Part 2 out of 4
disconcerting, and the face of the sleeping man so
sodden and bestial, that her disgust was tinged with a
vague dread. She was not afraid for herself; she knew
the Hyatts would not be likely to trouble her; but she
was not sure how they would treat a "city fellow."
Lucius Harney would certainly have laughed at her
fears. He glanced about the room, uttered a general
"How are you?" to which no one responded, and then
asked the younger woman if they might take shelter till
the storm was over.
She turned her eyes away from him and looked at
"You're the girl from Royall's, ain't you?"
The colour rose in Charity's face. "I'm Charity
Royall," she said, as if asserting her right to the
name in the very place where it might have been most
open to question.
The woman did not seem to notice. "You kin stay," she
merely said; then she turned away and stooped over a
dish in which she was stirring something.
Harney and Charity sat down on a bench made of a board
resting on two starch boxes. They faced a door hanging
on a broken hinge, and through the crack they saw the
eyes of the tow-headed boy and of a pale little girl
with a scar across her cheek. Charity smiled, and
signed to the children to come in; but as soon as they
saw they were discovered they slipped away on bare
feet. It occurred to her that they were afraid of
rousing the sleeping man; and probably the woman shared
their fear, for she moved about as noiselessly and
avoided going near the stove.
The rain continued to beat against the house, and in
one or two places it sent a stream through the
patched panes and ran into pools on the floor.
Every now and then the kitten mewed and struggled down,
and the old woman stooped and caught it, holding it
tight in her bony hands; and once or twice the man on
the barrel half woke, changed his position and dozed
again, his head falling forward on his hairy breast. As
the minutes passed, and the rain still streamed against
the windows, a loathing of the place and the people
came over Charity. The sight of the weak-minded old
woman, of the cowed children, and the ragged man
sleeping off his liquor, made the setting of her own
life seem a vision of peace and plenty. She thought of
the kitchen at Mr. Royall's, with its scrubbed floor
and dresser full of china, and the peculiar smell of
yeast and coffee and soft-soap that she had always
hated, but that now seemed the very symbol of household
order. She saw Mr. Royall's room, with the high-backed
horsehair chair, the faded rag carpet, the row of books
on a shelf, the engraving of "The Surrender of
Burgoyne" over the stove, and the mat with a brown and
white spaniel on a moss-green border. And then her
mind travelled to Miss Hatchard's house, where all was
freshness, purity and fragrance, and compared to which
the red house had always seemed so poor and plain.
"This is where I belong--this is where I belong," she
kept repeating to herself; but the words had no meaning
for her. Every instinct and habit made her a stranger
among these poor swamp-people living like vermin in
their lair. With all her soul she wished she had not
yielded to Harney's curiosity, and brought him there.
The rain had drenched her, and she began to shiver
under the thin folds of her dress. The younger woman
must have noticed it, for she went out of the room and
came back with a broken tea-cup which she offered to
Charity. It was half full of whiskey, and Charity
shook her head; but Harney took the cup and put his
lips to it. When he had set it down Charity saw him
feel in his pocket and draw out a dollar; he hesitated
a moment, and then put it back, and she guessed that he
did not wish her to see him offering money to people
she had spoken of as being her kin.
The sleeping man stirred, lifted his head and opened
his eyes. They rested vacantly for a moment on Charity
and Harney, and then closed again, and his head
drooped; but a look of anxiety came into the woman's
face. She glanced out of the window and then came
up to Harney. "I guess you better go along now," she
said. The young man understood and got to his feet.
"Thank you," he said, holding out his hand. She seemed
not to notice the gesture, and turned away as they
opened the door.
The rain was still coming down, but they hardly noticed
it: the pure air was like balm in their faces. The
clouds were rising and breaking, and between their
edges the light streamed down from remote blue hollows.
Harney untied the horse, and they drove off through the
diminishing rain, which was already beaded with
For a while Charity was silent, and her companion did
not speak. She looked timidly at his profile: it was
graver than usual, as though he too were oppressed by
what they had seen. Then she broke out abruptly:
"Those people back there are the kind of folks I come
from. They may be my relations, for all I know." She
did not want him to think that she regretted having
told him her story.
"Poor creatures," he rejoined. "I wonder why they came
down to that fever-hole."
She laughed ironically. "To better themselves! It's
worse up on the Mountain. Bash Hyatt married the
daughter of the farmer that used to own the brown
house. That was him by the stove, I suppose."
Harney seemed to find nothing to say and she went on:
"I saw you take out a dollar to give to that poor
woman. Why did you put it back?"
He reddened, and leaned forward to flick a swamp-fly
from the horse's neck. "I wasn't sure----"
"Was it because you knew they were my folks, and
thought I'd be ashamed to see you give them money?"
He turned to her with eyes full of reproach. "Oh,
Charity----" It was the first time he had ever called
her by her name. Her misery welled over.
"I ain't--I ain't ashamed. They're my people, and I
ain't ashamed of them," she sobbed.
"My dear..." he murmured, putting his arm about her;
and she leaned against him and wept out her pain.
It was too late to go around to Hamblin, and all the
stars were out in a clear sky when they reached the
North Dormer valley and drove up to the red house.
SINCE her reinstatement in Miss Hatchard's favour
Charity had not dared to curtail by a moment her hours
of attendance at the library. She even made a point of
arriving before the time, and showed a laudable
indignation when the youngest Targatt girl, who had
been engaged to help in the cleaning and rearranging of
the books, came trailing in late and neglected her task
to peer through the window at the Sollas boy.
Nevertheless, "library days" seemed more than ever
irksome to Charity after her vivid hours of liberty;
and she would have found it hard to set a good example
to her subordinate if Lucius Harney had not been
commissioned, before Miss Hatchard's departure, to
examine with the local carpenter the best means of
ventilating the "Memorial."
He was careful to prosecute this inquiry on the days
when the library was open to the public; and Charity
was therefore sure of spending part of the afternoon in
his company. The Targatt girl's presence, and the
risk of being interrupted by some passer-by suddenly
smitten with a thirst for letters, restricted their
intercourse to the exchange of commonplaces; but there
was a fascination to Charity in the contrast between
these public civilities and their secret intimacy.
The day after their drive to the brown house was
"library day," and she sat at her desk working at the
revised catalogue, while the Targatt girl, one eye on
the window, chanted out the titles of a pile of books.
Charity's thoughts were far away, in the dismal house
by the swamp, and under the twilight sky during the
long drive home, when Lucius Harney had consoled her
with endearing words. That day, for the first time
since he had been boarding with them, he had failed to
appear as usual at the midday meal. No message had
come to explain his absence, and Mr. Royall, who was
more than usually taciturn, had betrayed no surprise,
and made no comment. In itself this indifference was
not particularly significant, for Mr. Royall, in common
with most of his fellow-citizens, had a way of
accepting events passively, as if he had long since
come to the conclusion that no one who lived in North
Dormer could hope to modify them. But to Charity,
in the reaction from her mood of passionate exaltation,
there was something disquieting in his silence. It was
almost as if Lucius Harney had never had a part in
their lives: Mr. Royall's imperturbable indifference
seemed to relegate him to the domain of unreality.
As she sat at work, she tried to shake off her
disappointment at Harney's non-appearing. Some
trifling incident had probably kept him from joining
them at midday; but she was sure he must be eager to
see her again, and that he would not want to wait till
they met at supper, between Mr. Royall and Verena. She
was wondering what his first words would be, and trying
to devise a way of getting rid of the Targatt girl
before he came, when she heard steps outside, and he
walked up the path with Mr. Miles.
The clergyman from Hepburn seldom came to North Dormer
except when he drove over to officiate at the old white
church which, by an unusual chance, happened to belong
to the Episcopal communion. He was a brisk affable
man, eager to make the most of the fact that a little
nucleus of "church-people" had survived in the
sectarian wilderness, and resolved to undermine the
influence of the ginger-bread-coloured Baptist
chapel at the other end of the village; but he was kept
busy by parochial work at Hepburn, where there were
paper-mills and saloons, and it was not often that he
could spare time for North Dormer.
Charity, who went to the white church (like all the
best people in North Dormer), admired Mr. Miles, and
had even, during the memorable trip to Nettleton,
imagined herself married to a man who had such a
straight nose and such a beautiful way of speaking, and
who lived in a brown-stone rectory covered with
Virginia creeper. It had been a shock to discover that
the privilege was already enjoyed by a lady with
crimped hair and a large baby; but the arrival of
Lucius Harney had long since banished Mr. Miles from
Charity's dreams, and as he walked up the path at
Harney's side she saw him as he really was: a fat
middle-aged man with a baldness showing under his
clerical hat, and spectacles on his Grecian nose. She
wondered what had called him to North Dormer on a
weekday, and felt a little hurt that Harney should have
brought him to the library.
