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At the Mercy of Tiberius by Augusta Evans Wilson

Part 8 out of 11

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lightened his labors. An attempt was made to isolate the first case
in the hospital, but the cots in that spacious apartment filled
beyond the limits of accommodation; and soon, a large proportion of
the cells on the ground floor held each its victim of the fatal
disease, that as the scythe of death cut a wide swath through
convict ranks. Consulting physicians walked through the infected
ward, altered prescriptions, advised disinfectants which were
liberally used, until the building seemed to exhale pungent,
wholesome, but unsavory odors; yet there was no abatement in the
virulence of the type. When the twenty-third case was entered on the
hospital list, the trustees and inspectors determined to remove all
who showed no symptom of the contagion, to an old, long-abandoned
cotton factory several miles distant; where the vacant houses of
former operatives would afford temporary shelter; and to diminish
the chances of carrying infection, each prisoner was carefully
examined by the attending physician, and then furnished with an
entirely new suit of clothing.

When the nature of the epidemic could no longer be concealed from
the inmates, instinctive horror drove them from the neighborhood of
the victims, and like frightened sheep they huddled in remote
corners, removed as far as possible from the infected precincts, and
loath to minister to the needs of the sufferers.

Two men, and as many women, selected and detailed as nurses in their
respective wards, openly rebelled; and while Doctor Moffat and Mr.
Singleton were discussing the feasibility of procuring outside
assistance, the door of the dispensary adjoining the hospital,
opened, and Beryl walked up to the table, where medicines were
weighed and mixed.

"Put me to work among the sick. I want to help you."

"You! What could you do? I should as soon take a magnolia blossom to
scrub the pots and pans of a filthy kitchen," answered the doctor,
looking up over his spectacles from the powder he was grinding in a
glass mortar.

"I can follow your directions; I can obey orders; and physicians
deem that the sine qua non in nurses. Closed lips, open ears,
willing hands are supposed to outweigh any amount of unlicensed
brains. Try me."

"No. I am not willing. Go back up-stairs, and stay there," said the
warden.

"Why may I not assist in nursing?"

"In the first place you are not fit to mix with those poor
creatures, in yonder; their oaths would curdle your blood; and in
the second, you are not strong, and would be sure to take the
disease at once."

"I am perfectly well; my lungs are now as healthy as yours, and I am
not afraid of diphtheria. You detailed nurses, who refused to serve;
I volunteer; have you any right to reject me?"

"Yes, the right to protect and save your life, which is worth twenty
of those already in danger," replied Mr. Singleton, pausing in his
task of filling capsules with quinine.

"Who made you a judge of the value of souls? My life belongs first
to God, who gave it, next to myself; and if I choose to jeopardize
it, in work among my suffering comrades in disgrace, you must not
usurp the authority to prevent me."

"Has it become so intolerable that you desire to commit suicide,
under the specious plea of philanthropic martyrdom?" said Doctor
Moffat, whose keen black eyes scanned her closely, from beneath
shaggy gray brows.

"I think I may safely say, no such selfish motive underlies my
resolution. My heart is full of pity, and of dread for some women
here, who admit their guilt, yet have sought no pardon from the
Maker their sins insult. Sick souls cry out to me louder than dying
bodies; and who dare deny me the privilege of ministering to both?
The parable of the sparrows is no fable to me; and if, while trying
to comfort my unhappy associates here, God calls me out of this dark
stony vineyard, His will alone overrules all; and I can meet His
face in peace. We say: 'Lord what wilt Thou have us to do?' and when
the answer comes, pointing us to perilous and loathsome labors, will
He forget if we shut our eyes, and turn away, coveting the sunny
fields into which He sent others to toil? Let me go to my work."

During almost eighteen months, both men had studied her character as
manifested in the trying phases of prison existence, finding no
flaw; to-day they looked up reverently at the graceful form in its
homespun uniform, at the calm, colorless face, wearing its crown of
meekness, with an inalienable, proud air of cold repose.

"To keep you here is about as sacrilegious as it would have been to
thrust St. Catherine among the chain-gang in the galleys," muttered
the doctor.

"No doubt duty called her to much worse places; therefore, when she
died, the angels buried her on Sinai," answered the prisoner; before
whose wistful eyes drifted the memory of Luini's picture.

"You have set your heart on this; nothing less will content you?"

"While the necessity continues, nothing less will content me."

"Remember, you voluntarily take your life in your own hands."

"I assume the entire responsibility for any risk incurred."

"Then, I wish you God speed; for the harvest is white, the laborers
few."

"Why, doctor! I relied on you to help me keep her out of reach. If
anything happens, how shall I pacify Susie? She made me promise
every possible care of her favorite. Look here, only an hour ago I
received a letter and this package marked, 'One for Ned; the other
for Miss Beryl.' Two little red flannel safety bags, cure-alls, to
be tied around our necks, close to our noses, as if we could not
smell them a half mile off? Assafoetida, garlic, camphor, 'jimson
weed,' valerian powder--phew! What not? Mixed as a voudoo chowder,
and a scent twice as loud!"

"Be thankful your wife is not here to enforce the wearing of the
sanitary sachet," said the doctor, allowing himself a grimace of
contemptuous disgust.

"So I am! but being a bachelor, answerable only to yourself, you
cannot understand how absence does not exonerate me from the promise
made when she started away. I would sooner face an 'army with
banners,' than that little brown-eyed woman of mine when she takes
the lapel of my coat in one hand, raises the forefinger of the
other, turns her head sideways like a thrush watching a wriggling
worm, and says, in a voice that rises as fast as the sound a mouse
makes racing up the treble of the piano keys: 'Ump! whew! Didn't I
tell you so? The minute my back was turned, of course you made ducks
and drakes of all your promises. Show me a "Flying Jenney," that the
tip end of any idiot's little finger can spin around, and I'll
christen it Edward McTwaddle Singleton!' Seems funny to you, doctor?
Just wait till you are married, and your Susan shuts the door and
interviews you, picking a whole flock of crows, till you wonder if
it isn't raining black feathers. When I am taken to taw about this
nursing business, I shall lose no time in laying the blame on you."

"I will assure Mrs. Singleton that you endeavored to dissuade me;
and that you faithfully kept your promise to shield me from danger."

"Which she will not believe, because she knows that I have the power
to lock you up indefinitely. Besides, if you live to explain
matters, there will be no necessity; but suppose you do not? You are
running into the jaws of an awful danger, and if--"

His frank, pleasant countenance clouded, he gnawed his mustache, and
the question ended in a long sigh. After a moment, a low, sweet
voice completed the sentence:

"If I should die, your tender-hearted wife is so truly and
faithfully my friend, that she could not regret to hear I have
entered into my rest."

There was a brief silence, during which the physician crossed the
floor, opened a glass door and surveyed the stock of drugs. When he
came back, and took up the pestle, he spoke with solemn emphasis:

"This is the most malignant type of an always dangerous disease that
I have ever encountered; and constant exposure to it, without the
careful, persistent use of tonic and disinfectant precautions, would
be tantamount to walking unvaccinated into a pest-house, where
people were dying of confluent small-pox. I have no desire to
frighten, but it is proper that I should warn you; and insist upon
the duty of watching your own health as closely as the symptoms of
the victims you are desirous of nursing. Will you follow the regimen
I shall prescribe for yourself?"

"Implicitly."

The warden finished filling the capsules, rose and looked at his
watch.

"As far as the chances go, it is 'heads I win, tails you lose'; and
sorry enough I am to see you come down and dare the pestilence; but
since you are, I might as well say what I was asked to tell you last
night. For your sake I kept silent; now since you persist, I wash my
hands of all responsibility for the consequences. You have heard the
history of the woman Iva Le Bougeois, better known in the 'walls' as
the 'Bloody Duchess'. Two days ago the scourge struck her down; she
is very ill, the worst symptoms have appeared, and she is almost
frantic with terror. Last night, at 12 o'clock, I was going the
rounds of the sick wards, and found her wringing her hands, and
running up and down the cell like a maniac. I tried to quiet and
encourage her, but she paid no more attention than if stone deaf;
and when I started to leave her, she seized my arm, and begged me to
ask you to come and stay with her. She thinks if you would sing for
her, she could listen, and forget the horrible things that haunt
her. It is positively sickening to see her terror at the thought of
death. Poor, desperate creature."

"Yet you withheld her message when I might have comforted her?"

"It was a crazy whim. In hardened cases like hers, death-bed remorse
counts for very little. Her conscience is lashing her; could you
quiet that? Could you bleach out the blood that spots her soul?"

"Yes, by leading her to One who can."

"Remember, you asked me as a special favor to keep you as far apart
as possible from all of her class."

"At that time, overwhelmed by the misery of my own fate, I was
pitiless to the sufferings of others. The rod that smote me was very
cruel then; but by degrees it seems to bud like Aaron's with
precious promise, that may expand into the immortal flowers of souls
redeemed. I dwelt too long in the seat of the Pharisees; I shall
live closer to God, walking humbly among the Publicans. Will you
show me the way to the woman who wishes to see me?"

"Not yet. There are some instructions that must be carefully weighed
before I can install you as nurse, in that dismal mire of moral and
physical corruption. Singleton, send the hospital steward to me."

There are spectacles which brand themselves so ineffaceably upon
memory, that time has no power to impair their vividness; and of
such were some of the scenes witnessed by the new nurse.

Sitting on the side of her cot, from which the gray blanket had been
dragged and folded half across her shoulders, where one hand held
it, while the other clutched savagely at her throat; with her bare
delicate feet beating a tattoo on the white sanded floor, and her
thin nostrils dilated in the battle for breath, Iva Le Bougeois
moaned in abject terror. The coarse, unbleached "domestic" night-
gown that fell to her ankles was streaked across the bosom with some
dark brown fluid; and similar marks stained the pillow where her
restless head had tossed. The hot eyes and parched red lips seemed
to have drained all the tainted blood from her olive cheeks, save
where, just beneath the lower lids, ominous terra-cotta rings had
been painted and glazed by the disease.

As Beryl pushed open the iron door, and held up the lantern, that
its brightness might stream into the cell, where even at five
o'clock in the afternoon of a rainy day darkness reigned, the rays
flashed back from the glowing eyes chatoyant as a cougar's.

"Your message was not delivered until to-day, and I lost no time in
coming."

The small head, where short, straight, blue-black locks, rumpled and
disordered, were piled elfishly around the low brow, was thrown up
with the swift movement of some startled furry animal, alert even in
the throes of death.

"Is all hope over? Did they tell you there is no chance for me?"

The voice was hoarse and thick, the articulation indistinct and
smothered.

"No. They think you very ill, but still hope the remedies will save
you. The doctor says your fine constitution ought to conquer the
disease."

"I am beyond the remedy--because I can't swallow any longer. Since
the doctor left me, I have tried and tried. See--"

From a bench within reach, she lifted a small yellow bowl, which
contained a dark mixture, put it to her lips, and chafing her
swollen glands, attempted several times to swallow the liquid. A
gurgling sound betrayed the futility of the effort, the medicine
gushed from her nose, the eyes seemed starting from their sockets,
and even the husky cry of the sufferer was strangled, as she cowered
down.

