Part 1 out of 11
Produced by Charles Franks
and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team
AT THE MERCY OF TIBERIUS
By AUGUSTA EVANS WILSON
Author of "A Speckled Bird," "Infelice," "Vashti," "Beulah," "St.
Fate steals along with silent tread,
Found oftenest in what least we dread;
Frowns in the storm with angry brow,
But in the sunshine strikes the blow.
IN MEMORY OF MY MOTHER, WHO HAS ENTERED INTO REST.
AT THE MERCY OF TIBERIUS
"You are obstinate and ungrateful. You would rather see me suffer
and die, than bend your stubborn pride in the effort to obtain
relief for me. You will not try to save me."
The thin, hysterically unsteady voice ended in a sob, and the frail
wasted form of the speaker leaned forward, as if the issue of life
or death hung upon an answer.
The tower clock of a neighboring church began to strike the hour of
noon, and not until the echo of the last stroke had died away, was
there a reply to the appeal.
"Mother, try to be just to me. My pride is for you, not for myself.
I shrink from seeing my mother crawl to the feet of a man, who has
disowned and spurned her; I cannot consent that she should humbly
beg for rights, so unnaturally withheld. Every instinct of my nature
revolts from the step you require of me, and I feel as if you held a
hot iron in your hand, waiting to brand me."
"Your proud sensitiveness runs in a strange groove, and it seems you
would prefer to see me a pauper in a Hospital, rather than go to
your grandfather and ask for help. Beryl, time presses, and if I die
for want of aid, you will be responsible; when it is too late, you
will reproach yourself. If I only knew where and how to reach my
dear boy, I should not importune you. Bertie would not refuse
obedience to say wishes."
The silence which followed was so prolonged that a mouse crept from
its covert in some corner of the comfortless garret room, and
nibbled at the fragments of bread scattered on the table.
Beryl stood at the dormer window, holding aside the faded blue
cotton curtain, and the mid-day glare falling upon her, showed every
curve of her tall full form; every line in the calm, pale Sibylline
face. The large steel gray eyes were shaded by drooping lids,
heavily fringed with black lashes, but when raised in a steady gaze
the pupils appeared abnormally dilated; and the delicately traced
black brows that overarched them, contrasted conspicuously with the
wealth of deep auburn hair darkened by mahogany tints, which rolled
back in shining waves from her blue veined temples. While moulding
the figure and features upon a scale almost heroic, nature had
jealously guarded the symmetry of her work, and in addition to the
perfect proportion of the statuesque outlines, had bestowed upon the
firm white flesh a gleaming smoothness, suggestive of fine grained
marble highly polished. Majesty of mien implies much, which the
comparatively short period of eighteen years rarely confers, yet
majestic most properly describes this girl, whose archetype Veleda
read runic myths to the Bructeri in the twilight of history.
Beryl crossed the room, and with her hands folded tightly together,
came to the low bed, on which lay the wreck of a once beautiful
woman, and stood for a moment silent and pre-occupied. With a sudden
gesture of surrender, she stooped her noble head, as if assuming a
yoke, and drew one long deep breath. Did some prophetic intuition
show her at that instant the Phicean Hill and its dread tenant,
which sooner or later we must all confront?
"Dear mother, I submit. Obedience to your commands certainly ought
not to lead me astray; yet I feel that I stand at the cross-roads,
longing to turn and flee from the way whither your finger points. I
have no hope of accomplishing any good, and nothing but humiliation
can result from the experiment; but I will go. Sometimes I believe;
that fate maliciously hunts up the things we most bitterly abhor,
and one by one sets them down before us--labelled Duty. When do you
wish me to start?"
"To-night, at nine o'clock. In the letter which you will take to
father, I have told him our destitution; and that the money spent
for your railway ticket has been obtained by the sacrifice of the
diamonds and pearls, that were set around my mother's picture; that
cameo, which he had cut in Rome and framed in Paris. Beryl so much
depends on the impression you make upon him, that you must guard
your manner against haughtiness. Try to be patient, my daughter, and
if he should seem harsh, do not resent his words. He is old now, and
proud and bitter, but he once had a tender love for me. I was his
idol, and when my child pleads, he will relent."
Mrs. Brentano laid her thin hot fingers on her daughter's hands,
drawing her down to the edge of the bed; and Beryl saw she was
quivering with nervous excitement.
"Compose yourself, mother, or you will be so ill that I cannot leave
you. Dr. Grantlin impressed upon us, the necessity of keeping your
nervous system quiet. Take your medicine now, and try to sleep until
I come back from Stephen & Endicott's."
"Do not go to-day."
"I must. Those porcelain types were promised for a certain day, and
they should be packed in time for the afternoon express going to
"Come nearer to me. Give me your hand. My heart is so oppressed by
dread, that I want you to promise me something, which I fancy will
lighten my burden. Life is very uncertain, and if I should die, what
would become of my Bertie? Oh, my boy! my darling, my first born! He
is so impulsive, so headstrong; and no one but his mother could ever
excuse or forgive his waywardness. Although younger, you are in some
respects, the strongest; and I want your promise that you will
always be patient and tender with him, and that you will shield him
from evil, as I have tried to do. His conscience of course, is not
sensitive like yours--because you know, a boy's moral nature is
totally different from a girl's; and like most of his sex, Bertie
has no religious instincts bending him always in the right
direction. Women generally have to supply conscientious scruples
for men, and you can take care of your brother, if you will. You are
unusually brave and strong, Beryl, and when I am gone, you must
stand between him and trouble. My good little girl, will you?"
The large luminous eyes that rested upon the flushed face of the
invalid, filled with a mist of yearning compassionate tenderness,
and taking her mother's hands, Beryl laid the palms together, then
stooping nearer, kissed her softly.
"I think I have never lacked love for Bertie, though I may not
always have given expression to my feelings. If at times I have
deplored his reckless waywardness, and expostulated with him,
genuine affection prompted me; but I promise you now, that I will do
all a sister possibly can for a brother. Trust me, mother; and rest
in the assurance that his welfare shall be more to me than my own;
that should the necessity arise, I will stand between him and
trouble. Banish all depressing forebodings. When you are strong and
well, and when I paint my great picture, we will buy a pretty
cottage among the lilacs and roses, where birds sing all day long,
where cattle pasture in clover nooks; and then Bertie, your darling,
shall never leave you again."
"I do trust you, for your promise means more than oath and vows from
other people, and if occasion demand, I know you will guard my
Bertie, my high-strung, passionate, beautiful boy! Your pretty
cottage? Ah, child! when shall we dwell in Spain?"
"Some day, some day; only be hopeful, and let me find you better
when I return. Sleep, and dream of our pretty cottage. I must hurry
away with my pictures, for this is pay day."
Tying the strings of her hat under one ear, and covering her face
with a blue veil, Beryl took a pasteboard box from a table, on which
lay brushes and paints, and leaving the door a-jar, went down the
At the window of a small hall on the next floor, a woman sat before
her sewing-machine, bending so close to her work that she did not
see the tall form, which paused before her, until a hand was laid on
the steel plate.
"Mrs. Emmet, will you please be so good as to go up after a while,
and see if mother needs anything?"
"Certainly, Miss, if I am here, but I have some sewing to carry home
"I shall not be absent more than two hours. To-night I am going
South, to attend to some business; and mother tells me you have
promised to wait upon her, and allow your daughter Maggie to sleep
on a pallet by her bed, while I am gone. I cannot tell you how
grateful I shall be for any kindness you may show her, and I wish
you would send the baby often to her room, as he is so sweet and
cunning, and his merry ways amuse her."
"Yes, I will do all I can. We poor folks who have none of this
world's goods, ought to be rich at least in sympathy and pity for
each other's suffering, for it is about all we have to share. Don't
you worry and fret, for I will see your ma has what she needs. I was
mothered by the best woman God ever made, and since she died, every
sick mother I see has a sort of claim on my heart."
Pausing an instant to adjust the tucker of her machine, Mrs. Emmet
looked up, and involuntarily the women shook hands, as if sealing a
It was a long walk to the building whither Beryl directed her steps,
and as she passed through the rear entrance of a large and
fashionable photograph establishment, she was surprised to find that
it was half-past two o'clock.
The Superintendent of the department, from whom she received her
work, was a man of middle-age, of rather stern and forbidding
aspect; and as she approached his desk, he pointed to the clock on
"Barely time to submit those types for inspection, and have them
packed for the express going East. They are birthday gifts, and
birthdays have an awkward habit of arriving rigidly on time."
He unrolled the tissue paper, and with a magnifying glass, carefully
examined the pictures; then took from an envelope in the box, two
short pieces of hair, which he compared with the painted heads
"Beautifully done. The lace on that child's dress would bear even a
stronger lens than my glass. Here Patterson, take this box, and
letter to Mr. Endicott, and if satisfactory, carry them to the
packing counter. Shipping address is in the letter. Hurry up, my
lad. Sit down, Miss Brentano."
"Thank you, I am not tired. Mr. Mansfield, have you any good news
"You mean those etchings; or the designs for the Christmas cards?
Have not heard a word, pro or con. Guess no news is good news; for I
notice 'rejected' work generally travels fast, to roost at home."
"I thought the awards were made last week, and that to-day you could
tell me the result."
"The awards have been made, I presume, but who owns the lucky cards
is the secret that has not yet transpired. You young people have no
respect for red tape, and methodical business routine. You want to
clap spurs on fate, and make her lower her own last record? 'Bide
awee. Bide awee'."
"Winning this prize means so much to me, that I confess I find it
very hard to be patient. Success would save me from a painful and
expensive journey, upon which I must start to-night; and therefore I
hoped so earnestly that I might receive good tidings to-day. I am
obliged to go South on an errand, which will necessitate an absence
of several days, and if you should have any news for me, keep it
until I call again. If unfavorable it would depress my mother, and
therefore I prefer you should not write, as of course she will open
any letters addressed to me. Please save all the work you can for
me, and I will come here as soon as I get back home."
"Very well. Any message, Patterson?"
"Mr. Endicott said, 'All right; first-rate;' and ordered them
"Here is your money, Miss Brentano. Better call as early as you can,
as I guess there will be a lot of photographs ready in a few days.
