Further Chronicles of Avonlea
by Lucy Maud Montgomery
IV. JANE'S BABY
VI. THE BROTHER
VII. THE RETURN
VIII. THE LITTLE
BROWN BOOK OF
IX. SARA'S WAY
X. THE SON OF
XII. IN HER
OF DAVID BELL
XIV. ONLY A
XV. TANNIS OF
FURTHER CHRONICLES OF AVONLEA
Which have to do with many personalities and events in and about
Avonlea, the Home of the Heroine of Green Gables, including tales of
Aunt Cynthia, The Materializing of Cecil, David Spencer's Daughter,
Jane's Baby, The Failure of Robert Monroe, The Return of Hester, The
Little Brown Book of Miss Emily, Sara's Way, The Son of Thyra Carewe,
The Education of Betty, The Selflessness of Eunice Carr, The
Dream-Child, The Conscience Case of David Bell, Only a Common Fellow,
and finally the story of Tannis of the Flats.
All related by L. M. MONTGOMERY
Author of "Anne of Green Gables," "Anne of Avonlea," "Anne of the
Island," "Chronicles of Avonlea," "Kilmeny of the Orchard," etc.
It is no exaggeration to say that what Longfellow did for Acadia,
Miss Montgomery has done for Prince Edward Island. More than a
million readers, young people as well as their parents and uncles and
aunts, possess in the picture-galleries of their memories the
exquisite landscapes of Avonlea, limned with as poetic a pencil as
Longfellow wielded when he told the ever-moving story of Grand Pre.
Only genius of the first water has the ability to conjure up such
a character as Anne Shirley, the heroine of Miss Montgomery's first
novel, "Anne of Green Gables," and to surround her with people so
distinctive, so real, so true to psychology. Anne is as lovable a
child as lives in all fiction. Natasha in Count Tolstoi's great
novel, "War and Peace," dances into our ken, with something of the
same buoyancy and naturalness; but into what a commonplace young woman
she develops! Anne, whether as the gay little orphan in her conquest
of the master and mistress of Green Gables, or as the maturing and
self-forgetful maiden of Avonlea, keeps up to concert-pitch in her
charm and her winsomeness. There is nothing in her to disappoint hope
Part of the power of Miss Montgomery—and the largest part—is due
to her skill in compounding humor and pathos. The humor is honest and
golden; it never wearies the reader; the pathos is never
sentimentalized, never degenerates into bathos, is never morbid. This
combination holds throughout all her works, longer or shorter, and is
particularly manifest in the present collection of fifteen short
stories, which, together with those in the first volume of the
Chronicles of Avonlea, present a series of piquant and fascinating
pictures of life in Prince Edward Island.
The humor is shown not only in the presentation of quaint and
unique characters, but also in the words which fall from their
mouths. Aunt Cynthia "always gave you the impression of a
full-rigged ship coming gallantly on before a favorable wind;" no
further description is needed—only one such personage could be found
in Avonlea. You would recognize her at sight. Ismay Meade's
disposition is summed up when we are told that she is "good at having
presentiments—after things happen." What cleverer embodiment of
innate obstinacy than in Isabella Spencer—"a wisp of a woman who
looked as if a breath would sway her but was so set in her ways that a
tornado would hardly have caused her to swerve an inch from her chosen
path;" or than in Mrs. Eben Andrews (in "Sara's Way") who "looked like
a woman whose opinions were always very decided and warranted to
This gift of characterization in a few words is lavished also on
material objects, as, for instance; what more is needed to describe
the forlornness of the home from which Anne was rescued than the
statement that even the trees around it "looked like orphans"?
The poetic touch, too, never fails in the right place and is never
too frequently introduced in her descriptions. They throw a glamor
over that Northern land which otherwise you might imagine as rather
cold and barren. What charming Springs they must have there! One
sees all the fruit-trees clad in bridal garments of pink and white;
and what a translucent sky smiles down on the ponds and the reaches of
bay and cove!
"The Eastern sky was a great arc of crystal, smitten through with
"She was as slim and lithe as a young white-stemmed birch-tree;
her hair was like a soft dusky cloud, and her eyes were as blue as
Avonlea Harbor in a fair twilight, when all the sky is a-bloom over
Sentiment with a humorous touch to it prevails in the first two
stories of the present book. The one relates to the disappearance of
a valuable white Persian cat with a blue spot in its tail. "Fatima"
is like the apple of her eye to the rich old aunt who leaves her with
two nieces, with a stern injunction not to let her out of the house.
Of course both Sue and Ismay detest cats; Ismay hates them, Sue
loathes them; but Aunt Cynthia's favor is worth preserving. You
become as much interested in Fatima's fate as if she were your own
pet, and the climax is no less unexpected than it is natural,
especially when it is made also the last act of a pretty comedy of
Miss Montgomery delights in depicting the romantic episodes hidden
in the hearts of elderly spinsters as, for instance, in the case of
Charlotte Holmes, whose maid Nancy would have sent for the doctor and
subjected her to a porous plaster while waiting for him, had she known
that up stairs there was a note-book full of original poems. Rather
than bear the stigma of never having had a love-affair, this
sentimental lady invents one to tell her mocking young friends. The
dramatic and unexpected denouement is delightful fun.
Another note-book reveals a deeper romance in the case of Miss
Emily; this is related by Anne of Green Gables, who once or twice
flashes across the scene, though for the most part her friends and
neighbors at White Sands or Newbridge or Grafton as well as at Avonlea
are the persons involved.
In one story, the last, "Tannis of the Flats," the secret of
Elinor Blair's spinsterhood is revealed in an episode which carries
the reader from Avonlea to Saskatchewan and shows the unselfish
devotion of a half-breed Indian girl. The story is both poignant and
dramatic. Its one touch of humor is where Jerome Carey curses his
fate in being compelled to live in that desolate land in "the
picturesque language permissible in the far Northwest."
Self-sacrifice, as the real basis of happiness, is a favorite
theme in Miss Montgomery's fiction. It is raised to the nth power in
the story entitled, "In Her Selfless Mood," where an ugly, misshapen
girl devotes her life and renounces marriage for the sake of looking
after her weak and selfish half-brother. The same spirit is found in
"Only a Common Fellow," who is haloed with a certain splendor by
renouncing the girl he was to marry in favor of his old rival,
supposed to have been killed in France, but happily delivered from
that tragic fate.
Miss Montgomery loves to introduce a little child or a baby as a
solvent of old feuds or domestic quarrels. In "The Dream Child," a
foundling boy, drifting in through a storm in a dory, saves a
heart-broken mother from insanity. In "Jane's Baby," a baby-cousin
brings reconciliation between the two sisters, Rosetta and Carlotta,
who had not spoken for twenty years because "the slack-twisted" Jacob
married the younger of the two.
Happiness generally lights up the end of her stories, however
tragic they may set out to be. In "The Son of His Mother," Thyra is
a stern woman, as "immovable as a stone image." She had only one son,
whom she worshipped; "she never wanted a daughter, but she pitied and
despised all sonless women." She demanded absolute obedience from
Chester—not only obedience, but also utter affection, and she hated
his dog because the boy loved him: "She could not share her love even
with a dumb brute." When Chester falls in love, she is relentless
toward the beautiful young girl and forces Chester to give her up.
But a terrible sorrow brings the old woman and the young girl into
sympathy, and unspeakable joy is born of the trial.
Happiness also comes to "The Brother who Failed." The Monroes had
all been successful in the eyes of the world except Robert: one is a
millionaire, another a college president, another a famous singer.
Robert overhears the old aunt, Isabel, call him a total failure, but,
at the family dinner, one after another stands up and tells how
Robert's quiet influence and unselfish aid had started them in their
brilliant careers, and the old aunt, wiping the tears from her eyes,
exclaims: "I guess there's a kind of failure that's the best success."
In one story there is an element of the supernatural, when Hester,
the hard older sister, comes between Margaret and her lover and,
dying, makes her promise never to become Hugh Blair's wife, but she
comes back and unites them. In this, Margaret, just like the
delightful Anne, lives up to the dictum that "nothing matters in all
God's universe except love." The story of the revival at Avonlea has
also a good moral.
There is something in these continued Chronicles of Avonlea, like
the delicate art which has made "Cranford" a classic: the characters
are so homely and homelike and yet tinged with beautiful romance! You
feel that you are made familiar with a real town and its real
inhabitants; you learn to love them and sympathize with them. Further
Chronicles of Avonlea is a book to read; and to know.
NATHAN HASKELL DOLE.
I. AUNT CYNTHIA'S PERSIAN CAT
Max always blesses the animal when it is referred to; and I don't
deny that things have worked together for good after all. But when I
think of the anguish of mind which Ismay and I underwent on account of
that abominable cat, it is not a blessing that arises uppermost in my
I never was fond of cats, although I admit they are well enough in
their place, and I can worry along comfortably with a nice, matronly
old tabby who can take care of herself and be of some use in the
world. As for Ismay, she hates cats and always did.
But Aunt Cynthia, who adored them, never could bring herself to
understand that any one could possibly dislike them. She firmly
believed that Ismay and I really liked cats deep down in our hearts,
but that, owing to some perverse twist in our moral natures, we would
not own up to it, but willfully persisted in declaring we didn't.
Of all cats I loathed that white Persian cat of Aunt Cynthia's.
And, indeed, as we always suspected and finally proved, Aunt herself
looked upon the creature with more pride than affection. She would
have taken ten times the comfort in a good, common puss that she did
in that spoiled beauty. But a Persian cat with a recorded pedigree
and a market value of one hundred dollars tickled Aunt Cynthia's pride
of possession to such an extent that she deluded herself into
believing that the animal was really the apple of her eye.
It had been presented to her when a kitten by a missionary nephew
who had brought it all the way home from Persia; and for the next
three years Aunt Cynthia's household existed to wait on that cat,
hand and foot. It was snow-white, with a bluish-gray spot on the tip
of its tail; and it was blue-eyed and deaf and delicate. Aunt Cynthia
was always worrying lest it should take cold and die. Ismay and I
used to wish that it would—we were so tired of hearing about it and
its whims. But we did not say so to Aunt Cynthia. She would probably
never have spoken to us again and there was no wisdom in offending
Aunt Cynthia. When you have an unencumbered aunt, with a fat bank
account, it is just as well to keep on good terms with her, if you
can. Besides, we really liked Aunt Cynthia very much—at times. Aunt
Cynthia was one of those rather exasperating people who nag at and
find fault with you until you think you are justified in hating them,
and who then turn round and do something so really nice and kind for
you that you feel as if you were compelled to love them dutifully
So we listened meekly when she discoursed on Fatima—the cat's
name was Fatima—and, if it was wicked of us to wish for the latter's
decease, we were well punished for it later on.
One day, in November, Aunt Cynthia came sailing out to
Spencervale. She really came in a phaeton, drawn by a fat gray pony,
but somehow Aunt Cynthia always gave you the impression of a full
rigged ship coming gallantly on before a favorable wind.
That was a Jonah day for us all through. Everything had gone
wrong. Ismay had spilled grease on her velvet coat, and the fit of
the new blouse I was making was hopelessly askew, and the kitchen
stove smoked and the bread was sour. Moreover, Huldah Jane Keyson,
our tried and trusty old family nurse and cook and general "boss," had
what she called the "realagy" in her shoulder; and, though Huldah Jane
is as good an old creature as ever lived, when she has the "realagy"
other people who are in the house want to get out of it and, if they
can't, feel about as comfortable as St. Lawrence on his gridiron.
And on top of this came Aunt Cynthia's call and request.
"Dear me," said Aunt Cynthia, sniffing, "don't I smell smoke? You
girls must manage your range very badly. Mine never smokes. But it is
no more than one might expect when two girls try to keep house without
a man about the place."
"We get along very well without a man about the place," I said
loftily. Max hadn't been in for four whole days and, though nobody
wanted to see him particularly, I couldn't help wondering why. "Men
"I dare say you would like to pretend you think so," said Aunt
Cynthia, aggravatingly. "But no woman ever does really think so, you
know. I imagine that pretty Anne Shirley, who is visiting Ella
Kimball, doesn't. I saw her and Dr. Irving out walking this
afternoon, looking very well satisfied with themselves. If you
dilly-dally much longer, Sue, you will let Max slip through your
That was a tactful thing to say to ME, who had refused Max Irving
so often that I had lost count. I was furious, and so I smiled most
sweetly on my maddening aunt.
"Dear Aunt, how amusing of you," I said, smoothly. "You talk as
if I wanted Max."
"So you do," said Aunt Cynthia.
"If so, why should I have refused him time and again?" I asked,
smilingly. Right well Aunt Cynthia knew I had. Max always told her.
"Goodness alone knows why," said Aunt Cynthia, "but you may do it
once too often and find yourself taken at your word. There is
something very fascinating about this Anne Shirley."
"Indeed there is," I assented. "She has the loveliest eyes I ever
saw. She would be just the wife for Max, and I hope he will marry
"Humph," said Aunt Cynthia. "Well, I won't entice you into
telling any more fibs. And I didn't drive out here to-day in all
this wind to talk sense into you concerning Max. I'm going to
Halifax for two months and I want you to take charge of Fatima for
me, while I am away."
"Fatima!" I exclaimed.
"Yes. I don't dare to trust her with the servants. Mind you
always warm her milk before you give it to her, and don't on any
account let her run out of doors."
I looked at Ismay and Ismay looked at me. We knew we were in for
it. To refuse would mortally offend Aunt Cynthia. Besides, if I
betrayed any unwillingness, Aunt Cynthia would be sure to put it down
to grumpiness over what she had said about Max, and rub it in for
years. But I ventured to ask, "What if anything happens to her while
you are away?"
"It is to prevent that, I'm leaving her with you," said Aunt
Cynthia. "You simply must not let anything happen to her. It will
do you good to have a little responsibility. And you will have a
chance to find out what an adorable creature Fatima really is. Well,
that is all settled. I'll send Fatima out to-morrow."
"You can take care of that horrid Fatima beast yourself," said
Ismay, when the door closed behind Aunt Cynthia. "I won't touch her
with a yard-stick. You had no business to say we'd take her."
"Did I say we would take her?" I demanded, crossly. "Aunt Cynthia
took our consent for granted. And you know, as well as I do, we
couldn't have refused. So what is the use of being grouchy?"
"If anything happens to her Aunt Cynthia will hold us
responsible," said Ismay darkly.
"Do you think Anne Shirley is really engaged to Gilbert Blythe?" I
"I've heard that she was," said Ismay, absently. "Does she eat
anything but milk? Will it do to give her mice?"
"Oh, I guess so. But do you think Max has really fallen in love
"I dare say. What a relief it will be for you if he has."
"Oh, of course," I said, frostily. "Anne Shirley or Anne Anybody
Else, is perfectly welcome to Max if she wants him. I
certainly do not. Ismay Meade, if that stove doesn't stop smoking I
shall fly into bits. This is a detestable day. I hate that
"Oh, you shouldn't talk like that, when you don't even know her,"
protested Ismay. "Every one says Anne Shirley is lovely—"
"I was talking about Fatima," I cried in a rage.
"Oh!" said Ismay.
Ismay is stupid at times. I thought the way she said "Oh" was
Fatima arrived the next day. Max brought her out in a covered
basket, lined with padded crimson satin. Max likes cats and Aunt
Cynthia. He explained how we were to treat Fatima and when Ismay had
gone out of the room—Ismay always went out of the room when she knew
I particularly wanted her to remain—he proposed to me again. Of
course I said no, as usual, but I was rather pleased. Max had been
proposing to me about every two months for two years. Sometimes, as
in this case, he went three months, and then I always wondered why. I
concluded that he could not be really interested in Anne Shirley, and
I was relieved. I didn't want to marry Max but it was pleasant and
convenient to have him around, and we would miss him dreadfully if any
other girl snapped him up. He was so useful and always willing to do
anything for us—nail a shingle on the roof, drive us to town, put
down carpets—in short, a very present help in all our troubles.
So I just beamed on him when I said no. Max began counting on his
fingers. When he got as far as eight he shook his head and began over
"What is it?" I asked.
"I'm trying to count up how many times I have proposed to you," he
said. "But I can't remember whether I asked you to marry me that day
we dug up the garden or not. If I did it makes—"
"No, you didn't," I interrupted.
"Well, that makes it eleven," said Max reflectively. "Pretty near
the limit, isn't it? My manly pride will not allow me to propose to
the same girl more than twelve times. So the next time will be the
last, Sue darling."
"Oh," I said, a trifle flatly. I forgot to resent his calling me
darling. I wondered if things wouldn't be rather dull when Max gave
up proposing to me. It was the only excitement I had. But of course
it would be best—and he couldn't go on at it forever, so, by the way
of gracefully dismissing the subject, I asked him what Miss Shirley
"Very sweet girl," said Max. "You know I always admired those
gray-eyed girls with that splendid Titian hair."
I am dark, with brown eyes. Just then I detested Max. I got up
and said I was going to get some milk for Fatima.
I found Ismay in a rage in the kitchen. She had been up in the
garret, and a mouse had run across her foot. Mice always get on
"We need a cat badly enough," she fumed, "but not a useless,
pampered thing, like Fatima. That garret is literally swarming with
mice. You'll not catch me going up there again."
Fatima did not prove such a nuisance as we had feared. Huldah
Jane liked her, and Ismay, in spite of her declaration that she would
have nothing to do with her, looked after her comfort scrupulously.
She even used to get up in the middle of the night and go out to see
if Fatima was warm. Max came in every day and, being around, gave us
Then one day, about three weeks after Aunt Cynthia's departure,
Fatima disappeared—just simply disappeared as if she had been
dissolved into thin air. We left her one afternoon, curled up asleep
in her basket by the fire, under Huldah Jane's eye, while we went out
to make a call. When we came home Fatima was gone.
Huldah Jane wept and was as one whom the gods had made mad. She
vowed that she had never let Fatima out of her sight the whole time,
save once for three minutes when she ran up to the garret for some
summer savory. When she came back the kitchen door had blown open and
Fatima had vanished.
Ismay and I were frantic. We ran about the garden and through the
out-houses, and the woods behind the house, like wild creatures,
calling Fatima, but in vain. Then Ismay sat down on the front
doorsteps and cried.
"She has got out and she'll catch her death of cold and Aunt
Cynthia will never forgive us."
"I'm going for Max," I declared. So I did, through the spruce
woods and over the field as fast as my feet could carry me, thanking
my stars that there was a Max to go to in such a predicament.
Max came over and we had another search, but without result. Days
passed, but we did not find Fatima. I would certainly have gone crazy
had it not been for Max. He was worth his weight in gold during the
awful week that followed. We did not dare advertise, lest Aunt
Cynthia should see it; but we inquired far and wide for a white
Persian cat with a blue spot on its tail, and offered a reward for it;
but nobody had seen it, although people kept coming to the house,
night and day, with every kind of a cat in baskets, wanting to know if
it was the one we had lost.
"We shall never see Fatima again," I said hopelessly to Max and
Ismay one afternoon. I had just turned away an old woman with a big,
yellow tommy which she insisted must be ours—"cause it kem to our
place, mem, a-yowling fearful, mem, and it don't belong to nobody not
down Grafton way, mem."
"I'm afraid you won't," said Max. "She must have perished from
exposure long ere this."
"Aunt Cynthia will never forgive us," said Ismay, dismally. "I
had a presentiment of trouble the moment that cat came to this
We had never heard of this presentiment before, but Ismay is good
at having presentiments—after things happen.
"What shall we do?" I demanded, helplessly. "Max, can't you find
some way out of this scrape for us?"
"Advertise in the Charlottetown papers for a white Persian cat,"
suggested Max. "Some one may have one for sale. If so, you must buy
it, and palm it off on your good Aunt as Fatima. She's very
short-sighted, so it will be quite possible."
"But Fatima has a blue spot on her tail," I said.
"You must advertise for a cat with a blue spot on its tail," said
"It will cost a pretty penny," said Ismay dolefully. "Fatima was
valued at one hundred dollars."
"We must take the money we have been saving for our new furs," I
said sorrowfully. "There is no other way out of it. It will cost us
a good deal more if we lose Aunt Cynthia's favor. She is quite
capable of believing that we have made away with Fatima deliberately
and with malice aforethought."
So we advertised. Max went to town and had the notice inserted in
the most important daily. We asked any one who had a white Persian
cat, with a blue spot on the tip of its tail, to dispose of, to
communicate with M. I., care of the Enterprise.
We really did not have much hope that anything would come of it,
so we were surprised and delighted over the letter Max brought home
from town four days later. It was a type-written screed from Halifax
stating that the writer had for sale a white Persian cat answering to
our description. The price was a hundred and ten dollars, and, if M.
I. cared to go to Halifax and inspect the animal, it would be found at
110 Hollis Street, by inquiring for "Persian."
"Temper your joy, my friends," said Ismay, gloomily. "The cat may
not suit. The blue spot may be too big or too small or not in the
right place. I consistently refuse to believe that any good thing can
come out of this deplorable affair."
Just at this moment there was a knock at the door and I hurried
out. The postmaster's boy was there with a telegram. I tore it
open, glanced at it, and dashed back into the room.
"What is it now?" cried Ismay, beholding my face.
I held out the telegram. It was from Aunt Cynthia. She had wired
us to send Fatima to Halifax by express immediately.
For the first time Max did not seem ready to rush into the breach
with a suggestion. It was I who spoke first.
"Max," I said, imploringly, "you'll see us through this, won't
you? Neither Ismay nor I can rush off to Halifax at once. You must
go to-morrow morning. Go right to 110 Hollis Street and ask for
'Persian.' If the cat looks enough like Fatima, buy it and take it to
Aunt Cynthia. If it doesn't—but it must! You'll go, won't you?"
"That depends," said Max.
I stared at him. This was so unlike Max.
"You are sending me on a nasty errand," he said, coolly. "How do
I know that Aunt Cynthia will be deceived after all, even if she be
short-sighted. Buying a cat in a joke is a huge risk. And if she
should see through the scheme I shall be in a pretty mess."
"Oh, Max," I said, on the verge of tears.
"Of course," said Max, looking meditatively into the fire, "if I
were really one of the family, or had any reasonable prospect of
being so, I would not mind so much. It would be all in the day's
work then. But as it is—"
Ismay got up and went out of the room.
"Oh, Max, please," I said.
"Will you marry me, Sue?" demanded Max sternly. "If you will
agree, I'll go to Halifax and beard the lion in his den
unflinchingly. If necessary, I will take a black street cat to Aunt
Cynthia, and swear that it is Fatima. I'll get you out of the scrape,
if I have to prove that you never had Fatima, that she is safe in your
possession at the present time, and that there never was such an
animal as Fatima anyhow. I'll do anything, say anything—but it must
be for my future wife."
"Will nothing else content you?" I said helplessly.
I thought hard. Of course Max was acting abominably—but—but—
he was really a dear fellow—and this was the twelfth time—and there
was Anne Shirley! I knew in my secret soul that life would be a
dreadfully dismal thing if Max were not around somewhere. Besides, I
would have married him long ago had not Aunt Cynthia thrown us so
pointedly at each other's heads ever since he came to Spencervale.
"Very well," I said crossly.
Max left for Halifax in the morning. Next day we got a wire
saying it was all right. The evening of the following day he was
back in Spencervale. Ismay and I put him in a chair and glared at
Max began to laugh and laughed until he turned blue.
"I am glad it is so amusing," said Ismay severely. "If Sue and I
could see the joke it might be more so."
"Dear little girls, have patience with me," implored Max. "If you
knew what it cost me to keep a straight face in Halifax you would
forgive me for breaking out now."
"We forgive you—but for pity's sake tell us all about it," I
"Well, as soon as I arrived in Halifax I hurried to 110 Hollis
Street, but—see here! Didn't you tell me your Aunt's address was 10
"So it is."
"'T isn't. You look at the address on a telegram next time you
get one. She went a week ago to visit another friend who lives at
"It's a fact. I rang the bell, and was just going to ask the maid
for 'Persian' when your Aunt Cynthia herself came through the hall and
pounced on me."
"'Max,' she said, 'have you brought Fatima?'
"'No,' I answered, trying to adjust my wits to this new
development as she towed me into the library. 'No, I—I—just came
to Halifax on a little matter of business.'
"'Dear me,' said Aunt Cynthia, crossly, 'I don't know what those
girls mean. I wired them to send Fatima at once. And she has not
come yet and I am expecting a call every minute from some one who
wants to buy her.'
"'Oh!' I murmured, mining deeper every minute.
"'Yes,' went on your aunt, 'there is an advertisement in the
Charlottetown Enterprise for a Persian cat, and I answered it.
Fatima is really quite a charge, you know—and so apt to die and be a
dead loss,'—did your aunt mean a pun, girls?—'and so, although I am
considerably attached to her, I have decided to part with her.'
"By this time I had got my second wind, and I promptly decided
that a judicious mixture of the truth was the thing required.
"'Well, of all the curious coincidences,' I exclaimed. 'Why, Miss
Ridley, it was I who advertised for a Persian cat—on Sue's behalf.
She and Ismay have decided that they want a cat like Fatima for
"You should have seen how she beamed. She said she knew you
always really liked cats, only you would never own up to it. We
clinched the dicker then and there. I passed her over your hundred
and ten dollars—she took the money without turning a hair—and now
you are the joint owners of Fatima. Good luck to your bargain!"
"Mean old thing," sniffed Ismay. She meant Aunt Cynthia, and,
remembering our shabby furs, I didn't disagree with her.
"But there is no Fatima," I said, dubiously. "How shall we
account for her when Aunt Cynthia comes home?"
"Well, your aunt isn't coming home for a month yet. When she
comes you will have to tell her that the cat—is lost—but you
needn't say WHEN it happened. As for the rest, Fatima is your
property now, so Aunt Cynthia can't grumble. But she will have a
poorer opinion than ever of your fitness to run a house alone."
When Max left I went to the window to watch him down the path. He
was really a handsome fellow, and I was proud of him. At the gate he
turned to wave me good-by, and, as he did, he glanced upward. Even at
that distance I saw the look of amazement on his face. Then he came
"Ismay, the house is on fire!" I shrieked, as I flew to the door.
"Sue," cried Max, "I saw Fatima, or her ghost, at the garret
window a moment ago!"
"Nonsense!" I cried. But Ismay was already half way up the stairs
and we followed. Straight to the garret we rushed. There sat Fatima,
sleek and complacent, sunning herself in the window.
Max laughed until the rafters rang.
"She can't have been up here all this time," I protested, half
tearfully. "We would have heard her meowing."
"But you didn't," said Max.
"She would have died of the cold," declared Ismay.
"But she hasn't," said Max.
"Or starved," I cried.
"The place is alive with mice," said Max. "No, girls, there is no
doubt the cat has been here the whole fortnight. She must have
followed Huldah Jane up here, unobserved, that day. It's a wonder you
didn't hear her crying—if she did cry. But perhaps she didn't, and,
of course, you sleep downstairs. To think you never thought of
looking here for her!"
"It has cost us over a hundred dollars," said Ismay, with a
malevolent glance at the sleek Fatima.
"It has cost me more than that," I said, as I turned to the
Max held me back for an instant, while Ismay and Fatima pattered
"Do you think it has cost too much, Sue?" he whispered.
I looked at him sideways. He was really a dear. Niceness fairly
exhaled from him.
"No-o-o," I said, "but when we are married you will have to take
care of Fatima, I won't."
"Dear Fatima," said Max gratefully.
II. THE MATERALIZING OF CECIL
It had never worried me in the least that I wasn't married,
although everybody in Avonlea pitied old maids; but it DID worry me,
and I frankly confess it, that I had never had a chance to be. Even
Nancy, my old nurse and servant, knew that, and pitied me for it.
Nancy is an old maid herself, but she has had two proposals. She did
not accept either of them because one was a widower with seven
children, and the other a very shiftless, good-for-nothing fellow;
but, if anybody twitted Nancy on her single condition, she could point
triumphantly to those two as evidence that "she could an she would."
If I had not lived all my life in Avonlea I might have had the
benefit of the doubt; but I had, and everybody knew everything about
me—or thought they did.
I had really often wondered why nobody had ever fallen in love
with me. I was not at all homely; indeed, years ago, George Adoniram
Maybrick had written a poem addressed to me, in which he praised my
beauty quite extravagantly; that didn't mean anything because George
Adoniram wrote poetry to all the good-looking girls and never went
with anybody but Flora King, who was cross-eyed and red-haired, but it
proves that it was not my appearance that put me out of the running.
Neither was it the fact that I wrote poetry myself—although not of
George Adoniram's kind—because nobody ever knew that. When I felt it
coming on I shut myself up in my room and wrote it out in a little
blank book I kept locked up. It is nearly full now, because I have
been writing poetry all my life. It is the only thing I have ever
been able to keep a secret from Nancy. Nancy, in any case, has not a
very high opinion of my ability to take care of myself; but I tremble
to imagine what she would think if she ever found out about that
little book. I am convinced she would send for the doctor post-haste
and insist on mustard plasters while waiting for him.
Nevertheless, I kept on at it, and what with my flowers and my
cats and my magazines and my little book, I was really very happy and
contented. But it DID sting that Adella Gilbert, across the road, who
has a drunken husband, should pity "poor Charlotte" because nobody had
ever wanted her. Poor Charlotte indeed! If I had thrown myself at a
man's head the way Adella Gilbert did at— but there, there, I must
refrain from such thoughts. I must not be uncharitable.
The Sewing Circle met at Mary Gillespie's on my fortieth birthday.
I have given up talking about my birthdays, although that little
scheme is not much good in Avonlea where everybody knows your age—or
if they make a mistake it is never on the side of youth. But Nancy,
who grew accustomed to celebrating my birthdays when I was a little
girl, never gets over the habit, and I don't try to cure her, because,
after all, it's nice to have some one make a fuss over you. She
brought me up my breakfast before I got up out of bed—a concession to
my laziness that Nancy would scorn to make on any other day of the
year. She had cooked everything I like best, and had decorated the
tray with roses from the garden and ferns from the woods behind the
house. I enjoyed every bit of that breakfast, and then I got up and
dressed, putting on my second best muslin gown. I would have put on
my really best if I had not had the fear of Nancy before my eyes; but
I knew she would never condone THAT, even on a birthday. I watered my
flowers and fed my cats, and then I locked myself up and wrote a poem
on June. I had given up writing birthday odes after I was thirty.
In the afternoon I went to the Sewing Circle. When I was ready
for it I looked in my glass and wondered if I could really be forty.
I was quite sure I didn't look it. My hair was brown and wavy, my
cheeks were pink, and the lines could hardly be seen at all, though
possibly that was because of the dim light. I always have my mirror
hung in the darkest corner of my room. Nancy cannot imagine why. I
know the lines are there, of course; but when they don't show very
plain I forget that they are there.
We had a large Sewing Circle, young and old alike attending. I
really cannot say I ever enjoyed the meetings—at least not up to
that time—although I went religiously because I thought it my duty
to go. The married women talked so much of their husbands and
children, and of course I had to be quiet on those topics; and the
young girls talked in corner groups about their beaux, and stopped it
when I joined them, as if they felt sure that an old maid who had
never had a beau couldn't understand at all. As for the other old
maids, they talked gossip about every one, and I did not like that
either. I knew the minute my back was turned they would fasten into
me and hint that I used hair-dye and declare it was perfectly
ridiculous for a woman of FIFTY to wear a pink muslin dress with
There was a full attendance that day, for we were getting ready
for a sale of fancy work in aid of parsonage repairs. The young
girls were merrier and noisier than usual. Wilhelmina Mercer was
there, and she kept them going. The Mercers were quite new to
Avonlea, having come here only two months previously.
I was sitting by the window and Wilhelmina Mercer, Maggie
Henderson, Susette Cross and Georgie Hall were in a little group just
before me. I wasn't listening to their chatter at all, but presently
Georgie exclaimed teasingly:
"Miss Charlotte is laughing at us. I suppose she thinks we are
awfully silly to be talking about beaux."
The truth was that I was simply smiling over some very pretty
thoughts that had come to me about the roses which were climbing over
Mary Gillespie's sill. I meant to inscribe them in the little blank
book when I went home. Georgie's speech brought me back to harsh
realities with a jolt. It hurt me, as such speeches always did.
"Didn't you ever have a beau, Miss Holmes?" said Wilhelmina
Just as it happened, a silence had fallen over the room for a
moment, and everybody in it heard Wilhelmina's question.
I really do not know what got into me and possessed me. I have
never been able to account for what I said and did, because I am
naturally a truthful person and hate all deceit. It seemed to me
that I simply could not say "No" to Wilhelmina before that whole
roomful of women. It was TOO humiliating. I suppose all the
prickles and stings and slurs I had endured for fifteen years on
account of never having had a lover had what the new doctor calls "a
cumulative effect" and came to a head then and there.
"Yes, I had one once, my dear," I said calmly.
For once in my life I made a sensation. Every woman in that room
stopped sewing and stared at me. Most of them, I saw, didn't believe
me, but Wilhelmina did. Her pretty face lighted up with interest.
"Oh, won't you tell us about him, Miss Holmes?" she coaxed, "and
why didn't you marry him?"
"That is right, Miss Mercer," said Josephine Cameron, with a nasty
little laugh. "Make her tell. We're all interested. It's news to us
that Charlotte ever had a beau."
If Josephine had not said that, I might not have gone on. But she
did say it, and, moreover, I caught Mary Gillespie and Adella Gilbert
exchanging significant smiles. That settled it, and made me quite
reckless. "In for a penny, in for a pound," thought I, and I said
with a pensive smile:
"Nobody here knew anything about him, and it was all long, long
"What was his name?" asked Wilhelmina.
"Cecil Fenwick," I answered promptly. Cecil had always been my
favorite name for a man; it figured quite frequently in the blank
book. As for the Fenwick part of it, I had a bit of newspaper in my
hand, measuring a hem, with "Try Fenwick's Porous Plasters" printed
across it, and I simply joined the two in sudden and irrevocable
"Where did you meet him?" asked Georgie.
I hastily reviewed my past. There was only one place to locate
Cecil Fenwick. The only time I had ever been far enough away from
Avonlea in my life was when I was eighteen and had gone to visit an
aunt in New Brunswick.
"In Blakely, New Brunswick," I said, almost believing that I had
when I saw how they all took it in unsuspectingly. "I was just
eighteen and he was twenty-three."
"What did he look like?" Susette wanted to know.
"Oh, he was very handsome." I proceeded glibly to sketch my
ideal. To tell the dreadful truth, I was enjoying myself; I could
see respect dawning in those girls' eyes, and I knew that I had
forever thrown off my reproach. Henceforth I should be a woman with a
romantic past, faithful to the one love of her life—a very, very
different thing from an old maid who had never had a lover.
"He was tall and dark, with lovely, curly black hair and
brilliant, piercing eyes. He had a splendid chin, and a fine nose,
and the most fascinating smile!"
"What was he?" asked Maggie.
"A young lawyer," I said, my choice of profession decided by an
enlarged crayon portrait of Mary Gillespie's deceased brother on an
easel before me. He had been a lawyer.
"Why didn't you marry him?" demanded Susette.
"We quarreled," I answered sadly. "A terribly bitter quarrel. Oh,
we were both so young and so foolish. It was my fault. I vexed Cecil
by flirting with another man"—wasn't I coming on!— "and he was
jealous and angry. He went out West and never came back. I have
never seen him since, and I do not even know if he is alive.
But—but—I could never care for any other man."
"Oh, how interesting!" sighed Wilhelmina. "I do so love sad love
stories. But perhaps he will come back some day yet, Miss Holmes."
"Oh, no, never now," I said, shaking my head. "He has forgotten
all about me, I dare say. Or if he hasn't, he has never forgiven
Mary Gillespie's Susan Jane announced tea at this moment, and I
was thankful, for my imagination was giving out, and I didn't know
what question those girls would ask next. But I felt already a change
in the mental atmosphere surrounding me, and all through supper I was
thrilled with a secret exultation. Repentant? Ashamed? Not a bit of
it! I'd have done the same thing over again, and all I felt sorry for
was that I hadn't done it long ago.
When I got home that night Nancy looked at me wonderingly, and
"You look like a girl to-night, Miss Charlotte."
"I feel like one," I said laughing; and I ran to my room and did
what I had never done before—wrote a second poem in the same day. I
had to have some outlet for my feelings. I called it "In Summer Days
of Long Ago," and I worked Mary Gillespie's roses and Cecil Fenwick's
eyes into it, and made it so sad and reminiscent and minor-musicky
that I felt perfectly happy.
For the next two months all went well and merrily. Nobody ever
said anything more to me about Cecil Fenwick, but the girls all
chattered freely to me of their little love affairs, and I became a
sort of general confidant for them. It just warmed up the cockles of
my heart, and I began to enjoy the Sewing Circle famously. I got a
lot of pretty new dresses and the dearest hat, and I went everywhere I
was asked and had a good time.
But there is one thing you can be perfectly sure of. If you do
wrong you are going to be punished for it sometime, somehow and
somewhere. My punishment was delayed for two months, and then it
descended on my head and I was crushed to the very dust.
Another new family besides the Mercers had come to Avonlea in the
spring—the Maxwells. There were just Mr. and Mrs. Maxwell; they
were a middle-aged couple and very well off. Mr. Maxwell had bought
the lumber mills, and they lived up at the old Spencer place which had
always been "the" place of Avonlea. They lived quietly, and Mrs.
Maxwell hardly ever went anywhere because she was delicate. She was
out when I called and I was out when she returned my call, so that I
had never met her.
It was the Sewing Circle day again—at Sarah Gardiner's this time.
I was late; everybody else was there when I arrived, and the minute I
entered the room I knew something had happened, although I couldn't
imagine what. Everybody looked at me in the strangest way. Of
course, Wilhelmina Mercer was the first to set her tongue going.
"Oh, Miss Holmes, have you seen him yet?" she exclaimed.
"Seen whom?" I said non-excitedly, getting out my thimble and
"Why, Cecil Fenwick. He's here—in Avonlea—visiting his sister,
I suppose I did what they expected me to do. I dropped everything
I held, and Josephine Cameron said afterwards that Charlotte Holmes
would never be paler when she was in her coffin. If they had just
known why I turned so pale!
"It's impossible!" I said blankly.
"It's really true," said Wilhelmina, delighted at this
development, as she supposed it, of my romance. "I was up to see
Mrs. Maxwell last night, and I met him."
"It—can't be—the same—Cecil Fenwick," I said faintly, because I
had to say something.
"Oh, yes, it is. He belongs in Blakely, New Brunswick, and he's a
lawyer, and he's been out West twenty-two years. He's oh! so
handsome, and just as you described him, except that his hair is
quite gray. He has never married—I asked Mrs. Maxwell—so you see
he has never forgotten you, Miss Holmes. And, oh, I believe
everything is going to come out all right."
I couldn't exactly share her cheerful belief. Everything seemed
to me to be coming out most horribly wrong. I was so mixed up I
didn't know what to do or say. I felt as if I were in a bad
dream—it MUST be a dream—there couldn't really be a Cecil Fenwick!
My feelings were simply indescribable. Fortunately every one put my
agitation down to quite a different cause, and they very kindly left
me alone to recover myself. I shall never forget that awful
afternoon. Right after tea I excused myself and went home as fast as
I could go. There I shut myself up in my room, but NOT to write
poetry in my blank book. No, indeed! I felt in no poetical mood.
I tried to look the facts squarely in the face. There was a Cecil
Fenwick, extraordinary as the coincidence was, and he was here in
Avonlea. All my friends—and foes—believed that he was the estranged
lover of my youth. If he stayed long in Avonlea, one of two things
was bound to happen. He would hear the story I had told about him and
deny it, and I would be held up to shame and derision for the rest of
my natural life; or else he would simply go away in ignorance, and
everybody would suppose he had forgotten me and would pity me
maddeningly. The latter possibility was bad enough, but it wasn't to
be compared to the former; and oh, how I prayed—yes, I DID pray about
it—that he would go right away. But Providence had other views for
Cecil Fenwick didn't go away. He stayed right on in Avonlea, and
the Maxwells blossomed out socially in his honor and tried to give
him a good time. Mrs. Maxwell gave a party for him. I got a
card—but you may be very sure I didn't go, although Nancy thought I
was crazy not to. Then every one else gave parties in honor of Mr.
Fenwick and I was invited and never went. Wilhelmina Mercer came and
pleaded and scolded and told me if I avoided Mr. Fenwick like that he
would think I still cherished bitterness against him, and he wouldn't
make any advances towards a reconciliation. Wilhelmina means well,
but she hasn't a great deal of sense.
