Part 2 out of 5
"Do you know WHY I love you so?" said the Old Lady
wistfully. "Did I let THAT out in my raving, too?"
"No. but I think I know. It is because I am Leslie Gray's
daughter, isn't it? I know that father loved you--his brother,
Uncle Willis, told me all about it."
"I spoiled my own life because of my wicked pride," said the
Old Lady sadly. "But you will love me in spite of it all,
won't you, Sylvia? And you will come to see me sometimes? And
write me after you go away?"
"I am coming to see you every day," said Sylvia. "I am going
to stay in Spencervale for a whole year yet, just to be near
you. And next year when I go to Europe--thanks to you, fairy
godmother--I'll write you every day. We are going to be the
best of chums, and we are going to have a most beautiful year
The Old Lady smiled contentedly. Out in the kitchen, the
minister's wife, who had brought up a dish of jelly, was
talking to Mrs. Spencer about the Sewing Circle. Through the
open window, where the red vines hung, came the pungent, sun-
warm October air. The sunshine fell over Sylvia's chestnut
hair like a crown of glory and youth.
"I do feel so perfectly happy," said the Old Lady, with a
long, rapturous breath.
III. Each In His Own Tongue
The honey-tinted autumn sunshine was falling thickly over the
crimson and amber maples around old Abel Blair's door. There
was only one outer door in old Abel's house, and it almost
always stood wide open. A little black dog, with one ear
missing and a lame forepaw, almost always slept on the worn
red sandstone slab which served old Abel for a doorstep; and
on the still more worn sill above it a large gray cat almost
always slept. Just inside the door, on a bandy-legged chair of
elder days, old Abel almost always sat.
He was sitting there this afternoon--a little old man, sadly
twisted with rheumatism; his head was abnormally large,
thatched with long, wiry black hair; his face was heavily
lined and swarthily sunburned; his eyes were deep-set and
black, with occasional peculiar golden flashes in them. A
strange looking man was old Abel Blair; and as strange was he
as he looked. Lower Carmody people would have told you.
Old Abel was almost always sober in these, his later years. He
was sober to-day. He liked to bask in that ripe sunlight as
well as his dog and cat did; and in such baskings he almost
always looked out of his doorway at the far, fine blue sky
over the tops of the crowding maples. But to-day he was not
looking at the sky, instead, he was staring at the black,
dusty rafters of his kitchen, where hung dried meats and
strings of onions and bunches of herbs and fishing tackle and
guns and skins.
But old Abel saw not these things; his face was the face of a
man who beholds visions, compact of heavenly pleasure and
hellish pain, for old Abel was seeing what he might have been-
-and what he was; as he always saw when Felix Moore played to
him on the violin. And the awful joy of dreaming that he was
young again, with unspoiled life before him, was so great and
compelling that it counterbalanced the agony in the
realization of a dishonoured old age, following years in which
he had squandered the wealth of his soul in ways where Wisdom
lifted not her voice.
Felix Moore was standing opposite to him, before an untidy
stove, where the noon fire had died down into pallid,
scattered ashes. Under his chin he held old Abel's brown,
battered fiddle; his eyes, too, were fixed on the ceiling; and
he, too, saw things not lawful to be uttered in any language
save that of music; and of all music, only that given forth by
the anguished, enraptured spirit of the violin. And yet this
Felix was little more than twelve years old, and his face was
still the face of a child who knows nothing of either sorrow
or sin or failure or remorse. Only in his large, gray-black
eyes was there something not of the child--something that
spoke of an inheritance from many hearts, now ashes, which had
aforetime grieved and joyed, and struggled and failed, and
succeeded and grovelled. The inarticulate cries of their
longings had passed into this child's soul, and transmuted
themselves into the expression of his music.
Felix was a beautiful child. Carmody people, who stayed at
home, thought so; and old Abel Blair, who had roamed afar in
many lands, thought so; and even the Rev. Stephen Leonard, who
taught, and tried to believe, that favour is deceitful and
beauty is vain, thought so.
He was a slight lad, with sloping shoulders, a slim brown
neck, and a head set on it with stag-like grace and uplift.
His hair, cut straight across his brow and falling over his
ears, after some caprice of Janet Andrews, the minister's
housekeeper, was a glossy blue-black. the skin of his face and
hands was like ivory; his eyes were large and beautifully
tinted--gray, with dilating pupils; his features had the
outlines of a cameo. Carmody mothers considered him delicate,
and had long foretold that the minister would never bring him
up; but old Abel pulled his grizzled moustache when he heard
such forebodings and smiled.
"Felix Moore will live," he said positively. "You can't kill
that kind until their work is done. He's got a work to do--if
the minister'll let him do it. And if the minister don't let
him do it, then I wouldn't be in that minister's shoes when he
comes to the judgment--no, I'd rather be in my own. It's an
awful thing to cross the purposes of the Almighty, either in
your own life or anybody else's. Sometimes I think it's what's
meant by the unpardonable sin--ay, that I do!"
Carmody people never asked what old Abel meant. They had long
ago given up such vain questioning. When a man had lived as
old Abel had lived for the greater part of his life, was it
any wonder he said crazy things? And as for hinting that Mr.
Leonard, a man who was really almost too good to live, was
guilty of any sin, much less an unpardonable one--well, there
now! what use was it to be taking any account of old Abel's
queer speeches? Though, to be sure, there was no great harm in
a fiddle, and maybe Mr. Leonard was a mite too strict that way
with the child. But then, could you wonder at it? There was
his father, you see.
Felix finally lowered the violin, and came back to old Abel's
kitchen with a long sigh. Old Abel smiled drearily at him--the
smile of a man who has been in the hands of the tormentors.
"It's awful the way you play--it's awful," he said with a
shudder. "I never heard anything like it--and you that never
had any teaching since you were nine years old, and not much
practice, except what you could get here now and then on my
old, battered fiddle. And to think you make it up yourself as
you go along! I suppose your grandfather would never hear to
your studying music--would he now?"
Felix shook his head.
"I know he wouldn't, Abel. He wants me to be a minister.
Ministers are good things to be, but I'm afraid I can't be a
"Not a pulpit minister. There's different kinds of ministers,
and each must talk to men in his own tongue if he's going to
do 'em any real good," said old Abel meditatively. "YOUR
tongue is music. Strange that your grandfather can't see that
for himself, and him such a broad-minded man! He's the only
minister I ever had much use for. He's God's own if ever a man
was. And he loves you--yes, sir, he loves you like the apple
of his eye."
"And I love him," said Felix warmly. "I love him so much that
I'll even try to be a minister for his sake, though I don't
want to be."
"What do you want to be?"
"A great violinist," answered the child, his ivory-hued face
suddenly warming into living rose. "I want to play to
thousands--and see their eyes look as yours do when I play.
Sometimes your eyes frighten me, but oh, it's a splendid
fright! If I had father's violin I could do better. I remember
that he once said it had a soul that was doing purgatory for
its sins when it had lived on earth. I don't know what he
meant, but it did seem to me that HIS violin was alive. He taught
me to play on it as soon as I was big enough to hold it."
"Did you love your father?" asked old Abel, with a keen look.
Again Felix crimsoned; but he looked straightly and steadily
into his old friend's face.
"No," he said, "I didn't; but," he added, gravely and deliberately,
"I don't think you should have asked me such a question."
It was old Abel's turn to blush. Carmody people would not have
believed he could blush; and perhaps no living being could
have called that deepening hue into his weather-beaten cheek
save only this gray-eyed child of the rebuking face.
"No, I guess I shouldn't," he said. "But I'm always making
mistakes. I've never made anything else. That's why I'm
nothing more than 'Old Abel' to the Carmody people. Nobody but
you and your grandfather ever calls me 'Mr. Blair.' Yet
William Blair at the store up there, rich and respected as he
is, wasn't half as clever a man as I was when we started in
life: you mayn't believe that, but it's true. And the worst of
it is, young Felix, that most of the time I don't care whether
I'm Mr. Blair of old Abel. Only when you play I care. It makes
me feel just as a look I saw in a little girl's eyes some
years ago made me feel. Her name was Anne Shirley and she
lived with the Cuthberts down at Avonlea. We got into a
conversation at Blair's store. She could talk a blue streak to
anyone, that girl could. I happened to say about something
that it didn't matter to a battered old hulk of sixty odd like
me. She looked at me with her big, innocent eyes, a little
reproachful like, as if I'd said something awful heretical.
'Don't you think, Mr. Blair,' she says, 'that the older we get
the more things ought to matter to us?'--as grave as if she'd
been a hundred instead of eleven. 'Things matter SO much to
me now,' she says, clasping her hands thisaway, 'and I'm sure
that when I'm sixty they'll matter just five times as much to
me.' Well, the way she looked and the way she spoke made me
feel downright ashamed of myself because things had stopped
mattering with me. But never mind all that. My miserable old
feelings don't count for much. What come of your father's fiddle?"
"Grandfather took it away when I came here. I think he burned
it. And I long for it so often."
"Well, you've always got my old brown fiddle to come to when
"Yes, I know. And I'm glad for that. But I'm hungry for a
violin all the time. And I only come here when the hunger gets
too much to bear. I feel as if I oughtn't to come even then--
I'm always saying I won't do it again, because I know
grandfather wouldn't like it, if he knew."
"He has never forbidden it, has he?"
"No, but that is because he doesn't know I come here for that.
He never thinks of such a thing. I feel sure he WOULD forbid
it, if he knew. And that makes me very wretched. And yet I
HAVE to come. Mr. Blair, do you know why grandfather can't
bear to have me play on the violin? He loves music, and he
doesn't mind my playing on the organ, if I don't neglect other
things. I can't understand it, can you?"
"I have a pretty good idea, but I can't tell you. It isn't my
secret. Maybe he'll tell you himself some day. But, mark you,
young Felix, he has got good reasons for it all. Knowing what
I know, I can't blame him over much, though I think he's
mistaken. Come now, play something more for me before you go--
something that's bright and happy this time, so as to leave me
with a good taste in my mouth. That last thing you played took
me straight to heaven,--but heaven's awful near to hell, and
at the last you tipped me in."