"Thank you. Good-bye, sir."
From the handful of small change, she selected some pennies which
she slipped inside of her glove, and dropping the remainder into her
pocket, left the building, and walked on toward Union Square.
Absorbed in grave reflections, and oppressed by some vague
foreboding of impending ill, dim, intangible and unlocalized--she
moved slowly along the crowded sidewalk--unconscious of the curious
glances directed toward her superb form, and stately graceful
carriage, which more than one person turned and looked back to
admire, wondering when she had stepped down from some sacred
Near Madison Square, she paused before the window of a florist's,
and raising her veil, gazed longingly at the glowing mass of
blossoms, which Nineteenth Century skill and wealth in defiance of
isothermal lines, and climatic limitations force into perfection,
in, and out of season. The violet eyes and crocus fingers of Spring
smiled and quivered, at sight of the crimson rose heart, and flaming
paeony cheeks of royal Summer; and creamy and purple chrysanthemums
that quill their laces over the russet robes of Autumn, here stared
in indignant amazement, at the premature presumption of snowy regal
camellias, audaciously advancing to crown the icy brows of Winter.
All latitudes, all seasons have become bound vassals to the great
God Gold; and his necromancy furnishes with equal facility the dewy
wreaths of orange flowers that perfume the filmy veils of December
brides--and the blue bells of spicy hyacinths which ring "Rest" over
the lily pillows, set as tribute on the graves of babies, who wilt
under August suns.
From early childhood, an ardent love of beauty had characterized
this girl, whose covetous gaze wandered from a gorgeous scarlet and
gold orchid nodding in dreams of its habitat, in some vanilla
scented Brazilian jungle, to a bed of vivid green moss, where
skilful hands had grouped great drooping sprays of waxen begonias,
coral, faint pink, and ivory, all powdered with gold dust like that
which gilds the heart of water-lilies.
Such treasures were reserved for the family of Dives; and counting
her pennies, Beryl entered the store, where instantaneously the
blended breath of heliotrope, tube-rose and mignonette wafted her
across the ocean, to a white-walled fishing village on the Cornice,
whose gray rocks were kissed by the blue lips of the Mediterranean.
"What is the price of that cluster of Niphetos buds?"
"And that Auratum--with a few rose geranium leaves added?"
"Seventy-five cents. You see it is wonderfully large, and the gold
bands are so very deep."
She put one hand in her pocket and fingered a silver coin, but
poverty is a grim, tyrannous stepmother to tender aestheticism, and
prudential considerations prevailed.
"Give me twenty-five cents worth of those pale blue double violets,
with a sprig of lemon verbena, and a fringe of geranium leaves."
She laid the money on the counter, and while the florist selected
and bound the blossoms into a bunch, she arrested his finishing
"Wait a moment. How much more for one Grand Duke jasmine in the
"Ten cents, Miss."
She added the dime to the pennies she could ill afford to spare from
her small hoard, and said: "Will you be so kind as to sprinkle it? I
wish it kept fresh, for a sick lady."
Dusky shadows were gathering in the gloomy hall of the old tenement
house, when Beryl opened the door of the comfortless attic room,
where for many months she had struggled bravely to shield her mother
from the wolf, that more than once snarled across the threshold.
Mrs. Brentano was sitting in a low chair, with her elbows on her
knees, her face hidden in her palms; and in her lap lay paper and
pencil, while a sealed letter had fallen on the ground beside her.
At the sound of the opening door, she lifted her head, and tears
dripped upon the paper. In her faded flannel dressing-gown, with
tresses of black hair straggling across her shoulders, she presented
a picture of helpless mental and physical woe, which painted itself
indelibly on the panels of her daughter's heart.
"Why did you not wait until I came home? The exertion of getting up
always fatigues you."
"You staid so long--and I am so uncomfortable in that wretchedly
hard bed. What detained you?"
"I went to see the Doctor, because I am unwilling to start away,
without having asked his advice; and he has prescribed some new
medicine which you will find in this bottle. The directions are
marked on the label. Now I will put things in order, and try my
hands on that refractory bed."
"What did the Doctor say about me?"
"Nothing new; but he is confident that you can be cured in time, if
we will only be patient and obedient. He promised to see you in the
She stripped the bed of its covering, shook bolster and pillows;
turned over the mattress, and beat it vigorously; then put on fresh
sheets, and adjusted the whole comfortably.
"Now mother, turn your head, and let me comb and brush and braid all
this glossy black satin, to keep it from tangling while I am away.
What a pity you did not dower your daughter with part of it, instead
of this tawny mane of mine, which is a constant affront to my
fastidious artistic instincts. Please keep still a moment."
She unwrapped the tissue paper that covered her flowers, and holding
her hands behind her, stepped in front of the invalid.
"Dear mother, shut your eyes. There--! of what does that remind you?
The pergola--with great amber grape clusters--and white stars of
jasmine shining through the leaves? All the fragrance of Italy
sleeps in the thurible of this Grand-Duke."
"How delicious! Ah, my extravagant child! we cannot afford such
luxuries now. The perfume recalls so vividly the time when Bertie--"
A sob cut short the sentence. Beryl pinned the flowers at her
mother's throat, kissed her cheek, and kneeling before her, crossed
her arms on the invalid's lap, resting there the noble head, with
its burnished crown of reddish bronze braids.
"Mother dear, humor my childish whim. In defiance of my wishes and
judgment, and solely in obedience to your command, I am leaving you
for the first time, on a bitterly painful and humiliating mission.
To-night, let me be indeed your little girl once more. My heart
brings me to your knees, to say my prayers as of yore, and now while
I pray, lay your dear pretty hands on my head. It will seem like a
parting benediction; a veritable Nunc dimmitas."
"I do not want a carriage. If the distance is only a mile and a
half, I can easily walk. After leaving town is there a straight
"Straight as the crow flies, when you have passed the factory, and
cemetery, and turned to the left. There is a little Branch running
at the foot of the hill, and just across it, you will see the white
palings, and the big gate with stone pillars, and two tremendous
brass dogs on top, showing their teeth and ready to spring. There's
no mistaking the place, because it is the only one left in the
country that looks like the good old times before the war; and the
Yankees would not have spared it, had it not been such comfortable
bombproof headquarters for their officers. It's our show place now,
and General Darrington keeps it up in better style, than any other
estate I know."
"Thank you. I will find it."
Beryl walked away in the direction indicated, and the agent of the
railway station, leaning against the door of the baggage room,
looked with curious scrutiny after her.
"I should like to know who she is. No ordinary person, that is
clear. Such a grand figure and walk, and such a steady look in her
big solemn eyes, as if she saw straight through a person, clothes,
flesh and all. Wonder what her business can be with the old
From early childhood Beryl had listened so intently to her mother's
glowing descriptions of the beauty and elegance of her old home "Elm
Bluff," that she soon began to identify the land-marks along the
road, alter passing the cemetery, where so many generations of
Darringtons slept in one corner, enclosed by a lofty iron railing;
exclusive in death as in life; jealously guarded and locked from
contact with the surrounding dwellers in "God's Acre."
The October day had begun quite cool and crisp, with a hint of frost
in its dewy sparkle, but as though vanquished Summer had suddenly
faced about, and charged furiously to cover her retreat, the south
wind came heavily laden with hot vapor from equatorial oceanic
caldrons; and now the afternoon sun, glowing in a cloudless sky,
shed a yellowish glare that burned and tingled like the breath of a
furnace; while along the horizon, a dim dull haze seemed blotting
out the boundary of earth and sky.
A portion of the primeval pine forest having been preserved, the
trees had attained gigantic height, thrusting their plumy heads
heavenward, as their lower limbs died; and year after year the
mellow brown carpet of reddish straw deepened, forming a soft safe
nidus for the seeds that sprang up and now gratefully embroidered it
with masses of golden rod, starry white asters, and tall, feathery
spikes of some velvety purple bloom, which looked royal by the side
of a cluster of belated evening primroses.
Pausing on the small but pretty rustic bridge, Beryl leaned against
the interlacing cedar boughs twisted into a balustrade, and looked
down at the winding stream, where the clear water showed amber hues,
flecked with glinting foam bubbles, as it lapped and gurgled, eddied
and sang, over its bed of yellow gravel. Unacquainted with "piney-
woods' branches," she was charmed by the novel golden brown wavelets
that frothed against the pillars of the bridge, and curled
caressingly about the broad emerald fronds of luxuriant ferns, which
hung Narcissus-like over their own graceful quivering images.
Profound quiet brooded in the warm, hazy air, burdened with balsamic
odors; but once a pine burr full of rich nutty mast crashed down
through dead twigs, bruising the satin petals of a primrose; and
ever and anon the oboe notes of that shy, deep throated hermit of
ravines--the russet, speckled-breasted lark--thrilled through the
woods, like antiphonal echoes in some vast, cool, columned cloister.
The perfect tranquillity of the scene soothed the travel-weary
woman, as though nestling so close to the great heart of nature, had
stilled the fierce throbbing, and banished the gloomy forebodings of
her own; and she walked on, through the iron gate, where the bronze
mastiffs glared warningly from their granite pedestal--on into the
large undulating park, which stretched away to meet the line of
primitive pines. There was no straight avenue, but a broad smooth
carriage road curved gently up a hillside, and on both margins of
the graveled way, ancient elm trees stood at regular intervals,
throwing their boughs across, to unite in lifting the superb groined
arches, whose fine tracery of sinuous lines were here and there
concealed by clustering mistletoe--and gray lichen masses--and
ornamented with bosses of velvet moss; while the venerable columnar
trunks were now and then wreathed with poison-oak vines, where red
trumpet flowers insolently blared defiance to the waxen pearls of
On the other side, the grounds were studded with native growth, as
though protective forestry statutes had crossed the ocean with the
colonists, and on this billowy sea of varied foliage Autumn had set
her illuminated autograph, in the vivid scarlet of sumach and black
gum, the delicate lemon of wild cherry--the deep ochre all sprinkled
and splashed with intense crimson, of the giant oaks--the orange
glow of ancestral hickory--and the golden glory of maples, on which
the hectic fever of the dying year kindled gleams of fiery red;--
over all, a gorgeous blazonry of riotous color, toned down by the
silver gray shadows of mossy tree-trunks, and the rich, dark,
restful green of polished magnolias.