It presently appeared that his presence there was due
to Miss Hatchard. He had been spending a few days
at Springfield, to fill a friend's pulpit, and had been
consulted by Miss Hatchard as to young Harney's plan
for ventilating the "Memorial." To lay hands on the
Hatchard ark was a grave matter, and Miss Hatchard,
always full of scruples about her scruples (it was
Harney's phrase), wished to have Mr. Miles's opinion
"I couldn't," Mr. Miles explained, "quite make out from
your cousin what changes you wanted to make, and as the
other trustees did not understand either I thought I
had better drive over and take a look--though I'm
sure," he added, turning his friendly spectacles on the
young man, "that no one could be more competent--but of
course this spot has its peculiar sanctity!"
"I hope a little fresh air won't desecrate it," Harney
laughingly rejoined; and they walked to the other end
of the library while he set forth his idea to the
Mr. Miles had greeted the two girls with his usual
friendliness, but Charity saw that he was occupied with
other things, and she presently became aware, by the
scraps of conversation drifting over to her, that he
was still under the charm of his visit to
Springfield, which appeared to have been full of
"Ah, the Coopersons...yes, you know them, of course,"
she heard. "That's a fine old house! And Ned Cooperson
has collected some really remarkable impressionist
pictures...." The names he cited were unknown to
Charity. "Yes; yes; the Schaefer quartette played at
Lyric Hall on Saturday evening; and on Monday I had the
privilege of hearing them again at the Towers.
Beautifully done...Bach and Beethoven...a lawn-party
first...I saw Miss Balch several times, by the
way...looking extremely handsome...."
Charity dropped her pencil and forgot to listen to the
Targatt girl's sing-song. Why had Mr. Miles suddenly
brought up Annabel Balch's name?
"Oh, really?" she heard Harney rejoin; and, raising his
stick, he pursued: "You see, my plan is to move these
shelves away, and open a round window in this wall, on
the axis of the one under the pediment."
"I suppose she'll be coming up here later to stay with
Miss Hatchard?" Mr. Miles went on, following on his
train of thought; then, spinning about and tilting his
head back: "Yes, yes, I see--I understand: that
will give a draught without materially altering the
look of things. I can see no objection."
The discussion went on for some minutes, and gradually
the two men moved back toward the desk. Mr. Miles
stopped again and looked thoughtfully at Charity.
"Aren't you a little pale, my dear? Not overworking?
Mr. Harney tells me you and Mamie are giving the
library a thorough overhauling." He was always careful
to remember his parishioners' Christian names, and at
the right moment he bent his benignant spectacles on
the Targatt girl.
Then he turned to Charity. "Don't take things hard, my
dear; don't take things hard. Come down and see Mrs.
Miles and me some day at Hepburn," he said, pressing
her hand and waving a farewell to Mamie Targatt. He
went out of the library, and Harney followed him.
Charity thought she detected a look of constraint in
Harney's eyes. She fancied he did not want to be alone
with her; and with a sudden pang she wondered if he
repented the tender things he had said to her the night
before. His words had been more fraternal than lover-
like; but she had lost their exact sense in the
caressing warmth of his voice. He had made her feel
that the fact of her being a waif from the Mountain was
only another reason for holding her close and soothing
her with consolatory murmurs; and when the drive was
over, and she got out of the buggy, tired, cold, and
aching with emotion, she stepped as if the ground were
a sunlit wave and she the spray on its crest.
Why, then, had his manner suddenly changed, and why did
he leave the library with Mr. Miles? Her restless
imagination fastened on the name of Annabel Balch: from
the moment it had been mentioned she fancied that
Harney's expression had altered. Annabel Balch at a
garden-party at Springfield, looking "extremely
handsome"...perhaps Mr. Miles had seen her there at the
very moment when Charity and Harney were sitting in the
Hyatts' hovel, between a drunkard and a half-witted old
woman! Charity did not know exactly what a garden-party
was, but her glimpse of the flower-edged lawns of
Nettleton helped her to visualize the scene, and
envious recollections of the "old things" which Miss
Balch avowedly "wore out" when she came to North Dormer
made it only too easy to picture her in her splendour.
Charity understood what associations the name must
have called up, and felt the uselessness of struggling
against the unseen influences in Harney's life.
When she came down from her room for supper he was not
there; and while she waited in the porch she recalled
the tone in which Mr. Royall had commented the day
before on their early start. Mr. Royall sat at her
side, his chair tilted back, his broad black boots with
side-elastics resting against the lower bar of the
railings. His rumpled grey hair stood up above his
forehead like the crest of an angry bird, and the
leather-brown of his veined cheeks was blotched with
red. Charity knew that those red spots were the signs
of a coming explosion.
Suddenly he said: "Where's supper? Has Verena Marsh
slipped up again on her soda-biscuits?"
Charity threw a startled glance at him. "I presume
she's waiting for Mr. Harney."
"Mr. Harney, is she? She'd better dish up, then. He
ain't coming." He stood up, walked to the door, and
called out, in the pitch necessary to penetrate the old
woman's tympanum: "Get along with the supper, Verena."
Charity was trembling with apprehension. Something
had happened--she was sure of it now--and Mr. Royall
knew what it was. But not for the world would she have
gratified him by showing her anxiety. She took her
usual place, and he seated himself opposite, and poured
out a strong cup of tea before passing her the tea-pot.
Verena brought some scrambled eggs, and he piled his
plate with them. "Ain't you going to take any?" he
asked. Charity roused herself and began to eat.
The tone with which Mr. Royall had said "He's not
coming" seemed to her full of an ominous satisfaction.
She saw that he had suddenly begun to hate Lucius
Harney, and guessed herself to be the cause of this
change of feeling. But she had no means of finding out
whether some act of hostility on his part had made the
young man stay away, or whether he simply wished to
avoid seeing her again after their drive back from the
brown house. She ate her supper with a studied show of
indifference, but she knew that Mr. Royall was watching
her and that her agitation did not escape him.
After supper she went up to her room. She heard Mr.
Royall cross the passage, and presently the sounds
below her window showed that he had returned to the
porch. She seated herself on her bed and began to
struggle against the desire to go down and ask him what
had happened. "I'd rather die than do it," she
muttered to herself. With a word he could have
relieved her uncertainty: but never would she gratify
him by saying it.
She rose and leaned out of the window. The twilight
had deepened into night, and she watched the frail
curve of the young moon dropping to the edge of the
hills. Through the darkness she saw one or two figures
moving down the road; but the evening was too cold for
loitering, and presently the strollers disappeared.
Lamps were beginning to show here and there in the
windows. A bar of light brought out the whiteness of a
clump of lilies in the Hawes's yard: and farther down
the street Carrick Fry's Rochester lamp cast its bold
illumination on the rustic flower-tub in the middle of
For a long time she continued to lean in the window.
But a fever of unrest consumed her, and finally she
went downstairs, took her hat from its hook, and swung
out of the house. Mr. Royall sat in the porch, Verena
beside him, her old hands crossed on her patched skirt.
As Charity went down the steps Mr. Royall called after
her: "Where you going?" She could easily have
answered: "To Orma's," or "Down to the Targatts'"; and
either answer might have been true, for she had no
purpose. But she swept on in silence, determined not
to recognize his right to question her.
At the gate she paused and looked up and down the road.
The darkness drew her, and she thought of climbing the
hill and plunging into the depths of the larch-wood
above the pasture. Then she glanced irresolutely along
the street, and as she did so a gleam appeared through
the spruces at Miss Hatchard's gate. Lucius Harney was
there, then--he had not gone down to Hepburn with Mr.
Miles, as she had at first imagined. But where had he
taken his evening meal, and what had caused him to stay
away from Mr. Royall's? The light was positive proof of
his presence, for Miss Hatchard's servants were away on
a holiday, and her farmer's wife came only in the
mornings, to make the young man's bed and prepare his
coffee. Beside that lamp he was doubtless sitting at
this moment. To know the truth Charity had only to
walk half the length of the village, and knock at the
lighted window. She hesitated a minute or two longer,
and then turned toward Miss Hatchard's.
She walked quickly, straining her eyes to detect
anyone who might be coming along the street; and before
reaching the Frys' she crossed over to avoid the light
from their window. Whenever she was unhappy she felt
herself at bay against a pitiless world, and a kind of
animal secretiveness possessed her. But the street was
empty, and she passed unnoticed through the gate and up
the path to the house. Its white front glimmered
indistinctly through the trees, showing only one oblong
of light on the lower floor. She had supposed that the
lamp was in Miss Hatchard's sitting-room; but she now
saw that it shone through a window at the farther
corner of the house. She did not know the room to
which this window belonged, and she paused under the
trees, checked by a sense of strangeness. Then she
moved on, treading softly on the short grass, and
keeping so close to the house that whoever was in the
room, even if roused by her approach, would not be able
to see her.
The window opened on a narrow verandah with a trellised
arch. She leaned close to the trellis, and parting the
sprays of clematis that covered it looked into a corner
of the room. She saw the foot of a mahogany bed, an
engraving on the wall, a wash-stand on which a
towel had been tossed, and one end of the green-covered
table which held the lamp. Half of the lampshade
projected into her field of vision, and just under it
two smooth sunburnt hands, one holding a pencil and the
other a ruler, were moving to and fro over a drawing-
Her heart jumped and then stood still. He was there, a
few feet away; and while her soul was tossing on seas
of woe he had been quietly sitting at his drawing-
board. The sight of those two hands, moving with their
usual skill and precision, woke her out of her dream.
