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Lavender and Old Lace by Myrtle Reed

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and were laughingly untangled. At night, when the fires of the
village were lighted, and the crimson glow was reflected upon it,
strange tales of love and war were mingled with the thread.
"The nightingale sang into it, the roses from Persian gardens
breathed upon it, the moonlight put witchery into it; the tinkle
of the gold and silver on the women's dusky ankles, the scent of
sandal wood and attar of rose--it all went into the rug.

"Poets repeated their verses to it, men knelt near it to say
their prayers, and the soft wind, rising from the sea, made
faintest music among the threads.

"Sometimes a workman made a mistake, and the Master Craftsman put
him aside. Often, the patient fingers stopped weaving forever,
and they found some one else to go on with it. Sometimes they
went from one place to another, but the frame holding the rug was
not injured. From mountain to valley and back again, urged by
some strange instinct, past flowing rivers and over the golden
sands of the desert, even to the deep blue waters that broke on
the shore--they took the rug.

"The hoof-beats of Arabian horses, with white-robed Bedouins
flashing their swords; all the glitter and splendour of war were
woven into it. Songs of victory, the rush of a cavalry charge,
the faith of a dying warrior, even the slow marches of defeat--it
all went into the rug.

"Perhaps the Master Craftsman died, but the design was left, and
willing fingers toiled upon it, through the long years, each day
putting new beauty into it and new dreams. Then, one day, the
final knot was tied, by a Veiled Lady, who sighed softly in the
pauses of her song, and wondered at its surpassing loveliness."
"And--" said Miss Ainslie, gently.

"Some one who loved you brought it to you."

"Yes," she repeated, smiling, "some one who loved me. Tell me
about this," she pleaded, touching a vase of Cloisonne.

"It came from Japan," he said, "a strange world of people like
those painted on a fan. The streets are narrow and there are
quaint houses on either side. The little ladies flit about in gay
attire, like so many butterflies--they wear queer shoes on their
dainty feet. They're as sweet as their own cherry blossoms.

"The little man who made this vase, wore a blue tunic and had no
robes of state, because he was poor. He loved the daughter of a
nobleman and she loved him, too, though neither dared to say so.
"So he sat in front of his house and worked on this vase. He made
a model of clay, shaping it with his fingers until it was
perfect. Then a silver vase was cast from it and over and over it
he went, very carefully, making a design with flat, silver wire.
When he was satisfied with it, he filled it in with enamel in
wonderful colours, making even the spots on the butterflies'
wings like those he had seen in the fields. Outside the design,
he covered the vase with dark enamel, so the bright colours would
show.

"As he worked, the little lady he loved came and watched
him sometimes for a moment or two, and then he put a tiny bit of
gold into the vase. He put a flower into the design, like those
she wore in her hair, and then another, like the one she dropped
at his feet one day, when no one was looking.

"The artist put all his love into the vase, and he hoped that
when it was done, he could obtain a Court position. He was very
patient with the countless polishings, and one afternoon, when
the air was sweet with the odour of the cherry blossoms, the last
touches were put upon it.

"It was so beautiful that he was commissioned to make
some great vases for the throne room, and then, with joy in his
heart, he sought the hand of the nobleman's daughter.

"The negotiations were conducted by another person, and she was
forced to consent, though her heart ached for the artist in the
blue tunic, whose name she did not know. When she learned that
her husband was to be the man she had loved for so long, tears of
happiness came into her dark eyes.

"The vase had disappeared, mysteriously, and he offered a large
reward for its recovery. At last they were compelled to give up
the hope of finding it, and he promised to make her another one,
just like it, with the same flowers and butterflies and even the
little glints of gold that marked the days she came. So she
watched him, while he made the new one, and even more love went
into it than into the first one."

"And--" began Miss Ainslie.

"Some one who loved you brought it to you."

"Yes," she repeated, smiling, "some one who loved me."

