Infomotions, Inc.Further Chronicles of Avonlea / Montgomery, L. M. (Lucy Maud), 1874-1942



Author: Montgomery, L. M. (Lucy Maud), 1874-1942
Title: Further Chronicles of Avonlea
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): thyra; eunice; avonlea; miss rosetta; tannis; rosetta; betty; rachel; sara; cynthia; carey; aunt cynthia; charlotte; isabella; spencer; wheeler; christopher; aunt; isabella spencer; jane; camilla jane; jacob wheeler; damaris garland; naomi holland; cecil
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Title: Further Chronicles of Avonlea

Author: Lucy Maud Montgomery

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FURTHER CHRONICLES OF AVONLEA

Which have to do with many personalities and events in and about
Avonlea, the Home of the Heroine of Green Gables, including tales
of Aunt Cynthia, The Materializing of Cecil, David Spencer's
Daughter, Jane's Baby, The Failure of Robert Monroe, The Return
of Hester, The Little Brown Book of Miss Emily, Sara's Way, The
Son of Thyra Carewe, The Education of Betty, The Selflessness of
Eunice Carr, The Dream-Child, The Conscience Case of David Bell,
Only a Common Fellow, and finally the story of Tannis of the
Flats.

All related by
L. M. MONTGOMERY

Author of "Anne of Green Gables," "Anne of Avonlea," "Anne of the
Island," "Chronicles of Avonlea," "Kilmeny of the Orchard," etc.



INTRODUCTION

It is no exaggeration to say that what Longfellow did for Acadia,
Miss Montgomery has done for Prince Edward Island.  More than a
million readers, young people as well as their parents and uncles
and aunts, possess in the picture-galleries of their memories the
exquisite landscapes of Avonlea, limned with as poetic a pencil
as Longfellow wielded when he told the ever-moving story of Grand
Pre.

Only genius of the first water has the ability to conjure up such
a character as Anne Shirley, the heroine of Miss Montgomery's
first novel, "Anne of Green Gables," and to surround her with
people so distinctive, so real, so true to psychology.  Anne is
as lovable a child as lives in all fiction.  Natasha in Count
Tolstoi's great novel, "War and Peace," dances into our ken, with
something of the same buoyancy and naturalness; but into what a
commonplace young woman she develops!  Anne, whether as the gay
little orphan in her conquest of the master and mistress of
Green Gables, or as the maturing and self-forgetful maiden of
Avonlea, keeps up to concert-pitch in her charm and her
winsomeness.  There is nothing in her to disappoint hope or
imagination.

Part of the power of Miss Montgomery--and the largest part--is
due to her skill in compounding humor and pathos.  The humor is
honest and golden; it never wearies the reader; the pathos is
never sentimentalized, never degenerates into bathos, is never
morbid.  This combination holds throughout all her works, longer
or shorter, and is particularly manifest in the present
collection of fifteen short stories, which, together with those
in the first volume of the Chronicles of Avonlea, present a
series of piquant and fascinating pictures of life in Prince
Edward Island.

The humor is shown not only in the presentation of quaint and
unique characters, but also in the words which fall from their
mouths.  Aunt Cynthia "always gave you the impression of a
full-rigged ship coming gallantly on before a favorable wind;" no
further description is needed--only one such personage could be
found in Avonlea.  You would recognize her at sight.  Ismay
Meade's disposition is summed up when we are told that she is
"good at having presentiments--after things happen."  What
cleverer embodiment of innate obstinacy than in Isabella
Spencer--"a wisp of a woman who looked as if a breath would sway
her but was so set in her ways that a tornado would hardly have
caused her to swerve an inch from her chosen path;" or than in
Mrs. Eben Andrews (in "Sara's Way") who "looked like a woman
whose opinions were always very decided and warranted to wear!"

This gift of characterization in a few words is lavished also on
material objects, as, for instance; what more is needed to
describe the forlornness of the home from which Anne was rescued
than the statement that even the trees around it "looked like
orphans"?

The poetic touch, too, never fails in the right place and is
never too frequently introduced in her descriptions.  They throw
a glamor over that Northern land which otherwise you might
imagine as rather cold and barren.  What charming Springs they
must have there!  One sees all the fruit-trees clad in bridal
garments of pink and white; and what a translucent sky smiles
down on the ponds and the reaches of bay and cove!

"The Eastern sky was a great arc of crystal, smitten through with
auroral crimsonings."

"She was as slim and lithe as a young white-stemmed birch-tree;
her hair was like a soft dusky cloud, and her eyes were as blue
as Avonlea Harbor in a fair twilight, when all the sky is a-bloom
over it."

Sentiment with a humorous touch to it prevails in the first two
stories of the present book.  The one relates to the
disappearance of a valuable white Persian cat with a blue spot in
its tail.  "Fatima" is like the apple of her eye to the rich old
aunt who leaves her with two nieces, with a stern injunction not
to let her out of the house.  Of course both Sue and Ismay detest
cats; Ismay hates them, Sue loathes them; but Aunt Cynthia's
favor is worth preserving.  You become as much interested in
Fatima's fate as if she were your own pet, and the climax is no
less unexpected than it is natural, especially when it is made
also the last act of a pretty comedy of love.

Miss Montgomery delights in depicting the romantic episodes
hidden in the hearts of elderly spinsters as, for instance, in
the case of Charlotte Holmes, whose maid Nancy would have sent
for the doctor and subjected her to a porous plaster while
waiting for him, had she known that up stairs there was a
note-book full of original poems.  Rather than bear the stigma
of never having had a love-affair, this sentimental lady
invents one to tell her mocking young friends.  The dramatic and
unexpected denouement is delightful fun.

Another note-book reveals a deeper romance in the case of Miss
Emily; this is related by Anne of Green Gables, who once or
twice flashes across the scene, though for the most part her
friends and neighbors at White Sands or Newbridge or Grafton as
well as at Avonlea are the persons involved.

In one story, the last, "Tannis of the Flats," the secret of
Elinor Blair's spinsterhood is revealed in an episode which
carries the reader from Avonlea to Saskatchewan and shows the
unselfish devotion of a half-breed Indian girl.  The story is
both poignant and dramatic.  Its one touch of humor is where
Jerome Carey curses his fate in being compelled to live in that
desolate land in "the picturesque language permissible in the
far Northwest."

Self-sacrifice, as the real basis of happiness, is a favorite
theme in Miss Montgomery's fiction.  It is raised to the nth
power in the story entitled, "In Her Selfless Mood," where an
ugly, misshapen girl devotes her life and renounces marriage for
the sake of looking after her weak and selfish half-brother.  The
same spirit is found in "Only a Common Fellow," who is haloed
with a certain splendor by renouncing the girl he was to marry in
favor of his old rival, supposed to have been killed in France,
but happily delivered from that tragic fate.

Miss Montgomery loves to introduce a little child or a baby as a
solvent of old feuds or domestic quarrels.  In "The Dream Child,"
a foundling boy, drifting in through a storm in a dory, saves a
heart-broken mother from insanity.  In "Jane's Baby," a
baby-cousin brings reconciliation between the two sisters,
Rosetta and Carlotta, who had not spoken for twenty years because
"the slack-twisted" Jacob married the younger of the two.

Happiness generally lights up the end of her stories, however
tragic they may set out to be.  In "The Son of His Mother," Thyra
is a stern woman, as "immovable as a stone image."  She had only
one son, whom she worshipped; "she never wanted a daughter, but
she pitied and despised all sonless women."  She demanded
absolute obedience from Chester--not only obedience, but also
utter affection, and she hated his dog because the boy loved him:
"She could not share her love even with a dumb brute."  When
Chester falls in love, she is relentless toward the beautiful
young girl and forces Chester to give her up.  But a terrible
sorrow brings the old woman and the young girl into sympathy, and
unspeakable joy is born of the trial.

Happiness also comes to "The Brother who Failed."  The Monroes
had all been successful in the eyes of the world except Robert:
one is a millionaire, another a college president, another a
famous singer.  Robert overhears the old aunt, Isabel, call him a
total failure, but, at the family dinner, one after another
stands up and tells how Robert's quiet influence and unselfish
aid had started them in their brilliant careers, and the old
aunt, wiping the tears from her eyes, exclaims: "I guess there's
a kind of failure that's the best success."

In one story there is an element of the supernatural, when
Hester, the hard older sister, comes between Margaret and her
lover and, dying, makes her promise never to become Hugh Blair's
wife, but she comes back and unites them.  In this, Margaret,
just like the delightful Anne, lives up to the dictum that
"nothing matters in all God's universe except love."  The story
of the revival at Avonlea has also a good moral.

There is something in these continued Chronicles of Avonlea,
like the delicate art which has made "Cranford" a classic: the
characters are so homely and homelike and yet tinged with
beautiful romance!  You feel that you are made familiar with a
real town and its real inhabitants; you learn to love them and
sympathize with them.  Further Chronicles of Avonlea is a book to
read; and to know.

                                            NATHAN HASKELL DOLE.



CONTENTS

    I. Aunt Cynthia's Persian Cat
   II. The Materializing of Cecil
  III. Her Father's Daughter
   IV. Jane's Baby
    V. The Dream-Child
   VI. The Brother Who Failed
  VII. The Return of Hester
 VIII. The Little Brown Book of Miss Emily
   IX. Sara's Way
    X. The Son of His Mother
   XI. The Education of Betty
  XII. In Her Selfless Mood
 XIII. The Conscience Case of David Bell
  XIV. Only a Common Fellow
   XV. Tannis of the Flats



FURTHER CHRONICLES OF AVONLEA



I. AUNT CYNTHIA'S PERSIAN CAT

Max always blesses the animal when it is referred to; and I don't
deny that things have worked together for good after all.  But
when I think of the anguish of mind which Ismay and I underwent
on account of that abominable cat, it is not a blessing that
arises uppermost in my thoughts.

I never was fond of cats, although I admit they are well enough
in their place, and I can worry along comfortably with a nice,
matronly old tabby who can take care of herself and be of some
use in the world.  As for Ismay, she hates cats and always did.

But Aunt Cynthia, who adored them, never could bring herself to
understand that any one could possibly dislike them.  She firmly
believed that Ismay and I really liked cats deep down in our
hearts, but that, owing to some perverse twist in our moral
natures, we would not own up to it, but willfully persisted in
declaring we didn't.

Of all cats I loathed that white Persian cat of Aunt Cynthia's.
And, indeed, as we always suspected and finally proved, Aunt
herself looked upon the creature with more pride than affection.
She would have taken ten times the comfort in a good, common puss
that she did in that spoiled beauty.  But a Persian cat with a
recorded pedigree and a market value of one hundred dollars
tickled Aunt Cynthia's pride of possession to such an extent that
she deluded herself into believing that the animal was really the
apple of her eye.

It had been presented to her when a kitten by a missionary nephew
who had brought it all the way home from Persia; and for the next
three years Aunt Cynthia's household existed to wait on that cat,
hand and foot.  It was snow-white, with a bluish-gray spot on the
tip of its tail; and it was blue-eyed and deaf and delicate.
Aunt Cynthia was always worrying lest it should take cold and
die.  Ismay and I used to wish that it would--we were so tired of
hearing about it and its whims.  But we did not say so to Aunt
Cynthia.  She would probably never have spoken to us again and
there was no wisdom in offending Aunt Cynthia.  When you have an
unencumbered aunt, with a fat bank account, it is just as well to
keep on good terms with her, if you can.  Besides, we really
liked Aunt Cynthia very much--at times.  Aunt Cynthia was one of
those rather exasperating people who nag at and find fault with
you until you think you are justified in hating them, and who
then turn round and do something so really nice and kind for you
that you feel as if you were compelled to love them dutifully
instead.

So we listened meekly when she discoursed on Fatima--the cat's
name was Fatima--and, if it was wicked of us to wish for the
latter's decease, we were well punished for it later on.

One day, in November, Aunt Cynthia came sailing out to
Spencervale.  She really came in a phaeton, drawn by a fat gray
pony, but somehow Aunt Cynthia always gave you the impression of
a full rigged ship coming gallantly on before a favorable wind.

That was a Jonah day for us all through.  Everything had gone
wrong.  Ismay had spilled grease on her velvet coat, and the fit
of the new blouse I was making was hopelessly askew, and the
kitchen stove smoked and the bread was sour.  Moreover, Huldah
Jane Keyson, our tried and trusty old family nurse and cook and
general "boss," had what she called the "realagy" in her
shoulder; and, though Huldah Jane is as good an old creature as
ever lived, when she has the "realagy" other people who are in
the house want to get out of it and, if they can't, feel about as
comfortable as St. Lawrence on his gridiron.

And on top of this came Aunt Cynthia's call and request.

"Dear me," said Aunt Cynthia, sniffing, "don't I smell smoke?
You girls must manage your range very badly.  Mine never smokes.
But it is no more than one might expect when two girls try to
keep house without a man about the place."

"We get along very well without a man about the place," I said
loftily.  Max hadn't been in for four whole days and, though
nobody wanted to see him particularly, I couldn't help wondering
why.  "Men are nuisances."

"I dare say you would like to pretend you think so," said Aunt
Cynthia, aggravatingly.  "But no woman ever does really think so,
you know.  I imagine that pretty Anne Shirley, who is visiting
Ella Kimball, doesn't.  I saw her and Dr. Irving out walking this
afternoon, looking very well satisfied with themselves.  If you
dilly-dally much longer, Sue, you will let Max slip through your
fingers yet."

That was a tactful thing to say to ME, who had refused Max Irving
so often that I had lost count.  I was furious, and so I smiled
most sweetly on my maddening aunt.

"Dear Aunt, how amusing of you," I said, smoothly.  "You talk as
if I wanted Max."

"So you do," said Aunt Cynthia.

"If so, why should I have refused him time and again?" I asked,
smilingly. Right well Aunt Cynthia knew I had.  Max always told
her.

"Goodness alone knows why," said Aunt Cynthia, "but you may do it
once too often and find yourself taken at your word.  There is
something very fascinating about this Anne Shirley."

"Indeed there is," I assented.  "She has the loveliest eyes I
ever saw.  She would be just the wife for Max, and I hope he will
marry her."

"Humph," said Aunt Cynthia.  "Well, I won't entice you into
telling any more fibs.  And I didn't drive out here to-day in all
this wind to talk sense into you concerning Max.  I'm going to
Halifax for two months and I want you to take charge of Fatima
for me, while I am away."

"Fatima!" I exclaimed.

"Yes.  I don't dare to trust her with the servants.  Mind you
always warm her milk before you give it to her, and don't on any
account let her run out of doors."

I looked at Ismay and Ismay looked at me.  We knew we were in for
it.  To refuse would mortally offend Aunt Cynthia.  Besides, if I
betrayed any unwillingness, Aunt Cynthia would be sure to put it
down to grumpiness over what she had said about Max, and rub it
in for years.  But I ventured to ask, "What if anything happens
to her while you are away?"

"It is to prevent that, I'm leaving her with you," said Aunt
Cynthia.  "You simply must not let anything happen to her.  It
will do you good to have a little responsibility.  And you will
have a chance to find out what an adorable creature Fatima really
is.  Well, that is all settled.  I'll send Fatima out to-morrow."

"You can take care of that horrid Fatima beast yourself," said
Ismay, when the door closed behind Aunt Cynthia.  "I won't touch
her with a yard-stick.  You had no business to say we'd take
her."

"Did I say we would take her?" I demanded, crossly.  "Aunt
Cynthia took our consent for granted.  And you know, as well as I
do, we couldn't have refused.  So what is the use of being
grouchy?"

"If anything happens to her Aunt Cynthia will hold us
responsible," said Ismay darkly.

"Do you think Anne Shirley is really engaged to Gilbert Blythe?"
I asked curiously.

"I've heard that she was," said Ismay, absently.  "Does she eat
anything but milk?  Will it do to give her mice?"

"Oh, I guess so.  But do you think Max has really fallen in love
with her?"

"I dare say.  What a relief it will be for you if he has."

"Oh, of course," I said, frostily.  "Anne Shirley or Anne Anybody
Else, is perfectly welcome to Max if she wants him.  _I_
certainly do not.  Ismay Meade, if that stove doesn't stop
smoking I shall fly into bits.  This is a detestable day.  I hate
that creature!"

"Oh, you shouldn't talk like that, when you don't even know her,"
protested Ismay.  "Every one says Anne Shirley is lovely--"

"I was talking about Fatima," I cried in a rage.

"Oh!" said Ismay.

Ismay is stupid at times.  I thought the way she said "Oh" was
inexcusably stupid.

Fatima arrived the next day.  Max brought her out in a covered
basket, lined with padded crimson satin.  Max likes cats and Aunt
Cynthia.  He explained how we were to treat Fatima and when Ismay
had gone out of the room--Ismay always went out of the room when
she knew I particularly wanted her to remain--he proposed to me
again.  Of course I said no, as usual, but I was rather pleased.
Max had been proposing to me about every two months for two
years.  Sometimes, as in this case, he went three months, and
then I always wondered why.  I concluded that he could not be
really interested in Anne Shirley, and I was relieved.  I didn't
want to marry Max but it was pleasant and convenient to have him
around, and we would miss him dreadfully if any other girl
snapped him up.  He was so useful and always willing to do
anything for us--nail a shingle on the roof, drive us to town,
put down carpets--in short, a very present help in all our
troubles.

So I just beamed on him when I said no.  Max began counting on
his fingers.  When he got as far as eight he shook his head and
began over again.

"What is it?" I asked.

"I'm trying to count up how many times I have proposed to you,"
he said.  "But I can't remember whether I asked you to marry me
that day we dug up the garden or not.  If I did it makes--"

"No, you didn't," I interrupted.

"Well, that makes it eleven," said Max reflectively.  "Pretty
near the limit, isn't it?  My manly pride will not allow me to
propose to the same girl more than twelve times.  So the next
time will be the last, Sue darling."

"Oh," I said, a trifle flatly.  I forgot to resent his calling me
darling.  I wondered if things wouldn't be rather dull when Max
gave up proposing to me.  It was the only excitement I had.  But
of course it would be best--and he couldn't go on at it forever,
so, by the way of gracefully dismissing the subject, I asked him
what Miss Shirley was like.

"Very sweet girl," said Max.  "You know I always admired those
gray-eyed girls with that splendid Titian hair."

I am dark, with brown eyes.  Just then I detested Max.  I got up
and said I was going to get some milk for Fatima.

I found Ismay in a rage in the kitchen.  She had been up in the
garret, and a mouse had run across her foot.  Mice always get on
Ismay's nerves.

"We need a cat badly enough," she fumed, "but not a useless,
pampered thing, like Fatima.  That garret is literally swarming
with mice.  You'll not catch me going up there again."

Fatima did not prove such a nuisance as we had feared.  Huldah
Jane liked her, and Ismay, in spite of her declaration that she
would have nothing to do with her, looked after her comfort
scrupulously.  She even used to get up in the middle of the night
and go out to see if Fatima was warm.  Max came in every day and,
being around, gave us good advice.

Then one day, about three weeks after Aunt Cynthia's departure,
Fatima disappeared--just simply disappeared as if she had been
dissolved into thin air.  We left her one afternoon, curled up
asleep in her basket by the fire, under Huldah Jane's eye, while
we went out to make a call.  When we came home Fatima was gone.

Huldah Jane wept and was as one whom the gods had made mad.  She
vowed that she had never let Fatima out of her sight the whole
time, save once for three minutes when she ran up to the garret
for some summer savory.  When she came back the kitchen door had
blown open and Fatima had vanished.

Ismay and I were frantic.  We ran about the garden and through
the out-houses, and the woods behind the house, like wild
creatures, calling Fatima, but in vain.  Then Ismay sat down on
the front doorsteps and cried.

"She has got out and she'll catch her death of cold and Aunt
Cynthia will never forgive us."

"I'm going for Max," I declared.  So I did, through the spruce
woods and over the field as fast as my feet could carry me,
thanking my stars that there was a Max to go to in such a
predicament.

Max came over and we had another search, but without result.
Days passed, but we did not find Fatima.  I would certainly have
gone crazy had it not been for Max.  He was worth his weight in
gold during the awful week that followed.  We did not dare
advertise, lest Aunt Cynthia should see it; but we inquired far
and wide for a white Persian cat with a blue spot on its tail,
and offered a reward for it; but nobody had seen it, although
people kept coming to the house, night and day, with every kind
of a cat in baskets, wanting to know if it was the one we had
lost.

"We shall never see Fatima again," I said hopelessly to Max and
Ismay one afternoon.  I had just turned away an old woman with a
big, yellow tommy which she insisted must be ours--"cause it kem
to our place, mem, a-yowling fearful, mem, and it don't belong to
nobody not down Grafton way, mem."

"I'm afraid you won't," said Max.  "She must have perished from
exposure long ere this."

"Aunt Cynthia will never forgive us," said Ismay, dismally.  "I
had a presentiment of trouble the moment that cat came to this
house."

We had never heard of this presentiment before, but Ismay is good
at having presentiments--after things happen.

"What shall we do?" I demanded, helplessly.  "Max, can't you find
some way out of this scrape for us?"

"Advertise in the Charlottetown papers for a white Persian cat,"
suggested Max.  "Some one may have one for sale.  If so, you must
buy it, and palm it off on your good Aunt as Fatima.  She's very
short-sighted, so it will be quite possible."

"But Fatima has a blue spot on her tail," I said.

"You must advertise for a cat with a blue spot on its tail," said
Max.

"It will cost a pretty penny," said Ismay dolefully.  "Fatima was
valued at one hundred dollars."

"We must take the money we have been saving for our new furs," I
said sorrowfully.  "There is no other way out of it.  It will
cost us a good deal more if we lose Aunt Cynthia's favor.  She is
quite capable of believing that we have made away with Fatima
deliberately and with malice aforethought."

So we advertised.  Max went to town and had the notice inserted
in the most important daily.  We asked any one who had a white
Persian cat, with a blue spot on the tip of its tail, to dispose
of, to communicate with M. I., care of the _Enterprise_.

We really did not have much hope that anything would come of it,
so we were surprised and delighted over the letter Max brought
home from town four days later.  It was a type-written screed
from Halifax stating that the writer had for sale a white Persian
cat answering to our description.  The price was a hundred and
ten dollars, and, if M. I. cared to go to Halifax and inspect the
animal, it would be found at 110 Hollis Street, by inquiring for
"Persian."

"Temper your joy, my friends," said Ismay, gloomily.  "The cat
may not suit.  The blue spot may be too big or too small or not
in the right place.  I consistently refuse to believe that any
good thing can come out of this deplorable affair."

Just at this moment there was a knock at the door and I hurried
out.  The postmaster's boy was there with a telegram.  I tore it
open, glanced at it, and dashed back into the room.

"What is it now?" cried Ismay, beholding my face.

I held out the telegram.  It was from Aunt Cynthia.  She had
wired us to send Fatima to Halifax by express immediately.

For the first time Max did not seem ready to rush into the breach
with a suggestion.  It was I who spoke first.

"Max," I said, imploringly, "you'll see us through this, won't
you?  Neither Ismay nor I can rush off to Halifax at once.  You
must go to-morrow morning.  Go right to 110 Hollis Street and ask
for 'Persian.'  If the cat looks enough like Fatima, buy it and
take it to Aunt Cynthia.  If it doesn't--but it must!  You'll go,
won't you?"

"That depends," said Max.

I stared at him.  This was so unlike Max.

"You are sending me on a nasty errand," he said, coolly.  "How do
I know that Aunt Cynthia will be deceived after all, even if she
be short-sighted.  Buying a cat in a joke is a huge risk.  And if
she should see through the scheme I shall be in a pretty mess."

"Oh, Max," I said, on the verge of tears.

"Of course," said Max, looking meditatively into the fire, "if I
were really one of the family, or had any reasonable prospect of
being so, I would not mind so much.  It would be all in the day's
work then.  But as it is--"

Ismay got up and went out of the room.

"Oh, Max, please," I said.

"Will you marry me, Sue?" demanded Max sternly.  "If you will
agree, I'll go to Halifax and beard the lion in his den
unflinchingly.  If necessary, I will take a black street cat to
Aunt Cynthia, and swear that it is Fatima.  I'll get you out of
the scrape, if I have to prove that you never had Fatima, that
she is safe in your possession at the present time, and that
there never was such an animal as Fatima anyhow.  I'll do
anything, say anything--but it must be for my future wife."

"Will nothing else content you?" I said helplessly.

"Nothing."

I thought hard.  Of course Max was acting abominably--but--but--
he was really a dear fellow--and this was the twelfth time--and
there was Anne Shirley!  I knew in my secret soul that life would
be a dreadfully dismal thing if Max were not around somewhere.
Besides, I would have married him long ago had not Aunt Cynthia
thrown us so pointedly at each other's heads ever since he came
to Spencervale.

"Very well," I said crossly.

Max left for Halifax in the morning.  Next day we got a wire
saying it was all right.  The evening of the following day he was
back in Spencervale.  Ismay and I put him in a chair and glared
at him impatiently.

Max began to laugh and laughed until he turned blue.

"I am glad it is so amusing," said Ismay severely.  "If Sue and I
could see the joke it might be more so."

"Dear little girls, have patience with me," implored Max.  "If
you knew what it cost me to keep a straight face in Halifax you
would forgive me for breaking out now."

"We forgive you--but for pity's sake tell us all about it," I
cried.

"Well, as soon as I arrived in Halifax I hurried to 110 Hollis
Street, but--see here!  Didn't you tell me your Aunt's address
was 10 Pleasant Street?"

"So it is."

"'T isn't.  You look at the address on a telegram next time you
get one.  She went a week ago to visit another friend who lives
at 110 Hollis."

"Max!"

"It's a fact.  I rang the bell, and was just going to ask the
maid for 'Persian' when your Aunt Cynthia herself came through
the hall and pounced on me."

"'Max,' she said, 'have you brought Fatima?'

"'No,' I answered, trying to adjust my wits to this new
development as she towed me into the library.  'No, I--I--just
came to Halifax on a little matter of business.'

"'Dear me,' said Aunt Cynthia, crossly, 'I don't know what those
girls mean.  I wired them to send Fatima at once.  And she has
not come yet and I am expecting a call every minute from some one
who wants to buy her.'

"'Oh!' I murmured, mining deeper every minute.

"'Yes,' went on your aunt, 'there is an advertisement in the
Charlottetown _Enterprise_ for a Persian cat, and I answered it.
Fatima is really quite a charge, you know--and so apt to die and
be a dead loss,'--did your aunt mean a pun, girls?--'and so,
although I am considerably attached to her, I have decided to
part with her.'

"By this time I had got my second wind, and I promptly decided
that a judicious mixture of the truth was the thing required.

"'Well, of all the curious coincidences,' I exclaimed.  'Why,
Miss Ridley, it was I who advertised for a Persian cat--on Sue's
behalf.  She and Ismay have decided that they want a cat like
Fatima for themselves.'

"You should have seen how she beamed.  She said she knew you
always really liked cats, only you would never own up to it.  We
clinched the dicker then and there.  I passed her over your
hundred and ten dollars--she took the money without turning a
hair--and now you are the joint owners of Fatima.  Good luck to
your bargain!"

"Mean old thing," sniffed Ismay.  She meant Aunt Cynthia, and,
remembering our shabby furs, I didn't disagree with her.

"But there is no Fatima," I said, dubiously.  "How shall we
account for her when Aunt Cynthia comes home?"

"Well, your aunt isn't coming home for a month yet.  When she
comes you will have to tell her that the cat--is lost--but you
needn't say WHEN it happened.  As for the rest, Fatima is your
property now, so Aunt Cynthia can't grumble.  But she will have a
poorer opinion than ever of your fitness to run a house alone."

When Max left I went to the window to watch him down the path.
He was really a handsome fellow, and I was proud of him.  At the
gate he turned to wave me good-by, and, as he did, he glanced
upward.  Even at that distance I saw the look of amazement on his
face.  Then he came bolting back.

"Ismay, the house is on fire!" I shrieked, as I flew to the door.

"Sue," cried Max, "I saw Fatima, or her ghost, at the garret
window a moment ago!"

"Nonsense!" I cried.  But Ismay was already half way up the
stairs and we followed.  Straight to the garret we rushed.  There
sat Fatima, sleek and complacent, sunning herself in the window.

Max laughed until the rafters rang.

"She can't have been up here all this time," I protested, half
tearfully.  "We would have heard her meowing."

"But you didn't," said Max.

"She would have died of the cold," declared Ismay.

"But she hasn't," said Max.

"Or starved," I cried.

"The place is alive with mice," said Max.  "No, girls, there is
no doubt the cat has been here the whole fortnight.  She must
have followed Huldah Jane up here, unobserved, that day.  It's a
wonder you didn't hear her crying--if she did cry.  But perhaps
she didn't, and, of course, you sleep downstairs.  To think you
never thought of looking here for her!"

"It has cost us over a hundred dollars," said Ismay, with a
malevolent glance at the sleek Fatima.

"It has cost me more than that," I said, as I turned to the
stairway.

Max held me back for an instant, while Ismay and Fatima pattered
down.

"Do you think it has cost too much, Sue?" he whispered.

I looked at him sideways.  He was really a dear. Niceness fairly
exhaled from him.

"No-o-o," I said, "but when we are married you will have to take
care of Fatima, _I_ won't."

"Dear Fatima," said Max gratefully.



II. THE MATERALIZING OF CECIL

It had never worried me in the least that I wasn't married,
although everybody in Avonlea pitied old maids; but it DID worry
me, and I frankly confess it, that I had never had a chance to
be.  Even Nancy, my old nurse and servant, knew that, and pitied
me for it.  Nancy is an old maid herself, but she has had two
proposals.  She did not accept either of them because one was a
widower with seven children, and the other a very shiftless,
good-for-nothing fellow; but, if anybody twitted Nancy on her
single condition, she could point triumphantly to those two as
evidence that "she could an she would."  If I had not lived all
my life in Avonlea I might have had the benefit of the doubt; but
I had, and everybody knew everything about me--or thought they
did.

I had really often wondered why nobody had ever fallen in love
with me.  I was not at all homely; indeed, years ago, George
Adoniram Maybrick had written a poem addressed to me, in which he
praised my beauty quite extravagantly; that didn't mean anything
because George Adoniram wrote poetry to all the good-looking
girls and never went with anybody but Flora King, who was
cross-eyed and red-haired, but it proves that it was not my
appearance that put me out of the running.  Neither was it the
fact that I wrote poetry myself--although not of George
Adoniram's kind--because nobody ever knew that.  When I felt it
coming on I shut myself up in my room and wrote it out in a
little blank book I kept locked up.  It is nearly full now,
because I have been writing poetry all my life.  It is the only
thing I have ever been able to keep a secret from Nancy.  Nancy,
in any case, has not a very high opinion of my ability to take
care of myself; but I tremble to imagine what she would think if
she ever found out about that little book.  I am convinced she
would send for the doctor post-haste and insist on mustard
plasters while waiting for him.

Nevertheless, I kept on at it, and what with my flowers and my
cats and my magazines and my little book, I was really very happy
and contented.  But it DID sting that Adella Gilbert, across the
road, who has a drunken husband, should pity "poor Charlotte"
because nobody had ever wanted her.  Poor Charlotte indeed!  If I
had thrown myself at a man's head the way Adella Gilbert did at--
but there, there, I must refrain from such thoughts.  I must not
be uncharitable.

The Sewing Circle met at Mary Gillespie's on my fortieth
birthday.  I have given up talking about my birthdays, although
that little scheme is not much good in Avonlea where everybody
knows your age--or if they make a mistake it is never on the side
of youth.  But Nancy, who grew accustomed to celebrating my
birthdays when I was a little girl, never gets over the habit,
and I don't try to cure her, because, after all, it's nice to
have some one make a fuss over you.  She brought me up my
breakfast before I got up out of bed--a concession to my laziness
that Nancy would scorn to make on any other day of the year.  She
had cooked everything I like best, and had decorated the tray
with roses from the garden and ferns from the woods behind the
house.  I enjoyed every bit of that breakfast, and then I got up
and dressed, putting on my second best muslin gown.  I would have
put on my really best if I had not had the fear of Nancy before
my eyes; but I knew she would never condone THAT, even on a
birthday.  I watered my flowers and fed my cats, and then I
locked myself up and wrote a poem on June.  I had given up
writing birthday odes after I was thirty.

In the afternoon I went to the Sewing Circle.  When I was ready
for it I looked in my glass and wondered if I could really be
forty.  I was quite sure I didn't look it.  My hair was brown and
wavy, my cheeks were pink, and the lines could hardly be seen at
all, though possibly that was because of the dim light.  I always
have my mirror hung in the darkest corner of my room.  Nancy
cannot imagine why.  I know the lines are there, of course; but
when they don't show very plain I forget that they are there.

We had a large Sewing Circle, young and old alike attending.  I
really cannot say I ever enjoyed the meetings--at least not up to
that time--although I went religiously because I thought it my
duty to go.  The married women talked so much of their husbands
and children, and of course I had to be quiet on those topics;
and the young girls talked in corner groups about their beaux,
and stopped it when I joined them, as if they felt sure that an
old maid who had never had a beau couldn't understand at all.  As
for the other old maids, they talked gossip about every one, and
I did not like that either.  I knew the minute my back was turned
they would fasten into me and hint that I used hair-dye and
declare it was perfectly ridiculous for a woman of FIFTY to wear
a pink muslin dress with lace-trimmed frills.

There was a full attendance that day, for we were getting ready
for a sale of fancy work in aid of parsonage repairs.  The young
girls were merrier and noisier than usual.  Wilhelmina Mercer was
there, and she kept them going.  The Mercers were quite new to
Avonlea, having come here only two months previously.

I was sitting by the window and Wilhelmina Mercer, Maggie
Henderson, Susette Cross and Georgie Hall were in a little group
just before me.  I wasn't listening to their chatter at all, but
presently Georgie exclaimed teasingly:

"Miss Charlotte is laughing at us.  I suppose she thinks we are
awfully silly to be talking about beaux."

The truth was that I was simply smiling over some very pretty
thoughts that had come to me about the roses which were climbing
over Mary Gillespie's sill.  I meant to inscribe them in the
little blank book when I went home.  Georgie's speech brought me
back to harsh realities with a jolt.  It hurt me, as such
speeches always did.

"Didn't you ever have a beau, Miss Holmes?" said Wilhelmina
laughingly.

Just as it happened, a silence had fallen over the room for a
moment, and everybody in it heard Wilhelmina's question.

I really do not know what got into me and possessed me.  I have
never been able to account for what I said and did, because I am
naturally a truthful person and hate all deceit.  It seemed to me
that I simply could not say "No" to Wilhelmina before that whole
roomful of women.  It was TOO humiliating.  I suppose all the
prickles and stings and slurs I had endured for fifteen years on
account of never having had a lover had what the new doctor calls
"a cumulative effect" and came to a head then and there.

"Yes, I had one once, my dear," I said calmly.

For once in my life I made a sensation.  Every woman in that room
stopped sewing and stared at me.  Most of them, I saw, didn't
believe me, but Wilhelmina did.  Her pretty face lighted up with
interest.

"Oh, won't you tell us about him, Miss Holmes?" she coaxed, "and
why didn't you marry him?"

"That is right, Miss Mercer," said Josephine Cameron, with a
nasty little laugh.  "Make her tell.  We're all interested.  It's
news to us that Charlotte ever had a beau."

If Josephine had not said that, I might not have gone on.  But
she did say it, and, moreover, I caught Mary Gillespie and Adella
Gilbert exchanging significant smiles.  That settled it, and made
me quite reckless.  "In for a penny, in for a pound," thought I,
and I said with a pensive smile:

"Nobody here knew anything about him, and it was all long, long
ago."

"What was his name?" asked Wilhelmina.

"Cecil Fenwick," I answered promptly.  Cecil had always been my
favorite name for a man; it figured quite frequently in the blank
book.  As for the Fenwick part of it, I had a bit of newspaper in
my hand, measuring a hem, with "Try Fenwick's Porous Plasters"
printed across it, and I simply joined the two in sudden and
irrevocable matrimony.

"Where did you meet him?" asked Georgie.

I hastily reviewed my past.  There was only one place to locate
Cecil Fenwick.  The only time I had ever been far enough away
from Avonlea in my life was when I was eighteen and had gone to
visit an aunt in New Brunswick.

"In Blakely, New Brunswick," I said, almost believing that I had
when I saw how they all took it in unsuspectingly.  "I was just
eighteen and he was twenty-three."

"What did he look like?" Susette wanted to know.

"Oh, he was very handsome."  I proceeded glibly to sketch my
ideal.  To tell the dreadful truth, I was enjoying myself; I
could see respect dawning in those girls' eyes, and I knew that I
had forever thrown off my reproach.  Henceforth I should be a
woman with a romantic past, faithful to the one love of her
life--a very, very different thing from an old maid who had never
had a lover.

"He was tall and dark, with lovely, curly black hair and
brilliant, piercing eyes.  He had a splendid chin, and a fine
nose, and the most fascinating smile!"

"What was he?" asked Maggie.

"A young lawyer," I said, my choice of profession decided by an
enlarged crayon portrait of Mary Gillespie's deceased brother on
an easel before me.  He had been a lawyer.

"Why didn't you marry him?" demanded Susette.

"We quarreled," I answered sadly.  "A terribly bitter quarrel.
Oh, we were both so young and so foolish.  It was my fault.  I
vexed Cecil by flirting with another man"--wasn't I coming on!--
"and he was jealous and angry.  He went out West and never came
back.  I have never seen him since, and I do not even know if he
is alive.  But--but--I could never care for any other man."

"Oh, how interesting!" sighed Wilhelmina.  "I do so love sad love
stories.  But perhaps he will come back some day yet, Miss
Holmes."

"Oh, no, never now," I said, shaking my head.  "He has forgotten
all about me, I dare say.  Or if he hasn't, he has never forgiven
me."

Mary Gillespie's Susan Jane announced tea at this moment, and I
was thankful, for my imagination was giving out, and I didn't
know what question those girls would ask next.  But I felt
already a change in the mental atmosphere surrounding me, and all
through supper I was thrilled with a secret exultation.
Repentant?  Ashamed?  Not a bit of it!  I'd have done the same
thing over again, and all I felt sorry for was that I hadn't done
it long ago.

When I got home that night Nancy looked at me wonderingly, and
said:

"You look like a girl to-night, Miss Charlotte."

"I feel like one," I said laughing; and I ran to my room and did
what I had never done before--wrote a second poem in the same
day.  I had to have some outlet for my feelings.  I called it "In
Summer Days of Long Ago," and I worked Mary Gillespie's roses and
Cecil Fenwick's eyes into it, and made it so sad and reminiscent
and minor-musicky that I felt perfectly happy.

For the next two months all went well and merrily.  Nobody ever
said anything more to me about Cecil Fenwick, but the girls all
chattered freely to me of their little love affairs, and I became
a sort of general confidant for them.  It just warmed up the
cockles of my heart, and I began to enjoy the Sewing Circle
famously.  I got a lot of pretty new dresses and the dearest hat,
and I went everywhere I was asked and had a good time.

But there is one thing you can be perfectly sure of.  If you do
wrong you are going to be punished for it sometime, somehow and
somewhere.  My punishment was delayed for two months, and then it
descended on my head and I was crushed to the very dust.

Another new family besides the Mercers had come to Avonlea in the
spring--the Maxwells.  There were just Mr. and Mrs. Maxwell; they
were a middle-aged couple and very well off.  Mr. Maxwell had
bought the lumber mills, and they lived up at the old Spencer
place which had always been "the" place of Avonlea.  They lived
quietly, and Mrs. Maxwell hardly ever went anywhere because she
was delicate.  She was out when I called and I was out when she
returned my call, so that I had never met her.

It was the Sewing Circle day again--at Sarah Gardiner's this
time.  I was late; everybody else was there when I arrived, and
the minute I entered the room I knew something had happened,
although I couldn't imagine what.  Everybody looked at me in the
strangest way.  Of course, Wilhelmina Mercer was the first to set
her tongue going.

"Oh, Miss Holmes, have you seen him yet?" she exclaimed.

"Seen whom?" I said non-excitedly, getting out my thimble and
patterns.

"Why, Cecil Fenwick.  He's here--in Avonlea--visiting his sister,
Mrs. Maxwell."

I suppose I did what they expected me to do.  I dropped
everything I held, and Josephine Cameron said afterwards that
Charlotte Holmes would never be paler when she was in her coffin.
If they had just known why I turned so pale!

"It's impossible!" I said blankly.

"It's really true," said Wilhelmina, delighted at this
development, as she supposed it, of my romance.  "I was up to see
Mrs. Maxwell last night, and I met him."

"It--can't be--the same--Cecil Fenwick," I said faintly, because
I had to say something.

"Oh, yes, it is.  He belongs in Blakely, New Brunswick, and he's
a lawyer, and he's been out West twenty-two years.  He's oh! so
handsome, and just as you described him, except that his hair is
quite gray.  He has never married--I asked Mrs. Maxwell--so you
see he has never forgotten you, Miss Holmes.  And, oh, I believe
everything is going to come out all right."

I couldn't exactly share her cheerful belief.  Everything seemed
to me to be coming out most horribly wrong.  I was so mixed up I
didn't know what to do or say.  I felt as if I were in a bad
dream--it MUST be a dream--there couldn't really be a Cecil
Fenwick!  My feelings were simply indescribable.  Fortunately
every one put my agitation down to quite a different cause, and
they very kindly left me alone to recover myself.  I shall never
forget that awful afternoon.  Right after tea I excused myself
and went home as fast as I could go.  There I shut myself up in
my room, but NOT to write poetry in my blank book.  No, indeed!
I felt in no poetical mood.

I tried to look the facts squarely in the face.  There was a
Cecil Fenwick, extraordinary as the coincidence was, and he was
here in Avonlea.  All my friends--and foes--believed that he was
the estranged lover of my youth.  If he stayed long in Avonlea,
one of two things was bound to happen.  He would hear the story I
had told about him and deny it, and I would be held up to shame
and derision for the rest of my natural life; or else he would
simply go away in ignorance, and everybody would suppose he had
forgotten me and would pity me maddeningly.  The latter
possibility was bad enough, but it wasn't to be compared to the
former; and oh, how I prayed--yes, I DID pray about it--that he
would go right away.  But Providence had other views for me.

