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A Beautiful Possibility by Edith Ferguson Black

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Louis laughed and threw away his cigar. "No, I will not charge you with
belonging to the cloth, but I confess I should like you better if you
had not entrenched yourself behind such a high wall of prejudice against
all the good things of this life. You are too narrow, Evadne."

Evadne folded her hands together as if she were holding a strange, sweet
comfort against her heart. "The Jews said the same about Jesus Christ,"
she said, "why should the servant be judged more kindly than her Lord?"

"But there is no harm in these things, Evadne."

"There is no good in them. Life is so real, Louis!"

"Well, I own I am a light weight in the race. But I assure you such
people are needed to balance matters. If every one was in such deadly
earnest as you, Evadne, the old world would go to pieces."

"But, Louis, it is dreadful to have no purpose in life!"

"The Judge has enough of that for us both," said Louis carelessly. "Why
should I choke my brains with musty law when his are charged to
repletion?"

"Think how it would please Uncle Lawrence!" urged Evadne.

"True," said Louis gravely, "but that is an argument which will bear
future consideration."

"Oh, Louis," and Evadne's voice was choked with tears, "the time may
come when you would give the whole world to be able to please your
father!"

"But, Evadne," said Louis gently, "a man must have freedom of choice in
his vocation. My father chose the law for his profession, why should he
rebel if I choose dilettanteism?"

"Because it is no profession at all. I am sure he would not mind what
you did, if it were only real work."

[Illustration: 'TAKE HER, RANDOLF, SHE IS WORTHY OF YOU.']

"Oh, pshaw! Always work, Evadne. I tell you I prefer to play. Miss
Angel told me at the General's ball last night that she liked a man who
took his glass and smoked and did all the rest of the naughty things."

"She is an angel of darkness, luring you on to ruin."

Louis shrugged his shoulders. "Possibly. If so, she is disguised as an
angel of light. She sings divinely."

"So did the Sirens."

Louis laughed. "She has promised to go for a sail with me to-morrow.
Better come along, coz, and keep us off the rocks."

Evadne was silent.

"I like such a girl as that," he continued. "She has common sense and
makes a fellow feel comfortable. These moral altitudes of yours are all
very fine in theory, but the atmosphere is too rare for me."

"It is no real kindness to make you satisfied with your lowest. I want
you to rise to your best. Oh, Louis, won't you let Christ make your life
grand? It would be such a happiness to me!" She laid her hand upon his
shoulder. Louis caught it in his and drew her round in front of his
chair.

"Do you really mean that, little coz? Upon my word, it is the strongest
inducement you could offer me. I feel half inclined to try, just for
your sake, only you see it would involve such a tremendous expenditure
of moral force!" and he lighted a fresh cigar.

* * * * *

"I do wish you would not ride such wild horses, Louis," said Mrs.
Hildreth, as she stood beside her son in the front doorway, looking
disapprovingly as she spoke at the horse who was champing his bit
viciously on the sidewalk below. "It keeps me in a perfect fever of
anxiety all the time."

"Whoa, Polyphemus! Stand still, sir! Pompey, have you tightened that
girth up to its last hole? Better do it then. Don't mind his kicking. It
doesn't hurt him. It's just his way.

"My dear lady mother, if you knew what a pleasure it is to find
something untamable where everything is so confoundedly slow you would
not wonder at my fondness for the brute. As to your anxiety, that is
ridiculous. A Hildreth has too much sense to be conquered by a horse and
make a spectacle of himself into the bargain. _Au revoir_. Better take a
dose of lavender to calm your nerves," and Louis waved his hand to her
with careless grace, as he gathered up the reins.

His mother looked after him with a sigh. "He is so fearless! What a
splendid cavalry officer he would make! He makes me think of the
regiment that went to the war from Marlborough." Her eye fell casually
upon Pompey who was shutting the carriage gates. "What a waste of
precious lives it was to be sure, just to free a lot of cowardly
negroes!"

It was late in the afternoon when Pompey went up town on an errand for
Judge Hildreth. The street was full of men and horses hurrying to and
fro but Pompey paid them but little attention. He was busy with his
Lord.

Hark! What was that? The sound of a horse's hoofs ringing with a sharp,
metallic clatter upon the paved street while children screamed and men
turned white faces towards the sound and hurriedly sought the sidewalk.

On they came, the horse and his rider. Louis pale as death, Polyphemus
mad with sudden fear and his own ungovernable temper. The bit was
between his teeth, his iron-shod feet were thrown out in vengeful fury.

Pompey sprang forward.

"You can't stop him!" shouted the men. "It would be certain death!" But
just beyond the street took a sharp turn to the right and a deep chasm,
where extensive excavations for a sewer were being made, yawned
hungrily.

The horse plunged and reared. Pompey had caught hold of the reins and
was clinging to them with all his might.

* * * * *

Mrs. Hildreth leaned over her son in an agony of fear. Louis was her
idol. He opened his eyes wearily. His cheeks were as white as the
pillow.

"Oh, Louis!" she wailed, "I knew that wretched horse would bring you to
your death!"

"I am not dead yet," he said, with a shadow of his old mocking smile,
"although I _have_ succeeded in making a fool of myself. How is Pompey?"

"Pompey!" ejaculated his mother. "I never thought of any one but you."

* * * * *

Evadne stood in Dyce's little room, beside the bed with its gay
patchwork cover. The iron-shod hoofs had done their cruel work only too
well!

"Pompey," she said wistfully, "dear Pompey, is the pain terrible to
bear?"

The faithful eyes looked up at her, the brave lips tried to smile. "De
Lord Jesus is a powerful help in de time of trubble, Miss 'Vadney; I'se
leanin' on his arm."

Evadne repeated, as well as she could for tears. "'Fear thou not, for I
am with thee; be not dismayed, for I am thy God; I will strengthen
thee, yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand
of my righteousness.'"

And Pompey answered with joyous assurance,--"'Though I walk through the
valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with
me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.'"

"The Jedge hez been here," said Dyce with mournful pride. "He say he'll
never find any one like Pompey. He say it wuz de braves' ting he ever
knowed any one to do. He jest cry like a chile, de Jedge did; he say he
never 'spect to find sech a faithful frien' again."

"De Jedge is powerful kind, Missy. He say he'll look out fer Dyce ez
long ez he live," the husband's voice broke,

"I don't care nuthin' 'bout dat!" and Dyce turned away with a choking
sob; "but I'se proud to hev him see what kind of a man you is."

The night drew on. No sound was to be heard in the little cottage except
the ticking of the wheezy clock, as Dyce kept her solitary vigil by the
side of the man she loved. She knelt beside his pillow, and, for her
sake, Pompey made haste to die. As the shadows of the night were fleeing
before the heralds of the dawn, she saw the gray shadow which no earthly
light has power to chase away fall swiftly over his face.

He opened his eyes and spoke in a rapturous whisper. "Dyce! Dyce! I see
de Lord!"

The morning broke. Dyce still knelt on with her face buried in the
pillow; the asthmatic clock still kept on its tireless race; but
Pompey's happy spirit had forever swept beyond the bounds of time.

* * * * *

The humble funeral was over. The Hildreth carriage, behind whose
curtained windows sat Dyce and Evadne, had followed close after the
hearse. The Judge had walked behind.

"So uncalled for!" Mrs. Hildreth said in an annoyed tone when, she heard
of it. Your father never _will_ learn to have a proper regard for _les
convenances_."

"Uncalled for!" ejaculated Louis. "I'll venture to say the Judge will
never have a chance to follow such a brave man again."

"He sent his carriage. That was all that was necessary."

"Doubtless Dyce finds that superlative honor a perfect panacea for her
grief," said Louis sarcastically. "It is eminently fitting that Brutus
and Caesar should have walked as chief mourners for they have lost the
truest friend they ever had."

CHAPTER XXV.

"I'm afraid poor Evadne will be worn out with such constant attendance
upon Louis," said Marion some weeks after Pompey's death. "I don't see
how she stands it."

"It is hardly worth her while to undertake nursing," said Isabelle
coldly, "if she cannot stand such a trifle as this."

"Why, Isabelle, just think of the strain night after night! You wouldn't
like it, I know. I want Mamma to get a paid nurse, but Louis won't have
any one near him but Evadne."

"Of course _I_ could not stand being broken of my rest," rejoined
Isabelle, "it is hard enough for me to get any under the most favorable
circumstances, but probably Evadne sleeps like a log in the daytime. It
is the least return she can make for having disgraced the family, to be
of some use in it now."

Marion laughed incredulously. "I should never think of associating
Evadne's name with disgrace," she said. "What _do_ you mean, Isabelle?"

"Mamma says this nursing fad of hers upset Papa completely. He said the
Hildreth honor had better not be mentioned any more."

