Part 4 out of 5
You could neither sing nor fly." She turned dreamily back into her
room and wandered over to a little table on which her violin lay in
its box. She lifted the top and thrummed the strings. "How could
I ever have loved you?"
She dressed absent-mindedly. How should she spend the forenoon?
Some of her friends would be coming to talk over the party; there
would be callers; there was the summer-house, her hammock, her
phaeton; there were nooks and seats, cool, fragrant; there were her
mother and grandmother to prattle to and caress. "No," she said,
"not any of them. One person only. I must see _him_."
She thought of the places where she could probably see him if he
should be in town that day. There was only one--the library.
Often, when there, she had seen him pass in and out. He had no
need to come for books or periodicals, all these he could have at
home; but she had heard the librarian and him at work; over the
files of old papers containing accounts of early agricultural
affairs and the first cattle-shows of the state. She resolved to
go to the library: what desire had she ever known that she had not
When Marguerite, about eleven o'clock, approached the library a
little fearfully, she saw Barbee pacing to and fro on the sidewalk
before the steps. She felt inclined to turn back; he was the last
person she cared to meet this morning. Play with him had suddenly
ended as a picnic in a spring grove is interrupted by a tempest.
"I ought to tell him at once," she said; and she went forward.
He came to meet her--with a countenance dissatisfied and
reproachful. It struck her that his thin large ears looked
yellowish instead of red and that his freckles had apparently
spread and thickened. She asked herself why she had never before
realized how boyish he was.
"Marguerite," he said at once, as though the matter were to be
taken firmly in hand, "you treated me shabbily the night of your
party. It was unworthy of you. And I will not stand it. You
ought not be such a child!"
Her breath was taken away. She blanched and her eyes dilated as
she looked at him: the lash of words had never been laid on her.
"Are you calling me to account?" she asked. "Then I shall call you
to an account. When you came up to speak to grandmother and to
mamma and me, you spoke to us as though you were an indifferent
suitor of mine--as though I were a suitor of yours. As soon as you
were gone, mamma said to me: 'What have you been doing, Marguerite,
that he should think you are in love with him--that he should treat
us as though we all wished to catch him?'"
"That was a mistake of your mother's. But after what had passed
"No matter what had passed between us, I do not think that a _man_
would virtually tell a girl's mother on her: a boy might."
He grew ashen; and he took his hand out of his pockets and
straightened himself from his slouchy lounging posture, and stood
before her, his head in the air on his long neck like a young stag
affronted and enraged.
"It is true, I have sometimes been too much like a boy with you,"
he said. "Have you made it possible for me to be anything else?"
"Then I'll make it possible for you now: to begin, I am too old to
be called to account for my actions--except by those who have the
"You mean, that I have no right--after what has passed--"
"Nothing has passed between us!"
"Marguerite," he said, "do you mean that you do not love me?"
"Can you not see?"
She was standing on the steps above him. The many-fluted parasol
with its long silken fringes rested on one shoulder. Her face in
the dazzling sunlight, under her hat, had lost its gayety. Her
eyes rested upon his with perfect quietness.
"I do not believe that you yourself know whether you love me," he
said, laughing pitifully. His big mouth twitched and his love had
come back into his eyes quickly enough.
"Let me tell you how I know," she said, with more kindness. "If I
loved you, I could not stand here and speak of it to you in this
way. I could not tell you you are not a man. Everything in me
would go down before you. You could do with my life what you
pleased. No one in comparison with you would mean anything to
me--not even mamma. As long as I was with you, I should never wish
to sleep; if you were away from me, I should never wish to waken.
If you were poor, if you were in trouble, you would be all the
dearer to me--if you only loved me, only loved me!"
Who is it that can mark down the moment when we ceased to be
children? Gazing backward in after years, we sometimes attempt
dimly to fix the time. "It probably occurred on that day," we
declare; "it may have taken place during that night. It coincided
with that hardship, or with that mastery of life." But a child can
suffer and can triumph as a man or a woman, yet remain a child.
Like man and woman it can hate, envy, malign, cheat, lie,
tyrannize; or bless, cheer, defend, drop its pitying tears, pour
out its heroic spirit. Love alone among the passions parts the two
eternities of a lifetime. The instant it is born, the child which
was its parent is dead.
As Marguerite suddenly ceased speaking, frightened by the secret
import of her own words, her skin, which had the satinlike fineness
and sheen of white poppy leaves, became dyed from brow to breast
with a surging flame of rose. She turned partly away from Barbee,
and she waited for him to go.
He looked at her a moment with torment in his eyes; then, lifting
his hat without a word, he turned and walked proudly down the
street toward his office.
Marguerite did not send a glance after him. What can make us so
cruel to those who vainly love us as our vain love of some one
else? What do we care for their suffering? We see it in their
faces, hear it in their speech, feel it as the tragedy of their
lives. But we turn away from them unmoved and cry out at the
heartlessness of those whom our own faces and words and sorrow do
She lowered her parasol, and pressing her palm against one cheek
and then the other, to force back the betraying blood, hurried
agitated and elated into the library. A new kind of excitement
filled her: she had confessed her secret, had proved her fidelity
to him she loved by turning off the playmate of childhood. Who
does not know the relief of confessing to some one who does not
The interior of the library was an immense rectangular room. Book
shelves projected from each side toward the middle, forming
alcoves. Seated in one of these alcoves, you could be seen only by
persons who should chance to pass. The library was never crowded
and it was nearly empty now. Marguerite lingered to speak with the
librarian, meantime looking carefully around the room; and then
moved on toward the shelves where she remembered having once seen a
certain book of which she was now thinking. It had not interested
her then; she had heard it spoken of since, but it had not
interested her since. Only to-day something new within herself
drew her toward it.
No one was in the alcove she entered. After a while she found her
book and seated herself in a nook of the walls with her face turned
in the one direction from which she could be discovered by any one
passing. While she read, she wished to watch: might he not pass?
It was a very old volume, thumbed by generations of readers. Pages
were gone, the halves of pages worn away or tattered. It was
printed in an old style of uncertain spelling so that the period of
its authorship could in this way be but doubtfully indicated.
Ostensibly it came down from the ruder, plainer speech of old
English times, which may have found leisure for such "A Booke of
Marguerite's eyes settled first on the complete title: "Lady
Bluefields' First Principles of Courting for Ye Use of Ye Ladies;
but Plainly Set Down for Ye Good of Ye Beginners."
"I am not a beginner," thought Marguerite, who had been in love
three days; and she began to read:
"_Now of all artes ye most ancient is ye lovely arte of courting.
It is ye earliest form of ye chase. It is older than hawking or
hunting ye wilde bore. It is older than ye flint age or ye stone
aye, being as old as ye bones in ye man his body and in ye woman
her body. It began in ye Garden of Eden and is as old as ye old
Marguerite laughed: she thought Lady Bluefields delightful.
"_Now ye only purpose in all God His world of ye arte of courting
is to create love where love is not, or to make it grow where it
has begun. But whether ye wish to create love or to blow ye little
coal into ye big blaze, ye principles are ye same; for ye bellows
that will fan nothing into something will easily roast ye spark
into ye roaring fire; and ye grander ye fire, ye grander ye arte_."
Marguerite laughed again. Then she stopped reading and tested the
passage in the light of her experience. A bellows and--nothing to
begin. Then something. Then a spark. Then a name. She returned
to the book with the conclusion that Lady Bluefields was a woman of
"_This little booke will not contain any but ye first principles:
if is enough for ye stingy price ye pay. But ye woman who buys ye
first principles and fails, must then get ye larger work on ye Last
Principles of Courting, with ye true account of ye mysteries which
set ye principles to going: it is ye infallible guide to ye
irresistible love. Ye pay more for ye Big Booke, and God knows it
is worth ye price: it is written for ye women who are ye difficult
cases--ye floating derelicts in ye ocean of love, ye hidden snags,
terror of ye seafaring men_."
This did not so much interest Marguerite. She skipped two or three
pages which seemed to go unnecessarily into the subject of
derelicts and snags. "I am not quite sure as to what a derelict
is: I do not think I am one; out certainly I am not a snag."
"_Now ye only reason for ye lovely arts of courtinge is ye purpose
to marry. If ye do not expect to marry, positively ye must not
court: flirting is ye dishonest arte. Courting is ye honest arte;
if ye woman knows in ye woman her heart that she will not make ye
man a good wife, let her not try to Cage ye man: let her keep ye
cat or cage ye canary: that is enough for her_."
"I shall dispose of my canary at once. It goes to Miss Harriet
"_Now of all men there is one ye woman must not court: ye married
man. Positively ye must not court such a man. If he wishes to
court ye, ye must make resistance to him with all ye soul; if you
wish to court him, ye must resist yourself. If he is a married man
and happy, let him alone. If he is married and unhappy, let him
bear his lot and beat his wife_."
Marguerite's eyes flashed. "It is well the writer did not live in
this age," she thought.
"_Ye men to court are three kinds: first ye swain; second ye old
bachelor; third ye widower. Ye old bachelor is like ye green
chimney of ye new house--hard to kindle. But ye widower is like ye
familiar fireplace. Ye must court according to ye kind. Ye
bachelor and ye widower are treated in ye big booke_."
"The swain is left," said Marguerite. "How and when is the swain
to be courted?"
"_Now ye beauty of ye swain is that ye can court him at all seasons
of ye year. Ye female bird will signal for ye mate only when ye
woods are green; but even ye old maid can go to ye icy spinnet and
drum wildly in ye dead of winter with ye aching fingers and ye
swain mate will sometimes come to her out of ye cold_."
Marguerite was beginning to think that nearly every one treated in
Lady Bluefields' book was too advanced in years: it was too
charitable to the problems of spinsters. "Where do the young come
in?" she asked impatiently.
