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The Father Confessor by Dora Sigerson Shorter

Stories of Death and Danger

 

The Father Confessor
The Three Travellers
Priscilla
A Dreamer
Transmigration
The Broken Heart
The Other Woman's Child
A Question of Courage
The Strange Voice
The Twin Brothers
The Fourth Generation
Walter Barrington
All Souls' Eve
The Lion-Tamer
The Women's Progress Club
The Mother
The Jealousy of Beatrix

 

The Father Confessor

“I had thought for a glad moment you loved me. A week ago I hoped for a different answer. Will you tell me why this is?”

“A week ago; that is a long time.”

“I see; you had not then met him.”

“No, I had not met him; and yet I seem always to have known him.”

“You do not know him, you idealize. Your vivid imagination, your love of romance and beauty, blind you. He is cruel and unscrupulous.”

“How dare you speak to me so?”

“I dare because I love. Oh, it is not jealousy. Only give him up, and I will go away where you will see me no more. Can you not read his eyes? They are so cruel. He would kill a person if he hated him.”

“His eyes, they are not cruel; they are full of—love, and he does not hate me.”

“He would kill a woman if he grew tired of her.”

“Oh, you must not speak so. I love him, and—he has asked me to be his wife,”

“Good-bye.”

“Good-bye.”

* * *

The priest stood at the bedside of the dying woman, he looked down upon her and wondered at her face. Her hair had turned pure white, and she so young. Her eyes were the eyes of a hare, full of watching, always seeming to be expecting some sudden fright. Her nervous hands, for ever twitching, kept pulling at the blankets and moving unceasingly.

“I sent for you,” she said, with a weak smile, “to tell you how wrong you were. He has been good to me, and loves me so. I pray God for his sake not to let me die.”

The door was flung open and a man staggered in. The woman stretched out her thin arms to him, and then saw his face. She gave a shrill death cry, and rising from her bed, fell towards him. The priest made a step to raise her, but drew back, giving the man his place. Laying the dead woman back on the bed, the man broke into loud sobs.

“What has happened,” said the stern priest, “that you burst into a sick-room with your face like that?”

“They said she was worse, and I rushed down afraid.”

“You have frightened her to death.”

The man grew as white as she was.

“Frightened her to death?” he repeated. “Look at your face,” said the priest. The man stood before the glass. Up the left side of his throat and face there seemed to be a great red gash. The blood from it was on his collar and shirt.

“Oh,” he said, “I must have cut myself. I was shaving when the maid rushed up to say my wife was worse, and had sent for a priest.”

He drew a wet cloth across his face, and the crimson was gone; only a little scratch to make all that blood!

The priest closed the door, and went out into the night.

* * *

For the second time that year the priest stood in the same house, and this time, too, by the bedside of a dying person. Now it was the man who lay there broken, where the wheels of a heavy van had crossed him. The tortured creature cried to the priest, “Confession! confession!”

“I am here,” the priest answered. He bent his head nearer the pillow. “You see that book—that book?” whispered the man.

“I see no book.”

“There, upon the table—De Quincey's Essay.”

“Yes, Murder as One of the Fine Arts; what of it?”

“I read it—and I thought of murder as a fine art. No poisons, or knives, or stifling for me. I planned a murder that no one could hang me for, or prove against me. A fine art! Oh, I had found the art! Hear me! hear me!”

“I hear you. “Shall I ever be forgiven? Nobody ever suspected me —she did not suspect.”

“She?”

“A woman; I will tell you the story. Come nearer. Why do you look at me like that? I do not know you. Do you hate me? Are you not a priest?”

“Yes, a priest; God forgive me! Continue in peace, I am listening.”

“Yes, yes. O heavens! what torture! My murder had no suffering like this, like the death You give me, oh God!”

“Hush, hush; be patient. It is your punishment. Pray for forgiveness.”

“I will pray, yes, yes; but I must tell you first of my sin. I must confess.”

“I am listening.”

“I will tell you a story; mind, it is a story. Oh! it could not have been a murder. No one could say it was a murder. No jury could hang me, even if they knew all. My excuse, youth—and the indissolubility of the marriage bond. I was very young when I married.”

“And she?”

“She. Oh, yes, she was very young, too; but I did not know my own mind—did not know that in a few years I should meet a woman who would be all the world to me, and whom I could not have. I would have flown to her, but she would not have me, and the dull tie that I hated bound me down.”

“Why did you marry?”

“Why? Oh, I loved my wife once—in a way, with a boy's love. And there was another man after her always. The rivalry made me more eager, more blind to my true feelings. It was winning her from him I thought of more than gaining her myself.”

“So lightly held, so bitterly deplored,” the priest muttered.

“You bless me, Father?” the man continued; “I want it. Pray for my ease; I am in torture. My sin is great. Soon after I married my life became unbearable. At first I did not notice how dull and uninteresting my wife was, but when I saw the other woman my heart leaped out to her, and I knew I had met my fate. Then my home life became more and more dreary. The dull monotony of domesticity rose up around me, and chained me down. I grew to hate my wife's face, with its never-varying expression of sweetness and prettiness. She was always the same: she met me with a smile every day I came home, and bid me good-bye with the same smile at the gate in the morning. I knew it so well, and hated it so. She had a mouth like a young child's, and when she smiled a dimple would come—”

“Your crime,” said the stern priest.

“Yes, yes. I hated her when I compared her with the grand woman with the changing soul of the sea—the woman I wanted and could not get because of this little foolish child I had married. And there was no way to reach her except across the dead body of my wife—no way that she would accept. So I thought and thought, until in my mind there grew up a plan. I knew my wife's heart was not strong; she had a way of putting her hand upon her breast when she got any sudden fright, and it suggested an idea to me. It was then that I read De Quincey's Murder as a Fine Art, and I knew I could do better than anything I read there. I brought her away to a little watering- place, not far from the city. The other woman was there. We went for long walks along the high cliffs. Once I walked by the edge as close as I dared, watching the effect on my wife. She grew white and nervous, begging me to come away. But the other woman only laughed, and that made me mad. Trying to make her fear for me also, I walked too near the edge, and the ground crumbled beneath me. When next I knew anything I saw the other woman bending over me and laughing. I rose to my feet and found I was not hurt.

“ 'Come, come, you are all right,' the woman said; 'you only fell a little way. I knew you could not be hurt.'

“Vexed at her calmness, I looked round for my wife. She was walking up and down behind me, holding her hands across her breast.

“'Oh,' she said, 'you frightened me so. My heart beats so strangely.'

“For some moments she could not calm herself, then she turned to me with her smile, holding my hands.

“ 'Did I frighten you?' she said; 'but my heart, I thought it would not beat again. I thought you had fallen over the cliff into the sea. I did not know there was a ledge only a few feet down.

“That was my first trial, half accidental, but wholly successful. What did you say, Father? I did not hear you. Your hand is hurting mine; take it away.

“From that time I followed out my idea; it was so easy. One day for her a long run for a train, the next a climb over a steep hill. One night a lamp overturned and the bed on fire; the next, a pretended alarm of thieves. One evening when she was alone I dressed as a tramp and threatened her till she swooned. One morning I purchased a savage dog and let it run loose through the house. So things went on till the constant wear on her nerves and heart began to tell, and all through she never suspected; all through I never laid my hands upon her in violence. I travelled with her in other countries when my opportunities here were getting few, and the other woman came as her friend. All the time the clever eyes of the other woman were upon me, and I did not know if she knew or not. If I spoke of my love for her she drew herself away, saying, 'Be silent; you are a married man.' But I felt that if it were not for my wife she would have loved me, and the thought of it made me savage. Think of it—only one life between you and the woman you love. But you are a priest; what do you know of love? Oh, the grand woman, with eyes changing as the heavens, and she as far from me as the stars, parted by that other face which must be always with me, with its baby mouth, and the dimples that came when she smiled—”

“Your story,” said the stern priest; “proceed.”

“Pity me, Father; you cannot know the temptations of the world or the pity of love. I had so long to wait, and I never touched her in violence. She loved me always, and passed away in peace.

“One day, in a foreign country, a servant killed a poisonous snake, and drew it along the ground as he passed to burn it amongst the refuse of the garden. I saw my wife come and set her chair across the track he had left. I went out of the house, saying that it was fate; for I knew the mate of the snake would follow the scent, seeking for its companion, and would find my wife in its way. Do you pray for me, Father? I cannot hear you, you speak so low. When I returned she was sitting white and statuelike, without a movement, and round her ankle was curled the body of a snake. I would have rushed to her, causing her to rise, and thus have ended it all, for my heart was evil within me that day. But the other woman came to the door that minute, and rested her eyes upon me so that I stood transfixed, afraid to move. She bore in her hands a saucer of milk, and laid it down as near the serpent as she dared, thrusting it slowly forward with a stick, all the time whispering to my wife, 'Don't move, don't speak, for your life.' The snake uncurled and glided from her foot at the smell of the milk, and the other woman with a blow of the stick broke its back.”

“God bless her!” the priest said aloud; “God bless her!”

“Ah, yes!” said the dying man, “she was good, she would have saved me from murder if she could. Once it struck me that she only followed us to protect my wife from me. But it was only for a moment. I would have killed them both if it were so. Do you think it could have been so? You, priest, tell me it was only because she loved me.”

But the priest did not answer. He sat with his head upon his breast, his hands clenched.

“From the hot countries,” continued the man, “I went to the cold. I took her upon the glaciers of Switzerland, and I vowed in my heart she should not return from them. Once, in crossing a deep crevasse, my foot slipped, and in saving myself I threw her over. But the other woman turned and saw us; I replaced the knife I had taken from my pocket, and drew my wife by the rope back to safety. After that the other woman went behind, and with my wife between us I dared not try again, for the rope would bear the love of my heart upon it then. But this is my story, and what have I more to say? I came home, and my wife and the woman I loved came too, the chain that kept me from her still unbroken. My wife was then a shadow of her former self, shaken and frightened as a hare. But I never ceased from my plan, and at last she broke down beneath it, and illness came upon her. It was when she lay almost without hope of recovery that I drew blood from my cheek, scattering it over my face and neck, and staggered into her room, so that when she saw me in her weakness she gave a great cry, and fell back dead. And yet I swear to you I never laid my hand upon her in violence, nor did she suspect. And I have written to the other woman many times, but she comes not; nor when I wrote saying that my wife was dying did she reply. But she will come now that I am free. Say it was not murder, Father, for I never laid my hand upon my wife in violence, and death may have been from natural causes. But I shall recover now that I am free for the woman I love, free from the face of the woman I married—with her baby mouth where the dimples came. Bless me, Father, for I am weary.”

The priest arose and bent over the bed. He laid his white hands around the throat of the man, but the man smiled back on him in victory. He was already dead.

The priest fell upon his knees by the bedside; he held a crucifix in his hands. Laying his forehead upon it, he fought with his soul, and when he arose in the pale morning light, upon his white brow the figure of the crucified was seen, red in his blood.

 

The Three Travellers

They were three travellers sitting in the smoking-room of a country inn, who had come together as strangers and grown companionable over their pipes and wine. Two of them were young, the third was grey-haired and wrinkle-faced. They were discussing women's love.

The youngest argued lightly, because he delighted in debate.

The second bitterly, because he had been jilted and fancied himself still in love. The grey third without emotion, because he had known sorrow.

“For fairy gifts to win the heart of my fair lady,” said the youngest, “were we in the magic days of old, I would ask nothing save a light heart and a handsome face with few harsh years stamped upon it.”

“Nay,” said the second youth; “I would request nothing save a purse of gold that never would grow empty, and were I ugly as sin, and wicked as its originator, I could buy the heart of any damsel I longed for.”

“And you,” said the first speaker, turning to the silent, grey man, “are you too old to remember women's hearts are worth the winning?”

“Old?” said the grey man; “how many years would you say that I carry?”

“You look old for your days if you be under sixty?”

“Nay, then,” said the man, “I am forty-five at cockcrow to-morrow.”

“Good heavens!” said the youth; “what has aged you so?”

“If I,” said the grey man, passing the question, “had the goodwill of the fairies, I would claim the old gift women have always loved—more than beauty, wealth, gentleness, or aught else.”

“And that?” said the first youth eagerly. “Courage,” said the man—“plain animal courage.”

“I don't agree,” said the other. “Where would he be with an ugly face, beside the curled, beribboned, and handsome lover, the tender glance from dream-loving eyes, the soft hand? No.”

“I don't agree,” said the second youth. “What! the courage of the snarling hound, before silken gowns, horses, the envy of one's neighbours? Gold it is, hard, yellow gold, that makes the ring.”

“Beauty wins the eyes,” said the grey man softly, “and gold is pretty to the touch; both make marriage. But I spoke of love—and courage wins the heart.”

“You have a story to tell,” said one youth, filling his pipe; “I see by your face.”

“Go on,” said the other, replenishing his glass.

“I have a story,” said the grey man hesitatingly, “of a woman—of courage—of a man who was a coward. It happened some ten or twelve years ago, and I knew the man.”

* * *

This is the story that he told, and as he talked the glasses of the youths were unemptied and their pipes unfilled. But he had forgotten them, for he spoke aloud the story that was seared upon his heart.

“Ten or twelve years ago I knew the man. He lived in my village, but where that is does not matter. He was a coward. No one knew he was a coward, except himself—and a woman. In fact, to-day they speak of him as a hero in my village.

“When he was a child he was full of many terrors—afraid of robbers, afraid of ghosts, afraid of the dark. Perhaps he had been frightened as a baby by some nurse, and the terrors lingered. It sometimes happens thus that a child is ruined. When he grew older he was afraid of pain, afraid of blows. So he had few boyish rows, and joined in no rough games. People thought him a quiet and gentle youth. Later he was afraid of being afraid—of the shame of it.

“Then as his youth passed he grew out of this fear, or there were no longer calls on his boyish courage. He passed to manhood, and then, when he understood, he became afraid of death. Death was to him not peace and rest, but darkness. He thought of strangers, creatures not made as he was, there in the gloom—horrid faces, clutching hands, shadows half seen. Something of all this death was to him, yet it was a terror that he could not fully explain.

“Once as a boy he fought another, but that was because the other was bearing a story to the boy's father, and he was afraid of the father.

“Once as a man he fought again, and that was because there was no possible escape without deadly shame, and he fought like a child mad with terror. This nobody knew, and he won—his foe was the smaller.

“Then he married the woman.

“For three years they lived together, and nothing happened to try his courage. Such is the cairn of life. The much-dreaded possible battles of boyhood were now no more. He was a man.

“But it happened he had to move from his quiet village into a desolate part of the country. Why does not matter. His was the only house for miles around, and it stood on the edge of a great cattle ranch. Behind it, some distance off, was a railroad, and on one side a strong river, often swollen to twice its natural size by heavy rains. Over it was thrown the railway bridge, too light for it, many thought, but the man laughed at the idea as he looked upon the great supports which stemmed the full flow of the tide.

“So for weeks their uneventful lives went on, nothing more exciting happening in the day than the passing of the great train—tearing by like some screaming soul rushing from damnation; a black snake in the daytime, one of fire by night. To the man and his wife it seemed the one link that bound them to civilization—which spoke to them of the great world that they might else well forget. Through the windows they got many a lightning glance of that society they had left. Here was the young bride alone in a carriage with her husband, speeding on her honeymoon and regarding the world with a smile; here the weary city man reading in a corner his everlasting papers; there the merry schoolboy waving his hat and shouting his unheard jokes from the window; there the hopeless woman mentally checking her household affairs. All were there. In each numbered carriage, every one in his place—first, second, third, the division of the classes according to the purse.

“Now the grim humour of circumstances willed it for the man that he should not be among those people who whirled past him from city to city, whose quiet, uneventful lives brought no strain upon their physical courage, who went without danger from place to place protected by civilization. Who knows but that among the crowd who looked from the flashing windows of the train there might not have been many who chafed the bit of social monotony and pined for this man's freedom?

“Soon he saw in the eyes of his wife, as they bent upon him, looks of unquiet, or was it of fear? Did she suspect his secret? Was she afraid that he was afraid? Why should she suspect him? He had a retrospective five minutes. Yes, once when they were walking across the fields a great bull ran at the man; he had turned and fled, but the woman was beside him. Had he not shown he knew this? Had he not looked to her first and kept between her and the bull? He could not

remember. He never could remember after his fits of terror. When he was a child they bore him along in one great gust, blinding, deafening, maddening for the time. Now the years had hardly lessened their strength. Again, he remembered a brawny villain who had leered at and shouldered his wife as they walked through a neighbouring village. He had turned on the fellow with stern anger, but the drunken bravado would have nothing but blows, and before his clenched fist the man had stepped aside. He knew, however, that his voice had changed as he said he would have no brawling before a lady. He remembered again, when driving across the country the horse had taken fright, and he sat pale and trembling while the woman took the reins from his hands and guided the animal into quiet. She had never reproached him for these things, only her eyes seemed to speak; and then, how she loved courage! Once, when a weakling lamb of hers fell into the swollen and rapid tide, she stood knee-deep in the water weeping and calling to the man. When he reached her she begged him to go in and save the little creature. She could not swim, but he was a strong swimmer. Yet when he faced the running water he dared not take the risk for the sake of an animal, and said so. But a herdsman on the farm had also heard her calling and had noted the bleating of the lamb. Running down the bank, he had flung off his coat and leaped into the water. With a few strokes he had reached the drowning beast. To get back was not an easy matter, and twice the watchers thought the swimmer must fail, hampered as he was by the struggling beast and with the strong tide against him. But he had fought his way bravely, carrying the lamb, as a cat would her kitten, in his mouth. When he at length reached the side the watchers ran to meet him and helped him ashore. The woman said little, but thanked him with shining and excited eyes. The herd was shamed by her gratitude. He was a coward the minute he was out of danger—afraid of thanks. He shuffled off, saying something about a flood in the river if the heavy rains continued. When he had gone the woman turned to her husband: 'Oh, if you had done that!' 'But dear,' he answered, 'is an animal worth the risk of a human life?' 'Oh, it was not the lamb,' she replied, with glowing eyes—then added thoughtfully, 'He was a man.'

“ 'I am not as fine a swimmer as he,' the man retorted, angry with her and with himself. 'Perhaps you would have been sorry if I had gone to save your lamb and had been drowned?'

“In a moment she had turned and taken his hands in hers. “ 'Oh, dear love, yes!' she said. 'I am glad you did not risk it. I did not think; but I love courage so.'

“She took the lamb in her arms and carried it into the house. As he walked beside her, the man heard her whisper, as she kissed the wet, woolly head, 'Yet it is but right that the strong should help the weak, even if it be only a lamb.'

“After that it seemed as though something had come between them, something neither could define. True, she loved him even more than before, it might be, but not in the same way. Now she seemed to add pity to her love, and no pride. She did not look up to him, but down upon him. Her love was like that of a mother for a crippled child. Yet, after all, it was the greater love; for love of the weak and failing is true love, while love of the strong and successful is selfish in a degree when he who loves lives in the shadow of that strength.

“One evening the man, sitting in the doorway with his beloved violin at his shoulder, beheld the woman coming towards him in great haste, her pretty curls behind her in the wind, her cloak blown back, her little feet twinkling in their speed. At first he did not hear her calling to him, for his soul was still with his music, and travelled slowly from his dreams. Soon her frightened face became more distinct, and he was conscious something disastrous had happened. He put down the violin and went to meet her, the bow still in his hand. She turned back the way she had come when she saw he was approaching her, and waved to him to hasten.

“ 'The bridge!' she cried—'the bridge!'

“He hurried after her, and they reached the bridge together. What a sight there met his eyes! The river, turbulent, uncontrollable, mad, swollen to twice its size by the heavy rains, rolled by in a current too strong for waves to break upon. Heavy and dark it moved on, bearing everything before it—trees, dead sheep, a struggling ox, and once a white face with drowned, staring eyes— all he saw in that moment go by like chips of wood on the great river. But more than this he saw, and most terrible—the long railway bridge had given way! The central buttress had crumbled, and the iron rails trailed twisted to the water. At the middle of the great bridge nothing remained to cover a gap of over ninety feet but the handrail, which somehow had loosened from its hold on the broken bridge and swung across—no, not as a tight-rope, but more like a ladder with rungs, which the stanchions made, half a man's height apart. The second wire, one could see, had broken on the further side, and this caused the whole fence to swing as if it might give way at any moment. In one second the man had seen all this; in the next he had remembered that the train would pass this way in an hour. An hour! What a little time when there is much to do! What an eternity when one waits!

“'My God, the train!' he gasped. 'A hundred people—a hundred—'

“He looked into the rushing torrent, black with its force.

“The woman grasped his hand, and her nails pierced his skin. She was gazing at the wire swaying across the gap.

“ 'There is only one possible way. I have thought it all out. Only one possible way.' ” 'And that?'

“ 'To cross the wire.'

“ 'The wire? My God! You are mad! Who would cross the wire?'

“ 'You must. It is the only way to save them.'

“ 'It is impossible; it might break under one's weight. It is probably loose or rotten with time. It would be suicide to attempt it.'

“ 'There is no other way, and it is like a ladder—firm enough to bear a man. You are so swift and strong—so strong, Alfred,' she said slowly, turning and looking into his eyes. 'There is only one man to whom the chance is given to save all these people—only one man—and only one way.'

“The man looked around; nobody else, they were miles from every one, from every help—one man; and he a coward.

“ 'There is another bridge ten miles off. I could just do it on Prince,' he whispered. “ 'Alfred,' she said, 'if this bridge has gone beneath the flood, do you think that that other little bridge yet stands? If you find it gone, and you leave no time to return and go this way, many will die here by your door—drowned, mangled, tortured—women and little children—little children. There will be crying and screaming—and you will hear them—I shall hear them!—O God! O God!—screaming down there in the dark.'

“The man broke from her, the agony pouring down his forehead into his eyes. He put his feet upon the lower wire, and, grasping the other in his hands, shuffled a few feet from the land into the air. The woman leaned to his sleeve and kissed it, her face white with anguish.

“ 'The risk of one dear life, for a hundred lives; in your care—O God!'

“The man went out further; he looked down; his brain sickened. The wire swayed and creaked beneath his weight. The black, cruel water lay beneath him, and under his feet only the thin support. And all the time he was so near safety. He forgot the train and the people—only his own dark danger was living. He sprang back to the firm land again.

“The woman looked into his face; her eyes were on a level with his; she was tall, but slight and weak. She looked at her own tremulous thin hands, and at the long gap between her and the other side. The man saw the glance, and it maddened him. It said: 'If these had your strength I would not be as you. There is a weak coward in your strong body; how did it get there?'

“ ' It would be madness to attempt this,' he cried; 'I will go by the other bridge.'

“ 'It is too late,' the woman said, in a dull voice; 'even if the bridge were there you could not do it now.'

“The gentle woman before him seemed to grow into a harsh monitress.

“ 'I believe,' he muttered, 'that you would rather see me dead—if a hundred were saved over my body.'

“ 'I would rather see you dead,' she said, like one repeating him.

“ 'You would rather I were a dead hero than a live—?”

“A word tripped on her tongue; he could see it. “ 'Why don't you say coward?' he sneered.

“ 'If I were dead in this cause, you would hear them call you the widow of a hero.'

“ 'And now,' the woman flashed up, 'they will say I am the wife of a—They will say you were afraid.'

“The man turned on her sadly. 'Oh, you woman,' he said, 'you should have been the wife of a soldier—the mother of men-children; you would have loved them, worshipped them, and harnessed on their armour and sent them forth to die.'

“He turned from her and ran to the stables; he flung a halter on the black horse, and, leaping upon its back, galloped off in the direction of the other bridge. The black horse covered the ground as it had never done before, but as they sped by the side of the river the man heard a faint voice shouting from the water. He looked and saw a drowning man hanging to a beam of wood, his white, wet face glowing in the gathering gloom. The pallid lips opened again.

“ 'The bridge!' they said—'the bridge is down!'

“Yes! had he not known it all the time? The bridge was down, and he had run away from the danger on the other bridge near which the woman stood despising him.

“ He turned his horse and drove it into the water in the direction of that white face. The swift current nearly took it off its feet. It turned in its terror and ran, uncontrollable, towards its home. As the horse raced the flood for a time, the two human beings gazed at one another, the one powerless to help the other out in the darkness. 'Help! help! help!' How the horse's feet re- echoed that cry long after the drowned lips had gone underneath.

“The man swayed in his saddle. Between the light of the fading day and the rising moon he saw plainly, as he came nearer home, the dark bridge with the great gap in the middle of it, and across the gap, fine as a spider-thread, the wire.

“The swaying wire—but what was on it? Something small and black, like a spider, was creeping across. When he got nearer he saw that it was a man. There was someone braver than himself, then? Well, she had got a hero at last. He drew nearer and watched. He saw the man crawl along, stopping often—sometimes it seemed through fear, sometimes to quiet the dangerous swaying of the wire, yet never looking back and always going forward—slowly, slowly he went over the swollen, angry torrent. The man thought of the white face he had seen go under, and shuddered. He wondered if this other man had seen it as it passed. This other man—Katie's hero, he would call him! He was jealous. Where should he be when this fellow returned full of glory? Katie's hero! Oh, it was safe enough, after all, the wire, seeing that it bore this fellow, who was as tall as he! Why had he not gone and been brave for once? To stand before her eyes with a heart like a hare, and to fail her—to fail her!

“Katie's hero had crossed; he had stopped for a moment on the other side, where the lower wire had broken and there was no longer rest for his feet. Then he held on with his hands, and swung himself across with them alone. He sank on the ground on the other side for a minute, and the man almost hoped for a jealous second that his rival had failed; but when the man rose to his feet and ran down the line, he muttered hoarsely,—

“ 'God speed your feet!'

“Then it struck him as strange that his wife was not there to see the success or failure of her hero; he threw himself from his horse, letting it go loose, and he ran towards the house calling. Through the lower rooms he went, and round the small garden, but she was not there. Frightened, he again searched the house, and, coming to his dressing-room, he noticed the press standing open and all his clothes tossed about. A black suit he often wore was gone. A light dawned upon him. He rushed into her bedroom. Yes, there was the dress she had worn that morning. What had she done? He flew down the stairs, calling her name, and ran across the fields to the broken bridge again.

“He saw it all now. She had dressed in his clothes and gone in his place. All the manhood in him rose up; he would follow her. She had made a path for him; he was no longer afraid. All along that low wire her little feet had gone; all along the top one her pretty hands had moved. The electricity of her courage must lie there still, and would give him strength to follow. He put his feet on one wire and his hands upon the other. He slowly slid along them into the air. He moved bravely a few yards and then stopped. The wire bent and swayed beneath him; he looked down. Below him the black river tumbled, bearing upon its breast the triumphs of its robberies— dead animals, hay, beams, trees, even wooden furniture, stolen from some cottage, all jumbled together and hurrying ever onward.

“The man gazed down as he swayed above. He might yet be part of that moving mass. He closed his eyes and started on. Again he stopped, his face, wet with fear, turned to the heavens so fair beneath the rising moon, so smiling in the face of all this horror—he, the one lone, living thing, swaying between earth and heaven, life and death.

“He moved onward; he heard the cry of wild birds over the waters. Once a wing against his face caused him to leave go a hand. He caught again, trembling and moaning; he worked his way on with more speed. Thus did her little feet go; here were laid the hands he loved. With a cry he found the wire had failed his feet and he was swinging by his hands alone. For a moment he swung so in terror before he realized that he had just come to the end of his journey and was at the side where the lower wire had snapped. He swung himself forward and with a great effort landed on the bank. He sank on his knees an instant and then ran down the line.

“After running a few minutes he saw a man coming towards him; he stopped and waited. He knew it must be she; and it gave him no surprise to see her bright, dancing eyes and bonny face beneath the cap pulled over her brows. When she saw him she started and laughed.

“ 'You are late; it is all right. I was at the station before the train arrived, and all are saved. I heard it come dashing into the station soon after I left. They never realized that I was not you in the failing light.'

“The man took her two hands in his. “ 'My dear, why have you done this?'

“ 'I had to. You see, it was the only way. You were too late going by the other bridge—as I said.'

“ 'I did not go by the other bridge—I crossed the wire after you. The other bridge is down too.'

“She clapped her hands.

“ 'Oh, you were brave. Now you will not be a hero for nothing, after all, and you did cross the wire.'

“ 'A hero for nothing?' the man questioned.

“ 'Yes,' she said slowly; 'you see, it was the only way—I had to pretend to be you. They did not see much in the moonlight; I just said the bridge was down, and bade them see to it, then came away. They all think it was you, and you will be a hero when they know how you crossed—and you did cross.

“ 'But they must not think it was me; I will not—'

“ 'Oh, but you must.' Then she said softly, 'I would not let them think you dared not come . . . and you are the only one who knows.'

“ 'So you came in my place?' The man turned away in shame.

“ 'Never mind,' she said brightly; 'the glory is mine. I am your wife, and what you win I win. But let us go. They must not come here to find us.'

“ 'But how can we return?' said the man.

“ 'There is only the one way,' she answered; and seeing him draw back, added eagerly, 'you must not—you dare not—let them find me here like this.'

“In a few moments they had reached the bridge. She laid her hands upon the wire rope.

“ 'See,' she said, 'it is tough and thick; it is strong enough to bear a dozen men. Let us tie ourselves together like the Alpine climbers, and we shall feel more safe. See, I brought this in case I should want it.'

“She drew a rope out of her pocket and slipped a noose beneath his arms, across his chest, and tied the other end around her waist. Then she laughed. 'If I slip you can hold me, and if you lose your footing I can help you.

“ 'But the wire is not safe for the two together,' the man said, though to him the mere contact of some one near, even thus united, made him more courageous than when he went alone. He felt the wire rope; it seemed firm and stout enough. It had not started or snapped a strand when he came over, and surely there was not much danger if only they held tight.

“ 'Quick! quick! they are coming; let us get on, let us get on.'

“The man set his feet on the wire and started, the woman following without hesitation. The wire creaked and swayed.

“ 'Go back!' the man cried; 'go back! Take off the rope, or let me go first alone.' “But she pushed him forward, and with her sweet companionship fear fled from him; he was anxious to get across only for her sake, and all his thoughts were of her. Yes, we can get used to everything, and the second crossing of the rope did not seem so bad as the first. They had reached the middle, when the rope creaked again. Then some of the old fear returned and his face grew white and wet.

“ 'Hold tight, whatever happens!' he shouted above the roar of the waters. “At the horror in his voice fear seemed to come to her too. She clenched her hands upon the wire and refused to move. Now that her mind had nothing to think of but their danger, she realised for the first time the risk they ran.

“ 'Oh, I am afraid—afraid!' she sobbed. “ 'A little further,' said the man, the drops of agony blinding his eyes. They looked up at the serene heavens and down at the sullen death that awaited them below—at the dark figures coming along the line—too far off to be any possible help.

“ 'One more effort,' the man said ; 'come, dear.'

“She closed her eyes and followed him. The rope swayed and creaked ominously beneath them. He gave another movement forward—and the wire broke. A moment of nothingness and they found themselves hanging in the air a few feet from the rushing waters. The man clung fast to the wire, but the woman's hands only held a minute and then let go. They swung like a pendulum over the face of death. The man screamed in his agony. The rope noosed around his chest, and, laden with the unconscious woman's weight, cut into him and seemed to pinch his heart out. He uttered cry after cry, and then—he went mad. He was no longer a reasoning human being, but an insane animal fighting for life. There was something—he did not know what— dragging him down to death; something that bit like a wolf into his breast and choked like a serpent. He strove to free himself. He tried to advance, but it drew him back. He loosed one hand, and tried to push it from him in vain; he thrust his hand into his pocket—the thing was tearing the flesh from his ribs, it was pressing the breath from him, he was mad, dying. He drew forth his penknife and hacked at it. He was free! In a moment he had sealed the wire and stood in safety on the shore. What had he done with his wife? The rope round his chest was cut, he looked into the river, and his soul died within him.

“That was she—whirling and turning, beaten by the passing timbers, half drowned in the waters—the woman he loved. Her white face was raised to his. He could hear her screaming down there in the shadows, her pretty curls all gone, the red cheeks so pale, the parted lips washed over by the tide. And he had done this thing to his beloved.

“What had he done—he who would not have hurt her for all the stars in the heavens? Did she know what he had done?

“He was running along the bank nearest to the spot where the waters had swept her. She had clung to a mass of wood that had got wedged in the middle of the river.

“Here there had been an island, now so flooded that nothing was seen of it but the tops of a few rocks, and on these the woman clung, not having a foothold.

“The man plunged into the river above her and struck out for the island. it was an almost impossible effort, but love bore him along. The waters closed often over him. The drifting timbers struck him many times as they passed, so that he was bleeding and exhausted when at last he reached her.

“She rested, half-fainting, clinging to the small foothold that the rocks gave, and without strength to change her position. He drew her upon it and clasped her in his tired arms.

“ 'My dearest!' he wept over her.

“ 'Save me!' she cried, clinging to him. 'Oh, do not let me drown!'

“He held her to him without hope. Could he swim ashore with her, or could they wait there long enough for help to arrive? Already the river left them nothing dry to rest upon. They were standing on a ridge a few feet wide and the waters washed over it. He shouted for help. Far away he could see the black figures in the moonlight investigating the broken bridge, but they did not hear his cries. He screamed to them, but at last he saw them gather together and depart.

“He turned to his wife and bade her be brave, saying,—

“'If anything happens to fling us off this, cling to me and I will swim ashore with you. Put your hand upon me and you will float along by my side quite easily, only do not fear.'

“He saw a huge beam glide towards them, and repeated what he had said. He saw the great mass come like a cork on the rising waters. It was making straight for them.

The next moment he was in the water, with the senses half knocked out of him. He went down, and felt he would never come to the top again. Was he rising? The water looked green around him. There were black things passing above him. His throat was bursting. He felt that in a moment the blood must spring from his ears and eyes. Would he never get to the surface?

“It was clear, thank God, at last. He could see the blessed sky once more and the green shore. How far away it seemed! Would he ever reach it? There was something clinging to him, keeping him back. But he could easily thrust it off—a weak thing like a child's hand. But there was no child there—nothing there save death. The waters washed across his eyes, blinding him. The floating timbers and refuse struck his white face to red, but he fought with them all, flinging them from him. Everything, even the child's hand, was gone now. Once a drowning cat had reached him, caught his sleeve and tried to clamber on to his head. For a moment they fought together—two animals mad with fear. Then the man went on alone with blood upon his mouth.

“The shore was growing green. He could surely see the trees now. One effort more for dear life. He sank and rose again, and once more sank. As he went down he stretched his hands over the waters in a death clutch, and they clung to the overhanging branch of a tree by the river. In a moment he hung so, getting back his strength. Then he drew himself ashore. For an hour he lay there, half in and half out of the water, and then he rose—and lived.”

* * *

“And he never told the world that the woman had saved the train?” said one youth, after a long pause.

“That was part of his punishment,” said the grey man. “It would have undone what she had died for. She was always in terror lest people should know that the man she loved was a coward.”

“If I,” said the other young man, “had left a woman to drown like that in my madness, I would have returned to the river in my senses and thrown myself in.”

“So would he have done,” said the grey man; “but when he looked into the water it was full of faces and darkness—a grave of horror. He was afraid to die.”

“And how do you come to know the story?” said one youth.

The grey man did not answer. He rose and went to the window. As he drew aside the heavy curtain a fork of lightning flashed across his eyes, followed by a loud crash of thunder.

“My God! my God!” he cried, falling upon a chair and covering his face.

The young men started to his side.

“Are you hurt? blinded?” they cried.

He drew his hands from his ghastly face looked towards the window. “Pull the curtains,” he said. “I am afraid.”

Priscilla

Priscilla was dead, and all the women of the village had come to her waking. They moved about the big house where she had lived so long and so quietly as though they had never seen it before; and they never had, without Priscilla.

They moved silently, or came together in little groups to talk about her. They seemed as much amazed as sorry. Who could imagine Priscilla dead? Surely she was the oldest woman in the village; and yet she seemed not so very old; but no one remembered the village without her, and no one remembered her young. Perhaps she had entered into their lives unnoticed and only when she came to her womanhood had taken her place in their sight, as a little unknown seedling will one day become a tree and a landmark.

Perhaps in the great house she had passed her shadowy girlhood, and only became a personage when her uncle died, leaving her his sole and only heir. Then she crept forth, and her fading hands drew the hearts of the people towards her.

Was she rich? Who can say? The black, barrack-like house, with its neglected garden, had no air of wealth about it; but never a child or woman came to Priscilla for help and went away empty-handed. Some said that for this latter reason the house grew more desolate as it grew old,—that pictures and silver and ornaments vanished one by one.

But others would have it that Priscilla had a box of money in her room, corded, sealed and locked. For true it was that such a box, to all appearance, was there, as Ann O'Ruark, who nursed her once in an illness, could tell.