Half a dozen fine Cotswold ewes browsed on the grass, and the small
bell worn by a staid dowager tinkled musically, as she threw up her
head and watched suspiciously the figure moving under the elm
arches. Beneath the far reaching branches of a patriarchal cedar, a
small herd of Jersey calves had grouped themselves, as if posing for
Landseer or Rosa Bonheur; and one pretty fawn-colored weanling ran
across the sward to meet the stranger, bleating a welcome and
looking up, with unmistakable curiosity in its velvety, long-lashed
As the avenue gradually climbed the ascent, the outlines of the
house became visible; a stately, typical southern mansion, like
hundreds, which formerly opened hospitably their broad mahogany
doors, and which, alas! are becoming traditional to this generation-
-obsolete as the brave chivalric, warm-hearted, open-handed, noble-
souled, refined southern gentlemen who built and owned them. No
Mansard roof here, no pseudo "Queen Anne" hybrid, with lowering,
top-heavy projections like scowling eyebrows over squinting eyes;
neither mongrel Renaissance, nor feeble, sickly, imitation
Elizabethan facades, and Tudor towers; none of the queer, composite,
freakish impertinences of architectural style, which now-a-day do
duty as the adventurous vanguard, the aesthetic vedettes "making
straight the way," for the coming cohorts of Culture.
The house at "Elm Bluff" was built of brick, overcast with stucco
painted in imitation of gray granite, and its foundation was only
four feet high, resting upon a broad terrace of brickwork; the
latter bounded by a graceful wooden balustrade, with pedestals for
vases, on either side of the two stone steps leading down from the
terrace to the carriage drive. The central halls, in both stories,
divided the space equally into four rooms on each side, and along
the wide front, ran a lofty piazza supporting the roof, with white
smooth round pillars; while the upper broad square windows, cedar-
framed, and deeply embrasured, looked down on the floor of the
piazza, where so many generations of Darringtons had trundled hoops
in childhood--and promenaded as lovers in the silvery moonlight,
listening to the ring doves cooing above them, from the columbary of
the stucco capitals. This spacious colonnade extended around the
northern and eastern side of the house, but the western end had
formerly been enclosed as a conservatory--which having been
abolished, was finally succeeded by a comparatively modern iron
veranda, with steps leading down to the terrace. In front of the
building, between the elm avenue and the flower-bordered terrace,
stood a row of very old poplar trees, tall as their forefathers in
Lombardy, and to an iron staple driven into one of these, a handsome
black horse was now fastened.
Standing with one foot on the terrace step, close to the marble
vases where heliotropes swung their dainty lilac chalices against
her shoulder, and the scarlet geraniums stared unabashed, Beryl's
gaze wandered from the lovely park and ancient trees, to the
unbroken facade of the gray old house; and as, in painful contrast
she recalled the bare bleak garret room, where a beloved invalid
held want and death at bay, a sudden mist clouded her vision, and
almost audibly she murmured: "My poor mother! Now, I can realize the
bitterness of your suffering; now I understand the intensity of your
yearning to come back; the terrible home-sickness, which only Heaven
What is presentiment? The swaying of the veil of futurity, under the
straining hands of our guardian angels? Is it the faint shadow, the
solemn rustle of their hovering wings, as like mother birds they
spread protecting plumes between blind fledglings, and descending
ruin? Will theosophy ever explain and augment prescience?
"It may be--
The thoughts that visit us, we know not whence,
Sudden as inspiration, are the whispers
Of disembodied spirits, speaking to us
As friends, who wait outside a prison wall,
Through the barred windows speak to those within."
With difficulty Beryl resisted an inexplicable impulse to turn and
flee; but the drawn sword of duty pointed ahead.
Striking her hands together, as if thereby crushing her reluctance
to enter, she waited a moment, with closed eyes, while her lips
moved in silent prayer; then ascending the terrace, she crossed the
stone pavement, walked up the stops and slowly advanced to the
threshold. The dark mahogany door was so glossy, that she dimly saw
her own image on its polished panels, as she lifted and let fall the
heavy silver knocker, in the middle of an oval silver plate, around
the edges of which were raised the square letters of the name
"Darrington." The clanging sound startled a peacock, strutting among
the verbena beds, and his shrill scream was answered by the deep
hoarse bark of some invisible dog; then the heavy door swung open,
and a gray-headed negro man, who wore a white linen apron over his
black clothes, and held a waiter in one hand, stood before her.
"I wish to see Mr. Darrington."
"I reckon you mean Gin'l Darrington, don't you? Mr. Darrington,
Marse Prince Darrington, is in Yurope."
"I mean Mr. Luke Darrington, the owner of this place."
"Jess so; Gin'l Luke Darrington. Well, you can't see him."
"Why not? I must see him, and I shall stay here until I do."
"'Cause he is busy with his lie-yer, fixin' of some papers; and when
he tells me not to let nobody else in I'de ruther set down in a
yaller jacket's nest than to turn the door knob, after he done shut
it. Better leave your name and call ag'in."
"No, I will wait until he is at leisure. I presume my sitting on the
steps here will not be a violation of your orders."
"To be shore not. But them steps are harder than the stool of
repentance, and you had better walk in the drawing-room, and rest
yourself. There's pictures, and lots and piles of things there, you
can pass away the time looking at."
He waved his waiter toward a long, dim apartment, on the left side
of the hall.
"Thank you, I prefer to sit here."
She seated herself on the top of the stone steps, and taking off her
straw hat, fanned her heated brow, where the rich waving hair clung
in damp masses.
"What name, miss, must I give, when the lie-yer finishes his
"Say that a stranger wishes to see him about an important matter."
"Its mighty uncertain how long he will tarry; for lie-yers live by
talking; turning of words upside down, and wrong side outards, and
reading words backards, and whitewashing black things, and smutting
of white ones. Marse Lennox Dunbar (he is our lie-yer now, since his
pa took paralsis) he is a powerful wrastler with justice. They do
say down yonder, at the court house, that when he gets done with a
witness, and turns him aloose, the poor creetur is so flustrated in
his mind, that he don't know his own name, on when he was born, or
where he was born, or whether he was ever born at all."
Curiosity to discover the nature of the stranger's errand had
stimulated the old man's garrulity, but receiving no reply, he
finally retreated, leaving the front door open. By the aid of a
disfiguring scar on his furrowed cheek, Beryl recognized him as the
brave, faithful, family coachman, Abednego, (abbreviated to
"Bedney")--who had once saved his mother's life at the risk of his
own. Mrs. Brentano had often related to her children, an episode in
her childhood, when having gone to play with her dolls in the loft
of the stable, she fell asleep on the hay; and two hours later,
Bedney remembering that he had heard her singing there to her dolls,
rushed into the burning building, groped through the stifling smoke
of the loft, and seizing the sleeping child, threw her out upon a
pile of straw. When he attempted to jump after her, a falling rafter
struck him to the earth, and left an honorable scar in attestation
of his heroism.
Had she yielded to the promptings of her heart, the stranger would
gladly have shaken hands with him, and thanked him, in the name of
those early years, when her mother's childish feet made music on the
wide mahogany railed stairs, that wound from the lower hall to the
one above; but the fear of being denied an audience, deterred her
from disclosing her name.
Educated in the belief that the utterance of the abhorred name of
Brentano, within the precincts of "Elm Bluff," would produce an
effect very similar to the ringing of some Tamil Pariah's bell,
before the door of a Brahman temple, Beryl wisely kept silent; and
soon forgot her forebodings, in the contemplation of the supreme
loveliness of the prospect before her.
The elevation was sufficient to command an extended view of the
surrounding country, and of the river, which crossed by the railroad
bridge north of the town, curved sharply to the east, whence she
could trace its course as it gradually wound southward, and
disappeared behind the house; where at the foot of a steep bluff, a
pretty boat and bath house nestled under ancient willow trees. At
her feet the foliage of the park stretched like some brilliant
carpet, before whose gorgeous tints, ustads of Karman would have
stood in despair; and beyond the sea-green, undulating line of pine
forest she saw the steeple of a church, with its gilt vane burning
in the sunshine, and the red brick dome of the ante bellum court
Time seemed to have fallen asleep on that hot, still afternoon, and
Beryl was roused from her reverie by the sound of hearty laughter in
the apartment opposite the drawing-room--followed by the tones of a
"Thank you, General. That is my destination this afternoon, and I
shall certainly expect you to dance at my wedding."
Quick, firm steps rang on the oil-cloth-covered floor of the hall,
and Beryl rose and turned toward the door.
With a cigar in one hand, hat and riding-whip in the other, the
attorney stepped out on the colonnade, and pausing involuntarily, at
sight of the stranger, they looked at each other. A man, perhaps,
more, certainly not less than thirty years old, of powerful and
impressive physique; very tall, athletic, sinewy, without an ounce
of superfluous flesh to encumber his movements, in the professional
palaestra; with a large finely modeled head, whose crisp black hair
closely cut, was (contrary to the prevailing fashion) parted neither
in the middle, nor yet on the side, but brushed straight back from
the square forehead, thereby enhancing the massiveness of its
Something in this swart, beardless face, with its brilliant
inquisitorial dark blue eyes, handsome secretive mouth veiled by no
mustache--and boldly assertive chin deeply cleft in the centre--
affected Beryl very unpleasantly, as a perplexing disagreeable
memory; an uncanny resemblance hovering just beyond the grasp of
identification. A feeling of unaccountable repulsion made her
shiver, and she breathed more freely, when he hewed slightly, and
walked on toward his horse. Upon the attorney her extraordinary
appearance produced a profound impression, and in his brief
scrutiny, no detail of her face, figure, or apparel escaped his keen
Glancing back as he untied his bridle rein, his unspoken comment
was: "Superb woman; I wonder what brings her here? Evidently a
stranger--with a purpose."
He sprang into the saddle, stooped his head to avoid the yellow
poplar branches, and disappeared under the elm arches.
