This page contains affiliate links. As Amazon Associates we earn from qualifying purchases.
Language:
Form:
Genre:
Published:
Collection:
Tags:
Buy it on Amazon FREE Audible 30 days

lightened his labors. An attempt was made to isolate the first case in the hospital, but the cots in that spacious apartment filled beyond the limits of accommodation; and soon, a large proportion of the cells on the ground floor held each its victim of the fatal disease, that as the scythe of death cut a wide swath through convict ranks. Consulting physicians walked through the infected ward, altered prescriptions, advised disinfectants which were liberally used, until the building seemed to exhale pungent, wholesome, but unsavory odors; yet there was no abatement in the virulence of the type. When the twenty-third case was entered on the hospital list, the trustees and inspectors determined to remove all who showed no symptom of the contagion, to an old, long-abandoned cotton factory several miles distant; where the vacant houses of former operatives would afford temporary shelter; and to diminish the chances of carrying infection, each prisoner was carefully examined by the attending physician, and then furnished with an entirely new suit of clothing.

When the nature of the epidemic could no longer be concealed from the inmates, instinctive horror drove them from the neighborhood of the victims, and like frightened sheep they huddled in remote corners, removed as far as possible from the infected precincts, and loath to minister to the needs of the sufferers.

Two men, and as many women, selected and detailed as nurses in their respective wards, openly rebelled; and while Doctor Moffat and Mr. Singleton were discussing the feasibility of procuring outside assistance, the door of the dispensary adjoining the hospital, opened, and Beryl walked up to the table, where medicines were weighed and mixed.

“Put me to work among the sick. I want to help you.”

“You! What could you do? I should as soon take a magnolia blossom to scrub the pots and pans of a filthy kitchen,” answered the doctor, looking up over his spectacles from the powder he was grinding in a glass mortar.

“I can follow your directions; I can obey orders; and physicians deem that the sine qua non in nurses. Closed lips, open ears, willing hands are supposed to outweigh any amount of unlicensed brains. Try me.”

“No. I am not willing. Go back up-stairs, and stay there,” said the warden.

“Why may I not assist in nursing?”

“In the first place you are not fit to mix with those poor creatures, in yonder; their oaths would curdle your blood; and in the second, you are not strong, and would be sure to take the disease at once.”

“I am perfectly well; my lungs are now as healthy as yours, and I am not afraid of diphtheria. You detailed nurses, who refused to serve; I volunteer; have you any right to reject me?”

“Yes, the right to protect and save your life, which is worth twenty of those already in danger,” replied Mr. Singleton, pausing in his task of filling capsules with quinine.

“Who made you a judge of the value of souls? My life belongs first to God, who gave it, next to myself; and if I choose to jeopardize it, in work among my suffering comrades in disgrace, you must not usurp the authority to prevent me.”

“Has it become so intolerable that you desire to commit suicide, under the specious plea of philanthropic martyrdom?” said Doctor Moffat, whose keen black eyes scanned her closely, from beneath shaggy gray brows.

“I think I may safely say, no such selfish motive underlies my resolution. My heart is full of pity, and of dread for some women here, who admit their guilt, yet have sought no pardon from the Maker their sins insult. Sick souls cry out to me louder than dying bodies; and who dare deny me the privilege of ministering to both? The parable of the sparrows is no fable to me; and if, while trying to comfort my unhappy associates here, God calls me out of this dark stony vineyard, His will alone overrules all; and I can meet His face in peace. We say: ‘Lord what wilt Thou have us to do?’ and when the answer comes, pointing us to perilous and loathsome labors, will He forget if we shut our eyes, and turn away, coveting the sunny fields into which He sent others to toil? Let me go to my work.”

During almost eighteen months, both men had studied her character as manifested in the trying phases of prison existence, finding no flaw; to-day they looked up reverently at the graceful form in its homespun uniform, at the calm, colorless face, wearing its crown of meekness, with an inalienable, proud air of cold repose.

“To keep you here is about as sacrilegious as it would have been to thrust St. Catherine among the chain-gang in the galleys,” muttered the doctor.

“No doubt duty called her to much worse places; therefore, when she died, the angels buried her on Sinai,” answered the prisoner; before whose wistful eyes drifted the memory of Luini’s picture.

“You have set your heart on this; nothing less will content you?”

“While the necessity continues, nothing less will content me.”

“Remember, you voluntarily take your life in your own hands.”

“I assume the entire responsibility for any risk incurred.”

“Then, I wish you God speed; for the harvest is white, the laborers few.”

“Why, doctor! I relied on you to help me keep her out of reach. If anything happens, how shall I pacify Susie? She made me promise every possible care of her favorite. Look here, only an hour ago I received a letter and this package marked, ‘One for Ned; the other for Miss Beryl.’ Two little red flannel safety bags, cure-alls, to be tied around our necks, close to our noses, as if we could not smell them a half mile off? Assafoetida, garlic, camphor, ‘jimson weed,’ valerian powder–phew! What not? Mixed as a voudoo chowder, and a scent twice as loud!”

“Be thankful your wife is not here to enforce the wearing of the sanitary sachet,” said the doctor, allowing himself a grimace of contemptuous disgust.

“So I am! but being a bachelor, answerable only to yourself, you cannot understand how absence does not exonerate me from the promise made when she started away. I would sooner face an ‘army with banners,’ than that little brown-eyed woman of mine when she takes the lapel of my coat in one hand, raises the forefinger of the other, turns her head sideways like a thrush watching a wriggling worm, and says, in a voice that rises as fast as the sound a mouse makes racing up the treble of the piano keys: ‘Ump! whew! Didn’t I tell you so? The minute my back was turned, of course you made ducks and drakes of all your promises. Show me a “Flying Jenney,” that the tip end of any idiot’s little finger can spin around, and I’ll christen it Edward McTwaddle Singleton!’ Seems funny to you, doctor? Just wait till you are married, and your Susan shuts the door and interviews you, picking a whole flock of crows, till you wonder if it isn’t raining black feathers. When I am taken to taw about this nursing business, I shall lose no time in laying the blame on you.”

“I will assure Mrs. Singleton that you endeavored to dissuade me; and that you faithfully kept your promise to shield me from danger.”

“Which she will not believe, because she knows that I have the power to lock you up indefinitely. Besides, if you live to explain matters, there will be no necessity; but suppose you do not? You are running into the jaws of an awful danger, and if–“

His frank, pleasant countenance clouded, he gnawed his mustache, and the question ended in a long sigh. After a moment, a low, sweet voice completed the sentence:

“If I should die, your tender-hearted wife is so truly and faithfully my friend, that she could not regret to hear I have entered into my rest.”

There was a brief silence, during which the physician crossed the floor, opened a glass door and surveyed the stock of drugs. When he came back, and took up the pestle, he spoke with solemn emphasis:

“This is the most malignant type of an always dangerous disease that I have ever encountered; and constant exposure to it, without the careful, persistent use of tonic and disinfectant precautions, would be tantamount to walking unvaccinated into a pest-house, where people were dying of confluent small-pox. I have no desire to frighten, but it is proper that I should warn you; and insist upon the duty of watching your own health as closely as the symptoms of the victims you are desirous of nursing. Will you follow the regimen I shall prescribe for yourself?”

“Implicitly.”

The warden finished filling the capsules, rose and looked at his watch.

“As far as the chances go, it is ‘heads I win, tails you lose’; and sorry enough I am to see you come down and dare the pestilence; but since you are, I might as well say what I was asked to tell you last night. For your sake I kept silent; now since you persist, I wash my hands of all responsibility for the consequences. You have heard the history of the woman Iva Le Bougeois, better known in the ‘walls’ as the ‘Bloody Duchess’. Two days ago the scourge struck her down; she is very ill, the worst symptoms have appeared, and she is almost frantic with terror. Last night, at 12 o’clock, I was going the rounds of the sick wards, and found her wringing her hands, and running up and down the cell like a maniac. I tried to quiet and encourage her, but she paid no more attention than if stone deaf; and when I started to leave her, she seized my arm, and begged me to ask you to come and stay with her. She thinks if you would sing for her, she could listen, and forget the horrible things that haunt her. It is positively sickening to see her terror at the thought of death. Poor, desperate creature.”

“Yet you withheld her message when I might have comforted her?”

“It was a crazy whim. In hardened cases like hers, death-bed remorse counts for very little. Her conscience is lashing her; could you quiet that? Could you bleach out the blood that spots her soul?”

“Yes, by leading her to One who can.”

“Remember, you asked me as a special favor to keep you as far apart as possible from all of her class.”

“At that time, overwhelmed by the misery of my own fate, I was pitiless to the sufferings of others. The rod that smote me was very cruel then; but by degrees it seems to bud like Aaron’s with precious promise, that may expand into the immortal flowers of souls redeemed. I dwelt too long in the seat of the Pharisees; I shall live closer to God, walking humbly among the Publicans. Will you show me the way to the woman who wishes to see me?”

“Not yet. There are some instructions that must be carefully weighed before I can install you as nurse, in that dismal mire of moral and physical corruption. Singleton, send the hospital steward to me.”

There are spectacles which brand themselves so ineffaceably upon memory, that time has no power to impair their vividness; and of such were some of the scenes witnessed by the new nurse.

Sitting on the side of her cot, from which the gray blanket had been dragged and folded half across her shoulders, where one hand held it, while the other clutched savagely at her throat; with her bare delicate feet beating a tattoo on the white sanded floor, and her thin nostrils dilated in the battle for breath, Iva Le Bougeois moaned in abject terror. The coarse, unbleached “domestic” night- gown that fell to her ankles was streaked across the bosom with some dark brown fluid; and similar marks stained the pillow where her restless head had tossed. The hot eyes and parched red lips seemed to have drained all the tainted blood from her olive cheeks, save where, just beneath the lower lids, ominous terra-cotta rings had been painted and glazed by the disease.

As Beryl pushed open the iron door, and held up the lantern, that its brightness might stream into the cell, where even at five o’clock in the afternoon of a rainy day darkness reigned, the rays flashed back from the glowing eyes chatoyant as a cougar’s.

“Your message was not delivered until to-day, and I lost no time in coming.”

The small head, where short, straight, blue-black locks, rumpled and disordered, were piled elfishly around the low brow, was thrown up with the swift movement of some startled furry animal, alert even in the throes of death.

“Is all hope over? Did they tell you there is no chance for me?”

The voice was hoarse and thick, the articulation indistinct and smothered.

“No. They think you very ill, but still hope the remedies will save you. The doctor says your fine constitution ought to conquer the disease.”

“I am beyond the remedy–because I can’t swallow any longer. Since the doctor left me, I have tried and tried. See–“

From a bench within reach, she lifted a small yellow bowl, which contained a dark mixture, put it to her lips, and chafing her swollen glands, attempted several times to swallow the liquid. A gurgling sound betrayed the futility of the effort, the medicine gushed from her nose, the eyes seemed starting from their sockets, and even the husky cry of the sufferer was strangled, as she cowered down.

