men find their way
to this valley from the remotest parts of the world. No one knows from
what inward or outward stress they come. They are hidden away here and
their secret histories are buried with them. But the history of one of
these fathers is known, for he has grown up here under the shadow of
these monastery walls. You may think the story one of mediæval flavor,
but I believe its counterpart will here and there be found as long as
monasteries rise and human beings fall.

"He was an illegitimate child. Who his father was, no one ever so much
as suspected. When his mother died he was left a homeless waif in one
of the Kentucky towns. But some invisible eye was upon him. He was soon
afterwards brought to the boarding-school for poor boys which is taught
by the Trappist fathers here. Perhaps this was done by his father, who
wished to get him safely out of the world. Well, he has never left this
valley since then. The fathers have been his only friends and advisers.
He has never looked on the face of a woman since he looked into his
mother's when a child. He knows no more of the modern world--except
what the various establishments connected with the abbey have taught
him--than the most ancient hermit. While he was in the Trappist school,
during afternoons and vacations he worked in the monastery fields with
the lay-brothers. With them he ate and slept. When his education was
finished he became a lay-brother himself. But amid such influences
the rest of the story is foreseen; in a few years he put on the brown
robe and leathern girdle of a brother of the order, and last year he
took final vows, and now wears the white cowl and black scapular of a
priest."

"But if he has never known any other life, he, most of all, should be
contented with this. It seems to me that it would be much harder to
have known human life and then renounce it."

"That is because you are used to dwell upon the good, and strive to
better the evil. No; I do not believe that he is happy. I do not
believe nature is ever thwarted without suffering, and nature in
him never cried out for the monkish life, but against it. His first
experience with the rigors of its discipline proved nearly fatal. He
was prostrated with long illness. Only by special indulgence in food
and drink was his health restored. His system even now is not inured to
the cruel exactions of his order. You see, I have known him for years.
I was first attracted to him as a lonely little fellow with the sad
lay-brothers in the fields. As I would pass sometimes, he would eye me
with a boy's unconscious appeal for the young and for companionship. I
have often gone into the abbey since then, to watch and study him. He
works with a terrible pent-up energy. I know his type among the young
Kentuckians. They make poor monks. Time and again they have come here
to join the order. But all have soon fallen away. Only Father Palemon
has ever persevered to the taking of the vows that bind him until
death. My father knew his mother and says that he is much like her--an
impulsive, passionate, trustful, beautiful creature, with the voice of
a seraph. Father Palemon himself has the richest voice in the monks'
choir. Ah, to hear him, in the dark chapel, sing the _Salve Regina_!
The others seem to moderate their own voices, that his may rise clear
and uncommingled to the vaulted roof. But I believe that it is only
the music he feels. He puts passion and an outcry for human sympathy
into every note. Do you wonder that I am so strongly drawn towards
him? I can give you no idea of his appearance. I shall show you his
photograph, but that will not do it. I have often imagined you two
together by the very law of contrast. I think of you at home in New
York City, with your charities, your missions, your energetic, untiring
beneficence. You stand at one extreme. Then I think of him at the
other--doing nothing, shut up in this valley, spending his magnificent
manhood in a never-changing, never-ending routine of sterile vigils
and fasts and prayers. Oh, we should change places, he and I! I should
be in there and he out here. He should be lying here by your side,
looking up into your face, loving you as I have loved you, and winning
you as I never can. Oh, Madeline, Madeline, Madeline!"

The rapid, broken utterance suddenly ceased.

In the deep stillness that followed, Father Palemon heard the sound of
a low sob and a groan.

He had sat all this time rivetted to the spot, and as though turned
into stone. He had hardly breathed. A bright lizard gliding from out
a crevice in the wall had sunned itself in a little rift of sunshine
between his feet. A bee from the honeysuckles had alighted unnoticed
upon his hand. Others sounds had died away from his ears, which were
strained to catch the last echoes of these strange voices from another
world.

Now all at once across the gardens came the stroke of a bell summoning
to instant prayer. Why had it suddenly grown so loud and terrible? He
started up. He forgot priestly gravity and ran--fairly ran, headlong
and in a straight course, heedless of the tender plants that were being
crushed beneath his feet. From another part of the garden an aged
brother, his eye attracted by the sunlight glancing on a bright moving
object, paused while training a grape-vine and watched with amazement
the disorderly figure as it fled. As he ran on, the skirts of his cowl,
which he had forgotten to tie up, came down. When at last he reached
the door of the chapel and stooped to unroll them, he discovered that
they had been draggled over the dirt and stained against the bruised
weeds until they were hardly recognizable as having once been spotless
white. A pang of shame and alarm went through him. It was the first
stain.


    III.

Every morning the entire Trappist brotherhood meet in a large room for
public confession and accusation. High at one end sits the venerable
abbot; beside him, but lower, the prior; while the fathers in white and
the brothers in brown range themselves on benches placed against the
wall on each side.

It was near the close of this impressive ceremony that Father Palemon
arose, and, pushing the hood far back from his face, looked sorrowfully
around upon the amazed company. A thrill of the tenderest sympathy
shot through them. He was the youngest by far of their number and
likeliest therefore to go astray; but never had any one found cause to
accuse him, and never had he condemned himself. Many a head wearing
its winter of age and worldly scars had been lifted in that sacred
audience-chamber of the soul confessing to secret sin. But not he.
So awful a thing is it for a father to accuse himself, that in utter
self-abasement his brethren throw themselves prone to the floor when
he rises. It was over the prostrate forms of his brethren that Father
Palemon now stood up erect, alone. Unearthly spectacle! He began his
confession. In the hushed silence of the great bare chamber his voice
awoke such echoes as might have terrified the soul had one gone into
a vast vault and harangued the shrouded dead. But he went on, sparing
not himself and laying bare his whole sin--the yielding to weariness
in the garden; the listening to the conversation; most of all, the
harboring of strange doubts and desires since then. Never before
had the word "woman" been breathed at this confessional of devoted
celibates. More than one hooded, faded cheek blushed secret crimson
at the sound. The circumstances attending Father Palemon's temptation
invested it with an ancient horror. The scene, a garden; the tempter, a
woman. It was like some modern Adam confessing his fall.

His penance was severe. For a week he was not to leave his cell, except
at brief seasons. Every morning he must scourge himself on his naked
back until the blood came. Every noon he must go about the refectory on
his knees, begging his portion of daily bread, morsel by morsel, from
his brethren, and must eat it sitting before them on the floor. This
repast was reduced in quantity one half. An aged deaf monk took his
place in the garden.

His week of penance over, Father Palemon came forth too much weakened
to do heavy work, and was sent to relieve one of the fathers in the
school. Educated there himself, he had often before this taught its
round of familiar duties.

The school is situated outside the abbey wall on a hill-side several
hundred yards away. Between it and the abbey winds the road which
enters the valley above and goes out below, connecting two country
highways. Where it passes the abbey it offers slippery, unsafe footing
on account of a shelving bed of rock which rises on each side as a
steep embankment, and is kept moist by overhanging trees and by a small
stream that issues from the road-side and spreads out over the whole
pass. The fathers are commanded to cross this road at a quick gait,
the hood drawn completely over the face, and the eyes bent on the
ground.

One sultry afternoon, a few days later, Father Palemon had sent away
his little group of pious pupils, and seated himself to finish his
work. The look of unawakened innocence had vanished from his eyes.
They were full of thought and sorrow. A little while and, as though
weighed down with heaviness, his head sank upon his arms, which were
crossed over the desk. But he soon lifted it with alarm. One of the
violent storms which gather and pass so quickly in the Kentucky skies
was rushing on from the south. The shock of distant thunder sent a
tremor through the building. He walked to the window and stood for a
moment watching the rolling edge of the low storm-cloud with its plumes
of white and gray and ominous dun-green colors. Suddenly his eyes were
drawn to the road below. Around a bend a horse came running at full
speed, uncontrolled by the rider. He clasped his hands and breathed a
prayer. Just ahead was the slippery, dangerous footing. Another moment
and horse and rider disappeared behind the embankment. Then the horse
reappeared on the other side, without saddle or rider, rushing away
like a forerunner of the tempest.

He ran down. When he reached the spot he saw lying on the road-side
the form of a woman--the creature whom his priestly vows forbade him
ever to approach. Her face was upturned, but hidden under a great wave
of her long, loosened, brown hair. He knelt down and, lifting the hair
aside, gazed down into it.

"_Ave Maria!_--Mother of God!" The disjointed exclamations were
instinctive. The first sight of beautiful womanhood had instantly
lifted his thought to the utmost height of holy associations. Indeed,
no sweet face had he ever looked on but the Virgin's picture. Many a
time in the last few years had he, in moments of restlessness, drawn
near and studied it with a sudden rush of indefinable tenderness and
longing. But beauty, such as this seemed to him, he had never dreamed
of. He bent over it, reverential, awe-stricken. Then, as naturally
as the disciple John might have succored Mary, finding her wounded
and fainting by the wayside, he took the unconscious sufferer in his
arms and bore her to the school-room for refuge from the bursting
storm. There he quickly stripped himself of his great soft cowl, and,
spreading it on the bare floor, laid her on it, and with cold water and
his coarse monk's handkerchief bathed away the blood that flowed from a
little wound on her temple.

A few moments and she opened her eyes. He was bending close over her,
and his voice sounded as sweet and sorrowful as a vesper bell:

"Do you suffer? Are you much hurt? Your horse must have fallen among
the rocks. The girth was broken."

She sat up bewildered, and replied slowly:

"I think I am only stunned. Yes, my horse fell. I was hurrying home out
of the storm. He took fright at something and I lost control of him.
What place is this?"

"This is the school of the abbey. The road passes just below. I was
standing at the window when your horse ran past, and I brought you
here."

"I must go home at once. They will be anxious about me. I am visiting
at a place not more than a mile away."

He shook his head and pointed to the window. A sudden gray blur of rain
had effaced the landscape. The wind shook the building.

"You must remain here until the storm is over. It will last but a
little while."

During this conversation she had been sitting on the white cowl,
and he, with the frankness of a wondering, innocent child, had been
kneeling quite close beside her. Now she got up and walked to one of
the windows, looking out upon the storm, while he retired to another
window at the opposite end of the room.

What was the tempest-swept hill outside to the wild, swift play of
emotions in him? A complete revulsion of feeling quickly succeeded his
first mood. What if she was more beautiful--far more beautiful--than
the sweet Virgin's picture in the abbey? She was a devil, a beautiful
devil. Her eyes, her hair, which had blown against his face and around
his neck, were the Devil's implements; her form, which he had clasped
in his arms, was the Devil's subtlest hiding-place. She had brought
sin into the world. She had been the curse of man ever since. She had
tempted St. Anthony. She had ruined many a saint, sent many a soul
to purgatory, many a soul to bell. Perhaps she was trying to send
_his_ soul to hell now--now while he was alone with her and under her
influence. It was this same woman who had broken into the peace of his
life two weeks before, for he had instantly recognized the voice as
the one that he had heard in the garden and that had been the cause of
his severe penance. Amid all his scourgings, fasts, and prayers that
voice had never left him. It made him ache to think of what penance he
must now do again on her account; and with a sudden impulse he walked
across the room, and, standing before her with arms folded across his
breast, said in a voice of the simplest sorrow:

"Why have you crossed my path-way, thus to tempt me?"

She looked at him with eyes that were calm but full of natural surprise.

"I do not understand how I have tempted you."

"You tempt me to believe that woman is not the devil she is."

She was silent with confusion. The whole train of his thought was
unknown to her. It was difficult, bewildering. A trivial answer was out
of the question, for he hung upon her expected reply with a look of
pitiable eagerness. She took refuge in the didactic.

"I have nothing to say about the nature of woman. It is vague,
contradictory; it is anything, everything. But I _can_ speak to you of
the lives of women; that is a definite subject. Some women may be what
you call devils. But some are not. I thought that you recognized the
existence of saintly women within the memories and the present pale of
your church."

"True. It is the women of the world who are the devils."

"You know so well the women of the world?"

"I have been taught. I have been taught that if Satan were to appear
to me on my right hand and a beautiful woman of the world on my left,
I should flee to Satan from the arms of my greater enemy. You tempt me
to believe that this is not true--to believe that the fathers have lied
to me. You tempt me to believe that Satan would not dare to appear in
your presence. Is it because you are yourself a devil that you tempt
me thus?"

"Should you ask me? I am a woman of the world. I live in a city of
more than a million souls--in the company of thousands of these
women-devils. I see hundreds of them daily. I may be one myself. If you
think I am a devil, you ought not to ask me to tell you the truth. You
should not listen to me or believe me."

She felt the cruelty of this. It was like replying logically to a child
who had earnestly asked to be told something that might wreck its faith
and happiness.

The storm was passing. In a few minutes this strange interview would
end: he back to his cell again: she back to the world. Already it had
its deep influence over them both. She, more than he, felt its almost
tragical gravity, and was touched by its pathos. These two young human
souls, true and pure, crossing each other's path-way in life thus
strangely, now looked into each other's eyes, as two travellers from
opposite sides of the world meet and salute and pass in the midst of
the desert.

"I shall believe whatever you tell me," he said, with tremulous
eagerness.

The occasion lifted her ever-serious nature to the extraordinary; and
trying to cast the truth that she wished to teach into the mould which
would be most familiar to him, she replied:

"Do you know who are most like you monks in consecration of life? It
is the women--the good women of the world. What are your great vows?
Are they not poverty, labor, self-denial, chastity, prayer? Well, there
is not one of these but is kept in the hearts of good women. Only, you
monks keep your vows for your own sakes, while women keep them as well
for the sakes of others. For the sake of others they live and die poor.
Sometimes they even starve. You never do that. They work for others as
you have never worked; they pray for others as you have never prayed.
In sickness and weariness, day and night, they deny themselves and
sacrifice themselves for others as you have never done--never can do.
You keep yourselves pure. They keep themselves pure and make others
pure. If you are the best examples of personal holiness that may be
found in the world apart from temptation, they are the higher types of
it maintained amid temptations that never cease. You are content to
pray for the world, they also work for it. If you wish to see, in the
most nearly perfect form that is ever attained in this world, love and
sympathy and forgiveness, if you wish to find vigils and patience and
charity--go to the good women of the world. They are all through the
world, of which you know nothing--in homes, and schools, and hospitals;
with the old, the suffering, the dying. Sometimes they are clinging to
the thankless, the dissolute, the cruel; sometimes they are ministering
to the weary, the heart-broken, the deserted. No, no! Some women may be
what you call them, devils--"

She blushed all at once with recollection of her earnestness. It was
the almost elemental simplicity of her listener that had betrayed her
into it. Meantime, as she had spoken, his quickly changing mood had
regained its first pitch. She seemed to rise higher--to be arraigning
him and his ideals of duty. In his own sight he seemed to grow smaller,
shrink up, become despicable; and when she suddenly ceased speaking, he
lifted his eyes to her, alas! too plainly now betraying his heart.

"And you are one of these good women?"

"I have nothing to say of myself; I spoke of others. I may be a devil."

For an instant through the scattering clouds the sunlight had fallen in
through the window, lighting up her head as with a halo. It fell upon
the cowl also, which lay on the floor like a luminous heap. She went to
it, and, lifting it, said to him:

"Will you leave me now? They must pass here soon looking for me. I
shall see them from the window. I do not know what should have happened
to me but for your kindness. And I can only thank you very gratefully."

He took the hand that she gave him in both of his, and held it closely
a while as his eyes rested long and intently upon her face. Then,
quickly muffling up his own in the folds of his cowl, he turned away
and left the room. She watched him disappear behind the embankment
below and then reappear on the opposite side, striding rapidly towards
the abbey.


    IV.

All that night the two aged monks whose cells were one on each side
of Father Palemon's heard him tossing in his sleep. At the open
confessional next morning he did not accuse himself. The events of the
day before were known to none. There were in that room but two who
could have testified against him. One was Father Palemon himself; the
other was a small dark-red spot on the white bosom of his cowl, just by
his heart. It was a blood-stain from the wounded head that had lain on
his breast. Through the dread examination and the confessions Father
Palemon sat motionless, his face shadowed by his hood, his arms crossed
over his bosom, hiding this scarlet stain. What nameless foreboding
had blanched his cheek when he first beheld it? It seemed to be a dead
weight over his heart, as those earth-stains on the hem had begun to
clog his feet.

That day he went the round of his familiar duties faultlessly but
absently. Without heeding his own voice, he sang the difficult ancient
offices of the Church in a full volume of tone, that was heard
above the rich unison of the unerring choir. When, at twilight, he
lay down on his hard, narrow bed, with the leathern cincture about
his gaunt waist, he seemed girt for some lonely spiritual conflict
of the midnight hours. Once, in the sad tumult of his dreams, his
out-stretched arms struck sharply against some object and he awoke; it
was the crucifix that hung against the bare wall at his head.

He sat up. The bell of the monastery tolled twelve. A new day was
beginning. A new day for him? In two hours he would set his feet, as
evermore, in the small circle of ancient monastic exactions. Already
the westering moon poured its light through the long windows of the
abbey and flooded his cell. He arose softly and walked to the open
casement, looking out upon the southern summer midnight. Beneath the
window lay the garden of flowers. Countless white roses, as though
censers swung by unseen hands, waved up to him their sweet incense.
Some dreaming bird awoke its happy mate with a note prophetic of
the coming dawn. From the bosom of the stream below, white trailing
shapes rose ethereal through the moonlit air, and floated down the
valley as if journeying outward to some mysterious bourn. On the dim
horizon stood the domes of the forest trees, marking the limits of the
valley--the boundary of his life. He pressed his hot head against the
cold casement and groaned aloud, seeming to himself, in his tumultuous
state, the only thing that did not belong to the calm and holy beauty
of the scene. Disturbed by the sound, an old monk sleeping a few feet
distant turned in his cell and prayed aloud:

"_Seigneur! Seigneur! Oubliez la faiblesse de ma jeunesse! Vive Jésus!
Vive sa Croix!_"

The prayer smote him like a warning. Conscience was still torturing
this old man--torturing him even in his dreams on account of the sinful
fevers that had burned up within him half a century ago. On the very
verge of the grave he was uplifting his hands to implore forgiveness
for the errors of his youth. Ah! and those other graves in the quiet
cemetery garth below--the white-cowled dust of his brethren, mouldering
till the resurrection morn. They, too, had been sorely tempted--had
struggled and prevailed, and now reigned as saints in heaven, whence
they looked sorrowfully and reproachfully down upon him, and upon their
sinful heaps of mortal dust, which had so foiled the immortal spirit.

Miserably, piteously, he wrestled with himself. Even conscience was
divided in twain and fought madly on both sides. His whole training had
left him obedient to ideas of duty. To be told what to do always had
been for him to do it. But hitherto his teachers had been the fathers.
Lately two others had appeared--a man and a woman of the world, who had
spoken of life and of duty as he had never thought of them. The pale,
dark hunchback, whom he had often seen haunting the monastery grounds
and hovering around him at his work, had unconsciously drawn aside for
him the curtains of the world and a man's nobler part in it. The woman,
whom he had addressed as a devil, had come in his eyes to be an angel.
Both had made him blush for his barren life, his inactivity. Both had
shown him which way duty lay.

Duty? Ah! it was not duty. It was the woman, the woman! The old
tempter! It was the sinful passion of love that he was responding to;
it was the recollection of that sweet face against which his heart had
beat--of the helpless form that he had borne in his arms. Duty or love,
he could not separate them. The great world, on the boundaries of which
he wished to set his feet, was a dark, formless, unimaginable thing,
and only the light from the woman's face streamed across to him and
beckoned him on. It was she who made his priestly life wretched--made
even the wearing of his cowl an act of hypocrisy that was the last
insult to Heaven. Better anything than this. Better the renunciation
of his sacred calling, though it should bring him the loss of earthly
peace and eternal pardon.

The clock struck half-past one. He turned back to his cell. The ghastly
beams of the setting moon suffused it with the pallor of a death-scene.
God in heaven! The death-scene was there--the crucifixion! The sight
pierced him afresh with the sharpest sorrow, and taking the crucifix
down, he fell upon his knees and covered it with his kisses and his
tears. There was the wound in the side, there were the drops of blood
and the thorns on the brow, and the divine face still serene and
victorious in the last agony of self-renunciation. Self-renunciation!

"Lord, is it true that I cannot live to Thee alone? And Thou didst
sacrifice Thyself to the utmost for me! Consider me, how I am made!
Have mercy, have mercy! If I sin, be Thou my witness that I do not know
it!--Thou, too, didst love her well enough to die for her!"

In that hour, when he touched the highest point that nature ever
enabled him to attain, Father Palemon, looking into his conscience and
into the divine face, took his final resolution. He was still kneeling
in steadfast contemplation of the cross when the moon withdrew its last
ray and over it there rushed a sudden chill and darkness. He was still
immovable before it when, at the resounding clangor of the bell, all
the spectral figures of his brethren started up from their couches like
ghosts from their graves, and in a long, shadowy line wound noiselessly
downward into the gloom of the chapel, to begin the service of matins
and lauds.


    V.

He did not return with them when at the close of day they wound upward
again to their solemn sleep. He slipped unseen into the windings of a
secret passage-way, and hastening to the reception-room of the abbey
sent for the abbot.

It was a great bare room. A rough table and two plain chairs in the
middle were the only furniture. Over the table there swung from the
high ceiling a single low, lurid point of light, that failed to reach
the shadows of the recesses. The few poor pictures of saints and
martyrs on the walls were muffled in gloom. The air was dank and
noisome, and the silence was that of a vault.

Standing half in light and half in darkness, Father Palemon awaited the
coming of his august superior. It was an awful scene. His face grew
whiter than his cowl, and he trembled till he was ready to sink to the
floor. A few moments, and through the dim door-way there softly glided
in the figure of the aged abbot, like a presence rather felt than seen.
He advanced to the little zone of light, the iron keys clanking at his
girdle, his delicate fingers interlaced across his breast, his gray
eyes filled with a look of mild surprise and displeasure.

"You have disturbed me in my rest and meditations. The occasion must be
extraordinary. Speak! Be brief!"

"The occasion _is_ extraordinary. I shall be brief. Father Abbot, I
made a great mistake in ever becoming a monk. Nature has not fitted
me for such a life. I do not any longer believe that it is my duty to
live it. I have disturbed your repose only to ask you to receive the
renunciation of my priestly vows and to take back my cowl: I will never
put it on again."

As he spoke he took off his cowl and laid it on the table between them,
showing that he wore beneath the ordinary dress of a working-man.

Under the flickering spark the face of the abbot had at first flushed
with anger and then grown ashen with vague, formless terror. He pushed
the hood back from his head and pressed his fingers together until the
jewelled ring cut into the flesh.

"You are a priest of God, consecrated for life. Consider the sin and
folly of what you say. You have made no mistake. It would be too late
to correct it, if you had."

"I shall do what I can to correct it as soon as possible. I shall leave
the monastery to-night."

"To-night you confess what has led you to harbor this suggestion of
Satan. To-night I forgive you. To-night you sleep once more at peace
with the world and your own soul. Begin! Tell me everything that has
happened--everything!"

"It were better untold. It could only pain--only shock you."

"Ha! You say this to me, who stand to you in God's stead?"

"Father Abbot, it is enough that Heaven should know my recent struggles
and my present purposes. It does know them."

"And it has not smitten you? It is merciful."

"It is also just."

"Then do not deny the justice you receive. Did you not give yourself up
to my guidance as a sheep to a shepherd? Am I not to watch near you in
danger and lead you back when astray? Do you not realize that I may not
make light of the souls committed to my charge, as my own soul shall
be called into judgment at the last day? Am I to be pushed aside--made
naught of--at such a moment as this?"

Thus urged, Father Palemon told what had recently befallen him, adding
these words:

"Therefore I am going--going now. I cannot expect your approval: that
pains me. But have I not a claim upon your sympathy? You are an old
man, Father Abbot. You are nearer heaven than this earth. But you have
been young; and I ask you, is there not in the past of your own buried
life the memory of some one for whom you would have risked even the
peace and pardon of your own soul?"

The abbot threw up his hands with a gesture of sudden anguish, and
turned away into the shadowy distances of the room.

When he emerged again, he came up close to Father Palemon in the
deepest agitation.

"I tell you this purpose of yours is a suggestion of the Evil Spirit.
Break it against the true rock of the Church. You should have spoken
sooner. Duty, honor, gratitude, should have made you speak. Then I
could have made this burden lighter for you. But, heavy as it is, it
will pass. You suffer now, but it will pass, and you will be at peace
again--at perfect peace again."

"Never! Never again at peace here! My place is in the world. Conscience
tells me that. Besides, have I not told you, Father Abbot, that I love
her, that I think of her day and night? Then I am no priest. There is
nothing left for me but to go out into the world."

"The world! What do you know of the world? If I could sum up human life
to you in an instant of time, I might make you understand into what
sorrow this caprice of restlessness and passion is hurrying you."

Sweetness had forsaken the countenance of the aged shepherd. His tones
rung hoarse and hollow, and the muscles of his face twitched and
quivered as he went on:

"Reflect upon the tranquil life that you have spent here, preparing
your soul for immortality. All your training has been for the solitude
of the cloister. All your enemies have been only the spiritual foes
of your own nature. You say that you are not fitted for this life.
Are you then prepared for a life in the world? Foolish, foolish boy!
You exchange the terrestrial solitude of heaven for the battle-field
of hell. Its coarse, foul atmosphere will stifle and contaminate you.
It has problems that you have not been taught to solve. It has shocks
that you would never withstand. I see you in the world? Never, never!
See you in the midst of its din and sweat of weariness, its lying and
dishonor? You say that you love this woman. Heaven forgive you this
sin! You would follow her. Do you not know that you may be deluded,
trifled with, disappointed? She may love another. Ah! you are a
child--a simple child!"

"Father Abbot, it is time that I were becoming a man."

