Infomotions, Inc.Taken Alive / Roe, Edward Payson, 1838-1888



Author: Roe, Edward Payson, 1838-1888
Title: Taken Alive
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): nichol; helen; hobart; martine; captain nichol
Contributor(s): Widger, David, 1932- [Editor]
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Identifier: etext5320
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Title: Taken Alive

Author: E. P. Roe

Release Date: March, 2004 [EBook #5320]
[Yes, we are more than one year ahead of schedule]
[This file was first posted on June 30, 2002]
[Date last updated: August 14, 2005]

Edition: 10

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Produced by Charles Franks and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team




The Works of E. P. Roe

VOLUME ELEVEN

TAKEN ALIVE
AND OTHER STORIES
WITH AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY


ILLUSTRATED


CONTENTS

"A NATIVE AUTHOR CALLED ROE"

TAKEN ALIVE:
     I. SOMETHING BEFORE UNKNOWN
    II. A VISITOR AT THE MINE
   III. THWARTED
    IV. TAKEN ALIVE
     V. WHAT BRANDT SAW CHRISTMAS EVE

FOUND YET LOST:
     I. LOVE IN THE WILDERNESS
    II. LOVE AT HOME
   III. "DISABLED"
    IV. MARTINE SEEKS AN ANTIDOTE
     V. SECOND BLOOM
    VI. MORE THAN REWARD
   VII. YANKEE BLANK
  VIII. "HOW CAN I?"
    IX. SHADOWS OF COMING EVENTS
     X. "YOU CANNOT UNDERSTAND"
    XI. MR. KEMBLE'S APPEAL
   XII. "YOU MUST REMEMBER"
  XIII. "I'M HELEN"
   XIV. "FORWARD! COMPANY A"

QUEEN OF SPADES

AN UNEXPECTED RESULT

A CHRISTMAS-EVE SUIT

THREE THANKSGIVING KISSES

SUSIE ROLLIFFE'S CHRISTMAS

JEFF'S TREASURE:
     I. ITS DISCOVERY
    II. ITS INFLUENCE

CAUGHT ON THE EBB-TIDE

CHRISTMAS EVE IN WAR TIMES

A BRAVE LITTLE QUAKERESS






"A NATIVE AUTHOR CALLED ROE"

An Autobiography


Two or three years ago the editor of "Lippincott's Magazine" asked
me, with many others, to take part in the very interesting
"experience meeting" begun in the pages of that enterprising
periodical. I gave my consent without much thought of the effort
involved, but as time passed, felt slight inclination to comply
with the request. There seemed little to say of interest to the
general public, and I was distinctly conscious of a certain sense
of awkwardness in writing about myself at all. The question, Why
should I? always confronted me.

When this request was again repeated early in the current year, I
resolved at least to keep my promise. This is done with less
reluctance now, for the reason that floating through the press I
meet with paragraphs concerning myself that are incorrect, and
often absurdly untrue. These literary and personal notes, together
with many questioning letters, indicate a certain amount of public
interest, and I have concluded that it may be well to give the
facts to those who care to know them.

It has been made more clear to me that there are many who honestly
do care. One of the most prized rewards of my literary work is the
ever-present consciousness that my writings have drawn around me a
circle of unknown yet stanch friends, who have stood by me
unfalteringly for a number of years. I should indeed be lacking if
my heart did not go out to them in responsive friendliness and
goodwill. If I looked upon them merely as an aggregation of
customers, they would find me out speedily. A popular mood is a
very different thing from an abiding popular interest. If one
could address this circle of friends only, the embarrassment
attendant on a certain amount of egotism would be banished by the
assurance of sympathetic regard. Since, from the nature of
circumstances, this is impossible, it seems to me in better taste
to consider the "author called Roe" in an objective, rather than
in a friendly and subjective sense. In other words, I shall try to
look at him from the public point of view, and free myself from
some predisposition in his favor shared by his friends. I suppose
I shall not succeed in giving a colorless statement of fact, but I
may avoid much special pleading in his behalf.

Like so many other people, I came from a very old family, one from
which there is good proof of an unbroken line through the Dark
Ages, and all ages, to the first man. I have never given any time
to tracing ancestry, but have a sort of quiet satisfaction that
mine is certainly American as far as it well can be. My
forefathers (not "rude," to my knowledge) were among the first
settlers on the Atlantic seaboard. My paternal and maternal
grandfathers were stanch Whigs during the Revolution, and had the
courage of their convictions. My grandmother escaped with her
children from the village of Kingston almost as the British
entered it, and her home was soon in ashes. Her husband, James
Roe, was away in the army. My mother died some years before I
attained my majority, and I cannot remember when she was not an
invalid. Such literary tendencies as I have are derived from her,
but I do not possess a tithe of her intellectual power. Her story-
books in her youth were the classics; and when she was but twelve
years of age she knew "Paradise Lost" by heart. In my
recollections of her, the Bible and all works tending to elucidate
its prophecies were her favorite themes of study. The
retentiveness of her memory was very remarkable. If any one
repeated a verse of the New Testament, she could go on and finish
the chapter. Indeed, she could quote the greater part of the Bible
with the ease and accuracy of one reading from the printed page.
The works of Hugh Miller and the Arctic Explorations of Dr. Kane
afforded her much pleasure. Confined usually to her room, she took
unfailing delight in wandering about the world with the great
travellers of that day, her strong fancy reproducing the scenes
they described. A stirring bit of history moved her deeply. Well
do I remember, when a boy, of reading to her a chapter from
Motley's "Dutch Republic," and of witnessing in her flushed cheeks
and sparkling black eyes proof of an excitement all too great for
one in her frail health. She had the unusual gift of relating in
an easy, simple way what she read; and many a book far too
abstruse and dull for my boyish taste became an absorbing story
from her lips. One of her chief characteristics was the love of
flowers. I can scarcely recall her when a flower of some kind,
usually a rose, was not within her reach; and only periods of
great feebleness kept her from their daily care, winter and
summer. Many descendants of her floral pets are now blooming in my
garden.

My father, on the other hand, was a sturdy man of action. His love
for the country was so strong that he retired from business in New
York as soon as he had won a modest competence. For forty-odd
years he never wearied in the cultivation of his little valley
farm, and the square, flower-bordered garden, at one side of which
ran an unfailing brook. In this garden and under his tuition I
acquired my love of horticulture--acquired it with many a
backache--heartache too, on days good for fishing or hunting; but,
taking the bitter with the sweet, the sweet predominated. I find
now that I think only of the old-fashioned roses in the borders,
and not of my hands bleeding from the thorns. If I groaned over
the culture of many vegetables, it was much compensation to a boy
that the dinner-table groaned also under the succulent dishes thus
provided. I observed that my father's interest in his garden and
farm never flagged, thus proving that in them is to be found a
pleasure which does not pall with age. During the last summer of
his life, when in his eighty-seventh year, he had the delight of a
child in driving over to my home in the early morning, long before
I was up, and in leaving a basket of sweet corn or some other
vegetable which he knew would prove his garden to be ahead of
mine.

My father was very simple and positive in his beliefs, always
openly foremost in the reform movements of his day and in his
neighborhood, yet never, to my knowledge, seeking or taking any
office. His house often became a station of the "underground
railroad" in slavery times, and on one night in the depth of
winter he took a hotly-pursued fugitive in his sleigh and drove
him five miles on the ice, diagonally across the Hudson, to
Fishkill, thence putting the brave aspirant for freedom on the way
to other friends. He incurred several risks in this act. It is
rarely safe to drive on the river off the beaten tracks at night,
for there are usually air-holes, and the strong tides are
continually making changes in the ice. When told that he might be
sent to jail for his defiance of the Fugitive Slave Law, he
quietly answered, "I can go to jail." The thing he could not do
was to deny the man's appeal to him for help. Before the war he
was known as an Abolitionist--after it, as a Conservative, his
sympathy with and for the South being very strong. During the
draft riots in 1863 the spirit of lawlessness was on the point of
breaking out in the river towns. I happened to be home from
Virginia, and learned that my father's house was among those
marked for burning on a certain night. During this night the horde
gathered; but one of their leaders had received such empathetic
warning of what would happen the following day should outrages be
perpetrated, that he persuaded his associates to desist. I sat up
that night at my father's door with a double-barrelled gun, more
impressed with a sense of danger than at any other time in my
experience; he, on the contrary, slept as quietly as a child.

He often practiced close economy in order to give his sons a good
education. The one act of my life which I remember with unalloyed
pride and pleasure occurred while I was at boarding-school in
Vermont, preparing for college. I learned through my mother that
my father had denied himself his daily newspaper; and I knew well
how much he would miss it. We burned wood in the large stone
seminary building. Every autumn great ranks of hard maple were
piled up, and students who wished to earn a little money were paid
a dollar a cord for sawing it into three lengths. I applied for
nine cords, and went at the unaccustomed task after study hours.
My back aches yet as I recall the experiences of subsequent weeks,
for the wood was heavy, thick, and hard as bone. I eventually had
the pleasure of sending to my father the subscription price of his
paper for a year. If a boy reads these lines, let me assure him
that he will never know a sweeter moment in his life than when he
receives the thanks of his parents for some such effort in their
behalf. No investment can ever pay him better.

In one of my books, "Nature's Serial Story," my father and mother
appear, slightly idealized.

Toward the close of my first year in Williams College a misfortune
occurred which threatened to be very serious. Studying by
defective light injured my eyes. They quickly became so sensitive
that I could scarcely endure lamplight or the heat of a stove,
only the cold out-door air relieving the pain; so I spent much
time in wandering about in the boisterous weather of early spring
in Williamstown. At last I became so discouraged that I went to
President Hopkins and told him that I feared I must give up the
purpose of acquiring an education. Never can I forget how that
grand old man met the disheartened boy. Speaking in the wise,
friendly way which subdued the heart and strengthened the will, he
made the half-hour spent with him the turning-point of my life. In
conclusion, he advised me to enter the Senior class the following
fall, thus taking a partial course of study. How many men are
living to-day who owe much of the best in their lives to that
divinely inspired guide and teacher of youth!

I next went to another man great in his sphere of life--Dr. Agnew,
the oculist. He gave my eyes a thorough examination, told me that
he could do nothing for them; that rest and the vigor acquired
from out-door life would restore them. He was as kind and
sympathetic in his way as the college president, and charged but a
trifle, to relieve me from the sense of taking charity. Dr.
Agnew's words proved correct; and the following autumn I entered
the class of '61, and spent a happy year. Some of my classmates
were very kind in reading aloud to me, while Dr. Hopkins's
instruction was invaluable. By the time I entered Auburn
Theological Seminary, my eyes were quite restored, and I was able
to go through the first year's course of study without difficulty.
In the summer of 1862 I could no longer resist the call for men in
the army. Learning that the Second New York (Harris's Light)
Cavalry was without a chaplain, I obtained the appointment to that
position. General Kilpatrick was then lieutenant-colonel, and in
command of the regiment. In December, 1862, I witnessed the bloody
and disastrous battle of Fredericksburg, and can never forget the
experiences of that useless tragedy. I was conscious of a
sensation which struck me as too profound to be merely awe. Early
in the morning we crossed the Rappahannock on a pontoon bridge and
marched up the hill to an open plain. The roar of the battle was
simply terrific, shading off from the sharp continuous thunder
immediately about us to dull, heavy mutterings far to the right
and left. A few hundred yards before us, where the ground began to
slope up to the fatal heights crowned with Confederate works and
ordnance, were long lines of Union batteries. From their iron
mouths puffs of smoke issued incessantly, followed by tremendous
reverberations. Back of these batteries the ground was covered
with men lying on their arms, that they might present a less
obvious target. Then a little further to the rear, on the level
ground above the bluff, stood our cavalry. Heavy guns on both
sides of the river were sending their great shrieking shells back
and forth over our heads, and we often "ducked" instinctively when
the missile was at least forty feet above us. Even our horses
shuddered at the sound.

I resolved to learn if the men were sharing in my emotions--in
brief, what effect the situation had upon them--and rode slowly
down our regimental line. So vivid was the impression of that long
array of awed, pallid faces that at this moment I can recall them
distinctly. There were strange little touches of mingled pathos
and humor. Meadow-larks were hemmed in on every side, too
frightened to fly far beyond the rude alarms. They would flutter
up into the sulphurous air with plaintive cries, then drop again
into the open spaces between the troops. At one time, while we
were standing at our horses' heads, a startled rabbit ran to us
for cover. The poor little creature meant a dinner to the
fortunate captor on a day when a dinner was extremely
problematical. We engaged in a sharp scramble, the prize being won
by the regimental surgeon, who kindly shared his game with me.

General Bayard, commanding our brigade, was mortally wounded, and
died like a hero. He was carried to a fine mansion near which he
had received his injury. Many other desperately wounded men were
brought to the spacious rooms of this abode of Southern luxury,
and the surgeons were kept busy all through the day and night. It
was here I gained my first experience in hospital work. This
extemporized hospital on the field was so exposed as to be
speedily abandoned. In the morning I recrossed the Rappahannock
with my regiment, which had been ordered down the river on picket
duty. Soon after we went into winter quarters in a muddy
cornfield. In February I resigned, with the purpose of completing
my studies, and spent the remainder of the term at the Union
Theological Seminary of New York. My regiment would not get
another chaplain, so I again returned to it. In November I
received a month's leave of absence, and was married to Miss Anna
P. Sands, of New York City. Our winter quarters in 1864 were at
Stevensburg, between the town of Culpeper and the Rapidan River.
During the pleasant days of late February several of the officers
were enjoying the society of their wives. Mrs. Roe having
expressed a willingness to rough it with me for a week, I sent for
her, and one Saturday afternoon went to the nearest railroad
station to meet her. The train came, but not my wife; and, much
disappointed, I found the return ride of five miles a dreary one
in the winter twilight. I stopped at our colonel's tent to say to
him and his wife that Mrs. Roe had not come, then learned for the
first time very startling tidings.

"Chaplain," said the colonel, "we are going to Richmond to-morrow.
We are going to wade right through and past everything in a neck-
or-nothing ride, and who will come out is a question."

His wife was weeping in her private tent, and I saw that for the
first time in my acquaintance with him he was downcast. He was one
of the bravest of men, yet now a foreboding of evil oppressed him.
The result justified it, for he was captured during the raid, and
never fully rallied after the war from the physical depression
caused by his captivity. He told me that on the morrow General
Kilpatrick would lead four thousand picked cavalry men in a raid
on Richmond, having as its special object the release of our
prisoners. I rode to the headquarters of the general, who
confirmed the tidings, adding, "You need not go. Non-combatants
are not expected to go."

It was most fortunate that my wife had not come. I had recently
been appointed chaplain of Hampton Hospital, Virginia, by
President Lincoln, and was daily expecting my confirmation by the
Senate. I had fully expected to give my wife a glimpse of army
life in the field, and then to enter on my new duties. To go or
not to go was a question with me that night. The raid certainly
offered a sharp contrast with the anticipated week's outing with
my bride. I did not possess by nature that kind of courage which
is indifferent to danger; and life had never offered more
attractions than at that time. I have since enjoyed Southern
hospitality abundantly, and hope to again, but then its prospect
was not alluring. Before morning, however, I reached the decision
that I would go, and during the Sunday forenoon held my last
service in the regiment. I had disposed of my horse, and so had to
take a sorry beast at the last moment, the only one I could
obtain.

In the dusk of Sunday evening four thousand men were masked in the
woods on the banks of the Rapidan. Our scouts opened the way by
wading the stream and pouncing upon the unsuspecting picket of
twenty Confederates opposite. Then away we went across a cold,
rapid river, marching all that night through the dim woods and
openings in a country that was emphatically the enemy's. Lee's
entire army was on our right, the main Confederate cavalry force
on our left. The strength of our column and its objective point
could not remain long unknown.

In some unimportant ways I acted as aid for Kilpatrick. A few
hundred yards in advance of the main body rode a vanguard of two
hundred men, thrown forward to warn us should we strike any
considerable number of the enemy's cavalry. As is ever the case,
the horses of a small force will walk away from a much larger
body, and it was necessary from time to time to send word to the
vanguard, ordering it to "slow up." This order was occasionally
intrusted to me. I was to gallop over the interval between the two
columns, then draw up by the roadside and sit motionless on my
horse till the general with his staff came up. The slightest
irregularity of action would bring a shot from our own men, while
the prospect of an interview with the Johnnies while thus isolated
was always good. I saw one of our officers shot that night. He had
ridden carelessly into the woods, and rode out again just before
the head of the column, without instantly accounting for himself.
As it was of vital importance to keep the movement secret as long
as possible, the poor fellow was silenced in sad error as to his
identity.

On we rode, night and day, with the briefest possible halts. At
one point we nearly captured a railroad train, and might easily
have succeeded had not the station and warehouses been in flames.
As it was, the train approached us closely, then backed, the
shrieking engine itself giving the impression of being startled to
the last degree.

On a dreary, drizzling, foggy day we passed a milestone on which
was lettered, "Four miles to Richmond." It was still "on to
Richmond" with us what seemed a long way further, and then came a
considerable period of hesitancy, in which the command was drawn
up for the final dash. The enemy shelled a field near us
vigorously, but fortunately, or unfortunately, the fog was so
dense that neither party could make accurate observations or do
much execution.

For reasons that have passed into history, the attack was not
made. We withdrew six miles from the city and went into camp.

I had scarcely begun to enjoy much-needed rest before the
Confederates came up in the darkness and shelled us out of such
quarters as we had found. We had to leave our boiling coffee
behind us--one of the greatest hardships I have ever known. Then
followed a long night-ride down the Peninsula, in driving sleet
and rain.

The next morning the sun broke out gloriously, warming and drying
our chilled, wet forms. Nearly all that day we maintained a line
of battle confronting the pursuing enemy. One brigade would take a
defensive position, while the other would march about five miles
to a commanding point, where it in turn would form a line. The
first brigade would then give way, pass through the second, and
take position well to the rear. Thus, although retreating, we were
always ready to fight. At one point the enemy pressed us closely,
and I saw a magnificent cavalry charge down a gentle descent in
the road. Every sabre seemed tipped with fire in the brilliant
sunshine.

In the afternoon it became evident that there was a body of troops
before us. Who or what they were was at first unknown, and for a
time the impression prevailed that we should have to cut our way
through by a headlong charge. We soon learned, however, that the
force was a brigade of colored infantry, sent up to cover our
retreat. It was the first time we had seen negro troops, but as
the long line of glistening bayonets and light-blue uniforms came
into view, prejudices, if any there were, vanished at once, and a
cheer from the begrimed troopers rang down our line, waking the
echoes. It was a pleasant thing to march past that array of faces,
friendly though black, and know we were safe. They represented the
F.F.V.'s of Old Virginia, we then wished to see. On the last day
of the march my horse gave out, compelling me to walk and lead
him.

On the day after our arrival at Yorktown, Kilpatrick gave me
despatches for the authorities at Washington. President Lincoln,
learning that I had just returned from the raid, sent for me, and
I had a memorable interview with him alone in his private room. He
expressed profound solicitude for Colonel Dahlgren and his party.
They had been detached from the main force, and I could give no
information concerning them. We eventually learned of the death of
that heroic young officer, Colonel Dahlgren. Although partially
helpless from the loss of a leg, he led a daring expedition at the
cost of his life.

I expressed regret to the President that the object of the raid
had not been accomplished. "Pick the flint, and try it again,"
said Mr. Lincoln, heartily. I went out from his presence awed by
the courage and sublime simplicity of the man. While he gave the
impression that he was bearing the nation on his heart, one was
made to feel that it was also large enough for sympathy with all
striving with him in the humblest way.

My wife joined me in Washington, and few days later accompanied me
to the scene of my new labors at Hampton Hospital, near Fortress
Monroe. There were not many patients at that time (March, 1864) in
the large barrack wards; but as soon as the Army of the Potomac
broke through the Wilderness and approached our vicinity,
transports in increasing numbers, laden with desperately wounded
men, came to our wharf. During the early summer the wooden
barracks were speedily filled, and many tent wards were added.
Duty became constant and severe, while the scenes witnessed were
often painful in the last degree. More truly than on the field,
the real horrors of war are learned from the long agonies in the
hospital. While in the cavalry service, I gained in vigor daily;
in two months of hospital work I lost thirty pounds. On one day I
buried as many as twenty-nine men. Every evening, till the duty
became like a nightmare, I followed the dead-cart, filled up with
coffins, once, twice, and often thrice, to the cemetery.
Eventually an associate chaplain was appointed, who relieved me of
this task.

Fortunately, my tastes led me to employ an antidote to my daily
work as useful to me as to the patients. Surrounding the hospital
was much waste land. This, with the approval of the surgeon in
charge, Dr. Ely McMillan, and the aid of the convalescents, I
transformed into a garden, and for two successive seasons sent to
the general kitchen fresh vegetables by the wagon-load. If reward
were needed, the wistful delight with which a patient from the
front would regard a raw onion was ample; while for me the care of
the homely, growing vegetables and fruit brought a diversion of
mind which made life more endurable.

One of the great needs of the patients who had to fight the
winning or losing battle of life was good reading, and I speedily
sought to obtain a supply. Hearts and purses at the North
responded promptly and liberally; publishers threw off fifty per
cent from their prices; and I was eventually able to collect, by
gift and purchase, about three thousand volumes. In gathering this
library, I provided what may be distinctly termed religious
reading in abundance; but I also recognized the need of diversion.
Long wards were filled with men who had lost a leg or an arm, and
who must lie in one position for weeks. To help them get through
the time was to help them to live. I therefore made the library
rich in popular fiction and genial books of travel and biography.
Full sets of Irving, Cooper, Dickens, Thackeray, Scott, Marryat,
and other standard works were bought; and many a time I have seen
a poor fellow absorbed in their pages while holding his stump lest
the jar of a footstep should send a dart of agony to the point of
mutilation. My wife gave much assistance in my hospital duties,
often reaching and influencing those beyond me. I recall one poor
fellow who was actually six months in dying from a very painful
wound. Profanity appeared to be his vernacular, and in bitter
protest at his fate, he would curse nearly every one and
everything. Mrs. Roe's sympathy and attentions changed him very
much, and he would listen quietly as long as she would read to
him. Some of the hospital attendants, men and women, had good
voices, and we organized a choir. Every Sunday afternoon we went
from ward to ward singing familiar hymns. It was touching to see
rough fellows drawing their blankets over their heads to hide the
emotion caused by words and melodies associated, in many
instances, with home and mother.

Northern generosity, and, in the main, convalescent labor enabled
me to build a large commodious chapel and to make great
improvements in the hospital farm. The site of the hospital and
garden is now occupied by General Armstrong's Normal and
Agricultural Institute for Freedmen, and the chapel was occupied
as a place of worship until very recently. Thus a noble and most
useful work is being accomplished on the ground consecrated by the
life-and-death struggles of so many Union soldiers.

In 1865 the blessed era of peace began, bringing its many changes.
In October the hospital became practically empty, and I resigned.
The books were sent to Fortress Monroe for the use of the
garrison, and I found many of them there long years after, almost
worn out from use.

After a little rest and some candidating for a church, I took a
small parish at Highland Falls, about a mile from West Point, New
York, entering on my labors in January, 1866. In this village my
wife and I spent nine very happy years. They were full of trial
and many cares, but free from those events which bring the deep
shadows into one's life. We soon became engaged in building a new
stone church, whose granite walls are so thick, and hard-wood
finish so substantial that passing centuries should add only the
mellowness of age. The effort to raise funds for this enterprise
led me into the lecture-field and here I found my cavalry-raid and
army life in general exceedingly useful. I looked around for a
patch of garden-ground as instinctively as a duck seeks water. The
small plot adjoining the parsonage speedily grew into about three
acres, from which eventually came a book entitled "Play and Profit
in my Garden."

Up to the year 1871 I had written little for publication beyond
occasional contributions to the New York "Evangelist," nor had I
seriously contemplated a literary life. I had always been
extremely fond of fiction, and from boyhood had formed a habit of
beguiling the solitary hours in weaving crude fancies around
people who for any reason interested me. I usually had a mental
serial running, to which I returned when it was my mood; but I had
never written even a short story. In October, 1871, I was asked to
preach for a far uptown congregation in New York, with the
possibility of a settlement in view. On Monday following the
services of the Sabbath, the officers of the church were kind
enough to ask me to spend a week with them and visit among the
people. Meantime, the morning papers laid before us the startling
fact that the city of Chicago was burning and that its population
were becoming homeless. The tidings impressed me powerfully,
waking the deepest sympathy. I said to myself, "Here is a phase of
life as remarkable as any witnessed during the war." I obeyed the
impulse to be on the scene as soon as possible, stated my purpose
to my friends, and was soon among the smoking ruins, finding an
abiding-place with throngs of others in a partially finished
hotel. For days and nights I wandered where a city had been, and
among the extemporized places of refuge harboring all classes of
people. Late one night I sat for a long time on the steps of
Robert Collyer's church and watched the full moon through the
roofless walls and shattered steeple. There was not an evidence of
life where had been populous streets. It was there and then, as
nearly as I can remember, that the vague outlines of my first
story, "Barriers Burned Away," began to take form in my mind. I
soon returned home, and began to dream and write, giving during
the following year such hours as could be withdrawn from many
other duties to the construction of the story. I wrote when and
where I could--on steamboats, in railway cars, and at all odd
hours of leisure, often with long breaks in the work of
composition, caused by the pressure of other affairs, again
getting up a sort of white heat from incessantly dwelling upon
scenes and incidents that had become real to me. In brief, the
story took possession of my mind, and grew as naturally as a plant
or a weed in my garden.

It will thus be obvious that at nearly middle age, and in
obedience to an impulse, I was launched as an author; that I had
very slight literary training; and that my appearance as a
novelist was quite as great a surprise to myself as to any of my
friends. The writing of sermons certainly does not prepare one for
the construction of a novel; and to this day certain critics
contemptuously dismiss my books as "preaching." During nearly four
years of army life, at a period when most young men are forming
style and making the acquaintance of literature, I scarcely had a
chance to read at all. The subsequent years of the pastorate were
too active, except for an occasional dip into a favorite author.

While writing my first story, I rarely thought of the public, the
characters and their experiences absorbing me wholly. When my
narrative was actually in print, there was wakened a very deep
interest as to its reception. I had none of the confidence
resulting from the gradual testing of one's power or from
association with literary people, and I also was aware that, when
published, a book was far away from the still waters of which
one's friends are the protecting headlands. That I knew my work to
be exceedingly faulty goes without saying; that it was utterly
bad, I was scarcely ready to believe. Dr. Field, noted for his
pure English diction and taste, would not publish an irredeemable
story, and the constituency of the New York "Evangelist" is well
known to be one of the most intelligent in the country. Friendly
opinions from serial readers were reassuring as far as they went,
but of course the great majority of those who followed the story
were silent. A writer cannot, like a speaker, look into the eyes
of his audience and observe its mental attitude toward his
thought. If my memory serves me, Mr. R. R. Bowker was the earliest
critic to write some friendly words in the "Evening Mail;" but at
first my venture was very generally ignored. Then some unknown
friend marked an influential journal published in the interior of
the State and mailed it so timely that it reached me on Christmas
eve. I doubt if a book was ever more unsparingly condemned than
mine in that review, whose final words were, "The story is
absolutely nauseating." In this instance and in my salad days I
took pains to find out who the writer was, for if his view was
correct I certainly should not engage in further efforts to make
the public ill. I discovered the reviewer to be a gentleman for
whom I have ever had the highest respect as an editor, legislator,
and honest thinker. My story made upon him just the impression he
expressed, and it would be very stupid on my part to blink the
fact. Meantime, the book was rapidly making for itself friends and
passing into frequent new editions. Even the editor who condemned
the work would not assert that those who bought it were an
aggregation of asses. People cannot be found by thousands who will
pay a dollar and seventy-five cents for a dime novel or a
religious tract. I wished to learn the actual truth more sincerely
than any critic to write it, and at last I ventured to take a copy
to Mr. George Ripley, of the New York "Tribune." "Here is a man,"
I thought, "whose fame and position as a critic are recognized by
all. If he deigns to notice the book, he will not only say what he
thinks, but I shall have much reason to think as he does." Mr.
Ripley met the diffident author kindly, asked a few questions, and
took the volume. A few weeks later, to my great surprise, he gave
over a column to a review of the story. Although not blind to its
many faults, he wrote words far more friendly and inspiring than I
ever hoped to see; it would seem that the public had sanctioned
his verdict. From that day to this these two instances have been
types of my experience with many critics, one condemning, another
commending. There is ever a third class who prove their
superiority by sneering at or ignoring what is closely related to
the people. Much thought over my experience led to a conclusion
which the passing years confirm: the only thing for a writer is to
be himself and take the consequences. Even those who regard me as
a literary offender of the blackest dye have never named imitation
among my sins.

As successive books appeared, I began to recognize more and more
clearly another phase of an author's experience. A writer
gradually forms a constituency, certain qualities in his book
appealing to certain classes of minds. In my own case, I do not
mean classes of people looked at from the social point of view. A
writer who takes any hold on popular attention inevitably learns
the character of his constituency. He appeals, and minds and
temperaments in sympathy respond. Those he cannot touch go on
their way indifferently; those he offends may often strike back.
This is the natural result of any strong assertion of
individuality. Certainly, if I had my choice, I would rather write
a book interesting to the young and to the common people, whom
Lincoln said "God must love, since He made so many of them." The
former are open to influence; the latter can be quickened and
prepared for something better. As a matter of fact, I find that
there are those in all classes whom my books attract, others who
are repelled, as I have said. It is perhaps one of the pleasantest
experiences of an author's life to learn from letters and in other
ways that he is forming a circle of friends, none the less
friendly because personally unknown. Their loyalty is both a
safeguard and an inspiration. On one hand, the writer shrinks from
abusing such regard by careless work; on the other, he is
stimulated and encouraged by the feeling that there is a group in
waiting who will appreciate his best endeavor. While I clearly
recognize my limitations, and have no wish to emulate the frog in
the fable, I can truthfully say that I take increasing pains with
each story, aiming to verify every point by experience--my own or
that of others. Not long since, a critic asserted that changes in
one of my characters, resulting from total loss of memory, were
preposterously impossible. If the critic had consulted Ribot's
"Diseases of Memory," or some experienced physician, he might have
written more justly. I do not feel myself competent to form a
valuable opinion as to good art in writing, and I cannot help
observing that the art doctors disagree wofully among themselves.
Truth to nature and the realities, and not the following of any
school or fashion, has ever seemed the safest guide. I sometimes
venture to think I know a little about human nature. My active
life brought me in close contact with all kinds of people; there
was no man in my regiment who hesitated to come to my tent or to
talk confidentially by the campfire, while scores of dying men
laid bare to me their hearts. I at least know the nature that
exists in the human breast. It may be inartistic, or my use of it
all wrong. That is a question which time will decide, and I shall
accept the verdict. Over twelve years ago, certain oracles, with
the voice of fate, predicted my speedy eclipse and disappearance.
Are they right in their adverse judgment? I can truthfully say
that now, as at the first, I wish to know the facts in the case.
The moment an author is conceited about his work, he becomes
absurd and is passing into a hopeless condition. If worthy to
write at all, he knows that he falls far short of his ideals; if
honest, he wishes to be estimated at his true worth, and to cast
behind him the mean little Satan of vanity. If he walks under a
conscious sense of greatness, he is a ridiculous figure, for
beholders remember the literary giants of other days and of his
own time, and smile at the airs of the comparatively little man.
On the other hand, no self-respecting writer should ape the false
deprecating "'umbleness" of Uriah Heep. In short, he wishes to
pass, like a coin, for just what he is worth. Mr. Matthew Arnold
was ludicrously unjust to the West when he wrote, "The Western
States are at this moment being nourished and formed, we hear, on
the novels of a native author called Roe." Why could not Mr.
Arnold have taken a few moments to look into the bookstores of the
great cities of the West, in order to observe for himself how the
demand of one of the largest and most intelligent reading publics
in the world is supplied? He would have found that the works of
Scott and Dickens were more liberally purchased and generally read
than in his own land of "distinction." He should have discovered
when in this country that American statesmen (?) are so solicitous
about the intelligence of their constituents that they give
publishers so disposed every opportunity to steal novels
describing the nobility and English persons of distinction; that
tons of such novels have been sold annually in the West, a
thousand to one of the "author called Roe." The simple truth in
the case is that in spite of this immense and cheap competition,
my novels have made their way and are being read among multitudes
of others. No one buys or reads a book under compulsion; and if
any one thinks that the poorer the book the better the chance of
its being read by the American people, let him try the experiment.
When a critic condemns my books, I accept that as his judgment;
when another critic and scores of men and women, the peers of the
first in cultivation and intelligence, commend the books, I do not
charge them with gratuitous lying. My one aim has become to do my
work conscientiously and leave the final verdict to time and the
public. I wish no other estimate than a correct one; and when the
public indicate that they have had enough of Roe, I shall neither
whine nor write.

As a rule, I certainly stumble on my stories, as well as stumble
through them perhaps. Some incident or unexpected impulse is the
beginning of their existence. One October day I was walking on a
country road, and a chestnut burr lay in my path. I said to
myself, "There is a book in that burr, if I could get it out."
With little volition on my part, the story "Opening a Chestnut
Burr" took form and was written.

One summer evening, when in New York, I went up to Thomas's
Garden, near Central Park, to hear the delicious music he was
educating us to appreciate. At a certain point in the programme I
noticed that the next piece would be Beethoven's Fifth Symphony,
and I glanced around with a sort of congratulatory impulse, as
much as to say, "Now we shall have a treat." My attention was
immediately arrested and fixed by a young girl who, with the
gentleman escorting her, was sitting near by. My first impression
of her face was one of marvellous beauty, followed by a sense of
dissatisfaction. Such was my distance that I could not annoy her
by furtive observation; and I soon discovered that she would
regard a stare as a tribute. Why was it that her face was so
beautiful, yet so displeasing? Each feature analyzed seemed
perfection, yet the general effect was a mocking, ill-kept
promise. The truth was soon apparent. The expression was not evil,
but frivolous, silly, unredeemed by any genuine womanly grace. She
giggled and flirted through the sublime symphony, till in
exasperation I went out into the promenade under the open sky. In
less than an hour I had my story "A Face Illumined." I imagined an
artist seeing what I had seen and feeling a stronger vexation in
the wounding of his beauty loving nature; that he learned during
the evening that the girl was a relative of a close friend, and
that a sojourn at a summer hotel on the Hudson was in prospect. On
his return home he conceives the idea of painting the girl's
features and giving them a harmonious expression. Then the fancy
takes him that the girl is a modern Undine and has not yet
received her woman's soul. The story relates his effort to
beautify, illumine the face itself by evoking a mind. I never
learned who was the actual girl with the features of an angel and
the face of a fool.

In the case of "He Fell in Love with His Wife," I merely saw a
paragraph in a paper to the effect that a middle-age widower,
having found it next to impossible to carry on his farm with hired
help, had gone to the county poorhouse and said "If there's a
decent woman here, I'll marry her." For years the homely item
remained an ungerminating seed in my mind, then started to grow,
and the story was written in two months.

My war experience has naturally made the picturesque phase of the
Great Conflict attractive material. In the future I hope to avail
myself still further of interesting periods in American history.

I find that my love of horticulture and outdoor life has grown
with the years. I do not pretend to scientific accuracy or
knowledge. On the contrary, I have regarded plants and birds
rather as neighbors, and have associated with them. When giving to
my parish, I bought a place in the near vicinity of the house
which I had spent my childhood. The front windows of our house
command a noble view of the Hudson, while on the east and south
the Highlands are within rifle-shot. For several years I hesitated
to trust solely to literary work for support. As I have said, not
a few critics insisted that my books should not be read, and would
soon cease to be read. But whether the prediction should prove
true or not, I knew in any case that the critics themselves would
eat my strawberries; so I made the culture of small fruits the
second string to my bow. This business speedily took the form of
growing plants for sale, and was developing rapidly, when
financial misfortune led to my failure and the devotion of my
entire time to writing. Perhaps it was just as well in the end,
for my health was being undermined by too great and conflicting
demands on my energy. In 1878, at Dr. Holland's request, I wrote a
series of papers on small fruits for "Scribner's Magazine"--papers
that were expanded into a book entitled "Success with Small
Fruits." I now aim merely at an abundant home supply of fruits and
vegetables, but in securing this, find pleasure and profit in
testing the many varieties catalogued and offered by nurserymen
and seedsmen. About three years ago the editor of "Harper's
Magazine" asked me to write one or two papers entitled "One Acre,"
telling its possessor how to make the most and best of it. When
entering on the task, I found there was more in it than I had at
first supposed. Changing the title to "The Home Acre," I decided
to write a book or manual which might be useful in many rural
homes. There are those who have neither time nor inclination to
read the volumes and journals devoted to horticulture, who yet
have gardens and trees in which they are interested. They wish to
learn in the shortest, clearest way just what to do in order to
secure success, without going into theories, whys, and wherefores,
or concerning themselves with the higher mysteries of garden-lore.
This work is now in course of preparation. In brief, my aim is to
have the book grow out of actual experience, and not merely my
own, either. As far as possible, well-known experts and
authorities are consulted on every point. As a natural
consequence, the book is growing, like the plants to which it
relates. It cannot be written "offhand" or finished "on time" to
suit any one except Dame Nature, who, being feminine, is often
inscrutable and apparently capricious. The experience of one
season is often reversed in the next, and the guide in gardening
of whom I am most afraid is the man who is always sure he is
right. It was my privilege to have the late Mr. Charles Downing as
one of my teachers, and well do I remember how that honest,
sagacious, yet docile student of nature would "put on the brakes"
when I was passing too rapidly to conclusions. It has always been
one of my most cherished purposes to interest people in the
cultivation of the soil and rural life. My effort is to "boil
down" information to the simplest and most practical form. Last
spring, hundreds of varieties of vegetables and small fruits were
planted. A carefully written record is being kept from the time of
planting until the crop is gathered.

My methods of work are briefly these: I go into my study
immediately after breakfast--usually about nine o'clock--and write
or study until three or four in the afternoon, stopping only for a
light lunch. In the early morning and late afternoon I go around
my place, giving directions to the men, and observing the
condition of vegetables, flowers, and trees, and the general
aspect of nature at the time. After dinner, the evening is devoted
to the family, friends, newspapers, and light reading. In former
years I wrote at night, but after a severe attack of insomnia this
practice was almost wholly abandoned. As a rule, the greater part
of a year is absorbed in the production of a novel, and I am often
gathering material for several years in advance of writing.

For manuscript purposes I use bound blankbooks of cheap paper. My
sheets are thus kept securely together and in place--important
considerations in view of the gales often blowing through my study
and the habits of a careless man. This method offers peculiar
advantages for interpolation, as there is always a blank page
opposite the one on which I am writing. After correcting the
manuscript, it is put in typewriting and again revised. There are
also two revisions of the proof. While I do not shirk the tasks
which approach closely to drudgery, especially since my eyesight
is not so good as it was, I also obtain expert assistance. I find
that when a page has become very familiar and I am rather tired of
it, my mind wanders from the close, fixed attention essential to
the best use of words. Perhaps few are endowed with both the
inventive and the critical faculty. A certain inner sense enables
one to know, according to his lights, whether the story itself is
true or false; but elegance of style is due chiefly to training,
to a cultivation like that of the ear for music. Possibly we are
entering on an age in which the people care less for form, for
phraseology, than for what seems to them true, real--for what, as
they would express it, "takes hold of them." This is no plea or
excuse for careless work, but rather a suggestion that the day of
prolix, fine, flowery writing is passing. The immense number of
well-written books in circulation has made success with careless,
slovenly manuscripts impossible. Publishers and editors will not
even read, much less publish them. Simplicity, lucidity, strength,
a plunge in medias res, are now the qualities and conditions
chiefly desired, rather than finely turned sentences in which it
is apparent more labor has been expended on the vehicle than on
what it contains. The questions of this eager age are, What has he
to say? Does it interest us? As an author, I have felt that my
only chance of gaining and keeping the attention of men and women
was to know, to understand them, to feel with and for them in what
constituted their life. Failing to do this, why should a line of
my books be read? Who reads a modern novel from sense of duty?
There are classics which all must read and pretend to enjoy
whether capable of doing so or not. No critic has ever been so
daft as to call any of my books a classic. Better books are unread
because the writer is not en rapport with the reader. The time has
passed when either the theologian, the politician, or the critic
can take the American citizen metaphorically by the shoulder and
send him along the path in which they think he should go. He has
become the most independent being in the world, good-humoredly
tolerant of the beliefs and fancies of others, while reserving, as
a matter of course, the right to think for himself.

In appealing to the intelligent American public, choosing for
itself among the multitude of books now offered, it is my creed
that an author should maintain completely and thoroughly his own
individuality, and take the consequences. He cannot conjure
strongly by imitating any one, or by representing any school or
fashion. He must do his work conscientiously, for his readers know
by instinct whether or not they are treated seriously and with
respect. Above all, he must understand men and women sufficiently
to interest them; for all the "powers that be" cannot compel them
to read a book they do not like.

My early experience in respect to my books in the British
Dominions has been similar to that of many others. My first
stories were taken by one or more publishers without saying "by
your leave," and no returns made of any kind. As time passed,
Messrs. Ward, Locke & Co., more than any other house, showed a
disposition to treat me fairly. Increasing sums were given for
successive books. Recently Mr. George Locke visited me, and
offered liberal compensation for each new novel. He also agreed to
give me five per cent copyright on all my old books published by
him, no matter how obtained, in some instances revoking agreements
which precluded the making of any such request on my part. In the
case of many of these books he has no protection, for they are
published by others; but he takes the simple ground that he will
not sell any of my books without giving me a share in the profit.
Such honorable action should tend to make piracy more odious than
ever, on both sides of the sea. Other English firms have offered
me the usual royalty, and I now believe that in spite of our House
of Mis-Representatives at Washington, the majority of the British
publishers are disposed to deal justly and honorably by American
writers. In my opinion, the LOWER House in Congress has libelled
and slandered the American people by acting as if their
constituents, with thievish instincts, chuckled over pennies saved
when buying pirated books. This great, rich, prosperous nation has
been made a "fence," a receiver of stolen goods, and shamelessly
committed to the crime for which poor wretches are sent to jail.
Truly, when history is written, and it is learned that the whole
power and statesmanship of the government were enlisted in behalf
of the pork interest, while the literature of the country and the
literary class were contemptuously ignored, it may be that the
present period will become known as the Pork Era of the Republic.
It is a strange fact that English publishers are recognizing our
rights in advance of our own lawmakers.

In relating his experience in the pages of this magazine, Mr.
Julian Hawthorne said in effect that one of the best rewards of
the literary life was the friends it enabled the writer to make.
When giving me his friendship, he proved how true this is. In my
experience the literary class make good, genial, honest friends,
while their keen, alert minds and knowledge of life in many of its
most interesting aspects give an unfailing charm to their society.
One can maintain the most cordial and intimate relations with
editors of magazines and journals if he will recognize that such
relations should have no influence whatever in the acceptance or
declination of manuscripts. I am constantly receiving letters from
literary aspirants who appear to think that if I will use a little
influence their stories or papers would be taken and paid for. I
have no such influence, nor do I wish any, in regard to my own
work. The conscientious editor's first duty is to his periodical
and its constituents, and he would and should be more scrupulous
in accepting a manuscript from a friend than from a stranger. To
show resentment because a manuscript is returned is absurd,
however great may be our disappointment.

Perhaps one of the most perplexing and often painful experiences
of an author comes from the appeals of those who hope through him
to obtain immediate recognition as writers. One is asked to read
manuscripts and commend them to publishers, or at least to give an
opinion in regard to them, often to revise or even to rewrite
certain portions. I remember that during one month I was asked to
do work on the manuscripts of strangers that would require about a
year of my time. The maker of such request does not realize that
he or she is but one among many, and that the poor author would
have to abandon all hope of supporting his family if he tried to
comply. The majority who thus appeal to one know next to nothing
of the literary life or the conditions of success. They write to
the author in perfect good faith, often relating circumstances
which touch his sympathies; yet if you tell them the truth about
their manuscript, or say you have not time to read it, adding that
you have no influence with editors or publishers beyond securing a
careful examination of what is written, you feel that you are
often set down as a churl, and your inability to comply with their
wishes is regarded as the selfishness and arrogance of success.
The worried author has also his own compunctions, for while he has
tried so often and vainly to secure the recognition requested,
till he is in despair of such effort, he still is haunted by the
fear that he may overlook some genius whom it would be a delight
to guide through what seems a thorny jungle to the inexperienced.

In recalling the past, one remembers when he stood in such sore
need of friends that he dislikes even the appearance of passing by
on the other side. There are no riches in the world like stanch
friends who prove themselves to be such in your need, your
adversity, or your weakness. I have some treasured letters
received after it had been telegraphed throughout the land that I
was a bankrupt and had found myself many thousands of dollars
worse off than nothing. The kindly words and looks, the cordial
grasp of the hand, and the temporary loan occasionally, of those
who stood by me when scarcely sane from overwork, trouble, and,
worse than all, from insomnia, can never be forgotten while a
trace of memory is left. Soon after my insolvency there came a
date when all my interests in my books then published must be sold
to the highest bidder. It seemed in a sense like putting my
children up at auction; and yet I was powerless, since my
interests under contracts were a part of my assets. These rights
had been well advertised in the New York and county papers, as the
statute required, and the popularity of the books was well known.
Any one in the land could have purchased these books from me
forever. A friend made the highest bid and secured the property.
My rights in my first nine novels became his, legally and
absolutely. There was even no verbal agreement between us--nothing
but his kind, honest eyes to reassure me. He not only paid the sum
he had bidden, but then and there wrote a check for a sum which,
with my other assets, immediately liquidated my personal debts,
principal and interest. The children of my fancy are again my
children, for they speedily earned enough to repay my friend and
to enable him to compromise with the holders of indorsed notes in
a way satisfactory to them. It so happened that most of these
creditors resided in my immediate neighborhood. I determined to
fight out the battle in their midst and under their daily
observation, and to treat all alike, without regard to their legal
claims. Only one creditor tried to make life a burden; but he did
his level best. The others permitted me to meet my obligations in
my own time and way, and I am grateful for their consideration.
When all had received the sum mutually agreed upon, and I had
shaken hands with them, I went to the quaint and quiet little city
of Santa Barbara, on the Pacific coast, for a change and partial
rest. While there, however, I wrote my Charleston story, "The
Earth Trembled." In September, 1887, I returned to my home at
Cornwall-on-the-Hudson, and resumed my work in a region made dear
by the memories of a lifetime. Just now I am completing a Southern
story entitled "Miss Lou."

It so happens in my experience that I have discovered one who
appears willing to stick closer to me than a brother, and even to
pass as my "double," or else he is so helplessly in the hands of
his publishers as to be an object of pity. A certain "Edward R.
Roe" is also an author, and is suffering cruelly in reputation
because his publishers so manage that he is identified with me. By
strange coincidence, they hit upon a cover for his book which is
almost a facsimile of the cover of my pamphlet novel, "An Original
Belle," previously issued. The R in the name of this unfortunate
man has been furnished with such a diminutive tail that it passes
for a P, and even my friends supposed that the book, offered
everywhere for sale, was mine. In many instances I have asked at
news stands, "Whose book is that?" The prompt and invariable
answer has been, "E. P. Roe's." I have seen book notices in which
the volume was ascribed to me in anything but flattering terms. A
distinguished judge, in a carefully written opinion, is so
uncharitable as to characterize the coincidence in cover as a
"fraud," and to say, "No one can look at the covers of the two
publications and fail to see evidence of a design to deceive the
public and to infringe upon the rights of the publisher and
author"--that is, the rights of Messrs. Dodd, Mead would be well,
as a rule, for other writers to begin with reputable, honorable
publishers and to remain with them. A publisher can do more and
better with a line of books than with isolated volumes. When an
author's books are scattered, there is not sufficient inducement
for any one to push them strongly, nor, as in the case above
related, to protect a writer against a "double," should one
appear. Authors often know little about business, and should deal
with a publisher who will look after their interests as truly as
his own. Unbusinesslike habits and methods are certainly not
traits to be cultivated, for we often suffer grievously from their
existence; yet as far as possible the author should be free from
distracting cares. The novelist does his best work when abstracted
from the actual world and living in its ideal counterpart which
for the time he is imagining. When his creative work is completed,
he should live very close to the real world, or else he will be
imagining a state of things which neither God nor man had any hand
in bringing about.






TAKEN ALIVE AND OTHER STORIES




TAKEN ALIVE




CHAPTER I

SOMETHING BEFORE UNKNOWN


Clara Heyward was dressed in deep mourning, and it was evident
that the emblems of bereavement were not worn merely in compliance
with a social custom. Her face was pallid from grief, and her dark
beautiful eyes were dim from much weeping. She sat in the little
parlor of a cottage located in a large Californian city, and
listened with apathetic expression as a young man pleaded for the
greatest and most sacred gift that a woman can bestow. Ralph
Brandt was a fine type of young vigorous manhood; and we might
easily fancy that his strong, resolute face, now eloquent with
deep feeling, was not one upon which a girl could look with
indifference. Clara's words, however, revealed the apparent
hopelessness of his suit.

"It's of no use, Ralph," she said; "I'm in no mood for such
thoughts."

"You don't believe in me; you don't trust me," he resumed sadly.
"You think that because I was once wild, and even worse, that I'll
not be true to my promises and live an honest life. Have I not
been honest when I knew that being so might cost me dear? Have I
not told you of my past life and future purposes when I might have
concealed almost everything?"

"It's not that, Ralph. I do believe you are sincere; and if the
dreadful thing which has broken me down with sorrow had not
happened, all might have been as you wish. I should have quite as
much confidence in a young man who, like you, has seen evil and
turned resolutely away from it, as in one who didn't know much
about the world or himself either. What's more, father--"

At the word "father" her listless manner vanished, and she gave
way to passionate sobs. "His foul murder is always before me," she
wailed. "Oh, we were so happy! he was so kind, and made me his
companion! I don't see how I can live without him. I can't think
of love and marriage when I remember how he died, and that the
villain who killed him is at large and unpunished. What right have
I to forget this great wrong and to try to be happy? No, no! the
knife that killed him pierced my heart; and it's bleeding all the
time. I'm not fit to be any man's wife; and I will not bring my
great sorrow into any man's home."

Brandt sprang up and paced the room for a few moments, his brow
contracted in deep thought. Then, apparently coming to a decision,
he sat down by his companion and took her cold, unresisting hand.

"My poor little girl," he said, kindly, "you don't half understand
me yet. I love you all the more because you are heart-broken and
pale with grief. That is the reason I have spoken so earnestly to-
night. You will grieve yourself to death if left alone; and what
good would your death do any one? It would spoil my life. Believe
me, I would welcome you to my home with all your sorrow--all the
more because of your sorrow; and I'd be so kind and patient that
you'd begin to smile again some day. That's what your father would
wish if he could speak to you, and not that you should grieve away
your life for what can't be helped now. But I have a plan. It's
right in my line to capture such scoundrels as the man who
murdered your father; and what's more, I know the man, or rather I
used to in old times. I've played many a game of euchre with him
in which he cheated me out of money that I'd be glad to have now;
and I'm satisfied that he does not know of any change in me. I was
away on distant detective duty, you know, when your father was
killed. I won't ask you to go over the painful circumstances; I
can learn them at the prison. I shall try to get permission to
search out Bute, desperate and dangerous as he is--"

"Oh, Ralph, Ralph," cried the girl, springing up, her eyes
flashing through her tears, "if you will bring my father's
murderer to justice, if you will prevent him from destroying other
lives, as he surely will, you will find that I can refuse you
nothing."

Then she paused, shook her head sadly, and withdrew the hand she
had given him. "No," she resumed, "I shouldn't ask this; I don't
ask it. As you say, he is desperate and dangerous; and he would
take your life the moment he dreamed of your purpose. I should
only have another cause for sorrow."

Brandt now smiled as if he were master of the situation. "Why,
Clara," he exclaimed, "don't you know that running down and
capturing desperadoes is now part of my business?"

"Yes; but you can get plenty of work that isn't so dangerous."

"I should be a nice fellow to ask you to be my wife and yet show I
was afraid to arrest your father's murderer. You needn't ask me to
do this; you are not going to be responsible for my course in the
least. I shall begin operations this very night, and have no doubt
that I can get a chance to work on the case. Now don't burden your
heart with any thoughts about my danger. I myself owe Bute as big
a grudge as I can have against any human being. He cheated me and
led me into deviltry years ago, and then I lost sight of him until
he was brought to the prison of which your father was one of the
keepers. I've been absent for the last three months, you know; but
I didn't forget you or your father a day, and you remember I wrote
you as soon as I heard of your trouble. I think your father sort
of believed in me; he never made me feel I wasn't fit to see you
or to be with you, and I'd do more for him living or dead than for
any other man."

"He did believe in you, Ralph, and he always spoke well of you.
Oh, you can't know how much I lost in him! After mother died he
did not leave me to the care of strangers, but gave me most of his
time when off duty. He sent me to the best schools, bought me
books to read, and took me out evenings instead of going off by
himself, as so many men do. He was so kind and so brave; oh, oh!
you know he lost his life by trying to do his duty when another
man would have given up. Bute and two others broke jail. Father
saw one of his assistants stabbed, and he was knocked down
himself. He might have remained quiet and escaped with a few
bruises; but he caught Bute's foot, and then the wretch turned and
stabbed him. He told me all with his poor pale lips before he
died. Oh, oh! when shall I forget?"

"You can never forget, dear; I don't ask anything contrary to
nature. You were a good daughter, and so I believe you will be a
good wife. But if I bring the murderer to justice, you will feel
that a great wrong has been righted--that all has been done that
can be done. Then you'll begin to think that your father wouldn't
wish you to grieve yourself to death, and that as he tried to make
you happy while he was living, so he will wish you to be happy now
he's gone."

"It isn't a question of happiness. I don't feel as if I could ever
be happy again; and so I don't see how I can make you or any one
else happy."

"That's my lookout, Clara. I'd be only too glad to take you as you
are. Come, now, this is December. If I bring Bute in by Christmas,
what will you give me?"

She silently and eloquently gave him her hand; but her lips
quivered so she could not speak. He kissed her hand as gallantly
as any olden-time knight, then added a little brusquely:

"See here, little girl, I'm not going to bind you by anything that
looks like a bargain. I shall attempt all I've said; and then on
Christmas, or whenever I get back, I'll speak my heart to you
again just as I have spoken now."

"When a man acts as you do, Ralph, any girl would find it hard to
keep free. I shall follow you night and day with my thoughts and
prayers."

"Well, I'm superstitious enough to believe that I shall be safer
and more successful on account of them. Clara, look me in the eyes
before I go."

She looked up to his clear gray eyes as requested.

"I don't ask you to forget one who is dead; but don't you see how
much you are to one who is living? Don't you see that in spite of
all your sorrow you can still give happiness? Now, be as generous
and kind as you can. Don't grieve hopelessly while I'm gone.
That's what is killing you; and the thought of it fills me with
dread. Try to think that you still have something and some one to
live for. Perhaps you can learn to love me a little if you try,
and then everything won't look so black. If you find you can't
love me, I won't blame you--, and if I lose you as my wife, you
won't lose a true, honest friend."

For the first time the girl became vaguely conscious of, the
possibility of an affection, a tie superseding all others; she
began to see how it was possible to give herself to this man, not
from an impulse of gratitude or because she liked him better than
any one else, but because of a feeling, new, mysterious, which
gave him a sort of divine right in her. Something in the
expression of his eyes had been more potent than his words;
something subtle, swift as an electric spark had passed from him
to her, awakening a faint, strange tumult in the heart she thought
so utterly crushed. A few moments before, she could have promised
resolutely to be his wife; she could have permitted his embrace
with unresponsive apathy. Now she felt a sudden shyness. A faint
color stole into her pale face, and she longed to be alone.

"Ralph," she faltered, "you are so generous, I--I don't know what
to say."

"You needn't say anything till I come back. If possible, I will be
here by Christmas, for you shouldn't be alone that day with your
grief. Good-by."

The hand she gave him trembled, and her face was averted now.

"You will try to love me a little, won't you?"

"Yes," she whispered.




CHAPTER II

A VISITOR AT THE MINE


Ralph Brandt was admirably fitted for the task he had undertaken.
With fearlessness he united imperturbable coolness and unwearied
patience in pursuit of an object. Few knew him in his character of
detective, and no one would have singled him out as an expert in
his calling. The more difficult and dangerous the work, the more
careless and indifferent his manner, giving the impression to
superficial observers of being the very last person to be
intrusted with responsible duty. But his chief and others on the
force well knew that beneath Brandt's careless demeanor was
concealed the relentless pertinacity of a bloodhound on track of
its victim. With the trait of dogged pursuit all resemblance to
the bloodthirsty animal ceased, and even the worst of criminals
found him kind-hearted and good-natured AFTER they were within his
power. Failure was an idea not to be entertained. If the man to be
caught existed, he could certainly be found, was the principle on
which our officer acted.

He readily obtained permission to attempt the capture of the
escaped prisoner, Bute; but the murderer had disappeared, leaving
no clew. Brandt learned that the slums of large cities and several
mining camps had been searched in vain, also that the trains
running east had been carefully watched. We need not try to follow
his processes of thought, nor seek to learn how he soon came to
the conclusion that his man was at some distant mining station
working under an assumed name. By a kind of instinct his mind kept
reverting to one of these stations with increasing frequency. It
was not so remote in respect to mere distance; but it was
isolated, off the lines of travel, with a gap of seventy miles
between it and what might be termed civilization, and was
suspected of being a sort of refuge for hard characters and
fugitives from justice. Bute, when last seen, was making for the
mountains in the direction of this mine. Invested with ample
authority to bring in the outlaw dead or alive, Brandt followed
this vague clew.

One afternoon, Mr. Alford, the superintendent of the mine, was
informed that a man wished to see him. There was ushered into his
private office an elderly gentleman who appeared as if he might be
a prospecting capitalist or one of the owners of the mine. The
superintendent was kept in doubt as to the character of the
visitor for a few moments while Brandt sought by general remarks
and leading questions to learn the disposition of the man who
must, from the necessities of the case, become to some extent his
ally in securing the ends of justice. Apparently the detective was
satisfied, for he asked, suddenly:

"By the way, have you a man in your employ by the name of Bute?"

"No, sir," replied Mr. Alford, with a little surprise.

"Have you a man, then, who answers to the following description?"
He gave a brief word photograph of the criminal.

"You want this man?" Mr. Alford asked in a low voice.

"Yes."

"Well, really, sir, I would like to know your motive, indeed, I
may add, your authority, for--"

"There it is," Brand smilingly remarked, handing the
superintendent a paper.

"Oh, certainly, certainly," said Mr. Alford, after a moment. "This
is all right; and I am bound to do nothing to obstruct you in the
performance of your duty." He now carefully closed the door and
added, "What do you want this man for?"

"It's a case of murder."

"Phew! Apparently he is one of the best men on the force."

"Only apparently; I know him well."

Mr. Alford's brow clouded with anxiety, and after a moment he
said, "Mr.--how shall I address you?"

"You had better continue to call me by the name under which I was
introduced--Brown."

"Well, Mr. Brown, you have a very difficult and hazardous task,
and you must be careful how you involve me in your actions. I
shall not lay a straw in your way, but I cannot openly help you.
It is difficult for me to get labor here at best; and it is
understood that I ask no questions and deal with men on the basis
simply of their relations to me. As long as I act on this
understanding, I can keep public sentiment with me and enforce
some degree of discipline. If it were known that I was aiding or
abetting you in the enterprise you have in hand, my life would not
be worth a rush. There are plenty in camp who would shoot me, just
as they would you, should they learn of your design. I fear you do
not realize what you are attempting. A man like yourself, elderly
and alone, has no better chance of taking such a fellow as you
describe Bute to be than of carrying a ton of ore on his back down
the mountain. In all sincerity, sir, I must advise you to depart
quietly and expeditiously, and give no one besides myself a hint
of your errand."

"Will you please step into the outer office and make sure that no
one is within earshot?" said Brandt, quietly.

When Mr. Alford returned, the elderly man apparently had
disappeared, and a smiling smooth-faced young fellow with short
brown hair sat in his place. His host stared, the transformation
was so great.

"Mr. Alford," said the detective, "I understand my business and
the risks it involves. All I ask of you is that I may not be
interfered with so far as you are concerned; and my chief object
in calling is to prevent you being surprised by anything you may
see or hear. About three miles or thereabouts from here, on the
road running east, there is a fellow who keeps a tavern. Do you
know him?"

"I know no good of him. He's the worst nuisance I have to contend
with, for he keeps some of my men disabled much of the time."

"Well, I knew Bute years ago, and I can make him think I am now
what I was then, only worse; and I will induce him to go with me
to raid that tavern. If this plan fails, I shall try another, for
I am either going to take Bute alive or else get ample proof that
he is dead. There may be some queer goings-on before I leave, and
all I ask is that you will neither interfere nor investigate. You
may be as ignorant and non-committal as you please. I shall report
progress to you, however, and may need your testimony, but will
see to it that it is given by you as one who had nothing to do
with the affair. Now please show me your quarters, so that I can
find you at night if need be; also Bute's sleeping-place and the
lay of the land to some extent. You'll find that I can take
everything in mighty quick. See, I'm the elderly gentleman again,"
and he resumed his disguise with marvellous celerity.

Mr. Alford led the way through the outer office; and the two
clerks writing there saw nothing to awaken the slightest
suspicion. The superintendent's cottage stood on the road leading
to the mine and somewhat apart from the other buildings. On the
opposite side of the highway was a thicket of pines which promised
cover until one plunged into the unbroken forest that covered the
mountain-side.

Brandt observed this, and remarked, "I've studied the approaches
to your place a little at I came along; but I suppose I shall have
to give a day or two more to the work before making my attempt."

"Well," rejoined Mr. Alford, who was of rather a social turn and
felt the isolation of his life, "why not be my guest for a time?
I'll take the risk if you will remain incog., and keep aloof from
the men."

"That I should do in any event till ready to act. Thank you for
your kindness, for it may simplify my task very much. I will see
to it that I do not compromise you. When I'm ready to snare my
bird, you can dismiss me a little ostentatiously for New York."

Brandt's horse was now ordered to the stable. The two men entered
the cottage, and soon afterward visited the different points of
interest, Mr. Alford giving the natural impression that he was
showing an interested stranger the appliances for working the
mine. At one point he remarked in a low tone, "That's Bute's
lodging-place. A half-breed, named Apache Jack, who speaks little
English lives with him."

Brandt's seemingly careless and transitory glance rested on a
little shanty and noted that it was separated from others of its
class by a considerable interval.

"Bute, you say, is on the day-shift."

"Yes, he won't be up till six o'clock."

"I'll manage to see him then without his knowing it."

"Be careful. I take my risk on the ground of your good faith and
prudence."

"Don't fear."




CHAPTER III

THWARTED


Brandt maintained his disguise admirably. His presence caused
little comment, and he was spoken of as a visiting stockholder of
the mine. During his walk with Mr. Alford he appeared interested
only in machinery, ores, etc., but his trained eyes made a
topographical map of surroundings, and everything centred about
Bute's shanty. In the evening, he amply returned his host's
hospitality by comic and tragic stories of criminal life. The next
day he began to lay his plans carefully, and disappeared soon
after breakfast with the ostensible purpose of climbing a height
at some distance for the sake of the prospect. He soon doubled
round, noting every covert approach to Bute's lodgings. His eye
and ear were as quick as an Indian's; but he still maintained, in
case he was observed, the manner of an elderly stranger strolling
about to view the region.

By noon he felt that he had the immediate locality by heart. His
afternoon task was to explore the possibilities of a stream that
crossed the mine road something over a mile away, and for this
purpose he mounted his horse. He soon reached the shallow ford,
and saw that the water was backed up for a considerable distance,
and that the shallows certainly extended around a high, jutting
rock which hid the stream from that point and beyond from the
road. The bed appeared smooth, firm, and sandy, and he waded his
horse up the gentle current until he was concealed from the
highway. A place, however, was soon reached where the water came
tumbling down over impassable rocks; and he was compelled to
ascend the wooded shore. This he did on the side nearest to the
mine house, and found that with care he could lead his horse to a
point that could not be, he thought, over half a mile from the
superintendent's cottage. Here there was a little dell around
which the pines grew so darkly and thickly that he determined to
make it his covert should he fail in his first attempt. His object
now was to see if his estimate of proximity to the mine was
correct; and leaving his horse, he pushed up the mountain-side. At
last he reached a precipitous ledge. Skirting this a short
distance, he found a place of comparatively easy ascent, and soon
learned with much satisfaction that he was not over two hundred
yards from the thicket opposite Mr. Alford's quarters. These
discoveries all favored possible future operations; and he
retraced his steps, marking his returning path by bits of white
paper, held in place by stones against the high prevailing winds.
Near the spot where he had left his horse he found a nook among
the rocks in which a fire would be well hidden. Having marked the
place carefully with his eye and obtained his bearings, he led his
horse back to the stream and reached the unfrequented road again
without being observed.

