Part 4 out of 4
guilt." There was no sense of guilt in her now, but
only a desperate desire to defend her secret from
irreverent eyes, and begin life again among people to
whom the harsh code of the village was unknown. The
impulse did not shape itself in thought: she only knew
she must save her baby, and hide herself with it
somewhere where no one would ever come to trouble them.
She walked on and on, growing more heavy-footed as the
day advanced. It seemed a cruel chance that compelled
her to retrace every step of the way to the deserted
house; and when she came in sight of the orchard, and
the silver-gray roof slanting crookedly through the
laden branches, her strength failed her and she sat
down by the road-side. She sat there a long time,
trying to gather the courage to start again, and walk
past the broken gate and the untrimmed rose-bushes
strung with scarlet hips. A few drops of rain were
falling, and she thought of the warm evenings when
she and Harney had sat embraced in the shadowy room,
and the noise of summer showers on the roof had rustled
through their kisses. At length she understood that if
she stayed any longer the rain might compel her to take
shelter in the house overnight, and she got up and
walked on, averting her eyes as she came abreast of the
white gate and the tangled garden.
The hours wore on, and she walked more and more slowly,
pausing now and then to rest, and to eat a little bread
and an apple picked up from the roadside. Her body
seemed to grow heavier with every yard of the way, and
she wondered how she would be able to carry her child
later, if already he laid such a burden on her....A
fresh wind had sprung up, scattering the rain and
blowing down keenly from the mountain. Presently the
clouds lowered again, and a few white darts struck her
in the face: it was the first snow falling over
Hamblin. The roofs of the lonely village were only
half a mile ahead, and she was resolved to push beyond
it, and try to reach the Mountain that night. She had
no clear plan of action, except that, once in the
settlement, she meant to look for Liff Hyatt, and get
him to take her to her mother. She herself had
been born as her own baby was going to be born; and
whatever her mother's subsequent life had been, she
could hardly help remembering the past, and receiving a
daughter who was facing the trouble she had known.
Suddenly the deadly faintness came over her once more
and she sat down on the bank and leaned her head
against a tree-trunk. The long road and the cloudy
landscape vanished from her eyes, and for a time she
seemed to be circling about in some terrible wheeling
darkness. Then that too faded.
She opened her eyes, and saw a buggy drawn up beside
her, and a man who had jumped down from it and was
gazing at her with a puzzled face. Slowly
consciousness came back, and she saw that the man was
She was dimly aware that he was asking her something,
and she looked at him in silence, trying to find
strength to speak. At length her voice stirred in her
throat, and she said in a whisper: "I'm going up the
"Up the Mountain?" he repeated, drawing aside a little;
and as he moved she saw behind him, in the buggy, a
heavily coated figure with a familiar pink face
and gold spectacles on the bridge of a Grecian nose.
"Charity! What on earth are you doing here?" Mr. Miles
exclaimed, throwing the reins on the horse's back and
scrambling down from the buggy.
She lifted her heavy eyes to his. "I'm going to see my
The two men glanced at each other, and for a moment
neither of them spoke.
Then Mr. Miles said: "You look ill, my dear, and it's a
long way. Do you think it's wise?"
Charity stood up. "I've got to go to her."
A vague mirthless grin contracted Liff Hyatt's face,
and Mr. Miles again spoke uncertainly. "You know,
then--you'd been told?"
She stared at him. "I don't know what you mean. I
want to go to her."
Mr. Miles was examining her thoughtfully. She fancied
she saw a change in his expression, and the blood
rushed to her forehead. "I just want to go to her,"
He laid his hand on her arm. "My child, your mother is
dying. Liff Hyatt came down to fetch me....Get in and
come with us."
He helped her up to the seat at his side, Liff
Hyatt clambered in at the back, and they drove off
toward Hamblin. At first Charity had hardly grasped
what Mr. Miles was saying; the physical relief of
finding herself seated in the buggy, and securely on
her road to the Mountain, effaced the impression of his
words. But as her head cleared she began to
understand. She knew the Mountain had but the most
infrequent intercourse with the valleys; she had often
enough heard it said that no one ever went up there
except the minister, when someone was dying. And now
it was her mother who was dying...and she would find
herself as much alone on the Mountain as anywhere else
in the world. The sense of unescapable isolation was
all she could feel for the moment; then she began to
wonder at the strangeness of its being Mr. Miles who
had undertaken to perform this grim errand. He did not
seem in the least like the kind of man who would care
to go up the Mountain. But here he was at her side,
guiding the horse with a firm hand, and bending on her
the kindly gleam of his spectacles, as if there were
nothing unusual in their being together in such
For a while she found it impossible to speak, and he
seemed to understand this, and made no attempt to
question her. But presently she felt her tears rise
and flow down over her drawn cheeks; and he must have
seen them too, for he laid his hand on hers, and said
in a low voice: "Won't you tell me what is troubling
She shook her head, and he did not insist: but after a
while he said, in the same low tone, so that they
should not be overheard: "Charity, what do you know of
your childhood, before you came down to North Dormer?"
She controlled herself, and answered: "Nothing only
what I heard Mr. Royall say one day. He said he
brought me down because my father went to prison."
"And you've never been up there since?"
Mr. Miles was silent again, then he said: "I'm glad
you're coming with me now. Perhaps we may find your
mother alive, and she may know that you have come."
They had reached Hamblin, where the snow-flurry had
left white patches in the rough grass on the roadside,
and in the angles of the roofs facing north. It was a
poor bleak village under the granite flank of the
Mountain, and as soon as they left it they began
to climb. The road was steep and full of ruts, and
the horse settled down to a walk while they mounted and
mounted, the world dropping away below them in great
mottled stretches of forest and field, and stormy dark
Charity had often had visions of this ascent of the
Mountain but she had not known it would reveal so wide
a country, and the sight of those strange lands
reaching away on every side gave her a new sense of
Harney's remoteness. She knew he must be miles and
miles beyond the last range of hills that seemed to be
the outmost verge of things, and she wondered how she
had ever dreamed of going to New York to find him....
