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The Love Stranche by Mollie Evelyn Moore Davis

I

“Can you 'cunjur,' Maum Hagar?”

The words were carelessly spoken, but Hagar, keenly sensitive to every shade of feeling in her foster-son's voice, detected an unwonted thrill beneath their airy lightness.

The speaker was a tall, slightly built man about thirty years of age. His thin, sallow face was very handsome, though there were lines of dissipation about the dark, smiling eyes and the low forehead shaded by crisp, reddish-brown curls. His mouth, partly hidden by a drooping mustache, was rather feminine, but the smooth chin was firm almost to hardness.

His clothes were of irreproachable cut and fit; an air of high-bred ease pervaded his whole person as he swayed lightly to and fro in the low rocking-chair, fanning himself with a wide hat whose crown was encircled by a band of crape.

The old negress who stood before him in an attitude at once familiar and respectful was likewise tall and slender. Her brown, furrowed face beneath her gayly colored turban was curiously impassive; only the sunken eyes seemed alive. They glowed like smouldering fires within their half-closed lids. Her arms were folded across her breast; her bare feet and ankles were visible beneath her short, scant skirts.

There were signs of a past grandeur about the large room. A stucco frieze, representing a procession of mythological personages, ran around the dingy walls under the lofty ceiling. The arched windows were surmounted by elaborate moldings; the high wooden mantel, upheld by slim pillars of twisted brass, was delicately carved; the double doors, opening upon an inner gallery, were set with panels of stained glass.

The massive sideboard and the claw-footed tables, which in an earlier day furnished forth this ancient dining-hall, had long since disappeared. But the floor was clean; the humble bed, piled with wholesome-smelling unlaundered garments, was covered with a snow-white counterpane and ornamented with stiff, fringed valances; the hearth was reddened; the tall brass fire-dogs glistened like gold.

An ironing-board, with a partly ironed shirt upon it, was supported on the backs of two chairs near the fireplace; a charcoal furnace, with some fiat-irons plunged into its bed of red coals, occupied a corner of the hearth.

Floyd Garth idly noted these commonplace details as he repeated his question, “Maum Hagar, can you 'cunjur'?”

Old Hagar looked down at him a moment before speaking. “I ain't shore,” she said, slowly, “dat I kin conjur to suit you, Mars Floyd. It 'pends on what you wants.

A flush darkened the young man's face; he shifted his position and cleared his throat.

“What is you honin' after, little Mars? You sholy ain't 'shamed to tell yo' black mammy, honey,” she said, caressingly, her face suddenly losing its impassiveness.

He laughed gayly. “You make me half believe that I am a boy again, and back on the old plantation, mammy! Do you remember how I used to steal down to your cabin at the quarter when I wanted anything? And you never failed to get me what I wanted, either! The old cabin looks just as it did when you left it. How long has it been since you came away from Garth Place?”

“It's seventeen year come Christmas,” she replied, huskily, as if a lump had arisen in her throat.

“Ah, yes! it was the year my father took me abroad. You came this far with us, I remember. How I yelled and kicked, half-grown boy as I was, when they tore me away from your arms! Yes, the old place remains the same in spite of all our drifting about. But now that my father is dead—it is just three weeks to-day since I saw him laid beside my mother in the old burying-ground at the plantation—now that he is gone, it is too dreary there. I shall place everything in the hands of the manager and live in the city myself. I may open the old town-house. You will come and keep house for me, eh, maum? Do you know, Maum Hagar,” he continued, musingly, “I can just recollect living in that old house! My father closed it, I know, when my mother died. I was not more than three or four years old, was I? But I can dimly remember my pretty dark-eyed mother bending over me, with her long curls falling about her shoulders, as they do in her portrait.”

His reckless face had softened, his eyes were fixed upon the floor, and he did not see the sombre lightning which flashed into those gazing down upon him.

“And then my father gave me to your care, Maum Hagar.”

“I nussed you fum de day you was bawn,” she interrupted, fiercely.

“So you did, mammy,” he said, heartily—“so you did. And spoiled me well into the bargain. I must be going,” he added, rising. “I have had a precious hunt for you this time, and I never would have found you if —” He checked himself suddenly; then asked, “How long have you been living in this tumble-down old rookery?”

“De cunjur, honey?” she said, ignoring his outstretched hand. “You axed me kin I cunjur.”