Now she lay dead, and it seemed to the women of the little village as though something marvellous had happened,—as though the old round tower they looked upon every morning when they opened their doors had crumbled in the night, or as though the church bell they depended upon to awaken them at six had forgotten to ring, leaving them late and bewildered. True, she might have been ill or gone away on a visit, or vanished for a time. But to die! No one ever thought that of Priscilla after all those years. Why, even now the children from the cottages were running down the street on the stroke of five, to meet her coming from her Saturday's marketing with something hidden for them in her pocket. Yet they had been told she would come up the narrow street no more. Yes, even now poor cripple Janie Doyle was turning her face to the window to be ready for the smile and cheery word that always met her. Yet she too knew Priscilla would never pass again.

All the women there sitting at her wake felt that to-morrow they would put on their shawls and run to tell Priscilla their joys and sorrows, or to ask her advice, as they had done all the time since they became aware she was. And Priscilla would be lying with that strange smile upon her face, so far removed from them.

Was she so very old—Priscilla? Hers was a face you could not imagine had ever been young. Wrinkled and fallen away, you could not fix and fill it with youth.

Once she had said to a child, “I was light as a bird when I was young as you”; and the little one had gone away troubled at the lie. She knew, as all the children did, that Priscilla had never, never been young.

Though Priscilla knew everything of everybody, nobody knew anything of Priscilla, except, of course, that she was an old maid—as any one of the name of Priscilla must be. Why, the very

sound of it was enough to tell how prim, how neat, how old-maidish she was. No one could have imagined her with a lover. Many a time the village women had sat and talked of Priscilla, what she must have been like as a girl—if she ever had been a girl: the primmest of little girls, who always had her hair smooth and lessons learnt: a girl with large feet and high, buttoned boots, with every button fastened in its place; thin legs, of course; a waist that had never known tight-lacing; straight hair, first in a plait, and later a tight coil at the back of her smooth head; a high white forehead, intelligent grey eyes, a rather large and rather pink nose, a pleasant mouth, thin neck and breast, long arms, large nervous hands. Yes, that must have been Priscilla, if ever she had been a girl. But there was no lover in the setting of Priscilla's girlhood. No, she hated men, and rough boys the natty Priscilla must have always shunned, nor could she, with her cleverness, ever have admired the developing youth.

Yes, she hated men and all their sex; she was hardly kind to little boys—they were cruel to her cats, she would say. But the girl babies, how she loved them! There was never a birth in the village where she was not first visitor to the new arrival. And if it was a boy, she would look close into the little red face till he raised his voice and howled. Then she would laugh. “Shout for it and you will get it, my lad; only shout long enough and you will get it.” Then she would press a golden pound into his little fist and leave him. But if it was a girl, she would take it in her arms, and if it was crying it would stop that minute. She would drop a tear upon it, perhaps, and whisper things into its little unconscious ears. When she was leaving she would put a guinea into its hands, with the words, “For your sad heart, my girl, for your sad heart.” So the baby would be added to her list of loves.

But she liked best the lovelorn maidens who would come to her with their stories. They were indeed for her heart of hearts. Many a sorrowful soul that had forgotten how to be proud would after consulting with her become strong again, and win the lover back by flaunting who had grown weary of too patient a love.

The house was built like one that had never been intended to hold the young: dark, gloomy, rambling. Priscilla was the only one to whom it seemed a fitted background.

The little children who braved its awfulness would hasten, afraid of its silence, from passage to passage till they reached Priscilla, every minute expecting a horrible something belonging to the mould and age to spring upon them from each dark place. Only the mysterious cupboards with hidden sweets and jams, found nowhere else, could tempt them to come. And it took three of them to do it, clinging together, and stopping often with shrieks that were not all laughter, but served to fill the dusty silence.

When Priscilla died there turned up from somewhere a far-removed cousin—a stern, middle- aged woman, who looked at the world through smoked glasses; and no doubt the world looked grey to her. She had no tears, no smiles, no sentiments, only the hardness of middle life, which has left the softness of youth behind it and not yet reached the softness of age. She was a business-like person, and ordered everything and everybody as if she had lived all her life in Priscilla's house. The people wondered if she would get Priscilla's box of treasure; but, of course, there was no one else. The cousin was making herself busy, pretending to be concerned for Priscilla. Why had she not come before to take care of hr? She wanted to blame somebody for not calling in a doctor. But she ought to know Priscilla would not have the doctor. She had a perfect horror of the doctor, and would never see him, or speak of him. There was only one doctor in the village—an old man, as old Priscilla, it might be—a married man with grown-up sons and daughters, now married themselves and doing well. Once a neighbour had spoken of the doctor to Priscilla. It was to repeat a story of his past, a story of a lonely girl he had jilted

almost on their wedding day; and how the girl had vanished and been heard of no more; but that had not happened in the village, and so the village was not interested in the particulars. When Priscilla heard the story she rose from her seat and went to the window without a word. So the neighbour thought she was weary, and changed the subject from men and their misdeeds, but she did make a parting remark to the effect that the doctor and his wife never got on together. She was surprised when Priscilla said, in a voice so sweet and far-away she hardly heard it, “Poor lad! poor lad!”

Priscilla would not have the doctor come near her when she lived, but when she died he had to be called in. People who watched him coming were surprised to see him falter, he ought to have been so used to death. And yet he came like one most cruelly afraid. He stood at the door of the room where she lay for a few moments, as though unable to enter. Then he pushed the door open and went as if with an effort. When he reached her bedside he stood silent, looking upon her face. And there were those there who thought they had heard him whisper, “Priscilla!” and then louder, as though she must hear, “Priscilla!”

But Priscilla was dead, and all the village had come to her wake; two nights they had sat up, and this was the third. The will had been read—such as it was. For there was little to leave to anybody. Yet every one had had a trifle, the house had gone to the cousin, but there was no money to speak of—nothing more except the little wooden box, corded, locked, and sealed—the box that must contain the body of the fortune. The cousin's fingers had been on the cords, the eyes of the village women had been turned to it, waiting for it to open, when they were told it was to be buried with her. What an idea! Whoever heard of a box being buried in a tomb? Who would ever have thought she would have carried away what she could no longer want? Who would have imagined Priscilla a miser?

The crowd had all gone to the dining-room at the end of the long passage in the west wing, and the cousin was sitting alone in the room with the box; upstairs Priscilla was lying, and she would never know—never know the seals were broken and the knots undone. Surely, it was no harm to open and look in—no, not to touch a single penny, since she was such a screw—only to open. No box was ever yet buried by a woman unopened. The lid lay loose.

The cousin sat back a moment, then went upon her knees and raised the cover. She saw the contents were wrapped in white paper. She pulled it off and drew forth what came to her hand. Astonishment was upon her face, for first there came a dress,—a white satin dress,—then a long veil, then a wreath of orange blossoms. Shoes, gloves, and underwear, all lace and ribbons, all sewn by hand in tiny stitches, surely Priscilla's own. What was this the cousin had stumbled on unawares? A wedding outfit, Priscilla's wedding outfit, breathing the breath of years, lavender and age. How time had ruined all, as it had destroyed Priscilla's love-story. How was it the cousin never knew of this prepared wedding? Where or who was the man? She had known little of Priscilla when she was young, only that she was fatherless and motherless, and that an uncle had taken charge of her; that she had grown up between the grey walls of her uncle's quiet, lonely house and a convent school, where she had spent half her time. Always unnoticed, silent, and companionless, was it because there was no one who cared enough about her to draw her from her solitude. There was something, the cousin fancied she half-remembered, something of a scandal of Priscilla and a young doctor, something about love-letters and stolen meetings discovered at the convent? Was it possible Priscilla had returned home to work her wedding outfit, while the young doctor had forgotten his promises and married money while she still was awaiting him? But it was a vague memory, and might not have been her.

The cousin bent above the box. Nothing else; no money—not a penny. Ah! here was a key to the story, a bundle of old letters—love-letters, for were they not tied by a silken bow? Poor Priscilla!

As she took them into her hands she fancied she heard the sound of a woman sobbing far away; it might be upstairs with the dead. Some friend of Priscilla's, no doubt. She turned the letters over in her hands. She wished that wild crying would stop. It disturbed her. She laid her fingers upon the beknotted strings, then hesitated. Should she dare spy into the secrets of the helpless dead? But curiosity was strong; she loosed the ribbons. At the same time a wild cry resounded through the room. She sprang to her feet, the letters in her hands, and looked fearfully around. There was no one there. It must have been outside. Yes; it came from the floor above—from Priscilla's room—long, sad, and awful: the sound of a woman's wild grief.

The cousin thrust the letters into her pocket, and ran down the hall, calling to the people to hurry to the room above. She called to them to bring hot blankets and restoratives, that Priscilla was not dead, that she had waked in terror, finding herself decked out for death. And all the time she was shouting to them she was running up the long staircase and down the corridors to the room where the crying came from. Then she called, “Priscilla, I am coming; don't be afraid; Priscilla, I am coming.” She imagined Priscilla sitting up in her grave-clothes, half mad with terror at her position. When she touched the handle of the door the crying ceased. She opened it, and stood half-fainting upon the threshold. In her coffin lay Priscilla stiff and dead, her hands clasped as they had been when she was laid there, her face unchanged, the great room empty— death everywhere.

The cousin stood dumb at the door, the women crowding about her with hot blankets and restoratives. “It was a mistake,” she said; and pushing them back, closed the door.

She went downstairs to the room where the trunk lay, and drawing the letters from her pocket placed them back unopened where she had found them. With reverent hands she laid the wedding things one by one in their place, and when she had finished she sealed and corded the box.

Priscilla went to her sleeping-place the next day, there was borne by her side a little trunk, and it was laid at her feet in the cold vault that held so many dead.

A Dreamer

I

By the side of a river near Dublin a little boy of twelve was crouching. He was punching and rolling a handful of the sticky clay from the banks into the shape of a man's head. Not far from him an artist was sketching, and by the boy's side a small girl sat, her eyes and mouth open in amazed admiration of her comrade's work. The call of a woman's distant voice startled the three. And the boy sprang to his feet, so that the clay he was modelling fell from him and rolled to the artist's side. The man took up the work, and turning it in his hands, found it bore a rough resemblance to himself.

“Why, it is clever,” he said. “Where did you learn, boy?” The child, forgetting an angry woman was watching him from the distance, flushed beneath the praise.

“I didn't learn,” he said.

“Oh! an infant prodigy.” The man smiled. “A village genius and the makings of a great artist.” He put his hand in his pocket and drew forth a shilling from the few coins there.

“Your first payment, I expect. Go on and prosper—brother.” The boy took the coin shyly. His heart went out in a dream after the artist's words. He was to be great, then—an artist too. The cry of the distant woman to him tumbled him from his heights. He snatched his forgotten basket and ran down the road towards the village to do the message he had not thought of since he came upon the artist on his way. He ran now, the little girl following more slowly.

The artist again turned the clay in his hands. “Alas!” he said. “Here is genius condemned to oblivion for want of a rich patron, and you must fetch and carry because the harsh voice of poverty calls you, leaving the dear delights and love of this behind.”

He laid his brush upon the canvas with an infinite, caressing touch, making it copy the glorious copper of the deep waters, and with his movement the clay head rolled upon the ground. He stepped forward, placing his foot upon it, so it fell to pieces—the boy was forgotten.

But the child ran to the village to make his purchases feeling like a king. His work had been recognised as art for the first time. He skipped and jumped as he went, he was so glad; his heart beat loud with dreams. And everybody knows the song it sung, since everybody's heart has beaten the same over its first success. But the angry woman who had borne the boy turned into her house with a sigh.

“I sent him an hour ago,” she said, “to fetch the meat. And he would have been there still, fiddling in the mud, if I had not looked out and seen him. He is no good, and he the eldest of them all.” She looked around her flock of chubby, commonplace children, and sighed again that he was so unlike them.

When the boy had finished his shopping and was returning, he met the little girl coming to meet him. He clasped her hand in his free one, and swung it backwards and forwards as he walked. 'You will wait for me till I grow up, he said; “and we will marry. I will buy you dresses of red silk, trimmed with gold, and you will have emeralds in your hair, and—and you will be grander than Cinderella when I am a great artist.”

“And I will buy you a blue velvet suit with a lace collar and emerald rings on all your fingers.”

“Men don't wear rings,” said the boy; “but we shall have a gold coach, like the Lord Mayor's, and six white horses, and a house of white marble.”

Here he came to the door of his own humble home. “Lady,” he said, with a remembrance of a beloved fairy story, bowing and extending his hand, “permit me to help you over this rugged and dangerous path.”

The little lady in the blue cotton frock curtsied low, and with a gracious smile, “Thank you, my lord,” held out her chubby, weather-reddened hand. The young lord in corduroys kissed it, and led her up the path to the door of the house.

“I am your true knight,” he said, “and if in danger or deadly peril, blow three blasts upon this horn.” He held a battered dog-whistle towards her. “When I hear it I will go through fire and water—”

Here a strong arm took the luckless knight by the collar, and dragged him not too gently into the house. His castles fell about his ears.

“What's keeping you at all, Henry. I'd be quicker going myself than sending you for anything, idling and streeling about all day. As for you, Mollie Doherty,” she said, turning to the child, who still stood at the door, “you better go home and get something to do; and I am sure there's plenty there for you to be busy at.”

“I am going to be an artist, mother,” the boy said hesitatingly—he felt some doubt of his glory before her angry face—“and marry Mollie.”

“Going to be a fiddlestick!” said his mother. “Look at your brothers and sisters all waiting for their dinner while you are messing about in the mud. Go and get something to do.”

The boy, robbed of his dreams, fell to work—such work as was unfortunately fated to be his: without time, without constancy, without method, to-day to run messages, to-morrow to drive crows from the corn, another day to hang about the office where his father was employed, hoping to get a job; all the waiting, the idle hours, the uninteresting toil, calculated to work ruin upon his already dreamy and procrastinating nature.

That night his mother, folding her sewing with a sigh, spoke to her husband about her eldest son.

“I can't think who that boy takes after,” she said, “with his nonsense about being an artist. I would sooner see him an honest workman in the position that Providence has given him than one of those fellows, with their indecent models and mud rubbish. I can't bear to hear him speak of such things. What is good enough for his father is good enough for him, I hope.”

The man did not reply, but got up from his chair by the fire and went out into the night. There he came upon the boy, sitting on the grass, his face upturned to the stars. The child sprang to his feet as his father came towards him. He knew there was no mercy here for his dreams. His father was harsher upon them than his mother. He felt without a friend. The man did not reproach him, but took his hand with a hard grasp.

“Come here,” he said; “I want to speak to you.” He drew the boy to him out into the moonlight. They seated themselves upon a low wall. The man took from his pocket a worn pocket-book.

“There is no use forbidding you to dream or follow your inclination to art,” he said, “but I will show you before you are too old to change what it leads to. Your mother wonders where you get your love of art from. Look here and here.”

He drew from the book some old yellow pappers, and smoothed them upon his knee caressingly.

“I was for a few years an art student, and you see I won my passes in all subjects I entered for. You are surprised, you never knew and nobody at home suspects I ever learnt to draw. Well, as a lad I studied in the evenings after my work. I had a clerkship which brought me in enough to pay for my art classes. The masters were good to me, and said I should be a great artist if I stuck to my work and studied hard. I did till I was twenty-two; then I had to travel for my firm, and when I was away met a girl—a pretty, attractive girl. Then it was all romance, love, dreams; and I married her on my little income. She had no money. I married her, and hoped after we had our little cottage furnished to again return to my art. In a year we paid for enough furniture to make it comfortable, but then there was a baby to be considered, and I said, 'Well, in a year or so I shall go back to my dreams; now I must work for my wife and child.' But the years passed, and children came about me, one, two, three, four, every year fresh expenses, less hope, till I am no more a man, only a machine for money-making—keeping the wolf away.”

“And the pretty lady,” said the child, whose memory had lingered upon the romantic part of his father's story, “where is she?”

“Your mother.” The man smiled unwillingly. “A true woman, a good woman, but without imagination or sympathy. She never knew I loved art, I dared not tell her. She would have despised me. She would have thought me selfish if I had turned even for a moment to it. She is not selfish; she has devoted her life to her home and her children, washed, sewn, stinted, toiled for us all; until she has grown hard and old. Alas! my pretty sweetheart, poverty has broken us. As for me, I do not care to live. Live! I do not live—only when I sleep and dream. Then I have conquered, then I am strong. I tell you all, my son, that you may give up this dreaming; you must renounce your dreams, or they will become an agony to you. Take your place beside me, become commonplace, business-like, get on your office stool, marry a woman of your class, and have no other aim than to fill the mouths of her children, and rear them up to people the world. That is your lot.”

“But I am going to marry Mollie,” the boy said, whispering; for he did not understand.

“Marry no one,” said the man, rising, “if you are a dreamer of dreams; but shut yourself away with them, and they will be sweeter than fame. The world cannot hurt you if you keep your dreams. But marry, and poverty will have her foot upon your neck and crush you.”

“But I am going to be a great artist,” the boy said, with the trill of tears in his voice; “and I will have lots of money.” He held up to his father as he spoke the model of a child's head, in clay.

“Give it up!” the man said passionately. “I am jealous of you—I envy you—with your youth and hope and dreams—dreams!” He snatched the clay from the boy's hand, flung it upon the grass, and trampled upon it. “You must not show me these things; you must not touch the clay in my sight: I cannot bear it. Look here!” He lifted the soil and with a few turns of his hands, infinitely caressing, held up a rough study of the head and bust of a woman. “Do you think I do not know? Put it away! put it away!” He flung the work into the darkness and strode back to his house.

“The child,” he said to his wife, “is a dreamer of dreams. Hope is his, youth is his, love is his— at least, for a few years—and he is happy, happy.”

The wife looked up and laid her knitting in her lap.

“I never understand you in your wild moods, Harry,” she said. “I am sure you ought to be happy, if you are not. You have a quiet home and good children, and I do my best; what more do you want to make you content? Even if we are poor, money is not everything.”

“Yes, it is,” the man said ; “it is everything.”

“Harry, I am ashamed of you; and before the children. We have always had enough to eat and to clothe ourselves. You ought to thank God instead of grumbling; there are so many worse off than we are. Soon the children will be earning for us. Of course, I don't say it is not a fall for us both, living since we were married in a position neither of us were—at least, I was not—used to. But we can still be grateful, even in a small house like this. And I wish you would not sit down to the table with your hand all clay. What were you doing to get them so soiled?—such a bad example for the children.”

II

Few years after this Henry's father died, and on the shoulders of the eldest son fell his mantle of hopelessness. For a year he, lagging, followed his father's steps in the deadly monotony of office work. And then the mother was told to take him home—that he was a dreamer and would not work.

The woman sat before him that night and wept more bitter tears than she had at her husband's death.

“I wonder,” she sobbed, “if children ever realize how much their mothers sacrifice for their sakes? Can you not think of the long years I have worked for my children? I was young when you came to me, Henry,—only a girl,—but I had to give up pleasure and amusement, and sew for you, and stint for you, and work so hard. I had to rise early and sleep late; I had to wash, and scrub, and iron, till my hands grew red and my hair white. Oh! I loved pleasure as much as you do, and could have idled my time when I was young; but for your sake I did not. And for me, now that I have reared you, you will do nothing to assist. Your poor father was no help in rearing my children; he had no sympathy with them, and thrust it all on me. He was always engrossed in his business, as was right; but he might have seen how the burden of poverty and children had aged and wearied me. My youth has gone unsatisfied, and I am old—old, and tired of it all.”

The boy, full of affection, wound his arms about her.

“I shall work for you, mother. Indeed, indeed, I never mean to neglect my work; and I will strive so hard, and in a few years I shall have you dressed in silk, and none shall be as beautiful as my mother.”

The woman dried her tears and kissed him on the forehead. “You are a dear fool,” she said; “I cannot help loving you.”

When the lad rose in the morning he left his dreams upon his pillow. By the post there came a letter offering him, for his father's sake, a small clerkship. He bent the note and threw it so it flew like a bird into his mother's lap.

“Good fortune flies to you,” he said; “did I not tell you I should succeed?” He looked round the table at the rosy, fat faces of his brothers and sisters. “Ladies and gentlemen, please order your bonnets and cigars, and money is no object.”

As he went out towards the city he stood by the river where he had played as a child years ago. For there, to his amazement, he saw the same artist he remembered seeing then, working on the still unfinished picture. He could not help going up and speaking.

“Why, boy,” the man said; “you here still? I often thought of you, and wondered what you had done with your life.”

“Why, nothing—nothing yet,” the lad answered.

“Yet! yet! Is it the spirit of the everlasting hills or Time himself who speaks to me? What frail possessor of uncertain years can afford to say, 'Nothing yet'? It is the 'nothing yet' that kills

success. The other day, after all these years, I came upon this unfinished canvas in my studio; I remembered how poor, how miserable I had been when I began it, and I said I will finish it now I am happy—for I have succeeded, boy, in the years you have done 'nothing yet.' Still, to help you, for I know you have talent, I make this proposal I shall take you for a year, pay your expenses, and see if you really are the genius I think you. If you are, I shall educate you as an artist; if not, why, you will be no worse off here than you have been before.”

The boy, stunned and dazzled at the prospect of so much happiness, could answer nothing. The artist handed him a card and bid him go.

“You can think it over,” he said. “Let me know; there is my address. No thanks—be off. Remember Rome, Italy, and art. I leave to-morrow.”

To Rome! to Rome! The lad went along the river bank and sank upon a rock; hiding his face in his hands, he let loose his dreams. What a prospect! What joy! He felt two soft hands upon his shoulders, and, reaching up, he caught them.

“O Mollie! Mollie! Mollie!” he sang, drawing her down beside him, “did you see a golden bird flying towards me as you came?”

“Foolish boy!” the girl smiled. “What was the bird's name?”

“Good luck! Good fortune!” he answered, laughing loud; “and it flew my way.”

“What is it, dear?” The girl bent to him. “Tell me the story.”

And so he told her. She saddened at the thought of a parting, glad for his delight, listened and followed him through his world of dreams—always a watcher, willing to live in the shine of his successes. He held her hands and traced out their happy lives together. And she leant towards him, already dwelling in those splendid years he told her of.

A child's rough hand upon his shoulder startled both.

“Mother wants to know what you are doing, sitting here,” came the shrill voice, full of reproach.

The lad started to his feet. “What am I doing—oh! I must tell mother. Sit there, Mollie, till I come back and tell you what she says.”

He took the child's hand, telling him that a fairy god-mother had come for him to take him away to a beautiful city and make him a king. But the child listened with a sulky face, and coming near the house, loosed his brother's hand and ran crying indoors. When Henry followed he found himself the centre of a depressing group. His brothers' and sisters' reproachful faces stared silently from their various positions about the room. His mother was seated, her hands, idle for the moment, clasped hard together, her eyes shining with the gathering of a rain-storm.

“I have had such luck, mother,” he began, then stopped; the universal sulky gloom on all faces repressed him.

The child who had preceded him cried out, “He is going away to be a rich man, and won't work for us any more.”

The mother put him aside.

“You must be lucky, indeed,” she said bitterly, “if you can afford to sit idle by the river and throw away your chance of the office work you have been offered.”

The lad flushed, but told his story. The hope faded from his face as he saw hers did not brighten in the hearing, but instead disappointment settled upon it.

“And what of us when you, the eldest, go to make your fortune?—what will become of us? I am getting too old, and cannot work much longer. John won't be old enough to take your place for a couple of years, and the girls will have to give up school and go out as—as servants; and all because you are training for what you never have talent to be. When you playing in your

beautiful home, with plenty to eat and drink, think of your old mother and your little sisters and brothers, who are, perhaps, turned out from the only roof that can cover them. She bowed her head and burst into tears. Henry saw the grey of her hair and the roughness of her hands; every eye from the stern young faces around the room denounced him. He stood like a thief in the dock. What! rob them of a hundred a year, take the food from their mouths, and the clothes from their backs! And that poor mother, how her sobs killed him! He put his hand upon her shoulder. “Don't cry,” he said; “of course, I never meant to go.”

He left the house hastily and strode with quick steps along the river bank. He passed by Mollie as she sat waiting for him, but did not speak. He bent his head upon his breast, and she saw how it was, and wept for him when he had gone.

“Yet he would have forgotten me,” she said; and then, “Oh, how selfish I am! Poor fellow! how he will suffer!”

But Henry did not suffer as keenly as she imagined; his was a nature to dream, and not to do. He suffered less, after the first disappointment, by being deprived of the action than if he had been denied the right to dream of being famous. He felt he had made little sacrifice when he wrote to the artist saying he could not take his offer, but accepted his fate with scarcely a murmur.

“We are like the leaves upon the river of he would say—“we go with the waters.”

III

For twelve years Henry plodded on slowly in his office. Not being clever, he stayed but by his employer's indulgence, and at home he was seldom recognised as one of themselves by his brothers and sisters. The noisy, commonplace boys and girls let the dreamer pass amongst them unnoticed. He kept the roof above them, but they gave him no credit for that. He might have done so much more. He dwelt in the midst of them, and never realized how bored he was by the commonplace. Two of the girls married men with moderate means, and then the mother died. The second son got a clerkship in a bank. And one day the youngest came to Henry, and spoke to him in a manner so unusually kind that Henry guessed he must have done him some injury. And then it came out that he was to get the position at the office where Henry had been so long.

“You see, you are so slow,” he said; “and now that I am grown they think it would be all the same if I took your place.”

“And what is to become of me?” Henry asked.

“You? Oh, we were thinking—the rest and myself”—the young fellow hesitated—“now that the girls are married and the boys all doing for themselves, that—that you might go and study your art. You always wanted to, you know; and the house is so small for us boys, now that we have grown up.”

Henry looked about him. The first thought was of loss and desolation—he was of no use in the world.

“I might go to America,” he said, thinking.

“A grand idea!” His brother was charmed. “It's quite easy to make a fortune there. You'd better go at once. You will be richer than us all, old fellow.” He patted him on the shoulder. He was delighted; he never felt so kindly to his brother before. They would all love him so much if he would take the gloom of his presence across the water. The girls were so smart now, and Henry was such a shabby, slouching fellow, never caring what he wore; they were all ashamed to be seen with him. He would get on ever so much better in America.

Henry walked out of the house, going like a man who had lost his way. He did not know where to turn; first he walked instinctively in the direction of his office, then came back to the river-side and threw himself upon the bank. He took a lump of wax from his pocket and commenced moulding it unconsciously. While he worked at it his depression fell from him. He realized with a shock that he was free, quite free: no more little hands to keep pulling him back. He had accepted them as fate then. His brothers and sisters, so unlike himself—no, he did not love them. Only he would have died for them if it had been demanded of him. His sense of duty was strong. Here by the river he was conscious of missing some presence other than his brothers and sisters. It came to him before he realized who it was he missed.

She was a woman now, sweet and slender—his sweetheart all through the years.

“Mollie,” he said, “I am going away at last; I am going away to make my fortune and come back to marry you.”

She looked up with a white face. “Where are you going, dear?” she asked. She had got used to waiting; it was not much when she could see him every day and feel his affections surround her.

“Willie has taken my place at the office, and nobody wants me at home. I am going to America, to work—with my hands. Mollie dear, I am going to be a man, and give up my dreams—at least, till I have earned enough to keep you and them. You will not mind waiting a little longer, dearest?”

The woman raised his hands in hers and laid her cheek upon them. She remembered what he did not realize—that the years were passing so quickly.

“We could not have married,” the man continued, “if I had remained here. It was for the best my brother succeeded. While they wanted me and the money I could not have been free; and on whatever income I make now we shall have only our two selves to keep. Do you remember the artist we met here who offered me such a glorious future? Ah! wish he were here now.”

“He is!”

The two started up at the voice and looked round. A little old man, shabby, and bent, stood behind them, with a portfolio under his arm.

He looked at the wax head the younger man had been modelling.

“Very little better than the head you showed me as a child. What have you been doing all these years?”

“Nothing, sir!”

“Nothing! nothing! nothing! Do the years not move for you, young sir. Fortunes are made and lost, thrones are gained and lost, empires have fallen, and all while you do nothing.”

The young man hung his head.

“Look at me,” the artist continued. “I painted a picture here that won me a fortune, I became rich, I became famous. I had my day, I lived, I lost my fortune, and was forgotten, and I am here again selling from cottage to cottage the prints of my picture.”

“I am sorry,” the young man answered. “You need not be.” The artist laughed. “For what is fame? The clatter of tongues, the buzzing of flies. Bah! give me money to buy a brush and colours, and, sitting with solitude, I paint—I am happy.”

The quaint old man passed on with a nod of farewell.

IV

Henry was seated by the table in his little hut in California. Before him lay a pile of letters, some of them faded, others stained with—perhaps tears, some with the outline of an enclosed flower or leaf. He moved his hand and let it idly turn them, he read a bit of one here and there.

“It is good to feel you love my letters,” he read—“that they are a strength to you. I think of you always and pray for your success. Oh! may it be soon, so that I see you again. How long the years are!”

And again:—

“Henry, things are happening with all the world except us. Your brothers are all married, and Willie has made a name for himself in the city. Indeed, we do not see much of one another, your family and myself; I seldom even speak to your people. Alas! you do not realize how old and dowdy I am, or perhaps you would be ashamed to love me too. I almost dread, when I think of my changed face, the hour you return and we meet after the long years, when you will at last realize I am old.”

But the one his eyes dwelt upon longest was:—

“Can you not come home to me. My heart hungers for you. The years are long for separation dearest; they are too long. Let us be poor together. What does it matter? Nothing matters but the passing of time, and you away from me. Let us be together. I see death cutting down people all around me, and I am afraid. Life is passing, passing. All the years of you that should be mine are passing. Come to me.”

How dear these letters had been to him all the years—he had forgotten how long. They never missed a post, and he had grown so used to these silent white messengers flying into his solitude, and breaking it with sweet conversation hat he felt at times almost loth to put an end to their coming by going home. He had grown content with his surroundings; like a thistle seed that had been blown hither and thither through the air is at last forced into the ground and rooted. He had drifted about and settled at length in this little hut in California. Here, undisturbed, he had dreamt his dreams and modelled and remodelled his wax, always making shapes of some intended masterpiece, and breaking it up as soon as finished in despair, only to start as hopefully in a day or so again. So his evenings passed, and with the long letters from Mollie he felt he had still the sweet companionship he had never known what it was to have been without. The daytime of the years he spent in fruit-gathering for any one who would have his work. Thus he managed to save a little money, and, with luck unusual to him, saved enough to buy a tiny farm for himself; and on it was the little log hut he now sat in. He had almost made up his mind to sell out again and start for home,—the last letter of Mollie's filled him with a vague fear,—but another letter had come by the same post from his sister, asking him to take charge of a ne'er-do-well son.

“The boy,” she wrote, “wants the calm open-air life you can so easily give him; his heart is the heart of a poet, and cannot bear to be tied up with the conventuality of town life. His father is too harsh with him, forgetting he was himself once young. Be kind to my poor boy; he is not very strong.”

When the young man arrived, Henry found him a worthless boor—idle and a drunkard. The lout fastened upon him like a parasite, and the little farm had to support two. Henry relinquished his immediate dreams of returning home or sending for Mollie, and took upon himself the task of earning for this young nephew, as he had done for his brothers and sisters.

At first he thought it possible to make a man of him, for the boy was full of insincere sentimental effects, hard to see through; now lamenting his mother's absence with tears, and

writing her long letters of affection, which he read to his uncle with evident pride in their composition; now promising his uncle he would never touch drink again, so fervently that it was impossible to believe that he meant nothing.

For a year Henry wavered between the impulse to cast this worthless boor from him and the pity of deserting so weak a creature entirely to the power of his own passions. But at last the youth cut the bond himself by tiring of the monotony of the farm life and leaving his uncle one night, taking what money he could find along with him.

A month after Henry got a letter from his sister denouncing him for his treatment of her boy.

“He has told me how you made his life a misery, reproaching him for his delicacy. And having the pride some of his family are without, he could no longer bear it. Without money, hungry, and in rags, he left you and came back to his mother.”

By the same post he received a letter from Mollie. “O Henry! the years will be so very short when we meet—so very few; come, come, come!” After that there was a silence—a long silence of months. Henry grew restless; every evening he sat at his table reading over the old letters, wondering why Mollie never wrote. Had she grown tired of him? had some one else come between them? His heart burned at the thought. He strode up and down the room. She was so pretty, so pretty! He looked at the little picture face he always carried in the locket she had given him; and then for the first time he wondered if he had himself changed. He looked over the walls for a glass, but remembered he had never possessed one, or seen himself for years. He went into another room, and there found a glass left by his nephew. He went up to it, then fell back as if he had been struck. What! was this, then, Henry?—the great artist, the fond lover—a poor white old man—an old man! He thought of all his dreams for the future. “My God! there is no future,” he said. He sat down and laughed his foolish young heart away. Then flung himself upon his bed and slept like a man who was broken with much sorrow. He woke with the gloom of a great cloud overhanging him, and lay long before he arose; he felt too weary to move. “And every morning,” he said, “when I felt so tired, I thought it laziness that held me down, and it was age—old man—age.” In the evening he went out to cut wood for firing, but he laid his chopper beside the uncut logs after a few blows. “I could fight against the languor of youth,” he said, “but against age I cannot fight. I will go back to Mollie; she will comfort me.”

He sold his little holding, and set about returning. The movement let his dreams loose again, and he forgot he was old; he walked the deck of the steamer that brought him back, and all the time he dreamt of Mollie. She would be changed, too, his Mollie—faded, perhaps, with time, like the little picture he carried, but with a sweet white resemblance to the old love. All the great dreams were over for them both, but she would be content with little where she had dreamt of much. They would be just as happy, even if they were poor. Perhaps, who knows, he thought, with her beside him to spur him on, he might begin to work in earnest at last.

When he reached the bridge that led into the village where he was born, he stood upon it, looking across the water. Impossible, he thought, that he was old—that any one was changed. Why, what was different? There the old trees, no older than when he last saw them; there the houses and their little gardens—not a new one added, not an old one taken away. A little boy passed, looking up at him; he called him towards him.

“Tell me,” he said, trembling, “where is Mollie Doherty now?”

“I don't know any one of that name,” answered the child. “You must know!” Henry cried in anger. “She lived in the little house yonder, by the elm tree.”

“Oh! old Mother Mollie,” the boy laughed; “her we called four-legged Molly, for she went lubbely, lubbely on crutches, and her face all one side, like this.”

Henry struck the grinning face of the boy sharply with his hand; and the child, angry and revengeful, sprang back and commenced grinning afresh. He perceived where the wound lay, and flicked it. He hobbled slowly around the old man, grinning and shouting a tune to his steps— the same tune he had shouted after Mollie as she limped past. But as he saw the old man no longer heeded him, he cried,—

“She is dead, old four-legged Mollie is dead. She died three months ago, Father Christmas.” But the old man on the bridge did not answer; he stood while the last gleams of youth faded from him, and he was old indeed, as the sun sets behind a hill, driving the warm purple shadows away, leaving it cold and bleak. He went at last to his brother's house, and there a kind young niece met him.

“You would like to see poor Mollie's grave,” she said, as she brought him through the fields into the churchyard. “That is it. When I have a lover,” she continued, as he sat with his head upon his hands, “I will not wait for him as she did for you, poor thing! Why did you not come to her?”

The old man beside the grave thought, but could not remember. After all, why had he not returned? Now the difficulties which had parted them did not seem difficulties at all. He bent over the grave, and the young girl in her pity went wandering away. But Henry was not grieving, as she imagined; he was wondering why he did not suffer more. After all, he felt almost glad the agony of parting was over. “We could have had only a few years together, I am so old,” he thought. “And life or death can do no more for us; the agony of parting is past, we shall only meet for ever now.” He fell to dreaming of their meeting, and what she would say—how they would look at each other and go hand in hand amongst the strangers in the new world of everlasting time, she pointing out the wonders he had not seen.

His niece came upon him and reproached his dry eyes. “You did not weep for her,” she said.

“Tell me about her; how did she look?” he answered, holding her hand. The girl turned her eyes aside.

“Her face was—her face—when she died she looked beautiful; all the—the—deformity went, and her face fell back into its young lines. It was like death triumphing over life, if you can understand.”

The old man dropped her hand, and took from his pocket a lump of wax. “It will be my masterpiece,” he said—“death triumphing over life.” He commenced modelling.

The girl sprang to her feet. “You do not care at all for her,” she said. “I hate you, Uncle Henry; you did not cry a tear.” The old man's feeble fingers trembled so that he could not form the wax. The work slipped from them and, falling upon the ground, rolled into a crevice beneath the stone of Mollie's grave.

“I am too old,” he said—“too old.”

Transmigration

I

Many men have tasted Hell some moments of their lives—a Hell of their own making, perhaps; but I, oh God! I have been in the Hell of the damned.