As the road mounted the country grew bleaker, and they
drove across fields of faded mountain grass bleached by
long months beneath the snow. In the hollows a few
white birches trembled, or a mountain ash lit its
scarlet clusters; but only a scant growth of pines
darkened the granite ledges. The wind was blowing
fiercely across the open slopes; the horse faced it
with bent head and straining flanks, and now and then
the buggy swayed so that Charity had to clutch its
Mr. Miles had not spoken again; he seemed to
understand that she wanted to be left alone.
After a while the track they were following forked, and
he pulled up the horse, as if uncertain of the way.
Liff Hyatt craned his head around from the back, and
shouted against the wind: "Left----" and they turned
into a stunted pine-wood and began to drive down the
other side of the Mountain.
A mile or two farther on they came out on a clearing
where two or three low houses lay in stony fields,
crouching among the rocks as if to brace themselves
against the wind. They were hardly more than sheds,
built of logs and rough boards, with tin stove-pipes
sticking out of their roofs. The sun was setting, and
dusk had already fallen on the lower world, but a
yellow glare still lay on the lonely hillside and the
crouching houses. The next moment it faded and left
the landscape in dark autumn twilight.
"Over there," Liff called out, stretching his long arm
over Mr. Miles's shoulder. The clergyman turned to the
left, across a bit of bare ground overgrown with docks
and nettles, and stopped before the most ruinous of the
sheds. A stove-pipe reached its crooked arm out of one
window, and the broken panes of the other were stuffed
with rags and paper.
In contrast to such a dwelling the brown house in
the swamp might have stood for the home of plenty.
As the buggy drew up two or three mongrel dogs jumped
out of the twilight with a great barking, and a young
man slouched to the door and stood there staring. In
the twilight Charity saw that his face had the same
sodden look as Bash Hyatt's, the day she had seen him
sleeping by the stove. He made no effort to silence
the dogs, but leaned in the door, as if roused from a
drunken lethargy, while Mr. Miles got out of the buggy.
"Is it here?" the clergyman asked Liff in a low voice;
and Liff nodded.
Mr. Miles turned to Charity. "Just hold the horse a
minute, my dear: I'll go in first," he said, putting
the reins in her hands. She took them passively, and
sat staring straight ahead of her at the darkening
scene while Mr. Miles and Liff Hyatt went up to the
house. They stood a few minutes talking with the man
in the door, and then Mr. Miles came back. As he came
close, Charity saw that his smooth pink face wore a
frightened solemn look.
"Your mother is dead, Charity; you'd better come with
me," he said.
She got down and followed him while Liff led the
horse away. As she approached the door she said
to herself: "This is where I was born...this is where I
belong...." She had said it to herself often enough as
she looked across the sunlit valleys at the Mountain;
but it had meant nothing then, and now it had become a
reality. Mr. Miles took her gently by the arm, and
they entered what appeared to be the only room in the
house. It was so dark that she could just discern a
group of a dozen people sitting or sprawling about a
table made of boards laid across two barrels. They
looked up listlessly as Mr. Miles and Charity came in,
and a woman's thick voice said: "Here's the preacher."
But no one moved.
Mr. Miles paused and looked about him; then he turned
to the young man who had met them at the door.
"Is the body here?" he asked.
The young man, instead of answering, turned his head
toward the group. "Where's the candle? I tole yer to
bring a candle," he said with sudden harshness to a
girl who was lolling against the table. She did not
answer, but another man got up and took from some
corner a candle stuck into a bottle.
"How'll I light it? The stove's out," the girl
Mr. Miles fumbled under his heavy wrappings and drew
out a match-box. He held a match to the candle, and in
a moment or two a faint circle of light fell on the
pale aguish heads that started out of the shadow like
the heads of nocturnal animals.
"Mary's over there," someone said; and Mr. Miles,
taking the bottle in his hand, passed behind the table.
Charity followed him, and they stood before a mattress
on the floor in a corner of the room. A woman lay on
it, but she did not look like a dead woman; she seemed
to have fallen across her squalid bed in a drunken
sleep, and to have been left lying where she fell, in
her ragged disordered clothes. One arm was flung above
her head, one leg drawn up under a torn skirt that left
the other bare to the knee: a swollen glistening leg
with a ragged stocking rolled down about the ankle. The
woman lay on her back, her eyes staring up unblinkingly
at the candle that trembled in Mr. Miles's hand.
"She jus' dropped off," a woman said, over the shoulder
of the others; and the young man added: "I jus' come in
and found her."
An elderly man with lank hair and a feeble grin
pushed between them. "It was like this: I says to her
on'y the night before: if you don't take and quit, I
says to her..."
Someone pulled him back and sent him reeling against a
bench along the wall, where he dropped down muttering
his unheeded narrative.
There was a silence; then the young woman who had been
lolling against the table suddenly parted the group,
and stood in front of Charity. She was healthier and
robuster looking than the others, and her weather-
beaten face had a certain sullen beauty.
"Who's the girl? Who brought her here?" she said,
fixing her eyes mistrustfully on the young man who had
rebuked her for not having a candle ready.
Mr. Miles spoke. "I brought her; she is Mary Hyatt's
"What? Her too?" the girl sneered; and the young man
turned on her with an oath. "Shut your mouth, damn
you, or get out of here," he said; then he relapsed
into his former apathy, and dropped down on the bench,
leaning his head against the wall.
Mr. Miles had set the candle on the floor and taken off
his heavy coat. He turned to Charity. "Come and help
me," he said.
He knelt down by the mattress, and pressed the
lids over the dead woman's eyes. Charity, trembling
and sick, knelt beside him, and tried to compose her
mother's body. She drew the stocking over the dreadful
glistening leg, and pulled the skirt down to the
battered upturned boots. As she did so, she looked at
her mother's face, thin yet swollen, with lips parted
in a frozen gasp above the broken teeth. There was no
sign in it of anything human: she lay there like a
dead dog in a ditch Charity's hands grew cold as they
Mr. Miles drew the woman's arms across her breast and
laid his coat over her. Then he covered her face with
his handkerchief, and placed the bottle with the candle
in it at her head. Having done this he stood up.
"Is there no coffin?" he asked, turning to the group
There was a moment of bewildered silence; then the
fierce girl spoke up. "You'd oughter brought it with
you. Where'd we get one here, I'd like ter know?"
Mr. Miles, looking at the others, repeated: "Is it
possible you have no coffin ready?"
"That's what I say: them that has it sleeps
better," an old woman murmured. "But then she
never had no bed...."
