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Title: Lovers' Saint Ruth's - and Three Other Tales
Author: Guiney, Louise Imogen
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Lovers' Saint Ruth's - and Three Other Tales" ***

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  LOVERS' SAINT RUTH'S
  And Three Other Tales

  BY
  LOUISE IMOGEN GUINEY

  [Illustration]

  BOSTON
  COPELAND AND DAY
  M DCCC XCV


  COPYRIGHT BY COPELAND AND DAY 1895



  TO CLARENCE J. BLAKE AND FRANCES
  H. BLAKE, A BOOK FINISHED ON THEIR
  OWN WILD ACRES OF THE MAINE COAST.

  October, 1894.



AUTHOR'S PREFACE.


THE contents of this book have, hitherto, never been printed nor
published. One chapter among them, _The Provider_, is based very
literally on a tragic thing which happened, some years ago, in Dublin,
and which, figuring as a cable despatch of some ten lines in a Boston
daily newspaper, fell under my eye, to be remembered, and afterwards
cast into its present form. In the September (1895) number of _Harpers'
Magazine_, little Father Time and his adopted brother, in _Hearts
Insurgent_, end their innocent lives from Hughey's strange motive,
though not in his manner. It is perhaps worth while to state that my
story was finished and laid by, prior to the appearance of the novel in
its serial form, lest I should seem fain to melt my waxen wings in the
fire of the Wessex sun. It is possible that the actual incident had
come to Mr. Hardy's notice also, and with a keen and pitiful interest
for so expert a student of human nature. A curious circumstance in
his relation of it is that the elder child, in order that there may
be more room in a hard world for the persons he loves, disposes not
only of himself, but presumably of the younger child as well; and in
the original version of my story Hughey jumped into the river with his
sister Nora in his arms. But a friend of mine, who read the manuscript
in 1894, a writer of great insight whose opinion I value in the
extreme, so wrought with me to change the cruel ending, that I did so
then and there, after some argument, and sent the boy of "long, long
thoughts" uncompanied to his fate. The point of all this is, of course,
that I now perceive my small invention had dared, unconsciously, to
keep yet closer pace than would appear with Mr. Hardy's; for the
suicide of real life was the suicide of one child alone.

The other three sketches here are more imaginative; and the first of
them, which bears the earliest date, was, from end to end, a dream,
and is somewhat reluctantly included. They stand for apprentice-work in
fiction, and are my only attempts of that kind.

                                                              L. I. G.

  LONDON, September 6th, 1895.



Contents


  Lovers' Saint Ruth's      Page 1

  Our Lady of the Union         29

  An Event on the River         63

  The Provider                  93



LOVERS' SAINT RUTH'S.


THOUGH his curate was away, the incumbent of Orrinleigh, my kind Cyril
Nasmith, had thrown aside his everlasting scrolls and folios, and spent
the whole morning out-of-doors with me. We had been over the castle
park and gallery, and even into the dairy, and thence up the path
by a trout-stream to the site of a Saxon city; and Nasmith had been
enthusiastically educating me all the way. I knew that there was little
enough for him to do meanwhile. His village sheep were very tame and
white; and his other sheep, at the manor, all wild and black: theology
seemed to fall rather flat between them. So, by the dispensation of
Providence, in his work-day leisure he had relapsed into the one
intellectual passion of his life, archæology: a wise, worshipping sort
of man, and the prince of Anglican antiquaries. As for me, he loved
me better than ever when he found what genuine interest I took in his
quiet hidden corner of ----shire, whither I came from London to pass a
memorable night and day with him, after a sixteen years' separation;
for his boyhood had been spent in my own Maryland, his mother's
family being Americans. It was a little sober, pastoral place, this
Orrinleigh, with its straw-browed cottages bosomed in roses, sitting
all in a row upon the overshaded lane, and, from the height where we
stood, looking like so many sepia-tinted mushrooms in the broad green
world. Just beyond us, in the near neighborhood of Orrinleigh House,
the gray sham-Grecian porch of his ritualistic Tudor church skulked in
the faint May sun. "What do you call that?" I said. "It is the one ugly
thing hereabouts." He smiled. "Of course it is ugly, structurally," he
answered in an apologetic tone; "Saint Ruth's was built in King James
the First's time; I do not pride myself on that. But you should see
the ruin, Holden! a darling bit of Early Decorated. Walk over there
now with me. We have the time to give; and it is only a couple of
miles away." And off he started at his brisk bachelor pace, fixing his
shovel-hat well on his forehead, for we were in the teeth of the inland
breeze. "This enormity," I remarked, casting a sportive thumb over my
shoulder, "has an odd name: Saint Ruth's." He corrected me in his most
amiable fashion. "The title is not unique; and it has every precedent,
pre-Christian as it is. Have you never heard, good sceptic, of Saint
Joachim? nay, of Saint Michael, another person who might have proved an
_alibi_ if he ever came up for Roman canonization? Besides, the name
has ancient local sanction. This Saint Ruth's-on-the-Hill continues the
dedication of the other to which we are going: Lovers' Saint Ruth's."
"Lovers' Saint Ruth's?" I exclaimed, keen at the scent. "Come now,
Nasmith, there's some legend back of that; you know there is. Let us
have it." And that is how I heard the story.

He told it not without reluctance, as if it were a precious thing he
could not easily part with, even to an old friend. All along the road,
as we went between the pleasant farm-lands, stepping over golden pools
of primroses between the wheel-tracks, little silences broke into his
talk. Nasmith's heart is truly in the past; and humbly happy indeed it
keeps him. We had been through the gallery before breakfast, and he
reminded me of it, by way of prelude. "Do you remember how pleased you
were with the great Vandyck on the east wall?" The grouped portrait of
a blonde man, a blonde woman, and a child unlike either; how beautiful
it was! the two unforgettable melancholy faces contrasting oddly with
the ruddy dark-eyed boy in a yellow doublet, playing with his dog
before them on the floor.

"Well, you saw there the Lord Richard, and his wife, the Lady Eleanor.
He was the third Earl's only son, born in the year 1606. The house
of Orrinleigh was founded by his grand-uncle, on murder and fraud.
Richard, almost the only Langham with a conscience, had it in too
great a degree, and grew up, one knows not why, with a diseased
sense of impending retribution; and, therefore, when misfortune for
a while overwhelmed him and his, it found him not unprepared. His
mother was a Neville; he had great prospects and possessions. Lady
Eleanor was a sweet lass of honorable blood, a good squire's daughter,
and the youngest of a family of eight. She belonged over there in
Frambleworth, where you see the twin spires. From boyhood and girlhood
these two clung to each other. I wonder if one ever sees such fast
love now-a-days: so simple, so deep, so long-suffering, all made of
rapture and grief! They were betrothed early, with a kiss given under
the shadow of the king yew in the old church-yard; they both cherished
the place to the end, and there lies their dust. You see, the original
Saint Ruth's was a monastic chapel; and it was stripped, and left to
fall to pieces, by the greed of the rascally Reformers, (excuse me;
that's what I must call them!" muttered my filial High Churchman),
"and it was nearly as much of a ruin in Lord Richard's youth as it is
to-day. For a whole generation, Orrinleigh had no Christian services
at all, and dropped into less than paganism; for which nobody seemed
to care, until the architectural hodge-podge on the hill was raised
by the old Earl, and the people were gradually gathered in to learn
all about a new code of moral beauty from the nakedest, dullest, and
vulgarest object in the three kingdoms. As I was saying, the two young
people made their tryst by the priory wall, secretly, as it had to be;
for the Earl would not hear of penniless Eleanor Thurlocke for his
heir's bride; and the squire, a staunch Elizabethan Protestant, favored
young Kit Brimblecombe, or his cousin Austin, for her suitor, and held
aloof from the Lord Richard, whom he suspected of having reclaimed his
ancestors' faith and become a Papist, while at Oxford. That, as it
happened, was true enough; and, moreover, the girl herself had followed
her lover back into the old religion: so that there were disadvantage
and danger of all kinds, in those days, behind them and before. The
little church meant much to them both, the pathetic ghost of what had
been so famous and fair. There they used to meet, when luck served, for
what great comfort they could still reap out of their narrowing lives,
shedding tears on each other's breasts over that outlook which seemed
so cruelly hopeless. But a terrible tragedy broke up and changed their
youth, and it was at Lovers' Saint Ruth's that it happened.

"Eleanor was barely past eighteen, and Richard not one-and-twenty. It
was spring twilight, when he rode down alone to the valley, galloping,
because, for once, he was a little late to meet his maid. She also had
started on foot, across the dewy field-path from Frambleworth, having
for company part of the way an old market-woman and her goodman, who
would not have betrayed the object of her journey for worlds. They
left her at the lonely cross-roads, whence she gayly took her way
west, with Orrinleigh Church, as it was still called, almost in sight.
The next morning their bodies were found, not fifty rods away; and it
is clear to me, that, hearing Eleanor's first stifled call, they had
turned back to her rescue, and so perished at the hands of the wicked.
With whom the guilt lay, none ever knew; the blame was laid upon the
gypsies, I think unjustly, and three of them were hanged on these very
downs. It was a wild time; and desperate men, singly, or in bands,
mad for food and plunder, and reeling drunk from cellar to cellar,
were over this peaceful county. The squire's ewe lamb, whom, in his
senses, a devil might have spared with a blessing on her sweet looks,
was foully waylaid, and worse than murdered. In the face of agony and
humiliation, her spirit fainted away. Hours later, when all was still,
and the dazzling moon was up over the sycamores, Eleanor Thurlocke
awoke, and, with her last spasmodical strength, dragged herself to the
end of the lane, and on to the hollow stone step of the church, to die.
It was past midnight. Who should be within those crumbling walls, even
then, but her own Richard, kneeling in his satin dress, with a lighted
hand-lamp by his side, his brow raised to Heaven? He had missed her;
and he knew not what to think for disappointment and anxious love;
and, sleep being far from him, there had he waited until now before
the fallen altar-stone where they had so often prayed together. As
dejectedly he swung back the outer door, he saw his dear, her thick
gold locks unbound, her vesture in disorder, her hands chilled and
bleeding from the stony travel and the briers. Without a question, for
he was ever a ready courageous lad, he put out the lantern, and cast
it under a bush; and, gathering Eleanor into his strong arms, first
making the sign of the cross upon her brow, he climbed the hill slowly,
steadily, and bore her straight into Orrinleigh House, and into his
dead mother's chamber. He made no sound; but he left her long enough
to get restoratives, and then hurried back, and laid her tenderly in
the high-canopied bed there, radiant in the moonshine; and, keeping
his own heart smothered, so that it could utter no least cry, placed
the door ajar, and began to pace, soft as a tiger, to and fro, to and
fro, to and fro, outside. When the white of dawn appeared, he crept in
and crouched low beside the pillows. She opened her eyes, and, with
his haggard cheek close to hers, stammered to him, piteously, as best
she could, her knowledge of what had befallen. He did not speak nor
move for a long while, partly because he feared so for her jarred mind.
But he knew the house would be stirring with the day, and events lay
in his hands. It was a strange, inconsistent thing, but entirely in
harmony with the Lord Richard's fatalistic character, that neither
then, nor ever after, would he proclaim the true fact. To save her
from certain slander, to wall her in with reparation on every side,
was his one passionate impulse. He knew that having carried her by
night to Orrinleigh, he must bear the burden of his own deed. He made
his resolve to explain nothing, for her sake, and to act as became the
overmastering affection he had for her. He breathed quickly and firmly
in her ear: 'Nell!' She smiled faintly at him. 'Nell, darling, this
must be our bridal-morn.' A low groan, such as made him shiver like
the air around a fire, was her only answer; such a heart-rending groan
of pure unreasoning horror as his ears had never heard. But he could
not flinch now; the morn was breaking, fresh and undelayed, over his
altered world. With the still force which was in him, and which, from
his boyhood, could compel every one he knew, the Lord Richard said:
'Yes.' 'Yes!' she echoed, after a while, as if in a weary dream, and
fell unconscious again. Then he rose, and called old Stephen Bowles,
the servant whom he could best trust, and despatched him, on his own
horse, ere the sun was up, for a priest eleven miles away. And there,
in his dead mother's chamber, with one only witness, and in such
wretchedness, the two were hastily wed, Eleanor lying quietly, since
they dared not raise her, and the hope of Orrinleigh kneeling with his
curly bronze head buried in her white little hands. When the others had
gone, for he had set himself much to do, he sought his father. Sealing
his lips thenceforward against the mystery which had hurried his
action, he spoke out, and told him he had married Eleanor Thurlocke,
and that he hoped he might be forgiven if he had seemed undutiful; and
before the old Earl, who was dressing, could show his rage, quietly
walked away, and rode over to Frambleworth, and made almost the same
speech, in Eleanor's behalf, to the squire. Such wrath, and curiosity,
and excitement, and upbraiding were never in this neighborhood before;
for the two young people lived in the eyes of many who wished them
well, and who looked for a great wedding, with masques, and dancing,
and holiday arches, and public largesses of drink and money, such as
had not been in mid-England for a generation. Wonderful as it seemed,
the turmoil soon passed; and the two, never stirring from the very
heart of the disturbance and opposition, somehow lived on, and were not
parted, and slowly established a peace with their angry kindred. Malice
itself could not hold out long against the Lord Richard's winning ways;
and ever, as he grew older, he became sadder and gentler, and more to
be honored by all men. But the Lady Eleanor lost the merry laughter she
once had, and shrank, in great mistrust, even from her own family, so
that it was plain at times that her reason was shaken. None on earth,
meanwhile, save the lovers themselves, held the clew to their blighted
lives. He never left her; he never travelled, nor went to court, as
became his station, but sat patiently awaiting, at home, the crowning
distress which he now knew must come upon them. Gossip broke out again,
ere long, as much as it dared, in the village taverns; and there was
a lifting of willing eyebrows among the gentry dwelling near, when, in
the autumn, the incarnate disaster, the child in the Vandyck picture,
was born. They rang the joy-bells from the church-tower, and the
tenantry came under the eaves and cheered until faithful old Stephen
threatened them with his blunderbuss, and drove them away. The Earl was
sitting at his cards, with his bad foot on a stool before him, when the
Lord Richard came in, with a silken parcel in his arms, followed only
by a couple of his sniffing hounds. 'Well, what hast thou there, Dick?'
cried the big blustering man, not unkindly. 'Father,' said the young
stricken Lord Richard, in his impassioned fidelity, holding the parcel
forth, 'I have my son.' And thereupon such a mortal paleness came upon
him, and his knees shook so under him, for the deceit, that he scarce
could stand. Seeing him quake, the old Earl, a rough jolly creature in
his better moods, laughed long and loud.