I cannot remember my father or my mother; oh, wretched that I am! Had I either to love one whom no man loves? No, I cannot remember. My memory goes back three months—no further. Every day I live those three months over and over again.

I had too much money when I came of age. I knew not how to use it. I threw it here and there, ever indulging in my own pleasure. Playing in the world till the dust of it rose up and clouded my eyes—till the hand of innocence I held in mine was changed for the hand of sin.

Playing in a world that I was sent to work in, I forgot I had a soul or that there was a God who had given it to me. I played until my selfish indulgences brought upon me the sickness of death. And then my three months of Hell commenced. Unloved, unfriended, I tossed upon my bed, blaspheming a God I did not believe in, swearing I would not die. Shrieking in my terror of that Hell, I felt myself approaching a Hell I had so often scoffed at. I heard my screams re-echo through the empty house, unreplied to, making my desolation complete. Then I lay still, gasping on my bed; so would my prayers soar up to Heaven, I thought, unanswered, unheard. But stay! a step on the stairs—nearer, nearer; the door has opened, and a man stands upon the threshold. Oh, eyes that beamed peace and love, you saved me from Heaven's vengeance for the moment—at what a cost! He came forward into the room when he saw me, and I thought for an instant it was an angel sent to comfort my misery.

“I heard you call,” he said; “and, fearing you were ill, I entered. I am your neighbour, my latch-key fits your door. You must pardon my coming, but, thinking you were ill—and alone—”

“I am alone,” I said—“alone, alone, deserted alike by God and man. Body and soul I am alone, and sick unto death.”

“Despair not, my friend,” said he. “I will attend you; you are sick, and morbid from being left alone. Rouse yourself, and I will try and help.”

“Help me! no man can help me; I have helped no man. Unless you can give me another life to live with the knowledge I have of this.”

“My dear friend, God alone can do that,” his voice went on soothingly; “but you are truly sorry for your past?”

“Man,” I cried, “there are no such things as death-bed repentances. Death is ever beside us a yawning precipice; as we walk along its edge we know that it is there. We look at the sky above it, at the flowers by its brink, but we never look at it; we turn our heads away, but we know that it is there. We feel the chill of it in the heat of the sun. We see its shadow on the petals of the flowers. We know that a false step, a stumble, and we are gone, plunged into Eternity in a moment. We say that sometime this path must come to an end, as we but follow it to our extermination, and when we see before us the black doors of death, then will we lay aside our flowers, and still our songs and laughter. And Heaven will pity our prayers and sighs. Talk not to me of such repentances; I believe them not, nor you, nor any man.”

“You are very ill,” the stranger said, as I raved on.

“I will not die, I must live, though Heaven itself has shut its gates upon me. Hell—if such is my destination—must give me a year of life. I say, I will not die.” A strange strength seemed to flow through my veins. I raised myself on my elbow. The stranger was standing at my bedside looking with divine pity at my convulsed face.

“You,” I said. Oh, the horror of it! “You must die, you with your life of purity behind you; death should have no fears for you. The gates of Heaven are open for you; give me your body, your life, and let me live.”

“Friend,” he said, as though humouring me, “I cannot die; I have a mother who is old and requires my care, and a child, a darling little child.”

“You must die!” I cried again. “I will care for your mother and child. You must die and let me live—I say, I will not die.”

“You are very ill,” was all he said, laying his hand upon my brow. And then, I know not how it came to pass, whether my cry to Heaven or Hell had been answered, or, whatever it was, by some great effort of my will, but I stood by the bed looking down at my own sleeping body. I dashed across the room to the glass. It was the stranger it reflected back—yes, the same high forehead, with fair, wavy hair, the same large, dreamy eyes; but his soul, ah! his soul lay sleeping in that motionless form upon the bed. I turned and left the haunted room, living, living, living!

II

Living, living—oh, the joy of it! I had died and was born again. How it came about, what cared I? “Who,” I thought, as I bounded down the stairs, “so fortunate as I?” What man or woman thinking over the past has not said—“Oh, could I but live my life over again, I would not have done this thing or that”? And I, with my evil past laid out before me, could live it again, casting out the weeds and cultivating the trodden flowers; with nothing to hinder me, not even the sensual flesh that lay upstairs, a prison-house for the spirit of that good man whose body I was inhabiting and whose life I proposed to live.

I closed the door of my own house and went up the tiny garden to the next; as I did so, I heard the patter of little feet and a childish voice calling, “Here's papa! Here's papa!”

I opened the door and took the little darling into my arms. Never had I felt such happiness as when the innocent parted lips met mine and the soft baby-hands went round my neck. I stood still to take in the joy of it, but the child drew back in my arms and for a moment she sat quite quiet, and then she struggled until I had to let her down.

“It's not my papa!” she sobbed, running into the little sitting-room. “Oh, gran'ma, 'tis not my own papa!”

Mechanically I hung my hat upon the rack in the hall and followed the child. The room was small, but very bright and cosy; an old lady was seated in an arm-chair before the blazing fire; one withered hand was laid caressingly upon the golden head of the little girl, the other shaded her eyes as she anxiously watched the door. When I entered she smiled and turned to the weeping child.

“Why, what ailed you, darling? Look, Rosy, it is your own papa.” Rosy looked up through her tears, and, seeing me standing in the full glare of the lamp and fire, ran to me again. I sat down in a low chair opposite the old woman, and the little child climbed on to my knees.

“It's my dood papa,” she said, laying her wet cheek against mine.

For an hour I sat thus tasting for the first time the joy of a home, and listening to the old woman as she told me tales of her son's youth—my youth now.

For some time she rambled on, in the fashion of the old, and at last for very joy I laughed aloud, waking the child, who had fallen asleep in my arms.

“Will you take her up to bed, Gilbert,” said her grandmother; “she sat up for you that you might put her to sleep to-night.”

I raised the child in my arms, the pretty little babe with her soft curls falling across her face, and she laid her drowsy head upon my shoulder. I pressed her with joy to my breast as I turned up the narrow, dark stairs; at my movement she sat up suddenly and pushed me from her with both her tiny hands. Oh, wonderful instinct of the child that in the light beheld her father, but in darkness knew me for a stranger!

“You're not my papa! Oh, I want papa!”

“Hush, hush!” I whispered; “I am your papa.”

“You're not, you're not!” and she beat upon my breast with both her tiny fists. “Give me my own papa, you bad, bad man!”

Then a great fury seized me, and I held her over the banisters. “Call me your father, or I let you go.”

“No, no; I want my own papa!”

“Call me your father, or I let you go.”

“I want my dood papa!”

I did not mean it, Heaven knows I did not mean it, but my fingers loosed their hold. I shook the little hands from their terrified grasp upon my coat. The hall echoed the screams of a child and a sickening thud on the flags beneath. A terrible laugh followed, a laugh that might have come from the lowest pits of Hell. Was it I who uttered it? I looked into the hall beneath me. A trembling old woman knelt there, and, at her side, a servant with a lighted candle, but their white faces were not turned to the motionless body at their feet, but towards me, unspeaking, as though they were frozen by some terrible sight or sound. Had a devil entered into the body Gilbert Graham during the time my spirit was passing from my own to it—a devil who, making me work its will, thus laughed in its hideous triumph. Surely devils were many round my bed when I lay dying. Its power had left me now, and I went, in bitter remorse, to the little child.

“She slipped from my arms,” I whispered. “She slipped, mother.” She answered me nothing; but, as I raised the senseless babe, the servant sobbed, “Oh, Master Gilbert, we thought the shock had sent you mad!”

I laid the child upon the sofa, while the girl ran for a doctor. I stood as though stunned until he came, watching him then in a dream as he examined the soft limbs of the poor babe, and he shook his head as he arose.

“I am sorry to have to tell you that if she lives she will be a cripple all her life.”

“Tell my mother,” I whispered. I was not the one to tell her this.

“I am sorry,” he said ; “I am very sorry, Madam.”

“Hush!” the old woman answered; “hush! You will waken her.”

“She may never waken,” he whispered. “Bear up, dear Madam.”

“Hush!” the old woman said again, touching the golden curls that were stained with blood. “Hush! The fairies have come to her and laid red poppies in her hair.”

And thus had I fulfilled my trust to care for his mother and child—one a cripple or dead, the other a muttering idiot.

I had launched my new life, and the waters that bore it were red human blood; but who or what was the dread pilot that guided it?

III

I stole out into the dimly lighted street. Of what use was I at home?

The little child still lingered. The old woman was still happy in her ignorance, babbling of fairies and red poppies. My hands were the fairies that had laid those terrible flowers on her babe's fair head, the sleep-giving poppies on her eyes.

The paper-boys were shouting in my ears as I passed, but I paid no attention to them. Their “terrible tragedies” could not equal mine; their cries of “Murder!” woke no horror in my heart; they only cried aloud the word that echoed there. I dare not think of the imprisoned soul that lay as dead in my room—the only one who sought me out in my hour of death's despair. My horrible cries, that had frightened the very servants from my house, but hastened his feet to my side; and now he slept, a thin wall between him and the reward I had given him—a ruined home.

Oh, how could I hear the city noises and a thousand cries within my breast—a thousand little hands beating upon my heart, “Give back! give back!”

And so I strode through the damp fog, caring not, thinking not where I was going. At last a bright light flashed in my eyes, and I started as though awaking. Before me was a lighted doorway, and above it, in the light of the lamp, hung a board, and upon it in red letters the word “Billiards.” The place was a gambling-hell. I had known it but too well in the old days. I gazed about, half-hearing some one speaking, and saw a young man before me, his face flushed and his eyelids drooping.

“I could not help it, Graham; indeed I could not! I tried to keep away because of my promise to you and for my mother's sake.”

His promise to me! I almost laughed aloud. Yes, I knew that boyish, effeminate face. It had been often opposite to me at the gambling-table inside. I had seen it grow white and tortured as the game went on. I had made its hairless lips grow sweet in a smile, or quiver pathetically like a girl's, by the turn of my hand; I had lured him on night after night with a hope I held between my fingers. His promise to me! I had forgotten. Something evil was rising in my heart. I felt it would claim my lips if I did not speak. I seized his arm.

“Go home,” I said; “heed not what I may say to you after this, heed not what I may seem to you. The most beautiful statue is but hollow and moulded in common clay. The tiger's claws are soft as a lady's cheek, but they will tear you to pieces if you trust them. The moth sees the candle's flame, and, thinking it fair, he dies. I am not as you think—”

“I do not know what you mean, Graham. If you mean this den has any fairness for me, it is not so, unless it be the fascination of the bird to the serpent's eye.”

“Leave me!” I cried despairingly, for devils' words were rising to my lips; and as he did not heed me, I turned and spoke them.

“Come in with me,” I said, and laughed. “Come in with me, and I shall see fair play.”

“With you!” He started. “With you, Graham! you who have preached of its dangers to me and its temptations and wickedness; you to whom I looked to save me from where it will lead me. Oh, Graham! I could laugh, 'tis so absurd!”

“I'll see fair play,” I said again; “besides, you could not break yourself of the habit so easily and abruptly—I will wean you from it by degrees.”

I took his arm, and we passed inside. No one took any notice of me when we entered, but they all gathered around my companion.

“Why, Varen, we thought you were going to leave us?”

“Did you hear of the discovery in Harrington Street last night? Poor Bulger! You remember Bulger, don't you? You lost a cool hundred to him one night here over the cards, eh? Got a cataleptic fit, they say; most interesting case. Went home in a most distressing state of mind the other night, commenced shouting like the devil, frightened the servant out of her wits and out of the house—says she hid in a doorway till dawn, afraid to go back; then she screwed up her courage and stole to the house; finding no answer to her knocks, and being unable to open the door, became alarmed, started for the police-station, and returned with some of the force. One got into the house by a low window and opened the door to the rest; they found poor Bulger lying on his bed—they thought—dead as a herring, but the doctors say 'tis a most interesting case of catalepsy.”

I listened without speaking. “What a queer old world it is!” I thought; “we must have a name for everything, no matter how wonderful, or where would our doctors and men of science be? Nothing is left to the God who designed the whole. Our beliefs are superstitions, we laugh them away; we would explain the very law of life itself.”

A hand was laid upon my arm.

“Play a game of cards, Graham? The fellows are asking me.”

“No, no; this is no place for you—for me. Come out of it quickly.” But the men surrounded us.

“You are not going yet? just one game, then?”

Fool that I was, I complied, and took my seat at the table. They thought I was a “green one,” as was evident from their surprised looks when I swept up their little pile of silver at the end of the first game.

“You would think it was old Bulger himself,” I heard one say; “he seems to have his accursed luck.”

One game led to another; my companion's face grew pale; some demon arose within me, and I took a pleasure in its paleness.

Why is it innocence attracts the guilty so? Behind the bar connected with this card-room there was a young girl serving. I heard men make rude jests that brought the colour to her cheeks; she would hang her head if they called her endearing names, and the angry tears would spring to her eyes: she would shake off their hands with passion. For this girl they would leave their billiards and their cards to watch the red and white fly to her face; and now, when they speak to her, she answers their jests with similar ones; she answers their calls with a simper; she courts their caresses and their company; she is no longer attractive to them—she is one of themselves.

Why did I not pick out my prey among those evil, coarse faces—why did I seek to destroy the one exception? I know not; life preys upon that which is weaker than itself, not that which is its equal.

I swept pile after pile of silver into my pockets, Varen's white face growing whiter and whiter. At last he started to his feet—

“I'm cleared out—I have only a shilling left; I'm going home.”

“Put it down,” I said to him. “Why, man, you may win a pile on it yet. Finish this round, anyway.”

Sullenly he sat down again and took up his cards.

I let him win game after game, and when he rose to depart he had won back a third of his losses.

“I'll come again to-morrow night and win the rest,” he said, with a smile. Why follow the downfall of that young life? Night after night we met in the same place, I hastening away from the ceaseless crying of a little, suffering child, calling for the father I had robbed her of; he from the complaints of a broken-hearted mother, powerless to draw her only son from the snare I had set for him. Night after night I robbed him of his earnings, leaving him to win back a third, to lure him with a hope, never to be fulfilled, that the next time he might win a fortune.

Paler each night grew the young face, shabbier the clothes, thinner the hands that grasped the cards so eagerly. Now he spoke no word of greeting to me; only his eyes revealed his thoughts: therein I could see the light of hope gleam faintly each night, fading, fading to give place to despair, returning again as the closing hours approached and the waiter's voice warned us it was time to stop.

One night Varen came hastily in, staggering as though he were drunk. Flinging himself down in a chair, he took his cards. There was no hope in his eyes; I saw only terrible anguish and despair. On one sleeve of his shabby coat I saw a broad band of crape.

He played wildly—and won. I had slain my devil; he won again; I was glad. I saw his silver flow back to him; I was happy for the first time in many a weary hour. “I shall no longer be his curse,” I thought; “through me he shall win back his fortune, his mother's blessing, his lost youth. I shall restore all.”

A cry recalled me. I had been dreaming. I gazed around bewildered; the candles were spluttering in their sockets, and on the side of one was a great roll of wax. It was turned towards Varen—I had heard old wives call it a winding-sheet. The dust of the day before lay white on the sideboard and table, disturbed only where the cards fell and by the track of our fingers. The dawn was creeping through the half-closed shutters of the window, making our faces grey and ghastly in the two lights.

Young Varen was staring at me with mad eyes, and on the table at my side lay a heap of silver. It was I who had been winning.

Varen leaned across the table and gazed into my face. “Are you a man,” he said, “or are you a devil?”

I did not answer, but that terrible thing within me broke into a laugh. The men beside me started in horror as the sound came forth and echoed round the room as though a demon were in each corner to repeat it.

Varen's hand went to his breast.

“Devil in the shape of a man,” he said, “your work is done! Cruelest of enemies in the guise of a friend! You won my trust and led me to this. What is pure, since you I believed so pure are as you are? What is the reward of love, since you I have loved reward me so? Through your aid I was fighting the old life from me, and rising to honour and esteem, to the knowledge of a mother's proud heart. And through your aid I fell to meanness and disgrace, to see a mother robbed of her necessaries, and worse—to lose her son's love and care and to die broken-hearted alone. Your hand had saved me from the precipice of Hell, and your hand it is that flings me into its hottest fire. Finish, then, your devil's work, for I dare not!”

He drew a pistol from his breast and handed it to me. I felt the cold steel in my hand, and saw the horrified looks of the men around us; they seemed powerless to cry out or interrupt us; before me the ghastly face of young Varen. A wild rage rose up in my heart; I panted like a mad dog, and foam fell from my mouth. I tried to pray, but could not.

A pistol-shot rang through the room, and the white face before me vanished. There was hot blood upon my hands; a terror seized me—what had I done? Hands were upon my shoulders. But I escaped them. I flew down the creaking stairs. People were shouting. Steps were coming after me. I flung wide the door and flew wildly, blindly, down the street. Feet were repeating the echo of mine. People were calling “Murder! murder!” Windows were flung open, men joined in the chase. People were calling “Murder!”—and my hands were red with blood. Ha! the well-known door—it was my own; his latch-key opened it. I let myself in and flew upstairs; there was a light in my old room; a nurse sat nodding over the fire. I saw my old form lying motionless upon the bed. I sprang to its side. Voices were calling at the hall-door—men were breaking it in. They had tracked me.

I seized the hand that lay upon the counterpane; a shudder ran through it. Steps were at the door, “Murder” ran through the house. There was a moment of nothingness and I woke.

It was all a terrible dream; I lay upon my own bed. The kind neighbour, hearing my cry, had called in to see if I needed anything; he was looking down with pity in his eyes, his hands cooling mine—he had dipped them in water. No! it was blood, BLOOD! and the room rang with the cries of “MURDERER!” I started up; they were putting manacles on his wrists. He was stunned, he knew not what to say; he answered not their insinuations, but passed his manacled hands now and again across his eyes, like a man who had been long sleeping.

A terrible laugh sounded round the room; it seemed to float through the doorway, and we heard it echo down the house, fading away into stillness. I tried to rise and speak, but fell back unconscious.

IV

I awoke to misery and despair. Lying still a moment, to gather my thoughts together, I heard some persons talking at the head of my bed. It was the nurse and a couple of men, doctors I soon knew them to be. They were talking excitedly, but in subdued voices; I heard every word distinctly: “Graham is to be hanged for the murder of young Varen.” I started up, gazing at them in agony.

“He did not do it. I, and I alone, am guilty.”

They had started back when I moved, in astonishment; but when I spoke they came beside me, trying to soothe me and make me lie down and rest again. To rest! O Heaven! there was no more rest for me in this world.

I told them I would explain, but they would not let me speak. I heard them whisper of my most extraordinary case. They thought I had gained consciousness while they were speaking of Graham, and, hearing their words at that critical moment, took the idea into my head that I had committed the crime.

“Let me go!” I moaned; “let me go!”

But they held me down in their cruel kindness till I had to do their bidding from very weakness.

But when the night came on, and when the old nurse was nodding in her chair, I arose in the darkness and went from the house. Up and down the streets I wandered till dawn grew grey, but no dawn arose in my heart, only black night for ever. Through the streets, never stopping, I walked till the sun grew hot and bright, and people crowded out into the pathways. I bought a

paper from a newsvendor, and read the trial of Gilbert Graham. It was nearly over; all the evidence was against him. He had nothing to say for himself; once he spoke to ask if he might see his little child, and he was told she was dead. They said he seemed stunned, or as though in a dream. I read no more.

When the court was opened, and the trial came on again, I hid myself among the crowd that attended it. I saw the prisoner at the bar; he was not pale; a colour tinged his cheeks. He seemed as if he were asleep. I do not think he heard anything of what was going on. Witness after witness came to condemn him. I could not bear it. I put myself forward as a witness for the defence. They allowed me into the box. I tried to tell my story, but they would not listen to me; some laughed; some pitied me; but they would not let me speak.

“Will you not hear me?” I cried. “You cannot understand, but do not laugh; there are so many things men know nothing of, but do not scorn them because you do not understand them. Can you know what gives life to the smallest insect living on this earth? Can you explore a step beyond the grave? You cannot. I alone am guilty of this murder; by my own act, or by the act of Heaven or Hell, I know not.”

A gentleman rose in the court; he sent a message to the Judge, whispered to a constable, and I was dragged out of the house. I heard a murmur of excited voices and a whisper.

“'Tis that poor fellow Bulger; they say his brain is turned since he had his cataleptic attack.” I was forced along by my doctor, his arm linked in mine. Calling a cab, he put me inside, and was about to follow, when a friend of his came up and spoke to him.

“Oh, yes,” he answered, “I thought I'd find him there. He woke to consciousness just as Dr. Gill and myself were speaking of young Varen's death, and he seemed to get it into his head that he was the murderer. He escaped from the house last night, but from his ravings I thought it probable I should find him at court to-day.”

I heard no more. Silently opening the door furthest from the speaker, I slipped out, and in the dusk of the evening made my escape.

How the night passed I know not, but, when the light came, I had but one thought: to seek out Graham and beg his forgiveness. Again I bought a morning paper, and read the finish of the trial. Graham was condemned to death.

After a day's wandering, or maybe more—I knew nothing of time in those blank hours—I found out the prison where he lay awaiting his doom, and craved admittance, saying I was a particular friend—a friend!

They let me see him for a moment, but he did not know me. He even smiled when I asked his forgiveness; even he would not believe me.

“I do not understand it at all,” he said, laying his head on his hand wearily. “I cannot think, I cannot even feel these last few days,” and then raised his head and gazed at me eagerly. “Do you know anything of my mother?”

I did not know of her, and turned away my face.

“I had a child!” he cried. “Oh, tell me of my little child!”

“Do you not remember?—she is dead,” I told him, weeping. He leaned his head upon his hand again. “I had forgotten.” He spoke no more to me, and I was taken out of the place. “He will forgive me tomorrow,” I said.

But, hidden away in a low lodging-house, I was too ill to stir for many days; then early one morning I found myself at the prison door again; it opened for me readily, and when it closed I found myself confronted by my doctor and some of his friends.

“I thought our patient would turn up sooner or later,” he said. “How fortunate you should choose the time we are here!”

“I will go anywhere you will if you but let me see him once again,” I cried; “only once till he forgives me. Let me go! I must!” I cried, fighting them. “I cannot live unless I get his pardon.”

“You cannot see him,” they said. “ But I will—I must!

“You cannot—he was hanged this morning at seven.”

The Broken Heart

Angelas's father had returned home. He had come upon her birthday; she was twelve years old. She had almost forgotten her father, it was so long since she had seen him. Not since she had left India herself, seven years ago. And Angela's mother, she had not come. It was long before Angela clearly understood why, and why there came no more the beautiful letters she so loved, from that mother, who was named Angela too.

It was when Angela's father came home that her irresponsible, short life changed to her. The first night of his arrival, she had awakened to find him gazing down upon her with a look she could not understand, so eager, so hungry, so despairing it was. He then sank upon his knees by her cot, putting his arms about her, saying, as though speaking to a woman, “Comfort me, my daughter; comfort me.” She put her little hands about his neck, and, with the instinctive gesture of a mother hushing her babe, pressed his face upon her tiny breast.

“Poor father!” she said; “I will sing you to sleep.”

She started a lullaby in a high, childish treble, which, after a few spasmodic efforts to continue, wavered off into silence.

When she woke it was morning; she dressed with speed and impatience. A new responsibility had dawned upon her. No doll had ever been added to her over-numerous family that had given her thoughts so deep as these. There had been a last letter from that dear dream-mother, and in it she had written, “I shall be always with you, though you will not see me.”

“Always with her,” Angela thought; she who had been so far away: she who had been invisible for years—nearer, though invisible still. Then in the letter she had also read, “Comfort your father; be good to him: his is a deep and terrible trouble.”

Yes! that was the sentence that thrilled her. Here was responsibility! All the motherhood that lies in the breast of the woman-child was awakened. All the care that bad gone to the large family of wax images was withdrawn. Not without a struggle; not without a tear; not without a last comforting mother-touch to the dresses and a more easy placing of stuffed limbs when the babies were laid reverently away in their box. Not without a lingering, backward look at Alexander's wide, blue eyes, and Angel's bald though much-respected head.

Yes, she would comfort Father, though what was his great hidden trouble she could not imagine. He never spoke to her of trouble. He was quiet and grave. He seldom smiled, but he never cried. Most big people were quiet—not so quiet as Father, perhaps—but then, big people were so hard to understand. Why, they laughed when Angel was run over, and her beautiful china legs, with the blue boots on, cut right off. And yet it seemed as though her own little heart must break when she saw the dreadful accident. She remembered, too, how when little Charlie from next door had come screaming into their hall, saying his father was lying on the floor and would not waken; that he was dead—she remembered how the old nurse, who had taken care of her since she came from India, had rushed to the next house at the child's cries, to be met by a smiling man-servant, who whispered something to her, and she had gone back clicking her tongue against her palate, as she did when Angela was naughty. Angela remembered how she and the little boy, being told to run away and play, sat beneath a bush watching the house afraid to move till the mystery was cleared up. How she imagined the man-servant must have killed the boy's father; how the boy paled when she told him so, yet showed the glimmer of an excitement at the possession of a tragedy. How cruel they thought those grown-up people, whose world was so much calmer than their own. How amazed they were, and even disappointed, to see, after a couple of hours, the boy's father walk out of the house—a little unsteady, perhaps—with a flushed face and a dim eye. Not till she was grown up did she know that there was a tragedy, after all.

When she had dressed and breakfasted, she ran to her father. She found him in his study, walking up and down, up and down, as if he could not tire. She slipped in and bid by the door, and, as he passed, jumped out upon him. He did not start or laugh, as she had meant him to, but the lines about his forehead deepened. He took her into his arms, and, seating himself with her upon his lap, gazed into her little face.

“Not a feature of hers, not a look!” he said. “O my God!” He put her down and forgot her, walking up and down the room without pause. The child, hurt and frightened, commenced to cry. At the sound he stopped and gathered her to him.

“Poor little one!” he soothed her; “do not cry. Tears are not for the young; and the old,” he added pitifully, “are denied them.” Putting the child down, he took her by the hand. “Have you nothing pretty to show me?” he said.

The child skipped beside him like a young lamb.

“There's a nest,” she cried, “in Donald's Field. But it is a long way, a very long way, maybe a mile.”

He smiled down upon her. “I think I can manage it.”

She got her hat, and they started together; her joy was high, and she chatted to her father incessantly, only receiving incoherent answers from him in return. She felt she was doing her duty nobly. After a time she got weary, and stumbled often as she went. She asked her father frequently, “Was he tired?” and looked doubtful when he answered, “No.” The more exhausted she got the more she imagined he must be also. She wished she could offer to carry him; her heart was full of tenderness towards him. When they arrived at the field she ran forward. She climbed the stile to reach to him her hand. He must have smiled had he noticed her solicitude. She thought he must be getting blind, he was so heedless as he walked; he would have stumbled over tufts of grass and straying brambles, had she not been there to guide him. She thought he could not see well, his gaze was so distant. The truth was he saw more than the present. His eyes were dulled by the pressure of lost dreams against them. H is ears filled with the notes of a lost voice. He went half blind and half deaf.

She reached the bush where the nest was. She let go his hand, and, springing forward, drew the branches asunder; but her face fell as she looked. The nest was broken, and the young birds destroyed or stolen.

“Oh!” she cried, “they are gone!”

He stooped beside her.

“Alas! the pretty home.”

“And my little birds, where are they, my father?”

“God knows,” he answered bitterly. “The birds are gone and the nest broken; the destroyer has been here too. It is always so.”

“Does he come to all the nests?” she said. And he answered, following his own bitter thoughts,—

“Always.”

The child was silent. They returned home. She clung to her father's hand, too weary to speak. She was afraid to say how tired she was, for fear he should offer to carry her. He strode on, with long, quick steps that she found it difficult to keep up to. Her lips were quivering, and the tears would keep rolling down her cheeks. She turned away her head from him so that he could not know, for fear of troubling him. She was full of weariness and grief. Had he not said all the nests were broken in the world and the little birds within them dead? She ran by his side, choking down her tears, for the young are very strong in their nobleness.

When she at last reached home, and away from her father's eyes, she ran into her nurse's arms and let her tears fall.

The good woman hushed her and understood.

“He forgets you in his own trouble,” she muttered. “It is not right.” She smoothed the child's hair and looked into her face. “What a pity you are not like your mother, darling; it would have drawn him to you. But, being like himself, he shuts you too away from happiness along with his own heart.”

The child dried her tears to listen to her nurse. Was she saying something against her father?

“I will ask him to let you go to your aunt's,” the woman continued. “It's not right for a child to be in this sad house.”

The child flung herself away. What! leave her father! Never! She was going to live with him always—always—to mind him and comfort him.

The woman was aghast at her rage. “But your pretty cousins. Think of the games you can have with them.”

“I won't go!” the child cried. “I will stay with Father.”

She ran downstairs and opened the door of his room. He was sitting at the fire with a long tress of hair upon his hand. He was smoothing it upon his fingers and curling it around them. She thought she heard him sob. She ran to him and put her arms around his neck. He drew himself away and hastily put the lock of hair into his pocket-book.

With the strange wisdom of a child, she knew she was not to ask what he had been doing. She saw that his eyes were dry, and laughed. What made her think he was crying? Grown-up people never cry. She laughed again.

“I am not going away—never,” she said. “I shall not go to my aunt's, but will stay with you.”

“What you like, dearest,” he answered.

“When I am grown up,” she continued, “we will have a little cottage all covered with roses, and I will do all the work for you; but it will be long, long years before I am grown up.

She felt him sigh, “Oh! the years, the lonely years.”

“But I will be with you,” she said; “you won't be lonely then.” He stroked her hair.

“I love you,” she whispered, nestling closer to him.

“And I you,” he answered. He kissed her, and then her nurse came to take her away. She half hoped he would tell her not to go, but he did not. Before she was at the door he had his head upon his hands, gazing into the fire. Twice she called to him “Good-night” before he heard, and turned to her with a start to answer,—

“Good-night, my darling.”

While she was with him he never bid her go or stay, it seemed indifferent to him which she did. “She is nothing to him,” the nurse said to her fellow-servant. And the child heard and sobbed herself to sleep. When the morning came she went to him.

“You do love me,” she said; and he answered that he did. “And you could not possibly do without me.” He answered as she wished; and from that day she was with him every minute she could be. She felt she was indispensable to him, and that without her he would be wretched. From being childish and backward for her age, she became precocious and clever. From being

full of dreams and fond of playing, she became practical and busy. She brought him his slippers, and knitted and sewed for him hideous things that he never wore. She waited upon him like a slave, and he took it all without notice. With all her efforts the child could not break through the doors of knowledge and years, and so reach and understand him. This in a vague way she was conscious of.

Often she played her silent games at his feet, hoping he would not resist their pleasure and join her, but he never did. She played her little tunes upon the piano, a performance the mistress in the school was so proud of, and paused often for his approval; but it never came. Only when she drew his head upon her shoulder, or was directly speaking to him, did he seem to really know she was with him, and wake from his dreaming. Yet she was full of her quaint conceit that he could not do without her.

Every morning she arose, she counted another day off her years—“I will be a woman soon.” She plied herself to her tasks, and worked until she grew pale and tired. She won prizes at school, and praise.

One night as she sat with her father in the garden, he spoke as he had never done before in her presence. Perhaps it was the great sad beauty of Nature in the night that beat upon his heart, till it broke with a cry.

“Where are you?” he cried, in a voice of agony. “Come to me.”

The child was gathering roses in the dusk, some way from him. She was startled by his passion, and kept still.

“I cannot live without you,” he continued. “O God, the loneliness! the loneliness!” The child rose and threw herself into his outstretched arms. “I am here,” she sobbed. “I will not leave you again.”

The man pulled himself together. “It is you, poor child! poor child!”

She never forgot that night in the following days. Not an hour was she from him, that she could help. Even in the night she would often awake, and fancying she heard that cry, “Come to me,” would creep to his door to listen.

It was on one of these wanderings that a great fear came to her. As she crouched listening by the door, she heard her father's voice speak in a tone of deep agony.

“O destroyer of the beautiful!” he cried, “why have you pursued me, to rob me of my heart's treasure, and leave my home to me desolate?”

He paused, and the child could hear him walking restlessly up and down the room. Her heart beat in great blows. Who was with her father? Who was this terrible destroyer who killed the young birds, and was now inside with her father? Who was he who had robbed that dear father of his heart's treasure. Would he open the door, and fall upon her, a little girl, to devour her? She clutched the handle to prevent it from turning. Her father, hearing the rattle, cried out, “Come,” and she pushed the door and sprang to his side. She hid in his arms, and only after a moment's comforting did she spy from his safe keeping to look about the room. There was no one there. She sat up in her father's arms.

“Why are you here?” he said. “What has frightened you?”

She did not answer. The warmth and light, the comfort of his presence dispelled her alarm. She did not remember that she had been so afraid.

The man looked into her little face, so flushed with sleep and excitement. His gaze dwelt upon the smooth brow that bore no wrinkle of heavy thought, on the clear, innocent eyes that had not recognised sin, on the round cheeks glowing with childhood, on the parted mouth that was still bowed in its baby outline, with never a trace upon it yet to show an evil hour.

“Little soft face,” he whispered, “so precious with youth, must you one day change like mine— so old, so hard, so sorrowful? Will you, too, shun the sunlight, and only cry in the shadow for the great destroyer to come and give you oblivion?”

The child pressed closer, and gazed about the room.

“Do not let him have me!” she cried in terror. “Hold me tight!” The man at her movement awoke from his thoughts. “Poor little one! he is not here,” he said; “he will not get you. I will keep you from him.” He smiled bitterly. “I will keep you from him.”

He bore the child up to her room, and stayed beside her till she slept.

After this he became the one thought of her days, and his love and dependence upon her, as she imagined it, became alike her joy and alarm. Nearly a year passed since his return, and she became old for her short years. Already she had mapped out her future interwoven with his. She had studied with one intent. Her reading was beyond her, but she persevered. She frequented his room in his absence to read some of the books he read, which she did without in the least understanding them. She saw him grow more grey and weary, and thought he leant more heavily upon her.

So the years began to roll past. The child became a girl, and the girl a maiden. All these different periods were devoted to the same ideal—to be her father's prop and comfort. In very truth she was the foundation of his home. Her young shoulders took the responsibility of life upon them early. With the little money he allowed her, she set the domestic wheels in motion, and they never creaked. He stinted and saved, keeping the house from every luxury, grudging himself, and therefore her, everything save the barest necessities. And why? Because he was laying by a fortune in her name.

He was her ideal; she worshipped him as only those who are young enough to keep an ideal can. She would sit in the room watching him work, never knowing his work was one that would leave him free, when finished, to go from her for ever. Yet that was the day he longed and prayed for over his papers. She thought him completely happy, in his quiet way. And when a friend once said in her presence, “Since he came from India he has been a broken man,” it came upon her with a shock. Was there any side of him she did not know—something a stranger would notice and not herself, she who had lived beside him for years? She watched him closely, but could discover no difference from what he had been since she had known him.

Just in this way do many go through life beside one constant companion, in whose heart they dream themselves the sole beloved tenant, whose every thought they fancy they can read. And all the time the soul beside them, even while they stand cheek to cheek and lip to lip, is shrieking, broken, bleeding, alone, so terribly alone, going down, down, down to its destined end.

One day the man raised his head, and closed his books with a sigh of gladness.

“It is done,” he said, “at last.”

He became aware of eyes watching him, and turned to see a young man. He was struck with the face, so fair was it with youth. It flashed upon him that such was the boy in the poem, who started up the Alpine heights with his banner—Excelsior! Hope! Onward! Life! All mottoes written upon the bright brow, in the clear eyes, on the smiling, nervous mouth. Under his gaze the youth flushed and stammered,—

“I want your help.”

The man was surprised. “What is it?” he questioned. “Your daughter,” the youth faltered; “I love her; she will not marry me—will you help me?”

“My daughter! She is a little child,” the father replied, smiling.

“She is old enough to know love,” the young man answered, smiling too. “But who are you?”

“My father was Gerald Donaldson.”

“A good fellow, a dear fellow—and he is dead?”

“He died a month after you left India—five years ago.

“Only five years, and they so long, so long!”

“I am not badly off,” the young man pursued. “I have two thousand a year”—he smiled—“and expectations. I have plenty of friends who can tell you all you wish to know about me personally.”

Angela's father looked upon him. “You have a good face. It is worth all the credentials in the world. I could trust you. Where have I seen you before?”

“I have been introduced to you four times,” the young man said, laughing. “But you always forgot me the moment I was out of sight.”

The man apologized. “I will forget the slight,” the young man said, smiling, “if you will induce your daughter not to follow your example. But, oh, sir,” he added seriously, “I love her dearly, and I beg you to speak to her in my favour.”

“Angela will have money whether she marries or not,” the father said, as though thinking aloud. “Only a little, but enough to keep her in comfort. It took me five long years to make it, but at last I have done it, thank God!”