"And the stove warn't hers," said the lank-haired man,
on the defensive.
Mr. Miles turned away from them and moved a few steps
apart. He had drawn a book from his pocket, and after
a pause he opened it and began to read, holding the
book at arm's length and low down, so that the pages
caught the feeble light. Charity had remained on her
knees by the mattress: now that her mother's face was
covered it was easier to stay near her, and avoid the
sight of the living faces which too horribly showed by
what stages hers had lapsed into death.
"I am the Resurrection and the Life," Mr. Miles began;
"he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet
shall he live....Though after my skin worms destroy my
body, yet in my flesh shall I see God...."
IN MY FLESH SHALL I SEE GOD! Charity thought of the
gaping mouth and stony eyes under the handkerchief, and
of the glistening leg over which she had drawn the
"We brought nothing into this world and we shall take
nothing out of it----"
There was a sudden muttering and a scuffle at the
back of the group. "I brought the stove," said the
elderly man with lank hair, pushing his way between the
others. "I wen' down to Creston'n bought it...n' I got
a right to take it outer here...n' I'll lick any feller
says I ain't...."
"Sit down, damn you!" shouted the tall youth who had
been drowsing on the bench against the wall.
"For man walketh in a vain shadow, and disquieteth
himself in vain; he heapeth up riches and cannot tell
who shall gather them...."
"Well, it ARE his," a woman in the background
interjected in a frightened whine.
The tall youth staggered to his feet. "If you don't
hold your mouths I'll turn you all out o' here, the
whole lot of you," he cried with many oaths. "G'wan,
minister...don't let 'em faze you...."
"Now is Christ risen from the dead and become the
first-fruits of them that slept....Behold, I show you a
mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be
changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at
the last trump....For this corruptible must put on
incorruption and this mortal must put on immortality.
So when this corruption shall have put on
incorruption, and when this mortal shall have put on
immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying
that is written, Death is swallowed up in Victory...."
One by one the mighty words fell on Charity's bowed
head, soothing the horror, subduing the tumult,
mastering her as they mastered the drink-dazed
creatures at her back. Mr. Miles read to the last
word, and then closed the book.
"Is the grave ready?" he asked.
Liff Hyatt, who had come in while he was reading,
nodded a "Yes," and pushed forward to the side of the
mattress. The young man on the bench who seemed to
assert some sort of right of kinship with the dead
woman, got to his feet again, and the proprietor of the
stove joined him. Between them they raised up the
mattress; but their movements were unsteady, and the
coat slipped to the floor, revealing the poor body in
its helpless misery. Charity, picking up the coat,
covered her mother once more. Liff had brought a
lantern, and the old woman who had already spoken took
it up, and opened the door to let the little procession
pass out. The wind had dropped, and the night was very
dark and bitterly cold. The old woman walked
ahead, the lantern shaking in her hand and
spreading out before her a pale patch of dead grass and
coarse-leaved weeds enclosed in an immensity of
Mr. Miles took Charity by the arm, and side by side
they walked behind the mattress. At length the old
woman with the lantern stopped, and Charity saw the
light fall on the stooping shoulders of the bearers and
on a ridge of upheaved earth over which they were
bending. Mr. Miles released her arm and approached the
hollow on the other side of the ridge; and while the
men stooped down, lowering the mattress into the grave,
he began to speak again.
"Man that is born of woman hath but a short time to
live and is full of misery....He cometh up and is cut
down...he fleeth as it were a shadow....Yet, O Lord God
most holy, O Lord most mighty, O holy and merciful
Saviour, deliver us not into the bitter pains of
"Easy there...is she down?" piped the claimant to the
stove; and the young man called over his shoulder:
"Lift the light there, can't you?"
There was a pause, during which the light floated
uncertainly over the open grave. Someone bent
over and pulled out Mr. Miles's coat----("No, no--
leave the handkerchief," he interposed)--and then Liff
Hyatt, coming forward with a spade, began to shovel in
"Forasmuch as it hath pleased Almighty God of His great
mercy to take unto Himself the soul of our dear sister
here departed, we therefore commit her body to the
ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to
dust..." Liff's gaunt shoulders rose and bent in the
lantern light as he dashed the clods of earth into the
grave. "God--it's froze a'ready," he muttered,
spitting into his palm and passing his ragged shirt-
sleeve across his perspiring face.
"Through our Lord Jesus Christ, who shall change our
vile body that it may be like unto His glorious body,
according to the mighty working, whereby He is able to
subdue all things unto Himself..." The last spadeful of
earth fell on the vile body of Mary Hyatt, and Liff
rested on his spade, his shoulder blades still heaving
with the effort.
"Lord, have mercy upon us, Christ have mercy upon us,
Lord have mercy upon us..."
Mr. Miles took the lantern from the old woman's
hand and swept its light across the circle of
bleared faces. "Now kneel down, all of you," he
commanded, in a voice of authority that Charity had
never heard. She knelt down at the edge of the grave,
and the others, stiffly and hesitatingly, got to their
knees beside her. Mr. Miles knelt, too. "And now pray
with me--you know this prayer," he said, and he began:
"Our Father which art in Heaven..." One or two of the
women falteringly took the words up, and when he ended,
the lank-haired man flung himself on the neck of the
tall youth. "It was this way," he said. "I tole her
the night before, I says to her..." The reminiscence
ended in a sob.
Mr. Miles had been getting into his coat again. He
came up to Charity, who had remained passively kneeling
by the rough mound of earth.
"My child, you must come. It's very late."
She lifted her eyes to his face: he seemed to speak out
of another world.
"I ain't coming: I'm going to stay here."
"Here? Where? What do you mean?"
"These are my folks. I'm going to stay with them."
Mr. Miles lowered his voice. "But it's not
possible--you don't know what you are doing. You
can't stay among these people: you must come with me."
She shook her head and rose from her knees. The group
about the grave had scattered in the darkness, but the
old woman with the lantern stood waiting. Her mournful
withered face was not unkind, and Charity went up to
"Have you got a place where I can lie down for the
night?" she asked. Liff came up, leading the buggy out
of the night. He looked from one to the other with his
feeble smile. "She's my mother. She'll take you
home," he said; and he added, raising his voice to
speak to the old woman: "It's the girl from lawyer
Royall's--Mary's girl...you remember...."