"Well, I don't know. It seems to me she is of a good deal more value to
him now than the Hildreth honor. Dr. Russe says she is one of the best
nurses he ever saw. That is a high compliment, for he is dreadfully
particular. It is my opinion, Isabelle, that Louis is a good deal worse
than we think him to be. Don't mention it to Mamma, for she is so
nervous, but I heard Dr. Russo talking to Papa in the hall this morning,
something about an inherited tendency and a derangement of the nervous
system. I could not understand--he spoke so low--but Papa looked
dreadfully worried after he had gone.

"Don't you think Papa looks very badly, Isabelle? And he seems so
absent, as if he had something on his mind. I noticed it long before
this happened."

Isabelle laughed carelessly. "What a girl you are, Marion! You are
always imagining things about people. For my part I have too many
worries of my own."

Upstairs Evadne was saying wistfully, "Don't you think your life should
be very precious, Louis, now that two people have died?"

"Two people, Evadne? I know there was good old Pompey,--the thought of
that haunts me night and day,--but who else do you mean?"

"Jesus Christ."

"Oh!"

"Do you never think about him, Louis?"

"My dear coz, I find it wiser not to think. Every other man you meet
holds a different creed, and each one thinks his is the right one. Why
should I set myself up as knowing better than other people? The only way
is to have a sort of nebulous faith. God will not expect too much of us,
if we do the best we can."

"A 'nebulous faith' will not save you, Louis," Evadne answered sadly.
"God expects us to believe his word when he tells us that he has opened
a way for us into the Holiest by the blood of his Son."

"That atonement theory is an uncanny doctrine."

"It is the only way by which sinners can be made 'at one' with an
absolutely holy God. Jesus said 'And I if I be lifted up ... will draw
all men unto me.' His humanitarianism did not win the hearts of the
multitude. The very men he had fed and healed hounded him _on to his
cross_."

"It is not philosophical."

"I read this morning that 'the moving energy in the world's history
to-day is not a philosophy, but a cross.'"

"The God of the present is humanitarianism."

"Humanitarianism is not Christ. Paul says--'Though I bestow all my goods
to feed the poor ... but have not love, it profiteth me nothing.' The
love which he means is the Christ power, for no mere human love could
reach the altitude of the 13th of 1st Corinthians. Real religion is not
a creed, but a Christ. It seems to me the most important questions we
have to answer are, what we think of Christ and what we are going to do
with him.

"When Peter gave his answer--'Thou art the Christ,--the Anointed
One,--the Son of the living God,--' Christ said, 'On this rock--the
faith of thine--I will build my church.' Humanitarianism, pure and
simple, seems to me but an attempt to imitate Christ. It is beautiful as
far as it goes, but it is not my idea of following him."

"What is, Evadne?"

"When Jesus told his disciples to follow, he meant them to be with him.
I do not think we can ever hope to be like Christ unless we believe him
to be God and walk with him every day. If we have the spirit of Jesus in
our hearts, we shall be model humanitarians, for we shall love our
neighbor as ourselves."

Louis caught her hand in his. "Begin by loving me!" he cried suddenly.
"I love you, dear! These long days of watching have taught me that,
although I began to suspect it some time ago. It is no use saying
anything," he went on hurriedly, as Evadne began to protest, "you must
be my wife, for I cannot live without you!"

He drew a handsome ring, of quaint and curious workmanship which he had
bought in Venice, from his finger, and before Evadne could recover from
her astonishment, had thrust it upon hers. "See, you are mine, darling.
Now let us seal the compact with a kiss."

"Louis, you are dreaming! This can never be!" She struggled to free her
hand but he held her fingers in a grasp of steel.

"It shall be, my sweet little Puritan! Do you suppose I will ever give
you up now? I tell you I love you, Evadne! Love you as I never thought I
should ever love a woman. Why, you can twist me around your finger. I am
like water in your hands."

"Louis, please listen!" implored Evadne, with a white, strained face.
"This is utterly impossible, for--I do not love you."

"I will teach you, dear," said Louis cheerfully. "I know I have been a
brute, but I will show you how gentle I can be."

"Louis!" cried Evadne desperately, "you must let me go! I will _never_
do this thing!"

She pulled vainly at the ring as she spoke. Louis' grasp never relaxed.
When he spoke she was frightened at the recklessness of his tone.

"Take that ring off your finger and I go straight to the devil! You say
you want to win my soul. Here is your chance. You can make of me what
you will. I own there is something in your Christianity. I can't help
sneering when I see Isabelle and Marion playing at it, but I have never
sneered at you. Now, take your choice. Shall the devil have his own?"

His voice was quiet but she could see he was laboring under intense
excitement. Evadne was in despair. What should she do? Only that morning
Dr. Russe had said to her,--

"It is not the injury he sustained in the fall that worries me. He will
get over that. But the shock to the nervous system has been tremendous.
Humor him in everything and avoid the least excitement, as you value his
life."

She leaned over him and said gently,--"Dear Louis, you are not strong
enough to talk any more to-day. I will wear the ring a little while to
please you, but remember, this other thing you want can never be."

He looked up at her, his face pallid with exhaustion, "Promise me," he
said faintly, "that the ring shall stay on your finger until I take it
off."

And Evadne promised.

CHAPTER XXVI.

Three years had slipped away and Evadne still wore her cousin's ring. A
great tenderness was growing up in her heart toward him. She yearned
over him as only those can understand who know what it is to carry the
burden of souls upon their hearts by night and day but no thought of
love ever crossed her mind. To Evadne Hildreth, love was a wonderfully
sacred thing. The ring fretted her and she longed to be freed from its
presence, but Louis held her to her promise. If he only waited long
enough, he persuaded himself, his patience would be rewarded. Some day
this shy, sweet bird would nestle against his heart. In the meantime he
would keep the ungenerous advantage which his illness had given him. He
forgot that it needs more to tame a bird than merely putting it in a
cage!

Isabelle had been intensely curious but her questions had elicited no
satisfaction from her brother, and Evadne had answered simply, "Louis
took a fancy to put it on my finger: I am wearing it to please him,
that is all:" and even Isabelle found her cousin's sweet dignity an
effectual bar against her morbid inquisitiveness.

They had seen comparatively little of each other. Evadne was constantly
busy, either at private or hospital nursing, and very short were the
furloughs which she spent under her uncle's roof. Louis had spent the
first winter after his illness with his mother in the South of France,
now he was in Florida, but he wrote regularly, and Evadne answered--when
she could. Sweet, pleading letters which he read over and over and
honestly tried to be better: but it was only for her sake; he knew no
higher motive--yet.

It was a perfect day. Down by the river an alligator was sunning
himself, and the resinous breath of the pine trees swept its aromatic
fragrance over Louis as he lay at full length in a hammock with his
hands behind his head. He had thrown the magazine he had been reading on
the ground and it lay open at the article on Heredity which he had just
finished. His desultory thoughts were roaming idly over the subject,
when one, more far reaching than the rest, made him start lip with a
sudden shock of unwelcome surprise.

"By Jove! Can it be that I am a victim of it too? It looks confoundedly
like it, although even my sweet little Puritan has not felt it a sin
against her conscience to keep me in the dark."

He thrust his fingers with an impatient gesture through his hair. "Now I
come to think of it, the case grows deucedly clear. The South of France
one winter and Florida this! Simple nervous prostration would seem to
the uninitiated better fought in the exhilirating ozone of Colorado,
or--the North Pole--than in this languorous atmosphere. 'An inherited
tendency.' Is this the pleasant little legacy which my respected
ancestor has bequeathed to his only grandson? It skipped the Judge, but
it caught poor Uncle Lenox, and now it has nabbed me! What a fool I have
been not to surmise what this confounded pain meant between my
shoulders! Grandfather Hildreth kept himself alive with nostrums until
he was seventy, but he was an invalid all his life. He ought to be
cursed for his contemptible selfishness in bringing so much suffering
upon the race! There's none of the taint about Evadne, bless her! Russe
told me the Hospital examiners said they had never passed such a perfect
specimen of health."

He stopped suddenly and bit his lips in pain. Would he not follow his
grandfather's example--if he had the chance?

"What in the world is the meaning of all this?"

Louis had arrived by an earlier train than he was expected and only his
mother was at home to greet him. The hall was in confusion, workmen's
tools lay about and ladders stood against the walls. Mrs. Hildreth
laughed lightly, as she laid her hand within her son's arm.

"Oh, they are only getting ready for the floral decorations," she said,
"we give a reception to-morrow in honor of your return. How well you are
looking, Louis. I am so delighted to have you at home."

"Thanks, lady mother. I do not need to ask how you have survived my
absence. How is Evadne,--and the Judge and the girls?"

