Part 4 out of 4
It was then that Crailey's eyelids fluttered and slowly opened; and his
wandering glance, dull at first, slowly grew clear and twinkling as it
rested on the ashy, stricken face of his best friend.
"Tom," he said, feebly, "it was worth the price, to wear your clothes just
And then, at last, Miss Betty saw and understood. For not the honest
gentleman, whom everyone except Robert Carewe held in esteem and af-
fection, not her father's enemy, Vanrevel, lay before her with the death-
wound in his breast for her sake, but that other--Crailey Gray, the ne'er-
do-weel and light-o'-love, Crailey Gray, wit, poet, and scapegrace, the
well-beloved town scamp.
He saw that she knew, and, as his brightening eyes wandered up to her, he
smiled faintly. "Even a bad dog likes to have his day," he whispered.
The Flag Goes Marching By
Will Cummings had abandoned the pen for the sword until such time as Santa
Anna should cry for quarter, and had left the office in charge of an
imported substitute; but late that night he came to his desk once more, to
write the story of the accident to Corporal Gray; and the tale that he
wrote had been already put into writing by Tom Vanrevel as it fell from
Crailey's lips, after the doctor had, come, so that none might doubt it.
No one did doubt it. What reason had Mr. Carewe to injure Crailey Gray?
Only five in Rouen knew the truth; for Nelson had gone with his master,
and, except Mamie, the other servants of the Carewe household had been
among the crowd in front of the Rouen House when the shot was fired.
So the story went over the town: how Crailey had called to say good-by to
Mrs. Tanberry; how Mr. Carewe happened to be examining the musket his
father had carried in 1812, when the weapon was accidentally discharged,
the ball entering Crailey's breast; how Mr. Carewe, stricken with remorse
and horror over this frightful misfortune, and suffering too severe
anguish of mind to remain upon the scene, of the tragedy which his
carelessness had made, had fled, attended by his servant; and how they had
leaped aboard the evening boat as it was pulling out, and were now on
their way down the river.
And this was the story, too, that Tom told Fanchon; for it was he who
brought her to Crailey. Through the long night she knelt at Crailey's
side, his hand always pressed to her breast or cheek, her eyes always
upward, and her lips moving with her prayers, not for Crailey to be
spared, but that the Father would take good care of him in heaven till she
came. "I had already given him up," she said to Tom, meekly, in a small
voice. "I knew it was to come, and perhaps this way is better than that--
I thought it would be far away from me. Now I can be with him, and
perhaps I shall have him a little longer, for he was to have gone away
The morning sun rose upon a fair world, gay with bird-chatterings from the
big trees of the Carewe place, and pleasant with the odors of Miss Betty's
garden, and Crailey, lying upon the bed of the man who had shot him,
hearkened and smiled good-by to the summer he loved; and, when the day
broke, asked that the bed be moved so that he might lie close by the
window. It was Tom who had borne him to that room. "I have carried him
before this," he said, waving the others aside.
Not long after sunrise, when the bed had been moved near the window,
Crailey begged Fanchon to bring him a miniature of his mother which he had
given her, and urged her to go for it herself; he wanted no hands but hers
to touch it, he said. And when she had gone he asked to be left alone
"Give me your hand, Tom," he said, faintly. "I'd like to keep hold of it
a minute or so. I couldn't have said that yesterday, could I, without
causing us both horrible embarrassment? But I fancy I can now, because
I'm done for. That's too bad, isn't it? I'm very young, after all. Do
you remember what poor Andre Chenier said as he went up to be
guillotined?--' There were things in this head of mine!' But I want to
tell you what's been the matter with me. It was just my being a bad sort
of poet. I suppose that I've never loved anyone; yet I've cared more
deeply than other men for every lovely thing I ever saw, and there's so
little that hasn't loveliness in it. I'd be ashamed not to have cared for
the beauty in all the women I've made love to--but about this one--the
most beautiful of all--I--------"
"She will understand!" said Tom, quickly.
