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BEING THE TRUE AND ROMANTIC STORY OF
GERTRUDE FRANKLIN ATHERTON
"Je considere Napoleon, Fox, et Hamilton comme les trois plus
grands hommes de notre epoque, et si je devais me prononcer entre
les trois, je donnerais sans hesiter la premiere place a Hamilton.
Il avait devine l'Europe."
TALLEYRAND, _Etudes sur la Republique_
New York THE MACMILLAN COMPANY LONDON: MACMILLAN & CO., LTD.
Set up, electrotyped, and published March, 1902. Reprinted May, July
twice, August, September, October, December, 1902; February, 1903;
Special edition June, 1904.
Norwood Press J.S. Cushing & Co.--Berwick & Smith Co. Norwood, Mass.,
TO THE DISTINGUISHED MEN WITHOUT WHOSE SUGGESTION AND ENCOURAGEMENT THIS
ATTEMPT TO RECREATE THE GREATEST OF OUR STATESMEN WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN
THE RT. HON. JAMES BRYCE, M.P.
DR. ALLAN McLANE HAMILTON
BOOK I RACHAEL LEVINE
BOOK II ALEXANDER HAMILTON. HIS YOUTH IN THE WEST INDIES AND IN THE
COLONIES OF NORTH AMERICA
BOOK III THE LITTLE LION
BOOK IV "ALEXANDER THE GREAT"
BOOK V THE LAST BATTLE OF THE GIANTS AND THE END
It was my original intention to write a biography of Alexander Hamilton
in a more flexible manner than is customary with that method of
reintroducing the dead to the living, but without impinging upon the
territory of fiction. But after a visit to the British and Danish West
Indies in search of the truth regarding his birth and ancestry, and
after a wider acquaintance with the generally romantic character of his
life, to say nothing of the personality of this most endearing and
extraordinary of all our public men, the instinct of the novelist proved
too strong; I no sooner had pen in hand than I found myself working in
the familiar medium, although preserving the historical sequence. But,
after all, what is a character novel but a dramatized biography? We
strive to make our creations as real to the world as they are to us.
Why, then, not throw the graces of fiction over the sharp hard facts
that historians have laboriously gathered? At all events, this
infinitely various story of Hamilton appealed too strongly to my
imagination to be frowned aside, so here, for better or worse, is the
result. Nevertheless, and although the method may cause the book to read
like fiction, I am conscientious in asserting that almost every
important incident here related of his American career is founded on
documentary or published facts or upon family tradition; the few that
are not have their roots among the probabilities, and suggested
themselves. As for the West Indian part, although I was obliged to work
upon the bare skeleton I unearthed in the old Common Records and Church
Registers, still the fact remains that I did find the skeleton, which I
have emphasized as far as is artistically possible. No date is given nor
deed referred to that cannot be found by other visitors to the Islands.
Moreover, I made a careful study of these Islands as they were in the
time of Hamilton and his maternal ancestors, that I might be enabled to
exercise one of the leading principles of the novelist, which is to
create character not only out of certain well-known facts of heredity,
but out of understood conditions. In this case I had, in addition, an
extensive knowledge of Hamilton's character to work backward from, as
well as his estimate of the friends of his youth and of his mother.
Therefore I feel confident that I have held my romancing propensity well
within the horizon of the probabilities; at all events, I have depicted
nothing which in any way interferes with the veracity of history.
However, having unburdened my imagination, I shall, in the course of a
year or two, write the biography I first had in mind. No writer, indeed,
could assume a more delightful task than to chronicle, in any form,
Hamilton's stupendous services to this country and his infinite variety.
In the eighteenth century Nevis was known as The Mother of the English
Leeward Caribbees. A Captain-General ruled the group in the name of the
King, but if he died suddenly, his itinerant duties devolved upon the
Governor of Nevis until the crown heard of its loss and made choice of
another to fill that high and valued office. She had a Council and a
House of Assembly, modelled in miniature upon the Houses of Peers and
Commons; and was further distinguished as possessing the only court in
the English Antilles where pirates could be tried. The Council was made
up of ten members appointed by the Captain-General, but commanded by
"its own particular and private Governor." The freeholders of the Island
chose twenty-four of their number to represent them in the House of
Assembly; and the few chronicles of that day agree in asserting that
Nevis during her hundred proud years of supremacy was governed
brilliantly and well. But the careful administration of good laws
contributed in part only to the celebrity of an Island which to-day,
still British as she is, serves but as a pedestal for the greatest of
American statesmen. In these old days she was a queen as well as a
mother. Her planters were men of immense wealth and lived the life of
grandees. Their cane-fields covered the mountain on all its sides and
subsidiary peaks, rising to the very fringe of the cold forest on the
cone of a volcano long since extinct. The "Great Houses," built
invariably upon an eminence that commanded a view of the neighbouring
islands.--St. Christopher, Antigua, Montserrat,--were built of blocks
of stone so square and solid and with a masonry so perfect that one
views their ruins in amazement to-day. They withstood hurricanes,
earthquakes, floods, and tidal waves. They were impregnable fortresses
against rioting negroes and spasmodically aggressive Frenchmen. They
even survived the abolition of slavery, and the old gay life went on for
many years. English people, bored or in search of health, came for the
brilliant winter, delighted with the hospitality of the planters, and to
renew their vitality in the famous climate and sulphur baths, which, of
all her possessions, Time has spared to Nevis. And then, having
weathered all the ills to which even a West Indian Island can be
subject, she succumbed--to the price of sugar. Her great families
drifted away one by one. Her estates were given over to the agent for a
time, finally to the mongoose. The magnificent stone mansions, left
without even a caretaker, yielded helplessly to the diseases of age, and
the first hurricane entering unbarred windows carried their roofs to the
sea. In Charles Town, the capital since the submergence of James Town in
1680, are the remains of large town houses and fine old stone walls,
which one can hardly see from the roadstead, so thick are the royal
palms and the cocoanut trees among the ruins, wriggling their slender
bodies through every crevice and flaunting their glittering luxuriance
above every broken wall.
But in the days when the maternal grandparents of Alexander Hamilton
looked down a trifle upon those who dwelt on other isles, Nevis recked
of future insignificance as little as a beauty dreams of age. In the
previous century England, after the mortification of the Royalists by
Cromwell, had sent to Nevis Hamiltons, Herberts, Russells, and many
another refugee from her historic houses. With what money they took
with them they founded the great estates of the eighteenth century, and
their sons sent their own children to Europe to become accomplished men
and women. Government House was a miniature court, as gay and splendid
as its offices were busy with the commerce of the world. The Governor
and his lady drove about the Island in a carriage of state, with
outriders and postilions in livery. When the Captain-General came he
outshone his proud second by the gorgeousness of his uniform only, and
both dignitaries were little more imposing than the planters themselves.
It is true that the men, despite their fine clothes and powdered
perukes, preferred a horse's back to the motion of a lumbering coach,
but during the winter season their wives and daughters, in the shining
stuffs, the pointed bodices, the elaborate head-dress of Europe, visited
Government House and their neighbours with all the formality of London
or Bath. After the first of March the planters wore white linen; the
turbaned black women were busy among the stones of the rivers with
voluminous wardrobes of cambric and lawn.
Several estates belonged to certain offshoots of the ducal house of
Hamilton, and in the second decade of the eighteenth century Walter
Hamilton was Captain-General of the English Leeward Caribbees and
"Ordinary of the Same." After him came Archibald Hamilton, who was,
perhaps, of all the Hamiltons the most royal in his hospitality.
Moreover, he was a person of energy and ambition, for it is on record
that he paid a visit to Boston, fleeing from the great drought which
visited Nevis in 1737. Then there were William Leslie Hamilton, who
practised at the bar in London for several years, but returned to hold
official position on Nevis, and his brother Andrew, both sons of Dr.
William Hamilton, who spent the greater part of his life on St.
Christopher. There were also Hugh Hamilton, Charles, Gustavus, and
William Vaughn Hamilton, all planters, most of them Members of Council
or of the Assembly.
And even in those remote and isolated days, Hamiltons and Washingtons
were associated. The most popular name in our annals appears frequently
in the Common Records of Nevis, and there is no doubt that when our
first President's American ancestor fled before Cromwell to Virginia, a
brother took ship for the English Caribbees.
From a distance Nevis looks like a solitary peak in mid-ocean, her base
sweeping out on either side. But behind the great central cone--rising
three thousand two hundred feet--are five or six lesser peaks, between
which are dense tropical gorges and mountain streams. In the old days,
where the slopes were not vivid with the light green of the cane-field,
there were the cool and sombre groves of the cocoanut tree, mango,
orange, and guava.
Even when Nevis is wholly visible there is always a white cloud above
her head. As night falls it becomes evident that this soft aggravation
of her beauty is but a night robe hung on high. It is at about seven in
the evening that she begins to draw down her garment of mist, but she is
long in perfecting that nocturnal toilette. Lonely and neglected, she
still is a beauty, exacting and fastidious. The cloud is tortured into
many shapes before it meets her taste. She snatches it off, redisposes
it, dons and takes it off again, wraps it about her with yet more
enchanting folds, until by nine o'clock it sweeps the sea; and Nevis,
the proudest island of the Caribbees, has secluded herself from those
cynical old neighbours who no longer bend the knee.
Nevis gave of her bounty to none more generously than to John and Mary
Fawcett. In 1685 the revocation of the Edict of Nantes had sent the
Huguenots swarming to America and the West Indies. Faucette was but a
boy when the Tropics gave him shelter, and learning was hard to get;
except in the matter of carving Caribs. But he acquired the science of
medicine somehow, and settled on Nevis, remodelled his name, and became
a British subject. Brilliant and able, he was not long accumulating a
fortune; there were swamps near Charles Town that bred fever, and the
planters lived as high and suffered as acutely as the English squires of
the same period. His wife brought him money, and in 1714 they received a
joint legacy from Captain Frank Keynall; whether a relative of hers or a
patient of his, the Records do not tell.
Mary Fawcett was some twenty years younger than her husband, a
high-spirited creature, with much intelligence, and a will which in
later years John Fawcett found himself unable to control. But before
that period, when to the disparity in time were added the irritabilities
of age in the man and the imperiousness of maturity in the woman, they
were happy in their children, in their rising fortunes, and, for a
while, in one another.
For twenty-eight years they lived the life of the Island. They built a
Great House on their estate at Gingerland, a slope of the Island which
faces Antigua, and they had their mansion in town for use when the
Captain-General was abiding on Nevis. While Mary Fawcett was bringing up
and marrying her children, managing the household affairs of a large
estate, and receiving and returning the visits of the other grandees of
the Island, to say nothing of playing her important part in all social
functions, life went well enough. Her children, far away from the swamps
of Charles Town, throve in the trade winds which temper the sun of Nevis
and make it an isle of delight. When they were not studying with their
governesses, there were groves and gorges to play in, ponies to ride,
and monkeys and land crabs to hunt. Later came the gay life of the
Capital, the routs at Government House, frequent even when the Chief was
elsewhere, the balls at neighbouring estates, the picnics in the cool
high forests, or where more tropical trees and tree ferns grew thick,
the constant meeting with distinguished strangers, and the visits to
The young Fawcetts married early. One went with her husband, Peter
Lytton, to the island of St. Croix. The Danish Government, upon
obtaining possession of this fertile island, in 1733, immediately issued
an invitation to the planters of the Leeward Caribbees to immigrate,
tempting many who were dissatisfied with the British Government or
wished for larger estates than they could acquire on their own populous
islands. Members of the Lytton, Mitchell, and Stevens families of St.