The youth said eagerly: “I do not care for that. I have plenty for both. Only tell her to be kind to me.

The older man looked at him. “She is but a little girl,” he said, “not old enough.”

“She is seventeen,” the young man argued, “and we can wait a couple of years, if you wish.”

“Seventeen!” The father looked into the garden, where his daughter walked. “Angela, come here,” he called.

She came through the open window to his side. He looked at her little slender figure. What was this? It had developed from childish angles into soft curves and dimples. He looked into her face, and beheld there upon her cheek the flush of womanhood. Her eyes no longer gazed upon the world as though they were still new to it, but were deep with soft emotions coming from within. Her lips had lost the baby roundness, and had been modelled into sweet lines, that told of smiles, and power, and gentleness. He felt shy of her, as though he did not know her.

“You are a stranger,” he said, dropping her hands.

The girl was wounded. “Father!” she said, and could say no more. She could have told his every movement—every wrinkle that the years had added, every new tress of white that came among his brown hair. She knew his step along the road before she saw him. She could almost tell how he looked at every hour of the day, what his rare smile was like, and what the habitual frown that sorrow had laid upon his forehead.

“Forgive me, dear,” he said, drawing her to him.

The young man smiled nervously upon them. “I shall leave you together,” he said anxiously; “you will do the best you can for me, sir?”

When the door closed after him, the man turned to his daughter. “So you will not marry him?” he said gently. “Why?”

“I had not thought of marrying,” the girl answered, looking into his eyes with unfaltering gaze. “Do you not love him?”

“I had not thought of loving,” said the girl, flushing softly.

“Why, what a hard heart!” replied the father, smiling; “and yet he is handsome and honest.”

“It is not hard,” the daughter replied; “but it is already full—I think there is no room for any one there but you.” She wound her arms round his neck, he took her upon his knees, as he used to do when she was a child. He spoke to her of his property. He told her that everything was straight now, and that she would have quite a little fortune.

“For years,” he said, “I was afraid you would lose it; but it is safe at last, little girl.” She was glad for his sake, but she felt she did not want more than she had. She was quite happy, quite content, as long as he was with her.

“You love me, too?” she said, in a childlike way. “I love you very much.”

“And you could not do without me?” she questioned playfully.

“I could not indeed, dear little comrade. Now go to bed and sleep well.”

“And you will sleep well, dear father, now your business worry is over?”

“Yes, to-night I shall sleep well—for I am tired, so tired.”

He kissed her upon the face and hair, and smiled upon her as she blew a kiss to him from the door. She had never seen him so gay. She thought what a lover he must have been when he was young, and how handsome. She imagined a bride—her mother—beautiful enough to be his mate; but imagination failed. She marshalled several dream-mothers before her, but none were lovely enough for him.

“Oh, mother,” she said, “if I could only remember your face!”

In truth her mother was not beautiful, but enough to drag a man's soul through the gates of death with her, and not leave go her hold upon him till he followed.

So Angela lay upon her bed quite happy.

“Father's comrade,” that was what she would be. She fell asleep to dream of it, and then awoke with a start, as though something had happened. What had she heard? She did not know; only something had awakened her—some noise. She jumped from her bed, cast a wrapper about her. There were confused voices in the nurse's room—the old nurse and the fellow-servant talking excitedly together. She heard them asking each other, “What did you hear?” So they, too, did not know what had happened. Her first thought was for her father. She must go to him, and see if he was in danger. She ran downstairs upon her little bare feet, and paused at the study door.

There was no sound. But at the hall door came a soft knocking. Could this have been the noise that woke her? She opened it slightly, and asked who was there.

“It is I, Alfred Donaldson,” the young man said, coming into the hall. “Angela, what is the matter? I—I was walking past”—in truth he had been standing beneath her window for an hour—“and I heard a shot.”

“I don't know; I was asleep,” she said, as she crossed the hall to the door of her father's room. She opened it softly, and heard her father's voice, infinitely tender.

“Angela, Angela, come to me, Angela.”

“I am here, father,” she replied, as she sprang into the room. The light was still burning. She could see her father in the arm-chair before the fire. His head hung upon his breast. There was a strange red upon his cheek. In the hand that lay upon his knees was a pistol, the grey smoke still hovering about it.

The women came clattering down the stairs, excited and afraid. “What was the shot?”

“Where had it come from?” They stood at the open door, and saw the tragedy—the dying man, with his great selfish love at peace at last. And there was the little white daughter, standing in the middle of the room, afraid to go nearer. She was nothing to him—nothing at all! She cried in a terrified voice, “Father! father!” and at the sound he moved his arms towards her with a beautiful smile. “Angela, Angela, after all the years—at last.”

The girl clung to him, and the red stain came upon her hair from his cheek.

But even then his head turned away from her in the stillness of death, and she rose and walked blindly into the loving arms that closed around her and held her through her great sorrow.

The Other Woman's Child

Lady Osborne regarded the woman before her with contempt and anger.

“I have told you before,” she said haughtily, “I did not wish you to speak to the child again.” The woman flushed, and spoke hotly.

“It is hard,” she muttered, “not to be allowed to speak to him and to see him for a little time, after all the months I had of him.”

“It is my wish,” returned Lady Osborne; “and that must be enough.”

“For his sake,” the woman went on, “I put my child aside; I gave him what God had sent me for my own. My boy was weaned that yours might have his nourishment. For months you cared nothing about him, and left me to do for him what you could not. And now the woman who gave the strength to his little body and started the growth in his limbs is forbidden to see him or speak to him.”

Lady Osborne rose from her seat, and motioned the woman out of the room. “Begone!” she said; “I have done with you. What you did you were well paid for. I will not have you come about here again. I shall give orders that you are not to be allowed inside the park gates.”

The woman's face grew white with a great rage. She was silent for a moment; then her expression changed.

“You will not let me in to see my own child?”

“Your own child? What do you mean, woman? What do you mean?” Lady Osborne seized her arm with a hard grip.

“Yes, my child,” the woman said deliberately. “One of the two children who lay upon my breast died, but it was not mine. It was not he that I put away from his home upon my heart that went, but yours.”

“And that child out there”—Lady Osborne dragged the woman to the window—“whose child is that? Answer me whose child is that?”

The woman looked out. Chasing the butterflies from rose to rose in the garden went a little boy of seven, his fair hair like a halo in the sun, his face like a flower. The woman looked a moment; her eyes softened, and she was silent.

The other woman shook her roughly.

“Answer me!” she cried; “and begone from this house, or I will have you whipped out.: The woman dragged herself away from the hands that held her; she raised her arm as if to strike, but did not.

“It is my child,” she whined; “my child.”

“Take him away!” Lady Osborne staggered as if about to fall. “Take your brat away with you at once.”

The woman grew pale, and drew back. “No; he will live with you, and be a gentleman,” she said, in a low voice.

Lady Osborne opened the French window and called the child from the garden. He ran towards her, a rose crushed in his hand.

“Frederick,” she said in a hard voice, “you must go at once with this woman. Take her hand, and go away at once.

The child stood in the middle of the room, staring, till slowly he realized what had been said to him. He dropped the crumpled rose-leaves on the floor, and, with a shrill cry, ran to Lady Osborne's side. “I cannot go with her! Oh! mother, don't send me away. I will be good, indeed, indeed!” He hid his face in her dress, and sobbed bitterly. Lady Osborne drew her gown from his hand. “You must go,” she said; but the woman hurried to the door, as though she were frightened.

“No, no!” she said. And without another word, opened the door, and was gone. Lady Osborne made a step to call her, then drew back, and sank into a chair. The child asked leave to go back to his play. Now that the woman had gone he felt no fear. The unusual occurrence meant nothing; to a child nothing is unusual or wonderful. But Lady Osborne lay back in her chair like one asleep, and did not heed him; so he went out to the garden, and she did not know. She was thinking in a dazed way that it was well the woman had left the child. She could not face the world and tell it this child she so loved and was so proud of was not her own—that she had been fooled and robbed all this time; that a dead child in some unknown grave was hers, and the interloper that for seven years had taken his place in everything—even in his mother's heart—was the child of a nurse—a common peasant woman.

She got up from her chair, and went to the window, and again saw the boy running amongst the roses. She called him, and he came smiling into the room. Lady Osborne seated herself in a chair, and placed him before her. He raised his arms to put them around her neck, but she caught his hands and held him away from her. Her ghastly face was before him, hard and cold, and he shrank from a gaze he had never beheld before.

“That's it; shrink away from me. I have discovered you at last, interloper, thief!” The boy grew white and afraid.

“I have discovered you, and I believe you know it,” the woman said to the innocent child who stood silent before her. “Do you see these rooms,” she continued, in a dull voice, “these beautiful rooms, full of valuable things?” She drew him to the window again. “Do you see those fields, stretching everywhere around the house? Whom do those belong to—whom do you imagine they belong to?”

The child looked up to her, and answered as he had been taught so often.

“All to mother's darling son,” he said, smiling to think they were on a subject they could both understand.

“No, not to mother's darling son, lying so cold in his little baby grave; but to you, a beggar's brat—to you—to you.” She thrust him out into the garden, and sank into her chair. There she remained, still and cold, till the hours brought her back to consciousness, and it seemed to her when she woke that all the time she lay there she would have been at peace if it were not for the sobbing of a child that she could not move to still.

II

In the morning she was awakened from a short troubled slumber by the voice of the child in the room. He clambered upon the bed, laughing at her eyes still blinking with sleep. But she awoke with the grief of yesterday still upon her, and wondered that he had forgotten so soon.

“Yesterday it was my child that woke me; to-day another woman's,” she thought, and hid her face in her hands. He stood at the window, drumming upon it with his fingers. What! all this beauty was not hers. The fine limbs, the proud head, those dear eyes. Not hers. She may not look upon them with pride again—rather with envy and hatred. She may not lovingly trace in them

again a likeness to her dead husband. This child of the other woman. What was it there for?—to grow up in place of her own and come into his inheritance. All the Osborne lands, the old mansions she was so proud of—everything to go to this nobody. Yes, now she realized it all. Yesterday she had lost her son, the son who was so carefully reared, the son who was to have made the proud old name continue. And today her childless heart had turned to ashes. She bid the boy leave the room, and he went, chilled by her voice. She could no longer be loving to this child of a stranger, since her child had known no love. She would not hold this boy to her heart, since her own would never lie there. Yet as he passed to the door she caught him to her and kissed his hair and face, as though she had been long parted from him.

But every day, from that forward, she kept the child in strict surveyance. He grew timid under the reproachful eyes he always felt were upon him. As the years passed they grew further apart; he understood she could not love him, but did not know why, and he was conscious that he was afraid of her. Often when she called him he would come to her slowly, and hang back at the last, frightened beneath her eyes. Then she would smile a bitter smile, thinking it was the spirit of the menial coming out in him, and showing distress before its superior. Once when he had given a false answer to her she laughed in his face. How could she have thought him an Osborne, the cowardly, lying, beggar's brat! Every day as she watched him she seemed to find the defects in him she credited his class with. She had discovered him picking the prettiest cakes from the plate at tea for himself. She had found him beating a boy smaller than himself without a reason. The reason was one the child would sooner have died than tell. The smaller boy had called her an ugly name. She thought him without feeling when one day he discovered her in tears, and did not speak to her; he had stood before her in silence, then gone away. The truth was the boy was too shocked to speak. Mother in tears! What sort of terrible trouble was there to make a grown-up person weep? They did not cry for any of the griefs he had. This was something he could not approach, comfort, or understand. He stood terrified, dumb, before her, and left her, to cry by himself for hours outside alone.

When he was seventeen he fell in love with the gate-keeper's daughter, and he sought an interview with his mother. She listened with impatience as he stammered the story. “Kind seeks kind,” she muttered. “It is all I expected.” She did not reason or argue with him, but simply sent the girl away. And the boy had to conquer his heart alone. Only once had she spoken to him upon the subject; it was to say if he wished to marry the girl when he was of age he could, that it probably would be a suitable match for him then. The lad did not know how to receive the speech—whether as a concession or as an insult—but he vowed in his heart he should not forget the girl he loved.

In his nineteenth year a lady came to visit his mother, bringing her daughter with her. He was struck with admiration for the girl's fair face, and his heart went out of him in its first real love. His mother noticed this, and to humiliate him brought the lodge girl back, and set her as servant in the house. The trick was lost upon the lad. He passed the girl upon the stairs, and did not know her. The poor thing had never thought the heir to the Osborne estates had ever meant anything by his passionate promises, and had long ago turned her eyes upon another man; so she did her work with cheerfulness, and never said anything to remind him that he had made her promise to wait till he was of an age to marry.

III

On the eve of her son's twenty-first birthday Lady Osborne sat alone in her boudoir. Her heart, feeding on its own bitterness for years, had grown more cruel towards the boy every day. Tomorrow the village would be in festive garb for the coming of age of her son. Her son! Tomorrow she would dethrone him, cast him off. No longer could she bear the thought of him—a stranger—possessing the old lands—the noble name—the ancient house. Better let the name die out in truth than have it falsely carried on by one who had no claim upon it. She laid her forehead upon her hands as a great wave of grief came over her. Tomorrow her own little child, who lay so far away, should have been by her side, to receive the congratulations of his people. Tomorrow the one dear girl of her old friend should have plighted with him her troth. How often when she and this friend sat together had they planned the match between their children. And now all things had happened as she might have wished. After her first brief visit this friend had come often; she was staying now for the coming of age. The children had seen much of each other, and were full of love. All was as it was planned, only her boy lay dead in his baby grave, and his place was filled by a servant's child. A servant's child was coming of age to-morrow, a servant's child was to lead Enid Geraldine to the altar, a servant's child was to carry on the two proudest names in the county. She dare not let it be. In the midst of her brooding the door opened, and her son entered. His face was flushed, and he had the consciousness of some great exultation about him. He walked to the window, then turned and faced his mother, breaking forth into sudden speech. In the glow of his enthusiasm the frost of her unsympathetic attitude towards him was forgotten; like a stream let loose by summer from the manacles of winter, his voice rang forth.

“To-morrow is the people's day, mother, not mine,” he said, walking up and down the room, gesticulating as he went. “Have I ever told you my plans, mother—what I mean to do when I am of age? I have dreamt of it so long. To-morrow I inherit all my grandfather's wealth; I shall be rich—a millionaire. All this money that I have never earned, and that I can never spend personally, I shall own, and those fields stretching away from the window for miles and miles— those empty fields that we never use, those woods full of nests and rabbit-burrows—the houses of animals, while human beings lie to sleep in the streets of the cities—they are all mine, mother, all mine, mine! But I shall change it. To-morrow is the people's day; I shall tell them so. Tomorrow! to-morrow! All these useless fields shall be covered with little red houses, and every house shall have its bit of ground and its garden full of roses. Those useless woods shall be cut down to build the houses—the useless money shall make this thing happen—the little houses will be homes for happy people. There will be no angry voices heard and no pale-faced children seen there. We shall call it The Happy Valley. By the river we shall build a great factory, and there the men shall work all day weaving cloth and manufacturing goods, in which they too shall share some of the profits. And the women at home shall be safe from the unsexing influence of city poverty; they shall make lace and mind their children, and live the lives of women. And if the money does not hold out, we must narrow in the boundaries of the parks, till the house stands within its wide, beautiful garden alone!”

Lady Osborne clenched her hands.

“Not a branch shall be broken, not a stone turned to let a ragged crowd of beggars upon the land. You talk like a fool!”

“I shall not do what you would not wish, mother; but come some way with me. We are not people to spend the money that has been unspent and growing for three generations. Our people were never reckless nor fond of show; but what good is it lying always idle? I shall only build a hundred cottages over by the river, and save a hundred families from poverty and hunger.”

“I hate the people!” Lady Osborne said; “dirty, thieving, ungrateful creatures. Let them wallow in their own mud!”

“It is the fault of circumstances if they have such faults. Oh, mother! we must save them, I want to do so, when I see the men shuffling from beershop to beershop; when I see the women dirty, neglected, loud-voiced—hardly women; when I see the little children shrinking from blows, shouted at, cursed at, taught to see everything wrong, sitting with poverty, playing with sin, cheek to cheek with crime. What can they do, mother? what can they do to become men and women?”

“Let them go down,” his mother said. “It the survival of the fittest; blow the seed, the chaff will fly in the wind. They are the drifts, the unfitted, the people who had not the strength to keep strong; idleness, weakness, disease, all have brought them to the earth. They are the parasites of the world. Stamp them out if you can; keep them from multiplying.”

“You are wrong, mother. Give them their chance, and they will show you that you are wrong.

It's education, money, peace, beauty, they want to regain their self-respect. They are human beings, people like you and me, with all our emotions, only played upon by a rougher hand. Fate has been kind to us. If I had been reared amongst their surroundings, I should have shuffled, thieved, sinned too.”

Lady Osborne rose with a low, bitter laugh. “Most probably, most probably.” The young man's face flushed at her tone. “You are cruel and hard!” he said excitedly. “Yet I tell you this. It's the vulgarity alone you notice, for in society I have met refined liars, immorality, bitter cruelty, brutality, aye, even thieves too, for people who have no temptation to steal a purse will rob men or women of their character. We have all the same vices, mother,”—he smiled,—“but we do not drop our h's. We drink champagne, they drink beer; we destroy reputations, they burgle houses; we have gold, therefore we have water to wash in; we are clean because we have amassed wealth, because we have robbed them of true comfort, sweated them, starved them, so that they built us our fortunes. Let me exchange my hard, cold money for flesh and blood!”

“You can leave me,” Lady Osborne answered coldly. “I am tired of argument. I shall speak to you to-morrow. When you know what I have to say you will be better able to form your own speech.” She turned from him. “How strange,” she thought, “that, in spite of education and refined surroundings, his soul should be ever with the people he sprang from! How impossible it is to stamp out heredity!”

The young man, crestfallen, left the room. As the door closed after him, Lady Osborne's friend entered the room by the open French window.

Lady Geraldine, a tall woman, who had no fault except pride of race, was sweet to look upon even in the grey autumn of her life. She took a chair by her old friend's side, and laid her hand upon her's.

“You are sad,” she said, “and this should not be. To-morrow your son will have reached that manhood for which he was born; he is like a white rose that has unfolded from bud to flower. God grant that his life may be as pure and sweet when the years drop from him like the petals of the rose, leaving him to look back instead of forward.”

Lady Osborne raised her head, but did not smile. She looked with a hard, set face through the window into the gathering dusk.

“You are poetical, dear friend,” she said, “and who can say your white rose when it comes to bloom may not be a rose at all, but a weed, blown by the winds of fate from some neighbour's garden into yours?”

“You joke, though you still look sad,” said Lady Geraldine smiling. “Your rose is a cutting from an old, old tree; he is so like his father, everyday I see it more plainly—his walk, his voice—can you not see the resemblance? But oh,” she added enthusiastically, “it is fine to me always—a young man come to manhood, the long apprenticeship to youth past, the world before him. Look at your boy with his mission to fulfil, the grand old name to carry on, to keep proud and stainless as it has ever been, to die with the knowledge that he has handed it on to his sons unsullied in his turn, and to rest at last with those great and brave men who gave it to him to pass on. Sometimes I almost wish my dear girl had been a boy—since I was to have but one, that it should have been a man-child.”

“Hush! hush! You torture me.”

“Why, dear? I do not understand you to-day.” Lady Geraldine looked with surprise into her friend's white face.

“I suppose there is one thing you could not forgive”—Lady Osborne spoke slowly—“if your girl married with my knowledge a servant's child?”

Lady Geraldine, shocked and astonished, gazed at her friend for a minute in silence, then she said,—“Why do you ask me such questions? My daughter is going to marry into a family as good, as pure, as proud as her own. She is hoing to marry your son.”

“She cannot marry my son.”

Lady Geraldine rose to her feet, her face white and stricken as her friend's. As she stood thus the door opened, and the two young people came in. They did not notice the stern women who watched them from the window. The girl passed with her hands full of roses, and the youth with eyes for nothing else followed her, and sat by her side upon a couch.

“So you do not love me, after all,” he said passionately, trying to take her hands—and the women at the window gave a start, the one with hope, the other with disappointment. The girl laughed, and put her hands behind her.

“Look into my eyes and tell me you don't love me.” He caught her hands, but she would not face him, and all the roses tumbled to the floor.

“No, I won't look.”

“You are afraid,” he said, laughing softly, “to tell so big a falsehood.”

“You make me ashamed, looking at me so,” she said; “your eyes seem to say too many flattering things.”

“They only say what my lips do—that you are the most beautiful and the dearest woman in the world. Let your lips only say, 'Frederick, I love you.

“Let us shut our eyes and imagine we are in the dark, then it will be easier to say,” she said. When the youth, at her bidding, closed his eyes, she stole from his side and ran smiling towards the door. In a moment he had followed her, and stood between her and it.

“My answer first, dearest,” he said.

In the playful struggle that the girl made to pass the answer came, for when their hands touched they went into each other's arms, and at that moment saw the two women at the window.

“And why,” said Lady Geraldine, moving a step towards her daughter, “cannot your son marry my child, since he loves her?”

“Because my son is dead!”

“Mother!”

“Are you mad?—what do you mean?” Lady Geraldine grasped her friend's hand in hers as though she feared her reason. “What do you mean? Your son is before you now.

But Lady Osborne spoke in a dull, slow voice, pointing to the youth who stood looking her so bewildered.

“My child has been dead, oh, so many years. He lies a baby's length in his little, forgotten grave. That boy who stands there—who would to-morrow possess the broad lands of the Osborne family as my heir—who would then, also, be betrothed to your daughter Enid, only heir to your proud name, is a servant's child.”

“Mother!” the young man cried hoarsely. My God! What are you saying? A servant's child! I am your son.”

“You are not my son.” Lady Osborne faced him now, her eyes grown hard, thinking of the day the truth was broken to her. “A woman—the woman who nursed my son—let him die, and in his place she sent you back. Oh! everyone shall know it. You are not an Osborne; how could I ever have imagined it! Every year since she told the truth to me I have seen your inheritances coming out in you—your love for the lower classes—your——”

“Hush!” The young man faced her. “Since I am not your son, who is my—mother?”

“I do not remember her name—you are a servant's child—a servant's child.”

The young man staggered towards the door. Then he turned to the women again, his arms outstretched.

“Mother!”

No response.

“Sweetheart!”

But the girl had moved to her mother's side, and the mother had her arms around her. “A servant's child,” they whispered, too stunned to weep.

Then the boy turned, and without a word left the room. When the door slammed the girl drew herself from her mother's side, as though waking from a sleep.

“Where is he?” she cried. “What have you done to him? Why did you not give me time to think? I love him; I do not care what he is; I love him!” She staggered blindly across the room, calling to him to come back, but before she could open the door she fell in a swoon before it.

IV

Lady Osborne and her guests came white and weary from their rooms the following morning. The glad village bells filled the parks with their music. In a few hours the villagers would surround the house, happy in their holiday dress, and eager to give their congratulations at the coming of age of the young heir of the Osborne estate. The three women sat silent around the breakfast-table, making a pretence of eating, but eating nothing. The forth place at the table was still unfilled—the seat placed to-day at the head for the heir. Some silly servant had laid on his plate a white rose, and beside it were a heap of congratulatory letters and telegrams.

The girl was the only one to call attention to the empty place. In a firm voice she asked where the young heir was.

A servant answered that he had not been in his room all night; he must have gone out at dawn, perhaps to shoot. Anyway, he had not been seen.

After that there was no more said, and when the time had arrived for the demonstration the three pale women went out upon the balcony, Lady Osborne going first, the two others following.

“What are you going to do? You are going to do something?” the girl whispered. “I am going to tell the people the truth.” The girl spoke angrily,—

“All these years he has not known a mother's love. What if he asks you why you robbed him of that? Even if she was poor, she would have held him to her, shielded him, loved him.”

“She deserted him,” Lady Osborne sneered.

“All the more reason for us women to love him; he is noble and good. Did he not win your heart as a little, soft baby? Think of him as he was, and love him.”

“I shall do my duty as I know it. I shall tell the people the truth.” The girl said no more, but stood aside. In her heart she thought, “If you cast him off, I will claim him here, in the face of them all.”

The air was loud with the sound of glad voices, and soon the avenue was gay with bright- coloured gowns and cheery faces. All the village, old and young, had come to make a holiday within the park's hospitable gates. The servants of the hall had laid, unchecked, great tables of food and ale for the village guests. They came singing and laughing to the front of the house, and, seeing the mistress Upon the balcony, they called for cheers for her. She faced them, white and unsmiling. Some, seeing her expression, remained silent. She raised her hand for quiet as they crowded before her.

“Before you go to your games and feasting,” she said, “there is something I must say to you. The young heir”——the people cheered at the mention of him.

“The young man whom you know as my son—” But she saw the crowd was not listening. On the outskirts there was some disturbance, and those nearer were asking what it was, and what was wrong. She thought she heard some one beg her to go aside; then the crowd parted, making a lane, through which she saw a crowd of men approaching.

“The young heir, whom you knew as my son—” She raised her voice, then saw what was coming. The men were carrying something; they were bringing it to her. A friend tried to pull her away, but she would not move. Then the men came to where she stood, and laid their burden down before her—drowned, white, cold—the other woman's child! She started forward, as though to take the body in her arms ; then with a strong effort controlled herself She laid her hand instead upon his wet forehead, and heard a girl's heart-broken scream behind her. “Take Miss Geraldine away,” she said. “What has happened?”

The men told her they had found the body in the river—it must have been there all night. They were honest fellows, and spoke with a sob in their throats; but Lady Osborne did not cry. “My child,” she whispered, “had no mother to weep over him. Neither shall this. My child, unhonoured, was buried away. So shall this one be.” She bent, and took one of the limp hands in hers.

“You fought hard for your life,” she said, looking at the torn and blood-marked fingers; “fought hard. You were a coward to go from your troubles, and a coward to seek to get back from the death you feared more. Never an Osborne!—never an Osborne!” She raised her eyes from the still face, and there, in the gaping, horrified crowd, she saw the face of the woman who had given her all her trouble.

“Come here!” she called; and the frightened woman came. “I am in your place,” Lady Osborne said. “Take back your son.” The woman, with a frightened cry, flung herself at the lady's feet.

“You scorned me and maddened me till I spoke,” she groaned.

“Take away your son!”

The woman, white as death, rose before her.

“I lied to you,” she said; “it was my baby that died. This is your child!”

A Question of Courage

“We know who you are looking at, Miss Roche!”

But Miss Roche only answered with a blush, and gazed through the telescope more earnestly than before. Those who watched her suddenly saw her stiffen, her face grow ghastly, and her hands clench together, as though she were stricken with death. They sprang up and surrounded her, as she rushed from her place screaming.

“Help! help!” she cried; and then, seeing nothing but the far-off snow peaks before her, returned to her place, roughly pushing back the gathering crowd. Those who had for the moment of her absence looked through the telescope saw, on the far-away snow mountain, three struggling human beings, sliding, sliding, sliding down to their death. Along the icy slope they went, clutching the crumbling snow, gliding ever downward to the mouth of a purple crevasse. The end of the tragedy had not come before the girl was back at the glass. She put the others who crowded around her, back with rough hands; they did not resent her passage or dare usurp her place, for she was engaged to one of those three men who they had for a moment seen so near, and yet were too far off to help.

The girl never moved during the awful minutes of the tragedy which she alone could see. She swayed, moaning and crying for some one to aid the poor victims, and, at last, with a choking cry, fell to the ground, from whence she was tenderly lifted and carried into the house. The moment her eyes left the glass others had taken her place, as full of pity as she, perhaps, yet anxious not to miss the morbid excitement of looking at least upon the disaster, since they were too far away to be of use.

The man who had taken the telescope in his hands, prepared as he was for what he should see, started back at the first glance, then settled to watch in pitiful uselessness.

“They have slipped to the edge of a crevasse,” he said. “Three men. My God! Two of them are over, the third man is trying to keep them up; but he can't do it—he can't do it! He is slipping—slipping—no! he has stopped; he has driven his axe into the ground—it holds. One of the fallen men is struggling to mount the rope, but cannot! The other is still—perhaps unconscious, dead! The rope is twisting and turning them round and round in the awful air. O God! the third man is giving way—his axe is broken, or has lost its hold. He is slipping towards the edge—he is on the edge. Heaven help him! he is over. No! The rope has broken; he saves himself—he saves himself! He lies in the snow, like one dead, poor chap!”

Here the watcher was pushed aside by a frantic woman, who took his place. She looked through the glass, trying to focus it to eyes dimmed with agony.

“There is one safe, you say!” she cried; “it is my son! is it not—my only son?” The men draw her aside. No one could be sure at the distance, they tell her, trying to calm her. Pray God it be her son. Then, seeing the other woman near, pale and wild, repeat, No one can be sure who it is—better wait.

Ah! the suspense of waiting. The whole population of the vast hotel were as anxiously watching for the return of the one survivor as though they were related to him. Lunch was hastily eaten with little conversation, and that little the one absorbing subject of the accident. Telescopes and glasses were levelled for hours at the snow-peak where the tragedy had been. But they saw nothing; after the accident, the man remaining had crawled out of sight.

At dawn next morning the rescue party returned with the one living creature they had found and the bodies of the mangled dead. Those who had forgotten in sleep the tragedy of the day before were awakened by a woman's cry, and sprang up alarmed. But one girl who had not lain down to sleep, but trod the floor all night, pressed her hands above her heart, hearing the scream. “ It is not her son!” she said. “Thank God!”

* * *

Edward Rounds recovered slowly from the shock and exposure which he had suffered, and when he came amongst his friends again they could see lines of suffering upon his face that had never been there before.

He had gone amongst these companions for a few days before it became evident to him that there was some coldness in their attitude towards him since the accident. At first he could not believe that it was not his imagination. He remembered the enthusiastic welcome they had given him upon his appearance with the rescue party, how they had cheered him from their windows, and hurried down in the dawn to congratulate him on his escape. Thinking thus, he went amongst them as formerly, but soon found he was firmly, though almost imperceptibly, snubbed, and set aside. The dozen friends who had joined with him to spend their holidays in Switzerland were avoiding him. His neighbours at the table moved their places, one saying the draught was too much, the other, not hearing the excuse, that the heat that end of the table was oppressive. Before he realized it, Edward had strangers beside him when he ate. After a week or so these strangers had forgotten their excitement in his escape from death, or only remembered it if a son or a friend begged to go on the same eventful climb. Then Edward was pointed out as a warning of its danger, and was begged to tell his story over again. How he shrank from the telling nobody knew, but the limpness and coldness of his replies soon froze the friendliness of those beside him. He was left to himself and silence. For some time Edward refused to believe that his friends shunned him. Yet their awkwardness in meeting him, their various excuses to get away, their refusal to walk with him for many inadequate reasons, his difficulty in keeping up conversation with them when he found them alone, his own very isolation amongst the strangers at the hotel, could not but open his eyes to the fact that, without a word of explanation, he was being put away from the friendships he desired, and from the affection that had been his.

The bitterest drop in this cup of bitterness was the coldness of the girl whom he had hoped to make his wife. He had known her a year, and had prevailed on her father—she was motherless— to join the trip that he and his friends were making to Switzerland. And the old man, one of his dearest friends, had willingly consented. He smiled on the youth when he asked for his company, and Edward answered the unspoken thought :—” I hope to ask something from you before the holiday is through, but I do not know if she cares for me yet.”

The old General had wished him good luck, with a warm grasp of the hand. Now he was one of those who seemed to Edward to avoid him most. The girl appeared to share her father's dislike, or whatever it was, and Edward could now never meet or speak with hr alone—never could prevail on her to walk with him, or get her to converse.

“She does not care for me,” he thought; but the memory of certain looks and words of hers came to him. “She has grown tired, or loves another.” His hands clenched at the possibility. The shadow of his friends' unkindness fell darkly upon him in his weakness. His strength had not come back to him since his adventure in the snow, and the short, severe fever that followed. The holidays were drawing to a close; he dreaded to go back to the city with the consciousness of this entanglement with his companions. He dreaded the desolation of his life amongst the crowd, without love or friendship; he made friends so slowly, and had always dreaded strangers. He dreaded most of all to go back to the little house he had hoped to make a home with the woman he loved.

On one day he would breakfast in his room, take his lunch out to eat alone upon the hillside, dine in silence, without looking up from his plate, and disappear to his room the moment he left the table. The next morning he would wake with the strong conviction that he was imagining grievances, and that it was his own folly that made his friends seem heartless. So rising, he would go to them with the frankness and affection with which he always met them, only to meet again the repulse he could feel; though he neither heard nor saw any sign to mention, even to himself.

One day he sat with his head upon his hands, alone in the wood. He was so still that a girl half passed before she became aware of his presence. At her start of surprise he woke from the sadness of his dreaming, and looking into her face, saw her wish to pass unnoticed. A sudden anger seized him; he sprang to his feet and stood in her path, he caught her dress in his hands as she turned to go back.

“You shall not go!” he cried, half in anger, half in entreaty, “not till you tell me what all this coldness means.”

“I am not aware of any coldness,” she said, her face flushed and half turned away. “It's later than I thought. I must go back; Father will expect me.”

“You will not go back,” he answered, “till you tell me what it all means? Why have my friends turned from me? Why am I sent to Coventry? What have I done? Alice,” he continued, as she tried to face him with a look of surprise, so badly feigned on her honest face that she blushed at her own deception, “don't pretend not to understand me; be true to yourself—to me. Tell me what I have done.”

“Done!” she echoed. “I don't know that you have done anything wrong; it's only—only it's a matter of feeling.”

“A matter of feeling!” He caught her hands as she turned to go. “You must tell me, Alice! You know what I hoped—you know what I meant to ask you. Is it that—that is keeping you from me? Is it that you do not care now? You did once, Alice; you did once.”

“Oh, let me go!” she said, half crying. “Perhaps that's it; I did care—and I do not care now. Let me go!”

He loosed her hands at once, and she went sobbing homeward through the woods; but he crouched there till darkness came, when he rose and followed her.

His friends were deep in a loud discussion when he entered the smoking-room, which they had all to themselves that evening. They did not hear the door open till his appearance chilled them all to silence. It was unusual of late for him to come among them, and the look upon his face was unusual too. One of the more merciful of them rose to leave the room, saying he was tired. He knew the snubs that would follow Edward's arrival, and dreaded having to contribute to them.

But Edward stood against the door and faced the room. There was a stern purpose in his eyes as they dwelt upon his friends.

“Before you go, gentlemen,” he said, “there is something I have to say to you—something you have to answer to me. I have known you all for years—you have all known me. You owe me, I think, for the sake of our friendship—our past friendship, I expect you would wish to say—an explanation of your conduct to me lately.” He paused. Only one man spoke.

“Our conduct, Edward?” he said awkwardly; “what on earth is wrong with our conduct to you lately?”

Edward turned upon him bitterly.

“Don't pretend you don't know what I mean,” he said; “out with it, some of you! What have I done?”

The men moved uneasily. Some one muttered, “That is no way to speak.” Edward lowered his voice at the rebuke; he spoke more gently, but held his position at the door.

“No one leaves the room till I know my fault. Why have you thrust me from you without even the justice of knowing what I have done? If I cared for your friendship less, I would not trouble you to ask; but you were my friends, my only companions: if I lose you I shall make no new affections. Why have you turned against me? The loneliness is horrible.”

There was silence for a moment, then one man leant forward to strike a match, and, shielding it with his fingers to keep it alight, he turned his shoulder to the young man. Edward thought he meant it as a snub. The truth was, the man was trying to break an awkward silence, and his movement was only to hide from the gaze he felt fasten on his face.

“You, General! do not turn away from me. For God's sake, what have I done?” The old man knocked the dead ashes from his pipe.

“What have you done?” He looked round at his companions as if for an answer. “I don't know that you have exactly done anything.”

Edward flushed with fresh anger. “Out with it! What have I done?” He spoke roughly. “Why have you all avoided me?”

“Have the others avoided you?” man looked around him. “I did not know. If I avoided you it was unknown to myself—at least, I did not know I put my feeling into any expression.”

“Your feeling—what feeling?”

A young man at the other end of the room leaned forward. He spoke as though to put an end to the suspense.

“If I have shown you any coldness, I apologize,” he said slowly. “If I have avoided you, it has been because of a feeling that I I cannot explain—ever since you returned from that terrible day on the ice.”

“Yes”—Edward turned to him—“it is since that day. What have I done since that day?” The young man flushed. “It wasn't since that day,” he said; “it was on that day.”

He moved uneasily; some one else muttered “Yes! on that day”; and he resumed,— “I don't know if it's the same thing that we all feel since we heard—since we heard—”

“Go on!” Edward cried hoarsely, his face losing its red flush of anger and growing pale. “But I know that with me it's only a certain feeling I have. I dare say that I am all wrong—I dare say that we should all have done what you did.”