Cecil Fenwick didn't go away.  He stayed right on in Avonlea, and
the Maxwells blossomed out socially in his honor and tried to
give him a good time.  Mrs. Maxwell gave a party for him.  I got
a card--but you may be very sure I didn't go, although Nancy
thought I was crazy not to.  Then every one else gave parties in
honor of Mr. Fenwick and I was invited and never went.
Wilhelmina Mercer came and pleaded and scolded and told me if I
avoided Mr. Fenwick like that he would think I still cherished
bitterness against him, and he wouldn't make any advances towards
a reconciliation.  Wilhelmina means well, but she hasn't a great
deal of sense.

Cecil Fenwick seemed to be a great favorite with everybody, young
and old.  He was very rich, too, and Wilhelmina declared that
half the girls were after him.

"If it wasn't for you, Miss Holmes, I believe I'd have a try for
him myself, in spite of his gray hair and quick temper--for Mrs.
Maxwell says he has a pretty quick temper, but it's all over in a
minute," said Wilhelmina, half in jest and wholly in earnest.

As for me, I gave up going out at all, even to church.  I fretted
and pined and lost my appetite and never wrote a line in my blank
book.  Nancy was half frantic and insisted on dosing me with her
favorite patent pills.  I took them meekly, because it is a waste
of time and energy to oppose Nancy, but, of course, they didn't
do me any good.  My trouble was too deep-seated for pills to
cure.  If ever a woman was punished for telling a lie I was that
woman.  I stopped my subscription to the _Weekly Advocate_
because it still carried that wretched porous plaster
advertisement, and I couldn't bear to see it.  If it hadn't been
for that I would never have thought of Fenwick for a name, and
all this trouble would have been averted.

One evening, when I was moping in my room, Nancy came up.

"There's a gentleman in the parlor asking for you, Miss
Charlotte."

My heart gave just one horrible bounce.

"What--sort of a gentleman, Nancy?" I faltered.

"I think it's that Fenwick man that there's been such a time
about," said Nancy, who didn't know anything about my imaginary
escapades, "and he looks to be mad clean through about something,
for such a scowl I never seen."

"Tell him I'll be down directly, Nancy," I said quite calmly.

As soon as Nancy had clumped downstairs again I put on my lace
fichu and put two hankies in my belt, for I thought I'd probably
need more than one.  Then I hunted up an old _Advocate_ for
proof, and down I went to the parlor.  I know exactly how a
criminal feels going to execution, and I've been opposed to
capital punishment ever since.

I opened the parlor door and went in, carefully closing it behind
me, for Nancy has a deplorable habit of listening in the hall.
Then my legs gave out completely, and I couldn't have walked
another step to save my life.  I just stood there, my hand on the
knob, trembling like a leaf.

A man was standing by the south window looking out; he wheeled
around as I went in, and, as Nancy said, he had a scowl on and
looked angry clear through.  He was very handsome, and his gray
hair gave him such a distinguished look.  I recalled this
afterward, but just at the moment you may be quite sure I wasn't
thinking about it at all.

Then all at once a strange thing happened.  The scowl went right
off his face and the anger out of his eyes.  He looked
astonished, and then foolish.  I saw the color creeping up into
his cheeks.  As for me, I still stood there staring at him, not
able to say a single word.

"Miss Holmes, I presume," he said at last, in a deep, thrilling
voice.  "I--I--oh, confound it!  I have called--I heard some
foolish stories and I came here in a rage.  I've been a fool--I
know now they weren't true.  Just excuse me and I'll go away and
kick myself."

"No," I said, finding my voice with a gasp, "you mustn't go until
you've heard the truth.  It's dreadful enough, but not as
dreadful as you might otherwise think.  Those--those stories--I
have a confession to make.  I did tell them, but I didn't know
there was such a person as Cecil Fenwick in existence."

He looked puzzled, as well he might.  Then he smiled, took my
hand and led me away from the door--to the knob of which I was
still holding with all my might--to the sofa.

"Let's sit down and talk it over 'comfy,'" he said.

I just confessed the whole shameful business.  It was terribly
humiliating, but it served me right.  I told him how people were
always twitting me for never having had a beau, and how I had
told them I had; and then I showed him the porous plaster
advertisement.

He heard me right through without a word, and then he threw back
his big, curly, gray head and laughed.

"This clears up a great many mysterious hints I've been receiving
ever since I came to Avonlea," he said, "and finally a Mrs.
Gilbert came to my sister this afternoon with a long farrago of
nonsense about the love affair I had once had with some Charlotte
Holmes here.  She declared you had told her about it yourself.  I
confess I flamed up.  I'm a peppery chap, and I thought--I
thought--oh, confound it, it might as well out: I thought you
were some lank old maid who was amusing herself telling
ridiculous stories about me.  When you came into the room I knew
that, whoever was to blame, you were not."

"But I was," I said ruefully.  "It wasn't right of me to tell
such a story--and it was very silly, too.  But who would ever
have supposed that there could be real Cecil Fenwick who had
lived in Blakely?  I never heard of such a coincidence."

"It's more than a coincidence," said Mr. Fenwick decidedly.
"It's predestination; that is what it is.  And now let's forget
it and talk of something else."

We talked of something else--or at least Mr. Fenwick did, for I
was too ashamed to say much--so long that Nancy got restive and
clumped through the hall every five minutes; but Mr. Fenwick
never took the hint.  When he finally went away he asked if he
might come again.

"It's time we made up that old quarrel, you know," he said,
laughing.

And I, an old maid of forty, caught myself blushing like a girl.
But I felt like a girl, for it was such a relief to have that
explanation all over.  I couldn't even feel angry with Adella
Gilbert.  She was always a mischief maker, and when a woman is
born that way she is more to be pitied than blamed.  I wrote a
poem in the blank book before I went to sleep; I hadn't written
anything for a month, and it was lovely to be at it once more.

Mr. Fenwick did come again--the very next evening, but one.  And
he came so often after that that even Nancy got resigned to him.
One day I had to tell her something.  I shrank from doing it, for
I feared it would make her feel badly.

"Oh, I've been expecting to hear it," she said grimly.  "I felt
the minute that man came into the house he brought trouble with
him.  Well, Miss Charlotte, I wish you happiness.  I don't know
how the climate of California will agree with me, but I suppose
I'll have to put up with it."

"But, Nancy," I said, "I can't expect you to go away out there
with me.  It's too much to ask of you."

"And where else would I be going?" demanded Nancy in genuine
astonishment.  "How under the canopy could you keep house without
me?  I'm not going to trust you to the mercies of a yellow Chinee
with a pig-tail.  Where you go I go, Miss Charlotte, and there's
an end of it."

I was very glad, for I hated to think of parting with Nancy even
to go with Cecil.  As for the blank book, I haven't told my
husband about it yet, but I mean to some day.  And I've
subscribed for the _Weekly Advocate_ again.



III. HER FATHER'S DAUGHTER

"We must invite your Aunt Jane, of course," said Mrs. Spencer.

Rachel made a protesting movement with her large, white, shapely
hands--hands which were so different from the thin, dark, twisted
ones folded on the table opposite her.  The difference was not
caused by hard work or the lack of it; Rachel had worked hard all
her life.  It was a difference inherent in temperament.  The
Spencers, no matter what they did, or how hard they labored, all
had plump, smooth, white hands, with firm, supple fingers; the
Chiswicks, even those who toiled not, neither did they spin, had
hard, knotted, twisted ones.  Moreover, the contrast went deeper
than externals, and twined itself with the innermost fibers of
life, and thought, and action.

"I don't see why we must invite Aunt Jane," said Rachel, with as
much impatience as her soft, throaty voice could express.  "Aunt
Jane doesn't like me, and I don't like Aunt Jane."

"I'm sure I don't see why you don't like her," said Mrs. Spencer.
"It's ungrateful of you.  She has always been very kind to you."

"She has always been very kind with one hand," smiled Rachel.  "I
remember the first time I ever saw Aunt Jane.  I was six years
old.  She held out to me a small velvet pincushion with beads on
it.  And then, because I did not, in my shyness, thank her quite
as promptly as I should have done, she rapped my head with her
bethimbled finger to 'teach me better manners.'  It hurt
horribly--I've always had a tender head.  And that has been Aunt
Jane's way ever since.  When I grew too big for the thimble
treatment she used her tongue instead--and that hurt worse.  And
you know, mother, how she used to talk about my engagement.  She
is able to spoil the whole atmosphere if she happens to come in a
bad humor.  I don't want her."

"She must be invited.  People would talk so if she wasn't."

"I don't see why they should.  She's only my great-aunt by
marriage.  I wouldn't mind in the least if people did talk.
They'll talk anyway--you know that, mother."

"Oh, we must have her," said Mrs. Spencer, with the indifferent
finality that marked all her words and decisions--a finality
against which it was seldom of any avail to struggle.  People,
who knew, rarely attempted it; strangers occasionally did, misled
by the deceit of appearances.

Isabella Spencer was a wisp of a woman, with a pale, pretty face,
uncertainly-colored, long-lashed grayish eyes, and great masses
of dull, soft, silky brown hair.  She had delicate aquiline
features and a small, babyish red mouth.  She looked as if a
breath would sway her.  The truth was that a tornado would hardly
have caused her to swerve an inch from her chosen path.

For a moment Rachel looked rebellious; then she yielded, as she
generally did in all differences of opinion with her mother.  It
was not worth while to quarrel over the comparatively unimportant
matter of Aunt Jane's invitation.  A quarrel might be inevitable
later on; Rachel wanted to save all her resources for that.  She
gave her shoulders a shrug, and wrote Aunt Jane's name down on
the wedding list in her large, somewhat untidy handwriting--a
handwriting which always seemed to irritate her mother.  Rachel
never could understand this irritation.  She could never guess
that it was because her writing looked so much like that in a
certain packet of faded letters which Mrs. Spencer kept at the
bottom of an old horsehair trunk in her bedroom.  They were
postmarked from seaports all over the world.  Mrs. Spencer never
read them or looked at them; but she remembered every dash and
curve of the handwriting.

Isabella Spencer had overcome many things in her life by the
sheer force and persistency of her will.  But she could not get
the better of heredity.  Rachel was her father's daughter at all
points, and Isabella Spencer escaped hating her for it only by
loving her the more fiercely because of it.  Even so, there were
many times when she had to avert her eyes from Rachel's face
because of the pang of the more subtle remembrances; and never,
since her child was born, could Isabella Spencer bear to gaze on
that child's face in sleep.

Rachel was to be married to Frank Bell in a fortnight's time.
Mrs. Spencer was pleased with the match.  She was very fond of
Frank, and his farm was so near to her own that she would not
lose Rachel altogether.  Rachel fondly believed that her mother
would not lose her at all; but Isabella Spencer, wiser by olden
experience, knew what her daughter's marriage must mean to her,
and steeled her heart to bear it with what fortitude she might.

They were in the sitting-room, deciding on the wedding guests and
other details.  The September sunshine was coming in through the
waving boughs of the apple tree that grew close up to the low
window.  The glints wavered over Rachel's face, as white as a
wood lily, with only a faint dream of rose in the cheeks.  She
wore her sleek, golden hair in a quaint arch around it.  Her
forehead was very broad and white.  She was fresh and young and
hopeful.  The mother's heart contracted in a spasm of pain as she
looked at her.  How like the girl was to--to--to the Spencers!
Those easy, curving outlines, those large, mirthful blue eyes,
that finely molded chin! Isabella Spencer shut her lips firmly
and crushed down some unbidden, unwelcome memories.

"There will be about sixty guests, all told," she said, as if she
were thinking of nothing else.  "We must move the furniture out
of this room and set the supper-table here.  The dining-room is
too small.  We must borrow Mrs. Bell's forks and spoons.  She
offered to lend them.  I'd never have been willing to ask her.
The damask table cloths with the ribbon pattern must be bleached
to-morrow.  Nobody else in Avonlea has such tablecloths.  And
we'll put the little dining-room table on the hall landing,
upstairs, for the presents."

Rachel was not thinking about the presents, or the housewifely
details of the wedding.  Her breath was coming quicker, and the
faint blush on her smooth cheeks had deepened to crimson.  She
knew that a critical moment was approaching.  With a steady hand
she wrote the last name on her list and drew a line under it.

"Well, have you finished?" asked her mother impatiently.  "Hand
it here and let me look over it to make sure that you haven't
left anybody out that should be in."

Rachel passed the paper across the table in silence.  The room
seemed to her to have grown very still.  She could hear the flies
buzzing on the panes, the soft purr of the wind about the low
eaves and through the apple boughs, the jerky beating of her own
heart.  She felt frightened and nervous, but resolute.

Mrs. Spencer glanced down the list, murmuring the names aloud and
nodding approval at each. But when she came to the last name, she
did not utter it.  She cast a black glance at Rachel, and a spark
leaped up in the depths of the pale eyes.  On her face were
anger, amazement, incredulity, the last predominating.

The final name on the list of wedding guests was the name of
David Spencer.  David Spencer lived alone in a little cottage
down at the Cove.  He was a combination of sailor and fisherman.
He was also Isabella Spencer's husband and Rachel's father.

"Rachel Spencer, have you taken leave of your senses?  What do
you mean by such nonsense as this?"

"I simply mean that I am going to invite my father to my
wedding," answered Rachel quietly.

"Not in my house," cried Mrs. Spencer, her lips as white as if
her fiery tone had scathed them.

Rachel leaned forward, folded her large, capable hands
deliberately on the table, and gazed unflinchingly into her
mother's bitter face.  Her fright and nervousness were gone.  Now
that the conflict was actually on she found herself rather
enjoying it.  She wondered a little at herself, and thought that
she must be wicked.  She was not given to self-analysis, or she
might have concluded that it was the sudden assertion of her own
personality, so long dominated by her mother's, which she was
finding so agreeable.

"Then there will be no wedding, mother," she said.  "Frank and I
will simply go to the manse, be married, and go home.  If I
cannot invite my father to see me married, no one else shall be
invited."

Her lips narrowed tightly.  For the first time in her life
Isabella Spencer saw a reflection of herself looking back at her
from her daughter's face--a strange, indefinable resemblance that
was more of soul and spirit than of flesh and blood.  In spite of
her anger her heart thrilled to it.  As never before, she
realized that this girl was her own and her husband's child, a
living bond between them wherein their conflicting natures
mingled and were reconciled.  She realized too, that Rachel, so
long sweetly meek and obedient, meant to have her own way in this
case--and would have it.

"I must say that I can't see why you are so set on having your
father see you married," she said with a bitter sneer.  "HE has
never remembered that he is your father.  He cares nothing about
you--never did care."

Rachel took no notice of this taunt.  It had no power to hurt
her, its venom being neutralized by a secret knowledge of her own
in which her mother had no share.

"Either I shall invite my father to my wedding, or I shall not
have a wedding," she repeated steadily, adopting her mother's own
effective tactics of repetition undistracted by argument.

"Invite him then," snapped Mrs. Spencer, with the ungraceful
anger of a woman, long accustomed to having her own way,
compelled for once to yield.  "It'll be like chips in porridge
anyhow--neither good nor harm.  He won't come."

Rachel made no response.  Now that the battle was over, and the
victory won, she found herself tremulously on the verge of tears.
She rose quickly and went upstairs to her own room, a dim little
place shadowed by the white birches growing thickly outside--a
virginal room, where everything bespoke the maiden.  She lay down
on the blue and white patchwork quilt on her bed, and cried
softly and bitterly.

Her heart, at this crisis in her life, yearned for her father,
who was almost a stranger to her.  She knew that her mother had
probably spoken the truth when she said that he would not come.
Rachel felt that her marriage vows would be lacking in some
indefinable sacredness if her father were not by to hear them
spoken.

Twenty-five years before this, David Spencer and Isabella
Chiswick had been married.  Spiteful people said there could be
no doubt that Isabella had married David for love, since he had
neither lands nor money to tempt her into a match of bargain and
sale.  David was a handsome fellow, with the blood of a seafaring
race in his veins.

He had been a sailor, like his father and grandfather before him;
but, when he married Isabella, she induced him to give up the sea
and settle down with her on a snug farm her father had left her.
Isabella liked farming, and loved her fertile acres and opulent
orchards.  She abhorred the sea and all that pertained to it,
less from any dread of its dangers than from an inbred conviction
that sailors were "low" in the social scale--a species of
necessary vagabonds.  In her eyes there was a taint of disgrace
in such a calling.  David must be transformed into a respectable,
home-abiding tiller of broad lands.

For five years all went well enough.  If, at times, David's
longing for the sea troubled him, he stifled it, and listened not
to its luring voice.  He and Isabella were very happy; the only
drawback to their happiness lay in the regretted fact that they
were childless.

Then, in the sixth year, came a crisis and a change.  Captain
Barrett, an old crony of David's, wanted him to go with him on a
voyage as mate.  At the suggestion all David's long-repressed
craving for the wide blue wastes of the ocean, and the wind
whistling through the spars with the salt foam in its breath,
broke forth with a passion all the more intense for that very
repression.  He must go on that voyage with James Barrett--he
MUST!  That over, he would be contented again; but go he must.
His soul struggled within him like a fettered thing.

Isabella opposed the scheme vehemently and unwisely, with mordant
sarcasm and unjust reproaches.  The latent obstinacy of David's
character came to the support of his longing--a longing which
Isabella, with five generations of land-loving ancestry behind
her, could not understand at all.

He was determined to go, and he told Isabella so.

"I'm sick of plowing and milking cows," he said hotly.

"You mean that you are sick of a respectable life," sneered
Isabella.

"Perhaps," said David, with a contemptuous shrug of his
shoulders.  "Anyway, I'm going."

"If you go on this voyage, David Spencer, you need never come
back here," said Isabella resolutely.

David had gone; he did not believe that she meant it.  Isabella
believed that he did not care whether she meant it or not.  David
Spencer left behind him a woman, calm outwardly, inwardly a
seething volcano of anger, wounded pride, and thwarted will.

He found precisely the same woman when he came home, tanned,
joyous, tamed for a while of his _wanderlust_, ready, with
something of real affection, to go back to the farm fields and
the stock-yard.

Isabella met him at the door, smileless, cold-eyed, set-lipped.

"What do you want here?" she said, in the tone she was accustomed
to use to tramps and Syrian peddlers.

"Want!" David's surprise left him at a loss for words.  "Want!
Why, I--I--want my wife.  I've come home."

"This is not your home.  I'm no wife of yours.  You made your
choice when you went away," Isabella had replied.  Then she had
gone in, shut the door, and locked it in his face.

David had stood there for a few minutes like a man stunned.  Then
he had turned and walked away up the lane under the birches.  He
said nothing--then or at any other time.  From that day no
reference to his wife or her concerns ever crossed his lips.

He went directly to the harbor, and shipped with Captain Barrett
for another voyage.  When he came back from that in a month's
time, he bought a small house and had it hauled to the "Cove," a
lonely inlet from which no other human habitation was visible.
Between his sea voyages he lived there the life of a recluse;
fishing and playing his violin were his only employments.  He
went nowhere and encouraged no visitors.

Isabella Spencer also had adopted the tactics of silence.  When
the scandalized Chiswicks, Aunt Jane at their head, tried to
patch up the matter with argument and entreaty, Isabella met them
stonily, seeming not to hear what they said, and making no
response.  She worsted them totally.  As Aunt Jane said in
disgust, "What can you do with a woman who won't even TALK?"

Five months after David Spencer had been turned from his wife's
door, Rachel was born.  Perhaps, if David had come to them then,
with due penitence and humility, Isabella's heart, softened by
the pain and joy of her long and ardently desired motherhood
might have cast out the rankling venom of resentment that had
poisoned it and taken him back into it.  But David had not come;
he gave no sign of knowing or caring that his once longed-for
child had been born.

When Isabella was able to be about again, her pale face was
harder than ever; and, had there been about her any one
discerning enough to notice it, there was a subtle change in her
bearing and manner.  A certain nervous expectancy, a fluttering
restlessness was gone.  Isabella had ceased to hope secretly that
her husband would yet come back.  She had in her secret soul
thought he would; and she had meant to forgive him when she had
humbled him sufficiently, and when he had abased himself as she
considered he should.  But now she knew that he did not mean to
sue for her forgiveness; and the hate that sprang out of her old
love was a rank and speedy and persistent growth.

Rachel, from her earliest recollection, had been vaguely
conscious of a difference between her own life and the lives of
her playmates.  For a long time it puzzled her childish brain.
Finally, she reasoned it out that the difference consisted in the
fact that they had fathers and she, Rachel Spencer, had none--not
even in the graveyard, as Carrie Bell and Lilian Boulter had.
Why was this?  Rachel went straight to her mother, put one little
dimpled hand on Isabella Spencer's knee, looked up with great
searching blue eyes, and said gravely,

"Mother, why haven't I got a father like the other little girls?"

Isabella Spencer laid aside her work, took the seven year old
child on her lap, and told her the whole story in a few direct
and bitter words that imprinted themselves indelibly on Rachel's
remembrance.  She understood clearly and hopelessly that she
could never have a father--that, in this respect, she must always
be unlike other people.

"Your father cares nothing for you," said Isabella Spencer in
conclusion.  "He never did care.  You must never speak of him to
anybody again."

Rachel slipped silently from her mother's knee and ran out to the
Springtime garden with a full heart.  There she cried
passionately over her mother's last words.  It seemed to her a
terrible thing that her father should not love her, and a cruel
thing that she must never talk of him.

Oddly enough, Rachel's sympathies were all with her father, in as
far as she could understand the old quarrel.  She did not dream
of disobeying her mother and she did not disobey her.  Never
again did the child speak of her father; but Isabella had not
forbidden her to think of him, and thenceforth Rachel thought of
him constantly--so constantly that, in some strange way, he
seemed to become an unguessed-of part of her inner life--the
unseen, ever-present companion in all her experiences.

She was an imaginative child, and in fancy she made the
acquaintance of her father.  She had never seen him, but he was
more real to her than most of the people she had seen.  He played
and talked with her as her mother never did; he walked with her
in the orchard and field and garden; he sat by her pillow in the
twilight; to him she whispered secrets she told to none other.

Once her mother asked her impatiently why she talked so much to
herself.

"I am not talking to myself.  I am talking to a very dear friend
of mine," Rachel answered gravely.

"Silly child," laughed her mother, half tolerantly, half
disapprovingly.

Two years later something wonderful had happened to Rachel.  One
summer afternoon she had gone to the harbor with several of her
little playmates.  Such a jaunt was a rare treat to the child,
for Isabella Spencer seldom allowed her to go from home with
anybody but herself.  And Isabella was not an entertaining
companion.  Rachel never particularly enjoyed an outing with her
mother.

The children wandered far along the shore; at last they came to a
place that Rachel had never seen before.  It was a shallow cove
where the waters purred on the yellow sands.  Beyond it, the sea
was laughing and flashing and preening and alluring, like a
beautiful, coquettish woman.  Outside, the wind was boisterous
and rollicking; here, it was reverent and gentle.  A white boat
was hauled up on the skids, and there was a queer little house
close down to the sands, like a big shell tossed up by the waves.
Rachel looked on it all with secret delight; she, too, loved the
lonely places of sea and shore, as her father had done.  She
wanted to linger awhile in this dear spot and revel in it.

"I'm tired, girls," she announced.  "I'm going to stay here and
rest for a spell.  I don't want to go to Gull Point.  You go on
yourselves; I'll wait for you here."

"All alone?" asked Carrie Bell, wonderingly.

"I'm not so afraid of being alone as some people are," said
Rachel, with dignity.

The other girls went on, leaving Rachel sitting on the skids, in
the shadow of the big white boat.  She sat there for a time
dreaming happily, with her blue eyes on the far, pearly horizon,
and her golden head leaning against the boat.

Suddenly she heard a step behind her.  When she turned her head a
man was standing beside her, looking down at her with big, merry,
blue eyes.  Rachel was quite sure that she had never seen him
before; yet those eyes seemed to her to have a strangely familiar
look.  She liked him.  She felt no shyness nor timidity, such as
usually afflicted her in the presence of strangers.

He was a tall, stout man, dressed in a rough fishing suit, and
wearing an oilskin cap on his head.  His hair was very thick and
curly and fair; his cheeks were tanned and red; his teeth, when
he smiled, were very even and white.  Rachel thought he must be
quite old, because there was a good deal of gray mixed with his
fair hair.

"Are you watching for the mermaids?" he said.

Rachel nodded gravely.  From any one else she would have
scrupulously hidden such a thought.

"Yes, I am," she said.  "Mother says there is no such thing as a
mermaid, but I like to think there is.  Have you ever seen one?"

The big man sat down on a bleached log of driftwood and smiled at
her.

"No, I'm sorry to say that I haven't.  But I have seen many other
very wonderful things.  I might tell you about some of them, if
you would come over here and sit by me."

Rachel went unhesitatingly.  When she reached him he pulled her
down on his knee, and she liked it.

"What a nice little craft you are," he said.  "Do you suppose,
now, that you could give me a kiss?"

As a rule, Rachel hated kissing.  She could seldom be prevailed
upon to kiss even her uncles--who knew it and liked to tease her
for kisses until they aggravated her so terribly that she told
them she couldn't bear men.  But now she promptly put her arms
about this strange man's neck and gave him a hearty smack.

"I like you," she said frankly.

She felt his arms tighten suddenly about her.  The blue eyes
looking into hers grew misty and very tender.  Then, all at once,
Rachel knew who he was.  He was her father.  She did not say
anything, but she laid her curly head down on his shoulder and
felt a great happiness, as of one who had come into some
longed-for haven.

If David Spencer realized that she understood he said nothing.
Instead, he began to tell her fascinating stories of far lands he
had visited, and strange things he had seen.  Rachel listened
entranced, as if she were hearkening to a fairy tale.  Yes, he
was just as she had dreamed him.  She had always been sure he
could tell beautiful stories.

"Come up to the house and I'll show you some pretty things," he
said finally.

Then followed a wonderful hour.  The little low-ceilinged room,
with its square window, into which he took her, was filled with
the flotsam and jetsam of his roving life--things beautiful and
odd and strange beyond all telling.  The things that pleased
Rachel most were two huge shells on the chimney piece--pale
pink shells with big crimson and purple spots.

"Oh, I didn't know there could be such pretty things in the
world," she exclaimed.

"If you would like," began the big man; then he paused for a
moment.  "I'll show you something prettier still."

Rachel felt vaguely that he meant to say something else when he
began; but she forgot to wonder what it was when she saw what he
brought out of a little corner cupboard.  It was a teapot of some
fine, glistening purple ware, coiled over by golden dragons with
gilded claws and scales.  The lid looked like a beautiful golden
flower and the handle was a coil of a dragon's tail.  Rachel sat
and looked at it rapt-eyed.

"That's the only thing of any value I have in the world--now," he
said.

Rachel knew there was something very sad in his eyes and voice.
She longed to kiss him again and comfort him.  But suddenly he
began to laugh, and then he rummaged out some goodies for her to
eat, sweetmeats more delicious than she had ever imagined.  While
she nibbled them he took down an old violin and played music that
made her want to dance and sing.  Rachel was perfectly happy.
She wished she might stay forever in that low, dim room with all
its treasures.

"I see your little friends coming around the point," he said,
finally.  "I suppose you must go.  Put the rest of the goodies in
your pocket."

He took her up in his arms and held her tightly against his
breast for a single moment.  She felt him kissing her hair.

"There, run along, little girl.  Good-by," he said gently.

"Why don't you ask me to come and see you again?" cried Rachel,
half in tears.  "I'm coming ANYHOW."

"If you can come, COME," he said.  "If you don't come, I shall
know it is because you can't--and that is much to know.  I'm
very, very, VERY glad, little woman, that you have come once."

Rachel was sitting demurely on the skids when her companions came
back.  They had not seen her leaving the house, and she said not
a word to them of her experiences.  She only smiled mysteriously
when they asked her if she had been lonesome.

That night, for the first time, she mentioned her father's name
in her prayers.  She never forgot to do so afterwards.  She
always said, "bless mother--and father," with an instinctive
pause between the two names--a pause which indicated new
realization of the tragedy which had sundered them.  And the tone
in which she said "father" was softer and more tender than the
one which voiced "mother."

Rachel never visited the Cove again.  Isabella Spencer discovered
that the children had been there, and, although she knew nothing
of Rachel's interview with her father, she told the child that
she must never again go to that part of the shore.

Rachel shed many a bitter tear in secret over this command; but
she obeyed it.  Thenceforth there had been no communication
between her and her father, save the unworded messages of soul to
soul across whatever may divide them.

David Spencer's invitation to his daughter's wedding was sent
with the others, and the remaining days of Rachel's maidenhood
slipped away in a whirl of preparation and excitement in which
her mother reveled, but which was distasteful to the girl.

The wedding day came at last, breaking softly and fairly over the
great sea in a sheen of silver and pearl and rose, a September
day, as mild and beautiful as June.

The ceremony was to be performed at eight o'clock in the evening.
At seven Rachel stood in her room, fully dressed and alone.  She
had no bridesmaid, and she had asked her cousins to leave her to
herself in this last solemn hour of girlhood.  She looked very
fair and sweet in the sunset-light that showered through the
birches.  Her wedding gown was a fine, sheer organdie, simply and
daintily made.  In the loose waves of her bright hair she wore
her bridegroom's flowers, roses as white as a virgin's dream.
She was very happy; but her happiness was faintly threaded with
the sorrow inseparable from all change.

Presently her mother came in, carrying a small basket.

"Here is something for you, Rachel.  One of the boys from the
harbor brought it up.  He was bound to give it into your own
hands--said that was his orders.  I just took it and sent him to
the right-about--told him I'd give it to you at once, and that
that was all that was necessary."

She spoke coldly.  She knew quite well who had sent the basket,
and she resented it; but her resentment was not quite strong
enough to overcome her curiosity.  She stood silently by while
Rachel unpacked the basket.

Rachel's hands trembled as she took off the cover.  Two huge
pink-spotted shells came first.  How well she remembered them!
Beneath them, carefully wrapped up in a square of foreign-looking,
strangely scented silk, was the dragon teapot. She held it in her
hands and gazed at it with tears gathering thickly in her eyes.

"Your father sent that," said Isabella Spencer with an odd sound
in her voice.  "I remember it well.  It was among the things I
packed up and sent after him.  His father had brought it home
from China fifty years ago, and he prized it beyond anything.
They used to say it was worth a lot of money."

"Mother, please leave me alone for a little while," said Rachel,
imploringly.  She had caught sight of a little note at the bottom
of the basket, and she felt that she could not read it under her
mother's eyes.

Mrs. Spencer went out with unaccustomed acquiescence, and Rachel
went quickly to the window, where she read her letter by the
fading gleams of twilight.  It was very brief, and the writing
was that of a man who holds a pen but seldom.

    "My dear little girl," it ran, "I'm sorry I can't go to your
    wedding.  It was like you to ask me--for I know it was your
    doing.  I wish I could see you married, but I can't go to the
    house I was turned out of.  I hope you will be very happy.  I
    am sending you the shells and teapot you liked so much.  Do
    you remember that day we had such a good time?  I would liked
    to have seen you again before you were married, but it can't
    be.

                                           "Your loving father,
                                           "DAVID SPENCER."

Rachel resolutely blinked away the tears that filled her eyes.  A
fierce desire for her father sprang up in her heart--an insistent
hunger that would not be denied.  She MUST see her father; she
MUST have his blessing on her new life.  A sudden determination
took possession of her whole being--a determination to sweep
aside all conventionalities and objections as if they had not
been.

It was now almost dark.  The guests would not be coming for half
an hour yet.  It was only fifteen minutes' walk over the hill to
the Cove.  Hastily Rachel shrouded herself in her new raincoat,
and drew a dark, protecting hood over her gay head.  She opened
the door and slipped noiselessly downstairs.  Mrs. Spencer and
her assistants were all busy in the back part of the house.  In a
moment Rachel was out in the dewy garden.  She would go straight
over the fields.  Nobody would see her.

It was quite dark when she reached the Cove.  In the crystal cup
of the sky over her the stars were blinking.  Flying flakes of
foam were scurrying over the sand like elfin things.  A soft
little wind was crooning about the eaves of the little gray house
where David Spencer was sitting, alone in the twilight, his
violin on his knee.  He had been trying to play, but could not.
His heart yearned after his daughter--yes, and after a
long-estranged bride of his youth.  His love of the sea was sated
forever; his love for wife and child still cried for its own
under all his old anger and stubbornness.

The door opened suddenly and the very Rachel of whom he was
dreaming came suddenly in, flinging off her wraps and standing
forth in her young beauty and bridal adornments, a splendid
creature, almost lighting up the gloom with her radiance.

"Father," she cried, brokenly, and her father's eager arms closed
around her.

Back in the house she had left, the guests were coming to the
wedding.  There were jests and laughter and friendly greeting.
The bridegroom came, too, a slim, dark-eyed lad who tiptoed
bashfully upstairs to the spare room, from which he presently
emerged to confront Mrs. Spencer on the landing.

"I want to see Rachel before we go down," he said, blushing.

Mrs. Spencer deposited a wedding present of linen on the table
which was already laden with gifts, opening the door of Rachel's
room, and called her.  There was no reply; the room was dark and
still.  In sudden alarm, Isabella Spencer snatched the lamp from
the hall table and held it up.  The little white room was empty.
No blushing, white-clad bride tenanted it.  But David Spencer's
letter was lying on the stand.  She caught it up and read it.

"Rachel is gone," she gasped.  A flash of intuition had revealed
to her where and why the girl had gone.

"Gone!" echoed Frank, his face blanching.  His pallid dismay
recalled Mrs. Spencer to herself.  She gave a bitter, ugly
little laugh.

"Oh, you needn't look so scared, Frank.  She hasn't run away from
you.  Hush; come in here--shut the door.  Nobody must know of
this.  Nice gossip it would make!  That little fool has gone to
the Cove to see her--her father.  I know she has.  It's just like
what she would do.  He sent her those presents--look--and this
letter.  Read it.  She has gone to coax him to come and see her
married.  She was crazy about it.  And the minister is here and
it is half-past seven.  She'll ruin her dress and shoes in the
dust and dew.  And what if some one has seen her!  Was there ever
such a little fool?"

Frank's presence of mind had returned to him.  He knew all about
Rachel and her father.  She had told him everything.

"I'll go after her," he said gently.  "Get me my hat and coat.
I'll slip down the back stairs and over to the Cove."

"You must get out of the pantry window, then," said Mrs. Spencer
firmly, mingling comedy and tragedy after her characteristic
fashion.  "The kitchen is full of women.  I won't have this known
and talked about if it can possibly be helped."

The bridegroom, wise beyond his years in the knowledge that it
was well to yield to women in little things, crawled obediently
out of the pantry window and darted through the birch wood.  Mrs.
Spencer had stood quakingly on guard until he had disappeared.

So Rachel had gone to her father!  Like had broken the fetters of
years and fled to like.

"It isn't much use fighting against nature, I guess," she thought
grimly.  "I'm beat.  He must have thought something of her, after
all, when he sent her that teapot and letter.  And what does he
mean about the 'day they had such a good time'?  Well, it just
means that she's been to see him before, sometime, I suppose, and
kept me in ignorance of it all."

Mrs. Spencer shut down the pantry window with a vicious thud.

"If only she'll come quietly back with Frank in time to prevent
gossip I'll forgive her," she said, as she turned to the kitchen.

Rachel was sitting on her father's knee, with both her white arms
around his neck, when Frank came in.  She sprang up, her face
flushed and appealing, her eyes bright and dewy with tears.
Frank thought he had never seen her look so lovely.

"Oh, Frank, is it very late?  Oh, are you angry?" she exclaimed
timidly.

"No, no, dear.  Of course I'm not angry.  But don't you think
you'd better come back now?  It's nearly eight and everybody is
waiting."

"I've been trying to coax father to come up and see me married,"
said Rachel.  "Help me, Frank."

"You'd better come, sir," said Frank, heartily, "I'd like it as
much as Rachel would."

David Spencer shook his head stubbornly.

"No, I can't go to that house.  I was locked out of it.  Never
mind me.  I've had my happiness in this half hour with my little
girl.  I'd like to see her married, but it isn't to be."

"Yes, it is to be--it shall be," said Rachel resolutely.  "You
SHALL see me married.  Frank, I'm going to be married here in my
father's house!  That is the right place for a girl to be
married.  Go back and tell the guests so, and bring them all
down."

Frank looked rather dismayed.  David Spencer said deprecatingly:
"Little girl, don't you think it would be--"

"I'm going to have my own way in this," said Rachel, with a sort
of tender finality.  "Go, Frank.  I'll obey you all my life
after, but you must do this for me.  Try to understand," she
added beseechingly.

"Oh, I understand," Frank reassured her.  "Besides, I think you
are right.  But I was thinking of your mother.  She won't come."

"Then you tell her that if she doesn't come I shan't be married
at all," said Rachel.  She was betraying unsuspected ability to
manage people.  She knew that ultimatum would urge Frank to his
best endeavors.

Frank, much to Mrs. Spencer's dismay, marched boldly in at the
front door upon his return.  She pounced on him and whisked him
out of sight into the supper room.

"Where's Rachel?  What made you come that way?  Everybody saw
you!"

"It makes no difference.  They will all have to know, anyway.
Rachel says she is going to be married from her father's house,
or not at all.  I've come back to tell you so."

Isabella's face turned crimson.

"Rachel has gone crazy.  I wash my hands of this affair.  Do as
you please.  Take the guests--the supper, too, if you can carry
it."

"We'll all come back here for supper," said Frank, ignoring the
sarcasm.  "Come, Mrs. Spencer, let's make the best of it."

"Do you suppose that _I_ am going to David Spencer's house?" said
Isabella Spencer violently.

"Oh you MUST come, Mrs. Spencer," cried poor Frank desperately.
He began to fear that he would lose his bride past all finding in
this maze of triple stubbornness.  "Rachel says she won't be
married at all if you don't go, too.  Think what a talk it will
make.  You know she will keep her word."

Isabella Spencer knew it.  Amid all the conflict of anger and
revolt in her soul was a strong desire not to make a worse
scandal than must of necessity be made.  The desire subdued and
tamed her, as nothing else could have done.

"I will go, since I have to," she said icily.  "What can't be
cured must be endured.  Go and tell them."

Five minutes later the sixty wedding guests were all walking over
the fields to the Cove, with the minister and the bridegroom in
the front of the procession.  They were too amazed even to talk
about the strange happening.  Isabella Spencer walked behind,
fiercely alone.

They all crowded into the little room of the house at the Cove,
and a solemn hush fell over it, broken only by the purr of the
sea-wind around it and the croon of the waves on the shore.
David Spencer gave his daughter away; but, when the ceremony was
concluded, Isabella was the first to take the girl in her arms.
She clasped her and kissed her, with tears streaming down her
pale face, all her nature melted in a mother's tenderness.

"Rachel!  Rachel!  My child, I hope and pray that you may be
happy," she said brokenly.

In the surge of the suddenly merry crowd of well-wishers around
the bride and groom, Isabella was pushed back into a shadowy
corner behind a heap of sails and ropes.  Looking up, she found
herself crushed against David Spencer.  For the first time in
twenty years the eyes of husband and wife met.  A strange thrill
shot to Isabella's heart; she felt herself trembling.

"Isabella."  It was David's voice in her ear--a voice full of
tenderness and pleading--the voice of the young wooer of her
girlhood--"Is it too late to ask you to forgive me?  I've been a
stubborn fool--but there hasn't been an hour in all these years
that I haven't thought about you and our baby and longed for
you."

Isabella Spencer had hated this man; yet her hate had been but a
parasite growth on a nobler stem, with no abiding roots of its
own.  It withered under his words, and lo, there was the old
love, fair and strong and beautiful as ever.

"Oh--David--I--was--all--to--blame," she murmured
brokenly.

Further words were lost on her husband's lips.

When the hubbub of handshaking and congratulating had subsided,
Isabella Spencer stepped out before the company.  She looked
almost girlish and bridal herself, with her flushed cheeks and
bright eyes.

"Let's go back now and have supper, and be sensible," she said
crisply.  "Rachel, your father is coming, too.  He is coming to
STAY,"--with a defiant glance around the circle.  "Come,
everybody."

They went back with laughter and raillery over the quiet autumn
fields, faintly silvered now by the moon that was rising over the
hills.  The young bride and groom lagged behind; they were very
happy, but they were not so happy, after all, as the old bride
and groom who walked swiftly in front.  Isabella's hand was in
her husband's and sometimes she could not see the moonlit hills
for a mist of glorified tears.

"David," she whispered, as he helped her over the fence, "how can
you ever forgive me?"

"There's nothing to forgive," he said.  "We're only just married.
Who ever heard of a bridegroom talking of forgiveness?
Everything is beginning over new for us, my girl."



IV. JANE'S BABY

Miss Rosetta Ellis, with her front hair in curl-papers, and her
back hair bound with a checked apron, was out in her breezy side
yard under the firs, shaking her parlor rugs, when Mr. Nathan
Patterson drove in.  Miss Rosetta had seen him coming down the
long red hill, but she had not supposed he would be calling at
that time of the morning.  So she had not run.  Miss Rosetta
always ran if anybody called and her front hair was in
curl-papers; and, though the errand of the said caller might be
life or death, he or she had to wait until Miss Rosetta had taken
her hair out.  Everybody in Avonlea knew this, because everybody
in Avonlea knew everything about everybody else.

But Mr. Patterson had wheeled into the lane so quickly and
unexpectedly that Miss Rosetta had had no time to run; so,
twitching off the checked apron, she stood her ground as calmly
as might be under the disagreeable consciousness of curl-papers.

"Good morning, Miss Ellis," said Mr. Patterson, so somberly that
Miss Rosetta instantly felt that he was the bearer of bad news.
Usually Mr. Patterson's face was as broad and beaming as a
harvest moon.  Now his expression was very melancholy and his
voice positively sepulchral.

"Good morning," returned Miss Rosetta, crisply and cheerfully.
She, at any rate, would not go into eclipse until she knew the
reason therefor.  "It is a fine day."

