Part 1 out of 3
Produced by William Flis and the Online Distributed Proofreaders Team
and Other Stories
Mary Hallock Foote
FRIEND BARTON'S "CONCERN"
THE STORY OF THE ALCAZAR
A CLOUD ON THE MOUNTAIN
THE RAPTURE OF HETTY
Nicky Dyer and the schoolmistress sat upon the slope of a hill, one of a
low range overlooking an arid Californian valley. These sunburnt slopes
were traversed by many narrow footpaths, descending, ascending, winding
among the tangle of poison-oak and wild-rose bushes, leading from the
miners' cabins to the shaft-houses and tunnels of the mine which gave to
the hills their only importance. Nicky was a stout Cornish lad of thirteen,
with large light eyes that seemed mildly to protest against the sportive
relation which a broad, freckled, turned-up nose bore to the rest of his
countenance; he was doing nothing in particular, and did it as if he were
used to it. The schoolmistress sat with her skirts tucked round her ankles,
the heels of her stout little boots driven well into the dry, gritty
soil. There was in her attitude the tension of some slight habitual
strain--perhaps of endurance--as she leaned forward, her arms stretched
straight before her, with her delicate fingers interlocked. Whatever may
be the type of Californian young womanhood, it was not her type; you felt,
looking at her cool, clear tints and slight, straight outlines, that she
had winter in her blood.
She was gazing down into the valley, as one looks at a landscape who has
not yet mastered all its changes of expression; its details were blurred in
the hot, dusty glare; the mountains opposite had faded to a flat outline
against the indomitable sky. A light wind blew up the slope, flickering the
pale leaves of a manzanita, whose burnished, cinnamon-colored stems glowed
in the sun. As the breeze strengthened, the young girl stood up, lifting
her arms, to welcome its coolness on her bare wrists.
"Nicky, why do the trees in that hollow between the hills look so green?"
"There'll be water over there, miss; that's the Chilano's spring. I'm
thinkin' the old cow might 'a' strayed over that way somewheres; they
mostly goes for the water, wherever it is."
"Is it running water, Nicky,--not water in a tank?"
"Why, no, miss; it cooms right out o' the rock as pretty as iver you saw!
I often goes there myself for a drink, cos it tastes sort o' different,
coomin' out o' the ground like. We wos used to that kind o' water at 'ome."
"Let us go, Nicky," said the girl. "I should like to taste that water, too.
Do we cross the hill first, or is there a shorter way?"
"Over the 'ill's the shortest, miss. It's a bit of a ways, but you've been
longer ways nor they for less at th' end on't."
They "tacked" down the steepest part of the hill, and waded through a
shady hollow, where ferns grew rank and tall,--crisp, faded ferns, with an
aromatic odor which escaped by the friction of their garments, like the
perfume of warmed amber. They reached at length the green trees, a clump
of young cottonwoods at the entrance to a narrow canon, and followed the
dry bed of a stream for some distance, until water began to show among the
stones. The principal outlet of the spring was on a small plantation at the
head of the canon, rented of the "company" by a Chilian, or "the Chilano,"
as he was called; he was not at all a pastoral-looking personage, but, with
the aid of his good water, he earned a moderately respectable living by
supplying the neighboring cabins and the miners' boarding-house with green
vegetables. After a temporary disappearance, as if to purge its memory of
the Chilano's water-buckets, the spring again revealed itself in a thin,
clear trickle down the hollowed surface of a rock which closed the narrow
passage of the canon. Young sycamores and cottonwoods shut out the sun
above; their tangled roots, interlaced with vines still green and growing,
trailed over the edge of the rock, where a mass of earth had fallen; green
moss lined the hollows of the rock, and water-plants grew in the dark pools
The strollers had left behind them the heat and glare; only the breeze
followed them into this green stillness, stirring the boughs overhead and
scattering spots of sunlight over the wet stones. Nicky, after enjoying
for a few moments the schoolmistress' surprised delight, proposed that she
should wait for him at the spring, while he went "down along" in search
of his cow. Nicky was not without a certain awe of the schoolmistress, as
a part of creation he had not fathomed in all its bearings; but when they
rambled on the hills together, he found himself less uneasily conscious of
her personality, and more comfortably aware of the fact that, after all,
she was "nothin' but a woman." He was a trifle disappointed that she showed
no uneasiness at being left alone, but consoled himself by the reflection
that she was "a good un to 'old 'er tongue," and probably felt more than
The schoolmistress did not look in the least disconsolate after Nicky's
departure. She gazed about her very contentedly for a while, and then
prepared to help herself to a drink of water. She hollowed her two hands
into a cup, and waited for it to fill, stooping below the rock, her lifted
skirt held against her side by one elbow, while she watched with a childish
eagerness the water trickle into her pink palms. Miss Frances Newell had
never looked prettier in her life. A pretty girl is always prettier in
the open air, with her head uncovered. Her cheeks were red; the sun just
touched the roughened braids of dark brown hair, and intensified the glow
of a little ear which showed beneath. She stooped to drink; but Miss
Frances was destined never to taste that virgin cup of water. There was a
trampling among the bushes, overhead; a little shower of dust and pebbles
pattered down upon her bent head, soiling the water. She let her hands fall
as she looked up, with a startled "Oh!" A pair of large boots were rapidly
making their way down the bank, and the cause of all this disturbance stood
before her,--a young man in a canvas jacket, with a leathern case slung
across his shoulder, and a small tin lamp fastened in front of the hat
which he took off while he apologized to the girl for his intrusion.
"Miss Newell! Forgive me for dropping down on you like a thousand of brick!
You've found the spring, I see."
Miss Frances stood with her elbows still pressed to her sides, though her
skirt had slipped down into the water, her wet palms helplessly extended.
"I was getting a drink," she said, searching with the tips of her fingers
among the folds of her dress for a handkerchief. "You came just in time to
remind me of the slip between the cup and the lip."
"I'm very sorry, but there is plenty of water left. I came for some myself.
Let me help you." He took from one of the many pockets stitched into the
breast and sides of his jacket a covered flask, detached the cup, and,
after carefully rinsing, filled and handed it to the girl. "I hope it
doesn't taste of 'store claret;' the water underground is just a shade
worse than that exalted vintage."
"It is delicious, thank you, and it doesn't taste in the least of claret.
Have you just come out of the mine?"
"Yes. It is measuring-up day. I've been toddling through the drifts and
sliding down chiflons"--he looked ruefully at the backs of his trousers
legs--"ever since seven o'clock this morning. Haven't had time to eat any
luncheon yet, you see." He took from another pocket a small package folded
in a coarse napkin. "I came here to satisfy the pangs of hunger and enjoy
the beauties of nature at the same time,--such nature as we have here. Will
you excuse me, Miss Newell? I'll promise to eat very fast."
"I'll excuse you if you will not ask me to eat with you."
"Oh, I've entirely too much consideration for myself to think of such a
thing; there isn't enough for two."
He seated himself, with a little sigh, and opened the napkin on the ground
before him. Miss Newell stood leaning against a rock on the opposite side
of the brook, regarding the young man with a shy and smiling curiosity.
"Meals," he continued, "are a reckless tribute to the weakness of the flesh
we all engage in three times a day at the boarding-house; a man must eat,
you know, if he expects to live. Have you ever tried any of Mrs. Bondy's
fare, Miss Newell?"
"I'm sure Mrs. Bondy tries to have everything very nice," the young girl
replied, with some embarrassment.
"Of course she does; she is a very good old girl. I think a great deal of
Mrs. Bondy; but when she asks me if I have enjoyed my dinner, I always make
a point of telling her the truth; she respects me for it. This is her idea
of sponge cake, you see." He held up admiringly a damp slab of some compact
pale-yellow substance, with crumbs of bread adhering to one side. "It is a
little mashed, but otherwise a fair specimen."
Miss Frances laughed. "Mr. Arnold, I think you are too bad. How can she
help it, with those dreadful Chinamen? But I would really advise you not to
eat that cake; it doesn't look wholesome."
"Oh, as to that, I've never observed any difference; one thing is about
as wholesome as another. Did you ever eat bacon fried by China Sam? The
sandwiches were made of that. You see I still live." The sponge cake was
rapidly disappearing. "Miss Newell, you look at me as if I were making away
with myself, instead of the cake,--will you appear at the inquest?"
"No, I will not testify to anything so unromantic; besides, it might be
inconvenient for Mrs. Bondy's cook." She put on her hat, and stepped along
the stones towards the entrance to the glen.
"You are not going to refuse me the last offices?"
"I am going to look for Nicky Dyer. He came with me to show me the spring,
and now he has gone to hunt for his cow."
"And you are going to hunt for him? I hope you won't try it, Miss Frances:
a boy on the track of a cow is a very uncertain object in life. Let me call
him, if you really must have him."
"Oh, don't trouble yourself. I suppose he will come after a while. I said I
would wait for him here."
"Then permit me to say that I think you had better do as you promised."
Miss Frances recrossed the stones, and seated herself, with a faint
"I hope you don't mind if I stay," Arnold said, moving some loose stones to
make her seat more comfortable. "You have the prior right to-day, but this
is an old haunt of mine. I feel as if I were doing the honors; and to tell
you the truth, I am rather used up. The new workings are very hot and the
drifts are low. It's a combination of steam-bath and hoeing corn."
The girl's face cleared, as she looked at him. His thin cheek was pale
under the tan, and where his hat was pushed back the hair clung in damp
points to his forehead and temples.
"I should be very sorry to drive you away," she said. "I thought you looked
tired. If you want to go to sleep, or anything, I will promise to be very
Arnold laughed. "Oh, I'm not such an utter wreck; but I'm glad you can be
very quiet. I was afraid you might be a little uproarious at times, you
The girl gave a sudden shy laugh. It was really a giggle, but a very sweet,
girlish giggle. It called up a look of keen pleasure to Arnold's face.
"Now I call this decidedly gay," he remarked, stretching out his long legs
slowly, and leaning against a slanting rock, with one arm behind his head.
"Miss Frances, will you be good enough to tell me that my face isn't
"Truth compels me to admit that you have one little daub over your left
"Thank you," said Arnold, rubbing it languidly with his handkerchief. His
hat had dropped off, and he did not replace it; he did not look at the
girl, but let his eyes rest on the thread of falling water that gleamed
from the spring. Miss Frances, regarding him with some timidity, thought:
How much younger he looks without his hat! He had that sensitive fairness
which in itself gives a look of youth and purity; the sternness of his
face lay in the curves which showed under his mustache, and in the silent,
"You've no idea how good it sounds to a lonely fellow like me," he said,
"to hear a girl's laugh."
"But there are a great many women here," Miss Frances observed.
"Oh yes, there are women everywhere, such as they are; but it takes a nice
girl, a lady, to laugh!"
