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A Spinner in the Sun by Myrtle Reed

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to him. All at once, he knew.

XIII

The River Comes into its Own

"Father," asked Ralph, "who is Evelina Grey?"

Anthony Dexter started from his chair as though he had heard a pistol
shot, then settled back, forcing his features into mask-like calmness.
He waited a moment before speaking.

"I don't know," he answered, trying to make his voice even, "Why?"

"She lives in the house with my one patient," explained Ralph; "up on
the hill, you know. She's a frail, ghostly little woman in black, and
she always wears a thick white veil."

"That's her privilege, isn't it?" queried Anthony Dexter. He had
gained control of himself, now, and spoke almost as usual.

"Of course I didn't ask any questions," continued Ralph, thoughtfully,
"but, obviously, the only reason for her wearing it is some terrible
disfigurement. So much is surgically possible in these days that I
thought something might be done for her. Has she never consulted you
about it, Father?"

The man laughed--a hollow, mirthless laugh. "No," he said; "she
hasn't." Then he laughed once more--in a way that jarred upon his son.

Ralph paced back and forth across the room, his hands in his pockets.
"Father," he began, at length, "it may be because I'm young, but I hold
before me, very strongly, the ideals of our profession. It seems a
very beautiful and wonderful life that is opening before me--always to
help, to give, to heal. I--I feel as though I had been dedicated to
some sacred calling--some lifelong service. And service means
brotherhood."

"You'll get over that," returned Anthony Dexter, shortly, yet not
without a certain secret admiration. "When you've had to engage a
lawyer to collect your modest wages for your uplifting work, the healed
not being sufficiently grateful to pay the healer, and when you've gone
ten miles in the dead of Winter, at midnight, to take a pin out of a
squalling infant's back, why, you may change your mind."

"If the healed aren't grateful," observed Ralph, thoughtfully, "it must
be in some way my fault, or else they haven't fully understood. And
I'd go ten miles to take a pin out of a baby's back--yes, I'm sure I
would."

Anthony Dexter's face softened, almost imperceptibly. "It's youth," he
said, "and youth is a fault we all get over soon enough, Heaven knows.
When you're forty, you'll see that the whole thing is a matter of
business and that, in the last analysis, we're working against Nature's
laws. We endeavour to prolong the lives of the unfit, when only the
fittest should survive."

"That makes me think of something else," continued Ralph, in a low
tone. "Yesterday, I canvassed the township to get a cat for
Araminta--the poor child never had a kitten. Nobody would let me have
one till I got far away from home, and, even then, it was difficult.
They thought I wanted it for--for the laboratory," he concluded, almost
in a whisper.

"Yes?" returned Doctor Dexter, with a rising inflection. "I could have
told you that the cat and dog supply was somewhat depleted
hereabouts--through my own experiments."

"Father!" cried Ralph, his face eloquent with reproach.

Laughing, yet secretly ashamed, Anthony Dexter began to speak.
"Surely, Ralph," he said, "you're not so womanish as that. If I'd
known they taught such stuff as that at my old Alma Mater, I'd have
sent you somewhere else. Who's doing it? What old maid have they
added to their faculty?"

"Oh, I know, Father," interrupted Ralph, waiving discussion. "I've
heard all the arguments, but, unfortunately, I have a heart. I don't
know by what right we assume that human life is more precious than
animal life; by what right we torture and murder the fit in order to
prolong the lives of the unfit, even if direct evidence were obtainable
in every case, which it isn't. Anyhow, I can't do it, I never have
done it, and I never will. I recognise your individual right to shape
your life in accordance with the dictates of your own conscience, but,
because I'm your son, I can't help being ashamed. A man capable of
torturing an animal, no matter for what purpose, is also capable of
torturing a fellow human being, for purposes of his own."

Anthony Dexter's face suddenly blanched with anger, then grew livid.
"You--" he began, hotly.

"Don't, Father," interrupted Ralph. "We'll not have any words. We'll
not let a difference of opinion on any subject keep us from being
friends. Perhaps it's because I'm young, as you say, but, all the time
I was at college, I felt that I had something to lean on, some standard
to shape myself to. Mother died so soon after I was born that it is
almost as if I had not had a mother. I haven't even a childish memory
of her, and, perhaps for that reason, you meant more to me than the
other fellows' fathers did to them.

"When I was tempted to any wrongdoing, the thought of you always held
me back. 'Father wouldn't do it,' I said to myself. 'Father always
does the square thing, and I'm his son.' I remembered that our name
means 'right.' So I never did it."

"And I suppose, now," commented Anthony Dexter, with assumed sarcasm,
"your idol has fallen?"

"Not fallen, Father. Don't say that. You have the same right to your
opinions that I have, but it isn't square to cut up an animal alive,
just because you're the stronger and there's no law to prevent you.
You know it isn't square!"

In the accusing silence, Ralph left the room, and was shortly on his
way uphill, with Araminta's promised cat mewing in his coat pocket.

The grim, sardonic humour of the situation appealed strongly to Doctor
Dexter. "To think," he said to himself, "that only last night, that
identical cat was observed as a fresh and promising specimen,
providentially sent to me in the hour of need. And if I hadn't wanted
Ralph to help me, Araminta's pet would at this moment have been on the
laboratory table, having its heart studied--in action."

Repeatedly, he strove to find justification for a pursuit which his
human instinct told him had no justification. His reason was fully
adequate, but something else failed at the crucial point. He felt
definitely uncomfortable and wished that Ralph might have avoided the
subject. It was none of his business, anyway. But then, Ralph himself
had admitted that.

His experiments were nearly completed along the line in which he had
been working. In deference to a local sentiment which he felt to be
extremely narrow and dwarfing, he had done his work secretly. He had
kept the door of the laboratory locked and the key in his pocket. All
the doors and windows had been closely barred. When his subjects had
given out under the heavy physical strain, he had buried the pitiful
little bodies himself.

He had counted, rather too surely, on the deafness of his old
housekeeper, and had also heavily discounted her personal interest in
his pursuits and her tendency to gossip. Yet, through this single
channel had been disseminated information and conjecture which made it
difficult for Ralph to buy a pet for Araminta.

Anthony Dexter shuddered at his narrow escape. Suppose Araminta's cat
had been sacrificed, and he had been obliged to tell Ralph? One more
experiment was absolutely necessary. He was nearly satisfied, but not
quite. It would be awkward to have Ralph make any unpleasant
discoveries, and he could not very well keep him out of the laboratory,
now, without arousing his suspicion. Very possibly, a man who would
torture an animal would also torture a human being, but he was
unwilling to hurt Ralph. Consequently, there was a flaw in the
logic--the boy's reasoning was faulty, unless this might be the
exception which proved the rule.

Who was Evelina Grey? He wondered how Ralph had come to ask the
question. Suppose he had told him that Evelina Grey was the name of a
woman who haunted him, night and day! In her black gown and with her
burned face heavily veiled, she was seldom out of his mental sight.

All through the past twenty-five years, he had continually told himself
that he had forgotten. When the accusing thought presented itself, he
had invariably pushed it aside, and compelled it to give way to
another. In this way, he had acquired an emotional control for which
he, personally, had great admiration, not observing that his admiration
of himself was an emotion, and, at that, less creditable than some
others might have been.

Man walls up a river, and commands it to do his bidding. Outwardly,
the river assents to the arrangement, yielding to it with a readiness
which, in itself, is suspicious, but man, rapt in contemplation of his
own skill, sees little else. By night and by day the river leans
heavily against the dam. Tiny, sharp currents, like fingers, tear
constantly at the structure, working always underneath. Hidden and
undreamed-of eddies burrow beneath the dam; little river animals
undermine it, ever so slightly, with tooth and claw.

At last an imperceptible opening is made. Streams rush down from the
mountain to join the river; even raindrops lend their individually
insignificant aid. All the forces of nature are subtly arrayed against
the obstruction in the river channel. Suddenly, with the thunder of
pent-up waters at last unleashed, the dam breaks, and the structures
placed in the path by complacent and self-satisfied man are swept on to
the sea like so much kindling-wood. The river, at last, has come into
its own,

A feeling, long controlled, must eventually break its bonds. Forbidden
expression, and not spent by expression, it accumulates force. When
the dam breaks, the flood is more destructive than the steady, normal
current ever could have been. Having denied himself remorse, and
having refused to meet the fact of his own cowardice, Anthony Dexter
was now face to face with the inevitable catastrophe.

He told himself that Ralph's coming had begun it, but, in his heart, he
knew that it was that veiled and ghostly figure standing at twilight in
the wrecked garden. He had seen it again on the road, where
hallucination was less likely, if not altogether impossible. Then the
cold and sinuous necklace of discoloured pearls had been laid at his
door--the pearls which had come first from the depths of the sea, and
then from the depths of his love. His love had given up its dead as
the sea does, maimed past all recognition.

The barrier had been so undermined that on the night of Ralph's return
he had been on the point of telling Thorpe everything--indeed, nothing
but Ralph's swift entrance had stopped his impassioned speech. Was he
so weak that only a slight accident had kept him from utter
self-betrayal, after twenty-five years of magnificent control? Anthony
Dexter liked that word "magnificent" as it came into his thoughts in
connection with himself.

"Father wouldn't do it. Father always does the square thing, and I'm
his son." Ralph's words returned with a pang unbearably keen. Had
Father always done the square thing, or had Father been a coward, a
despicable shirk? And what if Ralph should some day come to know?

The man shuddered at the thought of the boy's face--if he knew. Those
clear, honest eyes would pierce him through and through, because
"Father always does the square thing."

Remorsely, the need of confession surged upon him. There was no
confessional in his church--he even had no church. Yet Thorpe was his
friend. What would Thorpe tell him to do?

Then Anthony Dexter laughed, for Thorpe had unconsciously told him what
to do--and he was spared the confession. As though written in letters
of fire, the words came back:

_The honour of the spoken word still holds him. He asked her to marry
him, and she consented. He was never released from his promise--did
not even ask for it. He slunk away like a cur. In the sight of God he
is hound to her by his own word still. He should go to her and either
fulfil his promise, or ask for release. The tardy fulfilment of his
promise would be the only atonement he could make_.