Christopher were among the first to respond to the liberal offer of the
Danish Government. The two sons of James Lytton, Peter and James, grew
up on St. Croix, Danish by law, British in habit and speech; and both
married women of Nevis. Peter was the first to wed, and his marriage to
young Mary Fawcett was the last to be celebrated in the Great House at
When Peter Lytton and his wife sailed away, as other sons and other
daughters had sailed before, to return to Nevis rarely,--for those were
the days of travel unveneered,--John and Mary Fawcett were left alone:
their youngest daughter, she who afterward became the wife of Thomas
Mitchell of St. Croix, was at school in England.
By this time Dr. Fawcett had given up his practice and was living on his
income. He took great interest in his cane-fields and mills, and in the
culture of limes and pine-apples; but in spite of his outdoor life his
temper soured and he became irritable and exacting. Gout settled in him
as a permanent reminder of the high fortunes of his middle years, and
when the Gallic excitability of his temperament, aggravated by a
half-century of hot weather, was stung to fiercer expression by the
twinges of his disease, he was an abominable companion for a woman
twenty years closer to youth.
In the solitudes of the large house Mary Fawcett found life unendurable.
Still handsome, naturally gay of temper, and a brilliant figure in
society, she frequently deserted her elderly husband for weeks at a
time. The day came when he peremptorily forbade her to leave the place
without him. For a time she submitted, for although a woman of uncommon
independence of spirit, it was not until 1740 that she broke free of
traditions and astonished the island of Nevis. She shut herself up with
her books and needlework, attended to her house and domestic negroes
with the precision of long habit, saw her friends when she could, and
endured the exactions of her husband with only an occasional but mighty
It was in these unhappy conditions that Rachael Fawcett was born.
The last affliction the Fawcetts expected was another child. This little
girl came an unwelcome guest to a mother who hated the father, and to
Dr. Fawcett, not only because he had outgrown all liking for crying
babies, but because, as in his excited disturbance he admitted to his
wife, his fortune was reduced by speculations in London, and he had no
desire to turn to in his old age and support another child. Then Mary
Fawcett made up her definite mind: she announced her intention to leave
her husband while it was yet possible to save her property for herself
and the child to whom she soon became passionately attached. Dr. Fawcett
laughed and shut himself up in a wing where the sounds of baby distress
could not reach him; and it is doubtful if his glance ever lingered on
the lovely face of his youngest born. Thus came into the world under the
most painful conditions one of the unhappiest women that has lived. It
was her splendid destiny to become the mother of the greatest American
of his centuries, but this she died too soon to know, and she
accomplished her part with an immediate bitterness of lot which was
remorselessly ordained, no doubt, by the great Law of Compensation.
There were no divorce laws on the Islands in the eighteenth century, not
even an act for separate maintenance; but Mary Fawcett was a woman of
resource. It took her four years to accomplish her purpose, but she got
rid of Dr. Fawcett by making him more than anxious to be rid of her. The
Captain-General, William Matthew, was her staunch friend and admirer,
and espoused her cause to the extent of issuing a writ of supplicavit
for a separate maintenance. Dr. Fawcett gradually yielded to pressure,
separated her property from his, that it might pass under her personal
and absolute control, and settled on her the sum of fifty-three pounds,
four shillings annually, as a full satisfaction for all her dower or
third part of his estate.
Mistress Fawcett was no longer a woman of consequence, for even her
personal income was curtailed by the great drought of 1737, and Nevis,
complaisant to the gallantry of the age, was scandalized at the novelty
of a public separation. But she was free, and she was the woman to feel
that freedom to her finger tips; she could live a life with no will in
it but her own, and she could bring up her little girl in an atmosphere
of peace and affection. She moved to an estate she owned on St.
Christopher and never saw John Fawcett again. He died a few years later,
leaving his diminished property to his children. Rachael's share was the
house in Charles Town.
The spot on which Rachael spent her childhood and brief youth was one of
the most picturesque on the mountain range of St. Christopher. Facing
the sea, the house stood on a lofty eminence, in the very shadow of
Mount Misery. Immediately behind the house were the high peaks of the
range, hardly less in pride than the cone of the great volcano. The
house was built on a ledge, but one could step from the terrace above
into an abrupt ravine, wrenched into its tortuous shape by earthquake
and flood, but dark for centuries with the immovable shades of a virgin
tropical forest. The Great House, with its spacious open galleries and
verandahs, was surrounded with stone terraces, overflowing with the
intense red and orange of the hybiscus and croton bush, the golden
browns and softer yellows of less ambitious plants, the sensuous tints
of the orchid, the high and glittering beauties of the palm and
cocoanut. The slopes to the coast were covered with cane-fields, their
bright young greens sharp against the dark blue of the sea. The ledge on
which the house was built terminated suddenly in front, but extended on
the left along a line of cliff above a chasm, until it sloped to the
road. On this flat eminence was an avenue of royal palms, which, with
the dense wood on the hill above it, was to mariners one of the most
familiar landmarks of the Island of "St. Kitts." From her verandah Mary
Fawcett could see, far down to the right, a large village of negro huts,
only the thatched African roofs visible among the long leaves of the
cocoanut palms with which the blacks invariably surround their
dwellings. Beyond was Brimstone Hill with its impregnable fortress. And
on the left, far out at sea, her purple heights and palm-fringed shores
deepening the exquisite blue of the Caribbean by day, a white ever
changing spirit in the twilight, and no more vestige of her under the
stars than had she sunk whence she came--Nevis. Mary Fawcett never set
foot on her again, but she learned to sit and study her with a whimsical
affection which was one of the few liberties she allowed her
imagination. But if the unhappiest years of her life had been spent
there, so had her fairest. She had loved her brilliant husband in her
youth, and all the social triumphs of a handsome and fortunate young
woman had been hers. In the deep calm which now intervened between the
two mental hurricanes of her life, she sometimes wondered if she had
exaggerated her past afflictions; and before she died she knew how
insignificant the tragedy of her own life had been.
Although Rachael was born when her parents were past their prime, the
vitality that was in her was concentrated and strong. It was not enough
to give her a long life, but while it lasted she was a magnificent
creature, and the end was abrupt; there was no slow decay. During her
childhood she lived in the open air, for except in the cold nights of a
brief winter only the jalousies were closed; and on that high shelf even
the late summer and early autumn were not insufferable. Exhausted as the
trade winds become, they give what little strength is in them to the
heights of their favourite isles, and during the rest of the year they
are so constant, even when storms rage in the North Atlantic, that Nevis
and St. Christopher never feel the full force of the sun, and the winter
nights are cold.
Rachael was four years old when her parents separated, and grew to
womanhood remembering nothing of her father and seeing little of her
kin, scattered far and wide. Her one unmarried sister, upon her return
from England, went almost immediately to visit Mrs. Lytton, and married
Thomas Mitchell, one of the wealthiest planters of St. Croix. Mary
Fawcett's children had not approved her course, for they remembered
their father as the most indulgent and charming of men, whose frequent
tempers were quickly forgotten; and year by year she became more wholly
devoted to the girl who clung to her with a passionate and uncritical
Clever and accomplished herself, and quick with ambition for her best
beloved child, she employed the most cultivated tutors on the Island to
instruct her in English, Latin, and French. Before Rachael was ten years
old, Mistress Fawcett had the satisfaction to discover that the little
girl possessed a distinguished mind, and took to hard study, and to _les
graces_, as naturally as she rode a pony over the hills or shot the reef
in her boat.
For several years the women of St. Christopher held aloof, but many of
the planters who had been guests at the Great House in Gingerland called
on Mistress Fawcett at once, and proffered advice and service. Of these
William Hamilton and Archibald Hamn became her staunch and intimate
friends. Mr. Hamn's estate adjoined hers, and his overlooker relieved
her of much care. Dr. James Hamilton, who had died in the year preceding
her formal separation, had been a close friend of her husband and
herself, and his brother hastened with assurance of his wish to serve
her. He was one of the eminent men of the Island, a planter and a member
of Council; also, a "doctor of physic." He carried Rachael safely
through her childhood complaints and the darkest of her days; and if his
was the hand which opened the gates between herself and history, who
shall say in the light of the glorified result that its master should
not sleep in peace?
In time his wife called, and his children and stepchildren brought a new
experience into the life of Rachael. She had been permitted to gambol
occasionally with the "pic'nees" of her mother's maids, but since her
fourth year had not spoken to a white child until little Catherine
Hamilton came to visit her one morning and brought Christiana Huggins of
Nevis. Mistress Huggins had known Mary Fawcett too well to call with
Mistress Hamilton, but sent Christiana as a peace offering. Mary's first
disposition was to pack the child off while Mistress Hamilton was
offering her embarrassed explanations; but Rachael clung to her new
treasure with such shrieks of protest that her mother, disconcerted by
this vigour of opposition to her will, permitted the intruder to remain.
The wives of other planters followed Mistress Hamilton, for in that soft
voluptuous climate, where the rush and fret of great cities are but a
witch's tale, disapproval dies early. They would have called long since
had they not been a trifle in awe of Nevis, more, perhaps, of Mistress
Fawcett's sharp tongue, then indolent. But when Mistress Hamilton
suddenly reminded them that they were Christians, and that Dr. Fawcett
was dead, they put on their London gowns, ordered out their coaches, and
called. Mary Fawcett received them with a courteous indifference. Her
resentment had died long since, and they seemed to her, with their
coaches and brocades and powdered locks, but the ghosts of the Nevis of
her youth. Her child, her estate, and her few tried friends absorbed
her. For the sake of her daughter's future, she ordered out her ancient
coach and made the round of the Island once a year. The ladies of St.
Kitts were as moderately punctilious.
And so the life of Rachael Fawcett for sixteen years passed uneventfully
enough. Her spirits were often very high, for she inherited the Gallic
buoyancy of her father as well as the brilliant qualities of his mind.
In the serious depths of her nature were strong passions and a tendency
to melancholy, the result no doubt of the unhappy conditions of her
birth. But her mother managed so to occupy her eager ambitious mind with
hard study that the girl had little acquaintance with herself. Her
English studies were almost as varied as a boy's, and in addition to her
accomplishments in the ancient and modern languages, she painted, and
sang, played the harp and guitar. Mary Fawcett, for reasons of her own,
never let her forget that she was the most educated girl on the Islands.
"I never was one to lie on a sofa all day and fan myself, while my
children sat on the floor with their blacks, and munched sugar-cane, or
bread and sling," she would remark superfluously. "All my daughters are
a credit to their husbands; but I mean that you shall be the most
brilliant woman in the Antilles."
The immediate consequences of Rachael's superior education were two: her
girl friends ceased to interest her, and ambitions developed in her
strong imaginative brain. In those days women so rarely distinguished
themselves individually that it is doubtful if Rachael had ever heard of
the phenomenon, and the sum of her worldly aspirations was a wealthy and
intellectual husband who would take her to live and to shine at foreign
courts. Her nature was too sweet and her mind too serious for egoism or
the pettier vanities, but she hardly could help being conscious of the
energy of her brain; and if she had passed through childhood in
ignorance of her beauty, she barely had entered her teens when her happy
indifference was dispelled; for the young planters besieged her gates.
Girls mature very early in the tropics, and at fourteen Rachael Fawcett
was the unresponsive toast from Basseterre to Sandy Point. Her height
was considerable, and she had the round supple figure of a girl who has
lived the out-door life in moderation; full of strength and grace, and
no exaggeration of muscle. She had a fine mane of reddish fair hair, a
pair of sparkling eager gray eyes which could go black with passion or
even excited interest, a long nose so sensitively cut that she could
express any mood she chose with her nostrils, which expanded quite
alarmingly when she flew into a temper, and a full well-cut mouth. Her
skin had the whiteness and transparency peculiar to the women of St.