Her eyes were opened to the disproportion between what
she had felt and the cause of her agitation; and she
was turning away from the window when one hand abruptly
pushed aside the drawing-board and the other flung down
Charity had often noticed Harney's loving care of his
drawings, and the neatness and method with which he
carried on and concluded each task. The impatient
sweeping aside of the drawing-board seemed to reveal a
new mood. The gesture suggested sudden discouragement,
or distaste for his work and she wondered if he too
were agitated by secret perplexities. Her impulse of
flight was checked; she stepped up on the verandah
and looked into the room.
Harney had put his elbows on the table and was resting
his chin on his locked hands. He had taken off his
coat and waistcoat, and unbuttoned the low collar of
his flannel shirt; she saw the vigorous lines of his
young throat, and the root of the muscles where they
joined the chest. He sat staring straight ahead of
him, a look of weariness and self-disgust on his face:
it was almost as if he had been gazing at a distorted
reflection of his own features. For a moment Charity
looked at him with a kind of terror, as if he had been
a stranger under familiar lineaments; then she glanced
past him and saw on the floor an open portmanteau half
full of clothes. She understood that he was preparing
to leave, and that he had probably decided to go
without seeing her. She saw that the decision, from
whatever cause it was taken, had disturbed him deeply;
and she immediately concluded that his change of plan
was due to some surreptitious interference of Mr.
Royall's. All her old resentments and rebellions flamed
up, confusedly mingled with the yearning roused by
Harney's nearness. Only a few hours earlier she had
felt secure in his comprehending pity; now she was
flung back on herself, doubly alone after that moment
Harney was still unaware of her presence. He sat
without moving, moodily staring before him at the same
spot in the wall-paper. He had not even had the energy
to finish his packing, and his clothes and papers lay
on the floor about the portmanteau. Presently he
unlocked his clasped hands and stood up; and Charity,
drawing back hastily, sank down on the step of the
verandah. The night was so dark that there was not
much chance of his seeing her unless he opened the
window and before that she would have time to slip away
and be lost in the shadow of the trees. He stood for a
minute or two looking around the room with the same
expression of self-disgust, as if he hated himself and
everything about him; then he sat down again at the
table, drew a few more strokes, and threw his pencil
aside. Finally he walked across the floor, kicking the
portmanteau out of his way, and lay down on the bed,
folding his arms under his head, and staring up
morosely at the ceiling. Just so, Charity had seen him
at her side on the grass or the pine-needles, his eyes
fixed on the sky, and pleasure flashing over his face
like the flickers of sun the branches shed on it.
But now the face was so changed that she hardly knew
it; and grief at his grief gathered in her throat, rose
to her eyes and ran over.
She continued to crouch on the steps, holding her
breath and stiffening herself into complete immobility.
One motion of her hand, one tap on the pane, and she
could picture the sudden change in his face. In every
pulse of her rigid body she was aware of the welcome
his eyes and lips would give her; but something kept
her from moving. It was not the fear of any sanction,
human or heavenly; she had never in her life been
afraid. It was simply that she had suddenly understood
what would happen if she went in. It was the thing
that did happen between young men and girls, and that
North Dormer ignored in public and snickered over on
the sly. It was what Miss Hatchard was still ignorant
of, but every girl of Charity's class knew about before
she left school. It was what had happened to Ally
Hawes's sister Julia, and had ended in her going to
Nettleton, and in people's never mentioning her name.
It did not, of course, always end so sensationally;
nor, perhaps, on the whole, so untragically. Charity
had always suspected that the shunned Julia's fate
might have its compensations. There were others, worse
endings that the village knew of, mean, miserable,
unconfessed; other lives that went on drearily, without
visible change, in the same cramped setting of
hypocrisy. But these were not the reasons that held
her back. Since the day before, she had known exactly
what she would feel if Harney should take her in his
arms: the melting of palm into palm and mouth on mouth,
and the long flame burning her from head to foot. But
mixed with this feeling was another: the wondering
pride in his liking for her, the startled softness that
his sympathy had put into her heart. Sometimes, when
her youth flushed up in her, she had imagined yielding
like other girls to furtive caresses in the twilight;
but she could not so cheapen herself to Harney. She
did not know why he was going; but since he was going
she felt she must do nothing to deface the image of her
that he carried away. If he wanted her he must seek
her: he must not be surprised into taking her as girls
like Julia Hawes were taken....
No sound came from the sleeping village, and in the
deep darkness of the garden she heard now and then
a secret rustle of branches, as though some night-bird
brushed them. Once a footfall passed the gate, and she
shrank back into her corner; but the steps died away
and left a profounder quiet. Her eyes were still on
Harney's tormented face: she felt she could not move
till he moved. But she was beginning to grow numb from
her constrained position, and at times her thoughts
were so indistinct that she seemed to be held there
only by a vague weight of weariness.
A long time passed in this strange vigil. Harney still
lay on the bed, motionless and with fixed eyes, as
though following his vision to its bitter end. At last
he stirred and changed his attitude slightly, and
Charity's heart began to tremble. But he only flung
out his arms and sank back into his former position.
With a deep sigh he tossed the hair from his forehead;
then his whole body relaxed, his head turned sideways
on the pillow, and she saw that he had fallen asleep.
The sweet expression came back to his lips, and the
haggardness faded from his face, leaving it as fresh as
She rose and crept away.
SHE had lost the sense of time, and did not know how
late it was till she came out into the street and saw
that all the windows were dark between Miss Hatchard's
and the Royall house.
As she passed from under the black pall of the Norway
spruces she fancied she saw two figures in the shade
about the duck-pond. She drew back and watched; but
nothing moved, and she had stared so long into the
lamp-lit room that the darkness confused her, and she
thought she must have been mistaken.
She walked on, wondering whether Mr. Royall was still
in the porch. In her exalted mood she did not greatly
care whether he was waiting for her or not: she seemed
to be floating high over life, on a great cloud of
misery beneath which every-day realities had dwindled
to mere specks in space. But the porch was empty, Mr.
Royall's hat hung on its peg in the passage, and the
kitchen lamp had been left to light her to bed. She
took it and went up.
The morning hours of the next day dragged by
without incident. Charity had imagined that, in some
way or other, she would learn whether Harney had
already left; but Verena's deafness prevented her being
a source of news, and no one came to the house who
could bring enlightenment.
Mr. Royall went out early, and did not return till
Verena had set the table for the midday meal. When he
came in he went straight to the kitchen and shouted to
the old woman: "Ready for dinner----" then he turned
into the dining-room, where Charity was already seated.
Harney's plate was in its usual place, but Mr. Royall
offered no explanation of his absence, and Charity
asked none. The feverish exaltation of the night
before had dropped, and she said to herself that he had
gone away, indifferently, almost callously, and that
now her life would lapse again into the narrow rut out
of which he had lifted it. For a moment she was
inclined to sneer at herself for not having used the
arts that might have kept him.
She sat at table till the meal was over, lest Mr.
Royall should remark on her leaving; but when he stood
up she rose also, without waiting to help Verena.
She had her foot on the stairs when he called to her to
"I've got a headache. I'm going up to lie down."
"I want you should come in here first; I've got
something to say to you."
She was sure from his tone that in a moment she would
learn what every nerve in her ached to know; but as she
turned back she made a last effort of indifference.
Mr. Royall stood in the middle of the office, his thick
eyebrows beetling, his lower jaw trembling a little.
At first she thought he had been drinking; then she saw
that he was sober, but stirred by a deep and stern
emotion totally unlike his usual transient angers. And
suddenly she understood that, until then, she had never
really noticed him or thought about him. Except on the
occasion of his one offense he had been to her merely
the person who is always there, the unquestioned
central fact of life, as inevitable but as
uninteresting as North Dormer itself, or any of the
other conditions fate had laid on her. Even then she
had regarded him only in relation to herself, and had
never speculated as to his own feelings, beyond
instinctively concluding that he would not trouble
her again in the same way. But now she began to wonder
what he was really like.
He had grasped the back of his chair with both hands,
and stood looking hard at her. At length he said:
"Charity, for once let's you and me talk together like
Instantly she felt that something had happened, and
that he held her in his hand.
"Where is Mr. Harney? Why hasn't he come back? Have you
sent him away?" she broke out, without knowing what she
The change in Mr. Royall frightened her. All the blood
seemed to leave his veins and against his swarthy
pallor the deep lines in his face looked black.
"Didn't he have time to answer some of those questions
last night? You was with him long enough!" he said.
Charity stood speechless. The taunt was so unrelated
to what had been happening in her soul that she hardly
understood it. But the instinct of self-defense awoke
"Who says I was with him last night?"
"The whole place is saying it by now."
"Then it was you that put the lie into their
mouths.--Oh, how I've always hated you!" she cried.