"She will--yes--she's wise and good. If Fanchon knew, there wouldn't be
even a memory left to her--and I don't think she'd live. And do you know,
I believe I've done a favor for Miss Betty in getting myself shot; Carewe
will never come back. Tom, was ever a man's knavery so exactly the
architect of his own destruction as mine? And for what gain? Just the
excitement of the comedy from day to day!--for she was sure to despise me
as soon as she knew--and the desire to hear her voice say another kindly
thing to me--and the everlasting perhaps in every woman, and this one the
Heart's Desire of all the world! Ah, well! Tell me--I want to hear it
from you--how many hours does the doctor say?"
"Hours, Crailey?" Tom's hand twitched pitifully in the other's feeble
"I know it's only a few."
"They're all fools, doctors!" exclaimed Vanrevel, fiercely.
"No, no. And I know that nothing can be done. You all see it, and you
want me to go easily--or you wouldn't let me have my own way so much! It
frightens me, I own up, to think that so soon I'll be wiser than the
wisest in the world. Yet I always wanted to know. I've sought and I've
sought--but now to go out alone on the search--it must be the search, for
the Holy Grail--I----"
"Please don't talk," begged Tom, in a broken whisper. "For mercy's sake,
lad. It wears on you so."
Crailey laughed weakly. "Do you think I could die peacefully without
talking a great deal? There's one thing I want, Tom. I want to see all
of them once more, all the old friends that are going down the river at
noon. What harm could it do? I want them to come by here on their way to
the boat, with the band and the new flag. But I want the band to play
cheerfully! Ask `em to play `Rosin the Bow,' will you? I've never be-
lieved in mournfulness, and I don't want to see any of it now. It's the
rankest impiety of all! And besides, I want to see them as they'll be
when they come marching home--they must look gay!"
"Ah, don't, lad, don't!" Tom flung one arm about the other's shoulder and
Crailey was silent, but rested his hand gently on his friend's head. In
that attitude Fanchon found them when she came.
The volunteers gathered at the court-house two hours before noon. They
met each other dismally, speaking in undertones as they formed in lines of
four, while their dispirited faces showed that the heart was out of them.
Not so with the crowds of country folk and townspeople who lined the
streets to see the last of them. For these, when the band came marching
down the street and took its place, set up a royal cheering that grew
louder as Jefferson Bareaud, the color-bearer, carried the flag to the
head of the procession. With the recruits marched the veterans of 1812
and the Indian wars, the one-legged cobbler stumping along beside General
Trumble, who looked very dejected and old. The lines stood in silence,
and responded to the cheering by quietly removing their hats; so that the
people whispered that it was more like an Odd Fellows' Sunday funeral than
the departure of enthusiastic patriots for the seat of war. General
Trumble's was not the only sad face in the ranks; all were downcast and
nervous, even those of the lads from the country, who had not known the
comrade they were to leave behind.
Jefferson unfurled the flag; Marsh gave the word of command, the band
began to play a quick-step, and the procession moved forward down the
cheering lane of people, who waved little flags and handkerchiefs and
threw their hats in the air as they shouted. But, contrary to
expectation, the parade was not directly along Main Street to the river.
"Right wheel! March!" commanded Tappingham, hoarsely, waving his sword,
and Jefferson led the way into Carewe Street.
"For God's sake, don't cry now!" and Tappingham, with a large drop
streaking down his own cheek, turned savagely upon Lieutenant Cummings.
"That isn't what he wants. He wants to see us looking cheery and smiling.
We can do it for him this once, I guess! I never saw him any other way."
"You look damn smiling yourself!" snuffled Will.
"I will when we turn in at the gates," retorted his Captain. "On my soul,
I swear I'll kill every sniffling idiot that doesn't!--In line, there!" be
stormed ferociously at a big recruit.
The lively strains of the band and the shouting of the people grew louder
and louder in the room where Crailey lay. His eyes glistened as he heard,
and he smiled, not the old smile of the worldly prelate, but merrily, like
a child when music is heard. The room was darkened, save for the light of
the one window which fell softly upon his head and breast and upon another
fair head close to his, where Fanchon knelt. In the shadows at one end of
the room were Miss Betty and Mrs. Tanberry and Mrs. Bareaud and the white-
haired doctor who had said, "Let him have his own way in all he asks."
