Infomotions, Inc.The Purple Heights / Oemler, Marie Conway, 1879-1932



Author: Oemler, Marie Conway, 1879-1932
Title: The Purple Heights
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): champneys; peter champneys; peter; nancy; emma; emma campbell; chadwick champneys; anne champneys; berkeley hayden; milly's niece; nancy simms; jason vandervelde
Contributor(s): Wallcousins, E. [Illustrator]
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Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 97,937 words (short) Grade range: 7-10 (grade school) Readability score: 67 (easy)
Identifier: etext12596
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Title: The Purple Heights

Author: Marie Conway Oemler

Release Date: June 12, 2004 [EBook #12596]

Language: English

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*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE PURPLE HEIGHTS ***




Produced by Janet Kegg and the Project Gutenberg Online Distributed
Proofreading Team







[Illustration: "We have met"]


THE PURPLE HEIGHTS


By

MARIE CONWAY OEMLER

Author of "Slippy McGee." "A Woman
Named Smith," etc.


NEW YORK
1920


          _To_

    JOHN NORTON OEMLER
      FROM THE LADY
    HIS SON USED TO CALL
      "MRS. DADDY"



  CONTENTS

  CHAPTER
      I THE RED ADMIRAL
     II THE PROMISE
    III AT GRIPS WITH LIFE
     IV THE SOUL OF BLACK FOLKS
      V THE PURPLE HEIGHTS
     VI GOOD MORNING, GOOD LUCK!
    VII WHERE THE ROAD DIVIDED
   VIII CINDERELLA
     IX PRICE-TAGS
      X THE DEAR DAM-FOOL
     XI HIS GRANDMOTHER'S HOUSE
    XII "NOT BY BREAD ALONE"
   XIII THE BRIGHT SHADOW
    XIV SWAN FEATHERS
     XV "I, TOO, IN ARCADIA"
    XVI THE OTHER MAN
   XVII THE GUTTER-CANDLE
  XVIII KISMET!
    XIX THE POWER
     XX AND THE GLORY



  CHARACTERS

  PETER CHAMPNEYS: _Of Riverton, South Carolina, and Paris, France_.
  MARIA CHAMPNEYS: _His Mother_.
  CHADWICK CHAMPNEYS: _The God in the Machine_.
  EMMA CAMPBELL: _A Colored Woman_.
  ANNE CHAMPNEYS, NEE NANCY SIMMS: _Cinderella_.
  MRS. JOHN HEMINGWAY: _Peter's First Teacher_.
  JOHN HEMINGWAY: _An American_.
  JASON VANDERVELDE: _An Attorney at Law_.
  MRS. JASON VANDERVELDE: _Anne's Mentor_.
  MRS. MacGREGOR: _A Disciple of Hannah More_.
  GLENN MITCHELL: _A Bright Shadow_.
  BERKELEY HAYDEN: _The Other Man_.
  GRACIE: _A Gutter-Candle_.
  DENISE: _A Perfume_.
  THE QUARTIER LATIN.
  RIVERTON, SOUTH CAROLINA.
  THE CAROLINA COLORED FOLKS.
  MARTIN LUTHER: _A Gray Cat_.
  SATAN: _A Black Cat_.
  THE RED ADMIRAL: _A Fairy_.




THE PURPLE HEIGHTS




CHAPTER I

THE RED ADMIRAL


The tiny brown house cuddling like a wren's nest on the edge of the
longest and deepest of the tide-water coves that cut through
Riverton had but four rooms in all,--the kitchen tacked to the back
porch, after the fashion of South Carolina kitchens, the shed room
in which Peter slept, the dining-room which was the general
living-room as well, and his mother's room, which opened directly
off the dining-room, and in which his mother sat all day and
sometimes almost all night at her sewing-machine. When Peter tired
of lying on his tummy on the dining-room floor, trying to draw
things on a bit of slate or paper, he liked to turn his head and
watch the cloth moving swiftly under the jigging needle, and the
wheel turning so fast that it made an indistinct blur, and sang with
a droning hum. He could see, too, a corner of his mother's bed with
the patchwork quilt on it. The colors of the quilt were pleasantly
subdued in their old age, and the calico star set in a square
pleased Peter immensely. He thought it a most beautiful quilt. There
was visible almost all of the bureau, an old-fashioned walnut
affair with a small, dim, wavy glass, and drawers which you pulled
out by sticking your fingers under the bunches of flowers that
served as knobs. The fireplaces in both rooms were in a shocking
state of disrepair, but one didn't mind that, as in winter a fire
burned in them, and in summer they were boarded up with fireboards
covered with cut-out pictures pasted on a background of black
calico. Those gay cut-out pictures were a source of never-ending
delight to Peter, who was intimately acquainted with every flower,
bird, cat, puppy, and child of them. One little girl with a pink
parasol and a purple dress, holding a posy in a lace-paper frill, he
would have dearly loved to play with.

Over the mantelpiece in his mother's room hung his father's picture,
in a large gilt frame with an inside border of bright red plush. His
father seemed to have been a merry-faced fellow, with inquiring
eyes, plenty of hair, and a very nice mustache. This picture, under
which his mother always kept a few flowers or some bit of living
green, was Peter's sole acquaintance with his father, except when he
trudged with his mother to the cemetery on fine Sundays, and traced
with his small forefinger the name painted in black letters on a
white wooden cross:

          PETER DEVEREAUX CHAMPNEYS
              _Aged 30 Years_

It always gave small Peter an uncomfortable sensation to trace that
name, which was also his own, on his father's headboard. It was as
if something of himself stayed out there, very lonesomely, in the
deserted burying-ground. The word "father" never conveyed to him any
idea or image except a crayon portrait and a grave, he being a
posthumous child. The really important figures filling the
background of his early days were his mother and big black Emma
Campbell.

Emma Campbell washed clothes in a large wooden tub set on a bench
nailed between the two china-berry trees in the yard. Peter loved
those china-berry trees, covered with masses of sweet-smelling
lilac-colored blossoms in the spring, and with clusters of hard
green berries in the summer. The beautiful feathery foliage made a
pleasant shade for Emma Campbell's wash-tubs. Peter loved to watch
her, she looked so important and so cheerful. While she worked she
sang endless "speretuals," in a high, sweet voice that swooped
bird-like up and down.

         "I wants tuh climb up Ja-cob's la-ad-dah,
          Ja-cob's la-ad-dah, Jacob's la-ad-dah,
          I wants tuh climb up Ja-cob's la-ad-dah,
                  But I cain't--
          Not un-tell I makes my peace wid de La-a-wd,
              En I praise _Him_--de La-a-wd!
              I 'll praise Him--tell I di-e,
              I 'll praise Him--tell I die!
              I 'll si-ng, Je-ee-ru-suh-lem!"

Emma Campbell would sing, and keep time with thumps and clouts of
sudsy clothes. She boiled the clothes in the same large black iron
pot in which she boiled crabs and shrimp in the summer-time. Peter
always raked the chips for her fire, and the leaves and pine-cones
mixed with them gave off a pleasant smoky smell. Emma had a happy
fashion of roasting sweet potatoes under the wash-pot, and you could
smell those, too, mingled with the soapy odor of the boiling
clothes, which she sloshed around with a sawed-off broom-handle.
Other smells came from over the cove, of pine-trees, and sassafras,
and bays, and that indescribable and clean odor which the winds
bring out of the woods.

The whole place was full of pleasant noises, dear and familiar
sounds of water running seaward or swinging back landward, always
with odd gurglings and chucklings and small sucking noises, and runs
and rushes; and of the myriad rustlings of the huge live-oaks hung
with long gray moss; and the sycamores frou-frouing like ladies'
dresses; the palmettos rattled and clashed, with a sound like rain;
the pines swayed one to another, and only in wild weather did they
speak loudly, and then their voices were very high and airy. Peter
liked the pines best of all. His earliest impression of beauty and
of mystery was the moon walking "with silver-sandaled feet" over
their tall heads. He loved it all--the little house, the trees, the
tide-water, the smells, the sounds; in and out of which, keeping
time to all, went the whi-r-rr of his mother's sewing-machine, and
the scuff-scuffing of Emma Campbell's wash-board.

Sometimes his mother, pausing for a second, would turn to look at
him, her tired, pale face lighting up with her tender mother-smile:

"What are you making now, Peter?" she would ask, as she watched his
laborious efforts to put down on his slate his conception of the
things he saw. She was always vitally interested in anything Peter
said or did.

"Well, I started to make you--or maybe it was Emma. But I thought
I'd better hang a tail on it and let it be the cat." He studied the
result gravely. "I'll stick horns on it, and if they're _very_ good
horns I'll let it be the devil; if they're not, it can be Mis'
Hughes's old cow."

After a while the things that Peter was always drawing began to bear
what might be called a family resemblance to the things they were
intended to represent. But as all children try to draw, nobody
noticed that Peter Champneys tried harder than most, or that he
couldn't put his fingers on a bit of paper and a stub of pencil
without trying to draw something--a smear that vaguely resembled a
tree, or a lopsided assortment of features that you presently made
out to be a face.

But Peter Champneys, at a very early age, had to learn things less
pleasant than drawing. That tiny house in Riverton represented all
that was left of the once-great Champneys holdings, and the little
widow was hard put to it to keep even that. Before he was seven
Peter knew all those pitiful subterfuges wherewith genteel poverty
tries to save its face; he had to watch his mother, who wasn't
robust, fight that bitter and losing fight which women of her sort
wage with evil circumstances. Peter wore shoes only from the middle
of November to the first of March; his clothes were presentable only
because his mother had a genius for making things over. He wasn't
really hungry, for nobody can starve in a small town in South
Carolina; folks are too kindly, too neighborly, too generous, for
anything like that to happen. They have a tactful fashion of coming
over with a plate of hot biscuit or a big bowl of steaming
okra-and-tomato soup.

Often a bowl of that soup fetched in by a thoughtful neighbor, or an
apronful of sweet potatoes Emma Campbell brought with her when she
did the washing, kept Peter's backbone and wishbone from rubbing
noses. But there were rainy days when neighbors didn't send in
anything, Emma wasn't washing for them that week, sewing was scanty,
or taxes on the small holding had to be paid; and then Peter
Champneys learned what an insatiable Shylock the human stomach can
be. He learned what it means not to have enough warm covers on cold
nights, nor warm clothes enough on cold days. He accepted it all
without protest, or even wonder. These things were so because they
were so.

On such occasions his mother drew him closer to her and comforted
him after the immemorial South Carolina fashion, with accounts of
the former greatness, glory, and grandeur of the Champneys family;
always finishing with the solemn admonition that, no matter what
happened, Peter must never, never forget Who He Was. Peter, who was
a literal child in his way, inferred from these accounts that when
the South Carolina Champneyses used to light up their big house for
a party, before the war, the folks in North Carolina could see to
read print by the reflection in the sky, and the people over in
Georgia thought they were witnessing the Aurora Borealis.

She was a gentle, timid, pleasant little body, Peter's mother, with
the mild manners and the soft voice of the South Carolina woman; and
although the proverbial church-mouse was no poorer, Riverton would
tell you, sympathetically, that Maria Champneys had her pride. For
one thing, she was perfectly convinced that everybody who had ever
been anybody in South Carolina was, somehow, related to the
Champneyses. If they weren't,--well, it wasn't to their credit,
that's all! She preferred to give them the benefit of the doubt. Her
own grandfather had been a Virginian, a descendant of Pocahontas, of
course, Pocahontas having been created by Divine Providence for the
specific purpose of ancestoring Virginians. Just as everybody in New
England is ancestored by one of those inevitable two brothers who
came over, like sardines in a tin, in that amazingly elastic
_Mayflower_. In the American Genesis this is the Sarah and these be
the Abrahams, the mother and fathers of multitudes. They begin our
Begats.

Mrs. Champneys sniffed at _Mayflower_ origins, but she was firm on
Pocahontas for herself, and adamant on Francis Marion for the
Champneyses. The fact that the Indian Maid had but one bantling to
her back, and the Swamp Fox none at all, didn't in the least
disconcert her. If he _had_ had any children, they would have
ancestored the Champneyses; so there you were!

Peter, who had a fashion of thinking his own thoughts and then
keeping them to himself, presently hit upon the truth. His was one
of those Carolina coast families that, stripped by the war and
irretrievably ruined by Reconstruction, have ever since been
steadily decreasing in men, mentality, and money-power, each
generation slipping a little farther down hill; until, in the case
of the Champneyses, the family had just about reached rock-bottom in
himself, the last of them. There had been, one understood, an uncle,
his father's only brother, Chadwick Champneys. Peter's mother hadn't
much to say about this Chadwick, who had been of a roving and
restless nature, trying his hand at everything and succeeding in
nothing. As poor as Job's turkey, what must he do on one of his
prowls but marry some unknown girl from the Middle West, as poor as
himself. After which he had slipped out of the lives of every one
who knew him, and never been heard of again, except for the report
that he had died somewhere out in Texas; or maybe it was Arizona or
Idaho, or Mexico, or somewhere in South America. One didn't know.

Behold small Peter, then, the last of his name, "all the sisters of
his father's house, and all the brothers, too." Little, thin, dark
Peter, with his knock-knees, his large ears, his shock of black
hair, and, fringed by thick black lashes, eyes of a hazel so clear
and rare that they were golden like topazes, only more beautiful.
Leonardo would have loved to paint Peter's quiet face, with its shy,
secret smile, and eyes that were the color of genius. Riverton
thought him a homely child, with legs like those of one's
grandmother's Chippendale chair, and eyes like a cat's. He was so
quiet and reticent that nearly everybody except his mother and Emma
Campbell thought him deficient in promise, and some even considered
him "wanting."

Peter's reputation for hopelessness began when he went to school,
but it didn't end there. He really was somewhat of a trial to an
average school-teacher, who very often knows less of the human
nature of a child than any other created being. Peter used the
carelessly good-and-easy English one inherits in the South, but he
couldn't understand the written rules of grammar to save his life;
he was totally indifferent as to which states bounded and bordered
which; and he had been known to spell "physician" with an f and two
z's. But it was when confronted by a sum that Peter stood revealed
in his true colors of a dunce!

"A boy buys chestnuts at one dollar and sixty cents the bushel and
sells them at ten cents the quart, liquid measure.--Peter Champneys,
what does he get?"

Peter Champneys stood up, and reflected.

"It all depends on the judge, and whether the boy's a white boy or a
nigger," he decided. "It's against the law to use liquid measure,
you know. But I should think he'd get about thirty days, if he's a
nigger."

Whereupon Peter Champneys went to the principal with a note, and
received what was coming to him. When he returned to his seat, which
was decidedly not comfortable just then, the teacher smiled a real,
sure-enough schoolma'am smile, and remarked that she hoped our
brilliant scholar, Mister Champneys, knew now what the boy got for
his chestnuts. The class laughed as good scholars are expected to
laugh on such occasions. Peter came to the conclusion that Herod,
Nero, Bluebeard, and The Cruel Stepmother all probably began their
bright careers as school-teachers.

Peter was a friendly child who didn't have the useful art of making
friends. He used to watch more gifted children wistfully. He would
so much have liked to play familiarly with the pretty, impertinent,
pigtailed little girls, the bright, noisy, cock-sure little boys;
but he didn't know how to set about it, and they didn't in the least
encourage him to try. Children aren't by any means angels to one
another. They are, as often as not, quite the reverse. Peter was
loath to assert himself, and he was shoved aside as the gentle and
the just usually are.

Being a loving child, he fell back upon the lesser creatures, and
discovered that the Little Brothers do not judge one upon hearsay,
or clothes, or personal appearance. Theirs is the infallible test:
one must be kind if one wishes to gain and to hold their love.

Martin Luther helped teach Peter that. Peter discovered Martin
Luther, a shivering gray midget, in the cold dusk of a November
evening, on the Riverton Road. The little beast rubbed against his
legs, stuck up a ridiculous tail, and mewed hopefully. Peter, who
needed friendliness himself, was unable to resist that appeal. He
buttoned the forlorn kitten inside his old jacket, and, feeling the
grateful warmth of his body, it cuddled and purred. The wise little
cat didn't care the tip of a mouse's tail whether or not Peter was
the congenital dunce his teacher had declared him to be, only that
morning. The kitten knew he was just the sort of boy to show
compassion to lost kittens, and trusted and loved him at sight.

His mother was doubtful as to the wisdom of adopting a third member
into a family which could barely feed two without one going half
hungry. Also, she disliked cats intensely. She was most horribly
afraid of cats. She was just about to say that he'd have to give the
kitten to somebody better able to care for it, but seeing the
resigned and hopeless expression that crept into Peter's face, she
said, instead, that she reckoned they could manage to feed the
little wretch, provided he kept it out of her room. Peter joyfully
agreed, washed the cat in his own basin, fed it with a part of his
own supper, and took it to bed with him, where it purred itself to
sleep. Thus came Martin Luther to the house of Champneys.

When Peter had chores to do the cat scampered about him with,
sidewise leapings and gambolings, and made his labor easier by
seasoning it with harmless amusement. When he wrestled with his
lessons Martin Luther sat sedately on the table and watched him,
every now and then rubbing a sympathetic head against him. When he
woke up at night in the shed room, he liked to put out his hand and
touch the warm, soft, silky body near him. Peter adored his cat,
which was to him a friend.

And then Martin Luther took to disappearing, mysteriously, for
longer and longer intervals. Peter was filled with apprehensions,
for Martin Luther wasn't a democratic soul; aside from his affection
for Peter, the cat was as wild as a panther. The child was almost
sick with anxiety. He wandered around Riverton hunting for the beast
and calling it by name, a proceeding which further convinced
Riverton folk that poor Maria Champneys's boy was not what one might
call bright. Fancy carrying on like that about nothing but a cat!
But Peter used to lie awake at night, lonesomely, and cry because he
was afraid some evil had befallen the perverse creature of his
affections. Then he prayed that God would look out for Martin
Luther, if He hadn't already remembered to do so. The world of a
sudden seemed a very big, sad, unfriendly place for a little boy to
live in, when he couldn't even have a cat in it!

The disappearance of Martin Luther was Peter's first sorrow that his
mother couldn't fully share, as he knew she didn't like cats. Martin
Luther had known that, too, and had kept his distance. He hadn't
even made friends with Emma Campbell, who loved cats to the extent
of picking up other people's when their owners weren't looking. This
cat had loved nobody but Peter, a fact that endeared it to him a
thousandfold, and made its probable fate a darker grief.

One afternoon, when Martin Luther had been gone so long that Peter
had about given up hopes of ever seeing him again, Emma Campbell,
who had been washing in the yard, dashed into the house screeching
that the woodshed was full of snakes.

Peter joyfully threw aside his grammar--snakes hadn't half the
terror for him that substantives had--and rushed out to investigate,
while his mother frantically besought him not to go near the
woodshed, to get an ax, to run for the town marshal, to run and ring
the fire-bell, to burn down that woodshed before they were all stung
to death in their beds!

Cautiously Peter investigated. Perhaps a chicken-snake had crawled
into the shed; perhaps a black-snake was hunting in there for rats;
over there in that dark corner, behind sticks of pine, something was
moving. And then he heard a sound he knew.

"Snakes nothin'!" shouted Peter, joyfully. "It's Martin Luther!" He
got on his hands and knees and squirmed and wriggled himself behind
the wood. There he remained, transfixed. His faith had received a
shocking blow.

"Oh, Martin Luther!" cried Peter, with mingled joy and relief and
reproach. "Oh, Martin Luther! How you've fooled me!" Martin Luther
was a proud and purring mother.

Peter was bewildered and aggrieved. "If I'd called him Mary or
Martha in the beginning, I'd be glad for him to have as many kittens
as he wanted to," he told his mother. "But how can I ever trust him
again? He--he ain't Martin Luther any more!" And of a sudden he
began to cry.

Emma Campbell, with a bundle of clean wet clothes on her brawny arm,
shook her head at him.

"Lawd, no, Peter! 'T ain't de cat whut 's been foolin' you; it 's you
whut 's been foolin' yo' own self. For, lo, fum de foundations ob
dis worl', he was a she! Must n' blame de cat, chile. 'Cause ef you
does," said Emma, waving an arm like a black mule's hind leg for
strength, "ef you does, 'stead o' layin' de blame whah it natchelly
b'longs--on yo' own ig'nance, Peter--you'll go thoo dis worl' wid
every Gawd's tom-cat you comes by havin' kittens on you!"

"I feel like a father to those kittens," said Peter, gravely. But it
was plain that Martin Luther's furry fourlegs had put Peter's nose
out of joint!

Things were getting worse and worse at school, too, although Peter
considerately concealed this from his mother. He didn't tell her
that the promotions she was so proud of had come to him simply
because his teachers were so desperately anxious to get rid of him!
And only to-day an incident had happened that seared his soul. He
had been forced to stand out on the floor for twenty cruel, grueling
minutes, to be a Horrible Example to a tittering class. It had been
a long, wearisome day, when one's head ached because one's stomach
was empty. Peter's eyes stung and smarted, his lip was bruised
because he had bitten it to keep it from trembling, and his heart
was more like a boil in his breast than a little boy's heart. When
he was finally released for the day he didn't linger, but got away
as fast as his thin legs would carry him. Once he was sure he was
out of sight of all unfriendly eyes he let himself go and cried as
he trudged along the Riverton Road. And there, in the afternoon
sunlight, he made the acquaintance of the Red Admiral.

Just at that spot the Riverton Road was tree-shaded and
bird-haunted. There were clumps of elder here and there, and cassena
bushes, and tall fennel in the corners of the old worm-fence
bordering the fields on each side. The worm-fence was of a polished,
satiny, silvery gray, with trimmings of green vines clinging to it,
wild-flowers peeping out of its crotches, and tall purple thistles
swaying their heads toward it. On one especially tall thistle the
Red Admiral had come to anchor.

He wore upon the skirts of his fine dark-colored frock-coat a
red-orange border sewed with tiny round black buttons; across the
middle of his fore-wings, like the sash of an order, was a broad red
ribbon, and the spatter of white on the tips may have been his idea
of epaulets; or maybe they were nature's Distinguished Service
medals given him for conspicuous bravery, for there is no more
gallant sailor of the skies than the Red Admiral.

When this gentleman comes to anchor on a flower he hoists his gay
sails erect over his fat black back, in order that his under wings
may be properly admired; for he knows very well that the cunningest
craftsman that ever worked with mosaics and metals never turned out
a better bit of jewel-work than those under wings.

It was this piece of painted perfection that caught Peter
Champneys's unhappy eyes and brought him to a standstill. Peter
forgot that he was the school dunce, that tears were still on his
cheeks, that he had a headache and an empty stomach. His eyes began
to shine unwontedly, brightening into a golden limpidity, and his
lips puckered into a smile.

The Red Admiral, if one might judge by his unrubbed wings and the
new and glossy vividness of his colorings, may have been some nine
hours old. Peter, by the entry in his mother's Bible, was nine years
old. Quite instinctively Peter's brown fingers groped for a pencil.
At the feel of it he experienced a thrill of satisfaction. Down on
his knees he went, and crept forward, nearer and nearer; for one
must come as the wind comes who would approach the Red Admiral.
Peter had no paper, so a fly-leaf of his geography would have to do.
All athrill, he worked with his bit of pencil; and on the fly-leaf
grew the worm-fence with the blackberry bramble climbing along its
corners, and the fennel, and the elder bushes near by; and in the
foreground the tall thistle, with the butterfly upon it. The Red
Admiral is a gourmet; he lingers daintily over his meals; so Peter
had time to make a careful sketch of him. This done, he sketched in
the field beyond, and the buzzard hanging motionless in the sky.

It was crude and defective, of course, and a casual eye wouldn't
have glanced twice at it, but a true teacher would instantly have
recognized the value, not of what it performed, but of what it
presaged. For all its faults it was bold and rapid, like the
Admiral's flight, and it had the Admiral's airy grace and freedom.
It seized the outlines of things with unerring precision.

The child kneeling in the dust of the Riverton Road, with an old
geography open on his knee, felt in his thin breast a faint flutter,
as of wings. He looked at the sketch; he watched the Red Admiral
finish his meal and go scudding down the wind. And he knew he had
found the one thing he could do, the one thing he wanted to do, that
he must and would do. It was as if the butterfly had been a fairy,
to open for Peter a tiny door of hope. He wrote under the sketch:

    Jun. 2, 189- This day I notissed the red and blak buterfly on
    the thissel.

He stared at this for a while, and added:

    P.S. In futcher watch for this buterfly witch mite be a fary.

Then he went trudging homeward. He was smiling, his own shy, secret
smile. He held his head erect and looked ahead of him as if in the
far, far distance he had seen something, a beckoning something,
toward which he was to strive. Barefooted Peter, poverty-stricken,
lonely Peter for the first time glimpsed the purple heights.




CHAPTER II

THE PROMISE


It is written in the Live Green Book that one may not stumble upon
one of its secrets without at the same discovering something about
others quite as fascinating and worth exploring. This is a wise and
blessed law, which the angels of the Little Peoples are always
trying to have enforced. Peter Champneys suspected the Red Admiral
of being a fairy; so when he ran fleet-footed over the fields and
through the woods and alongside the worm-fences after the Admiral,
the angels of the Little Peoples turned his boyish head aside and
made him see birds' wings, and bees, and the shapes of leaves, and
the colors of trees and clouds, and the faces of flowers. It is
further written that one may not intimately know the Little Peoples
without loving them. When one begins to love, one begins to grow.
Peter, then, was growing.

Lying awake in the dark now wasn't a thing to be dreaded; the dark
was no longer filled with shapes of fear, for Peter was beginning to
discover in himself a power of whose unique and immense value he was
not as yet aware. It was the great power of being able clearly to
visualize things, of bringing before his mind's eye whatever he had
seen, with every distinction of shape and size and color sharply
present, and accurately to portray it in the absence of the
original. If one should ask him, "What's the shape of the milkweed
butterfly's wing, and the color of the spice-bush swallowtail, Peter
Champneys? What does the humming-bird's nest look like? What's the
color of the rainbow-snake and of the cotton-mouth moccasin? What's
the difference between the ironweed and the aster?"--Ask Peter
things like that, and lend him a bit of paper and a pencil, and he
literally had the answers at his finger-tips.

But they never asked him what would, to him, have been natural
questions; they wished him, instead, to tell them where the Onion
River flows, and the latitude of the middle of Kamchatka, and to
spell phthisis, and on what date the Battle of Somethingorother was
fought, and if a man buys old iron at such a price, and makes it
over into stoves weighing so much, and sells his stoves at such
another price, what does it profit him, and other such-like
illuminating and uplifting problems, warranted to make any
school-child wiser than Solomon. It is a beautiful system; only,
God, who is no respecter of systems, every now and then delights to
flout it by making him a dunce like Peter Champneys, to be the
torment of school-teachers--and the delight of the angels of the
Little Peoples.

Those long, silent, solitary hours in the open gave Peter the power
of concentration, and a serenity that sat oddly on his slight
shoulders. Thoughts came to him, out there, that he couldn't put
into words nor yet set down upon paper.

On warm nights, when his mother's sewing-machine was for a time
still and the tired little woman slept, Peter slipped out of the
shed room into a big, white, enchanted world, and saw things that
are to be seen only by an imaginative and beauty-loving little boy
in the light of the midsummer moon. Big hawk-moths, swift and
sudden, darted by him with owl-like wings. Mocking-birds broke into
silvery, irrepressible singing, and water-birds croaked and rustled
in the cove, where the tide-water lipped the land. The slim, black
pine-trees nodded and bent to one another, with the moon looking
over their shoulders. Something wild and sweet and secret invaded
the little boy's spirit, and stayed on in his heart. Maybe it was
the heart-shaking call of the whippoorwill, or the song of the
mocking-bird, truest voices of the summer night; or perhaps it was
the spirit of the great green luna-moth, loveliest of all the
daughters of the dark. Or perhaps the Red Admiral was indeed a
fairy, as Peter said he was.

Peter was superstitious about the Red Admiral. He was a good-luck
sign, a sort of flying four-leaf clover. Peter noticed that whenever
the Red Admiral crossed his path now, something pleasant always
impended; it meant that he wouldn't be _very_ unhappy in school; or
maybe he'd find a thrush's nest, or the pink orchid. Or the meeting
might simply imply something nice and homey, such as a little treat
his mother contrived to make for him when sewing had been somewhat
better-paying than usual, and she could sit by the table and enjoy
his enjoyment as only one's mother can. Decidedly, the Red Admiral
was good luck!

So, all along, quietly, persistently, not exactly secretly but still
all by himself, Peter had been learning to use his fingers, as he
had been learning to use his eyes and ears. He was morbidly shy
about it. It never occurred to him that anybody might admire
anything he could do, as nobody had ever admired anything he had
done.

On his mother's last birthday--though Peter didn't know then that it
was to be her last--he made for her his first sketch in
water-colors. By herculean efforts he had managed to get his
materials; he had picked berries, weeded gardens until his head
whirled and his back ached, chopped fire-wood, run errands, caught
crabs. Presently he had his paper and colors.

It was a beautiful surprise for Peter's mother, that sketch, which
was a larger copy of the one on the fly-leaf of his geography. There
was the gray worm-fence, a bit of brown ditch, an elder in flower, a
tall purple thistle, and on it the Red Admiral. Peter wished to make
his mother personally acquainted with the Red Admiral, so he printed
on the back of his picture:

    My buterfly done for mother's burthday by her loveing son
    Peter Champneys the 11th Year of his Aige.

The little woman cried, and held him off the better to look at him,
with love, and wonder, and pride, and drew his head to her breast
and kissed his hair and eyes, and wished his dear, dear father had
been there to see what her wonder-child could do.

"I can't to save my life see where you get such a lovely gift from,
Peter. It must be just the grace of God that sends it to you. Your
dear father couldn't so much as draw a straight line unless he had a
ruler, I'm sure. And I'm not bright at all, except maybe about
sewing. But you are different. I've always felt that, Peter, from
the time you were a little baby. At the age of five months you cut
two teeth without crying once! You were a _wonderful_ baby. I _knew_
it was in you to do something remarkable. Never you doubt your
mother's word about _that_, Peter! You'll make your mark in the
world yet! God couldn't fail to answer my prayers--and you the last
Champneys."

Peter was too innately kind and considerate to dim her joy with any
doubts. He knew how he was rated--berated is the better word for it.
He knew acutely how bad his marks were: his shoulders too often bore
witness to them. The words "dunce" and "sissy" buzzed about his ears
like stinging gnats. So he wasn't made vainglorious by his mother's
praise. He received it with cautious reservations. But her faith in
him filled him with an immense tenderness for the little woman, and
a passionate desire, a very agony of desire, to struggle toward her
aspirations for him, to make good, to repay her for all the
privations she had endured. A lump came in his throat when he saw
her place the little sketch under his father's picture, where her
eyes could open upon it the first thing in the morning, and close to
it at night.

"Ah, my dear! God's will be done--I'm not complaining--but I wish,
oh, how I wish you could be here to see what our dear child can do!"
she told the smiling crayon portrait. "Some of these days the little
son you've never seen is going to be a great man with a great
name--_your_ name, my dear, _your_ name!"

Her face kindled into a sort of exaltation. Two large tears ran down
her cheeks, and two larger ones rolled down Peter's. His heart
swelled, and again he felt in his breast the flutter as of wings.
Far, far away, on the dim and distant horizon, something glimmered,
like sunlight upon airy peaks.

Peter's mother wasn't at all beautiful--just a little, thin, sallow
woman with mild brown eyes and graying hair, and a sensitive mouth,
and dressed in a worn black skirt and a plain white shirt-waist. Her
fingers were needle-pricked, and she stooped from bending so
constantly over her sewing-machine. She had been a pretty girl; now
she was thirty-five years old and looked fifty. She wasn't in the
least intellectual; she hadn't even the gift of humor, or she
wouldn't have thought herself a sinner and besought Heaven to
forgive sins she never committed. She used to weep over the
Fifty-first Psalm, take courage from the Thirty-seventh, and when
she hadn't enough food for her body feed her spirit on the
Twenty-third. She didn't know that it is women like her who manage
to make and keep the earth worth while. This timid and modest soul
had the courage of a soldier and the patience of a martyr under the
daily scourgings inflicted upon the sensitive by biting poverty.
Peter might very well have received far less from a brilliant and
beautiful mother than he received from the woman whose only gifts
and graces were such as spring from a loving, unselfish, and pure
heart.

For Peter's sake she fought while she had strength to fight,
enduring all things, hoping all things. She didn't even know she was
sacrificing herself, because, as Emma Campbell said, "Miss Maria's
jes' natchelly all mother." But of a sudden, the winter that Peter
was turning twelve, the tide of battle went against her. The
needle-pricked, patient fingers dropped their work. She said
apologetically, "I'm sorry, but I'm afraid I'm too sick to stay up
any longer." Nobody guessed how slight was her hold upon life. When
the neighbors came in, after the kindly Carolina custom, she was
cheerful enough, but quiet. But then, Maria Champneys was always
quiet.

There came a day when she was unusually quiet, even for her. Toward
dusk the neighbor who had watched with her went home. At the door
she said hopefully:

"You'll be better in the morning."

"Yes, I'll be better in the morning," the sick woman repeated. After
a while Emma Campbell, who had been looking after the house, went
away to her cabin across the cove. Peter and his mother were alone.

It was a darkish, gusty night, and a small fire burned in the open
fireplace. Shadows danced on the walls, and every now and then the
wind came and tapped at the windows impatiently. On the closed
sewing-machine an oil lamp burned, turned rather low. Peter sat in a
rocking-chair drawn close to his mother's bedside and dozed
fitfully, waking to watch the face on the pillow. It was very quiet
there in the poor room, with the clock ticking, and the soft sound
of the settling log.

Just before dawn Peter replenished the fire, moving carefully lest
he disturb his mother. But when he turned toward the bed again she
was wide awake and looking at him intently. Peter ran to her, kissed
her cheek, and held her hand in his. Her fingers were cold, and he
chafed them between his palms.

"Peter," said she, very gently, "I've got to go, my dear." There was
no fear in her. The child looked at her piteously, his eyes big and
frightened in his pale face.

"And now I'm at the end," said she bravely, "I'm not afraid to leave
you, Peter. You are a brave child, and a good child. You couldn't be
dishonorable, or a coward, or a liar, or unkind, to save your life.
You will always be gentle, and generous, and just. When one is where
I am to-night, that is all that really matters. Nothing but goodness
counts."

Peter, with her hand against his cheek, tried not to weep. To
conceal his terror and grief, and the shock of this thing come upon
him in the middle of the night, to spare her the agony of witnessing
his agony, was almost intuitive with him. He braced himself, and
kept his self-control. She seemed to understand, for the hand he
held against his cheek tried, feebly, to caress it. It didn't tire
her to talk, apparently, for her voice was firm and clear.

"You're a gifted child, as well as a good child, Peter. But--our
people here don't understand you yet, my dearest. Your sort of
brightness is different from theirs--and better, because it's rarer
and slower. Hold fast to yourself, Peter. You're going to be a great
man."

Peter stroked her hand. The two looked at each other, a long, long,
luminous look.

"My son,--your chance is coming. I know that to-night. And when it
comes, oh, for God's sake, for my sake, for all the Champneyses'
sake, take it, Peter, take it!" Her voice rose at that, her hand
tightened upon his; she looked at him imploringly.

"Take it for my sake," she said with terrible earnestness and
intensity. "Take it, darling, and prove that I was right about you.
Remember how all my years, Peter, I toiled and prayed--all for you,
my dearest, all for you! Remember me in that hour, Peter, and don't
fail me, don't fail me!"

"Oh, Mother, I won't fail you! I won't fail you!" cried Peter, and
at that the tears came.

His mother smiled, exquisitely; a smile of faith reassured and hope
fulfilled, and love contented. That smile on a dying mouth stayed,
with other beautiful and imperishable memories, in Peter's heart.
Presently he ventured to ask her, timidly:

"Shall I go for somebody, Mother?"

"Are you afraid, dear?"

"No," said Peter.

"Then stay by me. Just you and me together. You--you are all I
have--I don't need anybody else. Stay with me, Son,--for a little
while."

Outside you could hear the wind moving restlessly, and the trees
complaining, and the tide-water whispering. The dark night was
filled with a multitudinous murmuring. For a long while Peter and
his mother clung to each other. From time to time she whispered to
him--such pitiful comfortings as love may lend in its extremity.

The black night paled into a gray glimmer of dawn. Peter held fast
to the hand he couldn't warm. Her face was sharp and pale and
pinched. She looked very little and thin and helpless. The bed
seemed too big for so small a woman.

More gray light stole through the windows. The lamp on the closed
machine looked ghostly, the room filled with shifting shadows. Maria
Champneys turned her head on her pillow, and stared at her son with
eyes he didn't know for his mother's. They were full of a flickering
light, as of a lamp going out.

"'Though I walk--through the valley--'" Here her voice, a mere thin
trickle of sound, failed her. As if pressed by an invisible hand her
head began to bend forward. A thin, gray shade, as of inconceivably
fine ashes, settled upon her face, and her nostrils quivered. The
eyes, with the light fading from them, fixed themselves on Peter in
a last look.

"'--of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with
me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.'" Peter finished it for
her, his boyish voice a cry of agony.

A light, puffing breath, as of a candle blown out, exhaled from his
mother's lips. Her eyes closed, the hand in Peter's fell limp and
slack. The awful and mysterious smile of death fixed itself upon her
pale mouth.

So passed Maria Champneys from her tiny house in Riverton, in the
dawn of a winter morning, when the tide was turning and the world
was full of the sound of water running seaward.




CHAPTER III

AT GRIPS WITH LIFE


The best or the worst thing that can happen to a boy in this country
is to be poor in it for a while, to be picked up neck and crop and
flung upon his own resources; not always to remain poor, of course,
for one may be damned quite as effectually and everlastingly upon
the cross as off it; but to be poor long enough to acquire a sense
of proportion by coming to close grips with life; to learn what
things and people really are, the good and the bad of them together;
to have to weigh and measure cant and sentimentality and Christian
charity--which last is a fearsome thing--in the balance with truth
and common sense and human kindness. It is an experience that makes
or breaks.

Peter had always adored his mother; but it wasn't until now that he
realized how really wonderful she had been. How she had kept the
roof over his head, and his stomach somehow satisfied, and had sent
him to church and to school decently enough clad, Peter couldn't
imagine.

There was no possibility now of regular schooling. Nature hasn't
provided as providently for the human grub as for the insect one. A
human grub isn't born upon a food-plant that is a house as well,
nor is nature his tailor and his shoemaker. Peter wasn't blood kin
to anybody in Riverton, so there was no home open to him. He was
deeply sensible of the genuine kindness extended to him in his dark
hour, but he wouldn't, he couldn't, have gone permanently into any
of their homes had he been asked to do so, which of course he
wasn't. He clung to the little house on the big cove. His mother's
presence lingered there and hallowed the place.

There was some talk of sending him to an orphanage--he was barely
twelve, and penniless. But when Mrs. Cooke, the minister's wife,
mentioned it to Peter, gently enough, the boy turned upon her with
flaming eyes, and said he wouldn't stay in any asylum; he'd run
away, and keep on running away until he died! Mrs. Cooke looked
troubled, and said that Mr. McMasters, a vestryman in the church,
was really the head and front of that project.

Peter went after Mr. McMasters, and found him in his grocery
store--one of those long, dim country stores that sell everything
from cradles to coffins. Mr. McMasters came from behind the counter,
rubbing his hands.

"Well, Peter, what can I do for _you_ this mawnin'?" he asked,
jovially. He was that sort.

"You can let me alone, please," said Peter, succinctly.

"Eh? What's that?" The large man stared at the little man.

"I said you can let me alone, please," said Peter, patiently. "I
hear it's you doing most of the talking about sending me to an
orphanage."

"I try to do my duty as a man and a Christian," said the vestryman,
piously. "You can't be allowed to run loose, Peter. 'T aint right.
'T ain't moral. 'T ain't Christian. You'll be better off in a good
orphan-asylum, bein' taught what you'd ought to learn. That's the
place for you, Peter!"

"I want to stay in my own house," said Peter.

"Shucks! You can't eat and wear a measly little house, can you?
That's what I'm askin' the town right now. Sure you can't! The thing
to do is to sell that place for what it'll fetch, sock the money in
bank for you, and it'll be there--with _interest_--when you've grown
up and aim to start in business for yourself. Yes, sir. That's my
idea."

"Mr. McMasters," said Peter, evenly, "I want you to know one thing
sure and certain. If you send me to any orphan-asylum, I'll send
_you_ to some place where you'll be better off, too, sir."

"Meanin'?"

Peter Champneys shot at the stout vestryman a glance like the thrust
of a golden spear.

"The cemetery, Mr. McMasters," said he, with the deadly South
Carolina gentleness.

The two stared at each other. It wasn't the boy's glance that fell
first.

"Threatenin' me, hey? Threatenin' a father of a family, are you?"
Mr. McMasters licked his lips.

"Oh, no, Mr. McMasters, I'm not threatening you, at all. I'm just
telling you what'll happen."

The vestryman reflected. He knew the Champneyses. They had all been
men of their word. And fine marksmanship ran in the family. He had
seen this same Peter handle a shot-gun: you'd think the little devil
had been born with a gun in his fist! He had a thumb-nail vision of
Mrs. McMasters collecting his life-insurance--getting new clothes,
and the piano she had been plaguing him for, too, and her mother
always in the house with her. He turned purple.

"You--why, you beggarly whelp! You--you damned Champneys!" he
roared. Peter met the angry eyes unflinchingly.

"I reckon you'd better understand I'm not going to any
orphan-asylum, Mr. McMasters. I'm going to stay right here at home.
And you are not going to get my cove lot," he added shrewdly.

"What do I care where you go? And who wants your old strip of sand
and cockspurs? Get to hell out o' here!" yelled Mr. McMasters,
violently.

Peter marched out. He knew that victory perched upon his banners. He
wouldn't be sent away, willy-nilly, to a place the bare thought of
which had made his mother turn pale. And she had wished him to keep
the place on the cove, the last poor remnant of Champneys land. To
this end had she pinched and slaved. When Peter thought of McMasters
intriguing to take from him even this poor possession, his lips came
together firmly. Somehow he would manage to keep the place. If his
mother had been able to manage it, surely a man could do so, too! He
hadn't the faintest doubt of his ability to take care of himself.

But the town was troubled and perplexed, until Peter solved his
problem for himself with the aid of Emma Campbell. Emma had always
been his friend, and she had been his mother's loyal and loving
servitor. She and Peter had several long talks; then Emma called in
Cassius, an ex-husband of hers who so long as he didn't live with
her could get along with her, and had him widen the shed room, Peter
taking in its stead his mother's bedroom. Cassius built a better
wash-bench, with a shelter, under the china-berry trees in the yard,
and strung some extra clothes-lines, and Emma Campbell moved in.
Emma would take care of the house, and look after Peter. Riverton
sighed, and shrugged its shoulders.

It was a sketchy sort of arrangement, but it worked very well.
Sometimes Peter provided the meals which Emma cooked, for he was
expert at snaring, crabbing, shrimping, and fishing. Sometimes the
spirit moved Cassius to lay an offering of a side of bacon, a bushel
of potatoes, a string of fish, or maybe a jug of syrup or a hen at
his ex-spouse's feet. Cassius said Emma was so contrary he specked
she must be 'flicted wid de moonness, which is one way of saying
that one is a bit weak in the head. But he liked her, and she washed
his shirts and sewed on a button or so for him occasionally, or
occasionally cracked him over the sconce with the hominy-spoon, just
to show that she considered her marital ties binding. Emma had been
married twice since Cassius left her, but both these ventures had
been, in her own words, "triflin' niggers any real lady 'd jes'
natchelly hab to throw out." When Cassius complained that his third
wife was "diggin' roots" against him, Emma immediately set him to
digging potatoes for herself, to offset the ill effects of possible
conjure. She was a strategical person, and Peter didn't fare very
badly, considering.

The boy fell heir to all those odd jobs that boys in his position
are expected to tackle. When a task was too tiresome, too
disagreeable, or too ill-paying for anybody else, Peter was sent for
and graciously allowed to do it. It enabled people to feel
charitable and at the same time get something done for about a
fourth of what a man would have charged. Half the time he made his
living out of the river, going partners with some negro boatman.
They are daring watermen, the coast negroes. They took Peter on
deep-sea fishing-trips, and at night he curled up on a furled sail
and went to sleep to the sound of Atlantic waves, and of negro men
singing as only negro men can sing. Sometimes they went seining at
night in the river, and Peter never forgot the flaring torches, the
lights dipping and glinting and sliding off brawny, half-naked
figures and black faces, while the marshes were a black, long line
against the sky, and the moon made a silver track upon the waters,
and the salty smell of the sea filled one's nostrils.

Now that he could no longer attend school, Peter snatched at any
book that came his way, getting all sorts and conditions of
reading-matter from all sorts and conditions of people. His was the
unappeasable hunger and thirst of those who long to know; and he
wished to express what he learned, by making pictures and thus
interpreting it for himself and others. It wasn't easy. Life turned
a rather harsh face to him. He wasn't clothed like the birds of the
air and the lilies of the field: he had to provide his own coverings
as best he might. He wouldn't accept charity. He would wear his own
old clothes but he wouldn't wear anybody else's.

"Peter," said Emma Campbell, anxiously, "yo' rind is comin' out o'
doors. Dem britches o' yourn looks like peep-thoo-de-winduh;
daylight 's comin'." She added anxiously: "Don't you let a heavy rain
ketch you in dem pants, Peter, or it 'll baptize you plum nekked to
yo' shirt-tail."

Peter looked alarmed. One may with decency run barefooted only to
the knees. Upon reflection, he sold his mother's sewing-machine--it
was an old machine and didn't bring much--and bought enough to cover
himself with.

"I wish I'd been born with my clothes on me, like you were," he
confided to the Red Admiral. "Gee, you're lucky!"

The Red Admiral flirted his fine coat vaingloriously. _He_ didn't
have to worry about trousers, nor yet shoes for his six feet! And
all he had to do was to fly around a bit and he was sure to find his
dinner waiting for him.

"Fairy," said Peter, soberly, "I'm not sniffling, but I'm not having
what you'd call a good time. It's hard to be me, butterfly. Nothing
nice has happened in such a long time. I wish you'd think up
something pleasant and wish it to happen to me."

If you'll hold out your first and second fingers and wiggle them in
the friendliest way you know how, you'll see how the Red Admiral
moved his feelers just then.

When Peter Champneys went home that night, after a long afternoon of
weeding an old lady's garden and whitewashing a long-suffering
chicken house, Emma Campbell spread before him, on a hot platter,
and of a crispness and brownness and odorousness to have made St.
Simon Stylites slide down his pillar and grab for a piece of it, a
fat chicken with an accompaniment of hot biscuit and good brown
gravy. She didn't tell Peter how she had come by the chicken, nor
did he wait to ask. He crammed his mouth, and Emma leaned against
the door and watched him with profound satisfaction. When he had
polished the last bone to an ivory whiteness, Emma reached behind
her and handed Peter the book she had that morning wrested from a
peddler whose shirt she had washed and ironed. Emma knew Peter liked
books.

Now, Emma Campbell couldn't by any stretch of imagination be
considered a beautiful person. She had pulled almost all of her hair
out by the roots, from a fashion she had of twisting and winding it
tightly around a tin spoon, or a match stem, to "pull her palate
up." The colored people suffer from a mysterious ailment known as
"having your palate down," for which the one specific is to take a
wisp of your hair and wrap it as tightly around a tin spoon, or a
match stem, as you can twist it; that pulls your palate up. It is,
of course, absolutely necessary for you to have your palate up,
even though you scalp yourself in the process of making it stay up.
Emma generally had a couple of spoons and two or three matches in
what was left of her wool. She could screw her mouth up until it
looked like a nozzle, and she could shoot her eyes out like a
crab's. She was so big that most folks were afraid of her. But as
she stood there beaming at Peter with the book in his hand, the
loveliest lady in the land couldn't have looked better or kinder.

Peter laid the Collection of Poetic Gems on the table, and blinked
at Emma Campbell. Then, because he was only a boy, and because
nothing so pleasant as this had happened to him for a long, long
time--not since his mother died--he put his head down on the
green-covered book and cried as only a boy can cry when he lets go.

Emma Campbell seemed to grow about nine feet tall. "Peter," said
she, in a terrifying voice, "I axes you not to lemme see you cryin'
like dat! When I sees Miss Maria's chile cryin', jes' 'cause a ole
nigger woman gives 'im a book, I wants to go out an' bust dis town
wide open wid a ax!"

When he had time to examine his Collection of Poetic Gems, Peter was
overjoyed. The paper was poor, the cuts atrocious, the binding a
poisonous green, but many of the Gems were of purest ray serene
despite their wretched setting. Old-fashioned stuff, most of it, but
woven on the loom of immortality. Peter, of course, had Simms's "War
Poems of the South." He knew much of Father Ryan by heart. He, as
well as another, could wave his brown stick of an arm and bid
somebody "Take that banner down, 'tis tattered." He had been brought
up on the story of the glory of the men who wore the gray, and for
him the sword of Robert Lee would never dim nor tarnish. But these
things were different. They talked to something deep down in him,
that was neither Yankee nor Southerner, but larger and better than
both. When Peter read these poems he felt the hair of his scalp
prickle, and his heart almost burst with a rapture that was agony.

But one can't exist on a collection of gems in a vile binding.
Shirts and shoes wear out, and trousers must be replaced when
they're too far gone to stand another stitch. Peter was too small to
do any responsible work, and he was getting too big to be paid in
pennies and dimes. People didn't exactly know what to do with him.
One can't be supercilious to a boy who is a Champneys born, but can
one invite a boy who runs errands, is on very familiar footing with
all the colored people in the county, and wears such clothes as
Peter wore, to one's house, or to be one of the guests when a child
of the family gives a birthday party? Not even in South Carolina!

For instance, when Mrs. Humphreys gave a birthday party for her
little girl, she was troubled about Peter Champneys, who hadn't been
invited. Peter had weeded her garden the day before, and mowed her
lawn; and he had looked such a little fellow, running that
lawn-mower out there in the sun! And now, while all the other
children were playing and laughing, dressed in their party finery,
Peter was splitting wood for old Miss Carruthers, a little farther
down the street. Mrs. Humphreys could see him from her bedroom
window. It was a little too much for the good-hearted woman, who had
liked his mother. She compromised with herself by taking a plate if
ice-cream and a thick slice of cake, slipping out of her back door,
and hurrying down to Miss Carruthers's back yard.

Peter stood there, leaning on his ax. Seated on a larger woodpile
was old Daddy Christmas, one of the town beggars. Daddy Christmas
was incredibly old, wrinkled, ragged, and bent. His grizzled, partly
bald head nodded while he tried to talk to Peter.

"Peter," said Mrs. Humphreys, hastily, "here's some ice-cream and
cake for you." She blushed as she spoke. "It's a hot day--and you're
working. I thought you'd like something cool and nice." She thrust
the plate upon him.

Peter smiled at her charmingly.

"You're mighty kind, Mis' Humphreys," he told her.

"I'll come back for the plate and spoon, after a while," she said,
hurrying off. But at the gate, beside the thick crape-myrtle bushes,
she paused and looked back. Somehow she wanted to see Maria
Champneys's boy eating that ice-cream and cake.

"Daddy Christmas," said a voice, gaily, "if there'd been two plates
and two spoons, and if you'd had any sort of a dinner to-day, I'd be
perfectly willing to share this treat with you. As it is, you'll
have to eat it all by yourself." A second later the voice added:
"Funny, you just saying the Lord would provide; but I bet you didn't
think He'd provide ice-cream and cake!" Followed the brisk strokes
of the ax, swung by a wiry, nervous little arm.

Mrs. Humphreys walked down the lane to her house, with a very
thoughtful face.




CHAPTER IV

THE SOUL OF BLACK FOLKS


The negro to the white man, as the moon to the earth, shows one side
only; the other is dark and unknown. It is an instinct with him to
conceal the truth--any truth--from white men; who knows to what use
they will put it and him? So deeply have ages of slavery and
oppression ingrained this upon black men's subconsciousness, that
only one white man in a thousand ever knows or suspects what his
dark brethren think, or know, or feel. Peter Champneys happened to
be the thousandth.

There wasn't a cabin in all that countrywide in which this
barefooted last scion of a long line of slave-holding gentry wasn't
known and welcome. There wasn't a negro in the county he didn't know
by name: even "mean niggers" grinned amiably at Peter Champneys.
They remembered what he had once said to a district judge whom he
heard bitterly inveighing against their ingratitude, immorality,
shiftlessness, and general worthlessness. Peter had lifted his quiet
eyes.

"I've often thought, Judge, what a particularly mean nigger I'd have
been, myself," he said, and studied the judge with disconcerting
directness. "If you'd been born a colored man, and some folks talked
and behaved to you like some folks talk and behave to colored men,
don't you reckon you'd be in jail right this minute, Judge?"

The white men who heard Peter's remark smiled, and one of them said,
spitting out a mouthful of tobacco juice, that it was just another
piece of that boy's damfoolishness. But the negroes, who knew that
judge as only negroes can know white men, chuckled grimly. They have
an immense respect for intelligence, and they made no mistake where
Peter's was concerned.

They knew him, too, a mild-eyed, brown-faced child reading out of a
Book by the light of a kerosene lamp to groups of gray-headed,
reverent listeners in lonely cabins. And Peter was always making
pictures of them--Mindel at the wash-tub, Emma Campbell picking a
chicken, old Maum' Chloe churning, Liza playing with her fat black
baby, Joe Tuttle plowing, old Daddy Neptune Fennick leaning on his
ax. Sometimes these sketches caught some fleeting moment of fun, and
were so true and so amusing that they were received with shouts of
delighted laughter, passed from hand to hand, and cherished by
fortunate recipients.

Now, no simple and natural heart can even for a little while beat in
unison with other hearts, encased in whatsoever colored skin may
please God, without a quickening of that wisdom which is one of the
keys of the Kingdom to come. To be able really to know, truly to
understand and come human-close to the lowly, to men and women under
the bondage of age-old prejudice, or outcast by the color of their
skin, is a terrible and perilous gift. This is the much knowledge in
which there is much grief.

Peter Champneys saw both sides. He saw and heard and knew things
that would have made his mother turn in her grave had she known. He
knew what depths of savagery and superstition, of brute sloth and
ignorance, lay here to drive back many a would-be white helper in
despair, and to render the labor of many a splendid negro reformer
all but futile. But he knew, too, the terrible patience, the
incredible resignation, with which poverty and neglect and hunger
and oppression and injustice are borne, until at times, child as he
was, his soul sickened with shame and rage. He relished the sweet
earthy humor that brightens humble lives, the gaiety and charity
under conditions which, when white men have to bear them, go to the
making of red terrorists. Some of the things he saw and heard
remained like scars upon Peter's memory. He will remember until he
dies the June night he spent with Daddy Neptune Fennick in his cabin
on the edge of the River Swamp.

That early June day had been cloudy from dawn; Peter was glad of
that, for he meant to pick black-berries, and a sunless day for
berry-picking is an unmixed blessing. The little negroes are such
nimblefingered pickers, such locust-like strippers of all near-by
patches, that Peter had bad luck at first, and was driven farther
afield than he usually went; his search led him even to the edge of
the River Swamp, a dismal place of evil repute, wherein cane as tall
as a man grew thickly, and sluggish streamlets meandered in and out
of gnarled cypress roots, and big water-snakes stretched themselves
on branches overhanging the water. On the edges of the swamp the
unmolested vines were thick with fruit. In the late afternoon Peter
had filled his buckets to overflowing with extra-fine berries.

It had been a sultry day for all its sunlessness, and Peter was
tired, so tired that his head and back ached. He looked at the heavy
buckets doubtfully; it would be a man-size job to trudge the long
sandy road home, so laden. While he sat there, hating to move, Daddy
Neptune Fennick came in sight, hoe and rake and ax on his sturdy
shoulder. The old man cast a shrewd, weather-wise eye at the
darkening sky.

"Gwine to hab one spell o' wedder," he called. "Best come on home
wid me, Peter, en wait w'ile."

Even as he spoke a blaze of lightning split the sky and lighted up
the swamp. A loud clap of thunder followed on the heels of it. Daddy
Neptune seized one bucket, Peter the other, and both ran for the
shelter of the cabin, some eighth of a mile farther on. They reached
it just as the rain came down in swirling, blinding sheets.

The old man built a fire in his mud fireplace, and prepared the
evening meal of broiled bacon, johnny-cake, and coffee. He and his
welcome guest ate from tin plates on their knees, drinking their
coffee from tin cups. Between mouthfuls each gave the other what
county news he possessed. Peter particularly liked that orderly
one-roomed cabin, and the fine old man who was his host.

He was an old-timer, was Daddy Neptune, more than six feet tall, and
massively proportioned. His bald head was fringed with a ring of
curling gray wool, and a white beard covered the lower portion of an
unusually handsome countenance. He had a shrewd and homely wit, an
unbuyable honesty, and such a simple and unaffected dignity of
manner and bearing as had won the respect of the county.

The old man lived by himself in the cabin by the River Swamp. His
wife and son had long been dead, and though he had sheltered, fed,
clothed, and taught to work several negro lads, these had gone their
way. Peter was particularly attached to him, and the old man
returned his affection with interest.

The dark fell rapidly. You could hear the trees in the River Swamp
crying out as the wind tormented them. On a night like this, with
lightning snaking through it and wild wind trying to tear the heart
out of its thin cypresses, and the cane-brake rustling ominously in
its unchancy black stretches, one might believe that the place was
haunted, as the negroes said it was. Daddy Neptune was moved to tell
Peter some of his own experiences with the River Swamp. He spoke,
between puffs of his corn-cob pipe, of the night Something had come
out of it--_pitterpat! pitterpat!_--right at his heels. It had
followed him to the very edge of his home clearing. Daddy Neptune
wasn't exactly _afraid_, but he knew that Something hadn't any
business to be pitterpattering at his heels, so he had turned around
and said:

"Ef you-all come out o' hebben, you 's wastin' good time 'yuh. Ef
Dey-all lef' you come out o' hell, you bes' git right back whah you
b'longs. One ways, _I_ ain't got nothin' I kin tell you; t'other
ways, _you_ ain't got nothin' I 's gwine to let you tell me. I 's
axin' you to _git_. En," finished Neptune, "dat t'ing done went
right _out_--whish!--same lak I 's tellin' you! Yessuh! hit went
spang _out_!" He threw another chunk of fatwood on the fire, and
watched the smoky flame go dancing up the chimney. In the red glow
he had the aspect of a kindly Titan.