"_Ye must not court ye young swain with ye food or ye wine. That
is for ye old bachelors and ye widowers to whom ye food and wine
are dear, but ye woman who gives them not dear enough. Ye woman
gives them meat and drink and they give ye woman hope: it is ye
bargain: let each be content with what each gets. But if ye swain
be bashful and ye know that he cannot speak ye word that he has
tried to speak, a glass of ye wine will sometimes give him that
missing word. Ye wine passes ye word to him and he passes ye word
to you: and ye keep it! When ye man is soaked with wine he does
not know what he loves nor cares: he will hug ye iron post in ye
street or ye sack of feathers in ye man his bed and talk to it as
though nothing else were dear to him in all ye world. It is not ye
love that makes him do this; it is ye wine and ye man his own
devilish nature. No; ye must marry with wine, but ye must court
with water. Ye love that will not begin with water will not last
This did not go to the heart of the matter. Marguerite turned over
"_In ye arte of courting, it is often ye woman her eyes that settle
ye man his fate, But if ye woman her eyes are not beautiful, she
must not court with them but with other members of ye woman her
body. Ye greatest use of ye ugly eyes is to see but not be seen.
If ye try to court with ye ugly eyes, ye scare ye man away or make
him to feel sick; and ye will be sorry. Ye eyes must be beautiful
and ye eyes must have some mystery. They must not be like ye
windows of ye house in summer when ye curtains are taken down and
ye shutters are taken off. As ye man stands outside he must want
to see all that is within, but he must not be able. What ye man
loves ye woman for is ye mystery in her; if ye woman contain no
mystery, let her marry if she must; but not aspire to court. (This
is enough for ye stingy price ye pay: if ye had paid more money, ye
would have received more instruction.)_"
Marguerite thought it very little instruction for any money. She
felt disappointed and provoked. She passed on to "Clothes." "What
can she teach me on that subject?" she thought.
"_When ye court with ye clothes, ye must not lift ye dress above ye
"Then I know what kind of ankle bone _she_ had," said Marguerite,
bitter for revenge on Lady Bluefields.
"_Ye clothes play a greate part in ye arte of courtinge_."
Marguerite turned the leaf; but she found that the other pages on
the theme were too thumbed and faint to be legible.
She looked into the subject of "Hands": learning where the palms
should be turned up and when turned down; the meaning of a crooked
forefinger, and of full moons rising on the horizons of the finger
nails; why women with freckled hands should court bachelors. Also
how the feet, if of such and such sizes and configurations, must be
kept as "_ye two dead secrets_." Similarly how dimples must be
born and not made--with a caution against "_ye dimple under ye
nose_" (reference to "Big Booke"--well worth the money, etc.).
When she reached the subject of the kiss, Marguerite thought
guiltily of the library steps.
"_Ye kiss is ye last and ye greatest act in all ye lovely arte of
courtinge. Ye eyes, ye hair, ye feet, ye dimple, ye whole trunk,
are of no account if they do not lead up to ye kiss. There are two
kinds of ye kiss: ye kiss that ye give and ye kiss that ye take.
Ye kiss that ye take is ye one ye want. Ye woman often wishes to
give ye man one but cannot; and ye man often wishes to take one (or
more) from ye woman but cannot; and between her not being able to
give and his not being able to take, there is suffering enough in
this ill-begotten and ill-sorted world. Ye greatest enemy of ye
kiss that ye earth has ever known is ye sun; ye greatest friend is
"_Ye most cases where ye woman can take ye kiss are put down in ye
"_When ye man lies sick in ye hospital and ye woman bends over him
and he is too weak to raise his head, she can let her head fall
down on his; it is only the law of gravitation. But not while she
is giving him ye physick. If ye woman is riding in ye carriage and
ye horses run away; and ye man she loves is standing in ye bushes
and rushes out and seizes ye horses but is dragged, when he lies in
ye road in ye swoon, ye woman can send ye driver around behind ye
carriage and kiss him then--as she always does in ye women their
novels but never does in ye life. There is one time when any woman
can freely kiss ye man she loves: in ye dreame. It is ye safest
way, and ye best. No one knows; and it does not disappoint as it
often does disappoint when ye are awake_.
"_Lastly when ye beautiful swain that ye woman loved is dead, she
way go into ye room where he lies white and cold and kiss him then:
but she waited too long_."
Marguerite let the book fall as though an arrow had pierced her.
At the same time she heard the librarian approaching. She quickly
restored the volume to its place and drew out another book. The
librarian entered the alcove, smiled at Marguerite, peeped over her
shoulder into the book she was reading, searched for another, and
took it away. When she disappeared, Marguerite rose and looked;
Lady Bluefields was gone.
She could not banish those heart-breaking words: "_When ye
beautiful swain that ye woman loved is dead_." The longing of the
past days, the sadness, the languor that was ecstasy and pain,
swept back over her as she sat listening now, hoping for another
footstep. Would he not come? She did not ask to speak with him.
If she might only see him, only feel him near for a few moments.
She quitted the library slowly at last, trying to escape notice;
and passed up the street with an unconscious slight drooping of
that aerial figure. When she reached her yard, the tree-tops
within were swaying and showing the pale gray under-surfaces of
their leaves. A storm was coming. She turned at the gate, her hat
in her hand, and looked toward the cloud with red lightnings
darting from it: a still white figure confronting that noonday
darkness of the skies.
"Grandmother never loved but once," she said. "Mamma never loved
but once: it is our fate."
"Anna," said Professor Hardage that same morning, coming out of his
library into the side porch where Miss Anna, sitting in a green
chair and wearing a pink apron and holding a yellow bowl with a
blue border, was seeding scarlet cherries for a brown roll, "see
what somebody has sent _me_." He held up a many-colored bouquet
tied with a brilliant ribbon; to the ribbon was pinned an
"Ah, now, that is what comes of your being at the ball," said Miss
Anna, delighted and brimming with pride. "Somebody fell in love
with you. I told you you looked handsome that night," and she
beckoned impatiently for the bouquet.
He surrendered it with a dubious look. She did not consider the
little tumulus of Flora, but devoured the name of the builder. Her
face turned crimson; and leaning over to one side, she dropped the
bouquet into the basket for cherry seed. Then she continued her
dutiful pastime, her head bent so low that he could see nothing but
the part dividing the soft brown hair of her fine head.
He sat down and laughed at her: "I knew you'd get me into trouble."
It was some moments before she asked in a guilty voice: "What did
"What did you tell me to do?"
"I asked you to be kind to Harriet," she murmured mournfully.
"You told me to take her out into the darkest place I could find
and to sit there with her and hold her hand."
"I did not tell you to hold her hand. I told you to _try_ to hold
"Well! I builded better than you knew: give me my flowers."
"What did you do?" she asked again, in a voice that admitted the
"How do I know? I was thinking of something else! But here comes
Harriet," he said, quickly standing up and gazing down the street.
"Go in," said Miss Anna, "I want to see Harriet alone."
"_You_ go in. The porch isn't dark; but I'll stay here with her!"
When he had gone, Miss Anna leaned over and lifting the bouquet
from the sticking cherry seed tossed it into the yard--tossed it
Harriet came out into the porch looking wonderfully fresh. "How do
you do, Anna?" she said with an accent of new cordiality,
The accent struck Miss Anna's ear as the voice of the bouquet. She
had at once discovered also that Harriet was beautifully
dressed--even to the point of wearing her best gloves.
"Oh, good morning, Harriet," she replied, giving the yellow bowl an
unnecessary shake and speaking quite incidentally as though the
visit were not of the slightest consequence. She did not invite
Harriet to be seated. Harriet seated herself.
"Aren't you well, Anna?" she inquired with blank surprise.
"I am always well."
"Is any one ill, Anna?"
"Not to my knowledge."
Harriet knew Miss Anna to have the sweetest nature of all women.
She realized that she herself was often a care to her friend. A
certain impulse inspired her now to give assurance that she had not
come this morning to weigh her down with more troubles.
"Do you know, Anna, I never felt so well! Marguerite's ball really
brought me out. I have turned over a new leaf of destiny and I am
going out more after this. What right has a woman to give up life
so soon? I shall go out more, and I shall read more, and be a
different woman, and cease worrying you. Aren't women reading
history now? But then they are doing everything. Still that is
no reason why I should not read a little, because my mind is really
a blank on the subject of the antiquities. Of course I can get the
ancient Hebrews out of the Bible; but I ought to know more about
the Greeks and Romans. Now oughtn't I?"
"You don't want to know anything about the Greeks and the Romans,
Harriet," said Miss Anna. "Content yourself with the earliest
Hebrews. You have gotten along very well without the Greeks and
Harriet understood at last; there was no mistaking now. She was a
very delicate instrument and much used to being rudely played upon.
Her friend's reception of her to-day had been so unaccountable that
at one moment she had suspected that her appearance might be at
fault. Harriet had known women to turn cold at the sight of a new
gown; and it had really become a life principle not to dress even
as well as she could, because she needed the kindness that flows
out so copiously from new clothes to old clothes. But it was
embarrassment that caused her now to say rather aimlessly:
"I believe I feel overdressed. What possessed me?"
"Don't overdress again," enjoined Miss Anna in stern confidence.
"Never try to change yourself in anyway. I like you better as you
"Then you shall have me as you like me, Anna dear," replied
Harriet, faithfully and earnestly, with a faltering voice; and she
looked out into the yard with a return of an expression very old
and very weary. Fortunately she was short-sighted and was thus
unable to see her bouquet which made such a burning blot on the
green grass, with the ribbon trailing beside it and the card still
holding on as though determined to see the strange adventure
through to the end.
"Good-by, Anna," she said, rising tremblingly, though at the
beginning of her visit.
"Oh, good-by, Harriet," replied Miss Anna, giving a cheerful shake
to the yellow bowl.
As Harriet walked slowly down the street, a more courageously
dressed woman than she had been for years, her chin quivered and
she shook with sobs heroically choked back.
Miss Anna went into the library and sat down near the door. Her
face which had been very white was scarlet again: "What was it you
did--tell me quickly. I cannot stand it."
He came over and taking her cheeks between his palms turned her
face up and looked down into her eyes. But she shut them quickly.
"What do you suppose I did? Harriet and I sat for half an hour in
another room. I don't remember what I did; but it could not have
been anything very bad: others were all around us."