Tom stood alone, close by the head of the couch.
"Hail to the band!" Crailey chuckled, softly. "How the rogues keep the
time! It's `Rosin the Bow,' all right! Ah, that is as it should be.
Mrs. Tanberry, you and I have one thing in common, if you'll let me
flatter myself so far: we've always believed in good cheer in spite of
the devil and all, you and I, eh? The best of things, even if things are
bad, dear lady, eh?"
"You darling vagabond!" Mrs. Tanberry murmured, trying to smile back to
"Hark to `em!" said Crailey. "They're very near! Only hear the people
cheer them! They'll `march away so gaily,' won't they ?--and how right
that is!" The vanguard appeared in the street, and over the hedge gleamed
the oncoming banner, the fresh colors flying out on a strong breeze.
Crailey greeted it with a breathless cry. "There's the flag--look,
Fanchon, your flag!--. waving above the hedge; and it's Jeff who carries
it. Doesn't it always make you want to dance! Bravo, bravo!"
The procession halted for a moment in the street and the music ceased.
Then, with a jubilant flourish of brass and the roll of drums, the band
struck up "The Star Spangled Banner," and Jefferson Bareaud proudly led
the way through the gates and down the driveway, the bright silk streaming
overhead. Behind him briskly marched the volunteers, with heads erect and
cheerful faces, as they knew Corporal Gray wished to see them, their
Captain flourishing his sword in the air.
"Here they come! Do you see, Fanchon?" cried Crailey, excitedly. "They
are all there, Jeff and Tappingham, and the two Madrillons and Will, the
dear old fellow--he'll never write a decent paragraph as long as he lives,
God bless him!--and young Frank--what deviltries I've led the boy into!--
and there's the old General, forgetting all the tiffs we've had. God
bless them all and grant them all a safe return! What on earth are they
taking off their hats for?-- Ah, good-by, boys, good-by!"
They saw the white face at the window, and the slender hand fluttering its
farewell, and Tappingham halted his men.
"Three times three for Corporal Gray!" he shouted, managing, somehow, to
keep the smile upon his lips. "Three times three, and may he rejoin his
company before we enter the Mexican capital!"
He beat the time for the thunderous cheers that they gave; the procession
described a circle on the lawn, and then, with the band playing and colors
flying, passed out of the gates and took up the march to the wharf.
"the flag, the flag!" whispered Crailey, following it with his eyes. "It
shows that you helped make it, Fanchon, it's so beautiful. Ah, Tom,
they've said we abused it, sometimes--it was only that we loved it so well
we didn't like to see anyone make it look silly or mean. But, after all,
no man can do that--no, nor no group of men, nor party! His voice grew
louder as the last strains of the music came more faintly from the street.
"They'll take your banner across the Rio Grande, Fanchon, but that is not
all--some day its stars must spread over the world! Don't you all see
that they will?"
After a little while, he closed his eyes with a sigh; the doctor bent over
him quickly, and Miss Betty started forward unconsciously and cried out.
But the bright eyes opened again and fixed themselves upon her with all
their old, gay inscrutability.
"Not yet," said Crailey. "Miss Carewe, may I tell you that I am sorry I
could not have known you sooner? Perhaps you might have liked me for
Fanchon's sake--I know you care for her."
"I do--I do!" she faltered. "I love her, and--ah!--I do like you, Mr.
Gray, for I know you, though I never--met you until--last night. God
bless you--God bless you!"
She wavered a moment, like a lily in the wind, and put out a hand blindly.
"Not you!" she said sharply, as Tom Vanrevel started toward her. Mrs.
Tanberry came quickly and put an arm about her, and together they went out
of the room.
"You must be good to her, Tom," said Crailey then, in a very low voice.
"I!" answered Tom, gently. "There was never a chance of that, lad."
"Listen," whispered Crailey. "Lean down-- no--closer." He cast a quick
glance at Fanchon, kneeling at the other side of the bed, her golden head
on the white coverlet, her outstretched hand clutching his; and he spoke
so close to Tom's ear and in so low a tone that only Tom could hear. "She
never cared for me. She felt that she ought to--but that was only because
I masqueraded in your history. She wanted to tell me before I went away
that there was no chance for me. She was telling me that, when he called
from the window. It was at the dance, the night before, that she knew. I
think there has been someone else from the first--God send it's you! Did
you speak to her that night or she to you?"
