Part 4 out of 4
spot, and found him lying on the ground
with his chest crushed in. His fearful eyes
had not rightly calculated the distance from
the stump to the top of the pine, nor rightly
weighed the power of the massed branches,
and so, standing spell-bound, watching the
descending trunk as one might watch his
Nemesis, the rebound came and left him
lying worse than dead.
Three months later, when the logs,
lopped of their branches, drifted down the
streams, the woodman, a human log lopped
of his strength, drifted to a great city. A
change, the doctor said, might prolong his
life. The lumbermen made up a purse, and
he started out, not very definitely knowing
his destination. He had a sister, much
younger than himself, who at the age of six-
teen had married and gone, he believed, to
Chicago. That was years ago, but he had
an idea that he might find her. He was
not troubled by his lack of resources; he
did not believe that any man would want
for a meal unless he were "shiftless."
He had always been able to turn his hand
He felt too ill from the jostling of the
cars to notice much of anything on the jour-
ney. The dizzy scenes whirling past made
him faint, and he was glad to lie with
closed eyes. He imagined that his little
sister in her pink calico frock and bare feet
(as he remembered her) would be at the sta-
tion to meet him. "Oh, Lu!" she would
call from some hiding-place, and he would
go and find her.
The conductor stopped by Luther's seat
and said that they were in the city at last;
but it seemed to the sick man as if they
went miles after that, with a multitude of
twinkling lights on one side and a blank
darkness, that they told him was the lake,
on the other. The conductor again stopped
by his seat.
"Well, my man," said he, "how are you
Luther, the possessor of the toughest
muscles in. the gang, felt a sick man's irri-
tation at the tone of pity.
"Oh, I'm all right!" he said, gruffly, and
shook off the assistance the conductor tried
to offer with his overcoat. "I'm going to
my sister's," he explained, in answer to the
inquiry as to where he was going. The
man, somewhat piqued at the spirit in
which his overtures were met, left him, and
Luther stepped on to the platform. There
was a long vista of semi-light, down which
crowds of people walked and baggage-men
rushed. The building, if it deserved the
name, seemed a ruin, and through the arched
doors Luther could see men -- hackmen --
dancing and howling like dervishes. Trains
were coming and going, and the whistles
and bells kept up a ceaseless clangor.
Luther, with his small satchel and uncouth
dress, slouched by the crowd unnoticed, and
reached the street. He walked amid such
an illumination as he had never dreamed
of, and paused half blinded in the glare of
a broad sheet of electric light that filled a
pillared entrance into which many people
passed. He looked about him. Above on
every side rose great, many-windowed build-
ings; on the street the cars and carriages
thronged, and jostling crowds dashed head-
long among the vehicles. After a time he
turned down a street that seemed to him a
pandemonium filled with madmen. It went
to his head like wine, and hardly left him
the presence of mind to sustain a quiet
exterior. The wind was laden with a pene-
trating moisture that chilled him as the dry
icy breezes from Huron never had done, and
the pain in his lungs made him faint and
dizzy. He wondered if his red-cheeked
little sister could live in one of those vast,
impregnable buildings. He thought of
stopping some of those serious-looking men
and asking them if they knew her; but he
could not muster up the courage. The
distressing experience that comes to almost
every one some time in life, of losing all
identity in the universal humanity, was
becoming his. The tears began to roll
down his wasted face from loneliness and
exhaustion. He grew hungry with longing
for the dirty but familiar cabins of the
camp, and staggered along with eyes half
closed, conjuring visions of the warm inte-
riors, the leaping fires, the groups of
laughing men seen dimly through clouds of
A delicious scent of coffee met his hun-
gry sense and made him really think he was
taking the savory black draught from his
familiar tin cup; but the muddy streets,
the blinding lights, the cruel, rushing peo-
ple, were still there. The buildings, how-
ever, now became different. They were
lower and meaner, with dirty windows.
Women laughing loudly crowded about the
doors, and the establishments seemed to
be equally divided between saloon-keepers,
pawnbrokers, and dealers in second-hand
clothes. Luther wondered where they all
drew their support from. Upon one sign-
board he read, "Lodgings 10 cents to 50
cents. A Square Meal for 15 cents," and,
thankful for some haven, entered. Here he
spent his first night and other nights, while
his purse dwindled and his strength waned.