"And so it seemed to the only ones who sat tongue-tied amid the great
rejoicing, as if the divine wrath had indeed spent itself upon their
house; the doom of the iniquity of the forefathers, as the Lord Richard
would say to himself. What fresh and mistaken thinking there was to do,
the miserable lad, being sane, did for both, believing that a curse
was upon them, and that they must endure it, and accept the torture of
that alien child's presence for some purpose hidden from human eyes.
Their pact and horrible habit of silence weighed upon their hearts;
and had not one constrained the other, she was very fain at times to
confess, and go, if needs be, into disgrace for the lie. They would
wander sometimes on the terrace, hand-in-hand, without speech, looking
like brother and sister under a common ban. It seems impossible to
understand this deliberate choice of a wrong attitude towards life,
except in the light of that mysticism,

  'With shuddering, meek, submitted thought,'

which ruled the Lord Richard's nature. Meanwhile the infant changed to
a noisy, bounding rogue with black eyes, whom his young mother hated.
They called him Ralph, a name not borne before by any of the Langham
race. From his cradle, the poor waif clung to the Lord Richard, as
to his only friend; and that saintly soul, as one might take sweetly
a bitter penance, reared him in right ways, and encouraged or chided
him at need, and won from him an awe and gratitude affecting to see.
But the Lady Eleanor would never have him so much as touch her gown,
which the maids about the manor laid to her troubled wits, and felt
sorry for, without more ado. The old Earl, who liked the boy's health
and pluck, had the portrait painted for the gallery; and even there
you will notice that Ralph is far away from her, and at her husband's
feet. Years of dereliction, therefore, these were to the Lord Richard,
having no child of his own, and watching his intruding heir gaining
daily some virtue and seemly knowledge, and coming, either by nature
or by his careful breeding, fully to deserve those things to which he
had no right before God and the king. And the boy grew, and was worthy
to be loved, so brave he was, and so truth-speaking, and so tractable,
despite his fits of temper. When he had passed his tenth birthday, he
was sent to Meldom School; and his first absence lifted, as it were,
the black load from his mother's spirit; and the beginning of her
recovery, after all that she had endured, was from that day. There came
soon to her and the Lord Richard an unexpected happiness; for the year
1636 saw the birth of their own little Vivian. You may believe that
his father, perplexed by the fresh aspect of the problem before him,
tried to solve it by prayer and patience; the good heart, chastened
ever with much sorrow, and melted away with thinking, thinking. His
wife, free of his morbid scruples, cried out at last irresistibly for
the vindication of her little one. But the Lord Richard was visited by
a prophetic dream, and was wrung with misgivings, less like a man's
than a woman's, in searching to divine his duty. For he foresaw, of a
surety, in his sleep, what a poor vicious thing his son was to be. All
the estates, being entailed, were to pass to the acknowledged eldest,
passing, therefore, by unjust consent, in this case, to an interloper,
to the detriment of the true inheritor; and to maintain Ralph's
right would be a legal crime. On the other hand, the great power and
responsibility of which he promised to make such fair use,--what if
these should become, in the hands of that other to whom they would be
intrusted, engines for havoc in the world, since then to disown Ralph
were a moral crime? Lord Richard wrestled hard with his demon of doubt,
to no avail. In good time, alas, as it was ordained, when Vivian was a
bonny babe in his third summer, the unforeseen deliverance came. Ralph
Langham was thrown from his pony at Long Meldom Cross, and brought
home for dead. He never spoke a word, but passed to eternity with his
fingers clasped tight on the Lord Richard's compassionate hand, and a
great tear rolling down his round brown cheek. His short career had
been like a cheerful cloud swimming in the sun, and itself casting damp
and darkness on the hills below. The strangest thing of all was the
ungoverned joy which came, at the news, upon the Lady Eleanor, a joy
dreadful, at that time, to those about; but when it faded away, all
the evil else linked with it seemed to fade too, and very shortly she
was wholly restored, and became her own comely, gracious self again,
even as she was when first the beardless Lord Richard had told her his
love. So that the liberty of those hunted young spirits was established
in the grave of him whom heraldry yet names as their first-born. They
laid him yonder, in Lovers' Saint Ruth's. Where else but there? as if
in unuttered thanksgiving that mercy had reached them at last upon its
fatal threshold. There is the tower, Holden, and the broken top mullion
(is it not graceful?) of the great west window."

We swung into the prettiest open space imaginable, close to a glassy
lake, and found the fourteenth-century church, with its yews and
leaning stones, before us. I went silently in at Nasmith's heels. The
flooring was the perfect plush of English grass; the roof of the nave
was living boughs. For a single huge ash-tree had rooted itself there
generations ago, and grown much larger round than our four arms could
span, and lifted its spread of leaves nearer heaven than the level
of the walls. Ivy hung on the chancel arch, and many bright-colored
wildflowers, whose seeds had lodged in the crevices and in the blank
windows, filled the whole enclosure, bay after bay, with a riot of
color and fragrance. Soft green daylight everywhere caressed the eye.
The chancel roof, of exquisitely groined limestone, was still unfallen,
though it had a rift or two; and on either side, where the monks'
stalls must have stood a dozen deep, there were crumbling tombs, with
effigies in alabaster. I went directly up one step to a plain small
brass over against the piscina, and pushed the weeds aside. Nasmith
knew I should not be able to decipher the inscription, on which the
rain of three hundred summers had been sifted in. Leaning his head
against one of the piers, a good distance down, he looked over at me,
and began to recite, in an agreeable monotone: "'Here lieth Ralph,
thirteen years old, heir while he lived to Orrinleigh and Gaynes; whom
do thou, O Lord! receive among the innocent.

  For Time still tries
  The truth from lies,
  And God makes open what the world doth blind.

A. D. 1639.' Do you recognize the verse? Robert Greene's. The choice
of it was so significant it must have been the Lord Richard's doing.
You will notice that the epitaph is sensitively worded; it is pure
fact, and nothing else; and it has, too, an affectionate sound which
has always been a sort of satisfaction to me." "How immensely dramatic
the upshot might have been if he had lived!" I said. "The poor
little fellow, _infelix natu, felicior morte_." I was astonished to
find a slight mist over my eyes. "Tell me of these others next him,
Nasmith: a knight and his lady side by side, recumbent, and therefore
pre-Reformation." Nasmith's slow, radiant, indulgent smile was upon me,
as he moved forward from the light to where I stood. "No," he said.
"Look at the armor and the fashion of the dress, not at the attitude,
which is unusual, of course, for the Caroline period. Those are the
blessed twain of whom I have been telling you. See!" He pointed to the
discolored raised Latin text which ran around the wide slabs beneath.
I traced it out. "Pray for the souls of Richard Esme Vivian Langham,
Viscount Gaynes, and of Eleanor his adored wife, neither of them ripe
in years, who together, in this venerable sanctuary, suffered calamity,
and sought repose in Christ." There were no dates. I waited for Nasmith
to go on. He did so, in that tone of grave personal interest which he
reserves for these "old, unhappy, far-off things."

"They had to lead very private lives, on account of their proscribed
creed; a constraint which to them was not unwelcome. Their good works,
however, were known over the whole countryside, which is loyal to their
memory. She was the first to die, in 1640, contracting a fever, and
fading gradually away. There were two young children to remember her
and take pattern after her, (would that they had done so!) Vivian and
Joan. When the civil wars began, the old Earl was feeble and near his
end; and the Lord Richard, whose principles and natural sympathies
were all for King Charles, joined the unanimous Catholic gentry, and
sought with eagerness the only use that seemed left to him. His
bright beloved presence graced the camp but a little while, for in his
thirty-seventh year he was killed at the second battle of Newbury,
while carrying the royal standard. They brought him back to the old
chapel where he wished to be buried, and where none of his house have
been buried since. Both these figures were made under his own eye,
when his wife's dust was laid below. Are they not nobly and delicately
wrought, and full of rest? His hand holds hers; he had always said they
should lie so, as his namesake king and Anne of Bohemia, long ago,
lay in the Abbey at Westminster. The ruin has taken its traditional
distinctive name of Lovers' Saint Ruth's from them. All my parish
maids steal in on Hallowe'en to kiss these joined hands, and wish
themselves good fortune, and hundreds of ----shire sweethearts have
plighted their troth here, under the stars. It has always been a place
of pilgrimage, though its full history is not even guessed at. Saint
Ruth's-on-the-Hill, my friend, can never buy or borrow such a charm as
this."

As he paused, we heard the plaintive interruptive note of a pair of
wood-doves in the ash. He looked at me again. "I forgot to say that
they were content to die, my martyr hero and heroine of Orrinleigh,
for they had won four years, at the end, of absolute unbroken bliss.
They used to come down here every evening for a talk, or a hymn to
Our Lady, arm in arm, and happy as children all the way. Their day
of storms was brief, and it had a lovely sunset." "Ah, Nasmith," I
exclaimed, like a sentimental girl, "I am glad of that. How did you
know?" He drew his foot idly through the soft sward as he spoke. "I
had the whole story in the Lord Richard's own hand. He wrote it out
during the last night he spent at the manor, with his spurs and sword
lying by him ready for the morrow: the whole tender, tragic story,
with his curious mental struggles laid bare. He thought the truth due
to his father, and to his dead stainless Eleanor, to clear her memory
from erring rumor which had early got abroad. The manuscript was put
away under a seal; and as soon as his son's will was opened, the Earl
knew where to find it; I have seen it all scorched and stained with
the old man's tears. No eye, from his to mine, has read it since.
You see, the next and fourth Earl, Vivian, grew up a graceless cynic
reprobate in London, never visited his estates, and cared nothing for
his lineage. His sister was little better. I ought to spare her and
her second husband any vituperations, since they did me the courtesy
of becoming my great-great-great-great-grandparents! Did I never tell
you? The Langhams, bad enough in the beginning, have been a worse crew
than before, since the Lord Richard's time. Almost 'every inch that is
not fool is rogue,' as Dryden says of his giant. Francis, the ninth
of the line, lately dead, and his Countess, being my very distant
relatives, and impressed with my virtues, which were then being wasted
on the desert air, offered me the benefice. The first thing I did,
after setting Saint Ruth's in order, was to look about for materials
for a history of the parish from a period before the Conquest. During
the summer, they put a world of papers, grants, charters, registries,
and so on, into my way, which had been heaped in some old chests in
the tool-house. One of these papers was that letter, a pearl in
sea-kelp. I took it promptly over to Orrinleigh. The Earl was in his
hunting-coat, swearing, over his glasses, at some excellent Liberal
news in his morning journal. 'Read this,' I said; 'it is one of your
ancestral romances, and ought to be reverently preserved.' He laid it
by. A few days afterwards, while I was gathering fruit and vines for
a Harvest Sunday, he pulled it from his pocket, and threw it at me
over the garden wall, remarking that as my reverend appetite was for
musty parchments, he did not know but what I had best have this one,
especially as his wife and niece, having glanced at it, would not give
it house-room! So I had the keepership of that mournful secret of the
Lord Richard's wonderful love and patience, which came near altering
the local annals I was to write. It was like the unburied dead; it
tormented me. Not one of those vulgarians to whom it really belonged
was fit to touch it, much less understand it; and I did not wish to add
it to any collection, mine or another's. I hesitated a good bit, and
then I stole off, on a chilly Martinmas eve, and piously burned it here
in Lovers' Saint Ruth's, on this tomb, and scattered the ashes into the
grass." A gust of wind came into the choir, and the clock half a mile
away struck one. At the sound, we reached for our hats, which we had
instinctively laid aside, and crossed the little transept to the door,
Nasmith first, I following, as we had entered. Once more, as we left
the porch, dark with ivy and weather-stains, we heard the wood-doves,
over our heads in the nave, utter a slow musical moan, one to the
other. "Their souls," I whispered suddenly. "Peace to all such, after
pain," said poetic Cyril. "_Amen_," I answered. We both smiled. How we
two were enjoying our renewed society, back in a bygone England!

Hardly had we gained the road, when a carriage rolled by, with a
single figure on horseback clattering alongside. A black-bonneted
girl in mourning, handsome, if furtive, under her parasol, and both
her companions, the younger of whom sat beside her, saluted Nasmith
in what I thought to be a cold, perfunctory manner. I guessed
something, for his honest cheek flushed. "I fear these are the great
folk of Orrinleigh," I remarked. "The men have selfish, stupid faces,
more's the pity." "Yes," he replied; "you have seen some of the Lord
Richard's degenerate descendants. I once meant to give his manuscript
to Audrey--to the young lady in the carriage. I hoped she might value
it. But, as I said, I destroyed it instead. You are the only person to
whom I ever repeated the tale, and almost in the original words. Go put
it in a book, if you like, Holden; make what you can of it; develop
and proportion it; I trust your handling." I thanked him. "No. Your
chivalrous Cavalier is too complex a subject for me," was my frank
reply; "I feel safer with a history than with a mystery." I was a
hardened republican novelist even then, and his senior, and not blind
to the "human document," neither of the seventeenth century, nor of the
nineteenth. "Nasmith," I began cunningly, "you were in love with the
Honorable Audrey, and she refused you. How fortunate for you! Yours was
the neatest and most spiritual revenge I ever heard of: to keep from
her what might have helped transform her woman's nature, stifled in an
ill atmosphere,--the knowledge that she was of the blood of the saints,

                 'Tho' fallen on evil days,
  On evil days tho' fallen, and evil tongues.'"

He gave my hand a half-humorous pressure, his head turning neither to
right nor to left, dear old Nasmith! He must be past forty now, and
they tell me, moreover, that he is a Benedictine monk at Downside: he
will care nothing what I say of him. And thus we climbed the balmy
downs, back to our lunch at the vicarage, without another word.



OUR LADY OF THE UNION.