"Gin'l Darrington's compliments; and if your bizness is pressin' you
will have to see him in his bedcharmber, as he feels poorly to-day,
and the Doctor won't let him out. Follow me. You see, ole Marster
remembers the war by the game leg he got at Sharpshurg, and
sometimes it lays him up."
The old servant led Beryl through a long room, fitted up as a
library and armory, and pausing before an open door, waved her into
the adjoining apartment. One swift glance showed her the heavy
canopied bedstead in one corner, the arch-shaped glass door leading
out upon the iron veranda; and at an oblong table in the middle of
the floor, the figure of a man, who rose, taller and taller, until
he seemed a giant, drawn to his full height, and resting for support
on the hand that was rested upon the table. Intensity of emotion
arrested her breath, as she gazed at the silvered head, piercing
black eyes, and spare wasted framp of the handsome man, who had
always reigned as a brutal ogre in her imagination. The fire in his
somewhat sunken eyes, seemed to bid defiance to the whiteness of the
abundant hair, and of the heavy mustache which drooped over his
lips; and every feature in his patrician face revealed not only a
long line of blue-blooded ancestors, but the proud haughtiness which
had been considered always as distinctively characteristic of the
Darringtons as their finely cut lips, thin nostrils, small feet and
Unprepared for the apparition that confronted him, Luke Darrington
bowed low, surveyed her intently, then pointed to a chair opposite
"Walk in, Madam; or perhaps it may be Miss? Will you take a seat,
and excuse the feebleness that forces me to receive visits in my
As he reseated himself, Beryl advanced and stood beside him, but for
a moment she found it impossible to utter the words, rehearsed so
frequently during her journey; and while she hesitated, he curiously
inspected her face and form.
Her plain, but perfectly fitting bunting dress, was of the color,
popularly dominated "navy-blue," and the linen collar and cuffs were
scarcely whiter than the round throat and wrists they encircled. The
burnished auburn hair clinging in soft waves to her brow, was
twisted into a heavy coil, which the long walk had shaken down till
it rested almost on her neck; and though her heart beat furiously,
the pale calm face might have been marble, save for the scarlet
lines of her beautiful mouth, and the steady glow of the dilated
pupils in her great gray eyes.
"Pray be seated; and tell me to whom I am indebted for the pleasure
of this visit?"
"I am merely the bearer of a letter which will explain itself, and
my presence, in your house."
Mechanically he took the preferred letter, and with his eyes still
lingering in admiration upon the classic outlines of her face and
form, leaned back comfortably against the velvet lining of his
"Are you some exiled goddess travelling incognito? If we lived in
the 'piping days of Pan' I should flatter myself that 'Ox-eyed Juno'
had honored me with a call, as a reward for my care of her favorite
Receiving no reply he glanced at the envelope in his hand, and as he
read the address--"To my dear father, Gen'l Luke Darrington"--the
smile on his face changed to a dark scowl and he tossed the letter
to the floor, as if it were a red-hot coal.
"Only one living being has the right to call me father--my son,
Prince Darrington. I have repeatedly refused to hold any
communication with the person who wrote that letter."
Beryl stooped to pick it up, and with a caressing touch, as though
it were sentient, held it against her heart.
"Your daughter is dying; and this is her last appeal."
"I have no daughter. Twenty-three years ago my daughter buried
herself in hopeless disgrace, and for her there can be no
resurrection here. If she dreams that I am in my dotage, and may
relent, she strangely forgets the nature of the blood she saw fit to
cross with that of a beggarly foreign scrub. Go back and tell her,
the old man is not yet senile and imbecile; and that the years have
only hardened his heart. Tell her, I have almost learned to forget
even how she looked."
His eyes showed a dull reddish fire, like those of some drowsy caged
tiger, suddenly stirred into wrath, and a grayish pallor--the white
heat of the Darringtons--settled on his face.
Twice Beryl walked the length of the room, but each time the
recollection of her mother's tearful, suffering countenance, and the
extremity of her need, drove her back to the chair.
"If you knew that your daughter's life hung by a thread, would you
deliberately take a pair of shears and cut it?"
He glared at her in silence, and leaning forward on the table,
pushed roughly aside a salver, on which stood a decanter and two
"I am here to tell you a solemn truth; then my responsibility ends.
Your daughter's life rests literally in your hands; for unless you
consent to furnish the money to pay for a surgical operation, which
may restore her health, she will certainly die. I am indulging in no
exaggeration to extort alms. In this letter is the certificate of a
distinguished physician, corroborating my statement. If you, the
author of her being, prefer to hasten her death, then your choice of
an awful revenge must be settled between your hardened conscience
and your God."
"You are bold indeed, to beard me in my own house, and tell me to my
face what no man would dare to utter."
His voice was an angry pant, and he struck his clenched hand on the
table with a force that made the glasses jingle, and the sherry
dance in the decanter.
"Yes, you scarcely realize how much bravery this painful errand
demands; but the tender love in a woman's heart nerves her to bear
fiery ordeals, that vanquish a man's courage."
"Then you find that age has not drawn the fangs from the old
crippled Darrington lion, nor clipped his claws?"
The sneer curved his white mustache, until she saw the outline of
the narrow, bloodless underlip.
"That king of beasts scorns to redden his fangs, or flesh his claws,
in the quivering body of his own offspring. Your metaphor is an
insult to natural instincts."
She laid the letter once more before him, and looked down on him,
with ill-concealed aversion.
"Who are you? By what right dare you intrude upon me?"
"I am merely a sorrowful, anxious, poverty-stricken woman, whose
heart aches over her mother's sufferings and vho would never have
endured the humiliation of this interview, except to deliver a
letter in the hope of prolonging my mother's life."
"You do not mean that you are--my--"
"I am nothing to you, sir, but the bearer of a letter from your
"You cannot be the child of--of Ellice?"
After the long limbo of twenty-three years, the name burst from him,
and with what a host of memories its echo peopled the room, where
that erring daughter had formerly reigned queen of his heart.
"Yes, Ellice is my dear mother's name."
He stared at the majestic form, and at the faultless face looking so
proudly down upon him, as from an inaccessible height; and she heard
him draw his breath, with a labored hissing sound.
"But--I thought her child was a boy?"
"I am the youngest of two children."
"It is impossible that you are the daughter of that infernal, low-
born, fiddling foreign vagabond who--"
"Hush! The dead are sacred!"
She threw up her hand, with an imperious gesture, not of
deprecation, but of interdict; and all the stony calm in her pale
face seemed shivered by a passionate gust, that made her eyes gleam
like steel under an electric flash.
"I am the daughter of Ignace Brentano, and I love, and honor his
memory, and his name. No drop of your Darrington blood runs in my
veins; I love my dear mother--but I am my father's daughter--and I
want no nobler heritage than his name. Upon you I have no shadow of
claim, but I am here from dire necessity, at your mercy--a helpless,
defenseless pleader in my mother's behalf--and as such, I appeal to
the boasted southern chivalry, upon which you pride yourself, for
immunity from insult while I am under your roof. Since I stood no
taller than your knee, my mother has striven to inculcate a belief
in the nobility, refinement, and chivalric deference to womanhood,
inherent in southern gentlemen; and if it be not all a myth, I
invoke its protection against abuse of my father. A stranger, but a
lady, every inch, I demand the respect due from a gentleman."
For a moment they eyed each other, as gladiators awaiting the
signal, then General Darrington sprang to his feet, and with a bow,
stately and profound as if made to a duchess, replied:
"And in the name of southern chivalry, I swear you shall receive
"Read your daughter's letter; give me your answer, and let us cut
short an interview--which, if disagreeable to you, is almost
unendurable to me."
Turning away, she began to walk slowly up and down the floor; and
smothering an oath under his heavy mustache, the old man sank back
in his chair, and opened the letter.
Holding in leash the painful emotions that struggled for utterance,
Beryl was unconscious of the lapse of time, and when her averted
eyes returned reluctantly to her grandfather's face, he was slowly
tearing into shreds the tear-stained letter, freighted with
passionate prayers for pardon, and for succor. Rolling the strips
into a ball, he threw it into the waste-paper basket under the
table; then filled a glass with sherry, drank it, and dropped his
head wearily on his hand. Five leaden minutes crawled away, and a
long, heavy sigh quivered through Gen'l Darrington's gaunt frame.
Seizing the decanter, he poured the contents into two glasses, and
as he raised one to his lips, held the other toward his visitor.
"You must be weary from your journey; let me insist that you drink
"Thank you, I neither wish nor require it."
"I find your name is Beryl. Sit down here, and answer a few
questions." He drew a chair near his own.
She shook her head:
"If you will excuse me, I prefer to stand."
In turning, so as to confront her fully, his elbow struck from the
table, a bronze paper-weight which rolled just beyond his reach.
Instinctively she stooped to pick it up, and in restoring it, her
fingers touched his. Leaning suddenly forward he grasped her wrists
ere she was aware of his intention, and drew her in front of him.
"Pardon me; but I want a good look at you."
His keen merciless eyes searched every feature, and he deliberately
lifted and examined the exquisitely shaped strong, white hands, the
dainty nails, and delicately rounded wrists with their violet
tracery of veins. It cost her an effort, to abstain from wrenching
herself free; but her mother's caution: "So much depends on the
impression you make upon father," girded her to submit to his
A grim smile crossed his face, as he watched her.
"Blood often doubles, like a fox; sometimes 'crops back,' but never
lies. You can't play out your role of pauper; and you don't look a
probable outcome of destitution and hard work. Your hands would fit
much better in a metope of the Elgin Marbles, than in a wash-tub, or
Drawing away quickly, she put them behind her, and felt her palms
"It is expected I should believe that for some time past, you have
provided for your own, and your mother's wants. In what way?"
"By coloring photographs; by furnishing designs for Christmas and
Easter cards, and occasionally (not often), by selling drawings used
for decorating china, and wallpaper. At one time, I had regular pay
for singing in a choir, but diphtheria injured my throat, and when I
partly recovered my voice, the situation had been given to another
"I am informed also that before long, you intend to astonish the
world with a wonderful picture, which shall distance such laggards
as Troyon, Dore, and Ary Scheffer?"