Had Evelina come back to demand atonement? Was this why the vision of
her confronted him everywhere? She waited for him on the road in
daylight, mocked him from the shadows, darted to meet him from every
tree. She followed him on the long and lonely ways he took to escape
her, and, as he walked, her step chimed in with his.

In darkness, Anthony Dexter feared to turn suddenly, lest he see that
black, veiled figure at his heels. She stood aside on the stairs to
let him pass her, entered the carriage with him and sat opposite, her
veiled face averted. She stood with him beside the sick-bed, listened,
with him, to the heart-beats when he used the stethoscope, waited while
he counted the pulse and measured the respiration.

Always disapprovingly, she stood in the background of his
consciousness. When he wrote a prescription, his pencil seemed to
catch on the white chiffon which veiled the paper he was using. At
night, she stood beside his bed, waiting. In his sleep, most often
secured in these days by drugs, she steadfastly and unfailingly came.
She spoke no word; she simply followed him, veiled--and the phantom
presence was driving him mad. He admitted it now.

And "Father always does the square thing." Very well, what was the
square thing? If Father always does it, he will do it now. What is it?

Anthony Dexter did not know that he asked the question aloud. From the
silence vibrated the answer in Thorpe's low, resonant tones:

_The honour of the spoken word still holds him . . . he was never
released . . . he slunk away like a cur . . . in the sight of God he
is bound to her by his own word still_.

Bound to her! In every fibre of his being he felt the bitter truth.
He was bound to her--had been bound for twenty-five years--was bound
now. And "Father always does the square thing."

Once in a man's life, perhaps, he sees himself as he is. In a blinding
flash of insight, he saw what he must do. Confession must be made, but
not to any pallid priest in a confessional, not to Thorpe, nor to
Ralph, but to Evelina, herself.

_He should go to her and either fulfil his promise, or ask for release.
The tardy fulfilment of his promise would be the only atonement he
could make_.

Then again, still in Thorpe's voice:

_If the woman is here and you can find your friend, we may help him to
wash the stain of cowardice off his soul_.

"The stain is deep," muttered Anthony Dexter. "God knows it is deep."

Once again came Thorpe's voice, shrilling at him, now, out of the
vibrant silence:

_Sometimes I think there is no sin but shirking. I can excuse a liar,
I can pardon a thief, I can pity a murderer, but a shirk--no_!

"Father always does the square thing."

Evidently, Ralph would like to have his father bring him a
stepmother--a woman whose face had been destroyed by fire--and place
her at the head of his table, veiled or not, as Ralph chose. Terribly
burned, hopelessly disfigured, she must live with them always--because
she had saved him from the same thing, if she had not actually saved
his life.

The walls of the room swayed, the furniture moved dizzily, the floor
undulated. Anthony Dexter reeled and fell--in a dead faint.

"Are you all right now, Father?" It was Ralph's voice, anxious, yet
cheery. "Who'd have thought I'd get another patient so soon!"

Doctor Dexter sat up and rubbed his eyes. Memory returned slowly;
strength more slowly still.

"Can't have my Father fainting all over the place without a permit,"
resumed Ralph. "You've been doing too much. I take the night work
from this time on."

The day wore into late afternoon. Doctor Dexter lay on the couch in
the library, the phantom Evelina persistently at his side. His body
had failed, but his mind still fought, feebly.

"There is no one here," he said aloud. "I am all alone. I can see
nothing because there is nothing here."

Was it fancy, or did the veiled woman convey the impression that her
burned lips distorted themselves yet further by a smile?

At dusk, there was a call. Ralph received from his father a full
history of the case, with suggestions for treatment in either of two
changes that might possibly have taken place, and drove away.

The loneliness was keen. The empty house, shorne of Ralph's sunny
presence, was unbearable. A thousand memories surged to meet him; a
thousand voices leaped from the stillness. Always, the veiled figure
stood by him, mutely accusing him of shameful cowardice. Above and
beyond all was Thorpe's voice, shrilling at him:

_The honour of the spoken word still holds him . . . he was never
released . . . he slunk away like a cur . . . he is bound to her still
. . . there is no sin but shirking_ . . .

Over and over again, the words rang through his consciousness. Then,
like an afterclap of thunder:

_Father always does the square thing_!

The dam crashed, the barrier of years was broken, the obstructions were
swept out to sea. Remorse and shame, no longer denied, overwhelmingly
submerged his soul. He struggled up from the couch blindly, and went
out--broken in body, crushed in spirit, yet triumphantly a man at last.

XIV

A Little Hour of Triumph

Miss Evelina sat alone in her parlour, which was now spotlessly clean.
Araminta had had her supper, her bath, and her clean linen--there was
nothing more to do until morning. The hard work had proved a blessing
to Miss Evelina; her thoughts had been constantly forced away from
herself. She had even learned to love Araminta with the protecting
love which grows out of dependence, and, at the same time, she felt
herself stronger; better fitted, as it were, to cope with her own grief.

Since coming back to her old home, her thought and feeling had been
endlessly and painfully confused. She sat in her low rocker with her
veil thrown back, and endeavoured to analyse herself and her
surroundings, to see, if she might, whither she was being led. She was
most assuredly being led, for she had not come willingly, nor remained
willingly; she had been hurt here as she had not been hurt since the
very first, and yet, if a dead heart can be glad of anything, she was
glad she had come. Upon the far horizon of her future, she dimly saw
change.

She had that particular sort of peace which comes from the knowledge
that the worst is over; that nothing remains. The last drop of
humiliation had been poured from her cup the day she met Anthony Dexter
on the road and had been splashed with mud from his wheels as he drove
by. It was inconceivable that there should be more.

Dusk came and the west gleamed faintly. The afterglow merged into the
first night and at star-break, Venus blazed superbly on high, sending
out rays mystically prismatic, as from some enchanted lamp. "Our
star," Anthony Dexter had been wont to call it, as they watched for it
in the scented dusk. For him, perhaps, it had been indeed the
love-star, but she had followed it, with breaking heart, into the
quicksands.

To shut out the sight of it, Miss Evelina closed the blinds and lighted
a candle, then sat down again, to think.

There was a dull, uncertain rap at the door. Doctor Ralph,
possibly--he had sometimes come in the evening,--or else Miss Hitty,
with some delicacy for Araminta's breakfast.

Drawing down her veil, she went to the door and opened it, thinking, as
she did so, that lives were often wrecked or altered by the opening or
closing of a door.

Anthony Dexter brushed past her and strode into the parlour. Through
her veil, she would scarcely have recognised him--he was so changed.
Upon the instant, there was a transformation in herself. The
suffering, broken-hearted woman was strangely pushed aside--she could
come again, but she must step aside now. In her place arose a veiled
vengeance, emotionless, keen, watchful; furtively searching for the
place to strike.

"Evelina," began the man, without preliminary, "I have come back. I
have come to tell you that I am a coward--a shirk."

Miss Evelina laughed quietly in a way that stung him. "Yes?" she said,
politely. "I knew that. You need not have troubled to come and tell
me."

He winced. "Don't," he muttered. "If you knew how I have suffered!"

"I have suffered myself," she returned, coldly, wondering at her own
composure. She marvelled that she could speak at all.

"Twenty-five years ago," he continued in a parrot-like tone, "I asked
you to marry me, and you consented. I have never been released from my
promise--I did not even ask to be. I slunk away like a cur. The
honour of the spoken word still holds me. The tardy fulfilment of my
promise is the only atonement I can make."

The candle-light shone on his iron-grey hair, thinning at the temples;
touched into bold relief every line of his face.

"Twenty-five years ago," said Evelina, in a voice curiously low and
distinct, "you asked me to marry you, and I consented. You have never
been released from your promise--you did not even ask to be." The
silence was vibrant; literally tense with emotion. Out of it leaped,
with passionate pride: "I release you now!"

"No!" he cried. "I have come to fulfil my promise--to atone, if
atonement can be made!"

"Do you call your belated charity atonement? Twenty-five years ago, I
saved you from death--or worse. One of us had to be burned, and it was
I, instead of you. I chose it, not deliberately, but instinctively,
because I loved you. When you came to the hospital, after three
days----"

"I was ill," he interrupted. "The gas----"

"You were told," she went on, her voice dominating his, "that I had
been so badly burned that I would be disfigured for life. That was
enough for you. You never asked to see me, never tried in any way to
help me, never sent by a messenger a word of thanks for your cowardly
life, never even waited to be sure it was not a mistake. You simply
went away."

"There was no mistake," he muttered, helplessly. "I made sure."

He turned his eyes away from her miserably. Through his mind came
detached fragments of speech. _The honour of the spoken word still
holds him . . . Father always does the square thing_ . . .

"I am asking you," said Anthony Dexter, "to be my wife. I am offering
you the fulfilment of the promise I made so long ago. I am asking you
to marry me, to live with me, to be a mother to my son."

"Yes," repeated Evelina, "you ask me to marry you. Would you have a
scarred and disfigured wife? A man usually chooses a beautiful woman,
or one he thinks beautiful, to sit at the head of his table, manage his
house, take the place of a servant when it is necessary, accept gladly
what money he chooses to give her, and bear and rear his children.
Poor thing that I am, you offer me this. In return, I offer you
release. I gave you your life once, I give you freedom now. Take your
last look at the woman who would not marry you to save you from--hell!"

The man started forward, his face ashen, for she had raised her veil,
and was standing full in the light.

In the tense silence he gazed at her, fascinated. Every emotion that
possessed him was written plainly on his face for her to read. "The
night of realisation," she was saying, "turned my hair white. Since I
left the hospital, no human being has seen my face till now. I think
you understand--why?"

Anthony Dexter breathed hard; his body trembled. He was suffering as
the helpless animals had suffered on the table in his laboratory.
Evelina was merciless, but at last, when he thought she had no pity,
she lowered her veil.

The length of chiffon fell between them eternally; it was like the
closing of a door. "I understand," he breathed, "oh, I understand. It
is my punishment--you have scored at last. Good----"

A sob drowned the last word. He took her cold hand in his, and,
bending over it, touched it with his quivering lips.