"I don't agree with you at all," replied Miss Frances coldly. "Some of
those Mexican women have the sweetest voices, speaking or laughing, that I
have ever heard; and the Cornish women, too, have very fresh, pure voices.
I often listen to them in the evening when I sit alone in my room. Their
voices sound so happy"--
"Well, then it is the home accent,--or I'm prejudiced. Don't laugh again,
please, Miss Frances; it breaks me all up." He moved his head a little, and
looked across at the girl to assure himself that her silence did not mean
disapproval. "I admit," he went on, "that I like our Eastern girls. I know
you are from the East, Miss Newell."
"I am from what I used to think was East," she said, smiling. "But
everything is East here; people from Indiana and Wisconsin say they are
from the East."
"Ah, but you are from our old Atlantic coast. I was sure of it when I first
saw you. If you will pardon me, I knew it by your way of dressing."
The young girl flushed with pleasure; then, with a reflective air: "I
confess myself, since you speak of clothes, to a feeling of relief when I
saw your hat the first Sunday after I came. Western men wear such dreadful
"Good!" he cried gayly. "You mean my hat that I _call_ a hat." He reached
for the one behind his head, and spun it lightly upward, where it settled
on a projecting branch. "I respect that hat myself,--my _other_ hat, I
mean; I'm trying to live up to it. Now, let me guess your State, Miss
Newell: is it Massachusetts?"
"No,--Connecticut; but at this distance it seems like the same thing."
"Oh, pardon me, there are very decided differences. I'm from Massachusetts
myself. Perhaps the points of difference show more in the women,--the ones
who stay at home, I mean, and become more local and idiomatic than the men.
You are not one of the daughters of the soil, Miss Newell."
She looked pained as she said, "I wish I were; but there is not room for us
all, where there is so little soil."
Arnold moved uneasily, extracted a stone from under the small of his
back and tossed it out of sight with some vehemence. "You think it goes
rather hard with women who are uprooted, then," he said. "I suppose it is
something a roving man can hardly conceive of,--a woman's attachment to
places, and objects, and associations; they are like cats."
Miss Newell was silent.
Arnold moved restlessly; then began again, with his eyes still on the
trickle of water: "Miss Newell, do you remember a poem--I think it is
Bryant's--called 'The Hunter of the Prairies'? It's no disgrace not to
remember it, and it may not be Bryant's."
"I remember seeing it, but I never read it. I always skipped those Western
Arnold gave a short laugh, and said, "Well, you are punished, you see, by
going West yourself to hear me repeat it to you. I think I can give you the
idea in the Hunter's own words:--
"'Here, with my rifle and my steed,
And her who left the world for me'"--
The sound of his own voice in the stillness of the little glen, and a look
of surprise in the young girl's quiet eyes, brought a sudden access of
color to Arnold's face. "Hm-m-m," he murmured to himself, "it's queer how
rhymes slip away. Well, the last line ends in _free_. You see, it is a
man's idea of happiness,--a young man's. Now, how do you suppose _she_
liked it,--the girl, you know, who left the world, and all that? Did you
ever happen to see a poem or a story, written by a woman, celebrating the
joys of a solitary existence with the man of her heart?"
"I suppose that many a woman has tried it," Miss Newell said evasively,
"but I'm sure she"--
"Never lived to tell the tale?" cried Arnold.
"She probably had something else to do, while the hunter was riding around
with his gun," Miss Frances continued.
"Well, give her the odds of the rifle and the steed; give the man some
commonplace employment to take the swagger out of him; let him come home
reasonably tired and cross at night,--do you suppose he would find the
'kind' eyes and the 'smile'? I forgot to tell you that the Hunter of the
Prairies is always welcomed by a smile at night."
"He must have been an uncommonly fortunate man," she said.
"Of course he was; but the question is: Could any living man be so
fortunate? Come, Miss Frances, don't prevaricate!"
"Well, am I speaking for the average woman?"
"Oh, not at all,--you are speaking for the very nicest of women; any other
kind would be intolerable on a prairie."
"I should think, if she were very healthy," said Miss Newell, hesitating
between mischief and shyness, "and not too imaginative, and of a cheerful
disposition; and if he, the hunter, were above the average,--supposing that
she cared for him in the beginning,--I should think the smile might last a
year or two."
"Heavens, what a cynic you are! I feel like a mere daub of sentiment beside
you. There have been moments, do you know, even in this benighted mining
camp, when I have believed in that hunter and his smile!"
He got up suddenly, and stood against the rock, facing her. Although he
kept his cool, bantering tone, his breathing had quickened, and his eyes
"You may consider me a representative man, if you please: I speak for
hundreds of us scattered about in mining camps and on cattle ranches, in
lighthouses and frontier farms and military posts, and all the Godforsaken
holes you can conceive of, where men are trying to earn a living, or lose
one,--we are all going to the dogs for the want of that smile! What is to
become of us if the women whose smiles we care for cannot support life in
the places where we have to live? Come, Miss Frances, can't you make that
smile last at least two years?" He gathered a handful of dry leaves from a
broken branch above his head and crushed them in his long hands, sifting
the yellow dust upon the water below.
"The places you speak of are very different," the girl answered, with
a shade of uneasiness in her manner. "A mining camp is anything but a
solitude, and a military post may be very gay."
"Oh, the principle is the same. It is the absolute giving up of everything.
You know most women require a background of family and friends and
congenial surroundings; the question is whether _any_ woman can do without
The young girl moved in a constrained way, and flushed as she said, "It
must always be an experiment, I suppose, and its success would depend, as I
said before, on the woman and on the man."
"An 'experiment' is good!" said Arnold, rather savagely. "I see you won't
say anything you can't swear to."
"I really do not see that I am called upon to say anything on the subject
at all!" said the girl, rising and looking at him across the brook with
indignant eyes and a hot glow on her cheek.
He did not appear to notice her annoyance.
"You are, because you know something about it, and most women don't: your
testimony is worth something. How long have you been here,--a year? I
wonder how it seems to a woman to live in a place like this a year! I hate
it all, you know,--I've seen so much of it. But is there really any beauty
here? I suppose beauty, and all that sort of thing, is partly within us,
isn't it?--at least, that's what the goody little poems tell us."
"I think it is very beautiful here," said Miss Frances, softening, as he
laid aside his strained manner, and spoke more quietly. "It is the kind
of place a happy woman might be very happy in; but if she were
"Well?" said Arnold, pulling at his mustache, and fixing a rather gloomy
gaze upon her.
"She would die of it! I really do not think there would be any hope for her
in a place like this."
"But if she were happy, as you say," persisted the young man, "don't
you think her woman's adaptability and quick imagination would help her
immensely? She wouldn't see what I, for instance, know to be ugly and
coarse; her very ignorance of the world would help her."
There was a vague, pleading look in his eyes. "Arrange it to suit
yourself," she said. "Only, I can assure you, if anything should happen to
her, it will be the--the hunter's fault."
"All right," said he, rousing himself. "That hunter, if I know him, is a
man who is used to taking risks! Where are you going?"
"I thought I heard Nicky."
They were both silent, and as they listened, footsteps, with a tinkling
accompaniment, crackled among the bushes below the canon. Miss Newell
turned towards the spring again. "I want one more drink before I go," she
Arnold followed her. "Let us drink to our return. Let this be our fountain
"Oh, no," said Miss Frances. "Don't you remember what your favorite Bryant
says about bringing the 'faded fancies of an elder world' into these
"Faded fancies!" cried Arnold. "Do you call that a faded fancy? It is as
fresh and graceful as youth itself, and as natural. I should have thought
of it myself, if there had been no fountain of Trevi."
"Do you think so?" smiled the girl. "Then imagination, it would seem, is
not entirely confined to homesick women."
"Come, fill the cup, Miss Frances! Nicky is almost here."
The girl held her hands beneath the trickle again, until they were brimming
with the clear sweet water.
"Drink first," said Arnold.
"I'm not sure that I want to return," she replied, smiling, with her eyes
on the space of sky between the treetops.
"Nonsense,--you must be morbid. Drink, drink!"
"Drink yourself; the water is all running away!"
He bent his head, and took a vigorous sip of the water, holding his hands
beneath hers, inclosing the small cup in the larger one. The small cup
trembled a little. He was laughing and wiping his mustache, when Nicky
appeared; and Miss Frances, suddenly brightening and recovering her freedom
of movement, exclaimed, "Why, Nicky! You have been _forever_! We must go at
once, Mr. Arnold; so good-by! I hope"--
She did not say what she hoped, and Arnold, after looking at her with an
interrogative smile a moment, caught his hat from the branch overhead, and
made her a great flourishing bow with it in his hand.
He did not follow her, pushing her way through the swaying, rustling ferns,
but he watched her light figure out of sight. "What an extraordinary ass
I've been making of myself!" He confided this remark to the stillness of
the little canon, and then, with long strides, took his way over the hills
in an opposite direction.
It was the middle of July when this little episode of the spring occurred.
The summer had reached its climax. The dust did not grow perceptibly
deeper, nor the fields browner, during the long brazen weeks that followed;
one only wearied of it all, more and more.
So thought Miss Newell, at least. It was her second summer in California,
and the phenomenon of the dry season was not so impressive on its
repetition. She had been surprised to observe how very brief had been the
charm of strangeness, in her experience of life in a new country. She began
to wonder if a girl, born and brought up among the hills of Connecticut,
could have the seeds of _ennui_ subtly distributed through her frame, to
reach a sudden development in the heat of a Californian summer. She longed
for the rains to begin, that in their violence and the sound of the wind
she might gain a sense of life in action by which to eke out her dull and
expressionless days. She was, as Nicky Dyer had said, "a good un to 'old
'er tongue," and therein lay her greatest strength as well as her greatest
Miss Newell boarded at Captain Dyer's. The prosperous ex-mining captain
was a good deal nearer to the primitive type than any man Miss Newell had
ever sat at table with in her life before, but she had a thorough respect
for him, and she felt that the time might come when she could enjoy
him--as a reminiscence. Mrs. Dyer was kindly, and not more of a gossip
than her neighbors; and there were no children,--only one grandchild,
the inoffensive Nicky. The ways of the house were somewhat uncouth, but
everything was clean and in a certain sense homelike. To Miss Newell's
homesick sensitiveness it seemed better than being stared at across the
boarding-house table by Boker and Pratt, and pitied by the engineer. She
had a little room at the Dyers', which was a reflection of herself so far
as a year's occupancy and very moderate resources could make it; perhaps
for that very reason she often found her little room an intolerable prison.
One night her homesickness had taken its worst form, a restlessness, which
began in a nervous inward throbbing and extended to her cold and tremulous
finger-tips. She went softly downstairs and out on the piazza, where the
moonlight lay in a brilliant square on the unpainted boards. The moonlight
increased her restlessness, but she could not keep away from it. She dared
not walk up and down the piazza, because the people in the street below
would see her; she stood there perfectly still, holding her elbows with her
hands, crouched into a little dark heap against the side of the house.