She was looking, not at him, but out through the glass door, at the
glowing western sky, where distant pine trees printed their
silhouettes. Now her gaze came back to his face, and he noted a
faint quiver in her full throat.
"If God will mercifully spare my mother to me, my loftiest and
holiest ambition shall be to distance the wolfish cares and woes
that have hunted her. ever since she became a widow. Any and all
honest labor that can contribute to her comfort, will be welcome and
sweet to me."
"The laws of heredity must be occult and complex. The offspring of a
rebellious and disobedient child, is certainly entitled to no filial
instincts; and some day the strain will tell, and you will overwhelm
your mother with ingratitude, black as that which she showed me."
"When I do, may God eternally forsake me!"
A brief silence ensued, and the old man drummed on the table, with
the fingers of his right hand.
"Who educated you?"
"My dear father."
"It seems there are two of you. Where is your brother?"
"At present, I do not know exactly where he is, but I think in the
far West; possibly in Montana--probably in Canada."
"How does he earn his bread? By daubing, or fiddling?"
"Since he earns it honestly, that is his own affair. We have not
heard from him for some months."
"I thought so! He inherits the worthless vagabond strain of--"
"He is his mother's idol, and she glories in his resemblance to you,
sir; and to your father; hence his name--Robert L. Darrington."
"Then she must have one handsome child! I am not surprised that he
is the favorite."
"Bertie certainly is her darling, and he is very handsome; not in
the very least degree like me."
For the first time, their eyes met in a friendly glance, and a
covert smile stirred the General's lips; but as he put out his hand
toward her, she moved a step beyond his reach.
"Beryl, you consider me a dreadful, cruel old tyrant?"
She made no reply.
"You are my mother's father; and that word--father, means so much to
me, that it shall shield even you, from the shadow of disrespect."
"Oh! very dutiful indeed, but dead as the days when daughters
obeyed, and honored their fathers! Beggarly foreign professors wiped
all that out of the minds of wealthy girls at boarding schools--just
as they changed their backwoods pronunciation of French and Italian.
Don't evade my question."
"I did not come here, sir, to bandy words; and I ended my mission by
delivering the letter intrusted to me."
"You regard me as a vindictive old bear?"
"I had heard much of the Darringtons; I imagined a great deal more;
but now, like the Queen of Sheba, I must testify--'Behold, the half
was not told me.'"
He threw back his lion-like head, and laughed.
"That will do. Shake hands, child."
"No, thank you."
"And you will not sit down?"
"Frankly, I prefer not. I long to get away."
"You shall certainly be gratified, but there are a few things which
I intend you shall hear. Of course you know that your mother was my
only child, and an heiress; but you are ignorant probably of the
fact that when she returned to boarding school for the last session,
she was engaged in marriage to the son of my best friend--a man in
every respect desirable, and thoroughly acceptable to me."
"So my mother told me."
"Indeed? She should blush to remember it. While she wore his
engagement ring, she forgot her promise to him, her duty to me, her
lineage, her birth, her position--and was inveigled by a low
"Who was my own precious father--poor, but noble, and worthy of any
princess! Unless you can refer to him respectfully, name him not at
all, in his child's presence."
She suddenly towered over him, like some threatening fate, and her
uplifted arm trembled from the intensity of her indignation.
"At least--you are loyal to your tribe!"
"I am, to my heart's core. You could pay me no higher compliment."
"Ellice wrote that she had bestowed her affections on--on--the
'exiled scion of a noble house,' who paid his board bill by teaching
languages and music in the school; and who very naturally preferred
to marry a rich fool, who would pay them for him. I answered her
letter, which was addressed to her own mother--then quite ill at
home--and I told her precisely what she might expect, if she
persisted in her insane folly. As soon as my wife convalesced
sufficiently to render my departure advisable, I started to bring my
daughter home; but she ran away, a few hours before my arrival, and
while, hoping to rescue Ellice, I was in pursuit of the precious
pair, my wife relapsed and died--the victim of excitement brought on
by her child's disgrace. I came back here to a desolate, silent
house;--bereft of wife and daughter; and in the grave of her mother,
I buried every atom of love and tenderness I ever entertained for
Ellice. When the sun is suddenly blotted out at noon, and the world
turns black--black, we grope to and fro aimlessly; but after awhile,
we accommodate ourselves to the darkness;--and so, I became a
different man--very hard, and I dare say very bitter. The world soon
learned that I would tolerate no illusion to my disgrace, and people
respected my family cancer, and prudently refrained from offering me
nostrums to cure it. My wife had a handsome estate of her own right,
and every cent of her fortune I collected, and sent with her jewelry
to Ellice. Did you know this?"
"I have heard only of the jewels."
"As I supposed, the money was squandered before you could
"I know that we were reduced to poverty, by the failure of some
banking house in Paris. I was old enough when it occurred, to
remember ever afterward, the dismay and distress it caused. My
father no doubt placed my mother's money there for safety."
"I wrote one long, final letter when I sent the checks for the
money, and I told Ellice I wished never to see, never to hear from
her again. I told her also, I had only one wish concerning her, and
that was, that I might be able to forget her so completely, that if
we should meet in the Last Judgment, I could not possibly know her.
I assured her she need expect nothing at my death; as I had taken
good care that my estate should not fall into the clutches of--her--
'exiled scion of a noble house.' Now do you consider that she has
any claim on me?"
"You must not ask me to sit in judgment on my parents."
"You shall decide a question of business facts. I provided liberally
for her once; can you expect me to do so again? Has she any right to
"Having defied your parental wishes, she may have forfeited a
daughter's claim; but as a heart-broken sufferer, you cannot deny
her the melancholy privilege of praying for your help, on her death-
The proud clear voice trembled, and Beryl covered her face with her
"Then we will ignore outraged ties of blood, and treat on the ground
of mere humanity? Let me conclude, for it is sickening and loathsome
to a man of my age, to see his long silent household graves yawn,
and give up uncalled--their sheeted dead. For some years the money
sent, was a quietus, and I was left in peace. I was lonely; it was,
hard work to forget, because I could never forgive; and the more
desolate the gray ruin, the more nature yearns to cover it close
with vines and flowers; so after a time, I married a gentle, pure
hearted woman, who made the best of what was left of me. We had no
children, but she had one son of a former marriage, who proved a
noble trustworthy boy; and by degrees he crept into my heart, and
raked together the cinders of my dead affections, and kindled a
feeble flame that warmed my shivering old age. When I felt assured
that I was not thawing another serpent to sting me for my pains, I
adopted Thorton Prince, and with the aid of a Legislative enactment,
changed his name to Prince Darrington. Only a few months elapsed,
before his mother, of whom I was very fond, died of consumption and
my boy and I comforted each other. Then I made my second and last
will, and took every possible precaution to secure my estate of
every description to him. He is my sole heir, and I intend that at
my death he shall receive every cent I possess. Did you know this?"
"I did, because your last endorsement on a letter of my mother's
returned unopened to her, informed her of the fact."
"Why? Because in violation of my wishes she had persisted in
writing, and soon began to importune me for money. Then I made her
understand that even at my death, she would receive no aid; and
since that endorsement, I have returned or destroyed her letters
unread. My Will is so strong--has been drawn so carefully--that no
contest can touch it; and it will stand forever between your mother
and my property."
As he uttered these words, he elevated his voice, which had a ring
of savage triumph in its harsh excited tones. Just then, a muffled
sound attracted his attention, and seizing his gold-headed cane, he
limped with evident pain to the threshold of the adjoining room.
Receiving no reply, he closed the door with a violence that jarred
the whole room; and came slowly back to the table, where he stood
leaning heavily on his stick.
"At least we will have no eavesdropping at this resurrection of my
dead. That Ellice is now a miserable woman, I have no doubt; for
truly: 'Quien se casa por amores, ha de vivir con dolores.' Of
course you understand Spanish?"
"No, sir; but no matter; I take it for granted that you intend some
thrust at my mother, and I have heard quite enough."
"Don't know Spanish? Why I fancied your--your 'exiled scion of a
noble house'--taught all the languages under the sun; including that
used by the serpent in beguiling Eve! Well, the wise old adage
means: 'Who marries for love, lives with sorrow.' Ellice made her
choice, and she shall abide by it; and you--being unluckily her
daughter--will share the punishment. If 'fathers WILL eat sour
grapes, the children's teeth MUST be set on edge.' I repudiate all
claims on my parental treasury, save such as I have given to my son
Prince. To every other draft I am bankrupt; but merely as a
gentleman, I will now for the last time, respond to the petition of
a sick woman, whose child is so loyal as to arouse my compassion.
Ellice has asked for one hundred dollars. You shall have it. But
first, tell me why she did not go to the hospital, and submit to the
operation which she says will cure her?"
"Because I could not be with her there, and I will never be
separated from her. The aneurism has grown so alarmingly, that I
became desperate, and having no one to aid us, I reluctantly obeyed
my mother's requirement that I should come here. I could not summon
my brother, because I have no idea where a letter would reach him;
and with no friend--but the God of the friendless--I am before you.
There is one thing I ought to tell you; I have terrible forebodings
of the result of the operation, from which the Doctor encourages her
to hope so much. She will not be able to take anesthetics, at least
not chloroform, because she has a weak heart, and--"
"Yes--a very weak heart! It was never strong enough to hold her to
"If you could see her now, I think even your vindictive hatred would
be sufficiently gratified. So wasted, so broken!--and with such a
ceaseless craving for a kind word from you. One night last week pain
made her restless, and I heard her sob. When I tried to relieve the
suffering, she cried bitterly: 'It is not my poor body alone--it is
the gnawing hunger to see father once more. He loved me so fondly
once and if I could crawl to his feet, and clasp his knees in my
arms, I could at least die in peace. I am starving for just one
sight of him--one touch.' My poor darling mother! My beautiful,
bruised, broken flower."
Through the glittering mist of unshed tears, her eyes shone, like
silver lamps; and for a moment Gen'l Darrington covered his face
with one hand.