"Ah, no," said Tom Vanrevel. "All the others."
Mrs. Tanberry and Betty and Mr. Bareaud waited in the library, the two
women huddled together on a sofa, with their arms round each other, and
all the house was very still. By and by, they heard a prolonged, far-away
cheering and the steamer's whistle, and knew that the boat was off. Half
an hour later, Will Cummings came back alone, entered the room on tip-toe,
and silently sank into a chair near Mr. Bareaud, with his face away from
Miss Betty. He was to remain in Rouen another week, and join his regiment
with Tom. None of the three appeared to notice his coming more than
dimly, and he sat with his face bowed in his hands, and did not move.
Thus perhaps an hour passed, with only a sound of footsteps on the gravel
of the driveway, now and then, and a low murmur of voices in the rear of
the house where people came to ask after Crailey; and when the door of the
room where he lay was opened, the four watchers started as at a loud
explosion. It was Mrs. Bareaud and the old doctor, and they closed the
door again, softly, and came in to the others. They had left Crailey
alone with Fanchon and Tom Vanrevel, the two who loved him best.
The warm day beyond the windows became like Sunday, no voices sounded from
without in the noon hush, though sometimes a little group of people would
gather across the street to eye the house curiously and nod and whisper.
The strong, blue shadows of the veranda pillars stole slowly across the
white floor of the porch in a lessening slant, and finally lay all in a
line, as the tall clock in a corner of the library asthmatically coughed
the hour of noon. In this jarring discordance there was something
frightful to Miss Betty. She rose abruptly, and, imperiously waving back
Mrs. Tanberry, who would have detained her--for there was in her face and
manner the incipient wildness of control overstrained to the breaking-
point--she went hurriedly out of the room and out of the house, to the old
bench in the garden. There she sank down, her face hidden in her arms;
there on the spot where she had first seen Crailey Gray.
>From there, too, had risen the serenade of the man she had spurned and
insulted; and there she had come to worship the stars when Crailey bade
her look to them. And now the strange young teacher was paying the bitter
price for his fooleries--and who could doubt that the price was a bitter
one? To have the spirit so suddenly, cruelly riven from the sprightly
body that was, but a few hours ago, hale and alert, obedient to every,
petty wish, could dance, run, and leap; to be forced with such hideous
precipitation to leave the warm breath of June and undergo the lonely
change, merging with the shadow; to be flung from the exquisite and
commonplace day of sunshine into the appalling adventure that should not
have been his for years--and hurled into it by what hand!--ah, bitter,
bitter price for a harlequinade! And, alas, alas! for the brave harlequin!
A gentle touch fell upon her shoulder, and Miss Betty sprang to her feet
and screamed. It was Nelson who stood before her, hat in hand, his head
"Is he with you?" she cried, clutching at the bench for support.
"No'm," answered the old man, humbly. "I reckon we all ain' goin' see dat
man no mo`."
"Where is he?"
"On de way, honey, on de way."
"The way--to Rouen!" she gasped.
"No'm; he goin' cross de big water." He stretched out his hand and
pointed solemnly to the east. "Him an' me we cotch de boat, an' yo' pa
mek `em taken de hosses on bode. Den we git off at Leeville, five mile'
down de rivuh, an' yo' pa hol' de boat whiles I rid back alone an' git de
news, an' what de tale is you all is tole, f'um ole Mist' Chen'eth; an'
Mist' Chen'eth, he rid back wid me an' see yo' pa at Leeville, an' dey
talk in de shed by de landin', an' yo' pa tell Mist' Chen'eth what
`rangements he goin' make wid de proprety. `Den he git on de boat ag'in
an' dey sto't her agoin'; an' he ain' wave no good-by, ner say no mo'
wu'ds. Mist' Chen'eth rid back whens de light come; but I res' de hosses
an' come back slow, `case I ponduh on de worl', an' I mighty sorry fer yo'
pa, Missy. He am' comin' back no mo', honey, an' Miz Tanberry an' me an'
Mamie, we goin' take keer er you. Yo' pa gone back dah to de F'enchmun,
whuh he `uz a young man. He mighty sick, an' he scairt, honey; an' he
ain' goin' git ovah dat, neider. `Peah to me, Missy, like he done had a
vizhum er he own soul, when he come an' look down at dat young man layin'
on de grass, las' night!"