“Compose yourself; nervousness increases the difficulty. Once I had diphtheria, and could not swallow for two days, yet I recovered. Be quiet, and let me try to help you.”

Kneeling in front of her, Beryl turned up the wick of the lantern, and with a small brush attached to a silver wire, finally succeeded in cauterizing and removing a portion of the poisonous growth that was rapidly narrowing the avenue of breath. The spasm of coughing that ensued was Nature’s auxiliary effort, and temporarily relieved the tightening clutch.

After a few moments, a dose of the medicine was successfully administered; and then the slender, shapely brown hand of the woman grasped the nurse’s blue homespun dress.

“Don’t leave me! Save me. Oh, don’t let me strangle here alone–in the dark; don’t let me die! I’m not fit. I know where I shall go. It’s not the devil I dread; I have known many devils in this world,- -but God. I am afraid of God!”

“Lie down, and cover your shoulders. If it comforts you to have me, I will stay gladly. The doctor, the warden, all of us will do what we can to cure you; but the help you need most, can come only from one whose pity is greater and tenderer than ours, your merciful God. Lift up your heart in prayer to him; ask him to forgive your sins, and spare you to lead a better life.”

“He would not hear, because He knows how black my heart has been all these years; since I gave myself up to hate and cursing. You can’t understand–you are not one of us. You are as much out of place here, as one of the angels would be, held over the flames of torment till the wings singed. From the first time we saw you in the chapel, and more and more ever since, we found out you did not belong here. I have been so wicked–so wicked–!”

She paused, panting, then hurried on.

“When the chaplain tried to talk to me, and gave me a book to read, I dashed it back in his face, and insulted him. One Saturday they sent me to sweep out and dust the chapel, and when I finished, I laid down on one of the benches to rest. You went in to practise, not knowing I was there; and began to sing. As I listened, something seemed to stir and wake up in my heart, and somehow the music shook me out of myself. There was one hymn, so solemn, so thrilling, and the end of every verse was, ‘Oh, Lamb of God! I come!’–and you sang it with a great cry, as if you were running to meet some one. I had not wept–for oh! I don’t know how long–not since–. Then you played on the organ some variations on a tune–‘The Sweet By-and- by’–and the tears started, and I seemed but a leaf in a wild storm. That was the song my little boy used to sing! There was a Sunday- school in the basement of a church next to our house, and he would stand at the window, and listen till he caught the tune, and learned the words. Oh, that hymn! Every note stung me like a whip lash when I heard it again. My child’s face as I saw him the last time I put him to bed; when he opened his drowsy eyes, and raised up to kiss me good-night, came back to me, and seemed to sing, ‘In the sweet by- and-by, we shall meet on that beautiful shore.’ No–never–never! Oh, my boy! My beautiful angel Max–there is no room for me, on that heavenly shore! Oh! my darling–there is NO ‘Sweet by-and-by’ FOR MOTHER NOW.”

She had started up, with arms clasped around her knees, and her convulsed face lifted toward the low ceiling of the cell, writhed, as she drew her breath in hissing gasps.

“You loved your little boy?”

“You are not a mother, or you wouldn’t ask me that If ever you had felt your baby’s sweet warm lips on yours, you would know that it is mother-love that makes tigers of women. Because I idolized my little one, I could not bear the cruel wrong of having him torn from me, taught to despise me; and so I loved him best when I slew him, and I was so mad, with the delirium of pain and rage and despair, that I forgot I was putting the gulf of perdition between us. Rather than submit to separation in this world, than have him raised by them, to turn away from his mother as a thing too vile to wear his father’s name, I lost him for ever and ever! My son, my star-eyed darling.”

“Listen to me. You loved him so tenderly, that no matter how wilful or disobedient he might have been, you forgave him every offence; and when he sobbed on your bosom, you felt he was doubly dear, and hugged him closer to your heart? Even stronger and deeper is God’s love for us. Dare you call yourself more pitiful, more tender than your Father in heaven, who gave you the capacity to love your child, because He so compassionately loves His children? We sin, we go far astray, we think mercy is exhausted, and the door shut against us; but when we truly repent and go back, and kneel, and pray to be forgiven, Christ Himself unbars the door and leads us in; and our Father, loving those whom He created, pardons all; and only requires that we sin no more. God does not follow us; we must humbly go back all the distance we have put between us by our wickedness; but the heavens will fall before He fails to keep His promise to forgive, when we do genuinely repent of our wrongdoing.”

“It is easy for the good to believe that. You are innocent of any crime, and you are punished for other people’s sins, not for your own; so you can’t understand how I dread the thought of God, because I know the blackness of my heart, when, to get my revenge, I sold my soul to Satan. Oh! the horror of feeling that I can’t undo the bargain; that pay-day has come! I had the vengeance, I snatched out of God’s hands, and for a while I gloated over it; but now the awful price! My little one in heaven with the angels; knowing that his mother is a devil–eternally.”

Her head had fallen upon her knees, and in the frenzy of despair she rocked to and fro.

“Don’t you remember that the most sinful woman Christ met on earth, was the one of all others that He first revealed Himself to, when He came out of the grave? Because she was so nearly lost, and He had forgiven so much, in order to save her, her purified heart was doubly dear, and he honored her more than the disciples, who had escaped the depth of her wickedness. Try to find comfort in the belief, that if sincere remorse and contrition redeemed the soul of Mary Magdalen, the same Savior who pitied and pardoned her will not deny your prayer.”

“God believed her, because she proved her repentance by leading a new, purer life. But I have no chance left to prove mine. If she had been cut off in the midst of her sins, as I am, she would have been obliged to pay in her ruined soul to the Satan she had served so long. When I am called to the settlement, it seems an insult and a mockery to ask God, whom I have defied, to save me. If I could only have a little time to show my penitence.”

“Perhaps you may be spared; but if not, God sees your contrition just as fully now as if you lived fifty years to show it in good works. He sees you are sincerely remorseful, and would be a true Christian, if He allowed you an opportunity. That is the blessedness of our religion, that when Christ gives us a new heart, purified by repentance and faith in Him, He says it makes clean hands, in His sight, no matter how black they might have been. One of the thieves was already on the cross, in the agonies of death, with his sins fresh on his soul, and no possible chance of atoning for his past, by future dedication of his life to good; but Christ saw his heart was genuinely repentant, and though the man did not escape crucifixion by humanity, his pardoned soul met Jesus that same day in Paradise. It is not acceptance of our good deeds, though they are required, it is forgiveness of our sins, that makes Christ so precious. Pray from the very bottom of your heart, to God, and try to take hold of the promise to the truly penitent; and trust–trust Him.”

For a moment the crouching figure was still, as if the sufferer mentally grasped at some shred of hope; then she fell back on her pillow, and groaned.

“Do you know all I have done? Do you think there is any mercy for–“

“Hush, every word taxes your failing strength. Compose yourself.”

“I can’t! As long as I have breath let me tell you. If I shut my eyes, horrible things seem to be pouncing upon me; dreadful shapes laugh, and beckon to me, and I see–oh! pity me! I see my murdered child, with the blood spouting, foaming, the velvety brown eyes I loved to kiss, staring and glazed as I dragged his little body to–“

With a gurgling scream she paused, shivered, panted.

“It is a feverish dream. Your child is safe in heaven; ask your Father to let you see his face among the angels.”

“It’s not fever; it’s the past, my own crimes that come to follow me to judgment and accuse me. The hand of my first-born pointing over the last bar at the mother who killed him! Do you wonder I am afraid to die? I don’t deny my bloody deeds–but after all it was a foul wrong that drove me to desperation; and God knows, man’s injustice brought me to my sin. I was a spoiled, motherless child, married at sixteen to a man whose family despised me, because my pretty face had ruined their scheme of a match with an heiress, whose money was needed to retrieve their fortunes. They never forgave the marriage, and after a few years, mischief began to brew.

“I loved my husband, but his nature was too austere to deal patiently with my freakish, petulant, volcanic temper; and when he lectured me for my frivolity, obstinacy plunged me into excesses of gayety, that at heart I did not enjoy. His mother and sister shunned me more and more, poisoned his mind with wicked and unfounded suspicions, and so we grew mutually distrustful. He tired of me, and he showed it. I loved him. Oh! I loved him better, and better, as I saw him drifting away. He neglected me, spent his leisure where he met the woman he had once intended to marry. I was so maddened with jealous heart-ache, some evil spirit prompted me to try and punish him with the same pangs. That was my first sin of deception; I pretended an attachment I never felt, hoping to rekindle my husband’s affection. Like many another heart-sick wife, I was caught in my own snare; and while I was as innocent of any wrong as my own baby boy, his father was glad of a pretext to excuse his alienation. People slandered me; and because I loved Allen so deeply, I was too proud to defend myself, until too late.

“God is my witness, my husband was the only man I ever loved; ah! how dear he was to me! His very garments were precious; and I have kissed and cried over his gloves, his slippers. The touch of his hand was worth all the world to me, but he withheld it. When you know your husband loves you, he may ill treat, may trample you under his feet, but you can forgive him all; you caress the heel that bruises you. Allen ceased to show me ordinary consideration, stung me with sneers, threatened separation; even shrunk from the boy, because he was mine.

“There came a day, when some fiend forged a letter, and the same vile hand laid it in my husband’s desk. Only God knows whose is the guilt of that black deed, but I believe it was his sister’s work. Allen cursed me as unworthy to be the mother of his child, and swore he would be free. On my knees I begged him to hear, and acquit me. I confessed all my yearning love for him, I assured him I was the victim of a foul plot; and that if he would only take me back to the heaven of his heart, he would find that no man ever had a more devoted wife. He wanted an excuse to put me out of his way; he repulsed me with scorn, and before the sun set, he forsook me, and took up his abode with his mother and sister. Oh! the cruel wrong of that dreadful, parting scene!”

She sprang from the cot, breathless from the passionate recital, beating the air with one small slender hand, while the other tore at the swollen cords of her tortured throat.

Beryl caught the round, prettily turned wrist, and felt the feeble thread of pulse that was only a wild flutter, under the olive satin of the hot skin.

“This excitement only hastens the end you dread. Lie down, and I will pray for you.”

“I shall soon lie down for ever. Let me walk a little, before my feet slide into the grave.”

She staggered twice across the length of the cell, then tottered and fell back on the cot. At every respiration the thin nostrils flared, and the glazed ring below the eyes lost its sullen red tinge, took on blue shadows.

“I did not know then I was to lose my child also; but before long, all the scheme was made clear. Allen sued for a divorce. He wanted to shake me off; and he persuaded himself all the foul things my enemies had concocted must be true. I had lost his love; I was too proud to show my torn heart to the world; and men make the laws to suit themselves, and they help each other to break chains that gall, so Allen was set free. I shut myself up in two rooms, with my boy, and saw no one. Even then, though my heart was breaking, and I wept away the lonely days–longing for the sight of my husband’s face, starving for the sound of his voice–I bore up; because I knew I was innocent, and unjustly censured, and I had my child to comfort me. He slept in my arms and kept me human; and we were all the world to each other.