"Compose yourself; nervousness increases the difficulty. Once I had
diphtheria, and could not swallow for two days, yet I recovered. Be
quiet, and let me try to help you."

Kneeling in front of her, Beryl turned up the wick of the lantern,
and with a small brush attached to a silver wire, finally succeeded
in cauterizing and removing a portion of the poisonous growth that
was rapidly narrowing the avenue of breath. The spasm of coughing
that ensued was Nature's auxiliary effort, and temporarily relieved
the tightening clutch.

After a few moments, a dose of the medicine was successfully
administered; and then the slender, shapely brown hand of the woman
grasped the nurse's blue homespun dress.

"Don't leave me! Save me. Oh, don't let me strangle here alone--in
the dark; don't let me die! I'm not fit. I know where I shall go.
It's not the devil I dread; I have known many devils in this world,-
-but God. I am afraid of God!"

"Lie down, and cover your shoulders. If it comforts you to have me,
I will stay gladly. The doctor, the warden, all of us will do what
we can to cure you; but the help you need most, can come only from
one whose pity is greater and tenderer than ours, your merciful God.
Lift up your heart in prayer to him; ask him to forgive your sins,
and spare you to lead a better life."

"He would not hear, because He knows how black my heart has been all
these years; since I gave myself up to hate and cursing. You can't
understand--you are not one of us. You are as much out of place
here, as one of the angels would be, held over the flames of torment
till the wings singed. From the first time we saw you in the chapel,
and more and more ever since, we found out you did not belong here.
I have been so wicked--so wicked--!"

She paused, panting, then hurried on.

"When the chaplain tried to talk to me, and gave me a book to read,
I dashed it back in his face, and insulted him. One Saturday they
sent me to sweep out and dust the chapel, and when I finished, I
laid down on one of the benches to rest. You went in to practise,
not knowing I was there; and began to sing. As I listened, something
seemed to stir and wake up in my heart, and somehow the music shook
me out of myself. There was one hymn, so solemn, so thrilling, and
the end of every verse was, 'Oh, Lamb of God! I come!'--and you sang
it with a great cry, as if you were running to meet some one. I had
not wept--for oh! I don't know how long--not since--. Then you
played on the organ some variations on a tune--'The Sweet By-and-
by'--and the tears started, and I seemed but a leaf in a wild storm.
That was the song my little boy used to sing! There was a Sunday-
school in the basement of a church next to our house, and he would
stand at the window, and listen till he caught the tune, and learned
the words. Oh, that hymn! Every note stung me like a whip lash when
I heard it again. My child's face as I saw him the last time I put
him to bed; when he opened his drowsy eyes, and raised up to kiss me
good-night, came back to me, and seemed to sing, 'In the sweet by-
and-by, we shall meet on that beautiful shore.' No--never--never!
Oh, my boy! My beautiful angel Max--there is no room for me, on that
heavenly shore! Oh! my darling--there is NO 'Sweet by-and-by' FOR
MOTHER NOW."

She had started up, with arms clasped around her knees, and her
convulsed face lifted toward the low ceiling of the cell, writhed,
as she drew her breath in hissing gasps.

"You loved your little boy?"

"You are not a mother, or you wouldn't ask me that If ever you had
felt your baby's sweet warm lips on yours, you would know that it is
mother-love that makes tigers of women. Because I idolized my little
one, I could not bear the cruel wrong of having him torn from me,
taught to despise me; and so I loved him best when I slew him, and I
was so mad, with the delirium of pain and rage and despair, that I
forgot I was putting the gulf of perdition between us. Rather than
submit to separation in this world, than have him raised by them, to
turn away from his mother as a thing too vile to wear his father's
name, I lost him for ever and ever! My son, my star-eyed darling."

"Listen to me. You loved him so tenderly, that no matter how wilful
or disobedient he might have been, you forgave him every offence;
and when he sobbed on your bosom, you felt he was doubly dear, and
hugged him closer to your heart? Even stronger and deeper is God's
love for us. Dare you call yourself more pitiful, more tender than
your Father in heaven, who gave you the capacity to love your child,
because He so compassionately loves His children? We sin, we go far
astray, we think mercy is exhausted, and the door shut against us;
but when we truly repent and go back, and kneel, and pray to be
forgiven, Christ Himself unbars the door and leads us in; and our
Father, loving those whom He created, pardons all; and only requires
that we sin no more. God does not follow us; we must humbly go back
all the distance we have put between us by our wickedness; but the
heavens will fall before He fails to keep His promise to forgive,
when we do genuinely repent of our wrongdoing."

"It is easy for the good to believe that. You are innocent of any
crime, and you are punished for other people's sins, not for your
own; so you can't understand how I dread the thought of God, because
I know the blackness of my heart, when, to get my revenge, I sold my
soul to Satan. Oh! the horror of feeling that I can't undo the
bargain; that pay-day has come! I had the vengeance, I snatched out
of God's hands, and for a while I gloated over it; but now the awful
price! My little one in heaven with the angels; knowing that his
mother is a devil--eternally."

Her head had fallen upon her knees, and in the frenzy of despair she
rocked to and fro.

"Don't you remember that the most sinful woman Christ met on earth,
was the one of all others that He first revealed Himself to, when He
came out of the grave? Because she was so nearly lost, and He had
forgiven so much, in order to save her, her purified heart was
doubly dear, and he honored her more than the disciples, who had
escaped the depth of her wickedness. Try to find comfort in the
belief, that if sincere remorse and contrition redeemed the soul of
Mary Magdalen, the same Savior who pitied and pardoned her will not
deny your prayer."

"God believed her, because she proved her repentance by leading a
new, purer life. But I have no chance left to prove mine. If she had
been cut off in the midst of her sins, as I am, she would have been
obliged to pay in her ruined soul to the Satan she had served so
long. When I am called to the settlement, it seems an insult and a
mockery to ask God, whom I have defied, to save me. If I could only
have a little time to show my penitence."

"Perhaps you may be spared; but if not, God sees your contrition
just as fully now as if you lived fifty years to show it in good
works. He sees you are sincerely remorseful, and would be a true
Christian, if He allowed you an opportunity. That is the blessedness
of our religion, that when Christ gives us a new heart, purified by
repentance and faith in Him, He says it makes clean hands, in His
sight, no matter how black they might have been. One of the thieves
was already on the cross, in the agonies of death, with his sins
fresh on his soul, and no possible chance of atoning for his past,
by future dedication of his life to good; but Christ saw his heart
was genuinely repentant, and though the man did not escape
crucifixion by humanity, his pardoned soul met Jesus that same day
in Paradise. It is not acceptance of our good deeds, though they are
required, it is forgiveness of our sins, that makes Christ so
precious. Pray from the very bottom of your heart, to God, and try
to take hold of the promise to the truly penitent; and trust--trust
Him."

For a moment the crouching figure was still, as if the sufferer
mentally grasped at some shred of hope; then she fell back on her
pillow, and groaned.

"Do you know all I have done? Do you think there is any mercy for--"

"Hush, every word taxes your failing strength. Compose yourself."

"I can't! As long as I have breath let me tell you. If I shut my
eyes, horrible things seem to be pouncing upon me; dreadful shapes
laugh, and beckon to me, and I see--oh! pity me! I see my murdered
child, with the blood spouting, foaming, the velvety brown eyes I
loved to kiss, staring and glazed as I dragged his little body to--"

With a gurgling scream she paused, shivered, panted.

"It is a feverish dream. Your child is safe in heaven; ask your
Father to let you see his face among the angels."

"It's not fever; it's the past, my own crimes that come to follow me
to judgment and accuse me. The hand of my first-born pointing over
the last bar at the mother who killed him! Do you wonder I am afraid
to die? I don't deny my bloody deeds--but after all it was a foul
wrong that drove me to desperation; and God knows, man's injustice
brought me to my sin. I was a spoiled, motherless child, married at
sixteen to a man whose family despised me, because my pretty face
had ruined their scheme of a match with an heiress, whose money was
needed to retrieve their fortunes. They never forgave the marriage,
and after a few years, mischief began to brew.

"I loved my husband, but his nature was too austere to deal
patiently with my freakish, petulant, volcanic temper; and when he
lectured me for my frivolity, obstinacy plunged me into excesses of
gayety, that at heart I did not enjoy. His mother and sister shunned
me more and more, poisoned his mind with wicked and unfounded
suspicions, and so we grew mutually distrustful. He tired of me, and
he showed it. I loved him. Oh! I loved him better, and better, as I
saw him drifting away. He neglected me, spent his leisure where he
met the woman he had once intended to marry. I was so maddened with
jealous heart-ache, some evil spirit prompted me to try and punish
him with the same pangs. That was my first sin of deception; I
pretended an attachment I never felt, hoping to rekindle my
husband's affection. Like many another heart-sick wife, I was caught
in my own snare; and while I was as innocent of any wrong as my own
baby boy, his father was glad of a pretext to excuse his alienation.
People slandered me; and because I loved Allen so deeply, I was too
proud to defend myself, until too late.

"God is my witness, my husband was the only man I ever loved; ah!
how dear he was to me! His very garments were precious; and I have
kissed and cried over his gloves, his slippers. The touch of his
hand was worth all the world to me, but he withheld it. When you
know your husband loves you, he may ill treat, may trample you under
his feet, but you can forgive him all; you caress the heel that
bruises you. Allen ceased to show me ordinary consideration, stung
me with sneers, threatened separation; even shrunk from the boy,
because he was mine.

"There came a day, when some fiend forged a letter, and the same
vile hand laid it in my husband's desk. Only God knows whose is the
guilt of that black deed, but I believe it was his sister's work.
Allen cursed me as unworthy to be the mother of his child, and swore
he would be free. On my knees I begged him to hear, and acquit me. I
confessed all my yearning love for him, I assured him I was the
victim of a foul plot; and that if he would only take me back to the
heaven of his heart, he would find that no man ever had a more
devoted wife. He wanted an excuse to put me out of his way; he
repulsed me with scorn, and before the sun set, he forsook me, and
took up his abode with his mother and sister. Oh! the cruel wrong of
that dreadful, parting scene!"

She sprang from the cot, breathless from the passionate recital,
beating the air with one small slender hand, while the other tore at
the swollen cords of her tortured throat.

Beryl caught the round, prettily turned wrist, and felt the feeble
thread of pulse that was only a wild flutter, under the olive satin
of the hot skin.

"This excitement only hastens the end you dread. Lie down, and I
will pray for you."

"I shall soon lie down for ever. Let me walk a little, before my
feet slide into the grave."

She staggered twice across the length of the cell, then tottered and
fell back on the cot. At every respiration the thin nostrils flared,
and the glazed ring below the eyes lost its sullen red tinge, took
on blue shadows.

"I did not know then I was to lose my child also; but before long,
all the scheme was made clear. Allen sued for a divorce. He wanted
to shake me off; and he persuaded himself all the foul things my
enemies had concocted must be true. I had lost his love; I was too
proud to show my torn heart to the world; and men make the laws to
suit themselves, and they help each other to break chains that gall,
so Allen was set free. I shut myself up in two rooms, with my boy,
and saw no one. Even then, though my heart was breaking, and I wept
away the lonely days--longing for the sight of my husband's face,
starving for the sound of his voice--I bore up; because I knew I was
innocent, and unjustly censured, and I had my child to comfort me.
He slept in my arms and kept me human; and we were all the world to
each other.