The softened look vanished from the young man's face. “Yes,” he said, setting his teeth together, “I want you to cunjur—a woman.” His protruding chin had an ugly look and an uneasy fire burned in his eyes. “A woman, by God! who eludes me, and tantalizes me, and holds me at arm's-length, child though she is in years!” He was speaking more to himself than to his old nurse. She watched him with narrowing eyelids.

“Is it de love-spell you wants, or de hate-spell, honey?” she asked, moving a step nearer and laying her hand on his arm.

He laughed shortly. “Oh, the love-spell—first! What nonsense!” he continued, shrugging his shoulders. “It just came into my mind how they used to say up at Garth Place that you could throw Wanga. I was only joking. Good-bye, Maum Hagar. Come to me when you need anything.” He dropped some silver coin into her apron-pocket, and turned to go.

“I'm goin' to fetch you de love-spell, little marse,” she said, softly.

He seemed not to have heard her. “Where is Lisette?” he asked, as if prompted by a sudden thought. “She must be almost grown.”

“Lisette is hired out,” Hagar returned, in a preoccupied tone. “She's nigh on to seventeen year old, Lisette is.”

She followed him out upon the gallery which overlooked the court, crossed and recrossed with flapping lines of wet garments, and watched him descend the shaky stair. He stopped to tap with his cane one of the great marble bath-tubs placed side by side on the slippery flag-stones. For this decayed and mildewed edifice had been, in the first quarter of the century, the luxuriantly appointed bath and club house of the jeunesse dorée of the old French quarter. He tossed a handful of nickels into the group of wide-eyed babies squatted within the tub, and nodded good-humoredly, in passing, to a cobbler standing in the doorway of one of the disused bath-cells.

“He's got all de ways of de Cunnel, his father,” sighed the old woman, “fair a-drawin' de heart out'n yo' body, an' den not keerin' fer it when he gits it. I've ached a'ter. him for nigh thirty year, an' he 'ain't studied 'bout me, not sense he was weaned fum de breas', less'n he wants sompn!” She went back into her own room and closed the door. “So Cunnul Floyd Garth is dead,” she muttered, pacing back and forth with rhythmic step. “What diffunce does dat make to old Hagar, now? But de boy is got to have what he wants ef I have to spill de las' drap o' blood in my body to git it fer him. Ez to de woman, white er black, dat is holdin' back fum him, ef I kin git my hands on her I'll twis' her neck same ez I twis' de neck of a chicken!” Her voice rose with sudden ferocity, and sank again to a hoarse whisper. “I kin th'ow Wanga, me! I knows de hate-spell!” She thrust her hand into her bosom and took out a small black sea-bean, highly polished, and fitted, like a miniature flask, with a silver stopper. She shook it lightly and held it to her ear as if to assure herself of its contents, and returned it to her bosom. “Yes, I knows de hate-spell. But I don't know de love-spell. I 'ain't had no call to use de love-spell, me!” The suggestion of a grim smile played over her withered lips. “But de boy is boun' to have what he wants. I mus'git dat love-spell fum Voodoo Jean!”

A few moments later she came out into the streets. The noonday sun was hot, though it was but the middle of February. The breeze that travelled along the narrow street was heavy with the perfume of the orange-trees abloom in the square a stone's-throw away. Swarms of barefooted children basked on the banquettes; they shouted after the old blanchisseuse in pure baby wantonness. She seemed as oblivious of them as of the older idlers lounging in doorways or dozing on the iron benches in the old Place d'Armes. She walked up the street, rigidly erect, and with a firm, brisk step, looking neither to right nor left, and presently turned into a dim corridor, which opened at the farther end into a small, ill-smelling, triangular court. The enclosing walls, formed by the rear of tall brick buildings, were pierced by doors and windows, whose heavy batten shutters were closed. A large archway on one side was boarded up; the huge spikes which clamped the cross-pieces were rusty, as if a century might have passed since they were driven in.

Hagar paused a moment and looked about her, as if taking her bearings; then she crossed the slimy brick pavement, and tapped upon a low door half hidden by the leaky cistern in a corner of the triangle. There was an interval of silence; then a light shuffling sound within, and the door was opened by an old negro. He was of almost gigantic proportions; the shrewd, repellent face was jet-black; the large, sensual mouth showed when open a double range of tusks rather than teeth of surprising whiteness; the small eyes shone beneath their bushy white brows. A red turban was twisted about his head; his coarse blue cotton shirt was open, exposing his massive, scarred chest. A necklet of oddly shaped bits of wood encircled his short throat; his feet were bare, and silver anklets tinkled on his brown ankles as he moved.