“Then the last blow fell. There came a note, whose every word bit my heart like an adder. Allen demanded the boy, whom the law gave to his guardianship; and I was warned I must make no attempt to see him after he was taken away, because he would be taught to forget me. I refused. I dared the officer to lay hands on my little one, and I was so frantic with grief, the man had compassion, and left me. Two nights afterward, I rocked him to sleep and put him in bed. His arms fell from my neck; half aroused, he nestled his face to mine–kissed me. I went into the next room, to finish a shirt I was making for him, and I shut the door, fearing the noise of the machine would wake him. I sewed half an hour, and–when I went back, the bed was empty, my child was gone.

“I think I went utterly mad then. I can remember putting my lips to the dent on the little ruffled pillow, where his head had lain, and swearing that I would have my revenge.

“That night turned me to stone; every tender feeling seemed to petrify. When I learned that Allen was soon to marry the woman for whom he had cast me off, and that my boy was to have a new mother to teach him to hate me, it did not grieve me; I had lost all power of suffering; but it woke up a legion of fiends where my heart used to beat, and I bided my time. Happy women in happy homes think me a monster. With their husbands’ arms around them, and their babies prattling at their knees, they bear my wrongs so meekly, and shudder at my depravity. When I thought of Allen, who was my first and last and only love, giving my place to some other woman, who was no more worthy than I knew myself to be; and of the baby, who had slept on my heart, and was so dear because he had his father’s eyes and his father’s brown curls, growing up to deny and condemn his innocent but disgraced mother, it was more than I could bear. I was not insane; oh, no! But I was possessed by more than seven devils; and revenge was all this world could give me. My husband’s family had ruined me; so I would spoil their match a second time.

“The wedding was to be very private, but I bribed a servant and got into the house, and stood behind the damask curtains. Allen’s mother and sister came in, leading my boy; and they were so close to me I could see the long silky lashes resting against my baby’s brow, as his great brown eyes looked wonderingly at a horseshoe of roses dangling from the chandelier. Then my husband, my handsome husband– my darling’s father, walked in, with the bride on his arm, and the minister met them, saying: ‘Dearly beloved–.’ I ceased to be a woman then, I was a fury, a wild beast–and two minutes later my darlings were mine once more, safe from that other woman–dead at my feet. Then the ball I aimed at my own breast missed its destination. I fell on my slaughtered idols; seeing in a bloody mist the wide eyes of my baby boy, and the mangled face of the husband whose kiss was the only heaven I shall ever know. I meant to die with them, but I failed; so they sent me here. That was years ago; but I was a stone until that day in the chapel, when you sang my Max’s song, ‘By-and-By’.”

There was a brief silence, and Beryl’s voice wavered as she said very gently:

“Your trials were fiery; and though the crime was frightfully black, God judges us according to the natures we are born with, and the temptations that betray us; and He forgives all, if we are true penitents and throw ourselves trustingly on His mercy. Now take this powder; it will make you sleep.”

“Will you stay with me? I shall not trouble anybody much longer. Say a prayer for my sinful soul, that is going down into the eternal night.”

“Let us pray together, that your pardoned soul may find blessed and eternal peace.”

Coming softly to the door, the doctor looked in through the iron lattice, saw the figure of the nurse kneeling on the sanded floor, with her bronzed head close to the pillow where the moaning victim’s lay; and involuntarily he took off his cloth cap, and bowed his gray head to listen to the brief but solemn petition that went up from the dungeon to the supreme and unerring Judge.

When he returned to the same spot an hour later, Beryl sat on the side of the cot, with one hand clasping the brown wrist thrown across her lap, the other pressed gently over the sufferer’s hot, aching eyes; and wonderfully sweet was the rich voice that chanted low:

“Just as I am, without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me. And that Thou bidd’st me come to Thee, O Lamb of God! I come, I come!
Just as I am, and waiting not
To rid my soul of one dark blot, To Thee, whose blood can cleanse each spot, O Lamb of God! I come, I come!”

The noon sun was shining over a wet world, kindling into diamonds the crystal fringe of rain drops hanging from the green lances of willows, where a tufted red bird arched his scarlet throat in madrigal–when four men lifted a cot, and bore it with its apparently dying burden to a spot upon which the warm light fell in a golden flood.

Between the Destroying Angel and his gasping prey, stepped two, anointed with the chrism of the Priesthood of Cure; and undismayed by the strident, sibilant, fitful breath that distorted the blue lips of the victim, they parried the sweep of the scythe of death, with the tiny, glittering steel blade surgery cunningly fashions; and through its silver canula, tracheotomy recalled the vanishing spirit, triumphantly renewed the lease of life.

At sunset on the same day, Beryl followed the warden to the door of the large hospital.

“Of all pitiful sights here, this has harrowed me the most. The doctors did all they could, and the chaplain worked hard to save her soul, but she was like flint, till just before the end, when she raised up, and heard her child crying down in the work-room, where it had been put to sleep. We could scarcely hold her; she fought like a panther to get out of bed, till the blood gushed from her nose, and though she could not speak plainly, she pointed, and we made out: ‘Baby–Dovie’. The doctor would not consent that we should expose the child to the risk, but I could not hold out against that poor creature’s pleading wild eyes, so I just brought the little one. What a strangling cry she gave, when I put it in her arms, and how the tears poured! She was almost gone, and we saw that she wanted to tell us something about the child, but we could not understand. The doctor put a pencil in her hand, and held a sheet of paper before her, and she tried to scrawl her wishes, but all we can read is: ‘Her father won’t ever own her. Baptize–her Dovie–Eve Werneth’s baby. Don’t ever tell her she was born in jail. Raise her a good–good–.’ She had a sort of spasm then, and squeezed the child so tight, it screamed. In five minutes, she was dead. Only nineteen years old, and the little one just two years; and not yet weaned! I don’t know what to do; so I brought you. If I touch the child, it seems frightened almost to death, but maybe you can coax it away. Poor little thing! What a mercy if it could die!”

“Will you let me have the care of it? Take it, and keep it up in my cell?”

“I shall be only too thankful, if you will lift the load from my shoulders.”

“Tell the steward to bring me a cup of warm, sweetened milk and a cracker. The poor little lamb must be almost famished.”

Through an open window streamed the radiance of a daffodil sky, flecked with curling plumes of drifting fire, and the glory fell like a benediction on the iron cot, where lay the body of the early dead; a small, slight, blond girl wearing prematurely the crown of maternity, whose thorns had torn and stained the smooth brow of mere childhood. The half-opened eyes, fixed in their filmy blue glaze, seemed a prayer for the pretty infant, whose head, a glistening tangle of yellow curls, was nestled down against the bare white throat of the rigid mother; while the dimpled hands pulled fretfully at the blood-spattered gown, that was buttoned across the breast.

As clusters of wild snowy violets springing up in the midst of mud and mire, in a noxious swamp, look doubly pure and sweet because of fetid surroundings,–so this blossom of the slums, this human bud, with petals of innocence folded close in the calyx of babyhood, seemed supremely and pathetically fair, as she stood leaning against the cot, the little rosy feet on tip-toe, pressing toward her mother; tears on the pink velvet of the round cheeks, on the golden lashes beneath the big blue eyes that grew purplish behind the mist.

The Macedonia of suffering humanity lies always within a stone’s throw; and the “cry for help” had found speedy response in more than one benevolent heart.

A gray-haired widow from the “Sheltering Arms,” to which Sister Serena belonged, and a Sister of Charity from the hospital in X—, were already ministering tenderly in the crowded ward; and both had essayed to coax away the little figure clutching her mother’s gown; but the flaring white cap of one, and the flapping black drapery of the other, frightened the trembling child.

Into the group stole Beryl; followed closely by the yellow cat, which had become her shadow. Kneeling beside the baby, she kissed it softly, took one of the hands, patted her own cheek with it, and lifted the cat to the mattress, where it began to purr. The silky shock of yellow curls was lifted, the wide eyes stared wonderingly first at Beryl’s face bending near, then at the cat; and by degrees, the lovely waif suffered an arm to draw her farther and farther, while her rose-red mouth parted in a smile, that showed six little teeth, and with one hand fastened in the cat’s fur, she was finally lifted and borne away; Beryl’s soft cheek nestled against hers, the bronzed head bent down to the yellow ringlets; one arm holding the baby and the cat, while the other white hand closed warmly over the child’s bare, cold, dimpled feet.

CHAPTER XXVI.

Fair and flowery as in the idyllic dawn when Theocritus sang its pafatoral charms, was that sunny Sicilian land where, one May morning, Leo Gordon wandered with a gay party in quest of historic sites, which the slow silting of the stream of time had not obliterated. Viewed from the heights of Achradina, whence all the vestiges of magnificence and luxury have vanished, and only the hideous monument of “man’s inhumanity to man” remains, what a vast panorama stretched far as the horizon on every side.

To the north, girding the fire-furrowed plain of Catania where olive, lemon, oleander and orange springing out of black lava, mingled hues like paints on an ebony palette–rose vast, lonely, purple at base, snowy at summit, brooding Etna; dozing in the soft, sweet springtime, with red, wrathful eyes veiled by a silvery haze. An unlimited expanse of crinkling blue sea, shot like Persian silk with gleams of gold, and laced here and there with foam scallops, bounded the east; smiling treacherously above the ghastly wreck sepultured in its coral crypts, that might have told of the crash of triremes, the flames of sinking galleys, which twenty-two centuries ago lit the bloody waves that closed over slaughtered hosts.

Westward lay green, wimpling vales, studded with laurel, arched with vine-draped pergolas, dotted widi flocks, dimpled with reedy marshes where red oxen browsed; and beyond the pale pink flush of almond groves–

“A smoke of blue olives, a vision of towers.”

Bucolic paradise of Battus and Bombyce, of Corydon and Daphnis, may it please the hierophants of Sanskrit lore, of derivative Aryan philology, of iconoclastic euhemerism, to spare us yet awhile the lovely myths that dance across the asphodel meads of sunny Sicily.

On the verge of the parapet of the Latomia, where the breath of the sirocco, the gnawing tooth of time, and the slow ravelling of rain had serrated the ledge, stood Leo, gazing into the dizzying depths of the charnel house that swarmed with the ghosts of nine thousand men, who once were huddled within its stony embrace.

As if pitying nature had striven to appease the manes of the unburied dead, a pall of luxuriant ivy and glossy acanthus covered the bottom and sides of the quarry, one hundred feet below; but out of the dust of centuries stared the rayless eyes of corpses, and the gaunt despairing faces seemed still uplifted, now in invocation, anon in imprecation to the overarching sky, where blistering suns mocked them by day, and glittering moons and silver stars paused in their westward march through dewy night, to tell them tantalizing tales of how musically Aegean wavelets broke against the marbles at Piraeus; how loud the nightingales sang in the plane and poplar groves at home; how the white glory of the Parthenon smiled down on violet-crowned Athens, where their wives and children thronged the temples, in sacrificial rites to insure their safety.