She opened her eyes and pushed him away harshly: "I have wounded
Harriet in her most sensitive spot; and then I insulted her after I
wounded her," and she went upstairs.
Later he found the bouquet on his library table with the card stuck
in the top. The flowers stayed there freshly watered till the
petals strewed his table: they were not even dusted away.
As for Harriet herself, the wound of the morning must have
penetrated till it struck some deep flint in her composition; for
she came back the next day in high spirits and severely
underdressed--in what might be called toilet reduced to its lowest
terms, like a common fraction. She had restored herself to the
footing of an undervalued intercourse. At the sight of her Miss
Anna sprang up, kissed her all over the face, was atoningly cordial
with her arms, tried in every way to say: "See, Harriet, I bare my
heart! Behold the dagger of remorse!"
Harriet saw; and she walked up and took the dagger by the handle
and twisted it to the right and to the left and drove it in deeper
and was glad.
"How do you like this dress, Anna?" she inquired with the sweetest
solicitude. "Ah, there is no one like a friend to bring you to
your senses! You were right. I am too old to change, too old to
dress, too old even to read: thank you, Anna, as always."
Many a wound of friendship heals, but the wounder and the wounded
are never the same to each other afterward. So that the two
comrades were ill at ease and welcomed a diversion in the form of a
visitor. It happened to be the day of the week when Miss Anna
received her supply of dairy products from the farm of Ambrose
Webb. He came round to the side entrance now with two shining tin
buckets and two lustreless eyes.
The old maids stood on the edge of the porch with their arms
wrapped around each other, and talked to him with nervous gayety.
He looked up with a face of dumb yearning at one and then at the
other, almost impartially.
"Aren't you well, Mr. Webb?" inquired Miss Anna, bending over
toward him with a healing smile.
"Certainly I am well," he replied resentfully. "There is nothing
the matter with me. I am a sound man."
"But you were certainly groaning," insisted Miss Anna, "for I heard
you; and you must have been groaning about _something_."
He dropped his eyes, palpably crestfallen, and scraped the bricks
with one foot.
Harriet nudged Miss Anna not to press the point and threw herself
gallantly into the breach of silence.
"I am coming out to see you sometime, Mr. Webb," she said
threateningly; "I want to find out whether you are taking good care
of my calf. Is she growing?"
"Calves always grow till they stop," said Ambrose, axiomatically.
"How high is she?"
He held his hand up over an imaginary back.
"Why, that is _high_! When she stops growing, Anna, I am going to
sell her, sell her by the pound. She is my beef trust. Now don't
forget, Mr. Webb, that I am coming out some day."
"I'll be there," he said, and he gave her a peculiar look.
"You know, Anna," said Harriet, when they were alone again, "that
his wife treats him shamefully. I have heard mother talking about
it. She says his wife is the kind of woman that fills a house as
straw fills a barn: you can see it through every crack. That
accounts for his heavy expression, and for his dull eyes, and for
the groaning. They say that most of the time he sits on the fences
when it is clear, and goes into the stable when it rains."
"Why, I'll have to be kinder to him than ever," said Miss Anna.
"But how do you happen to have a calf, Harriet?" she added, struck
by the practical fact.
"It was the gift of my darling mother, my dear, the only present
she has made me that I can remember. It was an orphan, and you
wouldn't have it in your asylum, and my mother was in a peculiar
mood, I suppose. She amused herself with the idea of making me
such a present. But Anna, watch that calf, and see if thereby does
not hang a tale. I am sure, in some mysterious way, my destiny is
bound up with it. Calves do have destinies, don't they, Anna?"
"Oh, don't ask _me_, Harriet! Inquire of their Creator; or try the
It was at the end of this visit that Harriet as usual imparted to
Miss Anna the freshest information regarding affairs at home: that
Isabel had gone to spend the summer with friends at the seashore,
and was to linger with other friends in the mountains during
autumn; that her mother had changed her own plans, and was to keep
the house open, and had written for the Fieldings--Victor's mother
and brothers and sisters--to come and help fill the house; that
everything was to be very gay.
"I cannot fathom what is under it all," said Harriet, with her
hand on the side gate at leaving. "But I know that mother and
Isabel have quarrelled. I believe mother has transferred her
affections--and perhaps her property. She has rewritten her will
since Isabel went away. What have I to do, Anna, but interest
myself in other people's affairs? I have none of my own. And she
never calls Isabel's name, but pets Victor from morning till night.
And her expression sometimes! I tell you, Anna, that when I see
it, if I were a bird and could fly, gunshot could not catch me. I
see a summer before me! If there is ever a chance of my doing
_anything_, don't be shocked if I do it;" and in Harriet's eyes
there were two mysterious sparks of hope--two little rising suns.
"What did she mean?" pondered Miss Anna.
"Barbee," said Judge Morris one morning a fortnight later, "what
has become of Marguerite? One night not long ago you complained of
her as an obstacle in the path of your career: does she still annoy
you with her attentions? You could sue out a writ of habeas corpus
in your own behalf if she persists. I'd take the case. I believe
you asked me to mark your demeanor on the evening of that party. I
tried to mark it; but I did not discover a great deal of demeanor
The two were sitting in the front office. The Judge, with nothing
to do, was facing the street, his snow-white cambric handkerchief
thrown across one knee, his hands grasping the arms of his chair,
the newspaper behind his heels, his straw hat and cane on the floor
at his side, and beside them the bulldog--his nose thrust against
Barbee was leaning over his desk with his fingers plunged in his
hair and his eyes fixed on the law book before him--unopened. He
turned and remarked with dry candor:
"Marguerite has dropped me."
"If she has, it's a blessed thing."
"There was more depth to her than I thought."
"There always is. Wait until you get older."
"I shall have to work and climb to win her."
"You might look up meantime the twentieth verse of the twenty-ninth
chapter of Genesis."
Barbee rose and took down a Bible from among the law books: it had
been one of the Judge's authorities, a great stand-by for reference
and eloquence in his old days of pleading. He sat down and read
the verse and laid the volume aside with the mere comment: "All
this time I have been thinking her too much of a child; I find that
she has been thinking the same of me."
"Then she has been a sound thinker."
"The result is she has wandered away after some one else. I know
the man; and I know that he is after some one else. Why do people
desire the impossible person? If I had been a Greek sculptor and
had been commissioned to design as my masterwork the world's Frieze
of Love, it should have been one long array of marble shapes, each
in pursuit of some one fleeing. But some day Marguerite will be
found sitting pensive on a stone--pursuing no longer; and when I
appear upon the scene, having overtaken her at last, she will sigh,
but she will give me her hand and go with me: and I'll have to
stand it. That is the worst of it. I shall have to stand it--that
she preferred the other man."
The Judge did not care to hear Barbee on American themes with Greek
imagery. He yawned and struggled to his feet with difficulty.
"I'll take a stroll," he said; "it is all I can take."
Barbee sprang forward and picked up for him his hat and cane. The
dog, by what seemed the slow action of a mental jackscrew, elevated
his cylinder to the tops of his legs; and presently the two stiff
old bodies turned the corner of the street, one slanting, one
prone: one dotting the bricks with his three legs, the other with
Formerly the man and the brute had gone each his own way, meeting
only at meal time and at irregular hours of the night in the
Judge's chambers. The Judge had his stories regarding the origin
of their intimacy. He varied these somewhat according to the
sensibilities of the persons to whom they were related--and there
were not many habitues of the sidewalks who did not hear them
sooner or later. "No one could disentangle fact and fiction and
affection in them.
"Some years ago," he said one day to Professor Hardage, "I was a
good deal gayer than I am now and so was he. We cemented a
friendship in a certain way, no matter what: that is a story I'm
not going to tell. And he came to live with me on that footing of
friendship. Of course he was greatly interested in the life of his
own species at that time; he loved part of it, he hated part; but
he was no friend to either. By and by he grew older. Age removed
a good deal of his vanity, and I suppose it forced him to part with
some portion of his self-esteem. But I was growing older myself
and no doubt getting physically a little helpless. I suppose I
made senile noises when I dressed and undressed, expressive of my
decorative labors. This may have been the reason; possibly not;
but at any rate about this time he conceived it his duty to give up
his friendship as an equal and to enter my employ as a servant. He
became my valet--without wages--and I changed his name to 'Brown.'
"Of course you don't think this true; well, then, don't think it
true. But you have never seen him of winter mornings get up before
I do and try to keep me out of the bath-tub. He'll station himself
at the bath-room door; and as I approach he will look at me with an
air of saying; 'Now don't climb into that cold water! Stand on the
edge of it and lap it if you wish! But don't get into it. Drink
it, man, don't wallow in it.' He waits until I finish, and then he
speaks his mind plainly again: 'Now see how wet you are! And
to-morrow you will do the same thing.' And he will stalk away,
suspicious of the grade of my intelligence.
"He helps me to dress and undress. You'd know this if you studied
his face when I struggle to brush the dust off of my back and
shoulders: the mortification, the sense of injustice done him, in
his having been made a quadruped. When I stoop over to take off my
shoes, if I do it without any noise and he lies anywhere near, very
well; but if I am noisy about it, he always comes and takes a seat
before me and assists. Then he makes his same speech: 'What a
shame that you should have to do this for yourself, when I am here
to do it for you, but have no hands.'
"You know his portrait in my sitting room. When it was brought
home and he discovered it on the wall, he looked at it from
different angles, and then came across to me with a wound and a
grievance: 'Why have you put that thing there? How can you, who
have me, tolerate such a looking object as that? See the meanness
in his face! See how used up he is and how sick of life! See what
a history is written all over him--his crimes and disgraces! And
you can care for him when you have _me_, your Brown.' After I am
dead, I expect him to publish a memorial volume entitled
'Reminiscences of the late Judge Ravenel Morris, By his former
Friend, afterward his Valet, _Taurus-Canis_.'"
The long drowsing days of summer had come. Business was almost
suspended; heat made energy impossible. Court was not in session,
farmers were busy with crops. From early morning to late afternoon
the streets were well-nigh deserted.