His mother laughed again as she drew him on the sofa beside her. She
seemed in wonderfully good humor. "Rather a comprehensive question," she
said. "Sit down and we will have a comfortable talk before the others
get home. Your father looks wretchedly but he says there is nothing the
matter. I suppose it is just overwork and the usual money strain.
Isabelle too is not as well as I should like her to be. Suffers from
nervousness a great deal, and depression. There is a new physician here
now, a Doctor Randolph, who we think is going to help her, although he
is very young; but she took a dislike to Doctor Russe because he
belongs to the old school. And now I have a surprise for you. Marion is
engaged!"

"Engaged! Why, you never hinted at it in your letters!"

"It has all been very sudden. I wrote you there was a young New Yorker
very attentive to her."

"Yes, but that is an old story. There were two fellows 'very attentive'
when I went away. How long since the present devotion culminated?"

"Just a week ago to-night: and they are so devoted!"

"A second Romeo and Juliet, eh?"--Louis' laugh had a bitter ring,--"By
the way, what is his name?"

"Simpson Kennard."

"Brother Simp! Rich, I suppose?"

"Oh, yes, very. In fact he is eligible in every way."

"I see," yawned Louis, "Possessed of all the cardinal virtues. It is a
good thing his wealth is not all in his pockets, for they are apt to
spring a leak. But Evadne--how is she?"

"Oh, she is always well, you know," said his mother carelessly. "There
they come now."

"These Indian famines are a terrible business," said Judge Hildreth as
they lingered over their dessert that evening. It was pleasant to have
Louis and Evadne back again. He too was glad to see his son so well. "I
don't see what the end is going to be."

"People say that about every calamity, Papa," said Isabelle, "but the
world goes on just the same."

"Of course it does, Isabelle," said her brother. "You see we can't waste
time over a few dying millions when we have to give a reception for
instance."

"But that is a necessity, Louis," said Mrs. Hildreth, "we must pay our
debts to society, you know."

"I am sure I don't see where I could economize," sighed Marion. "That
lecturer last night was splendid and I would like to have given him
thousands but I hadn't a dollar in my purse. I never have. I spent my
last cent for chocolates yesterday."

Evadne smiled and sighed but said nothing. The lecturer the night before
had felt his soul strangely stirred at the sight of her glowing face,
and the plate when it passed her seat had borne a shining gold piece,
but perhaps she had not as many temptations as Marion and Isabelle.

"I would have willingly filled you up a check with the cost of the
floral decorations, Marion," said her father with a twinkle in his eye.
"They would have purchased a good many bags of corn."

"But that is ridiculous!" said Isabelle. "What would a reception be
without flowers, I should like to know? As it is, I expect it will be a
poor affair compared to the Van Nuys' last week. We never seem to be
able to do anything in proper style. You would better put your new Worth
gown, on the collection plate, Marion, and appear in a morning dress
to-morrow night. Louis would be the first one to be scandalized if you
did!"

"Well but, Isabelle, I had to have something now. I have worn my other
dresses so many times, I am perfectly ashamed."

"Of course, sis," said Louis gravely, "it was a most imperative
expenditure. It is a strange coincidence that you should have chosen
that particular make though. It has always been a fancy of mine that the
Levite was robed in a Worth gown when he passed by on the other side."

"The sufferings must be awful," said Evadne, anxious to relieve Marion's
embarrassment. "I saw in the paper to-day that----"

Mrs. Hildreth lifted her hands in mock alarm. "Pray spare us any recital
of horrors, Evadne! I never want to hear about any of these dreadful
things. What is the use, when one cannot help in any way?"

"You forget, Mamma," said Isabelle with a laugh, "that Evadne revels in
horrors. What would be torture to our quivering nerves, to her atrophied
sensibilities is merely an occurrence of every day."

Louis gave a sudden start in his chair, but on the instant Evadne laid
her hand upon his arm, and its light touch soothed his anger as it had
been wont to soothe his pain.

Evadne Hildreth was climbing the heights of victory. She had learned to
cover her wounds with a smile.

CHAPTER XXVII.

"Who is that calf, Evadne, standing by the piano?" Louis put the
question to his cousin the next evening, as he sought a few moments'
respite from his duties as host at her side.

"That is Mr. Simpson Kennard."

Louis surveyed the fashionably dressed, weak-faced, sandy-haired young
man from head to foot. "He will never get above his collar!" he said in
a tone of infinite scorn.

Evadne laughed. "You must confess it is high enough to limit the
aspirations of an ordinary mortal."

Marion fluttered up to them, her cheeks aglow with excitement. "Louis,
where are you? I want to introduce you to Simpsey. He has just arrived."

Evadne looked after her as she led her brother away. "Poor little soul.
What a butterfly it is! Fancy having a husband whom one could call
Simpsey!"

She started. Her knight of the gate was standing before her with
outstretched hand. A great light was in his face. "Do you remember?" he
asked, and Evadne's eyes glowed deep with pleasure, as she laid her hand
in his. They would never be properly introduced, these two, "'Life is a
beautiful possibility,'" she said, "I am proving it so every day,--but,
oh, the awful suffering in the world! I cannot understand,--"

And John Randolph answered with his strong, sweet faith. "God
understands, _we_ do not need to."

They were standing in an alcove partially screened by a tall palm from
the crowd which surged up and down through the rooms. He took from his
pocket a morocco case, and, opening it, held it towards her. What made
the color flush her cheeks while her eyes fell beneath his gaze? She
only saw a little square of lawn and lace, but the name traced across
one corner was 'Evadne'!

"Did you leave nothing behind you at Hollywood that day?" he asked
gently.

"My handkerchief!" she cried. "I missed it before we reached
Marlborough. I must have left it at the gate." But Evadne had left more
behind her than she knew.

"I will keep it still," he said, "with your permission. Will you give it
to me?"

"Oh, Doctor Randolph!" Isabelle's voice fell shrill upon Evadne's
silence, "they are calling for you in the other room to decide a knotty
question--something about microbes. I told them I was sure you would
know. Will you come?"

John Randolph put the case quickly in his pocket and smiled as he turned
away. He thought he had read consent in her lovely eyes.

After the reception was over Evadne knelt by her window until the stars
faded one by one from the sky. Then she turned away with a happy sigh.
When he came to get his answer, she would know.

* * * * *

"Give that to me!" Isabella spoke imperiously to the servant, who was
passing through the hall with a note in her hand. From where she stood
she had recognized the clear handwriting of the prescriptions which the
new doctor wrote. Her demon of curiosity overcame her. The tempter was
very near.

The girl held the note towards her. "It is for Miss Evadne," she said.
"Miss E. Hildreth, you see."

Isabelle gave a careless laugh. "Did you not know I had an E in my name
also? Evelyn Isabelle. I know the writing. The note is meant for me."

So the truth and the lie mingled!
When John Randolph called that evening he was ushered into the presence
of Isabelle.

"I am so sorry about Evadne!" she exclaimed, before he had time to
speak. "She had an engagement with my brother. He monopolizes her
whenever he is at home." She laughed affectedly. "Oh, I cannot tell you
when it is coming off, but she has worn his ring for years. They will
not give us any satisfaction--deep as the sea, you know. It seems so
strange to me, but then I am so transparent. She is a clever girl, but
very peculiar. Does not seem to have much natural feeling, you know, but
I suppose I am not fitted to judge, I am so emotional!"

John Randolph bit his lip hard. It startled him to find how sharp a pain
could be.

* * * * *

Day after day Evadne waited but her knight never asked for his answer.
She began to meet him professionally, for his reputation was steadily
increasing, but he made no attempt to resume the conversation which had
been so rudely interrupted. He treated her with a delicate chivalry
always--that was John Randolph's way--and once she had caught such a
strange, wistful expression on his face as he looked at her and then at
a patient's arm which she was deftly bandaging. She was puzzled. What
could it all mean? Well, God understood.

The surgical ward in the new Hospital at Marlborough was filled to its
utmost capacity and Evadne found her work no sinecure. The force of
nurses was inadequate to the demand. Often she would be called from her
rest to minister to the critical cases which were her special care, and
she would go down to the ward saying softly, "The Master is come and
calleth for thee," and bending tenderly over the sufferers, would behold
as in a vision the face of Christ.

"My dear Miss Hildreth!" the superintendent exclaimed one day, "how is
it that you make the patients love you so?"

Evadne laughed merrily. "If they do," she said, "it must be because of
my love for them." And the Superintendent answered in a hushed voice,
"Why, _that_ is the Gospel!"

They called her 'Sister,' these rough men. She liked it so. She felt
herself a sister to the world.

It was evening and the lights were turned low in the surgical ward.
Evadne was making her round before going to her room for a sorely needed
rest. John Randolph, who had come to pay a second visit to an
interesting case in one of the medical wards, stood in the shadow of the
doorway and watched her hungrily. Each one wanted to say something and
Evadne listened patiently. To her the mission of a nurse meant
something higher than gruel and bandages. She never forgot as she
ministered to the body that she was dealing with a soul.