Winfield fitted a story to every object in the room. Each rug had
a different history and every bit of tapestry its own tale. He
conjured up an Empress who had once owned the teakwood chair, and
a Marquise, with patches and powdered hair, who wrote love
letters at the marquetry table.

He told stories of the sea shells, and of the mermaids who
brought them to the shore, that some one who loved her might take
them to her,and that the soft sound of the sea might always come
to her ears, with visions of blue skies and tropic islands, where
the sun forever shone.

The Empress and the Marquise became real people to Miss Ainslie,
and the Japanese lovers seemed to smile at her from the vase.
Sometimes, holding the rug on her lap, she would tell them how it
was woven, and repeat the love story of a beautiful woman who had
worked upon the tapestry. Often, in the twilight, she would sing
softly to herself, snatches of forgotten melodies, and, once, a
lullaby. Ruth and Carl sat by, watching for the slightest change,
but she never spoke of the secret in her heart.

Ruth had the north room, across the hall, where there were two
dressers. One of them had been empty, until she put her things
into it, and the other was locked. She found the key, one day,
hanging behind it, when she needed some things for Miss Ainslie.

As she had half expected, the dresser was full of lingerie, of
the finest lawn and linen. The dainty garments were edged with
real lace--Brussels, Valenciennes, Mechlin, Point d'Alencon, and
the fine Irish laces. Sometimes there was a cluster of tucks,
daintily run by hand, but, usually, only the lace, unless there
was a bit of insertion to match. The buttons were mother of
pearl, and the button holes were exquisitely made. One or two of
the garments were threaded with white ribbon, after a more modern
fashion, but most of them were made according to the quaint old
patterns. There was a dozen of everything.

The dried lavender flowers rustled faintly as Ruth reverently
lifted the garments, giving out the long-stored sweetness of
Summers gone by. The white had changed to an ivory tint, growing
deeper every day. There were eleven night gowns, all made exactly
alike, with high neck and long sleeves, trimmed with tucks and
lace. Only one was in any way elaborate. The sleeves were short,
evidently just above the elbow, and the neck was cut off the
shoulders like a ball gown. A deep frill of Venetian point, with
narrower lace at the sleeves, of the same pattern, was the only
trimming, except a tiny bow of lavender ribbon at the fastening,
pinned on with a little gold heart.

When Ruth went in, with one of the night gowns over her arm, a
faint colour came into Miss Ainslie's cheeks.

"Did--did--you find those?" she asked.

"Yes," answered Ruth, "I thought you'd like to wear them."

Miss Ainslie's colour faded and it was some time before she spoke
again.

"Did--did you find the other--the one with Venetian point?"
"Yes, Miss Ainslie, do you want that one It's beautiful."

"No," she said, "not now, but I thought that I'd like to wear
that--afterward, you know."

A shadow crossed Ruth's face and her lips tightened.

"Don't, dear," said Miss Ainslie, gently.

"Do you think he would think it was indelicate if--if my neck
were bare then?"

"Who, Miss Ainslie?"

"Carl. Would he think it was wrong if I wore that afterward, and
my neck and shoulders showed? Do you think he would?"

"No!" cried Ruth, "I know he wouldn't! Oh, Miss Ainslie, you
break my heart!"

"Ruth," said Miss Ainslie, gently; "Ruth, dear, don't cry! I
won't talk about it any more, deary, I promise you, but I wanted
to know so much!"

Ruth kissed her and went away, unable to bear more just then. She
brought her chair into the hall, to be near her if she were
needed. Miss Ainslie sighed, and then began to croon a lullaby.

XVII. Dawn

As Miss Ainslie became weaker, she clung to Carl, and was never
satisfied when he was out of her sight. When she was settled in
bed for the night, he went in to sit by her and hold her hand
until she dropped asleep. If she woke during the night she would
call Ruth and ask where he was.

"He'll come over in the morning, Miss Ainslie," Ruth always said;
"you know it's night now."

"Is it?" she would ask, drowsily. "I must go to sleep, then,
deary, so that I may be quite rested and refreshed when he
comes."