"I don't understand you," said Felix, drawing his fine, narrow
black brows together in a perplexed frown.
"No--and I wouldn't want you to. You couldn't understand
unless you was an old man who had it in him once to do
something and be a MAN, and just went and made himself a
devilish fool. But there must be something in you that
understands things--all kinds of things--or you couldn't put
it all into music the way you do. How do you do it? How in--
how DO you do it, young Felix?"
"I don't know. But I play differently to different people. I
don't know how that is. When I'm alone with you I have to play
one way; and when Janet comes over here to listen I feel quite
another way--not so thrilling, but happier and lonelier. And
that day when Jessie Blair was here listening I felt as if I
wanted to laugh and sing--as if the violin wanted to laugh and
sing all the time."
The strange, golden gleam flashed through old Abel's sunken
"God," he muttered under his breath, "I believe the boy can
get into other folk's souls somehow, and play out what HIS
soul sees there."
"What's that you say?" inquired Felix, petting his fiddle.
"Nothing--never mind--go on. Something lively now, young
Felix. Stop probing into my soul, where you haven't no
business to be, you infant, and play me something out of your
own--something sweet and happy and pure."
"I'll play the way I feel on sunshiny mornings, when the birds
are singing and I forget I have to be a minister," said Felix
A witching, gurgling, mirthful strain, like mingled bird and
brook song, floated out on the still air, along the path where
the red and golden maple leaves were falling very softly, one
by one. The Reverend Stephen Leonard heard it, as he came
along the way, and the Reverend Stephen Leonard smiled. Now,
when Stephen Leonard smiled, children ran to him, and grown
people felt as if they looked from Pisgah over to some fair
land of promise beyond the fret and worry of their care-dimmed
Mr. Leonard loved music, as he loved all things beautiful,
whether in the material or the spiritual world, though he did
not realize how much he loved them for their beauty alone, or
he would have been shocked and remorseful. He himself was
beautiful. His figure was erect and youthful, despite seventy
years. His face was as mobile and charming as a woman's, yet
with all a man's tried strength and firmness in it, and his
dark blue eyes flashed with the brilliance of one and twenty;
even his silken silvery hair could not make an old man of him.
He was worshipped by everyone who knew him, and he was, in so
far as mortal man may be, worthy of that worship.
"Old Abel is amusing himself with his violin again," he
thought. "What a delicious thing he is playing! He has quite a
gift for the violin. But how can he play such a thing as
that,--a battered old hulk of a man who has, at one time or
another, wallowed in almost every sin to which human nature
can sink? He was on one of his sprees three days ago--the
first one for over a year--lying dead-drunk in the market
square in Charlottetown among the dogs; and now he is playing
something that only a young archangel on the hills of heaven
ought to be able to play. Well, it will make my task all the
easier. Abel is always repentant by the time he is able to
play on his fiddle."
Mr. Leonard was on the door-stone. The little black dog had
frisked down to meet him, and the gray cat rubbed her head
against his leg. Old Abel did not notice him; he was beating
time with uplifted hand and smiling face to Felix's music, and
his eyes were young again, glowing with laughter and sheer
"Felix! what does this mean?"
The violin bow clattered from Felix's hand upon the floor; he
swung around and faced his grandfather. As he met the passion
of grief and hurt in the old man's eyes, his own clouded with
an agony of repentance.
"Grandfather--I'm sorry," he cried brokenly.
"Now, now!" Old Abel had risen deprecatingly. "It's all my
fault, Mr. Leonard. Don't you blame the boy. I coaxed him to
play a bit for me. I didn't feel fit to touch the fiddle yet
myself--too soon after Friday, you see. So I coaxed him on--
wouldn't give him no peace till he played. It's all my fault."
"No," said Felix, throwing back his head. His face was as
white as marble, yet it seemed ablaze with desperate truth and
scorn of old Abel's shielding lie. "No, grandfather, it isn't
Abel's fault. I came over here on purpose to play, because I
thought you had gone to the harbour. I have come here often,
ever since I have lived with you."
"Ever since you have lived with me you have been deceiving me
like this, Felix?"
There was no anger in Mr. Leonard's tone--only measureless
sorrow. The boy's sensitive lips quivered.
"Forgive me, grandfather," he whispered beseechingly.
"You never forbid him to come," old Abel broke in angrily. "Be
just, Mr. Leonard--be just."
"I AM just. Felix knows that he has disobeyed me, in the
spirit if not in the letter. Do you not know it, Felix?"
"Yes, grandfather, I have done wrong--I've known that I was
doing wrong every time I came. Forgive me, grandfather."
"Felix, I forgive you, but I ask you to promise me, here and
now, that you will never again, as long as you live, touch a
Dusky crimson rushed madly over the boy's face. He gave a cry
as if he had been lashed with a whip. Old Abel sprang to his
"Don't you ask such a promise of him, Mr. Leonard," he cried
furiously. "It's a sin, that's what it is. Man, man, what
blinds you? You ARE blind. Can't you see what is in the boy?
His soul is full of music. It'll torture him to death--or to
worse--if you don't let it have way."
"There is a devil in such music," said Mr. Leonard hotly.
"Ay, there may be, but don't forget that there's a Christ in
it, too," retorted old Abel in a low tense tone.
Mr. Leonard looked shocked; he considered that old Abel had
uttered blasphemy. He turned away from him rebukingly.
"Felix, promise me."
There was no relenting in his face or tone. He was merciless
in the use of the power he possessed over that young, loving
spirit. Felix understood that there was no escape; but his
lips were very white as he said,
"I promise, grandfather."
Mr. Leonard drew a long breath of relief. He knew that promise
would be kept. So did old Abel. The latter crossed the floor
and sullenly took the violin from Felix's relaxed hand.
Without a word or look he went into the little bedroom off the
kitchen and shut the door with a slam of righteous
indignation. But from its window he stealthily watched his
visitors go away. Just as they entered on the maple path Mr.
Leonard laid his hand on Felix's head and looked down at him.
Instantly the boy flung his arm up over the old man's shoulder
and smiled at him. In the look they exchanged there was
boundless love and trust--ay, and good-fellowship. Old Abel's
scornful eyes again held the golden flash.
"How those two love each other!" he muttered enviously. "And
how they torture each other!"
Mr. Leonard went to his study to pray when he got home. He
knew that Felix had run for comforting to Janet Andrews, the
little, thin, sweet-faced, rigid-lipped woman who kept house
for them. Mr. Leonard knew that Janet would disapprove of his
action as deeply as old Abel had done. She would say nothing,
she would only look at him with reproachful eyes over the
teacups at suppertime. But Mr. Leonard believed he had done
what was best and his conscience did not trouble him, though
his heart did.
Thirteen years before this, his daughter Margaret had almost
broken that heart by marrying a man of whom he could not
approve. Martin Moore was a professional violinist. He was a
popular performer, though not in any sense a great one. He met
the slim, golden-haired daughter of the manse at the house of
a college friend she was visiting in Toronto, and fell
straightway in love with her. Margaret had loved him with all
her virginal heart in return, and married him, despite her
father's disapproval. It was not to Martin Moore's profession
that Mr. Leonard objected, but to the man himself. He knew
that the violinist's past life had not been such as became a
suitor for Margaret Leonard; and his insight into character
warned him that Martin Moore could never make any woman
Margaret Leonard did not believe this. She married Martin
Moore and lived one year in paradise. Perhaps that atoned for
the three bitter years which followed--that, and her child. At
all events, she died as she had lived, loyal and
uncomplaining. She died alone, for her husband was away on a
concert tour, and her illness was so brief that her father had
not time to reach her before the end. Her body was taken home
to be buried beside her mother in the little Carmody
churchyard. Mr. Leonard wished to take the child, but Martin
Moore refused to give him up.
Six years later Moore, too, died, and at last Mr. Leonard had
his heart's desire--the possession of Margaret's son. The
grandfather awaited the child's coming with mingled feelings.
His heart yearned for him, yet he dreaded to meet a second
edition of Martin Moore. Suppose Margaret's son resembled his
handsome vagabond of a father! Or, worse still, suppose he
were cursed with his father's lack of principle, his
instability, his Bohemian instincts. Thus Mr. Leonard tortured
himself wretchedly before the coming of Felix.
The child did not look like either father or mother. Instead,
Mr. Leonard found himself looking into a face which he had put
away under the grasses thirty years before--the face of his
girl bride, who had died at Margaret's birth. Here again were
her lustrous gray-black eyes, her ivory outlines, her fine-
traced arch of brow; and here, looking out of those eyes,
seemed her very spirit again. From that moment the soul of the
old man was knit to the soul of the child, and they loved each
other with a love surpassing that of women.
Felix's only inheritance from his father was his love of
music. But the child had genius, where his father had
possessed only talent. To Martin Moore's outward mastery of
the violin was added the mystery and intensity of his mother's
nature, with some more subtle quality still, which had perhaps
come to him from the grandmother he so strongly resembled.
Moore had understood what a career was naturally before the
child, and he had trained him in the technique of his art from
the time the slight fingers could first grasp the bow. When
nine-year-old Felix came to the Carmody manse, he had mastered
as much of the science of the violin as nine out of ten
musicians acquire in a lifetime; and he brought with him his
father's violin; it was all Martin Moore had to leave his son-
-but it was an Amati, the commercial value of which nobody in
Carmody suspected. Mr. Leonard had taken possession of it and
Felix had never seen it since. He cried himself to sleep many
a night for the loss of it. Mr. Leonard did not know this, and
if Janet Andrews suspected it she held her tongue--an art in
which she excelled. She "saw no harm in a fiddle," herself,
and thought Mr. Leonard absurdly strict in the matter, though
it would not have been well for the luckless outsider who
might have ventured to say as much to her. She had connived at
Felix's visits to old Abel Blair, squaring the matter with her
Presbyterian conscience by some peculiar process known only to
When Janet heard of the promise which Mr. Leonard had exacted
from Felix she seethed with indignation; and, though she "knew
her place" better than to say anything to Mr. Leonard about
it, she made her disapproval so plainly manifest in her
bearing that the stern, gentle old man found the atmosphere of
his hitherto peaceful manse unpleasantly chill and hostile for
It was the wish of his heart that Felix should be a minister,
as he would have wished his own son to be, had one been born
to him. Mr. Leonard thought rightly that the highest work to
which any man could be called was a life of service to his
fellows; but he made the mistake of supposing the field of
service much narrower than it is--of failing to see that a man
may minister to the needs of humanity in many different but
equally effective ways.