"Then the last blow fell. There came a note, whose every word bit my
heart like an adder. Allen demanded the boy, whom the law gave to
his guardianship; and I was warned I must make no attempt to see him
after he was taken away, because he would be taught to forget me. I
refused. I dared the officer to lay hands on my little one, and I
was so frantic with grief, the man had compassion, and left me. Two
nights afterward, I rocked him to sleep and put him in bed. His arms
fell from my neck; half aroused, he nestled his face to mine--kissed
me. I went into the next room, to finish a shirt I was making for
him, and I shut the door, fearing the noise of the machine would
wake him. I sewed half an hour, and--when I went back, the bed was
empty, my child was gone.

"I think I went utterly mad then. I can remember putting my lips to
the dent on the little ruffled pillow, where his head had lain, and
swearing that I would have my revenge.

"That night turned me to stone; every tender feeling seemed to
petrify. When I learned that Allen was soon to marry the woman for
whom he had cast me off, and that my boy was to have a new mother to
teach him to hate me, it did not grieve me; I had lost all power of
suffering; but it woke up a legion of fiends where my heart used to
beat, and I bided my time. Happy women in happy homes think me a
monster. With their husbands' arms around them, and their babies
prattling at their knees, they bear my wrongs so meekly, and shudder
at my depravity. When I thought of Allen, who was my first and last
and only love, giving my place to some other woman, who was no more
worthy than I knew myself to be; and of the baby, who had slept on
my heart, and was so dear because he had his father's eyes and his
father's brown curls, growing up to deny and condemn his innocent
but disgraced mother, it was more than I could bear. I was not
insane; oh, no! But I was possessed by more than seven devils; and
revenge was all this world could give me. My husband's family had
ruined me; so I would spoil their match a second time.

"The wedding was to be very private, but I bribed a servant and got
into the house, and stood behind the damask curtains. Allen's mother
and sister came in, leading my boy; and they were so close to me I
could see the long silky lashes resting against my baby's brow, as
his great brown eyes looked wonderingly at a horseshoe of roses
dangling from the chandelier. Then my husband, my handsome husband--
my darling's father, walked in, with the bride on his arm, and the
minister met them, saying: 'Dearly beloved--.' I ceased to be a
woman then, I was a fury, a wild beast--and two minutes later my
darlings were mine once more, safe from that other woman--dead at my
feet. Then the ball I aimed at my own breast missed its destination.
I fell on my slaughtered idols; seeing in a bloody mist the wide
eyes of my baby boy, and the mangled face of the husband whose kiss
was the only heaven I shall ever know. I meant to die with them, but
I failed; so they sent me here. That was years ago; but I was a
stone until that day in the chapel, when you sang my Max's song,
'By-and-By'."

There was a brief silence, and Beryl's voice wavered as she said
very gently:

"Your trials were fiery; and though the crime was frightfully black,
God judges us according to the natures we are born with, and the
temptations that betray us; and He forgives all, if we are true
penitents and throw ourselves trustingly on His mercy. Now take this
powder; it will make you sleep."

"Will you stay with me? I shall not trouble anybody much longer. Say
a prayer for my sinful soul, that is going down into the eternal
night."

"Let us pray together, that your pardoned soul may find blessed and
eternal peace."

Coming softly to the door, the doctor looked in through the iron
lattice, saw the figure of the nurse kneeling on the sanded floor,
with her bronzed head close to the pillow where the moaning victim's
lay; and involuntarily he took off his cloth cap, and bowed his gray
head to listen to the brief but solemn petition that went up from
the dungeon to the supreme and unerring Judge.

When he returned to the same spot an hour later, Beryl sat on the
side of the cot, with one hand clasping the brown wrist thrown
across her lap, the other pressed gently over the sufferer's hot,
aching eyes; and wonderfully sweet was the rich voice that chanted
low:

"Just as I am, without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me.
And that Thou bidd'st me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God! I come, I come!
Just as I am, and waiting not
To rid my soul of one dark blot,
To Thee, whose blood can cleanse each spot,
O Lamb of God! I come, I come!"

The noon sun was shining over a wet world, kindling into diamonds
the crystal fringe of rain drops hanging from the green lances of
willows, where a tufted red bird arched his scarlet throat in
madrigal--when four men lifted a cot, and bore it with its
apparently dying burden to a spot upon which the warm light fell in
a golden flood.

Between the Destroying Angel and his gasping prey, stepped two,
anointed with the chrism of the Priesthood of Cure; and undismayed
by the strident, sibilant, fitful breath that distorted the blue
lips of the victim, they parried the sweep of the scythe of death,
with the tiny, glittering steel blade surgery cunningly fashions;
and through its silver canula, tracheotomy recalled the vanishing
spirit, triumphantly renewed the lease of life.

At sunset on the same day, Beryl followed the warden to the door of
the large hospital.

"Of all pitiful sights here, this has harrowed me the most. The
doctors did all they could, and the chaplain worked hard to save her
soul, but she was like flint, till just before the end, when she
raised up, and heard her child crying down in the work-room, where
it had been put to sleep. We could scarcely hold her; she fought
like a panther to get out of bed, till the blood gushed from her
nose, and though she could not speak plainly, she pointed, and we
made out: 'Baby--Dovie'. The doctor would not consent that we should
expose the child to the risk, but I could not hold out against that
poor creature's pleading wild eyes, so I just brought the little
one. What a strangling cry she gave, when I put it in her arms, and
how the tears poured! She was almost gone, and we saw that she
wanted to tell us something about the child, but we could not
understand. The doctor put a pencil in her hand, and held a sheet of
paper before her, and she tried to scrawl her wishes, but all we can
read is: 'Her father won't ever own her. Baptize--her Dovie--Eve
Werneth's baby. Don't ever tell her she was born in jail. Raise her
a good--good--.' She had a sort of spasm then, and squeezed the
child so tight, it screamed. In five minutes, she was dead. Only
nineteen years old, and the little one just two years; and not yet
weaned! I don't know what to do; so I brought you. If I touch the
child, it seems frightened almost to death, but maybe you can coax
it away. Poor little thing! What a mercy if it could die!"

"Will you let me have the care of it? Take it, and keep it up in my
cell?"

"I shall be only too thankful, if you will lift the load from my
shoulders."

"Tell the steward to bring me a cup of warm, sweetened milk and a
cracker. The poor little lamb must be almost famished."

Through an open window streamed the radiance of a daffodil sky,
flecked with curling plumes of drifting fire, and the glory fell
like a benediction on the iron cot, where lay the body of the early
dead; a small, slight, blond girl wearing prematurely the crown of
maternity, whose thorns had torn and stained the smooth brow of mere
childhood. The half-opened eyes, fixed in their filmy blue glaze,
seemed a prayer for the pretty infant, whose head, a glistening
tangle of yellow curls, was nestled down against the bare white
throat of the rigid mother; while the dimpled hands pulled fretfully
at the blood-spattered gown, that was buttoned across the breast.

As clusters of wild snowy violets springing up in the midst of mud
and mire, in a noxious swamp, look doubly pure and sweet because of
fetid surroundings,--so this blossom of the slums, this human bud,
with petals of innocence folded close in the calyx of babyhood,
seemed supremely and pathetically fair, as she stood leaning against
the cot, the little rosy feet on tip-toe, pressing toward her
mother; tears on the pink velvet of the round cheeks, on the golden
lashes beneath the big blue eyes that grew purplish behind the mist.

The Macedonia of suffering humanity lies always within a stone's
throw; and the "cry for help" had found speedy response in more than
one benevolent heart.

A gray-haired widow from the "Sheltering Arms," to which Sister
Serena belonged, and a Sister of Charity from the hospital in X---,
were already ministering tenderly in the crowded ward; and both had
essayed to coax away the little figure clutching her mother's gown;
but the flaring white cap of one, and the flapping black drapery of
the other, frightened the trembling child.

Into the group stole Beryl; followed closely by the yellow cat,
which had become her shadow. Kneeling beside the baby, she kissed it
softly, took one of the hands, patted her own cheek with it, and
lifted the cat to the mattress, where it began to purr. The silky
shock of yellow curls was lifted, the wide eyes stared wonderingly
first at Beryl's face bending near, then at the cat; and by degrees,
the lovely waif suffered an arm to draw her farther and farther,
while her rose-red mouth parted in a smile, that showed six little
teeth, and with one hand fastened in the cat's fur, she was finally
lifted and borne away; Beryl's soft cheek nestled against hers, the
bronzed head bent down to the yellow ringlets; one arm holding the
baby and the cat, while the other white hand closed warmly over the
child's bare, cold, dimpled feet.

CHAPTER XXVI.

Fair and flowery as in the idyllic dawn when Theocritus sang its
pafatoral charms, was that sunny Sicilian land where, one May
morning, Leo Gordon wandered with a gay party in quest of historic
sites, which the slow silting of the stream of time had not
obliterated. Viewed from the heights of Achradina, whence all the
vestiges of magnificence and luxury have vanished, and only the
hideous monument of "man's inhumanity to man" remains, what a vast
panorama stretched far as the horizon on every side.

To the north, girding the fire-furrowed plain of Catania where
olive, lemon, oleander and orange springing out of black lava,
mingled hues like paints on an ebony palette--rose vast, lonely,
purple at base, snowy at summit, brooding Etna; dozing in the soft,
sweet springtime, with red, wrathful eyes veiled by a silvery haze.
An unlimited expanse of crinkling blue sea, shot like Persian silk
with gleams of gold, and laced here and there with foam scallops,
bounded the east; smiling treacherously above the ghastly wreck
sepultured in its coral crypts, that might have told of the crash of
triremes, the flames of sinking galleys, which twenty-two centuries
ago lit the bloody waves that closed over slaughtered hosts.

Westward lay green, wimpling vales, studded with laurel, arched with
vine-draped pergolas, dotted widi flocks, dimpled with reedy marshes
where red oxen browsed; and beyond the pale pink flush of almond
groves--

"A smoke of blue olives, a vision of towers."

Bucolic paradise of Battus and Bombyce, of Corydon and Daphnis, may
it please the hierophants of Sanskrit lore, of derivative Aryan
philology, of iconoclastic euhemerism, to spare us yet awhile the
lovely myths that dance across the asphodel meads of sunny Sicily.

On the verge of the parapet of the Latomia, where the breath of the
sirocco, the gnawing tooth of time, and the slow ravelling of rain
had serrated the ledge, stood Leo, gazing into the dizzying depths
of the charnel house that swarmed with the ghosts of nine thousand
men, who once were huddled within its stony embrace.

As if pitying nature had striven to appease the manes of the
unburied dead, a pall of luxuriant ivy and glossy acanthus covered
the bottom and sides of the quarry, one hundred feet below; but out
of the dust of centuries stared the rayless eyes of corpses, and the
gaunt despairing faces seemed still uplifted, now in invocation,
anon in imprecation to the overarching sky, where blistering suns
mocked them by day, and glittering moons and silver stars paused in
their westward march through dewy night, to tell them tantalizing
tales of how musically Aegean wavelets broke against the marbles at
Piraeus; how loud the nightingales sang in the plane and poplar
groves at home; how the white glory of the Parthenon smiled down on
violet-crowned Athens, where their wives and children thronged the
temples, in sacrificial rites to insure their safety.