In crevices of the perpendicular walls lush creepers tapestried the gray stone, and far down, out of the mould of the subterranean dungeon, sprang slim lemon trees snowed over with fragrant bloom, clumps of oleander waving banners of vivid rose, and golden-green pomegranate bushes, where scarlet flakes glowed like the wings of tropical birds.

“Well, is the game worth the candle? After voyaging thousands of miles, do you feel repaid; or down there, in the heart of the desolation, do you see only the grinning mask of jeering disappointment, which generally follows American realists into the dusty haunts of Old World idealism?”

As she spoke, Alma Cutting stepped back under the cool canopy of a spreading fig-tree, and fanned herself with a tuft of papyrus leaves. She was a tall, handsome woman, pronouncedly brunette in type, with large black eyes whose customary indolent indifference of expression did not entirely veil the fires “banked” under the velvet iris; and a square, firm mouth, around whose full crimson lips lurked a certain haughtiness, that despite the curb of good breeding, bordered at times closely upon insolence. Thirty years had tripped over this dark head, where the hair, innocent of crimp or curl, hung in a straight jet fringe low on her wide forehead; and though no lines marred the smooth, health-tinted skin, she was perceptibly “sun burnt by the glare of life,” and the dew of youth had vanished before the vampire lips of ennui.

“Disappointed? Certainly not; and I were exacting and unreasonable indeed, if I did not feel abundantly repaid. Alma, since the days when I pored over Thucydides, Plutarch, Rollin and Grote, this spot has beckoned to my imagination with all the uplifted hands of the nine thousand captives; and the longing of years is to-day completely gratified.”

“Am I unusually stupid, or are you rapt, beyond the realm of reason and mid-day common sense? Pray what is the fascination? It is neither so vast, nor so picturesque as the Colosseum. There, one expects to hear the roar of the beasts springing on their human prey; the ring of steel on steel, when the gladiators have bowed like dancing-masters to the bloated old bald-headed Neros and Vespasians; and you fancy that you smell the fountains of perfume that toss their spray from tier to tier; and see the rainbow of the silk awning flapping overhead. Better than all, you imagine you can watch the ravishing toilettes of the Faustinas, and Fulvias and Messalinas who flirt with the handsome, straight-nosed beaux so immensely classical in their togas; and when their thunder-browed husbands unexpectedly step in behind, it is so easy to conjecture the sudden change of theme, as they spread their fans to cover the message just written on their ivory tablets, and straightway fall to clawing the characters of all the Cornelias, and Calpurnias, and Octavias and Julia Domnas, and other respectable wives! All that I quite enjoyed because I understood. Eight years’ campaigning in New York, and London and Paris would teach even an idiot that nineteenth century ‘best society’ can lift you so close to the naughtiness of the golden Roman era, that one only has to strain a very little on tip-toe, to feel at one’s ease with the jeunesse doree of dead ages. Here–what do you find in a huge stone well sunk into the bowels of the earth? About as enticing as a plunge into a dry cistern, suddenly unroofed? If spectres we must hunt, do let them be festive, like those Faust danced with on the Brocken!”

“You should be ashamed, Alma! Miss Gordon is the very soul of courteous toleration, or she would resent the teasing goad of your Philistinism,” cried the brother, Rivers Cutting, who in his new style yachting suit of blue cloth appeared veritably the jaunty genius of fashionable modernity, confronting the ghost of antiquity.

“You forget, Rivers, some of the sage dicta you brought back from the ‘Summer School of Philosophy’, when you followed your last Boston flame to Concord, where she went poaching on the sacred preserves of the ‘Illuminati,’ hunting a new sensation. ‘We must be as courteous to human beings as we are to a picture, which we are willing to give the advantage of a good light.’ Now being Leo’s very sincere friend, and knowing that the supreme moment of her facial triumph is when, like a startled fawn, she opens her eyes wide in horrified amazement at some inconceivable heresy, do you suppose I am so recreant to loyalty as to fail in providing her occasionally with the necessary Gorgon, ethical or archaeolegical, as surroundings warrant?

“History was never the fetich of my girlhood, and that quartette of dry-as-dust worthies whom Leo carries around in leash, as other women carry pugs and poodles, came near giving me meningitis in my tender years. My first governess, a Puritan spinster, full of zeal, and conscientiously bent on earning her wages, by exercising my brains to their utmost capacity, undertook to introduce me to all the highly immoral personages and practices that made the Punic Wars famous. By way of making Imilco a lifelong acquaintance, she illustrated the siege of Agrigentum by a huge, hideous image of Phalaris’ ‘Brazen Bull,’ drawn with chalk on the school-room blackboard.

“A wonderful beast it certainly was; that taurus with head lowered, tail lashing the air, one hoof pawing savagely, worthy representative of all the horrors it typified, and which she explained with maddening perspicuity. That night, when papa tore himself away from the club room at one o’clock, and met mamma on the doorstep–just coming home from a supper at Delmonico’s after an opera party–they were ascending the stairs, when frantic cries drove from her ears the echoes of ‘Traviata’s’ witching strain. Thinking only a conflagration would justify the din, papa threw up the hall sash and shouted ‘fire!’ and the police sounded the alarm, and all pandemonium broke loose. Investigation discovered me, wriggled half way down to the foot of my bed, buried under the blankets, and shrieking ‘Perillus’ Bull! I am roasting in the Brass Bull!’ Being not very ardent disciples of Clio, my solicitous parents failed to understand the nightmare; hence cracked ice was folded over my head (mid-winter), and the family physician ordered a mustard plaster half a yard long, down my spine. I vividly remember Imilco, and the bovine fury pawing the blackboard; but of the three Punic Wars, then and there tabooed, I recall only the brass monster at Agrigentum. Leo, when we reach Girgenti, the remaining Mecca of your historic hopes, some time to-morrow, you will understand why, instead of climbing to the temples of the cliff, I shall lock the door of our cabin, and drown the bellowing of the beast in Daudet’s new book.”

“I wish, indeed I do, that you had staid there to-day, instead of coming ashore to dampen all our ardor and enthusiasm by your constant thin drizzle of scorn. One should suppose that in this idyllic region, some ray of poetic warmth must melt your frigid, scoffing soul. Daudet suits my sister far better than Theocritus,” answered her brother, fastening a sprig of orange blossom in his button hole.

Pushing back her sailor hat, Alma looked obliquely at him from beneath her drooping lids.

“Try me. Perhaps infection haunts the air. Spare us the Greek, come down from your Yale and Harvard heights to the level of my ignorance, and warble for me in English some of your Sicilian lark’s melodies. At least I have heard of Amaryllis and Simaetha.”

Mr. Cutting shook his head.

“What–? Ashamed of your bucolic hobby! No wonder–since after all it’s only a goat. I dare you, brother mine, to produce me a Theocritan fragment.”

“Take the consequences of your rash levity; though I have a dawning suspicion some ‘Imp of the Perverse’ has coached you for the occasion.”

He stroked his mustache, pondered a moment, then struck an attitude, and declaimed:

“I go a serenading to Amaryllis; what time my flocks browse on the mountains, and Tityrus drives them. Tityrus beloved of me in the highest degree, feed my flocks and lead them to the fountain, etc.”

Mimicking his tone exactly, Alma finished the line:

“And mind, Tityrus, that tawny Libyan he-goat lest he butt thee!’ Come, Rivers; free translation is allowable, considering surroundings, but not garbling; and every time you know you substituted flocks for goats. Proceed, and do not insult your pet author with emendations.”

With his hat on the back of his head, and his thumbs in the armholes of his vest, Mr. Cutting resumed:

“Sweet Amaryllis! though by death defiled, Thee shall I ne’er forget; dear to my heart As are my frisking goats, thou did’st depart. To what a lot–was I, unhappy, born!”

Again the mocking voice responded:

“But see! yon calves devour
The olive branches. Pelt them off I pray.

“Confound the calves! ‘St–! you white-skin thief–away!’ Thanks, no more at present. Doubtless it sounds very fine in Greek, because then, I could not possibly understand that it is the melody and the rhythmic dance of bleating calves, and capering goats. Here come the stragglers laden with plunder. Oh, papa! Do give me those exquisite acacia clusters.”

“My dear, I have ordered luncheon spread down there, in that strange garden. It is the queerest place imaginable; and looking up, the effect is quite indescribable.”

“Have you had the skulls polished for drinking cups, and printed the menus on cross-bones? What shocking taste to add insult to injury by spreading all our wealth of canned dainties on the very stones where sit the ghosts of those who perished from hunger and thirst! Eminently Dantesque, but the sacrilege appalls Leo. She would sooner attend an oyster supper, or a clam-bake in the Catacombs, or–” bowing to a young Englishman standing near, “lead a German in the Poets’ corner of Westminster Abbey. My dear girl, under which flag do you fight? Athenian, Roman, Carthagenian, Syracusan?

“The child of a man who fell in defence of his own fireside, could scarcely fail to sympathize with the holy cause of the invaded; yet here, in view of the horrors inflicted upon the captives, one almost leans to Athens. It seems to me the most enduring monument of Syracusan glory survives in the eloquent protest of Nicolaus against her cruelty; especially when we recollect that it came from one who, of all others, had most to forgive. Old, decrepit, unable to walk, the venerable sorrow-laden man whose only children, two sons, had died fighting to save Syracuse–was carried on a litter into the midst of the shouting thousands, who were drunk with the wine of victory. ‘Behold an unhappy father, who has most cause to detest the Athenians, the authors of this war, the murderers of my children! But I am less sensible of my private afflictions than of the honor of my country, when I see it ready to expose itself to eternal infamy by violating the law of nations, and dishonoring our victory by barbarous cruelty. What! Will you tarnish your glory, and have all the world say that a nation who first dedicated a temple in their city, to Clemency, found none in yours? Triumphs and victories do not give immortal glory to a city; but the use of moderation in the greatest prosperity, the exercise of mercy toward a vanquished enemy, the fear of offending the gods by a haughty and insolent pride.’ What a theme for Dore or Munkacsy?”

“Thank you ever so much, Miss Gordon, for brushing away the library dust from that historic cameo. I had so utterly forgotten it lay in the musty tomes, that it has all the charm of a curio.” Mr. Cutting took off his hat, and bowed.

“Acknowledgments are due rather to my cousin, Dr. Douglass, who called my attention to the passage. The best of all things good abide with him; and out of his overflowing store, he shares with the needy. Only last night he reminded me of an illustration of the vanitas vanitatum of human fame and national gratitude, to be found over yonder in the necropolis. Less than a hundred and forty years after his death, Archimedes was so completely forgotten by the city he had immortalized, that Syracuse denied he was buried on her soil; and a foreigner had the honor of clearing away rubbish and brambles, in order to show the grave to his own countrymen.”