"A very fine day," assented Mr. Patterson, solemnly.  "I have
just come from the Wheeler place, Miss Ellis, and I regret to
say--"

"Charlotte is sick!" cried Miss Rosetta, rapidly.  "Charlotte has
got another spell with her heart!  I knew it!  I've been
expecting to hear it!  Any woman that drives about the country as
much as she does is liable to heart disease at any moment.  _I_
never go outside of my gate but I meet her gadding off somewhere.
Goodness knows who looks after her place.  I shouldn't like to
trust as much to a hired man as she does.  Well, it is very kind
of you, Mr. Patterson, to put yourself out to the extent of
calling to tell me that Charlotte is sick, but I don't really see
why you should take so much trouble--I really don't.  It doesn't
matter to me whether Charlotte is sick or whether she isn't.  YOU
know that perfectly well, Mr. Patterson, if anybody does.  When
Charlotte went and got married, on the sly, to that good-for-nothing
Jacob Wheeler--"

"Mrs. Wheeler is quite well," interrupted Mr. Patterson
desperately.  "Quite well.  Nothing at all the matter with her,
in fact.  I only--"

"Then what do you mean by coming here and telling me she wasn't,
and frightening me half to death?" demanded Miss Rosetta,
indignantly.  "My own heart isn't very strong--it runs in our
family--and my doctor warned me to avoid all shocks and
excitement.  I don't want to be excited, Mr. Patterson.  I won't
be excited, not even if Charlotte has another spell.  It's
perfectly useless for you to try to excite me, Mr. Patterson."

"Bless the woman, I'm not trying to excite anybody!" declared Mr.
Patterson in exasperation.  "I merely called to tell you--"

"To tell me WHAT?" said Miss Rosetta.  "How much longer do you
mean to keep me in suspense, Mr. Patterson.  No doubt you have
abundance of spare time, but--I--have NOT."

"--that your sister, Mrs. Wheeler, has had a letter from a cousin
of yours, and she's in Charlottetown.  Mrs. Roberts, I think her
name is--"

"Jane Roberts," broke in Miss Rosetta.  "Jane Ellis she was,
before she was married.  What was she writing to Charlotte about?
Not that I want to know, of course.  I'm not interested in
Charlotte's correspondence, goodness knows.  But if Jane had
anything in particular to write about she should have written to
ME.  I am the oldest.  Charlotte had no business to get a letter
from Jane Roberts without consulting me.  It's just like her
underhanded ways.  She got married the same way.  Never said a
word to me about it, but just sneaked off with that unprincipled
Jacob Wheeler--"

"Mrs. Roberts is very ill. I understand," persisted Mr.
Patterson, nobly resolved to do what he had come to do, "dying,
in fact, and--"

"Jane ill!  Jane dying!" exclaimed Miss Rosetta.  "Why, she was
the healthiest girl I ever knew!  But then I've never seen her,
nor heard from her, since she got married fifteen years ago.  I
dare say her husband was a brute and neglected her, and she's
pined away by slow degrees.  I've no faith in husbands.  Look at
Charlotte!  Everybody knows how Jacob Wheeler used her.  To be
sure, she deserved it, but--"

"Mrs. Roberts' husband is dead," said Mr. Patterson.  "Died about
two months ago, I understand, and she has a little baby six
months old, and she thought perhaps Mrs. Wheeler would take it
for old times' sake--"

"Did Charlotte ask you to call and tell me this?" demanded Miss
Rosetta eagerly.

"No; she just told me what was in the letter.  She didn't mention
you; but I thought, perhaps, you ought to be told--"

"I knew it," said Miss Rosetta in a tone of bitter assurance.  "I
could have told you so.  Charlotte wouldn't even let me know that
Jane was ill.  Charlotte would be afraid I would want to get the
baby, seeing that Jane and I were such intimate friends long ago.
And who has a better right to it than me, I should like to know?
Ain't I the oldest?  And haven't I had experience in bringing up
babies?  Charlotte needn't think she is going to run the affairs
of our family just because she happened to get married.  Jacob
Wheeler--"

"I must be going," said Mr. Patterson, gathering up his reins
thankfully.

"I am much obliged to you for coming to tell me about Jane," said
Miss Rosetta, "even though you have wasted a lot of precious time
getting it out.  If it hadn't been for you I suppose I should
never have known it at all.  As it is, I shall start for town
just as soon as I can get ready."

"You'll have to hurry if you want to get ahead of Mrs. Wheeler,"
advised Mr. Patterson.  "She's packing her trunk and going on
the morning train."

"I'll pack a valise and go on the afternoon train," retorted Miss
Rosetta triumphantly.  "I'll show Charlotte she isn't running the
Ellis affairs.  She married out of them into the Wheelers.  She
can attend to them.  Jacob Wheeler was the most--"

But Mr. Patterson had driven away.  He felt that he had done his
duty in the face of fearful odds, and he did not want to hear
anything more about Jacob Wheeler.

Rosetta Ellis and Charlotte Wheeler had not exchanged a word for
ten years.  Before that time they had been devoted to each other,
living together in the little Ellis cottage on the White Sands
road, as they had done ever since their parents' death.  The
trouble began when Jacob Wheeler had commenced to pay attention
to Charlotte, the younger and prettier of two women who had both
ceased to be either very young or very pretty.  Rosetta had been
bitterly opposed to the match from the first.  She vowed she had
no use for Jacob Wheeler.  There were not lacking malicious
people to hint that this was because the aforesaid Jacob Wheeler
had selected the wrong sister upon whom to bestow his affections.
Be that as it might, Miss Rosetta certainly continued to render
the course of Jacob Wheeler's true love exceedingly rough and
tumultuous.  The end of it was that Charlotte had gone quietly
away one morning and married Jacob Wheeler without Miss Rosetta's
knowing anything about it.  Miss Rosetta had never forgiven her
for it, and Charlotte had never forgiven the things Rosetta had
said to her when she and Jacob returned to the Ellis cottage.
Since then the sisters had been avowed and open foes, the only
difference being that Miss Rosetta aired her grievances publicly,
in season and out of season, while Charlotte was never heard to
mention Rosetta's name.  Even the death of Jacob Wheeler, five
years after the marriage, had not healed the breach.

Miss Rosetta took out her curl-papers, packed her valise, and
caught the late afternoon train for Charlottetown, as she had
threatened.  All the way there she sat rigidly upright in her
seat and held imaginary dialogues with Charlotte in her mind,
running something like this on her part:--

"No, Charlotte Wheeler, you are not going to have Jane's baby,
and you're very much mistaken if you think so.  Oh, all
right--we'll see!  You don't know anything about babies, even if
you are married.  I do.  Didn't I take William Ellis's baby, when
his wife died?  Tell me that, Charlotte Wheeler!  And didn't the
little thing thrive with me, and grow strong and healthy?  Yes,
even you have to admit that it did, Charlotte Wheeler.  And yet
you have the presumption to think that you ought to have Jane's
baby!  Yes, it is presumption, Charlotte Wheeler.  And when
William Ellis got married again, and took the baby, didn't the
child cling to me and cry as if I was its real mother?  You know
it did, Charlotte Wheeler.  I'm going to get and keep Jane's baby
in spite of you, Charlotte Wheeler, and I'd like to see you try
to prevent me--you that went and got married and never so much as
let your own sister know of it!  If I had got married in such a
fashion, Charlotte Wheeler, I'd be ashamed to look anybody in the
face for the rest of my natural life!"

Miss Rosetta was so interested in thus laying down the law to
Charlotte, and in planning out the future life of Jane's baby,
that she didn't find the journey to Charlottetown so long or
tedious as might have been expected, considering her haste.  She
soon found her way to the house where her cousin lived.  There,
to her dismay and real sorrow, she learned that Mrs. Roberts had
died at four o'clock that afternoon.

"She seemed dreadful anxious to live until she heard from some of
her folks out in Avonlea," said the woman who gave Miss Rosetta
the information.  "She had written to them about her little girl.
She was my sister-in-law, and she lived with me ever since her
husband died.  I've done my best for her; but I've a big family
of my own and I can't see how I'm to keep the child.  Poor Jane
looked and longed for some one to come from Avonlea, but she
couldn't hold out.  A patient, suffering creature she was!"

"I'm her cousin," said Miss Rosetta, wiping her eyes, "and I have
come for the baby.  I'll take it home with me after the funeral;
and, if you please, Mrs. Gordon, let me see it right away, so it
can get accustomed to me.  Poor Jane!  I wish I could have got
here in time to see her, she and I were such friends long ago.
We were far more intimate and confidential than ever her and
Charlotte was.  Charlotte knows that, too!"

The vim with which Miss Rosetta snapped this out rather amazed
Mrs. Gordon, who couldn't understand it at all.  But she took
Miss Rosetta upstairs to the room where the baby was sleeping.

"Oh, the little darling," cried Miss Rosetta, all her old
maidishness and oddity falling away from her like a garment, and
all her innate and denied motherhood shining out in her face like
a transforming illumination.  "Oh, the sweet, dear, pretty little
thing!"

The baby was a darling--a six-months' old beauty with little
golden ringlets curling and glistening all over its tiny head.
As Miss Rosetta hung over it, it opened its eyes and then held
out its tiny hands to her with a gurgle of confidence.

"Oh, you sweetest!" said Miss Rosetta rapturously, gathering it
up in her arms.  "You belong to me, darling--never, never, to
that under-handed Charlotte!  What is its name, Mrs. Gordon?"

"It wasn't named," said Mrs. Gordon.  "Guess you'll have to name
it yourself, Miss Ellis."

"Camilla Jane," said Miss Rosetta without a moment's hesitation.
"Jane after its mother, of course; and I have always thought
Camilla the prettiest name in the world.  Charlotte would be sure
to give it some perfectly heathenish name.  I wouldn't put it
past her calling the poor innocent Mehitable."

Miss Rosetta decided to stay in Charlottetown until after the
funeral.  That night she lay with the baby on her arm, listening
with joy to its soft little breathing.  She did not sleep or wish
to sleep.  Her waking fancies were more alluring than any visions
of dreamland.  Moreover, she gave a spice to them by occasionally
snapping some vicious sentences out loud at Charlotte.

Miss Rosetta fully expected Charlotte along on the following
morning and girded herself for the fray; but no Charlotte
appeared.  Night came; no Charlotte.  Another morning and no
Charlotte.  Miss Rosetta was hopelessly puzzled.  What had
happened?  Dear, dear, had Charlotte taken a bad heart spell, on
hearing that she, Rosetta, had stolen a march on her to
Charlottetown?  It was quite likely.  You never knew what to
expect of a woman who had married Jacob Wheeler!

The truth was, that the very evening Miss Rosetta had left
Avonlea Mrs. Jacob Wheeler's hired man had broken his leg and
had had to be conveyed to his distant home on a feather bed in an
express wagon.  Mrs. Wheeler could not leave home until she had
obtained another hired man.  Consequently, it was the evening
after the funeral when Mrs. Wheeler whisked up the steps of the
Gordon house and met Miss Rosetta coming out with a big white
bundle in her arms.

The eyes of the two women met defiantly.  Miss Rosetta's face
wore an air of triumph, chastened by a remembrance of the funeral
that afternoon.  Mrs. Wheeler's face, except for eyes, was as
expressionless as it usually was.  Unlike the tall, fair, fat
Miss Rosetta, Mrs. Wheeler was small and dark and thin, with an
eager, careworn face.

"How is Jane?" she said abruptly, breaking the silence of ten
years in saying it.

"Jane is dead and buried, poor thing," said Miss Rosetta calmly.
"I am taking her baby, little Camilla Jane, home with me."

"The baby belongs to me," cried Mrs. Wheeler passionately.  "Jane
wrote to me about her.  Jane meant that I should have her.  I've
come for her."

"You'll go back without her then," said Miss Rosetta, serene in
the possession that is nine points of the law.  "The child is
mine, and she is going to stay mine.  You can make up your mind
to that, Charlotte Wheeler.  A woman who eloped to get married
isn't fit to be trusted with a baby, anyhow.  Jacob Wheeler--"

But Mrs. Wheeler had rushed past into the house.  Miss Rosetta
composedly stepped into the cab and drove to the station.  She
fairly bridled with triumph; and underneath the triumph ran a
queer undercurrent of satisfaction over the fact that Charlotte
had spoken to her at last.  Miss Rosetta would not look at this
satisfaction, or give it a name, but it was there.

Miss Rosetta arrived safely back in Avonlea with Camilla Jane and
within ten hours everybody in the settlement knew the whole
story, and every woman who could stand on her feet had been up to
the Ellis cottage to see the baby.  Mrs. Wheeler arrived home
twenty-four hours later, and silently betook herself to her farm.
When her Avonlea neighbors sympathized with her in her
disappointment, she said nothing, but looked all the more darkly
determined.  Also, a week later, Mr. William J. Blair, the
Carmody storekeeper, had an odd tale to tell.  Mrs. Wheeler had
come to the store and bought a lot of fine flannel and muslin and
valenciennes.  Now, what in the name of time, did Mrs. Wheeler
want with such stuff?  Mr. William J. Blair couldn't make head or
tail of it, and it worried him.  Mr. Blair was so accustomed to
know what everybody bought anything for that such a mystery quite
upset him.


Miss Rosetta had exulted in the possession of little Camilla Jane
for a month, and had been so happy that she had almost given up
inveighing against Charlotte.  Her conversations, instead of
tending always to Jacob Wheeler, now ran Camilla Janeward; and
this, folks thought, was an improvement.

One afternoon, Miss Rosetta, leaving Camilla Jane snugly sleeping
in her cradle in the kitchen, had slipped down to the bottom of
the garden to pick her currants.  The house was hidden from her
sight by the copse of cherry trees, but she had left the kitchen
window open, so that she could hear the baby if it awakened and
cried.  Miss Rosetta sang happily as she picked her currants.
For the first time since Charlotte had married Jacob Wheeler Miss
Rosetta felt really happy--so happy that at there was no room in
her heart for bitterness.  In fancy she looked forward to the
coming years, and saw Camilla Jane growing up into girlhood, fair
and lovable.

"She'll be a beauty," reflected Miss Rosetta complacently.  "Jane
was a handsome girl.  She shall always be dressed as nice as I
can manage it, and I'll get her an organ, and have her take
painting and music lessons.  Parties, too!  I'll give her a real
coming-out party when she's eighteen and the very prettiest dress
that's to be had.  Dear me, I can hardly wait for her to grow up,
though she's sweet enough now to make one wish she could stay a
baby forever."

When Miss Rosetta returned to the kitchen, her eyes fell on an
empty cradle.  Camilla Jane was gone!

Miss Rosetta promptly screamed.  She understood at a glance what
had happened.  Six months' old babies do not get out of their
cradles and disappear through closed doors without any
assistance.

"Charlotte has been here," gasped Miss Rosetta.  "Charlotte has
stolen Camilla Jane!  I might have expected it.  I might have
known when I heard that story about her buying muslin and
flannel.  It's just like Charlotte to do such an underhand trick.
But I'll go after her!  I'll show her!  She'll find out she has
got Rosetta Ellis to deal with and no Wheeler!"

Like a frantic creature and wholly forgetting that her hair was
in curl-papers, Miss Rosetta hurried up the hill and down the
shore road to the Wheeler Farm--a place she had never visited in
her life before.

The wind was off-shore and only broke the bay's surface into long
silvery ripples, and sent sheeny shadows flying out across it
from every point and headland, like transparent wings.

The little gray house, so close to the purring waves that in
storms their spray splashed over its very doorstep, seemed
deserted.  Miss Rosetta pounded lustily on the front door.  This
producing no result, she marched around to the back door and
knocked.  No answer.  Miss Rosetta tried the door.  It was
locked.

"Guilty conscience," sniffed Miss Rosetta.  "Well, I shall stay
here until I see that perfidious Charlotte, if I have to camp in
the yard all night."

Miss Rosetta was quite capable of doing this, but she was spared
the necessity; walking boldly up to the kitchen window, and
peering through it, she felt her heart swell with anger as she
beheld Charlotte sitting calmly by the table with Camilla Jane on
her knee.  Beside her was a befrilled and bemuslined cradle, and
on a chair lay the garments in which Miss Rosetta had dressed the
baby.  It was clad in an entirely new outfit, and seemed quite at
home with its new possessor.  It was laughing and cooing, and
making little dabs at her with its dimpled hands.

"Charlotte Wheeler," cried Miss Rosetta, rapping sharply on the
window-pane.  "I've come for that child!  Bring her out to me at
once--at once, I say!  How dare you come to my house and steal a
baby?  You're no better than a common burglar.  Give me Camilla
Jane, I say!"

Charlotte came over to the window with the baby in her arms and
triumph glittering in her eyes.

"There is no such child as Camilla Jane here," she said.  "This
is Barbara Jane.  She belongs to me."

With that Mrs. Wheeler pulled down the shade.

Miss Rosetta had to go home.  There was nothing else for her to
do.  On her way she met Mr. Patterson and told him in full the
story of her wrongs.  It was all over Avonlea by night, and
created quite a sensation.  Avonlea had not had such a toothsome
bit of gossip for a long time.

Mrs. Wheeler exulted in the possession of Barbara Jane for six
weeks, during which Miss Rosetta broke her heart with loneliness
and longing, and meditated futile plots for the recovery of the
baby.  It was hopeless to think of stealing it back or she would
have tried to.  The hired man at the Wheeler place reported that
Mrs. Wheeler never left it night or day for a single moment.  She
even carried it with her when she went to milk the cows.

"But my turn will come," said Miss Rosetta grimly.  "Camilla Jane
is mine, and if she was called Barbara for a century it wouldn't
alter that fact!  Barbara, indeed!  Why not have called her
Methusaleh and have done with it?"

One afternoon in October, when Miss Rosetta was picking her
apples and thinking drearily about lost Camilla Jane, a woman
came running breathlessly down the hill and into the yard.  Miss
Rosetta gave an exclamation of amazement and dropped her basket
of apples.  Of all incredible things!  The woman was Charlotte--
Charlotte who had never set foot on the grounds of the Ellis
cottage since her marriage ten years ago, Charlotte, bare-headed,
wild-eyed, distraught, wringing her hands and sobbing.

Miss Rosetta flew to meet her.

"You've scalded Camilla Jane to death!" she exclaimed.  "I always
knew you would--always expected it!"

"Oh, for heaven's sake, come quick, Rosetta!" gasped Charlotte.
"Barbara Jane is in convulsions and I don't know what to do.  The
hired man has gone for the doctor.  You were the nearest, so I
came to you.  Jenny White was there when they came on, so I left
her and ran.  Oh, Rosetta, come, come, if you have a spark of
humanity in you!  You know what to do for convulsions--you
saved the Ellis baby when it had them.  Oh, come and save Barbara
Jane!"

"You mean Camilla Jane, I presume?" said Miss Rosetta firmly, in
spite of her agitation.

For a second Charlotte Wheeler hesitated.  Then she said
passionately: "Yes, yes, Camilla Jane--any name you like!  Only
come."

Miss Rosetta went, and not a moment too soon, either.  The doctor
lived eight miles away and the baby was very bad.  The two women
and Jenny White worked over her for hours.  It was not until
dark, when the baby was sleeping soundly and the doctor had gone,
after telling Miss Rosetta that she had saved the child's life,
that a realization of the situation came home to them.

"Well," said Miss Rosetta, dropping into an armchair with a long
sigh of weariness, "I guess you'll admit now, Charlotte Wheeler,
that you are hardly a fit person to have charge of a baby, even
if you had to go and steal it from me.  I should think your
conscience would reproach you--that is, if any woman who would
marry Jacob Wheeler in such an underhanded fashion has a--"

"I--I wanted the baby," sobbed Charlotte, tremulously.  "I was so
lonely here.  I didn't think it was any harm to take her, because
Jane gave her to me in her letter.  But you have saved her life,
Rosetta, and you--you can have her back, although it will break
my heart to give her up.  But, oh, Rosetta, won't you let me come
and see her sometimes?  I love her so I can't bear to give her up
entirely."

"Charlotte," said Miss Rosetta firmly, "the most sensible thing
for you to do is just to come back with the baby.  You are
worried to death trying to run this farm with the debt Jacob
Wheeler left on it for you.  Sell it, and come home with me.  And
we'll both have the baby then."

"Oh, Rosetta, I'd love to," faltered Charlotte.  "I've--I've
wanted to be good friends with you again so much.  But I thought
you were so hard and bitter you'd never make up."

"Maybe I've talked too much," conceded Miss Rosetta, "but you
ought to know me well enough to know I didn't mean a word of it.
It was your never saying anything, no matter what I said, that
riled me up so bad.  Let bygones be bygones, and come home,
Charlotte."

"I will," said Charlotte resolutely, wiping away her tears.  "I'm
sick of living here and putting up with hired men.  I'll be real
glad to go home, Rosetta, and that's the truth.  I've had a hard
enough time.  I s'pose you'll say I deserved it; but I was fond
of Jacob, and--"

"Of course, of course.  Why shouldn't you be?" said Miss Rosetta
briskly.  "I'm sure Jacob Wheeler was a good enough soul, if he
was a little slack-twisted.  I'd like to hear anybody say a word
against him in my presence.  Look at that blessed child,
Charlotte.  Isn't she the sweetest thing?  I'm desperate glad you
are coming back home, Charlotte.  I've never been able to put up
a decent mess of mustard pickles since you went away, and you
were always such a hand with them!  We'll be real snug and cozy
again--you and me and little Camilla Barbara Jane."



V. THE DREAM-CHILD

A man's heart--aye, and a woman's, too--should be light in the
spring.  The spirit of resurrection is abroad, calling the life
of the world out of its wintry grave, knocking with radiant
fingers at the gates of its tomb.  It stirs in human hearts, and
makes them glad with the old primal gladness they felt in
childhood.  It quickens human souls, and brings them, if so they
will, so close to God that they may clasp hands with Him.  It is
a time of wonder and renewed life, and a great outward and inward
rapture, as of a young angel softly clapping his hands for
creation's joy.  At least, so it should be; and so it always had
been with me until the spring when the dream-child first came
into our lives.

That year I hated the spring--I, who had always loved it so.  As
boy I had loved it, and as man.  All the happiness that had ever
been mine, and it was much, had come to blossom in the
springtime.  It was in the spring that Josephine and I had first
loved each other, or, at least, had first come into the full
knowledge that we loved.  I think that we must have loved each
other all our lives, and that each succeeding spring was a word
in the revelation of that love, not to be understood until, in
the fullness of time, the whole sentence was written out in that
most beautiful of all beautiful springs.

How beautiful it was!  And how beautiful she was!  I suppose
every lover thinks that of his lass; otherwise he is a poor sort
of lover.  But it was not only my eyes of love that made my dear
lovely. She was slim and lithe as a young, white-stemmed birch
tree; her hair was like a soft, dusky cloud; and her eyes were as
blue as Avonlea harbor on a fair twilight, when all the sky is
abloom over it.  She had dark lashes, and a little red mouth that
quivered when she was very sad or very happy, or when she loved
very much--quivered like a crimson rose too rudely shaken by
the wind.  At such times what was a man to do save kiss it?

The next spring we were married, and I brought her home to my
gray old homestead on the gray old harbor shore.  A lonely place
for a young bride, said Avonlea people.  Nay, it was not so.  She
was happy here, even in my absences.  She loved the great,
restless harbor and the vast, misty sea beyond; she loved the
tides, keeping their world-old tryst with the shore, and the
gulls, and the croon of the waves, and the call of the winds in
the fir woods at noon and even; she loved the moonrises and the
sunsets, and the clear, calm nights when the stars seemed to have
fallen into the water and to be a little dizzy from such a fall.
She loved these things, even as I did.  No, she was never lonely
here then.

The third spring came, and our boy was born.  We thought we had
been happy before; now we knew that we had only dreamed a
pleasant dream of happiness, and had awakened to this exquisite
reality.  We thought we had loved each other before; now, as I
looked into my wife's pale face, blanched with its baptism of
pain, and met the uplifted gaze of her blue eyes, aglow with the
holy passion of motherhood, I knew we had only imagined what love
might be.  The imagination had been sweet, as the thought of the
rose is sweet before the bud is open; but as the rose to the
thought, so was love to the imagination of it.

"All my thoughts are poetry since baby came," my wife said once,
rapturously.

Our boy lived for twenty months.  He was a sturdy, toddling
rogue, so full of life and laughter and mischief that, when he
died, one day, after the illness of an hour, it seemed a most
absurd thing that he should be dead--a thing I could have
laughed at, until belief forced itself into my soul like a
burning, searing iron.

I think I grieved over my little son's death as deeply and
sincerely as ever man did, or could.  But the heart of the father
is not as the heart of the mother.  Time brought no healing to
Josephine; she fretted and pined; her cheeks lost their pretty
oval, and her red mouth grew pale and drooping.

I hoped that spring might work its miracle upon her.  When the
buds swelled, and the old earth grew green in the sun, and the
gulls came back to the gray harbor, whose very grayness grew
golden and mellow, I thought I should see her smile again.  But,
when the spring came, came the dream-child, and the fear that was
to be my companion, at bed and board, from sunsetting to
sunsetting.

One night I awakened from sleep, realizing in the moment of
awakening that I was alone.  I listened to hear whether my wife
were moving about the house.  I heard nothing but the little
splash of waves on the shore below and the low moan of the
distant ocean.

I rose and searched the house.  She was not in it.  I did not
know where to seek her; but, at a venture, I started along the
shore.

It was pale, fainting moonlight.  The harbor looked like a
phantom harbor, and the night was as still and cold and calm as
the face of a dead man.  At last I saw my wife coming to me along
the shore.  When I saw her, I knew what I had feared and how
great my fear had been.

As she drew near, I saw that she had been crying; her face was
stained with tears, and her dark hair hung loose over her
shoulders in little, glossy ringlets like a child's.  She seemed
to be very tired, and at intervals she wrung her small hands
together.

She showed no surprise when she met me, but only held out her
hands to me as if glad to see me.

"I followed him--but I could not overtake him," she said with a
sob.  "I did my best--I hurried so; but he was always a little
way ahead.  And then I lost him--and so I came back.  But I did
my best--indeed I did.  And oh, I am so tired!"

"Josie, dearest, what do you mean, and where have you been?" I
said, drawing her close to me.  "Why did you go out so--alone in
the night?"

She looked at me wonderingly.

"How could I help it, David?  He called me.  I had to go."

"WHO called you?"

"The child," she answered in a whisper.  "Our child, David--our
pretty boy.  I awakened in the darkness and heard him calling to
me down on the shore.  Such a sad, little wailing cry, David, as
if he were cold and lonely and wanted his mother.  I hurried out
to him, but I could not find him.  I could only hear the call,
and I followed it on and on, far down the shore.  Oh, I tried so
hard to overtake it, but I could not.  Once I saw a little white
hand beckoning to me far ahead in the moonlight.  But still I
could not go fast enough.  And then the cry ceased, and I was
there all alone on that terrible, cold, gray shore.  I was so
tired and I came home.  But I wish I could have found him.
Perhaps he does not know that I tried to.  Perhaps he thinks his
mother never listened to his call.  Oh, I would not have him
think that."

"You have had a bad dream, dear," I said.  I tried to say it
naturally; but it is hard for a man to speak naturally when he
feels a mortal dread striking into his very vitals with its
deadly chill.

"It was no dream," she answered reproachfully.  "I tell you I
heard him calling me--me, his mother.  What could I do but go to
him?  You cannot understand--you are only his father.  It was not
you who gave him birth.  It was not you who paid the price of his
dear life in pain.  He would not call to you--he wanted his
mother."

I got her back to the house and to her bed, whither she went
obediently enough, and soon fell into the sleep of exhaustion.
But there was no more sleep for me that night.  I kept a grim
vigil with dread.

When I had married Josephine, one of those officious relatives
that are apt to buzz about a man's marriage told me that her
grandmother had been insane all the latter part of her life.  She
had grieved over the death of a favorite child until she lost her
mind, and, as the first indication of it, she had sought by
nights a white dream-child which always called her, so she said,
and led her afar with a little, pale, beckoning hand.

I had smiled at the story then.  What had that grim old bygone to
do with springtime and love and Josephine?  But it came back to
me now, hand in hand with my fear.  Was this fate coming on my
dear wife?  It was too horrible for belief.  She was so young, so
fair, so sweet, this girl-wife of mine.  It had been only a bad
dream, with a frightened, bewildered waking.  So I tried to
comfort myself.

When she awakened in the morning she did not speak of what had
happened and I did not dare to.  She seemed more cheerful that
day than she had been, and went about her household duties
briskly and skillfully.  My fear lifted.  I was sure now that she
had only dreamed.  And I was confirmed in my hopeful belief when
two nights had passed away uneventfully.

Then, on the third night, he dream-child called to her again.  I
wakened from a troubled doze to find her dressing herself with
feverish haste.

"He is calling me," she cried.  "Oh, don't you hear him?  Can't
you hear him?  Listen--listen--the little, lonely cry!  Yes, yes,
my precious, mother is coming.  Wait for me.  Mother is coming to
her pretty boy!"

I caught her hand and let her lead me where she would.  Hand in
hand we followed the dream-child down the harbor shore in that
ghostly, clouded moonlight.  Ever, she said, the little cry
sounded before her.  She entreated the dream-child to wait for
her; she cried and implored and uttered tender mother-talk.  But,
at last, she ceased to hear the cry; and then, weeping, wearied,
she let me lead her home again.

What a horror brooded over that spring--that so beautiful spring!
It was a time of wonder and marvel; of the soft touch of silver
rain on greening fields; of the incredible delicacy of young
leaves; of blossom on the land and blossom in the sunset.  The
whole world bloomed in a flush and tremor of maiden loveliness,
instinct with all the evasive, fleeting charm of spring and
girlhood and young morning.  And almost every night of this
wonderful time the dream-child called his mother, and we roved
the gray shore in quest of him.

In the day she was herself; but, when the night fell, she was
restless and uneasy until she heard the call.  Then follow it she
would, even through storm and darkness.  It was then, she said,
that the cry sounded loudest and nearest, as if her pretty boy
were frightened by the tempest.  What wild, terrible rovings we
had, she straining forward, eager to overtake the dream-child; I,
sick at heart, following, guiding, protecting, as best I could;
then afterwards leading her gently home, heart-broken because she
could not reach the child.

I bore my burden in secret, determining that gossip should not
busy itself with my wife's condition so long as I could keep it
from becoming known.  We had no near relatives--none with any
right to share any trouble--and whoso accepteth human love must
bind it to his soul with pain.

I thought, however, that I should have medical advice, and I took
our old doctor into my confidence.  He looked grave when he heard
my story.  I did not like his expression nor his few guarded
remarks.  He said he thought human aid would avail little; she
might come all right in time; humor her, as far as possible,
watch over her, protect her.  He needed not to tell me THAT.

The spring went out and summer came in--and the horror deepened
and darkened.  I knew that suspicions were being whispered from
lip to lip.  We had been seen on our nightly quests.  Men and
women began to look at us pityingly when we went abroad.

One day, on a dull, drowsy afternoon, the dream-child called.  I
knew then that the end was near; the end had been near in the old
grandmother's case sixty years before when the dream-child called
in the day.  The doctor looked graver than ever when I told him,
and said that the time had come when I must have help in my task.
I could not watch by day and night.  Unless I had assistance I
would break down.

I did not think that I should.  Love is stronger than that.  And
on one thing I was determined--they should never take my wife
from me.  No restraint sterner than a husband's loving hand
should ever be put upon her, my pretty, piteous darling.

I never spoke of the dream-child to her.  The doctor advised
against it.  It would, he said, only serve to deepen the
delusion.  When he hinted at an asylum I gave him a look that
would have been a fierce word for another man.  He never spoke of
it again.

One night in August there was a dull, murky sunset after a dead,
breathless day of heat, with not a wind stirring.  The sea was
not blue as a sea should be, but pink--all pink--a ghastly,
staring, painted pink.  I lingered on the harbor shore below the
house until dark.  The evening bells were ringing faintly and
mournfully in a church across the harbor.  Behind me, in the
kitchen, I heard my wife singing.  Sometimes now her spirits were
fitfully high, and then she would sing the old songs of her
girlhood.  But even in her singing was something strange, as if a
wailing, unearthly cry rang through it.  Nothing about her was
sadder than that strange singing.

When I went back to the house the rain was beginning to fall; but
there was no wind or sound in the air--only that dismal
stillness, as if the world were holding its breath in expectation
of a calamity.

Josie was standing by the window, looking out and listening.  I
tried to induce her to go to bed, but she only shook her head.

"I might fall asleep and not hear him when he called," she said.
"I am always afraid to sleep now, for fear he should call and his
mother fail to hear him."

Knowing it was of no use to entreat, I sat down by the table and
tried to read.  Three hours passed on.  When the clock struck
midnight she started up, with the wild light in her sunken blue
eyes.

"He is calling," she cried, "calling out there in the storm.
Yes, yes, sweet, I am coming!"

She opened the door and fled down the path to the shore.  I
snatched a lantern from the wall, lighted it, and followed.  It
was the blackest night I was ever out in, dark with the very
darkness of death.  The rain fell thickly and heavily.  I
overtook Josie, caught her hand, and stumbled along in her wake,
for she went with the speed and recklessness of a distraught
woman.  We moved in the little flitting circle of light shed by
the lantern.  All around us and above us was a horrible,
voiceless darkness, held, as it were, at bay by the friendly
light.

"If I could only overtake him once," moaned Josie.  "If I could
just kiss him once, and hold him close against my aching heart.
This pain, that never leaves me, would leave me than.  Oh, my
pretty boy, wait for mother!  I am coming to you.  Listen, David;
he cries--he cries so pitifully; listen!  Can't you hear it?"

I DID hear it!  Clear and distinct, out of the deadly still
darkness before us, came a faint, wailing cry.  What was it?  Was
I, too, going mad, or WAS there something out there--something
that cried and moaned--longing for human love, yet ever
retreating from human footsteps?  I am not a superstitious man;
but my nerve had been shaken by my long trial, and I was weaker
than I thought.  Terror took possession of me--terror unnameable.
I trembled in every limb; clammy perspiration oozed from my
forehead; I was possessed by a wild impulse to turn and flee--
anywhere, away from that unearthly cry.  But Josephine's cold
hand gripped mine firmly, and led me on.  That strange cry still
rang in my ears.  But it did not recede; it sounded clearer and
stronger; it was a wail; but a loud, insistent wail; it was
nearer--nearer; it was in the darkness just beyond us.

Then we came to it; a little dory had been beached on the pebbles
and left there by the receding tide.  There was a child in it--a
boy, of perhaps two years old, who crouched in the bottom of the
dory in water to his waist, his big, blue eyes wild and wide with
terror, his face white and tear-stained.  He wailed again when he
saw us, and held out his little hands.

My horror fell away from me like a discarded garment.  THIS child
was living.  How he had come there, whence and why, I did not
know and, in my state of mind, did not question.  It was no cry
of parted spirit I had heard--that was enough for me.

"Oh, the poor darling!" cried my wife.

She stooped over the dory and lifted the baby in her arms.  His
long, fair curls fell on her shoulder; she laid her face against
his and wrapped her shawl around him.

"Let me carry him, dear," I said.  "He is very wet, and too heavy
for you."

"No, no, I must carry him.  My arms have been so empty--they are
full now.  Oh, David, the pain at my heart has gone.  He has come
to me to take the place of my own.  God has sent him to me out of
the sea.  He is wet and cold and tired.  Hush, sweet one, we will
go home."

Silently I followed her home.  The wind was rising, coming in
sudden, angry gusts; the storm was at hand, but we reached
shelter before it broke.  Just as I shut our door behind us it
smote the house with the roar of a baffled beast.  I thanked God
that we were not out in it, following the dream-child.

"You are very wet, Josie," I said.  "Go and put on dry clothes at
once."

"The child must be looked to first," she said firmly.  "See how
chilled and exhausted he is, the pretty dear.  Light a fire
quickly, David, while I get dry things for him."

I let her have her way.  She brought out the clothes our own
child had worn and dressed the waif in them, rubbing his chilled
limbs, brushing his wet hair, laughing over him, mothering him.
She seemed like her old self.

For my own part, I was bewildered.  All the questions I had not
asked before came crowding to my mind how.  Whose child was this?
Whence had he come?  What was the meaning of it all?

He was a pretty baby, fair and plump and rosy.  When he was dried
and fed, he fell asleep in Josie's arms.  She hung over him in a
passion of delight.  It was with difficulty I persuaded her to
leave him long enough to change her wet clothes.  She never asked
whose he might be or from where he might have come.  He had been
sent to her from the sea; the dream-child had led her to him;
that was what she believed, and I dared not throw any doubt on
that belief.  She slept that night with the baby on her arm, and
in her sleep her face was the face of a girl in her youth,
untroubled and unworn.

I expected that the morrow would bring some one seeking the baby.
I had come to the conclusion that he must belong to the "Cove"
across the harbor, where the fishing hamlet was; and all day,
while Josie laughed and played with him, I waited and listened
for the footsteps of those who would come seeking him.  But they
did not come.  Day after day passed, and still they did not come.

I was in a maze of perplexity.  What should I do?  I shrank from
the thought of the boy being taken away from us.  Since we had
found him the dream-child had never called.  My wife seemed to
have turned back from the dark borderland, where her feet had
strayed to walk again with me in our own homely paths.  Day and
night she was her old, bright self, happy and serene in the new
motherhood that had come to her.  The only thing strange in her
was her calm acceptance of the event.  She never wondered who or
whose the child might be--never seemed to fear that he would be
taken from her; and she gave him our dream-child's name.

At last, when a full week had passed, I went, in my bewilderment,
to our old doctor.

"A most extraordinary thing," he said thoughtfully.  "The child,
as you say, must belong to the Spruce Cove people.  Yet it is an
almost unbelievable thing that there has been no search or
inquiry after him.  Probably there is some simple explanation of
the mystery, however.  I advise you to go over to the Cove and
inquire.  When you find the parents or guardians of the child,
ask them to allow you to keep it for a time.  It may prove your
wife's salvation.  I have known such cases.  Evidently on that
night the crisis of her mental disorder was reached.  A little
thing might have sufficed to turn her feet either way--back to
reason and sanity, or into deeper darkness.  It is my belief that
the former has occurred, and that, if she is left in undisturbed
possession of this child for a time, she will recover
completely."

I drove around the harbor that day with a lighter heart than I
had hoped ever to possess again.  When I reached Spruce Cove the
first person I met was old Abel Blair.  I asked him if any child
were missing from the Cove or along shore.  He looked at me in
surprise, shook his head, and said he had not heard of any.  I
told him as much of the tale as was necessary, leaving him to
think that my wife and I had found the dory and its small
passenger during an ordinary walk along the shore.

"A green dory!" he exclaimed.  "Ben Forbes' old green dory has
been missing for a week, but it was so rotten and leaky he didn't
bother looking for it.  But this child, sir--it beats me.  What
might he be like?"

I described the child as closely as possible.

"That fits little Harry Martin to a hair," said old Abel,
perplexedly, "but, sir, it can't be.  Or, if it is, there's been
foul work somewhere.  James Martin's wife died last winter, sir,
and he died the next month.  They left a baby and not much else.
There weren't nobody to take the child but Jim's half-sister,
Maggie Fleming.  She lived here at the Cove, and, I'm sorry to
say, sir, she hadn't too good a name.  She didn't want to be
bothered with the baby, and folks say she neglected him
scandalous.  Well, last spring she begun talking of going away to
the States.  She said a friend of hers had got her a good place
in Boston, and she was going to go and take little Harry.  We
supposed it was all right.  Last Saturday she went, sir.  She was
going to walk to the station, and the last seen of her she was
trudging along the road, carrying the baby.  It hasn't been
thought of since.  But, sir, d'ye suppose she set that innocent
child adrift in that old leaky dory to send him to his death?  I
knew Maggie was no better than she should be, but I can't believe
she was as bad as that."

"You must come over with me and see if you can identify the
child," I said.  "If he is Harry Martin I shall keep him.  My
wife has been very lonely since our baby died, and she has taken
a fancy to this little chap."

When we reached my home old Abel recognized the child as Harry
Martin.

He is with us still.  His baby hands led my dear wife back to
health and happiness.  Other children have come to us, she loves
them all dearly; but the boy who bears her dead son's name is to
her--aye, and to me--as dear as if she had given him birth.  He
came from the sea, and at his coming the ghostly dream-child
fled, nevermore to lure my wife away from me with its exciting
cry.  Therefore I look upon him and love him as my first-born.



VI. THE BROTHER WHO FAILED

The Monroe family were holding a Christmas reunion at the old
Prince Edward Island homestead at White Sands.  It was the first
time they had all been together under one roof since the death of
their mother, thirty years before.  The idea of this Christmas
reunion had originated with Edith Monroe the preceding spring,
during her tedious convalescence from a bad attack of pneumonia
among strangers in an American city, where she had not been able
to fill her concert engagements, and had more spare time in which
to feel the tug of old ties and the homesick longing for her own
people than she had had for years.  As a result, when she
recovered, she wrote to her second brother, James Monroe, who
lived on the homestead; and the consequence was this gathering of
the Monroes under the old roof-tree.  Ralph Monroe for once laid
aside the cares of his railroads, and the deceitfulness of his
millions, in Toronto and took the long-promised, long-deferred
trip to the homeland.  Malcolm Monroe journeyed from the far
western university of which he was president.  Edith came,
flushed with the triumph of her latest and most successful
concert tour.  Mrs. Woodburn, who had been Margaret Monroe, came
from the Nova Scotia town where she lived a busy, happy life as
the wife of a rising young lawyer.  James, prosperous and hearty,
greeted them warmly at the old homestead whose fertile acres had
well repaid his skillful management.

They were a merry party, casting aside their cares and years, and
harking back to joyous boyhood and girlhood once more.  James had
a family of rosy lads and lasses; Margaret brought her two
blue-eyed little girls; Ralph's dark, clever-looking son
accompanied him, and Malcolm brought his, a young man with a
resolute face, in which there was less of boyishness than in his
father's, and the eyes of a keen, perhaps a hard bargainer.  The
two cousins were the same age to a day, and it was a family joke
among the Monroes that the stork must have mixed the babies,
since Ralph's son was like Malcolm in face and brain, while
Malcolm's boy was a second edition of his uncle Ralph.