In crevices of the perpendicular walls lush creepers tapestried the
gray stone, and far down, out of the mould of the subterranean
dungeon, sprang slim lemon trees snowed over with fragrant bloom,
clumps of oleander waving banners of vivid rose, and golden-green
pomegranate bushes, where scarlet flakes glowed like the wings of
tropical birds.

"Well, is the game worth the candle? After voyaging thousands of
miles, do you feel repaid; or down there, in the heart of the
desolation, do you see only the grinning mask of jeering
disappointment, which generally follows American realists into the
dusty haunts of Old World idealism?"

As she spoke, Alma Cutting stepped back under the cool canopy of a
spreading fig-tree, and fanned herself with a tuft of papyrus
leaves. She was a tall, handsome woman, pronouncedly brunette in
type, with large black eyes whose customary indolent indifference of
expression did not entirely veil the fires "banked" under the velvet
iris; and a square, firm mouth, around whose full crimson lips
lurked a certain haughtiness, that despite the curb of good
breeding, bordered at times closely upon insolence. Thirty years had
tripped over this dark head, where the hair, innocent of crimp or
curl, hung in a straight jet fringe low on her wide forehead; and
though no lines marred the smooth, health-tinted skin, she was
perceptibly "sun burnt by the glare of life," and the dew of youth
had vanished before the vampire lips of ennui.

"Disappointed? Certainly not; and I were exacting and unreasonable
indeed, if I did not feel abundantly repaid. Alma, since the days
when I pored over Thucydides, Plutarch, Rollin and Grote, this spot
has beckoned to my imagination with all the uplifted hands of the
nine thousand captives; and the longing of years is to-day
completely gratified."

"Am I unusually stupid, or are you rapt, beyond the realm of reason
and mid-day common sense? Pray what is the fascination? It is
neither so vast, nor so picturesque as the Colosseum. There, one
expects to hear the roar of the beasts springing on their human
prey; the ring of steel on steel, when the gladiators have bowed
like dancing-masters to the bloated old bald-headed Neros and
Vespasians; and you fancy that you smell the fountains of perfume
that toss their spray from tier to tier; and see the rainbow of the
silk awning flapping overhead. Better than all, you imagine you can
watch the ravishing toilettes of the Faustinas, and Fulvias and
Messalinas who flirt with the handsome, straight-nosed beaux so
immensely classical in their togas; and when their thunder-browed
husbands unexpectedly step in behind, it is so easy to conjecture
the sudden change of theme, as they spread their fans to cover the
message just written on their ivory tablets, and straightway fall to
clawing the characters of all the Cornelias, and Calpurnias, and
Octavias and Julia Domnas, and other respectable wives! All that I
quite enjoyed because I understood. Eight years' campaigning in New
York, and London and Paris would teach even an idiot that nineteenth
century 'best society' can lift you so close to the naughtiness of
the golden Roman era, that one only has to strain a very little on
tip-toe, to feel at one's ease with the jeunesse doree of dead ages.
Here--what do you find in a huge stone well sunk into the bowels of
the earth? About as enticing as a plunge into a dry cistern,
suddenly unroofed? If spectres we must hunt, do let them be festive,
like those Faust danced with on the Brocken!"

"You should be ashamed, Alma! Miss Gordon is the very soul of
courteous toleration, or she would resent the teasing goad of your
Philistinism," cried the brother, Rivers Cutting, who in his new
style yachting suit of blue cloth appeared veritably the jaunty
genius of fashionable modernity, confronting the ghost of antiquity.

"You forget, Rivers, some of the sage dicta you brought back from
the 'Summer School of Philosophy', when you followed your last
Boston flame to Concord, where she went poaching on the sacred
preserves of the 'Illuminati,' hunting a new sensation. 'We must be
as courteous to human beings as we are to a picture, which we are
willing to give the advantage of a good light.' Now being Leo's very
sincere friend, and knowing that the supreme moment of her facial
triumph is when, like a startled fawn, she opens her eyes wide in
horrified amazement at some inconceivable heresy, do you suppose I
am so recreant to loyalty as to fail in providing her occasionally
with the necessary Gorgon, ethical or archaeolegical, as
surroundings warrant?

"History was never the fetich of my girlhood, and that quartette of
dry-as-dust worthies whom Leo carries around in leash, as other
women carry pugs and poodles, came near giving me meningitis in my
tender years. My first governess, a Puritan spinster, full of zeal,
and conscientiously bent on earning her wages, by exercising my
brains to their utmost capacity, undertook to introduce me to all
the highly immoral personages and practices that made the Punic Wars
famous. By way of making Imilco a lifelong acquaintance, she
illustrated the siege of Agrigentum by a huge, hideous image of
Phalaris' 'Brazen Bull,' drawn with chalk on the school-room
blackboard.

"A wonderful beast it certainly was; that taurus with head lowered,
tail lashing the air, one hoof pawing savagely, worthy
representative of all the horrors it typified, and which she
explained with maddening perspicuity. That night, when papa tore
himself away from the club room at one o'clock, and met mamma on the
doorstep--just coming home from a supper at Delmonico's after an
opera party--they were ascending the stairs, when frantic cries
drove from her ears the echoes of 'Traviata's' witching strain.
Thinking only a conflagration would justify the din, papa threw up
the hall sash and shouted 'fire!' and the police sounded the alarm,
and all pandemonium broke loose. Investigation discovered me,
wriggled half way down to the foot of my bed, buried under the
blankets, and shrieking 'Perillus' Bull! I am roasting in the Brass
Bull!' Being not very ardent disciples of Clio, my solicitous
parents failed to understand the nightmare; hence cracked ice was
folded over my head (mid-winter), and the family physician ordered a
mustard plaster half a yard long, down my spine. I vividly remember
Imilco, and the bovine fury pawing the blackboard; but of the three
Punic Wars, then and there tabooed, I recall only the brass monster
at Agrigentum. Leo, when we reach Girgenti, the remaining Mecca of
your historic hopes, some time to-morrow, you will understand why,
instead of climbing to the temples of the cliff, I shall lock the
door of our cabin, and drown the bellowing of the beast in Daudet's
new book."

"I wish, indeed I do, that you had staid there to-day, instead of
coming ashore to dampen all our ardor and enthusiasm by your
constant thin drizzle of scorn. One should suppose that in this
idyllic region, some ray of poetic warmth must melt your frigid,
scoffing soul. Daudet suits my sister far better than Theocritus,"
answered her brother, fastening a sprig of orange blossom in his
button hole.

Pushing back her sailor hat, Alma looked obliquely at him from
beneath her drooping lids.

"Try me. Perhaps infection haunts the air. Spare us the Greek, come
down from your Yale and Harvard heights to the level of my
ignorance, and warble for me in English some of your Sicilian lark's
melodies. At least I have heard of Amaryllis and Simaetha."

Mr. Cutting shook his head.

"What--? Ashamed of your bucolic hobby! No wonder--since after all
it's only a goat. I dare you, brother mine, to produce me a
Theocritan fragment."

"Take the consequences of your rash levity; though I have a dawning
suspicion some 'Imp of the Perverse' has coached you for the
occasion."

He stroked his mustache, pondered a moment, then struck an attitude,
and declaimed:

"I go a serenading to Amaryllis; what time my flocks browse on the
mountains, and Tityrus drives them. Tityrus beloved of me in the
highest degree, feed my flocks and lead them to the fountain, etc."

Mimicking his tone exactly, Alma finished the line:

"And mind, Tityrus, that tawny Libyan he-goat lest he butt thee!'
Come, Rivers; free translation is allowable, considering
surroundings, but not garbling; and every time you know you
substituted flocks for goats. Proceed, and do not insult your pet
author with emendations."

With his hat on the back of his head, and his thumbs in the armholes
of his vest, Mr. Cutting resumed:

"Sweet Amaryllis! though by death defiled,
Thee shall I ne'er forget; dear to my heart
As are my frisking goats, thou did'st depart.
To what a lot--was I, unhappy, born!"

Again the mocking voice responded:

"But see! yon calves devour
The olive branches. Pelt them off I pray.

"Confound the calves! 'St--! you white-skin thief--away!' Thanks, no
more at present. Doubtless it sounds very fine in Greek, because
then, I could not possibly understand that it is the melody and the
rhythmic dance of bleating calves, and capering goats. Here come the
stragglers laden with plunder. Oh, papa! Do give me those exquisite
acacia clusters."

"My dear, I have ordered luncheon spread down there, in that strange
garden. It is the queerest place imaginable; and looking up, the
effect is quite indescribable."

"Have you had the skulls polished for drinking cups, and printed the
menus on cross-bones? What shocking taste to add insult to injury by
spreading all our wealth of canned dainties on the very stones where
sit the ghosts of those who perished from hunger and thirst!
Eminently Dantesque, but the sacrilege appalls Leo. She would sooner
attend an oyster supper, or a clam-bake in the Catacombs, or--"
bowing to a young Englishman standing near, "lead a German in the
Poets' corner of Westminster Abbey. My dear girl, under which flag
do you fight? Athenian, Roman, Carthagenian, Syracusan?

"The child of a man who fell in defence of his own fireside, could
scarcely fail to sympathize with the holy cause of the invaded; yet
here, in view of the horrors inflicted upon the captives, one almost
leans to Athens. It seems to me the most enduring monument of
Syracusan glory survives in the eloquent protest of Nicolaus against
her cruelty; especially when we recollect that it came from one who,
of all others, had most to forgive. Old, decrepit, unable to walk,
the venerable sorrow-laden man whose only children, two sons, had
died fighting to save Syracuse--was carried on a litter into the
midst of the shouting thousands, who were drunk with the wine of
victory. 'Behold an unhappy father, who has most cause to detest the
Athenians, the authors of this war, the murderers of my children!
But I am less sensible of my private afflictions than of the honor
of my country, when I see it ready to expose itself to eternal
infamy by violating the law of nations, and dishonoring our victory
by barbarous cruelty. What! Will you tarnish your glory, and have
all the world say that a nation who first dedicated a temple in
their city, to Clemency, found none in yours? Triumphs and victories
do not give immortal glory to a city; but the use of moderation in
the greatest prosperity, the exercise of mercy toward a vanquished
enemy, the fear of offending the gods by a haughty and insolent
pride.' What a theme for Dore or Munkacsy?"

"Thank you ever so much, Miss Gordon, for brushing away the library
dust from that historic cameo. I had so utterly forgotten it lay in
the musty tomes, that it has all the charm of a curio." Mr. Cutting
took off his hat, and bowed.

"Acknowledgments are due rather to my cousin, Dr. Douglass, who
called my attention to the passage. The best of all things good
abide with him; and out of his overflowing store, he shares with the
needy. Only last night he reminded me of an illustration of the
vanitas vanitatum of human fame and national gratitude, to be found
over yonder in the necropolis. Less than a hundred and forty years
after his death, Archimedes was so completely forgotten by the city
he had immortalized, that Syracuse denied he was buried on her soil;
and a foreigner had the honor of clearing away rubbish and brambles,
in order to show the grave to his own countrymen."