At last he got a man in a drug-store to
search the directory for his sister's resi-
dence. They found a name he took to be
his brother-in-law's. It was two days later
when he found the address, -- a great, many-
storied mansion on one of the southern
boulevards, -- and found also that his search
had been in vain. Sore and faint, he stag-
gered back to his miserable shelter, only to
arise feverish and ill in the morning. He
frequented the great shop doors, thronged
with brilliantly-dressed ladies, and watched
to see if his little sister might not dash up
in one of those satin-lined coaches and take
him where he would be warm and safe and
would sleep undisturbed by drunken, ribald
songs and loathsome surroundings. There
were days when he almost forgot his name,
and, striving to remember, would lose his
senses for a moment and drift back to the
harmonious solitudes of the North and
breathe the resin-scented frosty atmosphere.
He grew terrified at the blood he coughed
from his lacerated lungs, and wondered bit-
terly why the boys did not come to take
One day, as he painfully dragged himself
down a residence street, he tried to collect
his thoughts and form some plan for the
future. He had no trade, understood no
handiwork; he could fell trees. He looked
at the gaunt, scrawny, transplanted speci-
mens that met his eye, and gave himself up
to the homesickness that filled his soul.
He slept that night in the shelter of a sta-
ble, and spent his last money in the morn-
ing for a biscuit.
He travelled many miles that afternoon
looking for something to which he might
turn his hand. Once he got permission to
carry a hod for half an hour. At the end of
that time he fainted. When he recovered,
the foreman paid him twenty-five cents.
"For God's sake, man, go home," he said.
Luther stared at him with a white face and
There came days when he so forgot his
native dignity as to beg. He seldom
received anything; he was referred to vari-
ous charitable institutions the existence of
which he had never heard.
One morning, when a pall of smoke enve-
loped the city and the odors of coal-gas
refused to lift their nauseating poison
through the heavy air, Luther, chilled with
dew and famished, awoke to a happier life.
The loneliness at his heart was gone. The
feeling of hopeless imprisonment that the
miles and miles of streets had terrified him
with gave place to one of freedom and exal-
tation. Above him he heard the rasping of
pine boughs; his feet trod on a rebounding
mat of decay; the sky was as coldly blue as
the bosom of Huron. He walked as if on
ether, singing a senseless jargon the wood-
men had aroused the echoes with, --
"Hi yi halloo!
The owl sees you!
Look what you do!
Hi yi halloo!"
Swung over his shoulder was a stick he
had used to assist his limping gait, but now
transformed into the beloved axe. He
would reach the clearing soon, he thought,
and strode on like a giant, while people hur-
ried from his path. Suddenly a smooth
trunk, stripped of its bark and bleached by
weather, arose before him.
"Hi yi halloo!" High went the wasted
arm -- crash! -- a broken staff, a jingle of
wires, a maddened, shouting man the centre
of a group of amused spectators! A few
moments later, four broad-shouldered men
in blue had him in their grasp, pinioned and
guarded, clattering over the noisy streets
behind two spirited horses. They drew
after them a troop of noisy, jeering boys,
who danced about the wagon like a swirl
of autumn leaves. Then came a halt, and
Luther was dragged up the steps of a square
brick building with a belfry on the top.
They entered a large bare room with
benches ranged about the walls, and brought
him before a man at a desk.
"What is your name?" asked the man at
"Hi yi halloo!" said Luther.
"He's drunk, sergeant," said one of the
men in blue, and the axe-man was led into
the basement. He was conscious of an
involuntary resistance, a short struggle, and
a final shock of pain, -- then oblivion.
The chopper awoke to the realization of
three stone walls and an iron grating in
front. Through this he looked out upon
a stone flooring across which was a row of
similar apartments. He neither knew nor
cared where he was. The feeling of im-
prisonment was no greater than he had felt
on the endless, cheerless streets. He laid
himself on the bench that ran along a side
wall, and, closing his eyes, listened to the
babble of the clear stream and the thunder
of the "drive" on its journey. How the
logs hurried and jostled! crushing, whirling,
ducking, with the merry lads leaping about
them with shouts and laughter. Suddenly
he was recalled by a voice. Some one
handed a narrow tin cup full of coffee and
a thick slice of bread through the grating.