Janet hoped that Mr. Leonard might not exact the fulfilment of
Felix's promise; but Felix himself, with the instinctive
understanding of perfect love, knew that it was vain to hope
for any change of viewpoint in his grandfather. He addressed
himself to the keeping of his promise in letter and in spirit.
He never went again to old Abel's; he did not even play on the
organ, though this was not forbidden, because any music
wakened in him a passion of longing and ecstasy which demanded
expression with an intensity not to be borne. He flung himself
grimly into his studies and conned Latin and Greek verbs with
a persistency which soon placed him at the head of all
Only once in the long winter did he come near to breaking his
promise. One evening, when March was melting into April, and
the pulses of spring were stirring under the lingering snow,
he was walking home from school alone. As he descended into
the little hollow below the manse a lively lilt of music
drifted up to meet him. It was only the product of a mouth-
organ, manipulated by a little black-eyed, French-Canadian
hired boy, sitting on the fence by the brook; but there was
music in the ragged urchin and it came out through his simple
toy. It tingled over Felix from head to foot; and, when Leon
held out the mouth-organ with a fraternal grin of invitation,
he snatched at it as a famished creature might snatch at food.
Then, with it half-way to his lips, he paused. True, it was
only the violin he had promised never to touch; but he felt
that if he gave way ever so little to the desire that was in
him, it would sweep everything before it. If he played on Leon
Buote's mouth-organ, there in that misty spring dale, he would
go to old Abel's that evening; he KNEW he would go. To
Leon's amazement, Felix threw the mouth-organ back at him and
ran up the hill as if he were pursued. There was something in
his boyish face that frightened Leon; and it frightened Janet
Andrews as Felix rushed past her in the hall of the manse.
"Child, what's the matter with you?" she cried. "Are you sick?
Have you been scared?"
"No, no. Leave me alone, Janet," said Felix chokingly, dashing
up the stairs to his own room.
He was quite composed when he came down to tea, an hour later,
though he was unusually pale and had purple shadows under his
Mr. Leonard scrutinized him somewhat anxiously; it suddenly
occurred to the old minister that Felix was looking more
delicate than his wont this spring. Well, he had studied hard
all winter, and he was certainly growing very fast. When
vacation came he must be sent away for a visit.
"They tell me Naomi Clark is real sick," said Janet. "She has
been ailing all winter, and now she's fast to her bed. Mrs.
Murphy says she believes the woman is dying, but nobody dares
tell her so. She won't give in she's sick, nor take medicine.
And there's nobody to wait on her except that simple creature,
"I wonder if I ought to go and see her," said Mr. Leonard
"What use would it be to bother yourself? You know she
wouldn't see you--she'd shut the door in your face like she
did before. She's an awful wicked woman--but it's kind of
terrible to think of her lying there sick, with no responsible
person to tend her."
"Naomi Clark is a bad woman and she lived a life of shame, but
I like her, for all that," remarked Felix, in the grave,
meditative tone in which he occasionally said rather startling
Mr. Leonard looked somewhat reproachfully at Janet Andrews, as
if to ask her why Felix should have attained to this dubious
knowledge of good and evil under her care; and Janet shot a
dour look back which, being interpreted, meant that if Felix
went to the district school she could not and would not be
held responsible if he learned more there than arithmetic and
"What do you know of Naomi Clark to like or dislike?" she
asked curiously. "Did you ever see her?"
"Oh, yes," Felix replied, addressing himself to his cherry
preserve with considerable gusto. "I was down at Spruce Cove
one night last summer when a big thunderstorm came up. I went
to Naomi's house for shelter. The door was open, so I walked
right in, because nobody answered my knock. Naomi Clark was at
the window, watching the cloud coming up over the sea. She
just looked at me once, but didn't say anything, and then went
on watching the cloud. I didn't like to sit down because she
hadn't asked me to, so I went to the window by her and watched
it, too. It was a dreadful sight--the cloud was so black and
the water so green, and there was such a strange light between
the cloud and the water; yet there was something splendid in
it, too. Part of the time I watched the storm, and the other
part I watched Naomi's face. It was dreadful to see, like the
storm, and yet I liked to see it.
"After the thunder was over it rained a while longer, and
Naomi sat down and talked to me. She asked me who I was, and
when I told her she asked me to play something for her on her
violin,"--Felix shot a deprecating glance at Mr. Leonard--
"because, she said, she'd heard I was a great hand at it. She
wanted something lively, and I tried just as hard as I could
to play something like that. But I couldn't. I played
something that was terrible--it just played itself--it seemed
as if something was lost that could never be found again. And
before I got through, Naomi came at me, and tore the violin
from me, and--SWORE. And she said, 'You big-eyed brat, how
did you know THAT?' Then she took me by the arm--and she
hurt me, too, I can tell you--and she put me right out in the
rain and slammed the door."
"The rude, unmannerly creature!" said Janet indignantly.
"Oh, no, she was quite in the right," said Felix composedly.
"It served me right for what I played. You see, she didn't
know I couldn't help playing it. I suppose she thought I did
it on purpose."
"What on earth did you play, child?"
"I don't know." Felix shivered. "It was awful--it was
dreadful. It was fit to break you heart. But it HAD to be
played, if I played anything at all."
"I don't understand what you mean--I declare I don't," said
Janet in bewilderment.
"I think we'll change the subject of conversation," said Mr.
It was a month later when "the simple creature, Maggie"
appeared at the manse door one evening and asked for the
"Naomi wants ter see yer," she mumbled. "Naomi sent Maggie ter
tell yer ter come at onct."
"I shall go, certainly," said Mr. Leonard gently. "Is she very
"Her's dying," said Maggie with a broad grin. "And her's awful
skeered of hell. Her just knew ter-day her was dying. Maggie
told her--her wouldn't believe the harbour women, but her
believed Maggie. Her yelled awful."
Maggie chuckled to herself over the gruesome remembrance. Mr.
Leonard, his heart filled with pity, called Janet and told her
to give the poor creature some refreshment. But Maggie shook
"No, no, preacher, Maggie must get right back to Naomi.
Maggie'll tell her the preacher's coming ter save her from
She uttered an eerie cry, and ran at full speed shoreward
through the spruce woods.
"The Lord save us!" said Janet in an awed tone. "I knew the
poor girl was simple, but I didn't know she was like THAT.
And are you going, sir?"
"Yes, of course. I pray God I may be able to help the poor
soul," said Mr. Leonard sincerely. He was a man who never
shirked what he believed to be his duty; but duty had
sometimes presented itself to him in pleasanter guise than
this summons to Naomi Clark's death-bed.
The woman had been the plague spot of Lower Carmody and
Carmody Harbour for a generation. In the earlier days of his
ministry to the congregation he had tried to reclaim her, and
Naomi had mocked and flouted him to his face. Then, for the
sake of those to whom she was a snare or a heart-break, he had
endeavoured to set the law in motion against her, and Naomi
had laughed the law to scorn. Finally, he had been compelled
to let her alone.
Yet Naomi had not always been an outcast. Her girlhood had
been innocent; but she was the possessor of a dangerous
beauty, and her mother was dead. Her father was a man
notorious for his harshness and violence of temper. When Naomi
made the fatal mistake of trusting to a false love that
betrayed and deserted, he drove her from his door with taunts
Naomi took up her quarters in a little deserted house at
Spruce Cove. Had her child lived it might have saved her. But
it died at birth, and with its little life went her last
chance of worldly redemption. From that time forth, her feet
were set in the way that takes hold on hell.
For the past five years, however, Naomi had lived a tolerably
respectable life. When Janet Peterson had died, her idiot
daughter, Maggie, had been left with no kin in the world.
Nobody knew what was to be done with her, for nobody wanted to
be bothered with her. Naomi Clark went to the girl and offered
her a home. People said she was no fit person to have charge
of Maggie, but everybody shirked the unpleasant task of
interfering in the matter, except Mr. Leonard, who went to
expostulate with Naomi, and, as Janet said, for his pains got
her door shut in his face.
But from the day when Maggie Peterson went to live with her,
Naomi ceased to be the harbour Magdalen.
The sun had set when Mr. Leonard reached Spruce Cove, and the
harbour was veiling itself in a wondrous twilight splendour.
Afar out, the sea lay throbbing and purple, and the moan of
the bar came through the sweet, chill spring air with its
burden of hopeless, endless longing and seeking. The sky was
blossoming into stars above the afterglow; out to the east the
moon was rising, and the sea beneath it was a thing of
radiance and silver and glamour; and a little harbour boat
that went sailing across it was transmuted into an elfin
shallop from the coast of fairyland.
Mr. Leonard sighed as he turned from the sinless beauty of the
sea and sky to the threshold of Naomi Clark's house. It was
very small--one room below, and a sleeping-loft above; but a
bed had been made up for the sick woman by the down-stairs
window looking out on the harbour; and Naomi lay on it, with a
lamp burning at her head and another at her side, although it
was not yet dark. A great dread of darkness had always been
one of Naomi's peculiarities.
She was tossing restlessly on her poor couch, while Maggie
crouched on a box at the foot. Mr. Leonard had not seen her
for five years, and he was shocked at the change in her. She
was much wasted; her clear-cut, aquiline features had been of
the type which becomes indescribably witch-like in old age,
and, though Naomi Clark was barely sixty, she looked as if she
might be a hundred. Her hair streamed over the pillow in
white, uncared-for tresses, and the hands that plucked at the
bed-clothes were like wrinkled claws. Only her eyes were
unchanged; they were as blue and brilliant as ever, but now
filled with such agonized terror and appeal that Mr. Leonard's
gentle heart almost stood still with the horror of them. They
were the eyes of a creature driven wild with torture, hounded
by furies, clutched by unutterable fear.