His next task was to discover some kind of a passageway from the
mine road to a point on the main highway, leading to the west and
out of the mountains. He found no better resource than to strike
directly into the forest and travel by points of the compass.
Fortunately, the trees were lofty and comparatively open, and he
encountered no worse difficulties than some steep and rugged
descents, and at last emerged on the post road at least a mile to
the west of the tavern, which stood near its intersection with the
mine road; Returning, he again marked out a path with paper as he
had before. The sun was now low in the sky; and as he trotted
toward the mine, he had but one more precaution to take, and that
was to find a place where the trees were sufficiently open to
permit him to ride into their shade at night in case he wished to
avoid parties upon the road. Having indicated two or three such
spots by a single bit of paper that would glimmer in the
moonlight, he joined Mr. Alford at supper, feeling that his
preparations were nearly complete. When they were alone, he told
his host that it would be best not to gratify his curiosity, for
then he could honestly say that he knew nothing of any detective's
plans or whereabouts.

"I cannot help feeling," said Mr. Alford, "that you are playing
with fire over a powder magazine. Now that I know you better, I
hate to think of the risk that you are taking. It has troubled me
terribly all day. I feel as if we were on the eve of a tragedy.
You had better leave quietly in the morning and bring a force
later that would make resistance impossible, or else give it up
altogether. Why should you throw away your life? I tell you again
that if the men get a hint of your character or purpose they will
hunt you to death."

"It's a part of my business to incur such risks," replied Brandt,
quietly. "Besides, I have a motive in this case which would lead
me to take a man out of the jaws of hell."

"That's what you may find you are attempting here. Well, we're in
for it now, I suppose, since you are so determined."

"I don't think you will appear involved in the affair at all. In
the morning you give me a sack of grain for my horse and some
provisions for myself, and then bid farewell to Mr. Brown in the
most open and natural manner possible. You may not see me again.
It is possible I may have to borrow a horse of you it my scheme
to-night don't work. It will be returned or paid for very soon."

"Bute has a pony. He brought it with him, and he and Apache Jack
between them manage to keep it. They stable it nights in a little
shed back of their shanty."

"I had discovered this, and hope to take the man away on his pony.
I understand why Bute keeps the animal. He knew that he might have
to travel suddenly and fast."

The next morning Mr. Alford parted with Brandt as had been
arranged, the latter starting ostensibly for the nearest railway
station. All day long the superintendent was nervous and anxious;
but he saw no evidences of suspicion or uneasiness among those in
his employ.

Brandt rode at a sharp canter as long as he was in sight, and then
approached the stream slowly and warily. When satisfied that he
was unobserved, he again passed up its shallow bed around the
concealing rock, and sought his hiding-place on the mountain-side.
Aware that the coming nights might require ceaseless activity, his
first measure was to secure a few hours of sound sleep; and he had
so trained himself that he could, as it were, store up rest
against long and trying emergencies. The rocks sheltered him
against the wind, and a fire gave all the comfort his hardy frame
required, as he reposed on his couch of pine-needles. Early in the
afternoon he fed his horse, took a hearty meal himself, and
concealed the remaining store so that no wild creatures could get
at it. At early twilight he returned by way of the stream and hid
his horse well back in the woods near the mine. To this he now
went boldly, and inquired for Tim Atkins, Bute's assumed name. He
was directed to the shanty with which he had already made himself
so familiar.

Bute was found alone, and was much surprised at sight of his old
gambling acquaintance of better days, for his better days were
those of robbery before he had added the deeper stain of murder.
Brandt soon allayed active fears and suspicions by giving the
impression that in his descensus he had reached the stage of
robbery and had got on the scent of some rich booty in the
mountains. "But how did you know I was here?" demanded Bute.

"I didn't know it," replied Brandt, adopting his old vernacular;
"but I guessed as much, for I knew there was more'n one shady
feller in this gang, and I took my chances on findin' you, for,
says I to myself, if I can find Bute, I've found the right man to
help me crack a ranch when there's some risk and big plunder."

He then disclosed the fact of hearing that the keeper of the
tavern had accumulated a good sum of hard money, and was looking
out for a chance to send it to a bank. "We can save him the
trouble, yer know," he concluded, facetiously.

"Well," said Bute, musingly, "I'm gittin' tired of this dog's
life, and I reckon I'll go snacks with yer and then put out fer
parts unknown. I was paid t'other day, and there ain't much owin'
me here. I guess it'll be safer fer me ter keep movin' on, too."

"You may well say that, Bute. I heard below that there was goin'
to be some investigations inter this gang, and that there was
more'n one feller here whose pictur was on exhibition."

"That so?" said Bute, hastily. "Well, I'll go with yer ter-night,
fer it's time I was movin'. I kin tell yer one thing, though--
there'll be no investigations here unless a fair-sized regiment
makes it. Every man keeps his shooter handy."

"Hanged if we care how the thing turns out. You and me'll be far
enough away from the shindy. Now make your arrangements prompt,
for we must be on the road by nine o'clock, so we can get through
early in the night and have a good start with the swag. My plan is
to ambush the whiskey shop, go and demand drinks soon after
everybody is gone, and then proceed to business."

"Can't we let my mate, Apache Jack, in with us? I'll stand for
him."

"No, no, I don't know anything about Apache Jack; and I can trust
you. We can manage better alone, and I'd rather have one-half than
one-third."

"Trust me, kin you? you--fool," thought Bute. "So ye thinks I'll
sit down and divide the plunder socially with you when I kin give
yer a quiet dig in the ribs and take it all. One more man now
won't matter. I'm a-goin' ter try fer enough ter-night ter take me
well out of these parts."

Bute's face was sinister enough to suggest any phase of evil, and
Brandt well knew that he was capable of what he meditated. It was
now the policy of both parties, however, to be very friendly, and
Bute was still further mellowed by a draught of liquor from
Brandt's flask.

They had several games of cards in which it was managed that
Bute's winnings should be the larger; and at nine in the evening
they started on what was to Bute another expedition of robbery and
murder. Mr. Alford, who was on the alert, saw them depart with a
deep sigh of relief. The night was cloudy, but the moon gave
plenty of light for travelling. Brandt soon secured his horse, and
then appeared to give full rein to his careless, reckless spirit.

As they approached the stream, he remarked, "I say, Bute, it's too
bad we can't use the pasteboards while on the jog; but I can win a
five out of you by an old game of ours. I bet you I can empty my
revolver quicker 'n you can."

"We'd better save our amernition and make no noise."

"Oh, pshaw! I always have better luck when I'm free and careless
like. It's your sneaking fellers that always get caught. Besides,
who'll notice? This little game is common enough all through the
mountains, and everybody knows that there's no mischief in such
kind of firing. I want to win back some of my money."

"Well, then, take you up; go ahead."

Instantly from Brandt's pistol there were six reports following
one another so quickly that they could scarcely be distinguished.

"Now beat that if you can!" cried Brandt, who had a second and
concealed revolver ready for an emergency.

"The fool!" thought Bute, "to put himself at the marcy of any man.
I can pluck him to-night like a winged pa'tridge;" but he too
fired almost as quickly as his companion.

"You only used five ca'tridges in that little game, my friend,"
said Brandt.

"Nonsense! I fired so quick you couldn't count 'em."

"Now see here, Bute," resumed Brandt, in an aggrieved tone,
"you've got to play fair with me. I've cut my eye-teeth since you
used to fleece me, and I'll swear you fired only five shots. Let's
load and try again."

"What the use of sich ---- nonsense? You'll swar that you fired the
quickest; and of course I'll swar the same, and there's nobody
here ter jedge. What's more, Ralph Brandt, I wants you and every
man ter know that I always keeps a shot in reserve, and that I
never misses. So let's load and jog on, and stop foolin'."

"That scheme has failed," thought Brandt, as he replaced the
shells with cartridges.

His purpose was to find a moment when his companion was completely
in his power, and it came sooner than he expected. When they drew
near the brook, it was evident that Bute's pony was thirsty, for
it suddenly darted forward and thrust its nose into the water.
Therefore, for an instant, Bute was in advance with his back
toward the detective. Covering the fellow with his revolver,
Brandt shouted:

"Bute, throw up your hands; surrender, or you are a dead man!"

Instantly the truth flashed through the outlaw's mind. Instead of
complying, he threw himself forward over the pony's neck and urged
the animal forward. Brandt fired, and Bute fell with a splash into
the water. At that moment three miners, returning from the tavern,
came shouting to the opposite side of the stream. The frightened
pony, relieved of its burden, galloped homeward. Brandt also
withdrew rapidly toward the mine for some distance, and then rode
into the woods. Having tied his horse well back from the highway,
he reconnoitred the party that had so inopportunely interfered
with his plans. He discovered that they were carrying Bute, who,
from his groans and oaths, was evidently not dead, though he might
be mortally wounded. His rescuers were breathing out curses and
threats of vengeance against Brandt, now known to be an officer of
the law.

"The job has become a little complicated now," muttered Brandt,
after they had passed; "and I must throw them off the scent. There
will be a dozen out after me soon."

He remounted his horse, stole silently down the road, crossed the
stream, and then galloped to the tavern, and calling out the
keeper, asked if there was any shorter road out of the mountains
than the one leading to the west. Being answered in the negative,
he rode hastily away. On reaching the place where he had struck
this road the previous day, he entered the woods, followed the
rugged trail that he had marked by bits of paper, and slowly
approached the mine road again near the point where the stream
crossed it. He then reconnoitred and learned that there was
evidently a large party exploring the woods between the stream and
the mine.

At last they all gathered at the ford for consultation, and Brandt
heard one say:

"We're wastin' time beatin' round here. He'd naterly put fer the
lowlands as soon as he found he was balked in takin' his man. I
move we call on Whiskey Bob, and see if a man's rode that way ter-
night."

A call on Whiskey Bob was apparently always acceptable; and the
party soon disappeared down the road--some on horses and more on
foot. Brandt then quietly crossed the road and gained his retreat
on the mountain-side.

"I must camp here now till the fellow dies, and I can prove it, or
until I can get another chance," was his conclusion as he rubbed
down and fed his horse.




CHAPTER IV

TAKEN ALIVE


After taking some refreshment himself, Brandt decided to go to the
thicket opposite the superintendent's house for a little
observation. He soon reached this outlook, and saw that something
unusual was occurring in the cottage. At last the door opened, and
Bute was assisted to his shanty by two men. They had scarcely
disappeared before Brandt darted across the road and knocked for
admittance.

"Great Scott! you here?" exclaimed Mr. Alford.

"Yes, and here I'm going to stay till I take my man," replied the
detective, with a laugh. "Don't be alarmed. I shall not remain in
your house, but in the neighborhood."

"You are trifling with your life, and, I may add, with mine."

"Not at all. Come up to your bedroom. First draw the curtains
close, and we'll compare notes. I won't stay but a few moments."

Mr. Alford felt that it was best to comply, for some one might
come and find them talking in the hall. When Brandt entered the
apartment, he threw himself into a chair and laughed in his low
careless style as he said, "Well, I almost bagged my game to-
night, and would have done so had not three of your men, returning
from the tavern, interfered."

"There's a party out looking for you now."

"I know it; but I've put them on the wrong trail. What I want to
learn is, will Bute live?"

"Yes; your shot made a long flesh-wound just above his shoulders.
A little closer, and it would have cut his vertebrae and finished
him. He has lost a good deal of blood, and could not be moved for
some days except at some risk."

"You are sure of that?"

"Yes."

"Well, he may have to incur the risk. I only wish to be certain
that he will not take it on his own act at once. You'll soon miss
him in any event."

"The sooner the better. I wish your aim had been surer."

"That wasn't my good luck. Next time I'll have to shoot closer or
else take him alive."

"But you can't stay in this region. They will all be on the alert
now."

"Oh, no. The impression will be general to-morrow that I've made
for the lowlands as fast as my horse could carry me. Don't you
worry. Till I move again, I'm safe enough. All I ask of you now is
to keep Bute in his own shanty, and not to let him have more than
one man to take care of him if possible. Good-night. You may not
see me again, and then again you may."

"Well, now that you are here," said the superintendent, who was
naturally brave enough, "spend an hour or two, or else stay till
just before daylight. I confess I am becoming intensely interested
in your adventure, and would take a hand in it if I could; but you
know well enough that if I did, and it became known, I would have
to find business elsewhere very suddenly--that is, if given the
chance."

"I only wish your passive co-operation. I should be glad, however,
if you would let me take a horse, if I must."

"Certainly, as long as you leave my black mare."

Brandt related what had occurred, giving a comical aspect to
everything, and then, after reconnoitring the road from a darkened
window, regained his cover in safety. He declined to speak of his
future plans or to give any clew to his hiding-place, to which he
now returned.

During the few remaining hours of darkness and most of the next
day, he slept and lounged about his fire. The next night was too
bright and clear for anything beyond a reconnoissance, and he saw
evidences of an alertness which made him very cautious. He did not
seek another interview with Mr. Alford, for now nothing was to be
gained by it.

The next day proved cloudy, and with night began a violent storm
of wind and rain. Brandt cowered over his fire till nine o'clock,
and then taking a slight draught from his flask, chuckled, "This
is glorious weather for my work. Here's to Clara's luck this
time!"

In little over an hour he started for the mine, near which he
concealed his horse. Stealing about in the deep shadows, he soon
satisfied himself that no one was on the watch, and then
approaching the rear of Bute's shanty, found to his joy that the
pony was in the shed. A chink in the board siding enabled him to
look into the room which contained his prey; he started as he saw
Apache Jack, instantly recognizing in him another criminal for
whom a large reward was offered.

"Better luck than I dreamed of," he thought. "I shall take them
both; but I now shall have to borrow a horse of Alford;" and he
glided away, secured an animal from the stable, and tied it near
his own. In a short time he was back at his post of observation.
It had now become evident that no one even imagined that there was
danger while such a storm was raging. The howling wind would drown
all ordinary noises; and Brandt determined that the two men in the
shanty should be on their way to jail that night. When he again
put his eye to the chink in the wall, Bute was saying:

"Well, no one will start fer the mountings while this storm lasts,
but, wound or no wound, I must get out of this as soon as it's
over. There's no safety fer me here now."

"Ef they comes fer you, like enough they'll take me," replied
Apache Jack, who, now that he was alone with his confederate,
could speak his style of English fast enough. His character of
half-breed was a disguise which his dark complexion had suggested.
"Ter-morrer night, ef it's clar, we'll put out fer the easterd. I
know of a shanty in the woods not so very fur from here in which
we kin put up till yer's able ter travel furder. Come, now, take a
swig of whiskey with me and then we'll sleep; there's no need of
our watchin' any longer on a night like this. I'll jest step out
an' see ef the pony's safe; sich a storm's 'nuff ter scare him off
ter the woods."

"Well, jest lay my shooter on the cha'r here aside me 'fore you
go. I feel safer with the little bull-dog in reach."

This the man did, then putting his own revolver on the table, that
it might not get wet, began to unbar the door. Swift as a shadow
Brandt glided out of the shed and around on the opposite side of
the shanty.

An instant later Bute was paralyzed by seeing his enemy enter the
open door. Before the outlaw could realize that Brandt was not a
feverish vision induced by his wound, the detective had captured
both revolvers, and was standing behind the door awaiting Apache
Jack's return.

"Hist!" whispered Brandt, "not a sound, or you will both be dead
in two minutes."

Bute's nerves were so shattered that he could scarcely have
spoken, even if he had been reckless enough to do so. He felt
himself doomed; and when brutal natures like his succumb, they
usually break utterly. Therefore, he could do no more than shiver
with unspeakable dread as if he had an ague.

Soon Apache Jack came rushing in out of the storm, to be instantly
confronted by Brandt's revolver. The fellow glanced at the table,
and seeing his own weapon was gone, instinctively half drew a long
knife.

"Put that knife on the table!" ordered Brandt, sternly. "Do you
think I'd allow any such foolishness?"

The man now realized his powerlessness, and obeyed; and Brandt
secured this weapon also.

"See here, Apache Jack, or whatever your name is, don't you run
your head into a noose. You know I'm empowered to arrest Bute, and
you don't know anything about the force I have at hand. All you've
got to do is to obey me, an officer of the law, like a good
citizen. If you don't, I'll shoot you; and that's all there is
about it. Will you obey orders?"

"I no understan'."

"Stop lying! You understand English as well as I do, and I'll
suspect YOU if you try that on again. Come, now! I've no time to
lose. It's death or obedience!"

"You can't blame a feller fer standin' by his mate," was the
sullen yet deprecatory reply.

"I can blame any man, and arrest or shoot him too, who obstructs
the law. You must obey me for the next half-hour, to prove that
you are not Bute's accomplice."

"He's only my mate, and our rule is ter stand by each other; but,
as you say, I can't help myself, and there's no use of my goin'
ter jail."

"I should think not," added Brandt, appealing to the fellow's
selfish hope of escaping further trouble if Bute was taken. "Now
get my prisoner out of bed and dress him as soon as possible."

"But he ain't able ter be moved. The superintendent said he
wasn't."

"That's my business, not yours. Do as I bid you."

"Why don't yer yell fer help?" said Bute, in a hoarse whisper.

"Because he knows I'd shoot him if he did," remarked Brandt,
coolly.

"Come, old man," said Jack, "luck's agin yer. Ef there's any
hollerin' ter be done, yer's as able ter do that as I be."

"Quick, quick! jerk him out of bed and get him into his clothes. I
won't permit one false move."

Jack now believed that his only means of safety was to be as
expeditious as possible, and that if Bute was taken safely he
would be left unmolested. People of their class rarely keep faith
with one another when it is wholly against their interests to do
so. Therefore, in spite of the wounded man's groans, he was
quickly dressed and his hands tied behind him. As he opened his
mouth to give expression to his protests, he found himself
suddenly gagged by Brandt, who stood behind him. Then a strap was
buckled about his feet, and he lay on the floor helpless and
incapable of making a sound.

"Now, Jack," said Brandt, "go before me and bridle and saddle the
pony; then bring him to the door."

Jack obeyed.

"Now put Bute upon him. I'll hold his head; but remember I'm
covering you with a dead bead all the time."

"No need of that. I'm civil enough now."

"Well, you know we're sort of strangers, and it's no more than
prudent for me to be on the safe side till we part company. That's
right, strap his feet underneath. Now lead the pony in such
directions as I say. Don't try to make off till I'm through with
you, or you'll be shot instantly. I shall keep within a yard of
you all the time."

They were not long in reaching the horse that Brandt had borrowed,
and Jack said, "I s'pose I kin go now."

"First untie Bute's hands so he can guide the pony."

As the fellow attempted to do this, and his two hands were close
together, Brandt slipped a pair of light steel handcuffs over his
wrists, and the man was in his power. Almost before the new
prisoner could recover from his surprise, he was lifted on the
borrowed horse, and his legs also tied underneath.

"This ain't fa'r. You promised ter let me go when you got Bute
off."

"I haven't got him off yet. Of course I can't let you go right
back and bring a dozen men after us. You must be reasonable."

The fellow yelled for help; but the wind swept the sound away.

"If you do that again, I'll gag you too," said Brandt. "I tell you
both once more, and I won't repeat the caution, that your lives
depend on obedience." Then he mounted, and added, "Bute, I'm going
to untie your hands, and you must ride on ahead of me. I'll lead
Jack's horse."

In a moment he had his prisoners in the road, and was leaving the
mine at a sharp pace. Bute was so cowed and dazed with terror that
he obeyed mechanically. The stream was no longer a shallow brook,
but a raging torrent which almost swept them away as Brandt urged
them relentlessly through it. The tavern was dark and silent as
they passed quickly by it. Then Brandt took the gag from Bute's
mouth, and he groaned, cursed, and pleaded by turns. Hour after
hour he urged them forward, until at last Bute gave out and fell
forward on the pony's neck. Brandt dismounted and gave the
exhausted man a draught from his flask.

"Oh, shoot me and have done with it!" groaned Bute; "I'd rather be
shot than hanged anyhow."

"Couldn't think of it," replied the detective, cheerily. "My rule
is to take prisoners alive, so that they can have a fair trial and
be sure that they get justice. I'd take you the rest of the way in
a bed if I could, but if you can't sit up, I'll have to tie you
on. We'll reach a friend of mine by daylight, and then you can
ride in a wagon, so brace up."

This the outlaw did for a time, and then he gave out utterly and
was tied more securely to the pony. Out of compassion, Brandt
thereafter travelled more slowly; and when the sun was an hour
high, he led his forlorn captives to the house of a man whom he
knew could be depended upon for assistance. After a rest
sufficient to give Bute time to recover somewhat, the remainder of
the journey was made without any incident worth mentioning, and
the prisoners were securely lodged in jail on the evening of the
24th of December.




CHAPTER V

WHAT BRANDT SAW CHRISTMAS EVE


Brandt's words and effort had had their natural effect on the mind
of Clara Heyward. They proved an increasing diversion of her
thoughts, and slowly dispelled the morbid, leaden grief under
which she had been sinking. Her new anxiety in regard to her
lover's fortune and possible fate was a healthful counter-
irritant. Half consciously she yielded to the influence of his
strong, hopeful spirit, and almost before she was aware of it, she
too began to hope. Chief of all, his manly tenderness and
unbargaining love stole into her heart like a subtle balm; and
responsive love, the most potent of remedies, was renewing her
life. She found herself counting the days and then the hours that
must intervene before the 25th. On Christmas eve her woman's
nature triumphed, and she instinctively added such little graces
to her toilet as her sombre costume permitted. She also arranged
her beautiful hair in the style which she knew he admired. He
might come; and she determined that his first glance should reveal
that he was not serving one who was coldly apathetic to his brave
endeavor and loyalty.

Indeed, even she herself wondered at the changes that had taken
place during the brief time which had elapsed since their parting.
There was a new light in her eyes, and a delicate bloom tinged her
cheeks.

"Oh," she murmured, "it's all so different now that I feel that I
can live for him and make him happy."

She was sure that she could welcome him in a way that would assure
him of the fulfilment of all his hopes; but when he did come with
his eager, questioning eyes, she suddenly found herself under a
strange restraint, tongue-tied and embarrassed. She longed to put
her arms about his neck and tell him all--the new life, the new
hope which his look of deep affection had kindled; and in effort
for self-control, she seemed to him almost cold. He therefore
became perplexed and uncertain of his ground, and took refuge in
the details of his expedition, meanwhile mentally assuring himself
that he must keep his word and put no constraint on the girl
contrary to the dictates of her heart.

As his mind grew clearer, his keen observation began to reveal
hopeful indications. She was listening intently with approval, and
something more in her expression, he dared to fancy. Suddenly he
exclaimed, "How changed you are for the better, Clara! You are
lovelier to-night than ever you were. What is it in your face that
is so sweet and bewildering? You were a pretty girl before; now
you are a beautiful woman."

The color came swiftly at his words, and she faltered as she
averted her eyes, "Please go on with your story, Ralph. You have
scarcely begun yet. I fear you were in danger."

He came and stood beside her. "Clara," he pleaded, "look at me."

Hesitatingly she raised her eyes to his.

"Shall I tell you what I hope I see?"

The faintest suggestion of a smile hovered about her trembling
lips.

"I hope I see what you surely see in mine. Come, Clara, you shall
choose before you hear my story. Am I to be your husband or
friend? for I've vowed that you shall not be without a loyal
protector."

"Ralph, Ralph," she cried, springing up and hiding her face on his
shoulder, "I have no choice at all. You know how I loved papa; but
I've learned that there's another and different kind of love. I
didn't half understand you when you first spoke; now I do. You
will always see in my eyes what you've seen to-night."






FOUND YET LOST


CHAPTER I

LOVE IN THE WILDERNESS


Hopeless indeed must that region be which May cannot clothe with
some degree of beauty and embroider with flowers. On the 5th day
of the month the early dawn revealed much that would charm the
eyes of all true lovers of nature even in that section of Virginia
whose characteristics so grimly correspond with its name--The
Wilderness. The low pines and cedars, which abound everywhere, had
taken a fresh green; the deciduous trees, the tangled thickets,
impenetrable in many places by horse or man, were putting forth a
new, tender foliage, tinted with a delicate semblance of autumn
hues. Flowers bloomed everywhere, humbly in the grass close to the
soil as well as on the flaunting sprays of shrubbery and vines,
filling the air with fragrance as the light touched and expanded
the petals. Wood-thrushes and other birds sang as melodiously and
contentedly as if they had selected some breezy upland forest for
their nesting-place instead of a region which has become a synonym
for gloom, horror, and death.

Lonely and uninhabited in its normal condition, this forbidding
wilderness had become peopled with thousands of men. The Army of
the Potomac was penetrating and seeking to pass through it.
Vigilant General Lee had observed the movement, and with
characteristic boldness and skill ordered his troops from their
strong intrenchments on Mine Run toward the Union flank. On this
memorable morning the van of his columns wakened from their brief
repose but a short distance from the Federal bivouac. Both parties
were unconscious of their nearness, for with the exception of a
few clearings the dense growth restricted vision to a narrow
range. The Union forces were directed in their movements by the
compass, as if they were sailors on a fog-enshrouded sea; but they
well knew that they were seeking their old antagonist, the Army of
Northern Virginia, and that the stubborn tug-of-war might begin at
any moment.

When Captain Nichol shook off the lethargy of a brief troubled
sleep, he found that the light did not banish his gloomy
impressions. Those immediately around him were still slumbering,
wrapped in their blankets. Few sounds other than the voices of the
awakening birds broke the silence. After a little thought he drew
his notebook from his pocket and wrote as follows:

"MY DARLING HELEN--I obey an impulse to write to you this morning.
It is scarcely light enough to see as yet; but very soon we shall
be on the move again to meet--we known not what, certainly heavy,
desperate fighting. I do not know why I am so sad. I have faced
the prospect of battles many times before, and have passed through
them unharmed, but now I am depressed by an unusual foreboding.
Naturally my thoughts turn to you. There was no formal engagement
between us when I said those words (so hard to speak) of farewell,
nor have I sought to bind you since. Every month has made more
clear the uncertainty of life in my calling; and I felt that I had
no right to lay upon you any restraint other than that of your own
feelings. If the worst happened you would be free as far as I was
concerned, and few would know that we had told each other of our
love. I wish to tell you of mine once more--not for the last time,
I hope, but I don't know. I do love you with my whole heart and
soul; and if I am to die in this horrible wilderness, where so
many of my comrades died a year ago, my last thoughts will be of
you and of the love of God, which your love has made more real to
me. I love you too well to wish my death, should it occur, to
spoil your young life. I do not ask you to forget me--that would
be worse than death, but I ask you to try to be happy and to make
others happy as the years pass on. This bloody war will come to an
end, will become a memory, and those who perish hope to be
remembered; but I do not wish my memory to hang like a cloud over
the happy days of peace. I close, my darling, in hope, not fear--
hope for you, hope for me, whatever may happen to-day or on coming
days of strife. It only remains for me to do my duty. I trust that
you will also do yours, which may be even harder. Do not give way
to despairing grief if I cannot come back to you in this world.
Let your faith in God and hope of a future life inspire and
strengthen you in your battles, which may require more courage and
unselfishness than mine.

"Yours, either in life or death, ALBERT NICHOL."

He made another copy of this letter, put both in envelopes, and
addressed them, then sought two men of his company who came from
his native village. They were awake now and boiling their coffee.
The officer and the privates had grown up as boys together with
little difference of social standing in the democratic town. When
off duty, there still existed much of the old familiarity and
friendly converse, but when Captain Nichol gave an order, his
townsmen immediately became conscious that they were separated
from him by the iron wall of military discipline. This
characteristic did not alienate his old associates. One of the men
hit the truth fairly in saying: "When Cap speaks as Cap, he's as
hard and sharp as a bayonet-point; but when a feller is sick and
worn out 'tween times you'd think your granny was coddlin' yer."

It was as friend and old neighbor that Nichol approached Sam and
Jim Wetherby, two stalwart brothers who had enlisted in his
company. "Boys," he said, "I have a favor to ask of you. The Lord
only knows how the day will end for any of us. We will take our
chances and do our duty, as usual. I hope we may all boil coffee
again to-night; but who knows? Here are two letters. If I should
fall, and either or both of you come out all right, as I trust you
will, please forward them. If I am with you again to-night, return
them to me."

"Come, Captain," said Jim, heartily, "the bullet isn't molded that
can harm you. You'll lead us into Richmond yet."

"It will not be from lack of goodwill if I don't. I like your
spirit; and I believe the army will get there this time whether
I'm with it or not. Do as I ask. There is no harm in providing
against what may happen. Make your breakfast quickly, for orders
may come at any moment;" and he strode away to look after the
general readiness of his men.

The two brothers compared the address on the letters and laughed a
little grimly. "Cap is a-providing, sure enough," Sam Wetherby
remarked. "They are both written to the pretty Helen Kemble that
he used to make eyes at in the singing-school. I guess he thinks
that you might stop a bullet as well as himself, Jim."

"It's clear he thinks your chances for taking in lead are just as
good," replied Jim. "But come, I'm one of them fellows that's
never hit till I am hit. One thing at a time, and now it's
breakfast."

"Well, hanged if I want to charge under the lead of any other
captain!" remarked Sam, meditatively sipping his coffee. "If that
girl up yonder knows Cap's worth, she'll cry her eyes out if
anything happens to him."

A few moments later the birds fled to the closest cover, startled
by the innumerable bugles sounding the note of preparation. Soon
the different corps, divisions, and brigades were upon their
prescribed lines of march. No movement could be made without
revealing the close proximity of the enemy. Rifle-reports from
skirmish lines and reconnoitring parties speedily followed. A
Confederate force was developed on the turnpike leading southwest
from the old Wilderness Tavern; and the fighting began. At about
eight o'clock Grant and Meade came up and made their headquarters
beneath some pine-trees near the tavern. General Grant could
scarcely believe at first that Lee had left his strong
intrenchments to give battle in a region little better than a
jungle; but he soon had ample and awful proof of the fact.
Practically unseen by each other, the two armies grappled like
giants in the dark. So thick were the trees and undergrowth that a
soldier on a battle line could rarely see a thousand men on either
side of him, yet nearly two hundred thousand men matched their
deadly strength that day. Hundreds fell, died, and were hidden
forever from human eyes.

Thinking to sweep away the rear-guard of Lee's retreating army,
Grant ordered a strong advance on the pike in the afternoon. At
first it was eminently successful, and if it had been followed up
vigorously and steadily, as it undoubtedly would have been if the
commander had known what was afterward revealed, it might have
resulted in severe disaster to the Confederates. The enemy was
pressed back rapidly; and the advancing Union forces were filled
with enthusiasm. Before this early success culminated, genuine
sorrow saddened every one in Captain Nichol's company. With his
face toward the enemy, impetuously leading his men, he suddenly
dropped his sword and fell senseless. Sam and Jim Wetherby heard a
shell shrieking toward them, and saw it explode directly over
their beloved leader. They rushed to his side; blood was pouring
over his face, and it also seemed to them that a fragment of the
shell had fatally wounded him in the forehead.

"Poor Cap, poor, brave Cap!" ejaculated Sam. "He didn't give us
those letters for nothing."

"A bad job, an awfully bad job for us all! curse the eyes that
aimed that shell!" growled practical Jim. "Here, take hold. We'll
put him in that little dry ditch we just passed, and bury him
after the fight, if still on our pins. We can't leave him here to
be tramped on."

This they did, then hastily rejoined their company, which had
swept on with the battle line. Alas! that battle line and others
also were driven back with terrible slaughter before the day
closed. Captain Nichol was left in the ditch where he had been
placed, and poor Sam Wetherby lay on his back, staring with eyes
that saw not at a shattered bird's nest in the bushes above his
head. The letter in his pocket mouldered with him.

Jim's begrimed and impassive face disguised an aching heart as he
boiled his coffee alone that night. Then, although wearied almost
to exhaustion, he gave himself no rest until he had found what
promised to be the safest means of forwarding the letter in his
pocket.




CHAPTER II

LOVE AT HOME


Long years before the war, happy children were growing in the
village of Alton. They studied the history of wars much as they
conned their lessons in geography. Scenes of strife belonged to
the past, or were enacted among people wholly unlike any who dwelt
in their peaceful community. That Americans should ever fight each
other was as undreamed of as that the minister should have a
pitched battle in the street with his Sunday-school
superintendent. They rejoiced mildly when in their progress
through the United States history they came to pages descriptive
of Indian wars and the Revolutionary struggle, since they found
their lessons then more easily remembered than the wordy disputes
and little understood decisions of statesmen. The first skating on
the pond was an event which far transcended in importance anything
related between the green covers of the old history book, while to
Albert Nichol the privilege of strapping skates on the feet of
little Helen Kemble, and gliding away with her over the smooth
ice, was a triumph unknown by any general. He was the son of a
plain farmer, and she the daughter of the village banker. Thus,
even in childhood, there was thrown around her the glamour of
position and reputed wealth--advantages which have their value
among the most democratic folk, although slight outward deference
may be paid to their possessors. It was the charming little face
itself, with its piquant smiles and still more piquant pouts,
which won Albert's boyish admiration. The fact that she was the
banker's daughter only fired his ambition to be and to do
something to make her proud of him.

Hobart Martine, another boy of the village, shared all his
schoolmate's admiration for pretty Nellie, as she was usually
called. He had been lame from birth, and could not skate. He could
only shiver on the bank or stamp around to keep himself warm,
while the athletic Al and the graceful little girl passed and
repassed, quite forgetting him. There was one thing he could do;
and this pleasure he waited for till often numb with cold. He
could draw the child on his sled to her home, which adjoined his
own.

When it came his turn to do this, and he limped patiently through
the snow, tugging at the rope, his heart grew warm as well as his
chilled body. She was a rather imperious little belle with the
other boys, but was usually gentle with him because he was lame
and quiet. When she thanked him kindly and pleasantly at her gate,
he was so happy that he could scarcely eat his supper. Then his
mother would laugh and say, "You've been with your little
sweetheart." He would flush and make no reply.

How little did those children dream of war, even when studying
their history lessons! Yet Albert Nichol now lay in the Wilderness
jungle. He had done much to make his little playmate proud of him.
The sturdy boy developed into a manly man. When he responded to
his country's call and raised a company among his old friends and
neighbors, Helen Kemble exulted over him tearfully. She gave him
the highest tribute within her power and dearest possession--her
heart. She made every campaign with him, following him with love's
untiring solicitude through the scenes he described, until at last
the morning paper turned the morning sunshine into mockery and the
songs of the birds into dirges. Captain Nichol's name was on the
list of the killed.

With something of the same jealousy, developed and intensified,
which he had experienced while watching Albert glide away on the
ice with the child adored in a dumb, boyish way, Hobart had seen
his old schoolmate depart for the front. Then his rival took the
girl from him; now he took her heart. Martine's lameness kept him
from being a soldier. He again virtually stood chilled on the
bank, with a cold, dreary, hopeless feeling which he believed
would benumb his life. He did not know, he was not sure that he
had lost Helen beyond hope, until those lurid days when men on
both sides were arming and drilling for mutual slaughter. She was
always so kind to him, and her tones so gentle when she spoke,
that in love's fond blindness he had dared to hope. He eventually
learned that she was only sorry for him. He did not, could not,
blame her, for he needed but to glance at Nichol's stalwart form,
and recall the young soldier's record, in order to know that it
would be strange indeed if the girl had chosen otherwise. He would
have been more than human if there had not been some bitterness in
his heart; but he fought it down honestly, and while pursuing his
peaceful avocations engaged in what he believed would be a
lifelong battle. He smiled at the girl across the garden fence and
called out his cheery "Good-morning." He was her frequent
companion by the fireside or on the piazza, according to the
season; and he alone of the young men was welcome, for she had
little sympathy for those who remained at home without his excuse.
He was so bravely her friend, keeping his great love so sternly
repressed that she only felt it like a genial warmth in his tones
and manner, and believed that he was becoming in truth what he
seemed, merely a friend.

On that terrible May morning he was out in the garden and heard
her wild, despairing cry as she read the fatal words. He knew that
a heavy battle had been begun, and was going down to the gate for
his paper, which the newsboy had just left. There was no need of
opening it, for the bitter cry he had heard made known to him the
one item of intelligence compared with which all else for the time
became insignificant. Was it the Devil that inspired a great throb
of hope in his heart? At any rate he thought it was, and ground
his heel into the gravel as if the serpent's head was beneath it,
then limped to Mr. Kemble's door.

The old banker came out to meet him, shaking his gray head and
holding the paper in his trembling hand. "Ah!" he groaned, "I've
feared it, I've feared it all along, but hoped that it would not
be. You've seen Nichol's name--" but he could not finish the
sentence.

"No, I have seen nothing; I only heard Helen's cry. That told the
whole story."

"Yes. Well, her mother's with her. Poor girl! poor girl! God grant
it isn't her death-blow too. She has suffered too much under this
long strain of anxiety."

A generous resolve was forming in Martine's mind, and he said
earnestly, "We must tide her through this terrible shock. There
may be some mistake; he may be only wounded. Do not let her give
up hope absolutely. I'll drop everything and go to the battlefield
at once. If the worst has in truth happened, I can bring home his
remains, and that would be a comfort to her. A newspaper report,
made up hastily in the field, is not final. Let this hope break
the cruel force of the blow, for it is hard to live without hope."

"Well, Hobart, you ARE a true friend. God bless and reward you! If
nothing comes of it for poor Nichol, as I fear nothing will, your
journey and effort will give a faint hope to Nellie, and, as you
say, break the force of the blow. I'll go and tell her."

Martine went into the parlor, which Helen had decorated with
mementoes of her soldier lover. He was alone but a few moments
before he heard hasty steps. Helen entered with hot, tearless eyes
and an agonized, imploring expression.

"What!" she cried, "is it true that you'll go?"

"Yes, Helen, immediately. I do not think there's reason for
despair."

"Oh, God bless you! friend, friend! I never knew what the word
meant before. Oh, Hobart, no sister ever lavished love on a
brother as I will love you if you bring back my Albert;" and in
the impulse of her overwhelming gratitude she buried her face on
his shoulder and sobbed aloud. Hope already brought the relief of
tears.

He stroked the bowed head gently, saying, "God is my witness,
Helen, that I will spare no pains and shrink from no danger in
trying to find Captain Nichol. I have known of many instances
where the first reports of battles proved incorrect;" and he led
her to a chair.

"It is asking so much of you," she faltered.

"You have asked nothing, Helen. I have offered to go, and I AM
going. It is a little thing for me to do. You know that my
lameness only kept me from joining Captain Nichol's company. Now
try to control your natural feelings like a brave girl, while I
explain my plans as far as I have formed them."

"Yes, yes! Wait a few moments. Oh, this pain at my heart! I think
it would have broken if you hadn't come. I couldn't breathe; I
just felt as if sinking under a weight."

"Take courage, Helen. Remember Albert is a soldier."

"IS, IS! Oh, thanks for that little word! You do not believe that
he is gone and lost to me?"

"I cannot believe it yet. We will not believe it. Now listen
patiently, for you will have your part to do."

"Yes, yes; if I could only do something! That would help me so
much. Oh, if I could only go with you!"

"That would not be best or wise, and might defeat my efforts. I
must be free to go where you could not--to visit places unsafe for
you. My first step must be to get letters to our State Senator.
Your father can write one, and I'll get one or two others. The
Senator will give me a letter to the Governor, who in turn will
accredit me to the authorities at Washington and the officer in
command on the battlefield. You know I shall need passes. Those
who go to the extreme front must be able to account for
themselves. I will keep in telegraphic communication with you, and
you may receive additional tidings which will aid me in my search.
Mr. Kemble!" he concluded, calling her father from his perturbed
pacing up and down the hall.

"Ah!" said the banker, entering, "this is a hundred-fold better
than despairing, useless grief. I've heard the gist of what Hobart
has said, and approve it. Now I'll call mother, so that we may all
take courage and get a good grip on hope."

They consulted together briefly, and in the prospect of action,
Helen was carried through the first dangerous crisis in her
experience.




CHAPTER III

"DISABLED"


Mrs. Martine grieved over her son's unexpected resolve. In her
estimation he was engaging in a very dangerous and doubtful
expedition. Probably mothers will never outgrow a certain jealousy
when they find that another woman has become first in the hearts
of their sons. The sense of robbery was especially strong in this
case, for Mrs. Martine was a widow, and Hobart an only and
idolized child.

The mother speedily saw that it would be useless to remonstrate,
and tearfully aided him in his preparations. Before he departed,
he won her over as an ally. "These times, mother, are bringing
heavy burdens to very many, and we should help each other bear
them. You know what Helen is to me, and must be always. That is
something which cannot be changed. My love has grown with my
growth and become inseparable from my life. I have my times of
weakness, but think I can truly say that I love her so well that I
would rather make her happy at any cost to myself. If it is within
my power, I shall certainly bring Nichol back, alive or dead.
Prove your love to me, mother, by cheering, comforting, and
sustaining that poor girl. I haven't as much hope of success as I
tried to give her, but she needs hope now; she must have it, or
there is no assurance against disastrous effects on her health and
mind. I couldn't bear that."

"Well, Hobart, if he is dead, she certainly ought to reward you
some day."

"We must not think of that. The future is not in our hands. We can
only do what is duty now."

Noble, generous purposes give their impress to that index of
character, the human face. When Martine came to say good-by to
Helen, she saw the quiet, patient cripple in a new light. He no
longer secured her strong affection chiefly on the basis of
gentle, womanly commiseration. He was proving the possession of
those qualities which appeal strongly to the feminine nature; he
was showing himself capable of prompt, courageous action, and his
plain face, revealing the spirit which animated him, became that
of a hero in her eyes. She divined the truth--the love so strong
and unselfish that it would sacrifice itself utterly for her. He
was seeking to bring back her lover when success in his mission
would blot out all hope for him. The effect of his action was most
salutary, rousing her from the inertia of grief and despair. "If a
mere friend," she murmured, "can be so brave and self-forgetful, I
have no excuse for giving away utterly."

She revealed in some degree her new impressions in parting.
"Hobart," she said, holding his hand in both of hers, "you have
done much to help me. You have not only brought hope, but you have
also shown a spirit which would shame me out of a selfish grief. I
cannot now forget the claims of others, of my dear father and
mother here, and I promise you that I will try to be brave like
you, like Albert. I shall not become a weak, helpless burden, I
shall not sit still and wring idle hands when others are
heroically doing and suffering. Good-by, my friend, my brother.
God help us all!"

He felt that she understood him now as never before; and the
knowledge inspired a more resolute purpose, if this were possible.
That afternoon he was on his way. There came two or three days of
terrible suspense for Helen, relieved only by telegrams from
Martine as he passed from point to point. The poor girl struggled
as a swimmer breasts pitiless waves intervening between him and
the shore. She scarcely allowed herself an idle moment; but her
effort was feverish and in a measure the result of excitement. The
papers were searched for any scrap of intelligence, and the daily
mail waited for until the hours and minutes were counted before
its arrival.

One morning her father placed Nichol's letter in her hands. They
so trembled in the immense hope, the overwhelming emotion which
swept over her at sight of the familiar handwriting, that at first
she could not open it. When at last she read the prophetic
message, she almost blotted out the writing with her tears,
moaning, "He's dead, he's dead!" In her morbid, overwrought
condition, the foreboding that had been in the mind of the writer
was conveyed to hers; and she practically gave up hope for
anything better than the discovery and return of his remains. Her
father, mother, and intimate friends tried in vain to rally her;
but the conviction remained that she had read her lover's farewell
words. In spite of the most pathetic and strenuous effort, she
could not keep up any longer, and sobbed till she slept in utter
exhaustion.

On the following day, old Mr. Wetherby came into the bank. The
lines about his mouth were rigid with suppressed feeling. He
handed Mr. Kemble a letter, saying in a husky voice, "Jim sent
this. He says at the end I was to show it to you." The scrawl gave
in brief the details about Captain Nichol already known to the
reader, and stated also that Sam Wetherby was missing. "All I know
is," wrote the soldier, "that we were driven back, and bullets
flew like hail. The brush was so thick I couldn't see five yards
either way when I lost sight of Sam."

The colonel of the regiment also wrote to Captain Nichol's father,
confirming Private Wetherby's letter. The village had been thrown
into a ferment by the tidings of the battle and its disastrous
consequences. There was bitter lamentation in many homes. Perhaps
the names of Captain Nichol and Helen were oftenest repeated in
the little community, for the fact of their mutual hopes was no
longer a secret. Even thus early some sagacious people nodded
their heads and remarked, "Hobart Martine may have his chance
yet." Helen Kemble believed without the shadow of a doubt that all
the heart she had for love had perished in the wilderness.

The facts contained in Jim Wetherby's letter were telegraphed to
Martine, and he was not long in discovering confirmation of them
in the temporary hospitals near the battlefield. He found a man of
Captain Nichol's company to whom Jim had related the
circumstances. For days the loyal friend searched laboriously the
horrible region of strife, often sickened nearly unto death by the
scenes he witnessed, for his nature had not been rendered callous
by familiarity with the results of war. Then instead of returning
home, he employed the influence given by his letters and passes,
backed by his own earnest pleading, to obtain permission for a
visit to Nichol's regiment. He found it under fire; and long
afterward Jim Wetherby was fond of relating how quietly the lame
civilian listened to the shells shrieking over and exploding
around him. Thus Martine learned all that could be gathered of
Nichol's fate, and then, ill and exhausted, he turned his face
northward. He felt that it would be a hopeless task to renew his
search on the battlefield, much of which had been burned over. He
also had the conviction it would be fatal to him to look upon its
unspeakable horrors, and breathe again its pestilential air.

He was a sick man when he arrived at home, but was able to relate
modestly in outline the history of his efforts, softening and
concealing much that he had witnessed. In the delirium of fever
which followed, they learned more fully of what he had endured, of
how he had forced himself to look upon things which, reproduced in
his ravings, almost froze the blood of his watchers.

Helen Kemble felt that her cup of bitterness had been filled anew,
yet the distraction of a new grief, in which there was a certain
remorseful self-reproach, had the effect of blunting the sharp
edge of her first sorrow. In this new cause for dread she was
compelled in some degree to forget herself. She saw the intense
solicitude of her father and mother, who had been so readily
accessory to Martine's expedition; she also saw that his mother's
heart was almost breaking under the strain of anxiety. His
incoherent words were not needed to reveal that his effort had
been prompted by his love. She was one of his watchers, patiently
enduring the expressions of regret which the mother in her sharp
agony could not repress. Nichol's last letter was now known by
heart, its every word felt to be prophetic. She had indeed been
called upon to exercise courage and fortitude greater than he
could manifest even in the Wilderness battle. Although she often
faltered, she did not fail in carrying out his instructions. When
at last Martine, a pallid convalescent, could sit in the shade on
the piazza, she looked older by years, having, besides, the
expression seen in the eyes of some women who have suffered much,
and can still suffer much more. In the matter relating to their
deepest consciousness, no words had passed between them. She felt
as if she were a widow, and hoped he would understand. His full
recognition of her position, and acceptance of the fact that she
did and must mourn for her lover, his complete self-abnegation,
brought her a sense of peace.

The old clock on the landing of the stairway measured off the
hours and days with monotonous regularity. Some of the hours and
days had been immeasurably longer than the ancient timekeeper had
indicated; but in accordance with usual human experiences, they
began to grow shorter. Poignant sorrow cannot maintain its
severity, or people could not live. Vines, grasses, and flowers
covered the graves in Virginia; the little cares, duties, and
amenities of life began to screen at times the sorrows that were
nevertheless ever present.

"Hobart," Helen said one day in the latter part of June, "do you
think you will be strong enough to attend the commemorative
services next week? You know they have been waiting for you."

"Yes," he replied quietly; "'and they should not have delayed them
so long. It is very sad that so many others have been added
since--since--"

"Well, you have not been told, for we have tried to keep every
depressing and disquieting influence from you. Dr. Barnes said it
was very necessary, because you had seen so much that you should
try to forget. Ah, my friend, I can never forget what you suffered
for me! Captain Nichol's funeral sermon was preached while you
were so ill. I was not present--I could not be. I've been to see
his mother often, and she understands me. I could not have
controlled my grief, and I have a horror of displaying my most
sacred feelings in public. Father and the people also wish you to
be present at the general commemorative services, when our Senator
will deliver a eulogy on those of our town who have fallen; but I
don't think you should go if you feel that it will have a bad
effect on you."

"I shall be present, Helen. I suppose my mind has been weak like
my body; but the time has come when I must take up life again and
accept its conditions as others are doing. You certainly are
setting me a good example. I admit that my illness has left a
peculiar repugnance to hearing and thinking about the war; it all
seemed so very horrible. But if our brave men can face the thing
itself, I should be weak indeed if I could not listen to a eulogy
of their deeds."

"I am coming to think," resumed Helen, thoughtfully, "that the
battle line extends from Maine to the Gulf, and that quiet people
like you and me are upon it as truly as the soldiers in the field.
I have thought that perhaps the most merciful wounds are often
those which kill outright."

"I can easily believe that," he said.

His quiet tone and manner did not deceive her, and she looked at
him wistfully as she resumed, "But if they do not kill, the pain
must be borne patiently, even though we are in a measure
disabled."

"Yes, Helen; and you are disabled in your power to give me what I
can never help giving you. I know that. I will not misjudge or
presume upon your kindness. We are too good friends to affect any
concealments from each other."

"You have expressed my very thought. When you spoke of accepting
the conditions of life, I hoped you had in mind what you have
said--the conditions of life as they ARE, as we cannot help or
change them. We both have got to take up life under new
conditions."

"You have; not I, Helen."

Tears rushed to her eyes as she faltered, "I would be
transparently false should I affect not to know. What I wish you
to feel through the coming months and years is that I cannot--that
I am disabled by my wound."

"I understand, Helen. We can go on as we have begun. You have
lost, as I have not, for I have never possessed. You will be the
greater sufferer; and it will be my dear privilege to cheer and
sustain you in such ways as are possible to a simple friend."

She regarded him gratefully, and for the first time since that
terrible May morning the semblance of a smile briefly illumined
her face.




CHAPTER IV

MARTINE SEEKS AN ANTIDOTE


It can readily be understood that Martine in his expedition to the
South had not limited his efforts solely to his search for Captain
Nichol. Wherever it had been within his power he had learned all
that he could of other officers and men who had come from his
native region; and his letters to their relatives had been in some
instances sources of unspeakable comfort. In his visit to the
front he had also seen and conversed with his fellow-townsmen,
some of whom had since perished or had been wounded. As he grew
stronger, Helen wrote out at his dictation all that he could
remember concerning these interviews; and these accounts became
precious heirlooms in many families.

On the Fourth of July the commemorative oration was delivered by
the Senator, who proved himself to be more than senator by his
deep, honest feeling and good taste. The "spread eagle" element
was conspicuously absent in his solemn, dignified, yet hopeful
words. He gave to each their meed of praise. He grew eloquent over
the enlisted men who had so bravely done their duty without the
incentive of ambition. When he spoke of the honor reflected on the
village by the heroism of Captain Nichol, the hearts of the people
glowed with gratitude and pride; but thoughts of pity came to all
as they remembered the girl, robed in black, who sat with bowed
head among them.

"I can best bring my words to a close," said the Senator, "by
reading part of a letter written by one of your townsmen, a
private in the ranks, yet expressive of feelings inseparable from
our common human nature:

"DEAR FATHER--You know I ain't much given to fine feelings or fine
words. Poor Sam beat me all holler in such things; but I want you
and all the folks in Alton to know that you've got a regular
soldier at home. Of course we were all glad to see Bart Martine;
and we expected to have a good-natured laugh at his expense when
the shells began to fly. Soldiers laugh, as they eat, every chance
they get, 'cause they remember it may be the last one. Well, we
knew Bart didn't know any more about war than a chicken, and we
expected to see him get very nervous and limp off to the rear on
the double quick. He didn't scare worth a cent. When a shell
screeched over our heads, he just waited till the dinged noise was
out of our ears and then went on with his questions about poor Cap
and Sam and the others from our town. We were supporting a
battery, and most of us lying down. He sat there with us a good
hour, telling about the folks at home, and how you were all
following us with your thoughts and prayers, and how you all
mourned with those who lost friends, and were looking after the
children of the killed and wounded. Fact is, before we knew it we
were all on our feet cheering for Alton and the folks at home and
the little lame man, who was just as good a soldier as any of us.
I tell you he heartened up the boys, what's left of us. I'm sorry
to hear he's so sick. If he should die, bury him with a soldier's
honors. JAMES WETHERBY."

"These plain, simple, unadorned words," concluded the Senator,
"need no comment. Their force and significance cannot be enhanced
by anything I can say. I do not know that I could listen quietly
to shrieking and exploding shells while I spoke words of courage
and good cheer; but I do know that I wish to be among the foremost
to honor your modest, unassuming townsman, who could do all this
and more."

Martine was visibly distressed by this unexpected feature in the
oration and the plaudits which followed. He was too sad, too weak
in body and mind, and too fresh from the ghastly battlefield, not
to shrink in sensitive pain from personal and public commendation.
He evaded his neighbors as far as possible and limped hastily
away.

He did not see Helen again till the following morning, for her
wound had been opened afresh, and she spent the remainder of the
day and evening in the solitude of her room. Martine was troubled
at this, and thought she felt as he did.

In the morning she joined him on the piazza. She was pale from her
long sad vigil, but renewed strength and a gentle patience were
expressed in her thin face.

"It's too bad, Helen," he broke out in unwonted irritation. "I
wouldn't have gone if I had known. It was a miserable letting down
of all that had gone before--that reference to me."

Now she smiled brightly as she said, "You are the only one present
who thought so. Has this been worrying you?"

"Yes, it has. If the speaker had seen what I saw, he would have
known better. His words only wounded me."

"He judged you by other men, Hobart. His words would not have
wounded very many. I'm glad I heard that letter--that I have
learned what I never could from you. I'm very proud of my friend.
What silly creatures women are, anyway! They want their friends to
be brave, yet dread the consequences of their being so beyond
words."

"Well," said Martine, a little grimly, "I'm going to my office to-
morrow. I feel the need of a long course of reading in
Blackstone."

"You must help keep me busy also," was her reply.

"I've thought about that; yes, a great deal. You need some
wholesome, natural interest that is capable of becoming somewhat
absorbing. Is it strange that I should recommend one phase of my
hobby, flowers? You know that every tree, shrub, and plant on our
little place is a sort of a pet with me. You are fond of flowers,
but have never given much thought to their care, leaving that to
your gardener. Flowers are only half enjoyed by those who do not
cultivate them, nurse, or pet them. Then there is such an infinite
variety that before you know it your thoughts are pleasantly
occupied in experimenting with even one family of plants. It is an
interest which will keep you much in the open air and bring you
close to Mother Nature."

The result of this talk was that the sad-hearted girl first by
resolute effort and then by a growing fondness for the tasks,
began to take a personal interest in the daily welfare of her
plants. Martine and her father were always on the look-out for
something new and rare; and as winter approached, the former had a
small conservatory built on the sunny side of the house. They also
gave her several caged song-birds, which soon learned to recognize
and welcome her. From one of his clients Martine obtained a droll-
looking dog that seemed to possess almost human intelligence. In
the daily care of living things and dependent creatures that could
bloom or be joyous without jarring upon her feelings, as would
human mirth or gayety, her mind became wholesomely occupied part
of each day; she could smile at objects which did not know, which
could not understand.

Still, there was no effort on her part to escape sad memories or
the acts and duties which revived them. A noble monument had been
erected to Captain Nichol, and one of her chief pleasures was to
decorate it with the flowers grown under her own care. Few days
passed on which she did not visit one of the families who were or
had been represented at the front, while Mrs. Nichol felt that if
she had lost a son she had in a measure gained a daughter. As the
months passed and winter was wellnigh spent, the wise gossips of
the village again began to shake their heads and remark, "Helen
Kemble and Bart Martine are very good friends; but I guess that's
all it will amount to--all, at any rate, for a long time."

All, for all time, Helen had honestly thought. It might easily
have been for all time had another lover sought her, or if Martine
himself had become a wooer and so put her on her guard. It was his
patient acceptance of what she had said could not be helped, his
self-forgetfulness, which caused her to remember his need--a need
greatly increased by a sad event. In the breaking up of winter his
mother took a heavy cold which ended in pneumonia and death.

The gossips made many plans for him and indulged in many surmises
as to what he would do; but he merely engaged the services of an
old woman as domestic, and lived on quietly as before. Perhaps he
grew a little morbid after this bereavement and clung more closely
to his lonely hearth.

This would not be strange. Those who dwell among shadows become
ill at ease away from them. Helen was the first to discover this
tendency, and to note that he was not rallying as she had hoped he
would. He rarely sought their house except by invitation, and then
often lapsed into silences which he broke with an evident effort.
He never uttered a word of complaint or consciously appealed for
sympathy, but was slowly yielding to the steady pressure of
sadness which had almost been his heritage. She would have been
less than woman if, recalling the past and knowing so well the
unsatisfied love in his heart, she had not felt for him daily a
larger and deeper commiseration. When the early March winds
rattled the casements, or drove the sleety rain against the
windows, she saw him in fancy sitting alone brooding, always
brooding.

One day she asked abruptly, "Hobart, what are you thinking about
so deeply when you are looking at the fire?"

A slow, deep flush came into his face, and he hesitated in his
answer. At last he said, "I fear I'm getting into a bad mood, and
think I must do something decided. Well, for one thing, the
continuance of this war weighs upon my spirit. Men are getting so
scarce that I believe they will take me in some capacity. Now that
mother is not here, I think I ought to go."

"Oh, Hobart, we would miss you so!" she faltered.

He looked up with a smile. "Yes, Helen, I think you would--not
many others, though. You have become so brave and strong that you
do not need me any more."

"I am not so brave and strong as I seem. If I were, how did I
become so? With the tact and delicacy of a woman, yet with the
strength of a man, you broke the crushing force of the first blow,
and have helped me ever since."

"You see everything through a very friendly medium. At any rate I
could not have been content a moment if I had not done all in my
power. You do not need me any longer; you have become a source of
strength to others. I cannot help seeing crowded hospital wards;
and the thought pursues me that in one of them I might do
something to restore a soldier to his place in the field or save
him for those at home. I could at least be a hospital nurse, and I
believe it would be better for me to be doing some such work."

"I believe it would be better for me also," she answered, her eyes
full of tears.

"No, Helen--no, indeed. You have the higher mission of healing the
heart-wounds which the war is making in your own vicinity. You
should not think of leaving your father and mother in their old
age, or of filling their days with anxiety which might shorten
their lives."

"It will be very hard for us to let you go. Oh, I did not think I
would have to face this also!"

He glanced at her hastily, for there was a sharp distress in her
tone, of which she was scarcely conscious herself. Then, as if
recollecting himself, he reasoned gently and earnestly: "You were
not long in adopting the best antidote for trouble. In comforting
others, you have been comforted. The campaign is opening in
Virginia; and I think it would be a good and wholesome thing for
me to be at work among the wounded. If I can save one life, it
will be such a comfort after the war is over."

"Yes," she replied, softly; "the war will be over some day.
Albert, in his last letter, said the war would cease, and that
happy days of peace were coming. How they can ever be happy days
to some I scarcely know; but he seemed to foresee the future when
he wrote."

"Helen, I'm going. Perhaps the days of peace will be a little
happier if I go."




CHAPTER V

SECOND BLOOM


Martine carried out his purpose almost immediately, seeking the
temporary and most exposed hospitals on the extreme left of
Grant's army before Petersburg. Indeed, while battles were still
in progress he would make his way to the front and become the
surgeon's tireless assistant. While thus engaged, even under the
enemy's fire, he was able to render services to Jim Wetherby which
probably saved the soldier's life. Jim lost his right arm, but
found a nurse who did not let him want for anything till the
danger point following amputation had passed. Before many weeks he
was safe at home, and from him Helen learned more of Martine's
quiet heroism than she could ever gather from his letters. In Jim
Wetherby's estimation, Cap and Bart Martine were the two heroes of
the war.

The latter had found the right antidote. Not a moment was left for
morbid brooding. On every side were sharp physical distress,
deadly peril to life and limb, pathetic efforts to hold ground
against diseases or sloughing wounds. In aiding such endeavor, in
giving moral support and physical care, Martine forgot himself.
Helen's letters also were an increasing inspiration. He could
scarcely take up one of them and say, "Here her words begin to
have a warmer tinge of feeling;" but as spring advanced,
imperceptibly yet surely, in spite of pauses and apparent
retrogressions, just so surely she revealed a certain warmth of
sympathy. He was engaged in a work which made it easy for her to
idealize him. His unselfish effort to help men live, to keep
bitter tears from the eyes of their relatives, appealed most
powerfully to all that was unselfish in her nature, and she was
beginning to ask, "If I can make this man happier, why should I
not do so?" Nichol's letter gained a new meaning in the light of
events: "I do not ask you to forget me--that would be worse than
death--but I ask you to try to be happy and to make others happy."

"A noble, generous nature prompted those words," she now often
mused. "How can I obey their spirit better than in rewarding the
man who not only has done so much for me, but also at every cost
sought to rescue him?"

In this growing disposition she had no innate repugnance to
overcome, nor the shrinking which can neither be defined nor
reasoned against. Accustomed to see him almost daily from
childhood, conscious for years that he was giving her a love that
was virtually homage, she found her heart growing very
compassionate and ready to yield the strong, quiet affection which
she believed might satisfy him. This had come about through no
effort on her part, from no seeking on his, but was the result of
circumstances, the outgrowth of her best and most unselfish
feelings.

But the effect began to separate itself in character from its
causes. All that had gone before might explain why she was
learning to love him, and be sufficient reason for this affection,
but a woman's love, even that quiet phase developing in Helen's
heart, is not like a man's conviction, for which he can give his
clear-cut reasons. It is a tenderness for its object--a wish to
serve and give all in return for what it receives.

Martine vaguely felt this change in Helen long before he
understood it. He saw only a warmer glow of sisterly affection,
too high a valuation of his self-denying work, and a more generous
attempt to give him all the solace and support within her power.

One day in July, when the war was well over and the field
hospitals long since broken up, he wrote from Washington, where he
was still pursuing his labors:

"My work is drawing to a close. Although I have not accomplished a
tithe of what I wished to do, and have soon so much left undone, I
am glad to remember that I have alleviated much pain and, I think,
saved some lives. Such success as I have had, dear Helen, has
largely been due to you. Your letters have been like manna. You do
not know--it would be impossible for you to know--the strength
they have given, the inspiration they have afforded. I am
naturally very weary and worn physically, and the doctors say I
must soon have rest; but your kind words have been life-giving to
my soul. I turn to them from day to day as one would seek a cool,
unfailing spring. I can now accept life gratefully with the
conditions which cannot be changed. How fine is the influence of a
woman like you! What deep springs of action it touches! When
waiting on the sick and wounded, I try to blend your womanly
nature with my coarser fibre. Truly, neither of us has suffered in
vain if we learn better to minister to others. I cannot tell you
how I long to see the home gardens again; and it now seems that
just to watch you in yours will be unalloyed happiness."

Helen smiled over this letter with sweet, deep meanings in her
eyes.

One August evening, as the Kemble family sat at tea, he gave them
a joyous surprise by appearing at the door and asking in a matter-
of-fact voice, "Can you put an extra plate on the table?"

There was no mistaking the gladness of her welcome, for it was as
genuine as the bluff heartiness of her father and the gentle
solicitude of her mother, who exclaimed, "Oh, Hobart, how thin and
pale you are!"

"A few weeks' rest at home will remedy all that," he said. "The
heat in Washington was more trying than my work."

"Well, thank the Lord! you ARE at home once more," cried the
banker. "I was thinking of drawing on the authorities at
Washington for a neighbor who had been loaned much too long."

"Helen," said Martine, with pleased eyes, "how well you look! It
is a perfect delight to see color in your cheeks once more. They
are gaining, too, their old lovely roundness. I'm going to say
what I think right out, for I've been with soldiers so long that
I've acquired their bluntness."

"It's that garden work you lured me into," she explained. "I hope
you won't think your plants and trees have been neglected."

"Have you been keeping my pets from missing me?"

"I guess they have missed you least of all. Helen has seen to it
that they were cared for first," said Mrs. Kemble, emphatically.

"You didn't write about that;" and he looked at the girl
gratefully.

"Do you think I could see weeds and neglect just over the fence?"
she asked, with a piquant toss of her head.

"Do you think I could believe that you cared for my garden only
that your eyes might not be offended?"

"There, I only wished to give you a little surprise. You have
treated us to one by walking in with such delightful
unexpectedness, and so should understand. I'll show you when you
are through supper."