But the abbot did not hear or pause, borne on now by a torrent of
ungovernable feelings:

"Your parents committed a great sin." He suddenly lifted the cross from
his bosom to his lips, which moved rapidly for an instant in silent
prayer. "It has never been counted against you here, as it will never
be laid to your charge in heaven. But the world will count it against
you. It will make you feel its jeers and scorn. You have no father,"
again he bent over and passionately kissed his cross, "you have no
name. You are an illegitimate child. There is no place for you in the
world--in the world that takes no note of sin unless it is discovered.
I warn you--I warn you by all the years of my own experience, and by
all the sacred obligations of your holy order, against this fatal
step."

"Though it be fatal, I must and will take it."

"I implore you! God in heaven, dost thou punish me thus? See! I am an
old man. I have but a few years to live. You are the only tie of human
tenderness that binds me to my race. My heart is buried in yours. I
have watched over you since you were brought here, a little child. I
have nursed you through months of sickness. I have hastened the final
assumption of your vows, that you might be safe within the fold. I have
stayed my last days on earth with the hope that when I am dead, as I
soon shall be, you would perpetuate my spirit among your brethren,
and in time come to be a shepherd among them, as I have been. Do not
take this solace from me. The Church needs you--most of all needs you
in this age and in this country. I have reared you within it that you
might be glorified at last among the saints and martyrs. No, no! You
will not go away!"

"Father Abbot, what better can I do than heed the will of Heaven in my
own conscience?"

"I implore you!"

"I must go."

"I warn you, I say."

"Oh, my father! You only make more terrible the anguish of this moment.
Bless me, and let me go in peace."

"_Bless_ you?" almost shrieked the abbot, starting back with horror,
his features strangely drawn, his uplifted arms trembling, his whole
body swaying. "_Bless_ you? Do this, and I will hurl upon you the awful
curse of the everlasting Church!"

As though stricken by the thunderbolt of his own imprecation, he fell
into one of the chairs and buried his head in his arms upon the table.
Father Palemon had staggered backward, as though the curse had struck
him in the forehead. These final words he had never thought of--never
foreseen. For a moment the silence of the great chamber was broken
only by his own quick breathing and by the convulsive agitation of the
abbot. Then with a rapid movement Father Palemon came forward, knelt,
and kissed the hem of the abbot's cowl, and, turning away, went out.

Love--duty--the world; in those three words lie all the human, all the
divine, tragedy.


    VI.

Years soon pass away in the life of a Trappist priest.

    For shade to shade will come too drowsily,
    And drown the wakeful anguish of the soul.

Another June came quickly into the lonely valley of the Abbey of
Gethsemane. Again the same sweet monastery bells in the purple
twilights, and the same midnight masses. Monks again at work in the
gardens, their cowls well tied up with hempen cords. Monks once more
teaching the pious pupils in the school across the lane. The gorgeous
summer came and passed beyond the southern horizon, like a mortal
vision of beauty never to return. There were few changes to note. Only
the abbot seemed to have grown much feebler. His hand trembled visibly
now as he lifted the crosier, and he walked less than of yore among his
brethren while they busied themselves with the duties of the waning
autumn. But he was oftener seen pacing to and fro where the leaves
fell sadly from the moaning choir of English elms. Or at times he would
take a little foot-path that led across the brown November fields,
and, having gained a crest on the boundary of the valley, would stand
looking far over the outward landscape into imaginary spaces, limitless
and unexplored.

But Father Palemon, where was he? Amid what splendors of the great
metropolis was he bursting Joy's grape against his palate fine? What
of his dreams of love and duty, and a larger, more modern stature of
manhood?

       *       *       *       *       *

Late one chill, cloud-hung afternoon in November there came into the
valley of Gethsemane the figure of a young man. He walked slowly along
the road towards the abbey, with the air of one who is weary and
forgetful of his surroundings. His head dropped heavily forward on his
breast, and his empty hands hung listlessly down. At the iron gate of
the porter's lodge entrance was refused him; the abbey was locked in
repose for the night. Urging the importance of his seeing the abbot, he
was admitted. He erased a name from a card and on it wrote another, and
waited for the interview.

Again the same great dark room, lighted by a flickering spark. He did
not stand half in light and half in shadow, but hid himself away in one
of the darkest recesses. In a few moments the abbot entered, holding
the card in his hand and speaking with tremulous haste:

"'Father Palemon?'--who wrote this name, 'Father Palemon?'"

Out of the darkness came a low reply:

"I wrote it."

"I do not know you."

"I am Father Palemon."

The calm of a great sadness was in the abbot's voice, as he replied,
musingly:

"There--_is_--no--Father Palemon: he died long ago."

"Oh, my father! Is this the way you receive me?"

He started forward and came into the light. Alas! No; it was not Father
Palemon. His long hair was unkempt and matted over his forehead, his
face pinched and old with suffering, and ashen gray except for the red
spots on his cheeks. Deep shadows lay under his hollow eyes, which were
bloodshot and restless and burning.

"I have come back to lead the life of a monk. Will you receive me?"

"Twice a monk, no monk. Receive you for what time? Until next June?"

"Until death."

"I have received you once already until death. How many times am I to
receive you until death?"

"I beseech you do not contest in words with me. It is too much. I am
ill. I am in trouble."

He suddenly checked his passionate utterance, speaking slowly and with
painful self-control:

"I cannot endure how to tell you all that has befallen me since I went
away. The new life that I had begun in the world has come to an end.
Father Abbot, she is dead. I have just buried her and my child in one
grave. Since then the one desire I have had has been to return to
this place. God forgive me! I have no heart now for the duties I had
undertaken. I had not measured my strength against this calamity. It
has left me powerless for good to any human creature. My plans were
wrecked when she died. My purposes have gone to pieces. There is no
desire in me but for peace and solitude and prayer. All that I can do
now is to hide my poor, broken, ineffectual life here, until by God's
will, sooner or later, it is ended."

"You speak in the extremity of present suffering. You are young.
Nearly all your life lies yet before you. In time Nature heals nearly
all the wounds that she inflicts. In a few years this grief which now
unmans you--which you think incurable--will wear itself out. You do not
believe this. You think me cruel. But I speak the truth. Then you may
be happy again--happier than you have ever been. Then the world will
resume its hold upon you. If the duties of a man's life have appealed
to your conscience, as I believe they have, they will then appeal
to it with greater power and draw you with a greater sense of their
obligations. Moreover, you may love again--ah! Hush! Hear me through!
You think this is more unfeeling still. But I must speak, and speak
now. It is impossible to seclude you here against all temptation. Some
day you may see another woman's face--hear another woman's voice. You
may find your priestly vows intolerable again. Men who once break their
holiest pledges for the sake of love will break them again, if they
love again. No, no! If you were unfit for the life of a monk once, much
more are you unfit now. Now that you are in the world, better to remain
there."

"In Heaven's name, will you deny me? I tell you that this is the only
desire left to me. The world is as dead to me as though it never
existed, because my heart is broken. You misunderstood me then. You
misunderstand me now. Does experience count for nothing in preparing a
man for the cloister?"

"I did misunderstand you once; I thought that you were fitted for the
life of a monk. I understand you now: I do not make the same mistake
twice."

"This is the home of my childhood, and you turn me away?"

"You went away yourself, in the name of conscience and of your own
passion."

"This is the house of God, and you close its doors against me?"

"You burst them open of your own self-will."

Hitherto the abbot had spoken for duty, for his church, for the
inviolable sanctity of his order. Against these high claims the pent-up
tenderness of his heart had weighed as nothing. But now as the young
man, having fixed a long look upon his face, turned silently away
towards the door, with out-stretched arms he tottered after him, and
cried out in broken tones: "Stop! Stop, I pray you! You are ill. You
are free to remain here a guest. No one was ever refused shelter. Oh,
my God! what have I done?"

Father Palemon had reeled and fallen fainting in the door-way.

       *       *       *       *       *

In this life, from earliest childhood, we are trained by merciful
degrees to brave its many sorrows. We begin with those of infancy,
which, Heaven knows, at the time seem grievous enough to be borne.
As we grow older we somehow also grow stronger, until through the
discipline of many little sufferings we are enabled to bear up under
those final avalanches of disaster that rush down upon us in maturer
years. Even thus fortified, there are some of us on whom these fall
only to overwhelm.

But Father Palemon. Unnaturally shielded by the cloister up to that
period of young manhood when feeling is deepest and fortitude least,
he had suddenly appeared upon the world's stage only to enact one
of the greatest scenes in the human tragedy--that scene wherein the
perfect ecstasy of love by one swift, mortal transition becomes the
perfect agony of loss. What wonder if he had staggered blindly, and if,
trailing the habiliments of his sorrow, he had sought to return to the
only place that was embalmed in his memory as a peaceful haven for the
shipwrecked? But even this quiet port was denied him.

       *       *       *       *       *

Into the awful death-chamber of the abbey they bore him one midnight
some weeks later. The tension of physical powers during the days of his
suspense and suffering, followed by the shock of his rejection, had
touched those former well-nigh fatal ravages that had prostrated him
during the period of his austere novitiate. He was dying. The delirium
of his fever had passed away, and with a clear, dark, sorrowful eye he
watched them prepare for the last agony.

On the bare floor of the death-chamber they sprinkled consecrated ashes
in the form of a cross. Over these they scattered straw, and over the
straw they drew a coarse serge cloth. This was his death-bed--a sign
that in the last hour he was admitted once more to the fellowship of
his order. From the low couch on which he lay he looked at it. Then he
made a sign to the abbot, in the mute language of the brotherhood. The
abbot repeated it to one of the attendant fathers, who withdrew and
soon returned, bringing a white cowl. Lifting aside the serge cloth, he
spread the cowl over the blessed cinders and straw. Father Palemon's
request had been that he might die upon his cowl, and on this they now
stretched his poor emaciated body, his cold feet just touching the old
earth-stains upon its hem. He lay for a little while quite still, with
closed eyes. Then he turned them upon the abbot and the monks, who were
kneeling in prayer around him, and said, in a voice of great and gentle
dignity:

"My father--my brethren, have I your full forgiveness?"

With sobs they bowed themselves around him. After this he received
the crucifix, tenderly embracing it, and then lay still again, as if
awaiting death. But finally he turned over on one side, and raising
himself on one forearm, sought with the hand of the other among the
folds of his cowl until he found a small blood-stain now faint upon its
bosom. Then he lay down again, pressing his cheek against it; and thus
the second time a monk, but even in death a lover, he breathed out his
spirit with a faint whisper--"Madeline!"

And as he lay on the floor, so now he lies in the dim cemetery garth
outside, wrapped from head to foot in his cowl, with its stains on the
hem and the bosom.



    SISTER DOLOROSA.


    I.

When Sister Dolorosa had reached the summit of a low hill on her way
to the convent she turned and stood for a while looking backward. The
landscape stretched away in a rude, unlovely expanse of gray fields,
shaded in places by brown stubble, and in others lightened by pale,
thin corn--the stunted reward of necessitous husbandry. This way
and that ran wavering lines of low fences, some worm-eaten, others
rotting beneath over-clambering wild rose and blackberry. About the
horizon masses of dense and rugged woods burned with sombre fires as
the westering sun smote them from top to underbrush. Forth from the
edge of one a few long-horned cattle, with lowered heads, wound meekly
homeward to the scant milking. The path they followed led towards
the middle background of the picture, where the weather-stained and
sagging roof of a farm-house rose above the tops of aged cedars. Some
of the branches, broken by the sleet and snow of winters, trailed their
burdens from the thinned and desolated crests--as sometimes the highest
hopes of the mind, after being beaten down by the tempests of the
world, droop around it as memories of once transcendent aspirations.

Where she stood in the dead autumn fields few sounds broke in upon the
pervasive hush of the declining day. Only a cricket, under the warm
clod near by, shrilled sturdily with cheerful forethought of drowsy
hearth-stones; only a lamb, timid of separation from the fold, called
anxiously in the valley beyond the crest of the opposite hill; only
the summoning whistle of a quail came sweet and clear from the depths
of a neighboring thicket. Through all the air floated that spirit of
vast loneliness which at seasons seems to steal like a human mood
over the breast of the great earth and leave her estranged from her
transitory children. At such an hour the heart takes wing for home, if
any home it have; or when, if homeless, it feels the quick stir of that
yearning for the evening fireside with its half-circle of trusted faces
young and old, and its bonds of love and marriage, those deepest, most
enchanting realities to the earthly imagination. The very landscape,
barren and dead, but framing the simple picture of a home, spoke to the
beholder the everlasting poetry of the race.

But Sister Dolorosa, standing on the brow of the hill whence the whole
picture could be seen, yet saw nothing of it. Out of the western sky
there streamed an indescribable splendor of many-hued light, and far
into the depths of this celestial splendor her steadfast eyes were
gazing.

She seemed caught up to some august height of holy meditation. Her
motionless figure was so lightly poised that her feet, just visible
beneath the hem of her heavy black dress, appeared all but rising from
the dust of the path-way; her pure and gentle face was upturned, so
that the dark veil fell away from her neck and shoulders; her lips were
slightly parted; her breath came and went so imperceptibly that her
hands did not appear to rise and fall as they clasped the cross to her
bosom. Exquisite hands they were--most exquisite--gleaming as white as
lilies against the raven blackness of her dress; and with startling
fitness of posture, the longest finger of the right hand pointed like a
marble index straight towards a richly embroidered symbol over her left
breast--the mournful symbol of a crimson heart pierced by a crimson
spear. Whether attracted by the lily-white hands or by the red symbol,
a butterfly, which had been flitting hither and thither in search
of the gay races of the summer gone, now began to hover nearer, and
finally lighted unseen upon the glowing spot. Then, as if disappointed
not to find it the bosom of some rose, or lacking hope and strength for
further quest--there it rested, slowly fanning with its white wings the
tortured emblem of the divine despair.

Lower sank the sun, deeper and more wide-spread the splendor of the
sky, more rapt and radiant the expression of her face. A painter of the
angelic school, seeing her standing thus, might have named the scene
the transfiguration of angelic womanhood. What but heavenly images
should she be gazing on; or where was she in spirit but flown out of
the earthly autumn fields and gone away to sainted vespers in the
cloud-built realm of her own fantasies? Perhaps she was now entering
yon vast cathedral of the skies, whose white spires touched blue
eternity; or toiling devoutly up yon gray mount of Calvary, with its
blackened crucifix falling from the summit.

Standing thus towards the close of the day, Sister Dolorosa had not yet
passed out of that ideal time which is the clear white dawn of life.
She was still within the dim, half-awakened region of womanhood, whose
changing mists are beautiful illusions, whose shadows about the horizon
are the mysteries of poetic feeling, whose purpling east is the palette
of the imagination, and whose upspringing skylark is blithe aspiration
that has not yet felt the weight of the clod it soars within. Before
her still was the full morning of reality and the burden of the mid-day
hours.

But if the history of any human soul could be perfectly known, who
would wish to describe this passage from the dawn of the ideal to
the morning of the real--this transition from life as it is imagined
through hopes and dreams to life as it is known through action and
submission? It is then that within the country of the soul occur events
too vast, melancholy, and irreversible to be compared to anything less
than the downfall of splendid dynasties, or the decay of an august
religion. It is then that there leave us forever bright, aerial spirits
of the fancy, separation from whom is like grief for the death of the
beloved.

The moment of this transition had come in the life of Sister Dolorosa,
and unconsciously she was taking her last look at the gorgeous western
clouds from the hill-tops of her chaste life of dreams.

A flock of frightened doves sped hurtling low over her head, and put
an end to her reverie. Pressing the rosary to her lips, she turned
and walked on towards the convent, not far away. The little foot-path
across the fields was well trodden and familiar, running as it did
between the convent and the farm-house behind her in which lived old
Ezra and Martha Cross; and as she followed its windings, her thoughts,
as is likely to be true of the thoughts of nuns, came home from the
clouds to the humblest concerns of the earth, and she began to recall
certain incidents of the visit from which she was returning.

The aged pair were well known to the Sisters. Their daughters had been
educated at the convent; and, although these were married and scattered
now, the tie then formed had since become more close through their age
and loneliness. Of late word had come to the Mother Superior that old
Martha was especially ailing, and Sister Dolorosa had several times
been sent on visits of sympathy. For reasons better to be understood
later on, these visits had had upon her the effect of an April shower
on a thirsting rose. Her missions of mercy to the aged couple over,
for a while the white taper of ideal consecration to the Church always
burned in her bosom with clearer, steadier lustre, as though lit afresh
from the Light eternal. But to-day she could not escape the conviction
that these visits were becoming a source of disquietude; for the
old couple, forgetting the restrictions which her vows put upon her
very thoughts, had spoken of things which it was trying for her to
hear--love-making, marriage, and children. In vain had she tried to
turn away from the proffered share in such parental confidences. The
old mother had even read aloud a letter from her eldest son, telling
them of his approaching marriage and detailing the hope and despair of
his wooing. With burning cheeks and downcast eyes Sister Dolorosa had
listened till the close and then risen and quickly left the house.

The recollection of this returned to her now as she pursued her way
along the foot-path which descended into the valley; and there came to
her, she knew not whence or why, a piercing sense of her own separation
from all but the divine love. The cold beauty of unfallen spirituality
which had made her august as she stood on the hill-top died away, and
her face assumed a tenderer, more appealing loveliness, as there crept
over it, like a shadow over snow, that shy melancholy under which
those women dwell who have renounced the great drama of the heart. She
resolved to lay her trouble before the Mother Superior to-night, and
ask that some other Sister be sent hereafter in her stead. And yet this
resolution gave her no peace, but a throb of painful renunciation;
and since she was used to the most scrupulous examination of her
conscience, to detect the least presence of evil, she grew so disturbed
by this state of her heart that she quite forgot the windings of the
path-way along the edge of a field of corn, and was painfully startled
when a wounded bird, lying on the ground a few feet in front of her,
flapped its wings in a struggle to rise. Love and sympathy were the
strongest principles of her nature, and with a little outcry she bent
over and took it up; but scarce had she done so, when, with a final
struggle, it died in her hand. A single drop of blood oozed out and
stood on its burnished breast.

She studied it--delicate throat, silken wings, wounded bosom--in the
helpless way of a woman, unwilling to put it down and leave it, yet
more unwilling to take it away. Many a time, perhaps, she had watched
this very one flying to and fro among its fellows in the convent elms.
Strange that any one should be hunting in these fields, and she looked
quickly this way and that. Then, with a surprised movement of the
hands that caused her to drop the bird at her feet, Sister Dolorosa
discovered, standing half hidden in the edge of the pale-yellow corn a
few yards ahead, wearing a hunting-dress, and leaning on the muzzle of
his gun, a young man who was steadfastly regarding her. For an instant
they stood looking each into the other's face, taken so unprepared as
to lose all sense of convention. Their meeting was as unforeseen as
another far overhead, where two white clouds, long shepherded aimlessly
and from opposite directions across the boundless pastures by the
unreasoning winds, touched and melted into one. Then Sister Dolorosa,
the first to regain self-possession, gathered her black veil closely
about her face, and advancing with an easy, rapid step, bowed low with
downcast eyes as she passed him, and hurried on towards the convent.

She had not gone far before she resolved to say nothing about the
gossip to which she had listened. Of late the Mother Superior had
seemed worn with secret care and touched with solicitude regarding
her. Would it be kind to make this greater by complaining like a weak
child of a trivial annoyance? She took her conscience proudly to task
for ever having been disturbed by anything so unworthy. And as for
this meeting in the field, even to mention that would be to give it
a certain significance, whereas it had none whatever. A stranger had
merely crossed her path a moment and then gone his way. She would
forget the occurrence herself as soon as she could recover from her
physical agitation.


    II.

The Convent of the Stricken Heart is situated in that region of
Kentucky which early became the great field of Catholic immigration.
It was established in the first years of the present century, when
mild Dominicans, starving Trappists, and fiery Jesuits hastened into
the green wildernesses of the West with the hope of turning them into
religious vineyards. Then, accordingly, derived from such sources as
the impassioned fervor of Italy, the cold, monotonous endurance of
Flanders, and the dying sorrows of ecclesiastical France, there sprang
up this new flower of faith, unlike any that ever bloomed in pious
Christendom. From the meagrest beginning, the order has slowly grown
rich and powerful, so that it now has branches in many States, as far
as the shores of the Pacific Ocean.

The convent is situated in a retired region of country, remote from
any village or rural highway. The very peace of the blue skies seems
to descend upon it. Around the walls great elms stand like tranquil
sentinels, or at a greater distance drop their shadows on the velvet
verdure of the artificial lawns. Here, when the sun is hot, some white
veiled novice may be seen pacing soft-footed and slow, while she fixes
her sad eyes upon pictures drawn from the literature of the Dark Ages,
or fights the first battle with her young heart, which would beguile
her to heaven by more jocund path-ways. Drawn by the tranquillity of
this retreat--its trees and flowers and dews--all singing-birds of the
region come here to build and brood. No other sounds than their pure
cadences disturb the echoless air except the simple hymns around the
altar, the vesper bell, the roll of the organ, the deep chords of the
piano, or the thrum of the harp. It may happen, indeed, that some one
of the Sisters, climbing to the observatory to scan the horizon of her
secluded world, will catch the faint echoes of a young ploughman in
a distant field lustily singing of the honest passion in his heart,
or hear the shouts of happy harvesters as they move across the yellow
plains. The population scattered around the convent domain are largely
of the Catholic faith, and from all directions the country is threaded
by foot-paths that lead to the church as a common shrine. It was along
one of these that Sister Dolorosa, as has been said, hastened homeward
through the falling twilight.

When she reached the convent, instead of seeking the Mother Superior
as heretofore with news from old Martha, she stole into the shadowy
church and knelt for a long time in wordless prayer--wordless, because
no petition that she could frame appeared inborn and quieting. An
unaccountable remorse gnawed the heart out of language. Her spirit
seemed parched, her will was deadened as by a blow. Trained to the most
rigorous introspection, she entered within herself and penetrated to
the deepest recesses of her mind to ascertain the cause. The bright
flame of her conscience thus employed was like the turning of a sunbeam
into a darkened chamber to reveal the presence of a floating grain of
dust. But nothing could be discovered. It was the undiscovered that
rebuked her as it often rebukes us all--the undiscovered evil that has
not yet linked itself to conscious transgression. At last she rose with
a sigh and, dejected, left the church.

Later, the Mother Superior, noiselessly entering her room, found her
sitting at the open window, her hands crossed on the sill, her eyes
turned outward into the darkness.

"Child, child," she said, hurriedly, "how uneasy you have made me! Why
are you so late returning?"

"I went to the church when I came back, Mother," replied Sister
Dolorosa, in a voice singularly low and composed. "I must have returned
nearly an hour ago."

"But even then it was late."

"Yes, Mother; I stopped on the way back to look at the sunset. The
clouds looked like cathedrals. And then old Martha kept me. You know it
is difficult to get away from old Martha."

The Mother Superior laughed slightly, as though her anxiety had been
removed. She was a woman of commanding presence, with a face full of
dignity and sweetness, but furrowed by lines of difficult resignation.

"Yes; I know," she answered. "Old Martha's tongue is like a terrestrial
globe; the whole world is mapped out on it, and a little movement of it
will show you a continent. How is her rheumatism?"

"She said it was no worse," replied Sister Dolorosa, absently.

The Mother Superior laughed again. "Then it must be better. Rheumatism
is always either better or worse."

"Yes, Mother."

This time the tone caught the Mother Superior's ear.

"You seem tired. Was the walk too long?"

"I enjoyed the walk, Mother. I do not feel tired."

They had been sitting on opposite sides of the room. The Mother
Superior now crossed, and, laying her hand softly on Sister Dolorosa's
head, pressed it backward and looked fondly down into the upturned eyes.

"Something troubles you. What has happened?"

There is a tone that goes straight to the hearts of women in trouble.
If there are tears hidden, they gather in the eyes. If there is any
confidence to give, it is given then.

A tremor, like that of a child with an unspent sob, passed across
Sister Dolorosa's lips, but her eyes were tearless.

"Nothing has happened, Mother. I do not know why, but I feel disturbed
and unhappy." This was the only confidence that she had to give.

The Mother Superior passed her hand slowly across the brow, white and
smooth like satin. Then she sat down, and as Sister Dolorosa slipped to
the floor beside her she drew the young head to her lap and folded her
aged hands upon it. What passionate, barren loves haunt the hearts of
women in convents! Between these two there existed a tenderness more
touching than the natural love of mother and child.

"You must not expect to know at all times," she said, with grave
gentleness. "To be troubled without any visible cause is one of the
mysteries of our nature. As you grow older you will understand this
better. We are forced to live in conscious possession of all faculties,
all feelings, whether or not there are outward events to match them.
Therefore you must expect to have anxiety within when your life is
really at peace without; to have moments of despair when no failure
threatens; to have your heart wrung with sympathy when no object of
sorrow is nigh; to be spent with the need of loving when there is no
earthly thing to receive your love. This is part of woman's life, and
of all women, especially those who, like you, must live not to stifle
the tender, beautiful forces of nature, but to ennoble and unite them
into one divine passion. Do not think, therefore, to escape these hours
of heaviness and pain. No saint ever walked this earth without them.
Perhaps the lesson to be gained is this: that we may feel things before
they happen, so that if they do happen we shall be disciplined to bear
them."

The voice of the Mother Superior had become low and meditative; and,
though resting on the bowed head, her eyes seemed fixed on events long
past. After the silence of a few moments she continued in a brighter
tone:

"But, my child, I know the reason of _your_ unhappiness. I have warned
you that excessive ardor would leave you overwrought and nervous; that
you were being carried too far by your ideals. You live too much in
your sympathies and your imagination. Patience, my little St. Theresa!
No saint was ever made in a day, and it has taken all the centuries of
the Church to produce its martyrs. Only think that your life is but
begun; there will be time enough to accomplish everything. I have been
watching, and I know. This is why I send _you_ to old Martha. I want
you to have the rest, the exercise, the air of the fields. Go again
to-morrow, and take her the ointment. I found it while you were gone
to-day. It has been in the Church for centuries, and you know this
bottle came from blessed Loretto in Italy. It may do her some good.
And, for the next few days, less reading and study."