Naomi sat up and dragged at his arm.
"Can you help me? Can you help me?" she gasped imploringly.
"Oh, I thought you'd never come! I was skeered I'd die before
you got here--die and go to hell. I didn't know before today
that I was dying. None of those cowards would tell me. Can you
"If I cannot, God can," said Mr. Leonard gently. He felt
himself very helpless and inefficient before this awful terror
and frenzy. He had seen sad death-beds--troubled death-beds--
ay, and despairing death-beds, but never anything like this.
"God!" Naomi's voice shrilled terribly as she uttered the
name. "I can't go to God for help. Oh, I'm skeered of hell,
but I'm skeereder still of God. I'd rather go to hell a
thousand times over than face God after the life I've lived. I
tell you, I'm sorry for living wicked--I was always sorry for
it all the time. There ain't never been a moment I wasn't
sorry, though nobody would believe it. I was driven on by
fiends of hell. Oh, you don't understand--you CAN'T
understand--but I was always sorry!"
"If you repent, that is all that is necessary. God will
forgive you if you ask Him."
"No, He can't! Sins like mine can't be forgiven. He can't--and
"He can and He will. He is a God of love, Naomi."
"No," said Naomi with stubborn conviction. "He isn't a God of
love at all. That's why I'm skeered of him. No, no. He's a God
of wrath and justice and punishment. Love! There ain't no such
thing as love! I've never found it on earth, and I don't
believe it's to be found in God."
"Naomi, God loves us like a father."
"Like MY father?" Naomi's shrill laughter, pealing through
the still room, was hideous to hear.
The old minister shuddered.
"No--no! As a kind, tender, all-wise father, Naomi--as you
would have loved your little child if it had lived."
Naomi cowered and moaned.
"Oh, I wish I could believe THAT. I wouldn't be frightened
if I could believe that. MAKE me believe it. Surely you can
make me believe that there's love and forgiveness in God if
you believe it yourself."
"Jesus Christ forgave and loved the Magdalen, Naomi."
"Jesus Christ? Oh, I ain't afraid of HIM. Yes, HE could
understand and forgive. He was half human. I tell you, it's
God I'm skeered of."
"They are one and the same," said Mr. Leonard helplessly. He
knew he could not make Naomi realize it. This anguished death-
bed was no place for a theological exposition on the mysteries
of the Trinity.
"Christ died for you, Naomi. He bore your sins in His own body
on the cross."
"We bear our own sins," said Naomi fiercely. "I've borne mine
all my life--and I'll bear them for all eternity. I can't
believe anything else. I CAN'T believe God can forgive me.
I've ruined people body and soul--I've broken hearts and
poisoned homes--I'm worse than a murderess. No--no--no,
there's no hope for me." Her voice rose again into that
shrill, intolerable shriek. "I've got to go to hell. It ain't
so much the fire I'm skeered of as the outer darkness. I've
always been so skeered of darkness--it's so full of awful
things and thoughts. Oh, there ain't nobody to help me! Man
ain't no good and I'm too skeered of God."
She wrung her hands. Mr. Leonard walked up and down the room
in the keenest anguish of spirit he had ever known. What could
he do? What could he say? There was healing and peace in his
religion for this woman as for all others, but he could
express it in no language which this tortured soul could
understand. He looked at her writhing face; he looked at the
idiot girl chuckling to herself at the foot of the bed; he
looked through the open door to the remote, starlit night--and
a horrible sense of utter helplessness overcame him. He could
do nothing--nothing! In all his life he had never known such
bitterness of soul as the realization brought home to him.
"What is the good of you if you can't help me?" moaned the
dying woman. "Pray--pray--pray!" she shrilled suddenly.
Mr. Leonard dropped on his knees by the bed. He did not know
what to say. No prayer that he had ever prayed was of use
here. The old, beautiful formulas, which had soothed and
helped the passing of many a soul, were naught save idle,
empty words to Naomi Clark. In his anguish of mind Stephen
Leonard gasped out the briefest and sincerest prayer his lips
had ever uttered.
"O, God, our Father! Help this woman. Speak to her in a tongue
which she can understand."
A beautiful, white face appeared for a moment in the light
that streamed out of the doorway into the darkness of the
night. No one noticed it, and it quickly drew back into the
shadow. Suddenly, Naomi fell back on her pillow, her lips
blue, her face horribly pinched, her eyes rolled up in her
head. Maggie started up, pushed Mr. Leonard aside, and
proceeded to administer some remedy with surprising skill and
deftness. Mr. Leonard, believing Naomi to be dying, went to
the door, feeling sick and bruised in soul.
Presently a figure stole out into the light.
"Felix, is that you?" said Mr. Leonard in a startled tone.
"Yes, sir." Felix came up to the stone step. "Janet got
frightened what you might fall on that rough road after dark,
so she made me come after you with a lantern. I've been
waiting behind the point, but at last I thought I'd better
come and see if you would be staying much longer. If you will
be, I'll go back to Janet and leave the lantern here with
"Yes, that will be the best thing to do. I may not be ready to
go home for some time yet," said Mr. Leonard, thinking that
the death-bed of sin behind him was no sight for Felix's young
"Is that your grandson you're talking to?" Naomi spoke clearly
and strongly. The spasm had passed. "If it is, bring him in. I
want to see him."
Reluctantly, Mr. Leonard signed Felix to enter. The boy stood
by Naomi's bed and looked down at her with sympathetic eyes.
But at first she did not look at him--she looked past him at
"I might have died in that spell," she said, with sullen
reproach in her voice, "and if I had, I'd been in hell now.
You can't help me--I'm done with you. There ain't any hope for
me, and I know it now."
She turned to Felix.
"Take down that fiddle on the wall and play something for me,"
she said imperiously. "I'm dying--and I'm going to hell--and I
don't want to think of it. Play me something to take my
thoughts off it--I don't care what you play. I was always fond
of music--there was always something in it for me I never
found anywhere else."
Felix looked at his grandfather. The old man nodded, he felt
too ashamed to speak; he sat with his fine silver head in his
hands, while Felix took down and tuned the old violin, on
which so many godless lilts had been played in many a wild
revel. Mr. Leonard felt that he had failed his religion. He
could not give Naomi the help that was in it for her.
Felix drew the bow softly, perplexedly over the strings. He
had no idea what he should play. Then his eyes were caught and
held by Naomi's burning, mesmeric, blue gaze as she lay on her
crumpled pillow. A strange, inspired look came over the boy's
face. He began to play as if it were not he who played, but
some mightier power, of which he was but the passive
Sweet and soft and wonderful was the music that stole through
the room. Mr. Leonard forgot his heartbreak and listened to it
in puzzled amazement. He had never heard anything like it
before. How could the child play like that? He looked at Naomi
and marvelled at the change in her face. The fear and frenzy
were going out of it; she listened breathlessly, never taking
her eyes from Felix. At the foot of the bed the idiot girl sat
with tears on her cheeks.
In that strange music was the joy of the innocent, mirthful
childhood, blent with the laughter of waves and the call of
glad winds. Then it held the wild, wayward dreams of youth,
sweet and pure in all their wildness and waywardness. They
were followed by a rapture of young love--all-surrendering,
The music changed. It held the torture of unshed tears, the
anguish of a heart deceived and desolate. Mr. Leonard almost
put his hands over his ears to shut out its intolerable
poignancy. But on the dying woman's face was only a strange
relief, as if some dumb, long-hidden pain had at last won to
the healing of utterance.
The sullen indifference of despair came next, the bitterness
of smouldering revolt and misery, the reckless casting away of
all good. There was something indescribably evil in the music
now--so evil that Mr. Leonard's white soul shuddered away in
loathing, and Maggie cowered and whined like a frightened
Again the music changed. And in it now there was agony and
fear--and repentance and a cry for pardon. To Mr. Leonard
there was something strangely familiar in it. He struggled to
recall where he had heard it before; then he suddenly knew--he
had heard it before Felix came in Naomi's terrible words! He
looked at his grandson with something like awe. Here was a
power of which he knew nothing--a strange and dreadful power.
Was it of God? Or of Satan?
For the last time the music changed. And now it was not music
at all--it was a great, infinite forgiveness, an all-
comprehending love. It was healing for a sick soul; it was
light and hope and peace. A Bible text, seemingly incongruous,
came into Mr. Leonard's mind--"This is the house of God; this
is the gate of heaven."
Felix lowered the violin and dropped wearily on a chair by the
bed. The inspired light faded from his face; once more he was
only a tired boy. But Stephen Leonard was on his knees,
sobbing like a child; and Naomi Clark was lying still, with
her hands clasped over her breast.
"I understand now," she said very softly. "I couldn't see it
before--and now it's so plain. I just FEEL it. God IS a
God of love. He can forgive anybody--even me--even me. He
knows all about it. I ain't skeered any more. He just loves me
and forgives me as I'd have loved and forgiven my baby if
she'd lived, no matter how bad she was, or what she did. The
minister told me that but I couldn't believe it. I KNOW it
now. And He sent you here to-night, boy, to tell it to me in a
way that I could feel it."
Naomi Clark died just as the dawn came up over the sea. Mr.
Leonard rose from his watch at her bedside and went to the
door. Before him spread the harbour, gray and austere in the
faint light, but afar out the sun was rending asunder the
milk-white mists in which the sea was scarfed, and under it
was a virgin glow of sparkling water.
The fir trees on the point moved softly and whispered
together. The whole world sang of spring and resurrection and
life; and behind him Naomi Clark's dead face took on the peace
that passes understanding.
The old minister and his grandson walked home together in a
silence that neither wished to break. Janet Andrews gave them
a good scolding and an excellent breakfast. Then she ordered
them both to bed; but Mr. Leonard, smiling at her, said:
"Presently, Janet, presently. But now, take this key, go up to
the black chest in the garret, and bring me what you will find
When Janet had gone, he turned to Felix.
"Felix, would you like to study music as your life-work?"