"I'm through now;" and he rose with a promptness most pleasing to
her. His gladness in recognizing old and carefully nurtured
friends, his keen, appreciative interest in the new candidates for
favor that she had planted, rewarded her abundantly.

"Oh," he exclaimed, "what a heavenly exchange from the close,
fetid air of hospital wards! Could the first man have been more
content in his divinely planted garden?"

She looked at him shyly and thought, "Perhaps when you taste of
the fruit of knowledge the old story will have a new and better
meaning."

She now regarded him with a new and wistful interest, no longer
seeing him through the medium of friendship only. His face, thin
and spiritualized, revealed his soul without disguise. It was the
countenance of one who had won peace through the divine path of
ministry--healing others, himself had been healed. She saw also
his unchanged, steadfast love shining like a gem over which flows
a crystal current. Its ray was as serene as it was undimmed. It
had taken its place as an imperishable quality in his character--a
place which it would retain without vicissitude unless some sign
from her called it into immediate and strong manifestation. She
was in no haste to give this. Time was touching her kindly; the
sharp, cruel outlines of the past were softening in the distance,
and she was content to remember that the treasure was hers when
she was ready for it--a treasure more valued daily.

With exultation she saw him honored by the entire community. Few
days passed without new proofs of the hold he had gained on the
deepest and best feelings of the people. She who once had pitied
now looked up to him as the possessor of that manhood which the
most faultless outward semblance can only suggest.

Love is a magician at whose touch the plainest features take on
new aspects. Helen's face had never been plain. Even in its
anguish it had produced in beholders the profound commiseration
which is more readily given when beauty is sorrowful. Now that a
new life at heart was expressing itself, Martine, as well as
others, could not fail to note the subtile changes. While the dewy
freshness of her girlish bloom was absent, the higher and more
womanly qualities were now revealing themselves. Her nature had
been deepened by her experiences, and the harmony of her life was
all the sweeter for its minor chords.

To Martine she became a wonderful mystery, and he almost
worshipped the woman whose love he believed buried in an unknown
grave, but whose eyes were often so strangely kind. He resumed his
old life, but no longer brooded at home, when the autumn winds
began to blow. He recognized the old danger and shunned it
resolutely. If he could not beguile his thoughts from Helen, it
was but a step to her home, and her eyes always shone with a
luminous welcome. Unless detained by study of the legal points of
some case in hand, he usually found his way over to the Kemble
fireside before the evening passed, and his friends encouraged him
to come when he felt like it. The old banker found the young man
exceedingly companionable, especially in his power to discuss
intelligently the new financial conditions into which the country
was passing. Helen would smile to herself as she watched the two
men absorbed in questions she little understood, and observed her
mother nodding drowsily over her knitting. The scene was so
peaceful, so cheery, so hopeful against the dark background of the
past, that she could not refrain from gratitude. Her heart no
longer ached with despairing sorrow, and the anxious, troubled
expression had faded out of her parents' faces.

"Yes," she would murmur softly to herself, "Albert was right; the
bloody war has ceased, and the happy days of peace are coming.
Heaven has blessed him and made his memory doubly blessed, in that
he had the heart to wish them to be happy, although he could not
live to see them. Unconsciously he took the thorns out of the path
which led to his friend and mine. How richly father enjoys
Hobart's companionship! He will be scarcely less happy--when he
knows--than yonder friend, who is such a very scrupulous friend.
Indeed, how either is ever going to know I scarcely see, unless I
make a formal statement."

Suddenly Martine turned, and caught sight of her expression.

"All I have for your thoughts! What wouldn't I give to know them!"

Her face became rosier than the firelight warranted as she laughed
outright and shook her head.

"No matter," he said; "I am content to hear you laugh like that."

"Yes, yes," added the banker; "Helen's laugh is sweeter to me than
any music I ever heard. Thank God! we all can laugh again. I am
getting old, and in the course of nature must soon jog on to the
better country. When that time comes, the only music I want to
hear from earth is good, honest laughter."

"Now, papa, hush that talk right away," cried Helen, with
glistening eyes.

"What's the matter?" Mrs. Kemble asked, waking up.

"Nothing, my dear, only it's time for us old people to go to bed."

"Well, I own that it would be more becoming to sleep there than to
reflect so unfavorably on your conversation. Of late years talk
about money matters always puts me to sleep."

"That wasn't the case, was it, my dear, when we tried to stretch a
thousand so it would reach from one January to another?"

"I remember," she replied, smiling and rolling up her knitting,
"that we sometimes had to suspend specie payments. Ah, well, we
were happy."

When left alone, it was Helen's turn to say, "Now your thoughts
are wool-gathering. You don't see the fire when you look at it
that way."

"No, I suppose not," replied Martine. "I'll be more frank than
you. Your mother's words, 'We were happy,' left an echo in my
mind. How experience varies! It is pleasant to think that there
are many perfectly normal, happy lives like those of your father
and mother."

"That's one thing I like in you, Hobart. You are so perfectly
willing that others should be happy."

"Helen, I agree with your father. Your laugh WAS music, the
sweetest I ever heard. I'm more than willing that you should be
happy. Why should you not be? I have always felt that what he said
was true--what he said about the right to laugh after sorrow--but
it never seemed so true before. Who could wish to leave blighting
sorrow after him? Who could sing in heaven if he knew that he had
left tears which could not be dried on earth?"

"You couldn't," she replied with bowed head.

"Nor you, either; nor the brave man who died, to whom I only do
justice in believing that he would only be happier could he hear
your laugh. Your father's wholesome, hearty nature should teach us
to banish every morbid tendency. Let your heart grow as light as
it will, my friend. Your natural impulses will not lead you
astray. Good-night."

"You feel sure of that?" she asked, giving him a hand that
fluttered in his, and looking at him with a soft fire in her eyes.

"Oh, Helen, how distractingly beautiful you are! You are blooming
again like your Jack-roses when the second growth pushes them into
flower. There; I must go. If I had a stone in my breast instead of
a heart--Good-night. I won't be weak again."




CHAPTER VI

MORE THAN REWARD


Helen Kemble's character was simple and direct She was one who
lived vividly in the passing hour, and had a greater capacity for
deep emotions than for retaining them. The reputation for
constancy is sometimes won by those incapable of strong
convictions. A scratch upon a rock remains in all its sharpness,
while the furrow that has gone deep into the heart of a field is
eventually almost hidden by a new flowering growth. The truth was
fully exemplified in Helen's case; and a willingness to marry her
lifelong lover, prompted at first by a spirit of self-sacrifice,
had become, under the influence of daily companionship, more than
mere assent. While gratitude and the wish to see the light of a
great, unexpected joy come into his eyes remained her chief
motives, she had learned that she could attain a happiness
herself, not hoped for once, in making him happy.

He was true to his word, after the interview described in the
preceding chapter. He did not consciously reveal the unappeased
hunger of his heart, but her intuition was never at fault a
moment.

One Indian-summer-like morning, about the middle of October, he
went over to her home and said, "Helen, what do you say to a long
day's outing? The foliage is at its brightest, the air soft as
that of June. Why not store up a lot of this sunshine for winter
use?"

"Yes, Helen, go," urged her mother. "I can attend to everything."

"A long day, did you stipulate?" said the girl in ready assent;
"that means we should take a lunch. I don't believe you ever
thought of that."

"We could crack nuts, rob apple-orchards, or if driven to
extremity, raid a farmhouse."

"You have heard too much from the soldiers about living off the
country. I'd rather raid mamma's cupboard before we start. I'll be
ready as soon as you are."

He soon appeared in his low, easy phaeton; and she joined him with
the presentiment that there might be even greater gladness in his
face by evening than it now expressed. While on the way to the
brow of a distant hill which would be their lunching place, they
either talked with the freedom of old friends or lapsed into long
silences.

At last he asked, "Isn't it a little odd that when with you the
sense of companionship is just as strong when you are not
talking?"

"It's a comfort you are so easily entertained. Don't you think I'm
a rather moderate talker for a woman?"

"Those that talk the most are often least entertaining. I've
thought a good deal about it--the unconscious influence of people
on one another. I don't mean influence in any moral sense, but in
the power to make one comfortable or uncomfortable, and to produce
a sense of restfulness and content or to make one ill at ease and
nervously desirous of escape."

"And you have actually no nervous desire to escape, no castings
around in your mind for an excuse to turn around and drive home?"

"No one could give a surer answer to your question than yourself.
I've been thinking of something pleasanter than my enjoyment."

"Well?"

"That your expression has been a very contented one during the
last hour. I am coming to believe that you can accept my
friendship without effort. You women are all such mysteries! One
gets hold of a clew now and then. I have fancied that if you had
started out in the spirit of self-sacrifice that I might have a
pleasant time, you would be more conscious of your purpose. Even
your tact might not have kept me from seeing that you were
exerting yourself; but the very genius of the day seems to possess
you. Nature is not exerting herself in the least. No breath of air
is stirring; all storms are in the past or the future. With a
smile on her face, she is just resting in serene content, as you
were, I hope. She is softening and obscuring everything distant by
an orange haze, so that the sunny present may be all the more
real. Days like these will do you good, especially if your face
and manner reveal that you can be as truly at rest as Nature."

"Yet what changes may soon pass over the placid scene!"

"Yes, but don't think of them."

"Well, I won't--not now. Yes, you are becoming very penetrating. I
am not exerting myself in the least to give you a pleasant time. I
am just selfishly and lazily content."

"That fact gives me so much more than content that it makes me
happy."

"Hobart, you are the most unselfish man I ever knew."

"Nonsense!"

They had reached their picnic-ground--the edge of a grove whose
bright-hued foliage still afforded a grateful shade. The horse was
unharnessed and picketed so that he might have a long range for
grazing. Then Martine brought the provision basket to the foot of
a great oak, and sat down to wait for Helen, who had wandered away
in search of wild flowers. At last she came with a handful of
late-blooming closed gentians.

"I thought these would make an agreeable feature in your lunch."

"Oh, you are beginning to exert yourself."

"Yes, I have concluded to, a little. So must you, to the extent of
making a fire. The rest will be woman's work. I propose to drink
your health in a cup of coffee."

"Ah, this is unalloyed," he cried, sipping it later on.

"The coffee?"

"Yes, and everything. We don't foresee the bright days any more
than the dark ones. I did not dream of this in Virginia."

"You are easily satisfied. The coffee is smoky, the lunch is cold,
winter is coming, and--"

"And I am very happy," he said.

"It would be a pity to disturb your serenity."

"Nothing shall disturb it to-day. Peace is one of the rarest
experiences in this world. I mean only to remember that our armies
are disbanded and that you are at rest, like Nature."

She had brought a little book of autumn poems, and after lunch
read to him for an hour, he listening with the same expression of
quiet satisfaction. As the day declined, she shivered slightly in
the shade. He immediately arose and put a shawl around her.

"You are always shielding me," she said gently.

"One can do so little of that kind of thing," he replied, "not
much more than show intent."

"Now you do yourself injustice." After a moment's hesitancy she
added, "I am not quite in your mood to-day, and even Nature, as
your ally, cannot make me forget or even wish to forget."

"I do not wish you to forget, but merely cease to remember for a
little while. You say Nature is my ally. Listen: already the wind
is beginning to sigh in the branches overhead. The sound is low
and mournful, as if full of regret for the past and forebodings
for the future. There is a change coming. All that I wished or
could expect in you was that this serene, quiet day would give you
a respite--that complete repose in which the wounded spirit is
more rapidly healed and strengthened for the future."

"Have you been strengthened? Have you no fears for the future?"

"No fears, Helen. My life is strong in its negation. The man who
is agitated by hopes and fears, who is doomed to disappointments,
is the one who has not recognized his limitations, who has not
accepted well-defined conditions."

"Hobart, I'm going to put you on your honor now. Remember, and do
not answer hastily," and her gaze into his face was searching.
Although quiet and perfectly self-controlled, the rich color
mounted to her very brow.

"Well, Helen," he asked wonderingly.

"Imagine it possible," she continued with the same earnest gaze,
"that you were a woman who has loved as I have loved, and lost as
I have. The circumstances are all known, and you have only to
recall them. If a man had loved you as you have loved me--"

"But, Helen, can you not believe in a love so strong that it does
not ask--"

By a gesture she checked him and repeated, "But if a man had loved
you as you have loved me--remember now, on your honor--would you
permit him to love with no better reward than the consciousness of
being a solace, a help, a sort of buffer between you and the ills
of life?"

"But, Helen, I am more than that: I am your friend."

"Indeed you are, the best a woman ever had, or I could not speak
as I am doing. Yet what I say is true. From the first it has been
your sleepless aim to stand between me and trouble. What have I
ever done for you?"

"In giving me your friendship--"

Again she interrupted him, saying, "That virtually means giving
you the chance for continued self-sacrifice. Any man or woman in
the land would give you friendship on such terms, YOUR terms with
me. But you do not answer my question; yet you have answered it
over and over again. Were you in my place with your unselfish
nature, you could not take so very much without an inevitable
longing to return all in your power."

He was deeply agitated. Burying his face in his hands, he said
hoarsely, "I must not look at you, or my duty may be too hard. Ah,
you are banishing peace and serenity now with a vengeance! I
recognize your motive--whither your thoughts are tending. Your
conscience, your pity, your exaggerated gratitude are driving you
to contemplate a self-sacrifice compared with which mine is as
nothing. Yet the possibility of what you suggest is so sweet, so--
oh, it is like the reward of heaven for a brief life!" Then he
bowed his head lower and added slowly, as if the words were forced
from him, "No, Helen, you shall not reward me. I cannot take as
pay, or 'return,' as you express it, the reward that you are
meditating. I must not remember in after years that my efforts in
your behalf piled up such a burdensome sense of obligation that
there was but one escape from it."

She came to his side, and removing his hands from his face,
retained one of them as she said, gently, "Hobart, I am no longer
a shy girl. I have suffered too deeply, I have learned too
thoroughly how life may be robbed of happiness, and for a time,
almost of hope, not to see the folly of letting the years slip
away, unproductive of half what they might yield to you and me. I
understand you; you do not understand me, probably because your
ideal is too high. You employed an illustration in the narrowest
meaning. Is heaven given only as a reward? Is not every true gift
an expression of something back of the gift, more than the gift?"

"Helen!"

"Yes, Hobart, in my wish to make you happier I am not bent on
unredeemed self-sacrifice. You have been the most skilful of
wooers."

"And you are the divinest of mysteries. How have I wooed you?"

"By not wooing at all, by taking a course which compelled my heart
to plead your cause, by giving unselfish devotion so unstintedly
that like the rain and dew of heaven, it has fostered a new life
in my heart, different from the old, yet sweet, real, and
precious. I have learned that I can be happier in making you
happy. Oh, I shall be no martyr. Am I inconstant because time and
your ministry have healed the old wound--because the steady warmth
and glow of your love has kindled mine?"

He regarded her with a gaze so rapt, so reverent, so expressive of
immeasurable gratitude that her eyes filled with tears. "I think
you do understand me," she whispered.

He kissed her hand in homage as he replied, "A joy like this is
almost as hard to comprehend at first as an equally great sorrow.
My garden teaches me to understand you. A perfect flower-stalk is
suddenly and rudely broken. Instead of dying, it eventually sends
out a little side-shoot which gives what bloom it can."

"And you will be content with what it can give?"

"I shall be glad with a happiness which almost terrifies me. Only
God knows how I have longed for this."

That evening the old banker scarcely ceased rubbing his hands in
general felicitation, while practical, housewifely Mrs. Kemble
already began to plan what she intended to do toward establishing
Helen in the adjoining cottage.

Now that Martine believed his great happiness possible, he was
eager for its consummation. At his request the 1st of December was
named as the wedding day. "The best that a fireside and evening
lamp ever suggested will then come true to me," ha urged. "Since
this can be, life is too short that it should not be soon."

Helen readily yielded. Indeed, they were all so absorbed in
planning for his happiness as to be oblivious of the rising storm.
When at last the girl went to her room, the wind sighed and wailed
so mournfully around the house as to produce a feeling of
depression and foreboding.




CHAPTER VII

YANKEE BLANK


The wild night storm which followed the most memorable day of his
life had no power to depress Martine. In the wavy flames and
glowing coals of his open fire he saw heavenly pictures of the
future. He drew his mother's low chair to the hearth, and his
kindled fancy placed Helen in it. Memory could so reproduce her
lovely and familiar features that her presence became almost a
reality. In a sense he watched her changing expression and heard
her low, mellow tones. The truth that both would express an
affection akin to his own grew upon his consciousness like the
incoming of a sun-lighted tide. The darkness and storm without
became only the background of his pictures, enhancing every
prophetic representation. The night passed in ecstatic waking
dreams of all that the word "home" suggests when a woman, loved as
he loved Helen, was its architect.

The days and weeks which followed were filled with divine
enchantment; the prosaic world was transfigured; the intricacies
of the law were luminous with the sheen of gold, becoming the
quartz veins from which he would mine wealth for Helen; the plants
in his little rose-house were cared for with caressing tenderness
because they gave buds which would be worn over the heart now
throbbing for him. Never did mortal know such unalloyed happiness
as blessed Martine, as he became daily more convinced that Helen
was not giving herself to him merely from the promptings of
compassion.

At times, when she did not know he was listening, he heard her
low, sweet laugh; and it had a joyous ring and melody which
repeated itself like a haunting refrain of music. He would say
smilingly, "It is circumstantial evidence, equivalent to direct
proof."

Helen and her mother almost took possession of his house while he
was absent at his office, refurnishing and transforming it, yet
retaining with reverent memory what was essentially associated
with Mrs. Martine. The changing aspects of the house did not
banish the old sense of familiarity, but were rather like the
apple-tree in the corner of the garden when budding into new
foliage and flower. The banker's purse was ever open for all this
renovation, but Martine jealously persisted in his resolve to meet
every expense himself. Witnessing his gladness and satisfaction,
they let him have his way, he meanwhile exulting over Helen's
absorbed interest in the adornment of her future home.

The entire village had a friendly concern in the approaching
wedding; and the aged gossips never tired of saying, "I told you
so," believing that they understood precisely how it had all come
about. Even Mrs. Nichol aquiesced with a few deep sighs, assuring
herself, "I suppose it's natural. I'd rather it was Bart Martine
than anybody else."

A few days before the 1st of December, Martine received a telegram
from an aged uncle residing in a distant State. It conveyed a
request hard to comply with, yet he did not see how it could be
evaded. The despatch was delivered in the evening while he was at
the Kembles', and its effect upon the little group was like a bolt
out of a clear sky. It ran:

"Your cousin dangerously ill at----Hospital, Washington. Go to him
at once, if possible, and telegraph me to come, if necessary."

Hobart explained that this cousin had remained in the army from
choice, and that his father, old and feeble, naturally shrank from
a journey to which he was scarcely equal. "My hospital
experience," he concluded, "leads him to think that I am just the
one to go, especially as I can get there much sooner than he. I
suppose he is right. Indeed, I do not know of any one else whom he
could call upon. It certainly is a very painful duty at this
time."

"I can't endure to think of it," Helen exclaimed.

"It's a clear question of conscience, Helen," he replied gently.
"Many years have passed since I saw this cousin, yet he, and still
more strongly his father, have the claims of kinship. If anything
should happen which my presence could avert, you know we should
both feel bad. It would be a cloud upon our happiness. If this
request had come before you had changed everything for me, you
know I would have gone without a moment's hesitation. Very
gratitude should make me more ready for duty;" yet he signed
deeply.

"But it may delay the wedding, for which the invitations have gone
out," protested Mrs. Kemble.

"Possibly it may, if my cousin's life is in danger." Then,
brightening up, he added: "Perhaps I shall find that I can leave
him in good care for a short time, and then we can go to
Washington on our wedding trip. I would like to gain associations
with that city different from those I now have."

"Come now," said the banker, hopefully, "if we must face this
thing, we must. The probabilities are that it will turn out as
Hobart says. At worst it can only be a sad interruption and
episode. Hobart will be better satisfied in the end if he does
what he now thinks his duty."

"Yours is the right view," assented the young man, firmly. "I
shall take the midnight train, and telegraph as soon as I have
seen my cousin and the hospital surgeon."

He went home and hastily made his preparations; then, with valise
in hand, returned to the Kembles'. The old people bade him
Godspeed on his journey, and considerately left him with his
affianced.

"Hobart," Helen entreated, as they were parting, "be more than
ordinarily prudent. Do not take any risks, even the most trivial,
unless you feel you must. Perhaps I'm weak and foolish, but I'm
possessed with a strange, nervous dread. This sudden call of duty--for
so I suppose I must look upon it--seems so inopportune;" and she hid
her tears on his shoulder.

"You are taking it much too seriously, darling," he said, gently
drawing her closer to him.

"Yes, my reason tells me that I am. You are only going on a brief
journey, facing nothing that can be called danger. Yet I speak as
I feel--I cannot help feeling. Give me glad reassurance by
returning quickly and safely. Then hereafter I will laugh at
forebodings."

"There, you need not wait till I reach Washington. You shall hear
from me in the morning, and I will also telegraph when I have
opportunity on my journey."

"Please do so, and remember that I could not endure to have my
life impoverished again."

Late the following evening, Martine inquired his way to the
bedside of his cousin, and was glad indeed to find him
convalescent. His own experienced eyes, together with the
statement of the sick man and wardmaster, convinced him that the
danger point was well passed. In immense relief of mind he said
cheerily, "I will watch to-night"; and so it was arranged.

His cousin, soothed and hushed in his desire to talk, soon dropped
into quiet slumber, while Martine's thronging thoughts banished
the sense of drowsiness. A shaded lamp burned near, making a
circle of light and leaving the rest of the ward dim and shadowy.
The scene was very familiar, and it was an easy effort for his
imagination to place in the adjoining cots the patients with whom,
months before, he had fought the winning or losing battle of life.
While memory sometimes went back compassionately to those
sufferers, his thoughts dwelt chiefly upon the near future, with
its certainty of happiness--a happiness doubly appreciated because
his renewed experience in the old conditions of his life made the
home which awaited him all the sweeter from contrast. He could
scarcely believe that he was the same man who in places like this
had sought to forget the pain of bereavement and of denial of his
dearest wish--he who in the morning would telegraph Helen that the
wedding need not even be postponed, or any change made in their
plans.

The hours were passing almost unnoted, when a patient beyond the
circle of light feebly called for water. Almost mechanically
Hobart rose to get it, when a man wearing carpet slippers and an
old dressing-gown shuffled noiselessly into view.

"Captain Nichol!" gasped Martine, sinking back, faint and
trembling, in his chair.

The man paid no attention, but passed through the circle of light
to the patient, gave him a drink, and turned. Martine stared with
the paralysis of one looking upon an apparition.

When the figure was opposite to him, he again ejaculated hoarsely,
"Captain Nichol!"

The form in slippers and gray ghostly dressing-gown turned sleepy
eyes upon him without the slightest sign of recognition, passed
on, and disappeared among the shadows near the wardmaster's room.

A blending of relief and fearful doubt agitated Martine. He knew
he had been wide awake and in the possession of every faculty--
that his imagination had been playing him no tricks. He was not
even thinking of Nichol at the time; yet the impression that he
had looked upon and spoken to his old schoolmate, to Helen's dead
lover, had been as strong as it was instantaneous. When the man
had turned, there had been an unnatural expression, which in a
measure dispelled the illusion. After a moment of thought which
scorched his brain, he rose and followed the man's steps, and was
in time to see him rolling himself in his blanket on the cot
nearest the door. From violent agitation, Martine unconsciously
shook the figure outlined in the blanket roughly, as he asked,
"What's your name?"

"Yankee Blank, doggone yer! Kyant you wake a feller 'thout yankin'
'im out o' baid? What yer want?"

"Great God!" muttered Hobart, tottering back to his seat beside
his sleeping cousin, "was there ever such a horrible, mocking
suggestion of one man in another? Yankee Blank--what a name!
Southern accent and vernacular, yet Nichol's voice! Such
similarity combined with such dissimilarity is like a nightmare.
Of course it's not Nichol. He was killed nearly two years ago. I'd
be more than human if I could wish him back now; but never in my
life have I been so shocked and startled. This apparition must
account for itself in the morning."

But he could not wait till morning; he could not control himself
five minutes. He felt that he must banish that horrible semblance
of Nichol from his mind by convincing himself of its absurdity.

He waited a few moments in order to compose his nerves, and then
returned. The man had evidently gone to sleep.

"What a fool I am!" Martine again muttered. "Let the poor fellow
sleep. The fact that he doesn't know me is proof enough. The idea
of wanting any proof! I can investigate his case in the morning,
and, no doubt, in broad light that astonishing suggestion of
Nichol will disappear."

He was about to turn away when the patient who had called for
water groaned slightly. As if his ears were as sensitive to such
sounds as those of a mother who hears her child even when it
stirs, the man arose. Seeing Martine standing by him, he asked in
slight irritation, "What yer want? Why kyant yer say what yer want
en have done 'th it? Lemme 'tend ter that feller yander firs'. We
uns don't want no mo' stiffs;" and he shuffled with a peculiar,
noiseless tread to the patient whose case seemed on his mind.
Martine followed, his very hair rising at the well-remembered
tones, and the mysterious principle of identity again revealed
within the circle of light.

"This is simply horrible!" he groaned inwardly, "and I must have
that man account for himself instantly."

"Now I'll 'tend ter yer, but yer mout let a feller sleep when he
kin."

"Don't you know me?" faltered Martine, overpowered.

"Naw."

"Please tell me your real name, not your nickname."

"Ain' got no name 'cept Yankee Blank. What's the matter with yer,
anyhow?"

"Didn't you ever hear of Captain Nichol?"

"Reckon not. Mout have. I've nussed mo' cap'ins than I kin
reckerlect."

"Are you a hospital nurse?"

"Sorter 'spect I am. That's what I does, anyhow. Have you anything
agin it? Don't yer come 'ferin' round with me less yer a doctor,
astin' no end o' questions. Air you a new doctor?"

"My name is Hobart Martine," the speaker forced himself to say,
expecting fearfully a sign of recognition, for the impression that
it was Nichol grew upon him every moment, in spite of apparent
proof to the contrary.

"Hump! Hob't Ma'tine. Never yeared on yer. Ef yer want ter chin
mo' in the mawnin', I'll be yere."

"Wait a moment, Yan--"

"Yankee Blank, I tole yer."

"Well, here's a dollar for the trouble I'm making you," and
Martine's face flushed with shame at the act, so divided was his
impression about the man.

Yankee Blank took the money readily, grinned, and said, "Now I'll
chin till mawnin' ef yer wants hit."

"I won't keep you long. You remind me of--of--well, of Captain
Nichol."

"He must 'a' been a cur'ous chap. Folks all say I'm a cur'ous
chap."

"Won't you please tell me all that you can remember about
yourself?"

"'Tain't much. Short hoss soon curried. Allus ben in hospitals.
Had high ole jinks with a wound on my haid. Piece o' shell, they
sez, cut me yere," and he pointed to a scar across his forehead.
"That's what they tole me. Lor'! I couldn't mek much out o' the
gibberish I firs' year, en they sez I talked gibberish too. But I
soon got the hang o' the talk in the hospital. Well, ez I wuz
sayin', I've allus been in hospitals firs' one, then anuther. I
got well, en the sojers call me Yankee Blank en set me waitin' on
sick uns en the wounded. That's what I'm a-doin' now."

"You were in Southern hospitals?"

"I reckon. They called the place Richman."

"Why did you come here?"

"Kaze I wuz bro't yere. They said I was 'changed."

"Exchanged, wasn't it?"

"Reckon it was. Anyhow I wuz bro't yere with a lot o' sick
fellers. I wuzn't sick. For a long time the doctors kep' a-
pesterin' me with questions, but they lemme 'lone now. I 'spected
you wuz a new doctor, en at it agin."

"Don't you remember the village of Alton?"

The man shook his head.

"Don't you--" and Martine's voice grew husky--"don't you remember
Helen Kemble?"

"A woman?"

"Yes."

"Never yeared on her. I only reckerlect people I've seen in
hospitals. Women come foolin' roun' some days, but Lor'! I kin
beat any on 'em teekin' keer o' the patients; en wen they dies, I
kin lay 'em out. You ast the wardmaster ef I kant lay out a stiff
with the best o' 'em."

"That will do. You can go to sleep now."

"All right, Doc. I call everybody doc who asts sech a lot o'
questions." He shuffled to his cot and was soon asleep.




CHAPTER VIII

"HOW CAN I?"


Martine sank into his chair again. Although the conversation had
been carried on in low tones, it was the voice of Nichol that he
had heard. Closer inspection of the slightly disfigured face
proved that, apart from the scar on the forehead, it was the
countenance of Nichol. A possible solution of the mystery was
beginning to force itself in Hobart's reluctant mind. When Nichol
had fallen in the Wilderness, the shock of his injury had rendered
him senseless and caused him to appear dead to the hasty scrutiny
of Sam and Jim Wetherby. They were terribly excited and had no
time for close examination. Nichol might have revived, have been
gathered up with the Confederate wounded, and sent to Richmond.
There was dire and tremendous confusion at that period, when
within the space of two or three days tens of thousands were
either killed or disabled. In a Southern hospital Nichol might
have recovered physical health while, from injury to the brain,
suffering complete eclipse of memory. In this case he would have
to begin life anew, like a child, and so would pick up the
vernacular and bearing of the enlisted men with whom he would
chiefly associate.

Because he remembered nothing and know nothing, he may at first
have been tolerated as a "cur'ous chap," then employed as he had
explained. He could take the place of a better man where men were
greatly needed.

This theory could solve the problem; and Martine's hospital
experience prepared his mind to understand what would be a
hopeless mystery to many. He was so fearfully excited that be
could not remain in the ward. The very proximity to this strange
being, who had virtually risen from the dead and appeared to him
of all others, was a sort of torture in itself.

What effect would this discovery have on his relations to Helen?
He dared not think yet he must think. Already the temptation of
his life was forming in his mind. His cousin was sleeping; and
with a wild impatience to escape, to get away from all his kind,
he stole noiselessly out into the midnight and deserted streets.
On, on he went, limping he knew not, cared not where, for his
passion and mental agony drove him hither and thither like a leaf
before a fitful gale.

"No one knows of this," he groaned. "I can still return and marry
Helen. But oh, what a secret to carry!"

Then his heart pleaded. "This is not the lover she lost--only a
horrible, mocking semblance. He has lost his own identity; he does
not even know himself--would not know her. Ah! I'm not sure of
that. I would be dead indeed if her dear features did not kindle
my eyes in recognition. It may be that the sight of her face is
the one thing essential to restore him. I feel this would be true
were it my case. But how can I give her up now? How can?--how can
I? Oh, this terrible journey! No wonder Helen had forebodings. She
loves me; she is mine. No one else has so good a right. We were to
be married only a few hours hence. Then she whom I've loved from
childhood would make my home a heaves on earth. And yet--and yet--
" Even in the darkness he buried his face in his hands, shuddered,
moaned, writhed, and grated his teeth in the torment of the
conflict.

Hour after hour he wavered, now on the point of yielding, then
stung by conscience into desperate uncertainty. The night was
cold, the howling wind would have chilled him at another time, but
during his struggle great drops of sweat often poured from his
face. Only the eye of God saw that battle, the hardest that was
fought and won during the war.

At last, when well out of the city, he lifted his agonized eyes
and saw the beautiful hues of morning tingeing the east.
Unconsciously, he repeated the sublime, creative words, "Let there
be light." It came to him. With the vanishing darkness, he
revolted finally against the thought of any shadows existing
between him and Helen. She should have all the light that he had,
and decide her own course. He had little hope that she would wed
him, even if she did not marry Nichol in his present condition--a
condition probably only temporary and amenable to skilful
treatment.

Wearily he dragged his lame foot back to a hotel in the populous
party of the city, and obtained food and wine, for he was terribly
exhausted. Next he telegraphed Mr. Kemble:

"Arrived last evening. The wedding will have to be postponed. Will
explain later."

"It's the best I can do now," he muttered. "Helen will think it is
all due to my cousin's illness." Then he returned to the hospital
and found his relative in a state of wonderment at his absence,
but refreshed from a good night's rest. Yankee Blank was nowhere
to be seen.

"Hobart," exclaimed his cousin, "you look ill--ten years older
than you did last night."

"You see me now by daylight," was the quiet reply. "I am not very
well."

"It's a perfect shame that I've been the cause of so much trouble,
especially when it wasn't necessary."

"Oh, my God!" thought Martine, "there was even no need of this
fatal journey." But his face had become grave and inscrutable, and
the plea of ill-health reconciled his cousin to the necessity of
immediate return. There was no good reason for his remaining, for
by a few additional arrangements his relative would do very well
and soon be able to take care of himself. Martine felt that he
could not jeopardize his hard-won victory by delay, which was as
torturing as the time intervening between a desperate surgical
operation and the knowledge that it is inevitable.

After seeing that his cousin made a good breakfast, he sought a
private interview with the wardmaster. He was able to extract but
little information about Yankee Blank more than the man had given
himself. "Doctors say he may regain his memory at any time, or it
may be a long while, and possibly never," was the conclusion.

"I think I know him," said Martine. "I will bring physician from
the city to consult this morning with the surgeon in charge."

"I'm glad to hear it," was the reply. "Something would have to be
done soon. He is just staying on here and making himself useful to
some extent."

When Martine re-entered the ward, Yankee Blank appeared, grinned,
and said affably, "Howdy." Alas! a forlorn, miserable hope that he
might have been mistaken was banished from Hobart's mind now that
he saw Nichol in the clear light of day. The scar across his
forehead and a change of expression, denoting the eclipse of fine,
cultivated manhood, could not disguise the unmistakable features.
There was nothing to be done but carry out as quickly as possible
the purpose which had cost him so dear.

He first telegraphed his uncle to dismiss further anxiety, and
that his son would soon be able to visit him. Then the heavy-
hearted man sought a physician whom he knew well by reputation.

The consultation was held, and Nichol (as he may be more properly
named hereafter) was closely questioned and carefully examined.
The result merely confirmed previous impressions. It was
explained, as far as explanation can be given of the mysterious
functions of the brain, that either the concussion of the
exploding shell or the wound from a flying fragment had paralyzed
the organ of memory. When such paralysis would cease, if ever, no
one could tell. The power to recall everything might return at any
moment or it might be delayed indefinitely. A shock, a familiar
face, might supply the potency required, or restoration come
through the slow, unseen processes of nature. Martine believed
that Helen's face and voice would accomplish everything.

He was well known to the medical authorities and had no difficulty
in securing belief that he had identified Nichol. He also promised
that abundant additional proof should be sent on from Alton, such
certainty being necessary to secure the officer's back pay and
proper discharge from the service. The surgeon then addressed the
man so strangely disabled, "You know I'm in charge of this
hospital?"

"I reckon," replied Nichol, anxiously, for the brief experience
which he could recall had taught him that the authority of the
surgeon-in-chief was autocratic.

"Well, first, you must give up the name of Yankee Blank. Your name
hereafter is Captain Nichol."

"All right, Doctor. I'll be a gin'ral ef you sez so."

"Very well; remember your name is Captain Nichol. Next, you must
obey this man and go with him. You must do just what he says in
all respects. His name is Mr. Hobart Martine."

"Yes, he tole me las' night, Hob't Ma'tine. He took on mighty
cur'ous after seein' me."

"Do you understand that you are to mind, to obey him in all
respects just as you have obeyed me?"

"I reckon. Will he tek me to anuther hospital?"

"He will take you where you will be well cared for and treated
kindly." Having written Nichol's discharge from the hospital, the
surgeon turned to other duties.

Martine informed his cousin, as far as it was essential, of the
discovery he had made and of the duties which it imposed, then
took his leave. Nichol readily accompanied him, and with the
exception of a tendency to irritation at little things, exhibited
much of the good-natured docility of a child. Martine took him to
a hotel, saw that he had a bath, put him in the hands of a barber,
and then sent for a clothier. When dressed in clean linen and a
dark civilian suit, the appearance of the man was greatly
improved. Hobart had set his teeth, and would entertain no thought
of compromise with his conscience. He would do by Nichol as he
would wish to be done by if their relations were reversed. Helen
should receive no greater shock than was inevitable, nor should
Nichol lose the advantage of appearing before her in the outward
aspect of a gentleman.

Martine then planned his departure so that he would arrive at
Alton in the evening--the evening of the day on which he was to
have been married. He felt that Mr. Kemble should see Nichol first
and hear the strange story; also that the father must break the
news to the daughter, for he could not. It was a terrible journey
to the poor fellow, for during the long hours of inaction he was
compelled to face the probable results of his discovery. The sight
of Nichol and his manner was intolerable; and in addition, he was
almost as much care as a child. Everything struck him as new and
strange, and he was disposed to ask numberless questions. His
vernacular, his alternations of amusement and irritation, and the
oddity of his ignorance concerning things which should be simple
or familiar to a grown man, attracted the attention of his fellow-
passengers. It was with difficulty that Martine, by his stern, sad
face and a cold, repelling manner, kept curiosity from intruding
at every point.

At last, with heart beating thickly, he saw the lights of Alton
gleaming in the distance. It was a train not often used by the
villagers, and fortunately no one had entered the car who knew
him; even the conductor was a stranger. Alighting at the depot, he
hastily took a carriage, and with his charge was driven to the
private entrance of the hotel. Having given the hackman an extra
dollar not to mention his arrival till morning, he took Nichol
into the dimly-lighted and deserted parlor and sent for the well-
known landlord. Mr. Jackson, a bustling little man, who, between
the gossip of the place and his few guests, never seemed to have a
moment's quiet, soon entered. "Why, Mr. Martine," he exclaimed,
"we wasn't a-lookin' for you yet. News got around somehow that
your cousin was dyin' in Washington and that your weddin' was put
off too--Why! you look like a ghost, even in this light," and he
turned up the lamp.

Martine had told Nichol to stand by a window with his back to the
door. He now turned the key, pulled down the curtain, then drew
his charge forward where the light fell clear upon his face, and
asked, "Jackson, who is that?"

The landlord stared, his jaw fell from sheer astonishment, as he
faltered, "Captain Nichol!"

"Yes," said Nichol, with a pleased grin, "that's my new name! Jes'
got it, like this new suit o' clo's, bes' I ever had, doggoned ef
they ain't. My old name was Yankee Blank."

"Great Scott!" ejaculated Jackson; "is he crazy?"

"Look yere," cried Nichol; "don' yer call me crazy or I'll light
on yer so yer won't fergit it."

"There, there!" said Martine, soothingly, "Mr. Jackson doesn't
mean any harm. He's only surprised to see you home again."

"Is this home? What's home?"

"It's the town where you were brought up. We'll make you
understand about it all before long. Now you shall have some
supper. Mr. Jackson is a warm friend of yours, and will see that
you have a good one."

"I reckon we'll get on ef he gives me plenty o' fodder. Bring it
toreckly, fer I'm hungry. Quit yer starin', kyant yer?" "Don't you
know me, Captain Nichol? Why, I--"

"Naw. Never seed ner yeared on yer. Did I ever nuss yer in a
hospital? I kyant reckerlect all on 'em. Get we uns some supper."

"That's the thing to do first, Jackson," added Martine, "Show us
upstairs to a private room and wait on us yourself. Please say
nothing of this till I give you permission."

They were soon established in a suitable apartment, in which a
fire was kindled. Nichol took a rocking-chair and acquiesced in
Martine's going out on the pretext of hastening supper.

The landlord received explanations which enabled him to co-operate
with Martine. "I could not," said the latter, "take him to his own
home without first preparing his family. Neither could I take him
to mine for several reasons."

"I can understand some of 'em, Mr. Martine. Why, great Scott! How
about your marriage, now that--"

"We won't discuss that subject. The one thing for you to keep in
mind is that Nichol lost his memory at the time of his wound. He
don't like to be stared at or thought strange. You must humor him
much as you would a child. Perhaps the sight of familiar faces and
scenes will restore him. Now copy this note in your handwriting
and send it to Mr. Kemble. Tell your messenger to be sure to put
it into the banker's hands and no other's," and he tore from his
note-book a leaf on which was pencilled the following words:

"MR. KEMBLE:

"DEAR SIR--A sick man at the hotel wishes to see you on important
business. Don't think it's bad news about Mr. Martine, because it
isn't. Please come at once and oblige, HENRY JACKSON."




CHAPTER IX

SHADOWS OF COMING EVENTS


This first day of winter, her fatal wedding-day, was a sad and
strange one to Helen Kemble. The sun was hidden by dark clouds,
yet no snow fell on the frozen ground. She had wakened in the
morning with a start, oppressed by a disagreeable yet forgotten
dream. Hastily dressing, she consoled herself with the hope of a
long letter from Martine, explaining everything and assuring her
of his welfare; but the early mail brought nothing. As the morning
advanced, a telegram from Washington, purposely delayed, merely
informed her that her affianced was well and that full information
was on its way.

"He has evidently found his cousin very low, and needing constant
care," she had sighingly remarked at dinner.

"Yes, Nellie," said the banker, cheerily, "but it is a comfort he
is well. No doubt you are right about his cousin, and it has
turned out as Hobart feared. In this case it is well he went, for
he would always have reproached himself if he had not. The evening
mail will probably make all clear."

"It has been so unfortunate!" complained Mrs. Kemble. "If it had
only happened a little earlier, or a little later! To have all
one's preparations upset and one's plans frustrated is
exasperating. Were it not for that journey, Helen would have been
married by this time. People come ostensibly to express sympathy,
but in reality to ask questions."

"I don't care about people," said Helen, "but the day has been so
different from what we expected that it's hard not to yield to a
presentiment of trouble. It is so dark and gloomy that we almost
need a lamp at midday."

"Well, well," cried hearty Mr. Kemble, "I'm not going to cross any
bridges till I come to them. That telegram from Hobart is all we
need, to date. I look at things as I do at a bank-bill. If its
face is all right, and the bill itself all right, that's enough.
You women-folks have such a lot of moods and tenses! Look at this
matter sensibly. Hobart was right in going. He's doing his duty,
and soon will be back with mind and conscience at rest. It isn't
as if he were ill himself."

"Yes, papa, that's just the difference; we women feel, and you men
reason. What you say, though, is a good wholesome antidote. I fear
I'm a little morbid to-day."

After dinner she and her mother slipped over to the adjoining
cottage, which had been made so pretty for her reception. While
Mrs. Kemble busied herself here and there, Helen kindled a fire on
the hearth of the sitting-room and sat down in the low chair which
she knew was designed for her. The belief that she would occupy it
daily and be at home, happy herself and, better far, making
another, to whom she owed so much, happy beyond even his fondest
hope, brought smiles to her face as she watched the flickering
blaze.

"Yes," she murmured, "I can make him happier even than he dreams.
I know him so well, his tastes, his habits, what he most enjoys,
that it will be an easy task to anticipate his wishes and enrich
his life. Then he has been such a faithful, devoted friend! He
shall learn that his example had not been lost on me."

At this moment the wind rose in such a long mournful, human-like
sigh about the house that she started up and almost shuddered.
When the evening mail came and brought no letter, she found it
hard indeed not to yield to deep depression. In vain her father
reasoned with her. "I know all you say sounds true to the ear,"
she said, "but not to my heart. I can't help it; but I am
oppressed with a nervous dread of some impending trouble."

They passed the early hours of the evening as best they could,
seeking to divert each other's thoughts. It had been long since
the kind old banker was so garrulous, and Helen resolved to reward
him by keeping up. Indeed, she shrank from retiring, feeling that
through the sleepless night she would be the prey of all sorts of
wretched fancies. Never once did her wildest thoughts suggest what
had happened, or warn her of the tempest soon to rage in her
breast.

Then came the late messenger with the landlord's copied note. She
snatched it from the bearer's hand before he could ring the bell,
for her straining ears had heard his step even on the gravel walk.
Tremblingly she tore open, the envelope in the hall without
looking at the address.

"Mr. Jackson said how I was to give it to your father," protested
the messenger.

"Well, well," responded Mr. Kemble, perturbed and anxious, "I'm
here. You can go unless there's an answer required.'

"Wasn't told nothin' 'bout one," growled the departing errand-boy.

"Give the note to me, Helen," said her father. "Why do you stare
at it so?"

She handed it to him without a word, but looked searchingly in his
face, and so did his wife, who had joined him.

"Why, this is rather strange," he said.

"I think it is," added Helen, emphatically.

Mrs. Kemble took the note and after a moment ejaculated: "Well,
thank the Lord! it isn't about Hobart."

"No, no," said the banker, almost irritably. "We've all worried
about Hobart till in danger of making fools of ourselves. As if
people never get sick and send for relatives, or as if letters
were never delayed! Why, bless me! haven't we heard to-day that he
was well? and hasn't Jackson, who knows more about other people's
business than his own, been considerate enough to say that his
request has nothing to do with Hobart? It is just as he says, some
one is sick and wants to arrange about money matters before
banking hours to-morrow. There, it isn't far. I'll soon be back."

"Let me go with you, father," pleaded Helen. "I can stay with Mrs.
Jackson or sit in the parlor till you are through."

"Oh, no, indeed."

"Papa, I AM going with you," said Helen, half-desperately. "I
don't believe I am so troubled for nothing. Perhaps it's a
merciful warning, and I may be of use to you."

"Oh, let her go, father," said his wife. "She had better be with
you than nervously worrying at home. I'll be better satisfied if
she is with you."

"Bundle up well, then, and come along, you silly little girl."

Nichol was too agreeably occupied with his supper to miss Hobart,
who watched in the darkened parlor for the coming of Mr. Kemble.
At last he saw the banker passing through the light streaming from
a shop-window, and also recognized Helen at his side. His ruse in
sending a note purporting to come from the landlord had evidently
failed; and here was a new complication. He was so exhausted in
body and mind that he felt he could not meet the girl now without
giving way utterly. Hastily returning to the room in which were
Nichol and Jackson, he summoned the latter and said,
"Unfortunately, Miss Kemble is coming with her father. Keep your
counsel; give me a light in another private room; detain the young
lady in the parlor, and then, bring Mr. Kemble to me."

"Ah, glad to see you, Mr. Kemble," said the landlord, a moment or
two later, with reassuring cheerfulness; "you too, Miss Helen.
That's right, take good care of the old gentleman. Yes, we have a
sick man here who wants to see you, sir. Miss Helen, take a seat
in the parlor by the fire while I turn up the lamp. Guess you
won't have to wait long."

"Now, Helen," said her father, smiling at her significantly, "can
you trust me out of your sight to go upstairs with Mr. Jackson?"

Much relieved, she smiled in return and sat down to wait.

"Who is this man, Jackson?" Mr. Kemble asked on the stairs.

"Well, sir, he said he would explain everything."

A moment later the banker needed not Martine's warning gesture
enjoining silence, for he was speechless with astonishment.

"Mr. Jackson," whispered Martine, "will you please remain in the
other room and look after your patient?"

"Hobart," faltered Mr. Kemble, "in the name of all that's strange,
what does this mean?"

"It is indeed very strange, sir. You must summon all your nerve
and fortitude to help us through. Never before were your strength
and good strong common-sense more needed. I've nearly reached the
end of my endurance. Please, sir, for Helen's sake, preserve your
self-control and the best use of all your faculties, for you must
now advise. Mr. Kemble, Captain Nichol is alive."

The banker sank into a chair and groaned. "This would have been
glad news to me once; I suppose it should be so now. But how, how
can this be?"

"Well, sir, as you say, it should be glad news; it will be to all
eventually. I am placed in a very hard position; but I have tried
to do my duty, and will."

"Why, Hobart, my boy, you look more worn than you did after your
illness. Merciful Heaven! what a complication!"

"A far worse one than you can even imagine. Captain Nichol
wouldn't know you. His memory was destroyed at the time of the
injury. All before that is gone utterly;" and Martine rapidly
narrated what is already known to the reader, concluding, "I'm
sorry Helen came with you, and I think you had better get her home
as soon as possible. I could not take him to my home for several
reasons, or at least I thought it best not to. It is my belief
that the sight of Helen, the tones of her voice, will restore him;
and I do not think it best for him to regain his consciousness of
the past in a dwelling prepared for Helen's reception as my wife.
Perhaps later on, too, you will understand why I cannot see him
there. I shall need a home, a refuge with no such associations.
Here, on this neutral ground, I thought we could consult, and if
necessary send for his parents to-night. I would have telegraphed
you, but the case is so complicated, so difficult. Helen must be
gradually prepared for the part she must take. Cost me what it
may, Nichol must have his chance. His memory may come back
instantly and he recall everything to the moment of his injury.
What could be more potent to effect this than the sight and voice
of Helen? No one here except Jackson is now aware of his
condition. If she can restore him, no one else, not even his
parents, need know anything about it, except in a general way. It
will save a world of disagreeable talk and distress. At any rate,
this course seemed the best I could hit upon in my distracted
condition."

"Well, Hobart, my poor young friend, you have been tried as by
fire," said Mr. Kemble, in a voice broken by sympathy; "God help
you and guide us all in this strange snarl! I feel that the first
thing to be done is to get Helen home. Such tidings as yours
should be broken to her in that refuge only."

"I agree with you most emphatically, Mr. Kemble. In the seclusion
of her own home, with none present except yourself and her mother,
she should face this thing and nerve herself to act her part, the
most important of all. If she cannot awaken Captain Nichol's
memory, it is hard to say what will, or when he will be restored."

"Possibly seeing me, so closely associated with her, may have the
same effect," faltered the banker.

"I doubt it; but we can try it. Don't expect me to speak while in
the hallway. Helen, no doubt, is on the alert, and I cannot meet
her to-night. I am just keeping up from sheer force of will. You
must try to realize it. This discovery will change everything for
me. Helen's old love will revive in all-absorbing power. I've
faced this in thought, but cannot in reality NOW--I simply CANNOT.
It would do no good. My presence would be an embarrassment to her,
and I taxed beyond mortal endurance. You may think me weak, but I
cannot help it. As soon as possible I must put you, and if you
think best, Captain Nichol's father, in charge of the situation.
Jackson can send for his father at once if you wish."

"I do wish it immediately. I can't see my way through this. I
would like Dr. Barnes' advice and presence also."

"I think it would be wise, sir. The point I wish to make is that I
have done about all that I now can in this affair. My further
presence is only another complication. At any rate, I must have a
respite--the privilege of going quietly to my own home as soon as
possible."

"Oh, Hobart, my heart aches for you; it just ACHES for you. You
have indeed been called upon to endure a hundredfold too much in
this strange affair. How it will all end God only knows. I
understand you sufficiently. Leave the matter to me now. We will
have Dr. Barnes and Mr. and Mrs. Nichol here as soon as can be. I
suppose I had better see the captain a few moments and then take
Helen home."

Martine led the way into the other apartment, where Nichol,
rendered good-natured by his supper and a cigar, was conversing
sociably with the landlord. Mr. Kemble fairly trembled as he came
forward, involuntarily expecting that the man so well known to him
must give some sign of recognition.

Nichol paid no heed to him. He had been too long accustomed to see
strangers coming and going to give them either thought or
attention.

"I say, Hob't Ma'tine," he began, "don' yer cuss me fer eatin' all
the supper. I 'lowed ter this Jackson, as yer call 'im, that yer'd
get a bite somewhar else, en he 'lowed yer would."

"All right, Nichol; I'm glad you had a good supper."

"I say, Jackson, this Ma'tine's a cur'ous chap--mo cur'ous than I
be, I reckon. He's been actin' cur'ous ever since he seed me in
the horspital. It's all cur'ous. 'Fore he come, doctors en folks
was trying ter fin' out 'bout me, en this Ma'tine 'lows he knows
all 'bout me. Ef he wuzn't so orful glum, he'd be a good chap
anuff, ef he is cur'ous. Hit's all a-changin' somehow, en yet'
tisn't. Awhile ago nobody knowd 'bout me, en they wuz allus a-
pesterin' of me with questions. En now Ma'tine en you 'low you
know 'bout me, yet you ast questions jes' the same. Like anuff
this man yere," pointing with his cigar to Mr. Kemble, who was
listening with a deeply-troubled face, "knows 'bout me too, yet
wants to ast questions. I don' keer ef I do say it, I had better
times with the Johnnies that call me Yankee Blank than I ever had
sence. Well, ole duffer [to Mr. Kemble], ast away and git yer load
off'n yer mind. I don't like glum faces roun' en folks jes'
nachelly bilin' over with questions."

"No, Captain Nichol," said the banker, gravely and sadly, "I've no
questions to ask. Good-by for the present."

Nichol nodded a careless dismissal and resumed his reminiscences
with Jackson, whose eager curiosity and readiness to laugh were
much more to his mind.

Following the noise made by closing the door, Helen's voice rang
up from the hall below, "Papa!"

"Yes, I'm coming, dear," he tried to answer cheerily. Then he
wrung Martine's hand and whispered, "Send for Dr. Barnes. God
knows you should have relief. Tell Jackson also to have a carriage
go for Mr. Nichol at once. After the doctor comes you may leave
all in our hands. Good-by."

Martine heard the rustle of a lady's dress and retired
precipitately.




CHAPTER X

"YOU CANNOT UNDERSTAND"


With an affectation of briskness he was far from feeling, Mr.
Kemble came down the stairs and joined his daughter in the hall.
He had taken pains to draw his hat well over his eyes,
anticipating and dreading her keen scrutiny, but, strange to say,
his troubled demeanor passed unnoticed. In the interval of waiting
Helen's thoughts had taken a new turn. "Well, papa," she began, as
they passed into the street, "I am curious to know about the sick
man. You stayed an age, but all the same I'm glad I came with you.
Forebodings, presentiments, and all that kind of thing seemed
absurd the moment I saw Jackson's keen, mousing little visage. His
very voice is like a ray of garish light entering a dusky, haunted
room. Things suggesting ghosts and hobgoblins become ridiculously
prosaic, and you are ashamed of yourself and your fears."

"Yes, yes," replied Mr. Kemble, yielding to irritation in his deep
perplexity, "the more matter-of-fact we are the better we're off.
I suppose the best thing to do is just to face what happens and
try to be brave."

"Well, papa, what's happened to annoy you to-night? Is this sick
man going to make you trouble?"

"Like enough. I hope not. At any rate, he has claims which I must
meet."

"Don't you think you can meet them?" was her next anxious query,
her mind reverting to some financial obligation.

"We'll see. You and mother'll have to help me out, I guess. I'll
tell you both when we get home;" and his sigh was so deep as to be
almost a groan.

"Papa," said Helen, earnestly pressing his arm, "don't worry.
Mamma and I will stand by you; so will Hobart. He is the last one
in the world to desert one in any kind of trouble."

"I know that, no one better; but I fear he'll be in deeper trouble
than any of us. The exasperating thing is that there should be any
trouble at all. If it had only happened before--well, well, I
can't talk here in the street. As you say, you must stand by me,
and I'll do the best I can by you and all concerned."

"Oh, papa, there was good cause for my foreboding."

"Well, yes, and no. I don't know. I'm at my wits' end. If you'll
be brave and sensible, you can probably do more than any of us."

"Papa, papa, something IS the matter with Hobart," and she drew
him hastily into the house, which they had now reached.

Mrs. Kemble met them at the door. Alarmed at her husband's
troubled face, she exclaimed anxiously, "Who is this man? What did
he want?"

"Come now, mother, give me a chance to get my breath. We'll close
the doors, sit down, and talk it all over."

Mrs. Kemble and her daughter exchanged an apprehensive glance and
followed with the air of being prepared for the worst.

The banker sat down and wiped the perspiration from his brow, then
looked dubiously at the deeply anxious faces turned toward him.
"Well," he said, "I'm going to tell you everything as far as I
understand it. Now I want to see if you two can't listen calmly
and quietly and not give way to useless feeling. There's much to
be done, and you especially, Helen, must be in the right condition
to do it."

"Oh, papa, why torture me so? Something HAS happened to Hobart. I
can't endure this suspense."

"Something has happened to us all," replied her father, gravely.
"Hobart has acted like a hero, like a saint; so must you. He is as
well and able to go about as you are. I've seen him and talked
with him."

"He saw you and not me?" cried the girl, starting up.

"Helen, I entreat, I command you to be composed and listen
patiently. Don't you know him well enough to be sure he had good
reasons--"

"I can't imagine a reason," was the passionate reply, as she paced
the floor. "What reason could keep me from him? Merciful Heaven!
father, have you forgotten that I was to marry him to-day? Well,"
she added hoarsely, standing before him with hands clinched in her
effort at self-restraint, "the reason?"

"Poor fellow! poor fellow! he has not forgotten it," groaned Mr.
Kemble. "Well, I might as well out with it. Suppose Captain Nichol
was not killed after all?"

Helen sank into a chair as if struck down as Nichol had been
himself. "What!" she whispered; and her face was white indeed.

Mrs. Kemble rushed to her husband, demanding, "Do you mean to tell
us that Captain Nichol is alive?"

"Yes; that's just the question we've got to face."

"It brings up another question," replied his wife, sternly. "If
he's been alive all this time, why did he not let us know? As far
as I can make out, Hobart has found him in Washington--"

"Helen," cried her father to the trembling girl, "for Heaven's
sake, be calm!"

"He's alive, ALIVE!" she answered, as if no other thought could
exist in her mind. Her eyes were kindling, the color coming into
her face, and her bosom throbbed quickly as if her heart would
burst its bonds. Suddenly she rushed to her father, exclaiming,
"He was the sick man. Oh, why did you not let me see him?"

"Well, well!" ejaculated Mr. Kemble, "Hobart was right, poor
fellow! Yes, Helen, Captain Nichol is the sick man, not
dangerously ill, however. You are giving ample reason why you
should not see him yet; and I tell you plainly you can't see him
till you are just as composed as I am."

She burst into a joyous, half-hysterical laugh as she exclaimed,
"That's not asking much. I never saw you so moved, papa. Little
wonder! The dead is alive again! Oh, papa, papa, you don't
understand me at all! Could I hear such tidings composedly--I who
have wept so many long nights and days over his death? I must give
expression to overwhelming feeling here where it can do no harm,
but if I had seen him--when I do see him--ah! he'll receive no
harm from me."

"But, Helen, think of Hobart," cried Mrs. Kemble, in sharp
distress.

"Mother, mother, I cannot help it. Albert is alive, ALIVE! The old
feeling comes back like the breaking up of the fountains of the
great deep. You cannot know, cannot understand; Hobart will. I'm
sorry, SORRY for him; but he will understand. I thought Albert was
dead; I wanted to make Hobart happy. He was so good and kind and
deserving that I did love him in a sincere, quiet way, but not
with my first love, not as I loved Albert. I thought my love was
buried with him; but it has burst the grave as he has. Papa, papa,
let me go to him, now, NOW! You say he is sick; it is my place to
nurse him back to life. Who has a better right? Why do you not
bring him here?"

"Perhaps it will be best, since Helen feels so," said Mr. Kemble,
looking at his wife.

"Well, I don't know," she replied with a deep sigh. "We certainly
don't wish the public to be looking on any more than we can help.
He should be either here or at his own home."

"There's more reason for what you say than you think," Mr. Kemble
began.

"There, papa," interrupted Helen, "I'd be more or less than human
if I could take! this undreamed-of news quietly, I can see how
perplexed and troubled you've been, and how you've kindly tried to
prepare me for the tidings. You will find that I have strength of
mind to meet all that is required of me. It is all simpler to me
than to you, for in a matter of this kind the heart is the guide,
indeed, the only guide. Think! If Albert had come back months ago;
if Hobart had brought him back wounded and disabled--how would we
have acted? Only our belief in his death led to what has happened
since, and the fact of life changes everything back to--"

"Now, Helen, stop and listen to me," said her father, firmly. "In
one sense the crisis is over, and you've heard the news which I
scarcely knew how to break to you. You say you will have strength
of mind to meet what is required of you. I trust you may. But it's
time you understood the situation as far as I do. Mother's words
show she's off the track in her suspicion. Nichol is not to blame
in any sense. He is deserving of all sympathy, and yet--oh, dear,
it is such a complication!" and the old man groaned as he thought
of the personality who best knew himself as Yankee Blank. "The
fact is," he resumed to his breathless listeners, "Nichol is not
ill at all physically. His mind is affected--"

Mrs. Kemble sank back in her chair, and Helen uttered a cry of
dismay.

"Yes, his mind is affected peculiarly. He remembers nothing that
happened before he was wounded. You must realize this, Helen; you
must prepare yourself for it. His loss of memory is much more sad
than if he had lost an arm or a leg. He remembers only what he has
picked up since his injury."

"Then, then, he's not insane?" gasped Helen.

"No, no, I should say not," replied her father, dubiously; "yet
his words and manner produce much the same effect as if he were--
even a stronger effect."

"Oh, this is dreadful!" cried his wife.

"Dreadful indeed, but not hopeless, you know. Keep in mind doctors
say that his memory may come back at any time; and Hobart has the
belief that the sight and voice of Helen will bring it back."

"God bless Hobart," said Helen, with a deep breath, "and God help
him! His own love inspired that belief. He's right; I know he's
right."

"Well, perhaps he is. I don't know. I thought Nichol would
recognize me; but there wasn't a sign."

"Oh, papa," cried Helen, smiling through her tears, "there are
some things which even your experience and wisdom fail in. Albert
will know me. We have talked long enough; now let us act."

"You don't realize it all yet, Helen; you can't. You must remember
that Nichol regained consciousness in a Southern hospital. He has
learned to talk and act very much like such soldiers as would
associate with him."

"The fact that he's alive and that I now may restore him is
enough, papa."

"Well, I want Dr. Barnes present when you meet him."

"Certainly; at least within call."

"I must stipulate too," said Mrs. Kemble. "I don't wish the coming
scenes to take place in a hotel, and under the eyes of that
gossip, Jackson. I don't see why Hobart took him there."

"I do," said Mr. Kemble, standing up for his favorite. "Hobart has
already endured more than mortal man ought, yet he has been most
delicately considerate. No one but Jackson and Dr. Barnes know
about Nichol and his condition. I have also had Nichol's father
and mother sent for on my own responsibility, for they should take
their share of the matter. Hobart believes that Helen can restore
Nichol's memory. This would simplify everything and save many
painful impressions. You see, it's such an obscure trouble, and
there should be no ill-advised blundering in the matter. The
doctors in Washington told Hobart that a slight shock, or the
sight of an object that once had the strongest hold upon his
thoughts--well, you understand."

"Yes," said Helen, "I DO understand. Hobart is trying to give
Albert the very best chance. Albert wrote that his last earthly
thoughts would be of me. It is but natural that my presence should
kindle those thoughts again. It was like Hobart, who is almost
divine in his thoughtfulness of others, to wish to shield Albert
from the eyes of even his own father and mother until he could
know them, and know us all. He was only taken to the hotel that we
all might understand and be prepared to do our part. Papa, bring
Albert here and let his father and mother come here also. He
should be sacredly shielded in his infirmity, and give a every
chance to recover before being seen by others; and please, papa,
exact from Jackson a solemn promise not to tattle about Albert."

"Yes, yes; but we have first a duty to perform. Mother, please
prepare a little lunch, and put a glass of your old currant wine
on the tray. Hobart must not come to a cold, cheerless home. I'll
go and have his old servant up and ready to receive him."

"No, mamma, that is still my privilege," said Helen, with a rush,
of tears. "Oh, I'm so sorry, SORRY for him! but neither he nor I
can help or change what is, what's true."

When the tray was ready, she wrote and sealed these words:

"God bless you, Hobart; God reward you! You have made me feel to-
night that earth is too poor, and only heaven rich enough to
reward you.

"HELEN."




CHAPTER XI

MR. KEMBLE'S APPEAL


It often happens that the wife's disposition is an antidote to her
husband: and this was fortunately true of Mrs. Jackson. She was
neither curious nor gossiping, and with a quick instinct that
privacy was desired by Martine, gave at an early hour her orders
to close the house for the night. The few loungers, knowing that
she was autocratic, slouched off to other resorts. The man and
maids of all work were kept out of the way, while she and her
husband waited on their unexpected guests. After Mr. Kemble's
departure, the errand-boy was roused from his doze behind the
stove and seat for Dr. Barnes; then Jackson wrote another note at
Martine's dictation:

"MR. WILLIAM NICHOL:

"DEAR SIR--A relative of yours is sick at my house. He came on the
evening train. You and your wife had better come at once in the
carriage."

Martine retired to the room in which he had seen Mr. Kemble, that
he might compose himself before meeting the physician. The sound
of Helen's voice, the mere proximity of the girl who at this hour
was to have been his wife had not "old chaos" come again for him,
were by no means "straws" in their final and crushing weight.
Motionless, yet with mind verging on distraction, he sat in the
cold, dimly lighted room until aroused by the voice of Dr. Barnes.

"Why, Hobart!" cried his old friend, starting at the bloodshot
eyes and pallid face of the young man, "what is the matter? You
need me, sure enough, but why on earth are you shivering in this
cold room at the hotel?"