Leighton Douglass handed to his cousin a bunch of the delicate lilac
blossoms of acanthus, tied with a wisp of some ribbon-like grass,
and taking off his spectacles, replied:

"Leo unduly exalts my memory at the expense of her own; and we have
all levied heavily on her fund of topographical accuracy."

"If I travel much longer with two such learned and philosophical
scholars, I shall inevitably degenerate into an intellectual
Dodder," yawned Alma.

"Into a what?" asked her father.

"A Dodder, sir. Pray, papa, be more considerate than to force Doctor
Douglass to believe that instead of listening to the sermon he
preached us last year, you either slept ignominiously throughout its
delivery, or else allowed your unregenerate thoughts to dwell on
those devices of Lucifer, 'puts,' 'calls, 'spreads,' 'corners,
'spots' and 'futures'. Of course you remember that he believes in
evolution? There was a time, even in my extremely recent day, when
that word was more frightful to the orthodox than a ton of nitro-
glycerine; was to the elect, a fouler abomination even than opera
bouffe and the can can. But 'the thoughts of men are widened with
the process of the suns', and now it appears that the immortal soul
of us must be evolved, somewhat in the same fashion as protoplasm,
and unless we fight for 'survival' elsewhere, we shall not be
numbered among the spirited 'fittest', but degenerate into
parasites, dodders, backsliders. So, drawing nutriment from the
Doctor's historic brains, and from Leo's, I fall back into worse
than a dodder, a torpid violator of the Law of Work, a hopeless
Sacculina! Doctor Douglass, it was the bravest hour of your life
when you stood up in--church pulpit, and told us the scientists whom
we were wont to regard as more dreadful than the cannibals and
Calmucks, are only a devoted sect of truth seekers, preaching from
older texts, and drawing nearer and nearer to the kingdom of Heaven.
To throw that ethical bomb, required more courage than Balaklava."

"Mine was merely a feeble attempt to follow out the analogical
reasoning of one of the most original and scientific thinkers of
our day in Great Britain; but the fact that you recall so correctly
the line of argument in a sermon delivered more than a year ago, is
certainly complimentary assurance of at least approximate success in
my effort."

"After all, I am sorry I humored Leo's whim, and persuaded papa to
bring us here."

"Why, my dear? We are enjoying it immensely," said her father.

"Because Syracuse has proved my 'crumpled rose leaf', by destroying
the prestige of the 'Cleopatra'. Hitherto, I deemed our yacht quite
the most complete and gorgeous floating palace since the days of its
highly improper namesake's marauding sails on the Cydnus."

"And so she is; there is nothing afloat comparable to her in speed,
appointments, comfort and beauty," interrupted Mr. Cutting,

"Poor papa! How he bristles at the bare suggestion of rivalry. Be
comforted, sir, in the knowledge that at least we shall not be run
down by a phantom cruiser. It is very humiliating to American pride-
-after winning the international prizes, and boasting so
inordinately, to find out that we are only about--how many
centuries, Leo?--twenty-five centuries behind Syracuse in building
pleasure crafts. Think of a superb cabin with staterooms containing
beds (not bunks) for one hundred and twenty guests, and the floors
all covered with agates and other precious stones, that formed a
mosaic copy of the Iliad! If you wished to emphasize a discussion on
connubial devotion, behold! there on your right, Andromache and
Hector; if one's husband objected to a harmless flirtation, lo! on
the left, Agamemnon and Briseis; and to point the moral of 'pretty
is, as pretty does'--how very convenient to indicate with the tip of
your satin slipper, the demure figure of Helen standing on the
walls, to watch the duel between Menelaus and Paris! Fancy the
consolation a person of my indolent Sacculina temperament might have
derived from the untimely fate of Cassandra, oppressed with
knowledge in advance of her day and generation! There was the
gymnasium for the beaux; and for the belles bona fide gardens, with
walks and arbors covered with ivy and flowering vines whose roots
rested in great stone vessels filled with earth. Imagine the boudoir
and bathrooms paved with precious stones, encrusted with carved
ivory and statues--"

"Pooh! Alma. That rigmarole is not in the guide books. Come, Dixon
is waving his handkerchief down there, as a signal that luncheon is
ready."

"I prefer to wait here. Alma, bring me some anemones, and a sprig of
ivy from the circular garden, when you come back," said Leo.

Doctor Douglass drew closer, and asked:

"Will you let me stay also, and enjoy with you the wonderful charm
of this opalescent air, this beautiful cincturing sea?"

"I would rather be alone. Solitude is a luxury rarely allowed on a
yacht cruise; and I want a few quiet moments. By day, poor Aunt
Patty has so much to tell me; at night, Alma is a chattering owl."

There are hours when the ghost of a happy past, from which we have
persistently fled, constrains us to give audience; and Leo
surrendered herself to memories that brought a very mournful shadow
into her brave brown eyes. Thirteen months had passed since her
departure from X---and despite changing scenes and novel incidents,
she could not escape the haunting face that met her on mountains,
was mirrored in every sea; the brilliant mesmeric face set in its
frame of crisp black locks, with dark blue eyes whose intense lustre
had the cold, hard gleam of jewels. Sleeping or waking, always that
dear, powerful face daring her to forget.

When Doctor Douglass and Miss Patty joined the yacht party at
Palermo, the former had brought a letter and a package, which sorely
tested Leo's strength of will. Leaning to-day against the twisted
body of an old olive tree, she opened and read once more, the final
message.

"When Leighton places this sheet in your hands, the year of release
which I could not refuse you, will have expired. Once your noble
heart was wholly mine; and the proudest moment of my life was, and
will be, that in which you promised to be my wife. All that you ever
were, you shall always remain to me; and if you can confide your
happiness to my keeping, I will never betray the sacred trust. Life
has grown sombre to me, during the past eighteen months; and the
only companionship that I can hope to cheer it, you alone can bring
me. I have not willingly or intentionally forfeited your confidence;
but that I have suffered, I shall not deny. If you love me, as in
days gone by, our future rests once more in your hands; and you must
renew the pledges that at your request I surrendered. In behalf of
our past, I beg that you will retain the ring, hallowed forever by
the touch of your hand; and its acceptance will typify, if not a
renewal of our engagement, at least the perpetuity of a sacred
friendship. Awaiting your final decision, I am, my dear Leo,

"Yours as of yore, LENNOX."

All that she had ever been; no more. The graceful, well-bred heiress
whom he admired, who commanded his profoundest respect, whom he had
known from his boyhood, and who of all others he had desired should
preside over his home and wear his name; but not the woman who
reigned in his heart; whose touch had lighted the glowing tenderness
that so transfigured his countenance, as she saw it that day,
bending over a sick convict in a penitentiary.

He offered her formal allegiance, and that pale phantom of affection
grounded in reverence, which is to the ardent love that a true woman
demands in exchange for her own, as--

"Moonlight unto sunlight; and as water unto wine."

She knew that he was no willing victim of a fascination, which had
audaciously deranged his carefully mapped campaign of life; that he
would have set his heel on his own insurgent heart, had it been
possible; and she honored him for the stern integrity that forbade
his affectation of a warmth of feeling which she was now conscious
she had never evoked.

Accepting the theory that the young convict was sustained and
animated by her devotion to a guilty lover, Leo fully understood
that Lennox, even were he mad enough to sacrifice his pride, could
indulge no expectation of ever winning the love of the prisoner; and
despite her efforts to regard their rupture as final, she had
faintly hoped that he would cross the ocean, and in person urge a
renewal of the betrothal. The test of absence had proved as
effectual as she intended it should be, and his letter proclaimed
the humiliating fact, that while honor inspired him to hold out his
wrists for conjugal manacles, honor equally constrained him to spare
her the wrong and insult of insincere professions of tenderness.

Had she found it possible to condemn him as unworthy, it would have
diminished the pain of surrendering the brightest hope of her life;
for contempt is the balm a lofty soul offers a bruised heart, but
she was just, even in her anguish; and that when barbed the arrow,
was the mortifying consciousness that compassion for her was the
strongest motive which dictated the carefully phrased letter. She
was far too proud to parley with the temptation to accept the shadow
in lieu of the substance; and twenty-four hours after the arrival of
the final appeal, her answer was speeding with wings of steam across
the ocean.

"DEAR LENNOX:

"My heart overflows with gratitude for all the affectionate
interest, the kind solicitude, the innumerable thoughtful attentions
you have so indefatigably shown to Aunt Patty, in the sad
complication of misfortunes that so suddenly overwhelmed her; and I
feel the inadequacy of any attempt to express my thanks. Your letter
can only rivet more indissolubly the links of an affectionate
friendship that must always bind you and me; but the future can hold
no renewal of pledges which I feel assured would conduce neither to
your happiness, nor to mine. Let us embalm the past and bury it
tenderly; raising no mound to trip our friendly feet in years to
come. The serenity of our future might be marred by retrospective
gleams of the beautiful ring that once enclosed two lives; hence, I
have ordered the diamonds reset in the form of a four-leaved clover,
which will be sent to dear Kittie as an auspicious omen.

"With undiminished esteem, and unshaken confidence, and with a
prayer for your happiness, which will always be dear to me, I
remain,

"Your sincerely attached friend,

"LEO."

The majority of men, and a large class of women, bury their dead,
and straightway begin assiduously the cultivation of all that
promises oblivion; but Leo's nature was deeper, more intense; and
while she made no audible moan, and shed no tears, she accepted the
fact that earthly existence had lost its coveted crown, and that her
aching heart was the dark grave of a beautiful hope that could know
no resurrection. To-day she asked herself: "What shall I do with my
life?"

Upon the warm air, sweet with the breath of lemon flowers, floated
the peculiar, jeering, yet subdued and musical laughter, which told
that Alma had flown straight at some luckless quarry. She held in
one hand a cluster of crimson anemones, and purple stars of
periwinkle, and walking between two English gentlemen, whose yacht,
the "Albatross", lay anchored close to the "Cleopatra" in the harbor
below, slowly approached Leo, saying:

"Don't stone your prophets. Especially one hedged about with the
triple sanctity of Brasenose! 'Consider that thy marbles are but the
earth's callosities, thy gold and silver its faeces; thy silken robe
but a worm's bedding; and thy purple an unclean fish.' That is one
sugar-coated pill that I administer to my humility now and then to
keep it healthy. Hear him again;--'sitting on the marble bench of
one of the exhedrea on the edge of the Appian Way, close to the
fragrant borders of a rose farm': 'So it is, with the philosophers;
all alike are in search of happiness, what kind of thing it is. It
is pleasure, it is virtue; what not? All philosophers, so to speak,
are but fighting about the ass' shadow. I saw one who poured water
into a mortar, and ground it with all his might with a pestle of
iron, fancying he did a thing useful; but it remained water only,
none the less.' Stoicism, hedonism, the gospel of 'Sweetness and
Light'; what is it, may I ask, that your aesthetic priests furnish,
to feed immortal British souls? Knee breeches, sun flowers, niello,
cretonne, Nanking bowls, lily dados? To us it savors sorrowfully of
that which one of your prophets foreshadowed, 'Despair, baying as
the poet heard her, in the ruins of old Rome'."