She had expected a retort in kind, and it startled her
to hear her exclamation sounding on through silence.
"Yes, I know," Mr. Royall said slowly. "But that ain't
going to help us much now."
"It helps me not to care a straw what lies you tell
"If they're lies, they're not my lies: my Bible oath on
that, Charity. I didn't know where you were: I wasn't
out of this house last night."
She made no answer and he went on: "Is it a lie that
you were seen coming out of Miss Hatchard's nigh onto
She straightened herself with a laugh, all her reckless
insolence recovered. "I didn't look to see what time
"You lost girl...you...you...Oh, my God, why did you
tell me?" he broke out, dropping into his chair, his
head bowed down like an old man's.
Charity's self-possession had returned with the sense
of her danger. "Do you suppose I'd take the
trouble to lie to YOU? Who are you, anyhow, to
ask me where I go to when I go out at night?"
Mr. Royall lifted his head and looked at her. His face
had grown quiet and almost gentle, as she remembered
seeing it sometimes when she was a little girl, before
Mrs. Royall died.
"Don't let's go on like this, Charity. It can't do any
good to either of us. You were seen going into that
fellow's house...you were seen coming out of it....I've
watched this thing coming, and I've tried to stop it.
As God sees me, I have...."
"Ah, it WAS you, then? I knew it was you that sent
He looked at her in surprise. "Didn't he tell you so?
I thought he understood." He spoke slowly, with
difficult pauses, "I didn't name you to him: I'd have
cut my hand off sooner. I just told him I couldn't
spare the horse any longer; and that the cooking was
getting too heavy for Verena. I guess he's the kind
that's heard the same thing before. Anyhow, he took it
quietly enough. He said his job here was about done,
anyhow; and there didn't another word pass between
us....If he told you otherwise he told you an untruth."
Charity listened in a cold trance of anger. It
was nothing to her what the village said...but all this
fingering of her dreams!
"I've told you he didn't tell me anything. I didn't
speak with him last night."
"You didn't speak with him?"
"No....It's not that I care what any of you say...but
you may as well know. Things ain't between us the way
you think...and the other people in this place. He was
kind to me; he was my friend; and all of a sudden he
stopped coming, and I knew it was you that done it--
YOU!" All her unreconciled memory of the past flamed
out at him. "So I went there last night to find out
what you'd said to him: that's all."
Mr. Royall drew a heavy breath. "But, then--if he
wasn't there, what were you doing there all that time?--
Charity, for pity's sake, tell me. I've got to know,
to stop their talking."
This pathetic abdication of all authority over her did
not move her: she could feel only the outrage of his
"Can't you see that I don't care what anybody says?
It's true I went there to see him; and he was in his
room, and I stood outside for ever so long and watched
him; but I dursn't go in for fear he'd think I'd
come after him...." She felt her voice breaking, and
gathered it up in a last defiance. "As long as I live
I'll never forgive you!" she cried.
Mr. Royall made no answer. He sat and pondered with
sunken head, his veined hands clasped about the arms of
his chair. Age seemed to have come down on him as
winter comes on the hills after a storm. At length he
"Charity, you say you don't care; but you're the
proudest girl I know, and the last to want people to
talk against you. You know there's always eyes
watching you: you're handsomer and smarter than the
rest, and that's enough. But till lately you've never
given them a chance. Now they've got it, and they're
going to use it. I believe what you say, but they
won't....It was Mrs. Tom Fry seen you going in...and
two or three of them watched for you to come out
again....You've been with the fellow all day long every
day since he come here...and I'm a lawyer, and I know
how hard slander dies." He paused, but she stood
motionless, without giving him any sign of acquiescence
or even of attention. "He's a pleasant fellow to talk
to--I liked having him here myself. The young men up
here ain't had his chances. But there's one thing
as old as the hills and as plain as daylight: if he'd
wanted you the right way he'd have said so."
Charity did not speak. It seemed to her that nothing
could exceed the bitterness of hearing such words from
Mr. Royall rose from his seat. "See here, Charity
Royall: I had a shameful thought once, and you've made
me pay for it. Isn't that score pretty near wiped
out?...There's a streak in me I ain't always master of;
but I've always acted straight to you but that once.
And you've known I would--you've trusted me. For all
your sneers and your mockery you've always known I
loved you the way a man loves a decent woman. I'm a
good many years older than you, but I'm head and
shoulders above this place and everybody in it, and you
know that too. I slipped up once, but that's no reason
for not starting again. If you'll come with me I'll do
it. If you'll marry me we'll leave here and settle in
some big town, where there's men, and business, and
things doing. It's not too late for me to find an
opening....I can see it by the way folks treat me when
I go down to Hepburn or Nettleton...."
Charity made no movement. Nothing in his appeal
reached her heart, and she thought only of words to
wound and wither. But a growing lassitude restrained
her. What did anything matter that he was saying? She
saw the old life closing in on her, and hardly heeded
his fanciful picture of renewal.
"Charity--Charity--say you'll do it," she heard him
urge, all his lost years and wasted passion in his
"Oh, what's the use of all this? When I leave here it
won't be with you."
She moved toward the door as she spoke, and he stood up
and placed himself between her and the threshold. He
seemed suddenly tall and strong, as though the
extremity of his humiliation had given him new vigour.
"That's all, is it? It's not much." He leaned against
the door, so towering and powerful that he seemed to
fill the narrow room. "Well, then look here....You're
right: I've no claim on you--why should you look at a
broken man like me? You want the other fellow...and I
don't blame you. You picked out the best when you seen
it...well, that was always my way." He fixed his stern
eyes on her, and she had the sense that the
struggle within him was at its highest. "Do you want
him to marry you?" he asked.
They stood and looked at each other for a long moment,
eye to eye, with the terrible equality of courage that
sometimes made her feel as if she had his blood in her
"Do you want him to--say? I'll have him here in an hour
if you do. I ain't been in the law thirty years for
nothing. He's hired Carrick Fry's team to take him to
Hepburn, but he ain't going to start for another hour.
And I can put things to him so he won't be long
deciding....He's soft: I could see that. I don't say
you won't be sorry afterward--but, by God, I'll give
you the chance to be, if you say so."
She heard him out in silence, too remote from all he
was feeling and saying for any sally of scorn to
relieve her. As she listened, there flitted through
her mind the vision of Liff Hyatt's muddy boot coming
down on the white bramble-flowers. The same thing had
happened now; something transient and exquisite had
flowered in her, and she had stood by and seen it
trampled to earth. While the thought passed through
her she was aware of Mr. Royall, still leaning
against the door, but crestfallen, diminished, as
though her silence were the answer he most dreaded.
"I don't want any chance you can give me: I'm glad he's
going away," she said.
He kept his place a moment longer, his hand on the
door-knob. "Charity!" he pleaded. She made no answer,
and he turned the knob and went out. She heard him
fumble with the latch of the front door, and saw him
walk down the steps. He passed out of the gate, and
his figure, stooping and heavy, receded slowly up the
For a while she remained where he had left her. She
was still trembling with the humiliation of his last
words, which rang so loud in her ears that it seemed as
though they must echo through the village, proclaiming
her a creature to lend herself to such vile
suggestions. Her shame weighed on her like a physical
oppression: the roof and walls seemed to be closing in
on her, and she was seized by the impulse to get away,
under the open sky, where there would be room to
breathe. She went to the front door, and as she did so
Lucius Harney opened it.
He looked graver and less confident than usual,
and for a moment or two neither of them spoke.
Then he held out his hand. "Are you going out?" he
asked. "May I come in?"
Her heart was beating so violently that she was afraid
to speak, and stood looking at him with tear-dilated
eyes; then she became aware of what her silence must
betray, and said quickly: "Yes: come in."
She led the way into the dining-room, and they sat down
on opposite sides of the table, the cruet-stand and
japanned bread-basket between them. Harney had laid
his straw hat on the table, and as he sat there, in his
easy-looking summer clothes, a brown tie knotted under
his flannel collar, and his smooth brown hair brushed
back from his forehead, she pictured him, as she had
seen him the night before, lying on his bed, with the
tossed locks falling into his eyes, and his bare throat
rising out of his unbuttoned shirt. He had never
seemed so remote as at the moment when that vision
flashed through her mind.
"I'm so sorry it's good-bye: I suppose you know I'm
leaving," he began, abruptly and awkwardly; she guessed
that he was wondering how much she knew of his reasons
"I presume you found your work was over quicker
than what you expected," she said.
"Well, yes--that is, no: there are plenty of things I
should have liked to do. But my holiday's limited; and
now that Mr. Royall needs the horse for himself it's
rather difficult to find means of getting about."
"There ain't any too many teams for hire around here,"
she acquiesced; and there was another silence.
"These days here have been--awfully pleasant: I wanted
to thank you for making them so," he continued, his
She could not think of any reply, and he went on:
"You've been wonderfully kind to me, and I wanted to
tell you....I wish I could think of you as happier,
less lonely....Things are sure to change for you by and
"Things don't change at North Dormer: people just get
used to them."