"It never bothered you again, Daddy Nep?" Peter was always curious
about these experiences. He had a glimmer that negroes are nearer to
certain Powers than other folks are, and although he wasn't
superstitious, he wasn't skeptical, either.

"Never bothered me a-tall, less'n dat 's whut 's been meddlin' wid
my fowls, whichin ef I catches it, I aims to blow its head plum off,
ghostes or no ghostes," said the old man, stoutly.

"Ghosts don't steal chickens. I reckon it's a wild-cat gets yours. I
heard one scream in the swamp not so long since."

"Well, I aims to git Mistuh Wildcat, den. I done got me a couple o'
guinea-fowls for watch, en dey sho does set up a mighty potrackin'
w'en anything strange comes a-snoopin' roun' de yahd."

After a while Daddy Neptune put away his pipe and took down from a
shelf his big battered Bible, and Peter read the Twenty-first and
Twenty-second chapters of Revelation, to which the old man listened
with clasped hands and an uplifted face, his lips moving soundlessly
as he repeated to himself certain of the words:

    And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there
    shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither
    shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed
    away.... He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will
    be his God and he shall be my son ...

"I was born in slaveryment," said the old man, audibly.

Peter lay on his straw bed before the fire, sleepily watching
Neptune finish his prayers. He still had a child's faith, but he was
beginning to wonder how a laboring negro could retain it. One thing
he was sure of; if there was such a thing as a Christian man,
endowed with ideal Christian virtues, that old man kneeling in his
cabin, pouring out his heart to his Maker, was a Christian. And
remembering comfortable, complacent white Christians--well fed, well
housed, well clothed; with education and all that it implies as
their heritage; with all the high things of the world open to them
by reason of their white skin; praying decorously every Sunday to a
white man's God--Peter felt confused. How should the white man and
the white man's God answer and account to the Daddy Neptunes, who
had been "born in slaveryment," had lived and would die in
slaveryment to poverty and prejudice? Where do they come in, these
dispossessed dark sons of the Father? Surely, the Father has a very
great deal to make up to them!--Then the firelighted cabin walls,
the wavering figure of the kneeling old man, the soft sound of light
rain on the roof, faded and went out. Peter fell asleep.

He slept a tired boy's dreamless slumber. The night deepened. The
rain ceased, and a wan and sad moon climbed the sky, wearily, like a
tired old woman. In the River Swamp frogs croaked, a whippoorwill at
intervals gave its lonesome and lovely call, the shivering-owl's cry
making it lovelier by comparison. The cypresses shook blackly in the
blacker swamp water which licked their roots. From the drenched
vegetation arose a fresh and penetrating odor, the smell of the
clean June night. And presently, he didn't know why, Peter awoke
with every sense instantly alert. It was as if his soul had sensed a
sound, knew it for what it was, and was on guard.

A few red embers glowed in the big mud chimney. Save for these, the
one-room cabin was in darkness. Somebody was moving about. Peter
made out the figure of big Neptune standing with his head bent in a
listening attitude at one of the shuttered windows. A bit of fatwood
in the fireplace burst for a moment into an expiring flame, which
flickered dully on the barrel of the gun in the negro's hands. Peter
scrambled up, and stole noiselessly across the floor.

"Dem guineas potracked en waked me up, Son," whispered Neptune. "Now
I aims to git whut 's been sneakin' off wid my fowls."

At that moment a low knock sounded on the door. At such an hour,
and in that lonely place, it gave the old man and the boy a distinct
sensation of fear: who should come knocking so stealthily at the
door of the cabin by the River Swamp at that eerie hour? Neptune,
his gun gripped in his hands, twisted his head sidewise, listening.
The knock came again, this time more insistent. Then a thick voice
spoke, muffled by the intervening door:

"Daddy Nepshun, is you awake? For Gawd A'mighty's sake, Daddy
Nepshun, lemme in!"

The old man stepped to the door and flung it wide. The figure that
had been crouching against it tumbled in and lay panting on the
floor.

"Light me dat lamp, please, Peter," said Neptune, peering down at
his visitor.

Peter, who had recovered from his momentary fear, lighted the
kerosene lamp. By its light they perceived a stained, muddy,
disheveled wretch, in the last state of terror and exhaustion. Two
wild eyes glared at them out of a gray, grimed face.

"Why, Jake! Lawd 'a' mussy, hit 's Jake!" burst from Daddy Neptune.
Peter recognized in the intruder a negro to whom the old man had
been, as was his wont, fatherly kind. On a time he and his wife had
sheltered and fed Jake.

Peter didn't know why, but something in the man's aspect, in his
rolling eyes, his lips drawn back from his teeth, his torn clothes,
his desperate look of a hunted beast, made him recoil. He had never
before seen any one with just that look of brute cunning and
terror. Daddy Neptune's steady eyes took in every detail. He
stiffened in his tracks.

"Whut you been doin'?" he demanded. Jake turned his head from side
to side; he refused to meet the direct old eyes. He mumbled:

"Is you got any w'isky, Da' Nepshun? For Gawd's sake, Da' Nepshun,
gimme a drink en don't ast me no questions twell I 's able to
answer." His voice was hoarse and shaking; his whole body shook.

"I ain't got no w'isky, but I got coffee en bittles. Whichin you is
welcome to," said Neptune. "You ain't say yit whut you been doin'.
Whut you been up to, Jake?"

Jake writhed off the floor. Again Peter recoiled instinctively. As
the negro got upon his feet his coat fell open, and the torn sleeve
and cuff of a gingham shirt showed. On it was a dark stain which was
not swamp water or mud. Peter's eyes fastened upon that dark red
smear.

"Gimme a bite o' bittles so 's I kin git on," implored Jake.

"I axes you once mo', Jake: whut you been doin'?" demanded Neptune.
His voice was stern, and his face began to set.

"En I axes you to lemme git dem bittles fust, en I'll tell you, soon
's I gits back mah wind," returned Jake, sullenly.

Still retaining his gun, Neptune went to the corner cupboard, from
which he took a loaf of bread. Without cutting it he handed it to
Jake, who began to tear it with his teeth. All the while he ate, he
kept turning his head, listening, listening.

"Cain't wait for no coffee. Gimme drink o' water, please, suh." In
silence Neptune handed him a gourd of water. When Jake had gulped
this down, Neptune asked again, inexorably:

"Whut you been doin', Jake?"

Jake shifted from one foot to the other. He thrust his bullet head
forward. His hands, hanging at his sides, opened and closed, the
fingers twitching.

"Dem w'ite mens is atter--somebuddy--en dey say hit 's me," he
muttered hoarsely. His eyes rolled toward the door, which, not
having been barred after his entrance, swung slightly ajar.

"Whut dey atter somebuddy _for_?" Neptune demanded. Outside, in the
wet night, the screech-owl cried. The sweet wind danced on airy feet
in and out of the cypresses and the gums, kissed them, stole their
breath, and tossed it abroad odorously. Stars had come out to keep
the pale moon company, and a faint light glinted on wet grass and
bushes. Crickets and katydids and little green tree-frogs kept up a
harsh concert. And then, above all the minor, murmuring noises of
the night arose another sound, very faint and far off, but
unmistakable and unforgetable--the deep, long, bell note of a hound
upon the trail.

The three in the cabin stood like figures turned to stone in the
attitude of listening. Jake's teeth chattered audibly. He edged
toward the open door, but Neptune stepped in front of him, and
flung up an arresting hand.

"_Whut for_?" His voice was like a whip-lash.

"Somebuddy--done meddled wid a w'ite gal--een de cawn-field. En dey
'low--hit wuz me."

A gasp, as if his heart had been squeezed, came from Neptune. Of a
sudden he seemed to grow in height, to tower unhumanly tall above
the cringing wretch he confronted. His eyes narrowed into red points
that bored into the other's eyes, and plunged like daggers into his
heart and mind. Before that glance, like a vivisectionist's knife,
Jake wilted; he seemed to shrink, dwindle, collapse. And with a
growing, cold, awful horror, a suspicion so hideous that his mind
revolted from it, Peter Champneys stood staring from one black face
to the other.

"You--you--" Neptune gulped, strangling. A long, slow shudder, as of
one confronting unheard-of torture, went over his big frame. The
fringe of hair on his bald head rose, his beard bristled. Sparks
seemed to shoot from his eyes, burning with a terrible flame.

"Da' Nepshun--" Jake put out clawing, twitching hands. "Dey 's--dey
's--gwine to git me." His voice broke into a half-scream.

"Whut you do hit for?" This from Neptune, in a heart-shaken,
anguished, rattling whisper. He asked no further questions. He had
no doubt. Jake's rolling eyes had told him the unspeakable truth.

"I 'clah to Gawd, Da' Nepshun, I wuz n't meanin' no hahm--I never
had no idea--She came down de cawn-field paff--wid de cow followin'
'er--en--en--I don't know _whut_ mek me meddle wid dat gal. Seems
lak hit wuz de debbil, 'stead o' me."

"Is de gal done daid?"

"Yas, suh, she done daid." Jake rocked himself to and fro, muttering
her name.

Peter Champneys looked at the torn shirt-sleeve with the red stain
upon it. The room shook and wavered, wind was in his ears. And the
red of that girl's blood got into his eyes, and he saw things
through a scarlet mist. The most horrible rage he had ever
experienced shook him like a mortal sickness. Oh, God! oh, God! oh,
God! That girl!

In the momentary silence that fell upon that tragic room, a sound
shivered. Long, slow, bell-like. Nearer. It galvanized Jake into
terror-stricken action. He started for the door.

"Dey 'll git me, dey 'll git me!" he croaked.

Peter would have flung himself upon the wretch, to reach for his
throat with bare hands; but something in Neptune's face stopped him.
Neptune's bigness seemed to fill the whole room. He drew a deep
breath, and with one movement jerked the door wide.

"Run down de paff by de fowl-house," he said sharply. "Den--hit 's
de swamp for you."

Peter turned sick. Was Neptune like all other--niggers? Hadn't he
the--proper sense of what this devil had done?

Jake leaped for the door, cleared the steps at a bound, and was
flying down the path. Neptune took one forward step, filling the
doorway. He lifted the shot-gun to his shoulder. Just as the
fugitive neared the fowl-house, the gun spoke. The flying figure
leaped high in the air, and then sprawled out and was suddenly still
and inert. The guinea-hens set up a deafening potracking, and the
cooped fowls squawked and flapped. Above all the noise they made
rose the bloodhound's note.

It was done so quickly, it was so inevitable, that Peter could only
stand and blink. He thought, sickly, that the very earth should
shudder away from the soiling touch of that appalling carrion. But
the earth was the one thing that would receive Jake unprotestingly.
He lay on his face, his arms outflung, and from the gaping hole
between his shoulders a dark stream welled. The indifferent earth,
the uncaring grass, received it. The wind came out of the swamp
on mincing feet and danced over him, and fluttered his torn
shirt-sleeve.

Stonily, voicelessly, Neptune stood in the cabin door, staring at
that which lay in the pathway. Then he lowered the smoking gun, and
leaned on it. His bald head drooped until his gray beard swept his
breast, and his throat rattled like a dying man's. Shudders went
over him. And stonily young Peter Champneys stood beside him, his
boyish eyes hard in a dead-white face, his boyish mouth a grim, pale
line.

"Peter," said the old man presently, in a thin whisper, "I helped
raise dat boy. Wuz n't sich a bad boy, neither. Used to sing en
wissle roun' de house, en fetch water en fiah-wood. Chloe, she loved
'im. Used to say Ouah Fathuh right in dis same room 'fo' he went to
sleep. Ef I 'd 'a' knowed--

"En dat po' lil w'ite chile's daddy en mammy, _dey_ done raise
'er--used to say 'er prayers--en laff en sing--en trus' de Almighty
Gawd--"

He raised his sinewy arms and shook the gun aloft.

"Ah, Gawd Almighty! Gawd Almighty! Whah is You dis night? Whah is
You?" cried the old man. And of a sudden he began to weep
dreadfully; heart-broken cries of pain and of protest, the tortured
cries of one suffering inhumanly.

"And all this while God said not a word."

Shaken to the soul, full of sick horror, and loathing, and rage,
Peter Champneys yet had a swift, intuitive understanding of old
Neptune; and as if through him he had caught a glimpse of the naked
and suffering soul of the black people, the boy began to weep with
him. With understanding merging into pity he crept nearer and put
his slender, boyish arm around the big, shaking, agonized figure,
and the old man turned his head and looked long and sorrowfully into
the white child's face. He put out the big, seamed, work-hardened
hand that had labored since it could hold an implement to labor
with, and laid it on the child's shoulder.

Then, bareheaded and empty-handed, Neptune sat down on his cabin
steps to wait for what should happen, and Peter Champneys sat beside
him, the gun between his knees. Over there by the fowl-house lay
Jake, a horrid blotch in the moonlight.

Presently, echoing through the River Swamp, the hunting hounds set
up their thrilling, deep-mouthed belling. They were closing in on
their quarry and the nearness of it excited them. A few minutes
later, and here they were, a posse of some thirty or forty mounted
men struggling pell-mell after them. One great hound leaped forward,
stood rigid by that which lay in a heap in the cabin clearing,
pointed his nose, and gave tongue. Other dogs bunched around him,
sniffed, and joined in.

The mounted men came to an abrupt standstill, the horses, like the
dogs, bunching together. Neptune had risen and Peter Champneys stood
on the top step, his head about level with the old man's shoulder.
He looked in vain for the sheriff; evidently, this was an
independent posse. One of the men rode up to the door, shouting to
make himself heard above the din of the dogs, and Peter recognized
him, with a sinking of the heart--a tenant farmer named Mosely, of a
violent and quarrelsome disposition.

"Shet up them damn dogs!" he yelled. And to Neptune, savagely: "Now
then, nigger, talk! What's been doin' here?"

It was Peter Champneys who answered.

"Daddy Neptune's been worried by something or somebody stealing his
fowls. He's been on the watch. So when he saw that--that nigger over
there running by the chicken-house, he just blazed away. Got him
between the shoulder-blades."

A yell so ferocious that Peter's marrow froze, burst from the posse,
which had dismounted.

"It's him!" howled a farm-hand, and kicked the corpse in the face.
"What in hell did that big nigger shoot him for, anyhow?" he roared.
"He'd ought to be strung up himself, the old black--" And he cursed
Neptune vilely. He felt swindled. There would be no burning, with
interludes of unspeakable things. Nothing but senseless carrion to
wreak vengeance upon. And all through a damned old meddling nigger's
fault! A nigger taking the law into his own hands!

Somebody, discovering Daddy Neptune's woodpile, had kindled a
fatwood torch. Others followed his example, and the red, smoky light
flared over enraged faces and glaring eyes of maddened men; over the
sweating horses, the baying dogs, and the black corpse with its
bruised face. The guinea-hens, after their insane fashion, kept up a
deafening potracking, flapping from limb to limb of the tree in
which they roosted. The indifferent swamp chorus joined in, katydids
and crickets shrilling all the while. And over it all the moon went
about its business; the awful depths of the sky were silent. The
wind from the swamp, the night, the earth, didn't care.

Somebody whipped out a knife and bent over Jake's body. A yell
greeted this. Dogs and men moved confusedly around the thing on the
ground, in a sort of demoniac circle upon which the hissing, flaring
pitch-pine torches danced with infernal effect. Peter Champneys
watched it, his soul revolting. He had no sympathy for Jake; he felt
for him nothing but hatred. He couldn't think of that gay and
innocent girl coming down the corn-field path, unafraid--to meet
what she had met--without a suffocating sense of rage. She had been,
Peter remembered, a very pretty girl, a girl who, as Neptune had
said, used to sing, and laugh, and say her prayers, and trust
Almighty God.

But Peter was seeing now the other side of that awful cloud which
darkens the horizon of the South--the brute beast mob-vengeance that
follows swiftly upon the heels of the unpardonable sin. There must
be justice. But what was happening now wasn't justice. It was stark
barbarism let loose.

Neptune, who had "helped raise" Jake, had meted out to him justice
full and sure. He had avenged both the wronged white and the wronged
black people. Peter looked at the men in the cabin clearing, and saw
the thing nakedly, and from both angles. For instance, consider
Mosely, who had done things--with a clasp-knife. And that other man,
the farm-hand, shifty-eyed and mean, always half drunk, a bad
citizen: _they_ would be sure to be foremost in affairs like this.
They had precious little respect for the law as law. And here they
were, making the holy night indecent with bestial behavior. Again a
sick qualm shook Peter: Mosely was calmly putting four severed black
fingers into his coat pocket. Oh, where was the sheriff? Why didn't
the sheriff come?

Peter caught a glimpse of a shapeless, battered, gory mass under
trampling feet. Maddened by the little they were able to accomplish,
and with the torture-lust that is as old as humanity itself roused
to fury by frustration, the posse turned from that which had been
Jake, to old Neptune, standing motionless by his doorway. Neptune
had not moved or spoken since Peter had answered the posse's
questions. He had not even appeared to hear the vile abuse heaped
upon him. He was not in the least afraid for his life: He was beyond
that. That which had happened, which was happening, had dealt the
stern, simple-hearted old man so mighty a blow that his faculties
were stunned. He couldn't think. He could only suffer a bewildered,
baffled torment. He stood there, dumb as a sheep before the
slaughterers, and the sight of his black face maddened the men who
were out to avenge a black man's monstrous crime.

"Hang the damn nigger!" screamed Mosely, and the crowd surged
forward ominously. You could see, by the shaking torch-light, faces
in which the eyes glared wolf-like, brandished fists, glints of
guns. Neptune, without a flicker of fear, regarded them with his
sorrowful gaze. But Peter Champneys stepped in front of him, and
thrust the cold muzzle of the shot-gun against Mosely's face. The
man, a coward at heart, leaped back, trampling upon the toes of
those behind him, who cursed him shrilly and vindictively.

Then spoke up small Peter Champneys, standing barefooted and
bareheaded, clothed in a coarse blue blouse and a pair of patched
and faded denim trousers, but for all that heir to a long line of
dead-and-gone Champneyses who had been, whatever their faults,
fearless and gallant gentlemen.

"Get back there, you, Mosely!" Peter Champneys spoke in the voice
his grandfather had on a time used to a recalcitrant field-hand.

"Chuck that little nigger-lover in the swamp!"

"Knock him down an' git the nigger, Mosely!"

"Burn down the house!"

But the shot-gun in that steady young hand held them in check for a
breathing-space. They knew Peter Champneys.

"Mosely!" snapped Peter. "You, too, Nicolson! Stand back, you
white-livered hounds! First one of you lays a hand on me or Daddy
Nep gets his head blown off! Damn you, Mosely! don't make me tell
you again to get back!"

And Mosely saw that in the boy's eyes that drove him back, swearing.

The huge farm-hand, who had shifted and squirmed his way to the back
of the crowd, now lifted his arm. A rope with a noose at the end
snaked over the tossing heads, and all but settled over black
Neptune's. It slipped, writhing from the old man's shoulder and down
his shirt. The mob set up a disappointed and yet hopeful howl.

"Try it again! Try it again!" they shrieked. Then a sort of waiting
hush fell upon them. The farm-hand, to whom the rope had been
tossed, was again making ready for a throw, measuring the distance
with his eyes. Peter, his lips tightening, waited too. The farm-hand
was a tall man, and the posse had shifted to allow him space. His
arm shot up, the noosed rope whizzed forward. But even as it did so
Peter Champneys's trigger-finger moved. The report sounded like a
clap of thunder, and was followed by a roar of rage and pain. The
rope-thrower, with the rope tripping his feet and impeding his
movements, danced about wildly, shaking the hand from which three
fingers had been cleanly clipped. At that instant another posse rode
up, with a baying of hounds to herald it. One saw the sheriff on a
large bay horse, a Winchester in the crook of his arm. With a merest
glance at what had been Jake, he pushed his way through the throng,
and was confronted by Peter Champneys standing in front of old
Neptune Fennick, with a smoking shot-gun in his hands.

"You better do something, quick! If you let anything happen to Daddy
Nep, you've got to kill me first," panted Peter.

"He'd ought to be shot for a nigger-lover, Sheriff!" shouted the
farm-hand.

"All right. Do it. But you'll get your neck stretched for it! My
name's _Champneys_," shouted Peter.

The sheriff moved restlessly on his bay. A Champneys had fed his
parents. Chadwick Champneys had given him his first pair of shoes.
The sheriff was stirred to the depths by the crime that had been
committed, and he had no love for a nigger, but--

He turned to the menacing crowd. "Here, boys, enough o' this! The
right nigger's dead, and that's all there is to it. No, you don't do
no hangin'! I'm sheriff o' this county, an' I aim to keep the law.
Let that old nigger alone, Mosely! If that young hell-cat puts a
bullet in your chitlin's, it'll be your own funeral."

He straightened in the saddle, touched the rein, and in a second the
big bay had been swung around to stand between Neptune and the white
men. The muzzle of Peter's gun touched the sheriff's leg.

"Put that pop-gun up, Son," said he, turning his head to look down
into the boy's face. Their eyes met, in a long look.

"I knew that girl since she was bawn," he said, and his hard face
quivered. "Hell!" swore the sheriff, and the hand on his bridle
shook. He knew old Neptune, too, and in his way liked him. But it
was hard for the sheriff, who had seen the dead little girl, to look
into any black face that night and retain any feeling of humanity.

"Yes, sir. I knew her, too," said Peter Champneys, gulping. "But--I
know Neptune, too. And--what happened--wasn't his fault. It's got
nothing to do with Neptune--and--and things that Mosely--" His voice
broke.

"Hell!" swore the sheriff again. And he whispered, more gently, "All
right, Peter. An' I reckon you better stay by the old nigger for a
day or two until this thing dies down." After all, the sheriff
thought relievedly, Neptune's swift action, actuated by whatsoever
motive, had saved the county and himself from a rather frightful
episode. Turning to the crowd, he yelled:

"Get them dogs started for home! They're goin' plum crazy! Get on
your hawse, Mosely! You, over there, with your fist shot up, ride
next to me. Mount, all o' you! Mount, I say! No, I'll come last.

"What's that you're sayin', Briggs? No, suh, not by a damn-sight you
won't! Not while I'm sheriff o' this county an' upholdin' law an'
order in it, you won't drag no dead nigger behind _my_ hawse--nor
yet in front of him, neither! Let the nigger lay where he is and
rot--what's left of him."

"Do you want us to bury--it?" quavered Peter.

"Bury it or burn it. What the hell do I care what you do with it?"
growled the sheriff. "He's dead, that's all I got to think about."
He ran his shrewd eyes over the posse, saw that not one straggler
remained to do further mischief, and drove them before him,
willy-nilly. In five minutes the trampled yard was clear, and the
sound of the horses' hoofs was already dying in the distance. In the
sky all other stars had paled to make room for the morning star.

Peter and Neptune, left alone, looked at each other dumbly. A thing
remained to be done. The sun mustn't rise upon the horror that lay
in the cabin yard. Neptune went to his small barn and trundled out a
wheelbarrow, in which were several gunny-sacks, a piece of rope, and
a spade.

Peter turned his head away while the old man covered the thing on
the ground with sacking, rolled it over, floppily, and tied it as
best he could. The sweat came out on them both as they saw the
stains that spread on the clean sacking. Neptune heaped the bundle
into his wheelbarrow. At a word from him Peter went into the house
and returned with a lighted lantern, for the River Swamp was still
very dark. The sun wouldn't be up for an hour or two yet. Peter held
the lantern in one hand, and carried spade and shot-gun over the
other shoulder. In the ghostly light they entered the swamp, every
turn and twist of whose wide, watery acreage was known to Neptune,
and was fairly familiar to Peter. They had to proceed warily, for
the ground was treacherous, and at any moment a jutting tree-root
might upset the clumsy barrow. Despite Neptune's utmost care it
bumped and swayed, and the shapeless bundle in it shook hideously,
as if it were trying to escape. And the stains on the coarse shroud
grew, and spread.

In a small and fairly dry space among particularly large cypresses,
Neptune stopped. At one side was a deep pool in whose depths the
lantern was reflected. About it ferns, some of a great height, grew
thickly. Neptune began to dig in the black earth. Sometimes he
struck a cypress root, against which the spade rang with a hollow
sound. It was slow enough work, but the hole in the swamp earth grew
with every spade-thrust, like a blind mouth opening wider and wider.
Peter held the lantern. The trees stood there like witnesses.

Presently Neptune straightened his shoulders, moved back to the
barrow, and edged it to the hole. Swiftly and deftly he tipped it,
and the shapeless bundle slid into the open mouth awaiting it. It
was curiously still just then in the River Swamp.

When they emerged into the open, the sun was rising over a clean,
fresh world. The dark tops of the trees were gilded by the first
rays. Every bush was hung with diamonds, the young grass rippled
like a child's hair, and birds were everywhere, voicing the glory of
the morning.

The old negro dropped his wheelbarrow, and lifted a supplicating
face and a pair of gnarled hands to the morning sky. His lips moved.
One saw that he prayed, trustingly, with a childlike simplicity.

Peter Champneys watched him speculatively. He tried to reason the
thing out, and the heart in his boyish breast ached with a new pain.
Thoughts big, new, insistent, knocked at the door of his intellect
and refused to be denied admittance.

He thought it better to take the sheriff's advice and stay with
Neptune for a few days, but nobody troubled the good old man. The
verdict of the whole county was in his favor. He went his harmless,
fearless, laborious way unmolested. That autumn he died, and the
cabin by the River Swamp was taken over by nature, who gave it to
her winds and rains to play with. Her leaves drifted upon its floor,
her birds built under its shallow eaves.

Nobody would live there any more. The negroes said the place was
haunted: on wild nights one might hear there the sound of a shot,
the baying of a hound; and see Jake running for the swamp.




CHAPTER V

THE PURPLE HEIGHTS


Emma Campbell had one of her contrary fits, and when Emma was
contrary, the best thing to do was to keep out of her way. Her
"palate was down," her temper was up; she'd had trouble with the
Young Sons and Daughters of Zion, in her church, and hot words with
a deacon who said that when he passed the cup Emma Campbell lapped
up nearly all the communion wine, which was something no lady ought
to do. And Cassius had taken unto himself a fourth spouse, and,
without taking Emma into his confidence, had gotten her to wash and
iron his wedding-shirt for him. So Emma's "palate was down," and not
even three toothpicks and two spoons in her hair had been able to
get it up. Peter, therefore, took a holiday. He filled his pockets
with bread, and set out with no particular destination in mind.

At a turn in the Riverton Road he met the Red Admiral.

He stopped, reflectively. He hadn't seen the Admiral in some time,
and it pleased him to be led by that gay adventurer now. The Admiral
flitted down the Riverton Road, and Peter ran gaily after him. He
led the boy a fine chase across fields, and out on the road again,
and then down a lane, and along the river, and through the pines,
and finally to the River Swamp woods. Peter came fleet-footed to
Neptune's old cabin, raced round it, and then stopped, in utter
confusion and astonishment. On the back steps, with an umbrella
beside her, and an easel in front of her, sat a young woman so busy
getting a bit of the swamp upon her canvas that she didn't hear or
see Peter until he was upon her. Then she looked up, with her
paint-brush in her hand.

"Hello!" said she, in the friendliest fashion, "where did _you_ come
from?"

She was a big girl, blue as to eyes, brown as to hair, and with a
fresh-colored, good-humored face. Her glance was singularly clear
and direct, and her smile so comradely that Peter took an
instantaneous liking to her. He wondered what on earth she meant by
coming here, to this lonely place, all by herself. But she was
making a picture, and his interest was more in that than in the
painter.

"May I look at it, please?" he asked politely. He smiled at her, and
Peter had a mighty taking smile of his own.

"Of course you may!" said the lady, genially. Hands behind his back,
Peter stared at the canvas. Then he stepped back yet farther, lifted
one hand, and squinted through the fingers. The young lady regarded
him with growing interest.

"Well, what do you think of it?" she asked.

The young woman wasn't a quick worker, but she was a careful one,
and very exact. Unfinished though it was, the picture showed that;
and it showed, too, a lack of something vital; there was no
spontaneity in it.

"I've never seen anybody paint before, though I've always wanted
to," said Peter, and fetched an unconscious sigh of envy.

"You haven't said whether or not you like it," the girl reminded
him.

"It isn't finished," said Peter. His eyes went to the familiar
woods, the beloved woods, and came back to her canvas. "I think when
it's finished it will be like a photograph," he added.

Claribel Spring--for that was the big girl's name--knew her own
limitations; but to meet a criticism so exact and so just, from a
barefooted child in the South Carolina wilds wasn't to be expected.
She took a longer look at the boy and thought she had never before
seen a pair of eyes so absolutely, clearly golden. Those eyes would
create a distinct impression upon people: either you'd like them, or
you'd find them so strange you'd think them ugly. She herself
thought them beautiful.

"You seem to know something about pictures, even unfinished ones,"
she told him comradely. "And may I ask who you are, and why and how
you come flying out of the nowhere into the here of these forsaken
woods?"

"Oh, I'm only Peter Champneys," said the boy with the golden eyes,
shyly. "I hope I didn't startle you? It's my butterfly's fault. You
see, I never know where I've got to follow him, or what I'm going
to find when I get there."

"Your butterfly? You mean that Red Admiral that just whizzed by? He
skimmed over my easel," said the young lady.

"Is that his real name?" Peter was enchanted. "A black fellow with
red on his coat-tails, and a sash like a general's? Then that's my
butterfly!" said Peter, happily. He smiled at the girl again, and
finished, naively: "I owe that butterfly a whole heap of good luck!"

She told him she was spending some time with the Northern people who
had lately bought Lynwood Plantation, a few miles down the river.
She liked to prowl around and paint things.

"And now," she asked, "would you mind telling me something more
about that butterfly of yours? And where some more of the good luck
comes in?" She was growing more and more interested in Peter.

Peter dropped down beside the easel, his hands clasped loosely
between his knobby knees. It seemed the most natural thing in the
world that he should find himself talking freely to this Yankee
girl; it was the most natural thing in the world that she should
understand. So Peter, who, as a rule, would have preferred to be
beaten with rods rather than divulge his feelings, told her exactly
what she wished to know. This must be blamed upon the Red Admiral!

She caught a sharp outline of the child's life, poor in material
circumstances, but crowded to the brim with thought and feeling and
emotion, and colorful as the coast country was colorful. He had kept
himself, she thought, as sweet and limpid as a mountain spring. He
was wistful, eager, and mad to know things. His eyes went back again
and again, with a sort of desperate hunger in them, to the canvas on
her easel, as if the secret of him lay there. The girl sat with her
firm white chin in her firm white hands, and looked down at Peter
with her bright blue Yankee eyes, and understood him as none of his
own people had ever understood him. She even understood what his
innate reticence and decency held back. Who shall say that the
Admiral wasn't a fairy?

"I'd like to see that first little sketch," she said, when he had
finished. Her eyes were very sweet.

For a second he hesitated. Then he rose, went into the deserted
cabin, and took from the cupboard a dusty bundle of papers--pieces
of white cardboard, sheets of letter-paper, any sort of paper he had
been able to lay his hands on. Riverton and the surrounding country,
as Peter Champneys saw it, unrolled before her astonished eyes. It
was roughly done, and there were glaring faults; but there was
something in the crude work that wasn't in the canvas on her easel,
and she recognized it. She singled out several sketches of an old
negro with a bald head and a white beard, and a stern, fine face
innate with dignity. She said quietly:

"You are quite right, Peter: the Red Admiral is undoubtedly a
fairy." And after a moment, studying the old man's face: "He's
rather a remarkable old man, isn't he?"

Peter looked around him. On that terrible night Daddy Neptune had
stood just where the easel was standing now; over there by the
tumble-down chicken house, Jake had fallen; and the space that was
now green with grass had been full of vengeful men, and howling
dogs, and trampling horses. Peter took the sketch from her, looked
at it for a long moment, and, as briefly as he could, and keeping
himself very much in the background, he told her.

Claribel Spring looked around her, almost disbelieving that such a
thing could happen in such a place. She looked at the quiet-faced
boy, at the sketches, and shook her head.

When she was ready to go, Peter helped pack her traps, picked up her
paint-box, and slung her folding-easel and camp-stool across his
shoulder. Lynwood was some three miles from the River Swamp, and
shall a gentleman allow a lady to lug her belongings that distance?

"Miss Spring," said Peter, anxiously, as they reached the porch of
Lynwood, "Miss Spring, do you expect to go about these woods
much--by yourself?"

"Why, yes! Nobody here has time to prowl with me, you see. And I
can't stay indoors. I've got to make the most of these woods while I
have the opportunity."

Peter looked troubled. His brows puckered. "I wonder if you'd mind
if I just sort of stayed around so I could look after--I mean, so I
could watch you painting? May I? _Please_!"

Claribel sensed something tense under that request. She longed to
get at Peter's thought processes. She was immensely interested in
this shabby little chap who made astonishing sketches and whose
personality was so intriguing.

"Why, of course you may, Peter. But would you mind telling me just
_why_ you want to come with me--aside from the painting?"

Peter shifted from one bare foot to the other.

"Because somebody's _got_ to go with you," he blurted flatly. "Don't
the people here know you mustn't go off like that, by yourself?
There--well, Miss Spring, there are bad folks everywhere, I reckon.
Our niggers"--Peter's head went up--"are the best niggers, in the
world. But--sometimes--And--and--" He looked at her, trying to make
her understand.

Claribel Spring considered him. He might be about fourteen. His head
just reached her shoulder. And he was offering to take care of her,
to be her protector! That's what his anxiety meant. "Oh, you darling
little gentleman!" she thought.

"I see. And I'll be perfectly delighted if you can manage to come
with me, Peter," said she, sincerely. "And listen: I've been
thinking about those sketches of yours, while we were walking home,
and I've got the nicest little plan all worked out in my mind. You
shall take me around these woods, which you know and I don't. You'll
be my guide, philosopher, and friend. In return I'll teach you what
I can. You needn't bother about materials: I have loads of stuff for
the two of us. What do you say?"

It was so unexpected, so marvelous, that an electrified and
transformed Peter looked at her with a face gone white from excess
of astonished rapture, and a pair of eyes like pools in paradise
when the stars of heaven tremble in their depths.

Claribel Spring was a better teacher than artist, as she discovered
for herself. She had the divine faculty of imparting knowledge and
at the same time arousing enthusiasm; and she had such a pupil now
as real teachers dream of. It wasn't so much like learning, with
Peter; it was as if he were being reminded of something he already
knew. He had never had a lesson in his whole life, he didn't go
about things in the right manner, and there were grave faults to be
overcome; but he had the thing itself.

She taught him more than the rudiments of technique, more than the
mere processes of mixing colors, more than shading and form, and
perspective, and flat surfaces, and high lights, and foreshortening.
She was the first person from the outside world with whom Peter had
ever come into real contact, the first person not a Southerner with
whom he had ever been intimately friendly. And oddly enough, Peter
taught _her_ a few things.

Riverton learned that Peter Champneys had been engaged as a sort of
fetch-and-carry boy by that big Vermont girl who was stopping at
Lynwood. They thought Miss Spring charming, when they occasionally
met her, but when it came to trapesing about the woods like a gipsy,
quite as irresponsible as Peter Champneys himself--"Birds of a
feather flock together," you know.

Claribel Spring was just at that time passing through a Gethsemane
of her own, and she needed Peter quite as badly as he needed her.
Peter was really a godsend to the girl. Her quiet self-control kept
any one from discovering that she was cruelly unhappy, but Peter did
at times perceive the shadow upon her face, and he knew that the
silence that sometimes fell upon her was not always a happy one. At
such times he managed to convey to her delicately, without words,
his sympathy. He piloted her to lovely places, he made her pause to
look at birds' nests, at corners of old fences, at Carolina
wild-flowers. And when he had made her smile again, he was happy. To
Peter that was the swiftest, happiest, most enchanted summer he had
ever known.

It ended all too soon. He went up to Lynwood one morning to find
Claribel packing for a hasty departure. It was a new Claribel that
morning, a Claribel with a rosy face and shining eyes and smiling
lips. She had gotten news, she told Peter joyously, that called her
away at once--beautiful news. The most wonderful news in the world!

She turned over to Peter all the material she had on hand, and gave
him painstaking directions as to how he was to proceed, what he was
to strive for, what to avoid. And she said that when he had become
a great man in the big world, one of these days, he wasn't to forget
that she'd prophesied it, and had been allowed to play her little
part in his career. Then she kissed Peter as nobody had ever kissed
him except his mother. And so she left him.

He was turning fifteen then, and getting too big for the penny jobs
Riverton had in pickle for him. Nothing better offering, he hired
out that autumn to a farmer who fed his stock better than he did his
men. Peter's mouth still twists wryly when he remembers that first
month of heavy farm work. The mule was big and Peter wasn't, the
plow and the soil were heavy, and Peter was light. Trammell, the
farmer, held him to his task, insisting that "a boy who couldn't
learn to plow straight couldn't learn to do nothin' else straight,
and he'd better learn now while he had the chanst." Peter would have
cheerfully forfeited his chance to learn to plow straight; but the
thing was there to do, and he tried to do it.

Sunday, his one free day, was the only thing that made life at all
endurable to Peter. It was a day to be looked forward to all through
the heavy week. Early in the morning, with such lunch as he could
come by, his worn Bible in his coat pocket and a package of paper
under his arm, Peter disappeared, not to return until nightfall. The
farmer's over-burdened wife was glad enough to see him go; that
meant one less for whom to cook and to wash dishes.

All the week, after his own fashion, Peter had been observing
things. On Sundays he tried to put them down on paper. He had the
great, rare, sober gift of seeing things as they are, a gift given
to the very few. A negro plowing in a flat brown field behind a
horse as patient as himself; an old woman in a red jacket and a
plaid bandana, feeding a flock of turkeys; a young girl milking; a
boy driving an unruly cow--all the homely, common, ordinary things
of everyday life among the plain people, Peter, who had been set
down among the plain people, tried to crowd on his scanty supply of
drawing-paper on Sunday in the woods.

Peter had learned to draw animals playing, and birds flying, and
butterflies fluttering, and folks working. But he couldn't draw a
decent living-wage for his daily labor. He was only a boy, and it
seemed to be a part of the scheme of things that a boy should be
asked to do a man's work for a dwarf's wages. And the food they gave
him at the Trammell farm-house was beginning to tell on him. Peter
asked for more money and was refused with contumely. He asked for a
change of diet, and was informed violently that this country is
undoubtedly going to the dogs when folks like himself "think
theirselfs too dinged uppidy for good victuals. Eat 'em or leave
'em!"

Peter couldn't eat them any more, so he left them. He discharged
himself out of hand, and went back to Riverton and Emma Campbell
with forty dollars and a bundle of sketches.

The doctor in Riverton got most of the forty dollars. However, as he
needed a boy in his drug store just then, he gave the place to
Peter, who took it willingly enough, as he was still feeling the
effects of bad food and heavy farm work. He learned to roll pills
and weigh out lime-drops and mix soft drinks, and to keep his
patience with women who wanted only a one-cent stamp, and expected
him to lick it for them into the bargain.

Grown into a gawky chap of sixteen, Peter didn't impress people too
favorably. They felt for him the instinctive distrust of the
conservative and commercial mind for the free and artistic one. The
Peter Champneyses of the world challenge the ideal of commercial
success by their utter inability to see in it the real reason for
being alive, and the chief end of man. They are inimical to smugness
and to complacent satisfaction. Naturally, safe and sane citizens
resent this.

There was one person in Riverton who didn't share the general
opinion that Peter Champneys was trifling, and that was Mrs.
Humphreys. Mrs. Humphrey still tasted that ice-cream and cake Peter
had given to old Daddy Christmas on a hot afternoon. It was she who
presently persuaded her husband to take Peter into his hardware
store, at a better salary than the doctor paid him.

Everybody agreed that it was noble of Sam Humphreys to take Peter
on. Of course, Peter was as honest as the sun, but he wasn't
businesslike. Not to be businesslike is the American sin against the
Holy Ghost. It is far less culpable to begin with the first of the
deadly sins on Sunday morning and finish up the last of the seven on
Saturday night, than to have your neighbors say you aren't
businesslike. Had Peter taken to tatting, instead of to sketching
niggers in ox-carts, and men plowing, and women washing clothes,
Riverton couldn't have been more impatient with him. Artists, so far
as the average American small town is concerned, are ineffectual
persons, godless creatures long on hair and short on morals, men
whom nobody respects until they are decently dead. It disgusted
Riverton that Peter Champneys, who had had such a nice mother and
come from a good family, should follow such examples.

But Peter meant to hold fast to his one power, though every hand in
the world were against it, though every tongue shouted "Fool,"
though for it he should go hungry and naked and friendless to the
end of his days. He wished to get away from Riverton, to study in
some large city under good teachers. Claribel Spring had stressed
the necessity of good teachers. Grimly he set himself to work to
obtain at least a start toward the coveted end.

By incredible efforts he had managed to save one hundred and ten
dollars, when Emma Campbell fell ill with a misery in her legs.
Although she had a conjure bag around her neck, a rabbit foot in her
pocket, and a horseshoe nailed above the door, she was helpless for
a while, and Peter had to hire another colored woman to care for
her.

Emma was just on her feet when Cassius took it into his head to die.
There was a confusion of husbands and wives between Emma and
Cassius, but she mourned for him shrilly. What deepened her
distress was the fact that in repudiating him his last wife had
carried off all his small possessions, and there was no money left
to bury him. Now, not to be buried with due and fitting ceremonies
and the displayed insignia of some churchly Buryin' Society, is a
calamity and a disgrace. Emma felt that she could never hope to hold
up her head again if Cassius had to be buried by town charity.

Peter Champneys hadn't lived among and liked the colored people all
these years for nothing. He looked at big Emma Campbell sitting
beside the kitchen table with her head buried in her arms, a prey to
woe. Then he went to the bank and drew what remained of his savings.
Cassius was gathered to his father's with all the accustomed
trappings, and Emma's grief was turned to proud joy. But it was
another proof of the unbusinesslike mind of Peter Champneys. His
small savings were gone; he had to begin all over again.

Decidedly, the purple heights were a long, long way off!




CHAPTER VI

GOOD MORNING, GOOD LUCK!


On a particular Sunday Peter Champneys was making for his favorite
haunt, the grass-grown clearing and the solitary and deserted cabin
by the River Swamp. It was to him a place not of desolation but of
solitude, and usually he fled to it as to a welcome refuge. But
to-day his step lagged. The divine discontent of youth, the
rebellion aginst the brute force of circumstance, seethed in him
headily. Here he was, in the lusty April of his days, and yet life
was bitter to his palate, and there was canker at the heart of the
rose of Spring. Nothing was right.

The coast country, always beautiful, was at its best, the air sweet
with the warm breath of summer. The elder was white with flowers,
and in moist places, where the ditches dipped, huge cat-tails swayed
to the light wind. Roses rioted in every garden; when one passed the
little houses of the negroes every yard was gay with pink
crape-myrtle and white and lilac Rose of Sharon trees. All along the
worm-fences the vetches and the butterfly-pea trailed their purple;
everywhere the horse-nettle showed its lovely milk-white stars, and
the orange-red milkweed invited all the butterflies of South
Carolina to come and dine at her table. There were swarms of
butterflies, cohorts of butterflies, but among all the People of the
Sky he missed the Red Admiral.

Peter particularly needed the gallant little sailor's heartening. It
was a bad sign not to meet him this morning; it confirmed his own
opinion that he was an unlucky fellow, a chap doomed to remain a
nonentity, one fitted for nothing better than scooping out a
nickel's worth of nails, or wrapping up fifty-cent frying-pans!

He walked more and more wearily, as if it tired him to carry so
heavy a heart. Life was unkind, nature cruel, fate a trickster.
One was caught, as a rat in a trap, "in the fell clutch of
circumstance." What was the use of anything? Why any of us, anyhow?

And still not a glimmer of the Admiral! At this season of the year,
when he should have been in evidence, it was ominously significant
that he should be missing. Peter trudged another half-mile, and
stopped to rest.

"Let's put this thing to the test," he said to himself, seriously.
"That little chap has always been my Sign. Well, now, if I meet one,
something good is going to happen. If I meet two, I'll get my little
chance to climb out of this hole. If I meet three, it's me for the
open and the big chance to make good. And if I don't meet any at
all--why, I'll be nobody but Riverton Peter Champneys."

He didn't give himself the chance that on a time Jean Jacques gave
himself when he threw a stone at a tree, and decided that if it
struck the tree he'd get to heaven, and if it missed he'd go to
hell--but so placed himself that there was nothing for that stone to
do but hit the tree in front of it. Peter would run his risks.

And still no Admiral! It was silly; it was superstitious; it was
childish; Peter was as well aware of that as anybody could be. But
his heart went down like a plummet.

He had turned into the grassy road that led to the River Swamp. The
pathway was bordered with sumac and sassafras and flowering elder,
and clumps of fennel, and thickets of blackberry bramble. In clear
spaces the tall candle of the mullein stood up straight, a flame of
yellow flowers flickering over it. Near by was the thistle, shaking
its purple paint-brush.

Peter stopped dead in his tracks and stared as if he weren't willing
to believe his own eyesight. He went red and white, and his heavy
heart turned a cart-wheel, and danced a jig, and began to sing as a
young heart should. On the farthest thistle, as if waiting for him
to come, as if they knew he must come, with their sails hoisted over
their backs, were three Red Admirals!

Peter dropped in the grass, doubled his long legs under him, and
watched them, his mouth turned right side up, his eyes golden in his
dark face. Two of them presently flew away. The third walked over
the thistle, tentatively, flattened his wings to show his sash and
shoulder-straps.

"Good morning, good luck! You're still my Sign!" said Peter.

The Red Admiral fluttered his wings again, as if he quite
understood. He allowed Peter to admire his under wings, the
fore-wings so exquisitely jeweled and enameled, the lower like a
miniature design for an oriental prayer-rug. He sent Peter a message
with his delicate, sensitive antenna, a wireless message of hope.
Then, with his quick, darting motion, he launched himself into his
native element and was gone.

The day took on new loveliness, a happy, intimate, all-pervading
beauty that flowed into one like light. Never had the trees been so
comradely, the grass so friendly, the swamp water so clear, so cool.

For a happy forenoon he worked in Neptune's empty cabin, whose open
windows framed blue sky and green woods, and wide, sunny spaces. He
ate the lunch Emma Campbell had fixed for him. Then he went over to
the edge of the River Swamp and lay under a great oak, and slipping
his Bible from his pocket, read the Thirty-seventh Psalm that his
mother had so loved. The large, brave, grave words splashed over him
like cool water, and the little, hateful things, that had been like
festering splinters in his flesh, vanished. There were flowering
bay-trees somewhere near by, diffusing their unforgetable fragrance;
the flowering bay is the breath of summer in South Carolina. He
sniffed the familiar odor, and listened to a redbird's whistle, and
to a mocking-bird echoing it; and to the fiddling of grasshoppers,
the whispers of trees, the quiet, soft movement of the swamp water.
The long thoughts that came to him in the open crossed his mind as
clouds cross the sky, idly, moving slowly, breaking up and drifting
with the wind. A bee buzzed about a spike of blue lobelia; ants
moved up and down the trunk of the oak-tree; birds and butterflies
came and went. With his hands under his head, Peter lay so
motionless that a great brown water-snake glided upon a branch not
ten feet distant, overhanging a brown pool whose depths a spear of
sunlight pierced. The young man had a curious sense of personal
detachment, such as comes upon one in isolated places. He felt
himself a part of the one life of the universe, one with the
whistling redbird, the toiling ants, the fluttering butterflies, the
chirping grasshoppers, the great brown snake, the trees, the water.
The earth breathed audibly against his ear. He sensed the awefulness
and beauty of this oneness of all things, and the immortality of
that oneness; and in comparison the littleness of his own personal
existence. With piercing clarity he saw how brief a time he had to
work and to experience the beauty and wonder of his universe. Then,
healingly, dreamlessly, wholesomely, he fell asleep, to wake at
sunset with a five-mile tramp ahead of him.

Long before he reached Riverton the dark had fallen. It was an
evening of many stars. The wind carried with it the salty taste of
the sea, and the smell of the warm country.

A light burned in his own dining-room, which was sitting-room as
well, and a much pleasanter room than his mother had known, for
books had accumulated in it, lending it that note books alone can
give. He had added a reading-lamp and a comfortable arm-chair. Emma
Campbell's flowers, planted in anything from a tomato-can to an old
pot, filled the windows with gay blossoms.

Peter found his supper on a covered tray on the kitchen table. Emma
herself had gone off to church. The Seventh Commandment had no
meaning for Emma, she was hazy as to mine and thine, but she clung
to church membership. She was a pious woman, given to strenuous
spells of "wrastlin' wid de Speret."

Peter fetched his tray into the dining-room, and had just touched a
match to the spirit kettle, when a motor-car honked outside his
gate.

Peter's house was at some distance from the nearest neighbour's, and
fancying this must be a complete stranger to have gotten so far off
the beaten track as to come down this short street which was nothing
but a road ending at the cove, he went to his door prepared to give
such directions as might be required.

Somebody grunted, and climbed out of the car. In the glare of the
lamps Peter made out a man as tall as himself, in a linen duster
that came to his heels, and with an automobile cap and goggles
concealing most of his face. The stranger jerked the gate open, and
a moment later Peter was confronting the goggled eyes.

"Are you," said a pleasant voice, "by good fortune, Peter
Champneys?"

"Well," said Peter, truthfully, "I can't say anything about the
good fortune of it, but I'm Peter Champneys."

The stranger paused for a moment. He said in a changed tone: "I have
come three thousand miles to have a look at and a talk with you."

"Come in," said Peter, profoundly astonished, "and do it." And he
stepped aside.

His guest shook himself out of dust-coat and goggles and stood
revealed an old man in a linen suit--a tall, thin, brown, very
distinguished-looking old man, with a narrow face, a drooping white
mustache, bushy eyebrows, a big nose, and a pair of fine, melancholy
brown eyes. He stared at Peter devouringly, and Peter stared back at
him quite as interestedly.

"Peter Champneys: Peter Devereaux Champneys, I have come across the
continent to see you. Well! Here you are--and here I am. Have you
the remotest idea _who_ I am? what my name is?" Peter shook his head
apologetically. He hadn't the remotest idea. Yet there was something
vaguely familiar in the tanned old face, some haunting likeness to
somebody, that puzzled him.

"My name," said the old gentleman, "is Champneys--Chadwick
Champneys. Your father used to call me Chad, when we were boys
together. I'm his brother--and your uncle, Nephew--and glad to make
your acquaintance. I'll take it for granted you're as pleased to
make mine. Now that I see you clearly, let me add that if I met your
skin on a bush in the middle of the Sahara desert, I'd know it for a
Champneys hide. Particularly the beak. You look like _me_." Peter
stared. It was quite true: he did resemble Chadwick Champneys. The
two shook hands.

"But, Uncle Chad--Why, we thought--Well, sir, you see, we heard you
were dead."

"Yes. I heard so myself," said Uncle Chad, serenely. "In the
meantime, may I ask you for a bite? I'm somewhat hungry."

Peter set another plate for his guest, and brewed tea, and the two
drew up to the table. Emma Campbell had provided an excellent meal,
and Mr. Chadwick Champneys plied an excellent knife and fork,
remarking that when all was said and done one South Carolina nigger
was worth six French chefs, and that he hadn't eaten anything so
altogether satisfactory for ages.

The more the young man studied the elder man's face, the better he
liked it. Figure to yourself a Don Quixote not born in Spain but in
South Carolina, not clothed in absurd armor but in a linen suit, and
who rode, not on Rosinante but in a motor-car, and you ll have a
fair enough idea of the old gentleman who popped into Peter's house
that Sunday night.

Peter asked no questions. He sat back, and waited for such
information as his guest chose to convey. He felt bewildered, and at
the same time happy. He who was so alone of a sudden found that he
possessed this relative, and it seemed to him almost too good to be
true. That the relative had never before noticed his existence, that
he was supposed to be a trifler and a ne'er-do-weel, didn't cloud
Peter's joy.

His relative put his feet on a chair, lighted and smoked a cutty,
and presently unbosomed himself, jerkily, and with some reluctance.
His wife Milly--and whenever he mentioned her name the melancholy in
his brown eyes deepened--had been dead some twelve years now. They
had had no children. He had wandered from south to west, from Mexico
and California and Yucatan to Alaska, always going to strike it
lucky and always missing it. To the day of her death Milly had stood
by, loyally, lovingly, unselfishly, his one prop and solace, his
perfect friend and comrade. There was never, he said, anybody like
her. And Milly died. Died poor, in a shack in a mining-town.

He had done something of everything, from selling patent medicines
to taking up oil and mining-claims. He couldn't stay put. He really
didn't care what happened to him, and so of course nothing happened
to him. That's the way things are.

Three years after Milly's death he had fallen in with Feilding, the
Englishman. Feilding was almost on his last legs when the two met,
and Champneys nursed him back to life. The silent, rather surly
Englishman refused to be separated from the man who, he said, had
saved his life, and the two struck up a partnership of mutual
misfortune. They tramped and starved and worked together, until
Feilding died, leaving to his partner his sole possessions--a
mining-claim and a patent-medicine recipe. He had felt about down
and out, the night Feilding died, for the Englishman was the one
real friend he had made, the one person who loved him and whom he
loved, after Milly.

But instead of his being down and out, the tide had even then turned
for Chadwick Champneys. His friendless wanderings were about done.
The mining-claim was worth a very great deal; and the patent
medicine did at least some of the things claimed for it. He took it
to a certain firm, offering them two thirds of the first and half of
the second year's profits for handling the thing for him. They
closed with the offer, and from the very first the medicine was a
money-maker. It would always be a best-seller.

And then the irony of fate stepped in and took a hand in Chadwick
Champneys's affairs. The man who had hitherto been a failure, the
man whose touch had seemed able to wither the most promising
business sprouts, found himself suddenly possessed of the Midas
touch. He couldn't go into anything that didn't double in value. He
wasn't able to fail. Let him buy a barren bit of land in Texas, say,
and oil would presently be discovered in it; or a God-forsaken tract
in the West Virginia mountains, and coal would crop out; or a huddle
of mean houses in some unfashionable city district, and immediately
commerce and improvement strode in that direction, and what he had
bought by the block he sold by the foot.

Because he was alone, and growing old, Champneys's heart turned to
his own people. He learned that his brother's orphaned son was still
in the South Carolina town. And there was a girl, Milly's niece.
These two were the only human beings with whom the rich and lonely
man could claim any family ties.

Peter was so breathless with interest and sympathy, so moved by the
wanderings of this old Ulysses, and so altogether swept off his feet
by the irruption of an uncle into his uncleless existence, that he
hadn't time for a thought as to the possible bearing it might have
upon his own fortunes. When, therefore, his uncle wound up with,
"I'll tell you, Nephew, it's a mighty comforting thing for a man to
have some one of his own blood and name close to his hand to carry
on his work and fulfil his plans," Peter came to his senses with a
shock as of ice-water poured down his backbone. He knew it wasn't in
_him_ to carry out any business schemes his uncle might have in
mind.

"Uncle Chad," said he, honestly. "Don't be mistaken about me, and
don't set your heart on trying to train me into any young Napoleon
of Finance. It's not in me." And he added, gently, "I'm sorry I'm a
dub. I'd like to please you, and I hate to disappoint you; but you
might as well know the truth at once."

Uncle Chad looked him up and down with shrewd eyes.

"So?" said he, and fell to pulling his long mustache. "What's the
whole truth, Nephew? If you don't feel equal to learning how to run
a million-dollar patent-medicine plant, what _do_ you feel you'd be
good at, hey?"

"I'm good in my own line: I want to be an artist. I am going to be
an artist, if I have to starve to death for it!" said Peter. He
spread out his hands. "I have one life to live, and one thing to
do!" he cried.

"Oh, an artist! I've never heard of any Champneys before you who
had such a hankering, though I'm quite sure it's all right, if you
like it, Nephew. There's no earthly reason why an artist shouldn't
be a gentleman, though I could wish you'd have taken over the
patent-medicine business, instead. Have you got anything I can
see?"

Shyly and reluctantly, Peter began to show him. There were two or
three oils by now; powerful sketches of country life, with its humor
and pathos; heads of children and of negroes; bits of the River
Swamp; all astonishingly well done.

"Paintings are curious things; some have got life and some haven't
got anything I can see, except paint. There was one I saw in New
York, now. I thought at first it was a mess of spinach. I stood off
and looked, and I walked up close and looked, and still I couldn't
see anything but the same green mess. But--will you believe it,
Nephew?--that thing was The Woods in Spring! Thinks I, They
evidently _boil_ their Woods in Spring up here, before painting 'em!
The things one paints nowadays don't look like the things they're
painted from, I notice. I'm afraid these things of yours look too
much like real things to satisfy folks it's real art.--You sure the
Lord meant you to be an artist?"

Peter laughed. "I'm sure I mean myself to be an artist, Uncle Chad."

"Want to get away from Riverton, don't you? But that costs money?
And you haven't got the money?"

"I want to get away from Riverton. But that costs money, and I
haven't got the money," admitted Peter.

"I see. Now, Nephew, when it gets right down to the thing he really
wants to do, every man has some horse sense, even if he happens to
be a fool in everything else. I'll talk to your horse sense and save
time."

Peter, in the midst of scattered drawings, and of the few oils
backed up against the dining-room wall, paused.

"I could wish," said his uncle, slowly, "that you were--different.
But you are what you are, and it would be a waste of time to try to
make you different. You say you have one thing to do. All right,
Peter Champneys, you shall have your chance to do it,--with a
price-tag attached. Do you want to be what you say you want to be
hard enough to be willing to pay the price for it?"

"You mean--to go away from here--to study? To see real pictures--and
be a student under a real teacher?" Peter's voice all but failed
him. His face went white, and his eyes glittered. He began to
tremble. His uncle, watching him narrowly, nodded.

"Yes. Just that. Everything that can help you, you shall have--time,
teachers, money, travel. But first you must pay me my price."

Peter could only lean forward and stare. He was afraid he was going
to wake up in a minute.

"Let me see if I can make it quite clear to you, Peter. You never
knew Milly--my wife Milly. You're not in love, Son, are you? No?
Well, you won't be able to understand--yet."

"There was my mother, sir," said Peter, gently.