The old fellow bent his back before her in a solemn bow, as a feudal
retainer in allegiance to the heir, but more in deference to the sorrow
written upon her, and respecting its magnitude. With no words of comfort,
for he knew she wanted only to be alone, he moved away, with infirm steps
and shaking head, toward the rear of the house.
Miss Betty threw herself upon the bench again, face downward in her arms.
And still the house lay in silence under the sunshine.
An hour had passed, and the shadows slanted strongly to the east, when the
stillness was broken by a sound, low and small at first, then rising
fearfully, a long, quavering wail of supreme anguish, that clutched and
shook the listener's heart. No one could have recognized the voice as
Fanchon's, yet everyone who heard it knew that it was hers; and that the
soul of Crailey Gray had gone out upon the quest for the Holy Grail.
Miss Betty's hands clenched convulsively round the arm of the bench and a
fit of shuddering seized her as if with the grip of a violent chill,
though her eyes were dry. Then she lay quiet.
A long time afterward, she became aware of a step that paced the garden
path behind her, and turned her face upon her arm so that she saw, but
made no other motion. It was Tom Vanrevel, walking slowly up and down,
his hands behind his back and his hat pulled far down over his eyes. He
had not seen her.
She rose and spoke his name.
He turned and came to her. "Almost at the very last," he said, "Crailey
whispered to me that be knew you thought him a great scamp, but to tell
you to be sure to remember that it was all true about the stars."
It was between twilight and candlelight, the gentle half-hour when the
kind old Sand Man steals up the stairs of houses where children are; when
rustic lovers stroll with slow and quiet steps down country lanes, and old
bachelors are loneliest and dream of the things that might have been.
Through the silence of the clear dusk came the whistle of the evening boat
that was to bear Tom Vanrevel through the first stage of his long journey
to the front of war, and the sound fell cheerlessly upon Miss Betty's ear,
as she stood leaning against the sun-dial among the lilac bushes. Her
attitude was not one of reverie; yet she stood very still, so still that,
in the wan shimmer of the faded afterglow, one might have passed close by
her and not have seen her. The long, dark folds of her gown showed
faintly against the gray stone, and her arms, bare from the elbow, lay
across the face of the dial with unrelaxed fingers clenching the cornice;
her head drooping, not languidly but with tension, her eyes half-closed,
showing the lashes against a pale cheek; and thus, motionless, leaning on
the stone in the dusk, she might have been Sorrow's self.
She did not move, there was not even a flicker of the eyelashes, when a
step sounded on the gravel of the driveway, and Vanrevel came slowly from
the house. He stopped at a little distance from her, hat in hand. He was
very thin, worn and old-looking, and in the failing light might have been
taken for a tall, gentle ghost; yet his shoulders were squared and he held
himself as straight as he had the first time she had ever seen him.
"Mrs. Tanberry told me I should find you here," he said, hesitatingly. "I
have come to say good-by."
She did not turn toward him, nor did more than her lips move as she
answered, "Good-by," and her tone was neither kind nor cold, but held no
meaning whatever, not even indifference.
There was an interval of silence; then, without surprise, he walked sadly
to the gate, paused, wheeled about suddenly, and returned with a quick,
"I will not go until I know that I do not misunderstand you," he said,
"not even if there is only the slightest chance that I do. I want to say
something to you, if you will let me, though naturally I remember you once
asked me never to speak to you again. It is only that I have thought you
did that under a misconception, or else I should still obey you. If you--"
"What is it that you wish to say?" Her tone was unchanged.
"Only that I think the hardest time for you has passed, and that--"
"Do you?" she interrupted.
"Yes," he returned, "the saddest of your life. I think it has gone
forever. And I think that what will come to you will be all you wish for.
There will be a little time of waiting--"
"Waiting for what?"