“What did I do?” Edward's voice came in a rough whisper. “Well, they say, you know—the guides who found you—that the rope did not break—was cut, you know; and, I suppose, we all feel—the same about it. We know you would not have done it, only there was no chance for the others. But, all the same, we feel queer about it. Is that it, you fellows?”

There was a movement of assent in the room.

Edward leaned against the door, his face ghastly. He spoke at last, slowly and as if with difficulty.

“Yes,” he said, “I cut the rope. It was to cut it or die; it made no difference to them. It is only a matter of feeling, as you say. I should have gone with them. Do you think,” he cried, clenching his hands together, “do you think I do not know it now? Night after night I lie awake, and go through the agony again: I feel the rope tighten on my chest, and those dead men pulling me down. I was one of the three. They have not forgiven me for leaving them; why should you? They haunt me—I hear their voices, I feel their hands. Did you know when you banished me all that I was suffering—how I have thought of it till it almost maddened me? did you think I had forgotten the sound of their cries, the tearing of their fingers upon the ice, the thud of their falling bodies going down, down, down, the bite of the rope across my chest, the slackening of it? Do you think I can forget? A matter of feeling, it is nothing else. Was I bound to kill myself, when I had one little chance of escape?—hardly a chance I thought at the time. Listen! Do you know how we fell? The guide went first,—I think he was ill; there was no reason for his fall,—and he lay helpless when he was down. Robertson went next, and I was drawn after them. We slid a man s length and stopped. I had my axe in the ground. The guide never stirred; he was a heavy man, and the strain was awful. Robertson tried to get a hold, and his struggles loosened the axe; we slid again, and again I got my blade in the ice. I held as long as I could, but, under the weight, the handle of my axe broke; then we slid downward again. My God! how awful it was! We clung to each other, we tore at the iron ground with our naked hands; we tried to get our feet into the ice, to fasten our teeth into the snow; but we rolled and slipped down, down, the guide, helpless, dragging us the quicker to our death. I do not know how long it was till we reached the end— hours it seemed—and then the two went over into the horrible emptiness, and I alone remained to save them. I tore with my nails, I thrust my teeth into the ice; I had my feet on a tiny ridge, and for a moment I held them up. I heard Robertson calling to me to hold on and he would climb the rope. But he could not, he was in the middle. I heard the guide call out feebly something I did not understand; then he was quiet. Robertson could not move. There was no time to think before I began to slip again.”

He stopped and thrust his hands out. The nails were half torn away, and upon the hands were the signs of a cruel struggle.

“Look here! See how I held! I was slipping again, and there was no chance of recovery. Oh, you fellows, sitting there in judgment, I swear before God if it had been a question of the faintest—the faintest chance of saving them, I would have given my life upon that chance. I would have died for them, if there was a possibility of their rescue by doing so. But it is not asked of us to die with a comrade, though we may give our lives for his rescue. If there had been no rope and they had slipped over, would you have expected me to jump over after them? No, you would not. My hands were powerless, the rope bit into my flesh. I was half over the edge. I thought life was fairer than it is. I saved myself by a miracle—I cut the rope. I fought hard for them.”

He dragged his shirt open at the breast as he spoke, showing them so cruel a bruise that some of the men turned away in pity.

“My wounds speak for me. Oh,” he continued, with a sudden cry of appeal, “you are men with wives, sweethearts, sisters, mothers, homes; I am a solitary man without a relative in the world, with loneliness mistress in my home; I cannot make new friends”—he looked towards the General—“I cannot make new loves. Do not turn your faces from me. You see how weak I am to speak to you like this—how I value you all.”

In the silence that followed the door opened and Alice entered, followed by her dog, a pretty Russian poodle.

“Is my father here?” she said.

And the strain upon the nerves of the company was broken by her voice. The men rose to their feet with a deep breath of relief, some bidding her come in, others seizing the moment of disturbance to slip out of the room, glad to escape the unusual atmosphere of awkwardness. Edward stood beside the door and let them pass. They slunk by him as if he were the judge and they the condemned. Some said, “Good-night.” One muttered he would see him in the morning, with a secret resolution to be up and catch an early train before any one was moving; another had to give orders for an excursion next day; a couple, feeling indisposed, went to order breakfast in their rooms. All passed without the offer of a hand, till only Alice and her father were left.

The young man and the old faced each other. “Well, sir, and you?” The young man spoke bitterly. The other moved towards the door.

“I have to see a man about that drive to-morrow, or I shan't get a carriage” Then, seeing the look on the young man's face, he added: “You see, my boy, nothing you can say or do just now makes any difference. It's a feeling one has about it all. I dare say we are wrong, and in time it will wear away; but there's a feeling about these things one can't get over just at first.”

He hastily left the room, forgetting his daughter.

Edward turned to her.

“You, Alice?”

“I only came to ask Dr. Thornton how to use this; it's poison.” She held up a little bottle. “I have such neuralgia, and I am so busy; we leave in the morning. I have so many letters to write.” Then she cried, as if afraid, “Oh, let me go—I am so busy.”

“I am not detaining you,” he said; and opened the door for her. He sat down in the empty room and took up the phial she had dropped in her haste. “Life was so sweet, I was afraid to die.” He held the bottle to the light—it was quite full. “Life was so sweet.”

He laughed aloud, and the dog who lay upon the hearth rose and came to him, laying its head upon his knees with a long, low whine.

The Strange Voice

Eileen sat very silent amongst the group that gathered around the turf fire in the low thatched cottage.

“What has come to your light heart?” one said to her. “You are that quiet, I keep forgetting Eileen Murphy is with us at all.”

But the head of the old grandmother nodded slowly, and it was she who answered for Eileen.

“I'm afeard,” she said, “the boy is gone. It is seven days since he walked from that door, and not a word or sight of him since. I'm afeard the boy is gone.”

Eileen drew her bare feet from the fire, as though a spark had fallen upon them. She shrank further into the shadow.

“I met him that night outside your door,” the neighbour said, knocking the ashes from his pipe upon the stone hearth. “He borrowed a match from me, to light his pipe. He told me he was to be married as soon as the banns were called. He seemed very light-hearted.” The man glanced pitifully at the girl's figure hiding in the shadow. “I never seen or heard of him since.

“He said he had business to do when he left us, and that a lamb of his had strayed, that he must look for before morning; but it was not dark, and the lamb was there next day, but he had gone.”

The girl's little sister drew her chair to the fire, looking fearfully behind her. “Maybe he walked on the sleeping grass,” she whispered, thinking of the fairies, but nobody heeded her.

“Maybe he ran from the wedding,” a bold young voice giggled from near the door. “Maybe he's off to Dublin, and some of the grand ladies have caught hold of him.”

“Shame upon you! Kathleen O' Grady.” The girl's mother spied into the darkness where her daughter sat so quiet. “Well you know he was after Eileen since they were children together.”

“And he is going to give her the jackdaw you wanted, Kathleen,” the girl's sister said, with childish triumph. “He said he was teaching it to speak.”

“I remember them well,” the old grandmother said, “the two children; and with him it was, 'Follow me, Eileen,' and she was after him wherever he went.”

A faint giggle from Kathleen and a whispered “She was” drew the stern eye of the neighbour upon her face. She flushed, and said “I mean no harm; sure the boy is all right.”

“ 'Follow me, Eileen,” ' the old woman muttered. “I seem to hear his voice; only a few weeks ago he came to the door and cried to her, then ran like a child, jumping the heather before her.”

“It was his way of getting her to himself,” the mother said. “God be with him, wherever he is!” The girl threw her chest out with a long breath, but stifled the sob before it was heard.

“He was for selling every stick and beast about his place,” Kathleen said in a hard voice. She once fancied that he cared for her, and the mistake still stabbed her. “Yesterday the bargain was to have come off. Did he tell ye?”

“That's true,” the neighbour said, filling his pipe and crushing the tobacco in with his finger.

“Mike Doherty told me he paid him good money that evening. He was going to take his bride to America, and he was right; there is more chance there for a man than here.”

“It's to Dublin he's gone,” Kathleen muttered, “and forgotten ye all; he was always a rag on every bush.”

The girl in the shadow clenched her hands, but did not speak.

“He promised to send for me,” the old grandmother muttered, “in a year; but I'll be buried by that, glory be to God!”

“I'm told America's a great place for the poor,” the mother said, looking round the dim cabin it would have broken her heart to leave; “a great place entirely.”

“And Eileen will be a grand lady there,” the grandmother continued, breaking into a cackle of laughter. “For it's over the sea with O'Rouark she is going. 'Follow me, Eileen, he said.”

Kathleen sprang to her feet. “My God!” she cried; “did you hear that?”

There was a sudden rustling in the cabin of startled people settling into silence, then the quiet of listening. Outside the door a voice was heard, loud and distinct,—

“Follow me, Eileen.”

Then came a burst of joyous clatter in the room. “Open the door for him!”

“He's right welcome!”

Eileen stood up in her corner, the hot blood rushing back to her heart, suffocating her. Kathleen opened the door with a sullen face; she would not be glad to see him. She opened the door wide, and all faces were turned to the darkness outside; but no one entered.

There was a moment's silence, and then from a distance the voice again,— “Follow me, Eileen.”

Kathleen sprang towards the group at the fire, hiding her face amongst them.

“Lord have mercy upon us! It's his ghost I'm after seeing.”

The little child began to scream, and the women made the sign of the cross upon themselves. “Holy Mother, protect us!” they said; but the neighbour shook the ashes from his pipe and stood up.

“You're a fool, Kathleen O'Grady!” he said, and he went outside.

Eileen laid her hands upon her heart. “He wants me,” she whispered, “but I cannot stir; I am too glad—too glad!”

The neighbour re-entered; he closed the door behind him, and, as though unintentionally, slipped the bar across it.

“There's nothing there, sure enough,” he said, and pulled his chair closer to the fire. Again came the cry, “Follow me, Eileen,” and the bar fell with a clatter from the door. The women rose with a shriek, which ended in a hysterical laugh.

“It's only Eileen,” Kathleen said; “she slipped out.”

“Holy Mother and the saints, preserve her!” the mother said. She put a lighted candle in the window. “She will see it when she is tired of her foolishness.”

They sat down in silence and waited.

But Eileen ran out into the night, listening for the voice she loved, for in the dark she heard it again,—

“Follow me, Eileen.”

“I am coming,” she answered; “wait for me: I cannot see you.” She ran fast along the rough mountain road, till her breath failed her.

“Oh! wait for me!” she gasped; “it is so dark.”

“Follow me, Eileen.” The voice was close beside her—amongst the few fir trees that clustered together beside a murmuring brook.

She sprang from the road with a laugh, and bounded amongst the deep fern and pricking gorse. The briars caught her dress and tore it, they clung about her ankles, leaving red marks of their caresses. She stretched her arms wide, to hold the beloved. “Follow me, Eileen.” The voice was far away. She struggled back to the road, sobbing and crying, “Ah, you are cruel; I will follow you no more.”

“Follow me, Eileen.” The voice had a plaintive note now. She stretched her hands towards it, but did not answer. She crouched by the wayside, and hid her face. Surely he was playing with her, to treat her so; and yet—she raised her head to listen.

“Follow me, Eileen.” The voice grew fainter, further off. She sprang to her feet and ran, afraid to lose the sound. Once again she thought she had come upon him. The Voice seemed only a few feet away from her. She opened her arms with a glad cry:—

“Ah! I have found you at last.”

Then a crushing blow upon the forehead knocked her to the earth. She had run against a tree in the darkness. She drew herself up beneath it and moaned. Far away she could hear the voice again, “Follow me, Eileen.”

A great terror came to her; she shivered, and hid her bruised face in her hands. He was dead— oh, yes! dead; it was his ghost who was calling to her, and flying before her like a false marsh- light. She shuddered with the fear of death upon her. He was near, she felt him; in a moment he would put his cold, dead hands upon her. She shrieked, “Don't touch me!” and heard his voice far away calling to her pitifully,—

“Follow me, Eileen.”

She sprang up, all her love awake for him.

“Living or dead, I will follow you.” She cast her fear from her. “Where are you, Alanna?”

All around her came the singing of grasshoppers amongst the rough grass and heather. The sound seemed to her like the turning of fairy spinning wheels. She imagined the tiny figures sitting there among the ferns spinning. Whiz! whiz! whiz! What were they spinning? Over her face came spiders' webs, blown by the wind,—fine silk, floating from place to place in the breeze—lying on her nervous, bruised forehead like ropes. She brushed them aside.

“You will not bind me,” she said; “spin as you may, I will follow him for ever.” She started running again; and ran gasping and stumbling after the strange voice for hours. Her dress was torn half away, her hands and feet red with her rough travelling, her brain was hot and mad with weariness and despair, her breath came in harsh sobs through the quiet of the night.

Now she would say, “I hate you; you are cruel.” And again, “I love you; wait for me; I love you.”

Suddenly again, close beside her, came the “Follow me, Eileen.”

“I follow you till death.” She staggered off the little foot-track across the bog. In a moment she felt herself caught; something cool, and soft, and strong was dragging her down.

“Is it you, Alanna?” she gasped but got no answer, and was too tired to wonder. She was benumbed and foolish with weariness, yet surely she was in his arms.

“You are so cold,” she muttered, yet thought it should be so, seeing he was dead. “I do not care if you are living or dead, now I have found you.” She felt the cold chill of his soft clasp move upward, now to her waist, now to her shoulders. She struggled a moment, then was quiet—she sank lower. “I am in the bog,” she shrieked. Then again, “I am so tired; kiss me, Alanna!” And for a moment the kiss was bitter on her lips, then the bog closed above her soft hair, and she slept.

* * *

But still in the little village they tell the story of Eileen and her lover, and bar the door and draw near the fire in the telling; for though one old man always believed it was the jackdaw's voice that frightened them that night, calling as its lost master had taught it, he was always a foolish old man, and he is dead now, and his story forgotten. The others, and especially the young folk, will tell you it was the ghost of Eileen's lover who called her forth, and Kathleen O'Grady saw him with her two eyes standing before the door beckoning and calling.

The Twin Brothers

I

In a lone house in a northern county of Ireland the two brothers dwelt together. Smoothly and quietly their two lives had run side by side for nearly forty years. Bound together by natures modelled without contradictions, with nothing to disturb the deep, and to them yet unknown, emotions that slept in the heart of each, they were content to let year after year pass by them and their solitary life, so that those years left them peace. Their various visits to the big cities for education, and later on for business purposes, had given them no desire to leave the loneliness they loved. Twin brothers!—their characters, like their faces, seemed almost alike at first meeting them; after a time the difference struck the observer more forcibly, the ruggedness in the one brother being softened in the other. Where the blue eyes would speak of possibilities, of fierceness and passion, the brown would seem only waiting an opportunity to melt into tenderness and affection. Yet neither character having that love of interference, which makes for much of the unhappiness of the world, each was content to live and let live without inflicting his conscience upon the other or combating his ideals of life. Behind the house a clear mill-stream ran, which, further on, turned two great wheels before it fell back into the river from whence it came. Behind the river a wood stretched into the purple distance; around the house fields of wheat and barley flourished. The brothers from their great farm lands drew a small competence, which they had no desire to spend, loving better to wander apart into the solitude when the day's work was done, than to go among their fellows: one to make with clever hands little models of the inventions his brain was always suggesting,—models he dreamt of patenting in the future, that future which is always the dreamer's, and which is too far off for life; the other to scribble verses and songs that no one ever saw, and which even his brother only suspected he wrote.

Thus, though, because of their reserved natures, they were never companions, yet their lives drifted pleasantly on side by side, up to the time of their fortieth year. It was upon that day that their fate overtook them and flung a stone into their life's river that destroyed the flow for ever, and made turbulence and raging billows where once the calm had been.

On the morning of the tenth in a spring month, the brothers rose with a feeling of exhilaration. The glory of the day, the singing of the mated birds, the gold of the new-born blossoms, all made them realize the sweetness of life. They felt that spring was theirs too, as it was—glory as fair as brief—with promise as a beginning and storm and desolation as an ending; like two trees that put forth green leaves in the sunshine, only later to have them torn and destroyed, and they themselves fall stricken by the storm to earth.

With quiet feeling the brothers clasped hands on the morning of the tenth. “A happy birthday to you, brother.”

“And to you.” They went their ways with no passing sorrow for the years gone; forty to-day, and dreaming still of what fame would bring them in the future. When the brothers had gone through their morning's business, they withdrew with a sigh of relief to their favourite pursuits: the one to the riverside, where he experimented with a beautiful little model of a mill; the other seated higher up the banks beside a steep waterfall. Here he drew a book from his pocket, and commenced to write.

Ernest had been working his little mill for nearly an hour, when he fancied he heard a cry. He looked towards where his brother was sitting, but saw him deep in his book, evidently oblivious of everything else. Another glance, and he saw a few yards beyond the student, in the centre of the river, a young girl balancing dangerously upon some stones above the waterfall. He gave a loud shout and commenced running towards her. But at his call the poet, glancing from his book, awoke to his surroundings and sprang to his feet. In a moment he had seen the girl's danger and gone knee-deep into the river to her side. Without a word he caught her in his arms and carried her to the bank. Loosed from his hold, she stood confused. Ernest drew near, panting with his run.

“I was too late,” he said. And then the three looked at each other embarrassed and strange.

“I was painting the falls,” the girl explained, “and I thought I would see what they were like from this side. I did not mean to disturb you.” She smiled at the inconsequence of her remark.

“You can still see, if you are not too wet,” Ernest said.

“I am not wet,” she answered, “thanks to this gentleman.”

“My brother,” Ernest explained. Then, turning to where his brother stood silent, remarked, “You had better go home and change, Hugh, or you will get cold.”

The girl looked at his wet things. Her eyes filled with consternation. “Oh, do,” she said, “I am so very, very sorry you got wet because of me.”

Hugh hesitated a moment. He smiled. “You would not like me to put you back first?” The girl refused with a merry laugh.

“I will try the bridge this time,” she said, then looked after him as he went along the path to the house.

“ You are Miss FitzGerald,” Ernest said, his eyes admiring the girl before him. “And you?”

“I am Ernest Kavanagh. My brother Hugh saved you—at least, from buying a new dress.”

“That would be no misfortune for a woman,” she answered. “How do you know I am Maud FitzGerald?”

“Your father told me you were coming home from school, that you loved painting, and would probably be charmed with my old mill-wheels, and insist upon making a picture of them.”

“Will you show them to me? May I look at them now?” the girl asked eagerly. He turned at once and led the way down the path his brother had gone; they crossed the bridge over the mill-stream and passed behind the house.

“I will show you the place if you care to see it. He brought her past a long row of cottages, through the windows of which she saw men at work. And again they came upon the mill-stream, where she saw the great wheels turning under their weight of water.

Her excitement over its picturesqueness was pretty to the man. He felt a keen pleasure in her presence, in her youth and freshness. It struck him he had never before seen a lady lingering about the old mill. The daughters of his workers had never given the strange beauty to the picture that this girl did—standing beside the stream, her pretty curls moving in the wind, and her face upturned to his for sympathy with her mood. He was showing her around the old buildings, pointing out bits he thought would make sketches, when his brother joined them. For the first time in his life he felt that he resented his presence, and relapsed into sullen silence, while Hugh carried on a bright chatter with the girl. On her wish to return home, Hugh immediately offered to show her the way to the bridge. Ernest turned to walk with them, when the girl put out her hand to bid him good-bye. She had no idea that he proposed to go with her too. But he fancied it a snub in preference for his brother, and turned away with a flush of anger.

When the brothers met in the evening to sit together in their study, they were both ashamed of themselves, and the momentary sensations the girl's sudden entry into their day had made. They became, in consequence, more talkative than usual. Ernest over his model had forgotten the glamour of the girl's presence, and only remembered that he had felt a moment's bitterness to his brother. Hugh over his book thought of the passing triumph he had felt in the girl's choosing him to see her home. Both felt wonder that a woman could have had the power to disturb them even for so short a time. They talked long into the night, but neither mentioned the girl's name nor referred to her adventure.

The next day FitzGerald arrived with his daughter.

“I came to thank you both,” he said. “My little girl tells me you saved her from a wetting—if not worse, she also says she has designs upon your mill-wheels. You will let her paint them, if I vouch for her good behaviour. She will be very quiet, and not disturb you.”

The brothers laughed with a vague sensation that it was not impossible she might disturb them very much indeed some day.

They both watched her as they talked with her father in the dingy sitting-room. For the first time it struck them how old and faded everything was in it. The contrast between the dull wall- paper, the worn carpet, the stiff-backed, common-place chairs, and the bright graceful moving bit of sunshine of a girl was so great.

Hugh went to her side impulsively.

“Do you know what you are like?” he said. “A lovely bunch of red and white roses, fresh from the morning, and set in our old dark, dusty room.”

The girl blushed. “And the thorns,” she said. “They are there, too.”

“The right protection of every rose from the rough hand that would snatch her. A rose must be gently wooed and tenderly removed from the parent stem.” He laughed, and looked at her father.

“I forgot you write poetry—at least, I have heard you do,” the girl said, looking up at him. “Of course you see fairies, and banshees, and things.”

He smiled, but did not answer. “You do see them,” she insisted.

“There may be such,” he answered dreamily. “I believe—I almost believe—I have seen them.”

“Oh, how lovely!” the girl cried, clapping her hands. “Do tell me. What do they wear The young man was chilled. The subject was serious to him. He regarded her coldly, and she, seeing it, added in a coaxing voice,—

“You will take me with you next time you go to see them?” His gaze fell upon her again. She was so gay, so young, so pretty. “Dreams! They are but dreams,” he answered; but whether in answer to her question or to the new whispering of his heart he himself did not know.

The same evening, as the brothers sat together, as was their wont, Hugh noticed again how faded the room was.

“We might have the house done up a bit,” he remarked. “It wants it.” His brother stopped his work, and looked keenly at him. The same thought was in his mind, and the same reason had stirred it.

“It has served us long enough,” he said. “I see no reason to change it now.” A few weeks after the meeting a neighbour passing FitzGerald's house saw the old father the garden, and spoke to him across the gate.

“I hear Ernest and Hugh Kavanagh are madly in love with your daughter.” The old man started; then smiled.

“By Jove!” he said. “How these little ones grow up. In love with the child,” he laughed aloud—then turned serious. “If it is true, it is no bad news. They are good fellows—clean, straight men, and they are rich. There are no hands I would more willingly place her in.”

“But she will have to choose—have to choose,” the old neighbour muttered. “She can't have both, and neither will like to be left.”

“Whichever she choose,” FitzGerald said, “they are equally good. If he be a bit older than her, well, all the better. It's the empty-headed lads who don't know the worth of a woman's love. Better an old man's darling than a young man's slave. Not that they are old—in their prime, it is, they are.”

The neighbour left them with a smile, but he muttered to himself as he went, “Better your daughter than mine. A queer pair they are, the Kavanaghs—clever and queer. God knows what will happen if they both set their hearts upon the girl. What they see in her, a foolish, empty-headed chit—they that have travelled and seen so many noble women—to be caught at last, and by that—only a silly child, only a beautiful envelope—no brains, no brains. Lord! what a pretty face will do to hide the deficiency! Why, my Susan is twice as clever.”

So he hobbled on, muttering and laughing.

To the brothers was slowly coming the knowledge of their position, their love for the girl, their coming battle to gain possession of her. Mentally they stood eyeing one another like two duellists, each calculating the other's chances, his strength, his constancy.

At first when the girl painted by the mill, they had been attracted in their idle moments by the novelty of her beauty, glowing against those grey walls of the old buildings, and passing with light feet up and down the path where they frequented. Then they grew to talk to her of themselves and their favourite pastimes.

And to both she would listen with sympathy, interest, and admiration. It was enough to make her the ideal woman. She was not clever enough to help them even with advice; but they were too strong to seek or need a woman's help. As for her, she thought they were the most glorious men she had ever seen. She felt it would be impossible to choose between them. Indeed, she could not tell which she loved the most.

When Ernest spoke with her of his great inventions and hopes, she would look into his deep eyes, and think it would be good to listen to him for ever; but when he would reach for her hand and hold it, in spite of her, between his own, her heart would struggle for its freedom, and hasten after the absent brother, thinking it loved him best.

If it were Hugh who walked with her by the river, telling her wonderful tales of his dream- world, and reading her poems he had written to her loveliness and his devotion, she would feel it better to love this brother, who was so tender and gentle, not daring to touch her hand or speak out his love for fear of frightening her. She would in pity half turn towards him, opening her lips to say she loved him. But her inconstant heart at the movement would pine for the stronger lover, who she felt would have her, even if both were broken in the struggle.

One day, as the brothers sat having tea with her father and herself upon the lawn of her house, Hugh spoke of their first meeting.

“I said you were like a rose, he pleaded to the girl, in a low tone. “And you spoke of thorns. I have found none.

“There are many. Ask father.”

She turned to include the old man in the conversation. She dreaded sentiment from either brother when the other was there, so fierce and jealous the outsider would become. Even now

their angry glances fenced across her. She felt ashamed and alarmed, thus being the object of their silent combat.

“I said,” Hugh continued, not heeding her look at her old father, who was talking with his brother, “a rose must be sweetly wooed and tenderly taken possession of.”

Ernest heard him and smiled.

“Ask the rose, Hugh,” he said. “And in spite of the angry little thorns, it would prefer to be strongly taken by the hot hand of power and burnt in a heart of passion and fire.”

“No,” Hugh said coldly; “for fear it might break and die, reverence should gather the rose, and love be its slave.”

Ernest fixed his eyes upon the face of the other.

“Better burn than decay. Ask the rose, Hugh; ask the rose.” The girl felt compelled to meet his gaze; his eyes seemed to pierce into her soul. She opened her lips and spoke without her will.

“The rose would like the strong hand best, I think,” she murmured. “Better the leaping fire than to wither and fall to dust.”

Ernest laughed; his eyes turned from her face; he resumed his conversation with her father, as though satisfied with her answer. Hugh smiled, as though he had suffered no defeat.

“Shall we ask the roses?” he said, and put out his hand to her to raise her from her seat. They strolled towards the garden of roses, whose breath was in the air around them.

When the brothers were at home that evening, the silence for the first time was broken between them upon the subject which was uppermost in the minds of both.

Hugh was the first to speak. He laid the gun he was cleaning across his knees, and looked across at his brother with glowing eyes.

“Ernest,” he said quietly, “we have lived together for many years without quarrelling or dissension. Now it would seem things are changed; for days we have met with anger in our hearts because of—a woman. It is not a thing I wish to speak of—but I care for her very much. You are using your strong will to draw her from me. But for you she would love me. Will you cease persecuting her?”

Ernest fixed his cold gaze upon his brother's face.

“I do not persecute her,” he said slowly; “she cares for me. I read it in her heart.” Hugh drew the gun up in his hands.

“You have read nothing I have not read. She is a child. She cannot decide, but she shall. She is mine. I carried her in my arms away from the danger of the river. I saved her; she is mine.

“ I saw her first,” Ernest said softly; “I called to you. Only for me she would have fallen without help. She is mine; I shall marry her.”

“You shall not.”

“I shall.”

A shot rang through the room. Hugh flung the smoking gun from him, his face white as death. “My God, Ernest!” he gasped.

Ernest fixed him with his eyes. “Be more careful with loaded guns,” he smiled, “or there may be an ugly accident some day, awkward for you to explain.”

But Hugh had marched from the room. All that night he rode like a madman over the countryside, and when he reached home at dawn his horse staggered beneath him, covered with sweat. Before the sun was up, Hugh was prowling about the house where his love slept. He watched the silent building till it woke from its slumbering. One by one the blinds were drawn up, like eyes

slowly opening to the light. The front door opened, and dogs rushed forth, barking in their scramble of joyful liberty. He sat in the rose garden and waited. He knew Maud loved the roses, and tended them every day when she had breakfasted. After a time he heard her voice singing, all so full of youth and untroubled by care, that his heart overflowed with tenderness towards her. He rose and stretched out his hands, as she raced with the dogs towards him. When she saw him she stopped startled, so worn and woe-begone he was, his clothes tossed and stained with his night's travel, his eyes wild and bloodshot, his hair untidy and white with dust.

Has anything happened?” she cried. “What is it?”

He caught her hand.

“Maud,” he said, “you will marry me? Do not send me away unanswered again; I cannot bear it. I am afraid of losing you. I have waited all night, determined to get your answer. Speak to me.”

The girl, red and agitated, drew back.

“I cannot; why do you press me so? I don't want to marry any one. I don't think I like any one well enough to marry him.” She looked at his flushed face and untidy clothes: he did not look attractive.

“You like Ernest better,” he said angrily; “is that it?”

“I said I did not like any one well enough to marry.”

He flung her hand from him.

“You do, you do. You love him, you smile at him when you frown at me. I have seen it. You are always ready to go where he asks you, to talk and laugh with him. I see your face light up when he comes. It never does for me.”

The girl turned to go.

“You are rude and horrible,” she said petulantly. “Anyway, I don't like you.” The poor fellow flung himself in her path, all the rage gone from him.

“Only stay, Maud. I am mad with jealousy, I am a brute. If you could only care a little for me, even a little, I would be so gentle with you, so tender. No one could love you as well as I do.”

The girl burst into tears. “I do not know who I care for,” she sobbed.

“Come to me.” The man stretched out his arms pleading. The girl hesitated, looked around. Some one was coming amongst the roses whistling. It was Ernest. He did not look at his brother's face, but at the girl's. She felt her tears dry under his hot gaze.

“We are early callers, my brother and I,” he said. “Can I see your father?”

“He is in his study, I think,” she said, regaining her composure.

“Will you not find him for me?” Ernest smiled. “I want to see him on important business.” He watched his brother stride away, and smiled again. “I was nearly too late,” he thought. Maud noticed reluctantly the contrast he was to his brother. So fresh, so strong, so neat, so unlike and yet so like the broken weary man who had left her. Yet Hugh's agony still wrung her heart; it swung like a pendulum between the two.

Ernest looked at her. “Give me your hand.”

She gave it blushing.

“Stay with me a moment,” he said softly, “I have something to say to you.” He led her to a little summer-house, and drew her to a seat. Her heart beat wildly, she did not know what to do. She knew at last she must make up her mind definitely beneath the power of this man's will.

“You know I love you,” he continued; “I know you cannot make up your mind to love me, but I am weary of waiting, and so you must speak now. There is trouble in our house, things are going badly between my brother and me on account of you. When we are married that will end. What have you to say?”

But the girl had nothing to answer, and only sat silent. Ernest felt her hand quiver in his like a bird longing to fly.

“I shall decide for you,” he said. “You will marry me. I was going to speak to your father about it. We shall be married in a week.”

The girl half rose, but he pulled her down again.

“If I thought you really did not care, I should go away at once and leave you,” Ernest continued; “but you do care.”

The girl dropped her head. “I do not know.”

He suddenly folded his arms about her, and kissed her passionately. “But you do care,” he whispered. “Say you do not love me now!” The girl struggled a moment, then lay still upon his breast smiling. She loved him: she knew it in the joy of that embrace.

When Ernest returned home that day he found his brother gone. A telegram had come summoning one of the brothers away on business, and Hugh had gone, half in the despair and depression that followed the scene in the rose garden. He had left the field to his brother.

Well, what matter? If she cared for him, his absence would not make her care less; if she loved his brother, he were better out of the way till she knew her mind. When Hugh returned, he took a three-mile walk from the station sooner than drive, because he feared to learn what had happened in his absence. Yet his feet hurried him quicker than he knew. At the bend of the lonely road near his home he saw two figures in the dusk. The man's arm was about the woman: she leant towards him.

Hugh's heart stood still a moment, then nearly suffocated him with its pulsations. He strode up to the woman, and laid a rough hand upon her shoulder. She screamed, then recognised him.

“It's Hugh!” she cried, then grew white, and tried to slip from her companion's clasp; but he held her close.

“If Maud has not become engaged to you,” Hugh said hoarsely to his brother, “I bid you take your arm from her shoulder.”

Ernest returned the fierce gaze with interest. “You are speaking of my wife,” he said. Hugh staggered, then drew himself up with an effort. His face changed; it was as though his soul had been killed by the blow.

“You did not fight fair,” he said—“not on open ground; but I shall follow you—follow you: and she shall become mine at last.” He turned with a strange laugh, and disappeared into the growing darkness.

Maud burst into tears.

“What does he mean to do?” she cried. “Oh, poor fellow!” Ernest smiled.

“Do! why like many another—grin and bear it. Don't mind his melodramatic rant. He writes poetry, remember. He cannot annoy you long. We leave for Paris to-morrow. By the time we return we can make some arrangements to divide our farm, and he will, of course, live elsewhere. The house is mine.

For some weeks after they arrived in Paris Maud saw nothing of Hugh. Often her mind would dwell upon him, in spite of her efforts to put him away. His love, his despair, his gentleness to her! What were they to her now? Yet thoughts forbidden would not let her cease remembering him. Sometimes she fancied he was near her, and would suddenly turn to meet a stranger's eyes. Often she thought she felt his gaze, only on looking would find herself mistaken. Once she remarked to her husband the feeling she had, and he laughed at her, and bid her speak and think no more of his brother. Yet in spite of it she felt herself seeking Hugh in every new place she went. At times the feeling that he was near was so strong that it was with difficulty she could prevent herself from crying out in terror. She began to think that he was dead, and that his spirit was following her. At last one evening she saw his living eyes resting upon her through the leaves of a little shrub. She was dining in the open air with her husband when it happened. A great wave of relief passed over her. It was only this then: he had really been there, not his spirit—not that her brain was growing weak, as she had lately sometimes thought. She was annoyed with him; why did he dare follow them about like this! He was at a table not three feet from her. He smiled when their glances met. She turned away at once. She was very angry. Why did he not come up and speak? He must have been following them all the time; hence her strange feelings. She would not pretend to see him again.

Days passed. Then she saw him once more. This time she was alone, coming out of a church. He looked into her face and smiled, but passed without stopping or speaking. She felt that he had followed her to the church door, and waited to meet her coming out. What did he mean? She went home, but all day could think of little else. She felt it was wrong to let her thoughts dwell so much upon him; yet she knew she did not love him. Her husband seemed unconscious that anything worried her, and she did not speak of his brother's presence for fear of angering him. A few evenings after she saw Hugh facing her as she lunched. She noticed that he drank deeply, that his face had changed terribly: that he had grown thin and haggard, only the eyes remained as strong and brilliant as ever.

“He is drinking himself to death before my eyes; this is his revenge,” she thought, and wept for him in the night.

Another day, and for the first time since she married, she spoke to Hugh. He was sitting alone, as usual, in the restaurant. When her husband went to the door, she went back with an excuse of a dropped handkerchief.

She stopped by Hugh a moment.

“Go home to Ireland,” she said; “for God's sake, Hugh, and drink no more. He only laughed.

“Look at the magician,” he said, holding his glass against the light. “If you want to be king, this will put you on a throne. If you want to love, this will bring you the woman of your desire. If you want to forget, here is oblivion.”

“Go home,” she answered. “Hugh, you must not stay here following us about. Why do you do it?”

Hugh looked into her soul till it shrank back afraid.

“I shall follow you no longer,” he said slowly; “but you shall follow me. You shall come to me of your own free will. I shall follow you no more.”

Maud flushed with anger. “How dare you!” she said. “How dare you! I shall not speak to you again.”

She hurried after her husband, her face red with shame. She would tell Ernest if his brother followed her any more. She did not know what was right. Should she tell him now—tell him his brother was always before her eyes—that he was drinking? Better not now; it would mean an ugly scene; and their holiday was just at an end.

She saw no more of Hugh in the few days that followed. Had he taken her advice and gone home, or was he only keeping out of the way for some reason? She could not help looking for him wherever they went, but never saw him. She thought he was gone at last, till one day, passing Notre Dame, she stopped suddenly like one afraid.

“What is the matter?” Ernest said, as she paused and turned from him.

“Some one called,” she said, “or something.” She put her hand wearily to her head.

“There is no one here.” Her husband took her arm. “Do you care to look into the church?” She did not answer, staring before her like one turned to stone.

“Maud!” Her husband took her hand in his. “What is it? Are you ill? What do you see?” She drew her hand from his, and walked quickly away. He followed, angry and puzzled.

“Where are you going?”

“Hush!” she said. “Listen to him calling.” She went before him hastily round the church towards the Morgue. She went up the steps before he had time to stop her. He had his hand upon her arm before she reached the inner room.

“Do not go there,” he said; “it is horrible!” He heard some one, in the crowd of people looking at the photographs of the dead, laughing.

“Look at this one,” said a girl. “What a face!”

“And this fellow. God! what a grin he has!” Ernest tried to draw his wife away, but she drew herself roughly from him, and went inside as though forced. When he followed she was standing gazing through the partition at two corpses lying inside: one that of a young woman with a cruel gash on her forehead, the other the body of his brother Hugh, lying smiling at him through the glass.