Her room, in contrast to the rest of the house, was almost
Puritan in its simplicity. The bed and dresser were mahogany,
plain, but highly polished, and she had a mahogany rocker with a
cushion of old blue tapestry. There was a simple white cover on
the bed and another on the dresser, but the walls were dead
white, unrelieved by pictures or draperies. In the east window
was a long, narrow footstool, and a prayer book and hymnal lay on
the window sill, where this maiden of half a century, looking
seaward, knelt to say her prayers.

One morning, when Ruth went in, she said: "I think I won't get up
this morning, dear; I am so very tired. If Carl should come over,
will you say that I should like to see him?"

She would see no one but Carl and Ruth, and Mrs. Ball was much
offended because her friend did not want her to come upstairs.
"Don't be harsh with her, Aunt Jane," pleaded Ruth, "you know
people often have strange fancies when they are ill. She sent her
love to you, and asked me to say that she thanked you, but you
need not put the light in the attic window any more."

Mrs. Ball gazed at her niece long and earnestly. "Be you tellin'
me the truth?" she asked.

"Why, of course, Aunty."

"Then Mary Ainslie has got sense from somewheres. There ain't
never been no need for that lamp to set in the winder; and when
she gets more sense, I reckon she'll be willin' to see her
friends." With evident relief upon her face, Mrs. Ball departed.

But Miss Ainslie seemed quite satisfied, and each day spoke more
lovingly to Ruth and Carl. He showed no signs of impatience, but
spent his days with her cheerfully. He read to her, held her
hand, and told her about the rug, the Marquise, and the Japanese
lovers. At the end she would always say, with a quiet tenderness:
"and some one who loved me brought it to me!"

"Yes, Miss Ainslie; some one who loved you. Everybody loves you;
don't you know that?"

"Do you?" she asked once, suddenly and yet shyly.

"Indeed I do, Miss Ainslie--I love you with all my heart."

She smiled happily and her eyes filled. "Ruth," she called
softly, "he says he loves me!"

"Of course he does," said Ruth; "nobody in the wide world could
help loving you."

She put out her left hand to touch Ruth, and the amethyst ring
slipped off, for her fingers were thin. She did not seem to
notice when Ruth slipped it on again, and, shortly afterward,
fell asleep.

That night Winfield stayed very late. "I don't want to leave you,
dear," he said to Ruth. "I'm afraid something is going to
happen."

"I'm not afraid--I think you'd better go."

"Will you put a light in your window if you want me, darling?"
"Yes, I will."

"I can see it from my room, and I'll be watching for it. If you
want me, I'll come."

He awoke from an uneasy sleep with the feeling that Ruth needed
him, and was not surprised to see the light from her candle
streaming out into the darkness. He dressed hurriedly, glancing
at his watch by the light of a match. It was just three o'clock.

Ruth was waiting for him at the lower door. "Is she--is she--"

"No, she seems to be just the same, but she wants you. She's been
calling for you ever since you went away."

As they went upstairs Miss Ainslie's sweet voice came to them in
pitiful pleading: "Carl, Carl, dear! Where are you? I want you!"

"I'm here, Miss Ainslie," he said, sitting down on the bed beside
her and taking her hot hands in his. "What can I do for you?"

"Tell me about the rug."

With no hint of weariness in his deep, quiet voice, he told her
the old story once more. When he had finished, she spoke again.
"I can't seem to get it just right about the Japanese lovers.
Were they married?"

"Yes, they were married and lived happily ever afterward--like
the people in the fairy tales."

"That was lovely," she said, with evident satisfaction. "Do you
think they wanted me to have their vase?"

"I know they did. Some one who loved you brought it to you.
Everybody loves you, Miss Ainslie."

"Did the Marquise find her lover?"

"Yes, or rather, he found her."

"Did they want me to have their marquetry table?"

"Of course they did. Didn't some one who loved you bring it to
you?"

"Yes," she sighed, "some one who loved me."