He drew a step nearer, and his voice became very gentle. "Cummings and I
reach our regiment tomorrow night; and there in the camp is a group of men
on the way to the war, and they all go the more bravely because each one
of them has you in his heart;--not one but will be a better soldier
because of you. I want you to believe that if all of them don't come
back, yet the one whose safety you think of and fear for will return.
For, you see, Crailey told me what you said to him when--when he met you
here the last time. I have no way to know which of them you meant; but--
he will come back to you! I am sure of it, because I believe you are to
be happy. Ah, you've had your allotment of pain! After all, there is so
little to regret: the town seems empty without its young men, yet you may
rejoice, remembering how bravely they went and how gaily! They will sing
half the way to Vera Cruz! You think it strange I should say there is so
little to regret, when I've just laid away my best friend. It was his own
doctrine, and the selfish personal grief and soreness grows less when I
think of the gallant end he made, for it was he who went away most bravely
and jauntily of all. Crailey was no failure, unless I let what he taught
me go to no effect. And be sure he would have told you what I tell you
now, that all is well with all in the world."
"Please!" she cried, with a quick intake of breath through closed teeth.
"I will do anything in the world to please you," he answered, sorrowfully.
"Do you mean that--"
She turned at last and faced him, but without lifting her eyes. "Why did
you come to say good-by to me?"
"I don't understand."
"I think you do." Her voice was cold and steady, but it was suddenly
given to him to perceive that she was trembling from head to heel.
An exclamation of remorse broke from him.
"Ah! You came here to be alone. I--"
"Stop," she said. "You said good-by to me once before. Did you come to
see--what you saw then?"
He fell back in utter amazement, but she advanced upon him swiftly. "Was
it that?" she cried.
The unfortunate young man could make no reply, and remained unable to
defend himself from her inexplicable attack.
"You have not forgotten," she went on, impetuously. "It was in the crowd,
just before they gave you the flag. You saw--I know you saw-- and it
killed me with the shame of it! Now you come to me to look at the same
thing again--and the boat waiting for you! Is it in revenge for that
night at the Bareauds'? Perhaps this sounds wild to you--I can't help
that--but why should you try to make it harder for me?"
>From the porch came a strong voice: "Vanrevel!"
"God knows I haven't meant to," said Tom, in bitter pain. "I don't
understand. It's Cummings calling for me; I'll go at once. I'd hoped,
stupidly enough, that you would tell me whom it was you meant when you
spoke to Crailey, so that I could help to make it surer that he'd come
back to you. But I've only annoyed you. And you were here--away from the
house----avoiding me, and fearing that I--"
"Vanrevel!" shouted William. (Mrs. Tanberry had not told Lieutenant
Cummings where to find Miss Betty.)
"Fearing that I might discover you." He let his eyes rest on her
loveliness once more, and as he saw that she still trembled, he extended
his hand toward her in a gesture of infinite gentleness, like a blessing,
heaved one great sigh, and, with head erect and body straight, set his
face manfully toward the house.
He had taken three strides when his heart stopped beating at an ineffable
touch on his sleeve. For, with a sharp cry, she sprang to him; and then,
once more, among the lilac bushes where he had caught the white kitten,
his hand was seized and held between two small palms, and the eyes of Miss
Betty Carewe looked into the very soul of him.
"No!" she cried. "No! Fearing with a sick heart that you might not
Her pale face, misty with sweetness, wavered before him in the dusk, and
he lifted his shaking hand to his forehead; her own went with it, and the
touch of that steadied him.
"You mean," he whispered, brokenly, "you mean that you--"
"Yes, always," she answered, rushing through the words, half in tears.
"There was a little time when I loved what your life had been more than
you. Ah, it was you that I saw in him. Yet it was not what you had done
after all, but just you! I knew there could not be anyone else--though I
thought it could never be you--that night, just before they gave the
"We've little time, Vanrevel!" called the voice from the porch.
Tom's eyes filled slowly. He raised them and looked at the newly come
stars. "Crailey, Crailey!" he murmured.
Her gaze followed his. "Ah, it's he--and they--that make me know you will
come back to me!" she said.