Felix looked up, with a transfiguring flush on his wan face.
"Oh, grandfather! Oh, grandfather!"
"You may do so, my child. After this night I dare not hinder
you. Go with my blessing, and may God guide and keep you, and
make you strong to do His work and tell His message to
humanity in you own appointed way. It is not the way I desired
for you--but I see that I was mistaken. Old Abel spoke truly
when he said there was a Christ in your violin as well as a
devil. I understand what he meant now."
He turned to meet Janet, who came into the study with a
violin. Felix's heart throbbed; he recognized it. Mr. Leonard
took it from Janet and held it out to the boy.
"This is your father's violin, Felix. See to it that you never
make your music the servant of the power of evil--never debase
it to unworthy ends. For your responsibility is as your gift,
and God will exact the accounting of it from you. Speak to the
world in your own tongue through it, with truth and sincerity;
and all I have hoped for you will be abundantly fulfilled."
IV. Little Joscelyn
"It simply isn't to be thought of, Aunty Nan," said Mrs.
William Morrison decisively. Mrs. William Morrison was one of
those people who always speak decisively. If they merely
announce that they are going to peel the potatoes for dinner
their hearers realize that there is no possible escape for the
potatoes. Moreover, these people are always given their full
title by everybody. William Morrison was called Billy oftener
than not; but, if you had asked for Mrs. Billy Morrison,
nobody in Avonlea would have known what you meant at first
"You must see that for yourself, Aunty," went on Mrs. William,
hulling strawberries nimbly with her large, firm, white
fingers as she talked. Mrs. William always improved every
shining moment. "It is ten miles to Kensington, and just think
how late you would be getting back. You are not able for such
a drive. You wouldn't get over it for a month. You know you
are anything but strong this summer."
Aunty Nan sighed, and patted the tiny, furry, gray morsel of a
kitten in her lap with trembling fingers. She knew, better
than anyone else could know it, that she was not strong that
summer. In her secret soul, Aunty Nan, sweet and frail and
timid under the burden of her seventy years, felt with
mysterious unmistakable prescience that it was to be her last
summer at the Gull Point Farm. But that was only the more
reason why she should go to hear little Joscelyn sing; she
would never have another chance. And oh, to hear little
Joscelyn sing just once--Joscelyn, whose voice was delighting
thousands out in the big world, just as in the years gone by
it had delighted Aunty Nan and the dwellers at the Gull Point
Farm for a whole golden summer with carols at dawn and dusk
about the old place!
"Oh, I know I'm not very strong, Maria." said Aunty Nan
pleadingly, "but I am strong enough for that. Indeed I am. I
could stay at Kensington over night with George's folks, you
know, and so it wouldn't tire me much. I do so want to hear
Joscelyn sing. Oh, how I love little Joscelyn."
"It passes my understanding, the way you hanker after that
child," cried Mrs. William impatiently. "Why, she was a
perfect stranger to you when she came here, and she was here
only one summer!"
"But oh, such a summer!" said Aunty Nan softly. "We all loved
little Joscelyn. She just seemed like one of our own. She was
one of God's children, carrying love with them everywhere. In
some ways that little Anne Shirley the Cuthberts have got up
there at Green Gables reminds me of her, though in other ways
they're not a bit alike. Joscelyn was a beauty."
"Well, that Shirley snippet certainly isn't that," said Mrs.
William sarcastically. "And if Joscelyn's tongue was one third
as long as Anne Shirley's the wonder to me is that she didn't
talk you all to death out of hand."
"Little Joscelyn wasn't much of a talker," said Aunty Nan
dreamily. "She was kind of a quiet child. But you remember
what she did say. And I've never forgotten little Joscelyn."
Mrs. William shrugged her plump, shapely shoulders.
"Well, it was fifteen years ago, Aunty Nan, and Joscelyn can't
be very 'little' now. She is a famous woman, and she has
forgotten all about you, you can be sure of that."
"Joscelyn wasn't the kind that forgets," said Aunty Nan
loyally. "And, anyway, the point is, _I_ haven't forgotten
HER. Oh, Maria, I've longed for years and years just to hear
her sing once more. It seems as if I MUST hear my little
Joscelyn sing once again before I die. I've never had the
chance before and I never will have it again. Do please ask
William to take me to Kensington."
"Dear me, Aunty Nan, this is really childish," said Mrs.
William, whisking her bowlful of berries into the pantry. "You
must let other folks be the judge of what is best for you now.
You aren't strong enough to drive to Kensington, and, even if
you were, you know well enough that William couldn't go to
Kensington to-morrow night. He has got to attend that
political meeting at Newbridge. They can't do without him."
"Jordan could take me to Kensington," pleaded Aunty Nan, with
very unusual persistence.
"Nonsense! You couldn't go to Kensington with the hired man.
Now, Aunty Nan, do be reasonable. Aren't William and I kind to
you? Don't we do everything for your comfort?"
"Yes, oh, yes," admitted Aunty Nan deprecatingly.
"Well, then, you ought to be guided by our opinion. And you
must just give up thinking about the Kensington concert,
Aunty, and not worry yourself and me about it any more. I am
going down to the shore field now to call William to tea. Just
keep an eye on the baby in chance he wakes up, and see that
the teapot doesn't boil over."
Mrs. William whisked out of the kitchen, pretending not to see
the tears that were falling over Aunty Nan's withered pink
cheeks. Aunty Nan was really getting very childish, Mrs.
William reflected, as she marched down to the shore field.
Why, she cried now about every little thing! And such a
notion--to want to go to the Old Timers' concert at Kensington
and be so set on it! Really, it was hard to put up with her
whims. Mrs. William sighed virtuously.
As for Aunty Nan, she sat alone in the kitchen, and cried
bitterly, as only lonely old age can cry. It seemed to her
that she could not bear it, that she MUST go to Kensington.
But she knew that it was not to be, since Mrs. William had
decided otherwise. Mrs. William's word was law at Gull Point
"What's the matter with my old Aunty Nan?" cried a hearty
young voice from the doorway. Jordan Sloane stood there, his
round, freckled face looking as anxious and sympathetic as it
was possible for such a very round, very freckled face to
look. Jordan was the Morrisons' hired boy that summer, and he
worshipped Aunty Nan.
"Oh, Jordan," sobbed Aunty Nan, who was not above telling her
troubles to the hired help, although Mrs. William thought she
ought to be, "I can't go to Kensington to-morrow night to hear
little Joscelyn sing at the Old Timers' concert. Maria says I
"That's too bad," said Jordan. "Old cat," he muttered after
the retreating and serenely unconscious Mrs. William. Then he
shambled in and sat down on the sofa beside Aunty Nan.
"There, there, don't cry," he said, patting her thin little
shoulder with his big, sunburned paw. "You'll make yourself
sick if you go on crying, and we can't get along without you
at Gull Point Farm."
Aunty Nan smiled wanly.
"I'm afraid you'll soon have to get on without me, Jordan. I'm
not going to be here very long now. No, I'm not, Jordan, I
know it. Something tells me so very plainly. But I would be
willing to go--glad to go, for I'm very tired, Jordan--if I
could only have heard little Joscelyn sing once more."
"Why are you so set on hearing her?" asked Jordan. "She ain't
no kin to you, is she?"
"No, but dearer to me--dearer to me than many of my own. Maria
thinks that is silly, but you wouldn't if you'd known her,
Jordan. Even Maria herself wouldn't, if she had known her. It
is fifteen years since she came here one summer to board. She
was a child of thirteen then, and hadn't any relations except
an old uncle who sent her to school in winter and boarded her
out in summer, and didn't care a rap about her. The child was
just starving for love, Jordan, and she got it here. William
and his brothers were just children then, and they hadn't any
sister. We all just worshipped her. She was so sweet, Jordan.
And pretty, oh my! like a little girl in a picture, with great
long curls, all black and purply and fine as spun silk, and
big dark eyes, and such pink cheeks--real wild rose cheeks.
And sing! My land! But couldn't she sing! Always singing,
every hour of the day that voice was ringing round the old
place. I used to hold my breath to hear it. She always said
that she meant to be a famous singer some day, and I never
doubted it a mite. It was born in her. Sunday evening she used
to sing hymns for us. Oh, Jordan, it makes my old heart young
again to remember it. A sweet child she was, my little
Joscelyn! She used to write me for three or four years after
she went away, but I haven't heard a word from her for long
and long. I daresay she has forgotten me, as Maria says.
'Twouldn't be any wonder. But I haven't forgotten her, and oh,
I want to see and hear her terrible much. She is to sing at
the Old Timers' concert to-morrow night at Kensington. The
folks who are getting the concert up are friends of hers, or,
of course, she'd never have come to a little country village.
Only sixteen miles away--and I can't go."
Jordan couldn't think of anything to say. He reflected
savagely that if he had a horse of his own he would take Aunty
Nan to Kensington, Mrs. William or no Mrs. William. Though, to
be sure, it WAS a long drive for her; and she was looking
very frail this summer.
"Ain't going to last long," muttered Jordan, making his escape
by the porch door as Mrs. William puffed in by the other. "The
sweetest old creetur that ever was created'll go when she
goes. Yah, ye old madam, I'd like to give you a piece of my
mind, that I would!"
This last was for Mrs. William, but was delivered in a prudent
undertone. Jordan detested Mrs. William, but she was a power
to be reckoned with, all the same. Meek, easy-going Billy
Morrison did just what his wife told him to.
So Aunty Nan did not get to Kensington to hear little Joscelyn
sing. She said nothing more about it but after that night she
seemed to fail very rapidly. Mrs. William said it was the hot
weather, and that Aunty Nan gave way too easily. But Aunty Nan
could not help giving way now; she was very, very tired. Even
her knitting wearied her. She would sit for hours in her
rocking chair with the gray kitten in her lap, looking out of
the window with dreamy, unseeing eyes. She talked to herself a
good deal, generally about little Joscelyn. Mrs. William told
Avonlea folk that Aunty Nan had got terribly childish and
always accompanied the remark with a sigh that intimated how
much she, Mrs. William, had to contend with.