Kitts and Nevis; her head and brow were nobly modelled, and the former
she carried high to the day of her death. It was set so far back on her
shoulders and on a line so straight that it would look haughty in her
coffin. What wonder that the young planters besieged her gates, that her
aspirations soared high, that Mary Fawcett dreamed of a great destiny
for this worshipped child of her old age? As for the young planters,
they never got beyond the gates, for a dragon stood there. Mistress
Fawcett had no mind to run the risk of early entanglements. When Rachael
was old enough she would be provided with a distinguished husband from
afar, selected by the experienced judgement of a woman of the world.
But Mary Fawcett, still hot-headed and impulsive in her second
half-century, was more prone to err in crises than her daughter. In
spite of the deeper passions of her nature, Rachael, except when under
the lash of strong excitement, had a certain clearness of insight and
deliberation of judgement which her mother lacked to her last day.
Rachael had just eaten the last of her sixteenth birthday sweets when,
at a ball at Government House, she met John Michael Levine. It was her
debut; she was the fairest creature in the room, and, in the idiom of
Dr. Hamilton, the men besieged her as were she Brimstone Hill in
possession of the French. The Governor and the Captain General had
asked her to dance, and even the women smiled indulgently, disarmed by
so much innocent loveliness.
Levine, albeit a Dane, and as colourless as most of his countrymen, was
her determined suitor before the night was half over. It may be that he
was merely dazzled by the regal position to which the young men had
elevated her, and that his cold blood quickened at the thought of
possessing what all men desired, but he was as immediate and persistent
in his suit as any excitable creole in the room. But Rachael gave him
scant attention that night. She may have been intellectual, but she was
also a girl, and it was her first ball. She was dazzled and happy,
delighted with her conquests, oblivious to the depths of her nature.
The next day Levine, strong in the possession of a letter from Mr. Peter
Lytton,--for a fortnight forgotten,--presented himself at Mistress
Fawcett's door, and was admitted. The first call was brief and
perfunctory, but he came the next day and the next. Rachael, surprised,
but little interested, and longing for her next ball, strummed the harp
at her mother's command and received his compliments with indifference.
A week after his first call Mary Fawcett drove into town and spent an
hour with the Governor. He told her that Levine had brought him a
personal letter from the Governor of St. Croix, and that he was wealthy
and well born. He was also, in his Excellency's opinion, a distinguished
match even for the most beautiful and accomplished girl on the Island.
Peter Lytton had mentioned in his letter that Levine purposed buying an
estate on St. Croix and settling down to the life of a planter. On the
following day Levine told her that already he was half a West Indian, so
fascinated was he with the life and the climate, but that if she would
favour his suit he would take Rachael to Copenhagen as often as she
wished for the life of the world.
Mary Fawcett made up her mind that he should marry Rachael, and it
seemed to her that no mother had ever come to a wiser decision. Her
health was failing, and it was her passionate wish not only to leave her
child encircled by the protection of a devoted husband, but to realize
the high ambitions she had cherished from the hour she foresaw that
Rachael was to be an exceptional woman.
Levine had not seen Rachael on the morning when he asked for her hand,
and he called two days later to press his suit and receive his answer.
Mistress Fawcett told him that she had made up her own mind and would
perform that office for Rachael at once, but thought it best that he
should absent himself until the work was complete. Levine, promised an
answer on the morrow, took himself off, and Mary Fawcett sent for her
Rachael entered the library with a piece of needlework in her hand. Her
mind was not on her books these days, for she had gone to another ball;
but her hands had been too well brought up to idle, however her brain
might dream. Mary Fawcett by this time wore a large cap with a frill,
and her face, always determined and self-willed, was growing austere
with years and much pain: she suffered frightfully at times with
rheumatism, and her apprehension of the moment when it should attack her
heart reconciled her to the prospect of brief partings from her
daughter. Her eyes still burned with the fires of an indiminishable
courage however; she read the yellow pages of her many books as rapidly
as in her youth, and if there was a speck of dust on her mahogany
floors, polished with orange juice, she saw it. Her negroes adored her
but trembled when she raised her voice, and Rachael never had disobeyed
her. She expected some dissatisfaction, possibly a temper, but no
Rachael smiled confidently and sat down. She wore one of the thin white
linens, which, like the other women of the Islands, she put aside for
heavier stuffs on state occasions only, and her hair had tumbled from
its high comb and fallen upon her shoulders. Mary Fawcett sighed as she
looked at her. She was too young to marry, and had it not been for the
haunting terror of leaving her alone in the world, the Dane, well
circumstanced as he was, would have been repulsed with contumely.
"Rachael," said her mother, gently, "put down your tapestry. I have
something to say to you, something of great import."
Rachael dropped her work and met her mother's eyes. They were hard with
will and definite purpose. In an instant she divined what was coming,
and stood up. Her face could not turn any whiter, but her eyes were
black at once, and her nostrils spread.
"It cannot be possible that you wish me to marry that man--Levine," she
stammered. "I do not know how I can think of such a thing--but I do--it
seems to me I see it in your eyes."
"Yes," said her mother, with some uneasiness. "I do; and my reasons are
"I won't listen to them!" shrieked Rachael. "I won't marry him! His
whiteness makes me sick! I know he is not a good man! I feel it! I never
could be happy with him! I never could love him!"
Mary Fawcett looked at her aghast, and, for a moment, without answering;
she saw her own will asserting itself, heard it on those piercing notes,
and she knew that it sprang from stronger and more tragic foundations
than had ever existed in her own nature; but believing herself to be
right, she determined to prevail.
"What do you know about men, my darling?" she said soothingly. "You have
been dreaming romantic dreams, and young Levine does not resemble the
hero. That is all. Women readjust themselves marvellously quick. When
you are married to him, and he is your tender and devoted husband, you
will forget your prince--who, no doubt, is dark and quite splendid. But
we never meet our princes, my dear, and romantic love is only one of the
things we live for--and for that we live but a little while. Levine is
all that I could wish for you. He is wealthy, aristocratic, and
Her long speech had given her daughter time to cool, but Rachael
remained standing, and stared defiantly into the eyes which had relaxed
somewhat with anxious surprise.
"I _feel_ that he is not a good man," she repeated sullenly, "and I hate
him. I should die if he touched me. I have not danced with him. His
hands are so white and soft, and his eyes never change, and his mouth
reminds me of a shark's."
"Levine is a remarkably handsome man," exclaimed Mistress Fawcett,
indignantly. "You have trained your imagination to some purpose, it
seems. Forget your poets when he comes to-morrow, and look at him
impartially. And cannot he give you all that you so much desire, my
ambitious little daughter? Do you no longer want to go to Europe? to
court? to be _grande dame_ and converse with princes?"
"Oh, yes," said Rachael. "I want that as much as ever; but I want to
love the man. I want to be happy."
"Well, _do_ love him," exclaimed her mother with energy. "Your father
was twenty years older than myself, and a Frenchman, but I made up my
mind to love him, and I did--for a good many years."
"You had to leave him in the end. Do you wish me to do the same?"
"You will do nothing of the kind. There never was but one John Fawcett."
"I don't love this Levine, and I never shall love him. I don't believe
at all that that kind of feeling can be created by the brain, that it
responds to nothing but the will. I shall not love that way. I may be
ignorant, but I know that."
"You have read too much Shakespeare! Doubtless you imagine yourself one
of his heroines--Juliet? Rosalind?"
"I have never imagined myself anybody but Rachael Fawcett. I _cannot_
imagine myself Rachael Levine. But I know something of myself--I have
read and thought enough for that. I could love someone--but not this
bleached repulsive Dane. Why will you not let me wait? It is my right.
No, you need not curl your lip--I am _not_ a little girl. I may be
sixteen. I may be without experience in the world, but you have been
almost my only companion, and until just now I have talked with
middle-aged men only, and much with them. I had no real childhood. You
have educated my brain far beyond my years. To-day I feel twenty, and it
seems to me that I see far down into myself--much deeper than you do. I
tell you that if I marry this man, I shall be the most hopeless wretch
Mary Fawcett was puzzled and distressed, but she did not waver for a
moment. The cleverest of girls could not know what was best for herself,
and the mother who permitted her daughter to take her life into her own
hands was a poor creature indeed.
"Listen, my dear child," she said tenderly, "you have always trusted in
me, believed me. I _know_ that this is a wise and promising marriage for
you. And--" she hesitated, but it was time to play her trump. "You know
that my health is not good, but you do not know how bad it is. Dr.
Hamilton says that the rheumatism may fly to my heart at any moment, and
I _must_ see you married--"
She had ejaculated the last words; Rachael had shrieked, and flung
herself upon her, her excitement at this sudden and cruel revelation
bursting out in screams and sobs and a torrent of tears. Her mother had
seen her excited and in brief ungovernable tempers, but she never had
suspected that she was capable of such passion as this; and, much
disturbed, she led her off to bed, and sent for her advisers, Archibald
Hamn and Dr. Hamilton.
Mr. Hamn responded at once to the widow's call, his adjacence giving him
the advantage of Dr. Hamilton, of whom he was a trifle jealous. He was
an old bachelor and had proposed to Mistress Fawcett--a captivating
woman till her last hour--twice a year since her husband's death. But
matrimony had been a bitter medicine for Mary after her imagination had
ceased to sweeten it, and her invariable answer to her several suitors
was the disquieting assertion that if ever she was so rash as to take
another husband, she certainly should kill him. Archibald was not the
man to conquer her prejudices, although she loved the sterling in him
and attached him to her by every hook of friendship. He was a dark
nervous little man, spare as most West Indians, used a deal of snuff,
and had a habit of pushing back his wig with a jerking forearm when in
heated controversy with Dr. Hamilton, or expounding matrimony to the
Dr. Hamilton, for whose arrival Mr. Hamn was kept waiting,--Mistress
Fawcett tarried until her daughter fell asleep,--was a large square man,
albeit lean, and only less nervous than the widow's suitor. His white
locks were worn in a queue, a few escaping to soften his big powerful
face. Both men wore white linen, but Dr. Hamilton was rarely seen
without his riding-boots, his advent, except in Mistress Fawcett's
house, heralded by the clanking of spurs. Mary would have none of his
spurs on her mahogany floors, and the doctor never yet had been able to
dodge the darkey who stood guard at her doorstep.
The two men exchanged mild surmises as to the cause of the summons; but
as similar summons occurred when newly wedded blacks were pounding each
other's heads, provoked thereto by the galling chain of decency, or an
obeah doctor had tied a sinister warning to Mistress Fawcett's knocker,
neither of the gentlemen anticipated serious work. When Mary Fawcett
entered the long room, however, both forgot the dignity of their years
and position, and ran forward.
Dr. Hamilton lifted her as if she had been a palm leaf, and laid her on
the sofa. He despatched Mr. Hamn for a glass of Spanish port, and
forbade her to speak until he gave permission.
But Mary Fawcett made brief concessions to the weakness of the flesh.
She drank the wine, then sat up and told her story.
"Oh, Mary," said Dr. Hamilton, sadly, "why do you ask our advice? Your
ear may listen, but never your mind. If it were a matter of business, we
might even be allowed to act for you; but in a domestic--"
"What?" cried Mistress Fawcett; "have I not asked your advice a thousand
times about Rachael, and have I not always taken it?"