Lights were twinkling, far and near, over the hills, singly, and in
clusters. Black figures moved across the moonlit spaces in the street.
There were sounds of talking, laughing, and singing; dogs barking;
occasionally a stir and tinkle in the scrub, as a cow wandered past. The
engines throbbed from the distant shaft-houses. A miner's wife was hushing
her baby in the next house, and across the street a group of Mexicans were
talking all at once in a loud, monotonous cadence.
In her early days at the mines there had been a certain piquancy in her
sense of the contrast between herself and her circumstances, but that had
long passed into a dreary recognition of the fact that she had no real part
in the life of the place.
She recalled one afternoon when Arnold had passed the schoolhouse, and
found her sitting alone on the doorstep. He had stopped to ask if that
"mongrel pack on the hill were worrying the life out of her," and had added
with a laugh, in answer to her look of silent disapproval, "Oh, I mean the
dear lambs of your flock. I saw two of them just now on the trail, fighting
over a lame donkey. The clans were gathering on both sides; there will be
a pitched battle in a few minutes. The donkey was enjoying it. I think
he was asleep!" The day had been an unusually hard one, and the patient
little schoolmistress was just then struggling with a distracted sense of
unavailing effort. Arnold's grim banter had brought the tears, as blood
follows a blow. He got down from his horse, looking wretched at what he had
done. "I am a brute, I believe,--worse than any of the pack. You have so
much patience with them,--please have a little with me. Trust me, I am not
utterly blind to your sufferings. Indeed, Miss Newell, I see them, and they
make me savage!" With the gentlest touch he had lifted her hand, held it in
his a moment, and then had mounted his horse and ridden away.
Yes, he _did_ understand,--she felt sure of that. What an unutterable rest
it would be if she could go to some one with the small worries of her life!
But she could not yield to such impulses. It was different with men. She
had often thought of Arnold's words that day at the spring, all the more
that he had never, before or since, revealed so much of himself to her.
Under an apparently careless frankness and extravagance of speech he was a
reticent man; but lightly spoken as the words had been, were they not the
sparks and ashes blown from a deep and smothered core of fire? She seemed
to feel its glow on her cheek as she recalled his singular persistence and
the darkening of his imperious eyes. No, she would not permit herself to
think of that day at the spring.
There was a bright light in the engineer's office across the street. She
could see Arnold through the windows (for, like a man, he did not pull his
shades down) at one of the long drawing-tables. He worked late, it seemed.
He was writing; he wrote rapidly page after page, tearing each sheet from
what appeared to be a paper block, and tossing it on the table beside him;
he covered only one side of the paper, she noticed, thinking with a smile
of her own small economies. Presently he got up, swept the papers together
in his hands, and stooped over them. He is numbering and folding them,
she thought, and now he is directing the envelope,--to whom, I wonder!
He turned, and as he walked towards the window she saw him put something
into the pocket of his coat. He lighted a cigar, and began walking, with
long strides, up and down the room, one hand in his pocket; the other
he occasionally rubbed over his eyes and head, as if they hurt him. She
remembered that the engineer had headaches, and wished that somebody would
ask him to try valerian. Is he ever really lonely? she thought. What can
he, what can any man, know of loneliness? He may go out and walk about on
the hills; he may go away altogether, and take the risks of life somewhere
else. A woman must take no risks. There is not a house in the camp where
he might not enter to-night, if he chose; he might come over here and
talk to me. The East, with all its cherished memories and prejudices and
associations, seemed so hopelessly far away; they two alone, in that
strange, uncongenial new world which had crowded out the old, seemed to
speak a common language: and yet how little she really knew of him!
Suddenly the lights disappeared from the windows of the office. She heard
a door unlock, and presently the young man's figure crossed the street and
turned up the trail past the house.
Two other figures going up halted, and the taller one said, "Will you go up
on the hill, to-night, Arnold?"
"What for?" said Arnold, slackening his pace without stopping.
"Oh, nothing in particular,--to see the senoritas."
"Oh, thank you, Boker, I've seen the senoritas."
He walked quickly past the men, and the shorter one, who had not spoken,
called after him rather huskily,--
"W-what do you think of the little school-ma'am?"
Arnold turned back and confronted the speaker in silence.
"I say! Is she thin 'nough to suit you?" the heavy-playful one persisted.
"Shut up, Jack!" said his comrade. "You're a little high now, you know."
He dragged him on, up the trail; the voices of the two men blended with the
night chorus of the camp as they passed out of sight.
Miss Newell sat perfectly still for a while; then she went to her room, and
threw herself down on the bed, listening to an endless mental repetition of
those words that the faithless night had brought to her ear. The moonlight
had left the piazza, and crept round to the side of the house; it shone
in at the window, touching the girl's cold fingers pressed to her burning
cheeks and temples. She got up, drew the curtain, and groped her way back
to the bed, where she lay for hours, trying to convince herself that her
misery was out of all proportion to the cause, and that those coarse words
could make no real difference in her life.
They did make a little difference: they loosened the slight, indefinite
threads of intercourse which a year had woven between these two exiles.
Miss Newell was prepared to withdraw from any further overtures of
friendship from the engineer; but he made it unnecessary for her to do
so,--he made no overtures. On the night of Pratt's tipsy salutation he had
abruptly decided that a mining camp was no place for a nice girl, with no
acknowledged masculine protector. In Miss Newell's circumstances a girl
must be left entirely alone, or exposed to the gossip of the camp. He
knew very well which she would choose, and so he kept away,--though at
considerable loss to himself, he felt. It made him cross to watch her
pretty figure going up the trail every morning and to reflect that so much
sweetness and refinement should not be having its ameliorating influence on
his own barren and somewhat defiant existence.
The autumn rains set in early, and the winter was unusually severe. Arnold
had a purpose which kept him hard at work and very happy in those days.
During the long December nights he was shut up in his office, plodding
over his maps and papers, or smoking in dreamy comfort by the fire. He was
seldom interrupted, for he had earned the character of a social ingrate and
hardened recluse in the camp. He had earned it quite unconsciously, and
was as little troubled by the fact as by its consequences. On the evening
of New Year's Day he crossed the street to the Dyers' and asked for Miss
Newell. She presently greeted him in the parlor, where she looked, Arnold
thought, more than ever out of place, among the bead baskets, and splint
frames inclosing photographs of deceased members of the Dyer family, and
the pallid walls, weak-legged chairs, and crude imaginings in worsted work.
Her apparent unconsciousness of these abominations was another source of
irritation. It is always irritating to a man to see a charming woman in an
unhappy and false position, where he is powerless to help her. Arnold had
not expected that it would be a very exhilarating occasion,--he remembered
the Dyer parlor,--but it was even less pleasant than he had expected. He
sat down, carefully, in a glued chair whose joints had opened with the
dry season and refused to close again; he did not know where the transfer
of his person might end. Captain Dyer was present, and told a great many
stories in a loud, tiring voice. Miss Frances sat by with some soft white
knitting in her hands, and her attitude of patient attention made Arnold
long to attack her with some savage pleasantries on the subject of
Christmas in a mining camp; it seemed to him that patience was a virtue
that could be carried too far, even in woman. Then Mrs. Dyer came in, and
manoeuvred her husband out into the passage; after some loudly suggestive
whispering there, she succeeded in getting him into the kitchen, and shut
the door. Arnold got up soon after that, and said good-evening.
Miss Newell remained in the parlor for some time, after he had gone, moving
softly about. She had gathered her knitting closely into her clasped hands;
the ball trailed after her, among the legs of the chairs, and when in
her silent promenade she had spun a grievous tangle of wool she sat down,
and dropped the work out of her hands with a helpless gesture. Her head
drooped, and tears trickled slowly between the slender white fingers
which covered her face. Presently the fingers descended to her throat and
clasped it close, as if to still an intolerable throbbing ache which her
half-suppressed tears had left.
At length she rose, picked up her work, and patiently followed the tangled
clue until she had recovered her ball; then she wound it all up neatly,
wrapped the knitting in a thin white handkerchief, and went to her room.
With the fine March weather--fine in spite of the light rains--the engineer
was laying out a road to the new shaft; it wound along the hillside where
Miss Newell had first seen the green trees, by the spring. The engineer's
orders included the building of a flume, carrying the water down from the
Chilano's plantation into a tank, built on the ruins of the rock which had
guarded the sylvan spring. The discordant voices of a gang of Chinamen
profaned the stillness which had framed Miss Frances' girlish laughter;
the blasting of the rock had loosened, to their fall, the clustering trees
above, and the brook below was a mass of trampled mud.
The engineer's visits to the spring gave him no pleasure, in those days. He
felt that he was the inevitable instrument of its desecration; but over the
hill, just in sight from the spring, carpenters were putting a new piazza
round a cottage that stood remote from the camp, where a spur of the hills
descended steeply towards the valley. Arnold took a great interest in this
cottage. He was frequently to be seen there in the evening, tramping up and
down the new piazza, and offering to the moon, that looked in through the
boughs of a live-oak at the end of the gallery, the incense of his lonely
cigar. Sometimes he would take the key of the front door from his pocket,
enter the silent house, and wander from one room to another, like a
restless but not unhappy ghost; the moonlight, touching his face, showed it
strangely stirred and softened. His was no melancholy madness.
Arnold was leaning on the gate of this cottage, one afternoon, when the
schoolmistress came down the trail from the camp. She did not appear to see
him, but turned off from the trail at a little distance from the cottage,
and took her way across the hill behind it. Arnold watched her a few
minutes, and then followed, overtaking her on the hills above the new road,
where she had sat with Nicky Dyer nearly a year ago.
"I don't like to see you wandering about here, alone," he said. "The men on
the road are a scratch gang, picked up anyhow, not like the regular miners.
I hope you are not going to the spring!"
"Why?" said she. "Did you not drink to our return?"
"But you would not drink with me, so the spell did not work; and now the
spring is gone,--all its beauty, I mean. The water is there, in a tank,
where the Chinamen fill their buckets night and morning, and the teamsters
water their horses. We'll go over there, if you would like to see the march
of modern improvements."
"No," she said; "I had rather remember it as it was; still, I don't believe
in being sentimental about such things. Let us sit down a while."
A vague depression, which Arnold had been aware of in her manner when they
met, became suddenly manifest in her paleness and in a look of dull pain in
"But you are hurt about it," he said. "I wish I hadn't told you in that
brutal way. I'm afraid I'm not many degrees removed from the primeval
savage, after all."
"Oh, you needn't mind," she said, after a moment. "That was the only place
I cared for, here, so now there will be nothing to regret when I go away."