To crown all, Aunt Isabel came, too--a talkative, clever, shrewd
old lady, as young at eighty-five as she had been at thirty,
thinking the Monroe stock the best in the world, and beamingly
proud of her nephews and nieces, who had gone out from this
humble, little farm to destinies of such brilliance and influence
in the world beyond.

I have forgotten Robert.  Robert Monroe was apt to be forgotten.
Although he was the oldest of the family, White Sands people, in
naming over the various members of the Monroe family, would add,
"and Robert," in a tone of surprise over the remembrance of his
existence.

He lived on a poor, sandy little farm down by the shore, but he
had come up to James' place on the evening when the guests
arrived; they had all greeted him warmly and joyously, and then
did not think about him again in their laughter and conversation.
Robert sat back in a corner and listened with a smile, but he
never spoke.  Afterwards he had slipped noiselessly away and gone
home, and nobody noticed his going.  They were all gayly busy
recalling what had happened in the old times and telling what had
happened in the new.

Edith recounted the successes of her concert tours; Malcolm
expatiated proudly on his plans for developing his beloved
college; Ralph described the country through which his new
railroad ran, and the difficulties he had had to overcome in
connection with it.  James, aside, discussed his orchard and his
crops with Margaret, who had not been long enough away from the
farm to lose touch with its interests.  Aunt Isabel knitted and
smiled complacently on all, talking now with one, now with the
other, secretly quite proud of herself that she, an old woman of
eighty-five, who had seldom been out of White Sands in her life,
could discuss high finance with Ralph, and higher education with
Malcolm, and hold her own with James in an argument on drainage.

The White Sands school teacher, an arch-eyed, red-mouthed bit a
girl--a Bell from Avonlea--who boarded with the James Monroes,
amused herself with the boys.  All were enjoying themselves
hugely, so it is not to be wondered at that they did not miss
Robert, who had gone home early because his old housekeeper was
nervous if left alone at night.

He came again the next afternoon.  From James, in the barnyard,
he learned that Malcolm and Ralph had driven to the harbor, that
Margaret and Mrs. James had gone to call on friends in Avonlea,
and that Edith was walking somewhere in the woods on the hill.
There was nobody in the house except Aunt Isabel and the teacher.

"You'd better wait and stay the evening," said James,
indifferently.  "They'll all be back soon."

Robert went across the yard and sat down on the rustic bench in
the angle of the front porch.  It was a fine December evening, as
mild as autumn; there had been no snow, and the long fields,
sloping down from the homestead, were brown and mellow.  A weird,
dreamy stillness had fallen upon the purple earth, the windless
woods, the rain of the valleys, the sere meadows.  Nature seemed
to have folded satisfied hands to rest, knowing that her long,
wintry slumber was coming upon her. Out to sea, a dull, red
sunset faded out into somber clouds, and the ceaseless voice of
many waters came up from the tawny shore.

Robert rested his chin on his hand and looked across the vales
and hills, where the feathery gray of leafless hardwoods was
mingled with the sturdy, unfailing green of the conebearers.  He
was a tall, bent man, with thin, gray hair, a lined face, and
deeply-set, gentle brown eyes--the eyes of one who, looking
through pain, sees rapture beyond.

He felt very happy.  He loved his family clannishly, and he was
rejoiced that they were all again near to him.  He was proud of
their success and fame.  He was glad that James had prospered so
well of late years.  There was no canker of envy or discontent in
his soul.

He heard absently indistinct voices at the open hall window above
the porch, where Aunt Isabel was talking to Kathleen Bell.
Presently Aunt Isabel moved nearer to the window, and her words
came down to Robert with startling clearness.

"Yes, I can assure you, Miss Bell, that I'm real proud of my
nephews and nieces.  They're a smart family.  They've almost all
done well, and they hadn't any of them much to begin with.  Ralph
had absolutely nothing and to-day he is a millionaire.  Their
father met with so many losses, what with his ill-health and the
bank failing, that he couldn't help them any.  But they've all
succeeded, except poor Robert--and I must admit that he's a total
failure."

"Oh, no, no," said the little teacher deprecatingly.

"A total failure!"  Aunt Isabel repeated her words emphatically.
She was not going to be contradicted by anybody, least of all a
Bell from Avonlea.  "He has been a failure since the time he was
born.  He is the first Monroe to disgrace the old stock that way.
I'm sure his brothers and sisters must be dreadfully ashamed of
him.  He has lived sixty years and he hasn't done a thing worth
while.  He can't even make his farm pay.  If he's kept out of
debt it's as much as he's ever managed to do."

"Some men can't even do that," murmured the little school
teacher.  She was really so much in awe of this imperious, clever
old Aunt Isabel that it was positive heroism on her part to
venture even this faint protest.

"More is expected of a Monroe," said Aunt Isabel majestically.
"Robert Monroe is a failure, and that is the only name for him."

Robert Monroe stood up below the window in a dizzy, uncertain
fashion.  Aunt Isabel had been speaking of him!  He, Robert, was
a failure, a disgrace to his blood, of whom his nearest and
dearest were ashamed!  Yes, it was true; he had never realized it
before; he had known that he could never win power or accumulate
riches, but he had not thought that mattered much.  Now, through
Aunt Isabel's scornful eyes, he saw himself as the world saw
him--as his brothers and sisters must see him.  THERE lay the
sting.  What the world thought of him did not matter; but that
his own should think him a failure and disgrace was agony.  He
moaned as he started to walk across the yard, only anxious to
hide his pain and shame away from all human sight, and in his
eyes was the look of a gentle animal which had been stricken by a
cruel and unexpected blow.

Edith Monroe, who, unaware of Robert's proximity, had been
standing on the other side of the porch, saw that look, as he
hurried past her, unseeing.  A moment before her dark eyes had
been flashing with anger at Aunt Isabel's words; now the anger
was drowned in a sudden rush of tears.

She took a quick step after Robert, but checked the impulse.  Not
then--and not by her alone--could that deadly hurt be healed.
Nay, more, Robert must never suspect that she knew of any hurt.
She stood and watched him through her tears as he went away
across the low-lying shore fields to hide his broken heart under
his own humble roof.  She yearned to hurry after him and comfort
him, but she knew that comfort was not what Robert needed now.
Justice, and justice only, could pluck out the sting, which
otherwise must rankle to the death.

Ralph and Malcolm were driving into the yard.  Edith went over to
them.

"Boys," she said resolutely, "I want to have a talk with you."


The Christmas dinner at the old homestead was a merry one.  Mrs.
James spread a feast that was fit for the halls of Lucullus.
Laughter, jest, and repartee flew from lip to lip.  Nobody
appeared to notice that Robert ate little, said nothing, and sat
with his form shrinking in his shabby "best" suit, his gray head
bent even lower than usual, as if desirous of avoiding all
observation.  When the others spoke to him he answered
deprecatingly, and shrank still further into himself.

Finally all had eaten all they could, and the remainder of the
plum pudding was carried out.  Robert gave a low sigh of relief.
It was almost over.  Soon he would be able to escape and hide
himself and his shame away from the mirthful eyes of these men
and women who had earned the right to laugh at the world in which
their success gave them power and influence.  He--he--only--was
a failure.

He wondered impatiently why Mrs. James did not rise.  Mrs. James
merely leaned comfortably back in her chair, with the righteous
expression of one who has done her duty by her fellow creatures'
palates, and looked at Malcolm.

Malcolm rose in his place.  Silence fell on the company;
everybody looked suddenly alert and expectant, except Robert.  He
still sat with bowed head, wrapped in his own bitterness.

"I have been told that I must lead off," said Malcolm, "because I
am supposed to possess the gift of gab.  But, if I do, I am not
going to use it for any rhetorical effect to-day.  Simple,
earnest words must express the deepest feelings of the heart in
doing justice to its own.  Brothers and sisters, we meet to-day
under our own roof-tree, surrounded by the benedictions of the
past years.  Perhaps invisible guests are here--the spirits of
those who founded this home and whose work on earth has long been
finished.  It is not amiss to hope that this is so and our family
circle made indeed complete.  To each one of us who are here in
visible bodily presence some measure of success has fallen; but
only one of us has been supremely successful in the only things
that really count--the things that count for eternity as well as
time--sympathy and unselfishness and self-sacrifice.

"I shall tell you my own story for the benefit of those who have
not heard it.  When I was a lad of sixteen I started to work out
my own education.  Some of you will remember that old Mr. Blair
of Avonlea offered me a place in his store for the summer, at
wages which would go far towards paying my expenses at the
country academy the next winter.  I went to work, eager and
hopeful.  All summer I tried to do my faithful best for my
employer.  In September the blow fell.  A sum of money was
missing from Mr. Blair's till.  I was suspected and discharged in
disgrace.  All my neighbors believed me guilty; even some of my
own family looked upon me with suspicion--nor could I blame them,
for the circumstantial evidence was strongly against me."

Ralph and James looked ashamed; Edith and Margaret, who had not
been born at the time referred to, lifted their faces innocently.
Robert did not move or glance up.  He hardly seemed to be
listening.

"I was crushed in an agony of shame and despair," continued
Malcolm.  "I believed my career was ruined.  I was bent on
casting all my ambitions behind me, and going west to some place
where nobody knew me or my disgrace.  But there was one person
who believed in my innocence, who said to me, 'You shall not give
up--you shall not behave as if you were guilty.  You are
innocent, and in time your innocence will be proved.  Meanwhile
show yourself a man.  You have nearly enough to pay your way next
winter at the Academy.  I have a little I can give to help you
out.  Don't give in--never give in when you have done no wrong.'

"I listened and took his advice.  I went to the Academy.  My
story was there as soon as I was, and I found myself sneered at
and shunned.  Many a time I would have given up in despair, had
it not been for the encouragement of my counselor.  He furnished
the backbone for me.  I was determined that his belief in me
should be justified.  I studied hard and came out at the head of
my class.  Then there seemed to be no chance of my earning any
more money that summer.  But a farmer at Newbridge, who cared
nothing about the character of his help, if he could get the work
out of them, offered to hire me.  The prospect was distasteful
but, urged by the man who believed in me, I took the place and
endured the hardships.  Another winter of lonely work passed at
the Academy.  I won the Farrell Scholarship the last year it was
offered, and that meant an Arts course for me.  I went to Redmond
College.  My story was not openly known there, but something of
it got abroad, enough to taint my life there also with its
suspicion.  But the year I graduated, Mr. Blair's nephew, who, as
you know, was the real culprit, confessed his guilt, and I was
cleared before the world.  Since then my career has been what is
called a brilliant one.  But"--Malcolm turned and laid his hand
on Robert's thin shoulder--"all of my success I owe to my brother
Robert.  It is his success--not mine--and here to-day, since we
have agreed to say what is too often left to be said over a
coffin lid, I thank him for all he did for me, and tell him that
there is nothing I am more proud of and thankful for than such a
brother."

Robert had looked up at last, amazed, bewildered, incredulous.
His face crimsoned as Malcolm sat down.  But now Ralph was
getting up.

"I am no orator as Malcolm is," he quoted gayly, "but I've got a
story to tell, too, which only one of you knows.  Forty years
ago, when I started in life as a business man, money wasn't so
plentiful with me as it may be to-day.  And I needed it badly.  A
chance came my way to make a pile of it.  It wasn't a clean
chance.  It was a dirty chance.  It looked square on the surface;
but, underneath, it meant trickery and roguery.  I hadn't enough
perception to see that, though--I was fool enough to think it was
all right.  I told Robert what I meant to do.  And Robert saw
clear through the outward sham to the real, hideous thing
underneath.  He showed me what it meant and he gave me a
preachment about a few Monroe Traditions of truth and honor.  I
saw what I had been about to do as he saw it--as all good men and
true must see it.  And I vowed then and there that I'd never go
into anything that I wasn't sure was fair and square and clean
through and through.  I've kept that vow.  I am a rich man, and
not a dollar of my money is 'tainted' money.  But I didn't make
it.  Robert really made every cent of my money.  If it hadn't
been for him I'd have been a poor man to-day, or behind prison
bars, as are the other men who went into that deal when I backed
out.  I've got a son here.  I hope he'll be as clever as his
Uncle Malcolm; but I hope, still more earnestly, that he'll be as
good and honorable a man as his Uncle Robert."

By this time Robert's head was bent again, and his face buried in
his hands.

"My turn next," said James.  "I haven't much to say--only this.
After mother died I took typhoid fever.  Here I was with no one
to wait on me.  Robert came and nursed me.  He was the most
faithful, tender, gentle nurse ever a man had.  The doctor said
Robert saved my life.  I don't suppose any of the rest of us here
can say we have saved a life."

Edith wiped away her tears and sprang up impulsively.

"Years ago," she said, "there was a poor, ambitious girl who had
a voice.  She wanted a musical education and her only apparent
chance of obtaining it was to get a teacher's certificate and
earn money enough to have her voice trained.  She studied hard,
but her brains, in mathematics at least, weren't as good as her
voice, and the time was short.  She failed.  She was lost in
disappointment and despair, for that was the last year in which
it was possible to obtain a teacher's certificate without
attending Queen's Academy, and she could not afford that.  Then
her oldest brother came to her and told her he could spare enough
money to send her to the conservatory of music in Halifax for a
year.  He made her take it.  She never knew till long afterwards
that he had sold the beautiful horse which he loved like a human
creature, to get the money.  She went to the Halifax
conservatory.  She won a musical scholarship.  She has had a
happy life and a successful career.  And she owes it all to her
brother Robert--"

But Edith could go no further.  Her voice failed her and she sat
down in tears.  Margaret did not try to stand up.

"I was only five when my mother died," she sobbed.  "Robert was
both father and mother to me.  Never had child or girl so wise
and loving a guardian as he was to me.  I have never forgotten
the lessons he taught me.  Whatever there is of good in my life
or character I owe to him.  I was often headstrong and willful,
but he never lost patience with me.  I owe everything to Robert."

Suddenly the little teacher rose with wet eyes and crimson
cheeks.

"I have something to say, too," she said resolutely.  "You have
spoken for yourselves.  I speak for the people of White Sands.
There is a man in this settlement whom everybody loves.  I shall
tell you some of the things he has done."

"Last fall, in an October storm, the harbor lighthouse flew a
flag of distress.  Only one man was brave enough to face the
danger of sailing to the lighthouse to find out what the trouble
was.  That was Robert Monroe.  He found the keeper alone with a
broken leg; and he sailed back and made--yes, MADE the
unwilling and terrified doctor go with him to the lighthouse.  I
saw him when he told the doctor he must go; and I tell you that
no man living could have set his will against Robert Monroe's at
that moment.

"Four years ago old Sarah Cooper was to be taken to the
poorhouse.  She was broken-hearted.  One man took the poor,
bed-ridden, fretful old creature into his home, paid for medical
attendance, and waited on her himself, when his housekeeper
couldn't endure her tantrums and temper.  Sarah Cooper died two
years afterwards, and her latest breath was a benediction on
Robert Monroe--the best man God ever made.

"Eight years ago Jack Blewitt wanted a place.  Nobody would hire
him, because his father was in the penitentiary, and some people
thought Jack ought to be there, too.  Robert Monroe hired
him--and helped him, and kept him straight, and got him started
right--and Jack Blewitt is a hard-working, respected young man
to-day, with every prospect of a useful and honorable life.
There is hardly a man, woman, or child in White Sands who doesn't
owe something to Robert Monroe!"

As Kathleen Bell sat down, Malcolm sprang up and held out his
hands.

"Every one of us stand up and sing Auld Lang Syne," he cried.

Everybody stood up and joined hands, but one did not sing.
Robert Monroe stood erect, with a great radiance on his face and
in his eyes.  His reproach had been taken away; he was crowned
among his kindred with the beauty and blessing of sacred
yesterdays.

When the singing ceased Malcolm's stern-faced son reached over
and shook Robert's hands.

"Uncle Rob," he said heartily, "I hope that when I'm sixty I'll
be as successful a man as you."


"I guess," said Aunt Isabel, aside to the little school teacher,
as she wiped the tears from her keen old eyes, "that there's a
kind of failure that's the best success."



VII. THE RETURN OF HESTER

Just at dusk, that evening, I had gone upstairs and put on my
muslin gown.  I had been busy all day attending to the strawberry
preserving--for Mary Sloane could not be trusted with that--and I
was a little tired, and thought it was hardly worth while to
change my dress, especially since there was nobody to see or
care, since Hester was gone.  Mary Sloane did not count.

But I did it because Hester would have cared if she had been
here.  She always liked to see me neat and dainty.  So, although
I was tired and sick at heart, I put on my pale blue muslin and
dressed my hair.

At first I did my hair up in a way I had always liked; but had
seldom worn, because Hester had disapproved of it.  It became me;
but I suddenly felt as if it were disloyal to her, so I took the
puffs down again and arranged my hair in the plain, old-fashioned
way she had liked.  My hair, though it had a good many gray
threads in it, was thick and long and brown still; but that did
not matter--nothing mattered since Hester was dead and I had sent
Hugh Blair away for the second time.

The Newbridge people all wondered why I had not put on mourning
for Hester.  I did not tell them it was because Hester had asked
me not to.  Hester had never approved of mourning; she said that
if the heart did not mourn crape would not mend matters; and if
it did there was no need of the external trappings of woe.  She
told me calmly, the night before she died, to go on wearing my
pretty dresses just as I had always worn them, and to make no
difference in my outward life because of her going.

"I know there will be a difference in your inward life," she said
wistfully.

And oh, there was!  But sometimes I wondered uneasily, feeling
almost conscience-stricken, whether it were wholly because Hester
had left me--whether it were no partly because, for a second
time, I had shut the door of my heart in the face of love at her
bidding.

When I had dressed I went downstairs to the front door, and sat
on the sandstone steps under the arch of the Virginia creeper.  I
was all alone, for Mary Sloane had gone to Avonlea.

It was a beautiful night; the full moon was just rising over the
wooded hills, and her light fell through the poplars into the
garden before me.  Through an open corner on the western side I
saw the sky all silvery blue in the afterlight.  The garden was
very beautiful just then, for it was the time of the roses, and
ours were all out--so many of them--great pink, and red, and
white, and yellow roses.

Hester had loved roses and could never have enough of them.  Her
favorite bush was growing by the steps, all gloried over with
blossoms--white, with pale pink hearts.  I gathered a cluster and
pinned it loosely on my breast.  But my eyes filled as I did
so--I felt so very, very desolate.

I was all alone, and it was bitter.  The roses, much as I loved
them, could not give me sufficient companionship.  I wanted the
clasp of a human hand, and the love-light in human eyes.  And
then I fell to thinking of Hugh, though I tried not to.

I had always lived alone with Hester.  I did not remember our
parents, who had died in my babyhood.  Hester was fifteen years
older than I, and she had always seemed more like a mother than a
sister.  She had been very good to me and had never denied me
anything I wanted, save the one thing that mattered.

I was twenty-five before I ever had a lover.  This was not, I
think, because I was more unattractive than other women.  The
Merediths had always been the "big" family of Newbridge.  The
rest of the people looked up to us, because we were the
granddaughters of old Squire Meredith.  The Newbridge young men
would have thought it no use to try to woo a Meredith.

I had not a great deal of family pride, as perhaps I should be
ashamed to confess.  I found our exalted position very lonely,
and cared more for the simple joys of friendship and
companionship which other girls had.  But Hester possessed it in
a double measure; she never allowed me to associate on a level of
equality with the young people of Newbridge.  We must be very
nice and kind and affable to them--_noblesse oblige_, as it
were--but we must never forget that we were Merediths.

When I was twenty-five, Hugh Blair came to Newbridge, having
bought a farm near the village.  He was a stranger, from Lower
Carmody, and so was not imbued with any preconceptions of
Meredith superiority.  In his eyes I was just a girl like
others--a girl to be wooed and won by any man of clean life and
honest heart.  I met him at a little Sunday-School picnic over at
Avonlea, which I attended because of my class.  I thought him
very handsome and manly.  He talked to me a great deal, and at
last he drove me home.  The next Sunday evening he walked up from
church with me.

Hester was away, or, of course, this would never have happened.
She had gone for a month's visit to distant friends.

In that month I lived a lifetime.  Hugh Blair courted me as the
other girls in Newbridge were courted.  He took me out driving
and came to see me in the evenings, which we spent for the most
part in the garden.  I did not like the stately gloom and
formality of our old Meredith parlor, and Hugh never seemed to
feel at ease there.  His broad shoulders and hearty laughter were
oddly out of place among our faded, old-maidish furnishings.

Mary Sloane was very much pleased at Hugh's visit.  She had
always resented the fact that I had never had a "beau," seeming
to think it reflected some slight or disparagement upon me.  She
did all she could to encourage him.

But when Hester returned and found out about Hugh she was very
angry--and grieved, which hurt me far more.  She told me that I
had forgotten myself and that Hugh's visits must cease.

I had never been afraid of Hester before, but I was afraid of her
then.  I yielded.  Perhaps it was very weak of me, but then I was
always weak.  I think that was why Hugh's strength had appealed
so to me.  I needed love and protection.  Hester, strong and
self-sufficient, had never felt such a need.  She could not
understand.  Oh, how contemptuous she was.

I told Hugh timidly that Hester did not approve of our friendship
and that it must end.  He took it quietly enough, and went away.
I thought he did not care much, and the thought selfishly made my
own heartache worse.  I was very unhappy for a long time, but I
tried not to let Hester see it, and I don't think she did.  She
was not very discerning in some things.

After a time I got over it; that is, the heartache ceased to ache
all the time.  But things were never quite the same again.  Life
always seemed rather dreary and empty, in spite of Hester and my
roses and my Sunday-School.

I supposed that Hugh Blair would find him a wife elsewhere, but
he did not.  The years went by and we never met, although I saw
him often at church.  At such times Hester always watched me very
closely, but there was no need of her to do so.  Hugh made no
attempt to meet me, or speak with me, and I would not have
permitted it if he had.  But my heart always yearned after him.
I was selfishly glad he had not married, because if he had I
could not have thought and dreamed of him--it would have been
wrong.  Perhaps, as it was, it was foolish; but it seemed to me
that I must have something, if only foolish dreams, to fill my
life.

At first there was only pain in the thought of him, but
afterwards a faint, misty little pleasure crept in, like a mirage
from a land of lost delight.

Ten years slipped away thus.  And then Hester died.  Her illness
was sudden and short; but, before she died, she asked me to
promise that I would never marry Hugh Blair.

She had not mentioned his name for years.  I thought she had
forgotten all about him.

"Oh, dear sister, is there any need of such a promise?" I asked,
weeping.  "Hugh Blair does not want to marry me now.  He never
will again."

"He has never married--he has not forgotten you," she said
fiercely.  "I could not rest in my grave if I thought you would
disgrace your family by marrying beneath you.  Promise me,
Margaret."

I promised.  I would have promised anything in my power to make
her dying pillow easier.  Besides, what did it matter?  I was
sure that Hugh would never think of me again.

She smiled when she heard me, and pressed my hand.

"Good little sister--that is right.  You were always a good girl,
Margaret--good and obedient, though a little sentimental and
foolish in some ways.  You are like our mother--she was always
weak and loving.  I took after the Merediths."

She did, indeed.  Even in her coffin her dark, handsome features
preserved their expression of pride and determination.  Somehow,
that last look of her dead face remained in my memory, blotting
out the real affection and gentleness which her living face had
almost always shown me.  This distressed me, but I could not help
it.  I wished to think of her as kind and loving, but I could
remember only the pride and coldness with which she had crushed
out my new-born happiness.  Yet I felt no anger or resentment
towards her for what she had done.  I knew she had meant it for
the best--my best.  It was only that she was mistaken.

And then, a month after she had died, Hugh Blair came to me and
asked me to be his wife.  He said he had always loved me, and
could never love any other woman.

All my old love for him reawakened.  I wanted to say yes--to feel
his strong arms about me, and the warmth of his love enfolding
and guarding me.  In my weakness I yearned for his strength.

But there was my promise to Hester--that promise give by her
deathbed.  I could not break it, and I told him so.  It was the
hardest thing I had ever done.

He did not go away quietly this time.  He pleaded and reasoned
and reproached.  Every word of his hurt me like a knife-thrust.
But I could not break my promise to the dead.  If Hester had been
living I would have braved her wrath and her estrangement and
gone to him.  But she was dead and I could not do it.

Finally he went away in grief and anger.  That was three weeks
ago--and now I sat alone in the moonlit rose-garden and wept for
him.  But after a time my tears dried and a very strange feeling
came over me.  I felt calm and happy, as if some wonderful love
and tenderness were very near me.

And now comes the strange part of my story--the part which will
not, I suppose, be believed.  If it were not for one thing I
think I should hardly believe it myself.  I should feel tempted
to think I had dreamed it.  But because of that one thing I know
it was real.  The night was very calm and still.  Not a breath of
wind stirred.  The moonshine was the brightest I had ever seen.
In the middle of the garden, where the shadow of the poplars did
not fall, it was almost as bright as day.  One could have read
fine print.  There was still a little rose glow in the west, and
over the airy boughs of the tall poplars one or two large, bright
stars were shining.  The air was sweet with a hush of dreams, and
the world was so lovely that I held my breath over its beauty.

Then, all at once, down at the far end of the garden, I saw a
woman walking.  I thought at first that it must be Mary Sloane;
but, as she crossed a moonlit path, I saw it was not our old
servant's stout, homely figure.  This woman was tall and erect.

Although no suspicion of the truth came to me, something about
her reminded me of Hester.  Even so had Hester liked to wander
about the garden in the twilight.  I had seen her thus a thousand
times.

I wondered who the woman could be.  Some neighbor, of course.
But what a strange way for her to come!  She walked up the garden
slowly in the poplar shade.  Now and then she stooped, as if to
caress a flower, but she plucked none.  Half way up she out in to
the moonlight and walked across the plot of grass in the center
of the garden.  My heart gave a great throb and I stood up.  She
was quite near to me now--and I saw that it was Hester.

I can hardly say just what my feelings were at this moment.  I
know that I was not surprised.  I was frightened and yet I was
not frightened.  Something in me shrank back in a sickening
terror; but _I_, the real I, was not frightened.  I knew that
this was my sister, and that there could be no reason why I
should be frightened of her, because she loved me still, as she
had always done.  Further than this I was not conscious of any
coherent thought, either of wonder or attempt at reasoning.

Hester paused when she came to within a few steps of me.  In the
moonlight I saw her face quite plainly.  It wore an expression I
had never before seen on it--a humble, wistful, tender look.
Often in life Hester had looked lovingly, even tenderly, upon me;
but always, as it were, through a mask of pride and sternness.
This was gone now, and I felt nearer to her than ever before.  I
knew suddenly that she understood me.  And then the
half-conscious awe and terror some part of me had felt vanished,
and I only realized that Hester was here, and that there was no
terrible gulf of change between us.

Hester beckoned to me and said,

"Come."

I stood up and followed her out of the garden.  We walked side by
side down our lane, under the willows and out to the road, which
lay long and still in that bright, calm moonshine.  I felt as if
I were in a dream, moving at the bidding of a will not my own,
which I could not have disputed even if I had wished to do so.
But I did not wish it; I had only the feeling of a strange,
boundless content.

We went down the road between the growths of young fir that
bordered it.  I smelled their balsam as we passed, and noticed
how clearly and darkly their pointed tops came out against the
sky.  I heard the tread of my own feet on little twigs and plants
in our way, and the trail of my dress over the grass; but Hester
moved noiselessly.

Then we went through the Avenue--that stretch of road under the
apple trees that Anne Shirley, over at Avonlea, calls "The White
Way of Delight." It was almost dark here; and yet I could see
Hester's face just as plainly as if the moon were shining on it;
and whenever I looked at her she was always looking at me with
that strangely gentle smile on her lips.

Just as we passed out of the Avenue, James Trent overtook us,
driving.  It seems to me that our feelings at a given moment are
seldom what we would expect them to be.  I simply felt annoyed
that James Trent, the most notorious gossip in Newbridge, should
have seen me walking with Hester.  In a flash I anticipated all
the annoyance of it; he would talk of the matter far and wide.

But James Trent merely nodded and called out,

"Howdy, Miss Margaret.  Taking a moonlight stroll by yourself?
Lovely night, ain't it?"

Just then his horse suddenly swerved, as if startled, and broke
into a gallop.  They whirled around the curve of the road in an
instant.  I felt relieved, but puzzled.  JAMES TRENT HAD NOT SEEN
HESTER.

Down over the hill was Hugh Blair's place.  When we came to it,
Hester turned in at the gate.  Then, for the first time, I
understood why she had come back, and a blinding flash of joy
broke over my soul.  I stopped and looked at her.  Her deep eyes
gazed into mine, but she did not speak.

We went on. Hugh's house lay before us in the moonlight, grown
over by a tangle of vines.  His garden was on our right, a quaint
spot, full of old-fashioned flowers growing in a sort of
disorderly sweetness.  I trod on a bed of mint, and the spice of
it floated up to me like the incense of some strange, sacred,
solemn ceremonial.  I felt unspeakably happy and blessed.

When we came to the door Hester said,

"Knock, Margaret."

I rapped gently.  In a moment, Hugh opened it.  Then that
happened by which, in after days, I was to know that this strange
thing was no dream or fancy of mine.  Hugh looked not at me, but
past me.

"Hester!" he exclaimed, with human fear and horror in his voice.

He leaned against the door-post, the big, strong fellow,
trembling from head to foot.

"I have learned," said Hester, "that nothing matters in all God's
universe, except love.  There is no pride where I have been, and
no false ideals."

Hugh and I looked into each other's eyes, wondering, and then we
knew that we were alone.



VIII. THE LITTLE BROWN BOOK OF MISS EMILY

The first summer Mr. Irving and Miss Lavendar--Diana and I could
never call her anything else, even after she was married--were at
Echo Lodge after their marriage, both Diana and I spent a great
deal of time with them.  We became acquainted with many of the
Grafton people whom we had not known before, and among others,
the family of Mr. Mack Leith.  We often went up to the Leiths in
the evening to play croquet.  Millie and Margaret Leith were very
nice girls, and the boys were nice, too.  Indeed, we liked every
one in the family, except poor old Miss Emily Leith.  We tried
hard enough to like her, because she seemed to like Diana and me
very much, and always wanted to sit with us and talk to us, when
we would much rather have been somewhere else.  We often felt a
good deal of impatience at these times, but I am very glad to
think now that we never showed it.

In a way, we felt sorry for Miss Emily.  She was Mr. Leith's
old-maid sister and she was not of much importance in the
household.  But, though we felt sorry for her, we couldn't like
her.  She really was fussy and meddlesome; she liked to poke a
finger into every one's pie, and she was not at all tactful.
Then, too, she had a sarcastic tongue, and seemed to feel bitter
towards all the young folks and their love affairs.  Diana and I
thought this was because she had never had a lover of her own.

Somehow, it seemed impossible to think of lovers in connection
with Miss Emily.  She was short and stout and pudgy, with a face
so round and fat and red that it seemed quite featureless; and
her hair was scanty and gray.  She walked with a waddle, just
like Mrs. Rachel Lynde, and she was always rather short of
breath.  It was hard to believe Miss Emily had ever been young;
yet old Mr. Murray, who lived next door to the Leiths, not only
expected us to believe it, but assured us that she had been very
pretty.

"THAT, at least, is impossible," said Diana to me.

And then, one day, Miss Emily died.  I'm afraid no one was very
sorry.  It seems to me a most dreadful thing to go out of the
world and leave not one person behind to be sorry because you
have gone.  Miss Emily was dead and buried before Diana and I
heard of it at all.  The first I knew of it was when I came home
from Orchard Slope one day and found a queer, shabby little black
horsehair trunk, all studded with brass nails, on the floor of my
room at Green Gables.  Marilla told me that Jack Leith had
brought it over, and said that it had belonged to Miss Emily and
that, when she was dying, she asked them to send it to me.

"But what is in it?  And what am I to do with it?" I asked in
bewilderment.

"There was nothing said about what you were to do with it.  Jack
said they didn't know what was in it, and hadn't looked into it,
seeing that it was your property.  It seems a rather queer
proceeding--but you're always getting mixed up in queer
proceedings, Anne.  As for what is in it, the easiest way to find
out, I reckon, is to open it and see.  The key is tied to it.
Jack said Miss Emily said she wanted you to have it because she
loved you and saw her lost youth in you.  I guess she was a bit
delirious at the last and wandered a good deal.  She said she
wanted you 'to understand her.' "

I ran over to Orchard Slope and asked Diana to come over and
examine the trunk with me.  I hadn't received any instructions
about keeping its contents secret and I knew Miss Emily wouldn't
mind Diana knowing about them, whatever they were.

It was a cool, gray afternoon and we got back to Green Gables
just as the rain was beginning to fall.  When we went up to my
room the wind was rising and whistling through the boughs of the
big old Snow Queen outside of my window.  Diana was excited, and,
I really believe, a little bit frightened.

We opened the old trunk.  It was very small, and there was
nothing in it but a big cardboard box.  The box was tied up and
the knots sealed with wax.  We lifted it out and untied it.  I
touched Diana's fingers as we did it, and both of us exclaimed at
once, "How cold your hand is!"

In the box was a quaint, pretty, old-fashioned gown, not at all
faded, made of blue muslin, with a little darker blue flower in
it.  Under it we found a sash, a yellowed feather fan, and an
envelope full of withered flowers.  At the bottom of the box was
a little brown book.

It was small and thin, like a girl's exercise book, with leaves
that had once been blue and pink, but were now quite faded, and
stained in places.  On the fly leaf was written, in a very
delicate hand, "Emily Margaret Leith," and the same writing
covered the first few pages of the book.  The rest were not
written on at all.  We sat there on the floor, Diana and I, and
read the little book together, while the rain thudded against the
window panes.

                                                   June 19, 18--

    I came to-day to spend a while with Aunt Margaret in
    Charlottetown.  It is so pretty here, where she lives--and
    ever so much nicer than on the farm at home.  I have no cows
    to milk here or pigs to feed.  Aunt Margaret has given me
    such a lovely blue muslin dress, and I am to have it made to
    wear at a garden party out at Brighton next week.  I never
    had a muslin dress before--nothing but ugly prints and dark
    woolens.  I wish we were rich, like Aunt Margaret.  Aunt
    Margaret laughed when I said this, and declared she would
    give all her wealth for my youth and beauty and
    light-heartedness.  I am only eighteen and I know I am very
    merry but I wonder if I am really pretty.  It seems to me
    that I am when I look in Aunt Margaret's beautiful mirrors.
    They make me look very different from the old cracked one in
    my room at home which always twisted my face and turned me
    green.  But Aunt Margaret spoiled her compliment by telling
    me I look exactly as she did at my age.  If I thought I'd
    ever look as Aunt Margaret does now, I don't know what I'd
    do.  She is so fat and red.

                                                        June 29.

    Last week I went to the garden party and I met a young man
    called Paul Osborne.  He is a young artist from Montreal who
    is boarding over at Heppoch.  He is the handsomest man I have
    ever seen--very tall and slender, with dreamy, dark eyes and
    a pale, clever face.  I have not been able to keep from
    thinking about him ever since, and to-day he came over here
    and asked if he could paint me.  I felt very much flattered
    and so pleased when Aunt Margaret gave him permission.  He
    says he wants to paint me as "Spring," standing under the
    poplars where a fine rain of sunshine falls through.  I am to
    wear my blue muslin gown and a wreath of flowers on my hair.
    He says I have such beautiful hair.  He has never seen any of
    such a real pale gold.  Somehow it seems even prettier than
    ever to me since he praised it.

    I had a letter from home to-day.  Ma says the blue hen stole
    her nest and came off with fourteen chickens, and that pa has
    sold the little spotted calf.  Somehow those things don't
    interest me like they once did.

                                                         July 9.

    The picture is coming on very well, Mr. Osborne says.  I know
    he is making me look far too pretty in it, although her
    persists in saying he can't do me justice.  He is going to
    send it to some great exhibition when finished, but he says
    he will make a little water-color copy for me.

    He comes every day to paint and we talk a great deal and he
    reads me lovely things out of his books.  I don't understand
    them all, but I try to, and he explains them so nicely and is
    so patient with my stupidity.  And he says any one with my
    eyes and hair and coloring does not need to be clever.  He
    says I have the sweetest, merriest laugh in the world.  But I
    will not write down all the compliments he has paid me.  I
    dare say he does not mean them at all.

    In the evening we stroll among the spruces or sit on the
    bench under the acacia tree.  Sometimes we don't talk at all,
    but I never find the time long.  Indeed, the minutes just
    seem to fly--and then the moon will come up, round and red,
    over the harbor and Mr. Osborne will sigh and say he supposes
    it is time for him to go.

                                                        July 24.

    I am so happy.  I am frightened at my happiness.  Oh, I
    didn't think life could ever be so beautiful for me as it is!

    Paul loves me!  He told me so to-night as we walked by the
    harbor and watched the sunset, and he asked me to be his
    wife.  I have cared for him ever since I met him, but I am
    afraid I am not clever and well-educated enough for a wife
    for Paul.  Because, of course, I'm only an ignorant little
    country girl and have lived all my life on a farm.  Why, my
    hands are quite rough yet from the work I've done.  But Paul
    just laughed when I said so, and took my hands and kissed
    them.  Then he looked into my eyes and laughed again, because
    I couldn't hide from him how much I loved him.

    We are to be married next spring and Paul says he will take
    me to Europe.  That will be very nice, but nothing matters so
    long as I am with him.

    Paul's people are very wealthy and his mother and sisters are
    very fashionable.  I am frightened of them, but I did not
    tell Paul so because I think it would hurt him and oh, I
    wouldn't do that for the world.

    There is nothing I wouldn't suffer if it would do him any
    good.  I never thought any one could feel so.  I used to
    think if I loved anybody I would want him to do everything
    for me and wait on me as if I were a princess.  But that is
    not the way at all.  Love makes you very humble and you want
    to do everything yourself for the one you love.

                                                      August 10.

    Paul went home to-day.  Oh, it is so terrible!  I don't know
    how I can bear to live even for a little while without him.
    But this is silly of me, because I know he has to go and he
    will write often and come to me often.  But, still, it is so
    lonesome.  I didn't cry when he left me because I wanted him
    to remember me smiling in the way he liked best, but I have
    been crying ever since and I can't stop, no matter how hard I
    try.  We have had such a beautiful fortnight.  Every day
    seemed dearer and happier than the last, and now it is ended
    and I feel as if it could never be the same again.  Oh, I am
    very foolish--but I love him so dearly and if I were to lose
    his love I know I would die.

                                                      August 17.

    I think my heart is dead.  But no, it can't be, for it aches
    too much.

    Paul's mother came here to see me to-day.  She was not angry
    or disagreeable.  I wouldn't have been so frightened of her
    if she had been.  As it was, I felt that I couldn't say a
    word.  She is very beautiful and stately and wonderful, with
    a low, cold voice and proud, dark eyes.  Her face is like
    Paul's but without the loveableness of his.

    She talked to me for a long time and she said terrible
    things--terrible, because I knew they were all true.  I
    seemed to see everything through her eyes.  She said that
    Paul was infatuated with my youth and beauty but that it
    would not last and what else I to give him?  She said Paul
    must marry a woman of his own class, who could do honor to
    his fame and position.  She said that he was very talented
    and had a great career before him, but that if he married me
    it would ruin his life.

    I saw it all, just as she explained it out, and I told her at
    last that I would not marry Paul, and she might tell him so.
    But she smiled and said I must tell him myself, because he
    would not believe any one else.  I could have begged her to
    spare me that, but I knew it would be of no use.  I do not
    think she has any pity or mercy for any one.  Besides, what
    she said was quite true.

    When she thanked me for being so REASONABLE I told her I was
    not doing it to please her, but for Paul's sake, because I
    would not spoil his life, and that I would always hate her.
    She smiled again and went away.

    Oh, how can I bear it?  I did not know any one could suffer
    like this!

                                                      August 18.

    I have done it.  I wrote to Paul to-day.  I knew I must tell
    him by letter, because I could never make him believe it face
    to face.  I was afraid I could not even do it by letter.  I
    suppose a clever woman easily could, but I am so stupid.
    I wrote a great many letters and tore them up, because I felt
    sure they wouldn't convince Paul.  At last I got one that I
    thought would do.  I knew I must make it seems as if I were
    very frivolous and heartless, or he would never believe.  I
    spelled some words wrong and put in some mistakes of grammar
    on purpose.  I told him I had just been flirting with him,
    and that I had another fellow at home I liked better.  I said
    FELLOW because I knew it would disgust him.  I said that it
    was only because he was rich that I was tempted to marry him.

    I thought would my heart would break while I was writing
    those dreadful falsehoods.  But it was for his sake, because
    I must not spoil his life.  His mother told me I would be a
    millstone around his neck.  I love Paul so much that I would
    do anything rather than be that.  It would be easy to die for
    him, but I don't see how I can go on living.  I think my
    letter will convince Paul.

I suppose it convinced Paul, because there was no further entry
in the little brown book.  When we had finished it the tears were
running down both our faces.

"Oh, poor, dear Miss Emily," sobbed Diana.  "I'm so sorry I ever
thought her funny and meddlesome."

"She was good and strong and brave," I said.  "I could never have
been as unselfish as she was."

I thought of Whittier's lines,

    "The outward, wayward life we see
    The hidden springs we may not know."

At the back of the little brown book we found a faded water-color
sketch of a young girl--such a slim, pretty little thing, with
big blue eyes and lovely, long, rippling golden hair.  Paul
Osborne's name was written in faded ink across the corner.

We put everything back in the box.  Then we sat for a long time
by my window in silence and thought of many things, until the
rainy twilight came down and blotted out the world.



IX. SARA'S WAY

The warm June sunshine was coming down through the trees, white
with the virginal bloom of apple-blossoms, and through the
shining panes, making a tremulous mosaic upon Mrs. Eben Andrews'
spotless kitchen floor.  Through the open door, a wind, fragrant
from long wanderings over orchards and clover meadows, drifted
in, and, from the window, Mrs. Eben and her guest could look down
over a long, misty valley sloping to a sparkling sea.