"I recall many of the conversations, but I doubt if you could recall the
advice. However, if you want it this time, I will give it to you. Don't
force the girl to marry against her will--assuredly not if the man is
repulsive to her. For all your brains you are a baby about men and
women. Rachael knows more by instinct. She is an extraordinary girl, and
should be allowed time to make her own choice. If you are afraid of
death, leave her to me. I will legally adopt her now, if you choose--"
"Yes, and should you die suddenly, your wife would think Rachael one too
many, what with your brood and the Edwardses to boot." Mistress Fawcett
was nettled by his jibe at the limit of her wisdom. "I shall leave her
with a husband. To that I have made up my mind. What have you to say,
This was an advantage which Mr. Hamn never failed to seize; he always
agreed with the widow; Dr. Hamilton never did. Moreover, he was
sincerely convinced that--save, perhaps, in matters of money--Mary
Fawcett could not err.
"I like the appearance of this Dane," he said, reassuringly, "and his
little country has a valiant history. This young man is quite
prince-like in his bearing, and his extreme fairness is but one more
evidence of his high breeding--"
"He looks like a shark's belly," interrupted Dr. Hamilton, "I don't
wonder he sickens Rachael. I have nothing against him but his
appearance, but if he came after Kitty I'd throw him out by the seat of
"He never looked at Kitty, at Government House, nor at Mistress
Montgomerie's," cried Mary. "You are jealous, Will, because Rachael has
carried off the foreign prize."
Dr. Hamilton laughed, then added seriously, "I am too fond of the girl
to forbear to give my advice. Let her choose her own husband. If you
dare to cut out her future, as if it were one of her new frocks, you
have more courage than I. She has more in her than twenty women. Let her
alone for the next five years, then she will have no one to answer to
but herself. Otherwise, my lady, you may find yourself holding your
breath in a hurricane track, with no refuge from the storm you've
whipped up but five feet underneath. If you won't give her to me, there
are her sisters. They are all wealthy--"
"They are years older than Rachael and would not understand her at all."
"I can't see why they should not understand her as well as a strange
"He will be her husband, madly in love with her."
"Levine will never be madly in love with anybody. Besides, it would not
matter to Rachael if her sisters did not understand her; she has too
strong a brain not to be independent of the ordinary female nonsense;
moreover, she has a fine disposition and her own property. But if her
husband did not understand her,--in other words, if their tastes proved
as opposite as their temperaments,--it would make a vast deal of
difference. Sisters can be got rid of, but husbands--well, you know the
"I will think over all you have said," replied Mary, with sudden
humility; she had great respect for the doctor. "But don't you say a
word to Rachael."
"I'm far too much afraid of you for that. But I wish that Will were home
or Andrew old enough. I'd set one of them on to cut this Dane out. Well,
I must go; send for me whenever you are in need of advice," and with a
parting laugh he strode out of the house and roared to the darkey to
come and fasten his spurs.
Archibald Hamn, who foresaw possibilities in the widow's loneliness, and
who judged men entirely by their manners, remained to assure Mistress
Fawcett of the wisdom of her choice, and to offer his services as
mediator. Mary laughed and sent him home. She wrote to Levine not to
call until she bade him, and for several days pondered deeply upon her
daughter's opposition and Dr. Hamilton's advice. The first result of
this perturbing distrust in her own wisdom was a violent attack of
rheumatism in the region of her heart; and while she believed herself to
be dying, she wrung from her distracted daughter a promise to marry
Levine. She recovered from the attack, but concluded that, the promise
being won, it would be folly to give it back. Moreover, the desire to
see her daughter married had been aggravated by her brush with death,
and after another interview with Levine, in which he promised all that
the fondest mother could demand, she opened her chests of fine linen.
Rachael submitted. She dared not excite her mother. Her imagination,
always vivid though it was, refused to picture the end she dreaded; and
she never saw Levine alone. His descriptions of life in Copenhagen
interested her, and when her mother expatiated upon the glittering
destiny which awaited her, ambition and pride responded, although
precisely as they had done in her day dreams. She found herself
visioning Copenhagen, jewels, brocades, and courtiers; but she realized
only when she withdrew to St. Kitts, that Levine had not entered the
dream, even to pass and bend the knee. Often she laughed aloud in
merriment. As the wedding-day approached, she lost her breath more than
once, and her skin chilled. During the last few days before the ceremony
she understood for the first time that it was inevitable. But time--it
was now three months since the needlewomen were set at the
trousseau--and her unconscious acceptance of the horrid fact had trimmed
her spirit to philosophy, altered the habit of her mind. She saw her
mother radiant, received the personal congratulations of every family on
the Island. Her sisters came from St. Croix, and made much of the little
girl who was beginning life so brilliantly; beautiful silks and laces
had come from New York, and Levine had given her jewels, which she tried
on her maid every day because she thought the mustee's tawny skin
enhanced their lustre. She was but a child in spite of her intellect.
Her union with the Dane came to appear as one of the laws of life, and
she finished by accepting it as one accepted an earthquake or a
hurricane. Moreover, she was profoundly innocent.
Mary Fawcett accompanied the Levines to Copenhagen, but returned to St.
Christopher by a ship which left Denmark a month later, being one of
those women who picture their terrestrial affairs in a state of
dissolution while deprived of their vigilance. She vowed that the North
had killed her rheumatism, and turned an absent ear to Rachael's appeal
to tarry until Levine was ready to return to St. Croix. She remained
long enough in Denmark, however, to see her daughter presented at court,
and installed with all the magnificence that an ambitious mother could
desire. There was not a misgiving in her mind, for Rachael, if somewhat
inanimate, could not be unhappy with an uxorious husband and the world
at her feet; and although for some time after her marriage she had
behaved like a naughty child caught in a trap, and been a sore trial to
her mother and Mr. Levine, since her arrival in Copenhagen she had
deported herself most becomingly and indulged in no more tantrums.
Levine had conducted himself admirably during his trying honeymoon. Upon
his arrival in Copenhagen he had littered his wife's boudoir with
valuable gifts, and exhibited the beauty he had won with a pride very
gratifying to his mother-in-law. In six months he was to sail for his
estates on St. Croix, and pay an immediate visit to St. Kitts, whence
Mistress Fawcett would return with her daughter for a sojourn of several
months. She returned to her silent home the envy of many Island mothers.
Rachael wrote by every ship, and Mary Fawcett pondered over these
letters, at first with perplexity, finally with a deep uneasiness. Her
daughter described life in Denmark, the court and society, her new gowns
and jewels, her visits to country houses, the celebrities she met. But
her letters were literary and impersonal, nor was there in them a trace
of her old energy of mind and vivacity of spirit. She never mentioned
Levine's name, nor made an intimate allusion to herself.
"Can she no longer love me?" thought Mary Fawcett at last and in terror;
"this child that I have loved more than the husband of my youth and all
the other children I have borne? It cannot be that she is unhappy. She
would tell me so in a wild outburst--indeed she would have run home to
me long since. Levine will never control her. Heaven knows what would
have happened if I had not gone on that wedding-journey. But she settled
down so sweetly, and I made sure she would have loved him by this. It is
the only thing to do if you have to live with one of the pests. Perhaps
that is it--she has given him all her love and has none left for me."
And at this she felt so lonely and bitter that she almost accepted
Archibald Hamn when he called an hour later. But in the excitement of
his risen hopes his wig fell on the floor, and she took offence at his
yellow and sparsely settled scalp.
There were few gleams of humour left in life for Mary Fawcett. Rachael's
letters ceased abruptly. Her mother dared not sail for Denmark, lest she
pass the Levines on their way to St. Croix. She managed to exist through
two distracted months, then received a note from her daughter, Mrs.
"Rachael is Here," it ran, "but refuses to see Us. I do not know what to
think. I drove over as soon as I heard of Their arrival. Levine received
Me and was as Courteous and Polished as ever, but Rachael had a
_Headache_ and did not come out. Mary and I have been there Twice since,
and with the _same_ result. Levine assured us that he had begged her to
see her Sisters, but that She is in a very _low_ and _melancholy_ state,
owing doubtless to her Condition. He seemed much _concerned_, but More,
I could not help thinking, because he feared to lose an Heir than from
any _love_ for my little Sister. Peter and Mary agree with Me, that _You
had best come here_ if You can."
Mary Fawcett, whatever her foibles, had never failed to spring upright
under the stiffest blows of her life. Ignoring her physical pains, which
had been aggravated by the mental terrors of the last two months, and
sternly commanding the agony in her heart to be silent, she despatched a
note at once to Dr. Hamilton,--Archibald Hamn was in Barbados,--asking
him to charter a schooner, if no ship were leaving that day for the
Danish Islands, and accompany her to St. Croix. He sent her word that
they could sail on the following morning if the wind were favourable,
and the black women packed her boxes and carried them on their heads to
That evening, as Mary Fawcett was slowly walking down the avenue,
leaning heavily on her cane, too wretched to rest or sleep, a ship
flying the German colours sailed past. She wondered if it had stopped at
St. Croix, then forgot it in the terrible speculations which her will
strove to hold apart from her nerves.
Wearied in body, she returned to the house and sat by the window of her
room, striving to compose her mind for sleep. She was forcing herself to
jot down instructions for her housekeeper, whom she had taught to read,
when she heard a chaise and a pair of galloping horses enter the avenue.
A moment later, Dr. Hamilton's voice was roaring for a slave to come and
hold his horses. Then it lowered abruptly and did not cease.
Mary Fawcett knew that Rachael had come to her, and without her husband.
For a moment she had a confused idea that the earth was rocking, and
congratulated herself that the house was too high for a tidal wave to
reach. Then Dr. Hamilton entered with Rachael in his arms and laid her
on the bed. He left at once, saying that he would return in the morning.
Mary Fawcett had not risen, and her chair faced the bed. Rachael lay
staring at her mother until Mary found her voice and begged her to
speak. She knew that her hunger must wait until she had stood at the bar
and received her sentence.
Rachael told her mother the story of her married life from the day she
had been left alone with John Levine,--a story of unimaginable horrors.
Like many cold men to whom the pleasures of the world are, nevertheless,
easy, Levine was a voluptuary and cruel. Had his child been safely born,
there would have been no measure in his brutality. Rachael had watched
for her opportunity, and one night when he had been at a state function
in Christianstadt, too secure in her apparent apathy to lock her door,
she had bribed a servant to drive her to Frederikstadt, and boarded the
ship her maid had ascertained was about to leave. She knew that he would
not follow her, for there was one person on earth he feared, and that
was Mary Fawcett. He would not have returned to St. Croix, had his
investments been less heavy; but on his estates he was lord, and had no
mind that his mother-in-law should set foot on them while he had slaves
to hold his gates.
Mary Fawcett listened to the horrid story, at first with a sort of
frantic wonder, for of the evil of life she had known nothing; then her
clear mind grasped it, her stoicism gave way, and she shrieked and raved
in such agony of soul that she had no fear of hell thereafter. Rachael
had to rise from the bed and minister to her, and the terrified blacks
ran screaming about the place, believing that their mistress had been
She grew calm in time, but her face was puckered like an old apple, and
her eyes had lost their brilliancy for ever. And it was days before she
realized that her limbs still ached.
Rachael never opened her lips on the subject again. She went back to bed
and clung to her mother and Dr. Hamilton until her child was born. Then
for three months she recognized no one, and Dr. Hamilton, with all his
skill, did not venture to say whether or not her mind would live again.
The child was a boy, and as blond as its father. Mary Fawcett stood its
presence in the house for a month, then packed it off to St. Croix. She
received a curt acknowledgment from Levine, and an intimation that she
had saved herself much trouble. As for Rachael, he would have her back
when he saw fit. She wrote an appeal to the Captain-General and he sent
her word that the Danes would never bombard Brimstone Hill, and there
was no other way by which Levine could get her daughter while one of her
friends ruled the Leeward Caribbees.
