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Ailsa Paige by Robert W. Chambers

Part 3 out of 9

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to the lips of her passing lover.

The last shining files of bayonets had passed; the city swarmed
like an ant-hill.

Berkley's voice was in her ears, cool, good-humoured:

"Perhaps we had better try to find Mrs. Craig. I saw Stephen in
the crowd, and he saw us, so I do not think your sister-in-law will
be worried."

She nodded, suffered him to aid her in the descent to the sidewalk,
then drew a deep, unsteady breath and gazed around as though
awaking from a dream.

"It certainly was an impressive sight," he said. "The Government
may thank me for a number of heroes. I'm really quite hoarse."

She made no comment.

"Even a thousand well-fed brokers in uniform are bound to be
impressive," he meditated aloud.

Her face flushed; she walked on ignoring his flippancy, ignoring
everything concerning him until, crossing the street, she became
aware that he wore no hat.

"Did you lose it?" she asked curtly,

"I don't know what happened to that hysterical hat, Mrs. Paige.
Probably it went war mad and followed the soldiers to the ferry.
You can never count on hats. They're flighty."

"You will have to buy another," she said, smiling.

"Oh, no," he said carelessly, "what is the use. It will only
follow the next regiment out of town. Shall we cross?"

"Mr. Berkley, do you propose to go about town with me, hatless?"

"You have an exceedingly beautiful one. Nobody will look at me."

"Please be sensible!"

"I am. I'll take you to Lord and Taylor's, deliver you to your
sister-in-law, and then slink home----"

"But I don't wish to go there with a hatless man! I can't
understand----"

"Well, I'll have to tell you if you drive me to it," he said,
looking at her very calmly, but a flush mounted to his cheek-bones;
"I have no money--with me."

"Why didn't you say so? How absurd not to borrow it from me----"

Something in his face checked her; then he laughed.

"There's no reason why you shouldn't know how poor I am," he said.
"It doesn't worry me, so it certainly will not worry you. I can't
afford a hat for a few days--and I'll leave you here if you wish.
Why do you look so shocked? Oh, well--then we'll stop at Genin's.
They know me there."

They stopped at Genin's and he bought a hat and charged it, giving
his addresses in a low voice; but she heard it.

"Is it becoming?" he asked airily, examining the effect in a glass.
"Am I the bully boy with the eye of glass, Mrs. Paige?"

"You are, indeed," she said, laughing. "Shall we find Celia?"

But they could not find her sister-in-law in the shop, which was
now refilling with excited people.

"Celia _non est_," he observed cheerfully. "The office is closed
by this time. May I see you safely to Brooklyn?"

She turned to the ferry stage which was now drawing up at the curb;
he assisted her to mount, then entered himself, humming under his
breath:

"To Brooklyn! To Brooklyn!
So be it. Amen.
Clippity, Cloppity, back again!"

On the stony way to the ferry he chatted cheerfully, irresponsibly,
but he soon became convinced that the girl beside him was not
listening, so he talked at random to amuse himself, amiably
accepting her pre-occupation.

"How those broker warriors did step out, in spite of Illinois
Central and a sadly sagging list! At the morning board Pacific
Mail fell 3 1/2, New York Central 1/4, Hudson River 1/4, Harlem
preferred 1/2, Illinois Central 3/4. . . . I don't care. . . .
_You_ won't care, but the last quotations were Tennessee 6's, 41, A
41 1/2. . . . There's absolutely nothing doing in money or
exchange. The bankers are asking 107 a 1/2 but sell nothing. On
call you can borrow money at four and five per cent--" he glanced
sideways at her, ironically, satisfied that she paid no
heed--"_you_ might, but I can't, Ailsa. I can't borrow anything
from anybody at any per cent whatever. I know; I've tried.
Meanwhile, few and tottering are my stocks, also they continue
downward on their hellward way.

"Margins wiped, out in war,
Profits are scattered far,
I'll to the nearest bar,
Ailsa oroon!"

he hummed to himself, walking-stick under his chin, his new hat not
absolutely straight on his well-shaped head.

A ferry-boat lay in the slip; they walked forward and stood in the
crowd by the bow chains. The flag new over Castle William; late
sunshine turned river and bay to a harbour in fairyland, where,
through the golden haze, far away between forests of
pennant-dressed masts, a warship lay all aglitter, the sun striking
fire from her guns and bright work, and setting every red bar of
her flag ablaze.

"The _Pocahontas_, sloop of war from Charleston bar," said a man in
the crowd. "She came in this morning at high water. She got to
Sumter too late."

"Yes. Powhatan had already knocked the head off John Smith,"
observed Berkley thoughtfully. "They did these things better in
colonial days."

Several people began to discuss the inaction of the fleet off
Charleston bar during the bombardment; the navy was freely
denounced and defended, and Berkley, pleased that he had started a
row, listened complacently, inserting a word here and there
calculated to incite several prominent citizens to fisticuffs. And
the ferry-boat started with everybody getting madder.

But when fisticuffs appeared imminent in mid-stream, out of
somewhat tardy consideration for Ailsa he set free the dove of
peace.

"Perhaps," he remarked pleasantly, "the fleet _couldn't_ cross the
bar. I've heard of such things."

And as nobody had thought of that, hostilities were averted.

Paddle-wheels churning, the rotund boat swung into the Brooklyn
dock. Her gunwales rubbed and squeaked along the straining piles
green with sea slime; deck chains clinked, cog-wheels clattered,
the stifling smell of dock water gave place to the fresher odour of
the streets.

"I would like to walk uptown," said Ailsa Paige. "I really don't
care to sit still in a car for two miles. You need not come any
farther--unless you care to."

He said airily: "A country ramble with a pretty girl is always
agreeable to me. I'll come if you'll let me."

She looked up at him, perplexed, undecided.

"Are you making fun of Brooklyn, or of me?"

"Of neither. May I come?"

"If you care to," she said.

They walked on together up Fulton Street, following the stream of
returning sight-seers and business men, passing recruiting stations
where red-legged infantry of the 14th city regiment stood in groups
reading the extras just issued by the _Eagle_ and _Brooklyn Times_
concerning the bloody riot in Baltimore and the attack on the 6th
Massachusetts. Everywhere, too, soldiers of the 13th, 38th, and
70th regiments of city infantry, in blue state uniforms, were
marching about briskly, full of the business of recruiting and of
their departure, which was scheduled for the twenty-third of April.

Already the complexion of the Brooklyn civic sidewalk crowds was
everywhere brightened by military uniforms; cavalrymen of the troop
of dragoons attached to the 8th New York, jaunty lancers from the
troop of lancers attached to the 69th New York, riflemen in green
epaulettes and facings, zouaves in red, blue, and brown uniforms
came hurrying down the stony street to Fulton Ferry on their return
from witnessing a parade of the 14th Brooklyn at Fort Greene. And
every figure in uniform thrilled the girl with suppressed
excitement and pride.

Berkley, eyeing them askance, began blandly:

"Citizens of martial minds,
Uniforms of wondrous kinds,
Wonderful the sights we see--
Ailsa, you'll agree with me."

"_Are_ you utterly without human feeling?" she demanded. "Because,
if you are, there isn't the slightest use of my pretending to be
civil to you any longer."

"Have you been pretending?"

"I suppose you think me destitute of humour," she said, "but there
is nothing humourous about patriotism and self-sacrifice to me, and
nothing very admirable about those who mock it."

Her cheeks were deeply flushed; she looked straight ahead of her as
she walked beside him.

Yet, even now the swift little flash of anger revealed an inner
glimpse to her of her unaltered desire to know this man; of her
interest in him--of something about him that attracted her but
defied analysis---or had defied it until, pursuing it too far one
day, she had halted suddenly and backed away.

Then, curiously, reflectively, little by little, she retraced her
steps. And curiosity urged her to investigate in detail the Four
Fears--fear of the known in another, fear of the unknown in
another, fear of the known in one's self, fear of the unknown in
one's self. _That_ halted her again, for she knew now that it was
something within herself that threatened her. But it was his
nearness to her that evoked it.

For she saw, now that her real inclination was to be with him, that
she had liked him from the first, had found him agreeable--pleasant
past belief--and that, although there seemed to be no reason for
her liking, no excuse, nothing to explain her half-fearful pleasure
in his presence, and her desire for it, she did desire it. And for
the first time since her widowhood she felt that she had been
living her life out along lines that lay closer to solitude than to
the happy freedom of which she had reluctantly dreamed locked in
the manacles of a loveless marriage.

For her marriage had been one of romantic pity, born of the
ignorance of her immaturity; and she was very young when she became
the wife of Warfield Paige--Celia's brother--a gentle,
sweet-tempered invalid, dreamy, romantic, and pitifully confident
of life, the days of which were already numbered.