"I'm sorry," said the other, just as gently. "I wish it had come
sooner, the luck. But it didn't, and I can't do anything for
Milly,--or for your mother. They're gone." For a moment he hung his
head.

"But, Peter, I can do considerable for you, and I mean to do it.
Only I can't bear to think Milly shouldn't have her share in it. We
never had a child of our own, but there's Milly's niece."

"Oh, but of course, Uncle Chad! Aunt Milly's niece ought to come in
for all you can do for her, even before me," said Peter, heartily,
and with entire good faith.

"You are your father's son," said Uncle Chad, ambiguously. "But
what I wish to impress upon you is, that neither of you comes
before the other: you come together." He paused again, and from
this time on never removed his eyes from his nephew's face, but
watched him hawk-like. "You will understand there is a great deal
of money--enough money to found a great American family. Why
shouldn't that family be the Champneyses? Why shouldn't the
Champneyses be restored to their old place, put where they
rightfully belong? And who and what should bring this about,
except you, and Milly's niece, and my money!"

"I'm afraid I don't quite understand," said Peter, and looked as
bewildered as he felt. He wasn't a quick thinker. "What is it you
wish me to do?"

Still holding his eyes, "I want you to marry Milly's niece," said
Chadwick Champneys. "_That's my price_."

"Marry? I? Oh, but, Uncle Chad! Why, I don't even know the girl, nor
she me! I've never so much as heard of her until this minute!" cried
Peter.

"What difference does that make? Men and women never know each other
until after they're married anyhow," said his uncle, sententiously.
"Peter, do you really wish to go abroad and study? Very well, then:
marry Milly's niece. I'll attend to everything else."

"But _why_? My good God! why?" Peter's eyes popped.

"Nephew," said his uncle, patiently, "you are the last Champneys;
she is Milly's niece--my Milly's niece. And Milly is dead, and I am
practically under sentence of death myself. I have got to put my
affairs in order. I'd hardly learned I was a very rich man before I
also learned my time was limited. On high authority. Heart, Nephew.
I may last for several years. Or go out like a puff of wind, before
morning."

Peter was so genuinely shocked and distressed at this that his uncle
smiled to himself. The boy was a true Champneys.

"There is no error in the diagnosis, so I accept what I can't help,
and in the meantime arrange my affairs. Now, Nephew Peter, business
man or artist the Champneys name is in your keeping. You are the
head of the house, so to speak. I supply the funds to refurnish the
house, we'll say, and I give you your opportunity to do what you
want to do, to make your mark in your own way. In exchange you
accept the wife I provide for you. When I meet Milly again, I want
to tell her there's somebody of her own blood bearing our name,
taking the place of the child we never had, enjoying all the good
things we missed, and enjoying them with a Champneys, _as_ a
Champneys. If there are to be Champneys children, I want Milly's
niece to bear them. I won't divide my money between two separate
houses; it must all go to Peter Champneys and his wife, that wife
being Milly's niece." His eyes began to glitter, his mouth hardened.
"It is little enough to ask!" he cried, raising his voice. "I give
you everything else. I do not ask you to change your profession. I
make that profession possible by supplying the means to pursue it.
In payment you marry Milly's niece."

His manner was so passionately earnest that the astonished boy took
his head in his hands to consider this amazing proposition.

"But how in heaven's name can I study if I'm plagued with a wife?"
he demanded. "I want to be foot-loose!"

"All right. You shall be foot-loose, for seven years, let's say,"
said his uncle, quietly. "I reason that if you are ever going to be
anything, you'll at least have made a beginning within seven years!
You're twenty now, are you not? When you marry my girl, you shall go
abroad immediately. She'll stay with me until her education is
completed. Your wife shall be trained to take her proper place in
the world. On your twenty-seventh birthday you will return and claim
her. I do not need anything more than the bare word of a Champneys
that he'll be what a man should be. Milly's niece will be safe in
your keeping.--Well?"

"Let me think a bit, Uncle."

"Take until morning. In the meanwhile, please help me get my car
under shelter, and show me where I turn in for the night." Being in
some things a very considerate old man, he did not add that he had
found the day strenuous, and that his strength was ebbing.

Peter, lying on the lounge in the dining-room, was unable to sleep.
Was this the chance his mother had said would come? Wasn't matrimony
rather a small price to pay for it? Or was it? And--hadn't he
promised his mother to take it when it came, for the sake of all
the Champneyses dead and gone, and for her own sake who had loved
him so tenderly and believed in him against all odds?

At dawn he stole out of the house, and walked the three miles to the
country cemetery where his mother slept beside his father. He sat
beside her last bed, and remembered the cold hand that had crept
into his, the faltering whisper that prayed him to take his chance
when it came, and to prove himself.

If he refused this miraculous opportunity, there would be Riverton,
and the hardware store, or other country stores similar to it, to
the end of his days. No freedom, no glorious opportunities, no work
of brain and hand together, no beauty wrought of thought and
experience; the purple peaks fading into farther and farther
distances until they faded out of his sky altogether; and himself a
sorry plodder in a path whose dust choked him. Peter shuddered.
Anything but that!

Mr. Chadwick Champneys was sitting by the dining-room table talking
to astonished Emma Campbell, and stroking the cat, when Peter came
swinging into the room.

"Well?" with a keen glance at his nephew's face.

"Yes," said Peter, deliberately.

The old man went on stroking the cat for a moment or so, while Emma
Campbell, the hominy-spoon in her hand, watched them both. She
understood that something momentous portended. Not for nothing had
this shrewd, imperious old man whom she had known in his youth as
wild Chad Champneys, led Emma on to tell him all she knew about the
family history since his departure, years ago. When Emma had
finished, Chadwick Champneys felt that he knew his nephew to the
bone; and it was Champneys bone!

"Thank you, Nephew," said he, in a deep voice. "You're a good lad.
You won't regret your bargain. I promise you that."

He turned to Emma Campbell:

"If my breakfast is ready, I'm ready too, Emma." And to Peter: "We
were renewing our old acquaintance, Emma and I, while you were out,
Nephew. She hasn't changed much: she's still the biggest nigger and
the best cook and the faithfulest friend in all Carolina."

"Oh, go 'long, Mist' Chad! Who you 'speck ought to look after Miss
Maria's chile, 'ceptin' ole Emma Campbell? Lawd 'a' mussy, ain't I
wiped 'is nose en dusted 'is britches sense he bawn? Dat Peter, he
belonged to Miss Maria en me. He's we chile," said Emma Campbell.

Over his coffee Mr. Champneys outlined his plans carefully and
succinctly. Peter was to hold himself in readiness to proceed
whither his uncle would direct him by wire. In the meantime he was
to settle his affairs in Riverton.

"Uncle Chad," said Peter, to whom the thought had just occurred,
"Uncle Chad, now that I have agreed to do what you wish me to do,
what is the young lady's name? You didn't tell me."

"Her name? Why, God bless my soul, I forgot, I forgot! Well! Her
name's Anne Simms. Called Nancy. Soon be Nancy Champneys, thank
Heaven!" And he repeated: "Nancy Champneys! Anne Champneys!"

"Uncle," said Peter, deprecatingly, "you'll understand--I'm a little
interested--excuse me for asking you--but what does the young lady
look like?"

Mr. Chadwick Champneys blinked at his nephew.

"Look like? You want to know what Milly's niece looks like?"

"Yes, sir," said Peter, modestly. "I--er--that is, the thought
occurred to me to ask you what she looks like."

Mr. Champneys scratched the end of his nose, pulled his mustache,
and looked unhappy.

"Nephew Peter," said he, "do what I do: take it for granted Milly's
niece looks like any other girl--nose and mouth and hair and eyes,
you know. But I can't describe her to you in detail."

"No? Why?" Peter wondered.

"Because I have never laid eyes on her," said his uncle.

"Oh!" Peter looked thunderstruck.

"I came to you first," explained his uncle. "I gave you first whack.
Now I'm going to see her."

"Oh!" said Peter, still more thunderstruck.

"I'll wire you when you're to come," said his uncle, briskly, and
got into dust-coat, cap, and goggles. A few minutes later, before
the little town was well awake, he vanished in a cloud of dust down
the Riverton Road.




CHAPTER VII

WHERE THE ROAD DIVIDED


Emma Campbell stood in the middle of the kitchen floor, lips pursed,
eyes fixed on vacancy, a dish-cloth dangling from one hand, a
carving-knife clutched in the other, and projecked. And the more she
projecked about what was happening in Peter's house, the less she
liked it. It had never occurred to Emma Campbell that Peter might go
away from Riverton. Yet now he was going, and it had been taken for
granted that she, Emma, who, as she said, had "raised 'im from a
puppy up'ards," wouldn't mind staying on here after his departure.
Fetching a cold sigh from the depths of an afflicted bosom, Emma
moved snail-like toward the work in hand; and as she worked she
howled dismally that nobody knew the trouble she saw, "nobody knew
but you, Lawd."

When Peter came in to dinner, she addressed him with distant
politeness as Mistuh Champneys, instead of the usual Mist' Peter.
When he spoke to her she accordion-plaited her lips, and stuck her
eyes out at him. Her head, adorned with more than the usual quota of
toothpicks, brought the quills upon the fretful porcupine forcibly
to one's mind.

Nobody but Peter Champneys could or would have borne with Emma
Campbell's contrary fits, but as neither of them realized this they
managed to get along beautifully. Peter was well aware that when the
car that had suddenly appeared in the night had just as suddenly
disappeared in the morning in a cloud of dust on the Riverton Road,
Emma's peace of mind had vanished also. He understood, and was
patient.

She clapped a platter of crisp fried chicken before him, and stood
by, eyeing him and it grimly. And when hungry Peter thrust his fork
into a tempting piece, "You know who you eatin'?" she demanded
pleasantly.

Peter didn't know whom he was eating; fork suspended, he looked at
Emma questioningly.

"You eatin' Lula, dat who you eatin'," Emma told him with grisly
unction. "Dem 's de same laigs use to scratch roun' we kitchen do'.
Dat 's de same lovin'-hearted hen I raise fum a baby. But, Lawd!
Whut _you_ care? _You 's_ de sort kin go trapesin' off by yo'se'f
over de worl'. You dat uppidy dese days, whut _you_ care 'bout
eatin' up po' lil Lula? _She_ ain't nobody but us-all's chicken,
nohow!"

Peter looked doubtfully at "po' lil Lula's" remains, and laid down
his fork. Somehow, one can't be keen about eating a loving-hearted
hen.

"But, Emma, we eat our chickens all the time! You've fried me many a
chicken without raising a row about it!" he protested.

"Who tol' you dey wuz ours?"

As Peter hadn't a fitting reply in return for this ambiguous query,
Emma bounced out of the dining-room, to return in a moment with the
tea-pot; when Peter held out his cup, she poured into it plain
boiling water. At that she set the tea-pot hastily upon the table,
threw her gingham apron over her head, and plumped upon the floor
with a thud that made the house shake. It frightened the cat into
going through the window at a leap, taking with him all the flowers
planted in tomato-cans.

"Emma," said Peter, severely, "I'm ashamed of you! Take that silly
apron off your head and listen to me. You know very well you aren't
being left to shift for yourself. You'll be provided for better than
you've ever been. Why, all you'll have to do--"

"All I 'll hab to do is jes' crawl into my grave en stay dere. I
done raised 'im fum de egg up, en now he 's got comb en kin crow it
's tail-feathers over de fence en fly off wid 'im! Ah, Lawd! You
done made 'em en You knows whut roosters is like!"

"Emma! Look here, confound it!--"

"Who gwine look after 'im? I axes you fum my heart, who gwine do
it?--Never did hab no mo' sense dan a rabbit widout I 's by, en now
dey aims to tun 'im loose! Ah, Lawd!"

"Emma, listen! Emma, what the--"

"Dem furrin women 'll do 'im lak dem women done po' old Cassius.
_Dey 'll conjure 'im_! En widout I by, who gwine make 'im put one
live frawg on 'is nekked stummick, so 's to sweat de speret o' dat
frawg een, en de speret o' dat conjure out? No-buddy. Den he 'll up
en die. Widout one Gawd's soul o' 'is own folkses to put de coppers
on 'is eyes en' tie up de corpse's jaws.--Ah Lawd, ah Lawd!"

"Oh, shut up, you old idiot! I'm not coming home to my meals any
more, if this is how you're going to behave!" This from Peter,
disgustedly.

"Ain't you, suh? All right, suh, Mistuh Champneys, you 's be boss.
But I glad to my Gawd Miss Maria ain't 'yuh to see dis day!" And
Emma began to sniffle.

Peter pushed his untouched dinner aside, and reached for his hat. He
looked at Emma Campbell irefully.

"Damn!" exploded Peter.

Emma Campbell got to her feet with astounding quickness, ran into
the kitchen, and returned in a moment with another platter of
chicken, rice, and gravy.

"'Yuh, chile. Set down en eat yo' bittles. You ain't called on to
hab no hard feelin's 'bout _dis_ chicken. 'T ain't none o' ours,
nohow." Peter resumed his chair and waived cross-examination.

Mr. Champneys having come, so to speak, between dark and daylight,
Riverton knew nothing about his visit, for Peter hadn't thought to
inform them. This affair seemed so unreal, so improbable, so up in
the air, that he dared not mention it. Suppose it mightn't be true,
after all. Suppose fate played a cruel joke. Suppose Mr. Champneys
changed his mind. So Peter, who had a horror of talk, and writhed
when asked personal questions by people who felt that they had a
perfect right to know all about his business, kept strict silence,
and enjoined the same silence upon Emma Campbell, who could be
trusted to hold her tongue when bidden.

Now, one simply cannot remember the price of pots and pans and
sheet-iron and plows and ax-handles, when one is living in the
beginning of an astounding fairy story, when the most momentous
change is impending, when one's whole way of life is about to be
diverted into different channels. The things one hates, like being a
hardware clerk, for instance, automatically slide into the
background when the desire of the heart approaches.

But Mr. Humphreys, whose mind and fortune naturally enough centered
in his hardware store, couldn't be expected to know that the
impossible had happened for Peter Champneys. He would hardly be able
to take Peter's bare word for it, even if Peter should tell him: he
didn't know that his absent-minded clerk really liked him, and
longed to tell him that he was leaving Riverton shortly--he hoped
for years and years--and was only awaiting the message that should
speed his departure. Mr. Humphreys, then, cannot be blamed for
complaining with feeling and profanity that of all the damidjits he
had ever seen in his life, Peter Champneys was about the worst.
Loony was no name for him, and what was to become of such a chump he
didn't know. "If this thing keeps up, he'll be drooling before he's
forty, and we'll have to hire a nigger to feed him out of a
papspoon," said Mr. Humphreys, forebodingly.

And in the meanwhile the days dragged and dragged--two whole weeks
of suspense and expectancy. On the Monday of the third week the end
of Peter's waiting and of Mr. Humphreys's patience came together.
One, in fact, brought about the other. The postman who drove in with
the daily mail brought for Peter Champneys the yellow envelope
toward which he had been looking with such feverish impatience.

He was really to go! The young man experienced that reeling,
ecstatic shock which shakes one when a long-delayed desire suddenly
assumes reality. He stood with the telegram in his fingers, and
stared about the dusty, dingy, uninteresting store, and saw as with
new eyes how hopelessly hideous it really was; and wondered and
wondered if he were really himself, Peter Champneys, who was going
to get away from it.

At that moment stout old Mrs. Beach entered the store and waddled up
to him. Mrs. Beach was a woman who never knew what she really
wanted, or if, indeed, she really wanted anything in particular; but
then again, as she said, she _might_. She didn't like to leave her
house often; and when she did finally make up her mind to dress and
go out, she popped into every store she happened to pass, on the
chance that she _might_ want something from it, and would thus save
herself an extra trip to get it. She would say to a perspiring
clerk:

"Now, let me see: there's something I wanted to get from this
store. I know it, because on Tuesday last something happened to put
me in mind of it--or was it Wednesday, maybe? I know it's something
I need about the house--or maybe the yard. You'll have to help me
out. I've got a poor memory, but you just sort of run over a list of
things folks would be most likely to need and maybe you'll hit on
the right thing, and if it's that I want, I'll get it right now.
Don't stand there like a hitching-post, boy! Why can't you suggest
something, and help out a woman old enough to be your mother?"

If by some fortuitous chance you happened to hit upon an article she
thought she might happen to need, and it suited her, she would buy
it. But it never occurred to her to thank you for your help, or to
apologize for the nerve-racking strain to which she subjected you.

"Young man," said her testy voice in Peter's ear, "I've got to get
something and I can't remember what it is. You've got to help me. I
can't be wasting my time at my age o' life running around to
hardware stores."

Peter thrust the miraculous telegram in his pocket, where he could
feel it burn and tingle. Oh, it was true, it was true! He was going
to get away from all this!

"For heaven's sake, boy, don't stand there gawping at me like a
thunderstruck owl! You surely know about everything you've got in
this store, don't you? Well, then, Peter Champneys, look about you
and see if you can't light on what I'm most likely to need!"

Peter, mind on the telegram in his pocket, did indeed look at the
old lady owlishly. Hazily he remembered certain grueling, sweating
half-hours spent in trying to discover what Mrs. Beach thought she
might want to buy. Hazily he looked from her to the littered
shelves, and reached for the first object upon which his eyes
happened to fall.

"Yes 'm, Mrs. Beach. I reckon this is what you'd most likely
_need_," said Peter, gently, and placed in her hand a fine new
muzzle. (Paris, maybe Rome; and Florence! Oh, names to conjure with!
And he should see them all, walk their historic streets, view
immortal work, stand before immortal canvases, and say with
Correggio: "And I, too, am a painter!")

"Oh, my dear Lord, save me from bursting wide open! Why, you
impudent young reprobate!" Mrs. Beach's outraged voice banished his
dream. "For two pins, Peter Champneys, I'd take you across my knees
and spank the seat off your breeches! I need a muzzle, do I? I'm to
be insulted by a little squirt that's just learning to keep his ears
clean! Well! Girl and woman I've been dealing with Sam Humphreys and
his father before him, but from this day forth I put no foot of mine
across this store door!" All the while she spoke she brandished the
muzzle at Peter and kept backing him off into a corner.

Mr. Humphreys came hurriedly out of his office upon hearing the
uproar, and sought with soothing speech to placate his irate old
friend and customer. But Mrs. Beach wasn't to be placated. She went
out of the door and down the street like a hat on a windy day.

Mr. Humphreys watched her go. Then he turned and looked at Peter
Champneys, ominously:

"Peter,"--Mr. Humphreys, carefully restraining himself, spoke in low
and dulcet tones--"Peter, I have tried to do my duty as a Christian
man; now I have to do it as a hardware man, and right here is where
you and I say good-by. I have passed over," said Mr. Humphreys,
swallowing hard, "your sending gravel to the grocer and a bellows to
the minister by mistake; but this is the limit. If there is anybody
advertising for a gilt-edged failure as a salesman, you go apply for
the job and say I recommend you enthusiastically. I hate like the
devil to fire you, Peter, but it's a plain case of self-defense with
me: I have to do it. You're fired. Now. Come on in the office," said
Mr. Humphreys, eagerly, "and I'll pay you off."

Peter slid his hand into his pocket and pinched that precious slip
of paper. Then he smiled into Mr. Humphreys's empurpled visage.

"Why, thank you, Mr. Humphreys," said he, gratefully. "I know just
how you feel, and I don't blame you in the least. I've been wanting
to tell you I had to quit, and you've saved me the trouble."

Sam Humphreys knew that Peter Champneys had no right to stand there
and smile like that at such a solemn moment. He should have appeared
ashamed, downcast, humanly perturbed; and he didn't in the least.

"I've been wondering ever since the first day I hired you how I was
going to keep from firing you before nightfall. Now the end's come.
Say--suppose you go on home, right now. Because," said Mr.
Humphreys, softly, "I mightn't be able to refrain from committing
justifiable homicide. I'll send you your salary to-night. Go on
home. Please!"

To his horror, Peter Champneys of a sudden laughed aloud. It was
genuine laughter, that rang true and gay and glad. His eyes
sparkled, and a dash of good red jumped into his sallow cheeks.

"Good-by, then, Mr. Humphreys. And thank you for many kindnesses,
and for real patience," said Peter. He waved his hand at the dusty
store in a wide-flung gesture of glad farewell.

"Oh, my God! He's run plumb crazy!" cried Mr. Humphreys, mopping his
brow. "I always said that boy wasn't natural!"

But Peter, walking home in the bright afternoon sunlight, for the
first time in his life felt young and free and happy. He wanted to
laugh, to sing, to shout, to skip. Emma Campbell was just bringing
the washed-and-dried dinner dishes back into the dining-room when he
bounced in.

"Emma," said he, sticking his thumbs into the armholes of his
waistcoat, and beaming at her, "Emma, I'm out of a job. Kicked out
neck and crop. Fired, thank God!"

Emma stacked her dishes on the old deal dresser.

"Is you?"

"I sure am. And, Emma, listen. I--I'm sort of waked up. Even if
things shouldn't turn out as I hope they will, I'll manage to go
ahead, somehow. I'd get out, now, under any circumstances. Pike's
Peak or bust!" said Peter.

"When you 'speck to go?"

"Just as soon as I can get out. I'm expected in New York within ten
days at the latest. And then, Emma, the wide world! No more
little-town tittle-tattle! All I've got to do, in the big world, is
to deliver the goods. And I'm going to deliver the goods!" said
Peter.

But Emma Campbell put her grizzled head on the dining-room table and
began to cry.

"I nussed you w'en you had de croup en de colic. I used to tromp up
en down dis same no' wid you 'crost my shoulder. It was me dressed
Miss Maria de day she married wid yo' pa, en it was me dressed 'er
for de coffin. You en me been stannin' togedder ever sence. How I
gwine stan' by my alonese 'f now? I ole now, Mist' Peter."

"Emma," said Peter, after a pause, "tell me exactly what you want me
to do for you and if I can I'll do it."

"I wants to go wid you. I jes' natchelly ain't gwine stay 'yuh by my
alonese 'f," wept Emma.

Peter looked at her with the sort of tenderness one must be born in
the South to understand. Born in the last years of slavery, brought
up in wild Reconstruction days, Emma couldn't read or write. She
wasn't amenable to discipline. She was, as Cassius had complained,
"so contrary she mus' be 'flicted wid de moonness." She wore a
rabbit foot and a conjure bag and believed in ha'nts and hoodoos.
But, as far back as he could remember, Emma Campbell had formed a
large part of the background of his life. He wondered just what he
would have done if it hadn't been for Emma, after his mother's
death. There slid into his mind the picture of a shabby youngster
weeping over a cheap green-and-gold Collection of Poetic Gems; and
he reached over and laid a brown hand upon a black one.

"Well, and why not?" mused Peter. "You stood by me when I hadn't any
money; why should you leave me the minute I get it? But are you sure
you really want to go along, Emma? I'm going into a foreign country,
remember. You won't be able to understand a word anybody says.
You'll be a mighty lonesome old nigger over there."

"I can talk wid my cat, can't I?"

"Holy Moses! What, the cat, too?" Peter ran his hands through his
hair, distractedly.

"Whah you goes, I goes. En whah I goes, dat cat goes. Dat cat 's
we-all's folks."

"Oh, all right," said Peter, resignedly. After all, Emma Campbell
and the cat _were_ all the folks he had.

He went to Charleston the next morning, in accordance with the
instructions his uncle had given him in their last talk, and the
bank at which he presented himself treated him with distinguished
consideration. Peter heard for the first time the dulcet accents of
Money.

Like Mr. Wilfer in "Our Mutual Friend," Peter had never had
everything all together all at once. When he had a suit his shoes
were shabby, and when it got around to shoes his coat was shiny in
the seams and his hat of last year's vintage. He was boyishly
delighted to buy at one time all that he wanted, but as
made-to-order clothes were altogether outside of his reckoning as
yet, he bought ready-made. His taste was too simple to be
essentially bad, but you knew he was a country boy in store clothes
and a made tie.

He had never been in Charleston before, and he reveled in the
ineluctable charm of the lovely old town. No South Carolinian is
ever disappointed in Charleston. Peter thought the city resembled
one of her own old ladies, a dear dignified gentlewoman in reduced
circumstances, in a worn silk gown and a mended lace cap and a cameo
brooch. It might be against the old gentlewoman's religious
convictions to bestow undue care upon her personal appearance, but
hers was a venerable, unforgetable, and most beautiful old face for
all that, and perhaps because of it. She knew that the kingdom of
God is within; and being sure of that, she was sure of herself,
serene, unpainted, unpretentious.

Peter wandered by old walled gardens in which were set wrought-iron
gates that allowed the passer-by a glimpse of greenery and flowers,
but prevented encroachments upon family privacy. Every now and then
a curving balustrade, a gable, a window, or an old doorway of
surpassing charm made his fingers itch for pencil and paper. He
reflected, without bitterness, that the doors of every one of these
fine old houses had on a time opened almost automatically to a
Champneys. Some of these folk were kith and kin, as his mother had
remembered and they, perhaps, had forgotten. This didn't worry him
in the least: the real interest the houses had for Peter was that
this one had a picturesque garden gate, that one a door with a
fan-light he'd like to sketch.

He climbed St. Michael's belfry stairway and looked over the city,
and toward the sea; and later wandered through its historic
churchyard. One very simple memorial held him longest, because it is
the only one of its kind among all those records of state honor and
family pride, and seems rather to belong to the antique Greek and
Roman world which accepted death as the final fact, than to a
Carolina churchyard.

                SARAH JOHNSTON
             born in this province
                 29th May 1690
             Died 26th April 1774
          In the 84th year of her age.

          How lovd how valu'd once avails Thee not
          To whom related or by whom begot
            A heap of dust alone remains of Thee.

That covered the Champneyses, too. To whom related or by whom begot,
a heap of dust alone remained of them. So much for all human pride!
Peter left St. Michael's dead to slumber in peace, and walked for
an hour on the Battery, and in Legare Street, where life is
brightest in the old city. All good Charlestonians think that after
the final resurrection there may be a new heaven and a new earth for
others, but for themselves a house in Legare Street or on the
Battery.

Peter presently reappeared in Riverton, discreetly clad in his
customary clothes, the habits of thrift being yet so firmly
ingrained in him that he couldn't easily wear his best clothes on a
week-day.

"Peter! You Peter Champneys! Look here a minute, will you?" Mrs.
Beach called, as he was passing her house.

Peter stopped. His smiling countenance somewhat astonished Mrs.
Beach.

"Peter, I've heard about Sam Humphreys firing you on account of me
getting mad at you about that muzzle. Now, while I know in my heart
you'd have been fired about something or other, sooner or later, I
do wish to my Lord it hadn't been on account of me. Not that I don't
think you're an impudent young rapscallion, that never sets his nose
inside a church door, and insults old women with muzzles. But I knew
your mother well, and I wish it wasn't on account of me Sam
Humphreys discharged you." There was real feeling in the testy old
lady's face and voice.

"Don't you bother your head about it one minute more, Mrs. Beach.
All I'm sorry for is that I appeared to be impertinent to you, when
I hadn't any such notion. I was thinking about something else at
the time. So you'll just have to forgive me."

"I do," said the old lady, mollified. After all, Maria Champneys's
boy couldn't be altogether trifling! "Is what I hear true, that
you're going away from Riverton? Folks say you've got a job in the
city."

"Yes 'm, I'm going away."

"I reckon it's just as well. You'll do better away from Riverton.
You'll have to."

"Yes 'm, I'll have to," agreed Peter. He held out his hand, and the
old lady found herself wringing it, and wishing him good luck.

At home he found Emma Campbell carefully packing up all the
worthless plunder it had taken her many years to collect. When he
had heartlessly rejected all she didn't need, she had one small
trunk and a venerable carpet-bag. Everything else was nailed up. The
house itself was to be looked after by the town marshal, who was
also the town real-estate agent. Peter was very vague as to his
return.

No railroad runs through Riverton, but the river steamers come and
go daily, the town usually quitting work to foregather at the pier
to welcome coming and speed departing travelers. All Riverton made
it a point to be on hand the morning Peter Champneys left home to
seek his fortune.

Peter never did anything like anybody else. There was always some
diverting bit of individual lunacy to make his proceedings
interesting. This morning Riverton discovered that Emma Campbell was
going away, too. Emma appeared in a black cashmere dress, a
blue-and-white checked gingham apron on which a basket of flowers
was embroidered in red cross-stitch, and a white bandana
handkerchief wound around her head under a respectable black sailor
hat. She carried a large, square cage that had once housed a
mocking-bird, and now held the Champneys big black cat. Laughter and
delighted comments greeted the bird-cage, and her carpet-bag
received almost as much attention and applause. Riverton hadn't seen
a bag like that since Reconstruction, and it made the most of its
opportunity.

"Emma! Aren't you afraid you'll let the cat out of the bag?"

Emma remained haughtily silent.

"Emma, where you-all goin'?"

"We-all gwine whah we gwine, dat 's whah we gwine." This from Emma,
succinctly.

"What you goin' to do when you get there?" persisted the wag.

"Who, us? We gwine do whut you-all ain't know how to do: we gwine
min' our own business," said Emma, politely.

"Good-by, Peter! Don't set the world on fire, old scout!"

When the boat turned the bend in the river that hid the small town
of his birth from his view, Peter felt shaken as he had never
thought to be. Good-by, little home town, where the slings and
arrows of outrageous fortune had rained upon him!

The boat swung into a side channel to escape a sand-bar. She was in
deep water, but very close to the shore, so close that he could see
the leaves on the trees quivering and shimmering in the river breeze
and the late summer sunlight. Over there, as the crow flies, lay the
River Swamp, and Neptune's gray, deserted cabin. They had been his
refuge. No other place, no other woods in all the world could quite
take their place, or be like them. And he knew there would be many a
day when he must ache with homesick longing for the coast country,
for the tide-water, and the jessamines, and the moon above the
pines, and the scent of the bay in flower on summer nights. The
world was opening her wide spaces. But the Carolina coast was
_home_.

"I wish," said Peter, and his chin quivered, "I wish there were some
one thing that typified you, something of you I could take with me
wherever I go. I wish you had a spirit I could see, and know."

Out from the shore-line, where the earliest golden-rod was just
beginning to show that it intended to blossom by and by, and the
ironweed was purple, and the wild carrot was white and lacy, and the
orange-red milkweed was about ready to close her house for the
season, came fluttering with a quick, bold sureness the gallantest
craft of all the fairy sail-boats of the sky, hovered for a bright
second over the steamer's rail, and scudded for the other shore.

Peter Champneys straightened his shoulders. Youth and courage and
hope flashed into his wistful face, and brightened his eyes that
followed the Red Admiral.




CHAPTER VIII

CINDERELLA


It wasn't a pleasant house, being of a dingy, bilious-yellow
complexion, with narrow window eyes, and a mean slit of a doorway
for a mouth; not sinister, but common, stupid, and uninteresting. If
one should happen to be a house-psychologist, one would know that
behind the Nottingham lace curtains looped back with soiled red
ribbons, was all the tawdry, horrible junk that clutters such
houses, even as mental junk clutters the minds of the people who
have to live in them. One knew that the people who dwelt in that
house didn't know how to live, how to think, or how to cook; and
that if by any chance a larger life, a real thought, or a bit of
good cooking confronted them, they would probably reject it with
suspicion.

The elderly gentleman in white linen who made acquaintance with this
particular house on a very sultry noon in early August, hesitated
before he rang the bell. He glanced over his shoulder at the hot,
dusty street where a swarm of hot, dusty children were shrilling and
shrieking, or staring at him round-eyed, dived into his pockets,
fished up a handful of small change, whistled to insure their
greater attention, and flung the coin among them. While they were
snatching at the money like a flock of pigeons over a handful of
grain, the elderly gentleman rang the bell. He could hear it
jangling through the house, but it brought no immediate response.
After a decent interval he rang again. This time the door was jerked
open, and a girl in a bungalow apron, upon which she was wiping her
hands, confronted him. She was a very young girl, a very hot, tired,
perspiring, and sullen girl, fresh from a broiling kitchen and a
red-hot stove.

She looked at the caller suspiciously, her glance racing over his
linen suit, his white shoes, the Panama hat in his hand. She was
puzzled, for plainly this wasn't the usual applicant for board and
lodging. Perhaps, then, he was a successful house-to-house agent for
some indispensable necessity--say an ice-pick that would pull nails,
open a can, and peel potatoes. Or maybe a religious book agent. She
rather suspected him of wanting to sell her Biblical Prophecies
Elucidated by a Chicago Seer, or something like that. Or, stay:
perhaps he was a church scout sent out to round up stray souls.
Whatever he might be, she was bitterly resentful of having been
taken from the thick of her work to answer his ring. She wasn't
interested in her soul, her hot and tired body being a much more
immediate concern. Heaven is far off, and hell has no terrors and
less interest for a girl immured in a red-hot kitchen in a Middle
Western town in the dog-days.

"If it's a Bible, we got one. If it's sewin'-machines, we ain't,
but don't. If it's savin' our souls, we belong to church reg'lar an'
ain't interested. If it's explainin' God, nothin' doin'! An' if it's
tack-pullers with nail-files an' corkscrews on 'em, you can save
your breath," said the girl rapidly, in a heated voice, and with a
half-dry hand on the door-knob.

Mr. Chadwick Champneys's long, drooping mustache came up under his
nose, and his bushy eyebrows twitched.

"I am not trying to sell anything," he said hurriedly, in order to
prevent her from shutting the door in his face, which was her
evident intention.

She said impatiently: "If you're collectin', this ain't our day for
payin', an' you got to call again. Come next week, on Tuesday. Or
maybe Wednesday or Thursday or Friday or Sattiday." The door began
to close.

He inserted a desperate foot.

"I wish to see Miss Simms--Miss Anne, or Nancy Simms. My information
is that she lives in this house. I should have stated my errand at
once, had I been allowed to do so." He looked at the girl
reprovingly.

Before she could reply, a female voice from a back region rose
stridently:

"Nancy! You Nancy! What in creation you mean, gassin' this hour o'
day when them biscuits is burnin' up in the oven? Send that feller
about his business, whatever it is, and you come tend to yours!"

The girl hesitated, and frowned.

"If you come to see Anne Simms, same as Nancy Simms, I'm her--I
mean, she's me," said she, hurriedly. "I got no time to talk with
you now, Mister, but you can wait in the parlor until I dish up
dinner, and whilst they're eatin' I'll have time to run up and see
what you want. Is it partic'ler?"

"Very."

"Come on in an' wait, then."

"Nancy! You want I should come up there after you? Oh, my stars, an'
that girl _knows_ how partic'ler Poppa is about his biscuits; they
gotta be jest so or he won't look at 'em, an' her gassin' and him
likely to raise the roof!" screamed the voice.

"Oh, shut up! I'm comin'," bawled the girl in reply. "You better sit
over there by the winder, Mister," she told her visitor, hastily.
"There's a breeze there, maybe. You'll find to-day's paper an' a fan
on the table." She vanished, and he could hear her running
kitchenward, and the shrieking voice subsiding into a whine.

Mr. Chadwick Champneys slumped limply into a chair. Everything he
looked at added to his sense of astonishment and unease.

The outside of the house hadn't lied: the inside matched it. Mr.
Champneys found himself staring and being stared at by the usual
crayon portraits of defunct members of the family,--at least he
hoped they were defunct,--the man with a long mule face and neck
whiskers; and opposite him his spouse, with her hair worn like
mustard-plasters on the skull. "Male and female created He them."
Placed so that you had to see it the moment you entered the
door, on a white-and-gold easel draped with a silkoline scarf
trimmed with pink crocheted wheels, was a virulently colored
landscape with a house of unknown architecture in the foreground,
and mother-of-pearl puddles outside the gate. Mr. Champneys
studied those mother-of-pearl puddles gravely. They hurt his
feelings. So did the ornate golden-oak parlor set upholstered in
red plush; and the rug on the floor, in which colors fought like
Kilkenny cats; and a pink vase with large purple plums bunched on
it; and the figured wall-paper, and the unclean lace curtains,
and the mantel loaded with sorry plunder, and the clothespin
butterflies, the tissue-paper parasols, and the cheap fans tacked
to the walls. It was a hot and dusty room. The smell of bad
cooking, of countless miserable meals eaten by men whose
digestion they would ruin, clung to it and would not be gainsaid.
Mr. Champneys thought the best thing that could happen to such
houses would be a fire beginning in the cellar and ending at the
roof.

His mind went back to another house--an old white house in South
Carolina, set in spacious grounds, with high-ceilinged, cool, large
rooms filled with fine old furniture, a few pictures, glimpses of
brass and silver, large windows opening upon lawns and trees and
shrubs and flowers, a flash of blue river, a vista of green marshes
melting into the cobalt sky. A stately, lovely, leisurely old house,
typifying the stately, leisurely life that had called it into being;
both gone irrevocably into the past. He sighed.

He looked about this atrocious room, and his jaw hardened. This,
for Milly's niece! Poor girl, poor friendless girl! He had known, of
course, that the girl was poor. He and Milly had been poor, too.
But, oh, never like this! This was being poor sordidly, vulgarly.
He had seen and suffered enough in his time to realize how
soul-murdering this environment might be to one who knew nothing
better. He himself had had the memory of the old house in which he
was born, and of low-voiced, gentle-mannered men and women; he had
had his fine traditions to which to hold fast. He reflected that he
would have a great deal to make up for to Nancy Simms!

The noon whistle had blown. People had begun to come in, men whose
first movement on entering was to peel off collars and coats. They
barely glanced at the quiet, white-clad figure as they passed the
open parlor door, but stampeded for the basement dining-room. Mr.
Champneys could hear the scraping of chairs, the rattling of dishes,
the hum of loud conversation; then the steady clatter of knives and
forks, and a dull, subdued murmur. Dinner was in full swing, a
dinner of which boiled cabbage must have formed the _piece de
resistance_.

Came a hurried footstep, and Nancy Simms entered the room. He was
sitting with his back to the window; she sank into the chair
fronting him, so that the light fell full upon her.

She was strong and well-muscled, as one could see under the
enveloping apron. Her hands bore the marks of dish-washing and
clothes-washing and floor-scrubbing and sweeping. They were shapely
enough hands, even if red and calloused. The foot in the worn,
down-at-the-heels shoe was a good foot, with a fine arch; and the
throat rising from the checked gingham apron was full and strong;
her face was prettily shaped, if one was observant enough to notice
that detail.

She was not pretty; not even pleasant. Her discontented face was
liberally peppered with the sort of freckles that accompany red and
rebellious hair; her mouth was hard, the lips pressed tightly
together. Under dark, uncared-for eyebrows were grayish-green eyes,
their expression made unfriendly by her habit of narrowing them. She
had good teeth and a round chin, and her nose would have passed
muster anywhere, save for the fact that it, too, was freckled.
Unfortunately, one didn't have time to admire her good points; one
said at first sight of her, "Good heavens, what a disagreeable
girl!" And then: "Bless me, I've _never_ seen so many perfectly
unnecessary freckles and so much fighting-red hair on one girl!"

"You'll hafta hurry," she admonished him, fanning herself vigorously
with a folded newspaper. She wiped her perspiring face on her arm,
tilted back her chair, revealing undarned stockings, and waited for
him to explain himself.

He handed her his card, and at the name Champneys a faint interest
showed in her face.

"I had a aunt married a feller by that name," she volunteered. "Was
you wishin' to find out somethin' about him or Aunt Milly? Because
if so I don't know nothin' about him, nor yet her. I never set eyes
on neither of 'em."

"I am your Aunt Milly's husband," he told her. "And I have come to
find out something about _you_."

"It's took you a long time to find your way, ain't it?" Her manner
was not cordial.

"We will waive that," said he, composedly. "I _am_ here, and my
visit concerns yourself. To begin with, do you like living with your
mother's step-sister? That is her relationship to your mother and to
my wife, I believe?"

"No: I don't like livin' with no step-aunt, though she ain't that,
bein' further off: an' no real kin. If you want to know why I don't
like it, it's all work an' no pay, that's why. First off, when I was
too little to do anything else, I minded the children an' run
errands an' washed doilies an' towels an' stockin's an' sich, an'
set table an' cleared table an' washed dishes an' made beds an'
emptied slops. Then I helped cook. Now I cook. Along with plenty
other things. How'd you like it yourself?" Her tone was suddenly
fierce. The fierceness of a strong and young creature in galling
captivity.

His wandering life had given him an insight into such conditions and
situations; and once or twice he had seen orphan children raised in
homes where they "helped out." Chattel slavery is easier by
comparison and pleasanter in reality.

Before he could answer, "Nan-cy! You Nan-cy! Come on here an' set
them pie-plates! My Gawd! that girl's goin' to run me ravin' crazy,
tryin' to keep her on her job! Nancy!"

Nancy looked at Mr. Champneys speculatively.

"Is what you got to say worth me tellin' her to set them plates
herself?" she asked.

"Well worth it," said Mr. Champneys, emphatically.

She jumped for the door with cat-like quickness. Also, she lifted
her voice with cat-like ferocity.

"I'm busy! I can't co-ome. Set 'em yourself!"

"Can't come! What you doin'?" shrieked the other voice.

"I'm entertainin' comp'ny in the parler, that's what I'm doin'! It's
somebody come to see _me_. An' I'm goin' to wait right here till I
find out what they come _for_!"

On the heels of that, Nancy slammed the parlor door, and sat down.

"Now say what you got to say, an' don't waste no time askin' if I'm
stuck on livin' here with somethin' like that!"

"You wish, then, to leave your aunt?"

"She ain't no aunt of mine, I tell you. She ain't nothin' but my
mother's stepfather's daughter by his first wife. Sure I want to
leave her. She took me because she needed a servant she didn't have
to pay reg'lar wages to. I don't owe her nothin'. Nor him, neither.
He's worse 'n her."

"They are not kind to you?"

"No, they ain't what you'd call kind to me. But you ain't come here
to talk about them, I take it. What was you wantin' to see me
about, Mister?"

"Suppose," said he, leaning forward, "that you should be offered, in
exchange for _this_," his gesture damned the whole room, "a
beautiful home, travel, culture, ease, all that makes life
beautiful; would that offer appeal to you?" He looked at her
earnestly.

"No housework, no cooking! Clothes made for me especial? Not
hand-me-downs an' left-overs? No kids to mind, neither day nor
night?"

"Housework? Old clothes? Minding children? Certainly not! I am not
hiring a servant! What are you thinking of?"

"I'm thinkin' of _me_, that's what I'm thinkin' of! I'm wearin' her
old clothes on Sundays now. I hate 'em. They look like her an' they
smell like her and they feel like her--mean an' ugly an' tight. If I
could ever get enough money o' my own together, an' enough
clothes--" she stopped, and looked at him with the sudden ferocity
that at times flashed out in her--"earned honest, though, and come
by respectable," said she, grimly, "then I'd get out o' here an' try
something else. I'm strong, an' if I had half a chanst I could earn
my livin' easy enough."

His jaw hardened. He couldn't blind himself to the fact that he was
disappointed in Milly's niece; so disappointed that he felt
physically sick. Had he been less fanatical, less obstinate, less
fixed upon his monomaniacal purpose, he would have settled a
sufficient sum upon her, and gone his way. His disappointment, so
far from turning him aside, hardened his determination to carry the
thing through. He had so acutely felt the lack of money himself,
that now, perhaps, he overestimated its power. Whatever money could
accomplish for this girl, money should do. The zeal of the reformer
gathered in him.

"I wish," he explained, "to adopt you--in a sense. I have no
children, and it is my desire that you should bear the Champneys
name--for your Aunt Milly's sake. I propose, then, to take you away
from these surroundings, and to educate you as a lady bearing the
name of Champneys should be educated. You will have to study, and to
work hard. You will have to obey orders instantly and implicitly. Do
you follow me?"

"As far as you go," said she, cautiously. "Go on: I'm waitin' to
hear more."

"Aside from yourself, I have but one close relative, my brother's
son. You two, then, are to be my children."

"How old is he?"

"About twenty."

"But if you got a real heir, where do I come in?" she wondered.

"Share and share alike. He's my nephew: you're Milly's niece."

She reflected, a puzzled frown coming to her forehead.

"You're aimin' to give us both a whole lot, ain't you? But I've
found out nobody don't get somethin' for nothin' in this world.
Where's the nigger in the woodpile? What do I do for what I get?"

"You make yourself worthy of the name you are to bear. You
place yourself unreservedly in the hands of those appointed to
instruct--and--ah--form you. Make no mistake on this head: it will
be far from easy for you."

"Nothin' 's ever been easy for me, first nor yet last," said Nancy
Simms. "So _that_ 's nothin' new to me. I want you should speak out
plain. What you really mean I'm to do?"

For a moment the iron-willed old man hesitated; he remembered young
Peter, eager, hopeful, crystal-clear young Peter, back there in
South Carolina. He looked challengingly and fiercely at the girl, as
if his bold will meant to seize upon her as upon a piece of clay and
mold it to his desire. Then, "I mean you're to marry," he said
crisply.

"Me? Who to? You?" asked Nancy, blankly.

"_Me_!" gasped Mr. Champneys. "Are you demented?"

"Well, then, who?" she asked, not unnaturally. "And why?"

"The other heir. My nephew. Peter Champneys. Because such is my will
and intention," said he, peremptorily and haughtily, bending his
eagle-look upon her.

"What sort of a feller is he? He ain't got nothin' the matter with
him, has he?"

A wild desire to slap Milly's niece came upon Chadwick Champneys at
that.

"He is my nephew!" he said haughtily. "Why on earth should he have
anything the matter with him?"

It occurred to him then that it mightn't be such an easy matter to
get a high-spirited young fellow, with ideals, to take on trust this
young female person with the red hair. He felt grateful that he had
exacted a promise from Peter. The Champneyses always kept their
promises.

"I'm wonderin'!" said Nancy, staring at him. "Why are you so bent on
him an' me marryin'? You say it's just because you want it, but that
ain't no explanation, nor yet no reason. After all, it's me. I got
the right to ask why, then, ain't I? You can't expect to walk in
unbeknownst an' tell a girl you want she should marry a feller she's
never laid eyes on, without bein' asked a few questions, can you?"

He knew he must try to make it clear to her, as he had tried to make
it clear to Peter. Peter, being Peter, had presently understood.
Whether this girl would understand remained to be seen.

"I wish you to marry, because, as I have already told you, you are
my wife's niece, and Peter is my brother's son. I have of late years
become possessed of--well, let's say a great deal of money, and I
propose that this money shall go to my own people--but on my own
conditions. These conditions being that it shall all be kept in the
Champneys name. It is an old name, a good name, it was once a
wealthy and an honored name. It must be made so again. I say, it
must be made so again! There are but you two to make it so. The boy
is the last, on my side; and you're Milly's. Milly must have her
share in the upbuilding--as if you were her child. Now, do you
see?"

"Good Lord! ain't you got funny notions, though! Who ever heard the
beat? One name's about as good as another, seems to me. But seein'
you've got the money to pay for your notions, them that's willin' to
take your money ought to be willin' to humor 'em." Nancy, in her
way, had what might be called a sense of ethics.

"You agree?"

"Well, I just got to make a change, Mr. Champneys. I can't stand
this place no more. If I was to say 'No' to you, an' stay here, an'
have time to think it over, down in that sizzlin' kitchen, with her
squallin' at me all day, I'd end up in a padded cell. If I was to
leave just so, I'd maybe get me a job in a shop at less than I could
live on honest. You see?"

He nodded, and she went on somberly:

"So I'm most at the end of my tether. It's real curious you should
come just now, with me feelin' that desperate I been minded to walk
out anyhow an' risk things. You sure that feller ain't got nothin'
ails him? Not crazy, nor a dope, nor nothin'?"

"My nephew is perfectly normal in every respect," said Mr.
Champneys, frigidly.

"What's he look like in the face?" she demanded. "Is he as ugly as
me?"

"He is a gentleman," said Peter's uncle, even more frigidly. "As to
his appearance, I believe he resembles me. At least, he looks like
what I used to look like."

"Well--I've seen worse," said she, and fetched a sigh.

A sudden thought struck him. "Perhaps," he suggested, making
allowance for the sentimentality of extreme youth, "perhaps you have
some notion about--er--ah--marrying for love, or something like
that? There may be some young fellow you think you fancy? Young
people in your--ah--that is, in the circumstances to which you
unfortunately have been subjected, often rush into ill-considered
entanglements."

"In _love_? Who, me? Who with, for Gawdsake? One feller means just
as much to me as another feller: they're all alike," said she,
contemptuously. "I just asked about him for--for references. You
know what you're gettin', an' I got a right to know what I'm
gettin'."

"You have: so please remember that you are getting a considerable
portion of the Champneys money for doing what you're told to do,"
said he.

"I never knew till you told me so that the Champneyses had any
money. But if it's there, I'm willing to do what I'm told, for my
share. Why not? There ain't nothin' better for me, nowheres, nohow."

"I am to understand, then, that you agree?"

"What else can I do but agree?" she asked, twisting a fold of her
apron.

The parlor door opened with violence; a thick-set man with a bald
head and a red face, followed by a shrewish, thin woman with pinched
lips, appeared on the threshold.

"I s'pose," said the woman, with elaborate courtesy, "we kin come
in our own parler, Miss Simms? Has you resigned your job that you
gotta pick out the parler to set in whilst I'm doin' your work for
you?"

Nancy's visitor rose, and at sight of the tall old gentleman an avid
curiosity appeared in both vulgar faces.

"Mr. Champneys, this is the lady an' gentleman I live with and work
for without wages, Mister an' Missis Baxter. Mister an' Missis
Baxter, this gentleman is Aunt Milly's husband, an' he's come to see
me; an' you ain't called to show off the manners you ain't got!"

"Well, why couldn't you say who he was at first, an' have done with
it?" grumbled the man. "But no, you gotta upset the whole house!
She's the provokin'est piece o' flesh on the created earth, when she
starts," he explained to the visitor.

"To aggravate an' torment them that's raised her an' kept her out of
the asylum an' fed an' clothed an' learned her like a daughter, is
what Nancy Simms 'd rather do than eat an' drink," supplemented Mrs.
Baxter, acridly.

Nancy snorted. Mr. Champneys said nothing.

"Well! An' so you're poor Milly's husband!" said the woman, staring
at him. "You wasn't so awful anxious to find out nothin' about her
kith an' kin, was you? Not that I'm any kin," she added, hastily.
"When all's said an' done, Nancy ain't no real kin, neither. You an'
her's only connected by marriage, but bein' as you have come at
last, I hope she'll have more gratefulness to you than she's got for
_me_. As you ain't never done nothin' by her, an' I have, she's sure
to."

"You make me so sick!" Nancy, with her hands on her hips, glared at
the pair. "Anything you ever done for me you paid yourself for
double. If you don't owe me nothin', like you said this mornin', I
don't owe you nothin', neither, so it's quits. You'd oughta be glad
I'm goin'."

"Goin'? Who's goin'? Goin' where?" Mrs. Baxter's voice rose shrilly.
"Now, ain't it always so? You take a orphan child to your bosom an'
after many days it'll grow up like a viper, an' the minute your back
's turned it'll spit in your face!"

"Goin', hey? Where you goin' to when you go?" demanded Mr. Baxter,
hoarsely.

"She is going with me," said Mr. Champneys. The whole situation
nauseated him; he felt that if he didn't escape from that red-plush
parlor very soon, he was going to be violently sick. "I am now in a
position to look after my wife's niece, and I propose to do so. From
what I have heard from you both, I should think you would be rather
glad than sorry to part with her."

"You won't gain nothin' by raisin' a row," put in Nancy, in a hard
voice. "I'm goin'. Make up your minds to _that_."

"Oh, you are, are you, Miss Simms? That's all the thanks I mighta
expected from you, you red-headed freckle-face! I sure hope he'll
get his fill of you before he's done! Walkin' off like a nigger
without a minute's notice, an' me with my house full of men comin'
to their meals they've paid for an' has to have!"

"Hire another nigger an' pay 'em somethin', so's they won't quit
without notice, then," suggested the girl, unfeelingly.

"How you know this feller's Milly Champneys's husband?" asked Mr.
Baxter. "Who's to prove it?"

Nancy looked at him and laughed. But Milly Champneys's husband said
hastily: "Let us go, for God's sake! If there's a telephone here,
ring for a cab or a taxi. How soon can you be ready?"

"I can walk out bag and baggage in ten minutes," she replied, and
darted from the room.

The South Carolina Don Quixote looked at the sordid, angry pair
before him. He felt like one in an evil dream, a dream that degraded
him, and Milly's memory, and Milly's niece.

"If you wish to make any inquiries, I shall be at the Palace Hotel
until this evening," he told them. "And--would a hundred dollars
soothe your feelings?"

The woman's eyes slitted; the man's bulged.

"You musta come by money since Milly died," said Mrs. Baxter. "Yes,
sure we'll take the hundred. We ain't refusin' money. It's little
enough, too, considerin' all I done for that girl!"

Mr. Champneys counted out ten crisp bills into the greedy hand, and
the three waited silently until Nancy appeared. Champneys almost
screamed at sight of her. His heart sank like lead, and the task he
had set for himself of a sudden assumed monumental proportions.

"I ain't took nothin' out of this house but the few things belongin'
to my mother. You're welcome to the rest," she told the woman,
briefly. The man she ignored altogether.

A cab rattled up to the door. In silence the aristocratic old man in
white linen, and the red-headed girl in a cheap embroidered
shirt-waist, a dark, shabby skirt, and a hat that was an outrage on
millinery, climbed in. There were no farewells. The girl settled
back, clutching her hand-satchel. "Giddap," said the driver, and
cracked his whip. The cab rolled away from the dingy, smelly house,
and turned a corner. So rode Nancy Simms out of her old life into
her new one.




CHAPTER IX

PRICE-TAGS


When Mr. Chadwick Champneys had visualized to himself Milly's niece,
it had always been in Milly's image and likeness--sweet, fair,
brave, merry, gentle, and strong. Milly's niece, of course, would be
companionable. He would only have to put upon her the finishing
touches, so to speak, embellish her natural graces with a finer
social polish. At the very worst, he hadn't dreamed that anybody
belonging to Milly could be like this red-headed Nancy. Perhaps,
though, she would be less objectionable when she was properly clad.

"Drive to the best department store in town," he told the driver,
briefly.

Once in the store he summoned the manager and briefly stated his
needs. The young lady must be furnished with everything she needed,
and as quickly as possible. She needed, it appeared, about
everything. The shrewd young Jew looked her over with his trained
eyes.

"Should you prefer our Miss Smith to proffer aid and advice? Miss
Smith is an expert."

Mr. Champneys reacted almost with terror against Nancy Simms's
probable choice.

"See that the young lady gets the best you have; and make Miss
Smith the final authority," he said, briefly.

At the end of two hours Nancy returned, the two clerks and the
manager accompanying her. The store people were slightly flushed,
Nancy herself sullenly acquiescent. For the first time in her life
she had had the opportunity to buy enough clothes of her own, and
yet she hadn't been allowed to choose what she really wanted. Gently
but inexorably they had rejected the garments Nancy selected,
smoothly insisting that these weren't "just the thing" for her. They
slid her into quiet-colored, plainly cut things that she wouldn't
have looked at if left to her own devices. It took their united
tact, firmness, and diplomacy to steer Nancy over the reefs of what
the manager called hired-girl taste.

Nancy was silent when she appeared before Mr. Champneys in her new
clothes. She thought that if she had been allowed to pick them out
for herself, instead of having been hypnotized--"bulldozed" is what
she called it--into plain old dowdy duds by two shopwomen and a Jew
manager, she'd have given him more for his money.

Mr. Champneys, looking her over critically, admitted that the girl
was at least presentable. From hat to shoes she gave the impression
of being well and carefully dressed. But her aspect breathed
dissatisfaction, her bearing was ungraciousness itself; nor did the
two women clerks, trained to patience, tact, and politeness as they
were, altogether manage to conceal their unfavorable opinion of
her; even the clever, smiling young Jew, used to managing women
shoppers, failed to hide the fact that he was more than glad to get
this one off his hands.

Nancy hadn't taken time to eat her dinner before leaving the Baxter
house, nor had Mr. Champneys had his lunch. They drove to his hotel,
both hungry, and had their first meal together. Nancy hadn't been
trained to linger over meals: one ate as much as one could get, in
as short a space of time as possible. Mr. Champneys was grateful to
a merciful Providence that he had ordered that repast served in his
private sitting-room.

Her hunger quite satisfied, she shoved her plate aside, sighed,
stretched luxuriously, and yawned widely, like the healthy animal
she was.

"What we got to do now? Them women at the store said they'd get the
rest of my things here, along with the travelin'-bags, in a coupla
hours. I got a swell suit-case, didn't I? And oh, them toilet
things! But between now and then, what you want I should do?"

It was then half-after four, and the train they were to take didn't
leave until half-after seven.

"What would you like to do?" he asked.

"Can I go to the movies?"

He thought it an excellent idea. It would give him some idea of the
girl's mental processes; the psychology of the proletariat, he
thought, could be studied to advantage in their reaction to the
movies.

He sat beside her for an unhappy hour while a famous screen
comedian did the things with his feet and his backbone for which his
managers paid him more in one year than the United States pays its
Presidents in ten. At each impossible climax Nancy shrieked with
laughter, the loud, delighted laughter of a pleased child. Her
enthusiasm for the slapstick artist provoked him, but at the same
time that gay laughter tickled his ears pleasantly. There's plenty
of good in a girl who can laugh like that! After the grimacing
genius there followed a short drama of stage mother-love, in which
the angel-child dies strenuously in his little white bed. Nancy
dabbled her eyes, and blew her nose with what her captious companion
thought unnecessary vigor.

"Ain't it movin'?"

"Yes. Moving pictures," was the cold response. And to himself he was
saying, defiantly: "Well, what else could I expect? She's not a whit
worse than the vast majority! She's got the herd-taste. That's
perfectly natural, under the circumstances. When I get her well in
hand, she will be different."

"You don't like funny things, an' you got no feelin' for sad
things," she ruminated, as they left the theater. In silence they
walked back to their hotel.

The bulk of her purchases had been sent from the store, and a huge
parcel awaited her in her room. It enchanted her to go over these
new possessions, to gloat over her new toilet articles, to sniff at
the leather of her traveling-kit. The smell of new leather was
always to linger subconsciously in Nancy's memory; it was the smell
of adventure and of change.