Hagar pushed past this forbidding figure and entered the small room.

Voodoo Jean regarded his visitor with mute, frowning inquiry. She turned back her sleeve without speaking, and pointed to a small tattoo-mark on her arm, just below the elbow. A quick gleam of intelligence leaped into his face. He uttered a guttural ejaculation and touched a similar hieroglyph on his own wrist. When they spoke it was in the gibberish-like tongue of their African forefathers.

The den in which they stood was bare, except for an arm-chair placed by the single window, and a rude table, which was strewn with pebbles, bunches of feathers, bits of bone and straw, and knotted fragments of rope. Lighted candles in flat candlesticks burned at either end of the table. On a narrow shelf above the open fireplace there were two or three tattered books, a wooden rod bound with brass, and a small box with iron clasps. A peculiar musty odor permeated the damp, close apartment.

“Is it for a woman you desire the spell?” Voodoo Jean demanded, when Hagar had finished speaking.

“No, for a man,” she replied, briefly.

He walked over to the mantel and opened the little box which stood there. “Those things”—he waved his hand contemptuously towards the table—“are for common and ignorant fools who must be fed with lies, and furnished with dead men's fingers, and lizard's blood, and graveyard worms. This”—he took from the rude casket a small white sea-shell, whose rosy lining glistened in the candlelight, and laid it in the yellow palm of his long, shapely hand—“this is for those who wear the mark.” He touched with his forefinger the cipher upon his wrist.

Hagar approached eagerly.

“Stay!” He lifted a warning hand. “Is the man of our blood?“ he demanded, with a searching look.

She hesitated; great drops of perspiration gathered upon her forehead; her lips opened in a vain attempt to speak. “Yes, yes!” she panted, as he made a movement to return the talisman to the box.

“I will help no dog of a white man to a woman,” he said, with calm ferocity. “Take it, Woman of the Mark! Let him give it himself into the hand of the woman he desires. It is powerful. It cannot fail.”

He dropped the shell, as he spoke, into her hand. She slipped it into the bosom of her dress, where the sea-bean was already lying.

He waved away the silver she offered him—the silver which her foster-son had given her at parting. She laid her lips humbly upon the tattoo-mark on his arm and went away. He stood on the threshold, and watched her pass across the court and turn into the alley. A look of contempt, not unmixed with pity, rose for an instant into his cunning eyes. Then he re-entered his lair and closed the door.

II

Some one was singing in Hagar's room; the fresh voice went echoing about the ancient galleries and cobwebbed corridors. She heard it as she mounted the stair, and her face lightened. She opened the door and stood unnoticed on the threshold. “Lisette was bawn in freedom,” she murmured, exultantly, “an' she cert'n'y looks it!”

The girl was bending over the ironing-board with a heavy iron in her hand; her calico frock was pinned back and her sleeves pushed up above her rounded elbows. She was tall, like her mother, but her slim figure had the tender and graceful outlines of youth. Her skin was almost abnormally white, the mixed blood showing only in the colorless cheeks, the large eyes with the purple, crescent-shaped shadows underneath them, the full, voluptuous lips, and the crinkly hair, which was drawn back from the low brow and woven into innumerable little plaits, each closely wound with cotton thread.

“Howd'ye, mammy,” she cried, looking up brightly as the old woman entered. “You see, I've been doin' yo' ironin' whils I was waitin' for you to come home.”

Hager smiled at her affectionately. “Yo' arms is younger dan mine,” she said. “Lawd! how de i'on do skim over dat shirt!”

“I can't stay,” Lisette said, slipping the garment from the board and folding it deftly. “My madame sent me on a erran', an' I just run by to fetch you some cold vittles.” She picked up her white sunbonnet.

“Dat's right,” her mother remarked, following her to the door. “Don't fool erway yo' mistiss's time. An' min' you be a good gal, honey!”

“I will,” laughed the girl, laying her soft arms about her mother's brown neck.

The next morning Hagar hung around the street corner near the hotel where Garth was stopping until she saw him come out. He repulsed her almost roughly when she produced the talisman. “Take it, little marse,” she whispered, looking furtively around. “It's de love-spell. You ha' to give it into de woman's hand yo'se'f. It's boun' to work.”