"Mother!" Sister Dolorosa spoke as though she had not been listening.
"What would become of me if I should ever--if any evil should ever
befall me?"

The Mother Superior stretched her hands out over the head on her
knees as some great, fierce, old, gray eagle, scarred and strong with
the storms of life, might make a movement to shield its imperilled
young. The tone in which Sister Dolorosa had spoken startled her as
the discovered edge of a precipice. It was so quiet, so abrupt, so
terrifying with its suggestion of an abyss. For a moment she prayed
silently and intensely.

"Heaven mercifully shield you from harm!" she then said, in an
awe-stricken whisper. "But, timid lamb, what harm can come to you?"

Sister Dolorosa suddenly rose and stood before the Mother Superior.

"I mean," she said, with her eyes on the floor and her voice scarcely
audible--"I mean--if I should ever fail, would you cast me out?"

"My child!--Sister!--Sister Dolorosa!--Cast you out!"

The Mother Superior started up and folded her arms about the slight,
dark figure, which at once seemed to be standing aloof with infinite
loneliness. For some time she sought to overcome this difficult,
singular mood.

"And now, my daughter," she murmured at last, "go to sleep and forget
these foolish fears. I am near you!" There seemed to be a fortress of
sacred protection and defiance in these words; but the next instant her
head was bowed, her upward-pointing finger raised in the air, and in a
tone of humble self-correction she added: "Nay, not I; the Sleepless
guards you! Good-night."

Sister Dolorosa lifted her head from the strong shoulder and turned her
eyes, now luminous, upon the troubled face.

"Forgive me, Mother!" she said, in a voice of scornful resolution.
"Never--never again will I disturb you with such weakness as I have
shown to-night. I _know_ that no evil can befall me! Forgive me,
Mother. Good-night."

While she sleeps learn her history. Pauline Cambron was descended from
one of those sixty Catholic families of Maryland that formed a league
in 1785 for the purpose of emigrating to Kentucky without the rending
of social ties or separation from the rites of their ancestral faith.
Since then the Kentucky branch of the Cambrons has always maintained
friendly relations with the Maryland branch, which is now represented
by one of the wealthy and cultivated families of Baltimore. On one side
the descent is French; and, as far back as this can be traced, there
runs a tradition that some of the most beautiful of its women became
barefoot Carmelite nuns in the various monasteries of France or on some
storm-swept island of the Mediterranean Sea.

The first of the Kentucky Cambrons settled in that part of the State
in which nearly a hundred years later lived the last generation of
them--the parents of Pauline. Of these she was the only child, so that
upon her marriage depended the perpetuation of the Kentucky family. It
gives to the Protestant mind a startling insight into the possibilities
of a woman's life and destiny in Kentucky to learn the nature of the
literature by which her sensitive and imaginative character was from
the first impressed. This literature covers a field wholly unknown
to the ordinary student of Kentucky history. It is not to be found
in well-known works, but in the letters, reminiscences, and lives
of foreign priests, and in the kindling and heroic accounts of the
establishment of Catholic missions. It abounds in such stories as those
of a black friar fatally thrown from a wild horse in the pathless
wilderness; of a gray friar torn to pieces by a saw-mill; of a starving
white friar stretched out to die under the green canopy of an oak; of
priests swimming half-frozen rivers with the sacred vestments in their
teeth; of priests hewing logs for a hut in which to celebrate the
mass; of priests crossing and recrossing the Atlantic and traversing
Italy and Belgium and France for money and pictures and books; of
devoted women laying the foundation of powerful convents in half-ruined
log-cabins, shivering on beds of straw sprinkled on the ground, driven
by poverty to search in the wild woods for dyes with which to give to
their motley worldly apparel the hue of the cloister, and dying at
last, to be laid away in pitiless burial without coffin or shroud.

Such incidents were to her the more impressive since happening in
part in the region where lay the Cambron estate; and while very
young she was herself repeatedly taken to visit the scenes of early
religious tragedies. Often, too, around the fireside there was proud
reference to the convent life of old France and to the saintly zeal of
the Carmelites; and once she went with her parents to Baltimore and
witnessed the taking of the veil by a cousin of hers--a scene that
afterwards burned before her conscience as a lamp before a shrine.

Is it strange if under such influences, living in a country place
with few associates, reading in her father's library books that were
to be had on the legends of the monastic orders and the lives of the
saints--is it strange if to the young Pauline Cambron this world before
long seemed little else than the battle-field of the Church, the ideal
man in it a monk, the ideal woman a nun, the human heart a solemn
sacrifice to Heaven, and human life a vast, sad pilgrimage to the
shrine eternal?

Among the places which had always appealed to her imagination as one of
the heroic sites of Kentucky history was the Convent of the Stricken
Heart, not far away. Whenever she came hither she seemed to be treading
on sacred ground. Happening to visit it one summer day before her
education was completed, she asked to be sent hither for the years
that remained. When these were past, here, with the difficult consent
of her parents, who saw thus perish the last hope of the perpetuation
of the family, she took the white veil. Here at last she hid herself
beneath the black. Her whole character at this stage of its unfolding
may be understood from the name she assumed--Sister Dolorosa. With this
name she wished not merely to extinguish her worldly personality, but
to clothe herself with a life-long expression of her sympathy with the
sorrows of the world. By this act she believed that she would attain
a change of nature so complete that the black veil of Sister Dolorosa
would cover as in a funeral urn the ashes which had once been the heart
of Pauline Cambron. And thus her conventual life began.

But for those beings to whom the span on the summer-evening cloud
is as nothing compared with that fond arch of beauty which it is a
necessity of their nature to hang as a bow of promise above every
beloved hope--for such dreamers the sadness of life lies in the
dissipation of mystery and the disillusion of truth. When she had been
a member of the order long enough to see things as they were, Sister
Dolorosa found herself living in a large, plain, comfortable brick
convent, situated in a retired and homely region of Southern Kentucky.
Around her were plain nuns with the invincible contrariety of feminine
temperament. Before her were plain duties. Built up around her were
plain restrictions. She had rushed with out-stretched arms towards
poetic mysteries, and clasped prosaic reality.

As soon as the lambent flame of her spirit had burned over this new
life, as a fire before a strong wind rushes across a plain, she one
day surveyed it with that sense of reality which sometimes visits the
imaginative with such appalling vividness. Was it upon this dreary
waste that her soul was to play out its drama of ideal womanhood?

She answered the question in the only way possible to such a nature as
hers. She divided her life in twain. Half, with perfect loyalty, she
gave out to duty; the other, with equal loyalty, she stifled within.
But perhaps this is no uncommon lot--this unmating of the forces of
the mind, as though one of two singing-birds should be released to
fly forth under the sky, while the other--the nobler singer--is kept
voiceless in a darkened chamber.

But the Sisters of the Stricken Heart are not cloistered nuns. Their
chief vow is to go forth into the world to teach. Scarcely had Sister
Dolorosa been intrusted with work of this kind before she conceived
an aspiration to become a great teacher of history or literature, and
obtained permission to spend extra hours in the convent library on a
wider range of sacred reading. Here began a second era in her life.
Books became the avenues along which she escaped from her present into
an illimitable world. Her imagination, beginning to pine, now took wing
and soared back to the remote, the splendid, the imperial, the august.
Her sympathies, finding nothing around her to fix upon, were borne afar
like winged seed and rooted on the colossal ruins of the centuries. Her
passion for beauty fed on holy art. She lived at the full flood of life
again.

If in time revulsion came, she would live a shy, exquisite, hidden
life of poetry in which she herself played the historic roles. Now she
would become a powerful abbess of old, ruling over a hundred nuns in an
impregnable cloister. To the gates, stretched on a litter, wounded to
death, they bore a young knight of the Cross. She had the gates opened.
She went forth and bent over him; heard his dying message; at his
request drew the plighted ring from his finger to send to another land.
How beautiful he was! How many masses--how many, many masses--had she
not ordered for the peace of his soul! Now she was St. Agatha, tortured
by the proconsul; now she lay faint and cold in an underground cell,
and was visited by Thomas à Kempis, who read to her long passages from
the _Imitation_. Or she would tire of the past, and making herself an
actor in her own future, in a brief hour live out the fancied drama of
all her crowded years.

But whatever part she took in this dream existence and beautiful
passion-play of the soul, nothing attracted her but the perfect. For
the commonplace she felt a guileless scorn.

Thus for some time these unmated lives went on--the fixed outward life
of duty, and the ever-wandering inner life of love. In mid-winter,
walking across the shining fields, you have come to some little
frost-locked stream. How mute and motionless! You set foot upon it,
the ice is broken, and beneath is musical running water. Thus under
the chaste, rigid numbness of convent existence the heart of Sister
Dolorosa murmured unheard and hurried away unseen to plains made warm
and green by her imagination. But the old may survive upon memories;
the young cannot thrive upon hope. Love, long reaching outward in vain,
returns to the heart as self-pity. Sympathies, if not supported by
close realities, fall in upon themselves like the walls of a ruined
house. At last, therefore, even the hidden life of Sister Dolorosa grew
weary of the future and the past, and came home to the present.

The ardor of her studies and the rigor of her duties combined--but
more than either that wearing away of the body by a restless mind--had
begun to affect her health. Both were relaxed, and she was required to
spend as much time as possible in the garden of the convent It was like
lifting a child that has become worn out with artificial playthings to
an open window to see the flowers. With inexpressible relief she turned
from mediæval books to living nature; and her beautiful imagination,
that last of all faculties to fail a human being in an unhappy lot, now
began to bind nature to her with fellowships which quieted the need of
human association. She had long been used to feign correspondences with
the fathers of the Church; she now established intimacies with dumb
companions, and poured out her heart to them in confidence.

The distant woods slowly clothing themselves in green; the faint
perfume of the wild rose, running riot over some rotting fence; the
majestical clouds about the sunset; the moon dying in the spectral
skies; the silken rustling of doves' wings parting the soft foliage of
the sentinel elms; landscapes of frost on her window-pane; crumbs in
winter for the sparrows on the sill; violets under the leaves in the
convent garden; myrtle on the graves of the nuns--such objects as these
became the means by which her imprisoned life was released. On the
sensuous beauty of the world she spent the chaste ravishments of her
virginal heart. Her love descended on all things as in the night the
dew fills and bends down the cups of the flowers.

A few of these confidences--written on slips of paper, and no sooner
written than cast aside--are given here. They are addressed severally
to a white violet, an English sparrow, and a butterfly.

"I have taken the black veil, but thou wearest the white, and
thou dwellest in dim cloisters of green leaves--in the domed and
many-pillared little shrines that line the dusty road-side, or seem
more fitly built in the depths of holy woodlands. How often have
I drawn near with timid steps, and, opening the doors of thy tiny
oratories, found thee bending at thy silent prayers--bending so low
that thy lips touched the earth, while the slow wind rang thine
Angelus! Wast thou blooming anywhere near when He came into the wood
of the thorn and the olive? Didst thou press thy cool face against his
bruised feet? Had I been thou, I would have bloomed at the foot of
the cross, and fed his failing lungs with my last breath. Time never
destroys thee, little Sister, or stains thy whiteness; and thou wilt be
bending at thy prayers among the green graves on the twilight hill-side
ages after I who lie below have finished mine. Pray for me then, pray
for thine erring sister, thou pure-souled violet!"

"How cold thou art! Shall I take thee in and warm thee on my bosom? Ah,
no! For I know who thou art! Not a bird, but a little brown mendicant
friar, begging barefoot in the snow. And thou livest in a cell under
the convent eaves opposite my window. What ugly feet thou hast, little
Father! And the thorns are on thy toes instead of about thy brow. That
is a bad sign for a saint. I saw thee in a brawl the other day with a
mendicant brother of thine order, and thou drovest him from roof to
roof and from icy twig to twig, screaming and wrangling in a way to
bring reproach upon the Church. Thou shouldst learn to defend a thesis
more gently. Who is it that visits thy cell so often? A penitent to
confess? And dost thou shrive her freely? I'd never confess to thee,
thou cross little Father! Thou'dst have no mercy on me if I sinned, as
sin I must since human I am. The good God is very good to thee that he
keeps thee from sinning while he leaves me to do wrong. Ah, if it were
but natural for me to be perfect! But that, little Father, is my idea
of heaven. In heaven it will be natural for me to be perfect. I'll feed
thee no longer than the winter lasts, for then thou'lt be a monk no
longer, but a bird again. And canst thou tell me why? Because, when the
winter is gone, thou'lt find a mate, and wert thou a monk thou'dst have
none. For thou knowest perfectly well, little Father, that monks do not
wed."

"No fitting emblem of my soul art thou, fragile Psyche, mute and
perishable lover of the gorgeous earth. For my soul has no summer,
and there is no earthly object of beauty that it may fly to and rest
upon as thou upon the beckoning buds. It is winter where I live. All
things are cold and white, and my soul flies only above fresh fields of
flowerless snow. But no blast can chill its wings, no mire bedraggle,
or rude touch fray. I often wonder whether thou art mute, or the divine
framework of winged melodies. Thy very wings are shaped like harps for
the winds to play upon. So, too, my soul is silent never, though none
can hear its music. Dost thou know that I am held in exile in this
world that I inhabit? And dost thou know the flower that I fly ever
towards and cannot reach? It is the white flower of eternal perfection
that blooms and waits for the soul in Paradise. Upon that flower I
shall some day rest my wings as thou foldest thine on a faultless rose."

Harmonizing with this growing passion for the beauty of the world--a
passion that marked her approach to riper womanhood--was the care she
took of her person. The coarse, flowing habit of the order gave no hint
of the curves and symmetry of the snow-white figure throbbing with
eager life within; but it could not conceal an air of refinement and
movements of the most delicate grace. There was likewise a suggestion
of artistic study in the arrangement of her veil, and the sacred symbol
on her bosom was embroidered with touches of elaboration.

It was when she had grown weary of books, of the imaginary drama of her
life, and the loveliness of Nature, that Sister Dolorosa was sent by
the Mother Superior on those visits of sympathy to old Martha Cross;
and it was during her return from one of them that there befell her
that adventure which she had deemed too slight to mention.


    III.

Her outward history was that night made known to Gordon Helm by old
Martha Cross. When Sister Dolorosa passed him he followed her at a
distance until she entered the convent gates. It caused him subtle
pain to think what harm might be lurking to insnare her innocence. But
subtler pain shot through him as he turned away, leaving her housed
within that inaccessible fold.

Who was she, and from what mission returning alone at such an hour
across those darkening fields? He had just come to the edge of the
corn and started to follow up the path in quest of shelter for the
night, when he had caught sight of her on the near hill-top, outlined
with startling distinctness against the jasper sky and bathed in a
tremulous sea of lovely light. He had held his breath as she advanced
towards him. He had watched the play of emotions in her face as she
paused a few yards off, and her surprise at the discovery of him--the
timid start; the rounding of the fawn-like eyes; the vermeil tint
overspreading the transparent purity of her skin: her whole nature
disturbed like a wind-shaken anemone. All this he now remembered as
he returned along the foot-path. It brought him to the door of the
farm-house, where he arranged to pass the night.

"You are a stranger in this part of the country," said the old
housewife an hour later.

When he came in she had excused herself from rising from her chair
by the chimney-side; but from that moment her eyes had followed
him--those eyes of the old which follow the forms of the young with
such despairing memories. By the chimney-side sat old Ezra, powerful,
stupid, tired, silently smoking, and taking little notice of the
others. Hardly a chill was in the air, but for her sake a log blazed in
the cavernous fireplace and threw its flickering light over the guest
who sat in front.

He possessed unusual physical beauty--of the type sometimes found in
the men of those Kentucky families that have descended with little
admixture from English stock; body and limbs less than athletic, but
formed for strength and symmetry; hair brown, thick, and slightly
curling over the forehead and above the ears; complexion blond, but
mellowed into rich tints from sun and open air; eyes of dark gray-blue,
beneath brows low and firm; a mustache golden-brown, thick, and curling
above lips red and sensuous; a neck round and full, and bearing aloft a
head well poised and moulded. The irresistible effect of his appearance
was an impression of simple joyousness in life. There seemed to be
stored up in him the warmth of the sunshine of his land; the gentleness
of its fields; the kindness of its landscapes. And he was young--so
young! To study him was to see that he was ripe to throw himself
heedless into tragedy; and that for him, not once but nightly, Endymion
fell asleep to be kissed in his dreams by encircling love.

"You are a stranger in this part of the country," said the old
housewife, observing the elegance of his hunting-dress and his manner
of high breeding.

"Yes; I have never been in this part of Kentucky before." He paused;
but seeing that some account of himself was silently waited for, and
as though wishing at once to despatch the subject, he added: "I am
from the blue-grass region, about a hundred miles northward of here.
A party of us were on our way farther south to hunt. On the train we
fell in with a gentleman who told us he thought there were a good many
birds around here, and I was chosen to stop over to ascertain. We might
like to try this neighborhood as we return, so I left my things at the
station and struck out across the country this afternoon. I have heard
birds in several directions, but had no dog. However, I shot a few
doves in a cornfield."

"There are plenty of birds close around here, but most of them stay on
the land that is owned by the Sisters, and they don't like to have it
hunted over. All the land between here and the convent belongs to them
except the little that's mine." This was said somewhat dryly by the old
man, who knocked the ashes off his pipe without looking up.

"I am sorry to have trespassed; but I was not expecting to find a
convent out in the country, although I believe I have heard that there
is an abbey of Trappist monks somewhere down here."

"Yes; the abbey is not far from here."

"It seems strange to me. I can hardly believe I am in Kentucky," he
said, musingly, and a solemn look came over his face as his thoughts
went back to the sunset scene.

The old housewife's keen eyes pierced to his secret mood.

"You ought to go there."

"Do they receive visitors at the convent?" he asked, quickly.

"Certainly; the Sisters are very glad to have strangers visit the
place. It's a pity you hadn't come sooner. One of the Sisters was here
this afternoon, and you might have spoken to her about it."

This intelligence threw him into silence, and again her eyes fed upon
his firelit face with inappeasable hunger. She was one of those women,
to be met with the world over and in any station, who are remarkable
for a love of youth and the world, which age, sickness, and isolation
but deepen rather than subdue; and his sudden presence at her fireside
was more than grateful. Not satisfied with what he had told, she led
the talk back to the blue-grass country, and got from him other facts
of his life, asking questions in regard to the features of that more
fertile and beautiful land. In return she sketched the history of
her own region, and dwelt upon its differences of soil, people, and
religion--chiefly the last. It was while she spoke of the Order of the
Stricken Heart that he asked a question he had long reserved.

"Do you know the history of any of these Sisters?"

"I know the history of all of them who are from Kentucky. I have known
Sister Dolorosa since she was a child."

"Sister Dolorosa!" The name pierced him like a spear.

"The nun who was here to-day is called Sister Dolorosa. Her real name
was Pauline Cambron."

The fire died away. The old man left the room on some pretext and did
not return. The story that followed was told with many details not
given here--traced up from parentage and childhood with that fine
tracery of the feminine mind which is like intricate embroidery,
and which leaves the finished story wrought out on the mind like a
complete design, with every point fastened to the sympathies.

As soon as she had finished he rose quickly from a desire to be
alone. So well had the story been knit to his mind that he felt it an
irritation, a binding pain. He was bidding her good-night when she
caught his hand. Something in his mere temperament drew women towards
him.

"Are you married?" she asked, looking into his eyes in the way with
which those who are married sometimes exchange confidences.

He looked quickly away, and his face flushed a little fiercely.

"I am not married," he replied, withdrawing his hand.

She threw it from her with a gesture of mock, pleased impatience; and
when he had left the room, she sat for a while over the ashes.

"If she were not a nun"--then she laughed and made her difficult way to
her bed. But in the room above he sat down to think.

Was this, then, not romance, but life in his own State? Vaguely he had
always known that farther south in Kentucky a different element of
population had settled, and extended into the New World that mighty
cord of ecclesiastical influence which of old had braided every
European civilization into an iron tissue of faith. But this knowledge
had never touched his imagination. In his own land there were no rural
Catholic churches, much less convents, and even among the Catholic
congregations of the neighboring towns he had not many acquaintances
and fewer friends.

To descend as a gay bird of passage, therefore, upon these secluded,
sombre fields, and find himself in the neighborhood of a powerful
Order--to learn that a girl, beautiful, accomplished, of wealth and
high social position, had of her own choice buried herself for life
within its bosom--gave him a startling insight into Kentucky history
as it was forming in his own time. Moreover--and this touched him
especially--it gave him a deeper insight into the possibilities of
woman's nature; for a certain narrowness of view regarding the true
mission of woman in the world belonged to him as a result of education.
In the conservative Kentucky society by which he had been largely
moulded the opinion prevailed that woman fulfilled her destiny when she
married well and adorned a home. All beauty, all accomplishments, all
virtues and graces, were but means for attaining this end.

As for himself he came of a stock which throughout the generations of
Kentucky life, and back of these along the English ancestry, had stood
for the home; a race of men with the fireside traits: sweet-tempered,
patient, and brave; well-formed and handsome; cherishing towards women
a sense of chivalry; protecting them fiercely and tenderly; loving them
romantically and quickly for the sake of beauty; marrying early, and
sometimes at least holding towards their wives such faith, that these
had no more to fear from all other women in the world than from all
other men.

Descended from such a stock and moulded by the social ideals of his
region, Helm naturally stood for the home himself. And yet there
was a difference. In a sense he was a product of the new Kentucky.
His infancy had been rocked on the chasm of the Civil War; his
childhood spent amid its ruins; his youth ruled by two contending
spirits--discord and peace: and earliest manhood had come to him only
in the morning of the new era. It was because the path of his life had
thus run between light and shade that his nature was joyous and grave;
only joy claimed him entirely as yet, while gravity asserted itself
merely in the form of sympathy with anything that suffered, and a
certain seriousness touching his own responsibility in life.

Reflecting on this responsibility while his manhood was yet forming,
he felt the need of his becoming a better, broader type of man,
matching the better, broader age. His father was about his model of
a gentleman; but he should be false to the admitted progress of the
times were he not an improvement on his father. And since his father
had, as judged by the ideals of the old social order, been a blameless
gentleman of the rural blue-grass kind, with farm, spacious homestead,
slaves, leisure, and a library--to all of which, except the slaves,
he would himself succeed upon his father's death--his dream of duty
took the form of becoming a rural blue-grass gentleman of the newer
type, reviving the best traditions of the past, but putting into his
relations with his fellow-creatures an added sense of helpfulness,
a broader sense of justice, and a certain energy of leadership in
all things that made for a purer, higher human life. It will thus be
seen that he took seriously not only himself, but the reputation of
his State; for he loved it, people and land, with broad, sensitive
tenderness, and never sought or planned for his future apart from civil
and social ends.

It was perhaps a characteristic of him as a product of the period that
he had a mind for looking at his life somewhat abstractedly and with
a certain thought-out plan; for this disposition of mind naturally
belongs to an era when society is trembling upon the brink of new
activities and forced to the discovery of new ideals. But he cherished
no religious passion, being committed by inheritance to a mild,
unquestioning, undeviating Protestantism. His religion was more in his
conduct than in his prayers, and he tried to live its precepts instead
of following them from afar. Still, his make was far from heroic. He
had many faults; but it is less important to learn what these were than
to know that, as far as he was aware of their existence, he was ashamed
of them, and tried to overcome them.

Such, in brief, were Pauline Cambron and Gordon Helm: coming from
separate regions of Kentucky, descended from unlike pasts, moulded
by different influences, striving towards ends in life far apart and
hostile. And being thus, at last they slept that night.

When she had been left alone, and had begun to prepare herself for
bed, across her mind passed and repassed certain words of the Mother
Superior, stilling her spirit like the waving of a wand of peace:
"To be troubled without any visible cause is one of the mysteries of
our nature." True, before she fell asleep there rose all at once a
singularly clear recollection of that silent meeting in the fields; but
her prayers fell thick and fast upon it like flakes of snow, until it
was chastely buried from the eye of conscience; and when she slept, two
tears, slowly loosened from her brain by some repentant dream, could
alone have told that there had been trouble behind her peaceful eyes.


    IV.

Sister Dolorosa was returning from her visit to old Martha on the
following afternoon. When she awoke that morning she resolutely put
away all thought of what had happened the evening before. She prayed
oftener than usual that day. She went about all duties with unwonted
fervor. When she set out in the afternoon, and reached the spot in
the fields where the meeting had taken place, it was inevitable that
a nature sensitive and secluded like hers should be visited by some
question touching who he was and whither he had gone; for it did not
even occur to her that he would ever cross her path again. Soon she
reached old Martha's; and then--a crippled toad with a subtile tongue
had squatted for an hour at the ear of Eve, and Eve, beguiled, had
listened. And now she was again returning across the fields homeward.
Homeward?

Early that afternoon Helm had walked across the country to the station,
some two miles off, to change his dress, with the view of going to the
convent the next day. As he came back, he followed the course which he
had taken the day before, and this brought him into the same foot-path
across the fields.

Thus they met the second time. When she saw him, had she been a bird,
with one sudden bound she would have beaten the air down beneath her
frightened wings and darted high over his head straight to the convent.
But his step grew slower and his look expectant. When they were a few
yards apart he stepped out of the path into the low, gray weeds of the
field, and seemed ready to pause; but she had instinctively drawn her
veil close, and was passing on. Then he spoke quickly.

"I beg your pardon, but are strangers allowed to visit the convent?"