They dined together in Mr. Champney's sitting-room, although she
would have preferred the public dining-room. Mr. Champneys was an
abstemious man, but the girl was frankly greedy with the naive greed
of one who had been heretofore stinted. She had seldom had what she
really craved, and at best she had never had enough of it. To be
allowed to order what and as much as she pleased, to be served
first, to have her wishes consulted at all, was a new, amazing, and
altogether delightful experience. Everything was brand-new to her.

She had never before traveled in a sleeping-car. It delighted her to
watch the deft porter make up the berths; she decided that the
peculiar etiquette of sleeping-cars required that all travelers,
male and female, should be driven to bed by lordly colored men in
white jackets, and there left in cramped misery with nothing but an
uncertain, rustling curtain between them and the world; this, too,
at an hour when nobody is sleepy. Nancy wondered to see free white
citizens meekly obey their dusky tyrant. She got into her own lower
berth, grateful that she hadn't to climb like a cat into an upper.

She lay there staring, while the train whizzed through the night.
This had been the most momentous day of her life. That morning she
had been the hopeless slavey in the Baxter kitchen, an unpaid drudge
with her hand against every man and every man's hand against her.
She had been bullied and beaten, she had eaten leavings, and worn
cast-offs. Since her mother's death she had known the life of an
uncared-for child, the minimum of care measured against the maximum
of labor squeezed out of it. Until to-day her fate had been the fate
of those who approach the table of Life with unshod feet and
unwashen hands.

And to-night all that was changed. She was here, flying farther and
farther away from all she had known. She wondered if she were not
dreaming it. Panicky at that, she sat up in her berth, pressed the
button that turned on the electric light, slipped her new kimono
about her, and looked long and earnestly at the new clothes within
reach of her hand. There they were, real to her touch; there was her
fine new hand-bag; and most real of all was the feel of the money in
it. Nancy fingered the money, thoughtfully smoothing out the bills.
"As soon as we are settled, you will have your allowance, and I
shall of course provide you with a check-book," Mr. Champneys had
told her. "In the meanwhile you will naturally want money for such
little things as you may need." And he had given her twenty
five-dollar bills. She had received the money dumbly. This had been
the crowning miracle--for she had never in the whole course of her
life had so much as one five-dollar bill to do as she pleased with.
She sat looking at the money, concrete proof of the reality of the
change that had befallen her, and wondered, and wondered. With a
sigh of content she thrust the hand-bag under her pillow, folded
her kimono at the foot of her berth, switched out the light, and
presently fell asleep.

In his berth opposite hers, Mr. Chadwick Champneys, more sleepless
even than Nancy, was tabulating his estimate of the young woman he
had acquired. It ran something like this:

Looks: bad; _may_ improve.

Manners: worse; _must_ improve. Particularly in speech.

Appetite: that of the seventeen-year locust. Must be restrained, to
prevent an early death.

Character in general: suspend judgment until further study.

General summary of personal appearance: Nice teeth on which a little
dentistry will work wonders. Not a bad figure, but doesn't know how
to carry herself; has a villainous fashion of slouching, with her
hands on her hips. Plenty of hair, but of terrifying redness; sullen
expression of the eyes; fiendish profusion of freckles: may have to
be skinned. Excellent nose. Speaks with appalling frankness at times
but is not talkative.

What must be done for her? _Everything_.

He groaned, turned over, and after a while managed to sleep.
Sufficient to the day was the red hair thereof; he couldn't afford
to lie awake worrying about to-morrow.

He had long since decided upon New York as a residence until all his
plans had matured. One had greater freedom to act, and far more
privacy, in so large a city. They would stay at some quiet hotel
until after the marriage; then he and Nancy would occupy the house
he had recently purchased, in the West Seventies. It was a fine old
house with a glimpse of near-by Central Park for an outlook, and
what he had paid for it would have purchased half Riverton. He
wanted its large, high-ceilinged rooms to be furnished as the old
house in Carolina had been furnished, this being his standard of all
that was desirable. He wished for Peter's wife such a background as
Peter's forebears had known; and Peter's wife must be trained to
appreciate and to fit into it, that's all!

The New York hotel, with its deft and deferential servants who
seemed to anticipate her wishes, its luxury, its music, its
shifting, splendidly dressed patrons, its light and glitter, filled
Nancy with the same wonder that had fallen upon Aladdin when he
found himself in the magic cave with all its treasures gleaming
before his astounded, ignorant young eyes.

She hadn't thought the whole world contained so many people as she
saw in New York in one day. Fifth Avenue amazed and absorbed more
than it delighted her. The expressionless expressions of the women,
their hand-made faces, their smart shoes, the way they wore their
hair, the way they wore their clothes; the men's air of being well
dressed, of having money to spend, of appearing importantly busy at
any cost; a certain pretentiousness, as if everything were shown at
once and there were no reserve of power, nothing held in disciplined
abeyance, interested her profoundly. She had a native shrewdness.

"They're just like the same kind of folks back home, but there's
more of 'em here," she decided.

The huge policemen she saw at every turn, lordly and massive
monoliths rising superbly above lesser humanity, filled her with the
deepest respect and admiration. The mere policemen in her home town
were to these magnificent beings as daubs to Titians, as pigmies to
Titans. If in those first days the girl had been called upon to do
the seven bendings and the nine knockings before the one New York
institution which impressed her most profoundly, she undoubtedly
would have singled out one of those mastodons a-bossing everything
and everybody, with a prize-ham paw.

She was cold to the Woolworth Building, as indifferent to the
Sherman monument as Mr. Chadwick Champneys was acridly averse to it,
and not at all interested in the Public Library. The Museum of
Natural History failed to win any applause from her; the
Metropolitan Museum bored her interminably, there was so much of it.
Most of the antiquities she thought so much junk, and the Egyptian
and Assyrian remains were so obviously the plunder of old graveyards
that she couldn't for the life of her understand why anybody should
wish to keep them above ground.

Mr. Champneys explained, patiently. He wished, by way of aiding and
abetting the education he had in view for her, to arouse her
interest in these remains of a lost and vanished world.

She stood by the glass case that contains the old brown mummied
priest with his shaven skull, his long, narrow feet, his flattened
nose and fleshless hands, and the mark of the embalmer's stone knife
still visible upon his poor old empty stomach. And she didn't like
him at all. There was something grisly and repellent to her in the
idea that living people should make of this poor old dead man a
spectacle for idle curiosity.

"There was a feller in our town used to keep stuffed snakes an'
monkeys an' birds, an' dried grasshoppers an' bugs an' things like
that in glass cases; but I never dreamed in all my born life that
anybody'd want to keep dried people," she commented disgustedly. "I
don't see no good in it: it's sickenin'." She turned her back upon
mummied Egypt with a gesture of aversion. "For Gawdsake let's go see
somethin' alive!"

He looked at her a bit helplessly. Plainly, this young person's
education wasn't to be tackled off-hand! Agreeably to her wishes he
took her to a certain famous shop filled at that hour with
fashionable women wonderfully groomed and gowned. Here, seated at a
small table, lingering over her ice-cream, Nancy was all observant
eyes and ears. Not being a woman, however, Mr. Champneys was not
aware that her proper education was distinctly under way.

A day or two later he took her to the Bronx Zoo. Here he caught a
glimpse of Nancy Simms that made him prick up his ears and pull his
mustache, thoughtfully. He had discovered how appallingly ignorant
she was, how untrained, how undisciplined. To-day he saw how really
young she was. She ran from cage to cage. Her laughter made the
corners of his mouth turn up sympathetically.

There was something pathetic in her eager enjoyment, something so
fresh and unspoiled in that laughter of hers that one felt drawn to
her. When she forgot to narrow her eyes, or to furrow her forehead,
or to screw up her mouth, she was almost attractive, despite her
freckles! Her eyes, of an agaty gray-green, were transparently
honest. She had brushed the untidy mop of red hair, parted it in the
middle, and wore it in a thick bright plait, tied with a black
ribbon. She wore a simple middy blouse and a well-made blue skirt.
Altogether, she looked more like a normal young girl than he had yet
seen her.

The Zoo enchanted her. She hurried from house to house. Once, she
told him, when she was a little kid, a traveling-man had taken her
to a circus, because he was sorry for her. That was the happiest day
she had ever spent; it stood out bright and golden in her memory.
There had been a steam-piano hoo-hooing "Wait till the clouds roll
by, Jenny." Wasn't a steam-piano perfectly grand? She liked it
better than anything she'd ever heard. She'd long ago made up her
mind that if she was ever really rich and had a place of her own,
she'd have a big circus steam-piano out in the barn, and she'd play
it on Sundays and holidays--_hoo-hoo, hoo-hoo, hoo, hoo-hoo_--like
that, you know.

And to-day reminded her of that long-ago circus day, with even more
animals to look at! She had never seen as many different animals as
she wanted to see, until now. She admitted that she sort of loved
wild things--she even liked the wild smell of 'em. There was
something in here--she touched her breast lightly--that felt kin to
them.

There was not the usual horde of visitors, that day being a pay-day.
A bearded man with a crutch was showing one or two visitors around,
and at a word from him a keeper unlocked a cage door, to allow a
young chimpanzee to leap into his arms. It hugged him, exhibiting
extravagant affection; it thrust out its absurd muzzle to kiss his
cheek, and patted him with its small, leathery, unpleasantly human
hands.

"It's just like any other baby," said the keeper, petting it.

"I sure hope it ain't like any _I_'ll ever have," said Nancy, so
naively that the man with the crutch laughed. He looked at her
keenly.

"Go over and see the baby lion," he suggested; and he added,
smiling, "It's got red hair."

"It can afford to have red hair, so long as it's a lion," said
Nancy, sturdily; and she added, reflectively: "I'd any day rather
have me a lion-child with red hair, than a monkey-child with any
kind of hair."

Somehow that blunt comment pleased Mr. Champneys. When he took his
charge back to their hotel that evening, it was with something like
a glimmering of real hope in his heart.

The next day, as he joined her at lunch, he said casually:

"I had a message from my nephew this morning. He will be here in a
few days."

She turned pale; the hand that held her fork began to tremble.

"Is it--soon?" she asked, almost unaudibly.

"The sooner the better. I think we'd better have it here, in our
sitting-room, say at noon on Wednesday. Don't be seared," he added,
kindly. "All you have to do is just to stand still and say, 'I
will,' at the right moment."

"An'--an' then?"

"My nephew's boat sails at about two. He drives to the pier. You and
I go to our apartment, until our own house is ready for us. You see
how nicely it's all arranged."

"I ain't--I mean, I don't have to see him nor talk to him before, do
I?" She looked panic-stricken. "Because I won't! I can't! There's
some things I just can't stummick, an' meetin' that feller before
the very last minute I got to do it, is one of 'em."

"Of course, of course! You sha'n't meet him until the very last
minute. Though he's a mighty nice chap, my nephew Peter is--a mighty
nice chap."

"He must be! We're both of us a mighty nice pair, ain't we? Him
goin' one way an' me goin', another way, all by our lonesomes!"

"The arrangement does not suit you?" he inquired politely.

"Oh, it suits me all right," she said, after a moment. "I said I'd
do what I was told, an' I'll do it--I ain't the sort backs down. But
I ain't none too anxious to get any better acquainted with this
feller than what I am right now. I ain't stuck on men, noways."

"You are only sixteen, my dear," he reminded her.

"Women know as much about men when they're sixteen as they do when
they're sixty," said she, coldly. "There ain't but one thing to
believe about 'em--an' that is, you best not believe any of 'em."

"I hope," said he, stiffly, "that you have no just cause to
disbelieve me, Nancy? Have I been unkind to you?"

"It ain't _me_ you're either kind or yet unkind to," she told him.
"It's Aunt Milly's niece: you're a little crazy on that head, I
guess. It's Aunt Milly's niece you aim to marry to that nephew of
yours. If I was just me myself without bein' any kin to her, you
wouldn't wipe your old shoes on me." She gave him a clear, level
look. "Let's don't have any lies about this thing," she begged. "I'm
a poor hand for lies. I know, and I want you should know I know, and
deal with me honest."

She surprised him. Her next question surprised him even more.

"What about my weddin'-dress?" she demanded. "I got nothin' fittin'
to be married in."

"I should think a plain, tailored suit--" he began.

"Then you got another think comin' to you," she said, in a hard
voice. "I got nothin' to do with pickin' out the groom: you fixed
that to suit yourself. But I don't let no man alive pick out my
dress. I want a weddin'-dress. I want one I want myself. I want it
should be white satin' an' real bride-like. I've saw pictures of
brides, an' I know what's due 'em. I ain't goin' to resemble just me
myself, standin' up to be married in a coat-suit you get some
floor-walker to pick out for me. White satin or nothin'. An' a veil
and white satin slippers."

He looked at her helplessly. "White satin, my dear? And a veil?"

"Yes, sir. An' a shower bokay," said she, firmly. "I got to insist
on the shower bokay. If I got to be a bride I'll be my kind of bride
and not yours."

"My dear child, of course, of course. You shall choose your own
frock," said he, hastily. "Only--under the circumstances, I can't
help thinking that something plain, something quite plain and
simple, would be more in keeping."

"With me? 'T wouldn't, neither. It'd be something fierce, an' I
won't stand for it. I don't mind bein' buried in somethin' plain,
but I won't get married in it. Ain't it hard enough as it is,
without me havin' to feel more horrid than what I do already? I want
something to make me feel better about it, and there ain't anything
can do that except it's a dress I want myself."

Mr. Champneys capitulated, horse and foot.

"We will go to some good shop immediately after lunch, and you shall
choose your own wedding-dress," he promised, resignedly, marveling
at the psychology of women.

It was a very fine forenoon, with a hint of coming autumn in the
air. Even an imminent bridegroom couldn't altogether dampen the
delight of whizzing through those marvelous streets in a taxi. Then
came the even more marvelous world of the department store, which,
"by reason of the multitude of all kind of riches, in all sorts of
things, in blue clothes, and broidered work, and in chests of rich
apparel," put one in mind of the great fairs of Tyre when Tyre was a
prince of the sea, as set forth in the Twenty-seventh Chapter of
Ezekiel.

Nancy would have been tempted to marry Bluebeard himself for the
sake of some of the "rich apparel" that obliging saleswomen were
setting forth for her inspection. Getting married began to assume a
rosier aspect, due probably to the reflection of the filmy and lacy
miracles that she might have for the mere choosing. She would almost
have been willing to be hanged, let alone married, in a pink-silk
combination.

The saleswomen scented mystery and romance here. The girl was no
beauty, but then, she was astonishingly young; and the old gentleman
was very distinguished-looking--quite a personage. They thought at
first that he was the prospective bridegroom; learning that he
wasn't deepened the mystery but didn't destroy the romance.
Americans are all but hysterically sentimental. Sentimentality is a
national disease, which rages nowhere more virulently than among
women clerks. Would they rush through the necessary alterations, set
an entire force to work overtime, if necessary, in order to have
that girl's wedding-dress at her hotel on time? _Wouldn't_ they,
though! And they did. Gown, gloves, veil, shoes, fan, everything;
all done up with the most exquisite care in reams of soft tissue
paper.

She was to be married on the noon of Wednesday. On Tuesday night
Nancy locked her door, opened her boxes, and spread her wedding
finery on her bed. The dress was a magnificent one, as magnificent a
dress as a great store can turn out; its lines had been designed by
a justly famous designer. There was a slip, with as much lace as
could be put upon one garment; such white satin slippers as she had
never hoped to wear; and the texture of the silk stockings almost
made her shout for joy. Achilles was vulnerable in the heel: fly,
O man, from the woman who is indifferent to the lure of a silk
stocking!

Nancy got into her kimono and turned on the hot water in her bath.
At Baxters' there had never been enough hot water with which to wash
the dishes, not to mention Nancy herself. Here there was enough to
scald all the dishes--and the people--on earth, it seemed to her.
She could hardly get used to the delight and the luxury of all the
hot water and scented soap and clean towels she wanted, in a
bath-room all to herself. Think of not having to wait one's turn, a
very limited turn at that, in a spotted tin tub set in a
five-by-seven hole in the wall, with an unshaded gas-jet sizzling
about a foot above one's head! The shower-bath was to her an
adventure--like running out in the rain, when one was a child. She
couldn't get into the tub, and slide down into the warm, scented
water, without a squeal of pleasure.

She skipped back to her bedroom, red as a boiled lobster, a rope of
damp red hair hanging down her back, sat down on the floor, and drew
on those silk stockings, and loved them from a full heart. She
wiggled her toes ecstatically.

"O Lord!" sighed Nancy, fervently, "I wish You'd fix it so's folks
could walk on their hands for a change! My feet are so much prettier
than my face!"

Slipping on the satin slippers, she teetered over and reverently
touched the satin frock. All these glories for her, Nancy Simms, who
had worn Mrs. Baxter's wretched old clothes cut down for her!

She was afraid to refold the dress, almost afraid to touch it, lest
she rumple it. It looked so shining, so lustrous, so fairy-like and
glorious and almost impossible, glistening there on her bed!
Carefully she smoothed a fold, slightly awry. Reverently she placed
the thin tulle veil beside it, as well as the rest of her Cinderella
finery, including the satin slippers and the fine silk stockings
which her soul loved.

She took the two pillows off her bed, secured two huge bath-towels
from her bath-room by way of a mattress and a coverlet; and with a
last passionate glance at the splendors of her wedding-frock, and
never a thought for the unknown groom because of whom she was to don
it, the bride switched off her light, curled herself up like a cat,
and in five minutes was sound asleep on the floor.




CHAPTER X

THE DEAR DAM-FOOL


"Dis place," said Emma Campbell, as the snaggle-toothed sky-line of
New York unfolded before her staring eyes, "ain't never growed up
natchel out o' de groun'; it done tumbled down out o' de sky en got
busted uneven in de fall."

Clinging to the bird-cage in which her cat Satan crouched, she
further remarked, as the taxi snaked its sinuous way toward the
quarters which a friendly waiter on the steamship had warmly
recommended to her:

"All I scared ob is, dat dis unforchunit cat 's gwine to lose 'is
min'. Seein' places like dis is 'nough to make any natchel cat run
crazy."

Whereupon Emma relapsed into a colossal silence. She was fed up on
surprises and they were palling upon her palate, which fortunately
wasn't down. Things had been happening so fast that she couldn't
keep step with them. To begin with, Peter had preferred to come
north by sea, and although Emma had been raised on the coast,
although she was used to the capricious tide-water rivers which this
morning may be lamb-like and to-night raging lions, although she
had crossed Caliboga Sound in rough weather and been rolled about
like a ninepin, that had been, so to speak, near the shore-line.
This was different: here was more water than Emma had thought was in
the entire world; and she had been assured that this wasn't a
bucketful to what she was yet to see! Emma fell back upon silent
prayer.

Then had come this astounding city jutting jaggedly into the clouds,
and through whose streets poured in a never-ceasing, turgid flow all
the peoples of the earth. And, more astounding than waterful sea and
peopleful city, was the last, crowning bit of news: _Peter was going
to be married_! And he didn't know the young lady he was to marry,
except that she was a Miss Anne Simms. He knew no more about his
bride than she, Emma, knew.

That was all Emma needed to reduce her to absolute befuddlement.
When food and drink were placed before her, she partook of both,
mechanically. If one spoke to her, she stared like a large black
owl. And when Peter had driven away in the taxi, leaving her for the
time being in the care of a highly respectable colored family, whose
children, born and raised in New York, looked upon the old South
Carolina woman as they might have looked upon a visitor from Mars,
Emma shut and locked her door, took the cat out of his cage, cuddled
him in her arms, tried to projeck,--and couldn't. The feel of
Satan's soft, warm body comforted her inexpressibly. He, at least,
was real in a shifting universe. She began to rock herself, slowly,
rhythmically, back and forth. Then the New York negroes heard a
shrill, sweet, wailing voice upraised in one of those speretuals in
which Africa concentrates her ages of anguish into a half-articulate
cry. In it were the voices of their fathers long gone, come back
from the rice-fields and the cane-brakes and the cotton-rows, voices
so sweet and plaintive that they were haunted.

          "I we-ent out een de wilderness,
          En I fell upon--mah--knees,
          En I called upon--mah--Savior,
          Whut sh-all I do--for--save?
          He replied:
                _Halleluian!_
          Sinnuh, sing!
                _Halleluian!_
          Ma-ry, Mar-tha, _halle_--
                _Hallelu_--
                _Halleluian_!"

"Good Lord!" breathed the oldest boy, who was a high-school scholar.

"How weird and primitive!" said the daughter, who was to be a
teacher.

But the father's eyes narrowed, and the hair of his scalp prickled.
'Way back yonder his mother had sung like that, and his heart leaped
to it. If he hadn't been afraid of his educated and modern children,
he would have wept. Emma didn't know that, of course. She kissed the
big cat, placed him carefully on the bed, and lay down beside him in
the attitude of a corpse. She was resigning herself to whatever
should happen.

Peter, upon telephoning his uncle, had been advised to prowl about
until noon, when they were to lunch together. Wherefore he found
himself upon the top of a bus, rolling about New York, seeing that
of which he had read. He didn't see it as Nancy saw it; the city
appeared to him as might some subtle, hard, and fascinatingly plain
woman whose face had flashes of piercing and unforgetable beauty,
beauty unexpected and unlike any other. Unlike the beauty of the
Carolina coast, say, which was a part of his consciousness, there
was here something sinister and splendid.

He got off at the Metropolitan Museum. He wished to see with his own
eyes some of those pictures Claribel Spring had described to him,
among them Fortuny's "Spanish Lady." He stood for a dazzled interval
before her, so disdainful, passionate, provocative, and so
profoundly human. When he moved away, he sighed. He wasn't wondering
if he himself should ever meet and love such a lady; but rather when
he should be able so to portray in a human face all the secrets of
the body and of the soul.

At lunch his uncle, remarking his earnest face, said regretfully:

"Oh, Peter, why couldn't you be content to be a rich man and play
the game according to Hoyle? Art? Of course! You could afford to buy
the best any of 'em could do, instead of trying to sell something
you do yourself. Art is a rich man's recreation. Artists exist in
order that rich men may buy their wares."

"Rich men were invented for the use of poor artists: it's the only
excuse they have for existing at all, that I can see," said Peter,
composedly.

"But you'd have a so much better time buying, than selling--or
rather, trying to sell," said one of the rich men, smiling
good-humoredly.

"I'll have a better time working, than in either buying or selling,"
said Peter, and looked at his uncle with uncompromising eyes.

Mr. Chadwick Champneys sighed, face to face with Champneys
obstinacy. Peter would keep his promise to the letter, but aside
from that he would live his own life in his own way.

He had stared, and his jaw dropped, when he was calmly informed that
Peter intended to take old Emma Campbell and a black cat along with
him. Then he had laughed, almost hysterically, and incidentally
discovered that being laughed at didn't move Peter in the least; he
was too used to it. He allowed you to laugh at him, smiled a bit
wryly himself, and went right ahead doing exactly what he had set
out to do. This sobered Mr. Champneys.

"Peter," said he, after a pause, "allow me to ask you a single
question: do you propose to go through life toting old niggers and
black cats?"

"Uncle Chad," replied Peter, "do you remember how sweet potatoes
roasted in the ashes of a colored person's fire used to taste, when
you were a little boy?"

A reminiscent glow spread over Uncle Chad's face. He shaded his eyes
with his hand, and stared under it at Peter. Something quizzical
and tender was in that look.

"I see you do," said Peter, with the same look. "Well, Uncle Chad,
Emma used to roast those potatoes--and provide them too. Sometimes
they were all the dinner I had. Besides," mused Peter, "when all's
said and done, nobody has more than a few friends from his cradle to
his grave. If I've got two, and they don't want to part with me, why
should they have to?"

Mr. Chadwick Champneys spread out his hands. "Put like that," he
admitted, "why should they, indeed! Take 'em along if you like,
Nephew." And of a sudden he laughed again. "Oh, Peter!" he gasped,
"you dear dam-fool!"

Peter had a strenuous afternoon. Reservations had to be secured for
Emma, for whom he also purchased a long coat and a steamer rug. He
himself had to have another suit: his uncle protested vehemently
against the nice new one he had bought in Charleston.

At dusk he watched New York's lights come out as suddenly and as
goldenly as evening primroses. Riverton drowsing among its
immemorial oaks beside the salty tide-water, the stars reflected in
its many coves, the breath of the pines mingling with the wild
breath of the sea sweeping through it, the little, deserted brown
house left like a last year's nest close to the water--how far
removed they were from this glittering giantess and her pulsating
power! The electric lights winked and blinked, the roar of traffic
arose in a multitudinous hum; and all this light and noise, the
restless stir of an immense life, went to the head like wine.

The streets were fiercely alive. Among the throngs of well-dressed
people one caught swift glimpses of furtive, hurrying figures, and
faces that were danger signals. More than once a few words hissed
into Peter's ears made him turn pale.

It was nearing midnight, and the street was virtually empty, when a
girl who had looked at him sharply in passing turned and followed
him, and after a glance about to see that no policeman was in sight,
stepped to his side and touched him on the elbow. Peter paused, and
his heart contracted. He had seen among the negroes the careless
unmorality as of animals. There was nothing of the prude in him,
but, perhaps because all his life there had been a Vision before his
eyes, he had retained a singularly untroubled mental chastity. His
mind was clean with the cleanliness of knowledge. He could not
pretend to misunderstand the girl. She was nothing but a child in
years. The immaturity of her body showed through her extreme
clothes, and even her sharp, painted little face was immature, for
all its bold nonchalance. She was smiling; but one sensed behind her
deliberate smile a wolfish anxiety.

"Ain't you lonesome?" she asked, fluttering her eyelids, and giving
the young man a sly, upward glance.

"No," said Peter, very gently.

"Aw, have a heart! Can't you stand a lady somethin' to eat an' maybe
somethin' to drink?"

The boy looked at her gravely and compassionately. Although her
particular type was quite new to him, he recognized her for what she
was, a member of the oldest profession, the strange woman "whose
mouth is smoother than oil, but whose feet go down to death. Her
steps take hold on hell." Somehow he could not connect those
terrible words with this sharp-featured, painted child. There was
nothing really evil about her except the brutal waste of her.

"Will ten dollars be enough for you?" asked Peter. The wolfish look
in her eyes hurt him. He felt ashamed and sad.

"Sure! Come on!" said she, and her face lighted.

"Thank you, I have had my dinner," said Peter. But she seized his
arm and hurried him down a side street, willy-nilly. "Seen a cop out
of the tail of my eye," she explained, hurriedly. "They're fierce,
some of them cops. I can't afford to be took up."

When they had turned the corner, Peter stopped, and took out his
pocket-book. With another searching glance at her, he handed her one
five, and two ten-dollar bills. Perhaps that might save her--for a
while at least. He lifted his hat, bowed, and had started to walk
away, when she ran after him and clutched him by the arm.

"Take back that fiver," said she, "an' come and eat with me. If you
got a heart, come an' eat with me. I know a little place we can get
somethin' decent: it's a dago caffay, but it's clean an' decent
enough. Will you come?" Her voice was shaking; he could see her
little body trembling.

"But why?" he asked, hesitatingly.

"Not for no reason, except I--I got to make myself believe you're
real!" She said it with a gasp.

Peter fell in beside her and she led the way. The small restaurant
to which she piloted him wasn't pretentious, but it was, as she had
said, clean, and the food was excellent.

She said her name was Gracie Cantrell, and Peter took her word for
it. While she was eating she discoursed about herself, pleased at
the interest this odd, dark-faced young fellow with the soft,
drawling voice seemed to take in her. She had begun in a box
factory, she told him. And then she'd been a candy-dipper. Now, you
work in a lowered atmosphere in order not to spoil your chocolate.
For which reason candy-dippers, like all the good, are likely to die
young. Seven of the girls in Gracie's department "got the T.B." That
made Gracie pause to think, and the more she thought about it, the
clearer it seemed to her that if one has to have a short life, one
might at least make a bid for a merrier one than candy-dipping. So
she made her choice. The short life and merry, rather than the T.B.
and charity.

"And has it been so merry, Gracie?" asked Peter, looking at the hard
young face wonderingly.

"Well, it's been heaps better than choc'late-dippin'," said Gracie,
promptly. "I don't get no worse treated, when all's said an' done.
I've got better clothes an' more time an' I don't work nothin' like
so hard. An' I got chanst to see things. You don't see nothin' in
the fact'ry. Say I feel like goin' to the movies, or treatin' myself
to a ice-cream soda or a choc'late a-clair, why, I can do it without
nobody's leave--when I'm lucky. You ain't ever lucky in the fact'ry:
you never have nothin', see? So I'd rather be me like I am than be
me back in the fact'ry."

"And do you always expect to be--lucky?" Peter winced at the word.

"I can't afford to think about that," she replied, squinting at the
red ink in her glass. "You got to run your risks an' take your
chances. All I know is, I'll have more and see more before I die.
An' I won't die no sooner nor no painfuller than if I'd stayed on in
the fact'ry."

Peter admitted to himself that she probably wouldn't. Also, that he
had nothing to say, where Gracie was concerned. He felt helpless in
the face of it--as helpless as he had felt one June morning long ago
when he had seen old Daddy Neptune praying, after a night of horror,
to a Something or a Somebody blind and indifferent. And it seemed to
him that life pressed upon him menacingly, as if he and Neptune and
this lost child of the New York streets had been caught like rats in
a trap.

The girl, on her part, had been watching him with painful intensity.

"You're a new one on _me_," she told him frankly. "I feel like
pinchin' you to see if you're real. Say, tell me: if you're real,
are you the sort of guy that'd give twenty-five dollars, for
nothin', to a girl he picked up in the street? Or, are you just a
softy fool that a girl that picks him up in the streets can trim?
There's more of _him_ than the first sort," she finished.

"You must judge that for yourself," said Peter. "I may tell you,
though, that I am quite used to being called a fool," he finished,
tranquilly.

"So?" said she, after another long look. "Well, I--what I mean to
say is, I wish to God there was more fools like you. If there was,
there'd be less fools like me." After a pause she asked, in a
subdued voice:

"You expect to stay in this town long?"

"I leave in the morning."

"I'm sorry," said she. "Not," she added hastily, "that I want to
touch you for more money or anything like that, I don't. But
I--well, I'd like to know you was livin' in the same town, see?"

Peter saw. But again he had nothing to say. Young as he was, he knew
the absurdity of all talk of reform to such as Gracie. As things are
they can't reform, they can't even be prevented. He looked at her,
thoughtfully.

"I'm not only leaving New York, I'm leaving America to-morrow," he
said at last. "I wish there was something I could do for you."

She shook her head. Her little painted face looked pinched. There
were shadows under the eyes that should have been soft and dewy.
"You can't do nothin'. I'll tell you why. Somehow--I--I'd like you
to know."

And she sat there and told him.

"You see?" said she, when she had finished.

"I see," said Peter; and the hand that held his cigarette trembled.
The thing that struck him most forcibly was the stupid waste of it
all.

"Look here, Gracie," he said at last, "if you ever get--very
unlucky--and things are too hard for you--sort of last ditch, you
know,--I want you to go to a certain address. It's to my uncle," he
explained, seeing her look blank. "You'll send in the card I'm going
to give you, and you will say I sent you. He'll probably investigate
you, you know. But you just tell him the truth, and say I told you
he'd help. Will you do that!"

She in her turn reflected, watching Peter curiously. Then she fell
to tracing patterns on the table-cloth with the point of her knife.

"All right," she said. "If ever I have to, an' I can find him, I
will--an' say you sent me."

Peter took out his pocket memorandum, wrote his uncle's name and the
address of the house in the Seventies which he was presently to
occupy, added, "I wish you'd do what you can, for my sake," and
signed it. He handed the girl the slip of paper, and she thrust it
into her low-necked blouse.

"And now," he finished kindly, "you'd better go home, Gracie, go to
bed, and sleep." He held out his brown hand, and she, rising from
her chair, gripped his fingers as a child might have done, and
looked at him with dog's eyes.

"Good-by!" said she, huskily. "You _are_ real, ain't you?"

"Damnably so," admitted Peter. "Good-by, then, Gracie." And he left
her standing by the table, the empty wine-glass before her. The
streets stretched before him emptily.--That poor, done-for kid! What
_is_ one to do for these Gracies?

"Mister! For God's sake! I'm hungry!" a hoarse voice accosted him. A
dirty hand was held out.

Mechanically Peter's hand went to his pocket, found a silver dollar,
and held it out. The dirty hand snatched it, and without so much as
a thank you the man rushed into a near-by bakery. Peter shuddered.

When he reached his room, he sat for a long time before his open
window, and stared at the myriads and myriads of lights. From the
streets far below came a subdued, ceaseless drone, as if the huge
city stirred uneasily in her sleep--perhaps because she dreamed of
the girls she prostituted and the men she starved. And it was like
that everywhere. If the great cities gave, they also took,
wastefully. Peter was tormented, confronted by the inexorable
question:

"What am _I_ going to do about it?"

He couldn't answer, any more than any other earnest and decent boy
could answer, whose whole and sole weapon happened to be a
paint-brush. One thing he resolved: he wouldn't add to the sum
total; nobody should be the worse off because he had lived. So
thinking, the bridegroom fell asleep.

When he awoke in the morning, he lay for a moment staring at the
strange ceiling overhead; his mind had an uneasy consciousness that
something impended. Then he sat up suddenly in his bed, and clutched
his head in his hands.

"Lord have mercy on me!" cried Peter. "I've got to get up and get
married!"

By ten o'clock his luggage was on its way to the steamer. Dressed in
his new clothes, ring and license carefully tucked away in his
pocket, Peter took an hour off and jumped on a bus. It delighted him
to roll around the streets on top of a bus. He felt that he could
never see enough of this wonderful, terrible, beautiful, ugly,
cruel, and kind city. Everywhere he turned, something was being torn
down or up, something was being demolished or replaced. New York was
like an inefficient and yet hard-working housekeeper, forever
house-cleaning; her house was never in order, and probably never
would be, hence this endless turmoil. Yet, somehow, Peter liked it.
She wasn't satisfied with things as they were.

He stopped at Grant's Tomb, looked at the bronze tablet
commemorating the visit of Li Hung Chang, then went inside and
stared reflectively at the torn and dusty flags.

"It was worth the price," he decided. "But," he added, with a
certain deep satisfaction, "I'm glad we gave them a run for their
money while we were at it!" The Champneyses, one remembers, were on
the other side.

When he got back to his hotel the car that his uncle had sent for
him had just arrived. Deferential help brought out his remaining
belongings, were tipped, and stood back while the door was slammed
upon the departing one. The car was held up for seven minutes on
Forty-second Street, while Peter leaned forward to get his first
view of congested traffic. He had once seen two Ford cars and an
ox-cart tie up the Riverton Road.

Arrived at Emma Campbell's quarters, he found her sitting stiffly
erect, her foot upon her new suit-case, her new cloak over her arm,
and the bird-cage under her hand. The expressman who had called for
her trunk early that morning had good-naturedly offered to carry the
bird-cage along with it, but Emma had flatly refused to let the cat
get out of her sight. Even when she climbed into the car she held
fast to the cage.

"I don't say nothin' 'bout _me_. All I scared ob is, dat dis
unforchnate cat's gwine to lose 'is min' before we-all finishes up."

It was with difficulty that Peter persuaded her to leave the cage in
the car when they reached his uncle's hotel.

"Mistuh," said Emma to the chauffeur, "is you-all got any fambly
dependin' on you?"

"One wife. Three kids," said the chauffeur, briefly.

"I ain't de kin' ob lady whut makes threats agin' a gent'man," said
Emma, looking him unblinklngly in the eye. "All I says is, dat I
started whah I come fum wid dat cat an' I 'specks to lan' up whah I
's gwine to wid dat same cat in dat same cage. Bein' as you 's got
dem chillun en dat wife, I calls yo' 'tenshun to dat fac', suh."

The chauffeur, a case-hardened pirate, laughed. "All right, lady,"
said he, genially. "It ain't in my line to granny cats, but that one
will be the apple of me good eye until you git back. I wouldn't like
the missus to be a widder: she's too darn good-lookin'."

With her mind at ease on this point, Emma consented to leave
Satan in the car and follow Peter. Emma looked resplendently
respectable, and she knew it. She was dressed as well as if she
had expected to be buried. By innate wisdom she had retained the
snowy head-handkerchief under her sailor hat, and she wore her big
gold hoop-earrings. Smart colored servants were common enough at
that hotel, but one did not often see such as this tall and erect
old woman in her severe black-and-white. Emma belonged almost to
another day and generation, although her face, like the faces of
many old colored women, was unwrinkled. She had a dignity that the
newer generation lacks, and a pride unknown to them.

Peter and Emma went up in an elevator and were ushered into a
private sitting-room, where were awaiting them Mr. Chadwick
Champneys, a gentleman who was obviously a clergyman, another who
was as obviously a member of the Bar, and the latter's wife, a very
handsome lady handsomely and expensively panoplied. There was the
usual hand-shaking, as Peter was introduced, and the handsome lady
stared openly at Emma; one doesn't often see a bridegroom come in
accompanied by an old colored woman. Emma courtesied, with the
inimitable South Carolina bending of the knees, and then took a
modest seat in the background and faded into it. She had good
manners, had Emma.

Mr. Champneys glanced at his watch, and presently left the room. The
clergyman, book in hand, stepped into the middle of the floor, and
looked importantly religious. The lawyer smilingly invited Peter to
take his place beside him. Everybody assumed a solemn look.

And then the door opened and the bride appeared, leaning on her
uncle's arm. Emma Campbell, leaning forward, got one glimpse of the
face but slightly concealed by the thin, floating tulle veil pinned
on with a wreath of orange-blossoms, caught one gleam from the
narrowed eyes; and her own eyes bulged in her head, her mouth fell
open. Emma wished to protest, to cry, to pray aloud.

The bride was magnificently dressed, in a gown that was much too
elaborate for her angular and undeveloped young figure. It made her
look over-dressed and absurd to a pitiful degree, as if she were
masquerading. The hair-dresser whom she had called to her aid had
done her worst. Nancy had an unusual quantity of hair, and it had
been curled and frizzed, and puffed and pulled, until the girl's
head appeared twice its natural size. Through the fine lace of her
sleeves were visible her thin, sunburned arms. Her naturally dark
eyebrows had been accentuated, and there was a bright red patch on
each cheek, her lips being equally crimson. Out of the rouged and
powdered face crowned by towering red hair, the multitude of
freckles showed defiantly, two fierce eyes lowered.

As Peter met the stare of those narrowed eyes, to save his life he
couldn't keep from showing his downright consternation. His aversion
and distaste were so manifest, that a deeper red than rouge stained
the girl's cheek and mottled her countenance. Her impulse was to
raise her hand and strike him across his wincing mouth.

What Nancy saw was a tall, thin, shambling young fellow whose face
was pale with an emotion not at all complimentary to herself. He
didn't like her! He thought her hideous! He despised her! So she
read Peter's expressive eyes. She thought him a fool, to stand there
staring at her like that, and she hated him. She detested him.
Puppy!

She saw his glance of piteous entreaty, and Mr. Chadwick Champneys's
bland, blind ignoring of its silent reproach and appeal. And then
the long-legged young fellow pulled himself together. His head went
up, his mouth hardened, and his voice didn't shake when he promised
to cherish and protect her, until death did them part.

All the while Peter felt that he was struggling in a hideous dream.
That bride in white satin wasn't real; his uncle wouldn't play him
such a trick! Peter cringed when the defiant voice of the girl
snapped her "I do" and "I will."

The clergyman's voice had trailed off. He was calling her "Mrs.
Champneys." And Mr. Vandervelde and his handsome wife were shaking
hands with her and Peter, and saying pleasant, polite, conventional
things to them both. She signed a paper. And that old nigger-woman
kept staring at her; but Peter avoided meeting her eyes. And her
uncle was saying that she must change her frock now, my dear:
Peter's boat sailed within the hour, remember. And then she was back
in her room, tearing off the dress that only last night she had so
fondly fingered.

It lay on the floor in a shimmering heap, and she trampled on it.
She had torn the tulle veil and orange-blossoms from her hair, and
she stamped on those, too. The maid who had been engaged to help her
stood aghast when the bride kicked her wedding-gown across the room.
She folded it with shaking hands and smoothed the torn veil as best
she could. The beautiful lace-and-ivory fan was snapped and torn
beyond hope of salvage. Nancy tossed it from her. With round eyes
the maid watched her tear hair-pins out of her hair, rush into the
bath-room, and with furious haste belabor her head with a wet brush
to remove the fatal frizzings; but the work had been too thoroughly
done to hope to remove all traces of it so easily. Nancy brushed it
as best she could, and then rolled it into a stout coil on the top
of her head. Her satin slippers came hurtling across the room as
she kicked them off, and the maid caught them on the fly.

Back into the bath-room again, and the maid could hear her splashing
around, as she scrubbed her face. When she came out, it was
brick-red, but powderless and paintless. She got into her blue
tailored suit without assistance, and, sitting on the floor,
buttoned her shoes with her own fingers, to the maid's disgust. Then
she jerked on her hat, stuck a hat-pin through it carelessly,
snatched up gloves and hand-bag, and was ready for departure. The
expression of her face at that moment sent the maid cowering against
the wall, and tied her tongue; the bride looked as if she were quite
capable of pitching an officious helper out of a ten-story window.

"My God!" said the girl to herself, as Nancy, without so much as a
word or a look in her direction, slammed the door behind her. "My
God, if that poor fellow that's just been married to _her_ was any
kin to me, I'd have a High Mass said for his soul!"

The brick-red apparition that swept into the room put the final
touch upon Peter's dismay. He thought her the most unpleasant human
being he had ever encountered, and almost the ugliest. The
Vanderveldes had taken the clergyman off in their car, and only
Peter, his uncle, and Emma remained.

"I'm ready!" snapped the bride. She didn't glance at the bridegroom,
but the look she bestowed upon Emma made that doughty warrior quail.
Emma conceived a mortal terror of Peter's wife. She took the place
of the Boogerman and of ha'nts.

Chadwick Champneys had his hand on his nephew's shoulder, and was
talking to him in a low and very earnest voice--rather like a
clergyman consoling a condemned man with promises of heaven after
hanging. Peter received his uncle's assurances in resigned silence.

Two cars were waiting outside the hotel for the wedding-party. As
Emma Campbell stepped into the one that was to convey her and Peter
to the boat, Nancy saw her stoop and lift a large bird-cage
containing, of all things, an immense black cat, which mewed
plaintively at sight of her. It was the final touch of grotesqueness
upon her impossible wedding. The two Champneyses wrung hands
silently. The older man said a few words to the colored woman, and
shook hands with her, too.

Then the two cars were rolling away, Nancy sitting silent beside her
uncle. At the corner Peter's vanished. The bride hoped from the
bottom of her heart that she would never lay eyes upon her
bridegroom again. She didn't exactly wish him any harm, greatly as
she disliked him, but she felt that if he would go away and die he
would be doing her a personal favor.

Peter and Emma made their boat ten minutes before the gang-plank was
pulled in. A steward took Emma in charge, and carried off the
bird-cage containing Satan. Emma, who had been silent during the
drive to the pier, opened her mouth now:

"Mist' Peter," said she, "ef yo' uncle 's wuth a million dollars, he
ought to tun it over to you dis mawnin'. 'T ain't for me," said
Emma, beginning to tremble, "to talk 'bout Mis' Champneys whut you
done got married to. But I used to know Miss Maria. And dat 's
how-come," finished Emma, irrelevantly, "dat 's how-come I mighty
glad we 's gwine to furrin folkses' countries, whichin I hopes to
Gawd dey 's a mighty long way off fum dat gal." And Peter's heart
echoed Emma's sentiments so fully that he couldn't find it in him to
reprove her for giving utterance to them.

With a sense of relief, he watched New York receding from his sight.
Hadn't he paid too high a price, after all? Remembering his bride's
eyes, pure terror assailed him. No woman had ever looked at Peter
like that before. He tried to keep from feeling bitter toward his
uncle. Well! He was in for it! He would make his work his bride, by
way of compensation. For all that he was a bridegroom of an hour or
so, and a seeker bound upon the quest of his heart's desire, Peter
turned away from the steamer's railing with a very heavy heart.

A tall, fair-faced woman turned away from the railing at the same
instant, and their eyes met. Hers were brightly, bravely blue, and
they widened with astonishment at sight of Peter Champneys. She
stared, and gasped. Peter stared, and gasped, too.

"Miss Claribel!" cried Peter.

"Mrs. Hemingway," she corrected, smiling. "It isn't--Yes, it is,
too! Peter! Oh, that Red Admiral _is_ a fairy!"




CHAPTER XI

HIS GRANDMOTHER'S HOUSE


"It is rather wonderful to turn around and find _you_ here,
Peter,--and to find you so unchanged. Because you haven't changed,
really; you've just grown up," said Mrs. Hemingway, holding his
hand. Her face was excited and glad. "I should have known you
instantly, anywhere."

"I am told my legs are quite unmistakable. Some have said I appear
to be walking on fishing-poles," said Peter.

Mrs. Hemingway laughed. "They seem to be good, long, serviceable
legs," she said, gaily. "But it is your eyes I recognized, Peter.
One couldn't mistake your eyes."

Peter smiled at her gratefully. "The really wonderful thing is that
you should remember me at all," he told her happily, and his face
glowed. That her reappearance should be timed to the outset of his
great adventure into life seemed highly significant. One might
almost consider it an omen.

As if they had parted but yesterday, they were able to resume their
old sympathetic friendship, with its satisfying sense of comradely
understanding. Her heart warmed to him now as it had warmed to the
shabby boy she had first seen running after the Red Admiral in the
fields beyond the river swamp. No, she reflected appraisingly, he
had not changed. He had somehow managed to retain a certain quality
of childlikeness that made her feel as if she were looking through
crystal. She was grateful that no contact had been able to blunt it,
that it remained undimmed and serene.

Briefly and rather baldly Peter outlined his years of struggle,
dismissing their bleak hardships with a tolerant smile. What he
seemed chiefly to remember was the underlying kindness and good
humor of the folk back there in Riverton; if they had ever failed to
be kind, it was because they hadn't understood, he thought. There
was no resentment in him. Why, they were his own folks! His mother's
grave was one of their graves, his name one of their names, their
traditions and heritages were part and parcel of himself. The
tide-water was in his blood; his flesh was dust of the South
Carolina coast.

She saw that, while he was speaking. And against the vivid, colorful
coast background she caught haunting glimpses of a tireless small
figure toiling, sweating, always moving toward a far-off goal as
with the inevitable directness of a fixed law. She marveled at the
patience of his strength, and she loved his gentleness, his
sweetness that had a flavor of other-worldliness in it.

He was telling her now of Chadwick Champneys and how his coming had
changed things. But of the price he had had to pay he said nothing.
He tried not to think of the bride his uncle had forced upon him,
though her narrowed eyes, her red hair, her mouth set in a hard red
line haunted him like a nightmare. His soul revolted against such a
mockery of marriage. He could imagine his mother's horror, and he
was glad Maria Champneys slept beside the husband of her youth in
the cemetery beside the Riverton Road. She wouldn't have asked him
to pay such a price, not for all the Champneyses dead and gone! But
Chadwick Champneys had held him to his bargain, had forced him to
give his name, his father's name, of which his mother had been so
proud.

Peter smarted with humiliation. It was as if he had been bought and
sold, and he writhed under the disgrace of such bondage. He felt the
helpless anger of one who realizes he has been shamefully swindled,
yet is powerless to redress his injury; and what added insult to
injury was that a Champneys, his father's brother, had inflicted it.

Yet he had no faintest notion of breaking or even evading his
pledged word; such a thought never once occurred to him. He meant to
live up to the letter of his bargain; his honor would compel him to
fulfil his obligation scrupulously and exactly.

"And so my uncle and I came to terms," he told Mrs. Hemingway. And
he added conscientiously: "He is very liberal. He insisted upon
placing to my credit what he says I'll need, but what seems to me
too much. And so here I am," he finished.

"Yes, here you are. It had to be," said she, thoughtfully. "It's
your fate, Peter."

"It had to be. It's my fate," agreed Peter.

"And that nice, amusing old colored woman who kept house for
you--what became of her?"

"Emma? Oh, she wouldn't stay behind, so she came along with me. And
she couldn't leave the cat, so he came along, too," said Peter,
casually.

Mrs. Hemingway laughed as his uncle had laughed.

"There's an odd turn to your processes, Peter," she commented. "One
sees that _you'll_ never be molded into a human bread pill! I'm glad
we've met again. I think you're going to need me. So I'm going to
look after you."

"I have needed you every day since you left," he told her.

He didn't as yet know what deep cause he had to feel grateful for
Mrs. John Hemingway's promise to look after him; he didn't as yet
know what an important person she was in the American colony in
Paris, as well as in certain very high circles of French society
itself. And what was true of her in Paris was also true of her in
London. Mrs. John Hemingway's promise to look after a young man
hall-marked him. She was more beautiful and no less kind than of
old, and absence had not had the power to change his feelings for
her. As simply and whole-heartedly as he had loved her then, he
loved her now. So he looked at her with shining eyes. Reticence was
ingrained in Peter, but the knowledge that she liked and understood
him had the effect of sunlight upon him.

"He's as simple as the Four Gospels," she thought, "and as
elemental as the coast country itself. One couldn't spoil him any
more than one could spoil the tide-water.

"Yes, indeed! I'm going to look after you," she repeated.

He discovered, from what she herself chose to tell him, that there
had been some unpleasant years for her too. But that had all ended
when she married John Hemingway, then with a New York firm and later
sent abroad to represent the interests of the company of which he
was now a member. His chief office was in Paris, though he had to
spend considerable time in London. When she spoke of John Hemingway
his wife's face glowed with quiet radiance. The one drop of
bitterness in her cup was that there were no children.

"I hope you marry young, Peter, and that there'll be a houseful of
little Champneys," she said, and sighed a bit enviously.

At that the face of Mrs. Peter Champneys rose before her bridegroom
and the very soul of him winced and cringed. He averted his face,
staring seaward.

"I know so many charming young girls," said Mrs. Hemingway,
musingly, as if she were speaking to herself.

"They don't come any prettier than they come in Riverton," Peter
parried. "And you're to remember I'm coming over here to _work_."

"I'll remember," said she, smiling. "But all the same, I mean you to
go about it the right way. I'm going to introduce you to some very
delightful people, Peter."

Then Peter took her to see Emma Campbell and the cat.

Emma would have crawled into her berth and stayed there until the
ship docked if it hadn't been for the cat. Satan had to be given a
daily airing; he had to be looked after by some one she could trust,
and Emma rose to the occasion. She crawled out of her berth and on
deck, where, steamer rug over her knees, her head tightly bound in a
spotless white head-handkerchief, she sat with her hand on the big
bird-cage set upon a camp-stool next her chair.

"I don' say one Gawd's word about _me_, dough I does feel lak I done
swallahed my own stummick. All I scared of is dat dis po'
unforch'nate cat 's gwine to lose 'is min' befo' we-all lan's," she
told Mrs. Hemingway, and cast a glance of deep distaste at the
tumbling world of waters around her. Emma didn't like the sea at
all. There was much too much of it.

"I got a feelin' heart for ole man Noah," she concluded pensively.

When they sighted the Irish coast, Emma discovered a deep sense of
gratitude to the Irish: no matter what they didn't have, they did
have _land_; and land and plenty of it, land that you could walk on,
was what Emma craved most in this world. When they presently reached
England, she was so glad to feel solid earth under her feet once
more that she was jubilant.

"Cat, we-all is saved!" she told Satan. "You en me is chillun o'
Israel come thoo de Red Sea. We-all got a mighty good Gawd, cat!"

They went up to London with Mrs. Hemingway, and were met by
Hemingway himself, who gave Peter Champneys an entirely new
conception of the term "business man." Peter knew rice- and
cotton- and stock-men, even a provincial banker or two--all
successful men, within their limits. But this big, quiet, vital
man hadn't any limits, except those of the globe itself. A tall,
fair man with a large head, decided features, chilly gray eyes,
and an uncompromising mouth adorned with a short, stiff mustache,
his square chin was cleft by an incomprehensible dimple. His wife
declared she had married him because of that cleft; it gave her an
object in life to find out what it meant.

Hemingway studied Peter curiously. He had a great respect for his
wife's nice and discriminating judgment, and it was plain that this
long-legged, unpretentious young man was deeply in her good graces.
Evidently, then, this chap must be more than a bit unusual. Going to
be an artist, was he? Well, thank God, he didn't _look_ as if he
were afflicted with the artistic temperament; he looked as if he
were capable of hard work, and plenty of it.

People liked to say that John Hemingway was a fine example of the
American become a cosmopolitan. As a matter of fact, Hemingway
wasn't. He liked Europe, but in his heart he wearied of its
over-sophistication, its bland diplomacy. His young countryman's
unspoiled truthfulness delighted him. He was proud of it. A man
trained to judge men, he perceived this cub's potential strength.
That he should so instantly like his wife's protege raised that
charming lady's fine judgment even higher in his estimation. A man
always respects his wife's judgment more when it tallies with his
own convictions.

The Hemingways insisted that Peter should spend some time in
England. Mrs. Hemingway was going over to Paris presently, and he
could accompany her. In the meantime she wanted him to meet certain
English friends of hers. Peter was perfectly willing to wait. He was
enchanted with London, and although he would have preferred to be
turned foot-loose to prowl indefinitely, his affection for Mrs.
Hemingway made him amenable to her discipline. At her command he
went with Hemingway to the latter's tailor. To please her he
duteously obeyed Hemingway's fastidious instructions as to
habiliments. He overcame his rooted aversion to meeting strangers,
and when bidden appeared in her drawing-room, and there met smart,
clever, and noted London.

Hemingway thereafter marked his progress with amusement not unmixed
with amazement. It came to him that there was a greater difference,
a deeper divergence between himself and Peter than between Peter and
these Britishers. The earmark of your coast-born South Carolinian is
the selfsame, absolute sureness of himself, his place, his people,
in the essential scheme of things. Wasn't he born in South Carolina?
Hasn't he relatives in Charleston? Very well, then!

In Peter's case this essential sureness had developed into a
courtesy so instinctive, a democracy so unaffectedly sincere, that
it flavored his whole personality with a pleasing distinctiveness.
The British do not expect their very young men to be too knowing
or too fatally bright; they mark the promise rather than the
performance of youth, and spaciously allow time for the process of
development. And so Peter Champneys found himself curiously at home
in democratically oligarchic England.

"I feel as if I were visiting my grandmother's house," he confided
to a certain lady next whom he was seated at one of Mrs. Hemingway's
small dinners.

"And where is your mother's house?" wondered the lady, who found
herself attracted to him.

"Over home in Riverton," said Peter Champneys. And his face went
wistful, remembering the little town with the tide-water gurgling in
its coves, and its great oaks hung with long gray swaying moss, and
the sinuous lines of the marshes against sky and water, and the
smell of the sea--all the mellow magic of the coast that was Home.
It didn't occur to him that an English lady mightn't know just where
"over home in Riverton" might be. She was so great a lady that she
didn't ask. She looked at him and said thoughtfully:

"I wonder if you wouldn't like to see an old place of ours. I'm
having the Hemingways down for a week, and I should like you to come
with them." And she added, with a charming smile: "As you are an
artist, you'll like our gallery. There's a Rembrandt you should
see."

Peter's eyes of a sudden went deep and golden, and their dazzling
depths had so instant and so sweet a recognition that her heart
leaped in answer. It was as if a young archangel had secretly
signaled her in passing.

When the formal invitation arrived, Mrs. Hemingway was delighted
with what she termed Peter's good fortune. The invitations to that
house were coveted and prized she explained. Really, Peter Champneys
was unusually lucky! She felt deeply gratified.

Peter hadn't known that there existed anywhere on earth anything
quite so perfect as the life in a great English country house. He
thought that perhaps the vanished plantation life of the old South
might have approximated it. His delight in the fine old Tudor pile,
in its ordered stateliness, its mellowed beauty, pleased his hostess
and won the regard of the rather grumpy gentleman who happened to be
her husband and its owner. To her surprise, he took Peter under his
wing, and showed himself as much interested in this modest guest as
he was ordinarily indifferent to many more important ones. It was
his custom to take what he called a stroll before breakfast--a
matter of a mere eight or ten miles, maybe--and he found to his hand
a young man with walking legs, seeing eyes, and but a modicum of
tongue. He showed Peter that country-side with the thoroughness of a
boy birds'-nesting, as Peter had once showed the Carolina
country-side to Claribel Spring. They went over the venerable house
with the same thoroughness, and Peter sensed the owner's
impersonally personal delight in the stewardship of a priceless
possession. He held it in trust, and he loved it with a quiet
passion that was as much a part of himself as was his English
speech. Every now and then he would pause before some rusty sword,
or maybe a tattered and dusty banner; and although he was of a very
florid complexion, and his nose was even bigger than Peter's, in
such moments there was that in the eye and brow, in the expression
of the firm lips, that made him more than handsome in the young
man's sight. Through him he glimpsed that something silent and large
and fine that is England.

"And we're going," said the nobleman, pausing before the portrait of
a gentleman who had fallen at Marston Moor. "Oh, yes, we are
vanishing. After a while the great breed of English gentlemen will
be as extinct as the dodo. And this house will be turned into a
Dispensary for Dyspeptic Proletarians, or more probably an American
named Cohen will buy it and explain to his guests at dinner just how
much it cost him."

Peter remembered broken and vine-grown chimneys where stately homes
had stood, the extinction of a romantic plantation life, the
vanishing of the gentlemen of the old South, as the Champneys had
vanished. They had taken with them something never to be replaced in
American life, perhaps; but hadn't that vanished something made room
for a something else intrinsically better and sounder, because based
on a larger conception of freedom and justice? The American looked
at the cavalier's haughty, handsome face; he looked at the
Englishman thoughtfully.

"Yes. You will go," he agreed presently. "All things pass. That is
the law. In the end it is a good law."

"I should think it would altogether depend on what replaces us,"
said the other, dryly.

"And that," said Peter, "altogether depends upon you, doesn't it?
It's in your power to shape it, you know. However, if you'll notice,
things somehow manage to right themselves in spite of us. Now, over
home in Carolina we haven't come out so very badly, all things
considered."

"Got jolly well licked, didn't you?" asked the Englishman, whose
outstanding idea of American military history centered upon
Stonewall Jackson.