Cecil Fenwick seemed to be a great favorite with everybody, young
and old. He was very rich, too, and Wilhelmina declared that half
the girls were after him.
"If it wasn't for you, Miss Holmes, I believe I'd have a try for
him myself, in spite of his gray hair and quick temper—for Mrs.
Maxwell says he has a pretty quick temper, but it's all over in a
minute," said Wilhelmina, half in jest and wholly in earnest.
As for me, I gave up going out at all, even to church. I fretted
and pined and lost my appetite and never wrote a line in my blank
book. Nancy was half frantic and insisted on dosing me with her
favorite patent pills. I took them meekly, because it is a waste of
time and energy to oppose Nancy, but, of course, they didn't do me any
good. My trouble was too deep-seated for pills to cure. If ever a
woman was punished for telling a lie I was that woman. I stopped my
subscription to the Weekly Advocate because it still carried
that wretched porous plaster advertisement, and I couldn't bear to see
it. If it hadn't been for that I would never have thought of Fenwick
for a name, and all this trouble would have been averted.
One evening, when I was moping in my room, Nancy came up.
"There's a gentleman in the parlor asking for you, Miss
My heart gave just one horrible bounce.
"What—sort of a gentleman, Nancy?" I faltered.
"I think it's that Fenwick man that there's been such a time
about," said Nancy, who didn't know anything about my imaginary
escapades, "and he looks to be mad clean through about something, for
such a scowl I never seen."
"Tell him I'll be down directly, Nancy," I said quite calmly.
As soon as Nancy had clumped downstairs again I put on my lace
fichu and put two hankies in my belt, for I thought I'd probably need
more than one. Then I hunted up an old Advocate for proof, and
down I went to the parlor. I know exactly how a criminal feels going
to execution, and I've been opposed to capital punishment ever since.
I opened the parlor door and went in, carefully closing it behind
me, for Nancy has a deplorable habit of listening in the hall. Then
my legs gave out completely, and I couldn't have walked another step
to save my life. I just stood there, my hand on the knob, trembling
like a leaf.
A man was standing by the south window looking out; he wheeled
around as I went in, and, as Nancy said, he had a scowl on and looked
angry clear through. He was very handsome, and his gray hair gave him
such a distinguished look. I recalled this afterward, but just at the
moment you may be quite sure I wasn't thinking about it at all.
Then all at once a strange thing happened. The scowl went right
off his face and the anger out of his eyes. He looked astonished,
and then foolish. I saw the color creeping up into his cheeks. As
for me, I still stood there staring at him, not able to say a single
"Miss Holmes, I presume," he said at last, in a deep, thrilling
voice. "I—I—oh, confound it! I have called—I heard some foolish
stories and I came here in a rage. I've been a fool—I know now they
weren't true. Just excuse me and I'll go away and kick myself."
"No," I said, finding my voice with a gasp, "you mustn't go until
you've heard the truth. It's dreadful enough, but not as dreadful as
you might otherwise think. Those—those stories—I have a confession
to make. I did tell them, but I didn't know there was such a person
as Cecil Fenwick in existence."
He looked puzzled, as well he might. Then he smiled, took my hand
and led me away from the door—to the knob of which I was still
holding with all my might—to the sofa.
"Let's sit down and talk it over 'comfy,'" he said.
I just confessed the whole shameful business. It was terribly
humiliating, but it served me right. I told him how people were
always twitting me for never having had a beau, and how I had told
them I had; and then I showed him the porous plaster advertisement.
He heard me right through without a word, and then he threw back
his big, curly, gray head and laughed.
"This clears up a great many mysterious hints I've been receiving
ever since I came to Avonlea," he said, "and finally a Mrs. Gilbert
came to my sister this afternoon with a long farrago of nonsense about
the love affair I had once had with some Charlotte Holmes here. She
declared you had told her about it yourself. I confess I flamed up.
I'm a peppery chap, and I thought—I thought—oh, confound it, it
might as well out: I thought you were some lank old maid who was
amusing herself telling ridiculous stories about me. When you came
into the room I knew that, whoever was to blame, you were not."
"But I was," I said ruefully. "It wasn't right of me to tell such
a story—and it was very silly, too. But who would ever have supposed
that there could be real Cecil Fenwick who had lived in Blakely? I
never heard of such a coincidence."
"It's more than a coincidence," said Mr. Fenwick decidedly. "It's
predestination; that is what it is. And now let's forget it and talk
of something else."
We talked of something else—or at least Mr. Fenwick did, for I
was too ashamed to say much—so long that Nancy got restive and
clumped through the hall every five minutes; but Mr. Fenwick never
took the hint. When he finally went away he asked if he might come
"It's time we made up that old quarrel, you know," he said,
And I, an old maid of forty, caught myself blushing like a girl.
But I felt like a girl, for it was such a relief to have that
explanation all over. I couldn't even feel angry with Adella
Gilbert. She was always a mischief maker, and when a woman is born
that way she is more to be pitied than blamed. I wrote a poem in the
blank book before I went to sleep; I hadn't written anything for a
month, and it was lovely to be at it once more.
Mr. Fenwick did come again—the very next evening, but one. And
he came so often after that that even Nancy got resigned to him. One
day I had to tell her something. I shrank from doing it, for I feared
it would make her feel badly.
"Oh, I've been expecting to hear it," she said grimly. "I felt
the minute that man came into the house he brought trouble with him.
Well, Miss Charlotte, I wish you happiness. I don't know how the
climate of California will agree with me, but I suppose I'll have to
put up with it."
"But, Nancy," I said, "I can't expect you to go away out there
with me. It's too much to ask of you."
"And where else would I be going?" demanded Nancy in genuine
astonishment. "How under the canopy could you keep house without me?
I'm not going to trust you to the mercies of a yellow Chinee with a
pig-tail. Where you go I go, Miss Charlotte, and there's an end of
I was very glad, for I hated to think of parting with Nancy even
to go with Cecil. As for the blank book, I haven't told my husband
about it yet, but I mean to some day. And I've subscribed for the Weekly Advocate again.
III. HER FATHER'S DAUGHTER
"We must invite your Aunt Jane, of course," said Mrs. Spencer.
Rachel made a protesting movement with her large, white, shapely
hands—hands which were so different from the thin, dark, twisted
ones folded on the table opposite her. The difference was not caused
by hard work or the lack of it; Rachel had worked hard all her life.
It was a difference inherent in temperament. The Spencers, no matter
what they did, or how hard they labored, all had plump, smooth, white
hands, with firm, supple fingers; the Chiswicks, even those who toiled
not, neither did they spin, had hard, knotted, twisted ones.
Moreover, the contrast went deeper than externals, and twined itself
with the innermost fibers of life, and thought, and action.
"I don't see why we must invite Aunt Jane," said Rachel, with as
much impatience as her soft, throaty voice could express. "Aunt Jane
doesn't like me, and I don't like Aunt Jane."
"I'm sure I don't see why you don't like her," said Mrs. Spencer.
"It's ungrateful of you. She has always been very kind to you."
"She has always been very kind with one hand," smiled Rachel. "I
remember the first time I ever saw Aunt Jane. I was six years old.
She held out to me a small velvet pincushion with beads on it. And
then, because I did not, in my shyness, thank her quite as promptly as
I should have done, she rapped my head with her bethimbled finger to
'teach me better manners.' It hurt horribly—I've always had a tender
head. And that has been Aunt Jane's way ever since. When I grew too
big for the thimble treatment she used her tongue instead—and that
hurt worse. And you know, mother, how she used to talk about my
engagement. She is able to spoil the whole atmosphere if she happens
to come in a bad humor. I don't want her."
"She must be invited. People would talk so if she wasn't."
"I don't see why they should. She's only my great-aunt by
marriage. I wouldn't mind in the least if people did talk. They'll
talk anyway—you know that, mother."
"Oh, we must have her," said Mrs. Spencer, with the indifferent
finality that marked all her words and decisions—a finality against
which it was seldom of any avail to struggle. People, who knew,
rarely attempted it; strangers occasionally did, misled by the deceit
Isabella Spencer was a wisp of a woman, with a pale, pretty face,
uncertainly-colored, long-lashed grayish eyes, and great masses of
dull, soft, silky brown hair. She had delicate aquiline features and
a small, babyish red mouth. She looked as if a breath would sway her.
The truth was that a tornado would hardly have caused her to swerve
an inch from her chosen path.
For a moment Rachel looked rebellious; then she yielded, as she
generally did in all differences of opinion with her mother. It was
not worth while to quarrel over the comparatively unimportant matter
of Aunt Jane's invitation. A quarrel might be inevitable later on;
Rachel wanted to save all her resources for that. She gave her
shoulders a shrug, and wrote Aunt Jane's name down on the wedding list
in her large, somewhat untidy handwriting—a handwriting which always
seemed to irritate her mother. Rachel never could understand this
irritation. She could never guess that it was because her writing
looked so much like that in a certain packet of faded letters which
Mrs. Spencer kept at the bottom of an old horsehair trunk in her
bedroom. They were postmarked from seaports all over the world. Mrs.
Spencer never read them or looked at them; but she remembered every
dash and curve of the handwriting.
Isabella Spencer had overcome many things in her life by the sheer
force and persistency of her will. But she could not get the better
of heredity. Rachel was her father's daughter at all points, and
Isabella Spencer escaped hating her for it only by loving her the more
fiercely because of it. Even so, there were many times when she had
to avert her eyes from Rachel's face because of the pang of the more
subtle remembrances; and never, since her child was born, could
Isabella Spencer bear to gaze on that child's face in sleep.
Rachel was to be married to Frank Bell in a fortnight's time. Mrs.
Spencer was pleased with the match. She was very fond of Frank, and
his farm was so near to her own that she would not lose Rachel
altogether. Rachel fondly believed that her mother would not lose her
at all; but Isabella Spencer, wiser by olden experience, knew what her
daughter's marriage must mean to her, and steeled her heart to bear it
with what fortitude she might.
They were in the sitting-room, deciding on the wedding guests and
other details. The September sunshine was coming in through the
waving boughs of the apple tree that grew close up to the low window.
The glints wavered over Rachel's face, as white as a wood lily, with
only a faint dream of rose in the cheeks. She wore her sleek, golden
hair in a quaint arch around it. Her forehead was very broad and
white. She was fresh and young and hopeful. The mother's heart
contracted in a spasm of pain as she looked at her. How like the girl
was to—to—to the Spencers! Those easy, curving outlines, those
large, mirthful blue eyes, that finely molded chin! Isabella Spencer
shut her lips firmly and crushed down some unbidden, unwelcome
"There will be about sixty guests, all told," she said, as if she
were thinking of nothing else. "We must move the furniture out of
this room and set the supper-table here. The dining-room is too
small. We must borrow Mrs. Bell's forks and spoons. She offered to
lend them. I'd never have been willing to ask her. The damask table
cloths with the ribbon pattern must be bleached to-morrow. Nobody
else in Avonlea has such tablecloths. And we'll put the little
dining-room table on the hall landing, upstairs, for the presents."
Rachel was not thinking about the presents, or the housewifely
details of the wedding. Her breath was coming quicker, and the faint
blush on her smooth cheeks had deepened to crimson. She knew that a
critical moment was approaching. With a steady hand she wrote the
last name on her list and drew a line under it.
"Well, have you finished?" asked her mother impatiently. "Hand it
here and let me look over it to make sure that you haven't left
anybody out that should be in."
Rachel passed the paper across the table in silence. The room
seemed to her to have grown very still. She could hear the flies
buzzing on the panes, the soft purr of the wind about the low eaves
and through the apple boughs, the jerky beating of her own heart. She
felt frightened and nervous, but resolute.
Mrs. Spencer glanced down the list, murmuring the names aloud and
nodding approval at each. But when she came to the last name, she did
not utter it. She cast a black glance at Rachel, and a spark leaped
up in the depths of the pale eyes. On her face were anger, amazement,
incredulity, the last predominating.
The final name on the list of wedding guests was the name of David
Spencer. David Spencer lived alone in a little cottage down at the
Cove. He was a combination of sailor and fisherman. He was also
Isabella Spencer's husband and Rachel's father.
"Rachel Spencer, have you taken leave of your senses? What do you
mean by such nonsense as this?"
"I simply mean that I am going to invite my father to my wedding,"
answered Rachel quietly.
"Not in my house," cried Mrs. Spencer, her lips as white as if her
fiery tone had scathed them.
Rachel leaned forward, folded her large, capable hands
deliberately on the table, and gazed unflinchingly into her mother's
bitter face. Her fright and nervousness were gone. Now that the
conflict was actually on she found herself rather enjoying it. She
wondered a little at herself, and thought that she must be wicked.
She was not given to self-analysis, or she might have concluded that
it was the sudden assertion of her own personality, so long dominated
by her mother's, which she was finding so agreeable.
"Then there will be no wedding, mother," she said. "Frank and I
will simply go to the manse, be married, and go home. If I cannot
invite my father to see me married, no one else shall be invited."
Her lips narrowed tightly. For the first time in her life
Isabella Spencer saw a reflection of herself looking back at her from
her daughter's face—a strange, indefinable resemblance that was more
of soul and spirit than of flesh and blood. In spite of her anger her
heart thrilled to it. As never before, she realized that this girl
was her own and her husband's child, a living bond between them
wherein their conflicting natures mingled and were reconciled. She
realized too, that Rachel, so long sweetly meek and obedient, meant to
have her own way in this case—and would have it.
"I must say that I can't see why you are so set on having your
father see you married," she said with a bitter sneer. "HE has never
remembered that he is your father. He cares nothing about you—never
Rachel took no notice of this taunt. It had no power to hurt her,
its venom being neutralized by a secret knowledge of her own in which
her mother had no share.
"Either I shall invite my father to my wedding, or I shall not
have a wedding," she repeated steadily, adopting her mother's own
effective tactics of repetition undistracted by argument.
"Invite him then," snapped Mrs. Spencer, with the ungraceful anger
of a woman, long accustomed to having her own way, compelled for once
to yield. "It'll be like chips in porridge anyhow—neither good nor
harm. He won't come."
Rachel made no response. Now that the battle was over, and the
victory won, she found herself tremulously on the verge of tears. She
rose quickly and went upstairs to her own room, a dim little place
shadowed by the white birches growing thickly outside—a virginal
room, where everything bespoke the maiden. She lay down on the blue
and white patchwork quilt on her bed, and cried softly and bitterly.
Her heart, at this crisis in her life, yearned for her father, who
was almost a stranger to her. She knew that her mother had probably
spoken the truth when she said that he would not come. Rachel felt
that her marriage vows would be lacking in some indefinable sacredness
if her father were not by to hear them spoken.
Twenty-five years before this, David Spencer and Isabella Chiswick
had been married. Spiteful people said there could be no doubt that
Isabella had married David for love, since he had neither lands nor
money to tempt her into a match of bargain and sale. David was a
handsome fellow, with the blood of a seafaring race in his veins.
He had been a sailor, like his father and grandfather before him;
but, when he married Isabella, she induced him to give up the sea and
settle down with her on a snug farm her father had left her. Isabella
liked farming, and loved her fertile acres and opulent orchards. She
abhorred the sea and all that pertained to it, less from any dread of
its dangers than from an inbred conviction that sailors were "low" in
the social scale—a species of necessary vagabonds. In her eyes there
was a taint of disgrace in such a calling. David must be transformed
into a respectable, home-abiding tiller of broad lands.
For five years all went well enough. If, at times, David's
longing for the sea troubled him, he stifled it, and listened not to
its luring voice. He and Isabella were very happy; the only drawback
to their happiness lay in the regretted fact that they were childless.
Then, in the sixth year, came a crisis and a change. Captain
Barrett, an old crony of David's, wanted him to go with him on a
voyage as mate. At the suggestion all David's long-repressed craving
for the wide blue wastes of the ocean, and the wind whistling through
the spars with the salt foam in its breath, broke forth with a passion
all the more intense for that very repression. He must go on that
voyage with James Barrett—he MUST! That over, he would be contented
again; but go he must. His soul struggled within him like a fettered
Isabella opposed the scheme vehemently and unwisely, with mordant
sarcasm and unjust reproaches. The latent obstinacy of David's
character came to the support of his longing—a longing which
Isabella, with five generations of land-loving ancestry behind her,
could not understand at all.
He was determined to go, and he told Isabella so.
"I'm sick of plowing and milking cows," he said hotly.
"You mean that you are sick of a respectable life," sneered
"Perhaps," said David, with a contemptuous shrug of his shoulders.
"Anyway, I'm going."
"If you go on this voyage, David Spencer, you need never come back
here," said Isabella resolutely.
David had gone; he did not believe that she meant it. Isabella
believed that he did not care whether she meant it or not. David
Spencer left behind him a woman, calm outwardly, inwardly a seething
volcano of anger, wounded pride, and thwarted will.
He found precisely the same woman when he came home, tanned,
joyous, tamed for a while of his wanderlust, ready, with
something of real affection, to go back to the farm fields and the
Isabella met him at the door, smileless, cold-eyed, set-lipped.
"What do you want here?" she said, in the tone she was accustomed
to use to tramps and Syrian peddlers.
"Want!" David's surprise left him at a loss for words. "Want!
Why, I—I—want my wife. I've come home."
"This is not your home. I'm no wife of yours. You made your
choice when you went away," Isabella had replied. Then she had gone
in, shut the door, and locked it in his face.
David had stood there for a few minutes like a man stunned. Then
he had turned and walked away up the lane under the birches. He said
nothing—then or at any other time. From that day no reference to his
wife or her concerns ever crossed his lips.
He went directly to the harbor, and shipped with Captain Barrett
for another voyage. When he came back from that in a month's time,
he bought a small house and had it hauled to the "Cove," a lonely
inlet from which no other human habitation was visible. Between his
sea voyages he lived there the life of a recluse; fishing and playing
his violin were his only employments. He went nowhere and encouraged
Isabella Spencer also had adopted the tactics of silence. When
the scandalized Chiswicks, Aunt Jane at their head, tried to patch up
the matter with argument and entreaty, Isabella met them stonily,
seeming not to hear what they said, and making no response. She
worsted them totally. As Aunt Jane said in disgust, "What can you do
with a woman who won't even TALK?"
Five months after David Spencer had been turned from his wife's
door, Rachel was born. Perhaps, if David had come to them then, with
due penitence and humility, Isabella's heart, softened by the pain and
joy of her long and ardently desired motherhood might have cast out
the rankling venom of resentment that had poisoned it and taken him
back into it. But David had not come; he gave no sign of knowing or
caring that his once longed-for child had been born.
When Isabella was able to be about again, her pale face was harder
than ever; and, had there been about her any one discerning enough to
notice it, there was a subtle change in her bearing and manner. A
certain nervous expectancy, a fluttering restlessness was gone.
Isabella had ceased to hope secretly that her husband would yet come
back. She had in her secret soul thought he would; and she had meant
to forgive him when she had humbled him sufficiently, and when he had
abased himself as she considered he should. But now she knew that he
did not mean to sue for her forgiveness; and the hate that sprang out
of her old love was a rank and speedy and persistent growth.
Rachel, from her earliest recollection, had been vaguely conscious
of a difference between her own life and the lives of her playmates.
For a long time it puzzled her childish brain. Finally, she reasoned
it out that the difference consisted in the fact that they had fathers
and she, Rachel Spencer, had none—not even in the graveyard, as
Carrie Bell and Lilian Boulter had. Why was this? Rachel went
straight to her mother, put one little dimpled hand on Isabella
Spencer's knee, looked up with great searching blue eyes, and said
"Mother, why haven't I got a father like the other little girls?"
Isabella Spencer laid aside her work, took the seven year old
child on her lap, and told her the whole story in a few direct and
bitter words that imprinted themselves indelibly on Rachel's
remembrance. She understood clearly and hopelessly that she could
never have a father—that, in this respect, she must always be unlike
"Your father cares nothing for you," said Isabella Spencer in
conclusion. "He never did care. You must never speak of him to
Rachel slipped silently from her mother's knee and ran out to the
Springtime garden with a full heart. There she cried passionately
over her mother's last words. It seemed to her a terrible thing that
her father should not love her, and a cruel thing that she must never
talk of him.
Oddly enough, Rachel's sympathies were all with her father, in as
far as she could understand the old quarrel. She did not dream of
disobeying her mother and she did not disobey her. Never again did
the child speak of her father; but Isabella had not forbidden her to
think of him, and thenceforth Rachel thought of him constantly—so
constantly that, in some strange way, he seemed to become an
unguessed-of part of her inner life—the unseen, ever-present
companion in all her experiences.
She was an imaginative child, and in fancy she made the
acquaintance of her father. She had never seen him, but he was more
real to her than most of the people she had seen. He played and
talked with her as her mother never did; he walked with her in the
orchard and field and garden; he sat by her pillow in the twilight; to
him she whispered secrets she told to none other.
Once her mother asked her impatiently why she talked so much to
"I am not talking to myself. I am talking to a very dear friend
of mine," Rachel answered gravely.
"Silly child," laughed her mother, half tolerantly, half
Two years later something wonderful had happened to Rachel. One
summer afternoon she had gone to the harbor with several of her
little playmates. Such a jaunt was a rare treat to the child, for
Isabella Spencer seldom allowed her to go from home with anybody but
herself. And Isabella was not an entertaining companion. Rachel
never particularly enjoyed an outing with her mother.
The children wandered far along the shore; at last they came to a
place that Rachel had never seen before. It was a shallow cove where
the waters purred on the yellow sands. Beyond it, the sea was
laughing and flashing and preening and alluring, like a beautiful,
coquettish woman. Outside, the wind was boisterous and rollicking;
here, it was reverent and gentle. A white boat was hauled up on the
skids, and there was a queer little house close down to the sands,
like a big shell tossed up by the waves. Rachel looked on it all with
secret delight; she, too, loved the lonely places of sea and shore, as
her father had done. She wanted to linger awhile in this dear spot
and revel in it.
"I'm tired, girls," she announced. "I'm going to stay here and
rest for a spell. I don't want to go to Gull Point. You go on
yourselves; I'll wait for you here."
"All alone?" asked Carrie Bell, wonderingly.
"I'm not so afraid of being alone as some people are," said
Rachel, with dignity.
The other girls went on, leaving Rachel sitting on the skids, in
the shadow of the big white boat. She sat there for a time dreaming
happily, with her blue eyes on the far, pearly horizon, and her golden
head leaning against the boat.
Suddenly she heard a step behind her. When she turned her head a
man was standing beside her, looking down at her with big, merry,
blue eyes. Rachel was quite sure that she had never seen him before;
yet those eyes seemed to her to have a strangely familiar look. She
liked him. She felt no shyness nor timidity, such as usually
afflicted her in the presence of strangers.
He was a tall, stout man, dressed in a rough fishing suit, and
wearing an oilskin cap on his head. His hair was very thick and
curly and fair; his cheeks were tanned and red; his teeth, when he
smiled, were very even and white. Rachel thought he must be quite
old, because there was a good deal of gray mixed with his fair hair.
"Are you watching for the mermaids?" he said.
Rachel nodded gravely. From any one else she would have
scrupulously hidden such a thought.
"Yes, I am," she said. "Mother says there is no such thing as a
mermaid, but I like to think there is. Have you ever seen one?"
The big man sat down on a bleached log of driftwood and smiled at
"No, I'm sorry to say that I haven't. But I have seen many other
very wonderful things. I might tell you about some of them, if you
would come over here and sit by me."
Rachel went unhesitatingly. When she reached him he pulled her
down on his knee, and she liked it.
"What a nice little craft you are," he said. "Do you suppose,
now, that you could give me a kiss?"
As a rule, Rachel hated kissing. She could seldom be prevailed
upon to kiss even her uncles—who knew it and liked to tease her for
kisses until they aggravated her so terribly that she told them she
couldn't bear men. But now she promptly put her arms about this
strange man's neck and gave him a hearty smack.
"I like you," she said frankly.
She felt his arms tighten suddenly about her. The blue eyes
looking into hers grew misty and very tender. Then, all at once,
Rachel knew who he was. He was her father. She did not say
anything, but she laid her curly head down on his shoulder and felt a
great happiness, as of one who had come into some longed-for haven.
If David Spencer realized that she understood he said nothing.
Instead, he began to tell her fascinating stories of far lands he had
visited, and strange things he had seen. Rachel listened entranced,
as if she were hearkening to a fairy tale. Yes, he was just as she
had dreamed him. She had always been sure he could tell beautiful
"Come up to the house and I'll show you some pretty things," he
Then followed a wonderful hour. The little low-ceilinged room,
with its square window, into which he took her, was filled with the
flotsam and jetsam of his roving life—things beautiful and odd and
strange beyond all telling. The things that pleased Rachel most were
two huge shells on the chimney piece—pale pink shells with big
crimson and purple spots.
"Oh, I didn't know there could be such pretty things in the
world," she exclaimed.
"If you would like," began the big man; then he paused for a
moment. "I'll show you something prettier still."
Rachel felt vaguely that he meant to say something else when he
began; but she forgot to wonder what it was when she saw what he
brought out of a little corner cupboard. It was a teapot of some
fine, glistening purple ware, coiled over by golden dragons with
gilded claws and scales. The lid looked like a beautiful golden
flower and the handle was a coil of a dragon's tail. Rachel sat and
looked at it rapt-eyed.
"That's the only thing of any value I have in the world—now," he
Rachel knew there was something very sad in his eyes and voice.
She longed to kiss him again and comfort him. But suddenly he began
to laugh, and then he rummaged out some goodies for her to eat,
sweetmeats more delicious than she had ever imagined. While she
nibbled them he took down an old violin and played music that made her
want to dance and sing. Rachel was perfectly happy. She wished she
might stay forever in that low, dim room with all its treasures.
"I see your little friends coming around the point," he said,
finally. "I suppose you must go. Put the rest of the goodies in
He took her up in his arms and held her tightly against his breast
for a single moment. She felt him kissing her hair.
"There, run along, little girl. Good-by," he said gently.
"Why don't you ask me to come and see you again?" cried Rachel,
half in tears. "I'm coming ANYHOW."
"If you can come, COME," he said. "If you don't come, I shall
know it is because you can't—and that is much to know. I'm very,
very, VERY glad, little woman, that you have come once."
Rachel was sitting demurely on the skids when her companions came
back. They had not seen her leaving the house, and she said not a
word to them of her experiences. She only smiled mysteriously when
they asked her if she had been lonesome.
That night, for the first time, she mentioned her father's name in
her prayers. She never forgot to do so afterwards. She always said,
"bless mother—and father," with an instinctive pause between the two
names—a pause which indicated new realization of the tragedy which
had sundered them. And the tone in which she said "father" was softer
and more tender than the one which voiced "mother."
Rachel never visited the Cove again. Isabella Spencer discovered
that the children had been there, and, although she knew nothing of
Rachel's interview with her father, she told the child that she must
never again go to that part of the shore.
Rachel shed many a bitter tear in secret over this command; but
she obeyed it. Thenceforth there had been no communication between
her and her father, save the unworded messages of soul to soul across
whatever may divide them.
David Spencer's invitation to his daughter's wedding was sent with
the others, and the remaining days of Rachel's maidenhood slipped away
in a whirl of preparation and excitement in which her mother reveled,
but which was distasteful to the girl.
The wedding day came at last, breaking softly and fairly over the
great sea in a sheen of silver and pearl and rose, a September day,
as mild and beautiful as June.
The ceremony was to be performed at eight o'clock in the evening.
At seven Rachel stood in her room, fully dressed and alone. She had
no bridesmaid, and she had asked her cousins to leave her to herself
in this last solemn hour of girlhood. She looked very fair and sweet
in the sunset-light that showered through the birches. Her wedding
gown was a fine, sheer organdie, simply and daintily made. In the
loose waves of her bright hair she wore her bridegroom's flowers,
roses as white as a virgin's dream. She was very happy; but her
happiness was faintly threaded with the sorrow inseparable from all
Presently her mother came in, carrying a small basket.
"Here is something for you, Rachel. One of the boys from the
harbor brought it up. He was bound to give it into your own
hands—said that was his orders. I just took it and sent him to the
right-about—told him I'd give it to you at once, and that that was
all that was necessary."
She spoke coldly. She knew quite well who had sent the basket,
and she resented it; but her resentment was not quite strong enough
to overcome her curiosity. She stood silently by while Rachel
unpacked the basket.
Rachel's hands trembled as she took off the cover. Two huge
pink-spotted shells came first. How well she remembered them!
Beneath them, carefully wrapped up in a square of foreign-looking,
strangely scented silk, was the dragon teapot. She held it in her
hands and gazed at it with tears gathering thickly in her eyes.
"Your father sent that," said Isabella Spencer with an odd sound
in her voice. "I remember it well. It was among the things I packed
up and sent after him. His father had brought it home from China
fifty years ago, and he prized it beyond anything. They used to say it
was worth a lot of money."
"Mother, please leave me alone for a little while," said Rachel,
imploringly. She had caught sight of a little note at the bottom of
the basket, and she felt that she could not read it under her mother's
Mrs. Spencer went out with unaccustomed acquiescence, and Rachel
went quickly to the window, where she read her letter by the fading
gleams of twilight. It was very brief, and the writing was that of a
man who holds a pen but seldom.
"My dear little girl," it ran, "I'm sorry I can't go to your
wedding. It was like you to ask me—for I know it was your
doing. I wish I could see you married, but I can't go to the
house I was turned out of. I hope you will be very happy. I
am sending you the shells and teapot you liked so much. Do
you remember that day we had such a good time? I would liked
to have seen you again before you were married, but it can't
"Your loving father,
Rachel resolutely blinked away the tears that filled her eyes. A
fierce desire for her father sprang up in her heart—an insistent
hunger that would not be denied. She MUST see her father; she MUST
have his blessing on her new life. A sudden determination took
possession of her whole being—a determination to sweep aside all
conventionalities and objections as if they had not been.
It was now almost dark. The guests would not be coming for half
an hour yet. It was only fifteen minutes' walk over the hill to the
Cove. Hastily Rachel shrouded herself in her new raincoat, and drew a
dark, protecting hood over her gay head. She opened the door and
slipped noiselessly downstairs. Mrs. Spencer and her assistants were
all busy in the back part of the house. In a moment Rachel was out in
the dewy garden. She would go straight over the fields. Nobody would
It was quite dark when she reached the Cove. In the crystal cup
of the sky over her the stars were blinking. Flying flakes of foam
were scurrying over the sand like elfin things. A soft little wind
was crooning about the eaves of the little gray house where David
Spencer was sitting, alone in the twilight, his violin on his knee.
He had been trying to play, but could not. His heart yearned after
his daughter—yes, and after a long-estranged bride of his youth. His
love of the sea was sated forever; his love for wife and child still
cried for its own under all his old anger and stubbornness.
The door opened suddenly and the very Rachel of whom he was
dreaming came suddenly in, flinging off her wraps and standing forth
in her young beauty and bridal adornments, a splendid creature, almost
lighting up the gloom with her radiance.
"Father," she cried, brokenly, and her father's eager arms closed
Back in the house she had left, the guests were coming to the
wedding. There were jests and laughter and friendly greeting. The
bridegroom came, too, a slim, dark-eyed lad who tiptoed bashfully
upstairs to the spare room, from which he presently emerged to
confront Mrs. Spencer on the landing.
"I want to see Rachel before we go down," he said, blushing.
Mrs. Spencer deposited a wedding present of linen on the table
which was already laden with gifts, opening the door of Rachel's
room, and called her. There was no reply; the room was dark and
still. In sudden alarm, Isabella Spencer snatched the lamp from the
hall table and held it up. The little white room was empty. No
blushing, white-clad bride tenanted it. But David Spencer's letter
was lying on the stand. She caught it up and read it.
"Rachel is gone," she gasped. A flash of intuition had revealed
to her where and why the girl had gone.
"Gone!" echoed Frank, his face blanching. His pallid dismay
recalled Mrs. Spencer to herself. She gave a bitter, ugly little
"Oh, you needn't look so scared, Frank. She hasn't run away from
you. Hush; come in here—shut the door. Nobody must know of this.
Nice gossip it would make! That little fool has gone to the Cove to
see her—her father. I know she has. It's just like what she would
do. He sent her those presents—look—and this letter. Read it. She
has gone to coax him to come and see her married. She was crazy about
it. And the minister is here and it is half-past seven. She'll ruin
her dress and shoes in the dust and dew. And what if some one has
seen her! Was there ever such a little fool?"
Frank's presence of mind had returned to him. He knew all about
Rachel and her father. She had told him everything.
"I'll go after her," he said gently. "Get me my hat and coat.
I'll slip down the back stairs and over to the Cove."
"You must get out of the pantry window, then," said Mrs. Spencer
firmly, mingling comedy and tragedy after her characteristic fashion.
"The kitchen is full of women. I won't have this known and talked
about if it can possibly be helped."
The bridegroom, wise beyond his years in the knowledge that it was
well to yield to women in little things, crawled obediently out of the
pantry window and darted through the birch wood. Mrs. Spencer had
stood quakingly on guard until he had disappeared.
So Rachel had gone to her father! Like had broken the fetters of
years and fled to like.
"It isn't much use fighting against nature, I guess," she thought
grimly. "I'm beat. He must have thought something of her, after
all, when he sent her that teapot and letter. And what does he mean
about the 'day they had such a good time'? Well, it just means that
she's been to see him before, sometime, I suppose, and kept me in
ignorance of it all."
Mrs. Spencer shut down the pantry window with a vicious thud.
"If only she'll come quietly back with Frank in time to prevent
gossip I'll forgive her," she said, as she turned to the kitchen.
Rachel was sitting on her father's knee, with both her white arms
around his neck, when Frank came in. She sprang up, her face flushed
and appealing, her eyes bright and dewy with tears. Frank thought he
had never seen her look so lovely.
"Oh, Frank, is it very late? Oh, are you angry?" she exclaimed
"No, no, dear. Of course I'm not angry. But don't you think
you'd better come back now? It's nearly eight and everybody is
"I've been trying to coax father to come up and see me married,"
said Rachel. "Help me, Frank."
"You'd better come, sir," said Frank, heartily, "I'd like it as
much as Rachel would."
David Spencer shook his head stubbornly.
"No, I can't go to that house. I was locked out of it. Never
mind me. I've had my happiness in this half hour with my little
girl. I'd like to see her married, but it isn't to be."
"Yes, it is to be—it shall be," said Rachel resolutely. "You
SHALL see me married. Frank, I'm going to be married here in my
father's house! That is the right place for a girl to be married.
Go back and tell the guests so, and bring them all down."
Frank looked rather dismayed. David Spencer said deprecatingly:
"Little girl, don't you think it would be—"
"I'm going to have my own way in this," said Rachel, with a sort
of tender finality. "Go, Frank. I'll obey you all my life after,
but you must do this for me. Try to understand," she added
"Oh, I understand," Frank reassured her. "Besides, I think you
are right. But I was thinking of your mother. She won't come."
"Then you tell her that if she doesn't come I shan't be married at
all," said Rachel. She was betraying unsuspected ability to manage
people. She knew that ultimatum would urge Frank to his best
Frank, much to Mrs. Spencer's dismay, marched boldly in at the
front door upon his return. She pounced on him and whisked him out
of sight into the supper room.
"Where's Rachel? What made you come that way? Everybody saw
"It makes no difference. They will all have to know, anyway.
Rachel says she is going to be married from her father's house, or
not at all. I've come back to tell you so."
Isabella's face turned crimson.
"Rachel has gone crazy. I wash my hands of this affair. Do as
you please. Take the guests—the supper, too, if you can carry it."
"We'll all come back here for supper," said Frank, ignoring the
sarcasm. "Come, Mrs. Spencer, let's make the best of it."
"Do you suppose that
I am going to David Spencer's house?"
said Isabella Spencer violently.
"Oh you MUST come, Mrs. Spencer," cried poor Frank desperately. He
began to fear that he would lose his bride past all finding in this
maze of triple stubbornness. "Rachel says she won't be married at all
if you don't go, too. Think what a talk it will make. You know she
will keep her word."
Isabella Spencer knew it. Amid all the conflict of anger and
revolt in her soul was a strong desire not to make a worse scandal
than must of necessity be made. The desire subdued and tamed her, as
nothing else could have done.
"I will go, since I have to," she said icily. "What can't be
cured must be endured. Go and tell them."
Five minutes later the sixty wedding guests were all walking over
the fields to the Cove, with the minister and the bridegroom in the
front of the procession. They were too amazed even to talk about the
strange happening. Isabella Spencer walked behind, fiercely alone.
They all crowded into the little room of the house at the Cove,
and a solemn hush fell over it, broken only by the purr of the
sea-wind around it and the croon of the waves on the shore. David
Spencer gave his daughter away; but, when the ceremony was concluded,
Isabella was the first to take the girl in her arms. She clasped her
and kissed her, with tears streaming down her pale face, all her
nature melted in a mother's tenderness.
"Rachel! Rachel! My child, I hope and pray that you may be
happy," she said brokenly.
In the surge of the suddenly merry crowd of well-wishers around
the bride and groom, Isabella was pushed back into a shadowy corner
behind a heap of sails and ropes. Looking up, she found herself
crushed against David Spencer. For the first time in twenty years the
eyes of husband and wife met. A strange thrill shot to Isabella's
heart; she felt herself trembling.
"Isabella." It was David's voice in her ear—a voice full of
tenderness and pleading—the voice of the young wooer of her
girlhood—"Is it too late to ask you to forgive me? I've been a
stubborn fool—but there hasn't been an hour in all these years that
I haven't thought about you and our baby and longed for you."
Isabella Spencer had hated this man; yet her hate had been but a
parasite growth on a nobler stem, with no abiding roots of its own.
It withered under his words, and lo, there was the old love, fair and
strong and beautiful as ever.
"Oh—David—I—was—all—to—blame," she murmured brokenly.
Further words were lost on her husband's lips.
When the hubbub of handshaking and congratulating had subsided,
Isabella Spencer stepped out before the company. She looked almost
girlish and bridal herself, with her flushed cheeks and bright eyes.
"Let's go back now and have supper, and be sensible," she said
crisply. "Rachel, your father is coming, too. He is coming to
STAY,"—with a defiant glance around the circle. "Come, everybody."
They went back with laughter and raillery over the quiet autumn
fields, faintly silvered now by the moon that was rising over the
hills. The young bride and groom lagged behind; they were very
happy, but they were not so happy, after all, as the old bride and
groom who walked swiftly in front. Isabella's hand was in her
husband's and sometimes she could not see the moonlit hills for a mist
of glorified tears.
"David," she whispered, as he helped her over the fence, "how can
you ever forgive me?"
"There's nothing to forgive," he said. "We're only just married.
Who ever heard of a bridegroom talking of forgiveness? Everything is
beginning over new for us, my girl."
IV. JANE'S BABY
Miss Rosetta Ellis, with her front hair in curl-papers, and her
back hair bound with a checked apron, was out in her breezy side yard
under the firs, shaking her parlor rugs, when Mr. Nathan Patterson
drove in. Miss Rosetta had seen him coming down the long red hill,
but she had not supposed he would be calling at that time of the
morning. So she had not run. Miss Rosetta always ran if anybody
called and her front hair was in curl-papers; and, though the errand
of the said caller might be life or death, he or she had to wait until
Miss Rosetta had taken her hair out. Everybody in Avonlea knew this,
because everybody in Avonlea knew everything about everybody else.
But Mr. Patterson had wheeled into the lane so quickly and
unexpectedly that Miss Rosetta had had no time to run; so, twitching
off the checked apron, she stood her ground as calmly as might be
under the disagreeable consciousness of curl-papers.
"Good morning, Miss Ellis," said Mr. Patterson, so somberly that
Miss Rosetta instantly felt that he was the bearer of bad news.
Usually Mr. Patterson's face was as broad and beaming as a harvest
moon. Now his expression was very melancholy and his voice positively
"Good morning," returned Miss Rosetta, crisply and cheerfully.
She, at any rate, would not go into eclipse until she knew the reason
therefor. "It is a fine day."