Leighton Douglass handed to his cousin a bunch of the delicate lilac blossoms of acanthus, tied with a wisp of some ribbon-like grass, and taking off his spectacles, replied:

“Leo unduly exalts my memory at the expense of her own; and we have all levied heavily on her fund of topographical accuracy.”

“If I travel much longer with two such learned and philosophical scholars, I shall inevitably degenerate into an intellectual Dodder,” yawned Alma.

“Into a what?” asked her father.

“A Dodder, sir. Pray, papa, be more considerate than to force Doctor Douglass to believe that instead of listening to the sermon he preached us last year, you either slept ignominiously throughout its delivery, or else allowed your unregenerate thoughts to dwell on those devices of Lucifer, ‘puts,’ ‘calls, ‘spreads,’ ‘corners, ‘spots’ and ‘futures’. Of course you remember that he believes in evolution? There was a time, even in my extremely recent day, when that word was more frightful to the orthodox than a ton of nitro- glycerine; was to the elect, a fouler abomination even than opera bouffe and the can can. But ‘the thoughts of men are widened with the process of the suns’, and now it appears that the immortal soul of us must be evolved, somewhat in the same fashion as protoplasm, and unless we fight for ‘survival’ elsewhere, we shall not be numbered among the spirited ‘fittest’, but degenerate into parasites, dodders, backsliders. So, drawing nutriment from the Doctor’s historic brains, and from Leo’s, I fall back into worse than a dodder, a torpid violator of the Law of Work, a hopeless Sacculina! Doctor Douglass, it was the bravest hour of your life when you stood up in–church pulpit, and told us the scientists whom we were wont to regard as more dreadful than the cannibals and Calmucks, are only a devoted sect of truth seekers, preaching from older texts, and drawing nearer and nearer to the kingdom of Heaven. To throw that ethical bomb, required more courage than Balaklava.”

“Mine was merely a feeble attempt to follow out the analogical reasoning of one of the most original and scientific thinkers of our day in Great Britain; but the fact that you recall so correctly the line of argument in a sermon delivered more than a year ago, is certainly complimentary assurance of at least approximate success in my effort.”

“After all, I am sorry I humored Leo’s whim, and persuaded papa to bring us here.”

“Why, my dear? We are enjoying it immensely,” said her father.

“Because Syracuse has proved my ‘crumpled rose leaf’, by destroying the prestige of the ‘Cleopatra’. Hitherto, I deemed our yacht quite the most complete and gorgeous floating palace since the days of its highly improper namesake’s marauding sails on the Cydnus.”

“And so she is; there is nothing afloat comparable to her in speed, appointments, comfort and beauty,” interrupted Mr. Cutting,

“Poor papa! How he bristles at the bare suggestion of rivalry. Be comforted, sir, in the knowledge that at least we shall not be run down by a phantom cruiser. It is very humiliating to American pride- -after winning the international prizes, and boasting so inordinately, to find out that we are only about–how many centuries, Leo?–twenty-five centuries behind Syracuse in building pleasure crafts. Think of a superb cabin with staterooms containing beds (not bunks) for one hundred and twenty guests, and the floors all covered with agates and other precious stones, that formed a mosaic copy of the Iliad! If you wished to emphasize a discussion on connubial devotion, behold! there on your right, Andromache and Hector; if one’s husband objected to a harmless flirtation, lo! on the left, Agamemnon and Briseis; and to point the moral of ‘pretty is, as pretty does’–how very convenient to indicate with the tip of your satin slipper, the demure figure of Helen standing on the walls, to watch the duel between Menelaus and Paris! Fancy the consolation a person of my indolent Sacculina temperament might have derived from the untimely fate of Cassandra, oppressed with knowledge in advance of her day and generation! There was the gymnasium for the beaux; and for the belles bona fide gardens, with walks and arbors covered with ivy and flowering vines whose roots rested in great stone vessels filled with earth. Imagine the boudoir and bathrooms paved with precious stones, encrusted with carved ivory and statues–“

“Pooh! Alma. That rigmarole is not in the guide books. Come, Dixon is waving his handkerchief down there, as a signal that luncheon is ready.”

“I prefer to wait here. Alma, bring me some anemones, and a sprig of ivy from the circular garden, when you come back,” said Leo.

Doctor Douglass drew closer, and asked:

“Will you let me stay also, and enjoy with you the wonderful charm of this opalescent air, this beautiful cincturing sea?”

“I would rather be alone. Solitude is a luxury rarely allowed on a yacht cruise; and I want a few quiet moments. By day, poor Aunt Patty has so much to tell me; at night, Alma is a chattering owl.”

There are hours when the ghost of a happy past, from which we have persistently fled, constrains us to give audience; and Leo surrendered herself to memories that brought a very mournful shadow into her brave brown eyes. Thirteen months had passed since her departure from X—and despite changing scenes and novel incidents, she could not escape the haunting face that met her on mountains, was mirrored in every sea; the brilliant mesmeric face set in its frame of crisp black locks, with dark blue eyes whose intense lustre had the cold, hard gleam of jewels. Sleeping or waking, always that dear, powerful face daring her to forget.

When Doctor Douglass and Miss Patty joined the yacht party at Palermo, the former had brought a letter and a package, which sorely tested Leo’s strength of will. Leaning to-day against the twisted body of an old olive tree, she opened and read once more, the final message.

“When Leighton places this sheet in your hands, the year of release which I could not refuse you, will have expired. Once your noble heart was wholly mine; and the proudest moment of my life was, and will be, that in which you promised to be my wife. All that you ever were, you shall always remain to me; and if you can confide your happiness to my keeping, I will never betray the sacred trust. Life has grown sombre to me, during the past eighteen months; and the only companionship that I can hope to cheer it, you alone can bring me. I have not willingly or intentionally forfeited your confidence; but that I have suffered, I shall not deny. If you love me, as in days gone by, our future rests once more in your hands; and you must renew the pledges that at your request I surrendered. In behalf of our past, I beg that you will retain the ring, hallowed forever by the touch of your hand; and its acceptance will typify, if not a renewal of our engagement, at least the perpetuity of a sacred friendship. Awaiting your final decision, I am, my dear Leo,

“Yours as of yore, LENNOX.”

All that she had ever been; no more. The graceful, well-bred heiress whom he admired, who commanded his profoundest respect, whom he had known from his boyhood, and who of all others he had desired should preside over his home and wear his name; but not the woman who reigned in his heart; whose touch had lighted the glowing tenderness that so transfigured his countenance, as she saw it that day, bending over a sick convict in a penitentiary.

He offered her formal allegiance, and that pale phantom of affection grounded in reverence, which is to the ardent love that a true woman demands in exchange for her own, as–

“Moonlight unto sunlight; and as water unto wine.”

She knew that he was no willing victim of a fascination, which had audaciously deranged his carefully mapped campaign of life; that he would have set his heel on his own insurgent heart, had it been possible; and she honored him for the stern integrity that forbade his affectation of a warmth of feeling which she was now conscious she had never evoked.

Accepting the theory that the young convict was sustained and animated by her devotion to a guilty lover, Leo fully understood that Lennox, even were he mad enough to sacrifice his pride, could indulge no expectation of ever winning the love of the prisoner; and despite her efforts to regard their rupture as final, she had faintly hoped that he would cross the ocean, and in person urge a renewal of the betrothal. The test of absence had proved as effectual as she intended it should be, and his letter proclaimed the humiliating fact, that while honor inspired him to hold out his wrists for conjugal manacles, honor equally constrained him to spare her the wrong and insult of insincere professions of tenderness.

Had she found it possible to condemn him as unworthy, it would have diminished the pain of surrendering the brightest hope of her life; for contempt is the balm a lofty soul offers a bruised heart, but she was just, even in her anguish; and that when barbed the arrow, was the mortifying consciousness that compassion for her was the strongest motive which dictated the carefully phrased letter. She was far too proud to parley with the temptation to accept the shadow in lieu of the substance; and twenty-four hours after the arrival of the final appeal, her answer was speeding with wings of steam across the ocean.

“DEAR LENNOX:

“My heart overflows with gratitude for all the affectionate interest, the kind solicitude, the innumerable thoughtful attentions you have so indefatigably shown to Aunt Patty, in the sad complication of misfortunes that so suddenly overwhelmed her; and I feel the inadequacy of any attempt to express my thanks. Your letter can only rivet more indissolubly the links of an affectionate friendship that must always bind you and me; but the future can hold no renewal of pledges which I feel assured would conduce neither to your happiness, nor to mine. Let us embalm the past and bury it tenderly; raising no mound to trip our friendly feet in years to come. The serenity of our future might be marred by retrospective gleams of the beautiful ring that once enclosed two lives; hence, I have ordered the diamonds reset in the form of a four-leaved clover, which will be sent to dear Kittie as an auspicious omen.

“With undiminished esteem, and unshaken confidence, and with a prayer for your happiness, which will always be dear to me, I remain,

“Your sincerely attached friend,

“LEO.”

The majority of men, and a large class of women, bury their dead, and straightway begin assiduously the cultivation of all that promises oblivion; but Leo’s nature was deeper, more intense; and while she made no audible moan, and shed no tears, she accepted the fact that earthly existence had lost its coveted crown, and that her aching heart was the dark grave of a beautiful hope that could know no resurrection. To-day she asked herself: “What shall I do with my life?”

Upon the warm air, sweet with the breath of lemon flowers, floated the peculiar, jeering, yet subdued and musical laughter, which told that Alma had flown straight at some luckless quarry. She held in one hand a cluster of crimson anemones, and purple stars of periwinkle, and walking between two English gentlemen, whose yacht, the “Albatross”, lay anchored close to the “Cleopatra” in the harbor below, slowly approached Leo, saying:

“Don’t stone your prophets. Especially one hedged about with the triple sanctity of Brasenose! ‘Consider that thy marbles are but the earth’s callosities, thy gold and silver its faeces; thy silken robe but a worm’s bedding; and thy purple an unclean fish.’ That is one sugar-coated pill that I administer to my humility now and then to keep it healthy. Hear him again;–‘sitting on the marble bench of one of the exhedrea on the edge of the Appian Way, close to the fragrant borders of a rose farm’: ‘So it is, with the philosophers; all alike are in search of happiness, what kind of thing it is. It is pleasure, it is virtue; what not? All philosophers, so to speak, are but fighting about the ass’ shadow. I saw one who poured water into a mortar, and ground it with all his might with a pestle of iron, fancying he did a thing useful; but it remained water only, none the less.’ Stoicism, hedonism, the gospel of ‘Sweetness and Light’; what is it, may I ask, that your aesthetic priests furnish, to feed immortal British souls? Knee breeches, sun flowers, niello, cretonne, Nanking bowls, lily dados? To us it savors sorrowfully of that which one of your prophets foreshadowed, ‘Despair, baying as the poet heard her, in the ruins of old Rome’.”