"If you could realize how bitterly galling to my own pride and self
respect is this appeal to a man who hates and spurns all whom I
love, I think, sir, that even you would pity me so heartily, that
your hardened heart would melt into one last farewell message of
forgiveness to your unfortunate daughter. I would rather carry her
one word of love than all your fortune."
"No--I come of a flinty race. We never forgive insults; never
condone wrongs; and expecting loyalty in our own blood, we cannot
live long enough to pardon its treachery. Once, I made an idol of my
beautiful, graceful, high-bred girl; but she stabbed my pride,
dragged my name through the gutters, broke her doting mother's
heart; and now, I tell you, she is as dead to me as if she had lain
twenty-three years in her grave. I have only one message. Tell her
she is reaping the tares her own hand sowed. I know her no more as
child of mine, and my son fills her place so completely, I do not
even miss her. That is the best I can say. No doubt I am hard, but
at least I am honest; and I will not feign what I cannot feel."
He limped across the floor, to a recess on one side of the chimney,
where a square vault with an iron door had been built into the wall.
Leaning on his cane, he took from his pocket a bunch of keys, fitted
one into the lock, and pushing the bolt, the door slid back into a
groove, instead of opening on hinges. He lifted a black tin box from
the depths of the vault, carried it to the table, sat down, and
opened it. Near the top, were numerous papers tied into packages
with red tape, and two large envelopes carefully sealed with dark-
green wax. In removing the bundles, to find something beneath them,
these envelopes were laid on the table; and as one was either
accidentally or intentionally turned, Beryl saw the endorsement
written in bold black letters, and heavily underscored in red ink:
"Last Will and Testament of Robert Luke Darrington." Untying a small
chamois bag, the owner counted out five twenty-dollar gold pieces,
closed the bag, and replaced it in the box.
"Hold out your hand. Your mother asked fur one hundred dollars. Here
is the exact amount. Henceforth, leave me in peace. I am an old man,
and I advise you to 'let sleeping dogs lie.'"
If he had laid a red-hot iron on her palm, it would scarcely have
been more scorching than the touch of his gold, and only the vision
of a wan and woeful face in that far off cheerless attic room,
restrained her impulse to throw it at his feet.
An almost intolerable humiliation dyed her pale cheeks a deep
purplish crimson, and she proudly drew herself to her utmost height.
"Because I cannot now help myself, I accept the money--not as a
gift, but as a loan for my mother's benefit; and so help me God! I
will not owe it to you one moment longer than by hard labor I can
earn and return it. Goodbye, Gen'l Darrington."
She turned toward the closed door leading to the library, but
raising his cane, he held it out, to intercept her.
"Wait a moment. There is one thing more."
He took from the tin box an oblong package, wrapped in letter paper,
yellowed by age, and carefully sealed with red wax. As he held it
up, she read thereon: "My last folly." He tore off the paper, lifted
an old fashioned morocco case, and attempted to open it, but the
catch was obstinate, or rusty, and several ineffectual efforts were
made, ere he succeeded in moving the spring. The once white velvet
cushion, had darkened and turned very yellow, but time had robbed in
no degree, the lustre of the magnificent sapphires coiled there; and
the blue fires leaped out, as if rejoicing in the privilege of
displaying their splendor. "This set of stones was intended as a
gift to your mother, when she was graduated at boarding-school. The
time fixed for the close of the session was only one month later
than the day on which she eloped with that foreign fraud, who should
never have been allowed in the school. My wife had promised that if
your mother won the honor of valedictorian, she should have the
handsomest present ever worn at a commencement. These costly
sapphires were my poor wife's choice. Poor Helena! how often she
admired them!" His voice faltered, and he bit his under lip to still
Was there some necromancy in the azure flames, that suddenly
revealed the beloved face of the wife of his youth, and the lovely
vision of their only child? His eagle eyes were dim with tears, and
his hand shook; but, as if ashamed of the weakness, he closed the
jewel case with a snap, and held it out.
"Here--take them. I had intended to give them as a bridal present to
my son's wife, when he marries to suit me--as he certainly will; but
somehow, such a disposal seems hard on my dear Helena's wishes, and
for her sake, I don't feel quite easy about leaving them to Prince's
bride. Your mother never saw them, never knew of their existence.
They are very valuable, and the amount they will bring must relieve
all present necessities. Tell Ellice the sight of the case disturbs
me, like a thorn in the flesh, so I send them away, to rid myself of
an annoyance. She must not thank me; they come from her--dead
"A knowledge of their history would give her infinitely more pain
than the proceeds of their sale could bring comfort. I would not
stab her aching heart for twenty times the value of the jewels."
"Then sell them, or do as you like. It matters not what becomes of
them, if I am spared in future all reminders of the past. Put them
in your pocket. What? The case is too large? Where is your trunk--
"I have none, except my basket and shawl."
She picked them up from the carpet near the library door, and
dropped the case into her basket.
"You are a brave, and a loyal woman, and you appear to deserve far
better parents than fell to your lot. Before you go, let me offer
you a glass of wine, and a biscuit."
"Thank you--no. I could not possibly accept it."
"Well, we shall never meet again. Good-bye. Shake hands."
"I will very gladly do so if you will only give me just one gentle,
forgiving kind word to comfort mother."
He set his teeth, and shook his head.
"Good-bye, Gen'l Darrington. When you lie down to die, I hope God
will be more merciful to your poor soul, than you have shown
yourself to your suffering child."
He bowed profoundly.
Her hand was on the knob of the door, when he pointed to the western
"You are going back to town? Then, if you please, be so good as to
pass out through that rear entrance, and close the glass door after
you. A side path leads to the lawn; and I prefer that you should not
meet the servants, who pry and tattle."
When she stood on the veranda, and turned to close the wide arched
glass door, whence the inside red silk curtain had been looped back,
her last view of the gaunt, tall figure within, showed him leaning
on his stick, with the tin box held in his left hand, and the dying
sunlight shining on his silver hair and furrowed face.
Along the serpentine path which was bordered with masses of
brilliant chrysanthemums, Beryl walked rapidly, feeling almost
stifled by the pressure of contending emotions. Recollecting that
these spice censers of Autumn were her mother's favorite flowers,
she stooped and broke several lovely clusters of orange and garnet
color, hoping that a lingering breath of perfume from the home of
her girlhood, might afford at least a melancholy pleasure to the
Advancing into the elm avenue, she heard a voice calling, and
looking back, saw the old negro man, Bedney, waving his white apron
and running toward her; but at that moment his steps were arrested
by the sudden, loud and rapid ringing of a bell. He paused,
listened, wavered; then threw up his hands, and hurried back to the
house, whence issued the impatient summons.
The sun had gone down in the green sea of far-off pine tops, but the
western sky glowed like some vast altar of topaz, whereon zodiacal
fires had kindled the rays of vivid rose, that sprang into the
zenith and cooled their flush in the pale blue of the upper air.
Under the elms, swift southern twilight was already filling the
arches with purple gloom, and when the heavy iron gate closed with a
sullen clang behind her, Beryl drew a long deep breath of relief. On
the sultry atmosphere broke the gurgling andante music of the
"branch," as it eddied among the nodding ferns, and darted under the
bridge; and the weary, thirsty woman knelt on the mossy margin,
dipped up the amber water in her palms, drank, and bathed her
burning face which still tingled painfully.
Having learned from the station agent, who had already sold her a
return ticket, that the north bound railway train, by which she
desired to travel home, would not depart until 7.15, she was
beguiled by the brilliance of the sky into the belief that she had
ample time, to comply with her mother's farewell request. Mrs.
Brentano had tied with a scrap of ribbon the bouquet of flowers,
bought by her daughter on the afternoon of her journey south, and
asked her to lay them on her mother's grave.
Anxious to accomplish this sacred mission Beryl took the faded
blossoms from her basket, added a cluster of chrysanthemums, a frond
of fern from the "branch" border, and hurried on to the cemetery.
When she reached the entrance, the gate was locked, but unwilling to
return without having gratified her mother's wish, she climbed into
a spreading cedar close by the low brick wall, and swung herself
easily down inside the enclosure.
Some time was lost in finding the Darrington lot, but at last she
stood before a tall iron railing, that bristled with lance-like
points, between the dust, of her ancestors and herself. In one
corner rose a beautiful monument, bearing on its front, in gilt
letters, the inscription "Helena Tracy, wife of R. L. Darrington."
Thrusting her hand through a space in the railing, Beryl dropped her
mother's withered Arkja tribute on the marble slab. Her dress was
caught by a sharp point of iron, and while endeavoring to disengage
it, she heard the shrill whistle of the R. R. engine. Tearing the
skirt away, she ran to the wall, climbed over, after some delay, and
finding herself once more in the open road, darted on as fast as
possible through the dusk, heedless of appearances, fearful only of
missing the train. How the houses multiplied, and what interminable
lengths the squares seemed, as she neared the brick warehouse and
office of the station! The lamps at the street corners beckoned her
on, and when panting for breath she rushed around the side of the
tall building that fronted the railway, there was no train in sight.
Two or three coal cars stood on a siding, near a detached engine,
where one man was lighting the lamp before the reflector of the
headlight, and another, who whistled merrily, burnished the brass
and copper platings. In the door of the ticket office the agent
lounged, puffed his cigar, and fanned himself with his hat.
"What time is it?" cried Beryl.
"Oh! do not tell me I have missed the train."
"You certainly have. I told you it left at 7:15 sharp. It was ten
minutes behind time on account of hot boxes, but rolled out just
twenty minutes ago. Did you get lost hunting 'Elm Bluff,' and miss
your train on that account?"
"No, I had no difficulty in finding the place, but having no watch,
I was forced to guess at the time. Only twenty minutes too late!"
"Did you see the old war-horse?"
Beryl did not answer, and after a moment the agent added:
"That is Gen'l Darrington's nick-name all over this section."
"When will the next train leave here?"
"Not until 3:05 A.M."
Beryl sat down on the edge of a baggage truck, and pondered the
situation. She knew that her mother, who had carefully studied the
railway schedule, was with feverish anxiety expecting her return by
the train, now many miles away; and she feared that any unexplained
detention would have an injurious effect on the sick woman's
Although she could ill afford the expense, she resolved to allay all
apprehension, by the costly sedative of a telegram.