"Just about wiped off the slate. Had to begin all over, in a world
turned upside down. Yet, you see, here I am! And I assure you I
shouldn't be willing to change places with my grandfather." With a
shy friendliness he laid his fingers for a moment on his host's arm.
"Your grandson won't be willing to change, either, because he'll be
the right sort. _That's_ what your kind hands down." He spoke
diffidently, but with a certain authority. Each man is a sieve
through which life sifts experiences, leaving the garnering of grain
and the blowing away of chaff to the man himself. Peter had garnered
courage to face with a quiet heart things as they are. He had never
accepted the general view of things as final, therefore he escaped
disillusionment.

"They thought the end of the world had come--my people. So it
had--for them. But not for us. There's always a new heaven and a new
earth for those who come after," he finished.

The Englishman smiled twistedly. After a while he said unexpectedly:

"I wish you'd have a try at my portrait, Mr. Champneys. I think I'd
like that tentative grandson of mine to see the sort of grandfather
he really possessed."

"Why, I haven't had any training! But if you'll sit for me I'll do
some sketches of you, gladly."

"Why not now?" asked the other, coolly. "I have a fancy to see what
you'll make of me." He added casually: "Whistler used the north room
over the stables when he stayed here. You've seen his pastels, and
the painting of my father."

"Yes," said Peter, reverently. And he stared at his host,
round-eyed.

"We've never changed the room since his time. Should you like to
look over it now? You'll find all the materials you are likely to
need,--my sister has a pretty little talent of her own, and it
pleases her to use the place."

"Why, yes, if you like," murmured Peter, dazedly. And like one in a
dream he followed his stocky host to the room over the stables. One
saw why the artist had selected it; it made an ideal studio. A small
canvas, untouched, was already in place on an easel near a window.
One or two ladylike landscapes leaned against the wall.

"She has the talent of a painstaking copyist," said her brother,
nodding at his sister's work. "Shall you use oils, or do you prefer
chalks, or water-colors?"

"Oils," decided Peter, examining the canvas. "It will be rough work,
remember." He made his preparations, turned upon his sitter the
painter's knife-like stare, and plunged into work. It was swift
work, and perhaps roughly done, as he had said, but by the miracle
of genius he managed to catch and fix upon his canvas the tenacious
and indomitable soul of the Englishman. You saw it looking out at
you from the steady, light blue eyes in the plain face with its
craggy nose and obstinate chin; and you saw the kindness and
delicacy of the firm mouth. There he stood, flat-footed, easy in his
well-worn clothes, one hand in his pocket, the other holding the
blackthorn walking-stick he always carried, and looked at you with
the quiet sureness of integrity and of power. Peter added a few last
touches; and then, instead of signing his name, he painted in a
small Red Admiral, this with such exquisite fidelity that you might
think that gay small rover had for a moment alighted upon the canvas
and would in another moment fly away again.

His lordship studied his painted semblance critically.

"I rather thought you could do it," he said quietly. "I usually
manage, as you Americans say, to pick a winner. You'll be a great
painter if you really want to be one, Mr. Champneys. Should you say
sixty guineas would be a fair price for this?"

"That's something like three hundred dollars, isn't it?" asked
Peter, interestedly. "Suppose we call this a preliminary sketch for
a portrait I'm to paint later--say when I've had a few years of
training."

"You will charge me very much more than sixty guineas for a
portrait, two or three years from now," said the other, smiling. He
looked at the swiftly done, vivid bit of work. "_This_ is what I
want for my grandson; it is his grandfather as nature made him. It
is as true and as homely as life itself." And he looked at Peter
respectfully, so that that young man blushed to his ears. And that
is how and when Peter Champneys painted his first ordered picture,
signed with the Red Admiral; and how he won the faithful friendship
of a crusty Englishman. It was a very real friendship. His lordship
had what he himself called a country heart, and as Peter Champneys
had the same sort, and neither man outraged the other by too much
talk, they got along astonishingly well.

"He's deucedly intelligent," his lordship explained, with quiet
enthusiasm. "We'll tramp for miles, and I give you my word that for
an hour on end he won't say three words!"

Hemingway, to whom this confidence was given, chuckled. It amused
him to watch his wife's wild goose putting on native swan feathers.
Yet it pleased him, for he knew the boy appealed to her romantic as
well as to her maternal instinct. She handled him skilfully, and it
was she who passed upon his invitations. She wished him to meet
clever and brilliant men and women; and at times she left him in the
hands of young girls, pink-and-white visions who troubled as well as
interested him. He felt that he was really meeting them under false
pretenses. Their youth called to his, but he might not answer.
Between him and youth stood that unloved and unlovely girl in
America.

Mrs. Hemingway watched him with the eyes of the woman who has a
young man upon her hands. His reactions to his contacts interested
her immensely. His worldly education was progressing with entire
satisfaction to her.

"I want him to marry an English wife," she confided to her husband.
They were to leave for Paris that night, and she was summing up the
results of his stay in London, the balance being altogether in his
favor. "A well-bred, normal English girl with good connections, a
girl entirely untroubled by temperament, who will love him tenderly,
look out for his physical well-being, and fill his house with
healthy children, is exactly what Peter Champneys needs. And the
sooner it happens to him the better. Peter has a lonely soul. It
shouldn't be allowed to become chronic."

Hemingway looked at her apprehensively. "Sounds to me as if you were
trying to make Peter pick a peck of pickled peppers," he commented.
And Peter coming in at this opportune moment, he grinned at the boy
cheerfully.

"Peter," he smiled, "the sweet chime of merry wedding-bells in the
distance falls softly on mine ear; my wife thinks you should be
altar-broke. Charming domestic interior, happy fireside clime, flag
of our union fluttering from the patent clothes-line! Futurist
painting of Young Artist Pushing a Pram! Don't look at me with such
an agonized expression of the ears, Peter!"

But Peter had no answering smile. His face had changed, and there
was that in his eyes which gave Hemingway pause.

"Why, old chap, I was merely joking!" he began, with real concern.

"Peter!" said the woman, softly. "You have had--a disappointment?
But, my dear boy, you are so _very_ young. Don't take it too much to
heart, Peter. At your age nothing is final, really." And she smiled
at him.

A flush suffused the young man's forehead. He felt shamed and
miserable. He _couldn't_ flaunt his price-tag before these unbuyable
souls whose beautiful and true marriage was based upon love, and
sympathy, and mutual ideals! He _couldn't_ rattle his chains, or
explain Anne Champneys. He couldn't, indeed, force himself to speak
of her at all. The thing was bad enough, but to talk about it--No!
He lifted troubled eyes.

"I am afraid--in my case--it is final," he said, in a low voice.
And after a pause, in a louder tone: "Yes--please understand--it is
final."

"Oh, Peter dear, I'm sorry! But--"

"You're talking nonsense. Why, you're barely twenty-one!" protested
Hemingway. "Much water must flow under the bridge, Peter, before you
can say of anything: it is final. You've got a long life ahead of
you to--"

"Work in," finished Peter. "Yes, I know that. I have my chance to
work. That is enough." At that his head went up.

Mrs. Hemingway puckered her brows. She leaned toward him, her eyes
lighting up.

"Peter!" said she, mischievously, her cheek dimpling. "Peter, aren't
you rather leaving the Red Admiral out of your calculations?"




CHAPTER XII

"NOT BY BREAD ALONE"


Mrs. Peter Champneys drove away from the scene of her wedding,
feeling as if boiling water had been poured over her. No man of all
the men she had ever met had looked at her with just such an
expression as she had encountered in Peter Champneys's eyes, and the
memory of it filled her with a rankling sense of injustice. He had
married her for the same reason she had married him, hadn't he? Then
why should he think himself a whit better than she was? It seemed to
her that all the unkindness, all the slights she had ever endured,
had come to a head in Peter's distressed and astonished glance.

Nancy had no illusions as to her own personal appearance, but it
occurred to her that her bridegroom left considerable to be desired
in that respect, himself. With his hatchet face and his outstanding
ears and his big nose--why, he was as homely as that dried old
priest in the glass case in the museum!--and him looking down on
people every mite as good as he was! That was really the crux of the
thing: Nancy had her own pride, and Peter had managed to trample
upon it roughshod. She felt she could never forgive him, and her
sense of injury included Chadwick Champneys as well. She hadn't
asked him to make his nephew marry her, had she? The suggestion had
come from the Champneys, not from her. Yet it was plain to her that
both these men considered her a very inferior person. She couldn't
understand them.

She liked the furnished apartment she and Mr. Champneys were to
occupy until their house was ready, better than she had liked the
hotel, though the Japanese butler, Hoichi, overawed her. She wasn't
used to Japanese butlers and she didn't know exactly how to treat
this suave, deft, silent yellow man who was so efficient and so
ubiquitous. It was different where the maids were concerned; she who
had been so lately an unpaid drudge was afraid these trained, clever
servants might suspect her former state of servitude and she covered
her fear with a manner so insupportable that Mr. Chadwick Champneys,
who looked upon arrogant rudeness to social inferiors as a sort of
eighth deadly sin, was presently forced to remonstrate.

"Nancy," he ventured one morning, "I have been observing your
manner to the servants with--er--disapproval. A habitual lack of
consideration is a serious deficiency. It is really a lack of
breeding--and of heart. A lady"--he fixed his large dark eyes upon
her--"is never impolite."

He touched her on the quick. She _knew_ these Champneys didn't think
she was a lady, but for this old man to come right out and say so to
her face--"Say, I guess I know how to be a lady without you havin'
to tell me!"

"I am more than willing to be convinced," said the South Carolinian,
pointedly.

At that, of a sudden, Nancy flared. She lifted a pair of sullen and
mutinous eyes, and her lips quivered. He saw with surprise that she
was trembling.

"Say, you look here--I done what you told me to do, didn't I? I
ain't no more nor no less a lady than I was before I done it, am I?
What you pickin' on me for, then? What more you want?"

He sighed. Milly's niece was distinctly difficult, to say the least.
How, he asked himself desperately, was one to make a dent in her
appalling ignorance? She irritated him. And as is usual with people
who do not understand, he took exactly the wrong course with her.

"I want you at least to try to live up to your position," he said
with cold directness, beetling his brows at her. "I want you to do
what you're told--and to keep on doing it! Do you understand that?"
He felt that he was allowing himself to be more wrought up than was
good for him, and this added to his annoyance.

She considered this, sullenly. "I'm not exackly straight in my mind
what I understand and what I don't understand, yet," she replied.
"But I got this much straight: If I done what I done to please you,
I done it to please me, too!"

This was logical enough; it had even a note of common sense and
justice. But her crude method of expressing it filled him with cold
fury. The Champneys temper strained at the leash.

"Ah!" said he, a dark flush staining his face, "ah! Then get this
straight, too: you'll please me only _if_ you carry out your part of
our contract. What! do you dream I would ruin my nephew's life for a
self-willed, undisciplined minx? Nothing could be farther from my
thoughts! Nancy, _I_ made you Mrs. Peter Champneys: you will qualify
for the position--or lose it!" He tapped his foot on the floor, and
glared at her.

Nancy gave him glare for glare. "Yeah, you said it! You made me Mrs.
Peter Champneys, and all I got to do is to do what I don't want to
do, to hold down the job! What you askin' _him_ to do to please
_me_? How's _he_ qualifyin'? Is he so much I'm nothin'? Because
that's what he thinks! Oh, you needn't talk! I guess I got eyes, at
least!"

"I suggest that you use them to your own advantage, then," said he,
disgustedly. "Let us have done with such squabbling! You agreed to
obey. Very well, then, you will do so, or I shall take steps to put
you outside of my calculations. In other words, I will wash my hands
of you. Is that perfectly clear to you?" How else, he asked himself,
was he to make her understand?

She saw that he was in a towering rage, and she reflected that if
she had made Baxter that mad he'd have banged her with his fists.
For a long minute the two stared at each other. She was about to
make a defiant reply and let come what might, when a sort of spasm
distorted his face. His mouth opened gaspingly, his eyes rolled back
in his head like a dying man's. He seemed to crumple up, and she
caught him as he fell. Her terrified shriek brought Hoichi, who took
instant charge of the situation. He made the unconscious man
comfortable on a divan, applied such restoratives as were at hand,
and directed a frightened maid to telephone for physicians.

Nancy fled to her own room, and sat on the edge of her bed,
frightened and subdued. That quarrel and its serious effect made a
turning-point in her life, though she attached no blame to herself
for the man's illness. She had no love for him, but her heart was
not callous to suffering, and his distorted and agonized face had
terrified and shocked her.

The suddenness of the seizure made his words more impressive.
Suppose he died: what of her? She was not sure that any definite
provision had as yet been made for her. What, then, should she do?

Suppose he recovered: what then? She had cause for serious thought.
All this luxury and ease, this pleasant life of plenty, in which she
reveled with the deep delight of one quite unused to it, hung upon a
contingency--the contingency of absolute obedience. She was not
naturally supine, and her spirit rose against an unconditional
self-surrender to a hot-tempered, imperious old man, who would mold
her to his will, make her over to his own notions, quite as
high-handedly as if she'd been a lump of putty and not a human
being. Nancy tasted the bitterness of having no voice in the making
of her own destiny.

Well, but suppose she defied him? He was quite capable of washing
his hands of her, just as he had threatened. And then? Before that
possibility Nancy recoiled. No. She couldn't, she wouldn't go back
to that old life of squalid slavery--eating bad food, wearing
wretched clothes, suffering all the sodden and sordid misery of the
ignorant, abjectly poor, a suffering twice as poignant now that she
knew better things. She knew poverty too well to have any illusions
about it. The Baxter kitchen rose before her. Why! while she was
sitting here now, in this luxurious room, back there they'd be
getting ready for the noonday dinner. The close kitchen would be
reeking with the odor of boiling potatoes and cabbage, from which a
greasy steam would be arising, so that one saw things as through a
hot mist. One of the children would be screaming, somewhere about
the house, and Mrs. Baxter, in an unsavory wrapper, her face
streaming with perspiration, her hair in sticky strands on her hot
forehead, would be shrilly threatening personal chastisement: "You
shut up, out there! Just you wait till I get this batch o' biscuits
off my hands an' I bet I fix _you_! didn't I say shut up?" The
hateful voice seemed so close to Nancy's ear that the girl shrank
back, shivering with distaste.

She fingered the soft, fine stuff of the frock she was wearing. She
stared about the room,--_her_ room, which she didn't have to share
with one of the Baxter children, who squirmed and kicked all night
in summer, and pulled the bed-coverings off her in winter. She went
over to her dressing-table and fingered its pretty accessories,
sniffing with childish pleasure the delicately scented powder and
cologne. She looked at her reflection in the mirror, and scowled.
Then she began to walk restlessly up and down the room. She had to
think this thing out.

Why should she go, and leave the road clear for Peter Champneys? It
occurred to her that, seen from his point of view, her elimination
from the scene might be regarded somewhat in the light of
providential interference in his behalf. She flushed. It wasn't
fair! The thought of Peter Champneys was gall and wormwood to her.

Nancy wasn't a fool. Her honesty had a blunt directness, a sort of
cave-woman frankness. In her, truthfulness was not so much a virtue
as an energy. The hardness of her unloved life had bred a like
hardness in her sense of values; she was distrustful and suspicious
because she had never had occasion to be anything else. In that
suspicion and distrustfulness had lain her safety. She had no sense
of spiritual values as yet. Religion had meant going to church on
Sundays when you had clean clothes in which to appear. Morals had
meant being good, and to Nancy being good simply meant not being
bad--and you couldn't be bad, go wrong, if you never trusted any
man. A girl that trusted none of 'em could keep respectable. Nancy
had seen girls who trusted men, in her time. Nothing like that for
_her_! But she knew, also, the price the woman pays whether she
trusts or distrusts, and the matrimony which at times rewarded the
distrustful didn't appear much more alluring than the potter's
field which waited for the credulous. Anyway you looked at it, what
happened wasn't pleasant. And it was worse yet when you knew there
was something better and different. You had to pay a price to get
that something better and different, of course. The fact that one
pays for everything one gets was coming home to Nancy with
increasing force; the problem, then, was to get your money's worth.

She took her head in her hands, and tried to concentrate all her
faculties. She wasn't a shirker, and she realized that she must
decide upon her course of conduct now and stick to it. If she didn't
look out for herself, who would? And presently she had reached the
conclusion that when Mr. Peter Champneys reappeared upon the scene,
he must find Mrs. Peter Champneys occupying the foreground, and
occupying it creditably, too. She'd do it! When Mr. Chadwick
Champneys recovered, she'd come to terms with him. She'd keep faith.

She spent three or four anxious days, while specialists came and
went, and white-capped, starched, authoritative personages
relieved each other in the sick-room, their answers to all queries
being that the patient was doing quite as well as could be
expected. At the end of the fifth day they admitted that the
patient was recovering,--was, in fact, out of danger, though he
wouldn't leave his room for another week or ten days; and he
wasn't to be worried or disturbed about anything.

Satisfied, then, that he was on the highroad to recovery, and
having made up her mind as to her own course of procedure, Nancy
rather enjoyed these few days of comparative freedom. She supplied
herself with a huge box of bonbons, "Junie's Love Test" and "The
Widowed Bride,"--books begun long ago, but wrested from her untimely
by the ruthless Mrs. Baxter, on the score of takin' her time off:
her rightful work for them that'd took her in, and fillin' her red
head with the foolishest sort o' notions. She had had so much to do
that to have nothing to do but lie around in a red silk kimona and
nibble chocolates and read love stories, seemed to her the supreme
height of felicity.

She reveled in these novels. They represented that something
different toward which her untutored and stinted heart groped
blindly. Otherwise her mind, by no means a poor one, lay fallow and
untilled. The beauty and wonder of the world, the pity and terror of
fate, the divine agony of love which sacrifices and endures, did not
as yet exist for her. She merely sensed that there was something
different, somewhere--maybe on the road ahead. And so she wept over
the woes of star-crost lovers, and sentimentalized over husky heroes
utterly unlike any male beings known to nature, and believed she
didn't believe that disinterested and unselfish love existed in the
world. As she hadn't the faintest gleam of self-knowledge, in all
this she was perfectly sincere.

She did not see Mr. Champneys for two weeks or so. In his nervous
condition he evinced a singular reluctance to have her come near
him, although others saw him daily. For instance, Mr. Jason
Vandervelde appeared at half after ten o'clock every morning during
his client's convalescence, was immediately admitted to Mr.
Champney's room, and left it upon the stroke of eleven.

Nancy watched this man curiously. When he met her in the hall, he
spoke to her in a nice, full-toned, modulated voice, exceedingly
pleasing to the ear. His eyes were small but of a deep and bright
blue, and although he was heavily built he wore his clothes so well
that he gave the effect of strength rather than of clumsiness. He
was clean-shaven and ruddy, and his large, well-shaped mouth was
deeply curled at the corners. His hands were not fat and white, as
one might expect, but tanned and muscular, and slightly hairy. His
glasses gave him a certain precision, and his curled lips suggested
irony. Nancy liked to look at him. He discomfited her understanding
of men, for, she couldn't tell why, she both liked and trusted him.
There was nothing romantic about him,--a well-fed, well-groomed
lawyer-man in his late thirties, with a handsome wife in a handsome
house,--yet he had the faculty of making her wonder about him, and
wonder with kindness at that. She wished she knew just how much he
knew about her, her early upbringing, her sad lack of education.
What had Mr. Champneys told him? Or had he really told him anything?

When her uncle finally overcame his reluctance and sent for her, she
entered his room quietly and stood looking at him with an honest
concern that was in her favor. She was always honest, he reflected.
There was nothing of the hypocrite or the coward in those wary
gray-green eyes that always met one's glance without flinching.

The change in his appearance shocked her. His eyes were hollow, his
tall form looked meager and shrunken. He was growing to be an _old_
man. She said awkwardly:

"I'm real sorry you been so sick." And she made no attempt to
apologize for her share in the quarrel that had led to his seizure.
She ignored it altogether, and for this he was grateful.

"Thank you. I am getting along nicely," he said civilly. And with a
slightly impatient gesture he dismissed all further mention of
illness. He leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes, the better
to collect his thoughts. He wished to make his wishes perfectly
clear to her. But she surprised him by saying quietly:

"I been thinking things over while you was sick, and I come to the
conclusion you was right. I got to have more education. There's
things I just got to know--how to talk nice, and what to wear, and
what fork you'd ought to eat with. Forks and things drive me real
wild."

"I had thought, at first, of sending you to some particularly fine
boarding-school--" he began, but Nancy interrupted him.

"If I was six instead o' sixteen, you might do it. As 't is, I
wouldn't learn nothin' except to hate the girls that'd be turnin'
up their noses at me. No. I don't want to go to boardin'-school.
I've saw music-teachers that come to folks' houses to give lessons,
and I been thinkin', why can't you get me a school-teacher that'll
teach me right at home!"

"As I was saying when interrupted,"--he looked at her
reprovingly--"I had at first thought of sending you to some
finishing school. I gave up that idea almost at once. I agree with
you that it is best you should be taught at home. In fact, I have
already engaged the lady who will be your companion as well as your
teacher."

"I don't know as I'm crazy about a lady companion as a steady job,"
said Nancy, doubtfully. She feared to lose her new liberty, to
forego the amazing delight of living by herself, so to speak. "But
now you've done it, I sure hope you've picked out somebody _young_.
If I got to have a lady companion, I want she should be young."

"Mr. Vandervelde attended to the matter for me," said Mr. Champneys,
in a tone of finality. "He is sure that the lady in question is
exactly the person I wish. Mrs. MacGregor is an Englishwoman, the
widow of a naval officer. She is in reduced circumstances, but of
irreproachable connections. She has the accomplishments of a lady of
her class, and her companionship should be an inestimable blessing
to you. You will be governed by her authority. She will be here
to-morrow."

"A ole widder woman! Good Lord! I--" here she stopped, and gulped.
An expression of resignation came over her countenance. "Oh, all
right. You've done it an' I'll make the best of it," she finished,
not too graciously.

"It is not proper to refer to a lady as 'a ole widder woman'."

"Well, but ain't she?" And she asked: "What else you know about
her?"

"Mr. Vandervelde attended to the matter," he repeated. "He is
thoroughly satisfied, and that is enough for me--and for you. I sent
for you to inform you that she is to be here to-morrow. See that you
receive her pleasantly. Your hours of study and recreation will be
arranged by her. She will also overlook your wardrobe. And, I do not
wish to hear any complaints."

"I can't even pick out my own clothes?"

"You lack even the rudiments of good taste."

"What's wrong with my clothes?" she demanded.

"Everything," said he, succinctly, and with visible irritation. He
remembered the wedding-gown, and his face twitched. She watched him
intently.

"Oh, all right. I said I'd obey, an' I will. I ain't forgettin',"
said she, wearily.

"Very well. I am glad you understand." He closed his eyes, and
understanding that the interview was at an end, Nancy withdrew.

Mrs. MacGregor arrived on the morrow. The attorney had been given
explicit orders and instructions by his exacting client, who had his
own notions of what a teacher for his niece should and shouldn't be.
Vandervelde congratulated himself on having been able to meet them
so completely in the person of the estimable Mrs. MacGregor.

Mr. Champneys demanded a lady middle-aged but not too middle-aged,
not overly handsome, but not overly otherwise; an excellent
disciplinarian, of a good family, and with impeccable references.

For the rest, Mrs. MacGregor was a tall, spare, high-nosed lady,
with a thin-lipped mouth full of large, sound teeth of a yellowish
tinge, and high cheek-bones with a permanent splash of red on them.
Her eyes were frosty, and her light hair was frizzled in front, and
worn high on her narrow head. She dressed in plain black silk of
good quality, wore her watch at her waist, and on her wrist a large,
old-fashioned bracelet in which was set a glass-covered,
lozenge-shaped receptable holding what looked like a wisp of
bristles, but which was a bit of the late Captain MacGregor's hair.

Mr. Champneys had wanted a lady who was a church member. He had a
vague idea that if a lady happened to be a church member you were
somehow or other protected against her. Mrs. MacGregor was orthodox
enough to satisfy the most rigid religionist. Mr. Champneys gathered
that she believed in God the father, God the son, and God the Holy
Ghost, three in One, and that One a dependable gentleman beautifully
British, who dutifully protected the king, fraternally respected the
Archbishop of Canterbury and the Prime Minister, and was heartily in
favor of the British Constitution. Naturally, being a devout woman,
she agreed with Deity.

An American family domiciled for a while in England had secured her
services as companion to an elderly aunt of theirs, fetching her
along with them, on their return to America. The aunt had been a
family torment until the advent of Mrs. MacGregor, but in the hands
of that disciplinarian she had become a mild-mannered old body. On
her demise the grateful family settled a small annuity upon her whom
they couldn't help recognizing as their benefactor. Finding
Americans so grateful, Mrs. MacGregor decided to remain among them
and with her recommendations secure another position of trust in
some wealthy family. This, then, was the teacher selected by Mr.
Jason Vandervelde, who thought her just what Mr. Champneys wanted
and his ward probably needed.

Mrs. MacGregor never really liked anybody, but she could respect
certain persons highly; she respected Mr. Chadwick Champneys at
sight. His name, his appearance, the fact that Jason Vandervelde was
acting for him, convinced her that he was "quite the right
sort"--for an American. She was as gracious to him as nature
permitted her to be to anybody. And the salary was very good indeed.

It was only when Nancy put in her appearance that Mrs. MacGregor's
satisfaction withered around the edges. The red on her high cheeks
deepened, and she fixed upon her new pupil a cold, appraising stare.
She made no slightest attempt to ingratiate herself; that wasn't her
way; what she demanded, she often said, was Respect. The impossible
young person who was staring back at her with hostile curiosity
wasn't overcome with Respect. The two did not love each other.

Strict disciplinarian though she might be where others were
concerned, Mrs. MacGregor treated herself with lenient
consideration. She was selfish with a fine, Christian zeal that
moved Nancy to admiring wonder. Nancy's own selfishness had been
superimposed upon her by untoward circumstances. This woman's
selfishness was a part of her nature, carefully cultivated. She
believed her body to be the temple of the Holy Ghost, and she made
herself exceedingly comfortable in the building, quite as if the
Holy Ghost were an obliging absentee landlord. Nancy observed,
too, that although the servants did not like her, they obeyed her
without question. She got without noise what she wanted.

But she really could teach. Almost from the first lesson, Nancy
began to learn, the pure hatred she felt for her instructress adding
rather than detracting from her progress. Had the woman been
broader, of a finer nature, she might have failed here; but being
what she was, immovable, hard as nails, narrow and prejudiced,
sticking relentlessly to the obviously essential, she goaded and
stung the girl into habits of study.

Her reaction to Mrs. MacGregor really pushed her forward. She knew
that the woman could never overcome a secret sense of amaze that
such a person as herself should be a member of Chadwick Champneys's
family--the man was a _gentleman_, you see. And she called Nancy
"Anne." Her lifted eyebrows at Nancy's English, her shocked,
patient, parrot-like, "Not 'seen him when he done it,' _please_. You
_saw_ him when he _did_ it!--No, 'I come in the house' isn't
correct. Try to remember that _well-bred_ persons use the past tense
of the verb; thus: 'I _came_ into the house.'--What _do_ I hear,
Anne? You '_taken'_ it? No! You TOOK it!" And she would look at
Nancy like a scandalized martyr, ready to die for the noble cause of
English grammar! Rather than endure that look, rather than face
those uplifted eyebrows, Nancy, gritting her teeth, set herself
seriously to the task of making over her method of speech.

It was Mrs. MacGregor who, discovering the girl's unstinted
allowance of candy, cut off the supply. She didn't care much for
candies herself, but she did like fruit, and fruit was substituted
for the forbidden sweets. She had the healthy, wholesome English
habit of walking, and unless the weather was impossible she forced
her unwilling charge to take long tramps with her, generally
immediately after breakfast. They would set out, Nancy dressed in a
plain blue serge, her pretty, high-heeled pumps discarded for
flat-heeled walking-shoes, Mrs. MacGregor flat-footed also, tall,
bony, in a singular bonnet, but nevertheless retaining an inherent
stateliness which won respect. Sometimes they tramped up Riverside
Drive, their objective being Grant's tomb. Mrs. MacGregor respected
Grant; and the stands of dusty flags brought certain old British
shrines to her mind. On stated mornings they visited the Library,
while Mrs. MacGregor selected the books Nancy was to read, books
that Nancy looked at askance. They had their mornings for the
museums, too. Mrs. MacGregor knew nothing of art, except that, as
she said to Nancy, well-bred persons simply _had_ to know something
about it. After their walk came lessons, grueling, dry-as-dust,
nose-to-the-grindstone lessons, during which Nancy's speech was
vivisected. At two o'clock they lunched, and Nancy had further
critical instructions. The dishes she had once been allowed to order
were changed, greatly to her annoyance; Mrs. MacGregor liked such
honest stuff as mutton chops and potatoes, just as she insisted upon
oatmeal for breakfast. Porridge, she called it. In the afternoon
they motored; Mrs. MacGregor, who detested speed, became the bane of
the hard-faced chauffeur's life.

They dined at seven, and for an hour thereafter Mrs. MacGregor
either read aloud from some book intended to edify the young person,
or forced Nancy to do so. She was possibly the only person alive who
delighted in Hannah More. She said, modestly, that at an early age
she had been taught to revere this paragon, and whatever happy
knowledge of the virtues proper to the female state she possessed,
she owed in a large measure to that model writer. Nancy conceived
for Hannah More a hatred equaled in intensity only by that cherished
for Mrs. MacGregor herself.

Mrs. MacGregor's notions of dress and her own were asunder, even as
the poles. But here again that rigid duenna did her invaluable
service, for if she didn't look handsome in the clothes selected
for her, she didn't, as that lady said frankly, look vulgar in them.
No longer would you be liable to mistake her for somebody's
second-rate housemaid on her day out. The simple diet and the
inexorable regularity of her hours also told in her favor, although
she herself wasn't as yet aware of the change taking place. Already
you could tell that hers was a supple and shapely young body, with
promise of a magnificent maturity; you glimpsed behind the fading
freckles a skin like a water-lily for creamy whiteness; and that red
hair of hers, worn without frizzings, began to take on a glossy,
coppery luster.

That spring they moved into the new house. It was so different from
the average newly-rich American home that it moved even Mrs.
MacGregor to praise. Nancy thought it rather bare. It hadn't color
enough, and there were but few pictures. Yet the old rosewood and
mahogany furniture pleased her. She remembered that golden-oak,
red-plush parlor at Baxter's with a sort of wonder. Why! she had
thought that parlor handsome! And now she was beginning to
understand how hideous it had been.

She saw little of Mr. Champneys, who seemed to be plunged to the
eyes in business. Occasionally he appeared, looked at her
searchingly, said a few words to her and Mrs. MacGregor, and
vanished for another indefinite period. Mr. Jason Vandervelde was
almost a daily visitor when Mr. Champneys happened to be in the
city. At times Mr. Champneys went away, presumably to look after
business interests, and Nancy thought that at such times the lawyer
accompanied him. She had no friends of her own age, and Mrs.
MacGregor wasn't, to say the least, companionable. And the books she
was compelled to read bored her to distraction. She took it for
granted they must be frightfully good, they were so frightfully
dull! The deadliest, dullest of all seemed to be reserved for
Sunday. She didn't mind going to church; in church you could watch
other people, even though Mrs. MacGregor sat rigidly erect by your
side, and expected you to be able to find your place in a Book of
Common Prayer entirely unfamiliar to you. While she sat rapt during
what you thought an unnecessarily long sermon, you could look about
you slyly, and take note of the people within your immediate radius.

Nancy liked to observe the younger people. Sometimes a bitter envy
would almost choke her when she regarded some girl who was both
pretty and prettily dressed, and, apparently, care-free and happy.
She watched the younger men stealthily. Some of them pleased her;
she would have liked to be admired by at least one of them, and she
felt jealous of the fortunate young women singled out for their
attentions. Think of being pretty, and having beautiful clothes, and
swell fellows like that in love with you! That any one of these fine
young men should cast a glance in her own direction never entered
her mind. No. Loveliness and the affection and gaiety of youth were
for others; for her--Peter Champneys. At that she fetched a deep
sigh. She always went home from church silent and subdued. Mrs.
MacGregor thought this a proper attitude of mind for the Sabbath.

The girl was vaguely disturbed and uneasy without knowing why. The
newness and glamour of the possession of creature comforts, the
absence of want, was wearing thin in spots. She was conscious of a
lack. She was beginning to think and to question, and as there was
no one in whom she might confide, she turned inward. Naturally, she
couldn't answer her own questions, and all her thoughts were as yet
chaotic and confused. She wanted--well, what did she want, anyhow?
She repeated to herself, "I want something different!" That
something different should not include a dreary round of Mrs.
MacGregor, a cold inspection by Mr. Chadwick Champneys; nor the
thought of Peter Champneys. It _would_ include laughter and--and
people who were neither teachers nor guardians, but who were gay,
and young, and kind. She began to be conscious of her own isolation.
She had always been isolated. Once poverty had done it; and now
money was doing it. Those girls she saw at church--she'd bet they
went to parties, had loads of friends, had a good time, were loved;
plenty of people wanted their love. For herself, as far back as she
could look, she had never had a friend. Who cared for her love?
Sometimes she watched the new maid, a distractingly pretty little
Irish girl, black-haired, blue-eyed, rosy-faced. The girl tried to
be demure, to restrain the laughter that was always near the
surface; but her eyes danced, her cheek dimpled, she had what one
might call a smiling voice. And the handsome young policeman on the
corner was acutely aware of her. Nancy remembered one afternoon when
she and Mrs. MacGregor happened to be coming in at the same time
with Molly. It was Molly's afternoon off and she was dressed trimly,
and with taste. Under her little close-fitting hat her hair was like
black satin, her face like a rose. The young policeman managed to
pass the house at that moment, and lifted his cap to her; Nancy saw
the look in the young man's eyes. She followed Mrs. MacGregor into
the house, rebelliously. Nobody had ever looked at _her_ like that.
Nobody was ever going to look at her like that. She remembered Peter
Champneys's eyes when they had first met hers. A dull flush stained
her face, and bitterness overwhelmed her.

Mr. Champneys was busy; Mrs. MacGregor was satisfied--she had a
position of authority; her creature comforts were exquisitely
attended to; her salary was ample. The man saw his plans being
carried forward, if not brilliantly at least creditably; the woman
saw that her tasks were fulfilled. It never occurred to either that
the girl might or should ask for more than she received, or that she
might find her days dull. But Nancy was discovering that the body is
more than raiment, and that one does not live by bread alone.




CHAPTER XIII

THE BRIGHT SHADOW


The Champneys chauffeur, greatly to Mrs. MacGregor's terror and
disapproval, seemed to live for speed alone; in consequence, one
afternoon Mrs. MacGregor and Nancy very narrowly escaped dying for
it. Whereupon Mr. Champneys summarily dismissed the chauffeur and
engaged in his place young Glenn Mitchell, accidentally brought to
his notice. Mr. Champneys congratulated himself upon the discovery
of Glenn Mitchell. To begin with, he was a South Carolinian, one of
those well-born, penniless, ambitious young Southerners who come to
New York to make their fortune. One of his forebears had married a
Champneys. That was in ante bellum days, but South Carolina has a
long memory, and this far-off tie immediately established the young
fellow upon a footing of family relationship and of cousinly
friendliness. He was a personable youth of twenty, who had worked
his way through high school and meant presently to go through the
College of Physicians and Surgeons,--his grandfather had been a
distinguished physician, Mr. Champneys remembered. The boy proposed
to use his skill in handling a motor-car as a means toward that end.

Mr. Chadwick Champneys would gladly have paid Glenn's college
expenses out of his own pocket, but the young man, delicately
sounded, politely but sturdily declined. The next best thing the
kindly old Carolinian could do, then, was to make the boy a member
of his own household. Hoichi had orders to prepare a room for Mr.
Mitchell, and Mrs. MacGregor was advised that he would take his
meals with the family. She was at first inclined to be scandalized:
to bring your chauffeur to your own table was Americanism with a
vengeance! But when she met the young man, she was mollified. This
chauffeur was a gentleman, and in Mrs. MacGregor's estimation a
gentleman may do many things without losing caste. She remembered
that the perfectly decent younger son of a certain poverty-stricken
nobleman had driven a car. This young Mitchell was exceptionally
good-looking in a nice, boyish, fresh-faced way, and she saw in his
manner a youthful reflection of the courtliness which distinguished
Mr. Chadwick Champneys. He had a great deal of that indefinable
something we call charm, and before she knew it Mrs. MacGregor was
won over to him, and looked upon his presence as a distinct addition
to the Champneys menage.

When he had been introduced to Nancy, she was mentioned as "My
niece, Mrs. Champneys." Mrs. MacGregor called her "Anne." Mr.
Champneys spoke to her as "Nancy," and Glenn thought he must have
been mistaken as to that "Mrs." There was no sign of a husband
anywhere; neither was there any indication of widowhood. Nobody
mentioned Peter--Mr. Champneys because he was more interested in
talking about Glenn's business than his own, on the occasions when
he had time to talk about anything; Mrs. MacGregor, because she had
never seen Peter, knew nothing at all about him, except that there
was a nephew somewhere in the background of things, and wasn't in
the least interested in anything but her own immediate affairs;
besides, it never would have occurred to her to talk about her
employer's affairs, even if she had known anything about them. An
employer who was a gentleman, and very wealthy, belonged to the
Established Order, and Mrs. MacGregor had the thorough-going British
respect for Established Order. Nancy, for her part, wished to forget
that Peter existed. She never by any chance mentioned him, or even
thought of him if she could help it. So when young Glenn Mitchell,
after the pleasant South Carolina fashion, addressed her as "Miss
Nancy" it seemed perfectly all right to everybody.

Nancy was a little over eighteen then. She had grown taller, but she
retained the pleasant angularity of extreme youth. Because she
didn't know how to arrange her hair, Mrs. MacGregor sternly
forbidding frizzing and curling, and insisting upon a "modest
simplicity becoming to a young girl" she wore her red mane in a huge
plait. She had been so teased and badgered about her red hair, had
hated it so heartily, been so ashamed of it, that she didn't realize
how magnificent it was now, after two years of care and cleanliness.
It wasn't auburn; it wasn't Titian; it was a bright, rich,
glittering, unbuyable, undeniable red, and Nancy wore her plait as
a boy wears a chip on his shoulder. Young Glenn Mitchell was seized
with a wild desire to catch hold of that braid that was like a cable
of gleaming copper, and wind it around his wrists. For the first
time, he thought, he was seeing the true splendor and beauty of red
hair; and the girl had the wonderfully white skin that accompanies
it. He suspected that she must have been pretty badly freckled when
she was a child, for the freckles were still fairly visible, though
one saw that they would presently vanish altogether. The curve of
her throat and chin, the "salt-cellars" at the base of the neck,
left nothing to be desired. Altogether there was that about this
girl that caught and held his boyish attention. It wasn't that she
was pretty,--he had at first thought her plain. It was rather that
here lay a tantalizing promise of unfoldment by and by, a sheathed
hint of something rare and perilous.

He didn't quite know what to make of Mr. Champneys's niece. She was
abnormally silent, unbelievably unobtrusive, singularly still.
Watching her, he found himself wishing she would smile, at least
occasionally: he longed to see what her mouth would look like if it
should curve into laughter. She had exquisite teeth, and her eyes,
when one was allowed to get a glimpse of them, were of a curious,
agaty, gray green, with one or two little spots or flecks in the
iris. Hers was an impassive, emotionless face; yet she gave a
distinct impression of feeling, emotion, passion held in check; it
was as if her feelings had been frozen. But suppose a spring thaw
should set in--what then? Would there be just a calm brook flowing
underneath placid willows, or a tempestuous torrent sweeping all
before it? He wondered!

She sat opposite him at table three times a day, and never addressed
a word to him, or to Mrs. MacGregor, who carried on whatever
conversation there might be. Mrs. MacGregor liked to give details of
entertainments "at home," at which she herself had been present, or
of events in which A Member of My Family had participated. "I said
to the dear Bishop,"--"His Lordship remarked to My Cousin."
Sometimes during these recitals the thin, fine edge of a smile
touched Nancy's lips. It was gone so quickly one wasn't quite sure
it had been there at all; yet its brief passage gave her a strange
expression of mockery and of weariness. She offered no opinions of
her own about anything; she made no slightest attempt to keep the
conversation alive; you could talk, or you could remain silent--it
was all one to her. Yet dumb and indifferent though she appeared to
be, you felt her presence as something very vital, listening, and
immensely honest and natural.

He wished she would speak to him, say something more than a mere
"Yes" or "No." Girls had always been more than willing to talk to
Glenn Mitchell--very much prettier and more fascinating girls than
this silent, stubborn, red-headed Anne Champneys. He began to feel
piqued, as well as puzzled.

And then, one day, he happened to glance up suddenly and in that
instant encountered a full, straight, intense look from her--a look
that weighed, and wondered, and searched, and was piercingly, almost
unbearably eager and wistful. He felt himself engulfed, as it were,
in the bottomless depths of that long, clear gaze, that went over
him like the surge of great waters, and drenched his consciousness
to the core. Brand-new Eve might have looked thus at brand-new Adam,
sinlessly, virginally, yet with an avid and fearful questioning and
curiosity. For the second his heart shook and reeled in his breast.
Then the dark lashes fell and veiled the shining glance. Her face
was once more indifferent and mask-like.

As a matter of fact, Nancy was avidly interested in Glenn, in whom
for the first time she encountered youth. He came like a fresh
breeze into an existence in which she stifled. From his first
appearance in the house she had watched him stealthily, looking at
him openly only when she thought herself unobserved. Conscious of
her own defects, she was timid where this good-looking young man was
concerned. It never occurred to her that she might interest him, but
she did not wish him to think ill of her. She kept herself in the
background as much as possible.

She had none of the joyousness natural to a girl of her age. She had
no young companions. Was there some reason? Wasn't she happy? He
felt vaguely troubled for her. She aroused his sympathy, as well as
his curiosity. He couldn't forget that look he had surprised. It
stayed in his memory, perilously. At night in his room, when he
should have been studying, that astonishing glance came before him
on his book, and cast a luminous spell upon him.

He surprised no more such glances. She still relegated to Mrs.
MacGregor the full task of talking to him; a task that lady
performed nobly. Just as she walked every morning with Mrs.
MacGregor, she took her place in the car every afternoon, apparently
obeying orders. Sometimes, twisting his head around, he could
glimpse her profile turned toward the moving panorama of the crowded
streets through which he was skilfully manoeuvering his way. But if
she were interested in what she gazed at so fixedly, she made no
comment. One never knew what she thought about anything.

One memorable evening she appeared at dinner in a yellow frock,
instead of the usual serge or plain blue silk. It wasn't an
elaborate dress, but its prettily low neck allowed one to admire her
full throat, with a string of amber beads around it. Her hair hung
in two thick braids across her shoulders, and the straight lines of
the yellow satin accentuated the youthfulness of her figure. Glenn's
heart behaved unmannerly.

She appeared not to see his quick, pleased glance, but turned
instead to Mrs. MacGregor, who was regarding her critically. Mrs.
MacGregor hadn't been consulted about the yellow frock, and she
viewed it with distinct disapproval. Glenn found himself solidly
aligned against Mrs. MacGregor, and siding with the girl. He liked
that yellow frock; somehow it suited her coloring, enabled one to
see how unusual she really was. He wondered that he had thought her
so plain, at first. She agitated him. He wished intensely that she
would look at him; and just then she did, and for the first time saw
admiration in a young man's eyes, not for another girl, but for
herself! She held his glance, doubtfully, timidly; but she couldn't
doubt the evidence of her senses. Glenn was pleased with her, he
admired her! His ingenuous face beamed the fact, from frank eyes and
smiling lips. There was somewhat more than admiration in his look,
but Nancy was more than content with what appeared on the surface.
Her eyes widened, a flush rose to her cheek, a naive and pleased
smile transformed her dissatisfied young mouth. When he ventured to
speak to her presently, she ventured to reply, shyly, but with new
friendliness. Once, when Mrs. MacGregor said something sententious,
and Glenn laughed, Nancy laughed with him.

That frank and boyish admiration restored to her, as it were, some
rightful and precious heritage long withheld, an indispensable
birthright the lack of which had beggared and stripped her. She had
a sense of profound gratitude to this likable and handsome young
man, a moved and touching interest in him. He made her feel glad to
be alive; through him the world seemed of a sudden a kindlier place,
full of charming surprises. And when she accompanied Mrs. MacGregor
to church on the following Sunday, she looked with a secret
sisterliness at the girls she had envied and disliked. It was as if
she had been elected to their ranks, been made one of them; she
wasn't on the outside of things any more; somebody--a very
desirable and handsome somebody--admired her, too. She didn't
analyze her feelings. Youth never thinks or analyzes, it feels and
realizes; that is why it is divine, why it is lord of the earth. Her
growing liking for him was so shy, so naive, so touchingly sincere,
that Glenn was profoundly moved when he became aware of it. He had
the old South Carolina chivalry; to him women were still invested
with a halo, and one approached them with a manly reverence. He had
liked girls, many girls; he would have told you, himself, that he
never met a pretty girl without loving her some! But this was the
first time Glenn had ever really fallen in love, and he fell
headlong, with an impetuous ardor that all but swept him off his
feet, and that was like strong wine to Nancy, whose drink heretofore
had been lukewarm water.

He didn't know whether or not she was Mr. Champney's sole heir, and
he didn't care: what difference could that make? He was as well born
as any Champneys, wasn't he? And if he wasn't blessed with much of
this world's goods just now, he took it for granted he was going to
be, after a while. As for that, hadn't Chadwick Champneys himself
once been as poor as Job's turkeys? And hadn't Mr. Champneys
acknowledged the relationship existing between them, slight and
distant though it was? Who'd have the effrontery to look down on one
of the Mitchells of Mitchellsville, South Carolina? He'd like to
know! Glenn began to dream the rosy dreams of twenty.

It took Nancy somewhat longer to discover the amazing truth.
She was more suspicious and at the same time very much more
humble-minded than Glenn. But suspicion faded and failed before his
honest passion. His agitation, his eagerness, his face that altered
so swiftly, so glowingly, whenever she appeared, would have told the
truth to one duller than Nancy. If Mrs. MacGregor could have
suspected that anybody could fall in love with Anne Champneys, she
must have seen the truth, too. But she didn't. She was serenely
blind to what was happening under her eyes.

Nancy never forgot the day she discovered that Glenn loved her. Mrs.
MacGregor had one of her rare headaches. She was a woman who hated
to upset the fixed routine of life, and as their afternoon outing
was one of the established laws, she insisted that Nancy should go,
though she herself must remain at home. Half fearful, half
delighted, Nancy went. Glenn had looked at her, mutely entreating;
in response to that entreaty she took the seat beside him. For some
time neither spoke--Glenn because he was too wildly happy, Nancy
because she hadn't anything to say. She was curious; she waited for
him to speak.

"I wonder," gulped Glenn, presently, "if you know just how happy I
am."

Nancy said demurely that she didn't know; but if he was happy she
was glad: it must be very nice to be happy!

"Aren't _you_ happy?" he ventured.

Nancy turned pink by way of answer. As a matter of fact, she was
nearer being happy then than she had ever been. They fell into an
intimate conversation--that is, Glenn talked, and the girl listened.
He explained his hopes, ambitions, prospects. He talked eagerly and
impetuously. He wished her to understand him, to know all about
him,--what he was, what he hoped to be. A boy in love is like that.

In return for this confidence Nancy explained that she hated
oatmeal, and Hannah More; some of these days she meant to buy every
copy of Hannah More she could lay her hands on, and burn them. Of
herself, her past, she said nothing.

"And so you're going to be a doctor!" she turned the conversation
back to him, as being much more interesting.

"Yes. Or rather, I'm going to be a great surgeon." And then he
asked, smilingly:

"And you--what do _you_ want to be?"

"I want to be happy," said Nancy, half fiercely.

"There isn't any reason why you shouldn't be--a girl like you."

Nancy looked a bit doubtful. But no, he wasn't poking fun. And after
a pause, he asked, as one putting himself to the test:

"Miss Anne--Nancy--do you think you could be happy--with _me_?"

"_You_?" breathed Nancy, all a-tremble. She thought she could be
happier with Glenn than with anybody else. Why! there _wasn't_
anybody else! That is, nobody that cared. She was afraid to say so.
But her moved and changed face said it for her.

"Because, if you could be happy with me, why shouldn't you be?"
asked Glenn, brilliantly. But Nancy understood, and her heart
crowded into her throat with delight, and terror, and a sort of
agony. She felt that she loved and adored this boy to distraction.
She would have adored anybody who loved and desired her, who found
her fair. But she didn't understand that; neither did Glenn.

"You care?" said the boy, leaning toward her. They were running
slowly, along a road high above the river. "Nancy, you care?"

Care? Of course she cared! She considered him the most beautiful and
desirable of mortals; she was so enraptured, so thrilled with the
astounding fact that he cared for her, that she couldn't speak, but
looked at him with swimming eyes. He brought the car to a stop,
slipped an arm around her shoulder, and drew her close. She knew
that something momentous was going to happen to her, and looked at
him, full of a sweet terror. "I love you!" said Glenn, and kissed
her on the mouth.

His beard was the ghost of down on his cheek; her hair hung in a
braid to her waist; their kiss was the kiss of youth,--tender,
passionately pure. Everything but that morning face, pale with young
emotion, looking at her with enamored eyes, vanished from her mind;
everything else counted for nothing, went like chaff upon the wind.
The one fact alone remained: _Glenn loved her_! Her senses were in a
delicious tumult from the power and the glory of it: _Glenn loved
her_! It was as if a skylark sang in her breast, as if she walked in
a rosy and new-born world. Had Nancy been called upon to die for him
then, she would have gone to her death shining-eyed, fleet-footed,
joyous.

"I love you, I love you!" Glenn repeated it like a litany. "Nancy!
Does it make you as happy because I love you as it makes me because
you love me?"

"Oh, ten thousand times ten thousand times more!" she said
fervently.

"I think it was your hair I fell in love with, first off," he told
her presently. "I have never seen a girl with such hair, and such a
lot of it. I'm crazy about your hair, Nancy."

"I think you must be," she agreed whole-heartedly. She wasn't vain,
his girl!

They had no more plans than birds or flowers have. Plenty of time
for sober planning by and by, when one grew accustomed to the sweet
miracle of being beloved as much as one loved! Glenn simply took it
for granted he was going to marry her. He had known her all of three
months--a lifetime, really!--and she had allowed him to kiss her,
had admitted she cared. He supposed they would have to wait until he
had been through his training and won that coveted degree. Until
then, they would keep their beautiful secret to themselves; they
didn't wish to share it with anybody, yet.

It was only when she was alone in her room that night that Nancy
realized the true situation that confronted her. On the one side
was Glenn, dear, wonderful Glenn, who loved her. On the other was
Peter Champneys, who had married her as she had married him, for the
Champneys money. Peter Champneys! who despised her, and whom she
must consider a barrier between herself and whatever happiness life
might offer her! She could understand how Glenn had made his
mistake. Nobody had explained Peter to him. To tell him the truth
now meant to lose him. She was like a person dying of thirst, yet
forbidden to drink the cup of cold water extended to her.

Wasn't it wiser to take what life offered, drain the cup, and let
come what might? Why not snatch her chance of happiness, even though
it should be brief? Suppose one waited? Deep in her heart was the
hope that something would happen that would save her; youth always
hopes something is going to happen that will save it. Wasn't it
possible Peter might fall in love with somebody, and divorce her?
One saw how very possible indeed such a thing was! For the present,
let Glenn love her. It was the most important and necessary thing in
the world that Glenn should love her. What harm was she doing in
letting Glenn love her? Particularly when Peter Champneys didn't,
never would, any more than she ever could or would love Peter
Champneys.

Even Mrs. MacGregor noticed the change taking place in Anne
Champneys. The girl had more color and animation, and at times she
even ventured to express her own opinions, which were strikingly
shrewd and fresh and original. Her eyes had grown sweeter and
clearer, now that she no longer slitted them, and her mouth was
learning to curve smilingly. Decidedly, Anne was vastly improved!
And her manner had subtly changed, too; she was beginning to show an
individuality that wasn't without a nascent fascination.

Mrs. MacGregor plumed herself upon the improvement in her pupil,
which she ascribed to her own civilizing and potent influence, for
she was a God-fearing woman. She didn't understand that the greatest
Power in heaven and earth was at work with Nancy.

But although Glenn became daily more enamored of the girl, he wasn't
so satisfied with things as they were. He couldn't say that Nancy
really avoided him, of course. He drove her and Mrs. MacGregor, whom
at times he wished in Jericho, out in the car every afternoon. He
sat opposite her at table thrice daily. Sometimes in the evening he
spent an hour or two with her and Mrs. MacGregor, before going to
his own room to study. But it so happened that he never was able to
see her alone any more; and Nancy certainly made no effort to bring
about that desirable situation. This made him restive and at the
same time increased his passion for her.

For her part, she was perfectly content just to look at him, to know
that he was near. But Glenn was more impatient. He wanted the
fragrance of her hair against his shoulder; he wanted the straight,
strong young body in his arms; he wished to kiss her. And she held
aloof. Although she no longer veiled her eyes from him, although he
was quite sure she loved him, she was always tantalizingly out of
his reach. She didn't seem to understand the lover's desire to be
alone with the beloved, he thought. He grew moody. The weeks seemed
years to his ardent and impetuous spirit. One night, happening to
need a book he had noticed in the library, he went after it. And
there, oh blessed vision, sat Nancy! She had been sleepless and
restless, and had stolen out of her room for something to read that
hadn't been selected by Mrs. MacGregor. It was rather late, but
finding the quiet library pleasanter to her mood than her own room,
she curled up in a comfortable chair and began to read. The book was
Hardy's "Tess," and its strong and somber passion and tragedy filled
her with pity and terror. Something in her was roused by the story;
she felt that she understood and suffered with that simple and
passionate soul.

She looked up, startled, as Glenn entered the room. He came to her
swiftly, his arms outstretched, his face alight.

"You!" he cried, radiant and elate. "You!"

Nancy rose, torn between the desire to retreat, and to fling herself
into those waiting arms. Glenn left her no choice. He seized her,
roughly and masterfully, and held her close, pressing her against
his body. His lips fastened upon hers. Nancy closed her eyes and
shivered. She felt small and helpless, a leaf before the wind, and
she was afraid.

"Nancy!" he whispered. "Nancy! You've got to marry me. We'll just
have to risk it, degree or no degree! What's the use of waiting all
our lives, maybe, when we love each other? When will you marry me,
Nancy?"

She knew then that she had to tell him the truth, and she trembled.

"Glenn, I--I--" she stammered. Her tongue seemed to cleave to the
roof of her mouth.

"Soon? Say yes, Nancy! I'm crazy about you, don't you know that? Why
don't you say when, Nancy?"

She felt desperate, as if some force were closing in upon her,
relentlessly. She had to speak, and yet she couldn't. She tried to
escape from the arms that held her, but they clasped her all the
closer. His eager lips closed on hers.

"Nancy! Ah, darling, why not let everything go and marry me at
once?"

Ah, why not, indeed? As if Peter Champneys had reached across the
sea to divide her and Glenn, a stern voice answered Glenn's
question.

"Because she has a husband already," it said harshly. Chalky white,
with blazing eyes, Chadwick Champneys confronted Peter's wife in
another man's arms. "She is married to my nephew, Peter Champneys.
Is it possible you do not know?"

Glenn's arms dropped. Intuitively he moved away from her. His visage
blanched, and he stared at her strangely.

"Nancy, is this thing true?"

Nancy nodded. She said in a lifeless voice: "Oh yes, it's true. I
was trying to tell you, but--" And then she broke into a cry:
"Glenn, you don't understand! Glenn, listen, please listen! I did
love you, I do love you, Glenn! You--you don't know--you don't
understand--"

The boy staggered. He was an honorable, clean-souled boy, heir to
old heritages of pride, and faith, and chivalry. A dull, shamed red
crept from cheek to brow, replacing his pallor. His gesture, as he
turned away from her, made her feel as if she had been struck across
the face. She winced. She saw herself judged and condemned.

"Mr. Champneys," stammered Glenn, painfully, "surely you know I
didn't understand--don't you? I--we--fell in love, sir. We'd meant
to wait--that's why I didn't come to you at once--but I--that is, I
was very much in love with her, and I was going to make a clean
breast of it and ask you what we'd better do. And you're not to
think I'm--dishonorable--" he choked over the word.

Knowing the boy's breed, Champneys laid a not unkindly hand on his
shoulder.

"I see how it was," he said. "And--I guess you're punished enough,
without any reproaches from me."

Glenn turned to Nancy. "Why did you do it?" he cried. "I loved you,
I trusted you. Nancy, why did you do such a thing--to _me_?"

She twisted her fingers. Well, this was the end. She was to be
thrust out of the new brightness, back into the drab dreariness, the
emptiness that was her fate. She lifted tragic eyes.

"I never expected you to love me. But when you did--I just _had_ to
let you! Nobody else cared--ever. And I loved you for loving me--I
couldn't help it, Glenn; I couldn't help it!" Her voice broke. She
stood there, twisting her fingers.

An old, wise, kind woman, or an old priest who had seen and forgiven
much, or men who knew and pitied youth, would have understood.
Neither of the men to whom she spoke realized the significance of
that childishly pitiful confession. Champneys felt that she had
shamed his name, belittled the sacred Family which was his fetish;
Glenn thought she had made a fool of him for her own amusement.
Never again would he trust a woman, he told himself. And in his pain
and shame, his smarting sense of having been duped, his hideous
revulsion of feeling, he spoke out brutally. Nancy was left in no
doubt as to the estimation in which he now held her. And she
understood that it was his pride, even more than his love, that
suffered.

She made no further attempt to explain or to exculpate herself; what
was the use? She knew that had they changed places, had Glenn been
in her shoes and she in his, her judgment had not been thus swift
and merciless. Her larger love would have understood, and pitied,
and forgiven. Pride! They talked of Pride, and they talked of Name.
But she could only feel that the one love she had ever known, or
perhaps ever was to know, was going from her, must go from her,
unforgiving, as if she had done it some irreparable wrong. She
looked from one wrathful, accusing face to the other, like a child
that has been beaten. How could Glenn, who had seemed to love her
so greatly, turn against her so instantly? Not even--Peter
Champneys--had looked at her as Glenn was looking at her now! And of
a sudden she felt cold, and old, and sad, and inexpressibly tired.
So this was what men were like, then! They always blamed. And they
never, never understood. She would not forget.