John Randolph, standing with folded arms in the doorway, heard her low,
sweet laugh, as she strove to brighten up a lachrymose patient; and
caught at intervals the name of Jesus, as she reminded one and another
of the Friend whose sympathy is strong enough to bear all the weight of
human pain, and once he thought he heard the sweet note of a prayer. He
started forward. Evadne was bending over a man who had been badly
crippled in a saw mill. His left arm was gone and all the fingers from
his right hand. With the morbidness of those who delight in
concentrating attention upon their own sufferings, he had pulled off the
loosened bandage with his teeth and held up the stump for inspection,
and Evadne had laid her cool, soft hands on either side of the unsightly
mass of red and angry flesh and was holding them there while she talked!

"She gives herself!" cried John Randolph with a great throb of longing.
"It is what Jesus did, in Galilee."

A wave of passion broke over him. It was not true, this story. It could
not be! How could her nature, sweet as light, ever be attuned to that of
her cynical cousin? She was coming nearer, nearer. He would stay and
meet her. He thought he had read his answer in her eyes. Now he would
have it from her lips as well.

But then, there was the ring! Isabelle had been right. It was no lady's
ornament, and he had seen the initials L. H. graven in the heart of the
stone as their hands had met one day in dressing a wound. Evadne
Hildreth was not one to wear a man's ring lightly and John Randolph bent
his head and groaned.

"Sister, Sister, won't you sing before you go?"

"Oh, yes, Sister, give us just one song!"

The men raised themselves on their elbows in pleading entreaty, and
Evadne stood in all her sweet unconsciousness before him and began to do
their will. Soft and clear the music fell about him. The air was 'The
last Rose of Summer' but the words were 'Jesus, Lover of my soul.' When
the song was ended, John Randolph, hushed and comforted, walked
noiselessly down the stairway and out into the quiet street.

Evadne had sung her message, while she folded its leaves of healing down
over her own sore heart, and human love had paled before the exquisite
beauty of the love of God!

CHAPTER XXVIII.

"John Randolph!"

"Rege!"

The two men stood facing each other with hands held in a vice-like
grasp, all unconscious of what was going on around them in the street.

"Where did you come from?"

"Where have you been?"

John laughed. "In and around Marlborough all the time, except when I
went to New York for my degree."

"And never let us hear a word from you all these years!"

"You forget, Rege, your father forbade me to hold any communication with
Hollywood."

Reginald's face grew grave. "Poor father. Well he's done with it all
now."

"You don't mean that he is dead, Rege?"

"Yes--and little Nan."

"Oh!" The exclamation was sharp with pain.

"I think she fretted for you, John. She just seemed to pine away. Every
day we missed her about the same time, and they always found her in the
same place, down by the green road. Then scarlet fever came. She never
spoke of getting well--didn't seem to want to. The night she died she
put her arms around mother's neck and whispered. 'Tell Don me'll be
waitin' at the gate.' That was all."

John wrung Reginald's hand and turned away. Reginald looked after him
with misty eyes. "I used to tell mother it would break his heart. I
never saw any one so wrapped up in a child!"

"And your father, Rege?" John was calm again.

"Had a fit of apoplexy soon after. I think Nan was the only thing in the
world he cared for. It had never struck him that she could die. We sold
Hollywood and went abroad. Mother's health broke down--she was never
very strong, you know. We spent one year in Italy and one in France, but
the shock had been too great. She lies in a lovely spot beside the sea."

"Not your mother too, Rege!"

Reginald's voice broke. "Yes, they are all gone. It was a great deal to
happen in a few years. I am a wealthy man, John, but I am all alone in
the world, except for Elise. Well," he added more lightly, "I have
learned not to rebel at the inevitable. It is only what we have to
expect."

"Elise!" echoed John wonderingly, after the first shock of grief was
over.

"My wife," said Reginald proudly. "You must come home at once and let me
show you the sweetest woman in the world."

"Not just yet, Rege I must pay a visit to Mrs. O'Flannigan, then there
is the hospital, and the dispensary, and I promised to concoct a bed for
a poor fellow in the last stages of heart trouble. But I will come
to-night."

"Always helping somewhere, John. What a grand fellow you are!"

"We are in the world to help the world, else what were the use of
living?"

"I can't do anything," said Reginald, "with this clog." He looked
contemptuously at his ebony crutch as he spoke.

John laid his hand upon his arm. "Rege," he said in his old, tender way.
"I think this very 'clog' as you call it, is a preparation to help those
who are passing through the baptism of pain."

* * * * *

Mrs. Reginald Hawthorne welcomed her husband's friend with a winning
charm. She was very pretty, very graceful and very young. Reginald
idolized her. John saw that as he looked around the sumptuous home whose
every fitting was a tribute to her taste. They had just finished
unpacking the things they had brought from Europe.

"Strangely enough," said Reginald with a laugh, "I told Elise this
morning that now I was going to start out in search of you!"

He had developed wonderfully. John saw that too. Travel and trial had
brought out the good that was in him--but not the best.

The evening passed pleasantly. Mrs. Hawthorne played beautifully, and
Reginald had kept ears and eyes open and talked well.

"How about the other life, Rege?" asked John when they had a few moments
alone. "This one seems very fair."

"All a humbug, John. You Christians are chasing a will o' the wisp, a
jack o' lantern. You remember my fad for mathematics? I have followed it
up, and I find your theory a 'reductio ad absurdum.' I must have
everything demonstrable and clear. This is neither."

"Yet it was a great mathematician who said, 'Omit eternity in your
estimate of area and your solution is wrong.'"

Reginald shook his head. "I have nothing to do with this faith business.
I go as far as I see, no further."

"God calls our wisdom foolishness, Rege. Jesus Christ put a tremendous
premium upon the faith of a little child."

"Things must be tangible for me to believe in them. Reason is king with
me."

"Without faith in your fellow man--and your wife--you would have a poor
time of it, Rege; why should you refuse to have faith in your God? Is
your will tangible, and can you demonstrate the mysterious forces of
nature? You know you can't, Rege, you have to take them on trust; and if
you had seen what I have, you would know that poor human reason is a
pitiful thing! But I won't argue with you. Some day you will
understand."

Reginald Hawthorne went back into the room where his wife was sitting.
"Elise, darling, you have seen one of the grandest men in the world
to-night. The only trouble is that on one subject he is a crank."

"Oh, Reginald, do you mean it! I thought he was splendid. And what a
wonderful face he has!"

Reginald started. "Hah! Am I to be jealous of my old friend? But I might
have known," he added sadly, "no one could care long for such a wreck as
I!"

The girl wife put her arms around his neck and kissed him softly, "You
foolish boy!" she whispered, "you know I shall never love any one but
you!"

And Reginald Hawthorne counted himself a perfectly happy man.

CHAPTER XXIX.

Judge Hildreth sat in his library, alone. He had left home immediately
after dinner, ostensibly to catch the evening train for New York, and
had sent the carriage back from the station to take his family to the
Choral Festival which was the event of the year in Marlborough, and then
returning in a hired conveyance, had let himself into his house like a
thief. When we sacrifice principle upon the altar of expediency, truth
and honor, like twin victims, stand bound at its foot. He wanted to be
undisturbed, to have time to think, and God granted his wish, until his
reeling brain prayed for oblivion!

No sound broke the stillness. With the exception of the servants in a
distant part of the house, he was absolutely alone.

He drew out his will from a secret drawer of his desk and looked it over
with a ghastly smile. "To my dear niece, Evadne, the sum of thirty
thousand dollars, held by me in trust from her father." Then came a long
list of charities. It read well. People could not say he had left all
to his family and forgotten the Lord. If his executors should find a
difficulty in realizing one quarter of the values so speciously set
forth, they could only say that dividends had shrunk and investments
proved unreliable. It was not his fault. He had meant well. Besides, he
had no thought of dying for years. There was plenty of time for skillful
financing. Other men had done the same and prospered. Why should not he?

But the letters must be destroyed. He had come to a decision at last. It
was an imperative necessity. His hesitancy had been only the foolish
scruples of an over sensitive conscience. The tremendous pressure of the
age made things permissible. He was "torn by the tooth of circumstance"
and "necessity knows no law." So he entrenched himself behind a
breastwork of sophisms. Long familiarity with the suggestions of evil
had bred a contempt for the good!

He stretched out his hand towards the drawer. There should be no more
weak delay. If a thing were to be done, 'twere well it were done
quickly.

The horror of a great fear fell upon him. Again his hand had fallen, and
this time he was powerless to lift it up!

The hours passed and he sat helpless, bound in that awful chain of
frozen horror. In vain he struggled in a wild rage for freedom. No
muscle stirred. Where was his boasted will power now? Hand and foot,
faithful, uncomplaining slaves for so many years, had rebelled at last!