Mrs. Jonas Andrews was spending the afternoon with her
sister-in-law.  She was a big, sonsy woman, with full-blown peony
cheeks and large, dreamy, brown eyes.  When she had been a slim,
pink-and-white girl those eyes had been very romantic.  Now they
were so out of keeping with the rest of her appearance as to be
ludicrous.

Mrs. Eben, sitting at the other end of the small tea-table that
was drawn up against the window, was a thin little woman, with a
very sharp nose and light, faded blue eyes.  She looked like a
woman whose opinions were always very decided and warranted to
wear.

"How does Sara like teaching at Newbridge?" asked Mrs. Jonas,
helping herself a second time to Mrs. Eben's matchless black
fruit cake, and thereby bestowing a subtle compliment which Mrs.
Eben did not fail to appreciate.

"Well, I guess she likes it pretty well--better than down at
White Sands, anyway," answered Mrs. Eben.  "Yes, I may say it
suits her.  Of course it's a long walk there and back.  I think
it would have been wiser for her to keep on boarding at
Morrison's, as she did all winter, but Sara is bound to be home
all she can.  And I must say the walk seems to agree with her."

"I was down to see Jonas' aunt at Newbridge last night," said
Mrs. Jonas, "and she said she'd heard that Sara had made up her
mind to take Lige Baxter at last, and that they were to be
married in the fall.  She asked me if it was true.  I said I
didn't know, but I hoped to mercy it was.  Now, is it, Louisa?"

"Not a word of it," said Mrs. Eben sorrowfully.  "Sara hasn't any
more notion of taking Lige than ever she had.  I'm sure it's not
MY fault.  I've talked and argued till I'm tired.  I declare to
you, Amelia, I am terribly disappointed.  I'd set my heart on
Sara's marrying Lige--and now to think she won't!"

"She is a very foolish girl," said Mrs. Jonas, judicially.  "If
Lige Baxter isn't good enough for her, who is?"

"And he's so well off," said Mrs. Eben, "and does such a good
business, and is well spoken of by every one.  And that lovely
new house of his at Newbridge, with bay windows and hardwood
floors!  I've dreamed and dreamed of seeing Sara there as
mistress."

"Maybe you'll see her there yet," said Mrs. Jonas, who always
took a hopeful view of everything, even of Sara's contrariness.
But she felt discouraged, too.  Well, she had done her best.

If Lige Baxter's broth was spoiled it was not for lack of cooks.
Every Andrews in Avonlea had been trying for two years to bring
about a match between him and Sara, and Mrs. Jonas had borne her
part valiantly.

Mrs. Eben's despondent reply was cut short by the appearance of
Sara herself.  The girl stood for a moment in the doorway and
looked with a faintly amused air at her aunts.  She knew quite
well that they had been discussing her, for Mrs. Jonas, who
carried her conscience in her face, looked guilty, and Mrs. Eben
had not been able wholly to banish her aggrieved expression.

Sara put away her books, kissed Mrs. Jonas' rosy cheek, and sat
down at the table.  Mrs. Eben brought her some fresh tea, some
hot rolls, and a little jelly-pot of the apricot preserves Sara
liked, and she cut some more fruit cake for her in moist plummy
slices.  She might be out of patience with Sara's "contrariness,"
but she spoiled and petted her for all that, for the girl was the
very core of her childless heart.

Sara Andrews was not, strictly speaking, pretty; but there was
that about her which made people look at her twice.  She was very
dark, with a rich, dusky sort of darkness, her deep eyes were
velvety brown, and her lips and cheeks were crimson.

She ate her rolls and preserves with a healthy appetite,
sharpened by her long walk from Newbridge, and told amusing
little stories of her day's work that made the two older women
shake with laughter, and exchange shy glances of pride over her
cleverness.

When tea was over she poured the remaining contents of the cream
jug into a saucer.

"I must feed my pussy," she said as she left the room.

"That girl beats me," said Mrs. Eben with a sigh of perplexity.
"You know that black cat we've had for two years?  Eben and I
have always made a lot of him, but Sara seemed to have a dislike
to him.  Never a peaceful nap under the stove could he have when
Sara was home--out he must go.  Well, a little spell ago he got
his leg broke accidentally and we thought he'd have to be killed.
But Sara wouldn't hear of it.  She got splints and set his leg
just as knacky, and bandaged it up, and she has tended him like a
sick baby ever since.  He's just about well now, and he lives in
clover, that cat does.  It's just her way.  There's them sick
chickens she's been doctoring for a week, giving them pills and
things!

"And she thinks more of that wretched-looking calf that got
poisoned with paris green than of all the other stock on the
place."


As the summer wore away, Mrs. Eben tried to reconcile herself to
the destruction of her air castles.  But she scolded Sara
considerably.

"Sara, why don't you like Lige?  I'm sure he is a model young
man."

"I don't like model young men," answered Sara impatiently.  "And
I really think I hate Lige Baxter.  He has always been held up to
me as such a paragon.  I'm tired of hearing about all his
perfections.  I know them all off by heart.  He doesn't drink, he
doesn't smoke, he doesn't steal, he doesn't tell fibs, he never
loses his temper, he doesn't swear, and he goes to church
regularly.  Such a faultless creature as that would certainly get
on my nerves.  No, no, you'll have to pick out another mistress
for your new house at the Bridge, Aunt Louisa."

When the apple trees, that had been pink and white in June, were
russet and bronze in October, Mrs. Eben had a quilting.  The
quilt was of the "Rising Star" pattern, which was considered in
Avonlea to be very handsome.  Mrs. Eben had intended it for part
of Sara's "setting out," and, while she sewed the red-and-white
diamonds together, she had regaled her fancy by imagining she saw
it spread out on the spare-room bed of the house at Newbridge,
with herself laying her bonnet and shawl on it when she went to
see Sara.  Those bright visions had faded with the apple
blossoms, and Mrs. Eben hardly had the heart to finish the quilt
at all.

The quilting came off on Saturday afternoon, when Sara could be
home from school.  All Mrs. Eben's particular friends were ranged
around the quilt, and tongues and fingers flew.  Sara flitted
about, helping her aunt with the supper preparations.  She was in
the room, getting the custard dishes out of the cupboard, when
Mrs. George Pye arrived.

Mrs. George had a genius for being late.  She was later than
usual to-day, and she looked excited.  Every woman around the
"Rising Star" felt that Mrs. George had some news worth listening
to, and there was an expectant silence while she pulled out her
chair and settled herself at the quilt.

She was a tall, thin woman with a long pale face and liquid green
eyes.  As she looked around the circle she had the air of a cat
daintily licking its chops over some titbit.

"I suppose," she said, "that you have heard the news?"

She knew perfectly well that they had not.  Every other woman at
the frame stopped quilting.  Mrs. Eben came to the door with a
pan of puffy, smoking-hot soda biscuits in her hand.  Sara
stopped counting the custard dishes, and turned her
ripely-colored face over her shoulder.  Even the black cat, at
her feet, ceased preening his fur. Mrs. George felt that the
undivided attention of her audience was hers.

"Baxter Brothers have failed," she said, her green eyes shooting
out flashes of light.  "Failed DISGRACEFULLY!"

She paused for a moment; but, since her hearers were as yet
speechless from surprise, she went on.

"George came home from Newbridge, just before I left, with the
news.  You could have knocked me down with a feather.  I should
have thought that firm was as steady as the Rock of Gibraltar!
But they're ruined--absolutely ruined.  Louisa, dear, can you
find me a good needle?"

"Louisa, dear," had set her biscuits down with a sharp thud,
reckless of results.  A sharp, metallic tinkle sounded at the
closet where Sara had struck the edge of her tray against a
shelf.  The sound seemed to loosen the paralyzed tongues, and
everybody began talking and exclaiming at once.  Clear and shrill
above the confusion rose Mrs. George Pye's voice.

"Yes, indeed, you may well say so.  It IS disgraceful.  And to
think how everybody trusted them!  George will lose considerable
by the crash, and so will a good many folks.  Everything will
have to go--Peter Baxter's farm and Lige's grand new house.  Mrs.
Peter won't carry her head so high after this, I'll be bound.
George saw Lige at the Bridge, and he said he looked dreadful cut
up and ashamed."

"Who, or what's to blame for the failure?" asked Mrs. Rachel
Lynde sharply.  She did not like Mrs. George Pye.

"There are a dozen different stories on the go," was the reply.
"As far as George could make out, Peter Baxter has been
speculating with other folks' money, and this is the result.
Everybody always suspected that Peter was crooked; but you'd have
thought that Lige would have kept him straight.  HE had always
such a reputation for saintliness."

"I don't suppose Lige knew anything about it," said Mrs. Rachel
indignantly.

"Well, he'd ought to, then.  If he isn't a knave he's a fool,"
said Mrs. Harmon Andrews, who had formerly been among his
warmest partisans.  "He should have kept watch on Peter and found
out how the business was being run.  Well, Sara, you were the
level-headest of us all--I'll admit that now.  A nice mess it
would be if you were married or engaged to Lige, and him left
without a cent--even if he can clear his character!"

"There is a good deal of talk about Peter, and swindling, and a
lawsuit," said Mrs. George Pye, quilting industriously.  "Most of
the Newbridge folks think it's all Peter's fault, and that Lige
isn't to blame.  But you can't tell.  I dare say Lige is as deep
in the mire as Peter.  He was always a little too good to be
wholesome, _I_ thought."

There was a clink of glass at the cupboard, as Sara set the tray
down.  She came forward and stood behind Mrs. Rachel Lynde's
chair, resting her shapely hands on that lady's broad shoulders.
Her face was very pale, but her flashing eyes sought and faced
defiantly Mrs. George Pye's cat-like orbs.  Her voice quivered
with passion and contempt.

"You'll all have a fling at Lige Baxter, now that he's down.  You
couldn't say enough in his praise, once.  I'll not stand by and
hear it hinted that Lige Baxter is a swindler.  You all know
perfectly well that Lige is as honest as the day, if he IS so
unfortunate as to have an unprincipled brother.  You, Mrs. Pye,
know it better than any one, yet you come here and run him down
the minute he's in trouble.  If there's another word said here
against Lige Baxter I'll leave the room and the house till you're
gone, every one of you."

She flashed a glance around the quilt that cowed the gossips.
Even Mrs. George Pye's eyes flickered and waned and quailed.
Nothing more was said until Sara had picked up her glasses and
marched from the room.  Even then they dared not speak above a
whisper.  Mrs. Pye, alone, smarting from snub, ventured to
ejaculate, "Pity save us!" as Sara slammed the door.

For the next fortnight gossip and rumor held high carnival in
Avonlea and Newbridge, and Mrs. Eben grew to dread the sight of a
visitor.

"They're bound to talk about the Baxter failure and criticize
Lige," she deplored to Mrs. Jonas.  "And it riles Sara up so
terrible.  She used to declare that she hated Lige, and now she
won't listen to a word against him.  Not that I say any, myself.
I'm sorry for him, and I believe he's done his best.  But I can't
stop other people from talking."

One evening Harmon Andrews came in with a fresh budget of news.

"The Baxter business is pretty near wound up at last," he said,
as he lighted his pipe.  "Peter has got his lawsuits settled and
has hushed up the talk about swindling, somehow.  Trust him for
slipping out of a scrape clean and clever. He don't seem to worry
any, but Lige looks like a walking skeleton.  Some folks pity
him, but I say he should have kept the run of things better and
not have trusted everything to Peter.  I hear he's going out West
in the Spring, to take up land in Alberta and try his hand at
farming.  Best thing he can do, I guess.  Folks hereabouts have
had enough of the Baxter breed.  Newbridge will be well rid of
them."

Sara, who had been sitting in the dark corner by the stove,
suddenly stood up, letting the black cat slip from her lap to the
floor.  Mrs. Eben glanced at her apprehensively, for she was
afraid the girl was going to break out in a tirade against the
complacent Harmon.

But Sara only walked fiercely out of the kitchen, with a sound as
if she were struggling for breath.  In the hall she snatched a
scarf from the wall, flung open the front door, and rushed down
the lane in the chill, pure air of the autumn twilight.  Her
heart was throbbing with the pity she always felt for bruised and
baited creatures.

On and on she went heedlessly, intent only on walking away her
pain, over gray, brooding fields and winding slopes, and along
the skirts of ruinous, dusky pine woods, curtained with fine spun
purple gloom.  Her dress brushed against the brittle grasses and
sere ferns, and the moist night wind, loosed from wild places far
away, blew her hair about her face.

At last she came to a little rustic gate, leading into a shadowy
wood-lane.  The gate was bound with willow withes, and, as Sara
fumbled vainly at them with her chilled hands, a man's firm step
came up behind her, and Lige Baxter's hand closed over her's.

"Oh, Lige!" she said, with something like a sob.

He opened the gate and drew her through.  She left her hand in
his, as they walked through the lane where lissome boughs of
young saplings flicked against their heads, and the air was
wildly sweet with the woodsy odors.

"It's a long while since I've seen you, Lige," Sara said at last.

Lige looked wistfully down at her through the gloom.

"Yes, it seems very long to me, Sara.  But I didn't think you'd
care to see me, after what you said last spring.  And you know
things have been going against me.  People have said hard things.
I've been unfortunate, Sara, and may be too easy-going, but I've
been honest.  Don't believe folks if they tell you I wasn't."

"Indeed, I never did--not for a minute!" fired Sara.

"I'm glad of that.  I'm going away, later on.  I felt bad enough
when you refused to marry me, Sara; but it's well that you
didn't.  I'm man enough to be thankful my troubles don't fall on
you."

Sara stopped and turned to him.  Beyond them the lane opened into
a field and a clear lake of crocus sky cast a dim light into the
shadow where they stood.  Above it was a new moon, like a
gleaming silver scimitar.  Sara saw it was over her left
shoulder, and she saw Lige's face above her, tender and troubled.

"Lige," she said softly, "do you love me still?"

"You know I do," said Lige sadly.

That was all Sara wanted.  With a quick movement she nestled into
his arms, and laid her warm, tear-wet cheek against his cold one.


When the amazing rumor that Sara was going to marry Lige Baxter,
and go out West with him, circulated through the Andrews clan,
hands were lifted and heads were shaken.  Mrs. Jonas puffed and
panted up the hill to learn if it were true.  She found Mrs. Eben
stitching for dear life on an "Irish Chain" quilt, while Sara was
sewing the diamonds on another "Rising Star" with a martyr-like
expression on her face.  Sara hated patchwork above everything
else, but Mrs. Eben was mistress up to a certain point.

"You'll have to make that quilt, Sara Andrews.  If you're going
to live out on those prairies, you'll need piles of quilts, and
you shall have them if I sew my fingers to the bone.  But you'll
have to help make them."

And Sara had to.

When Mrs. Jonas came, Mrs. Eben sent Sara off to the post-office
to get her out of the way.

"I suppose it's true, this time?" said Mrs. Jonas.

"Yes, indeed," said Mrs. Eben briskly.  "Sara is set on it. There
is no use trying to move her--you know that--so I've just
concluded to make the best of it.  I'm no turn-coat.  Lige Baxter
is Lige Baxter still, neither more nor less.  I've always said
he's a fine young man, and I say so still.  After all, he and
Sara won't be any poorer than Eben and I were when we started
out."

Mrs. Jonas heaved a sigh of relief.

"I'm real glad you take that view of it, Louisa.  I'm not
displeased, either, although Mrs. Harmon would take my head off
if she heard me say so.  I always liked Lige.  But I must say I'm
amazed, too, after the way Sara used to rail at him."

"Well, we might have expected it," said Mrs. Eben sagely.  "It
was always Sara's way.  When any creature got sick or unfortunate
she seemed to take it right into her heart.  So you may say Lige
Baxter's failure was a success after all."



X. THE SON OF HIS MOTHER

Thyra Carewe was waiting for Chester to come home. She sat by the
west window of the kitchen, looking out into the gathering of the
shadows with the expectant immovability that characterized her.
She never twitched or fidgeted.  Into whatever she did she put
the whole force of her nature.  If it was sitting still, she sat
still.

"A stone image would be twitchedly beside Thyra," said Mrs.
Cynthia White, her neighbor across the lane.  "It gets on my
nerves, the way she sits at that window sometimes, with no more
motion than a statue and her great eyes burning down the lane.
When I read the commandment, 'Thou shalt have no other gods
before me,' I declare I always think of Thyra.  She worships that
son of hers far ahead of her Creator.  She'll be punished for it
yet."

Mrs. White was watching Thyra now, knitting furiously, as she
watched, in order to lose no time.  Thyra's hands were folded
idly in her lap.  She had not moved a muscle since she sat down.
Mrs. White complained it gave her the weeps.

"It doesn't seem natural to see a woman sit so still," she said.
"Sometimes the thought comes to me, 'what if she's had a stroke,
like her old Uncle Horatio, and is sitting there stone dead!' "

The evening was cold and autumnal.  There was a fiery red spot
out at sea, where the sun had set, and, above it, over a chill,
clear, saffron sky, were reefs of purple-black clouds.  The
river, below the Carewe homestead, was livid.  Beyond it, the sea
was dark and brooding.  It was an evening to make most people
shiver and forebode an early winter; but Thyra loved it, as she
loved all stern, harshly beautiful things.  She would not light a
lamp because it would blot out the savage grandeur of sea and
sky.  It was better to wait in the darkness until Chester came
home.

He was late to-night.  She thought he had been detained over-time
at the harbor, but she was not anxious.  He would come straight
home to her as soon as his business was completed--of that she
felt sure.  Her thoughts went out along the bleak harbor road to
meet him.  She could see him plainly, coming with his free stride
through the sandy hollows and over the windy hills, in the harsh,
cold light of that forbidding sunset, strong and handsome in his
comely youth, with her own deeply cleft chin and his father's
dark gray, straightforward eyes.  No other woman in Avonlea had a
son like hers--her only one.  In his brief absences she yearned
after him with a maternal passion that had in it something of
physical pain, so intense was it.  She thought of Cynthia White,
knitting across the road, with contemptuous pity.  That woman had
no son--nothing but pale-faced girls.  Thyra had never wanted a
daughter, but she pitied and despised all sonless women.

Chester's dog whined suddenly and piercingly on the doorstep
outside.  He was tired of the cold stone and wanted his warm
corner behind the stove.  Thyra smiled grimly when she heard him.
She had no intention of letting him in.  She said she had always
disliked dogs, but the truth, although she would not glance at
it, was that she hated the animal because Chester loved him.  She
could not share his love with even a dumb brute.  She loved no
living creature in the world but her son, and fiercely demanded a
like concentrated affection from him.  Hence it pleased her to
hear his dog whine.

It was now quite dark; the stars had begun to shine out over the
shorn harvest fields, and Chester had not come.  Across the lane
Cynthia White had pulled down her blind, in despair of
out-watching Thyra, and had lighted a lamp.  Lively shadows of
little girl-shapes passed and repassed on the pale oblong of
light.  They made Thyra conscious of her exceeding loneliness.
She had just decided that she would walk down the lane and wait
for Chester on the bridge, when a thunderous knock came at the
east kitchen door.

She recognized August Vorst's knock and lighted a lamp in no
great haste, for she did not like him.  He was a gossip and Thyra
hated gossip, in man or woman.  But August was privileged.

She carried the lamp in her hand, when she went to the door, and
its upward-striking light gave her face a ghastly appearance.
She did not mean to ask August in, but he pushed past her
cheerfully, not waiting to be invited.  He was a midget of a man,
lame of foot and hunched of back, with a white, boyish face,
despite his middle age and deep-set, malicious black eyes.

He pulled a crumpled newspaper from his pocket and handed it to
Thyra.  He was the unofficial mail-carrier of Avonlea.  Most of
the people gave him a trifle for bringing their letters and
papers from the office.  He earned small sums in various other
ways, and so contrived to keep the life in his stunted body.
There was always venom in August's gossip.  It was said that he
made more mischief in Avonlea in a day than was made otherwise in
a year, but people tolerated him by reason of his infirmity.  To
be sure, it was the tolerance they gave to inferior creatures,
and August felt this.  Perhaps it accounted for a good deal of
his malignity.  He hated most those who were kindest to him, and,
of these, Thyra Carewe above all.  He hated Chester, too, as he
hated strong, shapely creatures.  His time had come at last to
wound them both, and his exultation shone through his crooked
body and pinched features like an illuminating lamp.  Thyra
perceived it and vaguely felt something antagonistic in it.  She
pointed to the rocking-chair, as she might have pointed out a mat
to a dog.

August crawled into it and smiled.  He was going to make her
writhe presently, this woman who looked down upon him as some
venomous creeping thing she disdained to crush with her foot.

"Did you see anything of Chester on the road?" asked Thyra,
giving August the very opening he desired.  "He went to the
harbor after tea to see Joe Raymond about the loan of his boat,
but it's the time he should be back.  I can't think what keeps
the boy."

"Just what keeps most men--leaving out creatures like me--at some
time or other in their lives.  A girl--a pretty girl, Thyra.  It
pleases me to look at her.  Even a hunchback can use his eyes,
eh?  Oh, she's a rare one!"

"What is the man talking about?" said Thyra wonderingly.

"Damaris Garland, to be sure.  Chester's down at Tom Blair's now,
talking to her--and looking more than his tongue says, too, of
that you may be sure.  Well, well, we were all young once,
Thyra--all young once, even crooked little August Vorst.  Eh,
now?"

"What do you mean?" said Thyra.

She had sat down in a chair before him, with her hands folded in
her lap.  Her face, always pale, had not changed; but her lips
were curiously white.  August Vorst saw this and it pleased him.
Also, her eyes were worth looking at, if you liked to hurt
people--and that was the only pleasure August took in life.  He
would drink this delightful cup of revenge for her long years of
disdainful kindness--ah, he would drink it slowly to prolong its
sweetness.  Sip by sip--he rubbed his long, thin, white hands
together--sip by sip, tasting each mouthful.

"Eh, now?  You know well enough, Thyra."

"I know nothing of what you would be at, August Vorst.  You speak
of my son and Damaris--was that the name?--Damaris Garland as if
they were something to each other.  I ask you what you mean by
it?"

"Tut, tut, Thyra, nothing very terrible.  There's no need to look
like that about it.  Young men will be young men to the end of
time, and there's no harm in Chester's liking to look at a lass,
eh, now?  Or in talking to her either?  The little baggage, with
the red lips of her!  She and Chester will make a pretty pair.
He's not so ill-looking for a man, Thyra."

"I am not a very patient woman, August," said Thyra coldly.  "I
have asked you what you mean, and I want a straight answer.  Is
Chester down at Tom Blair's while I have been sitting here,
alone, waiting for him?"

August nodded.  He saw that it would not be wise to trifle longer
with Thyra.

"That he is.  I was there before I came here.  He and Damaris
were sitting in a corner by themselves, and very well-satisfied
they seemed to be with each other.  Tut, tut, Thyra, don't take
the news so.  I thought you knew.  It's no secret that Chester
has been going after Damaris ever since she came here.  But what
then?  You can't tie him to your apron strings forever, woman.
He'll be finding a mate for himself, as he should.  Seeing that
he's straight and well-shaped, no doubt Damaris will look with
favor on him.  Old Martha Blair declares the girl loves him
better than her eyes."

Thyra made a sound like a strangled moan in the middle of
August's speech.  She heard the rest of it immovably.  When it
came to an end she stood and looked down upon him in a way that
silenced him.

"You've told the news you came to tell, and gloated over it, and
now get you gone," she said slowly.

"Now, Thyra," he began, but she interrupted him threateningly.

"Get you gone, I say!  And you need not bring my mail here any
longer.  I want no more of your misshapen body and lying
tongue!"

August went, but at the door he turned for a parting stab.

"My tongue is not a lying one, Mrs. Carewe.  I've told you the
truth, as all Avonlea knows it.  Chester is mad about Damaris
Garland.  It's no wonder I thought you knew what all the
settlement can see.  But you're such a jealous, odd body, I
suppose the boy hid it from you for fear you'd go into a tantrum.
As for me, I'll not forget that you've turned me from your door
because I chanced to bring you news you'd no fancy for."

Thyra did not answer him.  When the door closed behind him she
locked it and blew out the light.  Then she threw herself face
downward on the sofa and burst into wild tears.  Her very soul
ached.  She wept as tempestuously and unreasoningly as youth
weeps, although she was not young.  It seemed as if she was
afraid to stop weeping lest she should go mad thinking.  But,
after a time, tears failed her, and she began bitterly to go
over, word by word, what August Vorst had said.

That her son should ever cast eyes of love on any girl was
something Thyra had never thought about.  She would not believe
it possible that he should love any one but herself, who loved
him so much.  And now the possibility invaded her mind as subtly
and coldly and remorselessly as a sea-fog stealing landward.

Chester had been born to her at an age when most women are
letting their children slip from them into the world, with some
natural tears and heartaches, but content to let them go, after
enjoying their sweetest years.  Thyra's late-come motherhood was
all the more intense and passionate because of its very lateness.
She had been very ill when her son was born, and had lain
helpless for long weeks, during which other women had tended her
baby for her.  She had never been able to forgive them for this.

Her husband had died before Chester was a year old.  She had laid
their son in his dying arms and received him back again with a
last benediction.  To Thyra that moment had something of a
sacrament in it.  It was as if the child had been doubly given to
her, with a right to him solely that nothing could take away or
transcend.

Marrying!  She had never thought of it in connection with him.
He did not come of a marrying race.  His father had been sixty
when he had married her, Thyra Lincoln, likewise well on in life.
Few of the Lincolns or Carewes had married young, many not at
all.  And, to her, Chester was her baby still.  He belonged
solely to her.

And now another woman had dared to look upon him with eyes of
love.  Damaris Garland!  Thyra now remembered seeing her.  She
was a new-comer in Avonlea, having come to live with her uncle
and aunt after the death of her mother.  Thyra had met her on the
bridge one day a month previously.  Yes, a man might think she
was pretty--a low-browed girl, with a wave of reddish-gold hair,
and crimson lips blossoming out against the strange,
milk-whiteness of her skin.  Her eyes, too--Thyra recalled them--
hazel in tint, deep, and laughter-brimmed.

The girl had gone past her with a smile that brought out many
dimples.  There was a certain insolent quality in her beauty, as
if it flaunted itself somewhat too defiantly in the beholder's
eye.  Thyra had turned and looked after the lithe, young
creature, wondering who she might be.

And to-night, while she, his mother, waited for him in darkness
and loneliness, he was down at Blair's, talking to this girl!  He
loved her; and it was past doubt that she loved him.  The thought
was more bitter than death to Thyra.  That she should dare!  Her
anger was all against the girl.  She had laid a snare to get
Chester and he, like a fool, was entangled in it, thinking,
man-fashion, only of her great eyes and red lips.  Thyra thought
savagely of Damaris' beauty.

"She shall not have him," she said, with slow emphasis.  "I will
never give him up to any other woman, and, least of all, to her.
She would leave me no place in his heart at all--me, his mother,
who almost died to give him life.  He belongs to me!  Let her
look for the son of some other woman--some woman who has many
sons.  She shall not have my only one!"

She got up, wrapped a shawl about her head, and went out into the
darkly golden evening.  The clouds had cleared away, and the moon
was shining.  The air was chill, with a bell-like clearness.  The
alders by the river rustled eerily as she walked by them and out
upon the bridge.  Here she paced up and down, peering with
troubled eyes along the road beyond, or leaning over the rail,
looking at the sparkling silver ribbon of moonlight that
garlanded the waters.  Late travelers passed her, and wondered at
her presence and mien.  Carl White saw her, and told his wife
about her when he got home.

"Striding to and fro over the bridge like mad!  At first I
thought it was old, crazy May Blair.  What do you suppose she was
doing down there at this hour of the night?"

"Watching for Ches, no doubt," said Cynthia.  "He ain't home yet.
Likely he's snug at Blairs'.  I do wonder if Thyra suspicions
that he goes after Damaris.  I've never dared to hint it to her.
She'd be as liable to fly at me, tooth and claw, as not."

"Well, she picks out a precious queer night for moon-gazing,"
said Carl, who was a jolly soul and took life as he found it.
"It's bitter cold--there'll be a hard frost.  It's a pity she
can't get it grained into her that the boy is grown up and must
have his fling like the other lads.  She'll go out of her mind
yet, like her old grandmother Lincoln, if she doesn't ease up.
I've a notion to go down to the bridge and reason a bit with
her."

"Indeed, and you'll do no such thing!" cried Cynthia.  "Thyra
Carewe is best left alone, if she is in a tantrum.  She's like no
other woman in Avonlea--or out of it.  I'd as soon meddle with a
tiger as her, if she's rampaging about Chester.  I don't envy
Damaris Garland her life if she goes in there.  Thyra'd sooner
strangle her than not, I guess."

"You women are all terrible hard on Thyra," said Carl,
good-naturedly.  He had been in love with Thyra, himself, long
ago, and he still liked her in a friendly fashion.  He always
stood up for her when the Avonlea women ran her down.  He felt
troubled about her all night, recalling her as she paced the
bridge.  He wished he had gone back, in spite of Cynthia.


When Chester came home he met his mother on the bridge.  In the
faint, yet penetrating, moonlight they looked curiously alike,
but Chester had the milder face.  He was very handsome.  Even in
the seething of her pain and jealousy Thyra yearned over his
beauty.  She would have liked to put up her hands and caress his
face, but her voice was very hard when she asked him where he had
been so late.

"I called in at Tom Blair's on my way home from the harbor," he
answered, trying to walk on.  But she held him back by his arm.

"Did you go there to see Damaris?" she demanded fiercely.

Chester was uncomfortable.  Much as he loved his mother, he felt,
and always had felt, an awe of her and an impatient dislike of
her dramatic ways of speaking and acting.  He reflected,
resentfully, that no other young man in Avonlea, who had been
paying a friendly call, would be met by his mother at midnight
and held up in such tragic fashion to account for himself.  He
tried vainly to loosen her hold upon his arm, but he understood
quite well that he must give her an answer.  Being strictly
straight-forward by nature and upbringing, he told the truth,
albeit with more anger in his tone than he had ever shown to his
mother before.

"Yes," he said shortly.

Thyra released his arm, and struck her hands together with a
sharp cry.  There was a savage note in it.  She could have slain
Damaris Garland at that moment.

"Don't go on so, mother," said Chester, impatiently.  "Come in
out of the cold.  It isn't fit for you to be here.  Who has been
tampering with you?  What if I did go to see Damaris?"

"Oh--oh--oh!" cried Thyra.  "I was waiting for you--alone--and
you were thinking only of her!  Chester, answer me--do you love
her?"

The blood rolled rapidly over the boy's face.  He muttered
something and tried to pass on, but she caught him again.  He
forced himself to speak gently.

"What if I do, mother?"  It wouldn't be such a dreadful thing,
would it?"

"And me?  And me?" cried Thyra.  "What am I to you, then?"

"You are my mother.  I wouldn't love you any the less because I
cared for another, too."

"I won't have you love another," she cried.  "I want all your
love--all!  What's that baby-face to you, compared to your
mother?  I have the best right to you.  I won't give you up."

Chester realized that there was no arguing with such a mood.  He
walked on, resolved to set the matter aside until she might be
more reasonable.  But Thyra would not have it so.  She followed
on after him, under the alders that crowded over the lane.

"Promise me that you'll not go there again," she entreated.
"Promise me that you'll give her up."

"I can't promise such a thing," he cried angrily.

His anger hurt her worse than a blow, but she did not flinch.

"You're not engaged to her?" she cried out.

"Now, mother, be quiet.  All the settlement will hear you.  Why
do you object to Damaris?  You don't know how sweet she is.  When
you know her--"

"I will never know her!" cried Thyra furiously.  "And she shall
not have you!  She shall not, Chester!"

He made no answer.  She suddenly broke into tears and loud sobs.
Touched with remorse, he stopped and put his arms about her.

"Mother, mother, don't!  I can't bear to see you cry so.  But,
indeed, you are unreasonable.  Didn't you ever think the time
would come when I would want to marry, like other men?"

"No, no!  And I will not have it--I cannot bear it, Chester.  You
must promise not to go to see her again.  I won't go into the
house this night until you do.  I'll stay out here in the bitter
cold until you promise to put her out of your thoughts."

"That's beyond my power, mother.  Oh, mother, you're making it
hard for me.  Come in, come in!  You're shivering with cold now.
You'll be sick."

"Not a step will I stir till you promise.  Say you won't go to
see that girl any more, and there's nothing I won't do for you.
But if you put her before me, I'll not go in--I never will go
in."

With most women this would have been an empty threat; but it was
not so with Thyra, and Chester knew it.  He knew she would keep
her word.  And he feared more than that.  In this frenzy of hers
what might she not do?  She came of a strange breed, as had been
said disapprovingly when Luke Carewe married her.  There was a
strain of insanity in the Lincolns.  A Lincoln woman had drowned
herself once.  Chester thought of the river, and grew sick with
fright.  For a moment even his passion for Damaris weakened
before the older tie.

"Mother, calm yourself.  Oh, surely there's no need of all this!
Let us wait until to-morrow, and talk it over then.  I'll hear
all you have to say.  Come in, dear."

Thyra loosened her arms from about him, and stepped back into a
moon-lit space.  Looking at him tragically, she extended her arms
and spoke slowly and solemnly.

"Chester, choose between us.  If you choose her, I shall go from
you to-night, and you will never see me again!"

"Mother!"

"Choose!" she reiterated, fiercely.

He felt her long ascendancy.  Its influence was not to be shaken
off in a moment.  In all his life he had never disobeyed her.
Besides, with it all, he loved her more deeply and
understandingly than most sons love their mothers.  He realized
that, since she would have it so, his choice was already
made--or, rather that he had no choice.

"Have your way," he said sullenly.

She ran to him and caught him to her heart.  In the reaction of
her feeling she was half laughing, half crying.  All was well
again--all would be well; she never doubted this, for she knew he
would keep his ungracious promise sacredly.

"Oh, my son, my son," she murmured, "you'd have sent me to my
death if you had chosen otherwise.  But now you are mine again!"

She did not heed that he was sullen--that he resented her
unjustice with all her own intensity.  She did not heed his
silence as they went into the house together.  Strangely enough,
she slept well and soundly that night.  Not until many days had
passed did she understand that, though Chester might keep his
promise in the letter, it was beyond his power to keep it in the
spirit.  She had taken him from Damaris Garland; but she had not
won him back to herself.  He could never be wholly her son again.
There was a barrier between them which not all her passionate
love could break down.  Chester was gravely kind to her, for it
was not in his nature to remain sullen long, or visit his own
unhappiness upon another's head; besides, he understood her
exacting affection, even in its injustice, and it has been
well-said that to understand is to forgive.  But he avoided her,
and she knew it.  The flame of her anger burned bitterly towards
Damaris.

"He thinks of her all the time," she moaned to herself.  "He'll
come to hate me yet, I fear, because it's I who made him give her
up.  But I'd rather even that than share him with another woman.
Oh, my son, my son!"

She knew that Damaris was suffering, too.  The girl's wan face
told that when she met her.  But this pleased Thyra.  It eased
the ache in her bitter heart to know that pain was gnawing at
Damaris' also.

Chester was absent from home very often now.  He spent much of
his spare time at the harbor, consorting with Joe Raymond and
others of that ilk, who were but sorry associates for him,
Avonlea people thought.

In late November he and Joe started for a trip down the coast in
the latter's boat.  Thyra protested against it, but Chester
laughed at her alarm.

Thyra saw him go with a heart sick from fear.  She hated the sea,
and was afraid of it at any time; but, most of all, in this
treacherous month, with its sudden, wild gales.

Chester had been fond of the sea from boyhood.  She had always
tried to stifle this fondness and break off his associations with
the harbor fishermen, who liked to lure the high-spirited boy out
with them on fishing expeditions.  But her power over him was
gone now.

After Chester's departure she was restless and miserable,
wandering from window to window to scan the dour, unsmiling sky.
Carl White, dropping in to pay a call, was alarmed when he heard
that Chester had gone with Joe, and had not tact enough to
conceal his alarm from Thyra.

"'T isn't safe this time of year," he said.  "Folks expect no
better from that reckless, harum-scarum Joe Raymond.  He'll drown
himself some day, there's nothing surer.  This mad freak of
starting off down the shore in November is just of a piece with
his usual performances.  But you shouldn't have let Chester go,
Thyra."

"I couldn't prevent him.  Say what I could, he would go.  He
laughed when I spoke of danger.  Oh, he's changed from what he
was!  I know who has wrought the change, and I hate her for it!"

Carl shrugged his fat shoulders.  He knew quite well that Thyra
was at the bottom of the sudden coldness between Chester Carewe
and Damaris Garland, about which Avonlea gossip was busying
itself.  He pitied Thyra, too.  She had aged rapidly the past
month.

"You're too hard on Chester, Thyra.  He's out of leading-strings
now, or should be.  You must just let me take an old friend's
privilege, and tell you that you're taking the wrong way with
him.  You're too jealous and exacting, Thyra."

"You don't know anything about it.  You have never had a son,"
said Thyra, cruelly enough, for she knew that Carl's sonlessness
was a rankling thorn in his mind.  "You don't know what it is to
pour out your love on one human being, and have it flung back in
your face!"

Carl could not cope with Thyra's moods.  He had never understood
her, even in his youth.  Now he went home, still shrugging his
shoulders, and thinking that it was a good thing Thyra had not
looked on him with favor in the old days.  Cynthia was much
easier to get along with.

More than Thyra looked anxiously to sea and sky that night in
Avonlea.  Damaris Garland listened to the smothered roar of the
Atlantic in the murky northeast with a prescience of coming
disaster.  Friendly longshoremen shook their heads and said that
Ches and Joe would better have kept to good, dry land.

"It's sorry work joking with a November gale," said Abel Blair.
He was an old man and, in his life, had seen some sad things
along the shore.

Thyra could not sleep that night.  When the gale came shrieking
up the river, and struck the house, she got out of bed and
dressed herself.  The wind screamed like a ravening beast at her
window.  All night she wandered to and fro in the house, going
from room to room, now wringing her hands with loud outcries, now
praying below her breath with white lips, now listening in dumb
misery to the fury of the storm.

The wind raged all the next day; but spent itself in the
following night, and the second morning was calm and fair.  The
eastern sky was a great arc of crystal, smitten through with
auroral crimsonings.  Thyra, looking from her kitchen window, saw
a group of men on the bridge.  They were talking to Carl White,
with looks and gestures directed towards the Carewe house.

She went out and down to them.  None of these who saw her white,
rigid face that day ever forgot the sight.

"You have news for me," she said.

They looked at each other, each man mutely imploring his neighbor
to speak.

"You need not fear to tell me," said Thyra calmly.  "I know what
you have come to say.  My son is drowned."

"We don't know THAT, Mrs. Carewe," said Abel Blair quickly.  "We
haven't got the worst to tell you--there's hope yet.  But Joe
Raymond's boat was found last night, stranded bottom up, on the
Blue Point sand shore, forty miles down the coast."

"Don't look like that, Thyra," said Carl White pityingly.  "They
may have escaped--they may have been picked up."

Thyra looked at him with dull eyes.

"You know they have not.  Not one of you has any hope.  I have no
son.  The sea has taken him from me--my bonny baby!"

She turned and went back to her desolate home.  None dared to
follow her.  Carl White went home and sent his wife over to her.

Cynthia found Thyra sitting in her accustomed chair.  Her hands
lay, palms upward, on her lap.  Her eyes were dry and burning.
She met Cynthia's compassionate look with a fearful smile.

"Long ago, Cynthia White," she said slowly, "you were vexed with
me one day, and you told me that God would punish me yet, because
I made an idol of my son, and set it up in His place.  Do you
remember?  Your word was a true one.  God saw that I loved
Chester too much, and He meant to take him from me.  I thwarted
one way when I made him give up Damaris.  But one can't fight
against the Almighty.  It was decreed that I must lose him--if
not in one way, then in another.  He has been taken from me
utterly.  I shall not even have his grave to tend, Cynthia."

"As near to a mad woman as anything you ever saw, with her awful
eyes," Cynthia told Carl, afterwards.  But she did not say so
there.  Although she was a shallow, commonplace soul, she had her
share of womanly sympathy, and her own life had not been free
from suffering.  It taught her the right thing to do now.  She
sat down by the stricken creature and put her arms about her,
while she gathered the cold hands in her own warm clasp.  The
tears filled her big, blue eyes and her voice trembled as she
said:

"Thyra, I'm sorry for you.  I--I--lost a child once--my little
first-born.  And Chester was a dear, good lad."

For a moment Thyra strained her small, tense body away from
Cynthia's embrace.  Then she shuddered and cried out.  The tears
came, and she wept her agony out on the other woman's breast.

As the ill news spread, other Avonlea women kept dropping in all
through the day to condole with Thyra.  Many of them came in real
sympathy, but some out of mere curiosity to see how she took it.
Thyra knew this, but she did not resent it, as she would once
have done.  She listened very quietly to all the halting efforts
at consolation, and the little platitudes with which they strove
to cover the nakedness of bereavement.

When darkness came Cynthia said she must go home, but would send
one of her girls over for the night.

"You won't feel like staying alone," she said.

Thyra looked up steadily.

"No.  But I want you to send for Damaris Garland."

"Damaris Garland!"  Cynthia repeated the name as if disbelieving
her own ears.  There was never any knowing what whim Thyra might
take, but Cynthia had not expected this.

"Yes.  Tell her I want her--tell her she must come.  She must
hate me bitterly; but I am punished enough to satisfy even her
hate.  Tell her to come to me for Chester's sake."

Cynthia did as she was bid, she sent her daughter, Jeanette, for
Damaris.  Then she waited.  No matter what duties were calling
for her at home she must see the interview between Thyra and
Damaris.  Her curiosity would be the last thing to fail Cynthia
White.  She had done very well all day; but it would be asking
too much of her to expect that she would consider the meeting of
these two women sacred from her eyes.

She half believed that Damaris would refuse to come.  But Damaris
came.  Jeanette brought her in amid the fiery glow of a November
sunset.  Thyra stood up, and for a moment they looked at each
other.