"A very fine day," assented Mr. Patterson, solemnly. "I have just
come from the Wheeler place, Miss Ellis, and I regret to say—"
"Charlotte is sick!" cried Miss Rosetta, rapidly. "Charlotte has
got another spell with her heart! I knew it! I've been expecting to
hear it! Any woman that drives about the country as much as she does
is liable to heart disease at any moment. I never go outside of
my gate but I meet her gadding off somewhere. Goodness knows who looks
after her place. I shouldn't like to trust as much to a hired man as
she does. Well, it is very kind of you, Mr. Patterson, to put
yourself out to the extent of calling to tell me that Charlotte is
sick, but I don't really see why you should take so much trouble—I
really don't. It doesn't matter to me whether Charlotte is sick or
whether she isn't. YOU know that perfectly well, Mr. Patterson, if
anybody does. When Charlotte went and got married, on the sly, to
that good-for-nothing Jacob Wheeler—"
"Mrs. Wheeler is quite well," interrupted Mr. Patterson
desperately. "Quite well. Nothing at all the matter with her, in
fact. I only—"
"Then what do you mean by coming here and telling me she wasn't,
and frightening me half to death?" demanded Miss Rosetta,
indignantly. "My own heart isn't very strong—it runs in our
family—and my doctor warned me to avoid all shocks and excitement.
I don't want to be excited, Mr. Patterson. I won't be excited, not
even if Charlotte has another spell. It's perfectly useless for you
to try to excite me, Mr. Patterson."
"Bless the woman, I'm not trying to excite anybody!" declared Mr.
Patterson in exasperation. "I merely called to tell you—"
"To tell me WHAT?" said Miss Rosetta. "How much longer do you
mean to keep me in suspense, Mr. Patterson. No doubt you have
abundance of spare time, but—I—have NOT."
"—that your sister, Mrs. Wheeler, has had a letter from a cousin
of yours, and she's in Charlottetown. Mrs. Roberts, I think her name
"Jane Roberts," broke in Miss Rosetta. "Jane Ellis she was,
before she was married. What was she writing to Charlotte about? Not
that I want to know, of course. I'm not interested in Charlotte's
correspondence, goodness knows. But if Jane had anything in
particular to write about she should have written to ME. I am the
oldest. Charlotte had no business to get a letter from Jane Roberts
without consulting me. It's just like her underhanded ways. She got
married the same way. Never said a word to me about it, but just
sneaked off with that unprincipled Jacob Wheeler—"
"Mrs. Roberts is very ill. I understand," persisted Mr. Patterson,
nobly resolved to do what he had come to do, "dying, in fact, and—"
"Jane ill! Jane dying!" exclaimed Miss Rosetta. "Why, she was
the healthiest girl I ever knew! But then I've never seen her, nor
heard from her, since she got married fifteen years ago. I dare say
her husband was a brute and neglected her, and she's pined away by
slow degrees. I've no faith in husbands. Look at Charlotte!
Everybody knows how Jacob Wheeler used her. To be sure, she deserved
"Mrs. Roberts' husband is dead," said Mr. Patterson. "Died about
two months ago, I understand, and she has a little baby six months
old, and she thought perhaps Mrs. Wheeler would take it for old times'
"Did Charlotte ask you to call and tell me this?" demanded Miss
"No; she just told me what was in the letter. She didn't mention
you; but I thought, perhaps, you ought to be told—"
"I knew it," said Miss Rosetta in a tone of bitter assurance. "I
could have told you so. Charlotte wouldn't even let me know that
Jane was ill. Charlotte would be afraid I would want to get the
baby, seeing that Jane and I were such intimate friends long ago. And
who has a better right to it than me, I should like to know? Ain't I
the oldest? And haven't I had experience in bringing up babies?
Charlotte needn't think she is going to run the affairs of our family
just because she happened to get married. Jacob Wheeler—"
"I must be going," said Mr. Patterson, gathering up his reins
"I am much obliged to you for coming to tell me about Jane," said
Miss Rosetta, "even though you have wasted a lot of precious time
getting it out. If it hadn't been for you I suppose I should never
have known it at all. As it is, I shall start for town just as soon
as I can get ready."
"You'll have to hurry if you want to get ahead of Mrs. Wheeler,"
advised Mr. Patterson. "She's packing her trunk and going on the
"I'll pack a valise and go on the afternoon train," retorted Miss
Rosetta triumphantly. "I'll show Charlotte she isn't running the
Ellis affairs. She married out of them into the Wheelers. She can
attend to them. Jacob Wheeler was the most—"
But Mr. Patterson had driven away. He felt that he had done his
duty in the face of fearful odds, and he did not want to hear
anything more about Jacob Wheeler.
Rosetta Ellis and Charlotte Wheeler had not exchanged a word for
ten years. Before that time they had been devoted to each other,
living together in the little Ellis cottage on the White Sands road,
as they had done ever since their parents' death. The trouble began
when Jacob Wheeler had commenced to pay attention to Charlotte, the
younger and prettier of two women who had both ceased to be either
very young or very pretty. Rosetta had been bitterly opposed to the
match from the first. She vowed she had no use for Jacob Wheeler.
There were not lacking malicious people to hint that this was because
the aforesaid Jacob Wheeler had selected the wrong sister upon whom to
bestow his affections. Be that as it might, Miss Rosetta certainly
continued to render the course of Jacob Wheeler's true love
exceedingly rough and tumultuous. The end of it was that Charlotte
had gone quietly away one morning and married Jacob Wheeler without
Miss Rosetta's knowing anything about it. Miss Rosetta had never
forgiven her for it, and Charlotte had never forgiven the things
Rosetta had said to her when she and Jacob returned to the Ellis
cottage. Since then the sisters had been avowed and open foes, the
only difference being that Miss Rosetta aired her grievances publicly,
in season and out of season, while Charlotte was never heard to
mention Rosetta's name. Even the death of Jacob Wheeler, five years
after the marriage, had not healed the breach.
Miss Rosetta took out her curl-papers, packed her valise, and
caught the late afternoon train for Charlottetown, as she had
threatened. All the way there she sat rigidly upright in her seat
and held imaginary dialogues with Charlotte in her mind, running
something like this on her part:—
"No, Charlotte Wheeler, you are not going to have Jane's baby, and
you're very much mistaken if you think so. Oh, all right—we'll see!
You don't know anything about babies, even if you are married. I do.
Didn't I take William Ellis's baby, when his wife died? Tell me
that, Charlotte Wheeler! And didn't the little thing thrive with me,
and grow strong and healthy? Yes, even you have to admit that it did,
Charlotte Wheeler. And yet you have the presumption to think that you
ought to have Jane's baby! Yes, it is presumption, Charlotte Wheeler.
And when William Ellis got married again, and took the baby, didn't
the child cling to me and cry as if I was its real mother? You know
it did, Charlotte Wheeler. I'm going to get and keep Jane's baby in
spite of you, Charlotte Wheeler, and I'd like to see you try to
prevent me—you that went and got married and never so much as let
your own sister know of it! If I had got married in such a fashion,
Charlotte Wheeler, I'd be ashamed to look anybody in the face for the
rest of my natural life!"
Miss Rosetta was so interested in thus laying down the law to
Charlotte, and in planning out the future life of Jane's baby, that
she didn't find the journey to Charlottetown so long or tedious as
might have been expected, considering her haste. She soon found her
way to the house where her cousin lived. There, to her dismay and
real sorrow, she learned that Mrs. Roberts had died at four o'clock
"She seemed dreadful anxious to live until she heard from some of
her folks out in Avonlea," said the woman who gave Miss Rosetta the
information. "She had written to them about her little girl. She was
my sister-in-law, and she lived with me ever since her husband died.
I've done my best for her; but I've a big family of my own and I
can't see how I'm to keep the child. Poor Jane looked and longed for
some one to come from Avonlea, but she couldn't hold out. A patient,
suffering creature she was!"
"I'm her cousin," said Miss Rosetta, wiping her eyes, "and I have
come for the baby. I'll take it home with me after the funeral; and,
if you please, Mrs. Gordon, let me see it right away, so it can get
accustomed to me. Poor Jane! I wish I could have got here in time to
see her, she and I were such friends long ago. We were far more
intimate and confidential than ever her and Charlotte was. Charlotte
knows that, too!"
The vim with which Miss Rosetta snapped this out rather amazed
Mrs. Gordon, who couldn't understand it at all. But she took Miss
Rosetta upstairs to the room where the baby was sleeping.
"Oh, the little darling," cried Miss Rosetta, all her old
maidishness and oddity falling away from her like a garment, and all
her innate and denied motherhood shining out in her face like a
transforming illumination. "Oh, the sweet, dear, pretty little
The baby was a darling—a six-months' old beauty with little
golden ringlets curling and glistening all over its tiny head. As
Miss Rosetta hung over it, it opened its eyes and then held out its
tiny hands to her with a gurgle of confidence.
"Oh, you sweetest!" said Miss Rosetta rapturously, gathering it up
in her arms. "You belong to me, darling—never, never, to that
under-handed Charlotte! What is its name, Mrs. Gordon?"
"It wasn't named," said Mrs. Gordon. "Guess you'll have to name
it yourself, Miss Ellis."
"Camilla Jane," said Miss Rosetta without a moment's hesitation.
"Jane after its mother, of course; and I have always thought Camilla
the prettiest name in the world. Charlotte would be sure to give it
some perfectly heathenish name. I wouldn't put it past her calling
the poor innocent Mehitable."
Miss Rosetta decided to stay in Charlottetown until after the
funeral. That night she lay with the baby on her arm, listening with
joy to its soft little breathing. She did not sleep or wish to sleep.
Her waking fancies were more alluring than any visions of dreamland.
Moreover, she gave a spice to them by occasionally snapping some
vicious sentences out loud at Charlotte.
Miss Rosetta fully expected Charlotte along on the following
morning and girded herself for the fray; but no Charlotte appeared.
Night came; no Charlotte. Another morning and no Charlotte. Miss
Rosetta was hopelessly puzzled. What had happened? Dear, dear, had
Charlotte taken a bad heart spell, on hearing that she, Rosetta, had
stolen a march on her to Charlottetown? It was quite likely. You
never knew what to expect of a woman who had married Jacob Wheeler!
The truth was, that the very evening Miss Rosetta had left Avonlea
Mrs. Jacob Wheeler's hired man had broken his leg and had had to be
conveyed to his distant home on a feather bed in an express wagon.
Mrs. Wheeler could not leave home until she had obtained another
hired man. Consequently, it was the evening after the funeral when
Mrs. Wheeler whisked up the steps of the Gordon house and met Miss
Rosetta coming out with a big white bundle in her arms.
The eyes of the two women met defiantly. Miss Rosetta's face wore
an air of triumph, chastened by a remembrance of the funeral that
afternoon. Mrs. Wheeler's face, except for eyes, was as
expressionless as it usually was. Unlike the tall, fair, fat Miss
Rosetta, Mrs. Wheeler was small and dark and thin, with an eager,
"How is Jane?" she said abruptly, breaking the silence of ten
years in saying it.
"Jane is dead and buried, poor thing," said Miss Rosetta calmly.
"I am taking her baby, little Camilla Jane, home with me."
"The baby belongs to me," cried Mrs. Wheeler passionately. "Jane
wrote to me about her. Jane meant that I should have her. I've come
"You'll go back without her then," said Miss Rosetta, serene in
the possession that is nine points of the law. "The child is mine,
and she is going to stay mine. You can make up your mind to that,
Charlotte Wheeler. A woman who eloped to get married isn't fit to be
trusted with a baby, anyhow. Jacob Wheeler—"
But Mrs. Wheeler had rushed past into the house. Miss Rosetta
composedly stepped into the cab and drove to the station. She fairly
bridled with triumph; and underneath the triumph ran a queer
undercurrent of satisfaction over the fact that Charlotte had spoken
to her at last. Miss Rosetta would not look at this satisfaction, or
give it a name, but it was there.
Miss Rosetta arrived safely back in Avonlea with Camilla Jane and
within ten hours everybody in the settlement knew the whole story,
and every woman who could stand on her feet had been up to the Ellis
cottage to see the baby. Mrs. Wheeler arrived home twenty-four hours
later, and silently betook herself to her farm. When her Avonlea
neighbors sympathized with her in her disappointment, she said
nothing, but looked all the more darkly determined. Also, a week
later, Mr. William J. Blair, the Carmody storekeeper, had an odd tale
to tell. Mrs. Wheeler had come to the store and bought a lot of fine
flannel and muslin and valenciennes. Now, what in the name of time,
did Mrs. Wheeler want with such stuff? Mr. William J. Blair couldn't
make head or tail of it, and it worried him. Mr. Blair was so
accustomed to know what everybody bought anything for that such a
mystery quite upset him.
Miss Rosetta had exulted in the possession of little Camilla Jane
for a month, and had been so happy that she had almost given up
inveighing against Charlotte. Her conversations, instead of tending
always to Jacob Wheeler, now ran Camilla Janeward; and this, folks
thought, was an improvement.
One afternoon, Miss Rosetta, leaving Camilla Jane snugly sleeping
in her cradle in the kitchen, had slipped down to the bottom of the
garden to pick her currants. The house was hidden from her sight by
the copse of cherry trees, but she had left the kitchen window open,
so that she could hear the baby if it awakened and cried. Miss
Rosetta sang happily as she picked her currants. For the first time
since Charlotte had married Jacob Wheeler Miss Rosetta felt really
happy—so happy that at there was no room in her heart for bitterness.
In fancy she looked forward to the coming years, and saw Camilla Jane
growing up into girlhood, fair and lovable.
"She'll be a beauty," reflected Miss Rosetta complacently. "Jane
was a handsome girl. She shall always be dressed as nice as I can
manage it, and I'll get her an organ, and have her take painting and
music lessons. Parties, too! I'll give her a real coming-out party
when she's eighteen and the very prettiest dress that's to be had.
Dear me, I can hardly wait for her to grow up, though she's sweet
enough now to make one wish she could stay a baby forever."
When Miss Rosetta returned to the kitchen, her eyes fell on an
empty cradle. Camilla Jane was gone!
Miss Rosetta promptly screamed. She understood at a glance what
had happened. Six months' old babies do not get out of their cradles
and disappear through closed doors without any assistance.
"Charlotte has been here," gasped Miss Rosetta. "Charlotte has
stolen Camilla Jane! I might have expected it. I might have known
when I heard that story about her buying muslin and flannel. It's
just like Charlotte to do such an underhand trick. But I'll go after
her! I'll show her! She'll find out she has got Rosetta Ellis to
deal with and no Wheeler!"
Like a frantic creature and wholly forgetting that her hair was in
curl-papers, Miss Rosetta hurried up the hill and down the shore road
to the Wheeler Farm—a place she had never visited in her life before.
The wind was off-shore and only broke the bay's surface into long
silvery ripples, and sent sheeny shadows flying out across it from
every point and headland, like transparent wings.
The little gray house, so close to the purring waves that in
storms their spray splashed over its very doorstep, seemed deserted.
Miss Rosetta pounded lustily on the front door. This producing no
result, she marched around to the back door and knocked. No answer.
Miss Rosetta tried the door. It was locked.
"Guilty conscience," sniffed Miss Rosetta. "Well, I shall stay
here until I see that perfidious Charlotte, if I have to camp in the
yard all night."
Miss Rosetta was quite capable of doing this, but she was spared
the necessity; walking boldly up to the kitchen window, and peering
through it, she felt her heart swell with anger as she beheld
Charlotte sitting calmly by the table with Camilla Jane on her knee.
Beside her was a befrilled and bemuslined cradle, and on a chair lay
the garments in which Miss Rosetta had dressed the baby. It was clad
in an entirely new outfit, and seemed quite at home with its new
possessor. It was laughing and cooing, and making little dabs at her
with its dimpled hands.
"Charlotte Wheeler," cried Miss Rosetta, rapping sharply on the
window-pane. "I've come for that child! Bring her out to me at
once—at once, I say! How dare you come to my house and steal a
baby? You're no better than a common burglar. Give me Camilla Jane,
Charlotte came over to the window with the baby in her arms and
triumph glittering in her eyes.
"There is no such child as Camilla Jane here," she said. "This is
Barbara Jane. She belongs to me."
With that Mrs. Wheeler pulled down the shade.
Miss Rosetta had to go home. There was nothing else for her to
do. On her way she met Mr. Patterson and told him in full the story
of her wrongs. It was all over Avonlea by night, and created quite a
sensation. Avonlea had not had such a toothsome bit of gossip for a
Mrs. Wheeler exulted in the possession of Barbara Jane for six
weeks, during which Miss Rosetta broke her heart with loneliness and
longing, and meditated futile plots for the recovery of the baby. It
was hopeless to think of stealing it back or she would have tried to.
The hired man at the Wheeler place reported that Mrs. Wheeler never
left it night or day for a single moment. She even carried it with
her when she went to milk the cows.
"But my turn will come," said Miss Rosetta grimly. "Camilla Jane
is mine, and if she was called Barbara for a century it wouldn't
alter that fact! Barbara, indeed! Why not have called her
Methusaleh and have done with it?"
One afternoon in October, when Miss Rosetta was picking her apples
and thinking drearily about lost Camilla Jane, a woman came running
breathlessly down the hill and into the yard. Miss Rosetta gave an
exclamation of amazement and dropped her basket of apples. Of all
incredible things! The woman was Charlotte— Charlotte who had never
set foot on the grounds of the Ellis cottage since her marriage ten
years ago, Charlotte, bare-headed, wild-eyed, distraught, wringing her
hands and sobbing.
Miss Rosetta flew to meet her.
"You've scalded Camilla Jane to death!" she exclaimed. "I always
knew you would—always expected it!"
"Oh, for heaven's sake, come quick, Rosetta!" gasped Charlotte.
"Barbara Jane is in convulsions and I don't know what to do. The
hired man has gone for the doctor. You were the nearest, so I came
to you. Jenny White was there when they came on, so I left her and
ran. Oh, Rosetta, come, come, if you have a spark of humanity in you!
You know what to do for convulsions—you saved the Ellis baby when it
had them. Oh, come and save Barbara Jane!"
"You mean Camilla Jane, I presume?" said Miss Rosetta firmly, in
spite of her agitation.
For a second Charlotte Wheeler hesitated. Then she said
passionately: "Yes, yes, Camilla Jane—any name you like! Only
Miss Rosetta went, and not a moment too soon, either. The doctor
lived eight miles away and the baby was very bad. The two women and
Jenny White worked over her for hours. It was not until dark, when
the baby was sleeping soundly and the doctor had gone, after telling
Miss Rosetta that she had saved the child's life, that a realization
of the situation came home to them.
"Well," said Miss Rosetta, dropping into an armchair with a long
sigh of weariness, "I guess you'll admit now, Charlotte Wheeler, that
you are hardly a fit person to have charge of a baby, even if you had
to go and steal it from me. I should think your conscience would
reproach you—that is, if any woman who would marry Jacob Wheeler in
such an underhanded fashion has a—"
"I—I wanted the baby," sobbed Charlotte, tremulously. "I was so
lonely here. I didn't think it was any harm to take her, because
Jane gave her to me in her letter. But you have saved her life,
Rosetta, and you—you can have her back, although it will break my
heart to give her up. But, oh, Rosetta, won't you let me come and see
her sometimes? I love her so I can't bear to give her up entirely."
"Charlotte," said Miss Rosetta firmly, "the most sensible thing
for you to do is just to come back with the baby. You are worried to
death trying to run this farm with the debt Jacob Wheeler left on it
for you. Sell it, and come home with me. And we'll both have the
"Oh, Rosetta, I'd love to," faltered Charlotte. "I've—I've
wanted to be good friends with you again so much. But I thought you
were so hard and bitter you'd never make up."
"Maybe I've talked too much," conceded Miss Rosetta, "but you
ought to know me well enough to know I didn't mean a word of it. It
was your never saying anything, no matter what I said, that riled me
up so bad. Let bygones be bygones, and come home, Charlotte."
"I will," said Charlotte resolutely, wiping away her tears. "I'm
sick of living here and putting up with hired men. I'll be real glad
to go home, Rosetta, and that's the truth. I've had a hard enough
time. I s'pose you'll say I deserved it; but I was fond of Jacob,
"Of course, of course. Why shouldn't you be?" said Miss Rosetta
briskly. "I'm sure Jacob Wheeler was a good enough soul, if he was a
little slack-twisted. I'd like to hear anybody say a word against him
in my presence. Look at that blessed child, Charlotte. Isn't she the
sweetest thing? I'm desperate glad you are coming back home,
Charlotte. I've never been able to put up a decent mess of mustard
pickles since you went away, and you were always such a hand with
them! We'll be real snug and cozy again—you and me and little
Camilla Barbara Jane."
V. THE DREAM-CHILD
A man's heart—aye, and a woman's, too—should be light in the
spring. The spirit of resurrection is abroad, calling the life of
the world out of its wintry grave, knocking with radiant fingers at
the gates of its tomb. It stirs in human hearts, and makes them glad
with the old primal gladness they felt in childhood. It quickens
human souls, and brings them, if so they will, so close to God that
they may clasp hands with Him. It is a time of wonder and renewed
life, and a great outward and inward rapture, as of a young angel
softly clapping his hands for creation's joy. At least, so it should
be; and so it always had been with me until the spring when the
dream-child first came into our lives.
That year I hated the spring—I, who had always loved it so. As
boy I had loved it, and as man. All the happiness that had ever been
mine, and it was much, had come to blossom in the springtime. It was
in the spring that Josephine and I had first loved each other, or, at
least, had first come into the full knowledge that we loved. I think
that we must have loved each other all our lives, and that each
succeeding spring was a word in the revelation of that love, not to be
understood until, in the fullness of time, the whole sentence was
written out in that most beautiful of all beautiful springs.
How beautiful it was! And how beautiful she was! I suppose every
lover thinks that of his lass; otherwise he is a poor sort of lover.
But it was not only my eyes of love that made my dear lovely. She was
slim and lithe as a young, white-stemmed birch tree; her hair was like
a soft, dusky cloud; and her eyes were as blue as Avonlea harbor on a
fair twilight, when all the sky is abloom over it. She had dark
lashes, and a little red mouth that quivered when she was very sad or
very happy, or when she loved very much—quivered like a crimson rose
too rudely shaken by the wind. At such times what was a man to do
save kiss it?
The next spring we were married, and I brought her home to my gray
old homestead on the gray old harbor shore. A lonely place for a
young bride, said Avonlea people. Nay, it was not so. She was happy
here, even in my absences. She loved the great, restless harbor and
the vast, misty sea beyond; she loved the tides, keeping their
world-old tryst with the shore, and the gulls, and the croon of the
waves, and the call of the winds in the fir woods at noon and even;
she loved the moonrises and the sunsets, and the clear, calm nights
when the stars seemed to have fallen into the water and to be a little
dizzy from such a fall. She loved these things, even as I did. No,
she was never lonely here then.
The third spring came, and our boy was born. We thought we had
been happy before; now we knew that we had only dreamed a pleasant
dream of happiness, and had awakened to this exquisite reality. We
thought we had loved each other before; now, as I looked into my
wife's pale face, blanched with its baptism of pain, and met the
uplifted gaze of her blue eyes, aglow with the holy passion of
motherhood, I knew we had only imagined what love might be. The
imagination had been sweet, as the thought of the rose is sweet before
the bud is open; but as the rose to the thought, so was love to the
imagination of it.
"All my thoughts are poetry since baby came," my wife said once,
Our boy lived for twenty months. He was a sturdy, toddling rogue,
so full of life and laughter and mischief that, when he died, one day,
after the illness of an hour, it seemed a most absurd thing that he
should be dead—a thing I could have laughed at, until belief forced
itself into my soul like a burning, searing iron.
I think I grieved over my little son's death as deeply and
sincerely as ever man did, or could. But the heart of the father is
not as the heart of the mother. Time brought no healing to Josephine;
she fretted and pined; her cheeks lost their pretty oval, and her red
mouth grew pale and drooping.
I hoped that spring might work its miracle upon her. When the
buds swelled, and the old earth grew green in the sun, and the gulls
came back to the gray harbor, whose very grayness grew golden and
mellow, I thought I should see her smile again. But, when the spring
came, came the dream-child, and the fear that was to be my companion,
at bed and board, from sunsetting to sunsetting.
One night I awakened from sleep, realizing in the moment of
awakening that I was alone. I listened to hear whether my wife were
moving about the house. I heard nothing but the little splash of
waves on the shore below and the low moan of the distant ocean.
I rose and searched the house. She was not in it. I did not know
where to seek her; but, at a venture, I started along the shore.
It was pale, fainting moonlight. The harbor looked like a phantom
harbor, and the night was as still and cold and calm as the face of a
dead man. At last I saw my wife coming to me along the shore. When I
saw her, I knew what I had feared and how great my fear had been.
As she drew near, I saw that she had been crying; her face was
stained with tears, and her dark hair hung loose over her shoulders
in little, glossy ringlets like a child's. She seemed to be very
tired, and at intervals she wrung her small hands together.
She showed no surprise when she met me, but only held out her
hands to me as if glad to see me.
"I followed him—but I could not overtake him," she said with a
sob. "I did my best—I hurried so; but he was always a little way
ahead. And then I lost him—and so I came back. But I did my
best—indeed I did. And oh, I am so tired!"
"Josie, dearest, what do you mean, and where have you been?" I
said, drawing her close to me. "Why did you go out so—alone in the
She looked at me wonderingly.
"How could I help it, David? He called me. I had to go."
"WHO called you?"
"The child," she answered in a whisper. "Our child, David—our
pretty boy. I awakened in the darkness and heard him calling to me
down on the shore. Such a sad, little wailing cry, David, as if he
were cold and lonely and wanted his mother. I hurried out to him, but
I could not find him. I could only hear the call, and I followed it
on and on, far down the shore. Oh, I tried so hard to overtake it,
but I could not. Once I saw a little white hand beckoning to me far
ahead in the moonlight. But still I could not go fast enough. And
then the cry ceased, and I was there all alone on that terrible, cold,
gray shore. I was so tired and I came home. But I wish I could have
found him. Perhaps he does not know that I tried to. Perhaps he
thinks his mother never listened to his call. Oh, I would not have
him think that."
"You have had a bad dream, dear," I said. I tried to say it
naturally; but it is hard for a man to speak naturally when he feels
a mortal dread striking into his very vitals with its deadly chill.
"It was no dream," she answered reproachfully. "I tell you I
heard him calling me—me, his mother. What could I do but go to him?
You cannot understand—you are only his father. It was not you who
gave him birth. It was not you who paid the price of his dear life in
pain. He would not call to you—he wanted his mother."
I got her back to the house and to her bed, whither she went
obediently enough, and soon fell into the sleep of exhaustion. But
there was no more sleep for me that night. I kept a grim vigil with
When I had married Josephine, one of those officious relatives
that are apt to buzz about a man's marriage told me that her
grandmother had been insane all the latter part of her life. She had
grieved over the death of a favorite child until she lost her mind,
and, as the first indication of it, she had sought by nights a white
dream-child which always called her, so she said, and led her afar
with a little, pale, beckoning hand.
I had smiled at the story then. What had that grim old bygone to
do with springtime and love and Josephine? But it came back to me
now, hand in hand with my fear. Was this fate coming on my dear wife?
It was too horrible for belief. She was so young, so fair, so sweet,
this girl-wife of mine. It had been only a bad dream, with a
frightened, bewildered waking. So I tried to comfort myself.
When she awakened in the morning she did not speak of what had
happened and I did not dare to. She seemed more cheerful that day
than she had been, and went about her household duties briskly and
skillfully. My fear lifted. I was sure now that she had only
dreamed. And I was confirmed in my hopeful belief when two nights had
passed away uneventfully.
Then, on the third night, he dream-child called to her again. I
wakened from a troubled doze to find her dressing herself with
"He is calling me," she cried. "Oh, don't you hear him? Can't
you hear him? Listen—listen—the little, lonely cry! Yes, yes, my
precious, mother is coming. Wait for me. Mother is coming to her
I caught her hand and let her lead me where she would. Hand in
hand we followed the dream-child down the harbor shore in that
ghostly, clouded moonlight. Ever, she said, the little cry sounded
before her. She entreated the dream-child to wait for her; she cried
and implored and uttered tender mother-talk. But, at last, she ceased
to hear the cry; and then, weeping, wearied, she let me lead her home
What a horror brooded over that spring—that so beautiful spring!
It was a time of wonder and marvel; of the soft touch of silver rain
on greening fields; of the incredible delicacy of young leaves; of
blossom on the land and blossom in the sunset. The whole world
bloomed in a flush and tremor of maiden loveliness, instinct with all
the evasive, fleeting charm of spring and girlhood and young morning.
And almost every night of this wonderful time the dream-child called
his mother, and we roved the gray shore in quest of him.
In the day she was herself; but, when the night fell, she was
restless and uneasy until she heard the call. Then follow it she
would, even through storm and darkness. It was then, she said, that
the cry sounded loudest and nearest, as if her pretty boy were
frightened by the tempest. What wild, terrible rovings we had, she
straining forward, eager to overtake the dream-child; I, sick at
heart, following, guiding, protecting, as best I could; then
afterwards leading her gently home, heart-broken because she could not
reach the child.
I bore my burden in secret, determining that gossip should not
busy itself with my wife's condition so long as I could keep it from
becoming known. We had no near relatives—none with any right to
share any trouble—and whoso accepteth human love must bind it to his
soul with pain.
I thought, however, that I should have medical advice, and I took
our old doctor into my confidence. He looked grave when he heard my
story. I did not like his expression nor his few guarded remarks. He
said he thought human aid would avail little; she might come all right
in time; humor her, as far as possible, watch over her, protect her.
He needed not to tell me THAT.
The spring went out and summer came in—and the horror deepened
and darkened. I knew that suspicions were being whispered from lip
to lip. We had been seen on our nightly quests. Men and women began
to look at us pityingly when we went abroad.
One day, on a dull, drowsy afternoon, the dream-child called. I
knew then that the end was near; the end had been near in the old
grandmother's case sixty years before when the dream-child called in
the day. The doctor looked graver than ever when I told him, and said
that the time had come when I must have help in my task. I could not
watch by day and night. Unless I had assistance I would break down.
I did not think that I should. Love is stronger than that. And
on one thing I was determined—they should never take my wife from
me. No restraint sterner than a husband's loving hand should ever be
put upon her, my pretty, piteous darling.
I never spoke of the dream-child to her. The doctor advised
against it. It would, he said, only serve to deepen the delusion.
When he hinted at an asylum I gave him a look that would have been a
fierce word for another man. He never spoke of it again.
One night in August there was a dull, murky sunset after a dead,
breathless day of heat, with not a wind stirring. The sea was not
blue as a sea should be, but pink—all pink—a ghastly, staring,
painted pink. I lingered on the harbor shore below the house until
dark. The evening bells were ringing faintly and mournfully in a
church across the harbor. Behind me, in the kitchen, I heard my wife
singing. Sometimes now her spirits were fitfully high, and then she
would sing the old songs of her girlhood. But even in her singing was
something strange, as if a wailing, unearthly cry rang through it.
Nothing about her was sadder than that strange singing.
When I went back to the house the rain was beginning to fall; but
there was no wind or sound in the air—only that dismal stillness, as
if the world were holding its breath in expectation of a calamity.
Josie was standing by the window, looking out and listening. I
tried to induce her to go to bed, but she only shook her head.
"I might fall asleep and not hear him when he called," she said.
"I am always afraid to sleep now, for fear he should call and his
mother fail to hear him."
Knowing it was of no use to entreat, I sat down by the table and
tried to read. Three hours passed on. When the clock struck
midnight she started up, with the wild light in her sunken blue eyes.
"He is calling," she cried, "calling out there in the storm. Yes,
yes, sweet, I am coming!"
She opened the door and fled down the path to the shore. I
snatched a lantern from the wall, lighted it, and followed. It was
the blackest night I was ever out in, dark with the very darkness of
death. The rain fell thickly and heavily. I overtook Josie, caught
her hand, and stumbled along in her wake, for she went with the speed
and recklessness of a distraught woman. We moved in the little
flitting circle of light shed by the lantern. All around us and above
us was a horrible, voiceless darkness, held, as it were, at bay by the
"If I could only overtake him once," moaned Josie. "If I could
just kiss him once, and hold him close against my aching heart. This
pain, that never leaves me, would leave me than. Oh, my pretty boy,
wait for mother! I am coming to you. Listen, David; he cries—he
cries so pitifully; listen! Can't you hear it?"
I DID hear it! Clear and distinct, out of the deadly still
darkness before us, came a faint, wailing cry. What was it? Was I,
too, going mad, or WAS there something out there—something that cried
and moaned—longing for human love, yet ever retreating from human
footsteps? I am not a superstitious man; but my nerve had been shaken
by my long trial, and I was weaker than I thought. Terror took
possession of me—terror unnameable. I trembled in every limb; clammy
perspiration oozed from my forehead; I was possessed by a wild impulse
to turn and flee— anywhere, away from that unearthly cry. But
Josephine's cold hand gripped mine firmly, and led me on. That
strange cry still rang in my ears. But it did not recede; it sounded
clearer and stronger; it was a wail; but a loud, insistent wail; it
was nearer—nearer; it was in the darkness just beyond us.
Then we came to it; a little dory had been beached on the pebbles
and left there by the receding tide. There was a child in it—a boy,
of perhaps two years old, who crouched in the bottom of the dory in
water to his waist, his big, blue eyes wild and wide with terror, his
face white and tear-stained. He wailed again when he saw us, and held
out his little hands.
My horror fell away from me like a discarded garment. THIS child
was living. How he had come there, whence and why, I did not know
and, in my state of mind, did not question. It was no cry of parted
spirit I had heard—that was enough for me.
"Oh, the poor darling!" cried my wife.
She stooped over the dory and lifted the baby in her arms. His
long, fair curls fell on her shoulder; she laid her face against his
and wrapped her shawl around him.
"Let me carry him, dear," I said. "He is very wet, and too heavy
"No, no, I must carry him. My arms have been so empty—they are
full now. Oh, David, the pain at my heart has gone. He has come to
me to take the place of my own. God has sent him to me out of the
sea. He is wet and cold and tired. Hush, sweet one, we will go
Silently I followed her home. The wind was rising, coming in
sudden, angry gusts; the storm was at hand, but we reached shelter
before it broke. Just as I shut our door behind us it smote the house
with the roar of a baffled beast. I thanked God that we were not out
in it, following the dream-child.
"You are very wet, Josie," I said. "Go and put on dry clothes at
"The child must be looked to first," she said firmly. "See how
chilled and exhausted he is, the pretty dear. Light a fire quickly,
David, while I get dry things for him."
I let her have her way. She brought out the clothes our own child
had worn and dressed the waif in them, rubbing his chilled limbs,
brushing his wet hair, laughing over him, mothering him. She seemed
like her old self.
For my own part, I was bewildered. All the questions I had not
asked before came crowding to my mind how. Whose child was this?
Whence had he come? What was the meaning of it all?
He was a pretty baby, fair and plump and rosy. When he was dried
and fed, he fell asleep in Josie's arms. She hung over him in a
passion of delight. It was with difficulty I persuaded her to leave
him long enough to change her wet clothes. She never asked whose he
might be or from where he might have come. He had been sent to her
from the sea; the dream-child had led her to him; that was what she
believed, and I dared not throw any doubt on that belief. She slept
that night with the baby on her arm, and in her sleep her face was the
face of a girl in her youth, untroubled and unworn.
I expected that the morrow would bring some one seeking the baby.
I had come to the conclusion that he must belong to the "Cove" across
the harbor, where the fishing hamlet was; and all day, while Josie
laughed and played with him, I waited and listened for the footsteps
of those who would come seeking him. But they did not come. Day
after day passed, and still they did not come.
I was in a maze of perplexity. What should I do? I shrank from
the thought of the boy being taken away from us. Since we had found
him the dream-child had never called. My wife seemed to have turned
back from the dark borderland, where her feet had strayed to walk
again with me in our own homely paths. Day and night she was her old,
bright self, happy and serene in the new motherhood that had come to
her. The only thing strange in her was her calm acceptance of the
event. She never wondered who or whose the child might be—never
seemed to fear that he would be taken from her; and she gave him our
At last, when a full week had passed, I went, in my bewilderment,
to our old doctor.
"A most extraordinary thing," he said thoughtfully. "The child,
as you say, must belong to the Spruce Cove people. Yet it is an
almost unbelievable thing that there has been no search or inquiry
after him. Probably there is some simple explanation of the mystery,
however. I advise you to go over to the Cove and inquire. When you
find the parents or guardians of the child, ask them to allow you to
keep it for a time. It may prove your wife's salvation. I have known
such cases. Evidently on that night the crisis of her mental disorder
was reached. A little thing might have sufficed to turn her feet
either way—back to reason and sanity, or into deeper darkness. It is
my belief that the former has occurred, and that, if she is left in
undisturbed possession of this child for a time, she will recover
I drove around the harbor that day with a lighter heart than I had
hoped ever to possess again. When I reached Spruce Cove the first
person I met was old Abel Blair. I asked him if any child were
missing from the Cove or along shore. He looked at me in surprise,
shook his head, and said he had not heard of any. I told him as much
of the tale as was necessary, leaving him to think that my wife and I
had found the dory and its small passenger during an ordinary walk
along the shore.
"A green dory!" he exclaimed. "Ben Forbes' old green dory has
been missing for a week, but it was so rotten and leaky he didn't
bother looking for it. But this child, sir—it beats me. What might
he be like?"
I described the child as closely as possible.
"That fits little Harry Martin to a hair," said old Abel,
perplexedly, "but, sir, it can't be. Or, if it is, there's been foul
work somewhere. James Martin's wife died last winter, sir, and he
died the next month. They left a baby and not much else. There
weren't nobody to take the child but Jim's half-sister, Maggie
Fleming. She lived here at the Cove, and, I'm sorry to say, sir, she
hadn't too good a name. She didn't want to be bothered with the baby,
and folks say she neglected him scandalous. Well, last spring she
begun talking of going away to the States. She said a friend of hers
had got her a good place in Boston, and she was going to go and take
little Harry. We supposed it was all right. Last Saturday she went,
sir. She was going to walk to the station, and the last seen of her
she was trudging along the road, carrying the baby. It hasn't been
thought of since. But, sir, d'ye suppose she set that innocent child
adrift in that old leaky dory to send him to his death? I knew Maggie
was no better than she should be, but I can't believe she was as bad
"You must come over with me and see if you can identify the
child," I said. "If he is Harry Martin I shall keep him. My wife
has been very lonely since our baby died, and she has taken a fancy to
this little chap."
When we reached my home old Abel recognized the child as Harry
He is with us still. His baby hands led my dear wife back to
health and happiness. Other children have come to us, she loves them
all dearly; but the boy who bears her dead son's name is to her—aye,
and to me—as dear as if she had given him birth. He came from the
sea, and at his coming the ghostly dream-child fled, nevermore to lure
my wife away from me with its exciting cry. Therefore I look upon him
and love him as my first-born.
VI. THE BROTHER WHO FAILED
The Monroe family were holding a Christmas reunion at the old
Prince Edward Island homestead at White Sands. It was the first time
they had all been together under one roof since the death of their
mother, thirty years before. The idea of this Christmas reunion had
originated with Edith Monroe the preceding spring, during her tedious
convalescence from a bad attack of pneumonia among strangers in an
American city, where she had not been able to fill her concert
engagements, and had more spare time in which to feel the tug of old
ties and the homesick longing for her own people than she had had for
years. As a result, when she recovered, she wrote to her second
brother, James Monroe, who lived on the homestead; and the consequence
was this gathering of the Monroes under the old roof-tree. Ralph
Monroe for once laid aside the cares of his railroads, and the
deceitfulness of his millions, in Toronto and took the long-promised,
long-deferred trip to the homeland. Malcolm Monroe journeyed from the
far western university of which he was president. Edith came,
flushed with the triumph of her latest and most successful concert
tour. Mrs. Woodburn, who had been Margaret Monroe, came from the Nova
Scotia town where she lived a busy, happy life as the wife of a rising
young lawyer. James, prosperous and hearty, greeted them warmly at
the old homestead whose fertile acres had well repaid his skillful
They were a merry party, casting aside their cares and years, and
harking back to joyous boyhood and girlhood once more. James had a
family of rosy lads and lasses; Margaret brought her two blue-eyed
little girls; Ralph's dark, clever-looking son accompanied him, and
Malcolm brought his, a young man with a resolute face, in which there
was less of boyishness than in his father's, and the eyes of a keen,
perhaps a hard bargainer. The two cousins were the same age to a day,
and it was a family joke among the Monroes that the stork must have
mixed the babies, since Ralph's son was like Malcolm in face and
brain, while Malcolm's boy was a second edition of his uncle Ralph.