Martine again said to Jackson: "Don't leave him," and closed the
door. Then, to the physician: "Dr. Barnes, I am ill and worn-out.
I know it only too well. You must listen carefully while I in
brief tell you why you were sent for; then you and others must
take charge and act as you think best. I'm going home. I must have
rest and a respite. I must be by myself;" and he rapidly began to
sketch his experiences in Washington.

"Hold!" said the sensible old doctor, who indulged in only a few
strong exclamations of surprise, which did not interrupt the
speaker, "hold! You say you left the ward to think it over, after
being convinced that you had discovered Nichol. Did you think it
over quietly?"

"Quietly!" repeated Martine, with intense bitterness. "Would a
man, not a mummy, think over such a thing quietly? Judge me as you
please, but I was tempted as I believe never man was before. I
fought the Devil till morning."

"I thought as much," said the doctor, grasping Martine's hand,
then slipping a finger on his pulse. "You fought on foot too,
didn't you?"

"Yes, I walked the streets as if demented."

"Of course. That in part accounts for your exhaustion. Have you
slept much since?"

"Oh, Doctor, let me get through and go home!"

"No, Hobart, you can't get through with me till I am with you. My
dear fellow, do you think that I don't understand and sympathize
with you? There's no reason why you should virtually risk your
life for Captain Nichol again. Take this dose of quinine at once,
and then proceed. I can catch on rapidly. First answer, how much
have you slept since?"

"The idea of sleep! You can remedy this, Doctor, after my part in
this affair is over. I must finish now. Helen may return, and I
cannot meet her, nor am I equal to seeing Mr. and Mrs. Nichol. My
head feels queer, but I'll get through somehow, if the strain is
not kept up too long;" and he finished in outline his story. In
conclusion he said, "You will understand that you are now to have
charge of Nichol. He is prepared by his experience to obey you,
for he has always been in hospitals, where the surgeon's will is
law. Except with physicians, he has a sort of rough waywardness,
learned from the soldiers."

"Yes, I understand sufficiently now to manage. You put him in my
charge, then go home, and I'll visit you as soon as I can."

"One word more, Doctor. As far as you think best, enjoin reticence
on Jackson. If the sight of Helen restores Nichol, as I believe it
will, little need ever be said about his present condition.
Jackson would not dare to disobey a physician's injunction."

"Don't you dare disobey them, either. I'll manage him too. Come."

Nichol had slept a good deal during the latter part of his
journey, and now was inclined to wakefulness--a tendency much
increased by his habit of waiting on hospital patients at night.
In the eager and curious Jackson he had a companion to his mind,
who stimulated in him a certain child-like vanity.

"Hello, Ma'tine," he said, "ye're gittin' tired o' me, I reckon,
ye're off so much. I don't keer. This yere Jackson's a lively
cuss, en I 'low we'll chin till mawnin'."

"Yes, Nichol, Mr. Jackson is a good friend of yours; and here is
another man who is more than a friend. You remember what the
surgeon at the hospital said to you?"

"I reckon," replied Nichol, anxiously. "Hain't I minded yer
tetotally?"

"Yes, you have done very well indeed--remarkably well, since you
knew I was not a doctor. Now this man is a doctor--the doctor I
was to bring you to. You won't have to mind me any more, but you
must mind this man, Dr. Barnes, in all respects, just as you did
the doctors in the hospitals. As long as you obey him carefully he
will be very good to you."

"Oh, I'll mind, Doctor," said Nichol, rising and assuming the
respectful attitude of a hospital nurse. "We uns wuz soon larned
that't wuzn't healthy to go agin the doctor. When I wuz Yankee
Blank, 'fo' I got ter be cap'n, I forgot ter give a Johnny a doze
o' med'cine, en I'm doggoned ef the doctor didn't mek me tek it
myse'f. Gee wiz! sech a time ez I had! Hain't give the doctors no
trouble sence."

"All right, Captain Nichol," said Dr. Barnes, quietly, "I
understand my duties, and I see that you understand yours. As you
say, doctors must be obeyed, and I already see that you won't make
me or yourself any trouble. Good-night, Hobart, I'm in charge
now."

"Good-night, Doctor. Mr. Jackson, I'm sure you will carry out Dr.
Barnes' wishes implicitly."

"Yer'd better, Jackson," said Nichol, giving him a wink. "A doctor
kin give yer high ole jinks ef ye're not keerful."

Martine now obeyed the instinct often so powerful in the human
breast as well as in dumb animals, and sought the covert, the
refuge of his home, caring little whether he was to live or die.
When he saw the lighted windows of Mr. Kemble's residence, he
moaned as if in physical pain. A sudden and immeasurable longing
to see, to speak with Helen once before she was again irrevocably
committed to Nichol, possessed him. He even went to her gate to
carry out his impulse, then curbed himself and returned resolutely
to his dwelling. As soon as his step was on the porch, the door
opened and Mr. Kemble gave him the warm grasp of friendship.
Without a word, the two men entered the sitting-room, sat down by
the ruddy fire, and looked at each other, Martine with intense,
questioning anxiety in his haggard face. The banker nodded gravely
as he said, "Yes, she knows."

"It's as I said it would be?" Martine added huskily, after a
moment or two.

"Well, my friend, she said you would understand her better than
any one else. She wrote you this note."

Martine's hands so trembled that he could scarcely break the seal.
He sat looking at the tear-blurred words some little time, and
grew evidently calmer, then faltered, "Yes, it's well to remember
God at such a time. He has laid heavy burdens upon me. He is
responsible for them, not I. If I break, He also will be
responsible."

"Hobart," said Mr. Kemble, earnestly, "you must not break under
this, for our sake as well as your own. I have the presentiment
that we shall all need you yet, my poor girl perhaps most of all.
She doesn't, she can't realize it. Now, the dead is alive again.
Old girlish impulses and feelings are asserting themselves. As is
natural, she is deeply excited; but this tidal wave of feeling
will pass, and then she will have to face both the past and
future. I know her well enough to be sure she could never be happy
if this thing wrecked you. And then, Hobart," and the old man sank
his voice to a whisper, "suppose--suppose Nichol continues the
same."

"He cannot," cried Martine, almost desperately. "Oh, Mr. Kemble,
don't suggest any hope for me. My heart tells me there is none,
that there should not be any. No, she loved him as I have loved
her from childhood. She is right. I do understand her so well that
I know what the future will be."

"Well," said Mr. Kemble, firmly, as he rose, "she shall never
marry him as he is, with my consent. I don't feel your confidence
about Helen's power to restore him. I tell you, Hobart, I'm in
sore straits. Helen is the apple of my eye. She is the treasure of
our old age. God knows I remember what you have done for her and
for us in the past; and I feel that we shall need you in the
future. You've become like a son to mother and me, and you must
stand by us still. Our need will keep you up and rally you better
than all Dr. Barnes' medicine. I know you well enough to know
that. But take the medicine all the same; and above all things,
don't give way to anything like recklessness and despair. As you
say, God has imposed the burden. Let him give you the strength to
bear it, and other people's burdens too, as you have in the past.
I must go now. Don't fail me."

Wise old Mr. Kemble had indeed proved the better physician. His
misgivings, fears, and needs, combined with his honest affection,
had checked the cold, bitter flood of despair which had been
overwhelming Martine. The morbid impression that he would be only
another complication, and of necessity an embarrassment to Helen
and her family, was in a measure removed. Mere words of general
condolence would not have helped him; an appeal like that to the
exhausted soldier, and the thought that the battle for him was not
yet over, stirred the deep springs of his nature and slowly
kindled the purpose to rally and be ready. He rose, ate a little
of the food, drank the wine, then looked around the beautiful
apartment prepared for her who was to have been his wife, "I have
grown weak and reckless," he said. "I ought to have known her well
enough--I do know her so well--as to be sure that I would cloud
her happiness if this thing destroyed me."




CHAPTER XII

"YOU MUST REMEMBER"


Mr. And Mrs. Nichol wonderingly yet promptly complied with the
request for their presence, meantime casting about in their minds
as to the identity of the relative who had summoned them so
unexpected. Mr. Kemble arrived at the hotel at about the same
moment as they did, and Jackson was instructed to keep the
carriage in waiting. "It was I who sent for you and your wife,"
said the banker. "Mr. Martine, if possible, would have given you
cause for a great joy only; but I fear it must be tempered with an
anxiety which I trust will not be long continued;" and he led the
way into the parlor.

"Is it--can it be about Albert?" asked Mrs. Nichols trembling, and
sinking into a chair.

"Yes, Mrs. Nichol. Try to keep your fortitude, for perhaps his
welfare depends upon it."

"Oh, God be praised! The hope of this never wholly left me,
because they didn't find his body."

Dr. Barnes came down at once, and with Mr. Kemble tried to soothe
the strong emotions of the parents, while at the same time
enlightening them as to their son's discovery and condition.

"Well," said Mr. Nichol, in strong emphasis; "Hobart Martine is
one of a million."

"I think he ought to have brought Albert right to me first," Mrs.
Nichol added, shaking her head and wiping her eyes. "After all, a
mother's claim--"

"My dear Mrs. Nichol," interrupted Dr. Barnes, "there was no
thought of undervaluing your claim on the part of our friend
Hobart. He has taken what he believed, and what physicians led him
to believe, was the best course to restore your son. Besides, Mr.
Martine is a very sick man. Even now he needs my attention more
than Captain Nichol. You must realize that he was to have married
Miss Kemble to-day; yet he brings back your son, sends for Mr.
Kemble in order that his daughter, as soon as she can realize the
strange truth, may exert her power. He himself has not seen the
girl who was to have been his bride."

"Wife, wife," said Mr. Nichol, brokingly, "no mortal man could do
more for us than Hobart Martine, God bless him!"

"Mrs. Nichol," began Mr. Kemble, "my wife and Helen both unite in
the request that you and your husband bring your son at once to
our house; perhaps you would rather meet him in the privacy--"

"Oh, no, no!" she cried, "I cannot wait. Please do not think I am
insensible to all this well-meant kindness; but a mother's heart
cannot wait. He'll know ME--me who bore him and carried him on my
breast."

"Mrs. Nichol, you shall see him at once," said the doctor. "I hope
it will be as you say; but I'm compelled to tell you that you may
be disappointed. There's no certainty that this trouble will pass
away at once under any one's influence. You and your husband come
with me. Mr. Kemble, I will send Jackson down, and so secure the
privacy which you would kindly provide. I will be present, for I
may be needed."

He led the way, the mother following with the impetuosity and
abandon of maternal love, and the father with stronger and
stranger emotions than he had ever known, but restrained in a
manner natural to a quiet, reticent man. They were about to greet
one on whom they had once centred their chief hopes and affection,
yet long mourned as dead. It is hard to imagine the wild tumult of
their feelings. Not merely by words, but chiefly by impulse,
immediate action, could they reveal how profoundly they were
moved.

With kindly intention, as he opened the door of the apartment, the
doctor began, "Mr. Jackson, please leave us a few--"

Mrs. Nichol saw her son and rushed upon him, crying, "Albert,
Albert!" It was enough at that moment that she recognized him; and
the thought that he would not recognize her was banished. With an
intuition of heart beyond all reasoning, she felt that he who had
drawn his life from her must know her and respond to nature's
first strong tie.

In surprise, Nichol had risen, then was embarrassed to find an
elderly woman sobbing on his breast and addressing him in broken,
endearing words by a name utterly unfamiliar. He looked
wonderingly at his father, who stood near, trembling and regarding
him through tear-dimmed eyes with an affectionate interest,
impressive even to his limited perceptions.

"Doctor," he began over his mother's head, "what in thunder does
all this here mean? Me 'n' Jackson was chinnin' comf't'bly, when
sud'n you uns let loose on me two crazy old parties I never seed
ner yeared on. Never had folks go on so 'bout me befo'. Beats even
that Hob't Ma'tine," and he showed signs of rising irritation.

"Albert, Albert!" almost shrieked Mrs. Nichol, "don't you know
me--ME, your own mother?"

"Naw."

At the half-indignant, incredulous tone, yet more than all at the
strange accent and form of this negative, the poor woman was
almost beside herself. "Merciful God!" she cried, "this cannot
be;" and she sank into a chair, sobbing almost hysterically.

For reasons of his own, Dr. Barnes did not interfere. Nature in
powerful manifestations was actuating the parents; and he decided,
now that things had gone so far, to let the entire energy of
uncurbed emotion, combined with all the mysterious affinity of the
closest kinship, exert its influence on the clogged brain of his
patient.

For a few moments Mrs. Nichol was too greatly overcome to
comprehend anything clearly; her husband, on the other hand, was
simply wrought up to his highest capacity for action. His old
instinct of authority returned, and he seized his son's hand and
began, "Now, see here, Albert, you were wounded in your head--"

"Yes, right yere," interrupted Nichol, pointing to his scar. "I
knows all 'bout that, but I don't like these goin's on, ez ef I
wuz a nachel-bawn fool, en had ter bleve all folks sez. I've been
taken in too often. When I wuz with the Johnnies they'd say ter
me, 'Yankee Blank, see that ar critter? That's a elephant.' When
I'd call it a elephant, they'd larf an' larf till I flattened out
one feller's nose. I dunno nothin' 'bout elephants; but the
critter they pinted at wuz a cow. Then one day they set me ter
scrubbin' a nigger to mek 'im white, en all sech doin's, till the
head-doctor stopped the hull blamed nonsense. S'pose I be a
cur'ous chap. I ain't a nachel-bawn ijit. When folks begin ter go
on, en do en say things I kyant see through, then I stands off en
sez, 'Lemme 'lone.' The hospital doctors wouldn't 'low any foolin'
with me 't all."

"I'm not allowing any fooling with you," said Dr. Barnes, firmly.
"I wish you to listen to that man and woman, and believe all they
say. The hospital doctors would give you the same orders."

"All right, then," assented Nichol, with a sort of grimace of
resignation. "Fire away, old man, an' git through with yer yarn so
Jackson kin come back. I wish this woman wouldn't take on so. Hit
makes me orful oncomf't'ble, doggoned ef hit don't."

The rapid and peculiar utterance, the seemingly unfeeling words of
his son, stung the father into an ecstasy of grief akin to anger.
A man stood before him, as clearly recognized as his own image in
a mirror. The captain was not out of his mind in any familiar
sense of the word; he remembered distinctly what had happened for
months past. He must recall, he must be MADE to recollect the
vital truths of his life on which not only his happiness but that
of others depended. Although totally ignorant of what the wisest
can explain but vaguely, Mr. Nichol was bent on restoring his son
by the sheer force of will, making him remember by telling him
what he should and must recall. This he tried to do with strong,
eager insistence. "Why, Albert," he urged, "I'm your father; and
that's your mother."

Nichol shook his head and looked at the doctor, who added gravely,
"That's all true."

"Yes," resumed Mr. Nichol, with an energy and earnestness of
utterance which compelled attention. "Now listen to reason. As I
was saying, you were wounded in the head, and you have forgotten
what happened before you were hurt. But you must remember, you
must, indeed, or you will break your mother's heart and mine,
too."

"But I tell yer, I kyant reckerlect a thing befo' I kinder waked
up in the hospital, en the Johnnies call me Yankee Blank. I jes'
wish folks would lemme alone on that pint. Hit allus bothers me en
makes me mad. How kin I reckerlect when I kyant?" and he began to
show signs of strong vexation.

Dr. Barnes was about to interfere when Mrs. Nichol, who had grown
calmer, rose, took her son's hand, and said brokenly: "Albert,
look me in the face, your mother's face, and try, TRY with all
your heart and soul and mind. Don't you remember ME?"

It was evident that her son did try. His brow wrinkled in the
perplexed effort, and he looked at her fixedly for a moment or
more; but no magnetic current from his mother's hand, no
suggestion of the dear features which had bent over him in
childhood and turned toward him in love and pride through
subsequent years found anything in his arrested consciousness
answering to her appeal.

The effort and its failure only irritated him, and he broke out:
"Now look yere, I be as I be. What's the use of all these goin's
on? Doctor, if you sez these folks are my father and mother, so be
it. I'm learning somethin' new all the time. This ain't no mo'
quar, I s'pose, than some other things. I've got to mind a doctor,
for I've learned that much ef I hain't nuthin' else, but I want
you uns to know that I won't stan' no mo' foolin'. Doctors don't
fool me, en they've got the po'r ter mek a feller do ez they sez,
but other folks is got ter be keerful how they uses me."

Mrs. Nichol again sank into her chair and wept bitterly; her
husband at last remained silent in a sort of inward, impotent rage
of grief. There was their son, alive and in physical health, yet
between him and them was a viewless barrier which they could not
break through.

The strange complications, the sad thwartings of hope which must
result unless he was restored, began to loom already in the
future.

Dr. Barnes now came forward and said: "Captain Nichol, you are as
you are at this moment, but you must know that you are not what
you were once. We are trying to restore you to your old self.
You'd be a great deal better off if we succeed. You must help us
all you can. You must be patient, and try all the time to
recollect. You know I am not deceiving you, but seeking to help
you. You don't like this. That doesn't matter. Didn't you see
doctors do many things in hospitals which the patients didn't
like?"

"I reckon," replied Nichol, growing reasonable at once when
brought on familiar ground.

"Well, you are my patient. I may have to do some disagreeable
things, but they won't hurt you. It won't be like taking off an
arm or a leg. You have seen that done, I suppose?"

"You bet!" was the eager, proud reply. "I used to hold the fellows
when they squirmed."

"Now hold yourself. Be patient and good-natured. While we are
about it, I want to make every appeal possible to your lost
memory, and I order you to keep on trying to remember till I say:
'Through for the present.' If we succeed, you'll thank me all the
days of your life. Anyhow, you must do as I say."

"Oh, I know that."

"Well, then, your name is Captain Nichol. This is Mr. Nichol, your
father; this lady is your mother. Call them father and mother when
you speak to them. Always speak kindly and pleasantly. They'll
take you to a pleasant home when I'm through with you, and you
must mind them. They'll be good to you everyway."

Nichol grinned acquiescence and said: "All right, Doctor."

"Now you show your good sense. We'll have you sound and happy
yet." The doctor thought a moment and then asked: "Mr. Nichol, I
suppose that after our visit to Mr. Kemble, you and your wife
would prefer to take your son home with you?"

"Certainly," was the prompt response.

"I would advise you to do so. After our next effort, however it
results, we all will need rest and time for thought. Captain,
remain here a few moments with your father and mother. Listen
good-naturedly and answer pleasantly to whatever they may say to
you. I will be back soon."




CHAPTER XIII

"I'M HELEN"


Dr. Barnes descended the stairs to the parlor where Mr. Kemble
impatiently awaited him. "Well?" said the banker, anxiously.

"I will explain while on the way to your house. The carriage is
still ready, I suppose?" to Jackson.

"Yes," was the eager reply; "how did he take the meeting of his
parents?"

"In the main as I feared. He does not know them yet. Mr. Jackson,
you and I are somewhat alike in one of our duties. I never talk
about my patients. If I did, I ought to be drummed out of the town
instead of ever being called upon again. Of course you feel that
you should not talk about your guests. You can understand why the
parties concerned in this matter would not wish to have it
discussed in the village."

"Certainly, Doctor, certainly," replied Jackson, reddening, for he
knew something of his reputation for gossip. "This is no ordinary
case."

"No, it is not. Captain Nichol and his friends would never forgive
any one who did not do right by them now. In about fifteen minutes
or so I will return. Have the carriage wait for me at Mr. Kemble's
till again wanted. You may go back to the captain and do your best
to keep him wide-awake."

Jackson accompanied them to the conveyance and said to the man on
the box: "Obey all Dr. Barnes's orders."

As soon as the two men were seated, the physician began: "Our
first test has failed utterly;" and he briefly narrated what had
occurred, concluding, "I fear your daughter will have no better
success. Still, it is perhaps wise to do all we can, on the theory
that these sudden shocks may start up the machinery of memory.
Nichol is excited; such powers as he possesses are stimulated to
their highest activity, and he is evidently making a strong effort
to recall the past, I therefore now deem it best to increase the
pressure on his brain to the utmost. If the obstruction does not
give way, I see no other course than to employ the skill of
experts and trust to the healing processes of time."

"I am awfully perplexed, Doctor," was the reply. "You must be firm
with me on one point, and you know your opinion will have great
weight. Under no sentimental sense of duty, or even of affection,
must Helen marry Nichol unless he is fully restored and given time
to prove there is no likelihood of any return of this infirmity."

"I agree with you emphatically. There is no reason for such self-
sacrifice on your daughter's part. Nichol would not appreciate it.
He is not an invalid; on the contrary, a strong, muscular man,
abundantly able to take care of himself under the management of
his family."

"He has my profound sympathy," continued Mr. Kemble, "but giving
that unstintedly is a very different thing from giving him my only
child."

"Certainly. Perhaps we need not say very much to Miss Helen on
this point at present. Unless he becomes his old self she will
feel that she has lost him more truly than if he were actually
dead. The only deeply perplexing feature in the case is its
uncertainty. He may be all right before morning, and he may never
recall a thing that happened before the explosion of that shell."

The carriage stopped, and Mr. Kemble hastily led the way to his
dwelling. Helen met them at the door. "Oh, how long you have
been!" she protested; "I've just been tortured by suspense."

Dr. Barnes took her by the hand and led her to the parlor. "Miss
Helen," he said gravely, "if you are not careful you will be
another patient on my hands. Sad as is Captain Nichol's case, he
at least obeys me implicitly; so must you. Your face is flushed,
your pulse feverish, and--"

"Doctor," cried the girl, "you can't touch the disease till you
remove the cause. Why is he kept so long from me?"

"Helen, child, you MUST believe that the doctor--that we all--are
doing our best for you and Nichol," said Mr. Kemble, anxiously.
"His father and mother came to the hotel. It was but natural that
they should wish to see him at once. How would we feel?"

"Come, Helen, dear, you must try to be more calm," urged the
mother, gently, with her arm around her daughter's neck. "Doctor,
can't you give her something to quiet her nerves?"

"Miss Helen, like the captain, is going to do just as I say,
aren't you? You can do more for yourself than I can do for you.
Remember, you must act intelligently and cooperate with me. His
father, and especially his mother, exhibited the utmost degree of
emotion and made the strongest appeals without effect. Now we must
try different tactics. All must be quiet and nothing occur to
confuse or irritate him."

"Ah, how little you all understand me! The moment you give me a
chance to act I can be as calm as you are. It's this waiting, this
torturing suspense that I cannot endure. Hobart would not have
permitted it. He knows, he understands. Every effort will fail
till Albert sees me. It will be a cause for lasting gratitude to
us both that I should be the one to restore him. Now let me
manage. My heart will guide me better than your science."

"What will you do?" inquired her father, in deep solicitude.

"See, here's his picture," she replied, taking it from a table
near--"the one he gave me just before he marched away. Let him
look at that and recall himself. Then I will enter. Oh, I've
planned it all! My self-control will be perfect. Would I deserve
the name of woman if I were weak or hysterical? No, I would do my
best to rescue any man from such a misfortune, much more Albert,
who has such sacred claims."

"That's a good idea of yours about the photograph. Well, I guess I
must let Nature have her own way again, only in this instance I
advise quiet methods."

"Trust me, Doctor, and you won't regret it."

"Nerve yourself then to do your best, but prepare to be
disappointed for the present. I do not and cannot share in your
confidence."

"Of course you cannot," she said, with a smile which illuminated
her face into rare beauty. "Only love and faith could create my
confidence."

"Miss Helen," was the grave response, "would love and faith
restore Captain Nichol's right arm if he had lost it?"

"Oh, but that's different," she faltered.

"I don't know whether it is or not. We are experimenting. There
may be a physical cause obstructing memory which neither you nor
any one can now remove. Kindness only leads me to temper your
hope."

"Doctor," she said half-desperately, "it is not hope; it is
belief. I could not feel as I do if I were to be disappointed."

"Ah, Miss Helen, disappointment is a very common experience. I
must stop a moment and see one who has learned this truth pretty
thoroughly. Then I will bring Nichol and his parents at once."

Tears filled her eyes. "Yes, I know," she sighed; "my heart just
bleeds for him, but I cannot help it. Were I not sure that Hobart
understands me better than any one else, I should be almost
distracted. This very thought of him nerves me. Think what he did
for Albert from a hard sense of duty. Can I fail? Good-by, and
please, PLEASE hasten."

Martine rose to greet the physician with a clear eye and a
resolute face. "Why, why!" cried Dr. Barnes, cheerily, "you look a
hundred per cent better. That quinine--"

"There, Doctor, I don't undervalue your drugs; but Mr. Kemble has
been to see me and appealed to me for help--to still be on hand if
needed. Come, I've had my hour for weakness. I am on the up-grade
now. Tell me how far the affair has progressed."

"Haven't time, Hobart. Since Mr. Kemble's treatment is so
efficacious, I'll continue it. You will be needed, you will
indeed, no matter how it all turns out. I won't abandon my drugs,
either. Here, take this."

Martine took the medicine as administered. "Now when you feel
drowsy, go to sleep," added the doctor.

"Tell me one thing--has she seen him yet?"

"No; his father and mother have, and he does not know them. It's
going to be a question of time, I fear."

"Helen will restore him."

"So she believes, or tries to. I mercifully shook her faith a
little. Well, she feels for you, old fellow. The belief that you
understand her better than any one has great sustaining power."

"Say I won't fail her; but I entreat that you soon let me know the
result of the meeting."

"I'll come in," assented the doctor, as he hastily departed. Then
he added sotto voce, "If you hear anything more under twelve or
fifteen hours, I'm off my reckoning."

Re-entering the carriage, he was driven rapidly to the hotel.
Jackson had played his part, and had easily induced Nichol to
recount his hospital experience in the presence of his parents,
who listened in mingled wonder, grief, and impotent protest.

"Captain, put on your overcoat and hat and come with me," said the
doctor, briskly. "Your father and mother will go with us."

"Good-by, Jackson," said Nichol, cordially. "Ye're a lively cuss,
en I hopes we'll have a chaince to chin agin."

With a blending of hope and of fear, his parents followed him. The
terrible truth of his sensibility to all that he should recognize
and remember became only the more appalling as they comprehended
it. While it lost none of its strangeness, they were compelled to
face and to accept it as they could not do at first.

"Now, Captain," said the doctor, after they were seated in the
carriage, "listen carefully to me. It is necessary that you recall
what happened before you were wounded. I tell you that you must do
it if you can, and you know doctors must be obeyed."

"Look yere, Doctor, ain't I a-tryin'? but I tell yer hit's like
tryin' ter lift myself out o' my own boots."

"Mind, now, I don't say you must remember, only try your best. You
can do that?"

"I reckon."

"Well, you are going to the house of an old friend who knew you
well before you were hurt. You must pay close heed to all she says
just as you would to me. You must not say any rude, bad words,
such as soldiers often use, but listen to every word she says.
Perhaps you'll know her as soon as you see her. Now I've prepared
you. I won't be far off."

"Don't leave me, Doctor. I jes' feels nachelly muxed up en mad
when folks pester me 'bout what I kyant do."

"You must not get angry now, I can tell you. That would never do
at all. I FORBID it."

"There, there now, Doctor, I won't, doggone me ef I will," Nichol
protested anxiously.

Mr. Kemble met them at the door, and the captain recognized him
instantly.

"Why, yere's that sensible ole feller what didn't want to ast no
questions," he exclaimed.

"You are right, Captain Nichol, I have no questions to ask."

"Well, ef folks wuz all like you I'd have a comf't'ble time"

"Come with me, Captain," said the physician, leading the way into
the parlor. Mr. Kemble silently ushered Mr. and Mrs. Nichol into
the sitting-room on the opposite side of the hall and placed them
in the care of his wife. He then went into the back parlor in
which was Helen, now quiet as women so often are in emergencies.
Through a slight opening between the sliding-door she looked, with
tightly clasped hands and parted lips, at her lover. At first she
was conscious of little else except the overwhelming truth that
before her was one she had believed dead. Then again surged up
with blinding force the old feeling which had possessed her when
she saw him last--when he had impressed his farewell kiss upon her
lips. Remembering the time for her to act was almost at hand, she
became calm--more from the womanly instinct to help him than from
the effort of her will.

Dr. Barnes said to Nichol, "Look around. Don't you think you have
seen this room before? Take your time and try to remember."

The captain did as he was bidden, but soon shook his head. "Hit's
right purty, but I don't reckerlect."

"Well, sit down here, then, and look at that picture. Who is it?"

"Why, hit's me--me dressed up as cap'n," ejaculated Nichol,
delightedly.

"Yes, that was the way you looked and dressed before you were
wounded."

"How yer talk! This beats anythin' I ever yeared from the
Johnnies."

"Now, Captain Nichol, you see we are not deceiving you. We called
you captain. There's your likeness, taken before you were hurt and
lost your memory, and you can see for yourself that you were a
captain. You must think how much there is for you to try to
remember. Before you went to the war, long before you got hurt,
you gave this likeness of yourself to a young lady that you
thought a great deal of. Can't you recall something about it?"

Nichol wrinkled his scarred forehead, scratched his head, and
hitched uneasily in his chair, evidently making a vain effort to
penetrate the gloom back of that vague awakening in the Southern
hospital. At last he broke out in his usual irritation, "Naw, I
kyant, doggon--"

"Hush! you must not use that word here. Don't be discouraged. You
are trying; that's all I ask," and the doctor laid a soothing hand
on his shoulder. "Now, Captain, I'll just step in the next room.
You think quietly as you can about the young lady to whom you gave
that picture of yourself."

Nichol was immensely pleased with his photograph, and looked at it
in all its lights. While thus gratifying a sort of childish
vanity, Helen entered noiselessly, her blue eyes, doubly luminous
from the pallor of her face, shining like sapphires. So intent was
her gaze that one might think it would "kindle a soul under the
ribs of death."

At last Nichol became conscious of her presence and started,
exclaiming, "Why, there she is herself."

"OH, Albert, you DO know me," cried the girl, rushing toward him
with outstretched hand.

He took it unhesitatingly, saying with a pleased wonder, "Well, I
reckon I'm comin' round. Yer the young lady I give this picture
to?"

"I'm Helen," she breathed, with an indescribable accent of
tenderness and gladness.

"Why, cert'ny. The doctor tole me 'bout you."

"But you remember me yourself?" she pleaded. "You remember what
you said to me when you gave me this picture?" and she looked into
his eyes with an expression which kindled even his dull senses.

"Oh, shucks!" he said slowly, "I wish I could. I'd like ter 'blige
yer, fer ye're right purty, en I am a-tryin' ter mind the doctor."

Such a sigh escaped her that one might think her heart and hope
were going with it. The supreme moment of meeting had come and
gone, and he did not know her; she saw and felt in her inmost soul
that he did not. The brief and illusive gleam into the past was
projected only from the present, resulting from what he had been
told, not from what he recalled.

She withdrew her hand, turned away, and for a moment or two her
form shook with sobs she could not wholly stifle. He looked on
perplexed and troubled, then broke out, "I jes' feels ez ef I'd
split my blamed ole haid open--"

She checked him by a gesture. "Wait," she cried, "sit down." She
took a chair near him and hastily wiped her eyes. "Perhaps I can
help you remember me. You will listen closely, will you not?"

"I be dog--oh, I forgot," and he looked toward the back parlor
apprehensively. "Yes, mees, I'll do anythin' yer sez."

"Well, once you were a little boy only so high, and I was a little
girl only so high. We both lived in this village and we went to
school together. We studied out of the same books together. At
three o'clock in the afternoon school was out, and then we put our
books in our desks and the teacher let us go and play. There was a
pond of water, and it often froze over with smooth black ice. You
and I used to go together to that pond; and you would fasten my
skates on my feet--"

"Hanged ef I wouldn't do it agin," he cried, greatly pleased. "Yer
beats 'em all. Stid o' astin' questions, yer tells me all 'bout
what happened. Why, I kin reckerlect it all ef I'm tole often
anuff."

With a sinking heart she faltered on, "Then you grew older and
went away to school, and I went away to school. We had vacations;
we rode on horseback together. Well, you grew to be as tall as you
are now; and then came a war and you wore a captain's uniform,
like--like that you see in your likeness, and--and--" she stopped.
Her rising color became a vivid flush; she slowly rose as the
thought burned its way into her consciousness that she was
virtually speaking to a stranger. Her words were bringing no
gleams of intelligence into his face; they were throwing no
better, no stronger light upon the past than if she were telling
the story to a great boy. Yet he was not a boy. A man's face was
merely disfigured (to her eyes) by a grin of pleasure instead of a
pleased smile; and a man's eyes were regarding her with an
unwinking stare of admiration. She was not facing her old
playmate, her old friend and lover, but a being whose only
consciousness reached back but months, through scenes,
associations coarse and vulgar like himself. She felt this with an
intuition that was overwhelming. She could not utter another
syllable, much less speak of the sacred love of the past. "O God!"
she moaned in her heart, "the man has become a living grave in
which his old self is buried. Oh, this is terrible, terrible!"

As the truth grew upon her she sprang away, wringing her hands and
looking upon him with an indescribable expression of pity and
dread. "Oh," she now moaned aloud, "if he had only come back to me
mutilated in body, helpless! but this change--"

She fled from the room, and Nichol stared after her in perplexed
consternation.




CHAPTER XIV

"FORWARD! COMPANY A"


When Mrs. Kemble was left alone with Captain Nichol's parents in
the sitting-room, she told them of Helen's plan of employing the
photograph in trying to recall their son to himself. It struck
them as an unusually effective method. Mrs. Kemble saw that their
anxiety was so intense that it was torture for them to remain in
suspense away from the scene of action. It may be added that her
own feelings also led her to go with them into the back parlor,
where all that was said by Nichol and her daughter could be heard.
Her solicitude for Helen was not less than theirs for their son;
and she felt the girl might need both motherly care and counsel.
She was opposed even more strenuously than her husband to any
committal on the daughter's part to her old lover unless he should
become beyond all doubt his former self. At best, it would be a
heavy cross to give up Martine, who had won her entire affection.
Helen's heart presented a problem too deep for solution. What
would--what could--Captain Nichol be to her child in his present
condition, should it continue?

It was but natural, therefore, that she and her husband should
listen to Helen's effort to awaken memories of the past with
profound anxiety. How far would she go? If Nichol were able to
respond with no more appreciative intelligence than he had thus
far manifested, would a sentiment of pity and obligation carry her
to the point of accepting him as he was, of devoting herself to
one who, in spite of all their commiseration and endeavors to
tolerate, might become a sort of horror in their household! It was
with immense relief that they heard her falter in her story, for
they quickly divined that there was nothing in him which responded
to her effort. When they heard her rise and moan, "If he had only
come back to me mutilated in body, helpless! but this change--"
they believed that she was meeting the disappointment as they
could wish.

Mr. and Mrs. Nichol heard the words also, and while in a measure
compelled to recognize their force, they conveyed a meaning hard
to accept. The appeal upon which so much hope had been built had
failed. In bitterness of soul, the conviction grew stronger that
their once brave, keen-minded son would never be much better than
an idiot.

Then Helen appeared among them as pale, trembling, and overwhelmed
as if she had seen a spectre. In strong reaction from her effort
and blighted hope she was almost in a fainting condition. Her
mother's arms received her and supported her to a lounge; Mrs.
Nichol gave way to bitter weeping; Mr. Kemble wrung the father's
hand in sympathy, and then at his wife's request went for
restoratives. Dr. Barnes closed the sliding-doors and prudently
reassured Nichol: "You have done your best, Captain, and that is
all I asked of you. Remain here quietly and look at your picture
for a little while, and then you shall have a good long rest."

"I did try, Doctor," protested Nichol, anxiously. "Gee wiz! I
reckon a feller orter try ter please sech a purty gyurl. She tole
me lots. Look yere, Doctor, why kyan't I be tole over en over till
I reckerlect it all?"

"Well, we'll see, Captain. It's late now, and we must all have a
rest. Stay here till I come for you."

Nichol was so pleased with his photograph that he was well content
in its contemplation. The physician now gave his attention to
Helen, who was soon so far restored as to comprehend her utter
failure. Her distress was great indeed, and for a few moments
diverted the thoughts of even Mr. and Mrs. Nichol from their own
sad share in the disappointment.

"Oh, oh!" sobbed Helen, "this is the bitterest sorrow the war has
brought us yet."

"Well, now, friends," said Dr. Barnes, "it's time I had my say and
gave my orders. You must remember that I have not shared very
fully in your confidence that the captain could be restored by the
appeals you have made; neither do I share in this abandonment to
grief now. As the captain says, he is yet simply unable to
respond. We must patiently wait and see what time and medical
skill can do for him. There is no reason whatever for giving up
hope. Mrs. Kemble, I would advise you to take Miss Helen to her
room, and you, Mr. Nichol, to take your wife and son home. I will
call in the morning, and then we can advise further."

His counsel was followed, the captain readily obeying when told to
go with his parents. Then the physician stepped over to Martine's
cottage and found, as he supposed, that the opiate and exhausted
nature had brought merciful oblivion.

It was long before Helen slept, nor would she take anything to
induce sleep. She soon became quiet, kissed her mother, and said
she wished to be alone. Then she tried to look at the problem in
all its aspects, and earnestly asked for divine guidance. The
decision reached in the gray dawn brought repose of mind and body.

It was late in the afternoon when Martine awoke with a dull pain
in his head and heart. As the consciousness of all that had
happened returned, he remembered that there was good reason for
both. His faithful old domestic soon prepared a dainty meal, which
aided in giving tone to his exhausted system. Then he sat down by
his fire to brace himself for the tidings he expected to hear.
Helen's chair was empty. It would always be hers, but hope was
gone that she would smile from it upon him during the long winter
evenings. Already the room was darkening toward the early December
twilight, and he felt that his life was darkening in like manner.
He was no longer eager to hear what had occurred. The mental and
physical sluggishness which possessed him was better than sharp
pain; he would learn all soon enough--the recognition, the
beginning of a new life which inevitably would drift further and
further from him. His best hope was to get through the time, to
endure patiently and shape his life so as to permit as little of
its shadow as possible to fall upon hers. But as he looked around
the apartment and saw on every side the preparations for one who
had been his, yet could be no longer, his fortitude gave way, and
he buried his face in his hands.

So deep was his painful revery that he did not hear the entrance
of Dr. Barnes and Mr. Kemble. The latter laid a hand upon his
shoulder and said kindly, "Hobart, my friend, it is just as I told
you it would be. Helen needs you and wishes to see you."

Martine started up, exclaiming, "He must have remembered her."

Mr. Kemble shook his head. "No, Hobart," said the doctor, "she was
as much of a stranger to him as you were. There were, of course,
grounds for your expectation and hers also, but we prosaic
physiologists have some reason for our doubtings as well as you
for your beliefs. It's going to be a question of time with Nichol.
How are you yourself? Ah, I see," he added, with his finger on his
patient's pulse. "With you it's going to be a question of tonics."

"Yes, I admit that," Martine replied, "but perhaps of tonics other
than those you have in mind. You said, sir [to Mr. Kemble], that
Helen wished to see me?"

"Yes, when you feel well enough."

"I trust you will make yourselves at home," said Martine, hastily
preparing to go out.

"But don't you wish to hear more about Nichol?" asked the doctor,
laughing.

"Not at present. Good-by."

Yet he was perplexed how to meet the girl who should now have been
his wife; and he trembled with strange embarrassment as he entered
the familiar room in which he had parted from her almost on the
eve of their wedding. She was neither perplexed nor embarrassed,
for she had the calmness of a fixed purpose. She went swiftly to
him, took his hand, led him to a chair, then sat down beside him.
He looked at her wonderingly and listened sadly as she asked,
"Hobart, will you be patient with me again?"

"Yes," he replied after a moment, yet he sighed deeply in
foreboding.

Tears came into her eyes, yet her voice did not falter as she
continued: "I said last night that you would understand me better
than any one else; so I believe you will now. You will sustain and
strengthen me in what I believe to be duty."

"Yes, Helen, up to the point of such endurance as I have. One
can't go beyond that."

"No, Hobart, but you will not fail me, nor let me fail. I cannot
marry Captain Nichol as he now is"--there was an irrepressible
flash of joy in his dark eyes--"nor can I," she added slowly and
sadly, "marry you." He was about to speak, but she checked him and
resumed. "Listen patiently to me first. I have thought and thought
long hours, and I think I am right. You, better than I, know
Captain Nichol's condition--its sad contrast to his former noble
self. The man we once knew is veiled, hidden, lost--how can we
express it? But he exists, and at any time may find and reveal
himself. No one, not even I, can revolt at what he is now as he
will revolt at it all when his true consciousness returns. He has
met with an immeasurable misfortune. He is infinitely worse off
than if helpless--worse off than if he were dead, if this
condition is to last; but it may not last. What would he think of
me if I should desert him now and leave him nothing to remember
but a condition of which he could only think with loathing? I will
hide nothing from you, Hobart, my brave, true friend--you who have
taught me what patience means. If you had brought him back utterly
helpless, yet his old self in mind, I could have loved him and
married him, and you would have sustained me in that course. Now I
don't know. My future, in this respect, is hidden like his. The
shock I received last night, the revulsion of feeling which
followed, leaves only one thing clear. I must try to do what is
right by him; it will not be easy. I hope you will understand.
While I have the deepest pity that a woman can feel, I shrink from
him NOW, for the contrast between his former self and his present
is so terrible. Oh, it is such a horrible mystery! All Dr.
Barnes's explanations do not make it one bit less mysterious and
dreadful. Albert took the risk of this; he has suffered this for
his country. I must suffer for him; I must not desert him in his
sad extremity. I must not permit him to awake some day and learn
from others what he now is, and that I, the woman he loved, of all
others, left him to his degradation. The consequences might be
more fatal than the injury which so changed him. Such action on my
part might destroy him morally. Now his old self is buried as
truly as if he had died. I could never look him in the face again
if I left him to take his chances in life with no help from me,
still less if I did that which he could scarcely forgive. He could
not understand all that has happened since we thought him dead. He
would only remember that I deserted him in his present pitiable
plight. Do you understand me, Hobart?"

"I must, Helen."

"I know how hard it is for you. Can you think I forget this for a
moment? Yet I send for you to help, to sustain me in a purpose
which changes our future so greatly. Do you not remember what you
said once about accepting the conditions of life as they are? We
must do this again, and make the best of them."

"But if--suppose his memory does not come back. Is there to be no
hope?"

"Hobart, you must put that thought from you as far as you can. Do
you not see whither it might lead? You would not wish Captain
Nichol to remain as he is?"

"Oh," he cried desperately, "I'm put in a position that would tax
any saint in the calendar."

"Yes, you are. The future is not in our hands. I can only appeal
to you to help me do what I think is right NOW."

He thought a few moments, took his resolve, then gave her his hand
silently. She understood him without a word.

The news of the officer's return and of his strange condition was
soon generally known in the village; but his parents, aided by the
physician, quickly repressed those inclined to call from mere
curiosity. At first Jim Wetherby scouted the idea that his old
captain would not know him, but later had to admit the fact with a
wonder which no explanations satisfied. Nichol immediately took a
fancy to the one-armed veteran, who was glad to talk by the hour
about soldiers and hospitals.

Before any matured plan for treatment could be adopted Nichol
became ill, and soon passed into the delirium of fever. "The
trouble is now clear enough," Dr. Barnes explained. "The captain
has lived in hospitals and breathed a tainted atmosphere so long
that his system is poisoned. This radical change of air has
developed the disease."

Indeed, the typhoid symptoms progressed so rapidly as to show that
the robust look of health had been in appearance only. The
injured, weakened brain was the organ which suffered most, and in
spite of the physician's best efforts his patient speedily entered
into a condition of stupor, relieved only by low, unintelligible
mutterings. Jim Wetherby became a tireless watcher, and greatly
relieved the grief-stricken parents. Helen earnestly entreated
that she might act the part of nurse also, but the doctor firmly
forbade her useless exposure to contagion. She drove daily to the
house, yet Mrs. Nichol's sad face and words could scarcely
dissipate the girl's impression that the whole strange episode was
a dream.

At last it was feared that the end was near. One night Dr. Barnes,
Mr. and Mrs. Nichol, and Jim Wetherby were watching in the hope of
a gleam of intelligence. He was very low, scarcely more than
breathing, and they dreaded lest there might be no sign before the
glimmer of life faded out utterly.

Suddenly the captain seemed to awake, his glassy eyes kindled, and
a noble yet stern expression dignified his visage. In a thick
voice he said, "For--" Then, as if all the remaining forces of
life asserted themselves, he rose in his bed and exclaimed loudly,
"Forward! Company A. Guide right. Ah!" He fell back, now dead in
very truth.

"Oh!" cried Jim Wetherby, excitedly, "them was the last words I
heard from him just before the shell burst, and he looks now just
as he did then."

"Yes," said Dr. Barnes, sadly and gravely, "memory came back to
him at the point where he lost it. He has died as we thought at
first--a brave soldier leading a charge."

The stern, grand impress of battle remained upon the officer's
countenance. Friends and neighbors looked upon his ennobled visage
with awe, and preserved in honored remembrance the real man that
temporarily had been obscured. Helen's eyes, when taking her
farewell look, were not so blinded with tears but that she
recognized his restored manhood. Death's touch had been more
potent than love's appeal.

In the Wilderness, upon a day fatal to him and so many thousands,
Captain Nichol had prophesied of the happy days of peace. They
came, and he was not forgotten.

One evening Dr. Barnes was sitting with Martine and Helen at their
fireside. They had been talking about Nichol, and Helen remarked
thoughtfully, "It was so very strange that he should have regained
his memory in the way and at the time he did."

"No," replied the physician, "that part of his experience does not
strike me as so very strange. In typhoid cases a lucid interval is
apt to precede death. His brain, like his body, was depleted,
shrunken slightly by disease. This impoverishment probably removed
the cerebral obstruction, and the organ of memory renewed its
action at the point where it had been arrested. My theory explains
his last ejaculation, 'Ah!' It was his involuntary exclamation as
he again heard the shell burst. The reproduction in his mind of
this explosion killed him instantly after all. He was too
enfeebled to bear the shock. If he had passed from delirium into
quiet sleep--ah, well! he is dead, and that is all we can know
with certainty."

"Well," said Martine, with a deep breath, "I am glad he had every
chance that it was possible for us to give him."

"Yes, Hobart," added his wife, gently, "you did your whole duty,
and I do not forget what it cost you."






QUEEN OF SPADES


"Mother," remarked Farmer Banning, discontentedly, "Susie is
making a long visit."

"She is coming home next week," said his cheery wife. She had
drawn her low chair close to the air-tight stove, for a late March
snowstorm was raging without.

"It seems to me that I miss her more and more."

"Well, I'm not jealous."

"Oh, come, wife, you needn't be. The idea! But I'd be jealous if
our little girl was sorter weaned away from us by this visit in
town."

"Now, see here, father, you beat all the men I ever heard of in
scolding about farmers borrowing, and here you are borrowing
trouble."

"Well, I hope I won't have to pay soon. But I've been thinking
that the old farmhouse may look small and appear lonely after her
gay winter. When she is away, it's too big for me, and a suspicion
lonely for us both. I've seen that you've missed her more than I
have."

"I guess you're right. Well, she's coming home, as I said, and we
must make home seem home to her. The child's growing up. Why,
she'll be eighteen week after next. You must give her something
nice on her birthday."

"I will," said the farmer, his rugged, weather-beaten face
softening with memories. "Is our little girl as old as that? Why,
only the other day I was carrying her on my shoulder to the barn
and tossing her into the haymow. Sure enough, the 10th of April
will be her birthday. Well, she shall choose her own present."

On the afternoon of the 5th of April he went down the long bill to
the station, and was almost like a lover in his eagerness to see
his child. He had come long before the train's schedule time, but
was rewarded at last. When Susie appeared, she gave him a kiss
before every one, and a glad greeting which might have satisfied
the most exacting of lovers. He watched her furtively as they rode
at a smart trot up the hill. Farmer Banning kept no old nags for
his driving, but strong, well-fed, spirited horses that sometimes
drew a light vehicle almost by the reins. "Yes," he thought, "she
has grown a little citified. She's paler, and has a certain air or
style that don't seem just natural to the hill. Well, thank the
Lord! she doesn't seem sorry to go up the hill once more."

"There's the old place, Susie, waiting for you," he said. "It
doesn't look so very bleak, does it, after all the fine city
houses you've seen?"

"Yes, father, it does. It never appeared so bleak before."

He looked at his home, and in the late gray afternoon, saw it in a
measure with her eyes--the long brown, bare slopes, a few gaunt
old trees about the house, and the top boughs of the apple-orchard
behind a sheltering hill in the rear of the dwelling.

"Father," resumed the girl, "we ought to call our place the Bleak
House. I never so realized before how bare and desolate it looks,
standing there right in the teeth of the north wind."

His countenance fell, but he had no time for comment. A moment
later Susie was in her mother's arms. The farmer lifted the trunk
to the horse-block and drove to the barn. "I guess it will be the
old story," he muttered. "Home has become 'Bleak House.' I suppose
it did look bleak to her eyes, especially at this season. Well,
well, some day Susie will go to the city to stay, and then it will
be Bleak House sure enough."

"Oh, father," cried his daughter when, after doing his evening
work, he entered with the shadow of his thoughts still upon his
face--"oh, father, mother says I can choose my birthday present!"

"Yes, Sue; I've passed my word."

"And so I have your bond. My present will make you open your
eyes."

"And pocket-book too, I suppose. I'll trust you, however, not to
break me. What is it to be?"

"I'll tell you the day before, and not till then."

After supper they drew around the stove. Mrs. Banning got out her
knitting, as usual, and prepared for city gossip. The farmer
rubbed his hands over the general aspect of comfort, and
especially over the regained presence of his child's bright face.
"Well, Sue," he remarked, "you'll own that this room IN the house
doesn't look very bleak?"

"No, father, I'll own nothing of the kind. Your face and mother's
are not bleak, but the room is."

"Well," said the farmer, rather disconsolately, "I fear the old
place has been spoiled for you. I was saying to mother before you
came home--"

"There now, father, no matter about what you were saying. Let
Susie tell us why the room is bleak."

The girl laughed softly, got up, and taking a billet of wood from
the box, put it into the air-tight. "The stove has swallowed it
just as old Trip did his supper. Shame! you greedy dog," she
added, caressing a great Newfoundland that would not leave her a
moment. "Why can't you learn to eat your meals like a gentleman?"
Then to her father, "Suppose we could sit here and see the flames
curling all over and around that stick. Even a camp in the woods
is jolly when lighted up by a flickering blaze."

"Oh--h!" said the farmer; "you think an open fire would take away
the bleakness?"

"Certainly. The room would be changed instantly, and mother's face
would look young and rosy again. The blue-black of this sheet-iron
stove makes the room look blue-black."

"Open fires don't give near as much heat," said her father,
meditatively. "They take an awful lot of wood; and wood is getting
scarce in these parts."

"I should say so! Why don't you farmers get together, appoint a
committee to cut down every tree remaining, then make it a State-
prison offence ever to set out another? Why, father, you cut
nearly all the trees from your lot a few years ago and sold the
wood. Now that the trees are growing again, you are talking of
clearing up the land for pasture. Just think of the comfort we
could get out of that wood-lot! What crop would pay better? All
the upholsterers in the world cannot furnish a room as an open
hardwood fire does; and all the produce of the farm could not buy
anything else half so nice."

"Say, mother," said her father, after a moment, "I guess I'll get
down that old Franklin from the garret to-morrow and see if it
can't furnish this room."

The next morning he called rather testily to the hired man, who
was starting up the lane with an axe, "Hiram, I've got other work
for you. Don't cut a stick in that wood-lot unless I tell you."

The evening of the 9th of April was cool but clear, and the farmer
said, genially, "Well, Sue, prospects good for fine weather on
your birthday. Glad of it; for I suppose you will want me to go to
town with you for your present, whatever it is to be."

"You'll own up a girl can keep a secret now, won't you?"

"He'll have to own more'n that," added his wife; "he must own that
an ole woman hasn't lost any sleep from curiosity."

"How much will be left me to own to-morrow night?" said the
farmer, dubiously. "I suppose Sue wants a watch studded with
diamonds, or a new house, or something else that she darsn't speak
of till the last minute, even to her mother."

"Nothing of the kind. I want only all your time tomorrow, and all
Hiram's time, after you have fed the stock."

"All our time!

"Yes, the entire day, in which you both are to do just what I
wish. You are not going gallivanting to the city, but will have to
work hard."

"Well, I'm beat! I don't know what you want any more than I did at
first."

"Yes, you do--your time and Hiram's."

"Give it up. It's hardly the season for a picnic. We might go
fishing--"

"We must go to bed, so as to be up early, all hands."

"Oh, hold on, Sue; I do like this wood-fire. If it wouldn't make
you vain, I'd tell you how--"

"Pretty, father. Say it out."

"Oh, you know it, do you? Well, how pretty you look in the
firelight. Even mother, there, looks ten years younger. Keep your
low seat, child, and let me look at you. So you're eighteen? My!
my! how the years roll around! It WILL be Bleak House for mother
and me, in spite of the wood-fire, when you leave us."

"It won't be Bleak House much longer," she replied with a
significant little nod.

The next morning at an early hour the farmer said, "All ready,
Sue. Our time is yours till night; so queen it over us." And black
Hiram grinned acquiescence, thinking he was to have an easy time.

"Queen it, did you say?" cried Sue, in great spirits. "Well, then,
I shall be queen of spades. Get 'em, and come with me. Bring a
pickaxe, too." She led the way to a point not far from the
dwelling, and resumed: "A hole here, father, a hole there, Hiram,
big enough for a small hemlock, and holes all along the northeast
side of the house. Then lots more holes, all over the lawn, for
oaks, maples, dogwood, and all sorts to pretty trees, especially
evergreens.'

"Oh, ho!" cried the farmer; "now I see the hole where the
woodchuck went in."

"But you don't see the hole where he's coming out. When that is
dug, even the road will be lined with trees. Foolish old father!
you thought I'd be carried away with city gewgaws, fine furniture,
dresses, and all that sort of thing. You thought I'd be pining for
what you couldn't afford, what wouldn't do you a particle of good,
nor me either, in the long run. I'm going to make you set out
trees enough to double the value of your place and take all the
bleakness and bareness from this hillside. To-day is only the
beginning. I did get some new notions in the city which made me
discontented with my home, but they were not the notions you were
worrying about. In the suburbs I saw that the most costly houses
were made doubly attractive by trees and shrubbery, and I knew
that trees would grow for us as well as for millionaires--My
conscience! if there isn't--" and the girl frowned and bit her
lips.

"Is that one of the city beaux you were telling us about?" asked
her father, sotto voce.

"Yes; but I don't want any beaux around to-day. I didn't think
he'd be so persistent." Then, conscious that she was not dressed
for company, but for work upon which she had set her heart, she
advanced and gave Mr. Minturn a rather cool greeting.

But the persistent beau was equal to the occasion. He had endured
Sue's absence as long as he could, then had resolved on a long
day's siege, with a grand storming-onset late in the afternoon.

"Please, Miss Banning," he began, "don't look askance at me for
coming at this unearthly hour. I claim the sacred rites of
hospitality. I'm an invalid. The doctor said I needed country air,
or would have prescribed it if given a chance. You said I might
come to see you some day, and by playing Paul Pry I found out, you
remember, that this was your birthday, and--"

"And this is my father, Mr. Minturn."

Mr. Minturn shook the farmer's hand with a cordiality calculated
to awaken suspicions of his designs in a pump, had its handle been
thus grasped. "Mr. Banning will forgive me for appearing with the
lark," he continued volubly, determining to break the ice. "One
can't get the full benefit of a day in the country if he starts in
the afternoon."

The farmer was polite, but nothing more. If there was one thing
beyond all others with which he could dispense, it was a beau for
Sue.

Sue gave her father a significant, disappointed glance, which
meant, "I won't get my present to day"; but he turned and said to
Hiram, "Dig the hole right there, two feet across, eighteen inches
deep." Then he started for the house. While not ready for suitors,
his impulse to bestow hospitality was prompt.

The alert Mr. Minturn had observed the girl's glance, and knew
that the farmer had gone to prepare his wife for a guest. He
determined not to remain unless assured of a welcome. "Come, Miss
Banning," he said, "we are at least friends, and should be frank.
How much misunderstanding and trouble would often be saved if
people would just speak their thought! This is your birthday--YOUR
DAY. It should not be marred by any one. It would distress me
keenly if I were the one to spoil it. Why not believe me literally
and have your way absolutely about this day? I could come another
time. Now show that a country girl, at least, can speak her mind."

With an embarrassed little laugh she answered, "I'm half inclined
to take you at your word; but it would look so inhospitable."

"Bah for looks! The truth, please. By the way, though, you never
looked better than in that trim blue walking-suit."

"Old outgrown working-suit, you mean. How sincere you are!"

"Indeed I am. Well, I'm de trop; that much is plain. You will let
me come another day, won't you?"

"Yes, and I'll be frank too and tell you about THIS day. Father's
a busy man, and his spring work is beginning, but as my birthday-
present he has given me all his time and all Hiram's yonder. Well,
I learned in the city how trees improved a home; and I had planned
to spend this long day in setting out trees--planned it ever since
my return. So you see--"

"Of course I see and approve," cried Minturn. "I know now why I
had such a wild impulse to come out here to-day. Why, certainly.
Just fancy me a city tramp looking for work, and not praying I
won't find it, either. I'll work for my board. I know how to set
out trees. I can prove it, for I planted those thrifty fellows
growing about our house in town. Think how much more you'll
accomplish, with another man to help--one that you can order
around to your heart's content."

"The idea of my putting you to work!"

"A capital idea! and if a man doesn't work when a woman puts him
at it he isn't worth the powder--I won't waste time even in
original remarks. I'll promise you there will be double the number
of trees out by night. Let me take your father's spade and show
you how I can dig. Is this the place? If I don't catch up with
Hiram, you may send the tramp back to the city." And before she
could remonstrate, his coat was off and he at work.

Laughing, yet half in doubt, she watched him. The way he made the
earth fly was surprising. "Oh, come," she said after a few
moments, "you have shown your goodwill. A steam-engine could not
keep it up at that rate."

"Perhaps not; but I can. Before you engage me, I wish you to know
that I am equal to old Adam, and can dig."

"Engage you!" she thought with a little flutter of dismay. "I
could manage him with the help of town conventionalities; but how
will it be here? I suppose I can keep father and Hiram within
earshot, and if he is so bent on--well, call it a lark, since he
has referred to that previous bird, perhaps I might as well have a
lark too, seeing it's my birthday." Then she spoke. "Mr. Minturn!"

"I'm busy."

"But really--"

"And truly tell me, am I catching up with Hiram?"

"You'll get down so deep that you'll drop through if you're not
careful."

"There's nothing like having a man who is steady working for you.
Now, most fellows would stop and giggle at such little amusing
remarks."

"You are soiling your trousers."

"Yes, you're right. They ARE mine. There; isn't that a regulation
hole? 'Two feet across and eighteen deep.'"

"Yah! yah!" cackled Hiram; "eighteen foot deep! Dat ud be a well."

"Of course it would, and truth would lie at its bottom. Can I
stay, Miss Banning?"

"Did you ever see the like?" cried the farmer, who had appeared,
unnoticed.

"Look here, father," said the now merry girl, "perhaps I was
mistaken. This--"

"Tramp--" interjected Minturn.

"Says he's looking for work and knows how to set out trees."

"And will work all day for a dinner," the tramp promptly added.

"If he can dig holes at that rate, Sue," said her father, catching
their spirit, "he's worth a dinner. But you're boss to-day; I'm
only one of the hands."

"I'm only another," said Minturn, touching his hat.

"Boss, am I? I'll soon find out. Mr. Minturn, come with me and don
a pair of overalls. You shan't put me to shame, wearing that
spick-and-span suit, neither shall you spoil it. Oh, you're in for
it now! You might have escaped, and come another day, when I could
have received you in state and driven you out behind father's
frisky bays. When you return to town with blistered hands and
aching bones, you will at least know better another time."

"I don't know any better this time, and just yearn for those
overalls."

"To the house, then, and see mother before you become a wreck."

Farmer Banning looked after him and shook his head. Hiram spoke
his employer's thought, "Dar ar gem'lin act like he gwine ter set
hisself out on dis farm."

Sue had often said, "I can never be remarkable for anything; but I
won't be commonplace." So she did not leave her guest in the
parlor while she rushed off for a whispered conference with her
mother. The well-bred simplicity of her manner, which often
stopped just short of brusqueness, was never more apparent than
now. "Mother!" she called from the parlor door.

The old lady gave a few final directions to her maid-of-all-work,
and then appeared.

"Mother, this is Mr. Minturn, one of my city friends, of whom I
have spoken to you. He is bent on helping me set out trees."

"Yes, Mrs. Banning, so bent that your daughter found that she
would have to employ her dog to get me off the place."

Now, it had so happened that in discussing with her mother the
young men whom she had met, Sue had said little about Mr. Minturn;
but that little was significant to the experienced matron. Words
had slipped out now and then which suggested that the girl did
more thinking than talking concerning him; and she always referred
to him in some light which she chose to regard as ridiculous, but
which had not seemed in the least absurd to the attentive
listener. When her husband, therefore, said that Mr. Minturn had
appeared on the scene, she felt that an era of portentous events
had begun. The trees to be set out would change the old place
greatly, but a primeval forest shading the door would be as
nothing compared with the vicissitude which a favored "beau" might
produce. But mothers are more unselfish than fathers, and are
their daughters' natural allies unless the suitor is
objectionable. Mrs. Banning was inclined to be hospitable on
general principles, meantime eager on her own account to see
something of this man, about whom she had presentiments. So she
said affably, "My daughter can keep her eye on the work which she
is so interested in, and yet give you most of her time.--Susan, I
will entertain Mr. Minturn while you change your dress."

She glanced at her guest dubiously, receiving for the moment the
impression that the course indicated by her mother was the correct
one. The resolute admirer knew well what a fiasco the day would be
should the conventionalities prevail, and so said promptly: "Mrs.
Banning, I appreciate your kind intentions, and I hope some day
you may have the chance to carry them out. To-day, as your husband
understands, I am a tramp from the city looking for work. I have
found it, and have been engaged.--Miss Banning, I shall hold you
inflexibly to our agreement--a pair of overalls and dinner."

Sue said a few words of explanation. Her mother laughed, but
urged, "Do go and change your dress."

"I protest!" cried Mr. Minturn. "The walking-suit and overalls go
together."

"Walking-suit, indeed!" repeated Sue, disdainfully. "But I shall
not change it. I will not soften one feature of the scrape you
have persisted in getting yourself into."

"Please don't."

"Mr. Minturn," said the matron, with smiling positiveness, "Susie
is boss only out of doors; I am, in the house. There is a fresh-
made cup of coffee and some eggs on toast in the dining-room.
Having taken such an early start, you ought to have a lunch before
being put to work."

"Yes," added Sue, "and the out-door boss says you can't go to work
until at least the coffee is sipped."

"She's shrewd, isn't she, Mrs. Banning? She knows she will get
twice as much work out of me on the strength of that coffee.
Please get the overalls. I will not sip, but swallow the coffee,
unless it's scalding, so that no time may be lost. Miss Banning
must see all she had set her heart upon accomplished to-day, and a
great deal more."

The matron departed on her quest, and as she pulled out the
overalls, nodded her head significantly. "Things will be serious
sure enough if he accomplishes all he has set his heart on," she
muttered. "Well, he doesn't seem afraid to give us a chance to see
him. He certainly will look ridiculous in these overalls, but not
much more so than Sue in that old dress. I do wish she would
change it."

The girl had considered this point, but with characteristic
decision had thought: "No; he shall see us all on the plainest
side of our life. He always seemed a good deal of an exquisite in
town, and he lives in a handsome house. If to-day's experience at
the old farm disgusts him, so be it. My dress is clean and tidy,
if it is outgrown and darned; and mother is always neat, no matter
what she wears. I'm going through the day just as I planned; and
if he's too fine for us, now is the time to find it out. He may
have come just for a lark, and will laugh with his folks to-night
over the guy of a girl I appear; but I won't yield even to the
putting of a ribbon in my hair."

Mrs. Banning never permitted the serving of cold slops for coffee,
and Mr. Minturn had to sip the generous and fragrant beverage
slowly. Meanwhile, his thoughts were busy. "Bah! for the old
saying, 'Take the goods the gods send,'" he mused. "Go after your
goods and take your pick. I knew my head was level in coming out.
All is just as genuine as I supposed it would be--simple, honest,
homely. The girl isn't homely, though, but she's just as genuine
as all the rest, in that old dress which fits her like a glove. No
shams and disguises on this field-day of my life. And her mother!
A glance at her comfortable amplitude banished my one fear.
There's not a sharp angle about her. I was satisfied about Miss
Sue, but the term 'mother-in-law' suggests vague terrors to any
man until reassured.--Ah, Miss Banning," he said, "this coffee
would warm the heart of an anchorite. No wonder you are inspired
to fine things after drinking such nectar."