Only a wall separated the ticket office from that of the
"telegraph," and approaching the operator, Beryl asked for a blank
form, on which she wrote her mother's address, and the following
"Complete success required delay. All will be satisfactory. Expect
me Saturday. B. B."
When she had paid the operator, there remained in her purse,
exclusive of the gold coins received that afternoon, only thirty-
eight cents. Where could she spend the next seven hours?
Interpreting the perplexed expression of her face, the agent, who
had curiously noted her movements, said courteously:
"There is a hotel a few blocks off, where you can rest until train
"I prefer to remain here."
"We generally lock up this office about half-past eight, and re-open
at half-past two, which gives passengers ample accommodation for the
"Would you violate regulations by leaving the waiting-room open to-
"Not exactly; as of course we are obliged to keep open for delayed
trains; but it will be lonesome waiting, for no one stays here,
except the Night Train Despatcher, and the switch watchman. Still if
it will oblige you, miss, I will not lock up, and you can doze away
the time by spreading your shawl on two chairs. I am going to supper
now, and shall turn down the lights. One burner will be sufficient."
"Thank you very much. Where can I find some water?"
"In the cooler in the ladies' dressing-room. It is most
unaccountably hot tonight, and I never knew anything like it in
October. There must be a cyclone brewing somewhere not far off."
He lifted his hat, as he passed her, and disappeared; and the tired
girl seated herself near a window and stirred the dense, impure air
by fanning herself with her straw hat. Gradually the few stragglers
loitering about the station wandered away; the engineer stepped upon
the locomotive; a piercing whistle broke suddenly on the silence
settling down over the whilom busy precincts, and as the rhythmic
measure of the engine bell rang farewell chimes, a pyramid of sparks
leaped high, and the mighty mechanism fled down the track, hunting
its own echoes. The man in charge of the express office came out,
looked up and down the street; yawned, lighted his pipe, and after
locking the office, wended his way homeward.
From the adjoining room came the slow monotonous clicking of the
telegraph wires, as messages passed to other stations, and only the
switch watchman was visible, sitting on an inverted tub, and playing
snatches from "Mascotte" and "Olivette" upon a harmonicon.
Heat seemed radiating from the brick pavement outside, from the
inner walls of the waiting-room; and Beryl, finding the atmosphere
almost stifling, went out under the stars. Up and down she paced,
until weary of the dusty thoroughfare, she turned into the street
which, earlier in the day, had conducted her toward the suburbs. She
knew that a full moon had climbed above the horizon, and some malign
Morgana lured her on, with visions of cool pine glades paved with
silver mosaics, and balmy with breath of balsam; where through vast
forest naves echoed the melodious monody chanted by the reddish gold
wavelets of the "branch." In the eastern sky the florid face of a
hunter's moon looked down, from the level line of a leaden cloud,
which striped the star emblazoned shield of night, like a bar
sinister; and the white lustre of her rays was dimmed to a lurid
dulness solemn and presageful.
As Beryl crossed the common near the station, and entered the
pillared aisles of the pines, the air was less oppressive, but a dun
haze seemed on every side to curtain the horizon, and the stars
looked bleared and tired in the breathless vault above her. A man
driving two cows toward town, stared at her; then a wagon drawn by
four horses rattled along, bearing homeward a gay picnic party of
young people, who made the woods ring with the echoes of "Hold the
Fort." The grandeur of towering pines, the mysterious dimness of
illimitable arcades, and the peculiar resinous odor that stole like
lingering ghosts of myrrh, frankincense and onycha through the
vaulted solitude of a deserted hoary sanctuary, all these phases of
primeval Southern forests combined to weave a spell that the
stranger could not resist.
After a while, fearful of straying too far, the weary woman threw
her shawl on the brown straw, and sat down quite near the road. She
leaned her bare head against the trunk of a pine, listened to the
katydids gossiping in a distant oak that shaded the "branch," to the
quavering strident song of a locust; and she intended, after resting
for a few moments, to return to the station-house; but unexpected
drowsiness overpowered her. Suddenly aroused from a sound sleep, she
heard the clatter of galloping hoofs, and as she sprang up, the
horse, startled by her movement, shied and reared within a few feet
of the spot where she stood. The moon shone full on the glossy black
animal, and upon his powerful rider, and Beryl recognized the
massive head, swarthy face and keen eyes of the attorney, Lennox
Dunbar. He leaned forward and said, as he patted the erect ears of
"Madam, you seem a stranger. Have you lost your way?"
"Pardon me; but having seen you this afternoon at 'Elm Bluff,' I
thought it possible you had missed the road."
Standing so straight and tall, with the sheen of the moon on her
faultless features, he thought she looked the incarnation of some
prescient Norn, fit for the well of Urda.
She made no reply; and he touched his hat, and rode rapidly away in
the direction of the town, carrying an indelible impression of the
mysterious picture under the pines.
The sky had changed; the face of the moon had cleared, but tatters
and scuds of smoke-colored cloud fled northward, as if scourged by a
stormy current too high to stir the sultry stagnation of the lower
atmospheric stratum. From its vaporous lair somewhere in the cypress
and palm jungles of the Mexican Gulf borders, the tempest had risen,
and before its breath the shreds of cloud flew like avant couriers
of disaster. Already the lurid glare of incessant sheet lightning
fought with the moon for supremacy, and from a leaden wall along the
southeastern sky, came the long reverberating growl of thunder, that
told where the electric batteries had opened fire. A vague
foreboding, which for several days had haunted Beryl's mind, now
pressed so heavily upon her, that she hurried back to the station,
which was near the edge of the town; and more than once she started
nervously at sight of grotesque shadows cast by the trees across the
The streets were deserted, and lights gleamed only in upper windows
of apartments, where sick sufferers tossed, or tender mothers sang
soft lullabys to restless babies crooning in their cribs. Now and
then a sudden gust of wind shook the yellow berries from the china
trees, that bordered the pavements, and very soon the moonshine
faded, then flashed fitfully, and finally vanished, as the
blackening cloud swept over the face of earth and sky. The watchman
dozed on his post of observation; a porter slept on a baggage truck
under the awning, and as Beryl peeped into the telegraph office, she
heard the snoring of the operator, whose head rested upon the table
close to the silent instrument. She listened to the ticking of a
clock in the ticket office, but could not see its face; wondered how
late it was, and how long she had been absent. Feeling very lonely
and restless she closed the door, and sat down in the deserted
waiting-room, glad of the companionship of a tortoise-shell cat
which was curled up on a chair next her own.
Gradually the storm approached, and she thought that an hour had
elapsed, when the dust-tainted smell of rain came with the rush of
cold air. There was no steady gale, but the tempest broke in frantic
spasmodic gusts, as though it had lost its reckoning, and
simultaneously assaulted all the points of the compass; while the
lightning glared almost continuously, and the roar of the thunder
was uninterrupted. Now and then a vivid zig-zag flash gored the
intense darkness with its baleful blue death-light, followed by a
crash, appalling as if the battlements of heaven had been shattered.
Once the whole air seemed ablaze, and the simultaneous shock of the
detonation was so violent, that Beryl involuntarily sank on her
knees, and hid her eyes on a chair. The rain fell in torrents, that
added a solemn sullen swell to the diapason of the thunder fugue,
and by degrees a delicious coolness crept into the cisterns of the
When the cloud had wept away its fury, and electric fires burned low
in the far west, a gentle shower droned on the roof, and lulled by
its cadence Beryl fell asleep, still kneeling on the floor, with her
head resting on the chair where the cat lay coiled.
In dreams, she wandered with her father and brother upon a Tuscan
hillside draped with purple fruited grape vines, and Bertie was
crushing a luscious cluster against her thirsty lips, when some
noise startled her. Wide awake, she sprang to her feet, and
"There ain't no train till daylight, 'cepting it be the through
"When is that due?"
"Pretty soon; it's mighty nigh time now, but it don't stop here; it
goes on to the water tank, whar it blows for the railroad bridge."
"How far is the bridge?"
"Only a short piece down the track, after you pass the tank."
Beryl had rushed to the window, and looked out, but no one was
visible. She could scarcely mistake that peculiar voice, and was so
assured of its identity, that she ran out under the awning and
looked up and down the platform in front of the station buildings.
The rain had ceased, but drops still pattered from the tin roof, and
a few stars peeped over the ragged ravelled edge of slowly drifting
clouds. By the light of a gas lamp, she saw an old negro man limping
away, who held a stick over his shoulder, on which was slung a
bundle wrapped in a red handkerchief; and while she stood watching,
he vanished in some cul de sac. With her basket in her hand, and her
shawl on her arm, she sped down the track, looking to right and
Once she fancied she discerned a form flying ahead of her, leaping
from cross tie to cross tie to avoid the water, but when she called
vehemently, only the sound of her own voice broke the silence.
Was it merely an illusion born of her vivid dream of her brother;
and while scarcely awake, had she confounded the tones of a
stranger, with those so long familiar? She could not shake off the
conviction that Bertie had really spoken only a few yards from her,
and while she stood irresolute, puzzling over the problem, the
through freight train dashed by the station and left a trail of
sparks and cinders. To avoid it she sprang on a pile of cross ties
beside the track, and when the fiery serpent wound out of sight, she
reluctantly retraced her steps. How long the night seemed! Would day
never dawn again? She heard the telegraph operator whistling at his
work, and as she re-entered the waiting-room, she saw the ticket
agent standing in his office.
"What time is it?"
"Half-past two o'clock. I might as well have locked up as usual, for
after all, you did not stay here."
"Yes I did."
He eyed her suspiciously.
"I came back from supper, and brought a pitcher of cold tea,
thinking you might relish it, but you were not here. I waited nearly
an hour; then I went home."
"It was so hot, I walked about outside. What a frightful storm."
"Yes, perfectly awful. Were you exposed to the worst of it?"
"No, I was here."