His brain seemed on fire and the flashing thoughts blinded him with
their glare. The letters rose from their sepulchre and, clothed in the
majesty of a dead man's faith, looked at him with an awful reproach,
until his very soul bowed in the dust with shame. His will still lay
upon the desk, open at the paragraph "to my dear niece, Evadne," and the
words "in trust," like red hot irons, branded him a felon in the sight
of God and men!

He remembered having once read a quotation from a great writer,--"When
God says, 'You must not lie and you do lie, it is not possible for Deity
to sweep his law aside and say--'No matter.'" Did God make no allowances
for the nineteenth century?

The others returned from the Festival, and Louis passed the door
whistling. He had had a rare evening of pleasure with Evadne. Towards
its close, under cover of the rolling harmonies, he had leaned over and
whispered "I love you, dear!" and Evadne had held out her hand to him
with the low pleading cry, "Oh, Louis, if you really do, then set me
free!" but he had only smiled and taken the hand, on which his ring was
gleaming, into his, and settled his arm more securely upon the back of
her chair; and John Randolph, sitting opposite with Dick and Miss Diana,
had watched the little scene and drawn his own conclusions with a sigh.

The night drew on. The electric lights which it was Judge Hildreth's
fancy to have ablaze in every room downstairs until the central current
was shut off, still gleamed steadily upon the rigid figure before the
desk, with the white, drawn face and the awful look of horror in its
staring eyes. In an agony he tried to call, but no sound escaped the
lips, set in a sphinx-like silence.

He must shake off this strange lethargy. It was not possible for him to
die--he had not time. To-morrow was the meeting of the Panhattan
directors--they were relying upon him to work through the second call on
stock--and two of his notes fell due, if he did not retire them his
credit would be lost at the bank; and there was the banquet to the
English capitalists, with whom he was negotiating a mining deal; and he
must arrange with his broker to float some more shares of the
"Silverwing"--and manipulate, manipulate, manipulate--

An agonized, voiceless cry went up to heaven. "Oh, God, let me have
to-morrow!"

In the morning a servant found him, when she came to clean the room, and
fled screaming from the presence of the silent figure with the awful
entreaty in its staring eyes.

Louis hurried downstairs to learn the cause of the commotion, followed
by Mrs. Hildreth, swept for once off her pedestal of stately calm.

Shivering with horror the family gathered in the beautiful room which
had been so suddenly turned into a death chamber, the servants weeping
boisterously, Isabella and her mother in violent hysterics, and Marion
clinging with wide, frightened eyes to Louis, who found himself thrust
into a man's place of responsibility and did not know what to do!

He sent one servant to the Hospital for Evadne--instinctively he turned
in his thought to her,--another for the Doctor; while with one arm
around Marion, he tried to sooth his mother and Isabelle.

And in the midst of all the wild commotion his father sat, unmoved and
silent, his agonized face lifted in an attitude of supplication, his
lifeless hands lying heavily upon the now worthless papers, since for
him there would be no to-morrow!

* * * * *

The stately obsequies were ended. The paid quartette had sung their
sweetest, while Doctor Jerome, standing beside the frozen face in the
massive coffin, had delivered an eloquent eulogium, and Mrs. Hildreth,
clad in her costly robes of mourning, had been led to her carriage by
her son. Everything had been conducted in a manner befitting the
Hildreth honor.

* * * * *

"Evadne!" Louis turned a white, scared face towards his cousin, who
stood beside him as he sat at his father's desk. Upstairs Mrs. Hildreth
and Isabelle were in solemn consultation with a dressmaker. In the
drawing-room Marion was being consoled by Simpson Kennard.

"Well, Louis?" She laid her hand on his shoulder gently. She was very
sorry for him.

"There is some awful mistake. Poor Father seems to have counted on funds
which we can find no trace of. The estate is not worth an eighth of what
he valued it at. There is barely enough to keep you, mother and
Isabelle, alive!" He laid his head down on the desk while great tears
fell through his fingers. The shameful mystery of it was intolerable.

"But, Louis, have you looked everywhere? There must be some
explanation--"

Louis shook his head. "Everywhere, but in this drawer. I opened it but
there is nothing but musty old letters. I haven't time to go into them
now. Oh, little coz, I don't dare to look you in the face. All the money
that was left you by your father is gone!"

"Don't tell Aunt Kate and the girls, Louis, There is no need that they
should ever know. I have my profession and I am strong. Uncle Lawrence
never meant to do anything except what was right, I know."

Louis looked up at her and there was a strange reverence in his cynical
face. He was in the presence of a Christliness which he had never
dreamed of. "I am not worthy to touch the hem of your garment," he said
humbly. But he did not offer to release her from her promise. He had not
learned to be generous--yet.

Evadne's dream was ended and rude was the awaking. The idea of helping
her fellows had grown to be a passion with her and very fair had been
the castle in the air of which she was the Princess. A home, not rich or
stately but full of a delightful homeiness which should soothe and cheer
those who, walking through the world amid a storm of tears, call earth a
wilderness, while their desolate hearts echo the mournful question,--"Is
there any sorrow like unto my sorrow." She, too, had been lonely,--she
could understand, and by the sweet influence of human love and sympathy
lift their thought above the earthly shadows up to the love of God.

She had not dreamed of doing things on a grand scale. Evadne Hildreth
was wise enough to know that comfort cannot be dealt out in wholesale
packages,--she never forgot that Jesus of Nazareth helped the people one
by one.

She had never questioned the terms of her father's will--if there was a
will. She had supposed when she became of age there would be some
change, but her uncle had made no reference to the subject and she had
not liked to ask. He was always kind--he would do what was best. Some
day she would be free to carry out this beautiful dream of hers. She
could afford to wait. Now there was nothing to wait for any more!

How strange it seemed, when the need was so great and she longed to help
much! Well, she was only a little child,--she could trust her Father.
God understood.

That was what he had said, this strong, true friend of hers, that night
he asked the question which he had never asked again. How gentle he
was!--but it was the gentleness of strength--and how every one
depended on him! She, herself, had learned to expect the helpful words
which he always gave her when they met. Friendship was a beautiful
thing!

CHAPTER XXX.

John Randolph came up behind Evadne one morning as she was dressing the
burns of a little lad who had been severely injured at a fire. She did
not hear his step--she was telling a bright story to the little
sufferer, to make him forget his pain, and the boy was laughing loudly.
His face was very grave, but his eyes lightened as they always did when
they rested upon her face.

"Mrs. Reginald Hawthorne is very ill. Can you, will you come?"

And Evadne answered with a simple "Yes." They needed so few words, these
two.

"I tell you I will not die!" The piercing cry rang through the handsome
room and fell like molten lead upon the heart of the man who with
strained, haggard face was sitting by the bedside. "You have not told me
the truth, Reginald! There is a God. I feel it! You have always laughed
and called me young and foolish, but I know better than you do, now.
You said if our lives were governed by reason, we would meet death like
a philosopher, and I do not know how to die! You used to laugh and say
the whole thing was child's play and there was nothing to fear, and I
believed you,--I thought you were so wise, but it was easy to believe
you then with your arms folded close about me and the sunlight streaming
through the windows and the shouts of the children outside, but now you
cannot go with me and I am afraid to go alone." The eyes, wild and
despairing, burned fiercely in the pallid cheeks. "Do you hear,
Reginald? I am afraid, I tell you; horribly afraid! You used to say you
would lay down your life to save me. Why do you not help me now?

"What makes you look so strangely, if it is all nonsense, Reginald? why
do you shut out all the sunshine and why is the house so still? You told
me once you were going to die with a laugh on your lips. I am dying,
Reginald, why don't you help your wife to die as you mean to do?
A----h!"

Her voice died away in a low wail of terror and the delicate blue veins
in her temples throbbed with feverish excitement. Reginald Hawthorne had
crouched down in his chair and buried his face in his hands. The pitiful
cry began again.

"To die, when life is so sweet! To be shut up in a coffin and buried in
a cold, dark grave! You don't love me, Reginald. If you did, you would
die too--with a laugh on your lips you know--then I should have that to
cheer me, and we should be together, and I should not be afraid. But now
you look so strangely, Reginald. Don't you care for me any more? Can you
let them take me away from this beautiful world and stay in it all by
yourself?

"I suppose you will give me a splendid funeral--you are so generous you
know--but I will not care whether the prison is pine or mahogany if I am
to be shut up in it all alone! And you will have a long procession, with
plumes and flowers and show, but you will leave me in the dreary
cemetery and you will come back to our home, where we have been so happy
together--so happy, just you and I--but you see you are a philosopher
and I do not know how to die!

"And some day you will forget me--men do such things they say--and
another woman will be your wife and I will be all alone!"

"Sister!" The abject man in the chair held out his hands in an agony of
entreaty, "Come here and help us--if you can!" and Evadne came swiftly
into the room, and, sitting down on the side of the bed, gathered the
pitiful little figure to her heart.

"It is not death but life," she said gently. "This body is not _you_.
The home of the soul is more beautiful than, any earthly home can ever
be. It is those who are left behind dear, who mourn, not those who go."