Many thoughts flitted through the brain of Mary Fawcett during that long
vigil. Her mind for the first time dwelt with kindness, almost with
softness, on the memory of her husband. Beside this awful Dane his
shadow was god-like. He had been high-minded and a gentleman in his
worst tantrums, and there was no taint of viciousness in him. A doubt
grew in her brain, grew to such disquieting proportions that she
sometimes deserted Rachael abruptly and went out to fatigue herself in
the avenue. Had she done wrong to leave him alone in his old age, to
bear, undiverted, the burden of a disease whose torments she now could
fully appreciate, to die alone in that great house with only his slaves
to tend him? It had seemed to her when she left him that human nature
could stand no more, and that she was justified; but she was an old
woman now and knew that all things can be endured. When that picture of
his desolate last years and lonely death had remorselessly shaped itself
in her imagination, and she realized that it would hang there until her
hands were folded, she suffered one more hour of agony and abasement,
then caught at the stoicism of her nature, accepted her new dole, and
returned to her daughter.
Rachael's mind struggled past its eclipse, but her recovery was very
slow. Even after she recognized her mother and Dr. Hamilton, she sat for
months staring at Nevis, neither opening a book nor looking round upon
the life about her. But she was only eighteen, and her body grew strong
and vital again. Gradually it forced its energies into her brain,
released her spirit from its apathy, buried memory under the fresher
impressions of time. A year from the day of her return, if there were
deep and subtle changes in her face and carriage, which added ten years
to her appearance, she was more beautiful to experienced eyes than when
she had flowered for the humming-birds. She took up her studies where
she had dropped them, a little of her old buoyancy revived; and if her
girlishness was buried with ideals and ambitions, her intellect was
clear and strong and her character more finely balanced. She flew into
no more rages, boxed her attendants' ears at rarer intervals, and the
deliberation which had seemed an anomaly in her character before, became
a dominant trait, and rarely was conquered by impulse. When it worked
alone her mother laid down her weapons, edged as they still were, and
when impulse flew to its back, Mary Fawcett took refuge in oblivion. But
she made no complaint, for she and her daughter were more united than
when the young girl had seemed more fit to be her grandchild.
The Governor of St. Christopher had written a letter to his friend, the
Governor of St. Croix, which had caused that estimable functionary to
forbid Levine the door of Government House. Levine could not endure
social ostracism. He left St. Croix immediately, and took his son Peter
with him. To this child Rachael never referred, and her mother doubted
if she remembered anything associated with its impending birth. Perhaps
she believed it dead. At all events, she made no sign. Except that she
was called Mistress Levine, there was nothing in her outer life to
remind her that for two years the markers in her favourite books had not
been shifted. She had studied music and painting with the best masters
in Copenhagen, and in the chests which were forwarded by her sisters
from St. Croix, there were many new books. She refused to return to
society, and filled her time without its aid; for not only did she have
the ample resources of her mind, her mother, the frequent companionship
of Dr. Hamilton and four or five other men of his age and attainments,
but she returned to the out-door life with enthusiasm. On her spirit was
an immovable shadow, in her mind an indelible stain, but she had strong
common sense and a still stronger will. An experience which would have
embittered a less complete nature, or sent a lighter woman to the
gallantries of society, gave new force and energy to her character, even
while saddening it. To the past she never willingly gave a thought;
neither was she for a moment unconscious of its ghost.
Two years passed. Rachael was twenty, a beautiful and stately creature,
more discussed and less seen than any woman on the islands of Nevis and
St. Christopher. Occasionally Christiana Huggins paid her a visit, or
Catherine Hamilton rode over for the day; but although Christiana at
least, loved her to the end, both were conscious of her superiority of
mind and experience, and the old intimacy was not resumed.
Dr. Hamilton had used all his influence in the Council to promote a
special bill of divorce, for he wanted Rachael to be free to marry
again. He had no faith in the permanent resources of the intellect for a
young and seductive woman, and he understood Rachael very thoroughly.
The calm might be long, but unless Levine died or could be legally
disposed of, she would give the Islands a heavier shock than when the
innovation of Mary Fawcett had set them gabbling. Against the
conservatism of his colleagues, however, he could make no headway, and
both the Governor and Captain-General disapproved of a measure which
England had never sanctioned.
But Dr. Hamilton and her mother were more disturbed at the failure of
the bill than Rachael. Time had lifted the shadow of her husband from
the race, but, never having loved, even a little, her imagination
modelled no pleasing features upon the ugly skull of matrimony. It is
true that she sometimes thought of herself as a singularly lonely being,
and allowed her mind to picture love and its companionships. As time
dimmed another picture she caught herself meditating upon woman's chief
inheritance, and moving among the shadows of the future toward that
larger and vitalizing part of herself which every woman fancies is on
earth in search of her. When she returned from these wanderings she
sternly reminded herself that her name was Levine, and that no woman
after such an escape had the right to expect more. She finally compelled
herself to admit that her avoidance of society was due to prudence as
well as to her stern devotion to intellect, then studied harder than
But it is a poor fate that waits upon the gathering together of many
Rachael was riding home one afternoon from Basseterre, where she had
been purchasing summer lawns and cambrics. It was March, and the winter
sun had begun to use its summer fuel; but the trades blew softly, and
there was much shade on the road above the sea. There was one long
stretch, however, where not a tree grew, and Rachael drew rein for a
moment before leaving the avenue of tamarinds which had rustled above
her head for a mile or more. Although it was a hot scene that lay before
her, it was that which, when away from home, for some reason best known
to her memory, had always been first to rise. The wide pale-gray road
rose gradually for a long distance, dipped, and rose again. On either
side were cane-fields, their tender greens sharp against the deep hard
blue of the sea on the left, rising to cocoanut groves and the dark
heights of the mountains above the road. Far away, close to the sea, was
Brimstone Hill, that huge isolated rock so near in shape to the crater
of Mount Misery. Its fortifications showed their teeth against the faded
sky, and St. Christopher slept easily while tentative conquerors
approached, looked hard at this Gibraltar of the West Indies, and sailed
But there scarcely was a sail on the sea to-day. Its blue rose and fell,
in that vast unbroken harmony which quickens the West Indian at times
into an intolerable sense of his isolation. Rachael recalled how she had
stared at it in childish resentment, wondering if a mainland really lay
beyond, if Europe were a myth. She did not care if she never set foot on
a ship again, and her ambitions were in the grave with her desire for a
wealthy and intellectual husband.
On the long road, rising gray and hot between the bright green
cane-fields, horsemen approached, and a number of slave women moved
slowly: women with erect rigid backs balancing large baskets or stacks
of cane on their heads, the body below the waist revolving with a
pivotal motion which suggests an anatomy peculiar to the tropics. They
had a dash of red about them somewhere, and their turbans were white.
Rachael's imagination never gave her St. Kitts without its slave women,
the "pic'nees" clinging to their hips as they bore their burdens on the
road or bent over the stones in the river. They belonged to its
landscape, with the palms and the cane-fields, the hot gray roads, and
the great jewel of the sea.
Rachael left the avenue and rode onward. One of the horsemen took off
his Spanish sombrero and waved it. She recognized Dr. Hamilton and shook
her whip at him. He and his companion spurred their horses, and a moment
later Rachael and James Hamilton had met.
"An unexpected pleasure for me, this sudden descent of my young
kinsman," said the doctor, "but a great one, for he brings me news of
all in Scotland, and he saw Will the day before he sailed."
"It is too hot to stand here talking," said Rachael. "Come home with me
to a glass of Spanish port, and cake perhaps."
The doctor was on his way to a consultation, but he ordered his relative
to go and pay his respects to Mistress Fawcett, and rode on whistling.
The two he had recklessly left to their own devices exchanged
platitudes, and covertly examined each other with quick admiration.
There are dark Scots, and Hamilton was one of them. Although tall and
slight, he was knit with a close and peculiar elegance, which made him
look his best on a horse and in white linen. His face was burnt to the
hue of brick-dust by the first quick assault of the tropic sun, but it
was a thin face, well shaped, in spite of prominent cheek bones, and set
with the features of long breeding; and it was mobile, fiery, impetuous,
and very intelligent: ancestral coarseness had been polished fine long
They left the road and mounted toward the dark avenue of the Fawcett
estate, Rachael wondering if her mother would be irritated at the
informality of the stranger's first call; he should have arrived in
state with Dr. Hamilton at the hour of five. Perhaps it was to postpone
the moment of explanation that she permitted her horse to walk, even
after they had reached the level of the avenue, and finally to crop the
grass while she and Hamilton dismounted and sat down in a heavy grove of
tamarinds on the slope of the hill.
"I'm just twenty-one and have my own way to make," he was telling her.
"There are three before me, so I couldn't afford the army, and as I've a
fancy for foreign lands, I've come out here to be a merchant. I have so
many kinsmen in this part of the world, and they've all succeeded so
well, I thought they'd be able to advise me how best to turn over the
few guineas I have. My cousin, the doctor, has taken me in hand, and if
I have any business capacity I shall soon find it out. But I ached for
the army, and failing that, I'd have liked being a scholar--as I know
you are, by your eyes."
His Scotch accent was not unlike that of the West Indians, particularly
of the Barbadians; but his voice, although it retained the huskiness of
the wet North, had, somewhere in its depths, a peculiar metallic quality
which startled Rachael every time it rang out, and was the last of all
memories to linger, when memories were crumbling in a brain that could
stand no more.
How it happened, Rachael spent the saner hours of the morrow attempting
to explain, but they sat under the tamarinds until the sun went down,
and Nevis began to robe for the night. Once they paused in their
desultory talk and listened to the lovely chorus of a West Indian
evening, that low incessant ringing of a million tiny bells. The bells
hung in the throats of nothing more picturesque than grasshoppers,
serpents, lizards, and frogs so small as to be almost invisible, but
they rang with a harmony that the inherited practice of centuries had
given them. And beyond was the monotonous accompaniment of the sea on
the rocks. Hamilton lived to be an old man, and he never left the West
Indies; but sometimes, at long and longer intervals, he found himself
listening to that Lilliputian orchestra, his attention attracted to it,
possibly, by a stranger; and then he remembered this night, and the
woman for whom he would have sacrificed earth and immortality had he
been lord of them.
Heaven knows what they talked about. While it was light they stared out
at the blue sea or down on the rippling cane-fields, not daring to
exchange more than a casual and hasty glance. Both knew that they should
have separated the moment they met, but neither had the impulse nor the
intention to leave the shade of the wood; and when the brief twilight
fell and the moon rose, there still was Nevis, and after her the many
craft to divert their gaze. Hamilton was honourable and shy, and Rachael
was a woman of uncommon strength of character and had been brought up by
a woman of austere virtue. These causes held them apart for a time, but
one might as well have attempted to block two comets rushing at each
other in the same orbit. The magnetism of the Inevitable embraced them
and knit their inner selves together, even while they sat decorously
apart. Rachael had taken off her hat at once, and even after it grew
dark in their arbour, Hamilton fancied he could see the gleam of her
hair. Her eyes were startled and brilliant, and her nostrils quivered
uneasily, but she defined none of the sensations that possessed her but
the overwhelming recrudescence of her youth. It had seemed to her that
it flamed from its ashes before Dr. Hamilton finished his formal words
of introduction, and all its forgotten hopes and impulses, timidity and
vagueness, surged through her brain during those hours beside the
stranger, submerging the memory of Levine. Indeed, she felt even younger
than before maturity so suddenly had been thrust upon her; for in those
old days she had been almost as severely intellectual as yesterday, and
when she had dreamed of the future, it had been with the soberness of an
overtaxed brain. But to-day even the world seemed young again. She
fancied she could hear the unquiet pulses of the Island, so long grown
old, and Nevis had never looked so fair. She hardly was conscious of her
womanhood, only of that possessing sense of happiness in youth. As for
Hamilton, he had never felt otherwise than young, although he was a
college-bred man, something of a scholar, and he had seen more or less
of the world since his boyhood. But the intensity and ardour of his
nature had received no check, neither were they halfway on their
course; and he had never loved. It had seemed to him that the Island
opened and a witch came out, and in those confused hours he hardly knew
whether she were good or bad, his ideal woman or his ideal devil; but he
loved her. He was as pale as his sunburn would permit him to be, and his
hands were clasped tightly about his knees, when relief came in the
shape of Mary Fawcett.