THE Surgeon and the Chaplain had been bidden to roast beef and mashed
potatoes in the great tent; and the former, leaving its pleasant
firelight, had come out through the night air a little before taps, to
spread himself and his triumphs in the eyes of the officers' mess. The
Surgeon was a widower in his early prime, and tenderly condescending
to the known ways of women. He talked much of the two who in that camp
represented all inscrutable womankind, Miss Cecily Carter and Mrs.
Willoughby. They had come from New York on a visit, Braleton being just
then in profound quiet. The Surgeon adored Miss Cecily, in which mood
he was by no means alone; but he had his own opinion of her sister,
the Colonel's wife. "The Sultan has hinges in him, and can unbend,"
he would say; "but the Sultana--O Jerusalem, my Happy Home!" He had
also discovered that the train of trunks at the sutler's, objects of
deep and incessant objurgation, were hall-marked "A. W.," and that Miss
Cecily came to the war with one hand-bag. His auditors sat long astride
their chairs, each in his hood of good government tobacco-smoke.
The Adjutant's silver-coated hound was asleep on the boards, still
as a little mountain-tarn among thunder-clouds. The gusts of genial
mirth were suddenly interrupted from without by the even voice of the
orderly: "Sergeant Blanchard is wanted at the Colonel's quarters."

A young man playing chess in the corner arose at once, and followed.
All along the company streets, the lamp-light streamed through the
chinks in the tents; charming tenors and basses, at the far end,
were laying them down and deeing for Annie Laurie; and from the long
sheds nigh, in the grove, came the subdued pawing and tossing of the
horses. Robert Blanchard saluted, and stood outside in the dark, for
the Colonel was in his doorway. "They have sent another commission
for you," he said shortly. "You deserve it; your behavior has been
admirable, a source of immense pride to me, and to all my men." The
Sergeant looked at him with a visible gladness. "I thank you. You know
I prefer not to be promoted." "I have humored you no fewer than three
times before," resumed the Colonel, in an altered tone; "I can't do it
always. You are known; the General has complimented you. The rise of a
man of your stamp can't be prevented, even by himself. You are meant,
if you live, to move rapidly, and go high. This second-lieutenantship
is the lowest step; mount it, in Heaven's name, and don't maunder."

The other hesitated, silent. Then he said: "May I have my condition,
if I accept,--may I remain color-bearer?" "I can promise nothing of
the kind. I fear it would be unusual, to say the least; it has no
precedent in any service that I ever heard of. Don't ask me that
again." Blanchard, in sober fashion, brought his hand to his cap.
"Good-evening, Colonel." The superior officer was exasperated. "Bob,"
he exclaimed discursively, "you're a fool. God bless you!"

The drums began, quick and light; it was nine o'clock. The Sergeant
went back, cheerful as Cincinnatus refusing empery. Before he confided
himself to his blanket, lumped on boughs, he made sure that a fold of
old bunting on a provisionary stick was slanted securely against the
canvas; for he had a sentimental passion for the flag. When it was
hauled down at sunset, it went into his hands until daybreak. He had
borne it in the van since his first bloody day at Little Bethel; it
had been riddled, stained, smoke-blackened, snapped from its support;
but he had never dropped it, not when a minie-ball fizzed through
his shoulder, not when, fresh from the hospital, he had fallen face
downward from his dying horse, in Beauregard's plunging fire of shell.
In this lad of twenty-two there burned a formal loyalty so intense,
so rooted in every fibre of his grave character, that his comrades,
for whom military routine had lost much of its glamour, loved him for
it, envied him, and consistently nagged the life out of him with the
nickname of Our Colored Brother, and other nicknames based on other
puns more or less felicitous. Because in New York, they had several
dear friends in common, the Colonel, on the morning of the ladies'
arrival at Braleton, had asked him to lunch with them. "My Sergeant,
Adela," so James Willoughby, in his eagles, presented him to the wife
of his bosom, "my Sergeant; and such a Sergeant!" For he read in her
tacticianary social eye that a Sergeant was a minnow indeed for a
Colonel's friend and guest, even if he were a gentleman, a cousin of
the Windhursts, and the hero of his corps. And she wondered at him the
more that he should be a mere color-bearer; a spirited able-bodied
creature two years in the army, with nothing to show for it! He had
no explanation to give her, but he had an unaccountable hunger, from
the first, to confide his secret to Cecily. He had seen her from a
distance, and his heart stood still there in the grass; when he came
nearer, it gave him, for a certain reason, the veriest wrench in all
his life, such as True Thomas may have felt when the sweet yet awful
call came to him at last in the market-place, that it was time to say
good-bye to earth, and go back to fairyland; to leave for the things
which can never be the things that are. He often found her sewing on a
silken tri-color, and working its correct number of stars in a pattern.
She had begun it in her father's house, for her brother-in-law's
regiment, and none too soon, for the flag in use was aging fast. Robert
Blanchard never saw her head bent over that bright glory, filling her
lap and falling around her feet, without a tightening of the throat.
And when she nodded to him going by, with that candid, affectionate
grace which never changed, it reminded him inevitably of something
which made him happy and unhappy. He could not remember, he said to
himself, when he had not loved her, and yet they had never met until
this Virginian winter of 1863.

Cecily had taken up her abode in a wee log-house built for her as an
ell from the Colonel's tent, delighting much in its frugalities and
small hardships. She was becoming attached to the sights and sounds
of camp-life: the tags and tassels, the shining accoutrements, and
the endless scouring and brushing thereof; the rosy drummer-boy; the
company drills in the rain; the hollow pyramids of the stacked short
bayonets; the muddy wells on the bluish and reddish lowlands; the loud
sing-song of the little bearded Corporal interruptedly reading _David
Copperfield_ to a ring of enraptured privates; the welcome drone of
the cook announcing his menu; the arrival of despatches, with the
thundering and jingling of the cavalry heard a mile away; even the
occasional alarms. The long inactions under McClellan, hateful to her
mettlesome brother-in-law and to his men, proved pleasant enough to
Cecily; she never lacked entertainment. While Adela was at her accurate
toilets, and the Colonel, a severe disciplinarian, busy with his
troops, she, active and curiously adventurous, walked or rode about
alone.

The nine-hundred-acred Brale house topped the hill not far away; the
owner, a fine old planter, lived there with the survivors of his
family. Six months before, an infantry regiment had bivouacked on the
place. A lieutenant, sent on the reasonable suspicion that a number of
escaped Confederates were harbored on the premises, clattered up, with
an escort, to demand them. The eldest son, with true sullen Confederate
pluck, refused him admission. After no long parley, the infantry
lieutenant, losing control of himself, shot him dead: a proceeding,
which, when it came to the ears of the authorities, cost the bully
his commission. The two other sons, Julian and Stephen, were then in
the Southern army; the younger had since perished from fever. To this
doomed and outraged household, shut in from the world, hopelessly
embittered against the Government in whose name murder and devastation
stalked, Colonel Willoughby appeared as a new and strange being. He
made it his business to see that there were no trespassings, and
that the Brales lived not only in peace, but in comfort. He rode out
repeatedly to the picket-lines, where a goodly quantity of commissary
supplies, spirits, flour, tobacco, tea, and coffee, and divers other
necessaries difficult to obtain, were handed over to the slaves in
exchange for the chickens, milk, and eggs. On several occasions, he
had ridden as far as the door, once to give the married daughter her
pass through the lines; once to bring her little girl, who was ill,
some delicacies sent in a hamper from his own home. These things broke
the proud Brale hearts. They barely thanked him; his Federal uniform
was like a dagger in their eyes. But a while ago, when they heard
that his wife and his sister were coming to Braleton from the north,
the stately old squire had sent him a royal gift, with a short letter
in the style of the last century. The gift was Molly, the beautiful
black, famous all over the country for her strength and speed; and
on her back was a saddle of magnificent workmanship, with a movable
pommel, which might be adjusted to suit the ladies. While these were
in camp, therefore, the Colonel rode Messenger, his stocky sorrel, and
Adela or Cecily sat majestically enthroned upon the majestic Molly.
The former was a horsewoman of experience, erect, neat, orthodox,
approved of connoisseurs everywhere. But the regiment was in this, as
in other things, all for the favorite; and when she came in sight,
(with the dare-devil mare going it, six leaps to a mile,) lying flat
forward, like her own cavalrymen, with breathless, laughing face, and
hair shaken loose along Molly's mane like the sun on a torrent,--such
a cheer as would go up from the distracted Eleventh! Cecily and Molly,
in the tingling pine-odorous Braleton air, made a familiar and joyful
spectacle.

South from the mansion lay an Episcopal chapel, now dismantled, with a
squat, broad, mossy roof pulled down over its eaves like a garden-hat;
and around it spread the small old churchyard, with its stones
neck-deep in freshening grass and clover. From this point there was a
most lovely view over the melancholy landscape, silvered midway with
a winding stream. Hither Cecily loved to climb, tying Molly in the
copse below, to lie upon the shaded escutcheoned tomb of one Reginald
Brale, "borne in Salop in olde Ingland," and to muse long and happily,
forgetful of battles, on

  "The great good limpid world, so still, so still!"

She and Robert Blanchard had had much constant companionship; it was
natural that these musings should turn much, and indeed more and
more, upon him. Surely, he was like no one else; and his presence gave
Cecily a sense of infinite rest. She, too, had her obedient energies
and controlled fervors. A great crisis like this, holding great
issues, brought the two so sensitive to it very near together. She
felt under her, even as he did, the tide-wave of patriotic emotion,
sweeping the more generous spirits from all our cities out upon
its fatal crest. She had seen the companies marching to the front
through awe-stricken crowds, watched for the bulletins, worked for
the hospitals, heard the triumphal never-to-be-forgotten eloquence
and music sacred to the returning dead at home, and felt to the full
the heartache and enthusiasm of all the early war. These things had
formed her, pervaded her, projected her out of herself, and brought
her, lingeringly a child, into thought and womanhood. Before she knew
herself for an abolitionist, the day of Sumter swept over her like
a flood, and diverted all the little idle streams of her being. Her
brothers found her against the old tree in the garden, the newspaper
in her hand, like one entranced; and one of them, soon to devote
his youth to the cause of Michael against Lucifer, forbade her being
teased to account for her mood. Unlike Robert, Cecily came of a soldier
race, and from swords drawn, each in its generation, at Naseby, at
Brandywine, at Monterey. That fortune seemed good to her which had led
her to Virginia, a ground balancing in the scales of fate, and rich
already with hallowed graves. To the living men about her, she was
as march-music never out of their ears, to hold them to their vows.
Subdued from common cares, Cecily was in the current of the national
peril, inspiring and inspired, and open to every warmth and chill of it
as if it were indeed her own.

She was on the hills, reading, in balmy February weather, when she
became aware of a low whinny at her ear. The Brale paddocks were on the
other side of the fence. A young colt was there, startled and timid,
stretching towards her; then another came as near, and another, and the
heads of the older horses, confiding, appealing, crowded over these.
She patted their tremulous nostrils, divining instantly that something
had occurred to alarm them. She raised herself from Reginald Brale's
venerable slab, and listened; the sharp ping! ping! of blank cartridges
struck the oak-leaves on her left. Standing, and peering down the
steeper side of the incline, she saw the familiar moving glitter
of gold braid, far below; and, stripping a bough, and knotting her
handkerchief, she made a signal of distress, and waved it vigorously.
The shout that followed told her that danger was over, both for the
gentle intelligent creatures in the enclosure, and for her; the reports
ceased. A moment after, a man sprang over the churchyard wall from the
road. It was the Sergeant, more excited than he dared show.

"Miss Carter!" His heart-thuds made it hard for him to be punctilious.
"Are you hurt? Idiots that we were to choose this place! We might have
known. Tell me you're not hurt, Miss Carter." "I am not hurt at all,"
she answered gayly, "nor even frightened. It was these dear four-legged
'rebs' who were frightened." She slipped her book in her pocket, and
took up her gloves and the dainty whip which Molly had never felt,
save when it flicked a fly from her ear. "You are a brave soul!" the
Sergeant said. Cecily took refuge in the significant flippancy of
gamins: "You're another!" which was so apposite that they both laughed.
As they descended the rough foot-path, the Sergeant longed to offer his
arm; but he knew her stoicisms, her natural physical _savoir-faire_,
and he chivalrously refrained. How nimble and graceful, how fawn-like
she was! He noted the wide lace collar and the brooch at her chin;
the sober Gordon plaid gown, not too long; the firm little wrist; the
beautiful hair parted, and looped low.

"What were you doing just now?"

"A party of us were enjoying ourselves, shooting."

"Birds?" in a cold, regretful tone.

"Birds! No. A soldier, unless he is spoiling with garrison idleness,
won't waste his genius for killing on innocent birds and their like.
Besides, the artillery fellows over yonder have scared them away from
the whole neighborhood. We were target-shooting with pistols. Oh, if
you knew the hot coals and icicles I had to swallow when I recognized
you up there!" He looked ahead, and saw with joy that his companions
had departed. "Here is Molly, and my bay is behind the rock. May I ride
home with you?" He helped her to mount, and sprang into his own saddle.
The lonely, lovely earth and sky were theirs together; they went
slowly, slowly down to the ford. Molly was thirsty, or else perverse;
for she paused, lowered her aristocratic little head, and began to
drink. Presently Saladin, the bay, standing by her on the brink, did
the same; and the two riders sat, perforce, conscious of their like
silent sympathy and society. An impulse rushed on each to lean over
towards the other also, to lay cheek to happy cheek over the shallow
water, in their youth, in the sun. The Sergeant stiffened himself with
an effort.

"Although it is a holiday," he said, scanning the distance, "and
although there's no end of jollity afoot, greased poles, football,
leap-frog, hurdle-races, and all that--and did you know that Mrs.
Willoughby, escorted by the Colonel and the Adjutant, had gone for the
day? There are to be charming diversions at the infantry camp, and a
ball to wind up with. You were asked, too, I hear; but you missed it,
straying off to your hermitage."

"I am glad I did! Please finish your sentence."

"Oh, I forgot. I was going to add that this sort of relaxation, just
now, might be risky, when Old Glory and I may be ordered out before
morning to waltz to fife-music!"

"A battle? Do you truly think it likely?"

"I half believe it. I don't mind telling you I have a premonition of
it, involving another premonition regarding myself. But what of it? Our
old friend Cicero, I think it was, used to say that we are born not
for ourselves, but for the Republic." He laughed, as if he had said a
jocund thing. He had not meant then to test her feeling for him; but he
had allies in the hour and its emotion. Cecily rejoiced in his cheerful
acceptances, and remembered her impersonal pride in the circumstances
of his enlistment, of which she had heard on all sides at home.
Her voice fell, unawares, into its shy inflections, its little wild
spontaneous minors, as she said, seeing the horses rear their heads:
"Will you please tell me, Sergeant Blanchard, how you came to join the
army? All that I know is that you were abroad, and that you gave up
your pleasure, and came back."