Across the way he dimly saw a man eating
a similar slice of bread. Men in other com-
partments were swearing and singing. He
knew these now for the voices he had heard
in his dreams. He tried to force some of
the bread down his parched and swollen
throat, but failed; the coffee strangled him,
and he threw himself upon the bench.
The forest again, the night-wind, the
whistle of the axe through the air. Once
when he opened his eyes he found it dark.
It would soon be time to go to work. He
fancied there would be hoar-frost on the
trees in the morning. How close the cabin
seemed! Ha! -- here came his little sister.
Her voice sounded like the wind on a
spring morning. How loud it swelled now!
"Lu! Lu!" she cried.
The next morning the lock-up keeper
opened the cell door. Luther lay with his
head in a pool of blood. His soul had
escaped from the thrall of the forest.
"Well, well!" said the little fat police-
justice, when he was told of it. "We ought
to have a doctor around to look after such
A Lady of Yesterday
"A LIGHT wind blew from the gates
of the sun," the morning she first
walked down the street of the little Iowa
town. Not a cloud flecked the blue; there
was a humming of happy insects; a smell of
rich and moist loam perfumed the air, and
in the dusk of beeches and of oaks stood the
quiet homes. She paused now and then,
looking in the gardens, or at a group of
children, then passed on, smiling in content.
Her accent was so strange, that the agent
for real estate, whom she visited, asked her,
twice and once again, what it was she said.
"I want," she had repeated smilingly,
"an upland meadow, where clover will
grow, and mignonette."
At the tea-tables that night, there was a
mighty chattering. The brisk village made
a mystery of this lady with the slow step,
the foreign trick of speech, the long black
gown, and the gentle voice. The men,
concealing their curiosity in presence of the
women, gratified it secretly, by sauntering
to the tavern in the evening. There the
keeper and his wife stood ready to convey
any neighborly intelligence.
"Elizabeth Astrado" was written in the
register, -- a name conveying little, unaccom-
panied by title or by place of residence.
"She eats alone," the tavern-keeper's
wife confided to their eager ears, "and asks
for no service. Oh, she's a curiosity!
She's got her story, -- you'll see!"
In a town where every man knew every
other man, and whether or not he paid his
taxes on time, and what his standing was in
church, and all the skeletons of his home, a
stranger alien to their ways disturbed their
peace of mind.
"An upland meadow where clover and
mignonette will grow," she had said, and
such an one she found, and planted thick
with fine white clover and with mignonette.
Then, while the carpenters raised her cabin
at the border of the meadow, near the street,
she passed among the villagers, mingling
with them gently, winning their good-will,
in spite of themselves.
The cabin was of unbarked maple logs,
with four rooms and a rustic portico. Then
all the villagers stared in very truth. They,
living in their trim and ugly little homes,
accounted houses of logs as the misfortune
of their pioneer parents. A shed for wood,
a barn for the Jersey cow, a rustic fence,
tall, with a high swinging gate, completed
the domain. In the front room of the cabin
was a fireplace of rude brick. In the bed-
rooms, cots as bare and hard as a nun's, and
in the kitchen the domestic necessaries;
that was all. The poorest house-holder in
the town would not have confessed to such
scant furnishing. Yet the richest man
might well have hesitated before he sent to
France for hives and hives of bees, as she
did, setting them up along the southern
border of her meadow.
Later there came strong boxes, marked
with many marks of foreign transportation
lines, and the neighbor-gossips, seeing
them, imagined wealth of curious furniture;
but the man who carted them told his wife,
who told her friend, who told her friend,
that every box to the last one was placed in
the dry cemented cellar, and left there in
"An' a mighty ridic'lous expense a cellar
like that is, t' put under a house of that
char'cter," said the man to his wife -- who
repeated it to her friend.
"But that ain't all," the carpenter's wife
had said when she heard about it all,
"Hank says there is one little room, not fit
for buttery nor yet fur closit, with a window
high up -- well, you ken see yourself --
an' a strong door. Jus' in passin' th' other
day, when he was there, hangin' some
shelves, he tried it, an' it was locked!"
"Well!" said the women who listened.
However, they were not unfriendly, these
brisk gossips. Two of them, plucking up
tardy courage, did call one afternoon. Their
hostess was out among her bees, crooning to
them, as it seemed, while they lighted all
about her, lit on the flower in her dark hair,
buzzed vivaciously about her snow-white
linen gown, lighted on her long, dark hands.