Her daughter's horse had gone home and taken the stranger with him, and
Mistress Fawcett, with quick suspicion, new as it was, started at once
down the avenue. Rachael heard the familiar tapping of her mother's
stick, hastily adjusted her hat, and managed to reach the road with
Hamilton before her mother turned its bend.
Mary Fawcett understood and shivered with terror. She was far from being
her imperious self as her daughter presented the stranger and remarked
that he was a cousin of Dr. Hamilton, characteristically refraining from
apology or explanation.
"Well," she said, "the doctor will doubtless bring you to call some day.
I will send your horse to you. Say good evening to the stranger,
Rachael, and come home." She was one of the most hospitable women in the
Caribbees, and this was the kinsman of her best friend, but she longed
for power to exile him out of St. Kitts that night.
Hamilton lifted his hat, and Rachael followed her mother. She was cold
and frightened, and Levine's white malignant face circled about her.
Her mother requested her support, and she almost carried the light
figure to the house. Mistress Fawcett sent a slave after Hamilton's
horse, then went to her room and wrote a note to Dr. Hamilton, asking
him to call on the following day and to come alone. The two women did
not meet again that night.
But there is little privacy in the houses of St. Kitts and Nevis. Either
the upper part of almost every room is built of ornamental lattice-work,
or the walls are set with numerous jalousies, that can be closed when a
draught is undesirable but conduct the slightest sound. Rachael's room
adjoined her mother's. She knew that the older woman was as uneasily
awake as herself, though from vastly different manifestations of the
same cause. At four o'clock, when the guinea fowl were screeching like
demons, and had awakened the roosters and the dogs to swell the infernal
chorus of a West Indian morning, Rachael sat up in bed and laughed
"What a night!" she thought. "And for what? A man who companioned me for
four hours as no other man had ever done? and who made me feel as if the
world had turned to fire and light? It may have been but a mood of my
own, it is so long since I have talked with a man near to my own
age--and he is so near!--and yet so real a man.... No one could call him
handsome, for he looks like a flayed Carib, and I have met some of the
handsomest men in Europe and not given them a thought. Yet this man kept
me beside him for four hours, and has me awake a whole night because he
is not with me. Has the discipline of these last years, then, gone for
nothing? Am I but an excitable West Indian after all, and shall I have
corded hands before I am twenty-five? It was a mistake to shut myself
away from danger. Had I been constantly meeting the young men of the
Island and all strangers who have come here during the last two years, I
should not be wild for this one--even if he has something in him unlike
other men--and lie awake all night like the silly women who dream
everlastingly of the lover to come. I am a fool."
She lit her candle and went into her mother's room. Mary Fawcett was
sitting up in bed, her white hair hanging out of her nightcap. It seemed
to her that the end of the world had come, and she cursed human nature
and the governors of the Island.
"I know what has kept you awake," said Rachael, "but do not fear. It was
but a passing madness--God smite those guinea fowl! I have lived the
life of a nun, and it is an unnatural life for a young woman. Yesterday
I learned that I have not the temperament of the scholar, the
recluse--that is all. I should have guessed it sooner--then I should not
have been fascinated by this brilliant Scot. It was my mind that flew
eagerly to companionship--that was all. The hours were pleasant. I would
not regret them but for the deep uneasiness they have caused you. To-day
I shall enter the world again. There are many clever and accomplished
young men on St. Kitts. I will meet and talk to them all. We will
entertain them here. There is a ball at Government House to-night,
another at Mistress Irwin's on Wednesday week. I promise you that I will
be as gay and as universal as a girl in her first season, and this man
shall see no more of me than any other man."
Her mother watched her keenly as she delivered her long tirade. Her face
was deeply flushed. The arm that held the candle was tense, and her hair
fell about her splendid form like a cloud of light. Had Hamilton seen
anything so fair in Europe? What part would he play in this scheme of
"You will meet this man if you go abroad," she replied. "Better stay
here and forbid him the gates."
"And think about him till I leap on my horse and ride to meet him? A
fevered imagination will make a god of a Tom Noddy. If I see him
daily--with others--he will seem as commonplace as all men."
Mary Fawcett did not speak for some moments. Then she said: "Hark ye,
Rachael. I interfered once and brought such damnable misery upon you
that I dare not--almost--(she remembered her note to Dr. Hamilton)
interfere again. This time you shall use your own judgement, something
you have taught me to respect. Whatever the result, I will be to the end
what I always have been, the best friend you have. You are very strong.
You have had an awful experience, and it has made a woman of thirty of
you. You are no silly little fool, rushing blindly into the arms of the
first man whose eyes are black enough. You have been brought up to look
upon light women with horror. In your darkest days you never sought to
console yourself as weaker women do. Therefore, in spite of what I saw
in both your faces yesterday, I hope."
"Yes--and give yourself no more uneasiness. Could _I_ look upon the
love of man with favour? Not unless I were to be born again, and my
memory as dead as my body."
"If you love, you will be born again; and if this man overmasters your
imagination, your memory might quite as well be dead. One of the three
or four things in my life that I have to be thankful for is that I never
had to pass through that ordeal. You are far dearer to me than I ever
was to myself, and if you are called upon to go through that wretched
experience, whose consequences never finish, and I with so little time
left in which to stand by and protect you--" She changed abruptly.
"Promise me that you will do nothing unconsidered, that you will not
behave like the ordinary Francesca--for whom I have always had the most
unmitigated contempt. The hour. The man. The fall. The wail: 'The earth
rocked, the stars fell. I knew not what I did!' You have deliberation
and judgement. Use them now--and do not ramble alone in the gorge with
this handsome Scot--for he is a fine man; I would I could deny it. I
felt his charm, although he did not open his mouth."
Rachael's eyes flashed. "Ah! did you?" she cried. "Well, but what of
that? Are not our creoles a handsome race, and have not all but a few
been educated in England? Yes, I will promise you--if you think all this
is serious enough to require a promise."
"But you care so little for the world. You would be sacrificing so much
less than other women--nevertheless it would make you wretched and
humiliate just as much; do not forget that. I almost am tempted to wish
that you had a lighter nature--that you would flirt with love and brush
it away, while the world was merely amused at a suspected gallantry. But
_you_--you would love for a lifetime, and you would end by living with
him openly. There is no compromise in you."
"Surely we have become more serious than an afternoon's talk with an
interesting stranger should warrant. I am full of a sudden longing for
the world, and who knows but I shall become so wedded to it that I would
yield it for no man? Besides, do I not live to make you happy, to
reward as best I can your unselfish devotion? If ever I could love any
man more than I love you, then that love would be overwhelming indeed.
But although I can imagine myself forgetting the world in such a love, I
cannot picture you on the sacrificial altar."
Rachael was asleep when Dr. Hamilton called. Mistress Fawcett received
him in the library, which was at the extreme end of the long house. He
laughed so heartily at her fears that he almost dispelled them. Whatever
he anticipated in Rachael's future, he had no mind to apprehend danger
in every man who interested her.
"For God's sake, Mary," he exclaimed, "let the girl have a flirtation
without making a tragedy of it. She is quite right. The world is what
she wants. If ever there was a woman whom Nature did not intend for a
nun it is Rachael Levine. Let her carry out her plan, and in a week she
will be the belle of the Island, and my poor cousin will be consoling
himself with some indignant beauty only a shade less fair. I'll engage
to marry him off at once, if that will bring sleep to your pillow, but I
can't send him away as you propose. I am not King George, nor yet the
Captain-General. Nor have I any argument by which to persuade him to go.
I have given him too much encouragement to stay. I'll keep him away from
routs as long as I can--but remember that he is young, uncommonly
good-looking, and a stranger: the girls will not let me keep him in
hiding for long. Now let the girl alone. Let her think you've forgotten
my new kinsman and your fears. I don't know any way to manage women but
to let them manage themselves. Bob Edwards failed with Catherine. I have
succeeded. Take a leaf out of my book. Rachael is not going through life
without a stupendous love affair. She was marked out for it, specially
moulded and equipped by old Mother Nature. Resign yourself to it, and go
out and put up your hands against the next tidal wave if you want an
illustration of what interference with Rachael would amount to. I wish
Levine would die, or we could get a divorce law through on this Island.
But the entire Council falls on the table with horror every time I
suggest it. Don't worry till the time comes. I'll fill my house with all
the pretty girls on St. Kitts and Nevis, and marry this hero of romance
as soon as I can."
Rachael went to the ball at Government House that night, glittering in a
gown of brocade she had worn at the court of Denmark: Levine had sent
her trunks to Peter Lytton's, but not her jewels. She was the most
splendid creature in the rooms, and there was no talk of anyone else.
But before the night was a third over she realized that the attention
she would receive during this her second dazzling descent upon society
would differ widely from her first. The young men bowed before her in
deep appreciation of her beauty, then passed on to the girls of that
light-hearted band to which she no longer belonged. She was a woman with
a tragic history and a living husband; she had a reputation for severe
intellectuality, and her eyes, the very carriage of her body, expressed
a stern aloofness from the small and common exteriorities of life. The
Governor, the members of Council, of the Assembly, of the bench and bar,
and the clergy, flocked about her, delighted at her return to the world,
but she was the belle of the matrons, and not a young man asked her to
She shrugged her shoulders when she saw how it was to be.
"Can they guess that I am younger than they are?" she thought. "And
would I have them? Would I share that secret with any in the world--but
one? Do I want to dance--to _dance_--Good God! And talk nonsense and the
gossip of the Island with these youths when I have naught to say but
that my soul has grown wings and that the cold lamp in my breast has
blown out, and lit again with the flame that keeps the world alive? Even
if I think it best never to see him again, he has given me that, and I
am young at last."
When she returned home, as the guinea fowl were at their raucous matins,
she was able to tell her mother that the Scot had not attended the ball,
and Mary Fawcett knew that Dr. Hamilton had managed to detain him.
But a fortnight later they met again at the house of Dr. George Irwin,
an intimate friend of the Hamiltons.
The Irwin's house in Basseterre was on the north side of the Park, which
was surrounded by other fine dwellings and several public buildings. The
broad verandahs almost overhung the enclosure, with its great banyan
tree, the royal palms about the fountain, the close avenues, the flaming
hedges of croton and hybiscus, and the traveller's palm and tree ferns
brought from the mountains. When a ball was given at one of the houses
about this Park on a moonlight night, there was much scheming to avoid
the watchful eyes of lawful guardians.
It was inevitable that Hamilton should attend this ball, for the Irwins
and his relatives were in and out of each other's houses all day and
half the night. By this time, however, he had met nearly every girl on
St. Kitts, and his cousin had ridden out that afternoon to assure
Mistress Fawcett that the danger weakened daily.
But for an hour, he did not leave Rachael's side that night. The
beauties of St. Christopher--and they were many, with their
porcelain-like complexions and distinguished features--went through all
their graceful creole paces in vain. That he was recklessly in love with
Rachael Levine was manifest to all who chose to look, and as undaunted
by her intellect and history as any man of his cousin's mature coterie.