The insolence of Damaris' beauty was gone.  Her eyes were dull
and heavy with weeping, her lips were pale, and her face had lost
its laughter and dimples.  Only her hair, escaping from the shawl
she had cast around it, gushed forth in warm splendor in the
sunset light, and framed her wan face like the aureole of a
Madonna.  Thyra looked upon her with a shock of remorse.  This
was not the radiant creature she had met on the bridge that
summer afternoon.  This--this--was HER work.  She held out her
arms.

"Oh, Damaris, forgive me.  We both loved him--that must be a bond
between us for life."

Damaris came forward and threw her arms about the older woman,
lifting her face.  As their lips met even Cynthia White realized
that she had no business there.  She vented the irritation of her
embarrassment on the innocent Jeanette.

"Come away," she whispered crossly.  "Can't you see we're not
wanted here?"

She drew Jeanette out, leaving Thyra rocking Damaris in her arms,
and crooning over her like a mother over her child.

When December had grown old Damaris was still with Thyra.  It was
understood that she was to remain there for the winter, at least.
Thyra could not bear her to be out of her sight.  They talked
constantly about Chester; Thyra confessed all her anger and
hatred.  Damaris had forgiven her; but Thyra could never forgive
herself.  She was greatly changed, and had grown very gentle and
tender.  She even sent for August Vorst and begged him to pardon
her for the way she had spoken to him.

Winter came late that year, and the season was a very open one.
There was no snow on the ground and, a month after Joe Raymond's
boat had been cast up on the Blue Point sand shore, Thyra,
wandering about in her garden, found some pansies blooming under
their tangled leaves.  She was picking them for Damaris when she
heard a buggy rumble over the bridge and drive up the White lane,
hidden from her sight by the alders and firs.  A few minutes
later Carl and Cynthia came hastily across their yard under the
huge balm-of-gileads.  Carl's face was flushed, and his big body
quivered with excitement.  Cynthia ran behind him, with tears
rolling down her face.

Thyra felt herself growing sick with fear.  Had anything happened
to Damaris?  A glimpse of the girl, sewing by an upper window of
the house, reassured her.

"Oh, Thyra, Thyra!" gasped Cynthia.

"Can you stand some good news, Thyra?" asked Carl, in a trembling
voice.  "Very, very good news!"

Thyra looked wildly from one to the other.

"There's but one thing you would dare to call good news to me,"
she cried.  "Is it about--about--"

"Chester!  Yes, it's about Chester!  Thyra, he is alive--he's
safe--he and Joe, both of them, thank God!  Cynthia, catch her!"

"No, I am not going to faint," said Thyra, steadying herself by
Cynthia's shoulder.  "My son alive!  How did you hear?  How did
it happen?  Where has he been?"

"I heard it down at the harbor, Thyra.  Mike McCready's vessel,
the _Nora Lee_, was just in from the Magdalens.  Ches and Joe got
capsized the night of the storm, but they hung on to their boat
somehow, and at daybreak they were picked up by the _Nora Lee_,
bound for Quebec.  But she was damaged by the storm and blown
clear out of her course.  Had to put into the Magdalens for
repairs, and has been there ever since.  The cable to the islands
was out of order, and no vessels call there this time of year for
mails.  If it hadn't been an extra open season the _Nora Lee_
wouldn't have got away, but would have had to stay there till
spring.  You never saw such rejoicing as there was this morning
at the harbor, when the _Nora Lee_ came in, flying flags at the
mast head."

"And Chester--where is he?" demanded Thyra.

Carl and Cynthia looked at each other.

"Well, Thyra," said the latter, "the fact is, he's over there in
our yard this blessed minute.  Carl brought him home from the
harbor, but I wouldn't let him come over until we had prepared
you for it.  He's waiting for you there."

Thyra made a quick step in the direction of the gate.  Then she
turned, with a little of the glow dying out of her face.

"No, there's one has a better right to go to him first.  I can
atone to him--thank God, I can atone to him!"

She went into the house and called Damaris.  As the girl came
down the stairs Thyra held out her hands with a wonderful light
of joy and renunciation on her face.

"Damaris," she said, "Chester has come back to us--the sea has
given him back to us.  He is over at Carl White's house.  Go to
him, my daughter, and bring him to me!"



XI. THE EDUCATION OF BETTY

When Sara Currie married Jack Churchill I was broken-hearted...or
believed myself to be so, which, in a boy of twenty-two, amounts
to pretty much the same thing.  Not that I took the world into my
confidence; that was never the Douglas way, and I held myself in
honor bound to live up to the family traditions.  I thought,
then, that nobody but Sara knew; but I dare say, now, that Jack
knew it also, for I don't think Sara could have helped telling
him.  If he did know, however, he did not let me see that he did,
and never insulted me by any implied sympathy; on the contrary,
he asked me to be his best man.  Jack was always a thoroughbred.

I was best man.  Jack and I had always been bosom friends, and,
although I had lost my sweetheart, I did not intend to lose my
friend into the bargain.  Sara had made a wise choice, for Jack
was twice the man I was; he had had to work for his living, which
perhaps accounts for it.

So I danced at Sara's wedding as if my heart were as light as my
heels; but, after she and Jack had settled down at Glenby I
closed The Maples and went abroad...being, as I have hinted, one
of those unfortunate mortals who need consult nothing but their
own whims in the matter of time and money.  I stayed away for ten
years, during which The Maples was given over to moths and rust,
while I enjoyed life elsewhere.  I did enjoy it hugely, but
always under protest, for I felt that a broken-hearted man ought
not to enjoy himself as I did.  It jarred on my sense of fitness,
and I tried to moderate my zest, and think more of the past than
I did.  It was no use; the present insisted on being intrusive
and pleasant; as for the future...well, there was no future.

Then Jack Churchill, poor fellow, died.  A year after his death,
I went home and again asked Sara to marry me, as in duty bound.
Sara again declined, alleging that her heart was buried in Jack's
grave, or words to that effect.  I found that it did not much
matter...of course, at thirty-two one does not take these things
to heart as at twenty-two.  I had enough to occupy me in getting
The Maples into working order, and beginning to educate Betty.

Betty was Sara's ten year-old daughter, and she had been
thoroughly spoiled.  That is to say, she had been allowed her own
way in everything and, having inherited her father's outdoor
tastes, had simply run wild.  She was a thorough tomboy, a thin,
scrawny little thing with a trace of Sara's beauty.  Betty took
after her father's dark, tall race and, on the occasion of my
first introduction to her, seemed to be all legs and neck.  There
were points about her, though, which I considered promising.  She
had fine, almond-shaped, hazel eyes, the smallest and most
shapely hands and feet I ever saw, and two enormous braids of
thick, nut-brown hair.

For Jack's sake I decided to bring his daughter up properly.
Sara couldn't do it, and didn't try.  I saw that, if somebody
didn't take Betty in hand, wisely and firmly, she would certainly
be ruined.  There seemed to be nobody except myself at all
interested in the matter, so I determined to see what an old
bachelor could do as regards bringing up a girl in the way she
should go.  I might have been her father; as it was, her father
had been my best friend.  Who had a better right to watch over
his daughter?  I determined to be a father to Betty, and do all
for her that the most devoted parent could do. It was,
self-evidently, my duty.

I told Sara I was going to take Betty in hand.  Sara sighed one
of the plaintive little sighs which I had once thought so
charming, but now, to my surprise, found faintly irritating, and
said that she would be very much obliged if I would.

"I feel that I am not able to cope with the problem of Betty's
education, Stephen," she admitted, "Betty is a strange
child...all Churchill.  Her poor father indulged her in
everything, and she has a will of her own, I assure you.  I have
really no control over her, whatever.  She does as she pleases,
and is ruining her complexion by running and galloping out of
doors the whole time.  Not that she had much complexion to start
with.  The Churchills never had, you know."...Sara cast a
complacent glance at her delicately tinted reflection in the
mirror....  "I tried to make Betty wear a sunbonnet this summer,
but I might as well have talked to the wind."

A vision of Betty in a sunbonnet presented itself to my mind, and
afforded me so much amusement that I was grateful to Sara for
having furnished it.  I rewarded her with a compliment.

"It is to be regretted that Betty has not inherited her mother's
charming color," I said, "but we must do the best we can for her
under her limitations.  She may have improved vastly by the time
she has grown up.  And, at least, we must make a lady of her; she
is a most alarming tomboy at present, but there is good material
to work upon...there must be, in the Churchill and Currie
blend.  But even the best material may be spoiled by unwise
handling.  I think I can promise you that I will not spoil it.  I
feel that Betty is my vocation; and I shall set myself up as a
rival of Wordsworth's 'nature,' of whose methods I have always
had a decided distrust, in spite of his insidious verses."

Sara did not understand me in the least; but, then, she did not
pretend to.

"I confide Betty's education entirely to you, Stephen," she said,
with another plaintive sigh.  "I feel sure I could not put it
into better hands.  You have always been a person who could be
thoroughly depended on."

Well, that was something by way of reward for a life-long
devotion.  I felt that I was satisfied with my position as
unofficial advisor-in-chief to Sara and self-appointed guardian
of Betty.  I also felt that, for the furtherance of the cause I
had taken to heart, it was a good thing that Sara had again
refused to marry me.  I had a sixth sense which informed me that
a staid old family friend might succeed with Betty where a
stepfather would have signally failed.  Betty's loyalty to her
father's memory was passionate, and vehement; she would view his
supplanter with resentment and distrust; but his old familiar
comrade was a person to be taken to her heart.

Fortunately for the success of my enterprise, Betty liked me.
She told me this with the same engaging candor she would have
used in informing me that she hated me, if she had happened to
take a bias in that direction, saying frankly:

"You are one of the very nicest old folks I know, Stephen.  Yes,
you are a ripping good fellow!"

This made my task a comparatively easy one; I sometimes shudder
to think what it might have been if Betty had not thought I was a
"ripping good fellow."  I should have stuck to it, because that
is my way; but Betty would have made my life a misery to me.  She
had startling capacities for tormenting people when she chose to
exert them; I certainly should not have liked to be numbered
among Betty's foes.

I rode over to Glenby the next morning after my paternal
interview with Sara, intending to have a frank talk with Betty
and lay the foundations of a good understanding on both sides.
Betty was a sharp child, with a disconcerting knack of seeing
straight through grindstones; she would certainly perceive and
probably resent any underhanded management.  I thought it best to
tell her plainly that I was going to look after her.

When, however, I encountered Betty, tearing madly down the beech
avenue with a couple of dogs, her loosened hair streaming behind
her like a banner of independence, and had lifted her, hatless
and breathless, up before me on my mare, I found that Sara had
saved me the trouble of an explanation.

"Mother says you are going to take charge of my education,
Stephen," said Betty, as soon as she could speak.  "I'm glad,
because I think that, for an old person, you have a good deal of
sense.  I suppose my education has to be seen to, some time or
other, and I'd rather you'd do it than anybody else I know."

"Thank you, Betty," I said gravely.  "I hope I shall deserve your
good opinion of my sense.  I shall expect you to do as I tell
you, and be guided by my advice in everything."

"Yes, I will," said Betty, "because I'm sure you won't tell me to
do anything I'd really hate to do.  You won't shut me up in a
room and make me sew, will you?  Because I won't do it."

I assured her I would not.

"Nor send me to a boarding-school," pursued Betty.  "Mother's
always threatening to send me to one.  I suppose she would have
done it before this, only she knew I'd run away.  You won't send
me to a boarding-school, will you, Stephen?  Because I won't go."

"No," I said obligingly.  "I won't.  I should never dream of
cooping a wild little thing, like you, up in a boarding-school.
You'd fret your heart out like a caged skylark."

"I know you and I are going to get along together splendidly,
Stephen," said Betty, rubbing her brown cheek chummily against my
shoulder.  "You are so good at understanding.  Very few people
are.  Even dad darling didn't understand.  He let me do just as I
wanted to, just because I wanted to, not because he really
understood that I couldn't be tame and play with dolls.  I hate
dolls!  Real live babies are jolly; but dogs and horses are ever
so much nicer than dolls."

"But you must have lessons, Betty.  I shall select your teachers
and superintend your studies, and I shall expect you to do me
credit along that line, as well as along all others."

"I'll try, honest and true, Stephen," declared Betty.  And she
kept her word.

At first I looked upon Betty's education as a duty; in a very
short time it had become a pleasure...the deepest and most
abiding interest of my life.  As I had premised, Betty was good
material, and responded to my training with gratifying
plasticity.  Day by day, week by week, month by month, her
character and temperament unfolded naturally under my watchful
eye.  It was like beholding the gradual development of some rare
flower in one's garden.  A little checking and pruning here, a
careful training of shoot and tendril there, and, lo, the reward
of grace and symmetry!

Betty grew up as I would have wished Jack Churchill's girl to
grow--spirited and proud, with the fine spirit and gracious pride
of pure womanhood, loyal and loving, with the loyalty and love of
a frank and unspoiled nature; true to her heart's core, hating
falsehood and sham--as crystal-clear a mirror of maidenhood as
ever man looked into and saw himself reflected back in such a
halo as made him ashamed of not being more worthy of it.  Betty
was kind enough to say that I had taught her everything she knew.
But what had she not taught me?  If there were a debt between us,
it was on my side.

Sara was fairly well satisfied.  It was not my fault that Betty
was not better looking, she said.  I had certainly done
everything for her mind and character that could be done.  Sara's
manner implied that these unimportant details did not count for
much, balanced against the lack of a pink-and-white skin and
dimpled elbows; but she was generous enough not to blame me.

"When Betty is twenty-five," I said patiently--I had grown used
to speaking patiently to Sara--"she will be a magnificent woman--
far handsomer than you ever were, Sara, in your pinkest and
whitest prime.  Where are your eyes, my dear lady, that you can't
see the promise of loveliness in Betty?"

"Betty is seventeen, and she is as lanky and brown as ever she
was," sighed Sara.  "When I was seventeen I was the belle of the
county and had had five proposals.  I don't believe the thought
of a lover has ever entered Betty's head."

"I hope not," I said shortly.  Somehow, I did not like the
suggestion.  "Betty is a child yet.  For pity's sake, Sara, don't
go putting nonsensical ideas into her head."

"I'm afraid I can't," mourned Sara, as if it were something to be
regretted.  "You have filled it too full of books and things like
that.  I've every confidence in your judgment, Stephen--and
really you've done wonders with Betty.  But don't you think
you've made her rather too clever?  Men don't like women who are
too clever.  Her poor father, now--he always said that a woman
who liked books better than beaux was an unnatural creature."

I didn't believe Jack had ever said anything so foolish.  Sara
imagined things.  But I resented the aspersion of
blue-stockingness cast on Betty.

"When the time comes for Betty to be interested in beaux," I said
severely, "she will probably give them all due attention.  Just
at present her head is a great deal better filled with books than
with silly premature fancies and sentimentalities.  I'm a
critical old fellow--but I'm satisfied with Betty, Sara--
perfectly satisfied."

Sara sighed.

"Oh, I dare say she is all right, Stephen.  And I'm really
grateful to you.  I'm sure I could have done nothing at all with
her.  It's not your fault, of course,--but I can't help wishing
she were a little more like other girls."

I galloped away from Glenby in a rage.  What a blessing Sara had
not married me in my absurd youth!  She would have driven me wild
with her sighs and her obtuseness and her everlasting
pink-and-whiteness.  But there--there--there--gently!  She was a
sweet, good-hearted little woman; she had made Jack happy; and
she had contrived, heaven only knew how, to bring a rare creature
like Betty into the world.  For that, much might be forgiven her.
By the time I reached The Maples and had flung myself down in an
old, kinky, comfortable chair in my library I had forgiven her
and was even paying her the compliment of thinking seriously over
what she had said.

Was Betty really unlike other girls?  That is to say, unlike them
in any respect wherein she should resemble them?  I did not wish
this; although I was a crusty old bachelor I approved of girls,
holding them the sweetest things the good God has made.  I wanted
Betty to have her full complement of girlhood in all its best and
highest manifestation.  Was there anything lacking?

I observed Betty very closely during the next week or so, riding
over to Glenby every day and riding back at night, meditating
upon my observations.  Eventually I concluded to do what I had
never thought myself in the least likely to do.  I would send
Betty to a boarding-school for a year.  It was necessary that she
should learn how to live with other girls.

I went over to Glenby the next day and found Betty under the
beeches on the lawn, just back from a canter.  She was sitting on
the dappled mare I had given her on her last birthday, and was
laughing at the antics of her rejoicing dogs around her.  I
looked at her with much pleasure; it gladdened me to see how
much, nay, how totally a child she still was, despite her
Churchill height.  Her hair, under her velvet cap, still hung
over her shoulders in the same thick plaits; her face had the
firm leanness of early youth, but its curves were very fine and
delicate.  The brown skin, that worried Sara so, was flushed
through with dusky color from her gallop; her long, dark eyes
were filled with the beautiful unconsciousness of childhood.
More than all, the soul in her was still the soul of a child.  I
found myself wishing that it could always remain so.  But I knew
it could not; the woman must blossom out some day; it was my duty
to see that the flower fulfilled the promise of the bud.

When I told Betty that she must go away to a school for a year,
she shrugged, frowned and consented.  Betty had learned that she
must consent to what I decreed, even when my decrees were opposed
to her likings, as she had once fondly believed they never would
be.  But Betty had acquired confidence in me to the beautiful
extent of acquiescing in everything I commanded.

"I'll go, of course, since you wish it, Stephen," she said.  "But
why do you want me to go?  You must have a reason--you always
have a reason for anything you do.  What is it?"

"That is for you to find out, Betty," I said.  "By the time you
come back you will have discovered it, I think.  If not, it will
not have proved itself a good reason and shall be forgotten."

When Betty went away I bade her good-by without burdening her
with any useless words of advice.

"Write to me every week, and remember that you are Betty
Churchill," I said.

Betty was standing on the steps above, among her dogs.  She came
down a step and put her arms about my neck.

"I'll remember that you are my friend and that I must live up to
you," she said.  "Good-by, Stephen."

She kissed me two or three times--good, hearty smacks! did I not
say she was still a child?--and stood waving her hand to me as I
rode away.  I looked back at the end of the avenue and saw her
standing there, short-skirted and hatless, fronting the lowering
sun with those fearless eyes of hers.  So I looked my last on the
child Betty.

That was a lonely year.  My occupation was gone and I began to
fear that I had outlived my usefulness.  Life seemed flat, stale,
and unprofitable.  Betty's weekly letters were all that lent it
any savor.  They were spicy and piquant enough.  Betty was
discovered to have unsuspected talents in the epistolary line.
At first she was dolefully homesick, and begged me to let her
come home.  When I refused--it was amazingly hard to refuse--she
sulked through three letters, then cheered up and began to enjoy
herself.  But it was nearly the end of the year when she wrote:

"I've found out why you sent me here, Stephen--and I'm glad you
did."

I had to be away from home on unavoidable business the day Betty
returned to Glenby.  But the next afternoon I went over.  I found
Betty out and Sara in.  The latter was beaming.  Betty was so
much improved, she declared delightedly.  I would hardly know
"the dear child."

This alarmed me terribly.  What on earth had they done to Betty?
I found that she had gone up to the pineland for a walk, and
thither I betook myself speedily.  When I saw her coming down a
long, golden-brown alley I stepped behind a tree to watch her--I
wished to see her, myself unseen.  As she drew near I gazed at
her with pride, and admiration and amazement--and, under it all,
a strange, dreadful, heart-sinking, which I could not understand
and which I had never in all my life experienced before--no, not
even when Sara had refused me.

Betty was a woman!  Not by virtue of the simple white dress that
clung to her tall, slender figure, revealing lines of exquisite
grace and litheness; not by virtue of the glossy masses of dark
brown hair heaped high on her head and held there in wonderful
shining coils; not by virtue of added softness of curve and
daintiness of outline; not because of all these, but because of
the dream and wonder and seeking in her eyes.  She was a woman,
looking, all unconscious of her quest, for love.

The understanding of the change in her came home to me with a
shock that must have left me, I think, something white about the
lips.  I was glad.  She was what I had wished her to become.  But
I wanted the child Betty back; this womanly Betty seemed far away
from me.

I stepped out into the path and she saw me, with a brightening of
her whole face.  She did not rush forward and fling herself into
my arms as she would have done a year ago; but she came towards
me swiftly, holding out her hand.  I had thought her slightly
pale when I had first seen her; but now I concluded I had been
mistaken, for there was a wonderful sunrise of color in her face.
I took her hand--there were no kisses this time.

"Welcome home, Betty," I said.

"Oh, Stephen, it is so good to be back," she breathed, her eyes
shining.

She did not say it was good to see me again, as I had hoped she
would do.  Indeed, after the first minute of greeting, she seemed
a trifle cool and distant.  We walked for an hour in the pine
wood and talked.  Betty was brilliant, witty, self-possessed,
altogether charming.  I thought her perfect and yet my heart
ached.  What a glorious young thing she was, in that splendid
youth of hers!  What a prize for some lucky man--confound the
obtrusive thought!  No doubt we should soon be overrun at Glenby
with lovers.  I should stumble over some forlorn youth at every
step!  Well, what of it?  Betty would marry, of course.  It would
be my duty to see that she got a good husband, worthy of her as
men go.  I thought I preferred the old duty of superintending her
studies.  But there, it was all the same thing--merely a
post-graduate course in applied knowledge.  When she began to
learn life's greatest lesson of love, I, the tried and true old
family friend and mentor, must be on hand to see that the teacher
was what I would have him be, even as I had formerly selected her
instructor in French and botany.  Then, and not until then, would
Betty's education be complete.

I rode home very soberly.  When I reached The Maples I did what I
had not done for years...looked critically at myself in the
mirror.  The realization that I had grown older came home to me
with a new and unpleasant force.  There were marked lines on my
lean face, and silver glints in the dark hair over my temples.
When Betty was ten she had thought me "an old person."  Now, at
eighteen, she probably thought me a veritable ancient of days.
Pshaw, what did it matter?  And yet...I thought of her as I had
seen her, standing under the pines, and something cold and
painful laid its hand on my heart.

My premonitions as to lovers proved correct.  Glenby was soon
infested with them.  Heaven knows where they all came from.  I
had not supposed there was a quarter as many young men in the
whole county; but there they were.  Sara was in the seventh
heaven of delight.  Was not Betty at last a belle?  As for the
proposals...well, Betty never counted her scalps in public; but
every once in a while a visiting youth dropped out and was seen
no more at Glenby.  One could guess what that meant.

Betty apparently enjoyed all this.  I grieve to say that she was
a bit of a coquette.  I tried to cure her of this serious defect,
but for once I found that I had undertaken something I could not
accomplish.  In vain I lectured, Betty only laughed; in vain I
gravely rebuked, Betty only flirted more vivaciously than before.
Men might come and men might go, but Betty went on forever.  I
endured this sort of thing for a year and then I decided that it
was time to interfere seriously.  I must find a husband for
Betty...my fatherly duty would not be fulfilled until I
had...nor, indeed, my duty to society.  She was not a safe person
to have running at large.

None of the men who haunted Glenby was good enough for her.  I
decided that my nephew, Frank, would do very well.  He was a
capital young fellow, handsome, clean-souled, and whole-hearted.
From a worldly point of view he was what Sara would have termed
an excellent match; he had money, social standing and a rising
reputation as a clever young lawyer.  Yes, he should have Betty,
confound him!

They had never met.  I set the wheels going at once.  The sooner
all the fuss was over the better.  I hated fuss and there was
bound to be a good deal of it.  But I went about the business
like an accomplished matchmaker.  I invited Frank to visit The
Maples and, before he came, I talked much...but not too much...of
him to Betty, mingling judicious praise and still more judicious
blame together.  Women never like a paragon.  Betty heard me with
more gravity than she usually accorded to my dissertations on
young men.  She even condescended to ask several questions about
him.  This I thought a good sign.

To Frank I had said not a word about Betty; when he came to The
Maples I took him over to Glenby and, coming upon Betty wandering
about among the beeches in the sunset, I introduced him without
any warning.

He would have been more than mortal if he had not fallen in love
with her upon the spot.  It was not in the heart of man to resist
her...that dainty, alluring bit of womanhood.  She was all in
white, with flowers in her hair, and, for a moment, I could have
murdered Frank or any other man who dared to commit the sacrilege
of loving her.

Then I pulled myself together and left them alone.  I might have
gone in and talked to Sara...two old folks gently reviewing
their youth while the young folks courted outside...but I did
not.  I prowled about the pine wood, and tried to forget how
blithe and handsome that curly-headed boy, Frank, was, and what a
flash had sprung into his eyes when he had seen Betty.  Well,
what of it?  Was not that what I had brought him there for?  And
was I not pleased at the success of my scheme?  Certainly I was!
Delighted!

Next day Frank went to Glenby without even making the poor
pretense of asking me to accompany him.  I spent the time of his
absence overseeing the construction of a new greenhouse I was
having built.  I was conscientious in my supervision; but I felt
no interest in it.  The place was intended for roses, and roses
made me think of the pale yellow ones Betty had worn at her
breast one evening the week before, when, all lovers being
unaccountably absent, we had wandered together under the pines
and talked as in the old days before her young womanhood and my
gray hairs had risen up to divide us.  She had dropped a rose on
the brown floor, and I had sneaked back, after I had left her the
house, to get it, before I went home.  I had it now in my
pocket-book.  Confound it, mightn't a future uncle cherish a
family affection for his prospective niece?

Frank's wooing seemed to prosper.  The other young sparks, who
had haunted Glenby, faded away after his advent.  Betty treated
him with most encouraging sweetness; Sara smiled on him; I stood
in the background, like a benevolent god of the machine, and
flattered myself that I pulled the strings.

At the end of a month something went wrong.  Frank came home from
Glenby one day in the dumps, and moped for two whole days.  I
rode down myself on the third.  I had not gone much to Glenby
that month; but, if there were trouble Bettyward, it was my duty
to make smooth the rough places.

As usual, I found Betty in the pineland.  I thought she looked
rather pale and dull...fretting about Frank no doubt.  She
brightened up when she saw me, evidently expecting that I had
come to straighten matters out; but she pretended to be haughty
and indifferent.

"I am glad you haven't forgotten us altogether, Stephen," she
said coolly.  "You haven't been down for a week."

"I'm flattered that you noticed it," I said, sitting down on a
fallen tree and looking up at her as she stood, tall and lithe,
against an old pine, with her eyes averted.  "I shouldn't have
supposed you'd want an old fogy like myself poking about and
spoiling the idyllic moments of love's young dream."

"Why do you always speak of yourself as old?" said Betty,
crossly, ignoring my reference to Frank.

"Because I am old, my dear.  Witness these gray hairs."

I pushed up my hat to show them the more recklessly.

Betty barely glanced at them.

"You have just enough to give you a distinguished look," she
said, "and you are only forty.  A man is in his prime at forty.
He never has any sense until he is forty--and sometimes he
doesn't seem to have any even then," she concluded impertinently.

My heart beat.  Did Betty suspect?  Was that last sentence meant
to inform me that she was aware of my secret folly, and laughed
at it?

"I came over to see what has gone wrong between you and Frank," I
said gravely.

Betty bit her lips.

"Nothing," she said.

"Betty," I said reproachfully, "I brought you up...or endeavored
to bring you up...to speak the truth, the whole truth, and
nothing but the truth.  Don't tell me I have failed.  I'll give
you another chance.  Have you quarreled with Frank?"

"No," said the maddening Betty, "HE quarreled with me.  He went
away in a temper and I do not care if he never comes back!"

I shook my head.

"This won't do, Betty.  As your old family friend I still claim
the right to scold you until you have a husband to do the
scolding.  You mustn't torment Frank.  He is too fine a fellow.
You must marry him, Betty."

"Must I?" said Betty, a dusky red flaming out on her cheek.  She
turned her eyes on me in a most disconcerting fashion.  "Do YOU
wish me to marry Frank, Stephen?"

Betty had a wretched habit of emphasizing pronouns in a fashion
calculated to rattle anybody.

"Yes, I do wish it, because I think it will be best for you," I
replied, without looking at her.  "You must marry some time,
Betty, and Frank is the only man I know to whom I could trust
you.  As your guardian, I have an interest in seeing you well and
wisely settled for life.  You have always taken my advice and
obeyed my wishes; and you've always found my way the best, in
the long run, haven't you, Betty?  You won't prove rebellious
now, I'm sure.  You know quite well that I am advising you for
your own good.  Frank is a splendid young fellow, who loves you
with all his heart.  Marry him, Betty.  Mind, I don't COMMAND.  I
have no right to do that, and you are too old to be ordered
about, if I had.  But I wish and advise it.  Isn't that enough,
Betty?"

I had been looking away from her all the time I was talking,
gazing determinedly down a sunlit vista of pines.  Every word I
said seemed to tear my heart, and come from my lips stained with
life-blood.  Yes, Betty should marry Frank!  But, good God, what
would become of me!

Betty left her station under the pine tree, and walked around me
until she got right in front of my face.  I couldn't help looking
at her, for if I moved my eyes she moved too.  There was nothing
meek or submissive about her; her head was held high, her eyes
were blazing, and her cheeks were crimson.  But her words were
meek enough.

"I will marry Frank if you wish it, Stephen," she said.  "You are
my friend.  I have never crossed your wishes, and, as you say, I
have never regretted being guided by them.  I will do exactly as
you wish in this case also, I promise you that.  But, in so
solemn a question, I must be very certain what you DO wish.
There must be no doubt in my mind or heart.  Look me squarely in
the eyes, Stephen--as you haven't done once to-day, no, nor once
since I came home from school--and, so looking, tell me that you
wish me to marry Frank Douglas and I will do it!  DO you,
Stephen?"

I had to look her in the eyes, since nothing else would do her;
and, as I did so, all the might of manhood in me rose up in hot
revolt against the lie I would have told her.  That unfaltering,
impelling gaze of hers drew the truth from my lips in spite of
myself.

"No, I don't wish you to marry Frank Douglas, a thousand times
no!" I said passionately.  "I don't wish you to marry any man on
earth but myself.  I love you--I love you, Betty.  You are dearer
to me than life--dearer to me than my own happiness.  It was your
happiness I thought of--and so I asked you to marry Frank because
I believed he would make you a happy woman.  That is all!"

Betty's defiance went from her like a flame blown out.  She
turned away and drooped her proud head.

"It could not have made me a happy woman to marry one man, loving
another," she said, in a whisper.

I got up and went over to her.

"Betty, whom do you love?" I asked, also in a whisper.

"You," she murmured meekly--oh, so meekly, my proud little girl!

"Betty," I said brokenly, "I'm old--too old for you--I'm more
than twenty years your senior--I'm--"

"Oh!" Betty wheeled around on me and stamped her foot.  "Don't
mention your age to me again.  I don't care if you're as old as
Methuselah.  But I'm not going to coax you to marry me, sir!  If
you won't, I'll never marry anybody--I'll live and die an old
maid.  You can please yourself, of course!"

She turned away, half-laughing, half-crying; but I caught her in
my arms and crushed her sweet lips against mine.

"Betty, I'm the happiest man in the world--and I was the most
miserable when I came here."

"You deserved to be," said Betty cruelly.  "I'm glad you were.
Any man as stupid as you deserves to be unhappy.  What do you
think I felt like, loving you with all my heart, and seeing you
simply throwing me at another man's head.  Why, I've always loved
you, Stephen; but I didn't know it until I went to that
detestable school.  Then I found out--and I thought that was why
you had sent me.  But, when I came home, you almost broke my
heart.  That was why I flirted so with all those poor, nice boys
--I wanted to hurt you but I never thought I succeeded.  You just
went on being FATHERLY.  Then, when you brought Frank here, I
almost gave up hope; and I tried to make up my mind to marry him;
I should have done it if you had insisted.  But I had to have one
more try for happiness first.  I had just one little hope to
inspire me with sufficient boldness.  I saw you, that night, when
you came back here and picked up my rose!  I had come back,
myself, to be alone and unhappy."

"It is the most wonderful thing that ever happened--that you
should love me," I said.

"It's not--I couldn't help it," said Betty, nestling her brown
head on my shoulder.  "You taught me everything else, Stephen, so
nobody but you could teach me how to love.  You've made a
thorough thing of educating me."

"When will you marry me, Betty?" I asked.

"As soon as I can fully forgive you for trying to make me marry
somebody else," said Betty.

It was rather hard lines on Frank, when you come to think of it.
But, such is the selfishness of human nature that we didn't think
much about Frank.  The young fellow behaved like the Douglas he
was.  Went a little white about the lips when I told him, wished
me all happiness, and went quietly away, "gentleman unafraid."

He has since married and is, I understand, very happy.  Not as
happy as I am, of course; that is impossible, because there is
only one Betty in the world, and she is my wife.



XII. IN HER SELFLESS MOOD

The raw wind of an early May evening was puffing in and out the
curtains of the room where Naomi Holland lay dying.  The air was
moist and chill, but the sick woman would not have the window
closed.

"I can't get my breath if you shut everything up so tight," she
said.  "Whatever comes, I ain't going to be smothered to death,
Car'line Holland."

Outside of the window grew a cherry tree, powdered with moist
buds with the promise of blossoms she would not live to see.
Between its boughs she saw a crystal cup of sky over hills that
were growing dim and purple.  The outside air was full of sweet,
wholesome springtime sounds that drifted in fitfully.  There were
voices and whistles in the barnyard, and now and then faint
laughter.  A bird alighted for a moment on a cherry bough, and
twittered restlessly.  Naomi knew that white mists were hovering
in the silent hollows, that the maple at the gate wore a misty
blossom red, and that violet stars were shining bluely on the
brooklands.

The room was a small, plain one.  The floor was bare, save for a
couple of braided rugs, the plaster discolored, the walls dingy
and glaring.  There had never been much beauty in Naomi Holland's
environment, and, now that she was dying, there was even less.

At the open window a boy of about ten years was leaning out over
the sill and whistling.  He was tall for his age, and
beautiful--the hair a rich auburn with a glistening curl in it,
skin very white and warm-tinted, eyes small and of a greenish
blue, with dilated pupils and long lashes.  He had a weak chin,
and a full, sullen mouth.

The bed was in the corner farthest from the window; on it the
sick woman, in spite of the pain that was her portion
continually, was lying as quiet and motionless as she had done
ever since she had lain down upon it for the last time.  Naomi
Holland never complained; when the agony was at its worst, she
shut her teeth more firmly over her bloodless lip, and her great
black eyes glared at the blank wall before in a way that gave her
attendants what they called "the creeps," but no word or moan
escaped her.

Between the paroxysms she kept up her keen interest in the life
that went on about her.  Nothing escaped her sharp, alert eyes
and ears.  This evening she lay spent on the crumpled pillows;
she had had a bad spell in the afternoon and it had left her very
weak.  In the dim light her extremely long face looked
corpse-like already.  Her black hair lay in a heavy braid over
the pillow and down the counterpane.  It was all that was left of
her beauty, and she took a fierce joy in it.  Those long,
glistening, sinuous tresses must be combed and braided every day,
no matter what came.

A girl of fourteen was curled up on a chair at the head of the
bed, with her head resting on the pillow.  The boy at the window
was her half-brother; but, between Christopher Holland and Eunice
Carr, not the slightest resemblance existed.

Presently the sibilant silence was broken by a low,
half-strangled sob.  The sick woman, who had been watching a
white evening star through the cherry boughs, turned impatiently
at the sound.

"I wish you'd get over that, Eunice," she said sharply.  "I don't
want any one crying over me until I'm dead; and then you'll have
plenty else to do, most likely.  If it wasn't for Christopher I
wouldn't be anyways unwilling to die.  When one has had such a
life as I've had, there isn't much in death to be afraid of.
Only, a body would like to go right off, and not die by inches,
like this.  'Tain't fair!"

She snapped out the last sentence as if addressing some unseen,
tyrannical presence; her voice, at least, had not weakened, but
was as clear and incisive as ever.  The boy at the window stopped
whistling, and the girl silently wiped her eyes on her faded
gingham apron.

Naomi drew her own hair over her lips, and kissed it.

"You'll never have hair like that, Eunice," she said.  "It does
seem most too pretty to bury, doesn't it?  Mind you see that it
is fixed nice when I'm laid out.  Comb it right up on my head and
braid it there."

A sound, such as might be wrung from a suffering animal, came
from the girl, but at the same moment the door opened and a woman
entered.

"Chris," she said sharply, "you get right off for the cows, you
lazy little scamp!  You knew right well you had to go for them,
and here you've been idling, and me looking high and low for you.
Make haste now; it's ridiculous late."

The boy pulled in his head and scowled at his aunt, but he dared
not disobey, and went out slowly with a sulky mutter.

His aunt subdued a movement, that might have developed into a
sound box on his ears, with a rather frightened glance at the
bed.  Naomi Holland was spent and dying, but her temper was still
a thing to hold in dread, and her sister-in-law did not choose to
rouse it by slapping Christopher.  To her and her co-nurse the
spasms of rage, which the sick woman sometimes had, seemed to
partake of the nature of devil possession.  The last one, only
three days before, had been provoked by Christopher's complaint
of some real or fancied ill-treatment from his aunt, and the
latter had no mind to bring on another.  She went over to the
bed, and straightened the clothes.

"Sarah and I are going out to milk, Naomi, Eunice will stay with
you.  She can run for us if you feel another spell coming on."

Naomi Holland looked up at her sister-in-law with something like
malicious enjoyment.

"I ain't going to have any more spells, Car'line Anne.  I'm going
to die to-night.  But you needn't hurry milking for that, at all.
I'll take my time."

She liked to see the alarm that came over the other woman's face.
It was richly worth while to scare Caroline Holland like that.

"Are you feeling worse, Naomi?" asked the latter shakily.  "If
you are I'll send for Charles to go for the doctor."

"No, you won't.  What good can the doctor do me?  I don't want
either his or Charles' permission to die.  You can go and milk at
your ease.  I won't die till you're done--I won't deprive you of
the pleasure of seeing me."

Mrs. Holland shut her lips and went out of the room with a
martyr-like expression.  In some ways Naomi Holland was not an
exacting patient, but she took her satisfaction out in the
biting, malicious speeches she never failed to make.  Even on her
death-bed her hostility to her sister-in-law had to find vent.

Outside, at the steps, Sarah Spencer was waiting, with the milk
pails over her arm.  Sarah Spencer had no fixed abiding place,
but was always to be found where there was illness.  Her
experience, and an utter lack of nerves, made her a good nurse.
She was a tall, homely woman with iron gray hair and a lined
face.  Beside her, the trim little Caroline Anne, with her light
step and round, apple-red face, looked almost girlish.

The two women walked to the barnyard, discussing Naomi in
undertones as they went.  The house they had left behind grew
very still.

In Naomi Holland's room the shadows were gathering.  Eunice
timidly bent over her mother.

"Ma, do you want the light lit?"

"No, I'm watching that star just below the big cherry bough.
I'll see it set behind the hill.  I've seen it there, off and on,
for twelve years, and now I'm taking a good-by look at it.  I
want you to keep still, too.  I've got a few things to think
over, and I don't want to be disturbed."

The girl lifted herself about noiselessly and locked her hands
over the bed-post.  Then she laid her face down on them, biting
at them silently until the marks of her teeth showed white
against their red roughness.

Naomi Holland did not notice her.  She was looking steadfastly at
the great, pearl-like sparkle in the faint-hued sky.  When it
finally disappeared from her vision she struck her long, thin
hands together twice, and a terrible expression came over her
face for a moment.  But, when she spoke, her voice was quite
calm.

"You can light the candle now, Eunice.  Put it up on the shelf
here, where it won't shine in my eyes.  And then sit down on the
foot of the bed where I can see you.  I've got something to say
to you."

Eunice obeyed her noiselessly.  As the pallid light shot up, it
revealed the child plainly.  She was thin and ill-formed--one
shoulder being slightly higher than the other.  She was dark,
like her mother, but her features were irregular, and her hair
fell in straggling, dim locks about her face.  Her eyes were a
dark brown, and over one was the slanting red scar of a birth
mark.

Naomi Holland looked at her with the contempt she had never made
any pretense of concealing.  The girl was bone of her bone and
flesh of her flesh, but she had never loved her; all the mother
love in her had been lavished on her son.

When Eunice had placed the candle on the shelf and drawn down the
ugly blue paper blinds, shutting out the strips of violet sky
where a score of glimmering points were now visible, she sat down
on the foot of the bed, facing her mother.

"The door is shut, is it, Eunice?"

Eunice nodded.

"Because I don't want Car'line or any one else peeking and
harking to what I've got to say.  She's out milking now, and I
must make the most of the chance.  Eunice, I'm going to die,
and..."

"Ma!"

"There now, no taking on!  You knew it had to come sometime soon.
I haven't the strength to talk much, so I want you just to be
quiet and listen.  I ain't feeling any pain now, so I can think
and talk pretty clear.  Are you listening, Eunice?"

"Yes, ma."

"Mind you are.  It's about Christopher.  It hasn't been out of my
mind since I laid down here.  I've fought for a year to live, on
his account, and it ain't any use.  I must just die and leave
him, and I don't know what he'll do.  It's dreadful to think of."

She paused, and struck her shrunken hand sharply against the
table.

"If he was bigger and could look out for himself it wouldn't be
so bad.  But he is only a little fellow, and Car'line hates him.
You'll both have to live with her until you're grown up.  She'll
put on him and abuse him.  He's like his father in some ways;
he's got a temper and he is stubborn.  He'll never get on with
Car'line.  Now, Eunice, I'm going to get you to promise to take
my place with Christopher when I'm dead, as far as you can.
You've got to; it's your duty.  But I want you to promise."

"I will, ma," whispered the girl solemnly.

"You haven't much force--you never had.  If you was smart, you
could do a lot for him.  But you'll have to do your best.  I want
you to promise me faithfully that you'll stand by him and protect
him--that you won't let people impose on him; that you'll never
desert him as long as he needs you, no matter what comes.
Eunice, promise me this!"

In her excitement the sick woman raised herself up in the bed,
and clutched the girl's thin arm.  Her eyes were blazing and two
scarlet spots glowed in her thin cheeks.