She came in brightly when she saw her
guests, and placed chairs for them, courte-
ously, steeped them a cup of pale and fra-
grant tea, and served them with little cakes.
Though her manner was so quiet and so
kind, the women were shy before her. She,
turning to one and then the other, asked
questions in her quaint way.
"You have children, have you not?"
Both of them had.
"Ah," she cried, clasping those slender
hands, "but you are very fortunate! Your
little ones, -- what are their ages?"
They told her, she listening smilingly.
"And you nurse your little babes -- you
nurse them at the breast?"
The modest women blushed. They were
not used to speaking with such freedom.
But they confessed they did, not liking arti-
"No," said the lady, looking at them
with a soft light in her eyes, "as you say,
there is nothing like the good mother
Nature. The little ones God sends should
lie at the breast. 'Tis not the milk alone
that they imbibe; it is the breath of life, --
it is the human magnetism, the power, --
how shall I say? Happy the mother who
has a little babe to hold!"
They wanted to ask a question, but they
dared not -- wanted to ask a hundred ques-
tions. But back of the gentleness was a
hauteur, and they were still.
"Tell me," she said, breaking her
reverie, "of what your husbands do. Are
they carpenters? Do they build houses for
men, like the blessed Jesus? Or are they
tillers of the soil? Do they bring fruits out
of this bountiful valley?"
They answered, with a reservation of ap-
proval. "The blessed Jesus!" It sounded
She had gone from these brief personal
matters to other things.
"How very strong you people seem," she
had remarked. "Both your men and your
women are large and strong. You should
be, being appointed to subdue a continent.
Men think they choose their destinies, but
indeed, good neighbors, I think not so.
Men are driven by the winds of God's will.
They are as much bidden to build up this
valley, this storehouse for the nations, as
coral insects are bidden to make the reefs
with their own little bodies, dying as they
build. Is it not so?"
"We are the creatures of God's will, I
suppose," said one of her visitors, piously.
She had given them little confidences in
"I make my bread," she said, with child-
ish pride, "pray see if you do not think it
excellent!" And she cut a flaky loaf to dis-
play its whiteness. One guest summoned
the bravado to inquire, --
"Then you are not used to doing house-
"I?" she said, with a slow smile, "I have
never got used to anything, -- not even liv-
ing." And so she baffled them all, yet won
The weeks went by. Elizabeth Astrado
attended to her bees, milked her cow, fed
her fowls, baked, washed, and cleaned, like
the simple women about her, saving that as
she did it a look of ineffable content lighted
up her face, and she sang for happiness.
Sometimes, amid the ballads that she
hummed, a strain slipped in of some great
melody, which she, singing unaware, as it
were, corrected, shaking her finger in self-
reproval, and returning again to the ballads
and the hymns. Nor was she remiss in
neighborly offices; but if any were ailing,
or had a festivity, she was at hand to assist,
condole, or congratulate, carrying always
some simple gift in her hand, appropriate to
She had her wider charities too, for all
she kept close to her home. When, one
day, a story came to her of a laborer struck
down with heat in putting in a culvert on
the railroad, and gossip said he could not
speak English, she hastened to him, caught
dying words from his lips, whispered a
reply, and then what seemed to be a prayer,
while he held fast her hand, and sank to
coma with wistful eyes upon her face.
Moreover 'twas she who buried him, rais-
ing a cross above his grave, and she who
planted rose-bushes about the mound.
"He spoke like an Italian," said the phy-
sician to her warily.
"And so he was," she had replied.
"A fellow-countryman of yours, no
"Are not all men our countrymen, my
friend?" she said, gently. "What are little
lines drawn in the imagination of men,
dividing territory, that they should divide
our sympathies? The world is my country
-- and yours, I hope. Is it not so?"
Then there had also been a hapless pair of
lovers, shamed before their community, who,
desperate, impoverished, and bewildered at
the war between nature and society, had
been helped by her into a new part of the
world. There had been a widow with many
children, who had found baskets of cooked
food and bundles of well-made clothing on
her step. And as the days passed, with
these pleasant offices, the face of the strange
woman glowed with an ever-increasing con-
tent, and her dark, delicate beauty grew.