"Beg pardon, Miss Cutting; but you quite surprise me. The tone of
many American papers and magazines led us to suppose, really, that
the rosy dawn of Culture was beginning to flush the night of
Philistinism brooding over your Western world."

"Believe it not. Primeval gloom, raw realism so weigh upon our
apathetic souls, that we rub our eyes and stare at sight of your
aesthetic catechism: 'Harmony, but no system; instinct, but no
logic; eternal growth and no maturity; everlasting movement, and
nothing attained; infinite possibilities of everything; the becoming
all things, the being nothing.' We have too much Philistine honesty
to pretend that we understand that, but like other ambitious parrots
we can commit to memory. One of your seers tells us that:
'Renaissance art will make our lives like what seems one of the
loveliest things in nature, the iridescent film on the face of
stagnant water!' Now it will require at least a decade, to train us
to appreciate the subtile symphonies of ditch slime. An English
friend compassionating my American stupidity, essayed to initiate me
in the cult of 'culture', and gave me a leaf to study, from the
latter-day gospel. I learned it after a time, as I did the
multiplication table. 'Culture steps in, and points out the
grossness of untempered belief. It tells us the beauty of
picturesque untruth; the grotesqueness of unmannerly conviction;
truth and error have kissed each other in a sweet, serener sphere;
this becomes that, and that is something else. The harmonious, the
suave, the well bred waft the bright particular being into a
peculiar and reserved parterre of paradise, where bloom at once the
graces of Panthism, the simplicity of Deism, and the pathos of
Catholicism; where he can sip elegances and spiritualities from
flowerets of every faith!' Fancy my crass ignorance, when I assure
you that I actually laughed over that verbal syllabub, thinking it
intended as a famous bit of satire."

"Then it is pathetically true that reverence for the Renaissance has
not crossed the Atlantic?" asked one of the "Albatross" party, who
with his sketch book half open, was surreptitiously making an
"impressionist" view of Leo's profile, as she stood listening to
Alma's persiflage, and mechanically arranging her lilac acanthus
blossoms.

"Devoted British colporteurs have philanthropically scattered a few
art primers and tracts, and there is a possibility that in the near
future, our people may search the maps for Orvieto, and the
dictionaries for Campo Santo, to compass the mysteries of the
'Triumph of Death', and of 'Symmetria Prisca'. Some of us have even
heard of 'Aucassin et Nicolette', and of 'Nencia da Barberino',
picking salad in her garden; and I am almost sure a Vassar girl once
spoke to me of Delia Quercia's Ilaria; but with all my national
pride, candor compels me to admit that it is a 'far cry' to the day
when we can devoutly fall on our knees before the bronze Devil of
Giovanni da Bologna. Aesthetic paupers, we sit on the lowest bench
at the foot of the class, in your Dame's Art School, to learn the
alphabet of the wonderful Renaissance; and in our chastened and
reverent mood, it almost takes our breath away when your high-
priestess unrolls the last pronunciamento, and tells us her
startling story of 'Euphorion!' Why? Ah!--don't you know? The
Puritan leaven of prudery, and the stern, stolid, phlegmatic decorum
of Knickerbockerdom mingle in that consummate flower of the
nineteenth century occident, the 'American Girl', who pales and
flushes at sight of the carnival of the undraped--in English art and
literature. Here, Leo, take your anemones; red, are they not, as the
blood once chilled down yonder, in that huge stone kennel? Dr.
Douglass has the ivy root; and he and I have concluded, that after
all, Syracuse was not more cruel here in the Latomia, than some
States in America, where convicts are leased to mining companies,
and kept quarrying coal, without even the sweet consolation of
staring up at this magical blue sky. We leave hideous moral and
physical leprosy at home, and come here to shed dilettante tears
over classic tatters twenty-five centuries old! O immortal and
ubiquitous Tartufe!"

As Leo walked with her cousin toward the spot, where the "Cleopatra"
rose and fell on the crest of waves racing before Libeccio, she
suddenly laid her hand on his arm.

"Leighton, I have decided to leave the yacht at Venice and take Aunt
Patty to Udine for rest and quiet. When summer is over, I shall be
ready to make arrangements for the journey to Syria and Egypt, and
you must complete your church mission to England in time to
accompany us to Jerusalem."

"Is this your itinerary, or Aunt Patty's?"

"She has set her heart upon it; and it will be agreeable to me."

CHAPTER XXVII.

Is it true that in abstract valuation, "the bird in hand, is worth
two in the bush?"

We stand beneath a loaded apricot tree, and would give all the
bushel within reach, for one crimson satin globe pendent on the
extreme tip of the most inaccessible bough; and the largest,
luscious, richest colored orange always glows defiantly, high up,
close to the body of the tree, hedged away from our eager grasp by
its impenetrable chevaux de frise of bristling thorns. The wonderful
water lily we covet is smiling on its green cushion of leaves just
beyond the danger line, where death lurks; the rhododendron flame
that burned brightest amid surrounding floral fires, and lured us,
springs from the crevice of some beetling precipice, waving a
challenge over fatal chasms that bar possession; and with fretful
dissatisfaction we repine, because the colors of the feathered
captives in our gilt cages are so dull, so faded in comparison with
their brothers, flashing wings of scarlet, and breasts of vivid blue
high in the sunlight of God's free air.

The gold and silver dust that powder velvet butterflies, tarnish at
a touch, stain the fingers that clutch them; and the dewy bloom on
purple and amber grape clusters, never survives the handling of the
vintager.

Leaning back in the revolving chair in front of his office desk, Mr.
Dunbar slowly tore into strips a number of notes and letters, and
suffered the fragments to fall into a waste basket somewhat faded,
yet much too elegant to harmonize with its surroundings.

When Leo quilted the lining of ruby silk and knotted the ribbons
that tied it to the wicker lace work, love pelted her cheek with
roses, and happy hope sang so loud in her ear, that she could not
have divined the cruel fact that she was preparing the dainty
coffin, destined to receive the mutilated remains of a betrothal,
that typified supreme earthly happiness to her. One by one dropped
the shreds of Leo's last message from Palermo, like torn crumpled
petals of a once beloved and sacred flower; and the faint, delicate
perfume that clung to the fragments, was one which Mr. Dunbar
recognized as characteristic of the library at the "Lilacs". The
contents of the farewell note had in no degree surprised him; for
though fully persuaded that her heart was irrevocably pledged to the
past, he was equally sure that only the ardor he scorned to feign,
would avail to melt the wall of ice her outraged pride had built
between them. There were times when he deplored bitterly the loss of
her companionship; at others he exulted in the consciousness of
perfect freedom to indulge an overmastering love, amenable to no
chastisement by violated loyalty. He had scrupulously endeavored, by
careful employment of forms of deference, to spare his betrothed as
far as possible, the stinging humiliation and anguish which every
woman suffers, when the man whom she loves shows her that she fills
only a subordinate and insignificant place in his affection; and
yet, while her nobler nature commanded his homage, and the
brilliancy of the alliance seems to jeer at his blind fatuity, his
heart throbbed and yearned with an intolerable longing for one upon
whom the world had set the seal of an ineradicable disgrace.

Nature and education had made him a coldly calculating man, jealous
of his honor, but immersed in schemes for his own aggrandizement,
and superbly invulnerable to the blandishments of sentimentality;
hence his amazement, when the deep and engrossing love of his life
burned away that selfishness which was citadel of his affections.
Because his infatuation had cost him so much, that was alluring
alike to vanity, pride, and ambition, a fierce hunger for revenge
possessed him; and herein differs the nature of the love of men and
women; the one can sacrifice itself for the happiness of the
beloved; the other will crucify its darling to appease jealous pangs
in view of happiness it can neither inspire nor share.

"Good morning, Churchill. Come in. Glad to see you. Sit down."

"When did you get back, Lennox?"

"Last night."

"Well, what luck?"

"A rather leaky promise. Kneading slag or cold pig iron into
Bessemer steel would be about as easy as pounding the law of
evidence into the Governor's brains. I emphasized the moral weight
of the petition, by calling his attention to the signatures of the
judge, jury, prosecuting counsel and especially of Prince, who
presumably has most to forgive. The memorial of the inspectors,
warden and physician was appended, and constituted a eulogy upon the
behavior and character of the prisoner; especially the heroic
service rendered by her during the recent fatal epidemic. Human
nature is an infernally vexing bundle of paradoxes, and when a man
throws his conscience in your teeth, what then? The argument from
which I hoped most, proved a Greek horse, and well-nigh wrought
ruin. When I dwelt upon the fact that the prisoner had voluntarily
conveyed to Prince all right and title to the fortune, which was
supposed to have tempted her to commit the crime, he bristled like a
Skye terrier, and grandiloquently assured me he valued his
'prerogative as something too sacred to be prostituted to nepotism!'
Prince being his cousin, a readiness to exercise Executive clemency
by pardoning the prisoner, might be construed into a species of
bargain and sale; and his Excellency could not condone a crime
merely because the culprit had relinquished a fortune to his
relative. Braying an ordinary fool in a mortar is an unpromising
job; but an extraordinary official leatherhead, PLUS thin-skinned
conscience, and religious scruples, requires the upper and nether
mill stone. You know, Churchill, it is tough work to straighten a
crooked ramrod."

"I see; a case of moral curvature of the spine. When he was
inaugurated last December, I chanced to be at the Capital, and heard
two old codgers from the piney woods felicitating the State upon
having a Governor, 'Fit to tie to; honest as the day is long, and
walks so straight, he is powerful swaybacked.' Dunbar, did he refuse
outright?"

"He holds the matter in abeyance for maturer deliberation; but
promises that, unless he sees cogent reasons to the contrary, he may
grant a pardon when eighteen months of the sentence have expired.
That will be the last week in August, and almost two years since she
was thrown into prison. I should have made application to his
predecessor, Glenbeigh, had I not been so confident of overtaking
the man who killed Gen'l Darrington; but the clue that promised so
much merely led me astray. I went with the detective down into the
mines, and found the man, who certainly had a hideous facial
deformity, but he was gray as a badger, and moreover proved an
ALIBI, having been sick with small-pox in the county pest-house on
the night of the murder. It is a tedious hunt, but I will not be
balked of my game. I will collar that wretch some day, and meantime
I will get the pardon."

"I hope so; for I shall never feel easy until that poor girl is set
free. The more I hear of her deportment and character, especially of
the religious influence she seems to be exerting through some Bible
readings she holds among the female convicts, the more painfully am
I oppressed with the conviction that we all committed a sad blunder,
and narrowly escaped hanging an innocent woman."

"Speak for yourself. I disclaim complicity in the disgraceful wrong
of the conviction."

"Well, I confess I would rather stand in your place than mine;
especially since my wife's brother Garland was called in as
consulting physician, last month at the penitentiary. He has so
stirred her sympathies for the woman whom he pronounces a paragon of
all the virtues and graces, that I begin to fidget now at the sound
of the prisoner's name, and can hardly look my wife straight in the
face. When I go up to court next week, I will call on the Governor,
and add a personal appeal to the one I have already signed.
According to the evidence, she is guilty; but when justice is
vindicated, one can afford to listen to the dictates of pity. Now,
Dunbar, let me congratulate you on your recent good luck. We hear
wonderful accounts of your new fortune."