To crown all, Aunt Isabel came, too—a talkative, clever, shrewd
old lady, as young at eighty-five as she had been at thirty, thinking
the Monroe stock the best in the world, and beamingly proud of her
nephews and nieces, who had gone out from this humble, little farm to
destinies of such brilliance and influence in the world beyond.
I have forgotten Robert. Robert Monroe was apt to be forgotten.
Although he was the oldest of the family, White Sands people, in
naming over the various members of the Monroe family, would add, "and
Robert," in a tone of surprise over the remembrance of his existence.
He lived on a poor, sandy little farm down by the shore, but he
had come up to James' place on the evening when the guests arrived;
they had all greeted him warmly and joyously, and then did not think
about him again in their laughter and conversation. Robert sat back in
a corner and listened with a smile, but he never spoke. Afterwards he
had slipped noiselessly away and gone home, and nobody noticed his
going. They were all gayly busy recalling what had happened in the
old times and telling what had happened in the new.
Edith recounted the successes of her concert tours; Malcolm
expatiated proudly on his plans for developing his beloved college;
Ralph described the country through which his new railroad ran, and
the difficulties he had had to overcome in connection with it. James,
aside, discussed his orchard and his crops with Margaret, who had not
been long enough away from the farm to lose touch with its interests.
Aunt Isabel knitted and smiled complacently on all, talking now with
one, now with the other, secretly quite proud of herself that she, an
old woman of eighty-five, who had seldom been out of White Sands in
her life, could discuss high finance with Ralph, and higher education
with Malcolm, and hold her own with James in an argument on drainage.
The White Sands school teacher, an arch-eyed, red-mouthed bit a
girl—a Bell from Avonlea—who boarded with the James Monroes, amused
herself with the boys. All were enjoying themselves hugely, so it is
not to be wondered at that they did not miss Robert, who had gone home
early because his old housekeeper was nervous if left alone at night.
He came again the next afternoon. From James, in the barnyard, he
learned that Malcolm and Ralph had driven to the harbor, that Margaret
and Mrs. James had gone to call on friends in Avonlea, and that Edith
was walking somewhere in the woods on the hill. There was nobody in
the house except Aunt Isabel and the teacher.
"You'd better wait and stay the evening," said James,
indifferently. "They'll all be back soon."
Robert went across the yard and sat down on the rustic bench in
the angle of the front porch. It was a fine December evening, as
mild as autumn; there had been no snow, and the long fields, sloping
down from the homestead, were brown and mellow. A weird, dreamy
stillness had fallen upon the purple earth, the windless woods, the
rain of the valleys, the sere meadows. Nature seemed to have folded
satisfied hands to rest, knowing that her long, wintry slumber was
coming upon her. Out to sea, a dull, red sunset faded out into somber
clouds, and the ceaseless voice of many waters came up from the tawny
Robert rested his chin on his hand and looked across the vales and
hills, where the feathery gray of leafless hardwoods was mingled with
the sturdy, unfailing green of the conebearers. He was a tall, bent
man, with thin, gray hair, a lined face, and deeply-set, gentle brown
eyes—the eyes of one who, looking through pain, sees rapture beyond.
He felt very happy. He loved his family clannishly, and he was
rejoiced that they were all again near to him. He was proud of their
success and fame. He was glad that James had prospered so well of
late years. There was no canker of envy or discontent in his soul.
He heard absently indistinct voices at the open hall window above
the porch, where Aunt Isabel was talking to Kathleen Bell. Presently
Aunt Isabel moved nearer to the window, and her words came down to
Robert with startling clearness.
"Yes, I can assure you, Miss Bell, that I'm real proud of my
nephews and nieces. They're a smart family. They've almost all done
well, and they hadn't any of them much to begin with. Ralph had
absolutely nothing and to-day he is a millionaire. Their father met
with so many losses, what with his ill-health and the bank failing,
that he couldn't help them any. But they've all succeeded, except
poor Robert—and I must admit that he's a total failure."
"Oh, no, no," said the little teacher deprecatingly.
"A total failure!" Aunt Isabel repeated her words emphatically.
She was not going to be contradicted by anybody, least of all a Bell
from Avonlea. "He has been a failure since the time he was born. He
is the first Monroe to disgrace the old stock that way. I'm sure his
brothers and sisters must be dreadfully ashamed of him. He has lived
sixty years and he hasn't done a thing worth while. He can't even
make his farm pay. If he's kept out of debt it's as much as he's ever
managed to do."
"Some men can't even do that," murmured the little school teacher.
She was really so much in awe of this imperious, clever old Aunt
Isabel that it was positive heroism on her part to venture even this
"More is expected of a Monroe," said Aunt Isabel majestically.
"Robert Monroe is a failure, and that is the only name for him."
Robert Monroe stood up below the window in a dizzy, uncertain
fashion. Aunt Isabel had been speaking of him! He, Robert, was a
failure, a disgrace to his blood, of whom his nearest and dearest were
ashamed! Yes, it was true; he had never realized it before; he had
known that he could never win power or accumulate riches, but he had
not thought that mattered much. Now, through Aunt Isabel's scornful
eyes, he saw himself as the world saw him—as his brothers and sisters
must see him. THERE lay the sting. What the world thought of him did
not matter; but that his own should think him a failure and disgrace
was agony. He moaned as he started to walk across the yard, only
anxious to hide his pain and shame away from all human sight, and in
his eyes was the look of a gentle animal which had been stricken by a
cruel and unexpected blow.
Edith Monroe, who, unaware of Robert's proximity, had been
standing on the other side of the porch, saw that look, as he hurried
past her, unseeing. A moment before her dark eyes had been flashing
with anger at Aunt Isabel's words; now the anger was drowned in a
sudden rush of tears.
She took a quick step after Robert, but checked the impulse. Not
then—and not by her alone—could that deadly hurt be healed. Nay,
more, Robert must never suspect that she knew of any hurt. She stood
and watched him through her tears as he went away across the low-lying
shore fields to hide his broken heart under his own humble roof. She
yearned to hurry after him and comfort him, but she knew that comfort
was not what Robert needed now. Justice, and justice only, could pluck
out the sting, which otherwise must rankle to the death.
Ralph and Malcolm were driving into the yard. Edith went over to
"Boys," she said resolutely, "I want to have a talk with you."
The Christmas dinner at the old homestead was a merry one. Mrs.
James spread a feast that was fit for the halls of Lucullus.
Laughter, jest, and repartee flew from lip to lip. Nobody appeared
to notice that Robert ate little, said nothing, and sat with his form
shrinking in his shabby "best" suit, his gray head bent even lower
than usual, as if desirous of avoiding all observation. When the
others spoke to him he answered deprecatingly, and shrank still
further into himself.
Finally all had eaten all they could, and the remainder of the
plum pudding was carried out. Robert gave a low sigh of relief. It
was almost over. Soon he would be able to escape and hide himself and
his shame away from the mirthful eyes of these men and women who had
earned the right to laugh at the world in which their success gave
them power and influence. He—he—only—was a failure.
He wondered impatiently why Mrs. James did not rise. Mrs. James
merely leaned comfortably back in her chair, with the righteous
expression of one who has done her duty by her fellow creatures'
palates, and looked at Malcolm.
Malcolm rose in his place. Silence fell on the company; everybody
looked suddenly alert and expectant, except Robert. He still sat with
bowed head, wrapped in his own bitterness.
"I have been told that I must lead off," said Malcolm, "because I
am supposed to possess the gift of gab. But, if I do, I am not going
to use it for any rhetorical effect to-day. Simple, earnest words
must express the deepest feelings of the heart in doing justice to its
own. Brothers and sisters, we meet to-day under our own roof-tree,
surrounded by the benedictions of the past years. Perhaps invisible
guests are here—the spirits of those who founded this home and whose
work on earth has long been finished. It is not amiss to hope that
this is so and our family circle made indeed complete. To each one of
us who are here in visible bodily presence some measure of success has
fallen; but only one of us has been supremely successful in the only
things that really count—the things that count for eternity as well
as time—sympathy and unselfishness and self-sacrifice.
"I shall tell you my own story for the benefit of those who have
not heard it. When I was a lad of sixteen I started to work out my
own education. Some of you will remember that old Mr. Blair of
Avonlea offered me a place in his store for the summer, at wages which
would go far towards paying my expenses at the country academy the
next winter. I went to work, eager and hopeful. All summer I tried
to do my faithful best for my employer. In September the blow fell.
A sum of money was missing from Mr. Blair's till. I was suspected
and discharged in disgrace. All my neighbors believed me guilty; even
some of my own family looked upon me with suspicion—nor could I blame
them, for the circumstantial evidence was strongly against me."
Ralph and James looked ashamed; Edith and Margaret, who had not
been born at the time referred to, lifted their faces innocently.
Robert did not move or glance up. He hardly seemed to be listening.
"I was crushed in an agony of shame and despair," continued
Malcolm. "I believed my career was ruined. I was bent on casting
all my ambitions behind me, and going west to some place where nobody
knew me or my disgrace. But there was one person who believed in my
innocence, who said to me, 'You shall not give up—you shall not
behave as if you were guilty. You are innocent, and in time your
innocence will be proved. Meanwhile show yourself a man. You have
nearly enough to pay your way next winter at the Academy. I have a
little I can give to help you out. Don't give in—never give in when
you have done no wrong.'
"I listened and took his advice. I went to the Academy. My story
was there as soon as I was, and I found myself sneered at and shunned.
Many a time I would have given up in despair, had it not been for the
encouragement of my counselor. He furnished the backbone for me. I
was determined that his belief in me should be justified. I studied
hard and came out at the head of my class. Then there seemed to be no
chance of my earning any more money that summer. But a farmer at
Newbridge, who cared nothing about the character of his help, if he
could get the work out of them, offered to hire me. The prospect was
distasteful but, urged by the man who believed in me, I took the place
and endured the hardships. Another winter of lonely work passed at
the Academy. I won the Farrell Scholarship the last year it was
offered, and that meant an Arts course for me. I went to Redmond
College. My story was not openly known there, but something of it
got abroad, enough to taint my life there also with its suspicion.
But the year I graduated, Mr. Blair's nephew, who, as you know, was
the real culprit, confessed his guilt, and I was cleared before the
world. Since then my career has been what is called a brilliant one.
But"—Malcolm turned and laid his hand on Robert's thin
shoulder—"all of my success I owe to my brother Robert. It is his
success—not mine—and here to-day, since we have agreed to say what
is too often left to be said over a coffin lid, I thank him for all he
did for me, and tell him that there is nothing I am more proud of and
thankful for than such a brother."
Robert had looked up at last, amazed, bewildered, incredulous. His
face crimsoned as Malcolm sat down. But now Ralph was getting up.
"I am no orator as Malcolm is," he quoted gayly, "but I've got a
story to tell, too, which only one of you knows. Forty years ago,
when I started in life as a business man, money wasn't so plentiful
with me as it may be to-day. And I needed it badly. A chance came my
way to make a pile of it. It wasn't a clean chance. It was a dirty
chance. It looked square on the surface; but, underneath, it meant
trickery and roguery. I hadn't enough perception to see that,
though—I was fool enough to think it was all right. I told Robert
what I meant to do. And Robert saw clear through the outward sham to
the real, hideous thing underneath. He showed me what it meant and he
gave me a preachment about a few Monroe Traditions of truth and honor.
I saw what I had been about to do as he saw it—as all good men and
true must see it. And I vowed then and there that I'd never go into
anything that I wasn't sure was fair and square and clean through and
through. I've kept that vow. I am a rich man, and not a dollar of my
money is 'tainted' money. But I didn't make it. Robert really made
every cent of my money. If it hadn't been for him I'd have been a
poor man to-day, or behind prison bars, as are the other men who went
into that deal when I backed out. I've got a son here. I hope he'll
be as clever as his Uncle Malcolm; but I hope, still more earnestly,
that he'll be as good and honorable a man as his Uncle Robert."
By this time Robert's head was bent again, and his face buried in
"My turn next," said James. "I haven't much to say—only this.
After mother died I took typhoid fever. Here I was with no one to
wait on me. Robert came and nursed me. He was the most faithful,
tender, gentle nurse ever a man had. The doctor said Robert saved my
life. I don't suppose any of the rest of us here can say we have
saved a life."
Edith wiped away her tears and sprang up impulsively.
"Years ago," she said, "there was a poor, ambitious girl who had a
voice. She wanted a musical education and her only apparent chance of
obtaining it was to get a teacher's certificate and earn money enough
to have her voice trained. She studied hard, but her brains, in
mathematics at least, weren't as good as her voice, and the time was
short. She failed. She was lost in disappointment and despair, for
that was the last year in which it was possible to obtain a teacher's
certificate without attending Queen's Academy, and she could not
afford that. Then her oldest brother came to her and told her he
could spare enough money to send her to the conservatory of music in
Halifax for a year. He made her take it. She never knew till long
afterwards that he had sold the beautiful horse which he loved like a
human creature, to get the money. She went to the Halifax
conservatory. She won a musical scholarship. She has had a happy
life and a successful career. And she owes it all to her brother
But Edith could go no further. Her voice failed her and she sat
down in tears. Margaret did not try to stand up.
"I was only five when my mother died," she sobbed. "Robert was
both father and mother to me. Never had child or girl so wise and
loving a guardian as he was to me. I have never forgotten the lessons
he taught me. Whatever there is of good in my life or character I owe
to him. I was often headstrong and willful, but he never lost
patience with me. I owe everything to Robert."
Suddenly the little teacher rose with wet eyes and crimson cheeks.
"I have something to say, too," she said resolutely. "You have
spoken for yourselves. I speak for the people of White Sands. There
is a man in this settlement whom everybody loves. I shall tell you
some of the things he has done."
"Last fall, in an October storm, the harbor lighthouse flew a flag
of distress. Only one man was brave enough to face the danger of
sailing to the lighthouse to find out what the trouble was. That was
Robert Monroe. He found the keeper alone with a broken leg; and he
sailed back and made—yes, MADE the unwilling and terrified doctor go
with him to the lighthouse. I saw him when he told the doctor he must
go; and I tell you that no man living could have set his will against
Robert Monroe's at that moment.
"Four years ago old Sarah Cooper was to be taken to the poorhouse.
She was broken-hearted. One man took the poor, bed-ridden, fretful
old creature into his home, paid for medical attendance, and waited on
her himself, when his housekeeper couldn't endure her tantrums and
temper. Sarah Cooper died two years afterwards, and her latest breath
was a benediction on Robert Monroe—the best man God ever made.
"Eight years ago Jack Blewitt wanted a place. Nobody would hire
him, because his father was in the penitentiary, and some people
thought Jack ought to be there, too. Robert Monroe hired him—and
helped him, and kept him straight, and got him started right—and Jack
Blewitt is a hard-working, respected young man to-day, with every
prospect of a useful and honorable life. There is hardly a man, woman,
or child in White Sands who doesn't owe something to Robert Monroe!"
As Kathleen Bell sat down, Malcolm sprang up and held out his
"Every one of us stand up and sing Auld Lang Syne," he cried.
Everybody stood up and joined hands, but one did not sing. Robert
Monroe stood erect, with a great radiance on his face and in his eyes.
His reproach had been taken away; he was crowned among his kindred
with the beauty and blessing of sacred yesterdays.
When the singing ceased Malcolm's stern-faced son reached over and
shook Robert's hands.
"Uncle Rob," he said heartily, "I hope that when I'm sixty I'll be
as successful a man as you."
"I guess," said Aunt Isabel, aside to the little school teacher,
as she wiped the tears from her keen old eyes, "that there's a kind
of failure that's the best success."
VII. THE RETURN OF HESTER
Just at dusk, that evening, I had gone upstairs and put on my
muslin gown. I had been busy all day attending to the strawberry
preserving—for Mary Sloane could not be trusted with that—and I was
a little tired, and thought it was hardly worth while to change my
dress, especially since there was nobody to see or care, since Hester
was gone. Mary Sloane did not count.
But I did it because Hester would have cared if she had been here.
She always liked to see me neat and dainty. So, although I was tired
and sick at heart, I put on my pale blue muslin and dressed my hair.
At first I did my hair up in a way I had always liked; but had
seldom worn, because Hester had disapproved of it. It became me; but
I suddenly felt as if it were disloyal to her, so I took the puffs
down again and arranged my hair in the plain, old-fashioned way she
had liked. My hair, though it had a good many gray threads in it, was
thick and long and brown still; but that did not matter—nothing
mattered since Hester was dead and I had sent Hugh Blair away for the
The Newbridge people all wondered why I had not put on mourning
for Hester. I did not tell them it was because Hester had asked me
not to. Hester had never approved of mourning; she said that if the
heart did not mourn crape would not mend matters; and if it did there
was no need of the external trappings of woe. She told me calmly, the
night before she died, to go on wearing my pretty dresses just as I
had always worn them, and to make no difference in my outward life
because of her going.
"I know there will be a difference in your inward life," she said
And oh, there was! But sometimes I wondered uneasily, feeling
almost conscience-stricken, whether it were wholly because Hester had
left me—whether it were no partly because, for a second time, I had
shut the door of my heart in the face of love at her bidding.
When I had dressed I went downstairs to the front door, and sat on
the sandstone steps under the arch of the Virginia creeper. I was all
alone, for Mary Sloane had gone to Avonlea.
It was a beautiful night; the full moon was just rising over the
wooded hills, and her light fell through the poplars into the garden
before me. Through an open corner on the western side I saw the sky
all silvery blue in the afterlight. The garden was very beautiful
just then, for it was the time of the roses, and ours were all out—so
many of them—great pink, and red, and white, and yellow roses.
Hester had loved roses and could never have enough of them. Her
favorite bush was growing by the steps, all gloried over with
blossoms—white, with pale pink hearts. I gathered a cluster and
pinned it loosely on my breast. But my eyes filled as I did so—I
felt so very, very desolate.
I was all alone, and it was bitter. The roses, much as I loved
them, could not give me sufficient companionship. I wanted the clasp
of a human hand, and the love-light in human eyes. And then I fell to
thinking of Hugh, though I tried not to.
I had always lived alone with Hester. I did not remember our
parents, who had died in my babyhood. Hester was fifteen years older
than I, and she had always seemed more like a mother than a sister.
She had been very good to me and had never denied me anything I
wanted, save the one thing that mattered.
I was twenty-five before I ever had a lover. This was not, I
think, because I was more unattractive than other women. The
Merediths had always been the "big" family of Newbridge. The rest of
the people looked up to us, because we were the granddaughters of old
Squire Meredith. The Newbridge young men would have thought it no use
to try to woo a Meredith.
I had not a great deal of family pride, as perhaps I should be
ashamed to confess. I found our exalted position very lonely, and
cared more for the simple joys of friendship and companionship which
other girls had. But Hester possessed it in a double measure; she
never allowed me to associate on a level of equality with the young
people of Newbridge. We must be very nice and kind and affable to
them—noblesse oblige, as it were—but we must never forget
that we were Merediths.
When I was twenty-five, Hugh Blair came to Newbridge, having
bought a farm near the village. He was a stranger, from Lower
Carmody, and so was not imbued with any preconceptions of Meredith
superiority. In his eyes I was just a girl like others—a girl to be
wooed and won by any man of clean life and honest heart. I met him at
a little Sunday-School picnic over at Avonlea, which I attended
because of my class. I thought him very handsome and manly. He
talked to me a great deal, and at last he drove me home. The next
Sunday evening he walked up from church with me.
Hester was away, or, of course, this would never have happened.
She had gone for a month's visit to distant friends.
In that month I lived a lifetime. Hugh Blair courted me as the
other girls in Newbridge were courted. He took me out driving and
came to see me in the evenings, which we spent for the most part in
the garden. I did not like the stately gloom and formality of our old
Meredith parlor, and Hugh never seemed to feel at ease there. His
broad shoulders and hearty laughter were oddly out of place among our
faded, old-maidish furnishings.
Mary Sloane was very much pleased at Hugh's visit. She had always
resented the fact that I had never had a "beau," seeming to think it
reflected some slight or disparagement upon me. She did all she could
to encourage him.
But when Hester returned and found out about Hugh she was very
angry—and grieved, which hurt me far more. She told me that I had
forgotten myself and that Hugh's visits must cease.
I had never been afraid of Hester before, but I was afraid of her
then. I yielded. Perhaps it was very weak of me, but then I was
always weak. I think that was why Hugh's strength had appealed so to
me. I needed love and protection. Hester, strong and
self-sufficient, had never felt such a need. She could not
understand. Oh, how contemptuous she was.
I told Hugh timidly that Hester did not approve of our friendship
and that it must end. He took it quietly enough, and went away. I
thought he did not care much, and the thought selfishly made my own
heartache worse. I was very unhappy for a long time, but I tried not
to let Hester see it, and I don't think she did. She was not very
discerning in some things.
After a time I got over it; that is, the heartache ceased to ache
all the time. But things were never quite the same again. Life
always seemed rather dreary and empty, in spite of Hester and my
roses and my Sunday-School.
I supposed that Hugh Blair would find him a wife elsewhere, but he
did not. The years went by and we never met, although I saw him often
at church. At such times Hester always watched me very closely, but
there was no need of her to do so. Hugh made no attempt to meet me,
or speak with me, and I would not have permitted it if he had. But my
heart always yearned after him. I was selfishly glad he had not
married, because if he had I could not have thought and dreamed of
him—it would have been wrong. Perhaps, as it was, it was foolish;
but it seemed to me that I must have something, if only foolish
dreams, to fill my life.
At first there was only pain in the thought of him, but afterwards
a faint, misty little pleasure crept in, like a mirage from a land of
Ten years slipped away thus. And then Hester died. Her illness
was sudden and short; but, before she died, she asked me to promise
that I would never marry Hugh Blair.
She had not mentioned his name for years. I thought she had
forgotten all about him.
"Oh, dear sister, is there any need of such a promise?" I asked,
weeping. "Hugh Blair does not want to marry me now. He never will
"He has never married—he has not forgotten you," she said
fiercely. "I could not rest in my grave if I thought you would
disgrace your family by marrying beneath you. Promise me, Margaret."
I promised. I would have promised anything in my power to make
her dying pillow easier. Besides, what did it matter? I was sure
that Hugh would never think of me again.
She smiled when she heard me, and pressed my hand.
"Good little sister—that is right. You were always a good girl,
Margaret—good and obedient, though a little sentimental and foolish
in some ways. You are like our mother—she was always weak and
loving. I took after the Merediths."
She did, indeed. Even in her coffin her dark, handsome features
preserved their expression of pride and determination. Somehow, that
last look of her dead face remained in my memory, blotting out the
real affection and gentleness which her living face had almost always
shown me. This distressed me, but I could not help it. I wished to
think of her as kind and loving, but I could remember only the pride
and coldness with which she had crushed out my new-born happiness.
Yet I felt no anger or resentment towards her for what she had done.
I knew she had meant it for the best—my best. It was only that she
And then, a month after she had died, Hugh Blair came to me and
asked me to be his wife. He said he had always loved me, and could
never love any other woman.
All my old love for him reawakened. I wanted to say yes—to feel
his strong arms about me, and the warmth of his love enfolding and
guarding me. In my weakness I yearned for his strength.
But there was my promise to Hester—that promise give by her
deathbed. I could not break it, and I told him so. It was the
hardest thing I had ever done.
He did not go away quietly this time. He pleaded and reasoned and
reproached. Every word of his hurt me like a knife-thrust. But I
could not break my promise to the dead. If Hester had been living I
would have braved her wrath and her estrangement and gone to him. But
she was dead and I could not do it.
Finally he went away in grief and anger. That was three weeks
ago—and now I sat alone in the moonlit rose-garden and wept for him.
But after a time my tears dried and a very strange feeling came over
me. I felt calm and happy, as if some wonderful love and tenderness
were very near me.
And now comes the strange part of my story—the part which will
not, I suppose, be believed. If it were not for one thing I think I
should hardly believe it myself. I should feel tempted to think I had
dreamed it. But because of that one thing I know it was real. The
night was very calm and still. Not a breath of wind stirred. The
moonshine was the brightest I had ever seen. In the middle of the
garden, where the shadow of the poplars did not fall, it was almost as
bright as day. One could have read fine print. There was still a
little rose glow in the west, and over the airy boughs of the tall
poplars one or two large, bright stars were shining. The air was
sweet with a hush of dreams, and the world was so lovely that I held
my breath over its beauty.
Then, all at once, down at the far end of the garden, I saw a
woman walking. I thought at first that it must be Mary Sloane; but,
as she crossed a moonlit path, I saw it was not our old servant's
stout, homely figure. This woman was tall and erect.
Although no suspicion of the truth came to me, something about her
reminded me of Hester. Even so had Hester liked to wander about the
garden in the twilight. I had seen her thus a thousand times.
I wondered who the woman could be. Some neighbor, of course. But
what a strange way for her to come! She walked up the garden slowly
in the poplar shade. Now and then she stooped, as if to caress a
flower, but she plucked none. Half way up she out in to the moonlight
and walked across the plot of grass in the center of the garden. My
heart gave a great throb and I stood up. She was quite near to me
now—and I saw that it was Hester.
I can hardly say just what my feelings were at this moment. I
know that I was not surprised. I was frightened and yet I was not
frightened. Something in me shrank back in a sickening terror; but I, the real I, was not frightened. I knew that this was my
sister, and that there could be no reason why I should be frightened
of her, because she loved me still, as she had always done. Further
than this I was not conscious of any coherent thought, either of
wonder or attempt at reasoning.
Hester paused when she came to within a few steps of me. In the
moonlight I saw her face quite plainly. It wore an expression I had
never before seen on it—a humble, wistful, tender look. Often in life
Hester had looked lovingly, even tenderly, upon me; but always, as it
were, through a mask of pride and sternness. This was gone now, and I
felt nearer to her than ever before. I knew suddenly that she
understood me. And then the half-conscious awe and terror some part
of me had felt vanished, and I only realized that Hester was here, and
that there was no terrible gulf of change between us.
Hester beckoned to me and said,
I stood up and followed her out of the garden. We walked side by
side down our lane, under the willows and out to the road, which lay
long and still in that bright, calm moonshine. I felt as if I were in
a dream, moving at the bidding of a will not my own, which I could not
have disputed even if I had wished to do so. But I did not wish it; I
had only the feeling of a strange, boundless content.
We went down the road between the growths of young fir that
bordered it. I smelled their balsam as we passed, and noticed how
clearly and darkly their pointed tops came out against the sky. I
heard the tread of my own feet on little twigs and plants in our way,
and the trail of my dress over the grass; but Hester moved
Then we went through the Avenue—that stretch of road under the
apple trees that Anne Shirley, over at Avonlea, calls "The White Way
of Delight." It was almost dark here; and yet I could see Hester's
face just as plainly as if the moon were shining on it; and whenever I
looked at her she was always looking at me with that strangely gentle
smile on her lips.
Just as we passed out of the Avenue, James Trent overtook us,
driving. It seems to me that our feelings at a given moment are
seldom what we would expect them to be. I simply felt annoyed that
James Trent, the most notorious gossip in Newbridge, should have seen
me walking with Hester. In a flash I anticipated all the annoyance of
it; he would talk of the matter far and wide.
But James Trent merely nodded and called out,
"Howdy, Miss Margaret. Taking a moonlight stroll by yourself?
Lovely night, ain't it?"
Just then his horse suddenly swerved, as if startled, and broke
into a gallop. They whirled around the curve of the road in an
instant. I felt relieved, but puzzled. JAMES TRENT HAD NOT SEEN
Down over the hill was Hugh Blair's place. When we came to it,
Hester turned in at the gate. Then, for the first time, I understood
why she had come back, and a blinding flash of joy broke over my soul.
I stopped and looked at her. Her deep eyes gazed into mine, but she
did not speak.
We went on. Hugh's house lay before us in the moonlight, grown
over by a tangle of vines. His garden was on our right, a quaint
spot, full of old-fashioned flowers growing in a sort of disorderly
sweetness. I trod on a bed of mint, and the spice of it floated up to
me like the incense of some strange, sacred, solemn ceremonial. I
felt unspeakably happy and blessed.
When we came to the door Hester said,
I rapped gently. In a moment, Hugh opened it. Then that happened
by which, in after days, I was to know that this strange thing was no
dream or fancy of mine. Hugh looked not at me, but past me.
"Hester!" he exclaimed, with human fear and horror in his voice.
He leaned against the door-post, the big, strong fellow, trembling
from head to foot.
"I have learned," said Hester, "that nothing matters in all God's
universe, except love. There is no pride where I have been, and no
Hugh and I looked into each other's eyes, wondering, and then we
knew that we were alone.
VIII. THE LITTLE BROWN BOOK OF MISS
The first summer Mr. Irving and Miss Lavendar—Diana and I could
never call her anything else, even after she was married—were at
Echo Lodge after their marriage, both Diana and I spent a great deal
of time with them. We became acquainted with many of the Grafton
people whom we had not known before, and among others, the family of
Mr. Mack Leith. We often went up to the Leiths in the evening to play
croquet. Millie and Margaret Leith were very nice girls, and the boys
were nice, too. Indeed, we liked every one in the family, except poor
old Miss Emily Leith. We tried hard enough to like her, because she
seemed to like Diana and me very much, and always wanted to sit with
us and talk to us, when we would much rather have been somewhere else.
We often felt a good deal of impatience at these times, but I am very
glad to think now that we never showed it.
In a way, we felt sorry for Miss Emily. She was Mr. Leith's
old-maid sister and she was not of much importance in the household.
But, though we felt sorry for her, we couldn't like her. She really
was fussy and meddlesome; she liked to poke a finger into every one's
pie, and she was not at all tactful. Then, too, she had a sarcastic
tongue, and seemed to feel bitter towards all the young folks and
their love affairs. Diana and I thought this was because she had
never had a lover of her own.
Somehow, it seemed impossible to think of lovers in connection
with Miss Emily. She was short and stout and pudgy, with a face so
round and fat and red that it seemed quite featureless; and her hair
was scanty and gray. She walked with a waddle, just like Mrs. Rachel
Lynde, and she was always rather short of breath. It was hard to
believe Miss Emily had ever been young; yet old Mr. Murray, who lived
next door to the Leiths, not only expected us to believe it, but
assured us that she had been very pretty.
"THAT, at least, is impossible," said Diana to me.
And then, one day, Miss Emily died. I'm afraid no one was very
sorry. It seems to me a most dreadful thing to go out of the world
and leave not one person behind to be sorry because you have gone.
Miss Emily was dead and buried before Diana and I heard of it at all.
The first I knew of it was when I came home from Orchard Slope one
day and found a queer, shabby little black horsehair trunk, all
studded with brass nails, on the floor of my room at Green Gables.
Marilla told me that Jack Leith had brought it over, and said that it
had belonged to Miss Emily and that, when she was dying, she asked
them to send it to me.
"But what is in it? And what am I to do with it?" I asked in
"There was nothing said about what you were to do with it. Jack
said they didn't know what was in it, and hadn't looked into it,
seeing that it was your property. It seems a rather queer
proceeding—but you're always getting mixed up in queer proceedings,
Anne. As for what is in it, the easiest way to find out, I reckon, is
to open it and see. The key is tied to it. Jack said Miss Emily said
she wanted you to have it because she loved you and saw her lost youth
in you. I guess she was a bit delirious at the last and wandered a
good deal. She said she wanted you 'to understand her.' "
I ran over to Orchard Slope and asked Diana to come over and
examine the trunk with me. I hadn't received any instructions about
keeping its contents secret and I knew Miss Emily wouldn't mind Diana
knowing about them, whatever they were.
It was a cool, gray afternoon and we got back to Green Gables just
as the rain was beginning to fall. When we went up to my room the
wind was rising and whistling through the boughs of the big old Snow
Queen outside of my window. Diana was excited, and, I really believe,
a little bit frightened.
We opened the old trunk. It was very small, and there was nothing
in it but a big cardboard box. The box was tied up and the knots
sealed with wax. We lifted it out and untied it. I touched Diana's
fingers as we did it, and both of us exclaimed at once, "How cold your
In the box was a quaint, pretty, old-fashioned gown, not at all
faded, made of blue muslin, with a little darker blue flower in it.
Under it we found a sash, a yellowed feather fan, and an envelope
full of withered flowers. At the bottom of the box was a little brown
It was small and thin, like a girl's exercise book, with leaves
that had once been blue and pink, but were now quite faded, and
stained in places. On the fly leaf was written, in a very delicate
hand, "Emily Margaret Leith," and the same writing covered the first
few pages of the book. The rest were not written on at all. We sat
there on the floor, Diana and I, and read the little book together,
while the rain thudded against the window panes.
June 19, 18—
I came to-day to spend a while with Aunt Margaret in
Charlottetown. It is so pretty here, where she lives—and
ever so much nicer than on the farm at home. I have no cows
to milk here or pigs to feed. Aunt Margaret has given me
such a lovely blue muslin dress, and I am to have it made to
wear at a garden party out at Brighton next week. I never
had a muslin dress before—nothing but ugly prints and dark
woolens. I wish we were rich, like Aunt Margaret. Aunt
Margaret laughed when I said this, and declared she would
give all her wealth for my youth and beauty and
light-heartedness. I am only eighteen and I know I am very
merry but I wonder if I am really pretty. It seems to me
that I am when I look in Aunt Margaret's beautiful mirrors.
They make me look very different from the old cracked one in
my room at home which always twisted my face and turned me
green. But Aunt Margaret spoiled her compliment by telling
me I look exactly as she did at my age. If I thought I'd
ever look as Aunt Margaret does now, I don't know what I'd
do. She is so fat and red.
Last week I went to the garden party and I met a young man
called Paul Osborne. He is a young artist from Montreal who
is boarding over at Heppoch. He is the handsomest man I have
ever seen—very tall and slender, with dreamy, dark eyes and
a pale, clever face. I have not been able to keep from
thinking about him ever since, and to-day he came over here
and asked if he could paint me. I felt very much flattered
and so pleased when Aunt Margaret gave him permission. He
says he wants to paint me as "Spring," standing under the
poplars where a fine rain of sunshine falls through. I am to
wear my blue muslin gown and a wreath of flowers on my hair.
He says I have such beautiful hair. He has never seen any of
such a real pale gold. Somehow it seems even prettier than
ever to me since he praised it.
I had a letter from home to-day. Ma says the blue hen stole
her nest and came off with fourteen chickens, and that pa has
sold the little spotted calf. Somehow those things don't
interest me like they once did.
The picture is coming on very well, Mr. Osborne says. I know
he is making me look far too pretty in it, although her
persists in saying he can't do me justice. He is going to
send it to some great exhibition when finished, but he says
he will make a little water-color copy for me.
He comes every day to paint and we talk a great deal and he
reads me lovely things out of his books. I don't understand
them all, but I try to, and he explains them so nicely and is
so patient with my stupidity. And he says any one with my
eyes and hair and coloring does not need to be clever. He
says I have the sweetest, merriest laugh in the world. But I
will not write down all the compliments he has paid me. I
dare say he does not mean them at all.
In the evening we stroll among the spruces or sit on the
bench under the acacia tree. Sometimes we don't talk at all,
but I never find the time long. Indeed, the minutes just
seem to fly—and then the moon will come up, round and red,
over the harbor and Mr. Osborne will sigh and say he supposes
it is time for him to go.
I am so happy. I am frightened at my happiness. Oh, I
didn't think life could ever be so beautiful for me as it is!
Paul loves me! He told me so to-night as we walked by the
harbor and watched the sunset, and he asked me to be his
wife. I have cared for him ever since I met him, but I am
afraid I am not clever and well-educated enough for a wife
for Paul. Because, of course, I'm only an ignorant little
country girl and have lived all my life on a farm. Why, my
hands are quite rough yet from the work I've done. But Paul
just laughed when I said so, and took my hands and kissed
them. Then he looked into my eyes and laughed again, because
I couldn't hide from him how much I loved him.
We are to be married next spring and Paul says he will take
me to Europe. That will be very nice, but nothing matters so
long as I am with him.
Paul's people are very wealthy and his mother and sisters are
very fashionable. I am frightened of them, but I did not
tell Paul so because I think it would hurt him and oh, I
wouldn't do that for the world.
There is nothing I wouldn't suffer if it would do him any
good. I never thought any one could feel so. I used to
think if I loved anybody I would want him to do everything
for me and wait on me as if I were a princess. But that is
not the way at all. Love makes you very humble and you want
to do everything yourself for the one you love.
Paul went home to-day. Oh, it is so terrible! I don't know
how I can bear to live even for a little while without him.
But this is silly of me, because I know he has to go and he
will write often and come to me often. But, still, it is so
lonesome. I didn't cry when he left me because I wanted him
to remember me smiling in the way he liked best, but I have
been crying ever since and I can't stop, no matter how hard I
try. We have had such a beautiful fortnight. Every day
seemed dearer and happier than the last, and now it is ended
and I feel as if it could never be the same again. Oh, I am
very foolish—but I love him so dearly and if I were to lose
his love I know I would die.
I think my heart is dead. But no, it can't be, for it aches
Paul's mother came here to see me to-day. She was not angry
or disagreeable. I wouldn't have been so frightened of her
if she had been. As it was, I felt that I couldn't say a
word. She is very beautiful and stately and wonderful, with
a low, cold voice and proud, dark eyes. Her face is like
Paul's but without the loveableness of his.
She talked to me for a long time and she said terrible
things—terrible, because I knew they were all true. I
seemed to see everything through her eyes. She said that
Paul was infatuated with my youth and beauty but that it
would not last and what else I to give him? She said Paul
must marry a woman of his own class, who could do honor to
his fame and position. She said that he was very talented
and had a great career before him, but that if he married me
it would ruin his life.
I saw it all, just as she explained it out, and I told her at
last that I would not marry Paul, and she might tell him so.
But she smiled and said I must tell him myself, because he
would not believe any one else. I could have begged her to
spare me that, but I knew it would be of no use. I do not
think she has any pity or mercy for any one. Besides, what
she said was quite true.
When she thanked me for being so REASONABLE I told her I was
not doing it to please her, but for Paul's sake, because I
would not spoil his life, and that I would always hate her.
She smiled again and went away.
Oh, how can I bear it? I did not know any one could suffer
I have done it. I wrote to Paul to-day. I knew I must tell
him by letter, because I could never make him believe it face
to face. I was afraid I could not even do it by letter. I
suppose a clever woman easily could, but I am so stupid.
I wrote a great many letters and tore them up, because I felt
sure they wouldn't convince Paul. At last I got one that I
thought would do. I knew I must make it seems as if I were
very frivolous and heartless, or he would never believe. I
spelled some words wrong and put in some mistakes of grammar
on purpose. I told him I had just been flirting with him,
and that I had another fellow at home I liked better. I said
FELLOW because I knew it would disgust him. I said that it
was only because he was rich that I was tempted to marry him.
I thought would my heart would break while I was writing
those dreadful falsehoods. But it was for his sake, because
I must not spoil his life. His mother told me I would be a
millstone around his neck. I love Paul so much that I would
do anything rather than be that. It would be easy to die for
him, but I don't see how I can go on living. I think my
letter will convince Paul.
I suppose it convinced Paul, because there was no further entry in
the little brown book. When we had finished it the tears were running
down both our faces.
"Oh, poor, dear Miss Emily," sobbed Diana. "I'm so sorry I ever
thought her funny and meddlesome."
"She was good and strong and brave," I said. "I could never have
been as unselfish as she was."
I thought of Whittier's lines,
"The outward, wayward life we see
The hidden springs we may not know."
At the back of the little brown book we found a faded water-color
sketch of a young girl—such a slim, pretty little thing, with big
blue eyes and lovely, long, rippling golden hair. Paul Osborne's name
was written in faded ink across the corner.
We put everything back in the box. Then we sat for a long time by
my window in silence and thought of many things, until the rainy
twilight came down and blotted out the world.
IX. SARA'S WAY
The warm June sunshine was coming down through the trees, white
with the virginal bloom of apple-blossoms, and through the shining
panes, making a tremulous mosaic upon Mrs. Eben Andrews' spotless
kitchen floor. Through the open door, a wind, fragrant from long
wanderings over orchards and clover meadows, drifted in, and, from the
window, Mrs. Eben and her guest could look down over a long, misty
valley sloping to a sparkling sea.
Mrs. Jonas Andrews was spending the afternoon with her
sister-in-law. She was a big, sonsy woman, with full-blown peony
cheeks and large, dreamy, brown eyes. When she had been a slim,
pink-and-white girl those eyes had been very romantic. Now they were
so out of keeping with the rest of her appearance as to be ludicrous.