"Are you going away, then? I'm very sorry to hear it; but of course I'm
not surprised. You couldn't be expected to stand it another year; those
children must have been something fearful."
"Oh, it wasn't the children."
"Well, I'm sorry. I had hoped"--
"Yes," said she, with a modest interrogation, as he hesitated, "what is it
you had hoped?"
"That I might indirectly be the means of making your life less lonely here.
You remember that 'experiment' we talked about at the spring?"
"That _you_ talked about, you mean."
"I am going to try it myself. Not because you were so
encouraging,--but--it's a risk anyway, you know, and I'm not sure the
circumstances make so much difference. I've known people to be wretched
with all the modern conveniences. I am going East for her in about two
weeks. How sorry she will be to find you gone! I wrote to her about you.
You might have helped each other; couldn't you stand it, Miss Newell, don't
you think, if you had another girl?"
"I'm afraid not," she said very gently. "I _must_ go home. You may be sure
she will not need me; you must see to it that she doesn't need--any one."
They were walking back and forth on the hill.
"I was just looking for the cottonwood-trees; are they gone too?" she
"Oh yes; there isn't a tree left in the canon. Don't you envy me my work?"
"I suppose everything we do seems like desecration to somebody. Here am I
making history very rapidly for this colony of ants." She looked down with
a rueful smile as she spoke.
"I wish you had the history of the entire species under your foot, and
could finish it at once."
"I'm not sure that I would; I'm not so fond of extermination as you pretend
"Well, keep the ants if you like them, but I am firm on the subject of
the camp children. There _are_ blessings that brighten as they take their
flight. I pay my monthly assessment for the doctor with the greatest
cheerfulness; if it wasn't for him, in this climate, they would crowd us
off the hill."
"Please don't!" she said wearily. "Even _I_ don't like to hear you talk
like that; I am sure _she_ will not."
He laughed softly. "You have often reminded me of her in little ways: that
was what upset me at the spring. I was very near telling you all about her
"I wish that you had!" she said. They were walking towards home now. "I
suppose you know it is talked of in the camp," she said, after a pause.
"Mr. Dyer told me, and showed me the house, a week ago. And now I must tell
you about my violets. I had them in a box in my room all winter. I should
like to leave them as a little welcome to her. Last night Nicky Dyer and
I planted them on the bank by the piazza under the climbing-rose; it was
a secret between Nicky and me, and Nicky promised to water them until she
came; but of course I meant to tell you. Will you look at them to-night,
please, and see if Nicky has been faithful?"
"I will, indeed," said Arnold. "That is just the kind of thing she
will delight in. If you are going East, Miss Newell, shall we not be
fellow-travelers? I should be so glad to be of any service."
"No, thank you. I am to spend a month in Santa Barbara, and escort an
invalid friend home. I shall have to say good-by, now. Don't go any farther
with me, please."
That night Arnold mused late, leaning over the railing of the new piazza
in the moonlight. He fancied that a faint perfume of violets came from the
damp earth below; but it could have been only fancy, for when he searched
the bank for them they were not there. The new sod was trampled, and a few
leaves and slight, uptorn roots lay scattered about, with some broken twigs
from the climbing-rose. He had found the gate open when he came, and the
Dyer cow had passed him, meandering peacefully up the trail.
* * * * *
The crescent moon had waxed and waned since the night when it lighted the
engineer's musings through the wind-parted live-oak boughs, and another
slender bow gleamed in the pale, tinted haze of twilight. The month had
gone, like a feverish dream, to the young schoolmistress, as she lay in her
small, upper chamber, unconscious of all save alternate light and darkness,
and rest following pain. When, at last, she crept down the short staircase
to breathe the evening coolness, clinging to the stair-rail and holding her
soft white draperies close around her, she saw the pink light lingering
on the mountains, and heard the chorus to the "Sweet By and By" from the
miners' chapel on the hill. It was Sunday evening, and the house was
piously "emptied of its folk." She took her old seat by the parlor window,
and looked across to the engineer's office; its windows and doors were
shut, and the dogs of the camp were chasing each other over the loose
boards of the piazza floor. She laughed a weak, convulsive laugh, thinking
of the engineer's sallies of old upon that band of Ishmaelites, and of the
scrambling, yelping rush that followed. He must have gone East, else the
dogs had not been so bold. She looked down the valley where the mountains
parted seaward, the only break in the continuous barrier of land that cut
off her retreat and closed in about the atom of her own identity. The
thought of that immensity of distance made her faint.
There were steps on the porch,--not Captain Dyer's, for he and his good
wife were lending their voices to swell the stentorian chorus that was
shaking the church on the hill; the footsteps paused at the door, and
Arnold himself opened it. He had not, evidently, expected to see her.
"I was looking for some one to ask about you," he said. "Are you sure you
are able to be down?"
"Oh yes. I've been sitting up for several days. I wanted to see the
He was looking at her intently, while she flushed with weakness, and drew
the fringes of her shawl over her tremulous hands.
"How ill you have been! I have wished myself a woman, that I might do
something for you! I suppose Mrs. Dyer nursed you like a horse."
"Oh no; she was very good; but I don't remember much about the worst of it.
I thought you had gone home."
"Home! Where do you mean? I didn't know that I had ever boasted of any
reserved rights of that kind. I have no mortgage, in fact or sentiment, on
any part of the earth's surface, that I'm acquainted with!"
He spoke with a hard carelessness in his manner which make her shrink.
"I mean the East. I am homeless, too, but all the East seems like home to
"You had better get rid of those sentimental, backward fancies as soon as
possible. The East concerns itself very little about us, I can tell you! It
can spare us."
She thrilled with pain at his words. "I should think you would be the last
one to say so,--you, who have so much treasure there."
"Will you please to understand," he said, turning upon her a face of bitter
calmness, "that I claim no treasure anywhere,--not even in heaven!"
She sat perfectly still, conscious that by some fatality of helpless
incomprehension every word that she said goaded him, and she feared to
"Now I have hurt you," he said in his gentlest voice. "I am always hurting
you. I oughtn't to come near you with my rough edges! I'll go away now, if
you will tell me that you forgive me!"
She smiled at him without speaking, while her fair throat trembled with a
pulse of pain.
"Will you let me take your hand a moment? It is so long since I have
touched a woman's hand! God! how lonely I am! Don't look at me in that way;
don't pity me, or I shall lose what little manhood I have left!"
"What is it?" she said, leaning towards him. "There is something strange in
your face. If you are in trouble, tell me; it will help me to hear it. I am
not so very happy myself."
"Why should I add my load to yours? I seem always to impose myself upon
you, first my hopes, and now my--no, it isn't despair; it is only a kind
of brutal numbness. You must have the fatal gift of sympathy, or you would
never have seen my little hurt."
Miss Frances was not strong enough to bear the look in his eyes as he
turned them upon her, with a dreary smile. She covered her face with one
hand, while she whispered,--
"Is it--you have not lost her?"
"Yes! Or, rather, I never had her. I've been dreaming like a boy all these
years,--'In sleep a king, but waking, no such matter.'"
"It is not death, then?"
"No, she is not dead. She is not even false; that is, not very false. How
can I tell you how little it is, and yet how much! She is only a trifle
selfish. Why shouldn't she be? Why should we men claim the exclusive right
to choose the best for ourselves? It was selfish of me to ask her to share
such a life as mine; and she has gently and reasonably reminded me that
I'm not worth the sacrifice. It's quite true. I always knew I wasn't. She
put it very delicately and sweetly;--she's the sweetest girl you ever saw.
She'd marry me to-morrow if I could add myself, such as I am,--she doesn't
overrate me,--to what she has already; but an exchange she wasn't prepared
for. In all my life I never was so clearly estimated, body and soul. I
don't blame her, you understand. When I left her, three years ago, I saw my
way easily enough to a reputation, and an income, and a home in the East;
she never thought of anything else; I never taught her to look for anything
else. I dare say she rather enjoyed having a lover working for her in the
unknown West; she enjoyed the pretty letters she wrote me; but when it came
to the bare bones of existence in a mining camp, with a husband not very
rich or very distinguished, she had nothing to clothe them with. You said
once that to be happy here a woman must not have too much imagination; she
hadn't quite enough. I had to be dead honest with her when I asked her to
come. I told her there was nothing here but the mountains and the sunsets,
and a few items of picturesqueness which count with some people. Of course
I had to tell her I was but little better off than when I left. A man's
experience is something he cannot set forth at its value to himself; she
passed it over as a word of no practical meaning. There her imagination
failed her again. She took me frankly at my own estimate; and in justice to
her I must say I put myself at the lowest figures. I made a very poor show
"You wrote to her!" exclaimed Miss Frances. "You did not go on? Oh, you
have made a great mistake! Do go: it cannot be too late. Letters are the
most untrusty things!"
"Wait," he said. "There is something else. She has a head for business;
she proposed that I should come East, and accept a superintendentship from
a cousin of hers, the owner of a gun-factory in one of those shady New
England towns women are so fond of. She intimated that he was in politics,
this cousin, and of course would expect his employees to become part of
his constituency. It's a very pretty little bribe, you see; when you add
the--the girl, it's enough to shake a man--who wants that girl. I'm not
worth much to myself, or to anybody else, apparently, but by Heaven I'll
not sell out as cheap as that!
"It all amounts to nothing except one more illusion gone. If there is a
woman on this earth that can love a man without knowing for what, and take
the chances of life with him without counting the cost, I have never known
her. I asked you once if a woman could do that. You hadn't the courage
to tell me the truth. I wouldn't have been satisfied if you had; but I'm
"I believed she would be happy; I believe she would be, now, if only you
would go to her and persuade her to try."
"I persuade her! I would never try to persuade a woman to be my wife were I
dying for love of her! I don't think myself invented by nature to promote
the happiness of woman, in the aggregate or singly. I know there are men
who do: let them urge their claims. I thought that she loved me; that was
another illusion. She will probably marry the cousin, and become the most
loyal of his constituents. He is welcome to her; but there's a ghostly
blank somewhere. How I have tired you! You'll be in bed another week for
this selfishness of mine." He stopped, while a sudden thought brought a
change to his face. "But when are you going home?"
"I cannot go," she said. Her weakness came over her like a cloud, darkening
the room and pressing upon her heavily. "Will you give me your arm?"
At the stairs she stopped, and leaning against the wall looked at him with
wide, hopeless eyes.
"We are cut off from everything. My friend does not need me now; she has
gone home,--alone. She is dead!"