There was no mistaking the courtesy of the tone. But she did not lift
her face towards him. She merely paused, though seeming to shrink away.
He saw the fingers of one hand lace themselves around the cross. Then a
moment later, in a voice very low and gentle, she replied, "The Mother
Superior is glad to receive visitors at the convent," and, bowing,
moved away.

He stood watching her with a quick flush of disappointment. Her voice,
even more than her garb, had at once waved off approach. In his mind
he had crossed the distance from himself to her so often that he had
forgotten the actual abyss of sacred separation. Very thoughtfully he
turned at last and took his way along the foot-path.

As he was leaving the farm-house the next day to go to the convent,
Ezra joined him, merely saying that he was going also. The old man had
few thoughts; but with that shrewd secretiveness which is sometimes
found in the dull mind he kept his counsels to himself. Their walk was
finished in silence, and soon the convent stood before them.

Through a clear sky the wan light fell upon it as lifeless as though
sent from a dead sun. The air hung motionless. The birds were gone.
Not a sound fell upon the strained ear. Not a living thing relieved
the eye. And yet within what tragedies and conflicts, what wounds and
thorns of womanhood! Here, then, she lived and struggled and soared.
An unearthly quietude came over him as he walked up the long avenue
of elms, painfully jarred on by the noise of Ezra's shuffling feet
among the dry leaves. Joyous life had retired to infinite remoteness;
and over him, like a preternatural chill in the faint sunlight, crept
the horror of this death in life. Strangely enough he felt at one and
the same time a repugnance to his own nature of flesh and a triumphant
delight in the possession of bodily health, liberty--the liberty of the
world--and a mind unfettered by tradition.

A few feet from the entrance an aged nun stepped from behind a
hedge-row of shrubbery and confronted them.

"Will you state your business?" she said, coldly, glancing at Helm and
fixing her eyes on Ezra, who for reply merely nodded to Helm.

"I am a stranger in this part of the country, and heard that I would be
allowed to visit the convent."

"Are you a Catholic?"

"No; I am a Protestant."

"Are you acquainted with any of the young ladies in the convent?"

"I am not."

She looked him through and through. He met her scrutiny with frank
unconsciousness.

"Will you come in? I will take your name to the Mother Superior."

They followed her into a small reception-room, and sat for a long time
waiting. Then an inner door opened, and another aged nun, sweet-faced
and gentle, entered and greeted them pleasantly, recognizing Ezra as an
acquaintance.

"Another Sister will be sent to accompany us," she said, and sat down
to wait, talking naturally the while to the old man. Then the door
opened again, and the heart of Helm beat violently; there was no
mistaking the form, the grace. She crossed to the Sister, and spoke in
an undertone.

"Sister Generose is engaged. Mother sent me in her place, Sister." Then
she greeted Ezra and bowed to Helm, lifting to him an instant, but
without recognition, her tremulous eyes. Her face had the whiteness of
alabaster.

"We will go to the church first," said the Sister, addressing Helm, who
placed himself beside her, the others following.

When they entered the church he moved slowly around the walls, trying
to listen to his guide and to fix his thoughts upon the pictures and
the architecture. Presently he became aware that Ezra had joined them,
and as soon as pretext offered he looked back. In a pew near the door
through which they had entered he could just see the kneeling form
and bowed head of Sister Dolorosa. There she remained while they made
the circuit of the building, and not until they were quitting it did
she rise and again place herself by the side of Ezra. Was it her last
prayer before her temptation?

They walked across the grounds towards the old-fashioned flower-garden
of the convent. The Sister opened the little latticed gate, and the
others passed in. The temptation was to begin in the very spot where
Love had long been wandering amid dumb companions.

"Ezra!" called the aged Sister, pausing just inside the gate and
looking down at some recently dug bulbs, "has Martha taken up her
tender bulbs? The frost will soon be falling." The old man sometimes
helped at the convent in garden work.

"Who is this young man?" she inquired carelessly a few moments later.

But Ezra was one of those persons who cherish a faint dislike of all
present company. Moreover, he knew the good Sister's love of news. So
he began to resist her with the more pleasure that he could at least
evade her questions.

"I don't know," he replied, with a mysterious shake of the head.

"Come this way," she said beguilingly, turning aside into another walk,
"and look at the chrysanthemums. How did you happen to meet him?"

       *       *       *       *       *

When Sister Dolorosa and Helm found themselves walking slowly side
by side down the garden-path--this being what he most had hoped for
and she most had feared--there fell upon each a momentary silence
of preparation. Speak she must; if only in speaking she might not
err. Speak he could; if only in speaking he might draw from her more
knowledge of her life, and in some becoming way cause her to perceive
his interest in it.

Then she, as his guide, keeping her face turned towards the border
of flowers, but sometimes lifting it shyly to his, began with great
sweetness and a little hurriedly, as if fearing to pause:

"The garden is not pretty now. It is full of flowers, but only a few
are blooming. These are daffodils. They bloomed in March, long ago.
And here were spring beauties. They grow wild, and do not last long.
The Mother Superior wished some cultivated in the garden, but they are
better if let alone to grow wild. And here are violets, which come in
April. And here is Adam and Eve, and tulips. They are gay flowers,
and bloom together for company. You can see Adam and Eve a long way
off, and they look better at a distance. These were the white lilies,
but one of the Sisters died, and we made a cross. That was in June.
Jump-up-Johnnies were planted in this bed, but they did not do well.
It has been a bad year. A storm blew the hollyhocks down, and there
were canker-worms in the roses. That is the way with the flowers: they
fail one year, and they succeed the next. They would never fail if they
were let alone. It is pleasant to see them starting out in the Spring
to be perfect each in its own way. It is pleasant to water them and
to help. But some will be perfect, and some will be imperfect, and no
one can alter that. They are like the children in the school; only the
flowers would all be perfect if they had their way, and the children
would all be wrong if they had theirs--the poor, good children! This
is touch-me-not. Perhaps you have never heard of any such flower. And
there, next to it, is love-lies-bleeding. We have not much of that;
only this one little plant." And she bent over and stroked it.

His whole heart melted under the white radiance of her innocence. He
had thought her older; now his feeling took the form of the purest
delight in some exquisite child nature. And therefore, feeling thus
towards her, and seeing the poor, dead garden with only common flowers,
which nevertheless she separately loved, oblivious of their commonness,
he said with sudden warmth, holding her eyes with his:

"I wish you could see my mother's garden and the flowers that bloom in
it." And as he spoke there came to him a vision of her as she might
look in a certain secluded corner of it, where ran a trellised walk;
over-clambering roses pale-golden, full-blown or budding, and bent with
dew; the May sun golden in the heavens; far and near birds singing and
soaring in ecstasy; the air lulling the sense with perfume, quickening
the blood with freshness; and there, within that frame of roses, her
head bare and shining, her funereal garb forever laid aside for one
that matched the loveliest hue of living nature around, a flower at
her throat, flowers in her hand, sadness gone from her face, there
the pure and radiant incarnation of a too-happy world, this exquisite
child-nature, advancing towards him with eyes of love.

Having formed this picture, he could not afterwards destroy it; and as
they resumed their walk he began very simply to describe his mother's
garden, she listening closely because of her love for flowers, which
had become companions to her, and merely saying dreamily, half to
herself and with guarded courtesy half to him, "It must be beautiful."

       *       *       *       *       *

"The Mother Superior intends to make the garden larger next year, and
to have fine flowers in it, Ezra. It has been a prosperous year in the
school, and there will be money to spare. This row of lilacs is to be
dug up, and the fence set back so as to take in the onion patch over
there. When does he expect to go away?" The aged Sister had not made
rapid progress.

"I haven't heard him say," replied the old man.

"Perhaps Martha has heard him say."

Ezra only struck the toe of his stout boot with his staff.

"The Mother Superior will want _you_ to dig up the lilacs, Ezra. You
can do it better than any one else."

The old man shook his head threateningly at the bushes. "I can settle
them," he said.

"Better than any one else. Has Martha heard him say when he is going
away?"

"To-morrow," he replied, conceding something in return for the lilacs.

       *       *       *       *       *

"These are the chrysanthemums. They are white, but some are perfect and
some are imperfect, you see. Those that are perfect are the ones to
feel proud of, but the others are the ones to love."

"If all were perfect would you no longer love them?" he said gently,
thinking how perfect she was and how easy it would be to love her.

"If all were perfect, I could love all alike, because none would need
to be loved more than others."

"And when the flowers in the garden are dead, what do you find to love
then?" he asked, laughing a little and trying to follow her mood.

"It would not be fair to forget them because they are dead. But they
are not dead; they go away for a season, and it would not be fair to
forget them because they have gone away." This she said simply and
seriously as though her conscience were dealing with human virtues and
duties.

"And are you satisfied to love things that are not present?" he asked,
looking at her with sudden earnestness.

       *       *       *       *       *

"The Mother Superior will wish him to take away a favorable impression
of the convent," said the Sister. "Young ladies are sometimes sent to
us from that region." And now, having gotten from Ezra the information
she desired and turned their steps towards the others, she looked at
Helm with greater interest.

"Should you like to go upon the observatory?" she meekly asked,
pointing to the top of the adjacent building. "From there you can see
how far the convent lands extend. Besides, it is the only point that
commands a view of the whole country."

The scene of the temptation was to be transferred to the pinnacle of
the temple.

"It is not asking too much of you to climb so far for my pleasure?"

"It is our mission to climb," she replied, wearily; "and if our
strength fails, we rest by the way."

Of herself she spoke literally; for when they came to the topmost story
of the building, from which the observatory was reached by a short
flight of steps, she sank into a seat placed near as a resting-place.

"Will you go above, Sister?" she said feebly. "I will wait here."

On the way up, also, the old man had been shaking his head with a
stupid look of alarm and muttering his disapproval.

"There is a high railing, Ezra," she now said to him. "You could not
fall." But he refused to go farther; he suffered from vertigo.

The young pair went up alone.

For miles in all directions the landscape lay shimmering in the
autumnal sunlight--a poor, rough, homely land, with a few farm houses
of the plainest kind. Briefly she traced for him the boundary of the
convent domain. And then he, thinking proudly of his own region, now
lying heavy in varied autumnal ripeness and teeming with noble, gentle
animal life; with rolling pastures as green as May under great trees
of crimson and gold; with flashing streams and placid sheets of water,
and great secluded homesteads--he, in turn, briefly described it; and
she, loving the sensuous beauty of the world, listened more dreamily,
merely repeating over and over, half to herself, and with more guarded
courtesy half to him, "It must be very beautiful."

But whether she suddenly felt that she had yielded herself too far
to the influence of his words and wished to counteract this, or
whether she was aroused to offset his description by another of unlike
interest, scarcely had he finished when she pointed towards a long
stretch of woodland that lay like a mere wavering band of brown upon
the western horizon.

"It was through those woods," she said, her voice trembling slightly,
"that the procession of Trappists marched behind the cross when they
fled to this country from France. Beyond that range of hills is the
home of the Silent Brotherhood. In this direction," she continued,
pointing southward, "is the creek which used to be so deep in winter
that the priests had to swim it as they walked from one distant mission
to another in the wilderness, holding above the waves the crucifix and
the sacrament. Under that tree down there the Father who founded this
convent built with his own hands the cabin that was the first church,
and hewed out of logs the first altar. It was from those trees that
the first nuns got the dyes for their vestments. On the floor of that
cabin they sometimes slept in mid-winter with no other covering than an
armful of straw. Those were heroic days."

If she had indeed felt some secret need to recover herself by reciting
the heroisms of local history, she seemed to have succeeded. Her face
kindled with emotion; and as he watched it he forgot even her creed
in this revelation of her nature, which touched in him also something
serious and exalted. But as she ceased he asked, with peculiar interest:

"Are there any Kentuckians among the Trappist Fathers?"

"No," she replied, after a momentary silence, and in a voice lowered to
great sadness. "There was one a few years ago. His death was a great
blow to the Fathers. They had hoped that he might some day become the
head of the order in Kentucky. He was called Father Palemon."

For another moment nothing was said. They were standing side by side,
looking towards that quarter of the horizon which she had pointed out
as the site of the abbey. Then he spoke meditatively, as though his
mind had gone back unawares to some idea that was very dear to him:

"No, this does not seem much like Kentucky; but, after all, every
landscape is essentially the same to me if there are homes on it. Poor
as this country is, still it is history; it is human life. Here are
the eternal ties and relations. Here are the eternal needs and duties;
everything that keeps the world young and the heart at peace. Here is
the unchanging expression of our common destiny, as creatures who must
share all things, and bear all things, and be bound together in life
and death."

"Sister!" called up the nun waiting below, "is not the wind blowing?
Will you not take cold?"

"The wind is not blowing, Sister, but I am coming."

They turned their faces outward upon the landscape once more. Across
it wound the little foot-path towards the farm-house in the distance.
By a common impulse their eyes rested upon the place of their first
meeting. He pointed to it.

"I shall never forget that spot," he said, impulsively.

"Nor I!"

Her words were not spoken. They were not uttered within. As
unexpectedly and silently as in the remotest profound of the heavens at
midnight some palest little star is loosened from its orbit, shoots a
brief span, and disappears, this confession of hers traced its course
across the depths of her secret consciousness; but, having made it to
herself, she kept her eyes veiled, and did not look at him again that
day.

"I think you have now seen everything that could be of any interest,"
the aged Sister said, doubtfully, when they stood in the yard below.

"The place is very interesting to me," he answered, looking around that
he might discover some way of prolonging his visit.

"The graveyard, Sister. We might go there." The barely audible
words were Sister Dolorosa's. The scene of the temptation was to be
transferred for the third time.

They walked some distance down a sloping hill-side, and stepped softly
within the sacred enclosure. A graveyard of nuns! O Mother Earth,
all-bearing, passion-hearted mother! Thou that sendest love one for
another into thy children, from the least to the greatest, as thou
givest them life! Thou that livest by their loves and their myriad
plightings of troth and myriad marriages! With what inconsolable sorrow
must thou receive back upon thy bosom the chaste dust of lorn virgins,
whose bosoms thou didst mould for a lover's arms and a babe's slumbers!
As marble vestals of the ancient world, buried and lost, they lie,
chiselled into a fixed attitude of prayer through the silent centuries.

The aspect and spirit of the place: the simple graves placed side
by side like those of the nameless poor or of soldiers fallen in an
unfriendly land; the rude wooden cross at the head of each, bearing
the sacred name of her who was dust below; the once chirruping nests
of birds here and there in the grass above the songless lips; the sad
desolation of this unfinished end--all were the last thing needed to
wring the heart of Helm with dumb pity and an ungovernable anguish of
rebellion. This, then, was to be her portion. His whole nature cried
aloud against it. His ideas of human life, civilization, his age, his
country, his State, rose up in protest. He did not heed the words of
the Sister beside him. His thoughts were with Sister Dolorosa, who
followed with Ezra in a silence which she had but once broken since her
last words to him. He could have caught her up and escaped back with
her into the liberty of life, into the happiness of the world.

Unable to endure the place longer, he himself led the way out. At the
gate the Sister fell behind with Ezra.

"He seems deeply impressed by his visit," she said, in an undertone,
"and should bear with him a good account of the convent. Note what he
says, Ezra. The order wants friends in Kentucky, where it was born and
has flourished;" and looking at Sister Dolorosa and Helm, who were a
short distance in front, she added to herself:

"In her, more than in any other one of us, he will behold the perfect
spiritual type of the convent. By her he will be made to feel the power
of the order to consecrate women, in America, in Kentucky, to the
service of the everlasting Church."

Meantime, Sister Dolorosa and Helm walked side by side in a silence
that neither could break. He was thinking of her as a woman of
Kentucky--of his own generation--and trying to understand the motive
that had led her to consecrate herself to such a life. His own ideal of
duty was so different.

"I have never thought," he said, at length, in a voice lowered so as to
reach her ear alone--"I have never thought that my life would not be
full of happiness. I have never supposed I could help being happy if I
did my duty."

She made no reply, and again they walked on in silence and drew near
the convent building. There was so much that he wished to say, but
scarcely one of his thoughts that he dared utter. At length he said,
with irrepressible feeling:

"I wish your life did not seem to me so sad. I wish, when I go away
to-morrow, that I could carry away, with my thoughts of this place, the
thought that you are happy. As long as I remember it I wish I could
remember you as being happy."

"You have no right to remember me at all," she said, quickly, speaking
for the nun and betraying the woman.

"But I cannot help it," he said.

"Remember me, then, not as desiring to be happy, but as living to
become blessed."

This she said, breaking the long silence which had followed upon his
too eager exclamation. Her voice had become hushed into unison with her
meek and patient words. And then she paused, and, turning, waited for
the Sister to come up beside them. Nor did she even speak to him again,
merely bowing without lifting her eyes when, a little later, he thanked
them and took his leave.

In silence he and the old man returned to the farm-house, for his
thoughts were with her. In the garden she had seemed to him almost
as a child, talking artlessly of her sympathies and ties with mute
playthings; then on the heights she had suddenly revealed herself as
the youthful transcendent devotee; and finally, amid the scenes of
death, she had appeared a woman too quickly aged and too early touched
with resignation. He did not know that the effect of convent life is to
force certain faculties into maturity while others are repressed into
unalterable unripeness; so that in such instances as Sister Dolorosa's
the whole nature resembles some long, sloping mountain-side, with an
upper zone of ever-lingering snow for childhood, below this a green
vernal belt for maidenhood, and near the foot fierce summer heats and
summer storms for womanhood. Gradually his plan of joining his friends
the next day wavered for reasons that he could hardly have named.

And Sister Dolorosa--what of her when the day was over? Standing
that night in a whitewashed, cell-like room, she took off the heavy
black veil and hood which shrouded her head from all human vision,
and then unfastening at waist and throat the heavier black vestment
of the order, allowed it to slip to the floor, revealing a white
under-habit of the utmost simplicity of design. It was like the magical
transformation of a sorrow-shrouded woman back into the shape of her
own earliest maidenhood.

Her hair, of the palest gold, would, if unshorn, have covered her
figure in a soft, thick golden cloud; but shorn, it lay about her neck
and ears in large, lustrous waves that left defined the contour of
her beautiful head, and gave to it the aerial charm that belongs to
the joyousness of youth. Her whole figure was relaxed into a posture
slightly drooping; her bare arms, white as the necks of swans, hung
in forgotten grace at her sides; her eyes, large, dark, poetic, and
spiritual, were bent upon the floor, so that the lashes left their
shadows on her cheeks, while the delicate, overcircling brows were
arched high with melancholy. As the nun's funereal robes had slipped
from her person had her mind slipped back into the past, that she stood
thus, all the pure oval of her sensitive face stilled to an expression
of brooding pensiveness? On the urn which held the ashes of her heart
had some legend of happy shapes summoned her fondly to return?--some
garden? some radiant playfellow of childhood summers, already dim but
never to grow dimmer?

Sighing deeply, she stepped across the dark circle on the floor which
was the boundary of her womanhood. As she did so her eyes rested on
a small table where lay a rich veil of white that she had long been
embroidering for a shrine of the Virgin. Slowly, still absently, she
walked to it, and, taking it up, threw it over her head, so that the
soft fabric enveloped her head and neck and fell in misty folds about
her person; she thinking the while only of the shrine; she looking
down on this side and on that, and wishing only to judge how well this
design and that design, patiently and prayerfully wrought out, might
adorn the image of the Divine Mother in the church of the convent.

But happening to be standing quite close to the white wall of the room
with the lamp behind her, when she raised her eyes she caught sight of
her shadow, and with a low cry clasped her hands, and for an instant,
breathless, surveyed it. No mirrors are allowed in the convent. Since
entering it Sister Dolorosa had not seen a reflection of herself,
except perhaps her shadow in the sun or her face in a troubled basin of
water. Now, with one overwhelming flood of womanly self-consciousness,
she bent forward, noting the outline of her uncovered head, of her
bared neck and shoulders and arms. Did this accidental adorning of
herself in the veil of a bride, after she had laid aside the veil of
the Church, typify her complete relapse of nature? And was this the
lonely marriage-moment of her betrayed heart?

For a moment, trembling, not before the image on the wall, but before
that vivid mirror which memory and fancy set before every woman when
no real mirror is nigh, she indulged her self-surrender to thoughts
that covered her, on face and neck, with a rosy cloud more maidenly
than the white mist of the veil. Then, as if recalled by some lightning
stroke of conscience, with fearful fingers she lifted off the veil,
extinguished the lamp, and, groping her way on tiptoe to the bedside,
stood beside it, afraid to lie down, afraid to pray, her eyes wide open
in the darkness.


    V.

Sleep gathers up the soft threads of passion that have been spun by
us during the day, and weaves them into a tapestry of dreams on which
we see the history of our own characters. We awake to find our wills
more inextricably caught in the tissues of their own past; we stir, and
discover that we are the heirs to our dead selves of yesterday, with a
larger inheritance of transmitted purpose.

When Gordon awoke the next morning among his first thoughts was the
idea of going on to join his friends that day, and this thought now
caused him unexpected depression. Had he been older, he might have
accepted this unwillingness to go away as the best reason for leaving;
but, young, and habitually self-indulgent towards his desires when
they were not connected with vice, he did not trouble himself with any
forecast of consequences.

"You ought not to go away to-day," the old housewife said to him in the
morning, wishing to detain him through love of his company. "To-morrow
will be Sunday, and you ought to go to vespers and hear Sister Dolorosa
sing. There is not such another voice in any convent in Kentucky."

"I will stay," he replied, quickly; and the next afternoon he was
seated in the rear of the convent church, surrounded by rural Catholic
worshippers who had assembled from the neighborhood. The entire front
of the nave on one side was filled with the black-veiled Sisters
of the order; that on the other with the white-veiled novices--two
far-journeying companies of consecrated souls who reminded him in the
most solemn way how remote, how inaccessible, was that young pilgrim
among them of whom for a long time now he had been solely thinking.
With these two companies of sacrificial souls before him he understood
her character in a new light.

He beheld her much as a brave, beautiful boy volunteer, who, suddenly
waving a bright, last adieu to gay companions in some gay-streeted
town, from motives of the loftiest heroism, takes his place in the rear
of passing soldiery, marching to misguided death; who, from the rear,
glowing with too impetuous ardor, makes his way from rank to rank ever
towards the front; and who, at last, bearing the heavy arms and wearing
the battle-stained uniform of a veteran, steps forward to the van at
the commander's side and sets his fresh, pure face undaunted towards
destruction. As he thought of her thus, deeper forces stirred within
his nature than had ever been aroused by any other woman. In comparison
every one that he had known became for the moment commonplace, human
life as he was used to it gross and uninspiring, and his own ideal
of duty a dwarfish mixture of selfishness and luxurious triviality.
Impulsive in his recognition of nobleness of nature wherever he
perceived it, for this devotedness of purpose he began to feel the
emotion which of all that ever visit the human heart is at once the
most humbling, the most uplifting, and the most enthralling--the
hero-worship of a strong man for a fragile woman.

The service began. As it went on he noticed here and there among those
near him such evidences of restlessness as betray in a seated throng
high-wrought expectancy of some pleasure too long deferred. But at
last these were succeeded by a breathless hush, as, from the concealed
organ-loft above, a low, minor prelude was heard, groping and striving
nearer and nearer towards the concealed motive, as a little wave creeps
farther and farther along a melancholy shore. Suddenly, beautiful and
clear, more tender than love, more sorrowful than death, there floated
out upon the still air of the church the cry of a woman's soul that
has offended, and that, shrinking from every prayer of speech, pours
forth its more intense, inarticulate, and suffering need through the
diviner faculty of song.

At the sound every ear was strained to listen. Hitherto the wont had
been to hear that voice bear aloft the common petition as calmly as
the incense rose past the altar to the roof; but now it quivered
over troubled depths of feeling, it rose freighted with the burden
of self-accusal. Still higher and higher it rose, borne triumphantly
upward by love and aspiration, until the powers of the singer's frame
seemed spending themselves in one superhuman effort of the soul to make
its prayer understood to the divine forgiveness. Then, all at once,
at the highest note, as a bird soaring towards the sun has its wings
broken by a shot from below, it too broke, faltered, and there was a
silence. But only for a moment: another voice, poor and cold, promptly
finished the song; the service ended; the people poured out of the
church.

When Gordon came out there were a few groups standing near the door
talking; others were already moving homeward across the grounds. Not
far off he observed a lusty young countryman, with a frank, winning
face, who appeared to be waiting, while he held a child that had laid
its bright head against his tanned, athletic neck. Gordon approached
him, and said with forced calmness:

"Do you know what was the matter in the church?"

"My wife has gone to see," he replied, warmly. "Wait; she'll be here in
a minute. Here she is now."

The comely, Sunday-dressed young wife came up and took the child, who
held out its arms, fondly smiling.

"She hadn't been well, and they didn't want her to sing to-day; but she
begged to sing, and broke down." Saying this, the young mother kissed
her child, and slipping one hand into the great brown hand of her
husband, which closed upon it, turned away with them across the lawn
homeward.

When Sister Dolorosa, who had passed a sleepless, prayerless night,
stood in the organ-loft and looked across the church at the scene
of the Passion, at the shrine of the Virgin, at the white throng of
novices and the dark throng of the Sisters, the common prayer of whom
was to be borne upward by her voice, there came upon her like a burying
wave a consciousness of how changed she was since she had stood there
last. Thus at the moment when Gordon, sitting below, reverently set
her far above him, as one looks up to a statue whose feet are above
the level of his head, she, thinking of what she had been and had now
become, seemed to herself as though fallen from a white pedestal to
the miry earth. But when, to a nature like hers, absolute loyalty to
a sinless standard of character is the only law of happiness itself,
every lapse into transgression is followed by an act of passionate
self-chastisement and by a more passionate outburst of love for the
wronged ideal; and therefore scarce had she begun to sing, and in
music to lift up the prayer she had denied herself in words, before
the powers of her body succumbed, as the strings of an instrument snap
under too strenuous a touch of the musician.