The woman nodded and raised her sad old eyes to
Charity's. When Mr. Miles and Liff clambered into the
buggy she went ahead with the lantern to show them the
track they were to follow; then she turned back, and in
silence she and Charity walked away together through
CHARITY lay on the floor on a mattress, as her dead
mother's body had lain. The room in which she lay was
cold and dark and low-ceilinged, and even poorer and
barer than the scene of Mary Hyatt's earthly
pilgrimage. On the other side of the fireless stove
Liff Hyatt's mother slept on a blanket, with two
children--her grandchildren, she said--rolled up
against her like sleeping puppies. They had their thin
clothes spread over them, having given the only other
blanket to their guest.
Through the small square of glass in the opposite wall
Charity saw a deep funnel of sky, so black, so remote,
so palpitating with frosty stars that her very soul
seemed to be sucked into it. Up there somewhere, she
supposed, the God whom Mr. Miles had invoked was
waiting for Mary Hyatt to appear. What a long flight
it was! And what would she have to say when she reached
Charity's bewildered brain laboured with the attempt to
picture her mother's past, and to relate it in any
way to the designs of a just but merciful God; but it
was impossible to imagine any link between them. She
herself felt as remote from the poor creature she had
seen lowered into her hastily dug grave as if the
height of the heavens divided them. She had seen
poverty and misfortune in her life; but in a community
where poor thrifty Mrs. Hawes and the industrious Ally
represented the nearest approach to destitution there
was nothing to suggest the savage misery of the
As she lay there, half-stunned by her tragic
initiation, Charity vainly tried to think herself into
the life about her. But she could not even make out
what relationship these people bore to each other, or
to her dead mother; they seemed to be herded together
in a sort of passive promiscuity in which their common
misery was the strongest link. She tried to picture to
herself what her life would have been if she had grown
up on the Mountain, running wild in rags, sleeping on
the floor curled up against her mother, like the pale-
faced children huddled against old Mrs. Hyatt, and
turning into a fierce bewildered creature like the girl
who had apostrophized her in such strange words. She
was frightened by the secret affinity she had felt
with this girl, and by the light it threw on her own
beginnings. Then she remembered what Mr. Royall had
said in telling her story to Lucius Harney: "Yes, there
was a mother; but she was glad to have the child go.
She'd have given her to anybody...."
Well! after all, was her mother so much to blame?
Charity, since that day, had always thought of her as
destitute of all human feeling; now she seemed merely
pitiful. What mother would not want to save her child
from such a life? Charity thought of the future of her
own child, and tears welled into her aching eyes, and
ran down over her face. If she had been less
exhausted, less burdened with his weight, she would
have sprung up then and there and fled away....
The grim hours of the night dragged themselves slowly
by, and at last the sky paled and dawn threw a cold
blue beam into the room. She lay in her corner staring
at the dirty floor, the clothes-line hung with decaying
rags, the old woman huddled against the cold stove, and
the light gradually spreading across the wintry world,
and bringing with it a new day in which she would have
to live, to choose, to act, to make herself a
place among these people--or to go back to the life she
had left. A mortal lassitude weighed on her. There
were moments when she felt that all she asked was to go
on lying there unnoticed; then her mind revolted at the
thought of becoming one of the miserable herd from
which she sprang, and it seemed as though, to save her
child from such a fate, she would find strength to
travel any distance, and bear any burden life might put
Vague thoughts of Nettleton flitted through her mind.
She said to herself that she would find some quiet
place where she could bear her child, and give it to
decent people to keep; and then she would go out like
Julia Hawes and earn its living and hers. She knew
that girls of that kind sometimes made enough to have
their children nicely cared for; and every other
consideration disappeared in the vision of her baby,
cleaned and combed and rosy, and hidden away somewhere
where she could run in and kiss it, and bring it pretty
things to wear. Anything, anything was better than to
add another life to the nest of misery on the
The old woman and the children were still sleeping
when Charity rose from her mattress. Her body was
stiff with cold and fatigue, and she moved slowly lest
her heavy steps should rouse them. She was faint with
hunger, and had nothing left in her satchel; but on the
table she saw the half of a stale loaf. No doubt it
was to serve as the breakfast of old Mrs. Hyatt and the
children; but Charity did not care; she had her own
baby to think of. She broke off a piece of the bread
and ate it greedily; then her glance fell on the thin
faces of the sleeping children, and filled with
compunction she rummaged in her satchel for something
with which to pay for what she had taken. She found
one of the pretty chemises that Ally had made for her,
with a blue ribbon run through its edging. It was one
of the dainty things on which she had squandered her
savings, and as she looked at it the blood rushed to
her forehead. She laid the chemise on the table, and
stealing across the floor lifted the latch and went
The morning was icy cold and a pale sun was just rising
above the eastern shoulder of the Mountain. The houses
scattered on the hillside lay cold and smokeless under
the sun-flecked clouds, and not a human being was in
sight. Charity paused on the threshold and tried
to discover the road by which she had come the night
before. Across the field surrounding Mrs. Hyatt's
shanty she saw the tumble-down house in which she
supposed the funeral service had taken place. The
trail ran across the ground between the two houses and
disappeared in the pine-wood on the flank of the
Mountain; and a little way to the right, under a wind-
beaten thorn, a mound of fresh earth made a dark spot
on the fawn-coloured stubble. Charity walked across
the field to the ground. As she approached it she
heard a bird's note in the still air, and looking up
she saw a brown song-sparrow perched in an upper branch
of the thorn above the grave. She stood a minute
listening to his small solitary song; then she rejoined
the trail and began to mount the hill to the pine-wood.
Thus far she had been impelled by the blind instinct of
flight; but each step seemed to bring her nearer to the
realities of which her feverish vigil had given only a
shadowy image. Now that she walked again in a daylight
world, on the way back to familiar things, her
imagination moved more soberly. On one point she was
still decided: she could not remain at North Dormer,
and the sooner she got away from it the better.
But everything beyond was darkness.