Mrs. Eben, sitting at the other end of the small tea-table that
was drawn up against the window, was a thin little woman, with a very
sharp nose and light, faded blue eyes. She looked like a woman whose
opinions were always very decided and warranted to wear.
"How does Sara like teaching at Newbridge?" asked Mrs. Jonas,
helping herself a second time to Mrs. Eben's matchless black fruit
cake, and thereby bestowing a subtle compliment which Mrs. Eben did
not fail to appreciate.
"Well, I guess she likes it pretty well—better than down at White
Sands, anyway," answered Mrs. Eben. "Yes, I may say it suits her. Of
course it's a long walk there and back. I think it would have been
wiser for her to keep on boarding at Morrison's, as she did all
winter, but Sara is bound to be home all she can. And I must say the
walk seems to agree with her."
"I was down to see Jonas' aunt at Newbridge last night," said Mrs.
Jonas, "and she said she'd heard that Sara had made up her mind to
take Lige Baxter at last, and that they were to be married in the
fall. She asked me if it was true. I said I didn't know, but I hoped
to mercy it was. Now, is it, Louisa?"
"Not a word of it," said Mrs. Eben sorrowfully. "Sara hasn't any
more notion of taking Lige than ever she had. I'm sure it's not MY
fault. I've talked and argued till I'm tired. I declare to you,
Amelia, I am terribly disappointed. I'd set my heart on Sara's
marrying Lige—and now to think she won't!"
"She is a very foolish girl," said Mrs. Jonas, judicially. "If
Lige Baxter isn't good enough for her, who is?"
"And he's so well off," said Mrs. Eben, "and does such a good
business, and is well spoken of by every one. And that lovely new
house of his at Newbridge, with bay windows and hardwood floors! I've
dreamed and dreamed of seeing Sara there as mistress."
"Maybe you'll see her there yet," said Mrs. Jonas, who always took
a hopeful view of everything, even of Sara's contrariness. But she
felt discouraged, too. Well, she had done her best.
If Lige Baxter's broth was spoiled it was not for lack of cooks.
Every Andrews in Avonlea had been trying for two years to bring about
a match between him and Sara, and Mrs. Jonas had borne her part
Mrs. Eben's despondent reply was cut short by the appearance of
Sara herself. The girl stood for a moment in the doorway and looked
with a faintly amused air at her aunts. She knew quite well that they
had been discussing her, for Mrs. Jonas, who carried her conscience in
her face, looked guilty, and Mrs. Eben had not been able wholly to
banish her aggrieved expression.
Sara put away her books, kissed Mrs. Jonas' rosy cheek, and sat
down at the table. Mrs. Eben brought her some fresh tea, some hot
rolls, and a little jelly-pot of the apricot preserves Sara liked, and
she cut some more fruit cake for her in moist plummy slices. She
might be out of patience with Sara's "contrariness," but she spoiled
and petted her for all that, for the girl was the very core of her
Sara Andrews was not, strictly speaking, pretty; but there was
that about her which made people look at her twice. She was very
dark, with a rich, dusky sort of darkness, her deep eyes were velvety
brown, and her lips and cheeks were crimson.
She ate her rolls and preserves with a healthy appetite, sharpened
by her long walk from Newbridge, and told amusing little stories of
her day's work that made the two older women shake with laughter, and
exchange shy glances of pride over her cleverness.
When tea was over she poured the remaining contents of the cream
jug into a saucer.
"I must feed my pussy," she said as she left the room.
"That girl beats me," said Mrs. Eben with a sigh of perplexity.
"You know that black cat we've had for two years? Eben and I have
always made a lot of him, but Sara seemed to have a dislike to him.
Never a peaceful nap under the stove could he have when Sara was
home—out he must go. Well, a little spell ago he got his leg broke
accidentally and we thought he'd have to be killed. But Sara wouldn't
hear of it. She got splints and set his leg just as knacky, and
bandaged it up, and she has tended him like a sick baby ever since.
He's just about well now, and he lives in clover, that cat does.
It's just her way. There's them sick chickens she's been doctoring
for a week, giving them pills and things!
"And she thinks more of that wretched-looking calf that got
poisoned with paris green than of all the other stock on the place."
As the summer wore away, Mrs. Eben tried to reconcile herself to
the destruction of her air castles. But she scolded Sara
"Sara, why don't you like Lige? I'm sure he is a model young
"I don't like model young men," answered Sara impatiently. "And I
really think I hate Lige Baxter. He has always been held up to me as
such a paragon. I'm tired of hearing about all his perfections. I
know them all off by heart. He doesn't drink, he doesn't smoke, he
doesn't steal, he doesn't tell fibs, he never loses his temper, he
doesn't swear, and he goes to church regularly. Such a faultless
creature as that would certainly get on my nerves. No, no, you'll
have to pick out another mistress for your new house at the Bridge,
When the apple trees, that had been pink and white in June, were
russet and bronze in October, Mrs. Eben had a quilting. The quilt
was of the "Rising Star" pattern, which was considered in Avonlea to
be very handsome. Mrs. Eben had intended it for part of Sara's
"setting out," and, while she sewed the red-and-white diamonds
together, she had regaled her fancy by imagining she saw it spread out
on the spare-room bed of the house at Newbridge, with herself laying
her bonnet and shawl on it when she went to see Sara. Those bright
visions had faded with the apple blossoms, and Mrs. Eben hardly had
the heart to finish the quilt at all.
The quilting came off on Saturday afternoon, when Sara could be
home from school. All Mrs. Eben's particular friends were ranged
around the quilt, and tongues and fingers flew. Sara flitted about,
helping her aunt with the supper preparations. She was in the room,
getting the custard dishes out of the cupboard, when Mrs. George Pye
Mrs. George had a genius for being late. She was later than usual
to-day, and she looked excited. Every woman around the "Rising Star"
felt that Mrs. George had some news worth listening to, and there was
an expectant silence while she pulled out her chair and settled
herself at the quilt.
She was a tall, thin woman with a long pale face and liquid green
eyes. As she looked around the circle she had the air of a cat
daintily licking its chops over some titbit.
"I suppose," she said, "that you have heard the news?"
She knew perfectly well that they had not. Every other woman at
the frame stopped quilting. Mrs. Eben came to the door with a pan of
puffy, smoking-hot soda biscuits in her hand. Sara stopped counting
the custard dishes, and turned her ripely-colored face over her
shoulder. Even the black cat, at her feet, ceased preening his fur.
Mrs. George felt that the undivided attention of her audience was
"Baxter Brothers have failed," she said, her green eyes shooting
out flashes of light. "Failed DISGRACEFULLY!"
She paused for a moment; but, since her hearers were as yet
speechless from surprise, she went on.
"George came home from Newbridge, just before I left, with the
news. You could have knocked me down with a feather. I should have
thought that firm was as steady as the Rock of Gibraltar! But they're
ruined—absolutely ruined. Louisa, dear, can you find me a good
"Louisa, dear," had set her biscuits down with a sharp thud,
reckless of results. A sharp, metallic tinkle sounded at the closet
where Sara had struck the edge of her tray against a shelf. The sound
seemed to loosen the paralyzed tongues, and everybody began talking
and exclaiming at once. Clear and shrill above the confusion rose
Mrs. George Pye's voice.
"Yes, indeed, you may well say so. It IS disgraceful. And to
think how everybody trusted them! George will lose considerable by
the crash, and so will a good many folks. Everything will have to
go—Peter Baxter's farm and Lige's grand new house. Mrs. Peter won't
carry her head so high after this, I'll be bound. George saw Lige at
the Bridge, and he said he looked dreadful cut up and ashamed."
"Who, or what's to blame for the failure?" asked Mrs. Rachel Lynde
sharply. She did not like Mrs. George Pye.
"There are a dozen different stories on the go," was the reply.
"As far as George could make out, Peter Baxter has been speculating
with other folks' money, and this is the result. Everybody always
suspected that Peter was crooked; but you'd have thought that Lige
would have kept him straight. HE had always such a reputation for
"I don't suppose Lige knew anything about it," said Mrs. Rachel
"Well, he'd ought to, then. If he isn't a knave he's a fool,"
said Mrs. Harmon Andrews, who had formerly been among his warmest
partisans. "He should have kept watch on Peter and found out how the
business was being run. Well, Sara, you were the level-headest of us
all—I'll admit that now. A nice mess it would be if you were married
or engaged to Lige, and him left without a cent—even if he can clear
"There is a good deal of talk about Peter, and swindling, and a
lawsuit," said Mrs. George Pye, quilting industriously. "Most of the
Newbridge folks think it's all Peter's fault, and that Lige isn't to
blame. But you can't tell. I dare say Lige is as deep in the mire as
Peter. He was always a little too good to be wholesome, I
There was a clink of glass at the cupboard, as Sara set the tray
down. She came forward and stood behind Mrs. Rachel Lynde's chair,
resting her shapely hands on that lady's broad shoulders. Her face was
very pale, but her flashing eyes sought and faced defiantly Mrs.
George Pye's cat-like orbs. Her voice quivered with passion and
"You'll all have a fling at Lige Baxter, now that he's down. You
couldn't say enough in his praise, once. I'll not stand by and hear
it hinted that Lige Baxter is a swindler. You all know perfectly well
that Lige is as honest as the day, if he IS so unfortunate as to have
an unprincipled brother. You, Mrs. Pye, know it better than any one,
yet you come here and run him down the minute he's in trouble. If
there's another word said here against Lige Baxter I'll leave the room
and the house till you're gone, every one of you."
She flashed a glance around the quilt that cowed the gossips. Even
Mrs. George Pye's eyes flickered and waned and quailed. Nothing more
was said until Sara had picked up her glasses and marched from the
room. Even then they dared not speak above a whisper. Mrs. Pye,
alone, smarting from snub, ventured to ejaculate, "Pity save us!" as
Sara slammed the door.
For the next fortnight gossip and rumor held high carnival in
Avonlea and Newbridge, and Mrs. Eben grew to dread the sight of a
"They're bound to talk about the Baxter failure and criticize
Lige," she deplored to Mrs. Jonas. "And it riles Sara up so
terrible. She used to declare that she hated Lige, and now she won't
listen to a word against him. Not that I say any, myself. I'm sorry
for him, and I believe he's done his best. But I can't stop other
people from talking."
One evening Harmon Andrews came in with a fresh budget of news.
"The Baxter business is pretty near wound up at last," he said, as
he lighted his pipe. "Peter has got his lawsuits settled and has
hushed up the talk about swindling, somehow. Trust him for slipping
out of a scrape clean and clever. He don't seem to worry any, but Lige
looks like a walking skeleton. Some folks pity him, but I say he
should have kept the run of things better and not have trusted
everything to Peter. I hear he's going out West in the Spring, to
take up land in Alberta and try his hand at farming. Best thing he
can do, I guess. Folks hereabouts have had enough of the Baxter
breed. Newbridge will be well rid of them."
Sara, who had been sitting in the dark corner by the stove,
suddenly stood up, letting the black cat slip from her lap to the
floor. Mrs. Eben glanced at her apprehensively, for she was afraid
the girl was going to break out in a tirade against the complacent
But Sara only walked fiercely out of the kitchen, with a sound as
if she were struggling for breath. In the hall she snatched a scarf
from the wall, flung open the front door, and rushed down the lane in
the chill, pure air of the autumn twilight. Her heart was throbbing
with the pity she always felt for bruised and baited creatures.
On and on she went heedlessly, intent only on walking away her
pain, over gray, brooding fields and winding slopes, and along the
skirts of ruinous, dusky pine woods, curtained with fine spun purple
gloom. Her dress brushed against the brittle grasses and sere ferns,
and the moist night wind, loosed from wild places far away, blew her
hair about her face.
At last she came to a little rustic gate, leading into a shadowy
wood-lane. The gate was bound with willow withes, and, as Sara
fumbled vainly at them with her chilled hands, a man's firm step came
up behind her, and Lige Baxter's hand closed over her's.
"Oh, Lige!" she said, with something like a sob.
He opened the gate and drew her through. She left her hand in
his, as they walked through the lane where lissome boughs of young
saplings flicked against their heads, and the air was wildly sweet
with the woodsy odors.
"It's a long while since I've seen you, Lige," Sara said at last.
Lige looked wistfully down at her through the gloom.
"Yes, it seems very long to me, Sara. But I didn't think you'd
care to see me, after what you said last spring. And you know things
have been going against me. People have said hard things. I've been
unfortunate, Sara, and may be too easy-going, but I've been honest.
Don't believe folks if they tell you I wasn't."
"Indeed, I never did—not for a minute!" fired Sara.
"I'm glad of that. I'm going away, later on. I felt bad enough
when you refused to marry me, Sara; but it's well that you didn't.
I'm man enough to be thankful my troubles don't fall on you."
Sara stopped and turned to him. Beyond them the lane opened into
a field and a clear lake of crocus sky cast a dim light into the
shadow where they stood. Above it was a new moon, like a gleaming
silver scimitar. Sara saw it was over her left shoulder, and she saw
Lige's face above her, tender and troubled.
"Lige," she said softly, "do you love me still?"
"You know I do," said Lige sadly.
That was all Sara wanted. With a quick movement she nestled into
his arms, and laid her warm, tear-wet cheek against his cold one.
When the amazing rumor that Sara was going to marry Lige Baxter,
and go out West with him, circulated through the Andrews clan, hands
were lifted and heads were shaken. Mrs. Jonas puffed and panted up
the hill to learn if it were true. She found Mrs. Eben stitching for
dear life on an "Irish Chain" quilt, while Sara was sewing the
diamonds on another "Rising Star" with a martyr-like expression on her
face. Sara hated patchwork above everything else, but Mrs. Eben was
mistress up to a certain point.
"You'll have to make that quilt, Sara Andrews. If you're going to
live out on those prairies, you'll need piles of quilts, and you shall
have them if I sew my fingers to the bone. But you'll have to help
And Sara had to.
When Mrs. Jonas came, Mrs. Eben sent Sara off to the post-office
to get her out of the way.
"I suppose it's true, this time?" said Mrs. Jonas.
"Yes, indeed," said Mrs. Eben briskly. "Sara is set on it. There
is no use trying to move her—you know that—so I've just concluded
to make the best of it. I'm no turn-coat. Lige Baxter is Lige Baxter
still, neither more nor less. I've always said he's a fine young man,
and I say so still. After all, he and Sara won't be any poorer than
Eben and I were when we started out."
Mrs. Jonas heaved a sigh of relief.
"I'm real glad you take that view of it, Louisa. I'm not
displeased, either, although Mrs. Harmon would take my head off if
she heard me say so. I always liked Lige. But I must say I'm amazed,
too, after the way Sara used to rail at him."
"Well, we might have expected it," said Mrs. Eben sagely. "It was
always Sara's way. When any creature got sick or unfortunate she
seemed to take it right into her heart. So you may say Lige Baxter's
failure was a success after all."
X. THE SON OF HIS MOTHER
Thyra Carewe was waiting for Chester to come home. She sat by the
west window of the kitchen, looking out into the gathering of the
shadows with the expectant immovability that characterized her. She
never twitched or fidgeted. Into whatever she did she put the whole
force of her nature. If it was sitting still, she sat still.
"A stone image would be twitchedly beside Thyra," said Mrs.
Cynthia White, her neighbor across the lane. "It gets on my nerves,
the way she sits at that window sometimes, with no more motion than a
statue and her great eyes burning down the lane. When I read the
commandment, 'Thou shalt have no other gods before me,' I declare I
always think of Thyra. She worships that son of hers far ahead of her
Creator. She'll be punished for it yet."
Mrs. White was watching Thyra now, knitting furiously, as she
watched, in order to lose no time. Thyra's hands were folded idly in
her lap. She had not moved a muscle since she sat down. Mrs. White
complained it gave her the weeps.
"It doesn't seem natural to see a woman sit so still," she said.
"Sometimes the thought comes to me, 'what if she's had a stroke, like
her old Uncle Horatio, and is sitting there stone dead!' "
The evening was cold and autumnal. There was a fiery red spot out
at sea, where the sun had set, and, above it, over a chill, clear,
saffron sky, were reefs of purple-black clouds. The river, below the
Carewe homestead, was livid. Beyond it, the sea was dark and
brooding. It was an evening to make most people shiver and forebode
an early winter; but Thyra loved it, as she loved all stern, harshly
beautiful things. She would not light a lamp because it would blot
out the savage grandeur of sea and sky. It was better to wait in the
darkness until Chester came home.
He was late to-night. She thought he had been detained over-time
at the harbor, but she was not anxious. He would come straight home
to her as soon as his business was completed—of that she felt sure.
Her thoughts went out along the bleak harbor road to meet him. She
could see him plainly, coming with his free stride through the sandy
hollows and over the windy hills, in the harsh, cold light of that
forbidding sunset, strong and handsome in his comely youth, with her
own deeply cleft chin and his father's dark gray, straightforward
eyes. No other woman in Avonlea had a son like hers—her only one.
In his brief absences she yearned after him with a maternal passion
that had in it something of physical pain, so intense was it. She
thought of Cynthia White, knitting across the road, with contemptuous
pity. That woman had no son—nothing but pale-faced girls. Thyra had
never wanted a daughter, but she pitied and despised all sonless
Chester's dog whined suddenly and piercingly on the doorstep
outside. He was tired of the cold stone and wanted his warm corner
behind the stove. Thyra smiled grimly when she heard him. She had no
intention of letting him in. She said she had always disliked dogs,
but the truth, although she would not glance at it, was that she hated
the animal because Chester loved him. She could not share his love
with even a dumb brute. She loved no living creature in the world but
her son, and fiercely demanded a like concentrated affection from him.
Hence it pleased her to hear his dog whine.
It was now quite dark; the stars had begun to shine out over the
shorn harvest fields, and Chester had not come. Across the lane
Cynthia White had pulled down her blind, in despair of out-watching
Thyra, and had lighted a lamp. Lively shadows of little girl-shapes
passed and repassed on the pale oblong of light. They made Thyra
conscious of her exceeding loneliness. She had just decided that she
would walk down the lane and wait for Chester on the bridge, when a
thunderous knock came at the east kitchen door.
She recognized August Vorst's knock and lighted a lamp in no great
haste, for she did not like him. He was a gossip and Thyra hated
gossip, in man or woman. But August was privileged.
She carried the lamp in her hand, when she went to the door, and
its upward-striking light gave her face a ghastly appearance. She did
not mean to ask August in, but he pushed past her cheerfully, not
waiting to be invited. He was a midget of a man, lame of foot and
hunched of back, with a white, boyish face, despite his middle age and
deep-set, malicious black eyes.
He pulled a crumpled newspaper from his pocket and handed it to
Thyra. He was the unofficial mail-carrier of Avonlea. Most of the
people gave him a trifle for bringing their letters and papers from
the office. He earned small sums in various other ways, and so
contrived to keep the life in his stunted body. There was always venom
in August's gossip. It was said that he made more mischief in Avonlea
in a day than was made otherwise in a year, but people tolerated him
by reason of his infirmity. To be sure, it was the tolerance they
gave to inferior creatures, and August felt this. Perhaps it
accounted for a good deal of his malignity. He hated most those who
were kindest to him, and, of these, Thyra Carewe above all. He hated
Chester, too, as he hated strong, shapely creatures. His time had
come at last to wound them both, and his exultation shone through his
crooked body and pinched features like an illuminating lamp. Thyra
perceived it and vaguely felt something antagonistic in it. She
pointed to the rocking-chair, as she might have pointed out a mat to
August crawled into it and smiled. He was going to make her
writhe presently, this woman who looked down upon him as some
venomous creeping thing she disdained to crush with her foot.
"Did you see anything of Chester on the road?" asked Thyra, giving
August the very opening he desired. "He went to the harbor after tea
to see Joe Raymond about the loan of his boat, but it's the time he
should be back. I can't think what keeps the boy."
"Just what keeps most men—leaving out creatures like me—at some
time or other in their lives. A girl—a pretty girl, Thyra. It
pleases me to look at her. Even a hunchback can use his eyes, eh?
Oh, she's a rare one!"
"What is the man talking about?" said Thyra wonderingly.
"Damaris Garland, to be sure. Chester's down at Tom Blair's now,
talking to her—and looking more than his tongue says, too, of that
you may be sure. Well, well, we were all young once, Thyra—all young
once, even crooked little August Vorst. Eh, now?"
"What do you mean?" said Thyra.
She had sat down in a chair before him, with her hands folded in
her lap. Her face, always pale, had not changed; but her lips were
curiously white. August Vorst saw this and it pleased him. Also, her
eyes were worth looking at, if you liked to hurt people—and that was
the only pleasure August took in life. He would drink this delightful
cup of revenge for her long years of disdainful kindness—ah, he would
drink it slowly to prolong its sweetness. Sip by sip—he rubbed his
long, thin, white hands together—sip by sip, tasting each mouthful.
"Eh, now? You know well enough, Thyra."
"I know nothing of what you would be at, August Vorst. You speak
of my son and Damaris—was that the name?—Damaris Garland as if they
were something to each other. I ask you what you mean by it?"
"Tut, tut, Thyra, nothing very terrible. There's no need to look
like that about it. Young men will be young men to the end of time,
and there's no harm in Chester's liking to look at a lass, eh, now?
Or in talking to her either? The little baggage, with the red lips
of her! She and Chester will make a pretty pair. He's not so
ill-looking for a man, Thyra."
"I am not a very patient woman, August," said Thyra coldly. "I
have asked you what you mean, and I want a straight answer. Is
Chester down at Tom Blair's while I have been sitting here, alone,
waiting for him?"
August nodded. He saw that it would not be wise to trifle longer
"That he is. I was there before I came here. He and Damaris were
sitting in a corner by themselves, and very well-satisfied they seemed
to be with each other. Tut, tut, Thyra, don't take the news so. I
thought you knew. It's no secret that Chester has been going after
Damaris ever since she came here. But what then? You can't tie him
to your apron strings forever, woman. He'll be finding a mate for
himself, as he should. Seeing that he's straight and well-shaped, no
doubt Damaris will look with favor on him. Old Martha Blair declares
the girl loves him better than her eyes."
Thyra made a sound like a strangled moan in the middle of August's
speech. She heard the rest of it immovably. When it came to an end
she stood and looked down upon him in a way that silenced him.
"You've told the news you came to tell, and gloated over it, and
now get you gone," she said slowly.
"Now, Thyra," he began, but she interrupted him threateningly.
"Get you gone, I say! And you need not bring my mail here any
longer. I want no more of your misshapen body and lying tongue!"
August went, but at the door he turned for a parting stab.
"My tongue is not a lying one, Mrs. Carewe. I've told you the
truth, as all Avonlea knows it. Chester is mad about Damaris
Garland. It's no wonder I thought you knew what all the settlement
can see. But you're such a jealous, odd body, I suppose the boy hid
it from you for fear you'd go into a tantrum. As for me, I'll not
forget that you've turned me from your door because I chanced to bring
you news you'd no fancy for."
Thyra did not answer him. When the door closed behind him she
locked it and blew out the light. Then she threw herself face
downward on the sofa and burst into wild tears. Her very soul ached.
She wept as tempestuously and unreasoningly as youth weeps, although
she was not young. It seemed as if she was afraid to stop weeping
lest she should go mad thinking. But, after a time, tears failed her,
and she began bitterly to go over, word by word, what August Vorst had
That her son should ever cast eyes of love on any girl was
something Thyra had never thought about. She would not believe it
possible that he should love any one but herself, who loved him so
much. And now the possibility invaded her mind as subtly and coldly
and remorselessly as a sea-fog stealing landward.
Chester had been born to her at an age when most women are letting
their children slip from them into the world, with some natural tears
and heartaches, but content to let them go, after enjoying their
sweetest years. Thyra's late-come motherhood was all the more intense
and passionate because of its very lateness. She had been very ill
when her son was born, and had lain helpless for long weeks, during
which other women had tended her baby for her. She had never been
able to forgive them for this.
Her husband had died before Chester was a year old. She had laid
their son in his dying arms and received him back again with a last
benediction. To Thyra that moment had something of a sacrament in it.
It was as if the child had been doubly given to her, with a right to
him solely that nothing could take away or transcend.
Marrying! She had never thought of it in connection with him. He
did not come of a marrying race. His father had been sixty when he
had married her, Thyra Lincoln, likewise well on in life. Few of the
Lincolns or Carewes had married young, many not at all. And, to her,
Chester was her baby still. He belonged solely to her.
And now another woman had dared to look upon him with eyes of
love. Damaris Garland! Thyra now remembered seeing her. She was a
new-comer in Avonlea, having come to live with her uncle and aunt
after the death of her mother. Thyra had met her on the bridge one
day a month previously. Yes, a man might think she was pretty—a
low-browed girl, with a wave of reddish-gold hair, and crimson lips
blossoming out against the strange, milk-whiteness of her skin. Her
eyes, too—Thyra recalled them— hazel in tint, deep, and
The girl had gone past her with a smile that brought out many
dimples. There was a certain insolent quality in her beauty, as if
it flaunted itself somewhat too defiantly in the beholder's eye.
Thyra had turned and looked after the lithe, young creature,
wondering who she might be.
And to-night, while she, his mother, waited for him in darkness
and loneliness, he was down at Blair's, talking to this girl! He
loved her; and it was past doubt that she loved him. The thought was
more bitter than death to Thyra. That she should dare! Her anger was
all against the girl. She had laid a snare to get Chester and he,
like a fool, was entangled in it, thinking, man-fashion, only of her
great eyes and red lips. Thyra thought savagely of Damaris' beauty.
"She shall not have him," she said, with slow emphasis. "I will
never give him up to any other woman, and, least of all, to her. She
would leave me no place in his heart at all—me, his mother, who
almost died to give him life. He belongs to me! Let her look for the
son of some other woman—some woman who has many sons. She shall not
have my only one!"
She got up, wrapped a shawl about her head, and went out into the
darkly golden evening. The clouds had cleared away, and the moon was
shining. The air was chill, with a bell-like clearness. The alders
by the river rustled eerily as she walked by them and out upon the
bridge. Here she paced up and down, peering with troubled eyes along
the road beyond, or leaning over the rail, looking at the sparkling
silver ribbon of moonlight that garlanded the waters. Late travelers
passed her, and wondered at her presence and mien. Carl White saw
her, and told his wife about her when he got home.
"Striding to and fro over the bridge like mad! At first I thought
it was old, crazy May Blair. What do you suppose she was doing down
there at this hour of the night?"
"Watching for Ches, no doubt," said Cynthia. "He ain't home yet.
Likely he's snug at Blairs'. I do wonder if Thyra suspicions that he
goes after Damaris. I've never dared to hint it to her. She'd be as
liable to fly at me, tooth and claw, as not."
"Well, she picks out a precious queer night for moon-gazing," said
Carl, who was a jolly soul and took life as he found it. "It's bitter
cold—there'll be a hard frost. It's a pity she can't get it grained
into her that the boy is grown up and must have his fling like the
other lads. She'll go out of her mind yet, like her old grandmother
Lincoln, if she doesn't ease up. I've a notion to go down to the
bridge and reason a bit with her."
"Indeed, and you'll do no such thing!" cried Cynthia. "Thyra
Carewe is best left alone, if she is in a tantrum. She's like no
other woman in Avonlea—or out of it. I'd as soon meddle with a
tiger as her, if she's rampaging about Chester. I don't envy Damaris
Garland her life if she goes in there. Thyra'd sooner strangle her
than not, I guess."
"You women are all terrible hard on Thyra," said Carl,
good-naturedly. He had been in love with Thyra, himself, long ago,
and he still liked her in a friendly fashion. He always stood up for
her when the Avonlea women ran her down. He felt troubled about her
all night, recalling her as she paced the bridge. He wished he had
gone back, in spite of Cynthia.
When Chester came home he met his mother on the bridge. In the
faint, yet penetrating, moonlight they looked curiously alike, but
Chester had the milder face. He was very handsome. Even in the
seething of her pain and jealousy Thyra yearned over his beauty. She
would have liked to put up her hands and caress his face, but her
voice was very hard when she asked him where he had been so late.
"I called in at Tom Blair's on my way home from the harbor," he
answered, trying to walk on. But she held him back by his arm.
"Did you go there to see Damaris?" she demanded fiercely.
Chester was uncomfortable. Much as he loved his mother, he felt,
and always had felt, an awe of her and an impatient dislike of her
dramatic ways of speaking and acting. He reflected, resentfully, that
no other young man in Avonlea, who had been paying a friendly call,
would be met by his mother at midnight and held up in such tragic
fashion to account for himself. He tried vainly to loosen her hold
upon his arm, but he understood quite well that he must give her an
answer. Being strictly straight-forward by nature and upbringing, he
told the truth, albeit with more anger in his tone than he had ever
shown to his mother before.
"Yes," he said shortly.
Thyra released his arm, and struck her hands together with a sharp
cry. There was a savage note in it. She could have slain Damaris
Garland at that moment.
"Don't go on so, mother," said Chester, impatiently. "Come in out
of the cold. It isn't fit for you to be here. Who has been tampering
with you? What if I did go to see Damaris?"
"Oh—oh—oh!" cried Thyra. "I was waiting for you—alone—and you
were thinking only of her! Chester, answer me—do you love her?"
The blood rolled rapidly over the boy's face. He muttered
something and tried to pass on, but she caught him again. He forced
himself to speak gently.
"What if I do, mother?" It wouldn't be such a dreadful thing,
"And me? And me?" cried Thyra. "What am I to you, then?"
"You are my mother. I wouldn't love you any the less because I
cared for another, too."
"I won't have you love another," she cried. "I want all your
love—all! What's that baby-face to you, compared to your mother? I
have the best right to you. I won't give you up."
Chester realized that there was no arguing with such a mood. He
walked on, resolved to set the matter aside until she might be more
reasonable. But Thyra would not have it so. She followed on after
him, under the alders that crowded over the lane.
"Promise me that you'll not go there again," she entreated.
"Promise me that you'll give her up."
"I can't promise such a thing," he cried angrily.
His anger hurt her worse than a blow, but she did not flinch.
"You're not engaged to her?" she cried out.
"Now, mother, be quiet. All the settlement will hear you. Why do
you object to Damaris? You don't know how sweet she is. When you
"I will never know her!" cried Thyra furiously. "And she shall
not have you! She shall not, Chester!"
He made no answer. She suddenly broke into tears and loud sobs.
Touched with remorse, he stopped and put his arms about her.
"Mother, mother, don't! I can't bear to see you cry so. But,
indeed, you are unreasonable. Didn't you ever think the time would
come when I would want to marry, like other men?"
"No, no! And I will not have it—I cannot bear it, Chester. You
must promise not to go to see her again. I won't go into the house
this night until you do. I'll stay out here in the bitter cold until
you promise to put her out of your thoughts."
"That's beyond my power, mother. Oh, mother, you're making it
hard for me. Come in, come in! You're shivering with cold now.
You'll be sick."
"Not a step will I stir till you promise. Say you won't go to see
that girl any more, and there's nothing I won't do for you. But if you
put her before me, I'll not go in—I never will go in."
With most women this would have been an empty threat; but it was
not so with Thyra, and Chester knew it. He knew she would keep her
word. And he feared more than that. In this frenzy of hers what
might she not do? She came of a strange breed, as had been said
disapprovingly when Luke Carewe married her. There was a strain of
insanity in the Lincolns. A Lincoln woman had drowned herself once.
Chester thought of the river, and grew sick with fright. For a
moment even his passion for Damaris weakened before the older tie.
"Mother, calm yourself. Oh, surely there's no need of all this!
Let us wait until to-morrow, and talk it over then. I'll hear all
you have to say. Come in, dear."
Thyra loosened her arms from about him, and stepped back into a
moon-lit space. Looking at him tragically, she extended her arms and
spoke slowly and solemnly.
"Chester, choose between us. If you choose her, I shall go from
you to-night, and you will never see me again!"
"Choose!" she reiterated, fiercely.
He felt her long ascendancy. Its influence was not to be shaken
off in a moment. In all his life he had never disobeyed her.
Besides, with it all, he loved her more deeply and understandingly
than most sons love their mothers. He realized that, since she would
have it so, his choice was already made—or, rather that he had no
"Have your way," he said sullenly.
She ran to him and caught him to her heart. In the reaction of
her feeling she was half laughing, half crying. All was well
again—all would be well; she never doubted this, for she knew he
would keep his ungracious promise sacredly.
"Oh, my son, my son," she murmured, "you'd have sent me to my
death if you had chosen otherwise. But now you are mine again!"
She did not heed that he was sullen—that he resented her
unjustice with all her own intensity. She did not heed his silence
as they went into the house together. Strangely enough, she slept
well and soundly that night. Not until many days had passed did she
understand that, though Chester might keep his promise in the letter,
it was beyond his power to keep it in the spirit. She had taken him
from Damaris Garland; but she had not won him back to herself. He
could never be wholly her son again. There was a barrier between them
which not all her passionate love could break down. Chester was
gravely kind to her, for it was not in his nature to remain sullen
long, or visit his own unhappiness upon another's head; besides, he
understood her exacting affection, even in its injustice, and it has
been well-said that to understand is to forgive. But he avoided her,
and she knew it. The flame of her anger burned bitterly towards
"He thinks of her all the time," she moaned to herself. "He'll
come to hate me yet, I fear, because it's I who made him give her up.
But I'd rather even that than share him with another woman. Oh, my
son, my son!"
She knew that Damaris was suffering, too. The girl's wan face
told that when she met her. But this pleased Thyra. It eased the
ache in her bitter heart to know that pain was gnawing at Damaris'
Chester was absent from home very often now. He spent much of his
spare time at the harbor, consorting with Joe Raymond and others of
that ilk, who were but sorry associates for him, Avonlea people
In late November he and Joe started for a trip down the coast in
the latter's boat. Thyra protested against it, but Chester laughed
at her alarm.
Thyra saw him go with a heart sick from fear. She hated the sea,
and was afraid of it at any time; but, most of all, in this
treacherous month, with its sudden, wild gales.
Chester had been fond of the sea from boyhood. She had always
tried to stifle this fondness and break off his associations with the
harbor fishermen, who liked to lure the high-spirited boy out with
them on fishing expeditions. But her power over him was gone now.
After Chester's departure she was restless and miserable,
wandering from window to window to scan the dour, unsmiling sky. Carl
White, dropping in to pay a call, was alarmed when he heard that
Chester had gone with Joe, and had not tact enough to conceal his
alarm from Thyra.
"'T isn't safe this time of year," he said. "Folks expect no
better from that reckless, harum-scarum Joe Raymond. He'll drown
himself some day, there's nothing surer. This mad freak of starting
off down the shore in November is just of a piece with his usual
performances. But you shouldn't have let Chester go, Thyra."
"I couldn't prevent him. Say what I could, he would go. He
laughed when I spoke of danger. Oh, he's changed from what he was!
I know who has wrought the change, and I hate her for it!"
Carl shrugged his fat shoulders. He knew quite well that Thyra
was at the bottom of the sudden coldness between Chester Carewe and
Damaris Garland, about which Avonlea gossip was busying itself. He
pitied Thyra, too. She had aged rapidly the past month.
"You're too hard on Chester, Thyra. He's out of leading-strings
now, or should be. You must just let me take an old friend's
privilege, and tell you that you're taking the wrong way with him.
You're too jealous and exacting, Thyra."
"You don't know anything about it. You have never had a son,"
said Thyra, cruelly enough, for she knew that Carl's sonlessness was
a rankling thorn in his mind. "You don't know what it is to pour out
your love on one human being, and have it flung back in your face!"
Carl could not cope with Thyra's moods. He had never understood
her, even in his youth. Now he went home, still shrugging his
shoulders, and thinking that it was a good thing Thyra had not looked
on him with favor in the old days. Cynthia was much easier to get
More than Thyra looked anxiously to sea and sky that night in
Avonlea. Damaris Garland listened to the smothered roar of the
Atlantic in the murky northeast with a prescience of coming disaster.
Friendly longshoremen shook their heads and said that Ches and Joe
would better have kept to good, dry land.
"It's sorry work joking with a November gale," said Abel Blair. He
was an old man and, in his life, had seen some sad things along the
Thyra could not sleep that night. When the gale came shrieking up
the river, and struck the house, she got out of bed and dressed
herself. The wind screamed like a ravening beast at her window. All
night she wandered to and fro in the house, going from room to room,
now wringing her hands with loud outcries, now praying below her
breath with white lips, now listening in dumb misery to the fury of
The wind raged all the next day; but spent itself in the following
night, and the second morning was calm and fair. The eastern sky was
a great arc of crystal, smitten through with auroral crimsonings.
Thyra, looking from her kitchen window, saw a group of men on the
bridge. They were talking to Carl White, with looks and gestures
directed towards the Carewe house.
She went out and down to them. None of these who saw her white,
rigid face that day ever forgot the sight.
"You have news for me," she said.
They looked at each other, each man mutely imploring his neighbor
"You need not fear to tell me," said Thyra calmly. "I know what
you have come to say. My son is drowned."
"We don't know THAT, Mrs. Carewe," said Abel Blair quickly. "We
haven't got the worst to tell you—there's hope yet. But Joe
Raymond's boat was found last night, stranded bottom up, on the Blue
Point sand shore, forty miles down the coast."
"Don't look like that, Thyra," said Carl White pityingly. "They
may have escaped—they may have been picked up."
Thyra looked at him with dull eyes.
"You know they have not. Not one of you has any hope. I have no
son. The sea has taken him from me—my bonny baby!"
She turned and went back to her desolate home. None dared to
follow her. Carl White went home and sent his wife over to her.
Cynthia found Thyra sitting in her accustomed chair. Her hands
lay, palms upward, on her lap. Her eyes were dry and burning. She
met Cynthia's compassionate look with a fearful smile.
"Long ago, Cynthia White," she said slowly, "you were vexed with
me one day, and you told me that God would punish me yet, because I
made an idol of my son, and set it up in His place. Do you remember?
Your word was a true one. God saw that I loved Chester too much, and
He meant to take him from me. I thwarted one way when I made him give
up Damaris. But one can't fight against the Almighty. It was decreed
that I must lose him—if not in one way, then in another. He has been
taken from me utterly. I shall not even have his grave to tend,
"As near to a mad woman as anything you ever saw, with her awful
eyes," Cynthia told Carl, afterwards. But she did not say so there.
Although she was a shallow, commonplace soul, she had her share of
womanly sympathy, and her own life had not been free from suffering.
It taught her the right thing to do now. She sat down by the
stricken creature and put her arms about her, while she gathered the
cold hands in her own warm clasp. The tears filled her big, blue eyes
and her voice trembled as she said:
"Thyra, I'm sorry for you. I—I—lost a child once—my little
first-born. And Chester was a dear, good lad."
For a moment Thyra strained her small, tense body away from
Cynthia's embrace. Then she shuddered and cried out. The tears
came, and she wept her agony out on the other woman's breast.
As the ill news spread, other Avonlea women kept dropping in all
through the day to condole with Thyra. Many of them came in real
sympathy, but some out of mere curiosity to see how she took it.
Thyra knew this, but she did not resent it, as she would once have
done. She listened very quietly to all the halting efforts at
consolation, and the little platitudes with which they strove to cover
the nakedness of bereavement.
When darkness came Cynthia said she must go home, but would send
one of her girls over for the night.
"You won't feel like staying alone," she said.
Thyra looked up steadily.
"No. But I want you to send for Damaris Garland."
"Damaris Garland!" Cynthia repeated the name as if disbelieving
her own ears. There was never any knowing what whim Thyra might
take, but Cynthia had not expected this.
"Yes. Tell her I want her—tell her she must come. She must hate
me bitterly; but I am punished enough to satisfy even her hate. Tell
her to come to me for Chester's sake."
Cynthia did as she was bid, she sent her daughter, Jeanette, for
Damaris. Then she waited. No matter what duties were calling for
her at home she must see the interview between Thyra and Damaris. Her
curiosity would be the last thing to fail Cynthia White. She had done
very well all day; but it would be asking too much of her to expect
that she would consider the meeting of these two women sacred from her
She half believed that Damaris would refuse to come. But Damaris
came. Jeanette brought her in amid the fiery glow of a November
sunset. Thyra stood up, and for a moment they looked at each other.
The insolence of Damaris' beauty was gone. Her eyes were dull and
heavy with weeping, her lips were pale, and her face had lost its
laughter and dimples. Only her hair, escaping from the shawl she had
cast around it, gushed forth in warm splendor in the sunset light, and
framed her wan face like the aureole of a Madonna. Thyra looked upon
her with a shock of remorse. This was not the radiant creature she
had met on the bridge that summer afternoon. This—this—was HER
work. She held out her arms.