Arnold took a long walk upon the hills that night, and smoked a great
many cigars in gloomy meditation. He was thinking of two girls, as young
men who smoke a great many cigars without counting them often are; he was
also thinking of Arizona. He had fully made up his mind to resign, and
depart for that problematic region as soon as his place was filled; but an
alternative had presented itself to him with a pensive attractiveness,--an
alternative unmistakably associated with the fact that the schoolmistress
was to remain in her present isolated circumstances. It even had occurred
to him that there might be some question of duty involved in his "standing
by her," as he phrased it to himself, "till she got her color back." There
was an unconscious appeal in the last words he had heard her speak which
constrained him to do so. He was not in the habit of pitying himself, but
had there been another soul to follow this mental readjustment of himself
to his mutilated life, it would surely have pitied the eagerness with which
he clung to this one shadow of a duty to a fellow-creature. It was the
measure of his loneliness.
It was late in November. The rains had begun again with sound and fury;
with ranks of clouds forming along the mountain sides, and driven before
the sea-winds upward through the gulches; with days of breeze and sunshine,
when the fog veil was lightly lifted and blown apart, showing the valley
always greener; with days of lowering stillness, when the veil descended
and left the mountains alone, like islands of shadow rising from a sea of
On such a lowering day, Miss Frances stood at the junction of three trails,
in front of the door of the blacksmith's shop. She was wrapped in a dark
blue cloak, with the hood drawn over her head; the cool dampness had given
to her cheeks a clear, pure glow, and her brown eyes looked out with a
cheerful light. She was watching the parting of the mist in the valley
below; for a wind had sprung up, and now the rift widened, as the windows
of heaven might have opened, giving a glimpse of the world to the "Blessed
Damozel." All was dark above and around her; only a single shaft of
sunlight pierced the fog, and startled into life a hundred tints of
brightness in the valley. She caught the sparkle on the roofs and windows
of the town ten miles away; the fields of sunburnt stubble glowed a deep
Indian red; the young crops were tenderest emerald; and the line of the
distant bay, a steel-blue thread against the horizon.
Arnold was plodding up the lower trail on his gray mare, fetlock deep in
mud. He dismounted at the door of the shop, and called to him a small
Mexican lad with a cheek of the tint of ripe corn.
"Here, Pedro Segundo! Take this mare up to the camp! Can you catch?" He
tossed him a coin. "Bueno!"
"Mucho bueno!" said Pedro the First, looking on approvingly from the door
of his shop.
Arnold turned to the schoolmistress, who was smiling from her perch on a
pile of wet logs.
"I'm perfectly happy!" she said. "This east wind takes me home. I hear the
bluebirds, and smell the salt-marshes and the wood-mosses. I'm not sure but
that when the fog lifts we shall see white caps in the valley."
"I dare say there are some very good people down there," said Arnold, with
deliberation, "but all the same I should welcome an inundation. Think
what a climate this would be, if we could have the sea below us, knocking
against the rocks on still nights, and thundering at us in a storm!"
"Don't speak of it! It makes me long for a miracle, or a judgment, or
something that's not likely to happen."
"Meantime, I want you to come down the trail, and pass judgment on my
bachelor quarters. I can't stand the boarding-house any longer! By Jove,
I'm like the British footman in 'Punch,'--'what with them legs o' mutton
and legs o' pork, I'm a'most wore out! I want a new hanimal inwented!' I've
found an old girl down in the valley who consents to look after me and vary
the monotony of my dinners at the highest market price. She isn't here yet,
but the cabin is about ready. I want you to come down and look it over. I'm
a perfect barbarian about color! You can't put it on too thick and strong
to suit me. I dare say I need toning down."
They were slipping and sliding down the muddy trail, brushing the raindrops
from the live-oak scrub as they passed. A subtle underlying content had
lulled them both, of late, into an easier companionship than they had ever
found possible before, and they were gay with that enjoyment of wet weather
which is like an intoxication after seven months of drought.
"Now I suppose you like soft, harmonious tints and neutral effects. You're
a bit of a conservative in everything, I fear."
"I think I should like plenty of color here, or else positive white; the
monotony of the landscape and its own deep, low tones demand it. A neutral
house would fade into an ash heap under this sun."
"Good! Then you'll like my dark little den, with its barbaric reds and
They were at the gate of the little cottage, overlooking the valley. The
gleam of sunlight had faded and the fog curtain rolled back. The house
did indeed seem very dark as they entered. It was only a little after four
o'clock, but the cloudy twilight of a short November day was suddenly
descending upon them. The schoolmistress looked shyly around, while Arnold
tramped about the rooms and sprung the shades up as high as they would go.
They were in a small, irregular parlor, wainscoted and floored in redwood,
and lightly furnished with bamboo. This room communicated by a low arch
with the dining-room beyond.
"I have some flags and spurs and old trophies to hang up there," he said,
pointing to the arch; "and perhaps I can get you to sew the rings on the
curtain that's to hang underneath. I don't want too much of the society of
my angel from the valley, you know; besides, I want to shield her from the
vulgar gaze, as they do the picture of the Madonna."
"It will serve you right if she never comes at all!"
"Oh, she's pining to come. She's dying to sacrifice herself for twenty-five
dollars a month. Did I tell you, by the way, that I've had a rise in my
salary? There is a rise in the work, too, which rather overbalances the
increase of pay, but that's understood; for a good many years it will be
more work than wage, but at the other end I hope it will be more wage than
work. You don't seem to be very much interested in my affairs; if you knew
how seldom I speak of them to any one but yourself, you might perhaps deign
"I am listening; but I'm thinking, too, that it's getting very late."
"See, here is my curtain!" he said, dragging out a breadth of heavy stuff.
He took it to the window, and threw it over a Chinese lounge that stood
beneath. "It's an old serape I picked up at Guadalajara five years ago:
the beauty of having a house is that all the old rubbish you have bored
yourself with for years immediately becomes respectable and useful. I
expect to become so myself. You don't say that you like my curtain!"
"I think it is very pagan looking, and rather--dirty."
"Well, I shan't make a point of the dirt. I dare say the thing would look
just as well if it was clean. Won't you try my lounge?" he said, as she
looked restlessly towards the door. "It was invented by a race that can
loaf more naturally than we do: it takes an American back some time to
relax enough to appreciate it."
Miss Frances half reluctantly drew her cloak about her, and yielded her
Northern slenderness to the long Oriental undulations of the couch. Her
head was thrown back, showing her fair throat and the sweet upward curves
of her lips and brows.
Arnold gazed at her with too evident delight.
"Why won't you sit still? You cannot deny that you have never been so
comfortable in your life before."
"It's a very good place to 'loaf and invite one's soul,'" she said, rising
to a sitting position; "but that isn't my occupation at present. I must go
home. It is almost dark."
"There is no hurry. I'm going with you. I want you to see how the little
room lights up. I've never seen it by firelight, and I'll have my
"Oh no, indeed! I must go back. There's the five o'clock whistle, now!"
"Well, we've an hour yet. You must get warm before you go."
He went out, and quickly returned with an armful of wood and shavings,
which he crammed into the cold fireplace.
"What a litter you have made! Do you think your mature angel from the
valley will stand that sort of thing?"
As she spoke, the rain descended in violence, sweeping across the piazza,
and obliterating the fast-fading landscape. They could scarcely see each
other in the darkness, and the trampling on the roof overhead made speech
a useless effort. Almost as suddenly as it had opened upon them the tumult
ceased, and in the silence that followed they listened to the heavy
raindrops spattering from the eaves.
Arnold crossed to the window, where Miss Frances stood shivering and
silent, with her hands clasped before her.
"I want you to light my fire," he said, with a certain concentration in his
"Why do you not light it yourself?" She drew away from his outstretched
hand. "It seems to me you are a bit of a tyrant in your own house."
He drew a match across his knee and held it towards her: by its gleam she
saw his pale, unsmiling face, and again that darkening of the eyes which
"Do you refuse me such a little thing,--my first guest? I ask it as a most
She took the match, and knelt with it in her hands; but it only flickered a
moment, and went out. "It will not go for me. You must light it yourself."
He knelt beside her and struck another match. "We will try together," he
said, placing it in her fingers and closing his hand about them. He held
the trembling fingers and the little spark they guarded steadily against
the shaving. It kindled; the flame breathed and brightened and curled
upward among the crooked manzanita stumps, illuminating the two entranced
young faces bending before it. Miss Frances rose to her feet, and Arnold,
rising too, looked at her with a growing dread and longing in his eyes.
"You said to-day that you were happy, because in fancy you were at home. Is
that the only happiness possible to you here?"
"I am quite contented here," she said. "I am getting acclimated."
"Oh, don't be content: I am not; I am horribly otherwise. I want
something--so much that I dare not ask for it. You know what it
"You said once that I reminded you--of her: is that the reason you--Am I
"Good God! I don't want consolation! _That_ thing never existed; but here
is the reality; I cannot part with it. I wish you had as little as I have,
outside of this room where we two stand together!"
"I don't know that I have anything," she said under her breath.
"Then," said he, taking her in his arms, "I don't see but that we are ready
to enter the kingdom of heaven. It seems very near to me."
They are still in exile: they have joined the band of lotus-eaters who
inhabit that region of the West which is pervaded by a subtle breath from
the Orient, blowing across the seas between. Mrs. Arnold has not yet made
that first visit East which is said by her Californian friends to be so
disillusioning, and the old home still hovers, like a beautiful mirage, on
the receding horizon.
FRIEND BARTON'S "CONCERN."
It had been "borne in" upon him, more or less, during the long winter;
it had not relaxed when the frosts unlocked their hold and the streams
were set free from their long winter's silence, among the hills. He grew
restless and abstracted under "the turnings of the Lord's hand upon him,"
and his speech unconsciously shaped itself into the Biblical cadences which
came to him in his moments of spiritual exercise.
The bedrabbled snows of March shrank away before the keen, quickening
sunbeams; the hills emerged, brown and sodden, like the chrysalis of the
new year; the streams woke in a tumult, and all day and night their voices
called from the hills back of the mill: the waste-weir was a foaming
torrent, and spread itself in muddy shallows across the meadow, beyond
the old garden where the robins and bluebirds were house-hunting. Friend
Barton's trouble stirred with the life-blood of the year, and pressed
upon him sorely; but as yet he gave it no words. He plodded about, among
his lean kine, tempering the winds of March to his untimely lambs, and
reconciling unnatural ewes to their maternal duties.
Friend Barton had never heard of the doctrine of the survival of the
fittest, though it was the spring of 1812, and England and America were
investigating the subject on the seas, while the nations of Europe were
practically illustrating it. The "hospital tent," as the boys called an old
corn-basket, covered with carpet, which stood beside the kitchen chimney,
was seldom without an occupant,--a brood of chilled chickens, a weakly
lamb, or a wee pig (with too much blue in its pinkness), that had been
left behind by its stouter brethren in the race for existence. The old
mill hummed away through the day, and often late into the evening if time
pressed, upon the grists which added a thin, intermittent stream of tribute
to the family income. Whenever work was "slack," Friend Barton was sawing
or chopping in the woodshed adjoining the kitchen; every moment he could
seize or make he was there, stooping over the rapidly growing pile.