As for Rachael, although she distributed her favours impartially for a
while, her mobile face betrayed to Dr. Hamilton that mind and body were
steeped in that tremulous content which possesses a woman when close to
an undeclared lover in a public place; the man, and Life and her own
emotions unmortalized, the very future bounded by the gala walls, the
music, the lights, and the perfume of flowers. These walls were hung
with branches of orange trees loaded with fruit, and with ferns and
orchids brought fresh from the mountains. A band of blacks played on
their native instruments the fashionable dances of the day with a weird
and barbaric effect, and occasionally sang a wailing accompaniment in
voices of indescribable softness. There was light from fifty candles,
and the eternal breeze lifted and dispersed the heavy perfume of the
flowers. Hamilton had been in many ball-rooms, but never in one like
this. He abstained from the madeiras and ports which were passed about
at brief intervals by the swinging coloured women in their gay frocks
and white turbans; but he was intoxicated, nevertheless, and more than
once on the point of leaving the house. The unreality of it all held him
more than weakness, for in some things James Hamilton was strong enough.
The weakness in him was down at the roots of his character, and he was
neither a feathercock nor a flasher. He had no intention of making love
to Rachael until he saw his future more clearly than he did to-night.
During the fortnight that had passed since he met her, he had thought of
little else, and to-night he wanted nothing else, but impulsive and
passionate as he was, he came of a race of hard-headed Scots. He had no
mind for a love affair of tragic seriousness, even while his quickened
imagination pictured the end.
He deliberately left her side after a time and joined a group of men who
were smoking in the court. After an hour of politics his brain had less
blood in it, and when he found himself standing beside Rachael on the
verandah he suggested that they follow other guests into the Park. He
gave Rachael his arm in the courtly fashion of the day, and they walked
about the open paths and talked of the negroes singing in the
cane-fields, and the squalid poverty of the North, as if their hearts
were as calm as they are to-day. People turned often to look at them,
commenting according to the mixing of their essences, but all concurring
in praise of so much beauty. Hamilton's sunburn had passed the acute
stage, leaving him merely brown, and his black silk small clothes and
lace ruffles, his white silk stockings and pumps, were vastly becoming.
His hair, lightly powdered, was tied with a white ribbon, but although
he carried himself proudly, there was no manifest in his bearing that
the vanities consumed much of his thought. He was gallanted like a young
blood of the period, and so were the young men of St. Kitts. Rachael
wore a heavy gold-coloured satin, baring the neck, and a stiff and
pointed stomacher, her hair held high with a diamond comb. Her fairness
was dazzling in the night-light, and it was such a light as Hamilton
never had seen before: for in the Tropics the moon is golden, and the
stars are crystal. The palm leaves, high on their slender shafts,
glittered like polished dark-green metal, and the downpour was so
dazzling that more than once the stranger shaded his eyes with his hand.
Had it not been for the soft babble of many voices, the silence would
have been intense, until the ear was tuned to the low tinkle of the
night bells, for the sea was calm.
Once, as if in explanation for words unspoken, he commented nervously on
the sensation of unreality with which these tropic scenes inspired him,
and Rachael, who longed to withdraw her hand from his arm, told him of
an entertainment peculiar to the Islands, a torchlight hunt for
land-crabs, which once a year travel down from the mountains to the sea,
to bathe and shed their shells. Words hastened. Before she drew breath
she had arranged a hunt for the night of the 10th of April, and received
his promise to be one of her guests. They were not so happy as they had
been within doors, for the world seemed wider. But their inner selves
pressed so hard toward each other that finally they were driven to
certain egotisms as a relief.
"I think little of the future," she said, after a direct question, "for
that means looking beyond my mother's death, and that is the one fact I
have not the courage to face. But of course I know that it holds nothing
for me. A ball occasionally, and the conversation of clever men who
admire me but care for some one else, books the rest of the week, and
life alone on a shelf of the mountain. The thought that I shall one day
be old does not console me as it may console men, for with women the
heart never grows old. The body withers, and the heart in its awful
eternal youth has the less to separate and protect it from the world
that has no use for it. Then the body dies and is put away, but the
heart is greedily consumed to feed the great pulses of the world that
lives faster every year. We give, and give, and give."
"And are only happy in giving," said Hamilton, quickly. "But if men
preserve the balance of the world by taking all that women give them, at
least the best of us find our happiness in the gifts of one woman, and a
woman so besought dare not assert that her heart is empty. I
understand--and no one more clearly than I do to-night--that if she give
too much, she may curse her heart and look out bitterly upon the
manifold interests that could suppress it for weeks and months--if life
were full enough. Is yours? What would you sacrifice if you came to me?"
He asked the question calmly, for there were people on every side of
them, but he asked it on an uncontrollable impulse, nevertheless; he had
vowed to himself that he would wait a month.
His natural repose was greater than hers, for she had the excitable
nerves of the Tropics. He felt her arm quiver before she dropped her
hand from his arm. But she replied almost as calmly: "Nothing after my
mother's death. Absolutely nothing. When a woman suffers as I have done,
and her future is ruined in any case, the world counts for very little
with her, unless it always has counted for more than anything else. We
grow the more cynical and contemptuous as we witness the foolish
gallantries of women who have so much to lose. I am not hard. I am very
soft about many things, and since you came I am become the very tragedy
of youth; but I have no respect for the world as I have seen it. For
many people in the world I have a great deal, but not for the substance
out of which Society has built itself. One never loses one's real
friends, no matter what one does. Every circumstance of my life has
isolated me from this structure called society, forced me to make my own
laws. I may never be happy, because my capacity for happiness is too
great, but in my own case there is no alternative worth considering.
This is the substance of what I have thought since we met, but you are
not to speak to me of it again while my mother lives."
"I do not promise you that--but this: that I will do much thinking
before I speak again."
But although they parted with formal courtesy, it was several nights
before either slept. Rachael went home to her bed and lay down, because
she feared to agitate her mother, but her disposition was to go out and
walk the circuit of the Island, and she rose as soon as she dared, and
climbed to the highest crest behind the house. It was cold there, and
the wind was keen. She sat for hours and stared out at Nevis, who was
rolling up her mists, indifferent to the torment of mortals.
During the past fortnight she had conceived a certain stern calm, partly
in self-defence, due in part to love for her mother. But since she had
left Hamilton, last night, there had been moments when she had felt
alone in the Universe with him, exalted to such heights of human passion
that she had imagined herself about to become the mother of a new race.
Her genius, which in a later day might have taken the form of mental
creation, concentrated in a supreme capacity for idealized human
passion, and its blind impulse was a reproduction of itself in another
Were she and Hamilton but the victims of a mighty ego roaming the
Universe in search of a medium for human expression? Were they but
helpless sacrifices, consummately equipped, that the result of their
union might be consummately great? Who shall affirm or deny? The very
commonplaces of life are components of its eternal mystery. We know
absolutely nothing. But we have these facts: that a century and a half
ago, on a tropical island, where, even to common beings, quick and
intense love must seem the most natural thing in the world, this man and
woman met; that the woman, herself born in unhappy conditions, but
beautiful, intellectual, with a character developed far beyond her years
and isolated home by the cruel sufferings of an early marriage, reared
by a woman whose independence and energy had triumphed over the narrow
laws of the Island of her birth, given her courage to snap her fingers
at society--we know that this woman, inevitably remarkable, met and
loved a stranger from the North, so generously endowed that he alone of
all the active and individual men who surrounded her won her heart; and
that the result of their union was one of the stupendous intellects of
the world's history.
Did any great genius ever come into the world after commonplace
pre-natal conditions? Was a maker of history ever born amidst the
pleasant harmonies of a satisfied domesticity? Of a mother who was less
than remarkable, although she may have escaped being great? Did a woman
with no wildness in her blood ever inform a brain with electric fire?
The students of history know that while many mothers of great men have
been virtuous, none have been commonplace, and few have been happy. And
lest the moralists of my day and country be more prone to outraged
virtue, in reading this story, than were the easy-going folk who
surrounded it, let me hasten to remind them that it all happened close
upon a hundred and fifty years ago, and that the man and woman who gave
them the brain to which they owe the great structure that has made their
country phenomenal among nations, are dust on isles four hundred miles
A century and a half ago women indulged in little introspective
analysis. They thought on broad lines, and honestly understood the
strength of their emotions. Moreover, although Mary Wollstonecraft was
unborn and "Emile" unwritten, Individualism was germinating; and what
soil so quickening as the Tropics? Nevertheless, to admit was not to lay
the question, and Rachael passed through many hours of torment before
hers was settled. She was not unhappy, for the intoxication lingered,
and behind the methodical ticking of her reason, stood, calmly awaiting
its time, that sense of the Inevitable which has saved so many brains
from madness. She slept little and rested less, but that sentinel in her
brain prevented the frantic hopelessness which would have possessed her
had she felt herself strong enough to command James Hamilton to leave
She met him several times before the night of her entertainment, and
there were moments when she was filled with terror, for he did not
whisper a reference to the conversation in the Park. Had he thought
better of it? Would he go? Would he conquer himself? Was it but a
passing madness? When these doubts tormented her she was driven to such
a state of jealous fury that she forgot every scruple, and longed only
for the bond which would bind him fast; then reminded herself that she
should be grateful, and endeavoured to be. But one day when he lifted
her to her horse, he kissed her wrist, and again the intoxication of
love went to her head, and this time it remained there. Once they met up
in the hills, where they had been asked with others to take a dish of
tea with Mistress Montgomerie. They sat alone for an hour on one of the
terraces above the house, laughing and chattering like children, then
rode down the hills through the cane-fields together. Again, they met in
the Park, and sat under the banyan tree, discussing the great books they
had read, all of Europe they knew. For a time neither cared to finish
that brief period of exquisite happiness and doubt, where imagination
rules, and the world is unreal and wholly sweet, and they its first to
The wrenching stage of doubt had passed for Hamilton, but he thought on
the future with profound disquiet. He would have the woman wholly or not
at all, after Mary Fawcett's death; he knew from Dr. Hamilton that it
would occur before the year was out. He had no taste for intrigue. He
wanted a home, and the woman he would have rejoiced to marry was the
woman he expected to love and live with for the rest of his life. Once
or twice the overwhelming sense of responsibility, the certainty of
children, whom he could not legalize, the possible ruin of his worldly
interests, as well as his deep and sincere love for the woman, drove him
almost to the bows of a homeward-bound vessel. But the sure knowledge
that he should return kept him doggedly on St. Christopher. He even had
ceased to explain his infatuation to himself by such excuse as was given
him by her beauty, her grace, her strong yet charming brain. He loved
her, and he would have her if the skies fell.
It is doubtful if he understood the full force of the attraction between
them. The real energy and deliberation, the unswerving purpose in her
magnetized the weakness at the roots of his ardent, impulsive, but
unstable character. Moreover, in spite of the superlative passion which
he had aroused in her, she lacked the animal magnetism which was his in
abundance. Her oneness was a magnet for his gregariousness and
concentrated it upon herself. That positive quality in him overwhelmed
and intoxicated her; and in intellect he was far more brilliant and far
less profound than herself. His wit and mental nimbleness stung and
pricked the serene layers which she had carefully superimposed in her
own mind to such activities as mingled playfully with his lighter moods
or stimulated him in more intellectual hours. While the future was yet
unbroken and imagination remodelled the face of the world, there were
moments when both were exalted with a sense of completeness, and
terrified, when apart, with a hint of dissolution into unrelated
When a man and woman arrive at that stage of reasoning and feeling, it
were idle for their chronicler to moralize; her part is but to tell the
Mary Fawcett encouraged her daughter's social activity, and as
Hamilton's name entered the rapid accounts of revels and routs in the
most casual manner, she endeavoured to persuade herself that the madness
had passed with a languid afternoon. She was a woman of the world, but
the one experience that develops deepest insight had passed her by, and
there were shades and moods of the master passion over which her sharp
eyes roved without a shock.