As she continued to climb the air grew keener, and when
she passed from the shelter of the pines to the open
grassy roof of the Mountain the cold wind of the night
before sprang out on her. She bent her shoulders and
struggled on against it for a while; but presently her
breath failed, and she sat down under a ledge of rock
overhung by shivering birches. From where she sat she
saw the trail wandering across the bleached grass in
the direction of Hamblin, and the granite wall of the
Mountain falling away to infinite distances. On that
side of the ridge the valleys still lay in wintry
shadow; but in the plain beyond the sun was touching
village roofs and steeples, and gilding the haze of
smoke over far-off invisible towns.
Charity felt herself a mere speck in the lonely circle
of the sky. The events of the last two days seemed to
have divided her forever from her short dream of bliss.
Even Harney's image had been blurred by that crushing
experience: she thought of him as so remote from her
that he seemed hardly more than a memory. In her
fagged and floating mind only one sensation had the
weight of reality; it was the bodily burden of her
child. But for it she would have felt as rootless as
the whiffs of thistledown the wind blew past her. Her
child was like a load that held her down, and yet like
a hand that pulled her to her feet. She said to
herself that she must get up and struggle on....
Her eyes turned back to the trail across the top of the
Mountain, and in the distance she saw a buggy against
the sky. She knew its antique outline, and the gaunt
build of the old horse pressing forward with lowered
head; and after a moment she recognized the heavy bulk
of the man who held the reins. The buggy was following
the trail and making straight for the pine-wood through
which she had climbed; and she knew at once that the
driver was in search of her. Her first impulse was to
crouch down under the ledge till he had passed; but the
instinct of concealment was overruled by the relief of
feeling that someone was near her in the awful
emptiness. She stood up and walked toward the buggy.
Mr. Royall saw her, and touched the horse with the
whip. A minute or two later he was abreast of Charity;
their eyes met, and without speaking he leaned over and
helped her up into the buggy.
She tried to speak, to stammer out some
explanation, but no words came to her; and as he drew
the cover over her knees he simply said: "The minister
told me he'd left you up here, so I come up for you."
He turned the horse's head, and they began to jog back
toward Hamblin. Charity sat speechless, staring
straight ahead of her, and Mr. Royall occasionally
uttered a word of encouragement to the horse: "Get
along there, Dan....I gave him a rest at Hamblin; but I
brought him along pretty quick, and it's a stiff pull
up here against the wind."
As he spoke it occurred to her for the first time that
to reach the top of the Mountain so early he must have
left North Dormer at the coldest hour of the night, and
have travelled steadily but for the halt at Hamblin;
and she felt a softness at her heart which no act of
his had ever produced since he had brought her the
Crimson Rambler because she had given up boarding-
school to stay with him.
After an interval he began again: "It was a day just
like this, only spitting snow, when I come up here for
you the first time." Then, as if fearing that she
might take his remark as a reminder of past benefits,
he added quickly: "I dunno's you think it was such a
good job, either."
"Yes, I do," she murmured, looking straight ahead of
"Well," he said, "I tried----"
He did not finish the sentence, and she could think of
nothing more to say.
"Ho, there, Dan, step out," he muttered, jerking the
bridle. "We ain't home yet.--You cold?" he asked
She shook her head, but he drew the cover higher up,
and stooped to tuck it in about the ankles. She
continued to look straight ahead. Tears of weariness
and weakness were dimming her eyes and beginning to run
over, but she dared not wipe them away lest he should
observe the gesture.
They drove in silence, following the long loops of the
descent upon Hamblin, and Mr. Royall did not speak
again till they reached the outskirts of the village.
Then he let the reins droop on the dashboard and drew
out his watch.
"Charity," he said, "you look fair done up, and North
Dormer's a goodish way off. I've figured out that we'd
do better to stop here long enough for you to get
a mouthful of breakfast and then drive down to Creston
and take the train."
She roused herself from her apathetic musing. "The
Mr. Royall, without answering, let the horse jog on
till they reached the door of the first house in the
village. "This is old Mrs. Hobart's place," he said.
"She'll give us something hot to drink."
Charity, half unconsciously, found herself getting out
of the buggy and following him in at the open door.
They entered a decent kitchen with a fire crackling in
the stove. An old woman with a kindly face was setting
out cups and saucers on the table. She looked up and
nodded as they came in, and Mr. Royall advanced to the
stove, clapping his numb hands together.
"Well, Mrs. Hobart, you got any breakfast for this
young lady? You can see she's cold and hungry."
Mrs. Hobart smiled on Charity and took a tin coffee-pot
from the fire. "My, you do look pretty mean," she said
Charity reddened, and sat down at the table. A feeling
of complete passiveness had once more come over
her, and she was conscious only of the pleasant animal
sensations of warmth and rest.
Mrs. Hobart put bread and milk on the table, and then
went out of the house: Charity saw her leading the
horse away to the barn across the yard. She did not
come back, and Mr. Royall and Charity sat alone at the
table with the smoking coffee between them. He poured
out a cup for her, and put a piece of bread in the
saucer, and she began to eat.
As the warmth of the coffee flowed through her veins
her thoughts cleared and she began to feel like a
living being again; but the return to life was so
painful that the food choked in her throat and she sat
staring down at the table in silent anguish.
After a while Mr. Royall pushed back his chair. "Now,
then," he said, "if you're a mind to go along----" She
did not move, and he continued: "We can pick up the
noon train for Nettleton if you say so."
The words sent the blood rushing to her face, and she
raised her startled eyes to his. He was standing on
the other side of the table looking at her kindly and
gravely; and suddenly she understood what he was
going to say. She continued to sit motionless, a
leaden weight upon her lips.
"You and me have spoke some hard things to each other
in our time, Charity; and there's no good that I can
see in any more talking now. But I'll never feel any
way but one about you; and if you say so we'll drive
down in time to catch that train, and go straight to
the minister's house; and when you come back home
you'll come as Mrs. Royall."
His voice had the grave persuasive accent that had
moved his hearers at the Home Week festival; she had a
sense of depths of mournful tolerance under that easy
tone. Her whole body began to tremble with the dread
of her own weakness.
"Oh, I can't----" she burst out desperately.
She herself did not know: she was not sure if she was
rejecting what he offered, or already struggling
against the temptation of taking what she no longer had
a right to. She stood up, shaking and bewildered, and
began to speak:
"I know I ain't been fair to you always; but I want to
be now....I want you to know...I want..." Her voice
failed her and she stopped.