The answer seemed to break up the order of his
prearranged consolations, and he sat looking at her
uncertainly. Then he said, with his sweet smile:
"That's not true of you. It can't be."
The smile was like a knife-thrust through her
heart: everything in her began to tremble and
break loose. She felt her tears run over, and stood
"Well, good-bye," she said.
She was aware of his taking her hand, and of feeling
that his touch was lifeless.
"Good-bye." He turned away, and stopped on the
threshold. "You'll say good-bye for me to Verena?"
She heard the closing of the outer door and the sound
of his quick tread along the path. The latch of the
gate clicked after him.
The next morning when she arose in the cold dawn and
opened her shutters she saw a freckled boy standing on
the other side of the road and looking up at her. He
was a boy from a farm three or four miles down the
Creston road, and she wondered what he was doing there
at that hour, and why he looked so hard at her window.
When he saw her he crossed over and leaned against the
gate unconcernedly. There was no one stirring in the
house, and she threw a shawl over her night-gown and
ran down and let herself out. By the time she reached
the gate the boy was sauntering down the road,
whistling carelessly; but she saw that a letter had
been thrust between the slats and the crossbar of
the gate. She took it out and hastened back to her
The envelope bore her name, and inside was a leaf torn
from a pocket-diary.
I can't go away like this. I am staying for a few days
at Creston River. Will you come down and meet me at
Creston pool? I will wait for you till evening.
CHARITY sat before the mirror trying on a hat which
Ally Hawes, with much secrecy, had trimmed for her. It
was of white straw, with a drooping brim and cherry-
coloured lining that made her face glow like the inside
of the shell on the parlour mantelpiece.
She propped the square of looking-glass against Mr.
Royall's black leather Bible, steadying it in front
with a white stone on which a view of the Brooklyn
Bridge was painted; and she sat before her reflection,
bending the brim this way and that, while Ally Hawes's
pale face looked over her shoulder like the ghost of
"I look awful, don't I?" she said at last with a happy
Ally smiled and took back the hat. "I'll stitch the
roses on right here, so's you can put it away at once."
Charity laughed, and ran her fingers through her rough
dark hair. She knew that Harney liked to see its
reddish edges ruffled about her forehead and breaking
into little rings at the nape. She sat down on her bed
and watched Ally stoop over the hat with a careful
"Don't you ever feel like going down to Nettleton for a
day?" she asked.
Ally shook her head without looking up. "No, I always
remember that awful time I went down with Julia--to
"I can't help it. The house is on the corner of Wing
Street and Lake Avenue. The trolley from the station
goes right by it, and the day the minister took us down
to see those pictures I recognized it right off, and
couldn't seem to see anything else. There's a big
black sign with gold letters all across the front--
'Private Consultations.' She came as near as anything
"Poor Julia!" Charity sighed from the height of her
purity and her security. She had a friend whom she
trusted and who respected her. She was going with him
to spend the next day--the Fourth of July--at
Nettleton. Whose business was it but hers, and what
was the harm? The pity of it was that girls like Julia
did not know how to choose, and to keep bad
fellows at a distance....Charity slipped down from the
bed, and stretched out her hands.
"Is it sewed? Let me try it on again." She put the hat
on, and smiled at her image. The thought of Julia had
The next morning she was up before dawn, and saw the
yellow sunrise broaden behind the hills, and the
silvery luster preceding a hot day tremble across the
Her plans had been made with great care. She had
announced that she was going down to the Band of Hope
picnic at Hepburn, and as no one else from North Dormer
intended to venture so far it was not likely that her
absence from the festivity would be reported. Besides,
if it were she would not greatly care. She was
determined to assert her independence, and if she
stooped to fib about the Hepburn picnic it was chiefly
from the secretive instinct that made her dread the
profanation of her happiness. Whenever she was with
Lucius Harney she would have liked some impenetrable
mountain mist to hide her.
It was arranged that she should walk to a point of
the Creston road where Harney was to pick her up and
drive her across the hills to Hepburn in time for the
nine-thirty train to Nettleton. Harney at first had
been rather lukewarm about the trip. He declared
himself ready to take her to Nettleton, but urged her
not to go on the Fourth of July, on account of the
crowds, the probable lateness of the trains, the
difficulty of her getting back before night; but her
evident disappointment caused him to give way, and even
to affect a faint enthusiasm for the adventure. She
understood why he was not more eager: he must have seen
sights beside which even a Fourth of July at Nettleton
would seem tame. But she had never seen anything; and
a great longing possessed her to walk the streets of a
big town on a holiday, clinging to his arm and jostled
by idle crowds in their best clothes. The only cloud
on the prospect was the fact that the shops would be
closed; but she hoped he would take her back another
day, when they were open.
She started out unnoticed in the early sunlight,
slipping through the kitchen while Verena bent above
the stove. To avoid attracting notice, she carried her
new hat carefully wrapped up, and had thrown a long
grey veil of Mrs. Royall's over the new white
muslin dress which Ally's clever fingers had made for
her. All of the ten dollars Mr. Royall had given her,
and a part of her own savings as well, had been spent
on renewing her wardrobe; and when Harney jumped out of
the buggy to meet her she read her reward in his eyes.
The freckled boy who had brought her the note two weeks
earlier was to wait with the buggy at Hepburn till
their return. He perched at Charity's feet, his legs
dangling between the wheels, and they could not say
much because of his presence. But it did not greatly
matter, for their past was now rich enough to have
given them a private language; and with the long day
stretching before them like the blue distance beyond
the hills there was a delicate pleasure in
When Charity, in response to Harney's message, had gone
to meet him at the Creston pool her heart had been so
full of mortification and anger that his first words
might easily have estranged her. But it happened that
he had found the right word, which was one of simple
friendship. His tone had instantly justified her, and
put her guardian in the wrong. He had made no allusion
to what had passed between Mr. Royall and himself, but
had simply let it appear that he had left because
means of conveyance were hard to find at North Dormer,
and because Creston River was a more convenient centre.
He told her that he had hired by the week the buggy of
the freckled boy's father, who served as livery-stable
keeper to one or two melancholy summer boarding-houses
on Creston Lake, and had discovered, within driving
distance, a number of houses worthy of his pencil; and
he said that he could not, while he was in the
neighbourhood, give up the pleasure of seeing her as
often as possible.
When they took leave of each other she promised to
continue to be his guide; and during the fortnight
which followed they roamed the hills in happy
comradeship. In most of the village friendships
between youths and maidens lack of conversation was
made up for by tentative fondling; but Harney, except
when he had tried to comfort her in her trouble on
their way back from the Hyatts', had never put his arm
about her, or sought to betray her into any sudden
caress. It seemed to be enough for him to breathe her
nearness like a flower's; and since his pleasure at
being with her, and his sense of her youth and her
grace, perpetually shone in his eyes and softened
the inflection of his voice, his reserve did not
suggest coldness, but the deference due to a girl of
his own class.
The buggy was drawn by an old trotter who whirled them
along so briskly that the pace created a little breeze;
but when they reached Hepburn the full heat of the
airless morning descended on them. At the railway
station the platform was packed with a sweltering
throng, and they took refuge in the waiting-room, where
there was another throng, already dejected by the heat
and the long waiting for retarded trains. Pale mothers
were struggling with fretful babies, or trying to keep
their older offspring from the fascination of the
track; girls and their "fellows" were giggling and
shoving, and passing about candy in sticky bags, and
older men, collarless and perspiring, were shifting
heavy children from one arm to the other, and keeping a
haggard eye on the scattered members of their families.
At last the train rumbled in, and engulfed the waiting
multitude. Harney swept Charity up on to the first car
and they captured a bench for two, and sat in happy
isolation while the train swayed and roared along
through rich fields and languid tree-clumps. The
haze of the morning had become a sort of clear tremor
over everything, like the colourless vibration about a
flame; and the opulent landscape seemed to droop under
it. But to Charity the heat was a stimulant: it
enveloped the whole world in the same glow that burned
at her heart. Now and then a lurch of the train flung
her against Harney, and through her thin muslin she
felt the touch of his sleeve. She steadied herself,
their eyes met, and the flaming breath of the day
seemed to enclose them.
The train roared into the Nettleton station, the
descending mob caught them on its tide, and they were
swept out into a vague dusty square thronged with seedy
"hacks" and long curtained omnibuses drawn by horses
with tasselled fly-nets over their withers, who stood
swinging their depressed heads drearily from side to
A mob of 'bus and hack drivers were shouting "To the
Eagle House," "To the Washington House," "This way to
the Lake," "Just starting for Greytop;" and through
their yells came the popping of fire-crackers, the
explosion of torpedoes, the banging of toy-guns, and
the crash of a firemen's band trying to play the Merry
Widow while they were being packed into a
waggonette streaming with bunting.