Justice must be done to Mrs. William, however. She was not
unkind to Aunty Nan; on the contrary, she was very kind to her
in the letter. Her comfort was scrupulously attended to, and
Mrs. William had the grace to utter none of her complaints in
the old woman's hearing. If Aunty Nan felt the absence of the
spirit she never murmured at it.
One day, when the Avonlea slopes were golden-hued with the
ripened harvest, Aunty Nan did not get up. She complained of
nothing but great weariness. Mrs. William remarked to her
husband that if SHE lay in bed every day she felt tired,
there wouldn't be much done at Gull Point Farm. But she
prepared an excellent breakfast and carried it patiently up to
Aunty Nan, who ate little of it.
After dinner Jordan crept up by way of the back stairs to see
her. Aunty Nan was lying with her eyes fixed on the pale pink
climbing roses that nodded about the window. When she saw
Jordan she smiled.
"Them roses put me so much in mind of little Joscelyn," she
said softly. "She loved them so. If I could only see her! Oh,
Jordan, if I could only see her! Maria says it's terrible
childish to be always harping on that string, and mebbe it is.
But--oh, Jordan, there's such a hunger in my heart for her,
such a hunger!"
Jordan felt a queer sensation in his throat, and twisted his
ragged straw hat about in his big hands. Just then a vague
idea which had hovered in his brain all day crystallized into
decision. But all he said was:
"I hope you'll feel better soon, Aunty Nan."
"Oh, yes, Jordan dear, I'll be better soon," said Aunty Nan
with her own sweet smile. "'The inhabitant shall not say I am
sick,' you know. But if I could only see little Joscelyn
Jordan went out and hurried down-stairs. Billy Morrison was in
the stable, when Jordan stuck his head over the half-door.
"Say, can I have the rest of the day off, sir? I want to go to
"Well, I don't mind," said Billy Morrison amiably. "May's well
get you jaunting done 'fore harvest comes on. And here, Jord;
take this quarter and get some oranges for Aunty Nan. Needn't
mention it to headquarters."
Billy Morrison's face was solemn, but Jordan winked as he
pocketed the money.
"If I've any luck, I'll bring her something that'll do her
more good than the oranges," he muttered, as he hurried off to
the pasture. Jordan had a horse of his own now, a rather bony
nag, answering to the name of Dan. Billy Morrison had agreed
to pasture the animal if Jordan used him in the farm work, an
arrangement scoffed at by Mrs. William in no measured terms.
Jordan hitched Dan into the second best buggy, dressed himself
in his Sunday clothes, and drove off. On the road he re-read a
paragraph he had clipped from the Charlottetown Daily
Enterprise of the previous day.
"Joscelyn Burnett, the famous contralto, is spending a few
days in Kensington on her return from her Maritime concert
tour. She is the guest of Mr. and Mrs. Bromley, of The
"Now if I can get there in time," said Jordan emphatically.
Jordan got to Kensington, put Dan up in a livery stable, and
inquired the way to The Beeches. He felt rather nervous when
he found it, it was such a stately, imposing place, set back
from the street in an emerald green seclusion of beautiful
"Fancy me stalking up to that front door and asking for Miss
Joscelyn Burnett," grinned Jordan sheepishly. "Mebbe they'll
tell me to go around to the back and inquire for the cook. But
you're going just the same, Jordan Sloane, and no skulking.
March right up now. Think of Aunty Nan and don't let style
A pert-looking maid answered Jordan's ring, and stared at him
when he asked for Miss Burnett.
"I don't think you can see her," she said shortly, scanning
his country cut of hair and clothes rather superciliously.
"What is your business with her?"
The maid's scorn roused Jordan's "dander," as he would have
"I'll tell her that when I see her," he retorted coolly. "Just
you tell her that I've a message for her from Aunty Nan
Morrison of Gull Point Farm, Avonlea. If she hain't forgot,
that'll fetch her. You might as well hurry up, if you please,
I've not overly too much time."
The pert maid decided to be civil at least, and invited Jordan
to enter. But she left him standing in the hall while she went
in search of Miss Burnett. Jordan gazed about him in
amazement. He had never been in any place like this before.
The hall was wonderful enough, and through the open doors on
either hand stretched vistas of lovely rooms that, to Jordan's
eyes, looked like those of a palace.
"Gee whiz! How do they ever move around without knocking
Then Joscelyn Burnett came, and Jordan forgot everything else.
This tall, beautiful woman, in her silken draperies, with a
face like nothing Jordan had ever seen, or even dreamed
about,--could this be Aunty Nan's little Joscelyn? Jordan's
round, freckled countenance grew crimson. He felt horribly
tonguetied and embarrassed. What could he say to her? How
could he say it?
Joscelyn Burnett looked at him with her large, dark eyes,--the
eyes of a woman who had suffered much, and learned much, and
won through struggle to victory.
"You have come from Aunty Nan?" she said. "Oh, I am so glad to
hear from her. Is she well? Come in here and tell me all about
She turned toward one of those fairy-like rooms, but Jordan
interrupted her desperately.
"Oh, not in there, ma'am. I'd never get it out. Just let me
blunder through it out here someways. Yes'm, Aunty Nan, she
ain't very well. She's--she's dying, I guess. And she's
longing for you night and day. Seems as if she couldn't die in
peace without seeing you. She wanted to get to Kensington to
hear you sing, but that old cat of a Mrs. William--begging you
pardon, ma'am--wouldn't let her come. She's always talking of
you. If you can come out to Gull Point Farm and see her, I'll
be most awful obliged to you, ma'am."
Joscelyn Burnett looked troubled. She had not forgotten Gull
Point Farm, nor Aunty Nan; but for years the memory had been
dim, crowded into the background of consciousness by the more
exciting events of her busy life. Now it came back with a
rush. She recalled it all tenderly--the peace and beauty and
love of that olden summer, and sweet Aunty Nan, so very wise
in the lore of all things simple and good and true. For the
moment Joscelyn Burnett was a lonely, hungry-hearted little
girl again, seeking for love and finding it not, until Aunty
Nan had taken her into her great mother-heart and taught her
"Oh, I don't know," she said perplexedly. "If you had come
sooner--I leave on the 11:30 train tonight. I MUST leave by
then or I shall not reach Montreal in time to fill a very
important engagement. And yet I must see Aunty Nan, too. I
have been careless and neglectful. I might have gone to see
her before. How can we manage it?"
"I'll bring you back to Kensington in time to catch that
train," said Jordan eagerly. "There's nothing I wouldn't do
for Aunty Nan--me and Dan. Yes, sir, you'll get back in time.
Just think of Aunty Nan's face when she sees you!"
"I will come," said the great singer, gently.
It was sunset when they reached Gull Point Farm. An arc of
warm gold was over the spruces behind the house. Mrs. William
was out in the barn-yard, milking, and the house was deserted,
save for the sleeping baby in the kitchen and the little old
woman with the watchful eyes in the up-stairs room.
"This way, ma'am," said Jordan, inwardly congratulating
himself that the coast was clear. "I'll take you right up to
Up-stairs, Joscelyn tapped at the half-open door and went in.
Before it closed behind her, Jordan heard Aunty Nan say,
"Joscelyn! Little Joscelyn!" in a tone that made him choke
again. He stumbled thankfully down-stairs, to be pounced upon
by Mrs. William in the kitchen.
"Jordan Sloane, who was that stylish woman you drove into the
yard with? And what have you done with her?"
"That was Miss Joscelyn Burnett," said Jordan, expanding
himself. This was his hour of triumph over Mrs. William. "I
went to Kensington and brung her out to see Aunty Nan. She's
up with her now."
"Dear me," said Mrs. William helplessly. "And me in my milking
rig! Jordan, for pity's sake, hold the baby while I go and put
on my black silk. You might have given a body some warning. I
declare I don't know which is the greatest idiot, you or Aunty
As Mrs. William flounced out of the kitchen, Jordan took his
satisfaction in a quiet laugh.
Up-stairs in the little room was a great glory of sunset and
gladness of human hearts. Joscelyn was kneeling by the bed,
with her arms about Aunty Nan; and Aunty Nan, with her face
all irradiated, was stroking Joscelyn's dark hair fondly.
"O, little Joscelyn," she murmured, "it seems too good to be
true. It seems like a beautiful dream. I knew you the minute
you opened the door, my dearie. You haven't changed a bit. And
you're a famous singer now, little Joscelyn! I always knew you
would be. Oh, I want you to sing a piece for me--just one,
won't you, dearie? Sing that piece people like to hear you
sing best. I forget the name, but I've read about it in the
papers. Sing it for me, little Joscelyn."
And Joscelyn, standing by Aunty Nan's bed, in the sunset
light, sang the song she had sung to many a brilliant audience
on many a noted concert-platform--sang it as even she had
never sung before, while Aunty Nan lay and listened
beatifically, and downstairs even Mrs. William held her
breath, entranced by the exquisite melody that floated through
the old farmhouse.
"O, little Joscelyn!" breathed Aunty Nan in rapture, when the
Joscelyn knelt by her again and they had a long talk of old
days. One by one they recalled the memories of that vanished
summer. The past gave up its tears and its laughter. Heart and
fancy alike went roaming through the ways of the long ago.
Aunty Nan was perfectly happy. And then Joscelyn told her all
the story of her struggles and triumphs since they had parted.
When the moonlight began to creep in through the low window,
Aunty Nan put out her hand and touched Joscelyn's bowed head.
"Little Joscelyn," she whispered, "if it ain't asking too
much, I want you to sing just one other piece. Do you remember
when you were here how we sung hymns in the parlour every
Sunday night, and my favourite always was 'The Sands of Time
are Sinking?' I ain't never forgot how you used to sing that,
and I want to hear it just once again, dearie. Sing it for me,
Joscelyn rose and went to the window. Lifting back the
curtain, she stood in the splendour of the moonlight, and sang
the grand old hymn. At first Aunty Nan beat time to it feebly
on the counterpane; but when Joscelyn came to the verse, "With
mercy and with judgment," she folded her hands over her breast
When the hymn ended, Joscelyn came over to the bed.