Of the spiritual passions she knew a little--of the passion of
pity, of consent, of self-sacrifice, of response to spiritual need.
But neither in her early immaturity nor in later adolescence had
she ever before entertained even the most innocent inclination for
a man. Man's attractions, physical and personal, had left only the
lightest of surface impressions--until the advent of this man.

To what in him was she responsive? What intellectual charm had he
revealed? What latent spiritual excellence did she suspect? What
were his lesser qualities--the simpler moral virtues--the admirable
attributes which a woman could recognise. Nay, where even were the
nobler failings, the forgivable faults, the promise of future
things?

Her uplifted, questioning eyes searched and fell. Only the
clear-cut beauty of his head answered her, only the body's grace.

She sometimes suspected pity as her one besetting sin. Was it pity
for this man--a young man only twenty-four, her own age, so
cheerful under the crushing weight of material ruin? Was it his
poverty that appealed?

Was it her instinct to protect? If all she heard was true, he
sorely needed protection from himself. For tales of him had
filtered to her young ears--indefinite rumours of unworthy
things--of youth wasted and manhood threatened--of excesses
incomprehensible to her, and to those who hinted them to her.

Was it his solitude in the world for which she was sorry? She had
no parents, either. But she had their house and their memories
concrete in every picture, every curtain, every chair and sofa.
Twilight whispered of them through every hallway, every room; dawn
was instinct with their unseen spirits, sweetening everything in
the quiet old house. . . . And that day she had learned _where_ he
lived. And she dared not imagine _how_.

They turned together into the quiet, tree-shaded street, and, in
the mellow sunset light, something about it, and the pleasant
vine-hung house, and the sense of restfulness moved her with a
wistful impulse that he, too, should share a little of the home
welcome that awaited her from her own kin.

"Will you remain and dine with us, Mr. Berkley?"

He looked up, so frankly surprised at her kindness that it hurt her
all through.

"I want to be friends with you," she said impulsively. "Didn't you
know it?"

They had halted at the foot of the stoop.

"I should think you could see how easy it would he for us to become
friends," she said with pretty self-possession. But her heart was
beating violently.

His pulses, too, were rapping out a message to his intelligence:
"You had better not go in," it ran. "You are not fit to go in.
You had better keep away from her. You know what will happen if
you don't."

As they entered the house her sister-in-law rose from the piano in
the front parlour and came forward.

"_Were_ you worried, dearest?" cried Ailsa gaily. "I really
couldn't help it. And Mr. Berkley lost his hat, and I've brought
him back to dinner."

CHAPTER VII

To Berkley the times were surcharged with agreeable agitation. A
hullabaloo diverted him. He himself was never noisy; but agitated
and noisy people always amused him.

Day after day the city's multi-coloured militia regiments passed
through its echoing streets; day after day Broadway resounded with
the racket of their drums. Rifles, chasseurs, zouaves, foot
artillery, pioneers, engineers, rocket batteries, the 79th
Highlanders, dismounted lancers of the 69th and dragoons of the
8th--every heard-of and unheard-of unnecessary auxiliary to a
respectable regiment of state infantry, mustered for inspection and
marched away in polychromatic magnificence. Park, avenue, and
square shrilled with their windy fifes; the towering sides of the
transports struck back the wild music of their bands; Castle
William and Fort Hamilton saluted them from the ferries to the
Narrows; and, hoarse with cheering, the people stared through dim
eyes till the last stain of smoke off Sandy Hook vanished seaward.
All of which immensely diverted Berkley.

The city, too, had become a thoroughfare for New England and
Western troops hurrying pell-mell toward the capital and that
unknown bourne so vaguely defined as the "seat of war." Also all
avenues were now dotted with barracks and recruiting stations,
around which crowds clamoured. Fire Zouaves, Imperial Zouaves,
National Zouaves, Billy Wilson's Zouaves appropriated without
ceremony the streets and squares as drill grounds. All day long
they manoeuvred and double-quicked; all day and all night herds of
surprised farm horses destined for cavalry, light artillery, and
glory, clattered toward the docks; files of brand-new army waggons,
gun-carriages, smelling of fresh paint, caissons, forges,
ambulances bound South checked the city traffic and added to the
city's tumult as they jolted in hundreds and hundreds toward the
wharves--materially contributing to Berkley's entertainment.

Beginning with the uproarious war meeting in Union Square, every
day saw its crowds listening to the harangue of a somebody or a
nobody. Sometimes short, ugly demonstrations were made against an
unpopular newspaper office or the residence of an unpopular
citizen; the police were rough and excitable, the nerves of the
populace on edge, the city was now nearly denuded of its militia,
and everybody was very grateful for the temporary presence of
volunteer regiments in process of formation.

As yet the tension of popular excitement had not jaded the capacity
of the city for pleasure. People were ready for excitement,
welcomed it after the dreadful year of lethargy. Stocks fell, but
the theatres were the fuller; Joseph Jefferson at Winter Garden,
Wallack at his own theatre, "The Seven Sisters" at Laura Keene's,
drew unsatisfied crowds, galloping headlong on the heels of
pleasure.

Philharmonics, plays, burlesques, concerts, minstrel
entertainments, never lacked audiences, especially when the
proceeds were destined for the Union Defence Committee; the hotels,
Bancroft, St. Nicholas, Metropolitan, New York, Fifth Avenue, were
all brilliantly thronged at night; cafes and concert halls like the
Gaieties, Canterbury, and American, flourished and flaunted their
advertisements; grills, restaurants, saloons, multiplied. There
were none too many for Berkley's amusement.

As yet no battle lightning flickered along the Southern horizon to
sober folk with premonition; but the nightly illumination of the
metropolis was becoming tinged with a more sinister reflection
where licence had already begun to lift a dozen hydra-heads from
certain lurid resorts hitherto limited in number and in impudence.

It was into the streets of such a city, a meaner, dirtier, uglier,
noisier, perhaps more vicious edition of the French metropolis of
the Third Empire, thronged with fantastic soldiery and fox-eyed
contractors, filled already with new faces--faces of Western born,
Yankee born, foreign born; stupid faces, crafty faces, hard faces,
bedizened faces--it was into the streets of such a city that
Berkley sauntered twice a day to and fro from his office,
regretting only that his means did not permit him to go to the
devil like a gentleman.

And one day, out of the hurly-burly, and against all laws of
probability and finance, an incredible letter was handed to him.
And he read it, standing by his window, and calmly realised that he
was now no longer penniless.

Some inspired idiot had become a credulous market for his
apparently unmarketable securities. Who this person was his
brokers did not say; but, whoever it was, had bought every rotten
share he held; and there was money for him in the world to help him
out of it.

As he stood there, the letter in his hands, drums sounded across
the street, and Stephen came in from the outer office.

"Another regiment," he said. "Do you know where they come from?"

Berkley shook his head, and they went to the windows; below them
surged the flood of dead wood driven before the oncoming
waves--haggard men, ragged men, small boys, darkies, Bowery b'hoys,
stray red-shirted firemen, then the police, then solid double ranks
of drums battered by flashing, brass-bound drumsticks, then line
after line of blue and steel, steadily flowing through the streets
and away, away into the unknown.

"How young they are!" muttered Farren, the gray-haired cashier,
standing behind Stephen's shoulders. "God bless me, they're
children!"

"It's a Vermont regiment," said Berkley; "they're filing out of the
Park Barracks. What a lot of hawk-nosed, hatchet-faced,
turkey-necked cow milkers!--all heroes, too, Steve. You can tell
that because they're in uniform and carry guns."

Stephen watched the lank troops, fascinated by the long, silent,
almost gliding stride of officers and men loaded down with
knapsack, blanket, and canteen, their caps pushed high on their red
and sweating foreheads. There was a halt; big hands, big red
knuckles, big feet, and the delicate curve of the hawk's beak
outlining every Yankee nose, queer, humourous, restless glances
sweeping Gotham streets and windows where Gotham crowded to gaze
back at the halted youngsters in blue; then a far tenor cry, nasal
commands, thin voices penetrating from out of the crowded distance;
a sudden steadying of ranks; the level flash of shouldered steel; a
thousand men marking time; and at last the drums' quick outbreak;
and the 1st Vermont Infantry passed onward into the unknown.

"I'd rather like to go there--to see what there is there," observed
Berkley.

"Where?"

"Where they're going--wherever that may be--and I think I know."

He glanced absently at his letter again.

"I've sold some stock--all I had, and I've made a lot of money," he
said listlessly.

Stephen dropped an impulsive hand on his shoulder.