The ramshackle wooden hotels about the square were all
hung with flags and paper lanterns, and as Harney and
Charity turned into the main street, with its brick and
granite business blocks crowding out the old low-
storied shops, and its towering poles strung with
innumerable wires that seemed to tremble and buzz in
the heat, they saw the double line of flags and
lanterns tapering away gaily to the park at the other
end of the perspective. The noise and colour of this
holiday vision seemed to transform Nettleton into a
metropolis. Charity could not believe that Springfield
or even Boston had anything grander to show, and she
wondered if, at this very moment, Annabel Balch, on the
arm of as brilliant a young man, were threading her way
through scenes as resplendent.
"Where shall we go first?" Harney asked; but as she
turned her happy eyes on him he guessed the answer and
said: "We'll take a look round, shall we?"
The street swarmed with their fellow-travellers, with
other excursionists arriving from other directions,
with Nettleton's own population, and with the
mill-hands trooping in from the factories on the
Creston. The shops were closed, but one would scarcely
have noticed it, so numerous were the glass doors
swinging open on saloons, on restaurants, on drug-
stores gushing from every soda-water tap, on fruit and
confectionery shops stacked with strawberry-cake,
cocoanut drops, trays of glistening molasses candy,
boxes of caramels and chewing-gum, baskets of sodden
strawberries, and dangling branches of bananas. Outside
of some of the doors were trestles with banked-up
oranges and apples, spotted pears and dusty
raspberries; and the air reeked with the smell of fruit
and stale coffee, beer and sarsaparilla and fried
Even the shops that were closed offered, through wide
expanses of plate-glass, hints of hidden riches. In
some, waves of silk and ribbon broke over shores of
imitation moss from which ravishing hats rose like
tropical orchids. In others, the pink throats of
gramophones opened their giant convolutions in a
soundless chorus; or bicycles shining in neat ranks
seemed to await the signal of an invisible starter; or
tiers of fancy-goods in leatherette and paste and
celluloid dangled their insidious graces; and, in one
vast bay that seemed to project them into exciting
contact with the public, wax ladies in daring
dresses chatted elegantly, or, with gestures intimate
yet blameless, pointed to their pink corsets and
Presently Harney found that his watch had stopped, and
turned in at a small jeweller's shop which chanced to
still be open. While the watch was being examined
Charity leaned over the glass counter where, on a
background of dark blue velvet, pins, rings, and
brooches glittered like the moon and stars. She had
never seen jewellry so near by, and she longed to lift
the glass lid and plunge her hand among the shining
treasures. But already Harney's watch was repaired,
and he laid his hand on her arm and drew her from her
"Which do you like best?" he asked leaning over the
counter at her side.
"I don't know...." She pointed to a gold lily-of-the-
valley with white flowers.
"Don't you think the blue pin's better?" he suggested,
and immediately she saw that the lily of the valley was
mere trumpery compared to the small round stone, blue
as a mountain lake, with little sparks of light all
round it. She coloured at her want of discrimination.
"It's so lovely I guess I was afraid to look at
it," she said.
He laughed, and they went out of the shop; but a few
steps away he exclaimed: "Oh, by Jove, I forgot
something," and turned back and left her in the crowd.
She stood staring down a row of pink gramophone throats
till he rejoined her and slipped his arm through hers.
"You mustn't be afraid of looking at the blue pin any
longer, because it belongs to you," he said; and she
felt a little box being pressed into her hand. Her
heart gave a leap of joy, but it reached her lips only
in a shy stammer. She remembered other girls whom she
had heard planning to extract presents from their
fellows, and was seized with a sudden dread lest Harney
should have imagined that she had leaned over the
pretty things in the glass case in the hope of having
one given to her....
A little farther down the street they turned in at a
glass doorway opening on a shining hall with a mahogany
staircase, and brass cages in its corners. "We must
have something to eat," Harney said; and the next
moment Charity found herself in a dressing-room all
looking-glass and lustrous surfaces, where a party of
showy-looking girls were dabbing on powder and
straightening immense plumed hats. When they had gone
she took courage to bathe her hot face in one of the
marble basins, and to straighten her own hat-brim,
which the parasols of the crowd had indented. The
dresses in the shops had so impressed her that she
scarcely dared look at her reflection; but when she did
so, the glow of her face under her cherry-coloured hat,
and the curve of her young shoulders through the
transparent muslin, restored her courage; and when she
had taken the blue brooch from its box and pinned it on
her bosom she walked toward the restaurant with her
head high, as if she had always strolled through
tessellated halls beside young men in flannels.
Her spirit sank a little at the sight of the slim-
waisted waitresses in black, with bewitching mob-caps
on their haughty heads, who were moving disdainfully
between the tables. "Not f'r another hour," one of them
dropped to Harney in passing; and he stood doubtfully
glancing about him.
"Oh, well, we can't stay sweltering here," he decided;
"let's try somewhere else--" and with a sense of relief
Charity followed him from that scene of inhospitable
That "somewhere else" turned out--after more hot
tramping, and several failures--to be, of all things, a
little open-air place in a back street that called
itself a French restaurant, and consisted in two or
three rickety tables under a scarlet-runner, between a
patch of zinnias and petunias and a big elm bending
over from the next yard. Here they lunched on queerly
flavoured things, while Harney, leaning back in a
crippled rocking-chair, smoked cigarettes between the
courses and poured into Charity's glass a pale yellow
wine which he said was the very same one drank in just
such jolly places in France.
Charity did not think the wine as good as sarsaparilla,
but she sipped a mouthful for the pleasure of doing
what he did, and of fancying herself alone with him in
foreign countries. The illusion was increased by their
being served by a deep-bosomed woman with smooth hair
and a pleasant laugh, who talked to Harney in
unintelligible words, and seemed amazed and overjoyed
at his answering her in kind. At the other tables
other people sat, mill-hands probably, homely but
pleasant looking, who spoke the same shrill jargon, and
looked at Harney and Charity with friendly eyes; and
between the table-legs a poodle with bald patches
and pink eyes nosed about for scraps, and sat up on his
hind legs absurdly.
Harney showed no inclination to move, for hot as their
corner was, it was at least shaded and quiet; and, from
the main thoroughfares came the clanging of trolleys,
the incessant popping of torpedoes, the jingle of
street-organs, the bawling of megaphone men and the
loud murmur of increasing crowds. He leaned back,
smoking his cigar, patting the dog, and stirring the
coffee that steamed in their chipped cups. "It's the
real thing, you know," he explained; and Charity
hastily revised her previous conception of the
They had made no plans for the rest of the day, and
when Harney asked her what she wanted to do next she
was too bewildered by rich possibilities to find an
answer. Finally she confessed that she longed to go to
the Lake, where she had not been taken on her former
visit, and when he answered, "Oh, there's time for
that--it will be pleasanter later," she suggested
seeing some pictures like the ones Mr. Miles had taken
her to. She thought Harney looked a little
disconcerted; but he passed his fine handkerchief over
his warm brow, said gaily, "Come along, then," and
rose with a last pat for the pink-eyed dog.
Mr. Miles's pictures had been shown in an austere
Y.M.C.A. hall, with white walls and an organ; but
Harney led Charity to a glittering place--everything
she saw seemed to glitter--where they passed, between
immense pictures of yellow-haired beauties stabbing
villains in evening dress, into a velvet-curtained
auditorium packed with spectators to the last limit of
compression. After that, for a while, everything was
merged in her brain in swimming circles of heat and
blinding alternations of light and darkness. All the
world has to show seemed to pass before her in a chaos
of palms and minarets, charging cavalry regiments,
roaring lions, comic policemen and scowling murderers;
and the crowd around her, the hundreds of hot sallow
candy-munching faces, young, old, middle-aged, but all
kindled with the same contagious excitement, became
part of the spectacle, and danced on the screen with
Presently the thought of the cool trolley-run to the
Lake grew irresistible, and they struggled out of the
theatre. As they stood on the pavement, Harney pale
with the heat, and even Charity a little confused
by it, a young man drove by in an electric run-about
with a calico band bearing the words: "Ten dollars to
take you round the Lake." Before Charity knew what was
happening, Harney had waved a hand, and they were
climbing in. "Say, for twenny-five I'll run you out to
see the ball-game and back," the driver proposed with
an insinuating grin; but Charity said quickly: "Oh, I'd
rather go rowing on the Lake." The street was so
thronged that progress was slow; but the glory of
sitting in the little carriage while it wriggled its
way between laden omnibuses and trolleys made the
moments seem too short. "Next turn is Lake Avenue,"
the young man called out over his shoulder; and as they
paused in the wake of a big omnibus groaning with
Knights of Pythias in cocked hats and swords, Charity
looked up and saw on the corner a brick house with a
conspicuous black and gold sign across its front. "Dr.
Merkle; Private Consultations at all hours. Lady
Attendants," she read; and suddenly she remembered Ally
Hawes's words: "The house was at the corner of Wing
Street and Lake Avenue...there's a big black sign
across the front...." Through all the heat and the
rapture a shiver of cold ran over her.
THE Lake at last--a sheet of shining metal brooded over
by drooping trees. Charity and Harney had secured a
boat and, getting away from the wharves and the
refreshment-booths, they drifted idly along, hugging
the shadow of the shore. Where the sun struck the
water its shafts flamed back blindingly at the heat-
veiled sky; and the least shade was black by contrast.