Gordon walked out of the grounds beside the rustic young husband and
wife, who plainly were lovers still.

"The Sister who sang has a beautiful voice," he said.

"None of them can sing like her," replied the wife. "I love her better
than any of the others."

"I tin sing!" cried the little girl, looking at Gordon, resentfully, as
though he had denied her that accomplishment.

"But you'll never sing in a convent, missy," cried the father,
snatching her from her mother. "You'll sing for some man till he
marries you as your mother did me. I was going to join the Trappist
monks, but my wife said I was too good a sweetheart to spoil, and she
had made up her mind to have me herself," he added, turning to Gordon
with a laugh.

"I'd have been a Sister long ago if you hadn't begged and begged me
not," was the reply, with the coquettish toss of a pretty head.

"I doin' be Tap monk," cried the little girl, looking at Gordon still
more assertively, but joining in the laugh that followed with a scream
of delight at the wisdom of her decision.

Their paths here diverged, and Gordon walked slowly on alone, but not
without turning to watch the retreating figures, his meeting with whom
at such a moment formed an episode in the history of that passion under
the influence of which he was now rapidly passing. For as he had sat in
the church his nature, which was always generous in its responsiveness,
had lent itself wholly to the solicitations of the service; and for
a time the stillness, the paintings portraying the divine sorrow,
the slow procession of nameless women, the tapers, the incense, the
hoary antiquity of the ceremonial, had carried him into a little known
region of his religious feeling. But from this he had been sharply
recalled by the suggestion of a veiled personal tragedy close at hand
in that unfinished song. His mood again became one of vast pity for
her; and issuing from the church with this feeling, there, near the
very entrance, he had come upon a rustic picture of husband, wife, and
child, with a sharpness of transition that had seemed the return of his
spirit to its own world of flesh and blood. There to him was the poetry
and the religion of life--the linked hands of lovers; the twining arms
of childhood; health and joyousness; and a quiet walk over familiar
fields in the evening air from peaceful church to peaceful home. And
so, thinking of this as he walked on alone and thinking also of her,
the two thoughts blended, and her image stood always before him in the
path-way of his ideal future.

The history of the next several days may soon be told. He wrote to his
friends, stating that there was no game in the neighborhood, and that
he had given up the idea of joining them and would return home. He took
the letter to the station, and waited for the train to pass southward,
watching it rush away with a subtle pleasure at being left on the
platform, as though the bridges were now burned behind him. Then he
returned to the farm-house, where Ezra met him with that look of stupid
alarm which was natural to him whenever his few thoughts were agitated
by a new situation of affairs.

Word had come from the convent that he was wanted there to move a fence
and make changes in the garden, and, proud of the charge, he wished to
go; but certain autumnal work in his own orchard and garden claimed his
time, and hence the trouble. But Gordon, who henceforth had no reason
for tarrying with the old couple, threw himself eagerly upon this
opportunity to do so, and offered his aid in despatching the tasks.
So that thus a few days passed, during which he unconsciously made his
way as far as any one had ever done into the tortuous nature of the old
man, who began to regard him with blind trustfulness.

But they were restless, serious days. One after another passed, and he
heard nothing of Sister Dolorosa. He asked himself whether she were
ill, whether her visits to old Martha had been made to cease; and he
shrank from the thought of bearing away into his life the haunting pain
of such uncertainty. But some inner change constrained him no longer
to call her name. As he sat with the old couple at night the housewife
renewed her talks with him, speaking sometimes of the convent and of
Sister Dolorosa, the cessation of whose visits plainly gave her secret
concern; but he listened in silence, preferring the privacy of his
own thoughts. Sometimes, under feint of hunting, he would take his
gun in the afternoon and stroll out over the country; but always the
presence of the convent made itself felt over the landscape, dominating
it, solitary and impregnable, like a fortress. It began to draw his
eyes with a species of fascination. He chafed against its assertion
of barriers, and could have wished that his own will might be brought
into conflict with it. It appeared to watch him; to have an eye at
every window; to see in him a lurking danger. At other times, borne
to him across the darkening fields would come the sweet vesper bell,
and in imagination he would see her entering the church amid the long
procession of novices and nuns, her hands folded across her breast, her
face full of the soft glories of the lights that streamed in through
the pictured windows. Over the fancied details of her life more and
more fondly he lingered.

And thus, although at first he had been interested in her wholly upon
general grounds, believing her secretly unhappy, thus by thinking
always of her, and watching for her, and walking often beside her in
his dreams, with the folly of the young, with the romantic ardor of
his race, and as part of the never-ending blind tragedy of the world,
he came at last to feel for her, among women, that passionate pain of
yearning to know which is to know the sadness of love.

Sleepless one night, he left the house after the old couple were
asleep. The moon was shining, and unconsciously following the bent
of his thoughts, he took the foot-path that led across the fields.
He passed the spot where he had first met her, and absorbed in
recollection of the scene, he walked on until before him the convent
towered high in light and shadow. He had reached the entrance to the
long avenue of elms. He traversed it, turned aside into the garden,
and, following with many pauses around its borders, lived over again
the day when she had led him through it. The mere sense of his greater
physical nearness to her inthralled him. All her words came back:
"These are daffodils. They bloomed in March, long ago.... And here are
violets, which come in April." After awhile, leaving the garden, he
walked across the lawn to the church and sat upon the steps, trying to
look calmly at this whole episode in his life, and to summon resolution
to bring it to an end. He dwelt particularly upon the hopelessness of
his passion; he made himself believe that if he could but learn that
she were not ill and suffering--if he could but see her once more, and
be very sure--he would go away, as every dictate of reason urged.

Across the lawn stood the convent building. There caught his eye the
faint glimmer of a light through a half-opened window, and while he
looked he saw two of the nuns moving about within. Was some one dying?
Was this light the taper of the dead? He tried to throw off a sudden
weight of gloomy apprehension, and resolutely got up and walked away;
but his purpose was formed not to leave until he had intelligence of
her.

One afternoon, a few days days later, happening to come to an elevated
point of the landscape, he saw her figure moving across the fields in
the distance below him. Between the convent and the farm-house, in
one of the fields, there is a circular, basin-like depression; and it
was here, hidden from distant observation, with only the azure of the
heavens above them, that their meeting took place.

On the day when she had been his guide he had told her that he was
going away on the morrow, and as she walked along now it might have
been seen that she thought herself safe from intrusion. Her eyes were
bent on the dust of the path-way. One hand was passing bead by bead
upward along her rosary. Her veil was pushed back, so that between its
black border and the glistening whiteness of her forehead there ran,
like a rippling band of gold, the exposed edges of her shining hair.
In the other hand she bore a large cluster of chrysanthemums, whose
snow-white petals and green leaves formed a strong contrast with the
crimson symbol that they partly framed against her sable bosom.

He had come up close before the noise of his feet in the stubble drew
her attention. Then she turned and saw him. But certain instincts of
self-preservation act in women with lightning quickness. She did not
recognize him, or give him time to recognize her. She merely turned
again and walked onward at the same pace. But the chrysanthemums were
trembling with the beating of her heart, and her eyes had in them that
listening look with which one awaits the oncoming of danger from behind.

But he had stopped. His nature was simple and trustful, and he had
expected to renew his acquaintanceship at the point where it had
ceased. When, therefore, she thus reminded him, as indeed she must,
that there was no acquaintanceship between them, and that she regarded
herself as much alone as though he were nowhere in sight, his feelings
were arrested as if frozen by her coldness. Still, it was for this
chance that he had waited all these days. Another would not come; and
whatever he wished to say to her must be said now. A sensitiveness
wholly novel to his nature held him back, but a moment more and he was
walking beside her.

"I hope I do not intrude so very far," he said, in a tone of apology,
but also of wounded self-respect.

It was a difficult choice thus left to her. She could not say "Yes"
without seeming unpardonably rude; she could not say "No" without
seeming to invite his presence. She walked on for a moment, and then,
pausing, turned towards him.

"Is there anything that you wished to ask me in regard to the convent?"
This she said in the sweetest tone of apologetic courtesy, as though in
having thought only of herself at first she had neglected some larger
duty.

If he had feared that he would see traces of physical suffering on her
face, he was mistaken. She had forgotten to draw her veil close, and
the sunlight fell upon its loveliness. Never had she been to him half
so beautiful. Whatever the expression her eyes had worn before he had
come up, in them now rested only inscrutable calmness.

"There is one thing I have wished very much to know," he answered,
slowly, his eyes resting on hers. "I was at the church of the convent
last Sunday and heard you sing. They said you were not well. I have
hoped every day to hear that you were better. I have not cared to go
away until I knew this."

Scarcely had he begun when a flush dyed her face, her eyes fell, and
she stood betrayed by the self-consciousness of what her own thoughts
had that day been. One hand absently tore to pieces the blooms of the
chrysanthemums, so that the petals fell down over her dark habit like
snowflakes. But when he finished, she lifted her eyes again.

"I am well now, thank you," she said; and the first smile that he had
ever seen came forth from her soul to her face. But what a smile! It
wrung his heart more than the sight of her tears could have done.

"Then I shall hope to hear you sing again to-morrow," he said, quickly,
for she seemed on the point of moving away.

"I shall not sing to-morrow," she replied a little hurriedly, with
averted face, and again she started on. But he walked beside her.

"In that case I have still to thank you for the pleasure I have had.
I imagine that one would never do wrong if he could hear you sing
whenever he is tempted," he said, looking sidewise at her with a
quiet, tentative smile.

"It is not my voice," she replied more hurriedly. "It is the music of
the service. Do not thank me. Thank God."

"I have heard the service before. It was your voice that touched me."

She drew her veil about her face and walked on in silence.

"But I have no wish to say anything against your religion," he
continued, his voice deepening and trembling. "If it has such power
over the natures of women, if it lifts them to such ideals of duty, if
it develops in them such characters, that merely to look into their
faces, to be near them, to hear their voices, is to make a man think of
a better world, I do not know why I should say anything against it."

How often, without meaning it, our words are like a flight of
arrows into another's heart. What he said but reminded her of her
unfaithfulness. And therefore while she revolved how with perfect
gentleness she might ask him to allow her to continue her way alone,
she did what she could: she spoke reverently, though all but inaudibly,
in behalf of her order.

"Our vows are perfect and divine. If they ever seem less, it is the
fault of those of us who dishonor them."

The acute self-reproach in her tone at once changed his mood.

"On the other hand, I have also asked myself this question: Is it the
creed that makes the natures of you women so beautiful, or it is the
nature of woman that gives the beauty to the creed? It is not so with
any other idea that women espouse? with any other cause that they
undertake? Is it not so with anything that they spend their hearts
upon, toil for, and sacrifice themselves for? Do I see any beauty in
your vows except such as your life gives to them? I can believe it.
I can believe that if you had never taken those vows your life would
still be beautiful. I can believe that you could change them for others
and find yourself more nearly the woman that you strive to be--that you
were meant to be!" He spoke in the subdued voice with which one takes
leave of some hope that brightens while it disappears.

"I must ask you," she said, pausing--"I must ask you to allow me to
continue my walk alone;" and her voice quivered.

He paused, too, and stood looking into her eyes in silence with the
thought that he should never see her again. The color had died out of
his face.

"I can never forgive your vows," he said, speaking very slowly and
making an effort to appear unmoved. "I can never forgive your vows that
they make it a sin for me to speak to you. I can never forgive them
that they put between us a gulf that I cannot pass. Remember, I owe you
a great deal. I owe you higher ideas of a woman's nature and clearer
resolutions regarding my own life. Your vows perhaps make it even a
sin that I should tell you this. But by what right? By what right am
I forbidden to say that I shall remember you always, and that I shall
carry away with me into my life--"

"Will you force me to turn back?" she asked in greater agitation; and
though he could not see her face, he saw her tears fall upon her hands.

"No," he answered sadly; "I shall not force you to turn back. I know
that I have intruded. But it seemed that I could not go away without
seeing you again, to be quite sure that you were well. And when I saw
you, it seemed impossible not to speak of other things. Of course this
must seem strange to you--stranger, perhaps, than I may imagine, since
we look at human relationships so differently. My life in this world
can be of no interest to you. You cannot, therefore, understand why
yours should have any interest for me. Still, I hope you can forgive
me," he added abruptly, turning his face away as it flushed and his
voice faltered.

She lifted her eyes quickly, although they were dim. "Do not ask me to
forgive anything. There is nothing to be forgiven. It is I who must
ask--only leave me!"

"Will you say good-bye to me?" And he held out his hand.

She drew back, but, overborne by emotion, he stepped forward, gently
took her hand from the rosary, and held it in both his own.

"Good-bye! But, despite the cruel barriers that they have raised
between us, I shall always--"

She foresaw what was coming. His manner told her that. She had not
withdrawn her hand. But at this point she dropped the flowers that were
in her other hand, laid it on her breast so that the longest finger
pointed towards the symbol of the transfixed heart, and looked quickly
at him with indescribable warning and distress. Then he released her,
and she turned back towards the convent.

"Mother," she said, with a frightened face, when she reached it, "I did
not go to old Martha's. Some one was hunting in the fields, and I came
back. Do not send me again, Mother, unless one of the Sisters goes
with me." And with this half-truth on her lips and full remorse for it
in her heart, she passed into that deepening imperfection of nature
which for the most of us makes up the inner world of reality.

Gordon wrote to her that night. He had not foreseen his confession. It
had been drawn from him under the influences of the moment; but since
it was made, a sense of honor would not have allowed him to stop there,
even had feeling carried him no further. Moreover, some hope had been
born in him at the moment of separation, since she had not rebuked him,
but only reminded him of her vows.

His letter was full of the confidence and enthusiasm of youth, and its
contents may be understood by their likeness to others. He unfolded the
plan of his life--the life which he was asking her to share. He dwelt
upon its possibilities, he pointed out the field of its aspirations.
But he kept his letter for some days, unable to conceive a way by which
it might be sent to its destination. At length the chance came in the
simplest of disguises.

Ezra was starting one morning to the convent. As he was leaving the
room, old Martha called to him. She sat by the hearth-stone, with her
head tied up in red flannel, and her large, watery face flushed with
pain, and pointed towards a basket of apples on the window sill.

"Take them to Sister Dolorosa, Ezra," she said "Mind that you see
_her_, and give them to her with your own hands. And ask her why she
hasn't been to see me, and when she is coming." On this point her mind
seemed more and more troubled. "But what's the use of asking _you_ to
find out for me?" she added, flashing out at him with heroic anger.

The old man stood in the middle of the room, dry and gnarled, his small
eyes kindling into a dull rage at a taunt made in the presence of a
guest whose good opinion he desired. But he took the apples in silence
and left the room.

As Gordon followed him beyond the garden, noting how his mind was
absorbed in petty anger, a simple resolution came to him.

"Ezra," he said, handing him the letter, "when you give the Sister the
apples, deliver this. And we do not talk about business, you know,
Ezra."

The old man took the letter and put it furtively into his pocket, with
a backward shake of his head towards the house.

"Whatever risks I may have to run from other quarters, he will never
tell _her_," Gordon said to himself.

When Ezra returned in the evening he was absorbed, and Gordon noted
with relief that he was also unsuspicious. He walked some distance to
meet the old man the next two days, and his suspense became almost
unendurable, but he asked no questions. The third day Ezra drew from
his pocket a letter, which he delivered, merely saying:

"The Sister told me to give you this."

Gordon, soon turned aside across the fields, and having reached a
point, screened from observation he opened the letter and read as
follows:

 "I have received your letter. I have read it. But how could I listen
 to your proposal without becoming false to my vows? And if you knew
 that I had proved false to what I held most dear and binding, how
 could you ever believe that I would be true to anything else? Ah, no!
 Should you unite yourself to one who for your sake had been faithless
 to the ideal of womanhood which she regarded as supreme, you would
 soon withdraw from her the very love that she had sacrificed even her
 hopes of Heaven to enjoy.

 "But it seems possible that in writing to me you believe my vows no
 longer precious to my heart and sacred to my conscience. You are
 wrong. They are more dear to me at this moment than ever before,
 because at this moment, as never before, they give me a mournful
 admonition of my failure to exhibit to the world in my own life the
 beauty of their ineffable holiness. For had there not been something
 within me to lead you on--had I shown to you the sinless nature which
 it is their office to create--you would never have felt towards me as
 you do. You would no more have thought of loving me than of loving an
 angel of God.

 "The least reparation I can make for my offense is to tell you that in
 offering me your love you offer me the cup of sacred humiliation, and
 that I thank you for reminding me of my duty, while I drain it to the
 dregs.

 "After long deliberation I have written to tell you this; and if it be
 allowed me to make one request, I would entreat that you will never
 lay this sin of mine to the charge of my religion and my order.

 "We shall never meet again. Although I may not listen to your
 proposal, it is allowed me to love you as one of the works of God.
 And since there are exalted women in the world who do not consecrate
 themselves to the Church, I shall pray that you may find one of these
 to walk by your side through life. I shall pray that she may be worthy
 of you; and perhaps you will teach her sometimes to pray for one who
 will always need her prayers.

 "I only know that God orders our lives according to his goodness.
 My feet he set in one path of duty, yours in another, and he had
 separated us forever long before he allowed us to meet. If, therefore,
 having thus separated us, he yet brought us together only that we
 should thus know each other and then be parted, I cannot believe that
 there was not in it some needed lesson for us both. At least, if he
 will deign to hear the ceaseless, fervent petition of one so erring,
 he will not leave you unhappy on account of that love for me, which in
 this world it will never be allowed me to return. Farewell!"

The first part of this letter awakened in Gordon keen remorse and
a faltering of purpose, but the latter filled him with a joy that
excluded every other feeling.

"She loves me!" he exclaimed; and, as though registering a vow, he
added aloud, "And nothing--God help me!--nothing shall keep us apart."

Walking to a point of the landscape that commanded a view of the
convent, he remained there while the twilight fell, revolving how he
was to surmount the remaining barriers between them, for these now
seemed hardly more than cobwebs to be brushed aside by his hand; and
often, meanwhile, he looked towards the convent, as one might look
longingly towards some forbidden shrine, which the coming night would
enable him to approach.


    VI.

A night for love it was. The great sun at setting had looked with
steadfast eye at the convent standing lonely on its wide landscape, and
had then thrown his final glance across the world towards the east; and
the moon had quickly risen and hung about it the long silvery twilight
of her heavenly watchfulness. The summer, too, which had been moving
southward, now came slowly back, borne on warm airs that fanned the
convent walls and sighed to its chaste lattices with the poetry of
dead flowers and vanished songsters. But sighed in vain. With many a
prayer, with many a cross on pure brow and shoulder and breast, with
many a pious kiss of crucifix, the convent slept. Only some little
novice, lying like a flushed figure of Sleep on a couch of snow, may
have stirred to draw one sigh, as those zephyrs, toying with her warm
hair, broke some earthly dream of too much tenderness. Or they may
merely have cooled the feverish feet of a withered nun, who clasped her
dry hands in ecstasy, as on her cavernous eyes there dawned a vision
of the glories and rewards of Paradise. But no, not all slept. At an
open window on the eastern side of the convent stood the sleepless one,
looking out into the largeness of the night like one who is lost in the
largeness of her sorrow.

Across the lawn, a little distance off, stood the church of the
convent. The moonlight rested on it like a smile of peace, the elms
blessed it with tireless arms, and from the zenith of the sky down
to the horizon there rested on out-stretched wings, rank above rank
and pinion brushing pinion, a host of white, angelic cloud-shapes, as
though guarding the sacred portal.

But she looked at it with timid yearning. Greater and greater had
become the need to pour into some ear a confession and a prayer for
pardon. Her peace was gone. She had been concealing her heart from the
Mother Superior. She had sinned against her vows. She had impiously
offended the Divine Mother. And to-day, after answering his letter in
order that she might defend her religion, she had acknowledged to her
heart that she loved him. But they would never meet again. To-morrow
she would make a full confession of what had taken place. Beyond that
miserable ordeal she dared not gaze into her own future.

Lost in the fears and sorrows of such thoughts, long she stood looking
out into the night, stricken with a sense of alienation from human
sympathy. She felt that she stood henceforth estranged from the entire
convent--Mother Superior, novice, and nun--as an object of reproach,
and of suffering into which no one of them could enter.

Sorer yet grew her need, and a little way across the lawn stood the
church, peaceful in the moonlight. Ah, the divine pity! If only
she might steal first alone to the shrine of her whom most she had
offended, and to an ear gracious to sorrow make confession of her
frailty. At length, overcome with this desire and gliding noiselessly
out of the room, she passed down the moonlit hall, on each side of
which the nuns were sleeping. She descended the stair-way, took from
the wall the key of the church, and then softly opening the door,
stepped out into the night. For a moment she paused, icy and faint with
physical fear; then, passing like a swift shadow across the silvered
lawn, she went round to the side entrance of the church, unlocked the
door, and, entering quickly, locked herself inside. There she stood for
some time with hands pressed tightly to her fluttering heart, until
bodily agitation died away before the recollection of her mission; and
there came upon her that calmness with which the soul enacts great
tragedies. Then slowly, very slowly, hidden now, and now visible where
the moonlight entered the long, gothic windows, she passed across the
chancel towards the shrine of one whom ancestral faith had taught her
to believe divine; and before the image of a Jewish woman--who herself
in full humanity loved and married a carpenter nearly two thousand
years ago, living beside him as blameless wife and becoming blameless
mother to his children--this poor child, whose nature was unstained as
snow on the mountain-peaks, poured out her prayer to be forgiven the
sin of her love.

To the woman of the world, the approaches of whose nature are defended
by the intricacies of willfulness and the barriers of deliberate
reserve; to the woman of the world, who curbs and conceals that
feeling to which she intends to yield herself in the end, it may seem
incredible that there should have rooted itself so easily in the
breast of one of her sex this flower of a fatal passion. But it should
be remembered how unbefriended that bosom had been by any outpost of
feminine self-consciousness; how exposed it was through very belief
in its unearthly consecration; how like some unwatched vase that
had long been collecting the sweet dews and rains of heaven, it had
been silently filling with those unbidden intimations that are shed
from above as the best gifts of womanhood. Moreover, her life was
unspeakably isolate. In the monotony of its routine a trifling event
became an epoch; a fresh impression stirred within the mind material
for a chapter of history. Lifted far above commonplace psychology of
the passions, however, was the planting and the growth of an emotion in
a heart like hers.

Her prayer began. It began with the scene of her first meeting with
him in the fields, for from that moment she fixed the origin of her
unfaithfulness. Of the entire hidden life of poetic reverie and
unsatisfied desires which she had been living before, her innocent
soul took no account. Therefore, beginning with that afternoon, she
passed in review the history of her thoughts and feelings. The moon
outside, flooding the heavens with its beams, was not so intense a
lamp as memory, now turned upon the recesses of her mind. Nothing
escaped detection. His words, the scenes with him in the garden, in
the field--his voice, looks, gestures--his anxiety and sympathy--his
passionate letter--all were now vividly recalled, that they might be
forgotten; and their influence confessed, that it might forever be
renounced. Her conscience stood beside her love as though it were some
great fast-growing deadly plant in her heart, with deep-twisted roots
and strangling tendrils, each of which to the smallest fibre must be
uptorn so that not a germ should be left.

But who can describe the prayer of such a soul! It is easy to ask to be
rid of ignoble passions. They come upon us as momentary temptations and
are abhorrent to our better selves; but of all tragedies enacted within
the theatre of the human mind what one is so pitiable as that in which
a pure being prays to be forgiven the one feeling of nature that is
the revelation of beauty, the secret of perfection, the solace of the
world, and the condition of immortality?

The passing of such a tragedy scars the nature of the penitent like the
passing of an age across a mountain rock. If there had lingered thus
long on Sister Dolorosa's nature any upland of childhood snows, these
vanished in that hour; if any vernal belt of maidenhood, it felt the
hot breath of that experience of the world and of the human destiny
which quickly ages whatever it does not destroy. So that while she
prayed there seemed to rise from within her and take flight forever
that spotless image of herself as she once had been, and in its place
to stand the form of a woman, older, altered, and set apart by sorrow.

At length her prayer ended and she rose. It had not brought her the
peace that prayer brings to women; for the confession of her love
before the very altar--the mere coming into audience with the Eternal
to renounce it--had set upon it the seal of irrevocable truth. It is
when the victim is led to the altar of sacrifice that it turns its
piteous eyes upon the sacrificing hand and utters its poor dumb cry for
life; and it was when Sister Dolorosa bared the breast of her humanity
that it might be stabbed by the hand of her religion, that she, too,
though attempting to bless the stroke, felt the last pangs of that deep
thrust.

With such a wound she turned from the altar, walked with bowed head
once more across the church, unlocked the door, stepped forth and
locked it. The night had grown more tender. The host of seraphic
cloud-forms had fled across the sky; and as she turned her eyes
upward to the heavens, there looked down upon her from their serene,
untroubled heights only the stars, that never falter or digress
from their forewritten courses. The thought came to her that never
henceforth should she look up to them without being reminded of how
her own will had wandered from its orbit. The moon rained its steady
beams upon the symbol of the sacred heart on her bosom, until it seemed
to throb again with the agony of the crucifixion. Never again should
she see it without the remembrance that _her_ sin also had pierced it
afresh.

With what loneliness that sin had surrounded her! As she had issued
from the damp, chill atmosphere of the church, the warm airs of the
south quickened within her long-sleeping memories; and with the
yearning of stricken childhood she thought of her mother, to whom she
had turned of yore for sympathy; but that mother's bosom was now a
mound of dust. She looked across the lawn towards the convent where the
Mother Superior and the nuns were sleeping. To-morrow she would stand
among them a greater alien than any stranger. No; she was alone; among
the millions of human beings on the earth of God there was not one on
whose heart she could have rested her own. Not one save him--him--whose
love had broken down all barriers that it might reach and infold her.
And him she had repelled. A joy, new and indescribable, leaped within
her that for him and not for another she suffered and was bound in this
tragedy of her fall.