II

From the first day after Ernest reached home he noticed a change in his wife. She grew absentminded, and would spend long hours in the woods and beside the river alone. When she met her husband at such times, she would flush and seem confused. At first he was troubled, thinking her ill. Then he became a prey to jealousy, and spied upon her, but never saw her with any one. His brother was dead; he had no other rival. What had he to fear? Yet he was disturbed. The continued guilty look upon his wife's face, when he met her upon one of her lonely walks, her confused answering to his questions as to what she was doing—everything told him something was wrong, but what he could not guess. Often after his day's work of weary business monotony, he would long for his wife's company in the evening, and though she would sit with him for a time, she would be sure to rise and leave him before long, going out to wander by herself for hours in the dusk. If on her return he reproached her, she would burst into tears, and endeavour by her tenderness to make him forgive her absence.

One evening when she started up to go, he bid her remain, and she sat down again reluctantly. He determined to speak to her about it.

“I see you have grown tired of me, Maud,” he said half playfully; “you cannot bear my corn pan y.

She flushed hotly, tears coming into her eyes, yet she did not deny his half question.

Offended by her silence, he spoke no more, and turned to his paper. The moment he did so she rose and softly left the room. In a few seconds he followed her. He was angry, and determined to find some meaning for her strangeness. He heard her light feet go across the wooden bridge behind the house, and knew she had gone towards the falls where he had first seen her. It was almost dark, and only now and then her slight figure could be seen passing amongst the trees. She stopped and seated herself as he came behind her. He saw the grey outline of her girlish figure bend forward, and she laid her head upon her hands with a heavy sigh. He stretched his arms out to reach and comfort her—his anger forgotten at her grief. As he did so, she became aware she was no longer alone.

“You must come to me no more, oh, my love,” she wept. “You must not compel me to meet you again.”

Ernest caught her by the wrists in a mad grasp. She screamed, and rose facing him. He dragged her home by her hands without a word, she crying and moaning. He thrust her into the room she had left with more force than he had ever used before to a woman, and entering locked the door behind him.

He was livid with anger. She crouched on the floor afraid of him.

“So this is it.” He paced the floor like a tiger. “A lover! This is the meaning of the lonely evening walks—the repulse of your husband and his caresses, the distaste for his company.” He suddenly stopped before her, dragging her to her feet.

“Who is the man? Answer me. Who is the man?”

She put out her hands as though to avoid a blow. “There is no man, no lover, I swear to you.”

“Who, then, were you bidding not come to you,—who did you call your love?” She only cried without answering.

“Who was it?” he thundered at her.

“I swear to you nobody; you must believe me.”

“You are lying to me.”

She faced him proudly.

“Prove it,” she said. “Have you heard a rumour of my being seen with any one? Have you yourself cause to suspect me? It is I who ask you. Who is it?”

A flush of shame passed over him. He thought of how he had followed and spied upon her. No, there was no one to suspect.

“You have grown cold to me, you do not love me,” he said sullenly. “Why is this?”

“I do care,”

“she said in a low, disturbed voice.

“You lie to me,” he said, maddened at her confusion.

She did not reply, but he read the truth upon her face. She did not love him. Without a word he unlocked the door and let her go. She passed him weeping, and he heard her go upstairs to her room. After that night he had no peace. Sometimes he vowed to leave her to go as she willed, after whatever strange motive she liked. At others, a great rage seized him to solve the mystery of her behaviour, and end it. Now she seldom went outside, but would sit alone in her room, and if he went into her presence suddenly, he saw a holy light upon her face like one who knew a great love.

At last the truth burst upon him, leaving him for the moment stricken. One day he passed her door and heard her voice. Thinking she called him, he stopped and listened, but it was not his name that came to his ears.

“Hugh,” her voice said, low and tender, “Hugh, are you not coming?” And then with infinite love and pity, “Give me your cold, cold hands, my love, till I warm them with my tears.”

Ernest opened the door and stood for the moment dumb upon the threshold. Only his wife was before him, but in a flash he realized she was not alone. Hugh was there. The spirit of his dead brother had taken his wife from his living arms. He closed the door, and staggered forward.

“Where is he?” He looked around the room. His wife, white as snow, started to her feet. “Who? There is no one here except ourselves.”

“Where is the robber? Where is Hugh?” her husband gasped. He felt as if he were choking. He thought his brother was somewhere laughing at his helplessness. He flung his hands around, grasping the air on all sides. “Where is he? My God! where is he?” He was mad with rage.

The woman crouched in her chair, afraid to speak. She watched him with terrified eyes as he staggered about beating the air, till at last his helplessness came home to him, and he fell into a chair with his face upon his clenched hands.

His wife knelt beside him, and tried to force his hands away.

“Tell me what this is?” he said, and thrust her from him.

“Hugh is dead,” she said; “be pitiful.”

“I thought you loved me best,” he answered; you swore it.” The woman stammered through her confession.

“I did,” she sobbed; “I loved you best when I married you. Sometimes when you were so fierce and wilful, I thought of Hugh, who was always gentle to me; but I never loved him till—till in Paris. He followed us everywhere, so I was always thinking of him. So sure was I of seeing him everywhere, that if he stayed away I kept wondering why till I saw him again. I was angry with him and myself, but could not control my thoughts. I dared not tell you, for you hated him, and I dreaded a scene. And I did not think it mattered; I did not care for him. Afterwards, when he died, I grieved for his broken life. and wept many tears. I thought of him lying so stiff and cold— he who had been so strong and full of life. I wept for him. Then he came to me. No one would have believed me if I said I saw him, so I did not speak. And then I knew he had followed me to make me think of him always; and that he died and came to me in spirit to possess my love. I could not struggle against the dead; I am his,—I love him. He wanders without rest; I could not shut him from my heart. Every evening he comes to me from that strange, unknown country of the shades.” She hid her face in her hands crying bitterly.

Ernest raised his clenched hand as though to strike her, but something seemed to seize it and hold it back. For a moment he turned as though to face an invisible foe; then rose and left the room, his face set with a strange look.

For days they dwelt together like strangers; there was no word upon his part to show he remembered the ugly scene they had passed through together. The hope that he had half forgotten or pardoned his rival, now that he knew he was no living man, came often to his wife. She wondered at his devotion to his work, and was startled one day by a friend asking if her husband was going away, as he was settling his affairs, and asked her what it meant.

“Perhaps he is going abroad,” she said, but did not know. She felt she would not care much; he was so fierce, so strange; his eyes glared like a wolf's beneath his dark brows; she went in fear of him always.

She knew he was meditating something; it was like watching a tiger crouched to spring. And yet she half realized his bestial rage was not for her, that she was thrust aside while he stood to some stronger foe—for Hugh, perhaps, but how could he reach him?

When at last the blow fell, it almost killed her. She went up to his room and found him lying upon the bed dead.

He lay there fully dressed, his clothes and the bed red with his blood—he had cut his throat from ear to ear. Her shrieks brought the servants around her, a doctor was sent for, and her father, but nothing could be done.

For three days they “waked” him, and she saw his face, white and cold before her, with a triumphant smile upon its lips—the same strange smile his brother had upon his mouth, lying dead in Paris. She knelt by the bed for three days, praying for forgiveness, and at last the face was hidden away and was seen no more.

* * *

The night it went she crept weary into the room, weeping her heart out on the bed where the corpse had lain; did she not love him best after all! Poor weak creature! the wills of two strong men had governed her heart, and torn it between them! In the midst of her crying, she heard a noise in the passage outside the door, as of people running; she started to her feet, her tortured nerves anticipating some new shock; she heard a scuffle at the door, and the weight of a heavy body thrown against it. Some one was fighting outside. Her heart swelled with anger; what scandal was this, who was quarrelling, in the widowed home, before the dead was cold in his grave? She went forward to open the door, then shrank back as if afraid. There was murder being done outside; she heard the frightful gasping of a deadly struggle. The door shook beneath the shock of heavy bodies pressing against it; she could hear the thud of limbs striking the floor, the hammering of fists, the tearing of clutching hands. She shrieked as the door burst open—no one was there, yet something had entered fighting, snarling, gasping, struggling. She stood in the centre of the room as though rooted to the ground. She saw the tables overturned, the chairs fall and break, the curtains torn from the windows, by invisible hands. And all the time the terrible choking, gasping sound went on.

“Who is it?” she cried. “Ernest! Hugh! O God!”

Then she felt hands fall upon her, her clothes were torn, she was dragged, now this way, now that, by violent, invisible fingers.

Shriek after shriek pierced through the house; the stairs became full of people, they were hurrying to her assistance. Her father was first to enter; he caught her in his arms. “She has gone mad with sorrow,” he said, looking round the destroyed and littered room, and at her torn clothes. “Who left her alone at such a time? She has gone mad.”

Then feeling her collapsed and heavy weight in his arms, he looked at her more closely, clutching her to him. “O Heaven, she is dead!” he cried, and bent over her in anguish.

The Fourth Generation

“So Lucy Allison is going to be married, and to an American—George Trevelyan. I am surprised.” Mrs. Donald lay back in her chair, and gazed thoughtfully at the tips of her little shoes set cosily upon the fender.

“And why surprised?” one of her companions said drowsily, shading her face from the glow of the fire with her long thin hands. “It's the lot of most weak women.”

Miss Anderson was not married, and her tone implied that it was her own strength of will that had saved her.

“Have you never seen—anything strange about one of the Miss Allisons?”

Mrs. Donald looked around at the faces shining dimly in the half light of the fire. There was a sudden movement of interest; chairs moved forward. It was the start of the sleeping cat, who is awakened by the flash of a mouse past her, and is all suspense lest it should escape.

“If you haven't heard anything—I shan't, of course, tell.”

Mrs. Donald closed her eyes, as if the subject were finished. She was at once overwhelmed by cries and appeals for mercy.

“Mrs. Donald, you wouldn't be so mean; please tell. We have heard nothing. Oh, I can't rest till I know.”

Mrs. Donald looked at her friends through half-lifted lids—she was enjoying herself. “I really can't; it's a sort of scandal, and I promised our vicar I would talk no more about my friends' little secrets.”

Miss Anderson drew herself up. “Of course, if it's a secret, we must think of something else. Miss Manfield, did you see the extraordinary bonnet Mrs. Dunn had on at Church to-day.

But Miss Manfield was stroking Mrs. Donald's hand. “You will tell me all about it, won't you? I always thought there was something funny about Virginia; but never knew what it was. Do tell?”

Mrs. Donald was adamant.

“I'd love to, but it's rather a bad scandal; and a promise is a promise. My conscience would not allow me.”

There was a dead silence of bitter disappointment. It grew so long that Mrs. Donald became uneasy for fear that interest in her secret was waning.

“Well, if you all promise not to breath a word to any living soul.”

There was a deep sigh of relief, and a gasping, “We promise.”

“You know the Allisons are Americans.”

There was an impatient “We know; go on” as Mrs. Donald paused a moment to argue with her conscience.

“They came from the South, she, and her father and mother and sister, a year ago; you remember? and settled in England. I don't think I ought to tell you, any more, after all.”

There was a shriek of dismay. “But you have told us nothing, and it's nearly bed-time.” Mrs. Donald looked at the clock, which ticked ominously upon the chimney shelf. She bent forward in her chair, and spoke more quickly. They were all terrified lest the hostess should come in and bid them good-night. They were staying—at Mrs. Allison's.

“Well, they had a lot of land there, and for generations their ancestors owned slaves. When their second child was born the Allisons suddenly left the South; sold up everything, and went to live for some time in New York; later in Washington. In both places they were rather shunned by society. Then they came to London.”

Miss Anderson drew back into the shadow. “I do hope there is nothing—” she began, but was silenced by a groan of “Oh, do be quiet. Go on, Mrs. Donald.”

“There is certainly nothing, or I should not be here,” said Mrs. Donald stiffly. “In fact, there's little more to tell. You know I have lived a long time in America. It was there I knew about the Allisons. My little girl was at the same school the Allison girls went to—of course, years afterwards. She is still a child—but when there she met pupils who remembered Virginia and Lucy, and they told her strange things about one of the two—how different she was from other girls, and, indeed, they inferred the feeling of the school was so much against the Allison children—or one of them—that they had to leave in the end because of it.”

The listening group around the fire became impatient.

“Oh, do tell us what there is to tell about them,” they cried.

“Have none of you noticed anything curious about one of the Allison girls? The listeners thought, anxious not to make a mistake.

“I often thought Lucy a bit queer,” some one said, “and wild. Is there insanity in the family?” Every one laughed.

“Lucy!” Mrs. Donald shrugged her shoulders scornfully. “Have none of you really remarked that Virginia is—half a negro?”

There were cries of “nonsense,” and a ripple laughter.

In the midst of it Mrs. Allison entered the room.

“You seem to be very merry in here,” she said, smiling. “I hope you are enjoying yourselves.”

“Oh, very much, indeed,” answered Mrs. Donald flushing, slightly. “We are having a good chat. Won't you sit down and join us?”

But Mrs. Allison could not for the moment.

When the door closed after her a chorus of voices rung out. “But the father and mother are not negro.”

“There's not a trace in the family.”

“She's not a bit like one.”

Mrs. Donald pounced on the last speaker.

“Not a bit like! Look at her hair! Look at her face—her lips! Have you no eyes?”

“We never noticed; but now that you draw our attention to it,” one said, “perhaps there are some characteristics. But the father or mother—what do you insinuate?”

“Me! I insinuate nothing.” Mrs. Donald was surprised. “But, between ourselves,” she added confidentially, “I fancy Virginia is not their own child, but some half-caste negro they have adopted for some reason which I should like to know.”

“What a name to call her by—Virginia!” Miss Anderson said, “if they did not want to attract attention to what they evidently wish to hide.”

“Well, there are two explanations of that.”

Mrs. Donald answered. “One American lady told me that she was christened Virginia by Mr. Allison when she was a tiny baby. He was so amused at her appearance—like a little picanniny, with her black curls—but he did not think she would grow up keeping the resemblance. The other explanation is that she was called so before he adopted her—if she is not their own—by her real parents. Of course, in America the race feeling is so strong against any coloured people that the Allisons were treated rather coldly, I imagine.”

“What a shame,” some one said. “I'm sure I think Virginia more Spanish-looking than negro, and we must take them as we find them. They are kind, sweet people. I don't believe a word against them.”

“Have I said a word against them?” Mrs. Donald said coldly. “I am sure I never meant to. I am very fond of them myself, and know nothing of the truth about Virginia.” She spoke regretfully. “I have never even hinted there was anything wrong in it all—though it was strange that they were thrust out American society.”

“Thrust out?” Miss Anderson questioned. “Well, anyway, requested not to call again.”

“Not to call again. What do you mean?”

“Didn't they leave New York and Washington, and now haven't they come to London. You ask too many questions,” said Mrs. Donald hotly. “I must go and write letters.”

“A silly woman,” Miss Anderson said, as the door closed.

“A cat!” said some one else.

“I met her the other day in the street, rushing along,” said a quiet voice, “and she scarcely stopped to speak. Do you know where she was going? To engage the Morrison's servant, who she had just heard was dismissed without a character. I told her it was a risk, but she did not care. She said there was always something mysterious about the Morrisons, and she meant to find it out from the servant. I fancy the chief mystery is that they are usually not at home when she calls.”

“I don't believe a word of her story,” said Miss Anderson. “Nor I,” said several voices.

Then the door opened, and Virginia and Lucy entered.

When the two girls seated themselves among the group by the fire, all eyes were turned upon them curiously. Lucy was soon passed over. Small, fair, the ordinary type of a pretty American woman, she attracted no particular notice. But Virginia! For the first time her friends were startled. They were bound to admit Mrs. Donald had some foundation for her story. The beautiful eyes were too black, the nose a trifle broad; the lips over full; the hair—yes, there was no passing over the hair—it was the hair of a black woman, short, fine, curly, black as night, though it set about a face as white as any round the fire.

Miss Anderson shaded her eyes from the fire and looked straight at Virginia.

“We were talking about blacks,” she said. “Isn't there a great prejudice against the negroes in America?”

Virginia turned towards her a bright face.

“Well, yes,” she admitted, “I suppose you people over here think so; but they are a low type of humanity, they will never have intelligence enough to be anything but the slaves or servants of the white races.”

Lucy turned upon her sister rather fiercely.

“You are unfair,” she said; “give them time—let them be held equal, men amongst men, and years will return to them that self-respect, power, and intelligence that generations of slavery and oppression have robbed them of.”

“They never had such gifts, so did not lose them,” Virginia said softly. “ I would not sit in the same room with a negro if he had millions and had taken his university degree.

“Virginia!” Lucy cried excitedly, “you are horribly unjust. As for me, all men that God created are the same.”

Miss Anderson thought to herself:

“She knows—Lucy knows—but Virginia does not. How fine of the girl to protect her sister. No American woman would stand up for the negroes without some motive of the kind. She protects her sister, fancying we suspect. She must be an adopted child, and Lucy knows.”

Mrs. Allison and a young man came into the room at the moment. The group laughingly attacked her.

“We are quarrelling over black and white races,” one explained. “We people over here have so little opportunity of seeing anything of our dark brothers, that we want you to tell us about them.”

Mrs. Allison grew white, and glanced at her daughters. They rose to meet her, and went smiling towards the new-comer. She introduced the young man as Mr. Furlong, then began to talk of the possibilities of a drive next morning.

Mr. Furlong was enthusiastic over the idea. “Let me drive some of you” he said. “We could go to Burnham Beeches, and if I may bring my friend, Washington Gibbs, I think you will be interested. He is a nice fellow, so original, and a coming man.”

“An American,” Miss Anderson questioned, “by the name?”

“An American!” Mr. Furlong laughed, and added, with the air of one imparting a delightful surprise, “ a coloured gentleman.”

The little group of women clapped their hands, all except Mrs. Allison and Virginia.

“He is writing a book,” Mr. Furlong continued. “Really, he is awfully nice and clever, not a bit like we imagine the negroes to be.”

“Oh, you must bring him,” Lucy cried, delighted. “It's just what I was saying—give them education, and treat them as equals, and they can do anything we white people can do.” She looked around. “Where is George? I must tell him.” She went out, but George Trevelyan was not to be found. He was walking up and down the path furthest from the house, in the shrubbery—up and down in all the mist and fog, the pipe he still held between his teeth long gone out, his clothes soaked through with rain.

When the guests were gone to bed, he came to the drawing-room window and looked through. Mrs. Allison was seated before the fire, her head in her hands. He heard her sigh deeply as he pushed the closed French window open. She looked up as he entered, trying to smile.

“Not in bed,” she exclaimed, “or even playing billiards with the men! Where have you been? Lucy has just left for her room, disconsolate at not bidding you good-night.”

He came to the fireside looking sternly down at her, his hands clenched behind him.

“I stood outside the window there smoking this evening,” he said hoarsely, “and I heard the women talk.”

Mrs. Allison looked up like a hare that scents the hounds.

“What did they say?” Her heart sank. “The old story,” she whispered. “God pity me. “They said”—he paused, it was hard to repeat—“Lucy”—his voice broke—“forgive me if I hurt you. Who is Virginia?”

“Virginia is my child.” Her voice was harsh and proud. She knew what he meant; it was an old question she was used to answering, if not so plainly put before. “Virginia is my daughter,” she said again. Her voice changed, it yearned over the claim.

“She is not like Lucy.” The young man paused, then his words escaped through his clenched teeth, “They said Virginia had negro blood in her veins, is it true? is it true?”

Mrs. Allison drew herself up, white like the dead. “I did not wish your engagement to Lucy,” she said coldly; “you followed us over America, and came to London after her.”

The young man did not answer, he saw it all; he could never marry Lucy, then, his pretty, wilful, dear Lucy. He, the son of an old proud American family. He remembered how the Allisons had been shunned, the hints he had heard but not heeded, the strong opposition of his friends to his evident attraction for the younger Miss Allison. His parents knew nothing yet. “I can never marry Lucy.” He drew his breath in as though it were his last. “I can never marry Lucy.”

He looked hard into the thin refined face before him. He thought of Lucy's father, the proud man with the face of a Washington. He fell on his knees beside Mrs. Allison, laid his head in her lap.

“Mother,” he said softly, “Virginia is very dear and very sweet, but she is not Lucy's sister, not your child.”

Mrs. Allison trembled from head to foot. A son's head upon her lap—little Lucy's husband. Was Lucy's life to be spoiled for ever, was scandal always to be busy at their doors? She was so tired of it. The suspicions, questions, hints, could be ended so easily; it would leave pretty Lucy free. If George married her, suspicions would cease. Virginia—it would be the same to Virginia; it would not hurt her. She turned from the young man and spoke like one dying,—

“She is not my child—Virginia. You will speak of it to no one. She is very, very dear.” She clutched her throat with her hand. “She is very, very dear.”

The young man arose, his face alight with relief. “God bless you!” he said, and was gone.

As he left by one door the other opened. Virginia entered slowly. She stood behind Mrs. Allison's chair, so did not see her face.

“Mother,” she said softly, “I won't go tomorrow; I don't care to meet this negro. I dare say it is wrong: I hate them out of their position; they are only fit for slaves. I won't go to-morrow.”

Mrs. Allison half whispered, “No, you must not go.”

Something in her voice startled the girl; she bent over and raised her mother's face to the light.

“What is the matter,” she cried, “dearest? My own mother!”

Mrs. Allison turned and caught her in her arms. She kissed her face and hair and drew her to her breast, as if they had met after many years' separation.

“My own child!” she whispered. Drawing her closer still, “My dearest, my best, my own little child!” She burst into a torrent of heavy tears.

II

The morning crept into a splendid day. All the winged world seemed mad with song when Mrs.

Allison's guests woke and dressed, eager to go out early into the sunshine. Baskets were laden with good things for the picnic. Every one was in gay spirits. Lucy and her sister were together, the one trying to persuade the other to accompany the party.

“Virginia, do come. It will be lovely; such a day. Look out at the sky—so blue, not a cloud.” But Virginia would not listen.

“Lucy, for goodness sake, don't put on that dress! Where did you get it? It's hideous!” Lucy pouted.

“I like it best of all my things,” she said. “You never approve what I like in clothes.”

“But you like such bright colours. Why, Lucy, what is this? I never saw this collection before.” Virginia drew from an open drawer a handful of ribbons and beads—bright blue, green, red, yellow.

Lucy blushed slightly. “I love them,” she said. “Look here.” She slipped a heavy pair of gold ear-rings in her ears and round her neck a dozen strings of beads. “I often dress up when I am alone.” She drew out a handful of ribbons and wound some of them through her hair. She gestured before the glass, admiring herself.

“Don't I look nice?” she said.

Virginia laughed.

“So this is where your pocket-money goes. Where did you get your taste for such brilliant colours? Do you remember the rows you used to have at school over the wearing of them, long ago?—how the girls worried over you? But you are too old now to go about dressed in this.” She lifted a vivid scarlet dress up as she spoke. Lucy snatched it from her in sudden rage.

“I wish you would not come into my room criticising my things,” she said curtly. Virginia apologized, sorry for hurting her.

In a moment Lucy was gay again. She slipped a white frock over her shoulders. “I may wear this, I suppose?”

Virginia laughed, but when Lucy insisted on finishing the effect, as she called it, by a bright yellow and scarlet sash, she grew almost grave.

“It's all right when you are young,” she thought, “but if you keep your love of colour when you get old—” She smiled over her fancy.

Lucy was sweet to look upon, with her bright hair and flower-like face, as she stood amongst her father's guests, ready to drive away. But her mother winced when she saw her mount the trap beside Washington Gibbs. George, too, had a frown upon his face, for she had pretended not to see his look of appeal as she passed.

“I cannot always sit beside him,” she excused herself; “besides, I want to see what an educated coloured person is like.”

When they had all gone, Virginia turned to her mother, who claimed a bad headache as her excuse for staying behind.

“I lay awake last night,” she said hesitatingly, “and I asked myself, why I had this hatred of those poor dark people; and, mother, I remembered how the children used to call me a picanniny when I was little. Wasn't it curious? I suppose it's my horrid, horrid hair. May be that was the reason why I grew to hate the negroes even more than most Americans do—even the black nurse I had. I remember dreading the sight of her; but Lucy always loved her and her people. I suppose Lucy got her love of finery and colour from that old woman. She was always dressing the child up.

Mrs. Allison turned away.

“I'm very weary,” she said, “and suffering. I will lie down and try to sleep.” Virginia led her to her room with great tenderness.

The party returned in the twilight, full of bright spirits, though weary after much rambling in the wood. Lucy had evidently made a conquest of Washington Gibbs; he was by her side all the evening. Once Virginia passed them as they stood upon the verandah by themselves. She noticed the sudden way that the man drew back when he saw her. “He was holding her hand,” she thought indignantly, “or going to.”

“Lucy is out there,” she said George, when she met him. “I think she will get cold.” He went out and took possession of her.

Washington Gibbs was leaving. “He had to accompany his friend,” he said; “but would call to see how they got over the fatigue of the day, if he might.”

Lucy beamed upon him. “Come tomorrow,” she murmured.

George took his place. “I'm not jealous,” he said. “ I know you are only studying the colour; but you must not study too hard, you know. You were with him nearly all day, and I don't like it, Lucy. A white woman ought not to talk to such fellows.”

Lucy laughed, and changed the subject. She was so sweet to him that he forgot to reproach her further. But Virginia hardly said good-night to her sister.

“How could you, Lucy! You flirted with him; I saw you. How could you!” Mr. Allison, too, looked unkindly at his younger daughter.

“You were too much with that fellow,” he said crossly, “to-day. Furlong had no right to bring him about the place.”

Lucy flushed hotly.

“It's very mean of you all,” she said. “He is a perfect gentleman. You are cruel and unjust to condemn people for the colour of their skin.”

Her father did not answer her, but when she had gone looked at his wife. Their glances met and fell. They both sighed deeply.

The next day Washington Gibbs called, but only saw Mr. Allison, and he did not come again. Lucy did not appear disappointed. She was gay and full of plans to amuse the guests in the evening. She arranged the tables for cards so that all had partners except herself. “I will be the orchestra,” she said beaming, “when I find my music.” She disappeared for over an hour. George thought it the dullest assembly he had ever been at till she returned. She had found her music after much seeking. Would they spare George to turn the leaves for her? George was spared gladly—he was playing vilely.

III

Washington Gibbs did not appear again, but one day Virginia came upon an envelope directed to Miss Allison. The maid had laid it upon her dressing-table, having found it in the shrubbery, she said. Virginia opened it wonderingly. It contained nothing but a huge silk scarf of brilliant colours, with “Lucy” in ugly blue letters in the corner. As she was examining it her sister entered. She ran forward and claimed it; then stopped, confused. Virginia's eyes were upon her.

“Another purchase, Lucy?” She smiled, then grew chill. “Whose writing is this? It's not yours,” she said.

“It's mine.” Lucy snatched it from her. “A present. Don't be silly.”

“Who from?”

Virginia grew more stern, but Lucy would not answer. “I won't tell you, you are so cross.”

She pretended to be offended, and was glad to slip out of the room. Virginia was anxious; she could not sleep. She knew by Lucy's confusion she was hiding something. George was away, his brief holiday being over; all the guests save Miss Anderson had gone. She felt she ought to have more time with her sister. She remembered with a shock that there were hours after dusk when Lucy vanished. Where had she gone?

One evening she returned with her mother from a drive and found a suppressed excitement among the servants, the rest of the house uneasily quiet. Her maid, bubbling over with the news, told her almost before she had seated herself to have her hair arranged.

“The nigger gentleman had been here, and the master had horsewhipped him out of the house. Them niggers are always thieves,” the girl added. “I suppose he wanted to steal?” But Virginia could not gratify her curiosity.

As soon as she could, she went to her father. He was stern and busy when she saw him; she dared not interrupt his work. She flew to her mother with a feeling as if something was going to separate them. Mrs. Allison was troubled, but not so deeply as Virginia had feared.

“He came to ask for Lucy.” Mrs. Allison laughed bitterly. “To marry Lucy! Imagine it!” she answered to her daughter's questioning.

“So papa whipped him out,” Virginia said excitedly, walking up and down, her hands clenched. “Quite right. The impertinence! the—the—Oh! I hope father struck hard. What does Lucy say? Is she not angry—very, very—”

“Of course, Lucy never thought of it,” Mrs. Allison said; “I was ashamed to have to tell her. But she was so excited at what she considered your father's cruelty that I felt I ought to explain it. Of course, she saw at once that he was justified.”

“I will go to her,” Virginia said. “How she must hate that black beast! and she, engaged to George, to be insulted so!”

She found her sister sitting looking out of the window, her face flushed and her eyes shining. She flung her arms about her. “Lucy, dearest! I am so sorry. The beast! how dared he! Just because you were a little kind to him.”

Lucy put her aside. “Don't crush me; it's too hot,” she said calmly. “I do not wonder you are angry,” Virginia cried. “Isn't it well papa was here to whip him out?” Lucy sprang to her feet. She began walking up and down. “Of course,” she said, “he did not know that I was engaged to George.”

“Engaged to George! Is that all!” Virginia said indignantly. “Are you not insulted at him daring to think of you, even if he did not know—a negro, Lucy?”

“Of course, I'm insulted—of course, of course. Do go away and let me alone; I'm so tired.” Virginia kissed her repentantly.

“Indeed, you must be tired, dear, and worried; no wonder. But he won't annoy you again, poor child. Lie down and sleep, and forget it all by to-morrow.”

Lucy lay down and let her sister tuck the clothes around her comfortably. She did not appear again that evening, having a headache, as Mrs. Allison explained to her guest. When the morning came, she did not appear at breakfast.

“Let her sleep,” her mother said to Virginia, who proposed to go and see how she was; “she is tired.”

But as the hours went by they grew anxious. At last Mrs. Allison, after repeated knocking, opened the door of her daughter's room; but Lucy was gone. They, still suspecting nothing, fancied she had slipped out into the garden. Only when lunch was over and evening beginning were questions asked and searchers sent out.

A day passed and Lucy did not return. Mrs. Allison was wild with anxiety, Virginia was overwhelmed with grief. Mr. Allison was the only one fit to read the letter which arrived that evening from his daughter.

“I have married Washington Gibbs,” it ran, “and I suppose none of you will forgive me. He came to you like an honest man to ask for me, and you turned him into a thief. You have treated him like all white people treat his race. Some day you will see clearer and forgive us.”

Mrs. Allison came to her husband's side, When he crumpled the letter in his hand, she put her arms around him, but he put her away.

“It's from me it comes, from me—in one child's face, in the other's soul.” He strode across the long gallery where they were together, and looked along the faces of the painted ancestors, who were hanging upon the walls. There were many beautiful works of art among these, but he did not seem to be looking at these; he stopped at last before one small canvas inscribed—“the portrait of a coloured lady.” He gazed for a long time at the smiling dark face, then slowly drew a penknife from his pocket and opened it.

“To rise again in the fourth generation. Curse you! curse you! curse you!” he cried, and drew the blade across the laughing eyes and mouth till the canvas fell apart in rags.

* * *

The Allisons' family packed up and disappeared. No one knew where they had gone, few knew why—only George, who died a soldier's death soon afterwards, and Miss Anderson, who would never tell. Even Mrs. Donald, who hired all the Allisons' servants, could never find out more than that the black negro gentleman had been thrown out one day for stealing; that Lucy Allison had run away one night with her lover, George, who she heard was leaving for America and the war; that he was killed soon after, poor gentleman! that it was a mercy she saw him first; that the master was upset at hearing of the trouble his daughter was in, in being left a widow; that they had all gone after her back to America.

But Mrs. Donald knew there was no truth in this muddled story, and dismissed the servants in anger. She still spends hours in trying to extract the truth. from Miss Anderson's shut lips, which never open upon the subject save to rebuke her curiosity.

Walter Barrington

I first met Walter Barrington at a children's party, to which I had taken my child. He was an insignificant-looking little man, and, as it seemed to me at the time, after many efforts to converse with him, despairingly dull. He sat in a corner, and when his eyes were not upon his children, he closed them with a shading hand, as though they pained him. A doleful figure for a children's party, I thought, and commenced to talk to him. I tried many subjects, yet failed to awaken his interest. It was a last effort that drew him out.

“I had to bring my little girl myself,” I said; “my wife was not very well.”

He awoke at once and looked around.

“I have three little ones here,” he answered eagerly. “My eldest girl would not come; she is fifteen, and thought herself too old,” he added smiling. “I have a son a year older. Of course he would not think of coming. He is just the age to be afraid of getting chaffed, you see, and is very sensitive, poor lad! And I couldn't trust the little ones with servants.”

“No,” I replied, remembering my wife's words. “You cannot trust them to be careful when the little ones come out of the hot rooms and into the cold air.” I dropped my voice and hesitated. “You have no wife, perhaps?”

“She is away just now. Yes, in the country for a time.” He looked at me rather sharply, I fancied; then turned to the children. “That is my Lily over there, see—the pretty little dark girl. Doesn't she dance well? Look how light she is; you can hardly see her feet. And that—no, not the girl with the red head—”

“That's my little girl,” I said, not offended, for Milly was really the prettiest child in the room; but he did not seem to hear, and took no notice.

“You see that fine little chap leaning against the door, quite like a man of many seasons, he continued, laughing. “Isn't he a funny little fellow? That's my Bobby.” He raised his voice. “Bobby, I want you.”

Bobby did not pretend to hear till he was called three times, then he sauntered over looking bored.

“What is it?” he demanded, looking me up and down.

“I only want to introduce you to this gentleman; he has got a little girl here for you to dance with.”

“But I don't want to dance with his little girl,” Bobby cried, dragging himself from his father's hands. “Do let me go. You always worry so!”

“He is very shy,” the father said; “poor little chap!”

But he did not attempt to retain his son. I saw Bobby a few minutes after counting with his eyes the dishes upon the supper-table, which he intended to raid as soon as he got an opportunity.

The little dull man and I continued a disjointed conversation for the rest of the evening. I found he lived in the next house to my own.

“I have often seen you passing,” he said.

I wondered if I had ever seen him; but realized that if I had I must have passed him unnoticed—the little grey, insignificant man.

A few days after this my wife gave a little party, when amongst those invited I saw the names of Agnes and William Barrington. I asked, thinking of the old man, who they were. My wife seemed to know all about them.

“Oh! they are the eldest children of that old man who lives next door on the right. You may have seen him. It's an awfully dull home for the children, poor things! He seldom goes anywhere with them, and never entertains. He is always busy, or ill, or something.”

I asked her if she had ever spoken to him; but she had not—she had only met the children, who she was so sorry for.

“The mother is away,” I remarked. “I suppose it's better when she is at home?” My wife laughed. “She is never at home,” she said. “They are separated—incompatibility of temper. One can hardly wonder when she was married to that—”

“You are uncharitable, dear,” I said, smiling. “One cannot always help being dull, and he seemed, from the few minutes' talk I had with him, to be kind, and fond of his children.”

“I have only heard the children's story,” my wife said. “And of course it looks bad, the wife leaving him; he must have a bad temper.”

“Yes,” I said. “Yes, it's funny that a mother should leave all her children behind. You have never met her?”

“No,” my wife answered thoughtfully; “but I respect her. It's better if things are going badly between husband and wife that they should separate. It's awful for the children when there is constant bickering and quarrelling going on around them; but it would take a great deal to make a mother leave her children.”

My wife looked, with her heart in her eyes, towards the other end of the room, where our one dear child was playing. I caught her in my arms, and drew her down upon my knee.

“And what do you know of bickering and quarrelling, uncharitable little wife?” I said; and Milly came like a small whirlwind upon us.

“Let me come up, too, father!” she cried in peals of laughter.

I was nearly smothered between them.

In the midst of the frolic Agnes Barrington was announced by the smiling servant. Her face sobered us, so doleful was it.

“I don't think I can come to your dance, Mrs. Bryson,” she said at once, ignoring me.

“Oh, you must not disappoint us,” I answered, holding out my hand. She shook it languidly, and continued to my wife,—

“It's father,” she said, on the verge of tears. “He has another attack, and I am afraid we can't leave.”

“Poor dear!” My wife took her hands and stroked them. “It's really hard,” she said, turning to me. “Just imagine, this poor child and her brother are the responsible people at home, like father and mother; are you not, dear?”

“Of course,” the girl said, “when father is ill there's no one but us to look after things; and, then, Herbert is very selfish—all men are!” She looked at me defiantly, as my wife shook her head. “He goes off to clubs and places, leaving everything to me.” She burst into tears. “I want to enjoy myself when I am young like other girls, and travel about and see things; but I have to sit at home and nurse and look after the young ones.”

“You must be brave,” my wife said sympathetically. “Your father will be better soon, and you can go about again.”

“Oh, but he won't,” the girl flashed in. The last time there was an operation it was weeks and months before he was better. We had an awful time, stuck in the house in constant attendance upon him. My complexion has never been the same since, with late hours and unhealthy invalid atmosphere.” She began to cry again.