He began quietly, as they passed the stream and made for higher ground:

"It is quite a story. I was off on a tour through India and Egypt,
with my college chum, my dear old Arthur Hughes. Neither of us had any
notion of returning home, and we were in the middle of the best time
two fellows ever had on this earth, when I had a queer sort of warning.
We were both curled up on the window-sill of my room, in our hotel
at Cairo, one hot night, sleepless, and enjoying a smoke. Suddenly,
above the street, among the shadows and spangled points of all those
near domes and pinnacles, I saw what I thought was our national flag,
hanging, hardly stirring. It seemed to spring up out of nothing, in
its familiar, varied colors, to startle my eye. Then, in a moment,
I perceived that it was no flag, but a living spirit, a genius, a
guardian angel, whatever you like to call it, which bore the oddest
resemblance to one. There before me was the dreamiest figure; a tall
beautiful young woman in a helmet, the moon shining on the little
spike of it. A long blue veil, bluer than the atmosphere, covered her
face, and was blown about her shoulders, not so heavy of texture but
that the jewels in her flowing hair flashed through it with wonderful
lustres; and her garment fell away in long alternate whites and reds,
like the liquid bars we sometimes see flushing and paling in our own
sky in the north, when the aurora borealis comes in the March evenings.
There she floated many minutes before fading away; and once she raised
her veil and beckoned, and her eyes dwelt on me so imploringly that
they have become more real to me than anything else in my life. I tell
you it shook my heart.... Miss Carter, if you will allow me, I must
say that the vision was like, was very like,"--the Sergeant choked a
little,--"like you. When I first saw you, I was so startled, it gave
me, well, almost a swoon. That is a novel word, and ludicrous, perhaps,
but I can use no other. At any rate, the resemblance has drawn me
towards you, I can't say how strongly or how much. Please forgive me."
For Cecily's wild-rose face was warm.

"I had forgotten all about Arthur. But when I turned to clutch him
in my excitement, my first glance told me that he had not seen the
phantom, and that he would deride my faith in it. So I tried to laugh
off my sudden attack of second-sight; but it was of no use. I dropped
into silence when it was my turn to speak, and abandoning presently the
effort to seem indifferent, I parted from him, and went to bed.

"It was the only ghostly thing that had ever happened to me, and it
impressed me tremendously. For my part, I could get no rest by day or
night; that influence was over me like a bad star. I racked my brain to
explain it by natural agencies, and it only set me thinking the more
of our blessed country being in some terrible trouble. When I came to
that, I jumped up and started for the bath, to cool off, and then
changed my mind, and struck first for the ticket-office. Whom should
I knock into on the way but old Arthur in his fez, fierce as a lion.
'Bob,' he said, dragging me into a booth, 'it's war, war! President
Lincoln is calling for men, and I'm going home to spite the devil.'
'There's no choice. I am going home anyhow,' I said. 'What news is
there?'

"The little which had travelled that far, I heard from him. Sumter was
being fired upon, on the 11th of April, 1861, when I saw Our Lady of
the Union. I call her that; but I never spoke of her to Arthur, or to
any one. Before June set in we arrived in New York, and we volunteered.
Arthur has distinguished himself right and left. He is in Andersonville
now, dear fellow. I should hate to end there."

"A martyr is a martyr; the place matters nothing," the girl replied.

"I know," he said; "I did not mean to speak lightly; but I am one of
those who cannot always avoid it when they feel much."

The Sergeant's cheeks were burning too, and he quickened his pace.
Cecily did not speak, following the bounding bay. But a loneliness
which she could not define came upon her; a resentment of the sacred
ideal which could yet be to her friend his divinity, his beauty, his
bride, in a world from which she was shut out as an irrelevance. And
almost as soon, she questioned herself whether because of a tie dearer
than the human, this golden-hearted Robert must lose, she in him must
lose--what? For answer, the noble and foolish tears welled up from the
depths, and fell into the folds across her knee. Her companion drew his
own rein, and laid his hand upon Molly's.

"Oh, why do you cry? I can't bear it. What have I done?"

"Nothing."

"I did not intend to disturb you, to make you care about it, or pity
me; I am much happier since that happened. Could it be--oh, could it
be--" He gazed a moment upon her, absorbedly and absorbingly, and she
turned away. For who can make conscious preparation for the imminent?
Sudden ever is the finger of Death, to the watchers; sudden also is
Love.

They were under the shade of some giant pines. The young man vaulted
lightly to the ground, close to Molly's satin stirrupless flank,
his hands clasped, his head thrown back, fired with adoring hope.
When Cecily inclined towards him again, he saw in her (or was it his
bewitched fancy?) the remote, incredible radiance of his old day-dream.
The great flush rolled responsive to his own clear brow. He shook
himself free, and found his voice. "Cecily," he said simply, "I love
you; you must know that I love you. Such a love has no beginning and no
end. You understand that and me. Of myself I have nothing to say. You
have seen me only among Willoughby's recruits; but I never wished to be
elsewhere. Judge of me, as we two are, now and here. Can you, do you
think you could be my wife, by and by? Tell me. Tell me!" Then Cecily,
simple too, in the same tremor of exaltation, put out her right hand.
He caught at it with both his own, and buried his face there. His
wide hat had fallen; the warm light was on his clustering hair. With a
sweet instinct like motherliness, his maid, bending over, kissed it in
benediction.

It was two o'clock when they crossed the ford, and the late afternoon
found them still pacing on their roadless way, like the lost enchanted
knight and lady of the Black Forest. They were less than a mile from
Braleton, on the rocks, in sight of the tents, when they unsaddled and
tethered the horses, and made the last halt. "Dearest," the Sergeant
had said, lying at her feet, his elbow in the grass, "dedicate my
sword." Raising himself, he made a motion as if drawing it, and held
it towards her and the sunset; Cecily, in the same pretty pantomime,
touched her lips to the viewless blade, priestess of a new investiture.
"One thing we both love better than ourselves; is it not so?" She was
not jealous now. "These United States, right or wrong!"

"Oh, no!" The soldier sheathed his sacred weapon. "Say justice,
liberty, the rights of man; the things our United States ought to
stand for." Then the light heart in him laughed; and Concrete and
Abstract blessed each other. Happy and silent, they lingered on
the brow of the pine copse; a breeze sprang up; vast and gorgeous
sky-colors spread and deepened. The Sergeant's uplifted face was fixed
upon his betrothed. She seemed to dissolve away before him, or before
him, rather, to be vivified and set free. Slowly between her and him,
transubstantiating her touching beauty, gathered a solemn, changeful,
wavering cloud-splendor of ivory, rose, and sapphire, gathered out of
the land of myths into recognized and unforgotten fact. For a quarter
of an hour he endured that mystical glory; then his head dropped
forward on her knees. A thing seen was yet upon him: once more Our
Lady of the Union, but with a smile as if of one assured at last of
ransom, and ineffably content. When Cecily touched him, wondering, he
shuddered, and brushed an imagined film from his eyes. She sat there,
innocent of any magic, unaware in what potter's hand her spirit was so
much fine clay.

From the depths of the vale the croak of frogs arose, faint here and
shriller there, then long-drawn and general: ever a most mournful,
homesick, and foreboding sound to our armies in the South. The
distant camp seemed ominously quiet; but on the outskirts of it was a
dissolving shadow, a moving dark clot, there, a moment back, between
them and the scarce-fluttering flag, and still there, now that the
flag was hauled down, its bright hues effaced against the more vivid
evening air. Presently the group of men, for such it was, scattered.
Cecily's keen sight read what was written afar; the familiar figure of
the one-armed brisk Lieutenant-Colonel in the saddle coming towards the
hill, with others following on the gallop behind.

"You are needed," she said without preamble; "you must go to them."
With emphasis and authority, slight and quick, yet irrevocable, she
spoke. He turned about, and sprang to his feet from his enchantment
at her side; for the divine day, the Sergeant's field-day, was over.
"Is this the way of women, or only your way? You send me from you on a
supposition, a scruple," he answered, plaintively.

"Go." She repeated it softly, and with closed eyes, lest she should
look upon her own heart-break. "It is unnecessary, as you know," he
replied; "but if you make it a point of honor, I am glad to obey." He
held out his hands, and she took them, cherishing, steadfast, as in
a pact. Her voice and step were strangely unsteady; they held up the
mirror, as it were, to his. What was there in a commonplace incident to
move them so to the depth? In a passionate presentiment, he drew her
closer to him. "Are we to be given to each other only that we may be
severed, and suffer the more? What if the end should be now? Cecily!"

But the young heroic mettle rose to meet his. "Beloved, you are mine
and not mine. You are consecrated for the term of the war; so am I. I
will always give you up to your task. Perhaps you may measure by that
whether I love you." He looked down with a grateful sigh on her who so
mysteriously held him to his sacrifice, and shared it, and through her
and in her, on the old, old fate which he knew now was driving him to
the cliff.

"If there is to be a fight, I want your flag, the flag you made!" he
whispered, grasping at anything to hide this rending in him of the
spirit from the flesh. "However, whenever I fall, I want to be buried
in it. Is it done? May I take it for mine, before it is presented to
the regiment?"

"Yes. You shall carry my colors here and in heaven. I will pray for my
knight."

He kissed her once, twice, for the betrothal, and yet again for the
farewell.

He took Molly, the fresher animal of the two, and spurred to the open
ground below, breaking out from the wood-path, ready for any duty, on
time. He looked illumined, detached, transfigured: a Saint Michael to
be remembered after by his companions in the moral crises of their
lives. The Lieutenant-Colonel drew rein, relieved. "I was wishing for
you, of all people," he said; "I feared you were far away. There has
been an alarm; we must sleep under arms. The Colonel and most of the
officers have not returned. I will go back now. Take these six with
you, and cross the railway tracks to Palmer's. It is a rough road, and
a long journey; but report as soon as you can." The Sergeant started
with his bayoneted cavalcade in a dash westward. Cecily, apprehensive
of something unusual, saw the slow-rising dust, and, ahead of it, the
erect leader, scaling the horizon, and vanishing into the yet glowing
sky. A pang unutterable tore her; but, uttered, it would have been none
other than _Amen_.

Poor Saladin was tired enough, having been out all day long; and Cecily
led him carefully to the plain. Every clapping leaf, every crackling
twig underfoot, struck a chill into her bosom, on the over-shadowing
hill-slopes. She had played too brave a part under her mental turmoil,
and in the presence of her lover, himself too easily enamoured of
death. A spell greater than any he had felt was over her, breathing a
blackness between her and the light. Now her ample courage was fast
giving out. She saw a face in the thicket, and was barely able to
nerve herself not to scream. A man, in a military dress she did not
know, came forward, and raised his cap. It was Major Julian Brale,
free at last to do some scouting over his ancestral acres, alone,
and with hot revenges in his heart. He was sorry for her, and angry
at her discovery. He apologized briefly, and helped her to mount, not
without concern, but with a scornful coldness of manner which he could
not help. When she had gone, he returned to the bushes, cursing the
Eleventh; for he had recognized the saddle on the bay. The two forces
were on the brink of battle; but he was not an expert sharp-shooter for
nothing, and if he could but get sight of that thief, that coward, that
hell-born villain who had taken his old father's precious Molly from
him-- A moonbeam straggled in where he bent over, priming his rifle,
and he moved from it into the dark.

Dinnerless, supperless, much too overwrought to go to bed, Cecily
Carter sat in the Colonel's empty tent. For company, she had shaken out
her great silken banner over the lounge, where the firelight, falling
on it, seemed to praise its divine destroying loveliness with a poet's
Pentecostal tongue. Once she murmured prayerfully: "Dear Robert, dear
Robert." Something not herself had bade him go, and he was gone;
there was all of herself now in these fears. The little parting from
him which she was enduring became magnified and abiding, so that she
looked upon him slain, and thought with a sort of joyous satisfaction
how under the buttons of his old blue jacket, where nobody, not even
his mother, knew of them, were rose-leaves all about the open wound
next his heart; rose-leaves pressed most fervently, one by one, to her
lips, and laid there. Other caress she could not give him; though she
was his, he was the Republic's, for ever and ever. Again, she saw him
carried on a howitzer to a green lonely place. A stone reared itself
before her, and she read upon it an odd inscription: _If ye seek
the summit of true honor, hasten with all speed into that heavenly
country._ She started up. Was her brain indeed giving way? Who had
spoken? Where had she heard those words? How piercing a beauty they
had! Were they in the Church ritual? What did they mean? Why should
they hound her from her rest?

The Colonel's little ormolu clock struck eleven. Almost on the stroke,
the delayed revellers entered. Adela could not fail to notice her
sister's nervousness, but attributed it to anxiety for herself. The
Sultana of the Surgeon's christening had been prodigally feasted and
flattered; she had come home with an armful of hothouse flowers,
effulgent with gratification, and in a talking mood. The Colonel's boy
brought in the lamps. When the Colonel himself followed, grown grim
with the sudden tension and commotion about, his remark was to the
point. "I'm afraid you women will have to get out of camp, quick. I
smell powder. It is likely to be damned disagreeable." His handsome,
worldly wife, coming, butterfly-like, in yellow, out of her dark
wrappings, fixed him with her censorious eye. "James Willoughby! You
have been drinking." He was wont, on such occasions, to cast a comical
appealing glance at Cecily, of whom he was fond. She did not smile in
return, and her pallor touched him; so that he went over to her at
once. "What's the matter, child?" he asked, with affectionate anxiety.
But an approaching clang and clatter, and the challenge of the sentry
without, took from him what he meant to say; he left Cecily to her
sister, and hurried into the air. His going added to her trouble; and
yet she would have had no solace in keeping a friend near. Oh, the
stress and strain of dull daily incident upon that inner universe,
frangible as a bubble, where she and Robert had begun to live!--she
and Robert, and the Love of Country alone, for between this and them
must be union everlasting. Oh, the tyranny of all that is, laid upon
him, faithful in his place; upon her, faithful in hers; the speechless
dealings of lonely lovers with the Lone!

Private Cobbe, being foremost, saluted breathlessly: "Colonel, the
pickets are being driven in; the enemy is advancing." The gallant
fellow pressed his hand to his thigh; he was wounded, and he was
soldier enough to feel that wound an ignominy which had been received
obscurely, and elsewhere than on the field. Immediately, all along the
tents, arose the multitudinous yet unconfused cries of "Form!" and
"Fall in!" from the captains; the flapping guidons were borne hither
and thither to their places, and the thousand horses, wheeling on their
dancing hoofs by the gleam of lantern and torch under the watery moon,
began to make huge, fantastic shadows along the old parade-ground. The
Colonel, drawing on his gauntlets, and still afoot, noticed for the
first time that Cobbe and McGrath held between them, each with an arm
around him, an officer. For an instant, in the imperfect light, he
thought him some prisoner, until he recognized, in a flash, Molly with
her great liquid, excited eyes, Molly with her even mane hanging wet
and limp, confronting him. Private McGrath had held in until now. He
blurted: "I'm afraid he's gone, sir." The Colonel took a step forward,
as if it were into eternity. The Surgeon, standing by, echoed after
him: "My God!"