"I'm terribly glad, Berkley! I'm delighted!" he said with a warmth
that brought a slight colour into Berkley's face.

"That's nice of you, Stephen. It solves the immediate problem of
how to go there."

"Go where?"

"Why--where all our bright young men are going, old fellow," said
Berkley, laughing. "I can go with a regiment or I can go alone.
But I really must be starting."

"You mean to enlist?"

"Yes, it can be done that way, too. Or--other ways. The main
thing is to get momentum. . . . I think I'll just step out and
say good-bye and many thanks to your father. I shall be quite busy
for the rest of my career."

"You are not leaving here?"

"I am. But I'll pay my rent first," said Berkley, laughing.

And go he did that very afternoon; and the office of Craig & Son
knew him no more.

A few days later Ailsa Paige returned to New York and reoccupied
her own house on London Terrace.

A silk flag drooped between the tall pilasters. Under it, at the
front door stood Colonel Arran to welcome her. It had been her
father's house; he had planted the great catalpa trees on the
grassy terrace in front. Here she had been born; from here she had
gone away a bride; from here her parents had been buried, both
within that same strange year that left her widowed who had
scarcely been a wife. And to this old house she had returned alone
in her sombre weeds--utterly alone, in her nineteenth year.

This man had met her then as he met her now; she remembered it,
remembered, too, that after any absence, no matter how short, this
old friend had always met her at her own door-sill, standing aside
with head bent as she crossed the sill.

Now she gave him both hands.

"It is so kind of you, dear Colonel Arran! It would not be a
home-coming without you--" And glancing into the hall, nodded
radiantly to the assembled servants--her parents' old and
privileged and spoiled servants gathered to welcome the young
mistress to her own.

"Oh--and there's Missy!" she said, as an inquiring "meow!" sounded
close to her skirts. "You irresponsible little thing--I suppose
you have more kittens. Has she, Susan?"

"Five m'm," said Susan drily.

"Oh, dear, I suppose it can't be avoided. But we mustn't drown
any, you know." And with one hand resting on Colonel Arran's arm
she began a tour of the house to inspect the new improvements.

Later they sat together amid the faded splendours of the southern
drawing-room, where sunshine regilded cornice and pier glass,
turned the lace curtains to nets of gold, and streaked the red
damask hangings with slanting bars of fire.

Shiftless old Jonas shuffled in presently with the oval silver
tray, ancient decanters, and seedcakes.

And here, over their cakes and Madeira, she told him about her
month's visit to the Craigs'; about her life in the quaint and
quiet city, the restful, old-fashioned charm of the cultivated
circles on Columbia Heights and the Hill; the attractions of a
limited society, a little dull, a little prim, pedantic, perhaps
provincially simple, but a society caring for the best in art, in
music, in literature, instinctively recognising the best although
the best was nowhere common in the city.

She spoke of the agreeable people she had met--unobtrusive,
gentle-mannered folk whose homes may have lacked such Madeira and
silver as this, but lacked nothing in things of the mind.

She spoke of her very modest and temporary duties in church work
there, and in charities; told of the advent of the war news and its
effect on the sister city.

And at last, casually, but without embarrassment, she mentioned
Berkley.

Colonel Arran's large hand lay along the back of the Virginia sofa,
fingers restlessly tracing and retracing the carved foliations
supporting the horns of plenty. His heavy, highly coloured head
was lowered and turned aside a little as though to bring one ear to
bear on what she was saying.

"Mr. Berkley seems to be an--unusual man," she ventured. "Do you
happen to know him, Colonel Arran?"

"Slightly."

"Oh. Did you know his parents?"

"His mother."

"She is not living, I believe."

"No."

"Is his father living?"

"I--don't know."

"You never met him?"

Colonel Arran's forefinger slowly outlined the deeply carved horn
of plenty.

"I am not perfectly sure that I ever met Mr. Berkley's father."

She sat, elbows on the table, gazing reflectively into space.

"He is a--curious--man."

"Did you like him?" asked Colonel Arran with an effort.

"Yes," she said, so simply that the Colonel's eyes turned directly
toward her, lingered, then became fixed on the sunlit damask folds
behind her.

"What did you like about Mr. Berkley, Ailsa?"

She considered.

"I--don't know---exactly."

"Is he cultivated?"

"Why, yes--I suppose so."

"Is he well bred?"

"Oh, yes; only--" she searched mentally--"he is not--may I say,
conventional? formal?"

"It is an age of informality," observed Colonel Arran, carefully
tracing out each separate grape in the horn of plenty.

Ailsa assented; spoke casually of something else; but when Colonel
Arran brought the conversation around again to Berkley, she in
nowise seemed reluctant.

"He is unusually attractive," she said frankly; "his features, at
moments, are almost beautiful. I sometimes wonder whether he
resembles his mother. Was she beautiful?"

"Yes."

"I thought she must have been. He resembles her, does he not?"

"Yes."

"His father was--is--" She hesitated, looked curiously at Colonel
Arran, then smiled.

"There was something I never thought of when I first met Mr.
Berkley, but now I understand why his features seemed to me not
entirely unfamiliar. I don't know exactly what it is, but there
seems to be something about him that recalls you."

Colonel Arran sat absolutely still, his heavy hand gripping the
horn of plenty, his face so gray that it was almost colourless.

Ailsa, glancing again at his profile, saw nothing now in it
resembling Berkley; and, as he made no response, thought him
uninterested. But when again she would have changed the subject,
the Colonel stirred, interrupting:

"Does he seem--well?"

"Well?" she repeated. "Oh, yes."

"He--seems well . . . and in good spirits? Contented? Is he that
type of young man? Happy?"

"I don't think he is really very happy, though he is cheerful
and--and amusing. I don't see how he can be very light-hearted."

"Why?"

She shook her head:

"I believe he--I know he must be in painfully straightened
circumstances."

"I have heard so," nodded Colonel Arran.

"Oh, he certainly _is_!" she said with decision. "He lost
everything in the panic, and he lives in a most wretched
neighbourhood, and he hasn't any business except a very little now
and then. It made me quite unhappy," she added naively.

"And you find him personally agreeable?"

"Yes, I do. I didn't at first--" She checked herself--"I mean I
_did_ at the very first--then I didn't--then I did again, then
I--didn't--" The delicate colour stole into her cheeks; she lifted
her wineglass, looked into it pensively, set it back on the table.
"But I understand him better now, I think."

"What, in him, do you understand better now?"

"I--don't--know."

"Is he a better kind of a man than you thought him at first?"

"Y-es. He has it in him to be better, I mean. . . . Yes, he is a
better man than I thought him--once."

"And you like him----"

"Yes, I do. Colonel Arran."

"Admire him?"

She flushed up. "How do you mean?"

"His qualities?"

"Oh. . . . Yes, he has qualities."

"Admirable?"

"He is exceedingly intelligent."

"Intellectual?"

"I don't exactly know. He pretends to make fun of so many things.
It is not easy to be perfectly sure what he really believes;
because he laughs at almost everybody and everything. But I am
quite certain that he really has beliefs."

"Religious?"

She looked grave. "He does not go to church."

"Does he--does he strike you as being--well, say,
irresponsible--perhaps I may even say reckless?"

She did not answer; and Colonel Arran did not ask again. He
remained silent so long that she presently drifted off into other
subjects, and he made no effort to draw her back.

But later, when he took his leave, he said in his heavy way:

"When you see Mr. Berkley, say to him that Colonel Arran remembers
him. . . . Say to him that it would be my--pleasure--to renew our
very slight acquaintance."

"He will be glad, I know," she said warmly.

"Why do you think so?"

"Why? Because _I_ like you!" she explained with a gay little
laugh. "And whoever I like Mr. Berkley must like if he and I are
to remain good friends."

The Colonel's smile was wintry; the sudden animation in his face
had subsided.

"I should like to know him--if he will," he said absently. And
took his leave of Ailsa Paige.

Next afternoon he came again, and lingered, though neither he nor
Ailsa spoke of Berkley. And the next afternoon he reappeared, and
sat silent, preoccupied, for a long time, in the peculiar hushed
attitude of a man who listens. But the door-bell did not ring and
the only sound in tile house was from Ailsa's piano, where she sat
idling through the sunny afternoon.

The next afternoon he said:

"Does he never call on you?"

"Who?"

"Mr. Berkley."

"I--asked him," she replied, flushing faintly.

"He has not come, then?"

"Not yet. I suppose--business----"

The Colonel said, ponderously careless: "I imagine that he is
likely to come in the late afternoon--when he does come."

"I don't know. He is in business."

"It doesn't keep him after three o'clock at his office."