"Yes," laughed Evelina, "kiss my hand, if you choose. Why not? My
hand was not burned!"

His face working piteously, he floundered out into the night and
staggered through the gate as he had come--alone.

The night wind came through the open door, dank and cold. She closed
it, then bolted it as though to shut out Anthony Dexter for ever.

It was his punishment, he had said. She had scored at last. If he had
suffered, as he told her he had, the sight of her face would be
torture. Yes, Evelina knew that she had scored. From her hand she
wiped away tears--a man's hot, terrible tears.

Through the night she sat there, wide-eyed and sleepless, fearlessly
unveiled. The chiffon trailed its misty length unheeded upon the
floor. The man she had loved was as surely dead to her as though he
had never been.

Anthony Dexter was dead. True, his body and mind still lived, but he
was not the man she had loved. The face that had looked into hers was
not the face of Anthony Dexter. It had been cold and calm and cruel,
until he came to her house. His eyes were fish-like, and, stirred by
emotion, he was little less than hideous.

Her suffering had been an obsession--there had been no reason for it,
not the shadow of an excuse. A year, as the Piper said, would have
been long enough for her to grieve. She saw her long sorrow now as
something outside of herself, a beast whose prey she had been. When
Anthony Dexter had proved himself a coward, she should have thanked God
that she knew him before it was too late. And because she was weak in
body, because her hurt heart still clung to her love for him, she had
groped in the darkness for more than half of her life.

And now he had come back! The blood of triumph surged hard. She loved
him no longer; then, why was she not free? Her chains yet lay heavily
upon her; in the midst of victory, she was still bound.

The night waned. She was exhausted by stress of feeling and the long
vigil, but the iron, icy hand that had clasped her .heart so long did
not for a moment relax its hold. She went to the window and looked
out. Stars were paling, the mysterious East had trembled; soon it
would be day.

She watched the dawn as though it were for the first time and she was
privileged to stand upon some lofty peak when "God said: 'Let there be
light,' and there was light." The tapestry of morning flamed
splendidly across the night, reflecting its colour back upon her
unveiled face.

From far away, in the distant hills, whose summits only as yet were
touched with dawn, came faint, sweet music--the pipes o' Pan. She
guessed that the Piper was abroad with Laddie, in some fantastic spirit
of sun-worship, and smiled.

Her little hour of triumph was over; her soul was once more back in its
prison. The prison house was larger, and different, but it was still a
prison. For an instant, freedom had flashed before her and dazed her;
now it was dark again.

"Why?" breathed Evelina. "Dear God, why?"

As if in answer, the music came back from the hills in uncertain
silvery echoes. "Oh, pipes o' Pan," cried Evelina, choking back a sob,
"I pray you, find me! I pray you, teach me joy!"

XV

The State of Araminta's Soul

The Reverend Austin Thorpe was in his room at Miss Mehitable's, with a
pencil held loosely in his wrinkled hand. On the table before him was
a pile of rough copy paper, and at the top of the first sheet was
written, in capitals, the one word: "Hell." It was underlined, and
around it he had drawn sundry fantastic flourishes and shadings, but
the rest of the sheet was blank.

For more than an hour the old man had sat there, his blue, near-sighted
eyes wandering about the room. A self-appointed committee from his
congregation had visited him and requested him to preach a sermon on
the future abode of the wicked. The wicked, as the minister gathered
from the frank talk of the committee, included all who did not belong
to their own sect.

Try as he might, the minister could find in his heart nothing save
charity. Anger and resentment were outside of his nature. He told
himself that he knew the world, and had experienced his share of
injustice, that he had seen sin in all of its hideous phases. Yet,
even for the unrepentant sinner, Thorpe had only kindness.

Of one sin only, Thorpe failed in comprehension. As he had said to
Anthony Dexter, he could excuse a liar, pardon a thief, and pity a
murderer, but he had only contempt for a shirk.

Persistently, he analysed and questioned himself, but got no further.
To him, all sin resolved itself at last into injustice, and he did not
believe that any one was ever intentionally unjust. But the
congregation desired to hear of hell--"as if," thought Thorpe,
whimsically, "I received daily reports."

With a sigh, he turned to his blank sheet. "In the earlier stages of
our belief," he wrote, "we conceived of hell as literally a place of
fire and brimstone, of eternal suffering and torture. In the light
which has come to us later, we perceive that hell is a spiritual state,
and realise that the consciousness of a sin is its punishment."

Then he tore the sheet into bits, for this was not what his
congregation wanted; yet it was his sincere belief. He could not
stultify himself to please his audience--they must take him as he was,
or let him go.

Yet the thought of leaving was unpleasant, for he had found work to do
in a field where, as it seemed to him, he was sorely needed. His
parishioners had heard much of punishment, but very little of mercy and
love. They were tangled in doctrinal meshes, distraught by quibbles,
and at swords' points with each other.

He felt that he must in some way temporise, and hold his place until he
had led his flock to a loftier height. He had no desire to force his
opinions upon any one else, but he wished to make clear his own strong,
simple faith, and spread abroad, if he might, his own perfect trust.

A commanding rap resounded upon his door. "Come," he called, and Miss
Mehitable entered.

Thorpe was not subtle, but he felt that this errand was of deeper
import than usual. The rustle of her stiffly-starched garments was
portentous, and there was a set look about her mouth which boded no
good to anybody.

"Will you sit down?" he asked, offering her his own chair.

"No," snapped Miss Mehitable, "I won't. What I've got to say, I can
say standin'. I come," she announced, solemnly, "from the Ladies' Aid
Society."

"Yes?" Thorpe's tone was interrogative, but he was evidently not
particularly interested.

"I'm appointed a committee of one," she resumed, "to say that the
Ladies' Aid Society have voted unanimously that they want you to preach
on hell. The Church is goin' to rack and ruin, and we ain't goin' to
stand it no longer. Even the disreputable characters will walk right
in and stay all through the sermon--Andy Rogers and the rest. And I
was particularly requested to ask whether you wished to have us
understand that you approve of Andy Rogers and his goin's on."

"What," temporised Thorpe, "does Andy Rogers do?"

"For the lands sake!" ejaculated Miss Mehitable. "Wasn't he drunk four
months ago and wasn't he caught stealing the Deacon's chickens? You
don't mean to tell me you never heard of that?"

"I believe I did hear," returned the minister, in polite recognition of
the fact that it had been Miss Mehitable's sole conversational topic at
the time. "He stole the chickens because he was hungry, and he got
drunk because he didn't know any better. I talked with him, and he
promised me that he would neither steal nor drink any more. Moreover,
he earned the money and paid full price for the chickens. Have you
heard that he has broken his promise?"

"No I dunno's I have, but he'll do it again if he gets the chance--you
just see!"

Thorpe drummed idly on the table with his pencil, wishing that Miss
Mehitable would go. He had for his fellow-men that deep and abiding
love which enables one to let other people alone. He was a
humanitarian in a broad and admirable sense.

"I was told," said Miss Mehitable, "to get a definite answer."

Thorpe bowed his white head ever so slightly. "You may tell the
Ladies' Aid Society, for me, that next Sunday morning I will give my
congregation a sermon on hell."

"I thought I could make you see the reason in it," remarked Miss
Mehitable, piously taking credit to herself, "and now that it's
settled, I want to speak of Araminta."

"She's getting well all right, isn't she?" queried Thorpe, anxiously.
He had a tender place in his heart for the child.

"That's what I don't know, not bein' allowed to speak to her or touch
her. What I do know is that her immortal soul is in peril, now that
she's taken away from my influence. I want you to get a permit from
that black-mailing play-doctor that's curing her, or pretending to, and
go up and see her. I guess her pastor has a right to see her, even if
her poor old aunt ain't. I want you to find out when she'll be able to
be moved, and talk to her about her soul, dwellin' particularly on
hell."

Thorpe bowed again. "I will be very glad to do anything I can for
Araminta."

Shortly afterward, he made an errand to Doctor Dexter's and saw Ralph,
who readily gave him permission to visit his entire clientele.

"I've got another patient," laughed the boy. "My practice is
increasing at the rate of one case a month. If I weren't too
high-minded to dump a batch of germs into the water supply, I'd have a
lot more."

"How is Araminta?" asked Thorpe, passing by Ralph's frivolity.

"She's all right," he answered, his sunny face clouding. "She can go
home almost any time now. I hate to send her back into her cage--bless
her little heart."

It was late afternoon when Thorpe started up the hill, to observe and
report upon the state of Araminta's soul. He had struggled vainly with
his own problem, and had at last decided to read a fiery sermon by one
of the early evangelists, from a volume which he happened to have. The
sermon was lurid with flame, and he thought it would satisfy his
congregation. He would preface it with the statement that it was not
his, but he hoped they would regard it as a privilege to hear the views
of a man who was, without doubt, wiser and better than he.

Miss Evelina came to the door when he rapped, and at the sight of her
veiled face, a flood of pity overwhelmed him. He introduced himself
and asked whether he might see Araminta.

When he was ushered into the invalid's room, he found her propped up by
pillows, and her hair was rioting in waves about her flushed face. A
small maltese kitten, curled into a fluffy ball, slept on the snowy
counterpane beside her. Araminta had been reading the "story book"
which Doctor Ralph had brought her.

"Little maid," asked the minister, "how is the ankle?"

"It's well, and to-morrow I'm to walk on it for the first time. Doctor
Ralph has been so good to me--everybody's been good."

Thorpe picked up the book, which lay face downward, and held it close
to his near-sighted eyes. Araminta trembled; she was afraid he would
take it away from her.

All that day, she had lived in a new land, where men were brave and
women were fair. Castle towers loomed darkly purple in the sunset, or
shone whitely at noon. Kings and queens, knights and ladies, moved
sedately across the tapestry, mounted on white chargers with trappings
of scarlet and gold. Long lances shimmered in the sun and the armour
of the knights gave back the light an hundred fold. Strange music
sounded in Araminta's ears--love songs and serenades, hymns of battle
and bugle calls. She felt the rush of conflict, knew the anguish of
the wounded, and heard the exultant strains of victory.