John Hartington spent his vacation at
Des Moines, having a laudable desire to
see something of the world before returning
to his native town, with his college honors
fresh upon him. Swiftest of the college
runners was John Hartington, famed for his
leaping too, and measuring widest at the
chest and waist of all the hearty fellows at
the university. His blond curls clustered
above a brow almost as innocent as a
child's; his frank and brave blue eyes, his
free step, his mellow laugh, bespoke the
perfect animal, unharmed by civilization,
unperplexed by the closing century's falla-
cies and passions. The wholesome oak
that spreads its roots deep in the generous
soil, could not be more a part of nature
than he. Conscientious, unimaginative,
direct, sincere, industrious, he was the
ideal man of his kind, and his return to
town caused a flutter among the maidens
which they did not even attempt to conceal.
They told him all the chat, of course, and,
among other things, mentioned the great
sensation of the year, -- the coming of the
woman with her mystery, the purchase of
the sunny upland, the planting it with
clover and with mignonette, the building
of the house of logs, the keeping of the
bees, the barren rooms, the busy, silent
life, the charities, the never-ending wonder
of it all. And then the woman -- kind, yet
different from the rest, with the foreign
trick of tongue, the slow, proud walk, the
delicate, slight hands, the beautiful, beau-
tiful smile, the air as of a creature from
Hartington, strolling beyond the village
streets, up where the sunset died in daffodil
above the upland, saw the little cot of logs,
and out before it, among blood-red poppies,
the woman of whom he had heard. Her
gown of white gleamed in that eerie radi-
ance, glorified, her sad great eyes bent on
him in magnetic scrutiny. A peace and
plenitude of power came radiating from
her, and reached him where he stood, sud-
denly, and for the first time in his careless
life, struck dumb and awed. She, too,
seemed suddenly abashed at this great bulk
of youthful manhood, innocent and strong.
She gazed on him, and he on her, both
chained with some mysterious enchant-
ment. Yet neither spoke, and he, turning
in bewilderment at last, went back to town,
while she placed one hand on her lips to
keep from calling him. And neither slept
that night, and in the morning when she
went with milking pail and stool out to the
grassy field, there he stood at the bars,
waiting. Again they gazed, like creatures
held in thrall by some magician, till she
held out her hand and said, --
"We must be friends, although we have
not met. Perhaps we ARE old friends.
They say there have been worlds before this
one. I have not seen you in these habili-
ments of flesh and blood, and yet -- we
may be friends?"
John Hartington, used to the thin jests
of the village girls, and all their simple
talk, rose, nevertheless, enlightened as
he was with some strange sympathy with
her, to understand and answer what she
"I think perhaps it may be so. May I
come in beside you in the field? Give me
the pail. I'll milk the cow for you."
She threw her head back and laughed
like a girl from school, and he laughed too,
and they shook hands. Then she sat near
him while he milked, both keeping silence,
save for the p-rring noise he made with his
lips to the patient beast. Being through,
she served him with a cupful of the fra-
grant milk; but he bade her drink first,
then drank himself, and then they laughed
again, as if they both had found something
new and good in life.
Then she, --
"Come see how well my bees are doing."
And they went. She served him with the
lucent syrup of the bees, perfumed with the
mignonette, -- such honey as there never
was before. He sat on the broad doorstep,
near the scarlet poppies, she on the grass,
and then they talked -- was it one golden
hour -- or two? Ah, well, 'twas long
enough for her to learn all of his simple
life, long enough for her to know that he
was victor at the races at the school, that
he could play the pipe, like any shepherd
of the ancient days, and when he went he
asked her if he might return.
"Well," laughed she, "sometimes I am
lonely. Come see me -- in a week."
Yet he was there that day at twilight,
and he brought his silver pipe, and piped
to her under the stars, and she sung ballads
to him, -- songs of Strephon and times
when the hills were young, and flocks were
fairer than they ever be these days.
"To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-mor-
row," and still the intercourse, still her
dark loveliness waxing, still the weaving
of the mystic spell, still happiness as primi-
tive and as sweet as ever Eden knew.