"Seems to me, father, thee's in a great hurry with the wood this spring. I
don't know when we've had such a pile ahead."
"'T won't burn up any faster for being chopped," Friend Barton said; and
then his wife Rachel knew that if he had a reason for being "forehanded"
with the wood, he was not ready to give it.
One rainy April afternoon, when the smoky gray distances began to take a
tinge of green, and through the drip and rustle of the rain the call of
the robins sounded, Friend Barton sat in the door of the barn, oiling the
road-harness. The old chaise had been wheeled out and greased, and its
cushions beaten and dusted.
An ox-team with a load of grain creaked up the hill and stopped at the
mill door. The driver, seeing Friend Barton's broad-brimmed drab felt hat
against the dark interior of the barn, came down the short lane leading
from the mill, past the house and farm-buildings.
"Fixin' up for travelin', Uncle Tommy?"
Vain compliments, such as worldly titles of Mr. and Mrs., were unacceptable
to Thomas Barton, and he was generally known and addressed as "Uncle Tommy"
by the world's people of a younger generation.
"It is not in man that walketh to direct his own steps, neighbor Jordan.
I am getting myself in readiness to obey the Lord, whichever way He shall
Farmer Jordan cast a shrewd eye over the premises. They wore that patient,
sad, exhumed look which old farm-buildings are apt to have in early spring.
The roofs were black with rain, and brightened with patches of green moss.
Farmer Jordan instinctively calculated how many "bunches o' shingle" would
be required to rescue them from the decline into which they had fallen,
indicated by these hectic green spots.
"Wal, the Lord calls most of us to stay at home and look after things, such
weather as this. Good plantin' weather; good weather for breakin' ground;
fust-rate weather for millin'! This is a reg'lar miller's rain, Uncle
Tommy. You'd ought to be takin' advantage of it. I've got a grist back
here; wish ye could manage to let me have it when I come back from store."
The grist was ground and delivered before Friend Barton went in to his
supper that night. Dorothy Barton had been mixing bread, and was wiping her
white arms and hands on the roller towel by the kitchen door, as her father
stamped and scraped his feet on the stones outside.
"There! I do believe I forgot to toll neighbor Jordan's rye," he said, as
he gave a final rub on the broom Dorothy handed out to him. "It's wonderful
how careless I get!"
"Well, father, I don't suppose thee'd ever forget, and toll a grist twice!"
"I believe I've been mostly preserved from mistakes of that kind," said
Friend Barton gently. "Well, well! To be sure," he continued musingly. "It
may be the Lord who stays my hand from gathering profit unto myself while
his lambs go unfed."
Dorothy put her hands on her father's shoulders: she was almost as tall as
he, and could look into his patient, troubled eyes.
"Father, I know what thee is thinking of, but do think long. It will be a
hard year; the boys ought to go to school; and mother is so feeble!"
Friend Barton's "concern" kept him awake that night. His wife watched by
his side, giving no sign, lest her wakeful presence should disturb his
silent wrestlings. The tall, cherry-wood clock in the entry measured the
hours, as they passed, with its slow, dispassionate tick.
At two o'clock Rachel Barton was awakened from her first sleep of weariness
by her husband's voice, whispering heavily in the darkness.
"My way is hedged up! I see no way to go forward. Lord, strengthen my
patience, that I murmur not, after all I have seen of thy goodness. I find
daily bread is very desirable; want and necessity are painful to nature;
but shall I follow Thee for the sake of the loaves, or will it do to
forsake Thee in times of emptiness and abasement?"
There was silence again, and restless tossings and sighings continued the
"Thomas," the wife's voice spoke tremulously in the darkness, "my dear
husband, I know whither thy thoughts are tending. If the Spirit is with
thee, do not deny it for our sakes, I pray thee. The Lord did not give
thee thy wife and children to hang as a millstone round thy neck. I am thy
helpmeet, to strengthen thee in his service. I am thankful that I have my
health this spring better than usual, and Dorothy is a wonderful help. Her
spirit was sent to sustain me in thy long absences. Go, dear, and serve our
Master, who has called thee in these bitter strivings! Dorothy and I will
keep things together as well as we can. The way will open--never fear!" She
put out her hand and touched his face in the darkness; there were tears on
the furrowed cheeks. "Try to sleep, dear, and let thy spirit have rest.
There is but one answer to this call."
With the first drowsy twitterings of the birds, when the crescent-shaped
openings in the board shutters began to define themselves clearly in the
shadowy room, they arose and went about their morning tasks in silence.
Friend Barton's step was a little heavier than usual, and the hollows
round his wife's pale brown eyes were a little deeper. As he sat on the
splint-bottomed chair by the kitchen fireplace, drawing on his boots, she
placed her hands on his shoulders, and touched with her cheek the worn spot
on the top of his head.
"Thee will lay this concern before meeting to-morrow, father?"
"I had it on my mind to do so,--if my light be not quenched before then."
Friend Barton's light was not quenched. Words came to him, without
seeking,--a sure sign that the Spirit was with him,--in which to "open the
concern" that had ripened in his mind, of a religious visit to the meeting
constituting the yearly meetings of Philadelphia and Baltimore. A "minute"
was given him, encouraging him in the name, and with the full concurrence,
of the monthly meetings of Nine Partners and Stony Valley, to go wherever
the Truth might lead him.
While Friend Barton was thus freshly anointed, and "abundantly encouraged,"
his wife, Rachel, was talking with Dorothy, in the low upper chamber known
as the "wheel-room."
Dorothy was spinning wool on the big wheel, dressed in her light calico
short gown and brown quilted petticoat; her arms were bare, and her hair
was gathered away from her flushed cheeks and knotted behind her ears. The
roof sloped down on one side, and the light came from a long, low window
under the eaves. There was another window (shaped like a half-moon, high
up in the peak), but it sent down only one long beam of sunlight, which
glimmered across the dust and fell upon Dorothy's white neck.
The wheel was humming a quick measure and Dorothy trod lightly back and
forth, the wheel-pin in one hand, the other holding the tense, lengthening
thread, which the spindle devoured again.
"Dorothy, thee looks warm: can't thee sit down a moment, while I talk to
"Is it anything important, mother? I want to get my twenty knots before
dinner." She paused as she joined a long tress of wool at the spindle. "Is
it anything about father?"
"Yes, it's about father, and all of us."
"I know," said Dorothy, with a sigh. "He's going away again!"
"Yes, dear. He feels that he is called. It is a time of trouble and
contention everywhere: 'the harvest,' truly, 'is plenteous, but the
laborers are few.'"
"There are not so many 'laborers' here, mother, though to be sure, the
"Dorothy, my daughter, don't let a spirit of levity creep into thy speech.
Thy father has striven and wrestled with his urgings. I've seen it working
on him all winter. He feels, now, it is the Lord's will."
"I don't see how he can be so sure," said Dorothy, swaying gloomily to and
fro against the wheel. "I don't care for myself, I'm not afraid of work,
but thee's not able to do what thee does now, mother. If I have outside
things to look after, how can I help thee as I should? And the boys are
about as much dependence as a flock of barn swallows!"
"Don't thee fret about me, dear; the way will open. Thy father has thought
and planned for us. Have patience while I tell thee. Thee knows that Walter
Evesham's pond is small and his mill is doing a thriving business?"
"Yes, indeed, I know it!" Dorothy exclaimed. "He has his own share, and
ours too, most of it!"
"Wait, dear, wait! Thy father has rented him the ponds, to use when his own
gives out. He is to have the control of the water, and it will give us a
little income, even though the old mill does stand idle."
"He may as well take the mill, too. If father is away all summer it will
be useless ever to start it again. Thee'll see, mother, how it will end,
if Walter Evesham has the custom and the water all summer. I think it's
miserable for a young man to be so keen about money."
"Dorothy, seems to me thee's hasty in thy judgments. I never heard that
said of Walter Evesham. His father left him with capital to improve his
mill. It does better work than ours; we can't complain of that. Thy father
was never one to study much after ways of making money. He felt he had no
right to more than an honest livelihood. I don't say that Walter Evesham's
in the wrong. We know that Joseph took advantage of his opportunities,
though I can't say that I ever felt much unity with some of his
transactions. What would thee have, my dear? Thee's discouraged with thy
father for choosing the thorny way, which we tread with him; but thee seems
no better satisfied with one who considers the flesh and its wants'"
"I don't know, mother, what I want for myself; that doesn't matter; but
for thee I would have rest from all these cruel worries thee has borne so
She buried her face in her mother's lap and put her strong young arms about
the frail, toil-bent form.
"There, there, dear. Try to rule thy spirit, Dorothy. Thee's too much
worked up about this. They are not worries to me. I am thankful we have
nothing to decide one way or the other, only to do our best with what is
given us. Thee's not thyself, dear. Go downstairs and fetch in the clothes,
and don't hurry; stay out till thee gets more composed."
Dorothy did not succeed in bringing herself into unity with her father's
call, but she came to a fuller realization of his struggle. When he bade
them good-by his face showed what it had cost him; but Rachel was calm and
cheerful. The pain of parting is keenest to those who go, but it stays
longer with those that are left behind.
"Dorothy, take good care of thy mother!" Friend Barton said, taking his
daughter's face between his hands and gravely kissing her brow between the
low-parted ripples of her hair.
"Yes, father," she said, looking into his eyes; "Thee knows I'm thy eldest
They watched the old chaise swing round the corner of the lane, then the
pollard willows shut it from sight.
"Come, mother," said Dorothy, hurrying her in at the gate. "I'm going
to make a great pot of mush, and have it hot for supper, and fried for
breakfast, and warmed up with molasses for dinner, and there'll be some
cold with milk for supper, and we shan't have any cooking to do at all!"
They went around by the kitchen door. Rachel stopped in the woodshed, and
the tears rushed to her eyes.
"Dear father! How he has worked over that wood, early and late, to spare
We will not revive Dorothy's struggles with the farm-work, and with the
boys. They were an isolated family at the mill-house; their peculiar faith
isolated them still more, and they were twelve miles from meeting and the
settlement of Friends at Stony Valley. Dorothy's pride kept her silent
about her needs, lest they might bring reproach upon her father among the
neighbors, who would not be likely to feel the urgency of his spiritual
The summer heats came on apace and the nights grew shorter. It seemed
to Dorothy that she had hardly stretched out her tired young body and
forgotten her cares, in the low, attic bedroom, before the east was
streaked with light and the birds were singing in the apple-trees, whose
falling blossoms drifted in at the window.