Mr. Royall leaned against the wall. He was paler
than usual, but his face was composed and kindly
and her agitation did not appear to perturb him.
"What's all this about wanting?" he said as she paused.
"Do you know what you really want? I'll tell you. You
want to be took home and took care of. And I guess
that's all there is to say."
"No...it's not all...."
"Ain't it?" He looked at his watch. "Well, I'll tell
you another thing. All I want is to know if you'll
marry me. If there was anything else, I'd tell you so;
but there ain't. Come to my age, a man knows the
things that matter and the things that don't; that's
about the only good turn life does us."
His tone was so strong and resolute that it was like a
supporting arm about her. She felt her resistance
melting, her strength slipping away from her as he
"Don't cry, Charity," he exclaimed in a shaken voice.
She looked up, startled at his emotion, and their eyes
"See here," he said gently, "old Dan's come a long
distance, and we've got to let him take it easy the
rest of the way...."
He picked up the cloak that had slipped to her
chair and laid it about her shoulders. She
followed him out of the house, and then walked across
the yard to the shed, where the horse was tied. Mr.
Royall unblanketed him and led him out into the road.
Charity got into the buggy and he drew the cover about
her and shook out the reins with a cluck. When they
reached the end of the village he turned the horse's
head toward Creston.
They began to jog down the winding road to the valley
at old Dan's languid pace. Charity felt herself
sinking into deeper depths of weariness, and as they
descended through the bare woods there were moments
when she lost the exact sense of things, and seemed to
be sitting beside her lover with the leafy arch of
summer bending over them. But this illusion was faint
and transitory. For the most part she had only a
confused sensation of slipping down a smooth
irresistible current; and she abandoned herself to the
feeling as a refuge from the torment of thought.
Mr. Royall seldom spoke, but his silent presence gave
her, for the first time, a sense of peace and security.
She knew that where he was there would be warmth, rest,
silence; and for the moment they were all she wanted.
She shut her eyes, and even these things grew dim to
In the train, during the short run from Creston to
Nettleton, the warmth aroused her, and the
consciousness of being under strange eyes gave her
a momentary energy. She sat upright, facing Mr.
Royall, and stared out of the window at the denuded
country. Forty-eight hours earlier, when she had last
traversed it, many of the trees still held their
leaves; but the high wind of the last two nights had
stripped them, and the lines of the landscape' were as
finely pencilled as in December. A few days of autumn
cold had wiped out all trace of the rich fields and
languid groves through which she had passed on the
Fourth of July; and with the fading of the landscape
those fervid hours had faded, too. She could no longer
believe that she was the being who had lived them; she
was someone to whom something irreparable and
overwhelming had happened, but the traces of the steps
leading up to it had almost vanished.
When the train reached Nettleton and she walked out
into the square at Mr. Royall's side the sense of
unreality grew more overpowering. The physical strain
of the night and day had left no room in her mind for
new sensations and she followed Mr. Royall as passively
as a tired child. As in a confused dream she presently
found herself sitting with him in a pleasant room, at a
table with a red and white table-cloth on which
hot food and tea were placed. He filled her cup and
plate and whenever she lifted her eyes from them she
found his resting on her with the same steady tranquil
gaze that had reassured and strengthened her when they
had faced each other in old Mrs. Hobart's kitchen. As
everything else in her consciousness grew more and more
confused and immaterial, became more and more like the
universal shimmer that dissolves the world to failing
eyes, Mr. Royall's presence began to detach itself with
rocky firmness from this elusive background. She had
always thought of him--when she thought of him at all--
as of someone hateful and obstructive, but whom she
could outwit and dominate when she chose to make the
effort. Only once, on the day of the Old Home Week
celebration, while the stray fragments of his address
drifted across her troubled mind, had she caught a
glimpse of another being, a being so different from the
dull-witted enemy with whom she had supposed herself to
be living that even through the burning mist of her own
dreams he had stood out with startling distinctness.
For a moment, then, what he said--and something in his
way of saying it--had made her see why he had always
struck her as such a lonely man. But the mist of
her dreams had hidden him again, and she had forgotten
that fugitive impression.
It came back to her now, as they sat at the table, and
gave her, through her own immeasurable desolation, a
sudden sense of their nearness to each other. But all
these feelings were only brief streaks of light in the
grey blur of her physical weakness. Through it she was
aware that Mr. Royall presently left her sitting by the
table in the warm room, and came back after an interval
with a carriage from the station--a closed "hack" with
sun-burnt blue silk blinds--in which they drove
together to a house covered with creepers and standing
next to a church with a carpet of turf before it. They
got out at this house, and the carriage waited while
they walked up the path and entered a wainscoted hall
and then a room full of books. In this room a
clergyman whom Charity had never seen received them
pleasantly, and asked them to be seated for a few
minutes while witnesses were being summoned.
Charity sat down obediently, and Mr. Royall, his hands
behind his back, paced slowly up and down the room. As
he turned and faced Charity, she noticed that his
lips were twitching a little; but the look in his eyes
was grave and calm. Once he paused before her and said
timidly: "Your hair's got kinder loose with the wind,"
and she lifted her hands and tried to smooth back the
locks that had escaped from her braid. There was a
looking-glass in a carved frame on the wall, but she
was ashamed to look at herself in it, and she sat with
her hands folded on her knee till the clergyman
returned. Then they went out again, along a sort of
arcaded passage, and into a low vaulted room with a
cross on an altar, and rows of benches. The clergyman,
who had left them at the door, presently reappeared
before the altar in a surplice, and a lady who was
probably his wife, and a man in a blue shirt who had
been raking dead leaves on the lawn, came in and sat on
one of the benches.
The clergyman opened a book and signed to Charity and
Mr. Royall to approach. Mr. Royall advanced a few
steps, and Charity followed him as she had followed him
to the buggy when they went out of Mrs. Hobart's
kitchen; she had the feeling that if she ceased to keep
close to him, and do what he told her to do, the world
would slip away from beneath her feet.