Slowly she took her way along the side of the church towards the front
entrance, from which a paved walk led to the convent building. She
reached the corner, she turned, and then she paused as one might pause
who had come upon the beloved dead, returned to life.

For he was sitting on the steps of the church, leaning against one of
the pillars, his face lifted upward so that the moonlight fell upon
it. She had no time to turn back before he saw her. With a low cry
of surprise and joy he sprang up and followed along the side of the
church; for she had begun to retrace her steps to the door, to lock
herself inside. When he came up beside her, she paused. Both were
trembling; but when he saw the look of suffering on her face, acting
upon the impulse which had always impelled him to stand between her and
unhappiness, he now took both of her hands.

"Pauline!"

He spoke with all the pleading love, all the depth of nature, that was
in him.

She had attempted to withdraw her hands; but at the sound of that
once-familiar name, she suddenly bowed her head as the wave of memories
and emotions passed over her; then he quickly put his arms around her,
drew her to him, and bent down and kissed her.


    VII.

For hours there lasted an interview, during which he, with the delirium
of hope, she with the delirium of despair, drained at their young lips
that cup of life which is full of the first confession of love.

In recollections so overwhelming did this meeting leave Gordon on the
next morning, that he was unmindful of everything beside; and among the
consequences of absent-mindedness was the wound that he gave himself by
the careless handling of his gun.

When Ezra had set out for the convent that morning he had walked with
him, saying that he would go to the station for a daily paper, but
chiefly wishing to escape the house and be alone. They had reached
in the fields a rotting fence, on each side of which grew briers and
underwood. He had expected to climb this fence, and as he stood beside
it speaking a few parting words to Ezra he absently thrust his gun
between two of the lower rails, not noticing that the lock was sprung.
Caught in the brush on the other side, it was discharged, making a
wound in his left leg a little below the thigh. He turned to a deadly
paleness, looked at Ezra with that stunned, bewildered expression seen
in the faces of those who receive a wound, and fell.

By main strength the old man lifted and bore him to the house and
hurried off to the station, near which the neighborhood physician
and surgeon lived. But the latter was away from home; several hours
passed before he came; the means taken to stop the hemorrhage had been
ineffectual; the loss of blood had been very great; certain foreign
matter had been carried into the wound; the professional treatment was
unskilful; and septic fever followed, so that for many days his life
hung upon a little chance. But convalescence came at last, and with
it days of clear, calm thinking. For he had not allowed news of his
accident to be sent home or to his friends; and except the old couple,
the doctor, and the nurse whom the latter had secured, he had no
company but his thoughts.

No tidings had come to him of Sister Dolorosa since his accident;
and nothing had intervened to remove that sad image of her which had
haunted him through fever and phantasy and dream since the night of
their final interview. For it was then that he had first realized
in how pitiless a tragedy her life had become entangled, and how
conscience may fail to govern a woman's heart in denying her the right
to love, but may still govern her actions in forbidding her to marry.
To plead with her had been to wound only the more deeply a nature that
accepted even this pleading as a further proof of its own disloyalty,
and was forced by it into a state of more poignant humiliation. What
wonder, therefore, if there had been opened in his mind from that hour
a certain wound which grew deeper and deeper, until, by comparison, his
real wound seemed painless and insignificant.

Nevertheless, it is true that during this interview he had not been
able to accept her decision as irreversible. The spell of her presence
over him was too complete; even his wish to rescue her from a lot,
henceforth unhappier still, too urgent; so that in parting he had
clung to the secret hope that little by little he might change her
conscience, which now interposed the only obstacle between them.

Even the next day, when he had been wounded and life was rapidly
flowing from him, and earthly ties seemed soon to be snapped, he had
thought only of this tie, new and sacred, and had written to her. Poor
boy!--he had written, as with his heart's blood, his brief, pathetic
appeal that she would come and be united to him before he died. In all
ages of the world there have been persons, simple in nature and simple
in their faith in another life, who have forgotten everything else in
the last hour but the supreme wish to grapple to them those they love,
for eternity, and at whatever cost. Such simplicity of nature and faith
belonged to him; for although in Kentucky the unrest of the century
touching belief in the supernatural, and the many phases by which this
expresses itself, are not, unknown, they had never affected him. He
believed as his fathers had believed, that to be united in this world
in any relation is to be united in that relation, mysteriously changed
yet mysteriously the same, in another.

But this letter had never been sent. There had been no one to take it
at the time; and when Ezra returned with the physician he had fainted
away from loss of blood.

Then had followed the dressing of the wound, days of fever and
unconsciousness, and then the assurance that he would get well. Thus,
nearly a month had passed, and for him a great change had come over
the face of nature and the light of the world. With that preternatural
calm of mind which only an invalid or a passionless philosopher ever
obtains, he now looked back upon an episode which thus acquired
fictitious remoteness. So weak that he could scarcely lift his head
from his pillow, there left his heart the keen, joyous sense of human
ties and pursuits. He lost the key to the motives and forces of his
own character. But it is often the natural result of such illness that
while the springs of feeling seem to dry up, the conscience remains
sensitive, or even burns more brightly, as a star through a rarer
atmosphere. So that, lying thus in the poor farm-house during dreary
days, with his life half-gone out of him and with only the sad image
of her always before his eyes, he could think of nothing but his cruel
folly in having broken in upon her peace; for perfect peace of some
sort she must have had in comparison with what was now left her.

Beneath his pillow he kept her letter, and as he often read it over he
asked himself how he could ever have hoped to change the conscience
which had inspired such a letter as that. If her heart belonged to him,
did not her soul belong to her religion; and if one or the other must
give way, could it be doubtful with such a nature as hers which would
come out victorious? Thus he said to himself that any further attempt
to see her could but result in greater suffering to them both, and that
nothing was left him but what she herself had urged--to go away and
resign her to a life, from which he had too late found out that she
could never be divorced.

As soon as he had come to this decision, he began to think of her as
belonging only to his past. The entire episode became a thing of memory
and irreparable incompleteness; and with the conviction that she was
lost to him her image passed into that serene, reverential sanctuary
of our common nature, where all the highest that we have grasped at
and missed, and all the beauty that we have loved and lost, take the
forms of statues around dim walls and look down upon us in mournful,
never-changing perfection.

As he lay one morning revolving his altered purpose, Ezra came quietly
into the room and took from a table near the foot of the bed a waiter
on which were a jelly-glass and a napkin.

"_She_ said I'd better take these back this morning," he observed,
looking at Gordon for his approval, and motioning with his head towards
that quarter of the house where Martha was supposed to be.

"Wait awhile, will you, Ezra?" he replied, looking at the old man with
the dark, quiet eye of an invalid. "I think I ought to write a few
lines this morning to thank them for their kindness. Come back in an
hour, will you?"

The things had been sent from the convent; for, from the time that news
had reached the Mother Superior of the accident of the young stranger
who had visited the convent some days before, there had regularly come
to him delicate attentions which could not have been supplied at the
farm-house. He often asked himself whether they were not inspired by
_her_; and he thought that when the time came for him to write his
thanks, he would put into the expression of them something that would
be understood by her alone--something that would stand for gratitude
and a farewell.

When Ezra left the room, with the thought of now doing this another
thought came unexpectedly to him. By the side of the bed there stood
a small table on which were writing materials and a few books that
had been taken from his valise. He stretched out his hand and opening
one of them took from it a letter which bore the address, "Sister
Dolorosa." It contained those appealing lines that he had written her
on the day of his accident; and with calm, curious sadness he now read
them over and over, as though they had never come from him. From the
mere monotony of this exercise sleep overtook him, and he had scarcely
restored the letter to the envelope and laid it back on the table
before his eyelids closed.

While he still lay asleep, Ezra came quietly into the room again, and
took up the waiter with the jelly-glass and the napkin. Then he looked
around for the letter that he was to take. He was accustomed to carry
Gordon's letters to the station, and his eye now rested on the table
where they were always to be found. Seeing one on it, he walked across,
took it up and read the address, "Sister Dolorosa," hesitated, glanced
at Gordon's closed eyes, and then, with an intelligent nod to signify
that he could understand without further instruction, he left the room
and set out briskly for the convent.

Sister Dolorosa was at the cistern filling a bucket with water when he
came up and, handing her the letter, passed on to the convent kitchen.
She looked at it with indifference; then she opened and read it; and
then in an instant everything whirled before her eyes, and in her ears
the water sounded loud as it dropped from the chain back into the
cistern. And then she was gone--gone with a light, rapid step, down
the avenue of elms, through the gate, across the meadows, out into the
fields--bucket and cistern, Mother Superior and sisterhood, vows and
martyrs, zeal of Carmelite, passion of Christ, all forgotten.

When, nearly a month before, news had reached the Mother Superior
of the young stranger's accident, in accordance with the rule which
excludes from the convent worldly affairs, she had not made it known
except to those who were to aid in carrying out her kindly plans for
him. To Sister Dolorosa, therefore, the accident had just occurred, and
now--now as she hastened to him--he was dying.

During the intervening weeks she had undergone by insensible degrees a
deterioration of nature. Prayer had not passed her lips. She believed
that she had no right to pray. Nor had she confessed. From such a
confession as she had now to make, certain new-born instincts of
womanhood bade her shrink more deeply into the privacy of her own
being. And therefore she had become more scrupulous, if possible, of
outward duties, that no one might be led to discover the paralysis of
her spiritual life. But there was that change in her which soon drew
attention; and thenceforth, in order to hide her heart, she began to
practice with the Mother Superior little acts of self-concealment and
evasion, and by-and-by other little acts of pretense and feigning,
until--God pity her!--being most sorely pressed by questions, when
sometimes she would be found in tears or sitting listless with
her hands in her lap like one who is under the spell of mournful
phantasies, these became other little acts of positive deception. But
for each of them remorse preyed upon her the more ruthlessly, so that
she grew thin and faded, with a shadow of fear darkening always her
evasive eyes.

What most held her apart, and most she deemed put upon her the angry
ban of Heaven, was the consciousness that she still loved him, and that
she was even bound to him the more inseparably since the night of their
last meeting. For it was then that emotions had been awakened which
drew her to him in ways that love alone could not have done. These
emotions had their source in the belief that she owed him reparation
for the disappointment which she had brought upon his life. The
recollection of his face when she had denied him hope rose in constant
reproach before her; and since she held herself blamable that he had
loved her, she took the whole responsibility of his unhappiness.

It was this sense of having wronged him that cleft even conscience in
her and left her struggling. But how to undo the wrong--this she vainly
pondered; for he was gone, bearing away into his life the burden of
enticed and baffled hope.

On the morning when she was at the cistern--for the Sisters of the
Order have among them such interchange of manual offices--if, as she
read the letter that Ezra gave her, any one motive stood out clear in
the stress of that terrible moment, it was, that having been false
to other duties she might at least be true to this. She felt but one
desire--to atone to him by any sacrifice of herself that would make his
death more peaceful. Beyond this everything was void and dark within
her as she hurried on, except the consciousness that by this act she
separated herself from her Order and terminated her religious life in
utter failure and disgrace.

The light, rapid step with which she had started soon brought her
across the fields. As she drew near the house, Martha, who had caught
sight of her figure through the window, made haste to the door and
stood awaiting her. Sister Dolorosa merely approached and said:

"Where is he?"

For a moment the old woman did not answer. Then she pointed to a door
at the opposite end of the porch, and with a sparkle of peculiar
pleasure in her eyes she saw Sister Dolorosa cross and enter it. A
little while longer she stood, watching the key-hole furtively, but
then went back to the fireside, where she sat upright and motionless
with the red flannel pushed back from her listening ears.

The room was dimly lighted through half-closed shutters. Gordon lay
asleep near the edge of the bed, with his face turned towards the
door. It might well have been thought the face of one dying. Her eyes
rested on it a moment, and then with a stifled sob and moan she glided
across the room and sank on her knees at the bedside. In the utter
self-forgetfulness of her remorse, pity, and love, she put one arm
around his neck, she buried her face close beside his.

He had awaked, bewildered, as he saw her coming towards him. He now
took her arm from around his neck, pressed her hand again and again
to his lips, and then laying it on his heart crossed his arms over
it, letting one of his hands rest on her head. For a little while he
could not trust himself to speak; his love threatened to overmaster
his self-renunciation. But then, not knowing why she had come unless
from some great sympathy for his sufferings, or perhaps to see him
once more since he was now soon to go away, and not understanding any
cause for her distress but the tragedy in which he had entangled her
life--feeling only sorrow for her sorrow and wishing only by means of
his last words to help her back to such peace as she still might win,
he said to her with immeasurable gentleness:

"I thought you would never come! I thought I should have to go away
without seeing you again! They tell me it is not yet a month since the
accident, but it seems to me so _long_--a lifetime! I have lain here
day after day thinking it over, and I see things differently now--so
differently! That is why I wanted to see you once more. I wanted you
to understand that I felt you had done right in refusing--in refusing
to marry me. I wanted to ask you never to blame yourself for what has
happened--never to let any thought of having made _me_ unhappy add
to the sorrow of your life. It is my fault, not yours. But I meant
it--God _knows_, I meant it!--for the happiness of us both! I believed
that your life was not suited to you. I meant to make you happy! But
since you _cannot_ give up your life, I have only been unkind. And
since you think it wrong to give it up, I am glad that you are so true
to it! If you _must_ live it, Heaven only knows how glad I am that you
will live it heroically. And Heaven keep me equally true to the duty
in mine, that I also shall not fail in it! If we never meet again, we
can always think of each other as living true to ourselves and to one
another. Don't deny me this! Let me believe that your thoughts and
prayers will always follow me. Even your vows will not deny me this!
It will always keep us near each other, and it will bring us together
where they cannot separate us."

He had spoken with entire repression of himself, in the slow voice
of an invalid, and on the stillness of the room each word had fallen
with hard distinctness. But now, with the thought of losing her, by a
painful effort he moved closer to the edge of the bed, put his arms
around her neck, drew her face against his own, and continued:

"But do not think it is easy to tell you this! Do not think it is easy
to give you up! Do not think that I do not love you! Oh Pauline--not in
_another_ life, but in _this--in this_!" He could say no more; and out
of his physical weakness tears rose to his eyes and fell drop by drop
upon her veil.


    VIII.

Sister Dolorosa had been missed from the convent. There had been
inquiry growing ever more anxious, and search growing ever more
hurried. They found her bucket overturned at the cistern, and near
it the print of her feet in the moist earth. But she was gone. They
sought her in every hidden closet, they climbed to the observatory
and scanned the surrounding fields. Work was left unfinished, prayer
unended, as the news spread through the vast building; and as time went
by and nothing was heard of her, uneasiness became alarm, and alarm
became a vague, immeasurable foreboding of ill. Each now remembered
how strange of late had been Sister Dolorosa's life and actions, and
no one had the heart to name her own particular fears to any other or
to read them in any other's eyes. Time passed on and discipline in the
convent was forgotten. They began to pour out into the long corridors,
and in tumultuous groups passed this way and that, seeking the Mother
Superior. But the Mother Superior had gone to the church with the same
impulse that in all ages has brought the human heart to the altar of
God when stricken by peril or disaster; and into the church they also
gathered. Into the church likewise came the white flock of the novices,
who had burst from their isolated quarter of the convent with a sudden
contagion of fear. When, therefore, the Mother Superior rose from
where she had been kneeling, turned, and in the dark church saw them
assembled close around her, pallid, anxious, disordered, and looking
with helpless dependence to her for that assurance for which she had
herself in helpless dependence looked to God, so unnerved was she by
the spectacle that strength failed her and she sank upon the steps of
the altar, stretching out her arms once more in voiceless supplication
towards the altar of the Infinite helpfulness.

But at that moment a little novice, whom Sister Dolorosa loved and whom
she had taught the music of the harp, came running into the church,
wringing her hands and crying. When she was half-way down the aisle, in
a voice that rang through the building, she called out:

"Oh, Mother, she is coming! Something has happened to her! Her veil is
gone!" and, turning again, she ran out of the church.

They were hurrying after her when a note of command, inarticulate but
imperious, from the Mother Superior arrested every foot and drew every
eye in that direction. Voice had failed her, but with a gesture full
of dignity and reproach she waved them back, and supporting her great
form between two of the nuns, she advanced slowly down the aisle of the
church and passed out by the front entrance. But they forgot to obey
her and followed; and when she descended the steps to the bottom and
made a sign that she would wait there, on the steps behind they stood
grouped and crowded back to the sacred doors.

Yes, she was coming--coming up the avenue of elms--coming slowly, as
though her strength were almost gone. As she passed under the trees on
one side of the avenue she touched their trunks one by one for support.
She walked with her eyes on the ground and with the abstraction of one
who has lost the purpose of walking. When she was perhaps half-way up
the avenue, as she paused by one of the trees and supported herself
against it, she raised her eyes and saw them all waiting to receive her
on the steps of the church. For a little while she stood and surveyed
the scene; the Mother Superior standing in front, her sinking form
supported between two Sisters, her hands clasping the crucifix to her
bosom; behind her the others, step above step, back to the doors; some
looking at her with frightened faces; others with their heads buried on
each other's shoulders; and hiding somewhere in the throng, the little
novice, only the sound of whose sobbing revealed her presence. Then she
took her hand from the tree, walked on quite steadily until she was
several yards away, and paused again.

She had torn off her veil and her head was bare and shining. She had
torn the sacred symbol from her bosom, and through the black rent they
could see the glistening whiteness of her naked breast. Comprehending
them in one glance, as though she wished them all to listen, she looked
into the face of the Mother Superior, and began to speak in a voice
utterly forlorn, as of one who has passed the limits of suffering.

"Mother!--"

"Mother!--"

She passed one hand slowly across her forehead, to brush away some
cloud from her brain, and for the third time she began to speak:

"Mother!--"

Then she paused, pressed both palms quickly to her temples, and turned
her eyes in bewildered appeal towards the Mother Superior. But she
did not fall. With a cry that might have come from the heart of the
boundless pity the Mother Superior broke away from the restraining arms
of the nuns and rushed forward and caught her to her bosom.


    IX.

The day had come when Gordon was well enough to go home. As he sat
giving directions to Ezra, who was awkwardly packing his valise, he
looked over the books, papers, and letters that lay on the table near
the bed.

"There is one letter missing," he said, with a troubled expression, as
he finished his search. Then he added quickly, in a tone of helpless
entreaty:

"You couldn't have taken it to the station and mailed it with the
others, could you, Ezra? It was not to go to the station. It was to
have gone to the convent."

The last sentence he uttered rather to his own thought than for the ear
of his listener.

"I _took_ it to the convent," said Ezra, stoutly, raising himself from
over the valise in the middle of the floor. "I didn't _take_ it to the
station!"

Gordon wheeled on him, giving a wrench to his wound which may have
caused the groan that burst from him, and left him white and trembling.

"You took it _to the convent_! Great God, Ezra! When?"

"The day you _told_ me to take it," replied Ezra, simply. "The day the
Sister came to see you."

"Oh, _Ezra_!" he cried piteously, looking into the rugged, faithful
countenance of the old man, and feeling that he had not the right to
censure him.

Now for the first time he comprehended the whole significance of what
had happened. He had never certainly known what motive had brought her
to him that day. He had never been able to understand why, having come,
she had gone away with such abruptness. Scarcely had he begun to speak
to her when she had strangely shrunk from him; and scarcely had he
ceased speaking when she had left the room without a word, and without
his having so much as seen her face.

Slowly now the sad truth forced itself upon his mind that she had
come in answer to his entreaty. She must have thought his letter just
written, himself just wounded and dying. It was as if he had betrayed
her into the utmost expression of her love for him and in that moment
had coldly admonished her of her duty. For him she had broken what was
the most sacred obligation of her life, and in return he had given her
an exhortation to be faithful to her vows.

He went home to one of the older secluded country-places of the
Blue-grass Region not far from Lexington. His illness served to account
for a strange gravity and sadness of nature in him. When the winter
had passed and spring had come, bringing perfect health again, this
sadness only deepened. For health had brought back the ardor of life.
The glowing colors of the world returned; and with these there flowed
back into his heart, as waters flow back into a well that has gone dry,
the perfect love of youth and strength with which he had loved her and
tried to win her at first. And with this love of her came back the
first complete realization that he had lost her; and with this pain,
that keenest pain of having been most unkind to her when he had striven
to be kindest.

He now looked back upon his illness, as one who has gained some clear
headland looks down upon a valley so dark and overhung with mist that
he cannot trace his own course across it. He was no longer in sympathy
with that mood of self-renunciation which had influenced him in their
last interview. He charged himself with having given up too easily;
for might he not, after all, have won her? Might he not, little by
little, have changed her conscience, as little by little he had gained
her love? Would it have been possible, he asked himself again and
again, for her ever to have come to him as she had done that day, had
not her conscience approved? Of all his torturing thoughts, none cost
him greater suffering than living over in imagination what must have
happened to her since then--the humiliation, perhaps public exposure;
followed by penalties and sorrows of which he durst not think, and
certainly a life more unrelieved in gloom and desolation.

In the summer his father's health began to fail and in the autumn he
died. The winter was passed in settling the business of the estate,
and before the spring passed again Gordon found himself at the head of
affairs, and stretching out before him, calm and clear, the complete
independence of his new-found manhood. His life was his own to make
it what he would. As fortunes go in Kentucky he was wealthy, his farm
being among the most beautiful of the beautiful ones which make up
that land, and his homestead being dear through family ties and those
intimations of fireside peace which lay closest the heart of his
ideal life. But amid all his happiness, that one lack which made the
rest appear lacking--that vacancy within which nothing would fill!
The beauty of the rich land hence forth brought him the dream-like
recollection of a rough, poor country a hundred miles away. Its quiet
homesteads, with the impression they create of sweet and simple lives,
reminded him only of a convent standing lonely and forbidding on its
wide landscape. The calm liberty of woods and fields, the bounding
liberty of life, the enlightened liberty of conscience and religion,
which were to him the best gifts of his State, his country, and his
time, forced on him perpetual contrast with the ancient confinement in
which she languished.

Still he threw himself resolutely into his duties. In all that he did
or planned he felt a certain sacred, uplifting force added to his life
by that high bond through which he had sought to link their sundered
path-ways. But, on the other hand, the haunting thought of what might
have befallen her since became a corrosive care, and began to eat out
the heart of his resolute purposes.

So that when the long, calm summer had passed and autumn had come,
bringing him lonelier days in the brown fields, lonelier rides on
horseback through the gorgeous woods, and lonelier evenings beside
his rekindled hearth-stones, he could bear the suspense no longer,
and made up his mind to go back, if but to hear tidings whether she
yet were living in the convent. He realized, of course, that under no
circumstances could he ever again speak to her of his love. He had put
himself on the side of her conscience against his own cause; but he
felt that he owed it to himself to dissipate uncertainty regarding her
fate. This done, he could return, however sadly, and take up the duties
of his life with better heart.


    X.

One Sunday afternoon he got off at the little station. From one of the
rustic loungers on the platform he learned that old Ezra and Martha had
gone the year before to live with a son in a distant State, and that
their scant acres had been absorbed in the convent domain.

Slowly he took his way across the sombre fields. Once more he reached
the brown foot-path and the edge of the pale, thin corn. Once more the
summoning whistle of the quail came sweet and clear from the depths
of a neighboring thicket. Silently in the reddening west were rising
the white cathedrals of the sky. It was on yonder hill-top he had
first seen her, standing as though transfigured in the evening light.
Overwhelmed by the memories which the place evoked, he passed on
towards the convent. The first sight of it in the distance smote him
with a pain so sharp that a groan escaped his lips as from a reopened
wound.

It was the hour of the vesper service. Entering the church he sat where
he had sat before. How still it was, how faint the autumnal sunlight
stealing in through the sainted windows, how motionless the dark
company of nuns seated on one side of the nave, how rigid the white
rows of novices on the other!

With sad fascination of search his eyes roved among the black-shrouded
devotees. She was not there. In the organ-loft above, a voice, poor and
thin, began to pour out its wavering little tide of song. She was not
there, then. Was her soul already gone home to Heaven?

Noiselessly from behind the altar the sacristine had come forth and
begun to light the candles. With eyes strained and the heart gone out
of him he hung upon the movements of her figure. A slight, youthful
figure it was--slighter, as though worn and wasted; and the hands which
so firmly bore the long taper looked too white and fragile to have
upheld aught heavier than the stalk of a lily.

With infinite meekness and reverence she moved hither and thither about
the shrine, as though each footfall were a step nearer the glorious
Presence, each breath a prayer. One by one there sprang into being,
beneath her touch of love, the silvery spires of sacred flame. No angel
of the night ever more softly lit the stars of heaven. And it was thus
that he saw her for the last time--folded back to the bosom of that
faith from which it was left him to believe that he had all but rescued
her to love and happiness, and set, as a chastening admonition, to tend
the mortal fires on the altar of eternal service.

Looking at her across the vast estranging gulf of destiny,
heart-broken, he asked himself in his poor yearning way whether she
longer had any thought of him or longer loved him. For answer he had
only the assurance given in her words, which now rose as a benediction
in his memory:

"If He will deign to hear the ceaseless, fervent petition of one so
erring, He will not leave you unhappy on account of that love for me
which in this world it will never be allowed me to return."

One highest star of adoration she kindled last, and then turned and
advanced down the aisle. He was sitting close to it, and as she came
towards him, with irresistible impulse he bent forward to meet
her, his lips parted as though to speak, his eyes implored her for
recognition, his hands were instinctively moved to attract her notice.
But she passed him with unuplifted eyes. The hem of her dress swept
across his foot. In that intense moment, which compressed within itself
the joy of another meeting and the despair of an eternal farewell--in
that moment he may have tried to read through her face and beyond
it in her very soul the story of what she must have suffered. To
any one else, on her face rested only that beauty, transcending all
description, which is born of the sorrow of earth and the peace of God.