"I am afraid I must say good-bye now, Aunty Nan," she said.
Then she saw that Aunty Nan had fallen asleep. She would not
waken her, but she took from her breast the cluster of crimson
roses she wore and slipped them gently between the toil-worn
"Good-bye, dear, sweet mother-heart," she murmured.
Down-stairs she met Mrs. William splendid in rustling black
silk, her broad, rubicund face smiling, overflowing with
apologies and welcomes, which Joscelyn cut short coldly.
"Thank you, Mrs. Morrison, but I cannot possibly stay longer.
No, thank you, I don't care for any refreshments. Jordan is
going to take me back to Kensington at once. I came out to see
"I'm certain she'd be delighted," said Mrs. William
effusively. "She's been talking about you for weeks."
"Yes, it has made her very happy," said Joscelyn gravely. "And
it has made me happy, too. I love Aunty Nan, Mrs. Morrison,
and I owe her much. In all my life I have never met a woman so
purely, unselfishly good and noble and true."
"Fancy now," said Mrs. William, rather overcome at hearing
this great singer pronounce such an encomium on quiet, timid
old Aunty Nan.
Jordan drove Joscelyn back to Kensington; and up-stairs in her
room Aunty Nan slept, with that rapt smile on her face and
Joscelyn's red roses in her hands. Thus it was that Mrs.
William found her, going in the next morning with her
breakfast. The sunlight crept over the pillow, lighting up the
sweet old face and silver hair, and stealing downward to the
faded red roses on her breast. Smiling and peaceful and happy
lay Aunty Nan, for she had fallen on the sleep that knows no
earthy wakening, while little Joscelyn sang.
V. The Winning of Lucinda
The marriage of a Penhallow was always the signal for a
gathering of the Penhallows. From the uttermost parts of the
earth they would come--Penhallows by birth, and Penhallows by
marriage and Penhallows by ancestry. East Grafton was the
ancient habitat of the race, and Penhallow Grange, where "old"
John Penhallow lived, was a Mecca to them.
As for the family itself, the exact kinship of all its various
branches and ramifications was a hard thing to define. Old
Uncle Julius Penhallow was looked upon as a veritable wonder
because he carried it all in his head and could tell on sight
just what relation any one Penhallow was to any other
Penhallow. The rest made a blind guess at it, for the most
part, and the younger Penhallows let it go at loose
In this instance it was Alice Penhallow, daughter of "young"
John Penhallow, who was to be married. Alice was a nice girl,
but she and her wedding only pertain to this story in so far
as they furnish a background for Lucinda; hence nothing more
need be said of her.
On the afternoon of her wedding day--the Penhallows held to
the good, old-fashioned custom of evening weddings with a
rousing dance afterwards--Penhallow Grange was filled to
overflowing with guests who had come there to have tea and
rest themselves before going down to "young" John's. Many of
them had driven fifty miles. In the big autumnal orchard the
younger fry foregathered and chatted and coquetted. Up-stairs,
in "old" Mrs. John's bedroom, she and her married daughters
held high conclave. "Old" John had established himself with
his sons and sons-in-law in the parlour, and the three
daughters-in-law were making themselves at home in the blue
sitting-room, ear-deep in harmless family gossip. Lucinda and
Romney Penhallow were also there.
Thin Mrs. Nathaniel Penhallow sat in a rocking chair and
toasted her toes at the grate, for the brilliant autumn
afternoon was slightly chilly and Lucinda, as usual, had the
window open. She and plump Mrs. Frederick Penhallow did most
of the talking. Mrs. George Penhallow being rather out of it
by reason of her newness. She was George Penhallow's second
wife, married only a year. Hence, her contributions to the
conversation were rather spasmodic, hurled in, as it were, by
dead reckoning, being sometimes appropriate and sometimes
savouring of a point of view not strictly Penhallowesque.
Romney Penhallow was sitting in a corner, listening to the
chatter of the women, with the inscrutable smile that always
vexed Mrs. Frederick. Mrs. George wondered within herself what
he did there among the women. She also wondered just where he
belonged on the family tree. He was not one of the uncles, yet
he could not be much younger than George.
"Forty, if he is a day," was Mrs. George's mental dictum, "but
a very handsome and fascinating man. I never saw such a
splendid chin and dimple."
Lucinda, with bronze-colored hair and the whitest of skins,
defiant of merciless sunlight and revelling in the crisp air,
sat on the sill of the open window behind the crimson vine
leaves, looking out into the garden, where dahlias flamed and
asters broke into waves of purple and snow. The ruddy light of
the autumn afternoon gave a sheen to the waves of her hair and
brought out the exceeding purity of her Greek outlines.
Mrs. George knew who Lucinda was--a cousin of the second
generation, and, in spite of her thirty-five years, the
acknowledged beauty of the whole Penhallow connection.
She was one of those rare women who keep their loveliness
unmarred by the passage of years. She had ripened and matured,
but she had not grown old. The older Penhallows were still
inclined, from sheer force of habit, to look upon her as a
girl, and the younger Penhallows hailed her as one of
themselves. Yet Lucinda never aped girlishness; good taste and
a strong sense of humour preserved her amid many temptations
thereto. She was simply a beautiful, fully developed woman,
with whom Time had declared a truce, young with a mellow youth
which had nothing to do with years.
Mrs. George liked and admired Lucinda. Now, when Mrs. George
liked and admired any person, it was a matter of necessity
with her to impart her opinions to the most convenient
confidant. In this case it was Romney Penhallow to whom Mrs.
George remarked sweetly:
"Really, don't you think our Lucinda is looking remarkably
well this fall?"
It seemed a very harmless, inane, well-meant question. Poor
Mrs. George might well be excused for feeling bewildered over
the effect. Romney gathered his long legs together, stood up,
and swept the unfortunate speaker a crushing Penhallow bow of
"Far be it from me to disagree with the opinion of a lady--
especially when it concerns another lady," he said, as he left
the blue room.
Overcome by the mordant satire in his tone, Mrs. George
glanced speechlessly at Lucinda. Behold, Lucinda had squarely
turned her back on the party and was gazing out into the
garden, with a very decided flush on the snowy curves of her
neck and cheek. Then Mrs. George looked at her sisters-in-law.
They were regarding her with the tolerant amusement they might
bestow on a blundering child. Mrs. George experienced that
subtle prescience whereby it is given us to know that we have
put our foot in it. She felt herself turning an uncomfortable
brick-red. What Penhallow skeleton had she unwittingly
jangled? Why, oh, why, was it such an evident breach of the
proprieties to praise Lucinda?
Mrs. George was devoutly thankful that a summons to the tea-
table rescued her from her mire of embarrassment. The meal was
spoiled for her, however; the mortifying recollection of her
mysterious blunder conspired with her curiosity to banish
appetite. As soon as possible after tea she decoyed Mrs.
Frederick out into the garden and in the dahlia walk solemnly
demanded the reason of it all.
Mrs. Frederick indulged in a laugh which put the mettle of her
festal brown silk seams to the test.
"My dear Cecilia, it was SO amusing," she said, a little
"But WHY!" cried Mrs. George, resenting the patronage and
the mystery. "What was so dreadful in what I said? Or so
funny? And WHO is this Romney Penhallow who mustn't be
"Oh, Romney is one of the Charlottetown Penhallows," explained
Mrs. Frederick. "He is a lawyer there. He is a first cousin of
Lucinda's and a second of George's--or is he? Oh, bother! You
must go to Uncle John if you want the genealogy. I'm in a
chronic muddle concerning Penhallow relationship. And, as for
Romney, of course you can speak to him about anything you like
except Lucinda. Oh, you innocent! To ask him if he didn't
think Lucinda was looking well! And right before her, too! Of
course he thought you did it on purpose to tease him. That was
what made him so savage and sarcastic."
"But WHY?" persisted Mrs. George, sticking tenaciously to
"Hasn't George told you?"
"No," said George's wife in mild exasperation. "George has
spent most of his time since we were married telling me odd
things about the Penhallows, but he hasn't got to that yet,
"Why, my dear, it is our family romance. Lucinda and Romney
are in love with each other. They have been in love with each
other for fifteen years and in all that time they have never
spoken to each other once!"
"Dear me!" murmured Mrs. George, feeling the inadequacy of
mere language. Was this a Penhallow method of courtship? "But
"They had a quarrel fifteen years ago," said Mrs. Frederick
patiently. "Nobody knows how it originated or anything about
it except that Lucinda herself admitted it to us afterwards.
But, in the first flush of her rage, she told Romney that she
would never speak to him again as long as she lived. And HE
said he would never speak to her until she spoke first--
because, you see, as she was in the wrong she ought to make
the first advance. And they never have spoken. Everybody in
the connection, I suppose, has taken turns trying to reconcile
them, but nobody has succeeded. I don't believe that Romney
has ever so much as THOUGHT of any other woman in his whole
life, and certainly Lucinda has never thought of any other
man. You will notice she still wears Romney's ring. They're
practically engaged still, of course. And Romney said once
that if Lucinda would just say one word, no matter what it
was, even if it were something insulting, he would speak, too,
and beg her pardon for his share in the quarrel--because then,
you see, he would not be breaking his word. He hasn't referred
to the matter for years, but I presume that he is of the same
mind still. And they are just as much in love with each other
as they ever were. He's always hanging about where she is--
when other people are there, too, that is. He avoids her like
a plague when she is alone. That was why he was stuck out in
the blue room with us to-day. There doesn't seem to be a
particle of resentment between them. If Lucinda would only
speak! But that Lucinda will not do."
"Don't you think she will yet?" said Mrs. George.
Mrs. Frederick shook her crimped head sagely.
"Not now. The whole thing has hardened too long. Her pride
will never let her speak. We used to hope she would be tricked
into it by forgetfulness or accident--we used to lay traps for
her--but all to no effect. It is such a shame, too. They were
made for each other. Do you know, I get cross when I begin to
thrash the whole silly affair over like this. Doesn't it sound
as if we were talking of the quarrel of two school-children?