She sang a little, very softly, with her eyes closed. It was a
quaint old-fashioned tune, with a refrain of "Hush-a-by" and he
held her hand until the song ceased and she was asleep. Then he
went over to Ruth. "Can't you go to sleep for a little while,
dearest? I know you're tired."

"I'm never tired when I'm with you," Ruth answered, leaning upon
his arm, "and besides, I feel that this is the end."

Miss Ainslie slept for some time, then, all at once, she started
as if in terror. "Letters," she said, very distinctly, "Go!"

He went to her and tried to soothe her, but failed. "No," she
said again, "letters--Ruth --chest."

"She wants some letters that are in the sandal wood chest," he
said to Ruth, and Miss Ainslie nodded. "Yes," she repeated,
"letters."

Ruth went into the sitting-room, where a light was burning dimly,
but the chest was locked. "Do you know where the key is, Carl?"
she asked, coming back for a moment.

"No, I don't, dear," he answered. Then he asked Miss Ainslie
where the key was, but she only murmured: "letters."

"Shall I go and help Ruth find them?"

"Yes," she said, "help--letters."

Together, they broke open the lock of the chest, while Miss
Ainslie was calling, faintly: "Carl, Carl, dear! Where are you? I
want you!"

"We'd better turn the whole thing out on the floor,"
he said, suiting the action to the word, then put it back against
the wall, empty. "We'll have to shake everything out,
carefully," returned Ruth, "that's the only way to find them."

Wrapped carefully in a fine linen sheet, was Miss Ainslie's
wedding gown, of heavy white satin, trimmed simply with priceless
Venetian point. They shook it out hurriedly and put it back into
the chest. There were yards upon yards of lavender taffeta, cut
into dress lengths, which they folded up and put away. Three
strings of amethysts and two of pearls slipped out of the silk as
they lifted it, and there was another length of lustrous white
taffeta, which had changed to an ivory tint.

Four shawls of Canton crepe, three of them lavender and one ivory
white, were put back into the chest. There were several fans, of
fine workmanship, a girdle of oxidized silver, set with amethysts
and pearls, and a large marquetry box, which contained tea.
"That's all the large things," he said; "now we can look these
over."

Ruth was gathering up great quantities of lace--Brussels, Point
d'Alencon, Cluny, Mechlin, Valenciennes, Duchesse and Venetian
point. There was a bridal veil of the Venetian lace, evidently
made to match that on the gown. Tiny, dried petals rustled out of
the meshes, for Miss Ainslie's laces were laid away in lavender,
like her love.

"I don't see them," she said, "yes, here they are." She gave him
a bundle of yellowed letters, tied with lavender ribbon. "I'll
take them to her," he answered, picking up a small black case
that lay on the floor, and opening it. "Why, Ruth!" he gasped.
"It's my father's picture!"

Miss Ainslie's voice rose again in pitiful cadence. "Carl, Carl,
dear! Where are you? I want you--oh, I want you!"

He hastened to her, leaving the picture in Ruth's hand. It was an
ambrotype, set into a case lined with purple velvet. The face
was that of a young man, not more than twenty-five or thirty,
who looked strangely like Winfield. The eyes, forehead and the
poise of the head were the same.

The earth trembled beneath Ruth's feet for a moment, then, all at
once, she understood. The light in the attic window, the marked
paragraph in the paper, and the death notices-- why, yes, the
Charles Winfield who had married Abigail Weatherby was Miss
Ainslie's lover, and Carl was his son. "He went away!" Miss
Ainslie's voice came again to Ruth, when she told her story, with
no hint of her lover's name. He went away, and soon afterward,
married Abigail Weatherby, but why? Was it love at first sight,
or did he believe that his sweetheart was dead? Then Carl was
born and the mother died. Twelve years afterward, he followed her
--broken hearted. Carl had told her that his father could not
bear the smell of lavender nor the sight of any shade of
purple--and Miss Ainslie always wore lavender and lived in the
scent of it--had he come to shrink from it through remorse?