Then came a twilight when the sweet
rain fell, and on the heavy air the perfumes
of the fields floated. The woman stood by
the window of the cot, looking out. Tall,
graceful, full of that subtle power which
drew his soul; clothed in white linen, fra-
grant from her fields, with breath freighted
with fresh milk, with eyes of flame, she
was there to be adored. And he, being
man of manliest type, forgot all that might
have checked the words, and poured his
soul out at her feet. She drew herself up
like a queen, but only that she might
look queenlier for his sake, and, bending,
kissed his brow, and whispered back his
And they were married.
The villagers pitied Hartington.
"She's more than a match for him in
years -- an' in some other ways, as like as
not," they said. "Besides, she ain't much
inclined to mention anything about her
past. 'Twon't bear the tellin' probably."
As for the lovers, they laughed as they
went about their honest tasks, or sat
together arms encircling each at evening,
now under the stars, and now before their
fire of wood. They talked together of their
farm, added a field for winter wheat,
bought other cattle, and some horses, which
they rode out over the rolling prairies side
by side. He never stopped to chat about
the town; she never ventured on the street
without him by her side. Truth to tell,
their neighbors envied them, marvelling
how one could extract a heaven out of
earth, and what such perfect joy could
Yet, for all their prosperity, not one ad-
dition did they make to that most simple
home. It stood there, with its bare neces-
sities, made beautiful only with their love.
But when the winter was most gone, he
made a little cradle of hard wood, in which
she placed pillows of down, and over which
she hung linen curtains embroidered by her
In the long evenings, by the flicker of
the fire, they sat together, cheek to cheek,
and looked at this little bed, singing low
"This happiness is terrible, my John,"
she said to him one night, -- a wondrous
night, when the eastern wind had flung the
tassels out on all the budding trees of
spring, and the air was throbbing with
awakening life, and balmy puffs of breeze,
and odors of the earth. "And we are grow-
ing young. Do you not think that we are
very young and strong?"
He kissed her on the lips. "I know that
you are beautiful," he said.
"Oh, we have lived at Nature's heart,
you see, my love. The cattle and the
fowls, the honey and the wheat, the cot --
the cradle, John, and you and me! These
things make happiness. They are nature.
But then, you cannot understand. You
have never known the artificial --"
"And you, Elizabeth?"
"John, if you wish, you shall hear all I
have to tell. 'Tis a long, long, weary tale.
Will you hear it now? Believe me, it will
make us sad."
She grasped his arm till he shrank with
"Tell what you will and when you will,
Elizabeth. Perhaps, some day -- when --"
he pointed to the little crib.
"As you say." And so it dropped.
There came a day when Hartington, sit-
ting upon the portico, where perfumes of
the budding clover came to him, hated the
humming of the happy bees, hated the rust-
ling of the trees, hated the sight of earth.
"The child is dead," the nurse had said,
"as for your wife, perhaps --" but that was
all. Finally he heard the nurse's step
upon the floor.
"Come, "she said, motioning him. And
he had gone, laid cheek against that dying
cheek, whispered his love once more, saw
it returned even then, in those deep eyes,
and laid her back upon her pillow, dead.
He buried her among the mignonette,
levelled the earth, sowed thick the seed
"'Tis as she wished," he said.
With his strong hands he wrenched the
little crib, laid it piece by piece upon their
hearth, and scattered then the sacred ashes
on the wind. Then, with hard-coming
breath, broke open the locked door of that
room which he had never entered, thinking
to find there, perhaps, some sign of that
unguessable life of hers, but found there
only an altar, with votive lamps before the
Blessed Virgin, and lilies faded and fallen
from their stems.
Then down into the cellar went he, to
those boxes, with the foreign marks. And
then, indeed, he found a hint of that dead
life. Gowns of velvet and of silk, such as
princesses might wear, wonders of lace,
yellowed with time, great cloaks of snowy
fur, lustrous robes, jewels of worth, -- a vast
array of brilliant trumpery. Then there
were books in many tongues, with rich old
bindings and illuminated page, and in
them written the dead woman's name, -- a
name of many parts, with titles of impress,
and in the midst of all the name, "Eliza-
beth Astrado," as she said.
And that was all, or if there were more
he might have learned, following trails
that fell within his way, he never learned
it, being content, and thankful that he
had held her for a time within his arms,
and looked in her great soul, which, weary-
ing of life's sad complexities, had sim-
plified itself, and made his love its best