The Lake was so smooth that the reflection of the trees
on its edge seemed enamelled on a solid surface; but
gradually, as the sun declined, the water grew
transparent, and Charity, leaning over, plunged her
fascinated gaze into depths so clear that she saw the
inverted tree-tops interwoven with the green growths of
They rounded a point at the farther end of the Lake,
and entering an inlet pushed their bow against a
protruding tree-trunk. A green veil of willows
overhung them. Beyond the trees, wheat-fields sparkled
in the sun; and all along the horizon the clear
hills throbbed with light. Charity leaned back in the
stern, and Harney unshipped the oars and lay in the
bottom of the boat without speaking.
Ever since their meeting at the Creston pool he had
been subject to these brooding silences, which were as
different as possible from the pauses when they ceased
to speak because words were needless. At such times
his face wore the expression she had seen on it when
she had looked in at him from the darkness and again
there came over her a sense of the mysterious distance
between them; but usually his fits of abstraction were
followed by bursts of gaiety that chased away the
shadow before it chilled her.
She was still thinking of the ten dollars he had handed
to the driver of the run-about. It had given them
twenty minutes of pleasure, and it seemed unimaginable
that anyone should be able to buy amusement at that
rate. With ten dollars he might have bought her an
engagement ring; she knew that Mrs. Tom Fry's, which
came from Springfield, and had a diamond in it, had
cost only eight seventy-five. But she did not know why
the thought had occurred to her. Harney would never
buy her an engagement ring: they were friends and
comrades, but no more. He had been perfectly fair to
her: he had never said a word to mislead her. She
wondered what the girl was like whose hand was waiting
for his ring....
Boats were beginning to thicken on the Lake and the
clang of incessantly arriving trolleys announced the
return of the crowds from the ball-field. The shadows
lengthened across the pearl-grey water and two white
clouds near the sun were turning golden. On the
opposite shore men were hammering hastily at a wooden
scaffolding in a field. Charity asked what it was for.
"Why, the fireworks. I suppose there'll be a big
show." Harney looked at her and a smile crept into his
moody eyes. "Have you never seen any good fireworks?"
"Miss Hatchard always sends up lovely rockets on the
Fourth," she answered doubtfully.
"Oh----" his contempt was unbounded. "I mean a big
performance like this, illuminated boats, and all the
She flushed at the picture. "Do they send them up from
the Lake, too?"
"Rather. Didn't you notice that big raft we
passed? It's wonderful to see the rockets
completing their orbits down under one's feet." She
said nothing, and he put the oars into the rowlocks.
"If we stay we'd better go and pick up something to
"But how can we get back afterwards?" she ventured,
feeling it would break her heart if she missed it.
He consulted a time-table, found a ten o'clock train
and reassured her. "The moon rises so late that it
will be dark by eight, and we'll have over an hour of
Twilight fell, and lights began to show along the
shore. The trolleys roaring out from Nettleton became
great luminous serpents coiling in and out among the
trees. The wooden eating-houses at the Lake's edge
danced with lanterns, and the dusk echoed with laughter
and shouts and the clumsy splashing of oars.
Harney and Charity had found a table in the corner of a
balcony built over the Lake, and were patiently
awaiting an unattainable chowder. Close under them the
water lapped the piles, agitated by the evolutions of a
little white steamboat trellised with coloured globes
which was to run passengers up and down the Lake.
It was already black with them as it sheered off on its
Suddenly Charity heard a woman's laugh behind her. The
sound was familiar, and she turned to look. A band of
showily dressed girls and dapper young men wearing
badges of secret societies, with new straw hats tilted
far back on their square-clipped hair, had invaded the
balcony and were loudly clamouring for a table. The
girl in the lead was the one who had laughed. She wore
a large hat with a long white feather, and from under
its brim her painted eyes looked at Charity with amused
"Say! if this ain't like Old Home Week," she remarked
to the girl at her elbow; and giggles and glances
passed between them. Charity knew at once that the
girl with the white feather was Julia Hawes. She had
lost her freshness, and the paint under her eyes made
her face seem thinner; but her lips had the same lovely
curve, and the same cold mocking smile, as if there
were some secret absurdity in the person she was
looking at, and she had instantly detected it.
Charity flushed to the forehead and looked away.
She felt herself humiliated by Julia's sneer, and
vexed that the mockery of such a creature should affect
her. She trembled lest Harney should notice that the
noisy troop had recognized her; but they found no table
free, and passed on tumultuously.
Presently there was a soft rush through the air and a
shower of silver fell from the blue evening sky. In
another direction, pale Roman candles shot up singly
through the trees, and a fire-haired rocket swept the
horizon like a portent. Between these intermittent
flashes the velvet curtains of the darkness were
descending, and in the intervals of eclipse the voices
of the crowds seemed to sink to smothered murmurs.
Charity and Harney, dispossessed by newcomers, were at
length obliged to give up their table and struggle
through the throng about the boat-landings. For a
while there seemed no escape from the tide of late
arrivals; but finally Harney secured the last two
places on the stand from which the more privileged were
to see the fireworks. The seats were at the end of a
row, one above the other. Charity had taken off her
hat to have an uninterrupted view; and whenever she
leaned back to follow the curve of some
dishevelled rocket she could feel Harney's knees
against her head.
After a while the scattered fireworks ceased. A longer
interval of darkness followed, and then the whole night
broke into flower. From every point of the horizon,
gold and silver arches sprang up and crossed each
other, sky-orchards broke into blossom, shed their
flaming petals and hung their branches with golden
fruit; and all the while the air was filled with a soft
supernatural hum, as though great birds were building
their nests in those invisible tree-tops.
Now and then there came a lull, and a wave of moonlight
swept the Lake. In a flash it revealed hundreds of
boats, steel-dark against lustrous ripples; then it
withdrew as if with a furling of vast translucent
wings. Charity's heart throbbed with delight. It was
as if all the latent beauty of things had been unveiled
to her. She could not imagine that the world held
anything more wonderful; but near her she heard someone
say, "You wait till you see the set piece," and
instantly her hopes took a fresh flight. At last, just
as it was beginning to seem as though the whole arch of
the sky were one great lid pressed against her dazzled
eye-balls, and striking out of them continuous
jets of jewelled light, the velvet darkness settled
down again, and a murmur of expectation ran through the
"Now--now!" the same voice said excitedly; and Charity,
grasping the hat on her knee, crushed it tight in the
effort to restrain her rapture.
For a moment the night seemed to grow more impenetrably
black; then a great picture stood out against it like a
constellation. It was surmounted by a golden scroll
bearing the inscription, "Washington crossing the
Delaware," and across a flood of motionless golden
ripples the National Hero passed, erect, solemn and
gigantic, standing with folded arms in the stern of a
slowly moving golden boat.
A long "Oh-h-h" burst from the spectators: the stand
creaked and shook with their blissful trepidations.
"Oh-h-h," Charity gasped: she had forgotten where she
was, had at last forgotten even Harney's nearness. She
seemed to have been caught up into the stars....
The picture vanished and darkness came down. In the
obscurity she felt her head clasped by two hands: her
face was drawn backward, and Harney's lips were
pressed on hers. With sudden vehemence he wound his
arms about her, holding her head against his breast
while she gave him back his kisses. An unknown Harney
had revealed himself, a Harney who dominated her and
yet over whom she felt herself possessed of a new
But the crowd was beginning to move, and he had to
release her. "Come," he said in a confused voice. He
scrambled over the side of the stand, and holding up
his arm caught her as she sprang to the ground. He
passed his arm about her waist, steadying her against
the descending rush of people; and she clung to him,
speechless, exultant, as if all the crowding and
confusion about them were a mere vain stirring of the
"Come," he repeated, "we must try to make the trolley."
He drew her along, and she followed, still in her
dream. They walked as if they were one, so isolated in
ecstasy that the people jostling them on every side
seemed impalpable. But when they reached the terminus
the illuminated trolley was already clanging on its
way, its platforms black with passengers. The cars
waiting behind it were as thickly packed; and the
throng about the terminus was so dense that it
seemed hopeless to struggle for a place.
"Last trip up the Lake," a megaphone bellowed from the
wharf; and the lights of the little steam-boat came
dancing out of the darkness.
"No use waiting here; shall we run up the Lake?" Harney
They pushed their way back to the edge of the water
just as the gang-plank lowered from the white side of
the boat. The electric light at the end of the wharf
flashed full on the descending passengers, and among
them Charity caught sight of Julia Hawes, her white
feather askew, and the face under it flushed with
coarse laughter. As she stepped from the gang-plank
she stopped short, her dark-ringed eyes darting malice.
"Hullo, Charity Royall!" she called out; and then,
looking back over her shoulder: "Didn't I tell you it
was a family party? Here's grandpa's little daughter
come to take him home!"