And all of it--Araminta had greatly marvelled at this--was done for
love, the love of man and woman.

A knight in the book had asked the lady of his heart to marry him, and
she had not seen that she was insulted, nor guessed that he was
offering her disgrace. Araminta wondered that the beautiful lady could
be so stupid, but, of course, she had no Aunt Hitty to set her right.
Far from feeling shame, the lady's heart had sung for joy, but
secretly, since she was proud. Further on, the same beautiful lady had
humbled her pride for the sake of her love and had asked the gallant
knight to marry her, since she had once refused to marry him.

"Why, Araminta!" exclaimed Mr. Thorpe, greatly surprised. "I thought
Miss Mehitable did not allow you to read novels."

"A novel! Why, no, Mr. Thorpe, it isn't a novel! It's just a story
book. Doctor Ralph told me so."

Austin Thorpe laughed indulgently. "A rose by any other name," he
said, "is--none the less a rose. Doctor Ralph was right--it is a story
book, and I am right, too, for it is also a novel."

Araminta turned very pale and her eyes filled with tears.

"Mr. Thorpe," she said, in an anguished whisper, "will I be burned?"

"Why, child, what do you mean?"

"I didn't know it was a novel," sobbed Araminta. "I thought it was a
story book. Aunt Hitty says people who read novels get burned--they
writhe in hell forever in the lake of fire."

The Reverend Austin Thorpe went to the door and looked out into the
hall. No one was in sight. He closed the door very gently and came
back to Araminta's bed. He drew his chair nearer and leaned over her,
speaking in a low voice, that he might not be heard.

"Araminta, my poor child," he said, "perhaps I am a heretic. I don't
know. But I do not believe that a being divine enough to be a God
could be human enough to cherish so fiendish a passion as revenge.
Look up, dear child, look up!"

Araminta turned toward him obediently, but she was still sobbing.

"It is a world of mystery," he went on. "We do not know why we come
nor where we go--we only know that we come and that eventually, we go.
Yet I do not think that any one of us nor any number of us have the
right to say what the rest of us shall believe.

"I cannot think of Heaven as a place sparsely populated by my own sect,
with a world of sinners languishing in flames below. I think of Heaven
as a sunny field, where clover blooms and birds sing all day. There
are trees, with long, cool shadows where the weary may rest; there is a
crystal stream where they may forget their thirst. I do not think of
Heaven as a place of judgment, but rather of pardon and love.

"Punishment there is, undoubtedly, but it has seemed to me that we are
sufficiently punished here for all we do that is wrong. We don't
intend to do wrong, Araminta--we get tired, and things and people worry
us, and we are unjust. We are like children afraid in the dark; we
live in a world of doubting, we are made the slaves of our own fears,
and so we shirk."

"But the burning," said Araminta, wiping her eyes. "Is nobody ever to
be burned?"

"The God I worship," answered Thorpe, passionately, "never could be
cruel, but there are many gods, it seems, and many strange beliefs.
Listen, Araminta. Whom do you love most?"

"Aunt Hitty?" she questioned.

"No, you don't have to say that if it isn't so. You can be honest with
me. Who, of all the world, is nearest to you? Whom would you choose to
be with you always, if you could have only one?"

"Doctor Ralph!" cried Araminta, her eyes shining.

"I thought so," replied Thorpe. "I don't know that I blame you. Now
suppose Doctor Ralph did things that hurt you; that there was continual
misunderstanding and distrust. Suppose he wronged you, cruelly, and
apparently did everything he could to distress you and make you
miserable. Could you condemn him to a lake of fire?"

"Why, no!" she cried. "I'd know he never meant to do it!"

"Suppose you knew he meant it?" persisted Thorpe, looking at her keenly.

"Then," said Araminta, tenderly, "I'd feel very, very sorry."

"Exactly, and why? Because, as you say, you love him. And God is
love, Araminta. Do you understand?"

Upon the cramped and imprisoned soul of the child, the light slowly
dawned. "God is love," she repeated, "and nobody would burn people
they loved."

There was an illuminating silence, then Thorpe spoke again. He told
Araminta of a love so vast and deep that it could not be measured by
finite standards; of infinite pity and infinite pardon. This love was
everywhere; it was impossible to conceive of a place where it was
not--it enveloped not only the whole world, but all the shining worlds
beyond. And this love, in itself and of itself, was God.

"This," said Araminta, touching the book timidly; "is it bad?"

"Nothing is bad," explained Thorpe, carefully, "which does not harm you
or some one else. Of the two, it is better to harm yourself than
another. How does the book make you feel?"

"It makes me feel as if the world was a beautiful place, and as if I
ought to be better, so I could make it still more beautiful by living
in it."

"Then, Araminta, it is a good book."

Thorpe went down-stairs strangely uplifted. To him, Truth was not a
creed, but a light which illumined all creeds. His soul was aflame
with eagerness to help and comfort the whole world. Miss Evelina was
waiting in the hall, veiled and silent, as always.

She opened the door, but Thorpe lingered, striving vainly for the right
word. He could not find it, but he had to speak.

"Miss Evelina," he stammered, the high colour mounting to his temples,
"if there should ever be anything I can do for you, will you let me
know?"

She seemed to shrink back into her veil. "Yes," she said, at length,
"I will." Then, fearing she had been ungracious, she added: "Thank
you."

His mood of exaltation was still upon him, and he wandered long in the
woods before going home. His spirit dwelt in the high places, and from
the height he gained the broad view.

When he entered the house. Miss Mehitable was waiting for him with a
torrent of questions. When he had an opportunity to reply he reported
that he had seen Doctor Ralph and Araminta could come home almost any
time, now. Yes, he had talked with Araminta about her soul, and she
had cried. He thought he had done her good by going, and was greatly
indebted to Miss Mehitable for the suggestion.

XVI

The March of the Days

Out in the garden, the Piper was attending to his belated planting. He
had cleared the entire place, repaired the wall, and made flower-beds
in fantastic shapes that pleased his own fancy. To-day, he was putting
in the seeds, while Laddie played about his feet, and Miss Evelina
stood by, timidly watchful.

"I do not see," she said, "why you take so much trouble to make me a
garden. Nobody was ever so good to me before."

The Piper laughed and paused a moment to wipe his ruddy face. "Did
nobody ever care before whether or not you had a garden?"

"Never," returned Evelina, sadly.

"Then 't is time some one did, so Laddie and I have come to make it for
you, but I'm thinking 't is largely for ourselves, too, since the doing
is the best part of anything."

Miss Evelina made no answer. Speech did not come easily to her after
twenty-five years of habitual repression.

"'T will be a brave garden," continued the Piper, cheerily. "Marigolds
and larkspur and mignonette; phlox and lad's love, rosemary, lavender,
and verbena, and many another that you'll not guess till the time comes
for blossoming."

"Lad's love grew in my garden once," sighed Evelina, after a little.
"It was sweet while it lasted--oh, but it was sweet!"

She spoke so passionately that the Piper gathered the underlying
significance of her words.

"You're speaking of another garden, I think," he ventured; "the garden
in your heart. "'T is meet that lad's love should grow there. Are you
sure 't was not a weed?"

"Yes, it was a weed," she replied, bitterly. "The mistake was mine."

The Piper leaned on his rake thoughtfully. "'T is hard, I think," he
said, "for us to see that the mistakes are all ours. The Gardener
plants rightly, but we are never satisfied. When sweet herbs are meant
for us, we ask for roses, and 't is not every garden in which a rose
will bloom. If we could keep it clean of weeds, and make it free of
all anger and distrust, there'd be heartsease there instead of thorns."

"Heartsease?" asked Evelina, piteously. "I thought there was no more!"

"Lady," said the Piper, "there is heartsease for the asking. I'm
thinking 't is you who have spoiled your garden."

"No!" cried Evelina. "Believe me, it was not I!"

"Who else?" queried the Piper, with a look which made her shrink
farther back into the shelter of her chiffon. "Ah, I was not asking a
question that needed an answer; I do not concern myself with names and
things. But ask this of yourself--is there sin on your soul?"

"No," she whispered, "unless it be a sin to suffer for twenty-five
years."

"Another's sin, then? You're grieving because another has done wrong?"

"Because another has done wrong to me." The Piper came to her and laid
his hand very gently upon hers. There was reassurance in the friendly,
human touch. "'T is there," he said, "that the trouble lies. 'T is
not for you to suffer because you are wronged, but for the one who has
wronged you. He must have been very dear to you, I'm thinking; else
you would not hide the beauty of your face."

"Beauty?" repeated Evelina, scornfully. "You do not understand. I was
burned--horribly burned."

"Yes," said the Piper, softly, "and what of that? Beauty is of the
soul."

He went out to the gate and brought in a small, flat box. "'T is for
you," he said. "I got it for you when I went to the city--there was
none here."

She opened the box, her fingers trembling, and held up length after
length of misty white chiffon. "I ask no questions," said the Piper,
proudly, "but I know that because you are so beautiful, you hide your
face. Laddie and I, we got more of the white stuff to help you hide
it, because you would not let us see how beautiful you are."

The chiffon fluttered in her hand, though there was no wind. "Why?"
she asked, in a strange voice; "why did you do this?"

"You gave me a garden," laughed the Piper, "when I had no garden of my
own, so why should I not get the white stuff for you? 'T was queer,
the day I got it," he went on, chuckling at the recollection, "for I
did not know its name. Every place I went, I asked for white stuff,
and they showed me many kinds, but nothing like this. At last I said
to a young girl: 'What is it that is like a cloud, all white and soft,
which one can see through, but through which no one can be seen--the
stuff that ladies wear when they are so beautiful that they do not want
their faces seen?' She smiled, and told me it was 'chiffon.' And
so--" A wave of the hand finished his explanation.

After an interval of silence, the Piper spoke again. "There are chains
that bind you," he began, "but they are chains of your own forging. No
one else can shackle you--you must always do it yourself. Whatever is
past is over, and I'm thinking you have no more to do with it than a
butterfly has with the empty chrysalis from which he came. The law of
life is growth, and we cannot linger--we must always be going on.