“I don't want it,” he said, averting his face. “Good God! Hagar, couldn't you see I was jesting? Besides, you don't know—” He stopped abruptly and walked up the street, leaving her staring vacantly after him, with the shell in her hand; but half a block away he turned and came swiftly back. “Where is the cursed thing, Hagar? Give it to me.” He seized it fiercely. “I shall not use it,” he continued, with a short laugh. “I am going away—up to Garth Place—abroad. I may be gone six months—a year, perhaps. I will come and see you as soon as I return.” He shook her hand nervously and strode away.

“He called me Hagar!” said his nurse, looking after him with dazed eyes. “Fer de fus' time in his life, he called me Hagar!

III

“Her mistiss mus' sholy bear a hard han' on Lisette,” sighed the old washer-woman one morning nearly a month later. “I ain't seen de chile sence de day I come back fum Voodoo Jean, an' foun' her over my i'nin'-board.”

She spoke in a half-audible tone to herself, as she moved to and fro among her tubs in the court-yard.

“What for you no make-a yo, dotter work-a with-a you?” interrupted a swarthy, smiling Italian near by, her fine brown arms rising and falling in the white froth of the suds. “Me, when Cesca git-a grown”— she stooped to pat the round cheek of the half-naked cherub clinging to her skirts—“I wouldn' lef' her leaf-a me for a hund'ed dolla, no!”

Hagar deigned no response. “Ef dey wa'n't so many low-down Dagos an' train' niggers in dis cote-yard”—she glanced disdainfully at her loquacious neighbor, then at a buxom mulatress leaning over the gallery railing above, exchanging doubtful jests with the ear-ringed Sicilian who was washing vegetables at the hydrant—“ef dis cote-yard wa'n't so onchristian I'd fetch de chile home to-morrer. Praise de Lawd! here she come, now!”

There was a light foot-fall in the corridor, and Lisette appeared, threading her way daintily through the rubbish that strewed the court, and through the net-work of lines overhead. “Run along, honey,” Hagar called, cheerily. “Soon ez I wring out dis tubful an' pin up, I'll come.”

Lisette, in the clean, cool, shadowy room above, took off her sunbonnet and drifted aimlessly about, touching a homely article here and there, and looking at it with absent eyes. A subtle change had taken place in her appearance. Her dress was the same—the dark-blue calico gown and freshly ironed apron; the leather belt about her slender waist; the coarse shoes and cheap stockings. But a new and indefinable charm enveloped her; a languid grace pervaded her slow movements; an exultant light came and went in her dark eyes.

Her mother gazed at her in silence from the doorway.

“Whyn't you wrop yo' hair, Lisette ?” she demanded, sharply.

A dull color rose in Lisette's cheeks; her eyelids drooped; she raised her hands as if instinctively to her head. The twisted plaits had been combed out, and the wavy mass was drawn back into a loose knot at the nape of her neck; a fringe of crinkly curls fell over her forehead.

“I ain't had time to wrop it this mawnin',” she said, half sullenly. “I've got sompn to do besides wrop my hair. The madame is down sick,” she went on, volubly, “an' the children has all got the measles. I was 'fraid you might get oneasy, an' I come to let you know, mammy.”

“I don't know when I can come again,” she called up from the court-yard when she went away; and after she had reached the corridor she ran back to say, breathlessly, “I forgot to tell you, mammy! My madame don't allow me to have comp'ny now. So's I can't ask you to come till the children gets well. But don't you be oneasy.”

“De chile seem like she low-sperrited,” Hagar mused, unpinning the snowy, sweet-smelling clothes from the lines. “Her mistiss mus' sholy bear a hard han' on her. I'm gwine to hurry up my starchin' an' rough i'nin', so I kin go an' he'p take keer o' dem measly chillen. Comp'ny, hump! I ain't no comp'ny!”

It was late in the afternoon of the next day when she closed and locked her door behind her and went out into the street. She was a noticeable figure in her old-fashioned, full-skirted, black bombazine gown, her spotless lace-edged 'kerchief and curiously knotted tignon. She moved along the uneven banquettes with a firm, quick step, but her form seemed to have lost some of its erectness, and her face had grown visibly older during the past month.

“Ef I could only see de boy!” she muttered. “I'm fair eatin' my heart out for a sight of de boy! He called me Hagar fer de fus time in his life! He called me Hagar, an' den lef' me d'out so much ez lookin' back over his shoulder!”

She had halted unconsciously. The corner was a quiet one; wide-eaved cottages and dingy shops shouldered each other along a maze of intersecting streets beyond. The tall church-spire above her cast its shadow across their pointed roofs. She leaned against the church-wall, her eyes fixed on the ground, her head upon her breast. She drew a long breath and looked around like one awakened from a dream.