"Yes, mother is famous for her coffee. I know that's fine, and you
can praise it; but I'll not permit any ironical remarks concerning
myself."

"I wouldn't, if I were you, especially when you are mistress of
the situation. Still, I can't help having my opinion of you. Why
in the world didn't you choose as your present something stylish
from the city?"

"Something, I suppose you mean, in harmony with my very stylish
surroundings and present appearance."

"I didn't mean anything of the kind, and fancy you know it. Ah!
here are the overalls. Now deeds, not words. I'll leave my coat,
watch, cuffs, and all impedimenta with you, Mrs. Banning. Am I not
a spectacle to men and gods?" he added, drawing up the garment,
which ceased to be nether in that it reached almost to his
shoulders.

"Indeed you are," cried Sue, holding her side from laughing. Mrs.
Banning also vainly tried to repress her hilarity over the absurd
guy into which the nattily-dressed city man had transformed
himself.

"Come," he cried, "no frivolity! You shall at least say I kept my
word about the trees to-day." And they started at once for the
scene of action, Minturn obtaining on the way a shovel from the
tool-room.

"To think she's eighteen years old and got a beau!" muttered the
farmer, as he and Hiram started two new holes. They were dug and
others begun, yet the young people had not returned. "That's the
way with young men nowadays--'big cry, little wool.' I thought I
was going to have Sue around with me all day. Might as well get
used to it, I suppose. Eighteen! Her mother's wasn't much older
when--yes, hang it, there's always a WHEN with these likely girls.
I'd just like to start in again on that day when I tossed her into
the haymow."

"What are you talking to yourself about, father?"

"Oh! I thought I had seen the last of you to-day."

"Perhaps you will wish you had before night."

"Well, now, Sue! the idea of letting Mr. Minturn rig himself out
like that! There's no use of scaring the crows so long before
corn-planting." And the farmer's guffaw was quickly joined by
Hiram's broad "Yah! yah!"

She frowned a little as she said, "He doesn't look any worse than
I do."

"Come, Mr. Banning, Solomon in all his glory could not so take
your daughter's eye to-day as a goodly number of trees standing
where she wants them. I suggest that you loosen the soil with the
pickaxe, then I can throw it out rapidly. Try it."

The farmer did so, not only for Minturn, but for Hiram also. The
lightest part of the work thus fell to him. "We'll change about,"
he said, "when you get tired."

But Minturn did not get weary apparently, and under this new
division of the toil the number of holes grew apace.

"Sakes alive, Mr. Minturn!" ejaculated Mr. Banning, "one would
think you had been brought up on a farm."

"Or at ditch-digging," added the young man. "No; my profession is
to get people into hot water and then make them pay roundly to get
out. I'm a lawyer. Times have changed in cities. It's there you'll
find young men with muscle, if anywhere. Put your hand here, sir,
and you'll know whether Miss Banning made a bad bargain in hiring
me for the day."

"Why!" exclaimed the astonished farmer, "you have the muscle of a
blacksmith."

"Yes, sir; I could learn that trade in about a month."

"You don't grow muscle like that in a law-office?"

"No, indeed; nothing but bills grow there. A good fashion, if not
abused, has come in vogue, and young men develop their bodies as
well as brains. I belong to an athletic club in town, and could
take to pugilism should everything else fail."

"Is there any prospect of your coming to that?" Sue asked
mischievously.

"If we were out walking, and two or three rough fellows gave you
impudence--" He nodded significantly.

"What could you do against two or three? They'd close on you."

"A fellow taught to use his hands doesn't let men close on him."

"Yah, yah! reckon not," chuckled Hiram. One of the farm household
had evidently been won.

"It seems to me," remarked smiling Sue, "that I saw several young
men in town who appeared scarcely equal to carrying their canes."

"Dudes?"

"That's what they are called, I believe."

"They are not men. They are neither fish, flesh, nor fowl, but the
beginning of the great downward curve of evolution. Men came up
from monkeys, it's said, you know, but science is in despair over
the final down-comes of dudes. They may evolute into
grasshoppers."

The farmer was shaken with mirth, and Sue could not help seeing
that he was having a good time. She, however, felt that no
tranquilly exciting day was before her, as she had anticipated.
What wouldn't that muscular fellow attempt before night? He
possessed a sort of vim and cheerful audacity which made her
tremble, "He is too confident," she thought, "and needs a lesson.
All this digging is like that of soldiers who soon mean to drop
their shovels. I don't propose to be carried by storm just when he
gets ready. He can have his lark, and that's all to-day. I want a
good deal of time to think before I surrender to him or any one
else."

During the remainder of the forenoon these musings prevented the
slightest trace of sentimentality from appearing in her face or
words. She had to admit mentally that Minturn gave her no occasion
for defensive tactics. He attended as strictly to business as did
Hiram, and she was allowed to come and go at will. At first she
merely ventured to the house, to "help mother," as she said. Then,
with growing confidence, she went here and there to select sites
for trees; but Minturn dug on no longer "like a steam-engine," yet
in an easy, steady, effective way that was a continual surprise to
the farmer.

"Well, Sue," said her father at last, "you and mother ought to
have an extra dinner; for Mr. Minturn certainly has earned one."

"I promised him only a dinner," she replied; "nothing was said
about its being extra."

"Quantity is all I'm thinking of," said Minturn. "I have the sauce
which will make it a feast."

"Beckon it's gwine on twelve," said Hiram, cocking his eye at the
sun. "Hadn't I better feed de critters?"

"Ah, old man! own up, now; you've got a backache," said Minturn.

"Dere is kin' ob a crik comin'--"

"Drop work, all hands," cried Sue. "Mr. Minturn has a 'crik' also,
but he's too proud to own it. How you'll groan for this to-morrow,
sir!"

"If you take that view of the case, I may be under the necessity
of giving proof positive to the contrary by coming out to-morrow."

"You're not half through yet. The hardest part is to come."

"Oh, I know that," he replied; and he gave her such a humorously
appealing glance that she turned quickly toward the house to hide
a conscious flush.

The farmer showed him to the spare-room, in which he found his
belongings. Left to make his toilet, he muttered, "Ah, better and
better! This is not the regulation refrigerator into which guests
are put at farmhouses. All needed for solid comfort is here, even
to a slight fire in the air-tight. Now, isn't that rosy old lady a
jewel of a mother-in-law? She knows that a warm man shouldn't get
chilled just as well as if she had studied athletics. Miss Sue,
however, is a little chilly. She's on the fence yet. Jupiter! I AM
tired. Oh, well, I don't believe I'll have seven years of this
kind of thing. You were right, though, old man, if your Rachel was
like mine. What's that rustle in the other room? She's dressing
for dinner. So must I; and I'm ready for it. If she has romantic
ideas about love and lost appetites, I'm a goner."

When he descended to the parlor, his old stylish self again, Sue
was there, robed in a gown which he had admired before, revealing
the fact to her by approving glances. But now he said, "You don't
look half so well as you did before."

"I can't say that of you," she replied.

"A man's looks are of no consequence."

"Few men think so."

"Oh, they try to please such critical eyes as I now am meeting."

"And throw dust in them too sometimes."

"Yes; gold dust, often. I haven't much of that."

"It would be a pity to throw it away if you had."

"No matter how much was thrown, I don't think it would blind you,
Miss Banning."

The dining-room door across the hall opened, and the host and
hostess appeared. "Why, father and mother, how fine you look!"

"It would be strange indeed if we did not honor this day," said
Mrs. Banning. "I hope you have not so tired yourself, sir, that
you cannot enjoy your dinner. I could scarcely believe my eyes as
I watched you from the window."

"I am afraid I shall astonish you still more at the table. I am
simply ravenous."

"This is your chance," cried Sue. "You are now to be paid in the
coin you asked for."

Sue did remark to herself by the time they reached dessert and
coffee, "I need have no scruples in refusing a man with such an
appetite; he won't pine. He is a lawyer, sure enough. He is just
winning father and mother hand over hand."

Indeed, the bosom of good Mrs. Banning must have been environed
with steel not to have had throbs of goodwill toward one who
showed such hearty appreciation of her capital dinner. But Sue
became only the more resolved that she was not going to yield so
readily to this muscular suitor who was digging and eating his way
straight into the hearts of her ancestors, and she proposed to be
unusually elusive and alert during the afternoon. She was a little
surprised when he resumed his old tactics.

After drinking a second cup of coffee, he rose, and said, "As an
honest man, I have still a great deal to do after such a dinner."

"Well, it has just done me good to see you," said Mrs. Banning,
smiling genially over her old-fashioned coffee-pot. "I feel highly
complimented."

"I doubt whether I shall be equal to another such compliment
before the next birthday. I hope, Miss Susie, you have observed my
efforts to do honor to the occasion?"

"Oh," cried the girl, "I naturally supposed you were trying to get
even in your bargain."

"I hope to be about sundown. I'll get into those overalls at once,
and I trust you will put on your walking-suit."

"Yes, it will be a walking-suit for a short time. We must walk to
the wood-lot for the trees, unless you prefer to ride.--Father,
please tell Hiram to get the two-horse wagon ready."

When the old people were left alone, the farmer said, "Well,
mother, Sue HAS got a suitor, and if he don't suit her--" And then
his wit gave out.

"There, father, I never thought you'd come to that. It's well she
has, for you will soon have to be taken care of."

"He's got the muscle to do it. He shall have my law-business,
anyway."

"Thank the Lord, it isn't much; but that's not saying he shall
have Sue."

"Why, what have you against him?"

"Nothing so far. I was only finding out if you had anything
against him."

"Lawyers, indeed! What would become of the men if women turned
lawyers. Do you think Sue--"

"Hush!"

They all laughed till the tears came when Minturn again appeared
dressed for work; but he nonchalantly lighted a cigar and was
entirely at his ease.

Sue was armed with thick gloves and a pair of pruning-nippers.
Minturn threw a spade and pickaxe on his shoulder, and Mr.
Banning, whom Sue had warned threateningly "never to be far away,"
tramped at their side as they went up the lane. Apparently there
was no need of such precaution, for the young man seemed wholly
bent on getting up the trees, most of which she had selected and
marked during recent rambles. She helped now vigorously, pulling
on the young saplings as they loosened the roots, then trimming
them into shape. More than once, however, she detected glances,
and his thoughts were more flattering than she imagined. "What
vigor she has in that supple, rounded form! Her very touch ought
to put life into these trees; I know it would into me. How young
she looks in that comical old dress which barely reaches her
ankles! Yes, Hal Minturn; and remember, that trim little ankle can
put a firm foot down for or against you--so no blundering."

He began to be doubtful whether he would make his grand attack
that day, and finally decided against it, unless a very favorable
opportunity occurred, until her plan of birthday-work had been
carried out and he had fulfilled the obligation into which he had
entered in the morning. He labored on manfully, seconding all her
wishes, and taking much pains to get the young trees up with an
abundance of fibrous roots. At last his assiduity induced her to
relent a little, and she smiled sympathetically as she remarked,
"I hope you are enjoying yourself. Well, never mind; some other
day you will fare better."

"Why should I not enjoy myself?" he asked in well-feigned
surprise. "What condition of a good time is absent? Even an April
day has forgotten to be moody, and we are having unclouded, genial
sunshine. The air is delicious with springtime fragrance. Were
ever hemlocks so aromatic as these young fellows? They come out of
the ground so readily that one would think them aware of their
proud destiny. Of course I'm enjoying myself. Even the robins and
sparrows know it, and are singing as if possessed."

"Hadn't you better give up your law-office and turn farmer?"

"This isn't farming. This is embroidery-work."

"Well, if all these trees grow they will embroider the old place,
won't they?"

"They'll grow, every mother's son of 'em."

"What makes you so confident?"

"I'm not confident. That's where you are mistaken." And he gave
her such a direct, keen look that she suddenly found something to
do elsewhere.

"I declare!" she exclaimed mentally, "he seems to read my very
thoughts."

At last the wagon was loaded with trees enough to occupy the holes
which had been dug, and they started for the vicinity of the
farmhouse again. Mr. Banning had no match-making proclivities
where Sue was concerned, as may be well understood, and had never
been far off. Minturn, however, had appeared so single-minded in
his work, so innocent of all designs upon his daughter, that the
old man began to think that this day's performance was only a
tentative and preliminary skirmish, and that if there were danger
it lurked in the unknown future. He was therefore inclined to be
less vigilant, reasoning philosophically, "I suppose it's got to
come some time or other. It looks as if Sue might go a good deal
further than this young man and fare worse. But then she's only
eighteen, and he knows it. I guess he's got sense enough not to
plant his corn till the sun's higher. He can see with half an eye
that my little girl isn't ready to drop, like an over-ripe apple."
Thus mixing metaphors and many thoughts, he hurried ahead to open
the gate for Hiram.

"I'm in for it now," thought Sue, and she instinctively assumed an
indifferent expression and talked volubly of trees.

"Yes, Miss Banning," he said formally, "by the time your hair is
tinged with gray the results of this day's labor will be seen far
and wide. No passenger in the cars, no traveller in the valley,
but will turn his eyes admiringly in this direction."

"I wasn't thinking of travellers," she answered, "but of making an
attractive home in which I can grow old contentedly. Some day when
you have become a gray-haired and very dignified judge you may
come out and dine with us again. You can then smoke your cigar
under a tree which you helped to plant."

"Certainly, Miss Banning. With such a prospect, how could you
doubt that I was enjoying myself? What suggested the judge? My
present appearance?"

The incongruity of the idea with his absurd aspect and a certain
degree of nervousness set her off again, and she startled the
robins by a laugh as loud and clear as their wild notes.

"I don't care," she cried. "I've had a jolly birthday, and am
accomplishing all on which I had set my heart."

"Yes, and a great deal more, Miss Banning," he replied with a
formal bow. "In all your scheming you hadn't set your heart on my
coming out and--does modesty permit me to say it?--helping a
little."

"Now, you HAVE helped wonderfully, and you must not think I don't
appreciate it."

"Ah, how richly I am rewarded!"

She looked at him with a laughing and perplexed little frown, but
only said, "No irony, sir."

By this time they had joined her father and begun to set out the
row of hemlocks. To her surprise, Sue had found herself a little
disappointed that he had not availed himself of his one
opportunity to be at least "a bit friendly" as she phrased it. It
was mortifying to a girl to be expecting "something awkward to
meet" and nothing of the kind take place. "After all," she
thought, "perhaps he came out just for a lark, or, worse still, is
amusing himself at my expense; or he may have come on an exploring
expedition and plain old father and mother, and the plain little
farmhouse, have satisfied him. Well, the dinner wasn't very plain,
but he may have been laughing in his sleeve at our lack of style
in serving it. Then this old dress! I probably appear to him a
perfect guy." And she began to hate it, and devoted it to the rag-
bag the moment she could get it off.

This line of thought, once begun, seemed so rational that she
wondered it had not occurred to her before. "The idea of my being
so ridiculously on the defensive!" she thought. "No, it wasn't
ridiculous either, as far as my action went, for he can never say
I ACTED as if I wanted him to speak. My conceit in expecting him
to speak the moment he got a chance WAS absurd. He has begun to be
very polite and formal. That's always the way with men when they
want to back out of anything. He came out to look us over, and me
in particular; he made himself into a scarecrow just because I
looked like one, and now will go home and laugh it all over with
his city friends. Oh, why did he come and spoil my day? Even he
said it WAS my day, and he has done a mean thing in spoiling it.
Well, he may not carry as much self-complacency back to town as he
thinks he will. Such a cold-blooded spirit, too!--to come upon us
unawares in order to spy out everything, for fear he might get
taken in! You were very attentive and flattering in the city, sir,
but now you are disenchanted. Well, so am I."

Under the influence of this train of thought she grew more and
more silent. The sun was sinking westward in undimmed splendor,
but her face was clouded. The air was sweet, balmy, well adapted
to sentiment and the setting out of trees, but she was growing
frosty.

"Hiram," she said shortly, "you've got that oak crooked; let me
hold it." And thereafter she held the trees for the old colored
man as he filled in the earth around them.

Minturn appeared as oblivious as he was keenly observant. At first
the change in Sue puzzled and discouraged him; then, as his acute
mind sought her motives, a rosy light began to dawn upon him. "I
may be wrong," he thought, "but I'll take my chances in acting as
if I were right before I go home."

At last Hiram said: "Reckon I'll have to feed de critters again;"
and he slouched off.

Sue nipped at the young trees further and further away from the
young man who must "play spy before being lover." The spy helped
Mr. Banning set out the last tree. Meantime, the complacent farmer
had mused: "The little girl's safe for another while, anyhow.
Never saw her more offish; but things looked squally about dinner-
time. Then, she's only eighteen; time enough years hence." At last
he said affably, "I'll go in and hasten supper, for you've earned
it if ever a man did, Mr. Minturn. Then I'll drive you down to the
evening train." And he hurried away.

Sue's back was toward them, and she did not hear Minturn's step
until he was close beside her. "All through," he said; "every tree
out. I congratulate you; for rarely in this vale of tears are
plans and hopes crowned with better success."

"Oh, yes," she hastened to reply; "I am more than satisfied. I
hope that you are too."

"I have no reason to complain," he said. "You have stood by your
morning's bargain, as I have tried to."

"It was your own fault, Mr. Minturn, that it was so one-sided. But
I've no doubt you enjoy spicing your city life with a little lark
in the country."

"It WAS a one-sided bargain, and I have had the best of it."

"Perhaps you have," she admitted. "I think supper will be ready by
the time we are ready for it." And she turned toward the house.
Then she added, "You must be weary and anxious to get away."

"You were right; my bones DO ache. And look at my hands. I know
you'll say they need washing; but count the blisters."

"I also said, Mr. Minturn, that you would know better next time.
So you see I was right then and am right now."

"Are you perfectly sure?"

"I see no reason to think otherwise." In turning, she had faced a
young sugar-maple which he had aided her in planting early in the
afternoon. Now she snipped at it nervously with her pruning-
shears, for he would not budge, and she felt it scarcely polite to
leave him.

"Well," he resumed, after an instant, "it has a good look, hasn't
it, for a man to fulfil an obligation literally?"

"Certainly, Mr. Minturn," and there was a tremor in her tone; "but
you have done a hundred-fold more than I expected, and never were
under any obligations."

"Then I am free to begin again?"

"You are as free now as you have been all day to do what you
please." And her shears were closing on the main stem of the
maple. He caught and stayed her hand. "I don't care!" she cried
almost passionately. "Come, let us go in and end this foolish
talk."

"But I do care," he replied, taking the shears from her, yet
retaining her hand in his strong grasp. "I helped you plant this
tree, and whenever you see it, whenever you care for it, when, in
time, you sit under its shade or wonder at its autumn hues, I wish
you to remember that I told you of my love beside it. Dear little
girl, do you think I am such a blind fool that I could spend this
long day with you at your home and not feel sorry that I must ever
go away? If I could, my very touch should turn the sap of this
maple into vinegar. To-day I've only tried to show how I can work
for you. I am eager to begin again, and for life."

At first Sue had tried to withdraw her hand, but its tenseness
relaxed. As he spoke, she turned her averted face slowly toward
him, and the rays of the setting sun flashed a deeper crimson into
her cheeks. Her honest eyes looked into his and were satisfied.
Then she suddenly gathered the young tree against her heart and
kissed the stem she had so nearly severed. "This maple is witness
to what you've said," she faltered. "Ah! but it will be a sugar-
maple in truth; and if petting will make it live--there, now!
behave! The idea! right out on this bare lawn! You must wait till
the screening evergreens grow before--Oh, you audacious--I haven't
promised anything."

"I promise everything. I'm engaged, and only taking my retaining-
fees."

"Mother," cried Farmer Banning at the dining-room window, "just
look yonder!"

"And do you mean to say, John Banning, that you didn't expect it?"

"Why, Sue was growing more and more offish."

"Of course! Don't you remember?"

"Oh, this unlucky birthday! As if trees could take Sue's place!"

"Yah!" chuckled Hiram from the barn door, "I knowed dat ar gem'lin
was a-diggin' a hole fer hisself on dis farm."

"Mr. Minturn--" Sue began as they came toward the house arm in
arm.

"Hal--" he interrupted.

"Well, then, Mr. Hal, you must promise me one thing in dead
earnest. I'm the only chick father and mother have. You must be
very considerate of them, and let me give them as much of my time
as I can. This is all that I stipulate; but this I do."

"Sue," he said in mock solemnity, "the prospects are that you'll
be a widow."

"Why do you make such an absurd remark?"

"Because you have struck amidships the commandment with the
promise, and your days will be long in the land. You'll outlive
everybody."

"This will be no joke for father and mother."

So it would appear. They sat in the parlor as if waiting for the
world to come to an end--as indeed it had, one phase of it, to
them. Their little girl, in a sense, was theirs no longer.

"Father, mother," said Sue, demurely, "I must break some news to
you."

"It's broken already," began Mrs. Banning, putting her
handkerchief to her eyes.

Sue's glance renewed her reproaches for the scene on the lawn; but
Minturn went promptly forward, and throwing his arm around the
matron's plump shoulders, gave his first filial kiss.

"Come, mother," he said, "Sue has thought of you both; and I've
given her a big promise that I won't take any more of her away
than I can help. And you, sir," wringing the farmer's hand, "will
often see a city tramp here who will be glad to work for his
dinner. These overalls are my witness."

Then they became conscious of his absurd figure, and the scene
ended in laughter that was near akin to tears.

The maple lived, you may rest assured; and Sue's children said
there never was such sugar as the sap of that tree yielded.

All the hemlocks, oaks, and dogwood thrived as if conscious that
theirs had been no ordinary transplanting; while Minturn's half-
jesting prophecy concerning the travellers in the valley was amply
fulfilled.






AN UNEXPECTED RESULT


"Jack, she played with me deliberately, heartlessly. I can never
forgive her."

"In that case, Will, I congratulate you. Such a girl isn't worth a
second thought, and you've made a happy escape."

"No congratulations, if you please. You can talk coolly, because
in regard to such matters you are cool, and, I may add, a trifle
cold. Ambition is your mistress, and a musty law-book has more
attractions for you than any woman living. I'm not so tempered. I
am subject to the general law of nature, and a woman's love and
sympathy are essential to success in my life and work."

"That's all right; but there are as good fish--"

"Oh, have done with your trite nonsense," interrupted Will Munson,
impatiently. "I'd consult you on a point of law in preference to
most of the gray-beards, but I was a fool to speak of this affair.
And yet as my most intimate friend--"

"Come, Will, I'm not unfeeling;" and John Ackland rose and put his
hand on his friend's shoulder. "I admit that the subject is remote
from my line of thought and wholly beyond my experience. If the
affair is so serious I shall take it to heart."

"Serious! Is it a slight thing to be crippled for life?"

"Oh, come, now," said Ackland, giving his friend a hearty and
encouraging thump, "you are sound in mind and limb; what matters a
scratch on the heart to a man not twenty-five?"

"Very well; I'll say no more about it. When I need a lawyer I'll
come to you. Good-by; I sail for Brazil in the morning."

"Will, sit down and look me in the eyes," said Ackland,
decisively. "Will, forgive me. You are in trouble. A man's eyes
usually tell me more than all his words, and I don't like the
expression of yours. There is yellow fever in Brazil."

"I know it," was the careless reply.

"What excuse have you for going?"

"Business complications have arisen there, and I promptly
volunteered to go. My employers were kind enough to hesitate and
warn me, and to say that they could send a man less valuable to
them, but I soon overcame their objections."

"That is your excuse for going. The reason I see in your eyes. You
are reckless, Will."

"I have reason to be."

"I can't agree with you, but I feel for you all the same. Tell me
all about it, for this is sad news to me. I had hoped to join you
on the beach in a few days, and to spend August with you and my
cousin. I confess I am beginning to feel exceedingly vindictive
toward this pretty little monster, and if any harm comes to you I
shall be savage enough to scalp her."

"The harm has come already, Jack. I'm hit hard. She showed me a
mirage of happiness that has made my present world a desert. I am
reckless; I'm desperate. You may think it is weak and unmanly, but
you don't know anything about it. Time or the fever may cure me,
but now I am bankrupt in all that gives value to life. A woman
with an art so consummate that it seemed artless, deliberately
evoked the best there was in me, then threw it away as
indifferently as a cast-off glove."

"Tell me how it came about."

"How can I tell you? How can I in cold blood recall glances,
words, intonations, the pressure of a hand that seemed alive with
reciprocal feeling? In addition to her beauty she had the
irresistible charm of fascination. I was wary at first, but she
angled for me with a skill that would have disarmed any man who
did not believe in the inherent falseness of woman. The children
in the house idolized her, and I have great faith in a child's
intuitions."

"Oh, that was only a part of her guile," said Ackland, frowningly.

"Probably; at any rate she has taken all the color and zest out of
my life. I wish some one could pay her back in her own coin. I
don't suppose she has a heart; but I wish her vanity might be
wounded in a way that would teach her a lesson never to be
forgotten."

"It certainly would be a well-deserved retribution," said Ackland,
musingly.

"Jack, you are the one, of all the world, to administer the
punishment. I don't believe a woman's smiles ever quickened your
pulse one beat."

"You are right, Will, it is my cold-bloodedness--to put your
thought in plain English--that will prove your best ally."

"I only hope that I am not leading you into danger. You will need
an Indian's stoicism."

"Bah! I may fail ignominiously, and find her vanity invulnerable,
but I pledge you my word that I will avenge you if it be within
the compass of my skill. My cousin, Mrs. Alston, may prove a
useful ally. I think you wrote me that the name of this siren was
Eva Van Tyne?"

"Yes; I only wish she had the rudiments of a heart, so that she
might feel in a faint, far-off way a little of the pain she has
inflicted on me. Don't let her make you falter or grow remorseful,
Jack. Remember that you have given a pledge to one who may be dead
before you can fulfil it."

Ackland said farewell to his friend with the fear that he might
never see him again, and a few days later found himself at a New
England seaside resort, with a relentless purpose lurking in his
dark eyes. Mrs. Alston did unconsciously prove a useful ally, for
her wealth and elegance gave her unusual prestige in the house,
and in joining her party Ackland achieved immediately all the
social recognition he desired.

While strolling with this lady on the piazza he observed the
object of his quest, and was at once compelled to make more
allowance than he had done hitherto for his friend's discomfiture.
Two or three children were leaning over the young girl's chair,
and she was amusing them by some clever caricatures. She was not
so interested, however, but that she soon noted the new-comer, and
bestowed upon him from time to time curious and furtive glances.
That these were not returned seemed to occasion her some surprise,
for she was not accustomed to be so utterly ignored, even by a
stranger. A little later Ackland saw her consulting the hotel
register.

"I have at least awakened her curiosity," he thought.

"I've been waiting for you to ask me who that pretty girl is,"
said Mrs. Alton, laughing; "you do indeed exceed all men in
indifference to women."

"I know all about that girl," was the grim reply. "She has played
the very deuce with my friend Munson."

"Yes," replied Mrs. Alston, indignantly, "it was the most shameful
piece of coquetry I ever saw. She is a puzzle to me. To the
children and the old people in the house she is consideration and
kindness itself; but she appears to regard men of your years as
legitimate game and is perfectly remorseless. So beware! She is
dangerous, invulnerable as you imagine yourself to be. She will
practice her wiles upon you if you give her half a chance, and her
art has much more than her pretty face to enforce it. She is
unusually clever."

Ackland's slight shrug was so contemptuous that his cousin was
nettled, and she thought, "I wish the girl could disturb his
complacent equanimity just a little. It vexes one to see a man so
indifferent; it's a slight to woman;" and she determined to give
Miss Van Tyne the vantage-ground of an introduction at the first
opportunity.

And this occurred before the evening was over. To her surprise
Ackland entered into an extended conversation with the enemy.
"Well," she thought, "if he begins in this style there will soon
be another victim. Miss Van Tyne can talk to as bright a man as he
is and hold her own. Meanwhile she will assail him in a hundred
covert ways. Out of regard for his friend he should have shown
some disapproval of her; but there he sits quietly talking in the
publicity of the parlor."

"Mrs. Alston," said a friend at her elbow, "you ought to forewarn
your cousin and tell him of Mr. Munson's fate."

"He knows all about Mr. Munson," was her reply. "Indeed, the
latter is his most intimate friend. I suppose my cousin is
indulging in a little natural curiosity concerning this destroyer
of masculine peace, and if ever a man could do so in safety he
can."

"Why so?"

"Well, I never knew so unsusceptible a man. With the exception of
a few of his relatives, he has never cared for ladies' society."

Mrs. Alston was far astray in supposing that curiosity was
Ackland's motive in his rather prolonged conversation with Miss
Van Tyne. It was simply part of his tactics, for he proposed to
waste no time in skirmishing or in guarded and gradual approaches.
He would cross weapons at once, and secure his object by a sharp
and aggressive campaign. His object was to obtain immediately some
idea of the calibre of the girl's mind, and in this respect he was
agreeably surprised, for while giving little evidence of thorough
education, she was unusually intelligent and exceedingly quick in
her perceptions. He soon learned also that she was gifted with
more than woman's customary intuition, that she was watching his
face closely for meanings that he might not choose to express in
words or else to conceal by his language. While he feared that his
task would be far more difficult than he expected, and that he
would have to be extremely guarded in order not to reveal his
design, he was glad to learn that the foe was worthy of his steel.
Meanwhile her ability and self-reliance banished all compunction.
He had no scruples in humbling the pride of a woman who was at
once so proud, so heartless, and so clever. Nor would the effort
be wearisome, for she had proved herself both amusing and
interesting. He might enjoy it quite as much as an intricate law
case.

Even prejudiced Ackland, as he saw her occasionally on the
following day, was compelled to admit that she was more than
pretty. Her features were neither regular nor faultless. Her mouth
was too large to be perfect, and her nose was not Grecian; but her
eyes were peculiarly fine and illumined her face, whose chief
charm lay in its power of expression. If she chose, almost all her
thoughts and feelings could find their reflex there. The trouble
was that she could as readily mask her thought and express what
she did not feel. Her eyes were of the darkest blue and her hair
seemed light in contrast. It was evident that she had studied
grace so thoroughly that her manner and carriage appeared
unstudied and natural. She never seemed self-conscious, and yet no
one had ever seen her in an ungainly posture or had known her to
make an awkward gesture. This grace, however, like a finished
style in writing, was tinged so strongly with her own
individuality that it appeared original as compared with the
fashionable monotony which characterized the manners of so many of
her age. She could not have been much more than twenty; and yet,
as Mrs. Alston took pains to inform her cousin, she had long been
in society, adding, "Its homage is her breath of life, and from
all I hear your friend Munson has had many predecessors. Be on
your guard."

"Your solicitude in my behalf is quite touching," he replied. "Who
is this fair buccaneer that has made so many wrecks and exacts so
heavy a revenue from society? Who has the care of her and what are
her antecedents?"

"She is an orphan, and possessed, I am told, of considerable
property in her own name. A forceless, nerveless maiden aunt is
about the only antecedent we see much of. Her guardian has been
here once or twice, but practically she is independent."

Miss Van Tyne's efforts to learn something concerning Ackland were
apparently quite as casual and indifferent and yet were made with
utmost skill. She knew that Mrs. Alston's friend was something of
a gossip; and she led her to speak of the subject of her thoughts
with an indirect finesse that would have amused the young man
exceedingly could he have been an unobserved witness. When she
learned that he was Mr. Munson's intimate friend and that he was
aware of her treatment of the latter, she was somewhat
disconcerted. One so forewarned might not become an easy prey. But
the additional fact that he was almost a woman-hater put her upon
her mettle at once, and she felt that here was a chance for a
conquest such as she had never made before. She now believed that
she had discovered the key to his indifference. He was ready
enough to amuse himself with her as a clever woman, but knew her
too well to bestow upon her even a friendly thought.

"If I can bring him to my feet it will be a triumph indeed," she
murmured exultantly; "and at my feet he shall be if he gives me
half a chance." Seemingly he gave her every chance that she could
desire, and while he scarcely made any effort to seek her society,
she noted with secret satisfaction that he often appeared as if
accidentally near her, and that he ever made it the easiest and
most natural thing in the world for her to join him. His
conversation was often as gay and unconventional as she could
wish; but she seldom failed to detect in it an uncomfortable
element of satire and irony. He always left her dissatisfied with
herself and with a depressing consciousness that she had made no
impression upon him.

His conquest grew into an absorbing desire; and she unobtrusively
brought to bear upon him every art and fascination that she
possessed. Her toilets were as exquisite as they were simple. The
children were made to idolize her more than ever; but Ackland was
candid enough to admit that this was not all guile on her part,
for she was evidently in sympathy with the little people, who can
rarely be imposed upon by any amount of false interest. Indeed, he
saw no reason to doubt that she abounded in good-nature toward all
except the natural objects of her ruling passion; but the very
skill and deliberateness with which she sought to gratify this
passion greatly increased his vindictive feeling. He saw how
naturally and completely his friend had been deceived and how
exquisite must have been the hopes and anticipations so falsely
raised. Therefore he smiled more grimly at the close of each
succeeding day, and was more than ever bent upon the
accomplishment of his purpose.

At length Miss Van Tyne changed her tactics and grew quite
oblivious to Ackland's presence in the house; but she found him
apparently too indifferent to observe the fact. She then permitted
one of her several admirers to become devoted; Ackland did not
offer the protest of even a glance. He stood, as it were, just
where she had left him, ready for an occasional chat, stroll, or
excursion, if the affair came about naturally and without much
effort on his part. She found that she could neither induce him to
seek her nor annoy him by an indifference which she meant should
be more marked than his own.

Some little time after there came a windy day when the surf was so
heavy that there were but few bathers. Ackland was a good swimmer,
and took his plunge as usual. He was leaving the water when Miss
Van Tyne ran down the beach and was about to dart through the
breakers in her wonted fearless style.

"Be careful," he said to her; "the undertow is strong, and the man
who has charge of the bathing is ill and not here. The tide is
changing--in fact, running out already, I believe." But she would
not even look at him, much less answer. As there were other
gentlemen present, he started for his bath-house, but had
proceeded but a little way up the beach before a cry brought him
to the water's edge instantly.

"Something is wrong with Miss Van Tyne," cried half a dozen
voices. "She ventured out recklessly, and it seems as if she
couldn't get back."

At that moment her form rose on the crest of a wave, and above the
thunder of the surf came her faint cry, "Help!"

The other bathers stood irresolute, for she was dangerously far
out, and the tide had evidently turned. Ackland, on the contrary,
dashed through the breakers and then, in his efforts for speed,
dived through the waves nearest to the shore. When he reached the
place where he expected to find her he saw nothing for a moment or
two but great crested billows that every moment were increasing in
height under the rising wind. For a moment he feared that she had
perished, and the thought that the beautiful creature had met her
death so suddenly and awfully made him almost sick and faint. An
instant later, however, a wave threw her up from the trough of the
sea into full vision somewhat on his right, and a few strong
strokes brought him to her side.

"Oh, save me!" she gasped.

"Don't cling to me," he said sternly. "Do as I bid you. Strike out
for the shore if you are able; if not, lie on your back and
float."

She did the latter, for now that aid had reached her she
apparently recovered from her panic and was perfectly tractable.
He placed his left hand under her and struck out quietly, aware
that the least excitement causing exhaustion on his part might
cost both of them their lives.

As they approached the shore a rope was thrown to them, and
Ackland, who felt his strength giving way, seized it--desperately.
He passed his arm around his companion with a grasp that almost
made her breathless, and they were dragged half suffocated through
the water until strong hands on either side rushed them through
the breakers.

Miss Van Tyne for a moment or two stood dazed and panting, then
disengaged herself from the rather warm support of the devoted
admirer whom she had tried to play against Ackland, and tried to
walk, but after a few uncertain steps fell senseless on the sand,
thus for the moment drawing to herself the attention of the
increasing throng. Ackland, glad to escape notice, was staggering
off to his bath-house when several ladies, more mindful of his
part in the affair than the men had been, overtook him with a fire
of questions and plaudits.

"Please leave me alone," he said almost savagely, without looking
around.

"What a bear he is! Any one else would have been a little
complacent over such an exploit," they chorused, as they followed
the unconscious girl, who was now being carried to the hotel.

Ackland locked the door of his little apartment and sank panting
on the bench. "Maledictions on her!" he muttered. "At one time
there was a better chance of her being fatal to me than to Munson
with his yellow-fever tragedy in prospect. Her recklessness to-day
was perfectly insane. If she tries it again she may drown for all
that I care, or at least ought to care." His anger appeared to act
like a tonic, and he was soon ready to return to the house. A
dozen sprang forward to congratulate him, but they found such
impatience and annoyance at all reference to the affair that with
many surmises the topic was dropped.

"You are a queer fellow," remarked his privileged cousin, as he
took her out to dinner. "Why don't you let people speak naturally
about the matter, or rather, why don't you pose as the hero of the
occasion?"

"Because the whole affair was most unnatural, and I am deeply
incensed. In a case of necessity I am ready to risk my life,
although it has unusual attractions for me; but I'm no
melodramatic hero looking for adventures. What necessity was there
in this case? It is the old story of Munson over again in another
guise. The act was that of an inconsiderate, heartless woman who
follows her impulses and inclinations, no matter what may be the
consequences." After a moment he added less indignantly, "I must
give her credit for one thing, angry as I am--she behaved well in
the water, otherwise she would have drowned me."

"She is not a fool. Most women would have drowned you."

"She is indeed not a fool; therefore she's the more to blame. If
she is ever so reckless again, may I be asleep in my room. Of
course one can't stand by and see a woman drown, no matter who or
what she is."

"Jack, what made her so reckless?" Mrs. Alston asked, with a
sudden intelligence lighting up her face.

"Hang it all! How should I know? What made her torture Munson? She
follows her impulses, and they are not always conducive to any
one's well-being, not even her own."

"Mark my words, she has never shown this kind of recklessness
before."

"Oh, yes, she has. She was running her horse to death the other
hot morning and nearly trampled on a child;" and he told of an
unexpected encounter while he was taking a rather extended ramble.

"Well," exclaimed Mrs. Alston, smiling significantly, "I think I
understand her symptoms better than you do. If you are as cold-
blooded as you seem, I may have to interfere."

"Oh, bah!" he answered impatiently. "Pardon me, but I should
despise myself forever should I become sentimental, knowing what I
do."

"Jack, had you no compunctions when fearing that such a beautiful
girl might perish? We are going to have an awful night. Hear the
wind whistle and moan, and the sky is already black with clouds.
The roar of the surface grows louder every hour. Think of that
lovely form being out in those black angry waves, darted at and
preyed upon by horrible slimy monsters. Oh, it fairly makes my
flesh creep!"

"And mine too," he said with a strong gesture of disgust;
"especially when I remember that I should have kept her company,
for of course I could not return without her. I confess that when
at first I could not find her I was fairly sick at the thought of
her fate. But remember how uncalled for it all was--quite as much
so as that poor Will Munson is on his way to die with the yellow
fever, like enough."

"Jack," said his cousin, affectionately, laying her hand on his
arm, "blessings on your courage to-day! If what might have
happened so easily had occurred, I could never have looked upon
the sea again without a shudder. I should have been tormented by a
horrible memory all my life. It was brave and noble--"

"Oh, hush!" he said angrily. "I won't hear another word about it
even from you. I'm not brave and noble. I went because I was
compelled to go; I hated to go. I hate the girl, and have more
reason now than ever. If we had both drowned, no doubt there would
have been less trouble in the world. There would have been one
lawyer the less, and a coquette extinguished. Now we shall both
prey on society in our different ways indefinitely."

"Jack, you are in an awful mood to-day."

"I am; never was in a worse."

"Having so narrowly escaped death, you ought to be subdued and
grateful."

"On the contrary, I'm inclined to profanity. Excuse me; don't wish
any dessert. I'll try a walk and a cigar. You will now be glad to
be rid of me on any terms."

"Stay, Jack. See, Miss Van Tyne has so far recovered as to come
down. She looked unutterable things at you as she entered."

"Of course she did. Very few of her thoughts concerning me or
other young men would sound well if uttered. Tell your friends to
let this topic alone, or I shall be rude to them," and without a
glance toward the girl he had rescued he left the dining-room.

"Well, well," murmured Mrs. Alston, "I never saw Jack in such a
mood before. It is quite as unaccountable as Miss Tyne's
recklessness. I wonder what is the matter with HIM."

Ackland was speedily driven back from his walk by the rain, which
fact he did not regret, for he found himself exhausted and
depressed. Seeking a retired piazza in order to be alone, he sat
down with his hat drawn over his eyes and smoked furiously. Before
very long, however, he was startled out of a painful revery by a
timid voice saying:

"Mr. Ackland, won't you permit me to thank you?"

He rose. Miss Van Tyne stood before him with outstretched hand. He
did not notice it, but bowing coldly, said:

"Please consider that you have thanked me and let the subject
drop."

"Do not be so harsh with me," she pleaded. "I cannot help it if
you are. Mr. Ackland, you saved my life."

"Possibly."

"And possibly you think that it is scarcely worth saving."

"Possibly your own conscience suggested that thought to you."

"You are heartless," she burst out indignantly. He began to laugh.
"That's a droll charge for you to make," he said.

She looked at him steadfastly for a moment, and then murmured:
"You are thinking of your friend, Mr. Munson."

"That would be quite natural. How many more can you think of?"

"You are indeed unrelenting," she faltered, tears coming into her
eyes; "but I cannot forget that but for you _I_ should now be out
there"--and she indicated the sea by a gesture, then covered her
face with her hands, and shuddered.

"Do not feel under obligations. I should have been compelled to do
as much for any human being. You seem to forget that I stood an
even chance of being out there with you, and that there was no
more need of the risk than there was that my best friend's life
should be blight--"

"You--you out there?" she cried, springing toward him and pointing
to the sea.

"Certainly. You cannot suppose that having once found you, I could
come ashore without you. As it was, my strength was rapidly giving
way, and were it not for the rope--"

"Oh, forgive me," she cried passionately, seizing his hand in
spite of him. "It never entered my mind that you could drown. I
somehow felt that nothing could harm you. I was reckless--I didn't
know what I was doing--I don't understand myself any more.
Please--please forgive me, or I shall not sleep to-night."

"Certainly," he said lightly, "if you will not refer to our little
episode again."

"Please don't speak in that way," she sighed, turning away.

"I have complied with your request."

"I suppose I must be content," she resumed sadly. Then turning her
head slowly toward him she added hesitatingly: "Will you forgive
me for--for treating your friend--"

"No," he replied, with such stern emphasis that she shrank from
him and trembled.

"You are indeed heartless," she faltered, as she turned to leave
him.

"Miss Van Tyne," he said indignantly, "twice you have charged me
with being heartless. Your voice and manner indicate that I would
be unnatural and unworthy of respect were I what you charge. In
the name of all that's rational what does this word 'heartless'
mean to you? Where was your heart when you sent my friend away so
wretched and humbled that he is virtually seeking the death from
which you are so glad to escape?"

"I did not love him," she protested faintly.

He laughed bitterly, and continued, "Love! That's a word which I
believe has no meaning for you at all, but it had for him. You are
a remarkably clever woman, Miss Van Tyne. You have brains in
abundance. See, I do you justice. What is more, you are beautiful
and can be so fascinating that a man who believed in you might
easily worship you. You made him believe in you. You tried to
beguile me into a condition that with my nature would be ruin
indeed. You never had the baby plea of a silly, shallow woman. I
took pains to find that out the first evening we met. In your art
of beguiling an honest, trusting man you were as perfect as you
were remorseless, and you understood exactly what you were doing."

For a time she seemed overwhelmed by his lava-like torrent of
words, and stood with bowed head and shrinking, trembling form;
but when he ceased she turned to him and said bitterly and
emphatically:

"I did NOT understand what I was doing, nor would my brain have
taught me were I all intellect like yourself. I half wish you had
left me to drown," and with a slight, despairing gesture she
turned away and did not look back.

Ackland's face lighted up with a sudden flash of intelligence and
deep feeling. He started to recall her, hesitated, and watched her
earnestly until she disappeared; then looking out on the scowling
ocean, he took off his hat and exclaimed in a deep, low tone:

"By all that's divine, can this be? Is it possible that through
the suffering of her own awakening heart she is learning to know
the pain she has given to others? Should this be true, the affair
is taking an entirely new aspect, and Munson will be avenged as
neither of us ever dreamed would be possible."

He resumed his old position and thought long and deeply, then
rejoined his cousin, who was somewhat surprised to find that his
bitter mood had given place to his former composure.

"How is this, Jack?" she asked. "As the storm grows wilder
without, you become more serene."

"Only trying to make amends for my former bearishness," he said
carelessly, but with a little rising color.

"I don't understand you at all," she continued discontentedly. "I
saw you sulking in that out-of-the-way corner, and I saw Miss Van
Tyne approach you hesitatingly and timidly, with the purpose, no
doubt, of thanking you. Of course I did not stay to watch, but a
little later I met Miss Van Tyne, and she looked white and rigid.
She has not left her room since."

"You take a great interest in Miss Van Tyne. It is well you are
not in my place."

"I half wish I was and had your chances. You are more pitiless
than the waves from which you saved her."

"I can't help being just what I am," he said coldly. "Good-night."
And he too disappeared for the rest of the evening.

The rain continued to fall in blinding torrents, and the building
fairly trembled under the violence of the wind. The guests drew
together in the lighted rooms, and sought by varied amusements to
pass the time until the fierceness of the storm abated, few caring
to retire while the uproar of the elements was so great.

At last as the storm passed away, and the late-rising moon threw a
sickly gleam on the tumultuous waters, Eva looked from her window
with sleepless eyes, thinking sadly and bitterly of the past and
future. Suddenly a dark figure appeared on the beach in the track
of the moonlight. She snatched an opera-glass, but could not
recognize the solitary form. The thought would come, however, that
it was Ackland; and if it were, what were his thoughts and what
place had she in them? Why was he watching so near the spot that
might have been their burial-place?

"At least he shall not think that I can stolidly sleep after what
has occurred," she thought, and she turned up her light, opened
her window, and sat down by it again. Whoever the unseasonable
rambler might be, he appeared to recognize the gleam from her
window, for he walked hastily down the beach and disappeared.
After a time she darkened her room again and waited in vain for
his return. "If it were he, he shuns even the slightest
recognition," she thought despairingly; and the early dawn was not
far distant when she fell into an unquiet sleep.

For the next few days Miss Van Tyne was a puzzle to all except
Mrs. Alston. She was quite unlike the girl she had formerly been,
and she made no effort to disguise the fact. In the place of her
old exuberance of life and spirits, there was lassitude and great
depression. The rich color ebbed steadily from her face, and dark
lines under her eyes betokened sleepless nights. She saw the many
curious glances in her direction, but apparently did not care what
was thought or surmised. Were it not that her manner to Ackland
was so misleading, the tendency to couple their names together
would have been far more general. She neither sought nor shunned
his society; in fact, she treated him as she did the other
gentlemen of her acquaintance. She took him at his word. He had
said he would forgive her on condition that she would not speak of
what he was pleased to term that "little episode," and she never
referred to it.

Her aunt was as much at fault as the others, and one day
querulously complained to Mrs. Alston that she was growing anxious
about Eva. "At first I thought she was disappointed over the
indifference of that icy cousin of yours; but she does not appear
to care a straw for him. When I mention his name she speaks of him
in a natural, grateful way, then her thoughts appear to wander off
to some matter that is troubling her. I can't find out whether she
is ill or whether she has heard some bad news of which she will
not speak. She never gave me or any one that I know of much of her
confidence."

Mrs. Alston listened but made no comments. She was sure she was
right in regard to Miss Van Tyne's trouble, but her cousin
mystified her. Ackland had become perfectly inscrutable. As far as
she could judge by any word or act of his he had simply lost his
interest in Miss Van Tyne, and that was all that could be said;
and yet a fine instinct tormented Mrs. Alston with the doubt that
this was not true, and that the young girl was the subject of a
sedulously concealed scrutiny. Was he watching for his friend or
for his own sake, or was he, in a spirit of retaliation, enjoying
the suffering of one who had made others suffer? His reserve was
so great that she could not pierce it, and his caution baffled
even her vigilance. But she waited patiently, assured that the
little drama must soon pass into a more significant phase.

And she was right. Miss Van Tyne could not maintain the line of
action she had resolved upon. She had thought, "I won't try to
appear happy when I am not. I won't adopt the conventional mask of
gayety when the heart is wounded. How often I have seen through it
and smiled at the transparent farce--farce it seemed then, but I
now fear it was often tragedy. At any rate there was neither
dignity nor deception in it. I have done with being false, and so
shall simply act myself and be a true woman. Though my heart break
a thousand times, not even by a glance shall I show that it is
breaking for him. If he or others surmise the truth, they may; let
them. It is a part of my penance; and I will show the higher,
stronger pride of one who makes no vain, useless pretence to happy
indifference, but who can maintain a self-control so perfect that
even Mrs. Alston shall not see one unmaidenly advance or
overture."

She succeeded for a time, as we have seen, but she overrated her
will and underrated her heart, that with deepening intensity
craved the love denied her. With increasing frequency she said to
herself, "I must go away. My only course is to hide my weakness
and never see him again. He is inflexible, yet his very obduracy
increases my love a hundred-fold."

At last after a lonely walk on the beach she concluded, "My
guardian must take me home on Monday next. He comes to-night to
spend Sunday with us, and I will make preparations to go at once."

Although her resolution did not fail her, she walked forward more
and more slowly, her dejection and weariness becoming almost
overpowering. As she was turning a sharp angle of rocks that
jutted well down to the water she came face to face with Ackland
and Mrs. Alston. She was off her guard; and her thoughts of him
had been so absorbing that she felt he must be conscious of them.
She flushed painfully and hurried by with slight recognition and
downcast face, but she had scarcely passed them when, acting under
a sudden impulse, she stopped and said in a low tone:

"Mr. Ackland--"

He turned expectantly toward her. For a moment she found it
difficult to speak, then ignoring the presence of Mrs. Alston,
resolutely began:

"Mr. Ackland, I must refer once more to a topic which you have in
a sense forbidden. I feel partially absolved, however, for I do
not think you have forgiven me anything. At any rate I must ask
your pardon once more for having so needlessly and foolishly
imperilled your life. I say these words now because I may not have
another opportunity; we leave on Monday." With this she raised her
eyes to his with an appeal for a little kindness which Mrs. Alston
was confident could not be resisted. Indeed, she was sure that she
saw a slight nervous tremor in Ackland's hands, as if he found it
hard to control himself. Then he appeared to grow rigid. Lifting
his hat, he said gravely and unresponsively:

"Miss Van Tyne, you now surely have made ample amends. Please
forget the whole affair."

She turned from him at once, but not so quickly but that both he
and his cousin saw the bitter tears that would come. A moment
later she was hidden by the angle of the rock. As long as she was
visible Ackland watched her without moving, then he slowly turned
to his cousin, his face as inscrutable as ever. She walked at his
side for a few moments in ill-concealed impatience, then stopped
and said decisively:

"I'll go no further with you to-day. I am losing all respect for
you."

Without speaking, he turned to accompany her back to the house.
His reticence and coldness appeared to annoy her beyond endurance,
for she soon stopped and sat down on a ledge of the rocks that
jutted down the beach where they had met Miss Van Tyne.

"John, you are the most unnatural man I ever saw in my life," she
began angrily.

"What reason have you for so flattering an opinion," he asked
coolly.

"You have been giving reason for it every day since you came
here," she resumed hotly. "I always heard it said that you had no
heart; but I defended you and declared that your course toward
your mother even when a boy showed that you had, and that you
would prove it some day. But I now believe that you are
unnaturally cold, heartless, and unfeeling. I had no objection to
your wounding Miss Van Tyne's vanity and encouraged you when that
alone bid fair to suffer. But when she proved she had a heart and
that you had awakened it, she deserved at least kindness and
consideration on your part. If you could not return her affection,
you should have gone away at once; but I believe that you have
stayed for the sole and cruel purpose of gloating over her
suffering."

"She has not suffered more than my friend, or than I would if--"

"You indeed! The idea of your suffering from any such cause! I
half believe you came here with the deliberate purpose of avenging
your friend, and that you are keeping for his inspection a diary
in which the poor girl's humiliation to-day will form the hateful
climax."

They did not dream that the one most interested was near. Miss Van
Tyne had felt too faint and sorely wounded to go further without
rest. Believing that the rocks would hide her from those whose
eyes she would most wish to shun, she had thrown herself down
beyond the angle and was shedding the bitterest tears that she had
ever known. Suddenly she heard Mrs. Alston's words but a short
distance away, and was so overcome by their import that she
hesitated what to do. She would not meet them again for the world,
but felt so weak that she doubted whether she could drag herself
away without being discovered, especially as the beach trended off
to the left so sharply a little further on that they might
discover her. While she was looking vainly for some way of escape
she heard Ackland's words and Mrs. Alston's surmise in reply that
he had come with the purpose of revenge. She was so stung by their
apparent truth that she resolved to clamber up through an opening
of the rocks if the thing were possible. Panting and exhausted she
gained the summit, and then hastened to an adjacent grove, as some
wounded, timid creature would run to the nearest cover. Ackland
had heard sounds and had stepped around the point of the rocks
just in time to see her disappearing above the bank. Returning to
Mrs. Alston, he said impatiently:

"In view of your opinions my society can have no attractions for
you. Shall I accompany you to the hotel?"

"No," was the angry reply. "I'm in no mood to speak to you again
to-day."

He merely bowed and turned as if to pursue his walk. The moment
she was hidden, however, he also climbed the rocks in time to see
Miss Van Tyne entering the grove. With swift and silent tread he
followed her, but could not at once discover her hiding-place. At
last passionate sobs made it evident that she was concealed behind
a great oak a little on his left. Approaching cautiously, he heard
her moan:

"Oh, this is worse than death! He makes me feel as if even God had
no mercy for me. But I will expiate my wrong; I will, at the
bitterest sacrifice which a woman can make."

She sprang up to meet Ackland standing with folded arms before
her. She started violently and leaned against the tree for
support. But the weakness was momentary, for she wiped the tears
from her eyes, and then turned to him so quietly that only her
extreme pallor proved that she realized the import of her words.

"Mr. Ackland," she asked, "have you Mr. Munson's address?"

It was his turn now to start, but he merely answered: "Yes."

"Do--do you think he still cares for me?"

"Undoubtedly."

"Since then you are so near a friend, will you write to him that I
will try"--she turned away and would not look at him as, after a
moment's hesitation, she concluded her sentence--"I will try to
make him as happy as I can."

"Do you regret your course?" he asked with a slight tremor in his
voice.

"I regret that I misled--that I wronged him beyond all words. I am
willing to make all the amends in my power."

"Do you love him?"

She now turned wholly away and shook her head.

"And yet you would marry him?"

"Yes, if he wished it, knowing all the truth."

"Can you believe he would wish it?" he asked indignantly. "Can you
believe that any man--"

"Then avenge him to your cruel soul's content," she exclaimed
passionately. "Tell him that I have no heart to give to him or to
any one. Through no effort or fault of mine I overheard Mrs.
Alston's words and yours. I know your design against me. Assuage
your friend's grief by assuring him of your entire success, of
which you are already so well aware. Tell him how you triumphed
over an untaught, thoughtless girl who was impelled merely by the
love of power and excitement, as you are governed by ambition and
a remorseless will. I did not know--I did not understand how cruel
I was, although now that I do know I shall never forgive myself.
But if you had the heart of a man you might have seen that you
were subjecting me to torture. I did not ask or expect that you
should care for me; but I had a right to hope for a little
kindness, a little manly and delicate consideration, a little
healing sympathy for the almost mortal wound that you have made.
But I now see that you have stood by and watched like a grand
inquisitor. Tell your friend that you have transformed the
thoughtless girl into a suffering woman. I cannot go to Brazil. I
cannot face dangers that might bring rest. I must keep my place in
society--keep it too under a hundred observant and curious eyes.
You have seen it all of late in this house; I was too wretched to
care. It was a part of my punishment, and I accepted it. I would
not be false again even in trying to conceal a secret which it is
like death to a woman to reveal. I only craved one word of
kindness from you. Had I received it, I would have gone away in
silence and suffered in silence. But your course and what I have
heard have made me reckless and despairing. You do not leave me
even the poor consolation of self-sacrifice. You are my stony-
hearted fate. I wish you had left me to drown. Tell your friend
that I am more wretched than he ever can be, because I am a woman.
Will he be satisfied?"

"He ought to be," was the low, husky reply.

"Are you proud of your triumph?"

"No, I am heartily ashamed of it; but I have kept a pledge that
will probably cost me far more than it has you."

"A pledge?"

"Yes, my pledge to make you suffer as far as possible as he
suffered."

She put her hand to her side as if she had received a wound, and
after a moment said wearily and coldly:

"Well, tell him that you succeeded, and be content;" and she
turned to leave him.

"Stay," he cried impetuously. "It is now your turn. Take your
revenge."

"My revenge?" she repeated in unfeigned astonishment.

"Yes, your revenge. I have loved you from the moment I hoped you
had a woman's heart, yes, and before--when I feared I might not be
able to save your life. I know it now, though the very thought of
it enraged me then. I have watched and waited more to be sure that
you had a woman's heart than for aught else, though a false sense
of honor kept me true to my pledge. After I met you on the beach I
determined at once to break my odious bond and place myself at
your mercy. You may refuse me in view of my course--you probably
will; but every one in that house there shall know that you
refused me, and your triumph shall be more complete than mine."

She looked into his face with an expression of amazement and
doubt; but instead of coldness, there was now a devotion and
pleading that she had never seen before.

She was too confused and astounded, however, to comprehend his
words immediately, nor could the impression of his hostility pass
away readily.

"You are mocking me," she faltered, scarcely knowing what she
said.

"I cannot blame you that you think me capable of mocking the noble
candor which has cost you so dear, as I can now understand. I
cannot ask you to believe that I appreciate your heroic impulse of
self-sacrifice--your purpose to atone for wrong by inflicting
irreparable wrong on yourself. It is natural that you should think
of me only as an instrument of revenge with no more feeling than
some keen-edged weapon would have. This also is the inevitable
penalty of my course. When I speak of my love I cannot complain if
you smile in bitter incredulity. But I have at least proved that I
have a resolute will and that I keep my word; and I again assure
you that it shall be known this very night that you have refused
me, that I offered you my hand, that you already had my heart,
where your image is enshrined with that of my mother, and that I
entreated you to be my wife. My cousin alone guessed my miserable
triumph; all shall know of yours."

As he spoke with impassioned earnestness, the confusion passed
from her mind. She felt the truth of his words; she knew that her
ambitious dream had been fulfilled, and that she had achieved the
conquest of a man upon whom all others had smiled in vain. But how
immeasurably different were her emotions from those which she had
once anticipated! Not her beauty, not her consummate skill in
fascination had wrought this miracle, but her woman's heart,
awakened at last; and it thrilled with such unspeakable joy that
she turned away to hide its reflex in her face. He was misled by
the act into believing that she could not forgive him, and yet was
perplexed when she murmured with a return of her old piquant
humor:

"You are mistaken, Mr. Ackland; it shall never be known that I
refused you."

"How can you prevent it?"

"If your words are sincere, you will submit to such terms as I
choose to make."

"I am sincere, and my actions shall prove it; but I shall permit
no mistaken self-sacrifice on your part, nor any attempt to shield
me from the punishment I well deserve."

She suddenly turned upon him a radiant face in which he read his
happiness, and faltered:

"Jack, I do believe you, although the change seems wrought by some
heavenly magic. But it will take a long time to pay you up. I hope
to be your dear torment for a lifetime."

He caught her in such a strong, impetuous embrace that she gasped:

"I thought you were--cold to our sex."

"It's not your sex that I am clasping, but you--YOU, my Eve. Like
the first man, I have won my bride under the green trees and
beneath the open sky."

"Yes, Jack; and I give you my whole heart as truly as did the
first woman when there was but one man in all the world. That is
MY REVENGE."

This is what Will Munson wrote some weeks later:

"Well, Jack, I've had the yellow fever, and it was the most
fortunate event of my life. I was staying with a charming family,
and they would not permit my removal to a hospital. One of my
bravest and most devoted nurses has consented to become my wife. I
hope you punished that little wretch Eva Van Tyne as she
deserved."

"Confound your fickle soul!" muttered Ackland. "I punished her as
she did not deserve; and I risked more than life in doing so. If
her heart had not been as good as gold and as kind as Heaven she
never would have looked at me again."

Ackland is quite as indifferent to the sex as ever, but Eva has
never complained that he was cold to her.






A CHRISTMAS-EVE SUIT


The Christmas holidays had come, and with them a welcome vacation
for Hedley Marstern. Although as yet a briefless young lawyer, he
had a case in hand which absorbed many of his thoughts--the
conflicting claims of two young women in his native village on the
Hudson. It must not be imagined that the young women were pressing
their claims except as they did so unconsciously, by virtue of
their sex and various charms. Nevertheless, Marstern was not the
first lawyer who had clients over whom midnight oil was burned,
they remaining unaware of the fact.

If not yet a constitutional attorney, he was at least
constitutionally one. Falling helplessly in love with one girl
simplifies matters. There are no distracting pros and cons--
nothing required but a concentration of faculties to win the
enslaver, and so achieve mastery. Marstern did not appear amenable
to the subtle influences which blind the eyes and dethrone reason,
inspiring in its place an overwhelming impulse to capture a
fortuitous girl because (to a heated imagination) she surpasses
all her sex. Indeed, he was level-headed enough to believe that he
would never capture any such girl; but he hoped to secure one who
promised to make as good a wife as he would try to be a husband,
and with a fair amount of self-esteem, he was conscious of
imperfections. Therefore, instead of fancying that any of his fair
acquaintances were angels, he had deliberately and, as some may
think, in a very cold-blooded fashion, endeavored to discover what
they actually were. He had observed that a good deal of prose
followed the poetry of wooing and the lunacy of the honeymoon; and
he thought it might be well to criticise a little before marriage
as well as after it.

There were a number of charming girls in the social circle of his
native town; and he had, during later years, made himself quite
impartially agreeable to them. Indeed, without much effort on his
part he had become what is known as a general favorite. He had
been too diligent a student to become a society man, but was ready
enough in vacation periods to make the most of every country
frolic, and even on great occasions to rush up from the city and
return at some unearthly hour in the morning when his partners in
the dance were not half through their dreams. While on these
occasions he had shared in the prevailing hilarity, he
nevertheless had the presentiment that some one of the laughing,
light-footed girls would one day pour his coffee and send him to
his office in either a good or a bad mood to grapple with the
problems awaiting him there. He had in a measure decided that when
he married it should be to a girl whom he had played with in
childhood and whom he knew a good deal about, and not to a chance
acquaintance of the world at large. So, beneath all his
diversified gallantries he had maintained a quiet little policy of
observation, until his thoughts had gradually gathered around two
of his young associates who, unconsciously to themselves, as we
have said, put in stronger and stronger claims every time he saw
them. They asserted these claims in the only way in which he would
have recognized them--by being more charming, agreeable, and, as
he fancied, by being better than the others. He had not made them
aware, even by manner, of the distinction accorded to them; and as
yet he was merely a friend.

But the time had come, he believed, for definite action. While he
weighed and considered, some prompter fellows might take the case
out of his hands entirely; therefore he welcomed this vacation and
the opportunities it afforded.

The festivities began with what is termed in the country a "large
party"; and Carrie Mitchell and Lottie Waldo were both there,
resplendent in new gowns made for the occasion. Marstern thought
them both charming. They danced equally well and talked nonsense
with much the same ease and vivacity. He could not decide which
was the prettier, nor did the eyes and attentions of others afford
him any aid. They were general favorites, as well as himself,
although it was evident that to some they might become more,
should they give encouragement. But they were apparently in the
heyday of their girlhood, and thus far had preferred miscellaneous
admiration to individual devotion. By the time the evening was
over Marstern felt that if life consisted of large parties he
might as well settle the question by the toss of a copper.

It must not be supposed that he was such a conceited prig as to
imagine that such a fortuitous proceeding, or his best efforts
afterward, could settle the question as it related to the girls.
It would only decide his own procedure. He was like an old
marauding baron, in honest doubt from which town he can carry off
the richest booty--that is, in case he can capture any one of
them. His overtures for capitulation might be met with the "slings
and arrows of outrageous fortune" and he be sent limping off the
field. Nevertheless, no man regrets that he must take the
initiative, and he would be less than a man who would fear to do
so. When it came to this point in the affair, Marstern shrugged
his shoulders and thought, "I must take my chances like the rest."
But he wished to be sure that he had attained this point, and not
lay siege to one girl only to wish afterward it had been the
other.

His course that evening proved that he not only had a legal cast
of mind but also a judicial one. He invited both Miss Mitchell and
Miss Waldo to take a sleigh-ride with him the following evening,
fancying that when sandwiched between them in the cutter he could
impartially note his impressions. His unsuspecting clients
laughingly accepted, utterly unaware of the momentous character of
the trial scene before them.