"You stand alone upon a height," he said, dreamily, "like one in a
dreary land. Behind you all is darkness, before you all is darkness;
there is but one small space of light. In that one space is a day.
They come, one at a time, from the night of To-morrow, and vanish into
the night of Yesterday.

"I have thought of the days as men and women, for a woman's day is not
at all like a man's. For you, I think, they first were children, with
laughing eyes and little, dimpled hands. One at a time, they came out
of the darkness, and disappeared into the darkness on the other side.
Some brought you flowers or new toys and some brought you childish
griefs, but none came empty-handed. Each day laid its gift at your
feet and went on.

"Some brought their gifts wrapped up, that you might have the surprise
of opening them. Many a gift in a bright-hued covering turned out to
be far from what you expected when you were opening it. Some of the
happiest gifts were hidden in dull coverings you took off slowly,
dreading to see the contents. Some days brought many gifts, others
only one.

"As the days grew older, some brought you laughter; some gave you light
and love. Others came with music and pleasure--and some of them
brought pain."

"Yes," sighed Evelina, "some brought pain."

"It is of that," went on the Piper, "that I wished to be speaking. It
was one day, was it not, that brought you a long sorrow?"

"Yes."

"Not more than one? Was it only one day?"

"Yes, only one day,"

"See," said The Piper, gently, "the day came with her gift. You would
not let her lay it at your feet and pass on into the darkness of
Yesterday. You held her by her grey garments and would not let her go.
You kept searching her sad eyes to see whether she did not have further
pain for you. Why keep her back from her appointed way? Why not let
your days go by?"

"The other days," murmured Evelina, "have all been sad."

"Yes, and why? You were holding fast to one day--the one that brought
you pain. So, with downcast eyes they passed you, and carried their
appointed gifts on into Yesterday, where you can never find them again.
Even now, the one day you have been holding is struggling to free
herself from the chains you have put upon her. You have no right to
keep a day."

"Should I not keep the gifts?" she asked. His fancy pleased her.

"The gifts, yes--even the gifts of tears, but never a day. You cannot
hold a happy day, for it goes too quickly. This one sad day that
marched so slowly by you is the one you chose to hold. Lady," he
pleaded, "let her go!"

"The other days," she whispered, brokenly. "What of them?"

"No man can say. While you have been holding this one, the others have
passed you, taking your gifts into Yesterday. Memory guards Yesterday,
but there is a veil on the face of To-morrow. Sometimes I think
To-morrow is so beautiful that she hides her face."

"God veils her face," cried Evelina, "or else we could not live!"

"Lady," said the Piper, "have you lived so long and never learned this
simple thing? Whatever a day may bring you, whatever terrible gifts of
woe, if you search her closely, you will always find the strength to
meet her face to face. Overshadowed by her burden of bitterness, one
fails to find the balm. Concealed within her garments or held loosely
in her hand, she always has her bit of consolation; rosemary in the
midst of her rue, belief with the doubt, life with the death."

"I found no balm," murmured Evelina, "in the day you say I held."

"Had there been no secret balm, you could never have held her--the
thorns would have pierced your hands. Have you not seen that you can
never have sorrow until you have first had joy? Happiness is the light
and sadness the shade. God sets you right, and you stray from the
path, into the shadow of the cypress."

"The cypress casts a long shadow," said Evelina, pointing to the tree
at the gate.

The Piper smiled. "The shadow of a sorrow is longer than the sorrow,"
he answered. "The shadow of one day, with you, has stretched over
twenty-five years. 'T is approaching night that makes long shadows;
when life is at noon, they are short. When life is at its highest,
there are no shadows at all."

Miss Evelina sighed and leaned uneasily against the wall.

"This, I'm thinking," mused the Piper, "is the inmost truth of
living--there is always a balance which swings true. A sorrow is
precisely equal to a joy, and the shadow can loom no larger unless the
light slants. And if you sit always in the sun, the shadow that lies
behind a joy can be scarcely seen at all."

A faint breath of Spring stirred Miss Evelina's veil. She caught at it
and tied the long floating ends about her neck.

"I would not look," said the Piper, softly. "If your veil should blow
away, I would close my eyes and feel my way to the gate. Unless you
chose to have me see your beauty, I would never ask, nor take advantage
of an accidental opportunity. I'm thinking you are very beautiful, but
you need never be afraid of me."

Miss Evelina did not reply; she only leaned more heavily against the
wall.

"Lady," he continued, "perhaps you think I do not know. You may think
I'm talking blindly, but there are few sorrows in the world that I have
not seen face to face. Those I have not had myself, my friends have
had, and I have been privileged to share with them. The sorrows of the
world are not so many--they are few, and, in essence, the same.

"It's very strange, I'm thinking. The little laughing, creeping days
go by us, then the awkward ones that bring us the first footsteps, then
childhood comes, and youth, and then maturity. But the days have begun
to grow feeble before one learns how to meet them; how to take the
gifts humbly, scorning none, and how to make each day give up its
secret balm. Memory, the angel who stands at the portal of Yesterday,
has always an inscrutable smile. She keeps for us so many things that
we would be glad to spare, and pushes headlong into Yesterday so much
that we fain would keep. I do not yet know all the ways of Memory--I
only know that she means to be kind."

"Kind!" repeated Evelina. Her tone was indescribably bitter.

"Yes," returned the Piper, "Memory means to be kind--she is kind. I
have said that I do not know her ways, but of that I am sure. Lady, I
would that you could let go of the day you are holding back. Cast her
from you, and let her go into the Yesterday from which you have kept
her so long. Perhaps Memory will be kinder to you then, for, remember,
she stands at the gate."

"I cannot," breathed Evelina. "I have tried and I cannot let her go!"

"Yes," said the Piper, very gently, "you can. 'T is that, I'm
thinking, that has set your life all wrong. Unclasp your hands from
her rough garments, cease to question her closed eyes. Take her gift
and the balm that infallibly comes with it; meet To-day with kindness
and To-morrow with a brave heart. Oh, Spinner in the Shadow," he
cried, his voice breaking, "I fain would see you a Spinner in the Sun!"

"No," she sighed, "I have been in the dark too long. There is no light
for me."

"There is light," he insisted. "When you admit the shadow, you have at
the same time acknowledged the light."

Evelina shook her head. "Too late," she said, despairingly; "it is too
late."

"Ah," cried the Piper, "if you could only trust me! I have helped many
a soul into the sun again."

"I trusted," said Evelina, "and my trust was betrayed."

"Yes," he answered, "I know. I have trusted, too, and I have been
betrayed, also, but I know that the one who wronged me must suffer more
than I."

She laughed; a wild, fantastic laugh. "The one who wronged me," she
said, "has not suffered at all. He married in a year."

"There are different ways of suffering," he explained. "With a woman,
it is most often spread out over a long period. The quick, clean-cut
stroke is seldom given to a woman--she suffers less and longer than a
man. With him, I'm thinking, it has come, or will come, all at once."

"If it does," she cried, her frail body quivering, "what a day for him,
oh, what a day!"

Her voice was trembling with the hideous passion for revenge, and the
Piper read her, unerringly. "Lady," he said, sadly, "'t is a long way
to the light, but I'm here to help | you find it. We'll be going now.
Laddie and I, but we'll come back soon."

He whistled to the dog and the two went off downhill together. She
watched him from the gate until the bobbing red feather turned a corner
at the foot of the hill, and the cheery whistle had ceased.

The stillness was acute, profound. It was so deep that it seemed
positive, rather than negative. She went back into the house, her
steps dragging painfully.

As in a vision she saw the days passing her while she stood upon a
height. All around her were bare rocks and fearful precipices; there
was nothing but a narrow path in front. Day by day, they came,
peacefully, contentedly; till at last dawned that terrible one which
had blasted her life. Was it true that she still held that day by the
garment, and could not unclasp her hands?

One by one they had passed her, leaving no gifts, because she still
clung to one. If she could let go, what gifts would the others bring?
Joy? Never--there was no joy in the world for her.

Sometime that mystical procession must come to an end. When the last
day passed on, she would follow, too, and go into the night of
Yesterday, where, perhaps, there was peace. As never before, she
craved the last gift, praying to see the uplifted head and stately
figure of the last Day--grave, silent, unfathomable, tender; the Day
with the veiled face, bearing white poppies in her hands.

XVII

Loved by a Dog

Anthony Dexter sat on the porch in front of his house, alone. Ralph
had been out since early morning, attending to his calls. It was the
last of April and the trees were brave in their panoply of new leaves.
Birds were singing and the very air was eloquent with new life.

Between Anthony Dexter and the lilac bush at the gate, there moved
perpetually the black, veiled figure of Evelina Grey. He knew she was
not there and he was fully certain of the fact that it was an
hallucination, but his assurance had not done away with the phantom.

How mercilessly she followed him! Since the night he had flung himself
out of her house, tortured in every nerve, she had not for a moment
left him. When he walked through the house, she followed him, her
stealthy footfall sounding just the merest fraction of a second after
his. He avoided the bare polished floors and walked on the rugs
whenever possible, that he might not hear that soft, slow step so
plainly. Ralph had laughed at him, once, for taking a long, awkward
jump from rug to rug.

Within the line of his vision she moved horizontally, but never back
and forth. Sometimes her veiled face was averted, and sometimes,
through the eternal barrier of chiffon, he could feel her burning eyes
fixed pitilessly upon his.

He never slept, now, without drugs. Gradually he had increased the
dose, but to no purpose. Evelina haunted his sleep endlessly and he
had no respite. Through the dull stupor of the night, she was never
for a moment absent, and in every horrible dream, she stood in the
foreground, mute, solitary, accusing.

He was fully aware of the fact that he was in the clutches of a drug
addiction, but that was nothing to be feared in comparison with his
veiled phantom. He had exhausted the harmless soporifics long ago, and
turned, perforce, to the swift and deadly ministers of forgetfulness.

The veiled figure moved slowly back and forth across the yard, lifting
its skirts daintily to avoid a tiny pool of water where a thirsty robin
was drinking. The robin, evidently, did not fear Evelina. He could
hear the soft, slow footfalls on the turf, and the echo of three or
four steps upon the brick walk, when she crossed. She kept carefully
within the line of his vision; he did not have to turn his head to see
her. When he did turn his head, she moved with equal swiftness. Not
for a single pitying instant was she out of his sight.