She checked the impulse to cry aloud to Glenn, to try once more to
make him understand. Her eyes darkened, and two bright spots burnt
in her cheeks. Without a further word or glance she walked out of
the room and left the two standing close together. So stepped Anne
Champneys into her womanhood.

She locked her door upon herself. Then she went over, after her
fashion, and stared at herself in her mirror. The herself staring
back at her startled her--the flushed cheeks, the mouth like coral,
the eyes glowing like jewels under straight black brows. The ropes
of red hair seemed alive, too; the whole figure radiated a
personality that could be dynamic, once its powers should be fully
aroused.

She viewed the woman in the glass impersonally, as if it had been a
stranger's face looking at her. That vivid creature couldn't be
Nancy Simms, not quite three years ago the Baxter slavey, the same
Nancy that Peter Champneys had shrunk from with aversion, and that
Glenn had repudiated to-night!

"Yes,--it's me," she murmured. "But I ain't--I mean I am not really
ugly any more. I'm--I don't know just _what_ I am--or whether I
ought to like or hate me--" But even while she shook her head, the
face in the glass changed; the mouth drooped, the color faded, the
light in the eyes went out. "But whatever I am, I'm not enough to
make anybody keep on loving me." Then, because she was just a girl,
and a very bewildered, sad, and undisciplined girl, she put her red
head down on her dressing-table and wept despairingly.

The next morning Mr. Champneys explained to the concerned and
regretful Mrs. MacGregor that Mr. Mitchell had been called away
suddenly, last night, and didn't think he would be able to return.
The ladies were to accept Mr. Mitchell's regrets that he hadn't been
able to bid them good-by in person. Mr. Champneys bowed for Mr.
Mitchell, in a very stately manner. He went on with his breakfast,
while Nancy made a pretense of eating hers, hating life and wishing
with youthful intensity that she was dead, and Glenn with her. His
empty place mocked and tortured her. He had gone, and he didn't,
wouldn't, couldn't understand. She could never, never hope to make
Glenn understand! She rather expected Mr. Champneys to sit in
judgment upon her that morning, but a whole week passed before
Hoichi brought the message that Mr. Champneys wished to see her in
the library. Her uncle was standing by the window when she entered,
and he turned and bowed to her politely. He was thinner, gaunter,
more Don Quixotish than usual. If only he had been kind! But his
face was set, and hers instinctively hardened to match it.

"Nancy," he began directly, "I have not sent for you to load you
with reproaches for your inexplicable conduct. But I must say this:
deliberately to deceive and befool an honest gentleman, to trifle
with his affections out of mere greedy vanity, is so base that I
have no words strong enough to condemn it."

"I didn't mean to fool him. He fooled himself, and I let him do it,"
said she, dully. He thought her listlessness indifference, and any
bluntness in moral tone in a woman, scandalized him. He could
understand a Mrs. MacGregor, who was without subtleties; or soft,
loving, courageous women like Milly and his sister-in-law, Peter's
mother. But this girl he couldn't fathom. He beat his hands
together, helplessly.

"I--you--" he groaned. And then: "Oh, Peter, what have I done to
you!"

"I can't see you've done anything to him, except pay him to go away
and learn how to make something out of himself," returned Nancy,
practically. It brought him up short. "Uncle Chadwick, please keep
quiet for a few minutes: I want you to listen to me." She met his
eyes fully. "I didn't do Glenn Mitchell any real harm: he'll fall in
love with somebody else pretty soon. I suppose it's easy for Glenn
to love people because it's easier for people to love Glenn. And
he's done me this much good: I won't be so ready to believe it's
easy for folks to love _me_, Uncle Chadwick. I guess I'm the sort
they mostly--_don't_. I'll not forget." She spoke without
bitterness, even with dignity. "One thing more, please. If ever
Peter Champneys finds out he loves somebody, and he'll let me know,
I'll give him his freedom. Fortune or no fortune, I won't hold him.
I know now--a little--what loving somebody means," she finished.

Her voice was so steady, her eyes so clear and direct, her manner so
contained, that he was uncomfortably impressed. He felt put upon the
defensive. As a matter of fact, in his first anger and surprise at
what he still considered her shameless behavior, he had seriously
considered the advisability of having Peter's marriage annulled. As
soon as he had become calmer, his pride and obstinacy rejected such
a course. After all, no harm had been done. She was very young. And
he hoped Glenn's outspoken condemnation had taught her a needed and
salutary lesson. Looking at her this morning, he realized that she
had been punished. But that she should so calmly speak of divorcing
Peter, of making way for some other woman, horrified him.

"You are talking immoral nonsense!" he said, angrily. "Let him go,
indeed! Divorce your husband! What are we coming to? In my day
marriage was binding. No respectable husband or wife ever dreamed of
divorce!"

"But they were real husbands and wives, weren't they?" asked Nancy.

"All husbands and wives are real husbands and wives!" he thundered.

She considered this--and him--carefully. "Then you don't want Mr.
Peter Champneys and me ever to be divorced? I thought maybe you
might."

"I forbid you even to _think_ such wickedness," cried he, alarmed.
"A girl of your age talking in such a manner! It's scandalous,
that's what it is,--scandalous! Shows the dry-rot of our national
moral sense, when the very children"--he glared at Nancy--"gabble
about divorce!"

"Then I--I mean, things are just to go along, the same as they have
been?" She looked at him pleadingly.

For a few minutes he drummed on the library table with his thin
brown fingers. His bushy brows contracted. He asked unexpectedly:

"Would you like to go away for a while? To travel?"

"Where?"

"Where? Why, anywhere! There's a whole world to travel in, isn't
there? Well, take Mrs. MacGregor and travel around in it, then."

She shook her head.

"What's the use? Anywhere I went I'd have to go with _me_, wouldn't
I? And I can't seem to like the idea of traveling around with Mrs.
MacGregor, either."

"What _do_ you want, then?"

"I don't know," said she, in a low voice. And she added: "So I think
I might just as well stay right on here at home, if it's all the
same to you."

"Well, if it pleases you, of course--" he began doubtfully.

"If I do stay, you needn't be afraid I'll fall in love with anybody
else you hire," said she, with a faint flush. "I'm only a fool the
same way once." Her bomb-shell directness all but stunned him. He
stammered, confusedly:

"Why--very well then, very well then! Quite so! I see exactly what
you mean! I--ah--am very glad we understand each other." But as the
door closed behind her, he mumbled to himself:

"Now, that was a devil of an interview, wasn't it! What's come over
the girl? And what's the matter with _me_?" After a while he
telephoned Mr. Jason Vandervelde.

Everything went on as usual in the orderly, luxurious house, for
some ten quiet months or so. And then one memorable morning at the
breakfast-table Mr. Champneys suddenly gasped and slid down in his
chair. Nancy and Hoichi carried him into the library and placed him
on a lounge. He opened his eyes once, and stared into hers with
something of his old imperiousness. She took his hand, pitifully,
and bent down to him.

"Yes, Uncle Chadwick?"

But he didn't speak--to her. His eyes wandered past her. His lips
trembled, into a whisper of "_Milly_!" With that he went out to the
wife of his youth.




CHAPTER XIV

SWAN FEATHERS


While Mr. Chadwick Champneys was alive, Nancy had been able to feel
that there was some one to whom she, in a way, belonged. Now that he
was gone, she felt as if she had been detached from all human ties,
for she couldn't consider Peter as belonging. Peter wasn't coming
home, of course. He was content to leave his business interests in
the safe hands of Mr. Jason Vandervelde, and the trust company that
had the Champneys estate in charge. A last addition to Mr.
Champneys's will had made the lawyer the guardian of Mrs. Peter
Champneys until she was twenty-five.

While he was putting certain of his late client's personal affairs
in order, Mr. Vandervelde necessarily came in contact with young
Mrs. Peter. The oftener he met her, the more interested the shrewd
and kindly man became in Anne Champneys. When he first saw her in
the black she had donned for her uncle, the unusual quality of her
personal appearance struck him with some astonishment.

"Why, she's grown handsome!" he thought with surprise. "Or maybe
she's going to be handsome. Or maybe she's not, either. Whatever
she is, she certainly can catch the human eye!"

He remembered her as she had appeared on her wedding-day, and his
respect for Chadwick Champneys's far-sighted perspicacity grew: the
old man certainly had had an unerring sense of values. The girl had
a mind of her own, too. At times her judgment surprised him with its
elemental clarity, its penetrating soundness. The power of thinking
for herself hadn't been educated out of her; she had not been
stodged with other people's--mostly dead people's--thoughts,
therefore she had room for her own. He reflected that a little
wholesome neglect might be added to the modern curriculum with great
advantage to the youthful mind.

Her isolation, the deadly monotony of her daily life, horrified him.
He realized that she should have other companionship than Mrs.
MacGregor's, shrewdly suspecting that as a teacher that lady had
passed the limit of usefulness some time since. Somehow, the
impermeable perfection of Mrs. MacGregor exasperated Mr. Vandervelde
almost to the point of throwing things at her. She made him
understand why there is more joy in heaven over one sinner saved,
than over ninety and nine just persons. He could understand just how
welcome to a bored heaven that sinner must be! And think of that
poor girl living with this human work of supererogation!

"Why, she might just as well be in heaven at once!" he thought, and
shuddered. "I've got to do something about it."

"Marcia," he said to his wife, "I want you to help me out with Mrs.
Peter Champneys. Call on her. Talk to her. Then tell me what to do
for her. She's changed--heaps--in three years. She's--well, I think
she's an unusual person, Marcia."

A few days later Mrs. Jason Vandervelde called on Mrs. Peter
Champneys, and at sight of Nancy in her black frock experienced
something of the emotion that had moved her husband. She felt
inclined to rub her eyes. And then she wished to smile, remembering
how unnecessarily sorry she and Jason had been for young Peter
Champneys.

Marcia Vandervelde was an immensely clever and capable woman;
perhaps that partly explained her husband's great success. She
looked at the girl before her, and realized her possibilities. Mrs.
Peter was for the time being virtually a young widow, she had no
relatives, and she was co-heir to the Champneys millions. Properly
trained, she should have a brilliant social career ahead of her. And
here she was shut up--in a really beautiful house, of course--with
nobody but an insufferable frump of an unimportant Mrs. MacGregor!
The situation stirred Mrs. Vandervelde's imagination and appealed to
her executive ability.

Mrs. Vandervelde liked the way she wore her hair, in thick red
plaits wound around the head and pinned flat. It had a medieval
effect, which suited her coloring. Her black dress was soft and
lusterless. She wore no jewelry, not even a ring. There were shadows
under her grave, gray-green eyes. Altogether, she looked
individual, astonishingly young, and pathetically alone. Mrs.
Vandervelde's interest was aroused. Skilfully she tried to draw the
girl out, and was relieved to discover that she wasn't talkative;
nor was she awkward. She sat with her hands on the arms of her
chair, restfully; and while you spoke, you could see that she
weighed what you were saying, and you.

"I am going to like this girl, I think," Marcia Vandervelde told
herself. And she looked at Nancy with the affectionate eyes of the
creative artist who sees his material to his hand.

"Jason," she said to her husband, some time later, "what would you
think if I should tell you I wished to take Anne Champneys abroad
with me?"

"I'd say it was the finest idea ever--if you meant it."

"I do mean it. My dear man, with proper handling one might make
something that approaches a classic out of that girl. There's
something elemental in her: she's like a birch tree in spring, and
like the earth it grows in, too, if you see what I mean. I want to
try my hand on her. I hate to see her spoiled."

"It's mighty decent of you, Marcia!" said he, gratefully.

"Oh, you know how bored I get at times, Jason. I need something real
to engage my energies. I fancy Anne Champneys will supply the needed
stimulus. I shall love to watch her reactions: she's not a fool, and
I shall be amused. If she managed to do so well with nobody but poor
old Mr. Champneys and that dreary MacGregor woman, think what
she'll be when _I_ get through with her!"

Vandervelde said respectfully: "You're a brick, Marcia! If she
patterns herself on you--"

"If she patterns herself on anybody but herself, I'll wash my hands
of her! It's because I think she won't that I'm willing to help
her," said his wife, crisply.

Some six weeks later the Champneys house had been closed
indefinitely, the premises put in charge of the efficient Hoichi,
and Mrs. MacGregor bonused and another excellent position secured
for her, and Mrs. Peter Champneys was making her home with her
guardian and his wife.

She might have moved into another world, so different was
everything,--as different, say, as was the acrid countenance of Mrs.
MacGregor from the fresh-skinned, clear-eyed, clever, handsome face
of Marcia Vandervelde. Everything interested Nancy. Her senses were
acutely alert. Just to watch Mrs. Vandervelde, so calm, so poised
and efficient, gave her a sense of physical well-being. She had
never really liked, or deeply admired, or trusted any other woman,
and the real depths of her feeling for this one surprised her. Mrs.
Vandervelde possessed the supreme gift of putting others at their
ease; she had tact, and was at the same time sincere and kind. Nancy
found herself at home in this fine house in which life moved largely
and colorfully.

A maid had been secured for her, whom Mrs. Vandervelde pronounced a
treasure. Then came skilful and polite persons who did things to
her skin and hair, with astounding results. After that came the
selection of her wardrobe, under Mrs. Vandervelde's critical
supervision. Although the frocks were black, with only a white
evening gown or two for relief, Nancy felt as if she were clothed in
a rosy and delightful dream. She had never even imagined such things
as these black frocks were. When she saw herself in them she was
silent, though the super-saleswomen exclaimed, and Mrs. Vandervelde
smiled a gratified smile.

"I am going to keep her strictly in the background for the time
being, Jason," she explained to her husband. "As she's already
married, she can afford to wait a year--or even two. I mean her to
be perfect. I mean her to be absolutely _sure_. She's going to be a
sensation. Jason, have you ever seen anything to equal her
team-work? When I tell her what I want her to do, she looks at me
for a moment--and then does it. One thing I must say for old Mr.
Champneys and that MacGregor woman: they certainly knew how to lay a
firm foundation!"

Nancy was perfectly willing to remain in the background. She was
interested in people only as an on-looker. She responded instantly
to Mrs. Vandervelde's suggestions and instructions, and carried them
out with an intelligent thoroughness that at times made her mentor
gasp. It gave her a definite object to work for, and kept her from
thinking too much about Glenn Mitchell. And she didn't want to
think about Glenn Mitchell. It hurt. She watched with a quiet
wonder--quite as if it had been a stranger to whom all this was
happening--the change being wrought in herself; the immense
difference intelligent care, perfectly selected clothes, and the
background of a beautiful house can make not only in one's
appearance but in one's thoughts. Sometimes she would stare at the
perfectly appointed dinner-table, with its softly shaded lights; she
would look, reflectively, from Marcia Vandervelde's smartly
coiffured head to her husband's fine, aristocratic face; the
reflective glance would trail around the beautiful room, rest
appreciatively upon the impressive butler, come back to the food set
before her, and a fugitive smile would touch her lips and linger in
her eyes. There were times when she felt that she herself was the
only real thing among shadows; as if all these pleasant things must
vanish, and only her lonesome self remain. She watched with a
certain wistfulness the few people she knew. Marcia, now--so
admired, so sure, with so many interests, so many friends, and with
Jason Vandervelde's quiet love always hers--did _she_ ever have that
haunting sense of the impermanence of all possessions; of having, in
the end, nothing but herself?

"What are you thinking, when you look at me like that?" Marcia asked
her one evening, smilingly. She was as curious about Nancy as Nancy
was about her.

"I was just--wondering."

"About what?"

"I was wondering if you were ever lonely?" said Nancy, truthfully.
"I mean, as if all this,"--they were in the drawing-room then, and
she made a gesture that included everything in it,--"just _things_,
you know, all the things you have--and--and the people you
know--weren't _real_. They go. And nothing stays but just _you_.
_You_, all by yourself." She leaned forward, her eyes big and
earnest.

Marcia Vandervelde stared at her. After a moment she said,
tentatively: "There are always things; things one has, things one
does. There are always other people."

"Yes, or there wouldn't be you, either. But what I mean is, they go.
And you stay, don't you?" She paused, a pucker between her brows,
"All by yourself," she finished, in a low voice.

"Does that make you afraid?" asked Mrs. Vandervelde.

"Oh, no! Why should it? It just makes me--wonder."

Mrs. Vandervelde said quietly: "I understand." Nancy felt grateful
to her.

A few days later Mrs. Vandervelde said to her casually: "An old
friend of ours dines with us to-night, Anne,--Mr. Berkeley Hayden,
one of the most charming men in the world. I think you will like
him."

Mrs. Vandervelde always said that Berkeley Hayden was the most
critical man of her acquaintance, and that his taste was infallible.
He had an unerring sense of proportion, and that miracle of judgment
which is good taste. He was one of those fortunate people who, as
the saying goes, are born with a gold spoon in the mouth. Unlike
most inheritors of great wealth, he not only spent freely but added
even more freely to the ancestral holdings. He was moneyed enough to
do as he pleased without being considered eccentric; he could even
afford to be esthetic, and to prefer Epicurus to St. Paul. He had a
highly important collection of modern paintings, and an even more
valuable one of Tanagra figurines, old Greek coins, and medieval
church plate. He had, too, the reputation of being the most gun-shy
and bullet-proof of social lions. At thirty he was a handsome,
well-groomed, rather bored personage, with sleekly-brushed blond
hair and a short mustache. He looked important, and one suspected
that he must have been at some pains to keep his waist line so
inconspicuous. For the rest, he was as really cultivated and
pleasing a pagan as one may find, and so wittily ironical he might
have been mistaken for a Frenchman.

Mrs. Vandervelde had planned that he should be the only guest. She
knew this would please him, as well as suit her own purpose, which
was that he should see young Mrs. Peter Champneys. She was curious
to learn what impression Anne would create, and if Berkeley Hayden's
judgment would coincide with her own. She had informed him that
Jason's ward was stopping with them; would, in fact, go abroad with
her shortly. Mr. Hayden was not interested. He thought a ward rather
a bore for the Vanderveldes.

He was standing with his back to the mantel, facing the door, when
Nancy entered the room. In the filmy black Mrs. Vandervelde had
selected for her, tall and slim, she paused for the fraction of a
second and lifted her cool, shining, inscrutable green eyes to his
lazy blue ones. Mrs. Vandervelde had prevailed upon her to retain
her own fashion of wearing her hair in plaits wound around her head,
and the new maid had managed to soften the severity of the style and
so heightened its effectiveness. A small string of black pearls was
around her throat, and pendants of the same beautiful jewels hung
from her ears. Berkeley Hayden started, and his eyes widened. Mrs.
Vandervelde, who had been watching him intently, sighed
imperceptibly.

"I wasn't mistaken, then," she thought, and smiled to herself.

She could have hugged Anne Champneys for her beautifully
unconscious manner. Of course the girl didn't understand she was
being signally honored and favored by Hayden's openly interested
notice, but Marcia reflected amusedly that it wouldn't have made
much difference if Anne had known. He didn't interest her, except
casually and impersonally. She thought him a very good-looking
man, in his way, but rather old: say all of thirty:--and Glenn
Mitchell had been handsome, and romantic, and twenty. Young Mrs.
Champneys, then, didn't respond to Mr. Berkeley Hayden's notice
gratefully, pleasedly, flutteringly, as other young women--and
many older ones--did. This one paid a more flattering attention to
Mr. Jason Vandervelde than to him. But he had seen other women
play that game; he wondered for a moment if this one were
designing. But he was himself too clever not to understand that
this was real indifference. Then he wondered if she might
be--horrible thought!--stupid. He was forced to dismiss that
suspicion, too. She wasn't stupid. The truth didn't occur to
him--that he himself was spoiled. It provoked him, too, that he
couldn't make her talk.

Mrs. Vandervelde smiled to herself again. Berkeley was deliberately
trying to make himself agreeable, something he did not often have to
trouble himself to do. He was at his best only when he was really
interested or amused, and he was at his best to-night. He aroused
her admiration, drew the fire of her own wit and raillery, stung
even quiet Jason into unwonted animation. Anne Champneys looked
from one to the other, concealing the fact that at times their
conversation was over her head. She didn't always understand them.
The sense of their unreality in relation to herself came upon her.
She turned to watch this strange man who was saying things that
puzzled her, and he met her eyes, as Glenn Mitchell had once met
them. She wasn't looking at him as she had looked at Glenn, but
Berkeley Hayden's sophisticated, well-trained, wary heart gave an
unprecedented, unmannerly jump when those green eyes sought to
fathom him.

Marcia spoke of their proposed stay abroad. She had gone to school
in Florence, and she retained a passionate affection for the old
city, and showed her delight at the prospect of revisiting it.

"This will be your first visit to Italy, Mrs. Champneys?" asked
Hayden.

"Yes."

"I envy you. But you mustn't allow yourself to be weaned away from
your own country. You must come back to New York." He smiled into
her eyes--Berkeley Hayden's famous smile.

"Yes, I suppose I must," said Nancy, without enthusiasm.

He felt puzzled. Was she unthinkably simple and natural, or was she
immeasurably deep? Was her apparent utter unconsciousness of the
effect she produced a superfine art? He couldn't decide.

He usually knew exactly why any certain woman pleased him. He had
usually demanded beauty; he had worshiped beauty all his life. But
beauty must go hand in hand with intellectual qualities; he hated a
fool. To-night he found himself puzzled. He couldn't tell exactly
why Anne Champneys pleased him. Studying her critically, he decided
that she was not beautiful. He could not even call her pretty.
Perhaps it was her unusualness. But wherein was she so unusual? He
had met women with red hair and white skin and gray-green eyes
before--women far, far more seductive than Jason's ward. Yet not one
of them all had so potently gripped his imagination.

Mrs. Vandervelde was a brilliant pianist, and after dinner Hayden
begged her to play. Under cover of the music, he watched Mrs.
Champneys. She was sitting almost opposite him, and he could observe
her changing countenance. Nancy was beginning to love and understand
good music. Men create music; women receive and carry it as they
receive and carry life. It is quite as much a part of themselves.

Nancy's eyes shadowed. She leaned back in her chair, and the man
watched the curve of her white cheek and throat, and the thick
braids of her red hair. She had forgotten his presence. He was
saying to himself, with something of wonder, "No, she's not
beautiful: but, my God! how _real_ she is!" when, subtly drawn by
the intensity of his gaze, she turned, looked at him with her
clouded eyes, and smiled vaguely. Still smiling, she turned her head
again and gave herself up to listening, unconscious that destiny had
clapped her upon the shoulder.

The man sat quite still. It had come to him with, the suddenness of
a lightning stroke, and his first feeling was one of stunned
amazement, and an almost incredulous resentment. He had gone to and
fro in the earth and walked up and down in it, comfortably immune,
an amused and ironic looker-on. And now, at thirty, without rhyme or
reason he had fallen in love with a red-haired young woman of whom
he knew absolutely nothing, beyond the bare fact that she was Jason
Vandervelde's ward. A woman who didn't conform to any standard he
had ever set for himself, whose mind was a closed book to him, of
whose very existence he had been ignorant until to-night. Old Dame
Destiny must have sniggered when she thrust Mrs. Peter Champneys,
nee Nancy Simms, into the exquisitely ordered life of Mr. Berkeley
Hayden!

He presently discovered from Jason all that the trustee of the
Champneys estate knew of Mrs. Peter, which really wasn't very much,
as the lawyer and his wife had never seen Nancy until the morning of
her marriage. And he didn't have much to say about her as she was
then. Hayden gathered that it was a marriage of convenience, for
family reasons--to keep the money in the family. He asked a few
questions about Peter, whom Vandervelde thought a likely young
fellow enough, but whom Hayden fancied must be a poor sort--probably
a freak with a pseudo-artistic temperament. There couldn't have been
very much love lost between a husband and wife who had consented to
so singular a separation. Hayden had a _very_ poor opinion of Mr.
Peter Champneys! But he was fiercely glad it hadn't been a
love-match, glad that that other man's claim upon Anne was at the
best nominal, that theirs was a marriage in name only.

He saw her several times before her departure, and came no nearer to
understanding her. The night before they sailed, he gave a dinner in
his apartment, an old aunt of his, more enchanting at sixty than at
sixteen, being the only other guest. That apartment with its
brocaded walls and its marvelous furniture was a revelation to
Nancy. It was like an opened door to her.

She looked at her host with a new interest. He appeared to greater
advantage seen, as it were, against his proper and natural
background. And that background had the glamour of things strange,
exciting, and alluring, smacking somewhat of, say, an Arabian
Night's entertainment. Over the dining-room mantel hung a curious
and colorful landscape, in which two brown girls, naked to the waist
and from thence to the knees wrapped in straight, bright-colored
stuff, raised their angular arms to pluck queer fruit from exotic
trees.

He knew all that, she thought; he had seen that strange landscape
and those brown women, and tasted the fruit they reached to pluck.
Just as he knew those tiny terra-cotta figurines over there, and
that pottery which must have been made out of ruby-dust. Just as he
knew everything. All this had been in his world, always. A world
full of things beautiful and strange. He had had everything that she
had missed. It seemed to her that he incarnated in his proper and
handsome person all the difference and the change that had come into
her life.

And quite suddenly she saw Nancy Simms dusting the Baxter parlor,
pausing to stand admiringly before a picture on a white-and-gold
easel, that cherished picture of a house with mother-of-pearl
puddles in front of it. A derisive and impish amusement flickered
like summer lightning across her face, and with an inscrutable smile
she mocked the mother-of-pearl puddles and her old admiration of
them. She lifted her eyes to the painting over Berkeley Hayden's
mantel, and the smile deepened.

"Perhaps it is her smile," thought he, watching her. "Yes, I am sure
it must be her smile. I am rather glad Marcia is taking her abroad.
I do not wish to make a fool of myself, and there'd be that danger
if she remained." Yet the idea of her absence gave him an
unaccustomed pang.

He filled her quarters aboard ship with exquisite flowers. She was
not yet used to graceful attentions, they had been for other women,
not for her. She had no idea at all that she was of the slightest
importance, if only because of the Champneys money; her comparative
freedom was still too recent for her to have changed her estimate of
herself. She thought it touchingly kind and thoughtful of this
handsome, important man to have remembered just _her_, particularly
when there wasn't anybody else to do so, and she looked at him with
a pleased and appreciative friendliness for which he felt absurdly
grateful. While Marcia was busied with the other friends who had
come to see her off, he stood beside Mrs. Champneys, who seemed to
know no one but himself, and this established a measure of intimacy
between them.

"It occurs to me," said he, tentatively, "that it has been some time
since I saw Florence. All of two or three years."

They stood together by the railing, and she leaned forward the
better to watch a leggy little girl with a brickdust-red pigtail in
a group on the pier.

"Yes?" said she, absently. The leggy girl had just thrust out her
tongue at an expostulating nurse. She seemed to be a highly
unpleasant child; one of those children of whom aunts speak as "poor
Mary" or whatever their name may be. Anne Champneys, watching her,
put her hand up and touched her own hair, that gleamed under her
close-fitting black hat. Her eyes darkened; she smiled, secretly,
mysteriously, rememberingly.

In that instant Berkeley Hayden made his decision. There was no
longer any doubt in his mind. When she turned away from the railing,
he said pleasantly:

"You and Marcia have put me in the humor to see Florence again. If I
come strolling in upon you some fine day, I hope you'll be glad to
see me, Mrs. Champneys?"

"Oh, yes!" said she, politely. And then Marcia and Vandervelde came
up, and a few minutes later the two men went ashore. Hayden's face
was the last thing Nancy saw as the steamer moved slowly outward.
There were hails, laughter, waving of hand-kerchiefs. He alone
looked at _her_. And so he remained in her memory, standing a little
apart from all others.




CHAPTER XV

"I, TOO, IN ARCADIA"


If Riverton was his mother's house and England his grandmother's,
France was peculiarly his own. Peter Champneys felt that he had come
home, and even the fact that he couldn't speak understandable French
didn't spoil the illusion. Nobody laughed at his barbarous jargon;
people were patient, polite, helpful. He thought the French the
pleasantest people in the world, and this opinion he never changed.
Later, when he learned to know them better, he concluded that they
were very deliberately and very gallantly gay in order to conceal
from themselves and from the world how mortally sad they were at
heart. They eschewed those virtues which made one disagreeable, and
they indulged only in such vices as really amused them, and in
consequence they made being alive a fine art.

The Hemingways knew Paris as they knew London, and they smoothed his
path. In their drawing-room Peter met that dazzling inner circle of
Parisian society which includes talent and genius as well as rank,
beauty, and wealth. Then, Mrs. Hemingway having first seen to it
that he met those whom she wished him to meet, Peter was permitted
to meet those whom he himself wished to meet. He was introduced to
two deceptively mild-mannered young Englishmen, first cousins named
Checkleigh, students in one of the great ateliers, who were by way
of being painters; and to a shock-headed young man from California,
a sculptor, named Stocks. The Englishmen were closely related to a
large-toothed, very important Lady Somethingorother, high up in the
diplomatic sphere, and the Californian possessed a truly formidable
aunt. Hence the three young men appeared in fashionable circles at
decent intervals. Later, Peter learned to know their redoubtable
relatives as "Rabbits" and "The Grampus," and he once saw a
terrifyingly truthful portrait of "Rabbits" sketched on a skittish
model's bare back, and a movingly realistic little figure of "The
Grampus" modeled by her dutiful nephew in a moment of diabolical
inspiration. It was explained to him that God, for some inscrutable
purpose of his own, generally pleases himself by bestowing only the
most limited human intelligence upon the wealthy relatives of poor
but gifted artists; but that if properly approached, and at not too
frequent intervals, they may be induced to loosen their tight
purse-strings. Wherefore one must somehow manage to keep on good
terms with them. Witness, Stocks said, his forgiving--nay,
kindly--attitude toward The Grampus; see how he went to her house
and drank her loathly tea and ate her beastly little cakes, even
though she regarded a promising sculptor as a sort of unpromising
stone-cutter who couldn't hold down a steady job, and had
vehemently urged him to go in for building and contracting in
Sacramento, California. "And yet that woman has got about all the
money there is in our family!" finished Stocks, bitterly.

"Rabbits takes you aside and talks to you heart to heart," said the
younger Checkleigh, gloomily. The elder Checkleigh's face took on a
look of martyrdom.

"We have Immortal Souls," said he, in a tone of anguish and
affliction. "I ask you, as man to man: Is it our fault?"

It was these three Indians, then, who took Peter Champneys under
their wing, helped him find the pleasantest rooms in the Quartier,
helped him furnish them at about a third of what he would have paid
if left to his own devices, and also helped him to shed his skin of
a timid provincial by plunging him to the scalp in that bubbling
cauldron in which seethes the creative brain of France. Serious and
sad young men who were going to be poets; intense fellows who were
going to rehabilitate the Drama, or write the Greatest Novel;
illustrators, journalists, critics, painters, types in velvet coats,
flowing ties, flowing locks, and astonishing hats, sculptors, makers
of exquisite bits of craftsmanship, models, masters, singers of
sorts, actors and actresses, sewing-girls, frightful old concierges;
students from the four corners of the earth driven hither by the
four winds of heaven, came and went in the devil-may-care wake of
Stocks and the Checkleighs and disported themselves before the
reflective and appreciative eyes of Peter Champneys. These gay
Bohemians laughed at him for what Stocks called his spinterishness,
but ended by loving him as only youth can love a comrade.

In six months he knew the Quartier to the core. He met men who were
utter blackguards, whose selfish, cold-blooded brutality filled him
with loathing; he met women with the soul of the cat. But the
Quartier as a whole was sound-hearted; Peter himself was too
sound-hearted not to know. He met Youth at work, his own kind of
work. They were all going to do something great presently,--and
presently many of them did. The very air he breathed stimulated him.
Here were comrades, to whom, as to himself, art was the one
supremely important thing in the universe. They, too, were climbers
toward the purple heights.

Shy young men who work like mules are as thick as hops in any art
center; but shy young men who are immensely talented, who have a
genius for steady labor, and who at the same time have not only the
inclination but the opportunity to be generous, are not numerous
anywhere.

Peter Champneys never talked about himself, made no parade, was so
simple in his tastes that he spent very little upon himself, and
while he could say "No" to impudence, he had ever a quick, warm
"Yes" for need. That he should be able to become an artist had been
the top of his dream; that by a very little self-denial he could
help others to remain artists, left him large-eyed at his own good
fortune. He experienced the glowing happiness that only the generous
can know.

On Sundays he went to see Emma Campbell, for whom he had found a
little house on the summit of Montmartre, on the very top of the
Butte. It had a hillside garden, with a dove-cote in it, and a
little kiosk in which Emma liked to sit, with the cat Satan on her
lap, and projeck at the strange world in which she found herself.
She shared the house with a scene-painter and his wife, and as the
scene-painter was an Englishman, Emma could talk to somebody and be
understood. Emma's idea of happiness was leisure to sew squares of
patchwork together for quilts. She had brought her cut-out quilt
scraps with her, and she sat in the kiosk and sewed little pieces of
colored calico together, while the big cat scampered about the
garden, or lay and blinked at her, and all Paris lay spread out far
below, the spires of Notre Dame showing as through a mist.

On Sundays she cooked for Peter,--old homely Riverton dishes,--and
waited on him while he ate. Because she couldn't read, she looked
forward to Peter's reading what she reverently called "de Book."
Peter had been reading the Bible to old darkies all his life, and he
accepted it as a matter of course that he should take the long
climb, and give up a part of his Sundays, to save Emma Campbell from
being disappointed now. Afterward, Emma spoke of his mother, and of
old, familiar things they both remembered. Then he went back to the
Quartier feeling as refreshed and rested as if he'd had a swim in
the river "over home."

At regular intervals he appeared at Mrs. Hemingway's, and kept up
his acquaintance with her friends. When she told him to accept an
invitation, he resignedly obeyed, looking, the elder of the
Checkleigh boys told him, as if he were doing it for God's sake. He
was beginning to speak French less villainously, and this made
things easier for him. He could carry on a simple conversation, by
going slowly; and he _almost_ understood about half of what
strangers said to him. He interested one or two fine ladies greatly,
and they were extremely gracious to him. Artists--that is, young and
unknown artists in the Quartier--are more or less pleasant to read
about in the pages of Muerger and others, but they are too often
beggarly and quite impossible persons in real life. But this young
American who lived in the Quartier was at the same time on a footing
of intimacy in the exclusive home of those so charming Hemingways,
who were, one knew, of the _grand monde_. Was it true that the
American painter was very wealthy? Yes? Ah, _ciel_! That droll young
man was then amusing himself by living in the Quartier? But what an
original! His family approved? He was an _orphan_? With no relations
save that old uncle whose heir he was? Ah, _mon Dieu_! That touched
one's heart! One must try to be very pleasant to that so lonely
young man! And that so lonely young man was extended mead and balm
in the shape of invitations to very smart affairs. To some of which
he found, at the last minute, he couldn't go, for the simple and
cogent reason that Checkleigh or Stocks had appropriated his dress
suit.

"It's infernally unlucky, Rabbits having an affair on to-night. But
you know how it is, Champ--she'd never forgive me if I didn't show
up. Big-wigs from home, and all that, and she feels it's her duty to
make me show 'em I haven't become an Apache. And my togs are out at
interest--one has to pay one's rent _sometimes_, you understand,"
explained Checkleigh, who was dressing before Peter's mirror. "_You_
don't have to care: _you_ aren't compelled to keep in her good
graces!"

"Oh, all right. I don't mind. I only accepted to please Mrs.
Hemingway."

"Mrs. Hemingway is my very good friend. At the first opportunity I
shall explain to her. She can readily understand that

       "One may go without relatives, cousins, and aunts--
        But civilized man can_not_ go without pants.

I wish you hadn't such deucedly long legs, Champ. Regular
hop-poles!" grumbled Checkleigh, ungratefully.

"They are poor things, but mine own," said Peter, mildly. "You will
find a five-franc piece in the waistcoat pocket, Checkleigh, if you
happen to want it. I keep it there for cab fare."

"If I happen to want it!" shrieked Checkleigh. "Oh, bloated
plutocrat, purse-proud millionaire, I always happen to want it!" He
waved an eloquent hand to the circumambient air. "He has five-franc
pieces in his waistcoat pocket--and no Rabbits in his family!" cried
Checkleigh. "Now, have you a presentable pair of gloves,
Croesus?--Oh, damn your legs, Champneys! Look at these beastly
breeches of yours, will you? I've had to turn 'em up until you'd
fancy I was wearing cuffs on the ankles, and still they're too
long!"

"You should have cut 'em off a bit--then you wouldn't look as though
you were poulticing your shins. And they'd fit me, too," commented
Stocks, who had sauntered in.

Checkleigh looked at Peter's watch--his own was "out at interest"
along with his dress suit--and shook his head dolefully.

"If you'd just suggested it sooner, I could have done it--now it's
too late." he lamented. "Your progeny will probably resemble herons,
Champneys, and serve 'em right!--Are those _new_ gloves? I _am_ a
credit to Rabbits!" And he rushed off.

          "What a friend we have in Champ-neys,
          All his gloves and pa-ants to wear!"

Stocks sang in a voice like the scraping of a mattock over flint;
one saw that he had been piously raised. Then he hooked his arm in
Peter's and the two went forth to join the joyous hordes surging up
the Boul' Miche, and to dine in their favorite restaurant, where the
waiters were one's good friends, and Madame the proprietress
addressed her Bohemians as "mes enfants." Having dined, one joined
one's brother workers who waged the battle of Art with jaws and
gestures. Bawling out the slang of the studios, they grimaced,
sneered, shrugged, praised, demolished. Nothing was sacred to these
young savages but the joy of the present. They had no past, and the
future hadn't arrived. They lived in the moment, worked, laughed,
loved, and, when they could, dined. When one had a handful of
silver, how gay the world was! How one wished to pat it on the back
and invite it to come and be merry with one!

In the full stream of this turbulent tide, behold Peter Champneys;
with a lock of his black hair falling across his forehead; his head
cocked sidewise; and his big nose and clear golden eyes giving him
the aspect of a benevolent hawk, like, say, Horus, Hawk of the Sun.
Those golden eyes of his saw tolerantly as well as clearly. This
quiet American worked like a fiend, yet had time to look on and
laugh with you while you played. He was gravely gay at his best, but
he didn't neglect the good things of his youth. And he had a genius
for playing impromptu Providence when you were down on your luck and
about all in. Maybe you hadn't dined for a couple of days, or maybe
you were pretty nearly frozen in your room, as you had no fire; and
you were wondering whether, after all, you weren't a fool to starve
and freeze for art's sake, and whether, all things considered, life
was worth living; and there'd be a gentle tap at your door, and
Peter Champneys would stick his thin dark face in, smilingly. He'd
tell you he'd been lonely all day, and would you, if you hadn't done
so already, kindly come and dine with him? He spoke French with a
South Carolina accent, in those days, but an archangel's voice could
not then have sounded more dulcet in your ears than his. Presently,
over your cigarettes, you found yourself telling him just how
things were with you. Maybe you slept on a lounge in his studio that
night, because it was warmer there. And next morning you could face
life and work feeling that God's in his heaven, all's right with the
world. That's what Peter Champneys meant to many a hard-pressed
youngster.

With his immense capacity for work, at the end of a year Peter
Champneys had made great strides. But he was troubled. Like Millet,
he couldn't take the ordered direction. He felt that he was merely
marking time, that he wasn't on the right track. His robust and
original talent demanded heartier food than was offered it.
Reluctantly enough, Peter withdrew from the official studio to which
he was attached, and went on his own. It was a momentous step.

One Sunday afternoon he said to Emma Campbell, seriously:

"You've never laid eyes on a goddess, Emma, have you? Or a nymph?
Well, neither have I. And I can't paint what I don't know." He
walked up and down the little graveled garden path. And he burst
out: "That is not life. It is not truth. I don't want gods. I only
see _men_! I don't want goddesses. I want _women_!"

Emma Campbell said in a scandalized voice:

"Dat ain't no kind o' way to talk! Leastwise," she compromised, "not
on Sundays."

Peter burst out laughing. Emma wore her usual Sunday cashmere, with
a snowy apron and head-handkerchief. Satan lay upon the small table
beside her, in the attitude of a sphinx, his black, velvety paws
stretched in front of him, his inscrutable eyes watching the
restless young man. Peter paused, and his eyes narrowed. Then he
snapped his fingers, as he had done when he was a little boy back in
Riverton and something had pleased him.

"I've got it!" he shouted. "Emma, you're It!"

No one ever had a more patient model. She couldn't exackly
understan' why Mist' Peter should want to paint a ole nigger like
her, but if Peter Champneys had wanted to bury her alive in the
ground, with only her head sticking out, Emma would have known it
had to be all right, somehow. So she sat for weary hours, while
Peter made rough sketches, and tried out many theories, before he
settled down to work in dead earnest.

And presently Emma saw herself as it were alive on a square of
canvas, so alive that she was more than a bit afraid. She said it
looked like her own ha'nt, and Emma wasn't partial to ha'nts. There
she sat in her plain black dress and her plain white apron and
head-handkerchief, and her gold hoop ear-rings. On the table beside
her were the vegetables she was to prepare. She had forgotten work
for the time being. Emma projecked, one hand resting idly on the
table, the other on the great black cat in her lap. She looked at
you, with the wistfully animal look of a negro woman, who is loving,
patient, kind, long-suffering, imbued with a terrible patience, and
of a sound, sly, earthy humor; and who at the same time is
childishly credulous, full of dark passions, and with the fires of
savagery banked in her heart. There she sat, that sphinx that is
Africa, who has seen the white races come, and who will probably see
them go; you could almost sense the half-slumbrous brain of her
throbbing under her head-handkerchief. She wasn't a mere colored
woman; she was a symbol and a challenge. And her eyes that had seen
so much and wept so much were as inscrutable as fate, as sphinx-like
as the cat's who watched you from her knee. The whole picture
breathed an amazingly bold and original power, and was so
arrestingly vital that it gripped and held one. Down in one corner,
painted with exquisite care and delicacy, was a Red Admiral.

The Quartier came, squinted through the fingers, and praised and
dispraised, after its wont. The Symbolists sneered and told Peter to
his teeth he was a Philistine; they said you can't boot-lick Nature:
you've got to bully her, demand her soul, _make_ her give you her
Sign! Quieter men came and studied Emma Campbell and her cat, and
clapped Peter on the back; the more exuberant Latins kissed him,
noisy, hearty, hairy kisses on both cheeks. Undoubtedly, it would be
accepted, they said!

It was, and hung conspicuously. There were always small groups
before it, for it created something like the uproar that Manet's
"Olympia" had raised in its time. Peter learned from one critic that
his technique was magnificent, his picture a masterpiece of
psychology and of portraiture, and that if he kept on he'd soon be
one of the Immortals. He learned from another that while he
undoubtedly had technique, his posing was commonplace, his subject
banal, his imagination hopelessly bourgeois; that he was a painter
of the ugly and the ordinary, without inspiration or imagination;
that the one pretty and delicate note in the whole canvas was the
butterfly in the lower left-hand corner, and that _that_ was
obviously reminiscent of Whistler, who on a time had used a
butterfly signature! But on the whole the criticisms were highly
favorable; it was admitted that a young painter of promise had
arisen.

Peter Champneys went about his business, indifferent to praise or
blame. _He_ knew he was a way-faring man whose business it was to
follow his own road, a road he had to hack out for himself; and
somewhere on the horizon were the purple heights.

The unbounded delight, the disinterested pride of the Hemingways,
couldn't have been greater had he been their son. Mrs. Hemingway
gave a brilliant entertainment in his honor, and he was feted and
made much of. Young ladies who danced divinely found his stork-like
hopping pleasing, and his stammering French delightful. This
charming Monsieur Champneys, you see, was not only invested with the
glamour of art; he was the heir of an American millionaire! Ah, the
dear young man!

The picture was sold to a Spanish nobleman, who said it reminded him
of Velasquez's "AEsop"; he was so delighted with the painter's power
that he commissioned Peter to portray his own long, pale, melancholy
visage. Whereupon the two Checkleighs and Stocks called loudly for
a proper celebration, and Peter honored their clamorous demand. It
was a memorable affair, graced by the Quartier's darlingest models,
who had long since voted M'sieu Champnees a _bon garcon_. A Spanish
student, in a velvet coat and with long black hair, insisted upon
charcoaling mustachios and imperial upon his host's countenance, in
honor of his countryman who had distinguished himself as a patron of
art. Later, a laughing girl whose blue-black hair was banded
Madonna-wise around a head considerably otherwise, washed it off
with a table napkin dipped in wine. She sat on his knee to perform
the operation, scanned his clean face with satisfaction, and taking
him by the ears as by handles, kissed him gaily. Then she went back
to her own _cher ami_, who wasn't in the least disturbed.

"It is like kissing thy maiden aunt, Jacques," she told him. "Now,
with thee--" They looked at each other eloquently, and Peter
Champneys, whose eyes had followed the girl, smiled crookedly. An
unaccountable gloom descended upon him. All these lusty young men
shouting and laughing around him, all these handsome, ardent young
women, snatched what joy from life they could; they lived their
hour, knowing how brief that hour must be. They ate to-day, starved
to-morrow; but they were rich because they loved, because they
laughed, because theirs was the passionate unforced comradeship, the
intoxicating joy of youth. Peter Champneys, whose good luck was
being celebrated, looked at his penniless, hilarious comrades, and
twisted a smile of desperate gaiety to his lips. He had never in
his life felt more utterly alone.

The affair ended at six o'clock the next morning, in a last glad,
mad romp up the Boul' Miche. Peter and Stocks waved good-by to the
last revelers, looking somewhat jaded in the fresh morning air. The
two young men, both rather tired, walked slowly. Venders in clacking
sabots pushed their carts ahead of them, shouting their wares.
Crowds of working-people poured through the streets. At a little
restaurant they knew, they had coffee and rolls. While they were
drinking, a girl came in. Peter looked up and saw Denise.

His first thought was that she would have been lovely if she hadn't
been so thin. Then he saw how shabby she was, and how neat. Nothing
could have been more charming than her chestnut hair, or her blue
eyes that had a look of innocence, or her fair and transparent
complexion, though one could have wished she were rosier. She did
not look around with the quick, alert, bright glance of the
Parisienne whom everything interests and amuses; she had the
abstracted and sad air of a child who suffers, and whom suffering
bewilders.

Stocks said, in a low voice, tinged with pity:

"_L'amie de Dangeau_."

Peter received that announcement with a shock of surprise and
distaste. Dangeau was such an utter brute! Handsome in his way,
without conscience or pity, Dangeau would have eaten his mother's
heart to satisfy his own hunger, or wiped his feet upon his
father's beard. The gifted, intellectual, and rapacious savage
seized whatever came near him that pleased his fancy or aroused his
curiosity, extracted the pith, and tossed aside what no longer
amused or served him. There was no generosity in him, only an
insatiable and ferocious demand that life should give him more,
always more! Peter, who both admired and detested him, was sorry for
this gentle creature fallen into his remorseless claws. And he
wondered, as decent men must, at the fatal fascination animals like
Dangeau seem to possess for women.

He saw her occasionally after that, always alone. Plainly, things
were not well with her. Her pale face grew paler and thinner; her
dress shabbier. The look of bewilderment was now a look of pain. Her
eyes were heavy, as if they wept too much. Peter watched her with a
troubled heart. One day Henri, the garcon, murmured confidentially,
as she left the cafe after a particularly slim meal:

"These thin little blondes, they do not last long. That one was like
a rose when I first saw her. _Pauvre enfant_!" And he looked after
her with a compassionate glance.

"She seems--different," said Peter. "It is not well with her?"

"Alas, no! She is from the provinces, Monsieur, come to Paris to
earn more. And so she wearied her _ami_. You know him, Monsieur; he
is a restless man, quickly tiring--that sculptor! Also, he feared
she would fall sick upon his hands--you see how frail she is, and he
abhors all that is not robust." And Henri made an expressive
gesture. He added: "_She_ is of the sort that love, Monsieur; and,
you understand, that is fatal!"

"And how does she manage now?" asked Peter.

Henri shrugged significantly. Peter drummed on the table and
scowled. A little girl, from the provinces! One understood now how
she had fallen into Dangeau's hands, and how, inevitably, he had
tired, and tossed her aside like a wilted flower. And now she was
facing slow starvation--Oh, damn!

Peter slipped some change into Henri's palm. "You are a man of
sense, Henri. Also, I see that you have a good heart," said he. "Now
we must see what we can do for this poor little Mademoiselle, you
and I. You will place before her the best the house affords--I leave
that to you. And when she protests you will say to her: 'Your
venerable godfather has arranged for it, Mademoiselle. His orders
are, that you come here, seat yourself, tap once with your
forefinger upon the table,--and your orders will be obeyed.'"

"And if she questions further, Monsieur?"

"Explain that you obey orders, but do not know her godfather," said
Peter, gravely.

"Trust me, Monsieur!" cried the delighted Henri. And from that
moment the kindly fellow adored Peter Champneys.

The little game began the next day. Denise gave her tiny order;
Henri came back with a loaded tray, whose savory contents he placed
before her. Out of the corner of his eye Peter could see the girl's
astonished face when Henri politely insisted that the meal was
hers--that her venerable godfather had ordered it for her! She
looked timidly and fearfully around; but nobody was paying the
slightest attention to her, and after deftly arranging the dishes,
Henri had whisked himself off. She waited for a few minutes; but
Henri hadn't come back. And then, because she was almost famished,
she ate what had been given her. Peter felt his eyes blur.

Henri came back to her presently with wine. He dusted the bottle
lovingly, and filled her glass with a flourish. She looked up with a
tremulous smile:

"My godfather's order, Henri?"

"Your venerable godfather's order, Mademoiselle," he replied
sedately. When she had finished her dinner, he glibly, and with an
expressionless countenance repeated Peter's instructions: she was to
come in, seat herself, tap with her forefinger, and give her orders,
which would be instantly obeyed! No, he did not know her godfather.
Nor did Monsieur le patron. No, he might not even take the sous she
offered him: all, all, had been arranged, Mademoiselle!

She hesitated. Then she called for pen and paper, and scribbled in
violet ink:

    MONSIEUR MY GODFATHER,
      I see that the good God still permits miracles. You are one.
    Accept, then, a poor girl's thanks and prayers!
                                          Thy godchild,
                                                       DENISE.

She gave this to Henri, who received it respectfully. Then she went
out, feeling very much better and brighter because of a sadly needed
dinner. She was bewildered, and excited; but she wasn't afraid. She
accepted her miracle, which had come just in the nick of time,
gratefully, with a childlike simplicity. But she used her blue eyes,
and one day they met Peter Champneys's, regarding her with a good
and kind satisfaction; for indeed she looked much better and
brighter, now that she was no longer half starved. Denise had
encountered other eyes, men's eyes; but none had ever met hers with
just such a look as she saw in these clear and golden ones. A flash
of intuition came to her. Only one person in the world could have
eyes like that--it must be, it was, he! And she watched him with an
absorbed and breathless interest.

In these small restaurants of the Quartier one sits so close to
one's neighbors, in a busy hour, that conversation isn't difficult;
it is, rather, inevitable.

"Monsieur," said the young girl, bravely and yet timidly, on an
occasion when they almost touched elbows, "Monsieur,--is it you who
have a god-daughter?"

"Mademoiselle," stammered Peter, who hadn't expected the question.
"I do not know your godfather!" And then he turned red to his ears.

Her face broke into a swift and flashing smile. She looked so like a
happy child that Peter had to smile back at her, and presently they
were chatting like old acquaintances. After that they always managed
to dine together.

They found each other delightful. That gloomy sense of loneliness
which had oppressed Peter vanished in the girl's presence. As for
Denise, no one had ever been so kind, so gentle, so generous to her
as this wonderful Monsieur Champneys. She grew quite beautiful; her
eyes were a child's eyes, her face like one of those little sweet
pinkish-white roses one sees in old-fashioned gardens.

She had no relations; neither had Peter. And so he took Denise into
his life, just as he had once taken a lost kitten out of the dusk on
the Riverton Road: there really was nothing else for him to do! He
had for her something of the same whimsical and compassionate
affection that had made him share his glass of milk with the little
cat. She belonged to him; there was nobody else.

She was rather a silent creature, Denise. She had none of that Latin
vivacity which wearies the listener, but her love for him showed
itself in a thousand gracious ways, in innumerable small services,
in loving looks. Just to touch him was a never-failing joy to her.
She delighted to stroke his face, to trace with her small fingers
the outline of his features. "That is the pattern on the inside of
my heart," she told him. She had a quick, light tread, pleasant to
listen to, and her rare and lovely laughter was always a delicious
surprise, as if one heard an unexpected chime of little bells.

Her housewifely ways, her pretty anxiety about spending money,
amused him tenderly. When she could perform some small service for
him, she hummed little hymns to the Virgin. Her ministrations
extended to Stocks and the Checkleighs, whose shirts she mended so
expertly that they didn't have to borrow so many of Peter's. She was
so happy that Peter Champneys grew happy watching her. It hadn't
seemed possible to Denise that anybody like him could exist; yet
here he was, and she belonged to him!

Nobody had ever loved Peter Champneys in quite the same way. She had
so real and true a genius for loving that she exhaled affection as a
flower exhales perfume. Loving was an instinct with Denise. She
would steal to his side, slip her arm around his neck, kiss him on
the eyes--"thy beautiful eyes, Pierre!"--and cuddle her cheek
against his, with so exquisite a tenderness in touch and look that
the young man's kind heart melted in his breast. He couldn't speak.
He could only gather her close, pressing his black head against her
soft young bosom.

Her cruel experience with Dangeau was not forgotten; but that had
been capture by force, and she remembered it as a black background
against which the bright colors of this present happiness showed
with a heavenlier radiance. Peter himself didn't guess how wholly
his little comrade loved him, though he did realize her utter
selflessness. She never asked him troublesome questions, never
annoyed him with irritating jealousy, made no demands upon him. Was
he not himself? Very well, then: did not that suffice? Denise didn't
think: she felt. She had the exquisite wisdom of the heart, and in
her small hands the flower of Peter Champneys's youth opened and
blossomed. He was young, he was loved, he was busy. Oh, but it was a
good world to be alive in! He whistled while he worked. And how he
worked! To this period belong those angelic heads, chestnut-haired,
wistfully smiling, with blue eyes that look deep into one's heart.
The airy butterfly that signs these canvases is not so much a symbol
as a prescience.

When was it he first noticed that for all his love and care he
wasn't going to be able to keep Denise? How did he learn that the
great last lover was wooing her away? She was not less happy. A deep
and still joy radiated from her, her eyes had the clear and
cloudless happiness of a child's. But he observed that on their
pleasant excursions into the country she tired quickly. Her little
light feet didn't run any more. She preferred to sit cuddled against
his side, holding his hand in both hers, her head pressed against
his shoulder. She didn't talk, but then, he was used to her silence;
that was one of her sweetest charms. Her cheek grew thinner, but the
rose in it deepened. Then the pretty dresses he loved to lavish upon
her began to hang loosely upon her little body.

It was a frightened young man who called in doctors and specialists.
But, as Henri had once told him, they do not last long, these frail
blondes. Also, she was of the sort that loves--and that, you
understand, is fatal!

Stocks, who had made a great pet of Peter's pretty sweetheart,
blubbered when he learned the truth, and the younger Checkleigh,
who delighted to sketch her, left off because his hand shook so, and
he couldn't see clearly. The Spanish student in the velvet coat, who
could sing lustily to a guitar, came and sang for her, not the
ribald songs the Quartier heard from him, but the beautiful and soft
love songs he had heard as a child in Andalusia--how love is an
immortal rose one carries through the gates of the grave into the
gates of paradise. And the Quartier, which knows so much sorrow as
well as so much joy, came with its gayest gossip to make her smile.
Peter himself lived in a sort of tormented daze.--It was Denise, his
little Denise, who was going!

Denise herself was the calmest and cheerfulest of them all. Her high
destiny had been to love Peter Champneys, and she had fulfilled it.
The good, the kind God had given her that which in her estimation
outweighed everything else. She had lived, she had loved. Now she
could go, and go content.

"It is better so," she told him, with that piercing good sense of
the French which is like a spiritual insight. "Very dear one,
suppose _I_ had been called upon to let _thee_ go: how could I have
endured that?" And she added, pressing his fingers, "Do not grieve,
my adored Pierre. Observe that I am but a poor little one to whom in
thy goodness of heart thou hast been kind: but thou art all my
life--all of me, Pierre."

He put his head against her side, and she stroked it, whispering,

"I had but a little while to stay, beloved. Because of thee, that
stay has been happy--oh, very, very happy!"

"You have given me all I ever had of youth and love," said Peter.

"Ah, but I am glad!" she said naively. "Because of _that_, I think
you must remember!" She looked at him with her blue eyes suddenly
full of tears. "It is only when I think you may forget that I am
afraid, it is then as if the dark pressed upon me," she said in a
whisper sharp with pain. "I lie still and dream how great you will
become, how much beloved--for who could fail to love you, Pierre?
And I am glad. It rests my heart, which is all yours. But when I
begin to remember how I have been but a little, little part of your
life, who have been all of mine, when I think you may forget, then I
am afraid, I am afraid!" And she looked at him like a frightened
child who is being left alone to go to sleep in the dark.

Peter picked her up, wrapped in the bedquilt, and held her in his
arms. She was very light. It was as if he held a little ghost. She
shook her bright hair over his shoulders and breast, and he hid his
quivering face in it, as in a veil. Presently, in a soft voice:

"Godfather!"

"Yes, my little sweetheart."

"Very dear and precious godfather,--a long, long time from now, when
_She_ comes, She whom you will love as I love you, tell her about
me."

"Denise, Denise!" cried poor Peter, straining her to him.

"Tell her I had blue eyes, and a fair face, and bright, bright
hair, Godfather. She will like to know. Say, 'Her whole wisdom lay
in loving me with all her heart--that poor Denise!' Then tell her
that she cannot love you more, my Pierre,--but that in my grave I
shall despise her if she dares to love you less."

"I--Oh, my God!" strangled Peter, and he felt as if his heart were
being wrenched out of his breast. He was in his twenties, and the
girl in his arms was all he knew of love.

Some six weeks later Denise died as quietly as she had lived, her
small cold hands clinging to Peter Champneys's, her blue eyes with
their untroubled, loving gaze fixed upon his face. When that beloved
face faded from her the world itself had faded from Denise.

He hadn't dreamed one could suffer as he was called upon to suffer
then. The going of little Denise seemed to have torn away a living
and quivering part of his spirit. She had loved him absolutely, and
Peter couldn't forget that. His gratitude was an anguish. It is not
the duration but the depths of an experience which makes its
ineffaceable impression upon the heart.