He shook his head, smiled, and went into the next room, knowing that
when he returned to unlock his office she was not in the building,
and that he had seen her coming up the railway track. The bustle of
preparation soon began; the baggage wagons thundered up to the
platform, porters called to one another; passengers collected in the
waiting-room, carriages and omnibuses dashed about; then at 2:50 the
long train of north bound cars swept in. With her shawl and basket
in one hand, and the odorous bunches of chrysanthemums clasped in
the other, Beryl stepped upon the platform. She found a seat at an
open window, and made herself comfortable; placing her feet upon the
basket which contained the jewels that constituted her sole earthly
fortune. The bell rang, the train glided on, and as it passed the
office door, she saw the agent watching her, with a strangely
The cars wound around a curve, and she sank back and shut her eyes,
rejoicing in the belief that her mission to "Elm Bluff," and its
keen humiliation, were forever ended.
"I concede that point. Your lover is amply endowed with brains, and
moreover has a vast amount of shrewdness, all that is requisite to
secure success and eminence in his profession; but to-day, it seems
as much a matter of astonishment to me--as it certainly was six
months ago, when first you told me of your engagement--that you, Leo
Gordon, could ever fancy just such a man as Lennox Dunbar."
"I am very sorry, Aunt Patty, that he finds no favor in your eyes,
and I think he is aware of the fact that he is not in your good
graces. You both look so vaguely uncomfortable when thrown into each
other's presence; but for my sake you must try to like Lennox."
Miss Gordon bent her pretty head over a square of ruby velvet,
whereon she was embroidering a wreath of pansies, and the delicate
flush on her fair face, deepened to a vivid carnation.
"My likes or dislikes are a matter of moonshine, in comparison with
your happiness. Because you are an orphan, I feel a sort of
responsibility; and sometimes I am not exactly easy over the account
of my stewardship I must render to my poor dead Marcia. The more I
see of your lover, the more I dread your marriage. A man who makes
no profession of religious belief, is an unsafe guardian of any
woman's peace of mind. You who have been reared almost in the shadow
of the altar, accustomed to hearing grace at your meals, to family
prayers, to strict observance of our ritual, will feel isolated
indeed, when transplanted to the home of a godless man, who rarely
darkens the door of the sanctuary. 'Be ye not unequally yoked
together with unbelievers.'"
Miss Patty Dent took off her spectacles, wiped them with the string
of her white muslin cap, and adjusting them firmly on her nose,
plucked nervously at the fluted lace ruffles around her wrists.
"Auntie, you are scarcely warranted in using such strong language.
Because a man refrains from the public avowal of faith, incident to
church membership, he is not necessarily godless; nor inevitably
devoid of true religious feeling. Mr. Dunbar has a strong, reticent
nature, habituated to repression of all evidences of emotion, but of
the depth and earnestness of his real feeling, I entertain no
"I fear your line and plummet will never sound his depth. You often
speak of his strength; but, Leo, hardness is not always strength;
and he is hard, hard. I never saw a man with a chin like his, who
was not tyrannical, and idolatrous of his own will. My dear, such
men are as uncomfortable to live in the same house with, as a smoky
chimney, or a woman with shattered nerves, or creaking doors, or
draughty windows. They are a sort of everlasting east wind that
never veers, blowing always to the one point, attainment of their
own ends, mildewing all else. Ugh!"
Miss Patty shivered, and her companion smiled.
"What a grewsome picture, Auntie dear! Fortunately human taste is as
diverse and catholic as the variety of human countenances. For
example: Clara Morse raves over Mr. Dunbar's 'clear-cut features, so
immensely classical'; and she pronounces his offending 'chin simply
perfect! fit for a Greek God!'"
"A very thin and gauzy partition divides Clara Morse's brains from
idiocy. In my day, all such feeble watery minds as hers were
regarded as semi-imbecile, pitied as intellectual cripples, and
wisely kept in the background of society; but, bless me! in this
generation they skip and prance to the very edge of the front, pose
in indecent garments without starch, or crinoline, or even the
protection of pleats and gathers; and insult good, sound, wholesome
common sense with the sickening affectations they are pleased to
call 'aesthetics.' Don't waste your time, and dilute your own mind
by quoting the silly twaddle of a poor girl who was turned loose too
early on society, who falls on her knees in ecstasies before a
hideous broken-nose tea-pot from some filthy hovel in Japan; and who
would not dare to admire the loveliest bit of Oiron pottery, or
precious old Chelsea claret-colored china in Kensington Museum,
until she had turned it upside down, and hunted the potter's mark
with a microscope. I say Mr. Dunbar has a domineering and tyrannical
chin, and five years hence, if you do not agree with me, it will be
because 'Ephraim is joined to his idols'--clay feet and all."
"Then follow the Bible injunction to 'let him alone.' I see Lennox
through neither Clara's rosy lenses, nor your jaundiced glasses; and
these circular discussions are as fruitless as they are unpleasant.
Let us select some more agreeable topic. I gave you Leighton's
letter. What think you of his scheme?"
"That it is admirable, worthy of the brain that conceived it. What a
wonderful man he is, considering his age? Such a devout and fervent
spirit, and withal such a marvel of executive ability. Ah! happy the
woman who can command his wise guardianship, and renew her
aspirations after holiness, in his spiritual society. I honor, even
more than I love, Leighton Douglass."
"So do I, Aunt Patty. He is quite my ideal pastor, and when he
marries, I hope his wife will be worthy of him in every respect.
Only a very noble woman would suit my cousin."
A bright spot burned on Miss Dent's wrinkled cheek, and she knitted
her brows, and shook her head.
"He is so absorbed in his holy work that he has no leisure for such
trifles as love-making; but if he should ever honor a woman by the
offer of his consecrated hand, it must be one of large fortune, who
will dedicate herself and her money to the accomplishment of his
The corners of Miss Gordon's mouth twitched mutinously, but she
contrived to throw much innocent surprise and questioning into the
handsome brown eyes, which she lifted from her gold-hearted pansies,
to her Aunt's face.
"Could you possibly associate mercenary motives with any step which
he might take? Such a supposition would be totally incompatible with
my estimate of his character."
"When a man dedicates himself to a solemn mission, he is lifted far
above the ordinary plane, can dispense with sentimental
conventionalities, and must learn to regard all human relations as
merely means to an end. Want of money has palsied many an arm lifted
to advance the good of the Church; and zeal without funds,
accomplishes as little as rusty machinery stiff from lack of oil. If
Dr. Douglass could only control even a hundred thousand dollars,
what shining monuments he would leave to immortalize him! Indeed, it
passes my comprehension how persons who could so easily help him,
deliberately turn a deaf ear to the 'cry from Macedonia'."
"There is far more eclat in trips to Macedonia, but the God of
recompense does not forget the steady, tireless help and sympathy
extended to the needy, who dwell within sight of our own doors.
Organized society work is good, but individual self-sacrifice and
labor are much better; and if every unit did full duty, co-operative
systems would not be so necessary; still, Leighton's scheme commends
itself to every woman's heart, and when I answered his letter, I
expressed cordially my approbation."
"Did you prove your faith by your works, and send him a large
"Auntie, dear, do you expect me to stultify all your training, both
your example and precept--for lo! these many years--by setting my
left hand to gossip about my right? I am very sure."
"Well, Andrew, what is it?"
"A boy from Mr. Dunbar's office has just galloped up, and says I am
to tell you he can't ride to the Falls to-day, as he expected,
because of some pressing business; and he wants to know if the Judge
will come into town right away? Mr. Dunbar will explain when he
comes late this evening."
"Very well. Tell Daniel I shall not want 'Rebel' saddled; and say to
the messenger that my Uncle is not at home. Aunt Patty, do you know
where he has gone?"
"Doubtless to his office; where else should he be? He said he had a
pile of tiresome papers to examine to-day."
Miss Gordon folded up her work, laid it away in a dainty basket
lined with blue satin and flounced with lace; and after pausing a
moment to pet her Aunt's white Maltese cat which lay dozing In the
sunshine, walked away toward a Small hot-house, built quite near the
dining-room, and connected with it by an arcade, covered in summer
by vines, in winter by glass.
Twenty-four years before that day, when a proud, fond young mother
puffed and tucked the marvel of lace and linen cambric, which was
intended as a christening robe for her baby, and laid it away with
spicery of rose leaves and sachet of lavender and deer tongue, to
wait until a "furlough" allowed the child's father to be present at
the baptism, she had supposed that its delicate folds would one day
adorn a dimpled rosy-faced infant, for whom the name Aurelia Gordon
had long been selected. Fate cruelly vetoed all the details of the
programme, carefully arranged by maternal affection; and the lurid
sun that set in clouds of smoke on one of the most desperate battles
of the Confederacy, saw Colonel Gordon's brave, patriotic soul
released on that long "furlough" which glory granted her heroes; saw
his devoted wife a wailing widow. The red burial of battle had
precluded the solemnization of baptismal rites at the sacred marble
font; and when four days after Colonel Gordon's death, his frail
young wife welcomed the summons to an everlasting re-union, she laid
her cold hands on her baby's golden head, and died, as she
"Name her Leo, for her father."
So it came to pass, that the clergyman who read the burial service
beside the mother's coffin, lifted the cooing infant in the midst of
a weeping funeral throng, and with a faltering voice baptized her,
in the presence of the dead, Leo Gordon,
To the care of her sister Patty, and of her widowed brother, Judge
Dent, Mrs. Gordon had consigned her child; and transplanted so early
to her uncle's house, the orphan knew no other home.
When the problem of vast numerical preponderance had solved itself
in accordance with the rules of avoirdupois, and history--fond like
all garrulous old crones of repeating even her inglorious episodes--
had triumphantly inscribed on her bloody tablets, that once more the
Few were throttled and trampled by the Many, then the fabled
"Ragnarok" of the Sagas described only approximately the doom of the
devastated South. In the financial and social chaos that followed
the invasion by "loyal" hordes, rushing under "sealed orders" on the
mission of "Reconstruction," and eminently successful in
"reconstructing" their individual fortunes, an anomaly presented
itself for the consideration of political economists. The wealthy
classes of ante bellum days were the most destitute paupers that the
newly-risen Union sun shone upon.
The French Revolution and its subsequent eruptions of Communism