“Gawd-a-mighty!” she cried, recoiling as if she had received a blow.

Facing the church, set back from the street and flanked on one side by a high wall that inclosed one of those quaint gardens still to be found in the very heart of the French quarter, stood an old-fashioned brick mansion, with wide verandas, long, high windows, and steep, dormer-windowed roof. It had been newly painted; the iron grille which barred the corridor on one side of the house was tipped with fresh gilding. The window-shutters were flung back; filmy curtains within were swaying in the light breeze; a birdcage hung in a shaded corner of the upper gallery.

A silver plate on the front door bore the name Floyd Garth.

Hagar drew her sleeve across her eyes and stared again. Her face twitched; a sob rose in her throat. “I didn't know wher' I wuz. De ole house! De ole house! Where de slave was trod underfoot!”

The words came in broken jerks that seemed to tear her breast.

“De mistiss in de front room. De slave in de kitchen. Sarah in de tent. Hagar in de wilderness. Twenty-five year an' mo' sence I've seen de sin-stained house! Twenty-five year and mo' sence de slave watched de mistiss twis' herse'f on her big fo'-pos' bed an' die! . . . Die in yo' tent, Sarah! Twis' yo'se'f on yo' bed an' die! . . . But de boy is mine—de curly hair, roun'-cheek boy, wi' his arms roun' Hagar's neck!”

Her voice softened as she uttered the last words; a smile of unutterable tenderness played about her mouth. She walked on mechanically, but turned as if struck by a new thought. “De boy must ha' come back,” she murmured. “He sholy is come back! He's done open up de ole house! He's been studyin' 'bout what he said when he ax me to come an' keep house fer him! He ain't forgot his black mammy! He didn't mean nothin' when he called me Hagar! He loves me!. . . It's been a long time sence ole Hagar has cried fer joy,” she whispered, wonderingly, staring at the drops which splashed on the back of her hand. “Mebby he's in de ole house now—in de ole house where he was bawn! Lessn he's gone down to de ole cote-yard to fetch me home!”

She crossed the street, half-running. The grille was unlocked; she pushed it open and went in. The long-flagged corridor was filled with purple shadows; a little stream of yellow river-water ran along by the wall, and fell with a gurgling sound into the open gutter outside. Within the wide court a low-branched magnolia was in bloom, the great white cups pouring their pungent incense upon the air; a row of annunciation lilies bloomed at the foot of the garden-wall. A thin spray of water arose from a fountain set in the midst of prim, white-shelled walks, and fell noiselessly into a mossy marble basin. A hammock was slung on an overhanging balcony; a wicker chair knotted with ribbons was placed beside it.

The kitchen door beyond the court stood open and a fire burned in the range, but there was no one in sight. Hagar hesitated, looking around. A hall door stood open and a negro lad came out of the house; he carried a silver tray with a long-stemmed goblet upon it.

“Miss July Jackson, de cook, has jes' stepped roun' de cornder, m'am,” he said, politely; “she'll be back in a minit.”

“I 'ain't come to see no cook,” said Hagar, haughtily. “I come to see Mr. Floyd Garth. Is he at home?”

“No'm,” replied the boy, overawed by her manner, “he 'ain' come yit. Dough he ginerally comes in 'bout dis time, m'am. But de madame, she's at home. Dough I don' 'spec' she wanter be dis -turb. But I'll ax her kin you see her, m'am. Dough—”

Hagar put him aside unceremoniously. “I nussed Mr. Floyd Garth fum de day he was bawn,” she said, “an' de madame'll be glad to see Mr. Floyd's black mammy.”

“De shell 'ain't failed in its work,” she breathed, triumphantly, threading her way through one well-remembered room after another, heedless of the familiar objects they contained. “De curly hair boy has got what he want. An' it was old Hagar gin him de love-spell! He's gwine to turn his sof' laughin' eyes on me like he useter, an' say: 'Mammy, you gits me what I want. I love you, mammy!' Ez to de madame—” She laughed significantly, with her hand on a fold of the heavy portière.

She lifted the curtain.

On the wall just opposite were the portraits of the late Colonel Floyd Garth and his wife—the one blue-eyed and blonde, with a somewhat haughty turn to his patrician head; the other, dark, fragile, and beautiful in her wedding-gown of shimmering silk. Between them hung a medallion portrait of their only son, Floyd—an exquisite, angelic head, set in an aureole of luminous cloud.