Farther on, doubtless, as he thought, she would come closer. She might
throw back her veil as she had done on that terrible night, or lay her
cold hand on his--she might even speak to him. What hideous
conversations they might have--he and the woman he had once loved and
to whom he was still bound! Anthony Dexter knew now that even his
marriage had not released him and that Evelina had held him, through
all the five-and-twenty years.

Such happiness as he had known had been purely negative. The thrill of
joyous life had died, for him, the day he took Evelina into the
laboratory. He was no longer capable of caring for any one except
Ralph. The remnant of his cowardly heart was passionately and wholly
given to his son.

He meditated laying his case before Ralph. as one physician to
another, then the inmost soul of him shuddered at the very thought.
Rather than have Ralph know, he would die a thousand deaths. He would
face the uttermost depths of hell, rather than see those clear, honest
eyes fixed upon him in judgment.

He might go to the city to see a specialist--it would be an easy matter
to accomplish, and Ralph would gladly attend to his work. Yes, he
might go--he and Evelina. He could go to a brother physician and say:

"This woman haunts me. She saved my life and continually follows me.
I want her kept away. What, do you not see her, too?"

Anthony Dexter laughed harshly, and fancied that the veiled figure
paused slightly at the sound. "No," he said, aloud, "you need not
prepare for travel, Evelina. We shall not go to the city--you and I."

That was his mate, walking in his garden before him, veiled. She was
his and he was hers. They were mated as two atoms of hydrogen and one
of oxygen, forming a molecule of water. All these years, her suffering
had reacted upon him, kept him from being happy, and made him fight
continually to keep her out of his remembrance. For having kept her
out, he was paying, now, with compound interest.

Upon a lofty spire of granite stands a wireless telegraph instrument.
Fogs are thick about it, wild surges crash in the unfathomable depths
below; the silence is that of chaos, before the first day of creation.
Out of the emptiness, a world away, comes a message. At the first
syllable, the wireless instrument leaps to answer its mate. With the
universe between them, those two are bound together, inextricably,
eternally bound. One may fancy that a disorder in one might cause
vague unrest in the other. In like manner, Evelina's obsession had
preyed upon Anthony Dexter for twenty-five years. Now, the line was at
work again and there was an unceasing flow of communication.

Perhaps, if he had the strength, he might learn to ignore the phantom
as he had ignored memory. Eventually, he might be able to put aside
the eternal presence as he had put aside his own cowardice. There was
indefinite comfort in the thought.

Having preached the gospel of work for so long, he began to apply it to
himself. Work was undoubtedly what he needed--the one thing which
could set him right again. After a little, he could make the rounds
with Ralph, and dwell constantly in the boy's sunny presence. In the
meantime, there was his paper, for the completion of which one more
experiment was absolutely essential.

He stirred uneasily in his chair. He wished that Ralph had not been so
womanish, or else that he had more diplomatically concealed his own
opinions, to which, indeed, Ralph had admitted his right. Condemnation
from Ralph was the one thing he could not bear, but, after all, was it
needful that Ralph should know?

The experiment would not take long, as he wished to satisfy himself on
but one minor point. It could be done, easily, while Ralph was out
upon his daily round. Behind the lilac bushes there was yet room for
one more tiny grave.

One more experiment, and then, in deference to Ralph's foolish,
effeminate sentiments, he would give it up. One more heart in action,
the conclusion of his brilliant paper, and then--why, he would be
willing to devote the rest of his life, in company with Ralph, to
curing whooping-cough, measles, and mumps.

The veiled figure still paced restlessly back and forth, now on the
turf and now on the brick walk. He closed his eyes, but he still saw
Evelina and noted the slight difference of sound in her footfalls as
she crossed the walk. He heard the swish of her skirts as she lifted
them when she passed the pool of water--was it possible that his
hearing was becoming more keen? He was sure that he had not heard it
from that distance before.

It was certainly an inviting yard and the gate stood temptingly ajar.
The gravelled highway was rough for a little dog's feet, and Laddie and
the Piper had travelled far. For many a mile, there had been no water,
and in this cool, green yard, there was a small pool. Laddie whined
softly and nosed the gate farther open.

A man sat on the porch, but he was asleep--anyhow, his eyes were
closed. Perhaps he had a dog of his own. At any rate, he could not
object to a tired yellow mongrel quenching his thirst at his pool. The
Piper had gone on without observing that his wayworn companion had
stopped.

Except for a mob of boys who had thrown stones at him and broken his
leg, humans had been kind to Laddie. It had been a human, Piper Tom,
in fact, who had rescued him from the boys and made his leg good again.
Laddie cherished no resentment against the mob, for he had that eternal
forgiveness of blows and neglect which lives in the heart of the
commonest cur.

Opening his eyes, Anthony Dexter noted that a small, rough-coated
yellow dog was drinking eagerly at the pool of water past which Evelina
continually moved. She went by twice while the dog was drinking, but
he took no notice of her. Neither robins nor dogs seemed to fear
Evelina--it was only men, or, to be exact, one man, who had hitherto
feared nothing save self-analysis.

The turf was cool and soft to a little dog's tired feet. Laddie walked
leisurely toward the shrubbery, where there was deep and quiet shade.
Under the lilac bush, he lay down to rest, but was presently on his
feet again, curiously exploring the place.

He sniffed carefully at the ground behind the lilac bushes, and the
wiry hair on his back bristled. There was something uncanny about it,
and a guarding instinct warned him away. But what was this that lay on
the ground, so soaked with rains that, in the shade, it had not yet
dried? Laddie dragged it out into the sunlight to see.

It was small and square and soft on the outside, yet hard within.
Except for the soft, damp outer covering, it might have been the block
of pine with which Piper Tom and he would play by the hour. The Piper
would throw the block of wood far from him, sometimes even into the
water, and Laddie would race after it, barking gaily. When he brought
it back, he was rewarded with a pat on the head, or, sometimes, a bone.
Always, there would be friendly talk. Perhaps the man on the porch had
thrown this, and was waiting for him to bring it back.

Laddie took the mysterious thing carefully in his strong jaws, and
trotted exultantly up to the porch, wagging his stub of a tail.
Strangely enough, just at the steps, the thing opened, and something
small and cold and snake-like slipped out. The man could scarcely have
seen the necklace of discoloured pearls before, with an oath, he rose
to his feet, and, firmly holding Laddie under his arm, strode into the
house, entering at the side door.

The Piper had reached home before he missed his dog. He waited a
little, then called, but there was no answer. It was not like Laddie
to stray, for he was usually close at his master's heels.

"Poor little man," said the Piper to himself, "I'm thinking we went too
far."

He retraced his steps over the dusty road, searching the ground. He
discovered that Laddie's tracks ended in the road near Doctor Dexter's
house, and turned toward the gate. Tales of mysterious horrors,
vaguely hinted at, came back to him now with ominous force. He
searched the yard carefully, looking in every nook and corner, then a
cry of anguish reached his ears.

Great beads of sweat stood out upon Piper Tom's forehead, as he burst
in at the laboratory door. On a narrow table, tightly strapped down,
lay Laddie, fully conscious, his faithful heart laid bare. The odour
of anesthetics was so faint as to be scarcely noticeable. At the dog's
side stood Doctor Dexter, in a blood-stained linen coat, with a pad of
paper and a short pencil in his white, firm hands. He was taking notes.

With infinite appeal in his agonised eyes, Laddie recognised his
master, who at last had come too late. Piper Tom seized the knife from
the table, and, with a quick, clean stroke, ended the torture. Doctor
Dexter looked up, his mask-like face wearing an expression of insolent
inquiry.

"Man," cried the Piper, his voice shaking, "have you never been loved
by a dog?"

The silence was tense, but Doctor Dexter had taken out his watch, and
was timing the spasmodic pulsations of the heart he had been so
carefully studying.

"Aye," said the Piper, passionately, "watch it till the last--you
cannot hurt him now. 'T is the truest heart in all the world save a
woman's, and you do well to study it, having no heart of your own. A
poor beast you are, if a dog has never loved you. Take your pencil and
write down on the bit of paper you have there that you've seen the
heart of a dog. Write down that you've seen the heart of one who left
his own kind to be with you, to fight for you, even against them.
Write down that 't is a good honest heart with red blood in it, that
never once failed and never could fail.

"When a man's mother casts him off, when his wife forsakes him, when
his love betrays him, his dog stays true. When he's poor and his
friends pass him by on the other side of the street, looking the other
way, his dog fares with him, ready to starve with him for very love of
him. 'T is a man and his dog, I'm thinking, against the whole world.

"This little lad here was only a yellow mongrel, there was no fine
blood in him; he couldn't bring in the birds nor swim after the ducks
men kill to amuse themselves. He was worth no high price to
anybody--nobody wanted him but me. When I took him away from the boys
who were hurting him, and set his poor broken leg as best I could, he
knew me for his master and claimed me then.

"He's walked with me through four States and never whined. He's gone
without food for days at a time, and never complained. He's been cold
and hungry, and we've slept together, more than once, on the ground in
the snow, with only one blanket between us. He's kept me from freezing
to death with his warm body, he's suffered from thirst the same as I,
and never so much as whimpered. We've been comrades and we've fared
together, as only man and dog may fare.

"When every man's face was set against you, did you never have a dog to
trust you? When there was never a man nor a woman you could call your
friend, did a dog never come to you and lick your hand? When you've
been bent with grief you couldn't stand up under, did a dog never come
to you and put his cold nose on your face? Did a dog never reach out a
friendly paw to tell you that you were not alone--that it was you two
together?

"When you've come home alone late at night, tired to death with the
world and its ways, was there never a dog to greet you with his bark of
welcome? Did a dog never sit where you told him to sit, and guard your
property till you came back, though it might be hours? When you could
trust no man to guard your treasures, could you never trust a dog?
Man, man, the world has fair been cruel if you've never known the love
of a dog!