Elise Hawthorne laid her head on Evadne's shoulder like a tired child.
"But I am afraid," she whispered. "If this is true, and God is holy, I
am not fit, you know."

"Your Father loves you dear, for he sent his Son to die. The thief on
the cross was a sinner, yet Christ took him to Paradise. The fitness
must come from Jesus. His blood washes whiter than snow."

"But I have done nothing to earn it. I have lived for myself alone."

"We never can earn a gift, dear. God gives in a royal way. He says to
you only 'Believe I have given you life through my Son.'" Evadne had
taken the tiny Bible which she always carried from her pocket and was
turning its pages rapidly. "Here it is. Will you raise the blind, Mr.
Hawthorne, that your wife may see for herself? 'God so loved the world
that he gave his only begotten Son,'--the best he had!--'that whosoever
believeth in him should not perish,' you see there is no death for those
who trust in him. And then 'He that believeth on the Son _hath_
everlasting life.' It does not mean that we may have it after years of
toil. The Israelites, stung by the serpents, had no time to reason or
plan to live better, for they were dying, but they could turn their eyes
to the brazen serpent which God had ordered to be lifted up in the midst
of tho camp for an antidote to the poison. So Christ has been 'lifted
up' upon the cross for us. He died instead of you. Why should you die
forever when he has paid your ransom and set you free?"

"But I cannot touch him,--I cannot be sure it is true."

"The Israelites could not touch the brazen serpent. They simply looked,
and lived. There is just one condition for us to-day and it is
'Believe.' Cannot you take your Heavenly Father at his word as you would
your husband? Cannot you treat God the same?"

Mrs. Hawthorne looked wonderingly at her nurse. "Treat him the same as I
do my husband!" she exclaimed. "Why, with Reginald, I believe every word
he says."

"And I with God," said Evadne reverently.

"What charm have you wrought?" asked John Randolph in a whisper, as they
stood together that evening beside a quiet sleeper. "This is the first
natural sleep she has had. I believe it will prove her salvation."

Evadne looked up at him, and over her face a light was breaking, "I have
led her to Jesus, the Mighty to save."

* * * * *

The Hawthornes were going to Europe. The young wife's convalescence had
been tedious and it was a very frail little figure which clung to Evadne
the evening before they started. They had pleaded with her to go with
them. "Give up this toilsome work which is overtaxing your strength,"
Reginald had said, as they sat together one evening in the twilight,
"and make your home with us. You have grown to be our sister in the
truest sense of the word and we have learned to lean upon you, Elise and
I. We can never hope to repay you," he continued huskily, "but it would
be such a pleasure to have you with us for good."

Evadne looked at the pleading eyes with which Elise Hawthorne seconded
her husband's wish and her lips trembled. "How rich God is making me in
friends!" she said. "I shall never forget that this thing has been in
your hearts, but I must be about my Father's business."

And then John Randolph had come to make one of his pleasant, informal
visits and they had sat together in a beautiful fellowship, talking of
the things pertaining to the Kingdom.

"Doctor Randolph," Elise asked suddenly, "what is your conception of
prayer? Evadne says it means to her communion and companionship with
Jesus. She says it is 'the practice of the presence of God.'"

John Randolph's face grew luminous. "To me it means a great stillness,"
he said. "Did you ever think of the silences of God? 'Be still, and know
that I am God,' 'Stand still, and see his salvation.'"

"But are we not to ask for what we want?" asked Mrs. Hawthorne
wonderingly.

"Oh, yes, but we learn to ask so little for ourselves when we love our
Father's will. The trouble is, we, want to do the talking. God would
have us listen while he speaks."

"Then what does it mean to worship God?" she asked. "We cannot always be
in church."

John Randolph smiled. "We do not need to be. If our hearts are all on
fire with the love of God, we worship him continually."

When he rose to go he turned towards Evadne. "How goes life with you
now, dear friend?"

The grey eyes, full of a clear shining, were lifted to his, "I am
absolutely satisfied with Jesus Christ."

Marion was married and living in New York. Louis had taken a small
house, where he lived with his mother and Isabelle. He spent his days in
the monotonous routine of a hank, and to his pleasure-loving nature the
drudgery seemed intolerable, but he said little. Evadne never
complained!

One day he went to see her at the Hospital and she was frightened at the
pallor of his face. She led him to the superintendent's reception
room--there they would be undisturbed. He staggered blindly as he
entered the room and then sank heavily on a sofa near the door. He
looked like an old man.

"Louis!" she cried in alarm, "what is the matter?"

He took a letter from his pocket and held it toward her. It bore her own
name, and the writing was her father's!

"Can you _ever_ forgive?" Then he buried his face in his arms and
groaned aloud. The awful disgrace and shame of it seemed more than he
could bear.

Interminable seemed the hours after Louis had left her, walking slowly,
with that strange, grey shadow upon his face, and stooping as if some
unseen burden were crushing him to the earth. She dared not let herself
think. She must wait until she was alone. At last she was free to go to
her room.

Down on her knees she read the passionate farewell words, which made her
heart thrill, so full of tender advice and loving thought for her
comfort. Through streaming tears she looked at the closely written pages
of instructions, so minute that she could not err--and he had disliked
writing so much! This was the weary task which had tried him so! And all
these years she had never known. She had been robbed of her birthright!

Fierce and long the battle raged. When it was ended God heard his child
cry softly, "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass
against us."

She had forgiven!

CHAPTER XXXI.

Mrs. Simpson Kennard was sitting in her pretty morning room with her
baby on her knee. She looked across the room at her sister who was
paying her a visit. "I wish you had a little child to love, Isabelle. It
makes life so different. I am just wrapped up in Florimel."

"For pity's sake, Marion," cried Isabelle peevishly, "don't you grow to
be one of those tiresome women who think the whole world is interested
in a baby's tooth! I certainly do not echo your wish. I think children
are a nuisance."

Marion caught up her baby in dismay. "Why, Isabelle, just think how much
they do for us! They broaden our sympathies--I read that only the other
day, and----"

"Broaden your fiddlesticks!" said Isabelle contemptuously. "Easy for you
to talk when you have everything you want! If you had to live in that
poky little house in Marlborough, I guess you would not find anything
very broadening about them!

"It is perfectly preposterous to think of our being reduced to such a
style of living!" she continued, as Mrs. Kennard strove to soothe her
baby's injured feelings with kisses. "Just fancy, only one servant! I
never thought a Hildreth would fall so low."

"But you and Mamma are comfortable, Isabelle. It is not as if you were
forced to do anything."

"Do anything!" echoed Isabelle. "Are you going crazy?"

"Well, see how hard Evadne has to work? and she is a Hildreth as well as
you."

"Evadne!" said Isabelle sarcastically, "with her nerves of steel and
spine of adamant! Evadne will never kill herself with work. She is too
much taken up with her wealthy private patients. You should have seen
her driving round with the Hawthornes in their elegant carriage And I
reduced to dependence upon the electric cars! I don't see how she
manages to worm her way into people's confidence as she seems to do. I
couldn't, but then I have such a horror of being forward."

"'All doors are open to those who smile.' I believe that is the reason,
Isabelle."

"Stuff and nonsense!" was Miss Hildreth's inelegant reply.

"She is a dear girl, Isabelle. Why will you persist in disliking her
so?"

"Oh, pray spare me any panegyrics!" said Isabelle carelessly. "It is bad
enough to have Louis blazing up like a volcano if one has the temerity
to mention her ladyship's name."

"How is Louis?" asked Mrs. Kennard, finding she was treading on
dangerous ground.

"Oh, the same as usual. He looks like a ghost, and is about as cheerful
as a cemetery. He spends his holidays going over musty old letters in
papa's desk. I'm sure I don't see what fun he finds in it. It is so
selfish in him, when he might be giving mamma and me some pleasure--but
Louis never did think of anyone but himself. One day I found him
stretched across the desk and it gave me such a fright! You know what a
state my nerves are in. I thought he was in a fit or something,--he just
looked like death, and he didn't seem to hear me when I called. He had a
large envelope addressed to papa in his hand and there was another under
his arm that didn't look as if it had ever been opened, but I couldn't
see the address. I ran for mamma, but before we got back he was gone and
the letters with him. Whatever it was, it has had an awful effect upon
him, though he won't give us any satisfaction, you know how provoking he
is. It is my belief he is going into decline, and I have such a horror
of contagious diseases!

"If Evadne is so anxious to work, why doesn't she come and help mamma
and me? It is the least she could do after all we have done for her, but
as mamma says, 'It is just a specimen of the ingratitude there is in the
world.'"

* * * * *

The months rolled by and Evadne sat one afternoon in the
superintendent's reception room reading a letter which the postman had
just delivered. It bore the Vernon postmark.