Ravenel Morris found life more active for him during this idlest
season of his native town. Having no business to prefer, people
were left more at leisure to talk with him; more acquaintances sat
fanning on their doorsteps and bade him good night as he passed
homeward. There were festivals in the park; and he could rest on
one of the benches and listen to the band playing tunes. He had
the common human heart in its love of tunes. When tunes stopped,
music stopped for him. If anything were played in which there was
no traceable melody, when the instruments encountered a tumult of
chords and dissonances, he would exclaim though with regretful
"What are they trying to do now? What is it all about? Why can't
music be simple and sweet? Do noise and confusion make it better
One night Barbee had him serenaded. He gave the musicians
instruction as to the tunes, how they were to be played, in what
succession, at what hour of the night. The melodists grouped
themselves in the middle of the street, and the Judge came out on a
little veranda under one of his doors and stood there, a great
silver-haired figure, looking down. The moonlight shone upon him.
He remained for a while motionless, wrapped loosely in what looked
like a white toga. Then with a slight gesture of the hand full of
mournful dignity he withdrew.
It was during these days that Barbee, who always watched over him
with a most reverent worship and affection, made a discovery. The
Judge was breaking; that brave life was beginning to sink and
totter toward its fall and dissolution. There were moments when
the cheerfulness, which had never failed him in the midst of trial,
failed him now when there was none; when the ancient springs of
strength ceased to run and he was discovered to be feeble.
Sometimes he no longer read his morning newspaper; he would sit for
long periods in the front door of his office, looking out into the
street and caring not who passed, not even returning salutations:
what was the use of saluting the human race impartially? Or going
into the rear office, he would reread pages and chapters of what at
different times in his life had been his favorite books: "Rabelais"
and "The Decameron" when he was young; "Don Quixote" later, and
"Faust"; "Clarissa" and "Tom Jones" now and then; and Shakespeare
always; and those poems of Burns that tell sad truths; and the
account of the man in Thackeray who went through so much that was
large and at the end of life was brought down to so much that was
low. He seemed more and more to feel the need of grasping through
books the hand of erring humanity. And from day to day his
conversations with Barbee began to take more the form of counsels
about life and duty, about the ideals and mistakes and virtues and
weaknesses in men. He had a good deal to say about the ethics of
character in the court room and in the street.
One afternoon Barbee very thoughtfully asked him a question:
"Uncle, I have wanted to know why you always defended and never
prosecuted. The State is supposed to stand for justice, and the
State is the accuser; in always defending the accused and so in
working against the State, have you not always worked against
The Judge sat with his face turned away and spoke as he sat--very
gravely and quietly: "I always defended because the State can
punish only the accused, and the accused is never the only
criminal. In every crime there are three criminals. The first
criminal is the Origin of Evil. I don't know what the Origin of
Evil is, or who he is; but if I could have dragged the Origin of
Evil into the court room, I should have been glad to try to have it
hanged, or have him hanged. I should have liked to argue the
greatest of all possible criminal cases: the case of the Common
People vs. the Devil--so nominated. The second criminal is all
that coworked with the accused as involved in his nature, in his
temptation, and in his act. If I could have arraigned all the
other men and women who have been forerunners or copartners of the
accused as furthering influences in the line of his offence, I
should gladly have prosecuted them for their share of the guilt.
But most of the living who are accessory can no more be discovered
and summoned than can the dead who also were accessory. You have
left the third criminal; and the State is forced to single him out
and let the full punishment fall upon him alone. Thus it does not
punish the guilty--it punishes the last of the guilty. It does not
even punish him for his share of the guilt: it can never know what
that share is. This is merely a feeling of mine, I do not uphold
it. Of course I often declined to defend also."
They returned to this subject another afternoon as the two sat
together a few days later:
"There was sometimes another reason why I felt unwilling to
prosecute: I refer to cases in which I might be taking advantage of
the inability of a fellow-creature to establish his own innocence.
I want you to remember this--nothing that I have ever said to you
is of more importance: a good many years ago I was in Paris. One
afternoon I was walking through the most famous streets in the
company of a French scholar and journalist, a deep student of the
genius of French civilization. As we passed along, he pointed out
various buildings with reference to the history that had been made
and unmade within them. At one point he stopped and pointed to a
certain structure with a high wall in front of it and to a hole in
that wall. 'Do you know what that is?' he asked. He told me. Any
person can drop a letter into that box, containing any kind of
accusation against any other person; it is received by the
authorities and it becomes their duty to act upon its contents. Do
you know what that means? Can you for a moment realize what is
involved? A man's enemy, even his so-called religious enemy, any
assassin, any slanderer, any liar, even the mercenary who agrees to
hire out his honor itself for the wages of a slave, can deposit an
anonymous accusation against any one whom he hates or wishes to
ruin; and it becomes the duty of the authorities to respect his
communication as much as though it came before a court of highest
equity. An innocent man may thus become an object of suspicion,
may be watched, followed, arrested and thrown into prison,
disgraced, ruined in his business, ruined in his family; and if in
the end he is released, he is never even told what he has been
charged with, has no power of facing his accuser, of bringing him
to justice, of recovering damages from the State. While he himself
is kept in close confinement, his enemy may manufacture evidence
which he alone would be able to disprove; and the chance is never
given him to disprove it."
The Judge turned and looked at Barbee in simple silence.
Barbee sprang to his feet: "It is a damned shame!" he cried. "Damn
the French! damn such a civilization."
"Why damn the French code? In our own country the same thing goes
on, not as part of our system of jurisprudence, but as part of our
system of--well, we'll say--morals. In this country any man's
secret personal enemy, his so-called religious enemy for instance,
may fabricate any accusation against him. He does not drop it into
the dark crevice of a dead wall, but into the blacker hole of a
living ear. A perfectly innocent man by such anonymous or
untraceable slander can be as grossly injured in reputation, in
business, in his family, out of a prison in this country as in a
prison in France. Slander may circulate about him and he will
never even know what it is, never be confronted by his accuser,
never have power of redress.
"Now what I wish you to remember is this: that in the very nature
of the case a man is often unable to prove his innocence. All over
the world useful careers come to nothing and lives are wrecked,
because men may be ignorantly or malignantly accused of things of
which they cannot stand up and prove that they are innocent. Never
forget that it is impossible for a man finally to demonstrate his
possession of a single great virtue. A man cannot so prove his
bravery. He cannot so prove his honesty or his benevolence or his
sobriety or his chastity, or anything else. As to courage, all
that he can prove is that in a given case or in all tested cases he
was not a coward. As to honesty, all that he can prove is that in
any alleged instance he was not a thief. A man cannot even
directly prove his health, mental or physical: all that he can
prove is that he shows no unmistakable evidences of disease. But
an enemy may secretly circulate the charge that these evidences
exist; and all the evidences to the contrary that the man himself
may furnish will never disperse that impression. It is so for
every great virtue. His final possession of a single virtue can be
proved by no man.
"This was another reason why I was sometimes unwilling to prosecute
a fellow-creature; it might be a case in which he alone would
actually know whether he were innocent, but his simple word would
not be taken, and his simple word would be the only proof that he
could give. I ask you, as you care for my memory, never to take
advantage of the truth that the man before you, as the accused, may
in the nature of things be unable to prove his innocence. Some day
you are going to be a judge. Remember you are always a judge; and
remember that a greater Judge than you will ever be gave you the
rule: 'Judge as you would be judged.' The great root of the matter
is this: that all human conduct is judged; but a very small part of
human conduct is ever brought to trial."
He had many visitors at his office during these idle summer days.
He belonged to a generation of men who loved conversation--when
they conversed. All the lawyers dropped in. The report of his
failing strength brought these and many others.
He saw a great deal of Professor Hardage. One morning as the two
met, he said with more feeling than he usually allowed himself to
show: "Hardage, I am a lonesome old man; don't you want me to come
and see you every Sunday evening? I always try to get home by ten
o'clock, so that you couldn't get tired of me; and as I never fall
asleep before that time, you wouldn't have to put me to bed. I
want to hear you talk, Hardage. My time is limited; and you have
no right to shut out from me so much that you know--your learning,
your wisdom, yourself. And I know a few things that I have picked
up in a lifetime. Surely we ought to have something to say to each
But when he came, Professor Hardage was glad to let him find relief
in his monologues--fragments of self-revelation. This last phase
of their friendship had this added significance: that the Judge no
longer spent his Sunday evenings with Mrs. Conyers. The last
social link binding him to womankind had been broken. It was a
final loosening and he felt it, felt the desolation in which it
left him. His cup of life had indeed been drained, and he turned
away from the dregs.
One afternoon Professor Hardage found him sitting with his familiar
Shakespeare on his knees. As he looked up, he stretched out his
hand in eager welcome and said: "Listen once more;" and he read the
great kindling speech of King Henry to his English yeomen on the
eve of battle.
He laid the book aside.
"Of course you have noticed how Shakespeare likes this word
'mettle,' how he likes the _thing_. The word can be seen from afar
over the vast territory of his plays like the same battle-flag set
up in different parts of a field. It is conspicuous in the heroic
English plays, and in the Roman and in the Greek; it waves alike
over comedy and tragedy as a rallying signal to human nature. I
imagine I can see his face as he writes of the mettle of
children--the mettle of a boy--the quick mettle of a schoolboy--a
lad of mettle--the mettle of a gentleman--the mettle of the
sex--the mettle of a woman, Lady Macbeth--the mettle of a king--the
mettle of a speech--even the mettle of a rascal--mettle in death.
I love to think of him, a man who had known trouble, writing the
words: 'The insuppressive mettle of our spirits.'
"But this particular phrase--the mettle of the pasture--belongs
rather to our century than to his, more to Darwin than to the
theatre of that time. What most men are thinking of now, if they
think at all, is of our earth, a small grass-grown planet hung in
space. And, unaccountably making his appearance on it, is man, a
pasturing animal, deriving his mettle from his pasture. The old
question comes newly up to us: Is anything ever added to him? Is
anything ever lost to him? Evolution--is it anything more than
change? Civilizations--are they anything but different
arrangements of the elements of man's nature with reference to the
preeminence of some elements and the subsidence of others?