A snigger ran through the group; and then, towering
above them, and steadying himself by the hand-rail in a
desperate effort at erectness, Mr. Royall stepped
stiffly ashore. Like the young men of the party, he
wore a secret society emblem in the buttonhole of
his black frock-coat. His head was covered by a new
Panama hat, and his narrow black tie, half undone,
dangled down on his rumpled shirt-front. His face, a
livid brown, with red blotches of anger and lips sunken
in like an old man's, was a lamentable ruin in the
He was just behind Julia Hawes, and had one hand on her
arm; but as he left the gang-plank he freed himself,
and moved a step or two away from his companions. He
had seen Charity at once, and his glance passed slowly
from her to Harney, whose arm was still about her. He
stood staring at them, and trying to master the senile
quiver of his lips; then he drew himself up with the
tremulous majesty of drunkenness, and stretched out his
"You whore--you damn--bare-headed whore, you!" he
There was a scream of tipsy laughter from the party,
and Charity involuntarily put her hands to her head.
She remembered that her hat had fallen from her lap
when she jumped up to leave the stand; and suddenly she
had a vision of herself, hatless, dishevelled, with a
man's arm about her, confronting that drunken
crew, headed by her guardian's pitiable figure. The
picture filled her with shame. She had known since
childhood about Mr. Royall's "habits": had seen him, as
she went up to bed, sitting morosely in his office, a
bottle at his elbow; or coming home, heavy and
quarrelsome, from his business expeditions to Hepburn
or Springfield; but the idea of his associating himself
publicly with a band of disreputable girls and bar-room
loafers was new and dreadful to her.
"Oh----" she said in a gasp of misery; and releasing
herself from Harney's arm she went straight up to Mr.
"You come home with me--you come right home with me,"
she said in a low stern voice, as if she had not heard
his apostrophe; and one of the girls called out: "Say,
how many fellers does she want?"
There was another laugh, followed by a pause of
curiosity, during which Mr. Royall continued to glare
at Charity. At length his twitching lips parted. "I
said, 'You--damn--whore!'" he repeated with precision,
steadying himself on Julia's shoulder.
Laughs and jeers were beginning to spring up from the
circle of people beyond their group; and a voice called
out from the gangway: "Now, then, step lively
there--all ABOARD!" The pressure of approaching and
departing passengers forced the actors in the rapid
scene apart, and pushed them back into the throng.
Charity found herself clinging to Harney's arm and
sobbing desperately. Mr. Royall had disappeared, and
in the distance she heard the receding sound of Julia's
The boat, laden to the taffrail, was puffing away on
her last trip.
AT two o'clock in the morning the freckled boy from
Creston stopped his sleepy horse at the door of the red
house, and Charity got out. Harney had taken leave of
her at Creston River, charging the boy to drive her
home. Her mind was still in a fog of misery, and she
did not remember very clearly what had happened, or
what they said to each other, during the interminable
interval since their departure from Nettleton; but the
secretive instinct of the animal in pain was so strong
in her that she had a sense of relief when Harney got
out and she drove on alone.
The full moon hung over North Dormer, whitening the
mist that filled the hollows between the hills and
floated transparently above the fields. Charity stood
a moment at the gate, looking out into the waning
night. She watched the boy drive off, his horse's head
wagging heavily to and fro; then she went around to the
kitchen door and felt under the mat for the key. She
found it, unlocked the door and went in. The
kitchen was dark, but she discovered a box of matches,
lit a candle and went upstairs. Mr. Royall's door,
opposite hers, stood open on his unlit room; evidently
he had not come back. She went into her room, bolted
her door and began slowly to untie the ribbon about her
waist, and to take off her dress. Under the bed she
saw the paper bag in which she had hidden her new hat
from inquisitive eyes....
She lay for a long time sleepless on her bed, staring
up at the moonlight on the low ceiling; dawn was in the
sky when she fell asleep, and when she woke the sun was
on her face.
She dressed and went down to the kitchen. Verena was
there alone: she glanced at Charity tranquilly, with
her old deaf-looking eyes. There was no sign of Mr.
Royall about the house and the hours passed without his
reappearing. Charity had gone up to her room, and sat
there listlessly, her hands on her lap. Puffs of
sultry air fanned her dimity window curtains and flies
buzzed stiflingly against the bluish panes.
At one o'clock Verena hobbled up to see if she were not
coming down to dinner; but she shook her head, and
the old woman went away, saying: "I'll cover up, then."
The sun turned and left her room, and Charity seated
herself in the window, gazing down the village street
through the half-opened shutters. Not a thought was in
her mind; it was just a dark whirlpool of crowding
images; and she watched the people passing along the
street, Dan Targatt's team hauling a load of pine-
trunks down to Hepburn, the sexton's old white horse
grazing on the bank across the way, as if she looked at
these familiar sights from the other side of the grave.
She was roused from her apathy by seeing Ally Hawes
come out of the Frys' gate and walk slowly toward the
red house with her uneven limping step. At the sight
Charity recovered her severed contact with reality. She
divined that Ally was coming to hear about her day: no
one else was in the secret of the trip to Nettleton,
and it had flattered Ally profoundly to be allowed to
know of it.
At the thought of having to see her, of having to meet
her eyes and answer or evade her questions, the whole
horror of the previous night's adventure rushed back
upon Charity. What had been a feverish nightmare
became a cold and unescapable fact. Poor Ally, at that
moment, represented North Dormer, with all its mean
curiosities, its furtive malice, its sham
unconsciousness of evil. Charity knew that, although
all relations with Julia were supposed to be severed,
the tender-hearted Ally still secretly communicated
with her; and no doubt Julia would exult in the chance
of retailing the scandal of the wharf. The story,
exaggerated and distorted, was probably already on its
way to North Dormer.
Ally's dragging pace had not carried her far from the
Frys' gate when she was stopped by old Mrs. Sollas, who
was a great talker, and spoke very slowly because she
had never been able to get used to her new teeth from
Hepburn. Still, even this respite would not last long;
in another ten minutes Ally would be at the door, and
Charity would hear her greeting Verena in the kitchen,
and then calling up from the foot of the stairs.
Suddenly it became clear that flight, and instant
flight, was the only thing conceivable. The longing to
escape, to get away from familiar faces, from places
where she was known, had always been strong in her in
moments of distress. She had a childish belief in
the miraculous power of strange scenes and new faces to
transform her life and wipe out bitter memories. But
such impulses were mere fleeting whims compared to the
cold resolve which now possessed her. She felt she
could not remain an hour longer under the roof of the
man who had publicly dishonoured her, and face to face
with the people who would presently be gloating over
all the details of her humiliation.
Her passing pity for Mr. Royall had been swallowed up
in loathing: everything in her recoiled from the
disgraceful spectacle of the drunken old man
apostrophizing her in the presence of a band of loafers
and street-walkers. Suddenly, vividly, she relived
again the horrible moment when he had tried to force
himself into her room, and what she had before supposed
to be a mad aberration now appeared to her as a vulgar
incident in a debauched and degraded life.
While these thoughts were hurrying through her she had
dragged out her old canvas school-bag, and was
thrusting into it a few articles of clothing and the
little packet of letters she had received from Harney.
From under her pincushion she took the library key, and
laid it in full view; then she felt at the back of
a drawer for the blue brooch that Harney had given her.
She would not have dared to wear it openly at North
Dormer, but now she fastened it on her bosom as if it
were a talisman to protect her in her flight. These
preparations had taken but a few minutes, and when they
were finished Ally Hawes was still at the Frys' corner
talking to old Mrs. Sollas....
She had said to herself, as she always said in moments
of revolt: "I'll go to the Mountain--I'll go back to my
own folks." She had never really meant it before; but
now, as she considered her case, no other course seemed
open. She had never learned any trade that would have
given her independence in a strange place, and she knew
no one in the big towns of the valley, where she might
have hoped to find employment. Miss Hatchard was still
away; but even had she been at North Dormer she was the
last person to whom Charity would have turned, since
one of the motives urging her to flight was the wish
not to see Lucius Harney. Travelling back from
Nettleton, in the crowded brightly-lit train, all
exchange of confidence between them had been
impossible; but during their drive from Hepburn to
Creston River she had gathered from Harney's snatches
of consolatory talk--again hampered by the freckled
boy's presence--that he intended to see her the next
day. At the moment she had found a vague comfort in
the assurance; but in the desolate lucidity of the
hours that followed she had come to see the
impossibility of meeting him again. Her dream of
comradeship was over; and the scene on the wharf--vile
and disgraceful as it had been--had after all shed the
light of truth on her minute of madness. It was as if
her guardian's words had stripped her bare in the face
of the grinning crowd and proclaimed to the world the
secret admonitions of her conscience.
She did not think these things out clearly; she simply
followed the blind propulsion of her wretchedness. She
did not want, ever again, to see anyone she had known;
above all, she did not want to see Harney....
She climbed the hill-path behind the house and struck
through the woods by a short-cut leading to the Creston
road. A lead-coloured sky hung heavily over the
fields, and in the forest the motionless air was
stifling; but she pushed on, impatient to reach
the road which was the shortest way to the Mountain.
To do so, she had to follow the Creston road for a mile
or two, and go within half a mile of the village; and
she walked quickly, fearing to meet Harney. But there