Mournful as was this last sight of her, and touched with remorse, he
could yet bear it away in his heart for long remembrance not untempered
by consolation. He saw her well; he saw her faithful; he saw her
bearing the sorrows of her lot with angelic sweetness. Through years to
come the beauty of this scene might abide with him, lifted above the
realm of mortal changes by the serenitude of her immovable devotion.


    XI.

There was thus spared him knowledge of the great change that had taken
place regarding her within the counsels of the Order; nor, perhaps, was
he ever to learn of the other changes, more eventful still, that were
now fast closing in upon her destiny.

When the Creator wishes to create a woman, the beauty of whose nature
is to prefigure the types of an immortal world, he endows her more
plenteously with the faculty of innocent love. The contravention
of this faculty has time after time resulted in the most memorable
tragedies that have ever saddened the history of the race. He had given
to the nature of Pauline Cambron two strong, unwearying wings: the
pinion of faith and the pinion of love. It was his will that she should
soar by the use of both. But they had denied her the use of one; and
the vain and bewildered struggles which marked her life thenceforth
were as those of a bird that should try to rise into the air with one
of its wings bound tight against its bosom.

After the illness which followed upon the events of that terrible day,
she took towards her own conduct the penitential attitude enjoined by
her religion. There is little need to lay bare all that followed. She
had passed out of her soft world of heroic dreams into the hard world
of unheroic reality. She had chosen a name to express her sympathy with
the sorrows of the world, and the sorrows of the world had broken in
upon her. Out of the white dawn of the imagination she had stepped into
the heat and burden of the day.

Long after penances and prayers were over, and by others she might have
felt herself forgiven, she was as far as ever from that forgiveness
which comes from within. It is not characteristic of a nature such as
hers to win pardon so easily for such an offence of her being seemed
concentred more and more in one impassioned desire to expiate her sin;
for, as time passed on, despite penances and prayers, she realized that
she still loved him.

As she pondered this she said to herself that peace would never come
unless she should go elsewhere and begin life over in some place that
was free from the memories of her fall, there was so much to remind
her of him. She could not go into the garden without recalling the day
when they had walked through it side by side. She could not cross the
threshold of the church without being reminded that it was the scene of
her unfaithfulness and of her exposure. The graveyard, the foot-path
across the fields, the observatory--all were full of disturbing images.
And therefore she besought the Mother Superior to send her away to some
one of the missions of the Order, thinking that thus she would win
forgetfulness of him and singleness of heart.

But while the plan of doing this was yet being considered by the Mother
Superior, there happened one of those events which seem to fit into the
crises of our lives as though determined by the very laws of fate. The
attention of the civilized world had not yet been fixed upon the heroic
labors of the Belgian priest, Father Damien, among the lepers of the
island of Molokai. But it has been stated that near the convent are
the monks of La Trappe. Among these monks were friends of the American
priest, Brother Joseph, who for years was one of Father Damien's
assistants; and to these friends this priest from time to time wrote
letters, in which he described at great length the life of the leper
settlement and the work of the small band of men and women who had
gone to labor in that remote and awful vineyard. The contents of these
letters were made known to the ecclesiastical superior of the convent;
and one evening he made them the subject of a lecture to the assembled
nuns and novices, dwelling with peculiar eloquence upon the devotion
of the three Franciscan Sisters who had become outcasts from human
society that they might nurse and teach leprous girls, until inevitable
death should overtake them also.

Among that breathless audience of women there was one soul on whom
his words fell with the force of a message from the Eternal. Here,
then, at last, was offered her a path-way by following meekly to the
end of which she might perhaps find blessedness. The real Man of
Sorrows appeared to stand in it and beckon her on to the abodes of
those abandoned creatures whose sufferings he had with peculiar pity
so often stretched forth his hand to heal. When she laid before the
Mother Superior her petition to be allowed to go, it was at first
refused, being regarded as a momentary impulse; but months passed, and
at intervals, always more earnestly, she renewed her request. It was
pointed out to her that when one has gone among the lepers there is no
return; the alternatives are either life-long banishment, or death from
leprosy, usually at the end of a few years. But always her reply was:

"In the name of Christ, Mother, let me go!"

Meantime it had become clear to the Mother Superior that some change
of scene must be made. The days of Sister Dolorosa's usefulness in the
convent were too plainly over.

It had not been possible in that large household of women to conceal
the fact of her unfaithfulness to her vows. As one black veil
whispered to another--as one white veil communed with its attentive
neighbor--little by little events were gathered and pieced together,
until, in different forms of error and rumor, the story became known
to all. Some from behind window lattices had watched her in the garden
with the young stranger on the day of his visiting the convent. Others
had heard of his lying wounded at the farm-house. Still others were
sure that under pretext of visiting old Martha she had often met him in
the fields. And then the scene on the steps of the church, when she had
returned soiled and torn and fainting.

So that from the day on which she arose from her illness and began to
go about the convent, she was singled out as a target for those small
arrows which the feminine eye directs with such faultless skill at
one of its own sex. With scarcely perceptible movements they would
draw aside when passing her, as though to escape corrupting contact.
Certain ones of the younger Sisters, who were jealous of her beauty,
did not fail to drop innuendoes for her to overhear. And upon some of
the novices, whose minds were still wavering between the Church and the
world, it was thought that her example might have a dangerous influence.

It is always wrong to judge motives; but it is possible that the head
of the Order may have thought it best that this ruined life should take
on the halo of martyrdom, from which fresh lustre would be reflected
upon the annals of the Church. However this may be, after about
eighteen months of waiting, during which correspondence was held with
the Sandwich Islands, it was determined that Sister Dolorosa should be
allowed to go thither and join the labors of the Franciscan Sisters.

From the day when consent was given she passed into that peace with
which one ascends the scaffold or awaits the stake. It was this look of
peace that Gordon had seen on her face as she moved hither and thither
about the shrine.

Only a few weeks after he had thus seen her the day came for her to
go. Of those who took part in the scene of farewell she was the most
unmoved. A month later she sailed from San Francisco for Honolulu;
and in due time there came from Honolulu to the Mother Superior the
following letter. It contains all that remains of the earthly history
of Pauline Cambron:


    XII.

  "KALAWAO, MOLOKAI, HAWAIIAN ISLANDS,

  "_January 1, 188--_.

 "DEAR MOTHER,--I entreat you not to let the sight of this strange
 handwriting, instead of one that must be so familiar, fill you with
 too much alarm. I hasten to assure you that before my letter closes
 you will understand why Sister Dolorosa has not written herself.

 "Since the hour when the vessel sailed from the American port, bearing
 to us that young life as a consecrated helper in our work among these
 suffering outcasts of the human race, I know that your thoughts and
 prayers have followed her with unceasing anxiety; so that first I
 should give you tidings that the vessel reached Honolulu in safety. I
 should tell you also that she had a prosperous voyage, and that she is
 now happy--far happier than when she left you. I know, likewise, that
 your imagination has constantly hovered about this island, and that
 you have pictured it to yourself as the gloomiest of all spots in the
 universe of God; so that in the next place I should try to remove this
 impression by giving you some description of the island itself, which
 has now become her unchanging home.

 "The island of Molokai, then, on which the leper settlement has been
 located by the Government, is long, and shaped much like the leaf of
 the willow-tree. The Sandwich Islands, as you well know, are a group
 of volcanoes out of which the fires have for the most part long since
 died. Molokai, therefore, is really but a mountain of cooled lava,
 half of which perhaps is beneath the level of the sea. The two leper
 villages are actually situated in the cup of an ancient crater. The
 island is very low along the southern coast, and slopes gradually to
 its greatest altitude on the northern ridge, from which the descent to
 the sea is in places all but perpendicular. It is between the bases
 of these northern cliffs and the sea that the villages are built.
 In the rear of them is a long succession of towering precipices and
 wild ravines, that are solemn and terrible to behold; and in front of
 them there is a coast line so rough with pointed rocks that as the
 waves rush in upon them spray is often thrown to the height of fifty
 or a hundred feet. It is this that makes the landing at times so
 dangerous; and at other times, when a storm has burst, so fatal. So
 that shipwrecks are not unknown, dear Mother, and sometimes add to the
 sadness of life in this place.

 "But from this description you would get only a mistaken idea of the
 aspect of the island. It is sunny and full of tropical loveliness.
 The lapse of centuries has in places covered the lava with exquisite
 verdure. Soft breezes blow here, about the dark cliffs hang purple
 atmospheres, and above them drift pink and white clouds. Sometimes the
 whole island is veiled in golden mist. Beautiful streams fall down
 its green precipices into the sea, and the sea itself is of the most
 brilliant blue. In its depths are growths of pure white corals, which
 are the homes of fishes of gorgeous colors.

 "If I should speak no longer of the island, but of the people, I could
 perhaps do something further still to dissipate the dread with which
 you and other strangers must regard us. The inhabitants are a simple,
 generous, happy race; and there are many spots in this world--many
 in Europe and Asia, perhaps some in your own land--where the scenes
 of suffering and death are more poignant and appalling. The lepers
 live for the most part in decent white cottages. Many are the happy
 faces that are seen among them; so that, strange as it may seem,
 healthy people would sometimes come here to live if the laws did not
 forbid. So much has Christianity done that one may now be buried in
 consecrated ground.

 "If all this appears worldly and frivolous, dear Mother, forgive me!
 If I have chosen to withhold from you news of her, of whom alone I
 know you are thinking, it is because I have wished to give you as
 bright a picture as possible. Perhaps you will thus become the better
 prepared for what is to follow.

 "So that before I go further, I shall pause again to describe to you
 one spot which is the loveliest on the island. About a mile and a
 half from the village of Kalawao there is a rocky point which is used
 as an irregular landing-place when the sea is wild. Just beyond this
 point there is an inward curve of the coast, making an inlet of the
 sea; and from the water's edge there slopes backward into the bosom
 of the island a deep ravine. Down this ravine there falls and winds a
 gleaming white cataract, and here the tropical vegetation grows most
 beautiful. The trees are wreathed with moist creepers; the edges and
 crevices of the lava blocks are fringed with ferns and moss. Here the
 wild ginger blooms and the crimson lehua. Here grow trees of orange
 and palm and punhala groves. Here one sees the rare honey-bird with
 its plumage of scarlet velvet, the golden plover, and the beautiful
 white bos'un-bird, wheeling about the black cliff heights. The spot is
 as beautiful as a scene in some fairy tale. When storms roll in from
 the sea the surf flows far back into this ravine, and sometimes--after
 the waters have subsided--a piece of wreckage from the ocean is left
 behind.

 "Forgive me once more, O dear Mother! if again I seem to you so idle
 and unmeaning in my words. But I have found it almost impossible to go
 on; and, besides, I think you will thank me, after you have read my
 letter through, for telling you first of this place.

 "From the day of our first learning that there was a young spirit
 among you who had elected, for Christ's sake, to come here and labor
 with us, we had counted the days till she should arrive. The news
 had spread throughout the leper settlement. Father Damien had made
 it known to the lepers in Kalawao, Father Wendolen had likewise told
 it among the lepers in Kalapaupa, and the Protestant ministers spoke
 of it to their flocks. Thus her name had already become familiar to
 hundreds of them, and many a prayer had been offered up for her safety.

 "Once a week there comes to Molokai from Honolulu a little steamer
 called _Mokolii_. When it reached here last Saturday morning it
 brought the news that just before it sailed from Honolulu the vessel
 bearing Sister Dolorosa had come into port. She had been taken in
 charge by the Sisters until the _Mokolii_ should return and make the
 next trip. I should add that the steamer leaves at about five o'clock
 in the afternoon, and that it usually reaches here at about dawn of
 the following morning in ordinary weather.

 "And now, dear Mother, I beseech you to lay my letter aside! Do not
 read further now. Lay it aside, and do not take it up again until you
 have sought in prayer the consolation of our divine religion for the
 sorrows of our lives.

 "I shall believe that you have done this, and that, as you now go on
 with the reading of my letter, you have gained the fortitude to hear
 what I have scarcely the power to write. Heaven knows that in my poor
 way I have sought to prepare you!

 "As it was expected that the steamer would reach the island about dawn
 on Saturday morning, as usual, it had been arranged that many of us
 should be at the landing-place to give her welcome. But about midnight
 one of the terrific storms which visit this region suddenly descended,
 enveloping the heavens, that had been full of the light of the stars,
 in impenetrable darkness. We were sleepless with apprehension that
 the vessel would be driven upon the rocks--such was the direction of
 the storm--long before it could come opposite the villages: and a
 few hours before day Father Damien, accompanied by Father Conradi,
 Brother James, and Brother Joseph, went down to the coast. Through
 the remaining hours of the night they watched and waited, now at one
 point, and now at another, knowing that the vessel could never land in
 such a storm. As the dawn broke they followed up the coast until they
 came opposite that rocky point of which I have already spoken as being
 an irregular landing-place.

 "Here they were met by two or three men who were drenched with the
 sea, and just starting towards the villages, and from them they
 learned that, an hour or two before, the steamer had been driven upon
 the hidden rocks of the point. It had been feared that it would soon
 be sunk or dashed to pieces, and as quickly as possible a boat had
 been put off, in which were the leper girls that were being brought
 from Honolulu. There was little hope that it would ever reach the
 shore, but it was the last chance of life. In this boat, dear Mother,
 Sister Dolorosa also was placed. Immediately afterwards a second boat
 was put off, containing the others that were on board.

 "Of the fate of the first boat they had learned nothing. Their own had
 been almost immediately capsized, and, so far as they knew, they were
 the sole survivors. The Hawaiians are the most expert of swimmers,
 being almost native to the sea; and since the distance was short, and
 only these survived, you will realize how little chance there was for
 any other.

 "During the early hours of the morning, which broke dark and
 inexpressibly sad for us, a few bodies were found washed ashore, among
 them those of two leper girls of Honolulu. But our search for her long
 proved unavailing. At length Father Damien suggested that we follow
 up the ravine which I have described, and it was thither that he and
 Brother Joseph and I accordingly went. Father Damien thought it well
 that I should go with them.

 "It was far inland, dear Mother, that at last we found her. She lay
 out-stretched on a bare, black rock of lava, which sloped upward from
 the sea. Her naked white feet rested on the green moss that fringed
 its lower edge, and her head was sheltered from the burning sun by
 branches of ferns. Almost over her eyes--the lids of which were stiff
 with the salt of the ocean--there hung a spray of white poppies. It
 was as though nature would be kind to her in death.

 "At the sight of her face, so young, and having in it the purity and
 the peace of Heaven, we knelt down around her without a word, and for
 a while we could do nothing but weep. Surely nothing so spotless was
 ever washed ashore on this polluted island! If I sinned, I pray to be
 forgiven; but I found a strange joy in thinking that the corruption
 of this terrible disease had never been laid upon her. Heaven had
 accepted in advance her faithful spirit, and had spared her the long
 years of bodily suffering.

 "At Father Damien's direction Brother Joseph returned to the village
 for a bier and for four lepers who should be strong enough to bear it.
 When they came we laid her on it, and bore her back to the village,
 where Mother Marianne took the body in charge and prepared it for
 burial.

 "How shall I describe her funeral? The lepers were her pall-bearers.
 The news of the shipwreck had quickly spread throughout the
 settlement, and these simple, generous people yield themselves so
 readily to the emotion of the hour. When the time arrived, it seemed
 that all who could walk had come to follow her to the church-yard. It
 was a moving sight--the long, wavering train of that death-stricken
 throng, whose sufferings had so touched the pity of our Lord when he
 was on earth, and the desolation of whose fate she had come to lessen.
 There were the young and the old alike, Protestants and Catholics
 without distinction, children with their faces so strangely aged
 with ravages of the leprosy, those advanced in years with theirs so
 mutilated and marred. Others, upon whom the leprosy had made such
 advances that they were too weak to walk, sat in their cottage doors
 and lifted their husky voices in singing that wailing native hymn in
 which they bemoan their hopeless fate. Some of the women, after a
 fashion of their own, wore large wreaths of blue blossoms and green
 leaves about their withered faces.

 "And it was thus that we lepers--I say we lepers because I am one of
 them, since I cannot expect long to escape the disease--it was thus
 that we lepers followed her to the graveyard in the rock by the blue
 sea, where Father Damien with his own hands had helped to dig her
 grave. And there, dear Mother, all that is mortal of her now rests.
 But we know that ere this she has heard the words: 'I was sick and ye
 visited me.'

 "Mother Marianne would herself have written, but she was called away
 to the Leproserie.

  "SISTER AGATHA."



    POSTHUMOUS FAME; OR, A LEGEND OF THE BEAUTIFUL.


    I.

There once lived in a great city, where the dead were all but
innumerable, a young man by the name of Nicholas Vane, who possessed a
singular genius for the making of tombstones. So beautiful they were,
and so fitly designed to express the shadowy pain of mortal memory or
the bright forecasting of eternal hope, that all persons were held
fortunate who could secure them for the calm resting-places of their
beloved sleepers. Indeed, the curious tale was whispered round that
the bereft were not his only patrons, but that certain personages who
were peculiarly ambitious of posthumous fame--seeing they had not long
to live, and unwilling to intrust others with the grave responsibility
of having them commemorated--had gone to his shop and secretly advised
with him respecting such monuments as might preserve their memories
from too swift oblivion.

However this may fall out, certain it is that his calling had its
secrets; and once he was known to observe that no man could ever
understand the human heart until he had become a maker of tombstones.
Whether the knowledge thus derived should make of one a laughing or
a weeping philosopher, Nicholas himself remained a joyous type of
youthful manhood--so joyous, in fact, that a friend of his who wrought
in color, strolling one day into the workshop where Nicholas stood
surrounded by the exquisite shapes of memorial marbles, had asked to
paint the scene as a representation of Life chiselling to its beautiful
purposes the rugged symbols of Death, and smiling as it wove the words
of love and faith across the stony proofs of the universal tragedy.
Afterwards, it is true, a great change was wrought in the young artisan.

He had just come in one morning and paused to look around at the
various finished and unfinished mortuary designs.

"Truly," he said to himself all at once, "if I were a wise man, I'd
begin this day's business by chiselling my own head-stone. For who
knows but that before sunset my brother the grave-digger may be told
to build me one of the houses that last till doomsday! And what man
could then make the monument to stop the door of _my_ house with? But
why should I have a monument? If I lie beneath it, I shall not know
I lie there. If I lie not there, then it will not stand over me. So,
whether I lie there, or lie not there, what will it matter to me then?
Aye; but what if, being dead only to this world and living in another,
I should yet look on the monument erected to my memory and therefore
be the happier? I know not; nor to what end we are vexed with this
desire to be remembered after death. The prospect of vanishing from
a poor, toilsome life fills us with such consternation and pain! It
is therefore we strive to impress ourselves ineffaceably on the race,
so that, after we have gone hence, or ceased to be, we may still have
incorporeal habitation among all coming generations."

Here he was interrupted by a low knock at the door. Bidden to come in,
there entered a man of delicate physiognomy, who threw a hurried glance
around and inquired in an anxious tone:

"Sir, are you alone?"

"I am never alone," replied Nicholas in a ringing voice; "for I dwell
hard by the gate-way of life and death, through which a multitude is
always passing."

"Not so loud, I beseech you," said the visitor, stretching forth his
thin, white hands with eager deprecation. "I would not, for the world,
have any one discover that I have been here."

"Are you, then, a personage of such importance to the world?" said
Nicholas, smiling, for the stranger's appearance argued no worldly
consideration whatsoever. The suit of black, which his frail figure
seemed to shrink away from with very sensitiveness, was glossy and
pathetic with more than one covert patch. His shoes were dust-covered
and worn. His long hair went round his head in a swirl, and he bore
himself with an air of damaged, apologetic, self-appreciation.

"I am a poet," he murmured with a flush of pain, dropping his large
mournful eyes beneath the scrutiny of one who might be an unsympathetic
listener. "I am a poet, and I have come to speak with you privately of
my--of the--of a monument. I am afraid I shall be forgotten. It is a
terrible thought."

"Can you not trust your poems to keep you remembered?" asked Nicholas,
with more kindliness.

"I could if they were as widely read as they should be." He appeared
emboldened by his hearer's gentleness. "But, to confess the truth, I
have not been accepted by my age. That, indeed, should give me no
pain, since I have not written for it, but for the great future to
which alone I look for my fame."

"Then why not look to it for your monument also?"

"Ah, sir!" he cried, "there are so many poets in the world that I might
be entirely overlooked by posterity, did there not descend to it some
sign that I was held in honor by my own generation."

"Have you never noticed," he continued, with more earnestness, "that
when strangers visit a cemetery they pay no attention to the thousands
of little head-stones that lie scattered close to the ground, but hunt
out the highest monuments, to learn in whose honor they were erected?
Have you never heard them exclaim: 'Yonder is a great monument! A great
man must be buried there. Let us go and find out who he was and what he
did to be so celebrated.' Oh, sir, you and I know that this is a poor
way of reasoning, since the greatest monuments are not always set over
the greatest men. Still the custom has wrought its good effects, and
splendid memorials do serve to make known in years to come those whom
they commemorate, by inciting posterity to search for their actions or
revive their thoughts. I warrant you the mere bust of Homer--"

"You are not mentioning yourself in the same breath with Homer, I
hope," said Nicholas, with great good-humor.

"My poems are as dear to me as Homer's were to him," replied the poet,
his eyes filling.

"What if you _are_ forgotten? Is it not enough for the poet to have
lived for the sake of beauty?"

"No!" he cried, passionately. "What you say is a miserable error. For
the very proof of the poet's vocation is in creating the beautiful. But
how know he has created it? By his own mind? Alas, the poet's mind
tells him only what is beautiful to _him_! It is by fame that he knows
it--fame, the gratitude of men for the beauty he has revealed to them!
What is so sweet, then, as the knowledge that fame has come to him
already, or surely awaits him after he is dead?"

"We labor under some confusion of ideas, I fear," said Nicholas, "and,
besides, are losing time. What kind of mon--"

"That I leave to you," interrupted the poet. "Only, I should like my
monument to be beautiful. Ah, if you but knew how all through this poor
life of mine I have loved the beautiful! Never, never have I drawn
near it in any visible form without almost holding my breath as though
I were looking deep, deep into God's opened eyes. But it was of the
epitaph I wished to speak."

Hereupon, with a deeper flush, he drew from a large inside
breast-pocket, that seemed to have been made for the purpose, a worn
duodecimo volume, and fell to turning the much-fingered pages.

"This," he murmured fondly, without looking up, "is the complete
collection of my poems."

"Indeed!" exclaimed Nicholas, with deep compassion.

"Yes, my complete collection. I have written a great deal more,
and should have liked to publish all that I have written. But it
was necessary to select, and I have included here only what it was
intolerable to see wasted. There is nothing I value more than a group
of elegiac poems, which every single member of my large family--who are
fine critics--and all my friends, pronounce very beautiful. I think it
would be a good idea to inscribe a selection from one on my monument,
since those who read the selection would wish to read the entire
poem, and those who read the entire poem would wish to read the entire
collection. I shall now favor you with these elegies."

"I should be happy to hear them; but my time!" said Nicholas,
courteously. "The living are too impatient to wait on me; the dead too
patient to be defrauded."

"Surely you would not refuse to hear one of them," exclaimed the poet,
his eyes flashing.

"Read _one_, by all means." Nicholas seated himself on a monumental
lamb.

The poet passed one hand gently across his forehead, as though to brush
away the stroke of rudeness; then, fixing upon Nicholas a look of
infinite remoteness, he read as follows:

    "He suffered, but he murmured not;
      To every storm he bared his breast;
    He asked but for the common lot--
      To be a man among the rest.

    "Here lies he now--"

"If you ask but for the common lot," interrupted Nicholas, "you should
rest content to be forgotten."

But before the poet could reply, a loud knock caused him to flap the
leaves of the "Complete Collection" together with one hand, while with
the other he gathered the tails of his long coat about him, as though
preparing to pass through some difficult aperture. The exaltation of
his mood, however, still showed itself in the look and tone of proud
condescension with which he said to Nicholas:

"Permit me to retire at once by some private pass-way."

Nicholas led him to a door in the rear of the shop, and there, with a
smile and a tear, stood for a moment watching the precipitate figure
of the retreating bard, who suddenly paused when disappearing and tore
open the breast of his coat to assure himself that his beloved elegies
were resting safe across his heart.

The second visitor was of another sort. He hobbled on a cork leg, but
inexorably disciplined the fleshly one into old-time firmness and
precision. A faded military cloak draped his stalwart figure. Part of
one bushy gray eyebrow had been chipped away by the same sword-cut that
left its scar across his battle-beaten face.

"I have come to speak with you about my monument," he said in a gruff
voice that seemed to issue from the mouth of a rusty cannon. "Those of
my old comrades that did not fall at my side are dead. My wife died
long ago, and my little children. I am old and forgotten. It is a time
of peace. There's not a boy who will now listen to me while I tell of
my campaigns. I live alone. Were I to die to-morrow my grave might not
have so much as a head-stone. It might be taken for that of a coward.
Make me a monument for a true soldier."

"Your grateful country will do that," said Nicholas.

"Ha?" exclaimed the veteran, whom the shock of battle had made deaf
long ago.

"Your country," shouted Nicholas, close to his ear, "your country--will
erect a monument--to your memory."

"My country!" The words were shot out with a reverberating, melancholy
boom. "My country will do no such a thing. How many millions of
soldiers have fallen on her battle-fields! Where are their monuments?
They would make her one vast cemetery."

"But is it not enough for you to have been a true soldier? Why wish to
be known and remembered for it?"

"I know I do not wish to be forgotten," he replied, simply. "I know I
take pleasure in the thought that long after I am forgotten there will
be a tongue in my monument to cry out to every passing stranger, 'Here
lies the body of a true soldier.' It is a great thing to be brave!"