Nothing surely had changed here in all these years: the same big canopied bed in the alcove, the rosewood work-table by the window, the high-backed sofa and deep-bosomed chairs, the dainty peignoir thrown across the foot of a lounge with a man's coat tossed carelessly beside it!

A woman was standing in front of the muslin-draped Psyche mirror. Her back was turned towards the door. A cloud of mist-like white drapery enveloped the slight figure; there was a gleam of gold in the dusky hair; her arms were stretched above her head, the filmy sleeves falling away from them, leaving them bare to the shoulders; the wrists were encircled with bracelets; the shoulders rose dimpled and shining above the loose, low gown.

She turned at the slight noise.

“Lisette!” The name broke in a hoarse whisper from the mother's lips.

“Lisette!” She dropped the curtain and stepped into the room, glaring about her like a wild animal, her lips frothing, the veins of her neck swelling, her whole body quivering.

The girl gazed at her with horror-stricken eyes, a bluish pallor creeping into her face.

A door closed somewhere, jarring the stillness. A step sounded on the bare, polished floor of the hall outside, a hand thrust the portière aside, and Floyd Garth appeared. His face, flushed with his walk, wore a look of boyish pleasure. He stopped, confused and uncertain, on the threshold. The flower which he held dropped from his fingers.

At sight of him a low, appealing moan escaped Lisette's lips. She started forward with outstretched arms; but an imperious gesture from Hagar restrained her, and she sank, trembling, into a chair, and leaned her head against the high back.

The shell attached to a slender gold chain about her neck rose and fell with the frightened heaving of her bosom.

Hagar lifted her shrivelled arms. “De Voodoo spell has done its work,” she said, looking sternly at the master of the house. “It has holp you to de woman you want. But de spell ain't finish' yet. Dis half is for you, little Mars Floyd! De yether half is fer de gal, Lisette! Dis half is de spell of Voodoo Jean. De yether half is de spell of old Hagar.” She paused, glancing around the room as if in search of something. Her eyes fell upon a silver filigree basket on the window-ledge filled with fruit. She crossed the room hurriedly and took an orange from it. The two young people watched her with fascinated eyes while she swiftly stripped off the golden rind and parted the pulpy layers within.

“Has you ever heerd tell of de love-stranche, little Mars Floyd?” she asked, with a sort of ferocious lightness. “Dey say it's de mos' certain of all de love-spells.”

She held out between her thumb and forefinger one of those small crescent-shaped sections known locally as the tranche d'amour, the “love-slice.”

Garth, rooted to the spot where he stood, was vaguely aware of a quick movement of her hand to her bosom. He saw, as if in a hideous nightmare, wherein he was numb and helpless, some dark shining object gleam for a second in the long fingers. His eyes followed her panther-like spring to where Lisette lay panting in the high-backed chair.

“De spell of Voodoo Jean for one. De love-stranche of Hagar for de yether. De love-stranche is de stronges'. A'ter you try de love-stranche you don't ax for no mo' love-spells—nor hate-spells!”

She stooped over the girl, whose large eyes were rolling wildly.

Garth saw Lisette's blanched lips open, the tiny morsel drop upon her dry tongue, her throat contract in the effort to swallow.

Hagar looked down at her, mute and rigid. A second of silence followed, broken only by the soft pad of the negro lad's bare feet on the floor without, and the airy tinkle of ice in a goblet. Then a short, sharp shriek rang through the room; a gasp shook the slight form in the chair, running like an electric thrill along her limbs; a wave of purple mounted to her face and neck, and receded; the eyes closed, the head fell back. The gold band, loosened from the dark locks, rolled to the carpeted door.

“God Almighty! Fiend! Devil! What have you done?” Garth's hand was upon the old woman's throat, and he was shaking her to and fro in a frenzy of wrath and anguish. “She is my wife! Do you hear me? She would not listen to me until my mother's wedding-ring was on her finger! She is my wedded wife!”

She shook him off with a strength far beyond his own. His words evidently fell on unheeding ears. She stooped quietly and lifted the arm of her dead child, passing her hand gently over the smooth wrist. Then she let it fall, and, drawing herself up to her full height, she turned with a savage cry upon the man whose wild eyes were fixed upon her. “You axed me kin I cunjur,” she said, in a terrible voice. “Yes, son of Cunnel Floyd Garth and his slave Hagar—yes, I kin cunjur!”

 
 
 

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