One day in early June, Friend Barton's flock of sheep (consisting of nine
experienced ewes, six yearlings, and a sprinkling of close-curled lambs
whose legs had not yet come into mature relations with their bodies) was
gathered in a wattled inclosure, beside the stream that flowed into the
mill-head. It was supplied by the waste from the pond, and, when the gate
was shut, rambled easily over the gray slate pebbles, with here and there a
fall just forcible enough to serve as a douche-bath for a well-grown sheep.
The victims were panting in their heavy fleeces, and mingling their hoarse,
plaintive tremolo with the ripple of the water and the sound of young
voices in a frolic. Dorothy had divided her forces for the washing to the
best advantage. The two elder boys stood in midstream to receive the sheep,
which she, with the help of little Jimmy, caught and dragged to the bank.
The boys were at work now upon an elderly ewe, while Dorothy stood on the
brink of the stream braced against an ash sapling, dragging forward by the
fleece a beautiful but reluctant yearling. Her bare feet were incased in a
pair of moccasins that laced around the ankle; her petticoats were kilted,
and her broad hat bound down with a ribbon; one sleeve was rolled up, the
other had been sacrificed in a scuffle in the sheep-pen. The new candidate
for immersion stood bleating and trembling with her forefeet planted
against the slippery bank, pushing back with all her strength while Jimmy
propelled from the rear.
"Boys!" Dorothy's clear voice called across the stream. "_Do_ hurry! She's
been in long enough, now! Keep her head up, can't you, and squeeze the wool
_hard_! You're not _half_ washing! Oh, Reuby! thee'll drown her! Keep her
Another unlucky douse and another half-smothered bleat,--Dorothy released
the yearling and plunged to the rescue. "Go after that lamb, Reuby!" she
cried with exasperation in her voice. Reuby followed the yearling, that
had disappeared over the orchard slope, upsetting an obstacle in its path,
which happened to be Jimmy. He was wailing now on the bank, while Dorothy,
with the ewe's nose tucked comfortably in the bend of her arm, was parting
and squeezing the fleece, with the water swirling round her. Her stout arms
ached, and her ears were stunned with the incessant bleatings; she counted
with dismay the sheep still waiting in the pen. "Oh, Jimmy! Do stop crying,
or else go to the house!"
"He'd better go after Reuby," said Sheppard Barton, who was now Dorothy's
"Oh yes, do, Jimmy, that's a good boy. Tell him to let the yearling go and
come back quick."
The water had run low that morning in Evesham's pond. He shut down the
mill, and strode up the hills, across lots, to raise the gate of the lower
Barton pond, which had been heading up for his use. He passed the cornfield
where, a month before, he had seen pretty Dorothy Barton dropping corn with
her brothers. It made him ache to think of Dorothy with her feeble mother,
the boys as wild as preachers' sons proverbially are, and the old farm
running down on her hands; the fences all needed mending, and there went
Reuben Barton, now, careering over the fields in chase of a stray yearling.
His mother's house was big, and lonely, and empty; and he flushed as he
thought of the "one ewe-lamb" he coveted out of Friend Barton's rugged
As Evesham raised the gate, and leaned to watch the water swirl and gurgle
through the "trunk," sucking the long weeds with it, and thickening with
its tumult the clear current of the stream, the sound of voices and the
bleating of sheep came up from below. He had not the farming instincts in
his blood; the distant bleating, the hot June sunshine and cloudless sky
did not suggest to him sheep-washing; but now came a boy's voice shouting
and a cry of distress, and he remembered with a thrill that Friend Barton
used the stream for that peaceful purpose. He shut down the gate and tore
along through the ferns and tangled grass till he came to the sheep-pen,
where the bank was muddy and trampled. The prisoners were bleating drearily
and looking with longing eyes across to the other side, where those who had
suffered were now straying and cropping the short turf through the lights
and shadows of the orchard.
There was no other sign of life, except a broad hat with a brown ribbon
buffeted about in an eddy among the stones. The stream dipped now below the
hill, and the current, still racing fast with the impetus he had given it,
shot away amongst the hazel thickets that crowded close to the brink. He
was obliged to make a detour by the orchard and to come out below at the
"mill-head," a black, deep pool with an ugly ripple setting across it to
the head-gate. He saw something white clinging there, and ran round the
brink. It was the sodden fleece of the old ewe, which had been drifted
against the head-gate and held there to her death. Evesham, with a
sickening contraction of the heart, threw off his jacket for a plunge, when
Dorothy's voice called rather faintly from the willows on the opposite
"Don't jump! I'm here," she said. Evesham searched the willows and found
her seated in the sun, just beyond, half buried in a bed of ferns.
"I _shouldn't_ have called thee," she said shyly, as he sank pale and
panting beside her, "but thee looked--I thought thee was going to jump into
"I thought _you_ were there, Dorothy!"
"I was there quite long enough. Shep pulled me out; I was too tired to help
myself much." Dorothy held her palm pressed against her temple and the
blood trickled from beneath, streaking her pale, wet cheek.
"He's gone to the house to get me a cloak. I don't want mother to see me,
not yet," she said.
"I'm afraid you ought not to wait, Dorothy. Let me take you to the house,
won't you? I'm afraid you'll get a deadly chill."
Dorothy did not look in the least like death. She was blushing now, because
Evesham would think it so strange of her to stay, and yet she could not
rise in her wet clothes, that clung to her like the calyx to a bud.
"Let me see that cut, Dorothy!"
"Oh, it's nothing. I don't wish thee to look at it!"
"But I will! Do you want to make me your murderer, sitting there in your
wet clothes with a cut on your head?"
He drew away her hand; the wound, indeed, was no great affair, but he bound
it up deftly with strips of his handkerchief. Dorothy's wet curls touched
his fingers and clung to them, and her eyelashes drooped lower and lower.
"I think it was _very_ stupid of thee. Didn't thee hear us from the dam?
I'm sure we made noise enough."
"Yes, I heard you when it was too late. I heard the sheep before, but how
could I imagine that you, Dorothy, and three boys as big as cockerels, were
sheep-washing? It's the most preposterous thing I ever heard of!",
"Well, I can't help being a woman, and the sheep had to be washed. I think
there ought to be more men in the world when half of them are preaching and
"If you'd only let the men who are left help you a little, Dorothy."
"I don't want any help. I only _don't_ want to be washed into the
They both laughed, and Evesham began again entreating her to let him take
her to the house.
"Hasn't thee a coat or something I could put around me until Shep comes?"
said Dorothy. "He must be here soon."
"Yes, I've a jacket here somewhere."
He sped away to find it, and faithless Dorothy, as the willows closed
between them, sprang to her feet and fled like a startled Naiad to the
When Evesham, pushing through the willows, saw nothing but the bed of wet,
crushed ferns and the trail through the long grass where Dorothy's feet had
fled, he smiled grimly to himself, remembering that "ewe-lambs" are not
always as meek as they look.
That evening Rachel had received a letter from Friend Barton and was
preparing to read it aloud to the children. They were in the kitchen, where
the boys had been helping Dorothy in a desultory manner to shell corn for
the chickens; but now all was silence while Rachel wiped her glasses and
turned the large sheet of paper, squared with many foldings, to the candle.
She read the date, "'London Grove, 5th month, 22d.--Most affectionately
beloved.'" "He means us all," said Rachel, turning to the children with a
tender smile. "It's spelled with a small _b_."
"He means thee!" said Dorothy, laughing. "Thee's not such a very big
There was a moment's silence. "I don't know that the opening of the letter
is of general interest," Rachel mused, with her eyes traveling slowly down
the page. "He says: 'In regard to my health, lest thee should concern
thyself, I am thankful to say I have never enjoyed better since years have
made me acquainted with my infirmities of body, and I earnestly hope that
my dear wife and children are enjoying the same blessing.
"'I trust the boys are not deficient in obedience and helpfulness. At
Sheppard's age I had already begun to take the duties of a man upon my
Sheppard giggled uncomfortably, and Dorothy laughed outright.
"Oh, if father only _knew_ how good the boys are! Mother, thee must write
and tell him about their 'helpfulness and obedience'! Thee can tell him
their appetites keep up pretty well; they manage to take their meals
regularly, and they are _always_ out of bed by eight o'clock to help me
hang up the milking-stool!"
"Just wait till thee gets into the mill-head again, Dorothy Barton! Thee
needn't come to _me_ to help thee out!"
"Go on, mother. Don't let the boys interrupt thee!"
"Well," said Rachel, rousing herself, "where was I? Oh, 'At Sheppard's
age'! Well, next come some allusions to the places where he has visited and
his spiritual exercises there. I don't know that the boys are quite old
enough to enter into this yet. Thee'd better read it thyself, Dorothy. I'm
keeping all father's letters for the boys to read when they are old enough
to appreciate them."
"Well, I think thee might read to us about where he's been preachin'. We
can understand a great deal more than thee thinks we can," said Shep in
an injured voice. "Reuby can preach some himself. Thee ought to hear him,
mother. It's almost as good as meetin'."
"I _wondered_ how Reuby spent his time," said Dorothy, and the mother
hastened to interpose.
"Well! here's a passage that may be interesting: 'On sixth day attended the
youths' meeting here, a pretty favored time on the whole. Joseph' (that's
Joseph Carpenter; he mentions him aways back) 'had good service in lively
testimony, while I was calm and easy without a word to say. At a meeting at
Plumstead we suffered long, but at length we felt relieved. The unfaithful
were admonished, the youth invited, and the heavy-hearted encouraged. It
was a heavenly time.' Heretofore he seems to have been closed up with
silence a good deal, but now the way opens continually for him to free
himself. He's been 'much favored,' he says, 'of late.' Reuby, what's thee
doing to thy brothers?" (Shep and Reuby, who had been persecuting Jimmy by
pouring handfuls of corn down the neck of his jacket until he had taken
refuge behind Dorothy's chair, were now recriminating with corn-cobs on
each other's faces.) "Dorothy, can't thee keep those boys quiet?"
"Did thee ever know them to be quiet?" said Dorothy, helping Jimmy to
relieve himself of his corn.
"Well now, listen." Rachel continued placidly, "'Second day, 27th' (of
fifth month, he means; the letter's been a long time coming), 'attended
their mid-week meeting at London Grove, where my tongue, as it were, clave
to the roof of my mouth, while Hannah Husbands was much favored and enabled
to lift up her voice like the song of an angel'"--
"Who's Hannah Husbands?" Dorothy interrupted.
"Thee doesn't know her, dear. She was second cousin to thy father's
stepmother; the families were not congenial, I believe, but she has a great
gift for the ministry."
"I should think she'd better be at home with her children, if she has any.
Fancy _thee_, mother, going about to strange meetings and lifting up thy
"Hush, hush, Dorothy! Thy tongue's running away with thee. Consider the
example thee's setting the boys."
"Thee'd better write to father about Dorothy, mother. Perhaps Hannah
Husbands would like to know what she thinks about her preachin'."