They lifted their friend down together, and carried him in, and laid
him with extreme gentleness where by chance the new flag, a kingly
winding-sheet, was above him and under. The Surgeon bent very low for
a while over the lounge. The many in the tent, used to calamity less
great than the loss of their best, held their breath; the Adjutant's
dog, close to his master's legs, lifted his long gray throat and
crooned softly and mournfully, as the band outside, far down the
disparting columns, broke into a loud, thrilling strain, impatient for
victory. The Sergeant was dead, with a ball in his breast. No one moved
until Cecily groaned and dropped.



AN EVENT ON THE RIVER.


MORNING lay over Portsmouth and her great stretches of opaline sea. The
little islands, north to the Maine shore, and east to the harbor-buoys,
were ablaze with red and yellow bushes to the water-brink; the
low-masted gunlows were beating out like a flock of dingy gulls; and
from afar, pleasantly, musically, sounded the bugle at the Navy Yard.
The Honorable Langdon Openshaw, standing among ruinous warehouses and
wharves, built by the Sheafes in the hour of their commercial glory
under the second George, looked down upon the clear Piscataqua at
full flood, breathing between its day-long, Samson-like tugs at the
yet enduring piers. It was a lonely spot; the wind had a way there,
sometimes, of waking momentary, half-imagined odors, the ghosts of the
cargoes of wines and spices in the prodigal past. His own solitude,
the washing tide, the one towering linden yonder, the gambrel roofs
and ancient gardens, the felt neighborhood of the dear wild little
graveyard where his forbears slept, steeped his heart in overwhelming
melancholy. He had already passed a week at the Rockingham. It was a
strange date to choose, out of all his free and prosperous life, for a
first visit since childhood to the fair old New England borough where
he was born. A sort of morbid home-sickness had driven him back now,
in his distresses, to her knee. For the Honorable Langdon Openshaw,
innocent of the astounding crime with which he was charged, was out on
bail.

The accusation was the most inexplicable of things. His chief
characteristic had been an endearing gentleness, which brought him the
popular favor he cared nothing for. He was the captain citizen of his
town; he had held, in turn, every office public esteem could give him;
he was president of a wealthy corporation which controlled a bank. It
was this treasury which he was said to have rifled, and its cashier
whom he was said to have murdered. No living creature was there in
all Connecticut but laughed aloud when the report began to spread;
but time and circumstantial proof sobered them, and increased the
breed of cynics and sceptics the country over. The philanthropist, the
good man, the Sunday-school paragon, forsooth, once again exposed in
all his gangrened sanctity! Two sickening circumstances, in the dark
designs of Providence, pointed at him with deadly finger. One was,
that at the time of the robbery, there was an impending crash in his
vested finances, since wholly and finally averted by his foresight and
skill; the other, that sometime before, in the discharge of duty, he
had incurred the enmity of the victim. Was it not possible, during Mr.
Openshaw's interval of anxiety, he, that is, any other than he, might
have dared retrieve his fortune, and silence the witness of his crime,
George Wheeling, found unexpectedly at his desk at midnight over his
accounts, and thrown down the stair into the vaults? But there was a
more certain and horrible evidence. He had been seen escaping; he had
been recognized. The scuffle had roused the occupants of houses near;
and these, looking forth by the city lamplight, saw the flying figures,
one of them, alas, inconceivably, yet unmistakably, so help us God! the
Honorable Langdon Openshaw. Had they not a perfect unanimous knowledge,
for many years, of his face, his unique gait, his uncommon stature?
Where was there another such odd and definite physical personality? As
to the confederates, well, there were reasons, no doubt, why bravos
should be hired.

Wearily, wearily, he parted his gaze from the alluring eternity in the
river, and strolled a little distance to the warm wall, and sat down
in the late September grasses against it, like the broken man he was.
He took off his hat, a characteristic dark soft felt such as he always
wore, and the air was good upon his brow. His thoughts reverted to
old times. He had no kindred except a sister living in Santa Barbara
with her family of daughters, and between them there had never been
any marked natural affection. The distant cousin of his own whom he
had married, had borne him no children, and she was dead: a gentle,
negative soul, to whom he confided little of what touched him most. He
had formed no intimate companionships. No one save his mother, whom he
lost in his boyhood, and whose maiden name he bore, had ever possessed
much influence over him. He was a man's man, as the saying is, hitherto
of any age he chose, and rich in all resources. But he had strong
dormant affections, shamefacedly expended on public orphanages and
hospitals, and on the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals;
and he felt rightly that he could have been fatherly, brotherly, even
filial, with a son. Ah, if he but had a son! Bulwarked about with
modern conveniences, that, his one necessary, he had missed. And here,
in strange opprobrium, was the end of his career and of his name.
"Lover and friend hast Thou put far from me!" he breathed to himself,
feeling, for the first time since his calamity, a profound submission
of the soul.

He heard voices in the windless air. He did not rise, for they were not
approaching him. He could not help distinguishing the animated words.

"This is as far as I ought to go. I guess I'll say good-bye."

"They will miss you notta yet. Oh, please do, please do stay! I starve
if I am absent. Come, one kissa more."

"No; wait till to-morrow, you great baby. Go away now, and do your best
to be good."

"Alla righta; if you give to me one little song."

"Truly?"

"Truly, Anita mia. I desire indeed, this hour, the mandolin. But no
matter: sing. All is quiet: see! it can begin."

Then the girl's thin bird-like voice soared alone, not in any expected
love-lyric of the seaport streets, but in a Christian folk-song of
artless beauty.

  "All in the April evening,
     April airs were abroad;
   The sheep with their little lambs
     Passed me by on the road.

  "The sheep with their little lambs
     Passed me by on the road:
   All in the April evening
     I thought on the Lamb of God.

  "The lambs were weary, and crying
     With a weak human cry:
   I thought on the Lamb of God
     Going meekly to die.

  "Up in the blue, blue mountains,
     Dewy pastures are sweet,
   With rest for the little bodies,
     And rest for the little feet.

  "But for the Lamb of God,
     Up on the hill-top green,
   Only a Cross of shame,
     Two stark crosses between!

  "All in the April evening,
     April airs were abroad;
   I saw the sheep with their lambs:
     I thought on the Lamb of God."[1]

There was a pause after. Then Openshaw sighed. He knew they were in
each other's arms, the morning heaven blessing them; but with him it
was spiritual darkness, and bitter evenfall. A boat passed below, the
oarsmen curious; and the young loiterers on the old wharf stood apart.

"My angel, my sainta!"

"Hush! It is twelve already; I must be off."

"Ah, the time is so short! Cruel!"

"Dear, you are nicest when you are good."

"Behold, I am."

At last the farewells and vacancy; and then footsteps making towards
the angle of the wall. Mr. Openshaw's stately head, crowned with the
abundant glossy black and gray which gave it such distinction in a
land of bald pates, arose upon the surprised view of the new-comer.
He, on his part, with no question as to a gentleman's supposed
midday slumbers, stooped, and offered Mr. Openshaw his hat. The two,
confronted, smiled a little; both tall, aquiline, clean-shaven.

"I thank you. Perhaps you would rather have me say, _molte grazie_. You
are an Italian, are you not?"

The other, wonderingly, but with native grace, assented. "I am a
Florentine." How he said it! Where did he get that gypsy princeliness,
his clear pallor, the nameless magic that takes the heart?

"You speak English fairly."

"I have been in youra country long."

"And I in yours, many years ago." Now Openshaw was dallying, and
consciously. What impelled him to open sociabilities with such an one,
he did not know. This stripling of another grade reminded him dimly
of something, and teased his eye. "What a bearing the fellow has!" he
thought again. Having snapped every tie with his own life, he could
afford to be interested in that of others. He took pleasure in the
diverting accent and idiom, and the abandon with which the loose, rough
clothes were worn.

"Florence is the most beautiful of cities. You ought almost to go
back." It relieved his heart somehow, the foolish commonplace, as might
the colloquy about the weather among aristocrats in the tumbrils of
the French Revolution. All time hung a mortal weight upon his hands;
nor did the un-Americanized stranger seem to be in a hurry. But now he
started a little.

"Go back? Santa Maria! I suffer: I go back so soona that I can!" As he
spoke, with the soft round harp-like Tuscan tone which the east wind
of New England had not rasped, he glanced around apprehensively. "With
money, nexta month, I sail on the sea, and I arrive."

"Well, that might be worse," said the elder man, indulgently. "May I
ask your name?"

"Ralph Power."

"Ralph Power? That is not an Italian name."

"Sir, I know. My mother, she have the marriage name Potenza. Rodolfo,
that is mine. I translate the two, and that is Ralph Power, whicha make
it easy for the tongue of many."

Mr. Openshaw had drawn his hand over his eyelids, as if feeling the
sting of memory.

"What do you do for a living here?"

"I serva the market. Once I assist to builda boats for the Capitan,
but now he work no more; the beautiful Anne, she is his daughter. Ah,
signor!" Ingenuously, boyishly, he sighed.

"How old are you?"

"Twenty-two."

"How many questions I have asked you! I am afraid I have kept you from
your duties. Pray go now."

The other bowed, and turned townwards. But Openshaw felt on the instant
a sort of loneliness. "Rodolfo!" he exclaimed, "do me the favor to
spend this." He slipped a coin into an uninviting hand, partly, as he
would have said himself, from natural depravity, partly, from the sheer
luxury of his own incognito, and that of giving away to a young man
what no young man could inherit. "It may help you out of your trouble.
Trouble is very hard to bear, sometimes."

If he were aware of expecting anything in return, from a poor Italian,
it was the usual ecstatic thankful benediction of poor Italians in
like luck. Once he had lived among them on their own soil; he knew the
simple-hearted, engaging, vagabond breed through and through. But this
specimen of it flushed and scowled, while trying to seem courteous; and
his would-be benefactor was puzzled. As they stood opposite, they were
of equal height; for the younger had drawn himself up a good inch.

"I am afraid you are proud. You have picked that up in New England."

Rodolfo answered resentfully: "Sir, I have the blood of New England
also, and it is for me the destiny to earn my money, most of all after
what I promise to the beautiful Anne."

As he said it, warming thus into his very self, the eyes of Openshaw,
watching him, were dazzled, as one may be who crosses an alcove towards
a door in plain sight, and finds that seeming door a mirror. A little
alarum-bell rang in his brain. He shuddered, for all the forces within
him were rallying together: triumph, hate, revenge, deadly delight;
things he had not known were possible to him swarmed into his spirit
with a clang. He recognized, at a stroke, that this vagrant youth,
this common workman, looking at him with no smile now, bore a violent
resemblance to himself. He searched for details, lightning-quick,
and devouringly. Yes! there were the dark, fine, pendulous hair, the
small, close ear, the strong nose and jaw, even the large, slender
hand toil had hardly scarred, the back of it smooth and hard as veined
marble; how like the Openshaw hand, plain in the old Lely portrait,
plainer yet in the Stuarts, on the melancholy walls of his own home!
And what followed? The voice, significant, prophetic, of the demon of
self-preservation in his ear: "This may be the man who killed George
Wheeling. This must be the man. Impeach him; clear yourself!" Openshaw,
in his calmer mood, a few moments back, had measured the character
before him. Whatever else it was, it was not astute. He foresaw no
trouble in worming the secret out of him.

"Very well," he replied, as if æons on æons of thought had not passed
since he spoke last. "I will take the gold-piece back, on your own
condition: I will see that you earn it. Have you business on hand?"

"Oh, no. The venerable butcher, the fever kills him; we bury him, and
locka the door for all day." Rodolfo was sullen yet.

"Then, will you kindly go into the square, buy me cheese, pilot bread,
two quart bottles of Sauterne, and two glasses, and return by way of
Daniels Street? I shall be waiting at the landing. I should like to
hire a boat for an hour, and have you row me up river. Will you do so?"

The lad hesitated. Finally, touched, or put upon his mettle by a
seeming confidence, he set out, with the greenback in his pocket
which Mr. Openshaw had given him. The latter, at this pause in their
colloquy, was made aware that he was suffering keenly. He had exceeding
self-control; his successes in life had sprung from it. But every
mastered nerve in his body, having already undergone so much, and
having so much to undergo, was humming like a beehive. He could not
stand still. He wandered about, meeting few pedestrians, across Water
Street, up Manning Street to Puddle Dock with its liberty pole, and
again past the graveyard, lingering wherever he could command a view of
the broad glorious anchorage, tragic with the exposed ribs of rotting
ships. Into the happier neighborhoods near, he would not penetrate;
this one had been happy too, when he was a child. There he saw but
visions of greatness gone, of comfort broken, and an hour ago, could
have laid his cheek to the old flaggings, and wept. But he had now a
terrible just purpose, and for that he must save his strength.

He was at the landing later than Rodolfo, who sat in a white wherry
ballasted with his purchases, the oars already in hand. Openshaw rested
his cane on the gunwale, and stepped quietly into the stern; they
backed out of the cramped spaces, and shot away. The surface of the
harbor was dimpling, little by little, with the great hidden swirls
of the turning tide; deceptively glassy between its deflected banks,
it gleamed like the thin ice which forms in November, and over which
boys send pebble after pebble, and laugh to hear them chirruping. But
Rodolfo had learned long since how to cajole the fierce Piscataqua;
and tacking artfully by St. John's Point, he labored through the end
arch of the great bridge, and gained the blue highway beyond. A train
thundered overhead. Two women in the footpath, leaning over the rail,
stared fixedly at the little boat, and from one sensitive face to
the other, and again at their contrasted attire. They were Rodolfo's
neighbors, and pleased that he had fallen in with a gentleman.