"I've heard these things of you, but I thought folks were prattling, as
folks will, but dogs never do. I thought they were lying about
you--that such things couldn't be true. They said you were cutting up
dogs to learn more of people, and I'm thinking, if we're so much alike
as that, 't is murder to kill a dog."

"You killed him," said Anthony Dexter, speaking for the first time. "I
didn't."

"Yes," answered the Piper, "I killed him, but 't was to keep him from
being hurt. I'd do the same for a man or a woman, if there was need.
If 't was a child you had tied down here with your blood-stained
straps, cut open to see an innocent heart, your own being black past
all pardon, I'd do the same for the child and all the more quickly if
it was my own. I never had a child--I've never had a woman to love me,
but I've been loved by a dog. I've thought that even yet I might know
the love of a woman, for a man who deserves the love of a dog is worthy
of a woman, and a man who will torture a dog will torture a woman, too.

"Laddie," said the Piper, laying his hand upon the blood-stained body,
"no man ever had a truer comrade, and I'll not insult your kind by
calling this brute a cur. Laddie, it was you and I, and now it's I
alone. Laddie--" here the Piper's voice broke, and, taking up the
knife again, he cut the straps. With the tears raining down his face,
he stumbled out of the laboratory, the mutilated body of his pet in his
arms.

Anthony Dexter looked after him curiously. The mask-like expression of
his face was slightly changed. In a corner of the laboratory, seeming
to shrink from him, stood the phantom black figure, closely veiled.
Out of the echoing stillness came the passionate accusation: "A man who
will torture a dog will torture a woman, too."

He carefully removed the blood stains from the narrow table, and pushed
it back in its place, behind a screen. The straps were cut, and
consequently useless, so he wrapped them up in a newspaper and threw
them into the waste basket. He cleaned his knife with unusual care,
and wiped an ugly stain from his forceps.

Then he took off his linen coat, folded it up, and placed it in the
covered basket which held soiled linen from the laboratory. He washed
his hands and copied the notes he had made, for there was blood upon
the page. He tore the original sheet into fine bits, and put the
pieces into the waste basket. Then he put on his cuffs and his coat,
and went out of the laboratory.

He was dazed, and did not see that his own self-torture had filled him
with primeval lust to torture in return. He only knew that his
brilliant paper must remain forever incomplete, since his services to
science were continually unappreciated and misunderstood. What was one
yellow dog, more or less, in the vast economy of Nature? Was he
lacking in discernment, because, as Piper Tom said, he had never been
loved by a dog?

He sat down in the library to collect himself and observed, with a
curious sense of detachment, that Evelina was walking in the hall
instead of in the library, as she usually did when he sat there.

An hour--or perhaps two--went by, then, unexpectedly, Ralph came home,
having paused a moment outside. He rushed into the library with his
face aglow.

"Look, Dad," he cried, boyishly, holding it at arm's length; "see what
I found on the steps! It's a pearl necklace, with a diamond in the
clasp! Some of the stones are discoloured, but they're good and can be
made right again, I've found it, so it's mine, and I'm going to give it
to the girl I marry!"

Anthony Dexter's pale face suddenly became livid. He staggered over to
Ralph, snatched the necklace out of his hand, and ground the pearls
under his heel. "No," he cried, "a thousand times, no! The pearls are
cursed!"

Then, for the second time, he fainted.

XVIII

Undine

"It's almost as good as new!" cried Araminta, gleefully. She was clad
in a sombre calico Mother Hubbard, of Miss Mehitable's painstaking
manufacture, and hopping back and forth on the bare floor of her room
at Miss Evelina's.

"Yes," answered Doctor Ralph, "I think it's quite as good as new." He
was filled with professional pride at the satisfactory outcome of his
first case, and yet was not at all pleased with the idea of Araminta's
returning to Miss Mehitable's, as, perforce, she soon must do.

"Don't walk any more just now," he said "Come here and sit down. I
want to talk to you."

Araminta obeyed him unquestioningly. He settled her comfortably in the
haircloth easy-chair and drew his own chair closer. There was a pause,
then she looked up at him, smiling with childish wistfulness.

"Are you sorry it's well?" he asked.

"I--I think I am," she answered, shyly, the deep crimson dyeing her
face.

"I can't see you any more, you know," said Ralph, watching her intently.

The sweet face saddened in an instant and Araminta tapped her foot
restlessly upon the floor. "Perhaps," she returned, slowly, "Aunt
Hitty will be taken sick. Oh, I do hope she will!"

"You miserable little sinner," laughed Ralph, "do you suppose for a
moment that Aunt Hitty would send for me if she were ill? Why, I
believe she'd die first!"

"Maybe Mr. Thorpe might be taken sick," suggested Araminta, hopefully.
"He's old, and sometimes I think he isn't very strong."

"He'd insist on having my father. You know they're old friends."

"Mr. Thorpe is old and your father is old," corrected Araminta,
precisely, "but they haven't been friends long. Aunt Hitty says you
must always say what you mean."

"That is what I meant. Each is old and both are friends. See?"

"It must be nice to be men," sighed Araminta, "and have friends. I've
never had anybody but Aunt Hitty--and you," she added, in a lower tone,

"'No money, no friends, nothing but relatives,'" quoted Ralph,
cynically. "It's hard lines, little maid--hard lines." He walked back
and forth across the small room, his hands clasped behind his back--a
favourite attitude, Araminta had noted, during the month of her illness.

He pictured his probable reception should he venture to call upon her.
Personally, as it was, he stood none too high in the favour of the
dragon, as he was wont to term Miss Mehitable in his unflattering
thoughts. Moreover, he was a man, which counted heavily against him.
Since he had taken up his father's practice, he had heard a great deal
about Miss Mehitable's view of marriage, and her determination to
shield Araminta from such an unhappy fate.

And Araminta had not been intended, by Dame Nature, for such shielding.
Every line of her body, rounding into womanhood, defied Aunt Hitty's
well-meant efforts. The soft curve of her cheek, the dimples that
lurked unsuspected in the comers of her mouth, the grave, sweet
eyes--all these marked Araminta for love. She had, too, a wistful,
appealing childishness.

"Did you like the story book?" asked Ralph.

"Oh, so much!"

"I thought you would. What part of it did you like best?"

"It was all lovely," replied Araminta, thoughtfully, "but I think the
best part of it was when she went back to him after she had made him go
away. It made him so glad to know that they were to talk together
again."

Ralph looked keenly at Araminta, the love of man and woman was so
evidently outside her ken. The sleeping princess in the tower had been
no more set apart. But, as he remembered; the sleeping princess had
been wakened by a kiss--when the right man came.

A lump came into his throat and he swallowed hard. Blindly, he went
over to her chair. The girl's flower-like face was lifted
questioningly to his. He bent over and kissed her, full upon the lips.

Araminta shrank from him a little, and the colour surged into her face,
but her eyes, still trustful, still tender, never wavered from his.

"I suppose I'm a brute," Ralph said, huskily, "but God knows I haven't
meant to be."

Araminta smiled--a sweet, uncomprehending smile. Ralph possessed
himself of her hand. It was warm and steady--his own was cold and
tremulous.

"Child," he said, "did any one ever kiss you before?"

"No," replied Araminta; "only Aunt Hitty. It was when I was a baby and
she thought I was lost. She kissed me--here." Araminta pointed to her
soft cheek. "Did you kiss me because I was well?"

Ralph shook his head despairingly. "The man in the book kissed the
lady," went on Araminta, happily, "because he was so glad they were to
talk together again, but we--why, I shall never see you any more," she
concluded, sadly.

His fingers tightened upon hers. "Yes," he said, in a strange voice,
"we shall see each other again."

"They both seem very well," sighed Araminta, referring to Aunt Hitty
and Mr. Thorpe, "and even if I fell off of a ladder again, it might not
hurt me at all. I have fallen from lots of places and only got black
and blue. I never broke before."

"Listen, child," said Ralph. "Would you rather live with Aunt Hitty,
or with me?"

"Why, Doctor Ralph! Of course I'd rather live with you, but Aunt Hitty
would never let me!"

"We're not talking about Aunt Hitty now. Is there anyone in the world
whom you like better than you do me?"

"No," said Araminta, softly, her eyes shining. "How could there be?"

"Do you love me, Araminta?"

"Yes," she answered, sweetly, "of course I do! You've been so good to
me!"

The tone made the words meaningless. "Child," said Ralph, "you break
my heart."

He walked back and forth again, restlessly, and Araminta watched him,
vaguely troubled. What in the world had she done?

Meanwhile, he was meditating. He could not bear to have her go back to
her prison, even for a little while. Had he found her only to lose
her, because she had no soul?

Presently he came back to her and stood by her chair. "Listen, dear,"
he said, tenderly. "You told me there was no one in the world for whom
you cared more than you care for me. You said you loved me, and I love
you--God knows I do. If you'll trust me, Araminta, you'll never be
sorry, never for one single minute as long as you live. Would you like
to live with me in a little house with roses climbing over it, just us
two alone?"

"Yes," returned Araminta, dreamily, "and I could keep the little cat."

"You can have a million cats, if you like, but all I want is you. Just
you, sweetheart, to love me, with all the love you can give me. Will
you come?"

"Oh," cried Araminta, "if Aunt Hitty would only let me, but she never
would!"

"We won't ask her," returned Ralph. "We'll go away to-night, and be
married."

At the word, Araminta started out of her chair. Her face was white and
her eyes wide with fear. "I couldn't," she said, with difficulty.
"You shouldn't ask me to do what you know is wrong. Just because my
mother was married, because she was wicked--you must not think that I
would be wicked, too."

Hot words were struggling for utterance, but Ralph choked them back.
The fog was thick before him and he saw Araminta as through a heavy
veil. "Undine," he said, moistening his parched lips, "some day you
will find your soul. And when you do, come to me. I shall be waiting."

He went out of the room unsteadily, and closed the door. He stood at
the head of the stairs for a long time before he went down. Apparently
there was no one in the house. He went into the parlour and sat down,
wiping the cold sweat from his forehead, and trying to regain his
self-control.

He saw, clearly, that Araminta was not in the least to blame; that
almost ever since her birth, she had been under the thumb of a
domineering woman who persistently inculcated her own warped ideas.
Since her earliest childhood, Araminta had been taught that marriage
was wrong--that her own mother was wicked, because she had been
married. And of the love between man and woman, the child knew
absolutely nothing.