“An operation! What's the matter with your father?” I said sharply. “Oh, I don't know; he is always complaining.” She turned from me. “And it's to be on the night of your party, the doctor says. Of all the nights, to pick out that one night; but it's just my fate, I had my dress made and everything.”

“Never mind, Agnes,” said my wife, comforting her. “We will have another party when your father is well again, especially for you.”

Agnes smiled a wan smile. She was certainly a pretty girl, when the habitual look of discontent left her face.

“It's very well to joke,” she said; “but it is hard, when one is young, not to be able to go about I know a house where there are three old maids; all because they had to stay at home and nurse their father and mother till they died. Then the girls were too old to get married, or do anything for themselves. All their youth and freshness had passed away by sick beds, and when they were free they were old themselves. I suppose I shall be like them.” She rose and began walking up and down. “I know another girl, too, who is beginning to look faded—she was so pretty. She has to stay at home and mind her bedridden grandmother. The old woman is a bundle of nerves and temper, and she won't let Annie have a friend in, because the talking worries her. She may not even keep a bird, because the singing annoys her. And there is the young girl fading, fading, fading all the time. I hate old people, I hate illness. I want to be with young, healthy people; I want to live.”

My wife took the girl by her shoulder and drew her to a seat.

“The poor old people,” she said softly (I knew she was thinking of her parents, whom she loved), “who have taken care of us when we were helpless and a burden to them. Agnes, I have known little ones who have made men give up their dreams of fame and settle down to earning bread and butter for the infant mouths—clever men who have given up studies that they loved for their children's sake and women who have had to stay at home, to sit up at night, to wear their hearts out with love for their children. Cannot the children spare a little love in return?”

I saw the girl was only half listening; her mind was on her own troubles. “The world should be for the young,” she aid. “All the things that I want to do now I shall not want to do when I am old and free to do them. Do you think I shall care to go to dances when I am fifty; or where will my pretty dress be; and what will it matter what colour I wear?” She went to the door.

My wife laughed. “Silly child!” she said, bidding her good-bye. “When you are fifty you will have more sense. If your father is better, come in to our dance; after all, it's only from door to door.”

“It is hard on the poor thing,” she added as the door closed. “You see, she has plenty of brains, and is not domesticated.”

“She can think, but not feel,” I said; then repented. “Well, it is hard, as you say, after all. So much beauty, life, movement shut away from light and enjoyment in that dull house. Youth and crabbed age, my dear.”

“Yes,” she answered; “perhaps things would be different if there was not something missing in the house—”

“Mother! mother!” Milly called; “I want you.”

“That's it, she smiled, catching the child in her arms.

II

When I passed Walter Barrington's house in the days that followed, I always looked up at the windows, wondering if I should see the little old man. It was curious that he had up to this been unnoticed by me, or, if noticed, only as part of the moving traffic of the street. He had been like the milkman's little pony which stopped by our gate each day, or the dog which, every morning when the door of the house opposite was opened, rushed forth in a volley of barks, or like the lamplighter who lit up the street lamp by lamp. I suppose the old man had closed his door behind him every morning about the time that I left mine, and his bent shoulders and grey locks had passed before me unnoticed. Now the little man had a personality for me; he became a human being, an individual for the first time.

So every morning I looked up, but never saw him. Only once I saw Agnes at the window, looking through the dirty glass, her face pale, the picture of woe. I couldn't help pitying her, on these beautiful, bright mornings—shut in there. I wondered what was wrong with the old man. Once, meeting the younger children, I stopped them and asked how he was. Lily said he was “all right.” She didn't know what was the matter with him. Bobby giggled, “'Spect he is shamming,” and asked me how “Carrots” was. I suppose he meant my daughter; the nickname evidently slipped out, he got so furiously red. He certainly was one of the ugliest little boys I have ever seen.

On the night of the party Agnes and her brother turned up, all smiles. The girl was dressed in a pretty pink frock, and looked almost beautiful. I was glad to see her with the frown off her face, and to feel the poor thing was happy and in the enjoyment of her youth. She was soon surrounded by an admiring crowd of young men, all begging for dances.

“Father insisted upon my coming,” she whispered to my wife, who stood looking on with tears not far from her eyes.

“I do love to see her so,” she murmured. “Now, doesn't she seem in her element? I declare when I look up at that dim house next door, and see the young faces looking out into the world, like birds in a dark cage, it almost makes me cry. I am sure I don't know what that old man does with his money; he certainly does not spend it on taking his children about, for he only takes them to museums and free picture-galleries, zoological gardens and things like that. He never has company for them—only such children as they ask in themselves.”

“Perhaps he is saving,” I said; “and a sick man can't do much in the way of entertaining, especially if he has to work hard at the same time.”

“Ah, poor fellow! no,” my wife answered. “I suppose it's hard; only it's worse for the children: and he is such a dull-looking old fellow to be the father of these bright creatures.”

She had hardly spoken when a servant whispered to me—a woman wished to speak to me in the hall. I had hardly got down the stairs when she came quickly towards me—a decent old woman, like a servant.

“You are Mr. Bryson?” she said. “Will you come in next door? The master is very bad; he wants to see you.”

“I will be with you at once,” I said. “Shall I call his son and daughter to come with us?

“I'll send for them later on,” the old woman muttered. “Let them be—let them be; the house is too full of noise as it is.”

I followed the old woman to Walter Barrington's house. What first struck me on entering, in contrast to mine, was its utter want of taste in the little decoration I saw; the dinginess, the wear and tear upon every thing; the worn stair-carpets, the dirty hall paper, the lack of a woman's touch to make the home comfort I knew and loved.

“Clean everything is, but what is done here is by the servant at my side,” I thought. “All honour to her for her endeavours. Otherwise what a house it would be for dirt! Agnes has no hand in this. Look at her hat with torn ribbons upon the hall rack, and her little velvet jacket flung upon the chair. Untidy Agnes!”

As we reached the door of his room I heard the sound of squabbling inside. At the noise the woman flung the door open and rushed in. I saw her seize the two younger children by the arms and force them apart Bobby and Lily were fighting over a toy.

“I told you not to come in here, disturbing your father when he's ill!” the woman shouted; “get out of here, both of you!”

She pushed them roughly to the door, Lily scratching and Bobby kicking.

“I want my train!” he roared, escaping from her and running back for his toy. He caught it by the leading string, and drew it out after him, the iron wheels creaking and rattling over the wooden floor.

A low groan from the bed made me look round. Walter Barrington lay there, older, more insignificant than ever, his face withered with pain. I went to his side, full of pity; he motioned me to be seated. For some minutes he could not speak, seeming to be in great agony. I looked round the room, seeking something to ease him, but did not know what to do. I was struck with the untidy, bare room, the uncarpeted floor, the uncurtained windows, the medicine bottles and details of an invalid chamber all about within sight of the sick man. Through the walls came the sound of music—gig—gig—gig. It burst upon me with a shock; it was from my own house.

“I must stop that dancing,” I said aloud; “it's horrible!”

Walter Barrington shook his head. “No, no; I like it,” he whispered. “Agnes is there; I made her go. Agnes is dancing.”

“She is there,” I said, “looking so pretty.” He smiled feebly. “But you must not be worried with noises.

He shook his head again. “It's nothing. I like it.” Then he looked pleadingly at me. “I sent for you. You are kind to come.”

“I am glad to come,” I said. “What can I do for you?”

“I am dying,” he said feebly. “I want you to help me to die in peace. I worry about my children. What is to become of them? who is to look after them? Will you promise? Would you promise? It will be more difficult than you think Will you be trustee for them? You are the only one I can ask; the only one who has been kind to me.”

“I have done nothing for you,” I said, ashamed. “Anything I can do now I will.”

“You and your wife have been so kind to my darlings, so very kind.”

The door was opened with a kick. Bobby thrust his head in, laughing. Walter Barrington gave a moan, his poor, thin hands raised to his head. I felt I could strangle the little boy. My “Hush!” was so stern that he came on tip-toe to the bed in his nailed boots.

“Is father asleep?” he questioned in a loud whisper.

Walter Barrington drew his hands from his face and turned upon his son the loveliest smile I have ever seen.

“He is so thoughtful, poor little child! Sit by me, my love.”

The boy sat himself by his father's side, and commenced whittling a bit of stick. “I am making a whistle,” he volunteered; “but it won't blow.”

“If it does,” I said to myself, “out you go.”

“I am doing a curious thing,” the old man muttered; “but it must be done. If you will look after the interests of my children, my housekeeper, whom you have seen, will keep the home together.” He hesitated. “My wife” he looked distressed.

“I know,” I hastened to tell him. “I understand all about it; you could not agree, so you separated. It was best for the children. But now that you are so ill, could you not forget? A mother would be best to look after her children, after all.”

His face contracted in a terrible sorrow.

“It is impossible,” he said; then looked fiercely at me. “We did not agree.” He spoke in a strong voice. “Remember, incompatibility of temper; make no mistake, incompatibility of temper.” With a hoarse cry he put his weak arms about the boy, as though to protect him from what I might think.

Bobby peevishly put away his feeble clasp. “Father, you are so silly!” he cried. “Look! you nearly broke my whistle.”

“If she should come back,” the old man continued, struggling with shame and pain, “and make any trouble about the will, remember, I was quite sane when I spoke to you and named you as trustee.”

“Is mother coming back?” Bobby asked, lifting his face and smiling. “She is so long away. Mother is so gay,” he added, turning to me; “she was always laughing and playing with us. When will she come home?”

Walter Barrington moved restlessly. “Oh, my God!” I heard him mutter, “my God!” I thought he was in pain, but saw the agony was in his soul.

Bobby seemed to be remembering something; his face changed into anger.

“You would not let her in.” He turned on his father. “You would not let her in when she came home last time.”

“Be silent!” the dying man commanded sternly, his face already dead. Then, his voice changing to infinite tenderness, “Hush, darling, hush, my love!”

“You did!” the boy began to shout. “When she came home last time, long ago, you wouldn't let her in. It was in the middle of the night, and she stood on the doorstep, and you wouldn't let her in.”

I ran to put the boy from the room. He turned to me. As I came near him and took his hand, he began to sob.

“He did! he did! he wouldn't let her in; and she cried and cried.”

“You never heard it,” Walter Barrington shouted, half raising himself. “Hush! hold your tongue!”

“I did!” the boy screamed back. “I was at the little window upstairs; and she cried and cried, and I called, 'Mother! Mother! Mother!' but she did not hear me.”

“It was a dream,” I said pityingly, leading the boy to the door, “only a dream.”

“No,” he sobbed, “it wasn't, for I heard her singing in the darkness as she went away, and I knew the song, and I went to bed and cried and cried, and then I fell asleep and forgot; but I know it was she, for she sang, 'Sleep, Little Baby,' and she always sang that to Lily. It is like this—” He opened his mouth, but I bid him go and buy sweets, giving him a shilling, I closed the door upon him.

When I turned to Walter Barrington, his face was hidden by his hands, but through the fingers tears rolled glistening. Poor dying creature! may I never behold such grief again! What would I not have given to make peaceful the few hours that remained? I laid my hands across his thin shoulders as a woman might, and he seemed to lean towards me as if for comfort. Poor creature! so lonely, so deserted, so miserable in the grasp of death!

“Be at peace,” I whispered earnestly. “Trust your children to me. I will see no one interferes, and—I understand, my poor friend, I understand.”

He fell back half fainting, and I laid him upon his pillows. I sat with him till he somewhat recovered, then rose to go. As I did so, the door opened, and Agnes entered, a whirl of perfume and beauty.

“Is father better?” she said; then bent and gave him a peck of a kiss. “Oh, he is. See my card, father; I danced every dance. I'll read you out all the names and tell you of all my conquests.” She sat down, a flutter of silk and laces, by his bed. “Do I worry you? No. Well, first, Mrs. Bryson is wondering where her husband is, so we shall say goodnight, and thank you, Mr. Bryson.”

“You must not stay long with your father; he is very tired talking to me,” I said, smiling.

“Oh, no.” The sick man smiled, holding my hand in a long, grateful clasp. “I love to have her. Herbert will show you out. Thank you, my friend, for the comfort you have given me.”

Herbert came sauntering into the room at the moment, his pipe in his mouth. “Hope you don't object to smoke,” he said, with a laugh. “Hallo, Governor, how are you?—feeling fit?”

* * *

The next time I entered the Barringtons' house Walter Barrington had left it for ever. But a strange, loud woman was going from room to room, evidently noting down the things.

“Did you ever hear of such a thing?” she raged, when I met her. “I am not to come near my own children, and am not mentioned in the will. The housekeeper, if you please, is to have charge of them till they are of age, and a trustee is to have all the money; but I shall dispute the will.”

I turned from her in disgust, asking the maid where Agnes and the others were. She pointed to a door, and resumed her work, staring open eyes and mouth at the new arrival, and answering at random all the questions that that individual was putting to her.

I opened the door she had directed me to and entered. Agnes was standing before the mirror trying on a large red hat belonging, as I guessed, to Walter Barrington's wife. As she turned and twisted before the glass, the tears were running down her face.

“Poor father!” she sobbed, when she saw me; “I did not know he was really so ill and going to die.”

Bobby and Lily came out of the corner where they had been playing with a lot of chairs. Their faces were full of importance and gravity.

“Father was put into a box,” Lily whispered in my ear as I lifted her in my arms, “and taken away. There were four black horses to his hearse.”

“We are playing at funerals,” Bobby said, pointing to the row of chairs. “These are the carriages.”

All Souls' Eve

The darkness had come; the night she had prayed for so long was here at last. With trembling hands she swept the hearth again and stirred the fire to brightness. It was All Souls' Eve.

A year to-morrow the blow had fallen which had swept joy and hope from her heart, and tonight happiness would be hers once more, for a few brief hours at least. He would return with the darkness; he would return whom the seas had drowned. The dead would rise again. Upon the waters he had gone to seek a fortune, that it might be possible for them to marry, for he was poor. But the waters had dragged him down. What fortune had he found—the best be-loved— among the strange sea-creatures?

She pulled the heavy curtains across the windows and put the door upon the latch. She drew two chairs to the fire, and set a low table between them. She spread the spotless table-cover with a feast—the best the little cabin could afford—and her eyes shone all the time in her sad, worn face with the happiness of the blest.

She thought of his warm hand-clasp; of his bright gaze; his beautiful, proud head; his strong limbs and their joy of living; the hot blood that pulsed so red in his cheek. She forgot that he was now so cold. Then she remembered that he was dead. Would she fear his spirit—the ghost of her lover? She laughed at the thought. To see him again! to see him again! Oh, the longing of the past year! the passionate, hopeless, maddening longing to see him again—only once more!

“Pulse of my heart,” she whispered, “hurry and come!” She knelt by the fire and cleared the white dust from each bar. She dusted the stove and polished it till she could see her face in the shine. She rose and drew the chairs closer together, and then stood on tip-toe to see herself in the glass above the fire. She brushed the thick hair from off her forehead, and, dissatisfied, drew it back again in heavy waves about her face.

She could hear the boys and girls running to and fro from their homes, loud in their laughter and fun. There was dancing at the cross-roads to-night. The old piper was there with his pipes, the boys and girls jigging before him. Last year she danced also with her lover, and her heart was as light as a thistle-seed. And the next morning he sailed away, and was drowned.

To-night no one spoke to her or came to her door, save one; for they said, “She is fretting, poor colleen, thinking of last year. Leave her in peace.” But one young girl, hearing them, in her pity pressed upon the latch of the door and looked in. But, seeing the glory in the woman's face, the girl fell back. “She is not fretting,” she told the others; “she is the gladdest of us all.”

When the shadows advanced, and the evening grew late, the young people gathered at their firesides to burn nuts and find their fortunes. The woman in her lonely cottage seated herself upon one of the chairs by the earth. She sat motionless, listening with her heart in her eyes. But nothing came to her from the night but the call of some far-off voice, or a closing door, and then all was silent. When would the long-lost one be restored to her? When would the dead have their hour? It was drawing late.

“Hush!” She heard a dog bark far out in the darkness. She listened. Something was happening—something was coming. Who? What? There was no sound of footsteps. Only she knew. Now the neighbour's dog was pulling at his chain and howling. Her heart beat fast. She looked around. Nothing was there! Was she afraid of what was coming—her own beloved?

“Pulse of my heart, come quickly!” she said, and turned her face to the fire.

Now the dog next door whined as though in the near presence of something he feared. She could hear his chain drag as he went moaning into his kennel. Her heart beat until she could hardly breathe. And then she heard a finger press upon the latch. She half rose, and, looking behind her, saw the opening door and no hand upon it.

“Pulse of my heart, come quickly!” she said, and, crouching down, hid her face in her bands. She knew something had entered—something eager and swift. There was no sound of footsteps, but she heard the door close softly, and then the chair beside her creaked. She shut her hidden eyes and pressed her hands hard upon them. In the long silence that followed she could hear her heart beating wildly. He was there, sitting beside her, and she dared not open her eyes. The whole cabin seemed full of his presence. She felt what she dared not see. She knew that his eyes were upon her, his dear eyes. They were caressing her bent head, that would not rise to welcome him. They were on her stiff, hidden hands, that would not go to greet him, and on all the crouching body that shrank away from him.

If he would only lay his hand upon her, he would seem more human, she thought. Then she felt a faint breath upon her hair, and she crouched lower and screamed,—

“If you touch me, I shall die!” Why did he not speak? The sound of his dear voice would shatter her fears. She heard his chair move towards her, and she cried,—

“Do not speak to me, for God's sake! I could not bear it!” Oh, her coward flesh! What was it making her say to him? Could he read her thoughts—that silent and unusual visitor? “Go,” her body said; “go quickly. My mate was warm and living and lovely. You are not he—cold, stiff, and horribly strange being, whom I dare not see.” Could he guess that her thoughts were these? Where was her love that it could not cast out fear? She heard a far cock-crow, and the clock behind the door prepared to strike. There was a moment's silence, and then the chair beside hers was pushed back. She heard a long-drawn sigh, that was half a sob, echo through the room, and then the door opened and closed again—he had gone.

She sprang up and looked around the warm, lighted room. What had she feared? There was the fire leaping in the grate. There the familiar face of the clock and the red curtains on the window. There was the untasted food upon the table. The other chair was pushed back from the hearth. He had come and gone; unwarmed, unwelcomed, and unfed. He had come, the lonely ghost, for human sympathy and love, and he had gone back to his cold grave without it. He had bent above her head, yet never touched her, for fear of frightening her. She moved her hand upon her hair, and found it dewed with his tears. She heard her neighbour's dog drag on his chain and howl again. She ran to the door and flung it wide—only the darkness. She would never see him again; she would never have the courage, even if he came.

She flung herself, face downwards, in the grass before her door—and the clock in the room behind her struck twelve.

The Lion-Tamer

“Up! Hector, Brutus, Nero.” The lion-tamer cracked his whip; he strode smiling cruelly among the snarling animals; he knew no fear; his pleasure was in the danger of his position. The strong, brutal natures always on the look-out for a sign of weakness in him to attack—he lashed them as he would disobedient curs if they did not obey him, and they crouched to him. Sometimes one would face him for a moment, and the two would look into each other's eyes, till the brave beast would turn tail, subdued by the superior courage in the man's gaze. Often it was but the weight of a straw in the balance who would have the victory. But the man always came from the conquest with a smile upon his lips, while the women in the audience would give little cries of fear, and lean fainting upon their male companions, envying the woman the while who might call such a man her master. Had they but known it, she stood over there by the door in the gold and scarlet costume of a lady gymnast—a nobody to be the wife of such a man! Now she did not even look as the lion-tamer strode amongst his animals—a figure that a sculptor might copy for a god. All the women's eyes in the theatre followed him except hers; hers were downcast and turned away.

“Nora,” a voice said low in her ear, “he has beaten you again?”

Her eyes flashed as she turned them upon the speaker, then fell; a deep flush spread over her neck and face.

“He has never beaten me,” she said coldly; “how dare you say so!”

“He has beaten you,” the voice said, “as he will beat you again, and yet again.”

“He has not beaten me.” She spoke angrily, stamping her foot, her fierce gaze even yet not meeting the eyes of her questioner.

“Why are you wearing that silk scarf around your neck? It is not customary—not becoming.”

“Because I have a cold, Is it not enough?” She looked him up and down, challenging a denial, but he did not answer, gazing sadly before him at the crowded benches of the applauding house. The lion-tamer, astride a lion, was riding round the ring.

“I hate the life”—the woman spoke after a pause—“I hate the men's eyes. I am not one to smile when my soul is full of bitterness, or to dance lightly when my heart is heavy; neither can I uplift my face for the admiration of men, nor do I care to twist and distort my body for their amusement. Every night, as I swing above their heads and prepare to launch myself into the air, I smile upon them, and hate them, hate them—the cruel faces with their look of mock terror upon them, all waiting for me to fall, to miss my mark, to become a crushed mass of death.”

“Nora,”—the man's voice was strained,—“don't.”

“I tell you, they are waiting for me to fall. What else do they come for? What else are they watching for there”—she waved her hands towards the cage of lions—“but the death that walks with the man behind those bars? Sometimes I say to myself up there above their heads: 'Look how they sit with their breaths indrawn with suspense! Give them their sensation—miss this time.' And I—whom no one loves, who has no hope, no happiness—I do not miss.”

“Whom no one loves?” The man's voice rang eager and broken.”

“Whom no one has a right to love.” She spoke hastily and coldly, seeming to answer the question in his voice. The man turned away his face from her.

“What a handsome couple of gymnasts!” some one said from the audience. “I wonder if they are married?”

The man's hand clenched. The woman drew her scarf more tightly round her. “It is cold here,” she said, as if she had not heard. “I wish I could go home.” And again she repeated softly, full of yearning, “O God! I wish I could go home.”

“Home!” the man echoed. “The trees are well in leaf there now, and the little birds are quarrelling over the placing of their nests; there is peace in the valley, and the great hills are yellow with golden furze.”

The woman laid her hand upon his arm pleadingly. “Be silent!” she whispered. “Oh, be silent!”

“Far away from London, from its darkness, its weariness, its soul-killing noise and crowding,” the man continued, as though speaking aloud to himself. “There is silence from the crash of human tongues; only God speaks in the moving of the leaves and the falling of the waters.”

“And the countless eyes,” Nora whispered, as though afraid of being heard, “the eyes always watching for me to fall—they are not there, nor the ears always astrain to hear my dying cry.

The man shuddered. He drew nearer and, laying his hand upon her arm, gazed intently into her eyes.

“Wherever you go, eyes are watching you, he said, “ears are listening to you, tongues are ready to be busy with your misfortunes in this great city. But at home there are no eyes to watch you save of those who love you. There are no ears to listen save of those to whom your voice is music. There are no tongues to speak of you except with kindliness.”

The woman, crying silently, drew back into the shadow of the passage. The man followed, and, taking his place before her, gazed into her eyes. From the theatre came the sound of clapping and “bravos.” The attendants of the circus were busy; the two stood alone.

“Beneath the moon the fair valley smiles”—he spoke low and distinct. “The peat smoke curls upward, half seen in the faint light; its perfume is in the air. Here and there, among the purple gloom of fern and little trees, the star of a cottage light is seen. The contented lowing of lazy cattle, the bark of a watchful dog, or the chirp of some awaking bird is all that breaks the silence.” He made a downward motion over her face with his hands. She lay back against the wall half in a trance, his eyes seemed to command her soul, she was passing into his power under the mesmeric influence of his voice. He continued softly, “The shadowy mountains encircle all. The light of the passing moon moves like a benediction over the land. The scented breeze is warm, and the cottage doors stand open. There is no enemy here to bar them against, and the night is not yet begun. In one cottage alone there is mourning, an old woman sitting in solitude by a hearth where the turf lies grey, the fire in its heart.”

Nora passed her hand across her eyes, as if to see clearer. She sank upon a bench and spoke as in a dream.

“I see her,” she said. “Her hand is to her side. No tears come from her eyes—she is too old to weep—but her heart is crying always. She is ill and miserable.”

The man put his hand upon her forehead. “What does she say?” he said. “She is calling 'Nora, Nora, Nora,' nothing but 'Nora.' ”

“Is there no reply?”

“There is a woman far away who is trying to reach her; but she cannot—she is tied, she is held back by some one very strong and very cruel. She is crying in her heart too, but she cannot go. She dare not go. God and man have bound her, so she must not break loose and go.

“And the old woman?”

“She is growing older and more weary. She is drifting away; she is dying. She cries, 'Nora, come to me. Oh, my little Nora!' ” She moved uneasily, as though in pain. The man passed his hand downward over her face.

“Tell her,” he said slowly, “tell her you will come. Tell her you will be strong and cast the chains from about you that are killing you. Tell her you were young, and had no knowledge of what life was when you left her. Tell her that as an inexperienced girl you thought all nobleness dwelt in a body that God had made strong and beautiful above other men, how you left everything you held dear for his sake. But now, disillusioned, loveless, a woman who has suffered, you are going back to her again.” He paused a moment, and continued with an effort: “Tell her that there is one who loves you as his own soul, one who you could not care for long ago. Tell her you love him now, and that he will shield you from all misfortunes, and take you away from suffering. Tell her, tell her.”

Nora pressed her hands together, as though in great pain. “I cannot tell her that,” she said, “I cannot tell her that.”

The man drew his breath in with a sob.

“No, of course not; I was mad. Be calm. Tell her you will go home alone.” The woman opened her lips to speak, but the man passed his hand upward over her face a moment and disappeared. A strong hand fell upon her shoulder.

“Mother!” she cried, with a breath of joy or relief, “I have come home.”

“Asleep?” a hard voice said in her ear. “Why are you not outside in your place, you lazy sloven?”

She started to her feet, passing her hand across her eyes, staggering into consciousness. Her husband seized her by the shoulder, shaking her. “By God!” he growled, “if I thought you were drunk I would lash the hide off your bones.”

“Don't dare to speak to me like that!”—she faced him now like one of his lions—“and take your hand off me at once!”

“I'll speak to you as I like and use you as I like.” He shook her to and fro, then pushed her roughly from him. “Don't give me any of your infernal jaw, either.”

She seized the loaded whip he had laid beside him when he came upon her, and raised it above her head. Her hot Irish blood coursed madly through her veins. In her passion she stood high as himself. Her trained sinews stood out on her arms. She came upon him like a thunderbolt, but he seized her by her wrists, as in a vice.

“I am not afraid of you,” he said, and laughed. “I will tame you as I tame my lions, in spite of your claws.”

He twisted the whip from her hands, and for a moment held it over her, as though to strike. She crouched for the blow, but met his eyes with a gaze so like one of his beasts when he ill-treated it, that he flung the whip aside. His fearless, cruel soul was momentarily ashamed beneath eyes that reproached and condemned him. Sometimes in the arena he had felt the same look bent upon him, and shame had turned him that fear never stayed, and his lash would fall unsatisfied to the ground.

“I have never struck a woman in my life,” he said roughly, “but you are enough to make a man begin.”

She laughed, and did not answer. The light shawl fell from about her shoulders, and on the white of her skin he saw the black track of a cruel grasp.

“I have never struck a woman,” he repeated, sauntering away.

She sank down on a bench, drawing the scarf about her again. She could hear the rattle of ropes and pulleys. They were fixing the wires for her performance. She stood up, waiting her turn, and looked from her shadow into the theatre.

“Oh, the eyes! the eyes! the eyes!” she muttered, “all waiting to see me fall. Let the end come soon, God, if it be your will. I am weary, weary, weary of being alive!”

II

There had been serious trouble at the Imperial Circus a few nights after this. The “shooting star,” the beautiful Madame Blumenthal, would not go through her performance. The manager had spent his patience and his time in remonstrating with her; her husband had argued with more force than effect. “For the first time in his life,” as he said himself, “he had struck a woman”; and the manager had looked on and not interfered. He was only sorry that he had no legal right himself to chastise her. He raved at her for a pig-headed coward.

A coward! And that was the reason the wonderful Madame Blumenthal was afraid to go through her performance, afraid to do the amazing flight through the air that all London was crowding to see. She sat and cried and trembled till her eyes were swollen and the red mark of her husband's blow became even more vivid on her pale face.

“Oh, forgive me!” she sobbed; “let me off this one evening. I have never felt like this before, never been afraid.”

And the man who could not understand fear dragged her on to her feet,—“If you are not ready in five minutes, God help you!” he growled.

“They are all watching for me to fall,” she whispered. “There's a man there that has followed us for the last six months, ever since I began my dangerous leap. He has followed us to Paris, to Vienna, to London—everywhere. He is a ghoul waiting for my blood; he gloats over my danger. I see his eyes as I go out and bow. They follow me as I climb the rope and mount into my seat. All the life in me trembles. I am afraid of him—afraid of all the eyes.”

“If you are afraid to go on you will be more afraid to stay away,” her husband said cruelly, his eyes on her. “Do you think I will stand being ruined by you? Here, enough of this fuss!” he shouted; “get yourself ready! The trapeze is up, and everybody will soon be waiting.”

She drew herself together and clenched her teeth. “I will go,” she said hoarsely. “After all, what does it matter?”

When she came into the ring she was smiling as usual. No one noticed that the beautiful Nora had rouged to simulate the natural roses that had left her cheeks, or that a dark scar was hidden beneath the powder on her face.

No one noticed she was troubled but Malachy O'Dermod, who loved her; and he said nothing, but clenched his teeth so that the blood came upon his lip.

“Hold my hand tight, Nora,” he said, as they went through one of their performances together. “You are not as fit as usual.”

The sound of his gentle, strong voice soothed her. She smiled, feeling braver. “Imagine I, was afraid! But I am not, now that you are here to avert the evil eyes!”

“Trust me,” he said, looking into her face, and seeing that she was afraid. “Nonsense!” he laughed. “After all this time!” He spoke to her, cheering her, to turn her thoughts from herself. He became nervous, thinking of her great jump through the air.

“I don't know what it is to-night,” she said, smiling, “I feel as if something were going to happen.”

The rope was lowered, and she clung to it till it left her almost out of sight of the audience, up under the sparkling roof-lights.

Malachy O'Dermod swung in his place, his soul in his eyes. “O little figure, so lonely,” he said through his teeth, “God protect you!” and he kept clenching and unclenching his hands, while she prepared for her spring into the air, saying all the time, as if he did not know he was speaking aloud, “God help me! God help me! God help me!” He turned over in his swing, holding on by his feet. He was to catch her. The terror of his position overcame him as it never had before. In a minute he would know if the precious weight hung upon him. If not, he resolved to loose his feet and drop head foremost to the ground, avoiding the net. His soul cried to her, “Come to me straight, be strong, do not miss,” till he felt she must hear and obey. But she, far away, alone under the roof, did not hear him, but, pale and trembling, prepared to gather herself together to spring. For the first time she knew what intense fear was and the facing of death.

“It is my husband,” she thought. “His continual ill-treatment of me is wearing me into a coward. Even the lions, who hate him, are afraid to strike. I am not as brave, and my spirit, too, is broken.” She saw Malachy turn over on his swing and reach his hands out ready to catch her. Far away she saw the crowd of white faces of the audience uplifted and staring at her. “The place is all eyes,” she whispered, “all eyes.” She groaned as she thought what she had to do to amuse them, and felt more lonely than ever she had done in her life, standing up there with the crowd of upturned faces and eager eyes demanding her, by their gaze, and saying—“Come we are waiting: do not keep us.” She crouched to spring, and, flinging herself into the air, opened her lips in a low, terrified cry. She felt she had sprung short. No one heard it but Malachy, and he hung upon his swing like one dead and blind. The next second hands grasped hands, and he heard the loud applause of the audience. Never had he enjoyed the agony of her weight as now, when it fell upon him almost unprepared.

“Why did you cry out?” he moaned. “You have almost killed me.” They swung hand from hand, recovering themselves. “I thought I had missed,” she gasped. Then they dropped one after the other into the net. Hand in hand they bowed before the audience, delighting in the light and gaiety of the circus. In the memory of their terror they felt as though they had gone through the horrors of death, and out of the darkness had passed to the glory of day and living. Smiling, they went together out of the arena. When they reached a quiet passage outside they could hear the great cage rising round the ring in which her husband was to perform with his lions.

She sank down upon a box with a laugh. “I feel quite tired, like as if I had walked for miles,” she said, lifting her damp hair from her forehead as she spoke.

Malachy leant forward. “I feel as if you had been lost and I had just found you,” he whispered; then saw upon her brow—almost across her eyes—the vivid wound of a knotted whip lash. “My God!” he cried, his face changing. “Has he done that? Where is he?”

Nora started to her feet. She had never seen him so angry. She put her hand upon his arm to keep him. “Let him be,” she said; “it is no use worrying. I am all right—it does not hurt. He was very angry because I would not go at once for my performance.”

“Nora!” He grasped her hands in his. “Nora, leave it all, leave it all! It is no marriage of God's that keeps you tied to that brute. You do not love or honour him; he does not love or cherish you. My little Irish sweetheart, I have loved you beyond all telling since you were a tiny child.”

Nora drew her hands away. “Do not dare to talk to me like that, or I shall hate you,” she said; and then some one spoke behind her sneeringly,—

“A pretty scene, indeed, to come upon.”

They turned, and faced her husband. Malachy threw himself before the lion-tamer and caught him by his coat. He was not a small man, yet did not come much over the other's shoulder.

“You have struck her,” he said hoarsely, between his teeth. “You cowardly hound! you shall take the blow back from me.”

The other forced him from him, and raised his whip. “I shall cut you in two if you lay a hand upon me.”

Nora, without thinking of anything, only to separate them, flung herself between them, and the blow fell across her shoulders, making her cry out. Her husband laughed when he saw where the blow fell.

“That comes of being in the wrong place,” he said, striding out into the circus. Nora heard the applause that greeted him, and missed Malachy from her side. She sprang up, frightened. Where had he gone? She suddenly came upon him in the shadow, an iron bar in his hands. He was creeping towards the bowing figure in the ring. He made a spring as she came up, but the lion-tamer saw him, and with a smile slipped into the cage amongst his lions.

Nora caught the man by the arm, and pulled him roughly towards her. “What were you going to do?” she cried. “What were you going to do?”

The bar dropped from Malachy's hands. “Nothing,” he said. “I was mad for the moment; I hate him. Would to God he were dead; but I shall not be his slayer.”

Nora let go his arm. Her heart echoed his words, then ran cold at its own guilt.

“What is he making of us both?” she whispered; and thought of herself as she was when a girl—so innocent, so glad of the joy of living in herself and everything else; how she had welcomed the young birds whose nests she knew and would not harm; and the children, how they loved her! Now she looked upon young things with pity, feeling that they would come to misery with years, as she had done. Misery, aye, and even crime; for in her heart now was the unspoken thought, “As there is no other way, O God, separate us by death.” That glorious gift of life she once so revelled in she was now ready to throw away; or was it possible she thought of gaining her freedom by another's death? She hid her face in her hands. “How can I bear it?” she thought. “My life is embittered and ruined, I am beaten and insulted at every turn, my love is cast back upon me, my tenderness repulsed. How can I help but hate him, O God?”

She looked up, and saw her husband smiling among his lions. The beasts crouched and growled when even he approached. She saw the vast audience staring at him with admiring eyes—the women, perhaps, envying her for the possession—of his beauty, the little children applauding with shrill voices every performance of the beasts, that had been taught them with cruel tortures. “If you only knew,” she whispered to the women and children, as her eyes set again upon her husband. The great feat of the night was being prepared, lion after lion taking his position in the ring. Two of them refused for a moment to go, and she saw the smile come upon her husband's face that she knew so well. It was his smile of power, of his superior strength and will over anything that set itself against him. Now the lash fell upon the disobedient beasts with a biting shriek through the air. One of the lions crouched as if to spring upon him, and he smiled again and struck it across the eyes. Half-blinded, it slunk away.

One after the other they mounted into their places upon the platform prepared for them. Over the backs of these he was to climb, and mounting the central lion, hold aloft the united flags of England and America, the whole forming a tableau that he had done for many seasons, under many flags. Nora watched him making his last bow to the audience before he mounted into his place. The lions were ready in position, some growling softly to themselves, others licking their comrades, as they leaned towards each other.

“These men always get killed in the end,” she heard some one in the audience say; and her companion tittered, “I hope it won't be to-night.”

Nora looked at her husband again. She saw him stand a moment and brush the hair back from his forehead. What was the matter? Why did he not move? He seemed to draw himself together, then make a step towards the impatient beasts. Then he stopped again and looked around. Was he afraid at last? No, there was no fear upon his face—only bewilderment. He brushed his hand again across his eyes and walked towards the lions. One of them made a stroke with its paw towards him, snarling. He did not seem to notice. Some of the attendants seemed to think something wrong, and crowded to the bars, whispering together. One of them called out, but the lion-tamer did not answer. He attempted to get upon the back of the first lion, and slipped; the brute snarled and half turned, but the cruel foot was again upon his back, and he fell into his accustomed place. The man mounted and stepped on to the next beast, then slipped again, and went down on his feet between them.