Eunice's face was white and tense.  She clasped her hands as one
in prayer.

"Mother, I promise it!"

Naomi relaxed her grip on the girl's arm and sank back exhausted
on the pillow.  A death-like look came over her face as the
excitement faded.

"My mind is easier now.  But if I could only have lived another
year or two!  And I hate Car'line--hate her!  Eunice, don't you
ever let her abuse my boy!  If she did, or if you neglected him,
I'd come back from my grave to you!  As for the property, things
will be pretty straight.  I've seen to that.  There'll be no
squabbling and doing Christopher out of his rights.  He's to have
the farm as soon as he's old enough to work it, and he's to
provide for you.  And, Eunice, remember what you've promised!"


Outside, in the thickly gathering dusk, Caroline Holland and
Sarah Spencer were at the dairy, straining the milk into
creamers, for which Christopher was sullenly pumping water.  The
house was far from the road, up to which a long red lane led;
across the field was the old Holland homestead where Caroline
lived; her unmarried sister-in-law, Electa Holland, kept house
for her while she waited on Naomi.

It was her night to go home and sleep, but Naomi's words haunted
her, although she believed they were born of pure
"cantankerousness."

"You'd better go in and look at her, Sarah," she said, as she
rinsed out the pails.  "If you think I'd better stay here
to-night, I will.  If the woman was like anybody else a body
would know what to do; but, if she thought she could scare us by
saying she was going to die, she'd say it."

When Sarah went in, the sick room was very quiet.  In her
opinion, Naomi was no worse than usual, and she told Caroline so;
but the latter felt vaguely uneasy and concluded to stay.

Naomi was as cool and defiant as customary.  She made them bring
Christopher in to say good-night and had him lifted up on the bed
to kiss her. Then she held him back and looked at him
admiringly--at the bright curls and rosy cheeks and round, firm
limbs.  The boy was uncomfortable under her gaze and squirmed
hastily down.  Her eyes followed him greedily, as he went out.
When the door closed behind him, she groaned.  Sarah Spencer was
startled.  She had never heard Naomi Holland groan since she had
come to wait on her.

"Are you feeling any worse, Naomi?  Is the pain coming back?"

"No.  Go and tell Car'line to give Christopher some of that grape
jelly on his bread before he goes to bed.  She'll find it in the
cupboard under the stairs."

Presently the house grew very still.  Caroline had dropped asleep
on the sitting-room lounge, across the hall.  Sarah Spencer
nodded over her knitting by the table in the sick room.  She had
told Eunice to go to bed, but the child refused.  She still sat
huddled up on the foot of the bed, watching her mother's face
intently.  Naomi appeared to sleep.  The candle burned long, and
the wick was crowned by a little cap of fiery red that seemed to
watch Eunice like some impish goblin.  The wavering light cast
grotesque shadows of Sarah Spencer's head on the wall.  The thin
curtains at the window wavered to and fro, as if shaken by
ghostly hands.

At midnight Naomi Holland opened her eyes.  The child she had
never loved was the only one to go with her to the brink of the
Unseen.

"Eunice--remember!"

It was the faintest whisper.  The soul, passing over the
threshold of another life, strained back to its only earthly tie.
A quiver passed over the long, pallid face.

A horrible scream rang through the silent house.  Sarah Spencer
sprang out of her doze in consternation, and gazed blankly at the
shrieking child.  Caroline came hurrying in with distended eyes.
On the bed Naomi Holland lay dead.


In the room where she had died Naomi Holland lay in her coffin.
It was dim and hushed; but, in the rest of the house, the
preparations for the funeral were being hurried on.  Through it
all Eunice moved, calm and silent.  Since her one wild spasm of
screaming by her mother's death-bed she had shed no tear, given
no sign of grief.  Perhaps, as her mother had said, she had no
time.  There was Christopher to be looked after.  The boy's grief
was stormy and uncontrolled.  He had cried until he was utterly
exhausted.  It was Eunice who soothed him, coaxed him to eat,
kept him constantly by her.  At night she took him to her own
room and watched over him while he slept.

When the funeral was over the household furniture was packed away
or sold.  The house was locked up and the farm rented.  There was
nowhere for the children to go, save to their uncle's.  Caroline
Holland did not want them, but, having to take them, she grimly
made up her mind to do what she considered her duty by them.  She
had five children of her own and between them and Christopher a
standing feud had existed from the time he could walk.

She had never liked Naomi.  Few people did.  Benjamin Holland had
not married until late in life, and his wife had declared war on
his family at sight.  She was a stranger in Avonlea,--a widow,
with a three year-old child.  She made few friends, as some
people always asserted that she was not in her right mind.

Within a year of her second marriage Christopher was born, and
from the hour of his birth his mother had worshiped him blindly.
He was her only solace.  For him she toiled and pinched and
saved.  Benjamin Holland had not been "fore-handed" when she
married him; but, when he died, six years after his marriage, he
was a well-to-do man.

Naomi made no pretense of mourning for him.  It was an open
secret that they had quarreled like the proverbial cat and dog.
Charles Holland and his wife had naturally sided with Benjamin,
and Naomi fought her battles single-handed.  After her husband's
death, she managed to farm alone, and made it pay.  When the
mysterious malady which was to end her life first seized on her
she fought against it with all the strength and stubbornness of
her strong and stubborn nature.  Her will won for her an added
year of life, and then she had to yield.  She tasted all the
bitterness of death the day on which she lay down on her bed, and
saw her enemy come in to rule her house.

But Caroline Holland was not a bad or unkind woman.  True, she
did not love Naomi or her children; but the woman was dying and
must be looked after for the sake of common humanity.  Caroline
thought she had done well by her sister-in-law.

When the red clay was heaped over Naomi's grave in the Avonlea
burying ground, Caroline took Eunice and Christopher home with
her.  Christopher did not want to go; it was Eunice who
reconciled him.  He clung to her with an exacting affection born
of loneliness and grief.

In the days that followed Caroline Holland was obliged to confess
to herself that there would have been no doing anything with
Christopher had it not been for Eunice.  The boy was sullen and
obstinate, but his sister had an unfailing influence over him.

In Charles Holland's household no one was allowed to eat the
bread of idleness.  His own children were all girls, and
Christopher came in handy as a chore boy.  He was made to
work--perhaps too hard.  But Eunice helped him, and did half his
work for him when nobody knew.  When he quarreled with his
cousins, she took his part; whenever possible she took on herself
the blame and punishment of his misdeeds.

Electa Holland was Charles' unmarried sister.  She had kept house
for Benjamin until he married; then Naomi had bundled her out.
Electa had never forgiven her for it.  Her hatred passed on to
Naomi's children.  In a hundred petty ways she revenged herself
on them.  For herself, Eunice bore it patiently; but it was a
different matter when it touched Christopher.

Once Electa boxed Christopher's ears.  Eunice, who was knitting
by the table, stood up.  A resemblance to her mother, never
before visible, came out in her face like a brand.  She lifted
her hand and slapped Electa's cheek deliberately twice, leaving a
dull red mark where she struck.

"If you ever strike my brother again," she said, slowly and
vindictively, "I will slap your face every time you do.  You have
no right to touch him."

"My patience, what a fury!" said Electa.  "Naomi Holland'll never
be dead as long as you're alive!"

She told Charles of the affair and Eunice was severely punished.
But Electa never interfered with Christopher again.


All the discordant elements in the Holland household could not
prevent the children from growing up.  It was a consummation
which the harrassed Caroline devoutly wished.  When Christopher
Holland was seventeen he was a man grown--a big, strapping
fellow.  His childish beauty had coarsened, but he was thought
handsome by many.

He took charge of his mother's farm then, and the brother and
sister began their new life together in the long-unoccupied
house.  There were few regrets on either side when they left
Charles Holland's roof.  In her secret heart Eunice felt an
unspeakable relief.

Christopher had been "hard to manage," as his uncle said, in the
last year.  He was getting into the habit of keeping late hours
and doubtful company.  This always provoked an explosion of wrath
from Charles Holland, and the conflicts between him and his
nephew were frequent and bitter.

For four years after their return home Eunice had a hard and
anxious life.  Christopher was idle and dissipated.  Most people
regarded him as a worthless fellow, and his uncle washed his
hands of him utterly.  Only Eunice never failed him; she never
reproached or railed; she worked like a slave to keep things
together.  Eventually her patience prevailed.  Christopher, to a
great extent, reformed and worked harder.  He was never unkind to
Eunice, even in his rages.  It was not in him to appreciate or
return her devotion; but his tolerant acceptance of it was her
solace.

When Eunice was twenty-eight, Edward Bell wanted to marry her.
He was a plain, middle-aged widower with four children; but, as
Caroline did not fail to remind her, Eunice herself was not for
every market, and the former did her best to make the match.  She
might have succeeded had it not been for Christopher.  When he,
in spite of Caroline's skillful management, got an inkling of
what was going on, he flew into a true Holland rage.  If Eunice
married and left him--he would sell the farm and go to the Devil
by way of the Klondike.  He could not, and would not, do without
her.  No arrangement suggested by Caroline availed to pacify him,
and, in the end, Eunice refused to marry Edward Bell.  She could
not leave Christopher, she said simply, and in this she stood
rock-firm.  Caroline could not budge her an inch.

"You're a fool, Eunice," she said, when she was obliged to give
up in despair.  "It's not likely you'll ever have another chance.
As for Chris, in a year or two he'll be marrying himself, and
where will you be then?  You'll find your nose nicely out of
joint when he brings a wife in here."

The shaft went home.  Eunice's lips turned white.  But she said,
faintly, "The house is big enough for us both, if he does."

Caroline sniffed.

"Maybe so.  You'll find out.  However, there's no use talking.
You're as set as your mother was, and nothing would ever budge
her an inch.  I only hope you won't be sorry for it."

When three more years had passed Christopher began to court
Victoria Pye.  The affair went on for some time before either
Eunice or the Hollands go wind of it.  When they did there was an
explosion.  Between the Hollands and the Pyes, root and branch,
existed a feud that dated back for three generations.  That the
original cause of the quarrel was totally forgotten did not
matter; it was matter of family pride that a Holland should have
no dealings with a Pye.

When Christopher flew so openly in the face of this cherished
hatred, there could be nothing less than consternation.  Charles
Holland broke through his determination to have nothing to do
with Christopher, to remonstrate.  Caroline went to Eunice in as
much of a splutter as if Christopher had been her own brother.

Eunice did not care a row of pins for the Holland-Pye feud.
Victoria was to her what any other girl, upon whom Christopher
cast eyes of love, would have been--a supplanter.  For the first
time in her life she was torn with passionate jealousy; existence
became a nightmare to her.  Urged on by Caroline, and her own
pain, she ventured to remonstrate with Christopher, also.  She
had expected a burst of rage, but he was surprisingly
good-natured.  He seemed even amused.

"What have you got against Victoria?" he asked, tolerantly.

Eunice had no answer ready.  It was true that nothing could be
said against the girl.  She felt helpless and baffled.
Christopher laughed at her silence.

"I guess you're a little jealous," he said.  "You must have
expected I would get married some time.  This house is big enough
for us all.  You'd better look at the matter sensibly, Eunice.
Don't let Charles and Caroline put nonsense into your head.  A
man must marry to please himself."

Christopher was out late that night.  Eunice waited up for him,
as she always did.  It was a chilly spring evening, reminding her
of the night her mother had died.  The kitchen was in spotless
order, and she sat down on a stiff-backed chair by the window to
wait for her brother.

She did not want a light.  The moonlight fell in with faint
illumination.  Outside, the wind was blowing over a bed of
new-sprung mint in the garden, and was suggestively fragrant.  It
was a very old-fashioned garden, full of perennials Naomi Holland
had planted long ago.  Eunice always kept it primly neat.  She
had been working in it that day, and felt tired.

She was all alone in the house and the loneliness filled her with
a faint dread.  She had tried all that day to reconcile herself
to Christopher's marriage, and had partially succeeded.  She told
herself that she could still watch over him and care for his
comfort.  She would even try to love Victoria; after all, it
might be pleasant to have another woman in the house.  So,
sitting there, she fed her hungry soul with these husks of
comfort.

When she heard Christopher's step she moved about quickly to get
a light.  He frowned when he saw her; he had always resented her
sitting up for him.  He sat down by the stove and took off his
boots, while Eunice got a lunch for him.  After he had eaten it
in silence he made no move to go to bed.  A chill, premonitory
fear crept over Eunice.  It did not surprise her at all when
Christopher finally said, abruptly, "Eunice, I've a notion to get
married this spring."

Eunice clasped her hands together under the table.  It was what
she had been expecting.  She said so, in a monotonous voice.

"We must make some arrangement for--for you, Eunice," Christopher
went on, in a hurried, hesitant way, keeping his eyes riveted
doggedly on his plate.  "Victoria doesn't exactly like--well, she
thinks it's better for young married folks to begin life by
themselves, and I guess she's about right.  You wouldn't find it
comfortable, anyhow, having to step back to second place after
being mistress here so long."

Eunice tried to speak, but only an indistinct murmur came from
her bloodless lips.  The sound made Christopher look up.
Something in her face irritated him.  He pushed back his chair
impatiently.

"Now, Eunice, don't go taking on.  It won't be any use.  Look at
this business in a sensible way.  I'm fond of you, and all that,
but a man is bound to consider his wife first.  I'll provide for
you comfortably."

"Do you mean to say that your wife is going to turn me out?"
Eunice gasped, rather than spoke, the words.

Christopher drew his reddish brows together.

"I just mean that Victoria says she won't marry me if she has to
live with you.  She's afraid of you.  I told her you wouldn't
interfere with her, but she wasn't satisfied.  It's your own
fault, Eunice.  You've always been so queer and close that people
think you're an awful crank.  Victoria's young and lively, and
you and she wouldn't get on at all.  There isn't any question of
turning you out.  I'll build a little house for you somewhere,
and you'll be a great deal better off there than you would be
here.  So don't make a fuss."

Eunice did not look as if she were going to make a fuss.  She sat
as if turned to stone, her hands lying palm upward in her lap.
Christopher got up, hugely relieved that the dreaded explanation
was over.

"Guess I'll go to bed.  You'd better have gone long ago.  It's
all nonsense, this waiting up for me."

When he had gone Eunice drew a long, sobbing breath and looked
about her like a dazed soul.  All the sorrow of her life was as
nothing to the desolation that assailed her now.

She rose and, with uncertain footsteps, passed out through the
hall and into the room where her mother died.  She had always
kept it locked and undisturbed; it was arranged just as Naomi
Holland had left it.  Eunice tottered to the bed and sat down on
it.

She recalled the promise she had made to her mother in that very
room.  Was the power to keep it to be wrested from her?  Was she
to be driven from her home and parted from the only creature she
had on earth to love?  And would Christopher allow it, after all
her sacrifices for him?  Aye, that he would!  He cared more for
that black-eyed, waxen-faced girl at the old Pye place than for
his own kin.  Eunice put her hands over her dry, burning eyes and
groaned aloud.


Caroline Holland had her hour of triumph over Eunice when she
heard it all.  To one of her nature there was no pleasure so
sweet as that of saying, "I told you so."  Having said it,
however, she offered Eunice a home.  Electa Holland was dead, and
Eunice might fill her place very acceptably, if she would.

"You can't go off and live by yourself," Caroline told her.
"It's all nonsense to talk of such a thing.  We will give you a
home, if Christopher is going to turn you out.  You were always a
fool, Eunice, to pet and pamper him as you've done.  This is the
thanks you get for it--turned out like a dog for his fine wife's
whim!  I only wish your mother was alive!"

It was probably the first time Caroline had ever wished this.
She had flown at Christopher like a fury about the matter, and
had been rudely insulted for her pains.  Christopher had told her
to mind her own business.

When Caroline cooled down she made some arrangements with him, to
all of which Eunice listlessly assented.  She did not care what
became of her.  When Christopher Holland brought Victoria as
mistress to the house where his mother had toiled, and suffered,
and ruled with her rod of iron, Eunice was gone.  In Charles
Holland's household she took Electa's place--an unpaid upper
servant.

Charles and Caroline were kind enough to her, and there was
plenty to do.  For five years her dull, colorless life went on,
during which time she never crossed the threshold of the house
where Victoria Holland ruled with a sway as absolute as Naomi's
had been.  Caroline's curiosity led her, after her first anger
had cooled, to make occasional calls, the observations of which
she faithfully reported to Eunice.  The latter never betrayed any
interest in them, save once.  This was when Caroline came home
full of the news that Victoria had had the room where Naomi died
opened up, and showily furnished as a parlor.  Then Eunice's
sallow face crimsoned, and her eyes flashed, over the
desecration.  But no word of comment or complaint ever crossed
her lips.

She knew, as every one else knew, that the glamor soon went from
Christopher Holland's married life.  The marriage proved an
unhappy one.  Not unnaturally, although unjustly, Eunice blamed
Victoria for this, and hated her more than ever for it.

Christopher seldom came to Charles' house.  Possibly he felt
ashamed.  He had grown into a morose, silent man, at home and
abroad.  It was said he had gone back to his old drinking habits.

One fall Victoria Holland went to town to visit her married
sister.  She took their only child with her.  In her absence
Christopher kept house for himself.

It was a fall long remembered in Avonlea.  With the dropping of
the leaves, and the shortening of the dreary days, the shadow of
a fear fell over the land.  Charles Holland brought the fateful
news home one night.

"There's smallpox in Charlottetown--five or six cases.  Came in
one of the vessels.  There was a concert, and a sailor from one
of the ships was there, and took sick the next day."

This was alarming enough.  Charlottetown was not so very far away
and considerable traffic went on between it and the north shore
districts.

When Caroline recounted the concert story to Christopher the next
morning his ruddy face turned quite pale.  He opened his lips as
if to speak, then closed them again.  They were sitting in the
kitchen; Caroline had run over to return some tea she had
borrowed, and, incidentally, to see what she could of Victoria's
housekeeping in her absence.  Her eyes had been busy while her
tongue ran on, so she did not notice the man's pallor and
silence.

"How long does it take for smallpox to develop after one has been
exposed to it?" he asked abruptly, when Caroline rose to go.

"Ten to fourteen days, I calc'late," was her answer.  "I must see
about having the girls vaccinated right off.  It'll likely
spread.  When do you expect Victoria home?"

"When she's ready to come, whenever that will be," was the gruff
response.

A week later Caroline said to Eunice, "Whatever's got
Christopher?  He hasn't been out anywhere for ages--just hangs
round home the whole time.  It's something new for him.  I s'pose
the place is so quiet, now Madam Victoria's away, that he can
find some rest for his soul.  I believe I'll run over after
milking and see how he's getting on.  You might as well come,
too, Eunice."

Eunice shook her head.  She had all her mother's obstinacy, and
darken Victoria's door she would not.  She went on patiently
darning socks, sitting at the west window, which was her favorite
position--perhaps because she could look from it across the
sloping field and past the crescent curve of maple grove to her
lost home.

After milking, Caroline threw a shawl over her head and ran
across the field.  The house looked lonely and deserted.  As she
fumbled at the latch of the gate the kitchen door opened, and
Christopher Holland appeared on the threshold.

"Don't come any farther," he called.

Caroline fell back in blank astonishment.  Was this some more of
Victoria's work?

"I ain't an agent for the smallpox," she called back viciously.

Christopher did not heed her.

"Will you go home and ask uncle if he'll go, or send for Doctor
Spencer?  He's the smallpox doctor.  I'm sick."

Caroline felt a thrill of dismay and fear.  She faltered a few
steps backward.

"Sick?  What's the matter with you?"

"I was in Charlottetown that night, and went to the concert.
That sailor sat right beside me.  I thought at the time he looked
sick.  It was just twelve days ago.  I've felt bad all day
yesterday and to-day.  Send for the doctor.  Don't come near the
house, or let any one else come near."

He went in and shut the door.  Caroline stood for a few moments
in an almost ludicrous panic.  Then she turned and ran, as if for
her life, across the field.  Eunice saw her coming and met her at
the door.

"Mercy on us!" gasped Caroline.  "Christopher's sick and he
thinks he's got the smallpox.  Where's Charles?"

Eunice tottered back against the door.  Her hand went up to her
side in a way that had been getting very common with her of late.
Even in the midst of her excitement Caroline noticed it.

"Eunice, what makes you do that every time anything startles
you?" she asked sharply.  "Is it anything about your heart?"

"I don't--know.  A little pain--it's gone now.  Did you say that
Christopher has--the smallpox?"

"Well, he says so himself, and it's more than likely, considering
the circumstances.  I declare, I never got such a turn in my
life.  It's a dreadful thing.  I must find Charles at
once--there'll be a hundred things to do."

Eunice hardly heard her.  Her mind was centered upon one idea.
Christopher was ill--alone--she must go to him.  It did not
matter what his disease was.  When Caroline came in from her
breathless expedition to the barn, she found Eunice standing by
the table, with her hat and shawl on, tying up a parcel.

"Eunice!  Where on earth are you going?"

"Over home," said Eunice.  "If Christopher is going to be ill he
must be nursed, and I'm the one to do it.  He ought to be seen to
right away."

"Eunice Carr!  Have you gone clean out of your senses?  It's the
smallpox--the smallpox!  If he's got it he'll have to be taken
to the smallpox hospital in town.  You shan't stir a step to go
to that house!"

"I will."  Eunice faced her excited aunt quietly.  The odd
resemblance to her mother, which only came out in moments of
great tension, was plainly visible.  "He shan't go to the
hospital--they never get proper attention there.  You needn't try
to stop me.  It won't put you or your family in any danger."

Caroline fell helplessly into a chair.  She felt that it would be
of no use to argue with a woman so determined.  She wished
Charles was there.  But Charles had already gone, post-haste, for
the doctor.

With a firm step, Eunice went across the field foot-path she had
not trodden for so long.  She felt no fear--rather a sort of
elation.  Christopher needed her once more; the interloper who
had come between them was not there.  As she walked through the
frosty twilight she thought of the promise made to Naomi Holland,
years ago.


Christopher saw her coming and waved her back.

"Don't come any nearer, Eunice.  Didn't Caroline tell you?  I'm
taking smallpox."

Eunice did not pause.  She went boldly through the yard and up
the porch steps.  He retreated before her and held the door.

"Eunice, you're crazy, girl!  Go home, before it's too late."

Eunice pushed open the door resolutely and went in.

"It's too late now.  I'm here, and I mean to stay and nurse you,
if it's the smallpox you've got.  Maybe it's not.  Just now, when
a person has a finger-ache, he thinks it's smallpox.  Anyhow,
whatever it is, you ought to be in bed and looked after.  You'll
catch cold.  Let me get a light and have a look at you."

Christopher had sunk into a chair.  His natural selfishness
reasserted itself, and he made no further effort to dissuade
Eunice.  She got a lamp and set it on the table by him, while she
scrutinized his face closely.

"You look feverish.  What do you feel like?  When did you take
sick?"

"Yesterday afternoon.  I have chills and hot spells and pains in
my back.  Eunice, do you think it's really smallpox?  And will I
die?"

He caught her hands, and looked imploringly up at her, as a child
might have done.  Eunice felt a wave of love and tenderness sweep
warmly over her starved heart.

"Don't worry.  Lots of people recover from smallpox if they're
properly nursed, and you'll be that, for I'll see to it.  Charles
has gone for the doctor, and we'll know when he comes.  You must
go straight to bed."

She took off her hat and shawl, and hung them up.  She felt as
much at home as if she had never been away.  She had got back to
her kingdom, and there was none to dispute it with her.  When Dr.
Spencer and old Giles Blewett, who had had smallpox in his youth,
came, two hours later, they found Eunice in serene charge.  the
house was in order and reeking of disinfectants.  Victoria's fine
furniture and fixings were being bundled out of the parlor.
There was no bedroom downstairs, and, if Christopher was going to
be ill, he must be installed there.

The doctor looked grave.

"I don't like it," he said, "but I'm not quite sure yet.  If it
is smallpox the eruption will probably by out by morning.  I must
admit he has most of the symptoms.  Will you have him taken to
the hospital?"

"No," said Eunice, decisively.  "I'll nurse him myself.  I'm not
afraid and I'm well and strong."

"Very well.  You've been vaccinated lately?"

"Yes."

"Well, nothing more can be done at present.  You may as well lie
down for a while and save your strength."

But Eunice could not do that.  There was too much to attend to.
She went out to the hall and threw up the window.  Down below, at
a safe distance, Charles Holland was waiting.  The cold wind blew
up to Eunice the odor of the disinfectants with which he had
steeped himself.

"What does the doctor say?" he shouted.

"He thinks it's the smallpox.  Have you sent word to Victoria?"

"Yes, Jim Blewett drove into town and told her.  She'll stay with
her sister till it is over.  Of course it's the best thing for
her to do.  She's terribly frightened."

Eunice's lip curled contemptuously.  To her, a wife who could
desert her husband, no matter what disease he had, was an
incomprehensible creature.  But it was better so; she would have
Christopher all to herself.

The night was long and wearisome, but the morning came all too
soon for the dread certainty it brought.  The doctor pronounced
the case smallpox.  Eunice had hoped against hope, but now,
knowing the worst, she was very calm and resolute.

By noon the fateful yellow flag was flying over the house, and
all arrangements had been made.  Caroline was to do the necessary
cooking, and Charles was to bring the food and leave it in the
yard.  Old Giles Blewett was to come every day and attend to the
stock, as well as help Eunice with the sick man; and the long,
hard fight with death began.

It was a hard fight, indeed.  Christopher Holland, in the
clutches of the loathsome disease, was an object from which his
nearest and dearest might have been pardoned for shrinking.  But
Eunice never faltered; she never left her post.  Sometimes she
dozed in a chair by the bed, but she never lay down.  Her
endurance was something wonderful, her patience and tenderness
almost superhuman.  To and fro she went, in noiseless ministry,
as the long, dreadful days wore away, with a quiet smile on her
lips, and in her dark, sorrowful eyes the rapt look of a pictured
saint in some dim cathedral niche.  For her there was no world
outside the bare room where lay the repulsive object she loved.

One day the doctor looked very grave.  He had grown well-hardened
to pitiful scenes in his life-time; but he shrunk from telling
Eunice that her brother could not live.  He had never seen such
devotion as hers.  It seemed brutal to tell her that it had been
in vain.

But Eunice had seen it for herself.  She took it very calmly, the
doctor thought.  And she had her reward at last--such as it was.
She thought it amply sufficient.

One night Christopher Holland opened his swollen eyes as she bent
over him.  They were alone in the old house.  It was raining
outside, and the drops rattled noisily on the panes.

Christopher smiled at his sister with parched lips, and put out a
feeble hand toward her.

"Eunice," he said faintly, "you've been the best sister ever a
man had.  I haven't treated you right; but you've stood by me to
the last.  Tell Victoria--tell her--to be good to you--"

His voice died away into an inarticulate murmur.  Eunice Carr was
alone with her dead.

They buried Christopher Holland in haste and privacy the next
day.  The doctor disinfected the house, and Eunice was to stay
there alone until it might be safe to make other arrangements.
She had not shed a tear; the doctor thought she was a rather odd
person, but he had a great admiration for her.  He told her she
was the best nurse he had ever seen.  To Eunice, praise or blame
mattered nothing.  Something in her life had snapped--some vital
interest had departed.  She wondered how she could live through
the dreary, coming years.

Late that night she went into the room where her mother and
brother had died.  The window was open and the cold, pure air was
grateful to her after the drug-laden atmosphere she had breathed
so long.  She knelt down by the stripped bed.

"Mother," she said aloud, "I have kept my promise."

When she tried to rise, long after, she staggered and fell across
the bed, with her hand pressed on her heart.  Old Giles Blewett
found her there in the morning.  There was a smile on her face.



XIII. THE CONSCIENCE CASE OF DAVID BELL

Eben Bell came in with an armful of wood and banged it cheerfully
down in the box behind the glowing Waterloo stove, which was
coloring the heart of the little kitchen's gloom with tremulous,
rose-red whirls of light.

"There, sis, that's the last chore on my list.  Bob's milking.
Nothing more for me to do but put on my white collar for meeting.
Avonlea is more than lively since the evangelist came, ain't it,
though!"

Mollie Bell nodded. She was curling her hair before the tiny
mirror that hung on the whitewashed wall and distorted her round,
pink-and-white face into a grotesque caricature.

"Wonder who'll stand up to-night," said Eben reflectively,
sitting down on the edge of the wood-box.  "There ain't many
sinners left in Avonlea--only a few hardened chaps like myself."

"You shouldn't talk like that," said Mollie rebukingly.  "What if
father heard you?"

"Father wouldn't hear me if I shouted it in his ear," returned
Eben.  "He goes around, these days, like a man in a dream and a
mighty bad dream at that.  Father has always been a good man.
What's the matter with him?"

"I don't know," said Mollie, dropping her voice.  "Mother is
dreadfully worried over him.  And everybody is talking, Eb.  It
just makes me squirm.  Flora Jane Fletcher asked me last night
why father never testified, and him one of the elders.  She said
the minister was perplexed about it.  I felt my face getting
red."

"Why didn't you tell her it was no business of hers?" said Eben
angrily.  "Old Flora Jane had better mind her own business."

"But all the folks are talking about it, Eb.  And mother is
fretting her heart out over it.  Father has never acted like
himself since these meetings began.  He just goes there night
after night, and sits like a mummy, with his head down.  And
almost everybody else in Avonlea has testified."

"Oh, no, there's lots haven't," said Eben.  "Matthew Cuthbert
never has, nor Uncle Elisha, nor any of the Whites."

"But everybody knows they don't believe in getting up and
testifying, so nobody wonders when they don't.  Besides," Mollie
laughed--"Matthew could never get a word out in public, if he did
believe in it.  He'd be too shy.  But," she added with a sigh,
"it isn't that way with father.  He believes in testimony, so
people wonder why he doesn't get up.  Why, even old Josiah Sloane
gets up every night."

"With his whiskers sticking out every which way, and his hair
ditto," interjected the graceless Eben.

"When the minister calls for testimonials and all the folks look
at our pew, I feel ready to sink through the floor for shame,"
sighed Mollie.  "If father would get up just once!"

Miriam Bell entered the kitchen.  She was ready for the meeting,
to which Major Spencer was to take her.  She was a tall, pale
girl, with a serious face, and dark, thoughtful eyes, totally
unlike Mollie.  She had "come under conviction" during the
meetings, and had stood up for prayer and testimony several
times.  The evangelist thought her very spiritual.  She heard
Mollie's concluding sentence and spoke reprovingly.

"You shouldn't criticize your father, Mollie.  It isn't for you
to judge him."

Eben had hastily slipped out.  He was afraid Miriam would begin
talking religion to him if he stayed.  He had with difficulty
escaped from an exhortation by Robert in the cow-stable.  There
was no peace in Avonlea for the unregenerate, he reflected.
Robert and Miriam had both "come out," and Mollie was hovering on
the brink.

"Dad and I are the black sheep of the family," he said, with a
laugh, for which he at once felt guilty.  Eben had been brought
up with a strict reverence for all religious matters.  On the
surface he might sometimes laugh at them, but the deeps troubled
him whenever he did so.

Indoors, Miriam touched her younger sister's shoulder and looked
at her affectionately.

"Won't you decide to-night, Mollie?" she asked, in a voice
tremulous with emotion.

Mollie crimsoned and turned her face away uncomfortably.  She did
not know what answer to make, and was glad that a jingle of bells
outside saved her the necessity of replying.

"There's your beau, Miriam," she said, as she darted into the
sitting room.

Soon after, Eben brought the family pung and his chubby red mare
to the door for Mollie.  He had not as yet attained to the
dignity of a cutter of his own.  That was for his elder brother,
Robert, who presently came out in his new fur coat and drove
dashingly away with bells and glitter.

"Thinks he's the people," remarked Eben, with a fraternal grin.

The rich winter twilight was purpling over the white world as
they drove down the lane under the over-arching wild cherry trees
that glittered with gemmy hoar-frost.  The snow creaked and
crisped under the runners.  A shrill wind was keening in the
leafless dogwoods.  Over the trees the sky was a dome of silver,
with a lucent star or two on the slope of the west.  Earth-stars
gleamed warmly out here and there, where homesteads were tucked
snugly away in their orchards or groves of birch.

"The church will be jammed to-night," said Eben.  "It's so fine
that folks will come from near and far.  Guess it'll be
exciting."

"If only father would testify!" sighed Mollie, from the bottom of
the pung, where she was snuggled amid furs and straw.  "Miriam
can say what she likes, but I do feels as if we were all
disgraced.  It sends a creep all over me to hear Mr. Bentley say,
'Now, isn't there one more to say a word for Jesus?' and look
right over at father."

Eben flicked his mare with his whip, and she broke into a trot.
The silence was filled with a faint, fairy-like melody from afar
down the road where a pungful of young folks from White Sands
were singing hymns on their way to meeting.

"Look here, Mollie," said Eben awkwardly at last, "are you going
to stand up for prayers to-night?"

"I--I can't as long as father acts this way," answered Mollie, in
a choked voice.  "I--I want to, Eb, and Mirry and Bob want me to,
but I can't.  I do hope that the evangelist won't come and talk
to me special to-night.  I always feels as if I was being pulled
two different ways, when he does."

Back in the kitchen at home Mrs. Bell was waiting for her husband
to bring the horse to the door.  She was a slight, dark-eyed
little woman, with thin, vivid-red cheeks.  From out of the
swathings in which she had wrapped her bonnet, her face gleamed
sad and troubled.  Now and then she sighed heavily.

The cat came to her from under the stove, languidly stretching
himself, and yawning until all the red cavern of his mouth and
throat was revealed.  At the moment he had an uncanny resemblance
to Elder Joseph Blewett of White Sands--Roaring Joe, the
irreverent boys called him--when he grew excited and shouted.
Mrs. Bell saw it--and then reproached herself for the sacrilege.

"But it's no wonder I've wicked thoughts," she said, wearily.
"I'm that worried I ain't rightly myself.  If he would only tell
me what the trouble is, maybe I could help him.  At any rate, I'd
KNOW.  It hurts me so to see him going about, day after day, with
his head hanging and that look on his face, as if he had
something fearful on his conscience--him that never harmed a
living soul.  And then the way he groans and mutters in his
sleep!  He has always lived a just, upright life.  He hasn't no
right to go on like this, disgracing his family."

Mrs. Bell's angry sob was cut short by the sleigh at the door.
Her husband poked in his busy, iron-gray head and said, "Now,
mother."  He helped her into the sleigh, tucked the rugs warmly
around her, and put a hot brick at her feet.  His solicitude hurt
her.  It was all for her material comfort.  It did not matter to
him what mental agony she might suffer over his strange attitude.
For the first time in their married life Mary Bell felt
resentment against her husband.

They drove along in silence, past the snow-powdered hedges of
spruce, and under the arches of the forest roadways.  They were
late, and a great stillness was over all the land.  David Bell
never spoke.  All his usual cheerful talkativeness had
disappeared since the revival meetings had begun in Avonlea.
From the first he had gone about as a man over whom some strange
doom is impending, seemingly oblivious to all that might be said
or thought of him in his own family or in the church.  Mary Bell
thought she would go out of her mind if her husband continued to
act in this way.  Her reflections were bitter and rebellious as
they sped along through the glittering night of the winter's
prime.

"I don't get one bit of good out of the meetings," she thought
resentfully.  "There ain't any peace or joy for me, not even in
testifying myself, when David sits there like a stick or stone.
If he'd been opposed to the revivalist coming here, like old
Uncle Jerry, or if he didn't believe in public testimony, I
wouldn't mind.  I'd understand.  But, as it is, I feel dreadful
humiliated."

Revival meetings had never been held in Avonlea before.  "Uncle"
Jerry MacPherson, who was the supreme local authority in church
matters, taking precedence of even the minister, had been
uncompromisingly opposed to them.  He was a stern, deeply
religious Scotchman, with a horror of the emotional form of
religion.  As long as Uncle Jerry's spare, ascetic form and
deeply-graved square-jawed face filled his accustomed corner by
the northwest window of Avonlea church no revivalist might
venture therein, although the majority of the congregation,
including the minister, would have welcomed one warmly.

But now Uncle Jerry was sleeping peacefully under the tangled
grasses and white snows of the burying ground, and, if dead
people ever do turn in their graves, Uncle Jerry might well have
turned in his when the revivalist came to Avonlea church, and
there followed the emotional services, public testimonies, and
religious excitement which the old man's sturdy soul had always
abhorred.

Avonlea was a good field for an evangelist.  The Rev. Geoffrey
Mountain, who came to assist the Avonlea minister in revivifying
the dry bones thereof, knew this and reveled in the knowledge.
It was not often that such a virgin parish could be found
nowadays, with scores of impressionable, unspoiled souls on which
fervid oratory could play skillfully, as a master on a mighty
organ, until every note in them thrilled to life and utterance.
The Rev. Geoffrey Mountain was a good man; of the earth, earthy,
to be sure, but with an unquestionable sincerity of belief and
purpose which went far to counterbalance the sensationalism of
some of his methods.

He was large and handsome, with a marvelously sweet and winning
voice--a voice that could melt into irresistible tenderness, or
swell into sonorous appeal and condemnation, or ring like a
trumpet calling to battle.

His frequent grammatical errors, and lapses into vulgarity,
counted for nothing against its charm, and the most commonplace
words in the world would have borrowed much of the power of real
oratory from its magic.  He knew its value and used it
effectively--perhaps even ostentatiously.

Geoffrey Mountain's religion and methods, like the man himself,
were showy, but, of their kind, sincere, and, though the good he
accomplished might not be unmixed, it was a quantity to be
reckoned with.

So the Rev. Geoffrey Mountain came to Avonlea, conquering and to
conquer.  Night after night the church was crowded with eager
listeners, who hung breathlessly on his words and wept and
thrilled and exulted as he willed.  Into many young souls his
appeals and warnings burned their way, and each night they rose
for prayer in response to his invitation.  Older Christians, too,
took on a new lease of intensity, and even the unregenerate and
the scoffers found a certain fascination in the meetings.
Threading through it all, for old and young, converted and
unconverted, was an unacknowledged feeling for religious
dissipation.  Avonlea was a quiet place,--and the revival
meetings were lively.

When David and Mary Bell reached the church the services had
begun, and they heard the refrain of a hallelujah hymn as they
were crossing Harmon Andrews' field.  David Bell left his wife at
the platform and drove to the horse-shed.

Mrs. Bell unwound the scarf from her bonnet and shook the frost
crystals from it.  In the porch Flora Jane Fletcher and her
sister, Mrs. Harmon Andrews, were talking in low whispers.
Presently Flora Jane put out her lank, cashmere-gloved hand and
plucked Mrs. Bell's shawl.

"Mary, is the elder going to testify to-night?" she asked, in a
shrill whisper.

Mrs. Bell winced.  She would have given much to be able to answer
"Yes," but she had to say stiffly,

"I don't know."

Flora Jane lifted her chin.

"Well, Mrs. Bell, I only asked because every one thinks it is
strange he doesn't--and an elder, of all people.  It looks as if
he didn't think himself a Christian, you know.  Of course, we all
know better, but it LOOKS that way.  If I was you, I'd tell him
folks was talking about it.  Mr. Bentley says it is hindering
the full success of the meetings."

Mrs. Bell turned on her tormentor in swift anger.  She might
resent her husband's strange behavior herself, but nobody else
should dare to criticize him to her.

"I don't think you need to worry yourself about the elder, Flora
Jane," she said bitingly.  "Maybe 'tisn't the best Christians
that do the most talking about it always.  I guess, as far as
living up to his profession goes, the elder will compare pretty
favorably with Levi Boulter, who gets up and testifies every
night, and cheats the very eye-teeth out of people in the
daytime."

Levi Boulter was a middle-aged widower, with a large family, who
was supposed to have cast a matrimonial eye Flora Janeward.  The
use of his name was an effective thrust on Mrs. Bell's part, and
silenced Flora Jane.  Too angry for speech she seized her
sister's arm and hurried her into church.

But her victory could not remove from Mary Bell's soul the sting
implanted there by Flora Jane's words.  When her husband came up
to the platform she put her hand on his snowy arm appealingly.

"Oh, David, won't you get up to-night?  I do feel so dreadful
bad--folks are talking so--I just feel humiliated."

David Bell hung his head like a shamed schoolboy.

"I can't, Mary," he said huskily.  "'Tain't no use to pester me."

"You don't care for my feelings," said his wife bitterly.  "And
Mollie won't come out because you're acting so.  You're keeping
her back from salvation.  And you're hindering the success of the
revival--Mr. Bentley says so."

David Bell groaned.  This sign of suffering wrung his wife's
heart.  With quick contrition she whispered,

"There, never mind, David.  I oughtn't to have spoken to you so.
You know your duty best.  Let's go in."

"Wait."  His voice was imploring.

"Mary, is it true that Mollie won't come out because of me?  Am I
standing in my child's light?"

"I--don't--know.  I guess not.  Mollie's just a foolish young
girl yet.  Never mind--come in."

He followed her dejectedly in, and up the aisle to their pew in
the center of the church.  The building was warm and crowded.
The pastor was reading the Bible lesson for the evening.  In the
choir, behind him, David Bell saw Mollie's girlish face, tinged
with a troubled seriousness.  His own wind-ruddy face and bushy
gray eyebrows worked convulsively with his inward throes.  A sigh
that was almost a groan burst from him.

"I'll have to do it," he said to himself in agony.

When several more hymns had been sung, and late arrivals began to
pack the aisles, the evangelist arose.  His style for the evening
was the tender, the pleading, the solemn.  He modulated his tones
to marvelous sweetness, and sent them thrillingly over the
breathless pews, entangling the hearts and souls of his listeners
in a mesh of subtle emotion.  Many of the women began to cry
softly.  Fervent amens broke from some of the members.  When the
evangelist sat down, after a closing appeal which, in its way,
was a masterpiece, an audible sigh of relieved tension passed
like a wave over the audience.

After prayer the pastor made the usual request that, if any of
those present wished to come out on the side of Christ, they
would signify the wish by rising for a moment in their places.
After a brief interval, a pale boy under the gallery rose,
followed by an old man at the top of the church.  A frightened,
sweet-faced child of twelve got tremblingly upon her feet, and a
dramatic thrill passed over the congregation when her mother
suddenly stood up beside her.  The evangelist's "Thank God" was
hearty and insistent.