"Suppose you take the great passions: what new one has been added,
what old one has been lost? Take all the passions you find in
Greek literature, in the Roman. Have you not seen them reappear in
American life in your own generation? I believe I have met them in
my office. You may think I have not seen Paris and Helen, but I
have. And I have seen Orestes and Agamemnon and Clytemnestra and
Oedipus. Do you suppose I have not met Tarquin and Virginia and
Lucretia and Shylock--to come down to nearer times--and seen Lear
and studied Macbeth in the flesh? I knew Juliet once, and behind
locked doors I have talked with Romeo. They are all here in any
American commonwealth at the close of our century: the great
tragedies are numbered--the oldest are the newest. So that
sometimes I fix my eyes only on the old. I see merely the planet
with its middle green belt of pasture and its poles of snow and
ice; and wandering over that green belt for a little while man the
pasturing animal--with the mystery of his ever being there and the
mystery of his dust--with nothing ever added to him, nothing ever
lost out of him--his only power being but the power to vary the
uses of his powers.
"Then there is the other side, the side of the new. I like to
think of the marvels that the pasturing animal has accomplished in
our own country. He has had new thoughts, he has done things never
seen elsewhere or before. But after all the question remains, what
is our characteristic mettle? What is the mettle of the American?
He has had new ideas; but has he developed a new virtue or carried
any old virtue forward to characteristic development? Has he added
to the civilizations of Europe the spectacle of a single virtue
transcendently exercised? We are not braver than other brave
people, we are not more polite, we are not more honest or more
truthful or more sincere or kind. I wish to God that some virtue,
say the virtue of truthfulness, could be known throughout the world
as the unfailing mark of the American--the mettle of his pasture.
Not to lie in business, not to lie in love, not to lie in
religion--to be honest with one's fellow-men, with women, with
God--suppose the rest of mankind would agree that this virtue
constituted the characteristic of the American! That would be fame
"I believe that we shall sometime become celebrated for preeminence
in some virtue. Why, I have known young fellows in my office that
I have believed unmatched for some fine trait or noble quality.
You have met them in your classes."
He broke off abruptly and remained silent for a while.
"Have you seen Rowan lately?" he asked, with frank uneasiness: and
receiving the reply which he dreaded, he soon afterward arose and
passed brokenly down the street.
For some weeks now he had been missing Rowan; and this was the
second cause of his restlessness and increasing loneliness. The
failure of Rowan's love affair was a blow to him: it had so linked
him to the life of the young--was the last link. And since then he
had looked for Rowan in vain; he had waited for him of mornings at
his office, had searched for him on the streets, scanning all young
men on horseback or in buggies; had tried to find him in the
library, at the livery stable, at the bank where he was a depositor
and director. There was no ground for actual uneasiness concerning
Rowan's health, for Rowan's neighbors assured him in response to
his inquiries that he was well and at work on the farm.
"If he is in trouble, why does he not come and tell me? Am I not
worth coming to see? Has he not yet understood what he is to me?
But how can he know, how can the young ever know how the old love
them? And the old are too proud to tell." He wrote letters and
tore them up.
As we stand on the rear platform of a train and see the mountains
away from which we are rushing rise and impend as if to overwhelm
us, so in moving farther from his past very rapidly now, it seemed
to follow him as a landscape growing always nearer and clearer.
His mind dwelt more on the years when hatred had so ruined him,
costing him the only woman he had ever asked to be his wife,
costing him a fuller life, greater honors, children to leave behind.
He was sitting alone in his rear office the middle of one
afternoon, alone among his books. He had outspread before him
several that are full of youth. Barbee was away, the street was
very quiet. No one dropped in--perhaps all were tired of hearing
him talk. It was not yet the hour for Professor Hardage to walk
in. A watering-cart creaked slowly past the door and the gush of
the drops of water sounded like a shower and the smell of the dust
was strong. Far away in some direction were heard the cries of
school children at play in the street. A bell was tolling; a green
fly, entering through the rear door, sang loud on the dusty
window-panes and then flew out and alighted on a plant of
nightshade springing up rank at the doorstep.
He was not reading and his thoughts were the same old thoughts. At
length on the quiet air, coming nearer, were heard the easy roll of
wheels and the slow measured step of carriage horses. The sound
caught his ear and he listened with quick eagerness. Then he rose
trembling and waited. The carriage had stopped at the door; a
moment later there was a soft low knock on the lintel and Mrs.
Meredith entered. He met her but she said: "May I go in there?"
and entered the private office.
She brought with her such grace and sweetness of full womanly years
that as she seated herself opposite him and lifted her veil away
from the purity of her face, it was like the revelation of a shrine
and the office became as a place of worship. She lifted the veil
from the dignity and seclusion of her life. She did not speak at
once but looked about her. Many years had passed since she had
entered that office, for it had long ago seemed best to each of
them that they should never meet. He had gone back to his seat at
the desk with the opened books lying about him as though he had
been searching one after another for the lost fountain of youth.
He sat there looking at her, his white hair falling over his
leonine head and neck, over his clear mournful eyes. The sweetness
of his face, the kindness of it, the shy, embarrassed, almost
guilty look on it from the old pain of being misunderstood--the
terrible pathos of it all, she saw these; but whatever her
emotions, she was not a woman to betray them at such a moment, in
such a place.
"I do not come on business," she said. "All the business seems to
have been attended to; life seems very easy, too easy: I have so
little to do. But I am here, Ravenel, and I suppose I must try to
say what brought me."
She waited for some time, unable to speak.
"Ravenel," she said at length, "I cannot go on any longer without
telling you that my great sorrow in life has been the wrong I did
He closed his eyes quickly and stretched out his hand against her,
as though to shut out the vision of things that rose before him--as
though to stop words that would unman him.
"But I was a young girl! And what does a young girl understand
about her duty in things like that? I know it changed your whole
life; you will never know what it has meant in mine."
"Caroline," he said, and he looked at her with brimming eyes, "if
you had married me, I'd have been a great man. I was not great
enough to be great without you. The single road led the wrong
way--to the wrong things!"
"I know," she said, "I know it all. And I know that tears do not
efface mistakes, and that our prayers do not atone for our wrongs."
She suddenly dropped her veil and rose,
"Do not come out to help me," she said as he struggled up also.
He did not wish to go, and he held out his hand and she folded her
soft pure hands about it; then her large noble figure moved to the
side of his and through her veil--her love and sorrow hidden from
him--she lifted her face and kissed him.
And during these days when Judge Morris was speaking his mind about
old tragedies that never change, and new virtues--about scandal and
guilt and innocence--it was during these days that the scandal
started and spread and did its work on the boy he loved--and no one
had told him.
The summer was drawing to an end. During the last days of it Kate
wrote to Isabel:
"I could not have believed, dearest friend, that so long a time
would pass without my writing. Since you went away it has been
eternity. And many things have occurred which no one foresaw or
imagined. I cannot tell you how often I have resisted the impulse
to write. Perhaps I should resist now; but there are some matters
which you ought to understand; and I do not believe that any one
else has told you or will tell you. If I, your closest friend,
have shrunk, how could any one else be expected to perform the duty?
"A week or two after you left I understood why you went away
mysteriously, and why during that last visit to me you were unlike
yourself. I did not know then that your gayety was assumed, and
that you were broken-hearted beneath your brave disguises. But I
remember your saying that some day I should know. The whole truth
has come out as to why you broke your engagement with Rowan, and
why you left home. You can form no idea what a sensation the news
produced. For a while nothing else was talked of, and I am glad
for your sake that you were not here.
"I say the truth came out; but even now the town is full of
different stories, and different people believe different things.
But every friend of yours feels perfectly sure that Rowan was
unworthy of you, and that you did right in discarding him. It is
safe to say that he has few friends left among yours. He seldom
comes to town, and I hear that he works on the farm like a common
hand as he should. One day not long after you left I met him on
the street. He was coming straight up to speak to me as usual.
But I had the pleasure of staring him in the eyes and of walking
deliberately past him as though he were a stranger--except that I
gave him one explaining look. I shall never speak to him.
"His mother has the greatest sympathy of every one. They say that
no one has told her the truth: how could any one tell her such
things about her own son? Of course she must know that you dropped
him and that we have all dropped him. They say that she is greatly
saddened and that her health seems to be giving way.
"I do not know whether you have heard the other sensation regarding
the Meredith family. You refused Rowan; and now Dent is going to
marry a common girl in the neighborhood. Of course Dent Meredith
was always noted for being a quiet little bookworm, near-sighted,
and without any knowledge of girls. So it doesn't seem very
unnatural for him to have collected the first specimen that he came
across as he walked about over the country. This marriage which is
to take place in the autumn is the second shock to his mother.
"You will want to hear of other people. And this reminds me that a
few of your friends have turned against you and insist that these
stories about Rowan are false, and even accuse you of starting
them. This brings me to Marguerite.
"Soon after her ball she had typhoid fever. In her delirium of
whom do you suppose she incessantly and pitifully talked? Every
one had supposed that she and Barbee were sweethearts--and had been
for years. But Barbee's name was never on her lips. It was all
Rowan, Rowan, Rowan. Poor child, she chided him for being so cold
to her; and she talked to him about the river of life and about his
starting on the long voyage from the house of his fathers; and
begged to be taken with him, and said that in their family the
women never loved but once. When she grew convalescent, there was
a consultation of the grandmother and the mother and the doctors:
one passion now seemed to constitute all that was left of
Marguerite's life; and that was like a flame burning her strength
"They did as the doctor said had to be done. Mrs. Meredith had
been very kind during her illness, had often been to the house.
They kept from her of course all knowledge of what Marguerite had
disclosed in her delirium. So when Marguerite by imperceptible
degrees grew stronger, Mrs. Meredith begged that she might be moved
out to the country for the change and the coolness and the quiet;
and the doctors availed themselves of this plan as a solution of
their difficulty--to lessen Marguerite's consuming desire by
gratifying it. So she and her mother went out to the Merediths'.