"Rumor always magnifies such matters; still it is true that I have
inherited a handsome estate." "Does your sister share equally?"

"A very liberal legacy was left to her, but you are aware that I was
named for my mother's brother, Randall Lennox, and he has for many
years regarded me as his heir; hence, gave me the bulk of the
property."

"It is rather strange that he never married. I recall him as a very
distinguished looking man."

"He had a love affair very early in life, while at college, with the
daughter of his Greek professor. Surreptitiously he took her to
drive one afternoon, and the horse became frightened, ran away and
killed the girl. He was a peculiar man, and seems never to have
swerved from his allegiance to her memory."

"I hope it is not true that the conditions of the will require you
to remove from X---and settle in New Orleans? We can't afford to
lose you from our bar."

"There are no restrictions in my Uncle Lennox's will; the legacy was
unconditional; but the obligation of complying with his urgent
desire to have me live in New Orleans will probably induce me to
make that my future home. For several years he has associated me
with him in the conduct of some important suits; and I understand
now, that his motive was to introduce me gradually to a new field of
professional labor. Not the least valuable of my new possessions is
his superb law library, probably the finest in the South. Of course
my business will keep me here, for the present, and I have matured
no plans."

"Did you reach New Orleans before his death?"

"No, I was in Dakota, and missed a letter designed to acquaint me
with his illness. While in Washington on my return, arguing a case
before the Supreme Court, a telegram was forwarded from the office
here, and I hurried off by the first train, but arrived about ten
hours too late. Another grudge I have to settle with that bloody
thief, when I unearth him."

"After all, Dunbar, you are a deucedly lucky fellow,--and--Hello!
historic Hebrew! Bedney, have you seen a ghost?"

"Yes--Mars Alfred--two of 'em."

Spent with fatigue, panting, with an ashen pallor on his leathery,
wrinkled face, the old negro ran in to the office, and leaned
heavily against the oak table.

"What is the matter? Positively, you are turning a grayish white.
What is the secret of the bleaching? Police after you? Or does the
Sheriff want you?"

"Mars Alfred, this ain't no fitten time to crack your on'-Gawdly
jokes, for I am scared all but into fits. I started in a brisk walk,
but every step I got more and more afeered to look behind, and I
struk a fox trot, and now my wind is clean gone."

"What is the trouble? What are you running from?"

"'Fore Gawd, Mars Alfred, sperrits! Sperrits, sir."

"Do you mean that you want a dram to steady your nerves?"

"I'm that frustrated I couldn't say what I want; but I didn't
signify bottle and jimmyjohn liquor, I mean sperrits, sir, ghosts
what walk, and make the hair rise like wire all over your head. The
ole house is hanted shore 'nuff; and I can't stay there. Lem'me tell
you, Lord! Mars Alfred, don't laugh! It's the Gawd's truth, ole
Marster's sperrit is fighting up yonder in his room with the man
what killed him. I seen him, in the broad daylight, and I have cum
for you and Mars Lennox to git there, jest as quick as you kin, so
you kin see it fur yourselves. I know you won't believe it till you
see it; nuther should I, but it's there. The sperrits have cum back,
to show my young mistiss' child never killed her grandpa."

Mr. Dunbar rose quickly, handed a glass of water to the old man, and
then placed a chair for him.

"Tell me at once what you saw."

"Ole Marster standin' in the flo' close to the vault, with his arm
up so--and the handi'on in his own hand--"

"How dare you come here, with this cock-and-bull story? You are
either drunk or in your dotage. Your master has been in his grave
for eighteen months, and--"

"Oh! to be shore I know'd what you'd say. Cuss me for an idjut; but
I swar, Mars Lennox, I am that scared I dasn't to tell you no lie.
The proof of the pudden is jest chawin' the bag, an' I want you both
to git a carridge quick, and take me up home; and if you don't see
what I tell you is thar, you may kick me from the front door clean
down to the big gate. The grave is busted wide open, and the dead
walks, for I seen him; and I'll sho' him to you. Come on, I want you
to see for yourself."

"You imbecile old nincompoop! Go home, and tell Dyce to give you
some catnip tea, and tie you to a chair," laughed Mr. Churchill.

"You'll laugh t'other side of your mouth, Mars Alfred, when you see
that awful sight up yonder. Ole Marster has come back, to clare the
name of his grandchile, for he and his murderer is a wrastling, and
it ain't no 'oman, it's a man! A tall, pretty man, with beard on his
face."

Mr. Dunbar struck a bell at his side, and a clerk came promptly from
the rear room.

"Nesbitt, step over to the livery stable, and order a carriage sent
up at once." Turning to Bedney he continued:

"I suppose the gist of all your yarn-spinning is, that you have
found a stranger prowling about the place. How did you discover
him?"

"Lem'me tell you, as fur as I can, how I cum to see ole Marster. Mr.
Prince gin orders that the house should be opened and arred reglar,
and he pintedly enjined us to have that room well cleaned and put in
order. We had all pintedly gin it a wide berth, and kep' ourselves
on t'other side of the house, 'cause all such places is harryfying;
but this morning, I thought I would open the outside blind door on
the west gallery, and look in through the glass door. I know'd Mr.
Prince had stirred round considerable in there, the day before he
left, but I didn't know he had drapped the curting what was looped
back the last time I was inside. So I went up the steps and clared
away a rose vine what was hanging low down from the i'on pillar of
the piazzar, and almost screening the door, and I walked up, I did,
and looked in. Lord Gawd Amighty! The red curting was down on the
inside, and I seen through it, I swar to Gawd I did, sir! I seen
clar spang through into that room, and thar stood Marster in his
night clothes, jest so--and thar stood that murdering vil'yan close
to him, holding the tin box so--and Marster with the handi'on jest
daring him to cum on--and--and oh! I am glad to know my Marster was
game to the last, died game! Never show'd no white feather while
thar was breath in his body. Mars Lennox, I jest drapped on my
knees, and I trimbled, and my teeth chattered, and I felt the hair
as it riz straight up. I was afeer'd to stay, and I was afeer'd to
move; but I shet my eyes and crawled back'ards easy to the aidge of
the steps, and then run as fast as I could. I wanted Dyce to see,
too, but the poor cretur is so crippled she can't walk, and as she
weighs two hundred and twenty pounds, I couldn't tote her; so I tole
her what I seen, and she sent me straight to find Mars Alfred fust,
and you next. I run to Mars Alfred's office, and he was out, so I
kep' on here. I know'd you lie'yers was barking up the wrong tree,
and wrongfully pussecutin' that poor young gal; and now the very
sperrits have riz up to testify fur her. If you two can face ole
Marster's ghost, and tell him you know better than he did who killed
him, you've got better pluck and backbone than I give you credit
fur."

"What did you eat last night, Bedney? Baked possum, and fried
chitterlings? Evidently you have had a heavy nightmare."

Mr. Churchill drew a match across the heel of his boot, and lighted
a cigar; looking quizzically at the old man, who was wiping the
perspiration from his face.

"There's the carridg, I hear the wheels. Mars Lennox and Mars
Alfred, there is one thing I insists on havin'. The law is all lop-
sided from fust to last in this here case, and I want it squoze into
shape, till t'other side swells out a little. I want the Crowner to
go up yonder now, and hold another inquess. He's done sot all wrong
on the body, and now let him set on the sperrit if he kin. I'm in
plum earnest. The Crowner swore that poor young gal knocked Marster
in the head with the handi'on; and yonder stands Marster, ready to
brain that man--with that handi'on hilt tight in his own right hand.
Now what I wants to know is, WHAR is the 'delectible corpus' what
you lieyers argufied over?"

"You doting old humbug! If you decoy us on a wild goose chase I
shall feel like cutting one of your ears off!"

"Slit 'em both and welcome, Mars Alfred, if you don't find I'm
telling you the Gawd's truth. I feel all tore up, root and branch,
and if folks could be scared to death, I should be stretched out
this minute on the west piazzar. I had my doubts about ghosts and
sperrits, and I lost my religion when I cotch our preacher brandin'
one of my dappled crumple-horned hefers with his i'on; but Bedney
Darrington is a changed pusson. Come en, let's see which of you will
dar to laugh up yonder."

"Are you really bent on humoring this insane or idiotic vagary?"
asked Mr. Churchill, as he saw his companion take his hat and
prepare to follow the negro, who had left the room.

"His terror is genuine, and his superstitious tale is probably the
outer shell of some kernel of fact that may possibly be valuable. In
cases of circumstantial evidence, you and I know the importance of
looking carefully into the merest trifles. Come with me; you can
spare an hour."

Leaving the carriage at the front entrance of the deserted and
stately old house, the attorneys crossed the terrace and walked
around to the western veranda, preceded by Bedney, who paused at the
steps, and waved them to ascend.

"Go up and see for yourselves. I am nigh as I want to git."

The stone floor was strewn with branches of rose vine, and the
pruning shears lay open upon them, just as they had fallen from the
old man's hand. The sun had passed several degrees below the
meridian, and the shadows of the twisted iron columns were aslant
eastward, but the glare of light shone on the plate-glass door,
which was rounded into an arch at top, and extended within four
inches of the surface of the floor, where it fitted into the wooden
frame. It was one wide sheet, unbroken into panes, and on the
outside dust had collected, and a family of spiders had colonized in
the lower corner, spinning their gray lace quite across the base. It
was evident that the Venetian blinds had long been closed, and
recently opened, as a line of dust and dried drift leaves attested;
and behind the glass hung the dull red, plush curtain, almost to the
floor.

Both gentlemen pressed forward, and looked in; but saw nothing.

"Hang your head kinder sideways, down so, and look up, Mars Lennox."

Mr. Dunbar changed his position, and after an instant, started back.

"Do you see it, Churchill? No hallucination; it is as plain as
print, just like the negative of a photograph."

"Bless my soul! It beats the Chinese jugglers! What a curious
thing!"

"Stand back a little; you obstruct the light. Now, how clearly it
comes out."

Printed apparently on the plush background, like the images in a
camera, were the distinctly outlined and almost life-size figures of
two men. Clad in a long gown, with loose sleeves, Gen'l Darrington
stood near the hearth, brandishing the brass unicorn in one hand,
the other thrown out and clinched; the face rather more than
profile, scarcely three-quarters, was wonderfully distinct, and the
hair much dishevelled. In front was the second portrait, that of a
tall, slender young man who appeared to have suddenly wheeled around
from the open vault, turning his countenance fully to view; while he
threw up a dark, square object to ward off the impending blow. A
soft wool hat pushed back, showed the curling hair about his
temples, and the remarkable regularity of his handsome features;
while even the plaid pattern of his short coat was clearly
discernible.

As the attorneys came closer, or stepped back from the door, the
images seemed to vary in distinctness, and viewed from two angles
they became invisible.

Mr. Churchill stared blankly; Mr. Dunbar's gaze was riveted on the
face of the burglar, and he took his underlip between his teeth, as
was his habit in suppressing emotion.

"Of course there is some infernal trick about this; but how do you
account for it? It is beyond Bedney's sleight of hand," said the
District Solicitor.

"I think I understand how it came here. Bedney, go around and open
the library door leading into this room, and loop back the curtain
for a moment."