She looked up surprised: "Doesn't it?" And her eyes asked
instinctively: "How did you know?" But the Colonel sat silent
again, his head lowered and partly averted as though to turn his
good ear toward her. Clearly his mind already dwelt on other
matters, she was thinking; but she was mistaken.

"When he comes," said Colonel Arran slowly, "will you have the
kindness to say to him that Colonel Arran will be glad to renew the
acquaintance?"

"Yes. . . . Perhaps he has forgotten the street and number. I
might write to him--to remind him?" Colonel Arran made no answer.

She wrote that night:

"DEAR MR. BERKLEY:

"I am in my own house now and am very contented--which does not
mean that I did not adore being with Celia Craig and Estcourt and
the children.

"But home is pleasant, and I am wondering whether you might care to
see the home of which I have so often spoken to you when you used
to come over to Brooklyn to see me [_me_ erased and _us_ neatly
substituted in long, sweeping characters].

"I have been doing very little since I last saw you--it is not
sheer idleness, but somehow one cannot go light-heartedly to
dinners and concerts and theatres in times like these, when
traitors are trampling the nag under foot, and when thousands and
thousands of young men are leaving the city every day to go to the
defence of our distracted country.

"I saw a friend the other day--a Mrs. Wells--and _three_ of her
boys, friends of mine, have gone with the 7th, and she is so
nervous and excited that she can scarcely speak about it. _So_
many men I know have gone or are going. Stephen was here
yesterday, wild to go with the 8d Zouaves, but I promised his
father to use my influence--and he _is_ too young--although it is
very fine and chivalrous of him to wish to go.

"I thought I would write you a little note, to remind you that I am
at home, and already it has become a letter. Please remember--when
you think of it at all--that it would give me pleasure to receive
you.

"Sincerely yours,

"AILSA PAIGE."

Toward the end of the week she received a heart-broken note from
Celia Craig, which caused her to hasten over to Brooklyn. She
arrived late; the streets were continually blocked by departing
troops, and the omnibus took a circuitous course to the ferry,
going by way of Fourth Avenue and the Bowery.

"Honey-bee! O Honey-bell!" whispered her sister-in-law, taking
Ailsa into her arms, "I could have behaved myse'f better if Curt
were on the side of God and Justice!--But to have to let him go
this way--to know the awful danger--to know he is going against my
own people, my own home--against God and the Right!--O Honey-bird!
Honey-bud! And the Charleston _Mercury_ says that the South is
most bitter against the Zouaves----"

"Curt! With the Zouaves!"

"Oh yes, yes, Honey-bee! The Third Regiment. And he--some wicked
old men came here yesterday and read a speech--right befo' me--here
in this ve'y room--and began to say that they wished him to be
colonel of the 3d Zouaves, and that the Governor wished it
and--other fools! And I rose straight up f'om my chair and I said,
'Curt!' And he gave me one look. Oh, Honey-bud! His face was
changed; there was _that same thing_ in it that I saw the night the
news came about Sumter! And he said: 'Gentlemen, my country
educated me; now it honours me.' And I tried to speak again and my
lips were stiff; and then he said: 'I accept the command you
offer----'"

"Oh, Celia!"

"Yes, he said it, darling! I stood there, frozen--in a corner of
my heart I had been afraid--such a long time!--but to have it come
real--'this terror!--to have this thing take my husband--come into
our own home befo' I knew--befo' I dreamed--and take Curt!--take
--my--Curt!"

"Where is he?"

"With--_them_. They have a camp near Fort Hamilton. He went there
this morning."

"When is he coming back?"

"I don't know. Stephen is scaring me most to death; he is wild to
go, too. And, oh--do you believe it? Captain Lent has gone with
Curt to the camp, and Curt means to recommend him for his major.
_What_ a regiment!--all the soldiers are mere boys, they
say--wilful, reckless, hair-brained boys who don't know--_can't_
know--where they're going. . . . And Curt is so blind without his
glasses, and Captain Lent is certainly a little mad, and I'm most
distracted myse'f----"

"Darling--darling--don't cry!"

"Cry? Oh, I could die, Ailsa. Yet, I'm Southern enough to choke
back eve'y tear and let them go with a smile if they had to go fo'
God and the Right! But to see my Curt go this way--and my only son
crazy to join him--Oh, it is ha'd, Honey-bee, ve'y, ve'y ha'd."

"Dearest!"

"O Honey-bud! Honey-bud!"

And the two women mourned, uncomforted.

Ailsa remained for three unhappy days in Fort Greene Place, then
fled to her own house. A light, amusing letter from Berkley
awaited her. It was so like him, gay, cynical, epigrammatic, and
inconsequent, that it cheered her. Besides, he subscribed himself
very obediently hers, but on re-examining the letter she noticed
that he had made no mention of coming to pay his respects to her.

So she lived her tranquil life for another week; and Colonel Arran
came every day and seemed always to be waiting for
something--always listening--gray face buried in his stock. And at
the week's end she answered Berkley's letter--although, in it, he
had asked no question.

"DEAR MR. BERKLEY:

"Such sad news from the Craigs. Estcourt has accepted the command
of one of the new zouave regiments--the 3d, in camp near Fort
Hamilton. But, being in his office, I suppose you have heard all
about it from Stephen. Poor Celia Craig! It is peculiarly
distressing in her case; all her sympathies are with her native
state, and to have her husband go under such unusually tragic
circumstances seems too dreadful. Celia is convinced that he will
never return; she reads some Southern paper which breathes awful
threats against the Zouaves in particular. Besides, Stephen is
perfectly determined to enlist in his father's regiment, and I can
see that they can't restrain him much longer. I have done my best;
I have had him here and talked to him and argued with him, but I
have made no headway. No appeal moves him; he says that the land
will need every man sooner or later, and that the quicker he begins
the sooner he will learn how to look out for himself in battle.

"The regiment is almost full; to-day, the first six companies are
to be mustered into the United States service for three years or
for the war. Captain Barris of the regular army is the mustering
officer. And on their departure I am to present a set of colours
to the regiment. It is to be quite solemn. I have already bought
the lances, and they are beautiful; the spears are silver gilt, the
rings gilded, too, and the flags are made of the most beautiful
silk with tassels and fringe of gold bullion. There are three
flags: the national colours, the state flag, and a purple
regimental flag lettered in gold: '3d Regt. N. Y. Zouaves,' and
under it their motto: '_Multorum manibus grande levatur onus_.' I
hope it is good Latin, for it is mine. Is it?

"AILSA PAIGE."

To this letter he made no reply, and, after a week, his silence
hurt her.

One afternoon toward the middle of May Stephen was announced; and
with a sudden sense of foreboding she hastened down to the
drawing-room.

"_Oh_!" she cried. "_You_--Stephen!"

But the boy in his zouave uniform was beside himself with
excitement and pride, and he embraced her, laughing, and then began
to walk up and down the room gesticulating.

"I couldn't stand it any longer, and they let me go. I'm sorry for
mother, but look at other men's mothers! They're calling for more
and more troops every week! I knew everybody would have to go, and
I'm mighty fortunate to get into father's regiment--And O Ailsa!
It is a fine regiment! We're drilling every minute, and now that
we've got our uniforms it won't be long before our orders come----"

"Stephen--does your mother----"

"Mother knows I can't help it. I _do_ love her; she knows that
perfectly well. But men have got to settle this thing----"

"Two hundred thousand are getting ready to settle it! Are there
hot enough without you?--your mother's only son----"

"Suppose everybody thought that way, where would our army be?"

"But there are hundreds of regiments forming here--getting ready,
drilling, leaving on boats and trains every day----"

"And every regiment is composed of men exactly like me! They go
because the Nation's business is everybody's business. And the
Nation's business comes first. There's no use talking to me,
Ailsa. I've had it but with father. He saw that he couldn't
prevent me from doing what he has done. And old Lent is our major!
Lord, Ailsa, _what_ a terrible old man for discipline! And father
is--well he is acting as though we ought to behave like West
Pointers. They're cruelly hard on skylarkers and guard runners,
and they're fairly kicking discipline into us. But I'm willing.
I'm ready to stand anything as long as we can get away!"

He was talking in a loud, excited voice, pacing restlessly to and
fro, pausing at intervals to confront Ailsa where she sat, limp and
silent, gazing up at this slender youth in his short blue jacket
edged with many bell-buttons, blue body sash, scarlet zouave
trousers and leather gaiters.

Presently old Jonas shuffled in with Madeira, cakes, and
sandwiches, and Stephen began on them immediately.

"I came over so you could see me in my uniform," he explained; "and
I'm going back right away to see mother and Paige and Marye and
Camilla." He paused, sandwich suspended, then swallowed what he
had been chewing and took another bite, recklessly.