The change proved beneficial. I have not been driving myself,
although the summer has been so long and hot; and during the
afternoons I have so longed to see the cool green lanes with the
sun setting over the fields. But of course people drive a great
deal and they often meet Mrs. Meredith with Marguerite in the
carriage beside her. At first it was Marguerite's mother and
Marguerite. Then it was Mrs. Meredith and Marguerite; and now it
is Rowan and Marguerite. They drive alone and she sits with her
face turned toward him--in open idolatry. She is to stay out there
until she is quite well. How curiously things work around! If he
ever proposes, scandal will make no difference to Marguerite.
"How my letter wanders! But so do my thoughts wander. If you only
knew, while I write these things, how I am really thinking of other
things. But I must go on in my round-about way. What I started
out to say was that when the scandals, I mean the truth, spread
over the town about Rowan, the three Marguerites stood by him. You
could never have believed that the child had such fire and strength
and devotion in her nature. I called on them one day and was
coldly treated simply because I am your closest friend. Marguerite
pointedly expressed her opinion of a woman who deserts a man
because he has his faults. Think of this child's sitting in moral
condemnation upon you!
"The Hardages also--of course you have no stancher friends than
they are--have stood up stubbornly for Rowan. Professor Hardage
became very active in trying to bring the truth out of what he
believes to be gossip and misunderstanding. And Miss Anna has also
remained loyal to him, and in her sunny, common-sense way flouts
the idea of there being any truth in these reports.
"I must not forget to tell you that Judge Morris now spends his
Sunday evenings with Professor Hardage. No one has told him: they
have spared him. Of course every one knows that he was once
engaged to Rowan's mother and that scandal broke the engagement and
separated them for life. Only in his case it was long afterward
found out that the tales were not true.
"I have forgotten Barbee. He and Marguerite had quarrelled before
her illness--no one knows why, unless she was already under the
influence of her fatal infatuation for Rowan. Barbee has gone to
work. A few weeks ago he won his first serious case in court and
attracted attention. They say his speech was so full of dignity
and unnecessary rage that some one declared he was simply trying to
recover his self-esteem for Marguerite's having called him trivial
and not yet altogether grown up.
"Of course you must have had letters of your own, telling you of
the arrival of the Fieldings--Victor's mother and sisters; and the
house is continually gay with suppers and parties.
"How my letter wanders! It is a sick letter, Isabel, a dead
letter. I must not close without going back to the Merediths once
more. People have been driving out to see the little farm and the
curious little house of Dent Meredith's bride elect--a girl called
Pansy Something. It lies near enough to the turnpike to be in full
view--too full view. They say it is like a poultry farm and that
the bride is a kind of American goose girl: it will be a marriage
between geology and the geese. The geese will have the best of it.
"Dearest friend, what shall I tell you of my own life--of my
nights, of the mornings when I wake, of these long, lonesome,
summer afternoons? Nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing! I should
rather write to you how, my thoughts go back to the years of our
girlhood together when we were so happy, Isabel, so happy, so
happy! What ideals we formed as to our marriages and our futures!
"P.S.--I meant to tell you that of course I shall do everything in
my power to break up the old friendship between George and Rowan.
Indeed, I have already done it."
This letter brought Isabel home at once through three days of
continuous travel. From the station she had herself driven
straight to Mrs. Osborn's house, and she held the letter in her
hand as she went.
Her visit lasted for some time and it was not pleasant. When Mrs.
Osborn hastened down, surprised at Isabel's return and prepared to
greet her with the old warmth, her greeting was repelled and she
herself recoiled, hurt and disposed to demand an explanation.
"Isabel," she said reproachfully, "is this the way you come back to
Isabel did not heed but spoke: "As soon as I received this letter,
I determined to come home. I wished to know at once what these
things are that are being said about Rowan. What are they?"
Mrs. Osborn hesitated: "I should rather not tell you."
"But you must tell me: my name has been brought into this, and I
While she listened her eyes flashed and when she spoke her voice
trembled with excitement and anger. "These things are not true,"
she said. "Only Rowan and I know what passed between us. I told
no one, he told no one, and it is no one's right to know. A great
wrong has been done him and a great wrong has been done me; and I
shall stay here until these wrongs are righted."
"And is it your feeling that you must begin with me?" said Mrs.
"Yes, Kate; you should not have believed these things. You
remember our once saying to each other that we would try never to
believe slander or speak slander or think slander? It is unworthy
of you to have done so now."
"Do you realize to whom you are speaking, and that what I have done
has been through friendship for you?"
Isabel shook her head resolvedly. "Your friendship for me cannot
exact of you that you should be untrue to yourself and false to
others. You say that you refuse to speak to Rowan on the street.
You say that you have broken up the friendship between Mr. Osborn
and him. Rowan is the truest friend Mr. Osborn has ever had; you
know this. But in breaking off that friendship, you have done more
than you have realized: you have ended my friendship with you."
"And this is gratitude for my devotion to you and my willingness to
fight your battles!" said Mrs. Osborn, rising.
"You cannot fight my battles without fighting Rowan's. My wish to
marry him or not to marry him is one thing; my willingness to see
him ruined is another."
Isabel drove home. She rang the bell as though she were a
stranger. When her maid met her at the door, overjoyed at her
return, she asked for her grandmother and passed at once into her
parlors. As she did so, Mrs. Conyers came through the hall,
dressed to go out. At the sound of Isabel's voice, she, who having
once taken hold of a thing never let it go, dropped her parasol;
and as she stooped to pick it up, the blood rushed to her face.
"I wish to speak to you," said Isabel, coming quickly out into the
hall as though to prevent her grandmother's exit. Her voice was
low and full of shame and indignation.
"I am at your service for a little while," said Mrs. Conyers,
carelessly; "later I am compelled to go out." She entered the
parlors, followed by Isabel, and, seating herself in the nearest
chair, finished buttoning her glove.
Isabel sat silent a moment, shocked by her reception. She had not
realized that she was no longer the idol of that household and of
its central mind; and we are all loath to give up faith in our
being loved still, where we have been loved ever. She was not
aware that since she had left home she had been disinherited. She
would not have cared had she known; but she was now facing what was
involved in the disinheritance--dislike; and in the beginning of
dislike there was the ending of the old awe with which the
grandmother had once regarded the grandchild.
But she came quickly back to the grave matter uppermost in her
mind. "Grandmother," she said, "I received a few days ago a letter
from Kate Osborn. In it she told me that there were stories in
circulation about Rowan. I have come home to find out what these
stories are. On the way from the station I stopped at Mrs.
Osborn's, and she told me. Grandmother, this is your work."
Mrs. Conyers pushed down the thumb of her glove.
"Have I denied it? But why do you attempt to deny that it is also
Isabel sat regarding her with speechless, deepening horror. She
was not prepared for this revelation. Mrs. Conyers did not wait,
but pressed on with a certain debonair enjoyment of her advantage.
"You refused to recognize my right to understand a matter that
affected me and affected other members of the family as well as
yourself. You showed no regard for the love I had cherished for
you many a year. You put me aside as though I had no claim upon
your confidence--I believe you said I was not worthy of it; but my
memory is failing--perhaps I wrong you."
"It is _true_!" said Isabel, with triumphant joy in reaffirming it
on present grounds. "It is _true_!"
"Very well," said Mrs. Conyers, "we shall let that pass. It was of
consequence then; it is of no consequence now: these little
personal matters are very trivial. But there was a serious matter
that you left on my hands; the world always demands an explanation
of what it is compelled to see and cannot understand. If no
explanation is given, it creates an explanation. It was my duty to
see that it did not create an explanation in this case. Whatever
it may have been that took place between you and Rowan, I did not
intend that the responsibility should rest upon you, even though
you may have been willing that it should rest there. You discarded
Rowan; I was compelled to prevent people from thinking that Rowan
discarded you. Your reason for discarding him you refused to
confide to me; I was compelled therefore to decide for myself what
it probably was. Ordinarily when a man is dropped by a girl under
such circumstances, it is for this," she tapped the tips of her
fingers one by one as she went on, "or for this, or for this, or
for this; you can supply the omitted words--nearly any one can--the
world always does. You see, it becomes interesting. As I had not
your authority for stating which one of these was the real reason,
I was compelled to leave people at liberty to choose for
themselves. I could only say that I myself did not know; but that
certainly it was for some one of these reasons, or two of them, or
for all of them."
"You have tried to ruin him!" Isabel cried, white with suffering.
"On the contrary, I received my whole idea of this from you.
Nothing that I said to others about him was quite so bad as what
you said to me; for you knew the real reason of your discarding
him, and the reason was so bad--or so good--that you could not even
confide it to me, your natural confidant. You remember saying that
we must drop him from the list of our acquaintances, must not
receive him at the house, or recognize him in society, or speak, to
him in public. I protested that this would be very unjust to him,
and that he might ask me at least the grounds for so insulting him;
you assured me that he would never dare ask. And now you affect to
be displeased with me for believing what you said, and trying to
defend you from criticism, and trying to protect the good name of
"Ah," cried Isabel, "you can give fair reasons for foul deeds. You
always could. We often do, we women. The blacker our conduct, the
better the names with which we cover it. If you would only glory
openly in what you have done and stand by it! Not a word of what
you have said is true, as you have said it. When I left home not a
human being but yourself knew that there had been trouble between
Rowan and me. It need never have become public, had you let the
matter be as I asked you to do, and as you solemnly promised that
you would. It is you who have deliberately made the trouble and
scattered the gossip and spread the scandal. Why do you not avow
that your motive was revenge, and that your passion was not
justice, but malice. Ah, you are too deep a woman to try to seem
"Can I be of any further service to you?" said Mrs. Conyers with
perfect politeness, rising. "I am sorry that the hour of my
engagement has come. Are you to be in town long?"
"I shall be here until I have undone what you have done," cried
Isabel, rising also and shaking with rage. "The decencies of life
compel me to shield you still, and for that reason I shall stay in
this house. I am not obliged to ask this as a privilege; it is my
"Then I shall have the pleasure of seeing you often."
Isabel went up to her room as usual and summoned her maid, and
ordered her carriage to be ready in half an hour.
Half an hour later she came down and drove to the Hardages'. She
showed no pleasure in seeing him again, and he no surprise in
"I have been expecting you," he said; "I thought you would be
brought back by all this."