She heard a voice in the audience mutter, “This may be good for show, but, by Heaven! I don't like it.” And some one from the theatre pushed by her, saying, “My God! is the fellow drunk? If he had fallen he was a dead man.” Again she saw her husband mount the back of the next lion in a bewildered way, as though he were half asleep. She saw the impatient animals growing conscious of something amiss. The angry lashing of their tails and the low, fierce growling was growing worse.

Even the audience became aware that all was not right, and relapsed into horrified silence. Some one called to the lion-tamer to come back, for God's sake, but he looked round with a cruel smile upon his face and made a step forward; he prepared to mount the centre beast, and drew the two flags from his breast. The lions were snarling and moving impatiently from their positions. He shouted at them to go back; they obeyed him reluctantly, and eyed him with hatred. He put his foot half across the beast nearest him. Nora saw it was not the central lion, but a vicious brute which he could never trust. Her face was like death as she gazed round the audience. What in God's name was the matter with her husband? She opened her mouth to scream, and her gaze fell upon Malachy O'Dermod. He was standing in the passage, his eyes fastened upon her husband like two burning torches, his face white and his thin lips muttering. She stretched her hands towards him, and then suddenly put them before her face. As she did so a great stricken cry arose from the theatre—women and children screaming and men shouting, the whole place in a tumult. She was hustled and jostled amongst the panic-stricken crowds and useless would-be helpers. She heard some one saying, “This is his wife, poor thing!” and knew she had shrieked out in horrible laughter before she fell under their feet unconscious.

III

A year after this, in a green valley in Ireland, a woman went alone amongst the long fern and purple foxglove. Her face was raised from the lovely things at her feet and fixed upon the blue distance before her. Yet in her eyes, as she went thus, grew a great loneliness and longing. She clenched her hands and held them across her brow, as if in pain. As she passed, a man stepped out from a group of yellow furze straight in her path. He held out his hands to her, calling upon her name,—

“Nora! my Nora!” he cried.

With a great sob she turned, and held him as if he might slip away into a dream. “Malachy! oh, Malachy!”

“I have waited a year,” he said, “since I brought you home. You did not know me then, Nora, when I took you from among their feet. Ah, my love, it was hard to watch others nurse you and see you slowly coming back from your fever and madness; but I knew it was right and best not to let you know till now.”

The woman drew herself back from him with an awful cry.

“O God! I had forgotten, and only remembered the agony of having lost you. Malachy, Malachy, we are outcasts from the happiness of God. Our ways are separate; we must not meet again.”

He took her by the two hands and looked into her eyes. He thought the fever that had burnt in her poor brain was returning.

“What do you mean?” he said tenderly. “We shall never part again.” She drew her hands from his and stood before him like one turned into stone.

“The mark of Cain is upon you and upon me,” she said.

“What do you mean?” he stammered, a horror growing in his eyes.

“I mean you drew the strength from my husband's limbs and the reason from his brain. You made him fall amongst the lions; you mesmerized him: and I knew, and could have stopped you, but I let him die.”

The man grew white as death, and staggered from her. “Yes, it is true!” he gasped. “I did not know my own power, but I hated him and wished him dead. I watched him that night, and my spirit went out and encircled him in numbness and death. I knew it, I knew it but dared not breathe it to myself.”

“We are murderers,” the woman said, in a hard voice. “There is a dead man's body between us and happiness for ever. Bid me good-bye and leave me.”

The man fell upon his knees before her, kissing her hands again and again.

“Is there no escape?” he groaned. “Is there no pardon? Is there no punishment less terrible than separation?”

“There is no punishment so just,” she said; then fell upon his shoulder weeping. “But I have seen you once more. Oh, my love, I have seen you once more!”

Then they fell to tears and embraces and long good-byes; and she, feeling him depart, slid upon the ground, her face amid the fern, crying, “Malachy! Malachy! Malachy!” as one cries upon the dead.

The Women's Progress Club

“I think it would be well if Miss Gillson called upon Mr. Westcliff; he is an influential member of Parliament, and might be willing to help our Progress Club.”

A chorus of female voices interrupted, “Oh, but we have called, and he is impossible to move.”

“I think Miss Gillson is a friend of his,” the president continued, smiling upon the animated assembly of hats and bonnets, which might, at first sight, have been taken for a crowd of birds, so variously and wonderfully were they decorated by plumage; “otherwise I know it would be vain to send any one, even Miss Gillson, where so many charming young ladies had failed.”

“He is not a friend of mine,” Miss Gillson said; “I knew him when I was a young girl— slightly.”

“So long ago as that,” a member said absently. “Then there is not much use going to see him.” Miss Gillson flushed. “I have made up my mind to go. I have often thought of that old man living there, with his old-fashioned ideas and narrow-mindedness, and I confess it has worried me.”

She rose and stood before the glass, then drew her veil down over her face after a dissatisfied glance.

A member sitting near her was toying with a crimson rose. Miss Gillson looked at her and their eyes met.

“Don't break the pretty thing,” she said. There was almost a request in her voice, and the other smiled.

“Do you care to take it?” Miss Gillson blushed; she read meaning in the smile.

“To save it from destruction,” she said; and took the flower, fixing it carefully in her bodice. She looked again at the glass and rearranged the angle of her hat.

“Until women cease to think of dress,” the president of the Club said pointedly, “ I shall not believe the old Adam—or should I say the old Eve?—is slain.”

“I never heard,” said a gay voice from a corner, “that Adam was much troubled by his wife's dress accounts. It's the present-day husbands that complain of that grievance.”

“The present-day husbands complain of a good many grievances,” a careworn woman sighed bitterly.

“And why?” said a stern-looking member in glasses. “Because their mothers spoil them first and their wives afterwards. Most of their faults are to be traced to their great selfishness—the selfishness which is natural to their sex and carefully cultivated by mothers and wives. It should be smacked out of them when babies, worked out of them when boys, and—and later, nagged out of them by wives. Mothers, in particular, should not spare the rod. However, this is not what is before the meeting. Mrs. Dickson will you read the reports.”

Mrs. Dickson opened the book before her. “You couldn't do it,” she said softly; “it's quite impossible to refuse baby anything if he cries for it. It's awful to hear a child crying when it's just at the beginning of its life's journey. It's such a little thing it wants, after all, to please it.”

“That's it, exactly as I say,” said the member in glasses. “The mothers spoil them; it's so easy to give in: and I say it's equally easy to hold out.”

“It's the hardest thing in the world,” Mrs. Dickson replied as she turned a page of her book.

“What I really want to tell you ladies,” she continued, “is that I have no time to continue a member of the Club. You see, it was different before I married; but I find, what with baby and with my husband being at home more than formerly, that I really must resign.”

“I am sure we shall all regret you very much,” the president said. “I am especially sorry when married ladies leave us. They can be of so much help by converting their husbands, and through them, perhaps, other men, to a recognition of our grievances.”

“I don't know why women marry,” remarked a lady of uncertain age to her neighbour; “it is such a drag on them, it puts an end to all their prospects.”

“I don't know, I'm sure,” the other said snappishly. “I suppose because they get the chance.” She looked her up and down. “That's the old maid that keeps the shop at the corner of our road,” she thought; “how impertinent of her to address me!”

The other returned the glance with interest. “You are the person who keeps a lodging-house down our street,” she looked; then turned her shoulder.

“Excuse me. I didn't see whom I was addressing,” she said.

“It isn't a drag to have to care for a man who loves you or your own child,” Mrs. Dickson continued softly. “You can't imagine what an inexplicable feeling of happiness it gives you to even put on buttons and fold away their things, and to feel that you are the person who keeps warm and cheerful the little house that contains your treasures.”

“I can't, indeed,” a member muttered sadly.

“We are wandering from the subject of our meeting,” the president said, smiling. “Mrs. Dickson, you will have a bad effect on our members if you become sentimental. Remember all the women who have no husbands, the widows who keep houses, and unmarried ladies who do their work side by side with men, yet do not get their advantages; and, indeed, the wives who keep their husbands, as often happens in the lower classes, and sometimes in our own. Why are these not to have votes with the men—and equal chances? However, we really must get on with the business of the meeting. Miss Gillson! where is Miss Gillson? Is it possible you are still before the glass, Miss Gillson? I fear I shall never make a new woman of you, my dear.”

Miss Gillson turned smiling. “It was a hook that would not hook,” she said, confused. “I wasn't admiring myself, I assure you. I won't sit down, but shall go right on and try to convert Mr. Westcliff.” She passed out, closing the door softly behind her.

“It wasn't the hook that kept her, it was the baiting of it,” said a woman with a sour smile.

“She is a dear creature,” her neighbour answered. “I should not wonder if Mr. Westcliff were an old lover, she took such pains over her appearance.”

“She is, indeed,” the other said, more heartily. “I always love to kiss her—her make-up has such a lovely perfume.”

But Miss Gillson, all unconscious of her critics, was walking smartly along the country lane that led to George Westcliff's little house.

“It's extraordinary how I dislike this man, she muttered. “I can't account for it.” She rearranged the bow beneath her chin and tried to see her face in a little stream that ran beside the road. “I wonder if I am much changed? I hope he won't think, to use a horridly feminine expression, that I have 'gone off' much.”

When she reached the door she hesitated for a few moments, overcome with a sudden shyness she seldom experienced. “How will he meet me after all these years? What is the man like that I only knew as a lad?”

A slatternly servant opened the door at her knock, then shuffled off, down at the heel, to announce her. She heard the girl say, “A Miss Pilsoner to see you”; and, looking through the opened door, caught a sudden glimpse of George Westcliff. In the momentary glance she took in the whole untidy room and the desolate figure of the man. He was sitting staring through the dirty window at the grey sky beyond. The remains of his lunch were still upon the table.

When the girl spoke he started as though from sleep and turned to his visitor. When he saw her he rose quickly and gasped “Barbara!” but recovered himself and advanced with outstretched hands.

“You remember me?” she said, pleased that the years had done so well for her.

“I could not forget you,” he said lightly, and you have not changed.” His tone seemed a question as well as a statement.

“My opinions haven't,” she said, rather coldly, “and it's about them I have come to see you. He motioned her to be seated and seemed disappointed.

“What can I do for you,” he said, “Mrs.—did the servant say 'Mrs. Pilsoner'?”

She laughed. “No; I am still Miss Gillson.”

His face cleared. He moved a trifle nearer her. She thought to herself, “I am sure of his support, if he has so much sentiment left,” and turned to him smiling. “I'm a member of the Women's League, and we want your help in Parliament.”

“I have always been against allowing women out of their proper place—their home,” he answered.

“I thought with years you would have grown less narrow-minded,” she replied sharply.

“Is it a great injustice to your sex to wish them safe by their own fireside, with some one to protect them from the rough winds of the world?”

“But every one hasn't her own fireside, or the somebody,” she answered, smiling. “And these are the women one wants to help.”

“Yes, those are the women you want to help; and so wives neglect their husbands and children, and daughters their fathers and mothers to foster plans for those women who have no one belonging to them. I have often met such women in the world pushing into men's departments and getting hustled by men. Men can't help jostling them in the hurry of life, but it hurts me to see it.”

“I think your argument very old-fashioned and stupid,” Barbara said calmly. “There are so many women who have to work, widows, and girls with, perhaps, old people depending on them. But men are so selfish that they want all the good things for themselves, all their pursuits to have few rivals, and the women to stay at home and make them comfortable when they are tired of their ambitions outside.”

“It isn't that they are selfish. I think”—he rose to his feet, looking around—“it's that they are so helpless without women to look after them. I am strong enough to work hard with my hands and brain all day, yet when it comes to making a home—there's something terribly wrong here”—he waved his hands as though to take in the little room—“and I don't know what it is or what to do—but I hate it!”

“It's the dust and the remains of lunch, I think,” she answered; and, with a sudden rush of foolish feminity, longed to sweep and tidy. “Did you sew that button on yourself?” She was staring at his coat, where a loose button hung by a white thread.

“A man is as helpless with a needle as a woman with a gun.” He smiled at her, but she had risen and was going round the room.

“The poor thing!” she laughed softly with tears in her eyes. She had come upon a sock with a large hole in the heel; there had been an attempt to draw it together by a bit of string. “I have never seen anything so pathetic.”

“You see what a man is without a woman.” He was watching her, and she froze.

“What answer am I to take back to my president?” she said.

“I'll tell you,” he answered, “if you will come outside; it's so untidy and dreary in here.”

“Why don't you discharge your servant?” she said, with a laugh; “it's the woman at home who is the cause of your discomfort.”

“I daren't.” He smiled. “I am afraid; and if I were not I do not know who I should get in her place.”

She turned her face away from him. “Why do you not capture one of your ideal home women, and set her by your hearth?”

“I'll tell you.” He looked keenly at her. “Because you progress women have claimed her and are too strong for me.”

Barbara shivered as with a sudden chill. She did not answer and hurried along by his side. He brought her away from the house into a little wood, and, after some seeking, led the way to the trunk of a fallen tree.

“We will sit down here,” he said, “and lean against this old oak; it makes a wonderful seat for two.”

Barbara sat beside him, her blood beginning to grow hot in her cheeks. “Does he forget this was where we used to meet long ago?” She looked around sadly, with a vague sense of something lost, Was it love or years? She looked up at him. He was regarding her quietly.

“This was once a bees' nest.” He pointed to a deep hole in the trunk of the tree. “Does he not remember it was our pillar-box?”

She turned away from him angrily. “Oh, please, tell me why and how you lost the ideal woman, and won't help us in consequence.”

“The ideal woman and I were engaged to be married,” he said, seating himself and looking away from her. “It was long ago—fifteen years ago, I think.” Barbara started and her face changed. “We used to come and sit for hours in the woods talking over our plans; we were to have a little cottage in the country with a garden full of hollyhocks.”

“Of lilies, I think,” Barbara said; then stopped confused.

“Perhaps it was lilies,” he continued, without seeming to notice her confusion. “Anyway it does not matter; neither were planted. The little cottage was built in the clouds only, and soon tumbled to ruin, leaving the man homeless and loveless during the years that followed, and they were such long years. He did not know where to go nor what to do. He was like one who had been going singing along a happy road and suddenly stumbled into night and weariness. It was like as though he had been led by happiness, so that he was blind to misfortune, and suddenly missed her hand. Then all the unseen things became visible, sorrow trod beside him, solitude echoed his footsteps, age pushed him on the shoulders, and whispered of the dreariness of his loveless years.

“And the girl?” said Barbara angrily, while she struggled to keep back her tears; “what did she do? did she suffer at all?”

“I don't imagine she suffered,” he said, hesitating; “no, not a little bit. She was full of a great ambition to benefit her sex. She told me that if she married she must still continue to serve this ideal, and I was young and hot-headed then, and we quarrelled over it and parted.”

“It was a little thing for which to throw over a woman you loved,” Barbara said, her face crimson and her eyes studying the distance.

“A little thing!” he said hotly; “it was no little thing, that cursed 'movement,' that took a soft, gentle, loving woman and changed her into a hard, unforgiving, cruel one.

Barbara regarded him in angry surprise.

“They both parted to go their own ways,” she said, “the man as well as the woman.”

“But the man wrote a humble letter to the woman begging her forgiveness, asking her to come back to him, that he was miserable and wretched, that he was going abroad unless she told him to stay.”

He rose to his feet and put his hand into the hollow of the tree.

“He posted it here, and when he came for an answer the letter was gone and there was no other.” As he spoke he drew from the hole a handful of moss and dead leaves, tossing them on the ground. From amongst them a yellow piece of paper dropped. Barbara lifted it and held it in her hands. She bent her head upon it, crying bitterly.

“I never got it,” she said; “leaves must have fallen upon it. Oh, poor little letter! all these years I have been longing for you.”

George Westcliff took her hands in his; his face was the face of a young man.

“Barbara dear, Barbara,” he said, and she looked up, smiling through her tears.

“What a commonplace story after all!” she said; “I should have known there was a lost letter in it—there always is when old lovers meet and explanations follow. To think of it happening to us, though!”

He drew her, unresisting, into his arms. “What matter how commonplace it is as long as it ends happily? Barbara, my Barbara, only love me and you shall do as you like. I shall do all I can for your Women's Progress Club, and you shall spare me only what time you choose.”

“I haven't the faintest interest in the Women's Progress Club,” she said, taking the lappet of his coat in her hand with a tremble that was not all laughter in her voice. “My only ambition is to sew this poor button on your jacket with black thread.”

The Mother

When he rushed in to beat the child, I lied to him, saying the little one had gone out with his nurse, though I felt the small hands clutching at my feet from where I had hidden him behind my dress. I cared little what he did to me, but when he touched my child I could have killed him. He might have known I was hiding something from him, I answered so gently; but he did not, and went away. I seldom speak pleasantly to him now; why should I, when I hate him? Oh, I hate him! I loathe his very mannerisms, his heavy step upon the stairs, the habitual frown he has when sitting at his meals, the click-click of his toothpick when he has finished, his personality, which seems to fill the house the moment he comes into it. I loathe all. And yet, look here! and here! These are letters I keep to laugh over, just these two.

This one, written upon the eve of our wedding:—

“My little Love,—Even to-day, the last that separates us, must I write to tell you of my love and longing for the morning that will make you mine, as I am for ever yours.”

And this! a whole month after our marriage

“My darling Wife,—When will this separation end? The week has seemed an endless one to me. I long to hold you in my arms never to part again.”

Never to part again till death comes to one of us now we have grown weary of one another.

“Never to part again.” The little time granted us upon earth marked from the altar to the grave with every year a new stone bearing the one record, “Thus far have you gone upon your way,” engraved on all—the dreary monotony of days alike. I could write almost word for word and act for act my life from now until the end. Every day the same face before me, the same grumble at every dish, the same hurry to catch the train to town, the same slam of the door at parting, the rattle of the latch-key at return, the crash of the closing door, the sullen face again—and then sleep. Thus every day for ever.

Which of us is the more weary of the other? And whose fault is it that this is so. He says it is mine, and I retort that it is his. What matter now whose was the failing if only the evil could be remedied? I know he hates my face, that is growing old, my uninteresting efforts at conversation, my want of dash. He has said so often enough, reproaching me because I was not like Mrs. Lewis, or Mrs. Hunter, or any one but myself. I might be upon their thousands a-year; who knows? One can only afford to be commonplace upon a couple of hundred.

For him new faces meet him in his man's work—if one can call it work to follow out a trade one's heart loves—but for me nothing save the drudgery of tending on him, laying his clothes in order, marketing for his appetite, doing the endless little domestic cares that leave no mark upon the world's scroll of fame and get no recognition at home. I too have had my ambitions and my dreams; but when a woman marries she must give up self. Yet I would regret nothing if once he would take me into his arms and say: “I understand; for me you have left your dreams, the name you thought to make in the world, preferring a dearer name in one man's heart. The long hours that your art demanded from you, you have spent doing the monotonous duties of my household;

but I appreciate and understand.” Or if he would not speak at all, but hold me to him, knowing my heart and comforting it without words. But why dream of impossibilities when, after a day of labour, he tells me I do nothing, that women but sit at home and amuse themselves while men toil to support them? What amusement is it to me to plan meals each day without the hope of an approving word? to turn and return old gowns, or oversee servants? My friends I left far away when I came to him, and with his I have little in sympathy; yet I am glad to see them come to our house, since for a time, at least, they dispel the gloom of our domestic life; for a time the skeleton is put into its cupboard, our small cellar is robbed of its best wine, our wits are called upon to produce our most brilliant conversation. We smile, we are merry; then the guests depart, the skeleton stalks forth, the door slams. The sullen face is here again, and the peevish voice points out this fault and that, with never a word of praise. I retort. The voice grows in passion. I feel a child's hand slipped into mine beneath the table in a mute appeal for my silence, and at the touch I am speechless. And then comes sleep. O blessed, blessed sleep! And this has been our life for six years.

God forgive me! I have forgotten my child in this railing against Fate. My darling, at once my dearest happiness and my keenest pain. What ambition did I ever have for any art compared with the longing to see the first intelligence and love wake in my baby's eyes? What name upon the world's lips for me so sweet as “Mother” when first spoken by my child. And yet my pain it is to see him grow up in fear of his father, to watch his frightened eyes go from face to face at meals, now pleading my silence, and again drooping before his father's gaze, or to see him hiding in his terror of a blow as he does now.

Come forth, my darling. You are safe; your father will not return till night. Come. I will put you to bed and lie beside you. What woman had ever so beautiful a child as this? See the limbs, like a little Cupid's, and the hair so curly that, when I draw it straight through my fingers, it springs back into a hundred ringlets. Come, little feet, till I unbutton each shoe, for your little master is my king, and I but his willing slave. Now the dress goes off and the little white gown goes on. Now we kneel together and pray, and then to sleep. A beautiful fairy stands upon our pillow and waves her magic wand, so that our eyes will not stay open. She will tell sweet dreams to my king, for I see she whispers to him already: his eyes open once, and then shut in deep, happy slumber.

Who in the night has not woke with an exceedingly bitter cry for something that they have not got? but who has cried as I have, breaking the silence? Oh, little child of hate, sleeping beside me, why have I borne you? Why have I cursed you with the heritage that must be yours? Little bond of love that keeps together two hearts that else would spring asunder, you must pay in sorrow for our sins! From hatred have you sprung, and in the home of hatred have you been reared; harsh tongues have clashed their discords around you, and hard glances fenced above your head; we have fought over you as wolves quarrel over a bone. What can save you from coming unhappiness? What disposition can you bring into the future from this home that is killing your child soul? What do you inherit from us to enable you to find joy? Your father's evil passions, his love of wine, and my evil thoughts in you?

A man and his wife must be all to one another or nothing—there is no middle course. Yet if I thought he loved me, I could bear so much from him. If he would put his arms around me tonight, I could forget all my hate, all the dreary years past, all the harsh words, even the cruel grip of his hands. Oh, a woman's home is her castle if she holds her husband's heart, and he stand by her; let the world storm her gates with jeers and insults, she is sale and happy. But if her husband turn against her and shut her from his heart, though all the world protect her, she is alone indeed;

though all the world offer her shelter, she is without a home. So my nights pass with such thoughts. Sometimes I sleep and dream, and my dreams are terrible. I always dream that I am dead and watching my child from another state. I see him thrust aside by his stronger brethren, as the weak are always crushed; I see him sinking lower, his timid soul trampled out of his body by the strong, brutal wills of the base lot he has fallen among; so I cannot rest in heaven following his troubled path. Sometimes it is my keenest torture to watch his degraded life without the power to help. I see the little figure I loved to look upon grow bowed and gaunt with years and misery. The pretty, soft hands grow old and stretch for evil things. The pink feet I kissed so fondly wander in the ways of sin, the frank eyes grow clouded and shifty. The innocent soul I tried to keep pure becomes a thing forbidden in God's sight. Later his children will grow and bear the curse that was sown with his mother's unhappy union. Then I wake in tears.

And yet, though these things be dreams, I feel that they will come to pass. To-day, when I coughed, blood came into my mouth, and this means death, I know. What is there for the boy when I am gone? Perhaps some other woman will be given my place. What love will she have for my child? My child, who has been fed upon all the love of one woman's heart, at least. Will she have sympathy enough to understand and train his difficult nature? There is one way that I can save him, one way that I can be sure of his happiness, but it is so terrible that I cannot meet it. Oh, I am full of selfishness, for to me only can it bring pain, and to him it means eternal joy. To him it means the kingdom of heaven—to me it means hell, to be lost, tortured, damned, forbidden to God's sight for ever and ever and ever. I have prayed for some other solution to this question of the happiness of my child's future, but nothing comes to me but this—I must kill him.

To-day I have made up my mind. A doctor has told me I may not live a year: my disease has grown upon me; great pains shoot through my chest and quantities of blood come from my lungs at times. I do not dread the act of dying, only the parting from my child; but to-day I have made up my mind that we must part—never to meet again, not even in eternity. To-night I shall put it off no longer; my child shall suffer no more. An hour ago his father came home savage with drink and found the child had broken his favourite pipe during his absence. I would have saved the little fellow by taking the blame; but, when he heard his father's voice calling him downstairs, he went to his punishment like a hero. But his father had no admiration for his truth or pluck, only harsh words for the quaking child. I hurried downstairs when I heard my boy scream, but when I reached the door of the room where they were it was slammed and locked in my face. I heard the child call to me and the sound of hard blows above his bitter crying; every lash cut into my flesh and every blow was a knife thrust in my heart. I beat upon the door till my hands left their bloody marks upon the panels. When the door was opened at length, I bore the fainting child away. What was the use of words with a man who could ill-use a thing so helpless, who could treat a child in a way he dare not treat his dog, lest the world should cry shame upon him? But a dog will not forget an injustice, neither will a child; it is a wound that may heal, but always leaves a mark.

I rock my darling upon my heart and pray; I fold his little hands and make him repeat my words after me; then I sing him to sleep. Every bruise upon the white body appears to me like a reproach; it was not for this, my darling, that I brought you into the world. Yet nothing is more sure than sorrow; why did I not think? The room is growing dark; it seems to me as though phantoms wait in the shadows, watching my every action. I feel the air move as though fanned by invisible wings. Angels wait to bear my child to heaven; but for me dread ghosts are lurking in the darkness, and I am afraid. I feel what I cannot see; their blazing eyes burn into my soul. If I were sure that when among the damned I should remember that my child was safe in heaven, I could find the sacrifice of my eternal life more easy to bear; but perhaps I may not remember. I do not think I shall, for then it would not be hell. What if they torture me with false dreams, making me see him in misery and misfortune? But what matter, when he shall be most blessed?

But no! it is too terrible! Can I part for ever from him? Shall I meet no more all the friends of my childhood who have passed away? My father and my mother? Shall I be shut out for ever from God's sight? Shall I have no one to welcome me in that strange country, when I stand there lone and new? Only jeering tongues and evil faces to greet me? Will it be all darkness for me, who hate the gloom? no little child to take my hand and lead me into safety and light? Yet I dare not hesitate. Heaven is yours now, my child, but as the years go on you may not be ready. Kiss me! kiss me! Good-bye, my love, my child; you shall die within my arms and against my breast. Thus—thus—O GOD!

* * *

You who can pray, pray for me, who go forth into the darkness alone.

The Jealousy of Beatrix

Beatrix sat at the window alone, watching the couple who were chatting at the fireside. She watched their faces keenly from the shadow, and every expression that passed over them found an answer in her eyes. Did they look glad, she was sullen; did they smile, she grew more angry. Sometimes her hands clenched unconsciously; in another moment her eyes filled with self- pitying tears. Once she raised her fingers before her face, as though to shut out an unpleasant sight, but again drew them quickly away, lest she should miss a glance or flush of the faces she watched.

Beatrix, looking upon the group, felt herself forsaken and forgotten. She watched the woman before her coquette and chatter with the man she loved, and felt powerless to enter the lists with her. “If she can take him, he is not worth keeping,” she thought; and again, “What right have I to him? He has never said he loved me. Yet he did—he did.” She rose from her place and slipped out into the garden through the open window. She thought for a moment she would go to her room, then listened; maybe he would follow her. She walked down the avenue full in the moonlight. For a time hope and rest came to her heart; he was sure to come, and all this horror of jealousy would be forgotten. She would know that he left the shining city woman for her, a country maid. The noise of a creaking window startled her. She sprang into the shadow and crouched.

No! he must not see her. Of course, he would guess that she intended him to follow. What if he did? Oh, unmaidenly conduct! She would sink into the ground with shame if she met him and read that he knew in his eyes.

She saw him saunter along the path towards her, and shrank back. If he found her now, hiding, all was over. What a fool she was to hide at all! How she wished she had never seen this man, who troubled her so; yet how his nearness thrilled her! The sound of his breathing gave her strange pleasure; to know he was so near seemed enough joy in the wide world. When he had gone she flew to her room. Had he been to seek her, or had he not? Still her heart was light that he had left that woman even for the moment. She lit a candle and looked at herself in the glass. The pretty picture did not please her. She opened a wardrobe and drew out a blue robe that it held; she hesitated, then threw it back. No, she dare not change now, every one would notice and guess what she was dressing for. Yet why had she put on that pink dress she now wore, to have it killed by the deeper rose of her rival's gown? She drew her hair more softly about her face and left the room. At the top of the stairs she listened for a while, then, hearing nothing, she tip-toed into the visitor's room. With candle in hand she stole like a thief to the dressing-table. There she lifted a powder-puff and passed it over her face. The effect pleased her, and she followed it by adding a faint rouge to her already burning cheeks.

“I will use your weapons,” she said smiling, and left the room. When she entered the drawing- room she took a seat beside her rival as one who would say: “I am a worthy antagonist. My beauty is more young, more fresh than yours.

But the other, looking towards her for a moment, bent forward and whispered with a smile: “You do not need it.”

The girl, taking the compliment as a sneer, and abashed at being discovered, drew back into the shadow and silence, rubbing the powder angrily from her cheeks, her heart raging with fierce,

unreasonable jealousy. Her love making her self-conscious and suspicious, she took every glance of the innocent guest to be fraught with meaning, and the natural attention of the man she so loved to the stranger to be admiration and attraction.

In the flash of her rage and during the conversation a wish to be revenged on the woman grew within her. And soon a plan was suggested by words let fall by her companions.

“And so you are afraid of ghosts, Miss Marlow?” the young man said, smiling.

“I am truly, horribly afraid,” she answered, glancing round half fearfully. “If I saw anything that represented one, I am sure I should go raving mad.”

“This house is supposed to be haunted,” said Beatrix from her corner. “Isn't that so, James?” She turned to the young man.

“It is,” he answered, laughing; “but no one has ever seen or heard anything yet, though mother and I have lived here for years.”

While he spoke his mother entered the room and begged for a song. Miss Marlow was a brilliant pianist, and James leaned over her, turning the leaves of her music. But all through the pauses of the tunes Beatrix sat silent, thinking: “I will frighten her to-night. How shall I frighten her?” She could hardly reply to the questions of the guest, or the good-natured attempts of James to draw her into the conversation. When Miss Marlow left the room to fetch some music she had forgotten, James came to Beatrix's side, and spoke to her.

“What do you think of our visitor?” was the foolish question he asked. Beatrix flashed an attempt at gaiety, but only succeeded in being bitter. “You seem to like her,” she said, then flushed under his amused gaze. “She is painted and artificial,” she added.

“You are cross to-night, Trixy,” James answered, looking kindly at her. “Not like yourself. What is the matter?”

She did not answer, and the old lady looked at her inquiringly. She loved this orphan girl as she would have loved her own daughter—and, indeed, one day she hoped she would be one in truth.

“She is tired,” she said. “You must go to bed soon, dearie.”

“Miss Marlow has the haunted room, has she not?” Beatrix said; and as she spoke the door opened, and Miss Marlow entered. Beatrix felt glad she had overheard her.

“Oh, please, not the haunted room!” the visitor cried; then, laughing with them, continued, “Of course, I do not really mind.”

“It is all nonsense about the haunted room,” the old lady told her. “There was never heard nor seen such a thing as a ghost in the house.”

After a few chaffing words on the subject of ghosts and their doings, the little party broke up for the night, Beatrix going to her room first. She was really ill and tired. She flung herself on the bed, listening to the parting words and laughter of the others left below; and the sounds made her believe she was forgotten by those she loved. She rose and noisily shut the door, which she had only half-closed, and walked up and down the room in despair.

She was still dressed and awake hours afterwards, when the house was wrapped in sleep. Unable to rest, she looked from the open window into the night. As she did so, a dark form sprang upon the sill where she leaned. It was a huge black cat. “Tom,” she said, “you frightened me; I thought you were a ghost.” She started at her own suggestion, and an idea came to her. She tightened her hold on the cat, and with it in her arms stole out of her room along the passage. At the door of the haunted chamber she paused and listened. With one hand she softly turned the handle, and again paused, but there was no sound. In a moment she slipped the black cat inside the room, and, closing the door softly, hurried back to her own apartment, her heart beating

wildly. “She will think Tom is a ghost,” she said, laughing. Then she was disgusted with herself. “How horrid I am!” she said, and threw herself on the bed, sobbing bitterly. After a short time she fell into a troubled slumber. She awoke with a shock, as though something had moved in the room. All her nerves in a strange quiver, she listened for some sound or sign of what had awakened her. In the dead silence she felt she must scream, such a terror surrounded and held her.

“Who's there?” she tried to cry, but her voice came in a husky whisper. Her eyeballs rolled round in the darkness, not knowing where to rest; her hands moved, not knowing on which side to repel the attack she felt was coming.

The room was quite black; not even a glimpse of light came through the heavy curtains she had drawn across the windows. One moment she thought of springing from her bed and trying to reach the door; the next that such a flight would bring the invisible horror upon her She thought to put forth her hand to seek for a match-box on the table beside the bed, but feared that something would grasp it if she did. She heard a board creak in the floor, as though some foot had pressed upon it. She drew the blankets over her head, and lay panting beneath them, half- stifled. A cold sweat broke out over her; she shivered like one caught naked in the snow. All her nerves were alert for the next move of the unknown intruder; so she hardly could suffer more when it came like a hand passing over her feet. She thrust them down from their cramped position in a spasm of fear. For a moment there was stillness, then again the soft pressure was repeated, and she lay like one dead, bereft of movement. She felt the weight move upward, now on her knees, now along her side. Her benumbed intelligence guessed it was a hand—of what?— of whom?—stealing upward till it felt her head. “Then,” she thought, “it will pull back the clothes, and I shall see—what?—whom?” She tried to move, but could not stir a finger. She tried to scream, but her voice would only whisper, “James, help! For God's sake, help!” And the weight crept up to her shoulder. She knew when it reached her head and drew back the clothes she would go mad, yes, raving mad. It was coming! She felt the pressure of it upon her cheek, and with the scream of a maniac thrust her arms out and caught at the horror. It was a black cat, gigantic, mad, its green eyes glittering, its red tongue hissing between its sharp white teeth. She could see it plainly, though the room was dark. Its claws clung tearing at her. She struck it, but it fell upon her, scratching, kicking, biting. To protect her eyes as long as possible from its ferocious rage she flung her head back sharply, striking it a terrible blow upon something that rendered her unconscious. When she woke she was lying on the floor completely dressed, the dawn shining in soft and fair through the open window, the first song of the birds coming to her upon the sweet early breeze. She sat up and gazed around, astonished and still terrified. “My God!” she said, “what a dream!—what a dream!” She went to the window trembling, and leaned out into the light, and as she did so the memory of the evening before came to her. She had put Tom into Miss Marlow's room. Was this what her dream meant? Was this dream an acting reality in the haunted room? What had happened there?

She rushed along the passage and stopped at the door. What would she see or hear there? She listened for a moment, and heard no sound, and then, with a beating heart, shook the handle. “Millie, are you asleep? Millie, it is I, Beatrix.” Her voice came in a hoarse whisper, but there was no answer or sound from within. She is mad, or dead, she thought, with the calmness of despair, then turned the handle. “Millie,” she said again, afraid to look in, “Millie.” The sound of an animal jumping from the bed answered her, and Tom bounded from the room, and commenced circling round her feet with glad caresses. She thrust him away, and hurrying

downstairs, opened the hall-door and ran into the garden. Unable to rest there, she went through the gates, out upon the moors that lay at the back of the house.

“I am a murderer,” she said, and ran on. She wanted to hide, but there was no shadow. The sun began to send his golden shafts over the world. “Don't rise,” she wept, “don't rise; give me darkness.” Fear was after her, and she ran like a hare before the hound. Why had such a thing happened to her?—she, who had been always gentle, kind, and loving to all things. Was it love that had made a devil of her? Then she hated love. “What are you shining for,” she shrieked at the sun, “now the world has come to an end?” She hurried on stumbling, tripped, and would have fallen, but stretching out her arms, she was caught.

“Why, Beatrix, poor child, what has happened? What are you doing out so early? What is the matter?”

She looked up, her brain clearing at the sight of another human being. James stood before her, his gun upon his shoulder, tall, strong, and alarmed.

She gasped out her story, hoping for help.

“I put Tom into Miss Marlow's room last night to frighten her. I think she is dead, for she did not answer my knocking.”

The young man looked at her a moment, as if not quite understanding, then laughed. “Miss Marlow slept with mother last night,” he said; “she was afraid of the visitors' room when she heard you say it was haunted.”

Beatrix closed her eyes, and would have fallen, only he held her hands. She opened them, and found him staring sternly at her.

“It was a dangerous trick for you to play,” he said, “and unlike you. Why did you do it?” The girl looked at him a moment, and read the dawn of a discovery in his eyes. She hid her face in her hands, and burst into tears. “I hate you!” she said, as if answering a question, “I hate you!”

He took her quickly into his arms with a strong, passionate embrace.

“You foolish child!” he whispered; “you foolish little child!”

 
 
 

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