"Well, now, be quiet, all of you. Here's something about Dorothy: 'I know
that my dear daughter Dorothy is faithful and loving, albeit somewhat quick
of speech and restive under obligation. I would have thee remind her that
an unwillingness to accept help from others argues a want of Christian
Meekness. Entreat her from me not to conceal her needs from our neighbors,
if so be she find her work oppressive. We know them to be of kindly
intention, though not of our way of thinking in all particulars. Let her
receive help from them, not as individuals, but as instruments of the
Lord's protection, which it were impiety and ingratitude to deny.'"
"There!" cried Shep. "That means thee is to let Luke Jordan finish the
sheep-washing. Thee'd better have done it in the first place. We shouldn't
have the old ewe to pick if thee had."
Dorothy was dimpling at the idea of Luke Jordan in the character of an
instrument of heavenly protection. She had not regarded him in that light,
it must be confessed, but had rejected him with scorn.
"He may, if he wants to," she said; "but you boys shall drive them over.
I'll have nothing to do with it."
"And shear them too, Dorothy? He asked to shear them long ago."
"Well, _let_ him shear them and keep the wool too."
"I wouldn't say that, Dorothy," said Rachel Barton. "We need the wool, and
it seems as if over-payment might not be quite honest, either."
"Oh, mother, mother! What a mother thee is!" cried Dorothy laughing and
rumpling Rachel's cap-strings in a tumultuous embrace.
"She's a great deal too good for _thee_, Dorothy Barton."
"She's too good for all of us. How did thee ever come to have such a
graceless set of children, mother?"
"I'm very well satisfied," said Rachel. "But now do be quiet and let's
finish the letter. We must get to bed some time to-night!"
* * * * *
The wild clematis was in blossom now; the fences were white with it, and
the rusty cedars were crowned with virgin wreaths; but the weeds were thick
in the garden and in the potato patch. Dorothy, stretching her cramped
back, looked longingly up the shadowy vista of the farm-lane that had
nothing to do but ramble off into the remotest green fields, where the
daisies' faces were as white and clear as in early June.
One hot August night she came home late from the store. The stars were
thick in the sky; the katydids made the night oppressive with their rasping
questionings, and a hoarse revel of frogs kept the ponds from falling
asleep in the shadow of the hills.
"Is thee very tired to-night, Dorothy?" her mother asked, as she took her
seat on the low step of the porch. "Would thee mind turning old John out
"No, mother, I'm not tired. But why? Oh, _I_ know!" cried Dorothy with
a quick laugh. "The dance at Slocum's barn. I thought those boys were
"Yes, dear, it's but natural they should want to see it. Hark! we can hear
the music from here."
They listened, and the breeze brought across the fields the sound of
fiddles and the rhythmic tramp of feet, softened by the distance. Dorothy's
young pulses leaped.
"Mother, is it any harm for them just to see it? They have so little fun,
except what they get out of teasing and shirking."
"My dear, thy father would never countenance such a scene of frivolity, or
permit one of his children to look upon it; through our eyes and ears the
world takes possession of our hearts."
"Then I'm to spare the boys this temptation, mother? Thee will trust _me_
to pass the barn?"
"I would trust my boys, if they were thy age, Dorothy; but their resolution
is tender like their years."
It might be questioned whether the frame of mind in which the boys went to
bed that night under their mother's eye, for Rachel could be firm in a case
of conscience, was more improving than the frivolity of Slocum's barn.
"Mother," called Dorothy, looking in at the kitchen window where Rachel was
stooping over the embers in the fireplace to light a bedroom candle, "I
want to speak to thee."
Rachel came to the window, screening the candle with her hand.
"Will thee trust me to look at the dancing a little while? It is so very
"Why, Dorothy, does thee want to?"
"Yes, mother, I believe I do. I've never seen a dance in my life. It cannot
ruin me to look just once."
Rachel stood puzzled.
"Thee's old enough to judge for thyself, Dorothy. But, my child, do not
tamper with thy inclinations through heedless curiosity. Thee knows thee's
more impulsive than I could wish for thy own peace."
"I'll be very careful, mother. If I feel in the least wicked I will come
She kissed her mother's hand that rested on the window-sill. Rachel did
not like the kiss, nor Dorothy's brilliant eyes and flushed cheeks, as
the candle revealed them like a fair picture painted on the darkness. She
hesitated, but Dorothy sped away up the lane with old John lagging at his
Was it the music growing nearer that quickened her breathing, or only the
closeness of the night shut in between the wild grapevine curtains swung
from one dark cedar column to another? She caught the sweetbrier's breath
as she hurried by, and now a loop in the leafy curtain revealed the pond,
lying black in a hollow of the hills with a whole heaven of stars reflected
in it. Old John stumbled along over the stones, cropping the grass as he
went. Dorothy tugged at his halter and urged him on to the head of the
lane, where two farm-gates stood at right angles. One of them was open and
a number of horses were tethered in a row along the fence within. They
whinnied a cheerful greeting to John as Dorothy slipped his halter and shut
him into the field adjoining. Now should she walk into temptation with her
eyes and ears open? The gate stood wide, with only one field of perfumed
meadow-grass between her and the lights and music of Slocum's barn. The
sound of revelry by night could hardly have taken a more innocent form than
this rustic dancing of neighbors after a "raisin' bee," but had it been the
rout of Comus and his crew, and Dorothy the Lady Una trembling near, her
heart could hardly have throbbed more quickly as she crossed the dewy
meadow. A young maple stood within ten rods of the barn, and here she
crouched in shadow.
The great doors stood wide open and lanterns were hung from the beams,
lighting the space between the mows where a dance was set, with youths and
maidens in two long rows. The fiddlers sat on barrel-heads near the door;
a lantern hanging just behind projected their shadows across the square
of light on the trodden space in front, where they executed a grotesque
pantomime, keeping time to the music with spectral wavings and noddings.
The dancers were Dorothy's young neighbors, whom she had known, and yet not
known, all her life, but they had the strangeness of familiar faces seen
suddenly in some fantastic dream.
Surely that was Nancy Slocum in the bright pink gown heading the line of
girls, and that was Luke Jordan's sunburnt profile leaning from his place
to pluck a straw from the mow behind him. They were marching, and the
measured tramp of feet keeping solid time to the fiddles set a strange
tumult vibrating in Dorothy's blood; and now it stopped, with a thrill, as
she recognized that Evesham was there, marching with the young men, and
that his peer was not among them. The perception of his difference came
to her with a vivid shock. He was coming forward now with his light, firm
step, formidable in evening dress and with a smile of subtle triumph in his
eyes, to meet Nancy Slocum in the bright pink gown. Dorothy felt she hated
pink of all the colors her faith had abjured. She could see, in spite of
the obnoxious gown, that Nancy was very pretty. He was taking her first by
the right hand, then by the left, and turning her gayly about; and now they
were meeting again for the fourth or fifth time in the centre of the barn,
with all eyes upon them, and the music lingered while Nancy, holding out
her pink petticoats, coyly revolved around him. Then began a mysterious
turning and clasping of hands, and weaving of Nancy's pink frock and
Evesham's dark blue coat and white breeches in and out of the line of
figures, until they met at the door, and, taking each other by both hands,
swept with a joyous measure to the head of the barn. Dorothy gave a little
What a senseless whirl it was. She was thrilling with a new and strange
excitement, too near the edge of pain to be long endured as a pleasure.
If this were the influence of dancing she did not wonder so much at her
father's scruples, and yet it held her like a spell.
All hands were lifted now, making an arch through which Evesham, holding
Nancy by the hands, raced, stooping and laughing. As they emerged at the
door, Evesham threw up his head to shake a brown lock back. He looked
flushed and boyishly gay, and his hazel eye searched the darkness with that
subtle ray of triumph in it which made Dorothy afraid. She drew back behind
the tree and pressed her hot cheek to the cool, rough bark. She longed
for the stillness of the starlit meadow, and the dim lane with its faint
perfumes and whispering leaves.
But now suddenly the music stopped and the dance broke up in a tumult of
voices. Dorothy stole backward in the shadow of the tree-trunk, until it
joined the darkness of the meadow, and then fled, stumbling along with
blinded eyes, the music still vibrating in her ears. Then came a quick rush
of footsteps behind her, swishing through the long grass. She did not look
back, but quickened her pace, struggling to reach the gate. Evesham was
there before her. He had swung the gate to and was leaning with his back
against it, laughing and panting.
"I've caught you, Dorothy, you little deceiver! You'll not get rid of me
to-night with any of your tricks. I'm going to take you home to your mother
and tell her you were peeping at the dancing."
"Mother knows that I came; I asked her," said Dorothy. Her knees were
trembling and her heart almost choked her with its throbbing.
"I'm so glad you don't dance, Dorothy. This is much nicer than the barn,
and the katydids are better fiddlers than old Darby and his son. I'll open
the gate if you will put your hand in mine, so that I can be sure of you,
you little runaway."
"I will stay here all night, first," said Dorothy, in a low, quivering
"As you choose. I shall be happy as long as you are here."
Dead silence, while the katydids seemed to keep time to their heart-beats;
the fiddles began tuning for another reel, and the horses, tethered near,
stretched out their necks with low, inquiring whinnies.
"Dorothy," said Evesham softly, leaning toward her and trying to see her
face in the darkness, "are you angry with me? Don't you think you deserve a
little punishment for the trick you played me at the mill-head?"
"It was all thy fault for insisting." Dorothy was too excited and angry to
cry, but she was as miserable as she had ever been in her life before. "I
didn't want thee to stay. People that force themselves where they are not
wanted must take what they get."
"What did you say, Dorothy?"
"I say I didn't want thee then. I do not want thee now. Thee may go back
to thy fiddling and dancing. I'd rather have one of those dumb brutes for
company to-night than thee, Walter Evesham."
"Very well; the reel has begun," said Evesham. "Fanny Jordan is waiting to
dance it with me, or if she isn't she ought to be. Shall I open the gate
She passed out in silence, and the gate swung to with a heavy jar. She made
good speed down the lane and then waited outside the fence till her breath
came more quietly.
"Is that thee, Dorothy?" Rachel's voice called from the porch. She came out
to meet her daughter and they went along the walk together. "How damp thy
forehead is, child. Is the night so warm?" They sat down on the low steps
and Dorothy slid her arm under her mother's and laid her soft palm against
the one less soft by twenty years of toil for others. "Thee's not been
long, dear; was it as much as thee expected?"
"Mother, it was dreadful! I never wish to hear a fiddle again as long as I
Rachel opened the way for Dorothy to speak further; she was not without
some mild stirrings of curiosity on the subject herself, but Dorothy had no
more to say.
They went into the house soon after, and as they separated for the night
Dorothy clung to her mother with a little nervous laugh.
"Mother, what is that text about Ephraim?"
"Ephraim is joined to idols?" Rachel suggested.