"No, sir, Mars Lennox. Forty railroad ingines couldn't pull me in
there alive. I wouldn't dar tamper with ole Marster's ghost; not for
all the money in the bank. Go yourself; I doesn't budge on no sech
bizness as prying and spying amongst the sperrits. It would fling me
into a fit."

"You miserable coward. Is the house open? Where is the key of this
room?"

"Hanging on the horseshoe under my chimbly board. I'll fetch it and
unlock the front door, so you kin git in, and hold your inquess
inside."

"Will you go, Churchill, or shall I?"

"What is your idea?"

"To ascertain whether the images are on the glass, as I believe, and
if they can be seen without the background. Stand just here--and
watch. When I pull back the curtain, tell me the effect."

Some moments later, the red folds shook, swayed aside, the curtain
was pushed out of sight on its brass rod. The interior of the
apartment came into view, the articles of furniture, the face and
figure of Mr. Dunbar.

"Is it still there; do you see it?" shouted the latter.

"No. It vanished with the curtain. Drop it back. There! I see it.
Now loop it. Gone again. Must be on the curtain," shouted the
Solicitor, peering through the glass at his colleague.

Mr. Dunbar turned a key on the inside, pushed back a bolt, and threw
open the door, which swung outward on the veranda. Then he carefully
let fall the plush curtain once more.

"Do you see it?"

"No. A blank show. I can't see into the trick. Dunbar, change places
with me and satisfy yourself."

The solicitor went inside, and Mr. Dunbar watched from the veranda a
repetition of the experiment.

"That will do, Churchill. It is all plain enough now, but you cease
to wonder at Bedney's superstitious solution. You understand it
perfectly, don't you?"

"No, I'll be hanged if I do! It is the queerest thing I ever saw."

"Do you recollect that there was a violent thunder-storm the night
of the murder?"

"Since you mention it, I certainly recall it. Go on."

"All the witnesses testified that next morning this door was closed
as usual, but the outside blinds were open, and the red curtain was
looped back."

"Yes, I remember all that."

"The images are printed on the glass, and were photographed by a
flash of lightning."

"I never heard of such a freak. Don't believe it."

"Nevertheless it is the only possible solution; and I know that
several similar instances have been recorded. It is like the
negative of a common photograph, brought out by a dark background;
and do you notice the figures are invisible at certain angles? It is
very evident the storm came up during the altercation that night,
and electricity printed the whole scene on this door; stamping the
countenance of the murderer, to help the instruments of justice.
While the blinds were closed, and the curtain was looped aside, of
course this wonderful witness could not testify; but Prince let down
the folds just before his departure, and the moment Bedney opened
the blinds, there lay the truthful record of the awful crime.
Verily, the 'irony of fate!' An overwhelming witness for the
defence, only eighteen months too late, to save a pure, beautiful
life from degradation and ruin. Well may Bedney ask, 'where is your
corpus delicti?' Alfred Churchill, I wish you joy of the verdict,
you worked so hard to win."

Turning on his heel Mr. Dunbar walked the length of the veranda, and
stood gazing gloomily across the tangled mass of the neglected rose
garden, taking no cognizance of the garlands of bloom, seeing
everywhere only that lithe elegant figure and Hyperion face of the
man who reigned master of Beryl's heart.

The Solicitor leaned one shoulder against the door facing, and with
his hands in his pockets, and his brows drawn into a pucker,
pondered the new fact, and eyed the strange witness.

After a time, he approached his companion.

"If your hypothesis be correct, and it seems plausible, if science
asserts that electricity can photograph,--then certainly I am sorry,
sorry enough for all I did in the trial; yet I cannot reproach
myself, because I worked conscientiously; and the evidence was
conclusive against the girl. The circumstantial coincidences were
strong enough to have hung her. We all make mistakes, and no doubt I
am responsible for my share; but thank God! reparation can be made!
I will take the night train and see the Governor before noon to-
morrow. The pardon must come now."

"Pardon! He cannot pardon a crime of which she now stands acquitted.
The only pardon possible, she may extend to those who sacrificed
her. His Excellency need exercise no prerogative of mercy; his aid
is superfluous. Churchill, go in as soon as you can, and send out
the Sheriff, with as many of the jurors as you can get together; and
ask Judge Parkman to drive out this afternoon, and bring Stafford,
the photographer, with him. Tell Doctor Graham I want to see him
here, as he is an accomplished electrician. I will stay here and
guard this door till all X---has seen it."

Winged rumor flew through the length and breadth of the town, and
before sunset a human stream poured along the road leading to "Elm
Bluff", overflowed the green lawn under the ancient poplars, surged
across the terrace, and beat against the railing of the piazza. Men,
women, children, lawyers, doctors, newspaper reporters, all pressing
forward for a glimpse of the mysterious and weird witness, that, in
the fulness of time, had arisen to reprove the world for a grievous
and cruel wrong.

The hinges had been removed; the door was set up at a certain angle,
carefully balanced against the hanging curtain; and there the
curious crowd beheld, in a veritable vision of the dead, torn as it
were from the darkness and silence of the grave, the secret of that
stormy night, when unseen powers had solemnly covenanted in defence
of trusting innocence.

CHAPTER XXVIII.

On Saturday the regulations of prison discipline reduced the working
hours much below the daily quota, and at two o'clock the ringing of
the tower bell announced that the busy convicts of the various
industrial rooms were allowed leisure during the remainder of the
afternoon, to give place to the squad of sweepers and scrubbers, who
flooded the floors and scoured the benches.

June heat had followed fast upon the balmy breath of May, and though
the air at dawn was still iced with crystal dew, the sun that shone
through the open windows of the little chapel, burned fiercely on
the unpainted pine seats, the undraped reading-desk of the pulpit,
the tarnished gilt pipes of the cabinet organ within the chancel
railing.

On one of the front benches sat Iva Le Bougeois, with a pair of
crutches resting beside her on the arm of the seat, and her hands
folded in her lap. Recovering slowly from the paralysis resulting
from diphtheria, she had followed Beryl into the chapel, and
listened to the hymns the latter had played and sung. The glossy
black head was bent in abject despondency upon her breast, and tears
dripped over the smooth olive cheeks, but no sound escaped the
trembling mouth, once so red and riotous, now drawn into curves of
passionate sorrow; and the topaz gleams that formerly flickered in
her sullen hazel eyes were drowned in the gloom of dejection. For
her, memory was an angel of wrath, driving her into the hideous
Golgotha of the past, where bloody spectres gibbered; the present
was a loathsome death in life, the future a nameless torturing
horror. Helpless victim of her own outraged conscience, she seemed
at times sinking into mental apathy more pitiable than that which
had seized her physically; and the only solace possible, she found
in the encouraging words uttered by the voice that had prayed for
her during that long night of mortal agony, in the gentle pressure
of the soft hand that often guided her tottering footsteps.

The organ stops had been pushed back, the musical echoes vibrated no
longer; and the bare room, filled with garish sunshine, was so still
that the drowsy droning of a bee high up on the dusty sash of the
barred window, became monotonously audible.

Within the chancel and to the right of the pulpit, a large
reversible blackboard had recently been placed, and on a chair in
front of it stood Beryl, engrossed in putting the finishing touches
to a sketch which filled the entire board; and oblivious for the
moment of Eve Werneth's baby, who, having emptied her bottle of
milk, had pulled herself up by the chair, and with the thumb of her
right hand in her mouth, was staring up at the picture.

The lesson selected for the Sunday afternoon Bible class, which
Beryl had so successfully organized among a few of the female
convicts, was the fifteenth chapter of Luke; and at the top of the
blackboard was written in large letters: "Rejoice with Me, for I
have found My sheep which was lost." She had drawn in the
foreground the flock couched in security, rounded up by the collie
guard in a grassy meadow; in the distance, overhanging a gorge, was
a bald, precipitous crag, behind which a wolf crouched, watching the
Shepherd who tenderly bore in his arms the lost wanderer. On the
opposite side of the blackboard had been carefully copied the Gospel
Hymn beginning:--

"There were ninety and nine that safely lay, In the shelter of the
fold, But one was out on the hills away, Far off from the gates of
gold--Away on the mountains wild and bare, Away from the tender
Shepherd's care."

Mental processes are strangely dualistic, and it not unfrequently
happens that while one is consciously intent upon a certain train
of thought, some secret cunning current of association sets in
vibration the coil of ideas locked in the chambers of memory, and
long forgotten images leap forth, startling in their pristine
vividness.

Absorbed by the text she was illustrating, the artist insensibly
followed lines she deemed imaginary, yet when the sketch was
completed, the ensemble suddenly confronted her as a miniature
reproduction of a very distant scene, that had gladdened her
childish heart in the blessed by-gone. Far away from the beaten
track of travel, in a sunny cleft of the Pistoian Apennines, she saw
the white fleeces grouped under vast chestnuts, the flash of copper
buckets plunged by two peasant women into a gurgling fountain, the
curly head of Bertie bowed over the rude stone basin, as he gayly
coaxed the bearers to let him drink from the beautiful burnished
copper; the rocky terraces cut in the beetling cliffs above, where
dark ruby-red oleanders flouted the sky with fragrant banners; and
the pathetic face of a vagrant ewe tangled among vines, high on a
jagged ledge, bleating for the lamb asleep under the chestnuts down
in the dell.

Across the chasm of years floated the echo of the tinkling bell,
that told where cows climbed in search of herbage; the singular
rhythmic cadence of the trescone, danced in a neighboring vineyard;
the deep, mellow, lingering tones of a monastery bell, rung by
hermit hands in a gray tower on a mountain eyry, that looked
westward upon the sparkling blue mirror of the Mediterranean.

Then she was twelve years old, dreaming glorious midsummer day-
dreams, as she wandered with parents and brother on one of her
father's sketching tours through unfrequented nooks; now--?

A petulant cry, emphasized by the baby hand tugging at the hem of
her dress skirt, recalled Beryl's attention; and as she looked down
at the waif, whom the chaplain had christened "Dovie" on the day of
her mother's burial, the little one held up her arms.

"So tired, Dulce? You can't be hungry; you must want your nap. There
don't fret, baby girl. I will take you directly."

She stepped down, turned the side of the blackboard that contained
the sketch to the wall; lowered the sash which she had raised to
admit fresh air, and lifted the child from the floor. Approaching
the figure who sat motionless as a statue of woe, she laid a hand on
the drooping shoulder.

"Shall I help you down the steps?"

"No, I'll stay here a while. This is the only place where I can get
courage enough to pray. Couldn't you leave her--the child--with me?
It has been years since I could bear the sight of one. I hated
children, because my heart was so black--so bitter; but now, I yearn
toward this little thing. I am so starved for the kiss of--of--,"
she swept her hand across her throat, where a sob stifled her.

"Certainly, if she will stay contentedly. See whether she will come
to you."

At sight of the extended arms, the baby shrank closer to Beryl,
nestled her head under the girl's chin, and put up her lower lip in
ominous protest. With an indescribably mournful gesture of
surrender, the childless mother sank back in the corner of the
bench.

"I don't wonder she is afraid; she knows--everybody, everything
knows I killed my baby--my own boy, who slept for nearly four years
on my heart--oh!--"

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