"Then you have heard what they are saying about Rowan?"
"I suppose we have all heard," he replied, looking at her
"You have not believed these things?"
"I have denied them as far as I could. I should have denied that
anything had occurred; but you remember I could not do that after
what you told me. You said something had occurred."
"Yes, I know," she said. "But you now have my authority at least
to say that these things are not true. What I planned for the best
has been misused and turned against him and against me. Have you
"He has been in town, but I have not seen him."
"Then you must see him at once. Tell me one thing: have you heard
it said that I am responsible for the circulation of these stories?"
"Do you suppose he has heard that? And could he believe it? Yet
might he not believe it? But how could he, how could he!"
"You must come here and stay with us. Anna will want you." He
could not tell her his reason for understanding that she would not
wish to stay at home.
"No, I should like to come; but it is better for me to stay at
home. But I wish Rowan to come to see me here. Judge Morris--has
he done nothing?"
"He does not know. No one has told him."
Her expression showed that she did not understand.
"Years ago, when he was about Rowan's age, scandals like these were
circulated about him. We know how much his life is wrapped up In
Rowan. He has not been well this summer: we spared him."
"But you must tell him at once. Say that I beg him to write to
Rowan to come to see him. I want Rowan to tell him everything--and
to tell you everything."
All the next day Judge Morris stayed in his rooms. The end of life
seemed suddenly to have been bent around until it touched the
beginning. At last he understood.
"It was _she_ then," he said. "I always suspected her; but I had
no proof of her guilt; and if she had not been guilty, she could
never have proved her innocence. And now for years she has smiled
at me, clasped my hands, whispered into my ear, laughed in my eyes,
seemed to be everything to me that was true. Well, she has been
everything that is false. And now she has fallen upon the son of
the woman whom she tore from me. And the vultures of scandal are
tearing at his heart. And he will never be able to prove his
He stayed in his rooms all that day. Rowan, in answer to his
summons, had said that he should come about the middle of the
afternoon; and it was near the middle of the afternoon now. As he
counted the minutes, Judge Morris was unable to shut out from his
mind the gloomier possibilities of the case.
"There is some truth behind all this," he said. "She broke her
engagement with him,--at least, she severed all relations with him;
and she would not do that without grave reason." He was compelled
to believe that she must have learned from Rowan himself the things
that had compelled her painful course. Why had Rowan never
confided these things to him? His mind, while remaining the mind
of a friend, almost the mind of a father toward a son, became also
the mind of a lawyer, a criminal lawyer, with the old, fixed, human
bloodhound passion for the scent of crime and the footsteps of
It was with both attitudes that he himself answered Rowan's ring;
he opened the door half warmly and half coldly. In former years
when working up his great cases involving life and death, it had
been an occasional custom of his to receive his clients, if they
were socially his friends, not in his private office, but in his
rooms; it was part of his nature to show them at such crises his
unshaken trust in their characters. He received Rowan in his rooms
now. It was a clear day; the rooms had large windows; and the
light streaming in took from them all the comfort which they
acquired under gaslight: the carpets were faded, the rugs were worn
out and lay in the wrong places. It was seen to be a desolate
place for a desolated life.
"How are you, Rowan?" he said, speaking as though he had seen him
the day before, and taking no note of changes in his appearance.
Without further words he led the way into his sitting room and
seated himself in his leather chair.
"Will you smoke?"
They had often smoked as they sat thus when business was before
them, or if no business, questions to be intimately discussed about
life and character and good and bad. Rowan did not heed the
invitation, and the Judge lighted a cigar for himself. He was a
long time in lighting it, and burned two or three matches at the
end of it after it was lighted, keeping a cloud of smoke before his
eyes and keeping his eyes closed. When the smoke rose and he lay
back in his chair, he looked across at the young man with the eyes
of an old lawyer who had drawn the truth out of the breast of many
a criminal by no other command than their manly light. Rowan sat
before him without an effort at composure. There was something
about him that suggested a young officer out of uniform, come home
with a browned face to try to get himself court-martialled. He
"I have had Isabel's letter, and I have come to tell you."
"I need not say to you, tell me the whole truth."
"No, you need not say that to me. I should have told you long ago,
if it had been a duty. But it was not a duty. You had not the
right to know; there was no reason why you should know. This was a
matter which concerned only the woman whom I was to marry." His
manner had the firm and quiet courtesy that was his birthright.
A little after dark, Rowan emerged into the street. His carriage
was waiting for him and he entered it and went home. Some minutes
later, Judge Morris came down and walked to the Hardages'. He rang
and asked for Professor Hardage and waited for him on the
door-step. When Professor Hardage appeared, he said to him very
solemnly: "Get your hat."
The two men walked away, the Judge directing their course toward
the edge of the town. "Let us get to a quiet place," he said,
"where we can talk without being overheard." It was a pleasant
summer night and the moon was shining, and they stepped off the
sidewalk and took the middle of the pike. The Judge spoke at last,
looking straight ahead.
"He had a child, and when he asked Isabel to marry him he told her."
They walked on for a while without anything further being said.
When Professor Hardage spoke, his tone was reflective:
"It was this that made it impossible for her to marry him. Her
love for him was everything to her; he destroyed himself for her
when he destroyed himself as an ideal. Did he tell you the story?"
By and by the Judge resumed: "It was a student's love affair, and
he would have married her. She said that if she married him, there
would never be any happiness for her in life; she was not in his
social class, and, moreover, their marriage would never be
understood as anything but a refuge from their shame, and neither
of them would be able to deny this. She disappeared sometime after
the birth of the child. More than a year later, maybe it was two
years, he received a letter from her stating that she was married
to a man in her own class and that her husband suspected nothing,
and that she expected to live a faithful wife to him and be the
mother of his children. The child had been adopted, the traces of
its parentage had been wiped out, those who had adopted it could do
more for its life and honor than he could. She begged him not to
try to find her or ruin her by communicating the past to her
husband. That's about all."
"The old tragedy--old except to them."
"Old enough. Were we not speaking the other day of how the old
tragedies are the new ones? I get something new out of this; you
get the old. What strikes me about it is that the man has declined
to shirk--that he has felt called upon not to injure any other life
by his silence. I wish I had a right to call it the mettle of a
young American, his truthfulness. As he put the case to me, what
he got out of it was this: Here was a girl deceiving her husband
about her past--otherwise he would never have married her. As the
world values such things, what it expected of Rowan was that he
should go off and marry a girl and conceal his past. He said that
he would not lie to a classmate in college, he would not cheat a
professor; was it any better silently to lie to and cheat the woman
that he loved and expected to make the mother of his children?
Whatever he might have done with any one else, there was something
in the nature of the girl whom he did come to love that made it
impossible: she drove untruthfulness out of him as health drives
away disease. He saved his honor with her, but he lost her."
"She saved her honor through giving up him. But it is high ground,
it is a sad hilltop, that each has climbed to."
"Hardage, we can climb so high that we freeze."
They turned back. The Judge spoke again with a certain sad pride:
"I like their mettle, it is Shakespearean mettle, it is American
mettle. We lie in business, and we lie in religion, and we lie to
women. Perhaps if a man stopped lying to a woman, by and by he
might begin to stop lying for money, and at last stop lying with
his Maker. But this boy, what can you and I do for him? We can
never tell the truth about this; and as we can try to clear him,
unless we ourselves lie, we shall leave him the victim of a flock
Isabel remained at home a week.
During her first meeting with Rowan, she effaced all evidences that
there had ever been a love affair between them. They resumed their
social relations temporarily and for a definite purpose--this was
what she made him understand at the outset and to the end. All
that she said to him, all that she did, had no further significance
than her general interest in his welfare and her determination to
silence the scandal for which she herself was in a way innocently
responsible. Their old life without reference to it was assumed to
be ended; and she put all her interest into what she assumed to be
his new life; this she spoke of as a certainty, keeping herself out
of it as related to it in any way. She forced him to talk about
his work, his plans, his ambitions; made him feel always not only
that she did not wish to see him suffer, but that she expected to
see him succeed.
They were seen walking together and driving together. He demurred,
but she insisted. "I will not accept such a sacrifice," he said,
but she overruled him by her reply: "It is not a sacrifice; it is a
vindication of myself, that you cannot oppose." But he knew that
there was more in it than what she called vindication of herself;
there was the fighting friendship of a comrade.
During these days, Isabel met cold faces. She found herself a
fresh target for criticism, a further source of misunderstanding.
And there was fresh suffering, too, which no one could have
foreseen. Late one twilight when she and Rowan were driving, they
passed Marguerite driving also, she being still a guest at the
Merediths', and getting well. Each carriage was driving slowly,
and the road was not wide, and the wheels almost locked, and there
was time enough for everything to be seen. And the next day,
Marguerite went home from the Merediths' and passed into a second
The day came for Isabel to leave--she was going away to remain a
long time, a year, two years. They had had their last drive and
twilight was falling when they returned to the Hardages'. She was
standing on the steps as she gave him both her hands.
"Good-by," she said, in the voice of one who had finished her work.
"I hardly know what to say--I have said everything. Perhaps I
ought to tell you my last feeling is, that you will make life a
success, that nothing will pull you down. I suppose that the life
of each of us, if it is worth while, is not made up of one great
effort and of one failure or of one success, but of many efforts,
many failures, partial successes. But I am afraid we all try at
first to realize our dreams. Good-by!"
"Marry me," he said, tightening his grasp on her hands and speaking
as though he had the right.
She stepped quickly back from him. She felt a shock, a delicate
wound, and she said with a proud tear: "I did not think you would
so misjudge me in all that I have been trying to do."
She went quickly in.