She had seen but little of Mrs. Everidge through the years which
followed her graduation. She had been constantly busy and her aunt's
hands had been full, for her husband's health had failed utterly and he
demanded continual care. Now her long, beautiful ministry was over, for
Horace Everidge, serenely selfish to the last, had fallen into the
slumber which knows no earthly waking, and Aunt Marthe was free.

"I do not know what it means," she wrote, "but something tells me I
shall not be long in Vernon. I am just waiting to see what work the King
has for me to do."

Evadne pressed the letter to her lips. "Dear Aunt Marthe! If the
majority had had your 'tribulum' they would think they had earned the
right to play!"

She looked up. John Randolph was standing before her with a package in
his hands.

"I have been commissioned by the Hawthornes to give this into your own
possession," he said with a smile.

She opened it wonderingly. Bonds and certificates of stock bearing her
name. What did it mean? John Randolph had drawn a chair opposite her and
was watching her face closely.

"You cannot think what long consultations we have held on the subject of
what you would like," he said, "you seemed to have no wishes of your
own. At last a happy thought struck Reginald, and he sent me a power of
attorney to make the transfer of these bonds and stocks to you. It is a
Trust Fund to be used to help souls. We all thought that would please
you best of all. You are a rich woman, Miss Hildreth."

A great wave of joy swept over her bewildered face. "So God has sent me
the fulfilment of my dream!" she said softly. And John Randolph
understood.

That evening she wrote to Mrs. Everidge.

"Dear Aunt Marthe,--The King's work is waiting for you in Marlborough.
The work that we used to long for--the joy of lifting the shadows from
the hearts of the heavy laden--God has given to you and me!"

* * * * *

"Why should you not come to 'The Willows'?"

John Randolph put the question one afternoon, as they were enjoying Miss
Diana's hospitality in the fragrant porch. Evadne had just finished a
merry recital of their woes.

"We have looked at houses until we are fairly distracted, Aunt Marthe
and I. One had a cellar kitchen, and I am not going to have my good Dyce
buried in a cellar kitchen; and one had no bathroom, and another was all
stairs; and they are all nothing but brick and mortar with a scrap of
sky between. I want trees and water and fields. The poor souls have
enough of masonry in their daily lives."

"I believe it is decreed that you should come here," he continued, after
the first exclamations of surprise were over. "It is just the work our
lady delights in, and she cannot be left alone. Dick goes to College
next month and I must live in town. The house is beautiful for
situation, and a threefold cord of love and faith cannot easily be
broken."

He looked round upon them, this man who found his joy in helping others,
and waited for their answer.

"It would be beautiful, beautiful!" cried Evadne, "if Miss
Chillingworth were willing. But the house is not large enough, Doctor
Randolph, we shall need three or four guest chambers, you know."

"Nothing easier than to build an addition," said John, with the quiet
reserve of power which always made his patients believe in the
impossible.

Evadne laid her hand upon Miss Chillingworth's--"Dear Miss Diana," she
said gently, "you do not say 'No' to us; do you think you could ever
find it in your heart to say 'Yes'? I know it must seem a terrible
innovation, but we could never have imagined anything half so
delightful, Aunt Marthe and I. The atmosphere--outdoors and in--is
perfection!"

Miss Diana looked at the sparkling face and then at Mrs. Everidge with
her gentle smile. "I find myself _very_ glad," she said, "since I have
to lose my boys, but do you think we had better make any definite plans,
dear, until we have talked it over with the Lord?"

And John Randolph said to Evadne with eyes that were suspiciously
bright; "It is impossible for anyone to get very far from the Kingdom,
when they live with our Lady Di."

The talk had wandered then to different subjects, and John Randolph
listened to the soft play of Evadne's fancy and watched the light in
her wonderful eyes. Her nature, so long repressed in an uncongenial
environment, in this new soil of love and sympathy was blossoming richly
and he found her very fair. He had rarely seen her resting. Now the
shapely hands were folded together in a beautiful stillness--and then
the breeze had waved aside a flower, and a sunbeam, darting through the
trellis, fell upon the stone in her ring and made it sparkle with a
baleful fire!

"Poor Louis!" Isabelle had said, the last time he had been called to
prescribe for her frequently recurring attacks of indisposition, "he
will have to wait for promotion now before he can think of marriage. It
is very hard for him."

So again the truth and the lie had mingled.

CHAPTER XXXII.

Very sweet grew the life at 'The Willows' and Mrs. Everidge and Evadne
and Miss Diana found their hands full of happy work.

Unavella still reigned supreme in her kitchen. "'Tain't a great sight
harder to cook for a dozen than six," she had remarked sententiously,
when the plan was unfolded to her, "it's only a matter uv quantity, the
quality's jest the same. Ef Miss Di-an's a'goin ter start in ter be a
she Atlas an' carry the world on her shoulders, she'll find I'm
warranted ter wash an' not shrink in the rinsin'. I'm not a'goin ter be
left behind, without I hev changed my name."

Dyce kept the rooms in spotless order and waited upon the guests.

"Dear friend," said Evadne one morning, as she watched her putting
loving touches to the dining table, "you take as much trouble as if you
expected Jesus Christ to be here!"

"So I does, Miss 'Vadney," she answered simply, "I never feels
comfortable 'cept when dere's a place fer de Lord," and Evadne answered,
"Dear Dyce, you make me feel ashamed!"

Many and varied were the guests who partook of their hospitality. The
famine which no material wealth can alleviate is not confined to the
dwellings of the poor. Hearts starve beneath coverings of velvet and
loneliness often rides in a carriage. Many were the patients whom the
world counted "well to do" that John Randolph sent to Evadne to be
comforted. There was nothing to make them suspect that the keen
intuition of the young physician had read their secret. 'The Willows'
was simply a charming retreat where he sent them to try his favorite
tonics of sunlight and oxygen; they never dreamed they were to be the
recipients of favors which would not be rendered in the bill.

It was a beautiful fellowship in which they were banded together, for
the Hawthornes had returned and were learning to find their pleasure in
doing their Father's will. Dick True was in the brotherhood also, and
never came home for his vacations without bringing with him "some fellow
who needed a taste of love," and the overgrown boys would glory in their
strength as they lifted Miss Diana from the carriage after a delightful
drive, and learn a strange gentleness as they were unconsciously
trained in the little deeds of chivalry which bespeak a true man.

Soon after Evadne's dream had materialized John Randolph had sent her a
dainty little equipage to help on the work.

"You are too kind!" she cried, as she thanked him, "too generous!"

"Can we be that?" he asked, "when we are giving to a King? It is a
theory of mine that a drive in the country with the right companion is
better than exordiums. These poor souls have never learned to see
'sermons in stones, books in the running brooks, and God in everything.'
You must give me the pleasure of a little share in your beautiful work,
my friend."

"A little share!" echoed Evadne. "Is it possible that you do not know,
Doctor Randolph, how much of it belongs to you!"

The beauty of the life was that the guests were taken into the heart of
the living and felt themselves a part of the home. They never preached,
these wise, tender women, but the beautiful incidental teachings sank
deep into hearts that would have been closed fast against sermons. There
was no stereotyped effort to do them good, they simply lived as Christ
did, and the world-tired souls looked on and marveled, and rejoiced in
the sunlight of the present and the afterglow which made the memory of
their visit a delight.

"'Do not leave the sky out of your landscape,'" said Aunt Marthe in her
cheery way, as Mrs. Dolours was wailing over her troubles. That was
all--for the time,--Mrs. Everidge believed in homeopathy--but it set her
hearer thinking, and thought found expression in questioning, until she
was led to the feet of the great Teacher and learned to roll her burden
of trouble upon him who came to bear the burdens of the world.

"'We are not to be anxious about living but about living well,'" said
Miss Diana to a young man who prided himself upon being a philosopher
"that is a maxim of Plato's but we can only carry it out by the help of
the Lord, my boy." And he listened to Evadne's merry laugh as she pelted
Hans with cherries while Gretchen dreamed of the Fatherland under the
trees by the brook, and wondered whether after all the men who had made
it their aim to stifle every natural inclination, had learned the true
secret of living as well as these happy souls who laid their cares down
at the feet of their Father, and gave their lives into Christ's keeping
day by day.

"You just seem to live in the present," wealthy Mrs. Greyson said with a
sigh, as she folded her jeweled fingers over her rich brocade, "I don't
see how you do it! Life is one long presentiment with me. I am filled
with such horrible forebodings. I tell Doctor Randolph, it is a sort of
moral nightmare."

"Some of your griefs you have cured,
And the sharpest you still have survived,
But what torments of pain you endured,
From evils that never arrived!"

Evadne quoted the words from a book of old French poems she had found in
the library. Then she asked gently, "Why should you worry about the
future, dear Mrs. Greyson, when it is such a waste of time? Don't you
believe our Father loves his children?