"Oh, Damaris, forgive me. We both loved him—that must be a bond
between us for life."
Damaris came forward and threw her arms about the older woman,
lifting her face. As their lips met even Cynthia White realized that
she had no business there. She vented the irritation of her
embarrassment on the innocent Jeanette.
"Come away," she whispered crossly. "Can't you see we're not
She drew Jeanette out, leaving Thyra rocking Damaris in her arms,
and crooning over her like a mother over her child.
When December had grown old Damaris was still with Thyra. It was
understood that she was to remain there for the winter, at least.
Thyra could not bear her to be out of her sight. They talked
constantly about Chester; Thyra confessed all her anger and hatred.
Damaris had forgiven her; but Thyra could never forgive herself. She
was greatly changed, and had grown very gentle and tender. She even
sent for August Vorst and begged him to pardon her for the way she had
spoken to him.
Winter came late that year, and the season was a very open one.
There was no snow on the ground and, a month after Joe Raymond's boat
had been cast up on the Blue Point sand shore, Thyra, wandering about
in her garden, found some pansies blooming under their tangled leaves.
She was picking them for Damaris when she heard a buggy rumble over
the bridge and drive up the White lane, hidden from her sight by the
alders and firs. A few minutes later Carl and Cynthia came hastily
across their yard under the huge balm-of-gileads. Carl's face was
flushed, and his big body quivered with excitement. Cynthia ran
behind him, with tears rolling down her face.
Thyra felt herself growing sick with fear. Had anything happened
to Damaris? A glimpse of the girl, sewing by an upper window of the
house, reassured her.
"Oh, Thyra, Thyra!" gasped Cynthia.
"Can you stand some good news, Thyra?" asked Carl, in a trembling
voice. "Very, very good news!"
Thyra looked wildly from one to the other.
"There's but one thing you would dare to call good news to me,"
she cried. "Is it about—about—"
"Chester! Yes, it's about Chester! Thyra, he is alive—he's
safe—he and Joe, both of them, thank God! Cynthia, catch her!"
"No, I am not going to faint," said Thyra, steadying herself by
Cynthia's shoulder. "My son alive! How did you hear? How did it
happen? Where has he been?"
"I heard it down at the harbor, Thyra. Mike McCready's vessel,
the Nora Lee, was just in from the Magdalens. Ches and Joe got
capsized the night of the storm, but they hung on to their boat
somehow, and at daybreak they were picked up by the Nora Lee,
bound for Quebec. But she was damaged by the storm and blown clear
out of her course. Had to put into the Magdalens for repairs, and has
been there ever since. The cable to the islands was out of order, and
no vessels call there this time of year for mails. If it hadn't been
an extra open season the Nora Lee wouldn't have got away, but
would have had to stay there till spring. You never saw such
rejoicing as there was this morning at the harbor, when the Nora Lee
came in, flying flags at the mast head."
"And Chester—where is he?" demanded Thyra.
Carl and Cynthia looked at each other.
"Well, Thyra," said the latter, "the fact is, he's over there in
our yard this blessed minute. Carl brought him home from the harbor,
but I wouldn't let him come over until we had prepared you for it.
He's waiting for you there."
Thyra made a quick step in the direction of the gate. Then she
turned, with a little of the glow dying out of her face.
"No, there's one has a better right to go to him first. I can
atone to him—thank God, I can atone to him!"
She went into the house and called Damaris. As the girl came down
the stairs Thyra held out her hands with a wonderful light of joy and
renunciation on her face.
"Damaris," she said, "Chester has come back to us—the sea has
given him back to us. He is over at Carl White's house. Go to him,
my daughter, and bring him to me!"
XI. THE EDUCATION OF BETTY
When Sara Currie married Jack Churchill I was broken-hearted...or
believed myself to be so, which, in a boy of twenty-two, amounts to
pretty much the same thing. Not that I took the world into my
confidence; that was never the Douglas way, and I held myself in
honor bound to live up to the family traditions. I thought, then,
that nobody but Sara knew; but I dare say, now, that Jack knew it
also, for I don't think Sara could have helped telling him. If he did
know, however, he did not let me see that he did, and never insulted
me by any implied sympathy; on the contrary, he asked me to be his
best man. Jack was always a thoroughbred.
I was best man. Jack and I had always been bosom friends, and,
although I had lost my sweetheart, I did not intend to lose my friend
into the bargain. Sara had made a wise choice, for Jack was twice the
man I was; he had had to work for his living, which perhaps accounts
So I danced at Sara's wedding as if my heart were as light as my
heels; but, after she and Jack had settled down at Glenby I closed
The Maples and went abroad...being, as I have hinted, one of those
unfortunate mortals who need consult nothing but their own whims in
the matter of time and money. I stayed away for ten years, during
which The Maples was given over to moths and rust, while I enjoyed
life elsewhere. I did enjoy it hugely, but always under protest, for
I felt that a broken-hearted man ought not to enjoy himself as I did.
It jarred on my sense of fitness, and I tried to moderate my zest,
and think more of the past than I did. It was no use; the present
insisted on being intrusive and pleasant; as for the future...well,
there was no future.
Then Jack Churchill, poor fellow, died. A year after his death, I
went home and again asked Sara to marry me, as in duty bound. Sara
again declined, alleging that her heart was buried in Jack's grave, or
words to that effect. I found that it did not much matter...of
course, at thirty-two one does not take these things to heart as at
twenty-two. I had enough to occupy me in getting The Maples into
working order, and beginning to educate Betty.
Betty was Sara's ten year-old daughter, and she had been
thoroughly spoiled. That is to say, she had been allowed her own way
in everything and, having inherited her father's outdoor tastes, had
simply run wild. She was a thorough tomboy, a thin, scrawny little
thing with a trace of Sara's beauty. Betty took after her father's
dark, tall race and, on the occasion of my first introduction to her,
seemed to be all legs and neck. There were points about her, though,
which I considered promising. She had fine, almond-shaped, hazel
eyes, the smallest and most shapely hands and feet I ever saw, and two
enormous braids of thick, nut-brown hair.
For Jack's sake I decided to bring his daughter up properly. Sara
couldn't do it, and didn't try. I saw that, if somebody didn't take
Betty in hand, wisely and firmly, she would certainly be ruined.
There seemed to be nobody except myself at all interested in the
matter, so I determined to see what an old bachelor could do as
regards bringing up a girl in the way she should go. I might have
been her father; as it was, her father had been my best friend. Who
had a better right to watch over his daughter? I determined to be a
father to Betty, and do all for her that the most devoted parent could
do. It was, self-evidently, my duty.
I told Sara I was going to take Betty in hand. Sara sighed one of
the plaintive little sighs which I had once thought so charming, but
now, to my surprise, found faintly irritating, and said that she would
be very much obliged if I would.
"I feel that I am not able to cope with the problem of Betty's
education, Stephen," she admitted, "Betty is a strange child...all
Churchill. Her poor father indulged her in everything, and she has a
will of her own, I assure you. I have really no control over her,
whatever. She does as she pleases, and is ruining her complexion by
running and galloping out of doors the whole time. Not that she had
much complexion to start with. The Churchills never had, you
know."...Sara cast a complacent glance at her delicately tinted
reflection in the mirror.... "I tried to make Betty wear a sunbonnet
this summer, but I might as well have talked to the wind."
A vision of Betty in a sunbonnet presented itself to my mind, and
afforded me so much amusement that I was grateful to Sara for having
furnished it. I rewarded her with a compliment.
"It is to be regretted that Betty has not inherited her mother's
charming color," I said, "but we must do the best we can for her
under her limitations. She may have improved vastly by the time she
has grown up. And, at least, we must make a lady of her; she is a
most alarming tomboy at present, but there is good material to work
upon...there must be, in the Churchill and Currie blend. But even the
best material may be spoiled by unwise handling. I think I can
promise you that I will not spoil it. I feel that Betty is my
vocation; and I shall set myself up as a rival of Wordsworth's
'nature,' of whose methods I have always had a decided distrust, in
spite of his insidious verses."
Sara did not understand me in the least; but, then, she did not
"I confide Betty's education entirely to you, Stephen," she said,
with another plaintive sigh. "I feel sure I could not put it into
better hands. You have always been a person who could be thoroughly
Well, that was something by way of reward for a life-long
devotion. I felt that I was satisfied with my position as unofficial
advisor-in-chief to Sara and self-appointed guardian of Betty. I also
felt that, for the furtherance of the cause I had taken to heart, it
was a good thing that Sara had again refused to marry me. I had a
sixth sense which informed me that a staid old family friend might
succeed with Betty where a stepfather would have signally failed.
Betty's loyalty to her father's memory was passionate, and vehement;
she would view his supplanter with resentment and distrust; but his
old familiar comrade was a person to be taken to her heart.
Fortunately for the success of my enterprise, Betty liked me. She
told me this with the same engaging candor she would have used in
informing me that she hated me, if she had happened to take a bias in
that direction, saying frankly:
"You are one of the very nicest old folks I know, Stephen. Yes,
you are a ripping good fellow!"
This made my task a comparatively easy one; I sometimes shudder to
think what it might have been if Betty had not thought I was a
"ripping good fellow." I should have stuck to it, because that is my
way; but Betty would have made my life a misery to me. She had
startling capacities for tormenting people when she chose to exert
them; I certainly should not have liked to be numbered among Betty's
I rode over to Glenby the next morning after my paternal interview
with Sara, intending to have a frank talk with Betty and lay the
foundations of a good understanding on both sides. Betty was a sharp
child, with a disconcerting knack of seeing straight through
grindstones; she would certainly perceive and probably resent any
underhanded management. I thought it best to tell her plainly that I
was going to look after her.
When, however, I encountered Betty, tearing madly down the beech
avenue with a couple of dogs, her loosened hair streaming behind her
like a banner of independence, and had lifted her, hatless and
breathless, up before me on my mare, I found that Sara had saved me
the trouble of an explanation.
"Mother says you are going to take charge of my education,
Stephen," said Betty, as soon as she could speak. "I'm glad, because
I think that, for an old person, you have a good deal of sense. I
suppose my education has to be seen to, some time or other, and I'd
rather you'd do it than anybody else I know."
"Thank you, Betty," I said gravely. "I hope I shall deserve your
good opinion of my sense. I shall expect you to do as I tell you,
and be guided by my advice in everything."
"Yes, I will," said Betty, "because I'm sure you won't tell me to
do anything I'd really hate to do. You won't shut me up in a room
and make me sew, will you? Because I won't do it."
I assured her I would not.
"Nor send me to a boarding-school," pursued Betty. "Mother's
always threatening to send me to one. I suppose she would have done
it before this, only she knew I'd run away. You won't send me to a
boarding-school, will you, Stephen? Because I won't go."
"No," I said obligingly. "I won't. I should never dream of
cooping a wild little thing, like you, up in a boarding-school. You'd
fret your heart out like a caged skylark."
"I know you and I are going to get along together splendidly,
Stephen," said Betty, rubbing her brown cheek chummily against my
shoulder. "You are so good at understanding. Very few people are.
Even dad darling didn't understand. He let me do just as I wanted
to, just because I wanted to, not because he really understood that I
couldn't be tame and play with dolls. I hate dolls! Real live babies
are jolly; but dogs and horses are ever so much nicer than dolls."
"But you must have lessons, Betty. I shall select your teachers
and superintend your studies, and I shall expect you to do me credit
along that line, as well as along all others."
"I'll try, honest and true, Stephen," declared Betty. And she
kept her word.
At first I looked upon Betty's education as a duty; in a very
short time it had become a pleasure...the deepest and most abiding
interest of my life. As I had premised, Betty was good material, and
responded to my training with gratifying plasticity. Day by day, week
by week, month by month, her character and temperament unfolded
naturally under my watchful eye. It was like beholding the gradual
development of some rare flower in one's garden. A little checking
and pruning here, a careful training of shoot and tendril there, and,
lo, the reward of grace and symmetry!
Betty grew up as I would have wished Jack Churchill's girl to
grow—spirited and proud, with the fine spirit and gracious pride of
pure womanhood, loyal and loving, with the loyalty and love of a frank
and unspoiled nature; true to her heart's core, hating falsehood and
sham—as crystal-clear a mirror of maidenhood as ever man looked into
and saw himself reflected back in such a halo as made him ashamed of
not being more worthy of it. Betty was kind enough to say that I had
taught her everything she knew. But what had she not taught me? If
there were a debt between us, it was on my side.
Sara was fairly well satisfied. It was not my fault that Betty
was not better looking, she said. I had certainly done everything
for her mind and character that could be done. Sara's manner implied
that these unimportant details did not count for much, balanced
against the lack of a pink-and-white skin and dimpled elbows; but she
was generous enough not to blame me.
"When Betty is twenty-five," I said patiently—I had grown used to
speaking patiently to Sara—"she will be a magnificent woman— far
handsomer than you ever were, Sara, in your pinkest and whitest prime.
Where are your eyes, my dear lady, that you can't see the promise of
loveliness in Betty?"
"Betty is seventeen, and she is as lanky and brown as ever she
was," sighed Sara. "When I was seventeen I was the belle of the
county and had had five proposals. I don't believe the thought of a
lover has ever entered Betty's head."
"I hope not," I said shortly. Somehow, I did not like the
suggestion. "Betty is a child yet. For pity's sake, Sara, don't go
putting nonsensical ideas into her head."
"I'm afraid I can't," mourned Sara, as if it were something to be
regretted. "You have filled it too full of books and things like
that. I've every confidence in your judgment, Stephen—and really
you've done wonders with Betty. But don't you think you've made her
rather too clever? Men don't like women who are too clever. Her poor
father, now—he always said that a woman who liked books better than
beaux was an unnatural creature."
I didn't believe Jack had ever said anything so foolish. Sara
imagined things. But I resented the aspersion of blue-stockingness
cast on Betty.
"When the time comes for Betty to be interested in beaux," I said
severely, "she will probably give them all due attention. Just at
present her head is a great deal better filled with books than with
silly premature fancies and sentimentalities. I'm a critical old
fellow—but I'm satisfied with Betty, Sara— perfectly satisfied."
"Oh, I dare say she is all right, Stephen. And I'm really
grateful to you. I'm sure I could have done nothing at all with her.
It's not your fault, of course,—but I can't help wishing she were a
little more like other girls."
I galloped away from Glenby in a rage. What a blessing Sara had
not married me in my absurd youth! She would have driven me wild
with her sighs and her obtuseness and her everlasting
pink-and-whiteness. But there—there—there—gently! She was a
sweet, good-hearted little woman; she had made Jack happy; and she
had contrived, heaven only knew how, to bring a rare creature like
Betty into the world. For that, much might be forgiven her. By the
time I reached The Maples and had flung myself down in an old, kinky,
comfortable chair in my library I had forgiven her and was even paying
her the compliment of thinking seriously over what she had said.
Was Betty really unlike other girls? That is to say, unlike them
in any respect wherein she should resemble them? I did not wish
this; although I was a crusty old bachelor I approved of girls,
holding them the sweetest things the good God has made. I wanted
Betty to have her full complement of girlhood in all its best and
highest manifestation. Was there anything lacking?
I observed Betty very closely during the next week or so, riding
over to Glenby every day and riding back at night, meditating upon my
observations. Eventually I concluded to do what I had never thought
myself in the least likely to do. I would send Betty to a
boarding-school for a year. It was necessary that she should learn
how to live with other girls.
I went over to Glenby the next day and found Betty under the
beeches on the lawn, just back from a canter. She was sitting on the
dappled mare I had given her on her last birthday, and was laughing at
the antics of her rejoicing dogs around her. I looked at her with
much pleasure; it gladdened me to see how much, nay, how totally a
child she still was, despite her Churchill height. Her hair, under
her velvet cap, still hung over her shoulders in the same thick
plaits; her face had the firm leanness of early youth, but its curves
were very fine and delicate. The brown skin, that worried Sara so,
was flushed through with dusky color from her gallop; her long, dark
eyes were filled with the beautiful unconsciousness of childhood.
More than all, the soul in her was still the soul of a child. I
found myself wishing that it could always remain so. But I knew it
could not; the woman must blossom out some day; it was my duty to see
that the flower fulfilled the promise of the bud.
When I told Betty that she must go away to a school for a year,
she shrugged, frowned and consented. Betty had learned that she must
consent to what I decreed, even when my decrees were opposed to her
likings, as she had once fondly believed they never would be. But
Betty had acquired confidence in me to the beautiful extent of
acquiescing in everything I commanded.
"I'll go, of course, since you wish it, Stephen," she said. "But
why do you want me to go? You must have a reason—you always have a
reason for anything you do. What is it?"
"That is for you to find out, Betty," I said. "By the time you
come back you will have discovered it, I think. If not, it will not
have proved itself a good reason and shall be forgotten."
When Betty went away I bade her good-by without burdening her with
any useless words of advice.
"Write to me every week, and remember that you are Betty
Churchill," I said.
Betty was standing on the steps above, among her dogs. She came
down a step and put her arms about my neck.
"I'll remember that you are my friend and that I must live up to
you," she said. "Good-by, Stephen."
She kissed me two or three times—good, hearty smacks! did I not
say she was still a child?—and stood waving her hand to me as I rode
away. I looked back at the end of the avenue and saw her standing
there, short-skirted and hatless, fronting the lowering sun with those
fearless eyes of hers. So I looked my last on the child Betty.
That was a lonely year. My occupation was gone and I began to
fear that I had outlived my usefulness. Life seemed flat, stale, and
unprofitable. Betty's weekly letters were all that lent it any savor.
They were spicy and piquant enough. Betty was discovered to have
unsuspected talents in the epistolary line. At first she was dolefully
homesick, and begged me to let her come home. When I refused—it was
amazingly hard to refuse—she sulked through three letters, then
cheered up and began to enjoy herself. But it was nearly the end of
the year when she wrote:
"I've found out why you sent me here, Stephen—and I'm glad you
I had to be away from home on unavoidable business the day Betty
returned to Glenby. But the next afternoon I went over. I found
Betty out and Sara in. The latter was beaming. Betty was so much
improved, she declared delightedly. I would hardly know "the dear
This alarmed me terribly. What on earth had they done to Betty? I
found that she had gone up to the pineland for a walk, and thither I
betook myself speedily. When I saw her coming down a long,
golden-brown alley I stepped behind a tree to watch her—I wished to
see her, myself unseen. As she drew near I gazed at her with pride,
and admiration and amazement—and, under it all, a strange, dreadful,
heart-sinking, which I could not understand and which I had never in
all my life experienced before—no, not even when Sara had refused me.
Betty was a woman! Not by virtue of the simple white dress that
clung to her tall, slender figure, revealing lines of exquisite grace
and litheness; not by virtue of the glossy masses of dark brown hair
heaped high on her head and held there in wonderful shining coils; not
by virtue of added softness of curve and daintiness of outline; not
because of all these, but because of the dream and wonder and seeking
in her eyes. She was a woman, looking, all unconscious of her quest,
The understanding of the change in her came home to me with a
shock that must have left me, I think, something white about the
lips. I was glad. She was what I had wished her to become. But I
wanted the child Betty back; this womanly Betty seemed far away from
I stepped out into the path and she saw me, with a brightening of
her whole face. She did not rush forward and fling herself into my
arms as she would have done a year ago; but she came towards me
swiftly, holding out her hand. I had thought her slightly pale when I
had first seen her; but now I concluded I had been mistaken, for there
was a wonderful sunrise of color in her face. I took her hand—there
were no kisses this time.
"Welcome home, Betty," I said.
"Oh, Stephen, it is so good to be back," she breathed, her eyes
She did not say it was good to see me again, as I had hoped she
would do. Indeed, after the first minute of greeting, she seemed a
trifle cool and distant. We walked for an hour in the pine wood and
talked. Betty was brilliant, witty, self-possessed, altogether
charming. I thought her perfect and yet my heart ached. What a
glorious young thing she was, in that splendid youth of hers! What a
prize for some lucky man—confound the obtrusive thought! No doubt we
should soon be overrun at Glenby with lovers. I should stumble over
some forlorn youth at every step! Well, what of it? Betty would
marry, of course. It would be my duty to see that she got a good
husband, worthy of her as men go. I thought I preferred the old duty
of superintending her studies. But there, it was all the same
thing—merely a post-graduate course in applied knowledge. When she
began to learn life's greatest lesson of love, I, the tried and true
old family friend and mentor, must be on hand to see that the teacher
was what I would have him be, even as I had formerly selected her
instructor in French and botany. Then, and not until then, would
Betty's education be complete.
I rode home very soberly. When I reached The Maples I did what I
had not done for years...looked critically at myself in the mirror.
The realization that I had grown older came home to me with a new and
unpleasant force. There were marked lines on my lean face, and silver
glints in the dark hair over my temples. When Betty was ten she had
thought me "an old person." Now, at eighteen, she probably thought me
a veritable ancient of days. Pshaw, what did it matter? And yet...I
thought of her as I had seen her, standing under the pines, and
something cold and painful laid its hand on my heart.
My premonitions as to lovers proved correct. Glenby was soon
infested with them. Heaven knows where they all came from. I had
not supposed there was a quarter as many young men in the whole
county; but there they were. Sara was in the seventh heaven of
delight. Was not Betty at last a belle? As for the proposals...well,
Betty never counted her scalps in public; but every once in a while a
visiting youth dropped out and was seen no more at Glenby. One could
guess what that meant.
Betty apparently enjoyed all this. I grieve to say that she was a
bit of a coquette. I tried to cure her of this serious defect, but
for once I found that I had undertaken something I could not
accomplish. In vain I lectured, Betty only laughed; in vain I
gravely rebuked, Betty only flirted more vivaciously than before. Men
might come and men might go, but Betty went on forever. I endured
this sort of thing for a year and then I decided that it was time to
interfere seriously. I must find a husband for Betty...my fatherly
duty would not be fulfilled until I had...nor, indeed, my duty to
society. She was not a safe person to have running at large.
None of the men who haunted Glenby was good enough for her. I
decided that my nephew, Frank, would do very well. He was a capital
young fellow, handsome, clean-souled, and whole-hearted. From a
worldly point of view he was what Sara would have termed an excellent
match; he had money, social standing and a rising reputation as a
clever young lawyer. Yes, he should have Betty, confound him!
They had never met. I set the wheels going at once. The sooner
all the fuss was over the better. I hated fuss and there was bound
to be a good deal of it. But I went about the business like an
accomplished matchmaker. I invited Frank to visit The Maples and,
before he came, I talked much...but not too much...of him to Betty,
mingling judicious praise and still more judicious blame together.
Women never like a paragon. Betty heard me with more gravity than
she usually accorded to my dissertations on young men. She even
condescended to ask several questions about him. This I thought a
To Frank I had said not a word about Betty; when he came to The
Maples I took him over to Glenby and, coming upon Betty wandering
about among the beeches in the sunset, I introduced him without any
He would have been more than mortal if he had not fallen in love
with her upon the spot. It was not in the heart of man to resist
her...that dainty, alluring bit of womanhood. She was all in white,
with flowers in her hair, and, for a moment, I could have murdered
Frank or any other man who dared to commit the sacrilege of loving
Then I pulled myself together and left them alone. I might have
gone in and talked to Sara...two old folks gently reviewing their
youth while the young folks courted outside...but I did not. I
prowled about the pine wood, and tried to forget how blithe and
handsome that curly-headed boy, Frank, was, and what a flash had
sprung into his eyes when he had seen Betty. Well, what of it? Was
not that what I had brought him there for? And was I not pleased at
the success of my scheme? Certainly I was! Delighted!
Next day Frank went to Glenby without even making the poor
pretense of asking me to accompany him. I spent the time of his
absence overseeing the construction of a new greenhouse I was having
built. I was conscientious in my supervision; but I felt no interest
in it. The place was intended for roses, and roses made me think of
the pale yellow ones Betty had worn at her breast one evening the week
before, when, all lovers being unaccountably absent, we had wandered
together under the pines and talked as in the old days before her
young womanhood and my gray hairs had risen up to divide us. She had
dropped a rose on the brown floor, and I had sneaked back, after I had
left her the house, to get it, before I went home. I had it now in my
pocket-book. Confound it, mightn't a future uncle cherish a family
affection for his prospective niece?
Frank's wooing seemed to prosper. The other young sparks, who had
haunted Glenby, faded away after his advent. Betty treated him with
most encouraging sweetness; Sara smiled on him; I stood in the
background, like a benevolent god of the machine, and flattered myself
that I pulled the strings.
At the end of a month something went wrong. Frank came home from
Glenby one day in the dumps, and moped for two whole days. I rode
down myself on the third. I had not gone much to Glenby that month;
but, if there were trouble Bettyward, it was my duty to make smooth
the rough places.
As usual, I found Betty in the pineland. I thought she looked
rather pale and dull...fretting about Frank no doubt. She brightened
up when she saw me, evidently expecting that I had come to straighten
matters out; but she pretended to be haughty and indifferent.
"I am glad you haven't forgotten us altogether, Stephen," she said
coolly. "You haven't been down for a week."
"I'm flattered that you noticed it," I said, sitting down on a
fallen tree and looking up at her as she stood, tall and lithe,
against an old pine, with her eyes averted. "I shouldn't have
supposed you'd want an old fogy like myself poking about and spoiling
the idyllic moments of love's young dream."
"Why do you always speak of yourself as old?" said Betty, crossly,
ignoring my reference to Frank.
"Because I am old, my dear. Witness these gray hairs."
I pushed up my hat to show them the more recklessly.
Betty barely glanced at them.
"You have just enough to give you a distinguished look," she said,
"and you are only forty. A man is in his prime at forty. He never has
any sense until he is forty—and sometimes he doesn't seem to have any
even then," she concluded impertinently.
My heart beat. Did Betty suspect? Was that last sentence meant
to inform me that she was aware of my secret folly, and laughed at
"I came over to see what has gone wrong between you and Frank," I
Betty bit her lips.
"Nothing," she said.
"Betty," I said reproachfully, "I brought you up...or endeavored
to bring you up...to speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing
but the truth. Don't tell me I have failed. I'll give you another
chance. Have you quarreled with Frank?"
"No," said the maddening Betty, "HE quarreled with me. He went
away in a temper and I do not care if he never comes back!"
I shook my head.
"This won't do, Betty. As your old family friend I still claim
the right to scold you until you have a husband to do the scolding.
You mustn't torment Frank. He is too fine a fellow. You must marry
"Must I?" said Betty, a dusky red flaming out on her cheek. She
turned her eyes on me in a most disconcerting fashion. "Do YOU wish
me to marry Frank, Stephen?"
Betty had a wretched habit of emphasizing pronouns in a fashion
calculated to rattle anybody.
"Yes, I do wish it, because I think it will be best for you," I
replied, without looking at her. "You must marry some time, Betty,
and Frank is the only man I know to whom I could trust you. As your
guardian, I have an interest in seeing you well and wisely settled for
life. You have always taken my advice and obeyed my wishes; and
you've always found my way the best, in the long run, haven't you,
Betty? You won't prove rebellious now, I'm sure. You know quite well
that I am advising you for your own good. Frank is a splendid young
fellow, who loves you with all his heart. Marry him, Betty. Mind, I
don't COMMAND. I have no right to do that, and you are too old to be
ordered about, if I had. But I wish and advise it. Isn't that
I had been looking away from her all the time I was talking,
gazing determinedly down a sunlit vista of pines. Every word I said
seemed to tear my heart, and come from my lips stained with
life-blood. Yes, Betty should marry Frank! But, good God, what
would become of me!
Betty left her station under the pine tree, and walked around me
until she got right in front of my face. I couldn't help looking at
her, for if I moved my eyes she moved too. There was nothing meek or
submissive about her; her head was held high, her eyes were blazing,
and her cheeks were crimson. But her words were meek enough.
"I will marry Frank if you wish it, Stephen," she said. "You are
my friend. I have never crossed your wishes, and, as you say, I have
never regretted being guided by them. I will do exactly as you wish
in this case also, I promise you that. But, in so solemn a question,
I must be very certain what you DO wish. There must be no doubt in my
mind or heart. Look me squarely in the eyes, Stephen—as you haven't
done once to-day, no, nor once since I came home from school—and, so
looking, tell me that you wish me to marry Frank Douglas and I will do
it! DO you, Stephen?"
I had to look her in the eyes, since nothing else would do her;
and, as I did so, all the might of manhood in me rose up in hot
revolt against the lie I would have told her. That unfaltering,
impelling gaze of hers drew the truth from my lips in spite of
"No, I don't wish you to marry Frank Douglas, a thousand times
no!" I said passionately. "I don't wish you to marry any man on
earth but myself. I love you—I love you, Betty. You are dearer to
me than life—dearer to me than my own happiness. It was your
happiness I thought of—and so I asked you to marry Frank because I
believed he would make you a happy woman. That is all!"
Betty's defiance went from her like a flame blown out. She turned
away and drooped her proud head.
"It could not have made me a happy woman to marry one man, loving
another," she said, in a whisper.
I got up and went over to her.
"Betty, whom do you love?" I asked, also in a whisper.
"You," she murmured meekly—oh, so meekly, my proud little girl!
"Betty," I said brokenly, "I'm old—too old for you—I'm more than
twenty years your senior—I'm—"
"Oh!" Betty wheeled around on me and stamped her foot. "Don't
mention your age to me again. I don't care if you're as old as
Methuselah. But I'm not going to coax you to marry me, sir! If you
won't, I'll never marry anybody—I'll live and die an old maid. You
can please yourself, of course!"
She turned away, half-laughing, half-crying; but I caught her in
my arms and crushed her sweet lips against mine.
"Betty, I'm the happiest man in the world—and I was the most
miserable when I came here."
"You deserved to be," said Betty cruelly. "I'm glad you were. Any
man as stupid as you deserves to be unhappy. What do you think I felt
like, loving you with all my heart, and seeing you simply throwing me
at another man's head. Why, I've always loved you, Stephen; but I
didn't know it until I went to that detestable school. Then I found
out—and I thought that was why you had sent me. But, when I came
home, you almost broke my heart. That was why I flirted so with all
those poor, nice boys —I wanted to hurt you but I never thought I
succeeded. You just went on being FATHERLY. Then, when you brought
Frank here, I almost gave up hope; and I tried to make up my mind to
marry him; I should have done it if you had insisted. But I had to
have one more try for happiness first. I had just one little hope to
inspire me with sufficient boldness. I saw you, that night, when you
came back here and picked up my rose! I had come back, myself, to be
alone and unhappy."
"It is the most wonderful thing that ever happened—that you
should love me," I said.
"It's not—I couldn't help it," said Betty, nestling her brown
head on my shoulder. "You taught me everything else, Stephen, so
nobody but you could teach me how to love. You've made a thorough
thing of educating me."
"When will you marry me, Betty?" I asked.
"As soon as I can fully forgive you for trying to make me marry
somebody else," said Betty.
It was rather hard lines on Frank, when you come to think of it.
But, such is the selfishness of human nature that we didn't think
much about Frank. The young fellow behaved like the Douglas he was.
Went a little white about the lips when I told him, wished me all
happiness, and went quietly away, "gentleman unafraid."
He has since married and is, I understand, very happy. Not as
happy as I am, of course; that is impossible, because there is only
one Betty in the world, and she is my wife.
XII. IN HER SELFLESS MOOD
The raw wind of an early May evening was puffing in and out the
curtains of the room where Naomi Holland lay dying. The air was
moist and chill, but the sick woman would not have the window closed.
"I can't get my breath if you shut everything up so tight," she
said. "Whatever comes, I ain't going to be smothered to death,
Outside of the window grew a cherry tree, powdered with moist buds
with the promise of blossoms she would not live to see. Between its
boughs she saw a crystal cup of sky over hills that were growing dim
and purple. The outside air was full of sweet, wholesome springtime
sounds that drifted in fitfully. There were voices and whistles in
the barnyard, and now and then faint laughter. A bird alighted for a
moment on a cherry bough, and twittered restlessly. Naomi knew that
white mists were hovering in the silent hollows, that the maple at the
gate wore a misty blossom red, and that violet stars were shining
bluely on the brooklands.
The room was a small, plain one. The floor was bare, save for a
couple of braided rugs, the plaster discolored, the walls dingy and
glaring. There had never been much beauty in Naomi Holland's
environment, and, now that she was dying, there was even less.
At the open window a boy of about ten years was leaning out over
the sill and whistling. He was tall for his age, and beautiful—the
hair a rich auburn with a glistening curl in it, skin very white and
warm-tinted, eyes small and of a greenish blue, with dilated pupils
and long lashes. He had a weak chin, and a full, sullen mouth.
The bed was in the corner farthest from the window; on it the sick
woman, in spite of the pain that was her portion continually, was
lying as quiet and motionless as she had done ever since she had lain
down upon it for the last time. Naomi Holland never complained; when
the agony was at its worst, she shut her teeth more firmly over her
bloodless lip, and her great black eyes glared at the blank wall
before in a way that gave her attendants what they called "the
creeps," but no word or moan escaped her.
Between the paroxysms she kept up her keen interest in the life
that went on about her. Nothing escaped her sharp, alert eyes and
ears. This evening she lay spent on the crumpled pillows; she had had
a bad spell in the afternoon and it had left her very weak. In the
dim light her extremely long face looked corpse-like already. Her
black hair lay in a heavy braid over the pillow and down the
counterpane. It was all that was left of her beauty, and she took a
fierce joy in it. Those long, glistening, sinuous tresses must be
combed and braided every day, no matter what came.
A girl of fourteen was curled up on a chair at the head of the
bed, with her head resting on the pillow. The boy at the window was
her half-brother; but, between Christopher Holland and Eunice Carr,
not the slightest resemblance existed.
Presently the sibilant silence was broken by a low, half-strangled
sob. The sick woman, who had been watching a white evening star
through the cherry boughs, turned impatiently at the sound.
"I wish you'd get over that, Eunice," she said sharply. "I don't
want any one crying over me until I'm dead; and then you'll have
plenty else to do, most likely. If it wasn't for Christopher I
wouldn't be anyways unwilling to die. When one has had such a life
as I've had, there isn't much in death to be afraid of. Only, a body
would like to go right off, and not die by inches, like this. 'Tain't
She snapped out the last sentence as if addressing some unseen,
tyrannical presence; her voice, at least, had not weakened, but was
as clear and incisive as ever. The boy at the window stopped
whistling, and the girl silently wiped her eyes on her faded gingham
Naomi drew her own hair over her lips, and kissed it.
"You'll never have hair like that, Eunice," she said. "It does
seem most too pretty to bury, doesn't it? Mind you see that it is
fixed nice when I'm laid out. Comb it right up on my head and braid
A sound, such as might be wrung from a suffering animal, came from
the girl, but at the same moment the door opened and a woman entered.
"Chris," she said sharply, "you get right off for the cows, you
lazy little scamp! You knew right well you had to go for them, and
here you've been idling, and me looking high and low for you. Make
haste now; it's ridiculous late."
The boy pulled in his head and scowled at his aunt, but he dared
not disobey, and went out slowly with a sulky mutter.
His aunt subdued a movement, that might have developed into a
sound box on his ears, with a rather frightened glance at the bed.
Naomi Holland was spent and dying, but her temper was still a thing
to hold in dread, and her sister-in-law did not choose to rouse it by
slapping Christopher. To her and her co-nurse the spasms of rage,
which the sick woman sometimes had, seemed to partake of the nature of
devil possession. The last one, only three days before, had been
provoked by Christopher's complaint of some real or fancied
ill-treatment from his aunt, and the latter had no mind to bring on
another. She went over to the bed, and straightened the clothes.
"Sarah and I are going out to milk, Naomi, Eunice will stay with
you. She can run for us if you feel another spell coming on."
Naomi Holland looked up at her sister-in-law with something like
"I ain't going to have any more spells, Car'line Anne. I'm going
to die to-night. But you needn't hurry milking for that, at all.
I'll take my time."
She liked to see the alarm that came over the other woman's face.
It was richly worth while to scare Caroline Holland like that.
"Are you feeling worse, Naomi?" asked the latter shakily. "If you
are I'll send for Charles to go for the doctor."
"No, you won't. What good can the doctor do me? I don't want
either his or Charles' permission to die. You can go and milk at
your ease. I won't die till you're done—I won't deprive you of the
pleasure of seeing me."
Mrs. Holland shut her lips and went out of the room with a
martyr-like expression. In some ways Naomi Holland was not an
exacting patient, but she took her satisfaction out in the biting,
malicious speeches she never failed to make. Even on her death-bed
her hostility to her sister-in-law had to find vent.
Outside, at the steps, Sarah Spencer was waiting, with the milk
pails over her arm. Sarah Spencer had no fixed abiding place, but
was always to be found where there was illness. Her experience, and
an utter lack of nerves, made her a good nurse. She was a tall, homely
woman with iron gray hair and a lined face. Beside her, the trim
little Caroline Anne, with her light step and round, apple-red face,
looked almost girlish.
The two women walked to the barnyard, discussing Naomi in
undertones as they went. The house they had left behind grew very
In Naomi Holland's room the shadows were gathering. Eunice
timidly bent over her mother.
"Ma, do you want the light lit?"
"No, I'm watching that star just below the big cherry bough. I'll
see it set behind the hill. I've seen it there, off and on, for
twelve years, and now I'm taking a good-by look at it. I want you to
keep still, too. I've got a few things to think over, and I don't
want to be disturbed."
The girl lifted herself about noiselessly and locked her hands
over the bed-post. Then she laid her face down on them, biting at
them silently until the marks of her teeth showed white against their
Naomi Holland did not notice her. She was looking steadfastly at
the great, pearl-like sparkle in the faint-hued sky. When it finally
disappeared from her vision she struck her long, thin hands together
twice, and a terrible expression came over her face for a moment.
But, when she spoke, her voice was quite calm.
"You can light the candle now, Eunice. Put it up on the shelf
here, where it won't shine in my eyes. And then sit down on the foot
of the bed where I can see you. I've got something to say to you."
Eunice obeyed her noiselessly. As the pallid light shot up, it
revealed the child plainly. She was thin and ill-formed—one
shoulder being slightly higher than the other. She was dark, like
her mother, but her features were irregular, and her hair fell in
straggling, dim locks about her face. Her eyes were a dark brown, and
over one was the slanting red scar of a birth mark.
Naomi Holland looked at her with the contempt she had never made
any pretense of concealing. The girl was bone of her bone and flesh
of her flesh, but she had never loved her; all the mother love in her
had been lavished on her son.
When Eunice had placed the candle on the shelf and drawn down the
ugly blue paper blinds, shutting out the strips of violet sky where a
score of glimmering points were now visible, she sat down on the foot
of the bed, facing her mother.
"The door is shut, is it, Eunice?"
"Because I don't want Car'line or any one else peeking and harking
to what I've got to say. She's out milking now, and I must make the
most of the chance. Eunice, I'm going to die, and..."
"There now, no taking on! You knew it had to come sometime soon.
I haven't the strength to talk much, so I want you just to be quiet
and listen. I ain't feeling any pain now, so I can think and talk
pretty clear. Are you listening, Eunice?"
"Mind you are. It's about Christopher. It hasn't been out of my
mind since I laid down here. I've fought for a year to live, on his
account, and it ain't any use. I must just die and leave him, and I
don't know what he'll do. It's dreadful to think of."
She paused, and struck her shrunken hand sharply against the
"If he was bigger and could look out for himself it wouldn't be so
bad. But he is only a little fellow, and Car'line hates him. You'll
both have to live with her until you're grown up. She'll put on him
and abuse him. He's like his father in some ways; he's got a temper
and he is stubborn. He'll never get on with Car'line. Now, Eunice,
I'm going to get you to promise to take my place with Christopher when
I'm dead, as far as you can. You've got to; it's your duty. But I
want you to promise."
"I will, ma," whispered the girl solemnly.
"You haven't much force—you never had. If you was smart, you
could do a lot for him. But you'll have to do your best. I want you
to promise me faithfully that you'll stand by him and protect
him—that you won't let people impose on him; that you'll never
desert him as long as he needs you, no matter what comes. Eunice,
promise me this!"
In her excitement the sick woman raised herself up in the bed, and
clutched the girl's thin arm. Her eyes were blazing and two scarlet
spots glowed in her thin cheeks.
Eunice's face was white and tense. She clasped her hands as one
"Mother, I promise it!"