"Is, then, this monument to be erected in honor of bravery, or of
yourself?"

"There is no difference," said the veteran, bluntly. "Bravery _is_
myself."

"It is bravery," he continued, in husky tones, and with a mist
gathering in his eyes that made him wink as though he were trying to
see through the smoke of battle--"it is bravery that I see most clearly
in the character of God. What would become of us if he were a coward? I
serve him as my brave commander; and though I am stationed far from him
and may be faint and sorely wounded, I know that he is somewhere on the
battle-field, and that I shall see him at last, approaching me as he
moves up and down among the ranks."

"But you say that your country does not notice you--that you have no
friends; do you, then, feel no resentment?"

"None, none," he answered quickly, though his head dropped on his bosom.

"And you wish to be remembered by a world that is willing to forget
you?"

He lifted his head proudly. "There are many true men in the world," he
said, "and it has much to think of. I owe it all I can give, all I can
bequeath; and I can bequeath it nothing but the memory of a true man."

One day, not long after this, there came into the workshop of Nicholas
a venerable man of the gravest, sweetest, and most scholarly aspect,
who spoke not a word until he had led Nicholas to the front window and
pointed a trembling finger at a distant church-spire.

"You see yon spire?" he said. "It almost pierces the clouds. In the
church beneath I have preached to men and women for nearly fifty years.
Many that I have christened at the font I have married at the altar;
many of these I have sprinkled with dust. What have I not done for
them in sorrow and want! How have I not toiled to set them in the way
of purer pleasures and to anchor their tempest-tossed hopes! And yet
how soon they will forget me! Already many say I am too old to preach.
Too old! I preach better than I ever did in my life. Yet it may be my
lot to wander down into the deep valley, an idle shepherd with an idle
crook. I have just come from the writing of my next sermon, in which I
exhort my people to strive that their names be not written on earthly
monuments or human hearts, but in the Book of Life. It is my sublimest
theme. If I am ever eloquent, if I am ever persuasive, if I ever for
one moment draw aside to spiritual eyes the veil that discloses the
calm, enrapturing vistas of eternity, it is when I measure my finite
strength against this mighty task. But why? Because they are the
sermons of my own aspiration. I preach them to my own soul. Face to
face with that naked soul I pen those sermons--pen them when all are
asleep save the sleepless Eye that is upon me. Even in the light of
that Eye do I recoil from the thought of being forgotten. How clearly
I foresee it! Ashes to ashes, dust to dust! Where then will be my
doctrines, my prayers, my sermons?"

"Is it not enough for you to have scattered your handful of good
broadcast, to ripen as endlessly as the grass? What if they that gather
know naught of him that sowed?"

"It is not enough. I should like the memory of _me_ to live on and on
in the world, inseparable from the good I may have done. What am I but
the good that is in me? 'Tis this that links me to the infinite and the
perfect. Does not the Perfect One wish his goodness to be associated
with his name? No! No! I do not wish to be forgotten!"

"It is mere vanity."

"Not vanity," said the aged servitor, meekly. "Wait until you are old,
till the grave is at your helpless feet: it is the love of life."

But some years later there befell Nicholas an event that transcended
all past experiences, and left its impress on his whole subsequent life.


    II.

The hour had passed when any one was likely to enter his shop. A few
rays of pale sunlight, straggling in through crevices of the door,
rested like a dying halo on the heads of the monumental figures grouped
around. Shadows, creeping upward from the ground, shrouded all else in
thin, penetrable half-gloom, through which the stark gray emblems of
mortality sent forth more solemn suggestions. A sudden sense of the
earthly tragedy overwhelmed him. The chisel and the hammer dropped from
his hands and, resting his head on the block he had been carving, he
gave himself up to that mood of dim, distant reverie in which the soul
seems to soar and float far above the shock and din of the world's
disturbing nearness. On his all but oblivious ear, like the faint
washings of some remote sea, beat the waves of the city's tide-driven
life in the streets outside. The room itself seemed hushed to the awful
stillness of the high aerial spaces. Then all at once this stillness
was broken by a voice, low, clear, and tremuluous, saying close to his
ear:

"Are you the maker of gravestones?"

"That is my sad calling," he cried, bitterly, starting up with
instinctive forebodings.

He saw before him a veiled figure. To support herself, she rested one
hand on the block he had been carving, while she pressed the other
against her heart, as though to stifle pain.

"Whose monument is this?"

"A neglected poet's who died not long ago. Soon, perhaps, I shall be
making one for an old soldier, and one for a holy man, whose soul, I
hear, is about to be dismissed."

"Are not some monuments sadder to make than others?"

"Aye, truly."

"What is the saddest you ever made?"

"The saddest monument I ever made was one for a poor mother who had
lost her only son. One day a woman came in who had no sooner entered
than she sat down and gave way to a passionate outburst of grief."

"'My good woman,' I said, 'why do you weep so bitterly?'

"'Do not call me good,' she moaned, and hid her face.

"I then perceived her fallen character. When she recovered self-control
she drew from her sinful bosom an old purse filled with coins of
different values.

"'Why do you give me this?' I asked.

"'It is to pay for a monument for my son,' she said, and the storm of
her grief swept over her again.

"I learned that for years she had toiled and starved to hoard up a sum
with which to build a monument to his memory, for he had never failed
of his duty to her after all others had cast her out. Certainly he
had his reward, not in the monument, but in the repentance which came
to her after his death. I have never seen such sorrow for evil as the
memory of his love wrought in her. For herself she desired only that
the spot where she should be buried might be unknown. This longing to
be forgotten has led me to believe that none desire to be remembered
for the evil that is in them, but only for some truth, or beauty,
or goodness by which they have linked their individual lives to the
general life of the race. Even the lying epitaphs in cemeteries prove
how we would fain have the dead arrayed on the side of right in the
thoughts of their survivors. This wretched mother and human outcast,
believing herself to have lost everything that makes it well to be
remembered, craved only the mercy of forgetfulness."

"And yet I think she died a Christian soul."

"You knew her, then?"

"I was with her in her last hours. She told me her story. She told me
also of you, and that you would accept nothing for the monument you
were at such care to make. It is perhaps for this reason that I have
felt some desire to see you, and that I am here now to speak with you
of--"

A shudder passed over her.

"After all, that was not a sad, but a joyous monument to fashion," she
added, abruptly.

"Aye, it was joyous. But to me the joyous and the sad are much allied
in the things of this life."

"And yet there might be one monument wholly sad, might there not?"

"There might be, but I know not whose it would be."

"If she you love should die, would not hers be so?"

"Until I love, and she I love is dead, I cannot know," said Nicholas,
smiling.

"What builds the most monuments?" she asked, quickly, as though to
retreat from her levity.

"Pride builds many--splendid ones. Gratitude builds some, forgiveness
some, and pity some. But faith builds more than these, though often
poor, humble ones; and love!--love builds more than all things else
together."

"And what, of all things that monuments are built in memory of, is most
loved and soonest forgotten?" she asked, with intensity.

"Nay, I cannot tell that."

"Is it not a beautiful woman? This, you say, is the monument of a poet.
After the poet grows old, men love him for the songs he sang; they love
the old soldier for the battles he fought, and the preacher for his
remembered prayers. But a woman! Who loves her for the beauty she once
possessed, or rather regards her not with the more distaste? Is there
in history a figure so lonely and despised as that of the woman who,
once the most beautiful in the world, crept back into her native land a
withered hag? Or, if a woman die while she is yet beautiful, how long
is she remembered? Her beauty is like heat and light--powerful only for
those who feel and see it."

But Nicholas had scarcely heard her. His eyes had become riveted upon
her hand, which rested on the marble, as white as though grown out of
it under the labors of his chisel.

"My lady," he said, with the deepest respect, "will you permit me to
look at your hand? I have carved many a one in marble, and studied many
a one in life; but never have I seen anything so beautiful as yours."

He took it with an artist's impetuosity and bent over it, laying its
palm against one of his own and stroking it softly with the other. The
blood leaped through his heart, and he suddenly lifted it to his lips.

"God only can make the hand beautiful," he said.

Displaced by her arm which he had upraised, the light fabric that had
concealed her figure parted on her bosom and slipped to the ground.
His eyes swept over the perfect shape that stood revealed. The veil
still concealed her face. The strangely mingled emotions that had
been deepening within him all this time now blended themselves in one
irrepressible wish.

"Will you permit me to see your face?"

She drew quickly back. A subtle pain was in his voice as he cried:

"Oh, my lady? I ask it as one who has pure eyes for the beautiful."

"My face belongs to my past. It has been my sorrow; it is nothing now."

"Only permit me to see it!"

"Is there no other face you would rather see?"

Who can fathom the motive of a woman's questions?

"None, none!"

She drew aside her veil, and her eyes rested quietly on his like a
revelation. So young she was as hardly yet to be a woman, and her
beauty had in it that seraphic purity and mysterious pathos which
is never seen in a woman's face until the touch of another world
has chastened her spirit into the resignation of a saint. The heart
of Nicholas was wrung by the sight of it with a sudden sense of
inconsolable loss and longing.

"Oh, my lady!" he cried, sinking on one knee and touching his lips to
her hand with greater gentleness. "Do you indeed think the beauty of a
woman so soon forgotten? As long as I live, yours will be as fresh in
my memory as it was the moment after I first saw it in its perfection
and felt its power."

"Do not recall to me the sorrow of such thoughts." She touched her
heart. "My heart is a tired hour-glass. Already the sands are well-nigh
run through. Any hour it may stop, and then--out like a light!
Shapeless ashes! I have loved life well, but not so well that I have
not been able to prepare to leave it."

She spoke with the utmost simplicity and calmness, yet her eyes were
turned with unspeakable sadness towards the shadowy recesses of the
room, where from their pedestals the monumental figures looked down
upon her as though they would have opened their marble lips and said,
"Poor child! Poor child!"

"I have had my wish to see you and to see this place. Before long some
one will come here to have you carve a monument to the most perishable
of all things. Like the poor mother who had no wish to be remembered--"

Nicholas was moved to the deepest.

"I have but little skill," he said. "The great God did not bestow on
me the genius of his favorite children of sculpture. But if so sad and
sacred a charge should ever become mine, with his help I will rear such
a monument to your memory that as long as it stands none who see it
will ever be able to forget you. Year after year your memory shall grow
as a legend of the beautiful."

When she was gone he sat self-forgetful until the darkness grew
impenetrable. As he groped his way out at last along the thick
guide-posts of death, her voice seemed to float towards him from every
head-stone, her name to be written in every epitaph.

The next day a shadow brooded over the place. Day by day it deepened.
He went out to seek intelligence of her. In the quarter of the city
where she lived he discovered that her name had already become a
nucleus around which were beginning to cluster many little legends of
the beautiful. He had but to hear recitals of her deeds of kindness
and mercy. For the chance of seeing her again he began to haunt the
neighborhood; then, having seen her, he would return to his shop the
victim of more unavailing desire. All things combined to awake in him
that passion of love whose roots are nourished in the soul's finest
soil of pity and hopelessness. Once or twice, under some pretext, he
made bold to accost her; and once, under the stress of his passion,
he mutely lifted his eyes, confessing his love; but hers were turned
aside.

Meantime he began to dream of the monument he chose to consider she had
committed to his making. It should be the triumph of his art; but more,
it would represent in stone the indissoluble union of his love with her
memory. Through him alone would she enter upon her long after-life of
saint-like reminiscence.

When the tidings of her death came, he soon sprang up from the
prostration of his grief with a burning desire to consummate his
beloved work.

"Year after year your memory shall grow as a legend of the beautiful."

These words now became the inspiration of his masterpiece. Day and
night it took shape in the rolling chaos of his sorrow. What sculptor
in the world ever espoused the execution of a work that lured more
irresistibly from their hiding-places the shy and tender ministers of
his genius? What one ever explored with greater boldness the utmost
limits of artistic expression, or wrought in sterner defiance of the
laws of our common forgetfulness?


    III.

One afternoon, when people thronged the great cemetery of the city,
a strolling group were held fascinated by the unique loveliness of a
newly erected monument.

"Never," they exclaimed, "have we seen so exquisite a masterpiece. In
whose honor is it erected?"

But when they drew nearer, they found carved on it simply a woman's
name.

"Who was she?" they asked, puzzled and disappointed. "Is there no
epitaph?"

"Aye," spoke up a young man lying on the grass and eagerly watching
the spectators. "Aye, a very fitting epitaph."

"Where is it?"

"Carved on the heart of the monument!" he cried, in a tone of triumph.

"On the heart of the monument? Then we cannot see it."

"It is not meant to be seen."

"How do _you_ know of it?"

"I made the monument."

"Then tell us what it is."

"It cannot be told. It is there only because it is unknown."

"Out on you! You play your pranks with the living and the dead."

"You will live to regret this day," said a thoughtful by-stander. "You
have tampered with the memory of the dead."

"Why, look you, good people," cried Nicholas, springing up and
approaching his beautiful master-work. He rested one hand lovingly
against it and glanced around him pale with repressed excitement, as
though a long-looked-for moment had at length arrived. "I play no
pranks with the living or the dead. Young as I am, I have fashioned
many monuments, as this cemetery will testify. But I make no more. This
is my last; and as it is the last, so it is the greatest. For I have
fashioned it in such love and sorrow for her who lies beneath it as you
can never know. If it is beautiful, it is yet an unworthy emblem of
that brief and transporting beauty which was hers; and I have planted
it here beside her grave, that as a delicate white flower it may exhale
the perfume of her memory for centuries to come.

"Tell me," he went on, his lips trembling, his voice faltering with the
burden of oppressive hope--"tell me, you who behold it now, do you not
wed her memory deathlessly to it? To its fair shape, its native and
unchanging purity?"

"Aye," they interrupted, impatiently. "But the epitaph?"

"Ah!" he cried, with tenderer feeling, "beautiful as the monument is to
the eye, it would be no fit emblem of her had it not something sacred
hidden within. For she was not lovely to the sense alone, but had a
perfect heart. So I have placed within the monument that which is its
heart, and typifies hers. And, mark you!" he cried, in a voice of such
awful warning that those standing nearest him instinctively shrank
back, "the one is as inviolable as the other. No more could you rend
the heart from the human bosom than this epitaph from the monument. My
deep and lasting curse on him who attempts it! For I have so fitted the
parts of the work together, that to disunite would be to break them in
pieces; and the inscription is so fragile and delicately poised within,
that so much as rudely to jar the monument would shiver it to atoms. It
is put there to be inviolable. Seek to know it, you destroy it. This I
but create after the plan of the Great Artist, who shows you only the
fair outside of his masterpieces. What human eye ever looked into the
mysterious heart of his beautiful--that heart which holds the secret of
inexhaustible freshness and eternal power? Could this epitaph have been
carved on the outside, you would have read it and forgotten it with
natural satiety. But uncomprehended, what a spell I mark it exercises!
You will--nay, you _must_--remember it forever! You will speak of it
to others. They will come. And thus in ever-widening circle will be
borne afar the memory of her whose name is on it, the emblem of whose
heart is hidden within. And what more fitting memorial could a man rear
to a woman, the pure shell of whose beauty all can see, the secret of
whose beautiful being no one ever comprehends?"

He walked rapidly away, then, some distance off, turned and looked
back. More spectators had come up. Some were earnestly talking,
pointing now to the monument, now towards him. Others stood in rapt
contemplation of his master-work.

Tears rose to his eyes. A look of ineffable joy overspread his face.

"Oh, my love!" he murmured, "I have triumphed. Death has claimed your
body, heaven your spirit; but the earth claims the saintly memory
of each. This day about your name begins to grow the Legend of the
Beautiful."

The sun had just set. The ethereal white shape of the monument stood
outlined against a soft background of rose-colored sky. To his
transfiguring imagination it seemed lifted far into the cloud-based
heavens, and the evening star, resting above its apex, was a celestial
lamp lowered to guide the eye to it through the darkness of the
descending night.


    IV.

Mysterious complexity of our mortal nature and estate that we should
so desire to be remembered after death, though born to be forgotten!
Our words and deeds, the influences of our silent personalities, do
indeed pass from us into the long history of the race and abide for
the rest of time: so that an earthly immortality is the heritage, nay,
the inalienable necessity, of even the commonest lives; only it is an
immortality not of self, but of its good and evil. For Nature sows
us and reaps us, that she may gather a harvest, not of us, but from
us. It is God alone that gathers the harvest of us. And well for us
that our destiny should be that general forgetfulness we so strangely
shrink from. For no sooner are we gone hence than, even for such brief
times as our memories may endure, we are apt to grow by processes
of accumulative transformation into what we never were. Thou kind,
kind fate, therefore--never enough named and celebrated--that biddest
the sun of memory rise on our finished but imperfect lives, and then
lengthenest or shortenest the little day of posthumous reminiscence,
according as thou seest there is need of early twilight or of deeper
shadows!

       *       *       *       *       *

Years passed. City and cemetery were each grown vaster. It was again
an afternoon when the people strolled among the graves and monuments.
An old man had courteously attached himself to a group that stood
around a crumbling memorial. He had reached a great age; but his figure
was erect, his face animated by strong emotions, and his eyes burned
beneath his brows.

"Sirs," said he, interposing in the conversation, which turned wholly
on the monument, "you say nothing of him in whose honor it was erected."

"We say nothing because we know nothing."

"Is he then wholly forgotten?"

"We are not aware that he is at all remembered."

"The inscription reads: 'He was a poet.' Know you none of his poems?"

"We have never so much as heard of his poems."

"My eyes are dim; is there nothing carved beneath his name?"

One of the by-standers went up and knelt down close to the base.

"There _was_ something here, but it is effaced by time--Wait!" And
tracing his finger slowly along, he read like a child:

  "He--asked--but--for--the--common--lot.

"That is all," he cried, springing lightly up. "Oh, the dust on my
knees!" he added with vexation.

"He may have sung very sweetly," pursued the old man.

"He may, indeed!" they answered, carelessly.

"But, sirs," continued he, with a sad smile, "perhaps you are the very
generation that he looked to for the fame which his own denied him;
perhaps he died believing that _you_ would fully appreciate his poems."

"If so, it was a comfortable faith to die in," they said, laughing, in
return. "He will never know that we did not. A few great poets have
posthumous fame: we know _them_ well enough." And they passed on.

"This," said the old man, as they paused elsewhere, "seems to be the
monument of a true soldier: know you aught of the victories he helped
to win?"

"He may not have helped to win any victories. He may have been a
coward. How should _we_ know? Epitaphs often lie. The dust is peopled
with soldiers." And again they moved on.

"Does any one read his sermons now, know you?" asked the old man as
they paused before a third monument.

"Read his sermons!" they exclaimed, laughing more heartily. "Are
sermons so much read in the country you come from? See how long he has
been dead! What should the world be thinking of, to be reading his
musty sermons?"

"At least does it give you no pleasure to read 'He was a good man?'"
inquired he, plaintively.

"Aye; but if he was good, was not his goodness its own reward?"

"He may have also wished long to be remembered for it."

"Naturally; but we have not heard that his wish was gratified."

"Is it not sad that the memory of so much beauty and truth and goodness
in our common human life should perish? But, sirs,"--and here the old
man spoke with sudden energy--"if there should be one who combined
perfect beauty and truth and goodness in one form and character, do you
not think such a rare being would escape the common fate and be long
and widely remembered?"

"Doubtless."

"Sirs," said he, quickly stepping in front of them with flashing eyes,
"is there in all this vast cemetery not a single monument that has kept
green the memory of the being in whose honor it was erected?"

"Aye, aye," they answered, readily. "Have you not heard of it?"

"I am but come from distant countries. Many years ago I was here, and
have journeyed hither with much desire to see the place once more.
Would you kindly show me this monument?"

"Come!" they answered, eagerly, starting off. "It is the best known of
all the thousands in the cemetery. None who see it can ever forget it."

"Yes, yes!" murmured the old man. "That is why I have--I foresaw--Is it
not a beautiful monument? Does it not lie--in what direction does it
lie?"

A feverish eagerness seized him. He walked now beside, now before, his
companions. Once he wheeled on them.

"Sirs, did you not say it perpetuates the memory of her--of the
one--who lies beneath it?"

"Both are famous. The story of this woman and her monument will never
be forgotten. It is impossible to forget it."

"Year after year--" muttered he, brushing his hand across his eyes.

They soon came to a spot where the aged branches of memorial evergreens
interwove a sunless canopy, and spread far around a drapery of gloom
through which the wind passed with an unending sigh. Brushing aside the
lowest boughs, they stepped in awe-stricken silence within the dank,
chill cone of shade. Before them rose the shape of a gray monument,
at sight of which the aged traveller, who had fallen behind, dropped
his staff and held out his arms as though he would have embraced it.
But, controlling himself, he stepped forward, and said, in tones of
thrilling sweetness:

"Sirs, you have not told me what story is connected with this monument
that it should be so famous. I conceive it must be some very touching
one of her whose name I read--some beautiful legend--"

"Judge you of that!" interrupted one of the group, with a voice of
stern sadness and not without a certain look of mysterious horror.
"They say this monument was reared to a woman by the man who once
loved her. She was very beautiful, and so he made her a very beautiful
monument. But she had a heart so hideous in its falsity that he carved
in stone an enduring curse on her evil memory, and hung it in the heart
of the monument because it was too awful for any eye to see. But others
tell the story differently. They say the woman not only had a heart
false beyond description, but was in person the ugliest of her sex.
So that while the hidden curse is a lasting execration of her nature,
the beautiful exterior is a masterpiece of mockery which her nature,
and not her ugliness, maddened his sensitive genius to perpetrate.
There can be no doubt that this is the true story, as hundreds tell
it now, and that the woman will be remembered so long as the monument
stands--aye, and longer--not only for her loathsome--Help the old man!"

He had fallen backward to the ground. They tried in vain to set him on
his feet. Stunned, speechless, he could only raise himself on one elbow
and turn his eyes towards the monument with a look of preternatural
horror, as though the lie had issued from its treacherous shape. At
length he looked up to them, as they bent kindly over him, and spoke
with much difficulty:

"Sirs, I am an old man--a very old man, and very feeble. Forgive this
weakness. And I have come a long way, and must be faint. While you
were speaking my strength failed me. You were telling me a story--were
you not?--the story--the legend of a most beautiful woman, when all
at once my senses grew confused and I failed to hear you rightly.
Then my ears played me such a trick! Oh, sirs! if you but knew what a
damnable trick my ears played me, you would pity me greatly, very, very
greatly. This story touches me. It is much like one I seemed to have
heard for many years, and that I have been repeating over and over to
myself until I love it better than my life. If you would but go over it
again--carefully--very carefully."

"My God, sirs!" he exclaimed, springing up with the energy of youth
when he had heard the recital a second time, "tell me _who_ started
this story! Tell me _how_ and _where_ it began!"

"We cannot. We have heard many tell it, and not all alike."

"And do they--do you--believe--it is--true?" he asked, helplessly.

"We all _know_ it is true; do not _you_ believe it?"

"I can never forget it!" he said, in tones quickly grown harsh and
husky. "Let us go away from so pitiful a place."

It was near nightfall when he returned, unobserved, and sat down beside
the monument as one who had ended a pilgrimage.

"They all tell me the same story," he murmured, wearily. "Ah, it was
the hidden epitaph that wrought the error! But for it, the sun of her
memory would have had its brief, befitting day and tender setting.
Presumptuous folly, to suppose they would understand my masterpiece,
when they so often misconceive the hidden heart of His beautiful works,
and convert the uncomprehended good and true into a curse of evil!"

The night fell. He was awaiting it. Nearer and nearer rolled the dark,
suffering heart of a storm; nearer towards the calm, white breasts of
the dead. Over the billowy graves the many-footed winds suddenly fled
away in a wild, tumultuous cohort. Overhead, great black bulks swung
heavily at one another across the tremulous stars.

Of all earthly spots, where does the awful discord of the elements seem
so futile and theatric as in a vast cemetery? Blow, then, winds, till
you uproot the trees! Pour, floods, pour, till the water trickles down
into the face of the pale sleeper below! Rumble and flash, ye clouds,
till the earth trembles and seems to be aflame! But not a lock of
hair, so carefully put back over the brows, is tossed or disordered.
The sleeper has not stretched forth an arm and drawn the shroud closer
about his face, to keep out the wet. Not an ear has heard the riving
thunderbolt, nor so much as an eyelid trembled on the still eyes for
all the lightning's fury.

But had there been another human presence on the midnight scene, some
lightning flash would have revealed the old man, a grand, a terrible
figure, in sympathy with its wild, sad violence. He stood beside his
masterpiece, towering to his utmost height in a posture of all but
superhuman majesty and strength. His long white hair and longer white
beard streamed outward on the roaring winds. His arms, bared to the
shoulder, swung aloft a ponderous hammer. His face, ashen-gray as the
marble before him, was set with an expression of stern despair. Then,
as the thunder crashed, his hammer fell on the monument. Bolt after
bolt, blow after blow. Once more he might have been seen kneeling
beside the ruin, his eyes strained close to its heart, awaiting another
flash to tell him that the inviolable epitaph had shared in the
destruction.

For days following many curious eyes came to peer into the opened heart
of the shattered structure, but in vain.

Thus the masterpiece of Nicholas failed of its end, though it served
another. For no one could have heard the story of it, before it was
destroyed, without being made to realize how melancholy that a man
should rear a monument of execration to the false heart of the woman he
once had loved; and how terrible for mankind to celebrate the dead for
the evil that was in them instead of the good.


    THE END.


       *       *       *       *       *


Transcriber's Notes.

Obvious typographical errors have been silently corrected, and
hyphenation has been standardised. Variations in spelling and
punctuation have been retained.

The repetition of Story Titles on consecutive pages has been removed.

At the beginning of section III of the first story, Friday, the 31st of
August, 1809 was in fact a Thursday. This has not been corrected.

Italics are represented thus _italic_.





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