"I'm very fond of Camilla," he said condescendingly. "She's very
nice about my going--the only one who hasn't snivelled. I tell
you, Ailsa, Camilla is a good deal of a girl. . . . And I've
promised to look out for her uncle--keep an eye on old Lent, you
know, which seems to comfort her a good deal when she begins
crying----

"Oh. . . I thought Camilla didn't cry."

"She cries a little--now and then."

"About her uncle?"

"Certainly."

Ailsa looked down at her ringless fingers. Within the week she had
laid away both rings, meaning to resume them some day.

"If you and your father go, your office will be closed, I suppose."

"Oh, no. Farren will run it."

"I see. . . . And Mr. Berkley, too, I suppose."

Stephen looked up from his bitten seedcake.

"Berkley? He left long ago."

"Left--where?" she asked, confused.

"Left the office. It couldn't be helped. There was nothing for
him to do. I was sorry--I'm sorrier now----"

He checked himself, hesitated, turned his troubled eyes on Ailsa.

"I _did_ like him so much."

"Don't you like him--still?"

"Yes--_I_ do. I don't know what was the matter with that man. He
went all to pieces."

"W-what!"

"Utterly. Isn't it too bad."

She sat there very silent, very white. Stephen bit into another
cake, angrily.

"It's the company he keeps," he said--"a lot of fast men--fast
enough to be talked about, fashionable enough to be tolerated--Jack
Casson is one of them, and that little ass, Arthur Wye. _That's_
the crowd--a horse-racing, hard-drinking, hard-gambling crew."

"But--he is--Mr. Berkley's circumstances--how can he do such
things----"

"Some idiot--even Berkley doesn't know who--took all those dead
stocks off his hands. Wasn't it the devil's own luck for Berkley
to find a market in times like these?"

"But it ended him. . . . Oh, I was fond of him, I tell you, Ailsa!
I hate like thunder to see him this way----"

"_What_ way!"

"Oh, not caring for anybody or anything. He's never sober. I
don't mean that I ever saw him otherwise--he doesn't get drunk like
an ordinary man: he just turns deathly white and polite. I've met
him--and his friends--several times. They're too fast a string of
colts for me. But isn't it a shame that a man like Berkley should
go to the devil--and for no reason at all?"

"Yes," she said.

When Stephen, swinging his crimson fez by the tassel, stood ready
to take his leave, she put her arms around his neck and kissed him.

After he departed Colonel Arran came, and sat, as usual, silent,
listening.

Ailsa was very animated; she told him about Stephen's enlistment,
asked scores of questions about military life, the chances in
battle, the proportion of those who went through war unscathed.

And at length Colonel Arran arose to take his departure; and she
had not told what was hammering for utterance in every heart beat;
she did not know how to tell, what to ask.

Hat in hand Colonel Arran bent over her hot little hand where it
lay in his own.

"I have been offered the colonelcy of a volunteer regiment now
forming," he said without apparent interest.

"You!"

"Cavalry," he explained wearily.

"But--you have not accepted!"

He gave her an absent glance. "Yes, I have accepted. . . . I am
going to Washington to-night."

"Oh!" she breathed, "but you are coming back before--before----"

"Yes, child. Cavalry is not made in a hurry. I am to see General
Scott--perhaps Mr. Cameron and the President. . . . If, in my
absence--" he hesitated, looked down, shook his head. And somehow
she seemed to know that what he had not said concerned Berkley.

Neither of them mentioned him. But after Colonel Arran had gone
she went slowly to her room, sat down at her desk, sat there a
long, long while thinking. But it was after midnight before she
wrote to Berkley:

"Have you quite forgotten me? I have had to swallow a little pride
to write you again. But perhaps I think our pleasant friendship
worth it.

"Stephen has been here. He has enlisted as a private in his
father's regiment of zouaves. I learned by accident from him that
you are no longer associated with Craig & Son in business. I trust
this means at least a partial recovery of your fortune. If it
does, with fortune recovered responsibilities increase, and I
choose to believe that it is these new and exacting duties which
have prevented me from seeing you or from hearing from you for more
than three weeks.

"But surely you could find a moment to write a line to a friend who
is truly your very sincere well-wisher, and who would be the first
to express her pleasure in any good fortune which might concern you.

"AILSA PAIGE."

Two days passed, and her answer came:

"Ailsa Paige, dearest and most respected, I have not forgotten you
for one moment. And I have tried very hard.

"God knows what my pen is trying to say to you, and not hurt you,
and yet kill utterly in you the last kindly and charitable memory
of the man who is writing to you.

"Ailsa, if I had known you even one single day before that night I
met you, you would have had of me, in that single day, all that a
man dare lay at the feet of the truest and best of women.

"But on that night I came to you a man utterly and hopelessly
ruined--morally dead of a blow dealt me an hour before I saw you
for the first time.

"I had not lived an orderly life, but at worst it was only a
heedless life. I had been a fool, but not a damned one. There was
in me something loftier than a desire for pleasure, something
worthier than material ambition. What else lay latent--if
anything--I may only surmise. It is all dead.

"The blow dealt me that evening--an hour before I first laid eyes
on you--utterly changed me; and if there was anything spiritual in
my character it died then. And left what you had a glimpse
of--just a man, pagan, material, unmoral, unsafe; unmoved by
anything except by what appeals to the material senses.

"Is that the kind of man you suppose me? That is the man I am.
And you _know_ it now. And you know, now, what it was in me that
left you perplexed, silent, troubled, not comprehending--why it was
you would not dance with me again, nor suffer my touch, nor endure
me too near you.

"It was the less noble in me--all that the blow had not
killed--only a lesser part of a finer and perfect passion that
might perhaps have moved you to noble response in time.

"Because I should have given you all at the first meeting; I could
no more have helped it than I could have silenced my heart and
lived. But what was left to give could awake in you no echo, no
response, no comprehension. In plainer, uglier words, I meant to
make you love me; and I was ready to carry you with me to that hell
where souls are lost through love--and where we might lose our
souls together.

"And now you will never write to me again."

All the afternoon she bent at her desk, poring over his letter. In
her frightened heart she knew that something within her, not
spiritual, had responded to what, in him, had evoked it; that her
indefinable dread was dread of herself, of her physical
responsiveness to his nearness, of her conscious inclination for it.

Could this be she--herself--who still bent here over his written
words--this tense, hot-cheeked, tremulous creature, staring
dry-eyed at the blurring lines which cut her for ever asunder from
this self-outlawed man!

Was this letter still unburned. Had she not her fill of its
brutality, its wickedness?

But she was very tired, and she laid her arms on the desk and her
head between them. And against her hot face she felt the cool
letter-paper.

All that she had dreamed and fancied and believed and cared for in
man passed dully through her mind. Her own aspirations toward
ideal womanhood followed--visions of lofty desire, high ideals,
innocent passions, the happiness of renunciation, the glory of
forgiveness----

She sat erect, breathing unevenly; then her eyes fell on the
letter, and she covered it with her hands, as hands cover the shame
on a stricken face. And after a long time her lips moved,
repeating:

"The glory of forgiveness--the glory of forgiveness----"

Her heart was beating very hard and fast as her thoughts ran on.

"To forgive--help him--teach truth--nobler ideals----"

She could not rest; sleep, if it really came, was a ghostly thing
that mocked her. And all the next day she roamed about the house,
haunted with the consciousness of where his letter lay locked in
her desk. And that day she would not read it again; but the next
day she read it. And the next.

And if it were her desire to see him once again before all ended
irrevocably for ever--or if it was what her heart was striving to
tell her, that he was in need of aid against himself, she could not
tell. But she wrote him:

"It is not you who have written this injury for my eyes to read,
but another man, demoralised by the world's cruelty--not knowing
what he is saying--hurt to the soul, not mortally. When he
recovers he will be you. And this letter is my forgiveness."

Berkley received it when he was not particularly sober; and
lighting the end of it at a candle let it burn until the last ashes
scorched his fingers.

"Burgess," he said, "did you ever notice how hard it is for the
frailer things to die? Those wild doves we used to shoot in
Georgia--by God! it took quail shot to kill them clean."

"Yes, sir?"

"Exactly. Then, that being the case, you may give me a
particularly vigorous shampoo. Because, Burgess, I woo my volatile
goddess to-night--the Goddess Chance, Burgess, whose wanton and
naughty eyes never miss the fall of a card. And I desire that all
my senses work like lightning, Burgess, because it is a fast
company and a faster game, and that's why I want an unusually
muscular shampoo!"

"Yes, sir. Poker, sir?"