The cruisers were not back within the hour, nor within three hours.
The whole world was to change strangely for them both, meanwhile.
The order of what Langdon Openshaw had intended to say and do came to
naught, because what happens to happen is lord over the strongest human
will. He had prepared his cunning questionings, as if to force his
own fate, forgetting that the aggregation of outer circumstance which
we call fate is itself an irresistible vortex; the trapper, and not
the trapped. Up stream, by Frank's Fort, under a sapphire sky, while
as yet little had been said, he found that his watch had run down,
and he asked for the correct time. Rodolfo set him right from a cheap
timepiece. As he handled it, there appeared, linked to the guard, an
artistic bit of bronze, a tiny Renaissance figure, with bow and hound,
the blown draperies minutely fair. Openshaw saw it, and the whole
universe was not so manifest to him as that small ominous curio within
it.

"The Diana! On your soul, where, how, did you get that?" It was
familiar to him; he knew it, though he had not seen it for more than a
score of years. The rower dropped it back into his breast, definitely.

"It is mine, and dear to me. My mother who gave it, she is dead."

"Did you say your mother's name was Potenza? Was it Agata Potenza?
Agata Boldoni once?"

"Yes."

There was a thronging pause.

"When did she die?"

"It was sixa years ago; I proceed to America."

"Have you brothers and sisters?"

"I have, in Italy, twin brothers, older; their lame-a father, Niccola
Potenza, live with them. But he is notta mine."

Quick, loud, sure, the queries and the answers fell, like the
hammer-strokes of a coffin in the making.

"Your father was--?"

"How can I know? They tell me he was vera handsome, vera rich, and from
this America. _Malfattore!_ He steal away, and I am born after; and she
see him not in her life, I see him not in mine."

The crew had apparently hurt the passenger, for the latter heaved
against the thwarts.

"Once more. Was your mother ever married to your father?"

Rodolfo knit his brows, and set his teeth. "No."

For a long, long time there was no sound but the little singing keel
on its joyous flight, and Openshaw's head was hidden in his hands.
Rodolfo, of his own vigorous accord, took the way of Dover Bridge,
across the noble inland bay, and branched up the shallowing Oyster.
There by the bank, in the stiller solitudes, he shipped his oars, and,
reaching forth, touched the bowed shoulder, not without compassion.

"_Illustrissimo_, look up! Tell me." Then did Openshaw begin, steadily,
but hardly above his breath, intent the while on the image of his own
youth before him, as if from that only he might draw courage to confess.

"I have a dear friend who, when he was no older than you are now,
went to Italy. He spent his best years in a delusion, for he thought
then he might become a great painter. His character, such as it was
and is, turned to the things of good report; he was an orphan, with
a competence; but he had had no home, and no moral training. Being
something of a recluse, he developed late and slowly. At a time when
the storm-clouds in most young men's lives are lifting, his were
surcharging themselves, and getting ready to burst. On his thirtieth
birthday, in Ferrara, he--"

"In Ferrara, yes!" broke the eager interruption.

"He persuaded another man's wife to run away with him. She was a
peasant, very young and innocent, with a sweet pensive Perugino face;
she had been his model, up to her marriage with Niccola Potenza."

There was a sharp affirmative breath from the listener.

"Niccola Potenza was a cooper, with good prospects. He was considered
quite a match for the girl; but he turned out to be dull, silent, and
preoccupied. Little Agata was romantic; and her thoughts ran easily
back to my friend. The fault was, assuredly, all his. He thought that
he loved her, and so, indeed, he did; although he loved better, alas,
the adventure and the rebellion. At any rate, he took her away boldly
from her husband and her babes, and set up life in his old studio, in
Florence. The cooper, sworn to revenge himself, had nearly hunted my
friend down, when on Easter Day he fell from a crowded and festooned
inn-balcony, and broke his thigh. Somehow, after that, his fury failed
him; and he sank, under his misfortune, into a sort of apathy. Things
went wrong also with the lovers. Agata kept only for a while her soft,
joyous, docile ways, and then grew restless and wretched, with the
canker of a good heart spoiled, which nothing on earth can cure. She
would spend hours in the chapel near by, her face covered, thinking and
weeping; and then she would go back to her little household tasks, and
move about in my friend's sight, her pale penitent face driving him
wild more effectually than any audible reproach could have done. Of
course he saw what was in her soul: the struggle between her foolish
passion for him, and mortal home-sickness for the inner peace which
had attended her old honorable life. He, on his part, resented the
moral awakening in her, and stamped down both her conscience and his
own. Against the voice within which bade him, since he had done her
an irretrievable wrong, to take the legal burden of it upon himself,
and make her his wife in America, arose his tyrannous social cowardice.
He dared not; he had a depraved but intelligent dread of discord and
incongruities. And so, as many another man as weak has done, he served
his æsthetic sense, and threw honor to the winds. He was never, I
think, wilfully unkind to Agata; his selfishness would seem to me now
less diabolic had he tried to estrange her from him. But as soon as
their first apprehensive year together had passed, without any talk
on the subject, he left her. Before he took his train, that night in
May, my friend drew up a paper for poor Agata's maintenance. The sum
was small, but much more than she had been accustomed to call her own.
I know he had no forewarning of--of his child; he provided for her
alone." Mr. Openshaw was speaking with some difficulty. "When were you
born?"

"On the feast of San Stefano, the twenty-sixta of December, eighteen
hundred sixta-five."

Rodolfo had been listening under a strain keener than that of physical
deafness. The more nervously overwrought of the two at this particular
moment, he was likewise the more restrained. A certain question was
hot in his throat. Though he had not understood all of Mr. Openshaw's
melancholy monologue, he had apprehended the heart of it only too well.
But he said nothing further.

A flock of pioneer blackbirds, in delirious chatter, were gathering
overhead for their autumn migration, darkening the narrow sky-space
with their circling wings. Openshaw looked up.

"Those birds go from pole to pole to find--what? So did he. His youth
was killed in him; and before long, nevertheless, he was cheerful and
active again, and courted by the world. He came home to his own honest
and normal life, and after a while he married. He had no tidings of
Agata, and had actually resolved once to try to find her, when he heard
what must have been a false report, that she had died; and he did not
doubt it, for he used to see her faithful patient little face in all
his dreams. From what I have learned of late, I believe that he is
most miserable, and near his own end. He does not deserve to hear of
her last days. But if by letting me know, you can punish him through
me, do not spare him. I will not, I promise you."

Rodolfo sat in the boat, immovable, the thin leaves of the bowery
wild-grape flapping overhead, and flickering him with elfin light and
shade. "My mother," he began in a low voice, "did the best: the grace
of God was in her. Niccola was sick; the trade was gone, and then was
mucha poverty. With me in her amiable arms, she return on the feet to
Ferrara, and petition him; and, lo! the good cripple man, he pardon.
There us four in one family, we flourish. The American money she could
notta help, go among all till all are grown; she die of the fever sixa
year ago, with many candles and masses for her soul; and because it is
notta fit that my brothers spend on me, I ask Niccola's blessing, and
come to America. That is the end."

Openshaw inquired presently, when he could do so: "Had you any
education, as a child? Can you read and write, Rodolfo?"

"No." He sat sheepishly for a moment, then seized his oars.

"How have you prospered over here? Have you been able to save a little?
You spoke of wishing to return."

Rodolfo quivered. "It musta be."

"Why so?" There was genuine tenderness in the two words.

"There is nothing of hope for me. I am in a greata fix. I leave, I go;
I cannot stay. I have a sin also. Only my beloved, she know how it was
I transgress, so thatta perhaps my guilt is not for eternity."

Openshaw laid the tip of his stick upon the rowlock, with authority.
"Do not start yet; let the boat drift. You must be hungry with this
long exercise. Pray pass me those things near you, and the wine; and
while you lunch, I hope you will be as frank with me, Rodolfo, as I
have been with you.... I look upon it as a miracle of mercy that at
the eleventh hour we have found each other." He knew that the young
man's blazing black eyes were full upon him. "I can help you. Only keep
nothing back." He filled one of the glasses from the fizzing bottle,
and passed it. But it was struck aside, and the cry that followed was
so sincere it gave the rudeness dignity.

"Ah! No, no, no. Sir, I touch the spiritual drink no more till I die.
I vow to Anita mia, after the terrible night. For see! The evil ones,
companions, take me on a burst in a city notta this, Hartaford,
and thieve." His voice dropped under the excitement, like a file of
infantry under fire. "They thieve a banka; and I watch, in gin so drunk
as Bacco; and when the invisible man arise pugnacious, I throttle him,
and curse, and rolla him down to the cellar. He moan and expire, so
that we go down to thieva more; but the city she hears, there is a
sound, then a sound on top of him, and we fly, fly, fly, this streeta,
that streeta, till I come back awake to this Portsmouth, and fall on my
knee to Anne, and cry tears. Ah, my sainta! she comfort me in charity,
and talk to me, and keepa me from the bad; and for penance I go vera
dry always, not to be damn. I tell it not to Niccola at home when I go;
and I pray to go soon, that the Statesa Prison notta hanga me."

Such is the equilibrium between the infinite and folly, that at this
juncture, as he recalled afterwards, Mr. Openshaw was eating his
cheese. He answered, marvelling at his own composure.

"I read about it in the newspapers. You are in great danger, my poor
boy. Now listen. There is a ship sailing for Genoa from New York next
Saturday; and on her I wish you to engage your passage. That will give
you a week to adjust your little affairs here; and you must, moreover,
see your excellent sweetheart, and persuade her to marry you and go
with you. Will you do that?"

Rodolfo opened his fine eyes very wide, and then closed them. "Oh,
voluptuous as it would be, I cannot. The Capitan he make Anne deny
me until I shall have many riches. She is a handmaid of domestic
service on Pleasanta Street; but the old one, he is proud for her, and
with the mosta reason in all the world. I shall coop with thesea my
brothers cooping always in Ferrara, and do my parta with my soul. For
bye-and-bye we make a marriage; and then she will be content to live in
the sympathetic Italy, where safeness is for me."

"But we mean to mend all that, Rodolfo. Your father, whom I know very
well, is growing old, and has a great deal of property with no one to
share it. The least he can do for you (I am sure he feels that), is to
put you out of the reach of want. He will not ruin you, nor throw you
into temptations of a kind other than those you have undergone; for you
are his son, and as such he must love you. But he will hope to hear by
next spring, that you have bought a farm and vineyard, and that your
kind kins-people at home, and your wife, sometimes pray for him; yes,
and for me. Trust me; we need say no more about it. He will have it all
settled by law as soon as he is able, but certainly within a month."
He passed his hand over his hair, absently, and resumed. "You will go
across the ocean now; and if my friend lives, he may come to you; but
he may not live, and he may not come. It is his punishment not so much
to lose you, or what you might, after all, be to him, as to recognize
that his awful breach of duty has established between you what I may
call, perhaps, in the long run, an incompatibility." Poor Openshaw, on
the rack of his own candor, groaned aloud.

Once more they were crossing Greenland Bay, and the lone and lovely
miles seaward. Rodolfo crept up quietly to his strange benefactor, who
was absently gazing far away, so quietly that the wherry moved not a
muscle under him.

"It is you," he said. "The 'friend' is a made-up. I know. _Padre, si!_"
He threw his arms about Mr. Openshaw, his old hatred melted away,
and lay there on his knees like a little boy, sobbing, sobbing. "It
is for nothing at all," he explained with his endearing semblance of
good-breeding; "but the gentle goodaness of God. The beautiful Anne,--O
you musta see her, and letta yourself be thank in so harmonious the
voice of seventeen! she will taka me. Behold, I am so vera, vera
happy." Quite overcome, he did not even raise his head when he was
spoken to.

"Am I forgiven, Rodolfo? Can you forgive me for your poor mother's
sake?"

For answer, the lad covered the hand he held with kisses of southern
fervor, and pressed into it the little delicate charm from his
watch-string.

At the touch of it, the tyranny of yesterday and to-morrow, and all
his suffering present and to come, departed from Openshaw. A divine
felicity began now to possess him; he was grateful, he was at peace;
whatever his retribution was to be, he embraced it, in spirit, like
a bride. In his revery, he seemed to stand before the everlasting
tribunal, with inscrutable truth on his lips: "Of this that was mine
I was heedless. Because of my heedlessness, Poverty and Ignorance and
Inferiority and Exile took him by the hand, and led him to the pit.
He is rescued from the worst; he will cling to the highest which he
sees, with an elected soul to help him; but what he might have been
he can never be. It was I that sowed; let it be mine to reap. The
indelible blood that is shed is on my hands, not on his. Visit Thy
wrath upon me, for here is it due. With body and soul, will, sense, and
understanding, from first to last, in every fibre of my being, I affirm
me accountable for this thing." To the tribunal on earth, its magnate
of unblemished reputation had no explanation to offer. He foresaw only
his arraignment, and the words with which to clinch it: "Gentlemen of
the jury, I plead guilty."

Rodolfo spoke first. "I am so glad I guess, I guess from the teara in
your eye, that time."

The tears welled up again as the other replied: "There is something
else you will never guess, thank God."

"No?"

"No, my boy."

Rodolfo looked up, and smiled, without irrelevant curiosity. He was too
content, afloat there.

The Honorable Langdon Openshaw took charge of the tiller, the son to
whom he had twice given life still at his feet. With neither oar nor
sail the guided boat came home from the upper waters to the port,
in the mellowing afternoon, borne on the mighty ebb-tide of the
Piscataqua.



THE PROVIDER.


NORA cried out: "'Tis so pretty to-day!" The barefooted children were
threading the slopes of Howth towards Raheny. Far-off, the city, with
its lights and stretches of glorified evening water, was lying there
lovely enough between the mountains and the sea. It was Nora's tenth
birthday, and, to please her, they had been on the march all afternoon,
their arms full of rock-born speedwell and primrose. "'Tis so pretty!"
echoed little Winny, with enthusiasm. But the boy looked abroad without
a smile. "'T'd be prettier when things is right," he answered severely.
Hughey was a man of culture; but his speech was the soft slipshod of
the south. The three trudged on in silence, for Hughey was a personage
to his small sisters; and Hughey in a mood was to be respected. He,
alas, had been in a mood too long. He had carried Winny over the
roughest places, and shown her Ireland's Eye, and, alongshore, the
fishing-nets and trawls; he had given his one biscuit to be shared
between them all; and lying in the velvet sward by the Druid stone, he
had told them all he knew of the fairy-folk in their raths, for the
seventieth time. But he was full of sad and bitter brooding the while,
thinking of his mother, his poor mother, his precious mother, working
too hard at home, for whom there never seemed to be any birthdays or
out-of-door pleasures.