Naomi relaxed her grip on the girl's arm and sank back exhausted
on the pillow. A death-like look came over her face as the
"My mind is easier now. But if I could only have lived another
year or two! And I hate Car'line—hate her! Eunice, don't you ever
let her abuse my boy! If she did, or if you neglected him, I'd come
back from my grave to you! As for the property, things will be pretty
straight. I've seen to that. There'll be no squabbling and doing
Christopher out of his rights. He's to have the farm as soon as he's
old enough to work it, and he's to provide for you. And, Eunice,
remember what you've promised!"
Outside, in the thickly gathering dusk, Caroline Holland and Sarah
Spencer were at the dairy, straining the milk into creamers, for which
Christopher was sullenly pumping water. The house was far from the
road, up to which a long red lane led; across the field was the old
Holland homestead where Caroline lived; her unmarried sister-in-law,
Electa Holland, kept house for her while she waited on Naomi.
It was her night to go home and sleep, but Naomi's words haunted
her, although she believed they were born of pure "cantankerousness."
"You'd better go in and look at her, Sarah," she said, as she
rinsed out the pails. "If you think I'd better stay here to-night, I
will. If the woman was like anybody else a body would know what to
do; but, if she thought she could scare us by saying she was going to
die, she'd say it."
When Sarah went in, the sick room was very quiet. In her opinion,
Naomi was no worse than usual, and she told Caroline so; but the
latter felt vaguely uneasy and concluded to stay.
Naomi was as cool and defiant as customary. She made them bring
Christopher in to say good-night and had him lifted up on the bed to
kiss her. Then she held him back and looked at him admiringly—at the
bright curls and rosy cheeks and round, firm limbs. The boy was
uncomfortable under her gaze and squirmed hastily down. Her eyes
followed him greedily, as he went out. When the door closed behind
him, she groaned. Sarah Spencer was startled. She had never heard
Naomi Holland groan since she had come to wait on her.
"Are you feeling any worse, Naomi? Is the pain coming back?"
"No. Go and tell Car'line to give Christopher some of that grape
jelly on his bread before he goes to bed. She'll find it in the
cupboard under the stairs."
Presently the house grew very still. Caroline had dropped asleep
on the sitting-room lounge, across the hall. Sarah Spencer nodded
over her knitting by the table in the sick room. She had told Eunice
to go to bed, but the child refused. She still sat huddled up on the
foot of the bed, watching her mother's face intently. Naomi appeared
to sleep. The candle burned long, and the wick was crowned by a
little cap of fiery red that seemed to watch Eunice like some impish
goblin. The wavering light cast grotesque shadows of Sarah Spencer's
head on the wall. The thin curtains at the window wavered to and fro,
as if shaken by ghostly hands.
At midnight Naomi Holland opened her eyes. The child she had
never loved was the only one to go with her to the brink of the
It was the faintest whisper. The soul, passing over the threshold
of another life, strained back to its only earthly tie. A quiver
passed over the long, pallid face.
A horrible scream rang through the silent house. Sarah Spencer
sprang out of her doze in consternation, and gazed blankly at the
shrieking child. Caroline came hurrying in with distended eyes. On
the bed Naomi Holland lay dead.
In the room where she had died Naomi Holland lay in her coffin. It
was dim and hushed; but, in the rest of the house, the preparations
for the funeral were being hurried on. Through it all Eunice moved,
calm and silent. Since her one wild spasm of screaming by her
mother's death-bed she had shed no tear, given no sign of grief.
Perhaps, as her mother had said, she had no time. There was
Christopher to be looked after. The boy's grief was stormy and
uncontrolled. He had cried until he was utterly exhausted. It was
Eunice who soothed him, coaxed him to eat, kept him constantly by her.
At night she took him to her own room and watched over him while he
When the funeral was over the household furniture was packed away
or sold. The house was locked up and the farm rented. There was
nowhere for the children to go, save to their uncle's. Caroline
Holland did not want them, but, having to take them, she grimly made
up her mind to do what she considered her duty by them. She had five
children of her own and between them and Christopher a standing feud
had existed from the time he could walk.
She had never liked Naomi. Few people did. Benjamin Holland had
not married until late in life, and his wife had declared war on his
family at sight. She was a stranger in Avonlea,—a widow, with a
three year-old child. She made few friends, as some people always
asserted that she was not in her right mind.
Within a year of her second marriage Christopher was born, and
from the hour of his birth his mother had worshiped him blindly. He
was her only solace. For him she toiled and pinched and saved.
Benjamin Holland had not been "fore-handed" when she married him;
but, when he died, six years after his marriage, he was a well-to-do
Naomi made no pretense of mourning for him. It was an open secret
that they had quarreled like the proverbial cat and dog. Charles
Holland and his wife had naturally sided with Benjamin, and Naomi
fought her battles single-handed. After her husband's death, she
managed to farm alone, and made it pay. When the mysterious malady
which was to end her life first seized on her she fought against it
with all the strength and stubbornness of her strong and stubborn
nature. Her will won for her an added year of life, and then she had
to yield. She tasted all the bitterness of death the day on which she
lay down on her bed, and saw her enemy come in to rule her house.
But Caroline Holland was not a bad or unkind woman. True, she did
not love Naomi or her children; but the woman was dying and must be
looked after for the sake of common humanity. Caroline thought she
had done well by her sister-in-law.
When the red clay was heaped over Naomi's grave in the Avonlea
burying ground, Caroline took Eunice and Christopher home with her.
Christopher did not want to go; it was Eunice who reconciled him. He
clung to her with an exacting affection born of loneliness and grief.
In the days that followed Caroline Holland was obliged to confess
to herself that there would have been no doing anything with
Christopher had it not been for Eunice. The boy was sullen and
obstinate, but his sister had an unfailing influence over him.
In Charles Holland's household no one was allowed to eat the bread
of idleness. His own children were all girls, and Christopher came in
handy as a chore boy. He was made to work—perhaps too hard. But
Eunice helped him, and did half his work for him when nobody knew.
When he quarreled with his cousins, she took his part; whenever
possible she took on herself the blame and punishment of his misdeeds.
Electa Holland was Charles' unmarried sister. She had kept house
for Benjamin until he married; then Naomi had bundled her out. Electa
had never forgiven her for it. Her hatred passed on to Naomi's
children. In a hundred petty ways she revenged herself on them. For
herself, Eunice bore it patiently; but it was a different matter when
it touched Christopher.
Once Electa boxed Christopher's ears. Eunice, who was knitting by
the table, stood up. A resemblance to her mother, never before
visible, came out in her face like a brand. She lifted her hand and
slapped Electa's cheek deliberately twice, leaving a dull red mark
where she struck.
"If you ever strike my brother again," she said, slowly and
vindictively, "I will slap your face every time you do. You have no
right to touch him."
"My patience, what a fury!" said Electa. "Naomi Holland'll never
be dead as long as you're alive!"
She told Charles of the affair and Eunice was severely punished.
But Electa never interfered with Christopher again.
All the discordant elements in the Holland household could not
prevent the children from growing up. It was a consummation which
the harrassed Caroline devoutly wished. When Christopher Holland was
seventeen he was a man grown—a big, strapping fellow. His childish
beauty had coarsened, but he was thought handsome by many.
He took charge of his mother's farm then, and the brother and
sister began their new life together in the long-unoccupied house.
There were few regrets on either side when they left Charles
Holland's roof. In her secret heart Eunice felt an unspeakable
Christopher had been "hard to manage," as his uncle said, in the
last year. He was getting into the habit of keeping late hours and
doubtful company. This always provoked an explosion of wrath from
Charles Holland, and the conflicts between him and his nephew were
frequent and bitter.
For four years after their return home Eunice had a hard and
anxious life. Christopher was idle and dissipated. Most people
regarded him as a worthless fellow, and his uncle washed his hands of
him utterly. Only Eunice never failed him; she never reproached or
railed; she worked like a slave to keep things together. Eventually
her patience prevailed. Christopher, to a great extent, reformed and
worked harder. He was never unkind to Eunice, even in his rages. It
was not in him to appreciate or return her devotion; but his tolerant
acceptance of it was her solace.
When Eunice was twenty-eight, Edward Bell wanted to marry her. He
was a plain, middle-aged widower with four children; but, as Caroline
did not fail to remind her, Eunice herself was not for every market,
and the former did her best to make the match. She might have
succeeded had it not been for Christopher. When he, in spite of
Caroline's skillful management, got an inkling of what was going on,
he flew into a true Holland rage. If Eunice married and left him—he
would sell the farm and go to the Devil by way of the Klondike. He
could not, and would not, do without her. No arrangement suggested by
Caroline availed to pacify him, and, in the end, Eunice refused to
marry Edward Bell. She could not leave Christopher, she said simply,
and in this she stood rock-firm. Caroline could not budge her an
"You're a fool, Eunice," she said, when she was obliged to give up
in despair. "It's not likely you'll ever have another chance. As for
Chris, in a year or two he'll be marrying himself, and where will you
be then? You'll find your nose nicely out of joint when he brings a
wife in here."
The shaft went home. Eunice's lips turned white. But she said,
faintly, "The house is big enough for us both, if he does."
"Maybe so. You'll find out. However, there's no use talking.
You're as set as your mother was, and nothing would ever budge her an
inch. I only hope you won't be sorry for it."
When three more years had passed Christopher began to court
Victoria Pye. The affair went on for some time before either Eunice
or the Hollands go wind of it. When they did there was an explosion.
Between the Hollands and the Pyes, root and branch, existed a feud
that dated back for three generations. That the original cause of the
quarrel was totally forgotten did not matter; it was matter of family
pride that a Holland should have no dealings with a Pye.
When Christopher flew so openly in the face of this cherished
hatred, there could be nothing less than consternation. Charles
Holland broke through his determination to have nothing to do with
Christopher, to remonstrate. Caroline went to Eunice in as much of a
splutter as if Christopher had been her own brother.
Eunice did not care a row of pins for the Holland-Pye feud.
Victoria was to her what any other girl, upon whom Christopher cast
eyes of love, would have been—a supplanter. For the first time in
her life she was torn with passionate jealousy; existence became a
nightmare to her. Urged on by Caroline, and her own pain, she
ventured to remonstrate with Christopher, also. She had expected a
burst of rage, but he was surprisingly good-natured. He seemed even
"What have you got against Victoria?" he asked, tolerantly.
Eunice had no answer ready. It was true that nothing could be
said against the girl. She felt helpless and baffled. Christopher
laughed at her silence.
"I guess you're a little jealous," he said. "You must have
expected I would get married some time. This house is big enough for
us all. You'd better look at the matter sensibly, Eunice. Don't let
Charles and Caroline put nonsense into your head. A man must marry to
Christopher was out late that night. Eunice waited up for him, as
she always did. It was a chilly spring evening, reminding her of the
night her mother had died. The kitchen was in spotless order, and she
sat down on a stiff-backed chair by the window to wait for her
She did not want a light. The moonlight fell in with faint
illumination. Outside, the wind was blowing over a bed of new-sprung
mint in the garden, and was suggestively fragrant. It was a very
old-fashioned garden, full of perennials Naomi Holland had planted
long ago. Eunice always kept it primly neat. She had been working in
it that day, and felt tired.
She was all alone in the house and the loneliness filled her with
a faint dread. She had tried all that day to reconcile herself to
Christopher's marriage, and had partially succeeded. She told herself
that she could still watch over him and care for his comfort. She
would even try to love Victoria; after all, it might be pleasant to
have another woman in the house. So, sitting there, she fed her
hungry soul with these husks of comfort.
When she heard Christopher's step she moved about quickly to get a
light. He frowned when he saw her; he had always resented her sitting
up for him. He sat down by the stove and took off his boots, while
Eunice got a lunch for him. After he had eaten it in silence he made
no move to go to bed. A chill, premonitory fear crept over Eunice.
It did not surprise her at all when Christopher finally said,
abruptly, "Eunice, I've a notion to get married this spring."
Eunice clasped her hands together under the table. It was what
she had been expecting. She said so, in a monotonous voice.
"We must make some arrangement for—for you, Eunice," Christopher
went on, in a hurried, hesitant way, keeping his eyes riveted
doggedly on his plate. "Victoria doesn't exactly like—well, she
thinks it's better for young married folks to begin life by
themselves, and I guess she's about right. You wouldn't find it
comfortable, anyhow, having to step back to second place after being
mistress here so long."
Eunice tried to speak, but only an indistinct murmur came from her
bloodless lips. The sound made Christopher look up. Something in her
face irritated him. He pushed back his chair impatiently.
"Now, Eunice, don't go taking on. It won't be any use. Look at
this business in a sensible way. I'm fond of you, and all that, but
a man is bound to consider his wife first. I'll provide for you
"Do you mean to say that your wife is going to turn me out?"
Eunice gasped, rather than spoke, the words.
Christopher drew his reddish brows together.
"I just mean that Victoria says she won't marry me if she has to
live with you. She's afraid of you. I told her you wouldn't
interfere with her, but she wasn't satisfied. It's your own fault,
Eunice. You've always been so queer and close that people think
you're an awful crank. Victoria's young and lively, and you and she
wouldn't get on at all. There isn't any question of turning you out.
I'll build a little house for you somewhere, and you'll be a great
deal better off there than you would be here. So don't make a fuss."
Eunice did not look as if she were going to make a fuss. She sat
as if turned to stone, her hands lying palm upward in her lap.
Christopher got up, hugely relieved that the dreaded explanation was
"Guess I'll go to bed. You'd better have gone long ago. It's all
nonsense, this waiting up for me."
When he had gone Eunice drew a long, sobbing breath and looked
about her like a dazed soul. All the sorrow of her life was as
nothing to the desolation that assailed her now.
She rose and, with uncertain footsteps, passed out through the
hall and into the room where her mother died. She had always kept it
locked and undisturbed; it was arranged just as Naomi Holland had left
it. Eunice tottered to the bed and sat down on it.
She recalled the promise she had made to her mother in that very
room. Was the power to keep it to be wrested from her? Was she to
be driven from her home and parted from the only creature she had on
earth to love? And would Christopher allow it, after all her
sacrifices for him? Aye, that he would! He cared more for that
black-eyed, waxen-faced girl at the old Pye place than for his own
kin. Eunice put her hands over her dry, burning eyes and groaned
Caroline Holland had her hour of triumph over Eunice when she
heard it all. To one of her nature there was no pleasure so sweet as
that of saying, "I told you so." Having said it, however, she offered
Eunice a home. Electa Holland was dead, and Eunice might fill her
place very acceptably, if she would.
"You can't go off and live by yourself," Caroline told her. "It's
all nonsense to talk of such a thing. We will give you a home, if
Christopher is going to turn you out. You were always a fool, Eunice,
to pet and pamper him as you've done. This is the thanks you get for
it—turned out like a dog for his fine wife's whim! I only wish your
mother was alive!"
It was probably the first time Caroline had ever wished this. She
had flown at Christopher like a fury about the matter, and had been
rudely insulted for her pains. Christopher had told her to mind her
When Caroline cooled down she made some arrangements with him, to
all of which Eunice listlessly assented. She did not care what
became of her. When Christopher Holland brought Victoria as mistress
to the house where his mother had toiled, and suffered, and ruled with
her rod of iron, Eunice was gone. In Charles Holland's household she
took Electa's place—an unpaid upper servant.
Charles and Caroline were kind enough to her, and there was plenty
to do. For five years her dull, colorless life went on, during which
time she never crossed the threshold of the house where Victoria
Holland ruled with a sway as absolute as Naomi's had been. Caroline's
curiosity led her, after her first anger had cooled, to make
occasional calls, the observations of which she faithfully reported to
Eunice. The latter never betrayed any interest in them, save once.
This was when Caroline came home full of the news that Victoria had
had the room where Naomi died opened up, and showily furnished as a
parlor. Then Eunice's sallow face crimsoned, and her eyes flashed,
over the desecration. But no word of comment or complaint ever
crossed her lips.
She knew, as every one else knew, that the glamor soon went from
Christopher Holland's married life. The marriage proved an unhappy
one. Not unnaturally, although unjustly, Eunice blamed Victoria for
this, and hated her more than ever for it.
Christopher seldom came to Charles' house. Possibly he felt
ashamed. He had grown into a morose, silent man, at home and abroad.
It was said he had gone back to his old drinking habits.
One fall Victoria Holland went to town to visit her married
sister. She took their only child with her. In her absence
Christopher kept house for himself.
It was a fall long remembered in Avonlea. With the dropping of
the leaves, and the shortening of the dreary days, the shadow of a
fear fell over the land. Charles Holland brought the fateful news
home one night.
"There's smallpox in Charlottetown—five or six cases. Came in
one of the vessels. There was a concert, and a sailor from one of
the ships was there, and took sick the next day."
This was alarming enough. Charlottetown was not so very far away
and considerable traffic went on between it and the north shore
When Caroline recounted the concert story to Christopher the next
morning his ruddy face turned quite pale. He opened his lips as if
to speak, then closed them again. They were sitting in the kitchen;
Caroline had run over to return some tea she had borrowed, and,
incidentally, to see what she could of Victoria's housekeeping in her
absence. Her eyes had been busy while her tongue ran on, so she did
not notice the man's pallor and silence.
"How long does it take for smallpox to develop after one has been
exposed to it?" he asked abruptly, when Caroline rose to go.
"Ten to fourteen days, I calc'late," was her answer. "I must see
about having the girls vaccinated right off. It'll likely spread.
When do you expect Victoria home?"
"When she's ready to come, whenever that will be," was the gruff
A week later Caroline said to Eunice, "Whatever's got Christopher?
He hasn't been out anywhere for ages—just hangs round home the whole
time. It's something new for him. I s'pose the place is so quiet,
now Madam Victoria's away, that he can find some rest for his soul. I
believe I'll run over after milking and see how he's getting on. You
might as well come, too, Eunice."
Eunice shook her head. She had all her mother's obstinacy, and
darken Victoria's door she would not. She went on patiently darning
socks, sitting at the west window, which was her favorite
position—perhaps because she could look from it across the sloping
field and past the crescent curve of maple grove to her lost home.
After milking, Caroline threw a shawl over her head and ran across
the field. The house looked lonely and deserted. As she fumbled at
the latch of the gate the kitchen door opened, and Christopher Holland
appeared on the threshold.
"Don't come any farther," he called.
Caroline fell back in blank astonishment. Was this some more of
"I ain't an agent for the smallpox," she called back viciously.
Christopher did not heed her.
"Will you go home and ask uncle if he'll go, or send for Doctor
Spencer? He's the smallpox doctor. I'm sick."
Caroline felt a thrill of dismay and fear. She faltered a few
"Sick? What's the matter with you?"
"I was in Charlottetown that night, and went to the concert. That
sailor sat right beside me. I thought at the time he looked sick. It
was just twelve days ago. I've felt bad all day yesterday and to-day.
Send for the doctor. Don't come near the house, or let any one else
He went in and shut the door. Caroline stood for a few moments in
an almost ludicrous panic. Then she turned and ran, as if for her
life, across the field. Eunice saw her coming and met her at the
"Mercy on us!" gasped Caroline. "Christopher's sick and he thinks
he's got the smallpox. Where's Charles?"
Eunice tottered back against the door. Her hand went up to her
side in a way that had been getting very common with her of late.
Even in the midst of her excitement Caroline noticed it.
"Eunice, what makes you do that every time anything startles you?"
she asked sharply. "Is it anything about your heart?"
"I don't—know. A little pain—it's gone now. Did you say that
Christopher has—the smallpox?"
"Well, he says so himself, and it's more than likely, considering
the circumstances. I declare, I never got such a turn in my life.
It's a dreadful thing. I must find Charles at once—there'll be a
hundred things to do."
Eunice hardly heard her. Her mind was centered upon one idea.
Christopher was ill—alone—she must go to him. It did not matter
what his disease was. When Caroline came in from her breathless
expedition to the barn, she found Eunice standing by the table, with
her hat and shawl on, tying up a parcel.
"Eunice! Where on earth are you going?"
"Over home," said Eunice. "If Christopher is going to be ill he
must be nursed, and I'm the one to do it. He ought to be seen to
"Eunice Carr! Have you gone clean out of your senses? It's the
smallpox—the smallpox! If he's got it he'll have to be taken to the
smallpox hospital in town. You shan't stir a step to go to that
"I will." Eunice faced her excited aunt quietly. The odd
resemblance to her mother, which only came out in moments of great
tension, was plainly visible. "He shan't go to the hospital—they
never get proper attention there. You needn't try to stop me. It
won't put you or your family in any danger."
Caroline fell helplessly into a chair. She felt that it would be
of no use to argue with a woman so determined. She wished Charles
was there. But Charles had already gone, post-haste, for the doctor.
With a firm step, Eunice went across the field foot-path she had
not trodden for so long. She felt no fear—rather a sort of elation.
Christopher needed her once more; the interloper who had come between
them was not there. As she walked through the frosty twilight she
thought of the promise made to Naomi Holland, years ago.
Christopher saw her coming and waved her back.
"Don't come any nearer, Eunice. Didn't Caroline tell you? I'm
Eunice did not pause. She went boldly through the yard and up the
porch steps. He retreated before her and held the door.
"Eunice, you're crazy, girl! Go home, before it's too late."
Eunice pushed open the door resolutely and went in.
"It's too late now. I'm here, and I mean to stay and nurse you,
if it's the smallpox you've got. Maybe it's not. Just now, when a
person has a finger-ache, he thinks it's smallpox. Anyhow, whatever
it is, you ought to be in bed and looked after. You'll catch cold.
Let me get a light and have a look at you."
Christopher had sunk into a chair. His natural selfishness
reasserted itself, and he made no further effort to dissuade Eunice.
She got a lamp and set it on the table by him, while she scrutinized
his face closely.
"You look feverish. What do you feel like? When did you take
"Yesterday afternoon. I have chills and hot spells and pains in
my back. Eunice, do you think it's really smallpox? And will I
He caught her hands, and looked imploringly up at her, as a child
might have done. Eunice felt a wave of love and tenderness sweep
warmly over her starved heart.
"Don't worry. Lots of people recover from smallpox if they're
properly nursed, and you'll be that, for I'll see to it. Charles has
gone for the doctor, and we'll know when he comes. You must go
straight to bed."
She took off her hat and shawl, and hung them up. She felt as
much at home as if she had never been away. She had got back to her
kingdom, and there was none to dispute it with her. When Dr. Spencer
and old Giles Blewett, who had had smallpox in his youth, came, two
hours later, they found Eunice in serene charge. the house was in
order and reeking of disinfectants. Victoria's fine furniture and
fixings were being bundled out of the parlor. There was no bedroom
downstairs, and, if Christopher was going to be ill, he must be
The doctor looked grave.
"I don't like it," he said, "but I'm not quite sure yet. If it is
smallpox the eruption will probably by out by morning. I must admit
he has most of the symptoms. Will you have him taken to the
"No," said Eunice, decisively. "I'll nurse him myself. I'm not
afraid and I'm well and strong."
"Very well. You've been vaccinated lately?"
"Well, nothing more can be done at present. You may as well lie
down for a while and save your strength."
But Eunice could not do that. There was too much to attend to.
She went out to the hall and threw up the window. Down below, at a
safe distance, Charles Holland was waiting. The cold wind blew up to
Eunice the odor of the disinfectants with which he had steeped
"What does the doctor say?" he shouted.
"He thinks it's the smallpox. Have you sent word to Victoria?"
"Yes, Jim Blewett drove into town and told her. She'll stay with
her sister till it is over. Of course it's the best thing for her to
do. She's terribly frightened."
Eunice's lip curled contemptuously. To her, a wife who could
desert her husband, no matter what disease he had, was an
incomprehensible creature. But it was better so; she would have
Christopher all to herself.
The night was long and wearisome, but the morning came all too
soon for the dread certainty it brought. The doctor pronounced the
case smallpox. Eunice had hoped against hope, but now, knowing the
worst, she was very calm and resolute.
By noon the fateful yellow flag was flying over the house, and all
arrangements had been made. Caroline was to do the necessary cooking,
and Charles was to bring the food and leave it in the yard. Old Giles
Blewett was to come every day and attend to the stock, as well as help
Eunice with the sick man; and the long, hard fight with death began.
It was a hard fight, indeed. Christopher Holland, in the clutches
of the loathsome disease, was an object from which his nearest and
dearest might have been pardoned for shrinking. But Eunice never
faltered; she never left her post. Sometimes she dozed in a chair by
the bed, but she never lay down. Her endurance was something
wonderful, her patience and tenderness almost superhuman. To and fro
she went, in noiseless ministry, as the long, dreadful days wore away,
with a quiet smile on her lips, and in her dark, sorrowful eyes the
rapt look of a pictured saint in some dim cathedral niche. For her
there was no world outside the bare room where lay the repulsive
object she loved.
One day the doctor looked very grave. He had grown well-hardened
to pitiful scenes in his life-time; but he shrunk from telling Eunice
that her brother could not live. He had never seen such devotion as
hers. It seemed brutal to tell her that it had been in vain.
But Eunice had seen it for herself. She took it very calmly, the
doctor thought. And she had her reward at last—such as it was. She
thought it amply sufficient.
One night Christopher Holland opened his swollen eyes as she bent
over him. They were alone in the old house. It was raining outside,
and the drops rattled noisily on the panes.
Christopher smiled at his sister with parched lips, and put out a
feeble hand toward her.
"Eunice," he said faintly, "you've been the best sister ever a man
had. I haven't treated you right; but you've stood by me to the last.
Tell Victoria—tell her—to be good to you—"
His voice died away into an inarticulate murmur. Eunice Carr was
alone with her dead.
They buried Christopher Holland in haste and privacy the next day.
The doctor disinfected the house, and Eunice was to stay there alone
until it might be safe to make other arrangements. She had not shed a
tear; the doctor thought she was a rather odd person, but he had a
great admiration for her. He told her she was the best nurse he had
ever seen. To Eunice, praise or blame mattered nothing. Something in
her life had snapped—some vital interest had departed. She wondered
how she could live through the dreary, coming years.
Late that night she went into the room where her mother and
brother had died. The window was open and the cold, pure air was
grateful to her after the drug-laden atmosphere she had breathed so
long. She knelt down by the stripped bed.
"Mother," she said aloud, "I have kept my promise."
When she tried to rise, long after, she staggered and fell across
the bed, with her hand pressed on her heart. Old Giles Blewett found
her there in the morning. There was a smile on her face.
XIII. THE CONSCIENCE CASE OF DAVID
Eben Bell came in with an armful of wood and banged it cheerfully
down in the box behind the glowing Waterloo stove, which was coloring
the heart of the little kitchen's gloom with tremulous, rose-red
whirls of light.
"There, sis, that's the last chore on my list. Bob's milking.
Nothing more for me to do but put on my white collar for meeting.
Avonlea is more than lively since the evangelist came, ain't it,
Mollie Bell nodded. She was curling her hair before the tiny
mirror that hung on the whitewashed wall and distorted her round,
pink-and-white face into a grotesque caricature.
"Wonder who'll stand up to-night," said Eben reflectively, sitting
down on the edge of the wood-box. "There ain't many sinners left in
Avonlea—only a few hardened chaps like myself."
"You shouldn't talk like that," said Mollie rebukingly. "What if
father heard you?"
"Father wouldn't hear me if I shouted it in his ear," returned
Eben. "He goes around, these days, like a man in a dream and a
mighty bad dream at that. Father has always been a good man. What's
the matter with him?"
"I don't know," said Mollie, dropping her voice. "Mother is
dreadfully worried over him. And everybody is talking, Eb. It just
makes me squirm. Flora Jane Fletcher asked me last night why father
never testified, and him one of the elders. She said the minister was
perplexed about it. I felt my face getting red."
"Why didn't you tell her it was no business of hers?" said Eben
angrily. "Old Flora Jane had better mind her own business."
"But all the folks are talking about it, Eb. And mother is
fretting her heart out over it. Father has never acted like himself
since these meetings began. He just goes there night after night, and
sits like a mummy, with his head down. And almost everybody else in
Avonlea has testified."
"Oh, no, there's lots haven't," said Eben. "Matthew Cuthbert
never has, nor Uncle Elisha, nor any of the Whites."
"But everybody knows they don't believe in getting up and
testifying, so nobody wonders when they don't. Besides," Mollie
laughed—"Matthew could never get a word out in public, if he did
believe in it. He'd be too shy. But," she added with a sigh, "it
isn't that way with father. He believes in testimony, so people
wonder why he doesn't get up. Why, even old Josiah Sloane gets up
"With his whiskers sticking out every which way, and his hair
ditto," interjected the graceless Eben.
"When the minister calls for testimonials and all the folks look
at our pew, I feel ready to sink through the floor for shame," sighed
Mollie. "If father would get up just once!"
Miriam Bell entered the kitchen. She was ready for the meeting,
to which Major Spencer was to take her. She was a tall, pale girl,
with a serious face, and dark, thoughtful eyes, totally unlike Mollie.
She had "come under conviction" during the meetings, and had stood up
for prayer and testimony several times. The evangelist thought her
very spiritual. She heard Mollie's concluding sentence and spoke
"You shouldn't criticize your father, Mollie. It isn't for you to
Eben had hastily slipped out. He was afraid Miriam would begin
talking religion to him if he stayed. He had with difficulty escaped
from an exhortation by Robert in the cow-stable. There was no peace
in Avonlea for the unregenerate, he reflected. Robert and Miriam had
both "come out," and Mollie was hovering on the brink.
"Dad and I are the black sheep of the family," he said, with a
laugh, for which he at once felt guilty. Eben had been brought up
with a strict reverence for all religious matters. On the surface he
might sometimes laugh at them, but the deeps troubled him whenever he
Indoors, Miriam touched her younger sister's shoulder and looked
at her affectionately.
"Won't you decide to-night, Mollie?" she asked, in a voice
tremulous with emotion.
Mollie crimsoned and turned her face away uncomfortably. She did
not know what answer to make, and was glad that a jingle of bells
outside saved her the necessity of replying.
"There's your beau, Miriam," she said, as she darted into the
Soon after, Eben brought the family pung and his chubby red mare
to the door for Mollie. He had not as yet attained to the dignity of
a cutter of his own. That was for his elder brother, Robert, who
presently came out in his new fur coat and drove dashingly away with
bells and glitter.
"Thinks he's the people," remarked Eben, with a fraternal grin.
The rich winter twilight was purpling over the white world as they
drove down the lane under the over-arching wild cherry trees that
glittered with gemmy hoar-frost. The snow creaked and crisped under
the runners. A shrill wind was keening in the leafless dogwoods.
Over the trees the sky was a dome of silver, with a lucent star or
two on the slope of the west. Earth-stars gleamed warmly out here and
there, where homesteads were tucked snugly away in their orchards or
groves of birch.
"The church will be jammed to-night," said Eben. "It's so fine
that folks will come from near and far. Guess it'll be exciting."
"If only father would testify!" sighed Mollie, from the bottom of
the pung, where she was snuggled amid furs and straw. "Miriam can
say what she likes, but I do feels as if we were all disgraced. It
sends a creep all over me to hear Mr. Bentley say, 'Now, isn't there
one more to say a word for Jesus?' and look right over at father."
Eben flicked his mare with his whip, and she broke into a trot.
The silence was filled with a faint, fairy-like melody from afar down
the road where a pungful of young folks from White Sands were singing
hymns on their way to meeting.
"Look here, Mollie," said Eben awkwardly at last, "are you going
to stand up for prayers to-night?"
"I—I can't as long as father acts this way," answered Mollie, in
a choked voice. "I—I want to, Eb, and Mirry and Bob want me to, but
I can't. I do hope that the evangelist won't come and talk to me
special to-night. I always feels as if I was being pulled two
different ways, when he does."
Back in the kitchen at home Mrs. Bell was waiting for her husband
to bring the horse to the door. She was a slight, dark-eyed little
woman, with thin, vivid-red cheeks. From out of the swathings in
which she had wrapped her bonnet, her face gleamed sad and troubled.
Now and then she sighed heavily.
The cat came to her from under the stove, languidly stretching
himself, and yawning until all the red cavern of his mouth and throat
was revealed. At the moment he had an uncanny resemblance to Elder
Joseph Blewett of White Sands—Roaring Joe, the irreverent boys called
him—when he grew excited and shouted. Mrs. Bell saw it—and then
reproached herself for the sacrilege.
"But it's no wonder I've wicked thoughts," she said, wearily. "I'm
that worried I ain't rightly myself. If he would only tell me what
the trouble is, maybe I could help him. At any rate, I'd KNOW. It
hurts me so to see him going about, day after day, with his head
hanging and that look on his face, as if he had something fearful on
his conscience—him that never harmed a living soul. And then the way
he groans and mutters in his sleep! He has always lived a just,
upright life. He hasn't no right to go on like this, disgracing his
Mrs. Bell's angry sob was cut short by the sleigh at the door. Her
husband poked in his busy, iron-gray head and said, "Now, mother." He
helped her into the sleigh, tucked the rugs warmly around her, and put
a hot brick at her feet. His solicitude hurt her. It was all for her
material comfort. It did not matter to him what mental agony she
might suffer over his strange attitude. For the first time in their
married life Mary Bell felt resentment against her husband.
They drove along in silence, past the snow-powdered hedges of
spruce, and under the arches of the forest roadways. They were late,
and a great stillness was over all the land. David Bell never spoke.
All his usual cheerful talkativeness had disappeared since the
revival meetings had begun in Avonlea. From the first he had gone
about as a man over whom some strange doom is impending, seemingly
oblivious to all that might be said or thought of him in his own
family or in the church. Mary Bell thought she would go out of her
mind if her husband continued to act in this way. Her reflections
were bitter and rebellious as they sped along through the glittering
night of the winter's prime.
"I don't get one bit of good out of the meetings," she thought
resentfully. "There ain't any peace or joy for me, not even in
testifying myself, when David sits there like a stick or stone. If
he'd been opposed to the revivalist coming here, like old Uncle Jerry,
or if he didn't believe in public testimony, I wouldn't mind. I'd
understand. But, as it is, I feel dreadful humiliated."
Revival meetings had never been held in Avonlea before. "Uncle"
Jerry MacPherson, who was the supreme local authority in church
matters, taking precedence of even the minister, had been
uncompromisingly opposed to them. He was a stern, deeply religious
Scotchman, with a horror of the emotional form of religion. As long
as Uncle Jerry's spare, ascetic form and deeply-graved square-jawed
face filled his accustomed corner by the northwest window of Avonlea
church no revivalist might venture therein, although the majority of
the congregation, including the minister, would have welcomed one
But now Uncle Jerry was sleeping peacefully under the tangled
grasses and white snows of the burying ground, and, if dead people
ever do turn in their graves, Uncle Jerry might well have turned in
his when the revivalist came to Avonlea church, and there followed the
emotional services, public testimonies, and religious excitement which
the old man's sturdy soul had always abhorred.
Avonlea was a good field for an evangelist. The Rev. Geoffrey
Mountain, who came to assist the Avonlea minister in revivifying the
dry bones thereof, knew this and reveled in the knowledge. It was not
often that such a virgin parish could be found nowadays, with scores
of impressionable, unspoiled souls on which fervid oratory could play
skillfully, as a master on a mighty organ, until every note in them
thrilled to life and utterance. The Rev. Geoffrey Mountain was a good
man; of the earth, earthy, to be sure, but with an unquestionable
sincerity of belief and purpose which went far to counterbalance the
sensationalism of some of his methods.
He was large and handsome, with a marvelously sweet and winning
voice—a voice that could melt into irresistible tenderness, or swell
into sonorous appeal and condemnation, or ring like a trumpet calling
His frequent grammatical errors, and lapses into vulgarity,
counted for nothing against its charm, and the most commonplace words
in the world would have borrowed much of the power of real oratory
from its magic. He knew its value and used it effectively—perhaps
Geoffrey Mountain's religion and methods, like the man himself,
were showy, but, of their kind, sincere, and, though the good he
accomplished might not be unmixed, it was a quantity to be reckoned
So the Rev. Geoffrey Mountain came to Avonlea, conquering and to
conquer. Night after night the church was crowded with eager
listeners, who hung breathlessly on his words and wept and thrilled
and exulted as he willed. Into many young souls his appeals and
warnings burned their way, and each night they rose for prayer in
response to his invitation. Older Christians, too, took on a new
lease of intensity, and even the unregenerate and the scoffers found a
certain fascination in the meetings. Threading through it all, for old
and young, converted and unconverted, was an unacknowledged feeling
for religious dissipation. Avonlea was a quiet place,—and the
revival meetings were lively.
When David and Mary Bell reached the church the services had
begun, and they heard the refrain of a hallelujah hymn as they were
crossing Harmon Andrews' field. David Bell left his wife at the
platform and drove to the horse-shed.
Mrs. Bell unwound the scarf from her bonnet and shook the frost
crystals from it. In the porch Flora Jane Fletcher and her sister,
Mrs. Harmon Andrews, were talking in low whispers. Presently Flora
Jane put out her lank, cashmere-gloved hand and plucked Mrs. Bell's
"Mary, is the elder going to testify to-night?" she asked, in a
Mrs. Bell winced. She would have given much to be able to answer
"Yes," but she had to say stiffly,
"I don't know."
Flora Jane lifted her chin.
"Well, Mrs. Bell, I only asked because every one thinks it is
strange he doesn't—and an elder, of all people. It looks as if he
didn't think himself a Christian, you know. Of course, we all know
better, but it LOOKS that way. If I was you, I'd tell him folks was
talking about it. Mr. Bentley says it is hindering the full success
of the meetings."
Mrs. Bell turned on her tormentor in swift anger. She might
resent her husband's strange behavior herself, but nobody else should
dare to criticize him to her.
"I don't think you need to worry yourself about the elder, Flora
Jane," she said bitingly. "Maybe 'tisn't the best Christians that do
the most talking about it always. I guess, as far as living up to his
profession goes, the elder will compare pretty favorably with Levi
Boulter, who gets up and testifies every night, and cheats the very
eye-teeth out of people in the daytime."
Levi Boulter was a middle-aged widower, with a large family, who
was supposed to have cast a matrimonial eye Flora Janeward. The use
of his name was an effective thrust on Mrs. Bell's part, and silenced
Flora Jane. Too angry for speech she seized her sister's arm and
hurried her into church.
But her victory could not remove from Mary Bell's soul the sting
implanted there by Flora Jane's words. When her husband came up to
the platform she put her hand on his snowy arm appealingly.
"Oh, David, won't you get up to-night? I do feel so dreadful
bad—folks are talking so—I just feel humiliated."
David Bell hung his head like a shamed schoolboy.
"I can't, Mary," he said huskily. "'Tain't no use to pester me."
"You don't care for my feelings," said his wife bitterly. "And
Mollie won't come out because you're acting so. You're keeping her
back from salvation. And you're hindering the success of the
revival—Mr. Bentley says so."
David Bell groaned. This sign of suffering wrung his wife's
heart. With quick contrition she whispered,
"There, never mind, David. I oughtn't to have spoken to you so.
You know your duty best. Let's go in."
"Wait." His voice was imploring.
"Mary, is it true that Mollie won't come out because of me? Am I
standing in my child's light?"
"I—don't—know. I guess not. Mollie's just a foolish young girl
yet. Never mind—come in."
He followed her dejectedly in, and up the aisle to their pew in
the center of the church. The building was warm and crowded. The
pastor was reading the Bible lesson for the evening. In the choir,
behind him, David Bell saw Mollie's girlish face, tinged with a
troubled seriousness. His own wind-ruddy face and bushy gray eyebrows
worked convulsively with his inward throes. A sigh that was almost a
groan burst from him.
"I'll have to do it," he said to himself in agony.
When several more hymns had been sung, and late arrivals began to
pack the aisles, the evangelist arose. His style for the evening was
the tender, the pleading, the solemn. He modulated his tones to
marvelous sweetness, and sent them thrillingly over the breathless
pews, entangling the hearts and souls of his listeners in a mesh of
subtle emotion. Many of the women began to cry softly. Fervent amens
broke from some of the members. When the evangelist sat down, after a
closing appeal which, in its way, was a masterpiece, an audible sigh
of relieved tension passed like a wave over the audience.
After prayer the pastor made the usual request that, if any of
those present wished to come out on the side of Christ, they would
signify the wish by rising for a moment in their places. After a brief
interval, a pale boy under the gallery rose, followed by an old man at
the top of the church. A frightened, sweet-faced child of twelve got
tremblingly upon her feet, and a dramatic thrill passed over the
congregation when her mother suddenly stood up beside her. The
evangelist's "Thank God" was hearty and insistent.