"I--ah--believe so," said Berkley, lying back in his chair and
closing his eyes. "Go ahead and rub hell into me--if I'll hold any
more."

The pallor, the shadows under eyes and cheeks, the nervous lines at
the corners of the nose, had almost disappeared when Burgess
finished. And when he stood in his evening clothes pulling a
rose-bud stem through the button-hole of his lapel, he seemed very
fresh and young and graceful in the gas-light.

"Am I very fine, Burgess? Because I go where youth and beauty
chase the shining hours with flying feet. Oh yes, Burgess, the
fair and frail will be present, also the dashing and
self-satisfied. And we'll try to make it agreeable all around,
won't we? . . . And don't smoke _all_ my most expensive cigars,
Burgess. I may want one when I return. I hate to ask too much of
you, but you won't mind leaving one swallow of brandy in that
decanter, will you? Thanks. Good night, Burgess."

"Thank _you_, sir. Good night, sir."

As he walked out into the evening air he swung his cane in
glittering circles.

"Nevertheless," he said under his breath, "she'd better be careful.
If she writes again I might lose my head and go to her. You can
never tell about some men; and the road to hell is a lonely
one--damned lonely. Better let a man travel it like a gentleman if
he can. It's more dignified than sliding into it on your back,
clutching a handful of lace petticoat."

He added: "There's only one hell; and it's hell, perhaps, because
there are no women there."

CHAPTER VIII

Berkley, hollow-eyed, ghastly white, but smiling, glanced at the
clock.

"Only one more hand after this," he said. "I open it for the
limit."

"All in," said Cortlandt briefly. "What are you going to do now?"

"_Scindere glaciem_," observed Berkley, "you may give me three
cards, Cortlandt." He took them, scanned his hand, tossed the
discards into the centre of the table, and bet ten dollars.
Through the tobacco smoke drifting in level bands, the crystal
chandeliers in Cortlandt's house glimmered murkily; the cigar haze
even stretched away into the farther room, where, under brilliantly
lighted side brackets, a young girl sat playing at the piano, a
glass of champagne, gone flat, at her dimpled elbow. Another girl,
in a shrimp-pink evening gown, one silken knee drooping over the
other, lay half buried among the cushions, singing the air which
the player at the piano picked out by ear. A third girl,
velvet-eyed and dark of hair, listened pensively, turning the gems
on her fingers.

The pretty musician at the piano was playing an old song, once much
admired by the sentimental; the singer, reclining amid her
cushions, sang the words, absently:

"Why did I give my heart away--
Give it so lightly, give it to pay
For a pleasant dream on a summer's day?

"Why did I give? I do not know.
Surely the passing years will show.

"Why did I give my love away--
Give it in April, give it in May,
For a young man's smile on a summer's day?

"Why did I love? I do not know.
Perhaps the passing years will show.

"Why did I give my soul away--
Give it so gaily, give it to pay
For a sigh and a kiss on a summer's day?

"Perhaps the passing years may show;
My heart and I, we do not know."

She broke off short, swung on the revolving chair, and called: "Mr.
Berkley, _are_ you going to see me home?"

"Last jack, Miss Carew," said Berkley, "I'm opening it for the
limit. Give me one round of fixed ammunition, Arthur."

"There's no use drawing," observed another man, laying down his
hand, "Berkley cleans us up _as_ usual."

He was right; everything went to Berkley, as usual, who laughed and
turned a dissipated face to Casson.

"Cold decks?" he suggested politely. "Your revenge at your
convenience, Jack."

Casson declined. Cortlandt, in his brilliant zouave uniform, stood
up and stretched his arms until the scarlet chevrons on the blue
sleeves wrinkled into jagged lightning.

"It's been very kind of you all to come to my last 'good-bye
party,'" he yawned, looking sleepily around him through the smoke
at his belongings.

For a week he had been giving a "good-bye party" every evening in
his handsome house on Twenty-third Street. The four men and the
three young girls in the other room were the residue of this party,
which was to be the last.

Arthur Wye, wearing the brand-new uniform, red stripes and facings,
of flying artillery, rose also; John Casson buttoned his cavalry
jacket, grumbling, and stood heavily erect, a colossus in blue and
yellow.

"You have the devil's luck, Berkley," he said without bitterness.

"I need it."

"So you do, poor old boy. But--God! you play like a professional."

Wye yawned, thrust his strong, thin hands into his trousers
pockets, and looked stupidly at the ceiling.

"I wish to heaven they'd start our battery," he said vacantly.
"I'm that sick of Hamilton!"

Casson grumbled again, settling his debts with Berkley.

"Everybody has the devil's own luck except the poor God-forsaken
cavalry. Billy Cortlandt goes tomorrow, your battery is under
orders, but nobody cares what happens to the cavalry. And they're
the eyes and ears of an army----"

"They're the heels and tail of it," observed Berkley, "and the
artillery is the rump."

"Shut up, you sneering civilian!"

"I'm shutting up--shop--unless anybody cares to try one last cold
hand--" He caught the eye of the girl at the piano and smiled
pallidly. "'_Quid non mortalia pectora cogis, auri sacra fames_!'
Also I have them all scared to death, Miss Carew--the volunteer
army of our country is taking water."

"It doesn't taste like water," said the pretty singer on the sofa,
stretching out her bubbling glass, "try it yourself, Mr. Berkley."

They went toward the music room; Cortlandt seated himself on top of
the piano. He looked rather odd there in his zouave jacket, red
trousers, white-gaitered legs hanging.

"Oh the Zou-zou-zou!
Oh the Zou-zou-zou!
Oh the boys of the bully Zouaves!"

he hummed, swinging his legs vigorously. "Ladies and gentlemen,
it's all over but the shooting. Arthur, I saw your battery horses;
they belong in a glue factory. How arc you going to save your guns
when the rebs come after you?"

"God knows, especially if the Zouaves support us," replied Wye,
yawning again. Then, rising:

"I've got to get back to that cursed fort. I'll escort anybody
who'll let me."

"One more glass, then," said Cortlandt. "Berkley, fill the parting
cup! Ladies of the Canterbury, fair sharers of our hospitality who
have left the triumphs of the drama to cheer the unfortunate
soldier on his war-ward way, I raise my glass and drink to each
Terpsichorean toe which, erstwhile, was pointed skyward amid the
thunder of metropolitan plaudits, and which now demurely taps my
flattered carpet. Gentlemen--soldiers and civilians--I give you
three toasts! Miss Carew, Miss Lynden, Miss Trent! Long may they
dance! Hurrah!"

"Get on the table," said Casson amid the cheering, and climbed up,
spurs jingling, glass on high.

"Will it hold us all?" inquired Letty Lynden, giving her hands to
Berkley, who shrugged and swung her up beside him. "Hurrah for the
Zouaves!" she cried; "Hurrah for Billy Cortlandt!--Oh, somebody
spilled champagne all over me!"

"Hurrah for the artillery!" shouted Arthur Wye, vigorously cheering
himself and waving his glass, to the terror of Ione Carew, who
attempted to dodge the sparkling rain in vain.

"Arthur, you look like a troop of trained mice," observed Berkley
gravely. "Has anybody a toy cannon and a little flag?"

Wye descended with a hop, sprang astride a chair, and clattered
around the room, imitating his drill-master.

"Attention! By the right of batteries, break into sections, trot.
Mar-r-rch! Attention-n-n! By section from the right of
batteries--front into column. Mar-r-rch!"

"By section from the right, front into column, march!" repeated
Cortlandt, jumping down from the table and seizing another chair.
"Everybody mount a chair!" he shouted. "This is the last artillery
drill of the season. Line up there, Letty! It won't hurt your
gown. Berkley'll get you another, anyway! Now, ladies and
gentlemen, sit firmly in your saddles. Caissons to the
rear--march! Caissons, left about--pieces forward--march!"

Wye's chair buckled and he came down with a splintering crash;
Casson galloped madly about, pretending his chair had become
unmanageable. It, also, ultimately collapsed, landed him flat on
his back, whence he surveyed the exercises of the _haute ecole_ in
which three flushed and laughing young girls followed the dashing
lead of Cortlandt, while Berkley played a cavalry canter on the
piano with one hand and waved his cigar in the other.

Later, breathless, they touched glasses to the departing
volunteers, to each other, to the ladies ("God bless them! Hear!
He-ah!"), to the war, to every regiment going, to each separate
battery horse and mule in Arthur's section. And then began on the
guns,

"I prophesy a quick reunion!" said Berkley. "Here's to it! Full
glasses!

"Speech! Speech--you nimble-witted, limber-legged prophet!" roared
John Casson, throwing a pack of cards at Berkley. "Read the cards
for us!"