It was a morning in the middle of October when Dent and Pansy were
The night before had been cool and clear after a rain and a
long-speared frost had fallen. Even before the sun lifted itself
above the white land, a full red rose of the sky behind the rotting
barn, those early abroad foresaw what the day would be. Nature had
taken personal interest in this union of her two children, who
worshipped her in their work and guarded her laws in their
characters, and had arranged that she herself should be present in
The two prim little evergreens which grew one on each side of the
door-step waited at respectful attention like heavily powdered
festal lackeys. The scraggy aged cedars of the yard stood about in
green velvet and brocade incrusted with gems. The doorsteps
themselves were softly piled with the white flowers of the frost,
and the bricks of the pavement strewn with multitudinous shells and
stars of dew and air. Every poor stub of grass, so economically
cropped by the geese, wore something to make it shine. In the back
yard a clothes-line stretched between a damson and a peach tree,
and on it hung forgotten some of Pansy's father's underclothes; but
Nature did what she could to make the toiler's raiment look like
diamonded banners, flung bravely to the breeze in honor of his new
son-in-law. Everything--the duck troughs, the roof of the stable,
the cart shafts, the dry-goods box used as a kennel--had ugliness
hidden away under that prodigal revelling ermine of decoration.
The sun itself had not long risen before Nature even drew over that
a bridal veil of silver mist, so that the whole earth was left
wrapped in whiteness that became holiness.
Pansy had said that she desired a quiet wedding, so that she
herself had shut up the ducks that they might not get to Mrs.
Meredith. And then she had made the rounds and fed everything; and
now a certain lethargy and stupor of food quieted all creatures and
gave to the valley the dignity of a vocal solitude.
The botanist bride was not in the least abashed during the
ceremony. Nor proud: Mrs. Meredith more gratefully noticed this.
And she watched closely and discovered with relief that Pansy did
not once glance at her with uneasiness or for approval. The mother
looked at Dent with eyes growing dim. "She will never seem to be
the wife of my son," she said, "but she will make her children look
like his children."
And so it was all over and they were gone--slipped away through the
hiding white mists without a doubt of themselves, without a doubt
of each other, mating as naturally as the wild creatures who never
know the problems of human selection, or the problems that
civilization leaves to be settled after selection has been made.
Mrs. Meredith and Rowan and the clergyman were left with the father
and the children, and with an unexampled wedding collation--one of
Pansy's underived masterpieces. The clergyman frightened the
younger children; they had never seen his like either with respect
to his professional robes or his superhuman clerical voice--their
imaginations balancing unsteadily between the impossibility of his
being a man in a nightgown and the impossibility of his being a
woman with a mustache.
After his departure their fright and apprehensions settled on Mrs.
Meredith. They ranged themselves on chairs side by side against a
wall, and sat confronting her like a class in the public school
fated to be examined in deadly branches. None moved except when
she spoke, and then all writhed together but each in a different
way; the most comforting word from her produced a family spasm with
individual proclivities. Rowan tried to talk with the father
about crops: they were frankly embarrassed. What can a young man
with two thousand acres of the best land say to an old man with
fifty of the poorest?
The mother and son drove home in silence. She drew one of his
hands into her lap and held it with close pressure. They did not
look at each other.
As the carriage rolled easily over the curved driveway, through the
noble forest trees they caught glimpses of the house now standing
clear in afternoon sunshine. Each had the same thought of how
empty it waited there without Dent--henceforth less than a son, yet
how much more; more than brother, but how much less. How a brief
ceremony can bind separated lives and tear bound ones apart!
"Rowan," she said, as they walked slowly from the carriage to the
porch, she having clasped his arm more intimately, "there is
something I have wanted to do and have been trying to do for a long
time. It must not be put off any longer. We must go over the
house this afternoon. There are a great many things that I wish to
show you and speak to you about--things that have to be divided
between you and Dent."
"Not to-day! not to-day!" he cried, turning to her with quick
appeal. But she shook her head slowly, with brave cheerfulness.
"Yes; to-day. Now; and then we shall be over with it. Wait for me
here." She passed down the long hall to her bedroom, and as she
disappeared he rushed into the parlors and threw himself on a couch
with his hands before his face; then he sprang up and came out into
the hall again and waited with a quiet face.
When she returned, smiling, she brought with her a large bunch of
keys, and she took his arm dependently as they went up the wide
staircase. She led him to the upper bedrooms first--in earlier
years so crowded and gay with guests, but unused during later ones.
The shutters were closed, and the afternoon sun shot yellow shafts
against floors and walls. There was a perfume of lavender, of rose
"Somewhere in one of these closets there is a roll of linen." She
opened one after another, looking into each. "No; it is not here.
Then it must be in there. Yes; here it is. This linen was spun
and woven from flax grown on your great-great-grandfather's land.
Look at it! It is beautifully made. Each generation of the family
has inherited part and left the rest for generations yet to come.
Half of it is yours, half is Dent's. When it has been divided
until there is no longer enough to divide, that will be the last of
the home-made linen of the old time. It was a good time, Rowan; it
produced masterful men and masterful women, not mannish women.
Perhaps the golden age of our nation will some day prove to have
been the period of the home-spun Americans."
As they passed on she spoke to him with an increasing, almost
unnatural gayety. He had a new appreciation of what her charm must
have been when she was a girl. The rooms were full of memories to
her; many of the articles that she caressed with her fingers, and
lingered over with reluctant eyes, connected themselves with days
and nights of revelry and the joy of living; also with prides and
deeds which ennobled her recollection.
"You and Dent know that your father divided equally all that he
had. But everything in the house is mine, and I have made no will
and shall not make any. What is mine belongs to you two alike.
Still, I have made a list of things that I think he would rather
have, and a list of things for you--merely because I wish to give
something to each of you directly."
In a room on a lower floor she unlocked a closet, the walls of
which were lined with shelves. She peeped in; then she withdrew
her head and started to lock the door again; but she changed her
mind and laughed.
"Do you know what these things are?" She touched a large box, and
he carried it over to the bed and she lifted the top off, exposing
the contents. "Did you ever see anything so _black_? This was
the clerical robe in which one of your ancestors used to read his
sermons. He is the one who wrote the treatise on 'God Properly and
Unproperly Understood.' He was the great seminarian in your
father's family--the portrait in the hall, you know. I shall not
decide whether you or Dent must inherit this; decide for
yourselves; I imagine you will end it in the quarrel. How black it
is, and what black sermons flew out of it--ravens, instead of white
doves, of the Holy Spirit. He was the friend of Jonathan Edwards."
She made a wry face as he put the box back into the closet; and she
laughed again as she locked it in.
"Here are some things from my side of the family." And she drew
open a long drawer and spoke with proud reticence. They stood
looking down at part of the uniform of an officer of the
Revolution. She lifted one corner of it and disclosed a sword
beneath. She lifted another corner of the coat and exposed a roll
of parchment. "I suppose I should have had this parchment framed
and hung up downstairs, so that it would be the first thing seen by
any one entering the front door; and this sword should have been
suspended over the fireplace, or have been exposed under a glass
case in the parlors; and the uniform should have been fitted on a
tailor's manikin; and we should have lectured to our guests on our
worship of our ancestors--in the new American way, in the
Chino-American way. But I'm afraid we go to the other extreme,
Rowan; perhaps we are proud of the fact that we are not boastful.
Instead of concerning ourselves with those who shed glory on us, we
have concerned ourselves with the question whether we are shedding
glory on them. Still, I wonder whether our ancestors may not
possibly be offended that we say so little about them!"
She led him up and down halls and from floor to floor.
"Of course you know this room--the nursery. Here is where you
began to be a bad boy; and you began before you can remember. Did
you never see these things before? They were your first
soldiers--I have left them to Dent. And here are some of Dent's
things that I have left to you. For one thing, his castanets. His
father and I never knew why he cried for castanets. He said that
Dent by all the laws of spiritual inheritance from his side should
be wanting the timbrel and harp--Biblical influence, you
understand; but that my influence interfered and turned timbrel and
harp into castanets. Do you remember the day when you ran away
with Dent and took him to a prize fight? After that you wanted
boxing-gloves, and Dent was crazy for a sponge. You fought him,
and he sponged you. Here is the sponge; I do not know where the
gloves are. And here are some things that belong to both of you;
they are mine; they go with me." She laid her hand on a little box
wrapped and tied, then quickly shut the closet.
In a room especially fragrant with lavender she opened a press in
the wall and turned her face away from him for a moment.
"This is my bridal dress. This was my bridal veil; it has been the
bridal veil of girls in my family for a good many generations.
These were my slippers; you see I had a large foot; but it was well
shaped--it was a woman's foot. That was my vanity--not to have a
little foot. I leave these things to you both. I hope each of you
may have a daughter to wear the dress and the veil." For the first
time she dashed some tears from her eyes. "I look to my sons for
sons and daughters."
It was near sunset when they stood again at the foot of the
staircase. She was white and tired, but her spirit refused to be
"I think I shall He down now," she said, "so I shall say good night
to you here, Rowan. Fix the tray for me yourself, pour me out some
tea, and butter me a roll." They stood looking into each other's
eyes. She saw things in his which caused her suddenly to draw his
forehead over and press her lips to one and then to the other,
again and again.
The sun streamed through the windows, level and red, lighting up
the darkened hall, lighting up the head and shoulders of his mother.
An hour later he sat at the head of his table alone--a table
arranged for two instead of three. At the back of his chair waited
the aged servitor of the household, gray-haired, discreet, knowing
many things about earlier days on which rested the seal of
incorruptible silence. A younger servant performed the duties.
He sat at the head of his table and excused the absence of his
mother and forced himself with the pride and dignity of his race to
give no sign of what had passed that day. His mother's maid
entered, bringing him in a crystal vase a dark red flower for his
coat. She had always given him that same dark red flower after he
had turned into manhood. "It is your kind," she said; "I
He arranged the tray for her, pouring out her tea, buttering the
rolls. Then he forced himself to eat his supper as usual. From
old candlesticks on the table a silver radiance was shed on the
massive silver, on the gem-like glass. Candelabra on the
mantelpiece and the sideboard lighted up the browned oak of the
He left the table at last, giving and hearing a good night. The
servants efficiently ended their duties and put out the lights. In
the front hall lamps were left burning; there were lamps and
candles in the library. He went off to a room on the ground floor
in one ell of the house; it was his sitting room, smoking room, the
lounging place of his friends. In one corner stood a large desk,