The clergyman began to read, and on her dazed mind
there rose the memory of Mr. Miles, standing the night
before in the desolate house of the Mountain, and
reading out of the same book words that had the same
dread sound of finality:
"I require and charge you both, as ye will answer at
the dreadful day of judgment when the secrets of all
hearts shall be disclosed, that if either of you know
any impediment whereby ye may not be lawfully joined
Charity raised her eyes and met Mr. Royall's. They
were still looking at her kindly and steadily. "I
will!" she heard him say a moment later, after another
interval of words that she had failed to catch. She
was so busy trying to understand the gestures that the
clergyman was signalling to her to make that she no
longer heard what was being said. After another
interval the lady on the bench stood up, and taking her
hand put it in Mr. Royall's. It lay enclosed in his
strong palm and she felt a ring that was too big for
her being slipped on her thin finger. She understood
then that she was married....
Late that afternoon Charity sat alone in a bedroom of
the fashionable hotel where she and Harney had
vainly sought a table on the Fourth of July. She had
never before been in so handsomely furnished a room.
The mirror above the dressing-table reflected the high
head-board and fluted pillow-slips of the double bed,
and a bedspread so spotlessly white that she had
hesitated to lay her hat and jacket on it. The humming
radiator diffused an atmosphere of drowsy warmth, and
through a half-open door she saw the glitter of the
nickel taps above twin marble basins.
For a while the long turmoil of the night and day had
slipped away from her and she sat with closed eyes,
surrendering herself to the spell of warmth and
silence. But presently this merciful apathy was
succeeded by the sudden acuteness of vision with which
sick people sometimes wake out of a heavy sleep. As
she opened her eyes they rested on the picture that
hung above the bed. It was a large engraving with a
dazzling white margin enclosed in a wide frame of
bird's-eye maple with an inner scroll of gold. The
engraving represented a young man in a boat on a lake
over-hung with trees. He was leaning over to gather
water-lilies for the girl in a light dress who lay
among the cushions in the stern. The scene was
full of a drowsy midsummer radiance, and Charity
averted her eyes from it and, rising from her chair,
began to wander restlessly about the room.
It was on the fifth floor, and its broad window of
plate glass looked over the roofs of the town. Beyond
them stretched a wooded landscape in which the last
fires of sunset were picking out a steely gleam.
Charity gazed at the gleam with startled eyes. Even
through the gathering twilight she recognized the
contour of the soft hills encircling it, and the way
the meadows sloped to its edge. It was Nettleton Lake
that she was looking at.
She stood a long time in the window staring out at the
fading water. The sight of it had roused her for the
first time to a realization of what she had done. Even
the feeling of the ring on her hand had not brought her
this sharp sense of the irretrievable. For an instant
the old impulse of flight swept through her; but it was
only the lift of a broken wing. She heard the door
open behind her, and Mr. Royall came in.
He had gone to the barber's to be shaved, and his
shaggy grey hair had been trimmed and smoothed. He
moved strongly and quickly, squaring his shoulders
and carrying his head high, as if he did not want to
"What are you doing in the dark?" he called out in a
cheerful voice. Charity made no answer. He went up to
the window to draw the blind, and putting his finger on
the wall flooded the room with a blaze of light from
the central chandelier. In this unfamiliar
illumination husband and wife faced each other
awkwardly for a moment; then Mr. Royall said: "We'll
step down and have some supper, if you say so."
The thought of food filled her with repugnance; but not
daring to confess it she smoothed her hair and followed
him to the lift.
An hour later, coming out of the glare of the dining-
room, she waited in the marble-panelled hall while Mr.
Royall, before the brass lattice of one of the corner
counters, selected a cigar and bought an evening paper.
Men were lounging in rocking chairs under the blazing
chandeliers, travellers coming and going, bells
ringing, porters shuffling by with luggage. Over Mr.
Royall's shoulder, as he leaned against the counter, a
girl with her hair puffed high smirked and nodded at a
dapper drummer who was getting his key at the desk
across the hall.
Charity stood among these cross-currents of life as
motionless and inert as if she had been one of the
tables screwed to the marble floor. All her soul was
gathered up into one sick sense of coming doom, and she
watched Mr. Royall in fascinated terror while he
pinched the cigars in successive boxes and unfolded his
evening paper with a steady hand.
Presently he turned and joined her. "You go right
along up to bed--I'm going to sit down here and have my
smoke," he said. He spoke as easily and naturally as
if they had been an old couple, long used to each
other's ways, and her contracted heart gave a flutter
of relief. She followed him to the lift, and he put
her in and enjoined the buttoned and braided boy to
show her to her room.
She groped her way in through the darkness, forgetting
where the electric button was, and not knowing how to
manipulate it. But a white autumn moon had risen, and
the illuminated sky put a pale light in the room. By
it she undressed, and after folding up the ruffled
pillow-slips crept timidly under the spotless
counterpane. She had never felt such smooth sheets or
such light warm blankets; but the softness of the bed
did not soothe her. She lay there trembling with a
fear that ran through her veins like ice. "What have I
done? Oh, what have I done?" she whispered, shuddering
to her pillow; and pressing her face against it to shut
out the pale landscape beyond the window she lay in the
darkness straining her ears, and shaking at every
footstep that approached....
Suddenly she sat up and pressed her hands against her
frightened heart. A faint sound had told her that
someone was in the room; but she must have slept in the
interval, for she had heard no one enter. The moon was
setting beyond the opposite roofs, and in the darkness
outlined against the grey square of the window, she saw
a figure seated in the rocking-chair. The figure did
not move: it was sunk deep in the chair, with bowed
head and folded arms, and she saw that it was Mr.
Royall who sat there. He had not undressed, but had
taken the blanket from the foot of the bed and laid it
across his knees. Trembling and holding her breath she
watched him, fearing that he had been roused by her
movement; but he did not stir, and she concluded
that he wished her to think he was asleep.
As she continued to watch him ineffable relief stole
slowly over her, relaxing her strained nerves and
exhausted body. He knew, then...he knew...it was
because he knew that he had married her, and that he
sat there in the darkness to show her she was safe with
him. A stir of something deeper than she had ever
felt in thinking of him flitted through her tired
brain, and cautiously, noiselessly, she let her head
sink on the pillow....
When she woke the room was full of morning light, and
her first glance showed her that she was alone in it.
She got up and dressed, and as she was fastening her
dress the door opened, and Mr. Royall came in. He
looked old and tired in the bright daylight, but his
face wore the same expression of grave friendliness
that had reassured her on the Mountain. It was as if
all the dark spirits had gone out of him.