Mrs. Hemingway saw his changed looks with concern. If she and her
husband suspected anything, they did not torment him with questions;
they didn't even appear to notice that he was silent and abstracted.

"What on earth is the matter with the boy?" worried Mrs. Hemingway.
"John, do you think it's a--"

"Petticoat? What else should it be?"

"I can't bear to think of Peter getting himself into some sort of
scrape with possibly some miserable woman--who will prey upon him,"
murmured Mrs. Hemingway.

"Peter's not the sort that falls for adventuresses. He might fall in
love with some girl, and be cut up if she didn't reciprocate. That's
what's the matter with him now, if I'm not mistaken."

Hemingway took Peter fishing with him. It is a pleasant place, the
Seine near Poissy. Hemingway let Peter sit in a boat all day, and
didn't seem to observe that the line wasn't once drawn in. The river
was rippling, the sky bright blue, the wind sweet. All around them
were other boats, full of people who appeared to be happy. And
Hemingway's silent companionship was strong and kind and serene.
Insensibly Peter reacted to his surroundings, to the influence of
the shining day. When they were returning to Paris that evening, he
looked at his big compatriot gratefully. Then he told him. Hemingway
listened in silence. Then:

"I'm damned glad she had you," said he, and polished his eyeglasses,
and put his hand on Peter's shoulder with a consoling and
sympathetic touch. Hemingway understood. He was that sort.

Youth departs, love perishes, faith faints; but that we may never be
left hopeless, work remains and saves us. Peter's work came to his
succor. Just at this crucial time his Eminence the Austrian Cardinal
appeared, and Peter hadn't time to mope.

The cardinal had seen the picture of Emma Campbell and her cat. He
had seen an enchanting sketch of the Spanish student in the velvet
coat, recently purchased by a friend of his. And now his own
portrait must be painted. He was so great a cardinal, of so striking
a personality, that his own noble family had an immense pride in
him, and the Vatican, along with certain great temporal powers, took
him very seriously. So the painting of the cardinal's portrait
wouldn't be a light undertaking, to be given at random. This and
that great painter was urged upon him. But the astonishing portrait
of that old colored woman and her cat decided his Eminence, who had
a will of his own. Here was his artist! Also, he insisted upon the
cat.

The anticlerical press of Paris was insisting that the cardinal's
stay in the French capital was of sinister import. The cardinal
smiled, and Peter Champneys besought his gods to let him get that
smile on canvas. His Eminence was an ideal sitter. He spoke English
beautifully, and it pleased him to converse with the lanky young
American painter in his mother tongue. He felt drawn to the young
man, and when the cardinal liked one, he was irresistible. Peter was
so fascinated by this brilliant and versatile aristocrat, so deeply
interested in the psychology of a great Roman prelate, a prince of
the Church, that he forgot everything except that he was a creative
artist--and a great sitter, a man worthy of his best, was to be
portrayed.

He gave his whole heart to his task, and he brought to it a new
sense of values, born of suffering. When he had finished, you could
see the cardinal's soul looking at you from the canvas. The smile
Peter prayed to catch curves his lips, a smile that baffles and
enchants. He wears his red robes, and one fine, aristocratic hand
with the churchly ring on it rests upon the magnificent cat lying on
the table beside him. That superb "Cardinal with the Cat" put the
seal upon Peter Champneys's reputation as a great artist.

He knew what he had achieved. Yet his lips quivered and his eyes
were smileless when, down in the left-hand corner, he painted in the
Red Admiral.




CHAPTER XVI

THE OTHER MAN


In Florence the nascent swan-feathers of Anne Champneys grew into
perfect plumage. She was like a spirit new-born to another world,
with all the dun-colored ties of a darker existence swept away, and
only a residue of thought and feeling left of its former experience.
This bright and rosy world, enriched by nature and art, was so new,
its values were so different, that at first she was dazed into
dumbness by it.

She came face to face with beauty and art made a part of daily
life. She thought she had never seen color, or flowers, or even a
real sky, until now. An existence unimaginably rich, vistas that
receded into an almost fabled past, opened and spread before her
glamourously. The vividness of her impressions, her reaction to
this new phase of experience, the whole-souled ardor with which
she flung herself into the study of Italian, her eagerness to know
more, her delight in the fine old house in which they had set up
their household gods, amused and charmed Mrs. Vandervelde. She
felt as if she were teaching and training an unspoiled, delighted,
and delightful child, and contact with this fresh and eager spirit
stimulated her own.

Many of her former school friends, girls belonging to fine
Florentine families, some now noble matrons, mothers of families,
one or two great conventual superioresses, still resided in the
city, and these welcomed their beloved Marcia delightedly. There
were, too, the American and English colonies, and a coterie of
well-known artists. Marcia Vandervelde was a born hostess, a center
around which the brightest and cleverest naturally revolved. She
changed the large, drafty rooms of the old palace into charming
reflections of her own personality. A woman of wide sympathies and
cultivated tastes, she delighted in the clever cosmopolitan society
that gathered in her drawing-room; and it was in this opalescent
social sea that she launched young Mrs. Champneys.

Mrs. Champneys was at first but a mild success, a sort of pale
luminosity reflected from the more dominant Mrs. Vandervelde. But it
so happened, that a gifted young Italian lost his heart at sight to
her red hair and green eyes, and discovering that she had no heart
of her own--at least, none for him--he wrote, in a sort of frenzy of
inspiration, a very fine sonnet sequence narrating his hapless
passion. The poet had been as extravagantly assertive as poets in
love usually are, and the sonnets were really notable; so the young
man was swept into a gust of fame; all Italy read his verse and
sympathized with him. The object of a popular poet's romantic and
unfortunate love is always the object of curiosity and interest, as
Anne Champneys discovered to her surprise and annoyance.

"He was such a little idiot!" she told Marcia Vandervelde,
disgustedly. "Always sighing and rolling his eyes, and looking at
one like a sick calf,--more than once I was tempted to catch him by
the shoulders and shake him!"

"He's a poet, my child," said Mrs. Vandervelde, mischievously, "and
you're the lady in the case. It's been the making of him, and it
hasn't done you any harm: you'll be a legend in your own lifetime."

Marcia was quite right. The poet's love clung to Anne like an
intangible perfume, and a halo of romance encircled her red head.
The Florentines discovered that she was beautiful; the English and
Americans, cooler in judgment, found her charming. And a noted
German artist came along and declared that he had found in her his
ideal Undine.

Mrs. Peter remained unchanged and unimpressed. She shrugged
indifferent shoulders; she wasn't particularly interested in herself
as the object of poetic adoration.

She was, however, immensely interested in the beauty and romance of
Florence. The street crowds, so vivacious, so good-humored, the
vivid Florentine faces, enchanted her. More astonishing than storied
buildings, or even imperishable art, were the figures that moved
across the red-and-gold background of the city's history,--figures
like Dante, Lorenzo the Magnificent, and that great prior of San
Marco whose "soul went out in fire." Curiously enough, it was
Savonarola who made the most profound impression upon her. It seemed
to her that the immortal monk still dominated Florence, and when
she saw his old worn crucifix in his cell at San Marco, something
awoke in her spirit,--a sense of religious values. Religion, then,
was not a mere fixed convention, subscribed to as a sort of proof of
conservatism and respectability; religion was really a fixed
reality, an eternal power. She read everything that she could lay
her hands on covering the history of Fra Girolamo. Then she bought a
picture of his red Indian-like visage, and hung it up in her room.
The titanic reformer remained, a shadowy but very deep power, in the
background of her consciousness, and it was this long-dead preacher
who taught her to pray. He won her profoundest reverence and faith,
because he had been true, he had sealed his faith with his life; she
felt that she could trust him. His honesty appealed to her own.

It was such curious phases as this of the girl's unfolding
character, that made her a never-failing source of interest to
Marcia Vandervelde. Under her superimposed, surface indifference,
Marcia reflected, Anne had a deep strain of pure unworldliness, vast
possibilities. Give Anne an ideal, once arouse her enthusiasm, and
she was capable of tossing aside the world for it. Marcia was vastly
interested, too, in the serene detachment of the girl's attitude
toward all those with whom she came in contact. One might evoke
interest, sympathy, compassion, even a quiet friendliness, but her
heart remained quiet, aloof, secure from invasion. Handsome young
men who fell in love with her--and there were several such--seemed
unable to stir any emotion in her, except perhaps, an impatient
resentment. Marcia, of course, knew nothing of Glenn Mitchell. But
Anne Champneys remembered him poignantly. She had learned her
lesson.

They had been some six or eight months in Florence when Mr. Berkeley
Hayden put in his appearance, somewhat to Mrs. Vandervelde's
surprise. She had not expected this! She studied her old friend
speculatively. H'm! She remembered the pale face of the young
Italian poet whose sad sonnets all Italy was reading with delight.
Then she looked at the red-headed source of those sonnets,--and she
had no doubt as to the cause of Mr. Hayden's appearance in Florence
at this time,--and wondered a bit. The situation gave a fillip to
her imagination; it was piquant. One wondered how it would end.

Peter Champneys? Marcia scented disruption, where that impalpable
relationship was concerned. She was ignorant as to Anne's real
feelings and intentions in regard to her absentee husband. Anne
never mentioned him. She bore his name, she held herself rigidly
aloof from all lovers; herein one saw her sole concessions to the
tie binding her. Marcia didn't see how it was possible that the two
should avoid hating each other; the mere fact that they had been
arbitrarily forced upon each other by the imperious will of old
Chadwick, would inevitably militate against any hope of future
affection between them. And now here was Berkeley Hayden, quite as
imperious as Chadwick Champneys had ever been, and who was quite as
successful in getting what he wanted.

Anne had welcomed Mr. Hayden gladly. She was honestly delighted to
see him. Florence had taught her, signally, the depths of her own
lack of culture, and this biting knowledge increased her respect for
Mr. Berkeley Hayden. Marcia was immensely clever, charmingly
cultivated, a woman of the world in the best sense, but Anne's
native shrewdness told her that Marcia's knowledge was not equal to
Hayden's. His culture was surer and deeper. He was more than a mere
amateur; he _knew_. He stood apart, in her mind, and just a little
higher than anybody else. She turned to him eagerly, and there was
established between them, almost unconsciously, the most potent,
perfect, and dangerous of all relationships, because it is the most
beautiful and natural,--that, in which the man is the teacher and
the woman the pupil.

Hayden saw her, too, to greater advantage, here under this
Florentine sky, against the background of perhaps the most beautiful
city in the world. She glowed, splendidly young and vivid. She did
not laugh often, but when she did, it was like a peal of music; it
came straight from her heart and went direct to yours. It was as
catching as fire, as exhilarating as the chime of sleigh-bells on a
frosty Thanksgiving morning, as clear and true as a redbird's
whistle; and it had tucked away in it a funny, throaty chuckle so
irresistibly infectious that suspicious old St. Anthony himself,
would have joined in accord with it, had he heard its silver echo
in his wilderness. Berkeley Hayden's immortal soul stood on the
tiptoe of ecstasy when Anne Champneys laughed.

She no longer thought of herself as Nancy Simms; she knew herself
now as Anne Champneys, a newer and better personality dominating
that old, unhappy, ignorant self. If at times the man glimpsed that
other shadowy self of hers, it was part of her mysterious appeal,
her enthralling, baffling charm. It invested her with a shade of
inscrutable, prescient sorrow, as of old unhappy far-off things. He
hadn't the faintest idea of Nancy Simms, a creature utterly foreign
to his experience. And because she did not love him, Anne Champneys
never spoke of that old self, never confided in him. He did not know
her as she had been, he only knew her as she was now. That, however,
fully satisfied his critical taste. The marvel of her alabaster
skin, fleckless and flawless, the glory of her glittering red hair,
the sea-depths of her cool, gray-green eyes, the reserve of her
expression, the virginal curve of her lip, enchanted him. He liked
the tall, slender strength of her, the lightness of her step, her
grace when she danced, her spirited pose when she rode. Here was the
woman, the one woman, to bear his name, to be the mistress of his
house. She was the only woman he had ever really wished to marry.
And she was nominally married to Peter Champneys.

Hayden was honorable. Had hers been a real marriage, had she been a
happy wife, he would have respected the tie that bound her, and
gone his way. But the situation was exceptional. She wasn't really a
wife at all, and like Mrs. Vandervelde, he could see in such a
marriage nothing but a cause for mutual disgust and dislike. Well,
then, if he loved her, and Peter Champneys didn't, he certainly was
not working Peter Champneys any harm in winning away from him a wife
he didn't want. Why should he stand aside and let her go, for such a
shadow as that ceremony had been? The Champneys money? That meant
nothing weighed in the balance with his desire. He could give her as
much, and more, than she would forego. Mrs. Berkeley Hayden would
eclipse Mrs. Peter Champneys.

Deliberately, then, but delicately, after his fashion, Hayden set
himself to win Anne Champneys. He felt that his passion for her gave
him the right. He meant to make her happy. She could have her
marriage annulled. Then she would become Mrs. Berkeley Hayden. Even
the fact that he really knew very little about her did not trouble
him. He coveted her, and he meant to have her.

He read the young Italian's sonnets, which she had inspired, and
they made him thoughtful. He could readily understand the depths of
feeling such a woman could arouse. Had she no heart, as the Italian
lamented? He wondered. It came to him that she was, in truth,
detached, sufficient to herself, an ungregarious creature moving
solitarily in a mysterious world all her own. What did she think?
What did she feel? He didn't know. He was allowed to see certain
aspects of her intelligence, and her quickness of perception, the
delicacy of her fancy, her childlike and morning freshness, and a
pungently shrewd Americanism that flashed out at odd and unexpected
moments, never failed to delight him. But her deeper thoughts, her
real feelings, her heart, remained sealed and closed to him.

He saw half-pleasedly, half-jealously the interest she aroused in
other men. Nothing but her almost unbelievable indifference held his
jealousy in check. He reflected with satisfaction that she was
on a friendlier footing with him than with any other man of her
acquaintance, that she had a more instant welcome for him than for
any other, and for which cause he was cordially hated by several
otherwise amiable gentlemen. And then he waxed gloomy, remembering
how emotionless, how impersonal, that friendship really was. At
times he laughed at himself wryly, recalling the passionate
friendship other women had lavished upon him, and how wearisome it
had been to him, how he had wished to escape it. If but a modicum of
that passion had been bestowed upon him by this girl, how changed
the world would be for him!

And in the meantime Anne Champneys liked him serenely, was grateful
to him, aware that his intellect was as a key that was unlocking her
own; welcomed him openly and was maddeningly respectful to him. This
made him rage. What did she think he was, anyhow? An old professor,
an antiquarian, an archaeologist? She might as well consider him an
antediluvian at once!

"Marcia," he said to Mrs. Vandervelde one evening, "I want you to
tell me all you know about this Champneys business. Just exactly how
does the affair stand?" Anne had been carried off by some American
friends, the smart throng that had filled Mrs. Vandervelde's rooms
had gone, and Hayden and his hostess had the big, softly lighted
drawing-room to themselves. At his query Mrs. Vandervelde turned in
her chair, shading her eyes with her hand the better to observe him.

"Why, you know as much as I do, Berkeley! You know how and why the
marriage was contracted, and what hinges upon it," said she,
cautiously.

He made an impatient gesture. "I want to know what she's going to
do. Surely she isn't going to allow herself to be bound by that old
lunatic's will, is she?"

"He wasn't an old lunatic; he was an old genius. Jason had an almost
superstitious reverence for his judgment. Somehow, his plans always
managed to come out all right,--in the end. Even when they seemed
wild, they came out all right. They're still coming out all right."

"And you think this insane marriage is likely to come out all right
in the end, too?" he asked sharply.

"I don't know. Stranger things have happened. Why shouldn't this?"

"Why should it? That fellow Champneys--"

"Is said to be a great painter. At least, he is certainly a very
successful one. Whether or not he can make good as Anne Champneys's
husband remains to be seen." Mrs. Vandervelde was not above the
innate feminine cattiness. Hayden rose abruptly and began to pace
the room. He was vaguely aware that he had been astrally scratched
across the nose.

"And you think a girl like Anne will be willing to play patient
Griselda?" he asked, scornfully.

"I don't know. You think she shouldn't?"

"I think she shouldn't. I tell you frankly he doesn't deserve it."

"Oh, as for that!" said Mrs. Vandervelde, airily.

Hayden paused in his restless walk, and looked at her earnestly.

"Berkeley," said she, changing her light tone, "am I to understand
that you are--really in earnest?"

"I am so much in earnest," he replied, deliberately, "that I do not
mind telling you, Marcia, that I want this girl. More, I mean to
have her, if I can make her care for me."

She considered this carefully. He had never known what it meant to
have his wishes thwarted, and now he would move heaven and earth to
win Anne Champneys. Well, but!--She liked Hayden, and she didn't
think, all things considered, that Anne Champneys could do better,
if she wished to have her marriage to Peter annulled, than to marry
Berkeley. But how would Jason consider such a move? Jason had been
greatly attached to old Mr. Champneys. Indeed, his connection with
that astute old wizard had just about doubled their income. Jason
wouldn't be likely to look with friendly eyes upon this bringing to
naught, what he knew had been Champneys's fondest scheme. She said,
after a pause:

"Does Anne know?"

"Who knows what Anne knows? But on the face of it, I should say
she doesn't. At least, she doesn't appear to. I have been
very--circumspect," said he, moodily. And he added angrily: "She
seems to regard me as a sort of cicerone, a perambulating, vocal
Baedeker!"

Mrs. Vandervelde smiled openly. "It is your surest hold upon her. I
shouldn't cavil at it, if I were you. To Anne you are the sum total
of human knowledge. Your dictum is the last word to be said about
anything."

But Berkeley still looked sulky. The idea of being what Sydney Smith
said Macaulay was--_a book in breeches_--didn't appeal to him at
all.

"What would you advise me to do?" he asked, after a pause.

She said reflectively: "Let her alone for a while, Berkeley. If her
liking for you grows naturally into affection,--and it may, you
know,--that would be best. If you try to force it, you may drive her
from you altogether. I tell you frankly, she is not in the least
interested in any man as a lover, so far as I can judge."

He was forced to admit the truth of this. She wasn't. She seemed to
dislike any faintest sign of loverliness from any man toward her.
Hayden had observed her icy attitude toward the painter who had
fancied he found in her his ideal Undine, and who showed too openly
his desire to help her gain a soul for herself. The idea that she
might look at him as she had looked at the painter was highly
unpleasant to him. He asked again:

"But what am I to do?"

"Nothing," said Mrs. Vandervelde, succinctly.

"But suppose she falls in love with somebody else."

"She is more likely to fall in love with you, I should imagine, if
you keep quiet for a while and allow her to do so. Just remain her
guide, philosopher, and friend, can't you?"

The clever, cosmopolitan Mr. Berkeley Hayden tugged at his short
mustache and looked astonishingly like a sulky school-boy.

"Well, if you think that's the best thing I can do--" he began.

"I know it is," said she. And she reflected that even the cleverest
man, when he is really in love, is something of a fool.

Here Anne herself came in and the three dined together, a statuesque
maid in a yellow bodice and a purple skirt waiting on them. Agata's
"Si?" was like a flute-note, and the two women loved to see her
moving about their rooms. It was like having Hebe wait on them.

Anne turned to Hayden eagerly. She wished his opinion of a piece of
tapestry an antiquarian in the Via Ricasoli wished to sell her.
Would he go and look at it with her? And there was an old lamp she
fancied but of the genuineness of which she wasn't sure. And she
added, dropping her voice, that she'd gotten a copy of one of Fra
Girolamo Savonarola's sermons, beautifully done on vellum, evidently
by some loving monkish follower of his. Didn't he want to see it?
She looked at him eagerly. Mrs. Vandervelde, catching his eye,
smiled.

Hayden played his part beautifully, concealing the tumult of his
feelings under the polished surface of the serene manner that Anne
so greatly admired. He made himself indispensable; he gave her his
best, unstintedly, and Hayden at his best was inimitable. Marcia
Vandervelde regarded him with new respect and admiration. Berkeley
was really wonderful!

When he took his departure, Anne Champneys felt that the glamour of
Florence had departed with him. It was as if the sunshine had been
withdrawn, along with that polished presence, that gem-like mind.
She missed him to an extent that astonished her. She thought that
even Giotto's Campanile looked bleak, the day Berkeley Hayden left.

"I'm going to miss you hideously," she told him truthfully.

"I hope so," he said guardedly. He did not wish to show too plainly
how overjoyed he was at that admission. "And I'm going to hope
you'll find me necessary in New York. I'm looking forward to seeing
you in New York, you know. I have two new pictures I want you to
see."

Her face brightened. "Your being there will make me glad to go back
to New York," she said happily. And Hayden had to resist a wild
impulse to shout, to catch her in his arms. He went away with hope
in his heart.

But Mrs. Vandervelde, watching her closely, thought she was too
open in her regret. N-no, Anne wasn't in love with Hayden--yet. She
picked up her studies, to which he had given impetus, with too
hearty a zest. And when he wrote her amusing, witty, delightful
letters, she was too willing to have Marcia read them.

They remained in Italy six months or so more; and then one day Anne
returned from a picnic, and said to Marcia abruptly:

"Would you mind if I asked you to leave Florence,--if I should want
to go home?"

Marcia said quietly: "No. If you wish to go, we will go. Are you
tired of Italy?"

Anne Champneys looked at her with wide eyes. For a moment she
hesitated, then ran to Marcia, and clung to her with her head
against her friend's shoulder.

"You're so good to me--and I care so much for you,--I'll tell you
the truth," she said in a whisper. "I--I heard something to-day,
Marcia,--_he's_ coming to Rome--soon. And of course he'll come here,
too."

"He?--Who?"

"Peter Champneys," said Peter's wife, and literally shook in her
shoes. Her clasp tightened. Marcia put her arms around her, and
felt, to her surprise, that Anne was frightened.

"You are sure?"

"Yes. I heard it accidentally, but I am sure. You know how pretty
the Arno is at the spot where we picnicked. We strolled about, and
I--didn't want to talk to anybody, so I slipped away by myself.
There were a couple of English artists painting near by, and just as
I came up I overheard what they were saying. Marcia,--they were
talking about--_him_. They said he'd been called to Rome to paint
somebody's picture,--the pope's, maybe,--and they'd probably see him
here, later. They seemed to be--friends of his, from the way they
spoke." She shivered. "Italy isn't big enough to hold us two!" she
said, desperately. "Marcia, I can't--run the risk of meeting Peter
Champneys. Not until I have to. I--I've got to get away!" Her voice
broke.

"All right, dear. We'll go," said Marcia, soothingly. "Jason's about
finished his work in Brazil, and he'll be back in New York by this.
Do you want to go directly home?"

"Yes," said Anne Champneys. "Italy's a very little place compared
with America. Let's go back to America, Marcia."

Mrs. Vandervelde stroked the red head. It seemed to her that fate
was playing into Mr. Berkeley Hayden's hands.




CHAPTER XVII

THE GUTTER-CANDLE


Although the Champneys house was tightly closed, with the upper door
and windows boarded up, the blonde person in shoddy fineries rang
the area bell on the chance that there must be a caretaker somewhere
about the premises. She felt that when one has come upon such an
errand as hers, one mustn't leave any stone unturned; and she
couldn't trust to a haphazard letter. An impassive and immaculate
Japanese opened the door, and stood looking at her without any
expression at all. Had the blonde person baldly stated her errand,
the Japanese would probably have closed the door and that would have
been the end of it. But she didn't speak; after a sharp glance at
him she opened her gay hand-bag, extracted a slip of paper, handed
it to him, and stood waiting.

The Japanese read: "I wish you'd do what you can, for my sake," and
saw that it was addressed to Mr. Chadwick Champneys and signed by
Mr. Peter Champneys. It had evidently been carefully kept, and for a
long time, as the creases showed. The Japanese stood reflecting for
a few moments, then beckoned the blonde person inside the house,
ushering her into a very neat basement sitting-room.

"For you?" he asked, glancing at the slip of paper.

"Me? No. I come for a lady friend o' mine. You might tell 'em she's
awful sick an' scared,--just about all in, she is,--or she wouldn't
of sent. But he said she was to come here an' hand in that slip I've
just gave you. That's how I come to bring it."

"All right. You wait," said the Japanese, and glided from the room.
It was the first time Hoichi had received any message from the new
master, as he knew Mr. Peter Champneys to be; if the message was
genuine, he was sure that Mr. Chadwick Champneys, had he been alive,
would have investigated it. Hoichi couldn't imagine how the blonde
person had gotten hold of such a slip of paper, signed by Mr. Peter
Champneys. If there was some trick behind it, some ulterior motive
underlying it, then Hoichi proposed to have the trickster taught a
needed lesson. He was a suspicious man and visions of clever robbers
planning a raid on the premises rose before him. He would run no
risks, take no chances. He rang up Mr. Jason Vandervelde,
fortunately caught the lawyer at home, and faithfully repeated the
blonde person's message. He insisted that the signature was genuine;
he had seen many letters addressed to the late Mr. Champneys by his
nephew, and he would recognize that writing anywhere. He asked to be
instructed.

"Tell her to wait half an hour and I'll be there," said the lawyer
upon reflection.

The blonde person was leaning back in a Morris chair, tiredly, when
Vandervelde was ushered into the basement sitting-room. He
recognized her type with something of a shock. She was what might be
called--charitably--a peripatetic person, and she reeked of very
strong perfume. The lawyer's eyes narrowed, while he explained
briefly that he represented the Champneys interests. Would she
explain as concisely as possible just why and for whom she had come?

She explained ramblingly. Mr. Vandervelde gathered that a certain
"lady friend" of hers, one Gracie Cantrell, now in the hospital,
said her prayers to Mr. Peter Champneys, whom she had met on a time,
and who had advised her if ever she needed help to apply to his
uncle, and to tell him that he had sent her. Feeling herself _down
and out_ now, she had done so.

"Honest to Gawd, the poor little simp thinks this feller's a angel.
Why,--when she gets out o' her head, she don't rave about nothin'
but him, beggin' him to help her. Ain't it somethin' fierce,
though?" The blonde person dabbed at her eyes with a scented
handkerchief.

Mr. Vandervelde rubbed his nose thoughtfully. A girl down and out, a
waif in a city ward, in her delirium calling upon Peter Champneys
for help, didn't sound at all good to him. In connection with that
penciled slip which seemed to imply that she had a right to expect
help, it smacked of possible heart-interest--sob-stuff--so dear to
enterprising special writers for a yellow press. He couldn't
understand how or where Peter had met the girl; possibly some
youthful foolishness back there in Carolina. Maybe she'd followed
him north, to become what her friendship with such as the blonde
person indicated. Vandervelde was a cautious man and he thought he
had better investigate that message, written before Chadwick
Champneys's death.

"My car's outside," he told the blonde person briefly. "We'll see
this Gracie at once and find out just what's to be done."

It was past the hour for visitors, but Vandervelde's card procured
them admittance to the ward where Gracie lay. At sight of the
big-eyed, white-faced, wasted little creature who looked at him with
such a frightened and beseeching stare, Vandervelde's suspicions of
her died. No matter what she had been,--and the house-physician's
brief comment on her case left him in no doubt,--this poor wrecked
bit of humanity beached upon the bleak shore of a charity ward was
harmless. He absolved her of all evil intent, of any desire to
obtain anything under false pretenses. He even absolved the blonde
person, who despite her brassy hair, her hectic face, had of a
sudden become a kind, gentle, and soothing presence. "Well, dearie,
you got a straight tip from that feller. All I had to do was to show
that piece o' paper he give you, and this kind gent'man come right
off to see you," said the blonde cheerfully. "An' now maybe he'll be
wantin' to talk with you, so I'll leave you be. Good night, dearie,"
and she stepped away quietly, a trail of perfume in her wake, so
that Vandervelde's nose involuntarily wrinkled.

Gracie lay and looked at her visitor.

"You ain't his uncle. You don't look nothin' at all like him," said
she, disappointedly.

"No. His uncle is dead. I'm the lawyer who has the estate in charge.
So you can tell me just exactly what you know about Mr. Peter
Champneys, and then tell me what I can do for you."

He spoke so kindly that Gracie's spirits revived. She told him just
exactly what she knew about Mr. Peter Champneys, which of course was
very, very little. Yet this much was luminously clear: of all the
men Gracie had ever encountered, of all her experiences, Peter
Champneys and the hour he had sat and talked with her stood out
clearest, clean, touched with a soft and pure light, a solitary
sweet remembrance in a sodden and sordid existence.

"Like a angel, he was. I never seen nobody with such a way o'
lookin' at you. Never pretended he didn't understand, but treated me
like a lady. I couldn't never forget him. I kep' the piece o' paper
he give me, mostly because it was somethin' belongin' to him an' it
sort o' proved I hadn't dreamed him. I never meant to ask for no
help--but when I come here--an' there wasn't nothin' else to do, I
kep' rememberin' he said I was to go to his uncle an' say he'd sent
me. I--I'm scared! My Gawd!--I'm scared!"

He remembered once seeing a trapped rabbit die of sheer terror. This
girl, trapped by the inevitable, reminded him unpleasantly of the
rabbit. His kind heart contracted. He asked gently:

"What is it you are so afraid of, Gracie? Try to tell me just what
you want me to do for you." Perspiration appeared upon her forehead.
She clutched him with a skeleton hand.

"I'm scared o' bein' cut up!" she whispered fearfully. "Oh, for
Gawdsake, save me from bein' cut up!" Her eyes widened; in her thin
breast you could see her laboring heart thumping. "I want you keep
'em from cuttin' me up!" she repeated feverishly.

"Cutting you up!" Vandervelde looked at her wonderingly.

"Yes. I heard 'em say I didn't have no chanst. They put you in the
morgue--afterward--when you're folks like me, and then the doctors
come and get you and cut you up. I don't want to be cut up! For
Christ's sake, don't you let 'em cut me up!"

Vandervelde felt a sort of sick horror. He couldn't quite understand
Gracie's psychology; her unreasoning, ignorant terror.

"Why, my poor girl, what a notion! You--" he stammered.

"I been treated bad enough alive without bein' cut up when I'm
dead," said she, interrupting him. "I get to thinkin' about it,
wakin' up here in the night. He said his folks'd help me if I asked
'em."

"Of course, of course! Certainly we'll help!" said Vandervelde
hastily.

"If I had any money saved up, 't wouldn't be so bad. But I ain't. We
never do. I--I been sick a long time. What clothes I had they kep'
against the rent I was owin', when they told me to get out. An' I
walked an' walked,--an' then one o' them cops in Central Park, he
seen me, an' next thing I knew I was here."

She was getting hysterical, and he saw that it was quite useless to
try to reason with her; the one way to allay her terror was to make
the promise she implored.

"Well, now that your message has reached us, Gracie, you need not be
afraid any more, because what you fear won't happen; it can't
happen. There!--Put it out of your mind."

She stared at him intently, and decided that this large, fair man
was one to be implicitly trusted.

"You bein' one o' his people, if you say it won't happen, then it
won't happen," she told him, and fetched a great sight of relief.
"Oh! I was that scared I 'most died! I--I just naturally can't bear
the idea o' bein' turned over to them doctors." And she shuddered.

"Well, now that you're satisfied you won't be, suppose you tell me
something more immediate that I can do for you. Isn't there
something you'd like?"

"I'd like it most of anything if you'd tell me somethin' about
_him_," she said timidly. "I know I got no right to ast, me bein'
what I am," she added, apologetically. "You see, nobody ever behaved
to me like he did, an' I can't forget him."

She looked so pathetically eager, her look was so humble, that
Vandervelde couldn't find it in his heart to deny the request. He
found himself telling her that Peter Champneys had become a great
painter, that he had never returned to America, and that his wife
also was abroad.

"Is the lady he's married to as nice as him? I sure hope she's good
enough for him," was Gracie's comment.

Seeing how mortally weak she was, Vandervelde took his departure,
promising to see her again. He had a further interview with the
house-physician and the head nurse. Whatever could be done for her
would be done, but they had handled too many Gracies to be
optimistic about this particular one. They knew how quickly these
gutter-candles flicker out.

Commonplace as the girl was, she managed to win Vandervelde's
interest and sympathy. That she had won young Peter Champneys's
didn't surprise him. He was glad that she had had that one
disinterested and kindly deed to look back to. The boy's quixotic
behavior brought a smile to the lawyer's lips. Fancy his wishing to
send such a girl to his uncle and being sure that old Chadwick
wouldn't misunderstand! Gracie cast a new light upon Peter
Champneys, and a very likable one. Vandervelde had seen in the uncle
something of that same unworldliness that the nephew displayed, and
it had established the human equation between Peter and the shrewd
old man.

Busy as he was, he managed to see Gracie again. She had refused to
be put into a private room; she preferred the ward.

"It's not fittin'," she said. "Anyhow, I don't want to stay by
myself. When I wake up at night I want to feel people around
me,--even sick people's better than nobody. It's sort o' comfortin'
to have comp'ny," and she stayed in the ward, sharing with less
fortunate ones the fruit and flowers Vandervelde had sent to her.
Once the gripping fear that had obsessed her had been dispelled,
once she was sure of a protecting kindness that might be relied
upon, she proved a gay little body. As the blonde person said,
Gracie wasn't a bad sort at all. As a matter of fact, neither was
the blonde person. Vandervelde saw that, and it troubled his
complacent satisfaction with things. He saw in the waste of these
women an effect of that fatally unmoral energy ironically called
modern civilization. He wondered how Marcia, or Peter's wife, would
react to Gracie. Should he tell them about her? N-no, he rather
thought not.

Marcia had cabled that she and Anne were leaving Italy--were, in
fact, on their way home. During his wife's absence he had had to
make two or three South American trips, to safeguard certain
valuable Champneys interests. The trips had been highly successful
and interesting, and he hadn't disliked them, but Vandervelde was
incurably domestic; he liked Marcia at the household helm.

"I wanted to hire half a dozen brass-bands to meet you," he told his
wife the morning of her arrival, and kissed her brazenly. "Marcia,
you are prettier than ever! As for Anne--" At sight of Anne
Champneys his eyes widened.

"Why, Anne!--Why Anne!" He took off his glasses, polished them, and
stared at his ward. Marcia smiled the pleased smile of the artist
whose work is being appreciated by a competent critic. She was
immensely proud of the tall fair girl, so poised, so serene, so
decorative.

"As a target for the human eye," said Vandervelde, fervently,
"you're more than a success: you're a riot!"

Anne slipped her hand into the crook of his arm. "I'm glad you like
me," said she, frankly. "It's so nice when the right people like
one."

Hayden was not in town. He didn't, as a matter of fact, know that
they had left Italy, for Anne's last letter had said nothing of any
intention to return to America shortly. Anne felt curiously
disappointed that he wasn't at the pier with Jason to meet them. She
was surprised at her own eagerness to see him. He pleased her more
than any man she had ever met, and her impatience grew with his
absence.

Marcia, a born general, was already planning with masterly attention
to details the social career of Mrs. Peter Champneys. With the
forces that she could command, the immense power that Berkeley
Hayden would swing in her favor, and the Champneys money, that
career promised to be unusually brilliant, when one considered Anne
herself.

The Champneys house was to be reopened. In the main, as Chadwick
Champneys had planned it, it pleased Marcia's critical taste. Anne
herself appreciated as she had been unable to do when she first came
to it. She liked its fine Aubusson carpets, its lovely old rosewood
and mahogany furniture, its uncluttered stateliness. But there were
certain changes and improvements she wished made, and she took a
businesslike pleasure in supervising the carrying out of her orders.
The portrait of Mr. Chadwick Champneys, painted the year before his
death hung over the library mantel and seemed to watch her
thoughtfully, critically, with its fine brown eyes. The girl he had
snatched from obscure slavery liked to study the visage of the old
monomaniac who had been the god in the machine of her existence. Her
judgment of him now was clear-eyed but cold. He had been liberal
because it fell in with his plans. He had never been loving.

She was sitting in the library one morning, looking up at him rather
somberly. Workmen came and went, and somewhere in the back regions a
hammer kept up a steady tapping.

"Mr. Hayden," said Hoichi, as he ushered that gentleman into the
room.

She turned her head and looked at him for a full moment, before
rising to greet him: one of Anne Champneys's long, still, mysterious
looks, that made his heart feel as if it were a candle, blown and
shaken by the wind. Then she smiled and held out her hand. It was
good to see him again! She was prouder of his friendship than of
anything that had yet come to her. It gave her a sense of security,
raised her in her own estimation.

She explained, eagerly, the changes and improvements she was
planning, and he went over the house with her. He liked it as Marcia
liked it; once or twice he offered suggestions; the relationship of
pupil and master was at once resumed,--but this time the pupil was
more advanced.

Then he took her out to lunch. It was with difficulty that he
restrained the exuberant delight he felt; just to have her with him
went to his head. "Marcia's advice was wise, but my behavior's going
to be otherwise, if I don't keep a tight hold upon myself," he told
himself.

He jealously watched her social progress, and he contributed not a
little toward it. He had a sense of proprietorship in her, and he
did not mean that she should be just one among many; he wished her
to be a great luminary around which lesser lights revolved. Under
Marcia Vandervelde's wing, then, Mrs. Peter Champneys was launched,
and from the very first she was a success. She played her part
beautifully, though she was curiously apathetic about her triumphs.
The incense of adulation did not make as sweet an odor in her
nostrils as one might have supposed. Anne Champneys was oddly
lacking in personal vanity, and she retained her sense of values,
she was able to see things in their just proportions. That she had
created a sensation didn't turn her red head. But she had a feeling
that she had, in a sense, kept her word to Chadwick Champneys,
discharged part of her debt. This was what he had wished her to
accomplish. Very well, she had accomplished it. She was glad. But
she sensed a certain hollowness under it all. Sometimes, alone in
her room, she would stand and look long and earnestly at the red
Indian face of Fra Girolamo Savonarola, brought from Florence and
now hanging on her wall. That room had changed. It was plain and
simple, almost austere; the "honest monk" who had died in the fire,
and the wooden crucifix under him, seemed to dominate it. That
treasure of a maid whom Marcia had secured for her, secretly sniffed
at Mrs. Champneys's bed-chamber. She couldn't understand it. It
wasn't in keeping with the rest of the house. For, it was a
brilliant house, as the home of an exceedingly fashionable, wealthy,
and handsome woman should be.

Anne bore the name of Champneys like a conquering banner. What had
happened on a smaller scale in Florence, happened on a large scale
here at home. Something of the Champneys story had crept out,--the
early marriage, which had kept all the wealth in the family; the
departure of the bridegroom to become an artist, and the fact that
he had really become a noted one. The halo of romance encircled her
head. She was considered beautiful and clever, and the glamour of
much money added to the impression she created; but she was also
considered cold, inaccessible, and perhaps, as the Italian had said,
without a heart. She became, as Marcia had laughingly predicted, a
legend in her own lifetime.

Jason Vandervelde watched her speculatively. He adored Anne, and he
hoped she wasn't going to be spoiled by all the pother made over
her. And he watched with a growing concern Berkeley Hayden's quiet,
persistent, deliberate pursuit of her. Jason wasn't under any
illusions about the Champneys marriage, but he had, as his wife
said, an almost superstitious respect for Chadwick Champneys, and
that marriage had been the old man's darling plan. It was upon that
he had builded, and Vandervelde hated to see that plan brought to
naught. Anne wouldn't really lose, of course,--Hayden could give her
as much as she might forego,--but Vandervelde somehow didn't relish
the idea. That girl Gracie, lingering on in the hospital ward, had
brought the real Peter Champneys poignantly close to his trustee. He
couldn't help thinking that if Anne could know that real Peter,
there might be a hope that old Chadwick's judgment would be once
more vindicated. At the same time, he cared a great deal for
Berkeley Hayden, and the latter wanted Anne. And when Hayden wanted
anything, he generally got it. What Anne herself thought, or what
she might know, he couldn't determine. And Marcia, when he ventured
to speak to her about the matter, said cryptically:

"Why worry? What is to be, will be. Kismet, Jason, kismet!"

       *       *       *       *       *

On a certain afternoon the house-physician telephoned Mr.
Vandervelde that the girl Gracie was very low, and that she had
asked for him. Vandervelde finished the letter he was dictating to
his secretary, gave a few further instructions to that faithful
animal, and had himself driven to the hospital. He couldn't explain
his feelings where Gracie was concerned. There was something to
blame, somewhere, for these Gracies. It made him feel a bit
remorseful, as if he and his sort had left something undone.

The house-physician said that Gracie's hold upon life was a mystery
and a miracle; by all the laws she should have been gone some months
since. She had certainly taken her time about dying! Her little,
sharp, immature face had lost all earthliness; only the eyes were
alive. They looked at Vandervelde gratefully. He had been very kind,
and Gracie was trying to thank him.

"Good-by," said Gracie. "You been white. Tell _him_--I couldn't
never forget him." She put out a claw of a hand, and the big man
took it.

"Is there--anything else I can do for you, Gracie? Isn't there
something you'd like?" The business of seeing Gracie go wasn't at
all pleasant.

Her eyes of a sudden sparkled. She smiled.

"There's one thing I been wanting awful bad. But I ain't sure I
ought to ask."

"Tell me, my child, tell me."

"I want to see _her_," said Gracie, unexpectedly.

"Her?"

"His wife. I got no right to ast, but I want somethin' awful to see
his wife. Just once before I--I go, I want to see her."

Vandervelde felt bewildered. He had never spoken of Gracie to
Marcia, or to Anne. They were so far removed from this poor little
derelict that he was not sure they would understand. He said after a
moment's painful reflection:

"My poor child, I will see what I can do. But if I--that is, if
she--" He paused, not knowing exactly how to put his dilemma into
words without wounding her. But Gracie understood.

"You mean if she won't come? That's what I want to know," said she,
enigmatically. So weak was she that with the words on her lips she
dropped into sudden slumber. He stood looking down upon her
irresolutely. Then he tiptoed away, meeting at the door the
house-physician.

"How long?" asked the lawyer, jerkily.

"Probably until morning. Or at any minute," said the doctor,
indifferently. He thought it the best thing Gracie could do.

Vandervelde nodded. Then, moved by one of those impulses under the
influence of which the most conservative and careful people do
things that astonish nobody more than themselves, he got into his
car and went after Anne Champneys.

       *       *       *       *       *

Anne was for the moment alone. The spring dusk had just fallen, and
she was glad to sit for a breathing-space in the shadowy room.
Berkeley Hayden had just left. His visit had been momentous, and as
a result she was shaken to the depths. She had come face to face
with destiny, and she was called upon to make a decision.

For the first time Hayden had broken the rigid rule of conduct he
had set for himself. He felt that he could endure no more. He had to
know. They had chatted pleasantly, idly. But of a sudden Berkeley
had risen from his chair, gone to the window, looked out, turned and
faced her.

"Anne," said he, directly, "what are you going to do about Peter
Champneys?"

She started as if she had received an electric shock. After a
moment, looking at him with a confused and startled stare, she
stammered:

"W-why do you ask!"

"I have to know," said Hayden, and his voice trembled. "You must be
aware, Anne, that I love you. I have loved you from the first moment
of our meeting. You are the only woman I have ever really wished to
marry. That is why I must ask you: What are you going to do about
Peter Champneys?"

"I--I don't know," said she, twisting her fingers.

"Do you fancy you might be able to love him,--later?"

"No," said she, violently. "No!"

"Why, then, do you not have this abominable marriage annulled?" he
demanded. "I know nothing of Champneys, except that he's an
artist,--and, truth forces me to say, a great one. But if he doesn't
love you, if you do not love him, do you think anything but misery
is ahead for you both, if you decide to carry out the terms of that
promise extorted from you?"

She shrank back in her chair. She made no reply, and Hayden came and
stood directly before her, looking down at her.

"And I--am I nothing to you Anne? I love you. What of me, Anne?"

"What can I say?" said she, falteringly. "I am not free."

"If you were free, would you marry me? For that is what I am asking
you to do,--free yourself, and marry me."

She lifted her troubled eyes. "If I were free," she said, "if I were
free--Berkeley, give me time to consider this. It isn't only the
annulling of my marriage to a man I had never seen until the day I
married him, and have never seen since,--it's the breaking of my
promise to Uncle Chadwick--" They were in the library, and she
looked up at the portrait above the mantel. Hayden's glance followed
hers.

"He had no right to extort any such promise from you!" he cried.
"Anne, think it over! Weigh Peter Champneys and me in the balance.
And,--let the best man win, Anne. Will you?"

She regarded him steadfastly. "Yes," she said.

"And when you have decided, you will let me know?"

"I will let you know," said she, smiling faintly.

Berkeley took her hand and kissed it. He looked deep into her eyes.
Then he left her. He had been very quiet, but his passion for her
glowed in his eyes, rang in his voice, and was in the lips that
kissed her palm.

She had not been in the least thrilled by it, but she was not
displeased. She liked him. As for loving him, she didn't think it
was really in her to love anybody. Looking back upon her youthful
infatuation for Glenn Mitchell, she smiled at herself twistedly.
She knew now that she had been in love with the bright shadow of
love.

But, she reflected, if she did not love Hayden, she respected him,
she was proud of him; he represented all that was best and most
desirable in her present life. Life with Berkeley Hayden wouldn't be
empty. And life as she faced it now was as empty as a shell that has
lost even the faintest echo of the sea. Despite its outward glitter,
its mother-of-pearl sheen, she was beginning to be more and more
aware of its innate hollowness. Her young and healthy nature
cried out against its futility. She was in the May morning of her
existence, and yet the joy of youth eluded her.

She had, perhaps, one more year of freedom. Then,--Peter Champneys.
Berkeley might well ask what she was going to do about it! Was she
to accept as final that contract which would make her the unloved
wife of an unloved husband? Now that she had grown somewhat older
and considerably wiser, now that her horizon had widened, her sense
of values broadened, she perceived that she owed to herself, to her
sacredest instincts, the highest duty. She did not like to break her
pledged word; but that pledge wronged Berkeley, wronged her, wronged
Peter.

Her feeling toward that unknown husband was one of stark terror, a
sick dislike that had grown stronger with the years. In her mind he
remained unchanged. She saw him as the gawky, shrinking boy, his
lips apart, his eyes looking at her with uncontrollable aversion.
Oh, no! Life with Peter Champneys was unthinkable! There remained,
then, Berkeley Hayden. It wasn't unpleasant to think of Berkeley
Hayden. It made one feel safe, and assured; there was a glamour of
gratified pride about it,--Nancy Simms,--Mrs. Peter Champneys,--Mrs.
Berkeley Hayden. A little smile touched her lips.

Into these not unpleasant musings Mr. Jason Vandervelde irrupted
himself, with the astounding request that she come with him now,
immediately, to a hospital where a girl unknown to her prayed to see
her. Hoichi had turned the lights on upon Mr. Vandervelde's
entrance, and Anne looked at her visitor wonderingly.

"I do sound wild," admitted Jason, "but if you could have seen the
poor thing's face when she asked to see you--Anne, she'll be dead
before morning." The big man's glance was full of entreaty.

"But if she doesn't know me, why on earth should she wish to see
me,--at such a time?" asked Anne, still more astonished.

Flounderingly Vandervelde tried to tell her. A questionable girl, to
whom Peter Champneys had been kind,--she couldn't exactly gather
how. Dying in a hospital, and before she went wishing to see Peter
Champneys's wife.

Peter Champneys's wife, fortunately for herself, was still too near
and close to the plain people to consider such a request an
outrageous impertinence, to be refused as a matter of course. The
terrible power of money had not come to her soon enough to make her
consider herself of different and better clay than her fellow
mortals. She wasn't haughty. The heart she was not supposed to
possess stirred uncomfortably. She looked at Vandervelde
questioningly.

"You wish me to go?"

"I leave that to you entirely," said he, uncomfortably. "But," he
blurted, "I think it would be mighty decent of you."

"I will go," she said.

When they reached the hospital, the blonde person was with Gracie.
The blonde person had been crying, and it had not improved her
appearance. Her nose looked like a pink wedge driven into the white
triangle of her face. Screens had been placed around the bed. A
priest with a rosy, good-humored face was just leaving.

Gracie turned her too-large eyes upon Peter Champneys's wife with a
sort of unearthly intensity, and Anne Champneys looked down at her
with a certain compassion. Anne had a bourgeois sense of
respectability, and she had involuntarily stiffened at sight of the
blonde drab sitting by the bedside, staring at her with sodden
eyes. She hadn't expected the blonde. She ignored her and looked,
instead, at Gracie. One could be decently sorry for Gracie.

A faint frown puckered Gracie's brows. Her hand in the blonde
person's tightened its grasp. After a moment she said gravely:

"You came?"

"Yes," said Anne, mechanically. "I came. You wished to see me?" Her
tone was inquiring.

"I wanted to see if you was good enough--for _him_," said the
gutter-candle, as if she were throwing a light into the secret
places of Anne Champneys's soul. "You ain't. But you could be."

Vandervelde had the horrid sensation as of walking in a nightmare.
He wished somebody in mercy would wake him up.

Anne's brows came together. She bent upon Gracie one of her long,
straight, searching looks.

"Thank you--for comin'," murmured Gracie. "You got a heart." Her
eyelids flickered.

"I am glad I came, if it pleases you to see me," said Anne. "Is that
all you wished to say to me!"

"I wanted to see--if you was good enough for _him_," murmured Gracie
again. "You ain't. But remember what I'm tellin' you: you could
be." Her eyes closed. She fell into a light slumber, holding the
blonde person's hand. Vandervelde touched Anne on the arm, and they
went out.

As they drove home Vandervelde told her, as well as he could, all
that the little wrecked vessel which was now nearing its last harbor
had told him. He was deeply moved. He said, patting her hand.

"It was decent of you to come. You're a little sport, Anne."

For a while she was silent. Peter Champneys, then, was capable of
kindness. He could do a gentle and generous deed. And perhaps he
also was finding the heavy chain of his promise to his uncle, of his
marriage to herself, galling and wearisome. She reached a woman's
swift decision.

"I'm going to be a better sport," said she. "I'm going to reward
Peter Champneys by setting him free. I shall have our marriage
annulled."




CHAPTER XVIII

KISMET!


Peter Champneys was packing up for a summer's work on the coast when
he received Vandervelde's letter, advising him that Mrs. Champneys
had instituted proceedings to have her marriage annulled. The
attorney added that by this action on Anne's part the entire
Champneys estate reverted to him, Peter Champneys, with the
exception of fifty thousand dollars especially allotted to Anne by
Chadwick Champneys's will. Vandervelde took it for granted there
would be no opposition from Peter. He hoped his client would find it
possible to visit America shortly, there being certain details he
should see to in person.

Opposition? Peter's sensation was one of overwhelming relief. This
was lifting from his spirit the weight of an intolerable burden: he
felt profoundly grateful to that red-haired woman who had had the
courage to take her fate in her own hands, forego great wealth, and
sever a bond that threatened to become an iron yoke. He couldn't but
respect her for that; he determined that she shouldn't be too great
a loser. He thought she should have half the estate, at the very
least.

He had never had the commercial mind. He had never asked that the
allowance settled upon him by his uncle should be increased. As his
own earnings far outstripped his modest needs, that allowance had
been used to allay those desperate cases of want always confronting
the kindly in a great city. The Champneys estate back there in
America had bulked rather negligently in his mind, obscured and
darkened by the formidable figure of the wife who went with it. She
had loomed so hugely in the foreground that other considerations had
been eclipsed. And now this ogress, moved thereto God knew why, had
of a sudden opened her hand and set him free!

That strenuous and struggling childhood of his, whose inner life
and aspirations had been so secret and so isolated, had taken the
edge off his gregariousness. He did not continuously feel the
herd-necessity to rub shoulders with others. The creative mind is
essentially isolated. Peter loved his fellows with a quiet, tolerant
affection, but he remained as it were to himself, standing a little
apart. His heart was like a deep, still, hidden pool, in which a few
stars only have room to shine.

A successful man, he had been romantically adored by many idle women
and angled for by many an interested one. At times he had lightly
lent himself to those amiable French arrangements of good
comradeship which end naturally and without bitterness, leaving both
parties with a satisfied sense of having received very good measure.
He had never been able to deceive himself that he loved. He had
loved Denise, but there had been in his affection for her more of
compassion than passion, as Denise herself had known. She remained
in his memory like a perfume. That had been his one serious liaison.
But the woman he could really love with his fullest powers, and to
whom he could give his best, had not yet appeared.

Mrs. Hemingway had been troubled by his celibacy. She had persisted
in her desire to have him marry young, his wife being some one of
her girl friends. She wished to see Peter set up an establishment,
which would presently center around a nursery full of adorable
babies who would bring with them that tender and innocent happiness
young children alone are able to confer. To dispel these pleasant
day-dreams of hers, Peter had found it necessary to tell her of his
American marriage.

Mrs. Hemingway was astonished, a little chagrined, but not hopeless.
He should bring his young wife to Paris. To make her understand
_that_ marriage as it really was, to explain his own attitude toward
it, Peter made a swift and frightfully accurate little sketch of
Nancy Simms as she had appeared to him that memorable morning.

His friend was appalled. It took Peter some time to explain his
uncle to Mrs. Hemingway. At the best, she thought, he had been
insane. Not even the fact that Peter was co-heir to the Champneys
fortune consoled her for what she considered a block to his
happiness, a blight upon his life. The more she thought about that
marriage, the more she disliked it; and as the time approached for
Peter literally to sacrifice himself upon the altar, Mrs. Hemingway
grew more and more perturbed, though she wasn't so troubled about it
as Emma Campbell was. Emma's terror of "dat gal" had grown with the
years. Neither of them ventured to question Peter, but Emma Campbell
began to have frequent spells of "wrastlin' wid de sperit," and her
long, lugubrious "speretuals" were dismal enough to set one's teeth
on edge. She would howl piercingly:

          "Befo' dis time anothuh yeah,
           I ma-ay be gone,
           Een some ole lone-some graveyahd,
           O Lawd, ho-ow long?"

She had left the high Montmartre cottage and had come down to keep
house for Peter, his being a very simple menage. Oddly, the denizens
of the Quartier didn't faze her in the least. She chuckled over
them, an old negro woman's sinful chuckle. She made no slightest
attempt to conquer the French language, which she didn't in the
least admire. She learned the equivalents for a few phrases of her
own,--"I hongry," "How much?" "Gimme dat," and "Mistuh Peter gone
out," and on this slight foundation she managed to keep a fairly
firm footing. The frequenters of Peter's studio were delighted with
Emma Campbell; they recognized her artistic availability, and she
and her black cat were borrowed liberally.

As a rule, she was willing to lend herself to art, and was a patient
model, until one rash young man took it into his head, that he must
have Emma Campbell as a favorite old attendant upon the _Queen of
Sheba_ he proposed to paint. He was a very earnest young German,
that painter, speaking fairly good English. Emma had liked him more
than most; but her faith received a blow from which it never
recovered. That young man wished to paint her _au naturel_--her,
Emma Campbell, who had been a member in good standing of the Young
Sons and Daughters of Zion, the Children of Mary Magdalen, and the
Burying Society of the Sons and Daughters of the Rising Star in the
Bonds of Love! In the altogether! Emma Campbell gasped like a hooked
fish. She made a nozzle of her mouth and protruded her eyes. She
said ominously:

"I bawn nekked, but I ain't had nuttin' to do wid dat. Dat de fust
en de last time I show up wid mah rind out o' doors. I been livin'
in clo'es evuh sence, en I 'speck to die in clo'es."

The artist, who wanted Emma in his picture, tried to make her
understand. He reasoned with her manfully:

"Ach, silly nigger-woman! Clothes, clothes! What are clothes! See,
now: you are the Queen of Sheba's old slave. Your large black feet
and legs are bare, a glittering amulet swings between your withered
breasts of an old African, you wear heavy bracelets and anklets,
around your lean flanks is a little, thin striped apron, and you
hold in your hand the great fan of peacock feathers! Magnificent!
You are the queen's old slave, imbecile!"

"Is I? Boy, is you evuh hear tell o' Mistuh Abe Linkum? Aftuh
Gin'ral Sherman bun down de big house smack en smoove, en tote off
all de cow en mule en hawg en t'ing, en dem Yankees tief all de
fowl, en we-all run lak rabbit, Mistuh Linkum done sen' word we 's
free. En jus' lak Mistuh Linkum say, hit 's so; aftuh us git shet o'
Gin'ral Sherman, we 's free. All dat time I been a-wearin' clo'es,
en now you come en tarrygate me, sayin' I got to stan' up in de
nekked rind en wave fedders 'cause I in slaveryment? You bes' ain't
let Mistuh Peter Champneys hear you talkin' lak dat!"

The bewildered and baffled young man raved in three languages, but
Emma Campbell flatly refused either to be in "slaveryment" or in the
"nekked rind." Visions of herself being caught and painted
bare-legged, with a trifling little dab of an apron tied around her
waist even as one ties a bit of ribbon around the cat's neck, and of
this scandal being ferreted out by the deacons, sisters, and
brethren, of the Mount Zion Baptist Church in Riverton, South
Carolina, haunted her and made her projeck darkly. When she ventured
to voice her opinion to Mist' Peter, he clapped her on the back and
grinned. Emma Campbell began to look with a jaundiced eye upon art
and the votaries of art.

She was relieved when Peter decided to spend the summer on the
coast; she was a coast woman herself, and she longed for the smell
of the sea. And then, to add to her joy, had come this last,
astonishing news: "dat gal" was going to divorce Mist' Peter! That
incomprehensible marriage would be done away with, that grim,
red-headed dragoness would go out of their lives! Emma's speretuals
took a more hopeful trend; and Peter whistled while he worked.

He had written Vandervelde that he couldn't forego his summer's
work, but would probably be in New York that autumn. In the
meantime, let Vandervelde look after his interests as usual and see
to it that Mrs. Champneys was more adequately and liberally provided
for. He forgot to inquire as to the real value of his possessions.
He did say to himself soberly:

"Jingo! This thing sounds like money--as if I were a mighty rich
man! I'll have to do something about this!"

But he wasn't overly upset, or even very greatly interested. His
real concern had never been money; it had been, like Rousseau's and
Millet's, to make the manifestation of life his first thought, to
make a man really breathe, a tree really vegitate.

And so he went to the coast, as happy as a school-boy on a holiday.
The sea fascinated him, and the faces of the men who go down to the
sea in ships. It was going to be the happiest and most fruitful
summer he had known for years. He bade the Hemingways a gay
farewell. Mrs. Hemingway, he noted, looked at him speculatively. Her
matrimonial plans for him had revived.