“Beg pardon, Miss Cutting; but you quite surprise me. The tone of many American papers and magazines led us to suppose, really, that the rosy dawn of Culture was beginning to flush the night of Philistinism brooding over your Western world.”

“Believe it not. Primeval gloom, raw realism so weigh upon our apathetic souls, that we rub our eyes and stare at sight of your aesthetic catechism: ‘Harmony, but no system; instinct, but no logic; eternal growth and no maturity; everlasting movement, and nothing attained; infinite possibilities of everything; the becoming all things, the being nothing.’ We have too much Philistine honesty to pretend that we understand that, but like other ambitious parrots we can commit to memory. One of your seers tells us that: ‘Renaissance art will make our lives like what seems one of the loveliest things in nature, the iridescent film on the face of stagnant water!’ Now it will require at least a decade, to train us to appreciate the subtile symphonies of ditch slime. An English friend compassionating my American stupidity, essayed to initiate me in the cult of ‘culture’, and gave me a leaf to study, from the latter-day gospel. I learned it after a time, as I did the multiplication table. ‘Culture steps in, and points out the grossness of untempered belief. It tells us the beauty of picturesque untruth; the grotesqueness of unmannerly conviction; truth and error have kissed each other in a sweet, serener sphere; this becomes that, and that is something else. The harmonious, the suave, the well bred waft the bright particular being into a peculiar and reserved parterre of paradise, where bloom at once the graces of Panthism, the simplicity of Deism, and the pathos of Catholicism; where he can sip elegances and spiritualities from flowerets of every faith!’ Fancy my crass ignorance, when I assure you that I actually laughed over that verbal syllabub, thinking it intended as a famous bit of satire.”

“Then it is pathetically true that reverence for the Renaissance has not crossed the Atlantic?” asked one of the “Albatross” party, who with his sketch book half open, was surreptitiously making an “impressionist” view of Leo’s profile, as she stood listening to Alma’s persiflage, and mechanically arranging her lilac acanthus blossoms.

“Devoted British colporteurs have philanthropically scattered a few art primers and tracts, and there is a possibility that in the near future, our people may search the maps for Orvieto, and the dictionaries for Campo Santo, to compass the mysteries of the ‘Triumph of Death’, and of ‘Symmetria Prisca’. Some of us have even heard of ‘Aucassin et Nicolette’, and of ‘Nencia da Barberino’, picking salad in her garden; and I am almost sure a Vassar girl once spoke to me of Delia Quercia’s Ilaria; but with all my national pride, candor compels me to admit that it is a ‘far cry’ to the day when we can devoutly fall on our knees before the bronze Devil of Giovanni da Bologna. Aesthetic paupers, we sit on the lowest bench at the foot of the class, in your Dame’s Art School, to learn the alphabet of the wonderful Renaissance; and in our chastened and reverent mood, it almost takes our breath away when your high- priestess unrolls the last pronunciamento, and tells us her startling story of ‘Euphorion!’ Why? Ah!–don’t you know? The Puritan leaven of prudery, and the stern, stolid, phlegmatic decorum of Knickerbockerdom mingle in that consummate flower of the nineteenth century occident, the ‘American Girl’, who pales and flushes at sight of the carnival of the undraped–in English art and literature. Here, Leo, take your anemones; red, are they not, as the blood once chilled down yonder, in that huge stone kennel? Dr. Douglass has the ivy root; and he and I have concluded, that after all, Syracuse was not more cruel here in the Latomia, than some States in America, where convicts are leased to mining companies, and kept quarrying coal, without even the sweet consolation of staring up at this magical blue sky. We leave hideous moral and physical leprosy at home, and come here to shed dilettante tears over classic tatters twenty-five centuries old! O immortal and ubiquitous Tartufe!”

As Leo walked with her cousin toward the spot, where the “Cleopatra” rose and fell on the crest of waves racing before Libeccio, she suddenly laid her hand on his arm.

“Leighton, I have decided to leave the yacht at Venice and take Aunt Patty to Udine for rest and quiet. When summer is over, I shall be ready to make arrangements for the journey to Syria and Egypt, and you must complete your church mission to England in time to accompany us to Jerusalem.”

“Is this your itinerary, or Aunt Patty’s?”

“She has set her heart upon it; and it will be agreeable to me.”

CHAPTER XXVII.

Is it true that in abstract valuation, “the bird in hand, is worth two in the bush?”

We stand beneath a loaded apricot tree, and would give all the bushel within reach, for one crimson satin globe pendent on the extreme tip of the most inaccessible bough; and the largest, luscious, richest colored orange always glows defiantly, high up, close to the body of the tree, hedged away from our eager grasp by its impenetrable chevaux de frise of bristling thorns. The wonderful water lily we covet is smiling on its green cushion of leaves just beyond the danger line, where death lurks; the rhododendron flame that burned brightest amid surrounding floral fires, and lured us, springs from the crevice of some beetling precipice, waving a challenge over fatal chasms that bar possession; and with fretful dissatisfaction we repine, because the colors of the feathered captives in our gilt cages are so dull, so faded in comparison with their brothers, flashing wings of scarlet, and breasts of vivid blue high in the sunlight of God’s free air.

The gold and silver dust that powder velvet butterflies, tarnish at a touch, stain the fingers that clutch them; and the dewy bloom on purple and amber grape clusters, never survives the handling of the vintager.

Leaning back in the revolving chair in front of his office desk, Mr. Dunbar slowly tore into strips a number of notes and letters, and suffered the fragments to fall into a waste basket somewhat faded, yet much too elegant to harmonize with its surroundings.

When Leo quilted the lining of ruby silk and knotted the ribbons that tied it to the wicker lace work, love pelted her cheek with roses, and happy hope sang so loud in her ear, that she could not have divined the cruel fact that she was preparing the dainty coffin, destined to receive the mutilated remains of a betrothal, that typified supreme earthly happiness to her. One by one dropped the shreds of Leo’s last message from Palermo, like torn crumpled petals of a once beloved and sacred flower; and the faint, delicate perfume that clung to the fragments, was one which Mr. Dunbar recognized as characteristic of the library at the “Lilacs”. The contents of the farewell note had in no degree surprised him; for though fully persuaded that her heart was irrevocably pledged to the past, he was equally sure that only the ardor he scorned to feign, would avail to melt the wall of ice her outraged pride had built between them. There were times when he deplored bitterly the loss of her companionship; at others he exulted in the consciousness of perfect freedom to indulge an overmastering love, amenable to no chastisement by violated loyalty. He had scrupulously endeavored, by careful employment of forms of deference, to spare his betrothed as far as possible, the stinging humiliation and anguish which every woman suffers, when the man whom she loves shows her that she fills only a subordinate and insignificant place in his affection; and yet, while her nobler nature commanded his homage, and the brilliancy of the alliance seems to jeer at his blind fatuity, his heart throbbed and yearned with an intolerable longing for one upon whom the world had set the seal of an ineradicable disgrace.

Nature and education had made him a coldly calculating man, jealous of his honor, but immersed in schemes for his own aggrandizement, and superbly invulnerable to the blandishments of sentimentality; hence his amazement, when the deep and engrossing love of his life burned away that selfishness which was citadel of his affections. Because his infatuation had cost him so much, that was alluring alike to vanity, pride, and ambition, a fierce hunger for revenge possessed him; and herein differs the nature of the love of men and women; the one can sacrifice itself for the happiness of the beloved; the other will crucify its darling to appease jealous pangs in view of happiness it can neither inspire nor share.

“Good morning, Churchill. Come in. Glad to see you. Sit down.”

“When did you get back, Lennox?”

“Last night.”

“Well, what luck?”

“A rather leaky promise. Kneading slag or cold pig iron into Bessemer steel would be about as easy as pounding the law of evidence into the Governor’s brains. I emphasized the moral weight of the petition, by calling his attention to the signatures of the judge, jury, prosecuting counsel and especially of Prince, who presumably has most to forgive. The memorial of the inspectors, warden and physician was appended, and constituted a eulogy upon the behavior and character of the prisoner; especially the heroic service rendered by her during the recent fatal epidemic. Human nature is an infernally vexing bundle of paradoxes, and when a man throws his conscience in your teeth, what then? The argument from which I hoped most, proved a Greek horse, and well-nigh wrought ruin. When I dwelt upon the fact that the prisoner had voluntarily conveyed to Prince all right and title to the fortune, which was supposed to have tempted her to commit the crime, he bristled like a Skye terrier, and grandiloquently assured me he valued his ‘prerogative as something too sacred to be prostituted to nepotism!’ Prince being his cousin, a readiness to exercise Executive clemency by pardoning the prisoner, might be construed into a species of bargain and sale; and his Excellency could not condone a crime merely because the culprit had relinquished a fortune to his relative. Braying an ordinary fool in a mortar is an unpromising job; but an extraordinary official leatherhead, PLUS thin-skinned conscience, and religious scruples, requires the upper and nether mill stone. You know, Churchill, it is tough work to straighten a crooked ramrod.”

“I see; a case of moral curvature of the spine. When he was inaugurated last December, I chanced to be at the Capital, and heard two old codgers from the piney woods felicitating the State upon having a Governor, ‘Fit to tie to; honest as the day is long, and walks so straight, he is powerful swaybacked.’ Dunbar, did he refuse outright?”

“He holds the matter in abeyance for maturer deliberation; but promises that, unless he sees cogent reasons to the contrary, he may grant a pardon when eighteen months of the sentence have expired. That will be the last week in August, and almost two years since she was thrown into prison. I should have made application to his predecessor, Glenbeigh, had I not been so confident of overtaking the man who killed Gen’l Darrington; but the clue that promised so much merely led me astray. I went with the detective down into the mines, and found the man, who certainly had a hideous facial deformity, but he was gray as a badger, and moreover proved an ALIBI, having been sick with small-pox in the county pest-house on the night of the murder. It is a tedious hunt, but I will not be balked of my game. I will collar that wretch some day, and meantime I will get the pardon.”

“I hope so; for I shall never feel easy until that poor girl is set free. The more I hear of her deportment and character, especially of the religious influence she seems to be exerting through some Bible readings she holds among the female convicts, the more painfully am I oppressed with the conviction that we all committed a sad blunder, and narrowly escaped hanging an innocent woman.”

“Speak for yourself. I disclaim complicity in the disgraceful wrong of the conviction.”

“Well, I confess I would rather stand in your place than mine; especially since my wife’s brother Garland was called in as consulting physician, last month at the penitentiary. He has so stirred her sympathies for the woman whom he pronounces a paragon of all the virtues and graces, that I begin to fidget now at the sound of the prisoner’s name, and can hardly look my wife straight in the face. When I go up to court next week, I will call on the Governor, and add a personal appeal to the one I have already signed. According to the evidence, she is guilty; but when justice is vindicated, one can afford to listen to the dictates of pity. Now, Dunbar, let me congratulate you on your recent good luck. We hear wonderful accounts of your new fortune.”