Hugh was nearly twelve now, and mature as the eldest child must
always be among the poor. He could remember times in the county
Wexford, before his father, who was of kin to half the gentry in the
countryside, died; times when life had a very different outlook, and
when his peasant mother, with short skirts and her sleeves rolled
up, would go gayly between her great stone-flagged kitchen and the
well or the turkey-hen's nest under the blackthorn hedge, singing,
singing, like a lark. They had to leave that pleasant farm, and the
thatched roof which had sheltered them from their fate, and move up to
cloudier Dublin, to a stifling garret over a beer-shop; and it was a
miserable change. Malachi O'Kinsella, the cheerful thriftless man, with
his handsome bearing and his superfluous oratory, was gone; and his
Hughey was too young to be of service to those he left behind. A fine
monument, with _Glory be to God_ on it, had to be put up over him in
the old churchyard, two years ago; and there had been since the problem
of schooling, feeding, and clothing Hughey, Nora, and Winny. Then Rose,
three years old, fell into a lime-kiln, and was associated with the
enforced luxury of a second funeral; and Dan, the baby, born after his
father's death, was sickly, and therefore costly too; and now the rent
had to be paid, and the morrow thought of, on just nothing a week! All
of which this Hugh, with his acumen and quick sympathy, had found out.
He worshipped his mother, in his shy, abstinent Irish way; his heart
was bursting for her sake, though he but half knew it, with a sense of
the mystery and wrong-headedness of human society.

That April Tuesday night, when the wildflowers were in a big earthen
basin on the table, like streaks of moonlight and moon-shadow, and
the girls were in bed, Hughey blew out his candle, shut up his penny
_Gulliver_, and went over to the low chair in their one room, where
his mother was crooning Dan to sleep on her breast. It shocked him to
see how thin she was. Her age was but three-and-thirty; but it might
have been fifty. She wore a faded black gown, of decent aspect once in
a village pew; her thick eyelashes were burning wet. Outside and far
below, were the polluted narrow cross-streets, full of flaring torches,
and hucksters' hand-carts, and drunken voices; and beyond, loomed the
Gothic bulk of Saint Patrick's, not a star above it.

"Mother! 'tis not going to school any more Oi'll be." His tired,
unselfish mother swallowed a great sigh, but said nothing. "Oi'll
worruk for ye, mother; Oi'll be your man. Oi can do't."

There was another and a longer pause; and then Moira O'Kinsella
suddenly bent forward and kissed her first-born. Like all the
unlettered class in Ireland, she adored learning from afar, and
coveted it for her offspring. That he should give up his hope of
"talkin' Latin" touched her to the quick. "God love ye, Hughey darlint!
Phwat can a little bhoy do?" But she slept a happier woman for her
knight's vow.

As for Hughey, there was no sleep for him. By the first white light he
could see the two pathetic pinched profiles side by side, the woman's
and the babe's, both set in the same startling flat oval of dark locks.
The faces on the mattress yonder were so round and ruddy! They had not
begun to think, as Hughey had; even scant dinners and no warmth in
winter had not blighted one rose as yet in those country cheeks. Up to
yesterday, he had somehow found his mother's plight bearable, thanks
to the natural buoyancy of childhood, and the hope, springing up every
week, that next week she would have a little less labor, a few more
pence. Besides, it was spring; and in spring hearts have an irrational
way of dancing, as if a fairy fiddler had struck up _Garryowen_. But
now Hughey was sobered and desperate.

There was no breakfast but a crust apiece. The McCarthy grandmother, on
the stairs, gave Nora, starting for school, some fresh water-cresses.
Just then Mrs. O'Kinsella happened to open the door. Poor Nora had
yielded to temptation and filled her mouth, and pretended, holding
her head down, to be much concerned about a bruise on her knee. She
could not look in her mother's honest eyes, ignorant as these were
of any blame in Nora. Mrs. O'Kinsella went wearily to her charing,
and seven-year-old Winny set up housekeeping with Dan, the primroses
and a teapot-shaped fish-bone for their only toys. Hughey had already
gone, nor was he at his desk in the afternoon, when his teacher and
Nora looked vainly for him; nor did he return to his lodgings until
after sundown. When he came, he brought milk with him, earned by
holding a gentleman's horse at the Rotunda; and with that and some
boiled potatoes, there was a feast. Hughey's vocation, it would
appear, had not yet declared itself. He had haunted Stephen's Green
and its sumptuous purlieus in vain. He had not been asked to join
partners with Messrs. Pim, nor to accept a Fellowship at Trinity. The
next day's, the next month's history was no more heroic. There were
so many of those bright, delicate-featured, ragged-shirted boys in
Dublin, coming about on foggy mornings with propositions! The stout
shop-keepers were sated with the spectacle of the unable and willing.

The days dragged. An affable policeman who had known Hughey's mother at
home in New Ross, seeing him once gazing in a junk-shop door, finally
presented him to the proprietor: "Toby, allow me t' inthroduce a good
lad wants a dhrive at glory. Can ye tache um the Black Art, now? He can
turrun his hand to most anythin', and his pomes, Oi hear, do be grand,
for his age."

The junk-man, good-naturedly scanning Hughey, saw him burst into
tears, and beat the air, though the giant of the law had passed on.
That his chief and most secret sin should be mentioned aloud, to
prejudice the world of commerce against him, was horrible. His mother
had told on him! She must have found some lines on Winny's slate last
Sunday, entitled _Drumalough: a Lament for the Fall of the Three
Kings, Written at Midnight._ Worra, worra! Hughey was descended, on
the paternal side, through a succession of ever-falling fortunes, from
a good many more than three kings, and used to wonder where their
crowns and sceptres were, not that he might pawn them, either. The
O'Kinsellas were a powerful aboriginal sept in the old days, and lived
in fortress castles, and playfully carried off cattle and ladies from
their neighbors of the Pale. Malachi O'Kinsella's mother, a heroine of
romance who ran away with a jockey lover, and never throve after, was
of pure Norman blood, and most beautiful, with gray eyes, water-clear,
like Hughey's own, and the same bronze-colored hair; and it was said
she could play the harp that soft it would draw the hearing out of
your head with ecstasy! Now the junk-man was fatherly, and presented
Hughey, in default of a situation, with a consolatory coin; but
foregoing events had been too trying for the boy's nerves: he dropped
it, and fled, sobbing. He simply couldn't live where his po'try was
going to rise up against him, and wail like a Banshee in the public
ear. He charged, in his wrath and grief, across the crowded bridge, and
down the line of quays east of it, straight into a fat, gray-headed,
leather-aproned person directing a group of sailors unloading a boat.

This person, sent of Heaven, with miraculous suddenness, and with
musical distinctness, exclaimed: "'Aven't I been a-wishin' of 'im, and
directly 'e runs into me harms! Crawl into that barrel, sonny, and if
you 'old it steady, I'll 'eave you tuppence." Hughey, foreordained
likewise, crawled in. When he came out, Mr. J. Everard Hoggett looked
him over, from his moribund hat to his slight patrician ankle. "I
likes a boy wot's 'andy, and 'as little to sy, like you." He resumed
critically, "'E don't appear to be from any of 'Er Marjesty's carstles,
'e don't. Perhaps 'e might like to 'ang about 'ere, and earn three bob
a week?" Hughey hugged his twopenny piece, blushed, trembled, twisted
his legs in the brown trousers too big for him, and replied in gulps:
"O sir! Yes, sir." Whereby his annals begin.

This perfectly amazing luck befell towards the end of May. Mr. Hoggett,
going home, beckoned him, took him into a little eating-house, sat
him down, paid for a huge order, and departed. "There's a couple o'
lion cubs hinside wot ought to be your westcot, needs 'am and heggs.
Fill 'em full; and mind you come to-morrow at a quarter to ight. I'll
'ave no lyzy lubbers alongside o' me." With which fierce farewell, and
disdaining thanks, Mr. Hoggett faded wholly away.

Hughey, half-dazed, sat at a table alone, sniffing celestial fragrances
from the rear, with the joy in his breast jumping like a live creature
in a box. To quiet it, while he waited, he took up a torn journal which
was lying on the nearest chair. At first, what he read seemed to have
no meaning, but when some moments had passed, still odorous only, and
non-flavorous, Hughey's collected and intelligent eye had taken in the
dramatic political crisis, the stocks, the African news, the prospects
of Irish literature, and the latest London wife-beating. On the
advertisement page, one especial paragraph in sensational print rooted
his attention. This was it:--

    "SERVANTS AND APPRENTICES, ATTENTION! Here is the best Chance of
    your lives. It will Never come again. _Trade with us, and you lay
    the_ FOUNDATION _of your_ FORTUNE! With every sixpenny worth of
    goods bought of us on any Saturday night, we give a COUPON on the
    Ninth anti-Sassenach Bank of Belfast. _Fifty of these_ entitle the
    Bearer at the end of the year to a gift of TEN POUNDS IN GOLD!!
    Honesty the best Policy our motto. Best Material at Lowest Prices;
    come and see. _Do not Neglect your own_ GOOD. McClutch & Gullim,
    Linen-drapers, No. 19-- ---- St."

Hughey, the innocent prospective capitalist, took a stubby pencil
from the only sound pocket in his habiliments, and began to figure on
the margin of the paper; for he had an inspiration. "Mother would be
thundherin' rich!" was what flashed into his mind. Before he had done
with his emergency arithmetic, ham and eggs, with all their shining
train, were set before him. With them, he gallantly swallowed his
conscience, for Hughey, like a nobler Roman before him, was resolving
to be gloriously false, and, for piety's sake, to trade his soul. He
foresaw vaguely that he would not be allowed, out of his royal wages of
three shillings, to spend full half every Saturday night, at McClutch
and Gullim's; yet to do it was the imperative thing now, and that he
felt impelled to do it was his own super-private business, and his
warrant. Therefore would he keep his secret close, and make what excuse
he might. He could not even think of asking advice; how should any one
else be able to realize how he must act towards his mother? The angels
had given her into his hands; and he knew at last what was to be done
for her. She should be rich and gay, and have a coach, perhaps, like
a real lady; and Danny should have a goat, and a sash with stripes in
it, like the little twin Finnegans; and the Misses Honora and Winifrid
O'Kinsella should walk abroad with parasols! Proper manoeuvring now
would fetch twenty-five pounds sterling next summer. But he would hide
away what he bought, and never tell until the beatific hour when his
mother should have the money, and the linen, and the truth about them,
all together!

Hughey went home in a series of hops and whirls, like a kitten's. He
brought a flood of riotous sunshine in with him. It was supper-time;
the children had each a ha'penny bun, and some tea. Mrs. O'Kinsella was
lying down, with an ache between her lungs and her spine, after a long
day's lifting and scrubbing. She felt the good news, before the child
spoke. "O mother! 'tis the most illigant thing's happened: ye niver
heard the loike." Hughey's pale comely little face was radiant.

"Phwhere is ut, and phwhat d'ye get, dear?" Then Hughey screwed up his
courage, and told his only, his masterly lie: "North Wall, mother; and
a shillin' and six every week." "A shillin' and six!" shrieked Nora.
"O Hughey!" But the critic for whose opinion he cared was not quite so
enraptured. She smiled, and praised him, but took it too tamely, her
son thought. However, he reflected that she little knew the felicities
in store.

In the morning, his career began, and it maintained itself with vigor,
inasmuch as by the autumn he was of real value to his employers. He
had many duties and some trusts. His orders all came directly from
the benevolent bluff Mr. Hoggett, or from his mild reflection and
under-study, a small, bald, capable head-clerk from the north, who
was known as Jibtopsails; for what reason, Hughey could never divine,
unless it was that his ears were uncommonly large and flapping.
Jibtopsails sent him here and there with parcels and messages, and
he had been faithful; he had made no grave mistake yet, nor had he
been unpunctual. But every Saturday of his life saw him posing as
a purchaser at 19-- ---- Street, where a hard-featured old woman,
supposed mother of the supposed junior partner, served him always with
the same ironically deferent, "Good day, sir; and what can I show you?"
Jibtopsails inquired occasionally after the health of Hughey's family,
particularly after Hughey had told him that Mrs. O'Kinsella was not so
well as she used to be. For the rest, the sympathy of that gentle cynic
made the child's blood run cold: he had such a paralyzing fear that
Jibtopsails might call there at the house, and talk to his mother, and
say something about three shillings a week! Kind people in the parish,
if they knew, would bring her in wood, and coal, and wine; but again,
in the hallucination of his jealous determined heart, the boy prayed
passionately that they might not know, and that he alone should be the
deliverer. The dread of his secret being found out, little by little
made his life intolerable. He had grown older since he had that to
cherish in his bosom, and it seemed less delicious than while as yet it
was nothing but a dream.

His mother broke down, and could toil no longer. Mrs. Drogan, who
lived downstairs, began to come up with her mending, and sit between
the bed and the window. Nora was clever, for so young a girl; but she
stumbled a great deal in her roomy charity boots, and had to be scolded
for awkwardness by Mrs. Drogan, who had brought up sixteen rebels, and
was disposed to command. As for Winny and Dan, they made a noise, and
therefore had to be exiled to the street, foul and dangerous as it was,
almost all day, while the invalid slept the sleep of utter exhaustion.
It occurred often to Hughey, and with increasing force, that to secure
a future good, he was doing a very vicious wrong; that it would be far
better for his mother to have the money now, to provide comforts and
make her well, than for her to do without it now, and be too feeble
in consequence to enjoy it when it would come, all in a lump. Heavy
and sharp was this dilemma to the little fellow, as he labelled the
great bales, or set Mr. Hoggett's dusted ledgers back on their shelves.
"Phwhat ought I be doin'?" he would groan aloud, when he was alone.
If he confessed to his mother, and handed over hereafter the total of
his wages, there was an end to the big income sprouting and budding
wondrously at Belfast, the income which would be hers yet, with ever so
little patience. But if he should not confess, and, meanwhile, if she
should not recover,--what would all the world's wealth be then to poor
Hughey?

October was damp and dispiriting; Mrs. O'Kinsella coughed more, but
apparently suffered little. Hughey still brought her, week by week,
his pittance of a shilling and sixpence. Ill as she was, her alert
instinct divined that something ailed him; she pitied him, and worried
about him, and kissed his tears away with a blessing, very often.
Doctor Nugent was called in for the first time, one rainy noon. He
told Mrs. Drogan, laconically, that his patient was going to die, and
stopped her gesture of remonstrance. "Say nothing to those children of
hers," he added, aside, on the threshold; "there is no immediate need
of it, and the eldest looks melancholy enough without it."