David Bell looked almost imploringly at Mollie; but she kept her
seat, with downcast eyes. Over in the big square "stone pew" he saw
Eben bending forward, with his elbows on his knees, gazing frowningly
at the floor.
"I'm a stumbling block to them both," he thought bitterly.
A hymn was sung and prayer offered for those under conviction.
Then testimonies were called for. The evangelist asked for them in
tones which made it seem a personal request to every one in that
Many testimonies followed, each infused with the personality of
the giver. Most of them were brief and stereotyped. Finally a pause
ensued. The evangelist swept the pews with his kindling eyes and
"Has EVERY Christian in this church to-night spoken a word for his
There were many who had not testified, but every eye in the
building followed the pastor's accusing glance to the Bell pew.
Mollie crimsoned with shame. Mrs. Bell cowered visibly.
Although everybody looked thus at David Bell, nobody now expected
him to testify. When he rose to his feet, a murmur of surprise
passed over the audience, followed by a silence so complete as to be
terrible. To David Bell it seemed to possess the awe of final
Twice he opened his lips, and tried vainly to speak. The third
time he succeeded; but his voice sounded strangely in his own ears.
He gripped the back of the pew before him with his knotty hands, and
fixed his eyes unseeingly on the Christian Endeavor pledge that hung
over the heads of the choir.
"Brethren and sisters," he said hoarsely, "before I can say a word
of Christian testimony here to-night I've got something to confess.
It's been lying hard and heavy on my conscience ever since these
meetings begun. As long as I kept silence about it I couldn't get up
and bear witness for Christ. Many of you have expected me to do it.
Maybe I've been a stumbling block to some of you. This season of
revival has brought no blessing to me because of my sin, which I
repented of, but tried to conceal. There has been a spiritual darkness
"Friends and neighbors, I have always been held by you as an
honest man. It was the shame of having you know I was not which has
kept me back from open confession and testimony. Just afore these
meetings commenced I come home from town one night and found that
somebody had passed a counterfeit ten-dollar bill on me. Then Satan
entered into me and possessed me. When Mrs. Rachel Lynde come next
day, collecting for foreign missions, I give her that ten dollar bill.
She never knowed the difference, and sent it away with the rest. But
I knew I'd done a mean and sinful thing. I couldn't drive it out of
my thoughts. A few days afterwards I went down to Mrs. Rachel's and
give her ten good dollars for the fund. I told her I had come to the
conclusion I ought to give more than ten dollars, out of my
abundance, to the Lord. That was a lie. Mrs. Lynde thought I was a
generous man, and I felt ashamed to look her in the face. But I'd done
what I could to right the wrong, and I thought it would be all right.
But it wasn't. I've never known a minute's peace of mind or
conscience since. I tried to cheat the Lord, and then tried to patch
it up by doing something that redounded to my worldly credit. When
these meetings begun, and everybody expected me to testify, I couldn't
do it. It would have seemed like blasphemy. And I couldn't endure
the thought of telling what I'd done, either. I argued it all out a
thousand times that I hadn't done any real harm after all, but it was
no use. I've been so wrapped up in my own brooding and misery that I
didn't realize I was inflicting suffering on those dear to me by my
conduct, and, maybe, holding some of them back from the paths of
salvation. But my eyes have been opened to this to-night, and the
Lord has given me strength to confess my sin and glorify His holy
The broken tones ceased, and David Bell sat down, wiping the great
drops of perspiration from his brow. To a man of his training, and
cast of thought, no ordeal could be more terrible than that through
which he had just passed. But underneath the turmoil of his emotion
he felt a great calm and peace, threaded with the exultation of a
hard-won spiritual victory.
Over the church was a solemn hush. The evangelist's "amen" was
not spoken with his usual unctuous fervor, but very gently and
reverently. In spite of his coarse fiber, he could appreciate the
nobility behind such a confession as this, and the deeps of stern
suffering it sounded.
Before the last prayer the pastor paused and looked around.
"Is there yet one," he asked gently, "who wishes to be especially
remembered in our concluding prayer?"
For a moment nobody moved. Then Mollie Bell stood up in the choir
seat, and, down by the stove, Eben, his flushed, boyish face held
high, rose sturdily to his feet in the midst of his companions.
"Thank God," whispered Mary Bell.
"Amen," said her husband huskily.
"Let us pray," said Mr. Bentley.
XIV. ONLY A COMMON FELLOW
On my dearie's wedding morning I wakened early and went to her
room. Long and long ago she had made me promise that I would be the
one to wake her on the morning of her wedding day.
"You were the first to take me in your arms when I came into the
world, Aunt Rachel," she had said, "and I want you to be the first to
greet me on that wonderful day."
But that was long ago, and now my heart foreboded that there would
be no need of wakening her. And there was not. She was lying there
awake, very quiet, with her hand under her cheek, and her big blue
eyes fixed on the window, through which a pale, dull light was
creeping in—a joyless light it was, and enough to make a body shiver.
I felt more like weeping than rejoicing, and my heart took to aching
when I saw her there so white and patient, more like a girl who was
waiting for a winding-sheet than for a bridal veil. But she smiled
brave-like, when I sat down on her bed and took her hand.
"You look as if you haven't slept all night, dearie," I said.
"I didn't—not a great deal," she answered me. "But the night
didn't seem long; no, it seemed too short. I was thinking of a great
many things. What time is it, Aunt Rachel?"
"Then in six hours more—"
She suddenly sat up in her bed, her great, thick rope of brown
hair falling over her white shoulders, and flung her arms about me,
and burst into tears on my old breast. I petted and soothed her, and
said not a word; and, after a while, she stopped crying; but she still
sat with her head so that I couldn't see her face.
"We didn't think it would be like this once, did we, Aunt Rachel?"
she said, very softly.
"It shouldn't be like this, now," I said. I had to say it. I
never could hide the thought of that marriage, and I couldn't pretend
to. It was all her stepmother's doings—right well I knew that. My
dearie would never have taken Mark Foster else.
"Don't let us talk of that," she said, soft and beseeching, just
the same way she used to speak when she was a baby-child and wanted
to coax me into something. "Let us talk about the old days—and HIM."
"I don't see much use in talking of HIM, when you're going to
marry Mark Foster to-day," I said.
But she put her hand on my mouth.
"It's for the last time, Aunt Rachel. After to-day I can never
talk of him, or even think of him. It's four years since he went
away. Do you remember how he looked, Aunt Rachel?"
"I mind well enough, I reckon," I said, kind of curt-like. And I
did. Owen Blair hadn't a face a body could forget—that long face of
his with its clean color and its eyes made to look love into a
woman's. When I thought of Mark Foster's sallow skin and lank jaws I
felt sick-like. Not that Mark was ugly—he was just a common-looking
"He was so handsome, wasn't he, Aunt Rachel?" my dearie went on,
in that patient voice of hers. "So tall and strong and handsome. I
wish we hadn't parted in anger. It was so foolish of us to quarrel.
But it would have been all right if he had lived to come back. I
know it would have been all right. I know he didn't carry any
bitterness against me to his death. I thought once, Aunt Rachel, that
I would go through life true to him, and then, over on the other side,
I'd meet him just as before, all his and his only. But it isn't to
"Thanks to your stepma's wheedling and Mark Foster's scheming,"
"No, Mark didn't scheme," she said patiently. "Don't be unjust to
Mark, Aunt Rachel. He has been very good and kind."
"He's as stupid as an owlet and as stubborn as Solomon's mule," I
said, for I WOULD say it. "He's just a common fellow, and yet he
thinks he's good enough for my beauty."
"Don't talk about Mark," she pleaded again. "I mean to be a good,
faithful wife to him. But I'm my own woman yet—YET—for just a few
more sweet hours, and I want to give them to HIM. The last hours of
my maidenhood—they must belong to HIM."
So she talked of him, me sitting there and holding her, with her
lovely hair hanging down over my arm, and my heart aching so for her
that it hurt bitter. She didn't feel as bad as I did, because she'd
made up her mind what to do and was resigned. She was going to marry
Mark Foster, but her heart was in France, in that grave nobody knew
of, where the Huns had buried Owen Blair—if they had buried him at
all. And she went over all they had been to each other, since they
were mites of babies, going to school together and meaning, even then,
to be married when they grew up; and the first words of love he'd said
to her, and what she'd dreamed and hoped for. The only thing she
didn't bring up was the time he thrashed Mark Foster for bringing her
apples. She never mentioned Mark's name; it was all Owen—Owen—and
how he looked, and what might have been, if he hadn't gone off to the
awful war and got shot. And there was me, holding her and listening
to it all, and her stepma sleeping sound and triumphant in the next
When she had talked it all out she lay down on her pillow again. I
got up and went downstairs to light the fire. I felt terrible old and
tired. My feet seemed to drag, and the tears kept coming to my eyes,
though I tried to keep them away, for well I knew it was a bad omen to
be weeping on a wedding day.
Before long Isabella Clark came down; bright and pleased-looking
enough, SHE was. I'd never liked Isabella, from the day Phillippa's
father brought her here; and I liked her less than ever this morning.
She was one of your sly, deep women, always smiling smooth, and
scheming underneath it. I'll say it for her, though, she had been
good to Phillippa; but it was her doings that my dearie was to marry
Mark Foster that day.
"Up betimes, Rachel," she said, smiling and speaking me fair, as
she always did, and hating me in her heart, as I well knew. "That is
right, for we'll have plenty to do to-day. A wedding makes lots of
"Not this sort of a wedding," I said, sour-like. "I don't call it
a wedding when two people get married and sneak off as if they were
ashamed of it—as well they might be in this case."
"It was Phillippa's own wish that all should be very quiet," said
Isabella, as smooth as cream. "You know I'd have given her a big
wedding, if she'd wanted it."
"Oh, it's better quiet," I said. "The fewer to see Phillippa
marry a man like Mark Foster the better."
"Mark Foster is a good man, Rachel."
"No good man would be content to buy a girl as he's bought
Phillippa," I said, determined to give it in to her. "He's a common
fellow, not fit for my dearie to wipe her feet on. It's well that her
mother didn't live to see this day; but this day would never have
come, if she'd lived."
"I dare say Phillippa's mother would have remembered that Mark
Foster is very well off, quite as readily as worse people," said
Isabella, a little spitefully.
I liked her better when she was spiteful than when she was smooth.
I didn't feel so scared of her then.
The marriage was to be at eleven o'clock, and, at nine, I went up
to help Phillippa dress. She was no fussy bride, caring much what
she looked like. If Owen had been the bridegroom it would have been
different. Nothing would have pleased her then; but now it was only
just "That will do very well, Aunt Rachel," without even glancing at
Still, nothing could prevent her from looking lovely when she was
dressed. My dearie would have been a beauty in a beggarmaid's rags.
In her white dress and veil she was as fair as a queen. And she was
as good as she was pretty. It was the right sort of goodness, too,
with just enough spice of original sin in it to keep it from spoiling
by reason of over-sweetness.
Then she sent me out.
"I want to be alone my last hour," she said. "Kiss me, Aunt
When I'd gone down, crying like the old fool I was, I heard a rap
at the door. My first thought was to go out and send Isabella to it,
for I supposed it was Mark Foster, come ahead of time, and small
stomach I had for seeing him. I fall trembling, even yet, when I
think, "What if I had sent Isabella to that door?"
But go I did, and opened it, defiant-like, kind of hoping it was
Mark Foster to see the tears on my face. I opened it—and staggered
back like I'd got a blow.
"Owen! Lord ha' mercy on us! Owen!" I said, just like that,
going cold all over, for it's the truth that I thought it was his
spirit come back to forbid that unholy marriage.
But he sprang right in, and caught my wrinkled old hands in a
grasp that was of flesh and blood.
"Aunt Rachel, I'm not too late?" he said, savage-like. "Tell me
I'm in time."
I looked up at him, standing over me there, tall and handsome, no
change in him except he was so brown and had a little white scar on
his forehead; and, though I couldn't understand at all, being all
bewildered-like, I felt a great deep thankfulness.
"No, you're not too late," I said.
"Thank God," said he, under his breath. And then he pulled me
into the parlor and shut the door.
"They told me at the station that Phillippa was to be married to
Mark Foster to-day. I couldn't believe it, but I came here as fast
as horse-flesh could bring me. Aunt Rachel, it can't be true! She
can't care for Mark Foster, even if she had forgotten me!"
"It's true enough that she is to marry Mark," I said,
half-laughing, half-crying, "but she doesn't care for him. Every
beat of her heart is for you. It's all her stepma's doings. Mark has
got a mortgage on the place, and he told Isabella Clark that, if
Phillippa would marry him, he'd burn the mortgage, and, if she
wouldn't, he'd foreclose. Phillippa is sacrificing herself to save
her stepma for her dead father's sake. It's all your fault," I cried,
getting over my bewilderment. "We thought you were dead. Why didn't
you come home when you were alive? Why didn't you write?"
"I DID write, after I got out of the hospital, several times," he
said, "and never a word in answer, Aunt Rachel. What was I to think
when Phillippa wouldn't answer my letters?"
"She never got one," I cried. "She wept her sweet eyes out over
you. SOMEBODY must have got those letters."
And I knew then, and I know now, though never a shadow of proof
have I, that Isabella Clark had got them—and kept them. That woman
would stick at nothing.
"Well, we'll sift that matter some other time," said Owen
impatiently. "There are other things to think of now. I must see
"I'll manage it for you," I said eagerly; but, just as I spoke,
the door opened and Isabella and Mark came in. Never shall I forget
the look on Isabella's face. I almost felt sorry for her. She turned
sickly yellow and her eyes went wild; they were looking at the
downfall of all her schemes and hopes. I didn't look at Mark Foster,
at first, and, when I did, there wasn't anything to see. His face was
just as sallow and wooden as ever; he looked undersized and common
beside Owen. Nobody'd ever have picked him out for a bridegroom.
Owen spoke first.
"I want to see Phillippa," he said, as if it were but yesterday
that he had gone away.
All Isabella's smoothness and policy had dropped away from her,
and the real woman stood there, plotting and unscrupulous, as I'd
always know her.
"You can't see her," she said desperate-like. "She doesn't want
to see you. You went and left her and never wrote, and she knew you
weren't worth fretting over, and she has learned to care for a better
"I DID write and I think you know that better than most folks,"
said Owen, trying hard to speak quiet. "As for the rest, I'm not
going to discuss it with you. When I hear from Phillippa's own lips
that she cares for another man I'll believe it—and not before."
"You'll never hear it from her lips," said I.
Isabella gave me a venomous look.
"You'll not see Phillippa until she is a better man's wife," she
said stubbornly, "and I order you to leave my house, Owen Blair!"
It was Mark Foster who spoke. He hadn't said a word; but he came
forward now, and stood before Owen. Such a difference as there was
between them! But he looked Owen right in the face, quiet-like, and
Owen glared back in fury.
"Will it satisfy you, Owen, if Phillippa comes down here and
chooses between us?"
"Yes, it will," said Owen.
Mark Foster turned to me.
"Go and bring her down," said he.
Isabella, judging Phillippa by herself, gave a little moan of
despair, and Owen, blinded by love and hope, thought his cause was
won. But I knew my dearie too well to be glad, and Mark Foster did,
too, and I hated him for it.
I went up to my dearie's room, all pale and shaking. When I went
in she came to meet me, like a girl going to meet death.
"Is—it—time?" she said, with her hands locked tight together.
I said not a word, hoping that the unlooked-for sight of Owen
would break down her resolution. I just held out my hand to her, and
led her downstairs. She clung to me and her hands were as cold as
snow. When I opened the parlor door I stood back, and pushed her in
She just cried, "Owen!" and shook so that I put my arms about her
to steady her.
Owen made a step towards her, his face and eyes all aflame with
his love and longing, but Mark barred his way.
"Wait till she has made her choice," he said, and then he turned
to Phillippa. I couldn't see my dearie's face, but I could see
Mark's, and there wasn't a spark of feeling in it. Behind it was
Isabella's, all pinched and gray.
"Phillippa," said Mark, "Owen Blair has come back. He says he has
never forgotten you, and that he wrote to you several times. I have
told him that you have promised me, but I leave you freedom of choice.
Which of us will you marry, Phillippa?"
My dearie stood straight up and the trembling left her. She
stepped back, and I could see her face, white as the dead, but calm
"I have promised to marry you, Mark, and I will keep my word," she
The color came back to Isabella Clark's face; but Mark's did not
"Phillippa," said Owen, and the pain in his voice made my old
heart ache bitterer than ever, "have you ceased to love me?"
My dearie would have been more than human, if she could have
resisted the pleading in his tone. She said no word, but just looked
at him for a moment. We all saw the look; her whole soul, full of
love for Owen, showed out in it. Then she turned and stood by Mark.
Owen never said a word. He went as white as death, and started
for the door. But again Mark Foster put himself in the way.
"Wait," he said. "She has made her choice, as I knew she would;
but I have yet to make mine. And I choose to marry no woman whose
love belongs to another living man. Phillippa, I thought Owen Blair
was dead, and I believed that, when you were my wife, I could win your
love. But I love you too well to make you miserable. Go to the man
you love—you are free!"
"And what is to become of me?" wailed Isabella.
"Oh, you!—I had forgotten about you," said Mark, kind of
weary-like. He took a paper from his pocket, and dropped it in the
grate. "There is the mortgage. That is all you care about, I think.
He went out. He was only a common fellow, but, somehow, just then
he looked every inch the gentleman. I would have gone after him and
said something but—the look on his face—no, it was no time for my
foolish old words!
Phillippa was crying, with her head on Owen's shoulder. Isabella
Clark waited to see the mortgage burned up, and then she came to me
in the hall, all smooth and smiling again.
"Really, it's all very romantic, isn't it? I suppose it's better
as it is, all things considered. Mark behaved splendidly, didn't he?
Not many men would have done as he did."
For once in my life I agreed with Isabella. But I felt like
having a good cry over it all—and I had it. I was glad for my
dearie's sake and Owen's; but Mark Foster had paid the price of their
joy, and I knew it had beggared him of happiness for life.
XV. TANNIS OF THE FLATS
Few people in Avonlea could understand why Elinor Blair had never
married. She had been one of the most beautiful girls in our part of
the Island and, as a woman of fifty, she was still very attractive.
In her youth she had had ever so many beaux, as we of our generation
well remembered; but, after her return from visiting her brother Tom
in the Canadian Northwest, more than twenty-five years ago, she had
seemed to withdraw within herself, keeping all men at a safe, though
friendly, distance. She had been a gay, laughing girl when she went
West; she came back quiet and serious, with a shadowed look in her
eyes which time could not quite succeed in blotting out.
Elinor had never talked much about her visit, except to describe
the scenery and the life, which in that day was rough indeed. Not
even to me, who had grown up next door to her and who had always
seemed more a sister than a friend, did she speak of other than the
merest commonplaces. But when Tom Blair made a flying trip back home,
some ten years later, there were one or two of us to whom he related
the story of Jerome Carey,—a story revealing only too well the reason
for Elinor's sad eyes and utter indifference to masculine attentions.
I can recall almost his exact words and the inflections of his voice,
and I remember, too, that it seemed to me a far cry from the tranquil,
pleasant scene before us, on that lovely summer day, to the elemental
life of the Flats.
The Flats was a forlorn little trading station fifteen miles up
the river from Prince Albert, with a scanty population of half-breeds
and three white men. When Jerome Carey was sent to take charge of the
telegraph office there, he cursed his fate in the picturesque language
permissible in the far Northwest.
Not that Carey was a profane man, even as men go in the West. He
was an English gentleman, and he kept both his life and his
vocabulary pretty clean. But—the Flats!
Outside of the ragged cluster of log shacks, which comprised the
settlement, there was always a shifting fringe of teepees where the
Indians, who drifted down from the Reservation, camped with their dogs
and squaws and papooses. There are standpoints from which Indians are
interesting, but they cannot be said to offer congenial social
attractions. For three weeks after Carey went to the Flats he was
lonelier than he had ever imagined it possible to be, even in the
Great Lone Land. If it had not been for teaching Paul Dumont the
telegraphic code, Carey believed he would have been driven to suicide
The telegraphic importance of the Flats consisted in the fact that
it was the starting point of three telegraph lines to remote trading
posts up North. Not many messages came therefrom, but the few that
did come generally amounted to something worth while. Days and even
weeks would pass without a single one being clicked to the Flats.
Carey was debarred from talking over the wires to the Prince Albert
man for the reason that they were on officially bad terms. He blamed
the latter for his transfer to the Flats.
Carey slept in a loft over the office, and got his meals as Joe
Esquint's, across the "street." Joe Esquint's wife was a good cook,
as cooks go among the breeds, and Carey soon became a great pet of
hers. Carey had a habit of becoming a pet with women. He had the
"way" that has to be born in a man and can never be acquired.
Besides, he was as handsome as clean-cut features, deep-set,
dark-blue eyes, fair curls and six feet of muscle could make him.
Mrs. Joe Esquint thought that his mustache was the most wonderfully
beautiful thing, in its line, that she had ever seen.
Fortunately, Mrs. Joe was so old and fat and ugly that even the
malicious and inveterate gossip of skulking breeds and Indians,
squatting over teepee fires, could not hint at anything questionable
in the relations between her and Carey. But it was a different matter
with Tannis Dumont.
Tannis came home from the academy at Prince Albert early in July,
when Carey had been at the Flats a month and had exhausted all the
few novelties of his position. Paul Dumont had already become so
expert at the code that his mistakes no longer afforded Carey any fun,
and the latter was getting desperate. He had serious intentions of
throwing up the business altogether, and betaking himself to an
Alberta ranch, where at least one would have the excitement of roping
horses. When he saw Tannis Dumont he thought he would hang on awhile
Tannis was the daughter of old Auguste Dumont, who kept the one
small store at the Flats, lived in the one frame house that the place
boasted, and was reputed to be worth an amount of money which, in
half-breed eyes, was a colossal fortune. Old Auguste was black and
ugly and notoriously bad-tempered. But Tannis was a beauty.
Tannis' great-grandmother had been a Cree squaw who married a
French trapper. The son of this union became in due time the father
of Auguste Dumont. Auguste married a woman whose mother was a French
half-breed and whose father was a pure-bred Highland Scotchman. The
result of this atrocious mixture was its justification—Tannis of the
Flats—who looked as if all the blood of all the Howards might be
running in her veins.
But, after all, the dominant current in those same veins was from
the race of plain and prairie. The practiced eye detected it in the
slender stateliness of carriage, in the graceful, yet voluptuous,
curves of the lithe body, in the smallness and delicacy of hand and
foot, in the purple sheen on straight-falling masses of blue-black
hair, and, more than all else, in the long, dark eye, full and soft,
yet alight with a slumbering fire. France, too, was responsible for
somewhat in Tannis. It gave her a light step in place of the stealthy
half-breed shuffle, it arched her red upper lip into a more tremulous
bow, it lent a note of laughter to her voice and a sprightlier wit to
her tongue. As for her red-headed Scotch grandfather, he had
bequeathed her a somewhat whiter skin and ruddier bloom than is
usually found in the breeds.
Old Auguste was mightily proud of Tannis. He sent her to school
for four years in Prince Albert, bound that his girl should have the
best. A High School course and considerable mingling in the social
life of the town—for old Auguste was a man to be conciliated by
astute politicians, since he controlled some two or three hundred
half-breed votes—sent Tannis home to the Flats with a very thin, but
very deceptive, veneer of culture and civilization overlying the
primitive passions and ideas of her nature.
Carey saw only the beauty and the veneer. He made the mistake of
thinking that Tannis was what she seemed to be—a fairly
well-educated, up-to-date young woman with whom a friendly flirtation
was just what it was with white womankind—the pleasant amusement of
an hour or season. It was a mistake—a very big mistake. Tannis
understood something of piano playing, something less of grammar and
Latin, and something less still of social prevarications. But she
understood absolutely nothing of flirtation. You can never get an
Indian to see the sense of Platonics.
Carey found the Flats quite tolerable after the homecoming of
Tannis. He soon fell into the habit of dropping into the Dumont
house to spend the evening, talking with Tannis in the parlor—which
apartment was amazingly well done for a place like the Flats—Tannis
had not studied Prince Albert parlors four years for nothing—or
playing violin and piano duets with her. When music and conversation
palled, they went for long gallops over the prairies together. Tannis
rode to perfection, and managed her bad-tempered brute of a pony with
a skill and grace that made Carey applaud her. She was glorious on
Sometimes he grew tired of the prairies and then he and Tannis
paddled themselves over the river in Nitchie Joe's dug-out, and
landed on the old trail that struck straight into the wooded belt of
the Saskatchewan valley, leading north to trading posts on the
frontier of civilization. There they rambled under huge pines, hoary
with the age of centuries, and Carey talked to Tannis about England
and quoted poetry to her. Tannis liked poetry; she had studied it at
school, and understood it fairly well. But once she told Carey that
she thought it a long, round-about way of saying what you could say
just as well in about a dozen plain words. Carey laughed. He liked
to evoke those little speeches of hers. They sounded very clever,
dropping from such arched, ripely-tinted lips.
If you had told Carey that he was playing with fire he would have
laughed at you. In the first place he was not in the slightest
degree in love with Tannis—he merely admired and liked her. In the
second place, it never occurred to him that Tannis might be in love
with him. Why, he had never attempted any love-making with her! And,
above all, he was obsessed with that aforesaid fatal idea that Tannis
was like the women he had associated with all his life, in reality as
well as in appearance. He did not know enough of the racial
characteristics to understand.
But, if Carey thought his relationship with Tannis was that of
friendship merely, he was the only one at the Flats who did think so.
All the half-breeds and quarter-breeds and any-fractional breeds
there believed that he meant to marry Tannis. There would have been
nothing surprising to them in that. They did not know that Carey's
second cousin was a baronet, and they would not have understood that
it need make any difference, if they had. They thought that rich old
Auguste's heiress, who had been to school for four years in Prince
Albert, was a catch for anybody.
Old Auguste himself shrugged his shoulders over it and was
well-pleased enough. An Englishman was a prize by way of a husband
for a half-breed girl, even if he were only a telegraph operator.
Young Paul Dumont worshipped Carey, and the half-Scotch mother, who
might have understood, was dead. In all the Flats there were but two
people who disapproved of the match they thought an assured thing.
One of these was the little priest, Father Gabriel. He liked Tannis,
and he liked Carey; but he shook his head dubiously when he heard the
gossip of the shacks and teepees. Religions might mingle, but the
different bloods—ah, it was not the right thing! Tannis was a good
girl, and a beautiful one; but she was no fit mate for the fair,
thorough-bred Englishman. Father Gabriel wished fervently that
Jerome Carey might soon be transferred elsewhere. He even went to
Prince Albert and did a little wire-pulling on his own account, but
nothing came of it. He was on the wrong side of politics.
The other malcontent was Lazarre Mérimée, a lazy, besotted French
half-breed, who was, after his fashion, in love with Tannis. He could
never have got her, and he knew it—old Auguste and young Paul would
have incontinently riddled him with bullets had he ventured near the
house as a suitor,—but he hated Carey none the less, and watched for
a chance to do him an ill-turn. There is no worse enemy in all the
world than a half-breed. Your true Indian is bad enough, but his
diluted descendant is ten times worse.
As for Tannis, she loved Carey with all her heart, and that was
all there was about it.
If Elinor Blair had never gone to Prince Albert there is no
knowing what might have happened, after all. Carey, so powerful in
propinquity, might even have ended by learning to love Tannis and
marrying her, to his own worldly undoing. But Elinor did go to Prince
Albert, and her going ended all things for Tannis of the Flats.
Carey met her one evening in September, when he had ridden into
town to attend a dance, leaving Paul Dumont in charge of the
telegraph office. Elinor had just arrived in Prince Albert on a
visit to Tom, to which she had been looking forward during the five
years since he had married and moved out West from Avonlea. As I have
already said, she was very beautiful at that time, and Carey fell in
love with her at the first moment of their meeting.
During the next three weeks he went to town nine times and called
at the Dumonts' only once. There were no more rides and walks with
Tannis. This was not intentional neglect on his part. He had simply
forgotten all about her. The breeds surmised a lover's quarrel, but
Tannis understood. There was another woman back there in town.
It would be quite impossible to put on paper any adequate idea of
her emotions at this stage. One night, she followed Carey when he
went to Prince Albert, riding out of earshot, behind him on her plains
pony, but keeping him in sight. Lazarre, in a fit of jealousy, had
followed Tannis, spying on her until she started back to the Flats.
After that he watched both Carey and Tannis incessantly, and months
later had told Tom all he had learned through his low sneaking.
Tannis trailed Carey to the Blair house, on the bluffs above the
town, and saw him tie his horse at the gate and enter. She, too,
tied her pony to a poplar, lower down, and then crept stealthily
through the willows at the side of the house until she was close to
the windows. Through one of them she could see Carey and Elinor. The
half-breed girl crouched down in the shadow and glared at her rival.
She saw the pretty, fair-tinted face, the fluffy coronal of golden
hair, the blue, laughing eyes of the woman whom Jerome Carey loved,
and she realized very plainly that there was nothing left to hope for.
She, Tannis of the Flats, could never compete with that other. It
was well to know so much, at least.
After a time, she crept softly away, loosed her pony, and lashed
him mercilessly with her whip through the streets of the town and out
the long, dusty river trail. A man turned and looked after her as she
tore past a brightly lighted store on Water Street.
"That was Tannis of the Flats," he said to a companion. "She was
in town last winter, going to school—a beauty and a bit of the
devil, like all those breed girls. What in thunder is she riding
like that for?"
One day, a fortnight later, Carey went over the river alone for a
ramble up the northern trail, and an undisturbed dream of Elinor.
When he came back Tannis was standing at the canoe landing, under a
pine tree, in a rain of finely sifted sunlight. She was waiting for
him and she said, with any preface:
"Mr. Carey, why do you never come to see me, now?"
Carey flushed like any girl. Her tone and look made him feel very
uncomfortable. He remembered, self-reproachfully, that he must have
seemed very neglectful, and he stammered something about having been
"Not very busy," said Tannis, with her terrible directness. "It
is not that. It is because you are going to Prince Albert to see a
Even in his embarrassment Carey noted that this was the first time
he had ever heard Tannis use the expression, "a white woman," or any
other that would indicate her sense of a difference between herself
and the dominant race. He understood, at the same moment, that this
girl was not to be trifled with—that she would have the truth out of
him, first or last. But he felt indescribably foolish.
"I suppose so," he answered lamely.
"And what about me?" asked Tannis.
When you come to think of it, this was an embarrassing question,
especially for Carey, who had believed that Tannis understood the
game, and played it for its own sake, as he did.
"I don't understand you, Tannis," he said hurriedly.
"You have made me love you," said Tannis.
The words sound flat enough on paper. They did not sound flat to
Tom, as repeated by Lazarre, and they sounded anything but flat to
Carey, hurled at him as they were by a woman trembling with all the
passions of her savage ancestry. Tannis had justified her criticism
of poetry. She had said her half-dozen words, instinct with all the
despair and pain and wild appeal that all the poetry in the world had
They made Carey feel like a scoundrel. All at once he realized
how impossible it would be to explain matters to Tannis, and that he
would make a still bigger fool of himself, if he tried.
"I am very sorry," he stammered, like a whipped schoolboy.
"It is no matter," interrupted Tannis violently. "What difference
does it make about me—a half-breed girl? We breed girls are only
born to amuse the white men. That is so—is it not? Then, when they
are tired of us, they push us aside and go back to their own kind.
Oh, it is very well. But I will not forget—my father and brother
will not forget. They will make you sorry to some purpose!"
She turned, and stalked away to her canoe. He waited under the
pines until she crossed the river; then he, too, went miserably home.
What a mess he had contrived to make of things! Poor Tannis! How
handsome she had looked in her fury—and how much like a squaw! The
racial marks always come out plainly under the stress of emotion, as
Tom noted later.
Her threat did not disturb him. If young Paul and old Auguste
made things unpleasant for him, he thought himself more than a match
for them. It was the thought of the suffering he had brought upon
Tannis that worried him. He had not, to be sure, been a villain; but
he had been a fool, and that is almost as bad, under some
The Dumonts, however, did not trouble him. After all, Tannis'
four years in Prince Albert had not been altogether wasted. She knew
that white girls did not mix their male relatives up in a vendetta
when a man ceased calling on them—and she had nothing else to
complain of that could be put in words. After some reflection she
concluded to hold her tongue. She even laughed when old Auguste asked
her what was up between her and her fellow, and said she had grown
tired of him. Old Auguste shrugged his shoulders resignedly. It was
just as well, maybe. Those English sons-in-law sometimes gave
themselves too many airs.
So Carey rode often to town and Tannis bided her time, and plotted
futile schemes of revenge, and Lazarre Merimee scowled and got
drunk—and life went on at the Flats as usual, until the last week in
October, when a big wind and rainstorm swept over the northland.
It was a bad night. The wires were down between the Flats and
Prince Albert and all communication with the outside world was cut
off. Over at Joe Esquint's the breeds were having a carouse in honor
of Joe's birthday. Paul Dumont had gone over, and Carey was alone in
the office, smoking lazily and dreaming of Elinor.
Suddenly, above the plash of rain and whistle of wind, he heard
outcries in the street. Running to the door he was met by Mrs. Joe
Esquint, who grasped him breathlessly.
"Meestair Carey—come quick! Lazarre, he kill Paul—they fight!"
Carey, with a smothered oath, rushed across the street. He had
been afraid of something of the sort, and had advised Paul not to go,
for those half-breed carouses almost always ended in a free fight. He
burst into the kitchen at Joe Esquint's, to find a circle of mute
spectators ranged around the room and Paul and Lazarre in a clinch in
the center. Carey was relieved to find it was only an affair of
fists. He promptly hurled himself at the combatants and dragged Paul
away, while Mrs. Joe Esquint—Joe himself being dead-drunk in a
corner—flung her fat arms about Lazarre and held him back.
"Stop this," said Carey sternly.
"Let me get at him," foamed Paul. "He insulted my sister. He
said that you—let me get at him!"
He could not writhe free from Carey's iron grip. Lazarre, with a
snarl like a wolf, sent Mrs. Joe spinning, and rushed at Paul. Carey
struck out as best he could, and Lazarre went reeling back against the
table. It went over with a crash and the light went out!
Mrs. Joe's shrieks might have brought the roof down. In the
confusion that ensued, two pistol shots rang out sharply. There was
a cry, a groan, a fall—then a rush for the door. When Mrs. Joe
Esquint's sister-in-law, Marie, dashed in with another lamp, Mrs. Joe
was still shrieking, Paul Dumont was leaning sickly against the wall
with a dangling arm, and Carey lay face downward on the floor, with
blood trickling from under him.
Marie Esquint was a woman of nerve. She told Mrs. Joe to shut up,
and she turned Carey over. He was conscious, but seemed dazed and
could not help himself. Marie put a coat under his head, told Paul to
lie down on the bench, ordered Mrs. Joe to get a bed ready, and went
for the doctor. It happened that there was a doctor at the Flats that
night—a Prince Albert man who had been up at the Reservation, fixing
up some sick Indians, and had been stormstaid at old Auguste's on his
Marie soon returned with the doctor, old Auguste, and Tannis.
Carey was carried in and laid on Mrs. Esquint's bed. The doctor made
a brief examination, while Mrs. Joe sat on the floor and howled at the
top of her lungs. Then he shook his head.
"Shot in the back," he said briefly.
"How long?" asked Carey, understanding.
"Perhaps till morning," answered the doctor. Mrs. Joe gave a
louder howl than ever at this, and Tannis came and stood by the bed.
The doctor, knowing that he could do nothing for Carey, hurried into
the kitchen to attend to Paul, who had a badly shattered arm, and
Marie went with him.
Carey looked stupidly at Tannis.
"Send for her," he said.
Tannis smiled cruelly.
"There is no way. The wires are down, and there is no man at the
Flats who will go to town to-night," she answered.
"My God, I MUST see her before I die," burst out Carey pleadingly.
"Where is Father Gabriel? HE will go."
"The priest went to town last night and has not come back," said
Carey groaned and shut his eyes. If Father Gabriel was away,
there was indeed no one to go. Old Auguste and the doctor could not
leave Paul and he knew well that no breed of them all at the Flats
would turn out on such a night, even if they were not, one and all,
mortally scared of being mixed up in the law and justice that would be
sure to follow the affair. He must die without seeing Elinor.
Tannis looked inscrutably down on the pale face on Mrs. Joe
Esquint's dirty pillows. Her immobile features gave no sign of the
conflict raging within her. After a short space she turned and went
out, shutting the door softly on the wounded man and Mrs. Joe, whose
howls had now simmered down to whines. In the next room, Paul was
crying out with pain as the doctor worked on his arm, but Tannis did
not go to him. Instead, she slipped out and hurried down the stormy
street to old Auguste's stable. Five minutes later she was galloping
down the black, wind-lashed river trail, on her way to town, to bring
Elinor Blair to her lover's deathbed.
I hold that no woman ever did anything more unselfish than this
deed of Tannis! For the sake of love she put under her feet the
jealousy and hatred that had clamored at her heart. She held, not
only revenge, but the dearer joy of watching by Carey to the last, in
the hollow of her hand, and she cast both away that the man she loved
might draw his dying breath somewhat easier. In a white woman the
deed would have been merely commendable. In Tannis of the Flats, with
her ancestry and tradition, it was lofty self-sacrifice.
It was eight o'clock when Tannis left the Flats; it was ten when
she drew bridle before the house on the bluff. Elinor was regaling
Tom and his wife with Avonlea gossip when the maid came to the door.
"Pleas'm, there's a breed girl out on the verandah and she's
asking for Miss Blair."
Elinor went out wonderingly, followed by Tom. Tannis, whip in
hand, stood by the open door, with the stormy night behind her, and
the warm ruby light of the hall lamp showering over her white face and
the long rope of drenched hair that fell from her bare head. She
looked wild enough.
"Jerome Carey was shot in a quarrel at Joe Esquint's to-night,"
she said. "He is dying—he wants you—I have come for you."
Elinor gave a little cry, and steadied herself on Tom's shoulder.
Tom said he knew he made some exclamation of horror. He had never
approved of Carey's attentions to Elinor, but such news was enough to
shock anybody. He was determined, however, that Elinor should not go
out in such a night and to such a scene, and told Tannis so in no
"I came through the storm," said Tannis, contemptuously. "Cannot
she do as much for him as I can?"
The good, old Island blood in Elinor's veins showed to some
purpose. "Yes," she answered firmly. "No, Tom, don't object—I must
go. Get my horse—and your own."
Ten minutes later three riders galloped down the bluff road and
took the river trail. Fortunately the wind was at their backs and
the worst of the storm was over. Still, it was a wild, black ride
enough. Tom rode, cursing softly under his breath. He did not like
the whole thing—Carey done to death in some low half-breed shack,
this handsome, sullen girl coming as his messenger, this nightmare
ride, through wind and rain. It all savored too much of melodrama,
even for the Northland, where people still did things in a primitive
way. He heartily wished Elinor had never left Avonlea.
It was past twelve when they reached the Flats. Tannis was the
only one who seemed to be able to think coherently. It was she who
told Tom where to take the horses and then led Elinor to the room
where Carey was dying. The doctor was sitting by the bedside and Mrs.
Joe was curled up in a corner, sniffling to herself. Tannis took her
by the shoulder and turned her, none too gently, out of the room. The
doctor, understanding, left at once. As Tannis shut the door she saw
Elinor sink on her knees by the bed, and Carey's trembling hand go out
to her head.
Tannis sat down on the floor outside of the door and wrapped
herself up in a shawl Marie Esquint had dropped. In that attitude
she looked exactly like a squaw, and all comers and goers, even old
Auguste, who was hunting for her, thought she was one, and left her
undisturbed. She watched there until dawn came whitely up over the
prairies and Jerome Carey died. She knew when it happened by Elinor's
Tannis sprang up and rushed in. She was too late for even a
The girl took Carey's hand in hers, and turned to the weeping
Elinor with a cold dignity.
"Now go," she said. "You had him in life to the very last. He is
"There must be some arrangements made," faltered Elinor.
"My father and brother will make all arrangements, as you call
them," said Tannis steadily. "He had no near relatives in the
world—none at all in Canada—he told me so. You may send out a
Protestant minister from town, if you like; but he will be buried
here at the Flats and his grave with be mine—all mine! Go!"
And Elinor, reluctant, sorrowful, yet swayed by a will and an
emotion stronger than her own, went slowly out, leaving Tannis of the
Flats alone with her dead.