As she was too feeble to sit up after nine o'clock, she refused to open
her doors for the crab hunt, but gave Rachael the key of a little villa
on the crest of a peak behind the house, and told her to keep her
friends all night if she chose.
This pavilion, designed for the hotter weeks of the hurricane season,
but seldom used by the Fawcetts, was a small stone building, with two
bedrooms and a living room, a swimming bath, and several huts for
servants. The outbuildings were dilapidated, but the house after an
airing and scrubbing was as fit for entertainment as any on St. Kitts.
The furniture in the Tropics is of cane, and there are no carpets or
hangings to invite destruction. Even the mattresses are often but
plaited thongs of leather, covered with strong linen, and stretched
until they are hard as wood. All Mary Fawcett's furniture was of
mahogany, the only wood impervious to the boring of the West Indian
worm. This tiny house on the mountain needed but a day's work to clean
it, and another to transform it into an arbour of the forest. The walls
of the rooms were covered with ferns, orchids, and croton leaves. Gold
and silver candelabra had been carried up from the house, and they would
hold half a hundred candles.
All day the strong black women climbed the gorge and hill, their hips
swinging, baskets of wine, trays of delicate edibles, pyramids of linen,
balanced as lightly on their heads as were they no more in weight and
size than the turban beneath; their arms hanging, their soft voices
scolding the "pic'nees" who stumbled after them.
Toward evening, Rachael and Kitty Hamilton walked down the mountain
together, and lingered in the heavy beauty of the gorge. The ferns grew
high above their heads, and palms of many shapes. The dark machineel
with its deadly fruit, the trailing vines on the tamarind trees, the
monkeys leaping, chattering with terror, through flaming hybiscus and
masses of orchid, the white volcanic rock, the long torn leaves of the
banana tree, the abrupt declines, crimson with wild strawberries, the
loud boom of the sunset gun from Brimstone Hill--Rachael never forgot a
detail of that last walk with her old friend. Hers was not the nature
for intimate friendships, but Catherine Hamilton had been one of her
first remembered playmates, her bridesmaid, and had hastened to
companion her when she emerged from the darkness of her married life.
But Catherine was an austere girl, of no great mental liveliness, and
the friendship, although sincere, was not rooted in the sympathies and
affections. She believed Rachael to be the most remarkable woman in the
world, and had never dared to contradict her, although she lowered her
fine head to no one else. But female virtue, as they expressed it in the
eighteenth century, stood higher in her estimation than all the gifts of
mind and soul which had been lavished upon Rachael Levine, and she was
the first to desert her when the final step was taken. But on this
evening there was no barrier, and she talked of her future with the man
she was to marry. She was happy and somewhat sentimental. Rachael sighed
and set her lips. All her girlhood friends were either married or about
to be--except Christiana, who had not a care in her little world. Why
were sorrow and disgrace for her alone? What have I done, she thought,
that I seem to be accursed? I have wronged no one, and I am more gifted
than any of these friends of mine. Not one of them has studied so
severely, and learned as much as I. Not one of them can command the
homage of such men as I. And yet I alone am singled out, first, for the
most hideous fate which can attack a woman, then to live apart from all
good men and women with a man I cannot marry, and who may break my
heart. I wish that I had not been born, and I would not be dead for all
the peace that is in the most silent depths of the Universe.
At ten o'clock, that night, the hills were red with the torches of as
gay a company as ever had assembled on the Island. The Governor and Dr.
Hamilton were keen sportsmen, and nothing delighted them more than to
chase infuriated land-crabs down the side of a mountain. There were some
twenty men in the party, and most of them followed their distinguished
elders through brush and rocky passes. Occasionally, a sudden yell of
pain mingled with the shouts of mirth, for land-crabs have their methods
of revenge. The three or four girls whom Rachael had induced to attend
this masculine frolic, kept to the high refuge of the villa, attended by
cavaliers who dared not hint that maiden charms were less than
Hamilton and Rachael sat on the steps of the terrace, or paced up and
down, watching the scene. Just beyond their crest was the frowning mass
of Mount Misery. The crystal flood poured down from above, and the moon
was rising over the distant hills. The sea had the look of infinity.
There might be ships at anchor before Basseterre or Sandy Point, but the
shoulders of the mountain hid them; and below, the world looked as if
the passions of Hell had let loose--the torches flared and crackled, and
the trees took on hideous shapes. Once a battalion of the pale
venomous-looking crabs rattled across the terrace, and Rachael, who was
masculine in naught but her intellect, screamed and flung herself into
Hamilton's arms. A moment later she laughed, but their conversation
ceased then to be impersonal. It may be said here, that if Hamilton
failed in other walks of life, it was not from want of resolution where
women were concerned. And he was tired of philandering.
The hunters returned, slaves carrying the slaughtered crabs in baskets.
There were many hands to shell the victims, and in less than half an
hour Mary Fawcett's cook sent in a huge and steaming dish. Then there
were mulled wines and port, cherry brandy and liqueurs to refresh the
weary, and sweets for the women. A livelier party never sat down to
table; and Hamilton, who was placed between two chattering girls, was a
man of the world, young as he was, and betrayed neither impatience nor
ennui. Rachael sat at the head of the table, between the Governor and
Dr. Hamilton. Her face, usually as white as porcelain, was pink in the
cheeks; her eyes sparkled, her nostrils fluttered with triumph. She
looked so exultant that more than one wondered if she were intoxicated
with her own beauty; but Dr. Hamilton understood, and his supper lost
its relish. Some time since he had concluded that where Mary Fawcett
failed he could not hope to succeed, but he had done his duty and
lectured his cousin. He understood human nature from its heights to its
dregs, however, and promised Hamilton his unaltered friendship, even
while in the flood of remonstrance. He was a philosopher, who invariably
held out his hand to the Inevitable, with a shrug of his shoulders, but
he loved Rachael, and wished that the ship that brought Levine to the
Islands had encountered a hurricane.
The guests started for home at one o'clock, few taking the same path.
The tired slaves went down to their huts. Rachael remained on the
mountain, and Hamilton returned to her.
It was a month later that Rachael, returning after a long ride with
Hamilton, found her mother just descended from the family coach.
"Is it possible that you have been to pay visits?" she asked, as she
hastened to support the feeble old woman up the steps.
"No, I have been to Basseterre with Archibald Hamn."
"Not to St. Peter's, I hope."
"Oh, my dear, I do not feel in the mood to jest. I went to court to
secure the future of my three dear slaves, Rebecca, Flora, and Esther."
Rachael placed her mother on one of the verandah chairs and dropped upon
"Why have you done that?" she asked faintly. "Surely--"
"There are several things I fully realize, and one is that each attack
leaves me with less vitality to resist the next. These girls are the
daughters of my dear old Rebecca, who was as much to me as a black ever
can be to a white, and that is saying a good deal. I have just signed a
deed of trust before the Registrar--to Archibald. They are still mine
for the rest of my life, yours for your lifetime, or as long as you live
here; then they go to Archibald or his heirs. I want you to promise me
that they shall never go beyond this Island or Nevis."
"I promise." Rachael had covered her face with her hand.
"I believe you kept the last promise you made me. It is not in your
character to break your word, however you may see fit to take the law
into your own hands."
"I kept it."
"And you will live with him openly after my death. I have appreciated
your attempt to spare me."
"Ah, you _do_ know me."
"Some things may escape my tired old eyes, but I love you too well not
to have seen for a month past that you were as happy as a bride. I shall
say no more--save for a few moments with James Hamilton. I am old and
ill and helpless. You are young and indomitable. If I were as vigorous
and self-willed as when I left your father, I could not control you now.
I shall leave you independent. Will Hamilton, Archibald, and a few
others will stand by you; but alas! you will, in the course of nature,
outlive them all, and have no friend in the world but Hamilton--although
I shall write an appeal to your sisters to be sent to them after my
death. But oh, how I wish, how I wish, that you could marry this man."
Mary Fawcett was attacked that night by the last harsh rigours of her
disease and all its complications. Until she died, a week later,
Rachael, except for the hour that Hamilton sat alone beside the bed of
the stricken woman, did not leave her mother. The immortal happiness of
the last month was forgotten. She was prostrate, literally on her knees
with grief and remorse, for she believed that her mother's discovery had
hastened the end.
"No, it is not so," said Mary Fawcett, one day. "My time has come to
die. Will Hamilton will assure you of that, and I have watched the space
between myself and death diminish day by day, for six months past. I
have known that I should die before the year was out. It is true that I
die in sorrow and with a miserable sense of failure, for you have been
my best-beloved, my idol, and I leave you terribly placed in life and
with little hope of betterment. But for you I have no reproach. You have
given me love for love, and duty for duty. Life has treated you
brutally; what has come now was, I suppose, inevitable. Human nature
when it is strong enough is stronger than moral law. I grieve for you,
but I die without grievance against you. Remember that. And Hamilton? He
is honourable, and he loves you utterly--but is he strong? I wish I
knew. His emotions and his active brain give him so much apparent
force--but underneath? I wish I knew."
Rachael was grateful for her mother's unselfish assurance, but she was
not to be consoled. The passions in her nature, released from other
thrall, manifested themselves in a grief so profound, and at times so
violent, that only her strong frame saved her from illness. For two
weeks after Mary Fawcett's death she refused to see James Hamilton; but
by that time he felt at liberty to assert his rights, and her finely
poised mind recovered its balance under his solace and argument. Her
life was his, and to punish him assuaged nothing of her sorrow. He had
decided, after consultation with his cousin, to take her to Nevis, not
only to seclude her from the scandalized society she knew best, but that
he might better divert her mind, in new scenes, from her heavy
affliction. Hamilton had already embarked in his business enterprise,
but he had bought and manned a sail-boat, which would carry him to and
from St. Kitts daily. In the dead calms of summer there was little
"I attempted no sophistry with my cousin," said Hamilton, "and for that
reason I think I have put the final corking-pin into our friendship.
Right or wrong we are going to live together for the rest of our lives,
because I will have no other woman, and you will have no other man; and
we will live together publicly, not only because neither of us has the
patience for scheming and deceit, but because passion is not our only
motive for union. There is gallantry on every side of us, and doubtless
we alone shall be made to suffer; for the world loves to be fooled, it
hates the crudeness of truth. But we have each other, and nothing else
And to Rachael nothing else mattered, for her mother was dead, and she
loved Hamilton with an increasing passion that was long in culminating.
They sailed over to Nevis, accompanied by a dozen slaves, and took
possession of Rachael's house in Main Street. It stood at the very end
of the town, beyond the point where the street ceased and the road round
the Island began. The high wall of the garden surrounded a grove of
palms and cocoanut trees. Only sojourners from England had occupied the
big comfortable house, and it was in good repair.
When the acute stage of her grief had passed, it was idle for Rachael to
deny to Hamilton that she was happy. And at that time she had not a care
in the world, nor had he. Their combined incomes made them as careless
of money as any planter on the Island. Every ship from England brought
them books and music, and Hamilton was not only the impassioned lover
but the tenderest and most patient of husbands. Coaches dashed by and
the occupants cast up eyes and hands. The gay life of Nevis pulsed
unheeded about the high walls, whose gates were always locked. The