As Marstern smoked a cigar before retiring that night, he admitted
to himself that it was rather a remarkable court that was about to
be held. He was the only advocate for the claims of each, and
finally he proposed to take a seat on the bench and judge between
them. Indeed, before he slept he decided to take that august
position at once, and maintain a judicial impartiality while
noting his impressions.

Christmas Eve happened to be a cold, clear, star-lit night; and
when Marstern drove to Miss Waldo's door, he asked himself, "Could
a fellow ask for anything daintier and finer" than the red-lipped,
dark-eyed girl revealed by the hall-lamp as she tripped lightly
out, her anxious mamma following her with words of unheeded
caution about not taking cold, and coming home early. He had not
traversed the mile which intervened between the residences of the
two girls before he almost wished he could continue the drive
under the present auspices, and that, as in the old times, he
could take toll at every bridge, and encircle his companion with
his arm as they bounced over the "thank-'ee mams." The frosty air
appeared to give keenness and piquancy to Miss Lottie's wit, and
the chime of the bells was not merrier or more musical than her
voice. But when a little later he saw blue-eyed Carrie Mitchell in
her furs and hood silhouetted in the window, his old dilemma
became as perplexing as ever. Nevertheless, it was the most
delightful uncertainty that he had ever experienced; and he had a
presentiment that he had better make the most of it, since it
could not last much longer. Meanwhile, he was hedged about with
blessings clearly not in disguise, and he gave utterance to this
truth as they drove away.

"Surely there never was so lucky a fellow. Here I am kept warm and
happy by the two finest girls in town."

"Yes," said Lottie; "and it's a shame you can't sit on both sides
of us."

"I assure you I wish it were possible. It would double my
pleasure."

"I'm very well content," remarked Carrie, quietly, "as long as I
can keep on the right side of people--"

"Well, you are not on the right side to-night," interrupted
Lottie.

"Good gracious!" thought Marstern, "she's next to my heart. I
wonder if that will give her unfair advantage;" but Carrie
explained:

"Of course I was speaking metaphorically."

"In that aspect of the case it would be a shame to me if any side
I have is not right toward those who have so honored me," he
hastened to say.

"Oh, Carrie has all the advantage--she is next to your heart."

"Would you like to exchange places?" was the query flashed back by
Carrie.

"Oh, no, I'm quite as content as you are."

"Why, then, since I am more than content--exultant, indeed--it
appears that we all start from excellent premises to reach a happy
conclusion of our Christmas Eve," cried Marstern.

"Now you are talking shop, Mr. Lawyer--Premises and Conclusions,
indeed!" said Lottie; "since you are such a happy sandwich, you
must be a tongue sandwich, and be very entertaining."

He did his best, the two girls seconding his efforts so genially
that he found himself, after driving five miles, psychologically
just where he was physically--between them, as near to one in his
thoughts and preferences as to the other.

"Let us take the river road home," suggested Lottie.

"As long as you agree," he answered, "you both are sovereign
potentates. If you should express conflicting wishes, I should
have to stop here in the road till one abdicated in favor of the
other, or we all froze."

"But you, sitting so snugly between us, would not freeze," said
Lottie. "If we were obstinate we should have to assume our
pleasantest expressions, and then you could eventually take us
home as bits of sculpture. In fact, I'm getting cold already."

"Are you also, Miss Carrie?"

"Oh, I'll thaw out before summer. Don't mind me."

"Well, then, mind me," resumed Lottie. "See how white and smooth
the river looks. Why can't we drive home on the ice? It will save
miles--I mean it looks so inviting."

"Oh, dear!" cried Carrie, "I feel like protesting now. The longest
way round may be both the shortest and safest way home."

"You ladies shall decide. This morning I drove over the route we
would take to-night, and I should not fear to take a ton of coal
over it."

"A comparison suggesting warmth and a grate-fire. I vote for the
river," said Lottie, promptly.

"Oh, well, Mr. Marstern, if you've been over the ice so recently--
I only wish to feel reasonably safe."

"I declare!" thought Marstern, "Lottie is the braver and more
brilliant girl; and the fact that she is not inclined to forego
the comfort of the home-fire for the pleasure of my company,
reveals the difficulty of, and therefore incentive to, the suit I
may decide to enter upon before New Year's."

Meanwhile, his heart on Carrie's side began to grow warm and
alert, as if recognizing an affinity to some object not far off.
Granting that she had not been so brilliant as Lottie, she had
been eminently companionable in a more quiet way. If there had not
been such bursts of enthusiasm at the beginning of the drive, her
enjoyment appeared to have more staying powers. He liked her none
the less that her eyes were often turned toward the stars or the
dark silhouettes of the leafless trees against the snow. She did
not keep saying, "Ah, how lovely! What a fine bit that is!" but he
had only to follow her eyes to see something worth looking at.

"A proof that Miss Carrie also is not so preoccupied with the
pleasure of my company that she has no thoughts for other things,"
cogitated Marstern. "It's rather in her favor that she prefers
Nature to a grate fire. They're about even yet."

Meanwhile the horse was speeding along on the white, hard expanse
of the river, skirting the west shore. They now had only about a
mile to drive before striking land again; and the scene was so
beautiful with the great dim outlines of the mountains before them
that both the girls suggested that they should go leisurely for a
time.

"We shouldn't hastily and carelessly pass such a picture as that,
any more than one would if a fine copy of it were hung in a
gallery," said Carrie. "The stars are so brilliant along the brow
of that highland yonder that they form a dia--oh, oh! what IS the
matter?" and she clung to Marstern's arm.

The horse was breaking through the ice.

"Whoa!" said Marstern, firmly. Even as he spoke, Lottie was out of
the sleigh and running back on the ice, crying and wringing her
hands.

"We shall be drowned," she almost screamed hysterically.

"Mr. Marstern, what SHALL we do? Can't we turn around and go back
the way we came?"

"Miss Carrie, will you do what I ask? Will you believe me when I
say that I do not think you are in any danger?"

"Yes, I'll do my best," she replied, catching her breath. She grew
calm rapidly as he tried to reassure Lottie, telling her that
water from the rising of the tide had overflowed the main ice and
that thin ice had formed over it, also that the river at the most
was only two or three feet deep at that point. But all was of no
avail; Lottie stood out upon the ice in a panic, declaring that he
never should have brought them into such danger, and that he must
turn around at once and go back as they came.

"But, Miss Waldo, the tide is rising, and we may find wet places
returning. Besides, it would bring us home very late. Now, Miss
Carrie and I will drive slowly across this place and then return
for you. After we have been across it twice you surely won't
fear."

"I won't be left alone; suppose you two should break through and
disappear, what would become of ME?"

"You would be better off than we," he replied, laughing.

"I think it's horrid of you to laugh. Oh, I'm so cold and
frightened! I feel as if the ice were giving way under my feet."

"Why, Miss Lottie, we just drove over that spot where you stand.
Here, Miss Carrie shall stay with you while I drive back and forth
alone."

"Then if you were drowned we'd both be left alone to freeze to
death."

"I pledge you my word you shall be by that grate-fire within less
than an hour if you will trust me five minutes."

"Oh, well, if you will risk your life and ours too; but Carrie
must stay with me."

"Will YOU trust me, Miss Carrie, and help me out of this scrape?"

Carrie was recovering from her panic, and replied, "I have given
you my promise."

He was out of the sleigh instantly, and the thin ice broke with
him also. "I must carry you a short distance," he said. "I cannot
allow you to get your feet wet. Put one arm around my neck, so;
now please obey as you promised."

She did so without a word, and he bore her beyond the water,
inwardly exulting and blessing that thin ice. His decision was
coming with the passing seconds; indeed, it had come. Returning to
the sleigh he drove slowly forward, his horse making a terrible
crunching and splashing, Lottie meanwhile keeping up a staccato
accompaniment of little shrieks.

"Ah, my charming creature," he thought, "with you it was only,
'What will become of ME?' I might not have found out until it was
too late the relative importance of 'me' in the universe had we
not struck this bad crossing; and one comes to plenty of bad
places to cross in a lifetime."

The area of thin ice was not very narrow, and he was becoming but
a dim and shadowy outline to the girls. Lottie was now screaming
for his return. Having crossed the overflowed space and absolutely
assured himself that there was no danger, he returned more rapidly
and found Carrie trying to calm her companion.

"Oh," sobbed Lottie, "my feet are wet and almost frozen. The ice
underneath may have borne you, but it won't bear all three of us.
Oh, dear, I wish I hadn't--I wish I was home; and I feel as if I'd
never get there."

"Miss Lottie, I assure you that the ice will hold a ton, but I'll
tell you what I'll do. I shall put you in the sleigh, and Miss
Carrie will drive you over. You two together do not weigh much
more than I do. I'll walk just behind you with my hands on the
back of the sleigh, and if I see the slightest danger I'll lift
you out of the sleigh first and carry you to safety."

This proposition promised so well that she hesitated, and he
lifted her in instantly before she could change her mind, then
helped Carrie in with a quiet pressure of the hand, as much as to
say, "I shall depend on you."

"But, Mr. Marstern, you'll get your feet wet," protested Carrie.

"That doesn't matter," he replied good-naturedly. "I shall be no
worse off than Miss Lottie, and I'm determined to convince her of
safety. Now go straight ahead as I direct."

Once the horse stumbled, and Lottie thought he was going down head
first. "Oh, lift me out, quick, quick!" she cried.

"Yes, indeed I will, Miss Lottie, as soon as we are opposite that
grate fire of yours."

They were soon safely over, and within a half-hour reached
Lottie's home. It was evident she was a little ashamed of her
behavior, and she made some effort to retrieve herself. But she
was cold and miserable, vexed with herself and still more vexed
with Marstern. That a latent sense of justice forbade the latter
feeling only irritated her the more. Individuals as well as
communities must have scapegoats; and it is not an unusual impulse
on the part of some to blame and dislike those before whom they
have humiliated themselves.

She gave her companions a rather formal invitation to come in and
get warm before proceeding further; but Marstern said very
politely that he thought it was too late, unless Miss Carrie was
cold. Carrie protested that she was not so cold but that she could
easily wait till she reached her own fireside.

"Well, good-night, then," and the door was shut a trifle
emphatically.

"Mr. Marstern," said Carrie, sympathetically, "your feet must be
very cold and wet after splashing through all that ice-water."

"They are," he replied; "but I don't mind it. Well, if I had tried
for years I could not have found such a test of character as we
had to-night."

"What do you mean?"

"Oh, well, you two girls did not behave exactly alike. I liked the
way you behaved. You helped me out of a confounded scrape."

"Would you have tried for years to find a test?" she asked,
concealing the keenness of her query under a laugh.

"I should have been well rewarded if I had, by such a fine
contrast," he replied.

Carrie's faculties had not so congealed but that his words set her
thinking. She had entertained at times the impression that she and
Lottie were his favorites. Had he taken them out that night
together in the hope of contrasts, of finding tests that would
help his halting decision? He had ventured where the intuitions of
a girl like Carrie Mitchell were almost equal to second-sight; and
she was alert for what would come next.

He accepted her invitation to come in and warm his feet at the
glowing fire in the grate, which Carrie's father had made before
retiring. Mrs. Mitchell, feeling that her daughter was with an old
friend and playmate, did not think the presence of a chaperon
essential, and left the young people alone. Carrie bustled about,
brought cake, and made hot lemonade, while Marstern stretched his
feet to the grate with a luxurious sense of comfort and
complacency, thinking how homelike it all was and how paradisiacal
life would become if such a charming little Hebe presided over his
home. His lemonade became nectar offered by such hands.

She saw the different expression in his eyes. It was now homage,
decided preference for one and not mere gallantry to two.
Outwardly she was demurely oblivious and maintained simply her
wonted friendliness. Marstern, however, was thawing in more senses
than one, and he was possessed by a strong impulse to begin an
open siege at once.

"I haven't had a single suit of any kind yet, Carrie," he said,
dropping the prefix of "Miss," which had gradually been adopted as
they had grown up.

"Oh, well, that was the position of all the great lawyers once,"
she replied, laughing. Marstern's father was wealthy, and all knew
that he could afford to be briefless for a time.

"I may never be great; but I shall work as hard as any of them,"
he continued. "To tell you the honest truth, however, this would
be the happiest Christmas Eve of my life if I had a downright suit
on my hands. Why can't I be frank with you and say I'd like to
begin the chief suit of my life now and here--a suit for this
little hand? I'd plead for it as no lawyer ever pleaded before. I
settled that much down on the ice."

"And if I hadn't happened to behave on the ice in a manner
agreeable to your lordship, you would have pleaded with the other
girl?" she remarked, withdrawing her hand and looking him directly
in the eyes.

"What makes you think so?" he asked somewhat confusedly.

"You do."

He sprang up and paced the room a few moments, then confronted her
with the words, "You shall have the whole truth. Any woman that I
would ask to be my wife is entitled to that," and he told her just
what the attitude of his mind had been from the first.

She laughed outright, then gave him her hand as she said, "Your
honesty insures that we can be very good friends; but I don't wish
to hear anything more about suits which are close of kin to
lawsuits."

He looked very dejected, feeling that he had blundered fatally in
his precipitation.

"Come now, Hedley, be sensible," she resumed, half laughing, half
serious. "As you say, we can be frank with each other. Why, only
the other day we were boy and girl together coasting downhill on
the same sled. You are applying your legal jargon to a deep
experience, to something sacred--the result, to my mind, of a
divine instinct. Neither you nor I have ever felt for each other
this instinctive preference, this subtle gravitation of the heart.
Don't you see? Your head has been concerned about me, and only
your head. By a kindred process you would select one bale of
merchandise in preference to another. Good gracious! I've faults
enough. You'll meet some other girl that will stand some other
test far better than I. I want a little of what you call silly
romance in my courtship. See; I can talk about this suit as coolly
and fluently as you can. We'd make a nice pair of lovers, about as
frigid as the ice-water you waded through so good-naturedly;" and
the girl's laugh rang out merrily, awakening echoes in the old
house. Mr. and Mrs. Mitchell might rest securely when their
daughter could laugh like that. It was the mirth of a genuine
American girl whose self-protection was better than the care of a
thousand duennas.

He looked at her with honest admiration in his eyes, then rose
quietly and said, "That's fine, Carrie. Your head's worth two of
mine, and you'd make the better lawyer. You see through a case
from top to bottom. You were right--I wasn't in love with you; I
don't know whether I'm in love with you now, and you haven't an
infinitesimal spark for me. Nevertheless, I begin my suit here and
now, and I shall never withdraw it till you are engaged to another
fellow. So there!"

Carrie looked rather blank at this result of her reductio ad
absurdum process; and he did not help her by adding, "A fellow
isn't always in love. There must be a beginning; and when I arrive
at this beginning under the guidance of reason, judgment, and
observation, I don't see as I'm any more absurd than the fellow
who tumbles helplessly in love, he doesn't know why. What becomes
of all these people who have divine gravitations? You and I both
know of some who had satanic repulsions afterward. They used their
eyes and critical faculties after marriage instead of before. The
romance exhaled like a morning mist; and the facts came out
distinctly. They learned what kind of man and woman they actually
were, and two idealized creatures were sent to limbo. Because I
don't blunder upon the woman I wish to marry, but pick her out,
that's no reason I can't and won't love her. Your analysis and
judgment were correct only up to date. You have now to meet a suit
honestly, openly announced. This may be bad policy on my part; yet
I have so much faith in you and respect for you that I don't
believe you will let my precipitation create a prejudice. Give me
a fair hearing; that's all I ask."

"Well, well, I'll promise not to frown, even though some finer
paragon should throw me completely in the shade."

"You don't believe in my yet," he resumed, after a moment of
thought. "I felt that I had blundered awfully a while ago; but I
doubt it. A girl of your perceptions would soon have seen it all.
I've not lost anything by being frank from the start. Be just to
me, however. It wasn't policy that led me to speak, but this
homelike scene, and you appearing like the good genius of a home."

He pulled out his watch, and gave a low whistle as he held it
toward her. Then his manner suddenly became grave and gentle.
"Carrie," he said, "I wish you, not a merry Christmas, but a happy
one, and many of them. It seems to me it would be a great
privilege for a man to make a woman like you happy."

"Is this the beginning of the suit?" she asked with a laugh that
was a little forced.

"I don't know. Perhaps it is; but I spoke just as I felt. Good-
night."

She would not admit of a trace of sentiment on her part. "Good-
night," she said. "Merry Christmas! Go home and hang up your
stocking."

"Bless me!" she thought, as she went slowly up the stairs, "I
thought I was going to be through with him for good and all,
except as a friend; but if he goes on this way--"

The next morning a basket of superb roses was left at her home.
There was no card, and mamma queried and surmised; but the girl
knew. They were not displeasing to her, and somehow, before the
day was over, they found their way to her room; but she shook her
head decidedly as she said, "He must be careful not to send me
other gifts, for I will return them instantly. Flowers, in
moderation, never commit a girl."

But then came another gift--a book with pencillings here and
there, not against sentimental passages, but words that made her
think. It was his manner in society, however, that at once
annoyed, perplexed, and pleased her. On the first occasion they
met in company with others, he made it clear to every one that he
was her suitor; yet he was not a burr which she could not shake
off. He rather seconded all her efforts to have a good time with
any and every one she chose. Nor did he, wallflower fashion, mope
in the meanwhile and look unutterable things. He added to the
pleasure of a score of others, and even conciliated Lottie, yet at
the same time surrounded the girl of his choice with an atmosphere
of unobtrusive devotion. She was congratulated on her conquest--
rather maliciously so by Lottie. Her air of courteous indifference
was well maintained; yet she was a woman, and could not help being
flattered. Certain generous traits in her nature were touched also
by a homage which yielded everything and exacted nothing.

The holidays soon passed, and he returned to his work. She learned
incidentally that he toiled faithfully, instead of mooning around.
At every coigne of vantage she found him, or some token of his
ceaseless effort. She was compelled to think of him, and to think
well of him. Though mamma and papa judiciously said little, it was
evident that they liked the style of lover into which he was
developing.

Once during the summer she said: "I don't think it's right to let
you go on in this way any longer."

"Are my attentions so very annoying?"

"No, indeed. A girl never had a more agreeable or useful friend."

"Are you engaged to some other fellow?"

"Of course not. You know better."

"There is no 'of course not' about it. I couldn't and wouldn't lay
a straw in the way. You are not bound, but I."

"You bound?"

"Certainly. You remember what I said."

"Then I must accept the first man that asks me--"

"I ask you."

"No; some one else, so as to unloose your conscience and give you
a happy deliverance."

"You would leave me still bound and hopeless in that case. I love
you now, Carrie Mitchell."

"Oh, dear! you are incorrigible. It's just a lawyer's persistence
in winning a suit."

"You can still swear on the dictionary that you don't love me at
all?"

"I might--on the dictionary. There, I won't talk about such things
any more," and she resolutely changed the subject.

But she couldn't swear, even on the dictionary. She didn't know
where she stood or how it would all end; but with increasing
frequency the words, "I love you now," haunted her waking and
dreaming hours.

The holidays were near again, and then came a letter from
Marstern, asking her to take another sleigh-ride with him on
Christmas Eve. His concluding words were: "There is no other woman
in the world that I want on the other side of me." She kissed
these words, then looked around in a startled, shamefaced manner,
blushing even in the solitude of her room.

Christmas Eve came, but with it a wild storm of wind and sleet.
She was surprised at the depth of her disappointment. Would he
even come to call through such a tempest?

He did come, and come early; and she said demurely: "I did not
expect you on such a night as this."

He looked at her for a moment, half humorously, half seriously,
and her eyes drooped before his. "You will know better what to
expect next time," was his comment.

"When is next time?"

"Any and every time which gives me a chance to see you. Who should
know that better than you?"

"Are you never going to give up?" she asked with averted face.

"Not till you become engaged."

"Hush! They are all in the parlor."

"Well, they ought to know as much, by this time, also."

She thought it was astonishing how he made himself at home in the
family circle. In half an hour there was scarcely any restraint
left because a visitor was present. Yet, as if impelled by some
mysterious influence, one after another slipped out; and Carrie
saw with strange little thrills of dismay that she would soon be
alone with that indomitable lawyer. She signalled to her mother,
but the old lady's eyes were glued to her knitting.

At last they were alone, and she expected a prompt and powerful
appeal from the plaintiff; but Marstern drew his chair to the
opposite side of the hearth and chatted so easily, naturally, and
kindly that her trepidation passed utterly. It began to grow late,
and a heavier gust than usual shook the house. It appeared to
waken him to the dire necessity of breasting the gale, and he rose
and said:

"I feel as if I could sit here forever, Carrie. It's just the
impression I had a year ago to-night. You, sitting there by the
fire, gave then, and give now to this place the irresistible charm
of home. I think I had then the decided beginning of the divine
gravitation--wasn't that what you called it?--which has been
growing so strong ever since. You thought then that the ice-water
I waded was in my veins. Do you think so now? If you do I shall
have to take another year to prove the contrary. Neither am I
convinced of the absurdity of my course, as you put it then. I
studied you coolly and deliberately before I began to love you,
and reason and judgment have had no chance to jeer at my love."

"But, Hedley," she began with a slight tremor in her tones, "you
are idealizing me as certainly as the blindest. I've plenty of
faults."

"I haven't denied that; so have I plenty of faults. What right
have I to demand a perfection I can't offer? I have known people
to marry who imagined each other perfect, and then come to court
for a separation on the ground of incompatibility of temperament.
They learned the meaning of that long word too late, and were
scarcely longer about it than the word itself. Now, I'm satisfied
that I could cordially agree with you on some points and lovingly
disagree with you on others. Chief of all it's your instinct to
make a home. You appear better at your own fireside than when in
full dress at a reception. You--"

"See here, Hedley, you've got to give up this suit at last. I'm
engaged," and she looked away as if she could not meet his eyes.

"Engaged?" he said slowly, looking at her with startled eyes.

"Well, about the same as engaged. My heart has certainly gone from
me beyond recall." He drew a long breath. "I was foolish enough to
begin to hope," he faltered.

"You must dismiss hope to-night, then," she said, her face still
averted.

He was silent and she slowly turned toward him. He had sunk into a
chair and buried his face in his hands, the picture of dejected
defeat.

There was a sudden flash of mirth through tear-gemmed eyes, a
glance at the clock, then noiseless steps, and she was on her
knees beside him, her arm about his neck, her blushing face near
his wondering eyes as she breathed:

"Happy Christmas, Hedley! How do you like your first gift; and
what room is there now for hope?"




THREE THANKSGIVING KISSES


It was the day before Thanksgiving. The brief cloudy November
afternoon was fast merging into early twilight. The trees, now
gaunt and bare, creaked and groaned in the passing gale, clashing
their icy branches together with sounds sadly unlike the
slumberous rustle of their foliage in June. And that same foliage
was now flying before the wind, swept hither and thither, like
exiles driven by disaster from the moorings of home, at times
finding a brief abiding-place, and then carried forward to parts
unknown by circumstances beyond control. The street leading into
the village was almost deserted; and the few who came and went
hastened on with fluttering garments, head bent down, and a
shivering sense of discomfort. The fields were bare and brown; and
the landscape on the uplands rising in the distance would have
been utterly sombre had not green fields of grain, like childlike
faith in wintry age, relieved the gloomy outlook and prophesied of
the sunshine and golden harvest of a new year and life.

But bleak November found no admittance in Mrs. Alford's cosey
parlor. Though, as usual, it was kept as the room for state
occasions, it was not a stately room. It was furnished with
elegance and good taste; but what was better, the genial home
atmosphere from the rest of the house had invaded it, and one did
not feel, on entering it from the free-and-easy sitting-room, as
if passing from a sunny climate to the icebergs of the Pole.
Therefore I am sure my reader will follow me gladly out of the
biting, boisterous wind into the homelike apartment, and as we
stand in fancy before the glowing grate, we will make the
acquaintance of the May-day creature who is its sole occupant.

Elsie Alford, just turning seventeen, appeared younger than her
years warranted. Some girls carry the child far into their teens,
and Head the mirthful innocence of infancy with the richer, fuller
life of budding womanhood. This was true of Elsie. Hers was not
the forced exotic bloom of fashionable life; but rather one of the
native blossoms of her New England home, having all the delicacy
and at the same time hardiness of the windflower. She was also as
shy and easily agitated, and yet, like the flower she resembled,
well rooted among the rocks of principle and truth. She was the
youngest and the pet of the household, and yet the "petting" was
not of that kind that develops selfishness and wilfulness, but
rather a genial sunlight of love falling upon her as a focus from
the entire family. They always spoke of her as "little Sis," or
the "child." And a child it seemed she would ever be, with her
kittenish ways, quick impulses, and swiftly alternating moods. As
she developed into womanly proportions, her grave, businesslike
father began to have misgivings. After one of her wild sallies at
the table, where she kept every one on the qui vive by her
unrestrained chatter, Mr. Alford said:

"Elsie, will you ever learn to be a woman?"

Looking mischievously at him through her curls, she replied, "Yes;
I might if I became as old as Mrs. Methuselah."

They finally concluded to leave Elsie's cure to care and trouble--
two certain elements of earthly life; and yet her experience of
either would be slight indeed, could their love shield her.

But it would not be exactly care or trouble that would sober Elsie
into a thoughtful woman, as our story will show.

Some of the November wind seemed in her curling hair upon this
fateful day; but her fresh young April face was a pleasant
contrast to the scene presented from the window, to which she kept
flitting with increasing frequency. It certainly was not the
dismal and darkening landscape that so intensely interested her.
The light of a great and coming pleasure was in her face, and her
manner was one of restless, eager expectancy. Little wonder. Her
pet brother, the one next older than herself, a promising young
theologue, was coming home to spend Thanksgiving. It was time he
appeared. The shriek of the locomotive had announced the arrival
of the train; and her ardent little spirit could scarcely endure
the moments intervening before she would almost concentrate
herself into a rapturous kiss and embrace of welcome, for the
favorite brother had been absent several long months.

Her mother called her away for a few moments, for the good old
lady was busy indeed, knowing well that merely full hearts would
not answer for a New England Thanksgiving. But the moment Elsie
was free she darted back to the window, just in time to catch a
glimpse, as she supposed, of her brother's well-remembered dark-
gray overcoat, as he was ascending the front steps.

A tall, grave-looking young man, an utter stranger to the place
and family, had his hand upon the doorbell; but before he could
ring it, the door flew open, and a lovely young creature
precipitated herself on his neck, like a missile fired from
heavenly battlements, and a kiss was pressed upon his lips that he
afterward admitted to have felt even to the "toes of his boots."

But his startled manner caused her to lift her face from under his
side-whiskers; and though the dusk was deepening, she could see
that her arms were around an utter stranger. She recoiled from him
with a bound, and trembling like a windflower indeed, her large
blue eyes dilating at the intruder with a dismay beyond words. How
the awkward scene would have ended it were hard to tell had not
the hearty voice of one coming up the path called out:

"Hi, there, you witch! who is that you are kissing, and then
standing off to see the effect?"

There was no mistake this time; so, impelled by love, shame, and
fear of "that horrid man," she fled, half sobbing, to his arms.

"No, he isn't a 'horrid man,' either," whispered her brother,
laughing. "He is a classmate of mine. Why, Stanhope, how are you?
I did not know that you and my sister were so well acquainted," he
added, half banteringly and half curiously, for as yet he did not
fully understand the scene.

The hall-lamp, shining through the open door, had revealed the
features of the young man (whom we must now call Mr. Stanhope), so
that his classmate had recognized him. His first impulse had been
to slip away in the darkness, and so escape from his awkward
predicament; but George Alford's prompt address prevented this and
brought him to bay. He was painfully embarrassed, but managed to
stammer: "I was taken for you, I think. I never had the pleasure--
honor of meeting your sister."

"Oh, ho! I see now. My wild little sister kissed before she
looked. Well, that was your good-fortune. I could keep two
Thanksgiving days on the strength of such a kiss as that," cried
the light-hearted student, shaking the diffident, shrinking Mr.
Stanhope warmly by the hand. "You will hardly need a formal
introduction now. But, bless me, where is she? Has the November
wind blown her away?"

"I think your sist--the lady passed around to the side entrance. I
fear I have annoyed her sadly."

"Nonsense! A good joke--something to tease the little witch about.
But come in. I'm forgetting the sacred rites."

And before the bewildered Mr. Stanhope could help himself, he was
half dragged into the lighted hall, and the door shut between him
and escape.

In the meantime, Elsie, like a whirlwind, had burst into the
kitchen, where Mrs. Alford was superintending some savory dishes.

"Oh, mother, George has come and has a horrid man with him, who
nearly devoured me."

And, with this rather feminine mode of stating the case, she
darted into the dusky, fire-lighted parlor, from whence, unseen,
she could reconnoitre the hall. Mr. Stanhope was just saying:

"Please let me go. I have stood between you and your welcome long
enough. I shall only be an intruder; and besides, as an utter
stranger, I have no right to stay." To all of which Elsie devoutly
whispered to herself, "Amen."

But Mrs. Alford now appeared, and after a warm, motherly greeting
to her son, turned in genial courtesy to welcome his friend, as
she supposed.

George was so happy that he wished every one else to be the same.
The comical episode attending Mr. Stanhope's unexpected appearance
just hit his frolicsome mood, and promised to be a source of
endless merriment if he could only keep his classmate over the
coming holiday. Moreover, he long had wished to become better
acquainted with this young man, whose manner at the seminary had
deeply interested him. So he said:

"Mother, this is Mr. Stanhope, a classmate of mine. I wish you
would help me persuade him to stay."

"Why, certainly, I supposed you expected to stay with us, of
course," said Mrs. Alford, heartily.

Mr. Stanhope looked ready to sink through the floor, his face
crimson with vexation.

"I do assure you, madam," he urged, "it is all a mistake. I am not
an invited guest. I was merely calling on a little matter of
business, when--" and there he stopped. George exploded into a
hearty, uncontrollable laugh; while Elsie, in the darkness, shook
her little fist at the stranger, who hastened to add, "Please let
me bid you good-evening, I have not the slightest claim on your
hospitality."

"Where are you staying?" asked Mrs. Alford, a little mystified.
"We would like you to spend at least part of the time with us."

"I do not expect to be here very long. I have a room at the
hotel."

"Now, look here, Stanhope," cried George, barring all egress by
planting his back against the door, "do you take me, a half-
fledged theologue, for a heathen? Do you suppose that I could be
such a churl as to let a classmate stay at our dingy, forlorn
little tavern and eat hash on Thanksgiving Day? I could never look
you in the face at recitation again. Have some consideration for
my peace of mind, and I am sure you will find our home quite as
endurable as anything Mr. Starks can provide."

"Oh! as to that, from even the slight glimpse that I have had,
this seems more like a home than anything I have known for many
years; but I cannot feel it right that I, an unexpected stranger--"

"Come, come! No more of that! You know what is written about
'entertaining strangers;' so that is your strongest claim.
Moreover, that text works both ways sometimes, and the stranger
angel finds himself among angels. My old mother here, if she does
weigh well on toward two hundred, is more like one than anything I
have yet seen, and Elsie, if not an angel, is at least part witch
and part fairy. But you need not fear ghostly entertainment from
mother's larder. As you are a Christian, and not a Pagan, no more
of this reluctance. Indeed, nolens volens, I shall not permit you
to go out into this November storm to-night;" and Elsie, to her
dismay, saw the new-comer led up to the "spare room" with a sort
of hospitable violence.

With flaming cheeks and eyes half full of indignant tears, she now
made onslaught on her mother, who had returned to the kitchen,
where she was making preparations for a supper that might almost
answer for the dinner the next day.

"Mother, mother," she exclaimed, "how could you keep that
disagreeable stranger! He will spoil our Thanksgiving."

"Why, child, what is the matter?" said Mrs. Alford, raising her
eyes in surprise to her daughter's face, that looked like a red
moon through the mist of savory vapors rising from the ample
cooking-stove. "I don't understand you. Why should not your
brother's classmate add to the pleasure of our Thanksgiving?"

"Well, perhaps if we had expected him, if he had come in some
other way, and we knew more about him--"

"Bless you, child, what a formalist you have become. You stand on
a fine point of etiquette, as if it were the broad foundation of
hospitality; while only last week you wanted a ragged tramp, who
had every appearance of being a thief, to stay all night. Your
brother thinks it a special providence that his friend should have
turned up so unexpectedly."

"Oh, dear!" sighed Elsie. "If that is what the doctrine of special
providence means, I shall need a new confession of faith." Then, a
sudden thought occurring to her, she vanished, while her mother
smiled, saying:

"What a queer child she is, to be sure!"

A moment later Elsie gave a sharp knock at the spare room door,
and in a second was in the further end of the dark hall. George
put his head out.

"Come here," she whispered. "Are you sure it's you?" she added,
holding him off at arm's-length.

His response was such a tempest of kisses and embraces that in her
nervous state she was quite panic-stricken.

"George," she gasped, "have mercy on me!"

"I only wished to show you how he felt, so you would have some
sympathy for him."

"If you don't stop," said the almost desperate girl, "I will shut
myself up and not appear till he is gone. I will any way, if you
don't make me a solemn promise."

"Leave out the 'solemn.'"

"No, I won't. Upon your word and honor, promise never to tell what
has happened--my mistake, I mean."

"Oh, Elsie, it's too good to keep," laughed George.

"Now, George, if you tell," sobbed Elsie, "you'll spoil my
holiday, your visit, and everything."

"If you feel that way, you foolish child, of course I won't tell.
Indeed, I suppose I should not, for Stanhope seems half frightened
out of his wits also."

"Serves him right, though I doubt whether he has many to lose,"
said Elsie, spitefully.

"Well, I will do my best to keep in," said George, soothingly, and
stroking her curls. "But you will let it all out; you see. The
idea of your keeping anything with your April face!"

Elsie acted upon the hint, and went to her room in order to remove
all traces of agitation before the supper-bell should summon her
to meet the dreaded stranger.

In the meantime, Mr. Alford and James, the second son, had come up
from the village, where they had a thriving business. They greeted
George's friend so cordially that it went some way toward putting
the diffident youth at his ease; but he dreaded meeting Elsie
again quite as much as she dreaded meeting him.

"Who is this Mr. Stanhope?" his parents asked, as they drew George
aside for a little private talk after his long absence.

"Well, he is a classmate with whom I have long wished to get
better acquainted; but he is so shy and retiring that I have made
little progress. He came from another seminary, and entered our
class in this the middle year. No one seems to know much about
him; and indeed he has shunned all intimacies and devotes himself
wholly to his books. The recitation-room is the one place where he
appears well--for there he speaks out, as if forgetting himself,
or rather, losing himself in some truth under contemplation.
Sometimes he will ask a question that wakes up both class and
professor; but at other times it seems difficult to pierce the
shell of his reserve or diffidence. And yet, from little things I
have seen, I know that he has a good warm heart; and the working
of his mind in the recitation-room fascinates me. Further than
this I know little about him, but have just learned, from his
explanation as to his unexpected appearance at our door, that he
is very poor, and purposed to spend his holiday vacation as agent
for a new magazine that is offering liberal premiums. I think his
poverty is one of the reasons why he has so shrunk from
companionship with the other students. He thinks he ought to go
out and continue his efforts tonight."

"This stormy night!" ejaculated kind Mrs. Alford. "It would be
barbarous."

"Certainly it would, mother. We must not let him. But you must all
be considerate, for he seems excessively diffident and sensitive;
and besides--but no matter."

"No fear but that we will soon make him at home. And it's a
pleasure to entertain people who are not surfeited with attention.
I don't understand Elsie, however, for she seems to have formed a
violent prejudice against him. From the nature of her announcement
of his presence I gathered that he was a rather forward young
man."

There was a twinkle in George's eye; but he merely said:

"Elsie is full of moods and tenses; but her kind little heart is
always the same, and that will bring her around all right."

They were soon after marshalled to the supper-room. Elsie slipped
in among the others, but was so stately and demure, and with her
curls brushed down so straight that you would scarcely have known
her. Her father caught his pet around the waist, and was about to
introduce her, when George hastened to say with the solemnity of
an undertaker that Elsie and Mr. Stanhope had met before.

Elsie repented the promise she had wrung from her brother, for any
amount of badinage would be better than this depressing formality.
She took her seat, not daring to look at the obnoxious guest; and
the family noticed with surprise that they had never seen the
little maiden so quenched and abashed before. But George good-
naturedly tried to make the conversation general, so as to give
them time to recover themselves.

Elsie soon ventured to steal shy looks at Mr. Stanhope, and with
her usual quickness discovered that he was more in terror of her
than she of him, and she exulted in the fact.

"I'll punish him well, if I get a chance," she thought with a
certain phase of the feminine sense of justice. But the sadness of
his face quite disarmed her when her mother, in well-meant
kindness, asked:

"Where is your home located, Mr. Stanhope?"

"In the seminary," he answered in rather a low tone.

"You don't mean to say that you have no better one than a forlorn
cell in Dogma Hall?" exclaimed George, earnestly.

Mr. Stanhope crimsoned, and then grew pale, but tried to say
lightly, "An orphan of my size and years is not a very moving
object of sympathy; but one might well find it difficult not to
break the Tenth Commandment while seeing how you are surrounded."

Elsie was vexed at her disposition to relent toward him; she so
hardened her face, however, that James rallied her:

"Why, Puss, what is the matter? Yours is the most unpromising
Thanksgiving phiz I have seen today. 'Count your marcies.'"

Elsie blushed so violently, and Mr. Stanhope looked so distressed
that James finished his supper in puzzled silence, thinking,
however, "What has come over the little witch? For a wonder, she
seems to have met a man that she is afraid of: but the joke is, he
seems even more afraid of her."

In the social parlor some of the stiffness wore off; but Elsie and
Mr. Stanhope kept on opposite sides of the room and had very
little to say to each other. Motherly Mrs. Alford drew the young
man out sufficiently, however, to become deeply interested in him.

By the next morning time for thought had led him to feel that he
must trespass on their hospitality no longer. Moreover, he plainly
recognized that his presence was an oppression and restraint upon
Elsie; and he was very sorry that he had stayed at all. But when
he made known his purpose the family would not listen to it.

"I should feel dreadfully hurt if you left us now," said Mrs.
Alford, so decidedly that he was in a dilemma, and stole a timid
look toward Elsie, who at once guessed his motive in going away.
Her kind heart got the better of her; and her face relented in a
sudden reassuring smile. Then she turned hastily away. Only George
saw and understood the little side scene and the reason Mr.
Stanhope was induced to remain. Then Elsie, in her quickly varying
moods, was vexed at herself, and became more cold and distant than
ever. "He will regard me as only a pert, forward miss, but I will
teach him better," she thought; and she astonished the family more
and more by a stateliness utterly unlike herself. Mr. Stanhope
sincerely regretted that he had not broken away, in spite of the
others; but in order not to seem vacillating he resolved to stay
till the following morning, even though he departed burdened with
the thought that he had spoiled the day for one of the family.
Things had now gone so far that leaving might only lead to
explanations and more general annoyances, for George had intimated
that the little mistake of the previous evening should remain a
secret.

And yet he sincerely wished she would relent toward him, for she
could not make her sweet little face repellent. The kiss she had
given him still seemed to tingle in his very soul, while her last
smile was like a ray of warmest sunshine. But her face, never
designed to be severe, was averted.

After having heard the affairs of the nation discussed in a sound,
scriptural manner, they all sat down to a dinner such as had never
blessed poor Mr. Stanhope's vision before. A married son and
daughter returned after church, and half a dozen grandchildren
enlivened the gathering. There was need of them, for Elsie,
usually in a state of wild effervescence upon such occasions, was
now demure and comparatively silent. The children, with whom she
was accustomed to romp like one of them, were perplexed indeed;
and only the intense excitement of a Thanksgiving dinner diverted
their minds from Aunt Elsie, so sadly changed. She was conscious
that all were noting her absent manner, and this embarrassed and
vexed her more; and yet she seemed under a miserable paralysis
that she could neither explain nor escape.

"If we had only laughed it off at first," she groaned to herself;
"but now the whole thing grows more absurd and disagreeable every
moment."

"Why, Elsie," said her father, banteringly, "you doubted the other
day whether Mrs. Methuselah's age would ever sober you; and yet I
think that good old lady would have looked more genial on
Thanksgiving Day. What is the matter?"

"I was thinking of the sermon," she said.

Amid the comic elevation of eyebrows, George said slyly:

"Tell us the text."

Overwhelmed with confusion, she darted a reproachful glance at him
and muttered:

"I did not say anything about the text."

"Well, tell us about the sermon then," laughed James.

"No," said Elsie, sharply. "I'll quote you a text: 'Eat, drink,
and be merry,' and let me alone."

They saw that for some reason she could not bear teasing, and that
such badinage troubled Mr. Stanhope also. George came gallantly to
the rescue, and the dinner-party grew so merry that Elsie thawed
perceptibly and Stanhope was beguiled into several witty speeches.
At each one Elsie opened her eyes in wider and growing
appreciation. At last, when they rose from their coffee, she come
to the surprising conclusion--

"Why, he is not stupid and bad-looking after all."

George was bent on breaking the ice between them, and so proposed
that the younger members of the family party should go up a
swollen stream and see the fall. But Elsie flanked herself with a
sister-in-law on one side and a niece on the other, while Stanhope
was so diffident that nothing but downright encouragement would
bring him to her side. So George was almost in despair. Elsie's
eyes had been conveying favorable impressions to her reluctant
mind throughout the walk. She sincerely regretted that such an
absurd barrier had grown up between her and Stanhope, but could
not for the life of her, especially before others, do anything to
break the awkward spell.

At last they were on their return, and were all grouped together
on a little bluff, watching the water pour foamingly through a
narrow gorge.

"Oh, see," cried Elsie, suddenly pointing to the opposite bank,
"what beautiful moss that is over there! It is just the kind I
have been wanting. Oh, dear! there isn't a bridge within half a
mile."

Stanhope glanced around a moment, and then said gallantly, "I will
get you the moss, Miss Alford." They saw that in some
inconceivable way he intended crossing where they stood. The gorge
was much too wide for the most vigorous leap, so Elsie exclaimed
eagerly:

"Oh, please don't take any risk! What is a little moss?"

"I say, Stanhope," remonstrated George, seriously, "it would be no
laughing matter if you should fall in there."

But Stanhope only smiled, threw off his overcoat, and buttoned his
undercoat closely around him. George groaned to himself, "This
will be worse than the kissing scrape," and was about to lay a
restraining grasp upon his friend. But he slipped away, and
lightly went up hand-over-hand a tall, slender sapling on the edge
of the bank, the whole party gathering round in breathless
expectation. Having reached its slender, swaying top, he threw
himself out on the land side. The tree bent at once to the ground
with his weight, but without snapping, showing that it was tough
and fibrous. Holding firmly to the top, he gave a strong spring,
which, with the spring of the bent sapling, sent him well over the
gorge on the firm ground beyond.

There was a round of applause from the little group he had just
left, in which Elsie joined heartily. Her eyes were glowing with
admiration, for when was not power and daring captivating to a
woman? Then, in sudden alarm and forgetfulness of her former
coolness, she exclaimed:

"But how will you get back?"

"This is my bridge," he replied, smiling brightly across to her,
and holding on to the slender young tree. "You perceive that I was
brought up in the country."

So saying, he tied the sapling down to a root with a handkerchief,
and then proceeded to fill another with moss.

As George saw Elsie's face while she watched Stanhope gather the
coveted trifle, he chuckled to himself--

"The ice is broken between them now."

But Stanhope had insecurely fastened the sapling down. The strain
upon the knot was too severe, and suddenly the young tree flew up
and stood erect but quivering, with his handkerchief fluttering in
its top as a symbol of defeat. There was an exclamation of dismay
and Elsie again asked with real anxiety in her tone:

"How will you get back now?"

Stanhope shrugged his shoulders.

"I confess I am defeated, for there is no like sapling on this
side; but I have the moss, and can join you at the bridge below,
if nothing better offers."

"George," said Elsie, indignantly, "don't go away and leave Mr.
Stanhope's handkerchief in that tree."

"Bless you, child," cried George, mischievously, and leading the
way down the path, "I can't climb anymore than a pumpkin. You will
have to go back with him after it, or let it wave as a memento of
his gallantry on your behalf."

"If I can only manage to throw them together without any
embarrassing third parties present, the ridiculous restraint they
are under will soon vanish," he thought; and so he hastened his
steps. The rest trooped after him, while Stanhope made his way
with difficulty on the opposite bank, where there was no path. His
progress therefore was slow; and Elsie saw that if she did not
linger he would be left behind. Common politeness forbade this,
and so she soon found herself alone, carrying his overcoat on one
bank, and he keeping pace with her on the other. She comforted
herself at first with the thought that with the brawling,
deafening stream between them, there would be no chance for
embarrassing conversation. But soon her sympathies became aroused,
as she saw him toilsomely making his way over the rocks and
through the tangled thickets: and as she could not speak to him,
she smiled her encouragement so often that she felt it would be
impossible to go back to her old reserve.

Stanhope now came to a little opening in the brush. The cleared
ground sloped evenly down to the stream, and its current was
divided by a large rock. He hailed the opportunity here offered
with delight, for he was very anxious to speak to her before they
should join the others. So he startled Elsie by walking out into
the clearing, away from the stream.

"Well, I declare; that's cool, to go and leave me alone without a
word," she thought.

But she was almost terror-stricken to see him turn and dart to the
torrent like an arrow. With a long flying leap, he landed on the
rock in the midst of the stream, and then, without a second's
hesitation, with the impetus already acquired, sprang for the
solid ground where she stood, struck it, wavered, and would have
fallen backward into the water had not she, quick as thought,
stepped forward and given him her hand.

"You have saved me from a ducking, if not worse," he said, giving
the little rescuing hand a warm pressure.

"Oh!" exclaimed she, panting, "please don't do any more dreadful
things. I shall be careful how I make any wishes in your hearing
again."

"I am sorry to hear you say that," he replied. And then there was
an awkward silence.

Elsie could think of nothing better than to refer to the
handkerchief they had left behind.

"Will you wait for me till I run and get it?" he asked.

"I will go back with you, if you will permit me," she said
timidly.

"Indeed, I could not ask so much of you as that."

"And yet you could about the same as risk your neck to gratify a
whim of mine," she said more gratefully than she intended.

"Please do not think," he replied earnestly, "that I have been
practicing cheap heroics. As I said, I was a country boy, and in
my early home thought nothing of doing such things." But even the
brief reference to that vanished home caused him to sigh deeply,
and Elsie gave him a wistful look of sympathy.

For a few moments they walked on in silence. Then Mr. Stanhope
turned, and with some hesitation said:

"Miss Alford, I did very wrong to stay after--after last evening.
But my better judgment was borne down by invitations so cordial
that I hardly knew how to resist them. At the same time I now
realize that I should have done so. Indeed, I would go away at
once, would not such a course only make matters worse. And yet,
after receiving so much kindness from your family, more than has
blessed me for many long years--for since my dear mother died I
have been quite alone in the world--I feel I cannot go away
without some assurance or proof that you will forgive me for being
such a kill-joy in your holiday."

Elsie's vexation with herself now knew no bounds. She stopped in
the path, determining that she would clear up matters, cost what
it might.

"Mr. Stanhope," she said, "will you grant a request that will
contain such assurance, or rather, will show you that I am
heartily ashamed of my foolish course? Will you not spend next
Thanksgiving with us, and give me a chance to retrieve myself from
first to last?"

His face brightened wonderfully as he replied, "I will only be too
glad to do so, if you truly wish it."

"I do wish it," she said earnestly. "What must you think of me?"
(His eyes then expressed much admiration; but hers were fixed on
the ground and half filled with tears of vexation.) Then, with a
pretty humility that was exquisite in its simplicity and
artlessness, she added:

"You have noticed at home that they call me 'child'--and indeed, I
am little more than one--and now see that I have behaved like a
very silly and naughty one toward you. I have trampled on every
principle of hospitality, kindness, and good-breeding. I have no
patience with myself, and I wish another chance to show that I can
do better. I--"

"Oh, Miss Alford, please do not judge yourself so harshly and
unjustly," interrupted Stanhope.

"Oh, dear!" sighed Elsie, "I'm so sorry for what happened last
night. We all might have had such a good time."

"Well, then," said Stanhope, demurely, "I suppose I ought to be
also."

"And do you mean to say that you are not?" she asked, turning
suddenly upon him.

"Oh, well, certainly, for your sake," he said with rising color.

"But not for your own?" she asked with almost the naivete of a
child.

He turned away with a perplexed laugh and replied: "Really, Miss
Alford, you are worse than the Catechism."

She looked at him with a half-amused, half-surprised expression,
the thought occurring to her for the first time that it might not
have been so disagreeable to him after all; and somehow this
thought was quite a relief to her. But she said: "I thought you
would regard me as a hoyden of the worst species."

"Because you kissed your brother? I have never for a moment
forgotten that it was only your misfortune that I was not he."

"I should have remembered that it was not your fault. But here is
your handkerchief, flying like a flag of truce; so let bygones be
bygones. My terms are that you come again another year, and give
me a chance to entertain my brother's friend as a sister ought."

"I am only too glad to submit to them," he eagerly replied, and
then added, so ardently as to deepen the roses already in her
cheeks, "If such are your punishments, Miss Alford, how delicious
must be your favors!"

By common consent the subject was dropped; and with tongues
released from awkward restraint, they chatted freely together,
till in the early twilight they reached her home. The moment they
entered George exultingly saw that the skies were serene.

But Elsie would never be the frolicsome child of the past again.
As she surprised the family at dinner, so now at supper they could
scarcely believe that the elegant, graceful young lady was the
witch of yesterday. She had resolved with all her soul to try to
win some place in Mr. Stanhope's respect before he departed, and
never did a little maiden succeed better.

In the evening they had music; and Mr. Stanhope pleased them all
with his fine tenor, while Elsie delighted him by her clear,
birdlike voice. So the hours fled away.

"You think better of the 'horrid man,' little Sis," said George,
as he kissed her good-night.

"I was the horrid one," said Elsie, penitently. "I can never
forgive myself my absurd conduct. But he has promised to come
again next Thanksgiving, and give me a chance to do better; so
don't you fail to bring him."

George gave a long, low whistle, and then said: "Oh! ah! Seems to
me you are coming on, for an innocent. Are we to get mixed up
again in the twilight?"

"Nonsense!" said Elsie, with a peony face, and she slammed her
door upon him.

The next morning the young man took his leave, and Elsie's last
words were:

"Mr. Stanhope, remember your promise."

And he did remember more than that, for this brief visit had
enshrined a sweet, girlish face within his heart of hearts, and he
no longer felt lonely and orphaned. He and George became the
closest friends, and messages from the New England home came to
him with increasing frequency, which he returned with prodigal
interest. It also transpired that he occasionally wrote for the
papers, and Elsie insisted that these should be sent to her; while
he of course wrote much better with the certainty that she would
be his critic. Thus, though separated, they daily became better
acquainted, and during the year George found it not very difficult
to induce his friend to make several visits.

But it was with joy that seemed almost too rich for earthly
experience that he found himself walking up the village street
with George the ensuing Thanksgiving Eve. Elsie was at the door;
and he pretended to be disconsolate that his reception was not the
same as on the previous year. Indeed she had to endure not a
little chaffing, for her mistake was a family joke now.

It was a peerless Thanksgiving eve and day--one of the sun-lighted
heights of human happiness.

After dinner they all again took a walk up the brawling stream,
and Stanhope and Elsie became separated from the rest, though not
so innocently as on the former occasion.

"See!" cried Elsie, pointing to the well-remembered sapling, which
she had often visited. "There fluttered our flag of truce last
year."

Stanhope seized her hand and said eagerly: "And here I again break
the truce, and renew the theme we dropped at this place. Oh,
Elsie, I have felt that kiss in the depths of my heart every hour
since; and in that it led to my knowing and loving you, it has
made every day from that time one of thanksgiving. If you could
return my love, as I have dared to hope, it would be a happiness
beyond words. If I could venture to take one more kiss, as a token
that it is returned, I could keep Thanksgiving forever."

Her hand trembled in his, but was not withdrawn. Her blushing face
was turned away toward the brawling stream; but she saw not its
foam, she heard not its hoarse murmurs. A sweeter music was in her
ears. She seemed under a delicious spell, but soon became
conscious that a pair of dark eyes were looking down eagerly,
anxiously for her answer. Shyly raising hers, that now were like
dewy violets, she said, with a little of her old witchery:

"I suppose you will have to kiss me this Thanksgiving, to make
things even."

Stanhope needed no broader hint.

"I owe you a heavy grudge," said Mr. Alford, in the evening. "A
year ago you robbed me of my child, for little, kittenish Elsie
became a thoughtful woman from the day you were here; and now you
are going to take away the daughter of my old age."

"Yes, indeed, husband. Now you know how my father felt," said Mrs.
Alford, at the same time wiping something from the corner of her
eye.

"Bless me, are you here?" said the old gentleman, wheeling round
to his wife. "Mr. Stanhope, I have nothing more to say."

"I declare," exulted George, "that 'horrid man' will devour Elsie
yet."

"Haw! haw! haw!" laughed big-voiced, big-hearted James. "The idea
of our little witch of an Elsie being a minister's wife!"

      *       *       *       *       *       *       *

It is again Thanksgiving Eve. The trees are gaunt, the fields bare
and brown, with dead leaves whirling across them; but a sweeter
than June sunshine seems filling the cosey parlor where Elsie, a
radiant bride, is receiving her husband's first kiss almost on the
moment that she with her lips so unexpectedly kindled the sacred
fire, three years before.






SUSIE ROLLIFFE'S CHRISTMAS


Picnicking in December would be a dreary experience even if one
could command all the appliances of comfort which outdoor life
permitted. This would be especially true in the latitude of Boston
and on the bleak hills overlooking that city and its environing
waters. Dreary business indeed Ezekiel Watkins regarded it as he
shivered over the smoky camp-fire which he maintained with
difficulty. The sun was sinking into the southwest so early in the
day that he remarked irritably: "Durned if it was worth while for
it to rise at all."

Ezekiel Watkins, or Zeke, as he was generally known among his
comrades, had ceased to be a resident on that rocky hillside from
pleasure. His heart was in a Connecticut valley in more senses
than one; and there was not a more homesick soldier in the army.
It will be readily guessed that the events of our story occurred
more than a century ago. The shots fired at Bunker Hill had echoed
in every nook and corner of the New England colonies, and the
heart of Zeke Watkins, among thousands of others, had been fired
with military ardor. With companions in like frame of mind he had
trudged to Boston, breathing slaughter and extermination against
the red-coated instruments of English tyranny. To Zeke the
expedition had many of the elements of an extended bear-hunt, much
exalted. There was a spice of danger and a rich promise of novelty
and excitement. The march to the lines about Boston had been a
continuous ovation; grandsires came out from the wayside dwellings
and blessed the rustic soldiers; they were dined profusely by the
housewives, and if not wined, there had been slight stint in New
England rum and cider; the apple-cheeked daughters of the land
gave them the meed of heroes in advance, and abated somewhat of
their ruddy hues at the thought of the dangers to be incurred.
Zeke was visibly dilated by all this attention, incense, and
military glory; and he stepped forth from each village and hamlet
as if the world were scarcely large enough for the prowess of
himself and companions. Even on parade he was as stiff as his
long-barrelled flintlock, looking as if England could hope for no
quarter at his hands; yet he permitted no admiring glances from
bright eyes to escape him. He had not traversed half the distance
between his native hamlet and Boston before he was abundantly
satisfied that pretty Susie Rolliffe had made no mistake in
honoring him among the recruits by marks of especial favor. He
wore in his squirrel-skin cap the bit of blue ribbon she had given
him, and with the mien of a Homeric hero had intimated darkly that
it might be crimson before she saw it again. She had clasped her
hands, stifled a little sob, and looked at him admiringly. He
needed no stronger assurance than her eyes conveyed at that
moment. She had been shy and rather unapproachable before, sought
by others than himself, yet very chary of her smiles and favors to
all. Her ancestors had fought the Indians, and had bequeathed to
the demure little maiden much of their own indomitable spirit. She
had never worn her heart on her sleeve, and was shy of her rustic
admirers chiefly because none of them had realized her ideals of
manhood created by fireside stories of the past.

Zeke's chief competitor for Susie's favor had been Zebulon Jarvis;
and while he had received little encouragement, he laid his
unostentatious devotion at her feet unstintedly, and she knew it.
Indeed, she was much inclined to laugh at him, for he was
singularly bashful, and a frown from her overwhelmed him.
Unsophisticated Susie reasoned that any one who could be so afraid
of HER could not be much of a man. She had never heard of his
doing anything bold and spirited. It might be said, indeed, that
the attempt to wring a livelihood for his widowed mother and for
his younger brothers and sisters from the stumpy, rocky farm
required courage of the highest order; but it was not of a kind
that appealed to the fancy of a romantic young girl. Nothing finer
or grander had Zebulon attempted before the recruiting officer
came to Opinquake, and when he came, poor Zeb appeared to hang
back so timorously that he lost what little place he had in
Susie's thoughts. She was ignorant of the struggle taking place in
his loyal heart. More intense even than his love for her was the
patriotic fire which smouldered in his breast; yet when other
young men were giving in their names and drilling on the village
green, he was absent. To the war appeals of those who sought him,
he replied briefly. "Can't leave till fall."

"But the fighting will be over long before that," it was urged.

"So much the better for others, then, if not for me."

Zeke Watkins made it his business that Susie should hear this
reply in the abbreviated form of, "So much the better, then."

She had smiled scornfully, and it must be added, a little
bitterly. In his devotion Zeb had been so helpless, so diffidently
unable to take his own part and make advances that she, from odd
little spasms of sympathy, had taken his part for him, and
laughingly repeated to herself in solitude all the fine speeches
which she perceived he would be glad to make. But, as has been
intimated, it seemed to her droll indeed that such a great
stalwart fellow should appear panic-stricken in her diminutive
presence. In brief, he had been timidity embodied under her
demurely mischievous blue eyes; and now that the recruiting
officer had come and marched away with his squad without him, she
felt incensed that such a chicken-hearted fellow had dared to lift
his eyes to her.

"It would go hard with the Widow Jarvis and all those children if
Zeb 'listed," Susie's mother had ventured in half-hearted defence,
for did she not look upon him as a promising suitor.

"The people of Opinquake wouldn't let the widow or the children
starve," replied Susie, indignantly. "If I was a big fellow like
him, my country would not call me twice. Think how grandfather
left grandma and all the children!"

"Well, I guess Zeb thinks he has his hands full wrastling with
that stony farm."

"He needn't come to see me any more, or steal glances at me 'tween
meetings on Sunday," said the girl, decisively. "He cuts a sorry
figure beside Zeke Watkins, who was the first to give in his name,
and who began to march like a soldier even before he left us."

"Yes," said Mrs. Rolliffe; "Zeke was very forward. If he holds out
as he began--Well, well, Zeke allus was a little forward, and able
to speak for himself. You are young yet, Susan, and may learn
before you reach my years that the race isn't allus to the swift.
Don't be in haste to promise yourself to any of the young men."

"Little danger of my promising myself to a man who is afraid even
of me! I want a husband like grandfather. He wasn't afraid to face
anything, and he honored his wife by acting as if she wasn't
afraid either."

Zeb gave Susie no chance to bestow the rebuffs she had
premeditated. He had been down to witness the departure of the
Opinquake quota, and had seen Susie's farewell to Zeke Watkins.
How much it had meant he was not sure--enough to leave no hope or
chance for him, he had believed; but he had already fought his
first battle, and it had been a harder one than Zeke Watkins or
any of his comrades would ever engage in. He had returned and
worked on the stony farm until dark. From dawn until dark he
continued to work every secular day till September.

His bronzed face grew as stern as it was thin; and since he would
no longer look at her, Susie Rolliffe began to steal an occasional
and wondering glance at him "'tween meetings."

No one understood the young man or knew his plans except his
patient, sad-eyed mother, and she learned more by her intuitions
than from his spoken words. She idolized him, and he loved and
revered her: but the terrible Puritan restraint paralyzed
manifestations of affection. She was not taken by surprise when
one evening he said quietly, "Mother, I guess I'll start in a day
or two."

She could not repress a sort of gasping sob however, but after a
few moments was able to say steadily, "I supposed you were
preparing to leave us."

"Yes, mother, I've been a-preparing. I've done my best to gather
in everything that would help keep you and the children and the
stock through the winter. The corn is all shocked, and the older
children can help you husk it, and gather in the pumpkins, the
beans, and the rest. As soon as I finish digging the potatoes I
think I'll feel better to be in the lines around Boston. I'd have
liked to have gone at first, but in order to fight as I ought I'd
want to remember there was plenty to keep you and the children."

"I'm afraid, Zebulon, you've been fighting as well as working so
hard all summer long. For my sake and the children's, you've been
letting Susan Rolliffe think meanly of you."

"I can't help what she thinks, mother; I've tried not to act
meanly."

"Perhaps the God of the widow and the fatherless will shield and
bless you, my son. Be that as it may," she added with a heavy
sigh, "conscience and His will must guide in everything. If He
says go forth to battle, what am I that I should stay you?"
Although she did not dream of the truth, the Widow Jarvis was a
disciplined soldier herself. To her, faith meant unquestioning
submission and obedience; she had been taught to revere a jealous
and an exacting God rather than a loving one. The heroism with
which she pursued her toilsome, narrow, shadowed pathway was as
sublime as it was unrecognized on her part. After she had retired
she wept sorely, not only because her eldest child was going to
danger, and perhaps death, but also for the reason that her heart
clung to him so weakly and selfishly, as she believed. With a
tenderness of which she was half-ashamed she filled his wallet
with provisions which would add to his comfort, then, both to his
surprise and her own, kissed him good-by. He left her and the
younger brood with an aching heart of which there was little
outward sign, and with no loftier ambition than to do his duty;
she followed him with deep, wistful eyes till he, and next the
long barrel of his rifle, disappeared in an angle of the road, and
then her interrupted work was resumed.

Susie Rolliffe was returning from an errand to a neighbor's when
she heard the sound of long rapid steps.

A hasty glance revealed Zeb in something like pursuit. Her heart
fluttered slightly, for he had looked so stern and sad of late
that she had felt a little sorry for him in spite of herself. But
since he could "wrastle" with nothing more formidable than a stony
farm, she did not wish to have anything to say to him, or meet the
embarrassment of explaining a tacit estrangement. She was glad,
therefore, that her gate was so near, and passed in as if she had
not recognized him. She heard his steps become slower and pause at
the gate, and then almost in shame in being guilty of too marked
discourtesy, she turned to speak, but hesitated in surprise, for
now she recognized his equipment as a soldier.

"Why, Mr. Jarvis, where are you going?" she exclaimed.

A dull red flamed through the bronze of his thin cheeks as he
replied awkwardly, "I thought I'd take a turn in the lines around
Boston."

"Oh, yes," she replied, mischievously, "take a turn in the lines.
Then we may expect you back by corn-husking?"

He was deeply wounded, and in his embarrassment could think of no
other reply than the familiar words, "'Let not him that girdeth on
his harness boast himself as he that putteth it off.'"

"I can't help hoping, Mr. Jarvis, that neither you nor others will
put it off too soon--not, at least, while King George claims to be
our master. When we're free I can stand any amount of boasting."

"You'll never hear boasting from me, Miss Susie;" and then an
awkward silence fell between them.

Shyly and swiftly she raised her eyes. He looked so humble,
deprecatory, and unsoldier-like that she could not repress a
laugh. "I'm not a British cannon," she began, "that you should be
so fearful."

His manhood was now too deeply wounded for further endurance even
from her, for he suddenly straightened himself, and throwing his
rifle over his shoulder, said sternly, "I'm not a coward. I never
hung back from fear, but to keep mother from charity, so I could
fight or die as God wills. You may laugh at the man who never gave
you anything but love, if you will, but you shall never laugh at
my deeds. Call that boasting or not as you please," and he turned
on his heel to depart.

His words and manner almost took away the girl's breath, so
unexpected were they, and unlike her idea of the man. In that
brief moment a fearless soldier had flashed himself upon her
consciousness, revealing a spirit that would flinch at nothing--
that had not even quailed at the necessity of forfeiting her
esteem, that his mother might not want. Humiliated and conscience-
stricken that she had done him so much injustice, she rushed
forward, crying, "Stop, Zebulon; please do not go away angry with
me! I do not forget that we have been old friends and playmates.
I'm willing to own that I've been wrong about you, and that's a
good deal for a girl to do. I only wish I were a man, and I'd go
with you."

Her kindness restored him to his awkward self again, and he
stammered, "I wish you were--no, I don't--I merely stopped,
thinking you might have a message; but I'd rather not take any to
Zeke Watkins--will, though, if you wish. It cut me all up to have
you think I was afraid," and then he became speechless.