Berkley very gracefully caught a handful, and sorting them, began
impromptu:

"Diamonds for _you_,
Little Miss Carew,
Strung in a row,
Tied in a bow--
What would you do
If they came true?

"What can it be?
_Hearts_! for Miss Letty--
Sweethearts and beaux,
Monarchs in rows,
Knaves on their knees--
Choose among these!

"Clubs now, I see!
_Ace_! for Miss Betty--
Clubman and swell,
Soldier as well.
Yes, he's all three;
Who can he be?

"Ione, be kind
To monarch and knave,
But make up your mind
To make 'em behave.
And when a man finds _you_
The nicest he's met, he
Is likely to marry you,
Letty and Betty!"

Tremendous cheering greeted these sentiments; three more cheers
were proposed and given for the Canterbury.

"Home of the 'ster arts, m-music an' 'r' drama-r-r--" observed
Casson hazily--"I'm going home."

Nobody seemed to hear him.

"Home--ser-weet home," he repeated sentimentally--"home among the
horses--where some Roman-nosed, camel-backed, slant-eared nag is
probably waitin' to kick daylight out'r me! Ladies, farewell!" he
added, tripping up on his spurs and waving his hand vaguely.
"Cav'lry's eyes 'n' ears 'f army! 'Tain't the hind legs' No--_no_!
_I'm_ head 'n' ears--army! 'n' I wan' t' go home."

For a while he remained slanting against the piano, thoughtfully
attempting to pry out the strings; then Wye returned from putting
Miss Carew and Miss Trent into a carriage.

"You come to the fort with me," he said. "That'll sober you. I
sleep near the magazine."

Berkley's face looked dreadfully battered and white, but he was
master of himself, careful of his equilibrium, and very polite to
everybody.

"You're--hic!--killin' yourself," said Cortlandt, balancing himself
carefully in the doorway.

"Don't put it that way," protested Berkley. "I'm trying to make
fast time, that's all. I'm in a hurry."

The other wagged his head: "_You_ won't last long if you keep this
up. The--hic!--trouble with you is that you can't get decently
drunk. You just turn blue and white. That's
what's--matter--_you_! And it kills the kind of--hic!--of man you
are. B-b'lieve me," he added shedding tears, "I'm fon' 'v' you,
Ber--hic!--kley."

He shed a few more scalding tears, waved his hand in resignation,
bowed his head, caught sight of his own feet, regarded them with
surprise.

"Whose?" he inquired naively.

"Yours," said Berkley reassuringly. "They don't want to go to bed."

"Put 'em to bed!" said Cortlandt in a stem voice. "No business
wand'ring 'round here this time of night!"

So Berkley escorted Cortlandt to bed, bowed him politely into his
room, and turned out the gas as a precaution.

Returning, he noticed the straggling retreat of cavalry and
artillery, arms fondly interlaced; then, wandering back to the
other room in search of his hat, he became aware of Letty Lynden,
seated at the table.

Her slim, childish body lay partly across the table, her cheek was
pillowed on one outstretched arm, the fingers of which lay loosely
around the slender crystal stem of a wine-glass.

"Are you asleep?" he asked. And saw that she was.

So he roamed about, hunting for something or other--he forgot
what--until he found it was her mantilla. Having found it, he
forgot what he wanted it for and, wrapping it around his shoulders,
sat down on the sofa, very silent, very white, but physically
master of the demoralisation that sharpened the shadows under his
cheek-bones and eyes.

"I guess," he said gravely to himself, "that I'd better become a
gambler. It's--a--very, ve--ry good 'fession--no," he added
cautiously, "_per_--fession--" and stopped short, vexed with his
difficulties of enunciation.

He tried several polysyllables; they went better. Then he became
aware of the mantilla on his shoulders.

"Some time or other," he said to himself with precision, "that
little dancer girl ought to go home."

He rose steadily, walked to the table:

"Listen to me, you funny little thing," he said.

No answer.

The childlike curve of the cheek was flushed; the velvet-fringed
lids lay close. For a moment he listened to the quiet breathing,
then touched her arm lightly.

The girl stirred, lifted her head, straightened up, withdrawing her
fingers from the wine-glass.

"Everybody's gone home," he said. "Do you want to stay here all
night?"

She rose, rubbing her eyes with the backs of her hands, saw the
mantilla he was holding, suffered him to drop it on, her shoulders,
standing there sleepy and acquiescent. Then she yawned.

"Are you going with me, Mr. Berkley?"

"I'll--yes. I'll see you safe."

She yawned again, laid a small hand on his arm, and together they
descended the stairs, opened the front door, and went out into
Twenty-third Street. He scarcely expected to find a hack at that
hour, but there was one; and it drove them to her lodgings on
Fourth Avenue, near Thirteenth Street. Spite of her paint and
powder she seemed very young and very tired as she stood by the
open door, looking drearily at the gray pallor over the roofs
opposite, where day was breaking.

"Will you--come in?"

He had prepared to take his leave; he hesitated.

"I think I will," he said. "I'd like to see you with your face
washed."

Her room was small, very plain, very neat. On the bed lay folded a
white night gown; a pair of knitted pink slippers stood close
together on the floor beside it. There was a cheap curtain across
the alcove; she drew it, turned, looked at him; and slowly her oval
face crimsoned.

"You needn't wash your face," he said very gently.

She crept into the depths of a big arm-chair and lay back watching
him with inscrutable eyes.

He did not disturb her for a while. After a few moments he got up
and walked slowly about, examining the few inexpensive ornaments on
wall and mantel; turned over the pages of an album, glanced at a
newspaper beside it, then came back and stood beside her chair.

"Letty?"

She opened her eyes.

"I suppose that this isn't the--first time."

"No."

"It's not far from it, though." She was silent, but her eyes
dropped.

He sat down on the padded arm of the chair.

"Do you know how much money I've made this week?" he said gaily.

She looked up at him, surprised, and shook her head; but her velvet
eyes grew wide when he told her.

"I won it fairly," he said. "And I'm going to stake it all on one
last bet."

[Illustration: "I won it fairly, and I'm going to stake it all on
one last bet."]

"On--what?"

"On--_you_. Now, _what_ do you think of that, you funny little
thing?"

"How--do you mean, Mr. Berkley?" He looked down into the eyes of a
hurt child.

"It goes into the bank in your name--if you say so."

"For--what?"

"I don't know," he said serenely, "but I am betting it will go for
rent, and board, and things a girl needs--_when she has no man to
ask them of--and nothing to pay for them_."

"You mean no man---excepting--you?"

"No," he said wearily, "I'm not trying to buy you."

She crimsoned. "I thought--then why do you----"

"Why? Good God, child! _I_ don't know! How do I know why I do
anything? I've enough left for my journey. Take this and try to
behave yourself if you can--in the Canterbury and out of it! . . .
And buy a new lock for that door of yours. Good night."

She sprang up and laid a detaining hand on his sleeve as he reached
the hallway.

"Mr. Berkley! I--I can't----"

He said, smiling: "My manners are really better than that----"

"I didn't mean----"

"You ought to. Don't let any man take his leave in such a manner.
Men believe a woman to be what she thinks she is. Think well of
yourself. And go to bed. I never saw such a sleepy youngster in
my life! Good night, you funny, sleepy little thing."

"Mr. Berkley--I can't take--accept----"

"Oh, listen to her!" he said, disgusted. "Can't I make a bet with
my own money if I want to? I _am_ betting; and _you_ are holding
the stakes. It depends on how you use them whether I win or lose."

"I don't understand--I don't, truly," she stammered; "d-do you wish
me to--leave--the Canterbury? Do you--_what_ is it you wish?"

"You know better than I do. I'm not advising you. Where is your
home? Why don't you go there? You have one somewhere, I suppose,
haven't you?"

"Y-yes; I had."

"Well--where is it?"

"In Philadelphia."

"Couldn't you stand it?" he inquired with a sneer.

"No." She covered her face with her hands.

"Trouble?"

"Y-yes."

"Man?"

"Y-y-yes."

"Won't they take you back?"

"I--haven't written."

"Write. Home is no stupider than the Canterbury. Will you write?"

She nodded, hiding her face.

"Then--_that's_ settled. Meanwhile--" he took both her wrists and
drew away her clinging hands:

"I'd rather like to win this bet because--the odds are all against
me." He smiled, letting her hands swing back and hang inert at her
sides.

But she only closed her eyes and shook her head, standing there,
slim and tear-stained in her ruffled, wine-stained dinner dress.
And, watching her, he retreated, one step after another, slowly;
and slowly closed the door, and went out into the dawn, weary,
haggard, the taste of life bitter in his mouth.