“Rumor always magnifies such matters; still it is true that I have inherited a handsome estate.” “Does your sister share equally?”

“A very liberal legacy was left to her, but you are aware that I was named for my mother’s brother, Randall Lennox, and he has for many years regarded me as his heir; hence, gave me the bulk of the property.”

“It is rather strange that he never married. I recall him as a very distinguished looking man.”

“He had a love affair very early in life, while at college, with the daughter of his Greek professor. Surreptitiously he took her to drive one afternoon, and the horse became frightened, ran away and killed the girl. He was a peculiar man, and seems never to have swerved from his allegiance to her memory.”

“I hope it is not true that the conditions of the will require you to remove from X—and settle in New Orleans? We can’t afford to lose you from our bar.”

“There are no restrictions in my Uncle Lennox’s will; the legacy was unconditional; but the obligation of complying with his urgent desire to have me live in New Orleans will probably induce me to make that my future home. For several years he has associated me with him in the conduct of some important suits; and I understand now, that his motive was to introduce me gradually to a new field of professional labor. Not the least valuable of my new possessions is his superb law library, probably the finest in the South. Of course my business will keep me here, for the present, and I have matured no plans.”

“Did you reach New Orleans before his death?”

“No, I was in Dakota, and missed a letter designed to acquaint me with his illness. While in Washington on my return, arguing a case before the Supreme Court, a telegram was forwarded from the office here, and I hurried off by the first train, but arrived about ten hours too late. Another grudge I have to settle with that bloody thief, when I unearth him.”

“After all, Dunbar, you are a deucedly lucky fellow,–and–Hello! historic Hebrew! Bedney, have you seen a ghost?”

“Yes–Mars Alfred–two of ’em.”

Spent with fatigue, panting, with an ashen pallor on his leathery, wrinkled face, the old negro ran in to the office, and leaned heavily against the oak table.

“What is the matter? Positively, you are turning a grayish white. What is the secret of the bleaching? Police after you? Or does the Sheriff want you?”

“Mars Alfred, this ain’t no fitten time to crack your on’-Gawdly jokes, for I am scared all but into fits. I started in a brisk walk, but every step I got more and more afeered to look behind, and I struk a fox trot, and now my wind is clean gone.”

“What is the trouble? What are you running from?”

“‘Fore Gawd, Mars Alfred, sperrits! Sperrits, sir.”

“Do you mean that you want a dram to steady your nerves?”

“I’m that frustrated I couldn’t say what I want; but I didn’t signify bottle and jimmyjohn liquor, I mean sperrits, sir, ghosts what walk, and make the hair rise like wire all over your head. The ole house is hanted shore ’nuff; and I can’t stay there. Lem’me tell you, Lord! Mars Alfred, don’t laugh! It’s the Gawd’s truth, ole Marster’s sperrit is fighting up yonder in his room with the man what killed him. I seen him, in the broad daylight, and I have cum for you and Mars Lennox to git there, jest as quick as you kin, so you kin see it fur yourselves. I know you won’t believe it till you see it; nuther should I, but it’s there. The sperrits have cum back, to show my young mistiss’ child never killed her grandpa.”

Mr. Dunbar rose quickly, handed a glass of water to the old man, and then placed a chair for him.

“Tell me at once what you saw.”

“Ole Marster standin’ in the flo’ close to the vault, with his arm up so–and the handi’on in his own hand–“

“How dare you come here, with this cock-and-bull story? You are either drunk or in your dotage. Your master has been in his grave for eighteen months, and–“

“Oh! to be shore I know’d what you’d say. Cuss me for an idjut; but I swar, Mars Lennox, I am that scared I dasn’t to tell you no lie. The proof of the pudden is jest chawin’ the bag, an’ I want you both to git a carridge quick, and take me up home; and if you don’t see what I tell you is thar, you may kick me from the front door clean down to the big gate. The grave is busted wide open, and the dead walks, for I seen him; and I’ll sho’ him to you. Come on, I want you to see for yourself.”

“You imbecile old nincompoop! Go home, and tell Dyce to give you some catnip tea, and tie you to a chair,” laughed Mr. Churchill.

“You’ll laugh t’other side of your mouth, Mars Alfred, when you see that awful sight up yonder. Ole Marster has come back, to clare the name of his grandchile, for he and his murderer is a wrastling, and it ain’t no ‘oman, it’s a man! A tall, pretty man, with beard on his face.”

Mr. Dunbar struck a bell at his side, and a clerk came promptly from the rear room.

“Nesbitt, step over to the livery stable, and order a carriage sent up at once.” Turning to Bedney he continued:

“I suppose the gist of all your yarn-spinning is, that you have found a stranger prowling about the place. How did you discover him?”

“Lem’me tell you, as fur as I can, how I cum to see ole Marster. Mr. Prince gin orders that the house should be opened and arred reglar, and he pintedly enjined us to have that room well cleaned and put in order. We had all pintedly gin it a wide berth, and kep’ ourselves on t’other side of the house, ’cause all such places is harryfying; but this morning, I thought I would open the outside blind door on the west gallery, and look in through the glass door. I know’d Mr. Prince had stirred round considerable in there, the day before he left, but I didn’t know he had drapped the curting what was looped back the last time I was inside. So I went up the steps and clared away a rose vine what was hanging low down from the i’on pillar of the piazzar, and almost screening the door, and I walked up, I did, and looked in. Lord Gawd Amighty! The red curting was down on the inside, and I seen through it, I swar to Gawd I did, sir! I seen clar spang through into that room, and thar stood Marster in his night clothes, jest so–and thar stood that murdering vil’yan close to him, holding the tin box so–and Marster with the handi’on jest daring him to cum on–and–and oh! I am glad to know my Marster was game to the last, died game! Never show’d no white feather while thar was breath in his body. Mars Lennox, I jest drapped on my knees, and I trimbled, and my teeth chattered, and I felt the hair as it riz straight up. I was afeer’d to stay, and I was afeer’d to move; but I shet my eyes and crawled back’ards easy to the aidge of the steps, and then run as fast as I could. I wanted Dyce to see, too, but the poor cretur is so crippled she can’t walk, and as she weighs two hundred and twenty pounds, I couldn’t tote her; so I tole her what I seen, and she sent me straight to find Mars Alfred fust, and you next. I run to Mars Alfred’s office, and he was out, so I kep’ on here. I know’d you lie’yers was barking up the wrong tree, and wrongfully pussecutin’ that poor young gal; and now the very sperrits have riz up to testify fur her. If you two can face ole Marster’s ghost, and tell him you know better than he did who killed him, you’ve got better pluck and backbone than I give you credit fur.”

“What did you eat last night, Bedney? Baked possum, and fried chitterlings? Evidently you have had a heavy nightmare.”

Mr. Churchill drew a match across the heel of his boot, and lighted a cigar; looking quizzically at the old man, who was wiping the perspiration from his face.

“There’s the carridg, I hear the wheels. Mars Lennox and Mars Alfred, there is one thing I insists on havin’. The law is all lop- sided from fust to last in this here case, and I want it squoze into shape, till t’other side swells out a little. I want the Crowner to go up yonder now, and hold another inquess. He’s done sot all wrong on the body, and now let him set on the sperrit if he kin. I’m in plum earnest. The Crowner swore that poor young gal knocked Marster in the head with the handi’on; and yonder stands Marster, ready to brain that man–with that handi’on hilt tight in his own right hand. Now what I wants to know is, WHAR is the ‘delectible corpus’ what you lieyers argufied over?”

“You doting old humbug! If you decoy us on a wild goose chase I shall feel like cutting one of your ears off!”

“Slit ’em both and welcome, Mars Alfred, if you don’t find I’m telling you the Gawd’s truth. I feel all tore up, root and branch, and if folks could be scared to death, I should be stretched out this minute on the west piazzar. I had my doubts about ghosts and sperrits, and I lost my religion when I cotch our preacher brandin’ one of my dappled crumple-horned hefers with his i’on; but Bedney Darrington is a changed pusson. Come en, let’s see which of you will dar to laugh up yonder.”

“Are you really bent on humoring this insane or idiotic vagary?” asked Mr. Churchill, as he saw his companion take his hat and prepare to follow the negro, who had left the room.

“His terror is genuine, and his superstitious tale is probably the outer shell of some kernel of fact that may possibly be valuable. In cases of circumstantial evidence, you and I know the importance of looking carefully into the merest trifles. Come with me; you can spare an hour.”

Leaving the carriage at the front entrance of the deserted and stately old house, the attorneys crossed the terrace and walked around to the western veranda, preceded by Bedney, who paused at the steps, and waved them to ascend.

“Go up and see for yourselves. I am nigh as I want to git.”

The stone floor was strewn with branches of rose vine, and the pruning shears lay open upon them, just as they had fallen from the old man’s hand. The sun had passed several degrees below the meridian, and the shadows of the twisted iron columns were aslant eastward, but the glare of light shone on the plate-glass door, which was rounded into an arch at top, and extended within four inches of the surface of the floor, where it fitted into the wooden frame. It was one wide sheet, unbroken into panes, and on the outside dust had collected, and a family of spiders had colonized in the lower corner, spinning their gray lace quite across the base. It was evident that the Venetian blinds had long been closed, and recently opened, as a line of dust and dried drift leaves attested; and behind the glass hung the dull red, plush curtain, almost to the floor.

Both gentlemen pressed forward, and looked in; but saw nothing.

“Hang your head kinder sideways, down so, and look up, Mars Lennox.”

Mr. Dunbar changed his position, and after an instant, started back.

“Do you see it, Churchill? No hallucination; it is as plain as print, just like the negative of a photograph.”

“Bless my soul! It beats the Chinese jugglers! What a curious thing!”

“Stand back a little; you obstruct the light. Now, how clearly it comes out.”

Printed apparently on the plush background, like the images in a camera, were the distinctly outlined and almost life-size figures of two men. Clad in a long gown, with loose sleeves, Gen’l Darrington stood near the hearth, brandishing the brass unicorn in one hand, the other thrown out and clinched; the face rather more than profile, scarcely three-quarters, was wonderfully distinct, and the hair much dishevelled. In front was the second portrait, that of a tall, slender young man who appeared to have suddenly wheeled around from the open vault, turning his countenance fully to view; while he threw up a dark, square object to ward off the impending blow. A soft wool hat pushed back, showed the curling hair about his temples, and the remarkable regularity of his handsome features; while even the plaid pattern of his short coat was clearly discernible.

As the attorneys came closer, or stepped back from the door, the images seemed to vary in distinctness, and viewed from two angles they became invisible.

Mr. Churchill stared blankly; Mr. Dunbar’s gaze was riveted on the face of the burglar, and he took his underlip between his teeth, as was his habit in suppressing emotion.

“Of course there is some infernal trick about this; but how do you account for it? It is beyond Bedney’s sleight of hand,” said the District Solicitor.

“I think I understand how it came here. Bedney, go around and open the library door leading into this room, and loop back the curtain for a moment.”