He worked gloriously. He ate like a school-boy, and slept like one,
dreamlessly. What was happening in the outside world didn't interest
him; what he had to do was to catch a little of the immortal and yet
shifting loveliness of the world and imprison it on a piece of
canvas. He didn't get any of the newspapers. When he smoked at night
with his friend the cure, a gentle, philosophic old priest who had
known a generation of painter-folk and loved this painter with a
fatherly affection, he heard passing bits of world gossip. The
priest took several papers, and liked to talk over with his artist
friend what he had read. It was the priest, pale and perturbed, who
told him that war was upon the world. Peter didn't believe it. In
his heart he thought that the fear of war with her great neighbor
had become a monomania with the French.

"It will be a bad war, the worst war the world has ever known. We
shall suffer frightfully: but in the end we shall win," said the
cure, walking up and down before his cottage. He fingered his beads
as he spoke.

France began to mobilize. And then Peter Champneys realized that the
French fear hadn't been so much a monomania as a foreknowledge. The
thing stunned him. He wished to protest, to cry out against the
monstrousness of what was happening. But his voice was a reed in a
hurricane; he was a straw in a gigantic whirlpool. He felt his
helplessness acutely.

He couldn't work any more; he couldn't sleep; he couldn't eat. There
is a France that artists love more than they may ever love any
woman. Peter Champneys knew that France. Nobody hated and loathed
war more than he, born and raised in a land, and among a people,
stripped and darkened by it. And that had been but a drop in the
bucket, compared with what was now threatening France. He couldn't
idly stand by and see that happen! He thought of all that France had
given him, all that France meant to him. The faces of all those
comrades of the Quartier rose before him; and gently, wistfully
appealing, the sweet face of little lost Denise. He packed his
paintings finished and unfinished, and went to tell his friend the
cure farewell, bending his pagan knees to receive the old man's
blessing. The cure, too, was part of that which is the spirit of
France.

They were enlisting in the Quartier. Peter was one of very many.
When the preliminaries were passed and he had put on the uniform of
a private soldier of the republic, he felt rather a fool. He wasn't
in the least enthusiastic. There was a thing to be done, and he
meant to help in its accomplishment; but he wasn't going to shout
over it or pretend that he liked doing it.

When he went to tell Mrs. Hemingway good-by, just before his
regiment left, she put her arms around him and kissed him. She was
going to stay in Paris, and Emma Campbell would stay in her house.
Emma Campbell had been very silent. She had acute and very
unpleasant recollections of one war. She didn't understand what this
one was about, but she didn't like it. And when she saw Peter in
uniform, saying good-by, going away to get himself killed, maybe,
she broke into a whimper:

"Oh, Miss Maria! Oh, Miss Maria! Look at we-all chile! Oh, my Gawd,
Miss Maria, we-all 's chile 's gwine to de war!"

Peter put his arm around her shoulder. His face twitched. Emma said
in a low voice: "I help Miss Maria wean 'im, en he bit me on de
knuckles wid 'is fust toofs. Nevuh had no trouble wid 'im, 'cept to
dust 'is britches wunst in a w'ile. Ah, Lawd! I sho did love dat
chile! Use to rake chips for de wash-pot fire, en sit roun' en wait
for ole Emma Campbell to fix 'is sweet 'taters for 'im. Me en Miss
Maria's chile. En now he soldier en gwine to de war! Me en 'im far
fum home, en he gwine to de war!" She threw her white apron over her
head. Emma hated to have anybody see her cry.

So Peter Champneys went to the war, along with the other artists of
France, and was made use of in many curious ways. Presently he was
taken out of his squad, and set at other work where the quick and
sure eye, and deft, trained hand, of the painter were needed.

He saw unbelievable, unimaginable things, things so unspeakable
that his soul seemed to die within him. The word _glory_ made him
shudder. There was a duty to do, and he did it to the best of his
ability, without noise, without fear. Wherever he looked around him,
other men were doing the same thing. Every now and then, after some
particularly nightmarish experiences, he would be called out--he
himself questioned why--and kissed on both cheeks, and a medal
or so would be pinned upon him. He accepted it all politiely,
apathetically; it was all a part of the game. And the game itself
seemed never-ending. It went on and on, and on.

It seemed to him that he wasn't Peter Champneys the artist any more,
the lover of beauty, the man who was to rebuild the house of his
forebears, and for whom a great fortune was waiting over there in
America. He was just a soul in torment, living his bit of hell,
hating it with a cold impatience, an incurable anger. One thing only
kept him from losing all hope for mankind: at times he had piercing,
blinding glimpses of the soul of plain men laid bare. With torment,
a humanity larger even than his art was born in him.

At the end of the third year a sniper got him. He was wounded so
badly that at first it was thought a leg would have to be amputated.
But even in that hideous welter of the nations, Peter Champneys
wasn't unknown. Overburdened and busy as they were, doctors and
nurses fought for the life of the American artist. He came to to
hear a poilu in his ward praising the saints that it was _his_ hand
and not the painter's that had gone, and another say philosophically
that if one of two _had_ to be blinded, he was glad M. Champneys's
eyes had been saved.

"You will see for us, Monsieur," said he cheerfully. And in his
heart Peter swore to himself that he would. He would see for the
plain people, the common people of God.

As soon as he was able to be moved, the Hemingways and Emma Campbell
came and took him home. Now, a spirit like his cannot see and hear
and know such things as Peter had been experiencing for three years,
without showing signs of the conflict. Peter had changed physically
as well as spiritually. His face had paled to an ivory tone, the
features had a cameo sharpness and purity of outline; cheeks and
chin were covered with a heavy, jet-black beard,--as if his
countenance were in morning for its lost boyishness. And out of this
thin, quiet, black-haired, black-bearded face looked a pair of
golden eyes of an almost intolerable clarity. _Don Pedro_ Mrs.
Hemingway called him laughingly, and _El Conquistador_. Secretly,
she was immensely proud of him.

Peter didn't recuperate as quickly and completely as had been hoped.
He was weary with an almost hopeless weariness, and Mrs. Hemingway,
who watched him with the affection of an older sister, was worried
about his condition. She didn't like his apathy. He was as gentle,
as considerate, and even more exquisitely sympathetic than of
old. But in all things that concerned himself, he was quietly
disinterested. She and Hemingway had several long talks. Then
Hemingway began to get busy. Presently he suggested, that it might
be a very good idea if Peter should go over to America for a while,
and look after those interests to which he hadn't given a thought
since he had put on a uniform. After all, Hemingway reminded him,
his uncle had placed considerable trust in him. It was only fair now
that Chadwick Champneys's wishes should come in for at least a
little attention, wasn't it?

Peter pondered this idea, and found it just. Besides, he wasn't
unwilling to go back to America now that he didn't have to face that
girl. He wondered, vaguely, what had become of her. Had she found
happiness for herself? He hoped so. Yes, he'd rather like to see New
York again. He couldn't be of any further use here now, and he
couldn't do his own work, for all inspiration seemed to have left
him. He felt empty, arid, useless.

He might just as well act upon Hemingway's suggestion, and find out
how things were over there. And after he'd seen Vandervelde, he'd go
down south and visit that tiny brown house on the cove, and the
River Swamp, and Neptune's old cabin, and the cemetery alongside the
Riverton Road. It seemed to him that he smelled the warm, salt-water
odors of the coast country again, saw the gray moss swaying in the
river breeze, heard a mocking-bird break into sudden song. A
homesick longing for Carolina came upon him. Oh, for the flat coast
country, the marsh between blue water and blue sky, the swamp bays
in flower, a Red Admiral fluttering above a thistle in a corner of
an old worm-fence!

Emma Campbell discovered this homesick longing in herself, too. Emma
was hideously afraid of the passage across, but she was willing to
risk it, just to get "over home" once more. She thought of herself
sitting in her place in Mount Zion Church, with ole Br'er Shadrach
Timmons liftin' up de tune, fat Sist' Mindy Sawyer fanning herself
with a palm-leaf fan and swaying back and forth in time to the
speretual, and busybody Deacon Williams rolling his eye to see that
nobody took too long a swallow out of the communion cup he passed
around. She thought of possum parties, with accompaniments of sweet
'taters and possum gravy. Her lip trembled, tears rolled down her
black cheeks. She had been living in the midst of air raids, her
ears had been stunned with the roar of _Big Bertha_. Now she nevuh
wanted to hear nuttin' louder dan bull-frawg in de river so long as
she lived. She was sorry to leave Mrs. Hemingway, for whom she had
acquired a great affection. And she had one real grief: Satan had
gone to the heaven of black cats, so she couldn't take him back to
Carolina. She wouldn't replace the dear, funny, cuddly beastie with
a French cat. French cats were amiable animals, very nice in their
way, but they weren't, they couldn't be, "we-all's folks" as the
Carolina cat had been.

Hemingway arranged everything. And so one morning, Peter Champneys
walking with a stick, and old Emma Campbell, stiffly erect and
rustling in a black silk frock that Mrs. Hemingway had bought for
her, turned their faces to America once more.

Vandervelde, who met them in response to Hemingway's cable, knew
Emma Campbell at sight, but failed to recognize in the tall,
distinguished, very foreign-looking gentleman, the gangling Peter
Champneys he had seen married to Nancy Simms. He kept staring at
Peter, and the corners of his mouth curled more than usual. And he
liked him, with the instantaneous liking of one large-natured man
for another. Vandervelde had never approved of the annulment of the
Champneys marriage, although Marcia did. Not even the fact that Anne
was going to marry Berkeley Hayden, had been able to convince
Vandervelde that the bringing to naught of Chadwick Champneys's
plans could be right. And looking at Peter Champneys now, he was
more than ever convinced that a mistake had been made. That little
gutter-girl, Gracie, had been right about Peter Champneys; and Anne
had been wrong.

Vandervelde asked, presently, if Peter wished to see the reporters.
Once they scented him, they would be clamoring at his heels. And
then Peter learned to his surprise and annoyance that he was
something of a hero and very much of a celebrity. His expression
made Vandervelde chuckle. But, the attorney demanded, could a famous
artist, a man who for distinguished and unusual service had been
decorated by two governments, the heir to the Champneys millions,
and one of the figures of a social romance, hope to hide his light
under a bushel basket? Nothing doing! He was a figure of
international importance, a lion whom the public wanted to hear
roar.

Peter shuddered. The thought of being interviewed by one of those
New York super-reporters made him feel limp. Couldn't they
understand he didn't want to talk? Didn't they understand that those
who had really seen, those who knew, weren't doing any talking?
Why,--they couldn't! As for himself, his nerves were rasped raw.
Luckily, Vandervelde understood.

He asked Vandervelde a few perfunctory questions, and learned that
things were very much all right. He signed certain papers presented
to him. Then he asked abruptly if Mrs. Champneys had been as
liberally provided for as she should have been, and learned that
Mrs. Champneys had flatly refused to accept a penny more than the
actual amount given her by Chadwick Champneys's will. Vandervelde
added, after a moment, that he thought Mrs. Champneys intended to
remarry. At that Peter looked somewhat surprised. He thought him a
bold man who of his own free will ordained to marry Nancy Simms
Champneys! He murmured, politely, that he hoped she would be happy,
but failed to ask the name of his successor. What was Hecuba to him
or he to Hecuba?

He was in Vandervelde's office, then, and the telephone began to
ring. Three several times Vandervelde answered the questions where,
when, how might the reporter at the other end of the wire get in
touch with Mr. Peter Champneys. Had he really returned to New York?
Been decorated several times, hadn't he? What was his latest
picture? What were his present and future plans? Could Mr.
Vandervelde give any information? In each case Mr. Vandervelde said
he couldn't. He hung up the receiver and looked at the celebrity,
who seemed gloomy.

The lawyer was a tower of strength. He started Emma Campbell, who
didn't want to linger in New York, on her way to Riverton. Emma
wanted to get home as fast as the fastest train could carry her.
But Peter didn't want to go back to Riverton--yet. And then
Vandervelde made a suggestion which rather pleased Peter. Why not go
to a little place he knew, a quiet and very beautiful place on the
Maine coast? Very few people knew of its existence. Vandervelde had
stumbled upon it on a motor trip a few years before, and he was
rather jealous of his discovery. The people were sturdy, independent
Maine folk, the climate and scenery unsurpassed; Peter would be well
looked after by the old lady to whom Vandervelde would recommend
him. And to make perfectly sure that he'd be undisturbed, to drop
more completely out of the world and find the rest he needed, why
not call himself, say, Mr. Jones, or Mr. Smith, letting Peter
Champneys the artist hide for a while behind that homely disguise?
Vandervelde almost stammered in his eagerness. His eyes shone, his
face flushed. He leaned across his desk, watching Peter with a
curious intensity.

Peter liked the idea of the Maine coast. Sea and forest, open
spaces, quietude; plain folk going about their own business, letting
him go about his. Long days to loaf through, in which to reorganize
his existence in accordance with his newer values. Isolation was the
balm his spirit craved. Let him have that, let it help him to become
his own man again, and he'd be ready to face life and work like a
giant refreshed.

"You'll go?" Vandervelde's voice was studiously restrained; he had
lowered his lids to hide the eagerness of his eyes.

"I think such a place as you describe is exactly what I need," said
Peter.

"I'm quite sure it is. And the sooner you go, the better."

Peter got up and walked around the office. A typewriter was clacking
monotonously, the telephone bell was constantly ringing. Peter
turned his head restlessly.

Vandervelde had made his suggestion at precisely the right moment.
Peter felt grateful to him. Very nice man, Vandervelde. Kind as he
could be, too! One liked and trusted him. Clever of him to have so
instantly understood just what Peter most craved!

"I quite agree with you," said Peter. "I'll start to-night."

Vandervelde leaned back in his chair. His heart thumped. He drew a
deep breath, the corners of his mouth curling noticeably, and beamed
at Peter Champneys through his glasses. He said aloud, cheerfully,
"Well, why not?"




CHAPTER XIX

THE POWER


Grandma Baker's cottage formed the extreme right horn of the
crescent that was the village. The middle of the crescent backed up
against a hill, the horns dipped toward the shore-line and the
water. Near Grandma Baker's front gate were currant bushes, and a
path bordered with dahlias and gillyflowers led to the door, which
had two stone slabs for steps, and on both sides of which were large
lilac bushes,--she called them "lay-locks." Behind the house were
apple-trees, and more currant bushes, as well as gooseberries and
raspberries. A herb garden grew under her kitchen windows, so that
her kitchen and pantry always smelled of thyme and wintergreen, and
her bedrooms were fragrant with lavender.

The quiet gentleman to whom she had given an upper room that looked
out upon woods and waters, a bit of pasture, a stretch of coast, and
a pale blue sky full of sudsy clouds, thought that Mr. Jason
Vandervelde's fervent praises hadn't done justice to this bit of
untouched Eden tucked away in a bend of the Maine coast. It gave him
what his heart craved--beauty, fragrance, stillness. A few
weather-beaten old men, digging clams, dragging lobster-pots, or
handling a boat. A few quiet women, busy with household affairs. No
one to have to talk to. No one to ask him questions. There was but
one other visitor in the village, Grandma Baker told him, a young
widow,--"a nice common sort of a woman," who was staying up the
street with Mis' Thatcher.

Mr. Johnston, as the gentleman called himself, hadn't seen the "nice
common sort of a woman" yet, though he had been here a whole week,
and he wasn't in the least curious about her. He didn't know that
when you're a "nice common sort of a woman" to these Maine folk,
you're receiving high praise from sturdy democrats. The phrase, to
him, called up a good, homely creature, amiably innocuous, placidly
cow-like.

Mr. Johnston slept in a four-poster, under a patchwork quilt that
aroused poignant memories. At his own request he ate in a corner of
the big kitchen, near the window opening upon the herb garden.
Already he had struck up a firm friendship with his brisk, strong
old landlady.

"Fit in the war, didn't ye?" asked the old lady, genially.

Mr. Johnston's face took on a look of weariness and obstinacy.
Grandma Baker smiled cheerfully.

"Tell the truth and shame the devil," she chirped. "You fit, but you
needn't be scared I'll ask you any questions about it. I mind Abner,
my husband, comin' back from Virginia after he'd fit the hull
dratted Civil War straight through and helped win it. And he
wouldn't open his trap. Couldn't bear havin' to talk about it. Some
men's like that. Ornery, o' course, but you got to humor 'em. You
put me a hull lot in mind o' my Abner." And she looked with great
kindliness upon the taciturn person known to her as Mr. Johnston.
True to her word, she asked him no questions. She fed him, and let
him alone.

He was so weary, at first, that he didn't want to do anything but
lie under a tree idly for long drowsy hours, as he had lain under
the trees on the edge of the River Swamp years before. This Maine
landscape, so rugged and yet so tender, had a brooding and
introspective calm, as of a serene and strong old man who has lived
a vigorous, simple, and pure life, and to the jangled nerves and
tired mind of Peter Champneys it was like the touch of a healing
hand. With every day he felt his strength of mind and body
returning, and the restless perturbation that had tormented him
receding, fading. These green and gracious trees, bathed in a lucent
light, this sweet sea-wind, and the voice of the waters, a voice
monotonously soothing, helped him to find himself,--and to find
himself newer, fresher, a more vital personality. This newer Peter
Champneys was not going to be, perhaps, so easy-going a chap. He was
more insistent, he was sterner; to the art-conscience, in itself a
troublesome possession, he was adding the race-conscience, which
questions, demands, and will have nothing short of the truth. He had
been forced to see things as they are, things stripped of pleasant
trappings and made brutally bare; and his conscience and his
courage now arose to face facts. Any misery, rather than be slave to
shams! Any grief to bear, any price to pay, but let him possess his
own soul, let him have the truth!

He could not sit in judgment upon himself as an artist only; he had
to take himself seriously as a very wealthy man in an hour when very
wealthy men stood, so to speak, before the tribunal of the
conscience of mankind. He could not afford to be crushed by the
burden of much money. Neither could he ignore the stern question:
what was he going to do with the Champneys wealth? He wished that
that red-headed woman had taken half of it off his hands!

The Champneys money made him very thoughtful this morning, walking
with his hands behind his back, his head bare to the wind. The water
rippled in the sunlight. Out on the horizon a solitary sail
glimmered. The semicircle of village houses resembled the white
beads of a broken necklace, lying exactly where they'd fallen. He
turned a small headland, and the village vanished.

He had a pleasant sense of being alone with this rocky coast, with
its salty-sweet wind, its blue water, its limitless sky, from which
poured a flood of clear, pale golden sunlight. And then, as if out
of the heart of them all, came a figure immensely alive, the light
focusing upon her as if she were the true meaning of the picture in
which she appeared; as if this background were not accidental, but
had been chosen and arranged for her with delicate and deliberate
care.

He thought he had never seen any woman's body so superbly free in
its movement: she had the grace of a birch stirred by a spring wind.
The poise of her shoulders, the sweep of her garments blown by the
sea-breeze, the joyous and vigorous grace of her whole attitude,
reminded him of the winged Victory. So might that splendid vision
have walked upon the glad Greek coast in the bright light of the
world's morning.

The woman walked swiftly, lightly, her head held high, her long
loose hair blown about her like flame. Where the rough path narrowed
between two large boulders, he had paused to allow her to pass; and
so they came face to face, he the taller by a head. She lifted her
cool, gray-green eyes that had in them the silvery sparkle of the
sea, and met his golden gaze. Her face framed in her flaming mane
was warmly pale, the brow thoughtful, the mouth virginal. For a long
moment they regarded each other steadily, wonderingly; and in that
single moment the eternal miracle occurred by which life and the
face of the world changed for them.

That long, clear, grave gaze pierced her heart like a golden
poniard. He was of a thin body and visage, but the effect was of
virility, not weakness,--as if the soul of him, like a blade in a
scabbard, had fretted the body fine. There was a quiet stateliness
in his bearing, a simple and unaffected dignity, to which the thick,
blue-black hair, the foreign beard, and the aquiline features lent
an added touch of distinction. One was reminded of those dangerously
mild and rather sad faces of Spanish soldiers which look at one
from Velasquez's canvases. This man might wear a ruff and a velvet
doublet, or, better yet, a coat of mail, she reflected, instead of
the well-cut but rather worn gray tweeds that clothed him.

She was not conscious of her flying hair, or the wind-blown disorder
of her skirts. She was conscious, rather, that for the first time a
man was looking at her as from a height, and she was filled with a
beautiful astonishment, a sort of divine amazement, as if it were
toward this that always, inevitably, she had been moving,--and now
it was here! Her blood leaped to it, and went racing fierily through
her veins, as if there had been poured into it the elixir of life.
She was gloriously conscious of her youth and her womanhood. A quick
and vivid rush of warm blood stained her, brow to bosom. Her
every-day mind was saying, "It is the stranger who's staying at
Grandma Baker's--the gentleman who's been ill." But beyond and
behind her every-day mind, her heart was shouting, exultant,
ecstatic, and very sure: "It is You! It is You!"

In quick sympathy with that bright flush of hers the blood showed
for an instant in his pale face. He had been staring at her! An
agitation new to him, an emotion to which all others he had ever
experienced were childishly mild, filled him as the resistless sweep
of the sea at flood tide fills the shallows of the shores. Love did
not come to him gently and insidiously, but as with the overwhelming
rush of great waters. This, then, must be that "nice, common sort
of a woman" staying with the Widow Thatcher, at the other end of the
village--this woman clothed with the sun of her red hair, and with
the sea in her eyes! A smile curved his lips. His kindling glance
played over her like lightning, and said to her: "I know you. I have
always known you. Do you not recognize me? I am I,--and you are
You!"

Had he obeyed his instincts, he would have flung himself before her
and clasped her around the knees. Being a modern gentleman, he had
to stand aside, bowing, and let her pass. She, too, bowed slightly.
She went by with her quick and resilient tread, her cheek royally
red. A wind roared in her ears, her heart beat thickly.

When she had turned the little headland she paused, and
mechanically braided her hair. Her fingers shook, and she breathed
as if she had been running. The incredible, the unbelievable, had
pounced upon her as from a clear sky, and the world was never again
to be the same. She had been so sure, so safe, with her pleasant
life all mapped out before her, like the raked and swept paths of an
ordered and formal garden; a life in which reason and convention and
culture and wealth should rule, and from which tumultuous and
tormenting passions and disorderly emotions should be rigidly
excluded. In that ordered existence, she would be, if not happy, at
least satisfied and proud. And now! A strange man in passing had
looked into her eyes; love had come, and the gates of her formal
garden had been pulled down, wild nature threatened to invade and
overrun her trimmed and clipped borders and her smooth lawns.

The Widow Thatcher commented approvingly upon her fine color when
she appeared at the house.

"You just stay here a leetle mite longer, Mis' Riley, and you'll be
that changed you won't know yourself," said the kindly woman,
heartily.

"I'm sure of that!" murmured her guest.

The red-haired lady who called herself Mrs. Riley--Riley had been
her mother's name--had been, up to this time, an altogether
satisfying guest, simple, friendly, with a sound and healthy
appetite, and well deserving that praiseful "nice, common sort of a
woman" bestowed upon her. Now, mysteriously, she changed. She wasn't
less friendly, but her appetite was capricious and she would fall
into reveries, sudden fits of gravity, sitting beside the window,
staring somberly out at the waters. She would snatch up her hat and
go out, get as far as the gate, and return to the house. Mrs.
Thatcher heard her pacing up and down her room, when she should have
been sound asleep. She would laugh, and then sigh upon the heels of
it, break into fitful singing, and fall into sudden silence in the
midst of her song.

"She's gettin' religion," the widow reflected. "The Spirit's workin'
on her. 'T ain't nothin' I can do except pray for her." And the
simple soul got on her knees and besought Heaven that the stranger
under her roof might "escape whatever trouble 't is that's
threatenin' her, O Lord, an' save her soul alive!"

Although the widow didn't know it, her guest had come to the
dividing of the ways. She had come to this quiet place to find
peace, to rest, to escape from the world for a breathing-space. And
in this quiet place that which had missed her in the great outside
world had come to her, the most tremendous of all powers had seized
upon her. The situation was not without a sly and ironical humor.

She wondered what Marcia would say if she should write to her: "I
have fallen in love at sight, hopelessly, irremediably, head over
ears, with, a strange man who passed me on the shore. He wears gray
tweeds. His name, I am told, is Johnston. That's all I know about
him, except that I seem to have known him since the beginning of all
things. He is as familiar to my heart as my blood is, and all he had
to do to make me love him was to look at me. Yes! I love him as I
could never love anybody but him. He's the one man."

She could fancy Marcia's astonishment, her shocked "Oh, but Anne,
there's Berkeley Hayden!"

And indeed, there was Berkeley Hayden!

When Anne had determined to have her marriage to Peter Champneys
annulled, Marcia had upheld her, though Jason hadn't liked it at
all. If he hadn't exactly opposed her course, he had tried to
dissuade her from it. But she had persisted, and as the case was
simple and quite clear her freedom was a foregone conclusion, though
there were, of course, the usual formalities, the usual wearisome
delays.

She had closed the Champneys house, and gone to Marcia, who wanted
her. Jason, too, had insisted that she should make her home with
them for the time being. And then had come the war, and she and
Marcia found themselves swept into the whirlpool of work it
involved. But not even the tremendous news that filled all the
newspapers had kept the Champneys romance from being featured. Her
case received very much more notice than pleased her. She was weary
of her own photographs, sick of the interest she aroused.

Hayden kept discreetly in the background. He behaved beautifully.
But he knew that Anne was going to marry him. Jason and Marcia knew
it. Anne herself knew it. Now that the war was on, a good many of
his plans would have to be postponed, but when Anne had secured her
freedom, and things had righted themselves, they two would take up
life as he wished to live it. All the women of his family had
occupied prominent social positions: _his_ wife should surpass them
all. She should be the acknowledged leader, the most brilliant
figure of her day. Nothing less than this would satisfy him.

For all his esthetic tastes, Hayden was an immensely able and
capable man of business. He had not the warmth of heart that at
times obscured Jason Vandervelde's judgment, nor the touch of
unworldliness that marked the behavior of the Champneys men.
His intellect had a cold, clear brilliancy, diamond-bright,
diamond-hard; to this he added tact, and the power of organizing and
directing and of getting results. In certain crises such men are
invaluable.

Hayden hated war. It was, so to speak, an uncouth and barbarous
gesture, a bestial and bellowing voice. He felt constrained to offer
his services, and even before America became actually involved he
was able to render valuable aid. There were delicate and dangerous
missions where his tact, his diplomacy, and his shrewd, cold,
unimpassioned intelligence won the stakes for which he played. This
in itself was good; but for the time being it took him away from
Anne. He saw her only occasionally. She, like him, was immersed in
work. Once or twice he was able to snatch her from the thick of
things and carry her off with him to lunch or to dinner. She enjoyed
these small oases in the desert of work. She liked to watch his
clever, composed face, to listen to his modulated voice. The serene
ease of his manner soothed her. She was tremendously proud of
Hayden. She was glad he cared for her. This seemed to her an
excellent foundation for their marriage. They would please and
interest each other; neither would be bored! And when, leaning
across the table one day at lunch, he looked at her with unwonted
fire in his quiet eyes, and said in a low voice: "Just as soon as
this business is finished, as soon as we've cleaned up the mess, I'm
going to claim you, Anne. It's all I can do to wait!" Anne met his
eyes, smiled slightly, and nodded. A faint flush rose to her cheek,
and a deeper one rose to his. For a moment he touched her hand.

"You understand you are promised to me," he said. "If I dared show
you what I really feel, Anne--" and he glanced around the crowded
dining-room, and smiled.

She smiled in return, tranquilly. She was not stirred. His touch had
no power to thrill her. She was comfortably content that things
should be as they were, that was all. Yet her very lack of emotion
added to her charm for him. He disliked emotional women. Excess of
affection would have bored him. It smacked of crudeness, and he had
an epicurean distaste for crudeness.

Busy as he was, he found time to select the ring he wished her to
wear. He was fastidious and hyper-critical to a degree, and he
wished her ring to suit her, to be flawless. It was really a work
of art, and Anne Champneys wondered at her own coolness when she
received the exquisite jewel. She understood his feeling, she
appreciated the beauty of the gem, yet it left her unmoved. It
gratified her woman's vanity; it did not stir her to one
heart-throb. She accepted it, not indifferently, but placidly.
After a while she would accept a plain gold ring from him just as
placidly. This was her fate. She did not quarrel with it.

Marcia watched her pleasedly. She loved Anne Champneys, she admired
Hayden exceedingly, and that they should marry each other seemed
natural and inevitable. Hayden was just the man she would have
chosen for Anne. Even the fact that Jason wasn't altogether happy
about it couldn't dampen Marcia's delight in the affair. Jason would
come around, in time. He was too fond of Anne not to.

"Well, you're free," he had told Anne, the day that the Champneys
marriage was declared null and void, and both parties had received
the right to remarry, as a matter of course. "You are free. I'm sure
I hope you won't regret it!"

"Why should I regret it?" wondered Anne, good-humoredly. But the big
man shook his head, remembering Chadwick Champneys.

Hayden had become more and more involved in war work; he was in
constant demand, he was sent hither and thither to attend to this
and that troublesome affair. Twice he had to go abroad. At home,
Anne's work called her into the homes of soldiers; she came in close
contact with the families of the men who were fighting, and what she
saw she was never able to forget. She got down to bed-rock. Her own
early life made her acutely understanding. Where Marcia would have
been blind, Anne saw; where the woman who had never known poverty
and hardship would have remained deaf, the woman who had slaved in
the Baxters' kitchen, who had been an overworked, unloved child in
bondage, heard, and understood to the core of her soul what she was
hearing. These voices from the depths were not inarticulate to Anne!

When Berkeley came back from his second voyage abroad, he was more
impatient than she had ever seen him. The end was in sight then, as
he knew, and he saw no reason for further delay. He urged Anne to
marry him. Why should they waste time? When he consulted Marcia, she
agreed with him. Everybody, she said, was getting married. Why
shouldn't he and Anne? Already the rumor of their engagement had
crept out. There were hints of it in the social chatter of the
papers. Why not announce it formally, and have the marriage follow
immediately?

But Anne Champneys found herself in a curious mood. The nervous
strain of war work, perhaps, was accountable. She meant to marry
Berkeley; but she didn't want to marry him at once. She did not
object to having their engagement announced. He could shout it
from the housetops if that pleased him. But in the meanwhile
she wanted a little rest, a little freedom. She wished to be
fetterless, free to come and go as she pleased. No work, no
interviews, no photographers, no weary hours with dressmakers and
tailors. No envy because Berkeley Hayden was going to marry her,
no wearisome comments, idle flattery hiding spite, no gossip
violating all privacies. A raging impatience against it all
assailed her. It seemed to her that she had never been allowed
really to think or to act for herself disinterestedly, that she
had never been free. Always she had been in bondage! Oh, for just
a little hour of freedom, in the open, to be just as ordinary and
inconspicuous as in her heart of hearts she would have preferred
to be, left to herself!

Marcia said her nerves were unstrung, and no wonder, considering
how she'd worked, and what she'd seen. Jason came vigorously to her
rescue. He advised her to go off somewhere and get acquainted with
herself. To drop out of things for a while, and treat herself to the
rest she needed. Cut and run! Scuttle for cover!

"You've been overdoing things, of course. You've been Lady
Bountiful, and first-aider, and last-leaver. Like the Lord and a
thumping good lie, you've been a very present help in time of
trouble. But there's such a thing as being too steady on the job.
You need a change of people, scene, and mind. Take it."

This conversation occurred on a morning in his office, where she had
gone on some slight business, and with concern he had noticed her
tired eyes. At his advice she brightened.

"Marcia thinks I should marry Berkeley, immediately, and let him
take me away, but--"

"But you aren't ready to rush into matrimony just yet?" Vandervelde
growled. "I should think you wouldn't be! If Hadyen's managed to
exist this long without a wife, I take it for granted he can exist
unwed a little longer. You are certain you mean to marry him?"

"Oh, yes, I am certain I mean to marry him," said Anne, flatly. "But
I--that is, not so soon."

"I think I understand, Anne," said the big man, kindly. "Look here,
you just tell 'em all to wait! Tell 'em you're tired. Then you pick
yourself up and light out for a while, by yourself. Chuck the
madding throng and all that, Anne, and beat it for the open!"

"Oh, how I wish I could!" she sighed. "You don't know how I long for
a chance to be just me by myself! I want to stay with people who
have never heard the name of Champneys or Hayden and who wouldn't
care if my name happened to be Mudd! I want plain living and plain
thinking and plain people. I--I'll come back to--everything I should
come back to, afterward. But first I want to be free! Just for a
little while I want to be free!"

"But how could you manage it?" mused Vandervelde. "The lady who
divorced Peter Champneys and is going to marry Berkeley Hayden can't
pick herself up 'unbeknownst' and hope to get away with it. Not in
these days of good reporting! You're copy, you understand."

"But I don't want to be Mrs. Peter Champneys! I don't want to be the
woman Berkeley Hayden's going to marry! I want to be just me!" she
cried. "I want to go to some place where nobody's ever heard either
of those names! Some little place where there are water and
trees--and not much else. Like, say,--Jason! Do you remember that
place you found, in Maine, I think? You _babbled_ about it. Said you
were going to go there if ever you wanted to get out of the world.
Said it was Eden before the serpent entered. Where's that place,
Jason? Why can't I go there, just as myself--" she paused, and
looked at him hopefully.

"I don't see why you can't," said he, cheerfully.

And so Anne, who didn't wish to be Mrs. Peter Champneys, or the
woman whom Berkeley Hayden was to marry, or anybody but herself,
came to the out-of-the-way nook on the Maine shore, and was welcomed
by the Widow Thatcher.

She found the place idyllic. She liked its skies unclouded by smoke,
translucent skies in which silver mountains of clouds reared
themselves out of airy continents that shifted and drifted before
the wind. She liked its clean, pure, untainted air. And she liked
contact with these simple souls, men who labored, women who knew
birth and death and were not afraid of either. It came to her that
her own contacts with and concepts of life--and death--had always,
been more or less artificial. Perhaps these simple and laborious
folk had the substance of things of which she and her sort had but
the shadow. And then she asked herself: Well, but couldn't one,
anywhere, in any circumstances, make life real for oneself, meet
facts unafraid? Get at the truths, somehow? That's what she had to
find out!

And of a sudden she had been answered. The reality, the truth, the
real meaning of life was made plain to her when a man she didn't
know, and yet knew to the last fiber of her soul, had paused to look
into her eyes.

For two or three days she went no further than the rambling garden
at the back of the house. She tried to read, and couldn't. From
every page those eyes looked at her. There was more in that
remembered glance than in any book ever written, and she was torn
between the desire to meet it again and the fear of meeting it.

On the night of the third day she sat with her elbows on her
windowsill, looking out at the moonlight night. A sweet wind touched
her face, like the breath of love. There arose the scent of quiet
places, of trees and flowers and herbs, mingled with the vast
breathing of the sea. And she thought the sea called to her, an
imperious and yet caressing voice in the night. She stirred
restlessly. Down there on the shore-line, where she had met him, the
rocks would glint with silvery reflections, the water would come
fawning to one's feet, the wind would pounce upon one like a rough
lover. She stirred restlessly. The small bedroom seemed to hold her
like a cage. And again the sea called, a wild and compelling voice.

Her blood stirred to the magic of the night. Her eyes gleamed, her
cheek reddened. She listened for a moment, intently. The Widow
Thatcher slept the sleep of the good housekeeper. No one was
stirring. She could have the night, the wind, the sea, to herself.
Noiselessly she stole downstairs and let herself out.

Out there, with the scent of the summer night greeting her, with
bushes brushing her lightly with their green fingers, her heart
leaped joyously. She flung her arms over her head and went running
down the path to the water, a tall white figure with flying hair.
Then she turned the small headland, and the village dropped behind
her. Overhead the big gold lamp of the moon lighted shore and sea.
And here came the sea-wind, bracing, strong, and sweet. At the rush
of it she laughed aloud, and the wind seized upon her laughter and
tossed it into the night like airy bells.

She slackened her wild race when she neared the great boulders
shutting in the little narrow path where she had met him, and stood
flushed, panting, her shining glance uplifted, her bright hair
framing the sweetness of her face. And even as she paused, he
stepped out of the shadow and confronted her. As if he had been
awaiting her. As if he had known she must come. He said, in a voice
vibrant with fierce joy:

"It is You!"

She answered, in a shaking tone, like a child: "Yes, I had to come,"
and stood there looking at him, face uplifted, lips apart.

He drew nearer. "Why?" said he, in a whisper. "Why?"

She did not reply. For a long moment they regarded each other,
passion-pale in the moonlight.

"Was it because--you knew I must be here!" he asked.

Her hands went to her leaping heart. She had no faintest notion of
concealing the truth, for there was no coquetry in her. These two
facing each other were as honest as the rocky coast, as unabashed as
the wind. They had no more thought of subterfuges and conventions
than the sea had. They were as real as nature itself.

He bent upon her his compelling glance, which seemed to lift her as
upon golden pinions. She was thrillingly conscious of his nearness.

"You knew I would be here?" he repeated.

She drew a deep breath. "Yes!" she sighed.

And at that, inevitably, irresistibly, they rushed together. He
caught her in a mighty embrace and she gave him back his kiss with a
heavenly shamelessness, a glorious passion, naive and pure. It was
as if she were born anew in the fire of his lips. For she was sure,
with a crystal clarity. This man whose heart beat against hers was
her high destiny. Body and soul, she was his. His kiss was the
chrism of life. And he, fallen into the same divine lunacy, was
equally sure. He had been born a man to hold this strong sweet body
in his arms, to meet this spirit that complemented his own. Not in
high and lonely altitudes whose cold stillness chilled the heart,
but by simple paths to peace, in a simple and passionate woman's
love, could he gain the purple heights!




CHAPTER XX

AND THE GLORY


He had said quietly: "You are going to marry me!"

And she had replied, as if there could be no possible doubt about
it:

"Yes, I am going to marry you."

"Because you love me better than anything or anybody else in all the
world, even as I love you."

"Because I love you better than anything or anybody else in all the
world," she repeated.

"So far, so good. When, Beloved Lady?"

At that she hesitated for a space and fell silent. He pressed her
head closer, and bending his tall head laid his cheek to hers.

"When?"

"Presently. But before that, dearest and best of men, there are so
many, many things I wish to tell you, so many things I wish you to
know! I wish you to know me. Everything about me! For once upon a
time there was a sad, neglected child, a piteous child I must make
you acquainted with. There was an ignorant and undisciplined young
girl--"

"You?"

She nodded sorrowfully. His clasp tightened. He slipped a hand
beneath her chin, tilted her face upward, and kissed her eyes that
had suddenly filled with tears, her lips that quivered.

"Beloved Lady, I understand: for there was once upon a time a sad,
neglected child, an ugly little lad, barefooted and poverty-stricken
after his mother's death. There was an ignorant and undisciplined
boy--"

"You?" Her arms went around him protectingly, in a mothering and
tender clasp.

"Who else? And being very ignorant indeed, he sold himself into
bondage for a mess of pottage, and was thrall for weary years. He
got exactly what he paid for. And life was ashes upon his head and
wormwood in his mouth, and his heart was empty in his breast,
because he snatched at shadows. And then one day the door of his
prison was opened by the keeper, and he said, 'Now I am free!' But
it was his fate to go down into hell for a season. There were times
when he asked himself, 'Why don't I blow out my brains and escape?'
Nothing but the simple faith and heroism of common men about him
saved him from despair. One day a blinded soldier said, 'See for
us!' So he began to see,--but still without hope, still without
happiness, until he came here and found--_you_." His voice was
melted gold.

She had listened breathlessly. And after a pause she asked:

"Who was--the keeper of his prison?"

"The woman to whom he had been married."

Her arms fell from him. She tried to draw herself away, but he held
her all the closer.

"Do not think unkindly of her. I don't think she really knew she
was an ogress! After all, she did unlock the door and say, 'Go!'
And--well, here I am, darling woman. And I'm going to marry _you_!"

"Did you _never_ love her?"

"Never. I was so frightfully unhappy that the best I could do was
not to hate her. I'm afraid she hated me--poor ogress! Well! That's
all over and done with. Like an evil dream. I'm here, and _you_'re
going to marry me." Very gently he drew her arms around him again.
"Ah, hold fast to me! Hold fast! I have waited for you so long, I
need you so much!" he breathed.

"I don't seem able to help myself!" she sighed. And she asked
seriously: "What do the people who love you most call you when they
speak to you?"

The brown and bearded faces of comrades rose before him, their
voices sounded in his ears.

"Pierre."

"Pierre," said she, bravely, as if to call him by his name
emboldened her, "I too have been freed from a hateful marriage.
Sometime I will tell you all about it. But--oh, do not let us talk
about it now! I cannot bear to think of him! I cannot bear to have
his shadow, even, fall upon me now, or come near _you_!" That
gangling bridegroom in his ill-fitting suit, with his wincing mouth,
his eyes full of disgust and aversion, his air of a man sentenced to
death--or marriage with herself--came before her, and she shivered.

Despite her words a horrible jealousy of that unknown man assailed
him. He asked fiercely:

"You loved him, once?"

"Oh, no! Oh, no! Never! I--why, Pierre, until you came, I didn't
even know what love meant! Once that ignorant, undisciplined girl I
spoke of, thought she loved a boy. She didn't. She loved the idea of
love. And once again, Pierre, because my life was so empty, and
because I didn't know any better, I thought I should be willing to
marry somebody else. I thought that somebody else could fill my
life. But now I know that could never be. You are here."

He looked at her with infinite tenderness. There were things he,
too, would have to tell her, by and by. And he was sure that the
woman whose coming little Denise had seemed to foreknow, would
understand. He said gravely:

"Yes, we have found each other. That is all that really matters.
Nothing, nobody else, counts with you and me." And then, of a
sudden, he laughed happily: "And, Beloved Lady, I do not know your
name! I can't call you 'Mrs. Riley,' can I? By what name, then,
shall the one who loves you most call you?"

"Anne." And she asked eagerly: "Do you like it?"

He started. Anne! Strange that the name that had been his chiefest
unhappiness should now become his chiefest joy! Strange that he
hadn't guessed Anne could be the most beautiful of all names for a
woman! Like it? Of course he liked it! Wasn't it hers?

"Anne, you haven't yet said when you will marry me."

"Oh, but you are sure of _that_!" she parried.

"I am so sure of it that I am quite capable of taking you by the
hair and dragging you off to the parson's, if you try to make me
wait. Anne! Remember that ever since I was that barefooted, lonely
child I have been waiting for you. My dear, I need you so greatly!"

She said passionately: "You cannot need me as I need you. You are
yourself. You couldn't be anything else. You were you before you
ever saw me. But I--I couldn't be my real self until you came and
looked at me and kissed me."

He felt humble, and reverent, and at the same time exultant. When
she said presently, "I must go now," he released her reluctantly.
They walked hand in hand, pausing at the small headland beyond which
the village came in sight. She took both his hands and held them
against her breast.

"You are my one man. I love you so much that I am going to give my
whole life into your hands, as fully and as freely as I shall some
day give my spirit into the hands of God. But, Pierre, there are
those who have been very, very kind to me, those to whom I
owe--well, explanations. When I have made those explanations
and--and settled my accounts,--then all the rest of my life is
yours."

"You are very, very sure, Anne?" His voice was wistful.

"My love for you," she said proudly, "is the one great reality. I
am surer of that than I have ever been of anything in this world."
And she stood there looking at him with her heart in her eyes. Of a
sudden, with a little cry, she pulled his head down to her, kissed
him upon the mouth, pushed him from her, and fled.

When she reached her room again, she couldn't sleep, but knelt by
her window and watched the skies pale and then flush like a young
girl's face, and the morning-star blaze and pale, and the sun come
up over a bright and beautiful world in which she herself was, she
felt, new-born. Far in the background of things, unreal as a dream,
hovered the unlovely figure of Nancy Simms, and nearer, but still
almost as unreal, the bright, cold figure of Anne Champneys, that
Anne Champneys who had wished to marry Berkeley Hayden to gratify
pride and ambition. The woman kneeling by the window, watching the
glory of the morning, looked back upon those two as a winged
butterfly might remember its caterpillar crawlings.

All that glittering life Anne Champneys had planned for herself?
Swept away as if it had been a bit of tinsel! Money? Position? She
laughed low to herself. She didn't care whether her man had
possessions or lacked them. All she asked was that he should
be himself--and hers. All that Milly had been to Chadwick
Champneys--the passionate lover, the perfect comrade, the friend
nothing daunted, no wind of fortune could change--Anne could be,
would be to Pierre.

There was but one shadow upon her new happiness: she hated to
disappoint Marcia. Marcia had set her heart upon the Hayden
marriage. It was toward that consummation, so devoutly to be hoped,
that Marcia had planned. And just when that plan was nearing
perfection Anne was going to have to frustrate it. She hated to hurt
Hayden himself, and the thought of his angry disappointment was
painful to her. She _liked_ Hayden. She would always like him. But
she couldn't marry him. To marry Hayden, loving Pierre, would have
been to work them both an irremediable injury. A sort of horror of
what she had been about to do came upon her. The bare thought of it
made her recoil.

Her native shrewdness told her that Hayden's immense pride would
come to his aid. The fact that she had dared to desire somebody
else, to prefer another to his lordly self would be enough to prove
to Hayden that she wasn't worthy of his affections. He would feel
that he had been deceived in her. She couldn't help hoping that he
wouldn't altogether despise her. She hoped that Marcia wouldn't be
too angry to forgive her. And then her thoughts merged into a
prayer: Oh dear God, help her to make Pierre happy, to grow to his
stature, to be worthy of him!

       *       *       *       *       *

Back there on the beach he lay with his head in his arms, humble
before the power and the glory that had come to him. This, this was
the face he had always sought, the beauty that had so long eluded
him! Beauty, mere physical beauty, appealed to him as it always
appeals to an artist, but it had never had the power to hold him
for any length of time. It had palled upon him. To satisfy his
demand, beauty must have upon it the ineffable imprint of the soul.
This woman's face was as baffling, as inexplicable, in its way, as
was Mona Lisa's. One wasn't sure that she was beautiful; one was
only sure that she was unforgetable, and that after other faces had
faded from the memory, hers remained to haunt the heart. And that
red hair of hers, like the hair of a Norse sun-goddess!

He fell into pleasant dreams. He was going to take her down south
with him; he wanted her to see that little brown house in South
Carolina, to know the tide-water gurgling in the Riverton coves, and
mocking-birds singing to the moonlit night, and the voice of the
whippoorwill out of the thickets. She must know the marshes, and the
live-oaks hung with moss. All the haunts of his childhood she should
know, and old Emma Campbell would sit and talk to her about his
mother. They would stay in the little house hallowed by his mother's
mild spirit. And he would show her that first sketch of the Red
Admiral. And afterward they two would plan how to make the best use
of the Champneys money. He was very, very sure of her sympathy and
her understanding. Why, you couldn't look into her eyes without
knowing how exquisite her sympathy would be!

He was so stirred, so thrilled, that the creative power that had
seemed to fail him, that had left him so emptily alone these many
bitter months, came to him with a rush. He got to his feet and went
tramping up and down the strip of shore, his eyes clouded with
visions. Before his mind's eye the picture he meant to paint took
shape and form and color. And as he walked home he whistled like a
happy boy.

He had brought his materials along with him as a matter of habit.
With his powers at high tide, in the first glamour of a great
passion, he set himself to work next morning to portray her as his
heart knew her.

He worked steadily, stopping only when the light failed. He was so
absorbed in his task that he forgot his body. But Grandma Baker was
a wise old woman, and she came at intervals and forced food upon
him. Then he slept, and awoke with the light to rush back to his
work. His old rare gift of visualizing a face in its absence had
grown with the years; and this was the face of all faces. There was
not a shade or a line of that face he didn't know. And after a while
she appeared upon his canvas, breathing, immensely alive, with the
inmost spirit of her informing her gray-green eyes, her virginal
mouth, her candid and thoughtful brow. There she stood, Anne as
Peter Champneys knew and loved her.

He had done great work in his time. But this was painted with the
blood of his heart. This was his high-water mark. It would take its
place with those immortal canvases that are the slow accretions of
the ages, the perfectest flowerings of genius. He was swaying on his
feet when he painted in the Red Admiral. Then he flung himself upon
his bed and slept like a dead man.

When he awoke, she seemed to be a living presence in his room. He
gasped, and sat with his hands between his knees, staring at her
almost unbelievingly. He looked at the Red Admiral above his
signature, and fetched a great, sighing breath.

"We've done it at last, by God!" said he, soberly. "Fairy, we've
reached the heights!"

But when he appeared at the breakfast-table Grandma Baker regarded
him with deep concern.

"My land o' love!" she exclaimed. "Why, you look like you been
buried and dug up!"

"Permit me," said he, politely, "to congratulate you upon your
perspicacity. That is exactly what happened to me."

"Eh!" said Grandma, setting her spectacles straight on her old nose.

"And let me add: It's worth the price!" said the resurrected one,
genially. "Grandma Baker, were _you_ very much in love?"

"Abner tried his dumdest to find that out," said Grandma Baker. "He
was the plaguedest man ever was for wantin' to know things, but
somehow I sort o' didn't want him changed any. You got ways put me
mightily in mind o' Abner." The old eyes were very sweet, and a
wintry rose crept into her withered cheek. She added: "I know what's
ailin' _you_, young man! Lord knows I hope you'll be happy as Abner
and me was!"

He went back to his room and communed with his picture. It was the
sort that, if you stayed with it a little while, _liked_ to commune
with you. It would divine your mood, and the eyes followed you with
an uncanny understanding, the smile said more than any words could
say. You almost saw her eyelids move, her breast rise and fall to
her breathing. The man trembled before his masterpiece.

His heart swelled. He exulted in his genius, a high gift to be laid
at the feet of the beloved. All he had, all he could ever be,
belonged to her. She had called forth his best. He said to her
painted semblance:

"You are my first love-gift. I am going to send you to her, and
she'll know she hasn't given her love, her beauty, her youth, to an
unworthy or an obscure lover. She's given herself to me, Peter
Champneys, and because she loves me I'll give her a name she can
wear like a crown: I'll set her upon the purple heights!"

She was at the far end of the Thatcher garden, behind the house and
hidden from it, when he arrived with the canvas, which he hadn't
dared entrust to any other carrier--he was too jealously careful of
it. No, he told Mrs. Thatcher, it wasn't necessary to disturb her
guest. Just allow him to place the canvas in Mrs. Riley's
sitting-room. She would find it there when she returned.

Mrs. Thatcher complied willingly enough. She liked the tall,
black-bearded man whom shrewd old Grandma Baker couldn't praise
sufficiently.

"Excuse me for not goin' up with you, on account of my hands bein'
in the mixin'-bowl. It's a picture, ain't it? You just step right
upstairs and set it on the mantel or anywheres you like. I'll tell
her you been here."

And so he placed it on the mantel, where the north light fell full
upon it, waved his hand to it, and went away. It would tell her all
that was in his heart for her. It would explain himself. The Red
Admiral would assure that!

Anne had been having rather a troublesome time. She had written to
Marcia and to Berkeley Hayden the night before, and the letters had
been posted only that morning. She had had to be very explicit, to
make her position perfectly plain to them both, and the letters had
not been easy to write. But when she had finally written them, she
had really succeeded in explaining her true self. There was no doubt
as to her entire truthfulness, or the finality of this decision of
hers. When she posted those letters, she knew that a page of her
life had been turned down, the word "Finis" written at the bottom of
it. She had tossed aside a brilliant social career, a high position,
a great fortune,--and counted it all well lost. Her one regret was
to have to disappoint Marcia. She loved Marcia. And she hoped that
Berkeley wouldn't despise her.

She was agitated, perturbed, and yet rapturously happy. She wished
to be alone to hug that happiness to her heart, and so she had gone
out under the apple-trees at the far end of the Thatcher orchard,
and lay there all her long length in the good green grass. The place
was full of sweet and drowsy odors. Birds called and fluted.
Butterflies and bees came and went. She had never felt so close to
Mother Earth as she did to-day, never so keenly sensed the joy of
being alive.

After a while she arose, reluctantly, and went back to the house and
her rooms. She was remembering that she hadn't yet written to Jason,
and she wanted Jason to know. Inside her sitting-room door she
stopped short, eyes widened, lips fallen apart. On the mantel,
glowing, jewel-like in the clear, pure light, herself confronted
her. Herself as a great artist saw and loved her.

She stood transfixed. The sheer power and beauty of the work, that
spell which falls upon one in the presence of all great art, held
her entranced. Her own eyes looked, at her as if they challenged
her; her own smile baffled her; there was that in the pictured face
which brought a cry to her lips. Oh, was she so fair in his eyes?
Only great love, as well as great genius, could have so portrayed
her!

This was herself as she might be, grown finer, and of a larger
faith, a deeper and sweeter charity. A sort of awe touched her. This
man who loved her, who had the power of showing her herself as she
might pray to become, this wonderful lover of hers, was no mere
amateur with a pretty gift. This was one of the few, one of the
torch-bearers!

And then she noticed the Red Admiral in the corner. She stared at it
unbelievingly. That butterfly! Why--why--She had read of one who
signed with a butterfly above his name pictures that were called
great. A thought that made her brain swim and her heart beat
suffocatingly crashed upon her like a clap of thunder. She walked
toward the mantel like one in a daze, until she stood directly
before the painting.

And it was his butterfly. And under it was his name: _Peter
Devereaux Champneys_.

The room bobbed up and down. But she didn't faint, she didn't
scream. She caught hold of the mantel to steady herself. She
wondered how she hadn't known; she had the same sense of wild
amazement that must fill one who has been brought face to face with
a stupendous, a quite impossible miracle. Such a thing couldn't
happen: and yet it is so! And oddly enough, out of this welter of
her thoughts, there came to her memory a screened bed in a hospital
ward, and a dying gutter-girl looking at her with unearthly eyes and
telling her in a thin whisper:

"I wanted to see if you was good enough for _him_. You ain't. But
remember what I'm tellin' you--you could be."

Pierre--Peter Champneys! She slipped to her knees and hid her face
in her shaking hands. Peter Champneys! As in a lightning flash she
saw him as that girl Gracie had seen him. Pierre--Pierre, with his
eyes of an archangel, his lips that were the chrism of life--_this_
was Peter Champneys! And she had hated him, let him go, all
unknowing, she had wished to put in _his_ place Berkeley Hayden. The
handsome, worldly figure of Hayden seemed to dwindle and shrink.
Pierre stood as on a height, looking at her steadfastly. Her head
went lower. Tears trickled between her fingers.

_You ain't good enough for him, but you could be_.

"I can be, I can be! Oh, God, I can be! Only let him love me--when
he knows!"

She heard Mrs. Thatcher's voice downstairs, after a while. Then a
deeper voice, a man's voice, with a note of impatience and eagerness
in it.

"No, don't call her. I'll go right on up," said the voice, over the
feminine apologies and protests. "I have to see her--I must see her
now. No, I can't wait."

Somebody came flying up the steps. She hadn't closed her door, and
his tall figure seemed to fill it. He stopped, with a gasp, at sight
of the weeping woman kneeling before the picture on the mantel.

"Anne!" he cried. "Anne!" And he would have raised her, but she
clung to his knees, lifting her tear-stained face, her eyes full of
an adoration that would never leave them until life left them.

"Peter!" she cried. "Peter! That--that butterfly! I know now,
Peter!"

Again he tried to raise her, but she clasped his knees all the
closer.

"You mean you know my name is really Peter Champneys, dearest?"

But she caught his hands. "Peter, Peter, don't you understand?" she
cried, laughing and weeping. "I--I'm the ogress! I'm Nancy Simms!
I'm Anne Champneys!"

He looked from her to her portrait and back again. He gave a great
ringing cry of, "My wife!" and lifted her in a mighty grip that
swept her up and into his arms. "My wife!" he cried. "My wife!"

Undoubtedly the Red Admiral was a fairy!

       *       *       *       *       *

On a certain morning Mr. Jason Vandervelde was sitting at his desk,
disconnectedly dictating a letter to his secretary. He was finding
it very difficult to fix his mind upon his correspondence. What the
mischief was happening up there in Maine, anyhow? She hadn't written
for some time; and he hadn't had a word from Peter Champneys. And
when Marcia came home and found out he'd been meddling--well, the
meddler would have to pay the fiddler, that's all!

The office boy came in with a telegram. Mr. Vandervelde paused in
his dictation, tore open the envelop, and read the message. And then
the horrified secretary saw an amazing and an awesome sight. Mr.
Jason Vandervelde bounced to his feet as lightly as though he had
been a rubber ball, and performed a solemnly joyful dance around his
office. His eyeglasses jigged on his nose, a lock of his sleekly
brushed hair fell upon his forehead. Meeting the fixed stare of the
secretary, he winked! And with a sort of elephantine religiosity he
finished his amazing measure, caught once more the glassy eye of the
secretary, and panted:

"King David danced before the ark--of the Lord. For which
reason--your salary is raised--from to-day."

He stopped then, snatched the telegram off his desk, and read it
again:

    We have met and I have married my wife. Anne sends love.
    Thank you and God bless you, Vandervelde!
                                          PETER CHAMPNEYS.

"Put up that note-book. Take a day off. Go and enjoy yourself. Be
happy!" said Vandervelde to the secretary. Then he snatched up the
desk telephone.

"The florist's? Yes? How soon can you get six dozen bride roses up
here, to Mr. Vandervelde's office? Yes, this is Mr. Vandervelde
speaking. You can? Well, there's a thumping tip for somebody who
knows how to rush! Half an hour? Thank you. I'll wait for 'em here."

He hung up the receiver and turned his beaming countenance to the
stunned secretary. His eyes twinkled like little blue stars, the
corners of his mouth curled more than usual.

"Anne and Peter Champneys have been and gone and married each
other!" he chuckled. "I'm going to take a carful of bride roses
around to the Champneys house and put 'em under old Chadwick
Champneys's portrait!"


THE END







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This file was acquired from Project Gutenberg, and it is in the public domain. It is re-distributed here as a part of the Alex Catalogue of Electronic Texts (http://infomotions.com/alex/) by Eric Lease Morgan (Infomotions, Inc.) for the purpose of freely sharing, distributing, and making available works of great literature. Its Infomotions unique identifier is etext12596, and it should be available from the following URL:

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