"What a spectacle," he sneered, referring to himself, "the vicious
god from the machine! Chorus of seraphim. Apotheosis of little
Miss Turveydrop----"

He swayed a trine as he walked, but it was not from the wine.

A policeman eyed him unfavourably,

"No," said Berkley, "I'm not drunk. You think I am. But I'm not.
And I'm too tired to tell you how I left my happy, happy home."

In the rosy gray of the dawn he sat down on the steps of his new
lodgings and gazed quietly into space.

"_This_ isn't going to help," he said. "I can stand years of it
yet. And that's much too long."

He brooded for a few moments.

"I hope she doesn't write me again. I can't stand everything."

He got up with an ugly, oblique glance at the reddening sky.

"I'm what he's made me--and I've got to let her alone. . . . Let
her alone. I--" He halted, laid his hand heavily on the door,
standing so, motionless.

"If I--go--near her, he'll tell her what I am. If he didn't, I'd
have to tell her. There's no way--anywhere--for me. And _he_ made
me so. . . . And--by God! it's in me--in me--to--to--if she writes
again--" He straightened up, turned the key calmly, and let himself
in.

Burgess was asleep, but Berkley went into his room and awoke him,
shining a candle in his eyes.

"Burgess!"

"S-sir?"

"Suppose you knew you could never marry a woman. Would you keep
away from her? Or would you do as much as you could to break her
heart first?"

Burgess yawned: "Yes, sir."

"You'd do all you could?"

"Yes, sir."

There was a long silence; then Berkley laughed. "They drowned the
wrong pup," he said pleasantly. "Good night."

But Burgess was already asleep again.

CHAPTER IX

And now at last she knew what it was she feared. For she was
beginning to understand that this man was utterly unworthy, utterly
insensible, without character, without one sympathetic trait that
appealed to anything in her except her senses.

She understood it now, lying there alone in her room, knowing it to
be true, admitting it in all the bitter humiliation of
self-contempt. But even in the light of this new self-knowledge
her inclination for him seemed a thing so unreasonable, so
terrible, that, confused and terrified by the fear of spiritual
demoralisation, she believed that this bewildering passion was all
that he had ever evoked in her, and fell sick in mind and body for
the shame of it.

A living fever was on her night and day; disordered memories of him
haunted her, waking; defied her, sleeping; and her hatred for what
he had awakened in her grew as her blind, childish longing to see
him grew, leaving no peace for her.

What kind of love was that?--founded on nothing, nurtured on
nothing, thriving on nothing except what her senses beheld in him.
Nothing higher, nothing purer, nothing more exalted had she ever
learned of him than what her eyes saw; and they had seen only a man
in his ripe youth, without purpose, without ideals, taking
carelessly of the world what he would one day return to it--the
material, born in corruption, and to corruption doomed.

It was night she feared most. By day there were duties awaiting,
or to be invented. Also, sometimes, standing on her steps, she
could hear the distant sound of drums, catch a glimpse far to the
eastward of some regiment bound South, the long rippling line of
bayonets, a flutter of colour where the North was passing on God's
own errand. And love of country became a passion.

Stephen came sometimes, but his news of Berkley was always
indefinite, usually expressed with a shrug and emphasised in
silences.

Colonel Arran was still in Washington, but he wrote her every day,
and always he asked whether Berkley had come. She never told him.

Like thousands and thousands of other women in New York she did
what she could for the soldiers, contributing from her purse,
attending meetings, making havelocks, ten by eight, for the
soldiers' caps, rolling bandages, scraping lint in company with
other girls of her acquaintance, visiting barracks and camps and
"soldiers' rests," sending endless batches of pies and cakes and
dozens of jars of preserves from her kitchen to the various
distributing depots.

Sainte Ursula's Church sent out a call to its parishioners; a
notice was printed in all the papers requesting any women of the
congregation who had a knowledge of nursing to meet at the rectory
for the purpose of organisation. And Ailsa went and enrolled
herself as one who had had some hospital experience.

Sickness among the thousands of troops in the city there already
was, also a few cases of gunshots in the accident wards incident on
the carelessness or ignorance of raw volunteers. But as yet in the
East there had been no soldier wounded in battle, no violent death
except that of the young colonel of the 1st Fire Zouaves, shot down
at Alexandria.

So there was no regular hospital duty asked of Ailsa Paige, none
required; and she and a few other women attended a class of
instruction conducted by her own physician, Dr. Benton, who
explained the simpler necessities of emergency cases and coolly
predicted that there would be plenty of need for every properly
instructed woman who cared to volunteer.

So the ladies of Sainte Ursula's listened very seriously; and some
had enough of it very soon, and some remained longer, and finally
only a small residue was left--quiet, silent, attentive women of
various ages who came every day to hear what Dr. Benton had to tell
them, and write it down in their little morocco notebooks. And
these, after a while, became the Protestant sisterhood of Sainte
Ursula, and wore, on duty, the garb of gray with the pectoral
scarlet heart.

May went out with the booming of shotted guns beyond the, Southern
horizon, amid rumours of dead zouaves and cavalrymen somewhere
beyond Alexandria. And on that day the 7th Regiment returned to
garrison the city, and the anxious city cheered its return, and
people slept more soundly for it, though all day long the streets
echoed with the music of troops departing, and of regiments
parading for a last inspection before the last good-byes were said.

Berkley saw some of this from his window. Never perfectly sober
now, he seldom left his rooms except at night; and all day long he
read, or brooded, or lay listless, or as near drunk as he ever
could be, indifferent, neither patient nor impatient with a life he
no longer cared enough about to either use or take.

There were intervals when the deep despair within him awoke
quivering; instants of fierce grief instantly controlled,
throttled; moments of listless relaxation when some particularly
contemptible trait in Burgess faintly amused him, or some attempted
invasion of his miserable seclusion provoked a sneer or a haggard
smile, or perhaps an uneasiness less ignoble, as when, possibly,
the brief series of letters began and ended between him and the
dancing girl of the Canterbury.

"DEAR MR. BERKLEY:
"Could you come for me after the theatre this evening?
"LETITIA LYNDEN."

"DEAR LETTY:
"I'm afraid I couldn't.
"Very truly yours,
"P. O. BERKLEY."

"DEAR MR. BERKLEY:
"Am I not to see you again? I think perhaps you
might care to hear that I have been doing what you
wished ever since that night. I have also written home,
but nobody has replied. I don't think they want me
now. It is a little lonely, being what you wish me to
be. I thought you might come sometimes. Could you?
"LETITIA LYNDEN."

"DEAR LETITIA:
"I seem to be winning my bet, but nobody can ever
tell. Wait for a while and then write home again.
Meantime, why not make bonnets? If you want to, I'll
see that you get a chance.
"P. O. BERKLEY."

"DEAR MR. BERKLEY:
"I don't know how. I never had any skill. I was
assistant in a physician's office--once. Thank you for
your kind and good offer--for all your goodness to me.
I wish I could see you sometimes. You have been better
to me than any man. Could I?
"LETTY."

"DEAR LETTY:
"Why not try some physician's office?"

"DEAR MR. BERKLEY:
"Do you wish me to? Would you see me sometimes
if I left the Canterbury? It is _so_ lonely--you don't
know, Mr. Berkley, how lonely it is to be what you wish
me to be. Please only come and speak to me.
"LETTY."

"DEAR LETTY:
"Here is a card to a nice doctor, Phineas Benton,
M.D. I have not seen him in years; he remembers me
as I was. You will not, of course, disillusion him. I've
had to lie to him about you--and about myself. I've
told him that I know your family in Philadelphia, that
they asked me about the chances of a position here for
you as an assistant in a physician's office, and that now
you had come on to seek for such a position. Let me
know how the lie turns out.
"P. O. BERKLEY."

A fortnight later came her last letter:

"DEAR MR. BERKLEY:
"I have been with Dr. Benton nearly two weeks now.
He took me at once. He is such a good man! But--I
don't know--sometimes he looks at me and looks at me
as though he suspected what I am--and I feel my cheeks
getting hot, and I can scarcely speak for nervousness;
and then he always smiles so pleasantly and speaks so
courteously that I know he is too kind and good to suspect.

"I hold sponges and instruments in minor operations,
keep the office clean, usher in patients, offer them
smelling salts and fan them, prepare lint, roll
bandages--and I know already how to do all this quite well.
I think he seems pleased with me. He is so very kind to
me. And I have a little hall bedroom in his house, very
tiny but very neat and clean; and I have my meals with
his housekeeper, an old, old woman who is very deaf and
very pleasant.

"I don't go out because I don't know where to go.
I'm afraid to go near the Canterbury--afraid to meet
anybody from there. I think I would die if any man

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