But the eldest was at his elbow. With a still ardor painful to see,
he raised himself close to the tall doctor, and whispered into his
ear. "Phwhat wud save me mother? Wudn't money do it, MONEY?" The boy
looked so thrillingly, impressively earnest that the doctor rose to the
occasion. "Perhaps! That is, a winter in France or Italy might delay
the end. But dear me! how on earth--" His voice wavered, and he hurried
down.

On the way back to the office, Hughey crossed Augier Street, and
stalked into McClutch and Gullim's. He had business with the old woman,
imminent business. Would the Ninth anti-Sassenach Bank of Belfast
advance half of an annual interest? that is, would they allow him,
Hugh O'Kinsella of Dublin, merchant's errand-boy, what was due on his
receipts of purchases up to date? He found that circumstances over
which he had no control prevented his waiting until May: please might
he draw out the eleven odd pounds now? The old woman had recently
had other queries of that nature, which proved that the victims were
getting restless; that it would soon be advisable, in short, to strike
camp, and betake herself and her nefarious concerns to Leeds or
Manchester. Her sourness vented itself promptly on Hughey. Decidedly,
the Ninth anti-Sassenach Bank would do nothing of the sort; it was
against the rules; it never advanced cash except in case of death, when
coupons from McClutch and Gullim's would hold good for a life-insurance
policy to the corpse's relatives. "And now g'long to the divil wid ye,
ye limb!" concluded Mrs. Gullim, in a burst of vernacular indignation.

Hughey fairly reeled out to the pavement, with wheels humming in his
brain, and a large triangular rock, sharper than knives and smeared
with poison (a not unfamiliar rock, of late), lodged in the middle of
his throat. As he turned down the windy North Wall, among the sleek
cattle waiting for exportation, and pushed open the warehouse door by
the Liffey, Jibtopsails took his pen from behind his capacious ear, and
peered over his spectacles.

"_Cead mille failthe, Brian Boruihme!_ and how is the royal fam----."
He got no further; the young face opposite was so awry with the
spirit's mortal anguish that Jibtopsails was truly sorry he had tried
to be jocose. It was almost a first offence.

And now, with much introspection, and heart-searching, and resolve,
Hughey's tragedy gathered itself together. On Sunday, after church,
he had occasion to go out of town. As he wished to deal with Nora, he
offered to give her a ride on the tram: a species of entertainment
which she accepted with enthusiasm. When they were at the end of their
route, they set forth on foot, up-hill, over two miles of exquisite
moorland, to the house of the retired first mate of the Grace Greeley,
who was summoned by the firm of Hoggett as witness in a lawsuit. Nora
was in her usual spirits, and her brother tried to wait until they
should show signs of flagging. O the heavenly freedom of the country!
the pleasant smell of damp leaves! But Hughey's heart would not rise.
As they passed the sheep-folds, the pretty huddled creatures made Nora
laugh, standing still, agape, in her blue faded frock; and he grabbed
her roughly by the arm, albeit his sad forbearing tone was not rough.
"D'ye love me at all, Nora?"

"That Oi do, Hughey O'Kinsella; and ye needn't be scrunchin' of me to
foind ut out."

"Nora!"

"Phwhat is ut?"

"There's somethin' Oi do be bound to say to ye." A pause.

"Can ye keep a secret?"

"Shure, Oi can."

"'Tis turrible."

"Niver ye moind, Oi'll keep ut!" said the loyal other.

Hughey lifted his face to the sweet blowy autumn afternoon, took
breath, and increased his pace. "Mother is loike to be doyin' soon.
Maybe ye didn't hear o' that. But she cud live a hunderd year if ut
wasn't so cruel poor we are. Oi've been a-thinkin' wan reason of ut is
she has too many childher. 'Tis good little Rosy is with the saints.
Childher all eats and wears clothes, and isn't much use. If mother
wasn't ill, there'd be nothin' the matther wid me; we cud go on along,
and Oi'd have power to do the beautiful things, Nora dear. Ye'd all be
proud as paycocks o' me whin next the cuckoo'll be in the green bush
down be the Barrow; only mother wud be undher the ground. So 'tis long
before that Oi must be doin' phwhat Oi'm meanin' to do. Now's the toime
for her to be cured, and the toime for me to behave the usefullest to
her is to-morrow, just afther Oi'm dead."

The younger child was bewildered, over-awed. "May the Lorrud have mercy
upon your sowl, Hughey!" she murmured with vague solemnity, taking
in the legendary word "dead" and nothing else. Her light feet ran
unevenly beside his, up the slope and down the hollow, and over stiles
and pasture-walls, bright with their withering vines. She was all ear
when her brother began again, irrelevantly and more softly, on his
tremendous theme, so old now to his thoughts that he was conscious of
no solecism in the abrupt utterance of it. "Whin ye dhrown, ye niver
look bad at a wake. A man kilt in the battle looks bad, but not a
dhrowned man. 'Tis grand to be a marthyr to your counthry; howsomiver,
the guns isn't convanient, and Oi must hould to the wather. The rest
Oi can't tell, becaze ye're a woman, and wudn't undhersthand; but
there's pounds and pince in ut, and 'tis the foine thing intoirely for
mother." He turned upon her his most searching gaze. "Ye'll be constant
and koind to her, now? Ye'll be runnin' and bringin' her a chair, and
takin' the beef out o' your mouth for her as long as ye live? (Shure
Oi forgot there's goin' to be tons o' beef for yez all.) Promus me,
Nora." She looked at him, and her wide blue eyes filled; and presently
she sank down all in a heap, her face in the grass, her heels in the
air. It looked like revolt; but it was regret, or rather the utter
helplessness of either. The boy never flinched. "Promus me, Nora."
"Oh, Oi do, brother Hughey, Oi do!" she sobbed. He stood by her a
moment, then with firmness followed the path out of sight, his slender
withdrawing figure significant against the sky.

When he came back, the anxious Nora was on the road, whence she could
see far and wide. Little was said as they returned home, through ways
thickening with cabs and passers-by. But skirting Dean Swift's dark
Cathedral, they heard the treble voices at evensong in the choir, and
the grave sweetness of Tallis' old music seemed to thaw Hughey's blood.
He drew his sister closer as they walked, and bent his curls over her.
He had received a fresh illumination since he spoke last.

"You're what mother needs," he whispered, "and so's Dan, seein' he's no
bigger than a fairy. But Oi'd be betther away, and so'd Winny, for the
sake o' leavin' plenthy to eat and plenthy o' room. Ye'll give me Winny
in her little coat whin Oi ax ye to-noight, will ye, Nora?" The child
glanced up mournfully at her ruling genius, without a word, but with a
look of supernatural submission. They went up the rickety stairs, arm
in arm.

Mrs. O'Kinsella, who had had a trying day, had just said to Mrs.
Drogan, rising with a view to supper for her husband: "Oi'm of that
moind meself. Johanna Carr'd be a widdy contint in her ould age,
if she'd had childher, if she'd had a son loike Hughey. Me blessid
darlint! he's gould an' dimonds. By the grace o' God Almighty, Oi cud
bow me head if He tuk the rest away from me, but He cudn't part me and
the bhoy, me and the bhoy." She began to cough again.

Her son asked to sit up late. "Oi'd be writin', mother," he pleaded.
Her pride in him came to her poor thin cheeks. "'Tis a Bard ye'll be
yet, loike the wans your father read about in the histhory!" Hughey
knew he had been misunderstood; but trifles were trifles, and must be
ignored, now that the hour of action had struck.

Having taken off his shoes, he sat down in the broken chair by the
table, with his pencil, and the paper which Jibtopsails had given him.
The inmates of the room were all unconscious in half an hour, except
himself and Nora. She, in a fever of excitement, kept vigil, lying as
usual since consumption had come openly under their roof, between Winny
and the baby. Winny, dirty, hungry, and tired out with dancing to a
hurdy-gurdy, had fallen asleep in her clothes. Nora did not require her
to undress. These were the three letters which Hughey wrote.

    _Mr. Everard Hoggett, Limited._

    DEAR SIR: Thank you for being kind to me. I was fond of you. I hope
    you won't be out of a boy long. There do be a very honest boy named
    Mickey McGooley goes to my school I used to go to. He has a iron
    foot, but he is good-looking in the rest of him. I think he would
    come if you asked him. Please tell the other gentilmen I won't
    forget him either.

                                Your respeckful friend,
                                                                  HUGH.


    _Ninth Anti-Sassenach Bank, Belfast, Ireland._

    SIR: My mother she is named Mrs. M. O'Kinsella, will send you the
    papers from McClutch and Gullim. As I will be dead you pay my money
    please to her. I let you know now so that it will be all rite. It
    began last May 28th and stops Saturday, October 21st. Yours truly,
    hoping you will send it soon,

                                                 Yours,
                                                         H. O'KINSELLA.


                                               11 ---- ST., DUBLIN.
                                                    October 22nd, 1893.

    DEAR MOTHER: You must cheer up and not cough. You can go to France
    or somewhere. You will find a heap of lengths of linen stuff in a
    box under the steps of old Tom's shop. He doesn't know about it. It
    is mine and the nicest they is, and if you don't be wanting it, you
    can sell it. Then you look in the lining of Danny's cap, and find
    some bank papers, and you send them to the Ninth anti-Sassenach
    Bank in Belfast and it will send you nigh twelve pound gold. You
    will find Winny and me by Richmond Bridge, and it will not be so
    expencive without us. I hope you won't be low for me, for Nora says
    she will be good. Dear mother, I dident know any other way to make
    you happy and well at this present. Goodbye from your loving son,

                            HUGH CORMAC FITZEUSTACE LE POER O'KINSELLA.


After that laborious signature, he folded and addressed the first two
sheets, and after a plunge into the recesses of his pocket, stamped
them. The last one he slipped beneath his mother's pillow. He looked
at her wistfully, lying there on the brink of all compensation, at
last! She turned over, and sighed feebly: "Go to bed, Hughey dear." He
did not dare to kiss her, for fear she should become wide awake. Back
into the shadow he shrank, and so remained a long time. A dim sense
of defeat stole over him, like a draught through a crack, from a wind
which pushes vainly without. But he had never in his life hugged any
thought whose interest centred in himself; and immediately his whole
being warmed again with the remembrance that his defeat meant victory
for a life dearer to him than his own. When the great bell outside had
struck two, he crept across the room.

"Is she ready, Nora?"

"She is, Hughey."

He stooped to the floor, and gathered the drowsy body in his arms. On
the landing, one floor below, the little sister cried aloud. "No, no,
no, no!" he crooned, in a passion of apprehension: "Brother will show
Winny the bright moon."

They came safely to the street; the moon indeed was there, flooding the
world with splendor. When Nora had buttoned Winny's coat, and the boy
had posted his letters, they took her by either hand, and started.

Hughey had planned out his difficult campaign to the end, and his
brain was quiet and clear. Passing through Church Street, he raised
his hat with reverence, as he had always done since he came to Dublin,
to a blank stone on the south side in the ancient yard of Saint
Michan's; for under that stone, according to a tradition, Robert
Emmett's sentinel dust reposes. There on the old Danish ground, at the
crisis, Winny's fiery Gaelic temper came again to the fore. Struck
with the solitude and the dark, the dread faces of unusual things, and
jostled by the wind which pounced at her from its corner lair on the
north bank of the river, she hung back and rebelled. "Let me go, let
me--go! Hughey! Oh!..." The little silver lisp arose in very real, in
irresistible alarm.

Never once, in all his mistaken planning, had Hughey paused to consider
that she had a voice in the matter. If she were unwilling to die for
his dearest, why, what right had he, Hughey, though scornful and
disappointed because of it, to compel her? After all, she was only
seven, and silly! He looked at Nora over the capped head between them.
Then he fetched a deep, deep sigh, and the tears came to his eyelids,
burned, and dried.

They went on, ever slower; and at Richmond Bridge Hughey spoke to
Winny, as he felt that he could do at last, tenderly, and even with
humorous understanding. "Now 'tis the end o' your walk, an' ye'll trot
home wid Nora, and niver moind me at all, dear. Some day she'll be
tellin' ye phwhat ye missed." But to Nora herself he said softly:

"Take care o' mother, mavourneen."

"Oi will, Hughey."

She kissed him twice; her smooth cheek against his was cold as a shell.
He made a gesture of dismissal, which she did not disobey; and he
watched them go, without further sign. The two childish figures were
swallowed by the blue-black shadows, and the pavement under their naked
feet gave forth no receding sounds. Yet Hughey, bereft of them so
quickly and utterly, listened, listened, tiptoeing to the central arch
of the bridge.

The autumnal Sabbath breath of the slumbering capital floated in a
faint white mist against the brick and stone. Every high point was
alive with light: the masts in port, the roof of the King's Inns, the
Park, the top of the Nelson monument, the Castle standard, the nigh
summits of the gracious Wicklow hills. Below were the dim line of
Liffey bridges, processional to the sea, and the sad friendly wash of
the chilly water. Clear of any regret or self-pity, he would have his
farewell grave and calm, and he would set out with the sign of faith.
So he knelt down, in prayer, for a moment, and with his eyes still
closed, dropped forward.

In another eternal instant, he came into the air. He had a confused
sense of being glad for Winny, and otherwise quite satisfied and
thankful. There, next the wall, was a rotten abandoned raft, a chance
of life within clutch; he saw it, and smiled. Then Hughey sank, and the
black ebb-tide took him.

Nora's knowledge, meanwhile, was too torturing to be borne. No sooner
had she left her brother than she caught the heavy little one into her
slight arms, and ran. Breathless, and choked with sorrow, she told her
mother all she knew, and roused the Drogans, who in turn called up the
Smiths, the Fays, the Holahans, the McCarthys. From right and left the
neighbors swarmed forth on a vain and too familiar trail: the Spirit of
Poverty flying unmercifully ever to the rescue of her own, she

  ----"that would upon the rack of this rough world
  Stretch them out longer."

       *       *       *       *       *

Two of Hughey's letters had to go undelivered: one belonging to a
corporation which never existed, and one to a heartbroken woman who set
sail for the Isles of Healing, before the dawn.


THE END.



  THIS BOOK HAS BEEN PRINTED DURING
  DECEMBER 1895 BY JOHN WILSON AND
  SON OF CAMBRIDGE MASSACHUSETTS



  FOOTNOTES:

  [1] Katharine Tynan Hinkson.



  TRANSCRIBER'S NOTES:

  Italicized words are surrounded with underscores: _italics_.

  Obvious spelling and punctuation errors have been standardized.

  This eBook is dedicated to the memory of Emmy Miller.





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