"But you acted as if you were afraid of me, and that seemed so
ridiculous."

He looked at her a moment so earnestly with his dark, deep-set
eyes that hers dropped. "Miss Susie," he said slowly, and speaking
with difficulty, "I AM afraid of you, next to God. I don't suppose
I've any right to talk to you so, and I will say good-by. I was
reckless when I spoke before. Perhaps--you'll go and see mother.
My going is hard on her."

His eyes lingered on her a moment longer, as if he were taking his
last look, then he turned slowly away.

"Good-by, Zeb," she called softly. "I didn't--I don't understand.
Yes, I will go to see your mother."

Susie also watched him as he strode away. He thought he could
continue on steadfastly without looking back, but when the road
turned he also turned, fairly tugged right about by his loyal
heart. She stood where he had left her, and promptly waved her
hand. He doffed his cap, and remained a moment in an attitude that
appeared to her reverential, then passed out of view.

The moments lapsed, and still she stood in the gateway, looking
down the vacant road as if dazed. Was it in truth awkward, bashful
Zeb Jarvis who had just left her? He seemed a new and distinct
being in contrast to the youth whom she had smiled at and in a
measure scoffed at. The little Puritan maiden was not a reasoner,
but a creature of impressions and swift intuitions. Zeb had not
set his teeth, faced his hard duty, and toiled that long summer in
vain. He had developed a manhood and a force which in one brief
moment had enabled him to compel her recognition.

"He will face anything," she murmured. "He's afraid of only God
and me; what a strange thing to say--afraid of me next to God!
Sounds kind of wicked. What can he mean? Zeke Watkins wasn't a bit
afraid of me. As mother said, he was a little forward, and I was
fool enough to take him at his own valuation. Afraid of me! How he
stood with his cap off. Do men ever love so? Is there a kind of
reverence in some men's love? How absurd that a great strong,
brave man, ready to face cannons, can bow down to such a little--"
Her fragmentary exclamations ended in a peal of laughter, but
tears dimmed her blue eyes.

Susie did visit Mrs. Jarvis, and although the reticent woman said
little about her son, what she did say meant volumes to the girl
who now had the right clew in interpreting his action and
character. She too was reticent. New England girls rarely gushed
in those days, so no one knew she was beginning to understand. Her
eyes, experienced in country work, were quick, and her mind
active. "It looks as if a giant had been wrestling with this stony
farm," she muttered.

Zeb received no ovations on his lonely tramp to the lines, and the
vision of Susie Rolliffe waving her hand from the gateway would
have blinded him to all the bright and admiring eyes in the world.
He was hospitably entertained, however, when there was occasion;
but the advent of men bound for the army had become an old story.
Having at last inquired his way to the position occupied by the
Connecticut troops, he was assigned to duty in the same company
with Zeke Watkins, who gave him but a cool reception, and sought
to overawe him by veteran-like airs. At first poor Zeb was awkward
enough in his unaccustomed duties, and no laugh was so scornful as
that of his rival. Young Jarvis, however, had not been many days
in camp before he guessed that Zeke's star was not in the
ascendant. There was but little fighting required, but much
digging of intrenchments, drill, and monotonous picket duty. Zeke
did not take kindly to such tasks, and shirked them when possible.
He was becoming known as the champion grumbler in the mess, and no
one escaped his criticism, not even "Old Put"--as General Putnam,
who commanded the Connecticut quota, was called. Jarvis, on the
other hand, performed his military duties as he had worked the
farm, and rapidly acquired the bearing of a soldier. Indomitable
Putnam gave his men little rest, and was ever seeking to draw his
lines nearer to Boston and the enemy's ships. He virtually fought
with pick and shovel, and his working parties were often exposed
to fire while engaged in fortifying the positions successively
occupied. The Opinquake boys regarded themselves as well seasoned
to such rude compliments, and were not a little curious to see how
Zeb would handle a shovel with cannon-balls whizzing uncomfortably
near. The opportunity soon came. Old Put himself could not have
been more coolly oblivious than the raw recruit. At last a ball
smashed his shovel to smithereens; he quietly procured another and
went on with his work. Then his former neighbors gave him a cheer,
while his captain clapped him on the shoulder and said, "Promote
you to be a veteran on the spot!"

The days had grown shorter, colder, and drearier, and the
discomforts of camp-life harder to endure. There were few tents
even for the officers, and the men were compelled to improvise
such shelter as circumstances permitted. Huts of stone, wood, and
brush, and barricades against the wind, lined the hillside, and
the region already was denuded of almost everything that would
burn. Therefore, when December came, Zeke Watkins found that even
a fire was a luxury not to be had without trouble. He had become
thoroughly disgusted with a soldier's life, and the military glory
which had at first so dazzled him now wore the aspect of the
wintry sky. He had recently sought and attained the only promotion
for which his captain now deemed him fitted--that of cook for
about a dozen of his comrades; and the close of the December day
found him preparing the meagre supper which the limited rations
permitted. By virtue of his office, Zeke was one of the best-fed
men in the army, for if there were any choice morsels he could
usually manage to secure them; still, he was not happy. King
George and Congress were both pursuing policies inconsistent with
his comfort, and he sighed more and more frequently for the wide
kitchen-hearth of his home, which was within easy visiting
distance of the Rolliffe farmhouse. His term of enlistment expired
soon, and he was already counting the days. He was not alone in
his discontent, for there was much homesickness and disaffection
among the Connecticut troops. Many had already departed, unwilling
to stay an hour after the expiration of their terms; and not a few
had anticipated the periods which legally released them from duty.
The organization of the army was so loose that neither appeals nor
threats had much influence, and Washington, in deep solicitude,
saw his troops melting away.

It was dark by the time the heavy tramp of the working party was
heard returning from the fortifications. The great mess-pot,
partly filled with pork and beans, was bubbling over the fire;
Zeke, shifting his position from time to time to avoid the smoke
which the wind, as if it had a spite against him, blew in his
face, was sourly contemplating his charge and his lot, bent on
grumbling to the others with even greater gusto than he had
complained to himself. His comrades carefully put away their
intrenching tools, for they were held responsible for them, and
then gathered about the fire, clamoring for supper.

"Zeke, you lazy loon," cried Nat Atkinson, "how many pipes have
you smoked to-day? If you'd smoke less and forage and dun the
commissary more, we'd have a little fresh meat once in a hundred
years."

"Yes, just about once in a hundred years!" snarled Zeke.

"YOU find something to keep fat on, anyhow. We'll broil you some
cold night. Trot out your beans if there's nothing else."

"Growl away," retorted Zeke. "'Twon't be long before I'll be
eating chickens and pumpkin-pie in Opinquake, instead of cooking
beans and rusty pork for a lot of hungry wolves."

"You'd be the hungriest wolf of the lot if you'd 'a' been picking
and shovelling frozen ground all day."

"I didn't 'list to be a ditch-digger!" said Zeke. "I thought I was
going to be a soldier."

"And you turned out a cook!" quietly remarked Zeb Jarvis.

"Well, my hero of the smashed shovel, what do you expect to be--
Old Put's successor? You know, fellows, it's settled that you're
to dig your way into Boston, tunnel under the water when you come
to it. Of course Put will die of old age before you get half
there. Zeb'll be the chap of all others to command a division of
shovellers. I see you with a pickaxe strapped on your side instead
of a sword."

"Lucky I'm not in command now," replied Zeb, "or you'd shovel dirt
under fire to the last hour of your enlistment. I'd give grumblers
like you something to grumble about. See here, fellows, I'm sick
of this seditious talk in our mess. The Connecticut men are
getting to be the talk of the army. You heard a squad of New
Hampshire boys jeer at us to-day, and ask, 'When are ye going home
to mother?' You ask, Zeke Watkins, what I expect to be. I expect
to be a soldier, and obey orders as long as Old Put and General
Washington want a man. All I ask is to be home summers long enough
to keep mother and the children off the town. Now what do you
expect to be after you give up your cook's ladle?"

"None o' your business."

"He's going home to court Susie Rolliffe," cried Nat Atkinson.
"They'll be married in the spring, and go into the chicken
business. That'd just suit Zeke."

"It would not suit Susie Rolliffe," said Zeb, hotly. "A braver,
better girl doesn't breathe in the colonies, and the man that says
a slurring word against her's got to fight me."

"What! Has she given Zeke the mitten for your sake, Zeb?" piped
little Hiram Woodbridge.

"She hasn't given me anything, and I've got no claim; but she is
the kind of girl that every fellow from Opinquake should stand up
for. We all know that there is nothing chicken-hearted about her."

"Eight, by George--George W., I mean, and not the king," responded
Hiram Woodbridge. "Here's to her health, Zeb, and your success! I
believe she'd rather marry a soldier than a cook."

"Thank you," said Zeb. "You stand as good a chance as I do; but
don't let's bandy her name about in camp any more'n we would our
mother's. The thing for us to do now is to show that the men from
Connecticut have as much backbone as any other fellows in the
army, North or South. Zeke may laugh at Old Put's digging, but
you'll soon find that he'll pick his way to a point where he can
give the Britishers a dig under the fifth rib. We've got the best
general in the army. Washington, with all his Southern style,
believes in him and relies on him. Whether their time's up or not,
it's a burning shame that so many of his troops are sneaking off
home."

"It's all very well for you to talk, Zeb Jarvis," growled Zeke.
"You haven't been here very long yet; and you stayed at home when
others started out to fight. Now that you've found that digging
and not fighting is the order of the day, you're just suited. It's
the line of soldiering you are cut out for. When fighting men and
not ditch-diggers are wanted, you'll find me---"

"All right, Watkins," said the voice of Captain Dean from without
the circle of light. "According to your own story you are just the
kind of man needed to-night--no ditch-digging on hand, but
dangerous service. I detail you, for you've had rest compared with
the other men. I ask for volunteers from those who've been at work
all day."

Zeb Jarvis was on his feet instantly, and old Ezra Stokes also
began to rise with difficulty. "No, Stokes," resumed the officer,
"you can't go. I know you've suffered with the rheumatism all day,
and have worked well in spite of it. For to-night's work I want
young fellows with good legs and your spirit. How is it you're
here anyhow Stokes? Your time's up."

"We ain't into Boston yet," was the quiet reply.

"So you want to stay?"

"Yes, sir."

"Then you shall cook for the men till you're better. I won't keep
so good a soldier, though, at such work any longer than I can
help. Your good example and that of the gallant Watkins has
brought out the whole squad. I think I'll put Jarvis in command,
though; Zeke might be rash, and attempt the capture of Boston
before morning;" and the facetious captain, who had once been a
neighbor, concluded, "Jarvis, see that every man's piece is primed
and ready for use. Be at my hut in fifteen minutes." Then he
passed on to the other camp-fires.

In a few minutes Ezra Stokes was alone by the fire, almost
roasting his lame leg, and grumbling from pain and the necessity
of enforced inaction. He was a taciturn, middle-age man, and had
been the only bachelor of mature years in Opinquake. Although he
rarely said much, he had been a great listener, and no one had
been better versed in neighborhood affairs. In brief, he had been
the village cobbler, and had not only taken the measure of Susie
Rolliffe's little foot, but also of her spirit. Like herself he
had been misled at first by the forwardness of Zeke Watkins and
the apparent backwardness of Jarvis. Actual service had changed
his views very decidedly. When Zeb appeared he had watched the
course of this bashful suitor with interest which had rapidly
ripened into warm but undemonstrative goodwill. The young fellow
had taken pains to relieve the older man, had carried his tools
for him, and more than once with his strong hands had almost
rubbed the rheumatism out of the indomitable cobbler's leg. He had
received but slight thanks, and had acted as if he didn't care for
any. Stokes was not a man to return favors in words; be brooded
over his gratitude as if it were a grudge. "I'll get even with
that young Jarvis yet," he muttered, as he nursed his leg over the
fire. "I know he worships the ground that little Rolliffe girl
treads on, though she don't tread on much at a time. She never
trod on me nuther, though I've had her foot in my hand more'n
once. She looked at the man that made her shoes as if she would
like to make him happier. When a little tot, she used to say I
could come and live with her when I got too old to take care of
myself. Lame as I be, I'd walk to Opinquake to give her a hint in
her choosin'. Guess Hi Woodbridge is right, and she wouldn't be
long in making up her mind betwixt a soger and a cook--a mighty
poor one at that. Somehow or nuther I must let her know before
Zeke Watkins sneaks home and parades around as a soldier 'bove
ditch-digging. I've taken his measure.

"He'll be putting on veteran airs, telling big stories of what
he's going to do when soldiers are wanted, and drilling such fools
as believe in him. Young gals are often taken by such strutters,
and think that men like Jarvis, who darsn't speak for themselves,
are of no account. But I'll put a spoke in Zeke's wheel, if I have
to get the captain to write."

It thus may be gathered that the cobbler had much to say to
himself when alone, though so taciturn to others.

The clouds along the eastern horizon were stained with red before
the reconnoitring party returned. Stokes had managed, by hobbling
about, to keep up the fire and to fill the mess-kettle with the
inevitable pork and beans. The hungry, weary men therefore gave
their new cook a cheer when they saw the good fire and provision
awaiting them. A moment later, however, Jarvis observed how lame
Stokes had become; he took the cobbler by the shoulder and sat him
down in the warmest nook, saying, "I'll be assistant cook until
you are better. As Zeke says, I'm a wolf sure enough; but as
soon's the beast's hunger is satisfied, I'll rub that leg of yours
till you'll want to dance a jig;" and with the ladle wrung from
Stokes's reluctant hand, he began stirring the seething contents
of the kettle.

Then little Hi Woodbridge piped in his shrill voice, "Another
cheer for our assistant cook and ditch-digger! I say, Zeke,
wouldn't you like to tell Ezra that Zeb has showed himself fit for
something more than digging? You expressed your opinion very plain
last night, and may have a different one now."

Zeke growld something inaudible, and stalked to his hut in order
to put away his equipments.

"I'm cook-in-chief yet," Stokes declared; "and not a bean will any
one of you get till you report all that happened."

"Well," piped Hi, "you may stick a feather in your old cap, Ezra,
for our Opinquake lad captured a British officer last night, and
Old Put is pumping him this blessed minute."

"Well, well, that is news. It must have been Zeke who did that
neat job," exclaimed Stokes, ironically; "he's been a-pining for
the soldier business."

"No, no; Zeke's above such night scrimmages. He wants to swim the
bay and walk right into Boston in broad daylight, so everybody can
see him. Come, Zeb, tell how it happened. It was so confounded
dark, no one can tell but you."

"There isn't much to tell that you fellows don't know," was Zeb's
laconic answer. "We had sneaked down on the neck so close to the
enemy's lines---"

"Yes, yes, Zeb Jarvis," interrupted Stokes, "that's the kind of
sneaking you're up to--close to the enemy's lines. Go on."

"Well, I crawled up so close that I saw a Britisher going the
round of the sentinels, and I pounced on him and brought him out
on the run, that's all."

"Oho! you both ran away, then? That wasn't good soldiering either,
was it, Zeke?" commented Stokes, in his dry way.

"It's pretty good soldiering to stand fire within an inch of your
nose," resumed Hi, who had become a loyal friend and adherent of
his tall comrade. "Zeb was so close on the Britisher when he fired
his pistol that we saw the faces of both in the flash; and a lot
of bullets sung after us, I can sell you, as we dusted out of
those diggin's."

"Compliments of General Putnam to Sergeant Zebulon Jarvis," said
an orderly, riding out of the dim twilight of the morning. "The
general requests your presence at headquarters."

"Sergeant! promoted! Another cheer for Zeb!" and the Opinquake
boys gave it with hearty goodwill.

"Jerusalem, fellows! I'd like to have a chance at those beans
before I go!" but Zeb promptly tramped off with the orderly.

When he returned he was subjected to a fire of questions by the
two or three men still awake, but all they could get out of him
was that he had been given a good breakfast. From Captain Dean,
who was with the general at the time of the examination, it leaked
out that Zeb was in the line of promotion to a rank higher than
that of sergeant.

The next few days passed uneventfully; and Zeke was compelled to
resume the pick and shovel again. Stokes did his best to fulfil
his duties, but it had become evident to all that the exposure of
camp would soon disable him utterly. Jarvis and Captain Dean
persuaded him to go home for the winter, and the little squad
raised a sum which enabled him to make the journey in a stage.
Zeke, sullen toward his jeering comrades, but immensely elated in
secret, had shaken the dust--snow and slush rather--of camp-life
from his feet the day before. He had the grace to wait till the
time of his enlistment expired, and that was more than could be
said of many.

It spoke well for the little Opinquake quota that only two others
besides Zeke availed themselves of their liberty. Poor Stokes was
almost forced away, consoled by the hope of returning in the
spring. Zeb was sore-hearted on the day of Zeke's departure. His
heart was in the Connecticut Valley also. No message had come to
him from Susie Rolliffe. Those were not the days of swift and
frequent communication. Even Mrs. Jarvis had written but seldom,
and her missives were brief. Mother-love glowed through the few
quaint and scriptural phrases like heat in anthracite coals. All
that poor Zeb could learn from them was that Susie Rolliffe had
kept her word and had been to the farm more than once; but the
girl had been as reticent as the mother. Zeke was now on his way
home to prosecute his suit in person, and Zeb well knew how
forward and plausible he could be. There was no deed of daring
that he would not promise to perform after spring opened, and Zeb
reasoned gloomily that a present lover, impassioned and
importunate, would stand a better chance than an absent one who
had never been able to speak for himself.

When it was settled that Stokes should return to Opinquake, Zeb
determined that he would not give up the prize to Zeke without one
decisive effort; and as he was rubbing the cobbler's leg, he
stammered, "I say Ezra, will you do me a turn? 'Twon't be so much,
what I ask, except that I'll like you to keep mum about it, and
you're a good hand at keeping mum."

"I know what yer driving at, Zeb. Write yer letter and I'll
deliver it with my own hands."

"Well, now, I'm satisfied, I can stay on and fight it out with a
clear mind. When Zeke marched away last summer, I thought it was
all up with me; and I can tell you that any fighting that's to do
about Boston will be fun compared with the fighting I did while
hoeing corn and mowing grass. But I don't believe that Susie
Rolliffe is promised to Zeke Watkins, or any one else yet, and I'm
going to give her a chance to refuse me plump."

"That's the way to do it, Zeb," said the bachelor cobbler, with an
emphasis that would indicate much successful experience. "Asking a
girl plump is like standing up in a fair fight. It gives the girl
a chance to bowl you over, if that's her mind, so there can't be
any mistake about it; and it seems to me the women-folks ought to
have all the chances that in any way belong to them. They have got
few enough anyhow."

"And you think it'll end in my being bowled over?"

"How should I know, or you either, unless you make a square trial?
You're such a strapping, fighting feller that nothing but a
cannon-ball or a woman ever will knock you off your pins."

"See here, Ezra Stokes, the girl of my heart may refuse me just as
plump as I offer myself; and if that's her mind she has a right to
do it. But I don't want either you or her to think I won't stand
on my feet. I won't even fight any more recklessly than my duty
requires. I have a mother to take care of, even if I never have a
wife."

"I'll put in a few pegs right along to keep in mind what you say;
and I'll give you a fair show by seeing to it that the girl gets
your letter before Zeke can steal a march on you."

"That's all I ask," said Zeb, with compressed lips. "She shall
choose between us. It's hard enough to write, but it will be a
sight easier than facing her. Not a word of this to another soul,
Ezra; but I'm not going to use you like a mail-carrier, but a
friend. After all, there are few in Opinquake, I suppose, but know
I'd give my eyes for her, so there isn't much use of my putting on
secret airs."

"I'm not a talker, and you might have sent your letter by a worse
messenger'n me," was the laconic reply.

Zeb had never written a love-letter, and was at a loss how to
begin or end it. But time pressed, and he had to say what was
uppermost in his mind. It ran as follows:

"I don't know how to write so as to give my words weight. I cannot
come home; I will not come as long as mother and the children can
get on without me. And men are needed here; men are needed. The
general fairly pleads with the soldiers to stay. Stokes would stay
if he could. We're almost driving him home. I know you will be
kind to him, and remember he has few to care for him. I cannot
speak for myself in person very soon, if ever. Perhaps I could not
if I stood before you. You laugh at me; but if you knew how I love
you and remember you, how I honor and almost worship you in my
heart, you might understand me better. Why is it strange I should
be afraid of you? Only God has more power over me than you. Will
you be my wife? I will do anything to win you that YOU can ask.
Others will plead with you in person. Will you let this letter
plead for the absent?"

Zeb went to the captain's quarters and got some wax with which to
seal this appeal, then saw Stokes depart with the feeling that his
destiny was now at stake.

Meanwhile Zeke Watkins, with a squad of homeward-bound soldiers,
was trudging toward Opinquake. They soon began to look into one
another's faces in something like dismay. But little provision was
in their wallets when they had started, for there was little to
draw upon, and that furnished grudgingly, as may well be supposed.
Zeke had not cared. He remembered the continuous feasting that had
attended his journey to camp, and supposed that he would only have
to present himself to the roadside farmhouses in order to enjoy
the fat of the land. This hospitality he proposed to repay
abundantly by camp reminiscences in which it would not be
difficult to insinuate that the hero of the scene was present.

In contrast to these rose-hued expectations, doors were slammed in
their faces, and they were treated little better than tramps. "I
suppose the people near Boston have been called on too often and
imposed on, too," Zeke reasoned rather ruefully. "When we once get
over the Connecticut border we'll begin to find ourselves at
home;" and spurred by hunger and cold, as well as hope, they
pushed on desperately, subsisting on such coarse provisions as
they could obtain, sleeping in barns when it stormed, and not
infrequently by a fire in the woods. At last they passed the
Connecticut border, and led by Zeke they urged their way to a
large farmhouse, at which, but a few months before, the table had
groaned under rustic dainties, and feather-beds had luxuriously
received the weary recruits bound to the front. They approached
the opulent farm in the dreary dark of the evening, and pursued by
a biting east wind laden with snow. Not only the weather, but the
very dogs seemed to have a spite against them; and the family had
to rush out to call them off.

"Weary soldiers ask for shelter," began Zeke.

"Of course you're bound for the lines," said the matronly
housewife. "Come in."

Zeke thought they would better enter at once before explaining;
and truly the large kitchen, with a great fire blazing on the
hearth, seemed like heaven. The door leading into the family
sitting-room was open, and there was another fire, with the red-
cheeked girls and the white-haired grandsire before it, their eyes
turned expectantly toward the new-comers. Instead of hearty
welcome, there was a questioning look on every face, even on that
of the kitchen-maid. Zeke's four companions had a sort of hang-dog
look--for they had been cowed by the treatment received along the
road; but he tried to bear himself confidently, and began with an
insinuating smile, "Perhaps I should hardly expect you to remember
me. I passed this way last summer---"

"Passed this way last summer?" repeated the matron, her face
growing stern. "We who cannot fight are ready and glad to share
all we have with those who fight for us. Since you carry arms we
might very justly think you are hastening forward to use them."

"These are our own arms; we furnished them ourselves," Zeke
hastened to say.

"Oh, indeed," replied the matron, coldly; "I supposed that not
only the weapons, but the ones who carry them, belonged to the
country. I hope you are not deserting from the army."

"I assure you we are not. Our terms of enlistment have expired."

"And your country's need was over at the same moment? Are you
hastening home at this season to plow and sow and reap?"

"Well, madam, after being away so long we felt like having a
little comfort and seeing the folks. We stayed a long as we
agreed. When spring opens, or before, if need be---"

"Pardon me, sir; the need is now. The country is not to be saved
by men who make bargains like day-laborers, and who quit when the
hour is up, but by soldiers who give themselves to their country
as they would to their wives and sweethearts. My husband and sons
are in the army you have deserted. General Washington has written
to our governor asking whether an example should not be made of
the men who have deserted the cause of their country at this
critical time when the enemy are receiving re-enforcements. We are
told that Connecticut men have brought disgrace on our colony and
have imperilled the whole army. You feel like taking comfort and
seeing the folks. The folks do not feel like seeing you. My
husband and the brave men in the lines are in all the more danger
because of your desertion, for a soldier's time never expires when
the enemy is growing stronger and threatening every home in the
land. If all followed your example, the British would soon be upon
your heels, taking from us our honor and our all. We are not
ignorant of the critical condition of our army; and I can tell
you, sir, that if many more of our men come home, the women will
take their places."

Zeke's companions succumbed to the stern arraignment, and after a
brief whispered consultation one spoke for the rest. "Madam," he
said, "you put it in a way that we hadn't realized before. We'll
right-about-face and march back in the morning, for we feel that
we'd rather face all the British in Boston than any more
Connecticut women."

"Then, sirs, you shall have supper and shelter and welcome," was
the prompt reply.

Zeke assumed an air of importance as he said: "There are reasons
why I must be at home for a time, but I not only expect to return,
but also to take many back with me."

"I trust your deeds may prove as large as your words," was the
chilly reply; and then he was made to feel that he was barely
tolerated. Some hints from his old associates added to the
disfavor which the family took but little pains to conceal. There
was a large vein of selfish calculation in Zeke's nature, and he
was not to be swept away by any impulses. He believed he could
have a prolonged visit home, yet manage so admirably that when he
returned he would be followed by a squad of recruits, and chief of
all he would be the triumphant suitor of Susie Rolliffe. Her
manner in parting had satisfied him that he had made go deep an
impression that it would be folly not to follow it up. He trudged
the remainder of the journey alone, and secured tolerable
treatment by assuring the people that he was returning for
recruits for the army. He reached home in the afternoon of
Christmas; and although the day was almost completely ignored in
the Puritan household, yet Mrs. Watkins forgot country, Popery,
and all, in her mother love, and Zeke supped on the finest turkey
of the flock. Old Mr. Watkins, it is true, looked rather grim, but
the reception had been reassuring in the main; and Zeke had
resolved on a line of tactics which would make him, as he
believed, the military hero of the town. After he had satisfied an
appetite which had been growing ever since he left camp, he
started to call on Susie in all the bravery of his best attire,
filled with sanguine expectations inspired by memories of the past
and recent potations of cider.

Meanwhile Susie had received a guest earlier in the day. The stage
had stopped at the gate where she had stood in the September
sunshine and waved her bewildered farewell to Zeb. There was no
bewilderment or surprise now at her strange and unwonted
sensations. She had learned why she had stood looking after him
dazed and spellbound. Under the magic of her own light irony she
had seen her drooping rustic lover transformed into the ideal man
who could face anything except her unkindness. She had guessed the
deep secret of his timidity. It was a kind of fear of which she
had not dreamed, and which touched her innermost soul.

When the stage stopped at the gate, and she saw the driver helping
out Ezra Stokes, a swift presentiment made her sure that she would
hear from one soldier who was more to her than all the generals.
She was soon down the walk, the wind sporting in her light-gold
hair, supporting the cobbler on the other side.

"Ah, Miss Susie!" he said, "I am about worn out, sole and upper.
It breaks my heart, when men are so sorely needed, to be thrown
aside like an old shoe."

The girl soothed and comforted him, ensconced him by the fireside,
banishing the chill from his heart, while Mrs. Rolliffe warmed his
blood by a strong, hot drink. Then the mother hastened away to get
dinner, while Susie sat down near, nervously twisting and
untwisting her fingers, with questions on her lips which she dared
not utter, but which brought blushes to her cheeks. Stokes looked
at her and sighed over his lost youth, yet smiled as he thought:
"Guess I'll get even with that Zeb Jarvis to-day." Then he asked,
"Isn't there any one you would like to hear about in camp?"

She blushed deeper still, and named every one who had gone from
Opinquake except Zeb. At last she said a little ironically: "I
suppose Ezekiel Watkins is almost thinking about being a general
about this time?"

"Hasn't he been here telling you what he is thinking about?"

"Been here! Do you mean to say he has come home?"

"He surely started for home. All the generals and a yoke of oxen
couldn't 'a' kept him in camp, he was so homesick--lovesick too, I
guess. Powerful compliment to you, Miss Susie," added the politic
cobbler, feeling his way, "that you could draw a man straight from
his duty like one of these 'ere stump-extractors."

"No compliment to me at all!" cried the girl, indignantly. "He
little understands me who seeks my favor by coming home at a time
like this. The Connecticut women are up in arms at the way our men
are coming home. No offence to you, Mr. Stokes. You're sick, and
should come; but I'd like to go myself to show some of the strong
young fellows what we think of them."

"Coming home was worse than rheumatism to me, and I'm going back
soon's I kin walk without a cane. Wouldn't 'a' come as 'tis, if
that Zeb Jarvis hadn't jes' packed me off. By Jocks! I thought you
and he was acquainted, but you don't seem to ask arter him."

"I felt sure he would try--I heard he was doing his duty," she
replied with averted face.

"Zeke Watkins says he's no soldier at all--nothing but a dirt-
digger."

For a moment, as the cobbler had hoped, Susie forgot her blushes
and secret in her indignation. "Zeke Watkins indeed!" she
exclaimed. "He'd better not tell ME any such story. I don't
believe there's a braver, truer man in the--Well," she added in
sudden confusion, "he hasn't run away and left others to dig their
way into Boston, if that's the best way of getting there."

"Ah, I'm going to get even with him yet," chuckled Stokes to
himself. "Digging is only the first step, Miss Susie. When Old Put
gets good and ready, you'll hear the thunder of the guns a'most in
Opinquake."

"Well, Mr. Stokes," stammered Susie, resolving desperately on a
short cut to the knowledge she craved, "you've seen Mr. Jarvis a-
soldiering. What do you think about it?"

"Well, now, that Zeb Jarvis is the sneakin'ist fellow---"

"What?" cried the girl, her face aflame.

"Wait till I get in a few more pegs," continued Stokes, coolly.
"The other night he sneaked right into the enemy's lines and
carried off a British officer as a hawk takes a chicken. The
Britisher fired his pistol right under Zeb's nose; but, law! he
didn't mind that any more'n a 'sketer-bite. I call that
soldiering, don't you? Anyhow, Old Put thought it was, and sent
for him 'fore daylight, and made a sergeant of him. If I had as
good a chance of gettin' rid of the rheumatiz as he has of bein'
captain in six months, I'd thank the Lord."

Susie sat up very straight, and tried to look severely judicial;
but her lip was quivering and her whole plump little form
trembling with excitement and emotion. Suddenly she dropped her
face in her hands and cried in a gust of tears and laughter: "He's
just like grandfather; he'd face anything!"

"Anything in the 'tarnal universe, I guess, 'cept you, Miss Susie.
I seed a cannon-ball smash a shovel in his hands, and he got
another, and went on with his work cool as a cucumber. Then I seed
him writin' a letter to you, and his hand trembled---"

"A letter to me!" cried the girl, springing up.

"Yes; 'ere it is. I was kind of pegging around till I got to that;
and you know---"

But Susie was reading, her hands trembling so she could scarcely
hold the paper. "It's about you," she faltered, making one more
desperate effort at self-preservation. "He says you'd stay if you
could; that they almost drove you home. And he asks that I be kind
to you, because there are not many to care for you--and--and---"

"Oh, Lord! never can get even with that Zeb Jarvis," groaned Ezra.
"But you needn't tell me that's all the letter's about."

Her eyes were full of tears, yet not so full but that she saw the
plain, closing words in all their significance. Swiftly the letter
went to her lips, then was thrust into her bosom, and she seized
the cobbler's hand, exclaiming: "Yes, I will! I will! You shall
stay with us, and be one of us!" and in her excitement she put her
left hand caressingly on his shoulder.

"SUSAN!" exclaimed Mr. Rolliffe, who entered at that moment, and
looked aghast at the scene.

"Yes, I WILL!" exclaimed Susie, too wrought up now for restraint.

"Will what?" gasped the mother.

"Be Zebulon Jarvis's wife. He's asked me plump and square like a
soldier; and I'll answer as grandma did, and like grandma I'll
face anything for his sake."

"WELL, this IS suddent!" exclaimed Mrs. Rolliffe, dropping into a
chair. "Susan, do you think it is becoming and seemly for a young
woman---"

"Oh, mother dear, there's no use of your trying to make a prim
Puritan maiden of me. Zeb doesn't fight like a deacon, and I can't
love like one. Ha! ha! ha! to think that great soldier is afraid
of little me, and nothing else! It's too funny and heavenly---"

"Susan, I am dumfounded at your behavior!"

At this moment Mr. Rolliffe came in from the wood-lot, and he was
dazed by the wonderful news also. In his eagerness to get even
with Zeb, the cobbler enlarged and expatiated till he was hoarse.
When he saw that the parents were almost as proud as the daughter
over their prospective son-in-law, he relapsed into his old
taciturnity, declaring he had talked enough for a month.

Susie, the only child, who apparently had inherited all the fire
and spirit of her fighting ancestors, darted out, and soon
returned with her rosebud of a face enveloped in a great calyx of
a woollen hood.

"Where are you going?" exclaimed her parents.

"You've had the news. I guess Mother Jarvis has the next right."
And she was off over the hills with almost the lightness and
swiftness of a snowbird.

In due time Zeke appeared, and smiled encouragingly on Mrs.
Rolliffe, who sat knitting by the kitchen fire. The matron did not
rise, and gave him but a cool salutation. He discussed the
coldness of the weather awkwardly for a few moments, and then
ventured: "Is Miss Susan at home?"

"No, sir," replied Mrs. Rolliffe; "she's gone to make a visit to
her mother-in-law that is to be, the Widow Jarvis. Ezra Stokes is
sittin' in the next room, sent home sick. Perhaps you'd like to
talk over camp-life with him."

Not even the cider now sustained Zeke. He looked as if a cannon-
ball had wrecked all his hopes and plans instead of a shovel.
"Good-evening, Mrs. Rolliffe," he stammered; "I guess I'll--I'll--
go home."

Poor Mrs. Jarvis had a spiritual conflict that day which she never
forgot. Susie's face had flashed at the window near which she had
sat spinning, and sighing perhaps that Nature had not provided
feathers or fur for a brood like hers; then the girl's arms were
about her neck, the news was stammered out--for the letter could
never be shown to any one--in a way that tore primness to tatters.
The widow tried to act as if it were a dispensation of Providence
which should be received in solemn gratitude; but before she knew
it she was laughing and crying, kissing her sweet-faced daughter,
or telling how good and brave Zeb had been when his heart was
almost breaking.

Compunction had already seized upon the widow. "Susan," she began,
"I fear we are not mortifyin' the flesh as we ought---"

"No mortifying just yet, if you please," cried Susie. "The most
important thing of all is yet to be done. Zeb hasn't heard the
news; just think of it! You must write and tell him that I'll help
you spin the children's clothes and work the farm; that we'll face
everything in Opinquake as long as Old Put needs men. Where is the
ink-horn? I'll sharpen a pen for you and one for me, and SUCH news
as he'll get! Wish I could tell him, though, and see the great
fellow tremble once more. Afraid of me! Ha! ha! ha! that's the
funniest thing--Why, Mother Jarvis, this is Christmas Day!"

"So it is," said the widow, in an awed tone. "Susie, my heart
misgives me that all this should have happened on a day of which
Popery has made so much."

"No, no," cried the girl. "Thank God it IS Christmas! and
hereafter I shall keep Christmas as long as love is love and God
is good."






JEFF'S TREASURE


CHAPTER I

ITS DISCOVERY


Jeff, the hero of my tale, was as truly a part of the Southern
Confederacy as the greater Jeff at Richmond. Indeed, were it not
for the humbler Jeff and the class he represented, the other Jeff
would never have attained his eminence.

Jeff's prospects were as dark as himself. He owned nothing, not
even himself, yet his dream of riches is the motive of my tale.
Regarded as a chattel, for whom a bill of sale would have been
made as readily as for a bullock, he proved himself a man and
brother by a prompt exhibition of traits too common to human
nature when chance and some heroism on his part gave into his
hands the semblance of a fortune.

Jeff was a native Virginian and belonged to an F.F.V. in a certain
practical, legal sense which thus far had not greatly disturbed
his equanimity. His solid physique and full shining face showed
that slavery had brought no horrors into his experience. He had
indulged, it is true, in vague yearnings for freedom, but these
had been checked by hearing that liberty meant "working for
Yankees"--appalling news to an indolent soul. He was house-servant
and man-of-all-work in a family whose means had always been
limited, and whose men were in the Confederate army. His "missus"
evinced a sort of weary content when he had been scolded or
threatened into the completion of his tasks by nightfall. He then
gave her and her daughters some compensation for their trials with
him by producing his fiddle and making the warm summer evening
resonant with a kind of music which the negro only can evoke. Jeff
was an artist, and had a complacent consciousness of the fact. He
was a living instance of the truth that artists are born, not
made. No knowledge of this gifted class had ever suggested
kinship; he did not even know what the word meant, but when his
cheek rested lovingly against his violin he felt that he was made
of different clay from other "niggahs." During the day he indulged
in moods by the divine right and impulse of genius, imitating his
gifted brothers unconsciously. In waiting on the table, washing
dishes, and hoeing the garden, he was as great a laggard as
Pegasus would have been if compelled to the labors of a cart-
horse; but when night came, and uncongenial toil was over, his
soul expanded. His corrugated brow unwrinkled itself; his great
black fingers flew back and forth over the strings as if driven by
electricity; and electric in effect were the sounds produced by
his swiftly-glancing bow.

While the spirit of music so filled his heart that he could play
to the moon and silent stars, an audience inspired him with
tenfold power, especially if the floor was cleared or a smooth
sward selected for a dance. Rarely did he play long before all who
could trip a measure were on their feet, while even the
superannuated nodded and kept time, sighing that they were old.
His services naturally came into great demand, and he was catholic
in granting them--his mistress in good-natured tolerance acceding
to requests which promised many forgetful hours at a time when the
land was shadowed by war. So it happened that Jeff was often at
the more pretending residences of the neighborhood, sometimes
fiddling in the detached kitchen of a Southern mansion to the
shuffle of heavy feet, again in the lighted parlor, especially
when Confederate troops were quartered near. It was then that his
strains took on their most inspiring and elevated character. He
gave wings to the dark-eyed Southern girls; their feet scarcely
touched the floor as they whirled with their cavaliers in gray, or
threaded the mazes of the cotillon then and there in vogue.

Nor did he disdain an invitation to a crossroads tavern,
frequented by poor whites and enlisted men, or when the nights
were warm, to a moonlit sward, on which he would invite his
audience to a reel which left all breathless. While there was a
rollicking element in the strains of his fiddle which a deacon
could not resist, he, with the intuition of genius, adapted
himself to the class before him. In the parlor, he called off the
figures of a quadrille with a "by-yer-leave-sah" air, selecting,
as a rule, the highest class of music that had blessed his ears,
for he was ear-taught only. He would hold a half-washed dish
suspended minutes at a time while listening to one "ob de young
missys at de pianny. Dat's de way I'se pick up my most scrumptious
pieces. Dey cyant play nuffin in de daytime dat I cyant 'prove on
in de ebenin';" and his vanity did not lead him much astray. But
when with those of his own color, or with the humbler classes, he
gave them the musical vernacular of the region--rude traditional
quicksteps and songs, strung together with such variations of his
own as made him the envy and despair of all other fiddlers in the
vicinity. Indeed, he could rarely get away from a great house
without a sample of his powers in this direction, and then
blending with the rhythmical cadence of feet, the rustle of
garments, would be evoked ripples of mirth and bursts of laughter
that were echoed back from the dim pine-groves without. Finally,
when with his great foot beating time on the floor and every
muscle of his body in motion, he ended with an original
arrangement of "Dixie," the eyes of the gentlest maiden would
flash as she joined the chorus of the men in gray, who were
scarcely less excited for the moment than they would have been in
a headlong cavalry charge.

These were moments of glory for Jeff. In fact, on all similar
occasions he had a consciousness of his power; he made the slave
forget his bondage, the poor whites their poverty, maidens the
absence of their fathers, brothers, and lovers, and the soldier
the chances against his return.

At last there came a summer day when other music than that of
Jeff's fiddle resounded through that region. Two armies met and
grappled through the long sultry hours. Every moment death wounds
were given and received, for thick as insects in woods, grove, and
thicket, bullets whizzed on their fatal mission; while from every
eminence the demoniacal shells shrieked in exultation over the
havoc they wrought.

Jeff's home was on the edge of the battlefield, and as he trembled
in the darkest corner of the cellar, he thought, "Dis yer beats
all de thunder-gusts I eber heered crack, run togedder in one big
hurricane."

With the night came silence, except as it was broken by the groans
and cries of wounded men; and later the contending forces
departed, having accorded to the fallen such poor burial as was
given them when life was cheap and death the chief harvester in
Virginia.

For a day or two Jeff's conscience was active, and the memory of
the resolutions inspired by the din of war gave to his thin visage
a preternatural seriousness. Dishes were washed in such brief time
and so thoroughly, and such havoc made in the garden-weeds that
the world might make a note of Jeff's idea of reform (to its
advantage). In the evening his fiddle wailed out psalm-tunes to
the entire exclusion of its former carnal strains.

It must be admitted, however, that Jeff's grace was like the early
dew. On the third evening, "Ole Dan Tucker" slipped in among the
hymns, and these were played in a time scarcely befitting their
character. Then came a bit of news that awakened a wholly
different train of thought and desire. A colored boy, more
venturous than himself, was said to have picked up some "Linkum"
money on the battlefield. This information shed on the wild wooded
tract where the war trumpet had raged the most fiercely a light
more golden than that of the moon then at its full; and Jeff
resolved that with the coming night he also would explore a region
which, nevertheless, had nameless terrors for him.

"Ef dere's spooks anywhere dey's dereaway," he muttered over his
hoe; "but den, ki! dey woan 'fere wid dis yer niggah. What hab
I'se got ter do wid de wah and de fighten an de jabbin'? De spooks
cyant lay nuffin ter me eben ef ole marse an' de res' am a-fighten
ter keep dere slabes, as folks say."

Having thus satisfied himself that the manes of the dead thousands
could have no controversy with him, Jeff mustered sufficient
resolution to visit the field that night. He took no one into his
confidence, fearing if he discovered treasures of any kind he
could not be left in undisturbed possession. During the day the
rudiments of imagination which made him a musician had been
conjuring up the possible results of his expedition.

"De ting fer dis cullud pusson ter do is ter p'ramberlate ter de
Linkum lines. Ki! I doan wan' what drap outen OUR sogers' pockets.
I kin git Virginny leaf widouten runnin' 'mong de spooks arter it.
De place fer a big fine is whar de brush is tick and de Linkum men
crawl away so dey woan be tromp on. Who knows but I kin fine a
place whar a ginral hide hisself? Ob cose if he hab a lot of gole
he'd stick it in de bush or kiver it right smart, so dat oders
moutn't get it foh he could helf hisself."

Jeff thought he had reasoned himself into such a valorous state
that he could walk across the deserted battlefield with
nonchalance; but as he entered on a deeply shadowed dirt-road long
since disused to any extent, he found strange creeping sensations
running up and down his back. The moonlight filtered through the
leaves with fantastic effects. A young silver poplar looked
ghastly in the distance; and now and then a tree out off by a shot
looked almost human in its mutilation.

He had not gone very far before he saw what appeared to be the
body of a man lying across the road. With a sudden chill of blood
he stopped and stared at the object. Gradually it resolved itself
into a low mound in the dim light. Approaching cautiously, he
discovered with a dull sense of horror that a soldier had been
buried where he had fallen, but covered so slightly that the
tumulus scarcely more than outlined his form.

"Ob cose I knowed I d hab ter see dese tings foh I started. What I
such a fool fer? De Feds nor de Yanks am' a-gwine ter bodder me if
I am' steppin' on 'em or ober 'em." And he went scrupulously on
the other side of the road.

By and by, however, he came to a part of the wood-lane where men
had fallen by the score, and bodies had been covered in twos,
threes, and dozens. His head felt as if his very wool were
straightening itself out, as he wound here and there and zigzagged
in all directions lest he should step on or over a grave. A breeze
stirred the forest as if all the thousands buried in its shades
had heaved a long deep sigh. With chattering teeth Jeff stopped to
listen, then, reassured, continued to pick his tortuous way.
Suddenly there was an ominous rustling in a thicket just behind.
He broke into a headlong flight across and over everything, when
the startled grunt of a hog revealed the prosaic nature of this
spook. Scarcely any other sound could have been more reassuring.
The animal suggested bacon and hominy and hoe-cake, everything
except the ghostly. He berated himself angrily:

"Ki! you niggah! dat ar hog got mo' co'age dan you. He know he hab
nuffin mo' ter do wid de spooks dan you hab. De run ain' far, and
when I gits ober dat de spooks on de side dis way cyant cross
arter me;" and he hastened toward the spot where he supposed the
Federals had been massed the most heavily, crossing an open field
and splashing through a shallow place in the river, that their
ghost-ships might be reminded of running water.

On the further slope were the same sad evidences of poor
mortality, graves here and there and often all too shallow, broken
muskets, bullet perforated canteens and torn knapsacks--the debris
of a pitched battle. Many trees and shrubs were so lacerated that
their foliage hung limp and wilting, while boughs with shrivelled
leaves strewed the ground. Nature's wounds indicated that men had
fought here and been mutilated as ruthlessly.

For a time nothing of value rewarded Jeff's search, and he began
to succumb to the grewsome associations of the place. At last he
resolved to examine one more thicket that bordered an old rail-
fence, and then make a long detour rather than go back by the
graveyard road over which he had come. Pushing the bushes aside,
he peered among their shadows for some moments, and then uttered
an exclamation of surprise and terror as he bounded backward.
There was no mistake this time; he had seen the figure of a man
with a ray of moonlight filtering through the leaves on a ghastly
bullet-hole in his temple. He sat with his back against the fence,
and had not moved after receiving the shock. At his feet, dropped
evidently from his nerveless hand, lay a metal box. All had
flashed almost instantaneously on Jeff's vision.

For some moments he was in doubt whether to take to his heels
homeward or reconnoitre again. The soldier sat in such a lifelike
attitude that while Jeff knew the man must be dead, taking the box
seemed like robbing the living. Yes, worse than that, for, to the
superstitious negro, the dead soldier appeared to be watching his
treasure.

Jeff's cupidity slowly mastered his fears. Cautiously approaching
the figure, he again pushed aside the screening boughs, and with
chattering teeth and trembling limbs, looked upon the silent
guardian of the treasure, half expecting the dead man to raise his
head, and warn him off with a threatening gesture. Since the
figure remained motionless, Jeff made a headlong plunge, clutched
the box, then ran half a mile without thinking to look back.

Not for his life would he cross the battlefield again; so it was
late when by wide circuit he approached the dwelling of his
mistress. His panic had gradually subsided, and as he noted
familiar objects, he felt that he was beyond the proper range of
the unjust spirits of the dead.

The soldier he had left sitting against the fence troubled him, it
is true; and he was not quite sure that he was through with one so
palpably robbed. That he had not been followed appeared certain;
that the question of future ownership of the treasure could be
settled was a matter of superstitious belief. There was only one
way--he must hide the box in a secret nook, and if it remained
undisturbed for a reasonable length of time, he might hope for its
undisturbed enjoyment. Accordingly he stole into a dense copse and
buried his booty at the foot of a persimmon-tree, then gained his
humble quarter and slept so late and soundly that he had to be
dragged almost without the door the next morning before he shook
off his lethargy.




CHAPTER II

ITS INFLUENCE


With the exception of aptitude which enabled Jeff to catch and fix
a tune in his mind with a fair degree of correctness, his mental
processes were slow. Moreover, whether he should ever have any
trouble with "spooks" or not, one thing was true of him, as of
many others in all stations of life, he was haunted by the ghost
of a conscience. This uneasy spirit suggested to him with annoying
iteration that his proceedings the night before had been of very
unusual and doubtful character. When at last fully awake, he
sought to appease the accusing voice by unwonted diligence in all
his tasks, until the fat cook, a devout Baptist, took more than
one occasion to say, "You'se in a promisin' frame, Jeff. Ef I'se
ony shoah dat yer hole out long anuff ter get 'mersed, I'd hab
hopes on yer, but, law! yer'll be a-fiddlin' de debil's tunes 'fo'
de week is out. I'se afeared dat dere must be an awful prov'dence,
like a battle or harricane, onst a week, ter keep yer ser'ous;"
and the old woman sniffed down at him with ill-concealed disdain
from her superior spiritual height.

Jeff was as serious as could have been wished all that day, for
there was much on his mind. Perplexing questions tinged with
supernatural terrors tormented him. Passing over those having a
moral point, the most urgent one was, "S'pose dat ar soger miss
him box an come arter it ternight. Ki! If I go ter see, I mout run
right on ter de spook. I'se a-gwine ter gib 'im his chance, an'
den take mine." So that evening Jeff fortified himself and
increased the cook's hope by a succession of psalm-tunes in which
there was no lapse toward the "debil's" music.

Next morning, after a long sleep, Jeff's nerves were stronger, and
he began to take a high hand with conscience.

"Dat ar soger has hab his chance," he reasoned. "Ef he want de box
he mus' 'a' com arter it las' night. I'se done bin fa'r wid him,
an' now ter-night, ef dat ar box ain' 'sturbed, I'se a-gwine ter
see de 'scription an' heft on it. Toder night I was so 'fuscated
dat I couldn't know nuffin straight."

When all were sleeping, he stole to the persimmon-tree and was
elated to find his treasure where he had slightly buried it. The
little box seemed heavy, and was wholly unlike anything he ever
seen before.

"Ob cose it's got money in it," Jeff reasoned. "Nuffin else 'ud be
done up to tight and strong. I'se woan open it jes' yet, feared de
missus or de colored boys 'spec' someting. Ki! I isn't a-gwine ter
be tied up, an' hab dat box whip out in me. I'll tink how I kin
hide an' spen' de money kine of slowcution like." With this he
restored the prize to its shallow excavation and covered it with
leaves that no trace of fresh earth might be visible.

Jeff's deportment now began to evince a new evolution in mental
and moral process. The influence of riches was quite as marked
upon him as upon so many of his white brothers and sisters,
proving their essential kinship. To-day he began to sniff
disdainfully at his menial tasks; and in the evening "Ole Dan
Tucker" resounded from his fiddle with a rollicking abandon over
which the cook groaned in despair, "Dat ar niggah's 'ligion drop
off ob 'im like a yaller pig from de bush. 'Ligion dat's skeert
inter us hain't no 'count anyhow."

During the next few days it was evident that Jeff was falling from
grace rapidly. Never had he been so slow and careless in his
tasks. More than once the thought crossed his mind that he had
better take his box and "cut stick" for Washington, where he
believed that wealth and his fiddle would give him prominence over
his race. For prudential and other reasons he was in no haste to
open the box, preferring rather to gloat over it and to think how
he could spend the money to the greatest advantage. He had been
paying his court to a girl as black as himself on a neighboring
plantation; but he now regarded that affair as preposterous.

"She ain' good nuff fer me no mo'," he reasoned. "I'se a-gwine ter
shine up ter dat yeller Suky dat's been a-holdin' her head so high
ober ter Marse Perkins's. I'se invited ter play ober dar ter-
night, an' I'll make dat gal open her eye. Ki! she tinks no culled
gemmen in dese parts fit ter hole a cannle when she braid her long
straight ha'r, but when she see de ribbin I kin git her ter tie
dat ha'r up wid, an' de earrings I kin put in her ears, she larf
on toder side ob her face. 'Fo' I go I'se a-gwine ter buy dat ar
gole ring ob Sam Milkins down at de tavern. S'pose it does take
all I'se been sabin' up, I'se needn't sabe any mo'. Dat ar box got
nuff in it ter keep me like a lawd de rest ob my life. I'd open it
ter-night if I wasn't goin' ter Marse Perkins's."

Jeff carried out his high-handed measures and appeared that
evening at "Marse Perkins's" with a ring of portentous size
squeezed on the little finger of his left hand. It had something
of the color of gold, and that is the best that can be said of it;
but it had left its purchaser penniless. This fact sat lightly on
Jeff's mind, however, as he remembered the box at the foot of the
persimmon-tree; and he stalked into the detached kitchen, where a
dusky assemblage were to indulge in a shuffle, with the air of one
who intends that his superiority shall be recognized at once.

"Law sakes, Jeff!" said Mandy, his hitherto ebon flame, "yer comes
in like a turkey gobbler. Doesn't yer know me?"

"Sartin I know yer, Mandy. You'se a good gal in you'se way, but,
law! you'se had yer spell. A culled gemmen kin change his min'
when he sees dat de 'finity's done gone."

"Look here, Jeff Wobbles, does yer mean ter give me de sack?"

"I mean ter gib yer good-ebenin', Miss Mandy Munson. Yer kyant
'spec' a gemmen to be degaged in de music an' a gal at de same
time," replied Jeff, with oppressive gravity.

"Mister Johnsing, I'se tank yer fo' yer arm," said Mandy to a man
near, with responsive dignity. "Yer wait on me here, an' yer kin
wait on me home. I'se 'shamed on mysef dat I took up wid a lout
dat kin do nuffin but fiddle; but I was kine ob sorry fer him, he
sich a fool."

"Go 'long," remarked Jeff, smiling mysteriously. "Ef yer knowed,
yer 'ud be wringin' yer han's wuss dan yer did at de las' 'tracted
meetin'. Ah, Miss Suky, dat you?" and Jeff for the first time
doffed his hat.

"Wat's in de win', Jeff, dat yer so scrumptious an' bumptious like
dis ebenin'?" Suky asked a trifle scornfully.

"Wen de 'freshments parse 'roun', I'se 'steem it a oblergation ter
me ef yer'll let me bring yer de cake an' cider. I'se sumpin fer
yer. Gemmen an' ladies, took yer places," he added in a stentorian
voice; "I ax yer' sideration fer bein' late, cose I had 'portant
business; now,

  "Bow dar, scrape dar;
  Doan hang about de doah.
  Shine up ter de pretty gals,
  An' lead 'em on de floah"--

his fiddle seconding his exhortation with such inciting strains
that soon there was not a foot but was keeping time.

Suky observed that the musician had eyes for her only, and that
toward all others he maintained his depressing superiority. In
vain did Mandy lavish tokens of favor on "Mister Johnsing." Jeff
did not lose his sudden and unexpected indifference; while the
great ring glistening on his finger added to the mystery. There
were many whispered surmises; but gradually the conjecture that he
had "foun' a heap ob Linkum money" was regarded as the best
explanation of the marked change in his bearing.

Curiosity soon became more potent than Jeff's fiddle, and the
"'freshments" were hurried up. So far from resenting this, Jeff
put his violin under his arm and stalked across the improvised
ball-room to Miss Suky, oblivious of the fact that she had a
suitor on either side.

"Gemmen," he remarked with condescension, "dis lady am degaged ter
me durin' de 'freshments period,'" and he held out his arm in such
a way that the massive ring glittered almost under Suky's nose.
The magnet drew. His arm was taken in spite of the protests of the
enamored swains.

"Permit me de suggestation," continued Jeff, "dat ter a lady ob
yer 'finement, dis place am not fit ter breve in. Wha's mo', I
doan 'cline ter hab dese yer common niggahs a-whisperin' an' a-
pintin' an' a-'jecturin' about us. Lemme yet yer a seat under de
lite ob de risin' moon. De dusk'll obscuate yer loveleness so I'se
dar' tell all de news."

Suky, mystified and expectant, but complacent over another
conquest, made no objections to these whispered "suggestations,"
and was led to a seat under the shadow of a tree. A chorus of not
very flattering remarks broke out, ceasing as suddenly when Jeff
returned for a portion of the cake and cider.

"Mister Wobbles, yer's prettin' on high de airs ter-night," Suky
remarked, with an interrogation point in her voice.

"Here's ter de health ob Mrs. Wobbles," he answered, lifting the
cider to his lips.

"I'se no 'jections ter dat. Who is she ter be?" replied Suky, very
innocently.

"It's not my 'tention ter go furder and far' wuss. Dis am a case
wha de presen' company am not 'cepted."

"No, not axcepted jes' yet, Mr. Wobbles, if yer'se 'dressin' yer
remarks ter me. Yer is goin' on jes' a little too far."

"P'raps a little far; but yer'll soon catch up wid me. Yer'se a
lady dat got a min' ob her own, I hope?"

"It's mine yet, anyhow."

"An' yer kin keep as mum as a possum w'en de cawn is in de milk?"

"Dat 'pends."

"Ob cose it does. But I'll trus' yer; yer ain' de one ter bite yer
own nose off. Does yer see dat ar ring, Suky? Law! how pretty dat
look on yer degaged finger!"

"'Tain' dar yet."

"Lemme put it dar. Ki! wouldn't dey look an' gape an' pint in dar
yonder w'en yer come a-sailin' in wid dat ring on?"

"Yes; dey tink me a big fool ter be captivated by a ring--brass,
too, like anuff."

"No, Suky, it's gole--yallow gole, di 'plexion ob yer own fair
han'. But, law! dis ain' nuffin ter what I'se 'll git yer. Yer'se
shall hab rings an' dresses an' jules till yer 'stinguish de oder
gals like de sun put out de stars."

"What yer foun', Jeff Wobbles?"

"I'se foun' what'll make yer a lady if yer hab sense. I'se gib yer
de compliment ob s'lecting yer ter shar' my fine if yer'll lemme
put dis ring on yer degaged finger."

"Yer doan say nuffin 'bout lub in dis yer 'rangement," Suky
simpered, sidling up to him.

"Oh, dat kind ob sent'ment 'll do fer common niggahs," Jeff
explained with dignity. "I'se hurd my missus talk 'bout 'liances
'twixt people of quality. Ki! Suky, I'se in a'sition now ter make
a 'liance wid yer. Yer ain' like dat low gal, Mandy. What Mister
Johnsing ebber hab ter gib her but a lickin' some day? I'se done
wid dat common class; I may fiddle fur 'em now an' den, jes' ter
see dem sport deysefs, while I'se lookin' on kin' ob s'periur
like, yer know. But den, dey ain' our kin' ob folks. Yer'se got
qulities dat'll shine like de risin' moon dar." Then in a whisper
he added, "De Linkum sogers is off dar ter the east'erd. One
night's trabel an' dey'd sen' us on ter Washin'on. Onst yer git
dar, an' hab all de jules an' dresses dat I gib yer, dar's not a
culled gemmen dereaway but 'ud bow down ter yer."

Here was a dazzling vista that Suky could not resist. Her ideas of
freedom, like those of Jeff, were not very exalted. At that
period, slave property in the vicinity of the Union lines was fast
melting away; and scarcely a night elapsed but some one was
missing, the more adventurous and intelligent escaping first, and
others following as opportunity and motive pointed the way. The
region under consideration had not yet been occupied by the
Federals, and there was still no slight risk involved in flight.
Suky did not realize the magnitude of the project. She was not the
first of her sex to be persuaded by a cavalier and promised gold
to take a leap into the dark.

As a result of Jeff's representations the "'liance" was made there
and then, secrecy promised, and an escape to Washington agreed
upon as soon as circumstances permitted--Suky's mind, I regret to
say, dwelling more on "gemmen bowing down" to her than on the
devotion of the allied suitor.

No lady of rank in Timbuctoo could have sailed into the kitchen
ball-room with greater state than Suky now after the compact had
been made, Jeff supporting her on his arm with the conscious air
of one who has taken the prize from all competitors. With the
assurance of a potentate he ensconced himself in the orchestra
corner and called the dancers to their feet.

But the spirit of mutiny was present. Eager eyes noted that the
ring on his bow-hand was gone. Then it was seen glistening on
Suky's hand as she ostentatiously fanned herself. The clamor broke
out, "Mister Johnsing," incited by Mandy and the two swains
between whom Suky had been sandwiched, leading the revolt against
Jeff's arrogance and success.

There were many, however, who had no personal wrongs to right, and
who did not relish being made a cat's-paw by the disaffected.
These were bent on the natural progression and conclusion of the
dance. In consequence of the wordy uproar the master of the
premises appeared and cleared them all out, sending his own
servants to their quarters.

Jeff nearly came to grief that night, for a party of the
malcontents followed him on his homeward walk. Suspecting their
purpose, he dodged behind some shrubbery, heard their threats to
break his head and smash his fiddle, and then went back to a tryst
with Suky.

That sagacious damsel had been meditating on the proposed
alliance. Even in her rather sophisticated mind she had regarded a
semblance of love as essential; but since Jeff had put everything
on such superior grounds, she felt that she should prove herself
fit for new and exalted conditions of life by seeing to it that he
made good all his remarkable promises. She remembered that he had
not yet opened the box of money, and became a little sceptical as
to its contents. Somebody might have watched Jeff, and have
carried it off.

True, she had the ring, but that was not the price of her hand.
Nothing less than had been promised would answer now; and when she
stole out to meet Jeff she told him so. Under the witching
moonlight he began to manifest tendencies to sentiment and
tenderness. Her response was prompt: "Go 'long! what dese common
niggah ways got ter do wid a 'liance? Yer show me de gole in dat
box--dat's de bargain. Den de 'liance hole me fas', an' I'll help
yer spen' de money in Washin'on. We'll hab a weddin' scrumptious
as white folks. But, law sakes! Jeff Wobbles, 't ain' no kin' ob
'liance till I see dat gole an' hab some ob it too!"

Jeff had to succumb like many a higher-born suitor before him,
with the added chagrin of remembering that he had first suggested
the purely businesslike aspect of his motive.

"Berry well; meet me here ter-morrer night when I whistle like a
whip-o'-will. But yer ain' so smart as yer tink yer are, Suky.
Yer'se made it cl'ar ter me dat I'se got ter keep de han'lin' ob
dat gole or you'll be a-carryin' dis 'liance business too far! If
I gib yer gole, I expec' yer ter shine up an be 'greeable-like ter
me ebbery way yer know how. Dat's only fa'r, doggoned ef it ain'!"
and Jeff spoke in a very aggrieved tone.

Wily Suky chucked him under the chin, saying: "Show me de color ob
de gole an' de 'liance come out all right." Then she retired,
believing that negotiations had proceeded far enough for the
present.

Jeff went home feeling that he had been forewarned and forearmed.
Since her heart responded to a golden key only, he would keep that
key and use it judiciously.

During the early hours of the following night Jeff was very wary
and soon discovered that he was watched. He coolly slipped the
collar from a savage dog, and soon there was a stampede from a
neighboring grove. An hour after, when all had become quiet again,
he took the dog and, armed with an axe, started out, fully
resolved on breaking the treasure-box which he had been hoarding.

The late moon had risen, giving to Jeff a gnome-like aspect as he
dug at the root of the persimmon-tree. The mysterious box soon
gleamed with a pale light in his hand, like the leaden casket that
contained Portia's radiant face. Surely, when he struck the "open
sesame" blow, that beauty which captivates young and old alike
would dazzle his eyes. With heart now devoid of all compunction,
and exultant in anticipation, he struck the box, shaving off the
end he held furthest from him. An "ancient fish-like smell" filled
the air; Jeff sank on the ground and stared at sardines and rancid
oil dropping instead of golden dollars from his treasure-box. They
scarcely touched the ground before the dog snapped them all up.

The bewildered negro knew not what to think. Had fish been the
original contents of the box, or had the soldier's spook
transformed the gold into this horrid mess? One thing, however,
was clear--he had lost, not only Suky, but prestige. The yellow
girl would scorn him, and tell of his preposterous promises. Mandy
had been offended beyond hope, and he would become the laughing-
stock and byword of all the colored boys for miles around.

"Dar's nuffin lef fer me but ter put out fer freedom," he
soliloquized; "ki! I'se a-gwine ter git eben wid dat yallar gal
yet. I'll cut stick ter-morrer night and she'll tink I 'sconded
alone, totin' de box wid me, and dat she was too sharp in dat
'liance business."

So it turned out; Jeff and his fiddle vanished, leaving nothing to
sustain Suky under the gibes of her associates except the ring,
which she eventually learned was as brazen as her own ambition.

Jeff wandered into the service of a Union officer whose patience
he tried even more than that of his tolerant Southern mistress;
but when by the camp-fire he brought out his violin, all his
shortcomings were condoned.






CAUGHT ON THE EBB-TIDE


The August morning was bright and fair, but Herbert Scofield's
brow was clouded. He had wandered off to a remote part of the
grounds of a summer hotel on the Hudson, and seated in the shade
of a tree, had lapsed into such deep thought that his cigar had
gone out and the birds were becoming bold in the vicinity of his
motionless figure.

It was his vacation time and he had come to the country ostensibly
for rest. As the result, he found himself in the worst state of
unrest that he had ever known. Minnie Madison, a young lady he had
long admired, was the magnet that had drawn him hither. Her
arrival had preceded his by several weeks; and she had smiled a
little consciously when in looking at the hotel register late one
afternoon his bold chirography met her eye.

"There are so many other places to which he might have gone," she
murmured.