"A waste of time." That was a new way of looking at it! Mrs. Greyson had
always prided herself upon being thrifty, and, if God loved, would he
let any real harm happen? She knew she would shield her children. How
blind she had been!

"Ah, but you have never known sorrow!" and Mrs. Morner drew her sable
draperies around her with a sigh. "Just look at your face! Not a shadow
upon it and hardly a wrinkle. You are one of the favored ones with whom
life has been all sunshine."

Mrs. Everidge laughed brightly. She had never pined to pose as a martyr
before the world.

"God has been wondrous kind to me," she said, "but there is a cure for
all sorrow, dear friend, in his love. The great Physician is the only
one who has a medicament for that disease. It is not forgetfulness, you
know--he does not deal in narcotics--but he lays his pierced hand upon
our bleeding hearts and stills their pain. Our memory is as fresh as
ever, but it is memory with the sting taken out."

"Ah, but you cannot understand--how should you? You have always had
everything you wanted, and you have never lost anything or longed for
what has been denied you!" and a toilworn woman, whose life seemed one
long battle with disappointment, looked enviously at Miss Diana, over
whose peaceful face life's twilight was falling in tender colors.

"Not quite everything I wanted, dear," said Miss Diana softly, "but I
have come to know that God himself is sufficient for all our needs."

"Our dear Miss Diana has learned that 'we must sit in the sunshine if we
would reflect the rainbow,'" said Aunt Marthe in her low tones. "It is a
good rule, 'for every look we take at self, to take ten looks at Jesus.'
She lives in the light of his smile."

Then through the open window they heard Evadne singing,

"Oh, the little birds sang east, and the little birds sang west,
And I smiled to think God's greatness flowed around our incompleteness,
Round our restlessness, his rest."

And the weary soul folded its tired wings, all wounded with vain
beatings against the prison bars of circumstance, and was hushed into a
great stillness against the heart of its Father.

* * * * *

John Randolph sought Evadne in the familiar porch which had grown to be
to him the sweetest spot on earth.

"You are always busy," he said with a smile, as he lifted the garment
she was making for the little waif who was to have her first taste of
heaven at 'The Willows.' Satan has no chance to find an occupation for
you."

"But, oh, Doctor Randolph, what a drop in the bucket all our doing
seems, when we think of the need of the world!"

"Yet without the drops the bucket would be empty, dear friend. God never
expects the impossible from us, you know. I think Christ's highest
commendation will always be, 'She hath done what she could.' It is when
we neglect the doing that he is wounded."

After a pause he spoke again. "With your permission I am going to send
you a new patient." There was no trace of the struggle through which he
had passed. This brave soul had learned to do the right and leave the
rest with God.

Evadne laughed. "Still they come! Is it man, woman or child. Doctor
Randolph?"

"Your cousin Louis." His voice was very still.

"Poor Louis! Is it more serious then? He has been looking wretchedly for
months."

John Randolph examined her face critically. Could she call him "poor
Louis" if she loved?

"His present trouble is nervous strain, aggravated by the unaccustomed
confinement, and some mental excitement under which he is laboring. He
must have a long rest, with a complete change of environment. If anyone
can lift the cloud which seems to be hanging over him, I think it is
you."

Evadne shook her head sadly. "The only one who can help Louis is Jesus
Christ," she said.

CHAPTER XXXIII.

Louis Hildreth lay upon a couch in the cool library the morning after
his arrival at 'The Willows.' Evadne had been shocked at the change in
him since she had seen him last. His eyes were sunken, while underneath
purple shadows fell upon his pallid cheeks. He touched Evadne's hand as
she sat beside him. It was his hand!

"What a splendid fellow Randolph is!" he exclaimed suddenly. "He is
making himself felt in Marlborough, I tell you. Strange, how some men
forge their way to the front, while the rest of us just float down the
stream of mediocrity. No wonder we are not missed, when we drop out of
the babbling conglomerate of humanity into silence," he added bitterly.
"Who would miss a single pair of fins from amidst a shoal of herring!"

"I think it is because Doctor Randolph is not content to float, Louis,"
Evadne answered gently. "He must always be climbing higher. Like Paul,
he is 'pressing towards the mark.'"

"He is a grand fellow! And the beauty of it is he never seems to think
of himself at all. Most men would get to be top-lofty if they
accomplished as much as he does every day."

Evadne's lips parted in a happy smile. "I think Doctor Randolph is too
much occupied with Jesus to have time to waste upon himself."

"Upon my word, coz, you're a puzzle! You talk in an unknown tongue.
Don't you know Self is the god we worship, and the aim of our existence
is to have it wear purple and fine linen, and fare sumptuously every
day?"

"It should not be!" cried Evadne. "Oh Louis, dear Louis, life can never
be grand until we are able to say--'Self has been crucified with
Christ!'"

* * * * *

Weeks rolled into months and Louis was still at 'The Willows.' His
cynicism had come to have a strangely wistful ring. John Randolph's
visits were frequent and they held long conversations together, these
men, the one who had seized every opportunity and made the most of it,
the other who had let his golden chances slip through his fingers one by
one; then John Randolph would go bravely back to his life of toil, while
Louis listened to Evadne's sweet voice as she sang in the gloaming, or
watched his ring glisten as her deft fingers were busy with their deeds
of love.

"How do you do it?" he exclaimed one evening when they were alone
together. "You never rest! Your whole life seems to be centered in the
lives of others, and there is nothing attractive about them, if there
were I could understand. It looks like such drudgery to me. Tell me,
little coz, what makes you give up all your ease to make these people
happy?"

"When we love our Father it is our joy to do his will," she answered
softly.

"If I could live like you and Randolph I should be perfectly satisfied.
I wish I had the courage to try."

"Mere outward living cannot save us, Louis. Nothing can but faith in the
atoning blood and the name and the love of Christ. Then--when we
believe, you know--all things become possible. We make an awful mistake
when we think we know better than the Bible. Nicodemus lived a perfect
outward life, yet Christ said to him, 'Except ye be born again--of the
Word and the Spirit--ye cannot see the Kingdom of God.' We are running a
terrible risk when we try to live without Jesus."

"That is what Randolph says. He is a one idea man, if ever there was
one, and yet he is so many sided! He is the most uncompromising fellow
I ever knew. I should as soon expect to see the stars fall from the sky
as to see him do a shady thing. You would be amused, coz, to see the
lady mother and Isabelle joining forces to lay siege to his affections."

What meant that sudden start and then the blush which flamed up over
cheek and brow? Louis Hildreth closed his thin fingers over Evadne's
ring with a long drawn sigh. He was beginning to realize that a hand,
without a heart, is an empty thing.

Long after she had left him he lay motionless. This knowledge which had
come to him so suddenly had a bitter taste.

* * * * *

"You ought to get well, Hildreth, and you ought to be a very happy man,"
John Randolph spoke the words suddenly as he rose to take his leave.

"I never expect to be either. When a man has all he has prided himself
upon swept away from him, and all that he longs for denied him, how can
it be possible?"

"'Count it your highest good when God denies you.' Is that too hard a
gospel? We shall not read it so in the light of eternity. It is only
that Christ may become to us the 'altogether lovely' One."

"Did you ever love--a woman?" Louis put the question suddenly, watching
his friend's face with a jealous scrutiny.

"Yes." The answer was as simple and straightforward as the man. He knew
of nothing to be ashamed of in this beautiful love of his life.

"And her name was?--"

"Evadne."

John Randolph spoke the name for the first time to another, looking up
at the sky. When he turned to leave the room he saw that Louis' face was
buried among his cushions and he drove away in a great wonderment. What
could it all mean?

"Knocking, knocking, who is there?
Waiting, waiting, oh, how fair!
'T is a pilgrim, strange and kingly,
Never such was seen before.
Ah, my soul, for such a wonder,
Wilt thou not undo the door?"

Evadne sang the words softly in the twilight: sang them with a great
note of longing in her pleading voice. She and her cousin were alone.

"Evadne, come here."

She crossed the room and knelt beside his couch.

"Little coz, I have let the Pilgrim in."

And Evadne buried her face in the cushions with a low cry. The crown of
rejoicing was hers--at last!

* * * * *

"There is only one thing wanting between you two." Louis looked
wistfully at John Randolph and Evadne, as they stood beside him, talking
brightly of how he should help when he grew strong.

"And what is that?" Doctor Randolph asked the question with a smile.

Louis drew his ring from Evadne's finger and laid her hand in that of
his friend. "Take her, Randolph, she is worthy of you. I would not say
that of any other woman."

With a great joy surging in his heart, John Randolph held out his other
hand. She must give herself. He could not take her from another's
giving.

A lovely shyness flushed into the pure face, their eyes met, and Evadne
laid her hand in his without a word.

"Evadne!" The rich, tender tones fell throbbing through the silence,
enwrapping the name in a sweet protectiveness. "Life is--for us--to do
the will of God!"

THE END.

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