Of late years we have learned that it does not do to speak of
Lucinda to Romney, even in the most commonplace way. He seems
to resent it."
"HE ought to speak," cried Mrs. George warmly. "Even if she
were in the wrong ten times over, he ought to overlook it and
"But he won't. And she won't. You never saw two such
determined mortals. They get it from their grandfather on the
mother's side--old Absalom Gordon. There is no such
stubbornness on the Penhallow side. His obstinacy was a
proverb, my dear--actually a proverb. What ever he said, he
would stick to if the skies fell. He was a terrible old man to
swear, too," added Mrs. Frederick, dropping into irrelevant
reminiscence. "He spent a long while in a mining camp in his
younger days and he never got over it--the habit of swearing,
I mean. It would have made your blood run cold, my dear, to
have heard him go on at times. And yet he was a real good old
man every other way. He couldn't help it someway. He tried to,
but he used to say that profanity came as natural to him as
breathing. It used to mortify his family terribly.
Fortunately, none of them took after him in that respect. But
he's dead--and one shouldn't speak ill of the dead. I must go
and get Mattie Penhallow to do my hair. I would burst these
sleeves clean out if I tried to do it myself and I don't want
to dress over again. You won't be likely to talk to Romney
about Lucinda again, my dear Cecilia?"
"Fifteen years!" murmured Mrs. George helplessly to the
dahlias. "Engaged for fifteen years and never speaking to each
other! Dear heart and soul, think of it! Oh, these
Meanwhile, Lucinda, serenely unconscious that her love story
was being mouthed over by Mrs. Frederick in the dahlia garden,
was dressing for the wedding. Lucinda still enjoyed dressing
for a festivity, since the mirror still dealt gently with her.
Moreover, she had a new dress. Now, a new dress--and
especially one as nice as this--was a rarity with Lucinda, who
belonged to a branch of the Penhallows noted for being
chronically hard up. Indeed, Lucinda and her widowed mother
were positively poor, and hence a new dress was an event in
Lucinda's existence. An uncle had given her this one--a
beautiful, perishable thing, such as Lucinda would never have
dared to choose for herself, but in which she revelled with
It was of pale green voile--a colour which brought out
admirably the ruddy gloss of her hair and the clear brilliance
of her skin. When she had finished dressing she looked at
herself in the mirror with frank delight. Lucinda was not
vain, but she was quite well aware of the fact of her beauty
and took an impersonal pleasure in it, as if she were looking
at some finely painted picture by a master hand.
The form and face reflected in the glass satisfied her. The
puffs and draperies of the green voile displayed to perfection
the full, but not over-full, curves of her fine figure.
Lucinda lifted her arm and touched a red rose to her lips with
the hand upon which shone the frosty glitter of Romney's
diamond, looking at the graceful slope of her shoulder and the
splendid line of chin and throat with critical approval.
She noted, too, how well the gown became her eyes, bringing
out all the deeper colour in them. Lucinda had magnificent
eyes. Once Romney had written a sonnet to them in which he
compared their colour to ripe blueberries. This may not sound
poetical to you unless you know or remember just what the
tints of ripe blueberries are--dusky purple in some lights,
clear slate in others, and yet again in others the misty hue
of early meadow violets.
"You really look very well," remarked the real Lucinda to the
mirrored Lucinda. "Nobody would think you were an old maid.
But you are. Alice Penhallow, who is to be married to-night,
was a child of five when you thought of being married fifteen
years ago. That makes you an old maid, my dear. Well, it is
your own fault, and it will continue to be your own fault, you
stubborn offshoot of a stubborn breed!"
She flung her train out straight and pulled on her gloves.
"I do hope I won't get any spots on this dress to-night," she
reflected. "It will have to do me for a gala dress for a year
at least--and I have a creepy conviction that it is fearfully
spottable. Bless Uncle Mark's good, uncalculating heart! How I
would have detested it if he had given me something sensible
and useful and ugly--as Aunt Emilia would have done."
They all went to "young" John Penhallow's at early moonrise.
Lucinda drove over the two miles of hill and dale with a
youthful second cousin, by name, Carey Penhallow. The wedding
was quite a brilliant affair. Lucinda seemed to pervade the
social atmosphere, and everywhere she went a little ripple of
admiration trailed after her like a wave. She was undeniably a
belle, yet she found herself feeling faintly bored and was
rather glad than otherwise when the guests began to fray off.
"I'm afraid I'm losing my capacity for enjoyment," she
thought, a little drearily. "Yes, I must be growing old. That
is what it means when social functions begin to bore you."
It was that unlucky Mrs. George who blundered again. She was
standing on the veranda when Carey Penhallow dashed up.
"Tell Lucinda that I can't take her back to the Grange. I have
to drive Mark and Cissy Penhallow to Bright River to catch the
two o'clock express. There will be plenty of chances for her
with the others."
At this moment George Penhallow, holding his rearing horse
with difficulty, shouted for his wife. Mrs. George, all in a
flurry, dashed back into the still crowded hall. Exactly to
whom she gave her message was never known to any of the
Penhallows. But a tall, ruddy-haired girl, dressed in pale
green organdy--Anne Shirley from Avonlea--told Marilla
Cuthbert and Rachel Lynde as a joke the next morning how a
chubby little woman in a bright pink fascinator had clutched
her by the arm, and gasped out:
"Carey Penhallow can't take you--he says you're to look out
for someone else," and was gone before she could answer or
Thus it was that Lucinda, when she came out to the veranda
step, found herself unaccountably deserted. All the Grange
Penhallows were gone; Lucinda realized this after a few
moments of bewildered seeking, and she understood that if she
were to get to the Grange that night she must walk. Plainly
there was nobody to take her.
Lucinda was angry. It is not pleasant to find yourself
forgotten and neglected. It is still less pleasant to walk
home alone along a country road, at one o'clock in the
morning, wearing a pale green voile. Lucinda was not prepared
for such a walk. She had nothing on her feet save thin-soled
shoes, and her only wraps were a flimsy fascinator and a short
"What a guy I shall look, stalking home alone in this rig,"
she thought crossly.
There was no help for it, unless she confessed her plight to
some of the stranger guests and begged a drive home. Lucinda's
pride scorned such a request and the admission of neglect it
involved. No, she would walk, since that was all there was to
it; but she would not go by the main road to be stared at by
all and sundry who might pass her. There was a short cut by
way of a lane across the fields; she knew every inch of it,
although she had not traversed it for years.
She gathered up the green voile as trimly as possible, slipped
around the house in the kindly shadows, picked her way across
the side lawn, and found a gate which opened into a birch-
bordered lane where the frosted trees shone with silvery-
golden radiance in the moonlight. Lucinda flitted down the
lane, growing angrier at every step as the realization of how
shamefully she seemed to have been treated came home to her.
She believed that nobody had thought about her at all, which
was tenfold worse than premeditated neglect.
As she came to the gate at the lower end of the lane a man who
was leaning over it started, with a quick intake of his
breath, which, in any other man than Romney Penhallow, or for
any other woman than Lucinda Penhallow, would have been an
exclamation of surprise.
Lucinda recognized him with a great deal of annoyance and a
little relief. She would not have to walk home alone. But with
Romney Penhallow! Would he think she had contrived it so
Romney silently opened the gate for her, silently latched it
behind her, and silently fell into step beside her. Down
across a velvety sweep of field they went; the air was frosty,
calm and still; over the world lay a haze of moonshine and
mist that converted East Grafton's prosaic hills and fields
into a shimmering fairyland.
At first Lucinda felt angrier than ever. What a ridiculous
situation! How the Penhallows would laugh over it!
As for Romney, he, too, was angry with the trick impish chance
had played him. He liked being the butt of an awkward
situation as little as most men; and certainly to be obliged
to walk home over moonlit fields at one o'clock in the morning
with the woman he had loved and never spoken to for fifteen
years was the irony of fate with a vengeance. Would she think
he had schemed for it? And how the deuce did she come to be
walking home from the wedding at all?
By the time they had crossed the field and reached the wild
cherry lane beyond it, Lucinda's anger was mastered by her
saving sense of humour. She was even smiling a little
maliciously under her fascinator.
The lane was a place of enchantment--a long, moonlit colonnade
adown which beguiling wood nymphs might have footed it featly.
The moonshine fell through the arching boughs and made a
mosaic of silver light and clear-cut shadow for the unfriendly
lovers to walk in. On either side was the hovering gloom of
the woods, and around them was a great silence unstirred by
wind or murmur.
Midway in the lane Lucinda was attacked by a sentimental
recollection. She thought of the last time Romney and she had
walked home together through this very lane, from a party at
"young" John's. It had been moonlight then too, and--Lucinda
checked a sigh--they had walked hand in hand. Just here, by
the big gray beech, he had stopped her and kissed her. Lucinda
wondered if he were thinking of it, too, and stole a look at
him from under the lace border of her fascinator.
But he was striding moodily along with his hands in his
pockets, and his hat pulled down over his eyes, passing the
old beech without a glance at it. Lucinda checked another
sigh, gathered up an escaped flutter of voile, and marched on.
Past the lane a range of three silvery harvest fields sloped
down to Peter Penhallow's brook--a wide, shallow stream
bridged over in the olden days by the mossy trunk of an
ancient fallen tree. When Lucinda and Romney arrived at the
brook they gazed at the brawling water blankly. Lucinda
remembered that she must not speak to Romney just in time to
prevent an exclamation of dismay. There was no tree! There was
no bridge of any kind over the brook!
Here was a predicament! But before Lucinda could do more than
despairingly ask herself what was to be done now, Romney
answered--not in words, but in deeds. He coolly picked Lucinda
up in his arms, as if she had been a child instead of a full
grown woman of no mean avoirdupois, and began to wade with her
through the water.
Lucinda gasped helplessly. She could not forbid him and she
was so choked with rage over his presumption that she could
not have spoken in any case. Then came the catastrophe.
Romney's foot slipped on a treacherous round stone--there was
a tremendous splash--and Romney and Lucinda Penhallow were
sitting down in the middle of Peter Penhallow's brook.
Lucinda was the first to regain her feet. About her clung in