Her smile, however, was a doubtful one, not expressive of gladness
and entire satisfaction. In mirthful, saucy fashion her thoughts
ran on: "The time has come when he might have a respite from
business. Does he still mean business by coming here? I'm not sure
that I do, although the popular idea seems to be that a girl
should have no vacation in the daily effort to find a husband. I
continually disappoint the good people by insisting that the
husband must find me. I have a presentiment that Mr. Scofield is
looking for me; but there are some kinds of property which cannot
be picked up and carried off, nolens volens, when found."

Scofield had been animated by no such clearly defined purpose as
he was credited with when he sought the summer resort graced by
Miss Madison. His action seemed to him tentative, his motive ill-
defined even in his own consciousness, yet it had been strong
enough to prevent any hesitancy. He knew he was weary from a long
year's work. He purposed to rest and take life very leisurely, and
he had mentally congratulated himself that he was doing a wise
thing in securing proximity to Miss Madison. She had evoked his
admiration in New York, excited more than a passing interest, but
he felt that he did not know her very well. In the unconventional
life now in prospect he could see her daily and permit his
interest to be dissipated or deepened, as the case might be, while
he remained, in the strictest sense of the world, uncommitted. It
was a very prudent scheme and not a bad one. He reasoned justly:
"This selecting a wife is no bagatelle. A man wishes to know
something more about a woman than he can learn in a drawing-room
or at a theatre party."

But now he was in trouble. He had been unable to maintain this
judicial aspect. He had been made to understand at the outset that
Miss Madison did not regard herself as a proper subject for
deliberate investigation, and that she was not inclined to aid in
his researches. So far from meeting him with engaging frankness
and revealing her innermost soul for his inspection, he found her
as elusive as only a woman of tact can be when so minded, even at
a place where people meet daily. It was plain to him from the
first that he was not the only man who favored her with admiring
glances; and he soon discovered that young Merriweather and his
friend Hackley had passed beyond the neutral ground of non-
committal. He set himself the task of learning how far these
suitors had progressed in her good graces; he would not be guilty
of the folly of giving chase to a prize already virtually
captured. This too had proved a failure. Clearly, would he know
what Mr. Merriweather and Mr. Hackley were to Miss Madison he must
acquire the power of mind reading. Each certainly appeared to be a
very good friend of hers--a much better friend than he could claim
to be, for in his case she maintained a certain unapproachableness
which perplexed and nettled him.

After a week of rest, observation, and rather futile effort to
secure a reasonable share of Miss Madison's society and attention,
he became assured that he was making no progress whatever so far
as she was concerned, but very decided progress in a condition of
mind and heart anything but agreeable should the affair continue
so one-sided. He had hoped to see her daily, and was not
disappointed. He had intended to permit his mind to receive such
impressions as he should choose; and now his mind asked no
permission whatever, but without volition occupied itself with her
image perpetually. He was not sure whether she satisfied his
preconceived ideals of what a wife should be or not, for she
maintained such a firm reticence in regard to herself that he
could put his finger on no affinities. She left no doubt as to her
intelligence, but beyond that she would not reveal herself to him.
He was almost satisfied that she discouraged him utterly and that
it would be wiser to depart before his feelings became more deeply
involved. At any rate he had better do this or else make love in
dead earnest. Which course should he adopt?

There came a day which brought him to a decision.

A party had been made up for an excursion into the Highlands, Miss
Madison being one of the number. She was a good pedestrian and
rarely missed a chance for a ramble among the hills. Scofield's
two rivals occasionally got astray with her in the perplexing
wood-roads, but he never succeeded in securing such good-fortune.
On this occasion, as they approached a woodchopper's cottage (or
rather, hovel), there were sounds of acute distress within--the
piercing cries of a child evidently in great pain. There was a
moment of hesitancy in the party, and then Miss Madison's graceful
indifference vanished utterly. As she ran hastily to the cabin,
Scofield felt that now probably was a chance for more than mere
observation, and he kept beside her. An ugly cur sought to bar
entrance; but his vigorous kick sent it howling away. She gave him
a quick pleased look as they entered. A slatternly woman was
trying to soothe a little boy, who at all her attempts only
writhed and shrieked the more. "I dunno what ails the young one,"
she said. "I found him a moment ago yellin' at the foot of a tree.
Suthin's the matter with his leg."

"Yes," cried Miss Madison, delicately feeling of the member--an
operation which, even under her gentle touch, caused increased
outcry, "it is evidently broken. Let me take him on my lap;" and
Scofield saw that her face had softened into the tenderest pity.

"I will bring a surgeon at the earliest possible moment,"
exclaimed Scofield, turning to go.

Again she gave him an approving glance which warmed his heart.
"The ice is broken between us now," he thought, as he broke
through the group gathering at the open door.

Never before had he made such time down a mountain, for he had a
certain kind of consciousness that he was not only going after the
doctor, but also after the girl. Securing a stout horse and wagon
at the hotel, he drove furiously for the surgeon, explained the
urgency, and then, with the rural healer at his side, almost
killed the horse in returning.

He found his two rivals at the cabin door, the rest of the party
having gone on. Miss Madison came out quickly. An evanescent smile
flitted across her face as she saw his kindled eyes and the
reeking horse, which stood trembling and with bowed head. His
ardor was a little dampened when she went directly to the poor
beast and said, "This horse is a rather severe indictment against
you, Mr. Scofield. There was need of haste, but--" and she paused
significantly.

"Yes," added the doctor, springing out, "I never saw such driving!
It's lucky our necks are not broken"

"You are all right, Doctor, and ready for your work," Scofield
remarked brusquely. "As for the horse, I'll soon bring him
around;" and he rapidly began to unhitch the over-driven animal.

"What are you going to do?" Miss Madison asked curiously.

"Rub him into as good shape as when he started."

She turned away to hide a smile as she thought, "He has waked up
at last."

The boy was rendered unconscious, and his leg speedily put in the
way of restoration. "He will do very well now if my directions are
carried out strictly," the physician was saying when Scofield
entered.

Mr. Merriweather and Mr. Hackley stood rather helplessly in the
background and were evidently giving more thought to the fair
nurse than to the patient. The mother was alternating between
lamentations and invocations of good on the "young leddy's" head.
Finding that he would come in for a share of the latter, Scofield
retreated again. Miss Madison walked quietly out, and looking
critically at the horse, remarked, "You have kept your word very
well, Mr. Scofield. The poor creature does look much improved."
She evidently intended to continue her walk with the two men in
waiting, for she said demurely with an air of dismissal, "You will
have the happy consciousness of having done a good deed this
morning."

"Yes," replied Scofield, in significant undertone; "you, of all
others, Miss Madison, know how inordinately happy I shall be in
riding back to the village with the doctor."

She raised her eyebrows in a little well-feigned surprise at his
words, then turned away.

During the remainder of the day he was unable to see her alone for
a moment, or to obtain any further reason to believe that the ice
was in reality broken between them. But his course was no longer
noncommittal, even to the most careless observer. The other guests
of the house smiled; and Mr. Merriweather and Mr. Hackley looked
askance at one who threw their assiduous attentions quite into the
shade. Miss Madison maintained her composure, was oblivious as far
as possible, and sometimes when she could not appear blind, looked
a little surprised and even offended.

He had determined to cast prudence and circumlocution to the
winds. On the morning following the episode in the mountains he
was waiting to meet her when she came down to breakfast. "I've
seen that boy, Miss Madison, and he's doing well."

"What! so early? You are a very kind-hearted man, Mr. Scofield."

"About as they average. That you are kind-hearted I know--at least
to every one except me--for I saw your expression as you examined
the little fellow's injury yesterday. You thought only of the
child--"

"I hope you did also, Mr. Scofield," she replied with an
exasperating look of surprise.

"You know well I did not," he answered bluntly. "I thought it
would be well worth while to have my leg broken if you would look
at me in the same way."

"Truly, Mr. Scofield, I fear you are not as kind-hearted as I
supposed you to be;" and then she turned to greet Mr.
Merriweather.

"Won't you let me drive you up to see the boy?" interposed
Scofield, boldly.

"I'm sorry, but I promised to go up with the doctor this morning."

And so affairs went on. He thought at times her color quickened a
little when he approached suddenly; he fancied that he
occasionally surprised a half-wistful, half-mirthful glance, but
was not sure. He knew that she was as well aware of his intentions
and wishes as if he had proclaimed them through a speaking-
trumpet. His only assured ground of comfort was that neither Mr.
Merriweather nor Mr. Hackley had yet won the coveted prize, though
they evidently were receiving far greater opportunities to push
their suit than he had been favored with.

At last his vacation was virtually at an end. But two more days
would elapse before he must be at his desk again in the city. And
now we will go back to the time when we found him that early
morning brooding over his prospects, remote from observation. What
should he do--propose by letter? "No," he said after much
cogitation. "I can see that little affected look of surprise with
which she would read my plain declaration of what she knows so
well. Shall I force a private interview with her? The very word
'force,' which I have unconsciously used, teaches me the folly of
this course. She doesn't care a rap for me, and I should have
recognized the truth long ago. I'll go back to the hotel and act
toward her precisely as she has acted toward me. I can then at
least take back to town a little shred of dignity."

He appeared not to see her when she came down to breakfast. After
the meal was over he sat on the piazza engrossed in the morning
paper. An excursion party for the mountains was forming. He merely
bowed politely as she passed him to join it, but he ground his
teeth as he saw Merriweather and Hackley escorting her away. When
they were out of sight he tossed the paper aside and went down to
the river, purposing to row the fever out of his blood. He was
already satisfied how difficult his tactics would be should he
continue to see her, and he determined to be absent all day, to so
tire himself out that exhaustion would bring early sleep on his
return.

Weary and leaden-spirited enough he was, as late in the afternoon
he made his way back, but firm in sudden resolve to depart on an
early train in the morning and never voluntarily to see the
obdurate lady of his affections again.

Just as the sun was about sinking he approached a small wooded
island about half a mile from the boat-house, and was surprised to
notice a rowboat high and dry upon the beach. "Some one has
forgotten that the tide is going out," he thought, as he passed;
but it was no affair of his.

A voice called faintly, "Mr. Scofield!"

He started at the familiar tones, and looked again. Surely that
was Miss Madison standing by the prow of the stranded skiff! He
knew well indeed it was she; and he put his boat about with an
energy not in keeping with his former languid strokes. Then,
recollecting himself, he became pale with the self-control he
purposed to maintain, "She is in a scrape," he thought; "and calls
upon me as she would upon any one else to get her out of it."

Weariness and discouragement inclined him to be somewhat reckless
and brusque in his words and manner. Under the compulsion of
circumstances she who would never graciously accord him
opportunities must now be alone with him; but as a gentleman, he
could not take advantage of her helplessness, to plead his cause,
and he felt a sort of rage that he should be mocked with an
apparent chance which was in fact no chance at all.

His boat stranded several yards from the shore. Throwing down his
oars, he rose and faced her. Was it the last rays of the setting
sun which made her face so rosy, or was it embarrassment?

"I'm in a dilemma, Mr. Scofield," Miss Madison began hesitatingly.

"And you would rather be in your boat," he added.

"That would not help me any, seeing where my boat is. I have done
such a stupid thing! I stole away here to finish a book, and--
well--I didn't notice that the tide was running out. I'm sure I
don't know what I'm going to do."

Scofield put his shoulder to an oar and tried to push his craft to
what deserved the name of shore, but could make little headway. He
was glad to learn by the effort, however, that the black mud was
not unfathomable in depth. Hastily reversing his action, he began
pushing his boat back in the water.

"Surely, Mr. Scofield, you do not intend to leave me," began Miss
Madison.

"Surely not," he replied; "but then, since you are so averse to my
company, I must make sure that my boat does not become as fast as
yours on this ebb-tide, otherwise we should both have to wait till
the flood."

"Oh, beg pardon! I now understand. But how can you reach me?"

"Wade," he replied coolly, proceeding to take off his shoes and
stockings.

"What! through that horrid black mud?"

"I couldn't leap that distance, Miss Madison."

"It's too bad! I'm so provoked with myself! The mud may be very
deep, or there may be a quicksand or something."

"In which case I should merely disappear a little earlier;" and he
sprang overboard up to his knees, dragged the boat till it was
sufficiently fast in the ooze to be stationary, then he waded
ashore.

"Well," she said with a little deprecatory laugh, "it's a comfort
not to be alone on a desert island."

"Indeed! Can I be welcome under any circumstances?"

"Truly, Mr. Scofield, you know that you were never more welcome.
It's very kind of you."

"Any man would be glad to come to your aid. It is merely your
misfortune that I happen to be the one."

"I'm not sure that I regard it as a very great misfortune. You
proved in the case of that little boy that you can act very
energetically."

"And get lectured for my intemperate zeal. Well, Miss Madison, I
cannot make a very pleasing spectacle with blackamoor legs, and
it's time I put my superfluous energy to some use. Suppose you get
in your boat, and I'll try to push it off"

She complied with a troubled look in her face. He pushed till the
veins knotted on his forehead. At this she sprang out, exclaiming,
"You'll burst a blood-vessel."

"That's only a phase of a ruptured heart, and you are used to such
phenomena."

"It's too bad for you to talk in that way," she cried.

"It certainly is. I will now attend strictly to business."

"I don't see what you can do."

"Carry you out to my boat--that is all I can do."

"Oh, Mr. Scofield!"

"Can you suggest anything else?"

She looked dubiously at the intervening black mud, and was silent.

"I could go up to the hotel and bring Mr. Merriweather and Mr.
Hackley."

She turned away to hide her tears.

"Or I could go after a brawny boatman; but delay is serious, for
the tide is running out fast and the stretch of mud growing wider.
Can you not imagine me Mike or Tim, or some fellow of that sort."

"No, I can't."

"Then perhaps you wish me to go for Mike or Tim?"

"But the tide is running out so fast, you said."

"Yes, and it will soon be dark."

"Oh, dear!" and there was distress in her tones.

He now said kindly, "Miss Madison, I wish that like Sir Walter
Raleigh I had a mantle large enough for you to walk over. You can
at least imagine that I am a gentleman, that you may soon be at
the hotel, and no one ever be any the wiser that you had to choose
between me and the deep--ah, well--mud."

"There is no reason for such an allusion, Mr. Scofield."

"Well, then, that you had no other choice."

"That's better. But how in the world can you manage it?"

"You will have to put your arm around my neck."

"Oh!"

"You would put your arm around a post, wouldn't you?" he asked
with more than his old brusqueness.

"Yes-s; but--"

"But the tide is going out. My own boat will soon be fast. Dinner
will grow cold at the hotel, and you are only the longer in
dispensing with me. You must consider the other dire
alternatives."

"Ob, I forgot that you were in danger of losing a warm dinner."

"You know I have lost too much to think of that or much else. But
there is no need of satire, Miss Madison. I will do whatever you
wish. That truly is carte blanche enough even for this occasion."

"I didn't mean to be satirical. I--I--Well, have your own way."

"Not if you prefer some other way."

"You have shown that practically there isn't any other way. I'm
sorry that my misfortune, or fault rather, should also be your
misfortune. You don't know how heavy--"

"I soon will, and you must endure it all with such grace as you
can. Put your arm round my neck, so--oh, that will never do! Well,
you'll hold tight enough when I'm floundering in the mud."

Without further ado he picked her up, and started rapidly for his
boat. Stepping on a smooth stone he nearly fell, and her arm did
tighten decidedly.

"If you try to go so fast," she said, "you will fall."

"I was only seeking to shorten your ordeal, but for obvious
reasons must go slowly;" and he began feeling his way.

"Mr. Scofield, am I not very heavy?" she asked softly.

"Not as heavy as my heart, and you know it."

"I'm sure I--"

"No, you are not to blame. Moths have scorched their wings before
now, and will always continue to do so."

Her head rested slightly against his shoulder; her breath fanned
his cheek; her eyes, soft and lustrous, sought his. But he looked
away gloomy and defiant, and she felt his grasp tighten vise-like
around her. "I shall not affect any concealment of the feelings
which she has recognized so often, nor shall I ask any favors," he
thought. "There," he said, as he placed her in his boat, "you are
safe enough now. Now go aft while I push off."

When she was seated he exerted himself almost as greatly as
before, and the boat gradually slid into the water. He sprang in
and took the oars.

"Aren't you going to put on your shoes and stockings?"

"Certainly, when I put you ashore."

"Won't that be a pretty certain way of revealing the plight in
which you found me?"

"Pardon my stupidity; I was preoccupied with the thought of
relieving you from the society which you have hitherto avoided so
successfully;" and bending over his shoes he tied them almost
savagely.

There was a wonderful degree of mirth and tenderness in her eyes
as she watched him. They had floated by a little point; and as he
raised his head he saw a form which he recognized as Mr.
Merriweather rowing toward them. "There comes one of your
shadows," he said mockingly. "Be careful how you exchange boats
when he comes along-side. I will give you no help in such a case."

She looked hastily over her shoulder at the approaching oarsman.
"I think it will be safer to remain in your boat," she said.

"Oh, it will be entirely safe," he replied bitterly.

"Mr. Merriweather must have seen you carrying me."

"That's another thing which I can't help."

"Mr. Scofield," she began softly.

He arrested his oars, and turned wondering eyes to hers. They were
sparkling with mirth as she continued, "Are you satisfied that a
certain young woman whom you once watched very narrowly is
entirely to your mind?"

He caught her mirthful glance and misunderstood her. With dignity
he answered, "I'm not the first man who blundered to his cost,
though probably it would have made no difference. You must do me
the justice, however, to admit that I did not maintain the role of
observer very long--that I wooed you so openly that every one was
aware of my suit. Is it not a trifle cruel to taunt me after I had
made such ample amends?"

"I was thinking of Mr. Merriweather--"

"Undoubtedly"

"Since he has seen me with my arm around your neck--you know I
couldn't help it--perhaps he might row the other way if--if--well,
if he saw you--what shall I say--sitting over here--by me--or--
Somehow I don't feel very hungry, and I wouldn't mind spending
another hour--"

Scofield nearly upset the boat in his precipitous effort to gain a
seat beside her--and Mr. Merriweather did row another way.






CHRISTMAS EVE IN WAR TIMES


It was the beginning of a battle. The skirmish line of the Union
advance was sweeping rapidly over a rough mountainous region in
the South, and in his place on the extreme left of this line was
Private Anson Marlow. Tall trees rising from underbrush, rocks,
bowlders, gulches worn by spring torrents, were the
characteristics of the field, which was in wild contrast with the
parade-grounds on which the combatants had first learned the
tactics of war. The majority, however, of those now in the ranks
had since been drilled too often under like circumstances, and
with lead and iron shotted guns, not to know their duty, and the
lines of battle were as regular as the broken country allowed. So
far as many obstacles permitted, Marlow kept his proper distance
from the others on the line and fired coolly when he caught
glimpses of the retreating Confederate skirmishers. They were
retiring with ominous readiness toward a wooded height which the
enemy occupied with a force of unknown strength. That strength was
soon manifested in temporary disaster to the Union forces, which
were driven back with heavy loss.

Neither the battle nor its fortunes are the objects of our present
concern, but rather the fate of Private Marlow. The tide of battle
drifted away and left the soldier desperately wounded in a narrow
ravine, through which babbled a small stream. Excepting the voices
of his wife and children no music had ever sounded so sweetly in
his ears. With great difficulty he crawled to a little bubbling
pool formed by a tiny cascade and encircling stones, and partially
slaked his intolerable thirst.

He believed he was dying--bleeding to death. The very thought
blunted his faculties for a time; and he was conscious of little
beyond a dull wonder. Could it be possible that the tragedy of his
death was enacting in that peaceful, secluded nook? Could Nature
be so indifferent or so unconscious if it were true that he was
soon to lie there DEAD? He saw the speckled trout lying motionless
at the bottom of the pool, the gray squirrels sporting in the
boughs over his head. The sunlight shimmered and glinted through
the leaves, flecking with light his prostrate form. He dipped his
hand in the blood that had welled from his side, and it fell in
rubies from his fingers. Could that be his blood--his life-blood;
and would it soon all ooze away? Could it be that death was coming
through all the brightness of that summer afternoon?

From a shadowed tree further up the glen, a wood-thrush suddenly
began its almost unrivalled song. The familiar melody, heard so
often from his cottage-porch in the June twilight, awoke him to
the bitter truth. His wife had then sat beside him, while his
little ones played here and there among the trees and shrubbery.
They would hear the same song to-day; he would never hear it
again. That counted for little; but the thought of their sitting
behind the vines and listening to their favorite bird, spring
after spring and summer after summer, and he ever absent,
overwhelmed him.

"Oh, Gertrude, my wife, my wife! Oh, my children!" he groaned.

His breast heaved with a great sigh; the blood welled afresh from
his wound; what seemed a mortal weakness crept over him; and he
thought he died.

       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

"Say, Eb, is he done gone?"

"'Clar to grashus if I know. 'Pears mighty like it." These words
were spoken by two stout negroes, who had stolen to the
battlefield as the sounds of conflict died away.

"I'm doggoned if I tink dat he's dead. He's only swoonded,"
asserted the man addressed as Eb. "'Twon't do to lebe 'im here to
die, Zack."

"Sartin not; we'd hab bad luck all our days."

"I reckon ole man Pearson will keep him; and his wife's a po'ful
nuss."

"Pearson orter; he's a Unioner."

"S'pose we try him; 'tain't so bery fur off."

       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

On the morning of the 24th of December, Mrs. Anson Marlow sat in
the living-room of her cottage, that stood well out in the suburbs
of a Northern town. Her eyes were hollow and full of trouble that
seemed almost beyond tears, and the bare room, that had been
stripped of nearly every appliance and suggestion of comfort, but
too plainly indicated one of the causes. Want was stamped on her
thin face, that once had been so full and pretty; poverty in its
bitter extremity was unmistakably shown by the uncarpeted floor,
the meagre fire, and scanty furniture. It was a period of
depression; work had been scarce, and much of the time she had
been too ill and feeble to do more than care for her children.
Away back in August her resources had been running low; but she
had daily expected the long arrears of pay which her husband would
receive as soon as the exigencies of the campaign permitted.
Instead of these funds, so greatly needed, came the tidings of a
Union defeat, with her husband's name down among the missing.
Beyond that brief mention, so horrible in its vagueness, she had
never heard a word from the one who not only sustained her home,
but also her heart. Was he languishing in a Southern prison, or,
mortally wounded, had he lingered out some terrible hours on that
wild battlefield, a brief description of which had been so dwelt
upon by her morbid fancy that it had become like one of the scenes
in Dante's "Inferno"? For a long time she could not and would not
believe that such an overwhelming disaster had befallen her and
her children, although she knew that similar losses had come to
thousands of others. Events that the world regards as not only
possible but probable are often so terrible in their personal
consequences that we shrink from even the bare thought of their
occurrence.

If Mrs. Marlow had been told from the first that her husband was
dead, the shock resulting would not have been so injurious as the
suspense that robbed her of rest for days, weeks, and months. She
haunted the post-office, and if a stranger was seen coming up the
street toward her cottage she watched feverishly for his turning
in at her gate with the tidings of her husband's safety. Night
after night she Jay awake, hoping, praying that she might hear his
step returning on a furlough to which wounds or sickness had
entitled him. The natural and inevitable result was illness and
nervous prostration.

Practical neighbors had told her that her course was all wrong;
that she should be resigned and even cheerful for her children's
sake; that she needed to sleep well and live well, in order that
she might have strength to provide for them. She would make
pathetic attempts to follow this sound and thrifty advice, but
suddenly when at her work or in her troubled sleep, that awful
word "missing" would pierce her heart like an arrow, and she would
moan, and at times in the depths of her anguish cry out, "Oh,
where is he? Shall I ever see him again?"

But the unrelenting demands of life are made as surely upon the
breaking as upon the happy heart. She and her children must have
food, clothing, and shelter. Her illness and feebleness at last
taught her that she must not yield to her grief, except so far as
she was unable to suppress it; that for the sake of those now
seemingly dependent upon her, she must rally every shattered nerve
and every relaxed muscle. With a heroism far beyond that of her
husband and his comrades in the field, she sought to fight the
wolf from the door, or at least to keep him at bay. Although the
struggle seemed a hopeless one, she patiently did her best from
day to day, eking out her scanty earnings by the sale or pawning
of such of her household goods as she could best spare. She felt
that she would do anything rather than reveal her poverty or
accept charity. Some help was more or less kindly offered, but
beyond such aid as one neighbor may receive of another, she had
said gently but firmly, "Not yet."

The Marlows were comparative strangers in the city where they had
resided. Her husband had been a teacher in one of its public
schools, and his salary small. Patriotism had been his motive for
entering the army, and while it had cost him a mighty struggle to
leave his family, he felt that he had no more reason to hold back
than thousands of others. He believed that he could still provide
for those dependent upon him, and if he fell, those for whom he
died would not permit his widow and children to suffer. But the
first popular enthusiasm for the war had largely died out; the
city was full of widows and orphans; there was depression of
spirit, stagnation in business, and a very general disposition on
the part of those who had means, to take care of themselves, and
provide for darker days that might be in the immediate future.
Sensitive, retiring Mrs. Marlow was not the one to push her claims
or reveal her need. Moreover, she could never give up the hope
that tidings from her husband might at any time bring relief and
safety.

But the crisis had come at last; and on this dreary December day
she was face to face with absolute want. The wolf, with his gaunt
eyes, was crouched beside her cold hearth. A pittance owed to her
for work had not been paid. The little food left in the house had
furnished the children an unsatisfying breakfast; she had eaten
nothing. On the table beside her lay a note from the agent of the
estate of which her home was a part, bidding her call that
morning. She knew why--the rent was two months in arrears. It
seemed like death to leave the house in which her husband had
placed her, and wherein she had spent her happiest days. It stood
well away from the crowded town. The little yard and garden, with
their trees, vines, and shrubbery, some of which her husband had
planted, were all dear from association. In the rear there was a
grove and open fields, which, though not belonging to the cottage,
were not forbidden to the children; and they formed a wonderland
of delight in spring, summer, and fall. Must she take her active,
restless boy Jamie, the image of his father, into a crowded
tenement? Must golden-haired Susie, with her dower of beauty, be
imprisoned in one close room, or else be exposed to the evil of
corrupt association just beyond the threshold?

Moreover, her retired home had become a refuge. Here she could
hide her sorrow and poverty. Here she could touch what he had
touched, and sit during the long winter evenings in his favorite
corner by the fire. Around her, within and without, were the
little appliances for her comfort which his hands had made, flow
could she leave all this and live? Deep in her heart also the hope
would linger that he would come again and seek her where he had
left her.

"O God!" she cried suddenly. "Thou wouldst not, couldst not permit
him to die without one farewell word," and she buried her face in
her hands and rocked back and forth, while hard, dry sobs shook
her slight, famine-pinched form.

The children stopped their play and came and leaned upon her lap.

"Don't cry, mother," said Jamie, a little boy of ten. "I'll soon
be big enough to work for you; and I'll get rich, and you shall
have the biggest house in town. I'll take care of you if papa
don't come back."

Little Sue knew not what to say, but the impulse of her love was
her best guide. She threw her arms around her mother's neck with
such an impetuous and childlike outburst of affection that the
poor woman's bitter and despairing thoughts were banished for a
time. The deepest chord of her nature, mother love, was touched;
and for her children's sake she rose up once more and faced the
hard problems of her life. Putting on her bonnet and thin shawl
(she had parted with much that she now so sorely needed), she went
out into the cold December wind. The sky was clouded like her
hopes, and the light, even in the morning hours, was dim and
leaden-hued.

She first called on Mr. Jackson, the agent from whom she rented
her home, and besought him to give her a little more time.

"I will beg for work from door to door," she said. "Surely in this
Christian city there must be those who will give me work; and that
is all I ask."

The sleek, comfortable man, in his well-appointed office, was
touched slightly, and said in a voice that was not so gruff as he
at first had intended it should be:

"Well, I will wait a week or two longer. If then you cannot pay
something on what is already due, my duty to my employers will
compel me to take the usual course. You have told me all along
that your husband would surely return, and I have hated to say a
word to discourage you; but I fear you will have to bring yourself
to face the truth and act accordingly, as so many others have
done. I know it's very hard for you, but I am held responsible by
my employer, and at my intercession he has been lenient, as you
must admit. You could get a room or two in town for half what you
must pay where you are. Good-morning."

She went out again into the street, which the shrouded sky made
sombre in spite of preparations seen on every side for the chief
festival of the year. The fear was growing strong that like Him in
whose memory the day was honored, she and her little ones might
soon not know where to lay their heads. She succeeded in getting
the small sum owed to her and payment also for some sewing just
finished. More work she could not readily obtain, for every one
was busy and preoccupied by the coming day of gladness.

"Call again," some said kindly or carelessly, according to their
nature. "After the holidays are over we will try to have or make
some work for you."

"But I need--I must have work now," she ventured to say whenever
she had the chance.

In response to this appeal there were a few offers of charity,
small indeed, but from which she drew back with an instinct so
strong that it could not be overcome. On every side she heard the
same story. The times were very hard; requests for work and aid
had been so frequent that purses and patience were exhausted.
Moreover, people had spent their Christmas money on their
households and friends, and were already beginning to feel poor.

At last she obtained a little work, and having made a few
purchases of that which was absolutely essential, she was about to
drag her weary feet homeward when the thought occurred to her that
the children would want to hang up their stockings at night; and
she murmured: "It may be the last chance I shall ever have to put
a Christmas gift in them. Oh, that I were stronger! Oh, that I
could take my sorrow more as others seem to take theirs! But I
cannot, I cannot! My burden is greater than I can bear. The cold
of this awful day is chilling my very heart, and my grief, as hope
dies, is crushing my soul. Oh, he must be dead, he must be dead!
That is what they all think. God help my little ones! Oh, what
will become of them if I sink, as I fear I shall! If it were not
for them I feel as if I would fall and die here in the street.
Well, be our fate what it may, they shall owe to me one more gleam
of happiness;" and she went into a confectioner's shop and bought
a few ornamented cakes. These were the only gifts she could
afford, and they must be in the form of food.

Before she reached home the snow was whirling in the frosty air,
and the shadows of the brief winter day deepening fast. With a
smile far more pathetic than tears she greeted the children, who
were cold, hungry, and frightened at her long absence; and they,
children-like, saw only the smile, and not the grief it masked.
They saw also the basket which she had placed on the table, and
were quick to note that it seemed a little fuller than of late.

"Jamie," she said, "run to the store down the street for some coal
and kindlings that I bought, and then we will have a good fire and
a nice supper;" and the boy, at such a prospect, eagerly obeyed.

She was glad to have him gone, that she might hide her weakness.
She sank into a chair, so white and faint that even little Susie
left off peering into the basket, and came to her with a troubled
face.

"It's nothing, dearie," the poor creature said. "Mamma's only a
little tired. See," she added, tottering to the table, "I have
brought you a great piece of gingerbread."

The hungry child grasped it, and was oblivious and happy.

By the time Jamie returned with his first basket of kindling and
coal, the mother had so far rallied from her exhaustion as to meet
him smilingly again and help him replenish the dying fire.

"Now you shall rest and have your gingerbread before going for
your second load," she said cheerily; and the boy took what was
ambrosia to him, and danced around the room in joyous reaction
from the depression of the long weary day, during which, lonely
and hungry, he had wondered why his mother did not return.

"So little could make them happy, and yet I cannot seem to obtain
even that little," she sighed. "I fear--indeed, I fear--I cannot
be with them another Christmas; therefore they shall remember that
I tried to make them happy once more, and the recollection may
survive the long sad days before them, and become a part of my
memory."

The room was now growing dark, and she lighted the lamp. Then she
cowered shiveringly over the reviving fire, feeling as if she
could never be warm again.

The street-lamps were lighted early on that clouded, stormy
evening, and they were a signal to Mr. Jackson, the agent, to
leave his office. He remembered that he had ordered a holiday
dinner, and now found himself in a mood to enjoy it. He had
scarcely left his door before a man, coming up the street with
great strides and head bent down to the snow-laden blast, brushed
roughly against him. The stranger's cap was drawn over his eyes,
and the raised collar of his blue army overcoat nearly concealed
his face. The man hurriedly begged pardon, and was hastening on
when Mr. Jackson's exclamation of surprise caused him to stop and
look at the person he had jostled.

"Why, Mr. Marlow," the agent began, "I'm glad to see you. It's a
pleasure I feared I should never have again."

"My wife," the man almost gasped, "she's still in the house I
rented of you?"

"Oh, certainly," was the hasty reply. "It'll be all right' now."

"What do you mean? Has it not been all right?"

"Well, you see," said Mr. Jackson, apologetically, "we have been
very lenient to your wife, but the rent has not been paid for over
two months, and--"

"And you were about to turn her and her children out-of-doors in
midwinter," broke in the soldier, wrathfully. "That is the way you
sleek, comfortable stay-at-home people care for those fighting
your battles. After you concluded that I was dead, and that the
rent might not be forthcoming, you decided to put my wife into the
street. Open your office, sir, and you shall have your rent."

"Now, Mr. Marlow, there's no cause for pitching into me in this
way. You know that I am but an agent, and--"

"Tell your rich employer, then, what I have said, and ask him what
he would be worth to-day were there not men like myself, who are
willing to risk everything and suffer everything for the Union.
But I've no time to bandy words. Have you seen my wife lately?"

"Yes," was the hesitating reply; "she was here to-day, and I--"

"How is she? What did you say to her?"

"Well, she doesn't look very strong. I felt sorry for her, and
gave her more time, taking the responsibility myself--"

"How much time?"

"I said two weeks, but no doubt I could have had the time
extended."

"I have MY doubts. Will you and your employer please accept my
humble gratitude that you had the grace not to turn her out-of-
doors during the holiday season? It might have caused remark; but
that consideration and some others that I might name are not to be
weighed against a few dollars and cents. I shall now remove the
strain upon your patriotism at once, and will not only pay
arrears, but also for two months in advance."

"Oh, there's no need of that to-day."

"Yes, there is. My wife shall feel to-night that she has a home.
She evidently has not received the letter I wrote as soon as I
reached our lines, or you would not have been talking to her about
two weeks more of shelter."

The agent reopened his office and saw a roll of bills extracted
from Marlow's pocket that left no doubt of the soldier's ability
to provide for his family. He gave his receipt in silence, feeling
that words would not mend matters, and then trudged off to his
dinner with a nagging appetite.

As Marlow strode away he came to a sudden resolution--he would
look upon his wife and children before they saw him; he would
feast his eyes while they were unconscious of the love that was
beaming upon them. The darkness and storm favored his project, and
in brief time he saw the light in his window. Unlatching the gate
softly, and with his steps muffled by the snow that already
carpeted the frozen ground, he reached the window, the blinds of
which were but partially closed. His children frolicking about the
room were the first objects that caught his eye, and he almost
laughed aloud in his joy. Then, by turning another blind slightly,
he saw his wife shivering over the fire.

"Great God!" he muttered, "how she has suffered!" and he was about
to rush in and take her into his arms. On the threshold he
restrained himself, paused, and said, "No, not jet; I'll break the
news of my return in my own way. The shock of my sudden appearance
might be too great for her;" and he went back to the window. The
wife's eyes were following her children with such a wistful
tenderness that the boy, catching her gaze, stopped his sport,
came to her side, and began to speak. They were but a few feet
away, and Marlow caught every word.

"Mamma," the child said, "you didn't eat any breakfast, and I
don't believe you have eaten anything to-day. You are always
giving everything to us. Now I declare I won't eat another bit
unless you take half of my cake;" and he broke off a piece and
laid it in her lap.

"Oh, Jamie," cried the poor woman, "you looked so like your father
when you spoke that I could almost see him;" and she caught him in
her arms and covered him with kisses.

"I'll soon be big enough to take care of you. I'm going to grow up
just like papa and do everything for you," the boy said proudly as
she released him.

Little Susie also came and placed what was left of her cake in her
mother's lap, saying:

"I'll work for you, too, mamma; and to-morrow I'll sell the doll
Santa Claus gave me last Christmas, and then we'll all have plenty
to eat."

Anson Marlow was sobbing outside the window as only a man weeps;
and his tears in the bitter cold became drops of ice before they
reached the ground.

"My darlings!" the mother cried. "Oh, God spare me to you and
provide some way for us! Your love should make me rich though I
lack all else. There, I won't cry any more, and you shall have as
happy a Christmas as I can give you. Perhaps He who knew what it
was to be homeless and shelterless will provide for our need; so
we'll try to trust Him and keep His birthday. And now, Jamie, go
and bring the rest of the coal, and then we will make the dear
home that papa gave us cheery and warm once more. If he were only
with us we wouldn't mind hunger or cold, would we? Oh, my
husband!" she broke out afresh, "if you could only come back, even
though crippled and helpless, I feel that I could live and grow
strong from simple gladness."

"Don't you think, mamma," Jamie asked, "that God will let papa
come down from heaven and spend Christmas with us? He might be
here like the angels, and we not see him."

"I'm afraid not," the sad woman replied, shaking her head and
speaking more to herself than to the child. "I don't see how he
could go back to heaven and be happy if he knew all. No, we must
be patient and try to do our best, so that we can go to him. Go
now, Jamie, before it gets too late. I'll get supper, and then
we'll sing a Christmas hymn; and you and Susie shall hang up your
stockings, just as you did last Christmas, when dear papa was with
us. We'll try to do everything he would wish, and then by and by
we shall see him again."

As the boy started on his errand his father stepped back out of
the light of the window, then followed the child with a great
yearning in his heart. He would make sure the boy was safe at home
again before he carried out his plan. From a distance he saw the
little fellow receive the coal and start slowly homeward with the
burden, and he followed to a point where the light of the street-
lamps ceased, then joined the child, and said in a gruff voice,
"Here, little man, I'm going your way. Let me carry your basket;"
and he took it and strode on so fast that the boy had to run to
keep pace with him. Jamie shuffled along through the snow as well
as he could, but his little legs were so short in comparison with
those of the kindly stranger that he found himself gradually
falling behind. So he put on an extra burst of speed and managed
to lay hold of the long blue skirt of the army overcoat.

"Please, sir, don't go quite so fast," he panted.

The stranger slackened his pace, and in a constrained tone of
voice, asked:

"How far are you going, little man?"

"Only to our house--mamma's. She's Mrs. Marlow, you know."

"Yes, I know--that is, I reckon I do. How much further is it?"

"Oh, not much; we're most half-way now. I say, you're a soldier,
aren't you?"

"Yes, my boy," said Marlow, with a lump in his throat. "Why?"

"Well, you see, my papa is a soldier, too, and I thought you might
know him. We haven't heard from him for a good while, and--"
choking a bit--"mamma's afraid he is hurt, or taken prisoner or
something." He could not bring himself to say "killed."

Jamie let go the overcoat to draw his sleeve across his eyes, and
the big man once more strode on faster than ever, and Jamie began
to fear lest the dusky form might disappear in the snow and
darkness with both basket and coal; but the apparent stranger so
far forgot his part that he put down the basket at Mrs. Marlow's
gate, and then passed on so quickly that the panting boy had not
time to thank him. Indeed, Anson Marlow knew that if he lingered
but a moment he would have the child in his arms.

"Why, Jamie," exclaimed his mother, "how could you get back so
soon with that heavy basket? It was too heavy for you, but you
will have to be mamma's little man mow."

"A big man caught up with me and carried it. I don't care if he
did have a gruff voice, I'm sure he was a good kind man. He knew
where we lived too, for he put the basket down at our gate before
I could say a word, I was so out of breath, and then he was out of
sight in a minute." Some instinct kept him from saying anything
about the army overcoat.

"It's some neighbor that lives further up the street, I suppose,
and saw you getting the coal at the store," Mrs. Marlow said,
"Yes, Jamie, it was a good, kind act to help a little boy, and I
think he'll have a happier Christmas for doing it."

"Do you really think he'll have a happier Christmas, mamma?"

"Yes, I truly think so. We are so made that we cannot do a kind
act without feeling the better for it."

"Well, I think he was a queer sort of a man if he was kind. I
never knew any one to walk so fast. I spoke to him once, but he
did not answer. Perhaps the wind roared so he couldn't hear me."

"No doubt he was hurrying home to his wife and children," she said
with a deep sigh.

When his boy disappeared within the door of the cottage, Marlow
turned and walked rapidly toward the city, first going to the
grocery at which he had been in the habit of purchasing his
supplies. The merchant stared for a moment, then stepped forward
and greeted his customer warmly.

"Well," he said, after his first exclamations of surprise were
over, "the snow has made you almost as white as a ghost; but I'm
glad you're not one. We scarce ever thought to see you again."

"Has my wife an open account here now?" was the brief response.

"Yes, and it might have been much larger. I've told her so too.
She stopped taking credit some time ago, and when she's had a
dollar or two to spare she's paid it on the old score. She bought
so little that I said to her once that she need not go elsewhere
to buy; that I' d sell to her as cheap as any one: that I believed
you'd come back all right, and if you didn't she could pay me when
she could. What do you think she did? Why, she burst out crying,
and said, 'God bless you, sir, for saying my husband will come
back! So many have discouraged me.' I declare to you her feeling
was so right down genuine that I had to mop my own eyes. But she
wouldn't take any more credit, and she bought so little that I've
been troubled. I'd have sent her something, but your wife somehow
ain't one of them kind that you can give things to, and--"

Marlow interrupted the good-hearted, garrulous shopman by saying
significantly, "Come with me to your back-office"; for the soldier
feared that some one might enter who would recognize him and carry
the tidings to his home prematurely.

"Mr. Wilkins," he said rapidly, "I wanted to find out if you too
had thriftily shut down on a soldier's wife. You shall not regret
your kindness."

"Hang it all!" broke in Wilkins, with compunction, "I haven't been
very kind. I ought to have gone and seen your wife and found out
how things were; and I meant to, but I've been so confoundedly
busy--"

"No matter now; I've not a moment to spare. You must help me to
break the news of my return in my own way. I mean they shall have
such a Christmas in the little cottage as was never known in this
town. You could send a load right over there, couldn't you?"

"Certainly, certainly," said Wilkins, under the impulse of both
business thrift and goodwill; and a list of tea, coffee, sugar,
flour, bread, cakes, apples, etc., was dashed off rapidly; and
Marlow had the satisfaction of seeing the errand-boy, the two
clerks, and the proprietor himself busily working to fill the
order in the shortest possible space of time.

He next went to a restaurant, a little further down the street,
where he had taken his meals for a short time before he brought
his family to town, and was greeted with almost equal surprise and
warmth. Marlow cut short all words by his almost feverish haste. A
huge turkey had just been roasted for the needs of the coming
holiday, and this with a cold ham and a pot of coffee was ordered
to be sent in a covered tray within a quarter of an hour. Then a
toy-shop was visited, and such a doll purchased! for tears came
into Marlow's eyes whenever he thought of his child's offer to
sell her dolly for her mother's sake.

After selecting a sled for Jamie, and directing that they should
be sent at once, he could restrain his impatience no longer, and
almost tore back to his station at the cottage window. His wife
was placing the meagre little supper on the table, and how poor
and scanty it was!

"Is that the best the dear soul can do on Christmas Eve?" he
groaned. "Why, there's scarcely enough for little Sue. Thank God,
my darling, I will sit down with you to a rather different supper
before long!"

He bowed his head reverently with his wife as she asked God's
blessing, and wondered at her faith. Then he looked and listened
again with a heart-hunger which had been growing for months.

"Do you really think Santa Claus will fill our stockings to-
night?" Sue asked.

"I think he'll have something for you," she replied. "There are so
many poor little boys and girls in the city that he may not be
able to bring very much to you."

"Who is Santa Claus, anyway?" questioned Jamie.

Tears came into the wife's eyes as she thought of the one who had
always remembered them so kindly as far as his modest means
permitted.

She hesitated in her reply; and before she could decide upon an
answer there was a knock at the door. Jamie ran to open it, and
started back as a man entered with cap, eyebrows, beard, and
shaggy coat all white with the falling snow. He placed two great
baskets of provisions on the floor, and said they were for Mrs.
Anson Marlow.

"There is some mistake," Mrs. Marlow began; but the children,
after staring a moment, shouted, "Santa Claus! Santa Claus!"

The grocer's man took the unexpected cue instantly, and said, "No
mistake, ma'am. They are from Santa Claus;" and before another
word could be spoken he was gone. The face of the grocer's man was
not very familiar to Mrs. Marlow, and the snow had disguised him
completely. The children had no misgivings and pounced upon the
baskets and with, exclamations of delight drew out such articles
as they could lift.

"I can't understand it," said the mother, bewildered and almost
frightened.

"Why, mamma, it's as plain as day," cried Jamie. "Didn't he look
just like the pictures of Santa Claus--white beard and white
eyebrows? Oh, mamma, mamma, here is a great paper of red-cheeked
apples!" and he and Susie tugged at it until they dragged it over
the side of the basket, when the bottom of the bag came out, and
the fruit flecked the floor with red and gold. Oh, the bliss of
picking up those apples; of comparing one with another; of running
to the mother and asking which was the biggest and which the
reddest and most beautifully streaked!

"There must have been some mistake," the poor woman kept murmuring
as she examined the baskets and found how liberal and varied was
the supply, "for who could or would have been so kind?"

"Why, mommie," said little Sue, reproachfully, "Santa Claus
brought 'em. Haven't you always told us that Santa Claus liked to
make us happy?"

The long-exiled father felt that he could restrain himself but a
few moments longer, and he was glad to see that the rest of his
purchases were at the door. With a look so intent, and yearning
concentration of thought so intense that it was strange that they
could not feel his presence, he bent his eyes once more upon a
scene that would imprint itself upon his memory forever.

But while he stood there, another scene came before his mental
vision. Oddly enough his thought went back to that far-off
Southern brookside, where he had lain with his hands in the cool
water. He leaned against the window-casing, with the Northern snow
whirling about his head; but he breathed the balmy breath of a
Southern forest, the wood-thrush sang in the trees overhead, and
he could--so it seemed to him--actually feel the water-worn
pebbles under his palms as he watched the life-blood ebbing from
his side. Then there was a dim consciousness of rough but kindly
arms bearing him through the underbrush, and more distinctly the
memory of weary weeks of convalescence in a mountaineer's cabin.
All these scenes of peril, before he finally reached the Union
lines, passed before him as he stood in a species of trance beside
the window of his home.

The half-grown boys sent from the restaurant and toy-shop could
not be mistaken for Santa Claus even by the credulous fancy of the
children, and Mrs. Marlow stepped forward eagerly and said:

"I am sure there is some mistake. You are certainly leaving these
articles at the wrong house." The faces of the children began to
grow anxious and troubled also, for even their faith could not
accept such marvellous good-fortune. Jamie looked at the sled with
a kind of awe, and saw at a glance that it was handsomer than any
in the street "Mr. Lansing, a wealthy man, lives a little further
on," Mrs. Marlow began to urge; "and these things must be meant--"

"Isn't your name Mrs. Anson Marlow?" asked the boy from the
restaurant.

"Yes."

"Then I must do as I've been told;" and he opened his tray and
placed the turkey, the ham, and the coffee on the table.

"If he's right, I'm right too," said he of the toy-shop. "Them was
my directions;" and they were both about to depart when the woman
sprang forward and gasped: "Stay!"

She clasped her hands and trembled violently.

"Who sent these things?" she faltered.

"Our bosses, mum," replied the boy from the restaurant,
hesitatingly.

She sprang toward him, seized his arm, and looked imploringly into
his face. "Who ordered them sent?" she asked in a low, passionate
voice.

The young fellow began to smile, and stammered awkwardly, "I don't
think I'm to tell."

She released his arm and glanced around with a look of intense
expectation.

"Oh, oh!" she gasped with quick short sobs, "can it be--" Then she
sprang to the door, opened it, and looked out into the black,
stormy night. What seemed a shadow rushed toward her; she felt
herself falling, but strong arms caught and bore her, half
fainting, to a lounge within the room.

Many have died from sorrow, but few from joy. With her husband's
arms around her Mrs. Marlow's weakness soon passed. In response to
his deep, earnest tones of soothing and entreaty, she speedily
opened her eyes and gave him a smile so full of content and
unutterable joy that all anxiety in her behalf began to pass from
his mind.

"Yes," she said softly, "I can live now. It seems as if a new and
stronger life were coming back with every breath."

The young fellows who had been the bearers of the gifts were so
touched that they drew their rough sleeves across their eyes as
they hastened away, closing the door on the happiest family in the
city.




A BRAVE LITTLE QUAKERESS

A TRADITION OF THE REVOLUTION


Not very far from the Highlands of the Hudson, but at a
considerable distance from the river, there stood, one hundred
years ago, a farmhouse that evidently had been built as much for
strength and defence as for comfort. The dwelling was one story
and a half in height, and was constructed of hewn logs, fitted
closely together, and made impervious to the weather by old-
fashioned mortar, which seems to defy the action of time. Two
entrances facing each other led to the main or living room, and
they were so large that a horse could pass through them, dragging
in immense back-logs. These, having been detached from a chain
when in the proper position, were rolled into the huge fireplace
that yawned like a sooty cavern at the farther end of the
apartment. A modern housekeeper, who finds wood too dear an
article for even the air-tight stove, would be appalled by this
fireplace. Stalwart Mr. Reynolds, the master of the house, could
easily walk under its stony arch without removing his broad-
brimmed Quaker hat. From the left side, and at a convenient height
from the hearth, a massive crane swung in and out; while high
above the centre of the fire was an iron hook, or trammel, from
which by chains were suspended the capacious iron pots used in
those days for culinary or for stock-feeding purposes. This
trammel, which hitherto had suggested only good cheer, was
destined to have in coming years a terrible significance to the
household.

When the blaze was moderate, or the bed of live coals not too
ample, the children could sit on either side of the fireplace and
watch the stars through its wide flue; and this was a favorite
amusement of Phebe Reynolds, the eldest daughter of the house.

A door opened from the living-room into the other apartments,
furnished in the old massive style that outlasts many generations.
All the windows were protected by stout oaken shutters which, when
closed, almost transformed the dwelling into a fortress, giving
security against any ordinary attack. There were no loopholes in
the walls through which the muzzle of the deadly rifle could be
thrust and fired from within. This feature, so common in the
primitive abodes of the country, was not in accordance with John
Reynolds's Quaker principles. While indisposed to fight, it was
evident that the good man intended to interpose between himself
and his enemies all the passive resistance that his stout little
domicile could offer.

And he knew that he had enemies of the bitterest and most
unscrupulous character. He was a stanch Whig, loyal to the
American cause, and, above all, resolute and active in the
maintenance of law and order in those lawless times. He thus had
made himself obnoxious to his Tory neighbors, and an object of
hate and fear to a gang of marauders, who, under the pretence of
acting with the British forces, plundered the country far and
near. Claudius Smith, the Robin Hood of the Highlands and the
terror of the pastoral low country, had formerly been their
leader; and the sympathy shown by Mr. Reynolds with all the
efforts to bring him to justice which finally resulted in his
capture and execution, and awakened among his former associates an
intense desire for revenge. This fact, well known to the farmer,
kept him constantly on his guard, and filled his wife and daughter
Phebe with deep apprehension.

At the time of our story, Phebe was only twelve years of age, but
was mature beyond her years. There were several younger children,
and she had become almost womanly in aiding her mother in their
care. Her stout, plump little body had been developed rather than
enfeebled by early toil, and a pair of resolute and often mirthful
blue eyes bespoke a spirit not easily daunted. She was a native
growth of the period, vitalized by pure air and out-of-door
pursuits, and she abounded in the shrewd intelligence and demure
refinement of her sect to a degree that led some of their
neighbors to speak of her as "a little old woman." When alone with
the children, however, or in the woods and fields, she would doff
her Quaker primness, and romp, climb trees, and frolic with the
wildest.

But of late, the troublous times and her father's peril had
brought unwonted thoughtfulness into her blue eyes, and more than
Quaker gravity to the fresh young face, which, in spite of
exposure to sun and wind, maintained much of its inherited
fairness of complexion. Of her own accord she was becoming a
vigilant sentinel, for a rumor had reached Mr. Reynolds that
sooner or later he would have a visit from the dreaded mountain
gang of hard riders. Two roads leading to the hills converged on
the main highway not far from his dwelling; and from an adjacent
knoll Phebe often watched this place, while her father, with a lad
in his employ, completed their work about the barn. When the
shadows deepened, all was made as secure as possible without and
within, and the sturdy farmer, after committing himself and his
household to the Divine protection, slept as only brave men sleep
who are clear in conscience and accustomed to danger.

His faith was undoubtedly rewarded; but Providence in the
execution of its will loves to use vigilant human eyes and ready,
loving hands. The guardian angel destined to protect the good man
was his blooming daughter Phebe, who had never thought of herself
as an angel, and indeed rarely thought of herself at all, as is
usually the case with those who do most to sweeten and brighten
the world. She was a natural, wholesome, human child, with all a
child's unconsciousness of self. She knew she could not protect
her father like a great stalwart son, but she could watch and warn
him of danger, and as the sequel proved, she could do far more.

The farmer's habits were well known, and the ruffians of the
mountains were aware that after he had shut himself in he was much
like Noah in his ark. If they attempted to burn him out, the
flames would bring down upon them a score of neighbors not
hampered by Quaker principles. Therefore they resolved upon a
sudden onslaught before he had finished the evening labors of the
farm. This was what the farmer feared; and Phebe, like a vigilant
outpost, was now never absent from her place of observation until
called in.

One spring evening she saw two mounted men descending one of the
roads which led from the mountains. Instead of jogging quietly out
on the highway, as ordinary travellers would have done, they
disappeared among the trees. Soon afterward she caught a glimpse
of two other horsemen on the second mountain road. One of these
soon came into full view, and looked up and down as if to see that
all was clear. Apparently satisfied, he gave a low whistle, when
three men joined him. Phebe waited to see no more, but sped toward
the house, her flaxen curls flying from her flushed and excited
face.

"They are coming, father! Thee must be quick!" she cried.

But a moment or two elapsed before all were within the dwelling,
the doors banged and barred, the heavy shutters closed, and the
home-fortress made secure. Phebe's warning had come none too soon,
for they had scarcely time to take breath before the tramp of
galloping horses and the oaths of their baffled foes were heard
without. The marauders did not dare make much noise, for fear that
some passing neighbor might give the alarm. Tying their horses
behind the house, where they would be hidden from the road, they
tried various expedients to gain an entrance, but the logs and
heavy planks baffled them. At last one of the number suggested
that they should ascend the roof and climb down the wide flue of
the chimney. This plan was easy of execution, and for a few
moments the stout farmer thought that his hour had come. With a
heroism far beyond that of the man who strikes down his assailant,
he prepared to suffer all things rather than take life with his
own hands.

But his wife proved equal to this emergency. She had been making
over a bed, and a large basket of feathers was within reach. There
were live coals on the hearth, but they did not give out enough
heat to prevent the ruffians from descending. Two of them were
already in the chimney, and were threatening horrible vengeance if
the least resistance was offered. Upon the coals on the hearth the
housewife instantly emptied her basket of feathers; and a great
volume of pungent, stifling smoke poured up the chimney. The
threats of the men, who by means of ropes were cautiously
descending, were transformed into choking, half-suffocated sounds,
and it was soon evident that the intruders were scrambling out as
fast as possible. A hurried consultation on the roof ensued, and
then, as if something had alarmed them, they galloped off. With
the exception of the cries of the peepers, or hylas, in an
adjacent swamp, the night soon grew quiet around the closed and
darkened dwelling. Farmer Reynolds bowed in thanksgiving over
their escape, and then after watching a few hours, slept as did
thousands of others in those times of anxiety.

But Phebe did not sleep. She grew old by moments that night as do
other girls by months and years; as never before she understood
that her father's life was in peril. How much that life meant to
her and the little brood of which she was the eldest! How much it
meant to her dear mother, who was soon again to give birth to a
little one that would need a father's protection and support! As
the young girl lay in her little attic room, with dilated eyes and
ears intent on the slightest sound, she was ready for any heroic
self-sacrifice, without once dreaming that she was heroic.

The news of the night-attack spread fast, and there was a period
of increased vigilance which compelled the outlaws to lie close in
their mountain fastnesses. But Phebe knew that her father's
enemies were still at large with their hate only stimulated
because baffled for a time. Therefore she did not in the least
relax her watchfulness; and she besought their nearest neighbors
to come to their assistance should any alarm be given.

When the spring and early summer passed without further trouble,
they all began to breathe more freely, but one July night John
Reynolds was betrayed by his patriotic impulses. He was awakened
by a loud knocking at his door. Full of misgiving, he rose and
hastily dressed himself: Phebe, who had slipped on her clothes at
the first alarm, joined him and said earnestly:

"Don't thee open the door, father, to anybody, at this time of
night;" and his wife, now lying ill and helpless on a bed in the
adjoining room, added her entreaty to that of her daughter. In
answer, however, to Mr. Reynolds's inquiries a voice from without,
speaking quietly and seemingly with authority, asserted that they
were a squad from Washington's forces in search of deserters, and
that no harm would ensue unless he denied their lawful request.
Conscious of innocence, and aware that detachments were often
abroad on such authorized quests, Mr. Reynolds unbarred his door.
The moment he opened it he saw his terrible error; not soldiers,
but the members of the mountain gang, were crouched like wild
beasts ready to spring upon him.

"Fly, father!" cried Phebe. "They won't hurt us;" but before the
bewildered man could think what to do, the door flew open from the
pressure of half a dozen wild-looking desperadoes, and he was
powerless in their grasp. They evidently designed murder, but not
a quick and merciful "taking off"; they first heaped upon their
victim the vilest epithets, seeking in their thirst for revenge to
inflict all the terrors of death in anticipation. The good man,
however, now face to face with his fate, grew calm and resigned.
Exasperated by his courage, they began to cut and torture him with
their swords and knives. Phebe rushed forward to interpose her
little form between her father and the ruffians, and was dashed,
half stunned, into a corner of the room. Even for the sake of his
sick wife, the brave farmer could not refrain from uttering groans
of anguish which brought the poor woman with faltering steps into
his presence. After one glance at the awful scene she sank, half
fainting, on a settee near the door.

When the desire for plunder got the better of their fiendish
cruelty, one of the gang threw a noosed rope over Mr. Reynolds's
head, and then they hanged him to the trammel or iron hook in the
great chimney.

"You can't smoke us out this time," they shouted. "You've now got
to settle with the avengers of Claudius Smith; and you and some
others will find us ugly customers to settle with."

They then rushed off to rob the house, for the farmer was reputed
to have not a little money in his strong box. The moment they were
gone Phebe seized a knife and cut her father down. Terror and
excitement gave her almost supernatural strength, and with the aid
of the boy in her father's service she got the poor man on a bed
which he had occupied during his wife's illness. Her reviving
mother was beginning to direct her movements when the ruffians
again entered; and furious with rage, they again seized and hanged
her father, while one, more brutal than the others, whipped the
poor child with a heavy rope until he thought she was disabled.
The girl at first cowered and shivered under the blows, and then
sank as if lifeless on the floor. But the moment she was left to
herself she darted forward and once more cut her father down. The
robbers then flew upon the prostrate man and cut and stabbed him
until they supposed he was dead. Toward his family they meditated
a more terrible and devilish cruelty. After sacking the house and
taking all the plunder they could carry, they relieved the horror-
stricken wife and crying, shrieking children of their presence.
Their further action, however, soon inspired Phebe with a new and
more awful fear, for she found that they had fastened the doors on
the outside and were building a fire against one of them.

For a moment an overpowering despair at the prospect of their fate
almost paralyzed her. She believed her father was dead. The boy
who had aided her at first was now dazed and helpless from terror.
If aught could be done in this supreme moment of peril she saw
that it must be done by her hands. The smoke from the kindling
fire without was already curling in through the crevices around
the door. There was not a moment, not a second to be lost. The
ruffians' voices were growing fainter and she heard the sounds of
their horses' feet. Would they go away in time for her to
extinguish the fire? She ran to her attic room and cautiously
opened the shutter. Yes, they were mounting; and in the faint
light of the late-rising moon she saw that they were taking her
father's horses. A moment later, as if fearing that the blaze
might cause immediate pursuit, they dashed off toward the
mountains.

The clatter of their horses' hoofs had not died away before the
intrepid girl had opened the shutter of a window nearest the
ground, and springing lightly out with a pail in her hand she
rushed to the trough near the barn, which she knew was full of
water. Back and forth she flew between the fire and the convenient
reservoir with all the water that her bruised arms and back
permitted her to carry. Fortunately the night was a little damp,
and the stout thick door had kindled slowly. To her intense joy
she soon gained the mastery of the flames, and at last
extinguished them.

She did not dare to open the door for fear that the robbers might
return, but clambering in at the window, made all secure as had
been customary, for now it was her impulse to do just as her
father would have done.

She found her mother on her knees beside her father, who would
indeed have been a ghastly and awful object to all but the eyes of
love.

"Oh, Phebe, I hope--I almost believe thy father lives!" cried the
woman. "Is it my throbbing palm, or does his heart still beat?"

"I'm sure it beats, mother!" cried the girl, putting her little
hand on the gashed and mangled body.

"Oh, then there's hope! Here, Abner," to the boy, "isn't there any
man in thee? Help Phebe get him on the bed, and then we must stop
this awful bleeding. Oh, that I were well and strong! Phebe, thee
must now take my place. Thee may save thy father's life. I can
tell thee what to do if thee has the courage."

Phebe had the courage and with deft hands did her mother's
bidding. She stanched the many gaping wounds; she gave spirits at
first drop by drop, until at last the man breathed and was
conscious. Even before the dawn began to brighten over the dreaded
Highlands which their ruthless enemies were already climbing,
Phebe was flying, bare-headed, across the fields to their nearest
neighbor. The good people heard of the outrage with horror and
indignation. A half-grown lad sprang on the bare back of a young
horse and galloped across the country for a surgeon. A few moments
later the farmer, equipped for chase and battle, dashed away at
headlong pace to alarm the neighborhood. The news sped from house
to house and hamlet to hamlet like fire in prairie grass. The sun
had scarcely risen before a dozen bronzed and stern-browed men
were riding into John Reynolds's farm-yard under the lead of young
Hal June--the best shot that the wars had left in the region. The
surgeon had already arrived, and before he ceased from his labors
he had dressed thirty wounds.

The story told by Phebe had been as brief as it was terrible--for
she was eager to return to her father and sick mother. She had not
dreamed of herself as the heroine of the affair, and had not given
any such impression, although more than one had remarked that she
was "a plucky little chick to give the alarm before it was light."
But when the proud mother faintly and tearfully related the
particulars of the tragedy, and told how Phebe had saved her
father's life and probably her mother's--for, "I was too sick to
climb out of a window," she said; when she told how the child
after a merciless whipping had again cut her father down from the
trammel-hook, had extinguished the fire, and had been nursing her
father back to life, while all the time in almost agony herself
from the cruel blows that had been rained upon her--Phebe was
dazed and bewildered at the storm of applause that greeted her.
And when the surgeon, in order to intensify the general desire for
vengeance, showed the great welts and scars on her arms and neck,
gray-bearded fathers who had known her from infancy took her into
their arms and blessed and kissed her. For once in his life young
Hal June wished he was a gray-beard, but his course was much more
to the mind of Phebe than any number of caresses would have been.
Springing on his great black horse, and with his dark eyes burning
with a fire that only blood could quench, he shouted:

"Come, neighbors, it's time for deeds. That brave little woman
ought to make a man of every mother's son of us;" and he dashed
away so furiously that Phebe thought with a strange little tremor
at her heart that he might in his speed face the robbers all
alone. The stout yeomen clattered after him; the sound of their
pursuit soon died away; and Phebe returned to woman's work of
nursing, watching, and praying.

The bandits of the hills, not expecting such prompt retaliation,
were overtaken, and then followed a headlong race over the rough
mountain roads--guilty wretches flying for life, and stern men
almost reckless in the burning desire to avenge a terrible wrong.
Although the horses of the marauders were tired, their riders were
so well acquainted with the fastnesses of the wilderness that they
led the pursuers through exceedingly difficult and dangerous
paths. At last, June ever in the van, caught sight of a man's
form, and almost instantly his rifle awoke a hundred echoes among
the hills. When they reached the place, stains of blood marked the
ground, proving that at least a wound had been given. Just beyond,
the gang evidently had dispersed, each one for himself, leaving
behind everything that impeded their progress. The region was
almost impenetrable in its wildness except by those who knew all
its rugged paths. The body of the man whom June had wounded,
however, was found, clothed in a suit of Quaker drab stolen from
Mr. Reynolds. The rest of the band with few exceptions met with
fates that accorded with their deeds.

Phebe had the happiness of nursing her father back to health, and
although maimed and disfigured, he lived to a ripe old age. If the
bud is the promise of the flower, Phebe must have developed a
womanhood that was regal in its worth; at the same time I believe
that she always remained a modest, demure little Quakeress, and
never thought of her virtues except when reminded of them in plain
English.

NOTE--In the preceding narrative I have followed almost literally
a family tradition of events which actually occurred.

THE END








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