They went downstairs to the dining-room for breakfast,
and after breakfast he told her he had some insurance
business to attend to. "I guess while I'm doing it
you'd better step out and buy yourself whatever you
need." He smiled, and added with an embarrassed
laugh: "You know I always wanted you to beat all the
other girls." He drew something from his pocket, and
pushed it across the table to her; and she saw that he
had given her two twenty-dollar bills. "If it ain't
enough there's more where that come from--I want you to
beat 'em all hollow," he repeated.
She flushed and tried to stammer out her thanks, but he
had pushed back his chair and was leading the way out
of the dining-room. In the hall he paused a minute to
say that if it suited her they would take the three
o'clock train back to North Dormer; then he took his
hat and coat from the rack and went out.
A few minutes later Charity went out, too. She had
watched to see in what direction he was going, and she
took the opposite way and walked quickly down the main
street to the brick building on the corner of Lake
Avenue. There she paused to look cautiously up and
down the thoroughfare, and then climbed the brass-bound
stairs to Dr. Merkle's door. The same bushy-headed
mulatto girl admitted her, and after the same interval
of waiting in the red plush parlor she was once more
summoned to Dr. Merkle's office. The doctor
received her without surprise, and led her into the
inner plush sanctuary.
"I thought you'd be back, but you've come a mite too
soon: I told you to be patient and not fret," she
observed, after a pause of penetrating scrutiny.
Charity drew the money from her breast. "I've come to
get my blue brooch," she said, flushing.
"Your brooch?" Dr. Merkle appeared not to remember.
"My, yes--I get so many things of that kind. Well, my
dear, you'll have to wait while I get it out of the
safe. I don't leave valuables like that laying round
like the noospaper."
She disappeared for a moment, and returned with a bit
of twisted-up tissue paper from which she unwrapped the
Charity, as she looked at it, felt a stir of warmth at
her heart. She held out an eager hand.
"Have you got the change?" she asked a little
breathlessly, laying one of the twenty-dollar bills on
"Change? What'd I want to have change for? I only see
two twenties there," Dr. Merkle answered brightly.
Charity paused, disconcerted. "I thought...you said it
was five dollars a visit...."
"For YOU, as a favour--I did. But how about
the responsibility and the insurance? I don't s'pose
you ever thought of that? This pin's worth a hundred
dollars easy. If it had got lost or stole, where'd I
been when you come to claim it?"
Charity remained silent, puzzled and half-convinced by
the argument, and Dr. Merkle promptly followed up her
advantage. "I didn't ask you for your brooch, my dear.
I'd a good deal ruther folks paid me my regular charge
than have 'em put me to all this trouble."
She paused, and Charity, seized with a desperate
longing to escape, rose to her feet and held out one of
"Will you take that?" she asked.
"No, I won't take that, my dear; but I'll take it with
its mate, and hand you over a signed receipt if you
don't trust me."
"Oh, but I can't--it's all I've got," Charity
Dr. Merkle looked up at her pleasantly from the plush
sofa. "It seems you got married yesterday, up to the
'Piscopal church; I heard all about the wedding from
the minister's chore-man. It would be a pity, wouldn't
it, to let Mr. Royall know you had an account
running here? I just put it to you as your own mother
Anger flamed up in Charity, and for an instant she
thought of abandoning the brooch and letting Dr. Merkle
do her worst. But how could she leave her only
treasure with that evil woman? She wanted it for her
baby: she meant it, in some mysterious way, to be a
link between Harney's child and its unknown father.
Trembling and hating herself while she did it, she laid
Mr. Royall's money on the table, and catching up the
brooch fled out of the room and the house....
In the street she stood still, dazed by this last
adventure. But the brooch lay in her bosom like a
talisman, and she felt a secret lightness of heart. It
gave her strength, after a moment, to walk on slowly in
the direction of the post office, and go in through the
swinging doors. At one of the windows she bought a
sheet of letter-paper, an envelope and a stamp; then
she sat down at a table and dipped the rusty post
office pen in ink. She had come there possessed with a
fear which had haunted her ever since she had felt Mr.
Royall's ring on her finger: the fear that Harney
might, after all, free himself and come back to her. It
was a possibility which had never occurred to her
during the dreadful hours after she had received his
letter; only when the decisive step she had taken made
longing turn to apprehension did such a contingency
seem conceivable. She addressed the envelope, and on
the sheet of paper she wrote:
I'm married to Mr. Royall. I'll always remember you.
The last words were not in the least what she had meant
to write; they had flowed from her pen irresistibly.
She had not had the strength to complete her sacrifice;
but, after all, what did it matter? Now that there was
no chance of ever seeing Harney again, why should she
not tell him the truth?
When she had put the letter in the box she went out
into the busy sunlit street and began to walk to the
hotel. Behind the plateglass windows of the department
stores she noticed the tempting display of dresses and
dress-materials that had fired her imagination on the
day when she and Harney had looked in at them together.
They reminded her of Mr. Royall's injunction to go out
and buy all she needed. She looked down at her shabby
dress, and wondered what she should say when he
saw her coming back empty-handed. As she drew near
the hotel she saw him waiting on the doorstep, and her
heart began to beat with apprehension.
He nodded and waved his hand at her approach, and they
walked through the hall and went upstairs to collect
their possessions, so that Mr. Royall might give up the
key of the room when they went down again for their
midday dinner. In the bedroom, while she was thrusting
back into the satchel the few things she had brought
away with her, she suddenly felt that his eyes were on
her and that he was going to speak. She stood still,
her half-folded night-gown in her hand, while the blood
rushed up to her drawn cheeks.
"Well, did you rig yourself out handsomely? I haven't
seen any bundles round," he said jocosely.
"Oh, I'd rather let Ally Hawes make the few things I
want," she answered.
"That so?" He looked at her thoughtfully for a moment
and his eye-brows projected in a scowl. Then his face
grew friendly again. "Well, I wanted you to go back
looking stylisher than any of them; but I guess you're
right. You're a good girl, Charity."
Their eyes met, and something rose in his that she
had never seen there: a look that made her feel ashamed
and yet secure.
"I guess you're good, too," she said, shyly and
quickly. He smiled without answering, and they went
out of the room together and dropped down to the hall
in the glittering lift.
Late that evening, in the cold autumn moonlight, they
drove up to the door of the red house.