“No, sir, Mars Lennox. Forty railroad ingines couldn’t pull me in there alive. I wouldn’t dar tamper with ole Marster’s ghost; not for all the money in the bank. Go yourself; I doesn’t budge on no sech bizness as prying and spying amongst the sperrits. It would fling me into a fit.”

“You miserable coward. Is the house open? Where is the key of this room?”

“Hanging on the horseshoe under my chimbly board. I’ll fetch it and unlock the front door, so you kin git in, and hold your inquess inside.”

“Will you go, Churchill, or shall I?”

“What is your idea?”

“To ascertain whether the images are on the glass, as I believe, and if they can be seen without the background. Stand just here–and watch. When I pull back the curtain, tell me the effect.”

Some moments later, the red folds shook, swayed aside, the curtain was pushed out of sight on its brass rod. The interior of the apartment came into view, the articles of furniture, the face and figure of Mr. Dunbar.

“Is it still there; do you see it?” shouted the latter.

“No. It vanished with the curtain. Drop it back. There! I see it. Now loop it. Gone again. Must be on the curtain,” shouted the Solicitor, peering through the glass at his colleague.

Mr. Dunbar turned a key on the inside, pushed back a bolt, and threw open the door, which swung outward on the veranda. Then he carefully let fall the plush curtain once more.

“Do you see it?”

“No. A blank show. I can’t see into the trick. Dunbar, change places with me and satisfy yourself.”

The solicitor went inside, and Mr. Dunbar watched from the veranda a repetition of the experiment.

“That will do, Churchill. It is all plain enough now, but you cease to wonder at Bedney’s superstitious solution. You understand it perfectly, don’t you?”

“No, I’ll be hanged if I do! It is the queerest thing I ever saw.”

“Do you recollect that there was a violent thunder-storm the night of the murder?”

“Since you mention it, I certainly recall it. Go on.”

“All the witnesses testified that next morning this door was closed as usual, but the outside blinds were open, and the red curtain was looped back.”

“Yes, I remember all that.”

“The images are printed on the glass, and were photographed by a flash of lightning.”

“I never heard of such a freak. Don’t believe it.”

“Nevertheless it is the only possible solution; and I know that several similar instances have been recorded. It is like the negative of a common photograph, brought out by a dark background; and do you notice the figures are invisible at certain angles? It is very evident the storm came up during the altercation that night, and electricity printed the whole scene on this door; stamping the countenance of the murderer, to help the instruments of justice. While the blinds were closed, and the curtain was looped aside, of course this wonderful witness could not testify; but Prince let down the folds just before his departure, and the moment Bedney opened the blinds, there lay the truthful record of the awful crime. Verily, the ‘irony of fate!’ An overwhelming witness for the defence, only eighteen months too late, to save a pure, beautiful life from degradation and ruin. Well may Bedney ask, ‘where is your corpus delicti?’ Alfred Churchill, I wish you joy of the verdict, you worked so hard to win.”

Turning on his heel Mr. Dunbar walked the length of the veranda, and stood gazing gloomily across the tangled mass of the neglected rose garden, taking no cognizance of the garlands of bloom, seeing everywhere only that lithe elegant figure and Hyperion face of the man who reigned master of Beryl’s heart.

The Solicitor leaned one shoulder against the door facing, and with his hands in his pockets, and his brows drawn into a pucker, pondered the new fact, and eyed the strange witness.

After a time, he approached his companion.

“If your hypothesis be correct, and it seems plausible, if science asserts that electricity can photograph,–then certainly I am sorry, sorry enough for all I did in the trial; yet I cannot reproach myself, because I worked conscientiously; and the evidence was conclusive against the girl. The circumstantial coincidences were strong enough to have hung her. We all make mistakes, and no doubt I am responsible for my share; but thank God! reparation can be made! I will take the night train and see the Governor before noon to- morrow. The pardon must come now.”

“Pardon! He cannot pardon a crime of which she now stands acquitted. The only pardon possible, she may extend to those who sacrificed her. His Excellency need exercise no prerogative of mercy; his aid is superfluous. Churchill, go in as soon as you can, and send out the Sheriff, with as many of the jurors as you can get together; and ask Judge Parkman to drive out this afternoon, and bring Stafford, the photographer, with him. Tell Doctor Graham I want to see him here, as he is an accomplished electrician. I will stay here and guard this door till all X—has seen it.”

Winged rumor flew through the length and breadth of the town, and before sunset a human stream poured along the road leading to “Elm Bluff”, overflowed the green lawn under the ancient poplars, surged across the terrace, and beat against the railing of the piazza. Men, women, children, lawyers, doctors, newspaper reporters, all pressing forward for a glimpse of the mysterious and weird witness, that, in the fulness of time, had arisen to reprove the world for a grievous and cruel wrong.

The hinges had been removed; the door was set up at a certain angle, carefully balanced against the hanging curtain; and there the curious crowd beheld, in a veritable vision of the dead, torn as it were from the darkness and silence of the grave, the secret of that stormy night, when unseen powers had solemnly covenanted in defence of trusting innocence.

CHAPTER XXVIII.

On Saturday the regulations of prison discipline reduced the working hours much below the daily quota, and at two o’clock the ringing of the tower bell announced that the busy convicts of the various industrial rooms were allowed leisure during the remainder of the afternoon, to give place to the squad of sweepers and scrubbers, who flooded the floors and scoured the benches.

June heat had followed fast upon the balmy breath of May, and though the air at dawn was still iced with crystal dew, the sun that shone through the open windows of the little chapel, burned fiercely on the unpainted pine seats, the undraped reading-desk of the pulpit, the tarnished gilt pipes of the cabinet organ within the chancel railing.

On one of the front benches sat Iva Le Bougeois, with a pair of crutches resting beside her on the arm of the seat, and her hands folded in her lap. Recovering slowly from the paralysis resulting from diphtheria, she had followed Beryl into the chapel, and listened to the hymns the latter had played and sung. The glossy black head was bent in abject despondency upon her breast, and tears dripped over the smooth olive cheeks, but no sound escaped the trembling mouth, once so red and riotous, now drawn into curves of passionate sorrow; and the topaz gleams that formerly flickered in her sullen hazel eyes were drowned in the gloom of dejection. For her, memory was an angel of wrath, driving her into the hideous Golgotha of the past, where bloody spectres gibbered; the present was a loathsome death in life, the future a nameless torturing horror. Helpless victim of her own outraged conscience, she seemed at times sinking into mental apathy more pitiable than that which had seized her physically; and the only solace possible, she found in the encouraging words uttered by the voice that had prayed for her during that long night of mortal agony, in the gentle pressure of the soft hand that often guided her tottering footsteps.

The organ stops had been pushed back, the musical echoes vibrated no longer; and the bare room, filled with garish sunshine, was so still that the drowsy droning of a bee high up on the dusty sash of the barred window, became monotonously audible.

Within the chancel and to the right of the pulpit, a large reversible blackboard had recently been placed, and on a chair in front of it stood Beryl, engrossed in putting the finishing touches to a sketch which filled the entire board; and oblivious for the moment of Eve Werneth’s baby, who, having emptied her bottle of milk, had pulled herself up by the chair, and with the thumb of her right hand in her mouth, was staring up at the picture.

The lesson selected for the Sunday afternoon Bible class, which Beryl had so successfully organized among a few of the female convicts, was the fifteenth chapter of Luke; and at the top of the blackboard was written in large letters: “Rejoice with Me, for I have found My sheep which was lost.” She had drawn in the foreground the flock couched in security, rounded up by the collie guard in a grassy meadow; in the distance, overhanging a gorge, was a bald, precipitous crag, behind which a wolf crouched, watching the Shepherd who tenderly bore in his arms the lost wanderer. On the opposite side of the blackboard had been carefully copied the Gospel Hymn beginning:–

“There were ninety and nine that safely lay, In the shelter of the fold, But one was out on the hills away, Far off from the gates of gold–Away on the mountains wild and bare, Away from the tender Shepherd’s care.”

Mental processes are strangely dualistic, and it not unfrequently happens that while one is consciously intent upon a certain train of thought, some secret cunning current of association sets in vibration the coil of ideas locked in the chambers of memory, and long forgotten images leap forth, startling in their pristine vividness.

Absorbed by the text she was illustrating, the artist insensibly followed lines she deemed imaginary, yet when the sketch was completed, the ensemble suddenly confronted her as a miniature reproduction of a very distant scene, that had gladdened her childish heart in the blessed by-gone. Far away from the beaten track of travel, in a sunny cleft of the Pistoian Apennines, she saw the white fleeces grouped under vast chestnuts, the flash of copper buckets plunged by two peasant women into a gurgling fountain, the curly head of Bertie bowed over the rude stone basin, as he gayly coaxed the bearers to let him drink from the beautiful burnished copper; the rocky terraces cut in the beetling cliffs above, where dark ruby-red oleanders flouted the sky with fragrant banners; and the pathetic face of a vagrant ewe tangled among vines, high on a jagged ledge, bleating for the lamb asleep under the chestnuts down in the dell.

Across the chasm of years floated the echo of the tinkling bell, that told where cows climbed in search of herbage; the singular rhythmic cadence of the trescone, danced in a neighboring vineyard; the deep, mellow, lingering tones of a monastery bell, rung by hermit hands in a gray tower on a mountain eyry, that looked westward upon the sparkling blue mirror of the Mediterranean.

Then she was twelve years old, dreaming glorious midsummer day- dreams, as she wandered with parents and brother on one of her father’s sketching tours through unfrequented nooks; now–?

A petulant cry, emphasized by the baby hand tugging at the hem of her dress skirt, recalled Beryl’s attention; and as she looked down at the waif, whom the chaplain had christened “Dovie” on the day of her mother’s burial, the little one held up her arms.

“So tired, Dulce? You can’t be hungry; you must want your nap. There don’t fret, baby girl. I will take you directly.”

She stepped down, turned the side of the blackboard that contained the sketch to the wall; lowered the sash which she had raised to admit fresh air, and lifted the child from the floor. Approaching the figure who sat motionless as a statue of woe, she laid a hand on the drooping shoulder.

“Shall I help you down the steps?”

“No, I’ll stay here a while. This is the only place where I can get courage enough to pray. Couldn’t you leave her–the child–with me? It has been years since I could bear the sight of one. I hated children, because my heart was so black–so bitter; but now, I yearn toward this little thing. I am so starved for the kiss of–of–,” she swept her hand across her throat, where a sob stifled her.

“Certainly, if she will stay contentedly. See whether she will come to you.”

At sight of the extended arms, the baby shrank closer to Beryl, nestled her head under the girl’s chin, and put up her lower lip in ominous protest. With an indescribably mournful gesture of surrender, the childless mother sank back in the corner of the bench.

“I don’t wonder she is afraid; she knows–everybody, everything knows I killed my baby–my own boy, who slept for nearly four years on my heart–oh!–“