Why was it, she wondered? Had he forgotten Miss Ainslie, or had
he been suddenly swept off his feet by some blind whirlwind of
passion? In either case, memory had returned to torture him a
thousand fold--to make him ashamed to face her, with his boy in
his arms.

And Aunt Jane knew of the marriage, at the time, probably, and
said no word. Then she learned of Abigail Weatherby's death, and
was still silent, hoping, perhaps, that the wanderer would come
back, until she learned that Charles Winfield, too, was dead. And
still she had not told Miss Ainslie, or, possibly, thought she
knew it all till the day that Hepsey had spoken of; when she came
home, looking "strange," to keep the light in the attic window
every night for more than five years.

Was it kind? Ruth doubted for a moment, then her heart softened
with love for Aunt Jane, who had hidden the knowledge that would
be a death blow to Miss Ainslie, and let her live on, happy in
her dream, while the stern Puritan conscience made her keep the
light in the attic window in fulfilment of her promise.

As if the little light could reach the veil which hangs between
us and Eternity, or penetrate the greyness which never parts save
for a passage! As if all Miss Ainslie's IGve and faith could
bring the dead to life again, even to be forgiven!

Her lips quivered when she thought of Miss Ainslie's tenderness
for Carl and the little whispered lullabies that she sang to
herself, over and over again. "She does not know," thought Ruth.
"Thank God, she will never know!"

She put the rest of the things into the chest and closed it,
covering it, as before, with the rug Miss Ainslie loved. When she
went into the other room, she was asleep again, with her cheek
pillowed on the letters, while Carl sat beside her, holding her
hand and pondering over the mystery he could not explain. Ruth's
heart ached for those two, so strangely brought together, who had
but this little hour to atone for a lifetime of loss.

The first faint lines of light came into the eastern sky. Ruth
stood by the window, watching the colour come on the grey above
the hill, while two or three stars still shone dimly. The night
lamp flickered, then went out. She set it in the hall and came
back to the window.

As Miss Ainslie's rug had been woven, little by little, purple,
crimson, and turquoise, gleaming with inward fires, shone upon
the clouds. Carl came over to Ruth, putting his arm around her.
They watched it together--that miracle which is as old as the
world, and yet ever new. "I don't see--" he began.

"Hush, dear," Ruth whispered, "I know, and I'll tell you some
time, but I don't want her to know."

The sky brightened slowly, and the intense colour came into the
room with the light. Ruth drew the curtains aside, saying, in a
low tone, "it's beautiful, isn't it?"

There was a sudden movement in the room and they turned, to see
Miss Ainslie sitting up, her cheeks flushed, and the letters
scattered around her. The ribbon had slipped away, and her heavy
white hair fell over her shoulders. Ruth went to her, to tie it
back again, but she put her away, very gently, without speaking.

Carl stood by the window, thinking, and Miss Ainslie's eyes
rested upon him, with wonder and love. The sunrise stained her
white face and her eyes shone brightly, as sapphires touched with
dawn. The first ray of the sun came into the little room and lay
upon her hair, changing its whiteness to gleaming silver. Then
all at once her face illumined, as from a light within.

Carl moved away from the window, strangely drawn toward her, and
her face became radiant with unspeakable joy. Then the passion of
her denied motherhood swelled into a cry of longing--"My son!"

"Mother!" broke from his lips in answer He went to her blindly,
knowing only that they belonged to each other, and that, in some
inscrutable way, they had been kept apart until it was too late.
He took her into his arms, holding her close, and whispering,
brokenly, what only she and God might hear! Ruth turned away,
sobbing, as if it was something too holy for her to see.

Miss Ainslie, transfigured with unearthly light, lifted her face
to his. Her lips quivered for an instant, then grew cold beneath
his own. She sank back among the pillows, with her eyes closed,
but with yet another glory upon the marble whiteness of her face,
as though at the end of her journey, and beyond the mists that
divided them, her dream had become divinely true.

Then he, who should have been her son, bent down, the tears
falling unheeded upon her face, and kissed her again.

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