"Good God!" muttered Ralph. "My little girl, oh, my little girl!"
Man-like, he loved her more than ever because she had denied him;
man-like, he wanted her now as he had never wanted her before. Through
the weeks that he had seen her every day, he had grown to feel his need
of her, to hunger for the sweetness of her absolute dependence upon
him. Yet, until now, he had not guessed how deeply he cared, nor
guessed that such caring was possible.

He sat there for the better part of an hour, slowly regaining command
of himself. Miss Evelina came through the hall and paused just outside
the door, feeling intuitively that some one was in the house. She drew
down her veil and went in.

"I thought you had gone," she said. "Did you wish to see me?"

"No," returned Ralph, wearily; "not especially."

She sat down opposite him silently. All her movements were quiet, for
she had never been the noisy sort of woman. There was something
soothing in the veiled presence.

"I hope I'm not intruding," ventured Ralph, at length. "I'll go,
presently. I've just had a--well, a blow. That little saint upstairs
has been taught that marriage is wicked."

"I know," returned Miss Evelina, instantly comprehending. "Mehitable
has very strange ideas. I'm sorry," she added, in a tone she might
have used in speaking to Anthony Dexter, years before.

Her sympathy touched the right chord. It was not obtrusive, it had no
hint of pity; it was simply that one who had been hurt fully understood
the hurt of another. Ralph felt a mysterious kinship.

"I've wanted for some time to ask you," he began awkwardly, "if there
was not something I could do for you. The--the veil, you know--" He
stopped, at a loss for further words.

"Yes?" Miss Evelina's voice was politely inquiring. She thought it odd
for Anthony Dexter's son to be concerned about her veil. She wondered
whether he meditated giving her a box of chiffon, as Piper Tom had done.

"Believe me," he said, impetuously, "I only want to help. I want to
make it possible for you to take that--to take that thing off."

"It is not possible," returned Miss Evelina, after a painful interval.
"I shall always wear my veil."

"You don't understand," explained Ralph. It seemed to him that he had
spent the day telling women they did not understand. "I know, of
course, that there was some dreadful accident, and that it happened a
long time ago. Since then, wonderful advances have been made in
surgery--there is a great deal possible now that was not dreamed of
then. Of course I should not think of attempting it myself, but I
would find the man who could do it, take you to him, and stand by you
until it was over."

The clock ticked loudly and a little bird sang outside, but there was
no other sound.

"I want to help you," said Ralph, humbly, as he rose to his feet;
"believe me, I want to help you."

Miss Evelina said nothing, but she followed him to the door. At the
threshold, Ralph turned back. "Won't you let me help you?" he asked.
"Won't you even let me try?"

"I thank you," said Miss Evelina, coldly, "but nothing can be done."

The door closed behind him with a portentous suggestion of finality.
As he went down the path, Ralph felt himself shut out from love and
from all human service. He did not look back to the upper window,
where Araminta was watching, her face stained with tears.

As he went out of the gate, she, too, felt shut out from something
strangely new and sweet, but her conscience rigidly approved, none the
less. Against Aunt Hitty's moral precepts, Araminta leaned securely,
and she was sure that she had done right.

The Maltese kitten was purring upon a cushion, the loved story book lay
on the table nearby. Doctor Ralph was going down the road, his head
bowed. They would never see each other again--never in all the world.

She would not tell Aunt Hitty that Doctor Ralph had asked her to marry
him; she would shield him, even though he had insulted her. She would
not tell Aunt Hitty that Doctor Ralph had kissed her, as the man in the
story book had kissed the lady who came back to him. She would not
tell anybody. "Never in all the world," thought Araminta. "We shall
never see each other again."

Doctor Ralph was out of sight, now, and she could never watch for him
any more. He had gone away forever, and she had broken his heart. For
the moment, Araminta straightened herself proudly, for she had been
taught that it did not matter whether one's heart broke or not--one
must always do what was right. And Aunt Hitty knew what was right.

Suddenly, she sank on her knees beside her bed, burying her face in the
pillow, for her heart was breaking, too. "Oh, Lord," she prayed,
sobbing wildly, "keep me from the contamination of marriage, for Thy
sake. Amen."

The door opened silently, a soft, slow step came near. The pillow was
drawn away and a cool hand was laid upon Araminta's burning cheek.
"Child," said Miss Evelina, "what is wrong?"

Araminta had not meant to tell, but she did. She sobbed out, in
disjointed fragments, all the sorry tale. Wisely, Miss Evelina waited
until the storm had spent itself, secretly wishing that she, too, might
know the relief of tears.

"I knew," said Miss Evelina, her cool, quiet hand still upon Araminta's
face. "Doctor Ralph told me before he went home."

"Oh," cried Araminta, "does he hate me?"

"Hate you?" repeated Miss Evelina. "Dear child, no. He loves you.
Would you believe me, Araminta, if I told you that it was not wrong to
be married--that there was no reason in the world why you should not
marry the man who loves you?"

"Not wrong!" exclaimed Araminta, incredulously. "Aunt Hitty says it
is. My mother was married!"

"Yes," said Miss Evelina, "and so was mine. Aunt Hitty's mother was
married, too."

"Are you sure?" demanded Araminta. "She never told me so. If her
mother was married, why didn't she tell me?"

"I don't know, dear," returned Miss Evelina, truthfully. "Mehitable's
ways are strange." Had she been asked to choose, at the moment,
between Araminta's dense ignorance and all of her own knowledge,
embracing, as it did, a world of pain, she would have chosen gladly,
the fuller life.

The door-bell below rang loudly, defiantly. It was the kind of a ring
which might impel the dead to answer it. Miss Evelina fairly ran
downstairs.

Outside stood Miss Mehitable. Unwillingly, in her wake, had come the
Reverend Austin Thorpe. Under Miss Mehitable's capable and constant
direction, he had made a stretcher out of the clothes poles and a
sheet. He was jaded in spirit beyond all words to express, but he had
come, as Roman captives came, chained to the chariot wheels of the
conqueror.

"Me and the minister," announced Miss Mehitable, imperiously, "have
come to take Minty home!"

XIX

In the Shadow of the Cypress

The house seemed lonely without Araminta. Miss Evelina missed the
child more than she had supposed she could ever miss any one. She had
grown to love her, and, too, she missed the work.

Miss Evelina's house was clean, now, and most of the necessary labour
had been performed by her own frail hands. The care of Araminta had
been an added burden, which she had borne because it had been forced
upon her. Slowly, but surely, she had been compelled to take thought
for others.

The promise of Spring had come to beautiful fulfilment, and the world
was all abloom. Faint mists of May were rising from the earth, and
filmy clouds half veiled the moon. The loneliness of the house was
unbearable, so Miss Evelina went out into the garden, her veil
fluttering, moth-like, about her head.

The old pain was still at her heart, yet, in a way, it was changed.
She had come again into the field of service. Miss Mehitable had been
kind to her, indeed, more than kind. The Piper had made her a garden,
and she had taken care of Araminta. Doctor Ralph, meaning to be wholly
kind, had offered to help her, if he could, and she had been on the
point of doing a small service for him, when Fate, in the person of
Miss Mehitable, intervened. And over and above and beyond all, Anthony
Dexter had come back, to offer her tardy reparation.

That hour was continually present with her. She could not forget his
tortured face when she had thrown back her veil. What if she had taken
him at his word, and gone with him, to be, as he said, a mother to his
son? Miss Evelina laughed bitterly.

The beauty of the night brought her no peace as she wandered about the
garden. Without knowing it, she longed for human companionship. Piper
Tom had finished his work. Doctor Ralph would come no more, Araminta
had gone, and Miss Mehitable offered little comfort.

She went to the gate and leaned upon it, looking down the road. Thus
she had watched for Anthony Dexter in years gone by. Memories,
mercilessly keen, returned to her. As though it were yesterday, she
remembered the moonlit night of their betrothal, felt his eager arms
about her and his bearded cheek pressed close to hers. She heard again
the music of his voice as he whispered, passionately: "I love you, oh,
I love you--for life, for death, for all eternity!"

The rose-bush had been carefully pruned and tied up, but it promised
little, at best. The cypress had grown steadily, and, at times, its
long shadow reached through the door and into the house. Heavily, too,
upon her heart, the shadow of the cypress lay, for sorrow seems so much
deeper than joy.

A figure came up the road, and she turned away, intending to go into
the house. Then she perceived that it was Piper Tom, and, drawing
down her veil, turned back to wait for him. He had never come at night
before.

Even in the darkness, she noted a change in him; the atmosphere of
youth was all gone. He walked slowly, as though he had aged, and the
red feather no longer bobbed in his hat.

He went past her silently, and sat down on the steps.

"Will you come in?" asked Evelina.

"No," answered the Piper, sadly, "I'll not be coming in. 'T is selfish
of me, perhaps, but I came to you because I had sorrow of my own."

Miss Evelina sat down on the step beside him, and waited for him to
speak.

"'T is a small sorrow, perhaps, you'll be thinking," he said, at last.
"I'm not knowing what great ones you have seen, face to face, but 't is
so ordered That all sorrows are not the same. 'T is all in the heart
that bears them. I told you I had known them all, and at the time, I
was thinking I spoke the truth. A woman never loved me, and so I have
lost the love of no woman, but," he went on with difficulty, "no one
had ever killed my dog."

"How?" asked Miss Evelina, dully. It seemed a matter of small moment
to her.

"I'll not be paining you with that," the Piper answered, "At the last,
't was I who killed him to save him from further hurt. 'T was the best
I could do for the little lad, and I'm thinking he'd take it from me
rather than from any one else. I'm missing his cheerful bark and his
pleasant ways, but I've taken him away for ever from Doctor Dexter and
his kind."

"Doctor Dexter!" Evelina sprang to her feet, her body tense and
quivering.

"Aye, Doctor Dexter--not the young man, but the old one."

A deep-drawn breath was her only answer, but the Piper looked up,
startled. Slowly he rose to his feet and leaned toward her intently,

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