David Bell looked almost imploringly at Mollie; but she kept her
seat, with downcast eyes.  Over in the big square "stone pew" he
saw Eben bending forward, with his elbows on his knees, gazing
frowningly at the floor.

"I'm a stumbling block to them both," he thought bitterly.

A hymn was sung and prayer offered for those under conviction.
Then testimonies were called for.  The evangelist asked for them
in tones which made it seem a personal request to every one in
that building.

Many testimonies followed, each infused with the personality of
the giver.  Most of them were brief and stereotyped.  Finally a
pause ensued.  The evangelist swept the pews with his kindling
eyes and exclaimed, appealingly,

"Has EVERY Christian in this church to-night spoken a word for
his Master?"

There were many who had not testified, but every eye in the
building followed the pastor's accusing glance to the Bell pew.
Mollie crimsoned with shame.  Mrs. Bell cowered visibly.

Although everybody looked thus at David Bell, nobody now expected
him to testify.  When he rose to his feet, a murmur of surprise
passed over the audience, followed by a silence so complete as to
be terrible.  To David Bell it seemed to possess the awe of final
judgment.

Twice he opened his lips, and tried vainly to speak.  The third
time he succeeded; but his voice sounded strangely in his own
ears.  He gripped the back of the pew before him with his knotty
hands, and fixed his eyes unseeingly on the Christian Endeavor
pledge that hung over the heads of the choir.

"Brethren and sisters," he said hoarsely, "before I can say a
word of Christian testimony here to-night I've got something to
confess.  It's been lying hard and heavy on my conscience ever
since these meetings begun.  As long as I kept silence about it I
couldn't get up and bear witness for Christ.  Many of you have
expected me to do it.  Maybe I've been a stumbling block to some
of you.  This season of revival has brought no blessing to me
because of my sin, which I repented of, but tried to conceal.
There has been a spiritual darkness over me.

"Friends and neighbors, I have always been held by you as an
honest man.  It was the shame of having you know I was not which
has kept me back from open confession and testimony.  Just afore
these meetings commenced I come home from town one night and
found that somebody had passed a counterfeit ten-dollar bill on
me.  Then Satan entered into me and possessed me.  When Mrs.
Rachel Lynde come next day, collecting for foreign missions, I
give her that ten dollar bill.  She never knowed the difference,
and sent it away with the rest.  But I knew I'd done a mean and
sinful thing.  I couldn't drive it out of my thoughts.  A few
days afterwards I went down to Mrs. Rachel's and give her ten
good dollars for the fund.  I told her I had come to the
conclusion I ought to give more than ten dollars, out of my
abundance, to the Lord.  That was a lie.  Mrs. Lynde thought I
was a generous man, and I felt ashamed to look her in the face.
But I'd done what I could to right the wrong, and I thought it
would be all right.  But it wasn't.  I've never known a minute's
peace of mind or conscience since.  I tried to cheat the Lord,
and then tried to patch it up by doing something that redounded
to my worldly credit.  When these meetings begun, and everybody
expected me to testify, I couldn't do it.  It would have seemed
like blasphemy.  And I couldn't endure the thought of telling
what I'd done, either.  I argued it all out a thousand times that
I hadn't done any real harm after all, but it was no use.  I've
been so wrapped up in my own brooding and misery that I didn't
realize I was inflicting suffering on those dear to me by my
conduct, and, maybe, holding some of them back from the paths of
salvation.  But my eyes have been opened to this to-night, and
the Lord has given me strength to confess my sin and glorify His
holy name."

The broken tones ceased, and David Bell sat down, wiping the
great drops of perspiration from his brow.  To a man of his
training, and cast of thought, no ordeal could be more terrible
than that through which he had just passed.  But underneath the
turmoil of his emotion he felt a great calm and peace, threaded
with the exultation of a hard-won spiritual victory.

Over the church was a solemn hush.  The evangelist's "amen" was
not spoken with his usual unctuous fervor, but very gently and
reverently.  In spite of his coarse fiber, he could appreciate
the nobility behind such a confession as this, and the deeps of
stern suffering it sounded.

Before the last prayer the pastor paused and looked around.

"Is there yet one," he asked gently, "who wishes to be especially
remembered in our concluding prayer?"

For a moment nobody moved.  Then Mollie Bell stood up in the
choir seat, and, down by the stove, Eben, his flushed, boyish
face held high, rose sturdily to his feet in the midst of his
companions.

"Thank God," whispered Mary Bell.

"Amen," said her husband huskily.

"Let us pray," said Mr. Bentley.



XIV. ONLY A COMMON FELLOW

On my dearie's wedding morning I wakened early and went to her
room.  Long and long ago she had made me promise that I would be
the one to wake her on the morning of her wedding day.

"You were the first to take me in your arms when I came into the
world, Aunt Rachel," she had said, "and I want you to be the
first to greet me on that wonderful day."

But that was long ago, and now my heart foreboded that there
would be no need of wakening her.  And there was not.  She was
lying there awake, very quiet, with her hand under her cheek, and
her big blue eyes fixed on the window, through which a pale, dull
light was creeping in--a joyless light it was, and enough to make
a body shiver.  I felt more like weeping than rejoicing, and my
heart took to aching when I saw her there so white and patient,
more like a girl who was waiting for a winding-sheet than for a
bridal veil.  But she smiled brave-like, when I sat down on her
bed and took her hand.

"You look as if you haven't slept all night, dearie," I said.

"I didn't--not a great deal," she answered me.  "But the night
didn't seem long; no, it seemed too short.  I was thinking of a
great many things.  What time is it, Aunt Rachel?"

"Five o'clock."

"Then in six hours more--"

She suddenly sat up in her bed, her great, thick rope of brown
hair falling over her white shoulders, and flung her arms about
me, and burst into tears on my old breast.  I petted and soothed
her, and said not a word; and, after a while, she stopped crying;
but she still sat with her head so that I couldn't see her face.

"We didn't think it would be like this once, did we, Aunt
Rachel?" she said, very softly.

"It shouldn't be like this, now," I said.  I had to say it.  I
never could hide the thought of that marriage, and I couldn't
pretend to.  It was all her stepmother's doings--right well I
knew that.  My dearie would never have taken Mark Foster else.

"Don't let us talk of that," she said, soft and beseeching, just
the same way she used to speak when she was a baby-child and
wanted to coax me into something.  "Let us talk about the old
days--and HIM."

"I don't see much use in talking of HIM, when you're going to
marry Mark Foster to-day," I said.

But she put her hand on my mouth.

"It's for the last time, Aunt Rachel.  After to-day I can never
talk of him, or even think of him.  It's four years since he went
away.  Do you remember how he looked, Aunt Rachel?"

"I mind well enough, I reckon," I said, kind of curt-like.  And I
did.  Owen Blair hadn't a face a body could forget--that long
face of his with its clean color and its eyes made to look love
into a woman's.  When I thought of Mark Foster's sallow skin and
lank jaws I felt sick-like.  Not that Mark was ugly--he was just
a common-looking fellow.

"He was so handsome, wasn't he, Aunt Rachel?" my dearie went on,
in that patient voice of hers.  "So tall and strong and handsome.
I wish we hadn't parted in anger.  It was so foolish of us to
quarrel.  But it would have been all right if he had lived to
come back.  I know it would have been all right.  I know he
didn't carry any bitterness against me to his death.  I thought
once, Aunt Rachel, that I would go through life true to him, and
then, over on the other side, I'd meet him just as before, all
his and his only.  But it isn't to be."

"Thanks to your stepma's wheedling and Mark Foster's scheming,"
said I.

"No, Mark didn't scheme," she said patiently.  "Don't be unjust
to Mark, Aunt Rachel.  He has been very good and kind."

"He's as stupid as an owlet and as stubborn as Solomon's mule," I
said, for I WOULD say it.  "He's just a common fellow, and yet he
thinks he's good enough for my beauty."

"Don't talk about Mark," she pleaded again.  "I mean to be a
good, faithful wife to him.  But I'm my own woman yet--YET--for
just a few more sweet hours, and I want to give them to HIM.  The
last hours of my maidenhood--they must belong to HIM."

So she talked of him, me sitting there and holding her, with her
lovely hair hanging down over my arm, and my heart aching so for
her that it hurt bitter.  She didn't feel as bad as I did,
because she'd made up her mind what to do and was resigned.  She
was going to marry Mark Foster, but her heart was in France, in
that grave nobody knew of, where the Huns had buried Owen
Blair--if they had buried him at all.  And she went over all they
had been to each other, since they were mites of babies, going to
school together and meaning, even then, to be married when they
grew up; and the first words of love he'd said to her, and what
she'd dreamed and hoped for.  The only thing she didn't bring up
was the time he thrashed Mark Foster for bringing her apples.
She never mentioned Mark's name; it was all Owen--Owen--and how
he looked, and what might have been, if he hadn't gone off to the
awful war and got shot.  And there was me, holding her and
listening to it all, and her stepma sleeping sound and triumphant
in the next room.

When she had talked it all out she lay down on her pillow again.
I got up and went downstairs to light the fire.  I felt terrible
old and tired.  My feet seemed to drag, and the tears kept coming
to my eyes, though I tried to keep them away, for well I knew it
was a bad omen to be weeping on a wedding day.

Before long Isabella Clark came down; bright and pleased-looking
enough, SHE was.  I'd never liked Isabella, from the day
Phillippa's father brought her here; and I liked her less than
ever this morning.  She was one of your sly, deep women, always
smiling smooth, and scheming underneath it.  I'll say it for her,
though, she had been good to Phillippa; but it was her doings
that my dearie was to marry Mark Foster that day.

"Up betimes, Rachel," she said, smiling and speaking me fair, as
she always did, and hating me in her heart, as I well knew.
"That is right, for we'll have plenty to do to-day.  A wedding
makes lots of work."

"Not this sort of a wedding," I said, sour-like.  "I don't call
it a wedding when two people get married and sneak off as if they
were ashamed of it--as well they might be in this case."

"It was Phillippa's own wish that all should be very quiet," said
Isabella, as smooth as cream.  "You know I'd have given her a big
wedding, if she'd wanted it."

"Oh, it's better quiet," I said.  "The fewer to see Phillippa
marry a man like Mark Foster the better."

"Mark Foster is a good man, Rachel."

"No good man would be content to buy a girl as he's bought
Phillippa," I said, determined to give it in to her.  "He's a
common fellow, not fit for my dearie to wipe her feet on.  It's
well that her mother didn't live to see this day; but this day
would never have come, if she'd lived."

"I dare say Phillippa's mother would have remembered that Mark
Foster is very well off, quite as readily as worse people," said
Isabella, a little spitefully.

I liked her better when she was spiteful than when she was
smooth.  I didn't feel so scared of her then.

The marriage was to be at eleven o'clock, and, at nine, I went up
to help Phillippa dress.  She was no fussy bride, caring much
what she looked like.  If Owen had been the bridegroom it would
have been different.  Nothing would have pleased her then; but
now it was only just "That will do very well, Aunt Rachel,"
without even glancing at it.

Still, nothing could prevent her from looking lovely when she was
dressed.  My dearie would have been a beauty in a beggarmaid's
rags.  In her white dress and veil she was as fair as a queen.
And she was as good as she was pretty.  It was the right sort of
goodness, too, with just enough spice of original sin in it to
keep it from spoiling by reason of over-sweetness.

Then she sent me out.

"I want to be alone my last hour," she said.  "Kiss me, Aunt
Rachel--MOTHER Rachel."

When I'd gone down, crying like the old fool I was, I heard a rap
at the door.  My first thought was to go out and send Isabella to
it, for I supposed it was Mark Foster, come ahead of time, and
small stomach I had for seeing him.  I fall trembling, even yet,
when I think, "What if I had sent Isabella to that door?"

But go I did, and opened it, defiant-like, kind of hoping it was
Mark Foster to see the tears on my face.  I opened it--and
staggered back like I'd got a blow.

"Owen!  Lord ha' mercy on us!  Owen!" I said, just like that,
going cold all over, for it's the truth that I thought it was his
spirit come back to forbid that unholy marriage.

But he sprang right in, and caught my wrinkled old hands in a
grasp that was of flesh and blood.

"Aunt Rachel, I'm not too late?" he said, savage-like.  "Tell me
I'm in time."

I looked up at him, standing over me there, tall and handsome, no
change in him except he was so brown and had a little white scar
on his forehead; and, though I couldn't understand at all, being
all bewildered-like, I felt a great deep thankfulness.

"No, you're not too late," I said.

"Thank God," said he, under his breath.  And then he pulled me
into the parlor and shut the door.

"They told me at the station that Phillippa was to be married to
Mark Foster to-day.  I couldn't believe it, but I came here as
fast as horse-flesh could bring me.  Aunt Rachel, it can't be
true!  She can't care for Mark Foster, even if she had forgotten
me!"

"It's true enough that she is to marry Mark," I said,
half-laughing, half-crying, "but she doesn't care for him.  Every
beat of her heart is for you.  It's all her stepma's doings.
Mark has got a mortgage on the place, and he told Isabella Clark
that, if Phillippa would marry him, he'd burn the mortgage, and,
if she wouldn't, he'd foreclose.  Phillippa is sacrificing
herself to save her stepma for her dead father's sake.  It's all
your fault," I cried, getting over my bewilderment.  "We thought
you were dead.  Why didn't you come home when you were alive?
Why didn't you write?"

"I DID write, after I got out of the hospital, several times," he
said, "and never a word in answer, Aunt Rachel.  What was I to
think when Phillippa wouldn't answer my letters?"

"She never got one," I cried.  "She wept her sweet eyes out over
you.  SOMEBODY must have got those letters."

And I knew then, and I know now, though never a shadow of proof
have I, that Isabella Clark had got them--and kept them.  That
woman would stick at nothing.

"Well, we'll sift that matter some other time," said Owen
impatiently.  "There are other things to think of now.  I must
see Phillippa."

"I'll manage it for you," I said eagerly; but, just as I spoke,
the door opened and Isabella and Mark came in.  Never shall I
forget the look on Isabella's face.  I almost felt sorry for her.
She turned sickly yellow and her eyes went wild; they were
looking at the downfall of all her schemes and hopes.  I didn't
look at Mark Foster, at first, and, when I did, there wasn't
anything to see.  His face was just as sallow and wooden as ever;
he looked undersized and common beside Owen.  Nobody'd ever have
picked him out for a bridegroom.

Owen spoke first.

"I want to see Phillippa," he said, as if it were but yesterday
that he had gone away.

All Isabella's smoothness and policy had dropped away from her,
and the real woman stood there, plotting and unscrupulous, as I'd
always know her.

"You can't see her," she said desperate-like.  "She doesn't want
to see you.  You went and left her and never wrote, and she knew
you weren't worth fretting over, and she has learned to care for
a better man."

"I DID write and I think you know that better than most folks,"
said Owen, trying hard to speak quiet.  "As for the rest, I'm not
going to discuss it with you.  When I hear from Phillippa's own
lips that she cares for another man I'll believe it--and not
before."

"You'll never hear it from her lips," said I.

Isabella gave me a venomous look.

"You'll not see Phillippa until she is a better man's wife," she
said stubbornly, "and I order you to leave my house, Owen Blair!"

"No!"

It was Mark Foster who spoke.  He hadn't said a word; but he came
forward now, and stood before Owen.  Such a difference as there
was between them!  But he looked Owen right in the face,
quiet-like, and Owen glared back in fury.

"Will it satisfy you, Owen, if Phillippa comes down here and
chooses between us?"

"Yes, it will," said Owen.

Mark Foster turned to me.

"Go and bring her down," said he.

Isabella, judging Phillippa by herself, gave a little moan of
despair, and Owen, blinded by love and hope, thought his cause
was won.  But I knew my dearie too well to be glad, and Mark
Foster did, too, and I hated him for it.

I went up to my dearie's room, all pale and shaking.  When I went
in she came to meet me, like a girl going to meet death.

"Is--it--time?" she said, with her hands locked tight together.

I said not a word, hoping that the unlooked-for sight of Owen
would break down her resolution.  I just held out my hand to her,
and led her downstairs.  She clung to me and her hands were as
cold as snow.  When I opened the parlor door I stood back, and
pushed her in before me.

She just cried, "Owen!" and shook so that I put my arms about her
to steady her.

Owen made a step towards her, his face and eyes all aflame with
his love and longing, but Mark barred his way.

"Wait till she has made her choice," he said, and then he turned
to Phillippa.  I couldn't see my dearie's face, but I could see
Mark's, and there wasn't a spark of feeling in it.  Behind it was
Isabella's, all pinched and gray.

"Phillippa," said Mark, "Owen Blair has come back.  He says he
has never forgotten you, and that he wrote to you several times.
I have told him that you have promised me, but I leave you
freedom of choice.  Which of us will you marry, Phillippa?"

My dearie stood straight up and the trembling left her.  She
stepped back, and I could see her face, white as the dead, but
calm and resolved.

"I have promised to marry you, Mark, and I will keep my word,"
she said.

The color came back to Isabella Clark's face; but Mark's did not
change.

"Phillippa," said Owen, and the pain in his voice made my old
heart ache bitterer than ever, "have you ceased to love me?"

My dearie would have been more than human, if she could have
resisted the pleading in his tone.  She said no word, but just
looked at him for a moment.  We all saw the look; her whole soul,
full of love for Owen, showed out in it.  Then she turned and
stood by Mark.

Owen never said a word.  He went as white as death, and started
for the door.  But again Mark Foster put himself in the way.

"Wait," he said.  "She has made her choice, as I knew she would;
but I have yet to make mine.  And I choose to marry no woman
whose love belongs to another living man.  Phillippa, I thought
Owen Blair was dead, and I believed that, when you were my wife,
I could win your love.  But I love you too well to make you
miserable.  Go to the man you love--you are free!"

"And what is to become of me?" wailed Isabella.

"Oh, you!--I had forgotten about you," said Mark, kind of
weary-like.  He took a paper from his pocket, and dropped it in
the grate.  "There is the mortgage.  That is all you care about,
I think.  Good-morning."

He went out.  He was only a common fellow, but, somehow, just
then he looked every inch the gentleman.  I would have gone after
him and said something but--the look on his face--no, it was no
time for my foolish old words!

Phillippa was crying, with her head on Owen's shoulder.  Isabella
Clark waited to see the mortgage burned up, and then she came to
me in the hall, all smooth and smiling again.

"Really, it's all very romantic, isn't it?  I suppose it's better
as it is, all things considered.  Mark behaved splendidly, didn't
he?  Not many men would have done as he did."

For once in my life I agreed with Isabella.  But I felt like
having a good cry over it all--and I had it.  I was glad for my
dearie's sake and Owen's; but Mark Foster had paid the price of
their joy, and I knew it had beggared him of happiness for life.



XV. TANNIS OF THE FLATS

Few people in Avonlea could understand why Elinor Blair had never
married.  She had been one of the most beautiful girls in our
part of the Island and, as a woman of fifty, she was still very
attractive.  In her youth she had had ever so many beaux, as we
of our generation well remembered; but, after her return from
visiting her brother Tom in the Canadian Northwest, more than
twenty-five years ago, she had seemed to withdraw within herself,
keeping all men at a safe, though friendly, distance.  She had
been a gay, laughing girl when she went West; she came back quiet
and serious, with a shadowed look in her eyes which time could
not quite succeed in blotting out.

Elinor had never talked much about her visit, except to describe
the scenery and the life, which in that day was rough indeed.
Not even to me, who had grown up next door to her and who had
always seemed more a sister than a friend, did she speak of other
than the merest commonplaces.  But when Tom Blair made a flying
trip back home, some ten years later, there were one or two of us
to whom he related the story of Jerome Carey,--a story revealing
only too well the reason for Elinor's sad eyes and utter
indifference to masculine attentions.  I can recall almost his
exact words and the inflections of his voice, and I remember,
too, that it seemed to me a far cry from the tranquil, pleasant
scene before us, on that lovely summer day, to the elemental life
of the Flats.

The Flats was a forlorn little trading station fifteen miles up
the river from Prince Albert, with a scanty population of
half-breeds and three white men.  When Jerome Carey was sent to
take charge of the telegraph office there, he cursed his fate in
the picturesque language permissible in the far Northwest.

Not that Carey was a profane man, even as men go in the West.  He
was an English gentleman, and he kept both his life and his
vocabulary pretty clean.  But--the Flats!

Outside of the ragged cluster of log shacks, which comprised the
settlement, there was always a shifting fringe of teepees where
the Indians, who drifted down from the Reservation, camped with
their dogs and squaws and papooses.  There are standpoints from
which Indians are interesting, but they cannot be said to offer
congenial social attractions.  For three weeks after Carey went
to the Flats he was lonelier than he had ever imagined it
possible to be, even in the Great Lone Land.  If it had not been
for teaching Paul Dumont the telegraphic code, Carey believed he
would have been driven to suicide in self-defense.

The telegraphic importance of the Flats consisted in the fact
that it was the starting point of three telegraph lines to remote
trading posts up North.  Not many messages came therefrom, but
the few that did come generally amounted to something worth
while.  Days and even weeks would pass without a single one being
clicked to the Flats.  Carey was debarred from talking over the
wires to the Prince Albert man for the reason that they were on
officially bad terms.  He blamed the latter for his transfer to
the Flats.

Carey slept in a loft over the office, and got his meals as Joe
Esquint's, across the "street."  Joe Esquint's wife was a good
cook, as cooks go among the breeds, and Carey soon became a great
pet of hers.  Carey had a habit of becoming a pet with women.  He
had the "way" that has to be born in a man and can never be
acquired.  Besides, he was as handsome as clean-cut features,
deep-set, dark-blue eyes, fair curls and six feet of muscle could
make him.  Mrs. Joe Esquint thought that his mustache was the
most wonderfully beautiful thing, in its line, that she had ever
seen.

Fortunately, Mrs. Joe was so old and fat and ugly that even the
malicious and inveterate gossip of skulking breeds and Indians,
squatting over teepee fires, could not hint at anything
questionable in the relations between her and Carey.  But it was
a different matter with Tannis Dumont.

Tannis came home from the academy at Prince Albert early in July,
when Carey had been at the Flats a month and had exhausted all
the few novelties of his position.  Paul Dumont had already
become so expert at the code that his mistakes no longer afforded
Carey any fun, and the latter was getting desperate.  He had
serious intentions of throwing up the business altogether, and
betaking himself to an Alberta ranch, where at least one would
have the excitement of roping horses.  When he saw Tannis Dumont
he thought he would hang on awhile longer, anyway.

Tannis was the daughter of old Auguste Dumont, who kept the one
small store at the Flats, lived in the one frame house that the
place boasted, and was reputed to be worth an amount of money
which, in half-breed eyes, was a colossal fortune.  Old Auguste
was black and ugly and notoriously bad-tempered.  But Tannis was
a beauty.

Tannis' great-grandmother had been a Cree squaw who married a
French trapper.  The son of this union became in due time the
father of Auguste Dumont.  Auguste married a woman whose mother
was a French half-breed and whose father was a pure-bred Highland
Scotchman.  The result of this atrocious mixture was its
justification--Tannis of the Flats--who looked as if all the
blood of all the Howards might be running in her veins.

But, after all, the dominant current in those same veins was from
the race of plain and prairie.  The practiced eye detected it in
the slender stateliness of carriage, in the graceful, yet
voluptuous, curves of the lithe body, in the smallness and
delicacy of hand and foot, in the purple sheen on
straight-falling masses of blue-black hair, and, more than all
else, in the long, dark eye, full and soft, yet alight with a
slumbering fire.  France, too, was responsible for somewhat in
Tannis.  It gave her a light step in place of the stealthy
half-breed shuffle, it arched her red upper lip into a more
tremulous bow, it lent a note of laughter to her voice and a
sprightlier wit to her tongue.  As for her red-headed Scotch
grandfather, he had bequeathed her a somewhat whiter skin and
ruddier bloom than is usually found in the breeds.

Old Auguste was mightily proud of Tannis.  He sent her to school
for four years in Prince Albert, bound that his girl should have
the best.  A High School course and considerable mingling in the
social life of the town--for old Auguste was a man to be
conciliated by astute politicians, since he controlled some two
or three hundred half-breed votes--sent Tannis home to the Flats
with a very thin, but very deceptive, veneer of culture and
civilization overlying the primitive passions and ideas of her
nature.

Carey saw only the beauty and the veneer.  He made the mistake of
thinking that Tannis was what she seemed to be--a fairly
well-educated, up-to-date young woman with whom a friendly
flirtation was just what it was with white womankind--the
pleasant amusement of an hour or season.  It was a mistake--a
very big mistake.  Tannis understood something of piano playing,
something less of grammar and Latin, and something less still of
social prevarications.  But she understood absolutely nothing of
flirtation.  You can never get an Indian to see the sense of
Platonics.

Carey found the Flats quite tolerable after the homecoming of
Tannis.  He soon fell into the habit of dropping into the Dumont
house to spend the evening, talking with Tannis in the
parlor--which apartment was amazingly well done for a place like
the Flats--Tannis had not studied Prince Albert parlors four
years for nothing--or playing violin and piano duets with her.
When music and conversation palled, they went for long gallops
over the prairies together.  Tannis rode to perfection, and
managed her bad-tempered brute of a pony with a skill and grace
that made Carey applaud her.  She was glorious on horseback.

Sometimes he grew tired of the prairies and then he and Tannis
paddled themselves over the river in Nitchie Joe's dug-out, and
landed on the old trail that struck straight into the wooded belt
of the Saskatchewan valley, leading north to trading posts on the
frontier of civilization.  There they rambled under huge pines,
hoary with the age of centuries, and Carey talked to Tannis about
England and quoted poetry to her.  Tannis liked poetry; she had
studied it at school, and understood it fairly well.  But once
she told Carey that she thought it a long, round-about way of
saying what you could say just as well in about a dozen plain
words.  Carey laughed.  He liked to evoke those little speeches
of hers.  They sounded very clever, dropping from such arched,
ripely-tinted lips.

If you had told Carey that he was playing with fire he would have
laughed at you.  In the first place he was not in the slightest
degree in love with Tannis--he merely admired and liked her.  In
the second place, it never occurred to him that Tannis might be
in love with him.  Why, he had never attempted any love-making
with her!  And, above all, he was obsessed with that aforesaid
fatal idea that Tannis was like the women he had associated with
all his life, in reality as well as in appearance.  He did not
know enough of the racial characteristics to understand.

But, if Carey thought his relationship with Tannis was that of
friendship merely, he was the only one at the Flats who did think
so.  All the half-breeds and quarter-breeds and any-fractional
breeds there believed that he meant to marry Tannis.  There would
have been nothing surprising to them in that.  They did not know
that Carey's second cousin was a baronet, and they would not have
understood that it need make any difference, if they had.  They
thought that rich old Auguste's heiress, who had been to school
for four years in Prince Albert, was a catch for anybody.

Old Auguste himself shrugged his shoulders over it and was
well-pleased enough.  An Englishman was a prize by way of a
husband for a half-breed girl, even if he were only a telegraph
operator.  Young Paul Dumont worshipped Carey, and the
half-Scotch mother, who might have understood, was dead.  In all
the Flats there were but two people who disapproved of the match
they thought an assured thing.  One of these was the little
priest, Father Gabriel.  He liked Tannis, and he liked Carey; but
he shook his head dubiously when he heard the gossip of the
shacks and teepees.  Religions might mingle, but the different
bloods--ah, it was not the right thing!  Tannis was a good girl,
and a beautiful one; but she was no fit mate for the fair,
thorough-bred Englishman.  Father Gabriel wished fervently that
Jerome Carey might soon be transferred elsewhere.  He even went
to Prince Albert and did a little wire-pulling on his own
account, but nothing came of it.  He was on the wrong side of
politics.

The other malcontent was Lazarre M&eacute;rim&eacute;e, a lazy,
besotted French half-breed, who was, after his fashion, in love
with Tannis.  He could never have got her, and he knew it--old
Auguste and young Paul would have incontinently riddled him with
bullets had he ventured near the house as a suitor,--but he hated
Carey none the less, and watched for a chance to do him an
ill-turn.  There is no worse enemy in all the world than a
half-breed.  Your true Indian is bad enough, but his diluted
descendant is ten times worse.

As for Tannis, she loved Carey with all her heart, and that was
all there was about it.

If Elinor Blair had never gone to Prince Albert there is no
knowing what might have happened, after all.  Carey, so powerful
in propinquity, might even have ended by learning to love Tannis
and marrying her, to his own worldly undoing.  But Elinor did go
to Prince Albert, and her going ended all things for Tannis of
the Flats.

Carey met her one evening in September, when he had ridden into
town to attend a dance, leaving Paul Dumont in charge of the
telegraph office.  Elinor had just arrived in Prince Albert on a
visit to Tom, to which she had been looking forward during the
five years since he had married and moved out West from Avonlea.
As I have already said, she was very beautiful at that time, and
Carey fell in love with her at the first moment of their meeting.

During the next three weeks he went to town nine times and called
at the Dumonts' only once.  There were no more rides and walks
with Tannis.  This was not intentional neglect on his part.  He
had simply forgotten all about her.  The breeds surmised a
lover's quarrel, but Tannis understood.  There was another woman
back there in town.

It would be quite impossible to put on paper any adequate idea of
her emotions at this stage.  One night, she followed Carey when
he went to Prince Albert, riding out of earshot, behind him on
her plains pony, but keeping him in sight.  Lazarre, in a fit of
jealousy, had followed Tannis, spying on her until she started
back to the Flats.  After that he watched both Carey and Tannis
incessantly, and months later had told Tom all he had learned
through his low sneaking.

Tannis trailed Carey to the Blair house, on the bluffs above the
town, and saw him tie his horse at the gate and enter.  She, too,
tied her pony to a poplar, lower down, and then crept stealthily
through the willows at the side of the house until she was close
to the windows.  Through one of them she could see Carey and
Elinor.  The half-breed girl crouched down in the shadow and
glared at her rival.  She saw the pretty, fair-tinted face, the
fluffy coronal of golden hair, the blue, laughing eyes of the
woman whom Jerome Carey loved, and she realized very plainly that
there was nothing left to hope for.  She, Tannis of the Flats,
could never compete with that other.  It was well to know so
much, at least.

After a time, she crept softly away, loosed her pony, and lashed
him mercilessly with her whip through the streets of the town and
out the long, dusty river trail.  A man turned and looked after
her as she tore past a brightly lighted store on Water Street.

"That was Tannis of the Flats," he said to a companion.  "She was
in town last winter, going to school--a beauty and a bit of the
devil, like all those breed girls.  What in thunder is she riding
like that for?"

One day, a fortnight later, Carey went over the river alone for a
ramble up the northern trail, and an undisturbed dream of Elinor.
When he came back Tannis was standing at the canoe landing, under
a pine tree, in a rain of finely sifted sunlight.  She was
waiting for him and she said, with any preface:

"Mr. Carey, why do you never come to see me, now?"

Carey flushed like any girl.  Her tone and look made him feel
very uncomfortable.  He remembered, self-reproachfully, that he
must have seemed very neglectful, and he stammered something
about having been busy.

"Not very busy," said Tannis, with her terrible directness.  "It
is not that.  It is because you are going to Prince Albert to see
a white woman!"

Even in his embarrassment Carey noted that this was the first
time he had ever heard Tannis use the expression, "a white
woman," or any other that would indicate her sense of a
difference between herself and the dominant race.  He understood,
at the same moment, that this girl was not to be trifled
with--that she would have the truth out of him, first or last.
But he felt indescribably foolish.

"I suppose so," he answered lamely.

"And what about me?" asked Tannis.

When you come to think of it, this was an embarrassing question,
especially for Carey, who had believed that Tannis understood the
game, and played it for its own sake, as he did.

"I don't understand you, Tannis," he said hurriedly.

"You have made me love you," said Tannis.

The words sound flat enough on paper.  They did not sound flat to
Tom, as repeated by Lazarre, and they sounded anything but flat
to Carey, hurled at him as they were by a woman trembling with
all the passions of her savage ancestry.  Tannis had justified
her criticism of poetry.  She had said her half-dozen words,
instinct with all the despair and pain and wild appeal that all
the poetry in the world had ever expressed.

They made Carey feel like a scoundrel.  All at once he realized
how impossible it would be to explain matters to Tannis, and that
he would make a still bigger fool of himself, if he tried.

"I am very sorry," he stammered, like a whipped schoolboy.

"It is no matter," interrupted Tannis violently.  "What
difference does it make about me--a half-breed girl?  We breed
girls are only born to amuse the white men.  That is so--is it
not?  Then, when they are tired of us, they push us aside and go
back to their own kind.  Oh, it is very well.  But I will not
forget--my father and brother will not forget.  They will make
you sorry to some purpose!"

She turned, and stalked away to her canoe.  He waited under the
pines until she crossed the river; then he, too, went miserably
home.  What a mess he had contrived to make of things!  Poor
Tannis!  How handsome she had looked in her fury--and how much
like a squaw!  The racial marks always come out plainly under the
stress of emotion, as Tom noted later.

Her threat did not disturb him.  If young Paul and old Auguste
made things unpleasant for him, he thought himself more than a
match for them.  It was the thought of the suffering he had
brought upon Tannis that worried him.  He had not, to be sure,
been a villain; but he had been a fool, and that is almost as
bad, under some circumstances.

The Dumonts, however, did not trouble him.  After all, Tannis'
four years in Prince Albert had not been altogether wasted.  She
knew that white girls did not mix their male relatives up in a
vendetta when a man ceased calling on them--and she had nothing
else to complain of that could be put in words.  After some
reflection she concluded to hold her tongue.  She even laughed
when old Auguste asked her what was up between her and her
fellow, and said she had grown tired of him.  Old Auguste
shrugged his shoulders resignedly.  It was just as well, maybe.
Those English sons-in-law sometimes gave themselves too many
airs.

So Carey rode often to town and Tannis bided her time, and
plotted futile schemes of revenge, and Lazarre Merimee scowled
and got drunk--and life went on at the Flats as usual, until
the last week in October, when a big wind and rainstorm swept
over the northland.

It was a bad night.  The wires were down between the Flats and
Prince Albert and all communication with the outside world was
cut off.  Over at Joe Esquint's the breeds were having a carouse
in honor of Joe's birthday.  Paul Dumont had gone over, and Carey
was alone in the office, smoking lazily and dreaming of Elinor.

Suddenly, above the plash of rain and whistle of wind, he heard
outcries in the street.  Running to the door he was met by Mrs.
Joe Esquint, who grasped him breathlessly.

"Meestair Carey--come quick!  Lazarre, he kill Paul--they fight!"

Carey, with a smothered oath, rushed across the street.  He had
been afraid of something of the sort, and had advised Paul not to
go, for those half-breed carouses almost always ended in a free
fight.  He burst into the kitchen at Joe Esquint's, to find a
circle of mute spectators ranged around the room and Paul and
Lazarre in a clinch in the center.  Carey was relieved to find it
was only an affair of fists.  He promptly hurled himself at the
combatants and dragged Paul away, while Mrs. Joe Esquint--Joe
himself being dead-drunk in a corner--flung her fat arms about
Lazarre and held him back.

"Stop this," said Carey sternly.

"Let me get at him," foamed Paul.  "He insulted my sister.  He
said that you--let me get at him!"

He could not writhe free from Carey's iron grip.  Lazarre, with a
snarl like a wolf, sent Mrs. Joe spinning, and rushed at Paul.
Carey struck out as best he could, and Lazarre went reeling back
against the table.  It went over with a crash and the light went
out!

Mrs. Joe's shrieks might have brought the roof down.  In the
confusion that ensued, two pistol shots rang out sharply.  There
was a cry, a groan, a fall--then a rush for the door.  When Mrs.
Joe Esquint's sister-in-law, Marie, dashed in with another lamp,
Mrs. Joe was still shrieking, Paul Dumont was leaning sickly
against the wall with a dangling arm, and Carey lay face downward
on the floor, with blood trickling from under him.

Marie Esquint was a woman of nerve.  She told Mrs. Joe to shut
up, and she turned Carey over.  He was conscious, but seemed
dazed and could not help himself.  Marie put a coat under his
head, told Paul to lie down on the bench, ordered Mrs. Joe to get
a bed ready, and went for the doctor.  It happened that there was
a doctor at the Flats that night--a Prince Albert man who had
been up at the Reservation, fixing up some sick Indians, and had
been stormstaid at old Auguste's on his way back.

Marie soon returned with the doctor, old Auguste, and Tannis.
Carey was carried in and laid on Mrs. Esquint's bed.  The doctor
made a brief examination, while Mrs. Joe sat on the floor and
howled at the top of her lungs.  Then he shook his head.

"Shot in the back," he said briefly.

"How long?" asked Carey, understanding.

"Perhaps till morning," answered the doctor.  Mrs. Joe gave a
louder howl than ever at this, and Tannis came and stood by the
bed.  The doctor, knowing that he could do nothing for Carey,
hurried into the kitchen to attend to Paul, who had a badly
shattered arm, and Marie went with him.

Carey looked stupidly at Tannis.

"Send for her," he said.

Tannis smiled cruelly.

"There is no way. The wires are down, and there is no man at the
Flats who will go to town to-night," she answered.

"My God, I MUST see her before I die," burst out Carey
pleadingly.  "Where is Father Gabriel?  HE will go."

"The priest went to town last night and has not come back," said
Tannis.

Carey groaned and shut his eyes.  If Father Gabriel was away,
there was indeed no one to go.  Old Auguste and the doctor could
not leave Paul and he knew well that no breed of them all at the
Flats would turn out on such a night, even if they were not, one
and all, mortally scared of being mixed up in the law and justice
that would be sure to follow the affair.  He must die without
seeing Elinor.

Tannis looked inscrutably down on the pale face on Mrs. Joe
Esquint's dirty pillows.  Her immobile features gave no sign of
the conflict raging within her.  After a short space she turned
and went out, shutting the door softly on the wounded man and
Mrs. Joe, whose howls had now simmered down to whines.  In the
next room, Paul was crying out with pain as the doctor worked on
his arm, but Tannis did not go to him.  Instead, she slipped out
and hurried down the stormy street to old Auguste's stable.  Five
minutes later she was galloping down the black, wind-lashed river
trail, on her way to town, to bring Elinor Blair to her lover's
deathbed.

I hold that no woman ever did anything more unselfish than this
deed of Tannis!  For the sake of love she put under her feet the
jealousy and hatred that had clamored at her heart.  She held,
not only revenge, but the dearer joy of watching by Carey to the
last, in the hollow of her hand, and she cast both away that the
man she loved might draw his dying breath somewhat easier.  In a
white woman the deed would have been merely commendable.  In
Tannis of the Flats, with her ancestry and tradition, it was
lofty self-sacrifice.

It was eight o'clock when Tannis left the Flats; it was ten when
she drew bridle before the house on the bluff.  Elinor was
regaling Tom and his wife with Avonlea gossip when the maid came
to the door.

"Pleas'm, there's a breed girl out on the verandah and she's
asking for Miss Blair."

Elinor went out wonderingly, followed by Tom.  Tannis, whip in
hand, stood by the open door, with the stormy night behind her,
and the warm ruby light of the hall lamp showering over her white
face and the long rope of drenched hair that fell from her bare
head.  She looked wild enough.

"Jerome Carey was shot in a quarrel at Joe Esquint's to-night,"
she said.  "He is dying--he wants you--I have come for you."

Elinor gave a little cry, and steadied herself on Tom's shoulder.
Tom said he knew he made some exclamation of horror.  He had
never approved of Carey's attentions to Elinor, but such news was
enough to shock anybody.  He was determined, however, that Elinor
should not go out in such a night and to such a scene, and told
Tannis so in no uncertain terms.

"I came through the storm," said Tannis, contemptuously.  "Cannot
she do as much for him as I can?"

The good, old Island blood in Elinor's veins showed to some
purpose.  "Yes," she answered firmly.  "No, Tom, don't object--I
must go.  Get my horse--and your own."

Ten minutes later three riders galloped down the bluff road and
took the river trail.  Fortunately the wind was at their backs
and the worst of the storm was over.  Still, it was a wild, black
ride enough.  Tom rode, cursing softly under his breath.  He did
not like the whole thing--Carey done to death in some low
half-breed shack, this handsome, sullen girl coming as his
messenger, this nightmare ride, through wind and rain.  It all
savored too much of melodrama, even for the Northland, where
people still did things in a primitive way.  He heartily wished
Elinor had never left Avonlea.

It was past twelve when they reached the Flats.  Tannis was the
only one who seemed to be able to think coherently.  It was she
who told Tom where to take the horses and then led Elinor to the
room where Carey was dying.  The doctor was sitting by the
bedside and Mrs. Joe was curled up in a corner, sniffling to
herself.  Tannis took her by the shoulder and turned her, none
too gently, out of the room.  The doctor, understanding, left at
once.  As Tannis shut the door she saw Elinor sink on her knees
by the bed, and Carey's trembling hand go out to her head.

Tannis sat down on the floor outside of the door and wrapped
herself up in a shawl Marie Esquint had dropped.  In that
attitude she looked exactly like a squaw, and all comers and
goers, even old Auguste, who was hunting for her, thought she was
one, and left her undisturbed.  She watched there until dawn came
whitely up over the prairies and Jerome Carey died.  She knew
when it happened by Elinor's cry.

Tannis sprang up and rushed in.  She was too late for even a
parting look.

The girl took Carey's hand in hers, and turned to the weeping
Elinor with a cold dignity.

"Now go," she said.  "You had him in life to the very last.  He
is mine now."

"There must be some arrangements made," faltered Elinor.

"My father and brother will make all arrangements, as you call
them," said Tannis steadily.  "He had no near relatives in the
world--none at all in Canada--he told me so.  You may send out a
Protestant minister from town, if you like; but he will be buried
here at the Flats and his grave with be mine--all mine!  Go!"

And Elinor, reluctant, sorrowful, yet swayed by a will and an
emotion stronger than her own, went slowly out, leaving Tannis of
the Flats alone with her dead.






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by Lucy Maud Montgomery

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